Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Delmarva Review: An Interview with Executive Editor Wilson Wyatt

The Writer’s Center is pleased to host a launch of the eighth edition of The Delmarva Review on Jan. 31, 2016 from 2– 4 .pm. (Learn more about the event here.) The reading will focus on DR contributor Sue Ellen Thompson’s Theya poetry collection about raising a transgender child—and a reception with writers and editors will follow. Marketing & Communications Intern Sarah Katz interviewed Executive Editor Wilson Wyatt to learn more about the history and focus of the Delmarva Review.

Sarah Katz: Can you tell me about the genesis of the Delmarva Review?
Wilson Wyatt: The Delmarva Review was designed to give authors and readers new opportunities. First, it provides an annual publishing venue for compelling literary work in the midst of an increasingly competitive, shrinking environment for the printed word. It offers discerning readers original literary prose and poetry while giving writers expansive readership exposure far beyond their local borders. People read literary journals for discovery.

In 2007, our publisher, the Eastern Shore Writers Association overwhelmingly approved the development of a legitimate literary journal that welcomed outstanding writing in English, regardless of an author’s residence. It was a bold step. Encouraging competition for space in print is a generous gesture by writers, to say the least.

The results are enlightening and heartfelt. Over an eight-year history, the Delmarva Review has published new writing from 216 authors in twenty-seven states, the District of Columbia, and nine other countries. Sixty percent are from the greater region. Thirty-seven authors have earned Pushcart Prize nominations. Some have received mentions in major anthologies and critical reviews. Still others have been discovered by new publishers.
SK: How has the Delmarva Review changed or evolved over the years?
WW: The Review is constantly evolving. Thanks to the Internet, and a positive response within literary circles, the Review has become an established and highly regarded “lit mag” or literary journal. The number of submissions has grown to over 1,000 per issue, in only eight years. We have expanded the size, offering 200 pages per issue.

We make small improvements annually to showcase the author’s work. Design and presentation are important. We now use the latest print-on-demand technology (POD) to assure worldwide availability of the journal in a printed format. We are also one of the first literary journals to offer an electronic edition, allowing downloads to digital reading devices like smart phones, tablets, and Kindles. This expands the reach to readers of all ages at a favorable cost.

SK: What is the Delmarva Review staff looking for in submissions? What are some of your favorite pieces from the new issue?
WW: We are all volunteers, working as a team. Our genre editors and readers look for evocative prose, great storytelling, and moving poems that exhibit skillful expression. Submissions are read by more than one editor, which helps to broaden our perspective of each piece. Historically, we choose a diversity of writing styles and topics, rather than focusing on one theme or genre. Ultimately, we look for universality, some feeling or message that transcends the page and connects us.

The current issue opens with a discussion about Sue Ellen Thompson’s celebrated book They, treating the subject of transgender acceptance through a unique blending of poetry and prose. Other human topics in the issue reveal probing expressions about loss, birth, death, love, healing, and finding a sense of belonging in a larger world.

As we seek skillful expression, we are looking for qualities you might expect. For example, outstanding dialogue will define the character as well as propel a good story. With poetry, we care about tone, structure, and the poet’s choice of words. Within nonfiction, we search for the universality that will beckon a reader. In general, we look for the story within the story, the levels that create dimension within a piece.

SK: What advice would you provide to prospective writers submitting for publication in the Delmarva Review?
WW: We encourage writers to follow the submission guidelines carefully. They are posted on the website We only read electronic submissions. Our current submission period is open until March 31. We publish in the fall.

Of great importance to all writers, please edit submissions carefully. Errors are usually a preventable detraction from good writing.

Submissions are competitive. Send us the writing you love. We receive more good prose and poetry than we can publish, but we are genuinely interested in discovering a writer’s best creative work.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Brief Interview with Abdul Ali

A portfolio of work by Abdul Ali introduced by poet Grace Cavalieri appears in the Fall/Winter 2015 issue of Poet Lore, the poetry publication of The Writer’s Center. Abdul Ali is the author of Trouble Sleeping, winner of 2014 New Issues Poetry Prize. His poetry, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in GargoyleGathering of TribesNational Public RadioNew Contrast (South Africa), Academy of American Poets (,  and the anthology, Full Moon on K Street. He teaches English at The Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore. Editorial assistant Taylor Johnson emailed Ali with questions about his work and influences.

