What’s Happening: Q&A with Kathleen Hornig of the Baltimore Book Festival

The 23rd annual Baltimore Book Festival returns to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor on Friday, September 28 through Sunday, September 30. Produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts, the literary arts celebration takes place along the Inner Harbor Promenade, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily. The festival is free and open to the public. Thank you to Kathleen Hornig, the festivals director at BOPA, for joining us for the Q&A.

Q: What’s the history or origin story of the Baltimore Book Festival?

Now in its 23rd year, the festival was inspired by our former director’s visit to the charming Edinburgh Book Festival. Our festival was designed to celebrate Baltimore’s literary arts scene, including its history, authors, publishers/presses, and variety of independent booksellers.

Q: How did you come to be personally involved in the festival?

As a language & literature major (and all around book girl!), I was asked to draft a plan for how a book festival might come together in Baltimore. So I got out my notebook, started making lists, and the Baltimore Book Festival was born!

Q: Is there a theme for this year?

There isn’t an official theme but, not surprisingly, many of the authors at this year’s event speak directly to current events in terms of politics and equality. The Baltimore Book Festival is well-known as a safe space for having these important conversations, because we connect authors with readers on a very personal, dynamic level.

Q: Last year was my first festival, and it was a lot to take in at once. Do you have any tips for enjoying the festival?

Plan ahead! Go to baltimorebookfestival.org so that you can organize your itinerary. With ten literary stages (all 100 percent free and open to the public!) it’s a good idea to have a game plan so you don’t miss any of your favorite authors. You’ll also want to grab some food and drink from our local vendors, and check out the live music at the Inner Harbor Amphitheater. And make time for the shopping–with exhibitor tents lining the entire Inner Harbor, it’s a book lovers dream!

Q: Sometimes events like this make me feel anxious about my own writing (sorry for being self-absorbed!). Do you have any advice?

The Baltimore Book Festival is a great place to network and talk to other working writers about the craft. We also have workshops and panel discussions to help keep your practice fresh, and overcome obstacles such as writer’s block.

Q: Even after the festival is over, how can I continue to stay connected to Maryland writers and book-lovers?

The Baltimore Book Festival is three days of magic, but the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts can keep you connected to the literary arts scene year-round. Stay plugged into BOPA’s social media and with our program partners, who regularly host literary events: CityLit Project, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Red Emma’s, Maryland Romance Writers, Art Way Alliance, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and, of course, The Ivy Bookshop.

Opportunity for Writers to Present at Gaithersburg Book Festival

Thank you to the Gaithersburg Book Festival for sharing this message about an upcoming opportunity for writers in the area:

Join us at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18, 2019, for a day-long, outdoor celebration of books and reading. Our festival tents are filled with eager audiences for author talks and signings, free writing workshops, and singer-songwriter performances. We are proud to have welcomed hundreds of talented authors and performers to our stages. Now in its tenth year, the festival has established itself as one of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area’s premier literary events.

The Festival Author Committee invites selected authors to participate as Featured Presenters in solo and panel discussions. Writers or their representatives interested in being a Featured Presenter at the Gaithersburg Book Festival are encouraged to submit an application for consideration. Full information about applications can be found on the GBF website.

Please note that preference is given to books released in either hardback or paperback in the year since the previous festival (May of each year). Books must be available for sale as of the day of the festival to be considered.

Applications are due by November 2nd, 2018.

Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Meera Trehan

Meera Trehan was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in nearby Virginia. After attending the University of Virginia and Stanford Law School, she practiced public interest law for over a decade before turning to creative writing. Her work for children has been published in various magazines. Her first novel is The Science of Seeing. Trehan lives in Maryland with her family.

Q: When you were working as a lawyer, were you also writing on the side?

No. A lot of my work as a lawyer involved writing, but even though I was an avid reader and loved the idea of writing creatively, it didn’t occur to me that it was something I could actually do.

Q: What gave you the confidence to focus on creative writing?

After thinking about it for much too long, I took a class at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda and then another and then another (and then one at Politics and Prose). I also worked through the exercises in Steering the Craft by Ursula LeGuin, as well as other books on craft. Eventually, I joined SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) where I had my work critiqued by authors, agents, and editors. All of these things were crucial to my development as a writer.

But I don’t want to imply that I always feel confident! Confidence is elusive. One day you have it, the next day you don’t. Part of writing, in my experience, is pushing through on those harder days, knowing you can revise, and if there’s an aspect of craft that’s holding you back, working on that.

 Q: How did you end up writing for children and young adults?

I had an idea for a YA book with a teenage protagonist during the first class I took at The Writer’s Center and when I gave the one-minute summary to Susan Land, my teacher at the time, she told me that was the book I should be writing. I didn’t believe her at first, but after a few years of the characters rattling around my head, I got there. Joining SCBWI was also instrumental to teaching me about the children’s market and connecting with other writers.

