26. Creative Cross-Training with Poet July Westhale

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Happy Independence Day! We’re excited to return from our sabbatical with a splashy jump into the literary deep end.

July Westhale is a poet and essayist living in Oakland, CA. She is the author of The Cavalcade, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press, and has poems in The Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Cimarron, cahoodaloodaling, burntdistrict, and Quarterly West, among others. She has been awarded grants and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center, Sewanee, Dickinson House, Tin House and Bread Loaf.

July knows how to hustle, making her living as a freelance writer in the competitive Bay Area. In this episode, we mine her experience for inspiration and practical tips on how to do the same. Join us as we talk “creative cross-training,” “literary citizenship,” “healing from creative energy,” and the role poetry plays in swaying the cultural conversation. Few people we’ve spoken to dig words the way this lady does. Hold on tight as she closes the episode with her poem, “Trailer Trash.”


Follow July:

Author Website
Author Facebook Page
@JulyWesthale on Twitter Continue reading

Year of the Baby

Baby-TypewriterIn March, Picador published a volume of essays titled “Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.” Because my favorite author, Pam Houston, was among those sixteen, I waited for the book with breath bated. Until very recently, I’d been among that selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed crew, after all: childless by choice. Child-free, say those who think the word childless implies a lack of something they don’t believe they needed in the first place. I get these people. But I’m no longer one of them.

I was eight months pregnant when the book dropped, eager to read it from cover to cover, and… I haven’t managed to open it (or almost any book at all, if you don’t count Are You My Mother? or Goodnight Moon) since the day my daughter was born. That was almost three months ago. While I have managed to post a couple of times to my personal blog, The Girl Behind the Red Door, my writing life has otherwise dwindled to quick-and-dirty scribbles in a moleskin beside my bed. Bleary-eyed and distracted, these scribblings are barely legible the next day, but they are what I have now. I cling to them. After all, having a baby didn’t actually make me any less selfish, shallow, or self-absorbed than I was before. It’s just that my daughter’s life-or-death needs–which, thankfully, include playing and intellectual stimulation to build her little mind–require me to put on a more selfless face and show up, even when I would rather have my nose deep in a book, or my hands rattling across a keyboard.

Originally, I’d hoped to keep up the pace here at Postmasters. How hard could it be? pre-motherhood me thought to herself, as she sipped a cup of hot tea (still hot!) and casually flipped the pages of the current New Yorker, debating whether to take a leisurely shower and give herself a pedicure instead. Turns out, very. Especially when both co-hosts decide to have babies just five months apart.

That’s right, here at The Postmasters Podcast, 2015 is the Year of the Baby. Which is why you may have noticed us go to radio silence this month. Our intent is to continue with the podcast, but we’ll be dropping down to quarterly episodes in the immediate future. Our priority will continue to be bringing you, dear listeners and readers, fun, helpful, inspiring interviews with authors of every genre and at every level of personal success. (And don’t be surprised if one of our next interviews concerns strategies for maintaining a fruitful writing life as a parent, because lord, I could use the help!)

We wish you a wonderful summer! You’ll hear from us soon.

Audrey Camp & Lacy Mayberry

21. Flying & Throwing Pots: Thoughts on the Interdisciplinary Writing Life with Alisa Hagerty Miller

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Alisa Hagerty Miller recently completed her Master’s in Interdisciplinary Studies from Western New Mexico University with major concentrations in English and Writing. Before enrolling in graduate school, she worked for ten years as a commercial pilot. In January 2015, Alisa represented WNMU’s graduate division in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and presented a research poster, “Interdisciplinary Education in Action,” for New Mexico Legislature’s first annual Graduate Education Day. She is completing a final revision of her first young adult fantasy novel, while actively submitting short stories and essays for publication about the flying life and other subjects. Look for one of her latest CNF pieces in the spring edition of WNMU’s literary journal, Twisted Vine. [28:57].


