Saturday, October 22, 2016

Local Playwrights Team up with The Phillips Collection to Explore Black History

By Tyler West

Jacob Lawrence: Panel 1

Courtesy of The Phillips Collection

It’s not often that a fine arts museum commissions plays to complement its collection, but that’s just what The Phillips Collection has in mind for its fall exhibition, People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in Jacob Lawrence’s "Migration Series." This special showing will display 60 scenes of early 20th-century African American migration painted by Jacob Lawrence, a prominent African American folk artist. In a special twist, however, the museum has commissioned five well-known D.C. playwrights to craft ten-minute, one-act readings that correspond to the five themes found in the series: beauty and struggle, transitions and transformations, family ties and community building, separation and dislocation, and tension and conflict. According to Curator Elsa Smithgall, the role of the spoken word is crucial in this exhibition because it “makes the artwork come alive in a way that activates and animates what one sees visually.”

The acts will be written by: Jacqueline E. Lawton, who was named one of 30 of America’s leading Black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute ; Norman Allen, writer of In The Garden and recipient of the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play; Tearrance Chisholm, whose plays include Bhavi the Avenger (Convergence Theatre), and In Sweet Remembrance (Endstation Theatre Company); Annalisa Dias, Co-Founder of the D.C. Coalition for Theatre & Social Justice; and Laura Shamas, writer of  Picnic at Hanging Rock, Portrait of a Nude, and Amelia Lives. The five plays will be read by actors Nora Achrati, Jeff Allin, Desmond Bing, James Johnson, Natalie Graves Tucker, and Craig Wallace.  

It is important to remember that this exhibition will not only be a novel experience for viewers and listeners, but also for the playwrights themselves. Laura Shamas calls her work at The Phillips Collection “a dream come true,” explaining that collaborating with other playwrights and museum professionals is a tremendous artistic growing experience. Likewise, Annalisa Dias says that she finds writing for People on the Move to be both challenging and rewarding. She says that she’s had to give intense consideration to the message underlying Lawrence’s paintings: “the largely unseen migration of bodies currently going on in our country: a coerced migration of black and brown bodies into prison cells.”

With such a range contributors and a mix of artistic media, one may question whether the exhibition can ultimately convey a singular, thematic message. Smithgall provides an answer: “The playwrights we worked with responded to Jacob Lawrence’s "Migration Series" in thoughtful, meaningful ways, each one bringing their own perspective to bear on a theme that touches each and every one of us.” All signs point to an enlightening, engaging celebration of Lawrence’s work en mélange.

The exhibition will run from October 8, 2016, until January 8, 2017, and the special one-act readings will take place on November 3, 2016, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for museum members, and can be purchased on The Phillips Collection website.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dynamic Panel to Explore Race & Poetry at Library of Congress

-By Tyler West

Racial tensions have long been vocalized through poetryfrom Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s raw recanting of the brutality of slavery in Sympathy, to the anonymous Japanese-American poet’s penning of That Damned Fence at the Poston Japanese Internment Camppoetic verse has long given the victims of racial divisions a voice. At a time when racial tensions are again demanding societal introspection, it seems fitting to re-visit the power of poetry to express, interpret and even heal racial divides. With this in mind, we are excited to spread the word that the Library of Congress will explore this very issue during its upcoming panel discussion, “Poetry, Publishing and Race.”

Moderated by Rob Casper, Head of the Poetry and Literature Center at the Library of Congress, the panel discussion will feature five prominent poets: Cathy Hong, a poetry professor at Sarah Lawrence College and Poetry Editor for The New Republic; Don Share, Poetry Editor for The Poetry Foundation; Evie Shockley, a professor of English at Rutgers University and a frequent writer of race and feminist poetry; and Carmen Giménez Smith, Publisher of Noemi Press and Editor-in-chief of Puerto del Soland who writes frequently on Latina identity. If their previous works are any indication, this cadre of accomplished poets will offer a substantive, engaging conversation for listeners. For example, Shockley’s 2012 poetry collection, The New Black, explores the meaning of being Black in today’s America, and Smith’s 2013 Milk and Filth collection is plenteous in allusions to racial and cultural struggles.

