Creative Writing, Editing, Musings

So You Wanna Be Anthologized?

My Fracture co-editor Taylor Brorby and I have a few tips for writers who would like to see their work anthologized some day soon.

Read “So You Wanna Be Anthologized” in The Review Review or on the Ice Cube Press blog.

Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America is open for submissions until June 1, 2015. Find our guidelines on the Ice Cube Press website.

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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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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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Random

Pushcart Nom

I am honored to say that Ice Cube Press has nominated my essay “Letters After Achilles” for a Pushcart Prize. I have nothing but gratitude for Steve Semken, not just for the nomination but for the opportunity to help produce Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland and for establishing a press with such a fierce commitment to Midwestern literature.

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Interviews

Mini-Interview: Two More Q’s with Tony Quick

Tony QuickLast week, Pints And Cupcakes posted a delightful interview with my good friend, fellow writer, and trusted reader Tony Quick. (Read it here. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Done? Okay, let’s proceed.)

Tony said some brilliant things in that interview, right? (Especially that part where he calls me “a remarkable writer who [he’s] convinced will become a future favorite to scores of readers when she makes her debut”–that was especially insightful, no?)

Having worked with Tony on Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment, presented on an AWP panel titled “Writing About Nature in an Unnatural World” with him, and exchanged countless pages back and forth with Mr. Quick, I figured that he would have a lot more to say about how the environment factors into his writing if I asked, and I was right!

So here’s a mini-interview for you. I call it “Two More Q’s with Tony Quick.”

1. How does sense of place factor into your writing?

Beyond its role in establishing a backdrop for the story’s setting, place plays an integral part in my fiction because it inevitably feeds into character development. With all due respect to the idea of the self-made man (or woman), much of who we become as people happens to be influenced by where we’re from. So many factors: our values and assumptions, our careers, our hobbies, how we approach challenges, and so many other aspects of our personality are impacted by our reaction against or adherence to the standards of our surroundings. 

Here’s an extreme example that almost borders the absurd but happens to illustrate the point pretty well. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and the Christopher Nolan movie Inception are both reverse-heist stories where the characters have to sneak into a fortified space and plant an object rather than steal it. Frodo, as a character raised in the leisurely shire and naïve to the nuance of Middle Earth, has an entirely different approach to his mission than Dom Cobb, a man who lives and works in a world of corporate espionage, mistrust, and various stages of unreality.

Their missions are different, of course, but they have similar end goals and the choices Frodo makes on the way to Mordor (This Gollum guy seems trustworthy) are different from those that Cobb makes during his journey into Fischer’s mind (You think I should tell my teammates my subconscious might try to kill them? Psh). That’s due in large part to how they’ve been colored by the fictional worlds they inhabit.

Another example that comes to mind is the difference between Michael Corleone from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather and Luke Skywalker of Star Wars. Both stories concern the legacy that sons inherit from their fathers. Michael Corleone initially reacts against the criminal world of violence and vendettas his father Vito inhabits but he’s a man raised in an post-WWII Italian enclave taught to put family above all else. When the call comes, he takes on his father’s role as patriarch. Luke, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a great Jedi. That original goal is supplanted when he realizes his father is the Sith lord, Darth Vader, a high-ranking member of the empire that Luke has been raised to loathe and fear.

When I craft my own characters, I do my best to contemplate how their environment might color their perceptions and influence their course of action as they move through worlds I’ve created. More often than not, those details will never be explicitly mentioned in the text but actively thinking through those particulars before and during the writing process helps impact my understanding of how my characters operate and who these people actually are.

2. You grew up in the Baltimore area, which is also the primary setting of your novel-in-progress, Scarecrow and Locust. Besides the fact that it’s where you’re from, what is it about Baltimore that inspires you to explore the city through fiction?

Urban landscapes feature prominently in my fiction because they offer so many opportunities to bring diverse people into the same arena to clash and cooperate. Cities create crucibles where characters from various cultural, ethnic, and economic backdrops can rub elbows. People who might never interact otherwise are drawn into conversations and conflicts by virtue of inhabiting the same space and that’s an exciting prospect to me.

Baltimore was really the only place Scarecrow and Locust could have taken place. The Patapsco River’s presence for various plot reasons that I won’t delve into here and the proximity to the nation’s capital provided an important reason to have a private military corporation installed there but beyond all that, Baltimore’s economic situation lends itself towards the theme I was going for in the novel.

