Monday, June 30, 2008

More Sunday Reading

Confession: Yes, I read Parade Magazine, that goofy insert in the Sunday paper. I’m especially fond of “Personality Parade” (my main source of celebrity gossip) and the column by Marilyn vos Savant, who, if you don’t know, is in the Guinness World Records Hall of Fame for “Highest IQ.”

So she knows what she’s talking about when she wrote this: “Educators define four categories of vocabulary. Our reading vocabulary is the largest by far, followed by our listening vocabulary. Then comes our speaking vocabulary, which is much smaller, and finally our writing vocabulary, which is smaller still.

“Each category gets more challenging. To read, one need only recognize the word and comprehend its meaning in context. To speak, one must recall the particular word without prompting and insert it instantly into the appropriate context. That’s much more difficult.”

No wonder writing is so hard.


In a more intellectual section of the Washington Post, Jonathan Karp, publisher and editor-in-chief of Twelve, an imprint within the Hachette Book Group, wrote a piece about the future of the book. You can read the whole thing here, but here’s a hopeful note that novelists may wish to cling to:

“Many categories of books will be subsumed by digital media. Reference publishing has already migrated online. Practical nonfiction will be next, winding up on Web sites that can easily update and disseminate visual and textual information. Readers of old-fashioned genre fiction will die off, and the next generation will have so many different entertainment options that it's hard to envision the same level of loyalty to brand-name formula fiction coming off the conveyor belt every year. The novelists who are truly novel will thrive; the rest will struggle.

“Consequently, publishers will be forced to invest in works of quality to maintain their niche. These books will be the one product that only they can deliver better than anyone else. Those same corporate executives who dictate annual returns may begin to proclaim the virtues of research and development, the great engine of growth for business. For publishers, R&D means giving authors the resources to write the best books -- works that will last, because the lasting books will, ultimately, be where the money is.

“That's my hope, at least. As I said, publishing is a business based primarily on blind hope.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Guest in Progress: Debbie Levy

I recently asked a friend if she would be interested in writing a guest piece, and she thought she might like to write about the difficulties of balancing writing and life. As she was figuring out what she wanted to say, she queried some of her writer friends for their thoughts and was so taken by this response that she suggested this should be an essay in and of itself. I agreed, and am happy to share writer Debbie Levy’s wise insight on finding that magical balance:

As you know, Cheryl Aubin asked some of us (her writer listserv friends) about how we go about balancing writing and life. There are plenty of ways to answer that question. I shared with her one small discovery I’ve made over the past decade, during which I’ve published 18 books for young people and otherwise encountered the usual sorts of stuff women encounter, such as shepherding sons from elementary school to college, sharing a life with my husband, dealing with breast cancer, creating family dinners (yes, in our family, the dinners have probably been as important as fighting cancer), and helping parents with debilitating illnesses. Many writers, of course, have much more on their plates to balance. Around ten years ago I got a cat. Six years ago, a dog. Which leads to this:

On balancing writing and life, here’s one idea. Share your life with an animal. Seriously. A dog. A cat. A dog and a cat. Even if you are already sharing your life with a spouse, a child, an in-law or two, various siblings and cousins. Here’s why:

Writing is solitary. It’s solitary even when you are surrounded by the aforementioned spouse, child, etc. A dog or cat offers the steady, always-present communion that most of us humans haven’t quite mastered yet.

A writing life is full of rejections. The dog thinks you’re fabulous. The cat does, too; she just may not show her admiration as openly. Get a rejection; bury your face in the animal’s neck. It helps.

Writing is often meant to be read aloud. Sure, you can read your poem or essay or manuscript to yourself. I find it helps me hear better—helps me detect awkward or self-conscious or repetitive passages—if a set of eyes is fixed on me. As in, wide yellow cat eyes. Brown, soulful dog eyes. You can call a friend and read the work to him or her. You can inflict it on your spouse. But, in the early stages of a piece of writing especially, you’re mostly looking for your own reaction. Reading aloud to yourself in the company of your animal feels right. Try it.

Writers often sit around all day. Get out of the house! A dog will encourage you to do exactly that. All morning long, my chocolate Lab, Toby, sits around with me while I work. Every so often she’ll approach me with a face that means, “Ready yet?” No, not yet. A little while later, she’ll put her head on my knee. Not yet. When she starts poking my elbow with her wet nose, I know I really should get up and out. The cat—Zoe—doesn’t need to be walked, but she does often want the window open, so she can sit on the ledge, and that nice, outside air reminds me that there is a world away from my desk. . . . so you see, a cat can also get you out of your chair.

Dogs and cats bring a certain level of disarray into your life. The shedding. The drooling. The nails on the floor, on the furniture. The barking at nothing. The hairballs. I know, life is messy without animals, too. But there’s something endearing and even humbling, to me, about the harmless disarray of animals. Life is messy; balancing is messy. Embrace the mess. ~~Debbie Levy

About: Debbie Levy’s most recent books for children include Underwater (Darby Creek Publishing 2007), a middle-grade novel (for ages 9-12). Check out her web site,, to find out about her other books for young people. Debbie’s first picture book of poetry for children, Maybe I’ll Sleep in the Bathtub Tonight and Other Funny Bedtime Poems, will be out in 2009 from Sterling.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stories of Shame and Glory...

…and don’t we all have a few of those, especially the shame?

Green Mountains Review seeks stories about shame and/or glory for an all-fiction double-issue, "Shame and Glory," due in the spring of 2009. Details here.

Submissions should be postmarked between April 1, 2008 and January 2, 2009 and sent to:
Leslie Daniels, Fiction Editor
Green Mountains Review
PO Box 4558
Ithaca, NY 14580

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Reading on June 25

Just a reminder about my reading tomorrow:

Fiction writer Leslie Pietrzyk, author of two novels and many stories, will read from her work as a part of A Space Inside on Wednesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. at Riverby Books on Capitol Hill.

Now in its third year, A Space Inside provides a space where developing writers, lesser known voices, and the work better-known writers create between books can be heard. Monthly readings alternate between poetry and prose, but all readers are DC-based writers. All readings, which are free and open to the public, are hosted by Riverby Books with a reception following. Questions should be directed to series organizer, Monica F. Jacobe at

Riverby Books is located at 417 East Capitol Street, SE, just north of Eastern Market and four blocks east of the U.S. Capitol. A seller of used and rare books, they are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can be reached at (202) 543-4342. Please call for directions, if needed.

Homes for Novella Manuscripts

Betwixt and between…longer than a story, shorter than a novel. Here are some options for your novellas:

The Miami University Press Novella Contest

The novella form has had a long and distinguished place in American literature, and has triumphed in the hands of Herman Melville, Henry James, Katherine Anne Porter, Stanley Elkin, Cynthia Ozick, Jane Smiley, Toni Morrison, Philip Roth, Saul Bellow, William Gass, John Gardner, Andrea Barrett and Tobias Wolff, to name just a few.

