The goal of Desert Sleuths, the Phoenix chapter of Sisters in Crime, is to nurture, encourage, guide, and offer fellowship to new writers.
New writers like you! From the Sleuths: “Maybe you’re one of the thousands of people who would love to write a book but your career has been focused in a non-literary field. Here’s your chance to get the lowdown on how to fulfill your dream of becoming an author. Changing Hands is hosting our presentation of beginning and newly published authors who also had writing dreams. They may have been police officers, service workers, lawyers, office workers, or elementary school teachers. Now they’re involved in putting their stories on paper. A panel of newbie writers will detail how they have gone from dreamer to writer, including Deb J Ledford, an author and professional content editor who has worked extensively with the panelists. Get your questions answered, listen to the writers’ stories, then go home and fire up your computer!
PARKING / LIGHT RAIL
Don’t want to drive? Take the Light Rail! It lets off at the Central Avenue/Camelback Park-and-Ride, which has hundreds of free parking spaces across the street from Changing Hands.
ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION Sisters in Crime, a national organization originated in 1986 when best-selling author, Sara Paretsky and several friends wanted to create more support and recognition for women writers. Desert Sleuths was organized in 1992 and boasts an annual membership of 100+. It holds an annual writing conference in September, and bi-annually, in odd-numbers years, publishes an anthology of members’ short mystery stories.
Location: Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Rd., Phoenix
Location: Ventana Ballroom, Memorial Union, 301 E Orange St, Tempe, AZ 85281
Join award winning journalist and author Omar El Akkad for his talk, The Story of the American War, on Thursday, April 18, 2019 at the ASU Memorial Union in the Ventana Ballroom (301 E Orange St, Tempe, AZ 85281) at 6:00 p.m. A Q&A and book signing will follow the talk.
In this talk, El Akkad talks about how he came to write his debut novel – the events that inspired it, the references buried throughout the text and the places he visited to research the book. This lecture covers the writing and editing process, the story of how the book came to be published, and the wildly different reactions it has prompted inside and outside the United States.
While encouraged, RSVPs are purely for the purposes of monitoring attendance, gauging interest, and communicating information about parking, directions, and other aspects of the event. You do not have to register or RSVP to attend this event. This event is open to the public and free.
Presented by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University, a partnership between the Center for Science and the Imagination and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.
About the Author
Omar El Akkad was born in Cairo, Egypt and grew up in Doha, Qatar before moving to Canada with his family. An award-winning journalist and author, El Akkad has traveled around the world to cover many of the most important news stories of the last decade. His reporting includes dispatches from the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, the military trials in Guantanamo Bay, the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt, and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri. El Akkad is a recipient of Canada’s National Newspaper Award for investigative reporting and the Goff Penny Memorial Prize for Young Canadian Journalists, as well as three National Magazine Award honorable mentions. His critically acclaimed debut American War, published in 2017, is a post-apocalyptic novel set during the second American Civil War in the year 2074. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
About the Book
An audacious and powerful debut novel: a second American Civil War, a devastating plague, and one family caught deep in the middle—a story that asks what might happen if America were to turn its most devastating policies and deadly weapons upon itself.
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike. (Penguin Random House)
Date: 03/09/2019 Time: 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM Location: Library Meeting Room B, Tempe Public Library, 3500 S. Rural Rd., Tempe, Arizona 85282 Cost: Free
Learn to use strategies and resources for writing autobiography and memoir to tell your family’s story. Participants will write about a life event, so please bring paper and a pen or a laptop computer.
Join NYT Bestselling Author Melissa Marr to learn how to integrate combat sequences into story. Using primarily Historical European martial arts (longsword and single-handed messer), but touching on kali sticks and improvised weaponry, Marr will discuss and demonstrate fighting as a realistic outgrowth of character, world, and setting. Marr will cover integrating action into story naturally and touch on tricks to stretch out the action in text without relying on historical inaccuracies, gross misuse of weapons, or action clichés like villain monologues.
ASU experts in film, television and literature share their perspective on the secret of Star Wars’ success. Mix and mingle with your favorite Jedis, hear the backstory of those vintage Star Wars toys and action figures, learn about the female heroes of Star Wars, enjoy themed face-painting and get your own balloon creature made by a Star Wars cosplayer. (Face-paint and balloons from 1:30-3:30 only).
Welcome to Hogwarts! Inspired by the Harry Potter books, young visiting wizards get sorted into a “house” and receive a corresponding wand; use the wand to magically correct misspelled words! Teeny tiny wizards can just enjoy learning silly spells. Beware: Dementors may show up! Facilitated by professors Jim Blasingame and Peter Goggin and English Education students.
