Tag Archives: friends

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

9 Aug

StephanieNikolopoulos2

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It’s like falling in love.” ~ Christopher Morley

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

I don’t read as much as I used to these days. Or, maybe I read more. It’s hard to tell. As an editor, I read all day at my job. But it’s a different type of reading. It’s more like a spot-the-difference puzzle, where I’m on the lookout for Briticisms and double punctuation marks. It’s not reading for pleasure, though it is pleasurable.

I am a book lover.

Much of my life is what it is because of books. My mother used to bribe me with books when I was a child. Books opened up a world to me. Reading became not just an activity but a refuge, and not just a refuge but a part of my identity. When I went away to camp, I took a sign language class. We were told to use the letter from our first name and the sign for an activity we enjoyed to create a unique name for ourselves. My name was an “S” opening a book.

Later, in high school, I dropped math class and took an extra English class in addition to my AP English class. My first or second semester of college, I took three English classes at the same time. It was wonderful! It felt so me. I felt like I was living out my true self. On spring break, I went to City Lights in San Francisco and dragged my best friend around the city, reading her Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s poems.

I absorbed myself in the pages of books for hours at a time, discovering not just kindred spirits and captivating lands but turns of phrases and how punctuation influenced a reading. When I learned to read, I also began to learn to write. Reading and writing were two sides of the same coin for me. One inspired the other. I am at my best, I feel my most authentic, when I am involved in both.

A few years ago, while working full time in book publishing and going to grad school full time for creative writing, I co-authored Burning Furiously Beautiful. It was a wild, intense time. I would wake up early before work and edit, a habit this non-morning person is not a natural at. I turned down plans with friends. I surrounded myself with books. And you know what? I miss it.

I miss the intensity of reading and writing and breathing words. I miss being assigned books that challenge me. I miss being exposed to new ideas. I miss the deadlines. I miss the workshops. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the solitude. The quiet nights. The passionate flurry of ideas.

I recently did a writing intensive with some friends. We tried to push out twenty pages a week. That’s more than I was required to do in grad school. It felt good. It wasn’t necessarily sustainable, but it got me back into the habit. As well, I’m doing the Goodreads reading challenge and trying to read a book a week. I’m woefully behind. Woefully. But it has gotten me back into the habit of reading for pleasure. I ask people to recommend books to me, so I still am being exposed to things I wouldn’t normally select for myself. Sometimes my friends read the same books; sometimes I read the book for my book club; sometimes I read the book for Bible study; and sometimes I get around to reading the books I excitedly bought but remained on my bookshelves. I read on the subway. I read in bed. I read in the bathtub. I read on NJ Transit.

And I’m about to read right now before bed! I’m finally getting around to reading Vivian Gornick‘s The Odd Woman and the City.

 

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My Literary Highlights of 2015

31 Jan

Even more than art, literature is fundamental to my life. Reading was so important to my development as a child and continues to expand my horizons to this day. I earn my living as a writer and an editor, but even my social calendar revolves around literary events. Literature is very much a part of my identity, and I make a priority for it in my life.

 

BurroughsAnne Waldman, Penny Arcade, Jan Herman, Steve Dalachinsky, and Aimee Herman read at Burroughs 101, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Anne Waldman pictured)

HettiePam Belluck, Hettie Jones, Margot Olavarria, Marci Blackman, and Beth Lisick read at Women on Top, hosted by Three Rooms Press, at Cornelia Street Cafe. (Hettie Jones pictured)

BigSur

Big Sur (an adaptation of Kerouac’s novel) on Netflix

brunchEpic four-hour brunch at The District with two writer friends, talking about “ethnic” literature, faith, and relationships.

SunsetAfter Sunset: Poetry Walk on the High Line.

Budapest1My friends surprising me by taking me to a book-themed restaurant on my first night in Budapest.

BookCafeBrunch with friends at the most exquisite bookstore, Book Cafe & Alexandra Bookstore, in Budapest.

ElenaReading Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, a recommendation from my friend Jane.

BEABook Expo America.

AmramDavid Amram telling stories about Jack Kerouac and other literary figures and amazing us with his music at Cornelia Street Cafe.

