Archive for October, 2010

A Short Review: Bruce Weigl’s What Saves Us By Kurt Z. Geisler

Posted: October 27, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Poetry, Review

What I like most about Bruce Weigl’s book, What Saves Us, is the narrative voice throughout most of his poems. As readers follow Weigl’s speaker from a cafe’ in barrio Las Americas to a deer bed made under an apple tree, they discover that these jumps from place to place progress the same way as jumps from memory to memory.

Weigl creates a persona within the book that is looking for forgiveness. We sense this at the very start, in the poem “Her Life Runs Like a Silk Flag”, where the speaker visits a Vietnamese woman in Hanoi. Although very descriptive, with images of him holding her “shy unmoving fingers” as she tells him how the fear of being bombed “dug inside her like a worm and lives/ inside her still, wont die or go away”, the poem raises the question why is he there? until she tells him he is not to blame. From there, the poem goes from being about the woman to being about the speaker in his search for forgiveness for the violence committed during the Vietnam War.

We see this need for forgiveness reoccur also in the poem “Blues in the Afterworld”, when the speaker reflects upon touching himself out in the field during war. At the start of the poem, readers are greeted with a scene that describes so much in such a small space:

“I remember a wild apple tree
alone in a field where deer had lain
and made a bed in the long leaves of grass
where I slept with a gun
in my hands
and woke in rain
misting on the leaves
and on the hard apple’s redness
abandoned to the rattling branches.”

What follows is a confession by the speaker telling us “I have to say/ I put my gun down/ and opened my pants/ and touched myself.” The poem seeks to justify this action and does so, but by the end, the same feeling of the speaker seeking forgiveness hangs in the air with the question “why seek it from me?”

For me, the answer to this question comes from the ending of another poem, “The Offices of Loss.” Our speaker saves a boy from dying of a seizure and again, the reader is given a scene we’re not sure what to do with despite its beauty until we reach the last few lines:

“I’m always trapped between
things like that day
is why I have to tell this,
always of two minds,
singing the few songs
I know over and over,
their notes a gathering black
in the sky. An emptiness
does not abide in me.
An emptiness surrounds me.”

It is making sense of the emptiness around him that Weigl’s persona explores within What Saves Us. For me (and this may be a stretch), the speaker has already forgiven himself for his actions, thus releasing the emptiness which isn’t tolerated within himself and putting it in the open for readers to sift through in order to make their own judgment about forgiveness.

Kurt Z. Geisler

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Horror Writing Workshop with Andy Duncan

Posted: October 21, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Events, Fiction
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Earlier this week I attended a Horror Story Writing Workshop, that met at the Center for Creative Writing, with local author and Professor at Frostburg State University, Andy Duncan. The workshop was a great experience. After brief introductions, we got started by writing down stories we knew that had a paranormal element or just frightened us. The idea was to write about stories that stayed with us, whether in our own memory or because they are repeatedly recounted to us by family or friends. The stories took different forms: a description of an odd classmate, a nightmare that felt chillingly real, a scary practical joke, and an alien encounter that may or may not have been a dream.

After we shared our stories, we spent some time discussing the things that scare us. Our list was varied, ranging from the typical: lifelike dolls, clowns, ghosts; to the local: the basement of the Hotel Gunter; the specific: cornfields, toddler beauty queens, birds, relentlessly barking dogs; and the classic stuff of horror movies: intruders, oddly moving bodies, being chased, and space aliens.

After we discussed this large list, Andy let us browse a collection of horror anthologies he’s been published in, including Sympathy for the Devil and The Living Dead. He displayed a row of books with two World Fantasy awards as bookends (the statue is a large bust of H. P. Lovecraft).

Andy then shared some of his favorite openings to horror stories, and we discussed how these openings drew the reader into the story. The first was from Shirley Jackson’s classic horror novel, The Haunting of Hill House.

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.  The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

Other examples included lines by Stephen King, Joe Hill, and Harlan Ellison. After this, we got back to writing. Andy provided us with a choice of four concise opening lines by published authors and told us to begin our own stories with them. After, we shared what we had written. It was interesting to see what lines the participants chose and the direction the lines took them in. It was a great exercise in getting a story started.

