Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Busy Few Weeks in NYC

By Casey Tolfree

I've been meaning to post but I've just been ridiculously busy with work and school. I wrote about some of the things I've been doing for school on my personal blog and I thought I'd post it here so you guys can get a glimpse. Anyway, March 11-March 14 was quite a weekend.

Who says just because there is a hurricane storming outside that you can’t have a great weekend? Not me. I had quite an eventful weekend despite the craziness outside. It’s hard to say what was the most entertaining or interesting part of the weekend so; I’ll just start at the beginning.

Let me preface this post with the fact that I am not a city person – or I wasn’t until this semester. I’ve lived just a short train-ride outside New York City my whole life. Twenty miles by car. Unlike many of my classmates and college acquaintances, going to the city was never particularly appealing. I hated having to run around a train schedule (I still do) or wait for the never showing up late night subway. Now that I have class in the city, all bets are off. I spent three of the last four days going into the city, to the Public Theater, to Brooklyn, to the KGB Bar. It’s tiring.

I had the unique opportunity on Thursday evening to see Suzan-Lori Parks’ new play, The Book of Grace at the Public Theater. Having read two of her plays, I was interested in just how her new play would be written and performed. Book of Grace seems to be a standard written play, though I haven’t seen the script. It is separated by different chapters in the Book of Grace.

Grace is one of the three characters in this play. Grace is a woman tries to see the good in everything. She is trying to reunite Vet and his estranged son, Buddy (Snake). Set along the Mexican border much of the plays actions are dependent upon Vet’s border patrol job. He is receiving a medal. This brings Buddy home.

Vet is unforgiving and relentless. He has made plenty of mistakes, but he will never own them. He will never change. Buddy is a lot like his father, though he doesn’t want to admit it. He returns home to give his father a second chance but winds up just wanting to kill him, and attempting to.

Vet was played by John Doman. Doman is a pretty popular television star. He’s been in “NCIS”, “Law & Order” and “ER” just to name a few. To be honest, as much as I was enthralled by the play I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I knew this actor.

The play was great. The Public Theater was pretty and I added yet another city location I am now comfortable navigating.

So after seeing the play I traveled back to Westchester just to come back to the Varick street campus of Adelphi about 12 hours later.

Then the rain came.

My Friday class in the city was probably the highlight of the weekend. We had the opportunity to have Susan Henderson and Marie Mockett come and speak to the class about their writing lives. I felt inspired after class. I felt that I learned a lot. They both had great advice for how to get an agent and just about writing in general.

As someone who has been trying to write a synopsis for about a year, this class period really put things in perspective. I was able to write my one-sentence pitch and narrow a 380-page novel into a concise thought. I even queried an agent for said novel.

Then I went to Brooklyn. I’ve never been to Brooklyn and now I know why – it’s far away.

Henderson told us we should go to the KGB Bar and talk to people and to make sure we had our pitch ready. I’d already been planning on visiting KGB Sunday for an Electric Literature reading.

I have to say, I’m surprised. KGB is a room, literally. It was so crowded and I can’t believe we found seats. It was a great experience. Rick Moody was the headliner so to speak. He read his “Twitter” story, “Some Contemporary Characters.” He’s a great reader and the story was funny. It spoke volumes about the differences between men and women, between young and old. It was a telling piece that made you laugh.

Just for a quick example, after the older man and the young co-ed have sex, they realize they have lost the stuffed rabbit from the carnival. The man says philosophically thinking about where it could have gone, “Did I slay the rabbit?” It’s hard to catch the humor without Moody standing in front of you reading this piece but let’s just say it was funny.

Before Moody hit the stand, Jenny Orfill read part of her story from Electric Literature 3. Most inventive and inspiring were two lesser known writers, Cristina Moracho, a recent Brooklyn MFA graduate and Wythe Marschall.

Moracho read a non-fiction piece about a neighbor who only referred to as “The Flasher.” The story itself was witty, funny, lively, but even more so was Moracho’s voice in reading it. Her ability to read the story with the right amount of grace, humor and irony made the piece everything it needed to be.

Marschall’s piece, a story from his collection The Pale Weed Bender, was called “I Heard the Bells of Graveyard Walk.” Wythe premised his story by explaining that they are set in the 1860-1899 period. He read a little too fast but his accent added to the already original narrator, Jake. The story had honest humor, the type of humor that makes you laugh because it’s true. As a reader, Wythe was perfect. He would skip descriptions in his story for time, but summarize in a comical way.

“Then he worried some more but you don’t need to hear about it.” Or something along those lines.

The night ended in typical Metro North fashion. The 9:56 train I planned to take – missing in action. The 10:05 that arrives – doesn’t go to Dobbs Ferry. So, I miss the 9:20 by four minutes and have to wait an hour to catch a train home. Needless to say, after I got off the train, drove my boyfriend home and drove back to my own apartment… midnight. I work at 5 a.m.

Yeah…exhaustion but it was totally worth it.

The next Friday I went to the NYC Teen Author Festival at the NYPL - amazing.

  It was fate really. I logged on to Twitter one day and there it was. One of my favorite authors was not going to the NYC Teen Author Festival. The what, I said. I followed her link and found a Facebook page for a weeklong festival throughout the city’s public libraries. It just happened to be on our Spring Break. And I just happened to have Friday off.

Friday was the Teen Author Symposium. A day of panels filled with some of the top young adult fiction authors in the country, including my favorite, Sarah Dessen.

Dessen, along with Jessica Blank, Eireann Corrigan, Jenny Han, Terra Elan McVoy, Siobhan Vivian, Adrienne Maria Vrettos and Jacqueline Woodson, sat with host David Levithan during the capstone panel Friday evening to talk about Writing in a Teen Girl’s Voice.

Each of the eight authors read a selection from one of their books. Dessen read from her newest release, Along for the Ride.

She mentioned in her discussion that she had originally wanted to title the book “The World of Girls” definitely not as good a title and not as in tune with Dessen’s other titles.

One of the biggest things the panel talked about was the importance of appearance when having a teen girl as the narrator.

Dessen said she does not like to use too much description of her characters.

“I want the reader to be able to see themselves in the story,” she said. “The more specific you get…there are not a lot of people who can relate to that.”

The most exciting panel of the day however was the Boy You Can’t Have Panel featuring Susane Colasanti, Elizabeth Eulberg, Robin Palmer, Elizabeth Scott, Melissa Walker and Maryrose Wood.
Wood was hilarious. She brought a life to the panel. She admitted that after her divorce at 40; dating brought back all the memories of being a teenager. The fears, the wonder, everything it was to be sixteen. She uses that feeling to create her teenage characters in her books like My Life the Musical.

But it was Susane Colasanti who really seemed to capture for me just exactly what it means to be a teen author. She said her internal age is sixteen.

“People a lot of the time ask me how I write for teens,” she said. “I look at them and I’m like how don’t I write for teens.”

Levithan didn’t share any of his work but he was a great host. He just really brought the authors to life. It was easy to see the small world of writing that Susan Henderson spoke about on the stage Friday. In between panels, he Nicholas Sparks bashed, which is always amusing. He even read samples from the lastest book-turned-movie The Last Song. There was some Miley bashing too, but then again, can you blame them?

1 comment:

  1. i've always wanted to try living in a city but i wonder if i would like it once i got there..


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