As commercial publishers are driven more and more by marketplace concerns, novellas, by nature of their length, often fall between the cracks of short story collections and novels and wind up being published—if at all—not as individual volumes but as part of a collection of stories. Because the form is such a pleasure for readers and writers alike—short enough to be read at a single sustained sitting, but long enough to allow the writer greater freedom in character and plot development than does the short story—we are happy to present a rare venue for publishing individual novellas as stand-alone volumes.

Manuscripts submitted for the award will be read and evaluated by our creative writing faculty, all of whom are active publishing writers. The manuscripts will be read “blind;” in other words, all identifiers will be stripped from the pages before the manuscripts are read, and the author’s history of previous publication will not be available to readers. Each year a different member of our faculty will serve as the final judge and will decide from among the list of finalists submitted by the other readers.

Students, former students, faculty, former faculty, or anyone connected to Miami University will not be considered for the award. Though we believe strongly in the talent of those we have worked with and taught, we will do everything we can to assure that this prize is administered impartially, fairly, and without regard to association.

Miami University Press is a non-profit organization. Though we are requiring an entrance fee, we wish to make it clear that this money will be used to pay for the administrative costs of the contest, to help with the costs of publishing a book of high quality, and to allow each entrant to receive a copy of the winning volume. We want that book to be a pleasure to hold in the hands and to read. The winning volume will be distributed nationwide.

Submission rules and guidelines:

Entries must be postmarked by October 1, 2008.

Submit manuscripts, 18,000–40,000 words, with two title pages: one with author’s name, address and phone number, one without. Author’s name must not appear elsewhere.

Word count must be included on title page.

Winning entry receives $1,000 and book publication.

Reading fee $25, payable to Miami University Press. All entrants receive copy of winning book.

Mail to:
MU Press Novella Prize
English Department
356 Bachelor Hall
Miami University,Oxford, OH 45056

The Cleveland State University Poetry Center is pleased to announce the fourth annual Ruthanne Wiley Memorial Novella Contest.

One prize of $1000 and publication of the winning novella is offered for the best original novella submitted between April 1, 2008 and October 1, 2008.

Manuscripts must contain a minimum of 60 and no more than 120 double-spaced manuscript pages, not including front matter.

Manuscript pages should be numbered, and, if appropriate, include a table of contents.Include one title page with manuscript title, your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address.The author’s name should not appear anywhere else on the manuscript.Include a second title page containing the manuscript title only.

Clearly indicate on the outside of the mailing envelope “Novella Contest”.

Do not include a cover letter or biographical information.

Send multiple submissions in the same envelope, marked “Multiple;” entry fee must be included for each manuscript. Simultaneous submissions accepted; please notify us immediately if the manuscript is accepted elsewhere.

ELIGIBILITY: The Judge for the 2008 contest is Josip Novakovich. Intimate friends, relatives, current and former students of the Novella Contest judge (students in an academic degree-conferring program or its equivalent) are not eligible to enter the 2008 Novella contest.

Manuscripts that have been previously published in their entirety, including self-published, are not eligible.

Translations are not eligible.

Cleveland State UniversityPoetry Center – Novella Contest
Department of English
2121 Euclid Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115-2214

Monday, June 23, 2008

What I Read on Sunday

Some good reading in the newspapers:

~Suggestions for beach reads in the Washington Post. I thought it was amusing that in the sidebar, mystery writer Janet Evanovich suggested as her choice for a good beach read, “Maybe The Great Gatsby. It has something to do with the time. A lighter, happier time. My second choice would be Nancy Drew, for similar reasons.”

I'm always happy to see The Great Gatsby promoted, though one doesn’t often see it mentioned alongside Nancy Drew (which, yes, I spnet my fair share of summers reading, most memorably while sprawled in a treehouse)...not to mention that I don’t really think of the setting of The Great Gatsby as being “light” or “happy” beyond an illusory way. I mean, isn’t that part of the point of the book??

~Here’s a Washington Post report from the Middlebury College professor/writer Jay Parini, who was asked to teach the kids who trashed Robert Frost’s historic cabin about how and why poetry matters. (Mandatory attendance at the class was part of their “punishment.”) He discussed “Out, Out—,” about a boy who gets his hand cut off by a buzz saw and dies, and, of course, “The Road Not Taken.” As he saidto the kids: “’You are now in deep woods,’ I told them. They seemed confused. ‘If this isn’t a deep wood, I don’t know what is,’ I added. Many of them lit up.”

~I’m looking forward to the late July return of AMC’s fabulous TV show, “Mad Men,” and this article from the New York Times Magazine shows the obsessive brilliance of its creator, Matthew Weiner. He says, “I do not feel any guilt about saying that the show comes from my mind and that I’m a control freak. I love to be surrounded by perfectionists, and part of the problem with perfectionism is that by nature, you’re always failing.” Example: The ashtrays on the set are filled with a variety of different cigarette butts (since it’s the early sixties, all the characters smoke like chimneys)…AND there are lip circles of different lipstick shades on them! We should all aspire to such attention to detail in our work.

~ Finally, the history of the semi-colon here in Slate Magazine, with worries that it may be headed the way of the dinosaur.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Work in Progress: At Long Last, a Title!

I’m trying to work with my new computer, but it is not making things easy…it doesn’t seem to like my printer, refusing to play with it despite the fact that I actually managed to find the original installation CD, and it’s already kicked me off the internet once. I won’t even get into the strange formatting that it seems to favor in this peculiar new version of Word. So, this will be an adventure...

I had a dream/nightmare about my book last night, in which my agent sent out my book and told she would wait up all night to let me know who bought it and get back to me…of course in the dream I was waiting and waiting, but she never contacted me and wouldn’t take my calls.

On a more positive note, I thought I’d share the title I selected. (You may recall that finding a title became the source of a fair bit of obsession.)~~
The Arrival

Which I’ve taken from the following quotation which I’m using as an epigraph:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

These lines are from Four Quartets by poet T.S. Eliot.

Here’s the interesting part of the story: I have loved these lines for ages (though I had never actually read Four Quartets). In fact, these exact lines were pinned to my bulletin board in my old house for, oh, 10 years or so. When I first started thinking about titles, back when my book was just a little baby, I looked at those lines and came up with exactly nothing. So it was off on my quest to accumulate 300 title options.

Many people offered suggestions for titles and comments along the way—hoping for my $25 reward?—and I am exceedingly grateful to them. Richard Goodman, author of French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France and The Soul of Creative Writing, who wrote about titling here, came up with a wonderful list of ideas, and in general, checked in every week or so. At one point he suggested reading Four Quartets. I’ve always like Eliot and Richard is a smart guy and since I’d googled about every other odd and random option (Scottish poetry, architectural terms, Civil War terms, Lincoln quotes, etc.), I thought, Why not?

