Thanks to WWPH pressmate and DMV literary advocate Sid Gold for the recent invite to be a featured reader at the “Second Sunday” series at My Dead Aunt Books in Hyattsville, Maryland. I got a chance to share a portion of the introductory chapter of my current #IAmQuerying novel manuscript with a live audience, and hear myself stumble aloud over some too-verbose language that needs a bit of editing. It’s always good to read aloud; to hear how your words are co-mingling. And also just to hear if the sentences are awkward and hard to follow. It was helpful to receive some live impressions as well. As one attendee noted thoughtfully, dead characters and their stories can be intriguing but unreliable narrators for readers. The stories of the dead are locked and final. They get retold and embellished, but there is never the possibility of a revision. It they contain “lies,” those lies become part of the roots of the realities you’re trying to create as a fiction writer. (To quote Slim Charles from “The Wire,” “If it’s a lie, then we fight on lie.” ). I had not thought about the possibility of my dead character being an intentional liar, but her version of the story I am trying to tell as a writer has a perspective that I need to acknowledge and develop for the reader to be engaged. What is she not “telling” in her version of events? I will take that observation into my continued editing and revisions.
I also enjoyed thoughtful readings by poets Merrill Leffler and Ann Slayton. My ears perk when poets combine words I’ve never thought about being together in the same stanza or sentence. Much respect to the poets in the world who bring passion to every single word they choose.
“My Dead Aunt’s Books” (yes, that’s its real name) is a worthwhile stop to make if you’re trekking through historic downtown Hyattsville, Maryland, a few miles up the road from the D.C. line on Route 1. The store specializes in local works and has good prices on “gently used” hardbacks. It’s name is not on the door, but you can’t miss the building’s colorful façade, or the fact that it shares space with a clothing boutique/consignment shop. The core Hyattsville area is an aging inner suburb sprinkled with charming cottage-style homes and neat side streets. It has been going through a slow-moving renewal for at least 25 years. Along with the pre-requisite nearby brew pub, coffee shop, and a lifestyle center styled shopping complex anchored by local chain restaurants, a few other small businesses seem to be managing to survive in the emerging “arts” district where the bookstore is located.