My freshman year of college I lifted weights and kickboxed five days a week. The kickboxing gym was four miles down Riverside and I biked there every weeknight. There wasn’t a bike lane on Riverside and cars honked. My brakes screeched.
On my way home I stopped for Taco Shack. I tried doing the drive thru once but they said I needed a car to use the speaker box so I ate inside. I was drenched and sometimes bruised from the workouts and the staff looked at me while I ate the burritos.
TO MAKE AND EAT TIME:
Pork Rillettes in a Pandemic
by Greg Emilio
And one day, just like that, you will make time.
You will make time to dust off the cookbooks you’ve never used. You will pick up the fat French tome and crack it open and it will smell like your grandparents’ kitchen. The papery redolence of oil, roasted chicken. The splattered windows of grease stains as holy as stained glass. Time to finger the recipes their pencils annotated. Time to make, and make do, to use what you have: time trapped in a half-forgotten bottle of Muscadet.
You will make time, because suddenly, you, and the rest of the world, will have time.
Lured by economy and the blind contingency of time and place, you will come to a recipe for rillettes. Pâté-tender pork preserved under a layer of lard. Peasant’s butter back in the day, the fat cap keeping the meat for months. (Time to seek out foods that will stand the test of time.)
After a perilous excursion to the grocery store and a trip to the butcher (by comparison heaven on earth), you will be ready to set the cure on your inch by inch chunks of pork shoulder: salt, garlic, ginger, coriander, black pepper, and white wine. Plus the unexpected warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove.
And this is how you will set the cure. And this is how the beginning of time is made. And now, you must wait three days.
SOME OTHER CONTINENT by Melissa Benton Barker The drink was called Spring Breeze. Elin had three of them at brunch, but Lucy never drank in the morning, so she’d missed it. It was the third night of a weekend cruise Elin had purchased on sale months ago, and they sat outside on an ill-lit and almost empty deck as the ship charged somewhere between Miami and the Bahamas. There was a stiff wind and no moon. Instead of the desired Spring Breeze, Elin bought two bottles of Amstel Light back to the table. “The bartender won’t make it,” she said. “What do you mean he won’t make it?” said Lucy. “Apparently it’s a daytime drink.” There was a pinching sensation at the crown of Elin’s head, as if she were a plush toy in a claw machine, drawn upward by those spindly metal fingers. She didn’t enjoy Amstel anymore, but …chop! chop! read more!
INTERVAL by Sue Mell Nine seconds to warm the applesauce for my mother’s morning medication. To wrestle my fury, replace it with a light-hearted care. Even as a kid I shied away from her clinging hand; now her need for me is bottomless. Nine seconds to watch the red-bellied woodpecker hunch his body around the feeder, the sparrows scattering with bitter complaint. To mentally revise my steps for the most efficient diaper change—wipes here, Desitin there, the wastebasket cradled in the bars of the rolling table just so. Nine seconds to remember a time I had not taken this on. To ignore the man jogging freely past, his face mask dangling below his chin. To see the sunlight flicker as wind bends back the trailing spirea branches, setting tiny white petals adrift like snow. Then the beep of the microwave and on with the day. Sue Mell is a graduate …chop! chop! read more!
THE YEARS GO BY IN SINGLE FILE by Roberta Beary Maybe behind your house was a rock garden where you ran when your mother shooed you away where you loved the rosebush but hated the thorns and always the bees buzzing a secret you didn’t know but still it made you cry in the cubbyhole under the stairs where you could hear in the kitchen your mother tell her mother she was done having sex she didn’t care if he was her husband and what was he going to do about it anyway and maybe the years go by in single file like the poet says and maybe at night you read her poem over and over in a book of poems the pages edged in gold and hold onto it like the rabbit’s foot you’ve outgrown hidden in a shoebox and every night he’s in your room the sweet …chop! chop! read more!
By the time I tell him, it’s old news and too late, but that’s why I waited to tell. I needed to know. He stalks me through the house to ask all about it. Here? he says, and I say, Yes, and wince as his fist punctuates the hallway plaster. The white dust drifts down. It settles.
