The generosity of writers in Crisis

Just a quick note from my hermit’s retreat: I am so impressed by the gallantry of writers, editors, and reading series organizers, so many of whom are ingeniously making the show go on. I wrote last time about hitches in publication pipelines, but for authors who had reached the culmination of years of work and were ready for spring book launches, there’s an extra edge of strangeness in how the world has shut down. You do all this advance work to set up events (unless you have money for a publicist? not me!), and then some are scrapped, some go virtual, and you’re scrambling for find new launch outlets like podcasts, interviews, and web features that might get your name out there. I’m trying to say yes to every offer, but it’s a challenge! Unexpectedly, I’m figuring out how to record mini-audio-readings with a blanket over my head for extra resonance, and how best to prop my laptop on boxes of books I can’t sell to get a flattering angle on Zoom video recordings. Live readings are challenging to get right, but recorded ones are much stranger, since you can’t respond to visual cues from your audience.

Whenever you read this blog, you can check out a recorded 6-minute podcast from The Drum: A Literary Magazine for your Ears, featuring memoirist Alia Volz and me. Thanks to Kirun Kapur for including me!

If you read this by Saturday 4/11, also check out a Zoom reading I’m doing with Destiny Hemphill and Alan King from 7-8pm EST, put together by Ross White as part of the Bull City Press Presents series based in Durham, North Carolina. (I just canceled my hotel reservations; Chris and I had planned to make a fun weekend out of the trip, which would formerly have occurred during my students’ exam week.) If you’d like to join us, info on how is here. We’re each reading for 15 minutes and I’ll be in the middle.

In other news, I did not win a Guggenheim–not that I expected to, but you always feel a little spark of hope–nor was I accepted for a residency that I applied to. I’m somehow not down about those things at all. It’s such a sad, scary time and it’s hard to keep up with my classwork and even find time to check in with distant loved ones. I’m not sure how caregivers are managing this at all, and I watch friends organizing community outreach efforts with an energy I feel entirely unable to muster. I just collapse at the end of my long days at the screen. Again, I feel grateful and amazed about all the ways people ARE coming through for each other. Our federal governments may be dangerously incompetent, but so many others are good, kind, and generous. It’s enough to give a person hope that we’ll weather this.

Dessert for closure: I was just reading/ viewing/ listening to a presentation on punk by my amazing Poetry and Music students, and I went looking for pictures of myself in my commodified punkish teenage outfits. I didn’t find any of the pre-ripped sweatshirts with weird zippers and safety pins, nor the tiny leather miniskirts, but here’s me at 16 or 17 in fishnet stockings bought at Paramus Park Mall, by a Christmas tree no less. I’m pretty sure I was using Dippity Do to mimic David Bowie’s wet look on the cover of Changes Two. You’re welcome.

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