Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Flashback: Remember Grease?

Save for the film Grease, it seemed fated that I would shy away from all musicals. Though Grease is set in the 1950s, a number of its musical numbers and dance movements are stylized after disco which exploded on the scene in the 1970s. Grease was and still is a enticing opening into an era that I could only ask my parents and grandparents about. And while the film was very much dated by the time I had seen it, not a lot had changed in terms of being in high school. Weren’t we all doing the same things? Doing what youths do: coming-of-age, being concerned with all things sexy, working it out on the dance floor?

Yet still, even after the cultural meltdown of the 1970s and 1980s, there are leftovers: like how so many of us youngsters sported the coveted black leather jacket to show just how “cool” we are (An aside: Michael Jackson also contributed to the “coolness” of the leather jacket.)

Grease, both the musical and film, has made an indelible imprint on our cultural narrative. It’s one of the longest running shows in Broadway history, racking up 3,388 performances before closing in 1980 and two years before becoming a hit film in 1978, starring the John Travolta and the gorgeous Australian recording artist Olivia Newton-John who made her American film debut with Grease which grossed $96,300,000, making it the top film at the box office in 1978.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Emerging Writer Fellowships: Call for Submissions

The Writer’s Center, metropolitan DC’s community gathering place for writers and readers, is currently accepting submissions for several competitive Emerging Writer Fellowships. Emerging Writer Fellows will be selected from applicants who have published up to 2 book-length works of prose and up to 3 book-length works of poetry. We welcome submissions from writers of any genre, background, or experience. Emerging Writer Fellows will be featured at The Writer’s Center as part of their Emerging Writers Reading Series. The readings, held on Friday evenings, bring together writers in different genres with a backdrop of live music. The Writer’s Center book store will sell titles by the Emerging Writers throughout the season in which they appear in an effort to promote them and their work to a wide audience.

Selected Fellows are invited to lead a special Saturday workshop at The Writer’s Center, with compensation commensurate with standard Writer’s Center provisions.

Fellows receive an all-inclusive honorarium to help offset their travel costs in the amount of $250 or $500, depending on their place of departure.

Fellows for Fall 2009 include novelist Alexander Chee (Edinburgh), novelist Lisa Selin Davis (Belly), poet Suzanne Frischkorn (Lit Windowpane), poet Aaron Smith (Blue on Blue Ground), Canadian fiction writer Neal Smith (Bang Crunch), poet Srikanth Reddy (Facts for Visitors), and poet Nancy Krygowski (Velocity).

Their events will be held in September, October, and December. See our events calendar for more information.

Spring 2009 events will be held in February, March, and April/May.

To be considered, please send a letter of interest, a resume or CV that details publication history and familiarity facilitating group discussions, and a copy of your most recent book. Self-published or vanity press titles will not be accepted. A committee comprised of The Writer’s Center board members, staff, and members will evaluate submissions on behalf of our community of writers.

The deadline to submit is August 15, 2009.

Applicants are encouraged to call Charles Jensen, Director, for more information at 301-654-8664.

The Writer’s Center, established in 1976, is one of the nation’s oldest and largest literary centers. We provide over 60 free public events and more than 200 writing workshops each year, sell one of the largest selections of literary magazines in our on-site bookstore, and publish Poet Lore, America’s oldest continually published poetry journal.

Undiscovered Voices Fellowship: Call for Applications

Dear Readers,

The Writer's Center is pleased to announce the following initiative. Please feel free to share it with others.

The Writer’s Center seeks promising writers earning less than $25,000 annually to apply for our Undiscovered Voices Fellowship. This fellowship program will provide complimentary writing workshops to the selected applicant for a period of one year, but not to exceed 8 workshops in that year. We expect the selected fellow will use the year to make progress toward a completed manuscript of publishable work.

The Writer’s Center believes writers of all backgrounds and experiences should have an opportunity to devote time and energy toward the perfection of their craft.

The selected fellow will be able to attend writing workshops offered by The Writer’s Center free of charge. In addition, the fellow will give a reading from his or her work at the close of the fellowship period (June 2010) and will be invited to speak with local high school students on the craft of writing.

To apply, candidates should submit
a) a cover letter signed by the candidate that contains the statement: “I understand and confirm I meet all eligibility requirements of the Undiscovered Voices Fellowship.” The cover letter should include information on the impact this fellowship would have on the candidate.
b) contact information for two references who can speak to the candidate’s creative work and promise
c) a work sample in a single genre:
• 8 pages of poetry, no more than one poem per page
• 10 pages of fiction, double-spaced, no more than 1 work or excerpt
• 10 pages of nonfiction (essay, memoir, etc), double-spaced, no more than 1 work or excerpt
• 15 pages of a script or screenplay

These items should be sent in hard copy to The Writer’s Center, Attn: Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, 4508 Walsh St, Bethesda MD 20815. The deadline is September 15, 2009.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Preview to the Fall Carousel

With almost two years of coming up with different ways of presenting The Carousel, I'm quite pleased with our Fall issue which will focus on the ways film and theater has shaped us. Like many of you, I'm an die-heart film buff. As a prelude to the fall issue, I will post trivia about movies that may mean little to moviegoers today but for those of us who remember them, we can all share a moment of nostalgia or a sigh of relief (depending how you feel about the film in question.)

Ghostbusters came out in 1984. It captured the curiosity of our nation with the supernatural as other films came out around this time that dealt with this subject (think Ghost starring Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore and later Spielberg's E.T.), this was a major film for its time. The sheer otherworldness of it was gripping and quite comical as I recall. It was the top-grossing film for the year, coming in at $132 Million, beating Indiana Jones, Beverly Hills Cop, Gremlins, and Karate Kid.

Did you see Ghostbusters? What were your impressions?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Glimmer Thursday: On Revision with Karen Outen

Do you ever get anxious over revising your story? Ever wish you could just be done with it already? So you can move on to the next piece you want to write?

Well, all writers go through this; it's hard to look your creative writing square in the eye. Harder still to realize that there's something not quite right about it and, uh oh, you've got to go back in there and fix it. How do you do it? How do you go back in there and fix it?

As part of our monthly feature called Glimmer Thursday, where we post work by writers published in Glimmer Train, we have Karen Outen talking about just how she got over her fear (mostly) of revision. Here she is.

Incidentally, if you like what you see of Glimmer Train, come by The Writer's Center bookstore. We have the latest copy of Glimmer Train on sale.

Twitterature: Classics

I'm fascinated by this. As someone who tweets, I'm curious to see how these two 19-year-olds will re-imagine the great classics of literature in micro-form: twitterature.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Deal a Story

A few months back, I received a package in the mail from Robert D. Reed Publishers. The package contained a card game for writers called "Deal a Story." It also included various press materials. The release states that the "innovative new card game helps writers overcome creative downtime and the discomfort of facing a blank page." The game was created by Sue Viders ("a highly-acclaimed author and writing teacher").

Okay, I thought, I've certainly had moments like that before. I put the game on my "to review" list. I had three people in mind to play the game with, and two of them were pretty busy planning their wedding.

This past weekend, finally, just as Art and Tara got back from their honeymoon in Ireland, I decided it was time to break this game out and give it a shot.

How it works:

"The game is divided into six categories of 16 cards apiece: hero, heroine, villain, genre, plot, and flaw. (Each card has examples from the category.) In each round, a player chooses a card from each group and is automatically presented with the start of a story. What if you get stuck?" the release asks. "Don't worry. The deck also includes five wild cards full of suggstions on what to do next or how to spur your story along."

"Deal a story," the release concludes, "was created to assist writers to think outside-the-box and to encourage creative story development."

However, we found the categories of heroine, villain, and hero seemed filled more with stereotypes of characters than with "outside-the-box" characters. A random example:


A tyrant could be a crime lord (the mafia), a ruthless tycoon, a CEO of a large corporation, a dictator of a country, or an ordinary individual, such as a husband or wife who ruthlessly controls the family or clan and is convinced that only his/her way is right. A tyrant uses a variety of tactics including anger, intimidation, and threats. Examples: Gordon Gekko (Wall Street), Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada). Earlier on this blog, right here in fact, I posted a praise for villainy piece that explains the difference between good bad and bad bad.


Hero/ The Absent-minded Professor

The Absent-minded professor is a lovable klutz. But those who work with him recognize and appreciate his genius. The unitiated discount him. When this hero makes a commitment, he follows through, but only when he has all the facts as he first needs to analyze the problem.

Examples: Lt. Columbo-TV series; David Levinson, (Independence Day)

As much as I appreciate what this game's trying to do, the stock quality of the characters really gets in the way if you've been at writing stories long enough. We are fairly accomplished writers, everyone who participated in the game last weekend, so we had fun making up funny stories to go along with the cards. The stories were also ludicrous, but after three rounds we pretty much decided it wasn't worth playing anymore. The game's potential wasn't entirely met by its reality. I'm not even sure you could call it a game per se, as there was nothing to win; it was more to break out of a writing slump, apparently by thinking up outlandish stories filled with stock characters. Perhaps it's a good thing there's nothing to win, since what's there to win when writing a story?

The game was meant, we finally agreed, for high school or beginning level writing classes. And that seems to be the game's true value. It does have something to offer players--it's sort of like a role-playing game for writers--but you have to come at it at the right time of your writing life. According to the Web site, you can get over a million combinations of stories out of these cards. Fine, fine.

I'm not going to give this game a rating. But if you're interested in the game, either for yourself, your writing group, or your workshop participants, you can learn more at the Robert Reed Web site.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

NPR's Three-Minute Fiction Contest

While I'm sitting in a training session for our wonderful new Web site (on its way) in downtown D.C. today, I want readers of this blog to know of an interesting opportunity NPR is offering creative writers--if, that is, you didn't already hear about it on the radio: a Three-minute fiction contest. Can you tell your story in under 600 words? Can you make it real?

The New Yorker's book critic James Wood is judge. Learn more about the contest here.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Introduction: Elizabeth Moran

So the story goes: my mom read me a children’s book about potty training, and I immediately stood up, went to the toilet, peed, and never again needed diapers. My parents’ previous attempts to explain, in their own words, the why, how, and when of using the toilet had failed. A book had taught me what demonstrations and discussions could not yet. This development reinforced my mom’s faith in the power of books.

Strange introduction of myself? Perhaps less so to readers who understand how writing stretches into aspects of our lives that are not, at least on the surface, associated with literature.
But back to my mom’s faith in books. My dad has the same faith. Many lengthy biographies include, sometimes revolve around, the writer’s parents. This bio-post will not be lengthy, rest assured, but still necessitates some explanation of the foundation which has landed me, for the summer, at The Writer's Center.

The only child of divorced parents, who shared custody of me, I spent a lot of individual time with each parent. My parents, both English teachers, spent a lot of their time with books. They saw how the loves of their lives – me and literature – overlapped and benefited each other. They allowed me to find my own way, my own meaning, within and aside from books.

And so my parents’ literary histories instigated the beginnings of mine. Reading guided my parents’ lives before my arrival; and with my arrival, they let reading help guide them as parents and guide me as a child. My parents named me Elizabeth after Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice. I am 30 years old yet mom still tells me she wishes she read Shakespeare aloud to me when she was pregnant with me. She still mentions her regret that she stopped reading aloud to me as often after I turned nine, and she was in graduate school, teaching, and working part-time at a bookstore. She still wonders if she should have named me Montana for its alliterative effect. My dad read aloud with me until I was 13. He threw me a birthday party which revolved around the PBS version of Anne of Green Gables. He suggested the names for my cats, Ozzie and Itzie, from one of our favorite short stories, Philip Roth’s “The Conversion of the Jews.” My introduction to literacy transitioned to a perpetual and gradual, though subtle, immersion into the world my parents inhabited.

I wanted to be in this world of literature but not in my parents’ all-consuming world of teaching English. I chose a college, Kenyon, in part for its well-known English department because I liked writing, not for any long-term goals. I reluctantly decided to major in English, aware that this choice would force me to continue resisting that vocation. After college, I worked for years in positions that didn’t require a degree, or even interest, in literature. Instead of enjoying the lack of stress that came along with an academic-free life, I missed the pressure and satisfaction that accompanied classes. After seven years of freedom from school, I moved from DC to my hometown of St. Louis to enroll in a Masters of English program at the University of Missouri – St. Louis in the spring 2008 semester. I started teaching Freshman Composition last fall and now feel the addictive nature of reading student papers.

As an undergrad, I loved my literature classes and really loved my friends, social life, and living in the isolated village of Gambier, Ohio. As a graduate student, I really love my classes. As an undergrad, I lived knowingly and happily in a bubble. I would have missed that bubble, when in graduate school, had I not created another one. The bubble of graduate school as a 30-year-old includes teaching while taking graduate-level composition courses. The bubble includes one or two other part-time jobs. The bubble includes rent, bills, and “adult” decisions unknown or unfelt to my undergraduate-self. There is so much other stuff in this bubble that it almost seems to resemble life after college more than life in college. Almost. The resemblance that remains, however, resides in the reason I returned to school: the enjoyment that arises out of the challenge that exists in reading, analyzing, articulating, and writing. Sharing this process with others increases the fulfilling nature of this sometimes tedious, often satisfactory process.

Of course, one doesn’t have to go to graduate school to engage in such a community. The Writer’s Center is one example of an outlet which fosters similar interests and challenges – and this likeness is one of the qualities that drew me here, to a place where I can gain experience I don’t yet have in a community I understand and appreciate.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Introducing Hayden's Ferry Review

Hayden's Ferry Review is a member of The Writer's Center literary journal discount program. Find out how you can get great savings in the program right here.

I asked managing editor Beth Staples to introduce HRF to Writer's Center members and readers of this blog. Here's the response:

If you’ve never read Hayden’s Ferry Review, you’re missing out big time! Here’s why: It’s true, we’re definitely committed to publishing the most exciting work by emerging and established writers and artists. And yes, we’ve been supporting these artists for 23 years. On top of that, we love what we do, and clap our hands together every time we put out a new issue. But the most important reason for you to read HFR is because of the work itself. So we compiled a list of appetizers for you, some interesting facts and links from our recent issues to show you what we’re made of.

• Number of sheep visible that Levi van Veluw glued to his head for Issue 43’s cover (among trees, bushes, and – for the back cover – small lampposts):

See the one with lampposts here.

• Number of stories in Issue 44 written by Holly Hall that make you wish you had been that talented when you were 19:
The excellent “Turn about the Axis.” Read it here.

• Minimum number of startling revelations by poet Kevin Prufer in his Interview in Issue 44:

Including: He is terrible at starting poems, he reads Anne Bradstreet, every good poem is a formal poem, and poetry can’t change the world.
Find more information about Kevin here.

• Number of poets in Issue 44 from places you’ve never heard of but you now want to visit:

Award winning Galician poet Chus Pato. Read her here. Find Galicia here.

• Most common guess for the city pictured on Issue 44’s cover by Christina Seely:

Seattle, Washington
Which is wrong. It is Kyoto, Japan.
See another photo from Christina’s “Lux” series here.

• Number of naked torsos from Bill Durgin’s series in Issue 42:
You can see some of them (yes, naked!) here.

• Number of recordings on our webpage for Issue 42 of Shamin Azad reading her poetry in the original Bengali (you can download the translations there, also):
You can hear them here. With music provided by the After Art Band.

• Number of HFR stories forthcoming in The Best of the West anthology 2009:
You can read “Amanuensis” here. Find out more about the anthology here.

• Frequency of new posts on our blog about fiction, poetry, literacy, book news, the changing world of publishing, what’s new with our contributors and much more: Practically every day.
Visit the blog here.

• Question you should be asking yourself:
Why aren’t subscribing?
Especially with that generous discount from The Writer’s Center! (details here!)

There’s lots more content on the HFR website, and we love to hear from you! Send questions or comments to HFR@asu.edu.

Writer's Center Survey

Hello, everyone

A brief post today. Something exciting's happening at The Writer's Center: We're getting a new Web site. All this week we're meeting with our designers to get the site planned. No time line is set just yet, but we'll have periodic updates forthcoming.

To help us better serve you, I've posted a link to a fairly brief survey online at www.writer.org. But I'm also going to post it here. Tomorrow, look for a blog entry by a member of our Literary Journal Discount Program, Hayden's Ferry Review.

Click Here to take survey

Thanks in advance!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ellen Cole Drive

Readers of this blog:

One of our own workshop leaders and friends, Ellen Cole, was recently diagnosed with a Leukemia-like blood cancer. Her daughter, Becky, with the help of a group of dedicated friends, is organizing a bone marrow drive for Ellen, and others who need bone marrow transplants. The date of the drive is June 27 at the Seeker's Church, 276 Carroll Street, NW in DC, right across the street from the Takoma Park metro station.

And also, a message from Becky herself:

Tonight is the night of a fundraiser at McGinty's--10% of the restaurant's sales from the upstairs pub section will be donated to DKMS for the registration of bone marrow donors!

The event is from 5 - midnight.

Four things to remember:
1. Bring everyone you know.
2. Be sure to sit in the upstairs pub.
3. Tell your server that you want to participate.
4. Eat, drink, and save lives!

More info here: http://www.dkmsamericas.org/dkms-fundraiser-mcgintys-public-house

If you want to help but can't come, you can still contribute. You can write a check to DKMS Americas (the organization that is helping me) and give it to me along with your name and address and I'll donate it along with the benefit proceeds and DKMS will send you a receipt for tax purposes. You can also donate through the DKMS website, DKMSAmericas.org. Or come to my other event, the Bone Marrow Donation Awareness drive (http://www.dkmsamericas.org/help-save-ellen-and-others). It's all to help my mom and others with diseases like hers.

Thanks so much. I hope you see you there!

Becky Cole

Walking directions from the Silver Spring metro to McGinty's:

Exit the Silver Spring metro station and proceed up Colesville road (you will be walking along a large construction site--across Colesville from the McDonald's). Continue past the construction site, across Wayne Ave, and past the Discovery Channel building. After you cross Georgia Ave you'll see a Panera. Turn right directly in front of the Panera and follow the sidewalk along the parking lot and through the arch into the main downtown Silver Spring shopping district. You'll pass a Red Lobster, an Eggspectation, and Austin Grill, a Potbelly's, a Starbucks, and then you'll be at McGinty's!

Monday, June 15, 2009

This Week at Artomatic

Do you know Artomatic?

Come Hear Poets OPEN MICS and readings
Artomatic Solo Stage, 3rd floor
55 M St SE; www.artomatic.org

Wednesday, June 17, 7-8:30 pm: Richard Peabody (Gargoyle, Last of the Red Hot Magnetos); Maria Padhila (Capitol Cougar); Dallas Corsair (Z-Spot); open mic

Friday, June 19, 9-10:30 pm: Rose Solari (Orpheus in the Park); Charles Jensen (Living Things); plus performance poets isee; Brewster von Thyme Thackeray and Caryn Sykes, with music. Followed by open mic.

Friday, June 26, 9-10:30 pm: Pamela Murray Winters (Once Daily As Directed); Reuben Jackson (fingering the keys); David Beaudouin (THE PEARL, Human Nature); Reb Livingston (No Tell Motel, Your Ten Favorite Words). Followed by open mic.

Open mic signup starts 30 minutes before reading. Homemade cookies. Free, free, always free.

The Peanut-Butter Cup Concept: comehearpoets.blogspot.com


Helicopters and Vultures in (re)view by Henry Gass

As the crowd slowly filled up to a standing-room-only capacity in the main reading room last Friday, the anticipation before Henry Mills’s poetry performance Helicopters and Vultures grew with them. Mills' performance followed Tala Rahmeh, a 23-year old Palestinian native. Rahmeh read a series of poems concerning her childhood experiences in the war-torn refugee community. She was introduced as a poet with very "physical" poems, and that became apparent almost immediately as she started to describe her experiences in the war-torn region in tangible, olfactory detail.

Rahmeh recited her poems with a deep, solemn voice, and moved through them at the pace of a slowly rolling Hearse. Mills provided a sharp change of pace, launching into his initial poem with a vociferous intensity enhanced by the musical accompaniment from DJ Fleg.

Mills recited using a broad variety of tones, shifting between large-scale meditations on the civil war in El Salvador and the conflict between Israel and Palestine, to personal reflections on his family, and humorous accounts of professional wrestling and his parents non-verbal relationship, to grim and heartfelt poems about his mothers illegal emigration to America and his Jewish grandfathers pain-ridden life.

He was introduced as a "performance poet", and he lived up to the classification, blending jazz, Latin American folk and rap into his poems while frequently conversing with the large audience and calling for their participation.

As his electric (both literally and metaphorically) performance unfolded, comparisons between his and Rahmeh’s style sprang unbidden to my mind. Both were poets, reciting poems. Both spoke of displaced peoples and traumatic experiences in foreign lands, yet both used decidedly different mediums to express it. Rahmeh’s slow, vivid language clashed noticeably with Mills’ loud, fiery, occasionally indiscernible rhymes (and not just the lines that were in Spanish).

But what did this mean? I asked myself after I, and everyone else in attendance had clapped wildly for both poets. Was this simply a matter of old against new? Of conventional against unconventional? The only evidence I can garner from the event last Friday night that presupposes any answer was that the capacity crowd applauded both of them. They are both poets. They both read poetry, and they both independently captivated me with it.
Henry Gass attends McGill University and is one of our summer interns working in the Publications and Communications department.

Friday, June 12, 2009

On Vacations: Revisited

I know that people leave home temporarily for lots of reasons: visiting family, business trips, etc. However, does dropping yourself in a fairly exotic land for an extended amount of time, automatically make your experience a vacation? In response to the question Abdul raised earlier this week “Does one have to leave home for it to be a vacation?” I’m going to ask one of my own, “Does leaving home necessarily make it a vacation?”

I am a rising senior at Haverford College, and for the past semester I lived and studied in Milan. My stay in Italy lasted for a semester, roughly four months and has to be the most stressful “vacation” I have ever taken. Don’t get me wrong, Milan was awesome. I had a lot of fun, and it was a fantastic experience. But the study abroad experience is like going off to college, times ten. You don’t know the language (at least I didn’t, possibly a poor choice on my part), you don’t know the culture, and though we had an orientation, there wasn’t nearly the amount of coddling you get as a big-eyed, terrified freshman. But once you stop digging your nails into the tarmac and demanding to be let onto the plane to go back to your comfort zone, it is thrilling to realize that you will be okay. You can function. You can get around a strange city, in a strange country, an ocean and half a continent away from everything you know. And confess to yourself: I AM COMPETENT. HEAR ME ROAR. And bite me to everyone who said that I was the least competent person they knew. Hah. I win.

All this satisfaction, however, stems from that fact that it’s hard. If your comfort zone is metaphorically in Delaware and you’re off in the Fuji Islands somewhere, it takes your confidence and kills it dead. I can tell you that much but it’s a good thing; I think you need to be able to roll with the punches and you can’t do that if you’ve never been in a situation where you were forced to. I definitely was. This was the first time I’ve ever really had to go out into the world and function as an adult, and when you add in a hefty dose of culture shock and the little voice in my head going Ahhhhhh!!! I was left scrambling trying to keep up. While this resulted in a great deal of personal growth for me, the upshot of it is that it I am much wiser although this definitely was not a vacation in the “relax and enjoy it” sense of the word. Sure, I got away from my normal life, but it was replaced with a whole mess of new. And new takes adjusting to.

Carrie Kolar is a rising senior at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. This is her second summer interning with The Writer’s Center.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Helicopters and Vultures: An Ensemble Performance

This Friday evening at 7pm, Henry Mills and Stephen Fleg (aka DJ Fleg) will deliver their stirring performance Helicopters & Vultures with a special guest appearance by poet Tala Rehmeh. This is a free event. This event has gotten a good deal of buzz around town. Check out this recent article about this eclectic performance piece in the Gazette.

Can you describe your performance Helicopters & Vultures? I understand it’s an ensemble performance and you also employ different creative forms.

Henry Mills: Helicopters and Vultures is the culmination of the last six years of my exploration of poetry and performance, and Stephen Fleg's exploration of DJing, piano and production. It’s not quite a play, a poetry reading, or a concert. It’s somewhere between those forms. I take what I like best from each form and each element complements the other.

Stephen Fleg: Helicopters and Vultures is a poetry and music performance where the music intertwines with the poetry, with the overall goal of taking readers inside the world the poems create.

All forms of art are the same thing, each containing a foundation through which creativity can be channeled for the purpose of expression. Each individual form appeals to a certain sense. By combining art forms, we are, in essence, combining senses. Thus, the result, this show strives to emulate the human experience through appeal to the different senses. The goal is not only to project our combination of arts onto others, but to infuse it into others so that it becomes just as much a part of the audience as it is a part of the poet’s. Having worked on this show with Henry for sometime, I feel that our performance has transcended either poetry or music and I often get chills during our rehearsals. I know the audience will leave our show with the same feeling.

After you came up with the idea for Helicopters and Vultures, what came next? How did it evolve into this fascinating performance?

Henry Mills: Although as a whole it is not a narrative it does have the “lets go on a journey” quality. I explore the tradition of survival in the bloodline of both my El Salvadorian as well as my Jewish side. In both cases, there is a history of displacement and rebellion.One of the things I discovered in reaching into both sides of my family lineage is the universality of struggle and love.

Stephen Fleg: The music behind the poetry is created using a piano, electronic samplers, turntables and a synthesizer. As a musician and producer I had all of these devices at my disposal and as we went through the process of creating these music-poem pieces, I tried different methods and different instruments to achieve the feeling of that particular poem. Some are simple and use only the piano, others have nothing at all and still others are multifaceted, using sampling machines, and the Moog synthesizer at the same time.

What if anything would you like for your audience to take away from your work?

Henry Mills: I hope people walk away haunted by the same ghosts that haunt me.

Stephen Fleg: I would like the audience to come to our show and be transported to our world for 45 minutes and then return to their own, taking with them, not just notes or words, but the understanding of the other lives explored in this process. It is through this type of understanding that we as people can transform our sympathy into empathy in relations to those around us, ultimately making the world more peaceful place.

A free performance of Helicopters and Vultures will take place at The Writer's Center on Friday, June 12th at 7pm.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


As part of the exciting range of ancillary events hosted by the Smithsonian Institute and the Welsh Assembly Government this June and July, a number of award-winning films from Wales will be premiered. Audiences will be treated to a visual feast of moving image with an opportunity to meet and hear from the film-makers and special guests.

The films will be screened at the Goethe Institut.

Tickets are free and can be booked online at www.wales.com/smithsonian . See Wales in Washington sidebar

WEDNESDAY 24 June - 20.00 DAL: YMA NAWR (2004) (Welsh language with English sub-titles) Director: Marc Evans (Snow Cake, Trauma, My Little Eye, Beautiful Mistake) Duration: 73min with thanks to S4CThis film takes the audience on a 2,000-year odyssey through Europe's oldest surviving bardic tradition. It takes in everything from Aneirin's sixth-century war reportage to today's modern poetry slams, along with subtle clues to the secrets of its survival. The film features some of Wales' greatest performing talents. Sian Phillips, Ioan Gruffudd, Matthew Rhys and Rhys Ifans are among those reading poems while singer-songwriters Cerys Matthews and John Cale perform their own arrangements of two Welsh melodies. The film has a stirring musical score composed by Catatonia's Owen Powell and Bedwyr Humphries.

Q and A with BAFTA Award winning producer Ynyr Williams following the screening

THURSDAY 25 June – 19.30 National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales Showcase
DAVID (1951) Director: Paul Dickson Duration: 37mins Principal cast: D R Griffiths, John Davies, Sam Jones, Rachel Thomas.
Few British ’50s drama documentaries begin to compare with Cardiff director Paul Dickson’s poignant Festival of Britain film. It homes in on an old school caretaker and former miner, seen – retrospectively – through the eyes of a former pupil at the Ammanford county school. Dickson gradually reveals, with great clarity, the attributes and setbacks which contribute to Dafydd’s ultimate grandeur as a human being.

DYLAN THOMAS (1962) Director: Jack Howells Duration: 37mins starring Richard Burton. An Oscar-winning combination of lyrical photography, poetry and music, this film, which also won a Special Award at Cannes, is Jack Howells's "elegiac tribute" to Dylan. The atmospheric evocation of the poet's life, as he travelled from Swansea to London and Laugharne, is aided by the mellifluous voice of Richard Burton who not only narrates but also appears in the film.

Films will be introduced by Iestyn Hughes, Head of the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales.

FRIDAY 26 June – 20.00 SLEEP FURIOUSLY (2008) Director: Gideon Koppel Duration: 94min. Principal cast: Locals of Trefeurig near Aberystwyth, Wales.Set in a small farming community in mid Wales, a place where Koppel's parents - both refugees - found a home. This is a landscape and population that is changing rapidly as small scale agriculture is disappearing and the generation who inhabited a pre-mechanised world is dying out. Much influenced by his conversations with the writer Peter Handke, the film-maker leads us on a poetic and profound journey into a world of endings and beginnings, a world of stuffed owls, sheep and fire.

‘Sleep Furiously is simply a masterpiece’ John Banville – Sight and Sound June 2009

Q and A with director Gideon Koppel following the screening

THURSDAY 2 July – 19.00 ABRAHAM’S POINT (2008) Director: Wyndham Price Duration: 100min.Principal cast: Mackenzie Crook, Harriet WalterMackenzie plays a young man, Comet Snape, who steals a grandfather clock and sets off to bring it back to his dying father in west Wales. Sometimes poignant, often very funny, Abraham's Point takes Comet on a journey of redemption from the dark streets of London back to the beautiful landscapes of Wales and to the little coastal village where his parents still live. Here, in a shattering climax, we discover the dark secret that has haunted Comet for so long.

Q and A with director Wyndham Price following the screening

FRIDAY 3 July – 19.00 I KNOW YOU KNOW, (2008) Director: Justin Kerrigan (Human Traffic) BEST FILM AWARD – BAFTA CYMRU 2008Duration: 81min Principal cast: Robert Carlyle, Arron Fuller, David Bradley
Twelve-year-old Jamie’s mission in life is to be a man, for his dad Charlie (Robert Carlyle), his idol. Life for Jamie means forever changing schools, getting followed and looking over your shoulder. But Jamie doesn’t mind because his dad Charlie is not only his hero, he is a secret agent! Jamie is determined to become a ‘Tough Cookie’ and Charlie is single-minded in helping by setting him special missions. But Jamie’s real challenge arises when he realised that Charlie is living a different reality and is out of control. To save them both, Jamie has to take charge. It takes a tough cookie to do that.

I Know You Know

Q and A with director Justin Kerrigan following the screening

The event is co-ordinated by Sarah Howells in association with the Film Agency for Wales and the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales and is funded by Henry and Diane Engelhardt.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On Summer Vacations

I’d like to talk about vacations as this is the time for many of us to plan summer things with family, spouses, et cetera. Here's a question: does one have to leave home for it to be a vacation?

I recall as a freshmen one of my professors talked about all of this stuff he got done during his summer "vacation." I recall challenging his use of the word “vacation” reasoning that the root of vacation is “vacate” and if you haven’t vacated your life of the everyday mundane, you haven’t really taken a vacation, you simply had time off. (Yes, I know I was a bit snotty back then.) And now here I am revisiting this notion.

Last week I took a week off to celebrate my birthday and take a very much needed respite in order to begin a longer writing project and a few other things. There wasn’t any packing or rushed attempt to book a flight or a train. No special shopping or suntan lotion or fancies of getting a tan on my embarrassingly beige legs. I did, however, make a pit stop at my neighborhood library.

Now that I think about it, calling my week off a vacation is a misnomer, right? When I think of a vacation, I think of hopping on a plane, maybe watching the ocean waves from atop a Cruise ship, or changing space of some kind.

The biggest gift anyone can give themselves is time to do the thing they most enjoy. For me that thing was having a quiet conversation with myself and the page (or computer screen.) Don’t get me wrong: I do want to see ocean waves and pack for a voyage. I want to mail postcards to my friends from exotic places with foreign smells and foods I can’t quite pronounce. But for now, I’m content with getting a head start on something I’ve been preparing to do for some time. That is, challenging myself to write in a longer form, that is a book.

Do you have any vacation or time-off stories to share with us on First Person Plural? If so, send them to me with pictures, if you have.

Contact: thecarousel@writer.org

Friday, June 5, 2009

Want to Write for the Washington Post?

Ever want to write for the Washington Post? See your name in print all over the city? Know that potentially hundreds of thousands of people are reading your writing? Well, here's your chance.

The Washington Post is launching a new page of the Style section devoted to the coverage of love and romantic relationships. The page, called OnLove, will occasionally feature first-person stories written by readers. According tho the Post, "We're looking for short, powerful narratives about some meaningful relationship experience. Our hope is that these will be intimate and revelatory, but the tone can range from poignant or heartbreaking to profoundly comical. The field is wide open. The biggest challenge will be brevity -- we need pieces that are no longer than 700 to 900 words. Writers will, of course, have their bylines prominently displayed with their stories."

Send submissions to OnLove@washpost.com.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Check out this great event at Artomatic:

On Friday, June 12th at 8 pm literary magazines Barrelhouse and Smartish Pace join forces with Artomatic to present a poetry reading by Elizabeth Arnold, Sandra Beasley, David Keplinger, Eric Pankey, Rebekah Sankey, and Terence Winch.

This event celebrates Artomatic’s 10 year anniversary and the publication of new issues by both Barrelhouse and Smartish Pace. The event will be held in Poetry Room on the 9th floor of 55 M Street, SE Washington, DC 20003.

CONTACT: For more information, email danbrady82@gmail.com. Dan Brady, poetry editor of Barrelhouse, will be available for comment and interview. Smartish Pace editor Stephen Reichert can be reached at sreichert@smartishpace.com.

Barrelhouse is a DC-based, independent nonprofit literary magazine that bridges the gap between serious art and pop culture. www.barrelhousemag.com

Based in Baltimore, Smartish Pace is an independent magazine founded by Editor Stephen Reichert in 1999 and is run by a group of dedicated volunteers and interns. www.smartishpace.com

Held regularly since 1999, Artomatic is the Washington, D.C., area's one-of-a-kind multimedia event, involving hundreds of regional artists, performers and volunteers. The free event is an arts extravaganza, featuring paintings, sculpture, photography, music, theater, poetry, dance and workshops. www.artomatic.org


Elizabeth Arnold has published two books of poems, The Reef (University of Chicago Press, 1999) and Civilization (Flood Editions, 2006). She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Maryland.

Sandra Beasley is the author of I Was the Jukebox, winner of the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize, selected by Joy Harjo and forthcoming from W. W. Norton. Her debut book, Theories of Falling, was selected by Marie Howe as the winner of the 2007 New Issues Poetry Prize (New Issues Poetry and Prose, 2008). Recent work can be found in AGNI online, Blackbird, Barrelhouse, and Black Warrior Review, which published Bitch and Brew: Sestinas in their chapbook series. Beasley lives in Washington D.C., where she earned her MFA at American University and is currently an editor for The American Scholar.

David Keplinger's recent books include The Prayers of Others (2006), which won the 2007 Colorado Book Award, The Clearing (2005), and World Cut Out with Crooked Scissors: The Selected Poetry of Carsten Rene Nielsen (translations, 2007). He has won the T.S. Eliot Prize and fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Keplinger teaches at American University.

Eric Pankey is the author of five collections of poetry. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Grand Street, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The New Yorker, and many other publications. Winner of the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets, Pankey has received numerous grants supporting his work. He currently teaches at George Mason University.

Rebekah Sankey is an editor for Growler, an online first-books poetry review. She holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems will appear in Barrelhouse 8 this fall.

Terence Winch’s newest book, called Boy Drinkers, is a series of mostly narrative poems that center around religion and Winch's New York brand of Irish-Catholicism. His previous volume, a collection of non-fiction stories called That Special Place: New World Irish Stories, comes out of his experiences playing traditional Irish music with Celtic Thunder, a band he started with his brother Jesse in 1977. His most recent music project is a CD that collects his best-known Irish compositions on one disk: When New York Was Irish: Songs & Tunes by Terence Winch.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Glass Menagarie & Writer's Center Member Discount

It's a busy week here, I can't kid you that it's not. So short posts this week. I wanted to remind everyone of Olney Theatre's great offer of a discount to Writer's Center members. I've seen the play, and it's a wonderful production right at Olney's lab stage. So it's intimate. Great acting. If you haven't been to Olney for a play, you'd be in for a treat. They've got a great thing going on up there. Here's the discount offer:


Olney Theatre Center is giving a special $10 off discount for members of The Writer's Center to attend its upcoming performance of Tennessee Williams' play The Glass Menagerie, which runs from June 3-July 5. To order tickets, call 301.924.3400 or visit www.olneytheatre.org. Use code: WRC100.

Please note restrictions:

subject to availability, not valid Saturday evenings, Sunday matinees, or on previous purchases. Cannot be combined with other offers. Valid on top ticket price only.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Future of Publishing

Busy, busy week here at The Writer's Center (with the Open House coming up on Saturday). A brief post today. Workshop leader Hildie Block sent this interesting Bob Thompson article from yesterday on the BEA. What's the future of the written word? Books? Find out here.