Tuesday, March 30, 2010

More on Surviving AWP

As follow-up to my post last week, writer/editor Brent Winter added a few more suggestions for surviving the AWP conference, which starts next week:

* You'll get a printed schedule at the conference, but it's worth your while to pick out the sessions you want to go to ahead of time. The full schedule is already available online, so print it out now and peruse it when you have time (on the plane if you have to). Pick an A session and a B session for each time slot. And if a given time slot has no sessions you really want to attend, then great! Time for a nap, a walk, or the liquid refreshment of your choice.

* Bring a notebook/netbook/other note-taking technology, and take notes on the panels. You'd be surprised at the nuggets of wisdom that can emerge from unexpected places.

* Go to some readings by (or Q&As with) writers you admire. The writers chosen to do such events are typically good performers, so you're likely to enjoy it on that level; but I also believe that sometimes we can derive benefit just from being in the presence of people who are further down the path than we are.

Writing Contest for College Students

Here’s a no-fee contest opportunity for undergraduate writers:

The Susquehanna Review has extended its deadline! We understand that this is a busy time in the school year and would like to give students who haven’t yet submitted the opportunity to do any last minute revisions and send in their work. The new submission deadline is April 10, 2010.

Please send your submissions to sureview@susqu.edu You can find our complete submission guidelines and excerpts from past submissions at http://www.susqu.edu/academics/9810.asp

The Susquehanna Review is Susquehanna University’s nationally distributed student-run literary magazine. It annually features works of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry written by the most promising undergraduates in the United States. Their creative talent has helped make ours one of the most diverse undergraduate literary journals in the country. And SU Review is once again open for submissions.

Not only are we looking to publish the best undergraduate writing, but this year SU Review announces the launch of the Gary Fincke Creative Writing Prize, awarding a $100 prize to the Best in Poetry and Best in Prose. There is no submission fee to enter this contest – all submissions are automatically under consideration and all students (except those currently enrolled at Susquehanna) are eligible. Please forward this information on to your students of creative writing. We look forward to their contribution. Please don’t hesitate to email us if you have any questions.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Short (very short) Fiction Contest

NPR is holding another three-minute fiction contest. The judge is Ann Patchett, the deadline is April 11, and the rules (including the four words that must be included in your story) are here. Good luck, and think very short…three minutes = 600 words!

Dylan Landis & Joanna Smith Rakoff to Read on 4/1

This event was postponed during The Great Snows of 2010…here’s take two!

Thursday, April 1 at 7:00pm
Arts Club of Washington
Literary Evening with "Rising Stars" Dylan Landis and Joanna Smith Rakoff

On Thursday, April 1, the Arts Club of Washington will host Dylan Landis and Joanna Smith Rakoff, two of our brightest contemporary talents, to celebrate their works of debut fiction. Readings will be followed by a question and answer session, then a light reception and booksigning. This free public event is part of an ongoing series at the Arts Club.

DYLAN LANDIS is the author of the novel-in-stories Normal People Don't Live Like This, a Newsday Best Book of 2009 and finalist for the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Landis, a former newspaper reporter, has published stories in Bomb, Tin House, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Honors for her work include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Poets & Writers Exchange Award. She lives in Washington, DC.

JOANNA SMITH RAKOFF is the author of A Fortunate Age, one of Booklist’s Top Ten Debut Novels of 2009—a winner of the Elle Readers’ Prize, a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and a Barnes and Noble’s First Look Book Club selection. She has written for many publications including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Vogue; her poetry has appeared in The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, and other journals. She lives in New York City.

THE ARTS CLUB OF WASHINGTON is at 2017 I Street NW, near Foggy Bottom/GWU and Farragut West metro. Headquartered in the James Monroe House, a National Historic Landmark, the Club was founded in 1916 and is the oldest non-profit arts organization in the city. The Club’s mission is to foster public appreciation for the arts through educational programs that include literary events, art exhibitions, musical and theatrical performances.

For more information, please contact:
Sandra Beasley
ACW Literary Chair
Or visit www.artsclubofwashington.org

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Work in Progress: Tips for Surviving AWP

The AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) conference is fast approaching. This year the circus will be descending upon Denver, and I doubt that city has ever seen so many angsty writers roaming around.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the spectacle that is the AWP conference, the official definition seems rather bland in comparison to the reality:

“Each year, AWP holds its Annual Conference in a different region of North America in order to celebrate the outstanding authors, teachers, writing programs, literary centers, and small press publishers of that region. The Annual Conference typically features 350 presentations: readings, lectures, panel discussions, and Forums plus hundreds of book signings, receptions, dances, and informal gatherings. The conference attracts more than 8,000 attendees and more than 500 publishers. It’s one of the biggest and liveliest literary gatherings in North America.”

