Tuesday, February 28, 2012

All AWP, All the Time

I'm heading off to the AWP conference, so no blogging until...well, not until I get ,back and even then, not until I finish all the work that I'm not doing while I'm away in Chicago!

Monday, February 27, 2012

New on Redux: Marlin Barton

Marlin Barton, my fabulous fiction colleague in the Converse College low-res MFA program, has a story posted on Redux:

“Most old folks like me, they tell some, but they ain’t gon’ tell all what could be tole, just what white folks wants to hear. In these hard times now, black folks needs what they can get from white folks and be scared somebody gon’ take it away. Me, my day soon to come. I ain’t got no worry ’bout nothin’. What anybody gon’ take from me?

“So I tell what some won’t.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

AWP Survival Guide: Don't Merely Endure, Prevail

[NOTE: You can go here to read an updated, 2013 version of this post, in time for Boston AWP!]

Who knew Faulkner was talking about AWP in his famous Nobel speech?  Yes, the annual AWP conference is practically upon us…10,000 writers about to swarm Chicago, angst a-blazing.  How can you survive the experience and live to tell the tale?  Read on for my own conference survival tips, based on my past AWP experiences:

First, figure out where to eat.  Luckily, I’ve covered that topic extensively here and here.

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 directed at you. 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 an appropriate 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 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.

There are zillions of panels: When you pick up your registration badge, you’ll get a massive tome with information about all of them, and—if last year is an indication—also a shorter schedule that’s easy to carry around. Take some time right away to read through the tome and circle the panels you want to attend on your master schedule. Then ditch the tome. Better yet, go to the AWP website now and read through the
schedule and decide now where you want to be when. (Use the handy planner feature to print off pages with your preferred panels marked.)  No point waking up early on Friday if there’s nothing you want to attend. I checkmark panels I might go to if nothing better is going on and star those that I will make a supreme effort to attend.

Someone will always ask a 20-minute 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. 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 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 those 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 one 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 of The Georgia Review gaze on.

Don’t laugh at this, but bring along Purell and USE IT often.  For weeks after, post-AWP Facebook status updates are filled with writers bemoaning the deathly cold/sore throat/lingering and mysterious illness they picked up at AWP.  We’re a sniffly, sneezy, wheezy, germy bunch, and 10,000 of us packed together breathing on each other, shaking hands, and giving fake hugs of glee is not a pretty picture to contemplate.

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.  

Finally, take a deep breath.  You’re just as much of a writer as the other 9,999 people around you.  Don’t let them get to you.

Self-serving notice: If you're looking for something to do on Saturday morning, come to the panel I’m on:

Connecting With Readers Via Your Website and Social Media
Michele Wolf, Kim Addonizio, Paul Lisicky, Leslie Pietrzyk, Matt Bell

Having a vibrant, user-friendly Web presence—via your own website (supplementing a publisher’s and/or employer’s page for you), blogging, Facebook, and other social media—has become a key asset for engaging readers and students, being part of the conversation, and expanding interest in your work. Learn how to create an appealing, fun-to-click site that best represents your books and passions, what resources and social media contact readers most appreciate, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Saturday, March 3
9:00 AM to 10:15 AM
Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Because I Care: Where to Eat in Chicago, Part 2

Because I care…some more suggestions about where to eat from worried Facebook readers who thought I/we might miss a good place.  (And here’s my previous post about where to eat in Chicago during AWP, or anytime.)

“I love The Frontera Grill.”

“A bit of a schlep, but worth it, is the comfort food at FEED at 2803 West Chicago Avenue."

"And let's not forget Czerwone Jabłuszko (The Red Apple) on N. Milwaukee, just north of the Logan Square El stop on the Blue Line. Pierogi, naleśniki, gołąbki (stuffed cabbage) and much much more."

"Keep going north, see if the Ram's Head is still serving fine Polish cuisine on the near south side of Milwaukee. Kluski zoupa!"

"Topolobambo for Mexican. Shaw's Crabhouse for seafood. For Spanish, Cafe Iberico in the city and Tapas Barcelona (in the Northern Chicago suburb Evanston). For sushi, Matsuya in Wrigleyville"

“Don’t miss Cafe Iberico for tapas.” 