MisakoBrunch with my friend Misako Oba, whose new book of photography and memoir, which I helped edit, was published.

DurdenDrinks with one of my favorite people at Durden, a bar based on author Chuck Palahniuk’s novel-turned-movie Fight Club.

PoetryNew York City Poetry Festival with my writing group partner.

OdysseyWatched Homer’s The Odyssey performed, put on by the Public Theater, in Central Park.

Reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” (coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.) at WORD Bookstore in Jersey City.

HobartTeaching a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

WritersThe Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice, a conference I co-led in organizing through the Center for Faith & Work. (Pastor David Sung pictured)

BrooklynBrooklyn Book Festival.

ReggioBrunch at Caffe Reggio, where Jack Kerouac and friends used to hang out.

BindersFullOfWomenSpeaking on the panel Lessons Learned: Published Authors Share Hard-Earned Insights with Nana Brew-Hammond, Kerika Fields, Melissa Walker, Ruiyan Xu, and Jakki Kerubo at BinderCon.

LibraryMeeting regularly with one of my best friends to read and write together at the New York Public Library.

Hemmingway-1_0

Checking out the Ernest Hemingway: Between Two Wars exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum with a friend who is a huge Hemingway fan.

OTRSpotting a first edition copy of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road at the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin.

Light

Reading Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See.

Like literature?

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Barnes & Noble.

Burning Furiously Beautiful on sale at Amazon.

My Pinterest posts called Lit Life.

I’m on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

Friday Links: Tennis

30 Aug

tennisSir John Lavery’s Played!

We writers aren’t known for being the sportiest bunch. Oh, sure, there are exceptions to the rule, and if you read my blog regularly you know that I write about one such writer: Jack Kerouac, who went to Columbia on a football scholarship. I don’t know how it is that of all the writers I’ve read—and mind you I was a voracious reader from childhood on, reading both male and female authors—I grew most attached to one that was a jock. I guess that’s just irony.

Growing up in New Jersey, I was the cliché example of the girl in the glasses picked last in gym class. Most of my friends lived for the days we had gym, which was only maybe twice a week when I was in elementary school. I hated it. I would’ve rather sat in science class or written an essay than be forced to participate in a rousing game of What Time Is it Mr. Fox? or kickball.

In high school, I started taking tennis lessons. This was very much encouraged by my father, who thought it was great for my future—that it would help me succeed in life and business. I’m sure even in today’s economy there are corporate types who discuss mergers over a competitive game of tennis or golf. I mean, I did see it on an episode of Friends so it must be true. I’d bet there are even publishing types who do so. The reputation of writers and editors, though, is more akin to writing a book contract on a cocktail napkin during our three martini lunches. And so it surprised me that I actually liked tennis. I didn’t like it enough to actually exert too much energy running for the ball, but I liked it enough to make a bit of an effort to endure physical activity. I only took lessons for about a year—there were other things to do with my time, things like study for the SATs and hang out at diners—but I held onto my racket for quite some time. It made the move with me from New Jersey to my first apartment in New York. But it didn’t make it to my second apartment. I hadn’t made friends with the type of people who belonged to tennis clubs. I’d made friends with the type of people who were also picked last for gym class.

In celebration of the US Open, today’s Friday links are tennis related:::

Jason Diamond writes about David Foster Wallace and tennis literature (Flavorwire)

Harvest Books even put out an anthology called Tennis and the Meaning of Life

I myself am a bit partial to the use of tennis in Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus

The Great Gatsby came out around the time tennis was becoming popular in the US; Greg Victor offers a few thoughts on this (Parcbench)

I once sat behind this tennis star and author at Z100’s Jingle Ball

One of the earliest paintings to depict tennis was recently sold at auction (BBC)

Love this fashion spread depicting The Royal Tenenbaums, which of course featured a tennis prodigy (This Is Glamorous)

Althea Gibson broke the color barrier in 1950 when she entered the U.S. Championships

Have a sporty Labor Day weekend! Let me know if you’re doing anything fun.

