Category Archives: Workshops and Seminars

Omega Institute: Nick Flynn

Hi friends!

I recently attended a week long writer’s retreat at Omega Institute called Memoir as Bewilderment. I think what attracted me, aside from stellar writer and teacher Nick Flynn, was the bewilderment factor. I feel as if life presents itself in this manner often, and my writing most certainly contains an element of the unknown, or the mysterious.

I arrived after car, plane, cab, train, and shuttle. I met my first writer taking the same course at the Rhinecliff train station, Anne. We immediately bonded over books, family similarities, New York and there was an immediacy that writers tend to have.

Prior to the workshop we were asked to bring with us: 10-20 pages of our own writing (and to choose one page to make copies for everyone), one page from a published book),  a science article (copies for everyone). All of these were to hopefully contain elements of what we define as bewilderment. I’d just completed Sherman Alexie’s You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, his new memoir about his mother. Plenty of bewilderment!

The workshop was held in the Creekside cottage, which was a tight space for 25 writers! After selecting a word from the white board (I chose “to Lose”) we were given a postcard image. We meditated for seven minutes (a welcome recurring theme before our writing prompts) and then wrote “descriptive writing”- trying to stick with details. We repeated this exercise with slight suggested revisions, so that eventually we had written four or five different prompts. We also read Larry Levis’s lyric poem, “Sensationalism.” My small group was Laura, Kathryn and Carrie. I also partnered with Sean on a couple of exercises.

Teacher Nick Flynn, author of several books, including his memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which I read during our Omega workshop. (http://www.nickflynn.org)

One evening, we saw Aja Monet read from her stellar poetry collection, My Mother Was A Freedom Fighter at the Omega Library. She was amazing.

In class we also drew maps of a specific location, and a map of our body (placing both trauma and joys on the body). These were used for prompts. We did a movement exercise with Omega staff and writer JoJo that helped us to identify a place in which we might go deeper into a writing piece. Then we wrote a piece toward a direction on our maps. We also visualized our ‘home direction,’ and figured out a gift to give to our “person,” (used from our original postcards) and wrote a fairy tale prompted piece to a younger self in a deep woods.

Stanley Kunitz, a mentor of Nick’s said: “You have to become the person that can write the poem.” (of compassion, of anger, of solace, etc.)

On Wednesday, Nick’s friend and music collaborator, Guy Barash visited the Omega campus. We did an afternoon workshop with Guy, directing us with non-musical instruments, graphed and designed on paper. We did a silent meditation just listening to local ambient sounds (heater, planes, crickets, etc.) and “recorded” them, then attempted to translate them to the class (from our papers). Then, in groups, we performed our pieces. Then Guy directed the entire class as an aural orchestra. We dubbed ourselves the Unstable Atomic Pigs! Nick was so kind, he invited us to open for Nick and Guy’s performance in the Lake Theater that evening. Also Lucas, another collaborator, provided video footage. Their show was beyond inspiring!

On Thursday our class occupied the Lake Theater at Omega. This was an entire day devoted to our “working project.” We went through our various collected pages, new writing and brought pieces, and various favorites from the group. We marked the “resonant parts,” and Nick coached us to be generous- not one or two words, mark “whole passages.” From there, we literally cut out those parts, and placed them onto 30 blank sheets of white paper. I sort of figured out that I had three or four threads for my project. And I had organized them all in these groupings. Then Nick came over, listened as I described my chaos, and said, “okay, now you can switch them all up- move them around, etc.” I literally felt nauseous! But so did everyone else. Chaos… opposite of organized.

The last morning, Nick fielded a quick question and answer. Because I had to leave early on Friday, I was the first in order for the final reading. I read “Tributaries,” and “When He Left it all to Me.” I was only able to stay for the first four or five other readers. I felt so badly when I slipped out, but I had to catch the train, to the cab, to the plane, to the car ride home. My dear friend David Carter (who incidentally was the first friend I workshopped with at Omega in 1994), came and spent an overnight on Thursday, and transported me to the Rhinecliff train station. Bless his heart.

