26. Creative Cross-Training with Poet July Westhale

12240060_927838470614705_745370997450725389_n

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

24. Let Me Explain You: an Interview with Author Annie Liontas

annie_liontas

Annie Liontas’ debut novel, LET ME EXPLAIN YOU, is forthcoming from Scribner in 2015. Her story “Two Planes in Love” was selected as runner-up in BOMB Magazine’s 2013 Fiction Prize Contest. Since 2003, Annie has been dedicated to urban education, working with teachers and youth in Newark and Philadelphia. Currently she co-hosts the TireFire Reading Series. She lives with her wife in Philadelphia across the street from the best pizza joint [22:38].

 

Visit Annie’s website

Follow Annie on Twitter: @aliontas

Highlights

On writing her novel…

“I worked on it for about three years, but it was during my MFA so in people years, that would have been like five [years].”

“I think all writers… are looking to get blessed or christened. And like, no one really does that.”

On her MFA program…

“Syracuse is wonderful, in that they help support you. You don’t get in there for the contacts. And, you know, nothing is guaranteed. But it was really the relationships that I developed that led to this fortuitous thing.”

On the editing process…

“I found everyone at Scribner to be really in support of the work and not wanting to water it down or change it. It felt like they took the book on because they believed in it and everything they did would only make it better and I should stop being so precious…for me that was such a pleasant experience.”

On the Philadelphia Literary Scene…

“If you’re a writer and you don’t want to be in Brooklyn, then you should probably move to Philly.”

Who’s Who

Syracuse MFA program

Christine Schutt — author of Prosperous Friends

Ellen Litman — author of The Last Chicken in America

Arthur Flowers — Annie’s Syracuse mentor & “Hoodoo visionary from Tennessee”

Sarah Rose Etter — Tire Fire Reading Series co-host

Tire Fire Reading Series Guests: Colin Barrett, Kelly Link, Roxanne Gay, Diane Cook

Bocas Lit Fest — held in Trinidad & Tobago

Closing Quote

“No death for you; you are involved.” –Welden Kees

 

“If there’s a book you really want to read but hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” –Toni Morrison

 

23. The Turner House: a Conversation with Debut Novelist Angela Flournoy

Angela_Flournoy

ANGELA FLOURNOY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she received a Dean’s Fellowship, and the University of Southern California. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa and Trinity Washington University, and has worked for the District of Columbia Public Library. She was raised in Southern California by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit. The Turner House is her first novel [23.33].

 

Highlights

On writing about Detroit…

“For me, I think of Detroit as a place of warmth. My experiences are obviously colored by the fact that it’s like a reunion when I got there…I don’t necessarily think of Detroit as a city of blight.”

“I had people immediately saying: this book needs to be grittier. It’s so light. It’s so happy. It’s so funny. This book needs to be darker. You know, basically like–kill some dogs in this book.”

On the paranormal…

“I think people incorporate all sorts of beliefs in the paranormal or supernatural. But for some reason in the fictional world, if you mention a ghost and you give it some sort of seriousness, all of a sudden it puts you in some kind of other sort of category. I don’t necessarily think it pulls your book out of the realm of realism.”

On first pitching her novel to agent Ellen Levine…

“I was going to meet with her even if I had nothing. So I wrote the first scene…and told her: ‘Oh, I have 100 pages of this thing.'”

On her experience at Iowa…

“A writing program is not the best proving ground for everyone, but for me, it helped me be able to explain to myself why I [make the decisions I make in my writing].”

“One of the things I learned in Iowa…is that you cannot hang your hat on criticism.”

Who’s Who

Marilynne Robinson, Edward Carey, & Paul Harding — Authors and Angela’s teachers at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop

Ellen Levine — Literary Agent with Trident Media

Ayana Mathis — Author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie

Closing Quote

Mouths don’t empty themselves unless the ears are sympathetic and knowing. — Zora Neale Hurston, from Mules and Men

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

Alisa_Hagerty_Miller

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

enzo_surin

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

Andrea_Beltran

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

16. Practice & Patience: A Dialogue with 2014 Masters Review Author Drew Ciccolo

Drew Ciccolo Masters Review

Drew Ciccolo, a 2014 graduate of Rutgers University-Newark’s MFA Program, won Talking Writing‘s 2013 prize for creative non-fiction. His story “The Behemoth” was selected by Lev Grossman for the 2014 anthology, The Masters Review. A first-year PhD candidate in the Rutgers-Newark American Studies program this fall, he will study, among other things, representations of culture and socialization in fiction containing non-mimetic elements. His website is forthcoming.


Giveaway Details

We’re giving away two copies of the The Masters Review Volume III, which opens with Drew’s story, The Behemoth. To be entered in the drawing, leave a comment on this blog post or on the Facebook post. Click here to like The Postmasters Podcast on Facebook! We’ll announce the winners later this month.

Highlights

On the MFA Draft Facebook Group group…

“You get a feel for what schools people are applying to… I definitely noticed people supporting each other and boosting each other’s spirits, and that seemed like a good thing.”

On choosing Rutgers’ MFA program…

“I applied to either 11 or 13 programs. [On Facebook,] I saw that people were worried about the cost of application. I’ll suck it up on the application costs if it means I could get some kind of a funding package somewhere.”

On patience as a writer…

“Most people [at the start of the MFA] hadn’t even written ten stories, me included. If you put that in the context of a writing life, it’s really just the beginning.”

Advice to people considering an MFA…

“When MFA faculty are looking at applications, they’re trying to find people, not who have written the most polished story, but they’re looking for people who… if they were they to work with this person, some good would come out of it.”

Who’s Who

The Masters Review

Donald Barthelme

Steven Millhauser

Justin Taylor

Jayne Anne Phillips

Rutgers University MFA Program

University of Florida MFA Program

Akhil Sharma

Alice Elliott Dark

Paige, Drew Ciccolo’s personal essay won Talking Writing‘s 2013 prize for nonfiction

James Goodman

Closing Quote

In this there is no measuring with time, a year doesn’t matter, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means: not numbering and counting, but ripening like a tree, which doesn’t force its sap, and stands confidently in the storms of spring, not afraid that afterward summer may not come. It does come. But it comes only to those who are patient, who are there as if eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly silent and vast. I learn it every day of my life, learn it with pain I am grateful for: patience is everything! ~ Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet