»

| Give a Gift |

  • Digital Edition

Poets & Writers Blogs

Jorge Luis Borges once said, “I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.” Libraries are fascinating places, full of knowledge and mystery. Think of a library you’ve been to in the past. It could be the local library you went to as a kid to look at picture books, or a library you visited once to kill time. Take this library and use it as the setting for the beginning of a new story. Consider the librarian on duty, the regulars, the dark corners, and old books with strange, scribbled notes. What brings people to this library? What are they trying to find?

As the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter, it may be a nice time to gather some friends and write together. This week, try writing a renga, or “linked poem.” The first poet begins by writing a stanza that is three lines long and contains seventeen syllables. The next poet adds the second stanza, a couplet with seven syllables per line. The third stanza repeats the structure of the first, and the fourth mimics the second, and so on, until the poem comes to an end. To make sure the poem has a narrative arc, each poet writes his or her new stanza by referring to the stanza immediately preceding it. 

Rose Mary Salum (Mexico) is the founder and director of the award-winning bilingual magazine Literal, Latin American Voices. She is the author of Delta de las arenas, cuentos arabes, cuentos judíos (Literal Publishing, 2013), Spaces in Between (Literal Publishing, 2006), a book of short stories, and co-author of Vitrales (Edamex/Mexico, 1994). Her poems and short stories have been included in anthologies in the United States, Argentina, Mexico, India, Australia, and Spain. She has published fiction and essays in many periodicals. Salum has received international awards for her literary and editorial work including the 2014 International Latino Book Award, the Council of Editors of Learned Journals (CELJ) Best New Journal for 2006, and four Lone Star Awards, among others.

Rose Mary Salum

What makes your press and its programs unique?
Well, for some reason the word unique feels a bit ambitious. However, what we have tried to accomplish all these years at Literal is to try and bring the most established authors from Latin America into the consciousness of American readers.

What recent project and/or program have you been especially proud of and why?
I’m happy about a few of them. We recently invited David Miklos, a very well-established writer in Mexico, for an event. People fell in love with him because he unveiled very intimate family situations that engaged the audience. These powerful themes run through much of his work. Another excellent author and thinker who has joined us is Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez. People wrote us afterwards asking for more writers like him. The thing is that when we bring these authors to Houston, Texas, we create not only awareness, but also a liaison that connects people to their roots.

What’s the craziest (or funniest or most moving or most memorable) thing that’s happened at an event you’ve hosted?
When David Miklos was speaking about both his adoptive mother and his biological mother, the latter was there in the audience, not understanding what he was talking about. She didn’t know him well (this was the second time she saw him after more than forty years) and yet, her eyes were sparkling with joy. It was touching, but at the same time mind-blowing. Did she feel regret? Was she happy that he became such a successful person? All these questions were on everyone’s minds, and yet, the audience received her presence with such welcoming warmth.

How do you cultivate an audience?
With the magazine, the books we produce, the cultural events, social media… with everything that we can think of!!!  In a world that is bombarded with so much information, invitations, activities, reminders, and so on, it’s hard to cultivate a faithful audience, but we try.

How has running a press impacted your own writing and/or life?
I’ve learned so many things on so many levels that it would take me weeks to explain. In fact, I’m tempted to write a memoir only related to what I’ve learned, who I have met, and the funny stories that accompany the kind of work I do.

What do you consider to be the value of small presses in your community?
In my opinion, they are the ones that bring the jewels of the world of literature to readers. The larger publishing houses are more concentrated on what they will sell to pay every month’s commitments. Sometimes the quality they offer is not as great as what the small presses bring to the public. Small presses are the ones that take more risks to open spaces for new and talented authors.

Photo: Rose Mary Salum

Support for Readings & Workshops events in Houston is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

This week, look at a day in your life through the eyes of an ancestor. How would your grandmother react to the e-mails you get at work? How would your great-great-grandfather navigate modern public transportation? Write a diary entry in the voice of someone from an earlier generation. Consider the cultural norms of the time period your ancestor grew up in as well as his or her personality. Focus on the surprising similarities in your daily lives for a challenge.

