Thursday, October 30, 2008
Always a pleasure to swing by Joe's Place and talk poetry and the world. Joe Gorham is a very cool guy and likes to take you on a cerebral adventure on every show. About ten minutes into the show I felt like we should have opened the phone lines and gave folks some free therapy.
We covered some real deep topics (incest, domestic violence, body image, and parental involvement). If you got a chance to catch the show please comment on the blog and let me know what you thought.
Thanks to Joe and his producer Kimberly Washington for always finding time for me to come by and talk about the newest GirlChild Press project.
To catch me handing out therapy live - we have two readings this week.
Friday, October 31, 2008 - 8:00pm
Wooden Shoe Books
Saturday, November 1, 2008 - 4:00pm
Busboys and Poets
Saturday, October 25, 2008
You talk about raising boys.
I was half way to Philly (in a surprisingly heavy rainstorm) when it occurred to me that folks might not be willing to brave the rain to come out to a reading. Count me psychic...'cause not one person came to the reading at Big Blue Marble Books.
I love this bookstore. They were one of the first bookstores to setup a reading for Growing Up Girl ,where we had a packed house. But clearly today was not going to be a repeat performance.
At 3:30, when it was clear there would be no reading, a Mom came into the store. She was not looking for the reading. She was killing time until her teenage son was finished with his community services hours next door at the local coop. She asked what the book was about. I told her. For some reason that encouraged her to talk about her son.
She was chatty and funny and realistic. It seems that the last four years had been crazy challenging with her son and she was clear that no book she had every read (and there seemed to be a ready list floating around in her head) helped her get control of her kid. Mom was a self described control freak who had her whole life mapped out when it came to how she would parent her kids (she has a daughter who is "easy as pie"), but eventually had to "put my personality in a blender and push puree." Her advice to parents, "put your expectations down when comes to raising kids." With that decisive edict, she zipped out of the store to go check that her kid was where he was supposed to be.
As soon as the door slammed I had to laugh. Not at her, but at myself. 29 minutes before she had walked in, I had been trying to talk myself out of a mood that was steadily creeping up on me. I was annoyed that I had driven two and half hours, in the rain, to be at the reading that no one showed up to - or so I thought.
Actually, I was sitting in the very empty loft reading room for a very different reason. Before I left home today, I was sketching out the call for submissions for the Woman's Work short story project (look for the call on November 1st) and also jotting down some ideas for the parenting handbook that is also slated to come out in 2009. I had already broken down the chapters and was trying to figure which "expert" I was going to assign to each. I was also asking myself what tone I wanted for the book. But after listening to this mom it was clear I was coming at this project from all the wrong directions. By the time a parent picks up How to Grow a Girl (tentative title), they are probably far down the path of parenting and looking for some concrete and sanity-saving information. I need to go back to the drawing board on this one. And regarding the tone - I think chatty, funny, and realistic is probably going to be the best choice.
Sometimes you really do have to go on a journey to find what you are looking for.
We will have a "do over" opportunity for Philly on Friday, October 31st at 8:00pm. Come check us out at Wooden Shoe Books. Don't leave me sittin' up in there by myself this time:) I don't think I can be Zen twice in the same month.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
After a string of readings over the last few days, we ended the week at Red Emma's Bookstore. A surprising number of folks showed up for the 6:00pm reading. I didn't have high expectations because the reading was smack dab in the middle of rush hour traffic and I don't have any Baltimore contributors. But folks (with credit cards) made the effort to get there. They squeezed into the small reading space and spent an hour experiencing all things Just Like A Girl.
The highlight of the evening was getting to meet contributors Melissa McEwen(left) and Trish Ayers (right). Melissa actually traveled from Connecticut to be at the reading (very cool), and Trish was visiting her daughter in Baltimore - who happens to live down the street from Red Emma's (perfect). They are both very talented and lovely women. Also in attendance was Trish's infant grandson Jack Henry who experienced his first poetry reading. You're never too young for poetry.
All in all, a good reading. I have about a week off before heading to the City of Brotherly Love - Philly. Big Blue Marble Books is hosting us on Saturday, October 25 at 3:00pm. Come by and check us out.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I was at Keene State College earlier this week and one of the students asked why I had chosen to establish a press specifically for the work of girls and women. I gave some superficial, not well thought out answer. Something about being a girl, blah, blah, blah.
What I should have said was mothertongue. mothertongue is DC's longest running women's only spoken word open mic. This organization has been a part of my life for the last 8 years. I stumbled into the venue on a cold, rainy April night and never stopped coming back. Our website says "mothertongue is a community-based organization that works to create a safe space where all women may speak freely and powerfully and have their creative and artistic voices heard." But mothertongue has evolved into far more than that. Over the last ten years, national and local artist have used the stage to hone their skills, grow their fan base, and totally rock DC!
