Remember when I was inside a museum? Guess what. I was inside another museum! Art and writing have always coincided for me, so getting back into the groove of visiting museums and galleries is getting my writing brain back into gear. All art one art.
BG and I met at the Heckscher Museum of Art. We’d reserved our slots in advance. Also important to know: admittance was free! They took our temperature and opened the door for us to go inside. Then we saw the art. Most of the museum was artwork by local students. When I started commenting like, “This is eleventh grade” and “This is twelfth grade,” BG didn’t realize I was reading the descriptions. Then he was like, “Oh! Like these are literally students!” I was like, “Yeah, I wasn’t being judgey about their abilities.” We both agreed that these students are super talented. Also, their artist statements sound like they have been making art for the past two decades.
We were allotted 45 minutes to take in the entire museum, which is plenty of time for a museum of that size. I think we actually spent an hour inside anyway. There weren’t a lot of people, though the two of us managed to create a crowd as we got enveloped in conversation and someone on staff had to remind us to stay away from other people. We were acting like there was nothing wrong in the world even though we had masks on and had had our temperature taken.
Sidenote: I call this the abnormal. It’s not the new normal. There’s nothing normal about having to wear a mask in public and not be able to jostle your way to the artwork when someone tall is taking too long and refuses to move.
Sidenote to the sidenote: I didn’t jostle anyone. We simply got too close. However, in normal times, I may jostle a few people.
Sidenote to the sidenote to the sidenote: Jostle is a fun word to say. Go ahead and say it out loud. I’ll wait. Okay, done? Wasn’t that fun?
After the museum, it was gallery time. We headed over to B. J. Spoke Gallery, a haunt for us when we go to poetry readings. This time, it was all for the art. One of the newer artists is a collagist, and so is BG, so we dug her work a lot. The artist behind the desk told us about her own artwork when we commented on her photograph. She was like, “I snuck into that guy’s backyard to take that shot.” It was well worth it–some rusted out trucks in a yard filled with vibrant green grass entitled Retired. Loved it.
Up next, all the books. Book Revue has all of them. However, BG was like, “Food?” I was like, “I brought some.” He was like, “Really?” I was like, “I don’t go anywhere without food.” I grabbed my food and met him outside Burgerology where we also met up with VS and stayed for hours with the danger of people who don’t know how to parallel park always at our backs and falling leaves from the trees above landing in our laps. Worth it. P. S. the staff there worked their asses off, and their bathroom was immaculate.
Up next, all the books, round 2. Back up to Book Revue. An hour of book browsing and asking, “Hey have you read…”, “If you like that one how about….”, and “Did you see the new….” We devoted a lot of time to boxes of books that were 1 for $3 and 5 for $10. I found a novel I’ve wanted to read that my library always says is on the shelf but isn’t. Then I found another book by a poet I’ve wanted to read. I grabbed a third book, another poetry collection, because I liked the cover and the shape of the poems inside. This is definitely how you should choose books, covers and shapes. VS combined ours into 5 and then BG created his own little haul.
The sun had begun to set, and it felt like one of those summer nights when the world is normal and you’ve done all the things you could possibly have wanted to do. With the crosswalk voice urging us to to wait and then move, we found our way back to the glitter of the parking lot and headed home. Summer days. Summer nights. Art. Books. Friends. Perfection.
A morning panel at 10 AM was the plan. The original plan had included an afternoon reading, but with nothing to do in between and checkout at 1, the plan got pared down. I packed my stuff and then packed my car and then went in search of hot tea. The free coffee outside of the hotel restaurant did not have a hot water accompaniment, so I had decaf. Then I realized I could have taken the empty cup to my room to make tea in. So I drank the coffee and then rinsed the cup and then had tea. It was early. I had time to drink things.
I watched the news. I watched some Mystery Science Theatre on Netflix (the hotel TV had a smart TV). I check all the drawers again to see if I’d left anything behind. I found reading materials.
Then I headed out to the second panel I’d attend on social media. If you’ll recall, the first one didn’t exactly go as planned. I hoped that this one would not include unwanted touching or any other kinds of accosting.