Thanks to all who made suggestions!  There’s no excuse for heading home from AWP without lugging back at least fifteen extra pounds of new books and Chicago cuisine!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Upcoming Events with The Sun Magazine

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that my biggest magazine crush is on The Sun.  So I’m pleased to pass along some Sun news, including your chance to attend a Chicago reading and/or get a scholarship to this summer’s Sun conference in Massaschusetts:

If you’re going to the AWP writing conference, you should stop by and say hi to Sun staffers at the Bookfair:  booth #807.  When they say they enjoy meeting Sun fans, they really mean it!  They also have two events at the conference (open to conference attendees only), and both are definitely on my dance card:  Selling Out Everyone You Love: The Ethics of Writing Nonfiction on Thursday, and a Friday reading, Personal, Political, Provocative: A reading with authors from The Sun Magazine.

There’s also a free, public reading in Chicago on Saturday, March 3, at Chicago’s Heartland Café, with a truly amazing line-up (Krista Bremer, Poe Ballantine, Cheryl Strayed, and editor Sy Safransky). For more details, click here.

And if Chicago in early March isn’t on your dance card, how about The Sun retreat in western Massachusetts in June?  Scholarship applications are due by March 15:

We invite you to join Sun authors Joseph Bathanti, Krista Bremer, Alison Luterman, and Lee Martin, along with editor and publisher Sy Safransky, for a lively weekend of writing, conversation, and inspiration. The gathering will be held at Rowe, a retreat center situated on fifty acres of lush woodland in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts.

Two full scholarships are available for aspiring or established writers (application deadline March 15); please see our website for details.

Into the Fire: The Sun Celebrates Personal Writing
Rowe Conference Center, Rowe, Massachusetts

June 1–3, 2012 

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Panel at AWP: Social Media, 3/3, 9AM, Hilton

Here’s information about the panel I’ll be on during the AWP conference.  Don’t let the early morning Saturday time slot scare you…instead let it inspire you, and come join us directly from your Friday night revelries!  You can always sleep on the plane ride back home.

Connecting With Readers Via Your Website and Social Media
Michele Wolf, Kim Addonizio, Paul Lisicky, Leslie Pietrzyk, Matt Bell

Having a vibrant, user-friendly Web presence—via your own website (supplementing a publisher’s and/or employer’s page for you), blogging, Facebook, and other social media—has become a key asset for engaging readers and students, being part of the conversation, and expanding interest in your work. Learn how to create an appealing, fun-to-click site that best represents your books and passions, what resources and social media contact readers most appreciate, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Saturday, March 3
9:00 AM to 10:15 AM
Boulevard Room A,B,C, Hilton Chicago, 2nd Floor

Thursday, February 16, 2012

AWP Descends Upon Chicago...Where to Eat?!

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) will be holding its annual conference in Chicago from February 29-March 3.  Imagine 10,000 writers wearing black milling around, morosely trying to impress each other.  It’s fun!  Really, it is!

Next week I’ll repost and update my helpful survival tips for the conference, but now, the important thing is figuring out the food situation.  Chicago is one of my favorite food cities, but I confess that because I went to college in the Chicago suburbs in my ancient life way back, some of my choices are geared toward a certain budget and lifestyle.

No matter:  we can call these “Chicago Classics.”  You’ll have to find the new-fangled, up-to-date, super -trendy sushi place elsewhere.  But here are some of my favorite, not-to-be-missed places that will give you a flavor of Real Chicago.

First, the essentials--

--You must have a hot dog.  No one makes a hot dog better than the good people of Chicago, and I’d say no one on earth cares more deeply about their hot dogs.  Gold Coast Dogs is my downtown favorite, but seriously, any hole-in-the-wall place will be fine as long as there’s a yellow Vienna Beef sign displayed prominently.  And yes, the “astroturf relish” is supposed to be that color.  Don’t be a wimp or a tourist—get everything on your dog:  mustard, onions, relish, tomato, pickle spear, celery salt, sport peppers.  And yes, of course fries.

