TONIGHT! The Writing Show: Novel Ways to Organize Your Research

logo for The Writing ShowTonight’s the night, folks! If you live in Richmond or nearby, you are welcome (as always) to attend the James River Writers Writing Show. This month I am moderating a discussion about Novel Ways to Organize Your Research, featuring panelists Bert Ashe, Harrison Fletcher, and Jennifer Hughes. Bert is the author of Twisted: My Dreadlock Chronicles, Harrison is the author of Descanso for My Father: Fragments of a Life, and Jennifer works at Literature and Latte on Scrivener, the word processing software.

$12 members | $15 non-members | $5 students
Social: 6pm | Show: 6:45pm
THE FIREHOUSE THEATRE
1609 West Broad Street (free parking at Lowe’s)

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The Author Website: Build It to Build a Following

Hey Richmond! Come to The Writing Show tonight at the Firehouse Theatre!

logo for The Writing ShowA great author website doesn’t have to be complicated. Find out how to build a website that can showcase your work to publishing professionals and help you connect with readers.

Topics our experts will discuss include

  • What are the must-haves for the author website
  • When to bring in a professional
  • Blog subscriptions versus newsletter email lists
  • How to fund your author website, or use it to find funding
  • Adding social media and blogs
  • Press packages, FAQ documents

When: Wednesday, April 29, 6:00 pm

Where: Firehouse Theatre 1609 West Broad Street(Parking available across the street in the Lowe’s lot)

Price: $12 for Members, $15 for non-Members, $5 for Students

Speakers:

Justine_Headshot smJustine Schofield is the development director of Pubslush, a pre-publication platform that offers crowdfunding and pre-order options to authors and publishers. A writer at heart, Justine received her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. A prominent voice in the publishing industry and an advocate for educating authors and publishers about crowdfunding, she is a regular contributor to The Future of Ink, Business Banter, and more.

AB Westrick sm

A.B. (Anne) Westrick is the author of Brotherhood (Viking 2013), winner of the 2014 Jefferson Cup Award, the Housatonic Book Award, the Jane Addams Honor Award, and the Notable Trade Book Award. Brotherhood also made the ALA’s 2014 list of Best Fiction for Young Adults. From 2006-2012 Anne was JRW’s Administrative Director. She lives near Richmond, VA, and blogs once a month about the craft of writing. www.abwestrick.com

bod_joshua_caneJoshua Paul Cane is a web programmer living in Richmond, VA. For nearly 17 years, he has built, redesigned, and consulted on web applications for Federal and state agencies, non-profits, businesses, and authors. Not only does he write code, but he writes fiction: humorous short stories and now an urban fantasy novel. He serves as a board member and membership committee chair of James River Writers.

“Write What You Research”

This weekend I have the pleasure of moderating a panel at the James River Writers conference here in Richmond. The panel I’ll be moderating is entitled “Writing What You Research,” and it’s all about research for writers. If you’re able to make the conference, this panel will be on Sunday, October 19th, from 10:15 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. We’ll be talking about everything from the “aha” moment in research to what happens when your research takes a surprising turn. You’re going to get to hear from panelists writing in very different genres, with different (or are they similar?) research needs…

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tarfia headshot

Tarfia Faizullah

Born in Brooklyn and raised in west Texas, Tarfia Faizullah is the author of Seam (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014), winner of the 2012 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her poems appear in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, The Missouri Review, The Southern Review, Massachusetts Review, Ninth Letter,New England Review, Washington Square, and anthologized in Poems of Devotion, Excuse This Poem, The Book of Scented Things, and Best New Poets 2014. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of an AWP Intro Journals Project Award, a Ploughshares Cohen Award, a Fulbright Fellowship, a Copper Nickel Poetry Prize, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Sewanee Writers’ Conference, fellowships from the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop and Vermont Studio Center, and other honors. Tarfia is a poetry reader for New England Review and is a contributing editor for Four Way Review, Failbetter, and Asian American Literary Review. She lives in Detroit, where she is a writer-in-residence for InsideOut Literary Arts and co-edits the Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Press & Video Series with Jamaal May. In Fall 2014, she will join the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program as the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor of Creative Writing in Poetry.

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headshot hugh

Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey: “Born in 1975, I spent the first eighteen years of my life getting through the gauntlet of primary education. While there, I dabbled in soccer, chess, and tried to write my first novel (several times).

Out of school, I became fascinated with computers, repaired them for a brief stint, then moved to Charleston, SC and attended college. To save money, I purchased a small sailboat to live on, and nearly got myself killed bringing it down from Baltimore with a friend.

