Thursday, July 31, 2008

Got Museum Poems? Beltway Poetry Contest

For those of you who love museums and poetry, here’s an opportunity to get published. Kim Roberts, editor of the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, has forwarded the following details:

Beltway Poetry Quarterly, an online journal, seeks poems for a special themed issue celebrating museums. Poems should be about specific museums (of any kind, of any size, in any location) or specific items exhibited in museum collections. The issue will be co-edited by Kim Roberts and Maureen Thorson.

Only poets who live or work in DC, VA, MD, WV, or DE are eligible. Poems may be any length. Submit up to 4 poems by email only. Poems that have already appeared in print publications are acceptable if copyright has reverted to the author (and author secures any permission for reprinting). Poems appearing elsewhere on the web are not eligible.

Submit poems in the body of a single email (no attachments, and please no multiple emails) to Include your full contact information (snail mail address, phone, email) and a one-paragraph bio. Incomplete entries and those made outside the one-month reading period will not be considered.

The issue will be published in January 2009. All entries must be received during the month of August 2008.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Writer's Center Success Stories

Hello, everyone. I'm back from my brief trip. Got caught in a tent in the rain, a whopper of a storm, actually. Our poor dog--who doesn't like storms one iota--kept us awake a lot more than the rain and thunder and lightning did. Anyway.

I spent a lot of time today catching up. Got good news while I was gone that a Writer's Center member published a book review in the Washington Post Book World recently. (Incidentally, it appears that yet another bastion of of book reviewing in the biz, the LA Times Book review, is folding--or at least being absorbed into the larger newspaper. A sad commentary on the state of books? Literature? One thing is certain: these are NOT easy times for newspapers, and it's an even uneasier time for book reviewers. All the MORE reason to celebrate this publication--a book review in one of the last great American book review locations:

Book reviewing does seem headed down a wrong way street, but it IS an art one, and one that challenges how readers and writers think. There is no better way, in my opinion, to learn about how to read and write books (other than reading and writing them) than reading book reviews. Good book reviews. Writing book reviews is a challenge, too, and yet a helluva a fine one. Did you know that the Writer's Center is offering a workshop this fall with Book World's own Dennis Drabelle? Learn how to write great, selling reviews from a master at one of the few remaining stand-alone book review sections in the country. For more information, click here:

Friday, July 25, 2008

Quotidian Theatre Company at the Writer's Center

Just when you though there was nothing to do over the weekend. Visit the Writer's Center, support local theater.

For over a decade, the Quotidian Theatre Company has created memorable production inside our theatre. From July 10 through August 10, Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into The Night will be playing.

To reserve tickets you may contact the Quotidian Theatre Company directly or drop them a line via email.

301-816-1023 (phone) (email)

Please note that evening performances for this production start at 7:30 pm, and matinees at 1:30 pm.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Guest Blogger: Charlie Jensen

Today we have our director, Charlie Jensen sharing some jewels about creativity with us.

Here's Charlie:

One of my favorite summer traditions over the past few years has been the launch of the new season of Project Runway, one of Bravo!’s reality show staples. Like many reality shows, it’s a competition, pitting 16 designers of varying experience levels against one another in a series of sartorial challenges that stretch the boundaries of their imaginations—and their hands. The designers draw, shop, measure, cut, steam, and sew their innovative garments from start to finish in each challenge, then finish by dressing and styling their model for each episode’s climactic runway show. Judges include designer Michael Kors, fashion editor Nina Garcia, Klum herself, and a fourth chair occupied by a rotating guest judge.

Last week I advocated for everyone to get away from the television and write, but this week I’ll admit that for me, Project Runway is a big fat exception to all the rules. I think it’s a show smartly done, but I also think, more than most television offerings, it places creativity right at the forefront of the show. Designers are often ridiculed or lambasted for doing “the expected thing” or “the uninspired thing,” while the best-faring among them have taken risks, done something differently, or pushed the boundaries of fashion just a little bit further than expected.

This season’s first challenge repeated the very first episode’s challenge to the designers: they were to construct a complete look using only what could be purchased in a grocery store.

The first time around, the results varied greatly. There was the winner, Austin Scarlett, who constructed a dress entirely from cornhusks, while the losing designer, Daniel, showed up with a model wearing a trash bag. The level of inspiration in between was just as various, with highlights including the nylon stocking dress, the lawnchair dress, and the unfortunate bell-pepper-bikini look.

