The following books will be on sale from now until the end of December …
For the Holiday season we are offering these books at a 40% discount until the end of the year.
To order one of these books, or any of our other merchandise please visit our website and contact Owen Bailey at email@example.com or (410) 810-5768.
Soundproof Your Life by: Tara Altebrando
This is the third issue of the second volume of One Teen Story (Volume One and Volume Two). As usual I don’t like to give the story away and as always you can stop by the Lit House and find this story in our Library.
A little about Tara Altebrando: She is the author of four young adult novels: The Best Night of Your(Pathetic) Life, Dreamland Social Club (A Kirkus Reviews Best Books for Teens of 2011), What Happens Here, and The Pursuit of Happiness. She is also coauthor with Sara Zarr of Roomies. Her first middle-grade novel, The Battle of Darcy Lane, is forthcoming in Spring 2014. A graduate of Harvard University, Tara lives in Queens, New York, with her husband and two young daughters.
In her interview with Patrick Ryan for One Teen Story, full interview here, he asked her “What is the best bit of advice about writing you have ever received?” To which she replied:
The most influential writing teacher I’ve had was a fanatic about point of view and he definitely passed that on to me. He really stressed the fact that mastering point of view is essential to good writing, and I became a point-of-view fanatic as a result. Until I had the vocabulary for POV, I wasn’t sure why my writing sometimes felt vaguely wonky. Now, one of my greatest joys as a writer is playing around with point of view, manipulating it. Countless students I’ve had over the years have had some point of view problems, and I’ve taken a borderline masochistic pleasure in highlighting those problems, and then in watching their writing come into focus when the POV light bulb goes on.
The next issue of One Teen Story is here and it is titled Violets by Laura Ender.
I won’t say too much about the story itself, only its voice.
It is not often that we find a story written in the second person. Most of what we read whether it be fiction, nonfiction short stories or novels are written in either the 1st or 3rd person. When the 2nd person is used correctly it can be a wonderfully engaging as the odd tone gives the reader a perspective that is very personal, very close. Laura Ender has done a fine job writing this story and it often feels like the narrator is talking to ‘you.’
Junot Diaz used this voice his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the National Book Critic Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It appears in one chapter with the mother and sister (Lola) of the novels main character, Oscar. The prize of this voice is the power of the word ‘you,’ since it is the only word in this voice.
To learn more about the story, you have to read it and then read this interview from the One Teen Story website.
I love pairing books. Like wine with a good meal some books go really well together. For me, this October has been the continuation of great tales.
It was a couple of years ago when a friend of mine suggested that I read Finn by Jon Clinch, a story about Huckleberry Finn’s father. (Quick warning, it’s a rough book and not meant for the faint of heart.) When I looked at the book, it seemed like one that should be moved to the front of my endless book queue. But before that, it gave me a chance to revisit a few books other books. It had been a long time since I read either The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn. So, I allowed a few more books to cut in line and took the time to read both of them before I read Finn. It was worth it and I must add that Finn is a fantastic book.
Which leads me to this:
I love the name Grimm. How fitting that two brothers credited with gathering these grim fairy tales shared a last name that is one too many m’s from a word that, according to Webster, means “ghastly, repellent, or sinister in character,” much like many people and creatures that one can meet in the mythical Germanic forests. (I should note that the word came before the name by about 400 years according to the OED.)
Anyone familiar with these original tales knows that many of the characters are ghastly and sinister. Fathers who banish their sons because they are half hedgehog and half boy; parents who promise their children to strangers in the woods in exchange for guidance on how to get out of said woods; and dozens of repellent witches and evil kings that always seem to want to lock away the princess on top of a mountain, sometimes one made of glass. Just ask Christoph Waltz’s character, Dr. Shultz, in Django Unchained. “It’s a German story. There’s always a mountain.” (He had my vote for the Oscar.)
Once upon a time, I worked at a great bookstore, may it rest in peace. (It was also the place where I first heard of Finn.) There were always new wonderful books coming into the story each and every week - too many to keep up with. It seemed like every day when I would straighten the shelves I would find new titles that would excite my curiosity. While there one Sunday, working by myself, straightening the shelves in the children’s section, I came across this title A Tale Dark and Grimm. Yes, it caught my eye as you can tell.
I thought to myself that it would be fun to pair this book with some of the original tales between chapters. So far I’ve read about 70 of the 210 tales that fills up the 2 volume set I bought last summer from the also now closed Old Book Company in Chestertown. With one more week before Halloween I think it is time to start. The book received great reviews and though I don’t mind writer’s borrowing ideas from other books and stories, so long as they make their work original, I think it is important to know the reference, to know the origins of how and why this book came to be made.
And with that, Happy Halloween …
Last spring the Lit House bought a subscription to the then newly created One Teen Story and we are happy they are back with Volume II.
With that same great One Story look, One Teen Story’s first Issue of Volume II is here ready for anyone interested. This first story, Purgatory, is by Alexandra Salerno whose work has also appeared in the Harpur Palate, The Gettysburg Review, Sou’wester, Narrative and in other places.
Here’s how the story begins:
Brian met Jack Bianchi during the summer of 1989, when he was 16 and working at Paradise Lanes in Yonkers by the Raceway. It was the summer before his senior year, and he had a stack of college applications on his desk at home for engineering programs in the Midwest. The few friends he had were away for the summer at different beaches on the eastern seaboard while he was stuck in a bowling alley that smelled like hot dogs and feet.
Jack came in at nine o’clock on a weeknight in late July. The alley was empty except for some older guys by the far wall watching two teenaged girls bowl. Brian was behind the snack bar arranging a candy display: Blow-Pops and Bit-O-Honeys and all that. Jack walked by looking like some kind of cowboy; he wore a checkered shirt, tight black jeans, and boots that were all scuffed up—nothing like all the preps Brian went to school with. His hands were stuffed in his pockets and his shoulders stuck up as if he were walking against a cold wind. He had dark hair and olive skin like Ralph Macchio in The Karate Kid, but he was older. He threw a nod Brian’s way as he headed for the shoe counter.
I won’t tell you if this story is fun or has a happy ending, that’s for your to read and decide. If you want more it, and the others still to come, will be here at the Lit House in the reading room. Plus, visit the One Teen Story website and read about the awesome work that they do with their awesome writers that contribute to them.
September 22 - 28
I’ll begin by being honest and admit that I had never heard of Banned Books Week until a few years ago, after I graduated from college. What makes this sad is that Banned Books Week is one year older than I am, having been founded in 1982. Even though I had never heard of this week-long celebration of the freedom of speech and ideas, I am happy to write that I have been reading these very books since middle school.
Some of my favorite books are banned: 1984, Fahrenheit 451 (thanks to that book I know how to spell that word), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Tom Sawyer, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Giver, Lord of the Flies, The Outsiders, and A Wrinkle in Time. Now there are some books on the list that I won’t read, but that is strictly for personal reasons. (For example: I am just not interested and do not care that the Fifty Shades of Grey books are so popular. I would rather read something else.)
To me, the banned books list is pretty close to being the list of the best stories ever told and this year as I look over the list I see that there are many great books that I still need to read such as Franny and Zooey, Doctor Zhivago, A Clockwork Orange, and Call of the Wild.
For me the best way to celebrate Banned Books Week is by reading one of these books. It is a quiet, peaceful protest that I can take part in at my local libraries. Not sure what book I shall read (I’ll pick one by the end of the day), but there are many great options thanks to my local public and collegiate libraries.
Tuesday, September 24
Banned Books Open Mic: Come relax in our cozy banned books lounge all day long, read aloud from different selections, disguise yourself with our props, and use Instagram to commemorate the moment!
Wednesday, September 25
Pi Lambda Theta reading: Stop by at 7 p.m. to join our Education Honor Society for a reading and discussion of banned children’s books.
Thursday, September 26, and Friday, September 27
Continued exhibit and activities.
Every year, the Rose O’Neill Literary House awards two $1000 Jacoby Endowment Grants to support undergraduate work in the fields of publishing, writing, and editing.
Val Dunn ‘15 was one of two students awarded for the 2012-2013 academic year. She used her funding to pay for a literary cross-country hike through Northern England. Here, she tells us how it went:
“While walking the craggy shore of Ennerdale Waters, I realized that this hidden English lake might just be the prettiest in the world if only I wasn’t carrying a pack that weighed a third of my bodyweight. My map book indicated that I would soon walk through a “nice, mossy bit” but it was at that section I contemplated ending the trip after just three days of hiking. However, I did not stop and, having since survived and completed my 190-mile hike across Northern England, I now appreciate the difficult necessity of observing a landscape firsthand.
