Chumming it Up at AWP

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone contributors and Lookout authors, as well as editors from peer presses and magazines, to tell us what they’re working on or considering. Michael Brooks Cryer’s Channels, Frequencies, and Sequences appears in Ecotone 20, the Sound Issue. His book Selected Proverbs, winner of the 2016 Elixir Press Antivenom Poetry Award, was published by Elixir Press in December.

Whenever I walk through the convention-center doors on my first day at AWP—which is usually Saturday, the last day of the conference—I think of what August Kleinzahler says about the Grand Canyon: “Nothing quite prepares you for it. Terror, that’s what it’s about.”  He also says the only reasonable response to the chasm is to back away slowly.

I wasn’t sure I was going to attend AWP in Tampa this year. I don’t think I’m ever sure I’m going to attend AWP. But, alas, I end up there most years to see old friends who are spread out across the country at various colleges and who converge on some unknowing city to add another tote to their collection.

Of course, I don’t want to sound like a total crank—I’ll leave that to professionals like Kleinzahler—so it’s worth saying I like to catch up with friends at these things. And I also decided to attend this year because I had an opportunity to give a reading to promote my book of poems. Elixir Press released Selected Proverbs in December, so it seemed like AWP was as good a place as any to get the word out.

Continue Reading

Seven Questions for Alexis Pauline Gumbs

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we interview Alexis Pauline Gumbs, whose work, Map of Anguilla, BWI. Handed to Alexis Pauline Gumbs by Jeremiah Gumbs. appears in Ecotone 23. She is the granddaughter of Anguillian revolutionaries Jeremiah and Lydia Gumbs, and the author of Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity, the coeditor of Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines, and the founder of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind, based in Durham, North Carolina. Her book M Archive: After the End of the World —the second book in a planned experimental triptych—is a series of poetic artifacts that speculatively documents the persistence of Black life following a worldwide cataclysm. It comes out this week from Duke University Press.

If you could spend a year writing anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I would spend the year in Anguilla. There is something about being able to hear the ocean twenty-four hours a day that helps me write from a deeper place. Anguilla specifically is a place where I can hear the guidance of my ancestors more loudly and clearly than anywhere I’ve been because of my own ancestral and family connection to the island. Once I spent a month writing in Anguilla and it was profound. The whole time, I wrote thank-you poems to Black feminist thinkers who have contributed to my life with their work and their living. That wasn’t the plan, and each of those poems was really for an audience of one person, but it is some of the most necessary writing I have ever done.

What books are open on your desk right now?
Interdependence: Biology and Beyond by Kriti Sharma (a brilliant North Carolina writer, scientist, and beloved friend) an issue of “Artists and Influence” (a serial publication by Camille Billops and James Hatch) “Who Set You Flowin’?”: The African American Migration Narrative by Farah Jasmine Griffin…(My beloved teacher and intellectual mother, I read her books on perpetual rotation.) Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief (edited by Cindy Milstien). The Gift is in the Making by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson. And The Inheritance Trilogy by N.K. Jemison and A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle are on my bed; my partner and I are reading those two aloud.

Continue Reading

Roundup: AWP Hot Panels Edition

Packing for AWP in Tampa next week and inundated by invitations to panels and parties? So are we! But we’re excited, too: AWP is always a big Ecotone/Lookout Books family reunion and we can’t wait to see you. We’ve whittled out a small selection of events, featuring recent Ecotone contributors. Visit us at Tables 1302 and 1304, where we’ll be getting “Craft”-y…

Remember: leave lots of room in your boes and bags for bookfair acquisitions, apply and reapply sunscreen, and hydrate! See you in Tampa.

Continue Reading

We’re AWP bound!

Who’s finished packing for AWP? This time next week we’ll be landing in Tampa, brushing off our spring-break best, and unpacking lots of goodies for the Lookout Books/Ecotone bookfair booth! Visit us at Tables 1302 & 1304, and join the UNCW faculty and Lookout/Ecotone staff for panels and book signings.

