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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Readings, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 75
1. Brilliant: B.J. Novak Reads “The Book With No Pictures”

In this bunny eat bunny world, we’ve seen celebrity authors come and go. Mostly come, in droves, especially after Harry Potter put a spotlight on the profit potential of the children’s book biz. Ca-ching.

Everybody’s making millions!

For many of us non-celebrity authors and illustrators, dressed in our dreary clothes, clutching our cold coffee cups, it’s hard not to be a little, urm, disgusted at times. The crappy book by the “star” that gets a ridiculous amount of undeserved attention.

IMG_0369But that’s life, so we deal with it, and try to keep our petty thoughts to ourselves.

However, I hasten to add: not all celebrity books suck. Jamie Lee Curtis wrote some good ones, as I recall. Fred Gwynne — Herman Munster! — made a sincere  effort to create singular children’s books. By that I mean, my sense is that they actually worked on the books, actually respected the idea of a children’s book, and got into it for the “right reasons,” however we might differ in defining what those reasons are. It wasn’t just a way to cash in on something.

Anyway, this fresh, new effort by B.J. Novak is brilliant. Yes, absolutely, he came up with a clever idea. A great idea. But then he pulled it off over the course of an entire book. That’s not at all easy. And it’s beautifully published, too. Great job, all around.

Kids today, they sure do love the meta.

Enjoy this book with no pictures, folks. Go ahead, stomp on that link, surrender to the video. It makes me wish that I had a room full of kids to read this one too.

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2. Reading “Danny the Champion of the World”: And Wonderful It Was

I guess it’s true of most readers. We have these embarrassing gaps in our reading lives, all those books we didn’t get to, the awful holes we hope to one day fill. It’s an impossible task, a job (and a joy) that can never be completed.

To that end, I’m currently reading Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of the World.

I haven’t finished it yet, and I’m disinclined to offer up a review. But I wanted to share a few thoughts, beginning with this incredible illustration by Quentin Blake.

 

Dahl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I keep returning to that page, staring at that picture. Just a few simple lines that capture such depth of feeling. There it all is, being a kid, looking up at a parent with love and wonder while snuggled up warm in bed. Two dots for eyes — two dots! — and yet they seem to express the essence of that relationship. The father registers only as a looming presence without detail, like a great tree in a forest. He is, simply, there. A force of nature and comfort. It’s amazing, I’m stunned by it, in awe of it. So that sums up an important part of today’s blog.

Wow: Quentin Blake.

Then there’s the storytelling of Mr. Dahl, which is a gift I’ll never have. The man tells stories. Whoppers. But here, today, I want to focus on Dahl’s writing style. I admire the clarity and directness. I’m also charmed by the Englishness — the strangeness to my American ears, the weird things they happily eat, the peculiar names of things — where every detail seems just a little other-worldly, even in a fairly straight-ahead, naturalistic novel such as this one. This is the distance of time and place. A different world, yet still familiar.

Here’s the paragraph that went before the illustration above. I keep reading it over and over again. Now I get to type it, feeling like a weekend musician at home with a guitar banging out a Beatles tune, channeling that great artistic beauty through my fingertips (I love typing out great passages from books):

I really loved living in that gypsy caravan. I loved it especially in the evenings when I was tucked up in my bunk and my father was telling stories. The kerosene lamp was turned low, and I could see lumps of wood glowing red-hot in the old stove, and wonderful it was to be lying there snug and warm in my bunk in that little room. Most wonderful of all was the feeling that when I went to sleep, my father would still be there, very close to me, sitting in his chair by the fire, or lying in the bunk above my own.

That paragraph, to me, is absolutely perfect. The writing is direct, specific, concrete (not abstract), interesting (lumps of wood) and for the most part, quite plain. I really loved living in that gypsy caravan. Few would claim that as an example of great writing — except for the obvious fact that, wow, that’s great writing. The absence of flash. An arrow doing its swift work, slicing to the next sentence.

danncover3The only tricky moment in this paragraph, where the language uplifts and surprises us, giving the reader temporary pause, occurs in that more elaborate third sentence, which was perfectly set-up by the direct predicate-verb structure of the previous two sentences. I really loved, and, I loved. Which leads to this: The kerosene lamp was turned low, and I could see lumps of wood glowing red-hot in the old stove, and wonderful it was to by lying there snug and warm in my bunk in that little room.

You heard that, right?

And wonderful it was.

