Post-Loaf

Other than the exceptions I’ve noted before, I’d wondered why former waiters never wrote down the details on the Bread Loaf experience.

I now know: it’s because it’s all a blur. A beautiful blur. Like traveling on a very fast train through the countryside: you see a landscape you love, and then it’s gone. I already miss it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to put together my thoughts at a later date.

In any case, I’ve a filthy apartment covered with notes and papers and so on. I need to collate all of that paper and put down my thoughts in one place. Think about it for a while, and then actually do some worthwhile writing.

Anyway, I’m in love with all of the fellow waiters. Such a smart group. I’m privileged to know them. Really.

What It’s Like to be a Bread Loaf Waiter

I’d hoped to blog a bit from Bread Loaf.

I’d hoped to document the “waitership” experience. I’ve been been given this once-in-a-lifetime scholarship, and I wanted to document it, minute by minute.

No go.

There’s just too much is going on. Too much work.

But I have got to say: except for Dave Koch’s account, a lot of what people say about the Bread Loaf waiter experience is incorrect. They’re often journalistic accounts. The other, more personal accounts are self-pitying (yes, it’s hard work). Still more are condescending (those little hard-working waiters! Look at what jerks they are!). Some whine about the place and its various hierarchies. Others are a bit too much in awe.

I’ve been both a waiter and a contributor (but as contributor, I had something called a conference grant. Conference grants have no glamor—you’re a given a cut-rate to attend and told that you’re talented, that’s it).

So I can say as a person who’s experienced both sides of Bread Loaf, the life of the waiter isn’t an easy one. That was the biggest surprise: I’d thought waiters had the smooth life, riding shotgun on the road of life. Before I’d been a Bread Loaf waiter, I thought when I wasn’t seeing those guys around, they were going to secret, glamorous parties. Clinking Champagne glasses. Laughing in exclusive cabins, eating better food.

No. No, they weren’t: I now know that they were either sleeping or hiding from the local authorities. Or working like hell.

Should you go to Bread Loaf if you’re not accepted for a waitership?

Yes.

Just create your own fate and ignore your insecure tendencies, whatever they are. Don’t be a full-bore networker. Instead, read your work at the Blue Parlor. Get to know the people around you. Read their work. Prepare for your workshops (in other words respect the other writers in your workshop). Don’t act desperate. Don’t talk for too long to the agents and others in attendance.

And for god’s sake, don’t suck up to the waiters. It makes them (or maybe I should say, me) feel weird. The waiter has no power at all and probably doubts his or her talent, too.

There’s a lot going on at Bread Loaf. You get exhausted. You get “Bloaf” or “BLARS”—it’s not a spa trip. Read what Michael Collier has to say about it, here. There is so much to learn and experience, you don’t need a waitership.

Really: YOU DON’T NEED A WAITERSHIP.

In any case, go to the bonfire (night of the waiter readings, in the woods in the back of the barn), but also go to the waiter reading before that (really, go to the waiter readings, they’re often the most interesting readings).

And when you’re at the bonfire, remember: the waiters have to buy the alcohol themselves, so don’t suck it all down. Instead, go into town at some point and buy some of your own and share it. Bring it to “the pigsty” where the male waiters live and party (it’s in the building that houses the barn, on the ground floor, in the back). It’s a great place to make friends, because early-on in the conference everyone goes there, including fellows and so on.

Or better, out-class the waiters, like the people in Annex are doing. They seem to be having their own (better) party every night—with Hendrick’s Gin, no less.

Or don’t go to the parties. It’s not all about drinking. It really isn’t. Play Scrabble instead, or something. No need to fall into some predetermined behavior. But get to know people. I’ve made some very good friends here. You can keep to yourself, but you’ll be wasting your money.

For everyone, Bread Loaf is like this: you arrive on the mountain, surprised that so many people feel the same way you do about books and reading and writing. And you want to be with those people night and day.

But don’t be under the impression you’ll have time to write. It’s not a residency. So get to know people. Really, get to know people.

