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

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on

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

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

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on

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.

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on

  • 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

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on

  • 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?”


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




Fiction Forum: Nathan Englander at New School

Author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Nathan Englander paid a visit for a New School Fiction Forum and shared his latest work, Dinner at the Center of the Earth.

His fusion of somberness and wit in the midst of surviving the explosions and passing chaos of the Israelis and Palestinians conflict overwhelmed me. He speaks of having a triangular slice of American pizza after being in traumatizing proximity to a bombing, where he knew he couldn’t be deaf to “people not living.” He states that even when there are explosions out there, the writer survives with their fingers still dancing on the keyboards. Englander is quite committed to his cause of peace.

Most memorable soundbite: “I like books with no answers.”

Fiction Forum w/ Nathan Englander's at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on

Fiction Forum with Nathan Englander at @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on

LIT #31 Magazine Launch at The New School

Attended my first New School reading, the LIT #31 launch! As its been months since I’ve been to a reading, it’s great to get inspiration refreshed, especially when hearing works from the mouths of its own authors. I had a lot of fun, tuning into the poets and story writers about post-9/11, the heat of climate change, a necrophilic mermaid, a harrowing sample of a true-story regarding escape from North Korea.

Brought home a literary issue of LIT from @thenewschool #newschoolwrites

A post shared by Carol Cao (@amaximininalist) on