“Poetry, Publishing, and Race” will launch with each poet reading one piece that they have written that they believe best evokes the dynamic between race and society. Casper will then guide the conversation into a discussion of the mechanics of the pieces and their abilities to evoke complex racial relationships. According to Casper, the ultimate goal of the evening is to explore “how can poetry speak to race issues in ways that other art forms cannot.” For him, this event marks the culmination of an initiative that began as a magazine project with poets Shockley and Hong (both speaking at the event), but has now expanded into a public discourse. Admitting that he has “never hosted an event with such a personal starting point,” and Capser says he is looking forward to providing this timely discussion for the DC writing community.

“Poetry, Publishing and Race” will be held on
 October 18 at 4:00 p.m. in the Mumford Room on 
the sixth floor of the James Madison Building.

Address: 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, 

DC 20540

Monday, October 10, 2016

New Workshop Coming to TWC: Build Your Own Author Website

By Meg Eden Kuyatt

A question writers often ask is: “When do I need an author’s website?” The answer I tell my students is that no matter where they are currently in their writing careers, it’s important to have one.  
It sounds like a daunting task to make an author’s website—I procrastinated making mine, afraid of all the work that might be involved. But website creation doesn’t have to be terrifying—I was able to make my website in just one sitting. In fact, this single-session website work inspired me to lead the “Build Your Own Author Website” workshop at The Writer’s Center.

In the author’s website workshop, we’ll begin by looking at some examples of strong websites, and then brainstorm material that you can display on yours. We’ll talk about strategies for pointing people to your site, and also how to use social media to promote it. Most importantly, I’ll walk you through an easy and affordable website creator and then open up the rest of the time for you to begin exploring and building on your own. 

Meg's author website

What’s so important about having your author’s website, also known as an author platform, is that it can be used to present your work in exactly the way you want it to be known in the writing community. If you’re submitting to agents and editors, they will probably Google you—and you want to be in control of what they see. Your website is a starting point where anyone interested in your work will go. There, potential readers can find your social media links, your contact information, previous examples of your work (this can be links to previously published work or examples of your current work), and any other information you want them to find. Even if you don’t have a book out, there’s still a great amount of information you can put on a website—and beginning to encourage traffic to your site pre-book can increase your book’s popularity when it is released.  Finally, it’s also great to have a website if you attend open mikes and readings. If your listeners are interested in getting to know you and your work, you can easily point them to it. 

The efficient part of designing a website in a workshop space is that you’ll be able to ask questions and get help immediately. I feel very strongly that this time should be used for you to accomplish your website design goals. For example, you’ll be able to get feedback from your peers on what’s working well, on what can be improved, and on what can be made clearer. By the end of the session, you’ll feel comfortable with the interface, and you may even finish the basics of your website! Once your website is finished, you will be able to email your fellow students for post-workshop feedback. 

If you’re clueless about where to start with building a website or are not sure how to set aside the time to do it, I strongly encourage you to attend this workshop. I think you’ll find that making a website doesn’t have to be hard, and that it can actually be an enjoyable part of promoting your book! 

"The Build Your Own Author Website" workshop will take place on December 3, 2016 from 1:00-4:00 p.m. You may click here or call The Writer's Center to register. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

Mark McCaig Wins Bethesda Literary Contest

 -By Tyler West

The Writer’s Center congratulates Maryland-based poet, Mark McCaig, on winning first place in the 2016 Bethesda Literary Festival Poetry Contest. His poem, Grouse, bridges the spectrum between life and death, animal and human, by describing an encounter with a dead, ruffled grouse during casual evening spent with his daughters (poem included below).

