SAFARI seems to no longer work
for comments...use another browser?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Booklife: Writing and my daughter

"Fool," said my Muse to me, "Look in thy heart and write!" --Sir Philip Sidney

A peep inside the heart:

Comments are off because the astonishing Jeremy L. C. Jones does so much work for this site, I'd rather he get any love that comes along!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Zagajewski: Minimalism vs. drama

In "Self-Portrait, Not Without Doubts," you mention "those writers who sometimes bother you: some so modest, minimal, and underread, that you want to call out--hey, friends, courage, life is beautiful, the world is rich and full of history." Is this something you feel vis-à-vis other writers?

Yes, though I won't give you any names. What I have in mind here is minimalism in literature. Unlike minimalism in music, which can be fascinating, minimalism is boring in literature. The fact that you can write poetry--it's an incredible chance that's given to you, the chance to formulate what you think about the world, God, dying. When I read through many poetry journals, I see a strange modesty. So many poets are just saying something minimal. Poetry is not about defending poetry; poetry is about defending life.

. . . Almost all poets these days are jesters. There are so many younger American poets. They've very talented. They're typical jesters. They indulge in wonderful play, but there's some poverty in it; it's not interesting as an intellectual question. What's interesting is always drama, conflict, debate. In playfulness there's no debate, no drama. It doesn't amount to a statement. It's a kind of very safe diversion for people who say they are rebels but don't risk anything.

--from "This Strange Ambition to Want to Say Something: A conversation with Adam Zagajewski." Interview by Agnieszka Tennant. "Books & Culture," July/August 2010.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


One of the student writers at Hollins won The Shirley Henn Award for Creative Writing (at least I think that's the one) at The Francelia Butler conference. And it was for a story we burnished a bit this summer, so that was pleasant for me. Her name: Tracy Roberts. The story: "Head-on." She lives on a mountain with her husband and a wandering goat, and she is charming and a good writer. And now an editor is going to take a look . . .

Congratulations, Tracy!

Illustration: Ruth Sanderson's silver wood from her The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Ruth is on the Hollins faculty for the MA/MFA in Children's Literature.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hollins & Shared Worlds & more

August has come around, and I am at last home again for more than a few days--though I still have a second college run to do. I have been slipping around the East Coast all summer and will be glad to sit still when that's done.

During July I had a splendid time being Writer-in-Residence for the Hollins MFA program in children's literature--critiqued more than thirty manuscripts for one-on-one meetings and read fourteen more for classes. I met lovely writers of all ages, did a talk/reading, visited classes, went to events, and am now chatting with Ruth Sanderson about doing a book with her. That's her "Papa Gatto" in the illustration.

The MFA/MA program is under the capable direction of writer Amanda Cockrell, and I was impressed with how she and the other writers there manage to go full tilt for six weeks. Those I met on this year's staff were Candice Ransom, Hillary Homzie, Nancy Ruth Patterson, Alexandra LeFaye, William (Chip) Miller, Nancy Ruth Patterson, Chip Sullivan, Joseph Thomas, and the already-mentioned Ruth Sanderson. I also managed to slip in visits (and meals! I got hungry for home-cooked meals) with Hollins writers Richard Dillard and Jeanne Larsen (and her sweet husband Tom Mesner) and painter Nancy Dahlstrom.

Afterward I made quick trips to Chapel Hill and Cullowhee to see old friends and my mother. Bookish highlights were going to lunch with Louis Rubin and Elizabeth Spencer (who had just turned 89) and a dinner with painter Laura Frankstone and poet Jeffery Beam and their respective partners.

At the end of July I went to Spartanburg and Wofford College to work at Shared Worlds, the weird worldbuilding brainchild of Jeremy L. C. Jones. Novelist Jeff Vandermeer, who is in cahoots with Jeremy over the program, invited me last year. I got to see Jer (oddly, we had already had lunch in Cooperstown) in action and meet writer Michael Bishop and writer and game designer Will Hindmarch. By the time Mike and I arrived, the students had already built their fantastic worlds and designed creatures and more--we were fated to stay up very, very late critiquing their short stories. We also gave talks and then did a reading with Will: splendid fun. And that doesn't even mention all the breakfasts, lunches, and dinners at various spots around Wofford College. Jeremy is a good host!

And I was also able to visit my parasailing Aunt Myra, now 93 and still sparkling despite all the challenges of age. I admire her.

Latest travels: my daughter has now been deposited at Bard College. As she has just called to remind me to order that computer, I shall go now--hoping that your summer travels or non-travels have been fruitful and happy.