Intern Post, Briauna Kittle: How the Writer Got Her Start: A Look at the Art of Creation

Humans have always been obsessed with how things came to be. Originally, this started with existence, how humans arrived on Earth, how our planet was formed, what caused the lights in the sky; once those topics were milked for all they were worth, these stories narrowed down: how the rhino got its skin in the classic porquoi tale best told by Rudyard Kipling, how narcissism created the echo and reflection from the Greek myth, or why male genitalia looks the way it does as given in the Winnebago Trickster Cycle from the Winnebago Native American oral tradition. Perhaps the most interesting thing is how the same stories are told in a multitude of ways. This could be attributed to use of oral tradition, the passing down of stories through voice, carrying through different narrators with different styles of speaking and different interpretations of the same events. In this way, the story is always changing and refining through a never-ending cycle of editors in order to become the tales we know today.

woodcut of elephant getting its trunk

A woodcut by Rudyard Kipling showing how the elephant got its trunk for his book of porquoi tales, Just So Stories.

There’s something satisfying about creation, too, like scratching an itch you didn’t even know existed. The act of creation through writing, art, music, and crafts is highly valued, even though nobody wants to do it. Everyone dreams of writing a novel but taking on writing as a profession is still generally met with hesitance (“Creative writing? What do you plan to do with that, teach?”). However, in a more visual sense, such as works-in-progress videos by various artists or with crafts like crocheting or knitting, people are hypnotized. I find there’s nothing more calming than watching someone make a watercolor painting, and when the work is finished, I want to find the artist and thank them for allowing me to watch. When I crochet in public, I’m always greeted with a “What are you knitting?” (I’ve given up correcting them) followed by the person watching me work as I wrap the yarn around the hook and pull it through the loops.

The downside to creating is, of course, dealing with doubt. I don’t think anybody in creation stories ever doubted their actions, but being in the arts requires juggling doubt and dancing with failure. One of the ways I personally deal with this is by writing my own creation stories. I’ve found it kick-starts my imagination and returns me to the mindset of seven-year-old me who loved to write how things came to be, to the point of writing a chapter book about star formation. Creativity is a must, too. Why do snails have shells? Well, obviously, a snail started out as a slug and decided it wanted to become strong, like the ant, so it found a shell to live in and now carries its own house on its back as a strength building exercise. It’s unscientific but gives us a new way of looking at the world which is exactly what literature and the arts aim to do: show new perspectives so that we may live without hurting others. Bonding through any form of creation, especially through storytelling, gives us the chance to understand something new, both in intellectual and empathetic standpoints. Even if your next work doesn’t make you the next Charles Dickens, it’s still creation and has the possibility to change someone’s viewpoint. Even if it’s not something you want published, tell the story to a few friends and tell them to pass it on to someone else; in a few generations, you’ll have a masterpiece.

Intern Post, Ofelia Montelongo: What You Make is Your Power

This semester, I had the opportunity to be a trainee for Superstition Review, and when they announced a group of interns would be traveling to LA to AWP, I didn’t hesitate to join them in their adventure. Even though I wasn’t 100% sure what AWP really was, I knew I heard of it before in some other conference. I’ve heard that thousands of writers go there to meet, to talk, and to share their love for written words.
AWP

For someone who can barely pronounce “literary,” going to AWP was more than a fun and glamorous trip to LA. This was a great opportunity to interact with different writers and publishers from all over the world. I had a lot of firsts: it was my first experience with Uber (great storytellers). My first time in my 30’s sharing another room with girls I barely knew, who at the end of the first day I was lucky enough to call them my friends. When you share a passion like writing, becoming friends is easy, unproblematic, and so natural that it seems a little magical. And life sent me the best roommates I could ever ask for, Jess, Alexis, and Leslie! And I realized that when a passion unites us, age doesn’t matter.