In reality, it’s a world onto itself, and to help the uninitiated and even the old pros, here are my suggestions for survival in this unique environment:

Wear comfortable shoes, at least most of the day. There’s lots of traipsing around long hallways and the long (sometimes uncarpeted) aisles of the book fair. It’s also inevitable that the one panel you really, really, really want to see will be in a teeny-tiny room and you’ll have to stand in the back…or sit on the floor; see the following tip:

Wear comfortable clothes, preferably taking a layer approach. Wherever you go, you will end up either in A) an incredibly stuffy room that will make you melt, or B) a room with an arctic blast headed. Bulk up and strip down as needed. Also, as noted above, the AWP conference staff has a knack for consistently misjudging the size of room required for a subject matter/speakers (i.e. Famous Writer in room with 30 chairs; grad student panel on Use of Dashes in Obscure Ancient Greek Poet in room with 300 chairs), so you may find yourself scrunched into a 2’x2’ square on the carpet; see the following tip:

To avoid being stuck sitting on the floor, arrive early to panels you really, really want to attend. If you are stuck on the floor, hold your ground with a big bag and/or coat to get yourself some extra space. Whatever you do, do not be nice and squeeze over…those panels can seem VERY LONG when someone’s knee is wedged in your ribs.

If a panel is bad, ditch it. Yes, it’s rude. Yes, everyone does it. (Be better than the rest by at least waiting for a break, but if you must go mid-word, GO.) I can’t tell you the high caliber of presenters that I have walked out on, but think Very High. Remember that there are a thousand other options, and you have choices. The only time you you have to stick it out is if A) the dull panel participant is your personal friend or B) the dull panel participant is/was your teacher or C) the dull panel participant is your editor/publisher. Those people will notice (and remember) that you abandoned them mid-drone and punish you accordingly (i.e. your glowing letters of rec will instead incinerate). Undoubtedly this is why I have never been published in Unnamed Very High Caliber Magazine, having walked out on the editor’s panel.

Someone will always ask a 20-minute long question that is not so much a question but a way of showing off their own (imagined) immense knowledge of the subject and an attempt to erase the (endlessly lingering) sting of bitterness about having their panel on the same topic rejected. Don’t be that person. Keep your question succinct and relevant. Maybe even write it down first, before you start to endlessly ramble, because, you know, you’re a writer. And yes, if you are “that person,” everyone will mimic your annoying question to their friends in the bookfair aisle, and your career is over.

Don’t ever say anything gossipy on the elevator, unless you want the whole (literary) world to know it. Do listen up to the conversations of others on the elevator, and tell your friends what you’ve overheard over your offsite dinner, embellishing as necessary.

Same advice above exactly applies to the overpriced hotel bar.

Support the publications at the bookfair. Set a budget for yourself in advance, and spend some money on literary journals and books and subscriptions, being sure to break your budget. Do this, and then you won’t feel bad picking up the stuff that’s been heavily discounted or now being given away free on the last day of the conference. But, please, do spend some money!

Just because something is free, you don’t have to take it. Unless you drove, you’ll have to find a way to bring home all these heavy books/journals on an airplane. Or you’ll have to wait in line at the hotel’s business center to ship them home. So, be as discerning as you can when you see that magic markered “free” sign on top of a pile of sad looking journals, abandoned by the grad students with hangovers who didn’t feel like dealing with their university's bookfair table.

It may be too late for some of you, but it’s inevitable that you will see every writer you’ve ever met in the aisle of the bookfair at some AWP or another…so I hope you were nice to all of them and never screwed anyone over. Because, yes, they will remember, and it’s not fun reliving all that drama as the editors to The Georgia Review gaze on.

Escape! Whether it’s offsite dinners/drinks/museums/walks through park/mindless shopping or whatever, do leave at some point. You will implode if you don’t. Have fun, everybody!

More tips? Send them here.

Laurie Strongin Featured in the Washington Post

It’s great to see Laurie Strongin—who wrote for the blog this moving essay about the process of writing her new book, Saving Henry, about her son—featured today in the lead piece in the Washington Post Style Section. Yay!


