Tag Archives: Men Undressed

How I Learned to Read

Litquake

I had a tremendous time reading for the Men Undressed anthology at San Francisco’s Lit Crawl this past weekend.

But before the reading I had to learn to read.[1]

This was not my first reading; however I’m not, historically speaking, a good reader. In fact, one of my trusted Famous Writer mentors told me this past summer, “That’s awful! You can’t read like that,” before turning to the rest of the group and adding, “C’mon guys. You gotta learn to read better. Who else is going to speak for your work?” For serious. He said it because he knew I could take it from him, and because I’d take his advice and use it to improve.

I decided to become a good reader.

So I practiced reading my excerpt. And I practiced some more. I read it aloud. I videotaped myself reading aloud. I watched myself on video (gah). I made myself read as slowly as I could. I asked a good friend (who happens to be a storyteller) for her feedback. She offered some kind but focused words. I was reading in that measured slow way like poets do, she said. The speed was good, she said. I got it. I worked on inflection. I practiced reading again. And I practiced some more. My husband gave me feedback. Modeled what he thought might be better to me. I was impressed; he was way better than I at reading my own piece.

At this point, I wished that I had taken some voice acting classes, or taken drama in junior high school. (Omg! James Earl Jones, Clint Eastwood, Christopher Walken, Jack Nicholson, Holly Hunter, and Kathleen Turner are genius)! I was also inspired by Kathleen Chalfant reading alongside Jessica Hagedorn at Hagedorn’s book launch party for Toxicology. Chalfant showed me what writers can achieve when manuscripts are read with flair and power. (And also, what we writers often miss in our own readings). I was enraptured when she read aloud from Toxicology.

Writing and stellar voice performance are mutually exclusive, but I’m a strong believer in hard work. So I practiced some more. I marked up my manuscript with cues; symbols and underlines and exclamation points and stars for where I should slowly crescendo (arrow up), or decrescendo (arrow down) my voice, where I wanted to sound light and airy (dots) or gravelly (squiggly lines) or read more slowly (underlines), or pause (vertical line breaks). Or paaaauuuuuse. (double vertical line breaks).

I watched myself read on video. Gah. I practiced some more.

I watched the time. We each were allowed eight minutes to read. I cut and cut my piece down to six minutes, because as an audience member, I can’t stand when readers go over the time limit. It’s *rarely* an enjoyable experience listening/watching a writer read on and on and on. I cut paragraphs throughout, paragraphs in the middle, toward the end, all the ones that didn’t translate well to being read aloud.

I thought about my excerpt and what I wanted to convey. About being in the scene with my character. Made more tweaks as to relay the mood of the scene, of the actions involved.

I thought about memorizing as much as I could so that I could lift my head and make eye contact with the audience. And I made an executive decision: I wouldn’t be doing that. I didn’t have time to memorize, and it was lower priority. I’d just read it heads down. I’ve seen lots of great literary readers do just that, and it didn’t bother me at all that they never looked up.

And then I practiced reading aloud, again. On video. In front of my husband. Alone. I sighed. It was, I thought, the best I could do. And at least it was better than before. And then it was time.

I’d packed a summer dress for my reading. I get hot when I’m nervous. Not hawt. I’m talking sweaty hot flash, hot. You’ll never see me in a sweater for an event at which I know I’ll be nervous. (On the other hand, there are people who get colllld when they get nervous, in which case, they should wear sweaters and not summer dresses).

I don’t know about you, but a nice outfit can change my whole perspective on self. So I packed my favorite summer dress.

I had a cocktail beforehand–unplanned, but there was a bit of a wait before the doors opened, and I thought I’d have a drink. Which chilled me out. Which was good.

I had written notes to myself with cues for the reading on a post-it, and I’d stuck it on my manuscript. Notes about how to introduce my piece. Notes reminding me to introduce the next reader out of the Men Undressed anthology. I knew I’d forget otherwise. And I was glad I did, because the readers who went before I did, forgot to introduce the next reader.

And then I read. In a dark room in the Mission during Lit Crawl, where the night was lit up with literary energy, and where I knew a few good friends lingered in the audience. And then it felt magical, and I found myself improvising pitch while up on stage, inspiration that would not have come had I not practiced.

