Saturday, March 31, 2012

Marching On

March was a great and really busy month for me. I began the month in Chicago at AWP, which was a wonderful experience that you can read all about here. In the middle of the month, my first book came out (He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices from Sibling Rivalry Press) and I held a reading here in Orlando that went really well (blog post here). I finished the month in New York attending the Rainbow Book Fair.

Going to New York has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. It's always had a pull for me, yet somehow I'd never been there. I've been a lot of places and even to Europe, but not to New York. The experience was amazing. New York is actually one of those few places that is exactly how you expect it to be. I felt like I was in the middle of every movie or TV show I've ever watched set there. It almost didn't feel real at times (or maybe this a result of living in Orlando for four years where most things are fake thanks to Disney). Regardless, it was one of the best trips I've ever taken.

My partner and I made the most of our five days. He had been there before, so I got to basically pick what we did. We didn't pay to do any big tourist thing, but we did go see most of the sites. I loved seeing Times Square and Central Park and the New York Public Library (dork). I also had tons of fun shopping and spent way too much money, but that happens. The Friday night of our trip, I participated in a group reading for the magazine Assaracus. This was a powerful event and well attended (we actually needed a bigger room, which is a nice problem to have). It was great to be in a room with so many wonderful poets from all different places and all different ages. Poetry and literature are a huge part of the gay community and gay history and you could feel that in the room.

On Saturday, I attended the Rainbow Book Fair, where I read from my book and sat at my publisher's table. It was a fun event with a wide mixture of people and genres. It was nice to see a book event with so many attendees. My publisher sold a lot of copies of many books (including mine), so it was a great success. I also got to connect with more writers and even got to see an old high school friend.

Saturday night I attended Black Party. It was hard to pass up when I realized we were going to be in NYC on that weekend. It was amazing, but the details really aren't appropriate for this blog. Private message me for more (ha ha).

We spent our last two days experiencing more of the city and checking out other great places. Sunday night we saw Sherry Vine at Barracuda and Monday we spent at MoMA, which was amazing. MoMA was one of my main goals of the trip and the only museum we really had time for. I'm a huge fan of modern art and conceptual pieces, so this was the perfect place to go (plus Frank O'Hara worked there). I got to see more Jackson Pollock paintings, which is always an amazing experience. This was the third museum I've been to that had some of his work. It was a great end to our trip.

March felt like a new beginning for me and I'm thrilled to see what happens next. I also had some fun publishing news in March. A brand new poem of mine was published in Berfrois, which is an online journal out of London. I was honored to be in it, because they actually asked for my work and they don't print many poems and they get 400,000 hits a day. Check out my poem "The War in Iraq is Over and I'm Thinking of Oranges." I also got contacted by Reprint Poetry, which is an online journal that reprints published poems. They wanted to republish the very first poem I got published (at least seriously published) and I said yes. You can read my poem "My father reads my poem in a Chinese restaurant" here. Finally, I got interviewed by Evan J. Peterson on his blog about my book. Check it out here.

That's all the news for now.

-Stephen (Springing)

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Mouth is Everywhere: Reflections on Launching my First Book

I've spent the last few weeks living in a sort of dreamlike state. A dream where my mouth is everywhere and people are talking about it. Everything has come together so perfectly and I'm not sure exactly how to respond. Maybe because this doesn't normally happen.

Yesterday, my first book, He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices, officially released. I celebrated with a reading here in Orlando, which was so much fun to do and well-attended. This was the first reading I've done in years and it felt really good. I actually had six or seven people come that I did not know, which is excellent. I read poems, we ate cupcakes (thanks to my friend Jaclyn), and we drank wine (thanks to me).

Getting a first book out has been a dream of mine from the time I can remember and now it's a reality and it's a strange feeling. Nothing is ever how you expect it to be. You don't suddenly wake up a different person because you have a book, yet things are different.

My book was such a fun experience to put together partly because I was working with such a wonderful, supportive, and author focused press (Sibling Rivalry Press). I'm so thankful for this experience and all the support Bryan Borland has given me. He doesn't like you to get sentimental and I typically hate sentimental people, but what he's doing for the poetry publishing world right now is amazing and he's giving voice to so many great poets and writers. That's all I'm saying. The experience has been great, but the response to the book over the last few weeks has been amazing and for that I thank everyone who has been willing to buy a copy, write a review, come to a reading, or recommend my book to a friend.