This time around, the winning dress was made from opened vacuum cleaner bags dyed and bleached, scorched coffee filters, and some intricate detail work with a variety of household objects. One designer made a gorgeous Asian-inspired gown with kale and cherry tomatoes adorning it in a beautiful vibrant cowl-like neck. Another made a dress entirely from pressed Solo plastic cups.
What do I take away from this show that others can’t offer me? The reminder that creativity is, when it works best, an uncomfortable risk. As writers, we should lead ourselves away from the known places, the familiar places—toward ourselves, our own authenticities. Toward the delight of surprise and the unique beauty of taking chances.

You can learn more about this show here

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Patience Makes Poet Laureate

So by now everyone should have heard that Kay Ryan was chosen as the 16th poet laureate of the United States, following Charles Simic.

What’s striking about Ms. Ryan is that she never set out to be a public poet in the way that many who take on laureateships are expected. Hers is a story that may resonate with many poets here at the Center. At 62, one might say her virtue is perseverance. Ms. Ryan told the Washington Post that it took eight years to get a poem accepted at a serious poetry magazine and 10 more to get into the New Yorker.

Here’s a poem of hers titled “Patience”:

By Kay Ryan

Patience is
wider than one
once envisioned,
with ribbons
of rivers
and distant
ranges and
tasks undertaken
and finished
with modest
relish by
natives in their
native dress.
Who would
have guessed
it possible
that waiting
is sustainable—
a place with
its own harvests.
Or that in
time's fullness
the diamonds
of patience
couldn't be
from the genuine
in brilliance
or hardness.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Writer's Center Meets the Folger's

Hello all of you out there in Blog-o-sphere:

In Kyle’s absence, I (your humble Writer’s Carousel editor) will manage the Writer’s Center blog and make a couple of guest appearances.

In an effort to build literary bridges with other arts organization like the Writer’s Center, I wish to introduce Teri Cross Davis, Poetry and Lectures Coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

What follows is a brief conversation we had about the 08/09 Poetry line-up season. For more details, visit
Abdul Ali: It's so good to talk with you, Teri, about the 08/09 season at the Folger's.

Teri Cross Davis: Yes, I am excited about the season, so ask away!

Abdul Ali: What were the criteria for choosing some of the poets? I noticed they're all so diverse across aesthetics, ethnicity, and generation.

Teri Cross Davis: I consider many different things when looking at poets. I look at whether they've read at the Folger’s before, I consider how the audience might respond to them, and I weigh new voices versus and/or alongside the more established poets. All this to present a season that has some range hopefully.

Abdul Ali: Any poets you have not heard read before?

Teri Cross Davis: Well yes and no. In this job I get introduced to the work of many poets I wouldn't have heard of 5 or 7 years ago. But now it's not often that I run into poets whose names, at least, I don't know. That said, there are some poets whose body of work I am more familiar with than before, like Rae Armantrout, Kay Ryan, Frank X Walker.

Abdul Ali: Anything you'd like to tell Writer's Center members about the Folger's?

Teri Cross Davis: It's a great place to work. There are so many arts lovers here that it's an easy place to feel at home in, even with the rare books and scholarly atmosphere. And for people who really love poetry and really love books, there are the holdings in our vault. We have originals by of course, Shakespeare, so his sonnets are there, but also John Donne, Walt Whitman, Alexander Pope, Sir Phillip Sidney, and Edmund Spenser among others.

Abdul Ali: That’s fantastic! And, you serve tea at the Folger's?

Teri Cross Davis: YES! That's a tradition one can really get behind! Every day at 3pm there is tea served in our tea room. I don't take advantage of it as much as I should, it's hard to pull me out of an office that is lined with poetry books, however, I love the tradition and try to take advantage of it when I have visitors.

Abdul Ali: Do you recommend purchasing tickets to the readings in advance? I know that Lucille Clifton's reading was well-attended this past May. I imagine that will be true of many poets for the 08/09 season.