Should you attend if you’re accepted as a waiter? YES. Just bring Advil. Lots of it. You’ll make the best friends you’ll ever have. Weirdly, I feel like I’m friends even with Dave Koch, even though I’ve never met him. I know he knows all about suffering (and busing tables), so we’re friend on some level that’ll last forever.

The fellows are the best reason to go. The first time was here, a fellow named Naeem Murr gave me some of the best writing advice I’ve ever gotten, in a one-on-one discussion.

Peter Orner in yet another discussion gave me confidence. Pia Ehrhardt has given me more than I could ever give back. I’ll always be grateful to all of them.

And also:

Bring protein bars: the food can be iffy and tedious.

If you REALLY NEED TO MAKE A CELLPHONE CALL and can’t Skype it for some reason, go out into the field across the street from the main building and look for a large rock on the left. Climb up on it, stand there, and look like a jerk. You’ll get reception. That was my personal discovery. I take credit (or blame) for that.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments. 

A Brief History of Outlaw Parties


When I lived in New York’s Alphabet City and I was getting my MFA in film at Columbia, I used to go to outlaw parties. These parties worked like this: You’d be walking down the street or dancing in some club and somebody would hand you a flyer–meet at place X at precisely X time and bring alcohol.

One time the party was in Nathan’s in Times Square (it’s no longer there–the place was fluorescent-lit, huge, and dirty). Another time, it was on the L train (still there, still fluorescent-lit, too small, and still dirty). For the L train party, we all met on some platform. People materialized with an ad hoc bar. We then partied on the trains with music blaring from boom boxes and so on. The people who had been riding the trains in some prosaic manner had to either party too, or leave. Supposedly I was filmed for some public access show, dancing and drinking. I’d love to see that film. Or maybe not. Maybe I look like a jerk dancing on the L train.

Anyway, these things were often conducted by Michael Alig, who later murdered someone.

They were more fun than I’m describing them. Believe me.

Things progressed with the Internet. People met online and then in some boutique somewhere. Or the L train, the standby party bus. They partied until the cops showed. These days, the parties seem to be getting bigger, thanks to text messengering. A party in honor of Bastille Day took place on the Brooklyn Bridge, with some three thousand people. It then went to City Hall Park (a super-secure spot, obviously) and then went to Coney Island, soon to be ripped down. It was political, but subtly so. Fire juggling and nudity followed. Things are progressing nicely, I say.

Sam Lipsyte, Guest fiction editor


Sam was never a teacher of mine. I met him in Russia when I’d a scholarship for a fiction workshop. But Sam was a standout: a nice guy and a true advocate for his students.

Plus, and this I can attest to, he’s a great fellow passenger on the hell-ride known as Aeroflot. I spent many, many hours with that guy in various threadbare airports.

His efforts are now up on the Guernica site.

Describing “Comfortable” Sex

Right now, I’m writing a sex scene for my novel. And it’s an awful thing. I’ve written about sex before, but it was always uncomfortable sex. This one is comfortable (albeit, tacky) sex. Ugh. Writing an uncomfortable sex scene is easy; there’s a certain lack of commitment, a sense of distance. But a truly pleasant hoedown?

Way too personal.

Here’s a rough (very rough) draft of an uncomfortable sex scene. It takes place in the small-town, Jim Crow South of the 1950s:

That summer Grace works at Minot’s drug store. Everything in there is white and clean. She works beneath a giant wall clock hanging above her head just like a full moon. When people look in the window to find out the time, they can see her standing at the register in this air-cooled place that feels so fresh and sparkling. All around her are little sealed packages promising so much.

She discovers the town secrets here. Mrs. Morningstar is having “female trouble.” Mr. Johnston buys prepackaged enemas. Honey Hinnant’s father, the pastor of Venice Springs Methodist, just bought a hernia truss. Does Mr. Hinnant preach while he’s wearing the truss? She enjoys the delicate horror.

Then Grace can feel his approach. He was in the back by the toothpaste, but now he’s coming close. She knows when Mr. Wagner is near. Is that a sign? Knowing when someone is near? Mr. Wagner smiles—toothpaste, deodorant, toothpicks, plus tax, $2.13. Mr. John Wagner. Beautiful black hair that curls like a movie star. Rock Hudson? He owns the feed store down the block. He’d lived in Charleston and only came back to take over after his father had died. His eyes glitter more than other eyes do

How old is he anyway? 35? Maybe 40? Old—but in a good and sophisticated way. Everyone says he’s good-natured and generous, Mr. John-just-like-a-movie-star-Wagner.

