Every seat in the house and then some were filled for the first installment of Halfway There! The Red Eye Cafe brewed up cappuccinos and served brownies, Margot from Watchung Booksellers set up a table of our authors' books, and we watched in awe as people arrived, becoming the audience we hoped would materialize. The room of college students, a local writing group, family members, friends and literature enthusiasts proved what we suspected was true: Montclair is the perfect home for a reading series.
Series host, area resident and fiction writer Apryl Lee introduced the evening. (Make sure to mark your calendars for our season closer, June 13th, when Apryl will be one of the readers, sharing her own work!) Series co-founder Nicole Haroutunian read first, a slightly shortened version of the story "Vandals," from her collection Speed Dreaming. Next up was new Maplewood resident Abby Sher, who told a moving story about how attempting to serve a dog poop sandwich to her rabbi actually brought her closer to adulthood. Abby charmed the audience into joining her in a call-and-response to the tune of Duran Duran's "Girls on Film." Last was Montclair resident Matthew Thomas, who read a passage from his beautiful, complicated novel We Are Not Ourselves. The scene he chose--a husband and wife going to see the Christmas window display at Lord and Taylor--was exemplary of the tension, humor and empathy that characterizes his book.
After the readings, Apryl led a Q&A session, asking first about the readers' connection to New Jersey and then about their thoughts on the work-life balance. Matthew explained that what many people think are New Jersey's detriments are actually among its best qualities, using the liberal anthem "Born in the USA," lamentably co-opted by the Right Wing, as an example. "It's green here!" he insisted. Abby shared "The Pomodoro Technique," which employs the use of the common tomato kitchen timer to enforce a writing schedule. In response to an audience question about voice, Nicole talked about accepting that hers is consistent across stories. Once described as "diffident" by a detractor, she said that she actually embraces that term now; her characters are diffident--so what?
The event concluded with more conversation and book signings. You can buy the authors' books in person at Watchung Booksellers, or online here: