It’s a Happy 4th of July here in Albany, and right now, as I sit in the cool comfort of an apartment that doesn’t get any sunlight, it is now 90 degrees outside and humid as hell.  ‘Hazy, Hot, and Humid” as a meteorolgist would say.  I took a long walk in this hot afternoon, and I almost passed out on the street it was so hot.  I think it’s going to cool down to manageable temperatures, but as of right now, it has been very cool in the mornings only to get much hotter in the late afternoon.

By the way, the reading at the Writers Institute up in Saratoga Springs, was incredible.  Instead of fiction, both writers shared non-fiction pieces in a genre that could be more aptly put as ‘creative non-fiction.’  What they wrote and read could also be classified as memoir.  The first up was Elizabeth Benedict, a novelist usually, but this time she shared her memoir, which is really quite good.  The story she read is about her time spent in Washington D.C. working as an intern with the government.  What she wrote certainly attracted my interest, as I used to engage in politics all the time with my own work, but it’s not like I ever wanted to be a Senator or anything like that.  The audience clapped loudly once she was done, as I’ve never heard such strong applause for anyone at the Writers Institute before.

The next up was Phillip Lopate, whom I believe has a brother on the radio at NPR.  Phil Lopate shared his expertise with everyone in the room, as he read a character sketch of an Eastern European artist that blew everyone’s socks off.  This guy knows how to write, and his work is incredibly funny in places, especially when he mimiced the Eastern European voice of his subject of study.  He had a full command of words, and like what I’m used to, he didn’t have to expose what his Eastern European subject thought about – only what Lopate observed of the man’s character in a very objective sense.  It was a lot of fun to hear.  I can now safely say that it was definitely worth the trip going up to Skidmore.  I hope to hear many more writers and poets this summer there.  I’m traveling up there again tomorrow, so I hope these hot temperatures will cool down a bit.  I’m fortunate to have an air conditioner in my car, so it won’t be that bad of a journey.  As usual, I’m look forward to the event tomorrow.

In another development, I may have mentioned in past journals that myself and about three other poets of what is now called ‘The New Surrealist Instute’ did a reading at Tierra Coffee Roasters here in town.  We had a really strong crowd, which included the head of most of the readings here in Albany, Dan Wilcox.  But we were all suprised and dissapointed by Dan’s review of our reading on his blog.  He didn’t criticize me specifically, but he did do so with the three poets who took the stage after me, and there was a lot of anger and disappointment with his review.  But Dan is also a friend of mine, and I usually attend his readings whenever I can, so I told my fellow NSI members not to think too much about it.  We will continue until we reach the end of the line.  The poets agreed with me, and already we may squeeze out another reading towards the end of the month.

I know that both writers and poets are very sensitive about their work.  Even though I have been writing for most of my life, I too carry this sensitivity.  But I also must realize that nothing in this world is perfect, and not everyone will like our readings.  Our group is like the ugly bud of a flower that emerges into a beautiful flower.  We will definitely continue – even Dan agreed with me.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.

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