Taylor Johnson: Who is in the room with you (metaphorically) when you write—what teachers, literary giants?
Abdul Ali: I think you're asking about my influences. I often think of the older black men in the barbershop who always told stories when I was a kid. I don't think anyone could match the improvisation and humor of their stories. I hope I'm bringing the jazz musicians, the MCs, the BAM poets, Dark Room Collective, etc. But I'm also thinking of my professors and mentors. Always trying to surprise myself.

TJ: What drew you to the life of Charlie Parker? How does his music and sense of time play into your work?
AA: I'm drawn to the artist as a tragic figure. It's a complicated thing. How the thing that you tell young people to stay away from (e.g. drugs) can also be the thing to help the artist access the sublime. I also really like how jazz music says so much without words. This is very similar to poetry: how to take sight and sound and feeling and make a poem of consequence.

TJ: There’s a strong tradition within modern American poetry to detail the pastorale, and how there seems to be a turn toward the wild and wilderness, and the urban pastorale within contemporary American poetry. How does your environment (past, present, real, imagined) find its way into your work?
AA: Living in cities for most of my life have definitely framed so much of the content of my poems. Being on the edge of life and death always somehow raises the stakes in your work. I must admit that I miss that intensity now that I live in the suburbs and no longer take public transportation.

TJ: Throughout your poems in this issue of Poet Lore there is a common thread of grief wending its way through the pieces; whether it’s mourning unencumbered sleep, or lamenting the tragic lives of artists and musicians, or detailing the palpable sadness and disgust after the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown; grief figures prominently in your work. What is your process of writing through grief? Does writing grief transfigure it?
AA: I hadn't realized that I return to grief so much. I suppose poetry is that place I turn to when I'm at a loss for words. And in these cases--nationally--we're at a loss for human life. So, yes, I grieve their deaths in hopes that it can be regenerative. That their losses can somehow tumble into some epiphany about human life. That we can learn something and honor their lives. That someone will say their name and they won't be dead. This gives me peace.

TJ: How has teaching influenced your writing process?
AA: It's certainly has made me more aware of time. The scarcity of it. In many ways, I feel as though my engagement with writing is more intense, more intimate.

TJ: Who are you reading?
AA: I'm just coming out of a dry spell so I'm revisiting folks like Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Hayden but also reading my contemporaries. It's important for me to see how these conversations change or remain the same. And, of course, I always delight in being surprised by language. Of course as an English teacher I'm constantly reading and re-reading. So this allows me to access the meat of words in a direct way. 

For more information on the current issue of Poet Lore, visit:

Taylor Johnson is a poet from Washington, DC. They are a Callaloo Fellow and their work is forthcoming from the minnesota review. When they are not reading or writing poems, they serve as a docent at the National Museum of African Art.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Spotlight on Literary Events: Jan. 15-31

The Complete Deaths of William Shakespeare
Friday, January 15 at 8 pm; Saturday, January 16 at 8 pm; and Sunday, January 17 at 4 pm
St. Mary’s Community Center
3900 Roland Ave
Baltimore, Maryland 21211

Celebrating the 400th Anniversary Year of Shakespeare’s death, Cohesion Theatre Company and Baltimore Shakespeare Factory present a devised work of stage combat, bard appreciation, and silliness encompassing every death of every character written into all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays (and maybe a few that aren’t). Join us for an evening of non-stop mayhem and fun as we slaughter our way through every single death Shakespeare ever wrote on stage.

Second Annual POE-Zella
Saturday, January 16 from 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm
1145 Hollins St,
Baltimore, Maryland 21223

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809, and to honor his 207th birthday, the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum (203 N. Amity) will celebrate one of our City’s most famous denizens by having a party, exhibition and benefit. This event, our second “POE-Zella!”, is a free juried Poe-inspired party, benefit exhibition, and silent auction. It is scheduled to be held at Zella’s Pizzeria on January 16 from 2:00 – 6:00 pm. (Time subject to change.) While, entry to this special event is free, donations at the door are encouraged to help sustain the mission to promote and interpret Edgar Allan Poe’s life, death, and legacy in Baltimore.

