Friday, February 27, 2009

Martin Moran, Edward Ugel, and Jack Greer

Okay, so as you can imagine things have been busy around here of late. After a couple successful events last--a packed theater at Paige Wheeler and an overflow crowd at McLaughlin/Chalfant on Monday--we've got three more events this weekend. It's ulcer-causing!

Tonight we have another "From the workshops" reading featuring members who've recently taken workshops at the Center. They include Roberta Balstad, Patricia Boies, Ellen Prentiss Campbell. Dominique Cahn, and Karen Sandler. Come on out and support them. Free event.

Then on Sunday at 2:00 P.M., Edward Ugel (Money for Nothing) joins Jack Greer (Abraham's Bay and Other Stories)

From Greer's Web site: "The characters in Jack Greer's Abraham's Bay & Other Stories have set sail for islands in the Atlantic and Caribbean — some are restless, some curious, others are unhappy, while others are in love with roaming. Inevitable, these small boat sailors haul their personal histories along, their hubris, their failures, their frustrations."

As for Ugel's book, here's the really interesting premise of Money for Nothing from Ugel's Web site:

"Not too long ago, Ed Ugel stalked lottery winners for a living. He would offer these lucky individuals a limited amount of cash up-front in exchange for their jackpot annuities, which spread payments over decades. According to Ugel, many of the winners would accept his offer because, despite their winnings, they were desperately broke. In his new memoir, Money For Nothing: One Man’s Journey Through the Dark Side of Lottery Millions, Ugel tells the true story of how sudden wealth overwhelms and ultimately destroys some of the luckiest people in the world. Speaking recently with Worth features editor Douglas McWhirter, the author talked about the psychology of sudden wealth and the intoxicating schadenfreude of watching lottery winners fall." Free event.

Then on Monday evening at 7:30, The Writer's Center is very pleased to present recent Helen Hayes nominee Martin Moran, who'll perform/read from his book and one-man show, The Tricky Part: One Boy's Story of Sexual Trespass, One Man's Journey to Forgiveness.

Moran has performed this play all over the world, from Buffalo to Warsaw, Poland, and we're soooo happy to be able to present him here at a low, low cost of admission: $10 for WC members; $15 for nonmembers. Click here to register:

From the dust jacket:

"Raised in a loving Catholic family in Denver, Martin Moran was a star student who imagined that he'd one day become a U.S. Senator. When he was twelve years old, a camp counselor seduced him, initiating a sexual relationship that would last three years--and haunt Moran's life for decades.

He discovered a passion for acting and built a career that would take him to broadway, but only when Moran finally tracked down and confronted his abuser thirty years later could he finally forgive hiimself for someone else's trespass.

Funny and tender about growing up Catholic and gay, The Tricky Part never oversimplifies either the abuse or the vexing work of recovering from it."

Moran will read from this book AND do part of his one-man show. It's not everyday you can see THIS kind of event at The Writer's Center. A gifted author AND a major broadway actor. Take a look at his Rosie O'Donnell Show performance on Youtube.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

2009 Split This Rock Poetry Contest

2009 Split This Rock Poetry Contest
Celebrates Poetry of Witness and Provocation

Deadline: March 9, 2009 (postmark)

Split This Rock is pleased to announce its second annual poetry contest, to be judged by poet and National Book Award finalist Patricia Smith. First place $500;
2nd and 3rd place, $250 each. Winning poems will be published on, and the 1st-place winner will be invited to read winning poem at Split This Rock Poetry Festival, 2010.

Guidelines are online at:

The 1st-place winner will be invited to read winning poem at Split This Rock Poetry Festival, 2010.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Olney Theatre, HBO, and Fall For the Book

So I'm going to be using a slightly different format for the blog for a while. I won't be posting everyday (these days are busy). Today I'm going to name three really cool upcoming or ongoing things that have all come to my attention today.

Tomorrow night, Feb. 21 at 8 PM, the film “Taking Chance,” based on a memoir from the Operation Homecoming anthology, will premiere on HBO. Starring Kevin Bacon, the film is also an Official Selection for the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Written by Col. Mike Strobl, USMC (ret.), the memoir recounts the escorting of the remains of a Marine killed in combat in Iraq to his burial in his hometown. Strobl, who co-wrote the screenplay, is played by Bacon. Strobl’s memoir was published in magazines, newspapers, online, and later in NEA's Operation Homecoming anthology. The memoir is not available at this time as a stand-alone book; our anthology is the best source if you wish to read the work. Separately, this memoir was included in the Academy-Award finalist documentary Operation Homecoming, read by Robert Duvall.

HBO has developed a Web site for the “Taking Chance” film:

Second, exciting news for Writer's Center members. We've formed a partnership with Olney Theater in Olney, MD. Check out Mark Twain’s only play, with a discount!

Jean-Francois Millet is a brilliant but unrecognized artist who can't sell a painting to save his life. With the help of his madcap bohemian friends, Jean decides to stage his own demise to revive sales. However, in order to keep an eye on his success, he re-emerges as his imaginary twin sister. Authored by Mark Twain in 1898, this play was recently discovered by Shelley Fisher Fishkin and updated by David Ives. Join Olney for a farce that will have you laughing loud enough to wake the dead.


Special offer for Writer’s Center members: Take $10 your ticket! Use code WXC219 online at or with the Box Office at 301.924.3400 and save $10 on each ticket you order. Limit 4.

(Restrictions: Not valid on previous purchases; cannot be combined with other offers; subject to availability).

Third, and last, Fall for the Book at George Mason University is hosting a discussion forum over at its Web site. Do check it out right here:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Writer's Center Position Opening

Please feel free to pass this around to anyone who might be a good fit:

The Writer’s Center seeks a qualified and enthusiastic professional to serve as the Business & Operations Manager, overseeing day-to-day business functions and facility upkeep and maintenance.

This position is a full-time, 40-hour a week position scheduled 9 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday. The Business & Operations Manager (BOM) reports to the Director and serves as a member of the organizational Management Team, providing leadership to other staff members and serving as a resource to community members and participants. As part of this team, the BOM will fulfill critical functions by ensuring administrative aspects of programs, including contracts and payments, are handled efficiently and without error. The Business & Operations Manager supervises a full-time Executive Assistant, a part-time Bookstore Manager, multiple part-time evening receptionists, and coordinates the cleaning crew. Some evening and weekend hours may be required.

Specific Responsibilities include:
Hire, train, schedule, and evaluate hourly front desk staff for evening/weekend shifts

Research, negotiate, and evaluate service contracts (office equipment, telephones, etc)

Produce, file, and fulfill for payment independent contractor agreements based on need

Establish and maintain an emergency procedures guide
Manage room rental programs, including contracts and invoicing
Develop and evaluate business office policies and procedures
Oversee supply orders and back stock
Inventory, clean, and maintain storage rooms
Coordinate bulk mailings, including production, mail processing, and bulk mail payments
Coordinate payroll processes for staff, including payroll vendor management
Maintain building keys and ensure a safe and secure facility and grounds
Establish high levels of customer service and oversee customer service expectations for reception area
Coordinate benefits participation for staff members
Manage organizational database, including ensuring data consistency and integrity
Process contactor payments and check requests
With bookkeeper, coordinate organizational financial records
Perform cash management procedures, including daily sales and cash totals
Serve on a rotating facility on-call structure for afterhours/weekend emergencies
With director, provide organizational spending oversight/provide approvals for expenditures
Collaborate with Director, Assistant Director, and Publications & Communications Manager on projects as

Required qualifications:
Bachelor’s degree and/or 3-5 years of office management/financial management experience or a combination of education and experience required.
Exceptional customer service skills
Strong attention to detail with excellent organizational skills
Proficiency with MS Office applications
Ability to meet deadlines while managing multiple long- and short-term projects
Ability to succeed in a fast-paced team environment with high levels of collaboration

Desired qualifications:
Knowledge of/experience with progressive discipline/coaching methods of supervision
Understanding of cash & accrual accounting procedures
Familiarity with the nonprofit sector
E-commerce management experience
Passion for writing or literature

Commensurate with experience, $35-40,000/year DOQ.

To apply, send resume, cover letter, and contact info for three references to Charles Jensen at

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why I Didn't Post During AWP

So here's what happened: Hilton Hotel charges for Internet connectivity. Since I paid a goodly sum to stay at the hotel already, I didn't (and don't) feel like ever paying additionally for something that seems so basic as connectivity. (Especially since the blog portion of my posting is free.)

That's why. I WILL, however, be posting a complete run-down on Tuesday. This promise will keep. My apologies to anyone who tuned in expecting live news!

Monday, February 9, 2009

AWP Upcoming

A brief post today. Tomorrow I'm off to AWP in Chicago along with Caitlin and Jody (Poet Lore) and Charlie. Today's focus is on wrapping up odds and ends before we go. Just FYI, Kim Roberts over at Beltway Quarterly has a terrific list of local authors reading at AWP. If you don't subscribe to her e-newsletter, you should. Especially for you poets.

Do look for blog posts from me from AWP. I think I may be doing more than just one post a day, depending on how I feel. I'll try.

Fogged Clarity recently asked if I'd share news of its upcoming submissions to our members. Why not? If you're inclined. I don't know much about them other than that there Web site looks pretty good, and they published Danish poet Niels Hav. seeks exceptional fiction and poetry

Arts Review Fogged Clarity is now accepting submissions for our March and April editions. Submissions should be sent to Our February (debut) issue is free and available at In it you will find new work from poets Bruce Smith, Amy King, and Peter Ciccariello, experimental photography by Kyle Jones and Ryan Daly, short fiction by Dmitri Gheorgheni, and much more. Fogged Clarity aims to transcend the conventions of the typical literary review by incorporating music, the visual arts, interviews, and political exposition. Our ambition is to form a community of artists whose interaction is not constrained by medium, but broadened by a collective love of expression. Our network is extensive, and our passion for ventilation intense. We sincerely hope you will join us, and share the fruits of your own fogged clarity.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Musical Interlude with Shannon Madden

Here's a post from our semi-regular music commentator Shannon Madden, a review a recent show. From Wednesday through Friday I'll be posting daily from AWP in Chicago. Do check here for regular updates--Kyle

Friday January 23, at Washington, D.C.'s the Black Cat, Philadelphia's Hoots and Hellmouth opened for Junior League Band, a local D.C. favorite. Rooted in a very similar tradition that hearkens back to the coal-mining days of Appalachia, the bands are cut from the same cloth, but fashioned into two unique garments, each representing a different spin on the Bluegrass style.

Watching Hoots and Hellmouth prepare to begin their set was like watching a collection of weary travelers awaiting an indefinitely-delayed plane at an airport in Kentucky. Wearing ragamuffin flannel shirts and hats and well-worn t-shirts, they busied themselves tuning or just plain sitting, looking up periodically for the cue from the Black Cat staff to take their places.

When they got the high sign, the band gathered in a semi-circle, scattered across large plywood rectangles raised a few inches above the ground. Sean Hoots on lead guitar and vocals gave a nod, and the band went from zero-to-sixty, dispelling all lethargy from the room. Hoots, Andrew "Hellmouth" Gray on guitar, and Rob Berliner on mandolin played almost as one. Hoots reached within the depths of his vocal capacity and unfurled fiery spiritual-inspired lyrics that would have been right at home kicking off a barn-raising.

At first, the audience seemed stunned into immobility, not knowing how to take this unexpected electricity. However, like microwave popcorn, one-by-one, by-standers came alive, and soon the entire audience was moving together at a steady clip.

As the band finished their first number," What Good is Having Plowshares if You Can't Spend 'em," Hoots' pick went flying, landing somewhere back stage.

The only percussion came from the thunderous stomping of the band, eliminating the mystery of the wooden risers. Bob Beach provided a wind aspect on harmonica and flute, and his improvisation was featured prominently in several songs.

Later, the tone went from revivalist fervency to Hooverville hopeful, as Hellmouth sang of his dream house in a shack filled with dirty dishes and down-but-not-out dreams.

Many of the songs on the band's self-titled 2007 MAD Dragon Records release involve the dichotomous themes of passive discontent with the state of things and the power of hope and family to redeem. "Home for Supper," touches both the sad state of hunger and the satiating redemption of optimism.

To ensure that the tone of the room returned to a brighter note in preparation for Headliner Junior League, Hoots took it back up, and in a fit of passion, culminating with a melodic screech that rivaled James Brown's famous grunts.

By the end of the Hoots and Hellmouth set, anybody who could square dance was doing so. The band left plenty of energy in the room to keep the audience wanting more as the headliner prepared for their set.

Junior League's stage preparation was more kinetic, as the co-ed band added a few more eclectic layers of variation onto the bluegrass theme. Lead singer/songwriter, Lissy Rosemont, on the banjo, startled the audience turning the boil down to an energetic simmer with a slower pace and a mildly haunting legato vocal.

Rosemont has the presence of Feist with dark hair and fair skin, and a voice which brings to mind Blondie's Debbie Harry and occasionally Heart's Ann Wilson with the spirit of country songstress Allison Krauss, one of her biggest influences. This combination provided an unexpected twist in a band whose instrumentals could join the ranks of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band or Old Crow Medicine Show.

Georgia-raised Rosemont grew up in a household filled with music. Her mother played piano and her father is Hal Beaver of Hal Beaver and Blackgrass, who introduced her to the music of country greats such as Hank Williams, upon whose song "I Can't Help it if I'm Still in Love with You," she put her own feminine twist in the evening's set.

She herself has been playing music since she was a child, though she didn't start formally playing her current instrument of choice, the banjo, until 2006. In addition to taking cues from her parents, she has collaborated with her brother on tunes as well.

Junior League also boasts two violins. Zeb Bowles, the band's original fiddler has been a definitive force in the band since its inception. Featured artist Sadie Dingfelder has the tell-tale legato bow strokes of the classically trained violinist that she is, but masterfully morphed into a fiddle player throughout most of the show. She showcased her skills in medley of classic fiddle tunes, including the Charlie Daniels Band's, "Devil Went Down to Georgia," which the audience acknowledged with cheerful recognition. Fun fact: The fiddlers share a birthday, same day, same year. "How many bands do you know that have two violinists, both born on the same day?"Eli Cohn, on lead guitar, quipped. "One. The answer is one."

Martin Thomas, who was a sport about taking flack from the wise-cracking Cohn, played harmonica and even took lead vocals on the only song not led by Rosemont.

Underneath all of this country, was Will Waikart on the skins, who occasionally added a border-line top-40 dance beat which gave some songs a re-mixed effect. Junior League's second full-length album, Mitchell Williams Fo' Govena, released September 2008, has been praised for its transition across a range of musical planes, from blues to alt-pop, appealing to a wide spectrum of listeners.

Junior League's tempo throughout their set was fluid, starting slow and long, speeding up, and dipping back down. The last song of the set was a lullaby. Lovers kissed and swayed and the over-served and exhausted struggled not to succumb to the soporific melody. Leaving the audience in a state of sleepy reverie, the band headed off the stage.

Moments later, Junior League took the stage once more for the encore, this time jump-starting everyone for the drive home, Hoots joined the ensemble, clanging a ceramic mug with a spoon in time to the music and adding his vocals to the chorus.

The bands have each cultivated a strong following through purely grassroots means. They are staying true to the commitment to play music for the love of it and continue to stay strongly connected to their fans.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Girls Next Door

Today's guest blogger is a new member, Kathleen Pugh. I met Kathleen in the summer. She was new to the Center and had plenty of questions. Then, a couple weekends ago, we happened to be in the same one-day workshop on the personal essay (with Anne Cassidy). She submitted this piece, and I enjoyed it. Naturally I thought of First Person Plural and asked her if she'd be interested in letting me post it. I guess she was. Enough of me. Here's Kathleen:


I have a secret.

I love reality TV. Not just any reality TV but really bad reality TV. I never got hooked on mainstream reality TV like American Idol or Survivor but rather the real low-brow type, most particularly The Girls Next Door on the E! Channel. If you are not familiar with “The Girls,” think of it as a deranged documentary that chronicles the daily lives of Hef and his three girlfriends, Holly, Bridget, and Kendra; that’s Hugh Hefner of Playboy fame.

The show is like a bad accident on the freeway. You know the one where you don’t want to look but you just can’t help yourself? You might think: Who are these people? What happened to them? Will they be OK? It’s the same thing with The Girls Next Door. I want to know everything about them. The inner voice tells me to pick up the remote and switch channels but somehow, like the freeway accident, I have to look.

As you judge me keep in mind that I have an M.B.A, read the New York Times, and live in a metro area with the highest concentration of PhDs in the nation. I’m actually quite a snob and get scolded by my husband for my condescending attitude toward the kind of people who drink White Zinfandel and consider the Olive Garden a five star restaurant. These are the type of people that would waste their time watching reality TV- not me. Surprisingly, he has no interest in “The Girls."

This seems strange to me. A show about a rich man living with three scantily clad gorgeous young blondes in the famed Playboy Mansion would seem more suited to the average straight male than me, a self proclaimed feminist. I don’t really know why I’m so fascinated by them. I know I should be outraged but instead I sort of admire these “Girls.” Maybe it’s their business arrangement I respect. They are young and beautiful and use their “assets” natural or otherwise to make lots of money from just hanging out with Hef.

Could this fascination be a rebellion? Life is competitive and stressful in this city I call home. So competitive in fact that I have actually camped out overnight to get tickets to an Easter egg roll for my four-year-old daughter. The playground chatter can even be stressful as it often revolves around foreign policy and financial bailouts; now that strikes me as a bit too heady. In this stressed out world I need a little fluff. I know there must be others of you out there who anxiously await each new episode but are afraid to come out of the closet. If you’re out there, please call me. We could form our own society and call ourselves the Feminist Friends of Frivolous Fluff.

From what I’ve heard, and yes I have researched this, Holly (girlfriend number one) is the only one that sleeps with Hef. I actually confirmed this with a friend of a friend who knows someone who knows one of the girlfriends! It makes sense because on the show she is the only one that shares a room with him. Kendra and Bridget, the other two girls, are paid for their time. For this they get to live in “the mansion” rent free, receive an allowance for clothing, plastic surgery and cars, access to all the A list parties and trips to Europe, New York, and Las Vegas. It sounds like a pretty good gig to me sans the eighty-two year old boyfriend in the smoking jacket. It certainly is an unconventional lifestyle, but it seems to work very well for them. It’s the ultimate fantasy. Who wouldn’t want to be pampered, go to parties, get driven around in a limo, live in a mansion, and have an adoring public? It sounds a bit like being the president of the United States without the stress!

When I recently heard that Holly and Hef broke up and all the girls would be going their separate ways I was actually sad. Poor Hef! (Oh wait, that means there’s an opening for the girlfriend job!)

I digress.

I was sadder yet when I imagined the impending loss of my innocent weekly appointment with escapism and the effects it would have on my stress level. What was to become of me? My girls? How would I fill the void? The good news is that all three of them will have spin offs. Now that sounds deliciously dreadful. I might have to get a digital video recorder so I can keep up with all the antics. So there you have it, that’s my dirty little secret. Dare to share yours?

Kathleen Wise Pugh has a BA in English from SUNY Binghamton and an MBA from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. She has done everything from working in finance in the casino industry in Las Vegas to working as a bureaucrat in Washington, DC. She is currently a stay at home mom to one very precocious four year old who gives her lots of inspiration for her writing. Her ten minute plays have been performed at Theater J, The Theater Lab, and Nevada State College. Kathleen is originally from Brooklyn, NY and currently resides in the lovely but oftentimes stressful Washington, DC. She is an enthusiastic student of The Writerʼs Center because without it she might succumb to watching too many hours of bad reality TV!

We're Back!

Regular Blog posts and e-blasts will resume today.

The past two weeks have been frenzied, to put it mildly, particularly this week with all of the insanity that goes with publishing our hybrid brochure and magazine better than we did last time. Kyle and I of course made sure all of the minutia was not forgotten. There were moments when I didn’t think I’d make it. My eyes often would play tricks on me, casting a red tint on everything. And I’d look over at Kyle only to hear unintelligible mumbling from across the room.

Triumphantly! The Carousel is finished, has been sent to the printer, and will be mailed out next week. While I look forward to emails about what went wrong—as with anything involving humans things sometime do get missed—I will also look for those emails that recognize the progress we’re making. As contributor Greg McBride says “It’s been a long trip” and we’re still moving strong.

Expect a blog post from member Kathleen Pugh, tomorrow.

Wednesday through Friday of next week Kyle will be blogging from The Writer’s Center/Poet Lore booth from AWP in Chicago.

Finally, note the following literary events happening this month:

Toni Morrison will be at Howard University (my alma mater) on February 13, 2009. Contact: Tanya Hardy at

Poet Laureate of Washington D.C, Dolores Kendrick, will be at the International Student House on February 22, 2009. (I will be reading at this event.)

Board member, E. Ethelbert Miller will read at the Library of Congress on February 23 at noon.

Contributed by Abdul Ali,