“I kept a detailed travel journal during my hike, initially expecting to write something like Wordsworth that would capture the genteel beauty of the English countryside. The English countryside quickly quelled my assumptions with rain, hail, sideways wind, more rain, and even sun bright enough to burn the backs of my shoulders. Around the same time that my waterproof boots ceased to be waterproof, I accepted that the earth cannot be tamed by poetic notions. I can, however, recreate the way forgotten wisps of sheep wool smell in a pasture of manure or how the moors become quiet when they see rain rushing across the east to them. I have narrowed my poetic focus so as to appreciate the way cottongrass dances on the top of Dent Hill rather than rehash generic portraits of nature. By submitting myself to the environment and living in the landscape about which I wished to write, I allowed the earth to shape me as a poet.”
Applications for this year’s Jacoby Endowment Grants are due November 5, 2013. See this page for details.
Podcast from the August 29th event.
A multidisciplinary panel of professors discusses the role of constructive criticism in the creative process here at Washington College. Join Profs. Jehanne Dubrow (Creative Writing), Heather Harvey (Studio Art), John Leupold (Music & Composition), and Michele Volansky (Drama & Playwriting) as they talk about the philosophical and practical purposes served by the traditional workshop and other methods of critical response to creative works.
If you missed the event, you can listen to it below.
The American Shakespeare Center recovers the joys and accessibility of Shakespeare’s theatre, language, and humanity by exploring the English Renaissance stage and its practices through performance and education.
ASC – through its performances, theatres, exhibitions, and educational programs – seeks to make Shakespeare, the joys of theatre and language, and the communal experience of the Renaissance stage accessible to all. By re-creating Renaissance conditions of performance, the ASC explores its repertory of plays for a better understanding of these great works and of the human theatrical enterprise past, present, and future.
Since 1988, the American Shakespeare Center has produced English Renaissance plays in a bold, fresh style, bringing Shakespeare and other early modern works to communities across the country and around the world. Direct from the stage of the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, VA, the ASC On Tour employs Shakespeare’s own staging conditions to break down the barriers that traditionally separate performer and audience.
“We scour the country for the right 10-12 actors to perform all these roles in all of these plays,” said ASC Artistic Director Jim Warren. “Not only are we looking for the right talent to do these shows in true rotating repertory (a great lost joy in today’s theatre world), but we’re also looking for personalities we think will gel into a dynamic, well-balanced ensemble on and off the stage. On top of all of that, we’re also looking for singers and musicians because we perform all of our music live and unplugged; join us for our pre-show a half-hour before show time for some musical treats.”
ASC will be giving a perfromance of Henry IV, Part I on Sunday, September 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Decker Theatre.
Henry IV, Part 1 is Shakespeare’s masterful exploration of family and friends, honor and happiness, and those moments when we are forced to choose between the thing we desire and the thing we know we must do.
There’s a lot more to planning an event than you might think.
In fact, arts administration itself encompasses more tasks than meet the eye. As the summer intern for the Literary House this year, I had the opportunity to learn about the field of arts administration and to plan an event from start to finish.
During the first half of my internship, I did a lot of brainstorming and a lot of research. I looked through records of old events, evaluated the type of events given in the last couple of years, wandered through the house looking at the older posters for ideas. Then, in the beginning of July, Penguin and Random House merged and I was struck with a thought: there has been no one from the publishing industry in years. Students at Washington College have wonderful writing opportunities and meet many authors, but what about the other side? What about the editors, literary agents, and publishing executives?
I talked to Lindsay about my desire to hold a lecture related to publishing. We talked about the different aspects and decided having by an editor would be best as it would apply to students interested in working in publishing as well as students interested in getting published. We came up with a list of editors to invite, and Mary Biddinger replied immediately.
With the guidance of Lindsay and Jehanne, I went through the steps of putting together the event: evaluating the budget, refining the event topic, issuing a formal invitation, securing the date through Campus Events, and corresponding with Mary on various minor details.
Mary was a joy to correspond with, and within a couple of weeks everything was settled. She will be coming in February 2014 (link to event), and we couldn’t be more excited. Mary Biddinger founded a literary magazine, Barn Owl Review, for which she serves as Editor-in-Chief and works as the Series Editor for the Akron Series in Poetry. Plus, she’s a published poet and a professor at the University of Akron.
I am excited to meet Mary in February and even more excited to see the event I’ve planned come together. There is still more work to be done—designing the poster and determining travel details, for instance—which I will get to work on even after my internship ends.
The Literary House 2013 Fall Series will be Chicano/a & Latino/a Voices and will feature a fiction writer Justin Torres, nonfiction writer Joy Castro, poet Eduardo Corral and Washington College Professor Crystal Kurzen.
All of our events are free and open to the public.
Justin Torres is the author of the novel We the Animals. His stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, Harper’s, Tin House and have been featured on NPR. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Torres has received a Rolón Fellowship in literature from United States Artists, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford, as well as a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies at Harvard. We the Animals, a national bestseller, has been translated into fifteen languages. He has worked as a farmhand, a dog-walker, a creative writing teacher, and a bookseller.
Joy Castro is the author of the memoir The Truth Book, the essay collection Island of Bones, and the literary thrillers Hell or High Water and Nearer Home. She edited the collection Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family, and her work has appeared in Fourth Genre, North American Review, and The New York Times Magazine. An associate professor of English and Ethnic Studies, she teaches literature, creative writing, and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she also serves as the associate director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies. She was a founding faculty member of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College in Boston, where she taught for three years, and has led classes and workshops at the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, the Nebraska Summer Writers Conference, and the University of Iowa MFA in Nonfiction Program.
Eduardo C. Corral is a CantoMundo fellow. He holds degrees from Arizona State University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry 2012, Beloit Poetry Journal, Huizache, Jubilat, New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, and Quarterly West. His work has been honored with a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, the J. Howard and Barbara M. J. Wood Prize from Poetry, and writing residencies to the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo. He has served as the Olive B. O’Connor Fellow in Creative Writing at Colgate University and as the Philip Roth Resident in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. Slow Lightning, his first book of poems, was selected by Carl Phillips as the 2011 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, he currently lives in New York City, teaching at Columbia University in the spring 2013.
Crystal M. Kurzen currently holds a Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship in the Department of English at Washington College where she is at work on her manuscript, Literary Nepantla: Genre and Method in Contemporary Chicano/a Life Narratives. Her project focuses on how contemporary Chicanos/as relate self and community from the alter-Native spaces of nepantla through multigeneric storytelling techniques based primarily in strategies of reconceptualizing conventional autobiography. Her article on Pat Mora recently appeared in a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, and her work on Native American women’s autobiography is forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literatures. She teaches courses in literature and composition as well as American, Chicano/a, and Latino/a literatures.
From the makers of One Story …
Two years ago I bought a subscription to One Story, having fallen in love with the look of the single short stories that would arrive at my house every month. Their colorful covers remind me of candy and they are quite a treat. Since then I have read many wonderful stories, most of which are by authors whose names and work I had never before read. This past year I was happy to see that One Story expanded to One Teen Story, a competition for young writers between the age of 14 and 19.
Here’s how it worked. It was a nine issue series with the first eight stories being written by experienced writers and the ninth would be the contest winner. Now I did fall behind in my reading, as happens with me and short stories, and had to catch up during my summer vacation, which by the way is a nice way to spend your summer vacation. It turned out to be a great series, featuring Gregory Maguire, the 2012 Mary Wood Fellow Laura van den Berg, Aimee Bender, and Matt de La Pena, who will be the judge for next year’s competition.
One Teen Story’s first winner was Nicole Acton and her story “Night Swimming.” It is an incredible story, certainly worthy of taking home the prize and I’m amazed at the quality of work.
If you are interested in learning more about One Teen Story, check out their website or stop by the Lit House and read all nine stories.
To commemorate the 2013 series of Summer Poetry Salons, the Literary House Press at the Rose O’Neill Literary House has designed and printed two beautiful new broadsides featuring work from the two poets reading at the final salon of the summer: Sarah Arvio and Elana Bell.
