My latest on the Ploughshares blog:

hobblebushtypecaseHobblebush Books, founded in 1991 by author, editor and publisher Sidney Hall, Jr., is a small press in southern New Hampshire known best for its Granite State Poetry Series and its eclectic list of prose titles. While its poetry series only publishes authors who live in or have a strong connection to New Hampshire—most recent titles are the dark and playful Talismans by Maudelle Driskell and Falling Ashes byJames Fowler, a collection primarily of haiku and haibun on “war and love and the rest”—prose offerings are slightly more wide-ranging.

For prose at Hobblebush you’ll find Poor Richard’s Lament, a fascinating novel by Tom PRL_DJFitzgerald exploring the what-if scenario of Benjamin Franklin plunked into the twenty-first century; you’ll discover Creating the Peaceable Classroom by Sandy Bothmer, a wellness guide for educators, parents and students; and finally, you can pick from an assortment of memoirs that take you anywhere from the top of Mount Washington to the ports of New Orleans and Nova Scotia to the plains of East Africa.

For the Ploughshares blog, Sidney Hall, Jr. discusses Hobblebush’s mission, acquisitions, and its increasing public presence in the region (let’s just say they have a reputation for throwing great readings).

Click here to keep reading. . . 

My latest up at Ploughshares:

Muriel Rukeyser

During the war, we felt the silence in the policy of the governments of English-speaking countries. That policy was to win the war first, and work out the meanings afterward. The result was, of course, that the meanings were lost. You cannot put these things off. One of the invitations of poetry is to come to the emotional meanings at every moment.

—Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry

imagesParis Press began almost twenty years ago with the simple mission of resurrecting Muriel Rukeyser’s The Life of Poetry, a collection of essays originally published in 1949 that explore how resistance to poetry is connected to the modern world’s fear of individual thought and emotion, which then lends itself to a world that seems ever more fractured and confusing.

Over the years, Paris Press continued to publish works by Rukeyser as well as other women writers who had “been overlooked by commercial and independent publishers,” and these books immediately began earning attention from national publications including thelifeofpoetry New Yorker and New York Times Book Review, along with features on programs like NPR’s Fresh Air.

Paris Press publishes all genres by women writers from all over the map, but every text—whether poetry, play, or prose—deeply explores and illuminates those “emotional meanings” Rukeyser describes as essential to confronting and defying a world that remains as chaotic and volatile as it was in 1949.

bosniaelegiesToday, Paris Press is on the brink of several new developments: a more comprehensive website and blog launching this summer; a new award for a short story collection that will include publication by Paris Press; and an increased focus on educational outreach. Jan Freeman, poet and Executive Director of Paris Press, shares what’s in store for readers, authors, and educators.

Q: Due to backlog, Paris Press is not currently accepting new manuscripts. When will the press once again be opening the floodgates?

houdiniA: That’s about to change. We are just finishing updating our website for the press, and the new and improved site will be launched by the end of July. With the launch, we’ll be expanding our programming. We’ll include a blog, we’ll start publishing individual works by writers—bothcontemporary as well as writers from earlier time periods—and we’ll be accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction for our online site. We also will soon begin accepting book-length submissions online, so we’re joining the twenty-first century. The Internet opens things up in an exciting way that Paris Press is now embracing.

UnknownWe’ll also have a book length short-story manuscript competition in honor of Alice Munro receiving the Nobel. We are still finalizing who our judge will be, and then we’ll announce on the website the timeline and guidelines for submitting manuscripts. 

For the rest of the post click here:

My latest up at Ploughshares:

imgresWhen Rose Metal Press entered the book scene in 2006, they quickly established themselves as a go-to publisher for experimental flash and micro work. The range of their list is impressive, from Jim Goar’s Louisiana Purchase, a poetry collection giving a surreal spin to the history of the American West, to Loren Erdrich and Sierra Nelson’s I Take Back the Sponge Cake: A Lyrical Choose Your Own Adventure, a mix of poetry and imgres-1art that offers more clever and thoughtful page-skipping options than the old grade school chapter books. More recently, their fall 2013 release, Liliane’s Balcony, is a fascinating novella-in-flash exploring the story behind Frank Lloyd Wright’s construction of Fallingwater.