Putting a book out there is a little scary. Suddenly my work is in the hands of anyone who wants to buy it. Anyone can say whatever they want about me or my poems. Everything so far has been positive. I've already received a few emails from complete strangers telling me how much they loved the book. I've heard from old friends who bought it and read it and loved it. I have a few great reviews on Amazon and Good Reads and more coming. I was also named a "gay must read" in Next Magazine out of New York City, which was very cool and unexpected. On top of that, my book has been selling really well. I've sold nearly 50 copies myself and my publisher received more pre-orders for my book than any book before. All of this combined with a successful reading last night has left me feeling a little overwhelmed.

I'm glad to see my work connecting with people and getting people interested in poetry. I'm proud of the book and thankful for the support of all of my friends and my partner. This isn't just a formal thank you. I truly mean it.

The journey has just begun. For those not in Orlando, please note I'll be in NYC starting next Thursday. I'm doing a reading for Assaracus magazine on Friday night and I'll be reading at 3 PM on Saturday at the Rainbow Book Fair. Then in April, I'll be in Atlanta for a reading. Come see me.

-Stephen (Grateful)

Monday, March 5, 2012

AWP: Finding Myself Again

Every once in awhile everything falls into place and you get exactly what you need. Call this luck or chance or karma, it doesn't really matter. It happens. I've just returned from an amazing few days in Chicago for the annual AWP conference, but this trip was more than just a conference for me. It was exactly what I needed.

I've spent the last few years with a really big void in my life. While living in Orlando has provided its fun, it's also left me feeling rather empty a lot of the time. I've not found a great poetry community here or academic community and I've felt more and more isolated as time has gone forward. I can't say that I regret any of this, because perhaps I wouldn't have written He Do the Gay Man in Different Voices had I not moved here a few years ago. Regardless, I've known for quite sometime that I'm ready to move on and to find a new community. As many of you know, Dustin and I have plans to move to New York in the next six to eight months.

My trip to Chicago confirmed just how much I need to move on and find a place that fits me better. I went to Chicago for a very brief time, but I felt more like myself in those three days than I have in a really long time.

Going to AWP let me remember how good it feels to sit down with other writers, teachers, readers, publishers, and just talk. In the last few years, I've done a good job of networking and connecting with many writers through Facebook, Twitter, and publications. Chicago provided me with the chance to meet so many of these people face to face and to help solidify an actual relationship.

To be honest, I was pretty anxious about this trip. I went by myself and roomed with my publisher Bryan Borland. Bryan and I have communicated for about three years now. We've exchanged countless emails, poems, texts, etc., but we had never met face to face. In fact, this was true of most of the people I ended up talking to over the course of the trip. It's a lot of pressure to suddenly face people who know you mostly through your virtual existence and your work. I feared I wouldn't live up to their expectations.

Of course, the second I met Bryan I was immediately comfortable with him and we got along great. He's a really nice guy. By the end of the trip, our relationship had hit new levels. You can't go back after you've seen your publisher in a zebra print robe drinking tea in bed (he would probably say more embarrassing things about me, so I'll leave that alone). This was actually true of every person I met. Some, like D. Gilson, felt like old friends immediately. Others I was simply honored to meet for just a few minutes like Steve Fellner, Randall Mann, Christopher Hennessy, Charles Jensen (who I need to drink with next time clearly), and Matthew Hittinger. I also got to spend a bit more time with Michael Klein who is absolutely hilarious and I had a great lunch and afternoon with Paul Romero who heads up the Bryant Park Reading Room. I also got to catch up with a few old friends, which is always nice. Thanks for making time V and Brianna!

Being there in Chicago was everything I wanted it to be. I made connections. I helped promote my work. I got asked to sign my book by a stranger who was very attractive. I bought work by others. I saw a few panels on great topics with accomplished poets (like Nikki Giovanni, David Trinidad, and Mark Doty). I got to just be in a big city full of people and culture. I felt alive (but cold).

I'm thankful to everyone I met and I hope to see all of you again very soon. I'm most thankful to Bryan Borland. I got to finally see first hand how much he cares and loves poetry and his press. He's done an amazing job and I'm extremely proud to be one of his authors.

Next up, I'll be heading to New York for the Rainbow Book Fair. I hope to see and meet even more people there.

-Stephen (Alive)