Sarah Arvio’s latest collection night thoughts: 70 dream poems & notes from an analysis is full of vivid, unnerving imagery. These are sonnets whose language shivers and leaps off the page. It was really hard committing to one poem when I liked so many of them and knew that any one would be suited to the medium of letterpress. In the end, I was drawn to “white hat” because of its use of color. Phrases like “splashed with blood,” “brightpink blood,” and “blood is prettypink” suggested a broadside that would incorporate a color we’ve been wanting to experiment with here at the Literary House Press. Pink pink pink!
Sarah’s use of the verb “splashed” shaped my idea of the design. In the end, I created black splatters of paint. And while these splatters were letterpress-printed with a photopolymer plate, which is an extremely controlled process, the effect was one of spontaneity and chaos.
After reading poet Elana Bell’s first collection of poetry Eyes, Stones, I was struck by more than one poem that would be ripe for translation into a letterpress broadside. The poem I eventually chose—“How I Got My Name (Jabotinsky)”—evoked such strong, solid images that I knew it was the one. As crucial as strong images are to any piece of writing, poetry or prose, they are even more essential to one memorialized in broadside form. I was held by phrases in the poem like:
“under the moon’s bulging/ eye,”
“one hand/ on her belly,”
“dragging its catch by the rump,”
“the wolves/ gazing with their sleepy, yellowed eyes”
These lines together suggest a fertile sort of roundness echoed in the moon, the belly, the rump, the eyes; but it is a jaundiced sort of fertility. There is danger in this poem and solitude. After a close-reading of the poem, I knew certain things about the broadside design. The image accompanying the poem text had to be a moon, large and looming and printed in metallic gold ink. It should be a photographic representation of the moon, like a satellite image, so we see the lonely, dry craters of its surface. After deciding on the image and ink color, it was also clear that the paper needed to be the dark indigo of an early night sky, when the moon would appear at its largest.
Making the Broadsides:
So, after the brainwork of design, comes the fun of the studio. The biggest challenge with Sarah Arvio’s broadside turned out to be the first step: cutting the paper with our huge guillotine papercutter. We had chosen a thick, delicious, mouldmade paper from Arches, which takes the ink beautifully and allows for a deep impression of the plates. But the paper proved to be so thick that, by the end, we were practically cutting each sheet individually! We also took care to preserve as many of the deckled edges as possible. The rest of the process went rather smoothly. We especially enjoyed mixing the pink ink with the help of the Pantone Matching System: a few dollops of Warm Red, a generous helping of Rhodamine Red, with a side of Opaque White. We printed the broadside in two passes: one for the pink text, one for the black splatters. It was interesting to see, in the last leg of printing, the black splatters occasionally overlap the “prettypink” text, as if by accident.
We were anxious about printing Elana’s broadside because of the challenge associated with printing metallic inks and with printing lighter inks over darker papers. But as it turns out, all of our worrying was for nothing! We had expected to need to make at least three passes on the Vandercook: first, a layer of Transparent or Opaque White for the moon image as a base for the metallic ink; followed by the gold; then, because of the difficulty of getting the registration of two layers of ink exact, we were planning to print the slender text in an entirely different color, one that would require only one pass on the press. One of the pleasures (and pains) of working in letterpress printing is that you never know exactly what will or will not pan out until you get your hands dirty in the studio. So, on a whim, we decided to test the effect of just one layer of ink, printing the gold directly on the paper. And it worked! We got the correct amount of ink distribution and metallic shine in just one go: image and text together. It was a serendipitous turn of events.
A number of people assisted in the production of these broadsides, including Lindsay Lusby, Jehanne Dubrow, Literary House Summer Intern Aileen Gray ’14, and Master Printer Mike Kaylor. We will debut these new broadsides at next week’s final Summer Poetry Salon. The broadsides will sell for $20 each. They will be available for sale at the Salon and on the Literary House Press website.
And don’t forget to check out the new Literary House Press Facebook page! We post lots of behind-the-scenes photos there that you won’t get to see anywhere else.
The Jungle Book
By: Rudyard Kipling
When I read this book a few weeks ago, I already knew a lot about it. I knew it was about a boy who, through some unfortunate events, grows up in the care of jungle animals. I knew about the characters Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera, and of course Shere Khan. It is a book I think most of us know whether we have read the stories or not. What I did not realize, and I apologize to Rudyard Kipling, was the inspiration that The Jungle Book had on one of my favorite books, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
When I think about it now, it is quite obvious. The relation begins in the title and extends to the books main characters: Mowgli and Nobody (Bod). Both of their families are killed moments before their respective stories begin; both were saved in very unlikely ways in worlds that many people consider to be scary and perhaps dangerous (the jungle and the graveyard); both were then raised by a family of sorts (wolves and ghosts); educated in the ways of their worlds (the Law of the Jungle and the Freedom of the Graveyard); kidnapped by vicious creatures (Bandar-log and the Ghouls); and both ended up defending themselves and killing their would-be killers (Shere Kahn and the Man Jack).
The Jungle Book was a lot of fun to read. The old pages of my father’s copy smelled of an older world where a boy could be lost and raised in the jungle by a pack of wolves, a bear and a panther. Kipling’s world, when Britain ruled the Indian subcontinent. The book, which is a collection of seven stories, shows a rougher world than I expected. I forget sometimes that children’s stories use to be more haunting and savage, thinking of Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and even Rock-a-bye Baby. A good example is in the second chapter, “Kaa’s Hunting,” when the reader learns that Baloo sometimes beats Mowgli when he is not paying attention to his lessons on the Law of the Jungle.
In an interview that Neil Gaiman did with Stephen Colbert in 2009, Gaiman addressed this issue when Colbert asked him about the opening to The Graveyard Book.
“There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife.”
Colbert made the argument that this was too scary for a child to read. Gaiman countered, explaining that, “children’s fiction always had a little bit of darkness in it.” Both of these books certainly have their darkness, but always with a light at the end of the final page.
The Jungle Book isn’t all about Mowgli and I would say that my two favorite chapters are “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” I like mongooses, and “Toomai of the Elephants,” I like elephants, especially ones that dance.
Earlier I apologized to Rudyard Kipling. I did this because I never realized how his work, his masterpiece, inspired one of my favorite modern day writers. But that is why I take this time, the hot days of summer when no ones feels like being outside unless they have to, when all I want is to sit in a cool chair with an ice tea and a promising book to take me away from the 100 degrees Fahrenheit (I can only spell this work because of Ray Bradbury) and the high humidity.
Literary House Summer Intern Aileen Gray ‘14 experiences her first Summer Poetry Salon, behind the scenes.
On the first day of my internship, Lindsay and Owen explained how the Salons run, lamented that the May Salon had had a very small turnout, and asked me to work on advertising for upcoming events. I spent the day looking over the advertising methods we were already using and finding more ways to spread the word for the Salons.
Four weeks later, the day of the event arrived. The energy in the house was buzzing as we awaited the arrival of Steve Kistulentz, Yona Harvey, and the members of Sleeper Cell. In a fit of last-minute preparations, I straightened chairs, arranged books on tabletops, and put a sidewalk sign in front of the house to catch the attention of passersby.
At 4:23, the excitement was turning to anxiety. We’d had only a handful of guests trickle through the door. But, as these things always happen, the Lit House filled with people just as 4:30 came and went. We shepherded guests, a few already clutching copies of the poets’ books, to the porch. Jehanne gave a lovely introduction and the event began.
I knew how the salon would go and what to expect, but it was still a new experience and a delight to discover. The thing that struck me most about the afternoon was how hearing the poetry aloud changed my perception of it. Before the salon, I had read the collection of poetry from which Yona Harvey read. At the time, I’d chosen certain favorites and found there to be a musical quality in the way she strings words and phrases together. Hearing her read it aloud brought this music to life.
The other thing that I found delightful—as I do at any reading, poetry or prose—was the anecdotal energy that pervaded both readings. A poem’s meaning or sound changes not only when you hear it aloud but also when you hear the story behind it. The questions you find yourself asking as you read—What was the author thinking here? Why this word, this phrase? Where does the line fall between author and speaker in this work?—these answers are found only through the explanations and anecdotes of the author.
There was a congenial desire from both the musicians and the poets to share their art with the audience, and somehow the salon was both formal and relaxed. The energy of each set bled into the next and thematic connections carried from the music to the poetry—one of those unplanned aspects that always manage to happen. I absolutely loved the afternoon and cannot wait for the salon in July!
Literary House Summer Intern Aileen Gray ‘14 shares her list of books to read this summer.