Awp Panel

It was also my first time in a book fair with more than 800 exhibitors. Even though at the beginning, my mind compared it with the Phoenix Women’s Expo, but with authors, literary magazines, and MFA programs, it soon became overwhelming and a little challenging to see it all. However, I was still able to learn new things. I learned there is a bilingual press here at ASU, how did I not know this? I obtained information on MFA and literary presses from around the globe. Also, from the book fair I got different freebies, including enough tote bags to give away to my entire family, and a t-shirt that I was able to use in a non-planned 5k race on Saturday morning. I also was able to start my own pin collection.

AWP Pins

One of the best parts of AWP (besides having the compulsive feeling of wanting to buy every book, and wondering if the next J.K. Rowling is in the same room) was being able to represent Superstition Review in different ways: at the table giving information about the magazine, being engaged on Twitter documenting our AWP experience, and basically at every moment during the conferences interacting with people. The greatest thing about representing Superstition Review is realizing that I’m luckier than I thought I was, being able to work with Trish, founder and pretty much the soul of the magazine who has attended 13 different AWP conferences, is rewarding and inspiring. I was only for a few hours at the s[r] table, but during that time I had multiple people come by and ask about her; they wanted to meet her, they were excited and honored to be published in Superstition Review, they were grateful to be read and heard.

Besides the book fair, there were more than 500 readings and panels.  One of the advantages of having multiples panels to choose from is that you can invest your time in topics that really matter to you and contribute with your own ideas.  One of the panels I attended to, was Latinos in Lotusland, where I was able to share my opinion about Frida Kahlo not being “cool” in Mexico anymore and I shared my opinion on staying true to our own voices and to not follow what it is “cool” on the market. And my favorite part of this is that I was heard. I was reminded that even though I come from a different culture and I speak another language, I have a story worth telling and that I should never stop my writing spirit.

AWP Bag  Awp Program

For many writers, AWP is a reunion; an excuse to see each again, for me AWP was a warm welcome to the literary world. It was like I was being told, “Welcome Ofe, welcome to the literary world where you really belong.”

See you in Washington, DC!

Mark Yakich’s Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide, Review by Intern Elijah Tubbs

images“Inspiration comes after writing, not before,” Yakich states in his new book Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide. I stumbled over this for a few moments because traditionally we are made to believe that the formula is a.) become inspired, b.) now write. But really I think Yakich is saying all inspiration can do is make the poem better through the revision process, where the writer can then pull from the various resources given to them. The first time a poem is written needs to be wholly from the inner gut of the writer. I find this to be true in my own writing, a lot of people probably do, even though I hadn’t thought about it before picking up this book. Yakich will tell you the opposite of what everyone else does, making you re-think not only poetry, but also writing and the world of writing in general. It is his honest and “unconventional” advice that make Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide a memorable and valuable experience.

There are a lot of “craft” books on poetry, (Whatever that word craft means? As if writing is equivalent to a macaroni pinwheel or scrapbooking, etc.) most notably The Triggering Town by Victor Hugo or The Virtues of Poetry by James Longenbach. Unlike many books on writing though, Yakich’s Poetry: A Survivors Guide—I’m so happy it’s a survivor’s guide and not this bougie, talked up craft book that only academic folk can parse out—will fit right into a poet’s life like the first time they read Whitman’s Song of Myself and actually understood it.

Unfortunately, in many books like this, we find the author putting themselves in front of the work. Look at me, look at me! It turns into an ego thing, a mine is bigger than yours. “Critics will try to tell you ranking is for experts and disappointment for amateurs . . .. ”  Yakich tears apart those people who make poetry not for everyone, specifically when talking about The Best American Poetry series that is released once a year. “There are usually some very good poems in the collection; 1994 was particularly a fine year. Still, a more accurate title for the series would be something like A Clutch of Unconcatenated Poems That a U.S. Poet Kinda Enjoyed in the Small Hours Before Drifting off to Sleep.”

“There is no accounting for taste. What one reader admires, another disdains… Don’t pretend to love a poem you really find dull. Don’t be afraid of disliking a great poem or poet.”

