An Open Book – The Inprint Blog a place for literary conversation Fri, 23 Feb 2018 17:31:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Inprint Writers Workshops: offering more and doing more for the community Thu, 22 Feb 2018 23:59:01 +0000 Continue reading ]]> “We love meeting the wonderful aspiring writers from all walks of life who come to Inprint,” says Inprint Executive Director Rich Levy. “Some of them have been writing for a while and others are just taking a workshop as a hobby, supplementing an already busy work and family schedule. The thing that they all have in common is a desire to tell a story, whether through fiction, poetry, or personal essay. Learning how to shape one’s thoughts in writing is hard but also an exciting process, you learn so much about yourself, the world, and your place in it.”

Over the past few years, Inprint has experienced an upsurge in demand for writers workshops. Meeting this demand has been a high priority for the organization.

“These workshops have been helping Houstonians enhance their creative writing skills since 1991,” says Marilyn Jones, Inprint Associate Director who manages the Inprint Writers Workshops. “We work hard to maintain an intimate and supportive environment in each workshop, so most workshops are limited to 12 people. We also want to offer high quality workshops, so instructors are rotated regularly to avoid burn out, and all participants are asked to fill out evaluations at the end of the sessions to ensure we are meeting participants’ interests.”

“I came away with concrete strategies and advice for improving my own writing.  Plus, the instructor was just sort of awesome, very in command of the class, discussion, etc., but also with really interesting ideas.”

Workshops continue to receive positive evaluations. Recent participants have said: “This was for me such a positive experience. I can only say thank you.” “I’ve taken a lot of writing classes, and this instructor really impressed me.” “I came away with concrete strategies and advice for improving my own writing.  Plus, the instructor was just sort of awesome, very in command of the class, discussion, etc., but also with really interesting ideas.”

And Inprint workshop alumni continue to publish their work, gain admission to MFA programs, and in general succeed at telling their stories. Ann Weisgarber, author of two celebrated historical novels, sold the film rights to her first novel, The Personal History of Rachel Dupree, to actress/director Viola Davis – a novel that had its origin in Inprint fiction workshops. Mark Dostert developed his acclaimed memoir of working in Chicago juvenile justice facilities, Up in Here: Jailing Kids on Chicago’s Other Side, in Inprint personal essay workshops.

With small classes, great instructors, and positive evaluations, workshops often filled up in minutes. To meet demand, for the first time in many years, Inprint is offering a fourth session. In addition to summer, fall, and winter workshop sessions, a spring session will offer a combination of 8-week workshops and weekend intensives starting in March.

Another way Inprint is helping to meet demand is to offer priority registration to those who signed up for a waiting list during the previous session. For example, individuals who tried to enroll in a workshop in fall 2017 but found it full were given the opportunity to register in advance for the winter 2018 workshops. “It’s a fair and straightforward way to ensure we’re able to serve as many people as possible through our programming,” says Levy.

Over the years, Inprint has also increased the number of workshops per session, added more weekend intensives, and explored alternate venues. These efforts are working. Workshops now see a steady enrollment, and anyone interested in a workshop can likely get in, if not the first time, then the second.

“One of the things we are truly grateful for,” says Levy “is that when people enroll in our writers workshops, they indirectly help to make possible everything we do. You can focus on your own writing while helping someone else.”

Unique among other writing workshops locally, Inprint Writers Workshops also make it possible for the organization to offer similar caliber workshops, tuition-free, to senior citizens, school teachers, healthcare workers, veterans, the incarcerated, and the homeless. “One of the things we are truly grateful for,” says Levy “is that when people enroll in our writers workshops, they indirectly help to make possible everything we do. You can focus on your own writing while helping someone else.”

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Celebrating Houston’s Favorite Poems Thu, 18 Jan 2018 19:56:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]> All of us have favorites, a song, a color, a book, a restaurant. But what about poems? Which poems have stayed with you over the years, which poems do you come back to and read and reread? Which poems make you think, move you to tears, or make you feel alive?

Former Houston Poet Laureate Robin Davidson took on these questions and the power that poetry can play in our lives when she initiated Houston’s Favorite Poems, now an anthology. Tonight, Thursday, January 18, 6 pm at the Julia Ideson Building, Houstonians will come together to celebrate the launch for the anthology. Click here for more information and join the celebration.

Earlier this week we caught up with Robin to talk about the project and the process of putting the anthology.

INPRINT: What inspired this project?

ROBIN DAVIDSON: Robert Pinsky first came to Houston in the early eighties to stand in for then poetry editor of The New Yorker magazine, Howard Moss, who was teaching a poetry workshop in the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program. I was a graduate student in that class. When Mr. Moss became ill, Pinsky stepped in as our teacher, and one assignment that was life-changing for me was the personal favorite poem anthology he asked each of us to develop. We were to choose at least ten of our favorite poems and write them out, feeling the line breaks in our hands as we wrote or typed and allowing the poems to become our own for a moment. The poems could come from any poet, language, or century, including from among our classmates’ work—what a thrilling exercise it was! I’ve kept my anthology to this day, adding to it over time, and have, for many years, asked my own students to keep such an anthology that includes a preface discussing why each poem is meaningful to them. The results are always lovely—moving and beautiful—and the poem choices are often surprising.

