Ukrainian Connections

I was delighted to be a part of the “Trapped” Reading last week at Trap Door Theatre in Chicago when the publisher Whiskey Tit arranged for two of its writers (who happened to be of Ukrainian descent) to fly into Chicago for a reading.

After a tasty dinner and lively conversation with Stefan O. Rak and Svetlana Lavochkina, we moved over to the theatre and welcomed guests.

The audience was enthusiastic, the musical accompaniment provided an unusual, creative twist, and both Stefan and Svetlana were wonderful and engaging readers.

I had broken my reading glasses an hour before, and one of the members of the audience was kind enough to lend me their glasses for the reading. It helped. ūüôā

Jennifer B. Larson, another member of the audience shared her zine, Pulp Oddyssey, with me after the reading. It was fun to be handed a print zine. (I will always love the feel of paper and newsprint.) You can learn more at: www.disappearingmedia.comI don’t get to go to nearly as many readings as I would like to–one of the many challenges of being a parent of three and a working writer. I love getting the change to hear a writer read their own work live, especially when that writer is an excellent reader, as were both Stefan and Svetlana. I was caught up in both their stories, and I cannot wait to read their books! I’m also thrilled to have finally met Miette Gillette, who is doing an amazing job with Whiskey Tit. I look forward to following what her press and authors are doing in the future.

You can purchase their books direct from the Whiskey Tit website or on Amazon! 

The rest of the week was devoted to Chicago Literary Hall of Fame Fuller Award ceremony planning, spending time with friends in from the UK, and closing off the weekend by celebrating Liam’s performance at Thirsty Ears Music Festival, put on by his fabulous music school, ACM (Access Contemporary Music). I can not say enough about the instructors and staff at ACM. They are incredible musicians and generous, patient, and supportive teachers.

In the afternoon, Liam performed his original piano composition “Myst” on a gorgeous baby grand:

Then the evening closed out with ACM’s Sound of Silent Film Festival screening, where Liam’s Film Score class had the opportunity to watch a live ensemble perform their original musical score for the film, Hope by Michael Scherrer, performed by live musicians. It was remarkable. Each of the 5 students, ages 13-17, wrote a minute’s worth of the composition. The class was run by the incomparable Trevor Watkin, a talented musician, composer, and instructor.

AND our advance author copies of FORKING GOOD arrived! They’re beautiful, and we are so excited. We can’t wait until October!

If you want to get a copy in your hands before the release…during August, there is a Goodreads giveway to win 1 of 25 advance copies of the cookbook. The giveaway ends 8/30 and is U.S. only.

You can sign up here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/295726-forking-good-a-cookbook-inspired-by-the-good-place

 

 

Reading Thursday in Chicago!

I was invited by Miette Gillette of Whisk(e)y Tit to participate in a reading this Thursday, August 8, 2019 at Trap Door Theatre.  I will be joining Svetlana Lavochkina and Stefan O. Rak, two other writers of Ukrainian ancestry.

Miette was one of the wonderful people at Iambik Audiobooks who helped to turn The Silence of Trees into an audio book (You can read about that here). She has since started her own experimental literature publishing company, Whisk(e)y Tit, to serve as “literary wet nurse” for books that “would otherwise be abandoned in a homogenized literary landscape. In a world gone mad, our refusal to make this sacrifice is an act of civil service and civil disobedience alike.”

The reading will be from 8-10:30 at Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland Street in Chicago, and will include musical guests. I hope to see some of you there!

Svetlana Lavochkina is a Ukrainian-born novelist, poet and poetry translator, now residing in Germany. In 2013, her novella Dam Duchess was chosen runner-up in the Paris Literary Prize. Her debut novel, Zap, was shortlisted for Tibor & Jones Pageturner Prize 2015. Svetlana’s work has been widely published in the US and Europe. It appeared in AGNI, New Humanist, POEM, Witness, Straylight, Circumference, Superstition Review, Sixfold, Drunken Boat and elsewhere.

Stefan O. Rak lives in New York City, because it makes sense. In the 1940s, his grandparents fled Ukraine for NYC, otherwise he may have never been born. He‚Äôs worked as an archival director, film professor, record producer, experimental music programmer, and bartender. Rak’s ADVENTURES OF BASTARD AND M.E. is a pataphysical romp through a seedy underworld of criminal comic characters
Hope to see some of you there!

