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Literary Distraction: Wordle 08/31/2010

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Wordle.net allows you to create word clouds from a mix of your own words, or from a website. Here’s what I created from this blog:

Wordle: TinyLight

Speakeasy & Napa Valley 08/02/2010

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Susan introduces the first reader

Susan Bono and Ransom Stephens have organized a quartely literary event at Aqus Cafe in Petaluma, the most recent of which took place on July 22nd. For this event, readers included Joe Quirk, Barbara Baer, Nicholas Nicastro (his first reading in Sonoma County), and a few others.  Nicastro, who writes historical fiction, read from the book, Passion of the Ripper; his newest work. The cafe was more crowded than expected; the servers barely squeezing through the maze of tables with glasses of wine and appetizer plates.  There was time for three open mic readers, who were chosen from a lottery of names collected at the beginning of the event. The special speaker of the evening, Aqus Cafe owner John Crowley, read a touching essay about the importance of socializing in your local community, although he said, he felt he was “preaching to the choir”.  The next Speakeasy night is November 3rd, so be sure to set aside time to come hear some great local talent.

At Aqus, I had the pleasure of meeting Lakin Khan, who works for the Napa Valley Writers Conference. Although I was unable to attend the morning workshops, she encouraged me to make it to one of the public lectures or readings that they offer. Monday afternoon at Napa Valley College’s Upper

Upper Valley Campus

Valley Campus, I sat in on Lan Samantha Chang’s lecture titled “Unfold: Part Two.” Part one, she explained, was a talk she gave a few years ago when she spoke at the conference; and today was a contiued exploration of the use of pacing and delay in literature.  Studying the etmology of the word, Chang discovered that its Latin root meant both “to simplify” and “to complicate.” To grab audience attention, she started explaining the principles of “unfolding in literature,” by using a children’s book (Dora the Explorer) that had pop-up elements. “Something is hiding in there” she began, “and then we get to reveal another narrative.” Later, she discussed unfolding in The Reader and The Great Gatsby.

Concerning pacing, she says writers should be concerned with the “nervous variations of the reader.” By this she means that within a narrative, after moments of action, readers need moments of rest out of necessity. This provides a sort of physical satisfaction when the pace varies between tension and rest, and also gives the writer space for exposition.
It was a very informative and enriching lecture, and I’m grateful that I was encouraged to go. I am excited to write about my recent experience at the Mendocino Writers Conference soon. I’m sure those of you who have attended a conference would know that there needs to be time to assimilate all the information that you are given at such an event.

Looking for Writer Residencies 07/01/2010

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Today I am wondering if anyone in the TL community has recommendations for writer’s residencies or experiences at specific residencies that you would like to share. I have realized I get a lot of work done in structured environments like writing workshops; but how is it to work in an unstructured one? It sounds dreamy and wonderful to me, but would require a level of discipline I am still learning to develop.

I found a helpful post here at the blog Practicing Writing, which points in some directions.

Thoughts, etc?

VONA Day 2 06/22/2010

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Physical and emotional exhaustion hit most of the group by the end of today. We spent four hours workshopping three pieces, and additional time in our small groups. Those of us who had memoirs up for today read with shaky hands and staccato breaths, surprised by our nervousness.

I’m happy to say that my memoir was well received. Instead of explaining aspects of my culture like I normally have to do in a college classroom, my group mates got to the heart of the story, and pinpointed the things I was missing. It will take me a long time to absorb all the feedback I got today, but revising is supposed to start immediately!

In class we read “An Indian Education” by Sherman Alexie, a quick witted and heartfelt reflection on one’s experiences during grade school. As assignment for tonight, I must write about my own education. I spent three hours in the VONA lounge thinking and drafting ideas about first grade. I’ve got a slow pace. And a long way to go.

VONA Writers Workshop, Day 1 06/21/2010

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I made it! Here in a beautiful part of San Francisco lies the University of SF, home to the VONA writers of color for the next two weeks. (I’m only here for one). I started my journey here by getting a little lost on the campus while dragging my three bags behind me. After checking in with the dorm folks, I headed to our “VONA lounge,” our big group meeting room. Diem Jones, one of the founders of VONA, gave us a run down on the basics and introduced the amazing faculty. Elmaz Abinader- which is the instructor I’m working with – led us in a quick exercise.

She began by spreading out a roll of paper along the length of the room. She then told us we would engage in a quick exercise. In a poem-style, we were to write five things: our name, what tribe we belong to/ who we identify with, what we are not, what are ancestors were telling us, and how we felt in that moment.

Many people here are from the East Bay – many have the same friends, or friends of friends. In some corners of the room, it was like watching a mini reunion of those who were alumni. It it easy for me, of course, to become a quiet observer; only occasionally startled by another newcomer introducing themselves.

I can’t wait to see what the week brings. My workshop piece is up second tomorrow morning.

Iota Press Will Party! 05/20/2010

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Eric Johnson, the man behind Iota Press, said something smart to me. When I asked where his inspiration to write came from, he replied that he did not know; that inspiration is elusive, and to name it could make it disappear. It must be with this intuition that he approaches Iota’s letterpress projects, because he always seems to get it right. Check out the website to see the quirky, yet elegant chapbooks and broadsides that are building up Iota Press as a local, literary powerhouse.