In addition to publishing these artfully designed collections, Rose Metal also produces “field guides”—how-to books for flash fiction, prose poetry, and flash nonfiction—that utilize advice and examples by established artists to help writers of all abilities further explore the possibilities of these uniquely modern and fluid
forms.

imgres-4For the Ploughshares blog, Press founders Abigail Beckel and Kathleen Rooney share the origin story of Rose Metal, the titles they’re publishing, and what kinds of work they hope to see in the future.

for the rest of the story click here

My latest up at Ploughshares:

Six New Tricks Your Dog Can Teach You About Writing

Posted 17 Jan 14by Kate Flaherty

Fans of the Ploughshares “Writers and Their Pets” series have probably noticed the majority of those blogs are about writers and their dogs. In my view this is because dogs are the best writing companions. For one thing, they never ask, “What’re you working on? or “Aren’t you done yet?” or “Why don’t you just write books like [insert any best-selling author name here]?” Cats may not ask these questions out loud, but their faces say it all. Makes you wonder how on earth Hemingway managed. More importantly, however, dogs are also terrific writing teachers. Below I’ll illustrate why, with the help of one of my current canine companions, Sadie.

snack1. Go with your gut.

As Karen Shepard so aptly illustrates in this poem from Amy Hempel and Jim Shepard’s Unleashed: Poems by Writer’s Dogs, dogs are often driven by an overwhelming and indiscriminate appetite:

 

Birch

You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?
You gonna eat that?

I’ll eat that.

Dogs take it all in, and if it doesn’t set right, they throw it back up, feel sad for a minute, then move on.  Or they throw it up, take a sniff, and give it another go. Writers can learn from this.

For the rest of the blog click here:

 

My latest up at the Ploughshares blog:

Unknown“I farm a little plot of things to say, with not much frontage on the busy road.”

—Ted Kooser journal entry, December 7, 1972

quoted in The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser by Mary K. Stillwell

A lot’s happened for Ted Kooser since he wrote those lines more than forty years ago—earning the Pulitzer Prize and being named U.S. Poet Laureate, to list just a couple of accolades—but the sentiment still holds. Despite his firm standing in the world ofcontemporary poetry and his continuing commitment to promote poetry as a living and vital art for all, Ted Kooser prefers to limit his “frontage on the busy road,“ by remaining under the radar at his rural Nebraska home.

I lived in Lincoln many years ago and was lucky to know Ted when I worked at the literary magazine Prairie Schooner. I found him to be much like his poems—insightful and wry, but oh so careful with his words. Look at any picture of him and you’llUnknown-2 see what I mean—he’s got that genial and open smile, but like any good Midwesterner you can tell that smile holds a secret or two. So I admit I was considerably curious to read the first full-length critical biography about Ted, The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser, published this fall by University of Nebraska Press.

The biography, by Mary K. Stillwell, doesn’t disappoint. It’s an intimate portrait rich with details of how family history and life on the Plains influenced Kooser’s early world vision, and then how Kooser juggled his creative ambitions as a poet, publisher and “Sunday painter,” along with his obligations as husband, father, and 9-5 insurance executive.

Unknown-3

Stillwell superbly illustrates the challenges an artist faces when he connects with artists in the academy but is not part of the academy, and who connects with the pull of bohemia, but who never quits his day job. And while the biography closely examines these elements and others surfacing in Kooser’s poetry, Stillwell also provides a charming and down-to-earth portrait of the poet as an everyman grappling with relationships and mortality and, on the day he’s asked to become U.S. Poet Laureate, having to drop by Bern’s Body Shop because he’s absent-mindedly knocked the side mirror off his Dodge sedan.
Stillwell’s biography is engagingly thorough, but I couldn’t help but have a few more questions, which I’m grateful she agreed to answer here.

