VOTM: What's the most unusual experience you've ever had at a reading?
DUNN: You mean the time that the throng of frenzied admirers broke through the barricades and trashed Barnes & Noble, demanding that I read for longer, yet longer? Yeah. Right. That happens all the time... Well, there was the time that I was reading in Saratoga Springs, New York, with my friend Darin Strauss (who has since become wildly famous and successful) (not that I'm envious) (at all) (I mean not at all). He and I were the writers-in-residence at the New York State Summer Writers Institute, which has a faculty full of major stars of the literati.
So Darin is getting ready to go up first, and I look out into the crowd. Sitting there is William Kennedy of Ironweed fame and founder of the program, with his wife, Dana; Russel Banks; Jay McInerney; Binnie Kirshenbaum (used to head the writing program at Columbia); poet Henri Cole; Phil Lopate; Lee Abbott and the directors of the program. These people have been mentors and friends to me, but just then it hit me hard that, shit, they're each a major big deal in their own right, and I am about to read my measly stuff in front of them, which, in that moment, felt a whole lot different than just sitting around at the bar or in a workshop or over dinner or whatever, they were becoming veritable titans by the second.
Nerves seized me so hard I thought I could pass out. My not-so-brilliant solution was to literally run next door to the bar, down as many shots of Jack Daniels as I could manage in three minutes, and then run back to the bookstore. By the time Darin finished I was so drunk I don't remember reading, only that I did finish and that people clapped. I fear they were polite, alas. At any rate, not my finest hour.
SAMANTHA DUNN has written about music and pop culture for BAM and Music Connection, Raygun, and the old LA Reader. Her books include the novel Failing Paris (just reissued by AmazonEncore), and the memoirs Not By Accident: Reconstructing a Careless Life, and Faith in Carlos Gomez. Dunn co-edited the short story anthology Women on the Edge; Writing from Los Angeles. Meanwhile she has written (and still does sometimes) for the great gaping maw otherwise known as consumer magazines, like O the Oprah Magazine, Shape, Redbook, Ms., Men's Health, Glamour, Self, as well as for newspapers like the LA Times and the Orange County Register. She also teaches at the UCLA Writers Program and serve as the adviser for PEN Center's The Mark program.
Come see Samantha Dunn at Vermin on the Mount this Sunday, February 12 at 8pm at the Mountain Bar in L.A.'s Chinatown!