Blue Sun, Yellow Sky: An Interview with Jamie Jo Hoang

June 29, 2015, by

Jamie Jo HoangWe are always thrilled when former students of Inprint Writers Workshops write us with the news that they’ve finished a book that they started in one of our classes. Jamie Jo Hoang is one such young writer, and her self-published book Blue Sun, Yellow Sky, is about an artist who develops a condition which will rapidly lead to blindness, and her journey to accept her condition. The book is available locally at Brazos Bookstore. Inprint asked Jamie Jo to tell us more about herself and her writing.

Inprint: Please tell us how you got your start in creative writing.

Jamie Jo Hoang (JH): For most of my life I have been a listener. I listened to the stories my grandmother told while she chewed tobacco on the front stoop of our small apartment building in Orange County. I listened to the stories my parents told of their escape during the Vietnam War. And I heard the stories of others come to life in books I found at the local library when I was kid. Then during my freshman year of college at UCLA, I applied for admission to the School of Film and Television, and it was there that I really learned the craft of creative writing.  I continued taking writing classes after college and Blue Sun, Yellow Sky began in an Inprint class taught by Aja Gabel. That Inprint class is also where I met two of my best friends (a.k.a. my creative writing soundboards) Shawn and Ellen. Continue reading

Houstonians celebrate Shakespeare, the long and short of it

June 23, 2015, by

IMG_4691On a sunny, breezy Friday, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers gathered at Brazos Bookstore to celebrate its partnership with the Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSP). This summer, the bookstore is hosting a series of Bard-tastic events, including dramatic performances of Shakespeare’s sonnets and soliloquys, and two informal book club gatherings that offer a sneak peek into HSF’s repertory productions of Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.

The first event, all about sonnets, was emceed by Jim Johnson, HSF executive director and UH professor of voice and dialects, who presented a theatrical dish fit for the gods. Throughout the evening, he also explicated interesting tidbits for the audience’s edification.

Readers included Suzelle Palacios, a BFA alumna from UH, who’s heading to the Old Globe MFA program this fall; Kat Cortes, a current MFA student at UH, who’s teaching with the HSF conservatory, an intensive two-week program for high school students; Liz Wright, Brazos bookseller, who participated in Wellesley College’s Shakespeare Society for four years; and Carolyn Johnson, Houston-based actor and director, as well as Jim Johnson’s wife, their partnership proving that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

The evening kicked off with the classic sonnet 18, which asks the age-old writerly question: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? This selection was followed by early sonnets 1 (From fairest creatures we desire increase / that thereby beauty’s rose might never die) and sonnet 2 (When forty winters shall besiege thy brow / And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field). Johnson explained that these “fair youth” sonnets expound on the theme of procreation and illustrate that the course of true love never did run smooth. Continue reading

On the road with Inprint

June 19, 2015, by

BEA logoLike physicians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and fans of anime, those in the literary world have their own conventions—that is, annual conference where those in the field share new ideas. (Here, I do not mean “convention” as in a distinct protocol of behavior, although that argument can, of course, be made….).

AWP is the bad boy of literary conventions, where thousands upon thousands of creative writers descend upon a hip city, ostensibly to attend professional development panels and hawk their books. In reality, carousing, quaffing, cavorting, capering, and kvelling are top priorities on the itinerary.

BEA (BookExpo America) is AWP’s sophisticated, practical cousin. From a creative writer’s perspective, this conference has a 401K and knowledge about fine wines. It’s less about hysterical events in a writer’s life that result in a book, and more about packaging and marketing that book once it’s written—the business and politics of publishing.

As a creative writer entrenched in the former convention, I spoke with Rich Levy, Inprint’s Executive Director, about his recent travels to BEA in New York, to see how the other half (of the book world) lives.

Erika: Why does Inprint visit BEA?

BEA gives us the opportunity to connect personally with publicists at major publishing houses.

