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New flash memoir

We have published a memoir by Amy Gordon in the form of a poem.

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dianagordonThe following interview was conducted by Joan Axelrod-Contrada, moderator of the Are You Ready? Submitting to Literary Journals panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference.

 

Why did you become a writer? When did the writing bug first bite you?

I wrote as an early teenager. I remember a long extended poem, “Black Jack,” in rhymed couplets about the riderless horse that followed JFK’s caisson, empty boots turned backwards in the stirrups to indicate a fallen leader. Freshman year in college I took my first creative writing class and was the only student ready with material. I’d never had any work critiqued before, and the professor used my sonnet to prove that the sonnet was dead. I’d also written a quirky short story about a date where the boy confessed he was Jesus, and the professor said the author was psychotic – at least that’s what I heard. I knew that wasn’t true and only thought, alarmed, I’m going to flunk creative writing. So I dropped the course, and went on to have a music career that took all my time and artistic energies. Years later, when I returned to writing, I finally honored the fact I’d been creating sonnets and short stories on my own when I was so young, and finally affirmed the sonnet is not dead!

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?

Re-reading and revision. That’s where a writer gets to marvel at what’s been created where nothing existed before, to enjoy what is, and then make it shine and bring it to its true self.

The most frustrating?

How hard it is to face the everydayness of the blank page.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

I’d like to tell you about what is poised, making the rounds in the hands of a wonderful agent at top publishing houses. Though no one has bitten yet, there has been a lot of praise. It’s a novel called GEOGRAPHY, about a family-less boy struggling to find home in the far northern islands of British Columbia in the 1960’s.

What inspired it?

The stories of men I’ve known who had difficult upbringings, foster care or abuse, and rather than blame their past, grew up to create the world as it should be. I started writing a composite account of their fictional childhoods, intending to write about heroes, but GEOGRAPHY became its own story.

You’re sitting on the Submitting to Literary Journals panel at this year’s conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

Submission is either daunting, if you haven’t done much of it, or odious, if you’ve done a lot. I know that as moderator it’s your hope that we give folks a leg up on the process. With special dispensation from the conference, I’m also sitting in on the afternoon panel called How To Stop Warding Off Poems and Learn to Love Them. Patricia Lee Lewis, Doug Anderson, and I will be talking about the difficult, obscure poems, how we’ve learned to enter them; we’ll be leading the group in a what we hope will be a revelatory experience with a short, difficult poem.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently juggling. Poems. 30 poems in November for The Center for New Americans. And the prequel to GEOGRAPHY set in Seattle 1925-1946, about the life of a prostitute – but whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably not like that. And a short story about a boy trying to get in between his mother and their neighbor as the adults are on the brink of an affair.

Where can we find you online?

I have a website for my editorial services. Or Google D M Gordon and Diana Gordon, (though there’s a Canadian Diana Gordon who writes poetry and paints).

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nailamoreiraThe following interview was conducted by Joan Axelrod-Contrada, moderator of the Submitting to Literary Journals panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference.

 

Why did you become a writer? When did the writing bug first bite you?

I’ve been a writer since childhood. I wrote my first poem when I was 8 years old. Some of my favorite ideas for stories still come from old notebooks that I kept throughout my childhood and teenage years.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?

The best moment in writing happens in the middle of the night when I’ve just written a Thing, and at least for that moment, it’s the Best Thing Ever. The high of that creative satisfaction is wonderful. I pace around the house until I’m calm enough to go back to sleep.

The most frustrating?

The most frustrating part is when the Best Thing Ever turns out to be the Worst Thing Ever when I look at it again the next morning. Fortunately, the pendulum usually swings to the middle eventually.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

My newest chapbook of poetry is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, release date still undetermined. It’s called WATER STREET and reflects on the tension between freedom and domesticity.

What inspired it?

I lived for some years in a beautiful studio apartment on Water Street, overlooking the Mill River. The light and solitude were amazing. I’m a birdwatcher and naturalist, with a doctorate in geology, so I have a deep attachment to the natural world. The minks, bats, frogs, spiders, and wasps that kept me company, as well as the plants and trees and the river itself, appear throughout the poetry, each time carrying along a symbolic tail.

You’re sitting on the Submitting to Literary Journals panel at this year’s conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

Among other things, I’ll be describing resources available to encourage writers to get their work submitted, in particular the Submissions and Revisions group I’m running as Writer in Residence at the Forbes Library. We gather around the same table to work on submissions and to gain confidence from each other’s presence.

What are you working on now?

I’m in process on a children’s book about a young girl who is a naturalist against the odds. I’m also working on a book of thematically related adult short stories.

Read more at Naila’s blog.

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We have published the first two flash memoir entries in our newly launched journal, by Laura Elizabeth Nelson and Patricia Lee Lewis. Please take a look! We will be posting more soon.

