ArmadilloCon 41 (August 2nd-4th)

“The Workshop is a great place to learn about the craft and to meet other writers. The convention is tons of fun, and the writers who attend the workshop find that they have a built-in cohort throughout the weekend. Writing is a long game, and that’s why it’s important to find your community.”

– Rebecca Schwarz

 

Coming this summer is Austin’s great science fiction and fantasy writing conference, ArmadilloCon! The con is celebrating its 41st anniversary after years spent supporting and engaging with up-and-coming speculative fiction writers. ArmadilloCon features a one-day writing workshop with professional writer guests like Rebecca Roanhorse and Dan Tolliver who critique and edit the attendees’ works. The deadline to submit manuscripts before registering for the conference is June 14, and this year’s con writing workshop falls on Friday, August 2nd, the first day of the 3-day conference. We spoke with this year’s ArmadilloCon writing workshop director, Rebecca Schwarz, and are happy to share the conversation here.

An Interview with Rebecca Schwarz

Scribe: What inspired your decision to direct the ArmadilloCon Workshop?

Rebecca Schwarz: I came up as a writer through the workshop. I attended as a student for three of four years. After I began publishing short stories, I was asked to teach and did that for a few years. Stina Leicht and Marshal Ryan Maresca had been running it during that time. When it was time to pass the torch, Stina asked me if I would like to step up. Since the workshop was such a big part of my development as a writer, I was honored to be entrusted with it.

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

RS: The workshop is geared for beginning to intermediate writers who are interested in writing speculative fiction, which generally encompasses science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Workshop participants can submit up to 5,000 words of either a short story or the first chapter of a novel. For the purposes of the workshop, our definition is broad, anything with a speculative element is welcome.

The morning has panels on craft, some writing exercises and collaborative activities. In the afternoon students break out into small group critique sessions. Each critique group is led by two professional writers. This workshop is a great place to not only work on craft, it is also a great place to meet and make connections with fellow writers.

Scribe: Which part of the conference has been the most interesting or exciting for you in past years?

RS: This is the third year that we have provided a Sponsored Seat program for writers of color. (The workshop page has more information about the sponsored seats and a link to the application form.) Diversity is vital to speculative fiction–a genre centered on exploration and encountering the Other. Over the past three years, the sponsored seat program has grown as well as the general attendance. It has been wonderful to see all of the different voices and visions from writers of all kinds gathered together at the workshop.

Scribe: In what ways has the science fiction and fantasy writing community grown through this workshop?

RS: This will be the workshop’s 21st year (and the convention’s 41st!) and having a long-running workshop focused on science fiction and fantasy writing has served as in incubator in central Texas for the genre writing community. You can check out the faculty on the Workshop’s page for just a taste of some of our amazing local and regional Texas writers. We’ve kept the cost of the workshop low, so writers from all walks of life can have a workshop experience. Those who enjoy and benefit from this sort of workshop can come back year after year. This is just my third year and one of my favorite things is seeing repeat students improve–stretch their wings in their writing, and eventually start getting published themselves!

Also, because we maintain low teacher/student ratio in the critique break-out groups, we assemble a faculty of between 12 to 24 teachers each year. This year both the Guest of Honor, Rebecca Roanhorse, and the Toastmaster, Marshal Ryan Maresca will be teaching along with the rest of our amazing faculty. The faculty generally participate in the convention and the entire weekend is a time to commiserate about writing, share industry information, and bond.

Scribe: As a writer yourself, what is your best advice to aspiring writers?

RS: Keep writing, keep trying to improve, and keep it fun. Writing is a long game. There are a lot of skills in play and it can take a long time to develop and hone them.

Scribe: What are the most significant takeaways from ArmadilloCon?

RS: The Workshop is a great place to learn about the craft and to meet other writers. Honestly, critique groups are not productive for every writer and this one-day low-cost workshop is an excellent way to find out a bit more about what kind of writer you are. The convention is tons of fun, and the writers who attend the workshop find that they have a built-in cohort throughout the weekend. Like I said, writing is a long game, and that’s why it’s important to find your tribe. Personally, the workshop and the convention are a time where I can visit with old friends and make new connections within the community. It fuels my writing for the rest of the year.

Thanks, Rebecca!

 

You can find more details about timing, events, and pricing of the ArmadilloCon workshop here.

To submit your unpublished work for the conference, go here.

