Alabama Writers Conclave
newsback.jpg

Blog

Events, readings, competitions and more…

Dear Joe: Tell Me About Pineapple
Pineapple_RGB_300dpi_1000pxWide.jpg

"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.

Tfat3.jpg

"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.
New+York+Dec+'14+(60).jpg

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.

File_006+(1).jpg

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.

Tiny+Dancing+Thing.jpg

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.

17230009_1485791954766499_403348316_o.jpg

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. 

unnamed copy.jpg

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
2nd Annual Robinson Jeffers Poetry Festival at Gorham's Bluff
150419-The-View-from-Gorhams-Bluff-1144x857.jpg

OCTOBER. 7. 2017
10:00 - 3:00
$12.00 includes lunch

The Festival will begin at 10:00 AM with a workshop conducted by Barry Marks, followed by lunch at noon, the reading of winning poems, and an open mic. Readers are encouraged to read their own poem or a favorite poem. The Festival will end at 3:00 PM. There will be a reception Friday Night at Deb and Bill Jeffers house at 6:00 PM.

POETRY CONTEST

Winner will receive $250 for the best poem.

Please submit one original, unpublished poem no later than September 22, 2017 (postmarked) The poems may be about any subject, in any style, up to 42 lines (or 500 words if a prose poem). If submitting by regular mail, please send two copies- one with your name and contact information, and one without. IMPORTANT: Poet must be present to win cash prize.  

TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE

To reserve a spot, or to submit poems, send $12.00 to Roger Carlisle. Email by Paypal to wrogercarlisle@gmail.com or snail mail to: 

Roger Carlisle
4312 Overlook Road ,
Birmingham 35222

LOCATION

Gorham's Bluff is a two hour drive north from Birmingham. Lodging is available at the Bluff, in Scottsboro, and in Fort Payne. Please visit the Gorhams Bluff website for lodging reservations. Call the Lodge at 256-451-2787 to reserve overnight accomodations.

Emma Fox talks about writing (and reading) Y.A. fiction.

A brief conversation with AWC’s 2017 Juvenile Fiction Contest winner, Emma Fox.

Your YA novel won the 2017 AWC Juvenile Fiction Prize. Can you give us a little insight into what inspired this story? Any particular images, sights, or sounds? Why?

The Beast of Weissburg began as a loose collection of vivid images that kept clattering around inside my head: a young man holding a wounded fawn...bloody tracks in the snow...the yawning mouth of a cave. I could sense a story, so I followed up on these mental threads by asking myriad questions: Who? Why? What if...? I had recently traveled through the Black Forest region of Germany and the Bavarian Alps, and this experience provided the setting and many of the cultural details of the book.

How do you define “juvenile fiction”? Do you see any sharp lines between juvenile and “YA”? What, if any, is the dividing line for you?

C.S. Lewis famously said that "a book worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then." I don't think there is a hard-and-fast line between juvenile and young adult (YA) fiction, or even between YA and adult. When I see adults referring online to their favorite books--the stories that have most impacted their lives--they often include titles that today's publishers would categorize as middle grade or YA (L.M. Montgomery's Anne series, for example). 

I think that a really good story, one that appeals to our common humanity, transcends cut-and-dried age boundaries. Really, the current distinctions between "juvenile" and "young adult" have more to do with length and theme: middle grade books often feature tales of adventure and camaraderie, while many YA titles wrestle with themes of identity, coming-of-age, and finding one's place in the world. YA also often includes an element of romance.

Who is your favorite audience? Who do you hope to reach?

There are a lot of fantastic young people in my life--former students, mostly--and I try to keep them in mind as I write. These young teens are my ideal audience: warm hearts, eager minds, courageous souls. Still, as I said earlier, a good story shouldn't be too tightly bound by age constraints. 

At its core, The Beast of Weissburg is for everyone who fights to do what is right, despite the lies inside their head: the voices that say, You're nobody. You have nothing to offer. You're unlovable and unloved. I want my readers to know that they are seen, heard and loved for who they truly are.

What short stories do you admire the most? Why? What have you learned from them?

