Austin International Poetry Festival (April 4th-April 7th)

“We have a midnight to dawn poetry marathon that is quite popular with poets who can tolerate sleep deprivation.”
— Ronald J. Jorgenson

Happy April, everyone! As you no doubt know, April is National Poetry month, and that means the annual Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF) is almost here! AIPF is an Austin-based conference in which poets from over 50 countries across the world come together to celebrate the written and spoken word. AIPF includes unique Austin venues, a dusk to dawn open mic, poetry readings and workshops that help promote a more diverse community, music, anthology readings, and a panel discussion. This year AIPF is from April 4th to April 7th at a variety of iconic writing locations around Austin. We spoke with this year’s festival director, Ron J. Jorgenson, and are happy to share the conversation here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scribe: What inspired your decision to host the Austin International Poetry Festival (AIPF)?

Ron J. Jorgenson: The festival is in its 27th year, inspired originally to bring international poets to the city and expand the vision of local poets. I am a relative newcomer, having been on the Board for only 10-12 years.  My personal motivation is to create an identity for the festival, enhance diversity of poetic forms presented at the festival and increase the presence of K-12 students in the audiences.

Scribe: Who is the audience that you would most like to attract?

RJJ: Most poetry organizations are aging. I would like to attract younger poets – college aged and younger. There is also a need for diversity at the festival; some of the great voices of society come from minority populations who don’t always find their way to us.

Scribe: What event in past years has been popular among AIPF attendees?

RJJ: We have a midnight to dawn poetry marathon that is quite popular with poets who can tolerate sleep deprivation. The Slam and haiku challenges attract big crowds. One year we published a “Rejected Anthology,” putting in print favorite poems of poets in attendance… but the poems had to have been rejected by editorial boards of journals prior to submitting them to us. There was some excellent poetry between those covers.

Scribe: How has the Austin and international poetry community grown and bonded through AIPF?  

RJJ: There are numerous reading and writing groups throughout the city. AIPF has tried to bring members of these groups together to promote the written and spoken word. This year, we are expanding our outreach to groups along the IH-35 corridor, hoping to see if there is a distinctive poetic voice in South-Central Texas.

Scribe: What AIPF event are you most excited for this year?

RJJ: A favorite of mine will be the event that puts K-12 student artists together with poets who ‘interpret’ the students’ art in joint readings. And, we mustn’t forget the cowboy poetry sessions or the expanded emphasis on music combined with poetry.

Thanks, Ron!

Click here to find the AIPF official schedule of events.

We’re so excited to be a part of AIPF this year! Don’t forget to come to our special Business of Poetry WLT panel on Saturday at Malvern Books — you won’t want to miss out.

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Celebrating Texas Independents: The Twig Book Shop in San Antonio

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In conjunction with Texas Independence Day, we’re partnering with some of the state’s greatest Independents to host a series of free and open events across the state throughout the month of March. These panel discussions will focus on the great opportunities for writers and readers that Texas has to offer, from independent presses, to journals, to bookstores, and beyond, while also answering writers’ burning questions about the publishing process, submitting to presses and journals, catching the eye of an editor, and more.

Last night, we had such a great time at our panel discussion in San Antonio at The Twig Book Shop. We interviewed General Manager Claudia Maceo and Events Coordinator Nancy Gebhardt to learn more about this fantastic independent bookstore and the San Antonio literary community.

Scribe:
Can you share a few thoughts with us about the Texas literary landscape? What makes it unique, and what opportunities can be found here for writers, readers, and publishers?

Claudia Maceo: In San Antonio, Gemini Ink is our literary organization that brings in locally and nationally known writing talent to teach classes for developing writers. Publishers like Wings Press and Trinity University Press provide opportunities for authors of all genres, many of whom are writing about our diverse Texas region. The Twig Book Shop is a destination for locals and visitors alike who have regional interests, from children’s books to Texas history, from fiction to poetry.

Scribe: What do you see as the role of independents (publishers, journals, booksellers) in Texas’s literary community, and what do you find most rewarding about the work you do as an independent publisher?

CM: While we certainly provide the best of new traditionally published books, we also have tried to develop an eye for the lesser-known talents, the smaller print runs, and topics that might not be of interest in other markets. It is our genuine joy and pleasure to introduce our selection to the curious, open-minded reader. Hearing someone admire the selection is immensely affirming. One thing that distinguishes us as independent booksellers is our knowledge of books and our ability to articulate that knowledge.

Scribe: Tell us a bit about one of your upcoming programs, events, or publications that you feel exemplifies the spirit of being independent in Texas.

Nancy Gebhardt: At The Twig we enjoy promoting our local authors with author appearances, book signings, and readings. Our events give both new and experienced authors a chance to get their names out, meet the community, and talk about their writing process. We feature a wide variety of authors and genres with fascinating stories and ideas, all right here in South Texas! Our calendar is full of fun things to do, see, and experience.

