The hardest thing about writing here is staying honest–especially given that I like writing fiction. It is more than tempting to try to force real life into a plot and make myself a more noble character.
I went to the Zyzzyva 100th issue party/fundraiser last night. Zyzzyva is a literary journal…
“Every issue is a vibrant mix of established talents and new voices, providing an elegantly curated overview of contemporary arts and letters with a distinctly San Francisco perspective.”
I haven’t read this journal often, but I appreciate what they do and I’m always up for a party.
I felt completely out of place. I knew no one but saw familiar “famous” faces. Daniel Handler, Po Bronson, Michael Krasny, as well as some people that spoke at either LitQuake or the San Francisco Writer’s Conference.
The food and liquor were crammed into a small alcove in front, making for a swirling miasma of humanity that I wasn’t feeling ready to dive into. The two-piece band was very good, but very loud considering the relatively small size of the room. I spent the first half hour standing awkwardly in one place and then another. I looked at all the exhibits (the event was held at the California Historical Society) but now that I’ve starting watching Parks and Recreation, the amateurish paintings made me feel like I I’d been transported to Pawnee city hall.
Things improved once the speaking portion of the evening began. Michael Krasny was the MC and he really has a great voice. Erika Recordon, a recent contributor to Zyzzyva, read a short story. Po Bronson talked about being rejected by Zyzzva, the joy of finally being accepted, then the ambivalence of discovering they only wanted to publish an excerpt. Robert Hass read a poem.
Daniel Handler (who was also rejected by Zyzzyva) hosted a great game show, “Are you smarter than the editors of Zyzzyva?” I was worried it would be super intellectual literary questions. It started that way, then changed to a true or false game–which was hysterical. Totally silly questions, true or false according to Handler. “Meat is really delicious but immoral.” “If you are allergic to wheat, you should tell everyone.” I’m paraphrasing but you get it. It was really cute. I saw Handler last year at LitQuake and I’m now thoroughly convinced he is a really clever guy and I admire his ease in front of a crowd.
After the speaking portion ended, I wandered again, feeling like a Jane Austin character taking one more turn around the room. I’m no good in these situations. I saw the first reader, Erika Recordon, standing by herself, so I went over to congratulate her on a good story and great job reading it. While we were chatting, Daniel Handler came over to say hi to her, and we all three chatted for a couple of minutes. Was I thrilled? Yes. I was. Why? Because, really, as far as my “author” personality goes, these people would find me totally uninteresting. I’ve got zero to offer them. They are better writers than I am, they’ve been published, they are part of a writing community that I’m gazing at from outside a closed window.
Frankly, it made me sad. As any of you writers out there will know, the last thing I need is to feel MORE humble. I wondered if I’d ever be up there reading to an audience.
As we were chatting, one of them asked what I did. I said I was a writer, but “still in the being rejected phase.” Daniele Handler replied, “We are all still in the being rejected phase.” That made me feel much better–really. Gave me some perspective.
I left the evening with a resolution. I’m going to submit a story to Zyzzyva. They will reject it. Then, I’ll have something in common with Daniel Handler and Po Bronson. : )