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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
Announcing the winners of 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 from the Academy of American Poets.
On Tuesday, April 30th the Rose O’Neill Literary House will host its final literary event of the 2012 - 2013 academic year. The Senior Reading has been a long standing tradition at Washington College, dating back to the 1970s before there was a Rose O’Neill Literary House. In fact, one of the first students to participate in the Senior Reading was English Department Professor Kathy Wagner, we have the poster for proof.
On the walls of the Literary House are many volumes of framed posters with the names of the dozens, and now even hundreds, of students who took the opportunity to read their poems and prose to their peers and professors.
A lot of writing talent has come to the Literary House, and in most years the eventual winner of the Sophie Kerr Prize has participated in the Senior Reading. This list includes Brandon Hopkins ‘97, Stephanie Fowler ‘01, Tanya Allen ‘94, Doug Rose ‘86, Katie Degentesh ‘95, Peter Turchi ‘82, Art Bilodeau ‘78, Dean Herbert ‘88, Emma Sovich ‘08, Norman Prentiss ‘84, Liam Daley ‘07, Sarah Blackman ‘02 and last year’s winner Katie Manion. It will be interesting to see if this year will stay true to this statement.
One difference for this year’s Senior Reading, in addition to announcing the winner of The William W. Warner Prize, is the announcement of the winners of two new prizes, The Jude & Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and The Literary House Genre Fiction Prize. All three prizes are given annually. For more information, please visit the Student Opportunities page on the Literary House website.
Please come out for the announcement of the these three prize winners and to support our seniors before they graduate next month.
Best of luck everyone …
The Rose O’Neill Literary House has named the winner of the 2014 Mary Wood Fellowship, poet Shara Lessley.
In April 2014, we will host poet Shara Lessley for a week-long residency as our 2014 Mary Wood Fellow. This is the first year we opened up the Mary Wood Fellowship as a nationwide competition and Shara was selected from a pool of more than 30 outstanding applicants. As part of her duties while in-residence, Shara will hold one-on-one meetings with a select group of female student-poets. She will also participate in two public events, giving a craft talk and a reading from her poetry.
A former Stegner Fellow at Stanford, Shara Lessley is the author of Two-Headed Nightingale (New Issues 2012). Her awards include an Artist Fellowship from the State of North Carolina, the Diane Middlebrook Poetry Fellowship from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, Colgate University’s O’Connor Fellowship, The Gilman School’s Tickner Fellowship, and a “Discovery” / The Nation prize. Shara’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, The Missouri Review, and New England Review, among others. A recent resident of the Middle East, Shara is completing a new collection titled The Explosive Expert’s Wife.
The Mary Wood Fellowship at The Rose O’Neill Literary House is awarded biennially to an emerging female writer—in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction—who has published one book. The Fellowship enables female creative writing students at Washington College to work with and learn from successful female writers like Laura van den Berg, Hannah Tinti, and Irina Reyn, who spend five days on campus. Eastern Shore author Mary Wood, whose support makes the fellowship possible, is a ’68 graduate of the College and a former member of its Board of Visitors and Governors.
The Rose O’Neill Literary House has named the winner of the 2013 Cave Canem Summer Residency, Yona Harvey.
In June 2013, the Rose O’Neill Literary House will welcome Yona Harvey to Chestertown for a month-long writer’s retreat. Yona was selected from this year’s pool of applicants as the winner of the Literary House’s 2013 Cave Canem Summer Residency.
While most of her time will be spent working on her own writing projects and quietly exploring the town, Yona will also be a part of our second Summer Poetry Salon on Tuesday, June 25 at 4:30PM, sharing the stage with poet Steve Kistulentz and local band Sleeper Cell.
Yona Harvey lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she is on the faculty of Carnegie-Mellon University in the Department of English. 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, the nation’s preeminent organization for young African American poets. Cave Canem’s mission is to serve as “a home for the many voices of African American poetry and is committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African American poets.” Our 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.
The first in a new letterpress broadside series from Literary House Press features Beth Bachmann’s poem, “(why your room has a door).”
Exactly a year ago, in April 2012, we contacted Ladette Randolph, the Editor-in-Chief of Ploughshares. We had an idea: to create a commemorative, limited-edition broadside series in honor of the annual AWP Conference. The broadside would feature a poem first published in a literary journal connected to the Conference’s host city. In 2013, the AWP Conference was scheduled to be held in Boston; Ploughshares—with its more than forty-year Bostonian connection—seemed like the ideal literary journal to feature in this inaugural broadside.
While the Literary House Press had published handmade letterpress broadsides for more than 20 years, celebrating work by visiting authors such as Ted Kooser, Natasha Trethewey, and Daniel Handler, among others, the new AWP broadside series would allow the Rose O’Neill Literary House to collaborate with the best literary journals and magazines around the country.
Happily, Ladette really liked the idea, and the project was soon under way. The Literary House Press selected Beth Bachmann’s “(why your room has a door),” which first appeared in Ploughshares Volume 38/1 (spring 2012), an issue that was guest-edited by Nick Flynn.
Then, the design work began. The unusual layout of Beth Bachmann’s poem shaped our thinking about how text should interact with image. The poem is only seven-lines-long but double-spaced with frequent caesuras punctuating the sentences. The poem’s lines have an elastic quality on the page that mimics the speaker’s unsettled emotional state. The speaker addresses an invisible “you,” using language that feels both elusive and allusive, hesitant as if she cannot address trauma directly.
In thinking about a decorative element that might accompany the poem, we looked to those places in the text where the language evoked the most powerful images. After spending many hours with Bachmann’s words, it became clear that this was the line which seemed to sum up the poem’s narrative most fully: “Soldier, you make my body a map” (3). The poem’s references to “shore,” “ocean,” and “water” helped to clarify the kind of image we might use. After several brainstorming sessions, we eventually settled on the idea of incorporating the outlines of a topographic map to define the poem’s right-hand margin (or its shoreline).
We used Adobe InDesign to lay out the text and then construct an imaginary topographical ocean system that hugged the edge of the poem. The poem was set in Palatino Linotype, a typeface that gestures toward the lettering of older nautical maps while remaining modern enough to reflect the contemporary voice of Bachmann’s work.
The image and text were then converted to a PDF and sent to Boxcar Press, a small business that produces photopolymer plates from digital files. Polymer plates are a modernized form of the older technology—metal plates, metal typefaces—employed in letterpress printing.
We used a heavier stock mouldmade paper of 100% cotton, in a cream that was evocative of antique maps. The paper is described as being “lightly textured” with a nice density that allows for a deep impression when run through the press.
At the Literary House, we generally use our Vandercook 4 Proof Press for bigger projects. The Vandercook’s ink drum and rollers are motorized, but the platen is hand-cranked allowing the printer to control the rhythm of the process. We are lucky to have a genuine Master Printer on staff, Mike Kaylor, who has a national reputation for his impeccable and precise work.