Advertisements

Meet the Publisher: Arte Público Press

“The Arte Público Press created an outlet for Latinos, especially during the civil rights movement, which was something that was inevitable because we were striving for independence in every direction of every single way.”

-Dr. Nicolás Kanellos

Arte Público Press, publisher of Latino literary creativity and arts, is the nation’s oldest and largest publisher of U.S.-based Hispanic authors. Founded in 1979 by Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, Arte Público Press has shone an incredible spotlight on Latino voices and provided a much-needed platform for their success and publication through the intellectual space at the University of Houston. The Press was the original publisher to many literary revolutionaries like Sandra Cisneros, Luis Valdez, Victor Villaseñor, and Helena María Viramontes, and they have done extensive philanthropic work to promote young voices and literacy. On their 40th anniversary this January, Arte Público Press received the prestigious Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award given annually to a person or institution with great contributions to book culture, with past recipients including Margaret Atwood and Pulitzer-winning Toni Morrison. This award is monumental, and we would like to share an interview with Dr. Kanellos regarding the award and Press’ accomplishments.

 

An Interview with Dr. Nicolás Kanellos

Image result for nicolas kanellos

WLT: You started Arte Público Press in 1979 during the Hispanic Civil Rights movement to showcase Latino voices especially because mainstream media did not publish their incredible works. What value do you believe that writing and the creative arts bring to a person, and how has your press been able to emphasize these values of creative expression for the Latino community?

Dr. Nicolás Kanellos: Ever since human beings walked the planet on the earth, expression has been very important and became elevated to the level of art very early in human history. What we have found, going back to the civil rights movement in the 1960s for independence, is that with no creative outlet, it’s like putting a stopper on a bottle of gas, just building up pressure until it must be released. The Press created an outlet for Latinos, especially during the civil rights movement, which was something that was inevitable because we were striving for independence in every direction of every single way. Second, the creative arts–theatre, music, literature–became just as much a part of the civil rights movement as voting, political organizing, marching, boycotting, etc. At first literature, theatre, and music were used to support these movements as secondary to the politics, but by the end of the 1970s the creative arts were liberated from just serving political ends and became independent endeavors. In fact, the poets were the ones who would kick off a march, support a boycott and verbalize what people were feeling during the whole movement. We were on the same page and were aware of all these creative people not getting much of an outlet, which is why we started our magazine in 1973 and created the Press in 1979.

WLT: What benefits do creating an exclusively Latino platform bring to the Latino community? And also, have you faced any setbacks because of the platform belonging to one group?

NK: We named ourselves Arte Público Press because we saw ourselves as part of the public art movement which meant that we would be drawn to the community, from public spaces, and reflect it back just like a mural reflecting the Latino community’s life. We thought that our literature should be drawn from the community, its languages, its themes, its perspectives, its visual culture, and reflect that back to the community by making our books available to the community and not just the grassroots. The importance of that, why we continue to do that, is because there is still very very few opportunities for Latinos to publish their works. You pick up an issue of Publisher’s Weekly and quite often, of the 50 or 60 books reviewed each weeks, there are weeks you don’t even find one book written by a Latino. You pick up the New York Times book review and you often won’t find anything by Latinos. The doors are still very closed, though there are exceptions that go through the creative writing pipeline or other publishing houses, but still, writers outside of the institutions who did not go to elite colleges, don’t have that much of a chance. We still have a role here, and the drawbacks are that we are a minority organization and a minority community, and we are treated like such. Automatically, Latino creativity is seen as something marginal, unprofessional, untutored; all these stereotypes are natural, and we are facing them. When we put our books out there, there are librarians and teachers going over every piece we work, and looking at how well we write English.. It’s that kind of response we often get: not seeing our books reviewed, not being eligible for any awards, that’s the response we get. So getting this major award, the major award for publishers, will hopefully help us break through to get more of our books and writers recognized.

WLT: The Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement award is such a huge prestige and given annually to a person or institution with an extensive history of significant contributions to book culture, which is often often authors. You received this award as the director and founder of the Arte Público Press; what was your initial reaction to this great honor and what did it mean to you all?

