2013

January

AWP: WC&C Scholarship Competition

January 30, 2013

AWP web

AWP offers two annual scholarships of $500 each to emerging writers who wish to attend a writers’ conference, center, retreat, festival, or residency. The scholarships are applied to fees for winners who attend one of the member programs in AWP’s Directory of Conferences & Centers. Winners and four finalists also receive a one-year individual membership in AWP.

Submissions must be postmarked between December 1 and March 30 of each year. Download full guidelines here.

2013 Judge: Michelle Seaton

Michelle Seaton’s essays and short stories have appeared in Harvard Review,The Pinch, Sycamore Review, Lake Effect, Quiddity International Journal, and in the 2009 edition of Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her magazine journalism has appeared in many magazines, including Worth, Robb Report, and Bostonia. She is the co-author of The Way of Boys (WilliamMorrow, 2009) and The Cardiac Recovery Handbook (Hatherleigh Press, 2004). For more than 12 years, she has been an instructor at Grub Street, Boston’s largest nonprofit writing center. She is also the lead instructor for Grub Street’s Memoir Project, a program that offers free memoir classes to senior citizens in Boston neighborhoods. The project has visited twelve Boston neighborhoods and produced three anthologies.

For more info about the WC&C Scholarship Competition, visithttps://www.awpwriter.org/contests/wcc_scholarships_overview

Post-Res: Feature by Anthony Dolan Scott

January 23, 2013

Battling Post-Residency Blues, Mid-Semester Doldrums, and Eventual Oblivion
by Anthony Dolan Scott

Remember your first residency?

What about the drive or flight home after your first residency?  It was like being expelled from Eden, complete with tears and moaning and dread.  I don’t mean to minimize this reaction; the post-residency blues were real enough, and there was good reason for that dread.  Consider what came a couple of months into the semester:  a long separation that reduced residency to a dream-like memory.  In case you’re not sufficiently depressed by now, let me mention one more thing.  Those mid-semester doldrums are at least tempered by the hope of another trip to Wilkes-Barre, as well as the continued—though limited—contact with peers and mentors.  What about when your M.A. and M.F.A. are complete?  What then?

Stop!  Put down the Prozac.  I want to offer you something more substantial than hope and medication.Anthony

First of all, for those still finishing your degree, the program isn’t done.  Residency wasn’t just a dream or a fluke.  That whole experience won’t totally evaporate in the numbness of ordinary life.  A part of why leaving may feel so traumatic is the uniqueness of what happened, that sense of being part of a new family of writers who get you, who hear you, who help you.  If you were like me, you never had that kind of affirmation with that strong connection of mind and spirit anywhere else, and leaving it whispered the possibility of losing it.

But shake that off.  You were brought into this family based on writing samples.  Your words held a recognizable power, a certain familial likeness in your voice.  You are now one of us, connected not by mere genetics, but by the elemental kinship of the soul.  And didn’t residency prove that you belonged?  Didn’t your beauty and resonance flow naturally among the other powerful voices?  That voice is still your voice, and you are still one of ours.  Keep working.  Come back in June, and it will happen again.

Of course, while most of this is also true of alumni, when miles and years intervene, relationships atrophy.  So the issue becomes the lack of structured, program-based opportunities to connect.  However, as the Creative Program continues, as it adds more components and voices, opportunities to stay connected grow.  For example, many faculty, students, and alumni participate or attend the annual AWP Conference, which moves to a different city each year, facilitating easy access to those in different regions of North America.  And there are chances to work on new projects (consider Kaylie Jones’ new imprint with Akashic books) and opportunities to publish articles and reviews.  In addition to all of this, alumni are welcome back at residencies.  The night readings are open to them, and lodging for a reasonable rate is available.  All it would take are some enterprising alums to organize daytime workshops, and, voilà—residencies and connectedness ad infinitum!

But for now, to help you deal with the blues and the doldrums, take this little poem as your antidepressant:

To my Pen-Siblings at January Residency

Do you know how beautiful you are?
Don’t shrug! Don’t drop your eyes
in the face of this deserved compliment.
This week, your beauty wrung tears
from eyes, yanked mouths into smiles,
bared souls and re-wrapped them
in warm squeezing love. You are here

because someone saw how beautiful you are.
What proof do you have otherwise?
A small asymmetry in the mirror?
Some lopsidedness of your mouth,
a mismatch in your past actions? Only
the lip-curled jealous, the myopic moronic,
would mistake your mistakes for plainness.

I know how beautiful you are.
As you brush your teeth, your hair,
you see you every morning. You
hear you every day.  Don’t let
routine render you commonplace.
Listen.  I have suffered through months
without your half-smile.  I will hunger
for June to see, hear, you again.

So do me a favor.

The second Monday month after next,
when you shuffle from bed to bathroom
in a morning heavy with another week,
think of me trying to re-see your face,
re-hear your voice, with the grainy
real-to-reel of memory, and stop—
look long into the mirror and cherish
that precious thing you see,
and know
how beautiful you are.

Anthony Dolan Scott has an MA from the Wilkes Creative Writing Programand is currently an MFA candidate. Anthony was honored at the January 2013 residency as the recipient of the Jennifer Diskin Memorial Scholarship.

Visit Wilkes at Boston’s AWP Conference

January 16, 2013

Boston2013

If you plan on attending the annual AWP Conference and Bookfair, taking place in Boston MA, March 6-9, 2013, you’ll find ample Wilkes representation.

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Faculty Gregory Fletcher and Jean Klein, and alum Laurie Powers are on the panel “The Ten-Minute Play: the Essential Ingredients.”

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Nancy McKinley is presenting on the panel “International Women’s Day Reading from Becoming: What Makes a Woman.”

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Christine Gelineau will present on the panel “Second Sex, Second Shelf? Women, Writing, and the Literary Marketplace.”

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Jim Warner, alum and former assistant program director, will once again host the All-Collegiate Poetry Slam and Open Mic every night of the conference.

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Bonnie Culver, program director, is on the AWP national Board of Trustees and was a member of the Boston Conference committee. She noted, “There are more presentations this year than any other year in AWP history. It promises to be another fantastic conference.”

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For more information about AWP and the conference schedule, visitwww.awpwriter.org.

Don’t forget to stop by Wilkes/ Etruscan Press booth in the Bookfair!

News and Publications from Wilkes writers

January 9, 2013

What has the Wilkes community been up to lately? Here’s a small sampling…

beverly-donofrio1

Alum Brian Fanelli has been nominated for a Pushcart for his poem “After Working Hours,” which appeared in the fall 2012 issue of Boston Literary Magazine. link

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Faculty mentor Beverly Donofrio has an essay, “What Is Feminism?,” in Virginia Quarterly Review. link

***white vespa

Faculty member Kevin Oderman‘s newest book, White Vespa, is now available as an eBook! link

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For more news and releases from Wilkes faculty, alum, and students, visit the latest issue of Revise This! link

New Michael Mailer Production Stars Alec Baldwin

January 2, 2013

Michael MailerFaculty member Michael Mailer has produced more than twenty features and leads Michael Mailer Films. He has been busy with a new project, starring Alec Baldwin and James Toback, and we were pleased to find out more about this unique production.

Q. Can you tell us about Seduced and Abandoned?
A. Seduced and Abandoned is a non-fiction film, part mediation on film and the filmmaking process consisting of interviews of film legends such as Polanski, Bertolucci, Scorcese, Copola, and part adventure tale following the ups and downs of Alec Baldwin and James Toback as they attempt to set up a remake of Last Tango in Paris (but this one is set in Iraq called Last Tango in Tikrit) at the Cannes Film Festival.

Q. What was the reaction to the process while filming at Cannes?
A. Shooting a film about the making of a film at a filmmakers festival was highly stimulating both for all of those involved but for the denizens of Cannes as well. We had great support from the head of the festival himself, Thierry Fermaux.

Q. Would you say the project was a success—either in terms of the project itself or in raising money for the ‘undisclosed future film’?
A. So far yes. The film we shot turned out well. It’s compelling and will be of interest to anyone interested in film and the filmmaking process.

Q. When and where can audiences see the film?
A. We’re in post production. The movie will be finished at the end of January, then hopefully viewable in theaters initially, followed by VOD, and other ancillaries.

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For more news from Wilkes faculty, alums, and students, see the December issue of Revise This! http://wilkes.edu/pages/5395.asp

February

Advance Praise for Poyer’s New Book

February 27, 2013

David Poyer is at it again with a new book sure to thrill and entertain. The Whiteness of the Whale is available for pre-order now and has received some wonderful advance praise that should motivate readers to get in line for a hot-off-the-press copy.

Publishers Weekly posted this review of David Poyer’s forthcoming novel,The Whiteness of the Whale. In what PW calls “a riveting modern-day tale of high-seas Antarctic adventure,” the review goes on to praise the book, saying: “Poyer’s intense, fast-paced prose creates palpable suspense….”

Kirkus Reviews also had great stuff to say about The Whiteness of the Whale: “Poyer’s thriller takes fans on a frightening ride that will have them reaching for their Dramamine…. Poyer spent a great deal of his life on the ocean, and it shows. This is a fine thriller.”  Read the full review here.

Library Journal said Poyer’s intricate experience on the subject matter “should be rousing good fun for thriller fans.”

And, the Feb 15 issue of Booklist has this to say: “It’s the crew members who propel the story, the author exploring their hidden pasts, their personal agendas, and the relationships that spring up among them. Some readers might feel Poyer goes a bit far—the book takes a very dark turn about two-thirds of the way through that might stretch credibility a little—but the story is undeniably powerful.”  Find more here.

Poyer

The Whiteness of the Whale

David Poyer

St. Martin’s Press

$26.99 (336p)

ISBN 978-1-2500-2056-7

Available April 2013

Pre-order on amazon

Media & Review Copies: Contact Joseph Rinaldi from the St. Martin’s publicity department.

Book Description

An antiwhaling expedition to the freezing Antarctic takes a violent turn in this powerful novel from bestselling author and sailor David Poyer.

After a tragic accident maims her laboratory assistant, Dr. Sara Pollard’s career as a primate behaviorist lies in ruins. With nothing left to lose, Pollard – descendant of a Nantucket captain whose ship was sunk by a rogue whale – accepts an offer to join anti-whaling activists on a round-the-world racing yacht as the resident scientist. The plan is to sail from Argentina to the stormy Antarctic Sea.  There they’ll shadow, harass, and expose the Japanese fleet, which continues to kill and process endangered whales in internationally-declared sanctuaries.

But everyone aboard Black Anemone has a secret, or something to live down.  Her crew—including a beautiful but narcissistic film celebrity, an Afghan War veteran in search of the buzz of combat, and an enigmatic, obsessive captain—will confront hostile whalers, brutal weather, dangerous ice, near-mutiny, and romantic conflict.  But no one aboard is prepared for what Nature herself has in store . . . when they’re targeted by a massive creature with a murderous agenda of its own.

Filled with violence, beauty, and magical evocations of life in the most remote waters on Earth, The Whiteness of the Whale is a powerful adventure by a master novelist.

Big News & Reviews for Thom Ward

February 26, 2013

Thom Ward

Advisory Board member Thom Ward continues to shine with his recent publication, Etcetera’s Mistress (Accents Publishing).

Etcetera’s Mistress was recently reviewed by George Wallace in BigCityLit. Wallace is author of nineteen chapbooks of poetry and the editor of Poetrybay, Poetryvlog and other publications. Ward’s skill with the prose poem is praised by Wallace, who says it is “something more than cleverness, but rather something to be celebrated.” See the full review here.

Ward also just came back from a stellar event at Georgia Tech’s McEver Poetry reading series at Kress Auditorium in downtown Atlanta. Also included in the event were Thomas Lux, Laura Newbern, and Dan Veach. The event drew in more than three hundred people and an AV of the event is available online here.etceteras_mistress

Thom Ward, mentor and advisory board member of the Wilkes MA/MFA creative writing programs, is also the author of Small Boat with Oars of Different Size, The Matter of the Casket, and Various Orbits.

Etcetera’s Mistress is available from Accents Publishingand on Amazon.

The book will also be available at the AWP conference in Boston, Mar 6-9. Accents Publishing will be at table N-18 and Thom Ward will be stopping by to meet readers and sign books!

On Writing: Chris Campion Guest Essay

February 20, 2013

Back to the Start: Reclaiming Your Voice

and Confidence in Writing

by Chris Campion

Chris Campion

Some time ago, I couldn’t stand the sight of anything I was writing. I’d turn out paragraphs, even pages, only to delete nearly everything without hesitation or remorse. I’d stare at the blank computer screen for an eternity, and after I’d mustered some kind of confidence and managed to write maybe a sentence, I’d edit it to death, and then delete even that. I just couldn’t seem to get started. And when I finally got some kind of workable material, I wasn’t able to finish it. My writing desk was littered with openings and random scenes that led nowhere. And they weren’t even darlings—things I loved and didn’t want to murder—they were more like failed science experiments that yielded no gain.

Nothing I was writing looked or sounded right. Nothing in my voice moved me. And none of my characters-in-progress held my interest for more than two seconds. I wanted to write but couldn’t. I was completely stuck, and I soon fell into a kind of depression since I was no longer able to do what I loved.

Not to be outdone by, well, myself, I went back and scoured my bookshelves for inspiration and fresh approaches.I tried Cormac McCarthy’s Biblically-voiced run-on sentences and larger-than-life similes; I raised the bar on my diction and attempted Jonathan Franzen’s The New Yorker-style magniloquent prose and modern cynicism; I tried Raymond Carver’s über-bare bones writing and slice-of-life issues of domesticity. Thinking that maybe I was writing in a far-too-limited point of view, I tried grandiose omniscience like that of Tolstoy, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Wolfe. Of course, I tried my hand at creating pulse-pounding plots like that of James Patterson, Dan Brown, and John Grisham. Finally, I thought that perhaps I should produce something completely off-the-hook and redefining like James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.

But, alas, all the reading and mimicking I’d hoped would rejuvenate me had only pulled me deeper into my own pit of artistic malaise. It seemed that every writer I was reading just had this natural ability to construct perfect sentences and stories that would knock me on my ass. Whatever it was they had—that je ne sais quoi—I sure as hell didn’t have it.

This soon brought on fears of becoming a coffee-shop lizard, quoting passages from novels and telling everyone how I “used to write.” Or bettermystery manyet, a Dostoyevsky-looking flaneur in heavy beard and long pea coat, wandering the streets and trying to figure where my mind had gone; everyone passing me and seeing the irreversible battle damage from attempting to be a writer. Okay, maybe I’m getting a little carried away here, but I was pretty upset.

Anyway, feeling like I had nowhere else to turn, I went back to my old files and (you may want to cover your eyes for this) read the first few short stories I’d ever written. Yes, it was as painful as you can imagine. Things like tense consistency, point of view, show and don’t tell, punctuation, and so forth were pretty much nonexistent. It was one step shy of being the ramblings of a lunatic; and I hope I’ve learned a thing or two since then. But, I was noticing that I had almost no inhibitions on what I wrote. It seemed like, at the time, I was fearless and completely captivated with writing. It’d seemed raw, untamed, and well … moi.

It was as if each noun, pronoun, verb, adjective, adverb and so on was a gorgeous lady at some extravagant ball. And the ladies put up no refusal to dance with me for as long as I’d wished. Every dance—every word written down—made me evermore in love with creating art from words. And I remembered further that my urge to read and revise pieces had been unquenchable. I think it was because I was never second-guessing myself or my voice. More specifically, I had great confidence (as much as I could have possessed at the time) in who I was, what I was going to write, and how I was going to write.

Thankfully, after this uncomfortable yet necessary act of rereading my old stuff, something struck my prima donna ego, and told me how I’d lost my edge: I was trying too hard to write like everyone else. I’d forgotten I had a unique voice and perspective of the world. And those are the most powerful and, arguably, most important things a writer can possess. Of course, you have to study and practice your craft; you can’t write any old thing and expect it to be gold just because your muse was really cooking that day. And you can’t put on the blinders and say to yourself: I don’t need advice, I know everything. But I do believe you have to keep a raw side—an untamed side that isn’t afraid to go beyond your self-placed artistic constructs for the sake of the story. A side that’s not afraid to lose yourself to be yourself.

In other words, too much studying and overanalyzing your approach, too much trying to incorporate learned techniques can actually not be a good thing. Asking yourself what this writer or that writer will think or whetherthis craft book will nod its head to your scribbling will always leave you questioning your work.

Therefore, I studied my old prose—amateur errors aside—and retaught what it was that seemed very natural, what glided like a stick of butter on a warm frying pan. Honestly, I can’t completely tell you what you should look for; it’s a very personal thing. But you’ll know it when you see it. I can tell you it usually sings like a song you’ve always wanted to hear, it excites you, makes you once again lose yourself just like the first time you had written it. There should be a sense of belief and wonder. There should be something in it that will make you feel empowered again and fired-up to write.

If you can’t find your old stories, you can try a kind of express approach by looking at some of your favorite Facebook posts. They’re usually the ones you’re most proud of, the ones that really display your voice and beliefs, and will probably have multiple “likes” and comments. You can go back and look at your favorite text messages (preferably not the drunk ones). You can also reclaim your confidence and hone your voice by starting a blog and write for no one but yourself. Keep in mind you don’t have to publish anything. You can find your old journals and reread the entries in which it looked as if it were your last day on earth, and you were going to write until the end.

It really doesn’t matter where you may have to go back and find it, just as long as you do. And to capitalize on a teachable moment here: try and save everything you write. Your taste will change over time, and what may have seemed like bunk last week could possibly be gold this week. You will constantly grow as a reader and a writer, and you need time to let your material congeal like a hot casserole pulled from the oven. It will taste different once cooled. So no need to immediately bite in only to burn your tongue.

En route, having gone back to the start, I felt the curse slowly lifted. Once again, I fell back in love with writing and had no trouble (mostly) putting words to the page. And when that annoying, overly-critical mental editor started yapping about how much I sucked compared to others and how I should just quit while I was ahead, I simply treated him like a telemarketer, hung up, and got back to work without any kind of second-guessing or remorse.

white men cant jumpYou might ask if all that reading and experimenting with other authors was for naught. I’d say no and yes. No, in the sense that you should experience other authors and see what makes their prose shine (or not shine). Yes, in the sense that the only person who you can write like—and should be writing like—is yourself. I read because it puts me in the proverbial “zone” that the movie White Men Can’t Jump so shamelessly taught the world back in 1992. It also builds my vocab, reinforces grammar and punctuation (which I will never profess to be a master at), makes me a better writer, and constantly opens my eyes to other approaches. I think Stephen King said it best in his book On Writing: “It’s all on the table.” And I’ll say it again: Don’t stop reading everything you can get your hands on. Consider reading as training for a UFC fight. Okay, less intensely stated, like a musician listening to music to become a more well-rounded musician and appreciator of music.