--You must have pizza.  I’m not here to start a war because people in Chicago feel very strongly about their favorite pizza place.  (And please, don’t expect that skinny New York-style pizza here…the way to go is deep dish or stuffed, unless you have a car and can get yourself out to Chicago’s famous thin-crust places like Home Run Inn.)  My personal favorite for deep dish is Lou Malnati’s.  I would also be happy with Gino’s East, Pizzeria Uno & Pizzeria Due (do NOT even think about the terrible chain restaurant Uno’s Chicago Grill), and Giordano’s (stuffed pizza).  My secret favorite pizza place that I shouldn’t tell you about is Edwardo’s, which serves the best stuffed pizza; get the spinach.  There’s a small branch in the Rush Street area.  Don’t clog it up talking about sonnets on the night I go there, please.

--You must at least think about having an Italian beef.  I love the sloppy-slurpy-mess-of-a-sandwich that’s a good Italian beef, but I admit that I’m often vexed by the Italian beef because it is not a dish that can be “squeezed in” the way a pizza or hot dog can.  It’s a hugely filling extravangza, not necessarily in size alone, but in grease quotient and density(I mean this in a loving way).  Think “French bread” filled with sliced roast beef, dunked into “gravy” until it’s sopping wet, with your choice of sweet or hot peppers (get both) strewn on top.  You have to hunch over until your forehead’s almost touching the counter to eat this thing, and I don’t advise going for a beef with a new love interest, unless this is a very special person.  Anyway, if I haven’t terrified you, go to Al’s Beef.  And if you really want to impress me, get the combo, which is the beef sandwich I’ve just described with an Italian sausage tucked in there.

--If you’re my husband, you must go to the Billy Goat Tavern.  I don’t know why he loves this dark, dingy, touristy place under Michigan Avenue.  It’s certainly a sight to see, with the photos and tattered newspaper clippings on the wall; it’s famous from way-back-when John Belushi/Bill Murray sketches in “Saturday Night Live.”  Anyway, get the cheeseburger and an Old Style beer—“no fries!  Chips!”—and go during an off-hour and sit at the bar.  Say hi to Steve when you’re there.

And here are some places to think about once you have those essentials out of the way:

--I shouldn’t tell you about this place because I plan to spend a fair amount of time here, and it’s convenient to the Palmer House.  Miller’s Pub is a great place for the kind of drink that doesn’t rely on infused anything.  It’s also a great place for lake perch.  I’m not giving you the website for this one…if you want to go here, you’ll have to work for it.

--Chicago is a city of hearty appetites.  The Berghoff is a German restaurant where you can get your sausage fix.  It’s been open forever, then closed, then reopened, but the food is still good.  Nice bar, excellent German beer.  I think there’s a lunch buffet—afterwards, you can waddle back to the Hilton and take a nap during your former professor’s dull panel you promised to go to.

--If you’re going to splurge, you’ll want to splurge on a steak (sorry vegetarians…if any of you are still with me here; I think the only vegetables I’ve mentioned thus far have been French fries and peppers as relish).  I recommend this place only to the hardy:  Gene & Georgetti.  Totally old-time, with cigar smoke embedded in the paneling, curt service for non-regulars, high prices.  And yet!  Where can you find a place like this anymore?  The way to go is to have a reservation (a must!!) for 9:00 or later and finagle your way into eating at the bar or in the front room.  They’ll try to stick you in the back; insist that you want the front room and that you’re willing to wait.  They’ll be impressed though they won’t show it, and they might be slightly nicer to you.  Order a GIN—!!—martini and enjoy the, um, interesting clientele in the front room.

--Special occasion?  In recent years we’ve been to Henri on Michigan Avenue, with its elegant and smart cooking, and Tru, which had amazing service, a beautiful setting, and fabulous wine pairings.  Lots of $$ but both of these are so worth it.

--Lou Mitchell’s is the place for breakfast:  yes, their crazy coffee really is that good.  Get an omelet, and don’t forget the homemade orange marmalade for your toast.

--One trendy-ish place that I like is The Purple Pig.  It’s crowded and noisy and cramped and things add up fast pricewise, but the food—small plates—is otherworldly.  Lots of excellent meat, but I suppose you might find a vegetable or two here.

