A quick and incomplete thread of things in the Cara Benson writing world for the year just past as this new year is upon us. It’s a brief, slightly annotated list, with pics and links.
A church, two kitties, and a podium walk into a thread…
In March, a fine place to start, I facilitated a panel at AWP called Listening to the Art. I was inspired to propose the panel based on the response I got to a post I’d written for Grub Street. Here’s a pic of the panel – we had fun!
As a result of that panel, HocTok reached out for an interview wherein I answered questions that made me squeamish, like what is my definition of happiness. Yeesh.
University of Rochester Decarceration Research Initiative commissioned a poem and that went live in May. The premise of the project was to use photos of the sky taken within close proximity to a number of correctional facilities in Western New York as prompts. The resultant art is intended to focus attention on the rampant carceral state the US has become.
In July The Brooklyn Rail published an excerpt of my novel in progress WHAT WOULD EMMA GOLDMAN DO?. The piece includes a political protest, an uninsured doctor visit, my beloved Jon, and Max Weber. That same month I read from a part of the excerpt at @KGBBarRedRm IN THE VERY ROOM EMMA HAD MEETINGS of her secret society of anarchists.
Somewhere in there I bought a church to live and write in. My writing sanctuary. There will be workshops and readings, too, at some point.
Here’s the sanctuary workshop table.
In late fall, I signed with @AEAkinwumi of Willenfield Literary Agency so that EMMA will get out into the world. Akin was up til 1 AM reading the ms.!! I’m working on edits now and definitely in the third trimester…
Then the always interesting Hobart pubbed a short of mine. Libraries, drinking water, internet. The usual suspects.
And now I’m juggling these two cuties while finishing up those revisions on the novel.
Going to AWP in Texas. Gonna talk about novels, how they come to be out of shorter things sometimes, how my current came out of nowhere, is out there somewhere, nearly ready for you to read. How now when I write I carry the body memory of that novel’s universe in me and everything that comes after feels like a phantom limb. Like a shark ate my homework. San Antonio, 2020.
Thanks to the amazing Donald Breckenridge, I’ve got an excerpt of my current novel in progress (tho truth be told I am SO READY to have this baby out in the world, I’ve been in the third trimester with it for more than three months, just saying) up at the equally amazing publication The Brooklyn Rail. I think you should read it. What’s stopping you, really. It’s in hard copy but also free online right here.
From the description of the book I gave them: WHAT WOULD EMMA GOLDMAN DO? is an autobiographical novel set in late capitalism and climate crisis. The lead character considers her life and politics in comparison with historical and contemporary figures, notably anarchist Emma Goldman, in an effort to determine what would be radical enough to meet the moment. She is on a job search and lives with her romantic partner in a mortgaged house. Self-doubt and online petitions ensue.
What are you waiting for? Click away, my friends. Click away. Tell ’em Emma sent you.
I’ll be reading from the current manuscript at KGB Bar in the East Village. The Red Room, of course. Red as in commie red, I imagine. Anyway, it’s in the Same Page reading series, which looks like fun. If you’re NYC area or going to be in town, comes say hi. Listen to us read. Mingle. There will be a flyer at some point, but until then there’s this:
I haven’t been writing poems because I’ve been working on a novel, but I got asked to take part in a collaborative project for the University of Rochester’s Decarceration Research Initiative. So I made one. The entire project was interdisciplinary, with bits of text on the photos that were the triggers for the work printed on flags hung up in the windows of downtown Rochester, and other performative components.
The premise of the creative component was to use photos of the sky taken within close proximity to a number of correctional facilities in Western New York as prompts. The resultant art hopes to focus attention on the rampant carceral state the US has become. The project culminated in a public symposium, with panels convened on supporting those who’ve been incarcerated upon release and envisioning a Rochester without prisons.
I want to thank Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge for inviting me to take part and the good work she is doing with the RDRI. Here is a link to the home page of the website for the project. Below is the photo I used as prompt, taken of the sky above Auburn Correctional Facility. My poem is title EYE IN THE SKY.
A not-for-profit art endeavor asked me a few questions about writing, praise, and my definition of success. Hooboy did I want to avoid those questions! But I didn’t. This isn’t a treatise or in-depth manifesto, but I do give it a shot. Also, some words on writing and how to stick with it. Have a look! Plus, they use a photo of a mountain! In lieu of being able to give you theirs, here’s this.
I’m on a panel, so I’ll be there if the creek don’t rise. For those who don’t know, AWP is basically a ginormous trade show for writers. This year it’s in Portland, Oregon. If you’re going, come to this:
Listening To The Art: Committing To Your Book No Matter How Long It Takes
[something I know a little something about]
B116, Oregon Convention Center, Level 1
Saturday, March 30, 2019
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
“The whole culture is telling you to hurry, while the art tells you to take your time. Always listen to the art.” Sounds good in theory, but it’s harder to do when the manuscript is taking months or years to finish. How can a writer see a project through to its full realization when it seems like the rest of the world is moving at the speed of the Internet? Five published writers talk about writing their books and the challenges and rewards of listening to the art.
I’m one of those five writers. The others include: Susan Ito, Rafia Zakaria, Laura Sims, and LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs.
This book arrived unbidden at my doorstep on a day I heard news I did not want to hear about my beloved partner Jon Lathrop. As I am a writer and sometime book reviewer, author interviewer, essayist, books sometimes show up as enticements for my attention. I’m not a hugely high profile book writer, but still, some do come.
But why this book? Why that day? I was expecting Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra (trans. Achy Obejas), a book I’d expressed specific interest in, and it did come a few weeks later. My plans had been to interview her for Full Stop. As that book isn’t due out until later in the year, thankfully, I have some time. I’m on holiday, you see. One that death has caused.
I can tell you that I read Marci Vogel’s book. I can tell you that it did for me what the nonfiction works on suicide and surviving the loss of a loved one couldn’t. I will read Joyce Carol Oates’ A Widow’s Tale. I have read Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. I want to tell you what Vogel’s novella managed that the non-literary works didn’t, but I’m on holiday. Maybe I’ll get there before its pub date. I don’t know. I’ve got my own novel to return to, and I’ve no idea how or when to do that. Death doesn’t end, but holidays do.
That’s all I got for now.