Whether you are new to poetry or experienced, this book uncovers things about the poem that you did not know or understand or remember. Yakich’s advice and observations on poetry are real, they’re meaningful, they’re not pretentious and they’re for the greater good of poetry and its writers. “Someday, when all your material possessions will seem to have shed their utility and just become obstacles to the toilet, poems will still hold their value.”

Yakich wrote this for his students, I am a student, this is the most genuine book on poetry I have come by. This book tackles every ounce of the poem and the poem in the real world: knowing the poem, reading the poem, writing the poem, publishing the poem, reviewing the poem. It really is a survivor’s guide and all of us poets and poetry readers can get something from it.

Reading this survivor’s guide will make you feel why you fell in love with the poem. Not only will it remind you why you fell in love, Yakich’s smart, playful, humble and sometimes brash words towards the poetry will make you realize (hopefully you already knew) the importance of the art in your life, others, and the social setting.

“Poetry’s irrelevance, therefore, becomes its importance,” he says.

Intern Post, Leslie Standridge: Looking Back and Looking Forward (An AWP 16 Tale)

SR Contributor Larry Eby (Issue 10) and I

AWP? What’s that? My friends and family and anyone else I told about my weekend plans inquired into my LA trip plans.

Well it’s a conference for writers, basically. I replied casually and coolly as if I wasn’t a newbie.

Well, what do you do there?

Uh, like, go to panels and stuff, and buy books. Writer things.

Sounds fun.

I think so! 

I’ll admit, I had slight doubts about the truth of the last statement. Did I think AWP would be interesting? Enjoyable? Worth going to? Yes, yes, and yes. However, I wasn’t sure if it would be fun, per sé, in the sense of childlike amusement, easy-going, “relax and have fun,” fun. Boy, was I wrong.

The conference was predated by a road trip, something I was a little nervous about in the beginning. I’m not good with long car trips (motion sickness), I do not pack lightly (fear of not having the right outfit for the right event is a legitimate thing), and I was travelling with two women I didn’t know really well (what do I talk about?!). However, within an hour of being on the road (and a Dramamine), my qualms melted away. We bonded quickly over shared ailments and McDonalds (oh, and of course what AWP panels we were looking forward to).

Once arrived in LA, we got settled into the lovely JW Marriott and began our trek to the convention center, which overwhelming both size-wise and architecturally (there are just so many bars everywhere). We checked in, got our badges, and even pestered a security guard into taking our photo. We were officially clocked in to AWP 16.

The next couple of days would be, for lack of a better word, an experience. It may seem cliché, but I really did learn a lot about my interests, my long-term goals, and, most importantly, myself. I had the fantastic opportunity to become friends with and grow closer to my fellow interns (and roommates during the trip), Ofelia, Alexis, and Jess, who are all beautiful, intelligent, and incredibly talented women. I grew all the more appreciative of my internship with S[r] and of Trish, the most amazing mentor probably in all of existence. I also gained much knowledge about craft, met my favorite slam poet, Anis Mojgani, and came home with two tote bags worth of swag.

So, now a AWP vet, I have compiled a list of eight things about AWP that I think anyone, first-timer or old-timer, should keep in mind:

  1. You won’t go to all the panels you want to go to. In fact, after the first day, you probably won’t even try to go to all of those panels. That’s perfectly okay—you are human and you will probably be exhausted all week anyway. We are all taking a slight detour from real life to go to AWP, which is impressive enough, right?
  2.  It’s okay to eat at some greasy chain restaurant the first night—don’t stress yourself out trying to find a Yelp-approved, hole-in-the-wall , unique restaurant. Sometimes you end up at a run-down Hooters at 10 at night, even in LA. You’re tired, you deserve wings and cold fries!
  3. If a panel takes a turn for the worse, don’t be afraid to skip out. AWP is about curating your own writerly education and if the panelists start arguing with each other about something completely off topic, well, you aren’t really learning anything are you?
  4. Social media, namely Twitter, is one of the best parts of AWP—see hashtags #badAWPadvice, #AWP16, and #overheardatAWP. Not only is social media great for building your brand (look at all I’m accomplishing, everyone) and interacting with big names/presses/magazines in the industry, but it also allows for some inside humor.
  5. Set aside at least 2-3 hours, maybe more, for the book fair. I promise it is worth your while to take your time and really pay attention to the books, magazines, contests, MFA programs, and so on that are all being offered. Don’t be afraid to talk to people at the tables either. We want to answer your questions and chat about you, your writing, and whatever else may come up. Also, if you are a poor college student, buying on the last day is a more financially viable option.
  6. Ask questions in panels and network (if you can) with the panelists, especially in career-oriented panels. Don’t be afraid that your question may sound dumb or that you’re hair looks wonky. There is no better chance to put your name in the mind of an editor than if you give it to them directly.
  7. Go to the AWP dance party and shake off all the stress from the day. Writers are great dancers! Also, it is free entertainment.
  8.  Remember: you are a writer. Even in the midst of so many brilliant and successful people who have accomplished more than you, you are a writer. Don’t feel intimidated!