“Remember when I used to give you a bag of boiled peanuts every time your dad was over to the store? Seems like yesterday anymore, don’t it?”

Grace has already mastered the customer-service smile. “Of course, Mr. Wagner.” She gives him his change, three quarters, one dime, one nickel, two pennies, and a receipt. While she’s giving him his change, her nails just scrape his palm. He’s watching her while she gives him his change and his fingers touch hers as he closes his palm, just so. He then looks at his palm and fishes out the pennies. He bounces them on the counter and with his index finger, pushes them towards her. “You need to still come by. Could use a pretty girl in there. Usually just me and a bunch of homely types not prone to good conversation. Appalling, the level of talk going on in a feed store.”

“All right, Mr. Wagner.” They smile. She looks at the floor. He squints at the full-moon clock and makes a pretense of setting his watch. The few seconds feel like minutes. The little bells attached to the front door clang and while he holds the door, he says, “Just call me John from now on, all right Grace?”

“Okay.” Then: “John.”

“John it is.” He smiles and points his index finger at her just like Uncle Sam and he wants her for the U.S. Army: “See you around, cupcake.”

That summer Grace finds many reasons to pass John’s store. She walks in for a visit, but only for minutes at a time, because of the awkwardness rising up in her. It’s as if the feeling itself—her desire for him and all of her fantasies have become knotted in her throat. She can’t breathe. She worries about what would happen, if she were to sputter or shout, or to run away. Sometimes she wonders, what would it be like if she—right then and there—were to take off all of her clothes. What would happen? Everything would crash on down.

John is lounging against the back wall of his store. He’s holding court. He’s with the farmers he calls “boll weevils.” There’s also a few “lounge lizards”—men in shiny department-store suits. It’s damply dark and the place smells sweet, like beer. There are many dark corners in there, mysterious places she doesn’t feel able to explore with all of these men around her.

Confused and tight in the throat, Grace turns to leave after a half-hello. Those weedy boll weevils and the smirky lizards are witnesses to her behavior and it occurs to her: why is she doing this? What would she do with John Wagner? Once he patted her on the butt by way of good-bye and she blurted an “oh!” The weevils chuckled. One of the lizards said, “see you now, Grace.” She remembers his wicked and sweaty smile.

One Friday after school she comes by and he’s by himself. The bottles of whiskey and beer are out, but the place is empty—there’s only movie star John.

“Well… Grace.” He has been drinking; there’s a certain sadness about the eyes.

His eyes—what color are his eyes? Are they black?

“Everything all right?”

“Just fine, sugar.”

“Well… Okay.” Already she’s running out of subjects. The silence, the gaps, and the dizziness—it’s here again. Again, too, she’s lost in a flurry of observations: she notices he’s left-handed which somehow makes him vulnerable. She notices his hand has a sort-of shake, a tremor, and his forearm: is that a tattoo?

“What’s it like?”

“What’s what like?”

“Drinking. You know, beer.”

“Why, okay I guess. Not very ladylike.”

“Can I try?” He has it. That certain Brand X. A movie-star smile. It is a tattoo— yes—an anchor. Was he in the Navy?

“Can’t say as I think it’d hurt anybody, but your daddy….”

Or is he more like Errol Flynn? Mysterious how he looks a little different every time. Did he have a girl in every port?

“Maybe I should go.”

“Pretty quick visit, don’t you think?” His eyes—now they’re blue “Brightens up my day, you coming by.”

She smiles and stumbles a little bit toward the door and laughs just so slightly.

“No strangers in Venice Springs.”

“Huh?”

“Town’s too small. So don’t be a stranger. Okay? After all, can’t keep coming in for toothpaste every ten minutes just to talk at you.”

What would it be like, to be in those arms? Still, she heads for the door. She reaches for the knob, then remembers Honey’s advice: When you don’t know what to say, just pretend you’re Bette Davis.