Now, as I look back on that lack-of-confidence spell or depression (or whatever we’ll call it), I believe I had suffered from some mutated form of writer’s block. I say this because at the time I had plenty of ideas stewing. Words were constantly flowing through my brain. My nose was always planted in a book. But, again, everything I wrote would soon be destroyed. I did find some of that material that had survived, and it wasn’t that bad. Like I said before, there’s a very personal but unmistakable quality that screams, “That’s a keeper! Don’t delete that! We’re on to something!”

A part of me wants to kick my own ass. How could things have gotten that bad? I guess I can’t blame myself too much. Before I had even stepped into day one of my MA, I had to read three books about writing: On Writing,Becoming a Writer, and Writing Down the Bones. Once class began, we jumped right into “workshopping” in which we ripped each others’ pieces apart like hungry dogs; we heard from panels of published authors and agents whose advice and approach to writing varied like the spectrum of species in the animal kingdom. Once we “pitched” to countless writers and realized how little we knew, we then picked our mentor and would go on to survive at least a year’s worth of artistic hazing, self-doubt, reevaluating, and the occasional I-am-awesome moment that lasted about four seconds because it was replaced by the I-still-suck moment. Okay, I’m once again being too dramatic. Actually the mentor experience was amazing. It was the meat and potatoes of the stephen-king-on-writingcourse. And I loved the personal attention and opportunity to finally begin to understand writing, as well as developing a newfound respect for my art. Honestly my mentor was probably the only one in my corner who really understood what I was going through. But all that never made writing any easier. In fact, it actually got harder because more was required of me.

Keep in mind the hurdles I’ve just mentioned are within the safe confines of an academic setting. As we all know, the world outside: rejections, querying agents, and the I-don’t-read-books discussions with people can be equally as harsh and as lonely to cope with.

Having said and experienced all this, it’s no wonder I had a moment where I was afraid to give birth to even a single sentence without having some kind of mental Cronus gobble it up like one of his newborn children. It’s no wonder I had a phase where that me in my writing no longer seemed to be important or even valuable to myself. But I am not the kind of person who goes around blaming everybody for my hang ups. I guess I’m kind of existentialist in that I believe it’s always my decision who and what I choose to be. However, I think I’m safe in saying that there are many snares and dark alleys that can side track a newbie writer and make them feel like it’s not worth it anymore. I think we all know how brave and lone-wolfish we’ve had to become because we are writers.

In the end, I believe the whole experience—this loss of confidence in myself—was a necessary evil. I had to lose what I didn’t even know I had in order to fully appreciate, cherish, and use it. Thankfully I was allowed to do that, because writing is different from losing something in the real world. Rarely can you reclaim what you once had in your short time on this earth. Fortunately, in your writing life, you can go back at any time and reclaim your creativity and make it even better than before. I believe writing can rejuvenate us like that.

And so, if you ever find yourself doubtful or feeling like what you are writing is horrible and not worth it, then go back to the start and find the material in which you were burning to write and let it ignite you once again. Although your ability as a writer will have no doubt improved since then, those pieces should have some kind of unique quality that will reset your urge to chain yourself to a desk and squeeze that story out as if your life depended on it. And once you reclaim that passion and confidence in your voice and jonesing to write, then guard it. I had lost mine and I barely knew how it had happened. This doesn’t mean that you should be closed-minded as a student of writing (I feel like I’ve hardly scratched the surface in terms of getting “decent”), but you should learn to sift through the “advice” and “suggestions” and “comments” and pick out what will truly help and what will not. And you shouldn’t be afraid to stand your ground if you feel that what you have written truly holds up. Because, again, writing (in my opinion) is largely subjective; the only (let’s say) “gauge” should be whether it’s effective or not. And still, you won’t please everyone, so make sure you are at least pleasing yourself. I think that’s all writing should truly be about. If you’re doing it just to make money, there are so much easier ways. I, for one, will not be quitting my day job anytime soon. But I suppose my day job keeps me running back to my books and keyboard.

So, to wrap it all up, guard your voice and guard your passion. And should you lose it, remember to go back to the start, or find something that reminds you of how much you love or used to love writing—whatever it is. I believe once a writer always a writer. And be careful of too much advice. I’m a hypocrite in that my desk is lined with books on craft, grammar, and literary philosophy. My Facebook has post after post from famous writers on technique, purpose, and what is effective writing. And I will always try and get someone else’s opinion on a piece that I’m working on. But I always try to guard the side of me that will truly know whether it passes or not. I hope that if I lose that side, I’ll now know where to find it. I pray that you will never lose your confidence in your voice and passion. It’s a very soul-crushing experience. However, should it happen, I hope this essay will help you find your way back.

Chris Campion has a MA in creative writing from Wilkes University. His fiction can be found at Fiction365.com and East Meets West, American Writers Journal. He is currently an MFA candidate at Wilkes.

The Next Big Thing: Philip Brady

February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013

Philip Brady: “The Next Big Thing” Blog Hop

“The Next Big Thing” is a blog hop in which authors around the world share what they’re working on by responding to ten questions. Wilkes faculty member Philip Brady responds to questions below. He was invited by Carol Moldaw, whose Next Big Thing post can be found here

 

Phil Brady

What is your working title of your book?

To Banquet with the Worthy Ethiopians: a memoir of life before the alphabet.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The phrase comes from Homer. It appears in both the Iliad and the Odyssey, and refers to the Gods’ habit of retreating from human affairs in times of crisis. But the idea for a long poem came in the Fall of 2010 after major heart surgery. The recuperation gave me months of time off from teaching and directing Etruscan Press and the YSU Poetry Center. Months off from real life of any kind, really. It also changed my relationship to my body. I was weak, dreamy. In many ways, I became a boy again. It was just like the endless afternoons I spent rocking in front of the hi fi listening to Irish music. I lived in Queens, and understood none of it. It was a way of sailing from the world—reveling in the higher nonsense; finding in rhythm a charm against time’s surge. Amidst the violent conflicts of boyhood, it was my way of banqueting with the Ethiopians. During the months recovering from surgery, sitting in my rocker in front of the fire, I felt again like that boy, rocking and chanting.  And when I reviewed the many pages of the prose memoir I’d been struggling to write, they seemed so….prolix; prosaic; so slow and dense and stolid. After having been, briefly, dead, who’d care about all that stuff?  And I remembered a summer in camp when I was twelve, trying and failing to read a prose translation of the Iliad by W.H.D. Rouse. Only now do I realize that it was the prose, not the story, that was difficult. And so I started to transpose my own prosy life into another key. 

What genre does your book fall under?

The book is composed from questions about genre. Are genres sets of conventions and practices? Are they traditions? Or do they emerge from various entwined impulses: to sing, to yarn, to explain, to remember, to marvel? Homer and the works that emerge from the oral tradition do all these things. To Banquet with the Worthy Ethiopians aspires to that condition. It’s a long poem, and a novel-in-verse, and a memoir-in-myth. Timothy Findley puts it best. “I didn’t know quite how to tell this story,” he writes, “until I realized that if I were Homer, I’d have recognized that it isn’t just the story of men and women, but of men and women and the gods to whom they are obedient, and told best through the evocation of icons. So what I must do is transpose this story, which is history, into another key, which is mythology.”

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

There have been great movies about the Iliad and Odyssey. Some of my favorites are Ulysees with Kirk Douglas, Troy with Brad Pitt (mentioned in my poem), and Brother Where Art Thou with George Clooney. And of course various adaptations abound.  But I remain an unrepentant John Wayne fan, pilgrim.

What is the synopsis of your book?

The tale takes place at the border between myth and time, between childhood and adulthood, between orality and literature. Following a heart attack, an aging ‘scrivener’ broods on a list folded in a copy of the Iliad. Item 265 reads simply, “Thersites,” a foot soldier whining to go home.  The scrivener recalls the summer he first encountered the Iliad. Though overwhelmed by W.H.D. Rouse’s turgid prose, he gleaned enough to realize that the Trojan War, with all its violence and intrigue, was being waged on a smaller scale at his summer camp.

To Banquet with the Worthy Ethiopians blends Homer’s discovery of the alphabet with a man’s recovery and a boy’s struggle to glimpse the adult world through the prism of an ancient epic. As the story is transposed from history into myth, it ripples from Ithaca to Queens, passing through a murder investigation, a hacked computer, an all-star poetry workshop, a plot to relocate Troy, and a committee charged with writing a sequel to the Iliad.  While it is fantastical and whimsical, this is a deeply serious story about the difficulty of nurturing our personal myths in a world bound in time.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m sending it around to all the usual suspects. It won’t be self published, nor will it appear from Etruscan, where I am the Executive Director. But as a publisher, I hope to be in a good position to work with whomever decides to publish it.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Once I decided to write verse instead of prose, it came very quickly—eighteen chapters in as many months. In the beginning I was “translating” as much as writing—working from my own prose pony. I learned that the most telling difference between prose and poetry is pace. Verse moves at great speed, grounded only by a barely audible thrum. It illuminates without revealing—lightning flashing on a dark landscape.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Some of the books that have influenced me are Christopher Logue’s War Music,  Zachary Mason’s The Lost Books of the Odyssey,  David Malouf’sRansom, Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, Alfred Lord’s The Singer of Tales, Julian James The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bi-Cameral Mind, Eric Havelock’s Preface to Plato, H.L.Hix’s As Much As, If Not More Than, William Heyen’s Crazy Horse in Stillness, Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy, Leonard Schlain’s The Alphabet vs. the Goddess, and Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I didn’t write the book. I composed it. The writing part is merely transcription, which I need to do because my memory isn’t strong enough to hold it all in. But now I have it. I compose and am composed, as I walk, or drive, or shower, or am pulled into the dark tube of an MRI.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The book aspires to turn readers into listeners. In the spirit of the oral tradition which provides its impetus, a performance of the entire work is being filmed at Youngstown State University. Clips from this rendition can be found at

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1-Ve8aiRjk&feature=youtu.be….

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0qGmacdSSo

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2eyIuEqQOY

***

Philip Brady is a poet, instructor, and publisher. Learn more at his website:www.philipbrady.com.

The 2013 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest

February 13, 2013

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The 2013 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest

Submissions Accepted From February 1st-28th!

The contest is open to all writers who have not yet published a book of fiction. Submissions must be 1200 words or fewer. There is no entry fee.

The Kenyon Review will publish the winning short story in the Winter 2014 issue, and the author will be awarded a scholarship to attend the 2013 Writers Workshop, June 15th-22nd, in Gambier, Ohio. Additional info on the Writers Workshop is available here.

Katharine Weber, critically-acclaimed author of five novels, includingTriangle and True Confections, will be the final judge.

Click here for the submission guidelines.

Wilkes Featured in Low-Res MFA Handbook

February 6, 2013

wilkes-university-grad-logoDid you know the Wilkes Creative Writing MA/MFA programs are featured in a book that focusesexclusively on low-residency writing programs?

The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Writing Students(Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2011), by Lori A. May, includes more than 150 interviews with program directors, faculty, current students, and alumni from 49 different low-res programs.

Several voices represent the Wilkes program:

  • In Chapter 6: The Programs, six pages are dedicated to the programs at Wilkes. Interviewees include Bonnie Culver, J. Michael Lennon, Phil Brady, Kaylie Jones, Amye Archer, Brian Fanelli, and James Warner;
  • In Chapter 5: Funding, Bonnie Culver discusses the incredible assistantships and scholarships available at Wilkes;
  • In Chapter 8: Non-Residency Semesters, Jim Warner talks about working with a mentor online and how to manage time and organize one’s writing life.

The Low-Residency MFA Handbook

Just a few days ago, alum Gale Martin interviewed Handbook author Lori A. May on the Scrivengale website.

Wilkes alum Amye Archer interviewed Lori about low-res programs back in 2011. Read the Q&A here.

Unlike other creative writing resources, The Low-Residency MFA Handbook focuses specifically on low-residency programs and aims to share useful tips and advice for low-res students. Wilkes is prominently featured throughout the book and, as such, offers an ‘insider look’ into what our program has to offer prospective students.

If you’re near campus, you can visit the Creative Writing office where a few copies of The Low-Residency MFA Handbook are on the bookshelf.  There is also a free preview of The Low-Residency MFA Handbook on Amazon.

About the Book

The Low-Residency MFA Handbook: A Guide for Prospective Creative Writing Students (Continuum/Bloomsbury, 2011)
by Lori A. May
ISBN 978-1-4411984-4-0

Available @ Amazon, on Kindle, at Barnes & Noble, and @ Bloomsbury

More about the book and author at www.LoriAMay.com.

From the back cover: The Low-Residency MFA Handbook offers prospective graduate students an in-depth preview of low-residency creative writing MFA programs. Interviews with program directors, faculty, alumni, and current students answer many questions prospective graduates have, including: What happens during the non-residency semester? What are the residencies like? What community is established between faculty and fellow students? The guide also considers program structures, funding, and unique opportunities that extend beyond the degree. 

Contents

Preface
Chapter 1: An Introduction to Low-Residency MFAs
Chapter 2: Is the Low-Residency Model Right for Me?
Chapter 3: The Selection Process
Chapter 4: The Application Process
Chapter 5: Funding
Chapter 6: The Programs
Chapter 7: The Residency Experience
Chapter 8: Non-Residency Semesters
Chapter 9: Pedagogical Preparation
Chapter 10: Learning from Experience
Chapter 11: Life After the MFA
Chapter 12: AWP Membership & Services
Appendix A: Extended Interviews
Appendix B: Quick Reference
Appendix C: Additional Resources
Acknowledgements

 What People Are Saying

 “The Low-Residency MFA Handbook is a must for anyone trying to push their creative writing educational credentials to the next level.”   – Midwest Book Review

“What an invaluable handbook! Lori A. May has done her research, knows her stuff, and, what’s best, lets the programs speak for themselves through her extensive interviews. There’s a chorus of quotes from faculty, students, and graduates in The Low-Residency MFA Handbook. Anyone making the decision to apply for an MFA should consult this wise guide. May’s clarity and authority make it a gold standard.”   – Molly Peacock, author of The Second Blush

The Low-Residency MFA Handbook is an important book, not only for prospective students, but for program faculty and administrators as well. This guide will prove invaluable for students preparing to apply for low-residency MFA programs and will inform them of what to expect once they gain acceptance. The low-residency MFA in creative writing is increasingly popular, and there has been a lack of resources available to students, faculty and administrators. The Low-Residency MFA Handbook fills that void.”   – Derick Burleson, author of Melt

More Information

Visit www.LoriAMay.com or Amazon for more info.

March

Gale Martin: Success with Grace

March 27, 2013

Don Juan in Hankey, PAby Gale Martin

Recent graduate Gale Martin has been enjoying incredible success for not one, but two recent book releases. Her debut with Don Juan in Hankey, PA(Booktrope 2011) keeps luring in readers, but it’s her latest book Grace Unexpected that has drawn even more attention, recently rising to #1 on Amazon’s list of Movers and Shakers.

“Movers & Shakers allows readers to keep track of what books are popular on Amazon,” Martin explains. “It measures books that obtain the biggest gains in Amazon sales ranks over the past 24 hours.”

Grace Unexpectedby Gale Martin

As part of a marketing strategy, Grace Unexpected was offered for free Kindle download for a limited three day period. Martin’s publisher aimed for the freebie to attract readers and everything fell into place as planned. “It received loads more visibility,” Martin says. In fact, during those three days not only was Grace Unexpected downloaded more than 38,000 times, the book sold more than 400 copies in the following 36 hours when the book returned to its retail price. In turn, buyers have been adding Don Juan in Hankey, PA to their online shopping cart as well.

Martin credits the Wilkes writing program for steering her in the right direction. The author states that Wilkes helps “prepare authors to present their writing,” both through public reading experience and preparing for the publication market. This hands-on ‘training’ has helped Martin across the board. She says, “I would say my Wilkes preparation was invaluable to my feeling confident and projecting a professional writer’s image.”

Riding high on her past two releases, Martin is already at work on her next book.

Introducing Kaylie Jones Books

March 20, 2013

KJBooks“Where dedicated writers take a stand.”

Wilkes faculty member Kaylie Jones has launched a new imprint with Akashic Books!

From the Kaylie Jones Books website:

Kaylie Jones Books is a New York based imprint that will create a cooperative of dedicated emerging and established writers who will play an integral part in the publishing process, from reading manuscripts, editing, offering advice, to advertising the upcoming publications. The list of brilliant novels unable to find homes within the mainstream is growing every day. It is our hope to publish books that bravely address serious issues—historical or contemporary—relevant to society today. Just because a book addresses serious topics and may include tragic events does not mean that the narrative cannot be amusing, fast-paced, plot-driven, and lyrical all at once.

The first book to be released is Unmentionables, by Laurie Loewenstein. The story takes place on the 1917 Chautauqua circuit, in rural Illinois, on the verge of US involvement in WWI. While the larger topics are race and women’s suffrage, the characters and their courageous stands against oppression and reactionary bigotry could not be more relevant today.

Learn more at the Kaylie Jones Books website.

Kaylie Jones Books is also on Facebook and Twitter.

On Writing: Tara Caimi Guest Essay

March 13, 2013

True Story

By Tara Caimi

 

Tara Caimi

As I settle into somewhat of a writing comfort zone after completing a creative writing degree, I find myself drawn to a form I never would have anticipated or thought to consider writing—the essay. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of all the possibilities with regard to essay before I returned to school to pursue an MFA. I’d always thought of essays in the traditional sense of the formula: introduction of an idea, explanation of a claim, statement of facts or opinions to support the claim, conclusion repeating the main points and reinforcing the original claim. We all learned this formula in high school, and none of us could wait for the day we’d never have to use it again. As students, we were always so worried about adhering to the formula that we could not have cared less about the claim itself. And constructing the supporting arguments—well, that just became an exercise in creative deduction. Half of the time, even I didn’t know what I was talking about. I knew how to follow the formula, though, and that earned me a respectable grade more often than it did not.