Recently, I was struck with the desire to spring clean and organize and, having just gotten a new laptop, my hard drive seemed to be the best place to start. In looking through old documents, I came across a list I made just before I came to WAC: One Hundred Books to Read Before I Graduate College.
It’s filled with various classics like Ulysses, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, The Grapes of Wrath… And, of course, I’ve managed to neglect nearly every novel on this list while mentally adding to it over the last three years.
It’s rather overwhelming: all of these books I am supposed to have read. I’m an English major, after all, and I should at least have a working knowledge of the classics, right? But between classes, work, internships, travel, there is simply never enough time to read everything I want to, let alone everything I ought to.
What’s the solution? Start with a shorter list and a more definite deadline. So, I’ve decided to follow Owen’s lead and put together a manageable summer reading list.
At the moment, I’m reading Americana, the first novel by Don DeLillo. I’ve recently fallen in love with DeLillo’s work—his timely exploration of technology, television, information and misinformation, and his fascination with language. At the 2013 AWP Conference in Boston, I had the absolute pleasure of hearing DeLillo read from his work, and after an excerpt from Americana, I knew I had to read the novel in its entirety.
Next, I plan to read something by Hemingway. I’ve read a number of his short stories but have somehow never managed to read one of his novels, though both A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises have been sitting on my bookshelf for the last few years.
After Hemingway, I think I’ll return to post-modern literature, a genre that has become my new favorite after a course with Professor Mooney last semester. There are dozens of post-modern novels I want to read, but I think I’ll begin with Catch-22 so I can finally understand the true genesis of the term.
These four novels, in addition to several books I want to read on the recommendation of friends and professors, the novels I am looking at for my thesis, and several collections of short stories I am working my way through, should keep me pleasantly busy.
Literary House Summer Intern Aileen Gray ‘14 shares a list of some of her favorite literary quotes.
There are always those favorite passages that, once you’ve read them, stick with you forever. You write them down in your journal or put them on a sticky-note on your desktop or keep them saved in the recesses of your mind to turn to like an old friend when you need a pick-me-up of wit or wisdom, inspiration or commiseration.
Having found myself once again looking through a list of quotes I’ve kept for myself, I thought I’d share a few of my favorites about writing and about language.
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
“You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads.”
“You can make anything by writing.”
“Pity the poor in spirit who know neither the enchantment nor the beauty of language.”
With no classwork to get in the way, summer can be one of the best times to get your creative writing juices simmering. Here are some books I am currently looking to for insight into doing this poetry-writing thing a little bit better.
1. The Monkey & the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics, co-edited by Mary Biddinger and John Gallaher, University of Akron Press, 2011.
At the 2013 West Chester University Poetry Conference, I read an essay from this book as part of my craft workshop. “The Moves: Common Maneuvers in Contemporary Poetry” by Elisa Gabbert calls out 21 common and identifiable “moves” used in contemporary poetry, of which we are all guilty. Like the lonelyheart in the bar, always trying the same lines on different mates and hoping that one will eventually believe them to be true. There is nothing inherently wrong with these “moves,” Gabbert tells us. But we should know when we’re using them and how and to what purpose, to make sure we’re not just using them to prop up bad poems with no substance behind them. I can’t wait to dig into the other essays in this collection.
2. The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, Including Odd and Invented Forms, Revised and Expanded Edition, by Lewis Putnam Turco, University Press of New England, 2011.
Lewis Turco was also an encounter from my time at West Chester. Although I missed his panel discussion, I made sure to pick up this book before leaving. I love a good reference book. And they are especially handy when you don’t have a helpful professor around to ask, “Hey, what’s a ghazal? How do I write one?” All in all, I feel that this is definitely a useful addition to my home library.
3. A Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Ackerman, Vintage Books, 1991.
This is a book I stumbled upon a few years ago, but I fell in love with it when I did. Diane Ackerman is a poet, as well as a writer of creative nonfiction. This book is broken down into sections dedicated to each of the five senses, including a sixth section about synesthesia–when the stimulation of one sense produces a reaction in another sense, such as smell producing the sensation of color or taste creating the sensation of sound. Reading this book will give you a deeper sense (excuse the pun) of the specific power your five senses have over your experiences and how to better apply these sensations to your own writing.
Literary House director Jehanne Dubrow is interviewed for the national series “The Poet and Poem” at the Library of Congress.
WASHINGTON, DC—Jehanne Dubrow, director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, is among the nationally prominent poets featured in the audio series “The Poet and Poem.” In the half-hour audio podcast, accessible now on the Library of Congress website and expected to air on public radio stations in early 2014, Dubrow reads from her collections and chats about her life and work with the show’s founder and host, Grace Cavalieri.
A resident of Chestertown, Dubrow teaches creative writing at the College as a member of the English faculty. She is the author of four poetry collections, including most recently Red Army Red and Stateside (Northwestern University Press, 2012 and 2010). Her first book, The Hardship Post (2009), won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award, and her second collection, From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Competition (2009). Her poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared in The New Republic, Poetry, Ploughshares, The Hudson Review, Gulf Coast, Blackbird, Prairie Schooner, and American Life in Poetry, and on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily.
Cavalieri, herself a poet and author, first created the “Poet and Poem” program for public radio station WPFW in Washington, D.C. in 1977. In 1997 she moved it to the Library of Congress, where she still records the interviews today.
Literary House Summer Intern, Aileen Gray ‘14 reflects on her experience at the 19th annual West Chester University Poetry Conference with the Rose O’Neill Literary House.
Last week, Bond Richards ’13, Alex Stinton ’14, Julie Armstrong ’15, and I got to attend the West Chester University Poetry Conference with Professor Dubrow and Lindsay Lusby. The West Chester University Poetry Conference is the largest annual poetry conference in the nation, lasting for four days and including professional readings, scholarly panels, and writing workshops on various aspects of poetic form. Bond studied with author and professional critic William Logan, Alex learned about prosody and rhythm from author and professor Tom Cable, Julie explored her love of experimental forms with innovative poet Terri Witek, and I was able to explore my personal preference for story in a workshop on Narrative Poetry taught by David Mason.
When Professor Dubrow had invited me to attend the West Chester University Poetry Conference a few months ago, I agreed nervously, concerned that I would be out of place as a writer primarily of fiction rather than poetry. But I have to say I fit in just fine and my experience far exceeded the expectations I had had. As Lindsay put it, the Conference felt like “summer camp for grown-ups:” our time was divided between workshops and readings, we ate all of our meals together, and we lived together in the University’s dorms.
I am usually hard-pressed to pick a favorite anything, but of this experience I can narrow it down to two things. First of all, I had a great time getting to know Julie, Alex, and Bond. As the only college students in attendance, we spent nearly all of our time together, and the Conference was a lot of fun because of that.
And secondly, I loved my workshop on Narrative Poetry. As a writer of prose, I’ve generally shied away from writing poetry, but David Mason’s workshop has given me a way into the poetic form: blending story and verse. Really, Mason pointed out, “verse is the oldest form of story” and “most poems have a tendency toward narrative” anyway, whether explicitly or implicitly. Through the workshop, we not only worked on our own pieces but also examined published narrative poems, starting with a passage from The Odyssey and ending with a somewhat silly but completely delightful ballad by Charles Causley entitled “I saw a jolly hunter.” In each example, Mason showed how verse and story work together, and I discovered a new love for writing poetry. Julie said of her workshop that she “definitely left feeling inspired” and I have to say I did as well.
And speaking of feeling inspired, I had the chance to attend several panels and poetry readings. While some panels were not as good as others, the good ones were phenomenal. The Conference’s keynote speaker was Julia Alvarez who began her career with the novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and has since written and published various novels and poetry collections, including Homecoming and The Other Side. A splendid reader, Julia Alvarez shared not only her poetry but also insight into the inspiration for her work and her writing process.
Overall, it was extremely encouraging (if also slightly overwhelming) to be surrounded by professional poets who have dedicated their lives to writing. I could not be more grateful for the generosity of the Rose O’Neill Literary House or for Professor Dubrow’s commitment to exposing students to the literary world beyond college. The West Chester University Poetry Conference was an amazing experience, and I am very glad to have shared it with Alex, Bond, and Julie.
As with most summers, I like to make a reading list for myself, to catch up on the many books that I should have read in high school and college, but never did. And this summer, I’ll be spending most of my time in the 19th century.
