Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Julia Tagliere of the MoCo Underground Reading Series

Julia headshot 3 sizedJulia Tagliere is a Maryland author and the founder of the MoCo Underground Reading Series. MoCo Underground showcases writers ages 16 and up sharing their original fiction, nonfiction, or poetry at a quarterly series of free public readings held at the Sandy Spring Museum in Sandy Spring, Maryland. Each event features six to eight readers, reading for five to eight minutes each. MoCo Underground is open to both published and not-yet-published writers and especially encourages student writers to submit. For more information and details on how to submit, please visit https://justscribbling.com/mocounderground/. That’s also where you can find more about Julia and her writing. Continue reading

Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Dave Ring of OutWrite DC

In this post, Erika Franz interviews Dave Ring, the community chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ Book Festival in Washington, DC. He was a 2013 Lambda Literary Fellow and a 2018 resident at both Futurescapes and Disquiet. Hard at work on a novel, he has also placed stories with publications like GlitterShip, A Punk Rock Future and The Disconnect. He is the editor of Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was from Mason Jar Press. More info at www.dave-ring.com. Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop.   

OutWrite DC is based out of the The DC Center. Can you explain the relationship between the two?

OutWrite is a program of Center Arts, which is the DC Center for the LGBT Community’s umbrella program for arts-based initiatives. Like other Center Arts programs, OutWrite is supported by Kimberley Bush, the DC Center’s Director of Arts and Cultural Programs. Aside from Kimberley, we’re staffed entirely by volunteers, including myself.

Can you explain a little about the genesis of OutWrite DC? What is the umbrella mission under which you are operating?

That was before my time. The festival was started as a program of the DC Center in a joint effort between David Mariner, the Center’s Executive Director, and poet Dan Vera. The umbrella mission is “The DC Center for the LGBT Community educates, empowers, celebrates, and connects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.” OutWrite does that by celebrating LGBTQ literature.

That actually touches on my follow up question: Who is the target audience? How far does the region extend?

There’s been a recent discussion on social media about queer communities connecting outside of bars. And while I think there’s value both historical and individual in “gay bar culture,” it’s been pretty great to curate this other space.

OutWrite’s target audience, like many LGBTQ organizations that exist in person and online, is both hyper-local—DC—as well as global—the internet. And by DC, in practice we mean the DMV.

There isn’t an LGBTQ literary festival in every town, so we also have folks attending from all over. It’s common for us to have folks coming to us from the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, or even California.

Can you explain the programming and what’s on offer from OutWrite? I am especially interested in the festival in August.

The Festival is our biggest event during the year. It will kick off on Friday, August 2, with an event—the details of which are still to be announced. Saturday, August 3, is the busiest day of the festival. It’s a full day of readings, panels and bookselling. Saturday will see about 650+ attendees, if we go by last year. Sunday, August 4, is quieter and more focused. We have six workshops for writers, two at 10am, two at 12pm, and two at 2pm. Those typically have 5-15 attendees each.

This year all events are free and open to the public.

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Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Shaileen Beyer

Little Patuxent Review reminds all its readers and contributors that we are sponsoring a free poetry contest for Maryland residents with the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The winning poem will be published in Little Patuxent Review, honored at a reading at the Library, and celebrated at Baltimore’s CityLit Festival. Runners-up may also be considered for publication. The deadline is March 1, 2019.

Shaileen Beyer is a librarian and member of the Poetry Programming Work Group, which administers the contest. A native Baltimorean, Shaileen has worked in the Fiction Department at the Central Library since 2005. She has a Ph.D. in English and a master’s degree in library science.

We’re very grateful she’s willing to answer a few questions for us.

Q: What’s the mission of the Enoch Pratt Free Library?

The Pratt’s mission is to “provide equal access to information and services that empower, enrich and enhance the quality of life for all.” As the State Library Resource Center, the Central Library has an additional mission. It “provides cooperative, cost effective, statewide resources and services for Maryland libraries and their customers.”

The Poetry Contest realizes both missions: it creates free opportunity for Maryland artists and shines a bright light on poetry, which brings out the best in us all.

Q: What’s the history of this contest?

