This weekend i attended a conference in Baltimore, where one of my favorite authors/people was speaking. i shamelessly weaseled my way into one of her sold-out workshops by offering to bribe her, had a total fanatic-fan moment (there may be a restraining order later), and learned more about the dog-eat-dog world of writing and publishing erotic fiction. (Which i will never DO, but want to SUPPORT so i can still READ it. In bed. Under the covers. Giggling.)
On the final day, i got the ultimate opportunity to hear her read an upcoming, as-yet-unpublished, new short story.
i think i cried.
It was an awesome weekend.
There is NOTHING like seeing someone you admire up close and personal and learning how they work their craft. You shouldn’t pass up any opportunity you have to pick the brain of someone you admire as a mentor.
Even if they don’t know you.
Even if you have to find out where they are speaking, fly the 2400 miles, hunt them down on social media and send them an unsolicited email offering them $200.
And a not-too-small ongoing monthly Patreon subscription.
Because, stalking, my friends, is the new networking.
And no, she didn’t accept my money, because she has CLASS.
(Reality check: i don’t actually HAVE $200, but would have sold my soul or my body or both to get it.)
Even though she refused my oh-so-not-subtle offer to buy her, she DID find the offer and my zealotry amusing (and a little creepy), so out of curiosity, agreed to lunch.
And to let us in to the workshop.
i may or may not have peed a little.
i also did become a Patreon, and you should too if you love Laura’s books. (We are on first names now.)
(While i’m thinking about it, become the patron of any author you love who has a Patreon account or any sort of subscription/donation support system. Because these hard-working authors are not getting paid what they are worth in this day of everybody-can-become-a-famous-writer-as-long-as-it-involves-virgins-seduced-by-millionaires-with-bondage-fetishes-and/or-sparkly-vampires, and if you want them to keep on writing what we love to read, we’ve got to step up. Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…)
Fiction-writer fanaticism aside, i did find myself with some unscheduled time outside of hunting down famous writers, so decided to learn more about what makes Baltimore a tourist destination and guess what? It’s another famous writer.
It turns out, one of the claims-to-fame that Baltimorians are super proud about is being both the living place and the death place of Edgar Allen Poe.
i was told his must-see grave was an easy half a mile from the hotel and totally worth the 15 minute walk.
So here is what i learned on the internet about it while sitting in the hotel’s air-conditioned bar with a glass of hard cider:
According to the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore and the even MORE believable Wikipedia, Ed bounced around a bit but his final years were spent in Baltimore. A few days before his death in October of 1849, he was found wandering the streets, possibly drunk but definitely delirious, and for some reason, in someone else’s clothes.
i’d like to think the “someone else” was female. A cross-dressing, dramatically drunken gothic Edgar, staggering to his death in a piss-stained dark back-alley seems perfect for the disturbed and moody author of The Raven. Nevermore, Edgar! Alas! Nevermore!
(By the way, i googled images for “cross-dressing Edgar Allen Poe” and you should too. You may or may not get a cigarette case decorated with an artist’s rendition of Poe spanking a naughty girl in garters with a raven on her head. Here. Yay for Etsy.)
He was found and taken to a hospital where for 4 days, he kept repeating a name no one knew and then finally died, never becoming coherent enough to explain what happened to him. (A convoluted form of electoral fraud called “cooping”, where the person is finally killed, is one suggested cause of death but i’d put my money on “too much bad things in one body”.)
For a guy who wrote the Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, and The Masque of the Red Death, this could be a gothic and mysterious ending to a gothic and mysterious guy except he was also a well-known late-stage alcoholic, married his 13 year old cousin when he was 26 and might have had cholera, epilepsy, rabies and syphilis.
Life as an addict sucked back then too.
The details of his life are fascinating and confusing. His actions were unpredictable and the reports about them conflicting. Yet, for as nutballs as his life and death story is, his after-life story is even nutballier.
It seems his bones were just thrown in the ground and left there – like all rabid, drunken, incoherent, syphilitic, dying cross-dressers’ bones are – because for 11 years they rested in an unmarked grave overgrown with weeds.
Now, Poe had been estranged from his biological family for most of his life. However, Poe fans (who i imagine as wasted, hairy chested drag queens in heavily beaded ball gowns swooning and passing out on top of his weedy grave) couldn’t stand for this less-than-royal treatment of their hero (heroine?) and eventually alerted a cousin who, totally embarrassed, exhumed the remains, moved them to Poe’s family plot and quickly commissioned a headstone to be made in 1860.
For ease of transportation, the headstone yard was located right near a railroad line and in a truly coinky-dink mishap worthy of a Monty Python movie scene or the birth of a conspiracy theory, a train derailed and plowed into the yard, missing all the stones except – yep, you guessed it – our friend Edgar’s. His completely finished 3-foot marble headstone was smashed to bits. The front of the stone had been inscribed in Latin and read: “Here, at last, he is happy. Edgar Allan Poe, died Oct. 7, 1849”. The back, also in Latin read: “Spare these remains.”
The illustrious conductors of the Northern Central Railroad may know a lot of things, but Latin does not seem to be one of them.
At that point, the cousin called it good and for 5 more years, Edgar remained stone-less. Then, in 1865, a movement began to collect money for a new headstone. This was largely led by the Baltimore Public School’s Teacher Association and based out of the Western Female High School. The school held events and sold tickets to student poetry readings where donations were solicited. Little by little, the funds piled up until a generous gift in 1874 sealed the deal and the new stone was commissioned.
Finally, in 1875, Edgar had a headstone! It only took 25 years and was accidentally engraved with the wrong birthdate but it was DONE, by golly! It was also so big that both Poe and the stone had to be moved out of their family plot and to a different corner of the graveyard for aesthetically-pleasing reasons – but at LEAST it hadn’t been smashed by a train! At long last, devoted cross-dressing Poe fans had a gothic edifice to fling themselves on in dramatic, drunken swoons.
Later, the bones of his long-dead cousin-wife and her disapproving mother (Poe’s aunt) were also exhumed and moved to be with him . So…yay?
In 1910, yet another headstone was created, but this time it was to mark the less-than-pretty place in the back of the churchyard where Poe was originally buried with his family, even though they were estranged most of his life.
However, when it was erected, somehow it was put in the wrong spot, completely outside the family plot. When the mistake was noticed, it was quickly moved to another spot in the graveyard, but this one wasn’t quite right either. It has never been moved again.
Conspiracy theorists, ghost hunters and possibly gossiping queens alike believe it is because this seemingly “wrong” spot is where Poe’s body really is, and the dude they moved to the fengshui spot up front was just some other unknown sorry sack who now gets to shack up with the ex wife and the aunt for all eternity while Poe lies alone (and probably finally peacefully) in the weird no-man’s land grave away from the entire fam.
Cuz that’s where the story (and my cider) ended.
i never did go see that grave. Graves. Monuments. Whatever.
i DID however, get to follow LAURA around some more and tell her again how fabulous she is.
And i went to the aquarium.
Where i saw a shark with two penises.
But that’s another story.
OH – and i totally stole that first header pic and can’t find the artist, so if you figure it out, please let me know so i can buy them a hard cider.