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

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

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}

Continue reading

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

09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

09. #readwomen2014: In which, Lacy and Audrey talk books.

Joanna Walsh started the twitter hashtag #readwomen2014 after drawing some bookmark-shaped New Year’s cards showcasing her favorite female writers. She had been inspired by two literary journalists—both male—who didn’t want to show up on the wrong side of this year’s VIDA pie chart, and so made a commitment to read only female authors for a set period. Today, we discuss our personal responses to the #readwomen2014 movement, and recommend some of our favorite books by women. (26:09)

VIDA

Established in 2009, VIDA is a nonprofit literary organization that painstakingly tallies the gender disparity in major literary publications and book reviews annually. Today, the literary world is abuzz with the results of the most recent VIDA count.

Recent Reads We Recommend

Suite Francaise by Irene NemirovskySuite Française by Irène Némirovsky

“The prose is saturated in the blood of the people who were running away [from Paris during WWII]. It takes this incredibly close look at the way life can change so suddenly from everything-is-normal to Lord of the Flies.”

Bonus: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth StroutOlive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

“Usually books are about younger characters, but Olive Kitteridge is older. Everyone in the story, mostly, is older. By the end I felt like I’d lived this lifetime… like I’d been through her lifetime. And it weighed heavily on me in a really interesting way.” Continue reading

06. Running, Writing & Retreats: A Dialogue with Writer Sarah Shaffer

Sarah Shaffer

Sarah Shaffer

Sarah Shaffer is a writer and freelance proofreader/copyeditor, a recent transplant to Seattle, and a lover of the outdoors and simple living. She is an MFA graduate from Lesley University (January 2012). Her fiction has received a Glimmer Train honorable mention and has been published at The Glass Coin. Her non-fiction can be found at Hothouse Magazine. (21:23)

Website: www.sarahshaffer.com

Twitter: @SarahSShaffer Continue reading