The festivities at the Silver Anniversary Celebration of theHudson Valley Writers’ Center will include recognition of Delauné Michel for her contributions to literary awareness. This event will be held at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown on Thursday, October 3, 2013.
Jo Ann Clark, the center’s executive director, said the evening’s activities will also include ceremonies honoring author Robert K. Massie and Jacob Burns Film Center executive director Stephen Apkon (an article about Massie and Apkon will appear on this site shortly), cocktails, dinner, silent and live auctions, live music and dancing.
In 1996, DeLauné Michel created Spoken Interludes, a gathering place for authors to discuss and read from their latest books as part of a dinner activity.
Typically, following a buffet-table meal, three or four authors speak and sign books afterwards. Programs are currently being conducted in Westchester County at RiverView in Hastings-on-Hudson with dinner catered by Chutney Masala of Irvington and in Los Angeles. Another series will be introduced soon in New York City.
Michel was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; she worked as a model beginning at the age of fourteen and modeled in New York City and Europe, wrote and performed a one-woman stage show, and appeared in episodes of numerous television shows including NYPD Blue, Judging Amy and the Gilmore Girls.
Her novels, Aftermath of Dreaming and The Safety of Secrets,were published by HarperCollins and she is working on a third book.
She started Spoken Interludes Next in 2000, an outreach writing program for at-risk children in inner-city schools or at juvenile detention facilities, and also organizes book drives for the benefit of underprivileged children. Michel is a resident of Irvington, has two young sons and is married to Dan Fried, a co-owner of H&H Photographers, an event photography firm, in Irvington.
Her illustrious literary family includes her uncle Andre Dubus, mother Elizabeth Neil Dubus and cousins Andre Dubus III (the author of House of Sand and Fog), prolific mystery-book writer James Lee Burke, and crime-story novelist Alafair Burke.
Spoken Interludes: Inspired by a Childhood Memory
Spoken Interludes was inspired by Michel's memory of nightly conversations at the dinner table with her family when she grew up in South Louisiana. As she relates, telling stories at the dinner table was a family ritual.
"Every night, my four older sisters and I would sit quietly, eating our dinner while Daddy told Momma about his day. We were expected to pay attention. We were expected to understand what Daddy did running the insurance company. But we were not expected to be part of that conversation."
"Then Momma talked about running the Arts Council or working on her Ph. D. or writing her novels and at this point, we were involved in some of these stories. Finally it was our turn. All five of us."
And let's just say that with four extremely verbal and intelligent older sisters, getting a word in edgewise was not an easy feat. So I didn't. At all."
"Then when I was 6, Momma and Daddy realized that I rarely-to-never spoke at the dinner table, so in an effort at equality and to keep me from becoming a future dinner-party-mute, they enforced a new rule: Every night, I would get my own time to speak. Ready? Go!"
"There I was: the youngest at the table, with the least schooling, the least experience and the least stories as it were, but with the time to talk. I cannot think of this memory without a visceral sense of my four older sisters' mouths clamped shut. And possibly being bored. Or indulgent. But regardless, I got to tell the story of my day. And I did. From the beginning. Because how could I tell them about the redheaded woodpecker at the park if I didn't tell them first how hard it was to decide which shorts to wear, purple or pink?"
"It never really got much easier to talk at that dinner table, and after awhile that nightly rule fell away so I either fought my way into the conversation or I didn't, but something amazing had happened. I was able to feel what it was to have the time and space to be heard."
"I guess it is no surprise that Spoken Interludes is basically a reconstruction of the dinner table. People come together, have a meal and writers tell a story by reading their work, which then inspires conversation between the writers and the audience," Michel says.
The program for the Silver Anniversary Celebration will begin on October 3 with cocktails at 6 p.m.
Tappan Hill Mansion is located at 81 Highland Avenue (GPS address: 200 Gunpowder Lane), Tarrytown, 914-631-3030,www.abigailkirsch.com
The Hudson Valley Writer’s Center is headquartered at 300 Riverside Drive, Sleepy Hollow (at the Phillipse Manor Metro-North train station). For more information about the dinner or the center, go to www.writerscenter.org or call 914-332-5953.
Photo: DeLauné Michel with her cousin André Dubus III, a participant in the Spoken Interludes book reading series. His novel House of Sand and Fog, an Oprah Book Club selection, was adapted into a 2003 Hollywood film starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly. Photo by H&H Photographers, Irvington, NY