Answering The Call

Cafe Royale

Answering the call in this case was actually a matter of answering a last minute Facebook message from my new friend and the founder of InsideStorytime, James Warner.  InsideStorytime is a literary event that takes place the third Thursday evening of every month and is held at Cafe Royal on the corner of Levenworth and Post in San Francisco.  I’ve been admiring James Warner’s writing since last summer when I heard him read at another monthly SF lit event, the Portuguese Artist Colony.  That evening he won the “Live Write,” a contest where four authors are given an audience-selected prompt just before the intermission break and must write their hearts out while the crowd is mingling and yakkin’ up a stormg all around them.  After the intermission, each author reads what he or she came up with, and the audience votes on a winner.  The winner is then asked to return the following month to present a more polished version of that pressure driven first draft.  It takes a special kind of talent and confidence to nail such a contest, and James has what it takes.  His short story “Middlegame” is available through the on-line magazine called Narrative, and his novel, All Her Father’s Guns are worth checking out.

Yesterday was my volunteer day at Hanna Boys Center.  When I came home at lunchtime, I saw the Facebook message from James saying that two of his five scheduled authors for InsideStorytime had cancelled at the last minute, and he was asking if I was available.  That was unexpected.  I had a little nervous heart flutter, but then decided to just go for it.  The theme for the night was “Castaways,” and my characters in Pearls My Mother Wore definitely qualify as being, if not adrift, certainly unmoored.  Being added to the author lineup for the night gave me an opportunity to step in front of a spotlight and share what I’ve got, and it’s all good.

Never mind that I had two hours to prepare and it was essentially the first day of winter—yes, it was the first day of real rain around here since the little bit we got back in November—not my favorite driving conditions, but I wasn’t going to say no to the opportunity.  The other stand-in for the night was a lovely Russian young woman, Zarina Zabrisky.  She presented the audience with a choice.  She could read a short story that was funny, dark and funny, dark, or seductive.  The audience voted unanimously for the dark and funny choice.  We were thoroughly entertained by a fantasy tale that involved an Italian chef whose prayers for a trip to the wilder side of life were answered when he found himself in Mexico drinking and dancing with one hot tamale—the devil in a red leather dress.  When he discovers that he’d been dancing with the devil, he became appalled, freaked out, and insisted on scurrying  back to the safe hell he’d come from.

The three other authors were each fantastic.  Zarina kicked off the night.  After her was the poet Maw Shein Win whose CV includes many awards, scholarships, and published poems.  Maw is also  a co-curator for a show at intersection for the arts called “Broadside Attractions,” she’s an Affiliate Artist at Headlands Center for the Arts, and she’s currently working on a book with artist Mark Dutcher.  Following the intermission was Joshua Mohr.  He read from his recently released novel, the third in a trilogy, Damascus.  During intermission, Joshua gallantly introduced himself to me and thanked me for my reading.  It was so gracious of him to extend his hand and chat me down from my stage jitters.  The evening concluded with Alvin Orloff reading from his humorous and insightful 1970′s throwback novel, Why Aren’t You Smiling?

At the end of the night, despite the dreary conditions outside, everybody was smiling and content.  The event had gone off well.  It’s been exciting for me, getting to know other writers and letting them know who I am.  The San Francisco lit scene is definitely flourishing.  I’m glad it’s only an hour away, so I can attend perhaps not all but some of the happenings down there.  BTW, last Friday night, my Sonoma pal Bonnie and I went to SF to check out the internationally traveled literary hullabaloo, the Literary Death Match.  It was wild.  Standing room only at the Elbo Room in the Mission where four authors were judged by a panel of three on literary merit, presentation, and “intangibles.”  It’s all done in good fun and the “intangibles” judge was able to ding one of the writers for a past grievance over her misspelling his name.  Todd Zuniga, LDM’s founder and producer has the stage presents of a circus barker.  He’s probably in his early thirties; tall, skinny, perfectly attired in his early Beatles style suit, he’s smart, funny, and quick, quick, quick.  It was a high-octane night bordering on raucous, but it was a definite must for me, a person who likes to be in the know.

Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday

4 Responses to “Answering The Call”

  1. Rita says:

    Terry Sue – thank you. I feel like I was there! And that photo! The perspective! Bravo, lady. Bravo!

    • Terry Sue says:

      I know you would have loved it. I’m glad I was able to take you there in your imagination. Friends like you give me the confidence to stand up in front of a crowd of strangers and let my characters tell ten minutes of their story. Thanks Rita!

  2. zarina says:

    Terry, a wonderfully written account of the last night of magic in the rain.

    I don’t blog but I can add here that a beautiful writer–flaming hair, turquoise scarf and a musical voice–hypnotized the listeners into the labyrinth of human relationship. Terry’s writing is poignant and vivid. I still can see the piercings and the blue tattoo of the young man, the grief in woman’s eyes and sense the loss.

    Maw, Alvin and Josh were different and brilliant. I felt very fortunate to read with everyone.

    And yes, the atmosphere of Cafe Royale is perfect for a rainy Thursday night, a bunch of literature lovers and a glass of wine. A bit decadent, elegant, yet cozy. A bit like a friend’s hangout in my hometown, St. Petersburg, Russia.

    Here is to talking chances! Thank you, Terry, and thank you, James!

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