To read the rest, click here

My latest up at Ploughshares:

Snack Time with Sherrie Flick

Posted 23 Oct 13by Kate Flaherty

SherrieProfilePic

Sherrie and the beloved Bubs the dog

When writer Sherrie Flickcoordinated events at the immensely popular Gist Street Reading Series in Pittsburgh, one thing was certain, beyond the high caliber of the visiting writers and the fact the space would be packed: there would be fabulous food. Crusty bread, gooey cheese, in-season vegetables, jugs of wine and—Sherrie’s specialty—plenty of pie.

Sherrie’s flash fiction often incorporates food as a driving metaphor too, and her novel,Reconsidering Happiness, primarily takes place in a bakery. But in recent years, Sherrie’s culinary ventures have moved out of the kitchen and off the page—she teaches food writing at Chatham University, and she is a food columnist, an urban gardener, and the series editor for At Table, an evolving book list at University of Nebraska Press that seeks to “expand and enrich the ever-changing discussion of food politics, nutrition, the cultural and sociological significance of eating, sustainability, agriculture, and the business of food.”

As Sherrie Flick’s blend of food and writing continues to expand, I wanted to discover how this focus on food has evolved in her writing and her life.

KF: You just published a wonderful essay on bread baking and the creative process in Necessary Fiction, where you explain that for you the two skills evolved almost hand-in-hand. Have you also discovered a creative connection with urban gardening?

GardenBubs

Sherrie’s garden in the heart of Pittsburgh

SF: I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I’m writing another essay for the Necessary Fiction series that links my gardening to learning how to play the ukulele. That’s a more complicated connection than my garden’s connection to my creative process though.

For me, some days—most days, really—the garden is a physical manifestation of my creative process. I look at it all crazed and wandering and beautiful and weird in my yard and I think: yes, my friend, that is what the inside of your head looks like.
As fiction writers we rarely get to SEE a physical manifestation of our work. Words on the page become images in a reader’s mind. Gardening helps me see the way I organize—or more correctly—disorganize structure.

 For the rest of the interview, click here

Inside the MacDowell Colony

September 10, 2013

My latest up at Ploughshares:

macdowell

“It can sometimes be hard to communicate what goes on at MacDowell. It’s more than inspiration, more than creativity or myth or the eternal human spirit or any other kind of foofy thing you’d want to name—and I’m happy to name all of them. But it’s in the taking of pains, it’s in affirming the craftsman’s simple truth that what’s worth doing is worth doing well, that you will find the root of art’s power to affirm, in the face of so much dark and brutal evidence to the contrary, that life matters, that we matter, and that anything worth doing well is simply worth doing.”

—from novelist and MacDowell Chairman Michael Chabon’s introductory remarks at the Edward MacDowell Medal Ceremony, August 11, 2013.

The MacDowell Colony is one of America’s oldest and most prestigious artists’ retreats, tucked away in the woods of Peterborough, New Hampshire. While its remote campus offers the solitude and freedom that has inspired a vast variety of artists for more than a hundred years, once a year, every August, MacDowell opens its doors to the public for a terrific summer lawn party.

The purpose of the shindig is to award the Edward MacDowell Medal, given each year to an artist who has made “an outstanding contribution to American culture.” The first recipient was Thornton Wilder, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Our Town, was primarily composed at MacDowell; other recipients include Leonard Bernstein, Georgia O’Keeffe, I.M. Pei, John Updike, Sonny Rollins, and Joan Didion. 

For the rest of the story, click here.

images-1I recently suffered a crisis of purpose with my writing, if only because Americans are more adept at creating entertaining distractions than I think any other people in the world, and I am certainly a part of that culture. Americans love nothing more than another reason to suspend our disbelief. Do we really need another memoir or novel or true crime potboiler? Most of the time I say ABSOLUTELY! Who doesn’t love a good story, well told. And yet at some point we should face the reality that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. . . but then what? For me, I began to find the answers in Mary Pipher’s Writing to Change the World, and then her latest book, The Green Boat, in which she shares how to transform our despair over the state of our world into action. And through action we will find both community and hope. Is this book a perfect blueprint? No, but it’s certainly a start.

