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Alabama Book Festival in Montgomery
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AWC is are excited to announce a weekend of free workshops and book fairs supported by the Alabama Writer's Forum and various local and state grants. You can learn more about the 2018 Alabama Book Festival scheduled for April 20 and 21st at the Alabama Book Festival website.

In the meantime, apart from the incredible literary opportunities, here's why we think you should attend.

Free Workshops

ABF is offering a diverse set of FREE writing workshops on Saturday, April 21, 2018, on everything from poetry to podcasting and audio books to writing about the arts. Click here for a description of the workshops.

Register now because seats are filling up!

 

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Professional Development for Educators

For teachers of creative writing grades 6-12, the Alabama Writers' Forum is offering a complimentary workshop on Friday, April 20 at the Troy University Montgomery Campus in downtown Montgomery. This is a great professional development opportunity for educators! Click here to view the program.

Open Mic Opportunities

Our new and improved open-mic stage is now taking applications for 15-minute slots! Click here for information on how to read in our food court during the day!

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The Alabama Book Festival is located at Old Alabama Town in Montgomery, Alabama. You can use the map below to help you plot the trip.

 
Alina Stefanescu
ASPS Spring Workshop in Orange Beach
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WORKSHOP LEADER AND SPEAKER BIOS

Jacqueline Allen Trimble lives and writes in Montgomery, Alabama, where she is a Professor of English and the chairperson of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University. She holds three degrees in English: the B.A. from Huntingdon College, and the M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama.   She is the current board president of the Alabama Writers Forum, and a member of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Museum Board, serving as chairperson of the literary arts award committee for high school and college students.   She has won several teaching and writing awards, including the Exemplary Teacher Award (for junior faculty), The Todd Award for Outstanding Teaching (for senior faculty), The Julia Lightfoot Sellers Award (given by the Huntingdon College junior and senior class to the faculty member who has most inspired them to learning), and The University of Alabama’s Outstanding Dissertation of the Year Award, for Race, Gender Culture in Adrienne Kennedy’s  In One Act, an analysis of the playwright Adrienne Kennedy’s absurd dramas through the lens of feminist/womanist theory. 

Her research interests include 20th century black women writers, feminist theory, and representations of race and gender in popular culture.  She is also a poet.  Her work has appeared in The Offing, Blue Lake Review, The Louisville Review and The Griot. American Happiness, her first collection is published by NewSouth Books.  The ironically titled book examines America’s refusal to grapple with hard truths, preferring instead the pretense that everyone and everything is just fine.   Recently awarded a Key West Literary Seminar scholarship, she is currently a Cave Canem fellow and the recipient of a 2017 literary arts fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. American Happiness won the 2016 Balcones Poetry Prize and was named best book of 2016 by the new Seven Sisters Book Awards. 

Adam Vines graduated with his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He then received his MFA from the University of Florida in 2006, where he also taught and earned the Excellence in Teaching Award from the University Writing Program in 2005. He is now an assistant professor at UAB, where he teaches poetry writing workshops and earned the Core Teaching Award from the UAB English Department in 2008.  

He has published work in Kenyon ReviewSouthwest ReviewPoetry, and many others.  He was named the Tennessee Williams Scholar at the 2008 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. At UAB, he is on faculty at the annual Ada Long Creative Writers’ Workshop for high school students. Also for UAB, Adam has been the editor of Birmingham Poetry Review (BPR) since 2011. In 2012, Adam was among the featured debut poets in Poets and Writers, and was granted the Individual Artist Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts (ASCA) the following year. His collection of poetry entitled The Coal Life was nominated for The Poet’s Prize in 2014. He also published a collaborative collection of poetry with Allen Jih entitled According to Discretion. Most recently, Adam was awarded the William Alexander II & Lisa Percy Fellowship at the Rivendell Writers’ Colony in Sewanee for a residency in spring 2017. 

Adam’s current project is a collection of ekphrastic poems inspired by his love of visual art. These poems will center on the fascinating interactions between people and the art they observe at museums. Some of these have recently been published in  32 PoemsGulf Coast, and The Southwest Review, among others.

 

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You can learn more about ASPS contests, workshops, and meetings on the ASPS Facebook page

Alina Stefanescu
The Present Tense Podcast featuring Magic City Poetry Festival Poets.
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AWC member Anne Markham Bailey is the publisher of Green Bucket Press located in Irondale. She is also the creator of the Present Tense Podcast series which considers stories of authentic voice.

In the first of a two part Poet Interviews series, Green Bucket Press founder and poet Anne Markham Bailey ushers the thoughts and poems of a wide range of poets as they approach questions of why they write poems, how they came to the craft, the role of the poet in society and their relationship with language. Listen to each poet as they read a recent poem as well.

If the fancy web player below doesn't work on your computer, you can listen directly to the Poet Interview: Part 1 in your Itunes. 

Learn more about the poets featured in this podcast, including:

You can follow the Present Tense Podcast on Itunes here.

And learn more about the Magic City Poetry Festival events here. 

We are thrilled to see all the ways in which local writers make poetry and literature accessible, and grateful to Green Bucket Press for supporting the Magic City Poetry Festival. 

 

Alina Stefanescu
Alabama State Poetry Society Spring 2018 Contests

It's time for the annual ASPS Spring Contests!

Winners will be announced at Spring Conference on April 28th in Orange Beach, Alabama. 

Postmark Deadline for receiving submissions:  March 12, 2018

RULES

 

  1. Entry fees for ASPS members ~ $1 Per poem.  No limit to number of poems submitted.  More than one poem can be submitted for any contest.

  2. Entry fees for non-members ~ $5 per poem.  NO MORE THAN 5 SUBMISSIONS.

  3. The same poem may not be entered into more than one category.

  4. Poems cannot have won a monetary award in a previous ASPS contest.

  5. No prior publication. Poems cannot have been published before in online magazine/publication or a journal, book or other professional source.

  6. No limit on number of entries for ASPS members, but only one award per contest.   (Send SASE for winners’ list--#10 envelope only)

  7. Line limit for all contests is 40 lines unless otherwise specified.

 

REQUIREMENTS:

  1. Submit 2 copies of each poem on 8 ½ x 11 paper using plain type and fonts only:    
  2. On each copy, put category name and number in upper left hand corner.
  3. On one copy only, put your name, address, e-mail and “member” or “non-member” in upper right hand corner. (Address labels are acceptable.)
  4. Mail entries and fees to Jeanette Willert, 8 Seddon Point, Pell City AL 35128.
  5. QUESTIONS ?  e-mail hrwillert@gmail.com. Also see the ASPS website at alpoets.org for additional copies of this brochure and other information.    


Submissions must be postmarked by March 12th, 2018.  

 

 

CONTESTS:

1.  ALABAMA STATE POETRY SOCIETY CONTEST (ASPS Members Only): Sponsored by the Alabama State Poetry Society.
Any form and topic; no line limit.
Awards:  $75, $50, $25, $10 and 1 Honorable Mention.

2.  POET’S CHOICE (ASPS Members Only): Sponsored by Jeanette Willert    
You choose topic and form.  Line limit:  200 lines.    
Awards:  $50, $25, $15.  Honorable Mentions at Judge’s discretion.

