At the 2016 Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference last spring, Claudia Rankine challenged members to improve inclusivity of MFA Programs and literary organizations. David Haynes, a trustee of AWP, is heading up a new AWP Committee on Inclusion. Its goals are in the new AWP Chronicle, including (1) conversation about inclusion in "pedagogy," curriculum, administration, and social environment. . . ." (2) development of academic program benchmarks for "inclusive literary communities and how to teach effectively among diverse students" (3) review of AWP "governance, policies, and projects to ensure inclusiveness and equity." I'm humbled to be part of this committee, along with Bonnie Culver, Oliver de la Paz, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Christopher Merrill, January Gill O'Neil, Craig Santos Perez, Jerod Santek, Eduardo Corral, Luisa Igloria, Julie Landsman, Sonya Larsen, Katie Hae Leo, Adrienne Perry, Kristine Sloan, and Johnny Temple. See Rankine's comments on the AWP website, available to the public: “”In Our Way: Racism in Creative Writing
Saturday, October 8, 2016
Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Lawrence-KC area writers interested in the art of memoir, this free workshop is in Lawrence, Oct. 15: This workshop is part of the Pulitzer Project in Kansas: William Allen White and Freedom of Speech, sponsored by the Kansas Humanities Council.Register at: 785-841-4109 or Hickox@watkinsmuseum.org. See the Watkins Museum, city historical museum's Facebook page:
Prof. Kim Stanley has served for ten years as a book discussion leader for the Kansas Humanities Council. For KHC, she has used stories to teach hospice values, to lead book discussions in a state prison, and to conduct a project teaching imprisoned fathers to read to their children. She was lead scholar for a Vietnam War project: “The Big Read” (funded by the NEA). B.A., Trinity University in San Antonio; M.A., St. John’s College at Santa Fe; Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin
Monday, October 3, 2016
My favorite definition of a writer is: "A writer is a person who writes." Perhaps ten years is the average apprenticeship, as my mentor Carolyn Doty used to tell me. Master writer (and teacher) Linda Rodriguez has a blog about how writers are like pianists--they both need regular exercise in their genre. Here is the beginning of her essay and a link to the entire piece on the Writers Who Kill blog:
"Pianists know they must practice every day, playing scales and various exercises that stretch the fingers
'Nobody can teach creative writing–run like mad from anybody who thinks he can. But one can teach practices, like finger exercises on the piano; one can share the tools of the trade, and what one has gleaned from the great writers: it is the great writers themselves who do the teaching.' –A Circle of Quiet
For years now, I've created my own finger exercises, as well as borrowing from other writers who've written books about writing, and used them in my journals." http://writerswhokill.blogspot.com/2016/10/scales-for-writers.html
Linda Rodriguez has published three novels in the Skeet Bannion mystery series, Every Hidden Fear (Minotaurhttp://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com/
Sunday, September 18, 2016
At the Wichita Public Library, Sept. 10, 2016, I was honored to be part of a panel associated with the Local Author Fair. WPL organizers included: Sarah Kittrell, Collection Development Manager; Julie Sherwood, Program & Outreach Manager; and Racine Zackula, Fiction Selection Librarian. These questions are from Racine.
Wichita Public Library Panel: Publishing Trends, Comments by Denise Low
Wichita Public Library Panel: Publishing Trends, Comments by Denise Low
|Photo by Roy Beckemeyr|
· What are the biggest trends in publishing currently? Brevity is the most obvious trend. The internet loves quick reads in social media format. Print media are following this trend, such as Kindle “singles” and the markets for novellas and short story collections. Social media encourages topical, newsworthy writing, relating to recent trends. There is a quick news cycle, so quick responses are popular, like poems about Prince’s death within a few days. Responses to deaths of black men in new recently have been effective use of this trend.
· Have any of these trends been surprising? One of the great surprises to me is the rise of the importance of radio—what I grew up with! Podcasts make radio long-lasting, beyond the live broadcast. People do want to hear the author’s voice. If a writer has not already posted some audio excerpts from writings, now is the time to do so. Of course every writer as a permanent website—not just a Facebook page. The websites are permanent and easily navigable.