Mike printed the broadside in a run of 100. He worked with two shades of blue, a near-black for the poem’s text and colophon and a slightly lighter blue for the image. When a broadside contains more than one color, the printer must ink, print, and clean the press before applying the second hue. A printer must work carefully to align the text and image, which often requires minute calculations and a series of trials and errors.
While the conception and design of the broadside took many weeks, the printing was done in two days. Now, the broadsides have been wrapped and wrapped in plastic and bubbles. They will accompany us to the AWP Conference in Boston, from car to train and car again, where they will be signed by Beth. We debuted these limited-edition broadsides at the Rose O’Neill Literary House table in one of the AWP book halls. The broadsides are now for sale on our website.
It has been a tremendous honor and pleasure to work with Ploughshares and with Beth Bachmann on this project. We hope this will be the first of many literary collaborations between the Literary House Press and some of the country’s finest journals and magazines.
– Jehanne Dubrow & Lindsay Lusby
We are already planning our 2014 AWP Commemorative Broadside, the second in our new letterpress broadside series. This next broadside will be a collaboration with Washington’s Willow Springs and will debut at 2014 AWP Conference in Seattle.
During the Spring of 2013, the Literary House staff, with the skills and talent of Sophie Kerr Winner Jim Dissette ’71 and artist Abigail Rorer, began assembling a fine press chapbook, a brief collection of poems by Mary Jo Salter.
The purpose of the Literary House Press is to connect the Washington College community with the larger literary world. With its newest letterpress book project, the Literary House Press celebrates the poetry of Mary Jo Salter. This chapbook, Lost Originals, is a series of elegies, beginning in the present day and going back through history to Ancient Egypt.
A poet, editor, essayist, playwright, and lyricist, Mary Jo Salter was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up both in Michigan and in Maryland. She earned degrees from Harvard and Cambridge Universities and is a former editor at Atlantic Monthly, poetry editor at the New Republic, and co-editor of the fourth and fifth editions of the Norton Anthology of Poetry. She is currently teaching at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where she is Chair of the Writing Seminars program in the School of Arts and Sciences.
“Salter’s thorough understanding of poetic tradition is clearly evident in her work … Often marrying domestic concerns to exotic locales, Salter’s most acclaimed poems are at once formally inventive and speak to her experiences in foreign cultures, including Iceland, Italy, Japan, France, and England.” ~ The Poetry Foundation
Part of the project was also bringing to the pages the beautiful work of artist Abigail Rorer. Known for her imaginative and meticulous engravings, Rorer somehow carves the most delicate images in one of the toughest of mediums, Corian. That’s right, the same hard-as-stone material used for kitchen countertops. You know it’s tough when the artist herself says in a letter, “With Corian, you can bash the hell out of it if you want - it won’t hurt it.” We did take nice care of her work, but it’s good to know when working with something that is so beautiful and appears so fragile.
Abigail Rorer, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, is the proprietor of the Lone Oak Press in Petersham, Massachusetts, which has been in operation since 1989. She was contacted by Literary House Assistant Director, Lindsay Lusby, who saw her work at the nearby Oak Knoll Fest XVII in October 2012 and fell in love with her long-sold-out book of Lewis Carroll-like, imaginary (and sometimes carnivorous) plants, Mimpish Squinnies.
After reading the chapbook manuscript, Rorer began to generate some ideas for possible illustrations, the problem was finding the right one. But in a few short weeks, over the holidays no less, both parties agreed on the image of an unfolding purple iris for the frontispiece, an image that evokes the subtle sense of mingled loss and beauty present in Salter’s poems. For the decorative motif, we decided on an Ancient Egyptian harpist, mentioned in the last poem of the book.
The images were made with a technique called relief engraving, which can best be described as removing material from a flat plane so that the image appears to rise out of the surface. This type of engraving is perfect for incorporation in letterpress printing, our specialty here at the Literary House Press. The tricky part, aside from engraving in such a tough material, is getting the height just right. Too low, the image won’t print, too high and it will press too hard into the paper.
“My lines are extremely fine and some printers find it a little difficult to print them because of that. The key is to get the ink to just kiss the block and not fill in the lines.”
Thanks to the skills and sleight of hand of Jim Dissette, the image came out beautifully. Although we know his name in connection to his literary achievements while a student at Washington College, Dissette is also a journeyman letterpress printer and professional book designer. His recent work on a lush reprinting of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, a joint effort of Chester River Press and Deep Wood Press, earned the book and its publishers the 2010 Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design. With Dissette’s award-winning talent for book design, this whole project is brought elegantly together.
Next, the finished and folded pages will be sent out to be hand-bound at a bookbindery in Minnesota. But be sure to stay tuned! When the finished books return, we will have an official Lost Originals Book Launch hosted at the Rose O’Neill Literary House with a reading by our poet of honor, Mary Jo Salter. You won’t want to miss this Literary House Press celebration!
Volume 1, Issue VI of One Teen Story. Reviewed by Reilly Cox ‘16.
I guess I picked up “Passing Each Other in Halls” because I was hoping for some sort of self-discovery with it, you know, something artsy and grand that would tie into my oh-so-tragic-college-student existence. Yeah, it’s silly, but I figured that the title indicated a greater prevalence to me than, let’s say, “The Bearded Girl,” or “The Freshwater Mermaid.” It was a stupid bias but hey, I was playing the “tortured soul” bit that day and I felt like reading something poetic, and you have to admit that that title is poetic. So, being a snob, I picked that one and, if you should read the story, you’ll realize the painful irony in that decision.
You really should read the other stories, though, not to detract from my point. Even if you’re not bearded girls or freshwater mermaids, you’ll find prevalence in them. Really.
I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started reading Matt de la Peña’s story, having never read any of his work before. I probably pictured something dramatic and melancholy, considering the mood I was in, something I could swig a bit of wine to and say, “Ah, yes, yes, of course” (I really apologize for that mood). The cover was relatively unassuming; being composed almost entirely of the title itself, save for a few palm trees, I wasn’t getting any hints at what lay beyond. And having been a bit of a classics snob growing up, I did not know what to expect from Mr. de la Peña: perhaps he would be a modern day Victorian; perhaps he would take beauty from a decaying world and give it unto me. Whatever should I picture?
Whatever I had pictured, I did not picture crotches, inebriation, and poverty; smart girls named Holly with unfortunately beautiful legs, and rich and unstable douchebags; shitty girlfriends in Ivy leagues…nor did I expect that I could enjoy such a combination. It’s not so much a case of “Come on, you know you like it” as it is a case of “Oh. Well, oh.” Now aren’t I a wordsmith?