Members of Dumbledore’s Amy at ASU, a Harry Potter-themed student club, coach wannabe-wizards on the art of wand-making (supplies provided). Take a selfie at Platform 9 ¾ in London’s King’s Cross Station!
Today we are happy to share the news of past contributor Pam Houston. Pam’s memoir “Deep Creek: Finding Hope in the High Country” was just published by W. W. Norton & Company in January of 2019. Reminiscing about her life living in the Colorado Rockies, Pam discusses the beauty and pain of human life and her ties to the earth, specifically her 120-acre ranch. The memoir not only includes her essays but also 12 of the author’s own black and white photographs.
The book can be purchased here, and information about her signing event at Bookshop Santa Cruz can be found here.
This much is true: I haven’t been writing much lately. At least not creatively. Or with any kind of fervor or grace. I have been writing, though. I’ve been writing copy. Like that scruffy guy in Mad Men. The one who eventually cut off his nipple. Ginsburg. I’ve been writing ads and newsletters and product descriptions and stuff like that. Content for websites. It pays the bills and then some. It affords a life of minor plenty. But it does not inspire. It’s commerce, it’s not art. Though, sometimes, and only sometimes, I like to joke that it’s the other way around, and that it is in fact art, not commerce, as periodically an occasion presents me with the opportunity to splash a bit of that woebegotten grace around the page/screen. You’ve seen the work I did for that luxury hotel? In Chicago? So I’ve been writing but I haven’t been writing. I’ve been losing writing. Displacing water. Something-something.
In lieu of writing, I’ve been thinking of writing. I’ve been reminiscing. Pulling notes of old harmony from the sticky depths of my glial stew. It has given me that subtle kind of joy that’s so often associated with nostalgia for things gone by: years, cardigans, cross country trips with my brother.
To that end, I have been thinking of firsts. Not those kinds of firsts. These kinds of firsts. First story written; first story/essay published; first book (what book?); and so on. You’ve been there right? Not writing like you feel you ought to be. That self-generated guilt. Rafts of the stuff. Right. So here we go.
First Story: I started writing my first story outside of Orland, California. I was living at the Farm Sanctuary. I was living in a communal home and surrounded by hills and the smell of cows and ducks and pigs and the like. There were three donkeys and no horses. There was a herd of skittish sheep that ran through the hills like dirty laundry possessed of a poltergeist.
I was younger, then. Twenty-two, I think. I was a vegan, then. And strong. And kind of angry. But mainly happy. And careless.
There wasn’t much to do out there. The internet connection was spotty.
Out there, you could spend time with the staff who lived in the communal house and those who didn’t. You could walk the hills. You could run them. You could go into the forests if you could catch a ride or to the Black Butte Lake Reservoir on an old mountain bike. You could suck down beers and smoke a single cigarette while watching the sunset with a woman named Anne. Those are things I did.
Too, there was downtime and alone time. So I read and napped with a cat whose fur was a luminescent shade of gray that trended blue when hit with the sun. I read Gabriel Garcia-Marquez. Haruki Murakami. Toni Morrison. Yukio Mishima. Pearl Buck. Borges. Peter Singer. Whatever was leftover from staff that had come to live in the communal house before eventually leaving. I read magazines. Sometimes the cat would pee on my shirts. The staff who’d been there for awhile said it was because it liked me and didn’t want me to leave, though I, too, eventually would.
It was after I closed the back flap of One-Hundred Years of Solitude that it struck me: I should write a story/I will a story/Let’s write a story! And like in fairy tales of and the lore of writers new and old, the story came to me prepackaged and ready to use.
All I had to do was write it.
Which I did.
In between my chores and after dinner in the communal house. While I emptied feed troughs and mucked barns. It was about an old guy who was friends with a ficus tree. As it goes, the story was called: “Ficus Tree.” It was probably clichéd as all get. But I had to write it. Like a new tooth coming in and shoving aside the old. A tendril pressing through the hull of its seed.
There was a scene I remember liking, the man leaning against a pane of frosted glass in winter and the skin of ice evaporating around his profile as he sat and drank.
When I was through, I printed it out and shared it around with my housemates. It was momentous (for me, at least), as it laid bare the roadmap my life was looking for.