· Is the cross-pollination of writers who are self-published going to traditional publishing and established authors who are with houses going to self-published hurting or helping the industry? Many self-published writers are breaking through; however, that is the exception. Fantasy and science fiction are areas where self-publishers are doing well. Still, the goal is to get the big contract with a national publisher. Self-published writers need a large readership before they are taken seriously. Distribution and publicity are huge problems. The good thing about self-publishing is the democratization of writing. William Stafford said we all are poets; some people just stop writing poetry. So self-publishing gives everyone a voice. The result is quality is hard to sort out. Many self-published writers do not know the craft and rules of grammar that well. Self-publication has led to a lot of fragmentation.
· Do you think that we are moving more toward a model of “renting” our book electronically? I have noticed that some print books are only on a limited print run and if they are sold, they are bound in leather and signed and more of a collector’s item. Several issues come to mind: (1) Print-on-demand, which is computer-based printing of books, has made printing of books much easier. POD is not self-publication—many university presses use POD, for example. This comes at a time just after the book industry started a negative cycle of profit-based, not quality-based, practices. The hardback book edition comes out first, at a high price, and if it sells, then the next year paperback editions may or may not come out. Only wealthy readers can pay $25-35 for a new bestseller. So when POD and electronic books developed, new formats reach more people. Rentals is a newish platform, and I’m sure it will be monetized as much as possible. (2) I also think libraries and bookstores will become “sample” stores, where people can see the object and then order the electronic version if they are interested. (3) the tradition of art books, print-media works created by artists, has not bled into coffee table books. The printed book in a fine edition is an art object. Fine arts editions, especially hand printed, have been collectibles for decades. (4) And finally, because platforms change so quickly, print is the standard for lasting. Libraries for archives
· What have you or other writers you know, found helpful in developing their work? Use of libraries! Since I was a kid, the world of books—the scale of books found in the library—seemed like a replica of the whole world. It is. The two libraries in my small town were havens to me. Also as a writer I found classes, including academic instruction, invaluable. Groups, which often meet in libraries, were very helpful. A few dear souls reached out and mentored me. My appreciation to them. Still, one of the biggest influences was the library, for its resources; meeting spaces; events (conferences and readings), and archives.
· In terms of poetry publishing, have you found that having multiple ways of communicating –(1) The biggest change I see is how poetry (and prose) readings are no longer literary events. They are TED talks, or rather sales pitches for book/poetry concepts. Multiple readers are on an evening’s slate, rather than one at a time—so there is a frenetic, competitive energy, like speed dating. Venues want to draw numbers to count for grants applications. This is the new climate. Self-published poets are put alongside established, credentialed poets. The hierarchy is breaking down, which may be a good thing. However, quality is less certain. (2) Multi-media and multi-genre in poetry change the craft of word arts. Performance and slam poetry are fairly new and have different rules of engagement and effectiveness. Also, genres specific to media are developing. Poetry that is left-hand justified with capitals at the beginning of each line are much more common. Whatever the medium, quality always shows—depth of detail, precision, pacing, content.
· Why would someone go to a publisher when electronic forms are so readily available? Publishers offer prestige (important to academics seeking tenure and promotion), expertise, promotion platforms, and community, for a start. Publishers endorse the quality of a writer’s work implicitly plus give their authors a team of experts. In some cases, a book even makes money.
· What do authors do when they have a finished manuscript to publish besides polish it once more? When you have a finished MS: What is the audience? (1) The first commandment is to consider the audience. Is your work for yourself, or does it have a topic to share with others? Then find the right niche publishing platform for the audience. (2) Then what are motives? If you want to be an author and live the glamourous life of an author, great. Be clear. Decide a strategy. If you want to follow your heart, write for your family and community first, then expand if it happens naturally. Because I had a restrictive day job, for years I wrote what I could and wanted to write. That was poetry, which has a terrible market. But I loved it, and it led to great experiences and community, including becoming Kansas Poet Laureate. Always, though, I understood there was no large audience for my writing.
Friday, July 22, 2016
Thank you to Annie Newcomber for permission to reprint this interview she did with Jeanie Wilson about her husband, Thomas Zvi Wilson (1931-2012). The Thomas Zvi Wilson Reading Series of The Writers Place presented a tenth anniversary celebration of the publication of his and Jeanie's The Door into the Dream (Mid-America Press, 2006). The series Facebook page describes the series: "Mr. Wilson’s objective was to broaden outreach for The Writers Place and create an additional venue for poetry and prose writers to read. After Thomas’ health failed, his wife Jeanie Wilson, an emeritus board member of TWP and poetry and short story writer, curates this popular reading series in his memory." The free series, founded in 2001, is third Tuesdays of the month. The readings take place at Johnson County Central Resource Library, 6-8 p.m., 9875 W. 87th Street in Overland Park, Ks., 913-826-4600.