My mother became a maid for a rich, white lady a few months after my father bounced. She worked cleaning the lady’s house—vacuuming, sanitizing toilets in a bathroom with heated tiles, dusting—two days a week for over a month, while my brother and I went to school. The bills, however, didn’t seem to be getting any smaller; but as luck would have it, the lady had also invested in other properties, including a one-story office building that housed a local paper company amongst others. It turned out that the contractor the lady hired to do after-hours janitorial work was under investigation and had closed their offices and laid off their employees. Unsure of what to do, the woman had asked my mother if she knew anyone who owned a janitorial service. Needing the money, my mother lied and said that she did, but that it was a very small company that consisted of only three people. What she didn’t mention was that the people were me, her, and my brother.
WELCOME CENTER (Some Notes for Our Visitors) by Susan Frith 1. Greetings. Preachers, poachers, stargazers, we don’t much care who you are. You’re here now, so go on, take a key. See if it fits any of the locks. If so, the place is yours. (We’ll come to terms later.) It might be a three-story house with a turret. It might be the cleaning closet behind this desk. As someone famous once said, every key fits a lock somewhere. On why half the homes in this town are abandoned: We’re not sure. It was either a radon leak or pirates or something else entirely. How many people live here now is another mystery, because some of them like to hide. If you see anyone peering at you from behind a boxwood or telephone pole, don’t gawk. (Nothing shouts tourist more than gawking.) 2. Our Natural History. This town was built …chop! chop! read more!
FOXLEY REDUX by Benjamin Soileau Foxley’s uptight on the glass, watching for the hard silver wink of Daddy’s Bronco. Mama said his ass was grass. He heard her on the phone tattling and when she brought it to him and he put it to his ear, Daddy said to wait in his room and to not be leaving even for the bathroom, that he was gonna get the whipping of his short life when he got home. Daddy told Foxley five o’clock couldn’t come soon enough, and that maybe, if he was lucky, boss man would let him clock out a few minutes early. Every car that crosses the pane knots Foxley’s guts more and he tells himself that he’s making it worse. He might as well relax in the bed and be in the moment, since at the present, Daddy ain’t home yet, and his ass is fine, besides …chop! chop! read more!
GARE DU NORD, 1988 by Kim Magowan The girl escorts her boyfriend to Gare du Nord, where he will take a train to the coast and then a ferry back to England—this is years before the Chunnel will be built. He is her first serious boyfriend, and two nights ago they had sex for the first time. The girl is not religious or old-fashioned, but she had fetishized “going all the way” as a momentous journey, only to take with someone she loved. This is why she is twenty years old and only now, long after nearly all of her friends, has finally had sex. It’s a strange kind of fetishism, at odds with the fact that she has, over the last two and a half years, given blowjobs to seven men, including one whose name she doesn’t remember, though she does clearly recall his cleft chin, which looked like …chop! chop! read more!
EIDOLON by Nicole Greaves She said there are some things you will always be, like Italian, some skills interchangeable: folding underwear and trussing a chicken, some days for darkness. I remind her of her dead daughter. Her true character! Everything is a lie and everything a truth. We always know it. Like how we are loved and unwanted. As a girl I drank water out of shoes. It made sense, all of it. Nicole Greaves teaches at The Crefeld School in Philadelphia. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and an M.Ed. in special education. Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary reviews and was awarded prizes by The Academy of American Poets and the Leeway Foundation of Philadelphia. She is a recent 2020 finalist for the Frontier Digital Chapbook Contest and was a 2015 finalist for the Coniston Prize of Radar Poetry, who also nominated her for The …chop! chop! read more!
TRANS (Is Not An Abbreviation) Writing Transgender Characters through the lens of the body taught by Claire Rudy Foster 4 Zoom Sessions January 4, 11, 18, 25, 8-10 pm ET $200 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] This workshop will discuss how to write about transgender characters through the lens of the body. Transgender bodies are vilified, objectified, fetishized, and punished. How do we write about trans joy, pleasure, and freedom? Writers will generate body-specific pieces of imagined or experienced memoir and learn about how to create transgender characters that avoid cliched, harmful tropes. Cisgender students are asked to read a sensitivity statement before attending.
