In the Middle-Ages, tradesmen and professionals gathered in guilds to exchange ideas and encourage a sense of community. For writers this practice can be likened to live readings. Eric D. Goodman’s Lit & Art is a particularly good venue to enjoin. Taking place just on the doorstep of the Watermark Art Gallery, Lit & Art is a draw for not just writers, but a variety of artists. The main event is centered on a panel of published authors who read their recent works aloud. These reading sections are supplemented by performances from guest musicians who serve as intermission entertainment. All of this occurs with a background of the brightly colored paintings of Manzar Rassouli, Watermark’s lead artist and director. This isn’t just some writer’s social club, but rather a forum for all the arts.
The writing exhibited often ranges in genre, including poetry and short fiction. Lit & Art is open to everyone and encourages visitors to present their own work; it’s a very inviting atmosphere. All of the feature writers on Sunday the 13th spoke very well, animating their stories with excitement and depth. The concept of reading is a key theme to note. For a writer, to read their work, and read it effectively, allows the audience to grasp the work in a very whole capacity. The audience can pick up on how the work should be interpreted, what characters may be like, and the emotional tension in a particular scene. In essence, author readings can help an audience step into the story without even looking at the text. A good reading can communicate comedy, action, and really help build a sense of scope for the story being read. A poor reading can seem like a dull strand of words just pushed together. It’s a daunting task, but I’ve discovered that great delivery lies in simply letting the story tell itself.
A particularly stirring performance came from author, Tom Glenn. Glenn’s work has appeared in several publications including the Baltimore Post Examiner and his latest novel, No–Accounts, which shall be published by Apprentice House next year. He often attends and contributes to Lit & Art. Glenn began with a black and white photograph projected on cloth-screen and a phrase in Vietnamese. The room was then totally silent, taken. In the space of ten-twelve minutes, Glenn had taken us to the chaotic fall of Saigon during the last moments of the Vietnam War. It was storytelling that carried the weight of experience. His voice, even his body, became a testament to the chaos, fear, and courage of those days of war. Unwavering and yet equally passionate, Glenn told of his role as an intelligence operative in Saigon. He did not self-praise, nor did he attempt to glorify war or any agenda, but he did honor the bravery of men risking their lives for others in wartime. His descriptions were as capturing as the photographs that were displayed throughout his presentation, vivid. To call this mere entertainment would be unjust; Glenn’s reading was a powerful example of the potential of words and writing. It was a story that needed to be told, yet would not have been had Glenn’s work overseas remained classified. You can read the detailed account of Tom Glenn’s experience during the fall of Saigon at the Baltimore Post-Examiner online.
Supplementing the readings was Manzar’s presentation of her latest artwork which embodied the theme of the third-eye and women’s perspective. Rich with a bright color scheme and finely painted figures, her Persian style artwork added an element of splendor to the backdrop of our event. Our musical guests also gave an excellent performance. Our musicians included writer Madison Smartt Bell and Bill U’ren who gave a “minnie concert” exhibiting some blues/rock style music. Many of the selections were new songs, but Bell also had two albums of some of older works for sale after the venue. I bought the album, Forty Words For Fear, myself.
The next Lit & Art event is on Jan 6, 2014. Come listen and share. If you are a writer and are gripped with trepidation at the thought of reading your work in front of an audience, don’t be. While this is natural, remember that writing is more natural to you. It comes from you, the writer. Let this thought guide your words and you’ll be fine. Be bold and consider taking a step outside to discover new stories, and perhaps share your own.