Jeanie, what led your husband to the idea of developing the reading series? His primary
|Jeanie & Thomas Zvi Wilson|
How did he become involved in The Writers Place (TWP)? Tom had turned his attention from visual arts to poetry and wanted to become involved in TWP, the rising hub of the literary community in Kansas City. Eventually, he served on the Board of Directors and eventually as treasurer.
What were some of his dreams for the Kansas City writing community? At the time, there were separate pockets of writers and locations, and Tom had hoped to provide opportunities for these various entities to collaborate and to bring writers together to share their writing. I believe that collaboration is happening with the help of so many writers, organizations, and volunteers.
Did he see himself as an artist first or equally as a poet and an artist? I believe for Tom the identities were integral and each art form fed off the other.
What do people not know about Thomas that you wish was known? As much as he loved to write, he had a passion to help other people: writers, visual artists, and inmates at Lansing Prison. It was a longtime struggle in his division of time. Also, he was unique in that he was able to use both left and right sides of his brain, synthesizing in poetry and art.
Do you have a favorite poem that Thomas cherished? Might you share? I have selected a poem by Mark Strand, which Tom and I both treasured because it spoke of love late in life, which was our miracle.
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into light. . . .
How did Thomas suggest that poets could best hone their craft? He recommended and practiced that a poet read other poetry, write constantly and revise methodically. Some of his poems had been revised 40-50 times.
What did he want his audience to look like? What people was he trying to draw to the readings? All ages and ethnicities. The ideal audience member was hungry to hear the poems and to learn something new from the reading that evening.
What made him most proud of the Reading Series? He was very pleased when a new writer excelled and went on to publish.
What were some of his opinions on poetry? The poem should communicate the human experience or artistic idea to the reader. He had a great deal of poems on the artist, Edward Hopper. Poetry and art crisscrossed in his poetry.
Can you share a little bit about Thomas’ life and background? He was born in 1931 in New York. His family lived in a Jewish community. His parents abandoned him when he was about five to seven years old. He was extremely intelligent and thirsted for life in and outside the community. The community members raised him until at 14. He ran away and started a new life of his own. To him life itself was a gift not to be wasted. He never stopped learning and creating in some manner.
Poets often ask me how you select your readers. What do you suggest to someone who has this aspiration and goal? If they are interested in reading, I like to visit with them and read some of their work. In some cases, I know the individual and their work already. Similar to Tom, I do not require that a writer has published a book prior to reading. He enjoyed helping new writers of all ages and backgrounds.
What inspired you and Thomas to write your antiphonal poems? Initially Tom and I had paired our poems around a common theme or word and performed readings with these paired poems. Our publisher/editor, the late Robert Jones, approached us and asked us to write a book of these paired poems.
What advice would he give today’s poet? First and foremost, he valued life and did not want to waste a moment or day. Regarding poetry, once again, he would recommend to read other poets, write constantly, and revise the poem diligently.
What do you see as Thomas’ legacy? Tom served as a model of friendship in helping writers and artists advance their art and writing. He set the standard in how writers should treat one another. The Thomas Zvi Wilson Reading Series serves as a vehicle to provide opportunities for writers and poets and stands as a testament to this extraordinary man. June, 2016
Wednesday, July 6, 2016
Academy of American Poets poetics forum. The program was discontinued after hackers attacked. But from that archive I found this commentary from Judith Roitman and her poems:
Copyright 2016 Judith Roitman. Reprinted with permission
Judith Roitman: "I find emoticons very strange, yet here they are to the left of me for my use, so I will try to write an emoticon poem. Why not?"
Cry oops Mr. Green.
Mr. Green roll wink.
Laugh. Smile. Frown.
Mr. Green roll wink.
Laugh. Smile. Frown.
Evil, very evil
Joy & happiness
The confusion of the world.
Judith Roitman has published poems in various journals, including First Intensity, Black Spring, Locus Point (on the web), Bird Dog, and Wakarusa Wetlands in Word & Image (Lawrence: Imagination and Place, 2005). She has published: The Stress of Meaning: Variations on a Line by Susan Howe (Morris, Minn.: Standing Stones Press, 1997); Diamond Notebooks (Buffalo, New York: Nominative Press Collective, 1998); Slippge (Elmwood, Conn.: Potes and Poets Press, 1999); No Face: New and Selected Poems (Lawrence, First Intensity 2008); Slackline (Hank’s Original Loose Gravel Press, 2012). See JudithRoitman’s essay about Susan Howe on the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog (scroll down). She graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a BA in English (1966) and the University of California-Berkeley (1974, mathematics Ph.D.).