“Just half a glass. A girl’s got to experiment.”

After a few whiskies, her head feels like a sponge and everything is floating nicely. Somehow he kisses her and his rough skin is like sandpaper across her face. She can smell his cigarettes and she laughs: Grace, a tee-totaling Methodist, drinking alcohol in the back of a feed store with someone twice her age.

John locks up for privacy. He pulls out another bottle.

“Were you in the Navy?”

“Merchant Marine. Saw the world from the side of a ship. During the war I worked the convoys. Dangerous stuff. U-boats.” He rubs at the anchor tattoo.

“Did it hurt?”

“What?”

She points at the tattoo. “That.”

He smiles.

Grace keeps on drinking. Then she pees in the dirty little manly bathroom with manly smells. It’s a man’s room with pictures of Vargas girls on the walls. Dizzy, her head is spinning it then runs together: She’s on a cot. It’s in the backroom and John says, “Let me take these off.” Time passes, until sick and groaning and naked and under a single sheet, she wakes up.

The cot, the room—none of this is what she’d expected. A little window, dirty, looks onto the back. Weeds the size of bushes is growing out there. Lost in weeds is a rusted-out tractor. John Wagner is sitting at the foot of the bed. He’s naked, holding his head in his arms.

“You need to be anywhere?”

“What time is it?”

“About five. You been here from about one or thereabouts. Didn’t you have school?”

She can’t hear him. This is a lot to take—a naked man at the foot of some strange and squeaky bed. Muscular with black chest hair. What about the rest of him?

“Sugar, school?”

The bed: did it squeak like this?

“You all right?”

“We had a half-day.” Her head is spinning. Her stomach is in a tumble. He’s beautiful though. He’s naked but he’s naked in a way not at all like the boys she’d seen before.

He lies down next to her. She’s under the sheet and he looks at her with what must be a smirk. “Your daddy—is he expecting you for dinner?”

Then a flash of memory: him on top of her.

And then another: His head is down there and he’s doing something she’d never heard about; and she’s saying things, screaming things, and he puts it by her mouth and she turns away, but then it’s in her mouth, until there’s only the smell and the taste.

Grace pulls the sheet over herself. The bed—did it make noises? Was there really only just this one sheet, and this filthy mattress? “I guess maybe I should go.” She gets up quickly and scrambles around the floor for her clothes: her panties are balled up and inside out. And she’s naked. In front of John Wagner, she’s naked. She makes herself as small as she can while she struggles to put on her underwear.

The walls: they’re yellow, and the paint is peeling. The place is dirty with grain and bottles of beer and whiskey. A cool breeze is coming through the little window.
Who left a tractor to the weeds?

His pants—she’s standing on them. Hers are in the corner. As she lifts her leg to put on her pants, she can feel a roll of fat forming at her waist. He must see it. She can see him at the side of her eye, looking at her with that smirk. She thinks: He’s laughing at me. Her eyes dart everywhere—the window and the tractor, the peeling paint, the brand of shirt he wears, and then she looks right at him. He’s not wearing a smirk at all.

He’s scared.

Was this where they all took their girls? Was this where those farmers and those shiny-suited men would take their girls and get them drunk? She sees the way her breasts fall when she leans down to pick up her bra; they must look ridiculous.

Peripherally, she notices his burned-dark face against his pale chest. She can see the line where he’d worn an undershirt while working in the sun. And there’s a deep line on his forehead, a cavernous line straight across, just like a hideous scar. Maybe he’s not some movie star at all. Maybe he’s just scared. And maybe he’s just watching her because he’s scared and worried. He’s probably thinking of her father, Hezekiah Shortly. Hezekiah won’t be happy with either one of them if he ever finds out.

Soon she’s dressed, but he’s still on the bed and he’s naked, barely covered by the only sheet on the mattress. She has a thought—she wishes he’d stand before her, and show him who and what she was with, these last few hours.

“Bye.”

“You’re not sore or anything, right?”

“No.”

“You’ll still come by?”

Bette Davis, Bette Davis, Bette Davis.

“Just to talk, mind. I like talking at you.” He shrugs.

