A Celebration of the Chapbook

Well, folks, I’m going to take a few days off for Passover, which begins this evening. But I’ll leave you with some excellent reading material: the program for the upcoming Celebration of the Chapbook, taking place right here in New York City, April 23-25, 2009. Most of the festival events are FREE, and I can tell you that a lot of work has gone into planning them. I’ll hope to see many of you there–and happy holidays to all who are celebrating in the next several days.

Thursday April 23rd, 2009 – Saturday April 25th, 2009
A Celebration of the Chapbook festival calls attention to the rich history of the chapbook and highlights its essential place in poetry publishing today as a vehicle for alternative poetry projects and for emerging authors and editors to gain entry into the literary marketplace. The festival will forge a new platform for the study of the chapbook inside and outside the academy and celebrate the importance of chapbooks to America’s cultural heritage and future.

Thursday, April 23
at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue & 34th St

Chapbook Fair
10:00am-6:00pm, The Elebash Recital Hall Lobby

Brief History of Chapbooks
3:00-4:30pm, The Elebash Recital Hall
With Isaac Gewirtz, Curator of the New York Public Library’s Berg Collection; Eric Lorberer, Editor of Rain Taxi; and Michael Ryan, Director of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library at Columbia University. Moderated by Richard Kaye, Hunter College, CUNY

Chapbooks in the 20th and 21st Centuries
4:30-6:00pm, The Elebash Recital Hall
With Michael Basinski, Assistant Curator of the Poetry/Rare Books Collection of the University Libraries, SUNY at Buffalo; Anne Waldman, Chair and Artistic Director of Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program; and Kevin Young, Emory University. Moderated by Ammiel Alcalay, Queens College, CUNY.

Keynote Reading
6:00pm, The Elebash Recital Hall
Readings by Lytton Smith, Gerald Stern, Judith Vollmer, Kevin Young and others, with an introduction by Kimiko Hahn.

Friday, April 24
at The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue & 34th St

Chapbook Fair
10:00am-4:00pm, Rooms 8301/8304

Chapbook Now: Producing Chapbooks
A Workshop for Poets

10:00-11:30am, Room 8400
With Rachel Levitsky (Belladonna*); Sharon Dolin (The Center for Book Arts); and Ryan Murphy (North Beach Yacht Club). Moderated by Alice Quinn (Poetry Society of America.

Chapbook Now: Producing Chapbooks
A Workshop for Publishers

11:30am-1:00pm, Room 8402
With Jen Benka (Booklyn); Matvei Yankelevich (Ugly Duckling Presse); and Brenda Iijima (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs). Moderated by Rob Casper (Poetry Society of America).

To register for these workshops, call (212) 817-2005 or e-mail abozicevic@gc.cuny.edu – registration is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Friday, April 24
at The Center for Book Arts, 28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor

Bookmaking for Writers: A Studio Workshop
With Susan Mills and Karen Randall

Bookmaking for Publishers: A Studio Workshop
With Susan Mills and Karen Randall

To register, call (212) 481-0295 or e-mail info@centerforbookarts.org – registration is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis. There’s a $20 materials fee for each workshop.

at The Center for Book Arts, 28 West 27th Street, 3rd Floor
6:00 pm
All are welcome! Visit the exhibitions at The Center for Book Arts: \’fl \:art, text, new media; Roni Gross: Zitouna at 20, and Spotlight: 2008 Artists-in-Residence.

Saturday, April 25
at The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A

Collector’s Show-and-Tell:
The Secret History of Asian American Literature
Patricia Wakida


Publishing from the Margins
With Tan Lin; Dawn Lundy Martin (Third Wave Foundation, Black Took Collective); and Bushra Rehman. Moderated by Ken Chen (The Asian American Writers’ Workshop). Followed by a brief reading from the Workshop’s Postcard Poetry Project.

at The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, 16 West 32nd Street, Suite 10A
6:00 pm

Participating Publishers
Achiote Press, Belladonna*, Booklyn, Book Thug, Cuneiform Press, Dancing Girl Press, Diagram/New Michigan Press, Flying Guillotine Press, Noemi Press, North Beach Yacht Club, Octopus Books, Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, Rain Taxi, Sarabande Books, Slapering Hol, Small Fires Press, TinFish Press, Toadlily Press, Ubu Editions, Ugly Duckling Presse, X-ing Press, and others.

Co-sponsored by The Office of Academic Affairs, The Graduate Center and MFA Programs in Creative Writing of the City University of New York, The Asian American Writers’ Workshop, The Center for Book Arts and Poetry Society of America.

For more information, please visit http://centerforthehumaniites.org, call 212-817-2005, or e-mail abozicevic@gc.cuny.edu (Ana Bozicevic).

Writing Your Family History: Five Hints from Chloe’ Yelena Miller

My friend Chloé Yelena Miller will present a workshop on “Writing Your Family History” at the Ann Arbor Book Festival Writer’s Conference, which will take place on Friday and Saturday, May 15-16, 2009. (Chloé is also coordinating the Author Breakfast that will take place as part of the Festival on May 16.)

If you can’t get to Ann Arbor, you’ll appreciate Chloé’s guest post, featuring tips on her workshop topic. And if you can get to Ann Arbor, perhaps you’ll want to check out the conference for yourself.

