Friday, May 19, 2017

Marita Golden on The Wide Circumference of Love

By Maeve Ballantine

Marita Golden will speak at The Writer's Center on May 21 at 2 p.m. followed by a reception and book signing. For more information about this event, see our Facebook event

“Recognize that your story doesn't have to be validated by the larger society for it to be a valid story,” Marita Golden, the award winning novelist and teacher, said. “Many stories have value, and I think it’s important for writers of color to write and to recognize that it is important work that they are doing." As co-founder of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, Golden helps pave the road to success for emerging writers of color. "For the last 27 years, the foundation has been providing a community where black writers can get support and do their writing in an environment that recognizes the legitimacy of their writing,” she said. “It is very satisfying to see them go on and get their work published and [win] awards. It's very gratifying to have that kind of impact."

Golden's latest novel, The Wide Circumference of Love introduces us to the Tate family as they struggle with the effect that Alzheimer’s disease has on their patriarch, Gregory. His wife is forced to make tough decisions while holding the family together. A particularly moving aspect of the story is son Sean’s efforts to fix his relationship with his father as Gregory slowly begins to lose more of his sense and memories.

Despite the fact that Golden had no prior experience with the disease, nor had she thought of writing about it, she felt inspired to do so after dropping another novel. "I was working on another book but I had to stop because I couldn't go further, it wasn't my story to write." She said. "Then I woke up one day and wrote about a family dealing with Alzheimer's. It was an unexpected inspiration."

"For several months before writing, I read everything I could about Alzheimer's. I also was lucky to find a woman who lives in Maryland who works with people who have someone in their family with dementia and Alzheimer's,” Golden said. “She helps with caregiving and assisted living and all of that. She was my guide through the world of Alzheimer's." Golden also interviewed families who had loved ones with Alzheimer's and spoke to doctors.

During her research, Golden learned African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as Caucasians. “I found this to be a very startling statistic,” she said. “So I tried to write about Alzheimer's in an imaginative and creative way. . . .You get tapped on the shoulder by the universe, and it tells you what to do,” she added. “It's the purest kind of inspiration.”

The Wide Circumference of Love is a touching story about a very real and common disease that over 5 million American citizens and their families face every year. It is both a moving tribute to those people and an engaging story about a family who tries to face this struggle together with patience and of course, love.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Casey Nagle: Fifth of Six Interviews with Poet Lore Pushcart Nominees

Interview conducted by Ellie Tipton, managing editor of Poet Lore.

CASEY NAGLE is a graduate of the MFA Program at Syracuse University. This is his first publication.


We painted all the windows white,
drilled a hole in the back windshield
and entered our abandoned Lumina.

Reclining in the front seats,
we loved its theater-dark interior.
We loved the upside-down projections:
the sunset, the panic, the neighborhood search.

We even watched our parents give the cops our names.
Forever we sat behind the wheel, waving goodbye,

happily, as if we were moving.

ET: Can you describe your process for composing this poem?

CN: I’ve written this poem hundreds of times and have filled lots of legal pads with both varying and totally identical versions to get it to where it is now. Typically, I read what I write aloud to myself till it sounds right. Initially I wrote the poem to appear like somebody with privileged access, like somebody with a backstage pass to their own illusions, some kind of authority on a benighted suburban street. Now I hope it describes a moment someone can relate to, a childhood moment, or moment when you feel like a child and you have created something beautiful, and you realize, but don’t really care, that you have made someone else terrified in your absence. I’m grateful, too, for the input of generous advisors and friends who have read and suggested edits for this poem over the years.

ET: This poem is written in the lyric tradition, would you agree? How do you see it fitting into that larger tradition? 

CN: Yes, I think it is a lyric poem. The lyric tradition relies on the music of language to generate the emotional experience of the poem. Many of my poems contain narrative or argument, but I can never be satisfied with any poem until sounds just right. This poem’s central metaphor is highly involved and complicated and would be emotionally inaccessible without lyricism. 

ET: Who are your influences?

CN: John Keats, Tomas Transtromer and all the people in my life who are committed to what they do.

ET: Did you and your sister often cause neighborhood panic? J  

CN: I have five siblings- two older brothers and three younger sisters. Over the years we have caused all varieties of neighborhood and internal panic.

ET: Can you discuss the editorial process that you went through with Jody Bolz, Poet Lore’s executive editor?

