I Will Stay Sober, But You Don’t Have To

There’s a new reading series at The Beer Diviner Taproom in Troy, NY on the last Sunday of every month. I am the guest presenter for March. The format involves a reading, discussion, and then the readers leads the audience in a writing exercise or two that is connected to her practice in some way. I’ll be reading a new story and possibly an excerpt from my book-length work in progress. Here is a link to the event page.

This will be a bit of a teaser for the next session of writing workshop I’m leading for The Arts Center of the Capital Region. That’s to start on Monday, April 3 and will run for eight weeks. It focuses on writing process in that we will be in it – a writing process. The works you create can give you short pieces, parts of longer works, and generally get you in the habit of reading and writing prolifically. I absolutely love these classes. UPDATE: This class is sold out. 

Here, details:

Reading & Workshop
The Beer Diviner
Sunday, March 26 at 2:30 PM
461 Broadway, Troy, New York 12180

Writing Creatively Workshop
The Arts Center
Mondays, April 3 – May 22

Here’s a cute graphic for the Divine Write event Emma at the Taproom whipped up. Thanks for asking me, Emma!


George Saunders on Writing

There is so much in this article I felt compelled to share without much comment save to say writers: read this.

“What does an artist do, mostly? She tweaks that which she’s already done. There are those moments when we sit before a blank page, but mostly we’re adjusting that which is already there. The writer revises, the painter touches up, the director edits, the musician overdubs. I write, “Jane came into the room and sat down on the blue couch,” read that, wince, cross out “came into the room” and “down” and “blue” (Why does she have to come into the room? Can someone sit UP on a couch? Why do we care if it’s blue?) and the sentence becomes “Jane sat on the couch – ” and suddenly, it’s better (Hemingwayesque, even!), although … why is it meaningful for Jane to sit on a couch? Do we really need that? And soon we have arrived, simply, at “Jane”, which at least doesn’t suck, and has the virtue of brevity.”

My aim is not for a Hemingway effect, but you get the picture. Here’s to getting your Janes.

The full article is up at The Guardiansaunders-illustration

Illustration by Yann Kebbi for Review



NYC Reading Sunday Feb 19

A beautifully brief post to provide information on an upcoming reading. This weekend David Kirschenbaum and an amazing crew of writers is putting on the annual BoogFest of readings. I’ll be on the Sunday evening line-up at 6:15 PM reading from my current book in progress, HOW THE END WILL COME. Please come!


Sidewalk Cafe
94 Avenue A at 6th St., NYC
$5 suggested

5:30 p.m. T0ska (music)
5:45 p.m. Jay Besemer
6:00 p.m. Denize Lauture
6:15 p.m. Cara Benson
6:30 p.m. Diana Smith (music)
7:00 p.m. Nathaniel Siegel (play)
7:15 p.m. Pierre Joris and Nicole Peyrafitte, The Agony of Ingeborg Bachmann (play)
7:35 p.m. Buck Downs, Filthy Lucre (play)
7:50 p.m. Jeffrey Cyphers Wright
8:00 p.m. Jenny Perlin (film)
8:15 p.m Pavement, Slanted and Enchanted at 25


Reading, Writing, Thinking, Acting

Do it.

Do not let the urgency of the moment keep you from doing the things that fill you up.

Do not let anyone’s abusive agenda lead you to be abusive to yourself or others.

Do let yourself be moved.

Do let yourself be challenged.

Do give yourself time to reflect, recharge, retool.

Do consider the long arc, the context, the words of those who’ve come before.

Do pen screeds, manifestos, declarations, letters to the editor.

Write about kittens, sure. Or also. As needed. Small moments.

Write about doubt.

Write with certainty.

Go to where the edge of what you know meets the unknown. Another person.

Go to libraries.

Avoid comment streams, when possible. Or, as Anna McCarthy via Lisa Duggan says, be a troll in service of love.

Do not forego time with trees.

And if it’s your turn up at bat, take it.


Troy Night Out!

I run writing workshops at The Arts Center in Troy, NY a couple of times a year. As I always say to participants, this is such an opportunity to engage with each other in a way that foregrounds our humanity via our relationship with language. (Also, it gets me out of the house.) The next workshop starts in April. You can find more info about it and sign up here.

However! This Friday, January 27, participants from the last workshop will be reading at The Arts Center in the theater as part of Troy Night Out. Come support the writers! We’ll be there from 6 to 7:30 PM. Then you can check out the art (exhibit photo pictured below), wander the streets, grab some tasty vittles in downtown.

Here’s the list of readers:
Ann Khanna
Jean Bolgatz
Zach Stewart
Laura DiGrigoli
Molly O’Gorman
Sara Weeks
James Carr
James Marchetti
Deborah Hrustich
Teri Mayor
Rosemarie Nash


Writing in the Dark

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.”

Famously, this was written by German poet/playwright Bertolt Brecht during the crisis of Stalin’s purges and Hitler’s rise to power in the first half of the last century. Those were dark times, indeed. Is it hyperbolic to invoke this aphorism on the eve of 2017? I think not. Whatever one had hoped for from the 2016 US political season or the Brexit vote or PM Trudeau in Canada who just approved two oil pipelines, there can be no doubt we are facing unprecedented challenges as a society and as a species. The facts are thus: hate crimes are up and so is the global temperature. Clearly, these syndromes are far larger than the individual so it can seem overwhelming to know what to do on a daily basis. How to live. If to write and if so, what.