What a week. So grateful to Nick Flynn, teacher extra-ordinaire, my co-writers and creators, to Omega for hosting this amazing workshop. To friends, new and old. And always to my honey, who makes life seem more technicolor than ever.

Synergia Ranch 2017

Hi Friends!

I just returned last night from a blissful, inspiring week at the organic farm, Synergia Ranch. Fellow writer Meg Tuite and I hosted a week long writing retreat called Bending Genres.

We had 17 writers attend, some stayed the entire week, some commuted. It was a treat, the support flowed, and the powerful, astounding writing that all of the workshop participants conjured up was refreshing.

Not to mention the lovely grounds, and sunrise/sunsets, fire pit, organic orchard, GeoDome, Dance Studio, and amazing restaurant/ food.

 

SAVE THESE DATES:

Meg Tuite and I will be returning to Synergia Ranch for Bending Genres on April 27-May 3, 2018. We will have our website up and running very soon!

In addition, we will be back in Taos, New Mexico on July 22-28, 2018 for Exploratory Fiction at Mabel Dodge Luhan House. Again, website forthcoming.

Come one, come all. Let either Meg or me know if you have any questions, or plan to reserve for either week. WE BOTH HOPE SO!!!

Big hugs, and warm wishes for a terrific, inspiring late summer/ autumn. More news forthcoming as we move ahead.

Our September issue of (b)OINK published and is full of terrific fiction, poetry, CNF, and the VOICES column, dedicated to scatalogical issues this time around. www.boinkzine.com.

What are you reading? I am almost through Maggie Nelson’s Bluets. Comments welcome!

August Recap

Hi Friends!

It’s been a busy month. My biggest news is that FUNHOUSE had a mention in The New York Review of Books- The August 17th edition. Pinch me now!!! This is a pretty major accomplishment. They’d read my FUNHOUSE Kirkus Review and contacted me. FUNHOUSE is happy, and my family/ friends are happy. I am over the moon!

Also, I recently read at Boswell Books with local writers, novelist Lee Kreckwell (The Expanse Between), poet Caitlin Scarano (Do Not Bring Him Water), and Chicago author Ben Tanzer (Be Cool– Essays/ Memoir). The evening was referred to as a mix of Micro, Poetry, Fiction and Memoir (a blend of genres):

There was a nice write-up in our local Sheperd Express about the reading:

http://shepherdexpress.com/article-30227-midwest-writers-gather-at-boswell-for-micro-memoir-poetry-prose.html

And a couple of great things happened at (b)OINK, where I am the Managing Editor. First of all, we announced our nominees for Best of the Net. This was quite difficult because we were limited in terms of how many pieces, and so many terrific ones to select from. Please head over to (b)OINK and read these phenomenal nominations (www.boinkzine.com):

And then, we announced the TOP 20 finalists in our very first Flash Fiction Contest. We had over 150 entries!!! And our vetters did a fantastic job: Len Kuntz, Dianca London, and Nicholas Cook. Then our guest judge, Kathy Fish, selected the top three winners- they will be announced on September 1st. Here are the top 20 stories, without the authors’ names:

(b)OINK’s Flash Fiction Contest: The Top 20 Finalists

And finally, the Hurricane Harvey scared us so much, with precious family who live in the Corpus Christi area. Everyone is safe, and fortunately the rain damage is not over yet. Please think positive thoughts for all those in Hurricane Harvey’s plight.

I leave on Tuesday for Bending Genres, a workshop at Synergia Ranch, outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’m hosting with the kickass, and brilliant Meg Tuite. We have 17 writers aligned to arrive on Friday, September 1. I’m beyond thrilled and ready to have a stimulating and eye-opening week-long experience.

 

 

WordTango Cross-Genre Deep Dive

I’m teaching a weekend online workshop April 28-20, called Cross-Genre Deep Dive, hosted by WordTango, the online writing community. I had the terrific pleasure of meeting Liz Pettie and Jen Kircher- Carr at the AWP Conference in Washington D.C. recently.

We didn’t go swimming, or even diving. But life can take you into deep waters, or leaping, plummeting from various heights, for innumerable other reasons: debt, accidents, secretive meetings. The list is endless!

