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Last weekend, I ate abundant food from Zabar's in New York City on a bench with [ profile] beccawrites – honey crusted salmon and tiny pickles and olives, babka and two cheeses with crisps of bread that sustained me when I almost missed my bus home and had to hop over fake velvet ropes at Port Authority and pound on closed doors and wave the driver back to the curb, and so arrived aboard for the four hour trip, dishelleved, hungry, without water, and needing to pee. But Peter Pan buses have bathrooms, a tight fit for me, but okay.

And, I did, I still had that cheese from Zabar's -- which I, in my ignorance, had not heard of before -- where we also witnessed lobster tails, champagne ham, and received free samples of jalapeno polish sausage, smoked salmon, and yet another cheese. I ate it on the bus, wrote a letter, and watched the leaves get brighter as we got closer to home.

[ profile] beccawrites is delicious, smart and fun, and she looked like a mighty force hurrying across Penn Station to meet me under the big sign, where other women named Susan had been greeted, hugged and also (one from Florida) fruitlessly sought for as I waited.

Then I met Paul at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and his face was so beautiful, lit up – he was coming off a morning of great writing, when he had been expecting complicated technical problems, but it all came together – made a container, he said – so it was inspiring just to be around him – plus, he's a sweetie. To go to the bathroom at the cathedral, one has to go through the beautiful sanctuary with its unexpected niches and odd sweetness, then outside the building to these weird trailers, and there were these pedals to push with your feet – right for water, left to flush, but did they mean stage right? – I had to study the directions – it was like going to another country.
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So I'm reading in Philadelphia at Giovanni's Room!!!! Yayyy!!

Thanks [ profile] ericaceous (and [ profile] plasticsturgeon kind of by proxy!) and [ profile] prrpltrrtl and all for urging me to come.

It's very soon after the end of the Nolose conference, which is looking so exciting this year. But not so soon that those of us who are going to be there can't go to every single delicious event and then drift on over the bookstore for the reading as if the conference were never going to end.

Any and all help in spreading the word about the reading to Philadelphia folks would be much appreciated!

Lucky me, I get to stay in Philly with the fabulous writer Toni Brown, who will be just back from a week in Provincetown at the Fine Arts Work Center. One of the very lovely thing about all of this travelling is the chance to spend time with old friends.

I'm editing to add that if you're in Philly this weekend, check out Queer Bodies, "a celebration of those of us in LGBT communities that live in bodies that exist outside of the cultural norms, including fat folks, trans and genderqueer folks, folks with disability issues, and others." [ profile] beccawrites is one of the presenters, and it looks very cool. There's a fat queer flea market, too!
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It was full of sweetness in unexpected ways. I used to romanticize literary moments in New York City as The Big Time (tm), which was probably defined by some Hollywood-starlet-discovered-on-a-stool-at-Schwab's-drugstore/angry-young-man-with-a-typewriter-and-a-six-figure-contract fantasy. A pretty fun fantasy that I still play with sometimes and all, but Saturday night was full of what felt like real generosity, real human presence, community, relationships and risk. Such sturdy, beautiful things.

I managed the subway to Brooklyn with no problems, thanks to [ profile] beccawrites' beautiful directions, down to which car on the subway might be best to choose (the last, to be closest to the exit stairs.) I had a Mr. Falafel falafel in Park Slope : cheap and delish. I got to see [ profile] beccawrites and [ profile] hhholiday and tina arroyo and a bunch of other lovelies wearing finery that they had gotten at the fat girl flea the weekend before, which raised nearly $3,000 for Nolose. Yayyy! [ profile] bounce_n_jiggle -- who has had a living room full of clothes for weeks and helped food shop and also gave me a ride to the reading *and* a ride home to Northampton *and* I got to watch her give TWO copies of Venus of Chalk to loved ones as gifts -- presented the check to Leah Strock of the Nolose board at the reading. And Leah, oh my, she was so amazing. I mean, not only had she coordinated pulling the reading together, with help from [ profile] songquake -- literally shining Saturday night! setting up chairs in the heat, covered in glitter! -- of Bluestockings, and dealt with a missing flyer emergency on no notice at all just back from vacation, but she came to the reading with trays full of beautiful strawberries, grapes and muffins, just gleaming and there for anybody, and she found a great Chinese restaurant with delicious food that accommodated sixteen of us for dinner after the reading (where I had a honeydew black tapioca tea drink with little balls of tapioca that kind of shoot into your mouth when you sip on the straw -- can't wait to tell the folks back home!). And [ profile] beccawrites put me up, and, mind you, they did all this one week after the huge fat girl flea event. Generous! Sturdy! Really lovely.

