Julie, I love and admire this window into your world, your history, your heart and–hallelujah–your healthy brain. What an honoring account of your parents and their contributions to your creative/writer self. Your voice is compassionate and generous. SUBDURAL promises to be captivating.
Marj Hahne left the comment above about my previous post, “How a Near-Death Experience Jump-Started My Memoir.” Doesn’t it read like a blurb on the back cover of a book? Perhaps I’ll copy it in large type onto some fancy paper and paste it above my desk, then glance at it whenever I need inspiration. (Speaking of book covers, doesn’t this photo make me look like a successful author? A professional photographer took it for a church directory just two day before my brain surgery.)
Affirmation of my abilities from others is all-important to me as a writer, and I suspect most writers would say the same. As many psychologists have pointed out, appreciation is a vital human need, right up there after the basic survival needs of food, shelter, sex, safety and community. That’s why the last Monday of most months is especially welcome for me, because I get a double dose of support from local writers’ groups. I say most months, because sometimes holidays or acts of nature interfere, and that was especially true during the dreadful winter that’s finally passed into memory. In the vibrant writers’ scene in the Capital District, spring awakening has begun, and it kicks into high gear later this month with the annual Word Fest. (Read on to learn more.)
On Monday, March 25th, I met with the Women Who Write at Carol Bluestein’s house. The group began as a “kitchen table” offshoot of the International Women Writers Guild, and most of us are members, although that’s not required. Attendance fluctuates, usually with four to six women present—an ideal size for sharing generous samples of our works in progress, then receiving feedback if we so desire. Each writer specifies the type of feedback she wants, whether it’s a detailed critique or a simple affirmation like “It’s great you’re writing—keep up the good work.” The one rule is that we accentuate the positive.
That night I was off to Poets Speak Loud, an open mic sponsored by Albany Poets and held at McGeary’s, an old-timey pub. Proprietor Tess Collins reserves the back room for a motley crew of poets ranging from late teens reading from their smart phones to octogenarians reading from published books. Mary Panza usually hosts, and the atmosphere can be raunchy and politically incorrect. (That Monday night Dan Wilcox read a new poem about masturbating while sitting on his back porch reading Mary Oliver.) No matter the quality or content of what’s read, every poet’s performance is greeted with enthusiastic cheers and applause.
I read excerpts from SUBDURAL at both gatherings. With the Women Who Write, I shared the first draft of the Introduction. “If you were an agent reading this as part of a proposal,” I asked, “would it grab you? Would you want to see more?” Yes, they said, they would. Then they shared some unsolicited but helpful opinions about the structure and content of what I’d written.
At McGeary’s I read two poems from SUBDURAL. “My Mother and Senator Joe” is an older poem about our meeting with Joe
McCarthy in the underground tram that links the Capitol and office buildings in Washington D.C., and “My Mother’s Head” is a work in progress about my mother’s head injuries, including the subdural hematoma that ultimately killed her. Not exactly jolly, but the other poets gave me the attention and applause I craved.
I love the local poetry scene because it offers so many opportunities to get positive reinforcement. There’s an open mic happening somewhere practically every day, at libraries, book stores, art centers, coffee houses, bars. The best place to learn about them is at Albany Poets. Thom Francis, who happens to be my web designer, keeps www.albanypoets.com updated weekly, with links to the venues that offer further information. Geographically, they range far beyond Albany, with New Paltz and Woodstock to the south and Saratoga to the north. Atmospherically, they range from quiet and contemplative to boisterous and rowdy. My own preferences rise and fall on the spectrum, depending on my mood, but I lean strongly toward events where booze is involved.
2019 Word Fest: Readings Against the End of the World
I just signed up for the following event, and you can come meet me and listen to me read at 11:00 pm on Friday, April 12. From Albany Poets:
To kick off the 2019 Word Fest Albany Poets and the UAlbany Writing Center are presenting Readings Against the End of the World, a 24-hour read-a-thon to benefit the South End Children’s Cafe.
All word-lovers and writers are invited to share readings – original work or favorite passages, poems and rants, raps and stories, spoken word and personal visions- enough to fill twenty-four hours the power of words. The event will begin on Friday, April 12 at the Husted Hall Café on the UAlbany Downtown campus, and will continue until Saturday, April 13.
At this writing, there are plenty of spots still available—it takes a lot of people to fill 24 hours with words. Why not come down and share something of your own? If you suffer from stage fright, you can read during the wee hours after midnight, because the audience will get smaller with each passing hour.
Visit www.albanypoets.com to sign up and to read about the many other events happening during Word Fest. I hope to see you there!