Dire Series: A haven for writers
By Ann Collette / Correspondent
Wednesday, November 26, 2003
Dire Reader series a boon for unknowns
To your great delight, your book has been accepted for publication. Heart hammering, you anxiously await the appearance of its brightly colored ads splashed across the pages of magazines and newspapers, followed by numerous reviews, then phone calls from reporters eager to interview you. You check your calendar, wondering how you'll fit in requests for readings from bookstores and libraries. And just how much should you sell the movie rights for?
But in the world of publishing today, little, if any, of this ever happens to the overwhelming majority of authors. Every year, publishers throw hundreds of book out into the marketplace without any promotion whatsoever, leaving them to sink or swim on their own. Newspapers have radically cut back on the amount of space given over to book reviews and the arts in general and, unless you're famous for one reason or another, reporters aren't interested in you and your book. What's a writer supposed to do?
"When I first started trying to promote myself as an unknown author, I had a difficult time finding venues that would support me. I started the Dire Reader Series because I knew that others, like myself, were in the same boat," says author Tim Gager, creator of the eclectic, rowdy reading series. Officially known as the Dire Series, because of "a dire need for a 15-minute open mike," the Dire began in February 2000 at the Cantab Lounge. "But we got kicked out because the series didn't generate enough of a bar tab. I got the name of the Out of the Blue Gallery from a poet I know and approached owners Tom Tipton and Deb Priestly about renting space there monthly. We moved to the gallery in August of 2000, and that's when the Dire really took off."
Held on the first Friday of every month, the Dire Series offers not only readings by established authors, but also gives unpublished writers a chance to read their work in front of a receptive audience. "I always try to get a mix of local writers with outside ones, and up-and-coming writers with established ones. Publishers know I run this event, so they send me announcements about new books. And I'm on all the spamming lists, so finding established writers to read is no problem. I just call their house and talk to them, rather than go through a publicist. For everyone else, sign up for open mike starts at 7 p.m.; by 7:30 p.m., the six open mike slots are closed. The first open mike reader begins around 8 p.m., and the featured writers, who always have a book out, start at 9 p.m.," says Gager. "The open mike readers are usually really good. Sometimes they're already published and want to try out something new. If they aren't published, then they usually are good enough to be so. And freedom of speech means no limits are put on the content of what they read. As for the established writers, they've been so nice and treated me so well, I'd run through a wall for them."
Gager, a one time "closet poet" who now has one published book of poetry, "The Same Corner of the Bar," one short story collection, "26 Pack," and another story collection due to be published in February 2004, to his credit, acts as host and emcee for the series. "The space fits about 50," he says, indicating the vibrant, funky gallery room, its walls covered floor to ceiling with eye-popping paintings and sculptures. "I set up the chairs, greet all the guests, serve refreshments and do all the intros. There's a donation of about four or five dollars, but otherwise, there's no charge. Writers appreciate the chance to come out of their hermit shells, which is why people like Sue Miller, Elizabeth Graver and Tom Perrotta like to read here. It's a lot of work, what with the flyers, calling newspapers, and e-mail list. Sometimes I feel more like a carnival barker than a writer," Gager says, "but it's a lot of fun and I enjoy a good party!"
The series and the jazzy, kinetic gallery have proved to be such a good match that the Cambridge Arts Council recently funded "Out of the Blue Writers Unite," a soon-to-be published anthology of poetry and prose from the Out of the Blue Art Gallery readings. "All the writers donated their material," Gager says, "and already we're taking pre-orders for the book."
Like most writers, Gager, 42, has a real-world job, and acts as service coordinator for the Department of Mental Retardation. He's also working on his first novel. "But as long as they keep coming, I'll keep doing Dire."
Dec. 5, 8 p.m.
106 Prospect St.
Open mike followed by feature acts:
Joe S. Harrington, Sonic Cool and M. Elaine Mar.