Tag Archives: writing

The Writer’s Hotel Conference Part II

 

 

Thursday and Friday were long full, days. I took the C train from the Kingston-Throop station to Bryant Park each morning, had workshop at the Casablanca Hotel from 8:30-11, quick break for lunch, then went on a tour at the New York Public Library on Thursday, followed by a seminar on Writing Performance, a lecture on Revision, followed by an open mic. Friday I went to a lecture on The Novel in the afternoon and then a reading at the Cornelia Street Café and KGB bar after a quick coffee and sushi stop in the West Village with my new writing friends Tom and Carolyn. After the readings Friday, I attempted to go to a show at the Comedy Cellar, but I had no reservations and didn’t want to waitlist so instead I went to The Grisly Pear, a B comedy club a couple doors down (pretty sure Pete Holmes filmed an episode of his HBO show Crashing here). The comics were still good.

After some two stiff drinks at each place I was feeling pretty toasted and so took the train back to Brooklyn, weaving down the sidewalk as I walked back to the Brownstone I was staying at.

Saturday I slept in till 9. Justine made coffee. I chatted for a bit with her then headed back to the City for lectures from Steven Salpeter from the Curtis Brown Literary Agency and Kevin Larimer, the editor in chief of Poets and Writers Magazine. I finally had an afternoon off so I walked uptown for a quick rest in Central Park, stopping for a late lunch at Rue 67, a French-inspired restaurant. Many people, thousands really, were all strewn on the lawns shirtless and in bikini tops in the middle of the Park, soaking up the Saturday June sun of one of the first hot days of summer. I tried to take a nap but just more or less just closed my eyes for a moment. After a quick stop at the horrendous Central Park public bathrooms, I took the R back downtown to Third Rail Coffee to prepare for my reading. The sun and humidity slowly wrapped me in a blanket of sweat and dizziness.

I read that night at the KGB bar and knocked it out of the park. Then I went out for drinks and food with everyone after. It was a great day. And, also my birthday.

Sunday was a bit more depressing. It was agent day so after a morning of workshop where I got some good feedback on a novel about Utah I was starting, we had a brief orientation on what the afternoon would look like. We’d all line up in a queue in front of a specific agent and then have four minutes to pitch them our book. Then we were told we’d either get a card or email, or simply a polite, “No thank you, this isn’t for me.” I felt nervous, but ready.

I pitched my book:

“It’s More Like Horror is a memoir about youth, faith, and depression,” I said. “It’s about depression in everyday life and follows me on a journey from Denver to Portland to Salt Lake City as the romantic ideals of my zealous evangelical youth are met with the realities of death, suicide, miscarriages, and a loss of faith.” But the first agent merely looked at me blankly and said, “Memoir’s are tough.”

There were ten agents in total and around half were only interested in genres I didn’t write in, so I skipped them completely. Pretty much all of the agents said the same thing: The idea was interesting but memoirs were tough to sell unless I had a crazy platform or insane writing credits. One gave me some good feedback to focus on the story of leaving my faith rather than depression, as depression was a subtext of the story. I thought this was good advice but at the same time, my story wasn’t some salacious tale of leaving a repressed religious community, although, who knows, maybe that would sell if I were to frame it like that. Suffice to say the afternoon was discouraging. Good feedback and learning experience I guess, but no one was all like, “OH my god, send me this book now!” So, now I am left once again to rethink my book, a book I’ve already spent nearly five years on. I may just be too young to write a memoir at this point. That’s how it goes I guess though. As Scott, one of the main faculty of the program told us in a good debriefing/motivational speech/boxing analogy, the next day: “You’ve put the gloves on, you’ve stepped into the ring, now you better expect to get hit. Then you keep punching back.”

 

Monday was our last day. One final workshop and lecture followed by a reading at The Half King, a bar in Chelsea underneath The Highline where we heard a hilarious piece by Rick Moody, some moving poetry by Tim Seibles and some excellent fiction from both Scott and Shanna.

I took the A train back to Brooklyn, packed, passed out on the couch, and woke up next morning to head back to SLC via JFK.

It was all in all, a fantastic trip, though I may need to hibernate for some time in a cave alone so I can sleep, process, and rethink my writing. I also may need a new liver transplant. But hey, it’s all-good, I’m one stop further down the tracks to becoming a professional, published writer. It all takes time.

 

 

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Fame

 

Famous

From Kanye’s controversial, slightly misogynistic, NSFW music video for his song “Famous.”

 

He had always wanted to be famous. He envisioned himself on radio talk shows and late night TV shows. Being interviewed by Jon Stewart or Terry Gross or Conan O’ Brien or … whoever, really. He’d be sly, funny, witty, humble. Famous enough to be on said shows, but not famous enough that he was an asshole.

He wanted to be famous for creating something beautiful. Something dark and true and resonating. Something to validate his existence. To make the hard times worth living, because others would be there, with him, in the struggle. Whether it be painting or writing or music or film—it didn’t matter. He just wanted to be famous, for something. Have others experience what he experienced. Perhaps it was validation. Perhaps it was pity. Perhaps it was a boyish need to have others accept him for who he was, for others to empathize with just how damn hard living in this world was. But he wanted to be recognized. In fact, he didn’t know if he could go unrecognized.

So he wanted to be famous.

If he were famous, however, he’d criticize fame, the spectacle of it. The American drive or myth that says everyone can be famous. Because we all want to be movie stars and rock stars, and advertisements tell us we can. Perhaps his own drive to be famous was born out of the same mythology. Perhaps this was why he was disappointed. Because he was not a movie star and his life was not like a movie. Because fame is a slippery thing.

He wanted to be famous because that meant making a difference in the world. You could say things people would listen to.

