Proper Girls by Lisa Ko
This is perhaps my favorite story so far in the second volume of OTS.
Before, I’d never heard of Lisa Ko. Now I can’t wait to read the rest of the stories in this forthcoming collection. “Proper Girls” is about a Chinese-American family that moves from their neighborhood in Queens, New York to an all-white suburb of New Jersey. Cyn, short for Cynthia, is the narrator of the story, a 16-17 year-old student struggling with identity personally, culturally and with in her own family.
As the Patrick Ryan, editor-in-chief of OTS, writes, “I was first drawn to Lisa Ko’s “Proper Girls” because of its voice. The narrator in this story is someone you want to spend time with, someone you find both funny and endearing. Someone you want to listen to.” Indeed, the narrator takes you in the first two sentences:
At the beginning of my junior year of high school, Lyn lit a garbage can on fire in the science wing bathroom. Things had gotten weird after she shaved her head.
Yes, that is the opening of the story titled “Proper Girls.”
It takes place in the 1980’s, complete with all the archaic technology we have forgotten about, like payphones. How did high school students communicate before social media and cell phones? They didn’t, at least not as often. And in this world with a lack of communication, Cyn misses the most important people in her life - the people whom with she most identified.
After setting fire to the garbage can, her sister Lyn is sent to live with their aunt in Chicago and Cyn misses her for months with only a few phone conversations and one letter that doesn’t make it. When Cyn is grounded and can’t use the phone, she thinks about how much she misses her boyfriend Kai who lives 45 minutes away in the city, and through out the story is the longing to see her old friends from her old neighborhood and her old high school.
What is so good about this story is how it shapes personal identity or how people shape their identity. Cyn once identified herself with the mostly Chinese neighborhood in Queens, then it was taken away; she identified herself with her sister, going as far to say that some people mistook them for twins, until Lyn shaved her head, set fire to the garbage can and went to live in Chicago for the rest of the school year. After all this she puts her heart out in the world to try and see what happens and gets hurt in the process.
Ryan also writes:
“Cultural identity plays a big part in “Proper Girls.” So does sibling affection/rivalry. But perhaps what’s most at stake here is identity on a much more personal level. For most of us, there’s always something of a disparity between what we see when we look inward and how other people regard us, just as there’s a difference between how we picture ourselves and what we see when we look in the mirror.”
To end, here is some advise from her interview with Patrick Ryan on writing.I keep returning to something one of my writing teachers, David Mura, said to another one of my teachers, Junot Diaz: that in order to write the book you want to write, you have to become the person you need to be in order to write that book. This reminds me that writing isn’t just about working hard and wanting to finish a book or even about being a good writer—it’s also about the work you gotta do within yourself.
The power of writing …
One of the first articles I read (and listened to) this new year was one by NPR reporter Lulu Miller. The article is called Editing Your Life’s Stories Can Create Happier Endings, and it discusses the power of writing and how it can help people cope with the struggles in their lives by focusing on a specific event and making sense of a negative outcome.
Why do I mention this when I’m suppose to be talking about Beneath a Meth Moon?
First, this type of therapy has been proven to help. Just ask professors Tim Wilson at the University of Virginia and James Pennebaker at the University of Texas at Austin. From freewriting on a particular subject that is troubling you and opening yourself up to write down everything you can think of, people begin to make new sense of it or to see it in a way they could not before.
Another way to think about it is dreaming. Over the years, scientists have discovered that dreaming is a way for the brain to make sense of the new information it received during the day, and to sort through what is important, what knowledge will be helpful later, and what we don’t need to remember. This writing exercise does the same, helping people better understand why something happened, how it happened, and how it either was or was not their fault.
Again, why do I mention this?
Without any spoilers, the main character of Jacqueline Woodson’s Beneath a Meth Moon, Laurel Daneau, does just this and perhaps without realizing what she is doing. She writes, a lot - through the good times and through the bad. The story is written through her point of view, and through her words we discover what happened to her at the same time she begins to understand and make sense of what has happened in her young life. But more importantly, she learns how to put the past behind her and move on, all of which makes her a stronger person.