That story, though, is long gone. I’d saved it on a hard floppy but who knows where that ended up. Maybe my mom has a copy somewhere. Probably it is full of typos and tense errors and springs too tightly wound. I’d like to see it again, if possible. I’ll ask her if she held on to it. I wouldn’t blame her if she didn’t.
First Published Story: I was spinning my wheels and waiting to get into graduate school when my first story was submitted and accepted for publication.
I was living with my mom and stepdad in Carbondale, Illinois. It was a good time. I hadn’t a job yet had some money. I drank whiskey with my town friends. I ran fast around the lake situated on the campus of the local university.
The story? Well, it was accepted by the Paris Review!! It was such a shock. Like realizing, suddenly, I could levitate at will. I’m kidding. It was accepted by The Thieves Jargon, an online-only publication. You remember it? I feel like people liked appearing in that one. Like getting something accepted and published by elimae. Like elimae, The Thieves Jargon has gone the way of the ghost. Even its archives are extinct. Scraped from the face of the earth. Like river silt washed into and swallowed by the ocean.
The story was heavily (and I mean heavily) influenced by Rick Bass’s “Mississippi.” My story was called “Agnes is Gorgeous.” It was about a guy and a woman named Agnes. I don’t think the guy had a name. I think it was in written in the third person. Or maybe it was the first?
(I’d started working on it New Orleans, on the floor of my friend’s apartment, writing under the swirl of the ceiling fan and caressing the keys of my gigantic Dell Inspiron laptop.)
In the story, the couple were together, though I don’t remember what they did together or what drove the story. My sense memory tells me that they were nice enough to each other, that they were perhaps too dependent on each other, that they had a box fan in the window. Probably they drank iced tea and were familiar with each other more often than not.
Anything else, I don’t know.
What I do know is that when I received the acceptance email from the editors at Thieves, I damn well did levitate up the stairs from my mother’s basement and into the kitchen to tell her and my stepdad that I was to be a published author. It was the most incredible feeling I’d felt in a long while, as I’d already been loved by someone not my parents. It was validation that my work had some merit, however fleeting or thin. While Thieves was still up and running, I’d come to publish another tiny story or two in the magazine. Stories about deli workers wrapping steaks in thick white paper. Laborers. The times I knew when I was between schools and standing on ladders and swinging sledge hammers and breathing in crystalline silica dust and coughing it up at night after hours and hours of drinking.
First Published Essay: The one season of little league I participated in, I tried my best to emulate Will “The Thrill” Clark, first baseman (at least when I was a player) for the San Francisco Giants.
He wore number twenty-two.
His first homerun occurred during his first professional at bat, off of Nolan Ryan.
I admired him because, when in the box, he held his bat like a hobo held a bindle stick, slung carelessly behind the back, its end tipping toward the ground in a careless little wag and dance.
I was living in Wisconsin when The Thrill would come to feature in my first foray into essay.
I was working for the state, at the time.
I was most definitely hating life, at the time, and my own in particular.
I had a cubicle, then, and was checking my Twitter account and in the doing, saw that a literary magazine I followed had a call for writing having to do with baseball. That magazine was Hobart Pulp. I hadn’t any thoughts of sharing pieces of myself through writing or writing of baseball until the moment I saw that tweet. But when I did, I said to myself: Let’s write about little league and Will Clark and being a kid with a younger brother being raised, at that time, primarily by our mom, who was doing her best but who did not, when taking me to the Hibbett Sports Store at the Carbondale mall to buy an aluminum baseball bat and white leather (fresh!) batting gloves, did not buy me a protective cup (I already had a ball glove). And I, being in fifth grade, was too terrified and shy to ask for one, as doing so would implicitly/explicitly imply and foretell that I was growing up, so off I went into the fields and dugouts of the sporting complex with nothing but my reflexes and a polycotton fabric blend to protect me from the potential energy stored within a baseball.
As mentioned, I had a stupid job (it really was) in a stupid department in a stupid state and though I didn’t like to, I did my work and still had plenty plenty of time to sit there in my desk chair, idling with my two screens open, my official work stuff always up, my writing stuff off to the side, always ready, at first, to minimize the page, and always ready, later, to just keep it up.
So when the prompt hovered in front of me in my cubicle area, I pulled up a fresh Word Doc and started typing away about Will Clark and being from a broken home (ha), the only one among my friends with divorced friends.
I wrote about striking out all the time and Will Clark’s beautiful swing, as gorgeous a thing as Ken Griffey Jr’s, and how it was almost more gorgeous than KG’s because Will Clark looked more like a guy who’d just clambered down from a deer stand than an athlete who could loft balls out of the park as easy pressing a glass to the little piece that made ice fall from an automatic ice dispenser.
