Monday, October 29, 2007

Poetry reading series at Pond House in Milwaukie


A Series of Readings on the second Wednesday of each month,
7 PM
The Ledding Library Pond House
10660 SE 21st, Milwaukie OR 97222
(next to the Milwaukie Ledding Library)

Nov. 14, 2007 - Paulann Petersen

Dec. 12 - Kim Stafford

Jan. 9, 2008 - Judith Barrington

Feb. 13 - Barbara Drake

March 12 - Floyd Skloot

April 9 - Jim Grabill

May 14 - Vern Rutsala

June 11 - Kate Gray

The series is funded by the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

November is NaNoWriMo & NaBloPoMo

November is a good writing month, with both NaBloPoMo, where you can get encouragement to write a blog post every day, and NaNoWriMo, where you receive suport in writing the rough draft of a novel (50,000 words) in a month. Or you could wait for April's NaPoWriMo, and write a poem every day.

I did NaPoWriMo in April of 2006, and produced 30 rough poems. I don't think I'll do NaNoWriMo, as I am going to continue revising the current novel, instead of plunging into the next novel. This is not marriage; it is serial monogamy, and I'm committed to the novel that is in revision. The next novel will have to wait its turn. Ah, but I am tempted...

Tip of the rainhat to stoney moss for the NaBloPoMo info.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Caitlin Gable rummage sale Nov 1-4

The Caitlin Gable School rummage sale runs November 1-4 at the Portland Expo Center.

Caitlin Gable is a private school in SW Portland, known for its high academic standards. The annual rummage sale benefits the scholarship program. About 25% of the students are on some kind of financial aid.

from the website:

"The annual Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale is held the first weekend in November and is one of the largest rummage sales in the world...The Sale fills 100,000 square feet at the Expo Center. The 63-year-old tradition is the School's largest volunteer activity, engaging over one thousand volunteers during the sale week and in year round sorting and organizing. The Sale raises well over $285,000 with the proceeds benefiting student financial aid."


Monday, October 22, 2007

Jim Shepard interview

Jim is interviewed at The National Book Foundation as part of being a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award.

"The role of the fiction writer is I suppose to tell as compelling and important stories as he or she can. And those stories should help us dismantle and reassemble our sense of ourselves. What's nice about the National Book Award is the valiant work it does trying to remind a culture at large that seems less and less interested in reading fiction and poetry that educating us about our emotions is something that's more, and not less, important given the state of our national discourse right now."


Saturday, October 20, 2007

The short story brou-ha-ha

First there was Stephen King's essay in the New York Times Book Review.

"...writers write for whatever audience is left. In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there. And this kind of reading isn’t real reading, the kind where you just can’t wait to find out what happens next (think “Youth,” by Joseph Conrad, or “Big Blonde,” by Dorothy Parker). It’s more like copping-a-feel reading. There’s something yucky about it."

Now Jean Thompson has responded on Maude Newton.

"The short story has been declared dead more times than a horror movie villain, and in similar fashion, the corpse always rises up to attack one more time. Two of the finalists for the 2007 National Book Awards are short story collections, by Lydia Davis, and by Jim Shepherd, one of Mr. King’s B.A.S.S. picks. The creature lives!
When readers complain that short stories leave them unsatisfied, confused, that they lack drama or closure, the writer must acknowledge this response. The great imperative of fiction, as Mr. King correctly notes, is making the reader care passionately about what comes next. But it’s also true that the world is complex, ambiguous, difficult; it often makes us feel lost and fearful. Any fiction that attempts to do justice to those complexities can seem disquieting in turn, if what one really wants is a clear prompt, how to react, how to feel, like a television newsperson’s intoning about a tragic vehicle accident.
The life nourishes the art, and for the artist, life resonates in ways oblique, mysterious, unexpected, so that our best work is a revelation even to ourselves. Those of us who love the short story love its capacity for such surprise, as well as its elegant compression, its craft, its many shapes and modes, as various as types of birds: hunting hawk or meadowlark, fancy chicken, migratory seabird, Woody Woodpecker cartoon, stylized origami crane."

Tip of the rainhat to Ann Gelder for the Jean Thompson post. And always happy to see Jim Shepard's name in print.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Orhan Pamuk

I heard Orhan Pamuk read and talk last night at the Schnitz as part of the Portland Arts & Lecture series. Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006. He read from Other Colors: Essays and a Story, and then answered a few questions from the audience, but stayed clear of political questions, saying that the Armenian genocide was a matter of Turkish free speech, rather than international statements.

His favorite authors are Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and Thomas Mann, followed by Borges, Calvino, and Nabokov. His favorite novel is Anna Karenina. When asked how he felt about being followed in the Nobel lineup by Doris Lessing, he replied that he had read two novels of hers 30 years ago that he considered great novels, but he was not interested in the rest of her work. (I'm sorry, I did not write down which novels he liked. The Schnitz was packed, and I was in the upper balcony, squashed, too warm, and not in the mood to take notes.)

Pamuk said that one of the most important things a writer can do is to read outside of their experience, and to write about characters who make them uncomfortable. Very interesting. Good advice. Interesting also that his list of favorite authors includes no women, no writers in English.

I was surprised by his choice of readings. He read friendly essays about his daughter. Did he think that we are all hicks in Portland? Was he correct? Certainly the audience chuckled, as if they were listening to someone safe.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Barbara Sjoholm

Barbara Sjoholm will be at the Powell's on Hawthorne, Thursday, Oct 18th, 7:30pm.

