Tuesday, April 8, 2014

And the Winners of the Poet Lore Contest Are...

In honor of National Poetry Month, Poet Lore, a publication of The Writer's Center, co-sponsored a poetry contest with the Enoch Pratt Free Library of Baltimore, Maryland. Chosen from a select pool of Maryland poets, the judges, Poet Lore editors Ethelbert Miller and Jody Bolz, honored four outstanding local poets: Mya Green, Emily Card, Randolph Pfaff, and Margaret S. Mullins. The three place winners will be published in the Fall/Winter issue of Poet Lore. The winning poet, Mya Green, will read her poem, “Responsibility”, at the CityLit Festival in Baltimore on April 12 and her poem has been made into a display at the Pratt Central Library.

1st Place: Mya Green

Mya Green is originally from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is an independent editorial consultant who earned both her BA in Liberal Arts and MFA in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, New York).  She served as poetry contest director and editor for LUMINA Journal Volume XI and acted as a liaison for Sarah Lawrence’s 9th Annual Poetry Festival, where she also opened for 2012 National Book Award winner, Nikky Finney. 

Here is an excerpt from her winning poem, "Responsibility":

Feel the vibrations, she'd say. Deep South extracted

from my throat before it could root. We are not of the tribe,

we are a nation: fifteen burials at every stopping place,

sickness with each mile. Little Wolf says

the shaman woman walks in front of my mother

carrying a woven blanket, white. That I am late,

that I am never late.

2nd Place: Emily Card

Emily grew up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and spent her childhood combing the beaches of Assateague Island.  She loves to seek out new experiences and moves often, having lived in Canterbury, England, and Boston, Massachusetts.  She currently works as a manager at a law firm in Baltimore, Maryland.  She studied literature and design but also enjoys whetting her mind on the sharp edges of science and politics.  Though previously unpublished, Emily likes to write image-rich poems that draw upon her experiences as a 26-year-old wanderer.

 Here is an excerpt from her winning poem, "Saudade":

but I have flown home for the harvest moon,

pedaled my bicycle barefoot every dusk
and stopping, stood
impaled on the spoked shadow

of a wheel that was always in the path ahead,

always dragging another wheel behind.

3rd Place: Randolph Pfaff

Randolph Pfaff is a writer, editor, and visual artist living in Baltimore. His work has been featured in Poet Lore, PANKH_NGM_NRevolver, and Heavy Feather Review, among others. He edits the literary journal apt and runs the small press Aforementioned Productions.

Here is an excerpt from his winning poem, "Contiguous":

I am opening this story

with the sound of fun--
sing-alongs on FM radio,

and the erratic drumbeat

of highway wind
pulsing through car windows.

I am showing you a picture

so you'll see what it was like
to be confined in this kind of freedom.

Honorable Mention: Margaret S. Mullins

Margaret S. Mullins divides her time between rural Maryland and downtown Baltimore.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, the editor of Manorborn 2009:  The Water Issue (Abecedarian Press) and author of Family Constellation (Finishing Line Press, 2012.)  Her work has appeared in New Verse News, Persimmon Tree, Alehouse, Loch Raven Review, Creekwalker, Magnapoets, The Sun, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Sugar Mule, OVS, and Writer's Almanac among others, and been read by Garrison Keillor on NPR.

Here is an excerpt from her poem, "Time and Motion":

days like this recede into a hole

           a string of small happenings
                    that unspool across the hours

with no apparent import

          clear little blobs of time
                    dissolved, evaporated, gone

leaving nothing behind

          not a chord, not a ripple
                    no trace of squirrel or crow

To learn more about the Enoch Pratt Free Library, please visit: http://www.prattlibrary.org 

To keep up with Poet Lore in its anniversary year, please visit us on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Splendid Wake Celebrates Washington Area Poetry

Last year's Splendid Wake event drew a standing room only crowd

The Washington area has a rich poetic tradition going back to Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes, including many literary journals, book publishers, movements, and reading series. A public program this spring is part of A Splendid Wake, an ongoing online project to document poets and literary movements in the nation’s capital from 1900 to the present.   

The event, featuring three panels, will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 21 at George Washington University's Gelman Library, Suite 702, 2130 H Street N.W. The program is free and open to the public.

The program will focus on experimental contemporary poetry, warrior poetry projects, and African-American intellectual/creative activity during years of segregation in Washington.

Moderating the experimental poetry panel will be poet, writer and performer Silvana Straw. Panelists Magus Magnus, Poets Theatre and "non-mainstream poetics," Natalie Illum, activist, poet and storyteller, a producer of "Capturing Fire," and Derrick Weston Brown, Cave Canem Fellow and founder of "The Nine on the Ninth" reading series, will discuss language poetry, women's community, spoken word, and slam.

A panel on veterans’ poetry will feature Frederick Foote, M.D., director of the Warrior Poetry Project at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Sunil Freeman, assistant director of The Writer’s Center, and Maritza Rivera, an Army veteran, poet, and participant in the Warrior Poetry Project.

In the Shadow of the Capitol, with Jim Beall, astrophysicist, poet, and project administrator of the original oral history project, will provide a glimpse of the two-day event by that name, held in 1981 at the Folger Shakespeare Library. Transcripts of this conference serve as an invaluable treasury of eye-witness African American history. James Counts Early, director of Cultural Heritage Policy at the Smithsonian Institution, will speak about Sterling Brown.

Gelman Librarian Jennifer King launched the digital archive for A Splendid Wake in 2013. The archive is evolving, and new material is being accepted. A blog managed by Karren Alenier also supplements the Splendid Wake archive.

For more information, contact Jennifer King at jenking@gwu.edu or

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Time to Publish? 'Books Alive!' is Coming Soon!

Guest blog entry from the organizers of the Books Alive! conference, set for March 29.

George Pelecanos and David Stewart at Books Alive! 2013

Ready to catch a publisher's eye? Register by Feb. 28th for the Books Alive! 2014 early bird discount. Hosted by the Washington Independent Review of Books, this year's conference is set for 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. March 29th at the Bethesda Marriott (Pooks Hill).

Books Alive! has quickly grown into the D.C. area’s seminal conference for writers and book lovers of all types. Register before March 1st to take advantage of the early bird discount. Big-name writers will be participating in panel discussions on everything from mystery, fiction, and politics to self-help, cooking, and children’s books. 

This year, a roster of some of the industry's top agents will again be on hand to hear your book pitches. And some of today's biggest names in publishing will speak about their work and the state of the book industry.

Among the list of distinguished guests are Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Maraniss,  MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, bestselling author Laura Lippman, bestselling author Jon Alter, Washington Post columnists (and authors) Fred Bowen and Michelle Singletary, and award-winning cookbook author Joan Nathan. (Click here for the full list of speakers.)

“Within a year of my attending [the conference], my book is on track for publication, says aspiring author Alison F., one of last year’s attendees. Without the insights I gained in the interviews with book agents, the panel presentations, and the symposium networking, I would not have found such a reputable publisher and recognition for my work.”

Learn more at www.wirobooks.com  and the Books Alive! homepage. You can also stay connected with The Independent on Twitter via @wirobooks and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/WIRoBooks.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Essay & Short Story Contest

Essay & Short Story Contest

Friday, January 24 is the deadline for submissions to Bethesda Urban Partnership and Bethesda Magazine's Essay & Short Story Contest. Winners will be honored at the Bethesda Literary Festival, April 11-13, 2014. First place winners will receive $500 and publication in Bethesda Magazine

Essay Contest

Topic: Open.
Requirements: Essays should be limited to 500 words or less.

Eligibility: Residents of Washington, DC, Maryland, and Virginia are eligible. The contest will take entries in two categories:  High School (grades 9-12) and Adult (ages 18 +). 
To upload your submission, please visit www.bethesda.org.

Questions? Please email essay@bethesda.org or call 301-215-6660, Ext. 217

Short Story Contest

Topic: Open
Requirements: Stories must be limited to 4,000 words or less.

Eligibility: Residents of Montgomery County, MD and Upper NW Washington, DC are eligible. The contest will take entries in two categories: High School (grades 9-12) and Adult (ages 18+). 
To upload your submission, please visit www.bethesdamagazine.com.

Questions? Please email contests@bethesdamagazine.com or call 301.718.7787, Ext 207.

For more information, visit www.bethesda.org or www.bethesdamagazine.com

First place: $500 and published in Bethesda Magazine.
Second Place: $250
Third Place: $150
Honorable mentions: $75

The first place winner in each contest will also receive a gift certificate to The Writer's Center.

All winners will be published on the Bethesda Magazine and Bethesda Urban Partnership websites and will be honored at a special event during the Bethesda Literary Festival.