THE ART OF FLASH A Workshop in Fiction and Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Flash Editor Kathryn Kulpa 5 weeks SOLD OUT Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] Flash is a genre defined by brevity: vivid emotions and images compressed into a compact form. We most often see flash fiction, but flash can also encompass prose poetry, micro memoir, lyric essays, and hybrid works. In this class, we will take a close look at different styles and forms of flash fiction, as well as flash nonfiction, hybrid, and experimental works. Each week, we will read and discuss one or more example-works and generate new work from prompts. Students will share their work for peer and instructor feedback, then will choose one story to revise for the final class. This workshop has weekly deadlines and assignments to help motivate you to write, but the work can be done at your own pace and …chop! chop! read more!
AFTERBURN A Workshop on the Art of Flash Revision Taught by Cleaver Flash Editor Kathryn Kulpa 3 weeks November 15 to December 12, 2020 $175 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] Flash fiction may be born in a lightning flash of inspiration, but crafting works of perfect brevity requires time and patience: sometimes cutting, sometimes adding, and sometimes starting all over again. In very short stories, every word must work, and revision is as much a part of writing flash as it is of writing longer prose. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll practice the art of revision. Flash fiction writer and editor Kathryn Kulpa will share first drafts, revisions, and published versions of her own work and that of other flash and short fiction writers. Students will learn different revision strategies and how to apply them to their own work. We will create new flash together and work on taking it through …chop! chop! read more!
A WORLD BETWEEN
by Emily Hashimoto
Feminist Press, 440 pages
reviewed by Ashira Shirali
Let’s be honest—the chances of walking into a bookstore and finding a literary lesbian romance are low. You’re more likely to find an entire cookbook consisting of sourdough recipes. If you want the book to feature characters of color, your odds sink even lower. Emily Hashimoto’s debut novel promises to fill this lacuna. A World Between (Feminist Press, forthcoming) follows the relationship between two women of color, Leena and Eleanor, through college and adulthood. The novel alternates between Leena’s and Eleanor’s perspectives, revealing the yearnings and anxieties of each as they grow apart and together.
There is much to marvel at in this debut. Hashimoto is adept at plotting. She pulls Leena and Eleanor apart with narrative developments that are both unexpected and believable. The novel heightens tension as we long for the two’s reunion despite circumstances, family expectations and their own struggles. Eleanor and Leena’s conflicts are heartbreakingly realistic. Their fights remind us that in real life there are no villains or heroes, just two people whose earnest feelings clash. Hashimoto deploys details masterfully. She can bring characters to life with just a handful of words. When Leena cries in her mother’s car, she turns away because her mother “couldn’t stomach emotions of this magnitude.” The novel’s dialogue captures the rhythms of young people’s conversations, both the beat and the crescendos.
A World Between’s greatest triumph is capturing the shape, color and texture of attraction between two women.
Despite these strengths, Leena and Eleanor’s honest, multi-stranded story is let down by the novel’s prose. Hashimoto’s similes fall flat as often as they succeed, and she pushes metaphors too hard. After describing how Leena responds to Eleanor’s body as if calculating an equation, Hashimoto writes, “If two trains were headed to Boston at one hundred miles per hour, how fast would Eleanor come?” There are awkward phrases which aspire to the literary (“she took bite of her tongue”), and sometimes the writing elicits pure confusion (“the streets where bars hummed and clothing wore her fellow New Yorkers”). The novel could easily lose a hundred pages. In other places, however, the words delight—“It was quiet for a long time, dust settling on the ellipses of the moment.”
