Writing About Politics

Can literary output have a role to play in our political future? Whether or not literature has any impact on politics, I do think we owe it to ourselves and to our readers to reckon with socio-political circumstances in our writing. The question then becomes: how to do this without losing ambiguity or artful nuance – some of the very qualities that make lit an attractive vehicle for addressing these concerns – and still possibly “take a stand”?

I’m so glad you asked!

This what I think about, ruminate on, and write-revise-read-revise-write toward nearly every day. It is the stuff of my current book-length manuscript and many of my short pieces. It is certainly something we worked on in the prison poetry class I taught for eight years. And, of course, there are so many compelling examples in the world of letters to draw on – shoulders to stand on. From all this I’ve devised a day long workshop that I’ll lead in Boston for Grub Street May 13. Here are the details:

Writing About Politics
Grub Street in Boston, MA
Saturday, May 13 — 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Are you feeling moved to grapple with the current moment in your writing? Are you concerned that if you tackle political topics in your work, the art will suffer? Whether you have been focusing on politics for some time or are new to considering it for your literary writing, this workshop can help you find interesting entry points for your work. We will read and discuss pertinent passages in a variety of literary genres and write in response. Some of the writers who will guide us include Claudia Rankine, Gloria Anzaldúa, Teju Cole, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Barbara Kingsolver, and others. You will come away with strategies for developing new or existing work as well as a number of new drafts. The exercises can be responded to in fiction, creative non-fiction, poem, essay, or hybrid form.

Writing About Politics Class Flyer
(Look how happy this makes me.)

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