Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Week (Readings)

What a week! I wrote my own vows and had to read them in front of an intimate group of friends and family. I was invited to read a piece for the first time and was privileged enough to do both in the same calendar week.

The vows were scarier, but not by much. In both cases I had to kind of dive head first into the paper and hope what I'd already written was good enough to carry me. I basically broke every public speaking rule I've ever taught my students about eye contact, especially at the author reading. (Having Shane to look up at and share the stage with me certainly helped with the vows.)

Two people helped me at the author reading. Obviously, my husband, who whooped it up just like he did when we went to see Brokeback Mountain together (right when Heath Ledger crudely seized Jake Gyllenhall to the horror of the stuffy art house queens in attendance). The other one was my new sister Flower Conroy, poetess extraordinaire, who wouldn't let me hide and helped me to mingle, terrified creature that I was. The two of them cheered so loud they reminded me of the table of folks who came to my Master's graduation. You can always tell a Jersey table at a graduation.

I met some of the other authors in this year's Saints and Sinners Anthology, including the winner, Jerry Rabushka. I had to have an honest moment with him after his reading: the egomaniac in me really wanted to hate his story. I couldn't. It was too damn good.

I was also privileged to meet Jeff Mann, my instructor, who reminded me of the many subtle differences between a good story and one that's ready to be published. The pieces we reviewed in the course, and the ones in the anthology, had a "clockwork effect" going for them - each part of the story aided the central metaphor, motifs, and overall theme. This is what makes a story something greater than a collection of clever lines.

Another big takeaway for me - self-publishing won't meet the goals I have for my short story collection. Therefore, I needed a better pitch for the traditional route. I wrote one that I think is pretty solid. This is it:


A graduation speech becomes uncomfortably honest after Pete Petucci loudly moos. Two old queens learn the hardest truth a gay bar can offer - sometimes you have to recognized when a place has passed you by. A young man discovers the beauty of transformation and learns how to make a Molotov cocktail. An Agnostic college professor looks back on a lost moment of faith from his high school religion class. For an unwilling patient, anger management means confronting the unwritten rules of hetero manhood. Compromise leads to disaster for two miserable cat-owners. Expose reporter Joshua Mendham goes undercover as a "Guide of Christ" at a gay-to-straight conversion camp. A haunted writer tries to bury his lost childhood friend once and for all. Corporate-national school inspector Charles Vance Cohen documents the test run of fascism's latest classroom tool. A boy learns about sex and karate, friendship and denial. Seeking a mid-life "reboot", a teacher has a delayed reaction to a student's revelation - a reaction involving meatloaf. Doomed teen Kevin Woods sees the collision of his birth and first sex, as he commits suicide. The military's ultimate weapon in the war against Islamic fundamentalism - a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal - is turned against its masters.

These are the stories of men in strange arrangements.

Now all I have to do is get one of the gatekeepers to open the damn gate...

More to come.

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