Friday, September 30, 2011

Travel and Food Writing Workshop with L. Peat O'Neil

What’s your favorite food memory? What cuisine do you identify with? What do you eat when you travel? Come join us at Annapolis Center and learn about crafting culinary experience into a story, the life of the travel and food writer, and how to find publication outlets.

In the upcoming Food and Travel Writing workshop (Oct 4, 11, 18 at Annapolis Center), we’ll explore the types of travel articles and opportunities for food writers. Mindful of market trends and the current publishing environment, the group will brain-storm to develop and critique ideas for travel articles with a culinary theme.

Ideas are only part of the process. A travel writer with an interest in food needs a skill-set and knowledge base to handle the content effectively for various print and online publications. This might include how to locate and interview culinary experts, as well as the process of creating and testing recipes. On the writing side of the toolkit is honing a compelling voice. I’ll lead you through several in-the-moment writing exercises that lead to bright, energetic prose-craft.

You’ll bring a rough draft or notes of a travel and/or a food article to the first workshop meeting, and for three sessions, we’ll work on transforming manuscripts into articles, book chapters or essays. The goal is to help you project your point of view through vivid narrative. By the second meeting, you’ll bring copies of a revised draft for reading and feedback by me and the workshop group. I’ll also help class participants who are interested in blogging on to start a travel or culinary theme blog during the course, but this is optional.

Most writers are eager to discover strategies for reaching editors and securing publication opportunities. Throughout the workshop, we’ll cover aspects of article structure, marketing and promoting your work.

L. Peat O'Neil's workshop, Travel and Food Writing, will take place at the Annapolis Center on Tuesdays 10/4-10/18 and Thursdays 10/13-10/27. Sign up for her workshop here and here.

A few words about me: I’ve taught food and travel writing for Smithsonian Resident Associates, the Graduate School USA, L’Academie de Cuisine and online at the University of California, Los Angeles. Sometimes the workshop is a small group of strong writers who seek guidance on voice, structure and pace. I’ve also worked with travel writers and culinary professionals who are shaping notes into finished articles or blog entries.

In addition to Travel Writing: See the World-Sell the Story, Pyrenees Pilgrimage and other books, I’ve written essays, short stories and poetry for literary journals and reviews. My professional writing background includes nearly two decades in The Washington Post newsroom, numerous freelance travel and food articles (Gastronomica, National Geographic News, Elle, Travel+Leisure, etc) and a four-year stint as a social media content writer for the U.S. Department of State.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

TWC Members Contribute to The Delmarva Review

The Eastern Shore Writers’ Association released the fourth edition of The Delmarva Review on Sept. 26, 2011. Several instructors and members of The Writer’s Center, including Poet Lore editor E. Ethelbert Miller, have contributed to the new edition. The Review highlights original poetry, short stories, and nonfiction from writers in the Chesapeake region, although work from writers outside the region is also eligible. The new edition is expanded from previous editions, including five short stories, 28 poems, three essays, and five reviews of recent notable books.

Featured work by TWC contributors includes Ken Ackerman (book review), Kate Blackwell (book review), J. Wesley Clark, Nan Fry, E. Ethelbert Miller, Richard Peabody, and Sue Ellen Thompson.

The 2011 issue is for sale at The Writer’s Center as well as regional bookstores, including the News Center in Easton, Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, Creative Xpressions, in St. Michaels. Single issues are $10 each. Two-year subscriptions are $18. An order form can be downloaded from the website:

On Sunday Dec. 4 at 5 pm, The Delmarva Review will hold a reading at TWC.

Fiction writers are also encouraged to enter the Delmarva Review Short Story Prize Contest, which concludes on Nov. 1. Details can be found at

The Writer's Center 35th Anniversary Reading Series: Teacher/Student

As part of our 35th Anniversary Reading Series, The Writer's Center hosts longtime instructor Robert Bausch and former student Allison Leotta, in a special reading this Friday September 30 at 7:30 pm.

The Readers

Robert Bausch holds a B.A., an M.A., and an M.F.A. from George Mason University. Since 1975, Bausch has been a college professor, teaching creative writing, American literature, world literature, humanities, philosophy, and expository writing. He has taught at the University of Virginia, American University, George Mason University, The Johns Hopkins University, and The Writer’s Center. For the balance of his career he has been teaching at Northern Virginia Community College. He has also been a director on the board of the Pen Faulkner Foundation. In 2009 he was awarded the John Dos Passos Prize in Literature.
— Adapted from James Gilford for

Allison Leotta served as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C. for 12 years. Her first novel, Law of Attraction, was named one of the best books of the year by Suspense Magazine, and The City Paper called Allison "one of the most notable new faces to debut in 2010." Law of Attraction is being translated into Turkish and German. Leotta also blogs about what TV crime shows get right and wrong, from her perspective as a real-life sex-crimes prosecutor. The ABA named her blog, the Prime-Time Crime Review, one of the best blogs of 2010.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cicely Angleton: Poet and Member of Our Honorary Board

We were saddened at The Writer’s Center to learn of the recent passing of Cicely Angleton, poet, long-time workshop participant and generous supporter of the Center, and a member of our Honorary Board. She was 89 years old.

Author of A Cave of Overwhelming (2005) and Selected Poems (2007) and a contributor to Inventory (2008), an anthology on aging, Cicely also earned a Ph.D. in medieval history. Yet the landscape of her poetry transcends formality and, as her friend and fellow poet Barbara Goldberg has commented, reflects the free spirit of a woman “who no longer played by the rules-even poetic rules.” Rich with the images of the Arizona landscape in which she grew up, many of her poems, such as the one printed below, reflect a keen sensitivity to her surroundings.

