Tuesday, December 16, 2014

POET LORE Nominates…

It’s that time of year again! Poet Lore, The Writer’s Center’s semi-annual poetry magazine, reveals which of its amazing contributing writers have been nominated for the 2014 Pushcart Prize. Founded in 1976, the Pushcart Prize has become “one of the most influential projects in the history of American publishing,” according to Publishers Weekly. Every year, Pushcart Press invites small press editors to submit up to six works that they have published that year.  Pushcart editors then use these nominations in the making of their prestigious annual anthology, The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses. Recipients of the Pushcart Prize over the years have included Junot Diaz, Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, and Peter Orner.
Poet Lore is proud to announce its six nominees for the 2014 Pushcart Prize, whose poems and author bios are listed below. All of these poets use language and form in such a way that leaves the reader completely entranced and embody Poet Lore’s mission to create poetry that fuels our natural need for discovery. Congratulations to all the nominees!

Cornelius Eady - "Otis Redding, Being Pulled from Lake Monona"

CORNELIUS EADY is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems (Putnam, April 2008). His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985; in 2001 Brutal Imagination was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received the Prairie Schooner Strousse Award and fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He co-founded the Cave Canem summer workshop/retreat for African American poets and is a professor at Notre Dame University.

Patrick Ryan Frank - "Body Double"

PATRICK RYAN FRANK is the author of How the Losers Love What’s Lost, which won the 2010 Intro Prize from Four Way Books, and The Opposite of People, due out in 2015. He was a recent Fulbright fellow to Iceland.

Joseph Ross - “When Your Word is a Match”

JOSEPH ROSS is the author of two books of poetry: Meeting Bone Man (2012) and Gospel of Dust (2013). His work appears in many anthologies and journals. He teaches English and creative writing at Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC, and writes regularly at JosephRoss.net.

Sherod Santos - "I Was at One Time Close to Home"

SHEROD SANTOS’s latest book is The Intricated Soul: New and Selected Poems (W.W. Norton, 2010). He lives in Chicago.

June Frankland Baker - "During the Downpour, at the Pond"
JUNE FRANKLAND BAKER lives in Richland, Washington. Her poems have appeared in such anthologies as The Blueline Anthology and Woven on the Wind, and in numerous magazines, including CommonwealNotre Dame ReviewPoetry NorthwestSlant, and Tampa Review.

Christopher Presfield - “Elegies for the Fallen” 

CHRISTOPHER PRESFIELD is the co-author of Gray Air (Cedar Hill Publications, 1999) and Dawn in the Big House (Pygmy Forest Press, 2006). His poems have also appeared in Poet LoreAlaska Quarterly ReviewPoetryBriar Cliff ReviewRattle, and else­where. He has received five PEN Prison Writing Awards of varying placement over the years.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Discovering Reykjavik: A City of Literature

Writer's retreats are a great way to get inspired and buckle down. Workshop leader Willona M. Sloan traveled to Iceland earlier this year and discovered many things on her journey. The retreat is happening again in April, so think about spending your next vacation in this fascinating country that considers writing to be a national pastime.

When we write, our words take us to places both real and imagined. We travel through time. We experience different cultures. When we write, we relive our adventures and re-imagine the people we have encountered along the way. That’s why to keep our writing fresh we must leave home, explore new places, meet new people and collect new stories. 

For about 20 years I have had an inexplicable fascination with Iceland—more so the idea of Iceland than the place itself, as I knew very little about the tiny nation. When I heard about the first annual Iceland Writers Retreat, I didn’t know exactly why but I had to visit this magical place. 

Co-founded by Eliza Reid and Erica Jacobs Green, the first Iceland Writers Retreat was held in April 2014 and featured workshops led by Pulitzer Prize winner Geraldine Brooks, Guggenheim Fellow Susan Orlean, Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Joseph Boyden and many more. I was most excited about the promise of meeting Icelandic authors and poets. 

In Iceland, writing is a national pastime. With a population of just 330,000, Iceland boasts an almost perfect literacy rate, and Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world. Who knew? 

As a UNESCO-designated City of Literature, Reykjavik is a city that values storytelling. Our delightful literary walking tour brought to life the elves, trolls, and elemental beings of local folktales, as well as the heroes of the ancient Icelandic Sagas, and some pretty chilly characters from crime stories, including Gunnar Gunnarsson’s The Black Cliffs, which even inspired Geraldine Brooks to create a new writing prompt for the next day’s workshops. We were all ingesting parts of Icelandic literature and allowing them to nourish our creative work.

We were treated to private readings by some of Reykjavik’s brightest literary stars: author Sjón,  who also has been known to write songs for Björk; author Ragna Sigurðardóttir  and poet Gerður Kristný. And, if I had any doubt that writers were welcome in the land of fire and ice, President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson set the record straight. He invited our delegation of 60+ writers from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Singapore and more to a private reception at the Presidential Palace at Bessastaðir. President Grímsson shared his pride of the national literary tradition, and he allowed us to explore the house. What an exciting day to be a writer!

Iceland truly is a fascinating place. Within an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, I saw a turquoise geothermal pool, a magnificent waterfall, gushing geysers, snow and ice, sunshine and green pastures, ocean, and off in the distance the ice-covered volcano that was known in the Middle Ages as the “Gateway to Hell.” 

