Tuesday, June 20, 2017

LIC Reading Series, 6/13/2017

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the monthly LIC Reading series that happens every second Tuesday of the month at LIC Bar. It was my first experience at this reading series and although I was there in my capacity as Assistant Editor for Newtown Literary Journal, I'm certainly going to be returning as a book lovah.

Reading series have, in the past few years or so, sprung up throughout Queens (and it is just about time...Brooklyn and Manhattan have so many already) and, since 2015, the LIC Reading Series has been a part of the growing community. For this reading, there were three impressive authors in attendance: Julia Fierro, Brandon Harris, and Hannah Tinti. Prior to this discussion, I was only ever familiar with Hannah Tinti and her book, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley because it had been a March selection of LibraryReads. My worlds continue to collide in the bumper car arena that is NYC.


First up was Julia Fierro. She read from her recently released book, The Gypsy Moth Summer. The book takes place in 1992 on an island off the coast of Long Island. That's basically enough to get me to want to read the book because you know who else was on Long Island in 1992? Meeee. I had the chance to talk with Ms. Fierro for a bit before the reading and during intermission and she is just the nicest person on top of being a good writer. That's always a bonus. I bought her book and am looking forward to reading it.



Second to read was Brandon Harris. He read from his recently published memoir, Making Rent in Bed-Stuy, (that cover art, tho) about his experiences living and trying to make a living in NYC. His book focuses on personal experience within the context of a neighborhood that is quickly gentrifying and the social and the political changes that go hand in hand with that. I've also marked this to read since I suspect his experiences and perspective will resonate with my library patrons. Most of them have seen first hand the changeover in their neighborhoods and will relate.


Last, but certainly not least, was Hannah Tinti. Ms. Tinti is known to open her readings by singing a song and playing her ukulele. She explained that she picks songs that are somehow related to wherever the reading is taking place and for Queens she, aptly, chose The Ramones' Rockaway Beach. It inspired a sing-along and from that moment and all the way through her reading, I was charmed. Her novel is about a father and daughter who have spent their lives on the run. The daughter, Loo, is slowly finding out the answers to questions she's had about her past and her parents through the twelve scars that her father has from being shot. I haven't read the book yet but I definitely will. As I mentioned before, it was a LibraryReads favorite in March and after the reading I approached Ms. Tinti and introduced myself and told her about the work I do for LibraryReads and she sweetly said that being picked for that list was the biggest thrill of her mother's. I thought that was really sweet.

The format of the LIC Reading Series is simple and keeps the momentum going. Three writers are invited to read from their work, and the readings are followed by a panel discussion with the host, Catherine LaSota. The author's books are available for purchase from a representative from the Astoria Bookshop (which is pretty awesome) and throughout the two hours, the audience is encouraged to submit questions to be asked during the panel discussion. If your question is selected and asked, you win a prize from one of the many local sponsors of the reading. I was one of the lucky ones and my question, that I asked for no reason whatsoever that had anything to do with the length of time it is taking me to finish my own novel whatsoEVER, was: How long did it take you to finish your first draft? The question was given to Julia Fierro and she answered that it took her about 5 months. In my head, I nodded in that exagerada way I do when something is shocking and I feel utterly inferior but want to pretend that I have some chill. I had only my free gift card to a local coffee shop to assuage the panic.

Owing to the cozy atmosphere of the LIC Bar's carriage house and the enthusiasm and good nature of the host, this reading series is a boon to the burgeoning literary scene in my beloved Queens. Personally, I'm thrilled that so many talented voices are finding each other and that I live near so many people who love books and reading series like this are great reminders.


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