Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Stories shared in the slipstream

Me, before the beginning.
PANAMA CITY — Writers and listeners and artists gathered Saturday at Floriopolis in St. Andrews for an evening of stories and conversations. Part of the gallery’s exhibit, “The Space Between Words,” the readings were offered by writers who had been recognized in a related short story contest.

The Space Between Words is an art exhibit, a “living” art project, a short story contest, and a fundraiser for Floriopolis. The individual words of Tallahassee writer D.A. Robin’s winning story are being sold as tattoos, so that the story will live and breathe on dozens of people who can construct their own meanings from the words and combinations of phrases. Tattoos, by artist Adam Whitehead at Panama Fox, are $25 per word.

Some families are getting tats of words together, so they can all be part of the story. Even punctuation is for sale, and one woman I know bought enough periods and dashes from Robin’s story to spell her husband’s name in Morse code.

Heather Parker, at right.
“That’s more emotion and personal connection to the story than I expected,” Heather told me in an email. “People have pretty deep reasons for getting tattoos — committing to permanent body art. ... Even I am having to stretch my perception of who gets body art, and we’re all probably guilty of stereotypes when it comes to art.”

As the gathering began, two young women dragged to the event by their mother amused themselves with the lighted zoetrope and drawing “spots” for the Art on the Spot project. A Tallahassee woman sat nearby, hand-writing a scary story she was entering in an anthology later the same evening. Kids on skateboards drifted past the big front windows, and visitors and guests mingled.

Gary, about to read.
Tallahassee made a good showing, with a large group in attendance to support their friends and contest honorees, which also included G.L. “Gary” Dearman and Amy Topol. Dearman started the event with his spirited reading of his tale — which he joked he had titled “The Space Between Words” to curry favor with the judges — about the secret source of infinite stories.

Other readers included Craig Bush of Fountain, who read the preface to his newest novel, “The Forever Effect”; Samantha Neeley, reading her contest entry, “Epilogue for a Corpse”; and me, reading an excerpt from my serial novel, “Giants in the Earth.”

D.A. Robin
Robin read a portion of his entry, “The Boy and His Beach.” The full text will not be released or performed until the end of the exhibit’s tattoo component, so as not to influence the meaning of the words still for sale. Topol brought the house down with her emotional reading of “Flashback,” which was recognized as a story of distinction in the contest.

After the readings, the Tallahassee group strolled to Gracie Rae’s for a sunset supper and party on the deck overlooking St. Andrew Bay.

Dearman said he was jealous that we had a place like Floriopolis, as Tallahassee has nothing to compare with its interactive community focus. He also educated me about “slipstream,” a term for fiction that uses the surreal or strange (sometimes sci-fi or supernatural elements in an everyday setting) to elicit cognitive dissonance; I joked that my non-fiction sometimes had that effect.

Amy Topol, bringing the room to tears.
At least, I meant it as a joke.

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