Sundress Publications announces the first two episodes of a new podcast, Shitty First Drafts. A podcast made for and by writers, the show playfully investigates the creative processes of different artists to determine how a finished draft gets its polish.
In the podcast’s first episode, Stephanie Phillips and Brynn Martin are joined by writer Jeremy Michael Reed. Currently living in Knoxville and having finished up his Ph.D. in poetry in early May, Jeremy shares that he didn’t always plan on being a writer or even to study it in school. Of the two poems he shares during the episode, one an early piece of writing from his undergraduate years and the other a more polished piece from graduate school, both touch on Jeremy’s childhood in Michigan, his family, and memory.
In the second episode of Shitty First Drafts, Samantha Edmonds joins Stephanie Phillips and Brynn Martin to talk about her process as a fiction writer. After finishing up her MFA in fiction this spring, Sam is headed to pursue her Ph.D. in the fall at the University of Missouri. While on the podcast, Sam discusses her broad range of publications from essays and short stories to Buzzfeed listicles. The pieces she shares during the episode are two versions of the same flash fiction story about a man who falls in love with the moon with such intensity that he decides he wants to pull it down from the sky.
Jeremy Michael Reed holds a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee. His poems and essays are published in Oxidant|Engine, Still: The Journal, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere, including the anthology Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing. He’s an associate editor for Sundress Publications, and he will join the faculty of Westminster College in Fulton, MO in fall 2019. You can find more of his work at jeremymichaelreed.com
Samantha Edmonds is the author of the fiction chapbook Pretty to Think So, forthcoming from Selcouth Station Press in 2019. Her fiction and nonfiction appear in such journals as The Rumpus, Mississippi Review, Black Warrior Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, LitHub, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, among others. She serves as the Fiction Editor for Doubleback Review and the Community Outreach Director for Sundress Academy for the Arts. She currently lives in Knoxville, where earned her MFA from the University of Tennessee. She’ll be starting a Ph.D. in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri in the fall. Visit her online at www.samanthaedmonds.com
As a part of Sundress Publications’ mission to lift up women in the literary community, we are looking for submissions that honor Women’s Equality Day (August 26).
Women’s Equality Day commemorates the 19th amendment, which gave women a voice in the political arena in the United States for the first time. We at Sundress feel that is important to celebrate how far we’ve come in our fight for equality and to acknowledge how far we still have to go. We’re looking for writers whose work delves into these concepts and adds its own voice to the chorus of struggles and triumphs in the fight for women’s equality.
Authors or publishers of books published in the past twelve months may submit to The Wardrobe. To do so, please forward an electronic copy of the book (PDFs preferred), author bio, photo of the cover, and a link to the publisher’s website to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Wardrobe Submission: Equality Day.” In addition, we request that one print copy be mailed to Sundress Academy for the Arts, ATTN: The Wardrobe, 195 Tobby Hollow Lane, Knoxville, TN 37931.
Submissions to The Wardrobe will remain eligible for this “Best Dressed” selection for one year. Hard copies will become a permanent part of the Sundress Academy for the Arts library and be made available for review by our editors and/or affiliate journals.
For the complete guidelines, please see the Wardrobe website HERE.
Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the winners of the VIDA fellowships for the fall residency period, Raena Shirali and Nicole Connolly. SAFTA paired with VIDA, a research-driven organization aiming to increase issues in contemporary literary culture, to offer these fellowships for two women writers in any genre. This year’s winners were chosen by guest judge Elissa Washuta.
Raena Shiraliis the author of GILT(YesYes Books, 2017), winner of the 2018 Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award. Shirali’s honors include a Pushcart Prize, the Philip Roth Residency at Bucknell University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, and poetry prizes from Boston Review , Gulf Coast, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Raised in Charleston, South Carolina, the Indian American poet earned her MFA from The Ohio State University. She currently lives in Philadelphia, where she is a coorganizer for We (Too) Are Philly, a summer poetry festival highlighting voices of color. Shirali also serves as Poetry Editor for Muzzle Magazine and is on the editorial team for Vinyl.
Nicole Connollylives and works in Orange County, CA, which she promises is mostly unlike what you see on TV. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, and her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in such journals as ANMLY, Fugue, Drunk in a Midnight Choir, and Glass: A Journal of Poetry.
Sundress Academy for the Arts Now Accepting
Fall Residency Applications for Writers Coop
The Sundress Academy for the Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is now accepting applications for short-term writers residencies during the fall residency period for our new Writers Coop during the weeks of August 27 – December 30, 2018. These residencies are designed to give writers and artists time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment.