POETIC ANATOMIES: Dissecting Form and Formlessness in Poetry Taught by Cleaver Poetry Editor Claire Oleson 5 weeks January 16 to February 20 SOLD OUT Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] In this course, we will investigate how form is used in poetry to create meaning, house language, and allow the content of a poem to achieve a significance that echoes beyond the bounds of its literal words. Whether participants are wholly new to sonnets and couldn’t tell you whether a villanelle is part of a cake recipe or a manuscript, there will be room for growth, experimentation, and attentive feedback. We will work primarily on generating new work, encouraging participants to push their boundaries and hone their voice to create memorable and authentic pieces. The workshop model will facilitate constructive responses from both peers and the instructor. Particular attention will be placed on the formal life of the poetry we read …chop! chop! read more!
THE ART OF THE SCENE A Workshop in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Taught by Lisa Borders 5 weeks January 3 to February 5 introductory Zoom meeting at 2 pm ET on Sun Jan 3 $225 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] The writer Sandra Scofield describes a “pulse”—that spark that makes the story come alive— as a vital element to all scenes. This pulse is especially crucial for opening scenes, as many agents and editors report that if they are not hooked on a manuscript within the first five pages, they will not read on. But what is a “pulse,” and how can a writer ensure that each scene—not just the opening— has one? How can we write in such a way that our characters come to life, that a scene breathes emotion and urgency, while moving the plot forward and keeping tension taut? In this class we’ll look at opening …chop! chop! read more!
EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY, Part 1 of Two A Workshop to Jumpstart Your Writing open to all levels and genres Parts 1 and 2 may be repeated or taken out of order taught by Cleaver Editor Tricia Park Asynchronous Version 5 weeks January 10 to February 7, 2021 $250 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] “But your solitude will be a support and a home for you, even in the midst of very unfamiliar circumstances, and from it you will find all your paths.” ― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet In this class, we won’t try to fix what isn’t broken. We’ll hold our vulnerability and begin creating from where we are. We’ll give ourselves permission to commence, no matter how fragile the surface under our feet feels. Together, we will enter and engage with the work as it begins to speak to us, and we’ll allow ourselves to follow that …chop! chop! read more!
DUMP TRUMP Illustrated T-Shirts by William Sulit Many artists have the ability to verbalize their thoughts with great clarity and eloquence—sadly, I’m not one of those. This must be a great source of frustration for my wife Beth, who is an extremely accomplished writer and well versed in the art of verbal communication. But she does not complain; she smiles and lets me babble aimlessly until I get distracted by a squirrel or something. Oh well. As I used to say to my mother when she was yelling at me for something I did (or didn’t do): That’s just the way God made me.In any case, I should stop rambling and get to the point which is to write a few words about this image. I decided to make a series of drawings that chronicle the pure and unadulterated stupidity perpetrated by the current occupant of the White House. I …chop! chop! read more!
GARDEN BY THE SEA
by Mercè Rodoreda
translated by Martha Tennent and Maruxa Relaño
Open Letter Books, 203 pages
reviewed by Anthony Cardellini
When I began my part-time job at a botanical garden in the fall of 2017, I had next to zero gardening experience, and I knew little about the different flowers and trees that grow in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. I showed up that first day completely unprepared, without so much as a pair of gloves. But I was lucky enough to be mentored by David, a man in his early thirties from Maine, who’d been gardening for several years. David explained to me the paradoxical nature of caring for gardens: gardens need constant attention, but they bear their beautiful fruits ever so slowly. At the heart of David’s message was that gardeners are transitory, but gardens remain. Our decades are their hours.
TELLING TRUE STORIES A Workshop in Creative Nonfiction Taught by Cleaver Editor Sydney Tammarine 5 weeks December 7, 2020- January 9, 2021 Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] SOLD OUT Writer Dinty W. Moore says that creative nonfiction equals curiosity plus truth. CNF comes in a variety of forms: from expansive memoir to intimate personal essay to the lightbulb “eureka!” of flash. But in any form, the CNF writer is a guiding voice in the dark: a storyteller seeking truth, thinking alongside the reader toward a deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. In this class, we’ll practice the essay in its most dynamic form: a verb that means “to test; to practice; to taste; to try to do, accomplish, or make (anything difficult).” Each week, we will read and discuss one or more example essays and generate new work from prompts. Students will share their work for peer and instructor …chop! chop! read more!