Q: Does writing for younger audiences require any sort of special approach?

Yes and no. I think about the audience when I first get the idea for the story and particularly when I’m developing the protagonist(s)—who for a middle grade or young adult book will be about the age of the targeted readers or a little older. Getting that perspective and that voice right is critical. And when I have a close-to-final draft, I edit with my audience in mind, in case I’ve accidentally slipped into my lawyer-voice. But when I’m in the middle of drafting, I just focus on trying to tell a story that moves, with characters who are real, and that ultimately feels true.

I think it’s important not to underestimate young audiences or write down to them. The basics of craft are equally important for any readership.

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Two from LPR Visit Paul Rucker’s Exhibit in Richmond

Photo of Paul Rucker

Paul Rucker

In our Winter 2018 issue, LPR featured the art of Paul Rucker. Contributing editor Ann Bracken conducted an interview with Rucker, whose work was also featured in our issue launch.

On May 5, Ann and our publisher, Desirée Magney, traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond to see his exhibit. Below are their comments about the installation.

Desirée Magney: On display, in the back section of a large room on the first floor, was a line-up of Rucker’s mannequins dressed in long, colorful robes cinched at the waist. Pointed hoods stood erect from shoulders to well beyond the tops of the heads. Other than the colors, the mannequins’ clothing resembled the garb of the KKK. I had seen photos of Rucker’s figures in our Winter 2018 Little Patuxent Review journal, so I knew what to expect. But I couldn’t have anticipated the impact the actual exhibit had on me.

The figures were very tall and arranged in a crisscross pattern. So, no matter where you stood, you felt surrounded, intimidated, and overwhelmed by them as they towered over you. The eyeholes in the hoods were vacant, contributing to the eeriness the exhibit created. I imagine these were all feelings intended by Rucker—feelings felt in a much greater degree by those who have encountered actual Klan members. Thus, it was a very effective exhibit.

Rucker also had display cases of old Ku Klux Klan newspapers, postcards, flyers, brochures, and pamphlets. There were postcards of actual lynchings. There were photos of people posing with wide smiles on their faces, in front of bodies dangling from thick tree branches.

I queried Ann how Rucker obtained this memorabilia. “He bids on Ebay. He always wonders who he’s bidding against.” Rucker wonders if the opposing bidder is a believer in the doctrines of white supremacy groups or someone like him who wants to make us all aware of this horrifying history and the continued presence of these groups today.

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Meet the Neighbors: Jerry Gabriel of the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference

Jerry Gabriel’s first book of fiction, Drowned Boy, won the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and was published in 2010 (Sarabande Books). It was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” pick and awarded the 2011 Towson Prize for Literature. His second book of fiction, The Let Go, was published in 2015 (Queen’s Ferry Press). His stories have appeared in One Story, Epoch, Fiction, Five Chapters, and The Missouri Review, among other publications. His work has been short-listed for a Pushcart Prize and he has received grants and fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2004), the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference (2011), and the National Endowment for the Arts (2016). He lives with his family in southern Maryland, where he teaches writing at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and directs the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference.

Q: I can say that I love the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but I’m less sure I can honestly say I love the Chesapeake Bay. I just haven’t spent much time on or around the water. What’s the Chesapeake Bay mean to you?

When I was in perhaps fifth grade, I wrote a “paper” on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which I guess fascinated me at the time, but that was probably most of the thinking I did on the subject until I moved here with my wife twenty-five years later.  But my relationship with the Chesapeake Bay is actually pretty rich, if mostly mediated through my children. We live about five minutes from the bay, and we spend a great deal of time there, digging around along the wrack line and in the tidal pools, swimming, getting ankle-bitten by the insidious flies. Though I am not a native Marylander, and I don’t especially like crabs or extreme humidity, I have come to see the bay as a special place. There is a museum on Solomon’s Island—the Calvert Marine Museum—that does a great job of showing the interconnectedness of life in and around the bay, and at the college where I teach—St. Mary’s College of Maryland—we try to speak to that same interconnectedness. I act as faculty editor for a journal on campus that is dedicated to the environmental and cultural change in the region—it’s called Slackwater—and being involved in that project has also made me appreciate much about the bay and its bounty, as well as its fragility.

Q: Has proximity to the bay in St. Mary’s City influenced your writing at all?

I wouldn’t say my writing has been affected yet by this proximity, but I certainly think it’s slowly working on me. I have lived a number of places, and in some important ways, I think of myself as a place-based writer, so I’m not especially comfortable just dropping my characters into new landscapes. I have to feel like I know a place. That said, I’m working on a book set in the 1860s in the Midwest, a place I couldn’t possibly have known, so take all of this with a grain of salt, I guess.