High School winners receive: $250, first place; $100, second place; $50, third place. Bethesda Magazine will print the first place Essay and Short Story.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Book Fair: Sunday, Dec. 8

The Tradition Continues

Last December, we opened our doors for our first annual Holiday Book Fair, a celebration of small presses and their contribution to our vibrant literary community. The feedback we received was so positive that we decided to make it an annual tradition. This year's fair is set for noon to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. 

Over the years, our Open House events have given an opportunity to meet workshop leaders, staff and Board members, register for upcoming workshops, buy gift certificates and learn about our programs. We’ll have refreshments through the afternoon.

Sunday's event will have all the features of an Open House and more. Once again we’ve invited editors from area small presses to display and sell their books and literary journals. The festival will be a good chance to meet them, find out what they're looking for, their submission deadlines and more. Over the years, our Sunday Open Door reading series has featured the work of several authors published by many of these presses.

Starting at 2 p.m. we will also have brief poetry and prose readings by several workshop leaders: Nan Fry, Danuta Hinc, Naomi Ayala, Mary McCarthy, John Morris, Adele Brown, Ann McLaughlin, Aaron Hamburger, and Basil White

Click here to read more. 

We hope to see you there! 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

And the Nominees Are...

In 1972, Bill Henderson founded Pushcart Press from a studio apartment in Yonkers, New York. Four decades later, the editors of Pushcart continue to solicit yearly input from small press editors on the most exciting of the work they publish. Pushcart’s editors use these nominations in the making of their annual compendium, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. This year, Poet Lore, the semi-annual poetry journal published by The Writer’s Center, selected works from our 2013 Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter editions. The poems selected are meant to showcase the caliber of the submissions we receive year-round. Peruse the list of poems Poet Lore chose and learn more about their authors. But first, enjoy the following excerpt from Alex McRae’s nominated poem.

[from] “Killarney Fern”
by Alex McRae

I drew you into the greenhouse
where a jade vine dripped, unscrolling
from the sloping roof. The weak sun passed
through clouded glass, seeped into a gulley
shawled with mossand there we found

frothing in a damp corner, shade-loving,
a fern as delicate as curling parsley....

Poems selected from our Spring/Summer 2013 issue:

Robin Becker: "The Weight"
ROBIN BECKER, Liberal Arts Research Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State, has published four collections of poems in the Pitt Poetry Series, most recently Domain of Perfect Affection. She serves as contributing and poetry editor for the Women’s Review of Books, where her column, “Field Notes,” appears regularly.

Chana Bloch: "Cleave"
CHANA BLOCH's most recent poetry collections are Mrs. Dumpty and Blood Honey. She is co-translator of the Song of Songs and books by Israeli poets Yehuda Amichai and Dahlia Ravikovitch. Bloch has new poems in Beloit Poetry Journal, Field, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, and the Women's Review of Books.   

Poems selected from our Fall/Winter 2013 issue:

Photo credit: Jamaal May

Tarfia Faizullah: "What I Want is Simple"
TARFIA FAIZULLAH is the author of Seam (SIU Press, 2014), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems appear in Ploughshares, Ninth Letter, New England Review, Washington Square, The Missouri Review, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship and other honors.

Joseph Bathanti: "Huntersville Prison”
JOSEPH BATHANTI, current poet laureate of North Carolina, is the author of seven books of poetry and three books of fiction. His new book of poems, Concertina, will be published this fall by Mercer University Press. He teaches at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

Alex McRae:"Killarney Fern"
ALEX McRAE is from London and now lives in Washington, DC. She won an Eric Gregory Award for the best British poets under 30 in 2009, awarded by the UK’s Society of Authors. Her poems have been published in Poetry Review, The Manhattan Review, Magma Poetry, and Gargoyle.

Rob Sulewski: “Late Lunch"
ROB SULEWSKI is a playwright whose recent poetry has appeared in the Bear River Review and Blue Unicorn. He has work forthcoming in Commonweal and Iconoclast, and he teaches writing at the University of Michigan.

To learn more about the Pushcart Prize, jump to http://www.pushcartprize.com/.

A big thanks to our publisher, The Writer's Center (www.writer.org).