LITTLE ENVELOPE OF EARTH CONDITIONS
by Cori A. Winrock
Alice James Books, 85 pages
reviewed by Charlotte Hughes
I read Little Envelope of Earth Conditions in late June, when COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing in the world and the nation—and at home. The May 24th New York Times front page, which listed the names of the 100,000 American coronavirus victims—a very public display of mourning and grief—was at the forefront of my memory, as were the more personal ways that I was mourning the loss of traditions, previous ways of life, time spent with grandparents and my fellow high school students alike.
Throughout her second collection of lyric poems, Little Envelope of Earth Conditions, Cori A. Winrock explores the experience of mourning: specifically, the idea that grief is an ongoing, recurring experience that never truly goes away. It is simultaneously universal and intensely personal. She tells a compelling narrative about the loss of a mother and child, spanning from the vast emptiness of space to an ambulance in a parking lot to a placid meadow on the edge of a lake. The
Cockfight by María Fernanda Ampuero translated by Frances Riddle Feminist Press, 128 pages reviewed by Ashley Hajimirsadeghi
In her debut novel, Ecuadorian writer and journalist María Fernanda Ampuero takes an unflinching and intimate look into the turbulent homes and lives of Latin American women. By placing her powerful, moving stories in settings like violent domestic households or lower income neighborhoods, the characters in Ampuero’s Cockfight combat their situations with acts of bravery, loss, and love. As the characters seem to suffocate in their environments, there are acts of bravery, loss, and love. The idea of a happy family is a myth and men are depicted as lecherous, terrifying creatures of the night. The narrators often are maids, young girls, and women wrenched into horrifying situations such as forced incest, rape, and human trafficking.
TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS
by Samantha Mabry
Algonquin Young Readers
288 pages reviewed by Kristie Gadson
Samantha Mabry’s Tigers, Not Daughters is a modern-day ghost story that follows the Torres sisters—Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa—one year after the untimely death of their oldest sister, Ana. Wracked with grief, the Torres sisters ache for Ana; but their profound sadness is met with unexpected events that eventually make their sister’s presence known: raps on doors and windows, writings on the walls, sensory overload, recurring storms, flickering lights, dying animals, and one escaped spotted hyena lurking in the darkness of their neighborhood in Southtown. Ana reappears in a way the girls can’t begin to imagine and returns with a vengeance they don’t understand. Mabry tells a riveting tale of three sisters who discover the power of sisterhood and what it means to stay together despite insurmountable, unnatural odds.
What stood out to me while reading Tigers, Not Daughters was how colorful and tangible each of the Torres sisters is. Their characterization is well-rounded, Mabry vividly telling the story through the individual perspectives of each sister, as well as including a fourth perspective of a character that watches them from afar. Each sister is unique in not just who they are, but in how they grieve over the loss of Ana.
THE SHARPEST TOOLS IN THE DRAWER: Honing Critical Distance in First-Person Narratives A Masterclass by Cleaver Nonfiction Editor Lise Funderburg Four Sundays, 12:00pm – 3:00 pm: Oct 11, Oct 18, Oct 25, Nov 1, 2020 $175 Early Bird / $200 regular Class limit: 10 Questions: [email protected] SOLD OUT Writing from personal experience is always a double-edged sword in Creative Nonfiction: on the one side, we have almost limitless access to material. On the other, familiarity often breeds blind spots, cheating the work of dimension, resonance, and narrative drive. Through close readings of exemplary work, craft essays, writing exercises, discussion, and peer review, we will build strategies and practices that elevate your personal essays and memoir projects. Expect to become a stronger writer, a better reader, and an enthusiastic reviser. Lise Funderburg’s latest book is Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents, a collection of all-new work by twenty-five writers, which Publishers Weekly …chop! chop! read more!
