Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Meet The Instructor: Sinta Jimenez

“Meet The Instructor” introduces members to our workshop instructors. For the first installment, Marketing & Communications Intern Sarah Katz spoke with Sinta Jimenez, who will lead Queer Fiction over the course of four Mondays from 4/4-4/25.

The Writer’s Center: What brought you to the Center?

Sinta Jimenez: I've been teaching workshops at The Writer's Center since November 2012. I was invited by [former Program Manager] Zachary Fernebok, who I met while working at Writopia Lab in D.C. At the time, I was working primarily as a fashion and entertainment editor. And while now I own my own business related to digital strategy and branding, I still teach writing. It is my way of always keeping the dialogue of fiction and poetry in my life.

TWC: How would you describe your teaching style?

SJ: Encouraging, empowering, and intuitive. It's important for me to find out what the artistic goal is of my student, what they are trying to express or evoke. It's really working to try and help them achieve their goals. It's most important for me that my students feel free and creative, and once that is established, helping them grow as writers.

TWC: What are you reading right now?

SJ: Mysteries! Been on a kick. Always liked a good mystery, even since childhood. Back then I loved John Bellairs. Right now reading Keigo Higashino.

TWC: What are you writing now?

SJ: Working on a piece that currently has no title ... since about October. Fixing to be a short story.

TWC: What does your writing space look like?

SJ: Anywhere and anytime. When it strikes.

TWC: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given and by whom?

SJ: “Good dialogue reads stylized.”—Ben Ehrenreich, an author and journalist, and one of my professors at Otis College of Art and Design's Graduate Writing Program.
Also, “Bah, fuck rules.”—Paul Vangelisti, an award-winning poet and my dean at Otis.
Sinta Jimenez is a writer, fine artist and fashion journalist. Her short stories, paintings, and poetry have been published in several literary magazines including Underground Voices, Otis Nebula, and The Sheepshead Review. With her hand in multiple projects, she founded the digital agency Social Buzz Pros and AMIHAN Life. She was formerly the Director of Social Media and Fashion Editor for Meets Obsession magazine as well as the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Letters and Lullabies.

Leesburg First Friday: Susan Coll

April 1, 2016, 7:30 p.m.
Leesburg Town Hall, 25 W. Market St., Leesburg, VA

This Friday, novelist Susan Coll will share a proven technique for getting ideas out of your head and onto paper. Coll is events and programs director at the D.C. independent bookstore Politics & Prose and is author of several dark comedies, including Acceptance: A Novel, which was made into a Lifetime movie starring Joan Cusack. Her newest novel, The Stager, has been named an Editor's Choice by The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune. Register here

What We Learned Last Month

 In March, Jon Peede, publisher of the renowned Virginia Quarterly Review, offered a behind-the-scenes view of the operations and decision-making processes of a literary publisher. According to Peede, literary journals receive tens of thousands of submissions each year, which they must sort through to find the right essays, poems, short fiction, and non-fiction for their readers. It's all about fit. That's the first rule in bettering your chances of getting published. 

Familiarize yourself with the journal, zine, or website. While it may not be affordable to subscribe to dozens of literary journals, invest in at least two or three and check out others at your local library. The Writer's Center offers a wide selection for you to purchase and browse as well in our book gallery. You can also visit Poets & Writers for a list of literary magazines and a ton more resources for writers.

Next, look for opportunities to contribute to journals based on topical issues. For example, universities and colleges have literary journals and alumni magazines that might be open to publishing interviews or profiles of distinguished alumni. Finally, in your cover note, be sure to inform the editors of your writing credits and any credentials you may have related to the topic of your submission.

The Writer’s Center–Leesburg Committee offers events the first Friday of every month except for December, January, July, and August. $6 for nonmembers; $4 for members and Leesburg residents

Friday, March 18, 2016

Reading and Discussion: New Anthology on Palestinian Identity

Being Palestinian: Personal Reflections on Palestinian Identity in the Diaspora (Edinburgh University Press, 2016), edited by Yasir Suleiman, contains more than 100 contributions of prose and poetry by men and women spanning several generations, most of whom live in exile in the United States and the United Kingdom. 

Contributor Sharif S. Elmusa will read selected excerpts at The Jerusalem Fund, 2425 Virginia Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20037, on March 23, 2016, 12:30 to 2 p.m. 