Recap — with Photos! — of David Amram Reading

10 Sep

 

When musician David Amram introduced me before I read with him at Cornelia Street Cafe on September 3, 2012, he very generously said people should pay attention because one day they’d see me on television.  To me, though, reading with David Amram was a much bigger deal than being on television.  There are countless television shows, but there is only one David Amram.  While there are many fantastic musicians and writers out there whom I’d be honored to read with, there are few who hold such a special place in forming my creative identity as Amram does.

I first became acquainted with Amram through studying Jack Kerouac when I was just a teenager.  I was enamored with his improvised performance as Mezz McGillicuddy in the 1957 Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie film Pull My Daisy.  In fact, this photograph, featuring Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, David Amram, Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, who all collaborated on the film, is probably my all-time favorite photograph of the poets, writers, and artists associated with the Beat Generation.  It seems to so purely capture their friendship: just a couple of people hanging out at a cafe, maybe talking about the arts, or maybe just drinking coffee late into the night and enjoying each other’s company.

Although it was literature that introduced me to Amram, his music fascinated me.  Here was a musician who was more than just skillful.  Amram is an innovator.  He’s someone who experiments, improvises, blends genres, captivates.  He is, quite simply, mesmerizing to watch and listen to.

Through reading biographies on Kerouac and also reading Amram’s own biographies, I came to discover the jazz-poetry readings Amram and Kerouac began doing in the Village in 1957.  These were improvised sets, requiring each to masterfully foresee and adapt to changing tempos and moods in each other’s works.  These jazz-poetry collaborations captured my imagination, challenging my view of art and the way in which it’s created, the musicality of words, and the role of collaboration, improvisation, and performance in literature.  As I read about the collaborations in musty library books, forty-some-odd years after they’d taken place, I envisioned what it must’ve been like to be in the crowd at a painter’s loft or at the Circle in the Square.  Did the people there realize they were part of history?

In 2001, I had the opportunity to ask Amram just that when I interviewed him for some research I was doing at the time.  I sat enthralled, clinging to his every word, as he told me about all the places he used to hang out at in New York, about collaborating with Kerouac, and about how the term “Beat Generation” is just a marketing term that people later attached to the individual artists who each create unique works.  As he talked, answering all of my questions and never rushing me, and later as I read another biography of  his, I realized that Amram is the real deal — a creative genius and also a beatific individual, an artist who inspires and encourages.

Amram has been someone whom I’ve long admired, both on an artistic and a personal level.  Reading about those 1957 jazz-poetry readings he did with Jack Kerouac, I never imagined that one day I would have the opportunity to read the book I’m writing on Jack Kerouac with him.  When my former editor suggested we attend Amram’s show at Cornelia Street Cafe in the Village, I excitedly said yes.  A few days later, I had to email him back to say Amram had invited me to read with him.  It was completely surreal.

The September 3, 2012, show was completely sold out.  I had some friends who were turned away at the door.  Special thanks to Cornelia Street Cafe’s Robin Hirsch and the staff for hosting the reading and for doing such an excellent job in organizing the event.  I read a short selection about Kerouac’s time in Mexico from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m co-authoring with Paul Maher, Jr.  It was really exciting because author Larry Closs and painter Jonathan Collins, both of whom I met through the Burning Furiously Beautiful Facebook page, were in the audience.  Poet and producer RA Araya, who has been hugely supportive of my work and whose birthday bash was the premiere reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful, was also there, and graciously provided the photography you see here.  I had some other family and friends there as well and am so appreciative of their support.  It means more to me than most people realize.

As soon as my videographer, Liz Koenig, sends the video, I’ll post it so you can hear me reading with David Amram and his band.  The band, consisting of Amram, Kevin Twigg, and John de Witt played so beautifully — even more of a feat, considering Twigg had hurt his hand before the show.  The music was haunting and fit the piece that I read so perfectly.  I wanted to remain present in the moment, to really hear what they were playing, and savor the moment.  It was one of those times in life that I wanted to tuck into my heart and cherish.

