New School MFA Student Reading: “Lilaca” (My Screwed-Up Short Story Involving a Demon)

“Lilaca tried to disappear…”

I’m bad at nanowrimo2017. But I read my in-progress fantastical short story aloud to MFA students at the New School Wollman Hall. It’s perhaps the first short story I read publicly (I usually read poetry and read one satirical nonfiction-type piece in the past).

It’s grainy footage shot by a friend’s smartphone, but the audio is intact. Enjoy! Comments appreciated.

Feedback post-reading:

  • “You put headaches in a different light.”
  •  “That was intense.”
  • “I didn’t expect that.”
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Verifying Authentic KFC-Bootleggy Texas Fried Chicken in Harlem

Ever since I left dear Houston, Texas to settle in Harlem, New York City, this has been a major mystery: Why didn’t I just walk into that nearby Texas Fried Chicken place sooner? How could I procrastinate on sampling a fried chicken place like I do with my novel writing (don’t get me started on my nanowrimonth2017 project)?

One Sunday, I decided to take a break from non-fiction homework and just stroll out into the breezy New York winter air for some brain exercise. Giving scathing critiques (haha, nah, constructive criticism) on my classmates’ stories could wait.

So the eye-catching thing about this store wasn’t the “Texas,” but the “Fried Chicken.” “Texas,” as I understood, was an arbitrary branding, as irrelevant as the “Kentucky” in Kentucky Fried Chicken. Hey, as long as it is meaty chicken and fried, I don’t care which state you claim that chicken is from–or more accurately, styled after. I didn’t walk in this store expecting a taste of nostalgia and a seasoning of long-lost Texas. Besides, I never got the impression that Texas had its own signature fried chicken.

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Right when I walk in, the server said, “Hello, Sister!” and I feel right at home. She called other customers, “Brother/Sister.” She asked me where I was from and was really happy to actually have a Texas customer.

I unearth this $4 combo meal.

If it wasn’t Captain Obvious enough, the Texas brand is bootleggy. But it was well-oiled, if not a tad over-greased. But it didn’t taste salty, which is important, so I didn’t feel like I was consuming too much sodium.

When I was telling my roommate about it, we discussed other knock-off joints like Kennedy Fried Chicken or Kansas Fried Chicken.

All in all, I was satisfied with the so-called Texas fried chicken. And a $4 meal was a good price. There’s room for me to get indulgent in the future and get the 3-piece $5 combo.

To my roommate, “As long as it taste fine, is not too salty, and is at a good price, I don’t care, I’ll eat it.” I’ll take it over KFC (I mean, the real Kentucky Fried Chicken) if the price is that good.

Then my roommate went, “I’m actually glad those knock-offs are around. They’re kinda taking money from capitalist corporation KFC.”

Fiction Forum with Édouard Louis

“There is nothing more objective than pain.”

Raised in the griminess of post-industrial northern France, French queer author Edouard Louis read a sample of The End of Eddy. Pulling no punches, he spoke about interrogating the class stratifications responsible for prejudice and poverty in his homeland.

Fiction Forum: Édouard Louis at @thenewschool #literature #books

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Reflection prompt: Write about the objectivity of pain and intersectional realities.

New School MFA Chapbook Reading

Nothing like going to a snack-filled reading with some amazing writers.

MFA Chapbook party at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites. Stuart Waterman reads "Thing You Have Been Waiting For"

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Darcy Rothbard reads "Blue" at @thenewschool at MFA Chapbook party #newschoolwrites

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Sarah Madges reading "Writing the Wound" at MFA Chapbook party at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

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Nicole V. Basta reading "V" at MFA Chapbook party at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

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The Best American Poetry Reading 2017   at New School: Getting an Awkward Look from Joyce Carol Oates

At the New School, I listened to a barrage of American poets:  from Dan Albergotti, Mary Jo Bang, David Barber, Bruce Bond, Jericho Brown, Allison Cobb, Carl Dennis, Vievee Francis, Jeffrey Harrison, W. J. Herbert, David Brendan Hopes, John James, Rodney Jones, Meg Kearney, John Koethe, Jamaal May, Judson Mitcham, John Murillo, Joyce Carol Oates, Sharon Olds, Matthew Olzmann, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Robert Pinsky, Taije Silverman, Emily Van KleyCrystal Williams, and to Monica Youn. (Whew!)

