Beyond Baroque in Venice, CA

 

It was a gorgeous night in Venice, CA last Saturday night and a real treat to read with Ray DiZazzo at the super cool Beyond Baroque literary arts center. Beyond Baroque is a great independent arts center that hosts all kinds of cultural events; it’s been such an important part of the community for many years. The building houses a terrific, funky book store where I sifted through dozens of old literary journals including copies of The Paris Review dating back to the 1950s, as well as lots of books from small, independent presses that larger bookstores normally don’t carry.

Ray and I read in the performance space across from the bookstore, a really lovely auditorium. Richard Modiano the director of Beyond Baroque was gracious and welcoming. Before Ray and I read he interviewed each of us about our books and our writing processes. It’s a rare treat (and only slightly nerve-wracking) to have someone interview me at a reading, and it showed how committed Richard and the Beyond Baroque team are to getting to know the writers/artists they host for their events.

The crowd may have been small, but the vibe was friendly and relaxed and I was really pleased to talk to Ray and his wife after the reading. Thanks also to my friend Liz and her husband Jeff for coming out to support me. If you’re in the Venice area, check out Beyond Baroque’s schedule–you’re sure to be in for a treat.

Smack Dab at Magnet in the Castro

 

On Wednesday night I was one of the featured headliners at the Magnet’s monthly Smack Dab open mic event, along with Daniel Redman. Magnet just celebrated it’s ninth year as the place where gay men connect in the Castro. It’s a place of community in every sense of the word, and Smack Dab is Kirk Read’s and Larry Bob Robert’s way of having one night a month where the men of that community get to share their voices and experiences with everyone.

It was an open mic in the truest sense– we really got to hear such a variety of voices and styles–true stories about first time fisting experiences, men who have lost their lovers to AIDS and other diseases, spoken word poetry, even a sweet young girl new to SF with a haunting voice and a ukelele whose style reminded me a lot of Joanna Newsom. Every piece felt so genuine, and like Kirk said, we should be thanking these men for talking so openly about their experiences, especially those experiences in the 70s and 80s when so many voices were silenced.

It was such a treat to see how well Kirk and Larry Bob played off each other–Kirk wasn’t named best performer by SF Weekly for nothing–and also to hear Daniel’s acapella renditions of Walt Whitman’s poetry. Daniel’s voice is unique and hypnotic, and he’s a true original.

In the spirit of the night, I read a new piece, “Testament,” which isn’t in the collection but I felt was somehow apropos for the evening.Thanks again to all my friends who showed up in support. It was a great way to end my trip to SF!

Why There Are Words: the tour begins

How fantastic is it to be in San Francisco after ten days of infernal ninety plus heat in NY! It’s hard to believe it’s July here because it’s so damn cold. Not that I’m complaining. This is a great place to start a mini book tour. And I’m super lucky to be staying at my friends’ (the fabulous Famille Fell, aka Sam and Alex) gorgeous home in the Inner Richmond. This place is a palace.

I was very excited when Peg Alford Pursell invited me to join her line-up of super talented writers at the Why There Are Words reading series in Sausalito. A few of my friends have read for WTAW in the past and recommended it highly to me. I can see why now.

Marcos (my ex) who’s accompanying me on the first half of this trip asked me what kind of place Studio 333 was–a bar? A lounge? A restaurant? I had no idea, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover it was a super-cool art gallery, and one of the nicest spaces I’ve had the pleasure of reading at so far.

Getting there was certainly an adventure. The Richmond is actually pretty close to Sausalito on a map. That is, if you have a car. If you don’t, it’s a bus ride across town to catch the ferry to Sausalito, which let’s face it ain’t half bad. We were worried about getting back to SF after the reading, and although my fellow readers offered us lifts to Berkeley or Oakland, we were certainly relieved that our friends Rich and Josh showed up and just so happen to have driven in from the Sunset. Thanks for the lift home, guys!

I was really excited to be part of a line-up featuring Joy Lazendorfer, Lauren Becker, Joe Clifford, Sere Prince Halverson, Ericka Lutz, and Aimee Phan. The theme was “After All” which judging from the incredibly variety of the readings–flash fiction, excerpts from memoirs and a variety of novels, meant different things to each of us. (Not going to lie here. I didn’t think much about the theme when selecting what to read. I usually decide based on how long my slot is. I had eight minutes, so I chose the shortest piece in the collection, “The Coming Revolution,” which, funny enough, takes exactly eight minutes to read.)

The evening was really well curated. Peg did an amazing job filling up the house, and there were even programs made! Shamncy. Lots of pictures are up on Facebook already, with video and podcasts already available on the WTAW website, which you can find by clicking here (video) or here (podcasts).

Thanks to my friends who came out to support me. I was excited to meet my fellow readers and hear their work! I couldn’t have asked for a better kick-off to my world (ahem) national (ahem) West Coast (ok, that’s accurate) tour!

Next up: Smack Dab at the Magnet Center in the Castro tomorrow night! Come out if you can!

 

Travels and Journeys at Franklin Park

This post is a bit delayed since I’ve been traveling. And I’m not going to do a better job summing up this fantastic night of readers than the folks over at The Outlet, Electric Literature’s excellent blog site. You can read that post by clicking here. In the meantime, here’s my brief wrap-up:

The Franklin Park Reading Series has long been on the top of my list of places that I’ve wanted to read for, even before my book came out. I love the space, and Penina Roth has done an amazing job curating this series. She’s a tireless promoter and has consistently managed to attract standing-room-only crowds to her events.

I was particularly thrilled to be part of Monday night’s line-up, not only because the theme jibed so well with my collection–all of my stories are travel themed–but also because I knew Erika Andersen would be there, live tweeting the entire event and making me feel like a celebrity, and Adam from Unnameable would be handling book sales, and there’d be some great photographers and bloggers making us look and sound good and even podcasts made of our readings. Sweet.

Polly Bresnick kicked things off with her inventive “mistranslation” of the Odyssey. Seeing the original Greek projected on the wall and hearing Polly’s hilarious, clever take on the material was such a great start. Matthue Roth followed. Penina read his bio and I was like, wow, this dude has done a lot for a 22 year old. Turns out he’s in his thirties; Matthue just looks very young, and has this infectious energy and spirit about him that really brought his reading to life.

Rupinder Gill read from her memoir about growing up Indian in suburban Canada. I sat next to Rupinder in the sectioned-off “readers area” during the reading and chatted her up about her background. She’s a gorgeous girl with bewitching eyes. Her reading was smart and funny, and I particularly enjoyed the way she mined her childhood for those embarrassing and yet so telling moments that we all can relate to.

I read next, from “Body and Mind.” According to Electric Literature’s blog, it was “Franklin Park’s most sex-filled reading ever” and yet they also said “it wasn’t smut.” I’m kind of happy to wear the sex crown, but now I’m wondering if I should have read something smuttier. My title might fall too easily ;)

Mark Leyner closed the night. Unsurprisingly, he was hilarious. And very, very weird. Mark is not only a brilliant writer but he also knows how to deliver his material really well, which is pretty necessary when you’re delivering forty minutes of dizzying prose about sugar- frosted nutsacks and the God XOXOXO and how deities are using humans as sex toys. I can only dream of being as ballsy as him (the pun had to be made, sorry.)

Thanks to all who made it out. It was a spectacular crowd, and a special thanks to my friends who came to see my last event of the season. That’s right, NYC folk: I will not be pestering you with invites for two whole months! As for those of you in other cities, well…