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.

Thursday

Intersectional South: New Perspectives in Southern Poetry. (Chad AbushanabJohn Poch, T.J. Jarrett, Adam Vines, Juliana Gray) In the 21st century, there exists a multitude of Southern poetics defined not by location, but by the variable experiences of the American South. This panel seeks to explore “Southerness” in terms of individual experience in order to highlight new identities and perspectives in contemporary Southern poetry. It brings together a diverse group of poets who will speak to the idea of “Southerness” in literature, and how they see this operating in (or against) their own work.
Room 18 & 19, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

The Art of Crafting a Chapbook from Start to Finish. (Abigail BeckelJennifer TsengDan MahoneyWilliam Todd SeabrookBrad Aaron Modlin) What makes a chapbook successful, both in terms of literary merit and sales? This panel will explore best practices for writing, organizing, and publishing chapbooks. Authors will discuss how they conceptualized and structured their chapbook manuscripts, and leading chapbook publishers will talk about what they look for in submissions and how they design and market chapbooks. We’ll also discuss the range of genres—poetry, flash, hybrid work—the short length of a chapbook can effectively showcase.
Room 5 & 6, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

The World Grows: New Directions in Environmental Writing. (Ross Gay, Camille Dungy, Pam Houston, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Diana Owen) Through writing and art that explore the connection between nature and culture, Orion inspires new thinking about how humanity might live on Earth justly, sustainably, and joyously. This panel brings together an award-winning and diverse group of Orion authors who will read original work and discuss new directions in environmental writing, a genre that has become increasingly urgent in today’s world. Room 18 & 19, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Poetry, Myth, and the Natural World: A Reading with Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Rajiv Mohabir, and Sherwin Bitsui. Sponsored by Blue Flower Arts. (Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Sherwin Bitsui, Alison Granucci, Rajiv Mohabir) The layering of cultures; the complex wonder of the natural world; the riddle of faith; the deep resonance of mythology: what better place for these dimensions to wrestle and converse than in the poetic realm? The urgency inside the poems of Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Rajiv Mohabir, and Sherwin Bitsui offer a complicated empathy with the world, one that grapples with loss and is tinged with sorrow: even beauty can hurt. Yet their language, resplendent with song, also sings into being a world of joy.
Ballroom B, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Friday

The World and the Story: How Plot Maps Fictional Realities. (Leah StewartBrock Clarke, Jung Yun, Brenda PeynadoJulialicia Case) In fiction, there’s an interdependent relationship between world-building (the map) and narrative construction (the route). This panel will examine how writers employ different types of stories—the romance, the mystery, the quest—in service to different visions of reality. Why does a realist like Chekhov so often use the romance? For what purposes does a fantasy writer use the quest? How can a writer of literary fiction employ the quest or the mystery to investigate character?
Room 11, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Against Forgetting Against Forgetting: 25 Years Later. (John PochJill Bialosky, Peter Balakian, Jacob Shores-Arguello, Rebecca Gayle Howell) Twenty-five years ago, Carolyn Forche’s groundbreaking anthology, Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness, was published. This gathering of poems helped to galvanize an entire generation of poets who came to believe that poems could do more than articulate a poet’s confessional hankerings and could bear witness to history itself. The poets on this panel will read a few of their favorite poems from the anthology and discuss what this book meant and means to their own work and the world.
Florida Salon 5, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 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, 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.

Sustainable: On Writing Long and Linked Poems. (Kathryn Nuernberger, Jenny Molberg, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Jacques J. Rancourt, Traci Brimhall) In an age of digestible snippets, we grow hungry for occasions to practice the fine art of paying attention. An art form rooted in mindfulness, the long poem is one way of practicing deliberate attention. Drawing on their own experiences writing and publishing long poems, linked poems, project books, and novels-in-verse, this panel will discuss both the rich literary tradition of long and linked poems, as well as provide insights into the process and craft of creating your own sustained lyrics.
Grand Salon D, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

A Woman’s Place: Ecotone Essayists Expand the Boundaries of Place-Based Writing. (Belle BoggsAnna Lena Phillips BellShuchi SaraswatAisha 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 p.m. to 5:45 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 Foot in Two Cultures: First Generation American Poets. (John HoppenthalerLauren Camp, Timothy Liu, Adrienne Su) The contemporary influence of poets who were born in the US and whose parents are immigrants has been substantial and important. For these poets, there is an ongoing calibration of the distance between the culture of their parents and their negotiation with the reality and myth of an American Dream. The inherent tensions of this push and pull create a space that can be fruitful for poetry, a space from which the poets who comprise this panel continue to write.
Florida Salon 5, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Friday, March 9, 2018
4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.