At their annual benefit and awards dinner held last night in New York City, the Center for Fiction announced Tiphanie Yanique as the winner of the 2014 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize. Yanique, who won for her debut novel, Land of Love and Drowning (Riverhead Books, 2014), will receive $10,000. The annual prize is given for a debut novel published in the previous year.

Yanique was chosen from a shortlist of seven debut novelists. The shortlisted finalists, who each received $1,000, were Rene Denfeld for The Enchanted (Harper), Smith Henderson for Fourth of July Creek (Ecco), Josh Weil for The Great Glass Sea (Grove Press), Vanessa Manko for The Invention of Exile (The Penguin Press), Ted Thompson for The Land of Steady Habits (Little, Brown), and Matthew Thomas for We Are Not Ourselves (Simon & Schuster). In July the Center for Fiction announced the longlist for the prize, which included twenty-six novelists. David Gilbert, Tayari Jones, and Margaret Wrinkle judged.

Yanique is the author of a short story collection, How to Escape From a Leper Colony (Graywolf Press, 2010), and a picture book, I Am the Virgin Islands (Little Bell Caribbean, 2012). Land of Love and Drowning tells the story of two sisters and their half-brother orphaned after their parents die in a shipwreck. The novel takes place during the early 1900s in the Virgin Islands. In a video from our Poets & Writers Live event in New York City last June, Yanique—along with four other authors— discusses her work, her process, and what inspires her to write.

Established in 2006, the Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize honors reporter and writer Ray Flaherty, the father of late writer Nancy Dunnan. Dunnan, who sponsored the award, passed away in August. Previous winners of the prize include Junot Díaz, Ben Fountain, Hannah Tinti, and Margaret Wrinkle.

Photo Credit: Debbie Grossman

It has never been easier to learn how to cook with culinary shows on television, tutorials on the internet, and an abundance of cookbooks and food blogs specializing in all sorts of cuisines. This week, write a scene in which one of your characters has sparked an interest in cooking. Does cooking come naturally to her, or is it difficult for her to master? Does she set lofty goals, like winning a competition?

This week, write a whimsical, nonsensical poem about a creature you’ve dreamt up. Try to let go of the meanings associated with the words you use every day when describing this creature. Instead, use words as springboards for weird associations, as colors in a vast mural. Let your mind run wild and hang on for the ride. For inspiration, read Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.” 

Brian Castner is the author of The Long Walk (Doubleday, 2012), an Amazon Best Book of 2012 and Chautauqua Literary & Scientific Circle selection for 2013. His writing has appeared in Wired, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Outsideand on National Public Radio. Castner is the co-founder of Buffalo, Books & Beer, a new literary series in his hometown of Buffalo, New York.

We’re all still learning how to come home from a war. Veterans struggle to readjust, civilians and family wonder how to welcome back their changed loved ones. We shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves; Odysseus had trouble, too.

This truism of history still applies: Every veteran saw their own war, had their own individual experience, were exposed to their own proportion of terror and transcendence, and deal with their own mix of pride and regret. It follows, then, that no single national program or strategy will best welcome home all these men and women.

For some veterans, though, writing helps. Trauma therapy for some, but for most, just a human need to share an experience with others. The same could be said for the country at large, of course; narrative helps all of us make sense of our lives.

Inclusivity. This is what spurs Words After War, a literary nonprofit based in New York City, to organize workshops and events around the country. Rather than focusing on writing for a small circle of military peers, Words After War instead creates opportunities for veterans and civilians to speak to each other. It’s an effort to bridge the civilian-military divide, one story at a time.

This past semester, with support from Poets & Writers, I led a Words After War workshop on the campus of Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. On Tuesday evenings, war was a lens through which to read and write and think about the same topics that have always preoccupied writers. Many traditional workshops use this lens model, we simply considered violence and its aftermath instead of environmentalism or realism or faith or any other typical construct. 

There is no good writing without good reading, so we started each session with Whitman or Hemingway or Vonnegut or Klay (who visited our class just weeks before he won the National Book Award). We studied classics, but also new work from Siobhan Fallon, Brian Turner, and Hassan Blasim, and two post-Vietnam books, Qais Akbar Omar’s A Fort of Nine Towers and Larry Heinemann’s Paco’s Story. What better way to start than to put great sentences—moving sentences, jarring sentences, and imperfect sentences—in everyone’s ears? An ice-breaker, for the workshopping that followed.