--Here’s another one I hate to recommend because I like to keep it to myself:  Russian Tea Time.  Vodka flights and dumplings.  Aren’t those the most beautiful words in the English language?  The infused vodkas are good, but try the one from Poland with bison grass.  Support my people!

--I only mention the Italian Village because it’s been around forever and is classic in its own horrid way.  When I was setting up a dinner date with some friends, this place was mentioned as a possible meeting place, and I related my sad story of having gone there in college in a group of giggling freshman; we were treated so rudely that we left a 52 cent tip and vowed never to go back.  Two of the three other women had made similar vows never to return after the nasty service their groups received.  And yet the place is still in business.  Anyway, it’s not too far from the hotel, so if you stumble into it, be forewarned.

--If you want real Italian food and you don’t mind traveling, definitely head over to La Scarola.  Order yourself the appetizer portion of sausage and peppers.  It’s petite, only about four whole sausages and half a dozen peppers, so you’ll probably need more food almost immediately.

--Buy yourself and/or your loved one a box of Fannie May chocolates on the way home, and you’re set for a great road warrior’s welcome…just remember to save your “fat pants” for the last day.

--Good Lord, how could I almost forget Garrett Popcorn?  What the heck is wrong with me?! Better than any caramel corn you’ve ever had…get the Chicago Mix:  half cheese corn, half caramel corn.  Sounds weird, but it’s truly an inspired combination.  And the beauty of this treat is that it’s best eaten immediately, so you won’t feel awful about not having any left for your roommate back at the hotel.

--After reading this, Steve has now insisted that I must include the Original Pancake House, even though it’s not all that close to the hotels.  But it’s worth the trip up to the Gold Coast if you love a homey, diner-style setting and PANCAKES!  Some of the best I’ve ever had.  Chocolate chip are always tempting, but even a basic stack will make you feel warm and cozy.  And they’re famous for their apple pancake which might as well be called a dessert.  Depending on the day/time, you might have to wait in line and then practically sit on a stranger’s lap.  No worries—everyone is cheerful around these pancakes!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Save the Date: Conversations and Connections Set for 4/21

Conversations and Connections, a one-day writing conference, will be held in Washington, DC, on April 21.  Sam Lipsyte is the keynote speaker. 

From the website:

“Conversations and Connections brings together an eclectic mix of writers and editors for an all-day conference in the heart of Washington, DC. Whether you’re an experienced writer looking to take the next step, a newcomer looking for the coolest small presses, or anybody else sending your writing out into the world, Conversations and Connections has the panel discussions, craft workshops, and feedback (actual interaction with actual editors!) you need to hone your work.”

Speakers are being finalized for the panel discussion, and this year’s conference will also feature the always-popular opportunity to  “speed date” with various lit journal/small press editors.

Only $65 for the whole day, each participant also receives a subscription to a lit journal and a book from one of the small presses.

I’ve been to this conference several times, so I know it’s definitely worth the bucks.  Also I know that it sells out…make your plans accordingly!

An exciting new development:  The conference is headed to Philly in September!

More info/registration:  http://writersconnectconference.com/wp/

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AGNI Review Editor: "Convince Me That This News Is Different, That This Is the News I Need"

The blog Perpetual Folly alerted me to this interesting blog post by Sven Birkets, editor of The AGNI Review.

At first, Birkets’s piece feels like the familiar (though always interesting!) rant about reading the slush pile and knowing a story isn’t right after one sentence:

“Taking from the top of the fiction pile, for instance, I read: “John Maloney hunched his shoulders against the bitter wind coming off the lake.” I stop and respectfully slide the pages back into their envelope. The piece will be returned to its author.

