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

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

15. Essay Therapy: A Dialogue w/ Nonfiction Writer Suzanne Hegland

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Suzanne Hegland completed her MFA in Nonfiction at Lesley University in 2011. Something of a perpetual student, she also holds a Master’s in History and a Master’s in Education. Founder of Essay Therapy, Suzanne has combined her deep knowledge of what goes on “back stage” in higher education with her love of teaching and her passion for narrative nonfiction to work with students on the dreaded college application essay. Suzanne teaches College Writing and is the Director of the Writing Center at New England Conservatory in Boston. When she’s not talking about writing to musicians, she plays the role of Associate Dean of Students. Suzanne’s work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The World Scholar, Femamom, The Huffington Post, and Creative Nonfiction. She claims to be working on her manuscript Comfort Measures Only, and sometimes this is true. {27:54}

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13. Thus Far: A Retrospective on One Year of Author Interviews

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We’re one year old! This show is a retrospective, a chance to talk about all the fun we’ve had and lessons we’ve learned over the last twelve months, as well as an opportunity to update you on the status of our own writing lives. Thank you, podcast listeners, for such a great first year! (26:55)

Where are they now? Catch up with your favorite Postmasters guests here! This is what they’ve been up to since they spoke with us: postmasters_guests_year01a Courtney Gillette (Writing, Identity & Sexuality) Courtney’s essay “How To Like Girls” (featured in our episode!) was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was the featured prose writer in Issue 4 of Ardor Literary Magazine, and also served as a judge for the 2014 Lambda Literary Awards.

Zoë Harris (Enterprise, Agency & Making Things Happen) Since speaking with us, Zoë has completed the third book in the Eidolon Cycle, and is almost finished with her first draft of the fourth; she is still looking for a publisher. The membership of the Oslo Writers’ League (OWL)–which Zoë founded in 2012–has tripled in the last year, and published its second anthology, All the Ways Home, in May. And while her typesetting business has really taken off in recent months, the bigger news is that Zoë’s publishing imprint has released two books, including Dollywagglers, a novel by Frances Kay.

Steve Adams (Place, Persistence & The Pushcart) Steve’s essay “Ghosts of New York” was published in The Pinch and nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and he has two essays forthcoming in Bull, Men’s Fiction and Talking Writing. postmasters_guests_year01b Sarah Shaffer (Running, Writing & Retreats) Sarah is currently working on a handful of short stories and personal essays, as well as writing monthly articles for Hothouse Magazine. She recently had short stories published in Bluestem Magazine and Poplorish. Having lived in Seattle for eight months now, she’s finding, connecting to, drawing inspiration from, and staying busy fraternizing with a sincere, strong, and fun-loving writing community.

Valerie Bandura (Life, Poetry & The Freak Show) Valerie’s poetry collection, Freak Show, was a finalist for the 2014 Paterson Poetry Prize. Poems from Human Interest are forthcoming in American Poetry Review, and were included in the 100th anniversary issue of ZYZZYVA.

Jorge Armenteros (Breaking Rules, Innovative Fiction & Writing in the Moment) Jorge’s debut novel, The Book of I, is forthcoming this November from Jaded Ibis Press. It will feature original visual art by Liselott Johnsson and a full album soundtrack by Sarah Wallin Huff. Jorge is currently working on The Lesser Violin, a novel about the inner life of a wicked violin. postmasters_guests_year01c Susan Schnur (The Map vs. The Compass: A Writing Therapy Session) Susan will be spending two weeks at a writers’ retreat in County Cork, Ireland. Also, PJ Library will distribute Tashlich at Turtle Rock, Susan’s first children’s book, co-authored by her daughter, Anna Schnur-Fishman,  free to 20,000 Jewish 7-year-olds in August.

Cameron Conaway (Artistic Collaboration & Activism) Cameron has been re-exploring the beautiful campus of Penn State Altoona, the place where, 10 years ago, he first studied the art of poetry. He’ll teach poetry there this Fall.

Boris Fishman (The Replacement Life) Boris’s debut has been the stuff of every writer’s dreams. The Replacement Life was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice! He’s also been interviewed by several prestigious news outlets, and the book continues to be listed over and over as a great summer read.

The latest writing news from Audrey & Lacy Audrey’s essay, Sinober, was published in May as part of the Oslo Writers’ League’s second annual anthology, All the Ways Home. She also recently returned from a trip to Dublin, Ireland, her prize for winning the Irrgrønn Flash Fiction Competition in Oslo. Lacy won the AWP Writing Conferences & Centers Scholarship after one of her (as yet unpublished) stories was selected by judge Rigoberto González. She used the scholarship to attend the The Writers League of Texas Agents and Editors Conference in Austin last month. As part of the experience, she met with agent PJ Mark of Janklow & Nesbit to pitch her novel idea.