In my mind, there are about fifty books that people say you have to read in high school or college, but most people only get through half of them, if that. With so many new wonderful books being introduced to schools, as they should, some of the classics are being squeezed out due to time constraints, making it inevitable that we miss certain classics. To remedy this problem, every summer I try to catch up so I’m not that-person-working-at-the-Lit-House-who-has-not-read-The-Catcher-in-the-Rye, which happened to be on my list last summer, along with The Maltese Falcon, The Giver, and Ender’s Game.
First on the list this year is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, written in 1899. This title has popped up a lot over the past few years as a book that a great many authors reference in their own work. I hate it when I don’t understand a reference in a book. The way this book came to me is from the a limited edition printing by the Chester River Press, which won the Carl Hertzog award in 2010. (I know most of you have never heard of the Carl Hertzog award, unless you are in printing or book design, in which case, it is a very big deal.) It is a beautiful edition that I have admired for years now. My copy of Heart of Darkness was acquired last year while browsing a used bookstore in Chicago. It has sat on my shelf ever since, but that is what good books do: wait to be read.
The next book on my list is The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper, written in 1826. The idea to read this book came to me while reading another book this spring. In March, I went to the AWP Conference in Boston and attended an event with Téa Obreht on a panel with Rebecca Makkai, Alexi Zentner and Lauren Groff. From that panel I learned that I had to read The Monsters of Templeton, which several of my friends vehemently agreed. Like many things that go over my head and escape my knowledge, I had not realized that Lauren Groff actually came to Washington College in March 2008. Anyway, with out any spoilers, the book takes place in the fictional Templeton, NY (aka Cooperstown) and makes many references to James Fenimore Cooper and The Last of the Mohicans. I have seen the film a few times, but never read the book, which I was able to buy at the last Friends of the Kent County Public Library book sale this spring.
The final book, and perhaps the most interesting book on my list is The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, which was first published in 1894. The fact that I haven’t read this book got to me this past spring when I read The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht. (I was actually 3/4 of the way through the book when I saw her and Lauren Groff on the panel.) In the story, of which I’ll try not to give away any spoils, the main character’s grandfather always carries his own copy of The Jungle Book and has since he was a young boy growing up in the Balkans before World War II. At one point, a tiger, which has escaped from the zoo after the city was bombed, comes into her grandfather’s village. None of the villagers had ever seen a tiger and think that it is the devil. Armed with knowledge and the illustrations from Kipling’s book, her grandfather tries to help protect the tiger.
The book I’ll be reading is one I inherited from my father’s library. I’ve had the book for a few years and never really looked at it until I decided to read it this summer and write this article about it. When I picked it up off the shelf I handled it with extreme caution. (You can see pictures of my copy on the right). I opened it to the title page and was shocked to see a left-facing swastika with Rudyard Kipling’s signature beneath it.
In my head I knew that that symbol, which has since the 1930s come to represent hatred and oppression, once meant something else entirely different. With some quick research I learned that this ancient symbol once meant good luck and well-being to different people all over the world. I then learned that the backward swastika only appears in copies of Kipling’s book prior to the 1920’s. As the Nazi Party came to power, Kipling had his engraver remove the swastika from the printing block so he would not be mistaken as a sympathizer. It was not until after I read this that I looked more closely at the title page and realized that this book was printed in 1899. It is a little rough around the edges, but in relatively good shape. I won’t be taking it to the beach this summer. I have the last book in the Southern Vampire Mysteries for that.
Now with all my books ready, and since June and the summer heat are here, it is time to read.
Ariel Jicha ‘15 gives an interns’-eye-view of designing and editing the first-ever Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology.
As Literary House Press Intern, I had the pleasure of creating and editing the Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology, a collection of portfolio excerpts from winners and finalists from the class of 2011 and 2012. This Anthology is the first in a series of mini-anthologies slated to be published every two years and will highlight Sophie Kerr winners and finalists. It was exciting to collaborate on this project with the Lit House staff and to see the process unfold, beginning to end. I am grateful to everyone who gave me guidance and encouragement, especially Owen Bailey, Lindsay Lusby, and Dr. Dubrow.
Before this internship, I didn’t know the difference between serif and sans serif fonts, (Hint: serif fonts have the dangly bits on the ends). I’d never been commissioned to create something, and had little concept of proportions and measurements related to pagination. The Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology project has given me insight into the writing world and what it’s like to create under different constraints. At first, I was a little nervous to be working at The Rose O’Neill Literary House. I’d held the Lit House in high esteem since visiting as a prospective student; so much so that by the end of freshmen year the Lit House had been transformed in my mind from an old building into a lofty abstraction; a place where novice writers flocked and the mysterious Writing Life took place. With this in mind I applied for the Literary House Press Internship, simultaneously hoping to solve the enigma I’d created and to help the Lit House Press create a new tradition for future Sophie Kerr winners and finalists.
Despite my excitement, I still feared my creative skills were inadequate. Fortunately, I discovered two things, 1) the Lit House atmosphere is pretty much the opposite of the literary Devil-Wears-Prada internship I’d conjured in my head and 2) everyone had as much InDesign experience as I had (that is to say, none). The Lit House staff are some of the warmest people I’ve ever met. They are funny, easy-going, and above all, they’re passionate about writing and bringing great writers to campus to inspire and engage students through lectures, readings, and workshops. Dr. Dubrow, Lindsay Lusby, and Owen Bailey’s relentless patience and encouragement gave me confidence to expand my skill set as well as peace of mind on days when InDesign seemed particularly vexing.
Working at the Lit House gave me a sense of what the writing world is like outside of college. When I started in January, Professor Dubrow gave me a rough timeline for the project and I’ll admit, the task seemed daunting. I had to solicit portfolio pieces from eleven past winners and finalists, work with the application InDesign and create the book’s front cover. Soliciting work wasn’t hard, but InDesign and the front cover proved challenging. I learned how to make a book using InDesign without fully understanding the concepts of Bleed or Slug. These words still make me think of metal heads talking about a new band, not an editor carefully measuring margins and lines on a ‘Mac. The idea of a Master Page, or template, confused me for weeks until Alissa Vecchio (’13) offered her expertise—skills acquired from her work in the College Relations office.
This internship was a veritable “crash course” in the publishing process; I learned how to solicit work from writers, format using InDesign, and actually print book pages. As someone who takes a laid-back approach to, well, everything in life, the pressure to act now was a much-needed exercise in organization and time management. I learned that keeping up with emails and edits were necessary in order to meet deadlines…who knew?
Over spring break, I was invited to shadow Master Printer Jim Dissette as he printed the pages for a series of Mary Jo Salter books. I learned how to carefully hand-tint artwork on printed pages. Being part of the printing process; seeing each page come together with text and illustrations gave me a different perspective on writing and the key people who help bring a book to life so the final version of a writer’s work—the book itself—becomes a tangible, literary object for the reader to enjoy and for the author to find satisfaction in.
The capstone of my internship was attending the Sophie Kerr Prize ceremony at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. Between set up and break down for the event, I had the opportunity to experience the energy and excitement of those gathered as we listened to the contemplative and enriching words of presenter Michael Dirda, then cheered for the finalists Bond Richards, Maegan Clearwood, Emily Blackner, Jillian Obermeier, and the winner, Tim Marcin. On a table in the entranceway we had laid out pamphlets and newsletters from WAC along with copies of the first Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology, hot off the press. Realizing all the hours of editing, Photoshopping, InDesign-ing and margin measuring lay concrete before me, in the form of a book that people could actually purchase, brought my entire internship into focus. The slim paperback book is a tangible benchmark and affirmation for WAC’s talented writers.
What happened this year and what is happening this summer?
This was a year of firsts.
It was the first time that the Lit House hosted two themed semesters, beginning with the Jewish Voices Series in the fall and the Writing in Wartime Series in the spring.
In the fall, we brought four talented artists: Dylan Landis, a short story writer and author of the book Normal People Don’t Live Like This. Landis gave a great reading, and with her help, the Lit House was able to link itself to Kevin Bacon (you have to see our “Six Degrees of Francis Bacon” mural if you have not already done so) with only 3 degrees of separation:
1. In 2012, Dylan Landis came to the Lit House at Washington College;
2. in 2013, Dylan was the guest speaker at an event with actress Marin Ireland in Soho;
3. in 2013, Marin Ireland played a serial killer in the show The Following with Kevin Bacon.