I really do not like “down to earth” writing. Usually it is an excuse for lazy writing and untalented protagonists, or so I had found: what one person thinks of as real, others know as real. Oh, you know a few curses, do you? You happen to be a skater, too? Oh, look at that, you’re referencing coitus. Now aren’t you talented?
This is in no way how the story reads (really really), but this explains my usual prejudice.
My prejudice stems from a disappointment in the human condition, I suppose you could say. There is something wrong with us, inherently wrong with us, with how we prioritize. We work away our lives for scraps of paper; we get worked up over a bit of coupling and lose even more sleep than originally cost; we create a world of trouble so that we may have trouble. There is something greater for us, there has to be something greater for us, I know it. And I did get assurance of that, I found myself assured, and I found myself assured by a coitus-referencing skateboarder who liked to curse.
I would say that my words taste somewhat lemony right now.
The events of “Passing Each Other in Halls” make little sense if I simply told them to you, yet make perfect sense when told in story. Of course they’re making out within the first page, that makes sense. Of course the snob offers closure for his dying father, why wouldn’t she? What do you mean you don’t know why he runs back towards the cops? The story doesn’t make sense through my saying of it because the events of it simply happen, they just come about. There is nothing forced about them and there is nothing artificial about them. These events are natural as natural can be. These events are true to life, strange as they might seem. These events, heck, they’re real, man.
~Reilly Cox ‘16
Matt de la Peña is the author of four critically-acclaimed young adult novels: Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican WhiteBoy, We Were Here, and I Will Save You. De la Peña currently lives in Brooklyn NY. He teaches creative writing and visits high schools and colleges throughout the country.
To learn more about Matt de la Peña, visit his website here and read his work.
Established through the Academy of American Poets, a new award will recognize one outstanding student poem each year.
CHESTERTOWN, MD—Undergraduates at Washington College can now compete for a prestigious poetry prize established through the Academy of American Poets. Administered by the Rose O’Neill Literary House and the Department of English, the new Jude and Miriam Pfister Poetry Prize will each year award one student a $100 cash prize for a single poem. A member of the English Department will judge the submissions, and the winner will be announced at the annual Senior Reading in the spring semester.
“This is the kind of award that can offer a young writer encouragement at the moment she most needs it,” says Literary House Director Jehanne Dubrow, who as a graduate student won university prizes through the Academy of American Poets. “I’m thrilled that our students here at Washington College will now have the same opportunity to compete for an award that receives national recognition and that is connected to one of the most prestigious literary organizations in the country.”
“This is a major award,” agrees English Department chair Kathryn Moncrief, “important enough that career and academic poets include it on their resumes.”
The donors who are funding the prize have long ties to Washington College. Jude Pfister graduated from Washington College in 1993 with a master’s degree in history, and Miriam Pfister’s great-grandfather George Emmet Wood was a member of the Class of 1885. The couple’s deep fondness for the institution has been reflected in their ongoing support of scholarships and the Miller Library, as well in their donation of items such as 19th and early 20th-century documents to the George Emmet Wood Collection of Washington College Memorabilia.
Founded in 1934, the Academy of American Poets has awarded more money to poets than any other organization. It creates literary events such as National Poetry Month and the annual Poets Forum in New York City and facilitates more than 200 annual prizes for poetry at colleges and universities nationwide.
Students interested in entering an original poem in the first Pfister Prize competition should email their poem to Lindsay Lusby, assistant director of the Literary House, (email@example.com) by Friday, March 22, 2013. Emails should include POETRY PRIZE and your name in the subject line. All electronic files must be saved as .pdf files with 12-point type and one-inch margins. Applicants are limited to one entry, with only one poem, each. For more information, please visit the Rose O’Neill Literary House’s website (http://www.washcoll.edu/centers/lithouse/the-jude-and-miriam-pfister-poetry-prize.php).
For more information about the Academy of American Poets, please visit poets.org.
I begin my reaction with a warning, but please, do not get the wrong impression. If you were the kid to pick up newts and bugs, read. If you are going through a rough time and need some humanization, some comfort, read. Or if you’re just bored at the Lit House and you happen to see a green, thin book, read. Still, my warning:
If you are a pre-vet, you might or might not want to read.
If you are a vegetarian, you might not want to read.
If you are a vegan, you especially might not want to read.
If you are a vegan pre-vet, run.
Before I give a wrong impression, I do not mean to dissuade any readers from Rachel Furey’s story, “The Mud Puppy.” Selected for One Teen Story magazine, it’s well worth its pages. As an animal lover and (forgive me) vegetarian, I simply feel a need to give warning and reminder to my people; we cannot take offense should someone enjoy a burger.
I was curious about “The Mud Puppy,” if only for its earthy title and rich, well-designed cover (if you’d rather not read, you can always just stare at the cover for an hour or so). I wanted to find out what this creature had to do with the story, how it had crawled its way onto the pages and made a name there. I wanted to see what style the author chose, if it would be a grand tale of a mudpuppy knight charging at a komodo dragon, draped in tiny (yet impenetrable) armor, or if it would be a meditation, a metaphor, in which the mudpuppy represents our doomed mortality (why not?), or maybe if it were a magical creature granting wishes, the story told (poorly) through its mud-covered eyes.
It was none of these things, but that’s okay.
Instead, the mud puppy is a coming-of-age story (bear with me) told through the second-person narrative. Yes, this narrative can be a bit off-putting at times, we’re so used to the first and the third, but for some reason we seem to forget that “you” exists when we write. And the story is all about you (no, really, I’m serious- see for yourself). Still, we’ve (or I’ve, or you’ve) read enough coming-of-age stories to last the next twelve generations of us who come of age, so why bother with one more (and one that might be so frightening to vegan pre-vets, too)?
Because it brings to terms life here at Washington College.
College is great and college sucks; these are the two extremes that make up the college experience. Most people find that their experience is not clear cut in one category but made up of a heterogeneous mixture (pre-vets, still reading?) that works out to somewhere in the middle: my English class is terrible but then again I just had a really cool class with the Tolkien dude; my Friday night was dead but then Saturday I nearly died, heck yeah; I think I just offended my entire friend group but I just found some really cool people who invited me to hang out. We get to a certain point and we decide how good or how bad it really was. Sometimes, however, there are commonalities in the complaints and a lot of them come from the fact that college is a mixture.
College is not a place filled with young adults trying to fulfill themselves, nor is it a place filled with old teenagers trying to lose themselves. College is a place of senior-year middle schoolers and of freshmen-year philosophers, of people shedding skins and of people growing shells. Just as commonly as there are cliques, there are kind strangers befriending us with smiles. You, this you so discovered in “The Mud Puppy,” are a true middle schooler stuck in a nursing home a little too much like that middle school. Your friend ruins your day and your tormentor comforts you. Your family is absent and yet a stranger cries with you. Oh, my, hasn’t it been a rough time for you? Oh, my, hasn’t it been swell?
