Archive | September, 2019

Announcing Two New Calendars for 2020

30 Sep

A friend reached out to me asking if I had a new calendar on sale yet. I was so surprised! I didn’t realize people looked forward to them so much. I love creating them, picking a theme, selecting the photographs, and creating new artwork, but I’ve never had huge sales on them (it’s super hard to make any significant profit since it costs so much to print them because of the color photography) so I didn’t think anyone was paying all that close attention to when they came out. After all, it’s still only September!

Well, I’m happy to announce that I now have not one but two calendars for sale for the year 2020!

Hellas is a calendar featuring photographs I’ve taken in Greece. This one is dear to my heart. I create it with my father in mind because years before I began creating calendars, he always wanted me to get him calendars. My first foray into calendar-making began with creating a calendar that I thought he would like. Now I have the pleasure of sharing my heritage with you and other Hellenophiles every day of the year with this calendar!

My Cup Runneth Over is a calendar devoted to those seeking to cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout 2020. If Hellas was created with my father in mind, then My Cup Runneth Over, with its subtle coffee theme and optimism, is inspired in part by my mother. If you’re into mindfulness, spirituality, and gratitude and are seeking subtle reminders to find the good in each day, then this is the calendar for you.

 

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Experience the beauty of Greece every day of the year with HELLAS, a 2020 calendar. The natural landscape of the Mediterranean comes to life in the rich, colorful photography of Greek beaches, wildflowers, and lush palm trees. As you record your daily appointments in the calendar, the stresses of life will recede like the tide of the ocean. This calendar features US and Greek holidays. On sale now.

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Cultivate a life of gratitude each day of 2020 with the Your Cup Runneth Over Calendar. Each morning as you savor a cup of coffee, take a moment to give thanks. Every day offers a fresh start and an opportunity to practice thanksgiving. By focusing on the things you have to be thankful for, even if some days they may feel like small things, you will transform your attitude and become a more positive person. Your newfound optimism will help you to enjoy the life you currently have even as you seek to improve it one day at a time. Consider these prompts: What are you grateful for experiencing as a child? What friendships are you thankful for today? What do you appreciate about your neighborhood? How can you tell someone you’re thankful for them today? Each day, take a moment to stop and smell the coffee! On sale now.

Have you started planning for 2020 yet?

Don’t forget to mark your calendars with my upcoming events. Find my list of upcoming readings and writing workshops here. I’d love to mark my calendar with any readings, art shows, and concerts you’re involved in too, so drop me a line in the comments section with your upcoming events.

If you’re new to my page and are curious what else I’ve published, hop over to my Publications page to check out my books.

Cornelia Meatpacking District

28 Sep

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For many years, the Cornelia Street Café was one of my favorite haunts in all of New York City. Situated on a tiny, quiet street in the Village, it burst with energy and innovation. “Minister of Culture, Wine Czar, Dean of Faculty” Robin Hirsch gave the stage to the exquisitely unique musicians and poets that make New York City so great.

Among the monthly guests was David Amram. Composer, author, veteran, he began his professional career playing French horn in the National Symphony Orchestra in 1951. A few years later, after serving in the US Army, he moved to New York and began playing in bands by jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Oscar Pettiford. A decade later, Leonard Bernstein selected him to be the New York Philharmonic’s first composer-in-residence. In between that time, he’d written the scores to such films as Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate. To host a musician of Amram’s caliber spoke to the esteem of the Cornelia Street Café, though both the Café and Amram always brought in up-and-coming acts as well. At his monthly Monday night sessions at “the Cornelia Street Stadium,” as he always called the tiny venue, Amram shared not just his music but stories of life in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the Village. He’d talk about the great international instrument shop he frequented and the poetry and music venues that have now shuttered.

And then just like that Cornelia Street Café became one of them. Opened in July 1977, the café closed due to rising rents on New Years 2019.

The news of Cornelia Street Café’s shuttering is a huge loss to the literary community and to New York City. While New York’s profitability is positive, its rampant gentrification destroys the very thing that makes the city so exciting, beautiful, and unique. If a city loses its artists, it loses its heart, its pulse.

It was also a loss for me. My editor and mentor introduced me to Cornelia Street Café, urging me to check it out. Soon I began attending Amram’s jams, Three Room Press’s Beat-centric events hosted by founders Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, and a slew of other readings. I got to hear impressive poets like Steve Dalachinsky (who passed on September 16), Anne Waldman, George Wallace, you name it! It was also the place where Sopranos actor John Ventimiglia came in and sat across from me at the table where I was seated. Incredibly, more than once I found myself on stage. David Amram kindly invited me to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” coauthored with biographer Paul Maher Jr.,which is one of the highlights of my life. I also had the great pleasure of reading a section from my memoir-in-progress at the Greek American Writers Association, thanks to an invitation from the ever-gracious Penelope Karageorge. I, in turn, introduced many of my friends to Cornelia Street Café, and when the news broke that it was closing, we grieved because it didn’t just mean the loss of a venue—it meant the loss of a community spirit.

