Mar 4, 2009

Angry Convos in New York

I hate using "convo" as a contraction for "conversation." But convo is easier to type. So there it is. Last weekend I had the good fortune to present my book as a solo show in New York. Well I am working on a solo show, something i can tour in lieu of just showing up at a book store and signing books and reading a chapter.

My friend Christy Tennant lobbied to have me present at the IAM Encounter in Tribeca. Also in the line up were Nicholas Wolsterstorff, a braniac who teaches on Philosophical Theology and Art at Yale. Billy Collins the erstwhile poet laureate, and Helen Sung, a jazz pianist who's won Kennedy Center awards.

Can you say, Freak OUT! I was pretty freaked out. I would be trying my new material on them. Taking a 65,000 word book and putting it into a 40 minute show was gonna be tough. It's not just paring words; they are two different genres. Like for a solo show, you can't go on for days describing a house. Unless the book is "Gone With The Wind." But no one has done a solo show on Scarlett O'Hara. Uh oh. Now someone is going to do that.

Anyway, the transition between talking narrative to dialog between two characters (and when you re playing them both) ... it feels like you're jumping over a crevasse, and you may just fall down into that ice canyon and never be seen again. Only you do it on stage in front of hundreds of people and you'd wish you cold be unseen.

I had a great audience, the material worked, and I got to teach a class on non-fiction writing the next day. That was blast.

And then Billy Collins read the following evening and pretty much blew everyone away. And he both shamed and inspired me. Shamed me to think what I'd done the evening before approached poetic; and inspired me to feel some kind of lyricism toward the wet quiet streets I passed by on the way home.

Here's a little Billy for you. Oh to write that succinctly and well.


Anna said...

I love Billy. He makes me laugh eruditely.

Cloverland Farm said...

oh, i'm so sorry i missed you in NYC. i'm out of the loop.

Jen said...

Awesome. Billy rocks. And now I'm even more sad about missing his reading when he was in town last month. :(

Jon Burkhart said...

Wish I could have made it to the IAM conference. Would have loved to see your "Angry" reduction. You reduced the book down quite well on CNN. Just watched it here in London thanks to Slingbox hooked up to my mother's Tivo. T.J. tried to cut you off loads but you stood strong and delivered the soundbites you needed to get out there especially in light of them pulling those "quotes" out of context. Well done. Can't wait to read the book.

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