CN: It has been amazing and humbling, truly one of the most affirming things to happen to me as a writer. I was attracted to Poet Lore largely because of Jody Bolz’s reputation as a uniquely engaged editor who reads every single submission. So I submitted and only a few weeks later received an acceptance letter with her signature on it. I was thrilled. Then not long afterwards, she nominated me for a Pushcart Prize and invited me to read at AWP and now I am given this chance to talk about my work. It has been a real honor working with Jody Bolz and everyone else at Poet Lore.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Searching for New Inspiration? Leave Your Desk Behind

By Lisa L Leibow

Register for Plein Air Creative Writing (Starts May 23)

The French term plein air conjures images of painters setting up easels, canvases, and pallets out of doors in the tradition of Claude Monet. But why should they have all the fun? As a writer, I like to take a journal and pen out in the world beyond my writing studio and desk. Spring is the perfect time to share this technique with Writer's Center students. 

Writing impressions of surroundings on the spot results in new perspectives, new inspirations, and frankly, a sense of air and atmosphere not as easily mustered at a desk.

 It’s all about infusing fresh air into our writing and our writing lives.

Here are ten reasons to try Plein Air Creative Writing

  • Prompts a writer to create a sense of immediacy in setting descriptions
  • Provides new sources of inspiration
  • Recording the sensations of weather, buildings, flora and fauna as they are perceived in the moment offers a wealth of source material for mining later
  • Removes the distractions of technology
  • Incorporates physical exercise into the creative process
  • New, unpredictable experiences add to the richness of the story
  • Invites writers to explore the art of storytelling in other forms
  •  Provides opportunities to play with narrative space (wide angle vs. zoom)
  • Provokes a different perspective on narrative time (memory vs. now)
  • Allows for "people watching" to better understand behavior, constructing dialogue, and gathering details for physical descriptions

Lisa Leibow holds an M.A. in writing from The Johns Hopkins University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in CommuterLit, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Eleven Eleven, Folly, Griffin, Kaleidescope, Mullberry Fork, NoVA Bards, Pisgah Review, Red Rose, RougarouSand Hill Review, and Sanskrit. She is also a recent merit-based grant recipient and resident at the Vermont Studio Center, the winner of Pitchapalooza D.C., and an honorable mention in the John Gardner Award for Best Character Description.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Spotlight on Literary Events: May 2017

Lunch-time Lit
Thursday, May 4, 12:00 pm-1:30 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Lunch Time Lit is a new program designed to inspire professionals--as members of the community and writers. Join mentor Patty Alper for lunch and a rivetting discussion of her new book, Teach to Work, and the different ways that corporations, professionals, and retirees can have a significant impact on education. Learn to be an ambassador of talent, skill, and grit. Reservations required. Please RSVP to

Outwrite Presents The Future is Queer: an Evening of Science Fiction/Fantasy
Thursday, May 4, 6:30 pm-8:00 pm
East City Bookshop
645 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Washington, DC 20003

An evening of queer speculative fiction, featuring readings from Sarah Pinsker, Craig L. Gidney, Day Al-Mohamed and Sunny Moraine, moderated by Marianne Kirby. This event is co-hosted by OutWrite, DC's LGBTQ+ book festival, and East City Bookshop.

The 37th Annual Pen/Faulkner Awards
Saturday, May 6, 7:00 pm
Folger Theatre
201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003

Given since 1981 to the best works of fiction published by an American citizen in a calendar year, the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction is the United States’ largest peer-juried prize in the field. This year’s judges are Chris Abani, Chantel Acevedo, and Sigrid Nunez. The 2017 winner is Imbolo Mbue, and the finalists are Viet Dinh, Louise Erdrich, Garth Greenwell, and Sunil Yapa. 

Michael Salcman
Sunday, May 7, 2:00 pm-4:00pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Michael Salcman, poet, neuroscientist and art critic, formerly chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and past president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, reads from his new collection of poems about the Holocaust, family history and the history of Prague, A Prague Spring, Before & After, winner of the 2015 Sinclair Poetry Prize. Lynn Silverman, professor of photography at the Maryland Institute College of Art, will discuss the suite of Prague photographs she created for inclusion in the book.

Jeff VanderMeer - Borne 
Sunday, May 7, 1:00 pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Best-known for his Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer is a three-time World Fantasy Award winner as well as a teacher, publisher, and frequent anthologist. His latest vision of the future finds a ruined city where people survive by scavenging. VanderMeer will be in conversation with the writer Ann VanderMeer, his wife and frequent collaborator on anthologies including Sisters of the Revolution.

Sally Mott Freeman - The Jersey Brothers
Tuesday, May 9, 7:00 pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Freeman’s account of what three brothers did in World War II powerfully intertwines national and military history with the particular story of one American family. Freeman, a former speechwriter and currently the Board Chair of the Bethesda Writers Center, supplements archival documents with personal letters, diaries, and interviews.

Poetry Reading and Photography Exhibit Opening
Friday, May 12, 6:30 p.m.
American Art Museum
First Floor West, 8th and F Street, NW

Poets Martin Espada, Naomi Ayala, and Sami Miranda will read at the opening of Down These Mean Streets: Community and Place in Urban Photography, an exhibit that features the work of Frank Espada, Martin Espada's father.