He didn’t want to be extremely famous, like Justin Bieber famous or even B movie star famous. Just famous enough so that people would respect him. Not that they didn’t respect him already. He was a respectable man—but not a famous one.
Fame gives narrative structure to failure. It evokes social empathy. If you’re simply a drug addict, you get little sympathy. If you’re a famous drug addict, you get narrative. People will then weave stories around your childhood, your demons, your fall from grace. And though it might not be pretty, it’s a story, and it’s better than what the bastards no one’s ever heard of get, which is no story. Sure, they have stories. But none worth telling because they’re simply some drunk who went to war or who had mental illness, not some drunk who was so brilliant that he could not deal with his own inherent genius and creativity and depression or manic anxiety or whatever else accompanies greatness. Or maybe there is no greatness, but there is fame. And that alone warrants more story than none. It at least gets people thinking. No one thinks about the drunk at the park. The heroine addict. The kid drinking cough syrup. Their stories are less interesting when they’re not famous. They’re just losers. Fame is the ingredient that makes all things allowed.

As much as he wanted to be okay with a simple life, a life of love and service and small deeds done in patience, he didn’t know if he could be. As if he would feel like a failure if he was never recognized, never given attention or, in his deepest fears, if he never created something worth recognition or attention. He wanted to live simply. But be famous for living simple. He wanted to be famous, but famous for criticizing fame. Anything else would be a diminution of his aspirations, to be known, and yet known for criticizing the known. That’s what he wanted to be known for. His own known knowingness of his known darkness in criticizing the known. Because somehow … that would help.

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Help Send me to the Writers Hotel Conference in NEW YORK!

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Hello World,

I am looking to raise funds to attend a writers conference in NYC called The Writers Hotel, called as such because it takes place in multiple hotels in midtown Manhattan. See here:

https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/send-levi-to-the-writers-hotel-conf
 

The conference is limited to under 100 people and fairly competitive so, you know, kind of a big deal. I will pitch my manuscript to agents and editors, and participate in readings, lectures, and workshops. BUT first I will work on my unpublished manuscript closely with an editing team at The Writing Hotel who will help me get it to that next level. This means four professionals in the publishing industry will be editing my work, which alone would cost about the same amount. My current manuscript is tentatively titled “It’s More Like Horror: A Memoir of Youth, Faith, and Depression.” So, super exciting and really the next big step for me to take as a writer after finishing my MFA in December at Antioch.

Right now I can cover some of the cost, but not all so, here we are. Go Fund Me!

I know this ain’t kickstarter but if you donate I will send you a copy of my chapbook of short stories, or a bag of coffee roasted by yours truly, or both. Seriously. But I will need your addy.

Also, the conference is in June, on my birthday, so you could think if it like a b-day present. Or not.

Deadline: April 30th. I can pay some of this on a cc but will then need to pay it back relatively soon.

Anyways, thanks for listening. I wish you all the best in this troubled, beautiful  world of ours.
www.writershotel.com

Sincerely,
Levi

https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/send-levi-to-the-writers-hotel-conf

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NPR

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In the mornings I like to listen to NPR. I drag my half-dead self out of bed (never as early as I want to, thinking foolishly that somehow I’ll have the energy to write or run before work) and stumble my way through making a Chemex. Coffee being one of the few things that has the ability to rouse me from the covers. My thoughts switching from: Who am I? What am I? Is there meaning to any of this? To: I would like some coffee. I then collect few Tupperware’s full of food from the fridge and throw it in my bag. I get in the car and turn on the radio.

Good morning. It’s 8:45. Today is Monday, October 27th. The temperature is a high of 75 with lows in the 40’s. Currently it’s 60 degrees in Salt Lake City. You’re listening to KUER. You’re listening to morning edition. You’re listening to NPR.

I like the sound, the comforting, though generally dismal topics of conversation. The radio grounds one in the present space-time continuum.

Ah, I think. It’s October. It’s Monday. I am in Salt Lake City. The weather still happens. And I’m not dead yet. It’s almost meditative. To stop the spinning in my head, the daily chores ahead of me, and the existential/theological thought experiments I torture myself with.

I drive to work and I think. How do people do it? Work more than eight hours in a day? Keep getting up and doing their jobs day in and day out? And if you do work eight hours a day, where do you get the energy for exercise, for art, for social activities?

I work a conservative fifty hours a week now. Some of that has to do with running a business. Some of it is just normal work stuff. And in America, I am the lazy one. We have many gods in America. One is work or specifically, the power and money work brings. We have other gods. Family and Sex. Which funny enough, are on the opposite sides of the spectrum.

Anyways, there’s a moment each morning when I’m sipping coffee and taking a bite out of an asiago bagel that I’m no longer thinking. I no longer worry. I am listening.

For five minutes, I just am.

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Luke 9:62

Luke 9:62

 

he invited me to join

placed my eager hands upon the handle

such energy, yet I guided straight

lines so perfect computers would be jealous

 

from sunup to sundown I plowed

the sweat stinging

sweet lines of crystallized salt to lick

later when the air blew soft

 

I invited others to join me

called them from the joy inside

 of me

 

I left mother and father

let the dead bury their own

 

days folded into one another

time compressed

 

then

 

time stretched

days folded into one another

 

I wandered back to graves I left

pined for sisters I never knew

 

me, of

outside darkness the from them, called

me join to others, invited

I

 

was, but hard now

the stinging sweat

the brow unkempt

no longer did I sell in joy

to buy the field

from sunup to sundown

I couldn’t wait for it to end

 

my lines, crooked as the next

like drunken snakes upon the grass

 

my tired hands upon the handle

I slunk away

I looked back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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