The First Brave Reading

At the end of the reading, I invited all the contributors up on stage for Q and A. There were 21 of us–exactly half the authors who are involved in Brave on the Page.

We had such an amazing book launch for Brave on the Page on Saturday. There were:

  • 11 readers whose interviews and essays are featured in the book
  • 23 Brave on the Page contributors who attended
  • and about 90 audience members!

I’m so glad I opted to rent a community center gym so we had plenty of space!

I was so amazed at how many people I knew–and didn’t know–were in the audience.

Everyone did such a great job. Liz Prato and Michael Gettel-Gilmartin kicked it off by reading from their work. Liz read part of a story I’ve heard before and have always loved, and Michael read the entertaining opening to his novel Shakespeare on the Lam.

Then Kristen Forbes, Joanna Rose, Stevan Allred, Steve Denniston, Bart King, Nancy Townsley and Gigi Little read their flash essays from Brave on the Page. That was a fun way to showcase a lot of writers, especially those who contributed in various ways to the book.

Steve Denniston reads his flash essay, “Pen and Paper,” at Saturday’s launch of Brave on the Page.

Kristen wrote the title essay. Joanna and Stevan co-teach creative writing at the Pinewood Table and have mentored many of the Brave on the Page contributors, including me. Nancy was one of the copy editors, and Gigi designed the cover and served as my primary brainstorm partner throughout the publishing process. The creativity of Bart’s essay title, “Fish Lake, Yo,” made me realize I wanted people to come up with titles that went beyond the question word prompts. And I asked Steve to participate because he’s so very funny, and it was an honor to hear him read his essay, “Pen and Paper,” about some of the hilarious quotes he wrote down and then incorporated into his novel.

The final two readers were Duncan Ellis, reading from his speculative novel, and me. I reworked a piece from my 19th century novel to turn it into a short story about a canary named Buster.

So many of these writers talked about the book and the sense of community it represents.  It was such an honor, for me, to be able to put this book together and to feature so many writers who mean so much to me, both creatively and as a person. Joanna Rose, preparing to read her “Pinewood Table” poem, said “This book epitomizes what writing in Portland is for me and so many people–a collective effort.” I loved that so much I wrote it down on the front of the printout of my story.

For Q and A, I invited all 21 authors on stage and we sure filled it! Questions included how we find the discipline to write, what everyone is working on right now and when each person knew he or she wanted to be a writer. A number of us–most all of us–said we knew before second grade.

Bart King, in case his name sounds familiar, is the bestselling author of The Big Book of Boy Stuff and The Big Book of Girl Stuff, among other wonderful middle grade books. Not only did he contribute his comedic talent to Saturday’s event, he also used his muscle.

Bart King reads his essay, “Fish Lake, Yo,” from Brave on the Page, and when he was finished, he gave a heartfelt short speech on the importance of going offline when writing.

As it turns out, when we arrived at the Fulton Park Community Center as scheduled, at 1:45 for our 2 p.m. event, there weren’t enough chairs. Bart (bravely, since this was the Brave on the Page party) volunteered to join my husband in a mad minivan dash to another community center to get 40 more chairs. Instead, my husband in a flash of brilliance led Bart across the street to the church, which was thankfully open because of a book fair. Pastor Steve okayed us borrowing chairs. Bart browsed the sale until he found a book to give away to the first audience member who said what the last word was on page 93 of Brave on the Page. (It was “contrary”–coincidentally or not, the last word of Bart’s bio.) I won’t tell you what book it was, but suffice it to say the cashier was a bit surprised–and so was the winner.

I am going to bet that I am one of a very few event organizers that has asked a bestselling author to not only set up chairs, but carry them from one building to another. (Thanks, Bart!)

I snapped this photo of Stephen and Gigi after the reading. Aren’t they adorable?

If you are interested in how authors prepare themselves for their readings, you must read “Getting Ready for the Reading,” a heartfelt, voicey essay by Gigi Little about preparing to attend our launch event. Stephen, Gigi’s husband, is the one artist I sneaked into the book because his paintings tell narrative stories.

For some more photos from the launch, check out Forest Avenue Press’ post, 90 in Attendance.

And here’s one more fun link from this busy, exciting week. Julia Stoops, the founder of Blue Mouse Monkey, called Brave on the Page remarkable for three reasons. Read “Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life” to find out what they are.