SAFTA is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. Located less than a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city of 200,00 in the foothill of the Great Smoky Mountains, SAFTA is an ideal location for those looking for a rural get-away with access to urban amenities.
The SAFTA Writers Coop is a 10×10′ dry cabin approximately a fourth of a mile from the SAFTA farmhouse. This tiny house is furnished with a twin bed, a desk, a wood-burning stove, a deck that looks over the pasture and pond, as well as a personal detached outhouse. While the cabin has neither electricity nor running water, residents will have full access to the amenities at farmhouse as well as solitude from other residents to write in the rolling hills of East Tennessee.
Each residency costs $150/week and includes your own private dry cabin as well as 24-hour access to the farmhouse amenities.
Applications for this residency are free and rolling. The following weeks are still available: August 27 – September 2; September 3-9; September 10 – 16; September 17- 23; September 24 – 30; October 29 – November 4; December 17 – 23; December 24 – 30.
Joan Didion, Maya Angelou, Alex Haley, Stieg Larsson, Charles Dickens, Edna Buchanan, and Mark Twain (among many others) created memorable fiction largely as a result of the skills they honed as reporters. Journalists churn out hundreds of words every day (without the luxury of waiting for inspiration), write to a word count, write to deadline, learn to work with editors, and develop an eye for extraneous words, authentic dialogue, and telling details. They also tend to have pretty solid grammatical skills and a keen sense of story. Is it any wonder they often make brilliant novelists?
A reporter’s toolkit can help novelists and storytellers of all kinds write gripping first lines, create memorable characters, and imagine authentic worlds in their fiction. There are stories in the world far more important—and far more interesting—than those drawn merely from our own experience. With global tensions intensifying, it feels urgent to tell stories that reach beyond our own borders and engage us with both the broader world and other humans.
Jennifer Steil (Moderator): Why don’t we each start off by talking about how the skills we acquired as a journalist are reflected in our own fiction writing?
Jo Piazza: Speed is the first thing that comes to mind. I started out as a newspaper reporter for the New York Daily News right before the Internet completely changed newspapers forever. But even when I was on a daily deadline instead of an hourly deadline I was still crunched to churn out clean, well-crafted copy on tight deadlines.
The Internet has only made those deadlines faster. What that means is that I have never had the luxury of fretting over my words. I just had to write. I do the same thing with my fiction writing. I can get a first draft on paper fast as hell. Then, once the whole thing is written, I take the time to go back and massage it and make it beautiful. I credit my work as a reporter for never getting writer’s block. I laugh when people talk about writer’s block. Who has the time for it?
My work as a journalist has also taught me to take meticulous notes. I used to carry three or four reporters’ notebooks with me all the time to write down my interviews. Now I carry much smaller notebooks that can slip into my back pocket. I am constantly writing down descriptions of things or bits of dialogue and then stashing them away as inspiration for my fiction.
Tom Zoellner: I believe the top trait demanded of a reporter is the ability to listen. You must ask probing questions and not accept superficial explanations. You must develop the ability to understand inference – to understand what is left unsaid. The art of writing fiction is about “listening” to your characters as though they were interview subjects.
Michael Downs: What Tom said is really important – for journalists, novelists, everyone. There’s a quote from Gabriel Garcia Marquez – another journalist/novelist – that I often mention to students in which Marquez chides interviewers for relying too much on technology and recording devices and paying attention only to a person’s words. But those things, he says, don’t “hear the beating of the heart, which is the most important part of the interview.” He’s talking about empathy, and I think journalism teaches that. Journalism helped me become a person who knows how to pay attention to another person. It’s empathy, it’s listening, it’s openness to the world and experience. That was a great gift.
But as for skills, I’d say the ability to research and report have primarily helped my fiction writing. I’ve set a lot of my work in other decades – my forthcoming novel is set in the 1840s, and it’s about the early days of anesthesia. It took a lot more than Google to understand the world and the science and my characters’ lives. I had to know where to search, how to search, and why to search. Journalism taught me a lot of that.
Sophfronia Scott: At both Time and People magazines I frequently had to write short articles, like 500 words and less. Those short articles still had to be packed with information and the prose had to pop. Writing like that taught me to respect words. Every word has to pull its weight when you write short, every verb has to be on target. I’ve carried that respect into my fiction writing. My novel may be over 100,000 words but none of those words are throwaway words.
Jennifer Steil: You’ve all made really important points. Like Jo, I don’t have time to sit around waiting for inspiration. I’m very good at writing to deadline. I also carry a notebook everywhere because if I don’t write down a thought the minute I have it, it floats up into the ether. My experience scribbling interviews in my reporters’ notebooks, making sure to record the exact words, was terrific preparation for writing convincing dialogue. Reporting also brought me in contact with people I would never otherwise encounter or get to know. They made me aware of very different lives, different stories. Perhaps among the most important things I learned as a reporter was how to ask questions of the world and how to listen closely to the answers.