Read the Comments

Wyrd Words Moonrise 2015 (photo by Stephen H. Segal)

In my last blog entry, I wrote about the song that my kids and I worked on together for the Amanda Palmer Blackout songwriting challenge–our first collaboration, my first songwriting lyric attempt, my 12 year-old-daughter’s first time singing in a public space, my son’s first time working with lyrics for one of his compositions. That’s a lot of firsts.

I’m not a singer, and my daughter enjoys it, so I asked her to be a part of this because it’s summer and I wanted to try making something together; but the truth is, I would have sung the lyrics myself (however poorly) if she hadn’t wanted to be a part of this.

Full disclosure: I’m terrified of singing in public. I have not sung in front of strangers since I was a child and my family teased me about performing “Dites-Moi” too dramatically in the choir at St. Pascal’s grammar school. I think I was 9.

I only started singing in small, private settings in the last few years, ever since the kids were born and I wanted them to feel comfortable singing. I tried to model for them that not having a “good voice” shouldn’t stop their love of making noises and expressing themselves. But have I ever done Karaoke? Nope.

Still, for this, I would have sung.¬† So what had changed? It’s not the fact that it’s recorded, because the idea of something living online is even scarier than a live performance.

This thought was fresh in my mind after we posted our song entry, when Lana and I started to go through the hundreds of comments to see how other people had responded to Amanda’s challenge. I continued to peruse them last night, and something struck me.

Again and again I read versions of the following in the Patreon comments:

“I’m really nervous…” “I’ve never done anything like this before…” “I only sing in my shower…” “I can’t play an instrument…” “English is not my first language…” “I’m learning how to speak English…” “I’ve always wanted to write a song…” “I was so inspired to try…”

Hundreds of people responded with song lyrics that they wrote, many of them sung into telephones and computers with little or no musical/recording experience. In a week. They made art and shared it with strangers.

There is wisdom in the modern proverb, “Do not read the comments.” Too often, strangers are not kind to those who reveal their vulnerability in a public way. It can be scary even for those those of us who look to have an audience for our voices and ideas. Here were people taking up the challenge to be creative and post it publicly. Even if they couldn’t play an instrument or were afraid to sing or if knew that they would be disqualified because they didn’t fully follow the instructions, still they posted their words and sang their songs.

Why?

Surely many wanted the opportunity to share something with the artist who has given them so much joy and comfort and inspiration. Amanda’s relationship with her fans is special. She works hard at it, and as a writer mama, I respect the way she’s trying to make time for the many relationships in her life now that she’s raising her young son Ash, including the relationship with her fans and collaborators.

It’s a contest, and so some were inspired by the prize and potential recognition, and yet in other contexts, competitions can get ugly. To date, this one has not.

I believe there’s more to it than fandom. Amanda has cultivated her community with a desire to connect, to share unapologetically her life and her self online and in person. Her community of supporters is built on her foundation of vulnerability and acceptance. She does it in a way that is bold and and performative, and it’s not for everyone, but it’s a message that reaches a lot of people looking for a safe place to be themselves, to be seen, to be heard.

The wonderful Bren√© Brown writes in her book, Daring Greatly,¬† ‚ÄúVulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.‚ÄĚ

It’s interesting, because when a friend heard our song, she told me that she was struck by how vulnerable Lana sounded. She’s right. Hearing our finished song, I felt both protective and proud, and I think it’s because of that creative vulnerability. I asked Stephen his thoughts, and his response was that this community was likely to be mutually supportive–that Amanda Palmer fans weren’t going to tear each other down over a prize.

We’ve all heard stories of how kids get cyber-bullied. I’ve been protective of the kids growing up because of the way that the internet *can* bring out the worst in people. But Stephen was right, this really is different.

Looking at the songwriting entries from all over the world, I was heartened to read people saying supportive things to strangers, offering to help one another. I think that’s really important. There’s a lot of poison out there now, and it was good to see a few more examples that we can do better. I know there are other such communities and online sanctuaries, and I’m grateful to be a part of a few of them; but it’s also easy to get weighed down every day by the many places where we need to work harder to make things better. This was a small moment of hope, and I just wanted to share.