Sunday, April 23, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Come share your writing at open mic! Sign-up for readers starts at 1:30 and the reading starts at 2:00.

Sunday, May 14, 5:00 pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Congratulate A.U.’s most recent Master of Fine Arts graduates as these accomplished poets and fiction writers present their work.

Alicia Partnoy Poetry Reading
Thursday, May 18, 7:00 pm
Kensington Row Bookshop
3786 Howard Avenue, Kensington, Maryland

Visiting poet Alicia Partnoy reads from Flowering Fires/Fuegos Florales, her prize-winning volume of poems, in a program sponsored by Settlement House Books.

Saturday, May 20, 10:00am-6:00 pm
Gaithersburg City Hall Grounds

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is a celebration of the written word and its power to enrich the human experience. Funded in part by generous sponsors and supported by the City of Gaithersburg, the Festival offers programming for all ages, is free to attend and is open to everyone.

Sunday, May 21, 2:00 pm-4:00pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

The Writer's Center is pleased to host a reading by Marita Golden celebrating publication of her new novel, The Wide Circumference of Love (Arcade Publishing, 2017), which introduces us to the Tates, a close-knit African American family coming to terms with the devastating impact of early onset Alzheimer's. The reading will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Behind-the-Scenes Look at Quotidian Theatre Company's Production of "Doubt: A Parable"

Quotidian Theatre Company will present Doubt: A Parable, the Pulitzer Prize-winning mystery drama by John Patrick Shanley, at The Writer’s Center from April 7 through May 7. In the interview below, director Stevie Zimmerman shares her unique approach to shaping the play, and also what makes it distinct among Quotidian performances.

Stevie received a Master’s of Arts Degree in Directing from the University of Leeds in England. In the Washington, DC area, she has directed performances for 1st Stage Theatre, Peterson’s Alley Theatre Productions, and Mclean Drama Company. Stevie is also a former Professor of Theater at The Hartt School in Hartford, Connecticut.

TWC: How did Quotidian select Doubt: A Parable?

S: Well, I didn’t choose it myself. Quotidian chose it. I think the impetus behind that was in part because it is a great play. The play is Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley. It has four main characters. The principle one is Sister Aloysius, who is a nun who runs a school for boys and girls in The Bronx. She has a pretty strict view of her role in the upbringing of these children and the importance of being the moral authority for them. Under her direction is a younger nun, called Sister James, who is a much more innocent, touchy-feely kind of nun who thinks the children should like her.  One of the rectory priests, Father Flynn, is also a teacher. Sister James comes to suspect that he is doing inappropriate things a boy, the only African American child in the school.

TWC: What are the central themes of the play?

S: I believe that there is no one message. That’s one of the reasons the play is called doubt. John Patrick Shanley actually said that he thinks there is a second act to the play—the play is presented in one act with no breaks. He believes that “Act Two” is what happens when you get in your car, go home, and as the questions: Who did what? Who knew what? What did they know and when did they know it? The production that I’m trying to end up with is one where there is no clarity. Undoubtedly, people will have very strong ideas one way or the other, but there is no clarity offered within the play. At the end of the play, we do not know for sure whether the nun is right in her suspicions, or the father is right in his protest of innocence. In terms of a message, I guess that it’s about the importance of being open to the possibility of doubt, being open to investigation, not being as clear-cut and decided as we tend to be.  You can apply that to what’s going on in politics; you’re either with me or against me.

Scene from Doubt: A Parable Rehearsal 

TWC: What is the most remarkable aspect of this piece?

S: I think the play is beautifully written. It’s really elegant. It’s not action-packed by any means, but each scene exposes a bit more about the story and each of the characters. What you learn is that everyone has a history. Everyone has their reasons for doing things. We all make choices in what we believe, what we don’t believe—the actions we take based on that. Most things come with a price. It kind of really makes you reflect on your our circumstances, even if they don’t seem to be directly related. It’s very easy to think,
“This is a play about two nuns and a priest in 1964. What could that possibly have to say about anything in my life?” I really think it does.

TWC: How is this play different from past Quotidian Theatre Company productions?

S: This is my first time working with Quotidian, but I’ve been to several of the shows, and I know they have a very loyal audience. I think Doubt fits in the company’s interest in strong writing within a realistic vein. There are four distinct stories within the characters in the play. Where it may differ is the fact that it doesn’t have clarity of ending.

Doubt: A Parable will run from April 7 through May 7, 2017. Members of The Writer's Center can purchase tickets at a special $15 dollar rate. Tickets can be purchased here. You won’t want to miss it!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Spotlight on Literary Events: April 2017

April 1-April 30

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

Saturday, April 1, 2017, 2 p.m.
Anacostia Library
1800 Good Hope Road SE, Washington,  D.C.  20020

The DC Poet Project is a poetry open mic and reading series featuring top local authors. At each event the featured poets will select a winning open mic reader for a $100 cash prize and the chance to compete for a book contract. 