If you are unfamiliar with my writing, I’ve just published my 5th book, FUNHOUSE (Unknown Press). It’s a good example of cross-genre work in one book: flash fiction, prose poetry, and longer short stories. (See the tab “My Books” for more information.)

I hope you will consider taking the WORDTANGO course. More information is here: http://us11.campaign-archive1.com/?u=fc8698610dd752def107a548c&id=72030255b0

Please let us know if you have any questions. And thanks, Kathy Fish, for the solid recommendation.

Happy Writing!

I Got The Boot

Hi friends…

Post- AWP bottom has set in! And it doesn’t even take bottomless mimosas to make it happen. I swear, every year the Monday after is the lowest low. And today, in Milwaukee, the sunny blue skies and near 50 degree temperatures are doing their best to make me smile. So, I’ll try. Despite the, well, challenges, that came up during the conference.

SO NICE TO FINALLY MEET YOU– so many new faces at the AWP Conference this year. Among them, Windy Lynn Harris, Jennifer Kircher Carr, Liz Pettie, Maureen Langloss, Levis Keltner, Diem White, Jan Elman Stout, Grant Faulkner, Christine Texeira, Jensen Beach, Sherrie Flick, David Galef, and too many others to count.

OH, IT’S YOU AGAIN? Reunions are always the best, and most of mine in D.C. began with “WHAT HAPPENED?” Still, always terrific to see Kyle Semmel, Angela Woodward, Bill Yarrow, Roxane Gay, Lori Brody, Gay Degani, April Bradley, Dorianne Laux, Christopher Allen, Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, Jeff Landon, James Thomas, T.L. Sherwood, Matt Bell, Mary Akers, Joe Millar, Nita Noveno, Matt Lewis, Michael Seidlinger, Janice Lee, Rae Bryant, Ben Tanzer, Joseph Lawrence Dougherty, Anna March, Robert Russell, Lee Krecklow, Jeffrey Phaller, David Atkinson, John Wentworth Chapin, Wendy Ortiz, Brandon Hobson, Gloria Mindock, Annie Pluto, Pamela Painter, and numerous others.

FROM A DISTANCE… I saw you, but there was no way I could run to you… or I might have…   Sara Lippmann (pictured above), Lidia Yuknavitch, D. Foy, Kim Suhr, Stephen Gowin, Joani Reese, Chiwan Choi, Joanna Valente, Alex Kalamaroff, Chelsea Hodson, Joshua Mohr, Alice Anderson, Alexander Chee, Jeff Jackson, John Madera, Garth Greenwell, J. Bradley, Michele Filgate, Amber Sparks, Chelsea Bondolillo, Sarah Rose Etter, Mark Doten, Julia Fiero, Henry Hoke, Amelia Gray, Michael Kimball, and too many others. It’s always such a delicate balancing act, that AWP.

WHERE WERE YOU? It felt like you were there the entire time. Dream or otherwise. Meg Tuite, Bud Smith, Michael Gillan Maxwell, Meredith Alling, Gabino Iglesias, Josh Denslow, Brandi Wells, Michael Taekens, xTx, Ben Loory, Jules Archer, Seth Berg, Katherine Seluja, Sheila Hanrahan, Cyrus Cassells, Mark Doty, Marie Howe, Aaron Apps, etc.

WHAT I LEARNED: Don’t use the bathroom in the middle of the first night, ever. If you trip, you just might break your ankle. (Could have been my neck). Hairline fracture, right fibula. Never ever would have imagined this. I have to thank my gracious Physician’s Assistant, Clarence M. Chan, at the George Washington University Hospital for his tender, consistent care and my splint.

GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM: Len Kuntz, Karen Stefano, Robert P. Kaye- you saviors, I love you all! And Meg, your constant online support and love was (is) stellar, and Andrea & David, you always make me laugh- love you both. And Satchi, who offered to air lift me home- my heart, my soul, always.