Then came novelist Anna Solomon, who, together with singer/songwriter Clare Burson, gave a wonderful performance that combined both of their crafts, telling the story of Solomon’s main character from her novel The Little Bride matched with Burson’s music. We closed out the semester with poet Idra Novey who shared with us her award-winning poetry from her new collection Exit Civilian. The Lit House also ran into Novey at the AWP Conference in Boston this past spring.
Speaking of spring, this past semester we were visited by four more artists. Beginning with Siobhan Fallon, author of the bestselling short story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone, who told us about what it is like to live on an army base with the spouses of other members of the military, telling us stories about the other side of war. Next we heard from Washington College professor Ryan Kelty, who shared with us his research that examines the effects of war regarding civilian contractors, integration of military personnel, diversity in the military, and the role of military service across the life course. Then came the 2013 Douglass Wallop Playwright Fellow, KJ Sanchez. For five days KJ was on campus, meeting with drama students and talking to them about their craft. While here, KJ led two events: one, a craft talk on her documentarian approach to constructing a play; the second, a student performance of and a discussion on ReEntry, a play that was created from interviews with veterans to share their stories and experiences. Finally, we ended the semester with Anthony Swofford, whose book Jarhead: A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles was a best-selling memoir that was made into a film in 2005.
And we cannot forget the mini series from the early part of the fall semester titled, ‘On the Writing Life.’ This series featured alumni Michael Duck, editor of Crunchable an online literary magazine, The Faculty Books Reception, as well as Idiots’ Books Presents with Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson.
Moving on from our events and going back to last summer, the Lit House has welcomed some new faces.
First and foremost is Lindsay Lusby ‘08, the Literary House Assistant Director who began working back in September, making a wonderful addition to the staff. Having been a regular at the Lit House and the print shop as an undergraduate, she brings great artistic talent, experience with letterpress, and a deep love of books. She is also another tea drinker. which means I’m not the only one who doesn’t drink coffee.
During this year the Lit House has made many more beautiful broadsides thanks to the experience of Master Printer Mike Kaylor. These new broadsides as well as our old broadsides can be found on the Literary House Press website. This year’s broadsides include the work of Dylan Landis, Idra Novey, Beth Bachmann (to commemorate the 2013 AWP Conference in Boston), and Anthony Swofford. We have more planned for next year so stay tuned to our blog to see when they come out.
And speaking of letterpress, this year the Literary House Press has printed a new collection of poetry by Mary Jo Salter from Johns Hopkins University. The collection is called Lost Originals, and believe me when I say that this book involved much time, patience, and rich talent from many different artists. Beginning with LHP series editor Jehanne Dubrow and assistant editor Lindsay Lusby, who managed the project, bringing the different parties together. Washington College alumni and 1971 Sophie Kerr Winner Jim Dissette led the printing project with assistance from Literary House Press Intern Ariel Jicha ‘15. To help with the project, Lindsay Lusby solicited the work of Abigail Rorer of The Lone Oak Press. Abigail is an award-winning engraver from Massachusetts whose work can be found here. Once the pages were complete and collated, they were shipped to Campbell-Logan Bindery in Minneapolis. The Lit House will be hosting an official Literary House Press book launch when Mary Jo Salter comes to campus on October 8th.
Last summer the Lit House took on the task of switching the College’s yearbook, The Pegasus, to an online format. To lead the way, the Lit House hired two students to be the new Media Interns who over the course of 8 weeks completed the 2011 – 2012 yearbook. For the 2012 – 2013 yearbook, Lit House tried a new approach, hiring Media Interns Becky Winterburn ‘13 and Jeremy Quintin ’14 to work on The Pegasus throughout the school year thus spreading out the work on a more manageable scale. The yearbook was completed by the end of this past May and is now up and running.
The Lit House also began a new internship this past spring. The Literary House Press Internship was designed to help with the creation of the new Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology. Ariel Jicha ’15 spent the spring semester contacting the finalists and winners from the past two years, soliciting from them excerpts that would go into the anthology. She also contacted Laura Maylene Walter, Sophie Kerr Prize winner from 2003, who was asked to write the introduction to the Anthology. She did and the Anthology came out splendidly. It is for sale at the Literary House Press Website. The Anthology was also completed in time for the 2013 Sophie Kerr Prize Event, which was held at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, MD. The Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology series will issue a new edition every two years.
And speaking of literary prizes, this past year the Lit House offered two new prizes to go along with the William W. Warner Prize for creative writing on nature and the environment. The first Jude and Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize was awarded to Reilly Cox ‘16 for his poem “Bibles Printed on Old Girlie Magazines.” Parker Macintosh ‘13 was awarded the first Literary House Genre Fiction Prize for his short story, “A Voice in the Dark.”
It was a great year at the Lit House and we would like to thank everyone that made it possible. As we prepare for the next two Summer Poetry Salons we invite you to follow the series of events we have lined up for 2013 – 2014.
Have a great summer,
The Lit House Staff
Get ready for the 2013 Summer Poetry Salons at the Rose O’Neill Literary House!
If you are asking yourself ‘what is a poetry salon,’ we would quote the Poetry Center at West Chester University and say that,
“A salon is an informal event hosted by a member of the community. The host invites friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues to enjoy a few hours of good food, lively conversation, and a poetry reading in a home or other location. This up close and personal interaction with a published poet exposes guests to the way poetry was meant to be shared—read aloud.”
The Literary House hosted its first salon last July with poet/memoirist Sandra Beasley, Cave Canem Fellow Kevin Vaughn and the Pam Ortiz Band. The event was a success and we hope to replicate that success this summer as we host a trio of salons, which begins next Tuesday, May 28 at 4:30 p.m.
For our first salon we have invited poets Michelle Chan Brown and Ryan Teitman, and we will also have a musical performance by Chester River Runoff. The event kicks off at 4:30 p.m. and we will be serving wine, snacks, and other yummy treats.
On Tuesday, June 25, we will have our second salon with this year’s Cave Canem Fellow, Yona Harvey, who will be on campus for the entire month of June. Poet Steve Kistulentz and local musicians Sleeper Cell will join her and we will again be serving wine, snacks and yummy treats.
Our third salon will be held on Tuesday, July 23 with our final gathering of poets and musicians. There you can hear the poetry of Elana Bell, Sarah Arvio and a Classical Violin Duet performance by Nevin Dawson and Merideth Buxton.
For more information on all three Salons, please visit the Rose O’Neill Literary House website and find more information about our guests online.
Hope to see you there,
Lit House Staff
I love short stories.
Loved them ever since high school when I wrote an essay on Ray Bradbury and had to read many of the stories from The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. In college, I took two short story classes at the same time, flooding the semester with dozens of stories by dozens of American and Irish authors. Some I knew, some I only knew by their more renowned work like Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Mark Twain. Some I did not know and so was introduced to words Katherine Ann Porter, Seán Ó Faoláin, Frank O’Connor and wonderful Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
I prefer Hemingway’s Snows of Kilimanjaro instead of The Old Man and the Sea; I’ve read most of Ray Bradbury’s collections including October Country, The Martian Chronicles and Quicker than the Eye; stories by Lit House guests Hannah Tinti, Laura van den Berg, Siobhan Fallon and Neil Gaiman.
What I enjoy most are the odd acts, the strange perspectives, and the incredible imagination that short stories can bring us. Some ideas are too beautiful for a full length novel. It takes great skill to craft a short story. Like a quick fire challenge on Top Chef, it takes focus to operate in a small window: 5,000 words or an amuse bouche. It begins with an opening sentence that, like a strong scent, will tell you so much about a dish without having seen it or tasted it. One of my favorite opening sentences is from Ambrose Bierce:
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below.
~ An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
Or this one from Ray Bradbury:
Quite suddenly there was no more road.
~ The Scythe
But I often forget to read short stories. Even though I have many collections from Flannery O’Connor, Grace Paley, Stephen King and a subscription to One Story, I forget to trade the novel in for the collection. It is easy to get sucked into novel after novel, long stories that take time to develop characters and plots that demand a certain level of commitment, while also granting the possibility of putting the book down in the middle of the story. Short Stories are a different animal, asking that you sit for the entire duration of the story so you do not lose your way. I don’t like to break away in the middle of a short story, even if it is a 40-page short story by Irish author Sheridan le Fanu. Green Tea anyone?
