Reading the Parabola essay at CWCLB

Delighted to see my travel/spirituality essay “Out of the Dark Depths” come out in the current, Winter 2023 issue of Parabola: The Search for Meaning.

Parabola is a popular, New York-based magazine dedicated to the world’s religious, cultural, and mythological traditions. The issue theme is “Darkness and Light,” and in my essay, I recount an unexpected spiritual awakening that occurred to me while swimming in an underground burial lake, a purported entrance to the underworld in Yucatan.

“We used to bury our people down there, at the bottom,” said my Yucatec Maya guide as he pointed at the cave’s dark mouth, dropping underground at a 45-degree angle. “We would keep them there for eight years, then remove the bones, clean them, and bury them in the ground outside for good . . .

And I just did the first reading of this essay at the annual group reading of the California Writers Club, Long Beach chapter – a warm, supportive group of local writers. (12/10/2022)

At AWP22: Moderating a Panel and Reading

#AWP22 was a swirl of activities as the literary world is emerging from the downtime of the pandemic. What a difference from the last live AWP convention, March 2020 in San Antonio, the so-called #AWPocalypse of 2020 – a conference on the edge of a world shutting down, which I wrote about for the California Writing Club.

This gathering in the beautiful, historic downtown Philadelphia was pretty much back to business as usual. AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conventions do a great job putting writers together with one another, presses, agents, literary journals. I always have a hard time deciding which panel or talk to attend as so many happen at the same time.

One of my personal highlights at AWP 2022 was reading the essay “Christmas Dreidels,” excerpted from my yet-to-be-published memoir A Family, Maybe and published recently in Citadel, at the AWP Two-Year College Creative Writing Caucus offsite literary reading at Community College of Philadelphia on 3/25/22. So thankful to be part of this warm, supportive group of teaching writers.

Our panel included writers/professors from community colleges that publish literary journals. (L-R): Joe Baumann, [me], Magin LaSov Gregg, and Maria Brandt.

“Where Every Voice Matters: Community College Literary Journal Showcase” was an AWP 2022 panel I organized and moderated the morning after the reading. Together, we explored strategies to engage underrepresented writers and help them grow in the literary world, read samples of student writing from our journals, and discussed new ways to produce and publicize these publications. So many ideas; such great questions from the audience. Stay tuned for a summary of these ideas in my upcoming blog post for AWP Two-Year College Creative Writing Caucus.

And finally, a nice write-up about the conference in Publishers Weekly.

Reading a New Story Live at AWP21

Read “The Grass Eater,” my new personal essay as part of a live virtual reading organized by the AWP Creative Writing Caucus at the virtual AWP 2021 on March 4. At the center of the story is a devilish 7-year-old who wrecks his mother’s seaside honeymoon. The setting is the Republic of Georgia; the time is the disco era. The story was developed in a workshop led by Marion Winik. As of yet unpublished.

“The iPad Wars” in City Tales 2020, a YouTube storytelling show

This was a new performance format for me to learn – I’d taped myself reading the essay “The iPad Wars” for City Tales, the annual storytelling reading by LACC students and faculty, and sent it to the organizers for post-production. The show went live on YouTube June 4. Previously published in The Citadel, “The iPad Wars” is about 7 minutes long, and comes first in the show. It’s about a parent confronting his budding 11-year-old tech wiz about her flourishing, yet potentially dangerous social life online.

AWP 2020: Two Panels and a Reading

Every year, thousands of writers flock to the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, the largest literary convention in North America.

This year, however, was special. The coronavirus pandemic cast doubt on this giant event until March 2, just two days before its start, when the organizers and the host city of San Antonio, TX, confirmed it was going forward.

Despite many attendees’ choosing to stay home and the cancellations of up to a half panels – quickly dubbed on Instagram as #AWPocalypse – #AWP20 was still a vibrant event. Many panels reconstituted themselves with new panelists, while the readings and the Bookfair proceeded as planned.

I spoke on the panel “More Than Me: Memoirists Looking Outward,” which focused on memoir as a tool to spotlight larger social issues like the ethics of science and medicine, drug policy, race, sexuality, and, in my case, family formation and public adoption systems in America today. Our panel’s 200 attendees asked probing questions and stayed on afterwards to discuss the issues raised in our books. The panel was organized by Alia Volz (far right), and included (R-L) Barrie Jean Borich, Samuel Autman, Ming Holden, and me.

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The next day, I moderated another panel, called “Nurturing Future Danticats, Nabokovs, and Vuongs: Engaging Multilingual & ESL College Students in Creative Writing.” Counting a last-minute replacement of a non-attending panelist, our panel had four English instructors – Marlys Cervantes, Sharon Romero, Carla Sameth, and me – sharing working strategies on how to destigmatize these students’ voices and tailor writing pedagogies to their needs. Besides presenting the strategies and examples that we brought with us, we fielded some great questions from the audience of, roughly, 30.

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As a memoirist, I couldn’t miss the panels related to my field, but also some that satisfied my professional interests, such as how to finish a long-term writing project, keep the readers’ interested past the first 70 pages, or navigate the publishing world after a book deal.

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AWP is also a great place to have your writing heard. Friday, March 6, I read “When the County Is the Parent,” an essay excerpt from my memoir Dispositions, at the group reading of the AWP 2-Year College Creative Writing Caucus off-site. The reaction, just as when I read a portion of it at the memoir panel, was visceral, and I was asked numerous times when the book would finally be out.
This was a most unusual AWP, that barely made under the wire of the pandemic curfew, but still a deeply gratifying experience.

Speaking Out on Gay Parenting and Writing at Lambda LitFest

Loved being part of the “Our Families, Our Stories: Writing and Parenting in the Trenches” apanel t 2019 Lambda LitFest with Michael Kearns, Carla Sameth, Pat Alderete, and Aimee Rowe, and reading there the opening chapter of my book Dispositions. From a lesbian Mom with a child from a short-lived straight marriage, to a pioneering, single HIV-positive Dad, to two gay Moms raising their kids, each with her own, unique path, to our story, we presented a wide range of moving parenting experiences.

To me, the last 15 years have also been an experience of being both in and outside the traditional parenting narrative. What sets gay male parenting apart is that it is a 100% intentional endeavor. We have fought an uphill fight, and have come a long way. In 2019, our right to parent is a reality, but any way you look at it, parenting remains of little interest to many within our community. And it’s fine because it’s how it should be: intentional, not a slip-up, a by-product, or a means to end. LambdaLitFest1 9-27-19 (Final)

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Reading “Saviors or Vultures?” at AWP 2019 in Portland

On the closing night of the conference, I read my new short story “Saviors or Vultures?” based on a chapter from my memoir Dispositions, at a reading organized by the AWP College Writing Caucus at Café Marino Adriatico in the Division district.

Such a warm, receptive crowd, and a joy to hear other writers read the work, including Maria Brandt, Beth Mayer, and Marianne Taylor.

A perfect way to cap off a writing conference.

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“The iPad Wars” published in The Citadel and read live

“The iPad Wars” was read at the unveiling of the annual issue of The Citadel Nov. 14 in front of about 100 students and faculty in the campus Quad. After a few years on hiatus, our venerable literary journal is back! Published at LACC for more than 50 years, The Citadel features juried fiction and poetry by the writers from our college but also from the surrounding areas (Hollywood, Silverlake, Echo Park). The theme for this issue is What the Future Holds, and I thought that my story of a father fighting his pre-teen’s conquest of the Internet would illustrate it pretty well – another crossover of parenting experience into memoiristic writing. Very pleased to be part of the issue.

Please contact me directly for the copies of the story.