Film Fests and Fireworks

Posted on 03 July 2012

If you ever get the chance to have an actor give a dramatic reading of your work, take it! Seriously, it’s fantastic. At least it is when the actor is Blair Leatherood and he gives a pitch perfect reading. He read my story “Q&A at the Film Fest” and I was amazed by how he got everything right — the tone, the dialogue, everything. (This picture is of him touching his face while describing a character’s scar.)

I had a difficult time deciding which story would be best for the Stories on Stage series, by the way. Hearing a story out loud and reading it on the page are incredibly different experiences, and I wasn’t confident many of the stories in Living Arrangements were well suited for this type of dramatic reading. In the end, I think Valerie (the founder of Stories on Stage) chose wisely when she selected “Q&A at the Film Fest,” a newer story inspired in part by my annual trips to the Cleveland International Film Festival. The protagonist is cynical and colorful in a way that lends itself well to this type of performance.

The audience was gracious and laughed a lot at all the right places. In fact, I tried to hold myself back from laughing too much at my own story — or, more specifically, at Blair’s delivery. (Afterward, an audience member told me it was fascinating to watch me watching my story being read.)

Following my story, Victoria Goldblatt read three short pieces by Lynn Freed. I believe a video of the event should be available soon —  I hope so, because I’d love to share both of the evening’s performances with all of you. (Update: The video is available here.) For now, here are some photos. As always, they are compliments of Peter:

I give a few opening remarks and manage not to spout out the “boy, are my arms tired” joke
after saying I just flew in from Cleveland. Sadly, this took effort.

Blair Leatherwood performs “Q&A at the Film Fest.”

Part of the crowd milling about during intermission.

Valerie gets the show on the road.

After the event, I stopped by Valerie’s place, where I saw a sneak peek of her forthcoming book cover. (!)

The founder of Stories on Stage, Valerie Fioravanti, did a fabulous job. She works tirelessly to put on these events and has clearly done a lot for Sacramento’s literary scene. I’m also proud to say that Valerie and I are press sisters — her debut short story collection, Garbage Night at the Opera, won the 2011 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize and will be published by BkMk Press this fall. I owe her many thanks for putting on a such a great event. This weekend was more than just a book event for me — it inspired me to give back more to Cleveland’s literary community and got me excited about my new stories, which I hope will one day make up my second story collection.

Now I’m back in Cleveland and have already managed to mire myself in some stress by trying to meet a semi-self-imposed, semi-real deadline and crank out and revise a new piece in a matter of days. And here I thought I’d have a relaxing Fourth of July.

Speaking of the Fourth of July, the scar in “Q&A at the Film Fest” was caused by a bottle rocket. This brings me to my serious, end-of-post question: As a child, what type of firework was your favorite? And you can’t say sparklers. Everyone loves sparklers, even still.

11 responses to Film Fests and Fireworks

  • Sarah W says:

    It sounds (and looks) like you had a fabulous time! How seriously cool is this?

    I don’t know what they’re called, but those fireworks that go up and explode with a boom, and then the pieces crackle down in lots of colors? Love those!

  • Teri says:

    I’m thrilled this was such a great experience, Laura. What a pleasure it must be to hear someone read your work, especially an actor who is trying — you know he or she is — to get it just right.

    As for the fireworks, I’m scared to death of them all. Even sparklers. This probably deserves some kind of therapy…. ;-) (emoticon required)

    • When I was a kid, I loved snakes. You know, the little tablet you light and then it grows/explodes like a black snake. I loved them, how they grew and how they smelled. I assume at least snakes aren’t scary for kids?

      • Teri says:

        Snakes aren’t scary for kids or normal people. I have a thing about guns and things on fire or blowing up. Can’t even look at a paintball gun. No fun, no fun at all!

  • Josephine says:

    my grandfather had a “fireworks board” that he pulled out every fourth. it was a 4′ x 4′ piece of thick plywood; he used it as a mounting board for the fireworks he bought in tennessee. each firework would be nailed to the board and then he light them with a blow-torch. it still blows (get it?) my mind that there were never any serious injuries or damages to surrounding cars, etc. during his fireworks display.

    he also got rodents out of his gutter system once by creating a pvc piping mechanism that attached to the end of a rain gutter. he pulled his van up to the side of the house and attached the other end of the pvc piping to the exhaust pipe and gassed the animals out.

    he didn’t mess around.

    (I love the idea of actors reading stories. How fun for you. It makes me happy you got to have such an experience.)

  • Averil Dean says:

    That sounds like SUCH fun. I can only imagine how wonderful it must have been to see your story come alive this way, with voices, and gestures! I’ve never heard of this approach to a reading and I love it.

    I like any firework that happens at a distance. My husband likes the homemade ones, and bought some to set off tonight with the neighbors. I’ll be inside until all the noise stops and my child returns to me with all his fingers intact.

    • The fireworks show I tried to go to this year (which is usually fantastic) was canceled after a long wait because of electrical/technical difficulties. Booo! But then I went home and there were plenty of illegal fireworks to “enjoy” well into the night.

  • Laura L. Sheperd says:

    I’ve been attending Stories On Stage for a number of months now. I am always entertained and always enjoy myself. I thought all the stories read last Friday evening were especially well written and equally as well read! Anyone who enjoys short stories should attend this monthly (last Friday of each month) gathering at the Poetry Center in the California Stage complex. You will not be disappointed!

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