Last summer, when Bradbury died on June 5, I began each weekday with a short story and for nearly six weeks I kept that routine. An early morning mental exercise that threw me into a new world and in a handful of sentences, a few paragraphs of a page or two, I had to find my way and determine who the narrator was where they were taking me. I began with The Machineries of Joy by, yes, Ray Bradbury. Though this book does not get the level of recognition as The Illustrated Man or The Martian Chronicles, it is still full of exciting stories, my favorite of which is “The One Who Waits.” After I finished the book, I moved on to a collection of American writers and read stories by Bernard Malmund, Samuel Clemens, and Jack London.
This summer I want to restart that routine and in the process branch out to some more current short story writers from some of the books I bought at AWP. On my short story shelf I have Ploughshares, Tin House, Gargoyle and the stack of unread One Story and One Teen Story booklets that await me.
Carnegie-Mellon English professor Yona Harvey will be in Chestertown the month of June for the Cave Canem Summer Residency at the Rose O’Neill Literary House.
CHESTERTOWN, MD— The Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College welcomes its 2013 Cave Canem fellow, Yona Harvey, to Chestertown for a month-long writer’s residency beginning June 1.
While most of her time will be spent working on her own writing projects and quietly exploring the town, Harvey also will be a part of the Lit House’s second of three Summer Poetry Salons on Tuesday, June 25 at 4:30 p.m., when she will share the stage with poet Steve Kistulentz and local band Sleeper Cell.
Yona Harvey lives in Pittsburgh, Pa., where she serves on the English faculty of Carnegie-Mellon University. She is the author of the poetry collection Hemming the Water (Four Way Books, 2013) and the recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from The Pittsburgh Foundation. Her poems can be found in jubilat, Gulf Coast, Callaloo, West Branch, and various journals and anthologies including A Poet’s Craft: A Comprehensive Guide to Making and Sharing Your Poetry (Ed. Annie Finch). She lives with her husband and two children not far from where jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams grew up. Williams married the spiritual to the secular in her music, and is a regular muse in Yona’s writing.
The Cave Canem Summer Residency at The Rose O’Neill Literary House is a partnership with Cave Canem, whose mission is to serve as “a home for the many voices of African American poetry” and to “cultivate the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.” The Washington College Cave Canem Summer Residency is a month-long Chestertown retreat offered annually to one outstanding former Cave Canem Fellow. Previous Summer Residents include poets Kevin Vaughn in 2012 and Arisa White in 2011.
Introducing the first edition of the Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology
This year, The Literary House Press published the first edition of The Sophie Kerr Prize Anthology to commemorate the 2013 Prize Event.
With a forward by Laura Maylene Walter, this anthology contains the works of the 2011 Finalists: Maggie Farrell, Lisa Jones, Dan McCloskey, Insley Smullen, and Joe Yates; and, the 2012 Finalists: Natalie Butz, Doug Carter, Kathryn Manion, Maria Queen and Erica Walburg.
If you would like to buy a copy of this anthology, please visit the Literary House Press website.
Addressing the finalists for the 2013 Sophie Kerr Prize, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book columnist for the Washington Post advised them to be resilient and to remember, “Safety Last.”
Dirda was the keynote speaker at a special event at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library on the evening of May 14.
The Sophie Kerr Prize is awarded annually to the graduating Washington College senior judged to show the most literary ability and promise and is based on portfolios submitted by the students. This year’s winner received a check for $61,192.
Mr. Dirda’s remarks:
Let me begin with some words of consolation. One of you will be the happy recipient of the Sophie Kerr Prize, worth—as we know—a considerable amount of money. But the other four here tonight will need to hold back their tears and put on a brave smile. It will make little difference to hear, as you may, that the choice of this year’s Sophie Kerr winner was a difficult decision. In fact, it will make it seem worse. That little voice in your head will cry out: If only I’d tried a little harder, had run that last paragraph through my typewriter—to use an old-fashioned metaphor—one more time.
No, you will feel heartbroken for a while. But, if you are meaning to pursue a literary career, it’s best to get used to that feeling right away. The great French writer Colette—author of Gigi, Cheri and many other books—once said that to be a writer was to take on a vocation of unhappiness.
While there may be occasional successes, occasional prizes and recognitions, there will also be books that don’t quite work out and that you have to scrap after six months’ labor, books that critics pan, or even worse, praise with wan, faint praise, books that no publisher wants, books that don’t sell and then disappear, seemingly forever.
As the great American sports writer Red Smith used to say: Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
When I was in high school, the graduating class awarded Senior Superlatives. Seniors were voted most intelligent, best looking, most athletic, best all around etc etc. As it happens, I was short-listed for several of these, ahem, honors and won none of them. It was then that one of my more waggish friends dubbed me Most Likely to Just Miss Succeeding.
That’s how writing often feels.
Meanwhile, as a writer, you pour your heart out, using every element of writing craft and cunning that you know, while you are probably having to pay the bills by waitressing or teaching or borrowing from your long-suffering and indulgent parents. What’s more, people see you sitting around all day and assume you are doing nothing. It’s always tempting, moreover, to prove them right: Why not play video games for a couple of hours? Or have a beer? Or go thrift-shopping for designer shoes? Ezra Pound once said that more poets fail through lack of character than for any other reason.
To be a writer you have to love sitting in a chair for hours on end while putting words down on paper or on a screen and then fiddling with them. Why would you do this? Because, regardless of how good a writer you actually may or may not be, only writing seems to satisfy your soul, only writing makes you, in some sense, happy. And I don’t mean the joy in having written, but the writing itself. One of the great benefits of being a journalist lies in knowing that you will always, every day or at least every week, be expected to sit down to write something. After more than 35 years of reviewing books, I still feel—when I start typing the title of the latest work I’m reviewing—a deep, deep peace. I am where I’m supposed to be.
A story: I come from a working-class background and was always a rather cavalier student in a high school famous only for its high level of juvenile delinquency. I received a D in English in the first grading period of my senior year. But I did love to read.
A quick digression: I’m presuming that your teachers and your own inclinations have made clear that reading a lot and reading widely is the best preparation for a writing life? End of digresson.
Besides liking to read, I scored phenomenally well on standardized tests. So I wrote a letter to nearby Oberlin College and told them that if they gave me a scholarship I’d work really, really hard and they would be proud of me one day.
Well, the admissions officer bought my argument and I worked hard and eventually did do well in the eyes of many. But my father always judged me a failure. If I was so smart, why wasn’t I really rich, with a Cadillac and a house on a hill with a swimming pool? No matter what I said to him about my job, he couldn’t take writing book reviews seriously; it didn’t seem like proper work for a grown man. He, himself, never read any books. Well, I decided to win the Pulitzer Prize in criticism to impress him—he’d heard of that. In 1993 I finally did win, after losing for three years in a row, but by then he’d been dead from cancer for six months.
That too is part of the writing life, of life in general. The rewards or the recognitions will come eventually, if you persist. But they almost never come at the right time, when you most want and need them. They arrive when you are nearly, if not quite, indifferent to them.
Others are indifferent to them too. My mother, who is now 90, believes in the balance, the tao of the universe. If something good happens to you or your family, that means something bad will soon balance it out. Yin and Yang. So I called my mom up 20 years ago and said “Mom, Mom, I won the Pulitzer Prize.” Long pause on the phone and then she said: “Well, guess there’s no point in going to bingo tonight.”
I don’t generally like to give advice, but, appropriately enough, I do like stories. To me the two best pieces of advice for young writers both come from great musicians. One is a story told about Jascha Heifetz or some other violin virtuoso. There was a boy, a young man, who had been taking violin lessons for years and felt he had the makings of a concert career. One day Heifetz performed in his town and the master was persuaded to listen to the young man play. At the end of the session, Heifetz looked up and said, “I’m sorry, but you will never be a violinist.”
The young man was crushed. He gave up playing and went off and got an MBA and entered business and made a fortune. Twenty-five years later, Heifetz came again to his town and again the man, now middle aged, requested a private audience. This time he spoke to the musician, “Twenty five years ago you told me I’d never be a violinist. You broke my heart.” Heifetz looked into his eyes and said, “If you truly had it in you to be a violinist, if you really wanted that life more than any other, nothing I said would have made any difference.”
That’s the first story. Here’s the second. The great pianist Artur Schnabel is revered as arguably the greatest performer of Beethoven’s sonatas of all time. And yet if you listen to his records you will hear, as his fingers go machine-gunning through the Hammerklavier sonata or some of the others, an occasional mistake, a wrong note, a missed key. An admirer once asked Schnabel why he didn’t play more perfectly, with a little more caution and restraint. To which the maestro replied bluntly: “Safety last.” It was only by pushing himself, by risking failure and making the occasional mistake that he could achieve the magnificence of his greatest performances.