Again, all I’ve got is wow. There’s so much there, the essence of being loved, of feeling secure, of being a child safe from harm, snug and warm. Can writing really do that? It feels like a small miracle. Is this why I love books?

And it all happens on page 7.

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3. One Novel with a Perfect Ending

UnknownI finally got around to reading Sherman Alexie’s bestseller, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. There’s just times in your life when you’ve got to rectify old wrongs, and this was one of them. I had to read that book.

I’d heard that it was a great book from many sources, including some trusted friends. (A curious phrase, by the way, “trusted friends.” As opposed to all those other friends we have, with crappy taste, the friends we can’t possibly trust.)

So I took Alexie’s book out of the library and read it. Now I am a member of the club and say without hesitation: Stop wasting your life and read it already! Today I’m not looking to review a book that’s already been reviewed hundreds of times. My focus is on the book’s final two paragraphs. To me, those six sentences felt exactly right, forming a poignant, understated conclusion.

I don’t think that reproducing it here involves any spoilers, or anything that could diminish your enjoyment of the book, so here goes:

Rowdy and I played one-on-one for hours. We played until dark. We played until the streetlights lit up the court. We played until the bats swooped down at our heads. We played until the moon was huge and golden and perfect in the dark sky.

We didn’t keep score.

I love the repetition of “we played,” repeated four times, the rhythmic, accumulative power of that device, the simplicity of the word choice, the interplay between light and dark, and that great, four-word conclusion. We didn’t keep score. Perfection.

Back four years ago, I wrote a decent post titled “Best Last Lines from Books,” and I think you might enjoy it. So click away, folks. It’s absolutely free.

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4. Poetry Competition: The Paumanok Poetry Award

The Paumanok Poetry Award Guidelines

The Visiting Writers Program at Farmingdale State College is pleased to announce the annual competition for The Paumanok Poetry Award.

One First Prize $1500 and expenses for a reading in our 2015 - 2016 series

Two Second Prizes $750 and expenses for a reading in our series

Interested writers should send

a cover letter
a one-paragraph bio
3-5 of their best poems (no more than 10 pages, total)
the required $25 entry fee to:

Margery L. Brown
English Department, Knapp Hall
Farmingdale State College
2350 Broadhollow Road
Farmingdale, New York 11735

Poems may be published or unpublished, and there are no restrictions on style, subject matter, or length of poems submitted: quality is the single criterion. Please note that the writer's name, address, and phone number should be clearly indicated on the cover page. Multiple entries will not be accepted. Entries from previous winners will not be considered.

Make checks payable to: Farmingdale State College, VWP.

Poems will not be returned, but writers who want to know the results of the competition by US mail should enclose a business-size SASE for results (notification by late December). Results are also published on this website.

Deadline: Postmark no later than September 15, 2014.

Please direct any questions or requests for clarification via email to Margery Brown.

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5. Call for Writers and Poets from Connecticut: Praying Mantis Salon

CONNECTICUT WRITERS and POETS


Wonderful opportunity for writers to read their work (10 minutes total each writer) at the second annual Praying Mantis Salon. (The Praying Mantis is the State Insect of Connecticut)  
We are looking for original narrative poetry and short-shorts on any subject in a variety of styles.   
When: November 2, 2014, 5:00 pm. Unitarian Society, mid-state 
Possible small honoraria. 
Contact with samples of work.  Email: 
PrayingmantissalonATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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6. Blackboard: A Personal History of the Classroom

I am proud of my friend, Lewis Buzbee, who has written this much-acclaimed book — and it just came out this week. He is a great writer and friend and I can’t wait to read this new one. A book for anyone who has gone to school, or cares about education.

A classic back-to-school book.

 

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“Buzbee’s affectionate account [is] a subtle, sharply etched critique of contemporary public education. . . . Deeply affectionate toward teachers, harshly critical of budget cuts, the book offers an eloquent, important reminder (which in a perfect world would inform policy) about the nature of school.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A bracing rejoinder to the didactic, data-driven books from policy gurus and social scientists. . . . From the layout of schools to the distinction between ‘middle school’ and ‘junior high school,’ Buzbee spreads engaging prose across the pages, providing both a reminiscence of better days and a considered examination of the assumptions we all make about what does—and does not—constitute a quality education. . . . A welcome book on the importance of education for all.”—Kirkus Book Vault Reviews

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7. Common questions about shared reading time

By Jamie Zibulsky, Anne Cunningham, and Chelsea Schubart


Throughout the process of reading development, it is important to read with your child frequently and to make the experience fun, whether your child is a newborn or thirteen. This may not sound like news to many parents, but the American Academy of Pediatrics is just announcing their new recommendation that parents read with their children daily from infancy on, and it is expected that this announcement will serve as a reminder to many parents and a call for educators and policymakers to help parents who lack the time, resources, and skills to read with their children encourage reading development. We are so excited about this new development because the benefits of shared reading accrue over time and we believe that this announcement will create the energy needed to help many young children become successful, motivated readers.

