Thursday, June 24, 2010

Thursday's Pre-Publication Post: On Attending (and Arranging) Readings

Living in New York City, one could easily attend a literary reading (make that multiple readings) every day. The city presents a true embarrassment of riches in that respect.

If you have the time and energy, that is.

Alas, time and energy are precious commodities for this practicing writer. Between a full-time office job, family life and friends, a revitalized commitment to visiting the gym at least a few days each week, and, lest we forget, a bit of writing (and reading, and blogging) here and there, boarding a subway or bus to attend a reading too often falls off my to-do list. Especially when it's really hot outside. Or really cold.

This week, however, I persevered. After an especially intense workday and facing the oppressive heat and humidity that is also oh-so-characteristic of this lovely city (this time of year, anyway), I rallied. I was determined to attend what Ron Hogan had billed as "An Evening of All-American Fiction" midtown at the Center for Fiction, featuring the following authors and new books:

  • Pearl Abraham, American Taliban
  • David Goodwillie, American Subversive
  • Jane Mendelsohn, American Music
  • Hilary Thayer Hamann, Anthropology of an American Girl
American fiction. Get it?

Well, how could anyone with a forthcoming story collection titled Quiet Americans resist?

I sure couldn't. And I'm very glad I went, not only because it is always good for me to get out and go to these events, see authors and hear new work read. But the event also got me thinking about readings in another respect.

Right now, I shouldn't simply be attending readings. I should be arranging them, too.

I've already explained that Last Light Books, the publisher of Quiet Americans, is a small, new press. There is no money for me to go "touring" around the country, although a virtual book tour is definitely on the agenda.

So here I am, trying to figure out how to arrange readings in the New York area, Boston, and D.C. (I expect to be in D.C. in early February for the 2011 AWP conference, and I'm planning to get to Boston a few months later.)

And here are some of the questions I have:

  • Which reading series/venues do you go to? For my current purposes, the NYC-Washington corridor is most relevant, but why don't we hear recommendations for other locations, so everyone can benefit from the comments? If there are links available for your favorite venues/series, please share those, too!
  • For those of you who have arranged your own readings (or for any publicists who have arranged readings for others), what's the magic formula? How far in advance do you try to arrange a reading? What are the basic how-tos to arrange a reading? It strikes me as something a bit like inviting yourself to someone else's house. Not exactly comfortable or intuitive. How does this whole thing work?
  • What else should I be thinking about (readings-wise) at this time, a little more than six months before Quiet Americans: Stories meets the world?
As always, thank you in advance for your comments and advice!


Otter7 said...

Right now I don't have a new book out, but I am linked with two local universities and the Maine Women Writers Collection. Staff there have my contact info and background (Native Poet) and I get referrals to literary and cultural events that might want to feature a guest poet. I try to never turn down an offer, even if it does not include an honorarium, because I am building an audience for my work. I am also a visual artist and the museum where I had my last installation provides referrals when visitors ask about me. I try to think out of the box. I visit high schools, diversity events at colleges, and I also volunteer with the NAACP to coach writers. Maine also has a wonderful database for artists of all types, maintained by the Maine Arts Commission, which I am registered with. I think links with community are important and useful. By focusing on outreach, I am building a network that encompasses more than literary circles alone.
There are several literary open mics in our city, as well as a statewide organization for writers and publishers. I try to attend their events and network so people will know who I am.

John Vanderslice said...

Unfortunately, I can't offer much advice about arranging readings, but I can say that if you read at the 2011 AWP I'll be there for sure! As for now, I'm planning on attending the conference. One thing to remember in regards to AWP. Plenty of readings happen outside of the official conference site. If you don't get on the official conference schedule, there still should be opportunities for you to read. Or opportunities you can make for yourself with a little work. I hope it works out.

tpaperny said...

I'm sure you already know of all these, but they are just my recommendations!

Venues in NYC: Housing Works Bookstore, Blue Stockings,

Venues in DC: Busboys and Poets (both locations), Politics and Prose bookstore

Reading series: Sideshow (The Queer Literary Carnival); The Columbia MFA Faculty select at KGB Bar,

Erika D. said...

Thanks to all three of you for the comments!

@tpaperny: For about six months way back when, I lived about a block away from Politics & Prose in D.C., so I've been following what's going on with the store in the news these days. What a wonderful place!

@John: Thanks for offering to attend! I am *definitely* looking into off-site events while I'm in town for AWP (even if one/both of the proposals I'm a part of might happen to be accepted, neither is a readings panel).

@Otter7: I do love the idea of thinking out of the box--I'm starting to do that w/museums, synagogues, etc. One of the stories in Quiet Americans focuses on a Jewish soldier in the U.S. Army during WWII, so I plan to pitch the National Museum of American Jewish History (which, as it happens, is in D.C.--see comment to John above).

But I still don't quite "get" how one approaches the contacts at any of these places (or when). Or what they might expect by way of galleys, CVs, etc. to make a decision.

Thanks again for chiming in!

GinaBoubion said...

The 92nd St Y is a no-brainer, especially given your book's subject matter. Every time I attend a reading there, it's packed.
Also the Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side (I think it's in the 70s) seems very busy. It was standing room only last year for an author reading (Lisa See); it's the only time I've been but I was impressed by the crowd.

Erika D. said...

Thanks, Gina. Were you at the B&N for a reading from Shanghai Girls? That's still on my TBR list!

Bill said...

Love your blog and read it quite often. I live down here in the southeast (NC) and there are quite a local bookstores that have authors come around, especially Atlanta, Asheville, NC; Raleigh, NC, and Durham, NC. Check out Malapropos Bookstore in Asheville, NC they have tons of new, mid-list, and popular authors come.

good luck with your book tour.!!!