Best 50th Birthday Ever – Literary Death Match, Orlando Ep. 4

When Adrian Todd Zuniga invited me to read at the world-renowned Literary Death Match on November 15, how could I say no?  I mean, what better way to spend your 50th birthday than at a FREE birthday party where you have an audience and get to read with some stellar writers? I was in, baby!  And perhaps the best reason of all to be involved is that our local Burrow Press, founded by publisher Ryan Rivas, benefitted from ticket sales.  LDM was held at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater in Orlando.


Pre-Literary Death Match Frivolity –   Glendaliz, Adrian, Chrysanthe Mum, Moi, Ama, Cody, and Kay

Literary Death Match has been called “the most entertaining reading series ever” by the LA Times, and this event has been touted as being “like a reading meets American Idol meets Double Dare.”  I’ve seen two Literary Death Matches and now participated in one, and I can tell you that’s true.  So if you ever get a chance to go to Literary Death Match, do it!

The other readers blew me away.  Glendaliz Camacho, the current Writer in Residence at the Kerouac House (where Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums), memoirist Ama McKinley, whose birthday is also November 15, and Trevor Frasier, who managed to keep his job at The Orlando Sentinel despite its parent company’s (the Tribune) tendency to fire fine people, and who is a creative writer with a land planning graduate degree, all read pieces that informed and entertained.  Bravo!  (See my bio below.) One of the things I most love about reading competitions (I’ve also read in Jesse Bradley‘s “There Will Be Words” slams three times) is the camaraderie that develops among the writers.  We’re in competition in name only.  The goodwill and admiration we share makes me feel like the world isn’t so bad, no matter what.  And you know what the what is.

Thank you to the audience who sang “Happy Birthday” to Ama and me, substituting the line “Happy Birthday ending in zero” for the line “Happy Birthday, dear ____,” which suited us both.


Thou shalt love thy judges and host, and Glendaliz and Ama as they wait for their verdict

Our fine judges represented the diversity that is Orlando.  Kay Rawlins, Co-Founder, Vice President of Community Relations, and Foundation President of Orlando City Soccer Club, judged the category of Literary Merit.  Chrysanthe Mum, drag queen, hairstylist, and host of SHEnanigan Saturdays at Stonewall Bar, judged the category of Performance.  Cody Bush, who works in finance and is a dedicated improviser at SAK Comedy Lab, judged the category of Intangibles.  They were funny, and they were kind to us all.


Trevor and me, doing the beauty pageant “The tension is too much to face alone” pose as Adrian entertains the audience with literary tales

Ironically, a couple of hours before LDM, I had hives down one leg, which I thought was an intangible that could work to my benefit– because I was reading my piece, “I’m Allergic to Being Allergic.”  But they went away, which bummed me out.   (In their place came a sinus headache that threatened to become a migraine.  Thankfully, it didn’t.)


The one, the only Ryan Rivas, founder and publisher of Burrow Press

I respect Ryan Rivas so much for his vision and determination in starting up Burrow Press, who has published some fine writers, including Vanessa Blakeslee and Philip F. Deaver.

And wow, what luck a reading competition is.  At the end, it was apparent that “This competition is tremendous, folks.  Yuge.  But it’s rigged.  It’s rigged, folks.  Believe me.  That’s what people are saying.  I have tremendous respect for the people who say it’s rigged.  Nobody knows Literary Death Match like I do.  I know it better than Adrian Todd Zuniga.”  Well, I have to agree.  It must have been rigged.  On my birthday, in a red dress that matched the medal, I won when we all deserved the medal because we’re all winners.  But I’ll take it.  And take it I did– running out the door in case someone thought there was a mistake.


The most lightweight piece of the night, “I’m Allergic to Being Allergic”

Actually, it is luck.  I’m not sure I’m supposed to reveal exactly how the show ends, but I can tell you that there is a zany competition involving two teams.  My team was losing, losing, losing, but like the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, we pulled it off at the last second.  Thrilling!





Hail, hail, the gang’s all here: Kay Rawlins, Adrian Todd Zuniga, Cody Bush, me, Chrystanthe Mum, Glendaliz Camacho, Trevor Frasier, and Ama McKinley– founder and host, judges, and readers of Literary Death Match, Orlando Episode 4.  (Except where was Ryan Rivas?)

About Suzannah Gilman: I am the author of a poetry chapbook, I Will Meet You at the River, the mother of four adults, frequent traveler, and a licensed attorney who represented victims of domestic violence under a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. My poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction have in such in such publications as The Florida Review, Pearl Magazine, Calyx Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Pearl Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Slow Trains, The Cafe Review, and The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.  I compete in flash fiction slams, winning every one I’ve entered– so far. I won Literary Death Match, Orlando Episode for on my 50th birthday.  Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize for my poetry, I now concentrate on blogging for The Gloria Sirens and writing fiction.


What Do You Remember?

To remember: to be mindful about one’s past, with intensive force.

To be mindful:  to go to your wild places, savor life, and write. (This definition is by Lisa Lanser Rose.)

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This month, we Gloria Sirens are devoting ourselves to some of our best-loved words. As you will see, I don’t always go with the grain, but this rant does turn to praise.   


“Mindful” is one of the words that rub me the wrong way. It seems to be timid; I am not. It seems to be pale green, the color of wispy sprouts grown by a slight person in his or her perfectly-behaved organic backyard garden, each tender organism painstakingly planted and growing at a measured pace; I am not pale, I’m not green, I’m not perfectly behaved, I am probably up to my knees in chemicals, not that I’d care, and I don’t need anyone to take care of me. This word seems to be minding its own business; I’m a curious cat and a natural gossip. This word and I have nothing in common, so it’s not surprising that I don’t like it, not even as a friend.

 Read more

The Gloria Sirens on Life Improvement Radio

Recently, Tiffany Razanno, Chief Goddess of Wordier Than Thou, southern correspondent of Publishers Weekly, and Gloria Siren extraordinaire, interviewed the four editors of The Gloria Sirens– Lisa Lanser Rose, Susan Lilley, Katherine/Katie Riegel, and me about the inception and purpose of the Sirens, how we share the work of running a blog, how someone can become a Siren, and what is in store for the future of The Gloria Sirens.

The Gloria Sirens Interview by Tiffany Razzano – January 2015 on Life Improvement Radio

Critic’s Cap: How I Approach a Book for Review or Manuscript in the Judging Process

My friend Vanessa Blakeslee received the Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs in 2013 and was a judge on the Literature Fellowship panel this year, 2014.  Vanessa explains what a judge or editor is looking for in manuscripts.  Worth the three minutes!  Vanessa hits all the points, and she is concise.  


Critic’s Cap: How I Approach a Book for Review or Manuscript in the Judging Process.

A Vera of One’s Own – A Different Way of Explaining the VIDA Count

A Vera of One’s Own – A Different Way of Explaining the VIDA Count.


From The Atlantic, this intriguing look at the proposition that perhaps what is keeping women writers from enjoying as many publication credits as men is the lack of submissions by women (seems like a tired argument; right?) and that the reason for the lack of submissions is every writer needs a Vera; that is, a Vera Nabokov, who served her husband and his career in myriad ways so that he could get a lot of writing done and get it published.  Not many men would be willing to give up their lives in order for their women to be successful writers.  There are, of course, exceptions.  Edna St. Vincent Millay and Virginia Woolf are named in this article (Amy Tan and Rita Dove spring to mind as women of our time whose receive remarkable support from their husbands so that they can write) as are some contemporary writing couples and the way they share responsibilities to benefit their careers.

Writers I Want To Kiss on the Face(book)

Karissa Morton’s blog on how we should support one another hits home with me. She writes:
It doesn’t take much to open someone’s link & read a poem he or she is proud of. It takes even less to click “like” or make a congratulatory comment, to metaphorically say, “Hey, I see your achievement in this tough, competitive world!” If we’re really a community, let’s engage like one.

Alec Baldwin Speaks for Men and “The Ladies”?

by Suzannah Gilman

Reblogged from The Gloria Sirens.


For “The Big Question” in their April issue, The Atlantic asks “Who is the greatest fictional character of all time?”   Alec Baldwin brings all his sensitivity and intelligence to bear on this question, as you will see below, by speaking for everyone, not just himself, and by recognizing a difference in the sexes.  Gag.

You can read all of the responses online at The Atlantic here.


(Try not to cringe at the unequal representation of women, both as commenters on the question and as writers whose works are cited in their answers.)