Wednesday, December 30, 2009

out with the old, in with the do

"Small acts of literary kindness go a long way."

The countdown is on. A new year will soon be born. Holiday decorations will be packed away and a great number of resolutions made in good faith will slip into shadows, grow dusty, and wait for next year’s expected call of duty.

I’ve mostly shied away from the traditional resolution-making process in exchange for setting goals that not only hopefully improve myself as a writer, but also improve my role as a literary citizen. Throughout the year, of course, I evaluate my to-do lists, grand plans, and wishes and wants; at the start of a new year, however, I like to take stock of my writing ambitions, lay out some goals, and make tangible notes on things I wish to accomplish or participate in during the months to come.

Tangible is the operative word, here. In order to successfully check such things off the list, the idea must be firmed up in some sort of concrete, measurable way. Without getting into too much of my personal list of to-dos for 2010, I thought I would share a few examples of goals we can all benefit from, as writers and readers, and provide ideas for how to accomplish these to-dos.

Discover more new voices
Take advantage of subscription deals from journals such as Tin House, which offers 50% off the newsstand rate for four issues. If you’re a student, Poetry has an incredible deal for you: students receive a full year subscription for just $17.50US. There are a number of affordable, incredible journals that do their best to include emerging voices. By subscribing to a journal in 2010, you’re not only ensuring your exposure to some really great writing, you’ll also be supporting the livelihood of our presses. That’s a nice bonus.

A more varied, potentially less expensive, method for stocking your shelves with new voices is to make the mental note to pick up individual copies of lit journals each time you venture into the local bookshop. I say potentially less expensive, as many of us frequent the stores and this can add up; so, set your own goals here, but be sure to visit the magazines and periodicals section where you will find a cornucopia of journals looking for a good home. Even if you do this every other month, you’ll have read six new journals in a year and discovered some inspiring work, supported our presses, and helped pay the rent for your local bookshop. Which brings me to….

Buy local, let Bob keep his job
Writers need independent booksellers. Not only are they more open to supporting new and emerging voices, and not only do we feel good about supporting a local company, but the indies are also very active in hosting and promoting local authors. From readings to workshops to coffee house love, it’s our independent booksellers that help connect writers with readers. Not sure where a local shop is in your area? Make friends with the IndieBound website. It’s great for finding regional sellers in your area and for planning stops during weekend roadtrips.

Connect with others
Add a membership to your to-dos this year and take advantage of the benefits that come from supporting a not-for-profit. Poets House recently relocated and an incredible assortment of activities is ongoing throughout the year. Why not be the first to know about these events and support the wonderful work of this impressive literary center by becoming a member? Memberships start at $40 and include free admission to Poets House programs, invitations to special events, and a nice tax deduction.

Check your area for regional organizations you may join as a member and consider one of the many national groups, like The Academy of American Poets, as a sound investment for 2010.

Short on cash? It’s easy to connect with other writers with online forums and social media sites. Use the SpeakEasy Forum at Poets & Writers to connect with others in your area, your genre, or from outside your comfort zone. Find your favorite literary journals on twitter and FaceBook. Join some of the Fan Pages and Groups to connect with other writers, keep up with news, and discover cool opportunities.

Smarten up
If you’ve ever considered attending a colony, residence, workshop, or festival, what’s keeping you? Make this a goal for 2010 and you’ll not only have an experience that lasts a lifetime, you’ll connect with new people and likely find ways to add inspiration to your writing. If money is an issue, look for scholarship and fellowship opportunities to help defray the cost of attendance. Bear River Writers’ Conference, The Prague Summer Program, and Bread Loaf are just a few of the conferences that offer financial aid.

If you’re thinking something more local is up your alley, look into the readings and events hosted in your own city to get more involved. Find a critique group, open mic night, or local workshop to connect with others and work on improving your craft.

Share the love
You know that feeling you get when you finish reading a book so good you want to tell all your friends? Tell them. Then take it one step further and write a review. Writers need reviews. Even if you don’t write for a review journal, take the initiative and post a reader review on Powell’s, B&N, Borders, or amazon. People who shop at indie bookshops still look at reviews on amazon, so don’t be shy. Help spread the word about a great new author by posting your own review. You’ll feel so good about doing this I bet you’ll do it more than once. It’s okay. This is a good habit to get into.

Pay it forward
In summary, there are a great many ways to elevate your involvement in the literary arts this year. If you’re like me, there is a really long list of things you’d like to do, events you’d like to attend, manuscripts you want to work on, and the list is sometimes exhausting. Make it simple. Set small goals.

