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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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!
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.