Along with discussing the impact of Alisa’s flying life on her writing life, her experience at WNMU, and her publishing aspirations, we also talk about post-MFA teaching opportunities. Lacy teaches three college-level writing classes online; Audrey is in the midst of an MA in English Literature at the University of Oslo; and Alisa remained at her school for an extra semester in order to pick up some important literature-based classes, potentially making her a more attractive candidate for teaching jobs. We hope these insights help you, dear listeners!

Highlights

“I got into flying because I thought it would fuel my writing life… and I also had this fantasy that pilots had all this time off!”

“I found [WNMU] by providence and by luck… I didn’t really see a clear path back into education as I got older. I think it’s a common thing for people in their 30s and 40s: They’re like, I’ve put [grad school] off for this long, am I ever going to do this?”

On Interdisciplinary Studies…

“[IS] gives students the opportunity to design their own degree plans, usually in two or three disciplines… and the goal is to ultimately draw connections between those disciplines.”

“I think my whole life had been interdisciplinary. Flying is just about the most interdisciplinary career I’ve ever encountered.”

Management Information Systems: “A branch of computer science; you don’t have to code, but you learn about really cool technical concepts and organizations using technology.”

“I think that education should be dynamic. That flexibility [at WNMU] was really important to me.” Continue reading

20. Poetry & Social Justice: A Dialogue w/ Poet Enzo Surin

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Enzo Surin is a Haitian-born poet​, publisher​, and social advocate, and the author of the chapbook, HIGHER GROUND (Finishing Line Press, 2006). His poetry​ is forthcoming and​ has appeared in publications such as ​The BreakBeat Poets anthology, Ozone Park Journal, sx salon, Tidal Basin Review, Reverie: Midwest African American Literature, The Caribbean Writer, among other literary journals. ​Surin hold an MFA in Creative Writing and currently serves as Assistant Professor of English at Bunker Hill Community College.​ He is also founder and publisher at Central Square Press, a small, independent, literary press that publishes poetry with a commitment to African-American, Caribbean and Caribbean-American communities. (25:53)


Visit Enzo’s Website

Follow Enzo on Twitter @enzothepoet

REMINDER: The deadline for The Postmasters Podcast Short Story Contest is 14 February! The prize is $100 and a chance to read the winning story as part of our April episode. No entry fee! Submit today!

Highlights

To kick off the episode, Enzo reads a new WIP poem for us, titled Trace Commodity, inspired in part by the recent controversial events in Ferguson, Missouri and “cities like it.”

On his inspiration for a given poem…

“The piece I just read to you… there’s always endless news cycles about violence happening in different states, and I always consider what’s happening to the folks after what I call the trauma of the violence. When the news are gone, when the protests are gone, when the trials are done, whether or not the person is found guilty or not guilty, people are still dealing with the trauma and the effects of the situation. I focus more on the individual, the aftermath of everything else.” Continue reading

19. Peace, Translation & Diversity: A Dialogue w/ Poet Andrea Beltran

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Andrea Beltran is a poet currently living in El Paso, Texas. She is a graduate student at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, and her poems have recently appeared in Luna Luna, Word Riot, Mom Egg Review, Superstition Review, and Acentos Review. (26:41)


Read Andrea’s Blog
/Follow Andrea on Twitter @drebelle

And we announce our first Postmasters Podcast Short Story Contest! Submissions are now open. Send us your fiction before Valentine’s Day 2015!

Highlights

“I wish I could say that I’m one of those writers who, you know, wakes up every morning and has a set routine… I tend to be a binge writer. I find I’m more at peace with that.”

“[VCFA] has changed my life… I’m so grateful I got over my fear and just did it. I feel a lot more comfortable with my writing now than I ever have. But I feel like I’m a better reader, and I think, coming away from VCFA, that’s what I’m most proud of.”