Although reading together is important at all ages, the specific strategies parents use will change dramatically as their children get older. The strategies parents use will also be dependent upon their children’s interests, temperament, and abilities. There is no one “right” way to read together.

parent reading to children

Figuring out the best way to engage in shared reading with a child while he or she is young gives parents an opportunity to use cuddle time together as a way to also help a child understand a book more deeply, and to simultaneously teach specific reading skills. Perhaps as important, children who have an enthusiastic reader as a role model may stay determined to learn to read, even when facing challenges, rather than becoming easily discouraged. The magic of shared reading comes from this combination of warm, interpersonal experiences, playful and captivating storytelling, and opportunities for learning. This winning combination helps children not only learn to read, but learn to love and value reading.

There are many questions that parents often ask about reading together with their children, and some of those questions are answered below. We hope that thinking through these issues inspires parents to start reading with their children regularly (even if they are already a bit older), and create family reading rituals that last a lifetime!

How can I get my child more engaged in reading time?

If you are having difficulty engaging your child in reading time, try searching for books on topics that she finds interesting (even if those topics are not ones that you find engaging). If your child enjoys looking at comic books, embrace this type of reading, rather than discouraging it. Although it might be surprising to hear, they include much richer language than we encounter in a typical day. Reading any printed material also helps children get comfortable turning pages, and give you the chance to talk with your child about new ideas and vocabulary words.

Many children also respond well to having some freedom and getting to make choices during reading time. You may want to let your child to choose the book you will be reading, whether you are picking books out in the library or off your own bookshelf. You can also let your child select where and when you will read…within reason, of course.

Most importantly, try to make the reading experience enjoyable by focusing on what goes well. Praise your child just for sitting down with you to read, even if she only wants to sit briefly. The next day, try to get her to sit through a few pages of the story and sit a bit longer. Reading time should be a time to relax and bond with your child. If she acts up, simply end reading time, but do so calmly and try again later.

How do I know if my child is actually listening while I am reading to him/her?

Asking questions throughout the story that actively engage your child in the reading process should encourage him to listen more closely while you are reading. If you think your child is not listening as you read, try asking a question or two on each page in order to get your child to interact with the story and actively express himself. If he seems particularly distracted, simply end reading time, but do so calmly and try again later.

How long should I spend trying to explain something to my child if they get frustrated?

Reading time should be a relaxing, bonding experience for both you and your child. Rather than trying to teach many new skills during any one reading session, pick just one idea to focus on each day, whether it is a new vocabulary word or letter to identify. Setting manageable reading goals will help make this time feel fun, rather than stressful, for you both.

If you ask a question about a book that your child is having trouble understanding, respond calmly and either restate your question in a simpler way or give a clue regarding the correct answer. If she seems to be frustrated, move on and return to the concept at another time. Story concepts might become clearer to children with repeated readings of the same story.

What if my child wants to read the same book every night?

Repeated readings of a story actually help children to more deeply understand the plot. In addition, your child will grow more familiar with the story and the words that make it up. You can even try having your child read to you. If he is familiar with the book, he might be able to decode words he would not be able to decode in an unfamiliar context. If your child is not ready to actually read the words on the pages, have him retell the story to you using the pictures and what he recalls from other readings of the story. By asking questions and making comments, you can continue to build his vocabulary and background knowledge, even while reading a familiar story.

Anne E. Cunningham, Ph.D. and Jamie Zibulsky, Ph.D. are the authors of Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers. Anne Cunningham is Professor of Cognition and Development at University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Education and Jamie Zibulsky is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Learn more at Book Smart Family. Suggestions are adapted Book Smart: How to Develop and Support Successful, Motivated Readers by Anne E. Cunningham and Jamie Zibulsky. Read their previous blog posts.

