Authors Talk: Roy Guzmán

Today we are pleased to feature Roy Guzmán as our Authors Talk series contributor. In his podcast, Roy discusses community, culture, and struggle with Christina Collins from Lockjaw. Specifically, the pair discusses these ideas in the context of Roy’s piece, “Payday Loan Phenomenology,” which was published in Issue 18. They share how they first met on Twitter and then how they both ended up living in Minneapolis, which brings them to a discussion on displacement.

When discussing his piece in Issue 18, Roy notes, “it’s me trying to work with memory…if I’m looking at my past and I do not want it to depress me and I want it to sort of propel me, I need to create some kind of beauty.” Later, Christina tells Roy, “your work is so rooted in culture and it’s so rooted in your experience of being…an outsider to this monolithic American culture,” which leads to a discussion on the importance of culture and sharing the experiences of those who are disadvantaged.

It’s impossible to list all of Roy and Christina’s comments and insights here, so you’ll just have to listen for yourself! You can access Roy’s poem in Issue 18 of Superstition Review, and you can stay updated with his website as well.

Authors Talk: Marilyn McCabe

Marilyn McCabe

Today we are pleased to feature author Marilyn McCabe as our Authors Talk series contributor. In her podcast, Marilyn discusses the inspiration behind the poems from her project “Yield,” one of which was published in Issue 18.

Marilyn reveals how she quit her job and life in an urban setting and moved to the country alone. Out in the country, she began to feel like the last and/or first person on earth, “and it was from that imagining of being the first woman, a solitary Eve, that [she] began writing the poems of Yield.” She started rethinking the Judeo-Christian myth, exploring time as a human construct, and evaluating the nature of community.

You can access Marilyn’s poem in Issue 18 of Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Mary Sojourner: What a Hard Fall Taught Me About Boots on the Ground Community

Mary Sojourner headshot photoSolstice light silvers and goes gray. The air is heavy with the scent of a desert river. My friend and I carry some of her partner’s ashes down a rocky slope to the Verde River in Central Arizona – more accurately, we brace and skitter our way to what we hope is the shoreline. We want to give part of him back to the river he loved so much.

A soft rain begins to fall.  What might have been shoreline is muck. There is no way to get to the water. “No good,” she says. “Let’s go back up to the bridge in Camp Verde.” We start up the sandstone we’ve just descended. It’s now nearly dark. I’d thought this would be an easy crossing to the river and hadn’t brought my hiking poles. My friend grabs my arm. I step up on a shallow ledge and feel my foot sliding in mud. My friend holds my arm tight, but it’s no help. There is nowhere to regain balance. I crash down on my left knee. I manage to turn on my back. The pain is a nauseating jolt. The world has become a movie.

Two hours later, a kindly Emergency doc with worried eyes says, “I’d hoped it was just a bad bruise. I’m sorry. It’s broken in three places. We’ll have to keep you here and you’ll need surgery.”

“But it doesn’t hurt unless I move it,” I say. “I don’t want surgery.” I don’t tell him that I’m terrified of general anesthesia. I’d had it twice when I was a kid and the memory of the cold, dark, pain-filled galaxy I’d found myself in has never left me.

“You don’t really have a choice,” he says. “If you want to walk again…”

I write here two weeks later. There are metal staples closing the eight inch incision in my leg, and two metal pins and a cable in my knee. I’ll be on a walker for at least four more weeks. No driving. I live alone. There is no room for error. If I drop something, I have to use a mechanical reaching tool. If I hobble from one room to another and forget something, I suspect the neighbors can hear me cursing out Fate and Whatever Dolt Runs the Universe. And – I have learned what it means to be a real friend in a real community.

I grew up in a little farming town on the shores of Lake Ontario. We had a party-line phone with a live operator. Almost all neighbor/human contact was face to face. I escaped a sometimes terrifying home by exploring the hills and creeks around the town – and hiding out in the tiny local library.

Forty years later, I moved to another little town – in Northern Arizona to write and fight for the earth. My best friend lived across the street. I hung out with hard-core enviros – think Earth First!, river runners, climbers, social activists, artists, writers and scruffy freaks. We all took care of each other through break-ups, deaths, injuries and arrests. There were 11,000 students at the local university. There was no internet. There were no smart phones. There were only land-lines and the Freak Telegraph. And there was my journal and me being faithful to the words I serve.

Then the Southwest became the place to be: to find yourself, to be wannabes, to open charming little coffee shop after charming little coffee shop, to invest, invest, invest and cover the desert and forest with acres of red-roofed houses and trophy mansions. Flagstaff’s population has grown by 189%. There are 25,000 students at the university. Every six minutes a trendy hipster restaurant opens. My friends and I avoid what was once a genuine Southwestern downtown with old-time diners (not cute replicas), bars with boards across their windows, trading posts and local bookstores. Even though the coffee at Macy’s Café is still killer, it’s just not worth the drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic or the fight to the death for a parking place. More and more, most of us connect by text, email and social media.