Many readers are familiar with J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings cycle, but very few have read his short stories, which is a shame. Tales from the Perilous Realm, an anthology of five brief stories (plus some poems), is a great place to start. "Farmer Giles of Ham" is Tolkien at his witty, humorous best, and "Smith of Wooten Major" is probably his best example of pure "faerie" tale. I find anthologies like this one both helpful and fun, because I get to see the author delving into a range of concepts, and trying on various "voices." It's a wonderful way to study an author's technique in microcosm.

Do you have any current projects we should know about? 

I've recently begun work on a YA fantasy set in mid-nineteenth-century Russia. It's a story in which historical and magical worlds intersect, and at times collide, with dire consequences.

*

Emma Fox lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, three young children, and an energetic border collie. Along with her love of books and writing, Emma's passions include art history, dark chocolate, heirloom plants, global travel, and music with soul. The Beast of Weissburg is her first full-length novel. Visit her blog, where she reviews YA fiction, or catch her on Facebook and Pinterest

 

Alina Stefanescu
Alabama State Poetry Society Contests & Mid-Fall Conference.
asps pell city.png

This October, the Alabama State Poetry Society will host its annual mid-fall meeting in Pell City, Alabama.

Both members and non-members are encouraged to attend.  

Round Robin Readings & Meal
Friday 10/27 from 3:00-5:00 pm
(reservation required)
River Cruise: Coosa Queen Riverboat
Riverside Landing, 230 Depot Street, Riverside AL 35135

Round Robin Readings Extended
Friday 10/27 from 6:00-8:30 pm
(coffee and wine served)
Artistic Creations
2111 Cogswell Avenue, Riverside, AL 35135

ASPS Conference
Saturday 10/28 from 9:30 am - 2:00 pm
Pell City Library
1000 Bruce Etheridge Parkway
Pell City, AL 35125

22406396_10213499690904564_9012287003649348005_n.jpg

We hope attendees will bring their families to Pell City as it is Avondale Mills Day in the town. Also, St. Simon Peter Episcopal Church will host it’s Fall Festival with arts, crafts, and more fun for children.

Enter the Poetry Contests for Cash Prizes

Winners for the Poetry Contests will be announced at the October Meeting. Deadline for entry is August 18, 2017. Everyone on the planet is encouraged to submit to these contests. Learn more from the ASPS website.

How to Register for the Meeting

The cost for the conference is $20 for ASPS members and $35 for non-members. Additional and optional costs include:
- $15 for Friday Paddle Boat dinner
- $15 for Saturday catered lunch

You can register for the for the Paddle Boat Tour, Fall Meeting, and catered lunch in one of two exciting ways:
1) online: send Paypal payment to alabamapoets@outlook.com and make sure to include your full name. 
2) sending a snail mail check to ASPS, P.O. Box 2, Pell City, AL 35125.

Email Treasurer Myra Ward Barra at Treasurer@alpoets.org for more information.

Alina Stefanescu
Poet Carey Link talks about books, trees, and wonder

What is your favorite novel?

Annie Dillard’s memoir, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is one of my favorite books. Dillard reminds the reader to look for the extraordinary in every day living and that life is a continuum of beginnings and endings. One of my many memories of this book occurs when Dillard remembers hiding a penny as a young child, and drawing arrows on the sidewalk for a stranger to find it.

What inspired you to start writing?

My grandmother encouraged my creativity. She died when I was eleven. I started writing poetry to work through the grief and depression that I experienced as a result of her death.

Do you have (or have you ever had) a muse? If so, who/what?

I don’t have a particular muse. In my opinion, creative inspiration can be found through any experience in daily life.

Are there any poems that are especially important to you?

The poems in Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass remind me of how we are all connected to each other and our surroundings.

“To have that feedback reinforces and helps you keep going. That’s my ultimate goal, to share my poetry.”
Carey Link

What is your favorite Alabama plant?

I love the brilliant red maple tree.

Off the top of your head, tell me five words that describe you.

Determined, insightful, curious, genuine, old soul.

Is there any way in which the Alabama Writer’s Conclave has changed or impacted your life?