This story is about so much more than what I just wrote, but like I said - no spoilers. If you want to learn more it is a great read. Below is an interview with Jacqueline Woodson talking about how she came to write this story.
Come out and hear her read at the Rose O’Neill Literary House at 4:00 pm on Tuesday, February 4th. This event is free and open to the public.
Co-sponsored by: Black Studies Program, the Department of Education, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, and the Sophie Kerr Committee.
H. G. Wells and Edward Gorey …
I’m not going to lie: I love books and not just because I love reading them. Some are beautifully made: just look at the work we do here at the Literary House Press. Books can be a great place to combine two different forms of art: the written word and the illustrated story, which is was I have you for you today.
But first, classics that are classic for good reason and I try to mix them in when every I can. Many times that comes with a modern book that clearly draws inspiration from a classic. When I come across one of those books, I try to read the inspiration first. It’s a lot like reading a book before seeing the movie.
Over the past year I have been catching up on my classical science fiction literature, and more specifically the works of H. G. Wells. This came from my experience in reading The Map of Time by website here). As I was reading, the book made many references to The Time Machine, and I knew I had to read it. Before then, the only Wells book I’d read was The First Men in the Moon, and oh the rules of physics that book breaks. A great read outside of the science class room. Anyway, it was a different narration from what I’m used to, but I liked it. It’s how Wells writes., translated by Nick Caistor (
Then I found a beautiful edition of The War of the Worlds when I came across this article by Maria Popova, who is awesome, of Brain Pickings, which is her awesome creation. I had to have book and only $10 dollars later, I did.
The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, one year before Dracula, which Gorey also illustrated. (Click here for that piece of beauty).
I love Edward Gorey (as well as Gustave Doré for the work he did one The Raven and Dante’s Inferno) and I love most everything that he did and he did a lot. Here is another article from Brain Pickings that shows the a collection of the classics he illustrated, which include the works of Bernard Shaw, Herman Melville, Marcel Proust, Henry James and Franz Kafka. I was tickled when I saw he illustrated The War of the Worlds, understanding that his signature would work very well with Well’s writing.
His illustrations add a pleasant visual element that is not overpowering. They are a delicate piece of art a the beginning of each chapter that lends a hint as to what will happen or what is happening without taking your imagination away from the text. Unlike films that often times pollute your our imagination, replacing the narrator in this book with Tom Cruise (trust Roger Ebert and don’t see the film), these 30 illustrations are subtle and thus float on the surface and dissolve in the words, adding to the reading experience.
So read it, see it and enjoy it.
~ Owen Bailey
P.S. Just because this is fun.
The second in an annual letterpress broadside series from Literary House Press features Nance Van Winckel’s poem, “Because B.”
For this year’s AWP Conference in Seattle, we contacted Willow Springs Editor-in-Chief Sam Ligon to collaborate in the creation of the Literary House Press’s second annual commemorative broadside. After careful consideration of a few dozen poems published in the Washington-based literary journal over the last several issues, we decided together upon Nance Van Winckel’s piece “Because B,” first published in issue 68 of Willow Springs in fall 2011. The brevity and subject matter of the poem were perfectly suited to the medium; and, of course, we loved it!
Over this past year of letterpress broadside design, we’ve had the fun of experimenting with different paper dimensions. This poem gave us the perfect opportunity to explore the possibilities of a shape we had been secretly wanting to try: a square broadside. The title gave us the main image we would use: a large letter B would keep it simple and typography-based. After this realization, finalizing the design was just a matter of determining how to incorporate this image into the layout of the poem itself in order to create a cohesive and intentional arrangement. Serendipitously, the original poem broke into two clean stanzas of nearly even length. This allowed the text to fit snugly within the loops of our large B, with the title tucked into the pronounced, angular serifs of the Bookman Old Style typeface we chose. And once this puzzle was all pieced together, it formed our desired square. We chose Palatino Linotype for the poem text: a traditional letterpress typeface.
