Stories To Tell

I’ll be appearing at an exciting storytelling event this Friday evening at Bar Matchless on 577 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, starting at 8 pm. We’ve been asked to come up with stories upon the theme “gift”, and I’m puzzling over this right now (I bet the other storytellers — Tao Lin, Justin Taylor, Starlee Kine, DJ Dolack and Mac Montandon — are too). There will also be music by Prince Ruperts Drops, The Joints and (this should be cool) Alana Amram and the Rough Gems, self-described as “Patsy Cline fronting the Stones”. The “Vol. 1” event is a benefit for 826NYC and Books Through Bars, and is sponsored by and WORD bookstore.

Live storytelling events (like the popular Moth series) are a nice twist on the traditional literary reading tradition. Because there is a theme, writers are forced to come up with something fresh (unless they happen to be O. Henry and have a great story about gifts lying around), and this adds to the spontaneity of the evening. The notion of “storytelling” also has a homespun feeling to it, which helps to alleviate the existential artistic tension that often hangs overhead at these literary events. Party atmosphere and music also help to improve most live readings, and could probably have saved a few dreadful ones I’ve been to.

Speaking of storytelling, I’m working on a different kind of writing project that I plan to launch here on LitKicks in January, 2009. Regular readers of this site know that I have been working on a non-fiction book proposal, which is currently in my agent’s capable hands. This proposal represents what I have described as my secret “M” idea, one of four great non-fiction book ideas that have been obsessing and possessing me, all of which I hope to eventually publish.

The “M” idea remains the most commercially viable of my four, which is important since I have no track record as a non-fiction author and must prove myself with a truly winning proposal. Being a popular litblogger doesn’t get me very far (it gets me in the front door, basically), and the few literary bloggers (Ron Hogan, Mark Sarvas, Lizzie Skurnick) who manage to get significant book deals do so entirely on the strength of the work, not the blog. So I’m sticking with my “M” idea, which is on a wildly popular topic and has an excellent chance of selling a hundred thousand copies. I am an eternal optimist, so I will keep awaiting an email from my agent telling me he’s found a smart publisher who sees it the same way.

However, I am aware that publishing companies are now in cost-cutting mode, and that this is a bad time to try to sell a risky concept. So, I keep waiting for that happy email from my agent, but I’m not holding my breath.

So what do I do with my non-fiction ideas? I did a bunch of writing for other venues last year, and I would like to do more. But the competition at these publications is now tighter than ever, so this is not a great outlet either for my desire to stretch my writing skills.

So I’ve made my decision: while I wait to hear from my agent on the “M” book, I am going to begin writing one of my other three big ideas, and I will do it right here on LitKicks. I will compose the book in blog-post-sized sections, and I will try (no promises, till I find my rhythm) to post one new entry each week. I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing this, but by the end of the experiment we will have hopefully witnessed the creation of … something. And we’ll take it from there.

You know I love doing projects here on LitKicks, and this may turn out to be my most ambitious project yet.

So, which idea? I’ve got my “I” idea, “P” idea and “Q” idea to work with. “P” is my most ambitious concept, but I don’t think I’m ready to write it yet, and I couldn’t even write a summary that would make sense.

The “Q” book is the one I could write most easily, because it’s material I know so well. I could narrate this entire book start to finish in a week. However it has a regional audience, and I don’t think it’ll be my breakthrough book. I’d like to keep the “Q” idea in my back pocket for now, and I’ll have fun writing it someday.

So that leaves the “I” idea, and so the “I” idea it is. This is the most personal of the four, the topic most rooted in my own life experiences. I will begin the first installment in the first week of the new year. And, as a special preview, please tune in next week to find out what the book is about, and what the “I” stands for.

That’s all I can say right now. More to come, very soon.

And in the meantime, I better get busy thinking up a good story to tell for Friday night. Hmmm, gift, gift, gift …

8 Responses

  1. Lots of good stuff here.

    Lots of good stuff here.

    So, this storytelling event – I assume you have to write a story, not just read The Gift of the Magi or The Junky’s Christmas, right?

    Alana must be related to David. Daughter?

    I really like the idea of blogging a book. Unless my sources are mistaken, that’s how House of Leaves started. I think there have been a lot of misconceptions in the past, like, “If I write my book on the internet, no one will buy it because they can read it for free!” Apparently, it doesn’t work that way any more than it does for music. Sure, some people will read it for free, but that’s okay. Maybe there’s a vast gap between the number of people who read any one blog and the total number of book buyers. I don’t have any stats on it. I like to say, “Read it online, buy one for somebody as a Christmas present!” Hmm? Hmm?

    I think I know what the “Q” stands for. Shall I say it here or keep it a secret?

  2. Hey Bill — yes, we are
    Hey Bill — yes, we are supposed to write our own gift stories. And I am still thinking hard.

    You guessed right, Alana is one of David Amram’s several talented offspring. It must be in the genes.

    I’m glad you get the idea of blogging a book. I am not exactly sure what will happen, but I bet I will benefit from the ability to work this writing out and get reactions in “real time” to each installment. I’m excited.

    I refuse to comment on the “Q” idea in any way.

  3. By the way, blogging the “I”
    By the way, blogging the “I” idea is like the old serialization of novels. You could be the Charles Dickens of the blogosphere, except non-fiction instead of fiction.

    Does the “I” idea stand for Internet?

  4. sounds like an awesome ideas
    sounds like an awesome ideas to me levi, both the event and the blog novel…you have always been @ the vanguard of cyber writing explorations….go for it my friend….wired

  5. The storytelling event sounds
    The storytelling event sounds really interesting — I won’t be in the area, but I shall wear my Matchless t-shirt to support 🙂

    I also am very intrigued by your book-blogging idea, and can’t wait to see what comes of it. All these mysterious capital letters must make for something good…

  6. I don’t know what some of you
    I don’t know what some of you people are smokin but The Road was a terrific novel

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!