So I read the long series of poems online here, scribbling down ideas, overwhelmed by the wonderful language, and was startled to come across “my” four lines. I liked that they were about seeing something familiar from a different point of view, about a journey in which one arrived at a familiar place but saw it for the first time…sort of like my estranged family. But I didn’t see how they could work as a title: “The End of All Our Exploring” sounded like a bad MFA workshop story.

The poem was so intense, with such evocative religious undertones, that I turned to the best source for understanding complex works of literature…yes, Wikipedia. Hopefully their interpretation was somewhat based on scholarship…because when these lines came up, it was noted that they referred to the story of the Prodigal Son! Which my book was originally based on! At that exact second, The Arrival, with its simplicity and metaphorical possibilities jumped out at me.

So, thank you, Richard Goodman, for leading me to a place I had been and helping me to see it for the very first time. I guess a title is like love, you know it when you feel it.

And the Novel Goes To....

Congratulations to lucky reader P. Vincent of New York City, who happened to be the eighth person to write in, eight being the number my husband Steve picked at random for this highly scientific drawing. You will be receiving a free copy of Roxana Robinson’s new novel, COST, in the mail in the next couple of weeks. I’m almost done reading my copy, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have!

Again, thanks to publicist Lauren Cerand for making the book giveaway possible!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Your Last Chance...

…to be eligible to win a copy of Roxana Robinson’s new novel, COST, is today! Details are here—but you need to email before 5 PM EST!

Recommended Reading

I read a book last week that I thought was fabulous: Before I Die by Jenny Downham. It’s billed as a young adult novel, and older teens would probably enjoy it, but so did I.

Tessa (aka Tess), a 16-year-old girl in England, has terminal cancer, and decides there are a number of things she needs to do before she dies. She’s not especially saintly, so, among other items, her list includes shoplifting, doing drugs, and having sex. Of course, none of these experiences turns out exactly as she plans, but there are no sappy, moralistic lessons here—just some hard, life lessons.

Actually, that’s one of things I admired most about this novel: Tessa’s family and friends are complicated, and no one here is saintly. Dying is not much fun for anyone, and no one pretends that it is.

My comments thus far don’t do justice to how funny and charming the book is (yes…a funny and charming book about death!).

The book is told in the first-person, and Tessa’s voice is powerful and engaging, but being in the first person with a dying character can require a lot of Kleenex along the way. As you can imagine, there’s no happy ending, yet this was one of the most life-affirming books I’ve ever read, offering hope that death may our only true moment of serenity and peace.

I’ll quote the review in the New York Times that I read way back in October, the review that led me to this book: “I don’t care how old you are. This book will not leave you.”

Here's a great interview with author Jenny Downham. She notes, “I kept a diary for Tess whilst I was writing and every morning I started my day by writing the previous day’s entry. Tess read the paper and listened to the news. She went for walks. I began to see things through her eyes quite a lot because I knew I’d have to write her diary later. I spent hours and hours imagining how it might feel to be her.”

And here's the New York Times Book Review review that made me race off to buy the book (though I only just now read it).

And here's more information about the book. Race off to get your hands on this book!

Elmore Leonard to Be Honored at F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference

Here’s an exciting announcement in the “literary celebrity” category:

Popular novelist Elmore Leonard has been announced as the most recent honoree for the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award. Be sure to make plans to see Elmore Leonard in person at the next F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference on October 25, 2008. Stay tuned to the conference web site for details as they come.

Elmore "Dutch" Leonard is the author of 42 novels and countless short stories, many of them household names: 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty, Rum Punch (upon which Quentin Tarantino's film Jackie Brown was based), The Big Bounce, The Hot Kid, and 52 Pickup. Currently he is at work on his 43rd novel, Road Dogs, due out in 2009.

In being selected as an F. Scott Fitzgerald Honoree, Dutch Leonard joins an impressive group of talented authors. Previous award winners to accept the award at the annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference in Rockville Maryland, include Norman Mailer, John Updike, E.L. Doctorow, Joyce Carol Oates, Ernest J. Gaines, Edward Albee , William Styron, John Barth, Grace Paley, Pat Conroy, William J. Kennedy, and Jane Smiley.

Learn more about Dutch Leonard and his acceptance of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Award by reading this recent profile in The Washington Post.

More details about the conference are here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Book Giveaway Continues...

Don’t forget to send an email to enter the contest to win a copy of Roxana Robinson’s new novel, COST. Details are here, and please be assured that as a result of entering, no one connected to this blog will send Viagra spam to your email address!

My Reading Next Week

If you’re able, please join me at this DC reading:

Fiction writer Leslie Pietrzyk, author of two novels and many stories, will read from her work as a part of A Space Inside on Wednesday, June 25 at 7 p.m. at Riverby Books on Capitol Hill.

Now in its third year, A Space Inside provides a space where developing writers, lesser known voices, and the work better-known writers create between books can be heard. Monthly readings alternate between poetry and prose, but all readers are DC-based writers. All readings, which are free and open to the public, are hosted by Riverby Books with a reception following. Questions should be directed to series organizer, Monica F. Jacobe at

Riverby Books is located at 417 East Capitol Street, SE, just north of Eastern Market and four blocks east of the U.S. Capitol. A seller of used and rare books, they are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and can be reached at (202) 543-4342. Please call for directions, if needed.

Tips for Your Short Story Collection

Allison Amend, whose debut short story collection, Things That Pass for Love, will be published in October 2008 by OV Books, offers her suggestions for how to get your short story collection in publishable shape. Here’s a sample:

“Order matters. I do not cook. And I have never understood why you need to mix the dry ingredients together before you add the liquid ones. But it makes a difference. Similarly, the order of stories in a collection adheres to some alchemical rule. Just as a story that starts in the wrong place feels wrong, a collection that is out of order just feels off, which is all the excuse an editor, looking to winnow the pile of excellent manuscripts, needs to dismiss yours.”

(Link via Emerging Writers Network.)

Guest in Progress: Good News

Here’s some excellent news from Katharine Davis, who has written for the blog here and here:

Blogs and Serendipity

I’ve always loved the word “serendipity” and the concept—an apparent aptitude for making fortunate discoveries accidentally. Blogs are a great way for writers to stay connected and to learn things as I do almost daily right here at Work in Progress. In a posting earlier this spring, Leslie listed an opportunity for an artist in residence program at The Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida this October.

A moment of serendipity. I clicked on the link, and was immediately excited about the possibility of studying with a fine writer, Kelly Cherry, and to have time to work intensively on my new novel. The application deadline was less than a week away, but the dates in October worked for me, other than a dentist appointment and a few other pesky things that get in a writer’s way. Last week I got the good news that I was accepted.

I guess the moral of this story is to pay attention (a writer’s job), read this blog, and be open to serendipity! ~~Katharine Davis

Editor’s Note: Yay!!! We expect a full report upon your return!