Moral of story:

  1. Practice reading.
  2. Get feedback.
  3. Practice some more.
  4. Make notes on your manuscript.
  5. Practice some more.
  6. Get into your story/scene/poem.
  7. Wear what makes you feel good.
  8. Get a posse together, if you can.
  9. And then–have fun. If you need a drink, go for it. If you don’t drink, that’s fine, too–but figure out a way to loosen up beforehand. And then, have as much fun as you can.

[1] And I’m sharing with you how I learned to read, because the advice out there is generic and not as practical or specific (e.g., “Read slow” or “Look up every once in awhile”) as I needed when I needed tips.

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Book giveaway: Men Undressed!

Wiener Dogs Reading Books: Men Undressed

I’m giving away a copy of the Men Undressed anthology, out from Other Voices/DZANC Books!

I’m particularly psyched about this giveaway, because my piece “Erasure,” is included in the anthology. And I’m unusually delighted about this particular piece having been published, because “Erasure” is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress. A mini-debut, so to speak, of a years-long obsession of mine.

Just so you know, my piece is a sex scene. The entire anthology is comprised of literary sex scenes. All the stories, all written by women, feature male protagonists in sex scenes.[1] I’ve read many of the stories, and they are all amazing, written by writers like Jennifer Egan, Aimee Bender, A.M. Homes, and Kim Addonizio.

Men Undressed anthology

There’ll be a bunch of publicity revving up for the anthology; among the many things planned are:

Opening lines of “Erasure”:

“Myung-Ja came home from her overtime shift at the hospital before dawn, her tired steps crunching gravel in the courtyard with an unfamiliar tempo that awakened Yong, who then lay tensed on the heated ondol floor waiting for either a key in the door or the brutal sounds of someone breaking in, his morning erection fading with his heartbeat. He wondered if a day would come when he wouldn’t react to sudden noise like this, when he might even sleep through any shift in environment. In the darkness, he vowed to protect any future children from this ever-vigilant state, one that made him aware of survival on a minute-to minute basis. He vowed to spoil them rotten, coddle them, never let them heave into consciousness with great fear…”

I hope that whets your appetite…

So let’s get to the heart of the matter: the giveaway!

You can see a copy of the book[2] in the photos of my “wiener dogs reading books.” The anthology is published in beautiful soft cover, as you see here, and I can sign the book if you so desire.

Here’s how to enter/how I will pick the winner…

  1. Leave a comment below. You can say anything you want–e.g., you can describe a moment in which you or someone you know was, or felt, “undressed,” you can tell me why you want a copy of the book, or share with me how you feel about an anthology that encourages cross-gender sexual representation!
  2. Do fill out your email address when you fill out the fields in the comment box (it won’t be published to the world, but I will need it in order to contact you in case you win)!
  3. 1 entry per person
  4. The giveaway is open worldwide.
  5. If you win the contest, I will email you for your mailing address.
  6. Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.
  7. I will be announcing the contest winner on the blog. None of your personal information will be posted, aside from your first name and last initial (or the nickname you choose to list in your comment). If you see that someone else has entered the same name as you, please try to pick a different nickname to call yourself, just for clarity.
  8. If you are below the age of 18, please ask your parents to fill out the comment field with their information.

GOOD LUCK!!![3]

The deadline to enter a comment is Wednesday October 12, 2011 12noon EDT. The winner (picked at random) will be announced October 12, 2011 by 9:00pm EDT.

The winner is announced!

Men Undressed anthology

[1] About time! Haven’t we read plenty of female-centric sex scenes written by male writers like Flaubert, D.H. Lawrence, and Philip Roth?

[2] I promise, I won’t send you the copy my dogs “read”–unless of course, you wish to have that one.

[3] I hope you win! And I hope you enjoy the anthology. Even if you don’t win, I hope you buy the anthology–in your neighborhood independent bookstore, or online at Amazon

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Men Undressed and The Nervous Breakdown

Men Undressed anthology

My piece “Erasure” is published in the anthology Men Undressed, which is a collection of sex scenes featuring male protagonists written by women.