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Poetry and Prose From The Workshops

As many of you know, our 2:00 p.m. Sunday Open Door readings usually are an opportunity to meet featured authors, who are often reading from their books or from a journal or anthology in which their work has appeared.  We also have a long tradition of poetry and prose open mic readings, with a range of writers, including some who are reading in public for the first time. This Sunday, November 24, we're celebrating just a fraction of the very good writing that is being generated in workshops.  The emails came flying in after we invited workshop leaders to suggest writers whose work should be featured. As expected, there were far too many good authors to be able to include them all. 

Ellen Herbert ("Writing from Life"), one of the workshop leaders who suggested workshop participants, recently emailed about the many essays that have been published:

"By my count at least 26 essays generated from our class have appeared in print, such as The Washington Post's "Style" and "Style Plus" sections, The Washington Post Magazine, The Washingtonian Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, Bethesda Magazine, as well as literary magazines such as The Little Patuxent Review, The Sonora Review, The Flint Hills Review, numerous online magazines as well as many themed anthologies. "Writing From Life" also had the privilege of reading drafts from Glen Finland's wonderful memoir Next Stop, published by Putnam."

We'll have a reception after the reading, which is free and open to the public.  We've asked the featured writers for brief profiles, posted below, and we've added a few links to their text. 

Before flowering as poet on Whidbey Island, Washington, in the early years of the twenty-first century, Ann Gerike was a graduate student in Glasgow and London for four years (the 1950s); a faculty wife, mother, and university press book editor in Lincoln, Nebraska (the 1960s and 1970s); and a midlife graduate student, clinical psychologist (PhD 1983), gerontologist, and anti-ageism activist (Houston and Minneapolis, 1980s and 1990s). She is author of a collection of poems, About Face: World War I Facial Injury and Reconstruction.  Her previous book, Old is Not a Four-Letter Word, was published by Papier-Mache Press in 1997.  In 2007 and 2008 she won the Stafford Prize in the Washington Poets Association contest, and her poems and stories have appeared in the Crab Creek Review, Cascade, Soundings Review, Alehouse, and four volumes published by the Whidbey Island Writers Association (Gull Rock Press).  Ann recently participated in a poetry workshop with Nan Fry.

Lynne McKelvey divides her fiction writing career into two phases. As a child growing up in  California, she began writing stories in grade school. When she was a freshman in high school, she won the Seventeen magazine short story contest. At that point, her fiction writing came to a screeching halt.  For the next three decades, she read other people's fiction, taught expository writing, and produced papers in various academic settings. Along the way, she married, had children, and started a singles club in Santa Monica, California. With these distractions under control or out of the way, she moved to Washington, where she enrolled in Joyce Kornblatt's fiction class at The Writer's Center and gradually found her way back to writing fiction. Since then she has participated in a number of workshops, including Jenny McKean Moore workshops at GW University taught by Gloria Naylor and Mary Morrissey, Dos Brujas workshops led by Cristina Garcia in New Mexico and Miami, and, most recently, in a year-long master class in the novel taught by Amin Ahmad at TWC. A Real Daughter is her second novella.   

Timothy Redmond is an attorney working at NIH (in a non-attorney position).  A veteran of the Afghanistan War, Tim has been published in 0-Dark-Thirty, a literary journal for veterans that is published by the Veterans Writing Project.  He has been taking workshops both at The Writer's Center and at Johns Hopkins University since  the Fall of 2010, when he enrolled in an NEA-funded free workshop for veterans.  He most recently attended a fiction workshop with Jim Mathews at The Writer’s Center. Tim is working on his first novel about his time serving in Afghanistan with the Special Forces, and hopes to complete it this year.  

Emily Rich is a former Federal employee and community college instructor who is taking some time off to write. She has taken numerous workshops the Writers Center both at the Bethesda location and online. Last summer she was accepted to the Tin House Writer’s Workshop in Portland, OR. Her work has been published in a number of journals including Little Patuxent Review, Greenbrier Review, River Poet’s Journal and Welter. She has just begun volunteering for Little Patuxent Review as a non-fiction reader. Emily lives in Arlington Virginia with her husband and a too-rapidly emptying nest. Emily recently attended Ellen Herbert's Writing from Life workshop.

Susan Silk is the Director of the Division of Policy and Education in the Office of Laboratory Animal Welfare at the National Institutes of Health where she writes policy for the national animal welfare program. During her 30 year career in science and scientific communication, she has served in many positions at NIH including as the senior scientific speechwriter at the National Cancer Institute and as the founding director of the Office of Mice Advice. Susan has participated in writing workshops including the 2013 Santa Fe Science Writers Workshop, Lynda Barry's Writing the Unthinkable Workshop and Ira Wood's Humor Writing Workshop. Closer to home, she has participated in The Writer's Center Workshops including David Taylor's Science Writing, Pamela Toutant's Creative Nonfiction and Liz Reese's Getting Started Creative Writing. Susan has a BFA in Design from Maryland Institute College of Art, a BS in biological illustration from University of Maryland and an MS from University of Maryland in Immunogenetics. 