Furey’s story is not great and it doesn’t suck. It made me disgusted and it brightened my day. Lest I become formulaic in the contradictions, I’ll leave with a thought of mine: I might have misread the story entirely, but I, who am not a middle school girl going through changes, could connect with it. My sister might not be anorexic (I thank the stars that she loves cooking) but I could still think of her adventurous spirit. My mother might be far from aloof but I could still think of times when I could not turn to her. And I might not be a middle schooler volunteering at an old folks home, but I certainly can feel like it some days on this campus- because college is great, and because college sucks.
~ Reilly Cox ‘16
From Maryland Public Television comes the story of Kiplin Hall and the history of Maryland
This 17th century manor house in northern England has served as the home base for Washington College’s summer program on British literature. The MPT documentary includes an interview with English professor Richard Gillin and his wife, Barbara, who have led WC’s Kiplin Hall Program for 15 years.
Sites of significant historic, literary, landscape, and architectural interest are part of the field experience. Students have an opportunity to explore areas where Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, and other influential literary figures found so much inspiration.
The program aired on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 8:30. It will repeat on MPT 1 on 2/14 at 11:30PM, and on MPT 2 on Feb. 10th at 5:30pm.
(The following is taken from MPT.org)
This magnificent 17th century manor house in the north of England - north Yorkshire to be precise - is often described as the “birthplace of Maryland”, for it was here that George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore, developed the concept of a colony in the Americas dedicated to religious freedom for Catholics. Rising from humble beginnings without title or riches, Calvert’s genius and pluck took him into the King’s inner sanctum - a feat almost unheard of in those days - to become Secretary of State to King James, whom he persuaded to accept his dream of a colony.
The program explores this significant early history, and then focuses on how this remarkable manor house evolved over four centuries under the ownership of just four families - the Calverts, the Crowes, the Carpenters and the Talbots - all related by blood or marriage. The estate grew to as large as five thousand acres, but as time wore on, it shared the fate of many English manor houses only to experience serious decline in the twentieth century.
A number of fortuitous events occurred to save this historical home. When a Baltimore industrialist trying to save Kiplin Hall learned of University of Maryland students preserving an old hotel in New Jersey, he asked why they couldn’t do that in Yorkshire, England. Soon a team of architectural students crossed the pond in 1987 to see if they could save the ‘gray lady’ that held such Maryland significance. Professor David Fogle oversaw these first students, camping out over the stables and blacksmith shop. They made remarkable progress, and the connection with a major American university did not go unnoticed by English Heritage, the British government entity charged with preserving the nation’s historical sites. It elevated Kiplin Hall to its highest status, qualifying it for greater funding.
Today, the house’s structural systems and interior rooms are in splendid condition, and the focus is now on recreating the exquisite ‘pleasure gardens’ once enjoyed by the aristocracy - and growing number of visitors who are discovering this unique treasure. Kiplin Hall: Birthplace of Maryland gives viewers a wonderful tour of this historic property and how it has impacted the state we live in. It also shows how the pluck and enthusiasm of a bunch of college kids, under the tutelage of an impassioned professor, can produce results that few would have imagined. And when one considers that it was a Calvert descendant in Maryland who started an agricultural school that would eventually become the University of Maryland, the cycle becomes complete.
Following the critical success of his debut collection, All Over, and of his debut novel, Pacazo, Roy Kesey now brings us a new gathering of short stories, Any Deadly Thing.
Roy Kesey’s latest book is a short story collection called Any Deadly Thing, published by Dzanc Books in February 2013. His other books include a novel called Pacazo (the January 2011 selection for The Rumpus Book Club, and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award), a collection of short stories called All Over (a finalist for theForeword Magazine Book of the Year Award, and one of The L Magazine’s Best Books of the Decade), a novella called Nothing in the World (winner of the Bullfight Media Little Book Award), and two historical guidebooks.
His short stories, essays, translations and poems have appeared in more than a hundred magazines and anthologies, including Best American Short Stories, The Robert Olen Butler Prize Anthologyand New Sudden Fiction. He has won two Pushcart Prize Special Mentions, the Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize in Fiction, and a 2010 prose fellowship from the NEA. Roy visited Washington College in February 2011 to read from his book Pacazo as part of the Sophie Kerr Lecture Series. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.
Progress on the Pegasus
Working on the Pegasus is not what I originally expected. I knew when I took the job that we would be working entirely online and that sounded really exciting. I’m still excited about what we’re working on, but initially it was overwhelming.
Finding out who to contact for various things and then getting a hold of them has definitely been the biggest challenge for me at this point. There is so much that goes on at WAC, and we don’t want anything to be left out, so finding out who does what and who is in charge has been exhausting. Tracking people down is probably the hardest part of my job.
It also never occurred to me how long it takes to write emails. I’m starting to consider myself a professional emailer at this point. There is a lot more that goes into sending an effective email than I used to believe. When I’m sending out mass emails to 1,400 people, I have to pay close attention to what I’m writing so that I make sure that all of the necessary information is in that first email. If it isn’t, I know I’m going to get several hundred back, all asking the same question.
So far, everyone at WAC - staff, students, faculty - has been really helpful in getting us the information that we need. Our main goal with this is to ensure that anything that anyone could possibly want to remember about this year, any experience had, gets remembered. I’m really grateful, especially for the faculty and college staff, for all the help they’ve given us. The favors we’ve had to ask have been a royal pain for some people and I’m sure the Registrar’s Office is tired of hearing from us by now, but everyone has truly been fantastic.
I’m most excited to get through the phase of hoarding information so that we can start working on the creative stuff. We’re going to try to incorporate the Class of 2013’s chosen theme – The Waterfront – into the Pegasus as much as possible. Overall, we really just want to make sure that this year is memorialized the way that it should be.
If anyone has any questions, comments, or information they would like to share, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor and Project Manager
Eco-Friendly, Soft and Adorable Alpacas at Tag Along Alpacas, LLC in Chestertown, MD
If you’d asked me 2 months ago what an alpaca was, I probably would have said, “I think its like a llama.” I know that there are a few llama farms in Kent and Queen Anne’s county, but never would I have guessed that there existed an Alpaca farm just outside of town on the road to Rock Hall. In early December, my wife came across an article in the Tidewater Trader advertising the farm. It’s called Tag Along Alpacas and it has been in operation since August 2012.
So we called, made and appointment and I drove out to get a tour from Connie Gsell who runs the farm with her daughter Tracy Abram. Together they have raised this herd of Huacaya Alpacas (pronounced whah-kai-ah), which includes, Oso (white and the only male), Nicki (the light brown), Autumn (the medium fawn) and Fiona (the black and very curious Alpaca).