When I got to the room, the door didn’t open, so I leaned against the wall and tried to get the wi-fi to hook up to my phone. I’d been doing this since I’d arrived on Friday to no avail. Then I heard a door open and someone say, Hey you stalking me?
It’s game time! Ooh, I think this is the first time I’m doing this on this blog. Or maybe the second. Whatever, we haven’t done this in a while.
Question: Who was the guy who came out of the room across the hall?
(a) Hotel staff
(b) Someone from the Brooklyn Speculative Fiction Writers crowd
(c) Okay, this is dumb. We all know the answer is B because there’s no one else it could be.
I was like, Oh hey.
And he was like, You waiting for a session to start?
I was like, Yeah but I think the door is locked.
He walked over and then opened the door.
This. Is. My. Life.
He held it open for me, and I walked in, and we both told each other to have a good day. I sat on an aisle seat towards the middle and again fought with the wi-fi. Then two men came in–two of the three Glenns from yesterday–and one asked if I had moved from that seat. Because that’s exactly where I sat during their panel. On the plus side, someone remembered me, and that’s actually a nice change of pace. Usually, I have to introduce myself to people about nine times on the average until they recognize me later on. This is not self-pity. This is another fact of life, and I’m okay with that.
More panelists came in followed by two more audience members, so the panel began. It was a good conversation about social media. They didn’t really give the ins and outs of actual examples of how-tos and which apps (Reddit was mentioned but not like how to actually use Reddit so it is still a complete mystery), but they did give solid advice about writing: be genuinely consistent and consistently genuine. I kind of know that, but it’s good reinforcement. One of them talked about how one of his non-fiction pieces went viral and how he continued to blog using interesting titles. So, click-bait.
Another is a creative writing professor at St. John’s and a fiction writer. He made some grading references and student paper references, so he was speaking my language. So much so that I went up to him afterwards, introduced myself as a professor at NCC, and then chatted about students and social media. Yeah, that’s right. I went up to someone. I engaged in conversation. A conversation I started. He agreed that that the younger generation is into the way everyone thinks they are.
Here are the two take-aways that stood out:
- Pieces should be personally dangerous.
- No matter how or why you begin a project, in the end, it must emotionally resonate with an audience.
What I’ve found is I do all the things these panels talk about. I don’t have the kind of following they all have. The main difference seems to be that I don’t go out and meet people face to face as much as they do. I suppose I should go to conventions and conferences more often. I can take my department travel money and run! (Of course, the travel budget for each faculty member barely covers one conference registration, but you know, one can dream.)
I ate a Larabar, put on The Dear Mattie Show Podcast, and drove home, listening to the GPS until I got to Bronx River Parkway and then took my own way home. Where I found the house immaculately clean courtesy of Eddie. Aww, what a way to end a weekend.
Whenever I use the word “skillz,” you know I must be up to something creatively good. “Good” is a subjective term. You’ll see. I’ve been playing around with Storify and my MS Movie Maker to teach myself how to teach a class in rudimentary tech skillz. The other reason: my book is going to be published soon, and this is my new marketing plan. Make videos. Storify them. Send them out into the world. Here goes.
UPDATE: Okay, so my mad WordPress skillz seem to not be on point. I’ve got the embed code from Storify and the HTML tab chosen. It’s not working. And so, to see my video skillz, here’s a link instead.
Impressed, aren’t you? With, like, this whole thing, huh?
ImAGatsbyGirl became the go-to avatar when I needed a screen name about a decade ago. It then became GatsbyGirl due to character space issues. And laziness, as you well know.
Actually, maybe you don’t know. If you never saw Livin’ The Dream or A Life of We, then you probably don’t. Hi, there. I’m a lazy blogger prone to awkwardness and fits of sweating for reasons such as rejoicing and getting nervous and breathing. I spell names wrong and I rarely look things up. I’ve blogged on WordPress before, but never for my own personal reasons. Blogger was always the place for that. Clearly, that’s changed. Here I am, world, look at me. See? That’s a comma splice, and I’m not fixing it.