We looked to the poem’s subject matter when picking out paper and ink colors. The setting of this piece is icy and gray, but there’s a bit of melt and mud in there too. We decided on a very heavy weight paper called Murillo in Light Gray—a shade that is both gray and slightly green, the color of muddy clay. For the large letter B framing the poem: a darker, shinier gray color of ink, almost silver. And finally, for the poem text, title, and colophon: a classic black.
After our custom photopolymer plates arrived from Boxcar Press, Master Printer Mike Kaylor went to work prepping and printing the broadsides with assistance from two of his most dedicated workshop students (and past Literary House interns), Aileen Gray ’14 and Ariel Jicha ’15. Aileen helped Mike with the first shift: measuring and cutting the paper with the large guillotine blade, planning out which color to print first (printing two colors requires printing twice), and precisely lining up the photopolymer plate(s) on the type-high base that has been locked in the press bed. On the second shift, Ariel assisted Mike with the ink mixing (getting just the right shade of shimmery gray) and printing the broadsides on our Vandercook 4 proof press. It is tedious but rewarding work.
Now that the entire edition of 75 broadsides has been printed and numbered, we have packed them up tight for the flight to Seattle. At the Conference, Nance will sign all 75 broadsides and then we will have them for sale at our Rose O’Neill Literary House table in the AWP Bookfair. After we return from the west coast on March 1, the remaining broadsides will be available for purchase on the Literary House Press web page for $20 each.
We have loved having this opportunity to work with Willow Springs and Nance Van Winckel on this year’s AWP commemorative broadside. For the 2015 Conference in Minneapolis, Literary House Press will be teaming up with a Minnesotan literary journal of national reputation. Stay tuned for more details!
—Jehanne Dubrow & Lindsay Lusby
As another project for this year’s AWP Conference, the Literary House filmed this entire process of designing and printing Nance Van Winckel’s “Because B.” We will be playing it on loop as part of our table display, but you can have a look at it here:
Every semester the Rose O’Neill Literary House offers free, non-credit-bearing workshops in antique letterpress printing and bookbinding with Master Printer Mike Kaylor.
Print Shop Workshops at the Rose O’Neill Literary House are due to begin the third week of classes in the fall semester and registration is now open!
Intro to Letterpress Printing, our beginners’ class, will be held on Tuesday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in our Lit House Print Shop beginning Tuesday, February 4, 2014. You will learn about the history of the printing, from Gutenberg to the twentieth century, while getting a hands-on education in the art of antique letterpress. Set type letter-by-letter and get your hands dirty cranking out your words on one of our antique printing presses.
Our Advanced Workshop in Book Arts will be held on Thursday evenings from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in our Lit House Print Shop beginning Thursday, February 6, 2014. You will learn about the long history and various techniques of binding books by hand while sewing your own books to take home.
All workshops are free and open to all–students, faculty, staff, and community members. But there are a limited number of available slots. To register, please email Assistant Director, Lindsay Lusby.
Phenomenon by: Julie Buntin
This story left a lot unsaid; it worked and I liked it that way.
For me a short story should not answer every question. Often the subject is better left for the reader to decide the fate of the authors’ characters and that is what I found at the end of Buntin’s story about two newly teenage girls living in Michigan. If done well it is a neat way to make a short story feel like a full life that keeps you guessing, wondering and wanting more but never getting it.
To the story itself: it’s not so much about what happens when people grow up but what happens as people grow up and how it sometimes sucks. What happens to your family, your friends, your body, your interests, your school, who you are and who you love and how sometimes you feel like you haven’t changed but others have, which in turn changes you or at the very least your world.
Now about the cover: I think it’s great. When I first opened the envelope I had no idea what the art represented. Only that it reminded me on an old video game that I use to play on the Atari system back when I was I-don’t-want-to-talk-about-it. Once I finished the story I closed the booklet and immediately recognized the cover for what it depicted and saw how it worked. Thank you Stefan Lawrence.
Anyone interested in reading this can find it in the Lit House Library along with the rest of Volume II and the complete Volume I of One Teen Story (OTS). If you’d like to read about them click here, here, here and for last year here.