Thursday

Readiness: Prose Poems by Mark Cox, Booksigning.
Press 53, Bookfair Table 444
Thursday, March 8, 2018
3:00 p.m.

The Gatekeepers: Behind the Scenes of Literary Agencies. (Michelle Brower, Lucy Carson, Allison Hunter, Erin Harris, Beth Staples) The world of literary agents can seem murky and impenetrable to authors beginning the publishing process, but it doesn’t have to be that way! This panel will focus on candidly exploring how authors and agents actually find each other in the real world. What do agents do, why do they do it, and what does it take to get their attention? With an extended question and answer session, writers will have the opportunity to ask our panel of actively acquiring agents their most burning questions.
Room 24, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Friday

Reading from Flash Nonfiction Funny. (Tom Hazuka, Wendy Brenner, Michael   Martone, Sandra Gail Lambert, Suzanne Strempek Shea) Flash Nonfiction Funny, edited by Tom Hazuka and Dinty W. Moore and published in 2018, provides a unique perspective on the flash genre: working within a 750-word limit, each of these nonfiction pieces is designed to make readers laugh. Satire, burlesque, farce, slapstick—all of it true, told in just 1–3 pages. The panelists will read their own stories from the book, as well as favorite pieces by other authors from the anthology.
Room 12, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
10:30 am to 11:45 am

“Things We Do When No One Is Watching” by Philip Gerard, Booksigning.
New Letters BkMk Pres, Bookfair Table 1048
Friday, March 9, 2018
1 p.m.

Vassar Miller Poetry Prize 25th Anniversary Reading. (Caki Wilkinson, Alison Stine, James Najarian, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Jordan Windholz) The Vassar Miller Poetry Prize, founded at the University of North Texas in 1993, honors Texas poet, writer, and disability rights advocate Vassar Miller (1924–1998). To commemorate the prize’s 25th anniversary, the writers of winning manuscripts will read from their collections, showcasing the formal and geographic variety of poetry published in the series. The reading will be followed by a Q&A.
Florida Salon, 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

The Teaching Press: Bringing Professional Literary Publishing into the Classroom. (Holms Troelstrup, Steve Halle, Deanna Baringer, Ross Tangedal, Beth Staples) Lookout Books at UNC–Wilmington, PRESS 254 at Illinois State University, BatCat Press at Lincoln Park Performing Arts in Pennsylvania, and Cornerstone Press at UW–Stevens Point utilize literary presses as teaching tools for graduate, undergraduate, and secondary students, emphasizing hands-on experience in literary publishing. Panelists detail important practical and curricular concerns in establishing and maintaining a teaching press, as well as the local and national impact of their work.
Room 17, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

A Woman’s Place: Ecotone Essayists Expand the Boundaries of Place-Based Writing. (Belle Boggs, Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Shuchi Saraswat, Aisha Sabatini Sloan) Contributors to a new anthology from Ecotone and Lookout Books discuss how we can continue to broaden the traditional boundaries of place-based writing to make room for more complexity: explorations of body, sexuality, gender, and race. Joined by their editor, these authors consider how women’s unique experiences and histories make them artful observers of the natural world. They will read from their essays and talk about approaches to intersectionality in the field of environmental writing.
Florida Salon 4, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Saturday

“Ornament” by Anna Lena Phillips Bell, Booksigning.
University of North Texas Press, Bookfair Table 1512
Saturday, March 10, 2018
11:00 a.m.

On Location with Olivia Clare

This installment of On Location comes from Ecotone contributor Olivia Clare, whose first published story, “Pétur,” which was originally published in Issue 14: The Abnormal, and won a 2014 O. Henry Prize.

When I took this picture, it was for someone who had never been to Louisiana. This magnolia lives in Baton Rouge in my father’s front yard in a small magnolia tree. In the house in which I grew up (not the house to which this magnolia belongs, but a hazier, duskier, years-ago place) we had two large magnolia trees, each the size of a tiny cottage, or at least that is how my child-self thought of them. I don’t remember ever climbing these, as much as I like to think I did.