Back to the Gatsby. I’ve been reading So We Read On, a book that’s been on my to-read list (the list in my head and my official Goodreads list) since it came out. Its subtitle explains that it traces How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures. I figured it would offer intriguing reasons for America’s penchant for it in a chronologically narrated tome. Instead, I’ve found it to be tedious reading that doubles back on itself in sections that repeat information because they are framed around what I think are themes, but I’m not certain if that’s what they’re based on because, well, I don’t like it.
I’m continuing to read it because I simply can’t not finish a book once I’ve begun. Three exceptions: Helen Gurley Brown’s Sex and the Single Girl‘s first page is so awful, I stopped reading. The first lines of Lolita are so creepy, that I shut it right up. The Confederacy of Dunces is absolutely horrible, and I don’t care if everyone else in your MFA writing program sings its praises. It’s crap. It’s too long, but more importantly, it’s crappity crap crap. If I actually gave up on it, it’s really that bad.
The second half is turning out to be more interesting than the first because it’s discussing more enduring and less how it came to be. I suppose I thought it would be mostly about its endurance, which means, It’s me, not the book itself.
Plus, I always have high expectations for Gatsby-related items. It’s my favorite book.
I don’t know why it’s my favorite book. I’m not like other bookworms who will read and re-read their favorite books. I like to read new books, as many as I can. I’m a slow reader, and my job requires me to read everything other than books like emails and discussion boards and essays, so my time for reading needs to be crafted purposefully. Last year, I read 80 books because I was on sabbatical. This year, my goal is 20, which is still lofty.
Back to Gatsby. One reason it’s a favorite is its setting. Born, raised, and living on Long Island, I adore most Long Island-set literature. Another reason is its cover. Yes, you can judge a book by its cover. So We Read On dedicates more than a few passages to the creation of the cover, so I’m not the only one who thinks it’s important.
Here’s a confession: I can’t really tell you the entire story complete with all the characters in the order that it all unfolds, and my favorite movie version was the one on A&E with Paul Rudd. I have a really poor memory, and only “favorite” thing I can relate to you word for word is the Channel 11 edited version of The Breakfast Club. Most things from my childhood appear clearer in my mind than books, shows, and movies after I was 10.
Still, Gatsby is a favorite. It’s alliterative, which makes it catchy and easy to say, so when someone asks me my favorite book, I can say it all fast and fancy: The Great Gatsby! Though usually, I say simply, Gatsby, because everyone knows what I’m talking about.
Really what strikes me about it is that I’m a sucker for language. That’s probably why I’m a poet. Pretty structure. Fresh image. Cadence in prose. Fitzgerald crafted and recrafted the heck out of this little book that seems so simple.
So then I found out that, like, other people have read it and love it just as much. I never read it in school, but apparently, lots of other people have. Lots of teachers teach it. Then that DiCaprio version happened, and it became super all the rage all at once. Incidentally, I threw a party with a bootlegging 1920s theme at the end of that year, but it wasn’t about The Great Gatsby although the fake bar was named after Gatsby. Even when I don’t seek him out, he finds me.
In the meantime, I submitted to and was accepted by Silver Birch’s The Great Gatsby Anthology. The follow up to that was another of my poems posted by Silver Birch on their site to celebrate Fitzgerald’s birthday. The press also runs posts about the authors, so I appeared again in my Gatsby glory. My brother spent a day with me attempting to get as close as we could to Manhasset Bay to snap a picture of me with the anthology in front of it. The rich people of the North Shore have private roads and parks, so us poorer folk settle for a park through which you can kind of see the Bay if you imagine it beyond the hills and trees.
All this reading and reminiscing makes me want to do what I never do. I want to re-read Gatsby. It’s not on my Goodreads list, but there’s something about the reach for the green light that makes me want to again reach for the book. Then I’ll start reading some stuff about Zelda, which may take me to that dangerous spot of not liking Fitzgerald or Gatsby. I’ve heard some things. They’re not that great.
Last year, I went on a short Hemingway trip. This year, it may as well be Fitzgerald.
Currently reading: So We Read On by Maureen Corrigan
Currently watching: Chelsea, The Big Bang Theory Season 9, Homeland