3.  MEMORIES: Sponsored by Roger Carlisle
A poem about any significant memories or events in your own life.
Any style. Up to 42 lines or 500 words if a prose poem.
Awards $75, $50, $25 plus honorable mention.

4.  THALASSIC POEM (related to the sea): Sponsored by Jessica Temple
Any form; line limit 60
Awards: $25, $15, $10, HM at judge's discretion

5. SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT (ASPS Members Only): Sponsored by Mavis Jarrell
Poem should educate and encourage any age reader the importance of recycling or other ways to save our environment.
Any form. Maximum 60 lines.
Awards: $25, $15, $10.  Honorable Mention.    

6.  LYDIA STEFANESCU MEMORIAL CONTEST: Sponsored by Alina Stefanescu
Any form
Length limited to one page of text, whether lineated or block prose poetry.
Open to non-members of ASPS
First prize $50; Honorable mention $25

7.  SANDCASTLES: Sponsored by Myra Ward Barra
Any form; any length.
Awards:  $20, $15, $10.

8. THE DODIE WALTON HORNE MEMORIAL PRIZE: Sponsored by Jennifer Horne, Poet Laureate of Alabama
Subject: An experience of change or growth.
Any length, any form.
Awards: $50, $25, $15;  and $10 Honorable Mention.    

9. A-MUSE ME!: Sponsored by P.T.  Paul.
Choose an animal - real or imaginary - to be your muse. Then, let that animal tell us - in their own voice – how they inspire, comfort, console, and rejoice with you in your poetic endeavors!  Remember: it is your Muse who is speaking, not you!
Any form, any style, minimum 20 lines, limit one page.
Awards:: $25.00, $15.00,  $10.00.

10.  HUMOR ME!: Sponsored by Brianna and Paula Hicks Smith.
No form restrictions.  No more than 60 lines.
Topic:  Anything that brings joy or a smile.    
Awards:  $25, $15, $10.    

11. ODE TO MY PET ROCK: Sponsored by Vincent Tomeo .
Humorous, Free Verse, Line Limit:   25.
Awards:   $25, $15, $10, $5

12.  WRITERS ANONYMOUS CONTEST (ASPS Members Only): Sponsored by the Writers Anonymous group in Pell City.
Form: Villanelle. Line limit as dictated by form.   
Subject: Any.   
Awards: $50, $25, $15, $10. Honorable Mentions  at Judge’s Discretion.

13.  PRECIOUS PRODIGAL CONTEST (ASPS Members Only): Sponsored by Harry and Rita Moritz. Form: Any.  Line Limit: 50
Subject: “There’s a New Day Dawning” (literal or symbolic)
Awards: $30, $20, $15, $10, Honorable Mentionss at Judge’s discretion

14.  THE HORACE RAY (BUDDY) ROBERTS JR. MEMORIAL CONTEST: Sponsored by Harry & Rita Moritz
For Buddy, who loved words and books more than anyone else we’ve ever known.
Subject: Words and/or the People Who Read or Write Them
Form: Any. If you use a form, name the form. (No explicit erotica, profanity, or vulgarities)
Line Limit: No less than 30, no more than 80. (Blank lines do not count)
Prize: A single prize of $100.
Open to non-members of ASPS but must be present to win.

Alina Stefanescu
Woodlawn Writer's Corps: Growing Literary Community

I got the chance to chat with Elizabeth (Liz) Hughey about an incredible fundraising Read-A-Thon later this month. I am deeply grateful to her for taking the time to answer these questions and share a few photos. Here's what I learned and why Alabama should get involved or share. 


 DeShayla shares her writing at DISCO in Birmingham, Alabama. 

DeShayla shares her writing at DISCO in Birmingham, Alabama. 

ALINA: I should begin by acknowledging that DISCO originally appeared on my radar while searching for Clem Snide shows in Birmingham. I was impressed to discover that they played a fundraising show for DISCO back in 2010. I keep hearing about this EPIC Read-A-Thon happening at the end of February. What is a Read-A-Thon and why should literature lovers, writers, poets, podiatrists, and sentient mammals care?

LIZ: A read-a-thon is pretty much like a walk-a-thon, except that instead of walking, you’ll be sitting in a comfy leather wingback reading stories. Most readers sign up to read for 10 to 20 minutes on the day (or night) of the event. That's much less time than it takes to walk a 5K. Participants ask their family and friends to sponsor their reading. DISCO supplies the reading material, which this year will be a mix of short stories and prose poems. We’ll have food trucks, prizes and activities for kids, too. All you have to do is show up and read or listen for a bit!

 

 Lauren and Dietric review a poem at DISCO.

Lauren and Dietric review a poem at DISCO.

ALINA: Is there a specific occasion for the Epic Read-A-Thon?

LIZ: Our annual Epic Read-A-Thon helps fund the Woodlawn Writers Corps, which offers weekly creative writing workshops to nearly 700 students at Oliver Elementary, Avondale Elementary and Putnam Middle School. The Corps is based on the idea that language and storytelling empower students to embrace their imaginations, strengthen their vocabulary and writing skills, and practice creative problem-solving.

We also emphasize that writing is meant to be read, shared and celebrated. So, at the end of every school year, DISCO publishes a book of student poems. In 2016, the anthology was titled The Stars Are Lying. Every student receives a free copy of the anthology, and DISCO hosts a student reading at our space in Woodlawn. I think it makes a tremendous difference to see your work in print--and to understand that your voice is unique, important enough to share with others. Over the long term, these anthologies preserve a slice of local history, the story of the hearts and minds of students in a particular part of Birmingham, Alabama during a particular time period. 

 

 Chip Brantley & Elizabeth Hughey

Chip Brantley & Elizabeth Hughey

ALINA: I've been to several wonderful readings at DISCO, and its known among local poets as a hub for Nitty Gritty Magic City readings. What inspired the creation of DISCO and its programs?

LIZ:  My husband, Chip Brantley, and I are both writers. We founded DISCO because we wanted to give kids in Birmingham more opportunities to write and be creative. We also wanted kids to meet and learn from the creative writers and thinkers in our city. As a model, we looked towards Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia in San Francisco and found a lot of resources at 826 National.

In the beginning, our guiding principle was: What do we wish we could have done when were kids? So, in addition to offering workshops for kids, DISCO hosts readings, writing groups and music and art shows. We also sponsor the Tattler, the student-run school newspaper at Woodlawn High School.

 

ALINA: . What has been the most surprising lesson about building literary community from the ground up? 

LIZ: The literary community in Birmingham quickly adopted DISCO and made it their own! People often visit the space for an event and get inspired to bring their own creative project to DISCO, so our space in Woodlawn has evolved into a hub for creative community projects and events. We realized early on that we could not (and should not) completely control what DISCO is or will become. It really has been a community effort, and most of our programs are still fueled by incredible volunteers.

 

ALINA: This will be my first Read-A-Thon, and I can't wait to sample the readings. What authors should we expect to hear on the 23rd and 24th?