I’ve kept my anthology to this day, adding to it over time, and have, for many years, asked my own students to keep such an anthology that includes a preface discussing why each poem is meaningful to them. The results are always lovely

The community project I proposed as part of my application for the role of city poet laureate was a city-wide anthology of favorite poems chosen by Houstonians similar to the kind I’ve kept on my own now for more than 30 years. The very spring that Mayor Annise Parker appointed me to serve as Houston’s second Poet Laureate. Fran Sanders, founder and executive director of Public Poetry, had a vision for bringing the Favorite Poem Project to our city. She invited former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, founder of the national Favorite Poem Project in 1997, to Houston to launch the project. Houston’s Favorite Poems first began as a reading of beloved poems by Robert Pinsky, Mayor Parker, Dr. Rhea Lawson, Director of the Houston Public Library, and a number of other distinguished Houstonians at the Julia Ideson Building on September 9, 2015. It’s fitting that it should come to completion this week—Thursday, January 18—as a book launch and reading at the Julia Ideson.

INPRINT: What was the process of putting the book together? How many submissions were received and were all of them included into the book?

ROBIN: The project is modeled on Pinsky’s national anthology, Americans’ Favorite Poems—an initiative dedicated to celebrating, documenting, and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives ( In spring 2016, the Houston project—with the support of Mayor Sylvester Turner’s office—made a call for favorite poems to those living in Greater Houston, a nine-county metropolitan area. I invited a team of Houston poets of diverse aesthetic styles and cultural backgrounds to work as an editorial team in choosing poems for inclusion. My deep thanks go to those poets—Sara Cooper, Billie Duncan, Rich Levy, Guadalupe Méndez Medina, Jasminne Méndez, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton (Houston’s third Poet Laureate), Martha Serpas, Melissa Studdard, and Chris Wise. We received approximately 400 poems in response to that call, and each poem entry was reviewed by the poet team who carefully considered submissions. We selected approximately 200 poems to be included and then began the onerous process of determining which of the accepted poems were in the public domain and which we would need to secure permissions for. Only about 60 of those poems accepted were in the public domain and available for inclusion at no cost. The remaining 130-140 poems waited in limbo for some time until rights to the poems could be acquired, licensing agreements signed, and permissions fees paid. Regrettably, we were not able to afford all poems we’d hoped to print. There were several poems that Houstonians chose that I had so hoped to include, but the fees were too costly for the project. We have been able to include 185 poems in the volume just published by Calypso Editions, a nonprofit independent literary press housed at the University of Houston-Downtown.

My deep thanks go to those poets—Sara Cooper, Billie Duncan, Rich Levy, Guadalupe Méndez Medina, Jasminne Méndez, Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton (Houston’s third Poet Laureate), Martha Serpas, Melissa Studdard, and Chris Wise.

Of the more than 200 Houstonians whose favorite poems appear in Houston’s Favorite Poems, as you might expect, many are teachers, students, writers, editors, and librarians. However, what we discovered in our review of submissions was that poems are also deeply meaningful in the lives of many Houstonians not trained or employed in the literary arts. You’ll find favorite poems submitted by those in occupations as diverse as an engineer, a cattle rancher, a wood worker, or clergy, CPAs, electricians, scientists, many in various health professions, as well as musicians, visual artists, and arts administrators. These contributors, ranging in age from 18 to 87, live throughout Greater Houston, and represent more than 100 zip codes.

You’ll find favorite poems submitted by those in occupations as diverse as an engineer, a cattle rancher, a wood worker, or clergy, CPAs, electricians, scientists, many in various health professions, as well as musicians, visual artists, and arts administrators.

The anthology includes 120 poets from across the globe whose work appears in alphabetical order by poet surname. Many poets from the United States are represented, ranging in ethnic background from such African American poets as Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, Nikky Finney, Langston Hughes, and A. Van Jordan to Asian American poets Amanda Huynh and Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan, Mexican American poet Juan Felipe Herrera, Native American poet Joy Harjo, and Sudanese American poet Safia Elhillo. But Houstonians have also been moved by poems from other national and cultural origins, many of which were composed in languages other than English and appear here in English translation—Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Greece, El Salvador, England, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Palestine, ancient Persia, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Scotland, Somalia, and Wales.

We have chosen to include two special sections in this volume. The first celebrates the work of Houston youth studying in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program and appears in the book’s center, with some poems rendered graphically by University of Houston-Downtown graphic design students. We are grateful to Robin Reagler, Jack McBride, and all at WITS for the opportunity to publish poems by Houston youth—including those by Houston’s two Youth Poet Laureates, Andrew White and Fareena Arefeen. The second of these sections concludes the book as a memorial tribute to Houston poet, Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan (1969-2016), who was a member of the selection committee nominating me as Poet Laureate for Mayor Parker’s consideration and who was also an early participant in the poet team designing the anthology. Claire’s husband, Dr. Rajesh Ramakrishnan, stepped in on her behalf in the crafting of the book, and I am enormously grateful to Raj for his strength and dedication.

It’s also important to note that this book would never have come to fruition without the generosity of hundreds of poets, translators, publishers, permissions professionals, and many Houstonians, including: Mayor Turner and his staff in the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Radu Barbuceanu and Debbie McNulty; Dr. Rhea Lawson and her Library staff, Jennifer Schwartz and Carmen Abrego; Dr. Michelle Moosally and the faculty of the Department of English at University of Houston-Downtown (and a former student of Houston poet Lorenzo Thomas and dear friend of the English Department who wishes to remain anonymous); Christine West and Houston First Corporation; and a number of my beloved students who worked on the permissions process—especially Joshua Johnson and Jon Adams. I also want to offer a shout out to Tony Bonds, a novelist and the graphic designer for Calypso Editions! This man is enormously talented, and patient beyond all belief. Another such talented, patient guy is my dear husband, Tony Davidson, whose lovely photograph of one of Jaume Plensa’s Tolerance statues appears on the book’s cover. I’m indebted to hundreds of terrific people for their collaborative collaboration and hard work, including you great people at Inprint!

INPRINT: Can you share your favorite poem with us?

