Content Tagged ‘Trespass’

Seven Questions for Aisha Sabatini Sloan

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we speak with Aisha Sabatini Sloan, a writer, curator, and artist. She joins us in the UNCW Department of Creative Writing this semester as a visiting professor of creative nonfiction.

Sabatini Sloan writes on race and current events, interweaving personal experience with analysis of art and pop culture. Maggie Nelson selected her second essay collection, Dreaming of Ramadi in Detroit, for the 1913 Open Prose Contest, and Graywolf Press recently released it in a revised edition. She has also won the CLMP Firecracker Award and the National Magazine Award for Columns and Commentary, as well as the Lambda Literary Award for Bisexual Nonfiction and the Jeanne Córdova Award for Lesbian/Queer Nonfiction for her essay “Borealis.” Sabatini Sloan is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in creative writing, and her work has earned recognition in Best American Essays and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Her writing appears in the New York Times, the Paris Review, and Guernica, among many other places. Her essay “D Is for the Dance of the Hours,” originally published in Ecotone, is anthologized in Lookout Books’ Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism. 

Lookout staffer Laurie Clark interviewed Aisha Sabatini Sloan in spring 2024.


What do you look forward to experiencing while at UNC Wilmington? 

Seeing everyone I’m in class with who are now like celebrities to me. Now that it’s spring, I’m excited to look at what people are growing, especially after hearing everyone in my class talk about their gardening adventures. Being in a warm place. The beach! 

You grew up in Los Angeles, though you have family roots in Detroit, where you’ve also spent significant time over the years. How have these two different landscapes shaped your voice as a writer?  

Detroit has a mythological dimension for me because it is where I encountered all of my most recently departed ancestors and where my parents met and had their artistic awakenings. My parents met at the public library in the late sixties. All of their friends were these children of the Great Migration or of immigrants who were rejecting war and charting a path into a larger world. Choreographers and musicians and Franciscans. The physicality of Detroit is so symphonic and grandiose, Diego Court at the DIA, the opera house—there is all this very oldworld architecture. And my family is full of vivid storytellers. Whereas Los Angeles was all about possibility and newness. A futuristic place with beaches and skyscrapers and Hollywood and the cityscape is like holographic images floating in space. Being away from my family made me especially curious about it, which is where my writing started with this attempt to engage in this larger family myth-making endeavor. And even being in LA made me feel like I was far away from everything while also being in the center of something. My dad always talks about seeing things through a prism, and LA functioned a bit like that; it became this lens, a place through which I saw other places. And my writing has that tendency to look through things at other things and be nowhere and everywhere.  

Samiya Bashir describes your work in Borealis as a combination of “glacial blocks of white space” and “collaging of art, literature, correspondence, music, overheards, skylight colors.” Can you talk about how you approach scenes, images, and ideas when crafting a hybrid form? 

I spent as much time taking studio art classes in high school, college, and graduate school as I did studying writing, literature, and cultural criticism. So I often use art as part of the drafting process for writing. I play a lot with media, I print things and cut them up and put them on note cards and place them all around the room, I make collages, I teach classes where we bake things or make dioramas or music videos. I find this all helpful to see what I’m trying to make sense of, what I’m dancing inside. I have trouble mapping things out in a straight, linear document; but if I create a map or a scavenger hunt, I can start to see connections and visualize structure and see my ideas more easily.

In a recent interview, you discuss how much poets like Jane Miller were instrumental in shaping your aesthetic. What tools does poetry offer to a creative nonfiction writer? 

