Wednesday, April 29, 2009

If this is Wednesday I must be in New York

A very quick "where I am now" sort of post.

I went to Washington College in Chestertown as part of the PEN World Voices Festival and I spoke to an audience of students and people who had come a long way. Had a tea with English students, then did a reading and was interviewed and Q&Aed and read again in the open air, on a perfect spring evening, as the bats came out. Then I did a one-item-per-person signing (having already pre-signed piles of stuff, so people could also buy pre-signed books and run home). It was wonderful, Joshua Wolf Shenk and Kate Bursick and their people were perfect hosts, and if you look at the pictures at (go down column one then to the top of column two and down again to get a chronological feel of the evening as it darkened)you will get a sense of what it was like.

I got up early, got the train into New York, was interviewed for China, agreed to be part of a cool thing that I can't talk about until it's announced in October, then Claudia Gonson took me to a rehearsal for the CORALINE musical.

The problem I've had with the Coraline Musical so far is that, apart from hearing a CD of the first draft of the songs, all of the parts sung by Stephin, a couple of years ago, I don't know anything about it. More by accident than design, I'd not been around while they were workshopping it or working on it, so it was a complete mystery to me. I thought and hoped it would be good, but I didn't know.

Stephin Merritt's songs? Amazing. Acting and performance? Wonderful. Seven performers and I don't think I could pick who impressed me most. David Greenspan (who also plays the Other Mother)'s adaptation? Really good and smart. Leigh Silverman was directing, and she was really good and really smart. Phyllis Chen plays the piano, children's pianos and the strangely-treated piano with the forks and toys and playing cards in the strings that makes the sounds of the Other house, and it's astonishing...

Sound of nervous author breathing huge sigh of relief.

If you were on the fence about going, get tickets now. I think it's going to be the sort of thing that a) sells out very fast (The Lortel theatre is about a 200 seater) and b) given that it's going to have a limited run, it's something that you will want to have seen first run. Previews start on May 7th, first night is June 1st, and it runs until June 20th.

If you like my stuff, or the music of Stephin Merritt or the Magnetic Fields, or the story of Coraline, or disturbing musical theatre, you will love this.

I've got photos from the rehearsal in the camera, but won't post them here without having the people in them sign off on them.

And thence to put on a jacket and tie and head off into the world of the PEN Gala. I was at the Grove/Atlantic table, and we ate beneath the blue whale in the Natural History Museum and speeches were made and Pen awards were given to writers and printers imprisoned for writing things, and money was raised by the dinner to allow PEN to do its work. Salman Rushdie gave me a ride back to the hotel, and so to bed.

The Pen World Voices Festival website is here. 160 writers in conversation, not all at the same time.

I'll be talking on Thursday evening, and on Saturday. (The Saturday event is a $10 ticket, and they have not sold out yet.)

Goodday Neil,

As a young writer who wants to 'get myself out there', I've heard beginning a blog is a good start. Since you've been at the game (of blogging that is) for some time, I was wondering where you thought a good place to start? Free or paid domain? Software choice? Any words from a veteran would be helpful!

Always looking forward to your newest work,

My words of wisdom: don't blog because it could "get you out there". Blog because you want to blog. There are too many people blogging out there already and too few with anything to say. If you have something you want to say then do it, otherwise go and write books instead. Ditto Twitter: do it if you enjoy it, not because it's a professional thing. Honestly, there's no point otherwise. (I use Blogger, and have done for eight years, and it's pretty reliable.)

Right. On with the day (shall I feel guilty about having a few hundred unread emails? I shall not, and will simply hope that nothing bad is happening in the world...)

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