Coming up… We’ve already got our interviews lined up for the rest of the year. Can you believe it? In August, Stephanie Reents, author of The Kissing List, will sit down to chat about her writing life. Then in September, fellow Lesley University graduate Suzanne Hegland of Essay Therapy will share her experiences as a writer of nonfiction, but also her insights on the college application essay process.

Closing Quote

We have to learn to be kind to ourselves. What we’re doing isn’t easy. We have chosen to spend the better part of our lives in solitude, wrestling with our deepest thoughts and obsessions and concerns. We unleash the beast of memory; we peer into Pandora’s box. We do all this in the spirit of faith and exploration, with no guarantee that what we produce will be worthwhile. We don’t call in sick. We don’t take mental health days. We don’t get two weeks paid vacation, or summer Fridays, or holiday weekends. Often, we are out of step with the tempo of those around us. It can feel isolating and weird. And so, when the day turns against us, we might do well to follow the advice of the Buddhist writer Sylvia Boorstein, who talks to herself as if she’s a child she loves very much. Sweetheart, she’ll say. Darling. Honey. That’s all right. There, there. Go take a walk. Take a bath. Take a drive. Bake a cake. Nap a little. You’ll try again tomorrow. ~ Dani Shapiro, Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life

Don’t be a writer; be writing!

 

10. The Map vs. The Compass: A Writing Therapy Session w/ Author & Psychologist Susan Schnur

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Susan Schnur has been the senior editor at Lilith Magazine–her “paper pulpit”–for 26 years. Susan has written for the New York Times, Time Magazine, and USA Today. She holds a masters from Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, a rabbinical ordination, and a doctorate in clinical psychology. Her private clinical practice is full of writers and writers’ issues, and this work has inspired her to sit on a number of different panels and teach a variety of seminars designed to support authors in their pursuit of a pure, inspired, creative experience. Today we’ll speak with Susan about the psychology of writing, and she’ll share some basic strategies each of us can employ in our writing lives. Bring on the writing therapy! (29:20)

On the 1200-word essay and the constrained form

“Like a pantoum or anything else length is also a constraint. If you discipline yourself to work within those same boundaries over and over and over you will start to internalize what rhythm is specific to 500 words, 800 words, 1200 words.”

On writing with a partner

“I get people to write in pairs. You are never to study the Talmud alone. The way you do Jewish study is always with a chavrusa, with a partner. It’s always dilectical, really a beautiful thing, back and forth. You’re constantly feeding on each other to get to stuff.”

“When people go to write, they get stuck. They get paralyzed. If [they] can do it verbally, diotically, just talking it out, they have written something without realizing they’ve written it… When it’s a white page, it’s completely unknown and uncontrollable. If you can talk someone through the first paragraph, they can keep going on their own.”

“Get a partner.  This is why people go back for MFAs, so you’re being partnered and writing and being listened to and hearing people. Get a partner, talk through the first paragraph and you’re off and running.” Continue reading

08. Breaking Rules, Innnovative Fiction & Writing in the Moment: A Dialogue w/ Author Jorge Armenteros

Author Jorge Armenteros

Author Jorge Armenteros

Jorge Armenteros is a graduate of Harvard University and a practicing psychiatrist. He recently completed his debut novel, The Book of I, about the inner turmoil of a painter with schizophrenia and his autistic alter ego. The book is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in Fall 2014. (26:59)

Jorge was born in Cuba and grew up in Puerto Rico. He now divides his time between Florida, Georgia, and the south of France. In addition to his medical training, Jorge completed an MA in Spanish and Latin American Literature from New York University and, most recently, an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. Jorge has published extensively in medical journals on the diagnosis and treatment of children with schizophrenia and autism. His author interview with novelist Laurie Foos was published in The Writer’s Chronicle. Another interview with Brown University Professor Thalia Field, whose work lives at the crossroads of prose, essay, poetry, even theater, is forthcoming from Gargoyle Magazine in Summer 2014. Continue reading

07. Life, Poetry & the Freak Show: A Dialogue w/ Poet Valerie Bandura

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Poet Valerie Bandura

Born in the former Soviet Union, Valerie Bandura received degrees from Columbia University and the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where she served as the Joan Beebe Teaching Fellow. She was awarded a residency from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and the James Merrill Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared, among other publications, in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorse, Alaska QuarterlyThird Coast, and the Best New Poets anthology. She teaches writing at Arizona State University. (27:47)

Valerie’s Website: http://valeriebandura.com/

We’re giving away a free copy of Freak Show! Details at the bottom of the post… Continue reading