The AWC community has helped broaden my connection to other Alabama poets and writers. My faith in myself as a poet has been strengthened by the invaluable encouragement and insight of other AWC members.

What are you working on right now?

My poetic sequence, I Walk a Frayed Tightrope Without a Safety Net, about my experience with advanced breast cancer. Poetry has helped to heal my spirit and given me a medium to share my journey with others. I plan to develop my literary sequence into a chapbook.

What is your favorite place in Alabama and why?

My favorite place in Alabama is to be among the trees on Montesano Mountain in Huntsville. I use a wheelchair and have never physically climbed a tree. Climbing trees in my mind gives me peace, freedom, and faith in unlimited possibilities.

As a poet, what do you find yourself needing right now?

Writers should never stop developing their craft. The support and encouragement AWC members give each other is deeply valuable important to me.

You can learn more about Carey and her poetry at the Alabama Writer’s Forum or the Arts Huntsville website.

Alina Stefanescu
Karim Shamsi-Basha, Winner of the 2017 AWC Short Story Contest

As first prize winner of the short story contest, what inspired this story? Any particular images, sights, or sounds? Why?

“A Tale of First Love” is very autobiographical, the same thing actually happened to me. I just retold it.

Dad’s hand on my back while I laid on the bed is something I will never forget. I wrote this because I believe that human love should be honored at all stages of life.

Many fiction authors maintain the line between fiction and nonfiction is a permeable one. Is this true for you? How do you decide when a memory or essay has crossed the line from nonfiction to fiction?

For me, the line is ever so vague and blurry. I use a lot from my own life in my fiction, after all, no one knows me any better!

What short stories do you admire the most? Why? What have you learned from them?

I love Eve’s Diary by Mark Twain, to me he’s a brilliant writer. He goes past what we know and expect, without us even noticing.

Do you have any current projects we should know about? Explain.

I have a novel with agent Rena Rossner with the Deborah Harris Agency in Jerusalem, we just submitted it to publishers. it is about a fifteen-year-old Muslim boy in love with a Christian girl during the civil war in Syria. I want people to stop labeling each other and just love.

What Syrian writers do you admire and wish you could share or translate?

The Syrian writer I admire the most was my father, Kherridean Shamsi-Basha. he was a noted poet in Damascus. Unfortunately translating his work would not work. In Literature, you lose many language merits.

Learn more about Karim from his unique blog, Arab in Alabama, as well as his columns and photographs for various media outlets.

A few questions Larry Wilson, author AWC 2017’s Flash Fiction Contest

What inspired your prize-winning flash piece?

The Unopened Present was inspired by a lonely night during the Christmas season when I was sitting alone drinking. My only decoration was the little Christmas tree I had bought in Key West almost 25 years ago on a Christmas trip with my late wife. The trip’s primarily purpose was to try and patch up a marriage that was a very bad state of disrepair. I’m not sure where the idea for the unopened present came from, but I often think of my daughter who died some four years ago, during the holiday season. The story is very much rooted in my own life.

Did the piece start as a flash or did it morph from a short story or poetic form?

The original draft was something over 1000 words and I had written it for our writing group in Montgomery. I decided to see if I could cut it down to 500 words for the flash fiction category and it turned out, as things often do, that less is more.

What writers inspire you to write flash and how?

My primary writing interest has always been the short story and I find writing something that really affects people in a small number of words a challenge. I have always been a big fan of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories and just recently I was introduced to Sonja Livingston at a Tennessee Mountain Writer’s convention. Sonja’s presentation and her book, Ghostbread inspired me to concentrate more on writing even shorter fiction. I recommend her book to anyone who is interested in flash fiction and creative nonfiction.

When did you begin writing fiction?

I started writing fiction casually in high school and college and then took a long hiatus during my working career. After retirement I joined the Montgomery creative writers group and rekindled my writing. I write because I truly enjoy it and have little interest in commercial success; however, winning a prize in the Alabama Writers Conclave competition is a wonderful ego boost. It is great to be recognized by your peers.

What two short stories or flash pieces do you think every aspiring fiction writer should read?

