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 Our Readers: Q&A with Raima Larter

Raima Larter is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review. She lives in Arlington, Virginia and received her MA in Writing from Johns Hopkins University in 2016. Prior to devoting herself to full-time writing, Raima was a college chemistry professor in Indiana. She moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 2003 to work for the National Science Foundation, a federal agency located in northern Virginia. Her first novel, “Fearless,” will be published by New Meridian Arts Literary Press this year. You can read more about her work at raimalarter.com.

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

Q: How did you get involved with LPR?

I met the publisher, Desirée Magney, at a writing conference and introduced myself. When I told her I was interested in becoming a reader, she talked with the editors and it turned out there was an opening and I was invited to join. I’d wanted to volunteer to be a reader for awhile, since I’d heard it was a great way to improve my own writing. I also wanted to give back a little to the writing community, by helping with the process of screening submissions.

Q: You’ve told me that being a reader for LPR has changed your own writing. Can you elaborate?

After reading for a short period of time, I began to realize that while craft elements like point of view, the balance of exposition and active scene, dialogue, setting, etc, were important, the story itself was really key. Mistakes in craft elements can be fixed, but if a story doesn’t seem to have a point, it doesn’t make the cut. Before being a reader I had been almost totally focused on craft without thinking much about story. I’ve gone back and re-written a number of my older stories since I started reading, sometimes even abandoning them completely when I couldn’t explain to myself why this story needed to be told.

Q: And how about your own submitting?

I was already submitting quite a lot, but one thing that’s changed for me now is that I will go back to a story that’s been rejected a few times and see if it needs more work. I used to just keep sending the piece out without further revision, but I’m much less reluctant now to revise a story if it isn’t getting picked up.

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Editor Steven Leyva Published on Washington Independent Review of Books

“Proscenium Arch,” an essay by Steven Leyva, is available on the Washington Independent Review of Books website at this link. Leyva wonders what “makes theater arts a home for misfits and nerds, the ambitious and the reclusive, the energetic and the contemplative,” and suggests that it’s “the grandeur and mystery of how a few lines on a page become a full and vibrant spectacle that can instruct, entertain, challenge, and invigorate an audience.”

Leyva’s bio and his other essays on this website, “The Best Sandbox Ever,” “Sequential Imagination,” and “The Poetics of Anime,” are available at this link.

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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Free Poetry Contest with Enoch Pratt Free Library — Deadline March 1

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.

More information is available on the Pratt Library website and by clicking the image in this post.

Winter 2019 Issue Launched!

lpr_winter2019-front

The Winter 2019 Issue is now available for purchase!

The winter 2019 issue launch on January 20 in Columbia, Maryland, featured readings of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and a presentation of the Michael J. Clark Best of LPR Poetry Award to Alan King for his poem, “The Journey,” published in the Winter 2018 issue. Anthony Moll served as guest editor for this issue, for which half the space is dedicated to LGBTQ+ writers from Maryland.

Thank you to our readers! The complete program is available at this link.

Xinyu Winniebell Zong, poetry
Tyler Mendelsohn, nonfiction
Stephanie Dering, poetry
Adam Gianforcaro, poetry
Susan Hobby, HoCoPoLitSo
Grace Kiyonaga, poetry
Bailey Blumenstock, poetry
Jane Hegstrom, nonfiction
Nicole Hylton, poetry
Tyler Vile, poetry
Sheila Black, poetry
Rebecca Moon Ruark, fiction
Linette Marie Allen, poetry
Marlena Chertock, poetry
Chelsea Lemon Fetzer, poetry
Mateo Lara, nonfiction
Cindy Watkins, poetry
Alexis Smithers (Lex Lee), poetry