And I can’t forget Cowboy, the Australian Cattle-Dog.
The Alpacas are very friendly, though very nervous at first. Once you get a chance to feed them some pellets they warm up to you and you don’t have to worry about them biting. The teeth in the front of their mouth are only on their lower jaw.
When asked why they decided to raise alpacas Tracy said, “I love animals and wanted to find livestock to raise that would be fun to be around and work with, relatively easy to care for, profitable, and not end up on a dinner plate. After researching livestock opportunities, alpacas were the perfect fit for us.”
Eco-friendly alpacas are sensitive to their environment in every respect. Alpacas have soft padded feet instead of hooves and can leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged. Alpacas prefer to eat tender grasses, which they do not pull up by the roots. Lacking upper teeth, alpacas “cut” the grass with their bottom teeth and upper palate. This vegetation cutting encourages the plant’s growth. Because they are modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, alpacas convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently, and stop eating when they are full, further preserving the landscape on which they live. Alpacas’ pellet-like droppings are PH balanced, and an excellent, natural, slow release, low odor fertilizer. While alpacas are environmentally friendly - and even beneficial - to the land, what makes them even more “green” is their end product… alpaca fiber. Alpacas are sheared annually, without harm.
Alpacas produce an incredibly soft fiber. Because of its soft texture, alpaca fiber is often compared to cashmere. Making the fiber even more coveted, it has the luster of silk. Alpaca is just as warm as, yet 1/3 the weight of, wool. It comes in 22 natural colors and can be dyed any desired shade. Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is also naturally hypoallergenic. Most people who are sensitive to wool find that they can wear alpaca without the itching or irritation they feel from wool because alpaca fiber is smooth.
All the alpacas have different personalities and on some level they remind me of having a dog, with a really long neck that doesn’t bark or nip. Fiona is the curious and unafraid female, Nikki is very shy, Autumn is less shy and Oso is the only male, but has the softest fleece.
If you get a chance, go see them and feel just how soft their fur is. Oh, I forgot to mention, the females are pregnant and will each give birth to one cria. The first one is due in May and the other two are due in September.
This year they will be participating in the Chestertown Earth Day festivities on April 20.
For more information check out their website:
A review of the new poetry collection from Rose O’Neill Literary House Director, Jehanne Dubrow. Red Army Red from Northwestern University Press, 2012. Reviewed by Lit House Assistant Director, Lindsay Lusby.
Before I begin, I should admit to my biases. I like Jehanne Dubrow. She is a kind and intelligent person with a wonderfully irreverent sense of humor (that is very similar to mine) and I consider her a friend. But I am also a poet, and in this capacity, I have been following Jehanne’s work since the release of her first collection, The Hardship Post, in 2009. Each collection of hers is a poetic study, a project. String the poems together and you will see a loose narrative formed there in between.
In Red Army Red, Cold War’s Communism appropriates all shiny things for propaganda the way a teenage girl accessorizes. They are magpies at heart. Dubrow, in turn, collects these glimmering metallic details and nests poems in them. Of course, not all of these details are beautiful but they have a certain shine that draws us in anyway. In “Moscow Nights,” “rose perfume…smells of piss,” and another perfume smells of “pickled beets/ and turpentine.” And as in the mind of a teenage girl, all of these details are sex or innuendo, “the romance of objects.” Things that Communist dictators would hold just out of reach.
The first section of the book, titled “Cold War,” although packed with vivid images is a stark landscape full of old objects. Not just old, but old-world. Something that the speaker has clearly outgrown. Shirts and shoes are two sizes too small and all pleasures are taken in secret.
Section two, “Velvet Revolution,” is a rebellious adolescent testing the limits of her own body’s dictatorship. Although taken from the actual historical context of nearby then-Czechoslovakia, the phrase taken out of time seems tailor-made to capture the melodrama of teenage rebellion, with another nod toward an adolescent’s newfound fashion-consciousness. The poems of this section take the melodrama of an average American teenager and place it within a nation in flux. Let’s just triple the anxiety-level. The poems “Five-Year Plan” and “November 1989” capture this juxtaposition best. In the latter, the speaker has locked herself in the bathroom teaching herself to shave her legs and underarms while “Outside our house: Warsaw, avenues/ named for generals…Everything was falling down.”
In the last section, “Laissez-faire,” our speaker is in the full bloom of her new womanhood. And the world has opened its commercial doors to her (and her parents’ credit cards), with the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communism in the Eastern Bloc. This section is populated with satirical poems praising the wonder of merchandise and variety and everything that money can buy: “Bag ‘N Save,” “Our Free-Market Romance,” “Warsaw IKEA,” “A History of Shopping,” “As Seen on TV.” Little Red is all grown up now and flung from starkness into a post-Communist rumspringa. It is overwhelming and disorienting, but there is still the underlying philosophy of sex as commodification. Our speaker is left to navigate her way through this new Poland, flipped like the tornado-thrown bus in Dubrow’s “YouTube” poem. Because flinging a nation so quickly and jarringly from one extreme to another cannot come without casualties.
The Mary Wood Fellowship at Washington College is awarded biannually to an emerging female writer—in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction—who has published one book. For the Spring 2014 Mary Wood Fellowship, applications will be accepted through Friday, March 15, 2013.
In Spring 2012, we had the lovely Laura van den Berg stay the week in little Chestertown as our Mary Wood Fellow. She read from her new short story collection What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, gave an intimate talk about “Demystifying the ‘Writing Life’”, and met individually with select female undergrads to discuss their own fiction-writing. Laura had a great time too, dubbing our Rose O’Neill Literary House “heaven for writers.” And we whole-heartedly agree.
We are now looking for the next Mary Wood Fellow, to visit us in Spring 2014. And we need your applications! We want lots of applications, so don’t be shy. If you are a female writer who has published just one book (and only one book), you are qualified. Let us know who you are and send us your book!
Here is the full description of the fellowship:
The Mary Wood Fellowship at Washington College is awarded biannually to an emerging female writer—in poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction—who has published one book.
The Fellowship enables female creative writing students at Washington College to work with and learn from successful female writers like Laura van den Berg, Hannah Tinti, and Irina Reyn, who spend several days on campus.
The Mary Wood Fellow spends approximately five days at Washington College, during which she holds individual conferences with select female undergraduate creative writers. The Fellow also gives a public reading and a craft talk. The Fellowship includes a $2500 stipend, overnight accommodations, and travel.
Eastern Shore author Mary Wood, whose support makes the fellowship possible, is a ’68 graduate of the College and a former member of its Board of Visitors and Governors.
Applicants should send a cover letter (outlining qualifications and reasons for interest in position) as well as a copy of their book to Director Jehanne Dubrow:
The Rose O’Neill Literary House
300 Washington Avenue
Chestertown, Maryland 21620
For the Spring 2014 Mary Wood Fellowship, applications will be accepted through Friday, March 15, 2013.