NK: Well, to be honest, I cried. It took me completely by surprise, it was like a bolt of lightning coming out of nowhere, I hadn’t even aspired it to that. It’s only the fourth time they (National Book Critics Circle) have every given it to a publishing house, so it’s something that was never even on my horizon. The initial shock, surprise, happiness, was very emotional for all our staff, and so was going up on the stage with the staff to receive the award; they have been with us about twenty years or more, and we are all in love with the mission. We work very hard, over forty hours a week, and we put all our efforts into publishing and promoting the writers and books, though we do not promote the Press. We’re an unknown entity, even in our hometown; we are called one of the best-kept secrets because we are not helping or marketing ourselves, we’re marketing our writers and books.

WLT: Given all the hard work you and the Press staff put in, which accumulated in this great award, to what do you most attribute your Press’s success?

NK: We have to mention, as part of our success, our writers and the books that they have written, which have become bestsellers, and we’ve launched the careers of many writers that have gone onto big publishing houses. The publishing world know where these people came from; it wasn’t from agents or other publishers, they came from us. We are out there scouting at book festivals and community organizing, and we recognize people doing good work and invite them to submit their books. We get 2000 submissions a year and only get to publish about 25 books a year. Unlike other publishing houses, we go through all the submissions, and we find gems. In the case of Sandra Cisneros, she was working at a high school in Chicago with at-risk kids and capturing the lives and stories of these students; she’d read these stories at open mics and writer gatherings, so I invited her to put these stories together and submit to us. We worked with her to form it into a book, The House on Mango Street, and it was wonderful. At first, nobody knew about it, but we raised money to tour the authors around small libraries and convincing professors to let the writers come meet, and so Sandra, Evangelina Vigil, Pat Mora, Helena María Viramontes, all became recognized and known in academia. It wasn’t until a few years later, when Stanford and elite institutions integrated the curriculum and started picking up our books, that the rest of the world began to take note. And quite often, that note was negative. The Wall Street Journal had a headline about us–great books replaced by the not-so-great, they were talking about our books. It had a wonderful effect actually, the opposite of what they wanted because people started wondering what these books are. People went to bookstores that didn’t carry our books, so we began to get more orders to be shelved and took off from there.

WLT: I see that you left teaching at Indiana and accepted an offer at the University of Houston in 1980, where you led much of the efforts for Arte Público Press. How does the Houston writing community compare to other communities and how has it helped the Press gain the momentum it did?

NK: Houston, out of Texas, is probably home to the most dynamic writing community because you have grassroots writers from diverse communities in the most diverse city in the country. You have Asian American, African American, Latino, Anglo American writers quite often performing at the same venue. We have many community-based writing organizations like Imprint for national writers, and Nuestra Palabra, which is a Latino grassroots writing organization that has a radio show and does presentations of local writers. We take writers across the country touring and into the schools, which is supported in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts. We have programs with the Houston Public Library, and Houston has two major creative writing programs at the University of Houston in the English and Spanish departments. We have one of the major literary bookstores in all of the Southwest, Brazos Books, that has open doors to everyone with an active reading program that has had quite a bit of impact. A lot is going on Houston.

WLT: Issues like the word gap in low income communities with children not receiving the same vocabulary or exposure to certain words impact their outcomes greatly, and especially being raised in non-English speaking households can affect how children perform on standardized testing. Your Latino Children’s Wellness Program among other initiatives is incredibly impactful on such children’s lives. How have these communities particularly benefited from your program and what future do you hope it creates?

NK: We have our Pinata Books imprint which has children’s dynamic picture books, middle reader books, and adult books. We have a program with the Houston Independent School District wherein we take a librarian, writer, and one of our staff people and go into a school to work with parents where we teach them how to support their children’s reading, create a reading culture at home, and show them how books work and how to read to their kids. They’ll give everybody a library card, a handout, and five them children’s books for them to take home. Quite often they’re the first books these children ever own. We bring in writers to talk about the importance of creativity and writing and how they became writers as well as teach them to tell their own stories. Our program goes beyond reading to kids, we are more involved because, oftentimes, these kids have never seen someone who looks like this and published a book.

WLT: As a final question, what has been your favorite moment with Arte Público in the past 40 years?

NK: What gives me the greatest joy, is when I’m in the schools and I see the kids holding the books and reading them and loving them. I love when I’m there, and the kids will come around and hug you and want to hold onto you because they’re just so overwhelmed. That–that’s my best moment.

Thank you, Dr. Kanellos, for your inspiring work!

To find more about Arte Público Press, click here.