I’d love to tell you that I have the answer (as if there’s just one). What I have are more questions. Or is it that my assertions are more truly ambivalent? I have often wrestled with the endeavor of literary writing in a time of such urgency. Today is no different except in the scope or intensity of my ambivalence. That is to say, I am all the more convinced that writing is woefully inadequate and that for those of us who do it, we must.

Whether you view art as part of a resistance as Cathy Hong smartly argues, or you believe as Leslie Scalapino did that it can “go along with” rather than explicitly be a political act, our making can indeed have its part to play. While that seems dangerously close to an answer, it isn’t an easy one. I am not at all easy with the notion of art playing a part is what I mean. Even – perhaps especially – in service of _________, art can be an exploitative process. Adorno has been remembered for his declaration that making poetry after Auschwitz was barbaric. A little further exploration uncovers the context of this statement, which he himself later complicated. When taking into account the full essay within which that thought was proffered, we might read his dictum more in line with Audre Lorde’s you can’t dismantle the master’s house using the master’s tools.

We need to be, I think, particularly attuned to the ways in which we make. Dare I say the means of production? I’m not sure business as usual (which is part of Hong’s argument) will do us much good even if the content is, for lack of a better term, revolutionary. However, this is, after all, a time of tremendous transition, and acts of expediency as well as process are to be expected. We can decry Facebook on Facebook. One of these days, perhaps the many cracks we are making with our ball-peen hammers will do the trick.

I myself wrestle with discerning what is unproductive shame that would have me silent from what is right-sized self-criticism of an isolating individualism. To wait until my production is “pure” in motive and enactment will keep me from contributing my two bits. Maybe you, too. So I will continue to advocate for using the work itself to investigate its and my own complicity. To testify. Witness. Observe. Muddle. Meddle. Reflect. Agitate. Meditate. Recollect. Predict. Co-create.

I pivot here to two pieces I’ve written that published this week. One is creative nonfiction called Emerging Markets for the ever amazing Entropy Magazine. In this, I take to the street to meet Other and discover something in the reflection. Well, more than that is considered, but that’s a decent stab at it. I am buoyed by Entropy’s work and find its publishers to be extremely generous in their support of just causes and right writing. The second is Talking about Woman: A Review of La Femme de Gilles by Madeleine Bourdouxhe for 3:AM Magazine. I write about The Second Sex, female pleasure, sexism in politics, and the again timely subject of feminism. Melville House has reissued the work in their Neversink series. Bourdouxhe pulled this book from its original publishers in 1937 for their Nazi sympathies. I worked with ace editor Tristan Foster, and his suggestions made the review better. 3:AM is known for its acumen, smarts, and wit. The pub’s motto? “Whatever it is, we’re against it.”

I wonder what writers in the next century will make of our efforts in these times. Or should I say if.

Madeleine Bourdouxhe



What else to say but on we go because we must. We will write in the dark. We will take in all the information and we will despair and rally and despair again. We will pick each other up and in turn as we ourselves fall we will be picked up. We will rebuff cliches and adages and we will then cling to them. Darkest before the dawn and such. Crisis as opportunity. We will question who is we and we will take care of the me, too. We will take care of the you. The stranger. We will hibernate and we will go to libraries and we will say hello and thank you to the staff. We will say hello and thank you to each other. We will read and write and view better smarter journalism. Because the word matters. I don’t know about beginnings or first light but I do know about tackling the dark with a symbol.


Just call me Helen….

Friendly Fall note here about an upcoming reading by participants in my Short Form Creative Writing Class at The Troy Arts Center. We’ll be in the Black Box Theatre from 7 to 8 PM next Friday, Oct 28 for Troy Night Out. Join us!

Here is the list of readers: Linda Berkery, James Carr, Deborah Hrustich, Dr., Cindy Insero, James Marchetti, Teri Mayor, Rosemarie Nash, Zachary Stewart, and Sara Weeks.

Then the second session of Short Form starts the week after. Spots are still available! I thrive on facilitating the creative writing process and these classes have been so rewarding for all of us. If you’ve been with me or not yet, you can always join because I don’t repeat and there aren’t any prerequisites. Details below.
November 3, 2016 to December 15, 2016 — 06:00 PM to 08:00 PM

In this continuation course, students will keep the pen moving. Once we’ve got writing down, we can look at what form could help us move it along. Poems, blog posts, flash fiction, creative non-fiction, status updates – we’ll make it all. Don’t worry if you think you don’t write in a certain form (or much at all). We will generate new, fresh writing then work with these pieces to create a “finished” piece. *The prerequisite of Short Form I is NOT required to take part II* NO CLASS 11/24


Full Fall

Already! So this will be quick because it’s not even officially Autumn yet. I’ve been waiting for the soil to cool down in order to plant and that is happening any minute. The pots of newbies and envelopes of seeds piling up are ready to go. So let’s just add that to the list.

Still the revision of the manuscript, which I’m committing to getting to the agent this season (having thought the last one might be it), is always and ever right under my fingertips. The Troy Arts Center Short Form Writing Workshop I’ll be leading in two sessions starts next week on Sept 15. The last weekend of the month I’ll be joining a gaggle of other writers in CT for Courtney Maum’s The Cabins inaugural retreat. For this I’ll be presenting on writing the self, writing the political via views into Teju Cole and Claudia Rankine. Then there’s that book I’ve said I’d review, and I’m mentoring some writing students and clients whose work is heating up. Oh yeah, we’ve got to deal with a whopper of a ground hornets’ nest.

I don’t think this is the species in our yard, but here’s a video of a wasp hauling a cicada up a tree. Enjoy!

courtesy wikicommons