We will miss Cicely a great deal. Many who knew her well have expressed that they can hardly imagine the Center, or the Washington literary scene, without her.

Sojourner in a Strange Land

After the burnt-out light bulb of the day
it’s time to arrange my feelings on a hanger
leaving them in the closet
next to a slew of mothballs,
and more or less fastening the door.

I start to close my eye, letting one bar of light
sneak inside the premises of the horizon line.
Any hello there, wandering around this monochrome?
One red apple rolling toward me?
a child in swaddling clothes?

Musical notes, high pitched and unexpected,
begin in my right ear, followed by the distant screech
of train whistles in the desert somewhere between Bisbee
and Douglas, Arizona. Lonely noises, interrupted by a flashing
meteor for a moment only, just before the closet door unfastens
and everything is lying on the floor.

-Cicely Angleton

Sue Ellen Thompson on Sound Effects in Poetry

When I first heard my teacher at Middlebury College read the opening lines of Wallace Stevens’s poem, “Autumn Refrain”—

The skreak and skritter of evening gone
And grackles gone and sorrows of the sun,
The sorrows of sun, too, gone…the moon and moon,
The yellow moon of words about the nightingale
In measureless measures, not a bird for me
But the name of a bird and the name of a nameless air
I have never—shall never hear…

--I knew that sound played a magical, musical role in poetry. In those two harsh, made-up words—skreak and skritter—lay the essence of autumn, of brittle leaves blowing over bare pavement. Stevens uses alliteration as well as repetition of whole words and phrases to underscore the melancholy and inevitable nature of the season, and in the end I cared less about what the poem meant than about how it felt in my mouth as I read it aloud.

When I started writing my own poems several years later, I failed to understand how sound could be used to embody and convey my feelings. I suppose I thought that if I occasionally threw alliteration or repetition into a poem, I had paid my dues. To go beyond that seemed forced and manipulative. I think it was because sound, to me, was merely a surface effect—not a deep, visceral one.

In my Oct. 9 workshop, “What Sound Effects Can Do for Your Poetry,” I will talk about some contemporary poems in which sound plays a crucial role. I will introduce workshop participants to the link between certain vowel or consonant sounds and human emotions, and I’ll explain how choosing words on the basis of not just what they mean but how they sound can help a poet convey his or her feelings in a more subtle, convincing way.

The sound effects I will examine in detail include assonance, consonance, alliteration, anaphora, internal rhyme, and onomatopoeia. These are among the most basic and essential tools that all poets should know how to use. Whether you’re new to poetry or have been at it for years, this workshop will give you something to think about the next time you sit down to write.

Sue Ellen Thompson is the instructor for the upcoming What Sound Effects Can Do for Your Poems workshop at TWC on Sunday 10/9. Sign up for her workshop here.

Sue Ellen Thompson ( is the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Golden Hour (2006), and the editor of The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Her work has been included in the Best American Poetry series, read on National Public Radio by Garrison Keillor, and featured in U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s nationally syndicated newspaper column. She taught at Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, Binghamton University, and Central Connecticut State University before moving to the Eastern Shore in 2006. She was awarded the 2010 Maryland Author Prize from the Maryland Library Association and will be teaching at the University of Delaware in the spring.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sue Eisenfeld on the Personal Essay

The first personal essay I ever wrote, in 2003, came out of me all in one sitting, with no warning. As I sat at my computer, my fingers typed a 700-word essay, plying the question of whether or not to have children. It was 13 paragraphs long and 30 sentences. When I finished, I sent it to Editor Bill O’Sullivan at The Washingtonian, and in short time he accepted it for the back page of the magazine.

The week it was published, The New York Times Syndicate contacted me and wanted to syndicate the essay for unlimited use by newspapers and magazines around the globe, for a year.

“Boy, that was easy!” you might say at this point about my maiden writing, submission, and acceptance experience. And, “Your writing career must have been set!”

Let me dispel these myths, gentle reader.

Writing that essay occurred after approximately 10 years of reading the back page essay in The Washingtonian, before I even considered myself a writer, plus reading other similar short personal essay columns on a regular basis. After all those years of absorbing the rhythms and flows of short essays—the structure, the pacing, the mix of scenes and summary, the tight arc of a story—the DNA of this type of essay had, apparently, integrated itself into my subconscious.

Also during the previous 10 years, I had been employed as a writer, working day-in and day-out writing beginnings, middles, and ends for newsletter articles, journal articles, brochures, fact sheets, Web sites, video scripts, white papers, proposals, and other less “creative” and more technical documents. I practiced using words for up to eight hours each day, playing with sentences, crafting transitions, improving the organization of paragraphs—perfecting flow and drama and story.

I was like a carpenter, experimenting with different ways of putting together pieces, learning new techniques, and improving my skill. I didn’t even know it was happening.

In addition, during the previous five years, I had been pondering this topic of pregnancy and parenting. It was a frequent point of discussion between my husband and me as well as between me and my parents. I had been searching for reasons and answers to explain my torn emotions, grappling with societal and familial expectations and whether my future self would disagree with my decision. I wracked my brain for understanding, hoping to unlock within myself the key to the mystery of what shaped me.

My voracious reading, the relentless practice, and my drive for self-discovery all converged one fateful night in the form of this one simple, honest essay, much to my great surprise.