Paul Lisicky—The Narrow Door: A Memoir of Friendship
Saturday, January 16 from 6:00 pm to __
Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20008

Lisicky is a novelist, essayist, editor of StoryQuarterly, and a teacher in the MFA program at Rutgers University-Camden. Picking up from the shorter reminiscences of Famous Builder, Lisicky’s fifth book explores two very different and deeply meaningful relationships. Charting the end of his marriage, a friend’s cancer diagnosis, and his own sharp response to the larger wounds of Haiti’s earthquake, the Gulf oil spill, and other natural and man-made disasters, Lisicky’s memoir is a moving account of what holds a life together, tears it apart, and allows it to heal again. Lisicky will be in conversation with Richard McCann, President of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, American University MFA writing teacher and the author of Mother of Sorrows and Ghost Letters

Sunday Kind of Love, Hosted by Sarah Browning and Katy Richey, Featuring Fady Joudah and Fatimah Asghar
Sunday, January 17, at 5:00 pm
2021 14th St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20009

Sunday Kind of Love Open Mic Poetry features emerging and established poets from the Washington, DC area and around the nation. Each program includes one to two featured poets and an open mic segment. Co-sponsored by Split This Rock, the national organization dedicated to poetry of provocation and witness.

Free Writing Workshop with Split This Rock and The Beltway Poetry Slam
Wednesday, January 20 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
Split This Rock
1112 16th St NW, Sixth Floor Conference Room
Washington, District of Columbia 20036

Split This Rock and The Beltway Poetry Slam are hosting bi-monthly writing workshops on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of every month. All ages are welcome; no need to RSVP. Just come ready to write! If you have any questions, please email or call 202-787-5210.

David Ebenbach, Kathy Flann, and Leslie Pietrzyk
Thursday, January 21, at 7:00 pm
The Ivy Bookshop
6080 Falls Road
Baltimore, Maryland 21209

Join us for a reading by three acclaimed writers of short fiction, poetry, and essay.

Poets Unite!
Saturday, January 23, 2:00 pm
National Portrait Gallery
Nan Tucker McEvoy Auditorium
8th St NW & F St NW,
Washington, DC 20001

To celebrate the landmark edition, “One Life: Dolores Huerta,” 21st Poet Laureate Consultant Juan Felipe Herrera, along with poets Arlene Biala and Diana García, will read newly-commissioned work in response to the exhibition. Co-sponsored by Letras Latinas, a literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, Library of Congress Hispanic Division, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Asian Pacific Center, and Smithsonian Latino Center.

Lines & Stars Winter 2016 Reading and Ten-Year Anniversary Fete
Monday, January 25 at 7:00 pm
Colony Club
3118 George Ave NW,
Washington, District of Columbia 20010

Please join us in Washington, DC, on Monday, January 25th for our Winter 2016 Reading and Ten-Year Anniversary celebration! Jessica Lynn Dotson, whose chapbook Time Trials won our 2015 Mid-Atlantic Chapbook Series, will be reading her work, as will former L+S contributors Devin Kelly and Mikala Rempe. We'll also be celebrating ten years of existence. How time flies!

The Welcoming Committee Open Mic Night
Tuesday, January 26 at 8:00 pm
Busboys & Poets
1025 5th St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20001

Get your hands in snapping position. TWC is teaming up with Zami to organize an LGBTQ open mic night at Busboys and Poets! Hop on the open mic for two to five minutes to perform a piece or series of pieces of your choice. Poets, spoken word performers, singers, comedians, and acoustic musicians are all welcome. RSVP to the event on Facebook. The evening will also feature renowned poet and spoken word performer Regie Cabico! Zami is a monthly gender and sexuality series that seeks to energize community discourse about the intersections between sexuality, gender, race, and human rights by bringing together artists, scholars, and community members.

Shulem Deen—All Who Go Do Not Return
Sunday, January 31, 10:30 am
Washington Hebrew Congregation
3935 Macomb St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20016

Shulem Deen was raised to believe that questions are dangerous. As a member of the Skverers, one of the most insular Hasidic sects in the United States, he knew little about the outside world — only that it is to be shunned. His marriage at 18 was arranged and several children soon followed. His first transgression, turning on the radio, was small, but curiosity led him to the library, and later the Internet. Thus began a feverish inquiry into the tenets of his religious beliefs, until, several years later, his faith unraveled entirely. The author of All Who Go Do Not Return, Mr. Deen will trace his harrowing loss of faith, while offering an illuminating look at this highly secretive world.

