Reading in NYC

Reading at Berl's Poetry Shop.
Reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop. Photo courtesy of Samantha Siberini.

Earlier this month I ventured up to the Big Apple for a poetry reading. I was invited to read with several other Bottlecap Press authors at Berl’s Poetry Shop in Brooklyn. It’s an adorable small bookstore filled with great collections of poetry — you should check it out!

When you’re published by a small press, you get opportunities to actually meet the other authors in their collection. It was really special to meet and read with these great writers. I hope to read with them again soon.

I got a whole new set of reactions than in D.C. when I read from “On that one-way trip to Mars.” I asked who would go to space if they could, and everyone in the audience raised their hands. They listened attentively and laughed during humorous poems.

Thanks Berl’s Poetry founders, Jared White and Farrah Field, and Bottlecap Press for making the event happen! It’s always great to hear poetry aloud after reading it on my own — poems can really take on a new life when it’s spoken and performed among others.

My book is on sale for the holiday weekend

Bottlecapsule 2015-2016 Anthology
Bottlecapsule 2015-2016 Anthology

Bottlecap Press, the publisher of my book “On that one-way trip to Mars,” has a 2015-2016 anthology available for a limited time only (through Monday)!

The anthology features new and old work from several Bottlecap Press authors, plus letters from all of us to the readers. It’s a great way to sample tons of Bottlecap Press authors at once!

I’m honored to be included with these great writers. Make sure to get your copy this weekend before this amazing anthology goes away.

Bottlecap Press is also having a holiday sale through Monday. All books are 20% offincluding mine for $9.60! Books make a great gift, so consider buying some for the readers in your life.

‘Brooklyn, Brooklyn, take me in’: Reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop

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Song title lyrics always make good headlines, right? Well, on November 5 I’ll be asking Brooklyn and New Yorkers to take me in at a poetry reading at Berl’s Poetry Shop!

The reading starts at 3 p.m. and features several Bottlecap Press authors, including yours truly.

The other readers include: Zachary Cosby, a bookseller in Portland, Oregon with work in the Los Angeles Review of Books, tNY, and The Portland Review; William Keller, a poet and musician who works as a life drawing model at Rhode Island School of Design; Ian Macks has a chapbook, A Loss and Gain of Comfort, available from Bottlecap Press; Elijah Pearson, co-founder/editor of Spy Kids Review and 2 Fast 2 House; Patrick Trotti, founder/editor of (Short) Fiction Collective, founder/editor of Peanut Gallery Press, co-founder/co-editor of Thousand Shades of Gray, editorial assistant for Tiny Hardcore Press; Stephanie Valente, founder and chief editor at Alt Bride, associate editor at Yes, Poetry, and social media manager and columnist at Luna Luna Magazine; and Alexandra Wuest, editor at HOLOGRAM zine. Amanda Dissinger is the host and her chapbook This is How I Will Tell You I Love You is available from Bottlecap Press.

Hope to see you there!

The dreaded reading — and how not to suck at it

D.C. science fiction writer Tara Campbell recently wrote an article in the Washington Independent Review of Books encouraging silent writers to go out and read their work! One great way to test if your latest piece is submission-ready, Tara said, is to attend a local reading and actually read your work to others. Audiences at all of the readings I’ve been to have been very welcoming, especially if it’s an open-mic. Tara listed several local readings in the D.C. area.

Her article also introduced me to a 2015 piece by E.A. Aymar on how not to suck at readings. He warns against shitty delivery and reading for too long. I’d also add practicing reading — sometimes I practice in front of a mirror, or in my head on my long Metro commutes. It helps me feel like once I get up on that stage or in front of people, I’ve done it before. There’s some excellent advice in both of these articles.

Going analog after a digital summer

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After 10 weeks of staring at computer screens and code for eight to 15 hours a day during my News21 Fellowship, I decided to give my eyes a rest. I read several (paperback, bound, dust-scented) books while traveling in California and on planes. I sat for hours in coffee shops throughout the Bay Area reading, finishing books, starting another. Here’s a list of the books I completed this summer.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

This unrivaled novel is a must-read. Seriously, go out immediately and buy it if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading it. The novel focuses on two Jewish cousins in 1930s New York, and their struggle to become known in the burgeoning comic book business, amidst the growing threat and then reality of the Holocaust. In one novel, Chabon seems to incorporate a collection of poems, a play, two films and of course, several comic book series. His mastery of natural dialogue pushes the novel forward. Chabon writes some of the most convincing adult protagonists I grew to love throughout the story.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s gift for science fiction is featured in this collection of interconnected tales. The book follows Earth’s colonization of Mars, from 2030 to 2057. Bradbury easily shifts from Martian to Earth Man points of views. He seems to gain strength when describing Mars’ and Earth’s futures through a  long span of time. The chronicles are hopeful, terrifying and full of grief and loss and wonder. Bradbury writes with such genuine fervor that I fully believed he was describing current and real Earth expeditions and Mars discoveries. I’m sad I was never able to meet Bradbury, but I breathe him to life by reading his words; words he clacked out on typewriters, words he thought and dreamt and debated. He’s alive with me while I read him.