LIZ: The read-a-thon planning committee worked hard on curating the perfect reading list! There will be readings from many authors, including (but not limited to): Lydia Davis, W.S. Merwin, Jamaica Kincaid, George Saunders, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Claudia Rankine, Lucia Berlin, Leonard Cohen, Lorrie Moore, Amelia Martens (who read at DISCO a few years ago), Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Jung Yun, Anthony Doerr, Carmen Maria Machado, Tim O'Brien, Barry Lopez, ZZ Packer, I could go on and on....Or you can check out the schedule in its entirety here.

New to the schedule this year is a poetry reading given by some of DISCO’s star poets from Putnam Middle School at 11 a.m. on Saturday, February 24.

Also, we’ll celebrate the finale with Ugly Baby Improv Show at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. This is one of my favorite parts of the event. I always laugh until my cheeks hurt.

We founded DISCO because we wanted to give kids in Birmingham more opportunities to write and be creative. We also wanted kids to meet and learn from the creative writers and thinkers in our city.
— Elizabeth Hughey

 

ALINA: The readings sound incredible! If I'm uncomfortable with reading in public, is there another way that I can volunteer to help at the Read-A-Thon?

LIZ: Absolutely! We need help running the event! Any shy volunteers can contact me directly at liz@desertislandsupplyco.com.

Or, you can of course donate to the Epic Read-A-Thon campaign and support the Woodlawn Writers Corps or purchase a copy of their anthology, Jellyfish In Disguise.

ALINA: Thank you so much, Liz.

 

 

 

 

Alina Stefanescu
Place, Poetry, and Childhood: A conversation with Ramey Channell.
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As part of our ongoing feature of AWC members, I chatted with Ramey Channell to learn more about her enchanted writing.


ALINA: It is often said that writers are made not born, yet so many writers have told me that they never imagined not being a writer. Despite career paths and families and challenges, I keep hearing about the irresistible impulse and drive to write. When did you realize you were going to be a writer? 

RAMEY: I actually realized I was going to be a writer before I was able to write. I have two older sisters, and the one closest to me in age is three years older than I am, so she started to school three years before I did. I can remember being overwhelmed with impatience to hurry up and get to school where I could learn to write, so that I could write poems and stories. In the first grade, I mostly tried to cope with the shock and disorientation of day-to-day elementary school life. But in the second grade, I wrote a play, and in the third grade I wrote stories. I started writing at an early age and can’t stop.


ALINA: The feelings you just described are not foreign to me. As writers, reading is a form of continuing education and inspiration. What authors do you think every writer, whether emerging, aspiring, or established should read?

RAMEY: How about a list of ten?

  1. Alex Haley - Roots: The Saga of an American Family – The blending of family saga, nonfiction, and historical fiction at its best, and one of the most important U.S. novels of the 20th century. One reviewer called Roots “valid in its essential narrative and informed by the imagination.”  Alex Haley’s writing reveals the power of oral history and paves the way for future generations of story tellers. Inspiring quotes from Alex Haley:  “In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.” and “In my writing, as much as I could, I tried to find the good, and praise it.”
  2. J.D. Salinger – The Catcher in the Rye – One of literature’s most notable characters, Holden Caulfield, in an unforgettable and superbly written book. The Catcher in the Rye is a classic American coming-of-age novel written by one of our most notable and capable authors.
  3. Annie Dillard – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, a long nonfictional account of her Thoreau-style close observations of nature, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. A nonfiction narrative book, told from a first-person point of view, the book is an intimate and intricate account of the author’s contemplations on nature and life. This book is a perfect example of “how to describe things.”
  4. Kate Chopin – The Awakening - Late 19th century, but too essential and stunningly beautiful to leave off my list. Kate Chopin’s writing is rich and visual.
  5. Thomas Wolfe – Look Homeward Angel - The spectacular autobiographical novel about the life of a young man, Eugene Gant, growing up in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina.
  6. Michael Shaara -  The Killer Angels – excellent storytelling, vivid and startling realism, an example of historical fiction that brings tragedy to life on the written page.
  7. Conrad Richter – The Trees, The Fields, and The Town: the Awakening Land series. Authentic and intensely readable chronicle of the life of an amazing woman, Sayward Luckett, and her family of early white settlers in the Ohio Valley.
  8. William Faulkner – The Reivers – Just a delightful and masterfully written account of a fun-loving, worthless scoundrel, awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1963.
  9. Eudora Welty – "A Worn Path" (short story) and The Optimist’s Daughter (novel) - The delicate and compassionate treatment of her subjects gives Eudora Welty’s writing a strength and appeal few writers can match. But we all should try.
  10. Dee Brown – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West – Dee Brown’s remarkable book totally revised the image of the American west. With meticulous research and masterful storytelling, Dee Brown produced a ground-breaking best seller that is revelatory and memorable. Essential reading for any American writer, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee paved the way for many contemporary authors.

ALINA: Eudora Welty wrote the following about the importance of "place" in fiction:

"Place being brought to life in the round before the reader’s eye is the readiest and gentlest and most honest and natural way this can be brought about, I think; every instinct advises it. The moment the place in which the novel happens is accepted as true, through it will begin to glow, in a kind of recognizable glory, the feeling and thought that inhabited the novel in the author’s head and animated the whole of his work."

"Place" seems to hold an especially strong grasp on Southern-identified writers. What inspires and beguiles you in Alabama's landscape or natural areas? Why?

RAMEY: I was born in a small Alabama town and grew up in and around the deep backwoods. From my earliest memories, I have always been aware that there is magic afoot in Alabama woodlands! As a child I played beneath trees, talked to trees, wrote poems about trees, collected arrowheads and strange rocks from fields and paths where I played, and spent hours lying on my back in a grassy field, looking up into the amazing and hypnotic blue sky above me. I’m mesmerized by the variations of wild flowers, tree bark, leaves, berries, roots, and by the magical beings who live in the trees and in the shade beneath the trees. There is always magic in the landscape around me, not hard to find by anyone willing to see.


ALINA: If you don't mind my asking, do you have any current projects you can discuss?

RAMEY: I’m currently working on book three in the Moonlight Ridge Series. This series follows the seasons: the first, Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge, is set in summer. The second, The Witches of Moonlight Ridge is set in autumn. And the third is set in treacherously cold winter. The young protagonists, Lily Claire and Willie T., are once again on the trail of mysteries, enchantments,  and magic as the community gets ready to celebrate the Christmas season, with a few surprises and dangers lurking in the woods nearby.

I’m also working on illustrations for a children’s picture book, a YA paranormal mystery, I’m researching and gathering information for a murder mystery that I began writing several years ago, I’m working on a juvenile biography of an important figure in Birmingham history, and putting together a collection of short stories.


ALINA: Do you have any writing-related superstitions that influence your process and/or working relationships?

RAMEY: I have no writing-related superstitions, no rules, no schedule, I’m sorry to say, and a total disregard for the best way to do things! I will say that when I got stuck during the creation of The Witches of Moonlight Ridge, I was rescued by the discipline of writing “morning pages,” getting three pages written every morning before getting out of bed, before coffee, before anything else, as instructed in the wonderful book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This was the only time I really followed rules, and I’ll probably rely on that method again if I have trouble making progress on a writing project in the future.