My journalism background is also entirely responsible for my career as a novelist. Before 2006, I had written many stories and one entire novel, but none of them felt urgent. When I moved to Yemen in the summer of 2006, I finally found a story worth telling. I became the editor-in-chief of a Yemeni newspaper, which was the hardest and most fascinating thing I had ever done. It felt urgent to tell the world the stories of my reporters, to tell the world that Yemenis are nothing like their portrayal in the media. Thus my first book ended up, to my surprise, being a memoir. After publishing a work of nonfiction, it was much easier to sell a novel. I already had an agent, an editor, and a publishing track record.
Jennifer Steil (Moderator): If you were teaching a masterclass in using journalism tools for fiction writing, what one journalism tool would you teach, and how would you do it? What have students or colleagues really responded to?
Michael Downs: I’ll return to what Tom and I alluded to above: the interview. Becoming a good interviewer requires that you as a writer learn how to move from an answer to a question, to discover in an answer a new question –and isn’t that the direction literature takes? Also, interviewing skills help at parties and receptions and the like. Strangers, it turns out, are more interesting when you ask them interesting questions.
Sophfronia Scott: I would teach the power of detail. We tend to think of description as telling what something or someone looks like—his hair was gray, the sky was blue. But I would teach to choose detail that does more, detail that tells you someone’s situation or state of mind or provides a stunning contrast. I once reported a story about a middle school age student who took a knife to school in her backpack with the intention of harming her teacher. My editor wanted me to try to find out what else was in her backpack: pink lip gloss? Math homework that had been left undone? A crumpled bus pass? She wanted to play off that contrast of a violent instrument placed among a pre-teen’s school things. Detail is so important. I would want students to open their eyes to see more than what they may be taking in now.
Jennifer Steil: Absolutely. That’s a terrific example of evocative detail, Sophfronia.
One exercise my students consistently find useful is a lede-writing exercise. While there is a lot more to writing a good book than crafting a riveting first sentence, a riveting first sentence never hurts. I talk about 13 different types of journalistic ledes, giving several examples of each type. (Many of my favorites come from Pulitzer Prize-winning Edna Buchanan, who wrote memorable ledes such as, “Bad things happen to the husbands of Widow Elkin” and, “His last meal was worth $30,000 and it killed him,” but I also include examples from novels, such as, “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet,” from Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.) After we read dozens of brilliant first sentences and learn something about what makes them work, I ask my students to interview each other and write a profile of their partner, starting with one of the lede types we discussed. They do not need to stick to the facts (fiction writing!) but can freely spin off from the material. The interview is just a starting point. Students always come up with some great stuff. Even seasoned authors have let me know they went home and rewrote the first sentence of their book after this particular lecture.
Jo Piazza: Writing on deadline. I guess it’s something I can’t emphasize enough because I keep mentioning it. Right now I’m working on a very quickie project for my publisher. It’s a 75k word novel, and I need to bang it out in about three weeks. Yeah, an entire novel in three weeks. The exercise is daunting every day. I go through the complex emotions one usually experiences writing a novel over the course of a year or two in a single 24-hour span. While you’d think this would dull my writing skills, it has actually done the opposite. It’s forcing my brain to work in different ways. I’m doing a constant sprint now instead of a marathon, and I think the exercise will serve me well on my next big book project. I think reminding people that time is a luxury is really important.
Tom Zoellner: This one is hard to pull off in the classroom except by exhortation, but what helps journalism immeasurably is the simple act of “showing up” – traveling out to see the coal mine, the hospital, the city council chamber, the family home. You are exposed to ten thousand sensory elements and organic connections – the grist of life – that you would never get from reading about it or a phone conversation. Establishing a physical presence first in the places where we seek to create literature is a journalistic habit that fiction writers would do well to imitate.
Jennifer Steil (Moderator): How do you encourage other writers to think beyond their own lives and experiences?
Jo Piazza: I tell everyone who wants to be a writer to set a writing goal every day and make sure to meet it every day for the next month. Mine is between 1,000 and 3,000 words depending on what I am working on. You’d be amazed at how many people come back to me and say they didn’t make it even three days. That’s when I remind them that writing is hard. It’s a craft. It’s a habit. It takes real work. I think from the outside writing looks really easy. Everyone thinks they can be a writer. But when it comes to putting pen to paper on a regular basis (I still say that because I write almost everything long-hand before I type it out) the reality is very different.
