100 Feels Good

Can I hear an Amen!?  Today marks the day of my 100th blog post.  I’ve been posting every Friday since January 2010.  I’ve only missed two Fridays, and that was because I was out of digital range, vacationing in the Sierras one year, and the mighty Redwoods of Northern California the other.  I’m so proud to be here.  I almost parked this self-imposed commitment to write blog posts every Friday a couple of times, but I didn’t.  I kept at it, so here’s to commitments!

To celebrate, I spent last evening in San Francisco with an exciting group of writers at the InsideStorytime event at Cafe Royal.  James Warner is a brilliant writer who, since 2006, has been the mastermind and host of this monthly assemblage of literary talent.  If you have a couple of minutes to sidetrack off this post, James’ remake of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief into Kublai Khans five stages of grief is erudite and wickedly amusing.  http://necessaryfiction.com/stories/JamesWarnerKublaiKhan

This month’s theme for InsideStorytime was “Gods and Dogs,” and there were five performing authors who read from their personal works.  The first presenter was Olga Zilberbourg.  I’ll try not to repeat that the authors and the crowd, by and large, were much younger than I am, but I couldn’t help but notice that fact.  Ms Zilberbourg has a delicate voice and speaks with a musical and charming Russian accent.  She read from one of her many published works of fiction.  The piece was titled, “A Dark and Empty Corner,” and the first few words are, “God was present that Thursday night…”.  It was a budding relationship story, rich with new-love awkwardness between two characters, Winston and Peggy.

Next up was a strikingly beautiful young woman who, in Sonoma, would have appeared to be in costume; however, in San Francisco, she seemed perfectly at ease in her 1940′s-50′s attire: fur pillbox hat over wildly curly, flaming red hair, a shapely gray wool dress with a large rhinestone broach at her shoulder, net stockings and knee high black boots.  Alia Voltz read “Vacajun,” a Louisiana, back bayou story where a young man and woman from, heaven forbid, San Francisco get somewhat lost and are pulled over by a patrol officer.  As she read from her many pages, the finished ones she casually discarded to the stage floor, a nice theatrical touch.  In keeping with the theme of the night, when her tale was told and all of the character’s misunderstandings had been ironed out, I had a visceral “Thank God” sigh for their narrow escape from real and perceived danger.

Gary Turchin followed Alia.  Gary is my new hero.  He read from his hardcover, self-illustrated children’s book, If I Were You.  By all appearances, it looks like a book for kids, and it is, but it’s also very much for the child within us all.  Have you ever encountered a little one that is laughing uproariously?  Well Gary Turchin’s If I Were You captures every bit of that child-filled joyous abandon.  It’s a book that celebrates quirkiness and non-convention; it’s toddler Gary speaking to adult Gary.  Little Gary would wear his clothes backwards, just to cover his bases and never be going the “wrong” way.  He’d fight for Dandelions and the equal rights of weeds.  He’d find his favorite spot and ask what the spot had to say to him.  It’s just delightful.

Following his reading was intermission.  I bought a copy of If I Were You and asked Gary if he’d sign it.  I told him that it was a gift to myself, that it’s the kind of book I wish had been given to me as a child, so I was making up for those lost opportunities.  He was touched by what I had to say about my not reading as a child and then going on to become a writer.  He signed my copy of his book, “Terry Sue, The writer in me honors the writer in you.  Create with Joy!  Always, Gary Turchin.”  He’s my new hero because of his generous spirit and authentic desire to give of himself through words and images.  During our conversation, he cautioned me against referring to my writing as a “public hobby.”  He pointed out that writing is a passion, not a hobby, and he’s right.  This isn’t building model airplanes or collecting stamps.  Thinking deeply and coming up with ways to express my thoughts is entirely too personal and challenging to be referred to as a hobby.  Only passion can account for the willingness it takes to persevere in this world of written words.

Following the intermission were Sarah Ladipo-Manyika and Peter Orner.  When Ms Ladipo-Manyika arrived at Cafe Royal, it was as if a spotlight suddenly flicked on and followed her around the room.  She radiated a most compelling, casual elegance.  Without knowing her, I was certain by her bearing that she would be one of the evening’s presenters, and sure enough.  Through James Warner’s introduction I learned that she was raised in Nigeria, held a Ph.D from U.C. Berkeley, and is a lit teacher at S.F. State.  Her short story began, “This house is protected by God.”  I thoroughly enjoyed the pacing and concluding twist in her short fiction.

And Peter Orner, he read an excerpt from his newly released novel, Love and Shame and Love.  The passage he read involved a young man who was brought before a Jewish Judge in Chicago for some private council and dispensing of Chicago style life’s lessons.  Orner, aside from being an accomplished and well-lauded author, holds a law degree.  His legal acumen and knowledge of Moses in the bible made the passage he read creep under my skin and impart a lasting impression.

During the hour-long drive home I savored the events of the evening.  I re-introduced myself to Caitlin Myer, a maven of the S.F. lit scene.  She invited me to join her table, around which gathered a couple Facebook friends, Matthew James Decoster and Andy Dugas.  Andy made a point of telling me about a writers’ conference that he highly recommends.  The Squaw Valley Writers Conference is held in the summer and is a full week of intensive workshops, lectures, critiques, and individual manuscript analysis.  It sounds like a great experience, and I’m going to give some serious thought to going.  Conferences are a way for me to educate myself without having to go back to college.  Plus they build my writing community, and I love that.

Here are some pictures from InsideStorytime at Cafe Royal:

Two cute audience members. Hat makers by trade from Paul's Hat Works


Authors Matthew James Decoster and Caitlin Myer


The scene at Cafe Royal during intermission


Funding the event was a bit on the, shall we say, casual side.

Happy 100th to me, happy reading and writing to you, have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

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