Teri Cross Davis: I recommend getting a subscription above all! That way you are guaranteed a seat at every reading, and all subscribers get a copy of the new Wave Books political poetry anthology State of the Union. The anthology has poems by Petter Gizzi, John Ashbery, Terrence Hayes, Eileen Myles, and more. And two of those names I mentioned will be here in September for the first reading of the season. Plus, you get a card that gives you discounts to restaurants in the Capitol Hill area. So you can make nice night of it once a month, get a bite to eat, hear some poetry, follow it with wine at our reception (if you are of drinking age:) and go home physically and mentally fed.

Abdul Ali: Well, it looks like an exciting season. I look forward to seeing you, with my Writer's Center brethren to all of those wonderful readings. Thanks for visiting our blog today.

Teri Cross Davis: Thank you for having me.

For a complete look at the Folger Poetry 2008/09 Season, refer to your recent Writer Carousel (which is on route to your home via snail mail.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Barrelhouse Magazine: Launch Party

Hello, everyone

I didn't manage to post yesterday--so I apologize to all of you who subscribe and who were awaiting this message. My wife and I were shopping for a new car, and that's NEVER a fun task. I'm happy to say, though, that at least we found one. Now that's over. Anyway, I wanted to return to Barrelhouse Magazine. When I posted about them the other day, I didn't mention the coolest part: Barrelhouse actually grew out of a writer's group formed after a WC workshop in 2005. Pretty cool, eh? Well, guess what? Issue number 6 is coming out soon, and Barrelhouse is going to have a launch party. Here's the info for you (and it sounds pretty cool):

On Friday, July 25, from 6pm to 10pm, join Barrelhouse, roller derby artist Cory Oberndorfer, and roller derby girls with 34 inch pythons at the Hillyer Art Space for the first ever Roller Derby Themed Barrelhouse Issue 6 Launch and Arm Wrestling Extravaganza! sponsored by Scion and the Pink Line Project.

$10 at the door / Free food and drink from Flying Dog Brewery! Barrelhouse Issues available for $5!


You get to arm wrestle a Roller Derby Girl!! IF YOU DARE!

To celebrate Roller Derby, a protofeminist wave of bone crushing awesomeness, we bring you a night of amazing roller derby themed stories and poems and one gigantic Roller Derby mural, food eating, beer and wine drinking, DJ dancing, and (we hope) Barrelhouse buying.

Friday, July 25, 6-10 pm (Come by after work!)

Hillyer Art Space
9 Hillyer Court NW
Washington, DC, 20008

Hillyer Court is an alleyway courtyard with two entrances from 21st Street and from Florida Avenue. The courtyard is bound by Florida Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue, R Street, 21st Street, and Q Street. Our building within Hillyer Court is located directly behind the Cosmos Club and the Phillips Collection; it is a two-floor grayish-blue brick building.


At some point soon, I hope to sit down and chat with the guys from Barrelhouse and post it as an interview. But I'm going to be off for the next week, so I won't be at the launch party. In my absence Abdul will post, and Charlie will post, and I'll try to check in. But I'm going to a cabin like the one in Evil Dead. I'm not sure how the "connection" will be. Until next time...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Guest Blogger: Charlie Jensen on 'Excuses, Excuses'

For today we get a special treat: The Writer's Center's new director, Charlie Jensen. Charlie is a writer himself, and recently published a poem in the Columbia Poetry Journal. (Coincidentally, Writer's Center board member E. Ethelbert Miller was published in the same issue. Check it out here (we have copies on hand in our bookstore).

One preliminary note. You'll notice in the upper right hand corner of this page a link "subscribe to The Writer's Center by e-mail." If you click here, all you'll have to do to receive a daily delivery in your e-mail inbox is type in what e-mail address you'd like to receive the blogpost in. It's a simple process. Once you've subscribed, you'll get daily updates about upcoming workshops, events, happenings, etc. Sound cool? Give it a shot.

Now on to Charlie:

Being a writer, for most of us, often means being what I call a “writer-plus.” We’re writers and mothers, or writers and stock traders, or writers and bus drivers, or—at the very least—writers and readers. Being a writer-administrator is a pretty great gig. I spend my entire day thinking about ways to get people excited about or involved in literature. I feel, you might say, like one of the luckiest people on the planet.

But then I go home after work, and I have a dog to feed, an apartment that seems to need constant cleaning despite my best efforts to remain “neat,” a DVR chock full of reality shows and old movies, a guitar longing to be played, several exciting red envelopes from Netflix, and a stack of unread magazines on everything from the newest pop music releases to which mandoline slicer best represents my personality and cooking style.