If there’s one thing you can do this year (and the next, and the next) that will put a positive spin on your art, your career, and your life in general, it’s the idea of paying it forward. It’s easy to focus on our own to-dos and our own overloaded schedules. It’s easy to brush off events or new releases from others when we’re overwhelmed. The “I’ll get to it later… I’ll go next time…” comments of good faith in our inner monologue can’t be helped. But it’s important to remember that we need one another. We need an audience at our readings, buyers for our books, subscribers to our journals…

Give yourself the challenge this year to be more supportive of others. Tell your friends about new books, go to an extra event each month, and maybe… when you find yourself saying “I wish I could” to someone, think about what you can do. Maybe you can’t make it to a book release party that night, but next week you can make time for a book review or a friendly blog post or even just a great nod of appreciation on FaceBook. A personal email is always a lovely treat for a writer. Small acts of literary kindness go a long way.


Whatever your literary goals are for 2010, I wish you the best. Happy reading, happy writing, and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dodge Poetry Festival on YouTube

I have been enjoying the videos from the various Dodge Poetry Festivals so much that I simply must share. If social media and technology has done anything for poetry, it is to bring a greater awareness to the great world of literature around us. Just think back to a decade ago… would you have imagined traveling to some of the world’s most popular author festivals with just a click of the mouse?

YouTube has done us all a favor by creating a venue for promoting poetry. Oh, sure, it’s used for all sorts of video, but for the artist… this is one incredible vehicle for sharing our work, hearing others perform, and allowing us to virtually attend some incredible readings.

Some of the Dodge Poetry Festival readings I have enjoyed this weekend include the following:

Franz Wright
By the way, this wonderful Pulitzer Prize winner has a new chapbook available from Marick Press! Leave Me Hidden is a gorgeous, 48-page chapbook that you simply must read more about here: http://www.marickpress.com/

Lucille Clifton

Billy Collins

Tony Hoagland

Jane Hirshfield

There are so many incredible readings from the Dodge Poetry Festival, hosted on YouTube, so I do recommend checking it out. Also, the announcement for the 2010 festival has been made and the dates and schedule are soon to come. Visit the festival website here: http://www.dodgepoetry.org/

Have fun exploring the visuals and sounds of some of today’s most well-loved poets. See you next time…

Thursday, December 24, 2009

warm wishes and thanks

As we celebrate the season with family and friends, and 2009 winds down, I’d like to extend a warm holiday wish to you all.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank the many active blog readers, book buyers, workshop participants, event hosts, and all the other very important players in this literary life we lead. It is because of your support for literary arts that writers continue to do what they do. Writers need readers. We need an audience. So, whether you write or you read (or both!), I offer my heartfelt thanks for your continued virtual friendship.

I’d like to thank Elizabeth Kate Switaj for listing stains: early poems as one of her favorite poetry books for 2009. That was an unexpected surprise and I am pleased to have stumbled upon this list. Thank you for your kindness, Elizabeth.

While I’m at it, I must give a big thank you to all the wonderful readers and reviewers who took the time to talk about stains. In Canada and the US and overseas, your words have helped spread the word about my latest publication and I thank you for your support and kindness. I’d particularly like to thank Zinta Aistars, AF Stewart, and Elizabeth Kate Switaj for providing thoughtful, in-depth reviews of stains: early poems.

Thank you, too, to the many wonderful audience members at the readings I participated in throughout the year; thank you to the workshop and lecture attendees, and to the venue hosts for including me in your programming. The year 2009 was full of wonderful events and I am so pleased to have felt the warm reception from you, Dear Reader.

As the holidays come and go and the new year rolls in, I wish you all the best for the season and for 2010. Thank you for being a part of my literary life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

holiday offers from Tupelo Press

Whether you’re looking to reward yourself for being nice this year, or are perhaps still naughty and need to finish your shopping for the season, have a look at Tupelo Press for three festive offers that are too good to resist:

Throughout December, receive 25% off your order. You can use this discount again and again when you purchase new books from Tupelo Press. Use promo code DEC25 when placing your order. Have you seen, Flinch of Song, the Tupelo Press ‘First Book Award’ winner? Click here to read more about Jennifer Militello’s debut.

Buy One, Get One! With the purchase of any 2009 title at full-price, pick a backlist title for free. You can do this up to three times; this is a great way to get three titles on the house, as personal keepers or as gifts for your special poetic someone. Use promo code DECBOGO. I definitely recommend Then, Something by Patricia Fargnoli.