My journey to Iceland reinvigorated me. I realized a dream come true. From that experience I have created new dreams; I have told new stories; and I am curious about new things. This is what makes writing so exciting. For me, the best part is figuring out where my words will take me next.

You can learn about the 2015 Iceland Writers Retreat, featuring Barbara Kingsolver here.

You can read more about my journey here. (It didn’t get off to a very good start.)


Willona M. Sloan teaches workshops at The Writer’s Center. She has published non-fiction, fiction and poetry in publications including BlazeVOX, Bohemia, Northern Virginia, Publishers Weekly, The University of Virginia magazine and Words Apart.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Emerging Poet Wins The Writer’s Center’s 2014-15 Undiscovered Voices Scholarship

The Writer’s Center is pleased to announce that poet Caitlin Reid is the recipient of its 2014-15 Undiscovered Voices Scholarship. In this initiative, The Writer’s Center provides a one-year-long scholarship to a promising writer earning less than $25,000 annually. At a time when economic challenges make it difficult for many writers to pursue their literary goals, The Writer’s Center’s Undiscovered Voices program aims to provide that extra professional boost for talented writers like Reid.

With her Undiscovered Voices Scholarship, Reid will receive complimentary writing workshops for a period of one year. During the course of the year, she plans
to take workshops that will help her write a full-length poetry manuscript by her thirty-second birthday in May. “I have found both mentoring and community at The Writer’s Center, and I’d like to continue my education there,” Reid said.

Reid’s poetry has earned scholarships to The Gettysburg Review Writer’s Conference, Wesleyan’s Conference for Writers, and a Murphy Writing Seminar in Wales. She was a finalist for the 2014 Larry Neal Award, and the Millay Colony of Arts has her on a wait-list.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Studio at The Writer's Center

When I came back from East Africa last month with five notepads full of material for a new book, I started looking for a place to sit down and write, and do nothing else. I have a study at home, but it’s full of unfinished business, and in our house there’s a lot of deferred maintenance. So I trolled the internet for an office (nothing under $500/month), or a shared work space (not quite as expensive, but you have to put up with hopeful new entrepreneurs Skyping away at the desk next to you). Then I called Sunil Freeman (Assistant Director of The Writer's Center).

I've known Sunil for more than twenty years. When The Writer’s Center was still on Old Georgetown Road, he and Al Lefcowitz offered computer classes to writers who were trying to make the transition from the Underwood and the fountain pen. I’m looking for a work space, I said. Any ideas?

"Well," he said, "it’s funny that you mention it. While you were away in Africa, we've completely rebuilt the lower level, and turned it into a writer's studio. It’s not totally finished yet, but Stewart (Moss, Executive Director) says you’re welcome to try it out."

So that’s where I’ve been these past three weeks, happily doing my 1,000 words a day.    

Ernest Hemingway did some of his best writing in cafes in Paris and Madrid. He preferred large, airy rooms that were not tomb-silent like a library, but places where people talk in low voices and leave you alone when they pass your table. He even wrote a story about it. He called it "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," and that’s exactly what you'll find at the new Studio at The Writer's Center on Walsh Street.

For $100 per month, Studio subscribers have access to one of eighteen writers’ carrels with a port for your computer and internet access, a lounge with a coffee maker, and locker space for a small additional fee. Rent three months in advance and pay just $250. Members of The Writer’s Center will receive a 15% discount. For more informaiton, please call us at 301-654-8664.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Writing Non-Fiction and Memoir: What’s Your Appeal?

by Jennifer McLean Marsh

In November, The Writer’s Center-Leesburg hosted Hilary Black, Senior Editor at National Geographic Books, for a fabulous session on writing and publishing engaging non-fiction and memoir at Leesburg First Friday. Black, who edited The Secret Currency of Love (William Morrow), showered audience members with advice on tailoring their writing for books, magazines, and online publications. Her experience in each of these formats evoked some pessimistic observation observations about today’s sales-based publishing culture, in which the number of Facebook followers and Internet clicks can outweigh fact-checking and good writing. But she also offered this paradoxically hopeful advice: Since even great writing might not sell well, it may be easier for an editor—an author’s in-house advocate—to make the case for publishing a first-time writer who has no sales record. Black also shared topics that interest her as a National Geographic editor and placed a special emphasis on women’s personal essay.

While Black gave specific guidance for pitching proposals based on the publication format, she flagged some universal recommendations as well. Among these: Consider your particular audience. Write about subjects you care about, theses you want to prove, emotions you want to work out. Be ready to “go there”—that is, don’t skirt hard topics in memoir or fail to exhaust every source for reported works. Write colorfully and provocatively; be “universal in a non-traditional way.” And practice!

Looking Ahead to 2015

Along the lines of practicing, next year’s theme for Leesburg First Friday events is ACTION. Our speakers will give attendees writing challenges, and the first 30 people who register in the new year will receive a notebook to bring to each program. We will be on hiatus in December and January. Happy holidays, and we look forward to some great revving up exercises in February!

The Writer’s Center-Leesburg Committee offers events the first Friday of every month except for December, January, July, and August. Events are held at the Leesburg Town Hall, 25 W. Market St., Leesburg, VA 20176.