Saturday, April 08, 2006

Some Enchanted Evening

My boots were made for walking down Van Ness, though I was still surprisingly clammy and giddy minutes before our first reading at A Clean Well-Lighted Place. I gave a guy selling Street Sheet a few bucks for good luck and moseyed into the cozy store. I noticed Erin Cressida Wilson and Tanya Shaffer engrossed in conversation in the back row and the rest of the seats empty only twenty minutes before showtime. Gasp. Lovely Linda Good was patiently waiting in the front row. Thank God for her reassuring presence. As I sat in the "green room" as the contributors strolled in, I thought to myself how wonderfully surreal it was to finally meet the contributors for the first time. Wendy Sheanin of ACWLP gave a touching introduction to the book in which she recounted how it had spoken to both she and her mother-of-three sister living a life very different from her own. She promised the contributors would each offer a small taste or "swedish meatball" as she put it from her essay. I thanked the contributors for being willing to reveal themselves so openly and confessionally. The reading order went like so... Heather Juergesen, Erin Cressida Wilson, Kimberley Askew, Carla Kihlstedt, Michelle Richmond, Tanya Shaffer, Erin Ergenbright, and Meghan Daum. Flor Morales chose not to read and Samina Ali had to cancel at the last minute due to illness.

And then finally the dreaded Q&A. Whew! I was so proud of Flor when she stood up and spoke clearly and calmly in response to Emily Vassos' question about telling her story of fleeing from her alcoholic husband in El Salvador. My proudest moment as a tutor ever!! When Cheryl Cechvala asked who I had approached and been turned down by, I told my story of vacuuming and answering the phone to Minnie Driver's agent who very curtly said, "Ms. Driver will not be able to submit an essay to your anthology. Good-bye." Click. Good bye indeed and back to hoovering my living room. Rrrrrrrr Loved Minnie in Good Will Hunting and Grosse Pointe Blank, but ah well. My personal favorite rejection came from Sarah Vowell who informed me she had been a girl rock critic in the mid-nineties and thus had literally nothing left to say gender-wise. Truly a brilliant yet shrinking violet.

An English woman in the crowd, who I presume is a friend of Erin C. Wilson, asked if we felt more free to be eccentric as women in our 30s to which I replied, "Do you mean by wearing funny hats? " She was wearing a very charming black felt hat, but I tend to get punchy when I feel as if I'm being interrogated and at this point most of the panel had remained somewhat tight-lipped. Thank God for David Brownell, a colleague from my Red Herring days, who asked, "A question from the shady side of 60, what have you all discovered about yoursleves that's different from being in your 30s?" Michelle Richmond crowed, "Longer orgasms!" Then Carla Kihlstedt likened the book to a game of Exquisite Corpse. Huh? Erin C. Wilson confessed she had been reading the book at night by flashlight in bed and found the collection as a whole very "empowering." She joked that she has never cut her son Liam's hair so people often mistake him for a girl. I noticed her rose-cheeked son wandering around afterwards. He's exactly one day older than my daughter and could easily pass for her sister.

Later at the Hotel Rex after toasting with a glass of Mumm Napa Valley sparkling wine, I welcomed Ed Champion at our Algonquin, clock-faced roundtable before our podcast interview. I must confess I was impressed by how very well-prepared Ed appeared with questions for all of us (Kim Askew, Meghan Daum, Erin Ergenbright, Heather Juergensen, Michelle Richmond, and myself). The man does his research which I found gratifying after being blasted by idiotic male spectators on blogs of late. It seems to me that men should listen closely to what these women have to say. Just a helpful tip. Ed asked Meghan about her piece. We talked about the GRUPs article that Kevin Smokler had mentioned at the reading for a bit, and the chick lit phenonmenon which led to an angry response from Michelle to Curtis Sittenfeld's scathing NY Times review of Melissa Bank's The Wonder Spot. Ed should have the podcast up in a few weeks. Until then, the book is available at your local independent bookseller. Enquiring minds want to know. Thank you Jung Yun for your splendid photos and to all the contributors for joining me. It was such a fantastic night!


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