Archive for October, 2011

Small Press Festival 10/14- 10/15

Posted: October 21, 2011 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Uncategorized

Poetry Slam 10/13/11

Posted: October 21, 2011 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Uncategorized

Music & Writing Workshop

Posted: October 21, 2011 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Uncategorized

The Frostburg Center for Creative Writing is happy to announce its fifth annual Music and Writing Workshop, Saturday, November 5, 2011, on the campus of Frostburg State University from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m in Dunkle Hall.  The program features three seminars designed to focus on the intersection between the arts of music and writing.

     Music as Muse (with Gerry LaFemina):  Music as muse, prose as chord, poem as a form of drum? Possible? Definitely. Language is surely musical—we are all in tune with the rhythm of sentences and lines, and are keenly aware of the sounds of words.  This workshop asks us to tune our ear to the possibilities of musicality.  It also asks writers to consider the music they love as inspiration—whether it be lyrics or rhythm or melody..

     Lyric Writing (with Gina Powell):  Lyrics are an integral part of most songs-whether the singer croons or screams or drops rhymes. But what makes some lyrics stand out? And what is their relationship to melody? To the music? To the audience? We’ll be listening to some successful songs of a variety of genres, in order to get a sense of how songs work. Songwriters are encouraged to bring lyrics-in-process or whole songs they feel aren’t coming together, as well as their instruments, in order to work on the art of song lyric writing. If you have music but no songs-even better, as we’ll also discuss process and come up with some prompts to write new lyrics for existing or new music.

     Scene & ‘Zine -Writing About Music (with Jeff Henry): Not a musician or a creative writer?  Our love for music might go into other ways of approaching the two arts.  This workshop will look to create a Western Maryland music ‘zine, and will focus on review writing, interviewing bands, and other aspects of ‘zine creation.

The program is free and open to the public, with priority registration going to Frostburg State University and local students.  Sign up is on a first-come first-served basis, and space is limited in each workshop.  To register, contact the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing at 301.687.4340 or at

Meet the Teachers:

Gerry LaFemina s a poet, fiction writer and musician. His most recent book is Vanishing Horizon.He
teaches at Frostburg State University, and directs the Frostburg Center for Creative Writing.

Gina Powell is a singer/ songwriter from deep creek lake, Maryland. She graduated from Frostburg State University with a degree in Theater in 2004, where she focused in acting and directing. She plays the guitar and the piano and started writing her own music in 2004. She released “Sincerely”, her first full length studio album in 2009. She has been involved in such projects as The Distorted Penguins, The Beatstreet All-stars, and Gina Powell and the Electric Band. You can find her music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and Cdbaby, and can hear her live in Frostburg and the surrounding areas.

Jeff Henry has been working in radio since 1994 and currently hosts a weekly show on 91.9 WFWM, Frostburg State University’s public radio station. He is also editor of The Appalachian Independent ( and a self-taught drummer.

Interview with Irene McKinney

Posted: October 5, 2011 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Events, Interview, Poetry

The FSU Center for Creative Writing recently hosted a reading by poet Irene McKinney.  She is the author of six books of poetry, the most recent being Unthinkable: Selected Poems (2009).  McKinney has been the poet laureate of West Virginia since 1994 and is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and two West Virginia Commission on the Arts Fellowships in Poetry.  The following interview was conducted on September 28, the morning after McKinney’s reading.  –Nina Forsythe

Forsythe:  Could you talk a little about your formation as a poet?  You mentioned that your father read to you and that without that early introduction to the magical world of literature you probably would not have become a writer.  What were your other influences?

McKinney:  I both suffered and benefitted from my upbringing.  I had no support from my family or husband, so I had to go it alone:  write alone, figure out poetry alone, pursue my education on my own.  However, I come from a culture that prizes independence and self-reliance.  We were very isolated so we had to do everything ourselves, so I internalized that self-reliance.