Twenty years later I found myself in front of an audience, reading a passage to practice my oratory as part of the MFA requirement. I had chosen a five-minute excerpt from the previous semester’s nonfiction reading assignment—a piece with which I’d fallen instantly in transformative love—Jo Ann Beard’s The Fourth State of Matter. During my introduction I referred to the work as a story, not only because it featured an obvious beginning, middle, and end comprising the requisite narrative arc, but also because Beard’s piece was lyrical, character-driven, and emotionally hyper-stimulating. It was everything I thought a story should be. Barring a chronic absence of self-confidence, I would have been proud, borderline smug, to have performed my reading, having chosen from such an obviously worthy piece. As it was, I suspected (or rather hoped) the work was sufficiently acclaimed as to make it impossible for anyone, of decent intellect, to fault the choice.

The raw terror that clutched my heart during the reading loosened its hold as I returned to my seat. Lowering myself into the folding chair, I noticed a professor in front of me turn to offer what I thought would be words of comfort and/or congratulations at my having successfully read such a riveting piece of work. Still jittery from the public speaking experience, I anticipated the compliment by prematurely smiling as the words thank you formed on my lips.

“It’s an essay,” the professor said.

Descent halted, my rear end hovered an inch above the aluminum seat.

“You called it a story,” he finished, as I forced my now rigid body the rest of the way down into the chair.

Perhaps I nodded in agreement, smile still plastered to my face; tongue, having been stopped, in its part, from contributing to the words of thanks, perched lightly behind my two front teeth. By the time my confusion made its way from neurons, through synapses, and on to its facially expressed destination, the professor had already turned toward the front of the room and was actively absorbed in whatever the next student was reading.

I’ve grown to welcome these moments of discomfort in my life, but only in hindsight. I’m nowhere near the level of self-actualization it would take for me to recognize opportunity in such moments of extreme humiliation. Little did I know at the time that the comment would send me on an extended exploration of the varying styles, structures, and voices of essays.

I soon found myself plowing through works not only by Jo Ann Beard but also by George Orwell, Joan Didion, Virginia Woolf, David Sedaris, Abigail Thomas—there are too many to name. Though I now knew better, I could not stop thinking of these works in terms of story. What constitutes the difference? I obsessively wondered.

In their book Creating Nonfiction, Becky Bradway and Doug Hesse point out that narrative is “often the most important” (p. 39) organizational strategy for creative nonfiction and that “very often it (creative nonfiction) reads like a story” (p. 3). “Most creative nonfiction relies, almost inevitably, uponnarrative. Narrative is story” (p. 41), Bradway and Hesse go so far as to proclaim, deepening the mystery entirely. If essays rely on story, I considered, why is the label separating the genres so important?

Determined to decipher this enigma, I attended the 2011 Association for Writers and Writing Professionals Conference, where I packed in as many sessions on essay as I could reasonably attend. During the panel presentation, “The Essayist in the 21st Century,” Robert Atwan pointed out that most people regard “essay” as “a four-letter word.” The comment struck a note in the recesses of my mind like a mallet hitting a xylophone bar. The moment he said it, I realized, so did I. Apparently, my junior-high-induced essay-equals-boring mental model had relegated essay, as an entire genre, to a dusty shelf in the back of a dark, moldy, subconscious closet where it had lived, neglected and alone, for twenty-some-odd years. Poor essay.

When I was twelve years old, I found a cat. More to the fact, a cat found me. She was black with orange spots and a checkerboard face; skinny and shy and at first appearance homely. She hung around the house until my parents were forced to acknowledge her presence in our lives. My first real pet. It didn’t matter that she had to live outside. I named her Gypsy and built her bed out of a cardboard box and a ratty old blanket—the only one my mother was willing to spare. I put the bed under a chair on the back porch where, less than a month later, Gypsy had her kittens. I watched those kittens emerge, and I sat on the porch with Gypsy on my lap as she fed those kittens every day until they went to live in different homes. The night the last of her babies were taken away, I stayed with Gypsy in the kitchen, crying desperately as she howled. The little stray cat that nobody else wanted pulled at my heart. I guess I’ve always been a sucker for the underappreciated.

With essays, I have to believe it’s a matter of semantics (and perhaps the same is true for strays). In reality, essays are diverse, entertaining, and rich with poignant potential. In the mental model remnants from early education, essays are formulaic, boring, and emotionally vacant. These are the models that pervade. I suppose, as writers, we could take the easy way out and label narrative essays as true stories. It wouldn’t be deceptive—not by definition that rings true to me—and it might bolster readership, which would be a win for everyone. But I suppose that wouldn’t be the point.

Those of us brave or curious or outright lost enough to re-enter the closet where our preconceptions lie might find ourselves dusting off the mental models, washing away the mold, and uncovering a treasure that will, forevermore, pull at our hearts. We will embrace the essays that find us, champion those that do not, and truly hope they all find homes.

 

Work Cited: Bradway, Becky, and Douglas Dean. Hesse. Creating Nonfiction: a Guide and Anthology. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.

***

Tara Caimi is a freelance writer with a B.A. in journalism and an M.F.A. in creative writing. Her essays, stories, and articles have appeared in journals and magazines including the Writer’s Chronicle, The MacGuffin, Fire & Knives, and Oh Comely magazine.

Wilkes Panels, Readings, and More at AWP

March 6, 2013

Boston2013

It’s conference time!

If you plan on attending the annual AWP Conference and Bookfair, taking place in Boston MA, March 6-9, 2013, you’ll find ample Wilkes representation. Also, Jim Warner, alum and former assistant program director, will once again host the All-Collegiate Poetry Slam and Open Mic every night of the Boston conference.

Bonnie Culver, program director, is on the AWP national Board of Trustees and was a member of the Boston Conference committee. She noted, “There are more presentations this year than any other year in AWP history. It promises to be another fantastic conference.”

The following panel discussions include members from the Wilkes community:

“The Ten-Minute Play: the Essential Ingredients”
Panelists: Gregory Fletcher, Jean Klein, and L. Elizabeth Powers

For both playwrights and non-playwrights who may want to try their hand at a shorter genre, the ingredients of the ten-minute play will be compared and contrasted to the full-length play and sketch writing. Also, exploration will be given to finding the right size of a story and cast, as well as to the art of economy, how it looks on paper, and the production and publishing opportunities that could follow.

“Second Sex, Second Shelf? Women, Writing, and the Literary Marketplace”
Panelists: Christine Gelineau, Erin Belieu, Julia Glass, Tayari Jones, and Meg Wolitzer

Statistics suggest a gap still exits but is there a problem and if there is, what is its nature? What changes/ remedies/ metamorphoses can/ should be imagined? Do you think about this issue differently in terms of your writing vs. in terms of your career? Accomplished writers, who happen to be women, theorize and report out of their own experiences and analysis of the current literary scene.

“International Women’s Day Reading from Becoming: What Makes a Woman”
Panelists: Jill McCabe Johnson, Dinah Lenney, Nancy McKinley, Bibi Wein, Nadine Pinede

Authors read from what Dinty W. Moore describes as an astonishing array of gifted writers who explore intimacy, doubt, love, joy, and sorrow to form this exhilarating anthology. Edited by Jill McCabe Johnson, Becoming: What Makes a Woman (University of Nebraska Gender Programs, 2012) features essays of pivotal life experience.

For more information about AWP and the conference schedule, visitwww.awpwriter.org. And, don’t forget to stop by Wilkes/ Etruscan Press booth in the Bookfair!

April

Fellowships Available: Norman Mailer Center

April 24, 2013

Fellowships_half_page

Fellowship applications are now available for the 2013 season at The Norman Mailer Center. The Center and the Colony offers Fellowships for fiction, nonfiction and poetry writers during the second half of 2013. During a Fellowship period of three weeks, the mentoring faculty will be headed by three highly regarded writers. Greg Curtis will mentor Nonfiction, Meena Alexander, Poetry, and Jeffery Renard Allen the Fiction fellows, each of whom will be in residence.

This year, from July 20 to August 10, 2013, Michael Mailer will host the Center’s fellowship programs at Norman’s home in Brooklyn Heights, New York.  Wilkes faculty member J. Michael Lennon will again be leading workshops with NMC. The Workshop schedule and details are also available online: http://nmcenter.org/pages/view/13/workshops

Previously, Wilkes alum Patricia A. Florio attended the Provincetown sessions. She has this to say:

“We all were in awe of our surroundings as Norman Mailer’s energy filled the room. Dr. Lennon gave us a tour of the home early on Sunday morning. You have to experience this tour through his home to understand the magnanimous legacy that he left behind. His office and writing desk were exactly as he left it on the day he died.  Books surrounded him. Papers, drawings, ideas on index cards filled his desk. We were on the third floor of his home looking at the view of Provincetown. A view, we were told, that Norman Mailer loved….

Every morning as we entered the house, the view of the beach and Cape Cod Bay filled our eyes. Dr. Lennon’s voice filled our ears.  It was the perfect storm for creative juices to flow. And flow they did.”

For more information about The Norman Mailer Center and available programs, visit http://nmcenter.org.

Lennon’s Mailer Biography News

April 17, 2013

lennon-jacket-220Norman Mailer: A Double Life, by J. Michael Lennon, will be published by Simon and Schuster on October 15, 2013.

J. Michael Lennon, Norman Mailer’s archivist, editor and authorized biographer, teaches creative writing at Wilkes University, and is the founding president of the Norman Mailer Society.

Lennon has a new website where news about the book, related events and signings, and more is now shared online. Visit www.jmichaellennon.com. The site will be regularly updated, and you can sign in and comment on the displayed materials.

J. Michael Lennon

J. Michael Lennon was authorized by Mailer and the Mailer estate to write his biography, and as such, had access to family and friends, and to unpublished documents, notably Mailer’s letters (Lennon has edited the letters for publication by Random House, Mailer’s longtime publisher). He has interviewed more than 80 people for this biography, but most important of all, he knew Mailer for decades before the latter’s death in 2007.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life reflects Mailer’s dual identities: journalist and activist, devoted family man and notorious philanderer, intellectual and fighter, writer and public figure. Mailer himself said he had two sides “and the observer is paramount.” Readers of Lennon’s biography may find this self-assessment to be debatable.

Norman Mailer: A Double Life will be 800+ pages in length (around 330,000 words), contain a bibliography, 43,000 words of notes, an index, and about 55 photos which will tell the story of Mailer’s life in another way. It will sell for $37.50, but pre-ordered is $24.28, or $19.99 for an electronic version. You can also order it via the website.

Kait Burrier Interviews Crystal Hoffman

April 10, 2013

Typewriters, Pilgrims, and Poetry:

AnInterview with Crystal Hoffman

By Kait Burrier

Crystal Hoffman has led poetry workshops across the country, from public libraries to Burning Man Arts and Music Festival. She has taught at cover-sulfurwaterAmerican University of Beirut. Poems from her chapbookSulfur Water (2012, Hyacinth Girl Press) have been translated into three languages. Hoffman studied creative writing at Carlow University and earned her M.A. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is currently walking across the United States, gathering and scattering American myths via poetry.

Hoffman began her journey on March 25th, 2013, equipping herself with a tent, a change of clothes, an Olivetti 32 typewriter, and a modified cart affectionately named Connie. She left western Pennsylvania and is headed toward the Pacific northwest on what she anticipates will be a 6 month long journey spanning 2,550 miles on foot. She may be one of the few people who clicks the pedestrian icon while long-distance Google-mapping.

Crystal intends to revive the American myth and engage interested strangers in acts of poetry, much like she did as a founding member of the Typewriter Girls Cabaret. Along with poet Margaret Bashaar, Hoffman organized cabarets focused onparticipatory compositions. Many Typewriter Girls performances included various performing artists and writing games like Exquisite Corpse, and each event began with a typewriter at the door where, upon entering, audience members contributed a phrase to a collective poem.

In her Poetry Pilgrim Project, Crystal will engage in narrative therapy techniques with willing storytellers. Each poem will reflect that individual’s “hero’s journey” in the form of a poem. Crystal will type the poetry on card-stock, tie it with a ribbon, and present it to the individual, unearthing collective glorified narratives that will upturn a trail of American mythologyforged by poetry.

Kait BurrierPhoto: Jason Riedmiller

I recently had the opportunity to ask Crystal about her write life and about the Poetry Pilgrim Project:

Kait Burrier: You’re a poet, a performance artist, a teacher, an activist—how has all of this informed your writing?

Crystal Hoffman: When I write, I typically hear a voice speaking the words in my head. If I don’t or I’m concerned that something needs altered from how it came out originally, I will repeat it over and over out loud until it sounds right. This sometimes makes me look like a psycho in coffee shops—adds color to the place. I blame this need to hear on how central performance has been to my creative career.

As an activist, I attempt to resolve the paradoxes that frustrate me most in my work. I write poems that I wouldn’t call “issue” poems necessarily, but they attempt to work out why certain injustices and absurdities occur through narrative and images—not necessarily consciously, but they come up. The actual experience of protest I also find to be a poetic one, an energizing one, one wherein you can hear the magic of certain phrases.

There is also a beautiful absurdity to it. I used to be the one always itching for the game to be stepped up, looking for confrontation, hoping for a battle. It was in this space where I could see very clearly how I try to write the situations around me and get frustrated when I can’t manifest them. I have a lot of need for the control of my own story. I’m trying to get over this.

Crystal Hoffmanpoetrypilgrim.com

In terms of being a teacher, I think that I’ve learned more about writing from teaching poetry at the American University of Beirut than I have in all of my schooling—preparing the classes, clarifying concepts for students, grading, re-evaluating my own standards, being forced to assess things I wouldn’t typically read. It was radical. It was possibly the most vital experience of my life.

KB: You are a founding member of the Typewriter Girls. Will you share about this experience?

CH: The Typewriter Girls were my central creative project for about five years. It was a beautiful thing. I was able to utilize the performances to serve as an outlet for nearly all of my creative urges: comedy, collaboration, theater, poetry, dancing, games, performance pieces, even writing the press releases became a pleasure—I wrote them like stories, absurd ones, and people responded to them!

However, this was also problematic, as it came to consume too much of my creative energy, which made me angry, as I became too attached… It was a rush, but a draining one. Margaret (Bashaar, of Hyacinth Girl Press) and I are actually planning on doing a reunion show, but we’re not going to be doing them regularly as we were before. I would love to start writing sketch comedy again and writing scripts for performance art pieces, but I think I’d like to do it as a part of festivals or in someone’s already established troupe.

I see this walk as almost the opposite of the Typewriter Girls, despite the fact that the interview-poem process I will be writing along the way was developed through them.

KB: You have been active in multiple cities across the country in alternative poetry readings. You have taught both locally and abroad. Now you will travel across the country on your own with a typewriter. What do you hope to find? What do you hope to share? Do you have any plans or will you take a day-to-day approach?

CH: I’m definitely taking the day-to-day approach. I know that I’m going to be taking the Great American Discovery Trail at first through West Virginia and to Cincinnati. At that point, I’m going to see what feels right. Hopefully, I can head north from there and get to Montana by July. The only big thing that I want to make is the Rainbow Gathering, but it’s not a huge deal if I don’t. I’m going to try to set up last minute readings/writing sessions as I get a better idea of my timeline, but for now, it’s nebulous. Anything can happen. I like that.

www.poetrypilgrim.com

***

If you’re feeling generous, you can donate to Crystal Hoffman’s Kickstarter here: http://www.poetrypilgrim.com/ 

If you’re still feeling generous and want to give her a pair of new walking shoes in exchange for a poem, or if you just want to see what she is up to, you can see Poetry Pilgrim Project updates here:http://www.poetrypilgrim.com/

Kait Burrier is an MFA candidate in the Wilkes Creative Writing Program. She and photographer Jason Riedmiller travel near, far, and further to bring NEPA the latest in live music. Pick up a copy of the Weekender or checkwww.theweekender.com for updates.

Poyer’s Latest Adventure: Available Now

April 2, 2013

PoyerWilkes University teacher and sailor Dave Poyer’s newest book, THE WHITENESS OF THE WHALE, is hot off the press!
After a tragic accident maims her laboratory assistant, Dr. Sara Pollard’s career as a primate behaviorist lies in ruins. With nothing left to lose, Pollard – descendant of a Nantucket captain whose ship was sunk by a rogue whale – accepts an offer to join anti-whaling activists on a round-the-world racing yacht as the resident scientist. The plan is to sail from Argentina to the stormy Antarctic Sea.  There they’ll shadow, harass, and expose the Japanese fleet, which continues to kill and process endangered whales in internationally-declared sanctuaries. But everyone aboard Black Anemone has a secret, or something to live down.  Her crew—including a beautiful but narcissistic film celebrity, an Afghan War veteran in search of the buzz of combat, and an enigmatic, obsessive captain—will confront hostile whalers, brutal weather, dangerous ice, near-mutiny, and romantic conflict.  Yet no one aboard is prepared for what Nature herself has in store . . . when they’re targeted by a massive creature with a murderous agenda of its own.
Filled with violence, beauty, and magical evocations of life in the most remote waters on Earth, The Whiteness of the Whale is a powerful adventure by a master novelist.

The Whiteness of the Whale is available now and has received some wonderful advance praise:

Publishers Weekly posted this review of David Poyer’s forthcoming novel,The Whiteness of the Whale. In what PW calls “a riveting modern-day tale of high-seas Antarctic adventure,” the review goes on to praise the book, saying: “Poyer’s intense, fast-paced prose creates palpable suspense….”

Kirkus Reviews also had great stuff to say about The Whiteness of the Whale: “Poyer’s thriller takes fans on a frightening ride that will have them reaching for their Dramamine…. Poyer spent a great deal of his life on the ocean, and it shows. This is a fine thriller.”  Read the full review here.

Library Journal said Poyer’s intricate experience on the subject matter “should be rousing good fun for thriller fans.”

And, the Feb 15 issue of Booklist has this to say: “It’s the crew members who propel the story, the author exploring their hidden pasts, their personal agendas, and the relationships that spring up among them. Some readers might feel Poyer goes a bit far—the book takes a very dark turn about two-thirds of the way through that might stretch credibility a little—but the story is undeniably powerful.”  Find more here.

The Whiteness of the Whale by David Poyer

St. Martin’s Press, $26.99 (336p). April 2013.

ISBN 978-1-2500-2056-7

Order on amazon

Media & Review Copies: Contact Joseph Rinaldi from the St. Martin’s publicity department.

