Going to the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans for the past three years has been my favorite way to connect with other writers and remind myself why I love books: I love telling stories, and I love listening to other people tell theirs. In 2008 I gave my first reading there (from Fool for Love: New Gay Fiction) and last year it’s where I sat down with my editor and he told me Bold Strokes Books would publish my novel. (To say that was the best day of my life would be slight hyperbole, but it ranks up there.)
This year I got to give a reading from that book, Detours (which is coming out this November-yes, I’m going to be reminding you of that often). I was one of six writers reading at the same session. In addition to me were memoirist Aaron Anson, mystery writer Josh Aterovis, humorist Fay Jacobs, debut novelist Jen Violi, and the fantastic Jess Wells. I went after Fay, and let me just say, you do not want to be the one who has to read after her. She is an absolute riot. (Immediately after our reading, I went and bought her book.)
After she sat down and I was introduced, before I got up Josh said, “Poor Jeff.” Fay is a tough act to follow.
Once I was at the mic, I repeated what Josh had said and then pulled out two bags of Hershey’s miniatures. Whenever anyone in my writing group, Writers under the Arch, gets something published, they bring chocolate to the next group meeting. I figured it was a tradition worth transporting to New Orleans. I also figured it would put the audience in a generous mood in case I screwed up. It worked, and I didn’t screw up too badly. Thank heavens I didn’t have to follow Fay and Jess Wells, because Jess was on fire, she was so hilarious. (She has a future in standup if she wants to, I think.)
Even better: my friend David from college and his wife, Marsha, were able to come to the reading. We also went out to dinner with them Sunday night and caught up. The next morning (oh, I also remember what a bad influence David can be-I drank far too much), Mikey said to me, “Why haven’t you introduced me to them sooner? They’re a hoot!” And they are. David and I lost track of one another after Katrina (or, as Greg calls her, “that bitch Katrina”), and recently got back in touch thanks to the wonders of Facebook. When we go back to New Orleans in October to catch a cruise ship, we’ll see them again. And I hope we’ll also see Greg and Paul and have a little time that I can see New Orleans from the vantage point of something other than a conference room.
There’s so much more to write about this weekend, but now we’re home. I have a book to work on, two short stories to do, and an old one to revise. I also have to write up the notes I took from a panel on “Current Trends in the Publishing Industry” for a friend who edits a newsletter, and tomorrow I have to go back to work and remember what the real world is like.