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“America is not the Final Word:” An Interview with Diana Abu-Jaber

February 6th, 2015

Diana Abu-Jaber’s has been heralded as a writer that “gets it just right” and whose work “leaves readers breathless” (DianaAbuJaber.com). This well-deserved praise comes as the result of her award-winning style, captured in one food memoir, The Language Of Baklava (2007), and four novels: Arabian Jazz (1993), Crescent (2003), Origin (2007), and Birds of Paradise (2011).. Abu-Jaber lingers over words and experiences such that they leave an indelible imprint. She weaves together experiences from her own Arab American culture, the US multiethnic landscape, and her own logophilia. In a post-9/11 literary landscape, her creative offerings (and I use that phrase to invoke the food and meals she so richly describes) have been politicized both within and outside of the Arab American community.

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5 Questions for the author of SolLit Book’s latest e-book: Sad Girls and Other Stories

February 4th, 2015

 

 

Margaret Elysia GarciaMargaret Elysia Garcia lives in the northern Sierra Nevadas with her family in exile from her Los Angeles roots. A contributing editor for Hip Mama Magazine, she also writes a comic zine called “The Adventures of Sadgirl the Superheroine,” illustrated by her daughter, Paloma. In 2014, she wrote, co-directed and co-produced the play “Before You Barefoot: A Dark Comedy of Revenge.” She is also a DJ, radio host and director of the “Listen to Your Mother” show in Plumas County, California. Ariel Gore calls Margaret’s work “a hauntingly beautiful new voice in American literature.”

 

How did Sad Girls come about?

I’ve written many stories set in and around Whittier, California where I grew up from 1984 to 1995 (I was born in nearby Montebello, with grandparents and various other family in both Pico Rivera and Whittier; I was an army brat so Whittier was always home but I didn’t always live there until we moved back to the states in 1984). Early on I’d write stories about what I knew: My Whittier, Mexican-American, and Okie upbringing of middle and lower-middle-class kids making their way through first and second-generation attempts at college. But when I’d send pieces out in the ‘90s and even in the 2000’s, I’d often hear back from editors that my stories, while good, didn’t seem believable. What Los Angeles County was I writing about? There were no gangsters. There weren’t very many homeboys. There were however, Mexican-American kids who couldn’t speak Spanish very well and loved the Smiths, Andy Warhol, and getting lost in books. I briefly freelanced for a magazine whose target audience was exactly ‘my people’ and advertisers told the managing editor that our demographic didn’t exist. It’s a weird thing to know that people don’t think you exist. So that’s when I decided that I would create characters like those I knew growing up in high school and college in Whittier. I would create the people who others insisted didn’t exist. The other, Los Angeles, if you will.

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Reality TV (and free critiques) For Writers

January 30th, 2015

Whenever we can, we like to bring you news of helpful resources for writers, and here’s an innovative resource we just learned about:

Writer’s Infusion is an internet show designed  to bring the experience and support of a writer’s group to the writing community, for free. It’s the the brainchild of Susan Zall (that’s her in the pic), from Walpole, Massachusetts who writes:

“I created Writer’s Infusion because I strongly believe in giving back to the writing community, and I want to help as many writers as possible avoid the years of frustration I experienced in writing without a support system. ”

Each episode consists of a panel of critiquers reading a few pages of a writer’s story and then providing detailed feedback on his/her submission.

Watch, submit and learn more here.

Who are the Muses?

January 5th, 2015

 

musingWho but the Maenads, repentant, clothed, and in their right minds.

(from Jane Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion)

 

For a long time I’ve been searching for a way to describe my own poetic process that also explains what takes place inside me when I read certain poems. As far as I know, no one has adequately explained the correspondence between the two seemingly distinct experiences. So I have been craving a theory that is versatile—one that goes both ways, plays both offence and defense. A scheme worthy of someone like my childhood hero, Chuck Bednarik, who played both offensive center and defensive linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960s.

