Thursday, November 27, 2014

On a coolish autumn night in New York's Lower East Side...

A reading. In front of an audience--that, let it be said, contained only two friends of mine. Only two people I knew from before that night. Everyone else--and it was a pretty solid crowd--was a stranger or had been until an hour or so earlier.

The crowd.

Susan Tepper, MC (and star organizer)
of the 2014 A Year In Stories reading
at KGB Bar NYC
Here's what happened: Susan Tepper, who's one of the other 31 authors in the 2014 A Year In Stories project, finagled a reading for the project at the KGB Bar (Lower East Side, NYC).

Okay, maybe "finagled" isn't quite the right word; she's an esteemed member of NYC's literary community, so she probably just sent an email to someone and they fell all over themselves to arrange it.

What she did do herself, and mighty effort it took, too, was to get the other authors to attend--a feat in itself, since very few authors live in the East Coast, let alone NYC itself. (I, for instance, came in all the way from Curaçao--how could I not?) The project includes authors from as far afield as Australia and Scotland and Ireland, and even an itinerant sailor now docked somewhere in the coasts of New Zealand.

The extra copies Susan ordered, displayed to full advantage
next to the podium. (P.S. -- they sold out.)
But Susan got ten of us to attend--and not just attend but promote the event. Aside, of course, from the huge labor of marketing she did herself. She ordered extra copies of the 2014 books to have them for sale at KGB. She invited a whole bunch of Who's-Who-s in the literary scene. She--well, she was a hero. She made it all happen. Thank you, Susan, for the night of the year.

Aside from the glitziness of having a reading in a NYC literary venue (omg.omg.omg), there was the unwarranted pleasure of meeting some of the people whose stories I've been reading--and who've been reading mine--for eleven months. People who I knew only through Facebook, through photos, through blogs, through the intimacy of their writing.

Andrew Stancek and yours truly. Yours truly is standing,
not sitting. He's *that* tall.
Andrew Stancek, for instance, who wrote this fantastic series about a man who can fly. Or Kimberlee Smith, who wrote the Aussie stories about the dead woman--from the POV of a dead woman. I know, brilliant. For that series alone the whole project is worth reading. Or Teresa Burns Gunther, and her phenomenal series People Skills, about Rachel (the borderline autistic woman) and Stella (her monster-size, if not monster-tempered, dog). Or John Wentworth Chapin and his Kaleidoscope, loveliest of lovelies for magical language and a main character so real that I have dreams about him. Derek Osborne and his sad, sad tale of a man, a sailing ship, and the love he finds when he has no more time to give. Lynn Beighley and the scathing-dressed-as-hilarious tale of one woman's fall into the world of reality TV. Rachel Ambrose and Margaret Bingel, both of whom I'd pictured as middle-aged (their writing is so freakin' mature, dammit) and who might, in actuality, be my daughters. (If I'd gotten pregnant at--okay, at thirteen. Hey, it happens.)

The readers.

It was a beautiful thing. An experience to cherish until the end of time: my first public reading.

(Okay, I did have readings before, back in Mexico, back in my 20's, back before I got sucked into the vortex of Making Money and stopped writing, but they can hardly compare to a literary bar in NYC. Seriously.)

All this happened on November 5th, the evening of a more-or-less dry autumn day. I arrived in NYC the night before, really late, and left Friday morning. All in all, just over 48 hours total in the city. Was it worth the 24-hour traveling time (including layovers, 11 hours Curaçao-Miami-JFK, 12 hours JFK-Miami-Curaçao)?

Oh, yes. Yes.

For the reading alone, Yes. For the visit, however short, to a city whose streets I used to walk every weekend when we lived in NJ, and to which I hadn't been back in 30 years--Yes. For the chance to spend a few hours (a tad wine-soaked hours, too, but--hey, we were celebrating) with my absolute best friend from 30 years ago-YES.

This has been a year of many interesting encounters, of doors opening, of discovery, of growth, of humility... And of nostalgia. First Cuernavaca, then NYC. It's a funny kind of nostalgia, however; there's sadness, yes, for what's long gone. But there's also, even predominantly, a sense of hope that had been lost and has now been found. A sense of connections restored, perhaps in a way that surpass their original state. A sense of everything falling into place, somehow.

We had the experience but missed the meaning
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.

~ T.S. Eliot, The Dry Salvages (Four Quartets)


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