But writing another essay is a whole new mountain to climb. Just because I wrote one that worked did not mean that the very next one to find its way to paper would come as easily or as quickly or would be any good. The slate is new again each time.

Though I’ve since had long and short essays published in many publications (and acquired a large pile of rejection letters too), each of them has only happened as a result of the same parameters that created the first one.

I must meditate on topics for months or years before I can write them, before I have found the interest or passion or angle that is sufficient and important enough to compel my writing. A writer of personal essays must be curious about the world, and her connection to it, and to people, and to what it all means; must continually tap the vein of interest that perplexes and confuses, turn issues around on all angles, and mine her life for the stories and scenes and similes that express the inexpressible emotions of living and being human. The moments of clarity and “brilliance” are few and far between and take time to cultivate.

I must continue to read voraciously the kinds of essays I want to write, in literary journals, books, magazines, and newspapers. Reading is my constant teacher, not only because—like with any experiential, hands-on education—I don’t always know what lessons I am taking home, but also because I must constantly refresh my knowledge of markets—who publishes the kind of work that I like to write?

Above all, I must continue to sit down at the computer each day, doing hard time in front of the blank page—experimenting with language and ideas, revising and throwing out drafts, starting over, putting some things away and reviving others (knowing all the while that much of what I write will be rejected numerous times by the publications I most admire)—and let the combination of forces work their magic.

Sue Eisenfeld is leading the upcoming Personal Essay Workshop at TWC from 10/27-12/8. See the listing and sign up for her workshop here.

Sue Eisenfeld has been published twice in The Washingtonian, as well as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Gettysburg Review, Potomac Review, Under the Sun, Virginia Living, Blue Ridge Country, and other publications, and is forthcoming in Hunger Mountain. Her work has been twice listed among the notable essays of the year in The Best American Essays, and she is a two-time Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She holds an M.A. in Writing from The Johns Hopkins University. Her work can be found at:, and she can be reached at

28th Annual Mid-Atlantic Song Contest Extension

28th Annual Mid-Atlantic Song Conest Extension

The Mid-Atlantic Song Contest announces an extension of the deadline for entering the 2011 competition. You may now enter online or postmarked by September 30, 2011.

This change is being made to accommodate our friends in the Northeast and along the Eastern Seaboard who have been adversely affected by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. We hope this change will allow those displaced by the storms a chance to still enter the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Song Contest.

We wish to thank all our participants so far, and to encourage any who have yet to enter to take advantage of this extra two-week period. We also invite anyone who has already entered to use this opportunity to enter more songs, if they wish.

The Mid-Atlantic Song Contest is presented each year by the Songwriters’ Association of Washington (DC), and is now in its 28th year. Look for contest results in early 2012, and check the website for winners and details of the Awards Night Gala, to be held in January.

Entries must be received online by 11:59 p.m., Friday, September 30, 2011, or postmarked by September 30, 2011 to be eligible.

Enter online at, or at, or by mail. Send your entries to:
4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW
PMB 106-137
Washington, DC 20016

For more information, plus prizes, click here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creating Great Articles for Web and Print with Lee Fleming

Speaking of "great articles," check out the details on Lee Fleming's upcoming workshop:

Creating Great Articles for Print and Web” is based on the idea that fine writing is fine writing—whether your piece is fiction or nonfiction. The same principles of focus, organization, color, texture and balance should apply as much to blogs and articles as to short stories and novels. In the ideal world, we would astonish readers with our gem-like style and unique insights. But even experienced writers forget to take the time (or just don’t have it) to delve deeper into the elements that take good writing to a higher level. Helping people do this is where I come in.

As a successful freelancer and award-winning editor who has been both side of the writing/editing fence for more than 30 years, I know what sells, what won’t—and why. Giving participants my professional editor’s perspective on story ideas, article organization, blog topic interest and the rest adds another dimension to a workshop exploring publishing’s realities.

How do you begin, if you have never really written articles or blogs before? And how do you take your pieces to another plane, if you’re currently creating articles for print or Web? These questions drive this workshop. It takes nothing for granted, whether you’re a beginner who only writers papers for work, or a seasoned pro looking to brush up your skills or make a transition from one medium to another.

For example, the first session tackles that most persistent of problems, choosing one aspect of a broad subject that will make the best story idea for a particular site or publication. I like to tell participants about a friend who once proposed a history of Latin America to his editor. Luckily for him, the editor responded, “Not Latin America—just Noriega,” and a bestselling book was born. We aim for that in the workshop—breaking an overwhelming topic into facets that can become differently angled stories.

Later sessions touch on timing story pitches and negotiating fees with editors. After all, they’re people, too—grumpy in the morning, harassed by their publishers, but always looking for the killer idea. It’s easy to forget this, thinking of a Web site or print publication in monolithic terms rather than a something put together by people who might not have had a good morning when you call them. So we discuss how to approach editors, even down to what time of day to call someone on a daily versus a weekly, or how long to wait before following up on an e-mailed Web story idea.

And all along, we revisit and refine the basics: how to choose a subject, how to narrow a huge idea so that it becomes a manageable article or blog concept, how to pitch the story, how to organize and balance a piece and make it declare its message with your voice. Henry James, that consummate stylist, once said that style is defined not by what you can do, but by what you can’t—which makes perfect sense: if you shine at dialogue, it may be because you’re weak at describing, and vice versa. We work to discover your stylistic strengths and capitalize on them.