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RECAP: My favorite panel was From Flash Fiction to Micro Fiction and included luminaries Pamela Painter, Grant Faulkner, Nancy Stohlman, Sherrie Flick and James Thomas. I sincerely apologize to Joani and my Hot Pillow compadres- I was there in spirit! Also to host John Madera whose reading I had to cancel. And to WordTango: Jennifer and Elizabeth, for sponsoring my Saturday FUNHOUSE signing, you guys ROCK! 

Thanks, everyone, or anyone who said a version of “SPEEDY RECOVERY!!!” I am obeying your wishes.

See you all in Tampa for AWP18. NO wheelchairs.

The Arrival of FUNHOUSE, my 5th book

My new book, FUNHOUSE, has emerged from the dark recesses of a playground. Unknown Press, and Bud Smith made this wonderful experience possible.

I want to deeply thank Ron L. Kibble for his tremendously powerful cover art!(www.ronkibbleart.com).

FUNHOUSE has four sections: Balloon Darts pierces short fiction; Hall of Mirrors “Another Brick in the Wall, part 4” delights with 26 kids in a classroom, and art sketches by Bob Schofield; Tunnel of Love Divas, “And the Winters Cannot Fade Her” proposes prose poems, layout, and graphic design by Eryk Wenziak; and  Ferris Wheel churns short stories of a more traditional length.

I want to thank Michael Gillan Maxwell and Rob Parrish for their extensive edits. And to Robert Scotellaro, Megan Giddings, and Len Kuntz, three writers whose work always brings me awe and joy- your blurbs are exquisite! Many thanks to you all!

Mostly I have to thank Bud Smith, who’s UNKNOWN PRESS also published RIFT and many other amazing books during its run. Thanks Bud. So honored to create another book together.

From Bud Smith: “You can PayPal me $14 at budsmithwrites@gmail.com and I’ll mail you the book direct. Otherwise FUNHOUSE is available on Amazon, for a couple extra dollars. Thank ya over the moon.”

Amazon direct link: https://www.amazon.com/Funhouse-Robert-Vaughan/dp/099830901X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486394686&sr=8-1&keywords=funhouse+robert+vaughan

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John Madera of Rhizomatic Public Relations assembled an extensive list of “The Most Anticipated Small Press Books of 2017” and FUNHOUSE was mentioned by John. He also asked me, and several other independent writers for their own lists at Big Other. Thanks, John: https://bigother.com/2017/02/04/most-anticipated-small-press-books-of-2017/

Happy Holidays 2016

Hello friends! We are coming up on Thanksgiving, one of my favorite holidays. Family, terrific food, nice wine, and over-eating. Can’t beat that combo.

I wanted to extend some gratitude for these events in which I’ve participated:

On October 20th, Kim Suhr of Red Oak Writing hosted a terrific Writer’s Showcase:

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(L): Sharon Foley reads poetry; (R) Christine Baerbock reads a haunting short story

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In New York City, at the venerable KGB Bar, I read in two events: F-BOMB on Friday, Oct. 21 hosted by Bud Smith, and Best Small Fictions on Saturday, Oct. 22,  hosted by Paul Beckman:

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(L) me reading “Mother/ Father/ Clown”; (R) Karen Stefano reading Secret Games of Words      (F-BOMB Reading)

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Top: (L) Meg Tuite reading from lined up like scars; (C) Len Kuntz reading I’m Not Supposed To Be Here and Neither Are You; me reading “A Box” (Best Small Fictions). Bottom: (L to R): me, Dawn Raffel, Dianca London Potts, Eliel Lucero, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Nancy Ludmerer, Britt Haraway, Anne Elizabeth Weisgarber, and Courtney Sender.

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November 10th, Jonnie Guernsey and Laurel Landis launched A Picture And A Thousand Words. I read “Behind the 8-Ball” and we all used their excellent photography as prompts, hosted at Sugar Maple in Bay View, WI:

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*****

On November 14th, I was featured in the Traveling Mollys, hosted by Nina Corwin at Buzz Cafe in Oak Park, Chicago. The other featured reader was Bill Yarrow:

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(L) Buzz Cafe, Oak Park; (R) Bill Yarrow reading from The Vig of Love

Bottom: Daniel Weinberg reads his letters to MAD Magazine

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On November 19th, I attended Robin Chapman’s course for Red Oak Writing: “What Poetry Can Teach Writers of Any Genre.” It was terrific, and thanks, Kim Suhr, for setting up so many great Saturday workshops throughout 2016. More information here: http://redoakwriting.com.