I call this “life pollution.” Except for the my dog; she’s adorable!

It can be the hardest thing to come home after a long day at work and decide to write or not. I mean, there’s laundry. There are dirty dishes. There’s a stack of mail I was too reluctant to open when it arrived and the stack of mail I opened and decided I had to keep somewhere. I can sense the rapid descent of dust onto every flat surface in my home, the quiet gurgle of the bathtub as it begins to choke on a developing clog, and then I need to sleep.

And having just moved to DC recently, I’m currently fortunate enough to not have a hopping social life to distract me from all of these concerns.

A few nights last week, I did write. Not very much and not for very long, but I probably got another 5 or 6 pages done in a long piece I’ve been working on. And I know in my heart that this is how work gets done: like Michaelangelo facing down a big brick of marble, we only get closer to the end by chipping away at it piece by piece, hour by stolen hour. In our minds, the time it takes to sit down and begin writing feels like so much more of an investment than the time it actually takes to sit down and write. In thirty minutes, I can wipe my mind clean with half a Project Runway, a surface sweep cleaning of the apartment, a long walk with the dog—or I can write a few pages.

If I wrote 2 pages a day for a year, I’d have a 730-page novel. Even if I only wrote 5 days a week, for 30 minutes after work, that’s still 520 pages. And that’s practically a Gore Vidal novel!

My advice to myself this week: two pages at a time. One day at a time. Chip away with those stolen hours....

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Guest Blogger: Reb Livingston

Hello, my name is Reb Livingston. Yesterday Kyle asked if I’d be willing to guest blog today. As a big-shot poet, editor and publisher, normally I require 18 months notice and a crap ton of cheddar to guest blog, but I was just at the Writers Center for Charlie Jensen’s welcome reception and got some free cake, so I figure I owe ‘em.

Let me use this opportunity to tell you about some of my creative projects. In August the online magazine, No Tell Motel, I founded and edit with Molly Arden will be turning 4. Yes, we will be accepting birthday gifts. One of the things (there are many) that’s special about No Tell Motel is that we don’t publish issues. Instead we feature a new poet each week and publish a new poem by that poet each weekday. It’s a great way to get to see a poet’s work in depth. And if you stop by and you don’t care for this week, well there’s always next week and the week after that. This week’s poet is Neil de la Flor. You’ll love him. We published hundreds of poets including Amy Gerstler, Denise Duhamel, Shanna Compton, Evie Shockley, Simon Perchik, Kate Greenstreet, Ken Rumble, Cynthia Huntington, Kirsten Kaschock, Danielle Pafunda, Joshua Marie Wilkinson and local-DC poets such as Sandra Beasley, Kim Roberts, Grace Cavalieri, Donald Illich and newly local Charles Jensen.

If you read the work we publish and think yours would be a good fit, our reading period re-opens during the month of October. But if you do submit, please follow our guidelines. And here’s the secret skinny about No Tell: we really aren’t interested in sex act poems. Sexy poems are AOK (but not required). Most of what we publish is quite far from erotica. We’re kind of like the girl who wore a short skirt on the first day of school and now unfairly has a scandalous reputation. Oh and one more thing about submissions, if we don’t use your work, please don’t freak on our *sses. We absolutely hate and never forget when people freak on our *sses. Like most magazines, it’s competitive and we take less than 5% of the work submitted.

Another project I’m working on is my poetry micropress, No Tell Books. The press is in its third year and published books by Jill Alexander Essbaum, Rebecca Loudon, Bruce Covey, Ravi Shankar, Laurel Snyder, Hugh Behm-Steinberg, PF Potvin, and Shafer Hall. The press also published two Bedside Guide anthologies. Unfortunately there is no manuscript reading period for the press – it’s by invitation only (a select few whose work first appeared in No Tell Motel are invited to submit). When I say micropress, I mean micropress, I’m the only person – and that’s the way it’ll continue. My goal has always been to work intimately with a small group of poets to put out a couple fantastic books a year, not to create some unwieldy poetry empire and assign tasks to minions. I don’t apologize for this. If I sold a book for every manuscript inquiry, no wait, if I sold 1 book for every 10 manuscript inquiries, my press would be wildly wealthy and every book would come with an ice cream cone.