McCaig is an accomplished poet and educator who serves the Maryland literary community as a teacher at Fairhaven High School in Upper Marlboro, and also a writing professor at both the University of Maryland University College and Notre Dame University of Maryland. McCaig is also the author of the book, Like Water: The Extraordinary Approach to Education at Fairhaven School, in which he tells the story of how the rural Maryland high school where he teaches adopted an innovative, unconventional approach to education.


By Mark McCaig
Tracy's Landing, MD
First Place

The girls know the roadkill drill, hopping out behind flashing

hazards to follow, creeping up to this hushed brown heap.

Male ruffed grouse, I say—whiskered beak, velvet tail feathers

it once fanned, candy bar colorations circling its broken neck.

How they stare wide-eyed at the dangle when I grab its pinkish

feet, softly placing it in high milkweed. Late summer apology.

My daughters and their friends say for no apparent reason,

like teens repeat you know and like, chirping this phrase

with such frequency they now use it for no apparent

reason. I unbuckle Colleen, then I carry her asleep

across the dark driveway. That sound as she sucks her fore-

finger, like she does, dreaming she’s a ground bird savoring

sweet grubs, drumming her wing, then listening to forest

twilight. In my arms again she settles, a dead weight.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Spotlight on Literary Events: October 2016

Tell Your Story, Then Write It
Saturday, Oct 1st, 2:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815
Transform your memories into stories! Storyteller Ellouise Schoettler and novelist Solveig Eggerz team up to lead a panel focusing on the benefits of good oral storytelling to the writer. Panelists are Jessica Robinson, Dario DiBattista, Len Kruger, and Pat McNees. Admission is free.

Sunday, Oct 2nd, 2:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, MD 20815
Celebrate three authors whose first books have been published by the Santa Fe Writers Project. Daniel M. Ford reads from Ordination, book one in the Paladin Trilogy. He is joined by novelist Brandon Wicks, author of American Fallout, and Tara Laskowski, who reads from her engrossing collection of short stories, Bystanders. Admission is free.

JosephRoach: "Stars Down to Earth: Materializing Celebrity"
Tuesday, Oct 4th, 7:00 pm
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Joseph Roach, Yale University, discusses the cult of literary celebrity surrounding Shakespeare and Austen. Tickets are $15, $10 for members.

Wednesday, Oct 5th, 2:00 pm
Library of Congress, Pickford Theater
101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540
Douglas LaPrade of the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, delivers a lecture on the WWI, Spanish and Cuban influences in Ernest Hemingway’s work at 2 p.m. in the Pickford Theater. Event is free.

Sunday, Oct 9th, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD 20815
Experience the work of our 2015 Emerging Writer Fellowship winners, Clifford Garstang and Brian Simoneau, at a free open door reading.

Friday, Oct 14th, 6:00 pm
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003
Author, University of Maryland professor of English, and consulting editor for The Shakespeare Quarterly Theodore Leinwand discusses his new book The Great William: Writers Reading Shakespeare. Admission is free but reservation is required.

Friday, Oct 14th, 11:00 pm -1:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, 14th & V
2021 14th St NW Washington DC 20009
The 11th Hour Poetry Slam offers an opportunity for poetry lovers to enjoy the competitive art of late-night performance poetry! $5 for tickets.

Saturday, Oct 15th, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, Takoma
235 Carroll St NW, Washington, DC 20012
Author W.K. Dwyer will be discussing his first novel, The Killing Flower. Admission is free.

Saturday, Oct 15th, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, 5th & K
City Vista, 1025 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Youth-focused and youth-led, Youth Open Mic is a monthly series that features student poets, singers, musicians and actors from the DC/Maryland/Virginia area. Tickets cost $5.

Sunday, Oct 16th, 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, 14th & V
2021 14th St NW WashingtonDC 20009
Sunday Kind of Love Open Mic Poetry features emerging and established poets from the Washington, D.C. area and around the nation. $5 for ticket.

