In the past few weeks, several important events occurred and is leading me on this terrific, ever-exciting journey as a writer, in a more legitimate and real sense. As I have expressed before, writing online and being anchored to reality is quite different. Online, there is a sense of secrecy, a sense of disconnect, and also the freedom to express the self – which is all great. But the force that propels the writing dream and the career forward does not just whirl around in virtual airspace, but it must take physical form and converge into currents of actual day to day life. When the dream and creative energy meets history and happenstance, it becomes miracle and a deep part of us.
Going in reverse chronology, on Monday night (October 27th) I had the chance to do a live reading and presentation from my novel Espresso Love at the cozy Murakami-inspired Windup Bird Cafe (which I wrote about on my first visit). Sunday night (October 26th) was our second Toronto Wattpad Meet Up for staff, writers and readers that I organized and hosted. And a week or two ago, I was interviewed by the co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian for an episode on Wattpad in a documentary series. Details are as follows.
Shine & Dine at Windup Bird Cafe
This is the video of my reading at the cafe:
I quite obviously need practice – this was my second time reading live to an audience. (Third, if my first Youtube recording counts.) It was a nerve-wracking experience but a friendly and fun one. Contrary to thought, presenting with a powerpoint and reading in front of a hundred or so people last time was easier than Monday night. Perhaps as no one had any expectations about the content of my presentation then. In this case, it was most certainly a literary event among several talented student writers and in front of the experienced. On the reading menu were three poets: Sophie, co-founder of untethered magazine; Taylor, my friend whom I invited and subsequently forced to read; Sara, from Guelph. And there was my delivery of the edited excerpts from Espresso Love, some, I think paid well enough homage to Murakami. For dinner, there was a three-course meal with soup, main course and dessert and discounts for students and 50% off for readers (woohoo!) The owner of the cafe, Sang Kim, I must compliment once again for his innovative vision, flexibility, openness and passion for working with the community as always.
I was scheduled to be last on the reading list, so I was sitting there the whole time somewhat nervous. Had the chance to meet the organizers who I had been corresponding with via email in person, which is always that fresh feeling of connecting the virtual and pure creative passion into physical reality. My friend, Taylor, was reading for his first time, so on the other hand, he was probably more nervous than I. It was also by chance, something like a birthday dinner (my birthday was the Friday) and I was blessed to have three other friends who took time out to join and support me. Them being commuters, meant even more to me.
When I was introduced, I felt out of place, because my credentials are probably a bit overboard and navigating the lines between professional and humility is tough most of the time. These things are part of me and my experience, and comparatively are not that great among the circles I am part of, but yet, depending on the context, it will bring about a different frame of reference. Here lies a major difference between the virtual and physical reality. Nevertheless, I come from a public speaking and performing background and so I was still comfortable enough and hope I appeared that way. I think what really affected my reading ability the most were the lights on the stage. They bore intensely at the speaker, and quite rightfully so. Stages are stages. But my glasses seemed to catch the light rays and painted tantalizing and dazzling effects on the lenses. I ended up watching those most of the time and read from my iPad. The audience of course was a little difficult to see. It was a cozy occasion, with around 20 or so people. The cafe as I had described before, is brushed with warm colours and dim enchanting lighting, with a European flair, and aside from the Wattpad office, could very well be my ideal second home.
My readings that night were from “Golden Child” (the usual), “Intellectual Property” (the usual) and “Hole in the Ground” (which are sections that I don’t normally read). I stumbled probably once per excerpt, which were edited out of the video of course… Which gives me a sense of urgency to master the art of reading out loud. How can I perfect my excerpts in tone, articulation, expression and achieve 100% accuracy? I kind of want to adopt a British accent. (LOL). Perhaps I will figure it out one day.
Below are pictures from the event. Thanks to Diana Manole and Justin for organizing the event and Sang for providing the venue. This is the Shine & Dine event which is open to submissions from student writers/readers if you’re interested.