In October 1995, Laurie and her husband, Allen Goldberg, became parents to a son, Henry. In addition to being adorable, their firstborn was afflicted with a disease called Fanconi anemia. Sometime in early childhood, Laurie and Allen were told, Henry would suffer bone marrow failure and die. They were offered a shard of hope for his survival: a genetic test that might enable them to conceive another child, who could provide a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

Soon after hearing about this radical undertaking -- sometimes called a "savior sibling" -- Laurie and Allen were in. More than that, they were willing to talk about their efforts, to advance the debate about genetic testing and "designer babies." Laurie has now enlarged the conversation with a memoir, "Saving Henry”.

Read on here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If Cal Ripken Were Big on Reading: The Streak

Here’s a charming New York Times article about a father and daughter who read to each other every day for more than nine years in a row! They started the tradition of "The Streak" when she was in fourth grade, and it continued until she left for college:

“Like all earth-shattering acts, there was more to The Streak than met the eye, although for years it was unspoken. About the time The Streak started, Kristen’s family shrunk from six to two in a year’s time. Her two surviving grandparents died. Her sister, who is seven years older, went off to Yale. And her mother left her father. “It was just the two of us,” Kristen said. “The Streak was stability when everything else was unstable. It was something I knew would always be there. People kept leaving me, but with The Streak, I knew that nothing would come before The Streak. …”

Monday, March 22, 2010

VCCA Report, Including Important Biscuitville Information!

Just a few quick notes because, as you can imagine, there’s a lot of chaos awaiting me now that I’ve returned from 10 days of artsy seclusion (bills to pay? Groceries to buy? Laundry!?).

Writing notes:
--When revising, a good rule of thumb is to think “cut.” When you’re unsure about a line or word, cut it first, before rewriting it. Do you need it? When you’re feeling stuck, cut something. Movement—and doing something, anything—will help you see what needs to be done.

--Drinking nice scotch aids any discussion of what to title a novel.

--Trusting yourself in the writing process is hard, but must be done on occasion.

Food notes:
--There’s a Biscuitville only 10ish minutes away from VCCA, on the road to Lynchburg, and it’s worth a visit. I recommend the sausage biscuit(s) and sweet iced tea. I liked the country ham, and do want to try fried bologna sometime, but sausage is a good, reliable anchor choice.

--And I had a fabulous meal in Lynchburg at the Bull Branch: deliciously creamy stuffed chicken breast with smoked gouda mashed potatoes!

--Someone in the kitchen at VCCA can make excellent fried chicken and potato salad.

--Eating too much fried chicken and potato salad is not recommended before a visit to Biscuitville.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Work in Progress: VCCA Report

Sadly, this is a quick visit to the always-fabulous VCCA, so I’ll be heading home this weekend. I’ve gotten quite a bit done in the week I’ve been here so far (including another round of Obsessive Novel Title-Quest, currently on hold), but I would love to stay longer. Here’s a snapshot of some of the goings-on of the past several days:

--For those of you who have been to VCCA, I’m in W6 which overlooks the field where the horses are and the walking path. It’s also right next to one of the areas where people park cars to unload their crap for their studios, so I can see if anyone is bringing as much crap as I brought. Or I can close the blind and not be so nosy, but that’s hardly fun, is it, and is there a writer alive who isn’t just a bit, say, curious?

--I saw a bluebird one morning, which always feels magical.

--There are stars in the sky here, unlike the blankness above my own backyard. (Well, more precisely, this was true on the one non-cloudy night we’ve had.)

--I’ve been reading some of the Paris Review Interviews, Volume IV and thought P.G. Wodehouse was beyond hilarious (he was a big fan of the soap opera "The Edge of Night," so much so that when he was away for the afternoon, his wife had to watch it and write down everything that happened). The interview with William Styron was inspiring; he seemed very genius-like. And, unfortunately, I couldn’t get through the entire Jack Kerouac interview, as he seemed very Beat-like.

--Everyone was very excited that the main chef returned from vacation yesterday. The food was okay in her absence, but now we are loosening our belts in anticipation of the sublime. Last night we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with corned beef and the best interpretation of cabbage I've ever enjoyed (excluding the coleslaw family): creamed cabbage! Too bad I have to head home on Sunday…or maybe just as well so I don’t get F-A-T.