Elmusa situates the book in the context of a Palestinian literary genre, the “autobiographical reflection.” He will discuss the multiple ways in which being or becoming Palestinian is conceptualized and felt in the book’s reflections “from the heart,” and how such a state and process coexist with a second national identity for the largely multicultural group of authors. Elmusa is the author of Flawed Landscape: Poems 1987-2008 (Interlink Pub Group Inc., 2008) and co-editor of the anthology Grape Leaves: A Centuryof Arab-American Poetry (Interlink Publishing Group, 1999).

Professor Suleiman explains that these writers are in diaspora “not out of choice but because of bitter necessity. As exiles, they dream of returning home one day or having their home back, but they are not allowed to exercise this right of return.” 

One contributor writes, “Being Palestinian, I learnt from a young age, means being hammered on an anvil … [It] is waking up to displacement, lunching with diaspora and going to bed with dispossession.”Palestine lives in everyday existence, present in its absence, and has a lack of political closure. Exploring how such an existence affects those in exile are notable writers including: 

Naomi Shihab Nye, "Written on his Forehead: My Father"
Salma Khadra Jayyusi, “The Durable Cords of Memory”
Ghada Karm, “Fitting Nowhere”
Ibtisam Barakat, “Forty Days of Mourning”
Fadi Joudah, “Still life”
Abdel Bari Atwan, “Forever Gazan”

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Celebrate Our 40th Anniversary with Jim Lehrer

By Pamela Alston

On March 24, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., The Writer's Center is proud to present the TV journalist, debate moderator, and novelist with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Lehrer will be in conversation with Ron Charles, book critic at The Washington Post. Charles’s awards include the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, the Nona Balakian Citation for book reviews, and 1st Place for A&E Coverage from the Society for Features Journalism in 2011. Registration is required for this special event: $15 for nonmembers; $10 for members, and tickets are nearly sold out. Please click to register.

Photo by Larry D. Moore
Jim Lehrer is a legendary journalist best known for his 38-year run on PBS. His rise to fame began in 1973, when, alongside his co-host, Robert MacNeil, Lehrer covered the Watergate hearings gavel to gavel. The show was awarded an Emmy for this unprecedented approach and later expanded to an hour-long news program, the first of its kind on television. When MacNeil retired in 1995, the show was renamed the “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer,” which he anchored until 2011. In 2003, the program won a George Foster Peabody Award for its coverage of American unemployment.

Lehrer's accolades as a journalist are practically innumerable, but not enough people know that Lehrer has also spent much of his life writing mystery novels and memoirs.He has penned more than 28 books, many of which draw from his personal experiences and interests in politics, history, and current events. 

In his latest, Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates (Random House, 2011)described by The Washington Post as “a brisk and engaging memoir”—Lehrer tells the inside story of what he calls the "major moments” that defined televised debates in front of the camera and behind the scenes with Presidents Kennedy, Nixon, and Obama. He reflects on his own personal experiences in interviews with the candidates and moderators, illuminating what he calls “killer questions” that defined the debates. 

White Widow (Random House, 1996) is novel based on the anchor’s family history—in particular, his father’s life as a bus driver and owner of a bus company. In this simple, yet classic tragedy, Master Operator Jack T. Oliver's fatal flaw—his attraction to a "white widow"—causes his fall from grace. Lehrer surprises readers with an easy-going pace that effectively contrasts with the calamities told in the story.

A number of his other books employ real-life events in compelling ways. The Last Debate (Random House, 1995) is a caustic, satirical analysis of presidential debates. Super (Random House, 2010), takes a look back in time to the year 1956, which involved three mysterious deaths: President Harry Truman, actor Clark Gable, and a movie-loving railway service agent. 

Lehrer is known as a passionate, no-nonsense novelist. In 2010, The Washington Post quoted the author as he recalled an interaction with an aspiring writer. “A young man came up to me at a book-signing once,” he recounts, and said, ‘Mr Lehrer, I’d write too, if only I could find the time.’"

Photo by Alan Kotok

Do you think you could write a page a day?

Oh, sure!

Well, at the end of 300 days, what would you have?

The youth looked puzzled, and then light broke over his face like morning—A novel?