Monday, June 6, 2016
While working on a new manuscript, working title "Medicine Wheel," I came across this excellent articleApril Ossmann is the author of Anxious Music (Four Way Books, 2007), an independent editor, and former executive director of Alice James Books.
I have about 80 pages of poems, and it is incoherent, a set of poems, with a variety of themes, tones, and forms. No, I did not start with a clear project in mind, but rather gathered these as they came over the last few years. 2/3 of the poems have been published in Ezines or journals. That has not helped in this process!
My first sort was for quality--some pieces never gelled, some are just lame. My next sort was for tone. I have some protest pieces that are sardonic, hot peppery poems that relate to particular political/personal issues. These are in a pile waiting to go in their own book, or not. So how to make order of chaos? I have no firm answers, but this advice has been very helpful, from “Thinking Like an Editor: How to Order YourPoetry Manuscript" by April Ossmann in Poets & Writers: The Practical Writer (March/April 2011). Some MS orders she recommends are: “. . . creating a narrative line or arc (regardless of whether the poetry is narrative) and grouping or interweaving themes to create a sense of evolution or growth, proceeding toward a conclusion—not resolution. Another strategy is a lyric ordering, in which each poem is linked to the previous one, repeating a word, image, subject, or theme. This sometimes provides a continuation, sometimes a contrast or argument. Other times I follow one or several emotionally charged poems with one that provides comic or other relief; sometimes I work to vary (or interweave) the poetic styles, individual poem length, pace, tone, or emotion. Some orders build toward a narrative, emotional, or evolutionary climax or conclusion (a “Western ending”) and some end deliberately unresolved or ambiguous (an “Eastern ending”). . . .” Do check out the entire article for much invaluable wisdom.
So far I have five thematic piles: history/landscape; generative process; language; bestiaries; visual points of view. Now I might reshuffle and try a "faux narrative." Thank you April Ossmann! Onward!
Friday, May 20, 2016
Thank you to Gloria Vando as she honors her husband Bill Hickok’s memory. They co-founded The
Writers Place. Now she is
sponsoring a new reading series through TWP. Here is the press release: “TWP
is pleased to announce the inaugural event in the series honoring our late
co-founder, Bill Hickok. His legacy will continue with this public reading bythe 2015-2016 Poet Laureate of the United States, Juan Felipe
Herrera. Public reception begins at 6 p.m., followed by a reading. The
event will be held at the Central Branch of the Kansas City Public Library.
There is no charge for the event, but registration is required. Read more
about Mr. Herrera at the Library of
Congress. . . . ‘Waking up is the biggest thing. I'm a political
poet - let us say a human poet, a poet that's concerned with the plight of
people who suffer. If words can be of assistance, then that's what I'm going to
use.’ -Juan Felipe Herrera.”
|Gloria Vando Hickok|
Special funding for the 2016 William H. Hickok Series has been provided by the Richard J. Stern Foundation for the Arts, Ramon Murguia, Kansas City Southern, Latino Writers Collective, UMKC, and Gloria Vando Hickok on behalf of the N.W. Dible Foundation.
Read a related article from KCUR: The Kansas City Public Library hosts An Evening with Juan Felipe Herrera, Friday, May 27, 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St., Kansas City, Missouri, 64105.