“Erasure” is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress. It’s always exciting/a pleasure/amazing/a joy/uplifting to see my stories published–but I’m especially thrilled to see a portion of my novel in print!

I hope you get a chance to read/enjoy the stories.[1] But in the interim, check out my interview about contributing to Men Undressed with Gina Frangello at The Nervous Breakdown.

I’ll also be participating in readings for the anthology, the first of which will be at San Francisco’s LitCrawl on October 15th, 7:15-8:15pm at the SUB/MISSION Art Space at 2183 Mission–I hope to see you there. 🙂

[1] I’m doing a giveaway of the anthology here on the blog!

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Quick blog post, June 15, 2011

Rapture Art

I am sitting down to write for the first time in weeks. Life has been hectic, albeit in celebration, these days. Lots of parties, outings, (non-writing) work, meetings, travel. I wonder at times if the world is cold-blooded; now that the temperatures have risen, the pace of activity has quickened.

And in the face of a frenetic social schedule and steamy summer, I find myself fantasizing about winter–a time of year when the ubiquitous jackhammers silence, the snow casts a monochromatic scheme over things, and getting dressed is mostly about getting that down parka over my jeans and tshirt. (Yes, I spend almost the entirety of winter in a tshirt and jeans under a parka). I love when nighttime outweighs daylight and a party is not outdoors but cast in lamplight and candles. You’d find me happy in wintertime Narnia.

Winter is the time of year when I get most of my writing done. I am not sure why this is, but after numerous writing seasons, this is confirmed as fact. Thankfully, I normally live in San Francisco, where summer is one long glorious winter.

But it’s summer in NYC, where it can get so sweltering that my legs become slick with sweat (sexy, I know). I’ve stocked up on summer dresses. I’ve cut my hair. I’m trying to figure out summer makeup. And I’m writing and seeing how it goes.

Because I haven’t blogged in awhile–thought I’d do a “quick blog post” as an update.

Read/Reading:

  • Nova Ren Suma’s debut YA novel, Imaginary Girls. Buy it.
  • Beginning to read manuscripts from VONA. Did I mention VONA before? I got a lot of rejections in the past few weeks (everytime I opened my mailbox, it seemed there was a lightweight envelope addressed in my own handwriting)…but I will be in Junot Díaz’s fiction workshop this summer. I haven’t had workshop with him since 2005, and I’m excited about working with Junot again.
  • Can you believe I’ve never read Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse? So I’m picking it up.

Wrote/Writing:

  • My novel. I am trying very hard to work on nothing else.
  • But I did write up my parents’ visit to NYC, and in particular, their jaunt to Queens, over at AAWW’s Open City blog.

Viewed:

  • A lightning storm from inside a jet. I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye, and I looked out the plane window. I’d missed whatever it was. Then another flash in my peripheral vision–was my retina detaching? I kept my eyes on the infinite black horizon–and there, there I saw it: an illumination of the clouds beneath. Lightning storm down below. It was like the animation of synapses firing inside a brain, the clouds brain matter and lightning, genius.
  • Too many couples breaking up on the streets of Manhattan to count.
  • An “I love my dildo!” sticker on a residential vehicle in San Francisco’s Mission.
  • Sailors falling-down-drunk during Fleet Week.
  • Bridesmaids. The female response to The Hangover–booyah!
  • Lots of nekkid people looking out their windows in the hotel across the street.

Memorable eats/Culinary outings:

  • Fine dining Israeli food at Zahav in Philly. Israeli food is much more than pita and hummus, people!
  • Too many great meals in Manhattan (some upscale, many more cheap eats)–I’ll have to do a different post on my favorite eats here.
  • Everytime I return to the Bay Area–the first thing I want when I get off the plane is a Gordo burrito. If I land too late to get a Gordo burrito, I just get it the next day. NYC has Dos Toros (a direct derivation of Gordo) and it is good–but isn’t the same.

Cooked:

  • Oh holy crap, I’m turning into a New Yorker; I don’t think I’ve cooked anything substantial in weeks, not even when I was in San Francisco.

