Tuesday, April 15, 2008
My friend, Russell, an adjunct professor at a local university, told me about a literary salon that was looking for new writers. Based solely on his recommendation, I was invited to participate in a reading last weekend, without even having to submit any of my work.
And I got paid, lil' unpublished me. Color me incredulous!
The literary salon was held in a hillside home just off of Sunset Blvd. and La Cienega Blvd. Upon arriving, I was invited to climb the steep wooden staircase behind the house and sit in the outdoor Tea House of the August Moon. The afternoon had become unexpectedly warm, almost stifling. It was pleasant to sit in the shade of the tea house and catch a few passing breezes.
I had a clear view of the blue and green buildings of the Pacific Design Center, in West Hollywood. La Cienega Blvd. was easy to trace to the Beverly Center and beyond (I couldn't help thinking of the movie "Volcano," starring Tommy Lee Jones). I tried to imagine what the view looked like at night, sparkling with city lights.
A bright green hummingbird with a shiny scarlet breast perched in a tree nearby and made me feel even more cheerful.
The afternoon's reading opened with a few numbers performed by Dr. Roots, on his saxophone. Earlier, I was fascinated to learn that he had worked with the Nicholas Brothers. Poet Aram Saroyan read a few of his pieces, one with the optimistic directive of "Just do what you do and hope someone hears you." I appreciated his closing poem, "Autobiography," a deceptively simple recitation of the years 1943 to 2007 (his life span, so far). I felt it had powerful artistic and universal appeal in that everyone can hear a specific year and bring to mind certain images and memories of the own.
Reading before me was novelist Gabrielle Pina, author of two published novels, Bliss and Chasing Sophea. Miss Pina's writing style was strong, experienced, and interesting to listen to. She was also a very talented reader and actress. I tried not to feel too nervous about having to follow her.
I read the opening chapter of my first Young Adult novel-in-progress, Scooter Boy. I could both hear and feel the nervousness in my voice. For only my second reading, though, I wasn't as nervous as before, and knowing that helped me to relax.
I love the escapism that reading offers. I love getting lost in a good story. I tried to focus on that while reading, and just immerse myself in the combination of my own made up little world and the real life memories of my youth.
I received positive feedback from audience members under fifty, of which there were only a handful. The small crowd in attendance was comprised of Baby Boomers, mostly, some of who were also complimentary and polite in their responses. It was an interesting space, almost anachronistic. I may be forty years too late to take part in a cultural revolution or artistic renaissance (I would've been a beatnik, had I been born sooner), but I felt as if I was able to visit a nostalgic era for one warm and lovely afternoon. And I felt lucky to be able to participate. I am further humbled and honored, considering the established works and careers of the other artists.
I am also sufficiently encouraged to continue working on my present and personal literary crusade.