My first lead came from a seemingly throwaway remark by Robert Hass during one of his ecstatically meandering and leapfrogging talks. He might have been talking about metaphor as transport or he might have been discoursing on Pseudo-Dionysus and the language of angels. At one point, he presented us with a variation of Tevye’s quaint, faux-Talmudic, Fiddler on the Roof wisdom: “If you spit in the air, it lands on your face.” Hass’s version, which he said was from Vietnam, provided a twist:

Spit in the air / Learn something

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The Undergrad Writer: Oh, So You Want to be a Teacher?

December 29th, 2014

wonka1Being an English major combines many of the things in life that I enjoy deep down to my core: I love reading, which is nice because most of my assignments are lengthy portions of text. I love writing, both creatively and academically, so hunkering down to bang out an eight-page paper, if I have enough time, is not a burden, but  an adventure. I love learning, so researching for papers and assignments is my favorite part. And because I love learning, I love workshops. Well, I’ve grown to love them, as mentioned in my previous blog post. I realize constructive criticism will only improve my writing, and therefore I welcome it with ready ears.

There are a few aspects of working towards an English degree that aren’t as wonderful (how heavy my backpack can be on any given day is one of them), but there is a single factor that stands out as the worst part.

Oh, so you want to be a teacher?

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Why I Love Author Interviews

December 15th, 2014

Yesterday I got a letter from AWP attempting to win me back as a Writer’s Chronicle subscriber (I have no excuse except that I forgot to renew). Inside the envelope was a solicitation letter. And this bookmark:

IMG_1498

EXHIBIT A

 

My first thought upon reading this bookmark was: Right on Joan! Potential bottomless pit of potential humiliation! Amen! My second thought was: wait a minute –that quote is from the interview I did with Joan Wickersham, which was published in the September 2013 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle! Cool. And my third thought was: How ironic that Joan once wrote a column for The Boston Globe about receiving too much unwanted “swag” in the mail and now her quote had been transformed into said “swag.”

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7 Questions: An Interview with Marianne Leone

November 21st, 2014

MarianneLeoneMarianne  Leone’s essay “The Official Story” is a Featured Nonfiction piece in the fall issue. She is an actress, screenwriter, and essayist. Her essays and op-ed pieces have appeared in the Boston Globe, The Bark magazine, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog. She had a recurring role on HBO’s The Sopranos and has appeared in films by John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, Nancy Savoca, Michael Corrente, Larry David, and the Farrelly Brothers. She is married to the actor Chris Cooper. Her memoir,  Jesse:A Mother’s Story (Simon & Schuster) is a chronicle of the remarkable life and untimely death of her child who died suddenly at age seventeen. His life is celebrated through the Jesse Cooper Give Back to Society Scholarship, the Jesse Advocacy Fund at the Federation for Children with Special Needs, and the Jesse Ho, an outrigger named for him at AccesSportAmerica, a charity supported by the Jesse Cooper Foundation.

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The UnderGrad Writer: On Vulnerability and The Workshop

November 19th, 2014

snoopy-stormy-nightThe Writers’ Workshop is one of the most important lessons in writing. Workshops are designed to offer writers an array of critiques in order to improve a specific piece. Most college programs, to some extent, incorporate a workshop aspect.

As I mentioned in my first blog post, when I initially walked into a class called Prose Writing, I thought I had accidentally interrupted a business meeting. Seeing the tables in a circle, I stood stunned, wondering if I’d misread the room number. Nope.

This was Prose Writing.

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On Flash Nonfiction, and Judith Kitchen

November 15th, 2014

Photo_Judith_KitchenI recently read that Judith Kitchen passed away from cancer. I didn’t know Judith personally; we’d never even met. I discovered her via the flash nonfiction anthologies she created and edited, with the aptly named titles:  In Short, In Brief and Short Takes.

I fell hard for the flash nonfiction form when my friend Janet introduced me to the series. I read all three books, highlighting phrases and passages. This was sometime in 2006 I believe, shortly after I graduated from the MFA program at Lesley University, and right around the time I had my first child. (Trust me: flash is the form to read when you’ve got an infant).

