Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Confessions of an Extrovert

I believe there is a commonly-held belief that extroverts are shallow and introverts are complex. I had that belief anyway when I was younger. I even tried to pass as an introvert declaring that I liked being alone. Well, the truth is that I do like being alone sometimes, but it's also true that I get energy and vitality by meeting people, and meeting people is about all I've been doing in November. I'm behind in everything. I have book reviews piling up, forewards to books that I need to write, and about 100 essays and stories to grade, but for the last two weeks, I've been meeting new people and stealing the energy of their vitality.

Rise up extroverts. We are not shallow. We are simply people who like people. And if we have the ability to meet and talk to people, we have the ability to bring our work to those who would never have seen it before.

So what have I been doing? It started on November 1st at Laguna College of Art and Design. Grant Heir invited me, Kevin Lee, T. Thrasher, Luke Salazar, Paul Tayyar, Donna Hilbert, Sarah Miller, and Lorene Delany-Ullman to read for his classes.

I cannot believe how beautiful the campus was.


Indoor spaces, outdoor spaces, places for people to work and think. I found myself envious of what these students were doing and where they were allowed to do it. Grant Heir is doing amazing things for these students, teaching artists how to write and how to expand their artistic vision into the written word. He is amazing as is his program.

The reading was a reading of the new generation of California poets, but I was able to leave my detective writer's mark all over the campus. I have business cards with information on my upcoming book from Oak Tree Press. On the otherside I have the words "Murder Is Easy" in huge type. I left these about.

The reading itself was a thrill. These poets are some of my favorites. I use their work when I teach poetry, and it was an honor to share a stage with them.



At the end of the night, Grant asked me to list my favorite poets. I never emailed him back, but I wanted to give him my list of living poets. Why promote the dead? Here's a SHORT list of the poets whose work I love, Grant: everyone who was on stage with me, Gerald Locklin, Billy Collins, Lloyd Aquino, Sharon Olds, B.H. Fairchild, Michaelsun Knapp, Michael Torres, Ted Kooser, Thomas Lux, Scott Noon Creley, Elder Zamora, T. Anders Carson, Clifton Snider, and . . . ah what's the point of going on. There are so many many many. Let me point out though that Luke Salazar's new book is exceptional. He's the one standing to my right.

And I've been working on promoting and paying for the SGV Lit Fest (sgvlitfest.com). We had an evening featuring a number of my favorites at my house -- Luke Salazar, Clifton Snider, Sergie Smirnov, Jo Scott-Coe, and Charlotte San Juan. All great writers and much pasta was consumed by everyone. Everyone donated, everyone had fun. If the festival will be great it is because of these wonderful people.



And the fund-raising goes on in the weekends with the poetry classes that I've been teaching. It's amazing to see the growth people can make in just 4 lessons so far. The only sad note is that with Marta Chausee's recent move, she hasn't been able to make it.



Finally, the two readings at Whittier College. They've been using my poetry book down there -- East of Los Angeles -- and it's such a thrill to read to people who know your work. They were insightful and interested. Only two of the many were English majors, but they all were interested and focused. My parents went to Earlham College in Indiana -- Whittier's sister school, and I found myself jealous of them. Small class sizes with professors like Scott Creley and Tony Barnstone to give them individual attention.

So that's what I've been doing for the last two weeks and it's been exhausting by fun. As an extrovert, meeting people and reading my work is what I love to do. It's great to see my name in a magazine, but seeing people actually reacting to my poetry or fiction charges me.

Well, this has been a long blog post, but I wanted to leave you with a question to reply to or think about. For me, writing is about making a personal connection, letting people know that we're all in this together, and the best place I can do that is in a reading or meeting someone face to face. What is writing about for you? No wrong answers here, just different ways of seeing the same thing.

12 comments:

  1. LOVE THE BLOG BUDDY!! In my line of work we say you have been "grinding." I think you being an extrovert is you being you and it works. Keep up the good work. Looking forward to MANN OF WAR!!

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    1. Thanks man! It's the way I make my living too.

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  2. Marta C. wasn't able to post a reply, so she sent it to me. Here it is: love your extrovertedness. it is contagious. sorry to miss yet another poetry class. at least I'll be pounding away on the keys at the Julia Morgan Ballroom on the fifteenth floor of the Mercantile Exchange Building in San Francisco for the NaNoWriMo Night of Writing Dangerously. I look forward to attending your class again soon and then being named, after a time, or a few times, at least, as one of your favorite poets.

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  3. Writing for me, at some level, is about taking something normal and trying to make something extraordinary out of it. You think there's not a story in the act of buying butter? Well, maybe not, but if you can write it, then you found something that other people missed.

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    1. That's great! You're finding the magic of the everyday to make the mundane beautiful. What's surprising about that is that your every day life as an archeologist must be fairly amazing.

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  4. John, extroverts are by no means shallow. They are by nature performers, and performers are by nature complex, aware, sometimes needy, often generous, usually honest, sometimes embarrassingly honest, and usually aware of the ways other extroverts perform. (When they're not paying attention to other people, they're perhaps really self-absorbed introverts posing as extroverts.) What I've said may not be true, by the way. But we extroverts often toss out the first thing that comes to mind, and that's how we explore the many facets of truth.

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    1. That seems to describe me pretty well (except for the introvert part), and I'm often saying things that are wrong, but I always try to correct myself when I do. We're out on the edge in conversation, always.

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  5. Thanks John for this post, being an extrovert does not mean that you are egocentric, we are outgoing people. We love to hear and interact with others. Not saying that there's anything wrong with being an introvert. Keep on writing those amazing poems and I'm looking forward to reading Mann of War (congrats). Hey John, if you were an introvert we wouldn't see you all over the place. Augie

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    1. True Augie. We extroverts gain energy by talking to people, and the more we talk, the more energy we get. It's strange to the introverts and I can see why.

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  6. Good, extroverted blog, John, though I was rather hoping you'd work it into one of your vlogs. As a teacher, I'm extroverted; as a writer, I suppose more introverted. Once the writing's done and I send it out, or read it somewhere, I'm probably both extro and intro. A bi-vert?

    I'm not a poet but I know so many of them, including Billy Collins, who spends time out here in the Hamptons and teaches in the summer conferences at Stony Brook (University) Southampton, my alma mater. I have some of his books, all autographed, and after a reading this summer, I told Billy that his poems are best (for this listener) when he, and only he, reads them. So he told me about a collection taped at Symphony Space in NYC -- and I bought it through Amazon. It's in the disk drive of my car right now. I've actually read at events out here with the current and past poet laureates of Suffolk and Nassau counties -- and they were kind about my poems!

    I'm rambling but your post has brought out the extrovert/braggert in me, I suppose. This is a community community of artistic people, including the famous, and I feel privileged to meet so many of them.

    John, I think it's time I set up the blog! So much to say. Thanks for your input re that during the past week.

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    1. As a teacher you should talk. I would love to see Mr. Collins work. He's one of my favorites, and so insightful and funny. Just wonderful. I'm sure your poems were great too, I'm sure. Good writing is good writing and it translates well from form to form.

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