Ooooookay. I’ve slept some. Time to share all about Pilcrow Lit Fest. I’m going to try not to forget anything, but it might take me a few posts to get it all down.
We talked about Thursday night’s Fixx Reading Series already, at least in photos. So, let’s start with Friday. Friday, I hung out at Fixx Coffee Bar, also known as Pilcrow HQ, for the weekend. Lynn Brewer from Cliterature Journal was the first participant to arrive to collect her swag bag, so we got a little extra time to chat. I noticed a tattoo peeking out from under her top, and once bared, I realized it was the end of Sylvia Plath’s Lady Lazarus. Naturally, we had to pose for this pic of her Plath and my typewriter.
Later, Leah came straight from her trip to Canada (luggage in hand and all) and did the afternoon info table/swag bag shift so I could dash out, and pick up the food for Saturday night’s New Orleans Public Library/Rebuilt Books auction. Speaking of– Mary Hogan from the NOPL Foundation came up for the event to help with the heavy lifting and I adore her to death.
All set, everyone made their way to their respective home bases, only to re-emerge a short time later, first at The Dollar Store Show, (I personally missed it, only because packing up swag bags takes time, you see), then at Matilda’s/babyATLAS for the opening night party, with many pics by the talented Jeff Smith from that evening right here. Leah took this pic, of yours truly chatting it up with James Stegall (guy in hat, the honcho of So New Publishing, and baby daddy of my Three Fallen Women) and Steve Himmer of One Pot Meal.
Saturday brought an early start, as I was on the stoop of Fixx Coffee Bar well before opening when Gary (can I possibly ever say thank you enough to Gary and Laura– owners of the Fixx— for letting me take over their place of biznass for the weekend? Probably not.) arrived. I set up the swag/info table, fine-tuned the volunteer schedule with Leah, then she and I set to preparing both Trader Todd’s and Matilda’s for panels. It was this stretch of morning I’d most fretted about, most planned and most visualized. All we had to do was get it up and running, but do it behind schedule or forget something and the whole day would be wonky, as everything was to run back-to-back all day and evening.
But, it wasn’t behind schedule or wonky in the least. The only, and I mean only, snag was a last-minute sprint I did from Trader Todd’s to Matilda’s to grab a tabletop microphone stand three minutes before the first panel. And, hello, that’s nothing.
The panels, the two workshops and the two staged readings of plays by the ensemble of Blindfaith Theatre Company all went wonderfully. I tiptoed between panels all morning, trying to catch a little of everything. Click through all of these pages on flickr for yourself and just see how happy everyone looks. All day the feedback was positive, people were smiling, the crowds were big, the weather was gorgeous and — I say this next comment as one who doesn’t believe in perfection– it was all absolutely perfect.
At six, after a full day of panels in two locations firing off at the top of every hour since ten a.m., Ben Tanzer and several out-of-towners gathered at the Fixx for another installation of one of his terribly fun podcasts, while Leah and I scurried around with our wonderful volunteers to turn the Fixx into the Mardi Gras-tastic NOLA party, as Leticia Gomes took it all in by camera, as Phil Gomes made a rad video in mere minutes because he’s that good. (Poor man, I was a little under-caffeinated when he found me; there were several outtakes.) TheFemGeek (Tiffany Tate) and Sawyer Lahr of Unscene Chicago were on hand all weekend, and Saturday was no exception— they caught everything and we’re all terribly excited to see their footage as well.
(Look at that buffet. All of those years of working for my Dad in the restaurant industry pays off when it comes time to throw a party, if I may toot my own horn for a moment.) By the by, big thank you to Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference for sponsoring this fabulous party’s bites and sips.