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ALINA: How did you find a publisher for your work?

RAMEY: Looking for a publisher is not for the faint of heart. I felt from the beginning that my Moonlight Ridge books should be published by an Alabama, Georgia, or Mississippi based publisher, and submitted the manuscript to several publishers in the southern region. At one point I received a phone call from an editor at one well known publishing house, who raved about how impressed she was with the story and with my writing, and how it was “perfect” for their business. The editor went into detailed discussion of the manuscript and what strong images and emotions my writing evoked. Then, I never heard from them again. Emails were not answered and I received no word for about one year. Finally the manuscript was returned to me with no fanfare.

After a long search and a few more disappointments and dead ends, Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge was accepted and published in 2010 by Chalet Publishers LLC, an indie publisher with representatives in Arizona and Alabama. Chalet was recommended by a fellow Alabama author, and I found them efficient, professional, and very easy to work with. Then, Chalet closed its doors and went out of business during the recession, returning publication rights to all the authors they had published, so I was on the street again, looking for a publisher. After a few recommendations that ended in disastrous turmoil, I was contacted by a publisher who had read the first edition of Sweet Music, who told me he would gladly publish the book in a second edition. but that he recommended that I do my own publishing, create my own publishing imprint, and have control of all the details, avoiding the heartaches and headaches of trying to come to terms with editors who seemed to have no concept of what I intended my books to be. So I did just that and published the second edition of Sweet Music and the next book, The Witches of Moonlight Ridge, under my own imprint, St. Leonard’s Field. For continuity and maintaining control of my work, I’ll continue to publish future volumes of the Moonlight Ridge Series under the imprint of St. Leonard’s Field, but I plan to go with traditional publishers for my upcoming murder mystery and my children’s books.


ALINA: It's so helpful to learn how other writers navigate the treacherous waters of publication. Thank you for sharing that. Now to move back into less soul-silencing territory, if you could be any historical character, who would it be and why?

RAMEY: I would want to be one of the Wright brothers: Wilbur or Orville. I’ve always been intrigued by the Wright brothers, and when I read David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers biography I learned many interesting facts about their childhood and early life, and how they went from tinkering with bicycles to airplanes. They were so full of curiosity and energy, and seemed to never get tired. To be one of the first people to fly would be the greatest thrill and accomplishment I can imagine.


ALINA: What do you value about AWC as an organization?

RAMEY: One thing I value most about Alabama Writers Conclave is the interaction with other writers, which keeps me from becoming a total hermit. And I love Alalitcom. I’m thrilled when one of my stories or poems is published in Alalitcom, and I enjoy reading the works of my fellow writers.

I especially love the AWC newsletter and all the informative news about the excitement and activity in the Alabama literary community. The AWC newsletter is our best source for reminders of contests, conferences, publication announcements from fellow Alabama writers, and current literary events. The newsletter keeps us up-to-date and well informed.


ALINA: Earlier I realized that I spoke about southern writers in a way that assumed you identified with this category. In my experience, however, "Southern writing" is defined in many different ways, depending on the writer. What does it mean to be a "southern writer" and do you self-identify as one? Why or why not?

RAMEY: I do identify myself as a southern writer because my writing is set in the geographical south and my development as a writer had its origin in the geographical south. Being a southern writer means that my writing is spun from the deep feelings of home and family and an ever-expanding  inclusive community.

Being a southern writer means having a strong sense of place and a responsibility to those who were here before me and those who will come after me: to preserve something worthwhile for lovers of literature.


ALINA: The most beautiful place in the world is....

RAMEY: The most beautiful place in the world is the mountain of my childhood, the subject of one of my poems.

Calling Up Magic

I remember the mountain.
Mountain trees are tall and wild,
with leaves, like jewels, ablaze in blinding sun.
Deep shadows lie beneath those towering trees:
somber shadows where secrets rest,
half-remembered, long-enchanted.
Ancient stones are scattered there,
cloaked with moss and willful vines
like strong, possessive arms entwined.

The old dirt road curves gracefully
beneath wild cherry, sweet gum and hickory branches,
then emerges from cool, shadowed places
into a sunlit blast of sand: red, soft, and warm.
Primordial boulders, imposing, gray, and summer-hot,
perfume the mountain air with fragrance like no other,
and the smell makes my mouth water,
and the air moves around me, gently caressing,
like mountain spirits whispering blessings.

In heat laden air, a rough-barked tree shimmers,
its gnarled exterior shredded and torn
where bobcats' sharpening claws
have, over time, left deep enduring scars.
Birds trill, noisy in the bushes,
and insects hum, a choir of tiny whirring machines.
They are calling up magic, singing loud incantations
of mysterious joy as dark clouds gather
out of the languid, heavy grip of Alabama summer.


Ramey Channell became a poetry and fiction lover very early in life and has had poetry, short stories, and children’s stories published by Aura Literary Arts Review, Alabama State Poetry Society, Alabama Writers Conclave, Birmingham Arts Journal, Scholastic Press, Rivers Edge Publishing and others. Ramey received the Barksdale-Maynard Award for Fiction for her short story, “Voltus Electricalus and Strata Illuminata,” the Thomas Brown Achievement Award for Poetry, and numerous awards from Alabama Writers’ Conclave.  Her short story “In a Land That Is Fairer than Day,” and her poem “Golden Trees,” were published in the widely acclaimed Ordinary and Sacred as Blood: Alabama Women Speak, and her short story "Wings" is featured in Belles' Letters 2, published in 2017 by Livingston Press. Ramey’s novels, Sweet Music on Moonlight Ridge, and The Witches of Moonlight Ridge, are works of fiction based on her rural Alabama childhood. She lives in her hometown of Leeds, Alabama, and is working on book three of The Moonlight Ridge Series, a short story collection, a YA paranormal mystery, and an illustrated children’s book. She blogs at The Painted Possum

 

Alina Stefanescu
February ASPS Winter Meeting: Workshop with Beth Gylys
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The Alabama State Poetry Society's Winter Meeting will be held at the beautiful Story Tree Farm Retreats in Huntsville on Saturday, February 17th. This idyllic location is the perfect place to learn, think, and write!


Our presenter will be Dr. Beth Gylys, Professor of English and Creative Writing at Georgia State University. Dr. Gylys has published five collections of poetry, most recently Sky Blue Enough to Drink (Grayson Books, 2016), and has won the Quentin R. Howard Award, the Gerald Cable Book Award, and the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry. She will treat us to a generative workshop on formal poetry.

9-10 - arrivals, socializing, continental breakfast
10 -12:30 - Dr. Gylys will present
12:30 -1 - optional catered lunch (details in separate post)
1 -2 - round robin reading (Bring a poem or two to share!)

$25 to attend
$10 lunch

To RSVP, email jessicatemple79@gmail.com. 

Payment will be taken at the event, but please let us know if you plan to attend!

Additional details and contact information can be found at the Facebook Event page for Alabama State Poetry Society.

