Archive for May, 2013

New Program Tracks in Publishing and Film

May 29, 2013

Ever thought you wanted to start your own press, e-zine, or literary journal? Thanks to the initiative of Akashic Books editor Johnny Temple and Etruscan Press founding editor Phil Brady, alums and current students now have the option of pursuing a Master of Arts in Publishing! This new track will open at the June 2013 residency. Wilkes alums will take only an additional 18 credits to earn the M.A. in publishing.

Have you found the world of documentary film fascinating? The Wilkes low-residency program has also added a Master of Arts in documentary film, which will begin in January, 2014. Like the new publishing degree, alums need only take an additional 18 credits to earn this degree. The curriculum is being developed now working with Robert May and SenArt Films and other to be named companies.

For more information or to apply to any of the newly revised program tracks, please email or call Dr. Culver or Ms. Dawn Leas. Deadline to apply is May 31, 2013. Visit the Wilkes writing program website for updates.

Dr. Bonnie Culver, Director: bonnie.culver@wilkes.edu
Ms. Dawn Leas, Associate Program Director: dawn.leas@wilkes.edu
570.408.4527
570.408.4534
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advisory board member Susan Cartsonis honored

May 22, 2013

Faculty and advisory board member Susan Cartsonis was recently honored for her accomplishments in film by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America at their 6th Annual Women of Distinction luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Susan offered this speech at the luncheon:

Thank you so much for this honor. I’m excited to be sharing this day with Lisa Greer and Amy Brenneman. While I’ve been TOLD I’m being honored as a Woman of Distinction for my accomplishments in film, if we’re being really honest here, it’s about Stan. Stan Seidel was my life partner of seventeen years, and all around great guy, who died suddenly in 2000 and way too young at 48 of the complications Crohn’s Disease. Stan’s the real reason I’m being honored. And I’m more than ok with that.

Susan Cartsonis

Susan Cartsonis

I’m proud of the role I played in helping Stan prevail over his disease to become as he always said with truth behind the joke: a “well respected member of his chosen profession”. Which was screenwriting.

Stan used to call me, his “helpmeet”, which I thought was a word he just made up until I looked it up, Googled it last night, and found it is a combination of two roots from Hebrew, one meaning “to rescue” or “to save,” and the other meaning “to be strong.” The roots merged into one word, so did their meanings.

So I’d like to share this lovely award with all of the Women and Men of Distinction and helpmeets who have been and are caretakers for people with Crohn’s and Colitis and other debilitating diseases.

Those caretakers include people here like Miriam Scharf, who was Stan’s therapist. Miriam helped him break through creative barriers so that he got to see his work on the big screen, and got to be a well respected member of his chosen profession. Also, Dr. Ed Feldman, who reassured and comforted Stan about his condition from the moment Stan arrived in L.A. and encouraged him to go on adventures around the world, even when it presented a logistical nightmare due to shipments of medications, refrigeration, and risks. Under his care in the 90’s we went to London, Paris, Milan and Florence and the South Pacific—but not to Thailand or Mexico… (for those who weren’t there, there was a big laugh here—because it’s widely known that you have to be extremely careful about travel in these and certain other countries if you are vulnerable to these diseases.)

I share this also with friends like Kevin Goetz, whose late mother had M.S. and who takes care of others with M.S. now through a foundation he established in his mother’s name. And with friends with aging parents who are dealing with the challenges of giving and getting them help.

And I share the award with those of you who are caretakers I haven’t met or I don’t know about because you quietly, even secretly take care of someone in your life.

Secrecy is a big thing with bowel disease especially in the movie business. Not very glam. When Stan died it was a huge shock to people who knew us well. That’s because Stan didn’t want anyone to know anything about it. I respected Stan’s wishes not to discuss his disease publicly —which was hard. But I did it.

As a caretaker you gain a lot of wisdom and perspective along with the feeling that you too are sick without actually BEING sick. Caretaking taught me a lot about the nature of illness and life and death.

But once someone is gone, how do you continue to care for them? Well, in my case it’s by accepting this honor, and supporting important research about what ultimately killed Stan. That’s what he would have wanted. So thanks to you all for shedding light so that Crohn’s and Colitis can get the attention and funding it so deserves. I accept this award on behalf of all of the caretakers in the audience today and beyond. Thank you.

***

To learn more or to make a donation to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, visit the CCFA website.

A Scribble of Writers: Q&A with Stephanie Riese

May 15, 2013
Stephanie Riese at the Jan '11 Wilkes residency

Stephanie Riese at the Jan ’11 Wilkes residency

Wilkes alum Stephanie Riese runs A Scribble of Writers, a blog and creative collective. In this Q&A, Riese talks about their group, book reviewing, and invites others to join the collaboration.