I highly recommend two of Hemingway’s short stories, Hills like White Elephants and A Clean Well Lighted Place, to all aspiring writers. Not only are they wonderful examples of brevity and show, don’t tell, but there are critical discussions of both stories online just a Google away.

A conversation with 2017 AWC Writing Contest winner, Chervis Isom.

1. What led you to write your first place winning nonfiction piece, “The Stray Cat?”

“I think a lot about memory, not because I have a lot of memory to think about but because my memory bank is so shallow, as shallow as a pond on the pavement after a spring shower. I was trying to remember my earliest memories, and I think my earliest memories were of my age four. This story is perhaps the only memory that stood out as something more than a moment, something that might support a story. So I wrote it recently and I liked it, I liked how I could tell the story and express what I learned from the story, how I grew from what I learned, and to me that is the beauty of the memoir as a form of writing art.”

2. Are you inspired by a particular nonfiction writers or essayists?

“I love the memoirs of Patricia Hampl. She wrote at least four memoirs, each following a different arc or theme of her life. She proved to me that a non-fiction writer could have an impact in creative writing even more than a writer of fiction, and could be just as effective.”

3. How do you balance the need to protect the privacy of loved ones against the passion for telling a good story?

“In my memoir, The Newspaper Boy, I put a note or disclaimer in the front of the book indicating that I had changed some names for obvious reasons. I think that’s all you can do if you want to write about those characters.”

4. What inspired you to write your beautiful first-place-winning poem (which is also, uniquely, a prose poem)? Is poetry a new medium for you? What do you like about it? Why?

“Maybe I’ve spent too many years focused on my work and never opened up my trunk of memories until now… When I lift the lid all I find are scraps of thread scattered here and there, the fabric of the memory having long before dissolved. I have only skeletal memories and I’ve tried to write about a few of those things. Poetry is an ideal medium for skeletal memories, particularly if there is a lesson to be learned or a question to be explored.”

5. What poets have freed or inspired you to write in earnest, or, borrowing Emily Dickinson’s expression, to “tell it slant”?

“My friend Barry Marks is a fine poet and his poems come in all forms and styles and cover a broad range of topics, both mundane and philosophical. I’ve learned a lot from him and his discipline in writing about every conceivable experience. As for a historical poet, I think Emily Dickinson is most impressive. She wrote for years with no publicity and, so far as I know, no encouragement or social contact with other poets for support. Yet her poetry is fresh and original and uniquely inspiring.”

6. Why does poetry matter in our modern commercial culture?

“Poetry is the medium for expressing the truth in a few well selected words designed to please the hearer’s ear, to seize the hearer’s heart, to squeeze tears from the hearer’s eyes. The truth, the emotional truth, that is what matters, and poetry is the medium to achieve it.”

Breathing Life Into Your Creation

A workshop with Kimberly Cross Teter.

You know those characters living in your head? You think you know them, but do you really? Maybe they have a few surprises for you! We’ll take a look at not only putting flesh on the bones of the characters in your work but also putting meaning and motivations in their hearts and minds. Interactive writing exercises will bring you to a deeper level of creating multi-dimensional characters who will come alive for your readers. Whether you have a work in progress or a brand new idea, this workshop will help you strengthen your character development.

KIMBERLY CROSS TETER, a proud Texas native, is a teacher and traveler by nature and a writer by happy choice. Kim completed her debut novel, Isabella’s Libretto, in the Middle Tennessee State University Write program (then known as The Writers’ Loft) in 2013. The next year this YA historical novel was published by longtime AWC member Linda Busby Parker and Excalibur Press of Mobile, AL. Since then, Kim has traveled from coast to coast to speak at literary festivals, conferences, and special events. Visiting schools, however, is her favorite gig!

Kim is an active member of the AWC, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a graduate of West Texas A&M University and now lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with a wonderful husband and two feisty canine kids. Three grown human kids have brought her immeasurable happiness — and two grandbabies!

Learn more about Kim at her website.

To attend this workshop — and many others — please register for the 2017 AWC Writer’s Conference. We look forward to seeing you there!