ROBIN: I treasure so many poems, it’s genuinely difficult for me to identify a single favorite. I love the work of German poets Rilke and Hölderlin, and many Polish poets—Ewa Lipska, Anna Świrszczyńska, Wisława Szymborska, and my dear teacher, Adam Zagajewski who will soon be visiting you guys at Inprint! And I admire and have learned so much from the poems of Eavan Boland, Wallace Stevens, Louise Glück, Carolyn Forché—and the work of younger, newly publishing poets too—new books by Tyehimba Jess and Mai Der Vang are brilliant, mind-blowing really. But, I can say that when I’m in need of consolation, comfort, I turn most often to the poems of my former teachers—and in the days and weeks during and subsequent to Hurricane Harvey’s devastation of our city, like so many other Houstonians, I experienced the disaster as an ongoing tumult of fear, relief, hope, anger, despair, fatigue, guilt, sorrow, and sometimes just dispiritedness. The words that I sought for calm amid the chaos are those of my long-time teacher and friend, Edward Hirsch, in the closing lines of his poem “Earthly Light,” from his book Earthly Measures (Knopf, 1994)—and I chose to conclude the introduction I wrote for Houston’s Favorite Poems with those lines:

“Because this world, too, needs our unmixed

attention, because it is not heaven

but earth that needs us, because

it is only earth—limited, sensuous

earth that is so fleeting, so real.”

As I watched my husband rebuild our own small losses, or in the George R. Brown Convention Center shelter where I witnessed the grief, the intermittent humor and hope, of those who’d lost everything—Ed’s words, committed to memory years ago, were those I’ve repeated in my mind’s ear for solace. I hope that this amazing collection of poems held dear by so many Houstonians will serve as a testament to and celebration of the vibrant presence of poetry in our great city—and will offer its readers, as Ed’s work so often offers me, the experience of poems as beloved human voices, companion spirits, at our sides when we need them, leading us into light.

I hope that this amazing collection of poems held dear by so many Houstonians will serve as a testament to and celebration of the vibrant presence of poetry in our great city—and will offer its readers, as Ed’s work so often offers me, the experience of poems as beloved human voices, companion spirits, at our sides when we need them, leading us into light.

A big thanks to Robin Davidson for taking the time to chat with us about the project. For more information about tonight’s celebration click here.

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Flash Fiction expert shares tips about the genre with Houston writers Tue, 02 Jan 2018 22:59:23 +0000 Continue reading ]]> This January Inprint continues offering a section in Flash Fiction as part of its popular Inprint Writers Workshops offerings, taught by Inprint Fellow (and PhD candidate at the University of Houston) Kaj Tanaka.

Kaj is extensively published, and a number of his pieces are examples of what is often called “flash fiction,” though you may also see (very) short fiction called “nano,” “quick,” “micro,” or hilariously, “sudden.” Flash fiction is generally shorter than 2,000 words, though there are specific forms. For instance, Hemingway made the six-word story famous with “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.” Some writers now compose on twitter (“twitfic”) in the 140-character length, and there are dedicated online magazines to variations of the flash form – see Flash Fiction Online and 100 Word Story, among others, or even the Flash Friday features on the Tin House site.

The form is far from new. The Hemingway piece is famous, but so are stories from writers like Robert Coover, Amy Hempel, George Saunders, and almost any piece from Joy Williams’ most recent release, Ninety-nine Stories of God.

There are a number of advantages to writing flash fiction, not least of which is the basic rule-of-thumb in placing new work – the less space it requires, the easier it (generally) is to find your work a home. Also, since the pieces are shorter, Kaj’s flash fiction workshop will focus in part on helping writers generate new work.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Kaj to get his perspective on the form and his upcoming workshop.

CHARLOTTE WYATT: What do you love about Flash Fiction? What made you decide to teach it?

KAJ TANAKA: Flash fiction is the Wild West right now. It’s an open frontier. It’s a genre that’s so young, no one knows the rules yet. We are all making it up as we go along. This means that writers from all backgrounds and styles can try their hand at flash and leave a mark. When I write flash fiction, I only have two rules for myself: 1) amaze your reader with every sentence and 2) keep it short.

Teaching flash fiction is amazing because writers tend to show their true colors when they write flash. There’s no room for anything but the essential, and I think a writer’s flash fiction says a lot about who they are and what they value most, both in subject and style.

CHARLOTTE: What are some examples of Flash Fiction you are excited about, or authors you would recommend to readers?

KAJ: I don’t know if reading one or two writers can provide a full sense of the genre—it’s simply too diverse. I wouldn’t even say there are “essential” or “celebrity” flash fiction writers yet–though a few are emerging. This is just another thing to love about the genre. The doors are open, and there’s no established hierarchy.

I’d say, if you’re trying to learn what flash fiction is all about, check out the most recent Best Small Fictions Anthology and Wigleaf’s annual Top 50 Best (very) Short Fictions list. That’s where all the best flash fiction writers eventually end up.

CHARLOTTE: What do you foresee doing in your first workshop meeting?

KAJ: I want to make sure all of us (myself included) write and share a flash story during the first workshop. I prefer to get to know my students through their writing—plus, I don’t think there’s anything more liberating than writing a complete story in a few minutes. I want to make sure everyone gets a chance to experience that feeling.

Writing new material is going to be a priority because I want to make sure my students leave the class with a large quantity of work and an idea of where they can send it for publication.


A few spaces are still open in the eight-week Winter 2018 Inprint Writers Workshop in Flash Fiction taught by Kaj Tanaka and beginning on Wednesday, January 17. Learn more here!

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Upcoming Texas conference helps boost the careers of freelance writers Tue, 12 Dec 2017 17:27:14 +0000 Continue reading ]]> When someone asks you what you do for a living and you tell them you are a writer, you are often likely to receive confused and questioning responses. But what do you really do? Yes, but where do you work? How do you make money from that?