Does it have to be a story published in 2013?
When I saw the Book Riot list, Riot Round Best Books of 2013, I realized I have only read one of the books. How very un-literary of me, I know. Oh, well. I’ve read plenty of good books this year and won’t be sorry for that. If I only read books published in the current year I would have nothing to read New Years day when I’m tired and cold and I don’t want to leave the house.
Fortunately, the best book I read over the past twelve months, happens to be on this list: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. (NPR Book Review Here) For months, before its release on June 18, day before my birthday, I waited, reading articles online about the book’s anticipation, interviews with Neil, and talked to people who love his work as much as I do. When the day came, I bought a copy and though I was surprised by how small it was, I was even more surprised by how good it was.
As Kim Ukura, author of the Book Riot Article, writes:
After I finished this book, I texted my husband to say that I would probably be bursting into tears at the thought of it for the next few days. This actually only happened once. My favorite Gaiman since The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is, for me, entirely about the mood it evokes and the feelings it has about childhood and memory. Though my life bears little resemblance to the unnamed narrator’s (except the part about stealing light from hallways and bright windows to read in bed at night), the nostalgia I felt while reading it was painful. Well done, sir.
That’s about how it was for me. Stunned, wanting to read it again yet knowing that other books were calling my name for attention. The story feels like a secret very few people know about, finely crafted and extremely methodical in how it is told. A short novel, it’s like seeing a beautifully cut diamond and realizing all of the fine edits that make it so wondrous.
When you first start the book, it’s not obvious what the story is or will be. It’s hard to tell what is coming around the next turn as the plot, in a very Neil Gaiman way, feels real and–when the magic happens–you know it belongs there, that it too can be real.
Now that I have shared my favorite book, what is yours? What were your favorite books of 2013?
The Douglass Wallop Fellowship at Washington College is awarded biannually to a playwright. For the 2015 Douglass Wallop Fellowship, applications will be accepted through Saturday, March 1, 2014.
In spring 2013, documentary playwright KJ Sanchez visited us for a week in charming Chestertown, Maryland as the year’s Douglass Wallop Fellow. During her stay, KJ visited two drama classrooms and talked to those students about contemporary plays and the craft of playwriting. She met one-on-one with five specially selected Washington College undergraduate playwrights and gave them professional feedback on their work. She gave a public craft lecture called “From Soup to Nuts” about her very personal, unique approach to playwriting as exemplified by her well-traveled play ReEntry (co-written with Emily Ackerman), a docudrama about the very real experiences of marines coming back to civilian life after traumatic military service events. She even directed an intimate performance of scenes from this play, acted by a small group of WC students, followed by an in-depth discussion. It was a whirlwind week, but we had such fun with KJ!
We are now looking for the next Douglass Wallop Fellow, to visit us in spring 2015. And we need your applications! We want lots of applications, so don’t be shy.
Here is the full description of the fellowship:
The Douglass Wallop Fellowship at Washington College is awarded in odd-numbered years to a playwright.
The Fellowship enables drama students at Washington College to work with and learn from successful playwrights like J.T. Rogers and KJ Sanchez, who spend several days on campus.
The Douglass Wallop Fellow spends approximately five days at Washington College, holding individual conferences with drama students. The Fellow also gives a public reading and a craft talk. The Fellowship includes a $2500 stipend, overnight accommodations, and travel.
The Fellowship is named for the American novelist and playwright Douglass Wallop (1920-1985). He was the author of 13 works, the most famous being The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant (1954), which went on to be adapted by Wallop and co-writer George Abbott into the Tony Award-winning musical “Damn Yankees.” Wallop himself graduated from the University of Maryland and for many years lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Applicants should send a cover letter (outlining qualifications and reasons for interest in position) as well as a sample of their work to Assistant Director Lindsay Lusby:
The Rose O’Neill Literary House
300 Washington Avenue
Chestertown, Maryland 21620
For the spring 2015 Douglass Wallop Fellowship, applications will be accepted if postmarked by March 1, 2014.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.