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Update on FUN HOUSE: my fifth book! Publisher and I hope to get FUN HOUSE to you by December, 2016! We have an astounding cover (thanks artist Ron Kibble), and almost all blurbs are accounted for. FUN HOUSE has four sections: micro/ flash fiction; 26 kids in a classroom with kickass art by Bob Schofield; prose poems assembled by master crafter Eryk Wenziak, and longer short stories. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

BEST SMALL FICTIONS 2016

There are certain postmarks as a writer that mean more than some others. When series editor Tara Masih sent me the news that my flash fiction, “A Box,” (originally published in RIFT) was chosen as a winner, and would be included in the second installment of Best Small Fictions 2016, I was overjoyed. The BSM 2016 book was released two days ago, and I can’t wait for my copy to arrive tomorrow. Also, it makes me even more ecstatic that Kathy Fish (we co-wrote our last book, RIFT) had her incredible story, “A Room With Many Small Beds” chosen by editor Stuart Dybek for inclusion in the same stellar anthology:

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https://www.amazon.com/dp/1938466748/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_x_cFSZxbMTVFEQP

From the Goodreads page: “This second installment of The Best Small Fictions continues to celebrate the diversity and quality captured in fiction forms fewer than 1,000 words. Forty-five acclaimed and emerging writers—including Alberto Chimal, Toh EnJoe, Kathy Fish, Amelia Gray, Etgar Keret, R. O. Kwon, and Eliel Lucero—offer readers “some of the brightest concise writing available today” (NewPages). With spotlights on Texture Press and author Megan Giddings, the acclaimed new series, with its “finger on the pulse,” succeeds in its aim to make something big from many small things.”

Best Small Fictions 2016, Featuring Small Fictions by:

Amir Adam, Daniel Aristi, Tina Barry, Paul Beckman, Laurie Blauner, John Brantingham, Alberto Chimal, Justin Lawrence Daugherty, Toh EnJoe, Grant Faulkner, Kathy Fish, Rosie Forrest,Megan Giddings, Amelia Gray, Charles Hansmann, Britt Haraway, Mary-Jane Holmes, Laird Hunt, A. Nicole Kelly, James Kennedy, Etgar Keret, R. O. Kwon, Nathan Leslie, Paul Lisicky, Eliel Lucero, Nancy Ludmerer, Melissa Manning, Michael Martone, Elizabeth Morton, David Naimon, Jessica Plante, Dianca London Potts, Dawn Raffel, James Reidel, Sophie Rosenblum, Caitlin Scarano, Vincent Scarpa, Robert Scotellaro, Courtney Sender, Janey Skinner, Curtis Smith, Robert Vaughan, Clio Velentza

Amy Hempel: “Prepare to be surprised by this striking new series–it has quickly become essential reading.”

Exploratory Fiction at Mabel Dodge Luhan House

Hi friends!

I just returned yesterday from our week long workshop. Kathy Fish and I led an Exploratory Fiction workshop: Tap In, Dig Deep, Discover Voice. It was held at the venerable Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, New Mexico. There are so many favorite moments, captured in snapshots from the entire, phenomenal week. I will include them in this post when possible.

Len Kuntz and I arrived a day early, and toured Bandolier National Monument:

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The day was perfect, and I hadn’t been there since 1987. Quite amazing memories, and new ones, also.

Our workshop participants arrived all day on Saturday, and we began the event after dinner. All week, our focus was on creative, generative writing time, supported by contemporary writing examples of exploratory fiction we all read together each morning (e.g. Lucia Berlin, Lydia Copeland, Yennie Cheung, DJ Berndt, Eileen Merriman, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Aubrey Hirsch and Casey Hannon).

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Above is Juniper Hall, where we experienced some stimulating discussions about flash fiction. Also, we had terrific fiction exercises that we used in class or as possible prompts all week for the workshop participants to pursue.

