There was also a curious requirement in the submission guidelines that the work submitted for consideration for the local writers' readings be unpublished. I understand that publishers would want fresh, first-rights work for their zines or journals, whether print or on-line, but for a reading? Why? These folks were either totally inexperienced or snooty, or both. So I was determined to just ignore them & go about my (poetry) business. Alas, late one night after hours of tinkering with poems & an extraneous Bourbon (if there can be such a thing), I said, "What the fuck" & sent them some poems -- irreverent, cranky, & in bad taste -- that I was sure they wouldn't accept. Some weeks later I got an email that my work had been "accepted." Oh shit, I'm actually going to have to go up there & read. Usually I keep track of the poems I send out, just like I always wanted to know where my kids were, but I hadn't bothered in this case; so, I had to write back to ask what poems I would be reading. Now, I have no problem being outrageous at poetry readings, in fact I revel in it, but I felt like Groucho Marx who said he would never want to join a club that would have him as a member.
But then when I saw the final schedule of readers I was very pleased to recognize most names & knew I would be in good company, although among the names I recognized were one or two that rarely stick around to the end of an open mic, particularly when I am signed up after them. Strangely, on the on-line schedule we were listed as "Capital Region Writers" (since nearly everyone else was from elsewhere, I guess), while in the printed program it was "This Upstate Life: Local Writers Read." Hmm?
Prior to the reading I was sent an email advising me to practice reading my pieces, to read slowly, to look at the audience & to not do introductions; also, "inflect and modulate your voice when appropriate…", &, my favorite, "if a piece or a line is humorous, pause for audience laughter." (Should I pause or keep reading when they laugh at me because I'm being such a jerk & my piece is really stupid?) More Hmm? I was pleased that at the reading all of their 6 or 8 rules were broken by one reader or another at some point during the afternoon -- we still had a good time. The reading MCs were Linda Sonia Miller & Mimi Moriarty.
Most of the pieces read were poetry, though there were personal essays read by Anne Decker (humorous instructions for friends borrowing a summer cottage), by Marion Menna about getting her nails done, & by Mary Cuffe Perez about an old dairy farm.
|Co-host Mimi Moriarty & Jack Gordon|
The single piece of prose fiction was a compelling piece that eventually centered around a farmer's dilemma to sell his land to a natural gas developer, by Jack Gordon, a World War II vet who has published a memoir about his experience in the famous Flying Tigers.
Among the poets were some frequenters of the scene, such as Tom Corrado reading "A High of 51, Homage to Schenectady;" Susan Jefts with her characteristic North Country poems, including 2 set along the Hudson River; & Howard Kogan with 3 poems populated with the characters of his small, rural town, wry, philosophical work.
Less familiar poets included Sarah Giragosian with a selection of poems from a series on sea creatures, like the crab or the octopus; Marea Gordett who read what she described as "love poems," to robins & to Ausable Chasm; & Himanee Gupta-Carlson whose 1st person stories were more like the prose essays, although she described them as "poems of identity & scarcity."
I was next to last reading my 3 poems from a series based on a breakup letter & there were a few chuckles & gasps in the right places -- & I did squeeze in brief introductions to each. Co-host Mimi Moriarty closed out the reading with a couple of poems for writers.
A final word on cost. The price list was lengthy & abstruse, with prices ranging from $10.00 for individual readings (!), to $25.00 for the Authors' Reception, $50.00 for a single Writers' Workshop, up to a 4-Day Festival Pass for $275.00 (which included 2 workshops). I don't know about you but $10.00 is a lot to pay to hear a single writer read (at least outside NYC). By comparison, I went to 3 days of readings at the Scissortail Writers Festival in Ada, Oklahoma for free. My favorite festival is Split This Rock in Washington DC & registration in 2012 was $100 ($75) if you sign up early, which included any & all workshops & readings for the 4 days. Granted, the Rensselaerville Festival is a fund-raiser for the local Library, but if those well-heeled locals can afford these Festival prices, they could certainly afford a greater tax assessment to support the Library.
Good Luck next year!