I tell people to talk to as many people as possible in a day, but to make sure they’re really listening. Writers are essentially thieves, stealing bits and pieces of other people’s stories and dialogue. I’ve gotten some of my best dialogue from Uber drivers around the world. It’s the listening that is key…and the writing things down. You will tell yourself you will remember something and 99 percent of the time you won’t.
Tom Zoellner: I have never bought into the idea that writers of an assigned gender, race, religion, geography, class, etc. should be confined to only writing about their “identity” (however and by whomever that is defined). Journalism is an excellent way to break those boundaries and establish some empathetic projection – paradoxically enough, through dispassionate observation – with people who live in far different circumstances. And another paradox: getting out of your neighborhood is at once an act of hubris and an act of humility.
Jennifer Steil: I’ve always told young writers that the best thing they could do for their writing is to move somewhere that makes them profoundly uncomfortable and that challenges all of their assumptions. Such a situation is bound to force people to think outside of their own small worlds, from a less nationalistic and more global point of view. It also leads to interesting adventures and relationships, all splendidly rich writing material. One exercise I like to do with students is to have them write a travel story about their home town. Where’s the best pizza place? Where is the best place to throw a birthday party? Which bars would you recommend? What is the town known for? It gives them new perspective to have to describe it to a stranger.
Sophfronia Scott: I tell my students that creativity playdates are just as important as the time they schedule for writing. In fact, their writing time could be difficult and fruitless without them. If they find they are spending much of their writing time staring wordless at the screen or blank page, they’re in need of a creativity playdate. I say if you’re looking for a story idea, ride the subway a few stops or go sit in a park and pay attention. Your next character might step on at West 66th Street, or stroll past you wearing a top hat and walking a fluffy Scottish terrier sporting blue booties on its paws. I know my writing eye is awakened every time I travel the 65 miles south to New York City and take in the energy and movement of a different environment. Suddenly my senses have new sights, sounds, and smells to process. Really the best way to get outside of yourself is to open your eyes and start looking around.
Michael Downs: Creative playdates. I love that. I hope you don’t mind, Sophfronia, if I borrow that one.
This question of moving beyond personal experience is so important, especially for younger writers. Too often they don’t have enough narrative distance from the particulars of their own experiences to be cold about them. A newspaper columnist from California once wrote in Best American Newspaper Writing how he always wrote hot and edited cold. I tell that to my students, but they still often can’t find their way to that cold phase regarding their own experiences.
So I encourage several strategies: change the setting or change the genders of the characters. Change their ages. One thing that often works is to get them to see their particular experience in terms of its abstractions (their experience involved betrayal, or failed hope, or the strange comedy of grief). Then, they imagine a situation different from their own particular experience, but one that allows them to write about those same abstractions. So rather than the profound betrayal they felt in a love affair, they write instead about a betrayal in a workplace having nothing to do with love. That way they still write about their life experience, but the particulars belong to someone else’s life.
Jennifer Steil (Moderator): Do you still work as a journalist? How does that affect and fit in with your fiction writing on a day-to-day basis?
Sophfronia Scott: I write essays and opinion pieces for publication, but I don’t work as a reporter-type journalist anymore. I focus on my own writing now but the lessons I learned from journalism are still within me and at use every day. How could they not be? I wrote many stories, under deadline, for years and years. It’s imprinted in me at this point.
Jennifer Steil: Sometimes. I like to do freelance work when I can, it brightens up my brain. Working to a tight deadline and word count focuses me. I no longer work full-time as a journalist, largely because I find that if I am writing all day long for a paper or magazine, I don’t have the energy for my own fiction work at the end of the day. I’m better off bartending.
Michael Downs: Like you, Jennifer, I find it difficult to balance the two. It’s an analogy that dates me, but I find it’s like Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders trying to toggle between baseball and football. They’re both sports, but they require such different skills and world views. In my case, journalism is about the rush, the deadline, the ability to learn enough that I can simplify what’s complicated. Fiction, though, is more like method acting. It demands that I be quiet and go deep and concentrate, to take what might seem simple and complicate it. But I love and honor both disciplines and their crafts.
Jo Piazza: I do. Up until I had my baby six months ago I was still working full-time as a journalist and writing books on the side. Now I am focusing mainly on books and baby with some freelance assignments. I typically reserve a couple of hours every day to do the fiction writing regardless of what my full-time job looks like, be it editor of a website or a magazine or being a mom like it is right now. But I follow the quota more than I follow the time limit unless I am editing, then I can edit for about eight hours straight. But when I am in creation mode once I am done with that word count I let myself be done for the day. Sometimes I am finished in a half hour and sometimes it takes five hours. My husband is very used to me saying “I have one hundred more words…I can’t do anything until I get one hundred more words.”