The author was born in Wichita, Kansas, and attended Victoria College for an associate’s degree and then The University of Missouri for a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1956. He began his career in Dallas, Texas, as a public affairs executive before moving to Washington, D.C., where he started as a coordinator at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and the rest is history. Today, Lehrer lives with his wife, Kate, and together they have three daughters and six grandchildren.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Splendid Wake: March 18

On March 18, 2016, A Splendid Wake celebrates its fourth anniversary with another stellar line-up of guest speakers. Located at the Gelman Library* at George Washington University, host and partner of the organization, the event will include discussions and readings on various topics related to poetry. Grace Cavalieri, poet and host of the radio series “The Poet and The Poem,” is joined by Dan Vera and Francisco Arag√≥n from Letras Latinas, and panelists Barbara Goldberg, Roman Kostovski, Nancy Naomi Carlson, and Vivian Wang. 

A D.C.-based organization dedicated to promoting poets in the area from 1900 to present, A Splendid Wake first began making an impact on the literary scene by launching its archive of area poets on its wiki. These poets all have a special connection to D.C., including Paul Laurence Dunbar, Walt Whitman, Naomi Ayala, and Grace Cavalieri. The archive continues to grow and add more information as collections become available.

Jessica Flores, marketing and communications intern, spoke with Sunil Freeman, a member of the organization's planning committee and assistant director at The Writer’s Center, to learn more about the event and its importance to the nation’s capital.

Jessica Flores: What is this event and the organization’s
broader mission?
Sunil Freeman: A Splendid Wake was formed to celebrate and make people aware of the extensive historical poetry movements and traditions in D.C. since 1900. We have covered, in our four years, a number of panels, presentations, and discussion. Along with the annual presentation and wiki, we have a blog that lists different events and programs. It covers literary journals, translations, and biographical listings of poets from the D.C. area. The programs have been quite popular and we have hosted this event once a year. We have a planning committee of about a half dozen people on any given meeting.

JF: In addition to the readings, this year will have a panel about Literary Translation. What should we expect at the panel?
SF: There will, more or less, be one group after the other with these different topics. Grace is a longtime poet and member of the community, and she’s done a lot in the past 40 years. She has her radio program, “Poet and the Poem,” and for several years, she has produced the podcast with the Library of Congress, sharing poets reading and covering their work, both national and local.

JF: What kind of poetry does the organization look for? What criteria is used to justify what is archived?
SF: Usually there’s a thematic link in the different panels and presentations. Other than that we look for a wide range, usually a lot of history in the poetry community. Richard Peabody, editor of Gargoyle, presented on literary journalism in the Washington area and was able to give a tremendous history over many decades—that’s just one example.

JF: How does this event foster community in the area’s literary scene?
SF: Through a number of ways. The event opens a window into Washington poetry traditions for people who may not know about it. One member of the community teaches at Montgomery College and opened it up to her students. It also functions as a gathering point for poets and editors who don’t always meet. It’s very enjoyable, sort of like a family reunion. I should note, George Washington University has been a very good host for these events. A staff member there attends nearly all of our meetings and participates in the group.

JF: What are the difficulties of such a project and how can the public help?
SF: We’ve done this now for four years. The first few years are critical for staying power. Now that we’re coming up to our fourth event, we’re fairly well established, but we can always use help. Interns working on the wiki project do a tremendous amount of work to upload and record everything. The blog entries give an enormous amount of different perspective of the Washington poetry community.

JF: What make’s D.C.’s literary culture stand out from other parts of the nation?
SF: Washington, among other things, is a seat of power in the nation’s history. It brings an interesting mix of people and different cultures together. There are a lot of black historical poetry movements and groups that are included within A Splendid Wakes’ programs. This is probably not unique, but there’s also the university MFA culture, slam poetry, and performance culture in one area, offering a broad range over the last few decades.

JF: Is there anything else you would like to share that people should know?
SF: It’s free and open to the public!  It’ll be a good opportunity to learn more about poetry in Washington, a number of poets who have passed on, many with connections to The Writer’s Center, and a very good opportunity to meet people here in the writing community.

*The Gelman Library is located at  
2130 H St NW, Washington, D.C. 20052

Sunil Freeman has been a part of The Writer’s Center and D.C. literary community for more than 25 years. He has served as managing editor of Poet’s Lore in the past and is the author of two poetry books, and Surreal Freedom Blues (Argonne Hotel Press Chapbook Series, 1999) and That Would Explain the Violinist (Gut Punch, 1993).