May

New Program Tracks in Publishing and Film

May 29, 2013

Ever thought you wanted to start your own press, e-zine, or literary journal? Thanks to the initiative of Akashic Books editor Johnny Temple andEtruscan Press founding editor Phil Brady, alums and current students now have the option of pursuing a Master of Arts in Publishing! This new track will open at the June 2013 residency. Wilkes alums will take only an additional 18 credits to earn the M.A. in publishing.

Have you found the world of documentary film fascinating? The Wilkes low-residency program has also added a Master of Arts in documentary film, which will begin in January, 2014. Like the new publishing degree, alums need only take an additional 18 credits to earn this degree. The curriculum is being developed now working with Robert May and SenArt Films and other to be named companies.

For more information or to apply to any of the newly revised program tracks, please email or call Dr. Culver or Ms. Dawn Leas. Deadline to apply is May 31, 2013. Visit the Wilkes writing program website for updates.

Dr. Bonnie Culver, Director: bonnie.culver@wilkes.edu
Ms. Dawn Leas, Associate Program Director: dawn.leas@wilkes.edu
570.408.4527
570.408.4534

Advisory Board Member Susan Cartsonis Honored

May 22, 2013

Faculty and advisory board member Susan Cartsonis was recently honored for her accomplishments in film by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America at their 6th Annual Women of Distinction luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Susan offered this speech at the luncheon:

Thank you so much for this honor. I’m excited to be sharing this day with Lisa Greer and Amy Brenneman. While I’ve been TOLD I’m being honored as a Woman of Distinction for my accomplishments in film, if we’re being really honest here, it’s about Stan. Stan Seidel was my life partner of seventeen years, and all around great guy, who died suddenly in 2000 and way too young at 48 of the complications Crohn’s Disease. Stan’s the real reason I’m being honored. And I’m more than ok with that.

Susan Cartsonis

I’m proud of the role I played in helping Stan prevail over his disease to become as he always said with truth behind the joke: a “well respected member of his chosen profession”. Which was screenwriting.

Stan used to call me, his “helpmeet”, which I thought was a word he just made up until I looked it up, Googled it last night, and found it is a combination of two roots from Hebrew, one meaning “to rescue” or “to save,” and the other meaning “to be strong.” The roots merged into one word, so did their meanings.

So I’d like to share this lovely award with all of the Women and Men of Distinction and helpmeets who have been and are caretakers for people with Crohn’s and Colitis and other debilitating diseases.

Those caretakers include people here like Miriam Scharf, who was Stan’s therapist. Miriam helped him break through creative barriers so that he got to see his work on the big screen, and got to be a well respected member of his chosen profession. Also, Dr. Ed Feldman, who reassured and comforted Stan about his condition from the moment Stan arrived in L.A. and encouraged him to go on adventures around the world, even when it presented a logistical nightmare due to shipments of medications, refrigeration, and risks. Under his care in the 90’s we went to London, Paris, Milan and Florence and the South Pacific—but not to Thailand or Mexico… (for those who weren’t there, there was a big laugh here—because it’s widely known that you have to be extremely careful about travel in these and certain other countries if you are vulnerable to these diseases.)

I share this also with friends like Kevin Goetz, whose late mother had M.S. and who takes care of others with M.S. now through a foundation he established in his mother’s name. And with friends with aging parents who are dealing with the challenges of giving and getting them help.

And I share the award with those of you who are caretakers I haven’t met or I don’t know about because you quietly, even secretly take care of someone in your life.

Secrecy is a big thing with bowel disease especially in the movie business. Not very glam. When Stan died it was a huge shock to people who knew us well. That’s because Stan didn’t want anyone to know anything about it. I respected Stan’s wishes not to discuss his disease publicly —which was hard. But I did it.

As a caretaker you gain a lot of wisdom and perspective along with the feeling that you too are sick without actually BEING sick. Caretaking taught me a lot about the nature of illness and life and death.

But once someone is gone, how do you continue to care for them? Well, in my case it’s by accepting this honor, and supporting important research about what ultimately killed Stan. That’s what he would have wanted. So thanks to you all for shedding light so that Crohn’s and Colitis can get the attention and funding it so deserves. I accept this award on behalf of all of the caretakers in the audience today and beyond. Thank you.

***

To learn more or to make a donation to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, visit the CCFA website.

A Scribble of Writers: Q&A with Stephanie Riese

May 15, 2013

Stephanie Riese at the Jan '11 Wilkes residency

Wilkes alum Stephanie Riese runs A Scribble of Writers, a blog and creative collective. In this Q&A, Riese talks about their group, book reviewing, and invites others to join the collaboration.

Stephanie, tell us about A Scribble of Writers. What compelled you to start a collective?

I actually came up with the idea for Scribble of Writers at Wilkes. My friends and I were sitting in a social media class, hearing about how important it is to get our names out there and have an online presence. Listening to the types of writing websites and blogs people were using, I thought, “Hey, why not start our own?” I bounced the idea off the girls and they were enthusiastic. I love editing and proofing, so founding the site sounded like a lot of fun to me!

As part of the blog, you provide creativity prompts. Do you then share the results with one another? 

The prompts are emailed out to everyone, and they email their pieces back to me. After any necessary edits, I post them to the website, where everyone has a chance to enjoy them.

Why do you include book reviews on the blog?

Book reviews were the suggestion of my friend Michelle, who wanted to write them. They’re a great way to get your name out there, and also generate great traffic for the website. I’d love to get a few more people to write them.

How can others get involved in A Scribble of Writers?

Anyone who would like to join the scribble need only send me an email and tell me what they’re interested in writing, be it the prompts, book reviews, etc. I’d like everyone to do the prompts in addition to anything else they enjoy, but I’m flexible. I’d love to see the site expand, with someone writing a blog about the writing process or other things like that.

***

Thanks, Stephanie. If you’re interested in contacting Stephanie Riese about A Scribble of Writers, you’ll find her on Facebook.

I Submit to You by Michael J. Soloway

May 8, 2013

I Submit to You

By Michael J. Soloway

The Rule of Twenty-Five

Sheepshead Review. Serving House. Newfound. Northwind. Palooka. Thin Air magazine (4x). fwriction review. Utter magazine. Superstition Review. TINGE Magazine. The Boiler Journal. Passages North. Thomas J. Hrushka Memorial Nonfiction Prize (3x). Prick of the Spindle. The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Hippocampus Magazine. Ploughshares—just to name a few.

lit magsIn all, I’ve received more than twenty-five rejections over the past thirteen months. They come in all shapes and sizes, with their own length and own voice. Like poems all titled, “Unfortunately…” Some offer compliments and encouragement; others simply cut you off at the knees and leave you feeling paralyzed with fear and insecurity. But a loss is a loss, whether it’s by thirty points or one.

Rejection is part of life, part of The Writing Life. But it’s also a word I associate with immaturity. After all, this isn’t one of those dreams where you’re late for a test without your No. 2 pencil; it isn’t high school. There is no prom to obsess over or folded notes to pass to potential dates—even though, at times, it may feel that way, as you ask yourself: Why not me? What’s wrong with me? I say: Nothing, especially if you haven’t even taken the plunge and submitted your work yet! And that doesn’t mean sending pages to your parents or friends or “one contest years ago.” Hilary Homzie, a children’s author at Hollins University, and a former mentor of mine, once told me: “You should always have twenty-five pieces of work in process at any one time.” Twenty-five? Yes, twenty-five. Five projects you’re writing; five you’re editing; five query letters you’re producing; five pieces you’re in the process of submitting; and five you’re waiting to hear back from an editor, agent, or publisher. Like sales, or any other business, it’s a numbers game—which simply means persistence is rewarded.

The Rebuff is Not Just For Cars

What’s the difference between a writer and an author? Have you ever turned this over in your mind? We call ourselves writers, but aren’t we already writers, all of us. Everyday, whether you’re writing or not, you are a writer; if you’re reading this then you most certainly are.

Perception and self-actualization is vital to growth and a continued formation of a positive identity. It’s time to start thinking of yourself as not only a writer, but an author as well. Whether you’ve published an essay or article or book or poem or blog or chapbook or a piece of haiku that began on a dinner napkin or if you haven’t published at all, give yourself permission to be an author. After all, we have Author pages on Facebook, not Writer pages. Be positive, then stay positive. Have your “Author’s Bio” ready. Know, deep down in your heart, that you’ll need it soon enough.

Along with my thirty aught rebuffs (a word I prefer over rejection, because it reminds me of polishing, that my work simply needs another run-through and that it’s not me that’s being rejected), I’ve also had successes this year as well—three essays and two memoir excerpts in seven different literary magazines over those same thirteen months. How have I done this? Quality work is only one ingredient to success. But courage and persistence is, by far, key to turning pages in an attic into pages into “print.” By rebuffing your work, and putting that first toe into what can sometimes be murky waters, you’ll be well on your way to becoming published—never immune to rejection, but an author ready to build upon success. After all, a translucent ocean does not reflect like the black sheen on the surface of a dark summer lake, it’s mystery reflecting your own image back at you, an identity that’s actually clear, if you stare long enough and catch the right amount of light.

Time is Relative (A Distant Cousin, Twice Removed) 

Excuses are never about time; they’re about energy.

clockTime, after all, is just a state of mind—we make time for what we want to make time for. “I can’t go to the gym, I don’t have time.” “I can’t cook dinner, I don’t have time.” “I can’t write a query letter, I don’t have time.” I have the same excuses: a full-time job, school, family, which includes a 21-month-old daughter. And I had the same self doubts you may have over your shoulder like a backpack—something to keep your work safe, but oh so heavy to lug around. I used to think one rejection meant my work was “no good.” Giving up is easy. But the only notion you should be giving up at this point is expectation.

A friend and peer, who many of you know from the Wilkes Creative Writing Program, Danielle Poupore’s, MFA (AKA, Danielle E. Curtis), essay, “Lilac Blossoms: A Dead Squirrel Story” was rebuffed fourteen times before being published in Split Lip magazine in March. Persistence, perseverance, and faith in your own words are your greatest tools. Use them to your advantage. Time is not the enemy. It’s simply a distant relative passing through town looking for a place to “crash” for the night. Learn to invite them in with open arms; embrace the time you do have, even if the only room you have left in your soul at the end of the day is a worn couch without pillows. There is pride and reward in effort.

It’s “Submittable” and More

Once you have a submittable story, set of stories, or script, depending on your genre, visit Poets & Writers website (www.pw.org). In the top navigation, find “Tools for Writers.” Underneath that you’ll see “Contests,” “Lit Mags,” and “Small Presses.” Once there, you can segment your search by Genre, Subgenre, Format, and Payment. And don’t get overwhelmed by your search results. There are 885 literary magazines that pop up without conducting an Advanced Search. But if I specify, “Creative Nonfiction” and “Autobiography/Memoir,” then my results are a much more manageable 133. Remember, this is a numbers game, but not a race. Concentrate on upcoming deadlines first, then make a commitment to submit a piece at least once a month. Follow the Rule of 25s, but unlike writing goals, submissions are not supposed to be part of a daily routine. I submitted my essays and excerpts sporadically over an entire year.

Most online magazines have made the transition to electronic submissions, which not only makes it easier to submit your work but also to track them through a system called “Submittable.” Once you make your first submission, and your account is set up, you can check the status of a piece any time of day. Be sure to read each publication’s submission guidelines carefully—word count limits, publication deadlines, and anything else that a specific journal prefers. There are still many “traditional” publications that will require a more detailed project description, query letter, or even a paper submission.

“Simultaneous Submissions” is your best friend. Find magazines that accept them and send, send, send. Just be sure to follow their instructions. If one of your pieces gets picked up, then notify the other magazines immediately so they can take your submission out of consideration—unless, of moneycourse, they permit reprints. I’ve had two essays “reprinted,” so look for those opportunities as well. And don’t forget about contests. Just be aware, most have submission fees. So, that option can get costly. On the flipside, contests offer monetary awards and oftentimes, major publication opportunities. Look for contests no more than $15 per entry. There are literally thousands, depending upon your genre.

Another word of advice—don’t expect payment, if your work is accepted. We all want to make a living at writing, but right now the focus should be on getting published, putting your name out there into the Universe, and forming a strong identity as an author. As of September, when my seventh piece is scheduled for publication, I will have earned exactly $45 from my yearlong submission/publishing efforts. So, if you’re looking for a mammoth payday, consider becoming an actuary or a nurse anesthetist.

Sticks and Stones

Rejection is not a 4-letter word, even though it may elicit a few when you get that response from an editor, agent, publication, or contest. Just remember, reject and accept have the same number of letters. The word you would rather hear is obvious, but one rejection does not an author make. They’re just sticks and stones. But the forest ahead doesn’t have to be so bleak. Turn any rebuff into feathers and leaves falling harmlessly at your feet and keep walking until you reach a clearing—every deep wood has one.

So, what am I really trying to say? Who do I think I am? Today, I hope I’m your drill sergeant, your platoon leader. I’m your inspiration, your mentor. I’m your best friend, your confidante. I’m that devil on your shoulder; I’m that saint.

Today, I’m an author. And so are you.

Being a writer is a complicated relationship. Don’t just look for The One. Find the many—you deserve to be an author for years to come.

So, what now you may ask? In the words of a wise mentor, teacher, writer, author, and friend, Kevin Oderman: “Onward.” I submit to you—there’s no place else to go.

***

Michael J. Soloway grew up eating oranges, catching lizards, and listening to the gasp of tennis ball cans being opened in south Florida. He received his Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and will earn his MFA in January 2014. In addition, Michael has served as Michael Solowaymanaging editor of more than a dozen nonprofit magazines and just finished his first memoir Share the Chameleon, about attempting to break his family’s cycle of abuse, as he becomes a father for the first time in his 40s. Brevity Magazine published Michael’s short essay, “Introducing Mother Nature,” in 2012. In addition, Split Lip magazine published his nonfiction essay, “Sticks and Stones,” about his grandmother’s slide into dementia, in March 2013. His work has also appeared in Red Fez,Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts, and Under the Gum Treemagazines. An excerpt from Share the Chameleon will appear in Split Lipmagazine in September 2013.

Introducing Northampton House Press

May 1, 2013

Northampton House Press LLC, a company founded in 2011, is buzzing with activity–and involvement from the Wilkes commuity.

EmpyresNew titles includes Blood & Honor by Wilkes alum Chelle Ang, Ordinary Angels by Joan La Blanc, The Mirror of Aberrantine from alum C. M. Mullane (Chad Mullen), and Empyres: Bloodblind by Wilkes alum John Koloski.

“It’s thrilling to see my book become a reality,” Koloski said. “I thought nothing could compare to seeing the e-book online, but then I held my first galley copy! That beautiful glossy paperback came with a note from Dave Poyer stating that there’s nothing like a new book in one’s hand. He was absolutely right!”

Koloski has also taken on the role of Science Fiction and Horror acquisitions editor, while Joan La Blanc acquires Romance, Wilkes faculty member Bob Arthur manages Poetry acquisitions, and David Poyer acquires all other genres.angels

The Wilkes connection to Northampton House Press doesn’t end there. Poyer said, “Works are in production from Neil Shepard, Rashidah Abu-Bakr, and Ken Vose, along with several books by graduated program members.” This semester, Wilkes student William Horn is interning with the publishing house.

“Northampton House publishes carefully selected fiction—historical, romance, thrillers, fantasy—and lifestyle nonfiction, memoir, and poetry,” Poyer said. “Its mission is to discover great new writers, especially those graduated from accredited MA/MFA programs who have not yet achieved commercial recognition, and give them a chance to springboard into fame.”

arthurThe publisher aims to bring something new to the marketplace and to readers, particularly the kind of works that may be overlooked by large trade houses. “Watch the Northampton House list atwww.northampton-house.com,” Poyer said, “and Like us on Facebook to discover more innovative works of high quality from brilliant new writers.”

 

 

June

New Managing Editor for Etruscan Press

June 26, 2013

 

EtruscanLogo

Etruscan Press is delighted to announce that Dr. Jaclyn Fowler has agreed to accept the position of Managing Editor of Etruscan Press. Jackie received her M.F.A. and M.A. from Wilkes University’s Creative Writing program.

Prior to coming to Etruscan Press, Dr. Fowler taught English, Creative Writing, and Education to K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and adult learners in both the traditional ground and asynchronous online classrooms. She also served several independent schools as head of their academic programs and sits on the PA State Board of Private Schools.

Dr. Fowler received her doctorate in Education and Second Language Acquisition from The Pennsylvania State University.

Hippocampus Magazine Seeks Editors & Readers

June 19, 2013

HM-logo-banner-21

Hippocampus Magazine, founded by Wilkes alum Donna Talarico, is looking for a few additional volunteer readers and copy editors to join their staff. These are unpaid volunteer positions, but the experience is great for resumes! Reading submissions is a fantastic way to improve your own writing, while also helping shape future issues of a thriving creative nonfiction magazine.

Visit Hippocampus Magazine online for more details and contact Donna Talarico if you are interested in volunteering.

 

Novel Debut from alum Lauren Catron

June 12, 2013

Lauren Catron

Wilkes alum Lauren Catron has been busy since graduating with her MA in Creative Writing. With the launch of her debut novel this summer, Catron has been putting her effort into finessing her website—and writing a sequel.

Changeling Eyes is the first book in the series. “In a way, The Aesir Chronicles are an alternate history of earth,” Catron says, “one that explains why we have legends of unicorns, fairies, Elves, trolls, dragons and many more. It is also a place if you will, where science, magic, and religion are all part of a whole rather than each excluding the other, as we always seem to think they must.”

The first book introduces Lrill and her struggle with her powerful heritage, and the revelation that there is a core of truth at the center of every legend. “I plan for the series to span from the creation of the world to its destruction and rebirth,” says Catron. “And since I’ve chosen to make this an alternate history of earth, I have every myth from every culture to play with—sort of like what Jim Butcher does in the Dresden Files. So you can anticipate cultural crossovers.”

Changeling Eyes is scheduled for a summer debut with Booktrope Publishing. Catron says she admires their publishing model that relies on a solid team to work toward the success of the book. The author, editor, proofreader, cover designer, and book manager all work together to ensure the best for the book. “This also gives the author a great deal of input into their cover design,” Catron says “The author can also commission work from a designer who does not work for Booktrope, and Booktrope will usually find a way to accommodate this choice.”