“Why? I could say a number of different things, and I will—because I voice them to myself and they seem to the point. I say (putting sentence- thoughts now to what would appear to an outside observer as a sequence of flinches, grimaces, and grumbling head-shakes), “This story is wooing me with a regular-guy protagonist. John Maloney—a name out of literary ‘Central Casting.’ The writer is making the enormous assumption that a common world exists and that he need only set John Maloney loose in it. He hits me right off with a trite exaggerated middlebrow verb in order to inject drama, but the word—‘hunched’—tells me that he has a secondhand, a ‘literary,’ idea of what a story is or might be. He is either young and inexperienced, or experienced and lazy. When a reader reads those words, she sees and feels absolutely nothing, or maybe gets a dull memory echo from the hundred thousand hunched shoulders she has met with in a lifetime’s reading. There is no attempt to welcome her to the Never Before.””

His comments about the importance of a strong beginning are certainly apt, but I was even more fascinated by where the essay went from there:

“When I sit down with a huge stack of envelopes, each one containing some hard-won, deliberated expression, I am not the tabula rasa—the fantasied clean slate—that I perhaps ought to be. No, I am a man of my time, a besieged reader, creating a specific occasion within what is, day in and day out, for me as for most everyone, a near-constant agitation of stimuli, an enfolding environment of aggressively competing signs and mean-ings. And my attitude, when I remove a clump of print-covered pages from their envelope, is not “Send me more and more new information” but “Reach me, convince me that this news is different, that this is the news I need.” It is, as you see, a kind of receptivity, but a very qualified kind.”

And finally:

“When I first run my eyes left to right down a page of prose I am looking, as reader, as editor, to see whether the writer understands that literary culture—culture in general—is no longer what it used to be, that the situation has changed completely from whatever it was even a decade ago. I check in to see whether the prose somehow records this primary recognition—if in no other way than by avoiding the myriad approaches and attitudes that no longer work.”

I guess I’m quoting so much because it seems so reductive to say this is a reminder that writers must be in the vanguard of the new world, observing and “reporting” the stories from the very front lines of where we find ourselves now, in this time and this place—a time and place that are have changed in significant and subtle ways:

“Basically—short version—a work of prose (or poetry) can no longer assume continuity, not as it could in former times. It cannot begin, or unfold, in a way that assumes a basic condition of business as usual. The world is no longer everything we thought was the case, and the writing needs to embody this—through sentence rhythm, tone, camera placement, or some other strategic move that signals that no tired assumptions remain in place. This writing must, in effect, create its own world and terms from the threshold, coming at us from a full creative effort of imagination and not by using the old world as a prop.”

I thought it was a thought-provoking piece and an interesting articulation of things I’ve sensed going on in terms of the type stories that seem to getting published today.  Do yourself a favor and read the whole essay and don’t rely on my butchering of it.  There’s even a hopeful ending!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Link Corral: The New Yorker's Great Face Transplant Article; A Postmodern Reading List; Volunteer at Split That Rock Poetry Festival

This topic may make you squeamish, but I thought the article about face transplants in the current New Yorker was one of the best pieces I’ve read in a long time.  Here’s the opening of “Transfiguration” by Raffi Khatchadourian:

“God took Dallas Wiens’s face from him on a clear November morning four years ago. If you ask Wiens, he will say that it was neither an accident nor a punishment; it was simply what had to happen. At the time, he was trying to paint the roof of the Ridglea Baptist Church, just off Route 30, in Fort Worth. He was twenty-three, and suffering from the complications of being young and living a life of trouble, heartache, and restlessness. Describes the accident during which Wiens’s head hit a high-voltage electrical wire. Electrical burns can have an oddly mercurial impact on the human body. They can devastate tissue immediately, or they can have no effect at all, or they can have a delayed effect. The period of limbo can last days, and during that time doctors must wait for each cell in the affected area to “declare itself ” living or dead. Soon enough, the cells throughout Wiens’s face began declaring themselves dead in a steady cascade, laying waste to skin, muscle, and bone.”

Read more (though the article is not free unless you’re a subscriber):


Flavorwire’s list of “ten essential postmodern books”:

“Yesterday, Dalkey Archive released a new edition of William Gaddis’ postmodern masterpiece, The Recognitions, the book that Jonathan Franzen called “the ur-text of postwar fiction.” The new edition reminded us of our undying love for postmodern literature — the chaotically playful, the metafictional, and the experimental alike — and inspired us to check out a few books missing from our collection, so we’ve put together an essential postmodern reading list for devotees both old and new.”