AWP changed me, for the better. It reignited a lot of the passion I had lost for reading and writing over the past year (senioritis and personal life drama can really destroy your livelihood). I’m confident that its impact is similar on all attendees—after all, so many people continue to come back. If you’re interested in going, I encourage you to do it (and I’m not even getting paid to say this, so you know it’s a real sentiment), and if you have gone before, and will again, I will see you in D.C. Look for the dark-haired girl frantically searching for a Hooters.

Intern Post, Stephen McDonough: RED INK Magazine comes to ASU

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 12.40.11 PMRED INK Journal is the new version of RED INK Magazine, a magazine started at the University of Arizona. RED INK Magazine was published for twenty five years, but now it has found a new home and a new name. Arizona State University English Regents Professor Simon J. Ortiz brought RED INK to Arizona State University and is working to make it a literary journal. Simon Ortiz is a well-known and well respected Acoma Pueblo poet and writer. The purpose of this journal is to promote a native voice through literature, art, and humanities. This serves two functions. First, it preserves native voices by collecting and publishing their writing. Second, it promotes native voices by distributing the journal and getting people to read native writings.

RED INK Journal is a periodical published bi-annually and is being run by Arizona State University grad students.. The journal aims to preserve the native voice with writing about land, culture, identity, and community. While RED INK Journal is relatively new, they are looking toward the future and hoping to grow. They are accepting creative writing, essay, and scholarly submissions. In the future, they would like to get submissions from global indigenous people.

The journal looks different from the magazine, but what remains the same is the promotion of the native voices. RED INK Journal is part of a larger initiative Ortiz is working on called RED INK International. RED INK International has the same goals as the journal: to promote and preserve the native voices. It wants to educate and get a native view point across to the public. RED INK International is working toward those goals, but through a different method than publishing a journal. Ortiz wants to put native voice out into the community. Not only is a native voice important to native peoples, it is an important part of America’s voice and history. Ortiz thinks it should be taught at all grade levels. RED INK Journal is just one of the ways to help get the native voice heard in the community.

To find out more about the journal and the RED INK initiative, click the links and check out this article. You can also follow them on Facebook to stay up to date with all the RED INK Journal news and happenings.

Intern Post, Carson Abernethy: A Second Lost Generation: The Case for Millennials in the Arts

college-1440364No generation in history has experienced the kind of cultural and societal shift that millennials have, no period so tumultuous, so fervid, so unapologetically modern. But while science and technology have been so effectively forged in this smithy of currentness, the arts have seemed to lapse into the foreground, antagonistic and outdated towards this age of information. But it is in the arts where millennial identity is made, where an antidote to the vacuousness of 21st century can be found.

Every generation has been defined by its literature and arts; the 20’s were encapsulated by Fitzgerald and Hemingway, who defended their Lost generation, showing them still wayward, but not broken, not defeated. What better statement can be found about the state of America (or even the world) in the 50’s than Kerouac’s On the Road or the poetry of Ginsberg, or about the drugs, vapidity, and alienation felt in the bright lights of the big city in the 80’s than in works by McInerney or Bret Easton Ellis? These writers are so essential to their times it would be nonsensical and impossible to understand those times had they not existed, but the beauty of their works is that they are both grounded in and informative of their own times but also transcendent, applicable to our own and the lives of human beings ever after.