About: Katharine Davis began writing fiction in 1999. Capturing Paris (St. Martin’s Press, May 2006) is her first novel. Recommended in Real Simple Spring Travel 2007, the novel was also included in The New York Times' (8-8-06) suggestions for fiction set in Paris. She is an Associate Editor at The Potomac Review. Katharine recently completed her second novel that takes place on the coast of Maine; it will be published in 2009. She can be reached through her web site.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Giveaway: Roxana Robinson's New Novel, COST

I was pleased to attend Roxana Robinson’s excellent reading last week. Her introduction to her new novel, COST, was so enticing that I dove into the book this weekend. I’m halfway through and am itching to finish. It’s a beautifully layered story of a family in crisis: Thinking she would spend the summer tending her mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and mending her relationship with her repressive father, Julia instead confronts her son’s heroin use. The writing is absolutely luscious, and the complex interplay between the generations is remarkable. Set in Maine during the waning summer days, this is a great choice for your summer reading…

…and now you can see for yourself with this opportunity to win a free copy! Thanks to the generosity of independent publicist Lauren Cerand (whose immense p.r. expertise I wrote about here), I am able to give away one copy of this fabulous book. All you need to do is send me an email with the word “COST” as the subject line and your name and full mailing address in the body of the email by 5 pm EST Wednesday, June 18. My husband Steve will pick a random, lucky reader to receive the book.

More info:

Read more about COST.

Roxana Robinson is the author of three earlier novels and three short-story collections, as well as a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, Best American Short Stories and Vogue, among others. She has received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. She teaches at the New School in New York.

Lauren Cerand is an independent public relations representative and consultant in New York. Her clients are a purposefully eclectic mix of creative professionals, and she specializes in generating initial buzz and building sustained attention for projects and individuals. She is often asked to share her innovative perspective on publicity and has spoken to audiences at Book Promotion 101, Mystery Writers of America, NYU's Center for Publishing, The (Downtown) Omaha Lit Fest, Penguin UK, Virginia Festival of the Book, Word of Mouth, Women's National Book Association, and the 20th Annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair (December 2007). In 2004, The Village Voice included her in its "Best of New York" issue.

She is the vice chair of the board of directors of Girls Write Now, "a nonprofit volunteer mentoring organization that has been matching bright, creative teenage girls from New York City's public high schools with professional women writers in the community since 1998." A Cornell University graduate, Lauren compiles "The Smart Set," a weekly round-up of cultural happenings for, and writes about art, politics and style at

Great Deal on a Great Journal

Save some money while reading excellent creative nonfiction:

Creative Nonfiction turns 15 this year, and to celebrate this milestone, we are offering new subscribers the opportunity to purchase our 15th year (3 issues of CNF) for only $15! Go here for more details and to take advantage of this offer.

Note: this offer is valid only until the Fourth of July.

Take advantage of this deal today and your subscription will begin with Issue 35--The Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2 (a $15.95 value alone), arriving in mailboxes later this summer.

This offer is available to U.S. subscribers only.

Poets Are Invited to Read at the Library of Congress

Poets, come to DC to read your work at the Library of Congress! Following are the guidelines for submissions to the 2009 Poetry at Noon Reading Series:

Guidelines for Submissions to the Library of Congress Poetry at Noon 2009 Series

Several Poetry at Noon readings, sponsored by the Poetry and Literature Center, Office of Scholarly Programs, will be held in 2009. To apply to read in the series, choose a theme below and follow these guidelines:

~Include a cover sheet with the theme as the title of your submission.
~List your name, address, phone number, and email address.
~You may apply to read in one or two of the themed programs if you have not read in the Poetry at Noon Series in the past three years [Please see the one exception made below for the May reading.]
~Select your theme or themes from the list. Submit two of your own poems and three by other poets (a total of 5 poems) on that theme. This constitutes one submission.
~Please be sure the author’s name is on each poem.
~Include a one-paragraph bio with each submission.
~Staple all pages together.
~Indicate on the cover sheet for which other theme you are submitting, if you are.

Spring 2009 Themes
February--"Love Poems" for Valentine’s Day

March--"Poems about Abraham Lincoln" This theme may be expanded to include poems about the events of his life and times.

April--Shakespeare's Birthday Reading@ [No submissions; just come and read from Shakespeare’s work.]

May--"Poetry at Noon 15th Anniversary Reading. If you have read for Poetry at Noon at any time in the past 15 years, you are invited to return and read a poem for this anniversary celebration. Please send us your current contact information.

Please Note: Regrettably, honoraria and travel funds are NOT available.

Send manuscripts to:
Patricia Gray
Library of Congress
Poetry and Literature Center
101 Independence Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20540-4861

Deadline Postmark: July 15, 2008
(Manuscripts will not be returned)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Guest in Progress: Jason Harper

I thought I was traveling far when in the autumn of 2005, I drove off to Wichita, Kansas, to teach for a month as the visiting writer in residence at Wichita State University. (When the director called me to tell me I got the job, she said, “You know, there are no trees here. Will that bother you?”) I survived and actually had fun (great fried chicken at a branch of Stroud's; excellent steak at Scotch and Sirloin [doesn't that name say it all?]).

Wichita is nothing compared to where Jason Harper, one of the students I met there, is teaching now: Sias International University in Xinzheng, China.

I read part of Jason’s wonderful short novel Yellow No. 5 in progress, and I’m delighted to see that not only has the book been completed, but it’s going to be published this fall by Another Sky Press.

While people may have given my East Coast, shiny patent leather boots a second look in Wichita (trust me, they’re fabulous!), that was nothing compared to what Jason has experienced in China. How does living immersed in another culture affect one’s writing? Read on for Jason's take....

I’ve had “minority” friends for as long as I can remember. I cringe when writing that word. Minority. It’s such an inaccurate word, a worthless word, a meaningless word, a word with so much classification and prejudicial power. “Discrimination” too.

To write “minority” and “discrimination” is uncomfortable, but to experience it is dreadful. Experiencing uncomfortable words is a painful way to learn about new things, to try to understand different things, and by analyzing and filtering these things through observation and writing can help develop a new perspective – a new eye – that helps a writer get a glimpse and feel what others see and feel.

Call it character development. It’s insightful; it’s torturous; it’s enough to make one cringe…

- - - -

Growing up in a middle-class neighborhood, the families living nearby varied from address to address, house color to house color, big to small. I classified the people in them based on whether they were kids or grown-ups, knew about Star Wars or not, whether they had a big, scary dog or a fat fluffy cat, or if they were (in pre-teen’s simple terms) nice or not.

But never if they were a “minority” or not (even though most were).

It’s always bothered me, this “minority” label, and as I grew older I’d become bothered by stories about the endless discrimination that accompanies that classification. Friends were friends! Skin tone was skin tone! Nice was nice…Race was meaningless to me; it didn’t matter how someone looked, it mattered how they were.