Yes, Jane Miller’s Midnights made a big impact, seeing how much could be distilled into a prose poem, how smooth entry into the past can be productively disrupted by the frame of the present. Also, how you can use a similar sense of rhythm in an essay’s structure as with something like a sestina, playing with sentence structure and repetition so that you build toward a final feeling. Another of the best courses I took in grad school was a nonfiction class where all of the books were about war, taught by the poet Barbara Cully. Even though we were thinking about a very grave reality, she included all of these mediums and genres in the reading list: Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, an image/text work; Safe Area Goražde, a graphic novel by Joe Sacco; The War by Marguerite Duras. I felt like we were being invited to consider that artistic experimentation is required to tell the story so that it can be heard. I also worked with Beth Alvarado, a nonfiction writer who engages other genres in really fascinating, organic ways. Her book Anthropologies is a memoir in fragments, almost prose poems, and the concision and lyricism of that book really blew something open for me. I don’t identify with nonfiction that reads like a long, boring lecture. Cully and Miller and Alvarado were suggesting to me that the essay could be more like a gong bath or a protest or a song.  

What can you tell us about The Lester Essays, a current project that you tease as “A podcast? A documentary? A pizza pie? Coming soon . . .”? 

I have been filming my father, who is a photographer, for a few years—interviewing him, following him to exhibits in the South of France, around a festival in Italy, in search of Richard Wright in Paris. And at some point, I’d like to do something with that footage.  

At Lookout, we’re always eager to highlight emerging authors. Can you tell us about a debut book you’re excited about?   

Erica N. Cardwell’s Wrong Is Not My Name is fantastic; that’s a debut essay collection that just came out with Feminist Press. I’m also excited to check out The Wet Wound by Maddie Norris and Speculative Histories by Brigitte Lewis. These aren’t debuts, but I loved the essay collection My Withered Legs by Sandra Gail Lambert, and I’m excited to read Poupeh Missaghi’s newest book, Sound Museum. 

Lightning Round 

Coffee shop or library? Coffee shop. I need some noise.
Ocean or forest? Today, ocean. But it’s close.
Road trip or hike? Road trip
Podcast or radio? Depends where I am. I love public radio in Detroit and Los Angeles, but podcasts are kind of a constant.
Highlight or underline?  Underline. Unsteady underline.
Hardcover or paperback?  Paper
Coffee or tea?  Coffee

The Future of Publishing: Meg Reid of Hub City Press

In our newest series, The Future of Publishing, we’re excited to reintroduce alumni of UNCW’s publishing program, including former Ecotone and Lookout staffers, who have gone on to careers in the industry. To help celebrate the launch of Lookout’s redesigned website, we begin with a profile of Hub City’s Meg Reid.

Reid designed the cover to Trespass: Ecotone Essayists Beyond the Boundaries of Place, Identity, and Feminism

Lookout Books is more than a haven for books that matter; it’s a teaching press under the auspices of the Publishing Laboratory at UNCW, making it also a haven for apprentice editors and publishers. The imprint and its sister magazine, Ecotone, offer students hands-on opportunities to gain experience in editing, marketing, publicity, design, and everything in between. Meg Reid, Director of Hub City Press in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was among the first class of students to support the work of the newly founded imprint.

The Lookout publishing practicum, taught by publisher Emily Smith, “completely prepared her for working for a small press,” Reid says, “which involves balancing a lot of plates and wearing a lot of hats.” While working for the press, she drafted grants, planned author readings and book tours, and wrote design briefs for artists.

“I always liked that we were called on to talk about the books in public often. I learned how to summarize a book, while communicating its important themes and resonances—a skill I use often now, pitching reps and booksellers,” Reid notes.

As part of her graduate work in writing and publishing, Reid enrolled in the Lookout practicum class multiple semesters and helped publish three titles: Edith Pearlman’s Binocular Vision, Steve Almond’s God Bless America, and John Rybicki’s When All the World Is Old. She found it exhilarating to help build the imprint. “Edith’s book was a strike of lightning—we were brand new and suddenly in a national spotlight. I still regularly gift people Binocular Vision—to my mind, it’s the gold standard of short story collections.”

As director of Hub City Press, where she has worked since 2013, Reid now publishes between five to seven books a year in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. She oversees the publishing program and helps realize Hub City’s mission to find and advocate for extraordinary voices from the American south.

“I always liked that we were called on to talk about the books in public often. I learned how to summarize a book, while communicating its important themes and resonances—a skill I use often now, pitching reps and booksellers,” Reid notes.

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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.


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


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


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