An Interview with Ashley M. Jones by Ashley M. Jones.
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When Alina asked me to interview myself for AWC’s website, I was a little taken aback—I’m not someone who loves talking about herself, much less asking herself questions, so I did what any human of the new millennium would do—I sourced questions from my social media friends. Here are a million big questions for Ashley M. Jones, a new board member for AWC.


For so long, “Southern” writers looked a certain way and wrote about certain things, and so many of us are changing that image.

1. What does it mean to be the first Black board member of the AWC?

Since I was very young, I knew that in this country (this whole world), would try to keep doors closed for me—maybe even deny the door’s existence even if I see it squarely in front of me. I knew that to be Black in America, in Alabama, meant to carry the history of our segregated past and the reality of our still unjust present with you every day, in your poetry and on your person. It has been my goal, then, to make room for others like me, to step into doors we’ve broken open and make the doorway even wider. That’s why I returned to Birmingham after grad school in Miami—yes, the world is big place and there are lots of great opportunities elsewhere, but this is my home and I intend to be a part of its betterment. This is one such door—to step into one of Alabama’s oldest literary organizations as its first Black board member is a huge deal for me, and maybe for our literary movement in Alabama. For so long, “Southern” writers looked a certain way and wrote about certain things, and so many of us are changing that image. It only makes sense that the literary organizations would adapt such change, too. And, I take this as an opportunity to open that door even wider so we’re all represented in the literary bodies of our state—it’s vital that we include and reach out to all groups, especially those that are traditionally underrepresented.

So, yes, I’m the first, but one day I won’t be the only, and I certainly won’t be the last.

2. Who do you love? What do you love? 

I love Birmingham. I love cornbread and I love scalding hot showers. I love Lucille Clifton—she is my poetry mother, and I don’t’ know where my poetry would be without her example. If you want to know what it means to say it all without saying too much, to create metaphor in one clean punch, to make a whole world in a single line/break, then read her work. I love Gregory Hines—if you don’t know who he was, get out from under your rock! That man was a living poem—watch any of his tap performances, any improvisational tap he’s done, and you’ll see what a body can really do, how art is truly an explosion. I love Celia Cruz—again, get from under that rock if you don’t know her—she was a powerful force of good in the world, a brilliant singer, and she makes so many Black artists (and other artists) possible. I turn to her for strength and a fierce example of how to stay true to who you are no matter what.

3. Describe the moment you knew you were a poet.

Not sure there was a specific moment, honestly. In many interviews, I’ve said that I’ve been writing poems (at least, documenting said poems) since I was 8 years old. No one told me to write poems. I wasn’t really reading too much poetry back then—I distinctly remember reading Eloise Greenfield’s Honey, I Love several times in the second grade, and maybe that’s what planted the seed. Words have always been my mode of creating art—my parents made sure we were always surrounded by learning and creativity, and I just fell naturally into writing. I do remember deciding to commit to poetry as I wrote my senior thesis at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. Fiction was fun but it was always difficult (and that’s  not to say that poetry isn’t difficult—it is—but fiction was difficult in that I didn’t really desire to create stories in that way, so it was hard to complete them) and slightly unnatural for me—poetry always made me excited in ways no other form of writing did. When I thought of an idea for a poem, or when I saw a new way to create a poem, a jolt of something like lightning (but something less cliché…) surged and still surges through me—it’s a sort of discovery. I’m finding new ways to make language breathe and language is finding new was to shape itself into my experience. It’s thrilling!

5. What’s the subject matter of the latest poem you’ve written?

Right now, I’m writing about Harriet Tubman. I’ve been reading some biographies on her, and I’ve tried to tap into a more full exploration of Harriet the human rather than Harriet the historical figure. It has been really fun writing these poems—I’ve always loved Tubman. I have a poem out with Connotation Press called “Recitation” which tells the story of the time I dressed up as Tubman for a second grade poetry recitation project. I recited Eloise Greenfield’s poem “Harriet Tubman,” and, dressed as Tubman, I felt a sort of power that can only be attributed to the power Tubman had and still transmits through her memory. These poems allow me to draw closer to her and to explore what faith can do—Tubman was very religious, and she believed that she received visions from God about running away/the Underground Railroad after a master hit her in the head with a piece of iron. Although I had to iron to open up my third eye, I certainly feel like I’m being spoken to by the spirit of this incredible Black woman.

6. How do you know/ choose what you will write about?

It’s different each time, but often I’m simply reacting to something I’ve encountered in the world. Sometimes that thing is a poem I’ve read, a news article, a historical text, or an episode of Family Matters. A scent on the wind. The roadkill blocking my passage on the way home. The way somebody looks at my hair. Anything that hits me sideways and makes itself almost inexpressible in any other form than a poem is what gets written about. Things that trouble or fascinate me are often best worked out through poetry, too—other than prayer, writing poetry might be the most important version of conversation I  have in this life.

7. Did anyone ever discourage you? How did you overcome it?

Yes. I don’t want to go into the gory details, but yes, there were times in my life when people discouraged my poetry or tried to tamp down my self expression, and it’s hard. It’s very hard. I’m someone who struggled with (and I sometimes still do) low self esteem, and it can be difficult to try to tune out naysayers when they appear in your life, especially if they’re supposed to be mentoring you or helping you on your journey. But, I’m so lucky that I have a strong support system in my family and my chosen family, and they never let me forget who and what I am. I also try to remember that everyone’s journey and everyone’s art and everyone’s version of being a writer is different and that’s absolutely okay. Even if someone feels the need to put my version of writing/ living/ teaching/ talking/ walking/ existing down, I have to realize that I am the way I am for a reason, that there’s room for all of us in the house of poetry/life, and if I don’t live my truth and write the way I do, who else will put my voice in the conversation?

That, and realizing that people who discourage others from being who they are are often deeply insecure, and this is their way of making themselves feel important. I can only hope they find some light within themselves instead of trying to steal other people’s candles.

8. When you have writer’s block, what do you do to overcome that or do you just allow it to pass over organically?

Writer’s block is super annoying. But, I think it might be a false concept—that is, I don’t think we should expect ourselves to always be writing just because we’re writers. Like, we are other things, too. I’m a teacher but I don’t teach every moment of my life. I’m a touring poet but I’m not touring every single day. I take breaks. We are all eaters of food but we don’t constantly eat. We do it when we’re hungry. So, when I’m ready to write, I write. Yes, deadlines do force me to the computer or the page, but even then, I don’t force it. Sometimes, you won’t write or you won’t want to write. Sometimes you’ll sit down and be too frustrated with the blank page to put anything on it. Let that be permission for you to get up from the desk and do something else. Live your life! Watch a movie, dance, go shopping, talk to your mama, cook a meal, sit aimlessly for hours. When you stop thinking of the inability to write as a problem and more of a sign that you just haven’t filled up your life-tank enough yet (because writing requires life experiences, I think), things get a little easier.

That said, I do have some go-to methods if I really can’t seem to write and none of my attempts at living loosen up some of those ideas that are stuck. I talk to people I love—sometimes they give me ideas. I listen to music--if you want some suggestions, find me online, because I’m always sharing music I listen to. I open up the collected works of Lucille Clifton [insert your favorite writer here, although honestly you, too, could open up some Clifton because she’s universally amazing] and read a poem at random. Sometimes, that can work when I feel like my writer’s block is less of a signal that I’m tapped out of ideas but more of a sort of mental blockage.

