Creative Writing, Editing, Presentations, Public Appearances

NAR Bicentennial Conference

Are you attending the North American Review’s Bicentennial Conference in Cedar Falls?

If so, check out the Ice Cube Press table at the book fair. Also, come see a publishing panel featuring me, fellow Prairie Gold editor Lance Sacknoff, and Ice Cube Press founder/CEO Steve Semken.

Saturday, June 13

J-3 Breaking into Publishing:
How to Transform a Manuscript into a First Publication
4:15-5:30, Bartlett Hall 0034

Schedule of sessions

Conference details

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Editing, Presentations, Public Appearances

Local Wonders Event

AMES

Sunday, May 3, 2015, at 5:00 pm
Design on Main, 203 Main Street

This weekend is the 2015 Local Wonders Community Potluck sponsored by AgArts. Last year, the attendees voted for two winners of the 2014 Local Wonders Grant, one of which was Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland. On Sunday, PG editor Lance Sacknoff will present on all the awesome things the AgArts grant helped us do. Find more details here.

Local Wonders

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We wrapped up Prairie Gold‘s Midwestern book tour at the biggest literary conference in North America. (NBD.) Here are some photos from our epic reading at Subtext Books, featuring work by Lindsay Tigue, Matthew Fogarty, Sandy Marchetti, Nancy Cook, Sarah Turner, Stephanie Schultz, John Linstrom, Michelle Menting, and Molly Rideout.

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Also, since I’m always the one taking the photos, I’m never in them. But Sandy caught a shot of me listening attentively:

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And here are a few photos from the book fair, including our author signing–all three editors united again!

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Public Appearances, Readings

AWP 2015

Gallery
Public Appearances, Readings

Fun in the Twin Cities: AWP Events

Are you attending AWP 2015 in Minneapolis?

Please stop by the Ice Cube Press booth at the book fair,  Exhibit Space 119. Also, consider checking out the following featured events.

Wednesday, April 8

AWP Festival of Language 2015
Brit’s Pub Vault, 1110 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis

The seventh annual celebration of language and literary arts will feature established and emerging writers in three sets of rapid-fire readings with over 60 participants reading for a maximum of five minutes each.

The festival starts at 4:00 and ends at 11:00. I’ll be reading in the 8:30-10:30 set.

Event details

My Festival Writer publications

ThursdayPG

Prairie Gold Contributor Signings
Ice Cube Press Exhibit Space 119

Two Prairie Gold contributors, Matthew Fogarty and Sarah Turner, will sign books at the Ice Cube Press booth, Exhibit Space 119.

Catch Fogarty from 12:00-1:30 and Turner from 4:30-6:00.

Prairie Gold Reading and Celebration of Midwestern Writing
Subtext Books, 165 Western Ave N, St. Paul

Readings from contributors to Prairie Gold, a collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry that delves into the nuances of Midwestern identity. The event starts at 6:30 and ends at 9:00. Here’s the line-up:

  1. Lindsay Tigue (poetry)
  2. Matthew Fogarty (fiction)
  3. Sandy Marchetti (poetry)
  4. John Linstrom (nonfiction)
  5. Nancy Cook (poetry)
  6. Stephanie Schultz (poetry)
  7. Sarah Turner (nonfiction)
  8. Michelle Menting (poetry)
  9. Molly Rideout (fiction)

(H/T to John Linstrom for finding links to everyone’s author pages.)

Friday

Prairie Gold Editor Signings
Flyway: Journal of Writing & Environment Exhibit Space 1314

All three Prairie Gold contributors, Lance M. Sacknoff, Xavier Cavazos, and I, Stefanie Brook Trout, will sign books from 10:00-11:00 a.m. at the Flyway/Iowa State MFA program table, Exhibit Space 1314.

More about Prairie Gold.

More about ISU’s MFA program in Creative Writing & Environment

Fracture Poster *

Also, Taylor Brorby and I will be spreading the word throughout the conference:

We are still taking submissions for Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. The deadline for submissions is June 1.

Read our submission guidelines and our call for visual art.

Download a larger version of our flier.

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Book Reviews, Musings, Public Appearances, Readings

Happy Aldo Leopold Week!