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8. Call for Poetry Submissions: Women Made Gallery Literary Series

Theme: Boxes
Date: Sunday, August 3, 2014/ 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Place: 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL


We are seeking work that addresses the theme from any or all ways you can imagine, i.e. Container and contained, categories, black box, Cornell boxes, boxed in, outside the box, gifts and deliveries, Inclusion & Exclusion.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:

galleryATwomanmadeDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

by June 15, 11:59 p.m.. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by June 30. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

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9. Call for Poets: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series

Woman Made Gallery Literary Series

Theme: Boxes
Date: Sunday, August 3, 2014/ 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Place: 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL


We are seeking work that addresses the theme from any or all ways you can imagine, i.e. Container and contained, categories, black box, Cornell boxes, boxed in, outside the box, gifts and deliveries, Inclusion & Exclusion.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:


 galleryATwomanmadeDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

by June 9, 12:01 a.m.. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by June 30. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

Read more about poetry events at Woman Made Gallery here.

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10. A Children’s Book That Left a Lasting Impression

I was recently contacted by a journalist for a national newspaper who wanted me to name a book I read as a child that left a lasting impression.

That’s a tough question for me, because I sense that my answer is never exactly what the questioner is seeking. I don’t have a poignant story about Charlotte’s Web or Harriet the Spy, that glorious day when I suddenly knew that reading was for me, and forever. I can’t describe in loving detail the book I encountered as a fresh-faced welp. (Though I do recall loving Splish, Splash, and Splush.)

Nonetheless I did somehow grow up to become an author, and therefore my answer is, I guess, legitimate. It’s the only story I’ve got.

Here’s how I replied, limited to 150 words:

Born in 1961, I have no memory of my parents reading to me. That’s not a complaint, by the way. I grew up surrounded by six older siblings and they were (mostly) all readers. I guess I got the message by sheer proximity. As a baseball-mad boy in a world without ESPN, I devoured the sports pages in the daily newspaper. Those were the first writers I desperately needed. By age 13, I encountered Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions.” It was funny and easy to read. There was no YA back then, my generation naturally graduated to Steinbeck, Bradbury, Brautigan, Vonnegut, Plath, whomever. “Breakfast” blew me away. Here was something as devilish as the kid in the back row, irreverent, rebellious, hilarious, wild. In a word, subversive. In those pages I first recognized the possibility that a book could be supremely cool. Thanks, Kurt.

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11. A Perfect Passage from THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich

No offense to any librarians out there, but I prefer to own books, not borrow them. I realize there’s a financial downside to my predilection, but what can I say? It feels good to support the industry, the book stores, the publishers, the authors themselves. If I can manage it, I don’t mind spending the money on books.

For starters, I like having them around, living in my rooms. Books make great furniture and, in a way, furnaces: they warm homes.

Secondly, I usually read with a pen in my hand. I underline passages, write comments, exclamation points, stars, notes and complaints. It is the dying art of marginalia, a direct reader-response. I can’t do that with library books, and Post-It Notes simply do not satisfy.

I’ve been on nice reading streak lately — have picked out some good ones. I just finished THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir. Fabulously entertaining, and a celebration of science and the intelligence of man. A geek-hero who survives through his attitude, his determination, and his brilliant mind.

Before that, I read THE ROUND HOUSE by Louise Erdrich. I loved it, every word. What a great writer. Seamless sentences, never a crack showing, and such human insight. A writer with soul. But I’ve got a problem and you can probably guess it: I borrowed the book from my local library and it’s past due.

I’ve been reluctant to return it, to drop it into the slot and hear the dull thunk as it hits the bin. Gone, gone, gone. My book no more.

One first-world problem is that I’ve been rereading, almost daily, the book’s perfect last paragraph. Over and over I return to it, stunned and speechless. That penultimate sentence, especially. What a beautiful evocation of lost innocence, the crossing over into something harder, more brutal and cold, adulthood and loss, “when we all realized we were old.”

I really didn’t want to let the book go, and maybe I’ll buy a copy for myself one day. In the meantime, I’ll type out that last paragraph here, so I’ll have it safely tucked away in the white, high-ceilinged halls of cyberspace. I don’t think there’s any spoilers revealed, it’s not that kind of book. A 13-year-old boy and his parents return home after a long drive.

Quick aside: I don’t play a musical instrument, but I love music. One of the things I’ve always envied about musicians is that they can play all these great songs, have those enduring melodies and fat riffs run through the fingers as they channel greatness.

That’s how I feel typing this passage from Louise Erdrich. Like I’m playing the guitar part from “And Your Bird Can Sing.”