9. What scares you most when tackling a poem?

I can’t say I’ve ever been scared when writing a poem. Maybe I’m scared if I write about my family, because they’re real people who have to give consent before I send pieces out for publication. But, I’m mostly excited when I’m writing a new poem. I can be scared of where my mind goes when I’m writing—when I wrote a poem about lynching postcards, I was disturbed by how grotesque I was able to get.

10. Which of the poets you admire really knows how to work a microphone when they read?

Danez Smith, for sure. If you’ve never heard them live, you need to re-evaluate your life. I loved Lucille Clifton’s stage presence—so bright and clear and deliberate. I recently saw Tayari Jones, who is a fiction writer, read, and I was struck by the clarity of her voice and the way words seemed to be so cared for when coming through her lips. Similarly, Campbell McGrath is a great reader and speaker—I could probably listen to him talk for the rest of my life just to hear the way he creates sound. It’s hard to describe, but you know that feeling when you swish water or mouthwash around and everything’s being touched, every nook and cranny, by this clean and wrenching sort of feeling? That’s Campbell’s way of speaking. Jonah Mixon-Webster is also an incredible reader (and honestly, just a plain genius—his book releases in February and you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t pick it up)—we did a workshop together with The Conversation Literary Festival in Oxford Mississippi, and Jonah recited his poem “Black Existentialism No. 12: Da’ Bad Nigga Blues” and I was absolutely floored by his emotion and emotional precision. His reading in Tuscaloosa during that same week impacted me in the same way. I could, maybe, keep going, but let’s leave it here.

11. Where do you get your jumpsuits?

TJMaxx.com, mostly! It’s a one-stop-shop!

12. What other new poets should we check out?

Everyone who was on The Conversation Literary Festival tour this year—they’re truly incredible poets. Hasten to your nearest bookstore to pick up Jennifer Maritza McCauley’s Scar On / Scar Off. Julian David Randall (his book, Refuse, is forthcoming). Kwoya Fagin Maples’ book, MEND is forthcoming, and you absolutely don’t want to miss that one—she’s writing about the birth of gynecology and the role Black slave women played in that process. It is haunting and arresting and necessary.

13. What are you working on now?

I’m sending out my second manuscript, and I’ve started another project on Harriet Tubman, and I’m hoping to begin a series of poems imitating Gwendolyn Brooks’ formal pieces. Going to attempt to write love poetry (ick!) for Black women and for a few of those husbands in my head.

14. Do you keep a journal or notes to capture ideas and thoughts? If so, how much do you refer to it or use it as you work?

I don’t keep a journal anymore. I definitely used to keep the traditional tween journal, and my siblings and I have had many a laugh when reading them now. I do keep a notebook in my purse so I can jot things down when they come to me. Sometimes I rely on Siri to take down a note if I get an idea while I’m driving, but mostly I just hasten to a computer when I get an idea and start typing away. I like using the computer because I can do more with the format—I mean, yes, I do write in the format I’d like the poem to be in when I’m writing on paper, but I like to see what it would look like when it ‘s “finished” or printed, so I try to get it in a computer as soon as possible. Also, it’s vital that I save the pieces so they don’t get thrown in a pile of scribbled-on scraps, so the computer is the way to go.

15. How much of your poetry is written from your own experience? When you write from the experience of others, is anything out of bounds? Why?

Most of my poetry is from my own experience—but, even when it’s not from my own experience, I do try to still include my emotional truth. That makes the poetry more human, and it helps me as I endeavor to access whatever topic I’m writing about. And yes, some things are out of bounds when writing about the experiences of others (my family, specifically). If anyone is uncomfortable with any part of their story being told, I can’t tell it—just like we have to get permission before we borrow a material object, we have to ask that same permission when we borrow people’s memories or experiences.

16. What 5 pieces of media do you think a young person should consume?

This is hard….let’s see:

  1. Do the Right Thing and Bamboozled by Spike Lee – regardless of what we think of him as a person/thinker, I do think these movies challenged my way of thinking, and that’s vital as a young person.

  2. “Bemba Colora” and “Quimbara” by Celia Cruz (and the live versions)—I mean, every human, young or not, should listen to Celia Cruz. But these two songs in particular might appeal to younger folks because they teach me two distinct thing I wish I’d learned earlier in life. “Bemba Colora” talks about the ways in which Black people are discriminated against although we have vibrant and beautiful culture and soul. Yes, I knew being who I am was good when I was young, but I don’t know if I knew how to celebrate it with all the trumpets and vocal explosions that Celia does. And “Quimbara” just makes me want to dance, and I certainly didn’t do enough of that as a young person.

  3. Othello by Williams Shakespeare—yeah, blah blah blah Shakespeare is important, but I particularly love this play because of the way it challenges us to sympathize with a murderer. There are layers to why Othello does what he does, and of course the racial/social commentary is great, but I also love that I’m shown a dynamic character (Othello) who makes me love him and feel for him, even as he commits a violent crime. That sort of challenging emotional situation will help young people develop critical thinking and empathy skills. And, it’s good to try to connect with Shakespeare on a level other than the blind reverence we’re trained to have.

  4. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – I grew up on PBS, and Mr. Rogers was a huge part of that. Again, I really think developing a sense of empathy and wonder is so important for young people, and a good dose of Fred Rogers will do that and more.

  5. “A Bronzeville Mother Loiters in Mississippi. Meanwhile, A Mississippi Mother Burns Bacon” by Gwendolyn Brooks—this poem has stuck with me since I was very young because it so brilliantly paints a picture of pain and injustice, even in the very home of the woman who caused Emmett Till’s murder. Again, empathy, but also such poetic skill. That poem gets in your bones.

Bonus: “Rehabilitation and Treatment in the Prisons of America” by Etheridge Knight –I mean, this is a political poem that hits you in the gut. We need to be made uncomfortable and more aware of the reality we’re living in, especially when we’re young.

Bonus Bonus: Tap starring Gregory Hines and Sammy davis, Jr.—yes, this is a movie starring the top three husbands in my head (Savion Glover is also in this movie), but! It’s also a chance for young folks to see some really great tap dancing. Tap dance isn’t as prominent as it once was, but it’s an incredible artform.  


(Alina thanks Ashley so much for being part of this self-interview experiment. To learn more about Ashley M. Jones--her poetry, her poesis, her activism, her jumpsuits, visit her website. )

Alina Stefanescu
Dear Joe: Tell Me About Pineapple
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"I am a child of meta-fiction..."

An epistolary interaction between Alina Stefanescu and Joe Taylor, author of Pineapple: A Comic Novel in Verse.

Dear Joe, you have altered my relationship to pineapples. What is it about pineapples that makes them fair game?

Dear Alina, 

Pineapples have lots of vitamins and minerals, so the fact that your relationship has been altered is good —unless of course, you are wearing them on your head as Carmen Miranda did. The historical reason I used pineapples comes from Los Alamos: after the Pacific theater war ended, the kids of Los Alamos—and there were many—were served pineapples in honor of Hawaii and Pearl Harbor. The Los Alamos scientists, however, came to regret this frivolity after the devastation caused by the two atomic bombs surfaced. Once committed to that fruitful title, I figured I needed to scatter it throughout: hence Dave’s unlikely reference to Lorrie’s breasts as such, the DC Doc’s saying, “We need to open the old pineapple” at the autopsy, and varied comments about the low-lying bush and American hand grenades. Inserting pineapples became a challenge, but by golly, I stuck with that title. And am glad I did.

Dear Joe, I wonder what inspired you to write such a formally-demanding novel with respect to rhythm and rhyme. Is this related to an underlying fascination with math or metrics? Please provide relevant data.

Dear Alina, 

Agh! You have uncovered my secrets: I am a thwarted mathematician and a closet musician. Mathematics is the queen of science, music is the queen of emotion. Combining both by composing a novel with set meter and rhyme was the closest I could get. That, as Thomas Aquinas might say, is the formal cause for the novel’s layout. The material cause came from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Byron’s Don Juan, such bawdy and happy songs. The immediate or efficient cause was a bet with a wonderful author named Josie Sigler concerning which of us could first finish a novel in verse. Josie wisely dropped out of the bet . . .

Dear Joe, two pages into Pineapple, I felt a compelling need to hear this novel read aloud. So I locked myself in the bathroom and admired the acoustics. Given its orality, I wonder if your writing method differed in comparison to other projects. I also wonder if you sung it. 

Dear Alina,

How could you possibly have known? I composed this entire novel in my bathtub, burbling out the lines underwater in various keys, though G major remains my favorite, for Gravity, not G-string. Actually, I “hear” all the prose I write in my faux-Southern, faux-Kentucky-hill accent. Certainly there was more emphasis than usual on sound considering the meter and rhyme involved with this novel. Hearing those work out became enjoyable, like completing a crossword puzzle’s clues and patting myself on the noggin with each success. By the way, I’m thinking of writing another comic novel in verse, likely combining the suffragette and Presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull with J. Edgar Hoover, Mr. FBI himself. Both were driven, both were confused, both were charlatans and hypocrites, both could have been saviors of sorts.

Dear Joe, are you planning any readings where for those of us who have an urge to hear it straight from the bard’s mouth?

Dear Alina,

I do hope to read on the lovely campus of UWA and I will announce the date of the same.

Until then, you may visit You-Tube and find two partial recordings—completed outdoors, not in a bathtub!  I plan on recording the entire novel on audio soonly.

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"I am a thwarted mathematician and a closet musician." 

Dear Joe, why did you bring yourself into the story? On a vaguely-related note, what’s the relationship between your everyday self and your persona? Which one feels more authentic and why?

Dear Alina, 

I guess I am a child of meta-fiction. I love Jane Austen’s sly use of the same, and of course Tristram Shandy, Tom Jones, and Kurt Vonnegut. (Also note Chaucer and Byron above.) I do think that adopting my persona as a character in this novel was particularly, even peculiarly, effective, especially as the author’s ever-insightful lover Trixie/Dixie/Pixie pulled that person from “writer’s blockhead,” then corrected and guided him along both in plotting the novel and in recognizing the truth about his secret daughter Lorrie. “The relationship between . . .”? Lord, my everyday self is a mess. I much prefer my persona, who is clever, upbeat, and takes a Zen stance toward the world and its worrisome woes, including atomic bombs and their big brother the hydrogen bomb.

Dear Joe, science is cool. Tell me about the Higgs boson as a muse.

Dear Alina,

The Higgs boson, “the God-Particle of Gravity,” was much in the news when I was writing Pineapple. I figured “Oh hell, if there’s a way we can turn this into a weapon, we will.” Instead, that is, of using it to make all of us walk more lightly on the planet or gleefully float over the Potomac and the Grand Canyon, or even propelling humanity toward the stars. Maybe it was an anti-muse?

Dear Joe, given the genre-bending, hybrid nature of this book, how did you find the wonderful Sagging Meniscus Press as a publisher? What advice would you give writers currently seeking to publish formally-innovative work?

Dear Alina, 

Several years ago I was at a huge writer’s conference in Minneapolis. I knew the guy sitting behind me, George Peabody of Gargoyle Magazine, and I turned to ask him if he knew of anyone who might publish a comic novel in rhyming quatrains. Being the polite guy he is, George tried not to roll his eyes and chortle too offensively, so he just shook his head. So what I did after I finished Pineapple was to go to www.spdbooks.org and browse their small press publishers, using their excerpts, to find publishers compatible with this weird novel. Sagging Meniscus fit right in, and the publisher, Jacob Smullyan, replied within an hour or so of my query, writing, “Say what you will about comedy, this is going to distract me from work I had to do.” What I said about comedy lies in the prologue:

                “The trouble with comedy, people think,/

                is that it’s funny. It’s not. To prove this/

                impels my high intent. A cat at nine lives’ brink,/

                I swear to die if you derive the smallest bliss//

                from these sad lines that follow. . .”

So, for literary authors, especially anyone working outside the expected, my advice is to do a bit of research and send out queries with a small excerpt and be both persistent and patient. For writers of the genre, such as mystery, romance, fantasy, I advise getting an agent. A warning, agents can be unbelievably terse and rude: I rec’d several returned query letters with the word “No” hen-scratched across them.

Dear Joe, what is “mini-destruction” and why does it matter in the Super-Size-Me era?

Dear Alina,

Even though the character Strickland, a.k.a Strictdick, promises the Mexican drug czar Boss Mo that he will use the Higgs boson weapon to wipe out an “entire section” of opera lovers in Santa Fe’s production of Otello, that destruction is small potatoes compared to atomic weaponry, biological warfare, and crashing jet planes into skyscrapers. Still, the weapon fits perfectly into the drug czar’s needs, for it effectively leaves no trace of the victim. And in this Super-Size-Me era, unimpeachable guilt stands of utmost importance. Who? What? Me? Must be fake news.

Dear Joe, have you ever written a Dear Joe letter? If so, why would you go and do a thing like that? If not, why don’t you do things like that more often?

Dear Alina,

In a previous incarnation, were you Postmaster General of the United States? Perhaps even Ben Franklin?

Dear Joe, did I mention that in high school people called me "Aliner?" And I doubt if I could be US Postmaster General since I was born in Romania. Dear Joe, did you know that I can't even be President of the United States? Dear Joe, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. I'm going to tuck them inside a traditional time capsule and hope for the best.