This is a tall order for a relatively short workshop, but somehow, the approach works. Over the years, participants have been published—often for the first time ever—on Web sites such as Slate and, and in newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Harper’s, The Nation and Washingtonian. They’ve been kind enough to tell me that the workshop helped. Perhaps it will do the same for you.

Lee Fleming is teaching "Great Articles for Web and Print" Mondays at 7:00 P.M., starting October 3. You can register here.

Lee Fleming has been writing, editing, and teaching for more than two decades. Her articles have appeared in The Washington Post, City Paper, and The Washingtonian, as well as other national newspapers, magazines, and Web sites. A former senior editor at Museum & Arts and Garden Design magazines, and managing editor/editor in chief of Landscape Architecture, Fleming has received a number of fellowships and awards for journalism and fiction.

Fall for the Book Event at The Writer's Center

This week-The Writer’s Center is participating in the 13th Annual Fall for the Book Festival. Check out the Web site at Events will be all over D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland.

We will be hosting The Emerging Writer Fellowship Reading this Friday, September 23 at 7:30 pm. The Emerging Writer Fellows were chosen from among 80 applicants and are funded by a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts.

The Readers

Ellis Avery is the author of The Teahouse Fire, a novel set in the tea ceremony world of 19th Century Japan. Her second novel, The Last Nude, is inspired by the Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka and comes out in January 2012.

Christopher Goodrich teaches English and Play Directing at the Academy of Musical Theatre, Northwood High School, in Silver Spring, MD. His chapbook, By Reaching, was published in 2007 and his first book of poems, Nevertheless Hello, came out in 2009.

Angela Woodward
is the author of The Human Mind, a story collection, and the novella End of the Fire Cult, about the boundaries between two countries created by a husband and wife. She lives and teaches in Madison, WI.

Come out and support the Emerging Writer Fellows! Join them and TWC staff at Food, Wine & Co at 7272 Wisconsin Ave. after the reading.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Silencing the Saboteur by Carollyne Hutter

Silencing the Saboteur
by Carollyne Hutter

Although it can be unpleasant, criticism is essential to a writing life. Most writers I know are in critique groups—the feedback is so valuable.

Sometimes criticism can cross the line and be destructive to a writer’s work or sense of worth. The most caustic critic can be the voice in a writer’s own head. My friend Eliza King, a talented life coach, calls the voice “the saboteur.” She gives this advice about dealing with the saboteur:

“The saboteur is the voice of our internal critic or the voice of self-doubt that often appears when we are trying something new, and stretching into new, unfamiliar places in our lives. The saboteur comes in and tells us that we are not good enough, competent enough, etc . . . to be who we'd like to be and urges us not to take on the new challenges we are undertaking.

“If we listen to this voice, it eventually takes us on a one-way trip to our worst fears of our possible future. So do not attempt to argue with the saboteur: it will not be convinced!

“The saboteur comes from old survival patterns in our past that may once have kept us safe, but are now no longer necessary and end up holding us back from living fulfilling lives. The saboteur often masquerades in a familiar voice, like a family member's or teacher's voice, so that it really presses our buttons. When the saboteur appears, you feel foggy, confused, resistant to doing anything, and overwhelmed. Who needs that?

“To minimize its influence practice these two steps:

1. Identify and name the voice when it shows up in whatever guise. ‘I hear you, saboteur! I recognize your voice and you are not the expert on the truth about me.’

2. Create your own way of banishing it that works for you. It will never disappear for more than a few hours but you can shut it up for awhile. It can be especially strong when you’re tired or off guard.

“Some examples of ways to get rid of the saboteur: Flush it down the toilet; shove gum or taffy in its mouth; lock it in a cupboard; put it in a jar with a tight lid; make it weed the garden..."

“Be persistent in banishing the saboteur so you can plan your next step and live your life with more peace and hope for your future.”

I would like to add two suggestions to Eliza’s great comments about dealing with the saboteur:

1. Make goals. The saboteur is all about the past. When you make goals, you’re focused on
the future. Keep the goals simple and attainable.

2. Celebrate all your accomplishments, even the so-called “little” ones. For example, I regularly write for a terrific children’s social studies magazine, APPLESEEDS. APPLESEEDS is doing an issue on weather and my editor assigned me to two articles: one on the National Hurricane Center, which was a delight to do. And a second article on weather experiments for kids. I froze when I saw this assignment: Hey, I’m a writer, not a scientist. But despite my reservations, I pushed forward and gathered various weather experiments. Then I invited a bunch of kids over to test the experiments. (To our surprise, we couldn’t get some of the experiments to work and others had to be modified.)

After we were done testing, I wrote up the experiments and emailed the article to my editor. Then I stopped at the grocery store and bought cupcakes. The kids came over and we celebrated finishing this assignment!

About: When she’s not sending her saboteur out to weed in the garden, Carollyne Hutter is a freelance writer/editor/communications manager, specializing in environmental, scientific, and international development topics. She also enjoys writing fiction and creative nonfiction for adults and children (early readers, picture books, and young-adult novels). Please visit her website——to learn more. You can contact Carollyne at

Eliza King is trained in Co-active Coaching by the Coaches Training Institute, one of the most rigorous and respected training programs in the coaching industry. She loves working with people who are in transition or want to make a change in their lives. Her gift is in seeing people for who they truly are, and helping them be courageous in seeing themselves and living that vision.

Monday, September 19, 2011

David Taylor's Soul of a People

There is no denying it's Monday, but there's also no denying that David Taylor's award-winning documentary Soul of a People is bringing the beginning of the week back in a big way.