It is not at all original to write about a magnolia or about trees from one’s childhood front yard. Yet the flora and fauna from my childhood, still existing somewhere in me, in my interior child-life, are the places from which so many of my words and stories bloom. What, I wondered/wonder, are these non-human forms that live with us just as deeply as human forms do?

I trusted every plant I knew. They concealed nothing. They asked nothing. And if I was obstinate or grouchy, they did not mind. They even had names—my grandmother’s roses, especially. They came with names, and you could give them your own. Leona or Hilda or Beau. You could name many things, I discovered.

There are certain places I’m not able to write about until I leave them, and I did not write about Louisiana until nearly fifteen years after I’d left. I visit often. Several times, I’ve driven by my childhood home. I have even, with the new owner’s permission, taken photos, which never come out the way I expect or want them to. The roots for nostalgia are Greek. They mean “homecoming” and “pain.” We know you can’t go home again, but you can drive up to it. You can drive into the driveway of your childhood home, turn off your car engine, listen to the birds in the magnolia tree in the yard, look at your favorite window, the shutters, the roof, the eaves. And if you are very lucky, and if you look closely, you might see people coming out of the house, perhaps family members or friends, and you can speak to them, ask them how they are, and remember.

I think too of all the things I do not remember, and the things I have never written down, and wonder where those exist. There is a place. They—these objects, events, walkways, storefronts, bridges, lakes, somehow sadly too far back and now outside my memory—accumulate. They bring me here, bring me up to this day, though I can’t now name or know them.

Olivia Clare is the author of a short story collection, Disasters in the First World, from Black Cat/Grove Atlantic. Her novel is forthcoming from Grove Atlantic. She is also the author of a book of poems, The 26-Hour Day (New Issues, 2015). Her stories have appeared in Ecotone, GrantaSouthern Review, n+1, Boston Review, and elsewhere. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, London Magazine, FIELD, and elsewhereShe is an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at Sam Houston State University. www.olivia-clare.com

 

Julie Barer Busts Eight Myths about Literary Agents

—Compiled by Lookout intern Caroline Orth from Julie Barer’s UNCW Writers’ Week presentation

Congratulations to Xhenet Aliu, University of North Carolina Wilmington MFA ’07 on her novel, Brass, published this month by Random House. We were fortunate that her agent, Julie Barer, was among the literary luminaries at UNCW’s 2017 Writers’ Week.

A founding partner of The Book Group, Barer first worked as a bookseller at Shakespeare & Co. in New York before joining Sanford J. Greenburger Associates and later starting her own agency. At The Book Group, she represents Nicole Denis-Benn, Celeste Ng, and UNCW alumni Garrard Conley and Xhenet Aliu, among other clients. Her authors have been finalists for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, and have won of the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Kirkus Prize, and many other accolades.

“I think there’s a mystique about what agents do,” Barer began. “My son still thinks I’m a secret agent.” While recounting how she pitched and sold The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a novel set on Mount Olympia, Barer helped dispel five myths for the audience about the role of a literary agent in the publishing landscape.

Continue Reading

Patricia Smith: Listen for the Voice You’re Not Hearing

On February 8, poet and Ecotone contributor Patricia Smith, the 2018 University of North Carolina Wilmington Distinguished Visiting Writer, gifted a packed house in Kenan Hall with a luminous reading and moving performance. Smith read across her eight volumes of poetry, encouraging the audience to confront the ways in which they  interact with life and its multiplicities: through joy, darkness, desire, and inspiration. She said, “Listen for the voice you’re not hearing.”

Her poems “Fixed on the Next Star,” “One Way to Run from It,” and “How Mamas Begin Sometimes” appear in Ecotone Issue 13.

With a background in playwriting, performance, and journalism, Smith is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College, and an instructor at the annual VONA residency and the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program. A past Guggenheim fellow, she is a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, making her the most successful poet in the competition’s history.

Photos by Nicholl Paratore