After my junior year of college, possibly out of fear of the real world, I left my safe little harbor and sailed South. I hopped around the islands for a while, went through two hurricanes, and spent the last of my cruising funds re-stepping my mast. It was time to head back to the States, where I began a career as a yacht captain.

This began an exciting phase of my life, traveling all over the East coast and Caribbean, from Barbados to Chicago. I worked on boats in New York, the Bahamas, even Canada. One of these adventures brought me together with my wife, who was able to lure me away from my vagabond ways, dropping anchor and buying a house.

Physically settled, my mind continued to roam, concocting adventures and whisking me off to fantastic places. Some of these tales seemed worth sharing, so I tapped into my love of books and decided to write them down. My first stories detail the life of a character that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. Her name is Molly Fyde, and she draws inspiration from the awesome women in my life.

My Wool series became a sudden success in the Fall of 2011. Originally just a novelette, the demand from Amazon reviewers sent me scurrying to write more tales in this subterranean world. The resulting Omnibus has spent considerable time in the Amazon top 100, has been a #1 Bestseller in Science Fiction on Amazon, and was optioned by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian for a potential feature film. The story of its success has been mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, Variety, and Deadline Hollywood among many others. Random House is publishing the hardback version in the UK in January of 2013.

When I’m not writing, I like to go for hikes with my family, take a stroll on the beach, and keep up with my reading. I currently live in Jupiter, Florida with my wife Amber and our dog Bella.”

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headshot brian

Brian Jay Jones

New York Times bestselling biographer Brian Jay Jones spent nearly two decades as a public policy analyst and speechwriter, before turning to biography full-time in 2007. He presently serves as president ofBiographers International Organization.

Brian’s most recent book, Jim Henson: The Biography (Ballantine, 2013) was a New York Timesbestseller, and chosen as the Best Biography of 2013 by Goodreads, as well as one of the year’s Top Ten books by CNN viewers. The first full-length biography of the iconic creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson: The Biography was hailed as “illuminating” (The Atlantic), “insightful” (Parade), “masterful” (Kirkus) and “compulsively readable” (The AV Club).

Brian’s first book, Washington Irving (Arcade, 2008), was praised as the definitive biography of American literature’s first popular author and pop culture icon. The Associated Press deemed it “authoritative,” the Washington Post called it, “engaging, clearly written, and well researched,” while the New York Times summed it up simply as “charming.” Which pretty much made his year.

In 2010, Brian was awarded the St. Nicholas Society of New York’s Washington Irving Medal for Literary Excellence, joining David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Christopher Buckley, and William Zinsser on the list of medal recipients.

Born in Kansas and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Brian has a degree in English literature from the University of New Mexico, which he immediately parlayed into a brief career as a manager of a comic book store before getting into politics and writing.

For nearly ten years, he worked as a policy advisor in the United States Senate, serving in the office of U.S. Senator Pete V. Domenici, and then on the U.S. Senate HELP Committee for Chairman James M. Jeffords. He has also served as an associate state superintendent of education for the state of Arizona, and a policy analyst for a county councilmember, officially giving him the government service hat trick.

Brian now lives in Maryland with his wife and a very excitable dog. His daughter is presently away at college, majoring in physics–or, as Brian calls it, “foreign language.” He is presently at work on a biography of filmmaker George Lucas for Little, Brown, to be published in 2016.

 

 

Tarfia Faizullah: a Conversation Between the Internal and External

Tarfia Faizullah

Tarfia Faizullah

The 2014 James River Writers conference happens this weekend here in Richmond, Virginia. If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time. Among the many authors, poets, editors, agents, and other publishing industry experts you’ll have the opportunity to hear there is Tarfia Faizullah, a rising star among poets, whose first book, Seam, won the 2012 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award. Her list of accomplishments is already formidable, with a host of impressive publications, fellowships, and scholarships to her name. This year she is the Nicholas Delbanco Visiting Professor of Creative Writing in Poetry at the University of Michigan Helen Zell Writers’ Program. I had the pleasure of conversing with Tarfia this summer, talking about what makes her tick. She had this to say about the impact of the James River Writers Conference and Richmond as a city had on her as a writer…

I’ve spent a good part of my life longing for spaces in which I wasn’t a weirdo, and when I finally decided to apply to graduate school, it was that longing that ultimately took me to Richmond to attend VCU. I remember driving down Broad for the first time, further and further away from the ubiquitous corporate strips housing the usual Best Buys or fast food restaurants, and closer and closer to the heart of Richmond’s downtown. Nestled there was an unexpectedly rich and welcoming community of arts and letters where I would learn from and grow inside of as both a writer and an artist.