Soul of a People: Writing America’s Story is an award-winning Smithsonian documentary film about a diverse group of unemployed men and women who found relief from the Great Depression on the WPA Writers’ Project. To survive, they reported on local history and life for state guidebooks. They ended up producing an epic and controversial self-portrait of America, with effects that reverberated for decades. A few of them became famous later -- including Zora Neale Hurston, Richard Wright, pulp writer Jim Thompson, John Cheever, May Swenson and Studs Terkel -- while others are less known today. Soul of a People offers a fresh look at the WPA writers, their lives and their legacy. Narrated by Patricia Clarkson, with readings and commentary by Studs Terkel, Richard Ford, Dagoberto Gilb, Amy Bloom, Reynolds Price and others.

Check out two venues that are discussing his work this Monday and Tuesday:

A screening of Soul of People: Writing America's Story (followed by a Q&A)
Tonight, Monday, September 19, at 7:00PM
at DC Tenley Neighborhood Library

A discussion about the book Soul of a People
Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 20, at 7:00PM (Room #307)
at MLK Memorial Library

Both events are FREE, and give a chance to explore how a dramatic episode from history unfolds in two different formats.

If you can't make it out this week (or heck, even if you can!), but can't get enough David Taylor, consider signing up for one (or both!) of his upcoming fall workshops Writing Brilliantly About Science on September 27, or Writing a Documentary Treatment on October 29. Click on the links for more information and registration.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing Dialogue for Actors by Richard Washer

Enough with the "he said-she said." It's time to show--not tell--your story. Playwright and TWC workshop leader Richard Washer on the collaborative experience that is dialogue and playwriting:

Writing Dialogue for Actors
by Richard Washer

Each genre of writing presents its own set of unique challenges for writers. Playwriting is no exception. Some of the basic tools and skills can be gleaned from reading one or more of the plethora of books on playwriting, or by taking workshops where a writer can practice, test, and hone such skills. But playwriting, at the end of the day, is a collaborative craft and as such playwrights write for other interpretive artists. The more a writer understands the craft of these artists, the better the blue print we call a play script is likely to be.

This is hard to convey in a workshop. I provide anecdotes from my experience as a writer, director, and dramaturge to convey a sense of how much an actor or designer can bring to all aspects of a play. While this is helpful, I can see in the eyes of everyone around the table the hunger to experience this. And in these moments I am reminded that the best instruction I received came from watching seasoned and talented actors take my words through the paces of rehearsal, previews, and production. However, as ideal learning experience as this might be, it’s not a practical one. It should come as no surprise that theatres are not likely to spend any of their budgets on helping a new playwright learn.

So, I started to look for a way to bring this experience to my playwriting workshops. I brought in actors for the last meeting of a workshop so that the writers in the group could hear their words performed. But the lack of follow-up always troubled me. There was no time to comment, discuss, or debrief on this experience and focus on lessons learned.

A while back a local high school invited me to offer some playwriting workshops and figuring there was safety in numbers I asked an actor (Hope Lambert) to join me. Hope not only brought her experience of working on new plays in New York, Washington D.C., and National Tours to the workshop, she also articulated and demonstrated the actor’s approach to the craft in a friendly, fun and inviting series of exercises. Watching her I realized that she brought my anecdotes to life and even more importantly, made the writers active participants in the lesson.
Hope and I now offer various presentations of this workshop (one-day or one-weekend seminars, short-term workshops of four to six meetings and longer-term workshops). In all of these the focus is on developing a basic understanding of the actor’s craft and using that knowledge to write dialogue that engages an audience in a story.

If you are new to playwriting or you are frustrated with trying to bring your dialogue and characters to life, this workshop will help you: better understand what the actor looks for in a new script; break out of the habit of TELLING the story and move into showing the story by appealing to the actor’s skills in your writing; have fun in a safe environment trying out some new acting skills and applying them to your plays; and along the way, add to your writing toolbox a deeper knowledge of the collaborative journey you take the instant you put dialogue on paper.

Richard Washer will be leading “Dialogue: A Practical Approach” at The Writer’s Center starting September 27.

Richard Washer, M.F.A., playwright and director. Richard was a co-founder of Charter Theater, a company devoted to developing and producing new plays. His recent productions include Quartet at the Hamner Theater and Getting It produced at the National Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. Richard is the Inaugural Playwright in Residence at First Draft Theater and a workshop leader at The Writer’s Center since 1994.

Freedom and Form in Poetry by Nan Fry

This week on First Person Plural, Tuesday is Fry-day. TGIF? I think so, and you will too after reading below!

Freedom and Form in Poetry
by Nan Fry

Ezra Pound has said that “…some poems have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase.” For years, I preferred the organic form of the tree and saw symmetrical
structures as unnecessarily restricting. Why then am I teaching a workshop entitled
“Poetry Free and Formal”? I have come to realize that the terms “free” and “formal”
are not so much opposites as points on a continuum.

Several years ago, when I attended Westchester University’s Conference on Form and Narrative in Poetry, I told myself and others that I was there for the narrative only. Then I realized that I write riddles and that such poems do indeed have a form, albeit a flexible one, as they use metaphor, imagery, and sometimes paradox to present something familiar in a way that is mysterious. In this case, the form is more a model or a goal, rather than a confining structure. It gives me a direction to go in but does not limit the paths I can choose.