Read on…and discover if you’re as lame as I am about getting to some of these books.  Does it count if I’ve heard of them?  (And, hey, why only one female author?)


A volunteer opportunity with DC’s Split That Rock poetry festival:

We're in the final stretch for organizing the 2012 Split This Rock Festival and we need your help to make this work! Please consider volunteering during the Festival from March 22nd to March 25th. Some of the roles for volunteers include:

Venue Czarina: Set up rooms according to the needs of the session, including posting the correct sign for current session. Check that all attendees have valid festival passes. Answer questions and help guide participants to appropriate rooms. Assist the session coordinator as needed. Ensure that all rules of the venue are observed. A cell phone is required for this position.
Register/Check in: Responsible for cash handling/taking credit card info, checking student IDs, coordinating with organizers to hand over cash box when sales close. May help with signups for open mics.  
Info/Press/T-Shirt sales: Work alongside registration/check-in volunteers, to sell t-shirts and festival publications, hand out press packets/passes, and answer questions as needed. Responsible for cash handling/taking credit card info, coordinating with organizers to hand over cash box when sales close.

We are hosting three brief, fun volunteer training sessions to prepare you for your shifts! This is a great chance to meet our team and fellow poets & organizers. We ask all volunteers to please attend one of the following sessions:

Thursday, March 8th from 6 - 7pm @ Split This Rock Office, 1112 16th Street, NW, Suite 600 - Washington, DC 20036
Saturday, March 17th from 10:30 - 11:30 am @ Split This Rock Office   
Thursday, March 22nd from 9:30 - 10:30 am @ Thurgood Marshall Center, 1816 12th Street  - Washington, DC 20009

If you are coming from out of town and can't make one of these sessions, please let us know.  We're happy to accommodate you!

Volunteers who work two or more 2.5 hour shifts will receive a free pass to the festival and a free Split This Rock 2012 t-shirt.  Plus you'll meet wonderful, fascinating people and be a part of a movement of poets working for a better world.

To volunteer or for more information, contact our Volunteer Coordinator Kaitie O'Hare at Kaitie.str@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Work in Progress: "Make More Art"

Here’s what I’m thinking about today:

"Don't think about making art, just get it done.  Let everyone else decide if it's good or bad, whether they love it or hate it.  While they are deciding, make even more art."

--Andy Warhol

I think I got this off Facebook, so see…Facebook is NOT a waste of time!

(Here’s my previous post about Andy Warhol.  Maybe he's becoming my muse?)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Apply to Read in the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series

Since it’s supposed to snow today, what could be a better than thinking about summer, and applying to read as part of the Joaquin Miller Poetry Series?  I don’t attend the poetry readings in this series as often as I should, but it’s one of the most charming venues in the Washington, DC, area, located deep in Rock Creek Park—think summer darkness settling in, crickets chirping, leaves rustling, and a clean, well-lighted place alive with the magic of language….

The Joaquin Miller Poetry Series is now accepting applications for poets to read in the 2012, 8-week evening series, June through July.  The readings will take place at Washington DC’s  Rock Creek Park Nature Center and Planetarium in partnership with the NPS, near the cabin of nineteenth-century poet Joaquin Miller.  Eligible poets should not have read in the series in the last 5 years.  To apply, please mail five poems, a brief bio, e-mail, phone number, and an SASE for reply only (poems will not be returned) to:  Prof. Rosemary Winslow, Co-Director, Joaquin Miller Poetry Series, Department of English, Catholic University, Washington, D.C. 20064.  Applications must be postmarked by March 30, 2012.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Link Corral: Why an MFA?; Myths about Mr. Dickens; R.T. Smith on Redux

Are you at the point where you’re wondering in an MFA might be right for you?  Or what you might gain from enrolling in a low-residency MFA?  This article by Robin Black is required reading:

“Yesterday, I was on the phone with a private student, discussing the pretty wonderful memoir on which she’s working, and at a certain point in the conversation I said, So, tell me why you wouldn’t be applying to low residency MFA programs now?