I’d like to think that the strength of our program is to be found in the stories we wrote and the precision and quality of the feedback we provided each other. To judge our success in bridging the civilian-military divide, we could parse the demographics of our group (five veterans/six civilians, four women/seven men, three graduates of creative writing programs, three retirees, a lawyer, a photographer, a poet, an anthropology professor, a magazine editor, an author of four books, one that had not written in decades), but I’d rather examine the work we produced.

Some stories you would expect from a veteran writing group—a nighttime raid in Afghanistan, a day on the gunnery range in basic training—but most may surprise. A dying grandmother who keeps a secret to the end of her life. A son with nightmares while his father fights in Iraq. Travels in Korea. A meditation in a snow-filled graveyard. We workshopped prose poems and flash fiction, chapters from novels, and a Civil War biography told through letters. Some stories had a military connection, but plenty did not; grief and love are grief and love, after all.  

In short, a veteran writing workshop looks a lot like any other serious literary class. Because at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to produce good writing; Hemmingway’s one true sentence.

Photo (top): Don Bond, Brian Castner at a teaching workshop. Photo (center): Brittany Gray. Photo (bottom): Marilyn Rochester. Photo Credit: Words After War

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, A.K. Starr Charitable Trust and Friends of Poets & Writers. 

After hosting its first writing contest last spring, the literary travel magazine Nowhere is currently accepting submissions to its inaugural Fall Travel Writing Contest. Both fiction and nonfiction entries are eligible. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication.

The Nowhere editors are “looking for young, old, novice and veteran voices to send us stories that possess a powerful sense of place.” Using the online submission system, writers may submit stories and essays between 800 and 5,000 words with a $15 entry fee by January 1. Works that have been previously published are eligible, but must not have been chosen as a contest winner. Lorin Stein, the editor of the Paris Review, will judge.

Founded by travel journalist Porter Fox, Nowhere magazine began as a web zine in 2009 and relaunched as a digital quarterly in 2013. “We are a magazine about the world,” the editors write. “The Nowhere staff values the ties that travel and cultural exchange foster….Our writers—and readers—are the kind of people who still look out a plane window in awe. We don’t just see places, we see people, culture, diversity and commonality. Travel to us—like any good pastime—is a game of reinvention, of who you are and how you interact with your world.”

Visit the Nowhere website to learn more about the magazine, and to read the current issue. Or check out the video below.

First we had “Black Friday.” Then came “Cyber Monday,” and now, “Gray Thursday.” Holiday shopping is unavoidable, and these deal days have almost achieved a holiday status all their own. This week, write a short personal essay about your attitude towards holiday shopping. Do you look forward to it, or do you dread it? Do you plan to finish your shopping all at once, or do you space it out and plan ahead? 

Do you remember how you used to play with toys as a child? If you sat down today with your blocks, your old train set, or your favorite doll, the way you’d interact with these toys would probably be very different than when you were five or six years old. This week, try and enter the mind of a child crouched on the living room floor, building a world fueled by imagination, and translate it into a short story. Think of the weird names kids give to their toys, and the strange logic that comes from the innocence of trying to grasp mature concepts. Good examples can be found in The Lego Movie, which came out earlier this year.

Sometimes keeping a secret can seem like the most daunting task in the world. This week, write a poem to someone about a secret you’ve been wanting to tell him or her. Play with metaphor, perhaps leaving the subject open to interpretation. 

Amber Atiya is the author of the chapbook The Fierce Bums of Doo-wop (Argos Books, 2014). Her poems have been published most recently in Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of ColorBoston ReviewBlack Renaissance NoireAtlas Review, and Apogee Journal. A proud native Brooklynite, she is a member of a women's writing group that will be celebrating thirteen years next spring.

Question: Where does a word-rich, money-poor poet from Flatbush inevitably end up?

Answer: At the food stamp office.