Jericho Brown is a notable visitor, who I had seen read before about 4-5 years back at a Boldface Writing Conference at the University of Houston.

Jericho Brown at American Poets reading at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

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The event introduced me to poets who had not entered my Mental Reading List consciousness.

"We stumble, we know not everybody rises again." American poet Vievee Francis at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

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I approached Joyce Carol Oates through a barrage of fans greeting to the poets and deliberated whether I should climb the stage to save her the trouble of looking down on me. Right when Oates made eye contact with me to smile and say, “Hello,” an autograph person got in the way, cutting me off to ask Oates to sign her book. So Oates forgot about me for a second, signing the woman’s book, before turning back to me, looking down from me from the stage.

She shook my hand and said, “Nice to meet you.”

“I remember studying your short story!” I was referring to her stranger danger short story “Where You Going, Where You’ve Been,” which is infamous study material in literary classes.

And she kind of gave me an expectant glance, maybe processing what I just said. I realized that she might be wondering if I have something for her to sign. Maybe, I was better off buying the poetry collection book for her to autograph, instead of just going up to her and giving her a random compliment.

And I thought, great. Way to blow it. Joyce Carol Oates will just remember you as the annoying fangirl who had nothing for her to sign.

The @joycecaroloates3146. #newschoolwrites #poetry #poet

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Poetry inspirations and progress of writing ideas after reading:

  • Writing about celebrities
    • Created a folder for celebrity-related poems
      • New Draft: “[Making a Fool of Myself Before] Joyce Carol Oates”
        • Can’t forget about writing the verse where I observed her using a pencil/pen to trace the words in the program’s poetry book on her lap.
      • Continuing Old Draft: “Apologies to Elizabeth Bishop”
  • Writing about current events (inspired by Dan Albergotti’s poem chilling “Weapons Discharge Report”)

Recapping the Last 24 Hours: Making a Fool of Myself Before Ethan Hawke at NYFF55

Critics together nyff

I was honored with an acceptance from the Critic’s Academy fellowship at the New York Film Festival (NYFF55). This opened an overwhelming flood of opportunities and placed me into rather momentous social occasions.

  • Post-screening of Last Flag Flying at NYFF55, I sat three rows from Bryan Cranston, Lawrence Fishburne, and Richard Linklater at the Q&A press conference.
    • Last Flag Flying, for all its shortcomings, was an overall amiable film.

Hi Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, Richard Linklater. @lastflagflying #nyff #nyff2017.

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  • Had a successful job interview where I showed off my press badge of the New York Film Festival to mention that “Less than 12 hours ago, I saw Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne, and Richard Linklater speak live” to spice up my qualifications.

 

  • At the New School American Poetry event (unrelated to NYFF), I made a fool of myself in front of author Joyce Carol Oates, as I remarked, “I remember studying your short story in class” and receiving some kind of non-committal glance from her and realizing maybe I was better off buying the poetry collection book for her to autograph, instead of just going up to her and giving her a random compliment.

The @joycecaroloates3146. #newschoolwrites #poetry #poet

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  • As a Critic’s Academy recipient of the New York Film Festival, I was invited to the opening night party of the festival. And I had this conversation with some dude:

“How are you feeling?”

“NERVOUS!”

That was the gist of my chat with Ethan Hawke. Basically, my fellow critics noticed his presence, a casual dude in a cap in a flood of suit-wearing men. Since the lighting was dim, I had to double-take with my friends, “Wait, who is this dude?” And they cajoled the really kind Hawke into having a momentary chat (“We’re fans, and we didn’t know how to approach you!”) and he acknowledged my presence, even though I was two bodies down from him at the bar table.

I am just so acquainted with seeing actors’ faces on-screen to really recognize them in real-life sometimes.

A Quirky Conversation about Finding a Baby for “Matriarch, Mother, and Maiden” Short Play

“Trey, where should we get a swaddled baby? I mean, something to wrap in a blanket to pass as a baby?”

“We could wrap a melon.”

“If they drop that melon and it cracks, we got a big problem.”

“But that raises the stakes. It will make them perform better and be more careful so they won’t kill the baby.”

“The baby is already dead!”

 

“Matriarch, Mother, and Maiden” will premiere at the off-Broadway theater at The Duke on 42nd Street for @nynw_theatre_festival. Grab tickets at www.nynwtheatrefestival.com