Writers are actually employed across various industries and are often at the heart of many successful businesses. Freelance writers can have thriving, lucrative, and satisfying careers. The American Society of Journalist and Authors (ASJA), which formed a Texas chapter last year, helps with this effort. ASJA’s mission is to be the voice and career resource for independent, entrepreneurial, professional nonfiction writers. Since 1948, ASJA has been giving freelance writers the confidence and connections to prosper.

On February 3, 2018, ASJA will have a day-long conference in Austin “Write In The Heart of Texas,” a day full of panels and workshops for emerging and established nonfiction writers. We caught up with Deborah Lynn Blumberg (@dlblumberg), co-president of the Texas ASJA chapter and co-chair of the Austin conference, and asked her a few questions about day. Debbie is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, the Houston Business Journal and Newsday. She works with corporate clients like JPMorgan Chase, the YMCA and Keller Williams on their content. She’s also working on her first novel.

INPRINT: Who do you recommend should attend this conference, do you have to be an ASJA member?

DEBBIE: Anyone working as a professional nonfiction writer – or anyone interested in working as one – should attend. We’ll have writers with many years of experience, those new to the profession, and local students. There will be sessions that are interesting and useful to people at all stages of their career. Everyone’s welcome, and you don’t have to be an ASJA member to attend.

INPRINT: What can people expect to gain from the conference?

DEBBIE: We have an exciting day planned! We’ll open with a session on Mindfulness for Writers, which will set a great tone for the day. We have panels on a wide variety of topics, including self-editing, handling tough conversations with clients, enhancing your brand, and breaking into content marketing. For ASJA members (you can apply to join here) we’ll have a Client Connections session with top editors from across the state. It’s like speed dating sessions with editors looking to add fresh freelance talent to their team. Attendees will also be able to network with each other over lunch, and we’ll have a cocktail reception for everyone at the end of the day. It wouldn’t be unusual to leave the event with a great new contact, a new skill or possibly even a paid assignment.

It wouldn’t be unusual to leave the event with a great new contact, a new skill or possibly even a paid assignment.

INPRINT: How do you think this Texas conference will be different from others around the country?

DEBBIE: The conference is modeled after other ASJA events. We have a big, national conference in New York City every year, and regional ones across the country. This is ASJA’s debut Texas conference. It takes what’s great from the national conference and adds a Texas spin. Many of our speakers are bringing an expertise in healthcare and technology, two of Texas’ strengths. We’ll also have editors from top Texas publications and companies speaking on panels and attending Client Connections.

INPRINT: How have conferences similar to this helped your career as a freelance writer?

DEBBIE: I attend ASJA’s New York conference every year; it’s a priority. Writers conferences offer so many benefits. Most freelance writers work at home (and sometimes in our pajamas!) in isolation. Being around other writers doing the same thing you’re doing is both educational and inspiring. I’ve made great friendships at conferences, picked up new skills, learned how to set and negotiate rates, and gotten paid assignments. I always leave a conference like this one feeling energized and excited about what I do, eager to get back to work and to do what I do better.

Being around other writers doing the same thing you’re doing is both educational and inspiring. I’ve made great friendships at conferences, picked up new skills, learned how to set and negotiate rates, and gotten paid assignments.

INPRINT: What made you and your ASJA co-chair start a Texas chapter?

DEBBIE: We both recently moved to Texas, and noticed that while there have been ASJA members in the state for years, there was no official chapter. I grew up in Houston, spent a bunch of years up east and moved back a year ago. Starting the Texas chapter has helped me to meet some amazing local writers!

For more information on Write In The Heart of Texas, and to register, click here.

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Inprint helps seniors write their stories Sun, 10 Dec 2017 17:19:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> “I was over the moon,” writes B. J. Fininis. “$85.00 a week to WRITE! I could hardly believe my ears. My newspaper career was to begin on April 11, 1968.”

Ms. Fininis is one of twelve senior citizens in the Inprint Senior Memoir Workshop at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston (JCC). This Sunday, December 10th, the workshop will celebrate an anthology of the work by participants in the 2015-2017 workshops, with a reading at 2:00 pm. The event will take place at the Inprint House on 1520 Main Street, and is free and open to the public. It’s a great chance to hear from the rich, diverse histories of these amazing writers.

For more than twenty years, Inprint has offered free workshops in the art of memoir to senior citizens around the city of Houston. Very few arts programs and intellectually stimulating activities of this kind exist for the senior population so these workshops fill an important niche. Writing is not only a great way to preserve the rich detail of the past, but can be key to understanding ourselves and each other.

Participants enroll through community centers, and meet on a weekly basis from September to May. Each workshop is led by an accomplished writer—generally, students or alumni of the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program—and culminates in a celebration of the participants’ work. The JCC workshops have been led by Henk Rossouw for the last three years

The event on December 10th will offer readings from a vast range of experiences, including travel narratives, pivotal life decisions, and more. While there’s plenty of wisdom to be had, there’s also lots of humor. Rossouw writes in the anthology’s introduction, “Simply put, we care about each other. The class sustains us, both in moments of sadness and, as is often the case, ribald humor on the page. I have never laughed so much. Indeed, I have been lucky to have this opportunity to work with such committed writers.”

“Simply put, we care about each other. The class sustains us, both in moments of sadness and, as is often the case, ribald humor on the page. I have never laughed so much. Indeed, I have been lucky to have this opportunity to work with such committed writers.”

Here below is a hilarious excerpt from a piece called “Houston Golden Girls,” from workshop participant, Caryl Singer, that covers her social life in the new millennium:

Prior to joining the Golden Girls, friends suggested that I try computer dating, but hearing the results from some of my friends that went on various dating sites, I decided to not be a part of that scene and here are a few reasons why: one friend had an interesting date via the internet.