EMBRACING UNCERTAINTY Part 2 of 2 A Workshop to Jumpstart Your Writing open to all levels and genres
Parts 1 and 2 may be repeated or taken out of order
taught by Cleaver Editor Tricia Park
Nov 7, 14, 21, Dec 5, 12 (Note: No class Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 28)
5 Zoom classes, Saturdays 2-4 pm Eastern Time
$175 early bird / $200 regular
Class limit: 12 This class can be taken on its own or as a continuation of Part I
Questions: [email protected]
THE SPORT OF THE GODS by Paul Laurence Dunbar Signet Classics, 176 pages reviewed by Dylan Cook
For the best experience, I recommend reading The Sport of the Gods outside on a cloudy day, rain threatening. As you fall in step with Paul Laurence Dunbar’s rhythmic prose, it’ll be easy to forget that you’re at nature’s mercy. Let the clouds decide whether or not you get to read uninterrupted. Subject to this force, you may more easily understand what the Hamilton family endures in this novel. As deceits and misfortunes pile on top of each other, the Hamiltons decide that nature can’t help but rain down upon them. Their breakdown is more than plain bad luck can explain, so they know that they are fighting, “against some Will infinitely stronger than their own.”
Even if you haven’t heard of Paul Laurence Dunbar, you’ve likely read lines of his poetry. Maya Angelou immortalized his poem “Sympathy” when she borrowed a line for the title of her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Discussing her influences, Angelou lauded Dunbar in the same breath as Shakespeare. Dunbar was born to former slaves in Ohio in 1872, right in the middle of the Reconstruction era. He began writing seriously as a teenager, the only Black student in his high school. He had some early publishing help from his friends Wilbur and Orville Wright (yes, those Wright Brothers) before publishing his first poetry collection, Oak and Ivy. From this collection’s success, Dunbar launched a prolific career that spanned over a dozen poetry collections, three short story collections, and a handful of novels. In nearly all of his work, he seamlessly transitioned between standard and vernacular English, a feat that earned him both praise and criticism. Perhaps most miraculously, he produced all of this work amid recurring bouts of tuberculosis and alcoholism. Dying at the age of 33, Dunbar left behind a sprawling body of work that’s yet to be properly explored.
WRITING THE PERSONA POEM “When I Use I” A Poetry Workshop taught by Herman Beavers Asynchronous with optional Zoom sessions 5 Weeks October 16-November 13 $275 Class Limit: 15 Questions: [email protected] The persona poem is a staple of Western poetry. Whether it’s Andrew Marvel’s “To His Coy Mistress” or W.B. Yeats’ s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” or Ai’s cycle of poems written in the voice of J. Edgar Hoover, the persona poem offers the poet an opportunity to step out of her own skin and embody another personality, whose character traits may be a radical departure from her own but who gives the poet a mouthpiece through which to express feelings and ideas. The main ingredient of the persona poem is empathy, which offers poets the means for entering into the concerns and predicaments of another person. In this five-week workshop, we will devote time each week to …chop! chop! read more!
THE PROPULSIVE PICTURE Image as an Engine in Poetry Taught by Cleaver Poetry Editor Claire Oleson 5 weeks September 19 to October 24, 2020 $ 150 Earlybird (before August 15)|$175 Regular Class limit: 12 Questions: [email protected] In this course, we will explore how images can serve as the engine in a poem: driving the language as a plot might in a story or novel. We will work primarily on generating new work, encouraging participants to push their boundaries and hone their voice to create memorable and authentic pieces. The workshop model will facilitate constructive responses from both peers and the instructor. Particular attention will be placed on the visual life of the poetry we read and write. We will read a few selections of poetry weekly that demonstrate the potential of images as communicative engines. The readings will be brief but rich, with the intent of inviting multiple re-readings, …chop! chop! read more!
4 Saturdays, taught online on Zoom
September 12, 19, 26, and October 3, 2020
1pm-3pm Eastern Time Click here to register
Open to writers of all genres and all levels of experience
Class limit: 10
Writing about the environment, from a literary and scientific perspective. Scientist Lucy Spelman and writer Susan Tacent designed this intensive workshop to provide writers with tools and strategies for taking environmental action. In our four weeks together we’ll unpack articles written by scientists and field experts in conjunction with literary works by Alomar, Bishop, Eggars, Erdrich, Kingsolver, LeGuin, Limón, Saunders, Szymborska, Van Doren, and others. Together we will examine how craft issues like voice, point of view, tone, pacing, and character development change as we bring the knowledge of scientists and field experts to bear on our writing. This hybrid workshop will meet on Zoom for discussions and use the text-only platform Canvas for constructive feedback on uploaded drafts. Writers interested in a particular creature will be encouraged to tailor their writing accordingly and will be assisted with locating the best scientific materials for that writing.