How I wish that I could write as simply, as beautifully.

- - - - -

IN ALL THOSE miles, in all those hours, in all that air rushing by and sky coming at us, blending into the next horizon, then the one after that, in all that time there was nothing to be said. I cannot remember speaking and I cannot remember my mother or my father speaking. I knew that they knew everything. The sentence was to endure. Nobody shed tears and there was no anger. My mother or my father drove, gripping the wheel with neutral concentration. I don’t remember that they even looked at me or I at them after the shock of that first moment when we all realized we were old. I do remember, though, the familiar side of the roadside cafe just before we would cross the reservation line. On every one of my childhood trips that place was always a stop for ice cream, coffee and a newspaper, pie. It was always what my father called the last leg of the journey. But we did not stop this time. We passed over in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going.

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12. What NOT to do at a Book Festival or Writers Conference

The spring book festival season is underway. As a public service, here is a list of bad behavior I've observed and/or had to contend with.

Panel Moderator: 

  1. Wait to contact panelists till two days before the event—or not at all. 
  2. Be unfamiliar with panelists’ work: Not read author’s book (at least the first few chapters and website); not know who the literary agent represents; not know titles the editor has worked on. 
  3. Have no agenda for the panel, or a vague one, e.g., “I will read brief introductions, and each of you should speak for 12-15 minutes. Then we will take a few questions.” 
  4. Let panelists talk for so long that there’s no time for audience Q&A. (This happened with the panel in #3.) 
  5. Talk a lot about yourself or read from your own book. Your job is to help the panelists shine. If they look brilliant, so will you. 

Panelist: 
  1. Cancel at the last minute because you just realized that the finances won’t work for you. Or cancel due to “family reasons”—but keep the plane ticket the organizers paid for. 
  2. Author: Leave book at home, or not have a reading figured out—and practiced!—beforehand. Agent/editor: Leave business cards at home. 
  3. Read for 15 minutes when you’re asked to read for five. 
  4. Monopolize the conversation and/or interrupt other panelists. 
  5. Belittle the moderator (“If you’d read my book…"), other panelists (“I can’t believe you’d say such a stupid thing!”) or audience members (“If you’d been listening, you wouldn’t need to ask that question.”) 
Audience:
  1. Leave your cellphone ringer on. 
  2. Give copies of your manuscript or self-published book to panelists. 
  3. Pitch your book during Q&A session. 
  4. Ask self-serving questions instead of general ones. (“Why didn’t you answer the query I sent you six months ago?” vs. “What should a writer do if an agent hasn’t responded to their query after six months?”) 
  5. Engage a panelist in lengthy conversation afterwards, when there’s a line of people waiting behind you. 
  I'll be at VaBook Festival next week. Now go forth and be good!

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13. Writing Competition: Love on the Road Toophilia Writing Contest

Enter the LOTR Topophilia writing contest by Dec. 24 to win €60, €25, or €15 and have your story performed at #touristwalkDublin.

There's no entry fee. Just send us 400-500 words (fiction or nonfiction) focused on love for a place -- any place in the world -- to:
 
topohilia13ATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)

The winners will be chosen by our panel of judges: Irish writer Ruth Gilligan, Liberties Press publisher Seán O'Keeffe, the Tourist Walk team, and the Love on the Road 2013 team.

The winning stories will be published online and performed at the MART gallery in Dublin's Rathmines neighborhood on the evening of 3 January, 2014 as part of #touristwalkDublin, an event organized by Tourist Walk, a cross-discipline art project that seeks to explore and celebrate the unique character of location through live music.

The three winners can attend #touristwalkDublin and do live readings of their winning submissions, email audio recordings of their submissions to be played at #touristwalkDublin, or ask one of us to read their submissions for them at the big event.

The authors of the winning stories will get: First Prize: €60 and a signed Tourist Walk poster; Second Prize: €25 and a copy of the just-released anthology of stories about love and travel, Love on the Road 2013; Third Prize: €15.

For details, visit our website. For more information on #touristwalkDublin, go here. For more information on Love on the Road 2013, visit this site. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at:

topohilia13ATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)

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14. Seeking Prose on Poetry: Great Twin Cities Poetry Read

Seeking PROSE ON POETRY. Doesn't matter what form the prose takes (review, interview, essay, missive, etc.). Doesn't really matter how long it is (although it can be too long, I can't conceive of it being too short). I would like you to submit said prose on poetry to me for possible inclusion in POETRY CITY, USA, VOL. 4, an anthology of poems read at the Great Twin Cities Poetry Read (GTCPR) plus various prose on poetry (thus the call).