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gabrielSquailiabyBillWrightThis interview was conducted by Ilya Parker, panel moderator for Extraordinary Seeds at this year’s WriteAngles conference.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

It was kind of an always thing. I remember thinking up books as young as seven or eight. I had my mother transcribe my first attempt, because she was a newspaper editor and typed impossibly fast. As I went through elementary school I got more serious and mapped my first fantasy world. Then I picked a random kid and had him draw a line on the map: the hero’s journey. Then I built the plot around it.

Okay, how long did it take you to write DEAD BOYS?

DeadBoysIt depends on what you consider writing. I had the idea for the world in 2000, but the first draft was absolutely awful, with nothing worth keeping. I kept kicking the idea around, and years later I tried what I call the William S. Burroughs version, which had the physical comedy that ended up staying. The final version took me a year and a half, full time. Then my editor and I pulled it apart for about four more months. So depending on how you calculate it, it’s either fourteen years or almost two.

Are you working on DEAD BOYS II?

No, what I’m working on is a cousin, but not directly related. The seed of the idea came from what would have been DEAD BOYS II, but I decided not to do anything further in the “Land of the Dead,” at least for now. This one is inverted, with living characters. This story uses life and vital organs to talk about death and mourning, whereas DEAD BOYS is a book that is pretending to be about death and is really about life, about how to deal with existence.

You have been writing your whole life and your first novel just came out about six months ago. You’ve made the transition from writer to published author. What are the differences?

I’ve seen two things happen simultaneously. On one hand I have a lot more confidence. My psychic water level has risen, the doubt has quieted. At the same time, I don’t think as highly of myself or my work. It used to feel more like I was a misunderstood genius. Now it feels like I’m very, very fortunate to be allowed to write books. The criticism that I levy at myself hurts less, while seeming more valid.

Has it changed your writing practice?

In terms of the writing itself, it’s not as if I’m sitting down and feeling the eyes of many readers scrutinizing what I’m doing. I’m mainly thinking of how it sounds to me. I read everything aloud. If it sounds like garbage, I throw it away. The difference, in terms of process, is that after I’m done, I just don’t regard it as finished anymore. It used to be that I’d write something, I’d polish it, and I’d consider that the finished product. Almost as if I was challenging the world to disagree with what I had done. It was hard for me to believe any editor was going to find any fault with it. [He laughs.] That is a form of arrogance that has been smacked out of me in the best possible way.

What are your goals moving forward?

I have no idea what kind of books I’m going to be writing five or ten years from now, and I like that. Right now my goal is to see what happens when I produce more quickly, when I’m less precious. What happens when I produce a book every year or two? The writers that I’d like to emulate tend to be prolific. That’s what I’m more interested in right now, instead of laboring over perfect works, or shooting for a really wide audience.

I’ve noticed you are very active on Facebook. I’ve seen poetry there. Are you a poet as well as a fantasy novelist?

I have what Lawrence Ferlinghetti termed poetry seizures. I write poetry for extended periods and I can’t stop. Then when it’s done, it’s done. I don’t miss it when it’s gone, but when it’s there I can’t turn it off. The reason that I put everything I did on Facebook over those two years or so was because my focus was on being accessible as a writer and as a human. It made sense to me to try to appeal to people directly as I could, and composing explicitly for status updates seemed like as good a way as any.

Do you have any favorite interview questions?

Not yet. I’ve gotten used to the questions people ask when I’m at Barnes and Noble, foisting my books on strangers. What’s interesting is that those questions tend to be the same in a single bookstore, but they change from one to the next. In Albany everyone wanted to know how long it took, while Kingston was more philosophical.

More about Gabriel.

Author photo by Bill Wright

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HollyWrenSpauldingThe following interview with Holly Wren Spaulding was conducted by Liz Bedell, moderator of the Doing What You Love panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference.

Why did you become a writer? When did the writing bug first bite you?
I arrived in this world with writer’s DNA hidden in my cells, and because I grew up in a home full of books and readers and artists, my tendencies were encouraged. Without a TV to hold our attention, we were encouraged to entertain ourselves by making stuff up, drawing, acting, dancing it and making-believe. This served me well.

I wrote my first full-blown story (with chapters!) at age nine: my mother typed while I dictated an adventure tale about a girl who travels to Moscow to study ballet. In high school I was lucky enough to work with a poet through an Artist in the Schools program. The experience of finding my artistic kin was definitive. He was my first mentor and helped me begin my formal education as a poet

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?
While there are real hazards to making one’s life in art, I wake up every day feeling so glad that I get to do this all day long. I’m free. I’m not in traffic, and I’m not spending my days in a big climate controlled office building, serving some corporation. As I see it, each day that’s my own, and each day that’s not owned by someone else, is a victory against all of the ways that it’s possible to waste my life.