“Before I get to her answer (and then my answer to her answer) let me tell you why I asked the question – because it isn’t something I bring up with everyone. (Though it is the flipside to a question I’m asked a lot: should I get an MFA?) Despite my own degree and my belief that going to grad school ranks among the half dozen best decisions I ever made, I don’t necessarily think it’s right for everyone. Not everyone will benefit from the experience and not everyone needs it – obviously. Some of my favorite writers don’t have MFA’s.”

(Also, the deadline for applying to the Converse Low-Res MFA is next week:  February 15!)


Happy birthday, Charles Dickens!  I thought this Washington Post article was interesting:  "5 Myths About Charles Dickens":

“1. Dickens’s novels are so long because he was paid by the word.

“This is perhaps the most insidious deprecation of Dickens, implying a greedy author rambling on needlessly. The claim is untrue. Book contracts for “Bleak House” and “Little Dorrit,” for example, pegged Dickens’s earnings to sales, not the number of words.

“This legend comes from the fact that Dickens committed to his novels’ length in advance, often promising a story in 20 parts, of 32 pages each. But he was not compensated by the length.”

Read on.


I might be biased because R.T. Smith is one of my fabulous colleagues at Converse, but his poem posted this week in Redux is particularly stunning; do check it out if you haven’t already.


When Odysseus descended to the underworld
and crossed the dark river to learn the key
to his destiny, he poured the ritual milk and honey,
the wine and barley and blood to summon the dead,
but he never expected to find his mother among
the shadows who were filled with mist and sifted
with the wind which had no source. …

Monday, February 6, 2012

Audio News

Make your voice heard, literally:

Announcing The Missouri Review's 5th annual Audio Competition: new and improved!

No set entry fee! That's right; this year, in order to grow our contest, we've decided to make entry fees (normally $20) available as pay-by-donation. A donation in any amount buys entry to the contest PLUS a one-year digital subscription to The Missouri Review.

We're awarding three prizes of $1,000: one to the first-place winner in each category (poetry, prose, and audio documentary). All winners will be featured on the recently redesigned Missouri Review website. Plus, winning entries will be published through iTunes as part of TMR's podcast series. Runners up will also receive cash prizes and have their work featured.

This year, for your convenience, we're accepting entries by mail and by email, and payments can be made by mail or online.

Finally, we're happy to announce that Julie Shapiro of the Third Coast International Audio Festival will be serving as this year's guest judge.

For more information, or to submit an entry, please visit our website:


Speaking of audio, “The Lady of the House,” an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, is still featured on The Drum Literary Magazine, an audio journal.  Soon it will move behind the paywall, so here’s your chance to listen for free.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Work in Progress: Mysteries of the Writing Process

Process questions of the day:

Why was I able to sit at a table in a coffee shop and write by hand in a notebook and come up with roughly 500 words to a one-word prompt in 15 minutes?

Furthermore, why then was I able to continue that piece in the same coffee shop, writing to a one sentence prompt and write roughly 800 more words—by hand in a notebook—in the next 15 minutes?

Finally, why—why, why, why?—is it that when I came home and ignored other deadline work that I should have been doing and I sat down at my computer, with a clear vision of the basics of how to finish this piece, why, why, why did it take me roughly three hours of struggling—hours which were filled with doubt and deletions, hours filled with thoughts of giving up the entire project, hours of telling myself how boring the piece was—to get the remaining 1200 words or so of this rough draft?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rejecting Gertrude Stein and Writing Prompts

“I am only one, only one, only. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your Manuscript three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.”       
--from a rejection letter an editor sent Gertrude Stein in 1941 after thumbing through a draft of Ida.

I got this in an email today, inviting me to a networking event in which participants are asked to bring along a memorable rejection letter/email!  Yes, this is how we writers have fun!

On a note of a differently inspiring nature, here are the writing prompts from today’s meeting of my neighborhood prompt group:


--The infinity in you is the reality in you. 

*This was taken from The Sun magazine’s list of upcoming “Readers Write” topics, so if you come up with something you like, send it in!  This is my favorite part of this fabulous magazine, seeing the different—often harrowing—interpretations of the same topic.  (Here’s a link to an abbreviated “Readers Write” feature from the current issue, on “warning signs.”)


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