Thanks, Claudia and Nancy!

Visit our website for additional cities and dates throughout the month of March.

March 6 panel at the Twig with moderator Becka Oliver and panelists Kelly Grey Carlisle, Tom Payton, Will Evans, and Bryce Milligan

 

Are you a Texas independent (publisher, journal, bookstore, etc.) interested in participating in future event and/or learning about other opportunities for partnership and promotion? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at wlt@writersleague.org.

Hey Texans, Let’s Read Diverse Books!

“To read stories and hear voices that represent all the richness of the human experience is simply a matter of seeing our world truthfully, seeing our truths in it, and having others see them, too.”

—Natalia Sylvester

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Every year, the Texas Book Festival (Nov 5-6, 2016—this weekend!) brings more than 40,000 book lovers of all ages to the State Capitol grounds in Austin for a full weekend of programming with over 250 authors, including author readings and presentations, panel discussions, book signings, cooking demonstrations, live music, local food, YA authors, children’s activities, and exhibiting vendors from across the state.

Since the Festival‘s beginnings, the Writers’ League of Texas has participated as an exhibitor. Each year we look forward to this wonderful opportunity to support Texas authors and meet members, readers, and writers from across the state and nation. At our booth, visitors can meet our staff and volunteers, learn about membership, raise a glass to toast our book award honorees, and buy books from members who are signing their books (view the signing schedule here).

This year, we wanted to do a little something extra to highlight the diversity of Texas authors and their work. In partnership with Austin SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), we’re having a special diversity-focused book signing and giveaway at 4 pm on Saturday. Drop by to meet three incredible Texas authors — Chris Barton, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Natalia Sylvester — and get a free signed copy of one of their books while supplies last.

We interviewed these three authors about the importance of diversity in literature and events like the Texas Book Festival.

Scribe: Why is it important for readers—regardless of their age—to read about diverse characters and their experiences?

Chris Barton: The more that we read stories unlike our own, and the more that we learn about people whose experiences have been fundamentally different in some significant way from the lives we’ve lived, the less likely we are to see ourselves as the norm, the default. That opens us up to new information, new points of view, new arguments, new hopes, new dreams, new ideas. And that’s how we grow as individuals and move forward as a society.

Cynthia Leitich Smith: Anyone can be a hero that everybody cheers! We all need to see ourselves reflected in the pages of books, and our society is dependent on the empathy that diverse characters can foster. But beyond that, we need diverse characters and stories because they’re entertaining, informative, and inspirational. They grow us as people. And many of the best writers are from diverse communities, offering insider insights through fiction (and nonfiction) that illuminate us all.

Natalia Sylvester: There are so many reasons, but for me what it essentially boils down to is this: We exist, we are part of this world, too, and all we’re asking for is to not be erased. To read stories and hear voices that represent all the richness of the human experience is simply a matter of seeing our world truthfully, seeing our truths in it, and having others see them, too.

Scribe: What do you love most about the Texas Book Festival?

CB: I love the sense of optimism I always have by the end of the weekend. Nothing makes me more hopeful about the future of our state than two days spent among a multitude of Texans seeking out and celebrating and getting inspired by the written word.

CLS: Honestly, I love that we started the entire book festival movement. I love that when it came to connecting books to readers through community, the Texas Book Festival was the groundbreaker. The leader. I feel about it the way a lot of Texans felt when—in a journey spanning from the dawn of time to humanity’s trek in the stars—the first word spoken from outer space was “Houston.”

NS: I love getting to know the authors behind each book. As readers, we fall in love with an author’s words and ideas, but we don’t often get to see who they are, off the page. Hearing them speak about their work, their influences, and their processes is fascinating to me, as both a writer and a reader.

Scribe: We love giving book recommendations at the Writers’ League! What is one diversity-related book that you’d recommend? Bonus points if it’s Texas-related!

CB: The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, by former (and future, I hope) Texas Book Festival author Isabel Wilkerson. It’s a diversity-related book in the sense that if your family did not participate in that migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to the rest of the United States, you’re going to learn a lot about a foundational shift in the histories of millions of American families — families whose experiences were possibly extremely different from your own. As for the Texas connection, when reading about that latter journey, I was stunned to realize that Jim Crow extended all the way out to El Paso. I had never considered far West Texas to be part of the South, but in that sense, it certainly was — and this was just one of the many ways in which Wilkerson’s book was an eye-opener for me.

CLS: Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall, a novel mining the struggle between Tejanos and white Texans during the Mexican Revolution. Informative, gripping, and empowering—a must-read for every Texan.