While Catron is focused on the pre-publication of Changeling Eyes, she is already at work on its sequel. “I also have a few Graphic Novel ideas,” sheCatron Final-Coversays, “though those are a couple years out in my plans. Most of my writing centers around The Aesir Chronicles and I find that whenever I dream up as a standalone novel idea, I can find an excuse to tie it back into the main series. Having the entire world’s pool of myth and legend to work out of it makes it easy to tie things together. I have some vampires and a little steampunk, and maybe ninjas.”

Readers will find more news about Changeling Eyes and updates about the series on Lauren Catron’s website,http://www.lacatron.com.

 

More help from Visiting Editor Veronica Windholz

June 5, 2013

http://onclosereading.com

Residency guest speaker Veronica Windholz has added to On Close Reading, her resource site for writers. The long-time editor first developed the website as a research archive for the workshop she developed and led at the Norman Mailer Colony, but she has since added information that all writers can access and apply to their creative toolboxes.

On Close Reading includes resources and guidance in the areas of composition, revision, and storytelling. The Editing Clinic includes lessons on Composition, Revision, and Storytelling.

In addition to editing resources, Windholz has added a selection of video clips from her most recent visit to the Wilkes University creative writing program. Graduating MAs will have the opportunity to interact with the editor at the upcoming summer residency.

In August 2013, Veronica Windholz will celebrate forty years of editing top-selling fiction and nonfiction for the major New York publishers.

July

Post-Grad, Post-Production: Kevin Conner and the Big Screen

July 31, 2013

M.A. alum Kevin Conner’s film, “Pitchfork,” is in post-production. The film began as a short film project during his time in the Screenwriting Foundations course taught by Ross Klavan. Conner says the film has a simple premise: “A no-luck farmer finds happiness again. It’s a basic love story, with just a few twists.”

Since graduating, Conner has continued working with artistic directors Todd Oravic and Ryan Wood, both recent undergraduate Wilkes students. “Working with Todd and Ryan has been great,” Conner says. “Their energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge made completion of the film possible. I learned an awful lot from them. They are two talented gentlemen.”

Conner is thankful for his time in the Wilkes program for connecting him with the greater writing community. “In my opinion, this is the great intangible of the Wilkes program,” he says. “We all need help from others to keep projects moving along, and the program provides writers with the community necessary to see ideas through. It’s a very valuable resource.”

New releases for faculty member Ken Vose

July 24, 2013

Vose books

NORTHAMPTON HOUSE PRESS RELEASES FORMULA ONE RACING SERIES AS E-BOOKS

(New York) – July, 2013.  Northampton House Press has re-released the Pete Hawthorn Formula One series of racing thrillers, by former racing driver Ken Vose, for Nook, Kobo, Kindle, iPads, and other e-reading formats.

Oversteer takes the reader into the glamorous and high-risk world of international Formula One racing. When driver Pete Hawthorn goes to Rio for the Brazilian Grand Prix, he sets in motion a chain of events that will solve a decades-old mystery: the disappearance of his father in the Brazilian jungle during the 1970 World Cup Rally.

Dead Pedal is the sequel to Hawthorn’s Brazilian adventure. When three members of an exclusive racing society fall victim to a mysterious killer, questions arise as to whether their deaths were related to racing or to their wartime involvement with the WWII anti-Nazi resistance in France. The answer lies somewhere along the tortuous 1000 mile route of Italy’s famedMille Miglia. 

Ken Vose spent twenty years in the film and television industry as an editor, producer, writer and director.  His screenwriting credits include Greased Lightning starring Richard Pryor as NASCAR race driver Wendell Scott. Vose, who resides in rural Pennsylvania, is currently at work on the third book in the series. Boost will take Hawthorn to the fastest racecourse on the planet – the Bonneville Salt Flats – to investigate the suspicious death of a fellow driver who crashed during a practice run for an attempt to set a new World Land Speed Record.

Northampton House LLC publishes carefully selected fiction – historical, romance, thrillers, fantasy – and lifestyle nonfiction, memoir, and poetry. Its mission is to discover great new writers and give them a chance to springboard into fame. Watch the Northampton House list at www.northampton-house.com  and Like them on Facebook – “Northampton House” – to discover more innovative works from brilliant new writers.

For more information about Ken Vose and his other works, visit his website at http://kenvose.com/.   For more info: (570-685-7428).

Kickstarter success for producer Susan Cartsonis

July 17, 2013

Carrie Pilby

Wilkes faculty Susan Cartsonis, along with director Susan Johnson and producer Suzanne Farwell, have recently achieved success utilizing Kickstarter to fundraise. The team set a goal of more than $50,000 to be raised between Jun 18, 2013 – Jul 13, 2013. The goal was met two days prior to their deadline and funds continued to roll in for the final weekend.

Susan Cartsonis

The creative team was raising funds to adapt the novel Carrie Pilby by Caren Lissner into a script.Carrie Pilby was among the first novels published by the Red Dress Ink imprint. In its first print run, the book sold more than 50,000 copies and was subsequently reprinted and published under various other imprints to keep up with international demand.

Susan Cartsonis, a member of the Wilkes film faculty, is known for What Women Want, Beastly,Where the Heart Is, and No Reservations.

More info about the Kickstarter campaign is available here:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/braveartfilms/carrie-pilby-the-movie

More info about making Carrie Pilby into a film is online here:http://www.carriepilbythemovie.com

Sandee Gertz Umbach Earns National Recognition

July 10, 2013

pattern

Alum Sandee Gertz Umbach recently took 2nd place in the Working Class Studies Association’s national “Tillie Olsen” Award for Creative Writing for her published book of poetry, The Pattern Maker’s Daughter.

Each year, the WCSA issues a number of awards to recognize the best new work in the field of working-class studies. The review process is organized by the past-president of the WCSA, and submissions are judged by a panel of three readers for each of the five categories of awards. Comments from judges included this remark: “Sandra Gertz Umbach has a fresh way of seeing the everydayness of working lives.”

While in the program, Gertz Umbach worked with Neil Shepard. The alum says her mentor “helped me to push to the finish line on this book when at times it seemed impossible.”

Congrats, Sandee!

Todd McClimans: Grad Earns National Recognition

July 3, 2013

M.A. alum Todd McClimans has recently been honored with national recognition for his creative work. While in the program, McClimans worked with Lenore Hart and David Poyer on his alternate-history middle grade manuscript, Time Traitor. The manuscript has been declared one of five finalists in the 2013 National Association of Elementary School Principals Children’s Book Award competition.

“I couldn’t believe that my manuscript, Time Traitor, had been named one of the finalists,” says McClimans. ”I’ve been struggling to get my manuscript noticed in the slush piles of many agencies. Becoming a finalist let me know that I had written a viable story and that I do have a chance at achieving my dream.”

McClimans credits the Wilkes writing program for the development and success of his project. “I can’t overstate how much I learned from David Poyer and Lenore Hart,” the alum says. “Dave taught me how to take an idea from beginning to end with the dreaded outline, to hone my voice for brevity and exactness, to trust my story and myself, and to push through self-built walls. With Lenore, I learned to pull my language together and to further hone my voice to reach younger readers. I’m so grateful for their guidance, support, and friendship. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

August

Kaylie Jones Books joins Tumblr

August 30, 2013

KJB

Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books, has added Tumblr to their social media efforts. On this blog, writers from all walks of life and experience levels may enjoy “Get Your Words Out” – a series of tips for writers – as well as other updates.

Visit the KJB Tumblr site: http://kayliejonesbooks.tumblr.com
Visit the KJB website: http://kayliejonesbooks.com

Time of the Locust by Morowa Yejidé

August 14, 2013

It’s always great to share news of our alumni, but it’s especially great to share news of forthcoming first novel publications.

Morowa Yejidé

“When you work so hard at something and constantly dream and strategize about it and then you finally do get a YES, it’s hard to believe it,” Morowa Yejidé said. “That was my initial reaction to hearing that my novel, Time of the Locust, was going to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster. Disbelief.” The Wilkes alum said the premise of her novel had been floating around her mind for several years before she even put pen to paper. It’s the story of an autistic boy living in the universe of his mind and his supernatural relationship with his incarcerated father.

Prior to focusing on her thesis, Morowa had a few sample chapters that were published as short stories. With that early success and encouragement, she took the project further. “I decided to give a complete manuscript a serious effort through the Wilkes MFA. The faculty really seemed to be in the trenches as working writers—which was what attracted me to the program,” she said. “I listened to Robert Mooney read one of his powerful, visually-driven narratives and knew right away I wanted to work with him as my Faculty Mentor.”

Morowa was determined to strengthen the story, but she was also eager to have an audience. “I continued revisions along the way, working with Mooney, sending the manuscript out, sort of building the plane while I was flying it. After many rejections from various agents and publishing houses large and small, I decided to try some national competitions.” That’s when she began making headway. “Time of the Locust placed as a finalist in the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize and the Dana Awards.”

The Wilkes alum had already seen success in other venues. Her short stories have appeared in the Istanbul Literary Review, Ascent Aspirations Magazine,Underground Voices, the Adirondack Review, and others. One of her stories had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, too, but she still wanted the book manuscript to strike a chord with publishers. Once she had the selling point as a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize and the Dana Awards, Morowa took another chance. “I sent out more queries. The rest is, as they say, history.Time of the Locust is forthcoming Spring 2014.”

More about Morowa Yejidé can be found on her website athttp://morowayejide.com.

New Book by Alum Carol MacAllister

August 7, 2013

Wilkes alum Carol MacAllister’s book, The Blackmoor Tales, is now available from Northampton House Press!

Amazon link

About the Book:

In Blackmoor, time runs differently. Each period spirals and intertwines with the next. Hideous beings from times forgotten and places unnamed slip across dimensions to hunt among the living, stealing innocence and culling blood for insatiable appetites. Prayers and candles, fortitude and cunning, heavy latched doors and shuttered panels offer no protection.

Blackmoor TalesEleven dark tales of fantasy and horror draw the town of Blackmoor before the reader’s eyes. These shivery tales range from short fiction to novella-length, with transitions in dark poetic verse between the stories.

The characters range from Lovecraftian creatures that stalk man in remote swamps, to flesh-eating monsters roaming the countryside. Blood-culling grotesques, demons disguised in childhood rhymes, psychological and physical vampires and zombies abound. Souls are lured and corralled at Blackmoor’s Inn for malevolent entertainment, and interplanetary intrusions torment and harvest mortals. The physical settings include remote swamps, burial grounds, fairytale landscapes, a clearing ringed by blood-culling pines, caves that touch the ocean, a willow-strewn river, and an Inn laced with ghastly evil. Remember the old Celtic warning: From goulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us!

About the Author:

Carol MacAllister’s short stories and poetry have been published in the US, UK, and Australia, gained mentions in Ellen Datlow’s The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror, received numerous awards, and been featured in many trade paperback books, online collections and magazines. She has served as panelist and speaker at the Jersey Devil Conference and been guest speaker at the Philadelphia Writers’ Workshop. Her work was presented on local television in the Princeton, NJ area, and on radio shows in NJ and Australia. She’s a past officer of the Garden State Speculative Fiction Writers, a member of Horror Writers Association, SIC-NJ, AWP and co-founder of Tri-Muse writers.

September

Nicholson interviews Campion

September 19, 2013

Inside the Writers’ Dojo:

An Interview with Christopher Campion

by Travis Nicholson

 

Chris Campion began training in the martial arts at eleven, when an Okinawan karate studio opened near his home. With the encouragement of mentors both “on the mats” and behind the typewriter, he has recently completed his debut novel The Jiu-Jitsu Bum (Northampton House, August 2013). He’s also published short fiction through Fiction365.com and East Meets West: American Writers Journal. I recently had a chance to catch up with Chris and get his thoughts on martial arts, life after publication, and Alec Baldwin.

Chris Campion

Travis Nicholson: So, the big topic first. Tell us about your book.

Christopher Campion: It’s about redemption and second chances set amidst the seedier side of Scranton PA and its characters. I guess you could say it’s slightly noir. The protagonist has to fight not only himself but the world, which always seems to be against him. Practicing Jiu-Jitsu helps him come to accept his lot in life, which changes him mentally, physically, and even spiritually. Like anything in life, nothing is gained without losing something in the process. There are no clean new beginnings.

TN: How has your own experience with the martial arts helped shape your work?  Any experiences in a tournament or training you’d like to share?

CC: I practically grew up in a dojo, so martial arts and budo tenets were chiseled into my little brain. I’d like to credit my karate sensei of many years for that. He was not only my sensei but a real mentor whose advice kept me on the straight and narrow. Later in life, when I’d slip from time to time, I’d hear his voice in my head, and it’d get the wheels back on track. I guess that lasting effect is something I wanted to incorporate with my main character and the novel’s plot. I also wanted to inject some real life situations and people I’ve met through years of sweating on the mats. I did a couple Jiu-Jitsu/grappling tournaments, mostly in New Jersey. I didn’t do particularly well, but it was great experience. I remember this one guy caught me in a neck crank, and I literally heard my neck slowly pop a few times like popcorn. Another Brazilian guy cut my face open with his gi as he went for a choke. Things like that I put in the book. Other than the possibility of nasty injuries, it’s a real rush. You feel so alive after you compete that you never really want to come down from it. It’s certainly one of the best ways to see what you’re made of. Because of that, I knew I had to have a tournament scene in the novel.

 Campion2

TN: What’s next for Chris Campion? Working on anything new these days? Publicizing The Jiu-Jitsu Bum, maybe? What’s your strategy with Northampton House to get it in readers’ hands?

CC: Well, I’m always reading to build my vocab and overall familiarity with literature and the craft. I’ve been working on a couple short stories that I’d like to submit to competitions and journals. I’ve also been plotting a new novel, but I’m really taking my time on that. In fact, there might even be two or more novels in the making. I’ve got to sort everything out and see what I’ve got to work with. I want my next one to be a hundred times better than the last. I want it to have more of my own thoughts, experiences, and personal philosophies on the world. And of course, I want it to be well-written and have a page-turning plot. As for my marketing strategy, I watch Alec Baldwin’s Glengarry Glen Ross “art of selling” speech then cold call random names from the phone book. Just kidding. I’ve been trying to  get the word out about The Jiu-Jitsu Bum anyway I can through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, interviews, guest blogging, and hitting up anyone who’d be potentially interested in the book. It’s draining, but it must be done. It’s kind of nice stepping away from the seriousness of writing and learning a little bit about promoting something. I’m also in the process of trying to get in on more local readings. They’re always fun to do. But as I told another writer, I think the best way (so far) to get the word out is by simply telling people face to face about it, especially avid readers. Nothing seems to beat word of mouth. I’ve honestly gotten the most sales that way. But that’s just me. I don’t think ANYONE truly knows the best way to sell. You just have to get it out there and see what works.

TN: About six months ago you had an article about confidence published by The Write Life. Anything you want to add now that your novel is out there in the hands of strangers?

CC: I think at this point, I won’t have too many moments of doubt when it comes to writing. I think I hit a point where I was doubting myself and overanalyzing way too much. Looking back, that was kind of pointless because I’d already published five short stories and I had a bestselling author encouraging me. It’s kind of like that scene in The Last Samuraiwhere the one samurai tells Tom Cruise’s character that he’s not winning because he has “too many mind.” Then he tells him to have “no mind” (to stop thinking about everything and everyone around him and just go with it) and that changed everything. Lately, I’ve just been writing from my gut. I know I’m not perfect and I know I still have so much to learn. But I’ve recently been writing with a lot confidence and not looking back. And I make sure I’m still having fun doing it. I think that’s how it should be. But it’s always some kind of a struggle. Writing has never really been “easy.”

TN: Here’s a fun one: Who would you cast in the movie version of your novel?

CC: George Clooney as Evan. Elisabeth Shue as Cindy (Evan’s wife). Jack, the oldest son, would be John Cena and the youngest son, Tim, would be played by Russell Brand. Victor, the sensei, would have to be Bas Rutten* – no doubt. Samuel L. Jacksonas Tyrone. Ginger, the street vixen, would have to be Charlize Theron. And I’d cast Anne Ramseyfrom Throw Momma From The Train as Sherry (Evan’s mother) but she died a few years back, unfortunately.

*Bas Rutten is a world-renowned mixed martial artist who has recently made the transition into acting

TN: How did the Wilkes Low-Residency Creative Writing Program help you accomplish your goal of publication?

CC: Wilkes and everyone involved taught me (both directly and indirectly) everything. Coming into the program, I had so many holes in my writing ability; I was so naïve about the publishing industry; and I was especially naïve on how hard I’d have to work to create something worth publishing. But Wilkes changed all that. It exposed me to so many authors and perspectives on literature that I was simply oblivious to. It taught me to trust my visceral instinct when it came to feeling a story coming on. Plus, my cohort, The Mobies, was just awesome because we were all serious but could laugh at one another too. I wouldn’t change meeting them for the world. And I have to give mad props to my mentor David Poyer who took me under his dragon-like wing and made me think like a serious novelist. I could have never imagined learning so much from him and accomplishing the things I did from his constant encouragement and corrections. So when it came time to publish with him (at Northampton House Press), I was already in a serious mindset and had no problem meeting deadlines and getting things as flawless as possible. Plus, David always gave me the confidence to write like myself. From day one, David treated me very seriously and the time with him was intense (to say the least) but he taught me how to fearlessly stand on my own two feet and to become a dedicated and professional writer. In all, I don’t think I could have learned everything I did, immersed myself in the writing life, and had that kind of personal attention anywhere else than Wilkes. It’s just an awesome program.

BumCheck out the novel at Amazon.com

TN: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with your potential readers?

If you’re looking for a book that has some literary elements but some heavy/noir moments along with nasty fight scenes, then I think The Jiu-Jitsu Bum will be right up your alley. I’m toying with a sequel and I’m also outlining (slowly) two other novels. I’m always plotting a short story or two. There are so many sides to me besides the martial arts in terms of views on the world and personal philosophy and I’m really looking forward to incorporating that sort of thing in my future works, whether they are martial-arts themed or not. I think every writer secretly wants to achieve that. In closing, I’d like to thank The Write Life for this enjoyable interview. Wilkes has always been there for me and the teachers, staff, and students are extremely exceptional people. I could never have achieved the things I have without them.

