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I’m nobody! Who are you?

20 June 2011

Ever since I was a schoolgirl, poking behind gas stations is a favorite way to learn about the world e.g. used condoms and feral cats. Those who would make fun of me, take heed! Yesterday, whilst wandering around Amherst, MA, I ducked behind a Mobil station and stumbled onto Emily Dickinson’s grave.

What surprised me most is that I had seen the poetess all over downtown Amherst, shuffling mournfully in long skirts and shooting dirty looks at… actually, the dirty looks seemed to be reserved for me, or perhaps my loud flip-flops. But apparently Ms. Dickinson really is dead, which made me inexplicably sad because she’s the reason I’ve had to read so much poopy, rhyming poetry in workshops.

After paying my respects, I headed to the UMass campus where I was the first to show up for the James Tate and Charles D’Ambrosio reading.  Awkward. I was only 25 minutes early! Even after another 10 minutes looking at my sunspots in a bathroom, I was still was the first guest into the auditorium.

D’Ambrosio read from a WIP. I always wonder what motivates a writer to choose that. I saw David Sedaris do the some of the material that later appeared in When You Are Engulfed in Flames, and he made little notes whenever the audience laughed really hard, or not at all, so I believe I was an indispensable part of his revision process. D’Ambrosio’s prose is lyrical, with long, architecturally complex sentences. He certainly didn’t take notes during his 21 minute and 17 second reading, but maybe he didn’t know that I was there. If there had been a q&a, I would have asked him what motivated the decision to read from something that we couldn’t buy afterwards and that he might scrap altogether.  Ok, no, I wouldn’t have.

James Tate is a national treasure. He read from his latest project, a collection of surreal stories. It sold out immediately and isn’t available to order. Curses!

Writerly lessons for the week: Stop expecting early crowds at public readings because the public doesn’t give a crap. Stop expecting authors to sell me the end of the story because they are above that and it only makes them feel cheap.

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