The Poetry Contest was the idea of my colleague Lisa Greenhouse in 2011. We were brainstorming ways to make poetry more visible, and she said, “We should have a contest and put the winning poem in the window!” (The Central Library has enormous show windows.) LPR came on board to judge the entries and publish the winner—a collaboration that we’ve repeated now for six of the contest’s eight years, turning to Poet Lore for the other two. The CityLit Festival organizers have helped every year by making room in their schedule for the winner. The Pratt has such good neighbors.

Q: What resources for writers do you have at the library?

Writing begins in reading, as poet Charles Wright reminds us when he quotes poet Theodore Roethke: “You want to be a writer? There’s the library.” At the Pratt we have terrific retrospective and contemporary collections in all imaginable genres. Looking for oodles of plays? Publishing tips or writing prompts? The poetry scene’s newest arrivals? Stop by the Central Library, or visit our online catalog to find e-books or request transfers of print books to any Pratt branch.

We also feature wonderful free programming for would-be authors. Poetry & Conversation and Writers LIVE! readings—often preserved on podcasts—inspire listeners with magical passages. Writing workshops led by esteemed teachers such as Clarinda Harriss cultivate skill and confidence. And gatherings like the Central Library’s Writers’ Roundtable allow people to share what they have made.

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Meet the Neighbors: Contributing Editor Ann Bracken Interviews Morna McDermott McNulty

Ann Bracken is a contributing editor for Little Patuxent Review. Her friend and Towson University education professor, Morna McDermott McNulty, has just published a speculative fiction novel called Blood’s Will that explores the ideas of love and choice in unique and challenging ways. Bracken sat down with McNulty to explore her ideas and find out a little more about the intersection of her work with teaching, writing, and vampires.

Ann Bracken (AB): I think many of LPR’s readers are familiar with science fiction and with vampire stories, but speculative fiction may be a new genre for them. How would you describe speculative fiction and what distinguishes it from mainstream fiction?

Morna McDermott McNulty (MMM): Speculative fiction (SF) is part dystopian novel, part science fiction, and part utopian narrative. It usually tackles socio-political issues of the human condition. SF is a site for possible reimagining of a world in which the identities of people of color have been written by centuries of colonization, imperialism, and white privilege. I think about Octavia Butler’s book Fledgling, or The Gilda Stories by Jewel Gomez, both feminist tales in the speculative fiction genre, about vampires and women of color.

The vampire is the figure of choice in decolonization politics in that it exists between worlds as a specter that threatens the solidity of borders and the reality of a dominant imaginary.  SF can write into existence possibilities for humanness and otherness that extend outside of traditional binary boundaries. As a white middle class female with all the privileges that come with that, I am deeply interested in how we can challenge systems of inequity and injustice, and I think speculative fiction becomes a powerful tool in that arsenal. I wanted to use my own fictional writing skills to explore those issues. And I like to bring that tool kit into my own creative and professional worlds. Writing Blood’s Will, for me, was a bit of both.

AB: What makes this novel a good fit for your work as a teacher and a writer? Why did you choose the vampire framework for the story?

MMM: I love vampires. It’s hard to pinpoint why really. But part of it is in their inherent qualities—different from aliens, ghosts, zombies, or other creatures. My first academic work published about vampires was in 1999, co-written with a former boyfriend and colleague. We explored the themes in the film The Addiction, about a woman in a doctoral program at NYU. It was all very personal to me. Some part of that time in my life also bleeds through in Blood’s Will. I love the “liminality” of vampires— how they move between worlds and identities. They are so multifaceted. Like fiction is to the limitations of what we can write about our world, vampires embody the fascination of humans with what lies beyond our own “limitations”—beyond death. As undeath extends our lived possibilities, fiction extends our conceptions of what is possible in a world that feels so boxed-in by the limitations imposed on us by societal expectations, by language, and, for so many, by oppressive conditions. As I mentioned earlier, speculative fiction is a site for possible reimagining of a world in which the identities (in particular, people of color) have been written by centuries of colonization, imperialism, and white privilege.

AB: How was the idea for Blood’s Will born?

MMM: The answer to this also goes to the next question you asked which was “what are the essential questions” that drive the story. The idea for the book was born in part by my desire to wrestle with those questions (See next response).

