Sunday, December 26, 2010

Multi Kulti & Book Tasting Rocked!

The reading at Multi-Kulti earlier this month turned out to be a real blast. The subject was immigration and there was much more on the bill than just literature. Some young undocumented folks spoke about the DREAM Act (which, unfortunately, failed in the senate a week later and may be lost for a while) and about organizing in general, and poet Bill Hillman hosted another session of the Windy City Story Slam, which offered some shockingly good stories. My favorite reader, Karolis Gintaras Zukauskas, came in second but it was overall delightful.

I also had the good fortune to share the bill with John Schultz, who told a very emotional tale sans script, and the amazing Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, who utterly thrilled the crowds.

For me, it was a brand new experience in two different ways. For starters, I read non-fiction, a piece that ran in Vogue magazine in 1998 about the Elian Gonzalez debacle and how it affected Cuban families. I decided to go with it, after having left it alone for so many years, because it touched on so many aspects of immigration and assimilation. To make it current I had to revisit a few things but I was honestly stunned by how little needed to be changed.

The second thing was accidental -- my printer refused to work and I simply didn't have time to run out and get new ink. So I ended up mailing the entire manuscript to myself and reading it on my cell. I was quite terrified -- and I did lose my place once, badly -- but the audience was forgiving. What I discovered, though, was that it was remarkably easy once I got the hang of it. And though it presents a challenge in that I'm looking down a lot, it also has advantages: the pages are in strict order and there's no paper to hide behind. I might do this again, on purpose.

The entire reading was recorded on -- there are a few glitches here and there, but definitely not their fault. In fact, it's really a heck of an editing job.

Later in the week, I read a few pages from Ruins at Depaul's first ever faculty "Book Tasting." To my surprise, more than 150 people
showed up to hear a dozen profs and staffers read a few minutes from our books. There was dead serious stuff and very funny pieces and much in-between. After the reading itself, the authors were gathered for a reception to meet and greet and had our books paired with a select wine. Mine ended up being a tasty cabernet, full-bodied but not too sweet.

The "Book Tasting" idea had struck me as so bizarre, I'd really wondered about it but the event was a gigantic success. And it was great fun to hang out afterward and talk to the folks who'd come hear the readers, and to some of the other authors as well.

I have a big reading coming up this week in Miami, on Wed., Dec 29 at the Coral Gables Books & Books. It's a new experience for me, since I won't be reading from my own creative writing but from my translation of Ena Lucia Portela's One Hundred Bottles (University of Texas Press).

I'll have more details about the reading and the book tomorrow, and, later this week, about upcoming readings in Austin and Washington D.C.

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