Form can also be liberating. Recently, in “Making It New,” a workshop I just taught at The Writer’s Center, I saw this principle in action. I’d suggested that the participants try a poem modeled on Wallace Stevens’ “Disillusionment of Ten O’clock,” a list of all the things that were not happening in the speaker’s neighborhood at night. One student came in the next week with a poem on the stock exchange—the things it cannot do. I think we were all surprised that she had written so well on something so timely yet seemingly unpoetic. As we discussed her work, she said, “Form is amazing—it gives you permission to do whatever you want.” Later, she said that she had been surprised by what she had written and that she probably couldn’t have done as well if she had approached the subject directly.

That is the delight of poetry—either free or formal—we surprise ourselves and discover our poems as we write them. As Theodore Roethke said, in his wonderful villanelle, “The Waking,” “I learn by going where I have to go.” In “Poetry Free and Formal,” we will explore ways to give our free verse shapeliness and musicality and will experiment with flexible and symmetrical forms that may suggest direction and perhaps open up new possibilities.

Nan Fry will be leading “Poetry Free and Formal” at The Writer’s Center starting September 22.

She is the author of two collections of poetry, Relearning the Dark and Say What I Am Called, a chapbook of riddles she translated from the Anglo-Saxon. She taught in the Academic Studies Department at the Corcoran College of Art + Design for over 20 years. Nan has poems forthcoming in the Delmarva Review and Spillway as well as an essay in the winter issue of Poet Lore. Her work can also be found online in the archives of the Poetry Society of America and of The Rambling Epicure.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

ModoComm Publishing

Here's Jason Clark on his start-up.

ModoComm Publishing is calling for manuscript submissions for inclusion in
an anthology of regional literature focusing on the Washington, DC area.
Works that capture the personality of DC should be submitted; fiction,
non-fiction and poetry works are all acceptable. Guidelines and information
can be found at ModoComm
hopes to give exposure to authors and topics that might normally escape the
attention of larger, corporate publishing houses.

About ModoComm: ModoComm Publishing specializes in electronic publishing
for mobile devices, distributing author works in .epub and .pdf file formats
for use on devices like the Amazon Kindle or iPad, iPhone, etc. ModoComm
also offers production services through its related site

ModoComm distributes authors' works on its own website, as well as and iBooks store. Additionally, ModoComm submits author works
for review through appropriate media outlets. ModoComm tries to increase
profitability for authors by offering substantial royalties: 80% minus cost
of sale.

Important to note is that for the anthology project ModoComm provides much
of its production services gratis: ISBN acquisition, editorial /
copy-editing, media conversion and .epub formatting.

About the management: ModoComm Publishing is a publishing and distribution
platform effort by Jason Clark. Jason graduated with a degree in English
from Johns Hopkins University and holds an advanced degree in Education.
Jason has spent several years working in the academic publishing area in
production and distribution, and he also has substantial internet
application programming experience.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Maryland Poetry Out Loud

Maryland Poetry Out Loud registration for the 2011-2012 season is now open! Help spread the word. Visit or for details. Here's the general run down. From the Maryland State Arts Council's Christine Stewart:

We are pleased to announce that Kari Barclay, Maryland’s Poetry Out Loud Champion, was one of 9 student who reached the Finals at the Nationals in Washington, DC this past April!

Kari was awarded $1,000 and his school received $500 for the purchase of poetry books. This is the second year in a row Maryland has reached the Finals, with State Champion Nora Sandler placing 3rd in the nation in 2010.

To put this into perspective, 365,000 students participated nationally in the 2010-2011 competition.


1) This year we are including 9th graders, in addition to 10th, 11th and 12th. No other grades will be folded in per NEA guidelines. Only 9-12th.

2) Another structural change: We are happy to announce that we are moving to a regional coordinator structure so that each region has its own coordinator who will help organize (for counties new to the program) or support (for counties who have participated two or more years) county competitions, organize and host the regional competition and be your ‘go to’ person for questions, etc.

Linda Joy Burke, our current Poetry Out Loud Coordinator, will move to lead Region 2: Anne Arundel, Baltimore City, Calvert, Charles, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s Counties. In addition she will also continue working closely with Baltimore County, which is part of region one. She will be contacting teacher liaisons, county Departments of Education and Arts Council partners and over the next couple of weeks to begin planning for the 2012 season. Part of that planning will include outreach to county schools that have not participated in Poetry Out Loud previously, scheduling site visits, confirming returning schools, and addressing concerns or questions from previous participants.

Deanna Nikaido will lead Region 1: Allegany, Baltimore County, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Washington Counties. Deanna is the author of two collections of poetry, Voice Like Water and Vibrating With Silence and holds a degree in Illustration from Art Center College of Design. Voice Like Water was selected in the Small Press Bookwatch July 2009 by Midwest Book Review. She is a poetry/publishing coach and design consultant for Bookinday (, a non profit hands-on literacy project that teaches students the fundamentals of creative writing, through poetry and book publication. Since 2007 Bookinaday has published 35 books, elementary through high school across the country and two international schools. For more information visit

Both coordinators, along with myself, will support Region 3 on the Eastern Shore, while we locate a coordinator there. Suggestions welcome!


You can find the Teacher Toolkit Request form for download here: (should there be trouble with the link go to:, choose Grants and Programs, Poetry Out Loud (under Arts in Education), and Register/Request a Teacher Toolkit).

PLEASE NOTE: this form is also the REGISTRATION FORM and registers your school for the competition. If you wish to have a toolkit, but not register, send me your request by return email but don’t use the form. Toolkits are mailed out in August and September.

Please also take a moment to print out the TIMELINE – the link to which you can find in the left hand sidebar. Note that we will have updates! Please check back so you have the correct dates. This will just give you an idea of the timeline for the program.