The GTCPR is an annual reading, held in April, at which 30 or so poets all read a single poem each. A year after the reading, the anthology comes out. That means that the GTCPR held on April 26, 2014, with be the fifth anniversary reading. That night will also be the night POETRY CITY, USA, VOL. 4 launches. Any prose on poetry that you submit, if accepted, will go in it.

I need to receive anything you want me to consider by Friday, Jan. 3, 2014. Send pieces to:

mauchmauch [at] gmail [dot] com (Change [at] to @ and [dot] to . )

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15. Call for Poetry Readings: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series

Call for Poetry: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series
Theme: Balance vs. Imbalance in a Changing World
Reading: Sunday, February 2, 2014 1:30 – 3:30 pm
Submission Deadline: December 22, 2014

 
Woman Made Gallery’s first art exhibit of the year is Equilibrium: Art for a Changing World. The exhibit seeks to explore the tensions, demands and challenges inherent in living in a rapidly changing world: from environment, population, politics to social and cultural trends.

The poetry reading in conjunction with this exhibit, will also explore Balance and Imbalance in the context of change. Do you take the idea of “maintaining equilibrium” to suggest achieving healthy balance OR maintaining the status quo? What might change look like? Writers are encouraged to interpret this theme broadly.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:

galleryATwomanmadeDOTorg (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)

by December 22, 11:59 p.m. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by December 30. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

For more information, visit our website.

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16. Donalyn Miller’s “The Book Whisperer” Reaches Cultural Icon Status

I met Donalyn Miller at a Literacy Conference in Ohio. She was the keynote speaker and I came away impressed, inspired, and determined to read her book, THE BOOK WHISPERER: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child.

I started reading it yesterday, frustrated over my own 9th-grade son’s brutal, book-hating experience in advanced, 9th-grade English.

I underlined this passage from Donalyn’s book, page 18:

Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters — the saints and sinners, real or imagined — reading shows you how to be a better human being.

The book is filled with passages that make you want to stand up and cheer.

Anyway, this morning Donalyn Miller shared her enthusiasm over this fun bit of pop culture stardom:

Good for Donalyn Miller, good for Jeopardy.

It’s funny, isn’t it? That’s a real touchstone in America today. An undeniable sign that you’ve arrived and made your mark. You become a clue on Jeopardy!

Donalyn is also a founding member of the Nerdy Book Club, which you should definitely follow. Seriously, I insist.

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17. Call for NYC Area Writers to Read: Harlem Works

Harlem Works, a co-working space/artists collective based in Harlem, New York, is looking for dynamic writers to participate in a new reading series.

If you live in the New York area and would be interested in participating, please send a short bio (200 words or less) along with a description of the work you're interested in reading to:

harlemcoworkersATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to .)

Or, if you would be interested in doing a workshop and a reading, let us know that too!

(Our readings are always Harlem-based; the next one will be held this Friday at Caffe Latte's 145th Street location.)

We look forward to hearing from you!

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18. It’s Like Riding a Bike

I basically took the summer off from blogging, so feel a little wobbly about it, my palms sweating on the handlebars, not sure I remember how to do this. I don’t know what happened, exactly, just somehow tired of the “James Preller” corporate thing. Ha. Mostly, I wanted to concentrate on other writings, as I’ve been deep in a new series that I’m writing for Feiwel & Friends. It won’t launch until The Fabled Summer of ‘13, but I’ve nearly finished the third book in the series.

NOTE: I just reread this and had a chuckle about that “nearly finished” line. It only signifies that I’m an old pro when it comes to deadlines and editors: a manuscript that has not yet been handed in is always “nearly finished.” Any writer who says otherwise is a fool and a boob.

As for my new series, it feels like I’m that kid behind the snow fort, busily stacking up a supply of snowballs. Can’t wait to fire ‘em out there. More on that topic another time.

I’m usually a one-book-at-a-time guy, but I’m now reading three very different but equally remarkable books concurrently: Freedom by Jonathan Franzen, Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem, and Good Poems, selected by Garrison Keillor.

Normally I don’t do that to myself, the three-books-at-once bafflement, but the mixture of long novel, short nonfiction, and poetry seem to complement each other nicely.

I have a long and sordid relationship with poetry, and I’m especially happy to find this sweet collection by Keillor, based on poems featured on “The Writer’s Almanac.”