I’ve gotten a lot of work done on my historical novel. I’m used to staying here for a longer stretch, so this is a different sort of visit. But I’m pleased with my efforts and happy to have been here even this short while. You should come too—application information is right here!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WNBA Reading

From the DC Chapter of the Women’s National Book Association:

Women’s National Book Association Celebrates Women’s History Month
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
Friday, March 26th, 2010, 12:30 PM

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library celebrates Women’s History Month with a presentation by the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) in the Great Hall, located on the 1st floor, on Friday, March 26th at 12:30 PM – 2:00 PM. The public is invited to readings of poetry and prose by WNBA National President Joan Gelfand, author of A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and Streams; former WNBA President Carla Danziger, author of Hidden Falls, a Norwegian mystery; Dr. Liliane Willens, author of Stateless in Shanghai; and Roberta Beary, author of The Unworn Necklace, and the 2008 Kanterman Merit Book Award Prize Winner.

The public is invited to bring a brown bag lunch to this event. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library is located at 901 G. Street, NW. For more information about this event, please call 484-951-1817, or email WNBAeventsDC@gmail.com. For more information about library programming, call 202-727-0321.

In the autumn of 1917, women across America awaited the Senate's vote on the proposed 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which, when ratified in 1920 by two-thirds of the state legislatures, would give women suffrage. A group of 15 women booksellers--excluded from membership in the all-male Bookseller's League--met in Sherwood's Book Store, 19 John Street, in downtown New York to form the Women's National Book Association.

Its unique characteristic was that membership was open to women in all facets of the book world-publishers, booksellers, librarians, authors, illustrators, agents, production people-the only criterion being that part of their income must come from books. Ninety years later, with ten chapters spanning the country from Boston to San Francisco and with Network members across the country, the WNBA continues to champion the role of women in the world of words. Today, membership is open to women involved in all aspects of publishing and to men who subscribe to the Association's goals.

During these years, WNBA has conducted seminars on bookselling techniques, published four books, led in-service courses for teachers on children's books, sponsored book and authors luncheons and dinners, cooperated on local book fairs, been active as a non-governmental organization member at the United Nations, entertained visiting book women from abroad, and surveyed the status of women in publishing.

To learn more about the Women’s National Book Association, visit their website at http://www.wnba-books.org/.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Novel Is Dead Again: David Shields to Read at Hopkins on 3/23

On Tuesday, March 23, David Shields will be reading from his new book, Reality Hunger: A Manifesto, at Johns Hopkins/Dupont Circle at 7 PM. This is sure to be…well, something completely different.

Here’s some information from the book’s press release:

“This is a book designed to inspire and to infuriate, and it is sure to do both. The subtitle categorizes it as “a manifesto,” which is a little like calling a nuclear bomb “a weapon.” In a series of numbered paragraphs, Shields explodes all sorts of categorical distinctions—between fiction and nonfiction, originality and plagiarism, memoir and fabrication, reality and perception.

“In an era of hip-hop sampling, James Frey, artistic collage and the funhouse mirror of so-called “reality TV,” Shields maintains that so many of the values underpinning cultural conventions are at best anachronisms and at worst lies. And he does so in audacious fashion, taking quotes from myriad sources, removing the quotation marks, attribution and context, leaving the reader to wonder what is original to Shields and what he has appropriated from others.

“Anything that exists in the culture is fair game to assimilate into a new work,” writes Shields (or someone). He later explains his methodology: “Most of the passages in this book are taken from other sources. Nearly every passage I’ve clipped I’ve also revised, at least a little—for the sake of compression, consistency or whim.”

Here’s a thoughtful review of the book on Rumpus, written by Lincoln Michel:

“Because while Shields praises the same qualities I look for in my art, the book is framed by a somewhat incoherent thesis that fiction is dead, narrative is pointless and the premier literary form of the now is the lyric essay (with memoir, it would seem, being a close second). I cannot be the only one to read a supposedly radical manifesto—the book jacket labels detractors as mere defenders of “the status quo”—and be a little disappointed to learn that the novel is dead (again?) and the literature of our bright, hectic future is the lyric essay and memoir. Even the terms “lyric essay” and “memoir” feel dusty sandwiched between discussions of hip-hop and cell phone stories. In short, I read this book with as much disagreement as agreement.”

See for yourself on Tuesday, March 23!
Info and RSVP link here.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I will be at fabulous VCCA through the next week (but crooks, don’t bother robbing my house because my husband is there, holding down the fort…oh, and also don’t bother because nothing is really worth the bother!). Consequently, posting will be light, though a few items will show up.