My first time on the mothertongue stage was after a couple months of attending the shows. I had been grinding out some poetry as a result of a messy break up and was contemplating signing up to read. When I got to the show, with my friend Tessa in tow, who totally hates poetry of all kind, I chickened out. In 2000, over 250 people (women and men) where attending the mothertongue shows on a regular basis, and I couldn't imagine getting up in front of them, offering up what I thought was anemic love poetry. But my friend Tessa thought differently. For whatever reason the poetry was a little off that night (nice way of saying bad) and she was convinced that anything that I had to share had to be way better than what we were being subjected to (her words, not mine).
Out of nowhere I heard my name as "the next poet up to the mic." When did I become a poet? Why did Tessa sign me up? How many people had thrown up on the stage from being petrified? But when my turn came, I got up there. I immediately lowered the bar of expectation (sorta like what they did with Sarah Palin and the debates) and declared that my friend had put me up to this and if I sucked they could blame her.
Then something completely unfamiliar and amazing happened. I opened my mouth and I was good! Through my poetry I shared, with this charged and rowdy crowd, how my love affair with the crazy, southern lawyer had gone south (pun intended). On that stage, I could be funny and pathetic and mad and good. As the last verse rang out into the large performance space of the Black Cat the crowd went CRAZY. They clapped and stomped and whistled. They affirmed me in a huge way.
Eight years later and I can absolutely claim that moment as life changing. The moment that I embraced my identity as a poet and writer. In gratitude for that affirmation, over the years I have served as the organization's Poet Liaison, sat on the board, and taught workshops. Even now I am still amazed by the power that this venue has to enrich and buoy women's lives. I don't perform as much as I use to because life has gotten super hectic, but I always leave the second Wednesday of the month open to attend the monthly show. As we celebrate our tenth year we are going through some transitions. Natalie Illum is stepping down as the longtime Board President (the enthusiastic Danielle is taking over), the shows are moving to an every other month format, and the crowds are not as big as they once were.
But what does remain - the enthusiasm and support for women as artists and writers and that much needed safe space.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Spent the last two days in Keene, New Hampshire.
Both Keene State and Antioch University adopted Growing Up Girl:An Anthology as a textbook and invited me up to talk about the book, what it takes to publish women's work, and introduce the newest anthology.
My first stop was Keene State. The book is being used in their Women and Psychology class. Professor Morris (that's her to the left) is using the book to explore the various population of women (of color, queer, incarcerated, lower income, pregnant, overcoming mental health challenges) that her students will be assisting as they move into their careers as school counselors and clinicians. Professor Morris was the first person to suggest that the anthology would be a perfect addition to counseling and social work classes. I am grateful that she had that brainstorm and continues to utilize the book in this manner. This is her third semester using the anthology!
The second stop was Antioch University. Their Human Development class is using the anthology. Contributor Elizabeth Farrell (and her hubby Peter) joined me for the midday reading and discussion. I love meeting the contributors! Finally putting the voice and face with the piece is so wonderful.
The Antioch students were a great group. They were really excited about getting to know the kinds of clients they will encounter in their practice and they really seemed to get that they will have to be imaginative risk takers if they mean to effect change.
During the discussion they suggested that I explore transforming some of the works from the anthology into a Vagina Monologue-style reading. I've been told this before, it's just a matter of figuring out how and making time. For now it's just on my long "to do" list.
I have about 24 hours to rest up before the next reading. We are heading to Red Emma's Books in Baltimore, MD on Friday, October 17, 2008 at 6:00pm. I hope you can join us.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
We had the fourth Just Like A Girl reading at one of my favorite radical, independent book stores - Bluestockings. We had a great turn out and an amazing blend of contributors (nine in all). It was a perfect night. The reading was sassy and funny (line of the night belongs to contributor Trina Porte), and good - just like the anthology.
Special thanks to contributors Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai, Maegan Ortiz, Penelope Laurence (who came in from Canada), Sarah Herrington, Ellen Hagan, Trina Porte, Lisa Joyner, K. Coleman Foote, and Lezlie Frye who came out and shared their work. Check out our pictures on facebook and see who else was there.
Next stop - New Hampshire.
Friday, October 3, 2008
With the talk of financial institutions closing left and right over the last few weeks, the news of a D.C. institution closing might have gotten lost in the fray. After 36 years of being Washington's oldest independent bookstore - Olsson Books and Records closed on Tuesday. They succumbed to the financial pressure facing many business, especially independent bookstore.
On the bookstore's website Olsson's general manager Stephen Wallace-Haines stated: "In the end, all the roads towards reorganization led to this dead end: we did not have the money required to pay for product in advance, to collect reserves to buy for Christmas, and satisfy the demands of rent and operational costs. We were losing money just by staying open."
Are there bailouts for book stores?