Meet the Conference: Boldface Conference

Emerging doesn’t mean inexperienced — it means on the cusp of something great. All of our participants are on that cusp, and we do everything we can at Boldface to help give them that tiny push they need to really take their creative writing to the next level.”

– Cait Wess Orcutt

The Boldface Conference is a week-long convention held annually at the University of Houston for undergraduate and emerging writers both locally and nationwide. The conference itinerary is filled with writing workshops, craft talks, professional panels, readings, evening events around the city, and private consultations with the 2019 Visiting Writers: Jason Koo, Bryan Washington, and Jessica Willbanks. Boldface is open to any writers who have not yet published a book through a major publisher or enrolled in an MFA Creative Writing program. This year it falls from May 20th through May 24th, and we would like to share an interview with this year’s Boldface Conference Coordinator, Cait Weiss Orcutt, below.

Image result for boldface conference

An Interview with Cait Weiss Orcutt

Scribe: What inspired your decision to coordinate the Boldface Conference?

Cait Wess Orcutt: As a current PhD Poetry student at the University of Houston, I was given the opportunity to learn the ropes of conference planning, not simply theoretically, but by actually being plunked right down into experience. I have admired Boldface ever since I first taught my own class at the conference. I’ve been floored by the students who attend, the great balance between community members and students, and the conference’s investment in providing all emerging writers with a sort of mini-MFA experience surrounded by big name authors, poets and essayists in one of the most dynamic cities in America.

Scribe: I see that there is a focus on craft, through workshops and master classes. What are the sorts of craft issues that past participants at the conference have gotten excited to work on and talk about?

CWO: “Craft” comes up quite a bit at Boldface, not only in our discussions about the tools we have to tell a story, to craft a memoir, or to create or poem, but also in the potential problems with any single, pervasive idea of “craft” itself. When we say “craft,” part of what we’re talking about is the how. How can you take your ideas and get them on the page. If the ideas are already on the page (and we hope you’re celebrating this if they are), how can you make them live us to your vision for the piece? “Craft” allows us to expand our ideas of what a story, poem, essay or book can be. Last year’s visiting writer craft talks were “Authenticity, Originality, and Ego: How to Navigate Culture & Lyric in Eurocentric Spaces” (presented by Analicia Sotelo), “Trauma and Radical Empathy: Painting Scenes through Narrative Gaze and Authorial Observation” (presented by Daniel Peña) and “Keeping It 100: Bringing Your Whole Self to the Page” (presented by Dickson Lam). We have had talks that investigate chronology in Science Fiction writing, topics in translation, the persona poem, code-switching as character development, the “rules” of setting and when/how to break them, building momentum in a novel, how to craft and support your own unique aesthetic… Really, our craft discussion center on anything that might get someone excited about their writing or prompt them to look at familiar territory in a new, electric way.

Scribe: Why focus on undergrads and emerging writers?

CWO: There are so many avenues open to students currently in an MFA or PhD program that we really wanted to focus on the writers who, though they may well be writing at or above that level, did not choose to attend a traditional creative writing graduate school program. I took almost a decade off between undergrad and graduate school myself, but I was still an emerging, hungry writer. I enrolled myself in workshops and conferences much like Boldface to keep my creative life vibrant and active, even while I was working a 9-to-5. Our participants at Boldface are newly graduated college students, young professionals who create on the side, parents who can’t take on the full-time financial and time commitment of a traditional writing program, career-driven STEM majors who just can’t not write even if it’s not their literal job to do so, retirees who have been holding onto their stories (imagined or not) for far too long… Emerging doesn’t mean inexperienced — it means on the cusp of something great. All of our  participants are on that cusp, and we do everything we can at Boldface to help give them that tiny push they need to really take their creative writing to the next level, no matter what they choose to do with their work in the long run.

Scribe: What do each of the visiting writers bring to the Boldface conference?

CWO: This year’s visiting writers are Bryan Washington, Jessica Wilbanks and Jason Koo. All three bring an outstanding level of insight, empathy, creative passion and pedagogical magic to Boldface. Every year, our visiting writers astonish us with their commitment to the mission of Boldface–to foster real, lasting connections between writers and help participants see their creative work in a fresh, inspiring light.

WLT: What sort of field trips do participants go on?