NS: It might feel like an obvious pick, but for good reason: Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands should be read by everyone, especially Texans. If we’re ever to truly understand our history and our present, we need to see it from all sides and perspectives. Anzaldua challenges the notion that there are two sides to everything and a border between them. Our world is far more complex, and only when we’re able to see past the invisible borders we put up do we begin to truly embrace one another and coexist.

chris-bartonChris Barton‘s most recent books for young readers include THE AMAZING AGE OF JOHN ROY LYNCH (currently on the Texas Bluebonnet Award Master List), WHOOSH!, and 88 INSTRUMENTS. He’s also the author of THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS (winner, Sibert Honor) and SHARK VS. TRAIN (a New York Times bestseller). You can visit him at www.chrisbarton.info.

clsCynthia Leitich Smith is the New York Times and PublishersWeekly best-selling YA author of the TANTALIZE series and FERAL series. Her award-winning books for younger children include JINGLE DANCER, INDIAN SHOES, and RAIN IS NOT MY INDIAN NAME. She is also well published in children’s-YA short fiction and nonfiction. Her website at www.cynthialeitichsmith.com was named one of the top 10 Writer Sites on the Internet by Writer’s Digest and an ALA Great Website for Kids. Her Cynsations blog at cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com was listed as among the top two read by the children’s/YA publishing community in the SCBWI “To Market” column.

natalia sylvesterBorn in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four. As a child she spent time in South Florida, Central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas before her family set roots once again in Miami. In 2006, Natalia received a B.A. in creative writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Austin, Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her articles have appeared in Latina Magazine, Writer’s Digest, The Writer, and NBCLatino.com. CHASING THE SUN is her first novel. It was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad, and was chosen as a Book of the Month by the National Latino Book Club. Her second novel, EVERYONE CARRIES THEIR OWN WATER, is forthcoming from Little A in 2018.

Thanks, everyone! See you at the Festival!

Meet the Community Member

The Writers’ League greatly appreciates the support of its community members. Every so often we give our Community Members the opportunity to write a guest blog post on Scribe. This week, we’re featuring The Writing Barn. Operated by Bethany Hegedus, (author of Between Us BaxtersTruth with a Capital T, and mostly recently, Grandfather Gandhi) The Writing Barn offers classes, retreats, and other literary events on a beautiful seven and a half wooded acre in Austin. Read the Q&A and guest blog post from The Writing Barn below to learn more.

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Scribe: Can you describe The Writing Barn’s mission in a few sentences?

Bethany Hegedus: The Writing Barn works with writers and creatives “to deepen your process and perfect your craft” and the various spaces The Writing Barn, from the party porch to the cozy cabin, have a motto of their own: “Retreat. Create. Celebrate” as we host book launches, book-themed parties, private and group retreats as well as weekend intensives.

Scribe: The Writing Barn sits on a gorgeous piece of property–what came first, the idea or the space?

BH: The space came first. My husband has owned the property for many years, and when we began to get serious, we looked at the old horse barn together and decided to remodel it into my office. When I saw how large the space was and how useful, I knew it wasn’t just for me and The Writing Barn was born.

Scribe: What’s important to you about supporting the Writers’ League of Texas and being a community member?

BH: Being a community member of the Writers’ League of Texas is an honor–and an accomplishment. When I first moved to Austin, I worked at the Writers’ League as the office manager, so I know the good work the league does first hand. As an author myself, it’s important for me to support nonprofits with creative missions and the Writers’ League has a long history in Texas of supporting those on the way to being published and those who have crossed that threshold.

Scribe: Tell us about “Write Away Day”?

BH: Write Away Days came about as we all need time, solitude, and community to get to the page. It’s a structured mini-retreat for yourself amid the hustle and bustle of work and family life. We open with goal setting for the day ahead where we talk a bit about our projects–if we’re revising, drafting, etc., and then write silently for 2 1/2 hours. Over a brown bag lunch, we gather and chat before settling in for a longer silent writing session of 3 to 4 hours. We close the day, everyone gathered back to together to share what we accomplished as well as to have a craft and process talk. Writers are also encouraged to go for walks, or to chat with other writers away from the Barn, where the silent writing is happening. The cost of these days is $15 and we provide coffee, water, and light snacks. We hope to do at least 1 week day and 1 weekend day per month.

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When the Time is Write:
Attending a Week Long Intensive or Retreat

It’s hard enough to carve out the time for an afternoon or 6-week class, and harder still to think about devoting a full week to your writing craft. How do you know when the time is right? It is time to consider a week-long retreat or intensive when you are looking for valuable feedback, longing for community and new connections, and are interested in taking your craft to the next level. Other things to consider are venue, cost, faculty, and type of feedback you will receive when making your decision.

The Writing Barn has two great upcoming opportunities for those with a complete draft or at least up to 75 pages of a draft under their belt.