As soon as word got out about the fall and the surgery, friends showed up at the hospital. Roxane took my mud/blood- filthy clothes and washed them. Larry brought a stuffed animal raccoon to keep watch. Christina sat with me and told me what I could expect in the weeks of recovery to come. She’d had knee surgeries and her empathy and practical advice carried me through more than a few rough hours. She drove me home in a white-out snowstorm and stayed the night to guide me with the basics of the walker and the dangers of moving spontaneously.

My local neighbors, Jim and Dawn, showed up the next day and continued to show up every day. They emptied cat litter, fed the four cats, lay down plywood in front of my desk so I could easily roll my desk chair. When intestinal flu struck on my third day home, they got me through all that involved. Roxane helped me wash my hair. Diane and Bob drove a Trader Joe’s run and filled my cupboards and freezer. Margaret called from Reno and offered to come down to help. Vickie and Kit brought a case of cat food; Kelly, Rajean, my radio producer Gillian, William, Karla and Ann all called and said the magic words: “What do you need?” They didn’t put me in their prayers. They didn’t send some vague amorphous healing energy. They asked, “What do you need?” and they showed up – In three-dimensional, all five senses physical reality.

A few days ago I found myself feeling happier and safer than I have in a long time. I was hauling myself up from my desk chair, telling the walker to stay steady and getting ready to hobble to the kitchen. I sat back down and looked out the living-room window to the snow lying thick on the Ponderosa branches. The late afternoon shadows had gone long and blue. A soft winter sun cast shadows on the trailer next door. For an instant, I imagined that I was back in the wallboard and scrap lumber cabin I had lived in when I first moved to Flagstaff. There would have been only a land-line phone, a few neighbors in the shacks around me and my clan scattered through the little mountain town. I would have felt that I was in the heart of a community – and I understand that the hardest fall I’d ever taken had landed me back in that heart.

I turned to the computer and wrote a message to my friends and neighbors:  I write in my journal – not about morning light soft on fresh snow or cat prints threading across the yard or deep spiritual insights gained from it taking five minutes to hobble from my room to the kitchen because of a broken kneecap. I write about impatience; forcing myself to stop thinking I’m being punished for something; living with (to put it delicately) stomach troubles when I can’t move fast enough. I write about using a commode, wearing adult diapers, feeling steadily embarrassed by all of it. I write about how grateful I am that I am not using. And I write about the physicality of physical community, physical love.

A kneecap is physical. Fractures are physical. Stomach flu is physical. These days in my life are not hypothetical or etheric or possibly even transformative. I don’t need thoughts sent to my knee or good wishes sent to my bowels. I need precisely what I’m being given: tender, ungrudging care given by tender, ungrudging friends. I won’t name them because every one of them would say, “I’m just doing what friends can do for each other.” I can tell you that they have helped me give Spokescat Ruti, the Red his twice-daily pills (without which, he would die); they have washed my clothes, stayed overnight with me and listened each time I’m sure a fatal development has occurred. They have made me laugh and are teaching me how to re-enter a community I thought I had lost. But more than anything, they steadfastly remind me that I’m not as alone as I too often tell myself.

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.

Guest Blog Post, Renée K. Nicholson; DIY Arts Entrepreneurship

Renée K. NicholsonIn January of this year, I received an email from the professional social media site LinkedIn telling me my profile was in the top 10% of all viewed profiles in 2012. What surprised me most about this email is that I really had no idea how that happened, or what it really meant. As a writer, book critic, dance critic, ballet teacher (retired dancer), literary podcaster, journal founder, former marketing professional, and rheumatoid arthritis advocate—among other things—I felt like my profile was a jumble of stuff. But what a friend explained to me was that my profile told a story. She went on to say that my story, as told by LinkedIn, defied the one-dimensional logic of the resume, and that my on-again off-again participation in a few very focused professional groups on the site continued a narrative that located me in a community.

But what community?

Before we get to that, there are a few things you need to know.

1. First, as I was growing up, my father worked for IBM. He was a top salesperson, and then recruited into the highly selective Executive Education program, established by IBM’s founder, Tom Watson. But while working in Executive Education, a new project was developing in the Entry Systems Division, and my father was one of the first 40 people to join this project. People told him it would be his “career ender.” The project he’d been recruited for was called the Personal Computer.