Office of clients in faux furs and bubble coats, of institutional green walls like the abortion clinic I accompanied a friend to. Land of city workers, collecting mugshots and electronic fingerprints, "to cut down on fraud," as one supervisor claimed, through a mouth full of jelly beans. The chaos of the food stamp office—aka the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)—has been great fodder for writing practice. Security guards escorting irate clients from the waiting area; the man who kept yelling at case workers to “check the schematics,” told me all he wanted was to cook a nice meal for his fifty-third birthday; the stranger who chatted me up during my train ride to the SNAP center, teaching me a spell to make a man fall hard (hint: it involves Haitian rum and drilling a hole into an apple), and pulling out his Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to show me a picture of himself, femmed up, in a bobbed wig.

These are moments I live for as a writer, scribbling notes in the margins of a SNAP booklet ("What You Should Know About Your Rights & Responsibilities") or on the back of a voter registration form I’ll never use. Occasionally, these moments become poems, a couple of which appear in my chapbook, The Fierce Bums of Doo-wop, recently published by Argos Books. (Shout out to my nephew J----, who checked my ego by constantly asking, “Ams, what’s the name of your book again?” Only to walk off, chuckling, before I could answer.)

My mentor, musician and writer Norman Riley (the “Great Sage of Hell’s Kitchen”), once advised me to say, “yes” to any creative opportunity that felt right, that allowed me to sleep at night. I’ve performed at over ten events so far this year, which for a poet making chump change, has been financially challenging.

Two of these amazing shows were funded, fully or in part, by Poets & Writers. “Celebrating a Sacred Space for Women’s Voices” was curated by JP Howard, poet and creator of Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon (love to my co-features: Keisha-Gaye Anderson, Charleen McClure, and Cheryl Boyce-Taylor). And a reading at Bluestockings Bookstore in New York City was organized by poet Cathy Linh Che (dap to my co-readers: Wo Chan, Cathy Linh Che, Paul Tran, and Javier Zamora).

Real talk: It feels good to be compensated for my writerly endeavors, to not be entirely stressed about how much money’s left—or ain’t left—for my subway fare after a gig. (And I can testify that travel reimbursement goes a long way, all you reading series curators out there. Ten events times $5.00 is…) It feels good to have pocket change for everyday living expenses, to support other poets’ events, a little something-something in my purse for the $8 cover or two-drink minimum plus tip. Thank you for allowing me that, Poets & Writers.

It’s still a struggle from one day to the next, don’t get it twisted. Call me a stubborn Capricorn with Virgo rising. Call me a woman about her business: A chapbook welcomed into the world with the best launch ever (I see you, Krystal Languell, Cynthia Manick, and Betsy Fagin!); an upcoming Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon workshop that I’m facilitating, co-sponsored by Poets & Writers; and a couple of events scheduled for 2015, dates pending. 

Call me a New York poet knee-deep in blessings.

Photo (top): Amber Atiya reading at Poets House. Photo Credit: Arnold Adler

Photo (bottom): Akinfe Fatou, Amber Atiya, and JP Howard at the chapbook launch for The Fierce Bums of Doo-wop. Photo Credit: Ed Toney

Support for Readings & Workshops in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Louis & Anne Abrons Foundation, the Axe-Houghton Foundation, A.K. Starr Charitable Trust and Friends of Poets & Writers. 

Thanksgiving is a holiday of abundance, good will, good company, and most importantly, good food. We all have our favorites—that platter or dish we set strategically in front of us and hope nobody asks us to pass. This week, write about the one item in your Thanksgiving feast that you look forward to every year. Is it something you make? If not, who usually makes it? Is it a secret family recipe? In an age when most dishes can be purchased or made on any day of the year, take a moment to reflect on how certain dishes become special. 

11.26.14

From: The Time Is Now

When writing, we usually employ as many senses as we (or our characters) typically experience. Take a scene you’ve already written and tally how many times touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell are used to describe the environment, characters, and action of the story. Which one do you rely the most heavily upon in your writing? Remove all of the instances in which that sense is used, and use an alternative sense in its place. How does this affect the tone, the action, or the scene as a whole? 

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 next > last >>

1 - 15 of 1576 results

Subscribe to P&W Magazine | Donate Now | Advertise | Sign up for E-Newsletter | Help | About Us | Contact Us | View Mobile Site

© Copyright Poets & Writers 2014. All Rights Reserved