That said, Espresso Love is in the Wattys Award so be sure to give it a share with friends, family, teachers, whoever and votes http://espressolove.tk
Wattpad Meet Up
The night before that on Sunday (October 26) was our Wattpad meet up! We manage the account @TorontoMeetUp where we have links to event organizing threads and the FB group, as well as post up after-event information such as journals and thoughts, photos and games/activities/exercises. Here is a write up I did for it:
@TaylorGGibbs @trollNickU @NickUskoski @theawesomewasabi @Jing_Jing @AlexM94 @Joflower @MaajaWentz @therealshazza @vesalisa @MathiasDos @Kevin @brewedinbeauty @Kaisareur @theOrangutan @unbrokenworld @Sepherene
I was really quite happy the turn out was rather immense and we had about 18 people – many of whom were new faces. Among them, several came as readers – formerly “silent” readers – as well as a particularly young member. A few, I already knew personally, whom I converted to Wattpad, and a few from the last meet up! This brings together a whole variety of personalities and ideas in convergence. It was great to see the courage and the leap of faith everyone must have taken in order to come out, often from far off places via long car rides or commutes all the way downtown to the Wattpad HQ and hand their fate to me as the organizer so to speak, as well as the smiles on everyone’s faces as we connected with people of the same wavelengths and common interests – to help people find community is one of my greatest passions.
Meet Up Run Down and Description:
It was free-flowing, action-packed, and community-building. The programming of the event really wasn’t planned or set in stone, it was meant to be improv’d and I think it went well enough. I didn’t have too much of a clue what I was doing. Originally I was hoping for something real informal and mingle but I thought the beanbags and couches would be more relaxing. So at about 5PM, we gathered around in a circle there but then I realized it looked more like a meeting! We introduced ourselves, had snacks and tagged everyone’s usernames in a Wattpad message blast as per tradition, and had people join the growing group as time went on – one of which the famous TheOrangutan and super fun guy from the UK! Despite the fact that it was slightly a formal introduction, improv is improv, and it would only make sense to break this formality by a large group picture at the Wattpad Tree (of published Wattpad books and Wattpad titles on leaves) in the kitchen area.
Afterwards, along with a premise that we would be thinking of spooky Halloween scenarios to write a short story about we embarked on an office tour as per tradition. For many it was the first time there, and for people like me, it felt like a second home. Nick should be a professional tour guide. At times, I was piping up reminding about things because I must have been pretending I was staff too. Of course we saw the decrepit old-school elevator and the ping pong room, the Wattpad graffiti and the shower, etc. With all matters settled, armed with markers, we signed/doodled the office Meet Up wall, and played Cards Against Humanity + Wattpad edition, to the disgust and laughter of many. Here are some tame ones I remember: “If you join our Beta program, you’ll get priority access to spectacular abs.” “Office productivity has been negatively impacted by idiots playing a card game.” “We commissioned one of our most famous Fanfiction writers to compose a story about George W. Bush”
We finished up around 6:50 and headed off to a cozy dinner and conversations at a pub/grill nearby. The place was really massive and had pool tables, bars, and many empty tables of vintage wood textures. The lighting and atmosphere was incredible. As if we had entered a detective film or a secret tavern for club members. With a few beers and I had a Shepherd’s lamb pie, we also tackled deep philosophical conversations about literature, politics, history, societyl, life, the world and so on…. It felt like many of us hadn’t had a great intellectual conversation with people on the same frequencies for a long time and it was wonderful to see everyone connect. It made me feel blessed that I could’ve been a part of forming this community. Our numbers eventually dwindled at around 9 and we called it a night – except for two who went for another (few) rounds of drinks.
Needless to say, it was an event of a grand scale of fun, humour and energy, lots of bouncing around and movement and meaningful exchanges. Thanks to everyone for coming out and making this happen.
After the meetup I felt inspired to:
I think it is a given that everyone was inspired to, rather, has homework in writing a Halloween short piece for our @TorontoMeetUp account based on a scenario we imagined happening at our Meet Up. Other than that, I feel inspired to find a way to encourage really personal friendships amongst local Wattpadders while still doing bigger community-building events – we will need different kinds of events as we go on for the future. I believe we may need to form small quick pop up events like a coffee shop meet and retain large Wattpad HQ events for occasions.
There will be more info coming when the episode is released but I did have the honour and privilege of being a part of a video interview at the Wattpad HQ about writing and the experience on Wattpad. Here’s a selfie with Alexis Ohanian of Vox Media, The Verge and the co-founder of Reddit to commemorate:
Some last updates:
What We Talk About When We Talk About Wattpad
I have started a Wattpad guide entitled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Wattpad” no doubt after Carver’s collection of short stories for no real literary reason. But I will be sharing how to Wattpad successfully via my hopefully unique insight, philosophies, thoughts and experience on psychological marketing strategy, positioning and gaining a following on Wattpad.
Clair De Lune
For Halloween, my opening short story for the Wattpad Meet Up is also in my short story collection, titled “Clair De Lune” after Debussy’s piece which features in it.