Overall, the workshop was  fun and informative. I was glad to attend and participate with students, professors, and community members, and I’m looking forward to finishing the story I began during the evening.

If you are a local community member or student that writes horror fiction, I encourage you to submit to the Center for Creative Writing’s Spooky Story Contest. Entries must be under  750 words and mailed to cwcenter@frostburg.edu by Oct. 27 with the subject heading “spooky story.” All stories will be judged on originality, style, imagination and scariness. Winners will receive a $50 cash prize as well as publication on the Center’s website. Please include the author’s name, address, phone, and e-mail in the top left corner of the first page.  Stories should be double spaced with pages numbered and saved in .doc format. (No .docx files, please.)  Authors may submit up to three stories each. All participants are invited to read their scary stories on Thursday, Oct. 30, 7 pm, at Mountain City Coffeehouse and Creamery. Costumes are optional but encouraged. Candy will be provided!

Andy Duncan has won two World Fantasy Awards for his darkly fantastic, often maca-bre fiction, and he’s nominated again this year for ―The Night Cache, a supernatural geo-caching romance set in Western Maryland. A bluesman rides the train one station past Hell in “Beluthahatchie,” reprinted in the new anthology Sympathy for the Devil, while hoo-doo settles a very strange bet in “Slow as a Bullet,” in the upcoming anthology Eclipse Four. Duncan’s books include Beluthahatchie and Other Stories and the upcoming The Pot-tawatomie Giant and Other Stories. A Horror Writers Association member and a Shirley Jackson Awards juror, Duncan also teaches English at FSU.
Kimberly Brown

Small Press Festival

Posted: October 21, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Events

The chilly mountain air turned a little warmer by Saturday afternoon, but it didn’t really matter since I was surrounded by the warmth of hundreds of books and a group of friendly people at the fourth annual Small and Regional Press Festival in Frostburg, Maryland this past weekend. It was a weekend-long event beginning Thursday night with a poetry slam at Dante’s Bar on Main Street. Friday was a delightful reading by poet Nancy Krygowski at Main Street Books, followed by a reception in the Center for Creative Writing and a community building discussion at the the Frostburg branch of the public library.

So I was all warmed up for Saturday’s Press Fest, and I was not at all disappointed. Some 19 different literary presses set up tables heaped with books, chapbooks, candy, and hot pink toothbrushes in the Lyric Theatre. I spent about three hours going from table to table chatting with regional publishers, gaining insight into the process of each press and the kinds of work they were doing. As a poet seeking venues to offer my work and read the work of others, this was invaluable. It was also a great opportunity to make personal connections with other artists who share a common passion: the written word.

I was so caught up with the amazing publishers and bookmakers who attended that I only made it to one panel discussion—Literature: Online. Though the group was small, we had a lively discussion about choosing to publish work online and how content is still above all else of prime importance. Those in attendance were able to ask questions and received a list of resources and recommendations.

My day was well spent, and I brought home a great stash of books (at greatly discounted prices) and information from all of the presses involved. As I shift through my treasures, I am only disappointed that more people didn’t attend the event. Such a wonderful opportunity so close to home should never be passed up.

Tiffany A. Turbin Santos

Literature has a profound affect on our lives whether we realize it or not. Reading literature can help us to understand the lives of others as well as our own in new and amazing ways. Furthermore, a community of readers is also a wonderful way to build a sense of connection and create a safe space for discussion and expression.

One of the areas newest reading groups is the Queer Reading Group. Focusing on LGBTQI authors, this group will be reading fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that is both mainstream and lesser known. Everyone is welcome to attend as the group is open to the community! The group plans to meet on the third Thursdays of the month, and is currently meeting at the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at 22 East Main Street, Frostburg, Maryland.

The next meeting will take place on October 21, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. The selection is Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons by Marilyn Hacker, a book of poetry. Food and drink will be on-hand! Haven’t read the book? No problem, you are welcome! The November gathering will be on the 18th at the same time and location.

Also please bring recommendations for LGBTQI authors. We discussed possible choices for upcoming months at the first meeting in September (for instance Perry Moore’s Hero, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, and Rita Mae Brown’s Ruby Fruit Jungle), but the group is open to suggestions! The group is facilitated by Tiffany A. Turbin Santos.