Happenings:

  • I have an excerpt from my novel out in Men Undressed: Women Writers on the Male Sexual Experience. I’ve been trying to keep my lips sealed on this until closer to publication date (in October), but I can’t keep it closed anymore! The book is available for pre-order from Amazon–and yes, it features a sex scene from my novel.
  • My short story “Ume” will be out in Kweli Journal’s June issue. The piece holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first piece I began and finished after my stroke, from which I took about 2 years to recover. “Ume” was inspired by a friend who told me a story in hopes that it would awaken a part of my damaged brain, and the story brought me hope that I could write again.
  • Tamiko interviewed me about writing and MFAs as part of her “(private)” MFA series at kikugirl. I had fun reflecting on my MFA experience, and I hope some of it will resonate with you.
  • I have a stigmata on my left foot. When I slammed my foot by accident into a spike, I at first thought, “OW, what did I hit?” and then thought, “This is a very particular kind of bruise–this hurts more than a bruise.” I looked down. I saw the hole.in.my.foot. And then I started crying hysterically as I ran for a bandaid.

Never happened:

  • The Rapture

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October unleashed

snail on a doorstep

October is here. I am back at my desk, writing. Like a snail. But writing. I am happy and hopeful.

Lovely things in October thus far:

  • I had the honor of reading Hedgebrook residency applications this past weekend. In the course of reading the many essays and writing samples, I became inspired–that we are not alone, that we are all struggling forth in our unique ways. The voices were all so amazing. One voice was so amazing that I wrote down the name of her upcoming chapbook (the applications are all anonymous, but I am hoping the chapbook name is unique enough that if I search for it come next year, I can find it and buy it). We helped sift through a portion of the nearly 800 applications that came in.
  • I made a new friend while reading Hedgebrook apps. We were each paired with another Hedgebrook alum/writer; Naomi and I were paired together (funny–we happened to have arrived almost simultaneously, had introduced ourselves to each other, and were sitting next to each other when we discovered we were also partnered). Another commonality that I didn’t realize until afterwards: we were both mentored by Yiyun Li. 🙂
  • Speaking of Yiyun: she was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant! Well deserved.
  • We spotted 2 gray foxes in our neighborhood! Now mind you, we live in a semi-urban city, even if our neighborhood has a bit of green space (lots of empty lots because houses that burned in the 1991 fire were never rebuilt). Every year in the Fall, we see an increase in deer that meander down from Tilden Park into the foothills, and of course, there are wild turkeys…but I’ve yet to see any foxes. Until now. There are no pictures, because I just sat there in the front seat of the car mesmerized as they, lit up like ghosts, crossed the road in the night. Also, they are awfully cute looking, even if they are wild animals.
  • I got a Kindle! It is amazing. It is changing my entire reading experience. For the better. I had to buy reading glasses, but I don’t need them on the Kindle, because I can increase the font size. Also, I can carry 10 books without being weighted down. My arm muscles are atrophying, though.
  • An excerpt of my novel was accepted in an anthology entitled Men Undressed: Women Writers and the Male Sexual Experience (women writers writing the male sexual experience–in response to all the years/books with male writers writing the female sexual experience ala Madame Bovary and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, etc). that will be published in the Fall of 2011. Of course, I called my mom and told her right away about the sex scene I wrote for the anthology. I can’t wait for my parents to read a sex scene I wrote. They probably won’t read it–they might even gag, or at the very least shut the book immediately. But I’d love to tape them reading it. Maybe I will.
  • I resigned from a volunteer job that I’ve loved, but a job I’ve no longer time to do, and a job that deserves more attention than I’ve been able to provide in recent months. I’m sad, but I know it’s for the best–and I’m leaving on good terms. More to come on that.
  • As usual, my students inspire me, and also break my heart. I wish I could write more, but we have a ground rule that what is said in the classroom, stays in the classroom.
  • Sugar posted a new column today. It struck a nerve in me. 16 years ago, I decided that I needed to “change my life or die.” It was the toughest decision I made, to leave the known and make a massive leap of hope into the unknown. It has led to immense happiness in my life, and it is a decision I have never regretted. Feeling, and being “stuck” is not good. I hope “Ruler” also finds his road to happiness.
     

    Will post more, later. October is full of good stuff. I am hoping it will be full of Muse-charmed writing, too.

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