Then daylight.

It’s blistering-bright. People are following-through on whatever their agendas are, and it occurs to her that it’s strange; these people—all of them—are going on with their lives and it’s got nothing to do with what’s just happened. Nothing: nothing is going on; nothing at all is going on that has anything at all to do with her. Nothing. And even here there are so many layers and lives and it’s just so dammed strange.

Grace looks around. It’s crowded and hot, even though according to the drug store wall clock it’s 5:15. All around, there’s the too-bright sun and the bright colors that make up any downtown: the greens of the grocery store signs and the reds-and-whites of the five-and-ten. There’s also the searing blare of reflected light on the shop windows. All of this is mixed in with the blues and pinks of the floral dresses of the ladies shopping before they rush home, late, to fix their meals.

Her brother loafs across the street, friendless as always. He’s eating a Popsicle, dawdling and aimless, just outside of Poodle’s. Strange, seeing her brother out of context, and not at the dinner table or at the house. Is this how others see him too, tall and tic-filled?

“Merrill!” She crosses the street. Suddenly he’s nervous, like he’s just been caught.

“Where you been? They been looking for you,” he says. Merrill’s Popsicle is melting onto the street. His arms, Grace notices, seem independent of him; they jerk and flutter in little spurts. The Popsicle melts down his hand.

“Better watch that.”

He sucks at it and licks his hand. “What happened?”
Grace realizes that Merrill is here a shadow of their father’s anger. In Merrill’s distraction, she sees the coming fireworks.

“Nothing. Just lost track, it being half-day and all. They mad, Mom and Dad?”

“Dad yelled. We got meatloaf. I left because I wanted to get me a Popsicle before the store done closed.”

Done closed. She hates her brother’s redneck pretensions.

“They mad?”

“You know. Dad. Et. Cetera. Blah blah.”

They walk home together. For Grace the mental image of her father grows. She looks at Merrill as he struggles with the Popsicle. He’s trying to get it all before it falls in icy cherry chunks onto the street. Merrill is a favorite of Dad’s. A tinge of jealousy courses through her—what’s so special about this boy with a melting Popsicle? Merrill sucks at it and makes slurping sounds as a chunk falls to the street.

“Damn!”

They’re at the corner and before they turn she sneaks a glance at John Wagner’s store. From this distance it looks so small and shambly. The town itself seems smaller, too. This town, she thinks: pathetic. From this distance she can see his store windows clearly, but they appear dark from here. She just knows he’s at those windows, watching. His eyes are on her.

Just then she notices her blouse is a awry. She adjusts it and pats down her hair. She’s going to be okay, she tells herself; she’s going to be fine; everything will be okay. Again she looks back at the shop. She tells herself it’s so small and far away—even just two blocks away, it’s so small. Its windows are dark but she can see him; he must be there.

Grace says, “my Lord, it’s warm” and soon they’re at their house. Their lawn is green, so green, greener than any others in town. Little stones painted white are at the edging. The bushes are neatly trimmed. They come in under the carport and her house is reflecting heat, but it looks so inviting nonetheless. She knows tonight there’ll be the humidity and sticky night heat. She’ll stick to the sheets. Tonight she’ll read her book and she will look out at the stars as she lies in bed. She’ll situate herself as close to the fan as possible and she’ll pretend as she always does, that the fan is bringing her cool breezes from somewhere exotic, where such winds originate

.

Creative Boredom

Today’s entry at semi-twee site, The Writer’s Almanac notes the birthday of illustrator Saul Steinberg.Link
I’ll go ahead and quote the whole entry (maybe because I’m bored). Really, however, all you need to read, is the last quoted sentence below:

It’s the birthday of Saul Steinberg (books by this author), born in a little village near Bucharest, Romania, in 1914. He came to this country and became a longtime artist at The New Yorker magazine. He painted many covers, including his most famous, “View of the World from 9th Avenue,” which shows a New Yorker’s view of the country with New York City huge in the foreground and the rest of the country off in the distance, little bumps of details.

Saul Steinberg said of his childhood, “I got high on elementary things like the luminosity of the day and the smell of everything – mud, earth, humidity, the delicious smells of cellars and mold, grocers’ shops.”