Sunday, Oct 16th, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD 20815
Terri Cross Davis and husband Hayes Davis read from their books, Haint and Let Our Eyes Linger, respectively. Admission is free to this open door reading.

Tuesday, Oct 18th, 4:00 pm
Library of Congress, James Madison Building
101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC 20540
Rob Casper, head of the Poetry and Literature Center will lead a discussion with poets/editors, Cathy Park Hong (New Republic), Don Share (Poetry Magazine), Evie Shockley (Feminist Studies), Carmen Giménez Smith (Puerto del Sol/Noemi Press) on the ways poetry helps us navigate race in contemporary American culture.

Tuesday, Oct 18th, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Upshur St. Books
827 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011
Join us to hear Natalie Eve Garrett in conversation with contributor Jeffrey Renard Allen about The Artists' and Writers' Cookbook (Powerhouse Books). Admission is free.

Wednesday, Oct 19th, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Upshur St. Books
827 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011

Thursday, Oct 20th, 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD 20815
The Writer’s Center presents a series of readings from books set during the early 20th century. Admission is free.

Thursday, Oct 20th, 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Upshur St. Books
827 Upshur St NW, Washington, DC 20011

Thursday, Oct 20th, 6:30 pm
Busboys & Poets, 14th & V
2021 14th St NW WashingtonDC 20009
The Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation was founded in 1990 and is dedicated to discovering, mentoring and honoring Black writers. The Legacy Awards honors the best in Black literature in America and around the globe. Join us for a reading by 2016 nominees.

Saturday, Oct 22nd, 8:00 pm
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW Washington DC 20008
Sign-up starts at 7 p.m. in The Den. Then grab a drink special, put on your thinking cap, and head upstairs for three rounds of mind-bending trivia by 8 p.m. Prizes awarded. Trivia night is open to all ages. Admission is free.

Sunday, Oct 23rd, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, Hyattsville
5331 Baltimore Ave, Hyattsville, MD 20781
Fighting Cancer With Poetry, Inc. in partnership with Busboys and Poets cordially invites YOU to another installment of our renowned Poetry Jam Fundraisers. Admission is free.

Sunday, Oct 23rd, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD 20815
Come share your poetry, fiction, and nonfiction works! Sign-up for readers begins at 1:30, and the reading starts at 2:00. Admission is free.

Tuesday, Oct 25th, 9:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, Brookland
625 Monroe St NE, Washington, DC 20017
This Poetry Slam, Inc certified slam event meets the last Tuesday of every month at Busboys and Poets' Brookland location. $5 for ticket.

Tuesday, Oct 25th, 6:30 pm
1517 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
Design Sponge founder and author Grace Bonney will lead a conversation with:
-Sarah Gordon and Sheila Fain of Gordy's Pickle Jar
-           Amanda McClements of Salt & Sundry
-Ashley Ford, writer, editor and speaker
-Charlotte Cannon of The Vintage Vogue
Tickets include one copy of In the Company of Women and one beer or glass of wine. Cost is $50.00 + $3.74 fee.

Wednesday, Oct 26th, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Busboys & Poets, 5th & K
City Vista, 1025 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Join author Robert Barsky as he discusses and signs his book Hatched. Admission is free.

Friday, Oct 28th, 11:00 pm – 1:00 am
Busboys & Poets, 5th & K
City Vista, 1025 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
American Sign Language users and viewers from all corners of life will come together to recite a poem, song, short skit or jokes. Come out and enjoy the wonderful environment while you eat, get your drink on and socialize. Great for those learning American Sign Language. $5 for ticket.

Sunday, Oct 30th, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh St, Bethesda, MD 20815
Poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths is joined by long-time workshop leader John Morris, who reads from his collection of short stories, When I Snap My Fingers You Will Remember Everything. Admission is free for this open door reading.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Meet the Instructor: Tyrese Coleman

Meet the Instructor offers insight into the teaching styles and personalities of our instructors. This time around, we spoke with Tyrese Coleman, who will lead Developing Your Flash Fiction, an intermediate/advanced class that runs from October 22 through December 3.