May 31 – June 6 is the Full Novel Revision Week featuring faculty Tim Wynne-Jones, Nicole Griffin and Joy Preble, teaching assistant Anne Bustard, and visiting authors Bethany Hegedus, Nikki Loftin and Brian Yansky. This workshop is open to middle grade novels, young adult novels or chapter books. Novels may be fantasy, contemporary, sci-fi, historical, etc.

This week-long event features a full read and critique of your manuscript before arrival. During the week, you will meet one-on-one with your faculty mentor to develop a revision plan and to discuss feedback. You will attend quality lectures on a variety of craft topics and have revision time each day to capture any and all new ideas and begin to do the re-envisioning work ahead.

November 8 -14 is the debut of The Writing Barn’s newest programming, A Week in Residency With… This November we will feature critically acclaimed author and renowned writing teacher Nova Ren Suma, whose latest title The Walls Around Us is racking up the starred reviews. This workshop is designed for serious YA or MG writers of any genre with at least 75 pages of a work in progress. Come prepared to receive helpful feedback in group critique sessions, one-on-one meetings with Nova, and afternoon writing prompts to spark inspiration. Discussion on craft issues, outlining, plotting, and other helpful tools will be covered by Nova.

Both of these weeklong events are open to Austinites and out-of-towners alike. Lodging is available and on site vegetarian meals are offered for breakfasts and lunches. Attendees and faculty dine out in the evenings. Attendees may write indoors or out, taking a stroll around the 7.5-acre grounds (visited regularly by families of deer), or write on the Barn’s screened-in party porch. Anyone interested is encouraged to visit The Writing Barn website for pricing and more information on applying.

To see a full list of Community Members and learn more about becoming one, click here.

 

Meet Lone Star Literary Life

Every so often the Writers’ League likes to highlight another Texas-based writing/literary organization on our blog. This week, we’re featuring Lubbock-based Lone Star Literary Life—a Texas-centric website and newsletter that connects its readers to the literary community in Texas. Lone Star Literary Life was founded by Barbara Brannon and Kay Ellington (coauthors of the novel The Paragraph Ranch). LSLL’s website offers a wealth of information on Texas authors and their latest books, as well as literary programming and events going on within our great state. Read the interview with Kay and Barbara below to learn more.

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Scribe: Tell us what led both of you to launching Lone Star Literary Life.

Lone Star Literary Life: As authors and media professionals, we were dismayed by the shrinking number of media outlets for book reviews and event news. For example, 93% of the state’s newspapers offer no regular books coverage of any kind. And despite the great services that organizations like the Writers’ League of Texas provide, no one’s been able to devote the resources to posting every event in every location, week in and week out. Texas readers want to read about Texas books (among other books, of course!) and Texas authors want their books reviewed. So we had been thinking for some time that this was an underserved niche and a great opportunity, and we felt we were the ones with the right experience and commitment to do it right.

Scribe: What has been the response to Lone Star Literary Life from the writing and reading community in Texas?

LSLL: We have been bombarded with requests for stories, reviews, and email subscriptions! And our social media numbers have soared. We think we’re onto something.

Scribe: How can Texas writers get involved in Lone Star Literary Life?

LSLL: 1. They can work with their publishers/publicists and make sure that their signings, readings, and release dates reach us at info@LoneStarLiterary.com. 2. They can use the reference information on our website. We have the most comprehensive contact lists we know of: Texas bookstores, writers’ groups, book clubs, literary journals, and book publishers, as well as helpful links to learning about Texas authors. 3. Authors and publishers of Texas-related books may apply for a very valuable author/sponsored review service which is half the price of many legacy brands in the area of reviews. We are tentatively planning to launch this service with first reviews in late April.

Scribe: What do you hope to accomplish within the first year of publishing Lone Star Literary Life?

LSLL: On the drawing board are a weekly podcast and a Texas book blog tour. We want to be your one-stop literary destination for Texas readers, authors, booksellers, publishers, and librarians. We’ll feel a great sense of satisfaction if a reader can discover a great indie bookstore, or a fledgling writer can connect with a like-minded group near them, with less trouble than ever before.

Scribe: Since you two have your finger on the pulse of the latest Texas-related books, we’d love to hear what you’re both reading and loving. Pick one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down. 

BrannonBarbaraAug2014  6629FBBarbara: I loved Anne Weisgarber’s The Promise, set during the 1900 Galveston hurricane. I’m a sucker for historical fiction.

 

 

 

KayEllingtonKayAug2014_FBsm: Happiness for Beginners by Houston author Katherine Center. Her books are always funny, insightful, and well-written.

 

 

 

Are you a Texas-based writing or literary organization? Interested in being interviewed for a feature on Scribe? Drop us a note at wlt@writersleague.org.