From her website:
"A frequent traveler to Scandinavia, Barbara Sjoholm set off one winter to explore a region that had long intrigued her. The Palace of the Snow Queen is the result of Sjoholm's travels in Lapland, starting with her visit to Kiruna, Sweden, to observe the construction of the Icehotel. Over the the course of three winters in the North, she met ice artists and snow architects, reindeer herders, and Sami writers and activists.

Throughout The Palace of the Snow Queen, Sjoholm provides a deeply moving look at the people of Kiruna and the Sami struggle to maintain their grazing lands and migration routes in the face of tourism, while focusing on the various political and ideological changes occurring within this icy region.

Ultimately, Sjoholm contemplates the tensions between contemporary tourism and traditional culture, and delivers a powerful travel narrative of this comparatively little-known region of Europe."

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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Futility Review

Check out The Futility Review. My pal Jilly Dybka was non-published here in the Winter of 2002.

I particularly like the submission guidelines.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Doris Lessing wins 2007 Nobel Literature Prize

Doris Lessing has won the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature.



Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Jim Shepard is a finalist for the 2007 National Book Awards

The National Book Awards finalists in fiction are:

Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Lydia Davis, Varieties of Disturbance (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End (Little, Brown & Company)
Denis Johnson, Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Jim Shepard, Like You’d Understand, Anyway (Alfred A. Knopf)

I'm delighted that Jim is getting this major recognition. He's a fine writer, an excellent teacher, and a swell human being. I studied with him at Tin House in the summer of 2006.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Chekhov Lexicon by William Boyd

Check out this Chekhov Lexicon by William Boyd at The Guardian. Here's the entry for A:

Anton Chekhov died 100 years ago, on July 15 1904. He was 44 years old. His lungs were ravaged by tuberculosis. In Russia, Chekhov is revered as a short-story writer of genius; his plays are considered as extremely interesting but somehow ancillary and complementary to his main achievement. And this Russian conception of his work has some validity: Chekhov, whatever his standing as a playwright, is quite probably the best short-story writer ever. Like certain great pieces of music, his stories repay constant revisitings. The two dozen or so mature stories he wrote in the last decade of the 19th century have not dated: what resonated in them for his contemporaries resonates now, 100 or more years on. Chekhov, it can be argued, was the first truly modern writer of fiction: secular, refusing to pass judgment, cognisant of the absurdities of our muddled, bizarre lives and the complex tragi-comedy that is the human condition.


Monday, October 01, 2007

What I read last month

A Director Prepares: 7 Essays on Art & Theatre by Anne Bogart. Excellent craft book not only for theatre, but for writing revision.

Sylvia by Leonard Michales. Practicall perfect novel, can now see why everyone recommends it. Strong story, characters vividly drawn. A fav of Charlie Baxter's.

Osprey Island by Thisbe Nissen. Island setting, large cast of characters, roving POV eventually leads to loss of focus. Could have been much better book with more editing and tighter focus.

Mrs. Bridge by Evan Connell. Had read this many years ago, got much more out of it this time. Short chapters, each with a single focus. Odd format, but compelling.

Bartleby in Manhattan: Essays by Elizabeth Hardwick. Title essay is particularly good.

Illumination Night by Alice Hoffman. I listened to this in the car. Something not right about the ending, felt contrived, but Hoffman is certainly competent. I like her later works better than this.

Ruined by Reading, A Life in Books by Lynn Sharon Schwartz. Another re-read, good essays on why we read, by a fine writer.

Away by Amy Bloom. I heard her speak at Powells and she was gracious, even to the particularly tiresome questions. Excellent novel, with no hesitation, much authority, strong plot, lively characters. Set in the past, but uses present tense. She explained that this gave her so much more freedom to move to the future tense and the various past tenses for recent and distant past of characters.

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. Another rec by Charlie Baxter, and I also remember that Jonathan Dee recommended it. Masterful use of POV, amazing writing. I do like a slim, perfect novel. Such a pleasure to read this.


2007 Oregon Book Awards Finalists

Ken Kesey Award for the Novel
Judge: Antonya Nelson

Alison Clement Twenty Questions (Atria Books)
Monica Drake Clown Girl (Hawthorne Books)
Robert Hill When All Is Said and Done (Graywolf Press)

Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction
Judge: Robert Polito

Garrett Epps Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America (Henry Holt)
Rene Denfeld All God's Children: Inside the Dark and Violent World of Street Families (PublicAffairs)
John Bellamy Foster Naked Imperialism: The U.S. Pursuit of Global Dominance (Monthly Review)
Ben Saunders Desiring Donne: Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation (Harvard University Press)
Kristian Williams American Methods: Torture and the Logic of Domination (South End Press)

Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction
Judge: Lee Gutkind

Jeff Lee Manthos Steel Beach: My Life As A Naval Aircrewman 1972-1976 (Inkwater)
Lee Montgomery The Things Between Us (Free Press)
Joel Preston Smith Night of a Thousand Stars and Other Portraits of Iraq (Nazraeli Press)

Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry
Judge: Donald Revell

Tom Blood The Sky Position (Marriage Records Publishing House)
Kathleen Halme Drift and Pulse (Carnegie Mellon University Press)
Paul Merchant Some Business of Affinity (Five Seasons Press)
Floyd Skloot The End of Dreams (Louisiana State University Press)


My best guess (a guess, not an endorsement, mind you):
The novel award to Monica Drake for Clowngirl.
General nonfiction award to
Ben Saunders for Desiring Donne: Poetry, Sexuality, Interpretation.
Creative nonfiction award to
Lee Montgomery for The Things Between Us.
Poetry award to
Floyd Skloot for The End of Dreams.

These are all significant judges. Robert Polito is the director of the MFA program at The New School in NY, and on the faculty at Queens. He's a fine writer, and a swell guy.

We will find out on Sunday, December 2nd.
For more information, see the website.

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