And then, we started to pull out all of the Rebuilt Books we’d gathered from various authors. I can’t possibly show them all, but Laurel Snyder’s light switches were a big hit, Laura Van Prooyen’s Inkblot and Altar string of lights and Peter Davis’ Hitler Turtle were very popular with the bidders (going to Gary & Laura Hartel of Fixx Coffee Bar and Suzy T. of Book Cellar, respectively), (ha, wait, here’s a close-up of the Hitler Turtle) several people made secret compartments in their books– Timothy Schaffert filling his book with antique doll parts, Kelly McMasters placing kryptonite in hers, Tim Hall plastering his book shut and creating a slot for an all-digital version of his book and video of him plastering the book, Willy Blackmore took Jennifer Banash’s Hollywoodland and places two small blue square books inside hollow-out sections containing both fairy tales and porn, and Jonathan Messinger made a sneaky iPod case in his hollowed-out book, appropriately, Hiding Out. Zach Dodson produced gorgeous posters from his book boring boring boring boring boring boring boring, Ben Tanzer’s kid made a perfect abstract canvass from Ben’s novel Lucky Man, Jackie Corley shredded a Word Riot and incorporated the shreds into a collage of flames, Jill Alexander Essbaum made a tiny hotel with tiny sex dollies out of her book Harlot, Larry O. Dean made a spam sandwich out of his I Am Spam poems, and truly, everyone made fabulous things and I was positively delighted by each one. Others gave non-Rebuilt Book items, too. Lookingglass Theatre Company gave several pairs of tickets to their upcoming Nelson Algren show (I must go to this!), Uptown Writers Space gave a two-month membership (Leah and Tamar Fox from Jewcy.com duked it out nicely at auction for that, Tamar prevailed), Nick Hornby gave a page of brainstorm, and Tony Fitzpatrick gave a beautiful piece of art, “Luck”, which I flirted with all weekend.
And, Leah and I took to the stage, and auctioned our butts off as Mary parded auction items around the room, and we had so much fun being goofy and raising all of that dough. But, it wasn’t all giggles— Mary took to the stage and talked NOLA and everyone got misty. A darling young man named Alex R. and his mother walked into the party and handed us a ton of money he collected for NOPL at his Bar Mitzvah (I nearly cried, what a menschy sweet boy) and towards the very end of the auction, Katie Schwartz and Angela Gant took to the stage suddenly. Leah seemed in on the announcement, so I steped aside. K&A gave me the Tony Fitzpatrick artwork they worked so hard to bid so very high for and win and, to my complete shock and welled-up surprise, people clapped and then stood up! Everyone went nuts and it was a moment I won’t soon forget. I can’t believe that happened, and it was a pretty great moment in a very great night.
But, best of all, we made $4,000 as a result of the auction! I’m not kidding. Leah and I counted, had Ted recount, then I screamed and did a little head-thrown-back laugh. Then, to make sure Pilcrow didn’t write a check it couldn’t cash, Bubs (the man is a cop) provided me a police escort to the night-drop at the bank (Read his account of the evening here.) and we presented presented Mary with the giant check.
Without sounding like too big sap, it was one of the best nights I’ve ever seen in my life. The hardest parts of Pilcrow, the parts I fretted about, all worked, people were happy, I was in a room full of writers and publishers and publicists and friends from all around the country and I loved them all, we’d all come together and done such a fun thing and so much good came from it for the libraries in New Orleans.
Not a bad day.
Then, it was Sunday! Sunday’s panels were all fabulous, too and I got to meet a new group of people I’d only previously known over email, for the most part. I loved the Nature 2.0 panel, the Classy Not Assy Panel, the Community V. Solitude Panel, Willy Blackmore’s bookbinding workshop (he made it look so easy that maybe even I can do it) and loved, loved the final panel of the day, Mike Zapata’s living and working in Chicago panel, featuring Mahmoud Saeed among others. Mahmoud Saeed , who won a Pulitzer-equivalent and had two of his novels seized by Baathists officials, who was so wonderfully full of humor and stories and a certain kind modesty, sat on this panel before a now-dwindling audience (small but mighty, small but mighty) on the final panel of the festival and I could have listened to him speak all day. (He’s looking for an Arabic translator for his work, by the by. I know I have at least two readers who are capable of such a task.)
I was also starving. Momma’s Boy (who, hello, kicked ass making everything print/design-related for Pilcrow look so polished and, well, kick ass) and I went and saw Johnny Yen and ate, then returned for the final event, Sunday Salon Chicago’s reading series in celebration of Pilcrow at the Charleston Bar. This is a great bar. Don’t ruin it and bring loads of people, but do go enjoy a cocktail there sometime and pet the bar cat, Fred.
I eventually drank a vodka lemonade and started to fade, found my way home and slept like the dead. I did little but enjoy some post-festival email exchanges and make potato salad on Monday. Yesterday, I hiked six miles with Irish Ho about an hour outside the city. Today, eh, today remains to be seen.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped make Pilcrow such a fun and, dare I say, successful event. I know I for one, was the best kind of tired at the end.
I’m sure I have a few more posts forthcoming about this fabulous weekend, but let’s close for now with the assurance that there will be a next year, and I hope to see all of your smiling faces again then