This trend of writers and artists dictating the importance of their time is apparent throughout human history, before the novel, before the poem, before the canvas, in oral traditions, cave painting, and song. But this worryingly drops off around the time millennials started appearing. Some are only on the cusp of adulthood, but many have already grown. But there is no millennial novel that we can pick out like we can The Sun Also Rises. It seems millennials may not even have a place in the arts like their forefathers, and perhaps more importantly, they might not care. But while this seems to be the case, it is not and is complicated by significant factors. The STEM trend has long been a worrying one, with jobs in the humanities becoming scarcer and the cost of living for an artist becoming astronomical. This is not to discount the value of work being done in STEM fields, rather it should not be the only mode of existence; “Go into STEM” should not be the prescriptive catch-all it’s becoming. In the midst of our technological living, we are quick to forget that humans are essentially story animals, and storytelling thus the most human action.

Millennials do have a place in art and literature, any generation does as long as they are human, but they are slower to. They find themselves straddling a not-so-distant past and a rapidly approaching future, born at the death of one century and the explosive birth of the next. Millennials therefore, instead of having nothing to say or caring to, have the potential to say so much more than any generation before them. The Lost had a great war, and we had a great war too, a great many on battlefields, on computer screens, in classrooms. Society is a battle zone. Millennials occupy the most fertile ground to draw on for artistic expression, and there too is meaning and significance found. Artists before needed voices to give a voice to the voiceless, now all that’s needed in this sea of noise, where anyone with a keyboard has a say, are voices to unite us, to inspire us, to define us.

Intern Post, Ofelia Montelongo: Desert Nights, Rising Stars

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Photo by Ofelia Montelongo Valencia

The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing organizes the annual writers conference Desert Nights, Rising Stars. Every year they bring writers from across the country to a three-day event full of workshops, classes, and readings. This past February was my second year volunteering at the event. And once again, I felt like a groupie when meeting famous authors.

After being in the financial industry for so many years, I sometimes feel like an outsider in the writing world. But, one of the main reasons I love this industry is because everyone is interested in you–in your writing and in you as a person, not the company you represent. Being you is important in the writing world. You are the only person that is more passionate about your work than anyone else.

It is incredible to be able to meet so many writers at the same place. Being a writer sometimes feels idiosyncratic and isolated, and this event has helped me to see that I’m not the only one that feels that way. I have met wonderful volunteers, attendees, and faculty who I befriended and keep in contact with.

There is some sort of magic in being able to talk with the author (Manuel Muñoz) of that book you read a semester ago about craft, endings, and the struggles of being a bilingual Latino writer.

There is some sort of magic in reading aloud your work in front of excellent writers like Alice Eve Cohen.

There is some sort of magic in being able to see that behind a published book there is a person who is not too different from you. And that they were once in your role; they were once an aspiring author learning the craft of writing.

There is some sort of magic in listening to real literary agents share their wisdom on the world of publishing and learning to“never pitch over the summer” and “never send query letters on the holidays.”

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Photo by Ofelia Montelongo Valencia

There is some sort of magic in eating lunch with the people you aspire to be like: award-winning writers who just signed their book for you; writers who just told you that success is a mix of hard work and a lucky break; writers who told you that they hope to get your book signed one day.

There is some sort of magic during these three conference days everywhere you want to see it; you can even find it in the delicious afternoon snacks.

The most important element of this kind of conference is how you feel at the end of it. How you feel during these three days would be worthless if you do nothing about it. If you feel inspired at the end, then it was worth it; you know can go back and keep writing. If you feel discouraged because you learned the toughness of the writing and publishing business, then it was worth it; you know can go back and keep writing. Between MFA readings, panels, conferences, and classes, the magical key that everyone agrees with is that the only way to be successful is to sit and write your best work.