In anticipation of Zadie Smith’s first short story collection, Grand Union (Penguin Press, 2019), an interview with the author was published in September in Marie Claire. When asked about whether living in the United States and England affects her writing, Smith responded, “I think of myself as somebody not at home, I suppose. Not at home anywhere, not at home ever. But I think of that as a definition of a writer: somebody not at home, not comfortable in themselves in their supposed lives.” Write the opening line of a short story from the perspective of a character who is experiencing a feeling of not belonging. How do you convey this sentiment in one sentence? If this first sentence inspires more, continue on with the story.
The 2020 Sonoma County Writers Camps will be held from April 29 to May 3, August 5 to August 9, and September 30 to October 4, at the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Occidental, California. The conference features generative workshops in fiction and memoir, panels by authors and agents, and master classes, as well as optional meditative dream writing and student readings. The faculty includes fiction writer Ellen Sussman and fiction and nonfiction writer Elizabeth Stark. The cost of the conference, including lodging and meals, ranges from $1,795 to $1,995, depending on lodging.
In the December 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine, photographer Corey Arnold writes about an expedition last winter to change the batteries in the radio collar of a black bear in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park that he assumed would be hibernating. The bear turned out to be awake, which made the adventure more adventurous than expected. Write a short story in which your main character is operating under the assumption that an upcoming activity will be safe, but at a crucial moment discovers that danger is lurking. How do you ramp up the sense of anxiety and tension? Does your protagonist respond calmly or with panic when confronted with a sudden terror?
The Poison Pen Reading Series holds events in a bar called the Poison Girl Cocktail Lounge. The series has been going for twelve years, just a little longer than Houston VIP Slam (which I featured last week), but functions in a very different way. The series brings three writers together who read on the outside patio of the lounge. Audience members get to relax in a space under the stars and listen to literary works from writers from Houston and beyond.
The readings are usually hosted by Scott Repass, one of the owners of the lounge, and start at 8:00 PM on every third Thursday of the month. The featured readers vary for each event, but most times, audience members will get the opportunity to hear from at least one writer from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, a writer from the Houston literary community, and a visiting writer from outside of Houston. Writers share work from all genres including poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
I have been to many Poison Pen readings and have had the pleasure of being a featured reader, the last time was this past July when I was honored to share the stage with poet Natasha Carrizosa and fiction writer Robert Liddell. The readings are always jam-packed, standing room only in most cases, so if you plan to attend, get there early for a drink and to find a good seat for the reading. It’s worth it.Houston@pw.org or on Twitter, @houstonpworg.
“I had to imagine the life of characters who shared some of my own history but had their own unique ways of being in the world.” —Jeffrey Colvin, author of Africaville
The 26th annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway will be held from January 17 to January 20 at Seaview Hotel, a resort near Atlantic City, New Jersey. The program, sponsored by Murphy Writing of Stockton University, offers workshops in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction, as well as one-on-one tutorials, featured readings, and open mics. The faculty includes poets Renée Ashley, Denise Duhamel, Yusef Komunyakaa, Laura McCullough, and Peter E. Murphy; fiction writers Judith Lindbergh and Paul Lisicky; and creative nonfiction writers Tom McAllister and Mimi Schwartz.
Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway, Murphy Writing of Stockton University, 30 Front Street, Hammonton, NJ 08037. (609) 626-3594. Peter Murphy, Founder, and Taylor Coyle, Coordinator.
Wellspring House offers residencies of one week to three months year-round to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers, on five acres of land in Ashfield, Massachusetts. The retreat accommodates five residents at a time in a converted carriage house and provides private working and living quarters, as well as a large communal space that features a kitchen, living room with fireplace, enclosed sunroom, patio, and gardens. The cost of the residency ranges from $310 to $360 per week, depending on residency room and season.
Wellspring House Retreat, P.O. Box 2006, Ashfield, MA 01330. (413) 628-3276. John T. Howard and Aubrey Crosby, Writers-in-Residence.
The Orion in the Wilderness retreat, cosponsored by the Omega Institute, will be held from March 8 to March 14 at the American Museum of Natural History’s Southwestern Research Station in Cave Creek Canyon in Portal, Arizona, surrounded by the Chiricahua Mountains, known for its abundant bird life and hiking trails. The retreat includes workshops, readings, lectures, manuscript consultations with faculty, presentations on local ecology and lore, and optional birding and hikes for poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers.
Orion in the Wilderness, Orion Magazine, 187 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230.