Tom Zoellner: I am far more a journalist – by habit, training, and a liking for paychecks – than I am a fiction writer. But I find I am drawn to write fictional characters that embody a certain reserve and clinical distance resembling that of the journalist’s prose. A refusal to participate in the depths of life in favor of observation, much like the existential ambivalence of the protagonist of Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter. This is a dilemma that we don’t much like to talk about, and one whose best expression is through fiction.
Michael Downs’s debut novel, The Strange and True Tale of Horace Wells, Surgeon Dentist, is forthcoming in May 2018 from Acre Books. His other books include The Greatest Show (Louisiana State University Press, 2012), a collection of linked stories, and House of Good Hope (University of Nebraska Press, 2007), which won the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize. His recent nonfiction has appeared in AARP: The Magazine, Baltimore Style, and River Teeth. A former newspaper reporter, he has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, and the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation. He lives in Baltimore’s Hamilton neighborhood and teaches at Towson University.
Jo Piazza is an award-winning journalist and best selling author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her novel, The Knockoff, with Lucy Sykes became an instant international bestseller and has been translated into more than seven languages. Jo received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia and has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, Marie Claire, Elle and Salon. Her latest novel, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, will be published by Simon & Shuster in July 2018. She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband, son and their giant dog.
Sophfronia Scott is author of the essay collection, Love’s Long Line, from Ohio State University Press’s Mad Creek Books and a memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World, from Paraclete Press. She was a writer and editor at Time and People before publishing her first novel, All I Need to Get By (St. Martin’s Press). Her latest novel is Unforgivable Love (William Morrow). Sophfronia teaches at Regis University’s Mile High MFA and Bay Path University’s MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Visit her website, www.Sophfronia.com.
Jennifer Steil is an award-winning author and journalist. Her novel, The Ambassador’s Wife, published by Doubleday in 2015, won the 2013 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition Best Novel award and the 2016 Phillip McMath Post Publication book award. It was shortlisted for both the Bisexual Book Award and the Lascaux Novel Award. Jennifer’s first book, The Woman Who Fell From the Sky (Broadway Books, 2010), a memoir about her tenure as editor of the Yemen Observer newspaper in Sana’a, was praised by The New York Times, Newsweek, and the Sydney Morning Herald. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune chose it as one of their best travel books of the year in 2010, and Elle magazine awarded it their Readers’ Prize. National Geographic Traveler included the book in their 2014 recommended reading list. It has been published in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Turkey, and Poland.
Her freelance work has appeared in the Saranac Review, World Policy Journal, The Week, The Washington Times, Vogue UK, Die Welt, New York Post, The Rumpus, Time, Readers’ Digest Version, Irish National Radio, France 24 (English), CBS radio, and GRN Global Reporter Network Service.
Tom Zoellner is an Associate Professor of English at Chapman University and the author of four nonfiction books, including the recently published Train as well as A Safeway in Arizona, Uranium, and The Heartless Stone. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Slate, Time, Harper’s, Men’s Health, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and many other places.
Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is excited to offer a new opportunity for donors and artists to collaborate through our new Fund-a-Fellow program. SAFTA, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, is an artists’ retreat on a 45-acre farm in Knoxville, Tennessee that offers residencies to writers, visual artists, filmmakers, composers, academics, and more. With two residency rooms and a dry cabin on site, we offer a rotating space for nationally recognized and emerging artists in multiple disciplines.
Through this new fellowship program, donors will have the opportunity to allocate their donations toward a specific artist, genre, or vision.
For example, a donor may choose to fund a residency for an artist who is part of a specific marginalized group or an artist who is producing a specific genre of work.
Your tax-deductible donation may be offered to any particular group of artists or writers you wish. Previously funded awards have offered fellowships for people of color, LGBTQIA writers, mothers, Appalachian writers, Tennessee artists, graduate students, women over 40, and more. Upon donation, we will advertise that a new fellowship has been made available and begin accepting applications from artists whose work aligns with your vision. Our staff of editors and qualified outside readers will judge applications.
Donations may come in the following amounts:
A $125 donation covers:
50% of a week-long residency, including lodging, at Firefly Farms in Knoxville, TN.
A $250 donation covers:
100% of a week-long residency, including lodging, at Firefly Farms in Knoxville, TN.
A $500 donation covers:
100% of a week-long residency, including lodging, at Firefly Farms in Knoxville, TN.