Or, posting will be quite heavy because my writing is all crap.

A day of writing = crapshoot.

High Fashion for Writers

You must check out these T-shirts which feature classic book covers at Out of Print Clothes. Thanks to Michael, on Facebook, who brought these to my attention, hereby solving all my gift-giving dilemmas and wardrobe issues in one fine, fell swoop.

There’s even a Moby-Dick shirt—though I really have my eye on Catcher in the Rye.

Men’s sizes here, and women’s here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fan Letter

Dear James Wood—

Your book How Fiction Works is brilliant. You are brilliant, too. As with any excellent writing book, I want to go back and read this one all over again, only this time, I want to have at my side Flaubert, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and yes, even Henry James. That’s how brilliant you are, that you’ve made me long to give James another go.

Did I use the word brilliant enough? I don’t think so.

Sincerely, Leslie

A review of How Fiction Works from The Observer
A review from New York Magazine, that discusses Wood’s limitations
Read an excerpt here (though this was not my favorite chapter)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guest in Progress: Anne Levy-Lavigne on Discovering the Classics

I’m trying to psyche myself up for my summer foray into Moby-Dick this summer, and this piece by Anne Levy-Lavigne, a WNBA friend, is a wonderful reminder of why the classics are... well...classic!

A Sure-Fire Guide to Enjoying Post-Surgery Convalescence: a Writer’s Tips
By Anne Levy-Lavigne

What's a poor writer to do, hamstrung by post-surgery aches and pains, ananesthetic haze, and doctor's orders to do nothing but rest, rest, rest? Write? I wish. The answer is read. But read with purpose. To improve the mind, even. And what better way than with revered gems of literature that I owned but, I'm ashamed to admit, hadn't read before. Let's face it, the classics do carry a hint of the obligatory. Yet I, the world's slowest reader, devoured these novels at breakneck speed. For long days and nights, I read and readand reread, while the collection of old Bette Davis movies on my DVR list (my back-up plan) languished unwatched. Here's a sampling.

First up, the withered paperback of Wuthering Heights that I'd rescued from the windowsill of our marina's restroom. To open these yellowed pages is to plunge into a netherworld where secluded black moors and violent thunderstorms echo the dark passions of the star-crossed Cathy and Heathcliff. Every word, every phrase of this story adds to a rising atmosphere of tension that snares the helpless reader and won't let go. Which is why I whipped through all 408 pages in a mere two days. Written in 1847 by the isolated young Emily Brontë, this novel is a triumph of imagination over experience. (So much for writing what you know?) And if Heathcliff's characterization were being critiqued today, it would most likely be panned as anywhere from"too unsympathetic"to "totally unbelievable," as in "No one is that bad." (Yet he still fascinates.) But however flawed, this is a tour de force of literary impressionism.

Leaving the savage world of Wuthering Heights for the polite society of Pride and Prejudice was like jumping from a roaring ocean into a glass-smooth lake. How this masterpiece sat on my bookshelf unopened for so long, I cannot fathom. Of course I knew the story. Everyone knows the story. But even for those who have seen its umpteen film productions, this book has to be lived page-by-page, if only for its incomparable elegance and sharp wit. And Austen's characterizations! Who else could use uncanny insight with so deft a balance of unvarnished honesty and wry empathy that her characters, their every charm and wart exposed, emerge as wonderfully human beings, as recognizable today as in 1813. As to plot, so much happens in her characters' pursuits of love and position that it's impossible to break away. (Speaking of ratcheting up the stakes.) What will happen with Elizabeth and Darcy? Does she or doesn't she? Does he or doesn't he? Will they or…they will! Of course they will. Bless Jane Austen…however she makes us suffer, she rewards us with a happy ending.

Not so Thomas Hardy. Preoccupied as he is with individual control over fate and the workings of justice in society, complicated by the vagaries of human weakness, his characters hardly have a chance. (Remember poor Tess?) Any happiness gained at Hardy's pen comes with a hefty price tag. The Mayor of Casterbridge careens down a long and winding plot road wired with tension as it sweeps Michael Henchard from the depths of poverty to the pinnacle of success and back again. Written in 1886, the society Hardy depicts is less wedded to surface gentility than the earlier Austen but more so than the more contemporary Brontë. Still, the rigidity of society's moral code, the cruelty of its hand, and the fragility of position are like a ball of dynamite; a powerful secret (a favorite Hardy trick) strikes the match, and colossally poor human judgment lights the fuse. (Yesteryore's parallel to the evening news?) Once again, I'm at the edge of my seat in the grip of Omigod, what happens next?, too poised for explosion to go to bed.

I recovered anyway, tired but richer for the reading and more convinced than ever that the dusty old classics are the best page-turners (and writing lessons) of them all. So for a good time call Jane,or Charlotte, or Thomas…or legions of wonderful others—sick or well.

About: Anne Levy-Lavigne holds an MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University as well as graduate degrees in law and clinical social work. Her short fiction has appeared in REAL, The Potomac Review, and Phoebe, and she is an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine. A long-time resident of Washington, DC, she now lives and writes in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My Reading and Albert Goldbarth's Reading (but not a joint reading)

I’ll be doing a public reading while I’m at VCCA. Please stop by if you’re in the area!

Thursday, March 18, 2010
7:30 PM
Riverviews Artspace
901 Jefferson Street
Lynchburg, VA 24504

Or, if you’re in DC on that night, you should head here. I’ve seen Albert Goldbarth read twice, and he is FANTASTIC! Honestly, this is a “make an effort to get there” event:

On Thursday, March 18, poets Albert Goldbarth and Eleanor Wilner will read at 6:45 p.m. in the Mumford Room in the Madison Building [the Library of Congress]

Goldbarth has twice won the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, for "Saving Lives" (2001) and "Heaven and Earth: A Cosmology" (1991). He has written 23 other collections of poetry. When his "To Be Read in 500 Years: Poems" was published in 2009, Publisher’s Weekly noted his "ample output, frequently comic effects and reader-friendly free verse."

Goldbarth’s awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2008 he was awarded the Mark Twain Award for Humorous Poetry by the Poetry Foundation. He is the Adele Davis Distinguished Professor of Humanities at Wichita State University, where he has taught since 1987.

Wilner received the MacArthur Fellowship in 2000. Her latest book is "Girl with Bees in Her Hair" (2004). Of Wilner’s poems, Ryan said "Each is itself something of a modern proverb, using a philosophical economy that impels the reader to rethink the significance of things once taken for granted or thought of as commonly understood."

Wilner holds a doctorate degree from Johns Hopkins University. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, the Juniper Prize and two Pushcart prizes. Former editor of The American Poetry Review, she is currently an advisory editor of Calyx. She is on the faculty of the M.F.A. Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and lives in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Shenandoah to Go Online Only

Remember the junior high “unit” about the Industrial Revolution, and how it was such an unsettling time, causing sweet, innocent peasants to get all worked up and discombobulated as they witnessed sweeping change in everything they knew and loved about life? That’s me, that’s now.

Shenandoah—one of my favorite literary journals—is going to online only in the near-future:

Shenandoah will publish in its usual format in fall 2010. In spring 2011, there will be a limited-edition anthology of poems published in Shenandoah over the last 15 years. And then will come the biggest change of all. "For the foreseeable future," said [editor R.T.] Smith, "that will be the last print issue of Shenandoah."

“Starting with the fall 2011 issue, it will be entirely online. A paid subscription will be a thing of the past. "It is perhaps inevitable when we look at what has happened to other literary journals," said Smith. "Literary magazines per se are going to have to change their way of conceiving themselves and of reaching their audiences. And this is all tied up in the deep inquiry going on in our culture about the future of print. There is time to make that transition and be an innovator."

“The way the journal involves students in its work will be innovative as well. "The interns will not just observe and theorize about the actual editorial decisions, from design to contents to policies," said Smith, "but they will also participate in the decisions, plus do things like screening submissions and blogging."

While this transition was handled about a zillion percent better than TriQuarterly’s transition—and Shenandoah will remain a professionally edited journal—this change is still hard for this reader to embrace, especially with the students (undergraduates?) becoming so much more actively involved. (Again, not that student-run journals are bad, but something is lost when the editors come and go and come and go.)

As always, I’m fine with online journals in theory, but, frankly, I’m less inclined to read them. I like to cart around a pretty book with me; I want to read in bed or on the Metro or in the bathtub. And, I’m sorry, I don’t want to read on a soulless screen—though I may have to adapt, so don’t hold me to this statement when at some point in the future I extol the virtues of my lovely new Kindle/iPad/Book-B-Gone.