My first year at VCU, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship to attend the James River Writers Conference. There, I sat in rooms beside them listening intently to panels of authors share what they had learned from their own joys and failures, from dedicating a life to the work of the word. I was too half-formed at the time to understand what a gift the scholarship truly was: I was too impatient, too ready to charge forward with my own poems. But I wasn’t so impatient that I wasn’t moved by a panel with local poets Brian Henry and Elizabeth Seydel Morgan. They discussed poetry with verve and thoughtfulness in such a way that made me realize that poetry could vibrate the universe, if we wanted it to. If we let it. Yes, I thought. Let it.

Your description of Richmond, and transitioning from the corporate zone to the heart of Richmond’s downtown, is striking and matches how I remember coming to the city. What part does arrivaldoes gnosisplay in your poetry?

I want to both understand and appreciate mystery, and I ask my poems to do the same work. In this way, To me, the practice of poetry is arriving—at some version of myself I was heading towards but didn’t know I would become in a world that seems different than the day before. In Seam, I’m always arriving somewhere both geographically and spatially new: a hotel room in a village in Bangladesh, in a kitchen in Richmond, Virginia, along a highway in west Texas.

Do you see this fundamental change—becoming a version of yourself in a world that seems different—as something internal, or as coming from change in the world?

I see it as a conversation between the internal and external—I’m affected by the external, but I try not to let it dictate my feelings completely or for very long. I suppose in a way, I vacillate between feeling anxious about the world’s difficulties and exuberant over its beautiful mysteries.

The urgency you describe with respect to your poetry is understandable, but it seems at odds with the poems themselves. Your lines are so solid, and the women at the core of your first collection, Seam, don’t have stories that feel like they can be rushed. How do you balance urgency and craft?

That’s a great question—one that I consider each time I wrestle with a poem. Sometimes, I can carry a poem with me for a long time: there is the gathering of the materials, considering the connections between them, articulating those connections. My first reader and co-editor Jamaal May and I can take a good long while considering and wrestling with the tiniest components of a line or sentence: we call this getting a poem past-done. Other times, a poem will come as though summoned, and it only takes an edit or two before it gets to that past-done place. Regardless, I always take the time to let a poem rest. To let my eyes rest from it, so I can see it more clearly the next time I look at it.

Your approach to writing and editing sounds deliberate and rock-solid. In addition to these craft steps, what else do you feel is necessary for poetry that, in your words, can vibrate the universe? Can we even quantify that?

Seamus Heaney draws a distinction between craft and technique in his essay “Feeling Into Words.” It’s a terrific distinction, because craft are the tools you can learn such as meter and sound, the processes you can employ, and technique is voice and perspective. You can put the words together with craft, but you need the heart—its myriad concerns, its pulse, its erratic behaviors—to hold them there.

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Read Tarfia Faizullah’s Seam to see this brilliant poet at work, and come hear from her this weekend at the 2014 James River Writers Conference.

Useful Epiphanies

Last year I recommitted myself to writing, which I’d let take a back seat to other things for a couple years. Some of that was necessity and some of it was choice. I did an interim summing up a while back, and I intend to do another one at year’s end with charts and graphs and men in gray flannel suits, but for the nonce, things continue well.

  • I have six short stories sitting in slush piles, half under some flavor or another of further consideration.
  • The novel is sitting in slush piles, too, though I’m thinking increasingly about going the small press route for it.
  • My academic writing continues apace, with one article in revisions and one in rough draft. I am looking more and more for overlaps between my personal and academic interests in terms of scholarship, more news on which front to come later this year or next.
  • I’m both reading and watching more stories, and consuming actively.
  • I have a writing group that meets regularly, as well as occasional critique partners.

The other day I had a useful epiphany. I was having lunch with a friend, and I said that I had made the mental leap many years ago from wanting to be an author to wanting to write, but that I had of late come to realize that I’d mistaken the machinery of the writing life for writing itself, and that now I simply wanted to write. He took it to mean that I wasn’t thinking about publication so much, anymore, and I didn’t reply to this because that left me thinking about what I actually meant. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to publish (far from it), but it does mean that I’ve come to what I’d like to think is a more meaningful understanding of the variety of writing lives out there, and the economies of writing.

I read and write a subset of subset of fiction: somewhere between fantasy and horror and magical realism, usually with a dose of literary, usually with a dose of dark. It’s an obvious thing, maybe, but no section of the store sells that. I’ve complained that I rarely find what I like to read at B&N in the F&SF or in the Literature section, and that a new book of “my” type usually only shows up for a few weeks after release, if that. Odds are that if you are reading this, you’re in the same boat: literary fantasy, literary horror, or weird fiction are niche interests. It should stand to reason that niche tastes result in a different publishing economy, and likewise different strategies for seeking publication, but I just didn’t process that as fully as I should have a few years ago. Again, it’s not that my goals have really changed as a writer, but I feel like I finally have a meaningful view of the playing field and the shape of the goal posts, even if I’m not 100% sure how to get there, or if I’ll get there. What I need to do to publish a high-quality short story collection, or a novel worthy of winning a Shirley Jackson Award, are not the same things as what I would need to do to “succeed” in other stripes of literary or speculative fiction.