ALWThere are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot.

Though Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac was written in and about Wisconsin, Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa, and that’s where his love of nature first began to emerge. Last fall, the State of Iowa proclaimed the first full week of March as Aldo Leopold Week, a time to celebrate and pay tribute to Leopold’s legacy as a leader in conservation.

As a writer, I also see Aldo Leopold Week as a time to celebrate and reflect on nature writing, a genre that influences my own writing deeply. I don’t define myself primarily as a nature writer because the term is limited, and I don’t build fences between what I do and don’t do, but my experiences writing about nature were certainly what inspired me to pursue writing seriously and remains a passion of mine.

(Those interested in beginning nature writing should check out this excellent resource: “Henry Thoreau as a Model for Nature Writing” by Ron Harton.)

Great Reads

I wanted to take this opportunity to call out some amazing nature writing texts. There are hundreds of books shelved under the category of “Nature Writing” on Goodreads, and there are a lot that I haven’t read. I’m not including any books on this list that I haven’t read in their entirety, and while I’m ashamed to admit it, there are some really important books that I’ve only read in excerpts.

It’s worth acknowledging that this list is more than 75% white men. For a long time, the genre was largely dominated by white men, but there are now plenty of excellent nature writing texts by women and people of color. I just haven’t read them all yet, and a lot of the ones to which I’ve been exposed, I haven’t had the chance to enjoy in their entirety yet. Don’t worry. It is a priority of mine. Many are sitting on my bookshelf right now, just waiting for their turn.

Therefore, please don’t see this list as my nature writing canon–far from it. I can only recommend that which I know, and unfortunately, my formal literary education focused primarily on white men, and I’m still in the process of making up for lost time. Check out that Goodreads shelf I mentioned, and you’ll see a more diverse array of nature writing texts.

One more thing worth noting is that I don’t actually use the category of “nature writing” to organize my own books on Goodreads. It’s too hard for me to define. I use the much broader “environment.” I didn’t want to overthink what is or isn’t nature writing for this blog post, so the following list is based on the Goodreads hive mind. If people are shelving it under “nature writing,” then I counted it. If they aren’t, then I didn’t. I expect controversy.

Without further ado, here are just a few great nature writing books besides A Sand County Almanac with Other Essays on Conservation from Round River by Aldo Leopold. They appear in alphabetical order, not in any order of preference.

  1. Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  2. The Lives of Rocks by Rick Bass
  3. A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
  4. Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon
  5. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
  6. The Snows of Kilimanjaro and Other Stories by Ernest Hemingway
  7. A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid
  8. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  9. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
  10. The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
  11. The Singing Wilderness by Sigurd F. Olson
  12. The Wilding by Benjamin Percy
  13. The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan
  14. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan
  15. Living Downstream: A Scientist’s Personal Investigation of Cancer and the Environment by Sandra Steingraber
  16. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
  17. Words from the Land: Encounters with Natural History by Stephen Trimble (editor)
  18. Biophilia by Edward O. Wilson
  19. The Diversity of Life by Edward O. Wilson
  20. The Future of Life by Edward O. Wilson

Lots of omissions here, I know, and probably plenty of books that would be better classified elsewhere. The point is not to for me to establish the nature writing canon but to spark discussion, so discuss!

What are your favorite nature writing books? What are the most offensive omissions (which may be either because I haven’t read a critical nature writing text yet or because the Goodreads community hasn’t yet shelved the work as “nature writing”)? What doesn’t belong on this list? Often we think of nature writing as nonfiction, yet a few fiction texts made the list–but no poetry. Does nature writing have to be nonfiction? Within nonfiction, do research (rather than observation) based texts count? Does any of this even matter? 

Ames Reads Leopold

ARLThough this is the first annual Aldo Leopold Week, communities nationwide have been celebrating Aldo Leopold Weekend on the first weekend of March since 2004. And Saturday, March 7, will be the eighth annual Ames Reads Leopold event.

I had the pleasure of reading “Axe-in-Hand” at last year’s Ames Reads Leopold, and this year, I am thrilled to be reading “January Thaw.”