Below is the intro of my interview with Mary Pipher, posted on the Ploughshares website. To read the full interview, click here. Read. Share. Repeat. Then get out and rabblerouse.

The cure for knowing too much is not knowing less, but rather understanding what to do with the information we have.
Mary PipherThe Green Boat

It’s rare I finish a book wanting to shout from the rooftops how great it is, and even more rare that I read a book I want to buy cases of to hand out at the beach and in church and to leave on the break room table at work. That book is Mary Pipher’s The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture, a wake-up call about the dire state of our earth as well as a how-to guide for dealing with the trauma of that knowledge.

What is so wonderful about The Green Boat is that Mary Pipher doesn’t just identify the myriad problems we face; she also illustrates how to find hope through awareness, then acceptance, then action. For Pipher, that action was (and still is) her grassroots work at preventing the TransCanada energy corporation from building a pipeline through the Nebraska Sandhills and over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest water tables.

Nebraska Sandhills

Nebraska Sandhills

In working with others to create theCoalition to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline, Pipher not only found hope through action, but also through a community comprised of people who might seem completely disparate on the surface: conservatives and liberals, ranchers and poets, artists and teachers, as well as natives who’d lived in Nebraska for generations and refugee immigrants new to the state, all working together for the common goal of protecting fresh water for future generations.

To read the rest of the blog, click here.

To learn more about the fight against TransCanada and the XL Pipeline, click here and here.

Finally, a few news sites you might find useful. I don’t eat up EVERYTHING these sites post or link to, but it’s helpful to check out more than just the Times, NPR, or Huffington Post. The more informed we are, the more powerful we are:

http://www.naturalnews.com/

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/glenn-greenwald

http://www.alternet.org/

My latest up at Ploughshares:

RAVIOLI AI QUATTRO FORMAGGI
Tuscan Kitchen: Salem, New Hampshire

Courtesy: Tuscan Group

Courtesy: Tuscan Group

Delicate pasta pillows
stuffed—
with hand dipped ricotta
burrata,
fontina
and
parmigiano cheeses.

Light brown butter pan sauce,
shaved
black
truffles. ($15)

In the amount of time it took my waiter to return with my glass of sparking Prosecco andthe complementary bread basket, I had happened upon a perfect little poem.

Unknown

While eating those delicate pasta pillows in brown butter pan sauce, I considered the art of the restaurant menu, remembering more than a few occasions where I’d been stymied over what to order simply because one dish after another was so delectably described.

imagesI surely wasn’t the first to dwell on the connection between the well-written menu and the well-made meal, but perhaps I could be the first to break new poetic ground by reconfiguring menus into gastronomic verse. I’d be the next M.F.K. Fisher of the eating ode! I’d be the new Calvin Trillin of the culinary couplet! Plus all those meals out would suddenly be tax deductible—a necessary work expense!

For the rest of the blog, click here!

My latest blog for Ploughshares:

new

We all do “do, re, mi,” but you have got to find the other notes yourself.
—Louis Armstrong

A teacher hands out tools—pencils or paintbrushes or musical instruments—and immediately begins instructing students in the art of imitation. Children copy letters and paint by numbers and squeak out Beethoven’s Ninth  on cheap plastic recorders, and through these acts of reproduction the growth of the artist begins.Unknown

Every artist essentially begins as a cover artist. We learn the rules of the color wheel, the narrative arc, how to count in 4/4 time—and then we take what we’ve learned and create, convincing ourselves that despite all the artists who’ve come before we’re making something fresh.

The first song I remember hearing on the radio—I must have been three or four—was “Please Mister Postman.” The song remains a favorite, reminding me of the good ole days of grilled cheese sandwiches and hanging with mom at home listening to AM radio, yet I’m not sure which version of the song I first heard. Was it the Marvelettes? The Supremes? The Beatles? I only know it couldn’t be The Carpenters because their version didn’t come out ‘til I was seven, by which point I’d been listening to the radio for ages.

Click here to read the rest . . . 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.