Q: There’s a lot of history to St. Mary’s. I know very little but I think of early Catholic settlements and of slavery. Have you written about these or other aspects of the history of your region?

Through my involvement with Slackwater these last several years, I’ve learned a great deal about the history you speak of. It’s powerful—and goes way back. Again, I have not yet had any of that seep into my work. But I certainly don’t rule it out. I have become very interested in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries lately, so it could be a case of adding two and two together, creatively.

Q: What’s the origin story of the Chesapeake Writers’ Conference?

Well, there was a poetry festival at the college for many years that was created and directed by Michael Glaser, a poet who is still lives in the area. This conference is an extension of that work, in some ways. But it is also an attempt to make this beautiful spot a hub for literary connections in the region. The campus is very quiet in the summer and it is a great place to get together and talk about ideas related to writing. I’ve been very lucky to gather some incredible faculty members—including folks like Patricia Henley, who has been a finalist for the National Book Award—and it’s just been such a rich experience across the board, for me, for the faculty, for all the folks who attend (including high schoolers and SMCM undergrads).  The ethos—and I think this, too, goes back to Michael Glaser’s festival—is rooted in possibility. No one here subscribes to the “cut me down to make me stronger” theory of creative writing instruction.

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Lessons from a Publisher: Ian Anderson of Mason Jar Press

Ian Anderson at LPR’s annual reading.

At Little Patuxent Review’s annual reading this past March, we were lucky enough to hear fiction by Ian Anderson, the founder and editor-in-chief of Mason Jar Press. In this guest post he shares some “lessons from a publisher.” 

Mason Jar Press is an independent press based in Baltimore that specializes in handmade, limited-edition chapbooks and full-length publications by established and emerging writers. Recent publications include The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado, by Dave K, and Not Without Our Laughter, by the Black Ladies Brunch Collective and edited by celeste doaks (celeste and others from the BLBC also contributed to our recent winter issue).

There are two important questions that you should ask yourself when looking for a publisher. The first is, “Am I the right author for this publisher?” The second: “Is this publisher the right one for me?” It’s this second question that is most often overlooked by writers, especially those taking their first steps into the world of publishers, and it can make the difference between having a good experience or a bad one. Most writers aspire to have a book one day, so it can be tempting to go with just anyone who will make that happen. But if it’s a bad experience, that can be worse than no book at all—for both you and the press, and no one wants that. To avoid this, before you even start looking for a publisher, you need to know what kind of book you want in the world.

Is being in Barnes & Nobles (these still exist as I’m writing this) important to you? Is having a say in the design of your book important to you? Are you trying to reach a specific audience? Does the quality and form of the finished product matter? The answer to these questions (and a hundred others you need to consider) can eliminate some publishers and help you focus on ones that fit for you. Here’s the rub, though. There are tradeoffs to some of these questions. For example, if you’re trying to get on the New York Times Bestsellers list, you’re better off trying to get in with a bigger publisher, but they probably won’t ask your opinion on the cover design beyond, “Is your name spelled right?”

Tough decisions might have to be made.

This is because, when we talk about publishers, we’re actually talking about types of publishers. What we do at Mason Jar Press is a whole lot different than what Penguin Random House is doing. What Mason Jar does is closer to what someone like Dzanc Books is doing, but we’re still worlds apart. Between MJP and The Big Five (or Four), there is a hot mess of publishers, each with their own benefits and drawbacks, so take your time thinking about what you want to get out of the experience

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Our Wider Literary Community: A Brief History of Nimrod International Journal

At Little Patuxent Review, we seek to foster dialogue and community in the literary world. This guest post by Diane Burton, the associate editor of Nimrod International Journal, introduces readers to the great writing being fostered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As Burton writes, the “core” of Nimrod’s mission remains the same today as when the journal began in 1956— “to discover and promote great new writers.”

Publishing information about this journal is available at the bottom of this post.

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Nimrod was founded in 1956 at The University of Tulsa and is one of the longest-running continuously published little magazines in the United States. While it was begun by students at the university, its first editor-in-chief, James Land Jones, made clear that the journal’s reach would extend beyond that of a student literary magazine. From the start, the editors solicited and received work from poets and fiction writers, well known or new to publication, from all over the country.

Nimrod began as a very little magazine, just 48 pages stapled together, printed in black and white; over the years it has grown to its present perfect-bound format, averaging 224 pages per issue, with a four-color cover featuring original art. Originally published three times a year, it has appeared twice a year, spring and fall, since 1970. Each year the spring issue is devoted to a theme, while the fall issue features the winners of the Nimrod Literary Awards.

The title Nimrod comes from the name of the Biblical hunter Nimrod, great grandson of Noah in the book of Genesis. Jim Land Jones came upon a use of the name in Alexander Pope’s “Windsor Forest” and was struck by it. The mission of the journal at its outset was announced as “hunting for good writing”—wherever it was to be found.

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