Gulf Coast celebrates 30 years at Lawndale Art Center

January 21, 2017, by

GC 30th Anniversary - Smith readingThis week we talked to poet, Inprint blogger, and University of Houston Creative Program graduate student Erika Jo Brown about Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature & Fine Arts’ 30th anniversary celebration coming up Saturday, January 21, 7 pm, Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street. Since its inception, Inprint has been proud to support Gulf Coast, one of the nation’s reputed literary journals, which also holds readings and other activities. 

INPRINT: Congratulations on 30 years! For our readers that do not know a lot about Gulf Coast, please tell us about the journal, the organization, and all of the things you do.

ERIKA: Thank you! I’m pleased to work for Gulf Coast as a poetry editor and the reading series curator.  Gulf Coast was founded by Donald Barthelme and Phillip Lopate. We’re an arts and literary journal, run by very dedicated graduate students in the University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP). The print journal comes out each April and October. Recently, Gulf Coast merged with Art Lies. Unlike many lit journals, we’re committed to exploring visual art criticism, scholarship, and dialogues.  Continue reading

Poet Sharon Olds made it back to Houston this fall

December 15, 2016, by

up right IMG_7651As 2016 comes to close, Inprint marvels at all the wonderful literary events that took place over the fall months. In November, Brazos Bookstore hosted a reading by poet Sharon Olds.

Olds was scheduled to appear in the 2015/2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series with poet and University of Houston Creative Writing Program faculty member Tony Hoagland. Due to the Tax Day Flood in April, the reading had to be cancelled. A video was made that day during a break in the rain, featuring a reading and conversation between Olds and Hoagland, and Houston poet Martha Serpas in a private home. You can watch that reading here as part of the Inprint Archive of Readings. We were thrilled that Sharon Olds made it back to Houston this fall via Brazos Bookstore so her fans could  see her in real time. Here Inprint blogger Erika Jo Brown tells us about this memorable evening.

Appropriately, Sharon Olds’ reading at Christ Church Cathedral was preceded by the choir practice of tweens. Olds is revered—and occasionally controversial—for her delicate and unconventional poems about female sexual awakening and motherhood, among other topics.

On this night, she was introduced by Houston novelist Chris Cander, who extoled Olds’ “incomparable gifts of description” and lauded her latest collection, Odes, as a meditation on “what it feels like to occupy a mature woman’s body, mind and spirit.”

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Rabih Alameddine & Juan Gabriel Vásquez talk about fiction teaching empathy and guarding our memories

December 6, 2016, by

Rabih at podiumOn November 21st, the Alley Theatre was already decked for the holidays. A grove of themed trees in the lobby welcomed the Inprint Margaret Root Brown Reading Series for the final performance of the year. Inside, Rabih Alameddine and Juan Gabriel Vásquez read from their novels on the dormant set of A Christmas Carol, and artificial flurries escaped from their rigging throughout.

Though the theater looked towards Christmas, both Alameddine and Vásquez spoke towards the gratitude and displacement so many of us experience on the Thanksgiving weekend, whether or not we return home or reconnect with loved ones. Their words were melancholy and reflective. Alameddine’s The Angel of History spoke of loneliness and makeshift family; the narrator tells his lost love, “you left me roofless in a downpour.” Vásquez prefaced his reading by explaining the words he would read were not his own, and while he thanked his translator, compared the experience to reading someone else’s work. Continue reading

Poetry students experience the thrill of writing poems for the public

November 22, 2016, by

Upright IMG_7475One of Inprint’s most innovative and highly popular programs is the Inprint Poetry Buskers program. A collective of talented local writers and graduate students and alumni from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the Inprint Poetry Buskers write free poems on requested themes for attendees at festivals and special events throughout the city. The program demystifies poetry for the public and makes it more accessible, in a joyous and interactive way. Poet, Inprint blogger, and University of Houston Creative Writing Program graduate student Erika Jo Brown helped her undergraduate students appreciate the power of serving as an Inprint Poetry Busker.

A few weeks ago, intrepid students in my Introduction to Creative Writing Poetry class at the University of Houston felt the thrill and caliber of being an Inprint Poetry Busker at the Red Block Bash, coordinated by the Blaffer Student Association. They busily worked while emcees freestyled and drawing students sketched caricatures in the arts district courtyard.

These are their stories:

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Aja Gabel, UH Creative Writing Program alum, sells first novel to Riverhead Books

October 24, 2016, by

Aja GabelAja Gabel, University of Houston Creative Program PhD, Class of 2015, has sold her first novel, In Common Time, to Riverhead Books, where it will be published next year. We caught up with Aja in the calm before the storm of her literary debut. Some of you may know Aja as the recipient of the Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/Fondren Foundaiton Fellowship, winner of an Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Nonfiction, and winner of an Inprint Alexander Prize in Fiction. Aja also taught writing workshops for Inprint and was one of Inprint’s beloved live tweeters.

MAT JOHNSON: Congrats on placing you first book with the prestigious Riverhead imprint of Penguin Random House! Can you tell me, what’s the novel about? Did you start this book at the writing program, or after?

AJA GABEL: Thanks! The novel is about a string quartet, and how they manage their personal relationships as they battle for professional success. Each member desperately needs the quartet to succeed, but for very different and secret reasons, and along the way they navigate heartbreak, death, birth, marriage, injury, failure, and more. It’s told from all four of their perspectives and covers about 25 years. I played cello for 20 years, and I’ve always been fascinated as to how professional ensembles make a living together while also maintaining relationships with each other. It seems like it must be full of all kinds of turmoil and drama (hence, the novel).

I came up with the idea in the very first workshop I took with Chitra Divakaruni, when she forced us to pitch novels, and I panicked. That synopsis I pitched back then was so silly, but the general idea stayed with me. It took me a few years, but eventually I figured out how to actually make it into a novel that didn’t sound like a Lifetime movie. Hopefully.  Continue reading

Houston writer Jennifer Staff Johnson gives first public reading

October 12, 2016, by

Jennifer Staff Johnson.689f418bce3e5f33635012ea502526aa21The Gulf Coast Journal’s Reading Series presents writers from the University of Houston’s nationally acclaimed Creative Writing Program, as well as renowned writers whose work has appeared in the magazine. This Friday, the Series presents Lisa Olstein, Henk Rossouw, Corey Campbell, and Jennifer Staff Johnson at Rudyard’s Pub in Montrose. Reading starts at 7 pm.

This week marks the very first public reading for Jennifer, who is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction at UH. She sat down with Inprint blogger Charlotte Wyatt to discuss her work and how Houston has shaped her writing.

CHARLOTTE: This is your first — okay, alright, second reading ever, but your first reading was Wednesday night as part of the Poetry & Prose series through UH. How did you choose what pieces to read this week? How did you prepare? Continue reading

Writing Under the Same Roof: Two Houston Writers Talk Fiction, Love, and Utopia

September 26, 2016, by

PrintAllegra Hyde and Alex McElroy met while completing their MFAs in Fiction at Arizona State University. They married upon graduating in spring 2015, and then spent the following year in Bulgaria, where Allegra completed a Fulbright Grant. This past summer, they settled in Houston, so that Alex could begin studies as a PhD candidate in Fiction at the University of Houston.

Allegra’s first book, Of This New World, recently won the 2016 John Simmons Iowa Short Fiction Award. She will be launching the book this Monday, October 3rd, at 7:00 PM at Brazos Bookstore. To mark the occasion, Allegra and Alex sat down to discuss the collection, writing as a couple, and their burgeoning love for Houston.

ALEX McELROY: What’s it like to bring out your first book in a city that’s still very new to you? Continue reading

Bon Voyage, Professor Kastely!

September 19, 2016, by

J. Kastely with studentsOn August 24th, the UH Creative Writing Program started things off for the Fall 2016 semester by allowing long time chair, J. Kastely, to quit his job.

Kastely, who suffered through what must have seemed like a million (it was only 14) years of whiny writers of the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty persuasion, was ceremonially unchained and allowed to roam free from his office, to pursue his varied philosophical interest.

The Creative Writing Program was reluctant to let Kastely go, because Professor J. Kastely was truly excellent at this job—no joke, sublimely so—and none of the subjects interviewed for this blog post could imagine a Creative Writing Program without him. And yet novelist Alexander Parsons has generously agreed to step into that role, at least until one of our bear traps proves successful.

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To get the news from poems: Why Sara Cress’s “Breaking Poems” project is worth reading closely

March 30, 2016, by

12884453_10153948657976390_1763700063_nEvery night before bed, Sara Cress writes poetry in response to the headlines she’d spent the day surrounded by in her job. She posts most of her poems to her Tumblr site, but she has also published two slim volumes of them: Breaking Poems and 2015 Yearbook.

She identifies with a migratory songbird, “a mere puff,” she writes. She grieves the attacks in Paris. She, like most of the Internet, laments the revelation that bacon is very likely carcinogenic.

Cress, who received her degree in creative writing from the University of Houston, is making two essential assumptions. One is that poetry has something to say to the news. You’re probably familiar with that William Carlos Williams phrase — if you’ve shopped at Barnes & Noble, you’ve seen it on a tote bag: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” For Cress, it seems so. There is something about poetry — its complexity, its empathy — worth taking to the news of the day. The day, that is, we live in now: a day on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, scrolling, scrolling, where authority is dictated by “pageviews” and trending topics are flimsy as fame. “Poetry is the way I’ve always responded to sadness and frustration,” writes Cress in an email. “I started writing [the breaking poems] for me. … But a few months in I started to see that I was interpreting the news in a way that perhaps made it more palatable and heightened emotions about worn topics.”

It reminds me of something that James Kastely, Director of the Creative Writing Program at UH, once wrote: ““If there is any problem it is not that there is an excess of rhetoric but rather that there is not enough.” Continue reading

Inprint awards more than $200,000 in prizes and fellowships to creative writing students in Houston

March 2, 2016, by

Who will be the James Baldwin, Jane Austen, Somerset Maugham, or J. D. Salinger of this generation? For Inprint, supporting the next generation of great writers is crucial to helping us fulfill our mission of inspiring readers and writers.

Inprint is proud to be awarding $201,500 in direct support during the 2015-2016 academic year to some of the nation’s top emerging creative writers in Houston. The money is awarded as prizes and fellowships to University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP) graduate students and a prize for an undergraduate at Rice University.

This year marks Inprint’s highest single-year amount of support for these creative writing students. Since 1983, Inprint has provided more than $3 million dollars in direct support to more than 500 students. Recipients of these fellowships and prizes are changing the face of contemporary literature and have gone on to publish books, win literary awards, serve as educators, and enrich the cultural life of Houston and other communities nationwide. The collaboration between Inprint and the UH Creative Writing Program—a community-based literary arts nonprofit and a university-based creative writing program—is unique in the country, benefiting both the writers and the Houston community. Continue reading