October

Brian Fanelli: All That Remains

October 30, 2013

All That Remains Front CoverAlum Brian Fanelli has just released a new poetry book, All That Remains (Unbound Content). Here, in this Q&A, we catch up with Brian about the new collection, as well as some of his current events.

Tell us about your new book, All That Remains.
The process of All That Remains started while I was completing my M.F.A. at Wilkes. I had poems that ended up becoming my chapbookFront Man, but then I had poems that didn’t fit that manuscript and its very specific theme. So, after I graduated from Wilkes, I continued writing and revising poems and, eventually, I had enough commonality between the poems to build a full-length collection. It was a process that took five or so years. When the book was done, I researched different publishers and presses and discovered Unbound Content through Poets & Writers. Not only do I like what they publish, but also the way they interact with writers. It’s been a great process leading up to this point.

Were some of the poems in the book previously published in journals? Where might readers find a few samples of your work?
About 3/4 of the poems first appeared in other publications. Some of the poems appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Portland Review, Third Wednesday, Harpur Palate, vox poetica, and a lot of other print and online journals. Some of the links can be found on my blog, All the Right Notes, or through a simple Google search.

Will there be a launch event anywhere? Any other events and readings planned?
[I had] a launch party on Friday, Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Vintage Theater in downtown Scranton. I am reading at the Seeley Memorial Library at Lackawanna College on Friday, Nov. 1 at 6 p.m. and at the Hoyt Library in Kingston, PA Nov. 18 at 6:30 with Amye Archer and Rick Priebe. Then I have several readings out of the area, including in New Jersey, New York City, and other parts of PA. I’m reading at the KGB Bar on January 8 as part of the At the Inkwell reading series, which was launched by Monique Lewis, a Wilkes alum. On Dec. 8, I’m reading with Dr. Lennon and Ross Klavan, two Wilkes faculty members, at the Belmar Arts Council in New Jersey. This reading series was started by Pat Florio, another Wilkes alum. I’m grateful to have made these connections while at Wilkes and thrilled that so many of the program’s current students and alumni are hosting reading series in their communities. All of my other reading dates and events can be found under the events section of my website, www.brianfanelli.com.

Congrats, too, on the NEPA BlogCon nomination for your blog. What do you hope to accomplish with your blog? Where else can readers find you online?
My blog started as a way to have a conversation about poetry and post various tidbits and news about what’s going on in the poetry world. I also use it as a space to post information about my own writing process and events happening in the local poetry community. There is a link to the blog on my website, or through the direct website:http://brianfanelli.wordpress.com/.

Online shoppers will find All That Remains available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Michael Mailer Film: HBO in Oct

October 23, 2013

Mailer filmFaculty member Michael Mailer, producer of more than twenty feature films, recently returned from the Cannes Film Festival where his film Seduced and Abandonedpremiered. “It was an exciting time walking the red carpet,” Mailer said. The film stars Alec Baldwin and James Toback.

Seduced and Abandoned is a nonfiction film, part mediation on film and the filmmaking process consisting of interviews of film legends such as Polanski, Bertolucci, Scorcese, Copola, and part adventure tale following the ups and downs of Alec Baldwin and James Toback as they attempt to set up a remake of Last Tango in Paris (but this one is set in Iraq called Last Tango in Tikrit) at the Cannes Film Festival,” Mailer said.

HBO bought the film for US distribution and will be airing it this fall, on Oct 25. Mailer is currently working on a new picture in Louisiana.

faculty member Nancy McKinley: laughs in print

October 16, 2013

Nancy McKinley promises ‘Halloween Party laughs’ in her short story, “Love, Masque & Folly.” The story is included in the short fiction anthology VOICES FROM THE PORCH, available for advance sale from Main Street Rag.

BookPorchesAnth

Poetry Manuscript Evaluation

October 9, 2013

accents publishing

Accents Publishing is currently offering manuscript evaluation services.

For a limited amount of time, for a limited number of manuscripts, they are providing interested poets with feedback on their work-in-progress.

After the author submits a manuscript for evaluation, the senior editor ofAccents Publishing (Katerina Stoykova-Klemer) and another reader affiliated with the press will read the manuscript and provide an evaluation, covering the following points:

  • How well does the manuscript work as a whole?
  • Are the poems ordered in the best possible way?
  • Does it have a good title? How does the title work/interact with the manuscript?
  • Does it read well as a book? If not, what is missing?
  • Are there any poems that do not serve the manuscript or are not as effective as the rest?
  • What else should the poet do before he/she starts sending the manuscript out for publication?
  • Comments on competitiveness of the manuscript in the current market.
  • Anything else that may helpful to the author.

Cost is $100 for a chapbook-length manuscript and $150 for a full-length manuscript. A limited number of manuscripts will be evaluated on a first-come first-served basis.

etceteras_mistress_frontcover_medIf interested, write to accents.publishing@gmail.com. Please note that you are not submitting a manuscript for consideration for publication by Accents. Rather, this service is an opportunity to receive a professional opinion on the quality and marketability of the manuscript.

The Wilkes writing community will recognize Accents Publishing, as they recently published advisory board member Thom Ward’s full-length collection, Etcetera’s Mistress.

Playful News from Alum Lori M. Myers

October 2, 2013

Image

MA alum Lori M. Myers has good news to share!

Her one-act play, “A 21st Century Christmas Carol,” has been published byContemporary Drama Service. The play is a modern twist on Dickens’ classic with a female lead role, greedy old spinster Eleanor Scrooge.

As a playwright, Lori’s work has been performed on six regional stages and has included drama, children’s musicals/plays, and comedic sketches. Her short fiction has appeared in various print and online literary journals both in the United States and abroad. She teaches writing workshops, is a part-time professor of writing at York College of Pennsylvania, and is interviews editor for Hippocampus Magazine where she has interviewed many noted authors. Lori holds a MA in creative writing from Wilkes University.

For more info, visit Lori’s website: www.lorimmyers.com.

November

Then & Now: Q&A with alum Kaitlin Keller

November 27, 2013

Kaitlin Keller

Then & Now: Q&A with alum Kaitlin Keller

By Heather Lowery

Kaitlin Keller is a graduate of the Wilkes University creative writing program. She finished the program in summer 2013 and, while she’s continued to work on her writing, this Q&A shares some of the other ‘life’ moments that hold her focus.

HL: What is life like after the M.F.A.?

KK: A struggle to find a job.

HL: What did you learn from your internship experience?

KK: I learned how to write a book review and how to write for a variety of audiences.

HL: Has that experience helped you get to where you are now?

KK: It’s enriched my knowledge as a writer.

HL: Any advice for those considering the M.F.A.?

KK: Try something you have never tried before or never thought you would be interested in. Branch out. It’s worth it! Trust your voice.

HL: What is your current occupation?

KK: Nine-month-pregnant woman awaiting the birth of her first child.

HL: What were some of your favorite things about the M.F.A.?

KK: The research! I loved reading the dozens of books for the M.F.A. paper and learning so much. I also loved working with Phil Brady [from Etruscan Press] and Lori A. May [from Poets’ Quarterly].

HL: What were some of your not so favorite things?

KK: Writing book reviews.

HL: Would you recommend getting the M.F.A.?  Why?

KK: For your own personal satisfaction, yes. For career advancement? No. There’s no money in it.

HL: How did you make the most of your experience?

KK: I tried to take myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible. I pushed myself to do things I wouldn’t normally seek or want to do.

HL: Anything else you’d like to add?

KK: The M.F.A., like writing itself, is a wonderful experience for those looking to enrich their lives and intellect…but not their wallets.

Brooklynite Gives Back: Lowery interviews Florio

November 20, 2013

Interview with Patricia Florio, by Heather Lowery

Patricia Florio

Patricia Florio’s book My Two Mothers: A Memoir with Recipes was released this November. A recent graduate from the Wilkes University creative writing program, Florio reveals how her experience at Wilkes helped shape her into the writer she has become. From Brooklyn to Jersey, Florio is doing great things in the creative writing community.

Heather Lowery: Your book, My Two Mothers: A Memoir with Recipes, was just recently released this November. How does it feel to have your work out there in the open?

Patricia Florio: My Two Mothers: A Memoir With Recipes is a spinoff of my original MA thesis at Wilkes. The idea for the book was inspired in my 510 nonfiction class with John Bowers. I guess it was the way I shared the scenario with the class, “My mother gave me to her sister after I was born.” That sentence triggered a whole lot of conversation between friends and cohorts from other classes that I shared the idea with, and the idea constantly churned inside my head in stages of how I would sit in front of the computer and write this all down trying to make sense of it.

HL: With memoir, the potential of revealing something about yourself that a small amount of people, and sometimes no one else, knows about you can be paralyzing. How did you overcome this fear?

PF: It felt a bit odd writing about my family, to actually expose one’s self to whatever type of criticism from peers. For one thing, there was a part in the book that a kidnapping took place, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about that fact. I backed away from writing the book for several weeks, trying to come up with another idea for my thesis, until I could figure out how to handle this much talk about family situations. When it was clearer in my mind, and without using names, or I should say giving this particular family member, the kidnapper, a different title, Uncle Sly Fox, I was able to live with the fact that in memoir the facts have to be true, the names didn’t have to be. So I continued moving My Two Mothersforward writing. But for a while there, I thought I was going to chuck out a year’s worth of writing. Then I remembered why I was writing this book: I wanted to acknowledge both of these women, pay them a tribute for raising me the way they had with all the difficulties like “too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the …” Yes, I was doted on by Aunt Jennie. I also knew I was loved by her. It made me feel privileged, even to this day, to have two mothers at different parts of my day, every day of my life.

HL: Where did you get the idea for your title?

PF: The title is from the second chapter and a sentence in the book, “When I came into the world, I came in having two mothers.” My mother’s oldest sister Jennie, whom I called Nanny, couldn’t have children of her own, and my mother already had two older children, my sister and brother (my sister 15, my brother 10). We all lived in the same three-family house, in different apartments. My mother handed me over to her sister Jennie, “on loan, that is, to care for me.” For the first fourteen years of my life I had two mothers.

HL: What does your writing process look like?

PF: I grab time at the computer every day, perhaps not at the same hour of the day, but shortly after I awake I open up the computer and write something. It could be a continuation of what I left off the day before, or it can be an idea I have for entering a short story contest, or it could be a travel piece.

I write for www.stripedpot.com and I like to travel; living on the Jersey Shore gives me access for picture-taking, trying out new restaurants along the shore, and writing about those places for my articles. I read a lot. Sometimes I can have one audio book going in the car. Right now it’s Dr. Sleep by Stephen King; another book by J. Michael Lennon, A Double Life, Norman Mailer’s biography; and even something different to read before bed, like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Wishes Fulfilled. And I take notes, lots of notes, when I’m listening or reading books. It’s an occupational hazard from being a court reporter for seventeen years. I write everything down. It gives me fodder, new words, a bit of wisdom from authors who are up there in the industry.

HL: Is there are particular mindset, or a frame of mind, you need to be in to write?

PF: I have to have the house to myself. So when my husband is off to work and the house is quiet, I love that time most of all to write. It’s not that I’m glued to the screen, because I do find myself going down to the laundry room in the middle of a chapter to put in a load of wash. It’s just the way my brain works. There’s no daytime television for me. I can’t do it. I take after my birth mother on that score. She never watched daytime television until she was 90, and I don’t either. It gives me the ability to get into what I’m writing without distraction. There are literally days that I forget to go down and eat breakfast or lunch. Oh, I make up for it later on in the day, but I’m so into what I’m writing. I’m there with these people in my book that I don’t want to leave the feelings, the joy, the occasional tears, so I stay in the moment and let it happen.

HL: What was it like growing up in Brooklyn? How has that affected your writing?

PF: A lot of who I was as a child growing up in Brooklyn comes out in this book. The ethnicity of growing up in an Italian ghetto absolutely has affected my writing. At some point, I’d love Brooklyn to be the main character of a book I write, and maybe it is a bit in My Two Mothers: A Memoir With Recipes. The food is definitely Italian-Brooklyn, the smell of meatballs frying on a Sunday morning, not only from my mother’s window, but from the entire neighborhood of Italian women’s windows. And yet, I was tremendously influenced by my Irish neighbors, nuns, priests, my sister’s husband’s family who are Irish and very much a part of my life. Brooklyn is neighborhood living. You’re outside in fresh air amongst people, sitting on the stoop in spring, summer and fall. You’re not in a backyard. The kids played softball, baseball in the school yard across the street from our house, stickball in the street. You talked to people, interacted, shared stories. I think it was a freer time. You knew who your neighbors were. The peddler who sold groceries, his wife comes in as a named person in my book when I was lost. She knew me even though I was out of my neighborhood at a faraway movie theater. She came to my rescue. It was a different world in Brooklyn.

I was also influenced by osmosis by all of the other well-known writers who came from Brooklyn. I think about working as a court reporter in a courthouse on Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, surrounded by the energy of Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe, Burroughs, Walt Whitman, and so many others. I’ll always have Brooklyn!

HL: I saw that you studied creative nonfiction at Wilkes University as part of the MA. How has that experience influenced you?

PF: Wilkes was a very important step for me. I came back to school late in life. My father never believed in college education for women. Obviously, he was from the World War II generation: women get married, so why waste the money on higher education? I took myself out of court reporting in the year 2000, just upped and quit because I had been taking courses in the community college—creative writing, and the whole gamut of journalism. Then I went to Rutgers, which took seven years piecemeal to graduate. And then my friend Carol found the Wilkes MA and MFA programs. We went together and completed both the MA and MFA. During that time, I wrote for local and major newspapers as a freelancer. Not a stringer, just a freelancer, until I landed the Scene Page for the Two River Times, making $75 an article. At Wilkes, although I felt I made a big mistake in taking screenwriting, my nonfiction classes were the best. First working with John Bowers, then selecting Rashidah Ismaili as my MA mentor (who made weekend house calls), and then Phil Brady for my academic paper on Survivors in Memoir, I had a ball. I loved it, the good, the bad and the ugly; it had to be one of the best times in my life. Of course, the 501 Cohort with Nancy and Mike is some of the best care an aspiring writer can get. I am still in touch and visit with students, some of whom I know will be friends for life.

HL: I also heard that you have a reading series and a writing group in New Jersey?

PF: Back in the year 2000, Carol MacAllister, also a Wilkes alumna, and Gayle Aanensen and I formed what we called Tri-Muse. We three encourage one another and eventually sparked an interest because we turned into approximately 18 writers who are now called The Jersey Shore Writers at The Jersey Shore Art Center. We have found our voices collectively and individually. We are quite a group, critiquing, listening, supporting one another, as well as our arts center, where every form of art takes place.

Irene Maran, another Jersey Shore writer and newspaper columnist of A Slice of Life, and I put together what we named Literary Adventure at the Belmar Arts Center where we selected several Wilkes students and paired them up with our Jersey writers for a great Sunday afternoon of authors’ readings. After a year or so, our Arts Center in Ocean Grove got jealous and said, “Hey, how about sharing those writers in our venue.” And this year we have been exclusively bringing authors and writers in from the Noir series of Akashic Books, Johnny Temple’s company. Monique Lewis, another Wilkes alumna, runs At the Inkwell Series in Manhattan. Monique has introduced some of her NYC writers of noir, and it gave The Jersey Shore Writers a challenge to write noir stories—crime, mystery, and so on. Two weeks ago we put on an event for ourselves and a very interested audience, Taste of Noir—along with some tasty noir treats—we gave our audience a taste of our noir stories. Hopefully, this series will be published as an anthology by the Jersey Shore Writers.

HL: How important are reading groups and gatherings like that of the Jersey Shore Writers to the idea of “community literacy?”

PF: In our particular area of the Jersey Shore, I see lots of senior citizens coming to these readings, like this is something from the story-telling era of their past. For them it’s a social event, and an informative event where individuals can, and do, chat with authors, featured readers and other participants to discuss books and their own attempt at writing. Many times, they share a poem or a story at open mic that they’ve written, becoming part of the fabric of writers in the community. It makes me feel good that they are interested and want to become part of the Jersey Shore Writers in their own capacity. We, as a group, have been invited to take part with a group of artists to put words to pictures. We’ve become an extension in the community. And while we can’t attend everything, or have a literary adventure series everywhere, we are a stronghold in the community at the Jersey Shore Arts Center.

This past September I had reached out to teens who were interested in writing and have held two workshops thus far. My hope is to add younger writers into the mix, with their own workshops and their own separate meeting date. As the writer-in-residence for the Jersey Shore Arts Center, I’m hopeful that this teen program will come to fruition in the future. I will be approaching the Cape Meeting Association, the body that governs our town, this spring to present this idea to the Youth Movement at the Youth Temple in Ocean Grove.

My hope was always to help emerging writers and authors to have a place to share their work, whether you’ve been published or not. I just love being with other writers. And I know the Jersey Shore Writers are happy to meet writers from other states and cities. We network together to learn about agents, publishers, about who’s looking for what genre. We’ve broadened our horizons and we’ve now captured the attention of our beach community neighbors to see who we’re bringing in next to read.

We’ve had so many Wilkes writers and authors to the Shore: Bev Donofrio, Charles Salzberg, Kenneth Wishnia, Anne Henry, Brian Fanelli, Monique Lewis, Jackie Fowler, Amye Archer, Joe Wade, Gale Martin, Dawn Leas, and Jackie Nash, among others. I’m probably forgetting some names, and I’m sorry about that. But coming up on December 8th [will be] J. Michael Lennon, Ross Klavan, Brian Fanelli, all three with new books. This is not work for me. It’s a joyful occasion when I get a ‘yes’ from an author to come to Ocean Grove, to the Arts Center or to Belmar Arts Council to read from their latest books.

How important community literacy is to me and others? I see it as a colorful mixture of talent from the veteran writer to the writer just getting their feet wet, starting their process for the first time; they are on my color chart of writers.

HL: What are you working on now? What is next for you?

PF: I’ve been working on another memoir I’ve called Searching for the Man in the Gray Fedora. I’m giving my father his due in the next memoir. Sometimes I think I’ve given the impression that I was actually raised by two mothers, totally independent of a man. Well, that’s not true. Although, it’s taking me time to figure out this book, several years now, and I did send it out to an agent with a proposal, the prologue, and three chapters. I received a response from the agent that they admired my voice and the premise of the book, but it felt jumpy to them. They suggested I work harder on a narrative arc. So it’s back to the drawing board.