So, when my mentor emailed to alert me that Cornelia Street in Exile was heading to the Meatpacking District for a Sunday afternoon outdoors at Gansevoort Plaza on September 15, I had to go! I was also intrigued. Though there was a beautiful—and ohmygosh delicious—restaurant at the street level, to get to the performance venue you had to descend down the stairs into the cavernous basement. It was dark and narrow, lit by candlelight. Plush red drapes and mirrors perhaps sought to make the tiny room elegant and more spacious, but in fact the space felt womblike. It was, after all, a place pregnant with creative possibilities, where one grew, evolved, and was, in a way, reborn into the slippery city night. So how would it work to for Cornelia Meatpacking District to be out in broad daylight, on the street, for passersby to wonder it?

 

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Hirsch and Amram

Incredibly well, actually. When it was open, Cornelia Street Café often hosted a full day of events over Memorial Day weekend that spilled out onto the sidewalks. It felt very much like one of those events. Of course, that’s probably thanks to the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, who were a staple of the summer events and who helped create a seamless transition from one performer to the next at Cornelia Meatpacking District by stilt-walking from the stage to the crowd to perform between sets. That got people’s attention!

David Amram & Co. held the show together, playing many of our favorites and introducing—and even performing with—the other musicians and poets. It was a full afternoon of delight thanks to all the fun musicians and poets who read. As it was more performance-driven, I missed getting to hear David’s stories, which for me are always fascinating, but poet—and new dad—Frank Messina told how he’d met his wife at the Cornelia Street Café!

 

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Messina and Amram

The event also included Arturo O’Farrill Trio. Son of the legendary Latin jazz musician Chico O’Farrill, Arturo is a musician in his own right: the Grammy Award winning musician is known for his free jazz and experimentations with hip hop. There was also Rogerio Souza and the Billy Newman Quarteto.

The lively music soon had people dancing at the front of the stage! Proprietor Robin Hirsch, publisher Kat Georges, attendees in the crowd, and a bold young woman who seemed to enjoy the attention danced and swayed and moved to the music. The sun then began to set over the Hudson, and with it the show came to a close.

Though it lacked some of the intimacy of the basement and felt commercial because the corporate sponsors were profusely thanked between each set, the event was a success. It showed the resilience of the arts and captured the beauty of community. Many of the familiar faces were there, but so were new people, intrigued by musicians playing jazz on stilts, the charm of VickiKristinaBarcelona Band, and folk musicians singing of bad dates. Four hours long, the Cornelia Meatpacking District felt organic—and hopeful.

Next up, Hirsch brings Yom Kippur for Yogis to the Integral Yoga Institute for Cornelia Integral on October 3 at 7pm. Tickets are $20. FMI: iyiny.org.

On Sensitive Topics: How Do We Contribute in Love and Truth to Controversial Trending Topics?

22 Sep

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I’m pleased to share with you a new panel that I’ve organized!

On September 24th at 7pm, the Redeemer Writers Group will kick off their first meeting of the fall with the panel discussion “On Sensitive Topics: How Do We Contribute in Love and Truth to Controversial Trending Topics?” Panelists include Sophfronia Scott (author of Love’s Long Line and This Child of Faith) on gun violence; Cristina Spataro (licensed mental health counselor) on mental health; Jerome Walford (graphic novelist: Nowhere Man and the Gwan Anthology) on immigration and asylum; Nayamka Ward (Rebranded Christianity blog) on race; moderated by Mary B. Safrit (Unsuitable podcast).

This event is for writers of all genres and levels as well as readers who are interested in dialoguing about how the world shapes literature and how literature shapes the world. Panelists will share their stories of how faith informs their writing, how they research hot-button topics so they have a well-rounded, accurate viewpoint, and how they respond to critical responses to their work. The panel will begin with a reading from each of our esteemed panelists and will close with a Q&A from the audience.

We’ll meet at 1166 Avenue of the Americas, 16th floor. Registration is required. Please register at least 24 hours before the meeting to ensure your name will be included on the building security list.

 

Find out about my other upcoming events here.

My Q&A with Ifeona Fulani

4 Sep

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Ifeona Fulani is the author of the novel Seasons of Dust, which follows a Jamaican immigrant family over the course of five decades, beginning in 1950, as well as the more recent short story collection Ten Days in Jamaica. She also edited the nonfiction work Archipelagos of Sound: Transnational Caribbeanites, Women and Music. She is the recipient of the Mitchener Fellowship – University of Miami, New York Times Creative Writing Fellowship, Burke-Marshall Fellowship – NYU, and McCracken Fellowship – NYU. Ifeona Fulani is a Clinical Professor in the Liberal Studies department at New York University. She has taught in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Gallatin School, the College of Arts and Science, as well as, the Eugene Lang School, The New School.

At the Festival of Women Writers this September 6-8, Ifeona Fulani will be teaching the writing workshop NOTHING HAPPENS NOWHERE: Grounding Your Story in Place. Here’s a description:

In this workshop we will explore one of the most fundamental challenges facing a writer of fiction, that of setting your story in a place in which your characters and their actions can unfold meaningfully.

Character is a product of dynamic interaction with place, whether that place is a modern city, a medieval castle or a space station on an alien planet. No matter where, how can setting support a character’s desires and actions? How will it frustrate them and generate conflict?

We will consider these and other questions relating to using setting and place in ways that work with or against your character to develop your story and reveal its ultimate meaning.

You can register for her workshop and mine, Wild Women on the Road, here.

You can read my interview with Ifeona Fulani here.