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Speakeasy & Napa Valley 08/02/2010

Posted by jamie-m in Uncategorized.

Susan introduces the first reader

Susan Bono and Ransom Stephens have organized a quartely literary event at Aqus Cafe in Petaluma, the most recent of which took place on July 22nd. For this event, readers included Joe Quirk, Barbara Baer, Nicholas Nicastro (his first reading in Sonoma County), and a few others.  Nicastro, who writes historical fiction, read from the book, Passion of the Ripper; his newest work. The cafe was more crowded than expected; the servers barely squeezing through the maze of tables with glasses of wine and appetizer plates.  There was time for three open mic readers, who were chosen from a lottery of names collected at the beginning of the event. The special speaker of the evening, Aqus Cafe owner John Crowley, read a touching essay about the importance of socializing in your local community, although he said, he felt he was “preaching to the choir”.  The next Speakeasy night is November 3rd, so be sure to set aside time to come hear some great local talent.

At Aqus, I had the pleasure of meeting Lakin Khan, who works for the Napa Valley Writers Conference. Although I was unable to attend the morning workshops, she encouraged me to make it to one of the public lectures or readings that they offer. Monday afternoon at Napa Valley College’s Upper

Upper Valley Campus

Valley Campus, I sat in on Lan Samantha Chang’s lecture titled “Unfold: Part Two.” Part one, she explained, was a talk she gave a few years ago when she spoke at the conference; and today was a contiued exploration of the use of pacing and delay in literature.  Studying the etmology of the word, Chang discovered that its Latin root meant both “to simplify” and “to complicate.” To grab audience attention, she started explaining the principles of “unfolding in literature,” by using a children’s book (Dora the Explorer) that had pop-up elements. “Something is hiding in there” she began, “and then we get to reveal another narrative.” Later, she discussed unfolding in The Reader and The Great Gatsby.

Concerning pacing, she says writers should be concerned with the “nervous variations of the reader.” By this she means that within a narrative, after moments of action, readers need moments of rest out of necessity. This provides a sort of physical satisfaction when the pace varies between tension and rest, and also gives the writer space for exposition.
It was a very informative and enriching lecture, and I’m grateful that I was encouraged to go. I am excited to write about my recent experience at the Mendocino Writers Conference soon. I’m sure those of you who have attended a conference would know that there needs to be time to assimilate all the information that you are given at such an event.


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