But the timing of the writing of the book is distinct. The Twilight series was exploding onto the book and move scenes. As a vampire fan, I was compelled to read the books and see the movies. But I was struck by something that annoyed me. All the characters in that story (and true of similar narratives like The Vampire Diaries, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and even Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire) are wealthy, young, and beautiful. As far as I’m concerned, such characters are already immortal. Or at least perceive themselves to be. The choice “Should I, or shouldn’t I become a vampire?” seems a no-brainer for such characters. What exactly are they giving up?

But what if you were me. A middle-aged, middle-class mother of two, imbued with all the privileges and trapping of that identity. Would you burn that life to the ground for immortal love? In my world, the answer isn’t nearly so neat and simple. And the sacrifices to attain immortality are far more significant. But ironically the choice of immortality also opens up so many more possibilities. And so, the idea that such a possibility could loom (the beauty of speculative fiction) compelled me, and hopefully my reader, to look in the mirror, pun intended, and ask themselves that same question: What would you choose? And what would you sacrifice? These, in my opinion, are fundamentally questions that women confront every day. So the story casts a feminist lens as well. Also, I thought, oh what the hell…if Stephanie Meyer who was a stay-at-home mom potty-training her kids while she wrote Twilight can do it, so can I.

AB: Outside of the academic world, many people may be unfamiliar with the curriculum area called currere. How would you explain the concept?

MMM: Currere is a Latin word meaning “the running of the race,” and it was coined in educational circles by two notable scholars, William Pinar and Madeleine Grumet, back in the mid-seventies. At the time, and since then really, schooling has been driven by very technical qualities-what we can measure, predict, and control. Pinar, Grumet, and since then a whole international movement of curriculum theorists called “re-conceptualists,” argue that the idea of curriculum, typically thought of as that “stuff” we teach in schools, needs to be expanded to examine the entire life of the person. Curriculum might better be considered everything that happens from the moment we wake up in the morning to the moment we go to sleep at night. And that who we are—our memories, our dreams, our fears, our psyche—are all also a part of what we bring to the learning experience called school.

Now extend this thinking into how we make meaning of and write about our learning experiences through inquiry. Drawing from the work of other curriculum scholars, such as Noel Gough, I wanted to play with the idea that fiction also has an important part of play in this inquiry process. In the words of Jamaican novelist and philosopher Sylvia Wynter, “The future will first have to be remembered, imagined” (2007, p. 3).

Currere is memory work. Blend fiction with currere and you have ficto-currere. Ficto-currere creates an intersection between memory and fiction—both of which are “unreal” and constructed. There are four different stage when engaged in the journey of currere: Recalling the past (regressive), being free of the present (analytical), being able to reenter the present (synthetical), and gesturing towards what is not yet present (progressive). It is important to note, however, that these stages are not considered linear or progressive. And if currere is a re-conceptualizing of our lives, just imagine what that could look like for a creature that never has to face death? For a creature whose intrinsic identity is unfixed? (See next Q and A for a continuation of this idea.)

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Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Patti Ross of the Maryland Writers’ Association

Patti Spady Ross graduated from American University with a degree in Journalism. Having published several articles in the Washington Times and the Rural America newspapers, Patti settled on a career in the corporate technology arena and the raising of her two daughters.

Thirty years later she is sharing her voice as a spoken word artist, “little pi,” throughout the region and working on her debut chapbook. She is the current secretary for the Maryland Writers’ Association. You can follow and or read more on her blog at https://littlepisuniverse.wordpress.com.

We’re very grateful she’s willing to answer a few questions for us.

Q: What’s the mission of the Maryland Writers’ Association?

The Maryland Writers’ Association (MWA) is a voluntary, not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting the art, business, and craft of writing in all its forms. We work to support aspiring, emerging, and established writers of all genres and disciplines. We hope to serve as an information and networking resource for members throughout the state to reach their full writing potential including publication. Please see our website for more details on the service’s membership provides.

Q: What’s the role of the different county chapters?