So many areas in Baltimore appear downright post-apocalyptic and much of that has to do with neglect. Just recently, there have been reports of “food deserts” in the city where grocery stores have moved to more lucrative locations, leaving those without vehicles and the elderly without access to food. That’s not science fiction.

Scarecrow and Locust required a great deal of research and I learned a great deal about the famines in Ireland, Bengal, and Ethiopia. I was surprised most at the part government corruption, outright malice, or inaction played in worsening the impact of starvation on these populations. That’s not science fiction, either. 

I’ve always been adamant that my fiction shouldn’t serve as a makeshift soapbox but when I’m writing I do consider how the arrangement of certain elements will impact the reader. The choice to write about Baltimore is an attempt to shine a slight light on real problems that exist in our world through a speculative filter. Maybe if I’m fortunate, my readers will lend a bit more thought to the people who often end up forgotten in the margins.


 

So there you have it, folks. Aren’t you glad I asked?

Make sure to visit Tony’s website at tonyquick.com, where you can read his bio and check out all the other cool things Tony’s been up to. Also, if you were following instructions, you would have already checked out Pints And Cupcakes, but if you haven’t yet, now is the time to make it right.

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Last week, Lance and I celebrated the release of Prairie Gold with the good people of Ames. Four of our talented contributors (Michelle Donahue, Rachel Lopez, Claire Kruesel, and Meghan Brown) read their work, so many people came out that at one point we were standing room only, delicious refreshments courtesy of a 2014 AgArts Local Wonders grant were enjoyed by all, and our dedicated audience stuck around long after the event ended (9:00 on a Friday night, mind you) to discuss literature. Plus, we sold a bunch of books.

In sum, our first Prairie Gold event was a great success!

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The College of Design was wonderful enough to loan us their amazing downtown space for the night. It’s great to be fostering connections between the literary and visual arts. Here’s our event in a news release published by the College of Design: Book Release Party Marks Start of ISU Design on Main Gallery’s Fall Programming Aug. 29.

(Psst! Follow us on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss updates about the rest of the stops on our book tour. Oh, and invite your friends to follow us on Facebook too. We’re so close to 500 likes, we can already taste it. It tastes like love.)

Public Appearances

Ames Release Party

Gallery
Editing, In the Media, Nonfiction

Writers’ Voices

First of all, I want to say thank you to Monica Hadley and Caroline Kilbourn at 100.1 FM, KRUU-LP in Fairfield, Iowa, for having Lance and me on the show this past Friday. It was both of our first time on talk radio, and we had a lot of fun talking about Prairie Gold with the mother/daughter duo. Thanks also to Monica for mentioning us on her blog.

If you missed the live broadcast, which also included me reading an excerpt from my nonfiction essay “Letters After Achilles,” they’ll be re-airing it Monday (tomorrow) morning at 8:00 CST. You can listen live on their website.

If that’s just not going to work for you (because you’ll be at work, say, and you’re a responsible employee who stays on task), they’ll be archiving it on Writers’ Voices, so check back there at a later date.

I do want to take the opportunity to make a couple minor corrections to my bio, which has changed since the final draft of Prairie Gold was sent to the printers. While I very much enjoyed my two years as an undergraduate English instructor at ISU, as of May 2014 I’ve (temporarily) hung up my teaching hat and have been trying my hand in a new field: multimedia communications. As the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture‘s communications assistant, I write news releases and feature stories, manage their social media, post updates on their website, design publications like their quarterly newsletter, and other fun stuff like helping produce a video for STRIPS, a cutting edge sustainable agriculture practice.

Likewise, I am no longer the nonfiction or social media editor for Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment. In order to give all of ISU’s Creative Writing and Environment graduate students the opportunity to serve on the editorial staff, Flyway positions are one-year appointments. I want to make sure credit for all of the wonderful work Flyway is currently doing goes to the right people: Adam Wright is now the nonfiction editor, and Erin Schmiel has taken over social media.

Of course, you can always find the most up-to-date information about what I’m up to on my Bio/Home page.

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Public Appearances, Readings

Prairie Gold Events

I am pleased to announce three exciting pieces of Prairie Gold news: an upcoming radio interview, our Midwestern book tour, and a Goodreads Giveaway.