Back in September of 2012, Michael Duck, editor of Crunchable and graduate of the class of 2002, returned to Washington College to host Crunchable Colloquium, a reading by college alumni.
Crunchable is an online literary magazine started in 2001 by alumni Chris Kilmas. Its name derives from Kilmas’s humor at putting -able at the end of any word, which you can see on the site’s snackable and archivable pages. Today is it run by Duck who calls the online magazine a “soft place to land” when young writers first graduate and lose the ability to submit their work to the student publications.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Washington College?
The first one that leaps to mind is the experience of my weekly “Elm Night.” The newspaper was published every Friday, and that meant I had to have an actual physical disk (remember those?) ready to be delivered to the printer at dawn every Thursday. So every Wednesday night for the year and a half I was The Elm’s editor in chief, I didn’t sleep – I shepherded the whole darn paper into print, coordinating all the editors’ work with the writing, page layout, and photographs while usually also writing an editorial at the last minute. Around 3 or 4 a.m., I’d sit down with the final version and read every word that was about to be published. The final step was to leave the disk at an agreed-upon drop spot and then shamble into the dining hall for breakfast. (It was the only weekday I was ever awake when breakfast was served.)
Even at the time I knew that schedule was insane, but it fueled my sense of purpose and helped define who I was – and who I still am, in a lot of ways. My only regret was the one semester when I had a fascinating history class with T. Clayton Black – at 8:30 a.m. every Thursday, right after my weekly all-nighter and when I was, shall we say, not at my customary levels of alertness.
Dr. Black, if you’re reading this: I’m sorry!
And, though you asked for a single favorite memory, the two others I simply must mention here are: (1) The time my Queen Anne’s House friends and I threw a nearly spontaneous gathering in formal wear, which we called the “informal formal” and which was nearly broken up by Public Safety, and (2) the time I was with legendary Washington Post journalist Richard Harwood as he committed the act of public urination on campus.
What were some of your favorite events or milestones?
Whenever I get back to campus, I always make a point of stopping by that little garden with the simple fountain beside the Larrabee Art Center. I wrote about that garden’s dedication in my first real story for The Elm, within a few weeks of my arrival on campus as a freshman.
That turned out to be the start of a much longer story. I stuck with the paper and worked my way up to editor in chief by my sophomore year. And now I’ve been a professional journalist for nearly a decade.
What was the first book you read and loved?
I loved a lot of books as a very young reader (Dr. Seuss and the Berenstains were in heavy rotation in my library), but the ones I remember loving best were from a few years later – from around age eight, when I discovered a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure”-style series of books called “Star Challenge.” As the protagonist of each book, you were a young operative for the Network Of Worlds tasked with saving the galaxy, with a little help from your small robot companion. I spun that fictional universe in hundreds of different directions, inventing my own ships and villains and alien races and sidekicks and gear, most of which I built using plastic construction toys or cardboard. It was the most elaborate narrative I have ever created.
The other huge influence was the humor columnist and author Dave Barry. I devoured his weekly syndicated columns in middle school, right up through the day that something funny happened to me in science class and I decided to do what Dave Barry would: I’d write about it and show the story to everyone who’d read it. The response was overwhelming – the first time I could recall doing anything my peers actually enjoyed and respected.
In other words: For my student newspaper years, my whole journalism career, and all my work with Crunchable, I blame Dave Barry.
What is your favorite word?
At the moment, it’s “widdershins” – a word I learned just this month from Annie Woodall ‘01, one of Crunchable’s assistant editors. It means to do something in a backwards, counterclockwise, or otherwise contrary direction.
In fact, we liked the word so much that it’s going to be the theme for a Crunchable issue in the next year. I’m very eager to see what writers will do with it.
What is it like to be the editor of Crunchable?
Heh. That depends on what part of the production cycle we’re in, and whether I’m short or flush with essays to publish.
I volunteered to run this site in 2005 – four years after it got started and three years after my Washington College graduation. It was partly because I knew I needed something like this to keep me writing creatively. It was partly because it was a chance to be an editor,
which is all I’ve always wanted to be, and because I knew it would help me stay better in touch with my college friends. I was also terrified that the great writing they’d done on Crunchable since 2001 might otherwise wink out of existence, if nobody were here to look after it.
But Crunchable was also an opportunity to learn how all this Web stuff works from the inside out. That fluency with Web design has turned out to be critical to my career, and today I help run the website of the newspaper where I’ve worked since 2003. In a very real sense, I owe my job to Crunchable.
So, what does all that feel like? Well, it’s maddening and stressful a lot of the time. But it feels tremendously important to be the caretaker for all these words, and it’s great to have my own sandbox on the Web where I can play with such a great community of friends and writers.
For more about Crunchable Colloquium visit this link.
Aileen Brenner ’09, drama major and creative writing minor, uses her skills acquired as an undergrad at WAC to tackle editing a full-length novel, Terra by Gretchen Powell – the first in a planned trilogy.
As a student, Aileen Brenner worked in the space between theater and literature, between the performance of the text on the stage and the breaking down of the text on the page. In all of this, she fed her enthusiasm for the well-turned sentence. While an undergrad, Aileen was an active participant in Riverside Players and President of Fakespeare, both Shakespeare-inspired, comedic acting troupes. She also served as Editor-In-Chief of the print yearbook The Pegasus from 2007-2009.
These days, Aileen works as an editorial and advertising assistant for Trial Magazine (American Association for Justice) during the day. At night, she has been working as a freelance editor in the wider world of fiction. The first of her edited books has just been released and she is as proud a mother as the author herself. I would describe Aileen’s experience working with up-and-coming author Gretchen Powell, but she says it so much better herself:
“I met Gretchen through my sister, who roomed with her their freshman year at JMU, and I got to know her better when she began blogging at Honey I Shrunk the Gretchen. We talked about writing every now and then, and even more so after I began blogging at Army Pants and Flip Flops.
Although our blogs are both nonfiction writing, Gretchen and I share an outside interest in dystopian fiction. She originally sent me just a few chapters of her first draft of Terra. She knew I was a fan of the genre and also a practiced copy editor, and she was hoping for some feedback about the set-up of the world and ideas, and her writing.
From that initial read, I was already hooked on the story and the world Gretchen had created. I gave her feedback in the style I’d learned to give feedback to playwrights working on new plays; having never edited a fiction novel before, I relied heavily on the lessons I learned during my writing workshops and drama classes at WAC, and from working at the PlayPenn New Play Development conference with Professor Michele Volansky. I instantly found that working with a new fiction draft (and a fiction writer) is strikingly similar to working with a playwright on a new play–both must define a foreign but distinct world for a new audience, and both must give us characters who define that world and draw us into it with their urgency. In giving Gretchen my initial feedback, I posed a lot of questions about her world and her characters, and it opened up a good dialogue for us to continue discussing her plot points, her characters, and the development of Terra’s story and context.
