Friday, November 9, 2007

Instant City Issue 5 Release

Last night was the release party for Instant City issue 5. I've got a nonfiction piece in it, and I went down to check the event out, as part of my ongoing endeavor to get more involved with the writing scene.

I'd been ignorant of the event until I stumbled onto mention of it on their website. Sort of took me by surprise, that internet notice, because I figured they'd send me an email to update me on the release of the issue, and when I didn't hear anything, I assumed nothing was in the works (Oddly enough, the same thing happened with issue two of NANOfiction, which is also publishing a piece of mine, and which had a release party the night before Instant City.) Maybe such notices were sent as bulk emails, and catagorized as spam by my yahoo account.

In the end I almost didn't make it. I'd been out drinking in bars the two nights before, and up early to work both days, so I felt pretty worn down come Thursday night. It was hard to get myself up off the couch.

I did though. Got off the couch, jumped onto my moto, and drove down there just in time to catch the start of the reading. Once I got there, the surprises continued.

First of all, there were more people than I thought there'd be, and they were older than I thought they'd be, and less trendy-hipster in appearance, and I recognized hardly any of them. Gravity Goldberg, one of the editors for Instant City, is involved (or was, at any rate) with the MFA Creative Writing program at SFSU, so I figured I'd recognize some people from my time in the Undergraduate program. And I did recognize a few faces (a few as in 3), but that was it.

The reading happened at Adobe Bookshop, which is a tiny used bookstore in the Mission District. I'd been there once before, to read in their "Here Comes Everybody" reading series, and even that event, which drew maybe 30 people, made the shop seemed crowded. With the Instant City party the place was packed, spilling out onto the sidewalk.

Before arriving at the event, I'd thought I'd introduce myself to Gravity and Eric (the editors), and I figured there might be the potential to be asked to read from my piece. Once I got there, I realized how unlikely the idea was. There were only four readers, all of whom had plenty of experience reading, and all of whom read on a regular basis at events throughout the Bay Area. Not a place for novices, such as myself. Once I heard the first reader loud-lisping his piece, flamboyant and unrattled, I knew I wouldn't have been able to deliver on a similar level, even had I been asked.

The second reader, Sarah Fran Wisby, was one of the three faces I recognized from SFSU. She turned out to be one of my favorite readers that night, reading from her piece on a double-amputee junkie burglar (sounds outlandish, but the piece was skillfully devoid of quirk or sentimentality).

The third reader was great too, despite my cynicism for white people writing from "black" perspectives. The guy's name was Richard J. Martin Jr., and his piece was an oral instruction on the art of the Three Card Monte. Clever, charismatic, and convincingly authentic--with only one or two awkward "whiteboy" comments.

The headlining reader had the kind of writing resume that makes newbie writers' balls shrivel up--publications in major venues like Esquire and the New York Times (if you get something in Esquire, you're getting paid serious dosh). Pretty big fish for such a small bookshop. He read a parallel piece--a guy in a bondage club thinking of an angry letter he recently received from a past acquaintance--that came to an impactful, if orthodox, conclusion.

After the reading was over, the jam-packed crowd started the process of disassembling itself, and filtering outside for a smoke (sort of like pulling a puzzle back to separate pieces). Waiting for the exitway to open, I exchanged a few comments with a guy that looked like the loudmouth on that Spin City show. When I asked if he liked the reading, he told me he liked "when words are put together." I wasn't sure if he was being clever, or stupid.

I stopped in the doorway, once it had cleared out, to look at the fliers on the wall. Another girl I recognized from SFSU, who'd ben a TA in one of my classes, chatted with me for a moment. She's always been friendly and nice, but I couldn't remember her name. She remembered mine, though, and said she was looking forward to reading my piece.

Like the rest of the store, the entryway is small. Standing there made me feel like I was getting in the way, so I walked outside. Big crowd milling on the street, and I only knew one face. A spark of embarassment and awkwardness burst into flame within me, making me feel hot, turning my face pink. I didn't feel solid enough, after the previous two nights, to brave an unknown crowd. So I shrunk away into the darkness of the night, got on my bike, and headed home.

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