My girlfriend and I went to the UCF’s Spring MFA reading last night. Each of these readings from my experience are never in the same place. The first one I went to last year was at the Kerouac house. Last fall, it was over at Stardust Video & Coffee. Last night, it was at this pizza place over on Lee Road. Before we left, I had this gut feeling that we should have stayed away and gone to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner instead but I wanted to be supportive and potentially book some talent for There Will Be Words.
Our night began with our server forgetting small things, like plates and napkins for our garlic knots, then silverware for our salad. Then the patrons who were not affiliated with the MFA reading would not shut up while the graduates read (this included the kitchen staff and servers). The sound system, to be used for karaoke, was tinny and not able to overpower the conversations. Then, when someone spilled their drink, we could smell the mold coming from the mop. I’m surprised we weren’t food poisoned. We heard maybe half of what everyone read.
MFA graduate readings should be special occasions. The work read has been battle tested in the editing and defense process, the outcome of which shared among friends, family, faculty, and strangers with literary tastes. It should be treated as a major event not just in the university community, but the city’s literary community. Last night was memorable because of all of the elements combined that made the whole event a clusterfuck, not because of the work read.
I get the sense that while MFA programs help writers with their pagecraft, it does nothing for their stagecraft. There should be courses on how to present your work in public, how to organize a reading, whether it is one reading or a series. Until you get famous, you have to learn how to connect with people face to face to better sell yourself, and that’s part of the larger scope of being a writer. People don’t just want to read your work, but see you and hear you read your work. I think had those skill sets been added in the coursework, the MFA graduates who organized the reading would have done a much better job in venue choice, sound system choice, presentation of their work. Such courses would be helpful even for undergraduate English majors. It’s probably one of the things I’m actually comfortable teaching because I’ve organized shows for 11 years, performed for 14 years.
The release party for We Will Celebrate Our Failures went extremely well. All of the readers contributed something amazing and heartbreaking, whether it was funny or serious. Sip is a terrific venue and I will use them again and would recommend others in the literary community to use them to host shows. It is a hidden gem of a venue. The video is taking forever to post online due to my DSL being atrocious, but I will include me reading the title story live at the show.
I got my contributors copies from Durable Goods. They are tiny and cool. See?
I also have two poems in the latest issue of UP, which you can read here.