Each school may have a maximum of 10 toolkits. By now, if a school has participated for at least two years, there should already be supporting materials (anthology, CDs, DVDs) in circulation. We have a limited number, so must cap your shipment at 10. The current Teacher’s Guide is available on the NEA website as a PDF, should you need more copies: (look in right hand sidebar for teacher resources).


October 3rd, 5pm – the deadline by which a school must register
December 9th, 5 pm – the deadline by which a school must have had their classroom and school competitions and report their 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place school winners to me, Chris Stewart, by email (I will provide the form).
January, 2012 – county competitions
February 2012 – regional competitions
March 3, 2012, 1 pm – Maryland State Finals competition at the Baltimore Museum of Art. SNOW DATE: March 10, 2012.

Call Christine Stewart with questions: 410-767-6476.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Why the Collapse of Chain Bookstores is a Good Thing for Books. Part 6

Last week, we travelled from 1991 to 2010. From the fall of Crown Books to the rise of Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. Through the demise of independent bookstores to the sudden appearance of the ebook. It’s 2011… Those of us still standing now face a new era. The death of Borders, the coming death of Barnes & Noble, and the power of the ebook are all things that guarantee the rebirth of print…not the death of print.

by Andrew Gifford

The Witch is Dead

Print sales, in the era of the chain stores, came to be measured in the tens of thousands, and the millions for those select few stars and big publishers. The idea of Seymour Lawrence selling a handful of copies here and there across the nation became ludicrous, even if those handfuls added up over time and translated to bestsellers and famous names.

In short, we got lazy. Publishers focused on chains and gladly wrote off the 30% or more returns as long as the chains bought a bunch of books up front. Spend the money, live large, worry about the returns and the debt later on. That’s why you hear stories that don’t make sense – like Scholastic, the US publisher of the Harry Potter books, nearly having to declare bankruptcy. Authors know that story all too well – you get your gonzo advance and spend it all because you have bills to pay and cocaine to buy, but then you don’t see another penny and the book flops and, nine months down the road, you’re living in the backseat of your Mercedes and crying yourself to sleep.

Print sales have always been about grassroots shenanigans. From writing the book, through publishing it, down to selling it, is an intimate experience for everyone involved. There’s no point in the process where the book doesn’t, somehow, enter the bloodstream. Measuring print sales, then, used to be a quiet little thing. Two copies to this store, three to that one, and ten to that one. Tra-la-la. And that’s a good day for a small press. And that should be a good day, because you know that all those copies are going to be displayed, browsed, and purchased. They aren’t camping out in a warehouse and being turned around just to fund some soulless corporate giant. Amazon, by the way, buys copies based on demand, just like most indie bookstores.

What happened that should have woken everybody up is that, as soon as the order trickled down to freeze out Borders, the average percentage of book returns per title went from 33% to 20%. And, as Barnes & Noble struggles and attempts to focus on a future with the Nook and not with their chain super-stores, that percentage goes down even more. Here in the last half of 2011, B&N has sliced all of their purchasing numbers, and I’ve seen maybe 10% returns on my titles, if that. Ten percent is the new worst-case.

We’ve reached the point where I don’t notice returns. When they do trickle in, it’s usually because they were damaged en route. Returns – formally something that felt like rape – has now been reduced to “breakage.” All because Borders and Barnes & Noble are off to the elephant graveyard.

The problem is that the few remaining indie bookstores are much like successful terrorist insurgents. They’ve sort of won the day, but it’s certainly a Pyrrhic victory. They’re limping around the ashes of their stores, missing arms and legs and eyes, shuddering from nightmares of 20 years of war. Small presses, likewise, are all sitting back and trying to take stock of what’s happened. Not just the obscene horrors of the 2000’s, but the rapidly changing world of book publishing as we move into this century’s second decade.

The question is familiar: What’s next? What’s the shape of things to come?

Ebooks will rule supreme. People love gadgets, they love the convenience. And, already, publishers are moving to make ebooks more profitable through the creation of “enhanced” ebooks. As we move through this second decade, enhanced ebooks will soon become the name of the game. You’ll not just download and read a book, you’ll be able to listen to music tied into the text, interact with maps, follow links to “bonus material” on the publisher’s website, and so on. Enhanced ebooks will also push the prices up to something more comparable to the old trade paperbacks. While, meanwhile, a “vanilla” ebook will always be available at the usual low prices. Apple’s homogenization of the ebook revolution has allowed for incredible flexibility and, in the years to come, you’ll soon be seeing multiple versions of each book. The enhanced ebook, the plain old ebook, and god knows what else. Folks juggling an endless parade of DVD special editions know the ropes.

The technology is cheap and approachable. Once small presses overcome their technophobia, ebooks will become a steady and reliable source of revenue. No returns, no inventory or warehousing worries, and fewer distributor costs.

As ebook sales throw money into our strained coffers, small presses can now take stock of how they’re doing things. The opportunities will present themselves where small presses can start piecing together little oddities once again. Chapbooks, and experimental stuff, and new authors. Small presses were, and should be, fertile seedbeds that give rise to great authors. That, alone, keeps print from dying. Print will only die if the experimental crazies die. If publishing becomes like some “current blockbusters only” industry, like ma and pop video stores did during the late 80’s and early 90’s in the face of Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and other chains. Their final holdout was to sell off all the weird shit and just try and make money with the mindless top of the charts fare. And, of course, they’ve all faded from memory.

Publishers who love this business can also breathe a sigh of relief as return percentages plummet. Not only is the money starting to make sense again, but the sales are clearly happening; and the books are again being embraced by booksellers and the audience. Indie bookstores were eclipsed, but now their importance is starting to become clear once again.

Above all, small presses and indie bookstores must learn to get along again, to form that united front. Because these glory days will not last. There will be new enemies, if only in the form of the big name publishers swooping in to gobble up whatever they can. Bookselling, and the making of books, should, once again, return to an intimate and pure path. No more pyramids of fad books at the entrance, no more usury, no more back-channeling.

It is a time to celebrate, but it’s also time to form a union, stronger than ever before. Small presses and indie bookstores should never again be enemies. And, together, we can move into this new era and re-establish a beachhead that’s been lost, piece by piece, since the late 1970’s. People will always buy books, no matter how bad it gets. The big publishers have to worry about the bottom line, and so they’re forced to play to the lowest common denominator. The small presses, however, are free. Most readers are hungry for change, for excitement, for new things, for experimentation. It is just as likely, and just as welcome, to put out some offbeat bizarre book in 2012 and have it raise the freak flag from here to Timbuktu as if it was, once again, the 1960’s or 70’s when houses like Black Sparrow and Graywolf and others were cutting their teeth.

Reintroducing the Wild West days of bookselling should be on all of our minds. Controlled, and tailored to accommodate modern needs, but it’ll be a breath of fresh air for everyone. The readers will come, and they’ll fork over their hard-earned money. And they’ll continue to do it both on their Kindle and at the cash register, virtual or otherwise. The trick is, simply, drawing them in. That’s not done with a shotgun blast in a dark room, or a million dollar PR person, or a pile of books at the door. It’s done with creativity, with a product that’s worth something, and with a little bit of devotion and TLC on the part of the people who love this industry: The gunfighters who run bookstores, and small presses, and believe that we’re doing something very beautiful, and very necessary.

Now’s the time, kids. Now’s when we need to get together and talk. If we miss yet another window because we’re all paranoid, isolationist screwballs who can’t get our shit together, then we will die.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Delmarva Review Short Story Prize

The Delmarva Review Short Story Prize
September 1 to November 1
First Place - $500 cash and publication
Second Place - $200 cash
Third Place - $100 cash

Attention all writers!  A new short story contest, with three cash prizes, seeks your best new writing. First place wins a cash prize of $500 and publication in the literary journal The Delmarva Review in 2012. Second place wins $200, and third place wins $100.

The contest seeks evocative, powerful, literary fiction that exemplifies great story telling and appeals to a wide literary audience. New, previously unpublished stories, from 2,500 to 5,000 words, will be considered. The judge, to remain anonymous until the contest concludes, is an award winning author and writing instructor.

The submission period runs from September 1 through November 1, 2011. Winners will be announced in January 2012. An administrative fee of $15 must be received for each entry. All interested writers should see the guidelines, under “Contest,” on The Delmarva Review website:

The contest is made possible by an anonymous gift, matched by the Review’s sponsor, the Eastern Shore Writers Association (ESWA), to encourage new and exciting literary fiction.

The Delmarva Review, now in its fourth year, has published original prose and poetry from 69 authors from 16 states, the District of Columbia, and several other countries. Twelve have been nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize. The next issue will be published on October 1.

See the website for additional information on the “Contest,” or send an email to:; or write: Contest, The Delmarva Review, P.O. Box 544, St. Michaels, MD 21663.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer Staff Shuffle at TWC

Hello loyal readers of First Person Plural! Zachary Fernebok here—you know, the guy who you probably talked with on the phone the last time you called TWC, or saw at the front desk. Dark hair? Well-dressed? Yep, that’s me!

I’m blogging today (and it seems for more days to come) with exciting news. We here at TWC are coming out of the summer totally re-energized and completely pumped for a stellar selection of Fall Workshops and our 35th Anniversary Reading Series. In fact, the year-long party begins Saturday, September 10 at 7:30 with a reading by poet Martin Espada, referred to as “the Pablo Neruda of North American Authors” by the world, and “I can’t believe he’s really going to be reading at TWC!” by his fans.

Former staff member Kyle Semmel has done a great job promoting all of the wonderful workshops and events we have to offer, and I’m picking up the torch as the new Marketing & Program Manager. I started at TWC as Kyle’s intern in 2009, and I’m so honored to be coming full-circle. In my new position, I will be continuing work on all of Kyle’s marketing initiatives, and starting a few things of my own. Additionally, I will be assisting Sunil with workshops by putting together our Bethesda batches of workshops.

Yes—that’s right! Sunil Freeman is back in business this month after a few weeks away doing what we can only hope was working on a new collection of poetry. I personally like to imagine he was trying his hand at cape-crusading, keeping our streets safe, and being the hero that this city needs. Sunil will be continuing his work as Assistant Director, but focusing more on the programming of our satellite venues (check out our workshops at Capitol Hill and Annapolis, for example!) and our events.

And last but not least, I’m overjoyed to announce Laura Spencer as our new full-time receptionist. She has served TWC very well for over a year as a part-time employee, and now she gets a chance to shine even brighter from nine-to-five. Next time you’re in TWC to sign up for a workshop or meet with your writing group, don’t be shy and say hi!

With that, I hope everyone has an enjoyable and relaxing Labor Day weekend. I would even say it’s the perfect three days to finish your entry for our poetry slam competition in preparation for our event with slam poet Taylor Mali. Thanks for reading!