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Denise Low presents trickster Jackalope’s gender-bending narratives in the GearsTurning Poetry series, hosted by Kim Shuck, June 12 Sunday, 4 to 6 pm at Modern Times Bookstore in the Mission, San Francisco with music by Ed Dang. 2919 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94110
About Denise Low’s Jackalope: "JACKALOPE is a perfect blend of stories, poetry, and strangeness. Denise Low has created a collection that is simultaneously myth and not-myth, a shining delight."—Kij Johnson, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards winner
"Trickster takes center stage in Denise Low's JACKALOPE, a collection of prose and poetry recounting the adventures of its title character, Jackalope Kelley. This anthropomorphic animal is the cryptid on postcards you see at gas stations across the American Midwest—a rabbit with two iconic pronghorn antlers. Jackalope Kelley shifts between male and female identities: Jack when he's a man, Jaq when she's a woman. He drinks a gin and tonic in a Twitter bar. She passes through Seattle, Santa Fe, Minneapolis, Colorado, and Roswell, among other places. He vomits when he sees the head of one of his ancestors mounted above the door in a Wyoming bar. And she searches for a gynecologist—or does he need a urologist? All of these scenes give the book a playful feel, but there's also plenty of time for reflection. In quieter moments, Jackalope tries to explain his complicated heritage to others. ... This merging of shape-shifting identities with shape-shifting trickster narratives is no accident. The language of the book is steeped in the Native American mythologies and vocabularies that Low understands so well."—Ben Pfeiffer, Interviews Editor, The Rumpus Reviews and Other Links Ben Pfeiffer @ KCUR Public Radio Lisa McLendon @ The Wichita Eagle Fred Whitehead @ Penniless Press
Denise Low, Ks. Poet Laureate 2007-09, is award-winning author of 25 books, including Melange Block (Red Mountain Press, 2014), and Kansas Poems of William Stafford. Her fiction has earned two Pushcart Prize nominations. Low is past board president of Associated Writers and Writing Programs. She blogs, reviews, and co-publishes Mammoth Publications. Her professional workshops have national reach, and she teaches at Baker University. She has British Isles, German, Delaware, and Cherokee heritage. She has an MFA and PhD.
About Kim Shuck: Kim Shuck is a poet, weaver, educator doer of piles of laundry, planter of seeds,Kim's visual art has been included in shows both locally and abroad such as a textile show at the National Museum of Taiwan in Taipei and Art, Women, California at the San Jose Art Museum. She consults with museums and galleries around California on the subjects of Native artwork and community inclusion. Kim continues working in schools and has taught at all levels: at San Francisco State University as well as many elementary schools. Her work with the Exploratorium, a hands on museum in San Francisco, is included in that museum's "Across Cultures" series. She's been teaching since 3rd grade when she organized and taught a class on crochet. Her work generally touches on poetry, art, math, storytelling, humor, and whatever else seems useful at the time.
About Rabbit Stories: "What Kim Shuck is writing is vital and vibrant. She is blending tradition with modernity, history with humor and her own Indigenous perspective witheverything else. She is kind enough to invite us all into her mind, her life and her tribe through her writing and to smile at us when we realize that we are glad we came, glad we read this evocative book and glad that we met this powerful and significant poet."—Dr. Dawn Karima Pettigrew, author of The Marriage of Saints: A Novel (University of Oklahoma Press, 2006)
About Modern Times Bookstore: “Our politics also shape the organization of our business. Modern Times has operated as a collective since the very start. All important management decisions are discussed collectively, and staff members are eligible to become worker-owners. Modern Times is a member of NoBAWC, the Northern California Alliance of Worker Collectives. We’re happy to be a part of a larger network of independent businesses working together to create worker friendly, conscientious, alternative models of business. And it’s Modern Times’ collective management structure that allows people to give so much of themselves, and pour so much of their creativity into a store that truly reflects the personalities of everybody who works here. Modern Times is a member of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, Calle 24 Cultural District and Merchants Association and the United Booksellers of San Francisco.”- See more at: http://moderntimesbookstore.com/about/history/#sthash.e11dNOTu.dpuf
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
BITTER TEARS, 36 pp., poetry, staplebound, $12.00 ISBN 978-1-939301-72-7
Online orders $2 off. PayPal Click Here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for multiple copies or information. International orders, add postage amount.
Denise Lajimodiere spent years interviewing boarding school survivors for this poetry project of moving verse, Bitter Tears. The poems describe the experiences of children who experienced the wrenching trauma of assimilationist boarding schools. Denise Lajimodiere, an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, is past President of the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition (N-NABS-HC) and present board member. Denise works as an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at North Dakota State University, Fargo. Her current research agenda includes the history of American Indian boarding schools and also Native female leadership and Horizontal Violence. Her first book of poems is Dragonfly Dance (Michigan State University Press). Denise is also a Birch Bark Biting artist and traditional Jingle Dress dancer.
Full-color cover, After Boarding School: Mourning, is copyrighted by Klamath-Modoc artist Kaila Farrell-Smith, used with permission. It is in the permanent collection of the Portland Art Museum, purchased with funds from the Native American Art Council.