Thirty or so people came. Sarah Van Arsdale, my old friend from Valley Lesbian Writers group days, brought a big bunch of yellow roses (I gave some of them away at dinner, which was so fun -- Tina actually blushed with pleasure!), and asked a question about the influence of poetry in my work, and talked to me afterwards in a quiet, passionate way about how visible my craft and all of my years of working on questions of structure and language were to her. She said I was a master. That was thrilling. Maybe I'll come back to read with her at a reading series she's a part of sometime. [ profile] queentushy read with lots of energy a very funny piece which included a call and response (chorus: fuck you!). The air conditioner only kind of worked, and they had to shut the door because of traffic noise, so sweat was dripping into my eyes while I was reading, but it felt good, I felt present to the work, and I could feel strong response. Afterwards, [ profile] beccawrites asked a question that went something like --- "I'm familiar with Susan's previous work, which is crucial, and I know that she's written a lot of very positive things about fat women, and I've read the book and think everybody should read it, but while I was listening I was noticing pain in the expressions of some of the people around me, and wondered, if some people here, especially fat activists, weren't quite expecting what they heard today, and I'd like to hear from Susan, and also other folks, about how they feel about hearing painful experiences around being fat."

This was such a great question -- [ profile] beccawrites impresses me as so willing to take up hard or complicated things. I talked about some of the things I've written about here before, about being asked over and over when I was travelling with my earlier books about how I came to have such visible joy in my body, and the book being one version of an answer to that for me. (It's one reason that Carline is writing a pamphlet called "How To Ride A Bus" -- the short answer is you just get on and know where you want to go -- the longer answer, for me, involves facing pain and complexity, creating community and sustaining yourself with art). Someone else said that she thought that it was important to talk about such things (and I had interesting conversations about it afterwards, too), a woman behind the counter brought up the terrific zine, Fat GiRL, and how much it had meant to her when she first read it, so I get to tell everybody that [ profile] fattest and Slimless have been working on their new zine, Size Queen. So many faces of folks listening were open and bright at me, like flowers. I love that. Sold some books, which is such a huge deal for me in the long run.

And after the reading, after the dinner, it poured rain, and we stood under the narrow awning outside the restaurant while various folks drove people to their cars or home, and the rain came down in drops of various sizes, lit by the a long tube of blue neon over the restaurant door, and lightning broke very bright, and it was so beautiful. Liz, who I had just met, who I had noticed listening expressively to the reading, told me she reads my lj. Hi Liz, I can' t remember your username, but I'm glad you're here and hope you got to the ferry safely, home safely.

The reading was a lovely thing. Next, in a couple of weeks: Chicago, Friday, June 4 at 7:30 at Women and Children First during BookExpoAmerica. Come one, come all, and tell friends!
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[ profile] beccawrites is very wonderful. She just read the book in manuscript, and has some things to say about it, so check out her journal, if you're interested.
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This Saturday, September 20th, the American Association for Bariatric Surgery is sponoring something that they're calling Walk from Obesity all over the country.

Walking is a beautiful thing. Identifying and resisting discrimination and cruelty based on body size is important. Adapting the traditional tactics and language of grassroots political movements to an event sponsored by those who have an enormous economic stake in a surgerical procedure with unproven health benefits and very clear risks is misleading and dangerous.

I am so grateful that activists in New York City and San Francisco are going to be at the walks in their cities protesting and embodying the radical possibility of fat people and allies taking visible joy in movement, in solidarity, in their own beauty, in themselves as they are.

Nolose activisim

That kind of activism takes courage and creativity. It takes the patience to build communities of support and gorgeous energy to show up in the face of very well organized and sadly well-funded manipulation of fat people's pain and concerns about health. [ profile] beccawrites has been writing and thinking about the organizing she's been doing in her journal, and says that she's having fun doing it, too. Make me want to just shout -- go go go go go! (Yep, there will be fat cheerleaders at some of these events, too.)
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My dazzling friend [ profile] beccawrites just helped me set up this journal. It's a very new world for me, and I find the technology and the etiquette a little mysterious, a little daunting, and a little too fascinating (since I need to do things like eat my oatmeal and blueberries and all), but I want to start in a good spirit, so I thought I would start with a gift.

I'm a writer, and have had amazing, voluptuous, productive experiences spending time at residencies. I haven't done one in a while, but there is something about being sheltered and fed and left alone to do your work, in the company of others who are doing the same, that can result in a rich rush of work, or important insights into struggles about doing art and what you need or don't need to do it. Oh, it's great stuff, definitely worth a try if you're interested in art.
(Most places welcome visual artists, composers -- it really varies, so check out the info.) The residencies are most often a month long, but, again, that can vary.

This is a great working community of writers, artists, activists and musicians in the Adirondacks. There's a dock that leads right out onto a gorgeous lake, and canoes and kayaks that the residents can use. There's an emphasis here on artists who engage in political struggles, and sometimes they do conferecnes, too. I noticed that they've recently hosted, for instance Campus Anti-War Effort.

This is in Austerlizt, New York, and it's the raging twenties poet Edna St. Vincent Millay's old estate. Most of the artists live and work in the old barn, with big individual studios overhead -- I pinned the pages of my novel up all over the walls of the studio when I was there, so walking into the studio was literally like walking into the world of the book.

I don't know what they're doing now, but I also went to the Helen Wurlitzer Foundation in Taos -- each artist had a small adobe house to work in. They don't have a website, but their address can definitely be tracked down.
And here's a link that lists a bunch of other residencies.


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May 2009



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