And the other idea I have is for a narrative poetry book called Confessions of a Court Reporter. I seem to be picking this up more often than not. The whole idea of being able to tell a detailed story in poetry has captivated me. Trust me, I’m not a poet, but I’m learning. And that’s another thing about me, I enjoy learning. My husband would laugh at that comment, and say, “Give it a break!”   

HL: Where can interested readers get a copy of My Two Mothers: A Memoir with Recipes?

Cucina D'AmeliaPF: Right now the ebook can be purchased on Amazon, either as My Two Mothers, My Two Mothers: A Memoir With Recipes, or just the cookbook, Cucina d’ Amelia. We are hopeful the print version will be out before the holidays.    

HL: Anything else you would like to add?

PF: Thanks for asking me these questions. It’s given me an opportunity to look at myself as a writer, honestly and completely. And to take a candid look at how much writers mean to me. I admire a human being who can sit in a chair in front of a computer, solo, endless amount of hours and bring a humorous, heartfelt, fiction or nonfiction piece of work to fruition. In the Italian sense of who I am, I say Brava to that woman and Bravo to that man.

NaNoWriMo Inspired Book Offers Motivation

November 13, 2013

Fast Fiction: A Guide to Outlining and Writing a First Draft Novel in Thirty Days 

by Denise Jaden

Available February 11, 2014

From the promo copy:

Fast Fiction“Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of two subsequently published novels in that tight time frame. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer-to-writer. To insure success, her program begins a month before the month of drafting. This prep period is when plot, theme, characters, setting, etc. are thought through. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the 30-day drafting period. After reader / writers “race to the finish,” they are not left high and dry. Jaden’s “After the Draft” revision tips allow readers to determine if a draft is not just workable but compelling, so that they don’t waste months or years in development. Her camaraderie and skill allow Jaden to both instruct and inspire.”

Learn more at Amazon

James Jones First Novel Fellowship

November 6, 2013

The 22nd Annual James Jones First Novel Fellowship awarded first place and $10,000 to Margot Singer of Granville, OH for her manuscript titled The Art of Fugue. Runners-up in the competition were Jennifer S. Davis of Baton Rouge, LA for her manuscript Reckonings; and Timothy Brandoff of New York, NY for his manuscript Connie Sky. They were each awarded $750. Tamara B. Titus, of Charlotte, NC received honorable mention for her manuscript Lovely in the Eye.

The James Jones First Novel Fellowship was established in 1992 to “honor the spirit of unblinking honesty, determination, and insight into modern culture as exemplified by (the writings of) James Jones.” It is awarded to an American author of a first novel-in-progress. The competition is co-sponsored by the Wilkes University Graduate Creative Writing Program and the James Jones Literary Society.

December

An interview with Lori A. May

December 31, 2013

An interview with Lori A. May
By: Heather B. Lowery

loriamay1 - web size

A woman who can call both Canada and Detroit home is a woman who must be well rounded.Lori A. May, poet, performer, speaker, instructor, is a jack-of-all-trades—at least when it comes to the writing, marketing, publishing, speaking side of things. So pretty much anything that has to do with communication Lori has on lockdown.

Lori A. May writes across the genres, edits, teaches and travels as a frequent guest speaker. If you want to know how to save a buck she can spout out a list of fifty tips in less than two minutes. You can find her work in print and online with publications like Brevity, The Writer, Phoebe, Writer’s Digest andThe Atlantic.  

Lori has a new collection, Square Feet, out in January 2014 by Accents Publishing. In the following interview, Lori shares what her writing process entails, details about her collection and gives advice to struggling writers.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? And how long did it take you embrace it?

Of course I wrote when I was a kid and that’s really when the desire to be a writer grew within, but I’d say I started taking writing—as a vocation—more seriously when I was in my early to mid 20s. There was definitely a time when I wrote only for myself that transitioned into wanting to share my work with others and seek publication. That grew very quickly into thinking how nice it would be to do this in a full-time capacity. Once I had proven to myself that I could finish a book-length manuscript, it became very clear to me that I had to find a way to make this writing gig a permanent and prioritized part of my life.

What does your writing process look like?

crumpled-paper

It’s messy. From idea discovery to complete draft, there’s complete disorganization in between. Or, so it may seem from the outside. I tinker a lot and let things simmer; I go back and forth between projects and seem to be all over the place. Then, one day, I’ll have this moment where I realize how close to first-draft-finished a project is and I’ll wonder how it all came together. That sounds magical and it’s not at all. For me it’s more of a trust in the organic mess, that what starts off in clunky drafts gradually grows into something better. I guess that’s why it’s called a process and not something more definitive.

You are a writer of many genres. Do you see a merging of genres in your work?

At times, yes. When I’m writing poetry, I let the draft take shape but then I step back to see what the story is arising from the verse, then use that to revise and tweak. When I’m working on prose, I’ll poke around at the draft material to revision how I might improve word choice and sound quality—like I would with poetry. I think all writing feeds itself.

What motivates you to sit down and write even when you don’t feel inspired?

I remind myself how fortunate I am to write. To have that leisure to write any time, all day, or not at all. Writing is my choice, my pleasure. Sure, there are times that I don’t feel like writing or, more accurately, like sitting at my desk. Writing is work. It is never perfect, not in the beginning, nor in its final draft. It takes effort and patience and, as Maya Angelou said, “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Inspiration is overrated. Persistence gets the work done.

SqFt_LoriAMayYour new collection is called Square Feet. Where did you get the idea for that title?

The title came to me fairly early on in the process. I had been working on a few poems about life behind closed doors—where we laugh and share secrets, where we grieve openly without shame. I found myself working on the human component, yes, but also looking at those domestic objects that surround us and either comfort or irritate us: utensils, furniture, photo albums. The title was a gift, dropped in my lap from the working subconscious, and once I had it on my tongue I knew I had a direction with the full manuscript. It rarely works that way for me, by the way.

You have a good number of poems that deal with co-existence: spouses living together, partners trying to make it work, family members visiting, etc. It is interesting to see how all of those relationships are different, and yet have the same struggles in common, accommodation and compromise being two major themes. How did you come to those conclusions?

I don’t know that I did so with intention, but at the end of the day aren’t we all the same? Aren’t we all after the same things—love, acceptance, a sense of security within ourselves and in our lives? These things are possible, sure, but they often require compromise. I think Square Feet shows how our lives touch one another—for better, for worse—and respond to one another, particularly in small or private spaces.

Any advice for writers who are struggling to finish a piece of work for whatever reason—boredom, pain, exhaustion, time, etc?

I’m easily distracted so it’s not uncommon for me to work on a project ten or fifteen minutes and then lose focus. When that happens, I give myself a choice: continue to work on Project A or shift focus to Project B and so on. It’s good to have multiple projects on the go. There’s always something to work on. Writing needs time to breathe and simmer on its own, so if something is giving me a hard time I’ll adjust focus and move on to something else. But I try not to abandon projects, unless I know I’ve hit a wall and don’t want to break through it. I think, for all writers and especially emerging writers, it’s important to remember to have fun and not put too much pressure on one’s self. The writing will come, in time, and it’s okay to take a break from something. Find something else that moves you for the time being.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I’m excited about 2014! I’ll be traveling often and working on a number of projects. I’m also thrilled to say I have another book coming out at the end of the year. In December 2014, I’ll have a new nonfiction book out with Bloomsbury. More details will be shared on my website, www.loriamay.com, very soon!

Where can interested readers get a copy of Square Feet?

I’d love to see readers pick up the book direct from Accents Publishing, but an indie bookseller can make sure the book is ordered and/or delivered. Of course, readers can also find Square Feet on Amazon or at their local Barnes & Noble. The B&N in Wilkes-Barre PA has some copies in stock, too. DuringAWP in Seattle, I’ll be signing copies of Square Feet at the Accents Publishing table in the bookfair (AA3) on Thursday Feb 27, from 12-1pm and books will be available there all weekend. Signed copies can also be purchased directly from my website: http://www.loriamay.com.

Photo credit for crumpled paper: acrumpledpaper.wordpress.com

Interview with poet Loren Kleinman

December 25, 2013

Loren_NYC-8

Loren Kleinman is a young, American-born poet with roots in New Jersey. Her poetry explores the results of love and loss, and how both themes affect an individual’s internal and external voice.  She has a B.A. in English Literature from Drew University and an M.A. in Creative and Critical Writing from the University of Sussex (UK). Her poetry has appeared in literary journals such as Nimrod, Wilderness House Literary Review, Writer’s Bloc, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Paterson Literary Review (PLR), Resurgence (UK), HerCircleEzine and Aesthetica Annual. She was the recipient of the Spire Press Poetry Prize (2003), was a 2000 and 2003 Pushcart Prize nominee, and was a 2004 Nimrod/Pablo Neruda Prize finalist for poetry.

In 2003, Spire Press (NYC) published her first collection of poetry Flamenco Sketches, which explored the relationship between love and jazz. Kleinman judged the literary entries for the book  Alt-History: New Writing from Brighton published by QueenSpark Books (UK). She was also a contributing editor/writer for the Cancer Dancer by Patricia San Pedro. Kleinman is also a columnist for IndieReader.com (IR) where she interviews NYT bestselling indie authors. Many of those interviews in IR reappeared in USA Today and The Huffington Post.

Her second collection of poetry, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs,  is due to release in 2014 (Winter Goose Publishing, 2014). She is also working on a New Adult literary romance novel, This Way to Forever; and a collection of interviews and essays that explore the vibrant community of indie authors called Indie Authors Naked: Essays and Interviews on the Indie Book Community  (Publisher: IndieReader).

Kleinman recently presented a two-day seminar at Sentences 5: A Conference on Writing Prose at Drew University in July 2013. She also owns and operates a small, boutique editorial firm, LK Editorial, where she edits poetry, offers social media services, and instructional design consultations.

Kleinman shares insight into her writing life and news about her latest book here on The Write Life.

Hi, Loren. What can you tell us about your forthcoming book, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs?

My second collection of poetry, The Dark Cave Between My Ribs, is due to release in March 2014 by Winter Goose Publishing. It took me seven years to finish. The collectionattempts to bear witness to trauma and its healing process. Trauma survivors will clearly remain tortured as bodily wounds may heal, but the wounded psyche bears witness to years of reconstruction.  I’m exploring love and loss. I’m trying to find its language. The Dark Cave Between My Ribs will appeal especially to those craving an authentic voice that is at the same time raw and universal.

You’re also working on a novel, aren’t you? How do you balance the time and energy in writing for multiple genres? Have you always wanted to write for multiple audiences?

I just finished a New Adult literary romance novel, This Way to Forever and am seeking representation.  The novel explores how young people deal with love and ambition and the choices that come with each.  Other themes the novel explores are choosing romantic love over security, love as an ideology, and long distance love/dealing with long distance relationships.

Finally, I have a collection of interviews and essays that explore the vibrant community of indie authors called Indie Authors Naked: Essays and Interviews on the Indie Book Community (Publisher: IndieReader). Indie Authors Naked explores and defines the world of independent publishing.  Comprised of a series of essays and interviews by indie authors, booksellers and publishers, readers will get a look at the many aspects of the indie community, where publishing professionals of all types come together with the simple goal of creating something unique; something that speaks directly to the reader, no middleman necessary.  Contributors include James Franco, Hugh Howey, McNally Jackson Books, Sarah Gerard, OHWOW Books, Raine Miller, David Vinjamuri, Toby Neal, Rachel Thompson, Eden Baylee, Christoph Paul, Jessica Redmerski, and more. The book is due to release 1/15/2014.

I’m very territorial about my time. I take one day off a week from writing, which is Saturday. The rest of the week I work full-time and write after work. When I take breaks from writing, I’m reading a lot. The only way to keep to schedule is through discipline. I keep my energy by working out and eating a mostly organic diet. Your body is a tool. You have to maintain it in order to function at your best. Anyone can write. It’s another thing to be in the place to write.

As far as writing for multiple audiences, it’s always been something I considered, but have been too afraid to try. I’ve always written poetry, and thought I could never write fiction. Really I was terrified. Fiction is scary. It’s a beast. And you have to outline. You can’t mess around. I wrote the first line of something: Everything we know is fiction. Even love. I showed it to my close friend and fiction editor and he said, “You’ve got something here.” A year later I finished my first novel This Way to Forever.

My point is, it’s important to be verse in different genres. While it’s scary, you have to keep readers surprised. I cried through most of the re-writing of the novel. It was awful. But I did it.

You’re a busy freelancer, too. Can you tell me about LK Editorial and what sort of services you offer?

LK Editorial is a small editorial firm that specializes in select projects. I primarily work on press releases, media kits, bios, LinkedIn profile writing, and poetry collection edits. I also manage a writing program at an NJ college so I’m incredibly active. Right now I taking more time for my writing, and being even more selective about the types of projects I take on. Again, I have to be territorial about my creative life.

You also conduct an interview series and so much more. How has freelance writing and editing contributed to your overall writing life? Do you ever feel these activities distract from the creative writing?

I feel that they add to my writing life. It’s important to network, to develop your community and be a part of a creative community. The more people I meet, the more exposed I become to what’s trending or up-and-coming. I schedule all of my interviews at least 6 months in advance so I can keep on track. So, it’s also about planning out your time so you can get your own work done.

Essentially, the blog, Twitter and Facebook keep me connected to readers and writers. If you are writer or another creative, you MUST plug into social media. It’s the only way you are going to reach readers. And it’s not a sad truth, just the truth. I’ve met so many fantastic people via social media and through all of the interviews I’ve done. It’s an important aspect of who I am. Naturally curious.

I also believe in forming alliances, in supporting each other through the writing process. I mean, seriously, it’s scary sometimes and mysterious. I feel less alone when I interview someone and they say the same thing I was thinking. Or they something uplifting and charming. It’s great. It’s such a snapshot of life. They always make want to write more.  True story.

Where can readers learn more about your work? Do you have any links to poems or other work available online?

Readers can follow me on Twitter for updates. The best is to keep checking the website. I have sample poems on my site and links to all interviews and publications.

So stop by any of these platforms to say hi:

Website: www.lorenkleinman.com

Winter Goose Publishing Author Page:http://wintergoosepublishing.com/authors/loren-kleinman/

IndieReader Column: http://indiereader.com/category/columns/loren-kleinman/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorenKleinman

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorenkleinman1?ref=hl

Email: lorenkleinman@yahoo.com

Tumblr: http://lorenkleinman.tumblr.com/

Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Lessons from the Teaching Internship

December 18, 2013

by Michael J. Soloway, M.A., M.F.A.

Teacher in Storage

Teaching is in my blood.

Michael Soloway and daughter

Both my mother and grandmother were schoolteachers. “Nana” taught grade school for decades as well as English to “night school” students. And although my mother could have chosen a life in the arts as a dancer, actress, or singer—after all, she went to Emerson College with Henry Winkler, aka “The Fonz”—instead, she decided to study speech therapy, and spent nearly thirty years helping kids conquer their lisps and Lambda Ls. I know Mom’s devotion to her profession, and the hundreds of students who took “speech” increased their self-esteem and restored their inspiration to dream. That’s what a calling can do—change your direction, change your life. Hopefully, it can change another person’s life in the process. Like the blood doing laps in all of us, these simple actions often go unnoticed. As students, we simply called it “getting an education,” but today, as burgeoning educators, or those who aspire to be, you know it is much more tangible than that.

I remember teachers—the exceptional, adequate, and unsatisfactory—those inspired by their chosen professions and those worn out by it. Those clichéd figures who encouraged me and promised that I could “do anything I set my mind to,” as well as that second grade teacher who had a habit of closing those old-fashioned window panes that reminded me of air vents, just so she could belittle and shout at us without the principal hearing our cries or her awful knack for extracting them. Today, with a two-year-old daughter who will start school in a few years, this reminds me of the movie Monsters, Inc. This teacher, who was eventually removed from the classroom, was known as the screamer as well as the scream extractor all molded into one. But I knew, even at seven, this behavior was the exception, not the rule.

Until high school, I could name all of my teachers—from Mathews to Hilliard to Osta to Freeman to Cantwell to Spruell to Preston. These were my emulations, and sometimes my detesters. But no matter their motivation or teaching style, they all served to cast my future. After all, school was as much one of my talents as it was an escape. I could memorize and, although I was often labeled the “class clown,” teachers attracted me to the profession with their smiles, textbooks, and nurturing ways. Even when my self-control was nothing near “controlled,” and a beloved teacher had me write sentences one hundred times in the hall, I found pleasure in the repetition: “I will not stand at my desk while the teacher is talking. I will not stand at my desk while the teacher is talking. I will not stand….” Punishment backfired. I was hooked on school and the portraits teachers made of themselves without their knowledge, or even mine.

In June, during my final residency at Wilkes, I was faced with a decision. Not life threatening, but potentially life-altering. All creative writing students at Wilkes, when they move on from the M.A. and choose to pursue the M.F.A., will complete an internship in either teaching or publishing. Many of you will have an idea of what direction suits your personal or professional goals, or even personalities. Perhaps you’re already teaching where you live—a local high school, community workshop, university, or community college—and want to gain real-world experience in something new. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to teach, to share knowledge, and feel now is the time to figure out if a classroom’s four walls ultimately feel claustrophobic or freeing to you. Or, like me, you could be confused, even though you’ve known exactly what is coming, what is required, and still have no idea what direction to take. You could find yourself drawn to both, paralyzed, torn between your love of books and your passion for sharing that love with others.

I admit publishing was an attractive and exciting draw. I love the industry, and in its own way, much like teaching, is also one of the noblest of pursuits. Publishing satisfies more of the senses—the tangibility of touch, whether it be a hardback book or the selection of the paper inside, to the visual cues of the cover or printing font chosen, to the echo of a narrator’s voice of a book on tape, to the smell of all that cotton and ink and pulp. Except for the distinct odor of dry erase markers, teaching is much more intangible—filled more with moments of enlightenment and discovery, which draw out strong emotions but lacks the clear saleable product that is born from publishing a book made for a shelf. But teaching was in my blood, right? Without the silent running of Type O negative blood making its “Michael Orbit” from my heart to head to toe, there would be no other senses to rely on. If it all just stopped, then so would I. Still, I wavered between my need to satisfy all of my five senses, and the urge to sustain my own survival.