Throughout my life I’ve been lucky to have met many people and made friends with different addresses, various house colors, kids and grown-ups, who have big scary cats and fat fluffy dogs. The stories they’ve told me about the nasty looks, the unequal treatment, the outright discrimination they suffer on a daily basis enraged me, but I could never do anything about it or never fully understand it; I could only listen, fuming over something I did not comprehend. I could not grasp the gravity of their encounters because I’d never experienced it myself.

Until I came to China.

I teach academic and research writing at an international university south of Zhengzhou in Henan Province, and have experienced discrimination time and time again. Whether being obscenely overcharged at restaurants, hotels, department stores, street markets, taxis, and at convenience stores, getting aggressively cut in front of while waiting in lines, or suffering sneers and stares while walking with my Chinese friend Sparrow, I’ve come to realize what it feels like to be a minority and to be discriminated against.

I was very excited to move to China for many reasons, but one in particular was to have a diet of Chinese food. Not the buffets or the incorrectly labeled US-Chinese food (and often misspelled) “kung pow chicken” – but a diet of dishes from recipes centuries old, local cuisines in tiny shops, and exotic street food cooked and served from carts next to rickety rickshaws. Upon arrival, I eagerly hit the streets and restaurants as often as I could. Most menus were in Chinese, but occasionally I’d find a place that had a menu with English subtitles, mostly in cities like Beijing. Over time, I’d invite my new Chinese friends to dine with me, and they’d just ask for the regular menu. When comparing items of interest, I noticed the prices on my English menu were twice – and sometimes ten times – higher than the Chinese menus for the same dishes. To my astonishment, restaurant after restaurant had these English menu price increases, a practice that would be reprimanded in the US.

“This practice is common,” I was told by Wei Wei, a student in my writing class. “Keep your vigilance; you are a foreigner.”

As I got accustomed to the food here, I also became familiar with the economy and the going rate for many things: a 600ml bottle of Coca-Cola is 2.5 RMB (about 35 cents), a dinner including a medium-sized bowl of noodles with beef and vegetables, two pieces of shaobing (flatbread like a cross between a puffy pretzel and a pita), and a bottle of jasmine tea costs 3.5, .5, and 2.5 RMB respectively, or 6.5 RMB total, or $0.92 for dinner. A haircut here costs 5 to 10 RMB, which includes wash, cut, a wash again, and styling. I bought four Ralph Lauren oxford shirts (priced in the US around $100 each) for $42, and flew roundtrip to Shanghai one long weekend for $80.

But I had to learn these prices. Before I got a grip on the “system,” I was charged much, much more for all of those things. And why? Because I’m “a foreigner.”

Empty taxis often pass by me, even during the day, even in big cities, whether I wave money in the air to try to get their attention, or if I shout, or stand out in the middle of the road. Sometimes they pull over nearby, only to allow a Chinese person to get in. One evening, after a conference in Zhengzhou, two other American males and I tried to hail a cab. We were all in conference attire: ties, trousers, Ralph Lauren oxfords…but we still could not get a cab. And Peter is nearly fluent in Chinese. After over an hour, finally a cabbie stopped to pick us up. This also happened in Shanghai during my spring break; when I finally got a cab, the young driver (who spoke English) explained that it was because I am a foreigner.

Hotels are cheap relative to US economy, but when a Chinese friend books the room, it’s hundreds of RMB less, and some hotels will not allow me to stay even with a passport. If they do, they unabashedly charge me much more money with an apology for the “inconvenience” and collect my money with a smile.

Waiting in lines here is a nightmare, even for the populace. But I’m consistently nudged, wedged, moved around, dodged, flanked, and/or passed by. I remember waiting in line at a subway stop in Beijing, and a woman older than my grandmother jostled me around when getting on the train. When push comes to shove, foreigners are second-class.

A professor at Wichita State had spent some time in China a few years ago, and before I left, Dr. DeFrain mentioned that he often got stared at when he was in China. Not just started at, but ogled, and he went on to say that I’d have my photo taken (voluntarily or not) countless times. I didn’t believe him, but after finishing my first month here I’d been photographed and video recorded on cell phones and cameras countless times. Foreigners tend to draw attention.

This unwanted attention has also affected the people around me. Whenever walking with my friend Sparrow, she (and we) is/are the object of stares, glares, jabs, jibes, sneers, and an array of other harmful, hurtful, disapproving diatribes that are lost on me only by literal language translation, but not by their unspoken language. I can read their faces – and Sparrow’s – when she and I walk together in public. Sparrow quietly endures this, never telling me what they are saying, never explaining why they would say anything (even though I know), and never showing me how she feels about it all. She just purses her lips, sighs, then forces a smile and tells me it doesn’t matter. But it does matter to me, I know it matters to her, and it’s very clear that it matters to the people here, too.

I miss my “minority” friends. I often think of the stories they’ve told me about the nasty looks, the unequal treatment, the outright discrimination they’ve suffered on a daily basis, and it still enrages me. And although I feel I still don’t fully understand it; I can now listen and fume over something that I can, to some level, comprehend, and try to grasp the gravity of their encounters, because I’ve now experienced what being a minority is like myself.

I am a minority here. It’s unfair; it’s such a worthless word, a meaningless word, a word with so much classification and prejudicial power. I cringe as I type it.

Call it character development. ~~Jason Harper

About: Jason Harper is the author of Yellow No. 5, a short novel forthcoming from Another Sky Press. He has worked in several editorial positions, including as an editorial assistant at Passages North during his M.A. at Northern Michigan University, and was the managing editor of Mikrokosmos while earning his Creative Writing M.F.A. at Wichita State University. Harper has also written countless restaurant reviews and is currently compiling a collection of Chinese cuisine recipes while living and teaching academic and research writing at Sias International University in Xinzheng, China. Please see his web site for more information.

We Are Not Alone

The Washington, DC, area contains the nation’s fourth-largest concentration of artists, according to this Washington Post article:

“The Washington region has the fourth-highest number of artists among the top 50 metropolitan areas in the United States, trailing Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. More than 47,000 people -- out of a civilian workforce of 2.7 million -- work as artists in the Washington area, according to the study. By comparison, there are 140,000 working artists in the Los Angeles/Long Beach area.”

Of the DC group, 7,070 are writers.

And, maybe victory will be ours in the end: according to the article, “there are more working artists than lawyers in the United States.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Work in Progress: Yikes!

I will write more later (when I'm feeling less "jinxy"), but now it’s time to head off to the post office…to mail my novel manuscript to my agent!!!!!!!!!!! She’s traveling until June 25, so I will have plenty of time to freak out and stress out, and then freak out and stress out some more. For now, it’s amazing to contemplate that during my writing time this afternoon, I will NOT be working on this book!

From High Atop "Plot Mountain"

I was reading my June issue of The Sun magazine (one of my absolute faves) and laughed out loud when I got to this paragraph from an essay by Dana Wildsmith about surviving a rattlesnake bite (yes, usually a laugh-out-loud topic). Of course, the piece—which was quite wonderful—was about much more than rattlesnakes and is worth seeking out. (It’s not online, but here’s where to find out more info about The Sun, which is a unique magazine that accepts no advertising and, in my opinion, deserves our support for the great writing and the editors’ willingness to explore the darker corners in life.)