CWO: This year, we’ll be focusing on the Houston arts scene, specifically the world-renowned Menil Collection, including the Rothko Chapel, and the University of Houston’s own Blaffer Museum, which will be showcasing the work of Amie Siegel, whose multi-media art uses the associative structure of poetry and the dispassionate perspective of sociology to investigate complex systems of power and value.

As usual, we’ll also have two off-campus evening readings/Open Mics showcasing Houston’s literary scene. This year we’ll be gathering at Brasil Cafe in Montrose and Kaboom Books in the Heights.

Scribe: Two of the visiting writers live in Houston. One (Bryan Washington) has written a story collection set there, and the conference is hosted by the University of Houston, one of the most prestigious MFA programs in the country. What about Houston makes it a particularly fertile community for writers?

CWO: You’ve asked my favorite question! What about Houston creates writers? What doesn’t! Houston in the most diverse city in America, meaning we can’t foreground one version of the American story–we learn from our earliest moments here that every single narrative has complications, interactions, and counter-narratives. Houston is a polyphonic, multilingual city of a million recipes and family stories all put in a pressure cooker of voice-nurturing humidity, unparalleled arts funding, innovative scholarship, flourishing business, terrifying ecology, immense Texas sky, and flowers the size of your face. If you’re looking for a landscape full of mythic potential, full of expanse and minutiae, of hard work and big dreams, of political tension and ice house ease, you’d have a tough time finding one better than Houston.

Thank you, Cait!

To find more about the Boldface Conference registration, click here.

For a schedule of events, click here.

Community Member Q&A: Hollering Woman Press & Editorial Services

“For the staff at HWP&E supporting our local communities and the state matters. Through involvement in the arts, journalism, conservation and social issues, we have found our voice!”

– LuLynne Streeter

Hollering Woman Press & Editorial Services is a BANTAM publisher, editorial service, web-zine, and provides writer workshops dedicated to promoting and giving voice to literary fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and the arts.

In addition to supporting and promoting authors, Hollering Woman Press & Editorial Services is a proud Community Member of the Writers’ League of Texas. Read the interview below with founder LuLynne Streeter to find out more.

Scribe: Tell us a little about why you founded Hollering Woman Press, the meaning of its name, and its mission.

LuLynne Streeter: As three independent female artists, we decided to collaborate and define a space where creativity and diversity could move in the same direction.  We chose Hollering Woman as our name and logo because it reflected a powerful female voice and our deep Texas roots. Our mission is to promote and support independent and emerging artists in all genres from literary, musical, visual, and performing arts.

Scribe: Hollering Woman Press provides a lot of different services — from editing to writing workshopscould you tell us more about what you offer?

LS: HWP&E offers standard pre-publication literary services, promotional activities, mentoring, and writer workshops and classes.

Scribe: What is the biggest take away from working with Hollering Woman Press?

LS: HWP&E offers the author the opportunity to work with a multi-generational staff that is supportive and hands-on in their approach.  We know the goal of all writers, whether it is the traditional or Indie journey, is publication.

Scribe: As a writer yourself, what is one piece of advice you’d give to aspiring writers?

LS: As we say in our writer workshops: “Writers Write & Write & . . .”

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

LS: As a Texas business and Texas writers, we are honored to have the opportunity to work with and support the premier writing organization in the state.

Scribe: Here at the Writers’ League, we love sharing book recommendations. What’s one Texas-related book that has come out within the past year that you couldn’t put down? 

LS: I recently read Outsider Art in Texas: Lone Stars by Jay Wehnert and published by Texas A&M University Press.  It examines the lives and motivations of practicing Texas artists outside the mainstream. A topic that is dear to the heart of Hollering Woman Press.

Scribe: Anything else you’d like to share? 

TB: For the staff at HWP&E supporting our local communities and the state matters. Through involvement in the arts, journalism, conservation and social issues, we have found our voice!

Thanks, LuLynne!

Click here to visit Hollering Woman Press’s website.

Are you a business or organization interested in getting involved?

Community Membership is a great way to connect with the Writers’ League’s membership base and share news and information about writing-related services and events. For more information on Community Membership click here or call our office at (512) 499-8914.

Community Member Guest Post: ACC Creative Writing

“Taking a creative writing class represented a bit of a risk for me – I hadn’t written much of anything that wasn’t business-related in 25 years – but also a chance to try something new.”

-Summer Rohrict

Community membership in the Writers’ League of Texas allows businesses and organizations to support our programming and services. It’s also a great way for our community of writers to learn about the many valuable and varied services, programs, and opportunities available to them.

The Creative Writing Department at Austin Community College offers a wide variety of creative writing classes, each limited to 15 students. Summer Rohricht is a student of the program, so Department Chair Charlotte Gullick invited her to share her thoughts on what the experience was like for her.

Summer: “About two years ago, I decided to make a priority of exploring some areas of interest that I had largely ignored while I was working full time. I did some research and eventually enrolled in a creative writing class through the Continuing Education Program at Austin Community College.

“Taking a creative writing class represented a bit of a risk for me – I hadn’t written much of anything that wasn’t business-related in 25 years – but also a chance to try something new. It offered me the challenge I wanted but without all the investment and pressure of a master’s program. Basically, the class provided a level of structure but also fit with my lifestyle.

“I did have some concerns, however. Since I was not working toward a degree, I worried that I would be “on the sidelines” – that I would be treated like I was more of an auditor of the class than a “real” student. I was also curious about how my writing skills would calibrate with the other students as I understood there would be a mix of continuing education students and those who were taking the course as a required credit in their Associate or Bachelor degree programs. I also assumed there would be those who were already somewhat accomplished in their craft and others who were just beginning. I wondered if I would be bored – or behind. And, not having a finished body of work, I was basically middle aged and starting from scratch – was that going to be “ok”?

“As it turns out, my worries were unfounded, I have genuinely enjoyed the classes I’ve taken, and my writing continues to improve and evolve. In each of the classes, I found the content – a mix of reading, writing, analysis, critiques, and lecture on the more technical elements of writing – extremely engaging. Even more importantly, I have appreciated how each of my professors was able to create a supportive environment where a diverse group of students felt secure – excited even – to share their work and provide insights and feedback to each other. The instruction in each of the classes was delivered in a manner that seemed to resonate with a variety of learning styles and at a pace that kept the classes interesting but left no one behind. One of the aspects I found particularly engaging was that my professors were willing and able to speak extemporaneously to questions that were off topic but relevant to the class discussion.

“The classes have fulfilled me and fueled my passion for writing. I am genuinely grateful for the experience and so happy I took the risk!”

Thanks, Summer and Charlotte!

For more information about fall courses, click here, and to learn more about enrolling through continuing education, click here. Or you can call or email the department chair, Charlotte Gullick, at 512-913-4479,cgullick@austincc.edu

Are you a business or organization interested in getting involved?

Community Membership is a great way to connect with the Writers’ League’s membership base and share news and information about writing-related services and events. For more information on Community Membership click here or call our office at (512) 499-8914.

What We’re Reading Now: I’M NOT MISSING

I’m Not Missing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Carrie Fountain

Published in July 2018 by Flatiron Books

Reviewed by Tony Burnett

In her richly-sculpted debut novel, I’m Not Missing, Carrie Fountain deftly details the tumultuous lives of Miranda Black and her best friend Syd. These two competing personalities are drawn together by the similarities of their daily existence – Miranda and Syd were both abandoned by their mothers, raised by their fathers, and confused by it all. Though the genre of I’m Not Missing is considered by its author to be young adult, as an older adult I found the novel to be moving and hopeful. With two award-winning books of poetry to her credit, Fountain uses her finely honed literary talent to take this complex and emotional tale to a wide audience.

Miranda Black is a high school senior, struggling, albeit successfully, to achieve admission into an Ivy League university while questioning whether or not it’s the right path to take. Her mother left in search of religious fulfillment before Miranda was in middle school. Her father, a NASA engineer, struggles with the complexities of his daughter’s puberty and the emotional baggage left by a mother who is allowed no further contact with the family by the leader of the religious cult she joined. Meanwhile, Miranda’s best friend Syd has a mother who abandoned her family with no explanation and no forwarding address. Syd’s father then creates an unbearable living situation by bringing home a girlfriend who detests Syd and makes her life miserable.

Though the narrative has a limited number of characters, multiple complex plot lines are deftly interwoven by Fountain’s excellent storytelling. The story is part domestic suspense, part romance, part family saga, and even a little horror perfectly packaged as a young adult novel. Miranda handles her myriad of trials valiantly and maturely for her age — she questions herself and her motives for wanting to leave her home town of Las Cruces, New Mexico, and struggles with her attraction to the young man she believes to be the nexus of her disappointment and humility.