Please visit the groups Facebook page or send an email for more information to LGBTQreading@groups.facebook.com.

Q & A with Lines + Stars editor, Rachel Adams

Posted: October 14, 2010 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Interview

How did Lines + Stars get started?

I went to college and graduate school in Washington, DC, and had considered starting a literary journal for some time; I detected a dearth of local-writing-centered publications, and wanted to do my part to help fill that void. In early 2007, after my own graduate studies had concluded, I began to seriously flesh out this plan. At first, I was solely interested in creating a print-based journal. I’d always loved the tactile and visual nature of printed periodicals — the feel of the paper, the shape of the font, the vibrancy of  the cover-art, and so on. As the realities of printing (financial in nature, of course) became more clear, though, I decided that an online journal would be far more feasible. With the help of graphic-designer friends, a website came into being. I collaged Lines + Stars postcards to distribute at local bookstores, added the journal’s information to several listservs and publishing websites, and began receiving submissions.

How have you seen the publishing industry change and how are you responding to it?

Because Lines + Stars is an online endeavor — with the exception of an annual chapbook — I believe that we’ve been able to avoid some of the challenges faced by subscription-based print publications. At the same time, it’s still a central aim of mine to have the journal published in physical form, and at some point we hope to do that on a regular basis.

I think that there’s much to be accomplished via online media. Accessibility and ease-of-dissemination are the positives; the difficulty of standing out amid countless other online publications can be a negative. The internet is daunting in its enormity. Because so many literary journals exist, I think that events like this — on a regional or national scale — are crucial for self-assertion and collaboration. Merely keeping an eye out for the work that others are doing in our same field, and supporting it, can help us all counteract those “death of the publishing industry” woes.

What are your opinions on self-publishing, online or in print?

As I’m sure that many of the conference’s participants would agree, self-publishing is a multifaceted entity with its requisite benefits and pitfalls. Working within the constraints of a minimal budget means that each aspect of production — vetting and editing submissions, managing and updating the website, designing and assembling the annual chapbook, promoting the journal — becomes the responsibility of a very small group of people. In this sense, self-publishing can be a stress-inducer. At the same time, through the direct absorption of our editors in all stages of the production process, we feel as though Lines + Stars is very carefully constructed and personally driven — something that may not be the case with a larger publication. The term “labor of love” is thrown around often, but it does, indeed, sum up our thoughts on this modest and self-directed project.

What benefits does a small press/journal offer writers?

As I’ve referenced above, I think that the individualized nature with which submissions are read and selected is our writers’ most tangible benefit. Their poems and stories aren’t going to go into some database and languish until they’ve been siphoned through the queue and onto our desks. We try to view each piece as promptly and succinctly as possible, and develop a relationship with the author as his or her work approaches publication.

What mistakes should writers avoid when submitting to Lines + Stars?

I have a limited amount of pet-peeves, but one thing truly prompts me to not read (or to not want to read) your submission: sending an impersonal, clearly mass-emailed document without even a brief introduction or cover-letter. It’s certainly not necessary to read through all of Lines + Stars’ archives and try to craft something similar — in fact, the differentiation between writers and topics is what helps give the journal its substance. But to obviously cut-and-paste one’s poem or story from one’s literary-journal desktop folder is juvenile and counterintuitive. Ideally, I’d like writers to, within the limited scope that an email offers, try to reveal a bit of themselves to me. That’s what ends up being represented in the journal, after all.

Also, neon-colored or huge fonts are silly.

Other than what’s listed in your submission guidelines, what are you looking for in a submission?

There are no hard-and-fast rules;Lines + Stars prides itself on the variegated nature of the pieces that we publish. We really do like to see nontraditional poetry and short stories — either in format or subject-matter. That’s not to say that the journal seeks out specifically “experimental” work, but we do favor writing that objects to traditionalism and formality in some way. We believe that one’s writing-brain can be capable of almost anything that you allow it to be.

What events/publications do you have coming up that we should look out for?

The newest edition of the journal should be published on our website, http://www.linesandstars.com, by November 1. A “Best of 2009-2010” compilation is now available for purchase, as well. And our Winter 2011 theme-issue, “Recurrence,” is now seeking submissions.

Rachel Adams