My husband was completely opposed to my going to college, so I had to finance it myself by taking in boarders, and I had to work out child-care arrangements.  In college, there were no writing workshops, no courses on contemporary poetry.  I would seek it out in the library (there weren’t many “little” magazines, but they did subscribe to Poetry and a few others).  I didn’t understand contemporary poetry at all, but I kept pushing, kept reading–and learning bit by bit.  I felt a lot of guilt for taking time away from my kids, maybe short-changing them, but it felt life-saving.  I wanted to develop a self I wasn’t ashamed of.

Later, at WVU, I met other writers at conferences.  That’s how I met Bill Matthews.  He gave me the best feedback–he really understood what I was trying to do.  Even after he left, we continued to correspond, and he published me in Lillibulero.  He was my mentor for about two years.

  You are described most often as a West Virginia poet, and your body of work is evidence of your deep roots there; however, your poetry also ranges widely, from the Buddhist and yogic poems in Quick Fire and Slow Fire to the Emily Dickinson and Oneida Community persona poems.  Were these originally a way to escape being “just” a West Virginia poet?

McKinney:  Yes.  I love the region and the culture, but I didn’t want to be labeled a regional poet, especially not a hillbilly poet.  I dislike the sentimentality of a lot of regional writing–it’s not honest and it’s not good writing.  But it’s hard to escape the label.  It bothers me that anthologizers always go for my West Virginia poems.

  In the prose piece in Girl with the Stone in her Lap, you mention wanting to eat everything in your environment “to become [your] place and be in it….”  You also mention smelling your brother’s vials of animal scents and so being able to “enter that animal.”  Your poems seem to do the same type of inhabiting–of animals, places, and people–your persona poems being the prime example.  Do you see them as of a piece?

McKinney:  I never thought of it that way.  I thought that acknowledging animal life was a spiritual step forward, not so human-centric.  But I never thought of the poems as having the same impulse.

  That prose piece, which is about your home place and your childhood, covers much of the same material as the poems in that volume.  What was the purpose of including it?  Did you have to fight for its inclusion?

McKinney:   No.  The editor, Richard Grossinger, was doing a lot of that because of his belief that geography powerfully affects the writer.  I wanted to show readers that the poems were grounded in life, that I wasn’t just spinning a fantasy.  It was also a truth check for me.  Grounding is crucial:  it keeps the writer honest and it engenders trust in the reader.  I transform facts a lot–I can make up half of a poem, but it has to be true to the grounding.  So that prose piece comes out of a belief in the centrality of place–wherever it is.  I tell my students, “Start with a tangible place–a tree by the side of the road, say–and the rest of the poem has to be true to it.”

  You told the beginning writers in the audience that you are never done learning, that with every new poem you are learning all over again.  Could you expand on that a bit?

McKinney:  I never write a poem with a clear idea of where I’m going.  I don’t start with an ending in mind or an overall structure.  Sometimes I don’t even know what the next line is going to be.  But I’m willing to undergo the anxieties of this approach for the sake of being surprised. As Frost says, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”  A lot of contemporary poetry works this way, but the surprises seem arbitrary.  For me, whatever pops up has to make sense.  It should be unexpected but fitting.  I hate to bore my audience–or my students.  I guess I hate to bore anybody.

  Would you say that the poetry world is less navigable today than when you were coming up?

McKinney:  The growth of MFA programs has completely changed the landscape.  It has resulted in a proliferation of writers and lit magazines.  I try to read just about everything that comes out, so I know what to recommend to my students, and it’s an awful chore.  There’s lots of negligible poetry being written and getting published because there are so many magazines.  So there’s a lot more to wade through to find the good ones.

Scary Story Contest

Posted: October 4, 2011 by fsucenterforcreativewriting in Contest/Submission Calls, Events, Fiction

The Frostburg Center for Creative writing is happy to announce our third annual scary story contest. Stories must be 750 words or less and must be submitted as a .doc or .pdf attachment by Oct. 24 to Please do not put your name on the story itself but include it and the story title and your contact information in the body of the email. First prize is $50 and will be announced Thursday, October 27 at 7:00 pm at Mountain City Coffee and Creamery.

Hear our esteemed horror and fantasy writers roundtable at the 5th Annual Western Maryland Small Press Festival on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 12:30 p.m.

For complete guidelines visit our website: or email us at

– Mark Collins