Saturday

“Ballade of the Poverties”: A Reading by Beloit Poetry Journal Poets. (Meg Day, Nicelle Davis, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Sally Wen Mao, Carolyn Forché) Writers will read poems inspired by Adrienne Rich’s “Ballade of the Poverties.” Addressed to the princes of predation and finance, this piece reminds us that political poetry isn’t new or newly necessary but remains a vital force for survival, resistance, and change. Audience members will submit lines for inclusion in a collaborative response to “Ballade,” to be printed published on the BPJ website.
Room 20 & 21, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor
Saturday, March 10, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Crafting the Weird: Techniques of Fabulist Female Fiction. (Clare BeamsBrenda Peynado, Jamey Bradbury, Celia Johnson, Ramona Ausubel) Surreal, magical, or fabulist fiction has traditionally been employed to attack political systems through subversive means. Yet, women writers have adapted this genre for their own modes of critique. In this event, panelists will discuss how they use elements of the weird to address subjects such as the domestic, the female body, otherness, and LGBTQ identity. Presenters will provide examples, methods, and techniques for crafting subversive fiction that offers new methods of witnessing reality.
Meeting Room 1, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Saturday, March 10, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

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. On this occasion, we’ll share her wisdom on agenting.

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.

Myth #1: Authors have to navigate the publishing process alone.

 “I say to my clients that I’m like a second spouse,” Barer said. “I’m the first person that communicates to the outside world about your book.” That makes agenting the most fulfilling job she could imagine in publishing. “You get to be involved every step of the way.”

Barer also recognized that negotiating contracts, marketing campaigns, publicity, and book tours shouldn’t fall to the author—their job is to write. “I am your liaison so that you don’t have to know all of this stuff,” she said. “I know all of this stuff, and I can get it for you.” She joked, however, that the author’s main focus—on writing—means that he won’t also hold sway in every publishing decision. “Just because you’re the best person to write your book does not necessarily mean that you are the best person to title your book,” Barer said.

 Myth #2: You should sign with the first agent who offers you a contract.

Barer emphasized how important an author’s relationship with her agent is to success. The best person for your book might not be the first agent to offer you a contract. “Really feel like this person gets what you’re trying to do,” she said.

While that might make the task of securing an agent sound slightly more daunting, Barer recommended a strategy. “Look in the back of the books you love and see who represents them,” she said. Agents are often thanked in authors’ acknowledgments. Chances are that the right agent for you might already be sitting on your bookshelf.

 Myth #3: Literary agents request payment upfront.

Under no circumstances should a reputable literary agent request money from you before they’ve sold your book. Barer noted the industry standard of 15 percent commission on an author’s advance and royalties. That’s how agents make money. “When you win, we win.” Any agent who asks for payment when you sign a contract should be avoided.

Myth #4: A large advance means a successful book.

Not every book will end up in an auction with multiple houses bidding over it, but that doesn’t mean those books won’t still find a robust national audience or be well reviewed by critics and readers alike. “It doesn’t have to be ten people bidding and spending a million dollars,” Barer said. There’s not one way a book can be successful.

 Myth #5: Authors need a social media presence to sell books.

 “Step away from the Twitter.”

That was Barer’s first caution to writers concerning social media. The most important thing to do is to work on the book, she said—building an audience on Instagram comes second. Besides, as Barer explained, the reach of a book is rooted in much more than Facebook ads and catchy photo captions. Your publisher will have established relationships with magazines, booksellers, and book clubs, and can help you achieve wider marketing and publicity goals. “You do not need social media to sell a book.”

Myth #6: The business of publishing is impersonal.

“It’s so personal,” Barer said. The decisions she makes about books are inextricable from her “interests, likes and dislikes.” When she reads a query, “Either I am completely head over heels, and I can’t wait to tell everybody about it, or I don’t sign it.” While this might leave the future of your book up to an agent’s personal taste, Barer views it as encouragement to get your manuscript into even more hands. “Try a lot of agents because you never know what someone is going to be interested in.”

Myth #7: An MFA and/or ivy-league education are prerequisites for a book deal.

“That’s not the only path,” Barer said, “and I have a list of clients to prove it.”

Myth #8: If an agent doesn’t respond immediately to a query, it’s not going to happen.

Barer said that she reads every email in her slush pile over lunch at her desk, and that inbox dings hundreds of times per week. While she considers every author who sends a pitch her way, Barer gives her time first to her current clients. That means it can take a little while to get back to new writers in whom she’s interested. “It’s my job to juggle all of the stages,” she said, “but my priority is to the writers I already represent.”

UNCW Writers’ Week annually brings together visiting writers of local and national interest, UNCW students, and members of the general public with an interest in literature and writing. Activities throughout the week include workshops, panels, and readings. Click here for more information and event archives.

Photo by Melissa Crowe

 

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