Fountain writes with passion and compassion, humor and heartache, and a conviction that immerses the reader in the narrative. You will experience the story as if you were Miranda and Syd’s classmate. I lost myself so deeply in this book that I hated to see it end. Fountain ties up her complex plots cleanly and unexpectedly, leaving the reader no doubt that there is hope in relinquishing control of society to the youth of today.

Tony Burnett is the managing editor of Kallisto Gaia Press, a 501(c)3 literary press supporting poets and writers at all stages of their careers by paying those we publish. 

Interested in writing reviews? Current WLT members are eligible to write reviews and can send an email to kelsey@writersleague.org.

Have a book you’d like us to review? We review books by Texas authors, as well as books that are set in or about Texas. Email kelsey@writersleague.org for instructions on sending a review copy.

Q&A with Chaitali Sen on Her Interview Series BORDERLESS (Next Event with Juli Berwald on March 9!)

“Although we might provide an escape from reality through our writing, we are still part of this world . . . I wanted to dig into the question of what role we play as writers as things are happening around us. “

–Chaitali Sen

In the interview series Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice, emerging and established writers talk with host Chaitali Sen about the power of words and the role of art in reflecting and changing our world. Chaitali is a novelist, WLT class instructor, and fantastic friend to the Texas writing community and WLT. We couldn’t be more excited or inspired by this new project from Chaitali.

The next Borderless conversation will be with author Juli Berwald and will take place at Austin indie bookstore Malvern Books on March 9, 2018 at 7 p.m.

We talked with Chaitali to learn more about this series and the upcoming event.

Scribe: Tell us about the mission of your “Borderless” interview series and what inspired you to start the series.

I started Borderless: Conversations on Art, Action, and Justice, so that I could talk to other writers about “the power of words and the role of art in reflecting and changing our world.” From talking to friends in the writing world over the last year, this seemed to be a topic that kept coming up. I have been to a lot of great discussions on writing, especially on craft and process, but I felt a real lack of discussions on writing that connected writers to the world at large. Although we might provide an escape from reality through our writing, we are still part of this world, and though there are vague pronouncements on the importance of literature for developing empathy, I wanted to dig into the question of what role we play as writers as things are happening around us.

Scribe: Your first interview was with Nikki Luellen. What’s one surprising or illuminating takeaway that resulted from your interview with her?

CS: Nikki is mainly a spoken word poet, and I had seen her captivate people out on the streets at protests. It gave me a whole new appreciation to hear her poetry in the intimate space of Malvern, because I really got to appreciate how she inhabits characters and modulates the pitch and tempo of her voice, how it really is a whole performance (she’s also a playwright). Her poems have a lot of movement and a lot of substance, because they take on very big social and political topics, yet they are also very personal, about how she is struggling with these questions and overcoming her own fear. I wanted to start this series with someone who is not a part of the literary establishment, because her work illustrates to me how confining that world can be. There are so many parameters that are set within that world, either implicitly or explicitly, about what makes someone a writer, what we should be writing about, how to challenge an audience within acceptable limits, how to get published and recognized as a writer, what purpose our art should serve, and so on. Nikki doesn’t care about any of that. There is an absence of ego in her work that is so refreshing.

Scribe: Your next interview will be with Juli Berwald on March 9. Can you give us a preview of some of the topics you might discuss?

CS: Juli Berwald is the author of a great science memoir called Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone. I’m looking forward to seeing what surprises come out in this interview, but we will touch on the science of climate change, the changes in the ocean ecosystems, being a woman in science, and of course, jellyfish. 

Scribe: Malvern Books is such a special space with truly unique titles available. Can you recommend one book by an indie author that you’ve picked up from Malvern recently?

CS: I just picked up Danez Smith‘s poetry collection at Malvern, Don’t Call Us Dead. Because Malvern is dedicated to independent publishers, you can find titles and discover writers there that will not be featured or available in other bookstores. Last year, I bought a novel translated from Indonesian called HomeThis novel was published by Deep Vellum, a Dallas-based independent publisher that highlights world literature in translation. For any Writers’ League members in Austin who have not been to Malvern, I urge you to change that immediately. It’s a warm, beautiful space that will open your eyes to all kinds of literature.

Thanks, Chaitali!

Find out more about Chaitali here, Juli here, and their upcoming conversation at Malvern here.