Anyway, here’s the part that charmed me:

“In my writing I have been primarily a poet, because my natural predilection is to notice what’s small, what’s close, what’s personal. I think of novelists as the CEOs of the writing world. I picture them standing on top of Plot Mountain, surveying complex vistas below and planning how to describe the view. Poets are down there in the valley’s remotest holler, cooling our feet in a tiny bend of the narrowest creek, thinking how nice the water feels. We look up, notice all those hot people in a field nearby, and call to them, ‘Hey, it’s nice right here, in this spot.’ And that’s where a poem starts.”

In the same issue, I also very much enjoyed the short story by Austin Bunn, "Everything All at Once,” and you can read the beginning of it here.

Roxana Robinson Reading Tonight!

Here’s where I’ll be tonight (thank goodness the heat has let up so I can venture outside!)...maybe I'll see you there:

A Reading with
Roxanna Robinson
7 p.m.
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008

She will be reading from her new novel, COST: a portrait of a family ravaged by drug addiction. Thinking she would spend the summer tending her mother, who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and mending her relationship with her repressive father, Julia instead confronts her son’s heroin use. COST is a Spring 2008 "Good Reads" Pick of the National Book Critics Circle.

Roxana Robinson is the author of three earlier novels and three short-story collections, as well as a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe. Four of these were named Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times, Best American Short Stories and Vogue, among others. She has received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. She teaches at the New School in New York.

More info on this reading here.

More info on Roxana Robinson here.

Writer = Thief?

This call for submissions sounds intriguing:

"Stolen Stories": A fiction anthology published by the Forest Publications, Edinburgh, UK

Never, ever trust a writer. They cluck and nod and listen and then, three months later, they splash your tragedy/foolishness/very embarrassing incident involving a raspberry jelly and a pair of warm curling tongs over the tawdry pages of a literary quarterly. We feel there is no shame in this. Quite the opposite: we believe this ugly fact deserves to be celebrated with all the pomp and hullaballoo we can possibly muster. Thus the Forest Publications, a nonprofit arts collective and publishing house based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is compiling an anthology of the finest stolen stories, the anecdotes and overheard conversations that simply demand to be told. We feel that it is time to be honest. This is where our ideas come from.

Submission Information:
Stories should not exceed 5,000 words in length and must — must — must be accompanied by a brief note that explains the nature of your theft. We would prefer that you did not steal from well-known TV shows or anything equally obvious. Send your stolen story to:*

*Note: That's the address with the submission request, but if it doesn't work, you might want to try, which looks like a more familiar email account to me...not that I'm any sort of expert.

Internship Available

Here’s a good opportunity to get some experience in the litjournal biz:

Relief: A Quarterly Christian Expression, a literary journal publishing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction is seeking enthusiastic, self-motivated, and reliable proofreaders/readers. Applicants must be proficient in grammar and computer applications and have access to a computer with Microsoft Word 2003 or later and (preferably) Adobe Acrobat. A background in literature, journalism, communications, or a related field is ideal. Must have access to the Internet and email. Payment is in copies and credit on our masthead. All positions are on a voluntary basis for those who are looking to expand their résumés and better understand the inner workings of a print literary journal. If interested, please send your current résumé or CV to

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Work in Progress: The Times, They Are A-Changing

As you may recall here, during the course of revising my novel-in-progress I decided to change the setting to a definitive one: the fall of 2000. I’d started the book so long ago that in some patches it was set in 2005ish, and other patches were more like 2008ish, and some were in no time period whatsoever. Additionally, I didn't to resolve some complications with everyone being their proper ages with their proper histories (i.e. I didn’t want the mother to have given birth to her children when she was 12 simply so she could have been a Beach Boys fan!), and a definitive setting would help that situation.

Anyway, the transformation on the setting details is now complete (yay!), and it was amazing to me the difference a few years made, especially in terms of technology. So, changing 2008 back to 2000 doesn’t seem like that great of a jump, but here are some of the things we now take for granted that my Google research showed me had to fall by the wayside:

--DVDs. Yes, there were DVDs in 2000 but not in the total saturation way they’re prevalent now. My character would not have been an “early adopter” in this technology.

--Ring tones. Now, to get a classic rock song into my book that sparks a memory in a character I had to resort to the old-fashioned radio, instead of just having a cell phone ring.

--Cell phones that are also cameras. Sorry, it was all cameras back then!

--BlackBerry. The technology existed, but people weren’t using BlackBerries yet. My high-powered business developer has to make do with a cell phone.

--Facebook/MySpace. Yikes! What’s a teenager to do?! I figured out something, but this might have been the biggest bummer and the most difficult technology obstacle to overcome.

--Broadband. Certainly not as common as now, so my poor characters are stuck in dial-up.

I had a scene that was flashback to 1984…oops, no fax machines in common use. Again, it’s the business guys who suffer. (How did people survive back then without all that instantaneous information, anyway?)

I also realized that in November of 2000, it would be impossible for my characters not to at least allude to the Bush-Gore election battle, so I had to throw in a few comments about that to sound realistic.

But here’s one I just couldn’t give up, maybe because it was at the end of the book, and maybe because it really doesn’t matter, and maybe because I needed one secret thing to remind myself that it’s a NOVEL, not a historical document: the studies that seem to indicate dark chocolate is good for heart health didn’t come out until 2003. But my characters seem to be especially prescient on this matter, quoting these studies in 2000. Maybe they should buy some stock in Google, too...or better yet: oil futures!

Should You Write About Your Kids?

I don’t have to wrestle with this one (no children), but I know that plenty of writers do. It’s a tough question: Do you write about your kids? Whatever you want? No matter how old they are? In this age of material-can-be-googled-forever-on-the-internet? Carolyn Parkhurst explored the question on the blog here, and now Emily Bazelon tackles the question in this excellent piece on Slate magazine: “Is This Tantrum on the Record?”

Here’s a sample:

“When I write about my kids, I'm not only thinking as their mother. I'm also thinking as a professional writer. Those two identities don't always align—they just don't. I like to think that when there's tension, I err on the side of protecting my kids' interests, steering clear of any material that's too embarrassing or private. But I don't trust myself to be the arbiter. My husband vets my pieces when our kids appear in them, and he objects when he thinks I'm exposing one of their faults. (He hacked away at this piece about our younger son's nail-biting habit and now reminds me of this news flash: The nails are in recovery.)”

Fitzgerald Short Story Contest

Speaking of F. Scott Fitzgerald, as I so often am, here’s the scoop on this year’s F. Scott Fitzgerald short story contest, open to residents of DC, Virginia, and Maryland. The contest is held in conjunction with the F. Scott Fitzgerald conference, an excellent one-day conference held in Rockville, Maryland. Please note there’s a separate contest for high school students as well.