I wrote it sent it out and it was accepted and published, I think, in 2015, April, the usual month Hobart holds kicks off its baseball theme.
I guess it was a coming of age piece, in a way.
It was so much fun to write while sitting in that drab cubicle, in the sense that it provided a kind of sanctuary from the doldrums I was so often kicking around in those days.
It was a pleasure to think of Will Clark and how I saw his glove and cleats in Cooperstown, a place he’ll probably only ever visit as a guest. In the years since, I’ve had the pleasure of having a poem and short story accepted by Hobart and asides from my own personal sense of accomplishment, they’re just a damn fine journal whose staff work tirelessly to highlight excellent writers across the board.
We’re at the end now. This mosey down memory lane is the most writing I’ve done in awhile. It was fun. It felt good. It said to me, as I was writing, stop taking on so many freelance projects, guy. Your job is enough. Writing is more important than a few extra bucks. And it is. So I should. And maybe I will. If I know what’s good for me.
Today we are pleased to feature author Joe Bardin as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, Joe discusses the process of envisioning and writing his essay “Trenton into Time.”
Joe reflects how he first realized “that there was an essay to write” during a conversation with his housemates, where he “started talking about this period of my life…And I realized… that the things I was recounting were, in some sense, remarkable.” He affirms that “I think there’s a kind of epiphany that some writers experience, when at different points we realize that… our experience matters, that it has some kind of meaning or substance,” and states that, “That’s what got me going onto ‘Trenton into Time.'”
“We all sort of live ‘on top’ of these stories and experiences that have happened to us,” Joe declares. “We may remember or not remember [them] clearly, or consider or not consider [them] important, but underneath lie these moments in time that are part of who we are.” He calls the exploration of such moments “a kind of archaeology,” stating that “the person we are now is like the city built on top of a hill that’s full of relics of the past.” He emphasizes that “there’s something very intimate about remembering… and making some kind of sense of it now.”
You can read Joe’s essay, “Trenton into Time,” in Issue 19 of Superstition Review.
The Tempe Book Festival is an annual event intended to celebrate reading, writing, and a love for books. The Festival brings together local authors, publishers, booksellers, panel discussions, youth story times, and more!
Novelists don’t have to use their families’ real names.
Agents don’t wear a cheesy smile and declare that a novelist’s true-life narrative “cannot be differentiated from others in the market.”
By creating names, places, people and events (and, well, whatever they want), novelists build a bulwark of invention to keep their agonizing, lived experiences at bay while concealing them in their fictions.
Novelists don’t create in a genre tagged with terms like “naval gazing” or paired with adjectives like misery as in misery memoir.
Agents don’t shake their heads and explain that novelists’ life stories don’t have enough of a “hook.”
Novelists don’t workshop their manuscripts in mixed-genre groups only to be neglected—
“I couldn’t really write my opinions or leave comments. I just wasn’t comfortable. After all, yours is so personal.”
When someone asks, “Come on, did that really happen?” Novelists answer, “Of coursenot.” (Whether it did or not.)
When novelists compose outrageous fictitious scenes, readers don’t flinch. When a memoirist records an outrageous real-life scene, readers complain—
“No way this happened!” “I don’t believeit.”
Novelists don’t confront questions like—
“What is a memoir, again? Okay, and who wrote it? But, who is it about? Shit, you must have had a really amazing life!”
After their books are published, novelists aren’t in jeopardy of family and friends ostracizing them or of being disowned. They don’t witness their families and friends sob and dodge others when their lives are exposed.
Today we are pleased to feature author Deborah Bogen as our Authors Talk series contributor. The topic of Deborah’s podcast, as she says, is “prose poems: the how and why of writing them.”
She confesses that after writing three books of “mostly lineated poems,” she took a break from poetry, or as she emphasizes “poetry took a break from me.” She describes her struggle to write a poem, saying that she “tried, but could not do it.” After a time spent writing novels, she states that “a strange thing happened: I was filled, and I do mean filled, with the urge to make new poems.” Due to her time writing in a novelistic style, she declares that she “quite naturally… fell into the world of prose poems.” She had previously enjoyed the style, but now, “the joy…was that I had a form, a box into which I could place… what I was noticing in what we call the world.” She closes by urging fellow poets to “have some fun [with prose poems],” and to “write a bunch.”
You can read Deborah’s poem, “This Poem May Be Read In Any Order,” in Issue 21 of Superstition Review.