Luminol_Reels_front_400I just finished Michael Griffin’s Far From Streets the other night, and it held up to the promise of the other day. Its conclusion is wonderful and weird, and it felt a little bit like how I would have liked to see YellowBrickRoad end. I’m currently reading (among other things) Laura Ellen Joyce’s The Luminol Reels. It’s a deeply fucking strange book, to be placed on the Transgressive Fiction shelf, and how! I always hear people say (and say myself) that I write more flash fiction than I read, which isn’t strictly true if you include flash fiction that’s incorporated into larger collections, but her book is a cross between flash fiction and poetry? Something like that. It’s like Angela Carter and William S. Burroughs collaborated to rewrite Charles Simic’s The World Doesn’t End as a script for Eli Roth. Porn, blood, Catholicism, murder, poetry.

Finally, if you are in Richmond tonight, James River Writers is having its usual event for the last Thursday of the month, The Writing Show! September 25: How to Meet Your Public: Networking for Writers with Literary Agent Paige Wheeler moderated by Julie Geen. It’s 6:30-8:30 at The Broadberry, 2729 W. Broad S, and is $10 in advance, $12 at the door ($5 for students).

 

 

James River Writers logo

Who’s Going to Be at the 2014 James River Writers Conference? (Part 5)

Who’s going to be at the 2014 James River Writers Conference? Bios are on the conference website, if you’d like to look at those. If you just want the names, try this on for size: Kwame Alexander, Cece Bell, Iris Bolling, Susann Cokal, Kaylee Davis, Arielle Eckstut, Tarfia Faizullah, Jane Friedman, Lamar Giles, Katie Grimm, Hugh Howey, Brian Jay Jones, Peter Knapp, Kristen Lippert-Martin, Sarah MacLean, Kelly O’Connor McNees, Meg Medina, Jody Rein, Sheri Reynolds, Jon Sealy, Geoff Shandler, Ron Smith, David Henry Sterry, Alison Weiss, Stacy Whitman.

Want to know a little more? Make with the clicking.

Geoff Shandler

Ron Smith

David Henry Sterry

Alison Weiss

Stacy Whitman

Want to learn about Kwame Alexander, Cece Bell, Iris Bolling, Susann Cokal, and Kaylee Davis? Check out Part 1 in this series.
Want to learn about Arielle Eckstut, Tarfia Faizullah, Jane Friedman, Lamar Giles, Katie Grimm? Check out Part 2 in this series.
Want to learn about Hugh Howey, Brian Jay Jones, Peter Knapp, Kristen Lippert-Martin, and Sarah MacLean? Check out Part 3 in this series.
Want to learn about Kelly O’Connor McNees, Meg Medina, Jody Rein, Sheri Reynolds, and Jon Sealy? Check out Part 4 in this series.

 

Come to the 2014 James River Writers Conference — register today!

James River Writers logo

Who’s Going to Be at the 2014 James River Writers Conference? (Part 4)

Who’s going to be at the 2014 James River Writers Conference? Bios are on the conference website, if you’d like to look at those. If you just want the names, try this on for size: Kwame Alexander, Cece Bell, Iris Bolling, Susann Cokal, Kaylee Davis, Arielle Eckstut, Tarfia Faizullah, Jane Friedman, Lamar Giles, Katie Grimm, Hugh Howey, Brian Jay Jones, Peter Knapp, Kristen Lippert-Martin, Sarah MacLean, Kelly O’Connor McNees, Meg Medina, Jody Rein, Sheri Reynolds, Jon Sealy, Geoff Shandler, Ron Smith, David Henry Sterry, Alison Weiss, Stacy Whitman.

Want to know a little more? Make with the clicking.

Kelly O’Connor McNees

Meg Medina

Jody Rein

Sheri Reynolds

Jon Sealy

PORTRAIT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want to learn about Kwame Alexander, Cece Bell, Iris Bolling, Susann Cokal, and Kaylee Davis? Check out Part 1 in this series.
Want to learn about Arielle Eckstut, Tarfia Faizullah, Jane Friedman, Lamar Giles, Katie Grimm? Check out Part 2 in this series.
Want to learn about Hugh Howey, Brian Jay Jones, Peter Knapp, Kristen Lippert-Martin, and Sarah MacLean? Check out Part 3 in this series.

 

Come to the 2014 James River Writers Conference — register today!

James River Writers logo