Not that these books need an ice cone giveaway, they’re fabulous – and I’m not just saying that because I’m their daddy.

I do hope you’ll take the time to visit No Tell Motel and at the very least peruse the catalogue at No Tell Books.

If you’re interested in more of my blogging, I have a personal blog here and will be guest blogging all next week at The Best American Poetry blog. I’ll be posting a series of mean interviews with No Tell Books authors.

On July 26th at 5 p.m. I’ll be the guest on the Joe Milford Radio Show. You can listen to the program at anytime, so check it out at your leisure after 5 p.m. on July 26th. I’ll be discussing poetry and publishing in (hopefully) a lot more depth than I did here.

And lastly, pretty much all poetry editors and publishers are poets themselves cause only poets are nutty enough to go through all that trouble and not get paid for it. So if you’re in the DC area, why not stop by the Cheryl’s Gone poetry reading on Thursday, July 17th at 8PM at the Big Bear CafĂ©. I’ll be reading with Kyle Dargan and Adam Robinson. If you show up, you’ll be treated to poems from my book Your Ten Favorite Words and from a new manuscript I’m writing now called God Damsel.

Thank you for reading my guest blog post and not freaking on my *ss.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Barrelhouse Magazine

So I'd planned on doing my first ever top ten list of "favorite moments" at the Writer's Center. (My "favorite" moments are somewhat limited by the fact that I've only been here a little more than 2 months.) But I abandoned that plan--I'll do it later. I got two e-mails today that I thought more appropriate to today's post. The first came from the local poetry press that I profiled yesterday. Seems I mispronounced the name: Vrzhu is actually pronounced VER-ZHOO. My bad.

They've also got a couple new books coming out in August. The Dailiesby John Gilgun
and Love Is A Map I Must Not Set On Fire by Carol Guess. Learn more here:

Then the other e-mail came from Barrelhouse Magazine (now in our list of local blogs). They've got a great blog and a great lit journal. I'm going to profile them pretty soon. Their new issue is coming out and they're having a launch party. Check 'em out.

Tomorrow we have a guest blogger: Reb Livingston. She's another one of our local bloggers. I met her at Charlie's reception last weekend. Her blog might have the coolest name of any blog. Ever. But I won't tell you what it is; click on her name to find out.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Instructor Stanley Plumly Reviewed in The New Yorker

Stanley Plumly, who teaches the poetry master class here at the Center, published a new book in May: Posthumous Keats. It was recently reviewed in the New Yorker. Check it out.

Yesterday's meet and greet the new director went really well. There was a terrific turnout (and we'll have pictures of the event on this blog and on our companion Facebook page pretty soon).

I want to turn now to one of the blogs in the lower right corner of the screen: This will be the first of a series of posts (not daily) in which I briefly highlight one of the local blogs we have listed.

Vrzhu (pronounced vee-shu) is a local poetry press who's doing some great work. I met them this year at the Writer's Center's small press fair. They have two new books coming out, one by Hiram Larew and the other by Kim Roberts.

On the blog you can find interesting links to poets and presses and other blogs that may be of interest, including many who've read recently at The Writer's Center. If you're interested in poetry and the local scene, this is a great blog to keep an eye on.

Friday, July 11, 2008

We Book

Thanks, Art, for the great (and eloquent) comment you left on yesterday's post. My own experience is similar to yours, oddly enough. For anyone who read that post yesterday who isn't in a group now--who may be taking a workshop at the WC--I'd encourage you to consider finding one. They're a great, great complement to the workshops we offer.

I have to include a bit of sad news, I'm afraid. (I HATE waking up to this kind of news.) Jakob Ejersbo, a terrific Danish writer (author of Nordkraft and SuperEgo), died last night of cancer. Age: 40. A terrible loss. Nordkraft is an amazing book (SuperEgo less so, but it was also a first book). But he did, apparently, leave behind at least one manuscript that, according to the publisher, is pretty much ready for printing. So I'll look forward to that whenever it comes out.

But, we move on...

Here's an interesting experiment in writing/publishing. It's called We Book. I found it through my Google Reader: There seems to be a lot of movement on this. It's a kind of online forum where writers can go to share/post their work and meet others electronically.

