Before mercury, my blood used to fill thermometers.

Monday, November 12, 2012


The Third Annual Harrisburg Book Festival was this past weekend, and on Saturday, I was a featured speaker on a craft and publishing panel. The context has the greater significance for me: the Scholar moved to its current space in 2010, right after/as I graduated college. I don't think it had been there very long, having just moved from its place in an attic up the street, when I took the bus with what had to be all my money in the world, to peer in and get waved away because I did not have the foresight to confirm their hours. I went back again when they were opened and have ever since been suffering Where the Heart is-type fantasies of being locked in and having to live there. When the first festival took place, I knew about it, but was still living a half-hour's car ride away, marginally employed, and very depressed. When the festival occurred the following year, I basked in the contrast between how down I had been, unwilling to try and go, frustrated with myself, and there I was taking notes for an article about the festival. I was prowling through the art monographs when I received an email from the Caketrain editors accepting a story I was so proud of and enduringly over the moon to have in their care. So this was significant.

Catherine Lawrence, co-owner (with her husband) of the Midtown Scholar, greeted and complimented me so highly in such astonishing sentences - Catherine's elocution itself made me feel profoundly privileged to have been selected by her. She can speak. I had to hang onto that throughout the panel and was very rigid with myself about mitigation. As soon as I hear myself mitigating I get grunting-and-moaning frustrated and the whole thing slides into a sub-par Chewbacca impression. Such were my concerns as I nabbed the center chair between Ann Elia Stewart and the Reverend Nathaniel Gadsden. Ann also writes at WITF and Rev. Gadsden and I have a very good mutual friend in poet Maria Thiaw, so things were very cozy. I had to control the mic, therefore I had to sit in the middle, or else I would have been a harried mess of yelling since my party was in the very back. We discussed - very neatly - our individual formations as writers, our relationship to writing communities, and the variously intimate and isolating process of attempting to and ultimately publishing. I was very proud to take some audience members to school on the subject of the small press and the chapbook. As a homage, I mentioned Caketrain. Catherine's moderation was spectacular. A question about Nanowrimo occasioned me to paraphrase Rod Serling, but only I knew that. Given more time, I would have attributed the paraphrasal because I think of it constantly: the benefit to applying that kind of thousand-words-a-day discipline consistently across your writing life is that you get your voice firmly in your head and no longer surprise yourself by producing what you think, in the night after a wild day of working, is a masterpiece, and then waking up to discover you've given birth to excrement. He says it way snappier.

Someone in my party quipped that all they were able to bring to the occasion was a seat in the audience, to which I reply (always): the audience is the most important part of the panel. The audience for this particular panel was jam-packed with many people standing. The decision to host it on Stage Two, in "the Classroom," was one I was delighted by ahead of time and even happier about when I saw the space swell up. The Classroom is where the literary fiction is now and where I spend most of my time on visits. It does not the thoroughfare that the main stage can be. It was perfect, everything about it. My heart is still coming out of my clothes.

My party and I said hellos to Cherie and Stephen in the subterranean rare books space, Robinson's, and I was ecstatic with their reception of my article. I stole some covetous glances at their prints and flitted through the Scholar's new basement expanse. There is so much peace back there. The shelving is from a library. I did not want to leave, but the bathroom on that level isn't operational yet.

I got to meet Harvey Freedenburg! He writes Arts & Entertainment for HMag also and, during the panel, was holding it down on Twitter. I voiced my affection for Twitter and, in the aftermath of the panel, Catherine confirmed to me the need next year for a panel on digital publishing and technological advancements in traditional publishing. When I say I can't wait, I am nevertheless willing to absorb what sort of year the one in between then and now will be. It will be good. My good fortune - all the forces and things that enable me to exercise my passions every day - is rearing its head as blatantly as possible in time for me to seem that much more eloquent at Thanksgiving. But my luck is tremendous. I am so happy. I hope I can get it together and use what this gives me to generate feelings like this in others. That's my objective for the coming year. Yes.

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