$250 stipend for travel
A $1,000 donation covers:
100% of a two-week-long residency, including lodging, at Firefly Farms in Knoxville, TN.
As a nonprofit, we rely on the money we draw in from our residency, events, and books to fund our daily operations, but due to the current state of arts funding, the only way for organizations like ours to truly grow and thrive is through the generosity of the public. Donations, community support, and philanthropic patronage help us connect with and support artists and writers. Our efforts have already attracted attention from individuals and organizations in the Knoxville community and beyond, and we hope that you would join them with your financial support.
SAFTA Presents VIDA Fellowship Winners,
Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris
Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the winners of the VIDA fellowships for the fall residency period, Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris. SAFTA paired with VIDA, a research-driven organization aiming to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing and further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture, to offer these fellowships for two women writers in any genre. The full scholarship was awarded to Hera Naguib and the fifty percent scholarship was awarded to Elina Mishuris. Idra Novey served as the judge for this year’s VIDA Fellowship.
Hera Naguib is a poet and teacher based in Lahore, Pakistan. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College through the Fulbright Scholarship Program and her M.Litt in Literature in English from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. Hera’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, World Literature Today, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Spillway, among others.
Elina Mishuris is a writer and translator living in New York. She received an MFA in fiction and translation from Columbia University in 2016, and a BA from the Gallatin School at New York University in 2011. Currently an English Editor at Morningside Translations, she was previously a teaching fellow in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia, and a Writing Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in BOMB, Guernica, The Southeast Review, Slice, and Brooklyn Magazine. In 2016, she was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize.
Applications for spring residencies at SAFTA are now open and can be found at our website.
The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an artists’ residency on a 45-acre farm in Knoxville, Tennessee, that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers, actors, filmmakers, and visual artists. All are guided by experienced, professional instructors from a variety of creative disciplines who are dedicated to cultivating the arts in East Tennessee.
Jessica Rae Bergamino is the author of The Desiring Object or Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering of Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them (Sundress Publications, 2016). She sat down to talk to our editorial intern Adam J. Gellings about process, influence, and more!
Jessica Rae Bergamino: First, thank you Adam for such a generous reading of The Desiring Object and for these thoughtful questions!
I first became interested in the Voyager mission’s emergence as contemporary mythology while listening to Ann Druyan’s discussion of the project on WNYC’s Radiolab. These antiquated robots — without enough memory to play an MP3! — are floating through space with a golden record encoded with, among other things, the brain waves of a woman falling in love. I wanted to explore what would happen if that knowing of oneself as something that can both desire and be desired was transferred on to their robot bodies. As the project evolved it became my love letter to queer femme resilience and the ways femmes constantly evolve the boundaries of desirability.
AJG: Other than poets, were there any other outside influences that were formative to the poems in this collection coming together?
JRB: Along with re-watching the original Cosmos, I read as much about the Voyager project as I could. I was lucky to have access to some amazing primary source material through a university library, including recordings of the congressional hearings on the project and maps of moons made from the Voyager observations and flybys. Two books, though, were particularly instructive: Murmurs of Earth, which explores the contents and creation of the Gold Records, and The Voyager Neptune Travel Guide, which is a weird little book prepared by NASA to orient Earthlings to the interstellar mission. It has a flip book of Voyager’s approach to Neptune! It also has incredibly detailed explanations of what each of Voyager’s scientific instruments do and how they work.
AJG: There is a playful rhythm to many of these poems as you read through them. Most notably in pieces such as ‘Ultraviolet Spectrometer” & “Triaxial Fluxgate Magnetometer,” where the reader is brought back to a single word or sound to bounce off of from each line. I wondered if you could talk a little about the construction of these poems in particular? How did you know when they were complete?
JRB: Each section of The Desiring Object is titled after a scientific instrument that composes the Voyager’s bodies and the corresponding text explores, however tangentially, the work of that instrument. I wanted to anthropomorphize Voyager Two without stripping away her scientific realities and hoped I could reverse engineer Charles Olson’s ideas about projective verse as if the typewriter were experiencing the text, not the poet. The ultraviolet spectrometer measures light, so it lent itself to the opening poem, and I loved the visual rhyme between the ultra-poetic O – invocation and exhalation, whole and hole, planet and a mouth, boundary and unending loop, etcetera, etcetera – and the binary 0.
At the same time that the list of scientific tools provided a great constraint, I knew I couldn’t commit to a linear narrative of psychological development wherein each section had a clear resolution and the next section presented an entirely new challenge — the poems needed to experience technical glitch, repetition, and failure. The triaxial fluxgate magnetometer measures magnetic fields, so I knew that had a great potential to gravitate – pardon the pun – back to an earlier section of the poem. I knew each section was done when I could no longer see the seams where the poems were knit together, but I could still feel the strain against them.