 

 

David Amram, Stephanie Nikolopoulos, Joe Pacheco

Stephanie Nikolopoulos, David Amram, RA Araya

Photos from Reading at Sidewalk Cafe

15 Aug

I had so much fun reading at poet RA Araya’s birthday bash at the Sidewalk Cafe this past Sunday!! RA was such a great host and is so encouraging.  There were so many amazingly talented poets and musicians there.  I felt so honored to get to read with them.

I started off reading the beginning of Homer’s The Odyssey in Ancient Greek (bringing awareness to Greece’s cultural heritage as well as the plight of endangered languages) and then read a section from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book that I’m coauthoring with Paul Maher Jr., while the flashbackpuppy band improvised a jazzy tune.

Here are some pictures RA took.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s me sitting next to poet Juan Valenzuela.  In the foreground is poet Miguel Algarin, who co-founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and knew Jack Kerouac back in the day.

Special thanks to my friends, who came out to support me.

Hipsters Hate Driving

3 Jul

I knew I was getting old the day I saw a car commercial where the driver was clearly younger than I am.

So here’s an interesting bit of news: Generation Y doesn’t like to drive. According to Reuter’s “America’s Generation Y not driven to drive,” the Millennials think driving is more of a hassle than it’s worth.  A California think tank analyst, Tony Dudzik says instead of a driver’s license, a cell phone is the new rite of passage for young adults.

The article points to a few different reasons why Generation Y may be less interested in driving:

  • Smart phones make it easier to know public transportation schedules
  • More Gen-Yers are riding bikes
  • People are more concerned about saving the planet
  • Car-sharing services are making it easier not to have to own a car

From a cultural perspective, this makes total sense.  Gen Y is the hipster culture.  The kids in Williamsburg who listen to low-fi indie music on their hi-tech iphone, knit water-bottle cozies that they sell on etsy, ride their bicycles to work, buy their clothes from Buffalo Exchange, spend their weekends at the food coop, brew their own craft beer, and vlog on YouTube. If they drive, they drive hybrids. Because they’re all about the i-this and the i-that, they seek out community more intentionally. Who needs a car, if your friend or parents (they also happen to be the Peter Pan Generation, living at home after college) have one?

I personally fall somewhere between Gen X and Gen Y, making me part of Generation Flux.  Generation X refers to people born between the early 1960s and 1980s, while Generation Y refers those born between the late 1970s and the 2000s.  I know when I was growing up, there were a lot of cultural arts programs in the school about saving the rainforest and saving the whales, we studied acid rain and the ozone layer, and we joined KAP: Kids Against Pollution.  In drivers ed, they pretty much terrified you with statistics, photos, and videos that suggested it was likely you were going to die if you got behind the wheel. The shows that were popular when I was a teen were Mad About You, Seinfeld, Friends, Will & Grace, and Sex and the City, all of which were set in New York City.  Other popular shows like Ally McBeal, Frasier, and ER were also set in cities. Our stars didn’t drive.  They took cabs and rode the subway. Is it any surprise that we moved into the city and followed suit?

So will a generation who grew up watching Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, and Snooki getting arrested for driving under the influence and/or crashing their cars, a generation coming of age during the Great Recession, a generation who doesn’t care about driving, embrace the 1950s road trip adventure of On the Road when the movie comes out and the novel by Jack Kerouac it is based on?  Well, here’s another interesting twist: Jack Kerouac didn’t like driving either. If you read his novel, you’ll see that most of the time, the character based on him in the novel is on the bus or in the passenger seat.

How do you feel like the era you grew up in influenced you?

Now you can “like” Burning Furiously Beautiful on Facebook!

Mixtape: Music and Poetry for On the Road

28 Jun

photo via Aunt13’s 8tracks mix

Aunt13 over on 8tracks made a mix called Music and Poetry for On the RoadIt’s inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road and in the blurb she mentions Burning Furiously Beautiful!  How cool is that?!

I have the coolest friends!  I am going to be listening to this while I write, for sure, and daydreaming of hitting the road.  Aunt13 has over 300 mixes, so be sure to show her some love.

You may recall I posted a while back the soundtrack for the On the Road film.  It was just announced yesterday that the film will be making its US debut in late fall.