2. As a young person, I trained to be a ballet dancer. Although my career was cut short by the onset of rheumatoid arthritis, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity of performing in what’s called “the corps de ballet” or a ballet company. A ballet company is like a family, and although in popular depictions, the rivalries are often the point of focus, it’s the community of artists coming together that truly defines the dancing experience. In that way, it’s unlike writing, a solitary art, one that I’d find only after my short dancing career passed.

3. During my married life, I’ve owned, with my husband, two houses, both of which have been improved through fairly extensive DYI home upgrades. The cost savings of doing the work ourselves (and by ourselves, I really have to say that my husband did almost all of it himself), we not only increased the value of our home, but we had complete control (for better or worse) of the process of making our home a better, more beautiful dwelling in the way we wanted it to be.

All three of these things come together, for me, as an artist looking to make my way through the world. The artist’s path is not easy. As Jim Hart, Director of Southern Methodist University’s Arts Entrepreneurship program said at a conference that posted a YouTube video of his speech, most artists find themselves on the over-saturated path where there are a few traditional, commercially-viable opportunities for which there exists a large audience competition for these resources. This rings true—there are only so many books the big New York publishers take a gamble on compared to the number of novel manuscripts; in the dance world, there were only so many people the ballet companies could absorb, and many dancers talented enough to fill those spots. Rejection is high and even the lucky breaks don’t always amount to making a living, Hart reminds us.

So, what to do?

Shaped by my experience, I believe a few very specific things. Like my father, sometimes you have to take risks to earn rewards—to think off the beaten path to success. I also believe that there is value in community, which was forged in the corps de ballet. And finally, I believe that some things can be done without the aid of (so-called) experts and professionals, in the DYI fashion, giving us an alternative to the modern consumer culture.

The professor and retired entrepreneur Greg Watson defined entrepreneurship as “the creation of value often through the identification of unmet needs or through the identification of opportunities for change.” What, more than art, provides value and opportunities for change?

We often consider value in monetary terms. Of course, we all need to cover our expenses for our survival and comfort. But can artistic value be measured in other ways? I think yes, and I think one of the best ways is through community building.

In the summer of 2012, I started a fledging project with another writer—a book podcast. We chose a book, read it independently, and then recorded our discussion and posted it on the Internet and through iTunes. SummerBooks has grown from a handful of listeners to thousands of hits in less than a year. I don’t even think it has hit its full potential yet. Marketing has been low-budget—via social media, like that LinkedIn profile I started with, and Twitter. The feedback I’ve received on the podcast, however, suggests that writers and readers were, in fact, looking for community. Presses and authors approach us about reading their newest books; listeners often contact us when they hear us discuss a book and then decide to purchase and read it, too. More than anything, SummerBooks has challenged me to be in dialogue with the community I care about: writers and readers.

At its essence, SummerBooks is fueled by a passion for books. It’s two women in West Virginia who are either brave or stupid enough to share in that conversation.

Late last year, a former student from teaching English 101 in my graduate school days approached me about starting a literary journal. A recent graduate in poetry from the prestigious MFA at Columbia, this student had spent a few years after the program figuring out what was next. Of course, I agreed to help, not only because I have a terrible time saying “no” to such projects, but because I saw it as an opportunity. Souvenir emerged as a result, a journal not only serving writers, but opening up to other art forms and informed criticism. Nascent as still is, the response by both contributors and readers far exceeds, already, our hopes for the publication.

It would be fair to criticize these efforts as not being financially viable; at this point, both ventures create value in ways other than monetary. But the frugal DYI approach makes them both cost effective and alternative to consumer culture. And there are some more established examples to point to: Brad Listi’s Other People podcast or the online literary community The Rumpus, which includes two different book clubs. Of course, others too. I’m not privy to what these endeavors do commercially, but their ability to coalesce communities of writers can be easily seen and joined. By engaging in these, one can be “in company” with other literary artists.

With the developments presented by e-books, the changing perception of self-publishing, the rise of hybrid publishing and ability for more people to engage in small press publishing, the opportunities for arts entrepreneurship for writers has never, perhaps, been greater. The work is hard, but it’s there to be done. And I’m not sure we’ve even begun to see and understand all the ways new technologies will manifest opportunities for literary artists. It’s all scary, as change can be, but also exciting.

My interests, above all others, is to invest in the building of community. I’ve figured out the ways in which to earn (eek out?) my living, and so my passion resides in finding ways to connect. Because if social media has taught us anything, it’s that we yearn for connection. Bringing people together through the arts seems to me one of the best ways for that yearning towards connection to become the catalyst for community.

There’s always risk in entrepreneurial ventures. But also reward. When IBM’s entrepreneurial project, the PC, became such a success, the same people who had once chided my father about taking that risk later asked if he was hiring. How do we know if the risk is worth taking? I don’t know that I have any better advice on that than anyone else, but I think it has to do with hard work and faith and just a gut feeling. Learning, perhaps, to trust our instincts. That DYI credo of the success or failure squarely situated in ourselves, rather than listening to all those who gate-keep, who say, “no.”