Her newfound male “friend” told her he lived in a gated community, but that he was not at liberty to meet up with her at the present time. She soon found out that his gated community was the local jail.  Another sent her via the computer, a photo of himself. In the photo he appeared tall, well built, and with a full head of hair. After several internet talks, they decided to meet at the local Starbucks. My friend dressed appropriately and waited patiently for her newfound “friend” to arrive, hoping perhaps for a love connection. After a ten-minute wait, in walks this baldheaded man, with an extended round stomach, who appeared much shorter than his photo, but with a big smile on his face, as he extended his hand to greet her. Another internet “friend” told my friend that he worked in transportation. She later found out he was a UPS driver. After hearing these stories, I was certain that these internet dating sites were not for me.

The Inprint Senior Memoir Workshops are generously underwritten by Bobbi & Vic Samuels and Robin Angly & Miles Smith.To learn more click here.

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Glass Mountain – Houston’s Hidden Secret for Emerging Writers Mon, 04 Dec 2017 20:53:20 +0000 Continue reading ]]> small IMG_1629Readers and writers have plenty to take advantage of in Houston: diverse reading series, a slew of writing workshops, and amazing independent bookstores. One of the best hidden secrets for emerging writers in the Houston area is Glass Mountain magazine. The magazine comes out of the University of Houston, which also houses the nationally renowned University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP).

Besides publishing new work, Glass Mountain offers community to new writers with a reading series. The next reading comes up this Tuesday, December 5th, 7:00 pm at Brasil in Montrose – but if you can’t attend there’s still plenty to take advantage of!

Inprint Fellow and UH CWP student Josie Mitchell serves as graduate advisor to Glass Mountain. She told me more about the magazine’s Boldface Conference, designed specially for people who do not hold and are not pursuing an advanced degree in Creative Writing. The conference’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction workshops are led by Inprint Fellows in the UH CWP. “We also have craft talks, readings, and panels throughout the week,” Josie says. “And food. The food is great!”

I caught up with Josie and the University of Houston undergraduates who serve as Editor (Kim Coy) and Co-Managing Editors (Anthony Álvares and Amanda Ortiz) to learn about Glass Mountain

small DSC_0257 (1)CHARLOTTE WYATT: What made you decide to join the magazine’s staff?

JOSIE MITCHELL: I had an early opportunity in my MFA degree to teach a creative writing class for undergraduates. The best part of that experience, hands down, was working with UH students. In fact, many of those students are involved in Glass Mountain now, including Kim Coy, the magazine’s editor.

AMANDA ORTIZ: I became involved after I was granted the Nelson Scholarship to attend the Boldface Conference in 2016. I was really interested in the opportunity to read the poetry of other writers with potentially similar writing experience, because I also consider myself to be an “emerging voice.”

CHARLOTTE: How do you reconcile your separate roles as writers and editors?

ANTHONY ÁLVARES: I’m a private person and it’s hard for me to share my writing with other people. As an editor, I feel that I am able to encourage not only writers, but anyone with an idea, to share their thoughts comfortably.

KIM COY: Just because I’m an editor for a literary magazine, that doesn’t automatically elevate my writing or sense of taste over the folks submitting to us. I try to remember that the same way I’m voting yes or no on an author’s writing, other editors are making those same decisions about my writing.

CHARLOTTE: How do you choose readers for your reading series?

KIM: Generally, we look for one graduate student and one undergraduate student from UH, and one community writer. For issue launches, we ask local artists who were published in the forthcoming volume to read their piece or talk about their art to give those attending a peek into their process.

AMANDA: I know I’m usually trying to book readers who will be fun and engaging for the kind of crowd we tend to pull in when we host at Bohemeo’s.

JOSIE: I gotta say, these last few readings have been so much fun. Our last reading was on Game 6 of the World Series, which Bohemeo’s played inside. We had more people at our reading outside than there were watching the World Series inside. I mean, come on!

CHARLOTTE: What should writers know before they submit their work to you?

ANTHONY: This year we are all super excited about Shards, our online magazine. We are planning on launching a new issue every two months. […] I would like to see more contemporary reviews, as well as interviews and essays.

KIM: When reading prose, I look for strong language, whether it’s diction that helps establish character or unusual similes and metaphors. I also like to be surprised, but less in an O. Henry way and more in a Flannery O’Connor way!

CHARLOTTE: What should folks know about the launch tomorrow?

ANTHONY: When you see our magazine at the launch this Tuesday, you’re going to see a totally new format. I love the look of our latest issue, but folks should know that while our exterior is constantly evolving, what’s inside continues to be awesome work from some of the best emerging writers we can find.

JOSIE: There will be pizza! And the fiction winner of the Robertson Prize from the Boldface writing competition, Victoria Hodge Lightman, will be reading her winning submission.

Hope to see you there!

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“I read and I smoke.” — Laura Bush, Texas Book Festival Founder Tue, 21 Nov 2017 19:10:24 +0000 Continue reading ]]> TBF1Before she was the 43rd FLOTUS, Laura Bush was a young Texas librarian with a tobacco habit and a smart mouth. And so it follows that in 1995, when she was First Lady of Texas, she founded the Texas Book Festival. The free, weekend-long event once took place entirely in the Texas Capitol, but in years hence it’s spilled out on to Congress Avenue and nearby church sanctuaries and ballrooms—venues which pass for public spaces around these parts. This year students from the UHCWP, Inprint fellows all, served as volunteers at the festival and readers at the evening Lit Crawl, while taking in two days’ worth of panel discussions by authors from across the literary spectrum.