Writing Your Family History: Five Hints from Chloé Yelena Miller

On the first day of an adult memoir writing class I taught a few years ago, I asked the students what motivated them to take the class. One elderly woman said that she has been waiting for her children and grandchildren to ask her about her life story. They never did. She decided to take up the pen and write her own story.

Don’t risk losing your family’s stories. Here are five hints to help you collect, preserve and share family stories.

    1. Start with what you know. Make a list of memories. Then, work step by step to add details and develop the narrative scene by scene. Try to include details that involve the five senses (What did the food taste like? Was there air conditioning?)

    2. Expand on your memories by discussing them with family members. Inevitably, they will remember something differently. One technique is to share what you’ve written and ask them to fill in the blanks. Ask specific questions (What do you remember eating on your birthday? How did you find your first job?) Another technique, which is a more standard interview process, is to ask your family members very open ended questions. You could start with asking them about their earliest memories and what they enjoyed doing as children. Practice listening and don’t interject your own memories. See what they come up with.

    3. Family history isn’t relegated to the past. Journal regularly to keep track of your life and what you witness. Include quotes from relatives that display their tone and speech patterns. Note where and when moments took place such as personal moments between you and a loved one and national moments, like Obama’s inauguration.

    4. Learn (or remember) more about the past. If you are writing about something from your parents’ generation, read contemporary novels that they might have read as teenagers. Watch movies set in that period. Look at local newspaper ads. The word changes so quickly; remember what it was like then (without the internet, cell phones, etc.) Consider how daily life was different and use your findings as prompts for future questions.

    5. Share your findings with family members. You may decide to make photocopies of your stories and documents, share scanned pictures on a website or even ask family members to write their own memories. This last holiday season, I asked family members to write a short piece about past Christmas celebrations. Each resulting piece was intimate and shared a slightly different experience. Being from a younger generation from most of the contributors, I loved learning about their past in their own words. They brought up details that I wouldn’t have known to ask about. Relatives had a chance to organize their memories and reminisce together, even across geographical boundaries.

My mother, a professional photographer, and I have compiled a collection of paired poems and photographs documenting our family’s emigration from southern Italy to New Jersey. These pieces are based on visits to the town where our family originated, oral histories collected with Americans and Italians, historical documents and cultural history about the towns and time periods involved. What we created contains an emotional truth and some facts, but the stories mostly contain facts as we experienced them or as they were told to us. We continue to translate the experiences in the form of our art.

Good luck and enjoy the journey.

Chloé Yelena Miller has poems published or forthcoming in Alimentum Journal, Lumina, Privatephotoreview.com, South Mountain Poets Chapbook, Sink Review and The Cortland Review. Her manuscript, Permission to Stay, was a finalist for the Philip Levine Prize in Poetry. She teaches writing online for Fairleigh Dickinson University and edits Portal Del Sol. She received an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and a B.A. from Smith College.

Ten Tips for Formatting Short Story Manuscripts

Here’s a snippet from my presentation on publishing short stories, delivered before the inaugural Jewish Fiction Writers’ Conference at the 92nd Street Y last Sunday. The presentation was designed for fiction writers, but this segment happens to be relevant for essayists as well. More on the conference to follow here and at my other blog, My Machberet.

Top Ten Tips for Formatting/Preparing Short Story Manuscripts

1. Double-space your manuscript.

2. Print only on one side of the paper.

3. Use black type (no fancy colors).

4. Use a simple, conventional font (like Times New Roman 12-pt).

5. Number your pages, and unless you’re told differently, include your name and/or the story title in the header.

6. Proofread. Reading the entire story aloud is an excellent strategy that helps writers “catch” mistakes computer spelling and grammar programs don’t always find.

7. If the story is longer than a few pages (my limit is four, plus the cover letter), don’t stuff it in a regular/business size envelope. Place it in a larger (in the United States, 9″X12″) envelope.

8. Always include a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for a response. (Here’s where those “forever” stamps really come in handy.)

9. Keep a copy of your submission for your own records.

10. Keep a copy of your cover letter. You might consider establishing a separate binder to track your submission correspondence. Otherwise it becomes all too easy to forget which story went to which publication when. And if you’ve submitted simultaneously, you’ll need to tell all the other journals you’ve sent a story to when it’s accepted elsewhere.

Anyone want to offer other suggestions, in comments?

Final Reminder: Jewish Fiction Writers’ Conference

This weekend, I completed the handout I’ve prepared for my presentation on “Publishing Your Jewish Short Stories,” slated for Sunday, March 15, at the Jewish Fiction Writers’ Conference right here in New York City. It’s a pretty good handout, if I do say so, myself! And it can be yours—if you come to the conference! Registration continues until March 9. Details here.

The Wednesday Web Browser: An Array of AWP Impressions

Now that the hordes have left Chicago, there’s plenty to read about this year’s Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, which took place in the Windy City last Thursday-Saturday. I thought I’d point you to a few choice samples of the reportage.

Over on Lisa Romeo’s blog, guest blogger Susan Ito shares her AWP experience in two posts.
John Griswold, aka “Oronte Churm,” posted a series of dispatches on his IHE blog.
And Tayari Jones was generous enough to pay the broadband fee so she could blog straight from her hotel room.

Stay tuned for a special AWP-related feature in our next newsletter!