I remember laughing at pieces like Brady Udall’s “One Liar’s Beginnings,” and gasping at the end of Harriet Doerr’s “Low Tide at Four.” The brilliant essay “The Mother,” by Ann Panning hit home in a big way, at just the right time.

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It Takes as Long as it Takes: On Waiting

November 12th, 2014

waitingOnce upon a time, when I was a young twenty-something server at a restaurant just outside of Boston, my manager called me into his office.

“Amy,” he said solemnly. “I need to tell you something. You’re not the stronger waiter.”

“Um, I’m not a waiter,” I corrected him. “I’m a waitress.”

Looking back, however, if we were to interpret my manager’s remark literally, the guy was spot on.

I’m a horrible wait-er. The worst.

This is a difficult attribute to have as a writer, not to mention a neurotic writer with shaky self-esteem, whose world pretty much revolves around receiving  that email announcing “About your Submission.”

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Headline Poetry

November 7th, 2014


Pocono Coal BreakerI was driving to work a few weeks ago, listening closely to a news report about the survivalist Eric Frein, who had just murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper and managed to evade capture by hiding out in the dense forests of the Pocono Mountains. Although hundreds of people were engaged in a desperate and dramatic search for the killer, he had thus far evaded capture.

I listened closely to the report. I grew up in Philadelphia and the Poconos almost rivaled the Jersey shore for vacation fun—summer camp, ski trips, hiking, camping, and later, gambling casinos. When I was older, I became more and more fascinated by the old mining towns and patches, the abandoned anthracite coal breakers, the eternally burning mine and town of Centralia, the gold-domed churches of immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia.

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It’s Raining FREE e-Books! November 5 ONLY!

November 4th, 2014

Don’t miss this November 5th 24-hour offer to download two new eBooks from SolsticeLit Books for FREE

Why are we giving away our books? As a valued reader of Solstice Lit Mag, we know you appreciate artful writing that can probe at the spots we all tend to tuck away. We want to encourage you to experience these exciting eBooks and tell your friends about them. On November 5, 2014, you can download them free from Amazon for only 24 hours.

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The Undergrad Writer: Really Bad Drafts

November 3rd, 2014

I have a theory about all of those happy writers sitting in coffee shops. All of those happy writers sitting in coffee shops are only happy because they’re doing it wrong.

dont freak outI observed these happy writers often from a long Starbucks line at 8:00am through my yawning eyes, and I never once thought I could get to that point of being a happy writer. I was a freshman at a private college with a major in Sociology and a Business Management minor, and a plan to work with nonprofit companies after graduation. After my first year, I realized I only chose this career path because in high school I tried to rack up as many volunteer opportunities as possible to boost my resume and college applications, and the college major just followed suit. I wasn’t totally in love with my program, but I didn’t know what else to do. I stunk at math, hated science with my whole heart, couldn’t speak other languages, and didn’t have enough time to read (or so I thought). What I could do, however, was write essays.

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Ready to get your blog on?

October 29th, 2014

I am!
As the new Managing Editor for Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, I’m thrilled to be running the SolLit Blog. Each week my aim is to inform, engage and inspire you with good reads about writing craft, writing process, trends in writing and/or literature, author interviews, and perhaps the occasional mini-rant.

writer-fight

You can bet our blog won’t be afraid of a little healthy (non-violent) debate, or making some noise when necessary either. Solstice is deeply committed to supporting writers on the margins and staying atop troubling trends related to diversity in the lit world. At the same time, we want to identify and celebrate any positive changes/success stories we hear about too!

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Now available on Amazon Kindle! SOLSTICE, A MAGAZINE OF DIVERSE VOICES LAUNCHES ITS SECOND eBook THE MESSAGE

July 9th, 2014

The MessageEugenio Volpe’s first eBook, The Message, is a potent view of Afghanistan soldier Adam Zane’s internal unraveling. Returning home to what he sees as the nothingness of Hartford, CT, Zane divides his time between shooting hoops at the local basketball court and camouflaging the self-loathing that now occupies his inner landscape. If someone would shut down the winning streak of hometown traitor and pro basketball superstar Elijah Adams, aka The Message . . . If Zane can find the real trigger of his mounting anxiety and imagined physical descent . . . If his alcoholic mother can stay away from meth and her meth-head boyfriend . . . If he can find the Persian words to label ordinary things with exotic new names . . . If the ifs would stand at ease long enough for him to see what it means to be a man, Zane might find reprieve from the rapidly expanding emptiness. The Message is a pin-pulled grenade clutched in the hands of readers.