The county chapters are created to allow writers from a geographical area to network and support each other through monthly meetings, readings, and local chapter events. Any member of MWA can attend any chapter meeting. Often meetings cover genre specific topics; thus, members may travel between meetings to learn and share writing experiences or opportunities.

Q: How did you get involved with the MWA?

I have been writing poetry for a long time. A few years back I shared some of my work with a dear friend who was a MWA member. As I began to look to further develop my spoken word talent, my friend suggested I seek out the Howard County chapter of MWA. After attending a few meetings I joined. The professionalism of the members and the depth of the presentations were wonderful. Members were serious in their writing but not stodgy. It was a good fit and put me back in to the world of journalism I left a few years after college graduation.

Q: I notice that the MWA’s annual conference is coming up in March. As a writer, why might that be something for me to think about?

The annual conference is always loaded with wonderful learning and networking opportunities. The presenters are leaders in their genre area, and the ability to sit in a relatively small group session with a successful published author and receive specific feedback is not easily accessible. Additionally, having the opportunity to meet agents and publishers face to face at lunch or a Pitch or Critique session can be invaluable to a writer no matter where they are in their writing career.

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Meet the Neighbors: Q&A with Agent Emily Williamson of Williamson Literary

Emily Williamson is a Baltimore-based agent and the founder of Williamson Literary. She represents a variety of projects in non-fiction and fiction. A graduate of the M.A. in Writing program at Johns Hopkins University, she also worked for 13 years as an archaeologist.

We’re very grateful she’s willing to answer a few questions for us.

Q: Because of the internet, it’s easy to think that I can do a lot for free. And as a writer, “free” is a word that resonates in more ways than one. Why might I think about an agent?

That’s a very important question these days. There can be many advantages for a writer in this world of self-publishing (print and online). When you self-publish, you take home a much higher percentage of the sales than you would with a traditional publisher, you have more control over the finished product, and you can get your work to market on your own schedule. But understand that when you self-publish, throwing a book up on Amazon doesn’t mean it will instantly sell. There’s a lot of noise out there, so how do you rise above it? As a self-published author, you are the creator, the editor, the publisher, the accountant, and the publicist. It’s a full-time job.

Self-publishing doesn’t help you to get a traditional publisher either. Many publishers want new content, so unless your self-published book sells hundreds of thousands of copies, you’re unlikely to get their attention.

What an agent can do for you is put your book in front of publishers with a long track record of success and quality, whether they’re big or small, and these are often the ones who won’t accept an unsolicited manuscript from an author. Agents open doors. They can provide you with good advice to help you to get the best deal possible, retain valuable rights to your work, and ensure that you have the editing and marketing support that you need.

Q: You write that Williamson Literary is “about building relationships: agent-author, agent-publisher, author-publisher.” I just want to get published. How do I get out of this mindset?

There’s nothing wrong with feeling that unabating desire to just get published. As long as you’re continuing to write, to learn, and to make the most of criticism and rejection, then the desire to be published can be a motivator; just try to temper that desire with careful, informed decisions.

It may feel like you are entirely at the mercy of the “gatekeepers,” but this doesn’t mean you can’t control your destiny. Remember that what you have to offer as a writer is a valuable asset. More than that, it’s your creative property and your hard work, so treat it as such. Have a clear vision of what your expectations are from a publisher or an agent. Having a good relationship with your publisher or agent is important because it takes a lot of trust to put your work in the hands of someone who will be making the big decisions about what your book will look like, from the revisions requested, to the royalty percentage you take home, to the cover design. If that trust isn’t there at any stage, what you hoped might be the fulfillment of a dream can become a huge disappointment.

Ask yourself what’s important to you as a writer. Why do you write? Why do you want to be published? What does success look like to you? Giving those kinds of questions some serious thought can help guide you toward the right publishing path.

Do your research about an agent or a publisher. Contact authors to find out what their publishing experience has been, and don’t be afraid to turn down a bad deal. If you don’t have an agent, it’s worth it to seek out professional editing companies that offer publishing advice. You might also consider joining Author’s Guild; they can help you review book contracts.

If there is a secret to getting published, I would say it’s perseverance. It only takes one “yes,” so keep submitting until you get one. For some tips on how to approach an agent or publisher, check out my article on LinkedIn.

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