Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Totally fannish embarassing moments

I have a new rule, and its corollary:

1. don't meet your heroes, they've already given you the best that they've got in their book or poem or movie.
2. don't let your heroes meet you, you'll slobber on their egos like a hungry dog.

In rare cases I've done both things to an artist I admire and found myself, finally, laughing about it later.

I met Penn, of Penn and Teller (the tall one who talks) at a Monday Night Magic show. Huge fan. Grotesque gushing inanities poured out of my mouth as he sat, hemmed in by my eagerness, during intermission and the look of wary weariness--as in this happens all the time and is so boring-- humiliated me even as my mouth kept slobbering compliments... I promise if I ever see you again Penn I won't say a thing. Ack.

Then with the multi talented Shaun Tan I managed to have BOTH experiences. At the world fantasy convention I heard him talk, loved his intelligence, wit, and talent, ran into him, invited him to dinner with friends, he accepted and was as thoughtful, considerate, and interesting as I could have hoped for. If only the story could end here. A short time later he was in New York signing books at Books of Wonder, a delightful children's bookstore. By this point I'd morphed into weird fannish mode. I saw him at the signing table, ran to him clutching a copy of the book like a football player, and almost knocked over a lady in her wheelchair and a guy with his kids. I'd accidentally cut the line in my awful eagerness. The shame. I looked up and heard the woman spinning her wheels slightly, sighing "I don't mind waiting a little longer" and felt like a turd. A fan turd. And Shaun's face had a look of wary weariness.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Reviews and judgment day

To have a published book is to invite comment. The glossy cover, the publishers imprint, the curiously tarted up self in the author's photo all serve to convince the world that I did indeed write this paper object and my musings have organized the 26 letters of the alphabet into patterns I can call my own. My father and step mother, my sisters and brothers, all said just the right thing, mostly. My friends said it exactly. And lately, at good readings, good because I am finally relaxing, the audience lets me know they enjoyed it by the laughter and sighs of sympathetic recognition.

But to be published is to invite a response from far more than the people I send my family newsletters to. I am speaking of reviews. Each one that comes out I begin reading with all the enthusiasm I used to have for report cards. Sometimes it is a pat on the head. Other times a rap on the knuckles. Or amusingly, it appears to be a review of a book by the same name but the work of another.

What is the reviewer's task? I read reviews to know if I should invest or save my money and time. The author of the review may be using a book to nudge the great lumbering tail of current poetry. They may be looking for their own readership and by their humor, intelligence, or wit make themselves indispensable. They may try to advise the writer in how they can better their craft and vision for the next book. Or they get their kicks from knocking down the blocks. A review is in itself an essay, equally to be judged.

My book goes out into the world, is hopefully read, and I'd take any review over the great silence. If there is a final day of judgment for books, I don't think the reviewers decide who goes to Satan's writers lounge. The worst that happens, my efforts are forgotten in the out-of-print purgatory...

My husband's plays sometimes had simultaneous pan and praise reviews that took polar opposites on the same points. Which to believe? I'd look around the theatre, see how engaged everyone was, the standing ovation, my own delight in his language skills, and ask myself how any one could find it wanting. Were they crazy? But I'm his wife, a little crazy for him, and my judgment will be suspect. I can only say, believe the good reviews.

Some people tell me they never read their reviews. Never? Really? Some of my friends don't own a television or read the news either, sterner stuff than me. I read, feel it for a day and move on.

Because none of that is about the writing, my writing. Images and feelings become words and sentences. Dreams pull up their socks and find their grammar. Poems form in my inner ear, long before the world hears them.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Poets' Grimm becomes a play

The contract came in the mail. Our fairy tale poetry anthology has an agent.

Got a great letter of support from a teacher:

To Whom It May Concern:

As a high school theater teacher and director, I am always searching for new and challenging material to work on with my kids. This past fall I hit upon the idea of adapting material from The Brothers Grimm. While discussing the project with an English teacher colleague (also a fine poet in his own right), he suggested The Poets’ Grimm. We eventually incorporated about twenty or so poems from the book into what became an original and successful stage production.

What was most striking to me was the reaction my students had to the poetry. We spent several days simply reading and discussing poems from the collection. Students listened attentively as they took turns reading/performing selections. Lively discussion would often follow about the merits of a particular piece. Kids would come by my office to browse through the collection. Almost every actor in the show wound up performing a poem of their choice. One wrote a poem of his own and shared it with us as part of our rehearsal process. There was an unforced enthusiasm for the poems which was palpable. Nor am I talking about the simplest and most accessible poems. My students’ investigation was thoughtful and penetrating. Though it was not my specific intention, the collection was a wonderful teaching tool.

Within a short time another English teacher colleague found several pieces to employ in a senior seminar of hers. Just recently a student came into my office and exclaimed, “Oh, that’s the book!” She’d read selections in English, but hadn’t seen the collection in its entirety. Therein lies the rub. Copies of the collection are currently few and far between. Only through the great good fortune of having a knowledgeable poet as a colleague did we learn of the existence of the collection, and then only through what seemed like some black market operation did we acquire two copies. Those precious copies have been circulated and shared like some underground forbidden fruit.

Given the enthusiasm my students showed for the collection, how nice it would be if it were currently in print. When students ask, as they have, where they might get a copy of their own, how nice it would be to tell them it is easily available at a reasonable price, instead of $175.00 at Amazon.com. I’m sure there are many teachers who would be enthusiastic about this collection, if they only knew about it, and scores more students who would welcome it into their lives if they only had the opportunity.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The cost of awards


Tomorrow I go to the opening for the New York Book Show. Since the design I helped create for the journal Alimentum won entry to the show, I'm a winner. Sadly it costs $75 to walk in the door, nibble the canep├ęs, and ogle the other book designs. Even for a winner. Maybe especially for the winners. One of my friends says "don't go if you have to pay, this sounds like a scam." Actually, I am sure it is not a scam. I was there last year, thanks to my old bosses. I will get a lovely catalog, with my design in it, I'll see many people I know... and I'll hope to win prizes in the future that cost a bit less to enjoy.

Welcome to this life

Friends of mine had a baby a couple of days ago. I met him yesterday. Held him. Small as my dog, features shifting expressions, an almost smile, eyebrows lifted in amazement, then sleep again, this tiny placeholder for a man. Here I am with my children leaving home and he is just coming home. Welcome Tristan.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Poets' Grimm has an agent!

Jeannie and I met with our agent to talk about finding a new home for our anthology of fairy tale poems The Poets' Grimm. After a great start at Story Line Press (a small prestigious literary press) the publisher went kaput. Teachers had used it in creative writing classes, fans of fairy tales read it, poetry lovers read it, and all of them begged us for copies through the website for the book. This helps explain why Amazon is offering used copies for $140.00 to $199.00

This weekend we are invited by Bill Williams to see a play based on poems in the book. It's called Grimm and Grimmer and is playing at Trinity School in Manhattan. Three nights only. Thursday at 7:00 and Friday and Saturday at 8:00. Bill is the person who told us used copies are selling so high.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Give me your Budmo Jiggler

I open a file at work. One of those you-better-find-this-missing-font boxes pops-up, so I say, "hey, anybody got Budmo Jiggler?" to my office mates. Yeah, should have seen their faces.

You try it, "I need a Budmo Jiggler."

Welcome to typography. "I want Electra Light" "I need Giddyap Standard" "I crave Gill Sans Ultra Bold." What do you see just from the names? I smell a creative writing exercise.

What about Tiki-Hut Italic? Deftone Stylus? Or back to that Budmo Jiggler.