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Top (L to R): Len Kuntz outside Big House; Levi Andrew Noe on Patio

Middle (L to R): Jonathan Cardew in Gazebo; Katherine Seluja in Big House

Bottom: Meg Tuite in Room 1 of Juniper House

We also held roundtables from 3-5 pm every day. The two groups would meet with either Kathy Fish, or me. Each writer would take a turn reading her/his new story aloud, then receive insightful comments. It was truly inspiring, both to hear the new work, and the amount of distance each writer traveled in terms of risk, support, adventure, and willingness to play at 100%.

The meals were terrific: ’nuff said. All three, every single day. The staff: beyond the best!

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Workshop participants on L

Mabel Dodge Luhan Kitchen staff on R.

In addition, we held a panel discussion Tuesday night about publishing with independent presses:

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(L to R): Len Kuntz, Kathy Fish, Meg Tuite, Robert Vaughan.

And on Wednesday afternoon, we had a docent tour of the Big House, which is exquisite:

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Left: Bathroom windows painted by D.H. Lawrence! Right: Painted stairs to Mabel and Tony’s rooms.

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“Salon Talk” in Mabel’s room, Robert Vaughan and Katherine Seluja!

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Robert Vaughan, Meg Tuite and Len Kuntz on Tony Luhan’s original sleeping couch!

Our last evening in Taos, Thursday, we held a reading, hosted by Meg Tuite…all ten participants shared a new work that they’d crafted during the workshop. Also, Kathy Fish and I did. My story was called “Speed Trap.”

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None of this would have happened without my partner and cohort, the uber-talented Kathy Fish. Thanks for everything you did (and have done), to make this all a realized dream:

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And here’s the good news: we are already making plans for a 2018 return to Mabel Dodge Luhan House. In the meantime, visit Kathy’s site at www.kathy-fish.com. And I’ll be adding my teaching dates for 2017 very soon! Taos, we miss you so very much. Endless great memories made during our Exploratory Fiction: Tap In, Dig Deep, Discover Voice workshop:

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Readings Etc.

Hi Friends,

I do a lot of readings. They’re fun, and typically, if in a group, by listening closely, I learn a thing or two from others. I always bring a notebook, and fill a page or more with notes.

Recently, I realized that I have photos from each of my four book launches. Here they are:

Microtones

This was a reading for Red Oak Writers, hosted by our fearless director, Kim Suhr, soon after Microtones was published by Cervena Barva Press in 2012.

Diptychs

This was a reading in Chicago in early 2014 with Meg Tuite and David Tomaloff, hosted by Bill Yarrow. I’m reading from the newly published Diptychs + Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits (Deadly Chaps). My pal Meg’s entire family came (or nearly). It was a blast!

A & B

I think this was shot at the Seattle AWP#14. Addicts & Basements (Civil Coping Mechanisms) had just been released. Jane Carmen’s “Festival of Language” typically kicks off the AWP Conference with an ambitious line-up on Wednesday (opening day), 5-10 p.m.

RIFT

And last, but certainly not least, a RIFT (Unknown Press) photo! This was taken by uber-talented Nancy Stohlman at her F-BOMB Flash Fiction Showcase last July in Denver. I was able to read with Kathy Fish, co-author and celebrated writer.

I recently returned from this year’s AWP Conference in Los Angeles. I had the opportunity to read in two different readings. The first, States of Terror’s “Creature Features” included many writers whose work I admire. One of them, Gabino Iglesias, wrote a stunning review of RIFT, and upon his return, published this great article about readings at Dead End Follies:

http://www.deadendfollies.com/2016/04/essay-why-most-readings-suck-and-how-to.html

I sure hope that Gabino was not referring to me! In any case, I took note, Gabino, and thanks for the succinct list.

We have a few spots left for our August fiction workshop in Taos at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, August 20-26. Please contact Kathy Fish or me. More info at www.kathy-fish.com.

Also, please join us at the Marion Center tomorrow (Thursday, April 14th) night for our Red Oak reading, a mix of writers from several of our roundtables, to honor our years spent at this venerable institution. I will be reading, too! Pot luck starts at 5:30- 5:45 and reading begins at 6:30 p.m.