If you love to keep up with great literature, an annual subscription may be the right choice for you. By subscribing to all eleven titles, you not only stock your shelves with new titles throughout the year, you’ll also save a good deal of cash. Nine books for $99? Not bad. Click here to subscribe.

Have fun exploring the Tupelo Press website. Cash in on some great holidays deals and be sure to subscribe to their newsletter to receive updates on new releases, events, and special purchases.

Monday, December 21, 2009

open call: author interviews

With the new year just around the corner, I’m making plans for my author Q&A schedule. Usually once each week I feature authors from all genres and styles in an effort to share some literary love on this blog. From poetry to paranormal, academics to avant-garde, there’s something wonderful about sharing news of recent and upcoming publications with the blog readers.

So, this is your opportunity; if you have a new or forthcoming publication, event, or other publicly engaging experience to share, let’s chat. I’m opening the doors to add authors to my 2010 interview schedule and would love to feature a few new voices.

Simply email me at lori @ loriamay.com [no spaces] with your publication details, link to your website(s), and your availability for an interview. I generally conduct my Q&As via email, so it doesn’t matter where you’re located in the world. If you have a new publication on the way, we can make it happen.

Thanks!

Friday, December 18, 2009

poetry reading at Goldfish Tea

I’m pleased to be a part of a well-rounded night of performances happening this Saturday, at Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak MI. The event runs from 6-10pm and is free and open to the public, so do drop in for a pleasant evening of poetry if you’re near.

The evening will host a selection of poetry, music, and cross-genre work by artists including Emily Rose, Laura Bodary, Patrick O’Leary, Alison Donahue, Barbara Klimkowski, and Justin Petrusak. Hosted by the feature reader, Cat Listening will also be launching a new book at Saturday’s event.

Goldfish Tea is located at 117 4th Street in Royal Oak MI. For more information about the venue, visit their website here: http://www.goldfishtea.com.

I’ll be reading selections from stains and likely a few new pieces. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

get organized with Duotrope's Digest

Organization is just one of the many skills writers need to develop in order to be productive. We’re not all naturals at creating spreadsheets or keeping journals to track submissions, which is why I simply must recommend Duotrope.

Duotrope’s Digest is an invaluable market resource, listing over 2700 print and online markets for creative writers. the service is offered for free and users can search for new markets by theme, genre, region, or many other sub-categories. Duetrope lists markets for fiction and poetry and hopefully someday they’ll include creative non-fiction in their market listings as well.

As a writer, I enjoy the ability to seek out new places for my work. On the main page, the Duotrope site features a rotating “random market” to introduce new markets to writers; this is a great way to find new print and online journals.

I also really like that Duotrope has a log-in system where writers can enter the information about their submissions and successes. For example, I can enter the date and type of submission I make to a specific journal and then use the submission tracker to update the fields with the response I get, when, and if it was a form or personalized response. Why is this such an incredible service?

For one, it keeps a writer organized. You can easily view where you have work submitted, what work is out there, and see how long ago you submitted.

This is also a great resource for the writers using Duotrope. All information is kept confidential, but the data is compiled to reflect averages and medians. This is very for seeing, for example, that X publication takes an average of 45 days to respond.

Whether you’re looking for new markets or need a virtual assistant to help you keep your submissions tracked, Duotrope’s Digest is a great – and free – resource.

Visit their site at http://www.duotrope.com/.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Love, IndieBound

If you haven’t visited the IndieBound website lately, hurry on over. Just in time for the holidays, there are a number of great wish list suggestions for you (and your friends). They also have this neat little wish list maker where you can share all your wants and wishes with your not-so-secret Santa’s. If you’re an iPhone user, you can even manage your list while on the go.

One really cool feature on IndieBound is the assortment of book trailers and videos. You’ll find authors and other notable folks discussing their favorite picks, latest reads, and hints of what’s to come on a bookshelf near you.

Another great year-round feature is the Reading Group section. If you belong to a group – or want to start one – this section has a list of popular titles and some suggestions on how to make the most of your discussion group. Titles are sorted by themes, so if your group selects different themes each time you meet, this is a nice bonus for coming up with new ideas.

If you have a bunch of booklovers on your shopping list this season and have maxed out the books (is that possible?), IndieBound also has some really great gear for booklovers. From baby onesies to hoodies for adults, this is a nice way to support IndieBound and show someone you care.

When you’re all done shopping and just want to relax and talk about books, join the IndieBound community to meet other booklovers. You can easily connect with others by interest, location, or name. Also on this section of the site, you can locate local independent shops awaiting your love and shopping affection.