Other Bradbury books I’m still working on this summer:
  • The Vintage Bradbury, I Sing the Body Electric and A Pleasure to Burn (If you can’t tell, he’s one of my favorites).

Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

One of my first poet-loves, Sharon Olds’ strong details of her failing marriage are tragic and relatable.  Her “The Father” is one of my favorite poetry collections. Olds writes with the utmost grace, candor and honesty. She shares all—the deepest parts of her uncertainty, hurt, lust and life. In sharing this with us readers, Olds becomes one of the strongest poets.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

One of the strangest books I’ve read, Cat’s Cradle is a classic Vonnegut read. While I can’t say that I understand it completely, the novel is a portrayal of the end of the world. His description of a religion called Bokononism is a superb analogy to real world religions. Vonnegut’s focus on the main character writing a book about the father of the atomic bomb is fascinating by itself, but he adds an additional apocalyptic storyline on top of that, for added amusement and bewilderment.

after the quake by Haruki Murakami

I have been meaning to read Haruki Murakami for a while. He writes with ease, but the depth of his images and characters is enough to fill the Grand Canyon. This collection of short stories surrounding the Kobe 1995 earthquake in Japan includes descriptions of real life, loss, emptiness, fear and surrealist experiences. Murakami is an essential read.

Grayson by Lynne Cox

This book was a short read and had some nice description of the ocean. But after the first few pages, it seemed to repeat the same descriptions, images and metaphors for the entirety of the book. I don’t discount the incredible swims Lynne Cox made, but this book is not one of the best I have read.

Rereading “Fahrenheit 451”


Yesterday I reread “Fahrenheit 451.” It took me most of the afternoon, through the night. I read in the car, as my mom guided us through terrible traffic, while my stepdad watched a basketball game, and alone, in my room. It’s the first book I’ve reread.

Reading a book again is an interesting endeavor. Passing through each part of the novel triggered bits of the upcoming plot in my memory. I remembered branches, but not the whole tree, not the leaves of the ending.

I first read “Fahrenheit 451,” my introduction to Bradbury—as I’ve since been scooping up his short story collections at used bookstores—in 9th grade. I knew then that this book was very different. Books had stuck with me before, but this one seeped in and became a part of my internal organs. It was a necessary book.

Being older, and having studied more craft, I appreciated Bradbury’s descriptions more. I realized how much poetry makes up his prose. Some of the most memorable moments of the novel can be boiled down to a sentence, a line, an image, alliteration—poetry. As mainly a poet, and a journalist, I gained renewed admiration for his style.

And one of my favorite literary quotes, which I have hanging on a piece of paper on my bedroom wall, still made me pause, smile and nod along, and reread it again. Bradbury has that affect, no matter how many times you’ve read him.

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.”

The book happens to be a special 50th edition, which includes an interview with the author and an update when Bradbury revisited the characters in 1953 for a play. In it, Bradbury describes how he wrote the book over a week in the basement of the UCLA library—yes, he wrote a book about burning books in none other than a library—on a typewriter that cost 10 cents for 30 minutes. The typewriter had a coin slot and then ticked away. What a completely changed world from today’s, where many of us have laptops or tablets that we type away at constantly.

An interesting thing happened yesterday to me and the novel. I placed the book on a doctor’s examining table when the doctor came in to see me, and when he saw it he picked it up, beaming, saying, “Bradbury! I haven’t seen this book in a long time. I love science fiction.”

I often get asked why I don’t own a Kindle, or a Nook, or an iPad, or any other electronic reading device (other than my smartphone). My mom recently suggested a Kindle for my birthday present. But staring too long at screens gives me headaches, or worse, migraines. And the recollection and connection I had with my doctor yesterday might never have happened if I was reading “Fahrenheit 451” on a Kindle, then shut the display off when he stepped in the door. And what a terrible second-death to Bradbury, to read his novel on a screen like the ‘parlor walls’!

I’ll stick to printed books for now. Ones I can stuff in my purse for a Metro ride, underline my favorite quotes, crease the pages to mark great descriptions, buy cheaply at used bookstores, lend to a friend, and allow my doctor to see and share a love for. I think Bradbury would like that.