In teaching, ultimately, I felt as though I was able to choose both. Having recently accepted the managing editor position of Split Lip online literary magazine, I could have taken the easier path to my M.F.A. But, after switching tracts twice (sorry, Bonnie), I finally settled on the teaching internship. Like hanging in deep freeze in a blood bank, inside what reminded me of a CapriSun juice pouch, I felt I was a teacher in storage, who had finally been called into duty to help sustain a life—this was the greatest way for me to be of use. Now, all I needed was a class of students, a curriculum, and a classroom.

‘The Narrative Arcs’ Set Sail

I’d like to say the idea came to me in a dream, but I seldom remember them. In the end, I chose a topic that I thought would interest most writers, a topic that leant itself to all styles, genres, and formats, and one that I needed a bit of help with myself—examining the narrative arc in fiction and nonfiction. Per former students’ suggestions, I established a Group on Meetup.com, paid the Organizer fee, and waited. Here is how the description of my class read:

Calling all writers! Ever wonder how to build an effective arc? (Not Noah’s) Come learn narrative arc building with me as we discuss beginning, middle and end, as well as Nigel Watts’ 8-point story arc: Stasis, Trigger, The Quest, Surprise, Critical choice, Climax, Reversal, and Resolution. We’ll start with the six-word story, which has become a popular genre. We’ll spend a lot of time covering that discipline before moving on. Narrative Magazinehas tons of examples and offers a weekly prize for the best. Hemingway has perhaps the most well-known six-word story: “For Sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Then we’ll tackle flash fiction, or iStory (150 words), and the short short story (500 words or less). Finally, we’ll move on to the short story/essay (1,500-3,000 words), and discuss the possibility of stories that would lend themselves to a longer story arc. Fiction and nonfiction will be covered. It would be interesting to me to see how to develop the same story in each format. Reading aloud in class will definitely be emphasized. I find reading my work out loud is so telling. It’s a perfect editing exercise, in and of itself. We’ll meet in the evening once a week this fall at one of the local venues TBD. Hope to see you there! By the way, I have my MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University, have been published in nine literary journals, have a new play being produced in Pittsburgh this month, and am managing editor of Split Lip literary magazine. Blah, blah, blah. Just come write with us!

And they did. Nervous, anxious, eager, eleven people initially signed up for my writing workshop via Meetup.com. Eleven more than I thought ever would. I had given the Group a name, “The Narrative Arcs,” and made puns about Noah, boats, and surviving the literary floods that can sink a project. I wanted to think of myself as a teacher, but also as a brand. (I thought about ‘Narrative Arc’ T-Shirts, but decided against it.) The curriculum was set. The readings were germinating. The structure was taking shape. And nerves were forming. I was prepared for ten weeks of literary bliss.

And they did. Nervous, anxious, eager, eleven people initially signed up for my writing workshop via Meetup.com. Eleven more than I thought ever would. I had given the Group a name, “The Narrative Arcs,” and made puns about Noah, boats, and surviving the literary floods that can sink a project. I wanted to think of myself as a teacher, but also as a brand. (I thought about ‘Narrative Arc’ T-Shirts, but decided against it.) The curriculum was set. The readings were germinating. The structure was taking shape. And nerves were forming. I was prepared for ten weeks of literary bliss.

Drip Dry

I waited for the sweat to come.

And it would. No amount of role-playing can prepare you for reality. We’d meet in the back room of a local coffee shop, used on weekends as a daycare and for boys and girl’s Sunday school class. Tiny tables. Tiny chairs. Crayons in the cabinet. Toys set aside between French doors and an exterior brick wall. For a moment, I hoped adults were showing up. I wasn’t prepared to teach First Graders.

The first night I arrived more than an hour early. There were chairs to set up, tables to move, and notes to go over in my head. Introductions. The syllabus. Markers to unwrap. A writing prompt to gather. I finished thirty minutes prior to class—enough time to dab my damp forehead, take my arms out of my suit coat for a few minutes, grab a sugar cookie the size of a tire, along with a large bottle of water.

Then, to my surprise (yes, still) the people whose pictures I’d seen on Meetup.com began staggering in and introducing themselves—one, two, three, then five, seven, ten, etc. I wondered: like wild animals, were they more scared of me than I was of them?

I suppose teaching is a bit like having a child—you can practice, and read all the books, and listen to advice by “experts,” and be completely prepared, but until you haven’t slept for sixteen straight months or watched Toy Storythree months in a row or tried to lure your two-year-old to sit on the potty using mini marshmallows meant for hot chocolate, then you truly don’t know what it’s like to command a classroom, and the pressure it takes to always have something interesting, exciting, fresh, or inspirational to say.

But teaching was in my blood.

I knew this that first night, and never doubted it, even until the last.  

From Buoy to Boat: Tips to Avoid Capsizing

  • Get a room: Book your space early! And check it out in person. Like a photograph (or book cover), looks can be deceiving. Don’t rely on a Web site thumbnail or someone else’s description. Visit the location and ask yourself: is the space truly big enough? Like a parent pressing on a child’s toe inside a new shoe, is there room to grow? Are there power outlets? What is the temperature of the room? Are there sufficient technological plug-ins, if projection or computer presentations are part of your plans? Does the venue offer food, or in the least, allow it to be brought in? If you’re planning an evening workshop, attendees will undoubtedly want a snack, water, or a cup of coffee, or perhaps all three. Because of this, coffee houses are logical places to start your search. If you end up in a local library, business conference room, or someplace like an Elks Lodge, make sure you find out if there’s a cleanup fee. At thirty dollars a night, abandoned coffee cups will cost you a fortune. And, most importantly, ask if the room is free of charge? Meaning, never pay for a space.
  • Start with a stretch: It’s unexpected, feels great, and relieves tension built up from the day. Remember, writing is an escape for people. Begin their “vacation” on a positive note. The ‘Narrative Arcs’ routine included arms, hands, wrists, neck, and back.
  • Be early: Personally, I often had to clean and set up the room every Tuesday night. Chairs had to be wheeled in from the back. Tables had to be moved. Posters of past lessons had to be put up. Handouts had to be organized. And a summary of the evening’s activities had to be written out. But before any of that, street parking had to be found. And depending on where you live, traffic might have to be overcome.
  • Prepare, prepare, prepare—then have a backup plan: Don’t cram the night before. This isn’t a multiple choice undergraduate algebra class test. This is quite possibly your new career. You’re a professional. Whether you’re getting paid or not, treat assignments and lessons, and students, with the respect they deserve. That means, if your workshop is on a Tuesday evening, don’t wait until Monday night to formulate your lesson or print the necessary handouts or start your PowerPoint or Prezi. Aside from the actual class at 6 p.m., Tuesday was always my “off day” in fact. And always print out more handouts than you actually need for each class. Even if a class member doesn’t show up as planned, they’re going to ask for a copy of last week’s handouts, so you might as well have extras ready.
  • Fall into a routine: I bought poster-sized Post-It Notes and was able to reattach the sheets to the walls for each class. This not only reinforced the syllabus, but helped me, as an instructor, when I needed to return to a point I made the previous week, or even three weeks prior. It also served as a timeline and reminder of how far we had come together.
  • Have water nearby: Enough said.
  • Be funny, when appropriate: No one expects a standup routine (or wants one) but everyone loves to laugh. Find ways to interject yourself into your lessons. I often told stories about my two-year-old daughter. If people can relate to you, oftentimes they’re more apt to respect and listen to you as well.
  • Take a break: Even adults have short attention spans. Depending on the length of your class, take one or two short breaks to use the restroom, refresh drinks, or simply allow open conversation for everyone to bond.
  • Read aloud: Don’t simply “workshop” new pieces. Have your students read their work aloud in class. In fact, at times I had students read their own work, then allowed another student to read the same piece aloud for its author. This gives the student several perspectives on what’s working, or where the prose, or dialogue, might be getting stuck.
  • Trust your instincts: Go with your gut. Whatever you want to call it. You’ll be able to “feel” if an exercise or lecture is headed in the wrong direction. Just be prepared to shift gears and be flexible, if that happens. Have alternate writing prompts students can complete or be willing to go “off-script.” Just because my course was designed to cover and examine the 8-point narrative arc, I often talked about other relevant topics, including dialogue, imagery, and voice. I also related each lesson back to the publishing industry, making sure every piece my students wrote in class could be submitted for publication.
  • Leave time: Obviously students will have questions throughout the night, but also plan to give them more than a minute or two to ask questions at the end. Most people, with limited time left in class, are ready to go home or know instinctively that their classmates are ready to go. Most will hold their question, fearing they’ll be a “bother.” Don’t force your students to have to choose. Give them time. Three minutes could mean the difference between helping a student succeed or having them never return to class again.
  • Say “Thank You”: Always thank your students for being there. Always. Unless you are teaching a required class in a university or college setting, remember, your students could be anyplace else but with you at that very moment. They’ve chosen you and your class. Most people are away from their families at night or need to wake up early for work the next day. Some of my students even drove in from neighboring towns and cities. Make them feel welcome and always appreciated. Not only did I thank students in person, but I made sure that I thanked each and every participant on Meetup.com within twenty-four hours of each class. Remember, in a workshop setting, you’re also marketing yourself, your personality, and your expertise. Answer each email and respond to every student. Always.

The Universal Donor

In the end, it doesn’t matter what your blood type is. If teaching is in your blood you’ll know it as soon as you step into the classroom. Although you might not feel it racing through your entire body, you’ll most likely feel it in your heart. That ever-beating heart. And that alone, will make you feel alive, perhaps even for the first time. I’d coached before—high school tennis—but, aside from the occasional forehand or backhand breakthrough, disciplinarian was my true title. I’d never taught in a classroom before, with a syllabus, and curriculum requirements. For me, it was more freeing, more liberating than being outdoors on a tennis court—those four walls offering a level of comfort and not distress.

As I write this, last night was the last night. Our final class. Those who were able to make the date, and had committed to the full 10-week workshop, or “found it” late and dropped in the middle, brought homemade pastries and a card for me. Their generosity and true thanks brought me to tears. But I was the one who owed them the warmest “thank you.” The gifts were unexpected; I can only imagine that my students felt I had added a “sweetness” to their Tuesday nights and wanted to return the favor. So, I say, “thank you,” to Bryan, Carol, Deb, Denise, DeWayne, DiAnn, Gina, Grace, Karen, Larry, Mary, Mollie, Rex, Richard, and Shelley.

Teaching is in my blood for good. Silently, it travels along the same canals that keep me alive. I cannot feel it. I cannot touch it. Yet, I know it’s there, because here I am typing away, living proof that you can still make a difference. It might even be in my daughter’s blood now. Whenever I leave the house alone she says, “Daddy teaches class.” In classical Greek medicine, blood was associated with air, with springtime, and with a merry and sanguine personality. Perhaps teaching is in your blood as well. Just don’t go looking for it. Although all blood is made of the same basic elements, not all blood is alike. It’s inherited. Like eye color, blood type is passed genetically from your parents. My blood type just happens to be O negative—the Universal Donor. If you need blood, I can offer it without medical consequence. In that vein, we are the same. But I can only share so much of it before growing too weak to go on.

So, the rest you’ll have to discover for yourself, and in your own time. My hope is that your own M.F.A. internship fills you with a sense of purpose. Whether you choose Teaching or Publishing, I trust you’ll find a way to build a better boat. It doesn’t have to be an arc. Just don’t expect to do this with a full set of instructions, or without the joy that can so often come from knowing your blood, sweat, and tears were worth spilling for those who choose to listen.

*Special Acknowledgement: Thank you to Dr. Nancy KcKinley. Your endless support and advice throughout the semester was beyond invaluable. You are a treasure who cares professionally, but more importantly, personally about each student, their needs, and futures. Thanks, Nancy, for being such a nurturing soul as we all reenter the “real world” as teachers. I know none of us at Wilkes could call ourselves that without you.

Michael Soloway writes fiction and screenplays, but nowadays focuses on essays, memoir, and playwriting. He has served as managing editor of more than a dozen nonprofit magazines and just finished his first memoir, Share the Chameleon, about attempting to break his family’s cycle of abuse, as he becomes a father for the first time in his 40s.

‘When Opportunity Knocks,’ essay by Heather Lowery

December 11, 2013

 
When Opportunity Knocks
An essay by Heather Lowery

Heather Lowery (photo credit: Lindsey Marie Photography)

When I first set foot on the Wilkes University campus, I never imagined I would have the experiences that I have had since I enrolled. Sitting in a classroom full of people I assumed (some correctly and some incorrectly) were smarter than me, had me scared. I was ready to quit after the first class, something I had never conceded to previously (I do not count the ballet, jazz or instrument lessons I stopped when I was younger). I walked outside and called my mom. “Mom, these people are so much more suited to this than I am. I’m way out of my league,” I told her. She suggested I go back inside, open my mind and breathe. “Sometimes the things that are best for us scare us the most,” she added. I could hardly disagree, though I hated the fact that she was probably right…again. I took a deep breath, put my phone away and walked inside. I opened my mind to something completely new to me and I have not looked back since.

With graduation a mere month away, I cannot help but look back on my most recent experience as an intern. I started the MFA degree with the paper, as all MFA students do. I was hardly thinking about the internship the next semester. However, when the first semester wrapped up and I was at residency, I was faced with the decision between the publishing and education track. Seeing as I eventually want to teach in college I thought going with an education internship would be ideal. Then I was approached by Lori A. May, who just happens to be my site supervisor [for Poets’ Quarterly]. She suggested I try something new. There I was again, faced with change.

Publishing. What did I want to do with publishing? I had once dreamed about being an editor for some major publishing house. But my editing days have since been put behind me, or at least the days where I slave over someone else’s work instead of my own. I had no idea what I would even do with an internship in publishing. I could not help but think, “How is this going to help me?”

It was a good question, and it was answered within the first two weeks of my internship. Really, how was an internship in publishing, something I had no prior experience in, not going to help me? I was wrong in assuming it would not help me. In fact, there has not been one assignment that has not pushed me forward across the threshold of change and into the great expanse of indispensible knowledge.

We started the semester at the end of July. Within a few days I had a to-do list from Lori for the entire month of August. I will admit it freaked me out. I was overwhelmed at the listed tasks, one of which included reading a good-sized anthology and writing a book review on it. Problem number one: I am a slow reader. Problem number two: I have limited experience writing book reviews, as in, I have only tried my hand at it once before. In time, I finished the book and attempted writing the book review. Luckily, Lori enjoyed it enough to publish it on the PQ website. Boom! And just like that I had a publishing credit to add to my CV.

Over the course of my internship I have done nearly ten interviews, and have written numerous essays and blog posts. If I am honest, and I am—some would say destructively so—I will admit that I hardly did any personal writing, or writing of my own during the internship. It was not that I did not have time; that would be a lie. I had plenty of time. I just did not feel like writing. So potential interns should not worry about not being able to get any writing done. If you want to write, you will be able to write. Mine was a personal decision. And a decision I made every single day. Though, it has been good for my brain, and my soul, to take a break from what I have been working on and solely focus on the internship. The shift in pace has renewed my spirit for which I am truly grateful.

What should one expect when beginning an internship in publishing? Nothing and everything at once. Do not come in with expectations, because they will most likely be shattered as soon as you get the first assignment. However, if you are like me and you want to have expectations because they serve more as goals than things you want to get out of the experience, then expect to be surprised and challenged and bettered. You will be surprised. You will be challenged. You will be bettered, either as a person or a writer, or both. Take my advice—try something new.

I took a position as an intern assistant editor for a poetry literary magazine called Poets’ Quarterly. Lori A. May was my site supervisor, or as I secretly refer to her, the boss lady. I warned her that I was not a poet by any means and I had never seriously read poetry. She assured me that I was going to be fine. “Think about it,” she told me. It was good advice. I thought about it and when I could not think of a better internship I accepted her offer. I was nervous. I did not want to let Lori down, a person who I had gotten closer to with each residency. Lori was someone I looked up to, admired, respected. What was going to happen if I did not meet her standards? To my utter disbelief, I never received an email that said what I was doing was complete crap. I got constructive criticism, advice and guidance.

Lori allowed me to spread my wings. With the importance of crossing genres, I needed this experience more than I originally thought. I learned about visual poetry, trailblazing poets like Seamus Heaney, and current poets like Loren Kleinman and Joy Gaines-Friedler. I caught up with Wilkes alums Jim Warner and Brian Fanelli, among others. I revealed my struggle with writing and working out in an essay published in between issues. I compiled a list of publishers and a separate list of faculty according to area for marketing purposes. I researched grants for nonfiction writers and poets. And I learned about Blogger, the site that houses the Poets’ Quarterlywebsite, to which I uploaded the archives from the old website.

I think it is safe to say I have been busy this semester. But when looking back at everything I have done, I see a more rounded writer, a more involved citizen in the literary community. I would not have traded this experience for any other internship. It has been exciting and nerve-wracking. It has been worth every minute of struggle, every moment of stress.

Then & Now: Q&A with alum Justin Kassab

December 4, 2013

Justin Kassab with Kaylie Jones

Then & Now: Q&A with alum Justin Kassab

By Heather Lowery

Justin Kassab is a graduate of the Wilkes University creative writing program. He has authored a number of short stories and his first novel,Foamers, will soon be on bookshelves. Justin is also the Managing Editor for Kaylie Jones Books.

HL: What is life like after the M.F.A.?

JK: I have a novel under contract.

HL: What did you learn from your internship experience?

JK: I learned how to build wordpress sites, and platform on social media.

HL: Has that experience helped you get to where you are now?

JK: It has helped build a platform for when I become published.

HL: Any advice for those considering the M.F.A.?

JK: If you have other means of income and are looking to supplement it with adjunct [teaching], it is a good choice. However, with the current teaching market I would advise going for your Ph.D. if your goal is to become a tenure track professor.

HL: What is your current occupation?

JK: Currently working pro bono as Managing Editor of Kaylie Jones Books.

HL: What were some of your favorite things about the M.F.A.?

JK: The guidance of Phil Brady.

HL: What were some of your not so favorite things?

JK: Combining my internship with my GA position and giving up sleep for the semester.

HL: Would you recommend getting the M.F.A.? Why?

JK: It would depend on your personal situation. From what I am learning from job hunting it is a great supplemental degree, but there are few avenues where the M.F.A. is exactly what someone is looking for.

HL: How did you make the most of your experience?

JK: I connected with as many mentors and students as I could to increase the amount of writer interaction in my everyday life.

HL: Anything else you’d like to add?

JK: Don’t let networking opportunities pass you by. Connect with the agents, publishers, mentors, and other students as much as you can each residency

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