The event is free and open to the public. You can expect readings from Leopold’s work, a screening of the Emmy award winning documentary Green Fire, and an overall good time. It’s also a great opportunity to check out the newly renovated Ames Public Library if you haven’t had the chance to do that yet. Check out this news release for more information.

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Public Appearances, Readings

Readings in Cedar Falls and Iowa City: January 29-30

IMG_0026Cedar Falls

Thursday, January 29, 2015, at 7:00 pm
Hearst Center for the Arts, 304 W Seerley Boulevard

Fellow Prairie Gold editor Lance M. Sacknoff and I will be traveling up to Cedar Falls on Thursday to discuss writing and publishing with the Craft of Fiction students at University of Northern Iowa.

That evening, we will read as part of the Final Thursday Reading Series at the Hearst Center for the Arts, followed by a Q&A and book signing.

For more details, visit the Hearst Center’s website or download their Winter 2015 brochure [PDF].

B8FktEnCMAInnGkIowa City

Friday, January 30, 2015, at 5:00 pm
Englert Theatre, 221 E Washington Street

Fellow Fracture editor Taylor Brorby and I will be joining other artists for Beyond the Anthropocene, an exhibit and opening reception exploring “the illusory boundary between what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘man-made.'” Showcasing the work of three photographers, one musician, and five writers, the exhibit is part of the University of Iowa’s Obermann Humanities Symposium, “Energy Cultures in the Age of the Anthropocene,” March 5-7, 2015.

More details on our January reading here.

Info about the March symposium here.

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Book Reviews, Musings

Great Reads 2014

Inspired by the lovely blog Pints And Cupcakes, I wanted to look back at the books I read in 2014 and call out a few of my favorites. P&C‘s Chloe Clark listed her top 15, but I’m just going to pick five because I don’t think I read nearly as many books as she did in 2014.

To be clear, the idea is to list the top books that I read in 2014. Only a few of them were actually published in 2014.

  1. TTTCThe Things They Carried – Tim O’Brien. (Here’s my short Goodreads review.) I know what you’re thinking. “This is the first time you’re reading this?” The answer is yes, and it shames me to say as much. First published in 1990, TTTC is one of the finest works of fiction I’ve ever encountered. If you haven’t read it yet, stop reading my words right now and get on it. I promise this post will still be here when you get back.
  2. CTTAHYOPColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Haruki Murakami. (Here’s my short Goodreads review.) I love Murakami, and I try to read at least one of his books each year, though I’ll have to read more than that if I’m ever going to keep pace with his new work while getting caught up on some of his older stuff. I’ve encountered several negative reviews of CTTAHYOP (published in 2014), but they were mostly from people who are either just starting to read Murakami or else have tried him before and didn’t like it but maybe wanted to so were trying him again. So I strongly recommend it to Murakami fans, but I realize it’s not for everyone.
  3. HTBAWHow to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran. (Here’s my short Goodreads review.) I’d been wanting to read this one since I first heard Caitlin Moran on NPR in 2012. I actually surprised myself when HTBAW ended up the only nonfiction book that rose to the Top Five. I’m working on a novel for my thesis, so I guess I’ve been in fiction mode lately. But let’s not let that diminish how much I enjoyed reading Moran’s 2011 memoir. I read some great nonfiction books this year, but I devoured this one.
  4. PushcartThe Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses 2014 Edition – Edited by Bill Henderson. (Here’s my short Goodreads review, where I rank my favorite pieces in each genre.) The quality of the nonfiction alone got this book on my Top Five list. Don’t get me wrong: there’s plenty of good fiction and poetry here too. But the nonfiction seemed of another class entirely. It inspired me to step my own essay-writing game up considerably.
  5. PGPrairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland – Edited by Lance M. Sacknoff, Xavier Cavazos, and me, Stefanie Brook Trout. So I know it’s tacky to list your own book – I’d say it’s an unwritten rule, but I’m sure it is in fact written somewhere – and yet I’m going to do it anyway because as hard as I worked on this thing, I can’t take credit for the quality of writing our contributors brought to the table. I’ve read this book more times than I’ve read any other text, and it never fails to fill me with joy, pride, and excitement. (More about Prairie Gold on the publisher’s website.)

Several wonderful books almost made the Top Five, but these were the ones that made me feel the most.