Live On the Air

Today, editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will discuss Prairie Gold on KRUU 100.1 FM, the Voice of Fairfield. Stefanie will read an excerpt from her essay “Letters After Achilles.” Listen live from 1:00-2:00 pm to catch the Writers’ Voices talk radio show.

Midwestern Book Tour

Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland is hitting the road! A 2014 Local Wonders Grant from AgArts (Iowa Chapter) is helping to support a book release party in Ames and several readings in cities throughout Iowa. See the list below for all of the event details we’ve nailed down so far. (Download a news release.)

Friday, August 29, 2014 – Book Release Party & Reading

7:00 pm – Design on Main – Ames, Iowa

  • Featuring fiction by Michelle Donahue and Rachel Lopez, nonfiction by Meghan Brown, and poetry by Claire Kruesel
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will give remarks, introduce the readers, and answer questions about the project
  • Copies of Prairie Gold will be for sale at a special Ames Release Party discount of 15% off
  • Download our Release Party Flier

Thursday, October 9, 2014 – SPECTRA Reading

8:00 pm – Rozz-Tox – Rock Island, Illinois

  • Featuring fiction by T.C. Jones and Barbara Harroun and poetry by Esteban Colon, Salvatore Marici, and Ryan Collins
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will attend and can answer questions about the project
  • Part of the Midwest Writing Center’s SPECTRA Reading Series, the event will also include readings by Lauren Haldeman, Erin Keane, and one more TBA

Thursday, October 16, 2014 – Reading

7:00 pm – Prairie Lights – Iowa City, Iowa

  • Featuring nonfiction by Will Jennings and Meghan Brown, fiction by Barbara Harroun, and poetry by Salvatore Marici
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will give remarks, introduce the readers, and answer questions about the project

Thursday, January 29, 2015 – Final Thursday Reading

7:00 pm – Hearst Center for the Arts – Cedar Falls, Iowa

  • Part of the Heart Center’s Final Thursday Reading Series
  • More details to come!

Thursday, April 9, 2015 – AWP Reception and Reading

7:00 pm – Subtext Books – St. Paul, Minnesota

  • Featuring poetry by Lindsay Tigue, Sandra Marchetti, Nancy Cook, Stephanie Schultz, and Michelle Menting; fiction by Matthew Fogarty and Molly Rideout; and nonfiction by John Linstrom and Sarah Elizabeth Turner.
  • Publisher Steve Semken and editors Lance M. Sacknoff and Stefanie Brook Trout will give remarks, introduce the readers, and answer questions about the project
  • In addition to the off-site reading, we will also have a table at AWP, so come see us at Booth #119!

We expect to add one more Iowa reading in Des Moines and a few more outside of Iowa, so follow Prairie Gold on Facebook to make sure you don’t miss any additional developments.

Goodreads Giveaway

Prairie Gold is on Goodreads, which means you can now add it to your shelf. Have you already read it? Please take a minute to rate and review the book. Don’t have a copy yet? Enter our Goodreads Giveaway contest by October 31, and you could win one of five copies!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Prairie Gold by Lance M. Sacknoff

Prairie Gold

by Lance M. Sacknoff

Giveaway ends October 31, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

 

Enter to win

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Editing, Musings

Let’s Talk Books

I grew up in Western Michigan, the youngest of three daughters. We didn’t have a lot of money for extras, but my mom could never say no if my sisters or I asked her to buy a book. “Do you need it?” she would always ask, and when we said yes, she never tried to tell us otherwise.

In the past 25-ish years since I learned to read, a lot of things have changed, but the way I feel about books—the way I need books—hasn’t. I’m not just referring to stories and the pleasures of reading but the books themselves, the physical artifacts that contain the stories and endure long after you’ve forgotten what they were about.

And though I have always had a great appreciation for libraries and used bookstores, there is something extra special about a brand new book: the unscuffed cover, the cleanness of the pages, the spine that I will try to keep uncracked for as long as possible. Inevitably, there comes a time with every good book that I realize I need to mutilate it—by folding the corner of a page, writing a note to myself, or underlining a memorable passage—and though I recognize the value of such interactions with the text, especially as a writer, I do not take the decision to first desecrate a book lightly.

Read the rest of “To Make a Book” on the Ice Cube Press blog.

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