I might have to play around with it (if I find the time this weekend). Today marks the end of our first week with our new director, Charlie Jensen, and I have to say: Great week! Clearly, I think, the WC has chosen the right person to lead the organization forward. We're all pleased. For the moment, I'm gonna close this post with a reminder that this Sunday, July 13th, we're hosting a welcome reception for Charlie here at the Center. From noon to 2p.m. Maybe I'll see you there.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Guest Blogger: Instructor Susan Land on Revision

As promised, here's today's post from Susan:

I write fiction that takes place in Bethesda, so when I saw the notice about the Bethesda Magazine Short Story Contest, I wanted to submit a story. Unfortunately, the piece I thought would fit best in the magazine was too long. Way too long. Over 6000 words. The guidelines said 4000 max. I fiddled a bit with some other stories, then I pretty much gave up on the contest - like many other contests.

Then the day before the deadline, from an overflowing shelf by my desk, an old rejection slip from the Alaska Quarterly fell to the floor. I picked it up, though I might just as easily have let it hang out on the floor for a while. The rejection was from a couple of years ago. The editor thought the piece - the 6000-worder - was good, but cumbersome, and suggested I stick to one or two storylines.

I took the fall of the rejection slip as a sign and opened up my "Woman with Birds" file. The narrator of the story is the adult daughter of a gambling father, a loser. The father comes to visits, courts an unsuspecting widow, and threatens to stay. In the version I’d sent to Alaska, the story opens as the father calls, announces that he’s on his way, and tells a bodily-fuctions joke that my friend Kate didn’t like. I like the joke, but Kate’s not liking it gave me the courage to cut the whole scene.

Five hundred words down.

Next, I cut the scene where Margaret tells her husband about the visit and remembers her father’s previous visit and their breakfast at the American City Diner and their argument over the Middle East and the price of milkshakes and the Lego settlement her father built with her son in the middle of the living room and – all backstory and all gone.

Another 700 words.

Then I took out the scene where the father visits Margaret’s lab and I slipped the necessary info from the lab visit into a dialogue at the Air and Space Museum Gift Shop and a phone call.

Grace Paley once pointed out that in old movies the characters - say a husband and wife - would be filmed eating dinner, then a picture of the sky would cover the screen, a moon would rise and set as the sun rose in its wake, and finally, the couple would appear at the breakfast table.

Viewers and readers have learned how to fill in the gaps.

Paley never wrote a scene that didn’t burst at the seams with passion and/or irritation.

My story read better for the slashing.

My friend Kate agrees.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Importance of a Writer's Group

So let me ask you this: How many of you have taken workshops at The Writer's Center and discovered kindred spirits in the workshop? People you ended up getting together with after the workshop was over. Maybe you formed a little group and continue to send your stories/poems/whatever to them on occassion. Then you get together and talk turkey.

I'm betting many of you have.

Sometimes these groups form from direct contact in workshops. Other times--as I saw today on Craigslist--they form very deliberately, in the form of ads for writers. However they form, writing groups can be a really invigorating way to develop as a writer. Let me ask you all (all of you who are out there. Hello? Hello? Anyone there?), Are you in a writer's group? Yes? No? If yes, what are your stories? Is there a particular number that is good when forming a group? How large is your group? Is 4 in the group okay but 5 too many? Did you form the group because you have different tastes or similar?

Look for a post from WC instructor Susan Land tomorrow. She's going to discuss revising her story--which placed second--in Bethesda Magazine's recent contest.

Oh, and let me know if you're having trouble subscribing to this blog or making a comment.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Riding the Carousel

Today we have a guest blogger, Abdul Ali. He's the editor of The Writer's Carousel. Here's a visual for you...

Some may choose to forget about their jobs when they leave to go home. Such is not my fate. Here’s a birds-eye view into the day of a newsletter editor:

Find a photo for the cover. Call an instructor to write for our column. Sell some ads. Wait for instructors to return my call. Go to lunch. Receive message that instructors called. Return call and send an email apologizing for missing their call. Select a Book Reviewer. Contain tremor that travels the length of my left arm. Wait....

The next day arrives.

The beat goes on…

As a preview to our summer issue of Writer’s Carousel, I’m including an excerpt of an interview I did with poet Kyle G. Dargan who teaches in the MFA program at American University.
Abdul Ali:
What was it like growing up in Newark?