TBF4A few highlights of the 2017 Texas Book Festival, which took place earlier this month:

  • Pachinko author Min Jin Lee describing her writing routine: she reads a chapter of the Bible every day before she starts work, a practice of Willa Cather’s that she adopted for her own. Lee on scripture: “There’s no better way to understand symbol and story.”
  • The American Short Fiction Ex Libris game at the Lit Crawl, where Manuel Gonzales, Min Jin Lee, Mary Millier, Lindsay Hunter, and Deb Olin Unferth vied to see who could most convincingly fabricate plausible first lines for classic novels.
  • Jiyoon Lee performing her poem “All Out With Bang Bang” to a full house at Stay Gold, a collage death drive love poem elegy featuring The Hollow Men” by TS Eliot, “Pour le CGT” by Rod Smith, and Kanye West referencing “Strange Fruit,”  a poem by Abel Meeropol, which was also sang by by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, and lastly, “paper plane” by M.I.A. Lee and UH poet Cait Weiss Orcutt shared a bill with poets Matthew Zapruder and Eileen Myles.
  • Deb Olin Unferth discussing the creative writing program she runs for inmates at the John B. Connolly Unit maximum security prison for men in Kenedy, TX. (Read more here)
  • The Writers’ League of Texas Obsessed with Texas panel, where Houston native Amy Gentry, author of the recent Houston-set novel Good as Gone, made the observation that “everything in Texas is in Houston in some way shape or form—you just don’t know where it’s going to be because there’s no zoning.”

TBF6The festival is free, and it’s always a great time. If you go, consider these tips:  

  • Try Manuel’s on Congress for dinner. The food and cocktails are reliable, and you can almost always get a table. Austin food culture seems to deem queueing for food for hours to be a socially acceptable activity. Houston-ians need to have places of refugee planned out in advance to avoid this fate.
  • Attend  session in the State Capitol’s House Chamber, where the best-known authors are interviewed. You can sit at a state legislator’s leather recliner while you listen to Walter Isaacson, Tom Hanks, or Lemony Snicket. Imagine what office you might run for to help save American democracy.
  • Buy your books before you attend the panel; sometimes they’re sold out afterwards. And do buy books if you can: proceeds from the book festival benefit Texas public libraries. This year they were also doing a book drive to restore collections damaged in Hurricane Harvey.
  • Bring a lunch. Once you get down on the ground floor of the underground capitol extension, where they stash most of the panels on contemporary fiction, it won’t be worth hiking back down to the food tents for a taco.
  • Even if you’re focused on fiction or poetry, don’t neglect the nonfiction panels. This year I loved learning about the segregation of high school football in midcentury Texas from Michael Hurd, who presented his new book, Thursday Night Lights.


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Houston writers come together at Writespace’s Writers’ Family Reunion Thu, 09 Nov 2017 22:00:13 +0000 Continue reading ]]> WritersFamilyReunionlogoWe know that Houston is home to many writers. Writespace offers members of Houston’s diverse writing community to gather annually at the Writers’ Family Reunion. This year’s Reunion comes up this Saturday, November 11, 9 am – 5 pm at Writespace in Silver Street Studios at 2000 Edwards, southeast of the Heights. We are one of the co-sponsors, along with Houstonia Magazine, ArtHouston Magazine, Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA), Houston Writers House, Public Poetry, Houston Writers Guild, Writers’ League of Texas, Grackle and Grackle. Use the code PAPERPOWER to save $20 on admission. Click here for more information. 

We had the chance to catch up with Writespace founder and director Elizabeth White-Olsen this week to ask her more about the Writers’ Family Reunion and what attendees can expect on Saturday.

INPRINT: How did the Writers Family Reunion first get started, whose idea was it, is it based on a model conducted in another city?

ELIZABETH WHITE-OLSEN: Writing can be a lonely occupation, but when writers feel embraced and supported by community, this can catapult our sense of confidence and success. At Writespace, we seek to offer a place where writers can easily come write, hone their craft, and develop new skills, while feeling celebrated and accepted. Our upcoming literary arts festival, the Writers’ Family Reunion, is designed to strengthen the local writing community by giving writers a sense of homecoming and an understanding that all writers, regardless of the genres we write in, are like a family. The event schedule includes panels and presentations, first page feedback sessions, and Q&As with professional writers. This is Writespace’s second year to host the event. Many of our ideas are borrowed from other literary arts centers around the country.  As Writespace’s director, I regularly receive guidance from the founders of literary arts centers in other big cities, such as Denver’s Lighthouse Writers and Boston’s Grub Street. Many of our workshops and the way that we do things—such as reliance partially on staff and partially on volunteers and budgeting at a 65% earned income and 35% contributed income split–has come directly from the literary arts center model. Even specific events, such as Writespace’s Saturday 600s Write-Ins, come directly from other nonprofit literary arts centers—with permission.

But the Writers’ Family Reunion is sui generis. The idea came to me in spring 2016, following the great success of Writespace’s first large literary festival, Writefest. Writefest was a challenge to pull off. In six months, Writespace went from hosting events with about 20 people to hosting events that served almost 200. Writefest was a blast, though, and afterwards, we were all a little high on the bliss of having done so much good for writers. We longed to do something as wonderful again.

INPRINT: How will this year’s Reunion be different from the first one Writespace conducted?

ELIZABETH: The main question we heard repeated at Writefest was, “How can I find a critique group?” Our answer was to use Google. But later it occurred to me that, while it was great that Writefest has a national focus—meaning that we bring in editors from across the United States and connect them with emerging writers in Houston—I realized that we really could do a better job of connecting local writers with local writers. We claim to be grassroots, so what more could we do to nourish local connections?