Whatever link you click on, grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable. IndieBound is an incredible resource and you’re bound – no pun intended – to enjoy a few hours perusing all their great offerings. Visit IndieBound.org and enjoy the read…

Friday, December 11, 2009

gifts for writers (and readers)

Earlier this week, there was a lovely staff blog post by Martha Lundin, Editorial Assistant for The Writer. Martha offered up a few suggestions for those looking to buy gifts for the writer on your list.

I have to admit, I had a great time exploring some of the options presented. In particular, I spent a great deal of time exploring Book Bouquet. Really, can anything top a gift basket of books, treats, and coffee? I don’t think so.

Martha also had a few other suggestions worth checking out, so please do visit The Writer staff blog if you’re still shopping for that special someone in your literary life.

Of course, my favorite suggestion Martha made was for a subscription to The Writer. I’ve basically been a lifetime subscriber to the resourceful magazine, but I would be very grateful to gift-givers offering magazine subscriptions of the literary kind. I’m a die-hard subscriber with my ‘writing magazines’ (which make a great gift!) but I am also always looking to explore a variety of literary journals. If you have a writer on your shopping list, consider gifting an entire year’s worth of contemporary literature and resources for markets, competitions, and awards.

If you don’t know where to start, ask your writer friend where they have been submitting work lately. Chances are, they’d love to receive a home-delivered copy of the journal on a regular basis. Don’t want to give away the surprise? Check out the literary magazines listed on amazon for some ideas. There really is something for any budget and if you’d rather support the ‘zines directly, at least this is a good starting point in figuring out what your options are.

Gifts of books and magazines aren’t just great for writers. Remember to give the gift of print to your reading friends, too. It will last longer than a box of chocolates and cost less than a Wii game.

While you’re shopping, don’t forget to treat yourself to some new lit, too!

Happy shopping. See you Monday…

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

3-for-2 Lit Mags in Canada


Magazines Canada, a not-for-profit organization, has a wonderful promotion happening right now – just in time for the holidays. With the purchase of two subscriptions, a third is included on the house. They’ll also pay the taxes.

Is there a catch? Yes and no. These must be new subscriptions and the offer is only valid for Canadian addresses. Otherwise, there are no exclusions on the selections and you’re free to make any or all of your choices a gift to someone else.

Now, let’s talk about selection. If you’re a literary journal addict like me, you’ll love the offerings available. Some of my favorite journals include Brick, Event, Fiddlehead, and Room.

Really, though, there are so many to choose from, you just might take advantage of this offer to grab more than three. Why? For every two ‘zines you subscribe to, you get a third free. That’s right. If you subscribe to four, you’ll get two free.

Okay, so maybe that’s a lot for one person (it’s not, really!), but – again – the holidays are upon us and ‘tis the season for giving gifts of great literature.

Have fun exploring the Magazines Canada website. See you next time!

Monday, December 7, 2009

interdisciplinary experimentation

One of the things I am most proud of in the new format of The Ambassador Poetry Project is the inclusion of video feeds. In this most recent issue, Penn Kemp shares an interactive sound poetry experience with students during a campus visit. I love that technology encourages us to capture new poetic experiences and pushes us to try new things with our craft.

I’ve been exploring mixed media for some time, and although it’s not my main mode of expression I have again made a mental note to try more mediums for cross-pollinating poetry. In prior experiments, I have conducted poetry readings with a live musical performance, read poetry surrounded by installations, and created poetry for print with the accompaniment of visuals. Too, my recent book, stains: early poems, is mixed media; there are several photographs strategically placed within the sections.

Years ago, I had a small project on the go where I studied works of other poets and then built visual imagery around quotes. I recently stumbled upon one of my earliest attempts at this union of art, with this piece here that uses a quote from Sylvia Plath:
“Sylvia Won”

Lately, I’ve been focusing on the straight-up poetry but I’ve again sensed the need to experiment with interdisciplinary forms and mixed media. Perhaps I can thank the recent purchase of a new MP3 recorder. Or my growing interest in capturing poetry on film. Whatever it is, I think it’s interesting to see where poetry can take us when partnered with layers of media.

Who knows where this curiosity project will take me. I’ll be sure to share some of the fruits of my experimental labors.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Issue 2: Ambassador Poetry Project

I am pleased to announce the second issue of The Ambassador Poetry Project is now available online at www.AmbassadorPoetry.com. I hope you’ll visit the website to discover a variety of voices from Michigan and Ontario.

