25 May 2012

Taking the L to Literary Upstart

Last night I went to Literary Upstart, a new-to-me short reading competition put on by The L Magazine. Literary Upstart consists of 3 "semifinal" readings in which 5 readers square off against a judges' panel (including New Yorker/ McSweeney's regular Ben Greenman) and a final round on June 27 with the winner to be published in the magazine. I had heard of this contest before, but in the interest of full disclosure I wasn't planning to go until I unexpectedly won a $20 bar tab for the event by answering a trivia question on Twitter. It eased my decision process, we shall say. (For this reason, I suggest that you follow them because I know they gave out a few such prizes during the week.)

From what I can tell, here's how to get an advantage in a competitive reading like this:
1. Read something short. The shortest reading of the night can be the most memorable just within that.
2. Try not to go first, because the crowd gets rowdy. (If possible.)
3. Practice reading aloud so as not to stumble over words, or to be aware that your two named characters have rhyming names, or any other irregularities. (Those were both called out by the judges, which didn't seem very fair but there is a performative aspect that you can't overlook, I guess.)
4. Try to be the only funny reading in a wall of seriousness, or the only serious reading among the jokes. (Again, no way to really do this.)
5. Be mindful that everyone is looking at you while you are hearing the judges' comments. Nothing funny happened with that, but I can see how it would be possible to forget.

Anyway, I didn't write down the individual names of the readers, and wish I had, but I can't find them now sadly. My favorite reader was #4 in the lineup (first man to read); my partner in crime picked #2.

They all read, and then while the judges deliberated there was a trivia round featuring, apparently, random members of the audience. If they had asked for volunteers I would have stepped up due to having just consumed one pilsner and having high self-esteem. As panelists missed questions related to the New School, Henry James and FROM THE MIXED-UP FILES OF MRS BASIL E FRANKWEILER, my partner in crime suggested that I "should have Kanye'd the stage" at this point. Maybe I should have! I believe the person who got 1 question right won the whole thing. Then they announced the reading winner, who wasn't who I had predicted, although I liked his story all right.

The event was held in an exposed-brick event room at a new hotel in Williamsburg called the Wythe. I didn't see the hotel itself, but the back room features a very nice bar and easily fit maybe 75-100 people seated in rows with plenty of space around. To enter the space, though, we had to cut through a sketchy alley behind the hotel proper. I noticed walking back to the L train (for which the magazine is named) that we were close to the Brooklyn Bowl and the Brooklyn Brewery, both fun places to hang out, and I can't think of another hotel in Williamsburg itself, so if you are looking to visit, check it out.

While I was fact-checking this post (oh, you fancy, huh) I noticed that the final submission deadline to enter Literary Upstart is Monday, so I'm going to cut down a piece I conveniently have sitting around and send it in. Here's the information on that. Don't worry, if I get picked I will let you all know and you can chide me for not following any of my rules that I just named above.

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