What was the biggest–or most exciting–reading you’ve ever been to?

About Laura Stanfill

Publisher, Forest Avenue Press
This entry was posted in Books, Community, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to The First Brave Reading

  1. Pingback: 90 in Attendance | Forest Avenue Press

  2. gigi little says:

    What a fabulous afternoon. Crazy kudos to you, Laura, for producing your first literary event for Brave on the Page like such a pro. Like you do everything else.

    • Oh Gigi, thanks for your kind words. It was fabulous, wasn’t it? Even moving chairs! I think the chair problem made me focus on the logistics instead of getting stage fright. I was also so thankful for my family’s logistical support. I couldn’t have done it without a great team–same as the book as an exploration and celebration of community!

  3. Hi Laura,
    What a great turnout, and a good example of how to do a reading. Congratulations on your success!

  4. susielindau says:

    Congratulations! It is my biggest fear!

  5. Emma says:

    Very cool, a great achievement.

    • Thanks, Emma! It was so fun to put on a reading. It’ll be much less work to do our next on one the 17th, which is at a place that regularly hosts events. I won’t have to worry about food, chairs or other logistics!

  6. What a great sounding event. Sorry I couldn’t make it. 🙂

    Most exciting reading I ever saw? (I may have written about this before.) Definitely Hunter Thompson. It wasn’t technically a reading (he didn’t have anything prepared — to say the least), but it was certainly exciting. Questions, answers, Wild Turkey, football betting, cigarettes, pieces of ice thrown at audience members, and John Belushi. All for two dollars.

    It’s probably just as well that your event was not like that.

    • Wish you could have made it!

      You did comment, maybe a year or so ago, about the HST reading. That’s one to remember always. It sounds like it’d make a great essay that someone would want to publish.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    It sounds like a great time, even though I know I would be petrified to be reading my own work in public!

    • I just took a deep breath, looked out at the people around me, and delivered certain lines of my story to people who might enjoy them. The extemporaneous bit at the end–getting people to ask and answer questions–was a bit tougher, but it was a lot of fun to look around and see all those authors on stage with me.

  8. Congrats, Laura … sounds like you had a slammin’ good time 🙂

    • Slammin’ indeed, Florence! It felt epic actually–my press’ first book, the first reading I hosted, lots of people gathered who are important to me, plus a ton of people I didn’t know.

  9. onmounthood says:

    Such a success, Laura. Congrats. So glad I was able to make it and to be a part of the book. Thanks again. (And loved your reading, by the way. Just great.)

    • Thanks, Jon! I’m so glad you were able to make it, and thanks for the compliment about my reading. I’m starting my third year on that novel and I’ve only read pieces in my critique group. It felt really, really big to stand up there and read that story.

      I look forward to putting together a reading that features you. Maybe in January? People get so busy in December that I might set my sights a bit farther out for the next few events.

  10. 4amWriter says:

    Sounds awesome, and I love Gigi’s essay, too.

    • Oh thanks, Kate! It’s fun to know you’re reading the essays and that you enjoyed Gigi’s. It was so fun to listen to her read it publicly on Saturday. If you want, send me a photo of the book (it could be with you or not) and you’ll win a free three-page critique! I’ll post it on my Forest Avenue Press blog, where I ultimately plan to create a photo gallery.

  11. Pingback: When Did You Know? | Identity Function

  12. Pingback: Check the Chairs: 15 Tips on Setting up Successful Readings | Laura Stanfill

  13. Judy Fleagle says:

    What a wonderful turnout–both readers and audience. Congrats! We have writers over here on the coast too.. Last year we decided after attending a few book fairs to have our own and the Florence Festival of Books was born. This year we tried it again and all our hard work was worth it–80 writers and publishers turned out and we had 456 in attendance. We were celebrating books and writers. Sort of like your wonderful book–Brave on the Page. Nice to see a familiar name in the book and among your comments–Jon Bell. Enjoy his writing!

    • I used to live in Lincoln City, Judy, which is where I met Matt Love–another fine coastal writer. The Florence festival sounds amazing! I’d love to attend someday. Since you mention Jon, I just posted my interview with him today and you might enjoy it.

      Thanks for stopping by and it’s nice to meet you!

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