Rich: BookExpo America is the publishing industry’s national trade show, which primarily serves independent book sellers, always held in May. Although we are somewhat fish out of water there, BEA gives us the opportunity to connect personally with publicists at major publishing houses. We meet with them (1) to tell them about the Inprint Margarett Root Continue reading

Houston novelist brings coal-mining to life in Whisper Hollow

June 10, 2015, by

Chris Cander - by Caroline Leech“I’ve loved to write my whole life,” says Houston author Chris Cander, whose novel Whisper Hollow was published this spring by Other Press to critical acclaim. “It’s always been a passion for me.”

A former fire-fighter, Chris was also a competitive bodybuilder and model before she brought her literary calling to the fore. Now, however, she knows she made the right choice.

“I can legitimately say that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing and I passionately love the way I get to spend my days. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that, I know, but now I really am doing my favorite thing.”

The publication of Whisper Hollow did not, however, happen overnight.

“It took a very long time to get this story to this point. I wrote it, and then I rewrote it, I think, four times from beginning to end. It’s four hundred pages long, and there are at least that many other pages that will never be read because they were rewritten and filed away somewhere.” Continue reading

Gwendolyn Zepeda’s Monsters, Zombies and Addicts

June 5, 2015, by


To be honest, before I started reading Gwendolyn Zepeda’s new collection, Monsters, Zombies and Addicts (Arte Público Press, 84 pages, 2015), released near the end of her two-year tenure as the first Houston Poet Laureate, I worried that the poems would be boosterish. Part of the gig, I knew, is to represent the city. Would every poem mention a bayou? Would she have been contractually obliged to champion the merits of the Downtown Living Initiative? Thankfully, the collection doesn’t show the strain of feeling that burden of representation. There are alligator gar. And freeways — and bayous. But you don’t learn much about Houston. Instead, you learn a lot about the kind of person, the kind of poet, that the city wanted to choose to represent it: sometimes chatty, sometimes vulgar, sometimes sentimental, and always funny, smart, honest, and tough.

You learn a lot about the kind of person, the kind of poet, that the city wanted to choose to represent it: sometimes chatty, sometimes vulgar, sometimes sentimental, and always funny, smart, honest, and tough.

Zepeda is best at homing in on the strange pleasure or pleasant strangeness in her everyday life. These poems are anecdotal, observational. Often, they begin the way the story a friend wants to tell you would:

“A woman who worked in our building killed herself this morning.”

And: “You say I flirt too much.”

And: “The other day I was working on a story.” Continue reading

Poet Kenan Ince featured at First Friday on June 5th

June 2, 2015, by

Kenan InceFor more than fifteen years, Inprint has been proud to serve as host to First Friday. First Friday is the oldest poetry reading series in Houston, held on the first Friday of every month since 1975. The series is coordinated by Robert Clark and features a wide range of local and regional poets. Each evening begins at 8:30 pm with a reading by the featured poet, followed by an open mike. Clark and many involved in First Friday also help organize the annual Houston Poetry Fest, which takes place every October at the University of Houston Downtown.

On June 5, First Friday will feature Kenan Ince, a Houston writer to be reckoned with. A Dallas native, Kenan is currently a PhD student in Math at Rice University. Well-known in local writing circles, Kenan has given many readings around the city, was a juror at Houston Poetry Fest, and has been published in Word Riot, The Hartskill Review, and HeART Online.

Inprint blogger Sara Balabanlilar says she has encountered Kenan’s work in two very different Houston venues—the now defunct East Side Social Center (a beloved punk and DIY venue with the curated remains of Sedition Books’ collection) and Rice Gallery, in a night of poetry that responded to the current gallery installation. Both readings left an impression on Sara: “The audiences of the two spaces were entirely different, but Kenan handled both with ease.  During both readings, Kenan drew listeners into a series of beautifully imagined thought experiments that rendered them silent. His poetry is activist, certainly, but also with an amount of nostalgia that offsets a sense of political cliche. His metaphors are beautiful, extended forays into experiences that are entirely different from our daily Houston lives.”  Continue reading