Delmarva Review Reading
Sunday, January 31 from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street
Bethesda, Maryland 20815

The Writer’s Center is pleased to welcome writers from the eighth edition of The Delmarva Review. The event will highlight a “conversation” with Sue Ellen Thompson and Anne Colwell about writing They, Thompson’s celebrated boo of poems about acceptance and raising a transgender child. Her book inspired the selection of the Review’s cover image by Portuguese photographer Jorge Pereira Rudolfoelias. A reception with the writers and editors follows.

Poetry, Presidents, and Photography
Sunday, January 31, 2:00 pm
National Portrait Gallery
First Floor, Education Center
8th St NW & F St NW,
Washington, DC 20001

Join curator and poet David Ward and poet Steve Scafidi in the Dark Fields of the Republic galleries for a poetry reading.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Life and Writing Advice from Isabel Allende

By Amanda D. Stoltz, Night Manager at The Writer’s Center
Near the end of 2015 on an unusually warm night, we arrived an hour early to find all of the seats already taken (including the floor), while more people piled into the cramped store. A woman next to me nearly fainted from the heat, or possibly from claustrophobia, and had to sit down in between bookshelves of Politics & Prose. Yet despite the size of the crowd, we all waited patiently for the brilliant Isabel Allende to grace the stage. I noticed four other BCC High School graduates in the crowd who, like me, read The House of the Spirits in English class. The House of the Spirits was Allende’s debut novel, a thrilling family saga brimming with magical realism.

I knew that I loved Isabel Allende as a novelist but during this event I came to adore her as a person. For such a small woman (her Twitter bio reads “vertically challenged”), her personality is enormous. This was apparent from early on when Allende cut short Marie Arana’s introduction by saying, “They came to hear me, not you.”

It was true. We were there for Allende. The entire audience seemed deeply inspired by her work and her life. When someone asked her which writers were her inspiration, her answer was one of the funniest moments of the night: “My favorite writer is me!” she said. Laughter blossomed throughout the room, although I got the feeling she wasn’t joking. The evening was full of sassy moments and sage words of wisdom. Below are the top five.

Five Pieces of Advice from Isabel Allende

It’s never too late to start writing. 
Allende grew up at a time when female novelists were rarely critically acclaimed artists like their male counterparts. She started her career as a journalist and was frequently told that she was a terrible at journalism because she lied too often. Yet, she did not delve into creative writing until she was 40 years old. What began as a letter to her father transformed into The House of the Spirits. The novel is based on her own family, a family so colorful she hardly had to make up anything at all.

Write what will sit on you like a stone.
A man in the audience asked Allende how she found the strength to write Paula, a memoir about the loss of her daughter. Composed, she explained that it was the other way around—writing the memoir gave her strength. “Some of the most beautiful works of art are those that cannot avoid being created,” she said.

Pay attention to the people around you.
The idea for Allende’s most recent novel, The Japanese Lover, sprang out of a casual conversation. A friend of hers mentioned that her Polish mother befriended a Japanese gardener. Most of us may find that statement somewhat irrelevant or uninteresting, but Allende immediately jumped to a strange conclusion by asserting, “They must have been lovers.” Her friend denied this, saying that they were not lovers and that Allende was being ridiculous, but the seed stayed planted and grew into the beautiful book that I am now halfway through reading and am happy to recommend.  

Books are never finished, only abandoned.
Often us writers want to know when the book we are writing is finished. We want to know how long it has to be and how long we have to spend editing it before we can tie a neat little bow around it and walk away. Allende says that she never finishes her novels, only abandons them. She edits and writes until she realizes that there is nothing more to add that can improve the story.

“I recommend lovers.”
Allende is looking for a new one. Preferably a younger man, she noted. Lovers are better than husbands because you don’t have to worry about things like laundry, she explained. The real gem to take away from this strange advice is to never take life too seriously. Allende is recently divorced yet intensely humorous and optimistic.

Seeing Isabel Allende was an absolute pleasure. Her novels always feature strong female characters, something I hope to emulate in my own writing. I will always keep in mind what she told the young man who asked where she finds such strong women to write about.

“I don’t know any weak women,” she said without missing a beat.

Allende is the author of 21 novels. She also runs the Isabel Allende Foundation, which helps women achieve social and economic justice both in California and her native Chile. For more about her, visit