J. Haeske also made a mix for the soundtrack he’d envision for the film.  Teaser!  I have an interview with him about his new book on Kerouac lined up for you, so stay tuned.

What songs would you put on a mix for On the Road?

Also, I took my own advice about social media, and created a Facebook page for Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the book I’m co-authoring with Paul Maher Jr.  Be sure to “like” the book on Facebook!  We’ll be posting news about the book, information from Across the Underwood, updates on the film, and so much more!

A Very Nerdy Birthday

13 Dec

When I was a little girl, I always wanted my birthday party at the American Museum of Natural History.  (Well, that or The Rink — the roller rink in Bergenfield — where I’d feed quarters into the vending machines for neon friendship bracelets.)  I figured it was about time to bring the tradition back so the museum’s where I headed for my birthday earlier this month.

 


 

 

After the museum, I headed over to Momufuku’s Milk Bar.  What better birthday cake than crack pie and candybar pie??

 

 

 

And then it was on to The Dead Poet, where I got to drink for free because I share a birthday with Leo Tolstoy.  I ordered the Jack Kerouac, naturally.

 

 


So thankful to all the family and friends who made my birthday special!

 

Gripster: Greek American Hank Azaria

14 Sep

The Mindset List recently came out, and it’s making me feel old!  It’s not on the list, but one thing that I was thinking about is the fact that The Simpsons has been part of the Class of 2015’s entire life.  I remember when The Simpsons was just a sketch on The Tracey Ullman Show.  When the cartoon got its own primetime show, it was huge!  In school, some of the teachers even used to give extra credit for Simpsons trivia.  In the summer, when my family went to Greece, we brought Bart Simpson t-shirts for relatives.

Eat my shorts!

Did you know that Hank Azaria, the voice of Simpsons characters Moe, Apu, and Chief Wiggum, is Greek American?  His parents are Sephardic Jews from Thessaloniki, Greece.  Hank Azaria was born and raised in Forest Hills, Queens, though.

Remember when Hank Azaria played Nat the dog walker on Mad About You?  And Phoebe’s scientist boyfriend on Friends?  Well, Hank Azaria is on a new NBC sitcom called Free Agents, based on a British show by the same name.  Can you hear the hipsters?  I only watch the British version of Free Agents.  Well, Greek hipsters, decide for yourself.  It’s premiering tonight, September 14.

Recap of My Reading at the InterArts Summer Showcase

28 Jun

 

Friday’s InterArts Summer Showcase was a blast!  So much creativity filled the room.  I left feeling so inspired and wanting to be more experimental and collaborative.

There were ten of us presenting.  Four of us were representing the literary arts — personal essay, poetry, argument — while others were photographers, digital artists, singers, hip-hop artists, painters.  As evidenced from the picture above, one artist made a 3D film.  I was impressed by the quality of the projects and the thought process that had gone behind them.  I bought the poet’s chapbook, and if I were richer I’d love to own some of the art.

We each got eight minutes to present.  I’ll admit it: I was nervous.  I’m not a performer, and even though I write about myself a lot I don’t actually enjoy the spotlight.  But, I knew I had a story worth sharing.  I’m not typically a humor writer, but my story had a few funny moments in it, and I began to relax and enjoy myself as I heard the audience laughing.  When I got to the clincher at the end, I even heard someone audible gasp!

…And then my friends showed up.  I was the first presenter of the evening and even though we didn’t start on time, most of my friends missed my reading entirely.  I felt so bad!  Two of them had gotten stuck in rush hour traffic for two hours, another had cycled an hour and a half from another state, someone else had dragged along a friend who was visiting from out of town, and someone whom I had just met at NYFA‘s literary mingle had gotten stuck at work.  Some of my other friends were there, though, and my always-supportive and encouraging sister was there.  Afterward a group of us went out to a pub, so I got to at least catch up with most of them.  Some of them I hadn’t seen in 7+ months!  I’m so thankful for such great friends!  I know attending an arts event isn’t everyone’s ideal Friday night, and it meant a lot to me that my friends were supportive enough to travel–some of them from other boroughs, some from other states–to support my writing.  Awesome friends!