When Gretchen began writing Terra (her first novel, and also the first novel in a planned trilogy), she decided to self publish. There’s still a very real stigma attached to self publishing; it’s perceived as something of a last resort for writers who can’t get a publisher to sign on for their book idea. And I’ll admit that I was a little wary of this at first as well. But Gretchen really did her research about self publishing; she had plans and lists and spreadsheets for everything from marketing, to page layout, to e-book conversions, to registering for an ISBN. Gretchen didn’t only write a book–she plunged into the entire publishing process head first, and I’m pretty sure she hasn’t slept for more than an hour a night for the last year.
Because Gretchen was self publishing, she was very proactive about seeking the outside help she’d need. After I provided her with initial feedback and we began a discussion about the book, we quickly spiraled into a writer-editor relationship. When she finished her first draft, we went through it together chapter by chapter, and scene by scene, to determine what was currently working, and what needed to be clarified, reworked, or cut completely. Because I was seeing the book with fresh eyes, I was able to point out inconsistencies and plot holes that Gretchen (after having read her book hundreds of times) wasn’t able to see on her own. In the first two drafts, I focused mostly on bigger issues like plot, structure, character development, and the chronology of events. I sometimes marked up margins with so much text, that the questions and comments I had were twice as long as the scene they referred to. We spent a lot of time rearranging and reordering scenes, and Gretchen took my suggestions truly to heart; she was learning the pain involved in the editing process, which sometimes meant cutting full scenes and rewriting entire chapters that she’d really grown to love.
Gretchen and I went back and forth; I questioned and scrutinized every passage that lacked detail, every line of dialogue, and every character’s motivation. In his Acting I class at WAC, Dale Daigle teaches that, as an actor, you must always be able to answer three questions for your character at any given point in a scene: Who am I? Where am I? and What do I want? Using these questions, Gretchen and I painstakingly accosted each character, in each scene, in her nearly 300-page book, to make sure we could justify every single action and reaction, and what it meant to the book and the story as a whole.
Throughout the editing process, my biggest challenge was to re-read the book for consistency after we’d added, edited, or removed scenes and plot points. Which happened sometimes three or four times a day. By the time Gretchen’s third draft rolled around, I knew her world and her characters inside and out. Once we were satisfied with structure and consistency, we began to hone in on tightening up and clarifying her language. Although I had gone into editing her book with an eye for copy editing, I wanted to make sure to devote time to each piece of punctuation and each use of a proper noun to make sure it was telling the story accurately. Gretchen did run her more completed drafts through an outside copy editor, which not only gave her a third pair of eyes, but made sure her language was as defined as possible as well.
I’m so proud of the final product. Gretchen has been overwhelmingly thankful to me, and it has been fun and rewarding to be part of her journey, and Terra’s journey. The editing process was often stressful; when deadlines are involved, you start to wonder if taking the time to flesh out all the finer details is really worth the result. Luckily, Gretchen and I reached an understanding early on that we were committed to making this book into the best version of itself, despite what that meant for our sleep schedules and sanity. I’m signed on as editor for the next two books, and I think Terra’s readers will be surprised and pleased about what’s to come.”
Each semester, we choose one or two of the upcoming visiting writers from The Rose O’Neill Literary House’s season of literary events to commemorate in a beautiful letterpress-printed broadside, designed and printed here in the House. In this post, Assistant Director, Lindsay Lusby will tell you how it’s done.
What is this thing called a broadside, you ask? My favorite definition comes from the book The Art and Craft of Handmade Books by Shereen LaPlantz:
“A broadside is a single sheet of paper that states an opinion—usually an inflammatory one. Broadsides started out as the last words of condemned prisoners and were posted next to the gallows for one day. During the Revolutionary War in the United States, broadsides were used to promote the Revolution.”
Just like many technologies appropriated from the past, including letterpress printing, what once was a tool of necessity now has become an art form. Our letterpress broadsides take an excerpt of a visiting writer’s published works and put it to visual music with typographical design and printed images. We have a catalog of antique metal printers’ blocks to choose from or we can go ultra-modern: have a custom illustration taken from digital file to letterpress-printable photopolymer plate.
For our latest broadside, a poem by the poet and translator Idra Novey called “A History in Six Couplets,” we chose another option—carving a mounted linoleum block. This can also be done with wood, but linoleum is a bit softer (read: easier to carve). The “mounted” bit of that block raises the final relief carving to the height required for printing, which we call “type-high.” And who was the lucky girl that got to carve that (extra large) linoleum block? I pulled out my Speedball Lino Cutter and got to work on that 10 x 20” slab of linoleum.
The design we decided on for this poem was simple: a city skyline, broken and gashed, but still standing. It’s a stark illustration for a stark poem. The text was to be printed over top of the lino print, with the columnar poem-shape fitting snugly inside the central building silhouette. One thing I needed to be careful with: I had to estimate the width needed to encompass the poem but not let it feel swallowed by the building size. And one thing that just coincidentally fell into place: the large jagged chunk of building I cut out lined up perfectly with the stanza: “And all around, chunks of concrete/ like torn bread.”
We chose a tall paper size to emphasize the strong vertical pull of the skyline-buildings and the shape of the poem itself, leaving a generous stretch of empty space at the top. After the linocut was finished, our Master Printer Mike Kaylor, set the type for the poem text, letter by painstaking letter, and got to printing on the beautiful Vandercook 4 Proof Press in our Lit House print shop. First, the linocut is printed and let dry for a day or so. Then the text.
The final result was ghostly—with the image printed in white on a muddy-gray watercolor paper and the text in a dark gray ink over the white—and that was perfectly fitting for this poem.
To see more of the beautiful broadsides made right here in our very own Literary House print shop, check out this page here.
Today Poetry Daily will feature a poem from the new collection by Professor Jehanne Dubrow, “Red Army Red.”
Since the release of Lit House Director Jehanne Dubrow’s most recent collection of poetry, Red Army Red has received many great reviews.
“With wit and subtlety, these poems make apparent the parallels between the body and the body politic, between the fulfillment of individual and collective desires.”
To read more about Dubrow and Red Army Red, click here.
Chestertown’s first type-in & letter-writing social …
This past Friday, which was also the First Friday of December 2012, Literary House Assistant Director Lindsay Lusby and Kent County Librarian Annie Woodall, both Washington College Alumni, organized Chestertown’s first Type-in & Letter Writing Social at Evergrain Bakery.
The Event was a great success as waves of people showed up to type letters to relatives, poems to themselves or what ever they imagined, using traditional typewriters.
