Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Open Mic Night III

So, The New York Society Library's Open Mic Night III is now just a memory, but what a night it was!

Big thanks go to our fabulous host, member Betsy Carter, who just happened to be celebrating the release of the paperback edition of her latest novel, The Puzzle King on the very same day.

As I know from past Open Mics, there are always a few last minute changes, and last night was no exception. Toni Schlesinger, (who hosted our 2nd Open Mic last March) kicked off the evening's readings - and while she was planning on reading narrative non-fiction that featured "apprehension, romance, murder, and the sea", instead she gave us a mariner's fictional diary that remarkably also included apprehension, romance, murder, and the sea!

We had a number of poets on the program. The Library's Poetry group leader, Jan C. Grossman, read from a manuscript in progress that featured a beautiful and graceful poem that was inspired by and written in our Members' Room. Phoebe Hoss's poems were inspired by the hearbreaking story of her son's struggle with schizophrenia and Alison Tung gave us a lesson in the form and rules of T'ang Dynasty poetry when sharing her poem Conservatory Garden-October. The Library's own Alan Behler (our newest Systems Assistant) celebrated his sister's wedding and channeled a 3rd grade memory into two poems from a work in progress.

The evening featured strong fiction - Jack Buchanan's cold war thriller The Rise of Stefan Gregorovic; Cary Barbor's novel in progress about a bodega owning Queens family; the forthcoming final book in Chris Evan's Iron Elves trilogy; Diana Altman's In Theda Bara's Tent; Carrie Cooperider's funny and clever work in progress titled Figures of Speech; and Pink, Hot Summer, the forthcoming follow-up to Ellen Liberty's first novel Heat, Gin, Despair. I'm usually thrilled when our member writers make connections, but what to make of this? Alas, meeting fellow writer Carrie Cooperider triggered Jack Buchanan's unfortunate childhood memories of corporal punishment at the hands of an Ohio schoolmaster named Cooperider. Carrie did own up to having family in Ohio, but we wisely didn't pursue it any further.

Jack Levin read from his monologue Terrifying, a reference to a description once given of his voice that was tempered by a kind soul who actually liked that voice enough to ask him to record her voicemail message. And believe it or not, in a totally unexpected coincidence, that "kind soul", playwright and NYSL member Cynthia (C.S.) Hanson just happened to be in the audience last night. Cynthia and husband Kent staged a reading of her comic play "Stalk Me, Baby" at our very first Open Mic!

And other surprises were in store...prolific children's author Robert Quackenbush managed to read his entire book - the 30 year old recently reissued book for young readers First Grade Jitters.

Victoria Reiter once again (remember Salvador Dali at Open Mic Night I?) wowed the audience with her memory piece Hollywood Party about the strange pairing of Milton Berle and Carl Sandburg. Laura J. Snyder admitted to being nervous reading her soon to be released The Philosophical Breakfast Club despite the fact that her day job is a Professor of Philosophy at St. John's. Surprisingly, only one memoir was presented last evening: Mary Catherine Bolster, one of our Memoir writing group members, read from a work in progress that she started as part of a writing program.

In addition to our amazingly talented member writers, a huge thanks also goes out to the Library staffers who helped make the evening such a success: Conservator George Munoz and Children's Library Assistant Ana Chiu made sure there were no A/V mishaps; Sara Holliday, our Events Coordinator extraordinaire worked the door and made sure there was plenty of liquid courage on hand; and Harry Abarca, as always, working behind the scenes to set up and break down the Members' Room so we could get as close as possible to a downtown "poetry slam" ambience in such a rarefied setting. And I can't forget our Head Librarian Mark Bartlett, who is always supportive whenever I propose yet another Writer Services "experiment".

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