Sunday, April 2, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

We welcome Debra Nystrom and Lisa Russ Spaar, poets who teach at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. Nystrom’s new collection, Night Sky Frequencies, was published by Sheep Meadow Press. Lisa Russ Spaar will read from Orexia (Persea). The reading will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Monday, April 3, 7:00 pm
Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540

The Library of Congress will honor Marilynne Robinson, the 2016 Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction winner, with a special event titled “Fiction, Faith and the Imagination." The panel discussion will include Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelists Geraldine Brooks and Paul Harding, and physicist and best-selling novelist Alan Lightman, discussing the ways faith informs their work.  The conversation will be moderated by Steven Knapp, president of George Washington University.

Friday, April 8, 7:30 pm
Folger Theater
201 East Capitol Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003

Laila Lalami, in Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, Luis Urrea, in Into the Beautiful North, and Shobha Rao, in An Unrestored Woman, speak to lives that are never stationary and to communities that have been uprooted. They’ll come together on-stage to read from their work, and discuss what it means to be a citizen in our volatile world with moderator Sarah Stillman, New Yorker staff writer and director of the Global Migration Program at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Sunday, April 9, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Visiting poet Teresa Mei Chuc was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S. shortly after the Vietnam war ended. Her most recent collection of poems is Keeper of the Winds. She will be joined by Karren LaLonde. Alenier, whose recent collection, The Anima of Paul Bowles, draws inspiration from the lives of Paul and Jane Bowles. The reading will be followed by a reception and book signing.

Thursday, April 20, 6:30-8:00 pm
East City Bookshop
645 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

Meet Kristen Radtke, author of the genre-smashing graphic memoir Imagine Wanting Only This. Discussion will be followed by a book signing.

Friday, April 21-Sunday, April 23

The 18th annual Bethesda Literary Festival will host an array of local and national authors, journalists and poets, as well as writing contests and poetry contests. All of the events are free and are held throughout downtown Bethesda.

Friday, April 21, 7:00 pm-8:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Join New York Times bestselling authors Kate Alcott as she discusses her latest novel, The Hollywood Daughter. The reading will be followed by a book signing.
Friday, April 21, 8:00 pm-9:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

John A. Farrell, prize-winning biographer, discusses former president Richard Nixon in his newest acclaimed biography.

Saturday, April 22, 8:00 pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW   
Washington, DC 20008

How many rings were forged by Sauron in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth? Excluding monuments, what is the tallest building in D.C.? Sign-up starts at 7 p.m. in The Den.

    Open House
Sunday, April 23, 11:00 am-1:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Make your Bethesda Literary Festival experience complete--attend the open house at The Writer's Center. Meet new Executive Director Ed Spitzberg, learn about writing workshops, readings, outreach programs and tour our nostalgic building. Stick around for treats and a round of Literary Trivia.

Sunday, April 23, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Come share your writing at open mic! Sign-up for readers starts at 1:30 and the reading starts at 2:00.

Sunday, April 23, 2:00 pm-4:00 pm
Halcyon House
3400 Prospect Street NW, Washington, DC 20007

Waters will be in conversation with Septime Webre, Halcyon House's Artistic Director and former Artistic Director of the Washington Ballet.This event is part of the Halcyon Stage Book Party with Politics and Prose series, inviting celebrated authors to discuss their work in an intimate social setting.

Friday, April 28-Saturday, April 29
College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
3501 University Blvd E, Hyattsville, MD 20783

Join the DC literary community and successful authors, agents, and publishers from around the country for the 5th Annual Washington Writers Conference at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in Hyattsville, MD. See why this inspiring and instructive two-day conference has quickly become a leading literary event in the DC area.

Saturday, April 29
University of Baltimore
William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center 
(#9 on Campus Map: 11 W. Mt. Royal Ave., Baltimore, MD 21201)
John and Frances Angelos Law Center 

(Adichie main/free session only--#7 on Campus Map: 1401 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201)

This year, the CityLit Festival welcomes MacArthur Fellow Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah) to headline this year's event. 

Saturday, April 29

Independent Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country on the last Saturday in April. 

Participating stores in the Washington D.C. metro area include:

Sunday, April 30, 6:30 pm
Busboys and Poets
2021 14th St, NW, Washington, DC 20007

Politics and Prose at Busboys and Poets 14th & V welcomes Abubukar Adam Ibrahim to present his new book Season of Crimson Blossoms and Sarah Ladipo Manyika to present her book Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun.

Ibrahim and Manyika will be in conversation with Tope Folarin, a writer based in Washington D.C. This event is supported by the Young African Professionals (YAP) D.C. Network.