Yes, yes—much better for Shenandoah to go online than to go bye-bye. Nevertheless, it’s hard being a farmer, rooting against those relentless factories.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Poetry Tour of DC

The Washington Post alerted me to this wonderful-sounding D.C. Poetry Tour. Download the podcast and get moving; the 2-hour walking tour is narrated by Elizabeth Alexander and starts at the Library of Congress and ends at Dupont Circle: “you’ll find poems thematically related to the city and its neighborhoods along with a fascinating and all too often hidden cultural history.”

The tour was created by the Poetry Foundation, and there’s also a tour of Chicago

Washington Post article here.

The DC podcast and map can be found here (for free): www.poetryfoundation.org/gallery/walking-tours/dc

High School and Undergrad Writing Contests

Everyone starts somewhere, and here are two good opportunities for young writers:

For college undergraduates:

From Jason Schwartzman, editor:

Spires Intercollegiate Arts & Literary Magazine at Washington University in St. Louis is now accepting submissions of poetry, prose, and artwork for the Spring 2010 issue! On behalf of the Spires staff I encourage you to submit your creations to our publication. We've been in print since 1995, putting out a magazine every semester, and we're proud of what we do, but we couldn't function if it weren't for the talent and work of creative students here and abroad.

Should you like to heed our call and submit, please send your writing in word document form or your artwork as .tif images in email attachments to: spiresmagazine@gmail.com Subject: Spring 2010 Submission. Message body: Name, year, school.

The deadline for submissions is FRIDAY, APRIL 2nd. The only limits on submissions are that prose may be no longer than 15 pages double spaced, and we only accept submissions from undergraduate students. We are very eager to review your work and we look forward to hearing from you!


For 11th grade students:

Leonard Milberg '53 Secondary School Poetry Prize

The Program in Creative Writing at Princeton University is pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications for the Leonard Milberg '53 Secondary School Poetry Prize. Eligibility is limited to students in the eleventh grade during the 2009-10 academic year. Applicants may submit up to three poems with name, address, email address, telephone number and name of high school on each poem. The jury will consist of members of the Princeton University Creative Writing faculty.

First Prize: $500
Second Prize: $250
Third Prize: $100

Submissions must be postmarked by March 29, 2010, and addressed to:
Milberg '53 Poetry Contest
Princeton University
Lewis Center for the Arts
Program in Creative Writing
185 Nassau Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08544

Due to the volume of entries, only winners will be notified. The results will be posted on the Princeton University Program in Creative Writing website in May 2010. Please note: Submissions will not be returned.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Work in Progress: Two Stunning Essays

I haven’t been writing lately, which is making me miserable. Too busy—the worst excuse of all. But here are a couple of essays I’ve read recently that I found particularly inspiring:

First, Lynne Sharon Schwartz had a great article in the recent issue of AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle about the use of the double, or doppelganger, in fiction. It struck me that virtually every example she cited involved a male writer and a male doppelganger. Do women not get doubles? I could use one right now—let her do the grocery shopping and go to Staples for more paper. Just kidding—as she points out, most of these situations end up badly for all involved.

Here’s her conclusion:

“Our solitary state in the universe is the source of our deepest dread. Saramago’s hero [from The Double], especially, is beset by profound and existential loneliness. And yet the dread caused by the double is even more potent. We don’t want to be alone in our fragile existence, but even more we don’t there to be anyone quite like us, who shares our nature and our fate. Our uniqueness may be a small thing, delicately sustained, but it is all we have. Once we lose it, we are engulfed by the void, never far off in the best of circumstances.”

Pretty heady stuff to read at four in the morning during a bout of insomnia!

You can find out more about Writer’s Chronicle here, and AWP members can read the piece online here.

Second, inspiring in that “I wish I could write like this but I know I never could” way, was the essay “Scented” in the Spring 2010 issue of The Gettysburg Review. Written by Laura-Rose Russell, this is a beautiful piece about a woman living on a swath of farmland used to raise commercial lilacs and her experience with a female deer. She learns to track animals and then sees signs that deer have infiltrated the fenced barricades designed to keep them out, lest they destroy the plants. Nevertheless, she spends some time watching the doe until hunters arrive to take care of the problem. After shooting the deer, the narrator asks for the hide, which she learns to tan. The process is amazing, and the devotion to the deer—and to this life—is beautifully evoked and thoughtfully presented.