Then there’s the reward (small, usually private, very quiet and very dear) of the poem itself. And that is another essential freedom. With poems I’m learning to live better by paying attention, by looking close, and by making the time to attend my experience with every part of myself.

The most frustrating?
Working for myself is existentially challenging. The frustration is how much of my life force goes into managing the uncertainty of my economic condition, and into reminding myself that it matters that I do this work. But so far I’ve proven to be constitutionally prepared for the bare knuckling that’s involved in this path, probably because I grew up within an immersive counter culture that critiqued capitalism and articulated its discontents.

Another thing is the pressure to market and promote one’s self and work. I would prefer to maintain my privacy. I would prefer to ignore social media for the most part. And I really and truly don’t care for the hustle that’s so much a part of the business of publishing. I find this not only frustrating, but unseemly and very much at odds with my ethos and sensibility. I’m not a writer so that people will know my name, or take interest in my clever quips via Twitter. I would prefer to read and write and think and teach. But that’s probably how most writers feel!

Can you tell us about your latest release?
This month marks the release of Pilgrim (Alice Green & Co.), a collection of what I’ve come to think of as epistles from the interior life of a solitary narrator interested in where and how the mundane meets the metaphysical. These poems are often under the influence of ancient Japanese poetic forms, and they’re attentive to the natural world, to the senses, to the body and the question of belonging.

What inspired it?
The collection took shape after about a year of writing more or less every morning. I was closing out my thirties and while I’d completed another full-length manuscript, I needed a new project; something that would feel more immediate and satisfying than the process of trying to publish those earlier poems. I’d just moved to Massachusetts and I wrote these poems from a sort of exile, I guess. I wrote them to keep company with myself.

I give my editor, Jill Peek, credit for recognizing which poems out of the many I submitted to her, belonged together. I really wanted to make something clear and intimate and delicate and I think we accomplished that with Pilgrim.

You’re sitting on the Doing What You Love: Sustaining Your Writerly Practice panel at this year’s conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?
It’s easy to talk about these things, but to I tend to think that a lot of talk is cheap whereas “direct action gets the goods,” which is an expression associated with the Industrial Workers of the World, and others who organize to change the conditions of their labor.

My approach to this conversation is concrete and practical because I like solutions. I’m planning to bring my best ideas for how to address some of the common challenges we face when we sit down to work, and some suggestions for precipitating breakthroughs. I’ll want to talk about how to act serious if what we’re truly serious about writing. I’ll also bring a resource list and some writing prompts.

What are you working on now?
I’m thinking a lot about how to share this new book in a way that feels authentic and true to the work. I’m hoping to collaborate with a letterpress artist to create broadsides of some of the poems because I’m increasingly interested in the visual dimension of the poem. I am working on an idea for an outdoor installation and reading of the work, and unrelated to Pilgrim, I’m designing a workshop for high school art students in which we’ll create a large scale, collaborative installation using projected text, recorded heartbeats and instrumentation. It’s all related to my wish to find ways of bringing poetry off the page into other parts of life.

Where can we find you online?
My website www.hollywrenspaulding.com and I blog about poetry and teaching at www.thepoetryforge.com. You can find out more about my workshops, retreats and creative mentoring in both of those places.

Is there anything you would like to add?
Where a sustainable writing practice is concerned, it’s helpful to be among those who are similarly serious about their work. It’s helpful to cultivate a few trusted readers—or even one—who will engage you in conversations about what you’re doing. Certain books are especially good companions in the process, and I often recommend Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit, and fellow panelist, Christian McEwen’s lovely book The World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down. Finally, I don’t know what I would do without the influence and ongoing apprenticeship of the other poets I love and read every day. They show me the way.

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The two talented poets presenting WriteAngles October panel “Word Play” have each released new works of poetry this summer with a brand new press devoted to local writers. HIGH LONESOME by Patricia Lee Lewis of Westhampton, Massachusetts, and NIGHTLY, AT THE INSTITUTE OF THE POSSIBLE, by D M Gordon of Leeds, are inaugural books of poetry for Hedgerow Books, a new, independent press devoted to the literary voices of Western Massachusetts. From Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century to Tracy Kidder, Ann Fadiman, and Richard Wilbur, award winning authors abound in the area and, among their neighbors, are many undiscovered gems. It is these new writers, yet unsung, that Hedgerow Books seeks to cultivate and promote. In fact, Hedgerow recently put out a call for new submissions.

Each book offers its own particular gifts. NIGHTLY, AT THE INSTITUTE OF THE POSSIBLE lives in realms where imagination is the last frontier, but is grounded in earthly reality. HIGH LONESOME starts in the pastureland of west Texas and reaches into the collective unconscious. From the witness of buzzard chicks “their eyes luminous…their mouths lined with gold,” (Lewis), to the last flight of the phoenix, “the whistle of its tail–a feathered river jeweled with tangled wires and hooks,” (Gordon), these poems contain rare beauty and reach a reader’s emotional core.

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