AJG: Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
JRB: I read drafts aloud to my cat. A lot
AJG: Who are your ‘go-to’ authors, or specific books that you reach for when you’re in a crunch?
JRB: It utterly depends on the type of the crunch, but Elizabeth Bishop, Brenda Hillman, Sina Queyras, Lucie Brock Broido, and Alice Notley are among the constants.
AJG: What upcoming projects do you have on the horizon?
JRB: I have been working on – dare I say completing? – a full length manuscript which imagines both Voyager One and Two as they grapple with the ethical and intimate limitations of the interstellar mission. I’m also beginning a project which explores the intersections of haunting, anxiety, and girlhood.
Jessica Rae Bergamino is the author of The Desiring Object or Voyager Two Explains to the Gathering of Stars How She Came to Glow Among Them(Sundress Publications, 2016), The Mermaid, Singing (dancing girl press, 2015), and Blue in All Things: a Ghost Story (dancing girl press, 2015). Individual poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Salt Hill, Willow Springs, The Journal, Gulf Coast, The Offing, Colorado Review, and The Cincinnati Review. She is pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Utah, where she is poetry editor for Quarterly West.
Adam J. Gellings is a poet from Columbus, Ohio. He is currently a PhD student in English at SUNY Binghamton & he received a MFA in Creative Writing from Ashland University. You can find his work in Quarter After Eight, Rust + Moth & forthcoming in Post Road Magazine.
Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is excited to announce that they are now accepting applications for short-term artists’ residencies in creative writing, visual art, film/theater, music, and more. Each residency includes a room of one’s own, access to a communal kitchen, bathroom, office, and living space, plus wireless internet.
The length of a residency can run from one to three weeks. SAFTA is currently accepting applications for our fall residency period, which runs from August 29th 2016 to January 1, 2017. The deadline for fall residency applications is June 15th, 2016.
For the fall residency period, SAFTA will be pairing with VIDA to offer two fellowships (one full fellowship and one 50% fellowship) for a week-long residency to two women writers of any genre. VIDA’s mission as a research-driven organization is to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture. Fellowships will be chosen by guest judge, Matthea Harvey. Harvey is the author of five books of poetry (most recently If the Tabloids are True What are You) and two books for children. She teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. (Please note if you are applying for one of these scholarships in the financial need section of your application.)
The SAFTA farmhouse is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. Located less than a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city of 200,000 in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, SAFTA is an ideal location for those looking for a rural get-away with access to urban amenities.
The residency bedrooms are 130 sq. ft. with queen-size platform bed, closet, dresser, and desk. There is also a communal kitchen supplied with stove, refrigerator, and microwave plus plenty of cook- and dining-ware. The office and library have two working computers—one Mac, one PC—with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud. The library contains over 700 books with a particularly large contemporary poetry section and, thanks to the Wardrobe, many recent titles by women writers. The facility also includes a full-size working 19th century full-size letterpress with type, woodworking tools, and a 1930’s drafting table.
To apply for the Sundress Academy for the Arts residency, you will need the following:
-Application form (including artist’s statement and contact information for two references)
-CV or artist’s resume (optional)
-Artist sample (see website for more details on genre specifications)
-Application fee of $25 or $15 for current students (with student email) payable online*
When gadgets and gizmos abound, it can be a bit tricky to find a good gift for someone who is always writing (or trying to). This year, get them something that’ll really let them make their mark at any price!
1.Cosmos Waterproof/All Weather Notebook– $9
These notebooks are awesome for someone always on-the-go use because of their size, and they are waterproof! No coffee or tea spills to destroy precious ideas. Pack of 5 available here.
2. Magnetic Poetry Kit–$12
Even if they already have these sprawled all over their refrigerator, magnetic poetry kits are fun for brainstorming (and holding up tiny pieces of paper). This pack and others from magneticpoetry.com are available in a variety of different sets like Cat Lovers, Charles Dickens, and Cocktail Hour. Or, take a look at this shop on Etsy for other faves like Game of Thrones, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Gilmore Girls.
3. Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens– $15
Rather than spending an entire paycheck on a fountain pen and some ink, get them a pack of disposable pens. This pack from Pilot comes with 7 bright colors. Available here.
4. Dammit Doll– $16
These fun dolls come in different designs and make a great gift for someone to toss around while trying to get stuff onto the page. Each doll is handmade and has a poem stitched onto the belly to inspire some thoughts (or swear words). Get one here.