Kyle Dargan: It was like living, happily, in a skeleton. You could see the abandoned S. Klein's department store building, the old Paps and Ballantine Ale breweries. It was clear that industry and manufacturing once thrived here, but, as was the fate of many industrial towns, things changed towards the end of the 20th century. Newark has never been a slouch of a city. While it always exists in New York's shadow cast over the river, it has a rich history. Its neighborhoods are varied, and I continue to discover new pockets of the city every time I go back.
Still, there are a number of places where I'd walk around at night as a child that I would not be so keen on visiting after hours today. The gang problem wasn't anywhere near as developed as it is today. But as a child, I felt safe in knowing that I was "of" this place, and that I had a certain eye for my surroundings that allowed me to avoid danger while appreciating the beauty of the city. So, I understand why Newark is, to some, an acquired taste these days.
The most profound effect Newark had on me is that it gave me a false sense of America. Newark had an African-American mayor, Sharpe James (my mother was his chief of staff), an African-American Fire Director, a predominantly African-American city council, and I went to a predominantly African-American Catholic school.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fourth of July

Okay. So the Center's closed this weekend. I'm about ready to leave for the day. I'm realizing just how difficult it is to spend a day at work then write a blog at the end of the day. Last night, I worked till 10:30. There were five workshops going at the same time. Lots of people here--always great to see. I sold two lit journals--The Portland Review and Little Patuxent Review--and that's always great to do. We certainly have a lot more lit journals here.

When we return on Monday, we'll have a new Director, Charles Jensen. We're all looking forward to finally having him on board. As you may know by now, we're having a welcome reception for Charles on July 13th. That's a Sunday. From noon to 2p.m.

Anyway, I'm about spent. Have a nice Fourth of July.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Resource Fair

I nearly forgot to mention last weekend's Resource Fair, which I attended with two great interns--Gonzalo and Carrie. We spent a long day sitting at the booth, gabbing, and attending workshops.

Many thanks to Christeen at the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities who helped organize the event. We met some really cool people there, including sisters Fellina and Felicia Pride from The Backlist.

Also met a number of new folks who're interested in joining The Writer's Center, and that's always cool.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ramola D's Online Workshop

As many of you know, The Writer's Center has begun offering online workshops. This is a great format for workshoppers. Obviously, if you're not tied down to a geographical time and place, you can comfortably "attend" a workshop in the serenity of your own home. In a time when gas prices are soaring, online workshops are a great opportunity for people to leave their house, so to speak, without actually going anywhere. You just log in to the workshop and discuss your writing. Over the course of the next year, we hope to gradually add more and more workshops.

What kind of Internet workshops would you like to see at the Center? Leave a comment. Let us know!

Ramola D, pictured above, is a regular Internet instructor with us. This summer she's actually teaching two workshops. One is Writing Short Fiction, and the other is Moms Write Mothering/Dads Write Fathering. Here's an excerpt from Ramola D's essay on her parenting workshop, which begins on July 2nd. The full text of this article you can read in your forthcoming Writer's Carousel.
Ramola D:

If you are a parent who writes or wants to write, what the workshop offers is a space to begin and a focus on your child to use as subject. Essentially the workshop allows you to explore different forms of essay, with suggested topics to use as starting points.

Through each focus and week, we read examples of the specific form we are working on—from the two texts we use, Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones’ In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Non-fiction and AWP’s Writing Creative Non-Fiction, and from blogs and magazines online. We also read some instruction and writing on writing. Focused writing assignments with guidelines each week take you through the different forms.

We also post all work and workshop comments online, through a dedicated (and password-protected) classroom space (similar to Blackboard) on Posting work and workshopping online offers the special advantage of being possible in your own time--no commuting on a specific day, no need to hire that babysitter (just stay up and write!)--to work asynchronously across a whole week rather than in real-time at a special time. Each week, we work with a Finish-by date which serves also as our class Check-in-online date.
The class format has evolved from early conceptions. Initial plans had been to run the class on-site, with young children being cared for close by, but the complexities of daycare licensing regulations decreed that we move mostly online instead. I’ve especially liked the opening and closing components, when we moms (so far no dads) meet in person with our babies/kiddies in tow, and get to know each other a little. This summer we are trying to run the class fully online, to allow for participants further afield to take the class. So, if you are a mom or dad wanting to write or return to writing, come join us this summer!