Yuko Tsushima’s novel Territory of Light, translated from the Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in February, was originally released serially in a Japanese monthly, from 1978 to 1979, to correspond with the book’s twelve sections, which span a single year. Throughout the text, certain observations mark transformations in physical surroundings: the length and temperature of the days, the changing light and shadows, a daughter’s birthday. Other shifts have more interior significance: interactions with various neighbors, the behavior of the daughter at school. Write a personal essay consisting of one section per month, covering the events of the past year. Focus on one situation or incident each month, and allow this event to associatively lead you to other memories or ruminations about relationships in your life. Bring in specific and timely details about the environment, setting, or special occasions that inspire you to reflect on the passage of time.
The unofficial Smith College Historic Clothing Collection is home to three thousand dresses, suits, and accessories worn from the nineteenth century to today, showcasing a wide variety of women’s social uniforms across a diverse range of economic backgrounds. Search online for photos and advertisements of everyday work attire or casual wear from the last century or two, and write a personal essay that contemplates how the outfits differ from what you wear and see worn on others in the present day. What clues can you derive about the culture and its values—in terms of gender, workforce, or class—from the clothing worn back then? How does that carry through to what you wear today?
Can refrigerator contents lead to a love connection? Refrigerdating is an app that works with Samsung’s Family Hub Refrigerator, a four thousand dollar appliance with a built-in camera and touchscreen door, and allows you to browse ice box contents of potential dates for compatibility. Write a personal essay that considers the contents of your own fridge, and compares it with what’s inside the fridge of a friend, family member, or foe. How are your personalities and habits apparent in your preserved food choices? What might be misconstrued or misrepresentative?
Jamie Moore is the author of the novella, Our Small Faces (ELJ Publications, 2013). Her work has been published in magazines including TAYO Literary Magazine and the Nervous Breakdown. She is a professor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California, and executive director of the Watchale Workshop.
California’s Central Valley has a surprisingly rich literary history, and the Watchale Workshop team has learned a few things about our literary community. Firstly, it is a community centered around Fresno, the city hub of the Central Valley and location of the nearest MFA program, which makes many of the literary events inaccessible to community members in the south part of the region, particularly writing students at the College of the Sequoias, where I teach. Secondly, many events are focused on a single genre—poetry—perhaps as a result of the success of poets from the area. Lastly, and of greatest concern to us, many literary events are focused on and organized by men. Knowing the rich diversity of writers in our area, the Watchale Workshop aimed to showcase what more the Central Valley has to offer with our inaugural day-long event full of workshops and lectures that took place on April 6 at the College of the Sequoias.
The idea for Watchale started as a conversation between fellow writers over coffee. The four of us at Watchale were brought together by a desire to create opportunities for writers like us: POC, queer, emerging. After recruiting a student team in September 2018, Watchale was conceptualized, the name derived from Sandra Cisneros’s poem “Loose Woman.” We wanted to make a statement: Watch out! We’re coming for you! We’ve been here! We’re ready to be heard!
With our mission statement in mind—to create an alternative narrative of our literary community—we carefully curated a lineup of writers that put women and queer voices at the center of our literary conversation. We invited women writers who not only had Central Valley connections, but those we knew would help us create a space for our student writers to be included in the larger literary community. I wanted Watchale to complement the women-centered literary groups already doing work in Fresno, such as Fresno Women Read and Women Writers of Color Central Valley. This was our festival to shine.
And shine we did. In the morning, generative workshops in several genres led by P&W–supported writers Ife-Chudeni Oputa, Monique Quintana, and Wendy C. Ortiz encouraged participants to pick up their pens and get writing. Oputa’s workshop focused on the theme of “Ownership,” asking emerging poets to consider the duality of ownership, and what we owe to ourselves and our communities.
After a rousing reading with Sara Borjas and Wendy C. Ortiz, participants gathered for craft lectures on topics like community organizing, freedom and futurity, scene writing, poetry structure, and self-publishing. The evening reading celebrated both our student readers from the College of the Sequoias Quill Creative Writing Club and our featured writers of the workshop.
Students and community members were invigorated by a literary space that felt like us, of us, for us. I deeply believe we served that purpose and thus, Watchale became the literary event of my dreams. Watchale is a love letter to the Central Valley and to the writers who’ve been missing from the narrative thus far. We’re here now.
Support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.Photo: (from left to right) Marcus Moreno, Jamie Moore, Martin Velasco Ramos, Destina Hernandez, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Sara Borjas (Credit: Marcus Moreno).
The editor of What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About discusses the mother wound, the importance of writing our bodies, and editing some of her favorite writers.
The Gotham Writers Conference will be held from October 25 to October 26 at the Ace Hotel in New York City. Sponsored by the Gotham Writers Workshop, the event is open to fiction and nonfiction writers. The first day of the conference features panels, presentations, and a happy hour; the second day of the conference features pitching roundtables with literary agents. The faculty includes fiction writers Susan Breen, Seth Fried, and Kody Keplinger; and nonfiction writer Kim Liao. Participating agents include Kurestin Armada (P.S.
Gotham Writers Conference, Gotham Writers Workshop, 555 8th Avenue, Suite 1402, New York, NY 10018. (212) 974-8377.