Writes Keillor in the introduction:

Oblivion is the writer’s greatest fear, and as with the fear of death, one finds evidence to support it. You fear that your work, that work of your lifetime, on which you labored so unspeakably hard and for which you stood on so many rocky shores and thought, My life has been wasted utterly — your work will have its brief shining moment, the band plays, some confetti is tossed, you are photographed with your family, drinks are served, people squeeze your hand and say that you seem to have lost weight, and then the work languishes in the bookstore and dies and is remaindered and finally entombed on a shelf — nobody ever looks at it again! Nobody! This happens often, actually. Life is intense and the printed page is so faint.

Keillor, as curator, has a point of view. He likes poems that tell a story, poems that are direct and clear, that don’t sound too “written.” Poems that communicate. He quotes Charles Bukowski, “There is nothing wrong with poetry that is entertaining and easy to understand. Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.”

And I put a big star in the margin when Keillor described his former English major self — a tender self I identified with, all those lessons that have taken me so long to unlearn, the bad habits of academic thought, “back when I was busy writing poems that were lacerating, opaque, complexly layered, unreadable.”

I have a file drawer jammed full with opaque and unreadable poems.

Now I see that as my writer’s quest, this effort to write clearly (and yet, even so, to write interestingly, to achieve moments of “lift off”), to overcome my own big stupid fumbling ego, those temptations to craft “look at me!” sentences that dazzle and bore readers. Perhaps that’s the great gift of writing for children of all ages. They don’t go for the bullshit. You can deliver any kind of content — really,  there’s nothing you can’t say in a children’s book — but please don’t overcook it.

One last phrase from Keillor, in praise of Maxine Kumin and Anne Sexton and, for that matter, all Good Poems:

“They surprise us with clear pictures of the familiar.”

So that’s how I’ve vowed to begin my days, by reading a few poems each morning. To sit in the chair, coffee at hand, and try on the silence. My favorite from today was Charles Simic’s “Summer Morning.”

You might enjoy it, too.

As a final treat, here’s Tom Waits reading “The Laughing Heart,” a poem by Charles Bukowski. Full text below.

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

@Charles Bukowski

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19. Reading review - Wednesday Night Sessions

I had the good fortune to make it out to the October Wednesday Night Sessions two nights ago in Farmington, MI where a crop of SE Michigan based publishers and  literary journals sponsor a monthly reading series.

Each month they bring a trio of writers to read and this month the readers were: Jeremy Schall, Norene Cashen, and Anca Vlasopolos.

Jeremy read from one of his books and then some poems from a new collection he's working on. I'd seen Jeremy read recently at one of the last readings at Leopold's which happened to be a little more crowded than Wednesday night's reading (there was little thing competing with the reading called Game One of the World Series) but I noticed that the difference in crowd size didn't dissuade how Jeremy reads at all. His style is an interesting one as he makes sure to make some sort of eye contact with everybody listening between and during each poem.

Norene Cashen read poems that had been published in literary journals (from the journals), as well as new work herself. Norene's style has developed over the years to include interesting introductions to her reading in general, to the specific poem she's about to read, and beyond and it works great for her. I've seen her read probably half a dozen times over the past decade and each time seems better than the time before.

Anca Vlasopolos read poems from a couple of different previously published collections and then two new poems from a collection she's working on. She also gave good introductions to her works.

There was also an excellent story about Ingmar Bergman and his father that Dwayne Hayes, MC of the event, told after Norene read that worked nicely with her own introduction to her reading.

This series is a consistently solid one and I'm really looking forward to next month when Christina Kallery comes back to town to read, along with Steven Gillis and I have to apologize as I do not remember who the third person is going to be.

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20. The Poem I Read First Thing Today

Before I rubbed the sand from my eyes, before I drank a cup of coffee, before I got dressed, I read this poem by William Stafford. Then I read it again, out loud, to my wife, before she rose from bed. Then I went downstairs, saw that the day was sunny and crisp, and that a dusting of snow covered the lawn.

I promised myself to be awake to the day.

Isn’t that something?

“the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe –

should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.”

Later I found this reading of the poem by a guy named Dale Biron. Not exactly how I hear it, but a pleasure nonetheless, because it’s always best when the words are heard, familiar units of speech floating on meaningful sound. Have a great day, people. Recognize the fact!

I suppose I should get to work, stop wasting time, eh? But here’s Stafford himself, 46 seconds long, reading “Scars.” Ah, poetry.