I’m looking forward to doing this again next year, maybe even with a longer list, though for the first time in several years I won’t be setting an annual goal.

Tangent about Annual Reading Goals

I love Goodreads – absolutely adore it – and I’ve participated in their annual reading challenge since 2011. It’s a fun way to hold myself accountable for spending as much time reading as I both should and want to without making it feel like work. It’s always so much easier to find a new show to binge watch on Netflix, but you have to rein that in somehow.

Inevitably, at the end of the year, I was always scrambling to get my hands on shorter reads – novellas, poetry collections, graphic novels, chapbooks, you get the idea – or else finishing books I’ve partially read for some reason or another in order to meet my goal, which is fine because that stuff is good to read too, but this past year I really didn’t want to do that again. I just didn’t feel like it, and I’m a strong believer in doing what you feel like when it comes to reading.

I wonder if there isn’t another way to do a reading challenge that goes beyond books. I love books – I really can’t overstate that enough. But this year, I’ve been trying to read more literary journals, magazines, news, blogs, etc., and I’ve also been doing a lot of editing – reading other people’s work over and over again (and I guess reading my own work over and over again as well) – and this type of reading matters too, even though I can’t log it into my Goodreads.

My older sister, who is a middle school teacher and uses this strategy with her students, suggested (several years ago, in fact, when I first mentioned my impulse to read shorter novels rather than undertake weighty tomes because of the impending Goodreads deadline) that I go by a page count goal instead, which is a smart and perfectly reasonable suggestion, but I don’t want to have to add tally marks to a scrap of paper every time I read something. (Is there an app for this? Or can someone please develop one? Thanks!)

Maybe I’ll set a 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge in a few months, but for now my goal for 2015 is simply to read a lot and not just books.

Speaking of Goodreads

Are you on Goodreads too? Do you want to connect on Goodreads? Add me as a friend or follow me as a fan here.

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Musings

2014 Retrospective and 2015 Resolutions

I started this website in late 2013 because Mary Swander, the Poet Laureate of Iowa, told me that “As writers, we need to be hustling everyday.” The purpose of the site is to build a fan base by publicly sharing and archiving my professional accomplishments.

I’ve never been wholly comfortable with the level of self-promotion being an artist requires, but it’s part of the territory, and in 2015, so is blogging and social media. I know I am not the only writer who feels this way – it’s something I’ve discussed with my writer friends and colleagues extensively – but I think it’s important to mention every now and then. Because I’m not posting updates about all of my failures. Rejections don’t get a blog post. Nor do the awards I didn’t get. You won’t see me tweeting about not meeting my 2014 Goodreads goal or winning NaNoWriMo.

So as I celebrate some awesome things that have happened over the past year, it isn’t to brag or, worse, #humblebrag but to remind myself and others that, despite the setbacks that are perhaps more readily apparent in the day-to-day, 2014 was actually a pretty rocking year.

With out further ado, here are a bunch of things I’m looking back and feeling good about, a few things I want to work on, and a few things I’m just really excited about. I wish everyone a very happy 2015!

14 Awesome Things that Happened in 2014*

  1. I met Bill Bryson.
  2. As the nonfiction editor for Flyway, I published some amazing environmental writing.
  3. I went to my first AWP and presented on two panels.
  4. I did three public readings of my nonfiction work.
  5. My essay “The Drawing” was picked up by Cardinal Sins and received an honorable mention in their “translation”-themed nonfiction contest.
  6. My poem “White Squirrel” won a campus prize for National Poetry Month.
  7. I received a Teaching Excellence Award for my undergraduate English instruction.
  8. Lance and Xav brought me on as an editor of Prairie Gold, which was published in July. There were several readings, including one I did as part of a radio interview with Lance and the Voice of Fairfield. We did a Goodreads giveaway and just got a great review in the Wapsi.
  9. After my one-year term at Flyway was up, I started interning at Ice Cube Press.
  10. I started a new job as the communications assistant for the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, where I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of news writing, produce short films, and design publications.
  11. I had three short pieces picked up by Festival Writer.
  12. My Prairie Gold essay “Letters After Achilles” was excerpted on the Winged: New Writing on Bees blog.
  13. Ice Cube Press nominated “Letters After Achilles” for a Pushcart.
  14. I became a reviewer for the Review Review and had my first review published.