This issue includes selections from poets such as Judith A. Goren, Therese Becker, Linda Leedy Schneider, Matthew Falk, and sound poetry from Penn Kemp. Also included is visual work by Grand Blanc High School student Rob Chron.

You’ll also notice a few website improvements to help make your visit more enjoyable. Please let me know what you think of the improvements and your overall experience in visiting The Ambassador Poetry Project.

Thank you for your continued support and have a great weekend.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Q&A with sound poet Penn Kemp

I’m pleased to present Penn Kemp for today’s author Q&A. As the writer-in-residence at The University of Western Ontario, Penn continues to be an active voice on the campus grounds and throughout the broader community, sharing her sound poetry and multi-media approach to literary arts. As a Literary Citizen, Penn is actively engaged in advocating for the role of art within society, encouraging others to become involved, and promoting the work of other artists. Sound poetry is such a special component of Penn Kemp’s work and I am pleased that she is able to tell us a bit more about this unique mode of artistic delivery.

Please join me in welcoming Penn Kemp.

Penn, what exactly is sound poetry and how did this come to be your passion?
I love to lift poetry off the page, to have it experienced as sound. For humans, sounding is our first and perhaps our last resource for creative expression. Such communication can resolve the tension between inner and outer worlds through musical play. Writing for me is emblematic of sacred, physical realities but it is solitary until shared.

Nature has been a source of wonder, metaphor and inspiration but the completion of a poem for me is the connection to people in its performance. Between image and sound as a poems priority, I cannot choose, so this work becomes concrete or performance poetry. A piece is meant to lift off the page in as many dimensions as it can.

Sound poetry became a vehicle for me when I was in labour, uttering sounds I had never heard before. In raising my kids, I listened to their babble, intrigued by how language develops.

As a poet coming into the classroom, I look forward to the possibility of showing students how to write from an original voice. Before asking students to write, however, I have them find a centre of silence to still all the notions they have of clich├ęd rhythms.

This technique helps them to open up their intuitive side, which they may have had to block in order to concentrate on their courses. My strategy is to encourage them to remove the mental blocks which may prevent them from hearing the sounds that are the building blocks of language, and then to manipulate sounds into chants and poetry. As a sound poet, I am adept at listening to unknown words with a clean ear. Students, given permission by my example to experiment with sounds and sounding, quickly throw off some of their accumulated inhibitions. From enjoyment it is a short step to creation.

In my performances and workshops, I have found that sound poetry is a wonderful vehicle for enabling students from many different backgrounds to explore linkages and differences in sound patterns.

In these times when it is important to establish joyful communication among different cultural communities, sound poetry offers a way in which all students can share in the sounds of another culture, without having to master its language. "Breaking the Sounds Barrier" is a way of encouraging individual self-expression within a framework of group activity.

I am excited by the potential that sound poetry has for breaking down barriers. The chants and poems which result from this process are truly enchanting, and the message, that out of diversity can come forth creative beauty, is one that is crucial.

What would you say to a student who finds poetry intimidating?
Have fun! Play with the words... read them aloud and relish them. Go for the sound as much as the sense of the words. Listen with fresh ears before what might be your initial judgement or frustration.

What events are you involved in around campus and throughout the community in London ON?
As Western's writer-in-residence, I host Gathering Voices, an eclectic literary radio show on Radio Western, which you can read about and hear archived on CHRW.

My Muse/news, renewed monthly on http://mytown.ca/pennletters, features Upcoming Events. One of the great pleasures of the residency has been the opportunity to visit many classrooms on campus, including King's, Brescia and Fanshawe College. Professors and students alike have been very welcoming and enthusiastic. My talk last term, "Courage, My Love," on a career in the arts, plus a sound poem for inspiration, is now up on YouTube. Pictures from recent events are up [here].

*****
To listen to Penn Kemp’s “Man Date” on Qarrtsiluni, visit
http://qarrtsiluni.com/2009/11/12/man-date./

If you are in the area, there is a workshop with Penn Kemp and Brenda McMorrow. EnChanting: Transformation through Poetry, Sound & Song will take place Saturday, December 5th, 10-5pm. Email penn@pennkemp.ca for more information and location details.

Another upcoming event you won’t want to miss is on Thursday, January 21, 7:30 pm. “Luminous Entrance” will be presented at Brescia Auditorium, Brescia University College, London ON. This is a participatory performance of the Sound Opera Luminous Entrance. More information is available on Penn Kemp’s website or feel free to email Penn directly.

Thanks for dropping by for today’s author Q&A. I’ll see you on Friday…