Cathy Wu has slowly returned to writing after a long hiatus by participating in four Writers’ Center workshops over the past few years, including “My Life, One Story at a Time” with Pat McNees. She has also been using National Novel Writing Month, or Nanowrimo, to put some words on paper, and wishes the best of luck to other Nanoers, especially other non-fiction "rebels." Cathy writes about her family and cross-cultural experiences.



Monday, October 21, 2013

Where Do You Get Your Ideas? or Why I Read

We’re very glad to continue a longstanding Writer’s Center tradition of hosting readings by winners of the Washington Writers’ Publishing House competitions.  This Sunday, October 27 at 5:00 p.m. the latest winners, Robert Herschbach and Kathleen Wheaton will read.  We will have a reception and book signing following the reading.  Please note that the reading begins at 5:00 p.m. We're fortunate to post a blog entry by Kathleen Wheaton, author of the prize winning fiction collection, Aliens and Other Stories.

Where Do You Get Ideas? Or Why I Read

By Kathleen Wheaton

When I took my first creative writing workshop in college, our young and handsome instructor, who’d recently published a story in the New Yorker, imparted tips on craft that everyone made eager note of: show, don’t tell; have your characters desire something, read your own words aloud to find your voice.
He also urged us to spend as many waking hours as possible reading. This sounded humorous, like telling members of the football team to be sure and get plenty of exercise. But as the term progressed, it became obvious that some students hadn’t--and didn’t--read all that much. Their impulse to write seemed more organic than mine, to spring from an internal well of imagination I didn’t possess.

“Creativity” was big on campuses in the late 1970s (you could take a class in it), and it bothered me that a quiz administered by the psych department revealed that I was too cautious, my habits too orderly, my homework too promptly finished, for me to qualify as a creative personality. And the stories I wrote for the instructor (himself a natty dresser with neat penmanship) were usually a response to something I’d read: about a trip to a new place, a romance gone wrong, an old person looking back on life. Writing, I felt, was an ongoing conversation between someone long dead or far away, and me.
I moved to Spain after college and taught English, and then moved a lot more, to Boston, New York, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Tepoztlan, Mexico. It was several years before I had enough freelance newspaper and magazine assignments to be able to say that I made my living as a writer.
With journalism, your inspiration is clear: your editor gives you an assignment, you do it and hand it in--it’s like having homework for the rest of your life.  But I continued to write short stories, and here the “why” was murkier, especially after I was married and had two children. I could claim that I turned down assignments and spent money I wasn’t earning on babysitters because it turned out that I actually was creative, because I had a deep-seated drive to invent and imagine. The truth is that some other writer was doing the imagining first, and that was what always got my own wheels turning--to want to describe my peculiar neighbors, the view from my window, my midnight epiphanies.
Living much of the day in another language, and writing what I hoped were indisputable facts, I looked forward to sinking under the covers at night with a novel. In the early 90s, before books could be turned into bytes, they were expensive to mail or took up precious space in suitcases, so I chose carefully, and reread a lot. And then I’d want to sit down and reply to my invisible, distant, dear friends.
The British novelist Anthony Powell once said that when writers read they’re always thinking about how they’d have told that story. I don’t think he meant that they’re nitpicking or criticizing (though they also do that) as much as working out what they’ll say when they get their turn at the mic.
Of all the arts, we view writing as the least collaborative--songs are written and movies made and dances performed and even murals painted with and alongside others. A book written “with” someone else is ghostwritten, somehow bogus. Writing is only properly done alone, we’re told, in that hard-won room of one’s own. To say that you rely on others for your ideas, your techniques, your stories, seems to skate dangerously close to confessing to plagiarism. But I’m not talking here about about passing off someone else’s work as your own. I’m saying that stories, like language itself, evolved from a long-ago mother source. Nobody is born speaking a language--you listen, imitate, practice, until your words sound like you. And you have to know the story--in as many iterations as possible, as close as you can get to the ur-version grunted around the campfire while the mastodon sizzled--before you can tell yours.