His mother was a cake decorator. His father designed specialty cardboard boxes. As a boy, Steinberg liked to rummage through his father’s supply of paper and rubber stamps and colored cardboard and blocks of type. He also loved to read, and he later said that he would have become a writer if he had inherited a better language, but instead he learned to draw.

He studied architecture in Italy, got a degree, and at the same time started contributing satirical drawings to humor magazines. He got out of Europe just in time – 1941– and he sailed for America from Portugal, carrying a passport that he had doctored with his own rubber stamps. Through the intervention of the editor of The New Yorker, he was allowed to enter the United States in 1942. He enlisted in the Navy, went off to fight in World War II, and then came back to draw cartoons and covers for The New Yorker magazine. He parodied most of the popular styles of painting of the 20th Century, cubism and abstract expressionism, even children’s art. His work was always playful and funny. He put in Easter bunnies and the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building, Santa Claus, Mickey Mouse. He once drew Uncle Sam as a bullfighter, fighting a turkey instead of a bull. He loved to make elaborate counterfeit documents – currency, passports, licenses, and especially diplomas.

It was Saul Steinberg who said, “The life of the creative man is led directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes.”
Link


I’m not entirely sure that that is the case, that boredom drives creativity, but I like the idea of it. All of those little short short stories I wrote in my bedroom in South Carolina–was I bored? Possibly. We’re talking about South Carolina, after all. Come to think of it, yes, I freaking bored. Bored out of my mind.

But was I writing to avoid boredom–fighting it creatively, rather than through (say) regular doses of TV? Not so sure.

In any case, does boredom as a driving force, apply to me today? Perhaps, but these days, what I think really drives me: time keeps moving anyway. Why not spend it wisely?

Where I go to write, The Writers Room, has magnificent skyline views. One window-wall looks out onto the Empire State Building (and also, sadly the building in which I work). At night, it’s all very inspiring–it’s a typical movie establishing shot that says, this is New York, City of Wonder.

The other window-wall, however, looks out onto a massive beige, Sixties-style apartment building, a hulking monstrosity. I prefer that mundane, typical New York view. Why? Because I can see into dozens of apartments simultaneously.

Basically, I see privileged people shuffling around in their socks, watching TV. And that’s inspiring to me, because that view offers a concrete option: I could be unproductively bored in front of my own shiny-new flat screen TV (that sometimes, I’ll admit calls to me like a siren).

But no, I’d rather look at a computer screen and try to write. God knows what those people in that beige building think of me as I sit in a dark room under a single pool of light, staring at a computer screen. They probably look at me and think, Lok at that guy. I could be over there, working. Instead, I’m watching TV in my socks!

But I don’t care.

My necessary fiction (more on that at some other point): those shuffling people are drugged by TV and are unproductively bored. I’m single in this city, often bored, but at least I’m doing something I count as worthwhile, no matter what. And that’s not boring at all.

But still–none of this disproves Steinberg–not at all. It’s actually compatible with his statement; something of an elaboration. Watching TV is boring, after all. It’s what sends me to The Room to write. Nonetheless, I prefer my own notion: we must fight the encroaching morass. We must avoid the ever-present, mind-numbing TV that imprisons the be-socked masses in their tiny beige apartment buildings all over the world.

Avail soon: “New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg”


A book I contributed to, New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg, edited by Marshall Berman and Brian Berger, will be available shortly.

Published by Reaktionbooks and distributed by The University of Chicago Press. PR from the Reaktionbooks site:

Acclaimed historian Marshall Berman and journalist Brian Berger gather here a stellar group of writers and photographers who combine their energies to weave a rich tale of struggle, excitement, and wonder. John Strausbaugh explains how Uptown has taken over Downtown, as Tom Robbins examines the mayors and would-be mayors who have presided over the transformation. Margaret Morton chronicles the homeless, while Robert Atkins offers a personal view of the city’s gay culture and the devastating impact of aids. Anthony Haden-Guest and John Yau offer insiders’ views of the New York art world, while Brandon Stosuy and Allen Lowe recount their discoveries of the local rock and jazz scenes. Armond White and Leonard Greene approach African-American culture and civil rights from perspectives often marginalized in so-called polite conversation.