More about Joe Taylor
Helling—not hailing!—from various parts of Kentucky, Joe Taylor graduated with a B. A. in philosophy from U of Kentucky, his capstone course there being a correspondence course in microbiology, in which he drew endless cilia, protozoa, cells in mitosis and meiosis. Leaving Kentucky to pursue an unrequited love, he worked in West Palm Beach as a waiter and pizza chef. Leaving West Palm he moved to Tallahassee, where he received a Ph.D. in creative writing. He then taught at Kennesaw and Georgia State Universities in Atlanta. He then taught at St. Leo College in Florida for several years before moving to Livingston, Alabama, to teach at The University of West Alabama and direct Livingston Press, which he has done for nearly thirty years. He has three published story collections and three published novels, the latest of which is a comic novel in rhyming quatrains entitled Pineapple. He has a fourth novel forthcoming from NewSouth Books, entitled The Theoretics of Love. With his wife Tricia, he lives as an ungentlemanly farmer. Their main crop seems to be stray dogs.  www.saggingmeniscus.com ; www.livingstonpress.uwa.edu

Alina Stefanescu
A conversation with Anne Markham Bailey, publisher of Green Bucket Press.
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In our focus on local publishers and presses, Alina Stefanescu chatted with Anne Markham Bailey of Green Bucket Press on her journey into poetry and publishing.

You are the publisher of Irondale’s very own Green Bucket Press. What prompted you to start a small press and how did it happen?

After I finished my BA in at Barnard College in New York, I cast about considering options and my allegiance to living as a poet. I went through the Book Arts program at the University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, with a concentration on bookbinding. I worked in the field of commercial printing for years. A couple of years ago, I wanted to work on a book project, and it made more sense to just start a press, because of my particular skill set.

What is Green Bucket Press currently publishing?

We are currently publishing a variety of books, including our special VoiceBooks, which are blank writing journals; my own poem, Nancy Marguerite’s ChopinVoices of Resistance, an anthology of poems from Birmingham’s Sister City Connection; the Labyrinth Meditation journals; various features on the Sacred Path Series. Currently in the works, we have Innovate: VoiceBook for Entrepreneurs and Trauma: The Path of Unification.

In addition to books, we print associated merchandise including book plates, book bags, bicycle tech bags, t-shirts, and more.

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As an individual with a strong sense of visionary impulse, what do you envision for Green Bucket Press five years down the road?

Our work is to offer vehicles for the growth of true-hearted voice, the healing of wounds that comes from sharing our stories in a sacred space, by going inside and becoming intimate with our inner landscape and then returning to share our discoveries, monsters and grails.

  • Blank Journals
  • Themed Workbooks
  • Literary Projects
  • Creative Print Programs
  • Educational Programs
  • Community Engagement
  • Creativity Activism
  • Support Authentic Voice

In addition to being a publisher, you are also a published poet. I’d like to explore that for a moment. What brings you to the page or the poem?Why?

My love for paper, pens, ink, letters, words, printing, books, reading, poems, songs, the crafting of phrases, the space between words, the immersion in the subtleties of word order, of diving into the precision of expression rather than stumbling on the surface of things, the sorting of experience, the extended consideration that becomes written, spoken, sung or drawn. The sound of pen or pencil on paper. The act of sharpening a pencil. The small bowl in which the shavings collect. The relationship with a trusted pen. The care of the pen. The tin box that belonged to my great-grandfather in which the pen is stored. Opening the box to lift out the pen. Placing the pen back in the box. The particular sound of paper as it turns. The differing sounds of different types of paper. The scent of a book. The words on a screen. The feeling of settling in to read, or to edit. The rising of that potent moment when a word or phrase appears as a foundation. The way that time opens to allow language to manifest as a bridge between us. The breath before offering a piece to others. The sacred motion of handing a book or poem or drawing to another set of hands. This binding together of the entirety of living. This is where I dwell and I have always sought this place, and my tribe. I handed a poem to my mother when I was a young child of about 8, and I knew myself to be a poet. I like to explore, and so I write songs and I draw. I write stories from my life. I love to perform, to read and to sing.

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List five books that changed your life.

  1. Little Bear by Helen Minarek
  2. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  3. The Way of the Bodhisattva Shantideva
  4. The Sound and the Fury byWilliam Faulkner
  5. The Diaries Of Anais Nin

List five poems that enchant or intrigue you.

  1. Robert Collins’ “Origen’s Angels: The Fall”
  2. Diane Wakoski’s “Blue Monday”
  3. George Cooper’s “Come Little Leaves”
  4. Li Po’s “Alone on JingTing Mountain”
  5. Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Romance Sonambulo”

What inspires you visually?

Falling water. Breathing bodies at rest. The face of my son. The smoke from incense. Stone beaches.

I understand you are currently working on a memoir that chronicles your friendship with artist Alice Faye Love. Can you tell me more about this project and how it feels different from your prior writings?

This work was a promise that I made to Faye made long ago. Alice Faye Love was a brilliant and complicated person who suffered greatly from the trauma of long-term sexual molestation. She was exiled when she spoke up as a young woman and struggled for balance and stability in daily life and relationship. And yet she shined with the brilliance of an enlightened being. Because of Alice Faye’s courageous voice, I opened the sealed vault of my own molestation and abuse. When my marriage dissolved and I lost my husband to addiction, Alice Faye was a steady presence. And yet her mental illness caused her to behave so unpredictably that I had to construct tight boundaries.

Writing the manuscript has been an extremely painful process. I sought out sacred sites where I could work and be supported by the long-term spiritual practice that has taken place on that land, in that place. The work on the project has been a journey into the underbelly of being an artist and writer living into and through the intense suffering of our days, as well as the shining and ineffable glory, and then telling that story. This is always my role as a writer. I enter spaces and explore, and then return to tell the story. This particular project is a deep plunge into the eternal nature of life, and is demanding.

What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of being a small press in Alabama?

I don’t have an answer for this.

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How does your meditation practice enable your artistic process? What would you suggest to writers who are considering beginning a meditation practice?

My meditation practice opens and grounds my artistic process. The practice of meditation is simple and repetitive. It trains the mind to follow commands. For example one sets an intention of bringing awareness to the body breathing and resting there.

The repeated practice helps a person expand beyond the mental ruts that are a normal function of most minds. Mental ruts here include judgments, attitudes and opinions, even emotions that can cloud the unlimited brilliance and possibility of perception and experience.

Meditation helps us to open more fully, and then helps us to simplify and focus on tasks. The practice is very much like the process of breathing that brings the outer world in, and the inner world out. For me, this is the creative exchange, the covenant of my existence in this life. I experience the world, and I translate that experience back to the world through my work.

For beginners, consider that we are always meditating on something. What is it for you? Possibly something that you want? Something that you fear? We are all meditating constantly. It is possible for you to harness your considerable energy to move in a direction of your choosing, and mindfulness meditation practice is most effective. Buy a book, read an article, attend a lecture. I am getting ready to offer a new meditation class in Irondale next month, so check that out on my website, www.annemarkhambailey.com


Thank you so much to Anne for her time and sharing. To learn more about her journey, read this profile in Birmingham Business Journal. We are happy to have her as a new member of AWC. 

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Voices of Resistance: A Sister City Connection Anthology

Green Bucket Press is proud to offer an anthology of local voices of resistance, hope, and courage. You can purchase a copy for $15 online. Sister City Connection will be hosting a book launch and reading in late October or early November so keep your eyes peeled for the date. Our writers would love to meet you.

VoiceBook Journals

Green Bucket Press VoiceBook writing journals are available at the Green Bucket Press web store. Available in 2 sizes, in a lined or grid format. Custom printed journals are available for schools, business and non-profits. Contact anne@markhambailey.com to discuss your project.

Alina Stefanescu