“I am very nervous to work with [Rigoberto González], if I do get to work with him, but I feel it will probably be the most rewarding semester… He expects a lot from his students, and I feel like I need–and I want–that challenge at this point in my writing… I also have not [yet] been able to study with a Latino writer, which is very important to me.” Continue reading

18. Gifts for Writers: Ask Audrey & Lacy

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We’ve got our list–for Santa and our listeners–of great Christmas gift ideas for writers! If you’re shopping for a writing friend, or if you’re a writer who needs to inspire those who love you in this season of gift-giving, you don’t want to miss this episode {26:40}.

 

#1 A DIY Writing Retreat

Time, space, and money. It’s hard for anyone to get her hands on all three at once. Gift your favorite writer a couple of nights away! Find an affordable hotel (we also suggest exploring AirBnB for options) and book a weekend someplace easy enough for the writer to reach without too much travel time or personal expense, but far enough away for him or her to feel as though she has retreated from real life and can truly create!

#2 Out of Print Clothing

These folks put cool, bookish images on t-shirts, tote bags, etc. Darling options for both men and women. Don’t forget to check out the Poe-ka-dots Collection! Visit outofprintclothing.com today to take advantage of their Cyber Monday deals.

#3 Book Store Gift Cards

Far from being the worst, most impersonal gifts in the world, gift cards from book stores are usually a big hit with the writing crowd. Really, what you’re saying when you give a book store gift card to a writer is:

“I understand that this is your thing and that you have very nuanced tastes that I can’t even begin to predict. So, please, have at it! Go wild with whatever you want to buy!”

And please don’t use Amazon. Shopping for books at Amazon is like under-cutting every would-be author’s future in publishing. The best option is to patronize your local, independent bookseller, but we know online shopping is extremely convenient. We recommend that you look to BookDepository.com (They ship for free worldwide!) or ABEBooks. Continue reading

17. Voices Not Her Own: A Dialogue w/ Author Frances Kay

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Frances Kay lives in Wales and Ireland. She writes plays for children for The Ark Children’s Centre, Dublin, Theatre Lovett, ‘The Morbegs‘ on RTE [Irish national television], BBC TV’s ‘You and Me‘ children’s programmes, and Siamsa Tire Theatre in Kerry. Her novel for adults, ‘Micka‘ (published by Picador) was runner up for the Society of Authors’ 2011 McKitterick Prize, and was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘A Good Read‘ programme. Her new novel, ‘Dollywagglers‘, is published by Tenebris Books. She also writes romances under the name of Pan Zador; two novels, ‘Act of Love’ and an erotic version of Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ were recently published by Crimson Romance. (26:42)


Highlights

“I like to write in voices that aren’t me.”

“I started when I was twelve. I got a typewriter for my birthday, and I immediately thought, I’m going to write a novel!”

“The work I do for children is very honest and I tackle difficult subjects–I’ve looked at suicide in a play for teenagers–but I also believe in giving them optimism and hope.”

“My aim in writing [‘Micka’] was to get adults to see how two boys of that age can grow up with no compassion… of course, it’s a lot to do with their upbringing.”

On working with a niche publisher [Grimbold Books]:

“I wanted a new, young publishing house… I found from day one, as soon as Zoë said she liked the book and wanted to publish it, it was a wonderful journey. I felt really taken care of as a writer, because they [Sammy Smith and Zoë Harris] are both writers and they understand the creative process.”

On her writing process:

“Well, you can forget consistency and discipline!”

“Writing is one of the very few things that gets better the older you get.”

You don’t want to miss Frances speaking to us as her alter ego Pan Zador!

Who’s Who

George Orwell, author of 1984

Joan Littlewood, called “The Mother of Modern Theater”, producer of Oh, What a Lovely War!

Murder of James Bulger, case involving the two youngest convicted murderers in modern British history

Eimear McBride, author of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing

Closing Quote

If the book we are reading does not wake us, as with a fist hammering on our skulls, then why do we read it? Good God, we also would be happy if we had no books and such books that make us happy we could, if need be, write ourselves. What we must have are those books that come on us like ill fortune, like the death of one we love better than ourselves, like suicide. A book must be an ice axe to break the sea frozen inside us. ~ Franz Kafka, someone “quite mad”