The readers for ‘Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC’: Elizabeth Searle (in pink scarf); counterclockwise from Elizabeth: Bobbie Ford, Cristina Petrachio, Nora Grosvenor, Alexandria Delcourt, Kristabelle Munson, Lindsey Jacqueline, Richard Squires, Alexis Paige.
Backstage in Brooklyn at “Lost Lit Presents Stonecoast MFA in NYC”—a lively Nov. 2nd reading—one fellow reader asked us all, “Is anyone else here nervous?”
Among the all-star group of Stonecoast students who each performed their work with verve, no one could say, No. The onstage energy crackled accordingly. While it may take a toll, “performing” written works can be an exciting and enlightening experience for writers willing to give it their all.
Our next Stonecoast Northeast event is called “A Night at the Theater” and will feature a fusion of theater works and writers who “bring it” to the stage in reading performance. The event takes place December 20th, in the Poet’s Theater series at the Armory Center for the Arts in Somerville MA. Stonecoast alumni, author, and Poet’s Theater curator Richard Cambridge will host. Like me, Richard finds energy in combining the literary and the theatrical to try to create something new. Continue reading →
So now it’s your turn to share your thoughts. As readers of the Stonecoast Faculty blog, what are the topics you would like discussed? What insights would you like to read about from faculty? Are there any specific questions you would like to have answered? Do you have thoughts on the posts we’ve shared thus far and/or direction for future posts?
In the comments below, please share your thoughts and opinions about anything and everything related to the Stonecoast Faculty Blog. We look forward to hearing from you!
“For me, Halloween is the best holiday in the world. It even beats Christmas. I get to dress up in a costume. I get to wear a mask. I get to go around like every other kid with a mask and nobody thinks I look weird. Nobody takes a second look. Nobody notices me. Nobody knows me.”
Who hasn’t wanted to use Halloween as a chance to show off a different, hidden side of oneself? Perhaps this explains all the “sexy” Halloween costumes for women and girls: sexy nurse, sexy fire fighter, and my personal favorite, Sassy Rick Grimes (though I myself would prefer a “sassy” Darryl Dixon). For children, whose lives are constricted by parents, teachers, and friends, this instinct is especially strong. Alternatively, costumes can give children a chance to not only face their fears, but also to become them, and thus conquer them.
Costumes also offer an opportunity for writers to reveal their characters. For the use of costumes to be interesting, the outfits must do more than simply telegraph aspirations, or provide a chance for literary acrobatics in their description. Rather, like everything else in fiction, costumes must be chosen and used to serve the story. R.J. Palacio’sWonder (Knopf, 2012) and Deborah Wiles’ Countdown (Scholastic 2010) offer two different ways to use costumes to advance the plot and the emotional arc of their stories. Continue reading →
Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm, Clarion Conference 1974
Back when I was an aspiring writer, there were no MFA programs for the likes of me. My ambition when I was starting out was to marry the literary values I had embraced as an undergraduate English major to the hurly-burly of widescreen ideas, surreal settings, and exotic characters that sprawled across the pages of the science fiction magazines that I loved. Hardcore sf fans did not necessarily welcome me and my cohort of literature-loving newbies; they accused us of writing “li-fi” instead of “sci-fi.” And did we get respect from mainstream gatekeepers of LiteratureLand for our attempts to remake the genre? Fat chance. Even today, the administrators of all too many writing programs continue to hold their noses at the mention of popular fiction, lest the aroma of art for commerce disturb their delicate sensibilities.
But let’s grind that ax another time, shall we?
The one and only writing program for young Jim Kelly was the Clarion Writers’ Workshop, then being held at the Michigan State University. In some ways, the Clarion experience was very much like that of the Stonecoast residencies, only more concentrated. Over the course of six weeks in the summer, 18 of us gathered in a steamy MSU dorm to unpack our attempts at fiction in workshops led by a different professional science fiction writer each week. The workshops were never the same because each mentor arrived with her own artistic ideas or his own hot button issues. But the overall agenda was set by Damon Knight, who founded Clarion with his wife, Kate Wilhelm. They believed that science fiction was as important as any other kind of writing, but it deserved to be better written than it was.
When I went out into the publishing market four years ago, I had a newfound agent and two book manuscripts for sale: a China memoir about the years my young boys and husband and I lived in Beijing, and a novel manuscript about a woman finding love in Paris. I’d had the good luck to sign an agent who believed in both my books. Not every agent who was interested in my memoir was interested in my novel. One agent was keen on the novel and not so much on the memoir. But I believed in both books. Deeply. I couldn’t forego one at the expense of the other. So I needed to trust myself to find an agent who would stand behind both projects. I kept talking to agents—I reached out to a dozen and talked to a half-dozen and then I found the fit—a woman who understood both my book projects and was behind them entirely.
Like most writers I know, I’m constantly beset by the gnawing anxiety that I’m a fake.
These feelings have become only more acute, not less, as I’ve racked up credentials to prove I’m a “real” writer. My CV is dotted with publications and prizes. I faithfully show up to my laptop or notebook six days a week. Most importantly, the translation of my experience into language is the fundamental way I relate to the world. And yet, in my darker moments, I am still convinced that at any minute I’m about to be found out for the writing humbug I really am.
In Victorian novels, there is one thing characters always seem to know: whether or not a woman is a lady. And whether or not she’s a lady determines how they talk to her, treat her. It’s as though there’s “lady code” that immediately signals her status. The code has to do with the tangible, such as clothing, but also the intangible, such as attitude.
I was thinking about this recently because I saw a photograph of a college student who had written on her leg, in black marker, what the different skirt lengths meant. A skirt that came to the middle of the thigh meant “flirty.” One just below the knee meant “proper.” One at the bottom of the calf meant “prudish.” And of course one close to the top of the thigh meant “whore.” There were gradations in between.
If we look at this idea historically, it’s the same old lady code. That code always had to do, in part, with sexuality. But it also had to do with social class, and what the photograph can’t represent, being a photograph, is the extent to which the lady code is about economic and educational status.