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21. Poem by Norene Cashen

A little over a month ago, I saw Norene Cashen read and really loved one of her new poems. She's been kind enough to allow me to post the poem here at the EWN:

 

WAR
By Norene Cashen

I’ve never seen peace.
I’ve seen a foxhole, combat boots, a drill sergeant
and a gun. I’ve heard the gun rattle
and talk and talk and talk
in its fast language, the clink of brass casings
spit out after each syllable.
I’ve seen girls in dog tags and dust
crawling under the barbed wire of the world
as if their mothers waited for them
on the other side, but there is no other side.
That’s what you learn.
There’s only more war.
There’s war outside and inside
war speeding on the highway
to get to work on time.
There’s war in our mouths, our hair,
our eyes. The best wars are in the movies
where we eat popcorn and tell ourselves
nobody dies. Then somewhere in the middle
of Afghanistan a boy from Wisconsin
is smeared inside a turret
just like the old poem says. It’s possible
we’re all walking cages
and it’s our job to keep ourselves closed
to keep the violence
from shaking out of our bones.

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22. Poetry Competition: The Frost Farm Prize

The Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, and the Hyla Brook Poets invite submissions for their 3rd Annual The Frost Farm Prize for metrical poetry. 

The winner will walk away with $1,000, publication in Evansville Review and an invitation, with honorarium, to read as part of The Hyla Brook Reading Series at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry in the summer of 2013. This year’s judge is prize-winning poet and translator Catherine Tufariello. 

April 1 deadline. For more information, please read the guidelines at our website.

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23. a night of poetry for Barry Jones at fortyfivedownstairs

On February 12, fortyfivedownstairs is holding a poetry reading in honour of former MP Barry Jones' 80th birthday:

Barry Jones is one of the more remarkable politicians to have sat in the House of Representatives in Canberra, a much loved and respected figure on both sides of politics.

As a tribute for his 80th birthday late last year, the Chair of fortyfivedownstairs, Julian Burnside, has curated a night of some of Barry’s favourite poetry and music.

Readers include Race Matthews, Gareth Evans, Peter Craven, Marieke Hardy, Dr. Joan Grant, Max Gillies and John Stanton.

The Flinders Quartet will also perform on this memorable evening.

Get your tickets here.

 

 

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24. Call for Creative Writing Submissions: Louisville Conference on Literature & Culture


The Annual Louisville Conference on Literature & Culture since 1900 will be held at the University of Louisville, February 20-22, 2014. The conference committee invites submissions by creative writers of fiction, nonfiction, and/or poetry. Submissions should be suitable for a 20-minute reading. For full consideration, submissions must be received by 11:59 PM EST on Tuesday, October 1, 2013.
 
    Creative submissions
    Send an email to:
     
    submissions(at)thelouisvilleconference(dot)com Change (at) to @ and (dot) to .)

    with two attachments in pdf, rtf, or word format. 
    The first attachment is to contain poetry or short fiction/nonfiction selections suitable for 20-minute reading. The second attachment should contain a cover page. Submitter's name to appear on the cover page only. 
    Creative submissions may be published or unpublished works. Manuscripts cannot be returned. 

    Full guidelines here.

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25. Call for Poetry Readings: Women Made Gallery Literary Series

Call for Poetry: Woman Made Gallery Literary Series
Theme: Of the Land
Date: Sunday, December 8, 2013 / 1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Place: 685 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago IL

We are seeing work that addresses all aspects of the theme of LAND:

Through history, connotations of the word LAND have ranged from the political and economic, to the emotional and romantic. Poems on this theme might invoke landscape, environmentalism, ethnic or national identity, imperialism, wealth and ownership, revolution and redistribution, land as food source, home and community, inclusion and exclusion, and, of course, the physical/natural earth itself.

Selections will be made with an eye to assembling a program that represents a diversity of poets, styles, and approaches to the theme.

Selected poets MUST be available to read in person. Please send 4 – 6 poems on the theme ALONG WITH a 50 to 75 word bio, IN THE BODY OF AN E-MAIL to:

 gallery(at)womanmade.org (replace (at) with @ in sending e-mail)

by October 20, 12:01 a.m.. We will make every effort to inform those chosen of our decision by October 30. Although we can't afford to pay readers, this is a great opportunity to sell books and read with other talented people in a very special environment.

Read more about poetry events at Woman Made Gallery here.

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