Great publication party as usual. Linda Venis, Director of the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension always throws the best pub parties. Tonight 18 writers launched their books/journals. In order of appearance: Philomene Long, Rob Roberge, Aimee Liu, Linda Palmer, Andrea Seigel, Christopher Meeks, Dinah Lenny, Mark Haskell Smith, Jessica Barksdale Inclan, Laurel Ann Bogen, Bruce Bauman, Cecilia Manguerra Brainard (moi), Samantha Dunn, Mary Otis, Lou Mathews, Tod Goldberg, and Suzanne Lummis. This year's publication party was dedicated to poet Philomene Long who is retiring after 16 years of teaching at the Writers' Program. The party was held at the Skirball Cultural Center.
Visitors included Wanda Coleman and Austin Strauss, whom I haven't seen in years. I particulary enjoyed seeing Lou Mathews, Philomene, Aimee, Suzanne, and Lauren Ann Bogen again. Some former students showed up Ben, Ken, Emily, and Beverly. Actually it was fun to watch my students be entertained and dazzled by the event. The auditorium had a seating capacity of 300 people; I'd say around 250 were there.
UCLA Extension's Writers' Program under the leadership of Linda Venis has been excellent in creating a literary community among its writer/teachers and students. I took writing classes at the Writers' Program before Linda, and I know about the wonderful changes and growth Linda has initiated.
And the poets - how I love their uniqueness, their lonely yet persistent voices.
Dutton's Brentwood sold copies of the book. PE was supposed to provide copies of Ala Carte Food & Fiction to Dutton's but in the last minute I got a phone call from Dutton's that PE couldn't and they asked if I had personal copies. I gave Dutton's copies with an invoice. I had books on consignment at Dutton's Brentwood in the past and they didn't pay for all. So this time I was prepared with the invoice.
Philomene Long and I recalled where we first met, and that was at the First Annual Publication Party in 1994, held at the UCLA Extension facilities in the Santa Monica Mall. I told Philomene my grandmother's name was Filomena, and we went on to talk about St. Philomene. I just learned tonight that Philomene had been a nun. Here's how Linda Venis described her:
"Philomene Long - poet, filmmaker, devoted wife to legendary Venice poet John Thoma, former nun, Zen Buddhist, and Beat Queen of Venice..."
A small wrinkle about the reading: despite firm instructions for the readers not exceed 5 minutes - and in fact, some poor staff member had to sit in back of the auditorium to time everyone and flash a laser beam at 4 minutes, and again at 5 - some people still exceeded their alloted time. I wondered if perhaps they thought one page equals one minute reading time. But the fact is they were unprepared. They had not timed themselves; they had not worked on their excerpt beforehand.
It's thoughtless of course. I practise and time myself, making sure I do not exceed my alloted time, and also so I can do a decent presentation. Some writers rush and try to squeeze as much as they can, which of course is disastrous because the audience can barely understand them. Fortunately 5 minutes per reader is short enough so the audience can tolerate just about anything. But it's just too bad that writers don't realize that it's infinitely better if they slow down, pace their work, let the words, phrases, and sentences breathe.
I remember how the actress Jude Narita worked with me for a reading many years ago. She took the story and underlined words that should be emphasized. She analyzed each sentence as to it's emotional content, and she also taught me how to look at the audience at the back rows - I think the reason for this was so people could see your eyes. Jude would go, "Is it, 'We ate greasy HAMBURGERS? or is it We ate GREASY hamburgers?'" I've always remembered what Jude taught me about performances.
All for now. This blog is morphing into something else. I had envisioned it to be a collection of essays - and now it's getting to be ... well ... a blog ... I guess that's okay.
(Old photo showing Jude Narita, standing left, some other writers at a reading, and Cecilia Brainard, bottom right.)