*More details about each of these highlights can be found in past News & Events posts or on either the Bio or Publications, Etc. pages.

4 Resolutions for 2015

  1. Read more.
  2. Write more.
  3. Polish and submit more.
  4. Hustle more, which includes actually posting on this blog (and more non-me content, like the mini-interview I did earlier this year) as well as sharing updates on my Twitter and Tumblr accounts on a semi-regular basis.

4 Things I’m Also Looking Forward To

  1. Lance and I are going to be speaking at the University of Northern Iowa and then reading as part of the Hearst Center’s Final Thursday Reading Series. (Details in the Public Events section of this publication.)
  2. AWP 2015! I’ll be helping out at the Ice Cube Press table, where several authors – including Prairie Gold contributors – will be doing book signings. And I’ll be joining Lance and Xav for a Prairie Gold editors book signing at the Flyway table.
  3. Reviewing submissions with Taylor Brorby for our Ice Cube Press anthology, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America. (Submissions currently open! Guidelines here.)
  4. Finishing my novel and my MFA in Creative Writing and Environment. After that, I don’t know where I’ll go or what I’ll be doing, but I’m excited to find out.
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Book Reviews, In the Media

“Anthology Delivers Fine Offerings”: A Review of Prairie Gold in the Wapsipinicon Almanac

IMG_0015 2This volume was no doubt a massive undertaking, and the effort has paid off. It will interest anyone who sees who they are as a product of where they are, and will especially appeal to those who sometimes feel that, in the words of Bakopolous, it is “almost too beautiful to bear that rolling countryside without a notebook and pen in hand.”

Pick up a copy of the latest Wapsipinicon Almanac (No. 21) to read more of what Tad Boehmer had to say in his review of Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland.

Also in that issue, check out Robert Leonard’s essay, “Iowa: ‘Land of Enchantment’ – A Literary Manifesto,” in which he discusses Iowa’s cultural narratives and how Ice Cube Press “has done more than any in the past couple of decades in publishing books about Iowa, many of them by Iowans.”

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Nonfiction, Public Appearances, Readings

Reading in Ames

Thursday, December 11, 2014, at 7:00 pm
Design on Main, 203 Main Street, Ames, Iowa

Bid a fond farewell to fall semester and celebrate our community of writers at Iowa State with the final Emerging Writers Series event of 2014, hosted by Adam Wright. I will be reading nonfiction about my experiences teaching before coming to ISU. Camille Luera-De-Meyers will read poetry, and Audrey McCombs with special guest Michelle Donahue will read fiction.

Bring a cup of something warm, check out the new artwork in the gallery and settle in for a cozy winter evening of storytelling. Free and open to the public.

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Nonfiction

Excerpts from “Letters After Achilles”

Winged: New Writing on Bees was kind enough to reprint some excerpts from my Prairie Gold nonfiction piece, “Letters After Achilles,” on their blog.

Winged: New Writing on Bees

I.

May 2, 2013

Dear Bees,

I feel I must apologize. I’m new to this apian life, and I regret not thinking of you first when Achilles came to Iowa. The cold air settled on my exposed back this morning, and I awoke from the chill. Snow shrouded the world outside my window, colonizing the tree branches like arctic lichen. Today, the snow didn’t fall simply down. It fell east and west, north and south. It blew up, buoyed by the wind.

Yesterday they warned us this storm was coming. They, who attempt to prophesy these kinds of events. They, who termed this record-breaking storm Achilles. I wonder how deeply they who selected the name understood its history. I wonder if they knew the word’s etymological origin—akhos laos, “the grief of the people.” I wonder if the name made them think of Homer or Brad Pitt. And I wonder if…

View original post 2,924 more words

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Creative Writing, Editing, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry

Fracture: A Forthcoming Anthology on Fracking

I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am working with Taylor Brorby on a new Ice Cube Press anthology, Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America.

Taylor and I are currently seeking new writing that considers the implications of fracking. Submissions are open until June 1, 2015.

Guidelines on the publisher’s website.

You can follow Fracture on Facebook and Twitter.

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