As Lusby comments, “I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic turnout we had for this first-ever Chestertown event. Honestly, the whole evening was a blur of typing and gluing and letter-writing. The sound of all of those old keys clacking and carriages dinging was such a fantastic noise. I think, by the end of the night, about 75 people of a wide age range had come through our type-in and letter-writing social. The fact that so many people were excited about this strange thing that we were also excited about had to be the best part.”
It was a great scene, watching some re-familiarize themselves with the process of having to really hit the keys. It was somewhat like riding a bike after not riding one for 20 years. Slowly the process and mechanics came out of the deep recesses of people memories. For others, it was their first time using a standard typewriter.
Lusby is a type-writing pro, being quick to teach, lend a hand, and happy to share her art. Many excited questions were asked, many memories were shared, and all had fun.
“For someone who loves books, writing, and letterpress printing, typewriters seemed a natural progression for me. They are such beautiful machines. When you lift up the hood, you might get the sensation that you are looking at the insides of a small piano that plays letters and words instead of notes and chords.”
In the Spring of 2013, the Lit House will be hosting a trio of events dedicated to writing in wartime.
Our first wartime author will be Siobhan Fallon.
February 19, 4:30 p.m., Rose O’Neill Literary House
Siobhan Fallon’s debut collection of stories, You Know When the Men Are Gone, was listed as a Best Book of 2011 by The San Francisco Chronicle and Janet Maslin of The New York Times. Her stories and essays have appeared in Women’s Day, Good Housekeeping, New Letters, Publishers’ Weekly, among others, and she writes a fiction series for Military Spouse Magazine. She earned her MFA at the New School in New York City and lives in Falls Church, VA.
Second will be Washington College’s owe Ryan Kelty.
March 26, 4:30 p.m., Rose O’Neill Literary House
Ryan Kelty is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Washington College. His research examines the effects of civilian contractor integration on military personnel, diversity in the military, and the role of military service across the life course. Dr. Kelty’s work has appeared in Armed Forces & Society, The Future of Children, Teaching Sociology, the Annual Review of Political and Military Sociology, and several edited volumes. Dr. Kelty teaches a seminar on Armed Forces & Society at Washington College, and consults for various defense agencies and defense research organizations. Previously, Dr. Kelty served on the Department of Behavioral Sciences & Leadership faculty at West Point.
Third will be the 2012 Douglas Wallop Fellow, Playwright KJ Sanchez
April 8 – 12 (Event TBA)
KJ Sanchez is founder/CEO of American Records, a theater company devoted to chronicling our time (www.amrec.us). As a playwright, she has been produced (select lists) at Asolo Rep, Actors Theater of Louisville, Two River Theater, Baltimore’s CENTERSTAGE, Round House Theater, Working Classroom, Cornerstone, and Off-Broadway at Urban Stages. She has directed plays by Dan Dietz, Kyle Schmidt, Heather Raffo, Jose Rivera, Quiara Hudes, and Kristoffer Diaz. As an actress she has been on stages at The Humana Festival, The Goodman, Berkely Rep, Long Warf, New York Theater Workshop, and BAM. She is the voice of many characters in the cartoons Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go. As the producer, director and co-author of ReEntry, a play based on interviews with Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, KJ produced its international tour and contracted with the Department of Defense, taking the play to service members at over thirty military bases and hospitals throughout the US and Internationally.
Finally, Anthony Swofford.
April 18, 5:00 p.m., Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts
Author of the critically acclaimed and best selling memoir, Jarhead, A Marine’s Chronicle of the Gulf War and Other Battles, Anthony Swofford served as a lance corporal in a U.S. Marine Corps Surveillance and Target Acquisition/Scout-Sniper platoon during the 1991 Gulf War. After finishing his military service, he attended the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and in time, wrote a book about his experience in the Marines. Published on the eve of the Iraq War, Jarhead reveals Swofford as an eloquent and brazenly honest spokesman for the “grunt” who is as aware of the political realities of the war as he is of warfare’s seduction over him. His newest book, Hotels, Hospitals and Jails: A Memoir, was released in June 2012 by Hachette Book Group.
Some of you may remember Laura van den Berg from her visit to Washington College last spring. Laura was the 2012 Mary Wood Fellow and shared with us some of her incredible work …
Many of you have probably seen that the Lit House has a subscription to One Teen Story, and so far we have received 3 issues. The first issue was “The Deadline” by Gayle Forman; second issue was “The Freshwater Mermaid” by Gregory Maguire, which most people will recognize as the author of Wicked. The third issue is by the 2012 Mary Wood Fellow, Laura van den Berg.
Anyone who has ever read a Laura van den Berg story knows that they are engaging, well written and for lack of a better word, different. My personal favorite story of hers is one titled “Mansion,” about a group of three people who live in a house that they call the Mansion. It would be better for you to read it than watch me type about it.
The story featured by One Teen Story is titled “The Greatest Escape” and I’ll let you read it rather than tell you about it.
No spoiler alerts needed in this blog post.
Back at the Crunchable Colloquium, WAC Alumnus Kevin Brotzman read a short story about “Sprickets.” Yes, sprickets, those awful ready-to-jump-and-land-on-you Camel Crickets that look like spiders.
It was a great short story and I think everyone has had some kind of run-in with Sprickets.
Recently I found out about a study being conducted at NC State called Camel Cricket Census. It turns about that the camel cricket that most of us have seen in creepy basements, dark closets, and quiet garden sheds, is actually a species that was brought over from Japan. Turns out that the Japanese cricket (with stripes) is much more common than the American cricket (without stripes).
So yourwildlife.org is
“Calling all eagle-eyed observers of wild life. Get ye too to your basements, crawl spaces, sheds, garages and other dark, damp corners of your home — We want you to join us on the hunt for camel crickets!”
Over the Christmas break, the Lit House will be participating in this study and donating the sprickets from our basement.
If you would like to participate and “donate” crickets in the name of science, please visit the links about and join the effort.
Idra Novey sat down with NPR’s Robert Siegel to talk about her day at All Things Considered.
Novey sat in on the daily meetings for Digital News and All Things Considered, and listened to editors and producers debate the day’s news. For Novey, some of the news discussed hit close to home. One of the stories covered gas rationing in New York City, which Brooklyn-based Novey had witnessed on her doorstep that morning. “There was a long line for gas at the gas station near where I live,” she said. “It was really strange to have seen something outside my own building, and then come here and see it discussed at the news table.”
To listen to her poem and to read the entire article, click on the link here.
Sorry deck dwellers, the Deck at the Lit House is now off limits to smoking …
It is a policy at Washington College smoking is prohibited with in 25 feet of all buildings. Using a standard tape measure shows that the entire Lit House deck is with in that 25 feet smoke-free zone. Due to this new information, the cigarette receptacle has been removed and this rule will now be enforced.
Please respect this policy.