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What’s Wrong with Jonathan Franzen? #firstworldproblem

October 17th, 2013

Sorry that I am just getting to Jonathan Franzen’s “What’s Wrong with the Modern World” essay now. It was published almost a month ago in The Guardian. Bloggers from Slate, The Daily Beast, New Yorker, and New Republic have already blasted it for Franzen’s trademark arrogance. My posting late on a trending topic is inexcusable. It defeats the whole purpose of blogging. It defeats the whole purpose of the Internet. Taking a month to read, digest, and respond to something is reserved for four-color, glossy print. 4G LTE technology is for instantaneous shit-talk, so here I go… (more…)

Solstice lit mag at AWP: (L to R) Richard Hoffman, nonfic editor; Lee Hope, editor-in-chief; Clint McCown, author.

Solstice lit mag at AWP & Contest Announcement

March 20th, 2013

Announcing our annual LIT CONTEST. $1,000 FICTION PRIZE. Final judge: TBA. The $500 STEPHEN DUNN PRIZE in Poetry. And the $500 NONFICTION PRIZE, donated by Michael Steinberg. Final Judge: Randall Kenan. Also our new $500 E-BOOK PRIZE. Reading fee: $18.00. (For e-book $28.00.) (more…)

The Reading Dead

January 30th, 2013

George Saunders newest short story collection The Tenth of December has been released just in time for the third season continuation of The Walking Dead which airs February 10th on AMC. The show is a morality tale set during a zombie apocalypse. Currently it’s the most literary drama on American television (and that ain’t the third Glenlivet talking). It out-dramatizes and out-thinks both Mad Men and Homeland. Like many British shows (MI-5), The Walking Dead is not afraid to kill off main characters. There’s more at philosophical stake. More hermeneutic and proairetic coding (if you’re into that kind of thing). But what’s this all got to do with Saunders? Zombies. That’s what. Saunders is the best zombie author who’s ever lived or maybe lived. Forget the resurrection tales of John the Apostle and Luke the Evangelist. To hell with Mary Shelley. Nobody brings the dead back to life like George Saunders. (more…)

Roland-Merullo

Interview with writer Roland Merullo

December 10th, 2012

Hello, this is Lee Hope, editor-in-chief of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, an online magazine with a mission: to promote diversity of all types in the literary arts and in photography. With our newly designed Fall/Winter 2012 issue, we are beginning a new series of informal, provocative, and sporadically amusing, Audio Author Chats. We’ll begin now, with the well-known writer Roland Merullo, author of 15 books of fiction and nonfiction and whose most recent novel is Lunch with Buddha. (more…)

Margins

December 8th, 2012

“The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence. The writer is the man or woman who automatically takes a stance against his or her government…American writers ought to stand and live in the margins, and be more dangerous. Writers in repressive societies are considered dangerous. That’s why so many of them are in jail.”

Don DeLillo

To celebrate the launch of the new Solstice website and winter issue, I thought I’d revisit the idea of literary diversity and writers on the margins. Past issues have included work by an Iraqi war vet, a former migrant worker, and released death row inmate Damian Echols who was part of the West Memphis Three triple homicide case featured in the Academy Award-nominated HBO documentary series Paradise Lost. This issue includes photography of death row inmates by Lou Jones, a story of a woman in prison, and an essay about parole, among other pieces. As Solstice makes good on its mission of promoting “underserved writers…from writing groups for those on probation or parole, or from writing groups in prisons, in shelters, in rehab programs, in veteran centers, in churches or in libraries,” the importance of such literature becomes all the more apparent. Seemingly democratized, mass-produced technology and pop culture has ensured that the majority of us pretty much share the exact same life experiences, give or take, comme ci, comme ça. (more…)