The Writer’s Center: What brought you to the Writer’s Center?

Tyrese Coleman: I am a The Writer's Center alum.  I began my writing career taking courses at the Writer's Center. It was through those courses that I realized I wanted to study creative writing more in depth. I was encouraged by my then instructor to apply to Johns Hopkins, and I haven't stopped writing since. I always wanted to return to the Center to hopefully be for others what my instructor was for me: the encouragement I needed to pursue my dream.  

TWC: How would you describe your teaching style?

TC: I believe the cornerstone of good critique is a mix of encouragement, knowledge, and honesty. My style is one that revolves around those principles, with an added touch of humor and diversity. We are adults who want to create something meaningful to share with the world.  My teaching style keeps that goal in mind as a concrete point of achievement.  

TWC: What are you reading right now?

TC: There are way too many books lingering on my bedside table. I'm currently on 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad, and will then move to Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album by Joan Didion, and Slumberland by Paul Beatty.

TWC: What are you writing right now?

TC: Right now I am working on two projects, one is a short story collection and the other is a hybrid collection of stories and essays. For those collections, I am writing flash fiction and memoir, plus longer pieces for publication in journals.  

TWC: What does your writing space look like?

TC: My living room, LOL! I have an office, but I never work in it.  In a corner of my living room is a cushy mustard-colored, mid-century styled club chair with a matching lamp above it and a small table right next to it. My laptop rests on a pillow on my lap; any papers or books go on the side table along with a glass of wine. Once my kids are in bed, the only sound you can hear in my living room is the tapping of computer keys and maybe my dog snoring.  

TWC: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

TC: Ever? Oh, that's hard to answer because I've received such good advice, and my memory is really bad. So, I will go with the best advice I received recently. I conducted an interview for The Rumpus with another The Writer's Center instructor, Leslie Pietrzyk, who said, "Think about the stories you have inside that scare you. That's what you should be writing." This advice is so crucial for us storytellers who really want to get at the heart of the matter, the brutal truth of life. I hope to challenge my students to write those stories and put them out into the world.

Tyrese L. Coleman is the fiction editor for District Lit, an online journal of writing and art, and a graduate of the Writing Program at Johns Hopkins University. A 2016 Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and Virginia Quarterly Review Nonfiction Scholar, her work has appeared in numerous publications such as PANK, Washingtonian Magazine, The Rumpus, and listed in Wigleaf's Top 50 (very) short fictions.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Meet the Instructor: Jenny Chen

The ‘Meet the Instructor Series’ offers insight into the teaching styles and personalities of our instructors. This time around, we spoke with Jenny Chen, the leader of How to Pitch Magazines and Sell Your Work, an online beginner-level class that will run from October 15 through November 5, 2016.

The Writer’s Center: What brought you to The Writer’s Center?

Jenny Chen: I took my first class at The Writer's Center many, many years ago. It was a class for high school students on fiction, taught by Barbara Esstman. Since then, I've attending Writer's Center events and have always felt grateful for its presence in the D.C. community.

TWC: How would you describe your teaching style?

JC: Encouraging and specific. I like to help people enjoy the process of writing and to give specific, actionable feedback.

TWC: What are you reading right now?

JC: A lot of Junot Diaz.

TWC: What are you writing right now?

JC: Poetry and essays.

TWC: What does your writing space look like?

JC: I write all over the place and I travel a lot, so my writing space is generally a coffee shop with a notepad. I'm happiest when I'm minimalistic.

TWC: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

JC: Oh dear . . . so many good pieces of writing advice and I can't even remember them when asked. My brother, who is a visual artist, always challenges me to be more concrete and specific in my writing, and has absolutely transformed my writing in a way that no writing teacher has ever done.

Jenny Chen is an award-winning science and health journalist. Her writing has appeared in publications such as The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Shape, and Marie Claire.