Three years ago, I took my novel “Water Music” – the first in my series “The Games Men Play” – to the New York Rainbow Book Fair and had a blast.
The ninth annual Fair – held on Saturday at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice – proved no less exhilarating. (Pic at right, by Gina Gouveia.) First, location, location, location. The light, airy space was the perfect venue, affording vendors and readers alike breathing room in which to mingle. And mingle we did. The Fair is always a good networking opportunity, a chance to bounce ideas off creative people.
Then there were the readings. I love to read aloud. It’s the surest way to know if a book really works. Inspired by Charles Dickens, who read his works on tour, I really get into it, doing the voices of the different characters, which is not the same as being an actress, who embodies a character. I read the opening chapter of “The Penalty for Holding” – the second novel in my series, out from Less Than Three Press May 10 – and it was well-received. More important, I realized when I read it aloud that it really worked.
My reading group also included the poet Marty Correia, who read three funny, moving poems about loss. Novel-writing is tough, but poetry, well, that’s a real challenge.
Correia was one of the many interesting people I met that afternoon. There was Ella Marques, the transgender mechanical engineer and author of “I Was Born a Boy, From Venus,” who said it took her 55 years to learn to be herself; Allan Hunter, a member of the male sex and female gender who’s attracted to females; Sur Rodney, a gallant archivist, who chatted with me about the wisdom that comes with age; and Russell Ricard, a veteran musical theater performer who was there with his first novel, “The Truth About Goodbye.” Born in Baton Rouge and raised in Los Angeles, he has loved living in New York for some 30 years. Russell is in what the Shakers would call “the place just right,” and he made me realize that part of being a storyteller is listening to other people’s stories.
One man liked the idea that the football player at the heart of “Penalty” plays for the New York Templars. He showed me a picture of the seal of the Knights Templar, which depicts them riding two men to a horse. Apparently, it was to cut down on the use of horses. (Yeah, right.) Known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon, the real Templars wielded enormous power through financial control until France’s debt-ridden King Philip IV and Pope Clement V decided they had had enough. Power is always done in by greater power, particularly when it is corrupt. (Not surprisingly, the Templars are among the villains in Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe.”) In my book, the Templars are a homage to the Knights, the New York baseball team in Bernard Malamud’s dark mirror of a novel, “The Natural.” But they also represent the uncertainty of the workplace as the nickname Temps suggests.) The Templars conversation that I had is the kind of connection that writers live for.
I’m now deep in corrections for the new book and, as usual, panicked. But by chance (except there are no coincidences), I picked up a book in my house this weekend, “The Eloquent Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis,” that contains this quote by her: “If you produce one book, you will have done something wonderful in your life.”
This will be my third published one. At one table at the Fair, I picked up a button that said, “Keep calm and save an author.”
For me, it’s a case of “Keep calm and write on.”