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Posts Tagged ‘Ada’

Mongrel Empire Press, publisher of Fighters & Writers, posted a couple videos of me reading from the book on its YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/mongrelempirepress. One shows me at the Detroit’s Scarab Club earlier this year; the other is from the 2011 Scissortail Creative Writing Festival in Ada, Oklahoma.

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One especially nice aspect of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, for me at least, was the chance to meet not only fellow book lovers but also some with whom I have a publisher in common. Mongrel Empire Press, which brought out my Fighters & Writers, also published Spare Parts by Ken Hada (the event’s organizing force), Oklahomaography by Joey Brown (who read some of her poems immediately after the session in which I read essay excerpts), a biography by Al Turner (who presented parts of an autobiography-in-progress as well as a poem listing boxing among the things he enjoys) and Surface Tension by Patrick Ocampo.

Unfortunately, as inevitably happens at conferences with concurrent panels, I couldn’t take in every reading (I missed both Hada’s and Ocampo’s) or meet every MEP writer (Alan Barecka and Nathan Brown were also in attendance, according to the schedule).

Prior to my stay in Ada and time at East Central University, my association with MEP was my only connection to Oklahoma, where I had not been before. Now I feel like I have stronger ties.

With Ken Hada at the Scissortail Festival, Ada, Oklahoma, April 2, 2011

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Once or twice before on this site, I’ve recorded what struck me as curious, almost uncanny coincidences. While I assign no special meaning to such occurrences and discern nothing supernatural in them, I do find them intriguing. A couple more happened in connection with book festivals.

The first thing my wife and I did when we reached Little Rock was drive to Central High School, site of the Little Rock Nine’s brave challenge to racially segregated schooling in 1957. In the visitor center at the National Historic Site, we started talking with a Park Service employee who not only was planning to attend the poetry slam organized as part of the opening night of the Arkansas Literary Festival but who was also slated to moderate a conversation a couple of days later. (We did see Spirit Trickey during the Spoken Word Live! competition at the Mosaic Templers Cultural Center, but weren’t able to attend her talk with Jay Jennings about his book Carry the Rock.)

Often, it seems, Norman Mailer factors in these synchronous episodes. (Coincidences fascinated the novelist, even if he didn’t actually like them. “If psychic coincidences give pleasure to some, I do not know if they give them [sic] to me,” he writes in Cannibals and Christians, while the narrator of his Tough Guys Don’t Dance reminds himself that “not all coincidence was diabolical or divine.”) A week before we met Spirit in Arkansas, we met Paul Austin in Oklahoma. At the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival authors’ reception at the Oak Hills Country Club, Austin told me about time he spent with Mailer and José Torres, both of whom figure prominently in Fighters & Writers, including one of the passages I’d planned to read during the festival. (Austin worked on Mailer’s movie Maidstone.)

With Paul Austin at East Central University, Ada, Oklahoma, April 2, 2011

When she learned of our intention to drive from Ada to Little Rock, Austin’s wife, novelist Rilla Askew, wrote out directions to various sites that factor in True Grit, whose author, Charles Portis, turned out to be the subject of a panel discussion we did attend at the Arkansas Literary Festival (one led by Jay Jennings, in fact). The route we ultimately took involved a stop in a town with another cinematic connection, McAlester, the location of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, which we drove past and which a few years earlier staged the contests chronicled in the documentary Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, which we’d seen at the Indie Memphis film festival.

Prison Rodeo Statue, McAlester, Oklahoma

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I don’t like baseball. I offer my thoughts on the game in an essay called “Opening Day Shutout.” I received an email from nonfiction editor Caleb Thompson on Thursday, March 31, regarding plans for The Monarch Review to run the piece.

The timing could not have been better. I was sitting in Estep Auditorium at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, on the opening evening of the 6th annual Scissortail Creative Writing Festival. Susan Perabo was just about to read a short story. Perabo, I learned, views baseball rather differently than I do. Indeed, she described learning of a plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame that named her as the first woman to play NCAA baseball. A little over a week later, I read from Fighters & Writers as part of “The Sports Book” panel at the Arkansas Literary Festival. Bob Reising joined me. His book, Chasing Moonlight, is about – what else? – baseball.

Despite all the writerly affection for the sport, I remain baffled by its popularity.

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This spring will see a two-fisted literary festival combo for Fighters & Writers.

On April 1, I’ll read at East Central University in Ada, Oklahoma, as part of the Scissortail Creative Writing Festival.

The following weekend, on Saturday, April 9, I’ll join Bob Reising for “The Sports Book” panel at the Arkansas Literary Festival in Little Rock. Reising is a former college baseball coach and co-author of Chasing Moonlight, a look at the life and curious baseball career of Doc Graham. I’ll also be participating in the festival’s Writers in the Schools program on the Friday before my reading.

For details, see the festivals’ respective websites:

Scissortail Creative Writing Festival: http://www.ecok.edu/scissortail/Creative_Writing_Festival.asp

Arkansas Literary Festival: http://www.arkansasliteraryfestival.org/

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