5. DIY Bookmaking Kit- $15
This bookmaking kit is perfect for showcasing short stories, poems, business cards, photographs and more. Each kit comes with instructions, materials to make the book, and some nifty suggestions for how to showcase their work. Find it here on Etsy.
6. Write Like a Motherfucker Coffee Mug–$15
Because sometimes they need a reminder that they’re a badass. Available here.
7. Punk Rock Author Coasters Set–$18
Jam out to some Sex Pistols while Dickinson, Thoreau, Austen, and Kafka keep side tables safe in style. For each set sold, Out of Print donates a book to a community in need. Grab them here.
8. The 2016 Sundress/SAFTA Calendar–$20
Get them the 2016 Sundress/SAFTA calendar, this year featuring portraits of gender-swapped work that want to destroy the gender binary! Featuring Chris Petruccelli, Jennie Frost, Rhonda Lott, Grant Howard, Vania Smrkovski, Ben McClendon, Rose Meyers, Katie Hall, Shastina Parahoo, Emily Capettini, Adam Crandall, Emma Walcott, Jeb Herrin, and Luci Brown! Snag one here.
9. Adagio Tales and Tea Leaves Sampler Set–$19
Adagio has plenty of tea samplers for fandoms like Harry Potter, Chronicles of Narnia, even fan fiction. This particular set is for fans of Lord of the Rings. Find it here or browse the entire collection here
10. Paddywax Library Candle Collection–$15/$21
No, they don’t smell like the writers themselves, but these soy candles from Paddywax have original mixes like cardamom, absinthe, and sandalwood to give writers a whiff of something inspirational. Available online here.
11. Their Own 2×2 Square in SAFTA’s Poetry Barn–$25
Get a 2’x2′ space to have a poem/quote/prose selection of your choice (by yourself or by someone else) printed directly on the barn!
Simply supply us with the piece you’d like to appear, and we will handwrite it for all SAFTA visitors and residents to read and enjoy during our readings, events, and more! Find it here.
12. Literary Quotes Poster–$24
These gorgeous prints by Etsy artist ObviousState are great for the writer who wants something more minimalistic for their home. Buy them here.
13. “From the Library of” Stamp– $29
Help them stake their claim on their library with a custom-made stamp. Find it here.
14. iPad/Tablet Portfolio–$38
This portfolio comes with a cute typewriter print, and doubles as both sneaky storage for their tablet or iPad and a notepad to jot down ideas while reading their favorite E-book. Available on Etsy.
15. Secura Automatic Electric Milk Frother and Warmer–$37
On a tight writing schedule, they might not be able to pop out to get their favorite latte. Give them the ability to make their favorite drinks at home or in their office. Get it here.
16. Secura 1.8 Quart Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Water Kettle– $45
Alternatively, if they prefer tea, a cordless water kettle is an option. No messy cords, and this kettle has a cool-touch exterior to held avoid burns. Find it here.
17. Library Stamp Sweatshirt–$42
Remember when, not-so-long-ago, library books were stamped? This fleece sweatshirt from Out of Print will keep any writer cozy and warm while they write. Purchase of this sweatshirt also sends a book to a community in need! Snag one for them (and maybe yourself, too) here.
18. The Poet Tarot and Guidebook from Two Sylvias Press–$48
Two Sylvias Press has this awesome set of tarot cards and guidebook with beloved poets on it “to help writers explore nuances of the creative process.” Need we say more? Buy this online here.
19. Subscription to Journal of the Month– $40-$199
A subscription to their favorite journal, or even one to Journal-of-the-Month is an amazing gift for anyone. Journal-of-the-Month includes publications like The Missouri Review, Tin House, and more to give them a nice sample from a range of journals. Aside from skipping a trip to the post office, you can also choose a subscription type that suits their needs and your budget. Check out the options available for Journal of the Month subscriptions here.
20. Audible.com Subscription–$15-$250
Not everyone has as much time as they would like to sit down and read. For someone always on-the-go, an audible.com subscription is a perfect choice. For $15/month (depending on the type of subscription) they’ll get to choose from hundreds of audio books and stream their book directly onto their phone, tablet, or computer. That way, they can listen during the commute to work, while cooking dinner, or on a business trip! Find out more about audible and its subscription services here.
21. Do something with them not writing-related
Take them to the movies, treat them to a nice dinner or a massage. For most writers, the gift of relaxation is necessary yet hard to find. Knowing that they are getting time to unwind and enjoy other things in life can be one of the greatest gifts to receive.
Hunter Parsons is a recent graduate from Kalamazoo College. When she’s not writing, being a plant mom, or advocating for young women’s self esteem, Hunter is baking and glued to Turner Classic Movies.