The $25 fee for entering the contest is a little steep (in my opinion), but at least the prize money is good: $1000 and publication in The Potomac Review.

Here are the details:

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference, Inc. is sponsoring its 13th annual short story competition. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Contest is open to residents of Maryland, Washington D. C. and Virginia.

Send in your polished and unpublished stories of no more than 3,000 words. First prize includes $1,000, an invitation to speak at the 13th Annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference, and publication in The Potomac Review. Three runner-ups will receive $200 each. There is a $25 entry fee, and the deadline to enter is July 18, 2008.

In addition to the larger contest, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference, Inc. also sponsors a student short story contest. There is no entry fee, and the competition is open to all high school students who reside or attend school in Montgomery County.

The F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference, Inc. promotes appreciation for the literary arts and appreciation for the literature of F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of America's most celebrated writers.

The literary conference is held every year in Rockville, Maryland, the resting place of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The conference includes workshops and panels for writers of all skill levels. The organization's supporters include the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Rockville Cultural Arts Commission and the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society.

Visit the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference web site here for complete contest guidelines and more information, or call (301) 309-9461.

And be sure to make plans to attend the next F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference on October 25, 2008. You can learn more by visiting the conference web site.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fitzgerald in the News

Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley extols the virtues of Andrew Turnbull’s Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography in his “Second Reading” series, which he calls “the ideal literary biography.”

Here’s a quick peek at Yardley's must-read column:

“One final quotation, one of my favorites from a book that is littered with favorites. It comes very early on and is about Fitzgerald's father:

"‘That Edward Fitzgerald had been cut out for failure was not altogether apparent at the time of his marriage. There was an air of distinction about this small, dapper man with the Vandyke, the rich, well-cut clothes, the erect carriage, the leisurely gait, the manner courteous yet not without a twinkle. His looks were fine, almost too fine -- like a pencil sharpened to the breaking point. One would never believe that this well-moulded head and delicate, sensitive profile could be a mask for dullness or stupidity. And yet -- what sometimes amounts to the same thing -- Edward Fitzgerald lacked vitality. As his son said, he came from 'tired, old stock.' In him there lingered a Southern indolence or gentleness or possibly just fatigue, that made him unadaptable to the hustling Midwest.’"

On June 4, Matthew J. Bruccoli, one of the foremost Fitzgerald scholars, died at the age of 76. He was the author of more than 60 books about Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, and other writers. (My go-to edition of The Great Gatsby features his introduction and notes.) You can read his obituary here.

This passage spoke to me:

“Matthew Joseph Bruccoli was born Aug. 21, 1931, in the Bronx, N.Y. In 1949, while riding in the back seat of his parents' Dodge, he heard a radio dramatization of Fitzgerald's story ‘The Diamond as Big as the Ritz..’

“He immediately set out to find books by Fitzgerald, whose literary star had fallen in the nine years since his death.

"‘I managed, within a week, to find a copy of The Great Gatsby, and I haven't stopped reading Fitzgerald or The Great Gatsby since,’ he told NPR in 1996.”

Behind the Scenes on T.V. Shows

Here's an interesting piece about what life is like in the “writers’ rooms” of several popular T.V. shows. I am gratified to see that at one of my favorite shows, HBO’s “The Flight of the Conchords,” my beloved index cards are in prominent use:

“No standard dry-erase boards for the three writers of HBO’s ‘Flight of the Conchords’: James Bobin, who is an executive producer and director as well as writer, said they prefer colored index cards, hundreds of them. ‘I’m worried I’ll erase something and forget about it,’ Mr. Bobin said.”

For more on my feelings about the fabulousness of index cards, go here, here, here, and here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Guest in Progress: Richard Goodman

I’m excited every time I see a message in my email inbox from Richard Goodman—eagerly opening it to find some words of wisdom, encouragement about my novel revision, or—best of all—something new for the blog!

This piece made me laugh out loud, gasp in horror (4:30 AM!!!), and nod in understanding sympathy.

And if you’ve missed Richard’s previous submissions, please do check them out:

--Being mindful of readers
--titles (very helpful for the titling-impaired!)
--collections of letters
--the “audacity” of writing a writing book

While you’re at it, please also look into his memoir, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France (one of Steve’s faves), and his new book about creative writing, The Soul of Creative Writing.

Now…prepare yourself for--
By Richard Goodman

4:30 a.m. Get up and scream. Lower back out again from stress. Crawl to bathroom in advanced yoga position.

4:40 a.m. Go to living room. Wake up dog and beg him to brew me coffee. He declines.

4:50 a.m. Sit down at desk and fire up computer. Try to think of something to write to sell to pay this month’s rent. Instead, I go to personals and see if anyone has left a message for “Warren Buffettt.”

5:12 a.m. Read somewhere that Tennessee Williams began each writing day with a martini. Have no gin or vodka, so drink a half glass of milk instead, with an olive.

5:29 a.m. Begin memoir, “How a Gay Soccer Mom Found Love as a ‘Bloods’ Gang Member.” Decide it would be too humiliating to be unmasked on Oprah.

6:13 a.m. Wonder if a name change would help my career. Ponder the idea of calling myself “Giuseppe,” “Zorro,” “Curly,” “Fifi,” or “Cuba Gooding Senior.”

6:36 a.m. Decide to write novel entirely in fourth person.

7:14 a.m. Make a long, rambling speech about inflation to my dog.

7:34 a.m. Decide daylight savings time in an inherent evil foisted on the public by Michigan dwarves. Consider pitching it as a film idea.

8:01 a.m. Begin writing short story tentatively titled, “A Heartbreaking Work of Even More Staggering Genius.” Need to rest after writing title.

8:30 a.m. Check to see if my self-published novel, “The Angst Beaters,” has climbed from number 6,456,789 in sales. In fact, it has dipped slightly. Write glowing review for book and post it with signature, “God.”

8:55 a.m. Decide giving works titles before I even begin is a bad idea. Start writing novel with the working title, “Untitled.” Stare at page for an hour with no idea of what book is about. Abandon it.

9:55 a.m. Call agent. He asks for loan.

10:12 a.m. Call mother. She asks for loan.

10:32 a.m. Decide to take up blogging. Spend next hour thinking of titles. Consider “Read Me, I Beg You,” “If Jane Austen Were Alive, What Kind of Piercings Would She Have?” and “Me, Me, Me.”

11:32 a.m. Give up blogging when I discover I can’t figure out how to post my name, or anything else.

11:33 a.m. Decide to take a break. Surf websites looking for people with my same name who are wealthy.

11:43 a.m. Wonder if converting to another religion would open me up spiritually and allow my creativity to flow, or even trickle. Consider Hinduism, Sufism, Lunar Worship, and Cannibalism. Nothing clicks.