An excerpt fails to capture what’s remarkable about this essay, which relies on the accumulation of detail, but here goes:

“On one of my walks, I found the sharp edges of hoofprints cutting across the driveway. The line of tracks revealed a detail I had read about, but not yet seen—the hind prints overlapped the front prints, falling slightly to the outside, hips wider than the shoulders; my visitor was a female. I lost the trail at the edge of the driveway and dropped to hands and knees, pawing though the grass in search of the next print. I stepped forward with my right hand, and my three middle fingers landed precisely in a heart-shaped depression. I couldn’t see the hoofprint unless I pushed aside the grass, but I could easily feel the shape pressed into the soft dirt below. Crawling forward, I found more hidden tracks. The deer’s stride was the same as my own on all fours. I studied the marks, noting the subtle creases that remain in blades of grass sprung back to standing after the deer’s hoof has lifted.”

You can find out more about The Gettysburg Review here. Yes, too bad the essay isn’t available on line, but on the other hand, I know it’s worth the $ to get a copy of the journal.

Disclosure per the FTC overlords: I subscribe to both of these magazines, meaning I pay my own cold, hard cash for them.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book Porn

I confess: I love reading the ads for Bauman Rare Books that are often on the back page of the New York Times Book Review. First editions I’d love to own, signed books, historic books…books that are selling for thousands and thousands of dollars. This is exactly the ad to read when you’re despairing that no one values books. These people do (as long as your dust jacket is in good condition).

But even more satisfying than that full page ad is the Bauman catalogue, which we get in the mail (you can also view it online here). Full color! Lush paper! The size and shape of a thick magazine! This last edition even has a title: “90 Great Books,” and includes “a lovely first edition of Salinger’s classic” The Catcher in the Rye ($17,500), James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man ($16,000), Moby-Dick (first American edition, in unrestored orginal cloth; $74,000….maybe this is the copy I should read? Maybe it’s better in “unrestored original cloth”?), John Milton’s Paradise Lost (from 1668! $42,000), and on and on. Totally droolworthy, with droolworthy language describing the books:

“Interior generally fresh with light scattered foxing, slight edge-wear, rubbing, with minor separation to joints of fragile contemporary boards,” from the listing for Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. ($16,500)

And even MORE satisfying than slowly paging through this catalog is a visit to the real live Bauman shop in New York City (535 Madison). I have never failed to encounter kind salespeople who are excited to talk to like-minded book admirers. If you’re enthusiastic and interested and respectful (and your hands look clean), they are happy to pull down from their amazing shelves virtually any volume you wish to see and let you hold it in your own two hands…yes, even The Catcher in the Rye!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Working on a Longer Book Project: 3/5 Event

This should be a great event for people immersed in those seemingly endless writing projects:

March 5, 2010
Leesburg First Friday
"Staying Focused: Researching and Writing the Longer Book Project"
7:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Leesburg Town Hall
25 West Market Street
Leesburg VA
More info: www.writer.org

To finish the marathon of writing a long book, more than talent, more than free time, more than anything, in fact, a writer needs mental toughness to avoid the myriad distractions, damaging self-talk, frustrations, and sometimes just plain old boredom along the way. C.M. Mayo, a long-time Writers Center workshop leader and author of several books, including a deeply researched travel memoir (Miraculous Air), rand, most recently, an epic historical novel based on the true story (and many years of original archival research)— The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire—offers tips, tricks and more to inspire you to start, stay with, and finish your book.

To register on-line, click here.

Scholarship $ Available for Writers' Conferences

Writers’ Conferences & Centers is conducting its annual competition to provide scholarships for writers who wish to attend a writers¹ conference, center, retreat, or residency. The scholarships will be applied to fees to attend any of the over 100 members of WC&C, an association of outstanding conferences, centers, retreats, and festivals for writers.

The deadline for the WC&C Competition is March 30, 2010. Two scholarships of $500 will be awarded. To enter the competition, please follow the guidelines listed on our web site: http://www.writersconf.org/scholarship/index.php

Monday, March 1, 2010

Follow-Up: What Else to Bring to a Colony

On last week’s blog post on Facebook, there was a suggestion from someone* who has been to the Vermont Studio Center that you bring along flip-flops, since showers are shared. This reminded me that I also bring a plastic tote bag (from Clinique bonus time!) to carry around toiletries, since at VCCA, two people often share a bathroom.

You won’t go wrong bringing some quarters and a little bit of laundry detergent in a Ziploc, either. There probably will be a change maker--or people with change--and there probably will be leftover detergent sitting around, but if not, you'll be set. On the other hand--avoid the whole laundry issue if you can by bringing more underwear than you think you'll need!

*Thanks, Laurel!


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