Center for Creative Writing Wraps Up Spring Readings with Musician and Author Frank Portman

Frostburg State University’s Center for Creative Writing wrapped up the spring 2015 reading series with artist and author Frank Portman. Portman is best known under his pseudonym Dr. Frank and hails from San Francisco. He later moved to Berkley where he attended the University of California, Berkley. Portman is part of a punk rock band founded in the 1980s known as The Mr. T Experience. His music career ended up sparking his career as an author. Portman has written three young adult books: “King Dork,” “Andromeda Klein” and “King Dork Approximately.” Portman also has a blog named “Dr. Frank’s What’s-It”.

Gerry LaFemina, who saw The Mr. T Experience “years back,” has known Portman for a while and has read his books with his son. LaFemina said, “He makes fun of everything, including the Da Vinci Code” in “King Dork.” What LaFemina loves most about Portman’s books is that “it has personality, not just a voice.”

Portman’s reading was a lot less traditional because there are songs in his books that he would prefer to play. While he was trying to figure out what to read, he decided to play the theme song to his first novel, “King Dork.” “I wrote that song many years before I wrote the book,” Portman said after his performance. His agent was the one who persuaded him to write young adult books based off the punk rock songs he wrote prior to the release of the books.

Portman then introduced a song that is at the center of the main character Tom Henderson’s life in “King Dork Approximately.” Henderson is having difficultly playing and understanding the song, but he never gives up. The song is titled “O’Brien is Tryin’ to Learn to Talk Hawaiian,” and Portman himself still feels challenged by the song. Despite his self-doubt, Portman played the song flawlessly. Portman followed up the performance with a reading describing Henderson’s post “…finger-busting O’Brein session…” which lead to another song, “Down with the Universe.” This song was fitting for the overall theme of Henderson’s life because of its angst-filled lyrics. “Down with the Universe” mentions J.D. Salinger’s famous book, “Catcher in the Rye.” Portman included a section in “King Dork” in which Henderson detests “Catcher in the Rye.” Portman admitted that his editor wanted to cut this section, but he insisted that it stayed.

Portman also included a performance of a song from the Mr. T Experience called “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend.” This was possibly the song that lead to an agent believing Portman could write young adult novels.

Portman’s last reading was from “King Dork Approximately,” which featured more “book songs” which he would like to eventually compile into an album under the same name. Portman had to find a sixth song to write, so he opened up to a page of the novel and “The finger of doom landed on a phrase that’s a chapter heading that goes as follows, ‘High School is the Penalty for Transgressions Yet to Be Specified.'” This song summed up high school pretty well and included an extremely relatable lyric that states “The haves will still be hounding the have nots”.

Portman’s unconventional reading style made the event more engaging for the audience. He effortlessly made the audience laugh on several occasions. If anything, Portman made the event like a gathering of close friends because he was truly personable.

The Center for Creative Writing’s next event is July 23rd to 26th. The Nightsun Writers Conference features workshops taught by a variety of writers such as Allison Joseph, Tim Wendel, Karen McElmurray and Michael Arnzen. To learn more about The Center for Creative Writing, visit their Twitter and Facebook group.

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