12:15 p.m. Decide to celebrate reaching afternoon with a glass of wine.

12:21 p.m. Lunch. Anchovies and generic cereal.

12:59 p.m. Watch clock shift to 1 PM. Note to self: Get quieter clock.

1:12 p.m. Get second wind. Decide to write biography of someone I hate, with idea that rage will motivate me.

1:23 p.m. Too angry to write.

2:34 p.m. Power nap.

5: 19 p.m. Decide to watch TV to research overall cultural zeitgeist and sociological trends. Turn on “Clifford, the Amazing Red Dog.”

11:19 p.m. Finish watching twelfth episode of “Law & Order” in as many channels.

11:59 p.m. Watch clock shift to 12:00 AM. Crawl into bed. Begin reading Sidney Sheldon novel with idea of becoming screenwriter tomorrow. Say prayers. Reach for pacifier. Fall asleep.~~Richard Goodman

About: Richard Goodman is the author of The Soul of Creative Writing and French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France. He has written for the New York Times, Harvard Review, Creative Nonfiction, Saveur, Vanity Fair, Commonweal, Ascent, Louisville Review and the Michigan Quarterly Review. He teaches creative nonfiction at Spalding University's Brief Residency MFA in Writing program. Please see his web site for more information.

A New Ambition

Want to win The New Yorker cartoon caption contest? (Confession: I do!) Here are some tips on Slate magazine from the current winner.

Writer's Center Open House

The Writer’s Center will be holding an Open House on Saturday, June 7: These events “have become a popular tradition, giving an opportunity for people to meet instructors, learn about our programs, become members, and register for the upcoming workshops. There's always a lot of great conversation as people start to talk about all that goes on here. We'll have light refreshments, a raffle, and a chance to meet new staff members who have been a great addition to the team here. We start at 12 noon, and wind down at 3 p.m (ish).”

Details are on the web site.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Report from Baltimore AND Current Events Poetry

Back from a weekend in Baltimore, where I accompanied Steve on a business trip. So…not as much freedom to explore Baltimore’s excellent eats, but I did have incredible veal marsala—the best I’ve had in Little Italy—at Caesar's Den (you have to love that Rat Pack-ish name!); luscious fried oysters at my favorite old-time bar—established in 1934: Burke's, where, yes, I was called, “hon” along with “sweetheart” and “baby”; and wonderful pierogis at Ze Mean Bean in Fells Point. Okay—and we also squeezed in Italian pastries from Vaccaro's. And Steve got the perfect crabcake from Faidley's, at Lexington Market. It seems that in spite of the scheduled business dinners, we did all right for ourselves….

Note: If you’re feeling hungry, both Vaccaro’s and Faidley’s ship their products!


Knowing the preponderance of news junkies in the DC area, I thought this call for submissions might be of interest:

Online Journal Seeks Current Events Poetry

THE NEW VERSE NEWS covers the news and public affairs with poems on issues, large and small, international and local. It relies on the submission of poems (especially those of a politically progressive bent) by writers from all over the world.

The editors update the website every day or two with the best work received.

See the website for guidelines and for examples of the kinds of poems THE NEW VERSE NEWS publishes. Then paste your submission and a brief bio in the text of an email (no attachments, please) to Write "Verse News Submission" in the subject line of your email.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Notable Writer's Center Classes

Here are two excellent classes being offered at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda. For a complete listing, and instructor profiles, please visit our web site.

Advanced Writing for Younger Children
A Workshop with Mary Quattlebaum meets 4 Thursdays, 7:30 to 10 p.m. starting June 5.

Want to move your writing project forward? This workshop offers guidance for those working on picture books, early readers, chapter books, magazine pieces, and poetry for ages 2 to 9. In addition to feedback, the short lectures, discussions, and in-class writing exercises may help you hone and better position your project for possible publication in today's competitive children's market. Open only to those who have completed "Writing for Younger Children" at the Writer's Center or a comparable workshop, or have instructor's permission. If you want feedback the first night, bring copies of your piece to the first meeting.

Alice Munro: Conning Lies: Turning History Into Fiction (or Poetry)
A Workshop with Judith McCombs meets 6 Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. to 1 p .m. starting June 4.

This is a workshop for beginning and experienced writers. Munro's recent View from Castle Rock and earlier "Wilderness Station" stories are based on family history; going back seven generations to her impoverished Scots ancestors, Munro fuses what is known with imagined realities. We will examine how the first-person narrator-guide establishes her credibility; how omniscient mind-reading, authorial comment, and multiple points of view reveal unvoiced dreams, hidden loves, secret arts, community beliefs and customs; how allusions, time jumps, back-formations, recurring themes and images give Munro's stories depth and resonance. We will pay close attention to how stories that do so much can open up new possibilities for our own stories and poems. Students can bring in their own historic/creative fiction or poetry, or ones suggested by exercises.

Details on both classes--and other exciting offerings--here.

Monday, June 2, 2008

While the Cat's Away...

Actually, I am away playing, hoping these blog entries are automatically entered… And speaking of cats: I wouldn’t normally mention a contest that has a (small) fee without a cash award, but, well…how often does a contest for writing about cats come up?

And I suppose this is an appropriate time to mention that I’m becoming kind of addicted to LolCats: I Can Has Cheezburger, which, oddly, strikes me as the FUNNIEST thing I’ve ever seen. But I guess it’s an acquired taste, so I won’t hold it against you if you think I’m crazy.

And here’s another good one: Kittenwar!

Back to cats as they relate to writing:

Fireside Publications of Florida announces a contest for short stories about cats. Deadline for contest entries is: June 30, 2008. The following rules must be followed exactly:

The complete story must not exceed 3,000 words; please use your computer word counter; not an estimate.

Every page must have a header in the upper left-hand corner consisting of the author’s name/the title of the story. Example: Smith/My Story.

Pages must be numbered in the upper right-hand corner (numeral only). All material must be typed, double-spaced. Use 12 point New Times Roman typeface.

Content: Any story, true or fictionalized, about a cat or cats.

Include: A cover sheet with complete contact information: Name, address, telephone number, email address

The complete story in hard copy and on a read/write disk (Microsoft or Word Perfect).

A check or money order for $2.00 (two dollar) registration fee made out to: Fireside Publications

No material will be returned, so DO NOT send an SASE for its return. Material not chosen for the book will be destroyed.

Do NOT request a signature for delivery of your material.

A list of the winning entries will be posted on our web site. Winners will have their stories published in a Cat’s Short Story Book (to be named after all stories have been selected). Twenty to twenty-five winners will be selected. Each winner will receive a complimentary copy of the book. Winners must expect their material to be edited as appropriate for publication (spelling, grammar, punctuation, and inappropriate phrasing or words where necessary). Winners will be announced by the end of August 2008.

Submit your entry as soon as possible to:
Cat Short Story Contest
Fireside Publications
1004 San Felipe Lane, Suite 200
The Villages, FL 32159


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.