In 1998, scientists performed a DNA test to answer one of the longest running rumors in American history. Historians could no longer deny the truth: Yes, Thomas Jefferson had fathered children with his slave Sally Hemings. But plenty of people already knew that. William Wells Brown knew this beyond a reasonable doubt when he published Clotel in 1853, a novel that imagines the lives and tribulations of Jefferson’s slave-born daughters. The characters are all fictional, but Brown’s creative liberties stray little from reality. Masters frequently made concubines of their slaves, so why would Jefferson be any exception? Jefferson’s words that “all men are created equal” were a farce in Brown’s eyes, because only in antebellum America could a president’s daughter be born in chains.
In the moral universe of poet Joseph Fasano’s debut novel, The Dark Heart of Every Wild Thing, death lurks in every corner of life. A father, bereaved of his wife, must journey through the teeming forests of British Columbia and hunt a fabled mountain lion, to him the very “mind of the wild.” Three years ago, it mauled his son, the father powerless to save him. Now, as he narrates his monomaniacal fight for survival, the hunt for the mountain lion becomes an obsession, borne of unfathomable grief, to exact revenge on a world that has stolen everything he loved.
Aug 8, 15, 22, 29, Sept 5
5 Zoom classes, Saturdays 2-4 pm Eastern Time
$150 early bird / $200 regular
Class limit: 12
This class can be taken on its own or as a continuation of Part I
Questions: [email protected]
In her essay “Nine Beginnings,” Margaret Atwood answers the question, “Why Do You Write?” nine different ways. In her honor, while completing my recent short story collection, I Have The Answer, I challenged myself to answer the question: “How does writing fiction help you deal with your own trauma?” nine different times.
Ocean Vuong’s writing is steeped in memories, the history of which sometimes precedes him chronologically. This was true of his poetry in the collection Night Sky With Exit Wounds, and it is also true of his first novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, recently released by Penguin Press. This novel is a recursive exploration of the path memories take through a family. The narrator’s life is impacted by the traumas his mother and grandmother suffered before he was born. As a very young child, Vuong’s narrator, Little Dog, learns quickly that not all authority figures can be trusted absolutely, and that even unconditional love has flaws. Throughout the novel, Vuong illustrates that we are all sharing space with the past, even as we exist in the present.
In Mike Avery’s debut novel, an ambitious law student is determined to find the truth to save an innocent man accused of murder. But the truth is never black-and-white, and the secrets she discovers hit close to home. The Cooperating Witness is a compelling legal thriller in which the moral ambiguities of justice are on trial. Mike Avery mines his fifty-year career as an attorney and law professor to craft a suspenseful story of murder, the mob, and a young woman’s determined idealism. In the following interview, conducted via phone and email, the author discusses his novel, the freedom of writing fiction, and the complex intersection of our legal system and morality.
CONNECTED BREATH Glass Wind Instruments for Intimacy and Vulnerability by Madeline Rile Smith Growing up, I never imagined I would become a visual artist, let alone an artist working in hot glass. In high school, I was required to take an art class, so I signed up for a glass elective, with no idea what I was getting into. At first, I was terrified of burning my fingers, but after a few sessions, the hypnotic presence of melting glass in a flame lured me in. Hot glass is always moving; it has rhythm. The artist must respond with her own movements. You cannot control glass on your own terms; the glass will always be the one to set the terms of engagement. When you work with glass you must be humble and accept that you will fail over and over. A day’s work might shatter into a hundred pieces if …chop! chop! read more!