If it weren’t for that top 10% LinkedIn email, I might never have thought about DYI Arts Entrepreneurship. But, thankfully I have. And perhaps some of you reading this will get the germ of your own idea, expanding and growing the ideas behind the proliferation of literary or other art. Because if the world is full of art and artistic community, it’s also full of possibility.

4+1 Conference on Literary Translation

I was given the opportunity to attend a 4+1 traduire/übersetzen/tradurre/translatar in Vevey, Switzerland this past March. When I chose Switzerland as the destination for my study abroad program, I thought I knew a thing or two about the country; I knew I would be housed in the French-speaking region, and that the other region was German-speaking. I knew that my favorite French author, Rousseau, was actually born in Geneva.

I was surprised, however, to find out just how much I didn’t know about the world of Swiss literature and writing. For instance, I had no idea that Switzerland has four official languages and that any Swiss author publishes in one language typically has his or her texts translated into the three languages. Many organizations strongly promote this translation of native authors, and, for that purpose, the 4+1 conference was created. The 4+1 conference is held annually and organized by the Swiss Foundation for the Pro Helvetia culture, along with other organizations of similar interests. This year’s conference was dedicated to the English language – promoting both the translation of texts from English and translation of native authors’ work into English.

Discussion was led by prominent British writers Jonathan Coe and Jon Steele with the help of their translators. Well-known Swiss writers publishing in Italian, German, Romansh, French, and in the Swiss-German dialect and notable American translator, John Taylor, were also present. While, in most cases, translators tend to work outside of the spotlight (their names sometimes don’t even appear on the book jacket) a translated work is just as much the translator’s as it is the author’s.

“More than a translation, the work I do is rewrite another version,” translator Donal McLaughlin said at one keynote. Taylor and McLaughlin shared some of the poems they were in the process of translating—work by Clo Duri Bezzola, Pierre Chapuis, and many more. They discussed the obstacles they faced when translating and the rewarding feeling that came from finding the nearly right word that almost has the same nuance as the original—and how in this way a translated poem becomes a version of the original.

One of the most interesting discussions flouted the French title “L’anglais n’existe pas!” or for those of us who don’t speak French, “English doesn’t exist!” Surprisingly,  the amount of people who spoke English as a second language far surpassed the amount of native English speakers. The debate touched on the validity and plausibility of English as a universal, global language.

Interestingly, questions were often asked in French and then answered in English. Within the same panel, the speakers often would converse in  three or four different  languages to each other and to the audience at any given moment. As technology makes our world feel smaller, the possibilities for growth and community within the literary world becomes greater and greater. We have unlimited access to stories from all over the world, and readers who can read our work from every corner of the globe.

 

Splash of Red

Splash of Red is an international online literary arts magazine that publishes poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, interviews, and graphic narratives. They have published interviews with many Pulitzer Prize winners, US Poet Laureates, and acclaimed writers as well as some of the top editors and publishers in the country for their Industry Interview Series. What sets these interviews apart from others is that they focus on the readers of the literary magazine, many of whom are writers themselves. The interviews delve into writing processes of the interviewess, editing techniques, and strategies for getting around writer’s block. And the Industry Series investigates the other side of the table that writers rarely get a glimpse into in order to better their odds at getting their work published. But the meat of the publication is the fantastic submissions that come from all over the world.

The name of the publication comes from three inspirations: 1) the infamous red ink in draft after draft to get the best quality writing, 2) the blood and passion that goes into only the most skillfully crafted art, and 3) great work stands out just like a splash of red.
In 2010, Splash of Red organized numerous live events where authors came to speak with audiences for live Q and As. Some of the authors included Pulitzer Prize winning author Junot Diaz, famed writer Eleanor Herman, and Daniel Wallace – author of Big Fish, who spoke with eager audience members following a showing of the film based on his novel at a local independent theater. Additionally, the online magazine involved local communities by spearheading a special public mural on the New Jersey boardwalk in Asbury Park. Three artists chose three poems published on the website and created pieces of art inspired by and including those poems which were then painted in multiple, large murals across the backdrop of the mid-Atlantic.

Interested fans can follow Splash of Red on Twitter, Facebook, or become a member and get email updates about newly published work and events. One of the things they pride themselves on is creating an online literary arts community where readers can post comments on anything published on the website, submit art inspired by splashes of red for their Red Gallery, and involving members in creative decisions and directions for the publication including suggestions for interviewees.

If you take any one thing away from this blog post, take this: check it out. The website is www.SplashOfRed.net and feel free to peruse, read, comment, and investigate at your own leisure. Make it your own and enjoy!