I’d heard that during its amazing summer conference in Austin, the Writers’ League of Texas had offered the chance for writers of different genres to separate out from the larger group and meet-and-greet, I felt like we needed something similar in Houston and that we needed to add some fun to help get writers past their innate shyness. Thus, the idea of “critique group speed dating” was born. This year we are offering a new-and-improved version of last year’s attempt, and it involves a sixty-foot map of Houston taped to the floor. Writers will be asked to stand on their neighborhood, and their first “speed dates” will be with people who live close by. We’re using a bullhorn and a ridiculously loud bell to get people to transition through five different phases so that writers will be able to make as many new writing buddies as possible in order to better support their writing development after the event.

In accordance with our mission of serving locally, we wanted to support local literary arts organizations and share the event with them in some way. We are excited to have Inprint and other wonderful literary arts organizations and publications supporting the event as co-sponsors, and we look forward to connecting attendees with the many fantastic local opportunities for writers being offered by like-minded organizations in our city.

INPRINT: Can you share some Writespace and Writers’ Family Reunio success stories with us?

ELIZABETH: When I think back to where I was three years ago, having just founded Writespace, I can see that we—because it soon was not just “I,” but “we,” an ever-expanding group of volunteers with a shared mission—have grown so much so quickly.

There is an art to serving others’ needs. For instance, with one person—a spouse or a child—we develop the ability to listen, to know what is needed, and to stretch to serve the need. As the director of Writespace, I am trying to serve many people, some of whom I may never meet. I am trying to pay attention to hundreds of different conversations, both in depth and in passing, and to pick up on what it is that the thousands of new and experienced writers in Houston need. As I grow in the capacity to listen and serve, I grow as a person, which is to say that I grow in my capacity to love both the writers I meet and those I don’t get to meet. Nonprofit administration—literary or otherwise—always involves cultivating an appreciation for a certain invisibility, a total contentment to be behind the scenes, fulfilling one’s commitment to love and give, regardless of whether the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes is ever seen. There’s a joy in the silence of helping people who do not know you and in feeling the immensity of your reach.

I write every week, and I will always write, because I love it, but I am just as richly filled by building a groundwork for other writers to succeed, both now and, I hope, many decades from now. My art has morphed from a solely literary endeavor to the art of orchestrating harmonies amongst people—writers, specifically. These harmonies are designed to lead writers to succeed, and we have seen many successes thus far. It’s fulfilling to see how many writers have been catalyzed by our efforts, how many previously unpublished writers have been published by magazines, journals, and anthologies. Earlier this year an attendee at Writefest was even nominated for a Pushcart based on a piece she read at an open mic; an attending editor in the audience heard the piece and asked her to submit. Native talent was at play, of course, but I love that Writespace helped to provide a place for a harmony between people to lead to good things.

We hope that similar magic is kindled at the Writers’ Family Reunion.

INPRINT: How many people are registered so far?

ELIZABETH: We predict that we will have just over a hundred attendees, which is down from last year, largely due to Hurricane Harvey.

INPRINT: We know that the date of the Reunion had to be changed because of Harvey and recovery efforts. How has this impacted the event?

ELIZABETH: The impact of Harvey has been tremendous, but it hasn’t stopped us from moving forward. It took many hours to notify all the writers who would have been attending on September 5th that we were rescheduling, rearrange the panels according to who could still come, and update our site, social media, and local and national calendars with the new dates. We had to refund many participants who were planning to come or who had been affected by Harvey. The refunds posed a challenge, because a new event that hasn’t been in existence long will always operate from a small budget.

But as a Houstonian who has been displaced by Hurricane Harvey, I will have a special message to share at the event with others who have lost their homes or who are dealing with significant damage from Harvey. Home is the place where you belong, but belonging is larger than this. You can also belong to your work, you can belong to your mission, you can belong to your people. And, as writers with a shared mission to make the world more livable and human through the act of writing, we hope that you realize a sense of belonging at the Writers’ Family Reunion, because all of us in the room understand, respect, and love your mission.

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Naked Ladies and the Kool-Aid Man: The Poison Pen Reading Series Tue, 24 Oct 2017 21:30:37 +0000 Continue reading ]]> PP Octo 2017

When I first moved to Houston from northern California, the city surprised me in so many ways. It’s easier to be a vegetarian here than it was there, and y’all got great bourbon lists at your restaurants and bars! Especially at Poison Girl, host to one of the best reading series in town. This was my favorite surprise: Houston’s vital, thriving, and progressive literary scene.

But not everyone knows about the award-winning Poison Pen series, which runs the last Thursday of every month. This month’s reading takes place on Thursday, October 26th, and will feature Roger Reeves, Onyinye Ihezukwu, and Zachary Caballero.

In an effort to introduce the larger Houston community to Poison Pen, I sent some questions to the series’ current organizers, all of whom are writers themselves, as well as past or present Inprint Fellows: Giuseppe Taurino, Analicia Sotelo, and Erika Jo Brown. These folks vet authors and schedule line-ups to bring new, exciting work to Houstonians.

Poisen Pen groupCHARLOTTE WYATT: What makes Poison Pen unique from other readings in town?

ANALICIA SOTELO: What I like about Poison Pen is that even if people aren’t at Poison Girl that night for anything other than whiskey or a Tinder date, they can come upon literature read by contemporary authors in a setting with writers and non-writers alike.

CHARLOTTE: How do you decide which writers to feature in the series?

ERIKA JO BROWN: We decide through a secret algorithm, taking into account genre, book-having-ness, community leadership, and phases of the moon. 

CHARLOTTE: Fair enough. What made you decide to become involved with Poison Pen? What is your role in the series?