Daily life in New York has its dramatic moments too. Luc Sante gives us glimpses of a city perpetually on the grift, Jean Thilmany and Philip Dray share secrets of Gotham’s ethnic enclaves, Richard Meltzer walks, Jim Knipfel rides the subways, and Robert Sietsema criss-crosses the city, indefatigably tasting everything from giant Nigerian tree snails to Fujianese turtles.

It’s a long way from old Brooklyn to the new Times Square. But New York Calling reminds us of what has changed – and what’s been lost – along the way.


Available from Amazon
Link

Waiting tables at Bread Loaf, 2007

It just doesn’t have a ring to it–hey, I’m going to Bread Loaf! I’m going to be a waiter!

Usual Response: Uh, cool. You’re waiting tables at a bakery?

Me: That’s the name of the mountain! It’s a writers’ conference!

Usual Response: Weren’t you a waiter, like years ago? Aren’t you over being a waiter?

Me: But this is cool! It’s the oldest, best writers’ conference! It was founded by Robert Frost!

Usual Response: And you’re going to wait tables? Wait on a bunch of writers? They don’t tip well, I bet.

Me: It’s an honor!

Usual Response: An honor. Is cleaning the toilet an even bigger honor?

Me: Really, it’s an honor!

Usual Response: Whatever man….

Me: Really! I swear! It’s a work-study fellowship for fiction!

Never a prophet in your own country. Antonya Nelson was a waiter. Langston Hughes was a waiter.

Bet they got the same shit, too.

An insider’s account on what it’s like to be a waiter at Bread Loaf, from Slate

Another insider’s account, but from the point of view of the social staff

What Rebecca Mead of The New Yorker had to say about it

A short film about Bread Loaf, on what it’s like on the mountaintop


The background blah-blah

I’m a writer.

But:

I’ve erased everything that was here because I found it so appalling.

I’ve never kept a diary (on a regular basis, that is) for the same reason.

I have had just about all I can take of myself. — S. N. Behrman

I write about books, movies, travel, and interesting people. I’ve written for both Maxim and Good Housekeeping (that’s a gamut), Reel.com, Time Out New York, Museums New York, Museums Boston, Four Seasons magazine, USAir Magazine, TV Guide, for a book called New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg (2008, U of Chicago/Reaktion Books) and many others–most of which are not on the Internet.

I’ve been writing forever: I was an editor at my high school paper, and arts editor of my college paper, and even founded my school paper in 6th grade. I have an MFA from Columbia in screenwriting. My work has been (ugh) optioned. “Development Hell” it was. I also worked on countless short films. Such as this and this. I wrote and directed two sync-sound 16mm films that played such festivals as Chicago, and elsewhere.

I’m an editor for Guernica magazine , where I edit fiction, along with the occasional nonfiction piece.

I have blogged for Guernica HERE. Mostly the pieces are about Republicans. And they’re a rant. Yes, I know that.

Search my name, you’ll see I’m a signer of petitions (signed it–just one–in Union Square, unaware that it would be broadcast around the world.) And that I’ve written for magazines. Sometimes the stuff shouldn’t be on the Internet

Because I didn’t sign a contract that allowed it.

This shouldn’t be on the Internet either (because again, I didn’t sign a contract that allowed it).

Sometimes, it should

I write mostly because of these demons. They offered my a Faustian bargain: fun at school in exchange for 10 years of paying it off. Not on the internet: my fiction. That’s what I do. I’ve read here
Link
and here

and here

and here

and here and elsewhere in little places around NYC.

I’ve also gotten a 2005 partial scholarship to Summer Literary Workshops in St. Petersburg, Russia.

and a 2006 Conference Grant
to here

And a “waitership” to Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2007.

UPDATE: More about me in this autobiographical piece I wrote for the Web Site, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, an essay called, “From Kobe, Japan to New York City (and Back Again)

Also have a few more stories out there on the Internet and a page on The Atlantic. This entry is an old one.

Fiction | Nonfiction