To the winner of this year’s Sophie Kerr prize, whomever it may be, I’d like to add a burden to the happiness and joy of today. People believe that you have gifts, talent, possible greatness. You have an obligation to justify that belief. It doesn’t matter if you fail, if nobody ever hears of you or your writing again. Right now you need to try and try hard. You have taken money from four others who have dreamt of what that it could do to foster their own careers. You need to be worthy of them.
And to you four others: I know how you feel. I’ve sat where you have and longed to hear my name announced and it wasn’t. Just this month I was one of four finalists for the Marfield Prize, a national arts award worth $10,000. They called another name. But, as my mother would say, if you don’t play, you can’t win.
By that I mean that you may have lost today but you never know about the future. Consider this: “Why I Live at the P.O”—one of Eudora Welty’s greatest and most famous stories—was rejected by the New Yorker, Collier’s, Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Harper’s Magazine, and even Good Housekeeping. At the famous Bread Loaf Writer’s Workshop, “the unanimous opinion was that nobody would ever buy” her equally famous story “Powerhouse.” As you probably know, before her death Eudora Welty was the first living writer to see her work published in the Library of America. May all of you here this evening come to write as badly as Miss Welty.
To help get to know the five Sophie Kerr Finalist of 2013, we asked them to answer four questions and here is what they wrote.
1) First, would you tell us a little bit about your writing? What do you like to write and where do you draw your inspiration?
2) What was the first book you read and loved?
3) What writer, living or dead, would you like to have a cup of coffee with?
4) What is your favorite word and why?
Emily Blackner1) I like to write personal narratives that connect my experiences with those of the larger world and other people in it, or explain why I care about an issue, and fiction pieces that delve into the ways people can help and inspire each other in interesting ways. I also do journalism, to keep people abreast of what’s happening in the world around them. I’m inspired by little things like people smiling in a hallway or stooping to pick up someone’s fallen keys, but also by the opposites- cynicism is a big one, but also intolerance or bitterness. I write to try to counteract those negative traits which are all too present in today’s world.
2) The funny answer: Little Bear, which my mother would read to me every night as a very small child. One night I got it in my mind that I wanted to read it for myself, in spite of being too young to really know what I was doing. So I kept her up for hours pointing at each word individually trying to figure it out until she told me what it was.
Otherwise, the first one I remember is Watership Down, which I read in middle school. I had no idea the lives of rabbits could be so enthralling. I liked Fiver the seer and Hazel the main character the best, but it was the first book in which the villain, General Woundwort, was very interesting as well. I would sit for hours re-reading the book and then imagining other adventures for the characters to get into.
3) I would love to meet Maya Angelou. She has had such a fascinating life, traveling all over the world, being immersed in politics, theater, and all kinds of history, so we’d have a lot to talk about. She has overcome so much, and I think she’s inspiring. I’d love to be able to tell her that.
4) I really like “penultimate.” It has a very specific meaning, so it isn’t used very often, and I that’s part of why I love to do so. I personally find it fun to say, and I can’t really pinpoint why; it rolls off my tongue in a way that, reading it on the page, it doesn’t seem like it would.
1) I draw inspiration from the people around me. I’m always amazed by how many talented and unique individuals surround me, especially in such a quiet area like the Eastern Shore. I think that everyone, no matter how famous or successful, has a story to tell, and all of those stories have messages behind them. I love telling those stories, and journalism and creative nonfiction give me the freedom to do just that.
2) I read “A Little Princess” by Frances Hodgoson Burnett dozens of times in elementary school, and it was probably the first book that I didn’t just love, but obsessed over. When I reread it now, I recognize how sappy and melodramatic it is – I just can’t help myself.
3) Margaret Fuller. She was one of the first American feminists and successful female journalists, someone who is woefully underappreciated in the course of history, I think. She was friends with all the transcendentalists and was a pretty eccentric character. I would love to pick her brain.
4) Disremember. I discovered this word in Dr. Knight’s Toni Morrison Class while we studied “Beloved.” It’s a more active form of forgetting, a really useful and poetic term.
1) I enjoy writing in a lot of different forms, but usually in the same voice, one that jumps between the informal and the lyrical. I draw inspiration from other writers like Hemingway, Salinger or Nick Flynn (some of my favorites). I also draw inspiration from events in my own life and other various sources like songs or news reports.
2) The first book I truly read and loved was To Kill A Mockingbird, which I read for a class with a really great teacher who helped us discover what was really going on in the story.
3) I would probably want to have a cup of coffee with Hemingway. He always wrote about cafes, so he would definitely be a good person to hang out with over coffee.
4) My favorite word is probably “the” because it is the most used and it would be really hard to write anything without it.
1) My writing is purely academic; I submitted only critical essays, and while that sounds pretty dry compared to creative writing I do really enjoy writing it. I think of it as just a different kind of creativity: coming up with an interesting, new, and challenging argument to take on a book that has been read and discussed in different ways for tens or even hundreds of years.
2) The first books I can remember really being obsessed with were the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. In fact, when I applied to Washington College I had to write an essay about “my hero,” and I chose to write about Nancy Drew; she’s smart, adventurous, and drives a mustang, what more could a girl want?
3) I think it would be amazing to be able to have a conversation with Victor Hugo. He lived through almost the entire 19th century in France, which was a crazy time, and I think it would be great not only to hear more about his books and poetry, but about what it was like going through all of the changes that the century saw. I would also feel very accomplished if he was able to understand any of my French.
4) Cupcake. I don’t think I really need to explain why…
1) I usually end up writing about people who simply can’t seem to figure out what it is that’s causing them their problems. I try to make it complicated for them, which makes it complicated for me, so that usually, by the end, the resolution, if there is one, looks just as uncomfortable to me as it does to them. It’s not always like this, though. Sometimes it’s way less conscious.
And it’s the same thing when I write poems—let’s complicate a situation and see if anything interesting comes out that sort of strings it all together, thematically or whatever. With poems, I generally start with an image or a phrase that looks good on paper and then have pretend faith that something meaningful is actually sitting there behind it. I’ve found that usually, with enough remodeling, primary images do have something worth pulling from them.
2) I don’t remember the first book I ever read. The first book I recall really internalizing was Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Places You Go. I had it memorized, completely, from cover to cover. My dad would read it to me before bed. I really only cared about the illustrations and the rhythms of the words, realizing later that it’s a truly great, moral story. The first book to show me that fiction could actually change a person was David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, which crushed me just as much as it built me up. He’s the reason for a lot of nervous second-guessing among today’s crop of young writers. Which I think is good. Keeps one honest.
3) I get the sense that Cormac McCarthy is pleasant. Why not.
4) Twerk. It’s slang for working one’s body, namely the rear, during any loose or unstructured dance number. The physicality of the act gets conveyed in the word, I think, rather nicely.
At the 2013 Senior Reading, the Rose O’Neill Literary House announced this year’s winners of three annual student creative writing prizes: The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize, The William W. Warner Prize for Creative Writing on Nature and the Environment, and The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize.
The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize is a brand-new prize awarded to a Washington College undergraduate for the best work of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or horror. The winner receives a cash prize of $500. This year’s prize was awarded to senior Parker McIntosh for his short story, “A Voice in the Dark.”
The William W. Warner Prize is awarded to the Washington College undergraduate who shows the greatest aptitude for writing about nature and the environment. This prize is named for, and was endowed in the honor of, William W. Warner, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay, based on his experiences living and working among crab fishermen on the Chesapeake. According to Mr. Warner’s wishes, the judges will give preference to—but will in no way limit their consideration to—students who write about the natural history of our Atlantic Littoral, from the Canadian Arctic to the Gulf of Florida. The winner receives a cash prize of $1,000. This year’s Warner Prize was awarded to senior Nina Sharp for her personal essay, “My Brother, the Indigo Bunting.”
The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize is also brand-new this year. It was created through the Academy of American Poets, one of the nation’s most influential poetry organizations, and is administered through the Washington College Department of English and the Rose O’Neill Literary House. The prize is awarded to a Washington College undergraduate for a single poem and the winner receives a cash prize of $100 and a certificate from the Academy of American Poets. This year’s Pfister Poetry Prize was awarded to first-year Reilly Cox for his poem “Bibles Printed on Old Girlie Magazines.”
We offer our most sincere congratulations to this year’s prize winners for their fine writing!