GIUSEPPE TAURINO: I was approached by Greg Oaks, one of the original founders, as he was contemplating “retirement.” I’ve known Greg since my graduate school days at UH, and saw the series come to life and grow under his and David MacLean’s, and Scott Repass’s, and Casey Fleming’s and Jameelah Lang’s and Mat Johnson’s (am I missing anyone?) guidance. As a regular attendee (I’ve also read three times), proud UH Creative Writing Program alum, and active Houston lit community member, I’ve also admired the series and its ability to bring diverse readers and community together.

ANALICIA: I think what drew me to Poison Pen initially was its founding team – they were down-to-earth, weren’t afraid to say whatever at the mic, and were crazy encouraging of the readers. There’s this misconception that literature is something left to the care of English classes, but it’s alive and well in this city. And it’s fun to hear read aloud.

ERIKA: I was tapped by Greg Oaks and Jameelah Lang. They mistook my natural effervescence for competence. I like to think I am the beauty of the operation. That’s certainly not Giuseppe. I’m always scouting for interesting performers from the local community, and also help hook up CWP-ers.

GIUSEPPE: Erika might be the beauty of the operation, [but] I consider myself the middle-aged eye candy. 

CHARLOTTE: You are all beautiful. … What do you like best about the venue at Poison Girl?

ANALICIA: It’s classic Montrose Poison Girl, with the naked ladies on the walls, pinball machines, and the Kool-aid man out back. I like that you have to read louder and try harder to be entertaining than you would in a quiet reading space. I like when people laugh at funny lines, because literature can be really funny. I like when people become still as soon as a once funny story becomes deep and real and tragic. The entire reason most of us got into this world is because we all laughed or cried or laugh-cried at something someone wrote once, right? Poison Girl is a great home for that reminder.

CHARLOTTE: Do you have a favorite reading or reader so far?

ERIKA: Hands-down, [it] has to be our most dysfunctional as well. We did a reading celebrating the original founders [and] Mat Johnson railed at the rain like King Lear in the storm. David MacLean flew down from Chicago and said he didn’t care if we all got electrocuted, he would read his fiction snippet. It was exhilarating. You kind of had to be there.

CHARLOTTE: What should folks know about the reading upcoming on the 26th?

GIUSEPPE: That the reading will be lit, as the kids say. We’re going to raise roofs, and wave hands, and try our best to keep our clothes on. 

In all seriousness, we’re featuring a renowned spoken word artist and educator, a 1st year PhD student at the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program — who comes to us, most recently, from the Stegner Program at Stanford — and, in my estimation, one of the best American poets writing today. I could go on and on about their individual accolades, but mostly, I’m excited to introduce our lit community to such an exciting range of voices. I think regulars of the series will leave this month’s reading feeling energized, nodding their heads, saying, “Damn, what a lineup,” while first timers will get a great sense of who we are as a series and what we work hard to bring to the table.

To learn more about the reading on October 26th, and the featured readers, click here.

See you there!

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Meet today’s literary stars, and tomorrow’s Fri, 13 Oct 2017 16:40:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Viet-Thanh-Nguyen

We’re thrilled to report that Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen—who will be appearing in the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series on Monday, November 13, 7:30 pm, at Rice University’s Stude Concert Hall–-was named one of this year’s 24 recipients of MacArthur Foundation “genius” fellowships.

We are happy for him and for all of you, who will have the privilege of hearing him speak on his first appearance in the Series. Don’t miss it—he will be in conversation with Houston native William Broyles, founding editor of Texas Monthly, Academy-Award nominated screenwriter, and author of Brothers in Arms, an account of his return to Vietnam to meet the men and women he fought against during the war. Inprint will join with Houston Public Media to live-stream this reading.

Inprint Dermont WardAnother of the 2017 MacArthur “genius” fellowship recipients is novelist Jesmyn Ward, who appeared in the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series in March 2013. You can watch a video here of her reading from her National Book Award-winning novel Salvage the Bones and her conversation with fellow novelists Amber Dermont and Robert Boswell, on the Inprint website in our Archive of Readings.

RM4_7705We were also delighted to learn last week that Man Booker Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro was awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. He appeared in the Series in March 2015 on book tour for his new novel The Buried Giant–-and you can watch the video of his reading and conversation with novelist Robert Cremins here, also in the Inprint Archive of Readings.

RM3_2934There’s more. Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith, who in June was named the 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States, joined us for the Series in February 2016, reading selections from her memoir Ordinary Light and her award-winning poetry collection Life on Mars, and conversing with poet Paul Otremba. You can watch her video in the Inprint Archive of Readings here.

RM3_7417In April 2015, novelist Marlon James gave a powerful reading from his new book A Brief History of Seven Killings–-and then a few months later, the book was awarded the 2015 Man Booker Prize. If you weren’t one of the lucky folks in the theater that night, you can watch his reading and conversation with novelists Cristina Henriquez and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni–-here in (you guessed it) the Inprint Archive of Readings.

That is what we love about the Inprint readings. These writers, who we work hard to bring to Houston, are not only the literary stars of today, but they are also the literary stars of tomorrow. That’s why we hope you’ll join us for the readings this season, which in addition to Nguyen, include Jennifer Egan & Claire Messud on November 6, Jhumpa Lahiri on January 29, Paul Auster on February 12, Aminatta Forna & Samanta Schweblin on March 26, and Rigoberto González & Kevin Prufer on April 23. After all, there’s something indelible about the writer’s presence, and the immediacy of the reading and interview. And if for some reason you can’t be there, or the reading is sold out, in many cases (if the writer will permit it), these great nights of literary performance and conversation are available for you to watch and listen to anytime in our online Inprint Archive of Readings.

One way or another, we hope to be your companion in literary adventure. See you at the readings, or online, in the Archive!

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