Thank you so much to everyone who showed up for CAKE AND PROSE: A BOOK RELEASE CELEBRATION. The evening offered a beautiful mix of art—literature, theater, and music. The Margo Jones was the perfect venue, and we had the perfect audience: friends, friends of friends, and a few delightful strangers. It was a privilege to hear my stories read by such talented actors, providing a new perspective on something so familiar. Plus, Greg Schroeder. The guy does not disappoint. He’s an incredible musician and an all-around badass.
I recorded the event. It’s not a professional recording—just me with my trusty Sony digital recorder—but it’s all there, every story and every song. Enjoy!
Cake and Prose (1 hour, 37 minutes)
This event benefited the Birthday Party Project. All money collected at the door went to support their efforts to bring joy to homeless children through the magic of birthday parties. Last Friday, we raised enough money to provide a party for 75 kids. If you choose to listen to the audio, please consider donating a few dollars.
Below, I’ve posted my introductions for each segment. I wrote everything out word-for-word, for fear that I’d ramble, but then I’d occasionally go “off script” anyway.
Introduction: It Might Be Worth Something
This is what happens when the Wild Detectives bookstore doesn’t respond to my emails. I inquired about doing a signing there to promote my short story collection, because I love that place. I never heard back from them. So I thought, fine, I’m an independent author. I’ll throw my own party. I asked my friend Brad McEntire for some guidance. Brad is a man of the theater. I greatly admire him for his work with the Audacity Theater Lab and the Dallas Solo Fest. We brought two other talented actors on board, Maryam Baig and Bryan Pitts. Greg Schroeder is also here tonight to perform a few songs. He’s an amazing songwriter, one of my favorite local artists, who tells these incredible stories, peering out through the verses. And then, Sugar Bee Sweets Bakery offered to provide the cake. Next thing you know, we have something bigger than a book signing.
Book signings are weird anyway. I’ve done them before, and I always grimace when someone has me sign a book, then he or she waves it in front of me and say, “Who knows? It might be worth something someday.”
It really is the worst possible thing you can say to someone about a book they wrote. “It might be worth something, someday.”
Because that’s what I’m thinking while I’m writing it: It might be worth something. Just maybe. Someday.
There comes a moment in the creative process where you realize that it is worth something. It’s worth something to you. These stories take on a life of their own, and you have to finish, because there are fictional lives at stake. The stories are yearning to live, to be free. There is life in the good fiction, in good art, and you feel its burden.
The stories we’re sharing tonight are about life yearning to be free, that life is temporary and so it is precious, that choices shape our lives and that indecision is a kind of death. We choose who we love and, at the same time, we find ourselves so compelled to love that it carries the gasp, the hush of inevitability. Tonight, we’re celebrating what’s good in life. Stories, music, cake, and love.
Shopping Mall at the End of the World
I wrote this story for D Magazine. It’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s about apocalypse. A popular subject, one of my favorites. In fact, the novel I’m working on is called, “Wear Chainmail to the Apocalypse.” (Good advice by the way.) The apocalypse refers to a final destruction. The word also means to “uncover” or “reveal.” In a sense, all good stories are apocalyptic—in both senses of the word.
In stories, we condense the world down to a few people.
For instance, in Moby Dick, our whole world is reduced to a small boat on a great sea, the remnants, a small wandering tribe. In the journey, we uncover what it means to be desperate, afraid, and heroic. Great Gatsby is a grand party at the end of the world. Huck Finn is about two people searching for freedom while the society around them descends into madness.
This story is about the apocalypse through the eyes of a mall. I present “Shopping Mall at the End of the World” as read by Brad McEntire.
If You Could Be
Usually, an author attempts to endear himself or herself to an audience. However, I’m going to share one of the worst things I don’t remember doing. Let me explain. I dated a girl briefly when I was in high school. But I can’t remember what year it was. I was definitely old enough to drive, but it couldn’t have been my junior or senior year, because I was dating a girl named Susan at that time. So, maybe my sophomore year? I had a policy of rarely dating girls from my school because I found that girls at other schools had no idea how uncool I was.
This girl who I’m fairly certain was my girlfriend, but I don’t remember her name, we went out on a few dates, and here’s the thing: I don’t remember breaking up with her or her breaking up with me. I think I just stopped calling her, but not as a conscious decision. I literally, and I don’t even know how this is possible, I literally forgot I had a girlfriend. She was pretty. I liked her. We had similar interests, but somehow she disappeared.
How does that happen? Sometimes people slip away. In part, that’s what this story is about. “If You Could Be” as read by Bryan Pitts.
Escaping Venus Texas
This next story actually started as part of a comic book series that never found an artist or a publisher. A few years ago, I counted up what I’ve written in comics. 2,000 pages. Half has been published in some form. Half has never seen light of day. (Symmetry!) This story was in the latter pile. It was a subplot that I decided I could rewrite as a short story. It may be the most intentionally unromantic story ever.
I’ve grown tired of stories where the girl ends up with the guy, and that’s a suitable conclusion to her story. At the same time, I wanted to acknowledge there is something special about a lifelong commitment to another person. So I decided to tell two stories about two women, one who left and one who stayed.
I present “Escaping Venus Texas” as read by Maryam Baig.
Ladies and gentlemen, Greg Schroeder…
All photos by April Hopkins.