Mid-June. It’s cool. It’s quiet. the sun-dappled path is rugged and craggy and I’ve been walking it one or another for 55 years. Gus pulls me along, his pantaloons jauntily swaying in the breeze, stopping at each watering hold with expectant, happy eyes. In here, I don’t have to think about 115,000 dead. In here, I don’t have to think about a 27-year old shot in the back in a Wendy’s parking lot or a 46-year old dying with a knee on his neck after 9 minutes…
You scratch because it itches. You’re over the moon with excitement. Good news always drives your histamine reaction and now you’re breaking out in hives. You drink a glass of water. You breathe, slow breaths, in, out, the way the yoga teacher and the meditation guru and the homeopathist and the ENT guy instruct. The itch gets funky, like a dance, up and down your arms, the backs of your thighs, a place between your shoulder blades you can’t reach. You ask Ben to reach for you and he says he won’t because scratching only makes it worse. If you’re going to marry this guy, you want to know. You tell him he has to and when he does, you know you made the right choice.
My wife fingered the remaining chocolate syrup from her bowl to her mouth and announced she was going to bed. I’ll admit The Tonight Show monologue that night wasn’t going to change her mind. It was all obvious punchlines about the president’s Asia trip, with some cheap shots at the end for the congressman with the Honduran mistress maid, and the reality TV star with the unflattering DUI mugshot. I feared this was becoming the norm. I followed my wife upstairs, hoping we might discuss this unsettling trend, or get in something cursory between the two of us, but she fell asleep in a way that suggested a medical condition.
The truth is, she misses everything from those days, the skirts they wore and the bangs they had, side swept, always on the verge of disappearing, like youth. Like life. It all slipped away, as her parents had warned her, even the people. Girlfriends you thought you’d have forever, poof, lost to marriage or motherhood or minds suddenly changed. They didn’t want to be girls anymore. They moved to other states. They changed their names and lost themselves.
It began with a stove,
burnt mahogany dissipates in, wishing
the ember hinted the future: mother
running out of her favorite house,
home to the ancestors’ cedar trees. She had one last look
at her bedroom door, the one grandfather
painted pink, now dark red. I could only recall
It is midnight in early March and you are pacing the wood floors of your sweet, single-story house in East Nashville—a place with a pair of red-tailed hawks in the front yard and a pair of train tracks in the back. You are on the phone with your musician-botanist-projectionist friend, comparing the vibrant gardens of your childhood to coral reefs. Before it sold, she saw your parents’ house for herself last summer: the lightning bugs, the flowering vines, the fractal canopy suspended above the creek. She gets what you mean about the flowers. You jot down some notes, hang up, and go fill a water glass. You catch a flash of white light through the slats of your blinds and step on the back deck.
The world was fuzzy. Victoria blinked. She blinked again and again until the room came into focus. A pixelated ceiling. A window opening to blackness. An unkempt man slouched in a chair, fist propping up a mess of greasy dark hair. He had sallow skin, dark bags beneath bloodshot eyes. Familiar eyes. Barry’s eyes? Benny? Billy? Billy.
Squinting against whiteness the child left her mother beside the woodpile. With the sudden drop in temperature an icy crust had formed on last night’s new snow. “We’ll find it!” her mother called, watching the child walk on the surface while she stood shin-deep, clutching her stump to her breast. It was tightly wrapped in rags. Bleeding was stanched. The throbbing had slowed, perhaps due to the cold. But she was burning up, dizzy.
When Mom died Rachel started asking questions. What did Mom make for Christmas morning? Egg casserole. When did Mom go back to school? I was fourteen, you were eleven. The questions got smaller and bigger, as though by their specificity they were magnified. What did she smell like? She wore Chanel No. 5. I know that, Tabbie. But what did she smell like? She smelled like orange honey and coral lipstick and bright green breath mints. What did her hugs feel like? They were nice. Tabbie. Like she was bringing you in and keeping you out at the same time.
Knitting transcends time, and is a dominant theme in Jan Powell’s life and work as an artist. Through her use and creative exploration of this craft, Jan has produced—over the past four decades—a tangible amalgam of heritage, feminism, and memory.