On June 6th, Eric is hosting a celebration for Iota’s first anniversary. The open house event will consist of “food & drink, stuff to look at & buy, conversation. A chance to mark one year of work, to demonstrate the old presses and fonts, & show the recent work,” he says. Opening up the studio to letterpress classes and writing workshops, Eric writes that he was “surprised at the enthusiasm of others who have come around the shop this year.  Both those who are fascinated with old tools and trades, and those who see it as a ‘new’ way to publish, to make  artful books or cards”.From the outside excitement, he has found more vigor within himself: ” The interest of others  has greatly increased my own, and I’m seeing more & more things I want to do. Working slowly, one metal letter at a time, has me thinking more sculpturally about my writing.”

To give TL readers a better idea of Eric, Iota, and the work produced, I asked him a few questions:

How long have you been working in letterpress and what attracted you to it?

I was retiring from 35 years of carpentry and wanted to publish a collection of graphic poems I’d been doing for years. Someone told me that with a letterpress one could have plates made of the drawings and run them through the press. I took classes at SF Center for the Book, and apprenticed myself to the venerable poet/printer, Don Emblen. It seemed a wonderful fusion of my two lives…as a craftsman and a poet.

Can you explain the kind of press that you use?

I have three presses at the shop. One is a cylinder press called a Vandercook, which enables one to make larger prints, up to 14″ x 22″.  Then two versions of the old platen press, or clamshell.  They allow greater speed in printing and I use them when that’s important.

How did you come up with the logo for Iota Press?

The logo is a drawing I did twenty years ago to represent myself as a carpenter/fox/bird. I stencilled  it on the side of my truck.  Something in the style of old alchemist’s drawings to represent paradox.

Future projects?

In the next  year  I plan to create a co-op at the shop to accomodate those who want to go further in using letterpress. And develop a group of artists & writers who will experiment with the aesthetics of the broadside…particularly some efforts  inspired by walks in the nearby Laguna floodplain.

Thank you again to Mr. Eric Johnson for the interview!

Simple Advice 05/13/2010

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I really like this simple advice from Writer Unboxed. It reminds me that the only person who can truly motivate you to write is you. And of course, the most harsh judge is yourself! Check it out!

Help Jamie Get to Writers Conferences! 05/06/2010

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Hello Tiny Lights Community! Yesterday was a very exciting day for me. I received three emails: one from the VONA  Writers workshop (that I mentioned in a previous post), one from the Napa Valley Writers Conference, and one from the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference. I was accepted into all three! My poor laptop fell from my lap to the floor as I jumped up and danced like I never knew I could. I am so honored, and haven’t stopped smiling since then.

However – reality soon set in. Mendocino Coast Writers Conference graciously offered me a 50% scholarship of the $495 tuition, which was the only funding I received in total. The VONA workshop will cost $850, and if I attend Napa, $800. Of course this coincides with the roughest financial period in my life: a student, recently moved from my mother’s house, loans maxed out. So! I need to raise a lot of money, and call every relative I can think of to help me out! (“Oh hi, Cousin Michael, remember me? I’m Jamie! You know, in California? Yeah! So, I’m graduating from college this year and I need your money!”)

My question to you is: Do you have any fundraising ideas?

My skills/experience include: tutoring, editing, babysitting, office work. Any one need a worker?

Thank you for your support and stay tuned for TL updates!

Graduation is Coming… 04/30/2010

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…which means I’m running around like a hyper child trying to get all my work done for my senior project! I am reading a list of books that have do do with the mixed race experience (since it is those books that I feel have most impacted my own identity as a writer). These include McBride’s Color of Water, Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, Danzy Senna’s Caucasia and Symptomatic, and Heidi Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky. I really recommend Durrow’s novel- it just came out this year and is pretty great. She and Fanshen Cox founded the Mixed Roots Literary and Film Festival which takes place June 12-13th in Los Angeles. I’m hoping to go, if I can somehow get the funds together. In 2008, they awarded James McBride and Kip Fulbeck (another mixed writer and artist) with the Loving Prize, an honorary award they created for the festival. Check it out!

Plus: does anyone have book recommendations to add to my list?

A way belated CONGRATS to the winners of the Tiny Light’s Essay Contest. I was honored to read and help judge the entries, as well as inspired by the level of talent I was witness to. Can’t wait to see some of these in the upcoming issue!

And They’re Off! 03/05/2010

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After much procrastinating, and hours studying that MFA blog making myself feel terrible, I’m done sending MFA applications. For now.  I sent off 3.5 actual apps – the half being an application I had to defer to December since my junior college forgot to send my transcript. I feel somewhat like an unachiever; crying for help from everyone,  the result less than noteworthy. It’s not that I’m not happy with the schools I applied to, because I am. After spending a chunk of time looking into each faculty member of each program (reading their books and such), and visiting one of the schools; admission to them would be cause for celebration.

There’s still  pressure though- a heaviness sitting upon my chest. I think I need to be re-trained how to relax. Or at least take a yoga class.

Cool writerly things: I’ve been reading this great blog, Isak , which always has interesting news and quotes. I also have been looking into writers conferences this summer. I’ve applied to VONA – a conference for writers of color in San Francisco with a great history (and they were featured in the latest issue Poets & Writers Magazine!).  Also check out the upcoming Mendocino Coast Writers Conference, which I know Susan was involved in during past years. They begin accepting applications on March 15th, so get on it!