Stephanie, tell us about A Scribble of Writers. What compelled you to start a collective?

I actually came up with the idea for Scribble of Writers at Wilkes. My friends and I were sitting in a social media class, hearing about how important it is to get our names out there and have an online presence. Listening to the types of writing websites and blogs people were using, I thought, “Hey, why not start our own?” I bounced the idea off the girls and they were enthusiastic. I love editing and proofing, so founding the site sounded like a lot of fun to me!

As part of the blog, you provide creativity prompts. Do you then share the results with one another? 

The prompts are emailed out to everyone, and they email their pieces back to me. After any necessary edits, I post them to the website, where everyone has a chance to enjoy them.

Why do you include book reviews on the blog?

Book reviews were the suggestion of my friend Michelle, who wanted to write them. They’re a great way to get your name out there, and also generate great traffic for the website. I’d love to get a few more people to write them.

How can others get involved in A Scribble of Writers?

Anyone who would like to join the scribble need only send me an email and tell me what they’re interested in writing, be it the prompts, book reviews, etc. I’d like everyone to do the prompts in addition to anything else they enjoy, but I’m flexible. I’d love to see the site expand, with someone writing a blog about the writing process or other things like that.

***

Thanks, Stephanie. If you’re interested in contacting Stephanie Riese about A Scribble of Writers, you’ll find her on Facebook.

I Submit to You by Michael J. Soloway

May 8, 2013

I Submit to You

By Michael J. Soloway

The Rule of Twenty-Five

Sheepshead Review. Serving House. Newfound. Northwind. Palooka. Thin Air magazine (4x). fwriction review. Utter magazine. Superstition Review. TINGE Magazine. The Boiler Journal. Passages North. Thomas J. Hrushka Memorial Nonfiction Prize (3x). Prick of the Spindle. The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review. Hippocampus Magazine. Ploughshares—just to name a few.

lit magsIn all, I’ve received more than twenty-five rejections over the past thirteen months. They come in all shapes and sizes, with their own length and own voice. Like poems all titled, “Unfortunately…” Some offer compliments and encouragement; others simply cut you off at the knees and leave you feeling paralyzed with fear and insecurity. But a loss is a loss, whether it’s by thirty points or one.

Rejection is part of life, part of The Writing Life. But it’s also a word I associate with immaturity. After all, this isn’t one of those dreams where you’re late for a test without your No. 2 pencil; it isn’t high school. There is no prom to obsess over or folded notes to pass to potential dates—even though, at times, it may feel that way, as you ask yourself: Why not me? What’s wrong with me? I say: Nothing, especially if you haven’t even taken the plunge and submitted your work yet! And that doesn’t mean sending pages to your parents or friends or “one contest years ago.” Hilary Homzie, a children’s author at Hollins University, and a former mentor of mine, once told me: “You should always have twenty-five pieces of work in process at any one time.” Twenty-five? Yes, twenty-five. Five projects you’re writing; five you’re editing; five query letters you’re producing; five pieces you’re in the process of submitting; and five you’re waiting to hear back from an editor, agent, or publisher. Like sales, or any other business, it’s a numbers game—which simply means persistence is rewarded.

The Rebuff is Not Just For Cars

What’s the difference between a writer and an author? Have you ever turned this over in your mind? We call ourselves writers, but aren’t we already writers, all of us. Everyday, whether you’re writing or not, you are a writer; if you’re reading this then you most certainly are.

Perception and self-actualization is vital to growth and a continued formation of a positive identity. It’s time to start thinking of yourself as not only a writer, but an author as well. Whether you’ve published an essay or article or book or poem or blog or chapbook or a piece of haiku that began on a dinner napkin or if you haven’t published at all, give yourself permission to be an author. After all, we have Author pages on Facebook, not Writer pages. Be positive, then stay positive. Have your “Author’s Bio” ready. Know, deep down in your heart, that you’ll need it soon enough.

Along with my thirty aught rebuffs (a word I prefer over rejection, because it reminds me of polishing, that my work simply needs another run-through and that it’s not me that’s being rejected), I’ve also had successes this year as well—three essays and two memoir excerpts in seven different literary magazines over those same thirteen months. How have I done this? Quality work is only one ingredient to success. But courage and persistence is, by far, key to turning pages in an attic into pages into “print.” By rebuffing your work, and putting that first toe into what can sometimes be murky waters, you’ll be well on your way to becoming published—never immune to rejection, but an author ready to build upon success. After all, a translucent ocean does not reflect like the black sheen on the surface of a dark summer lake, it’s mystery reflecting your own image back at you, an identity that’s actually clear, if you stare long enough and catch the right amount of light.

Time is Relative (A Distant Cousin, Twice Removed) 

Excuses are never about time; they’re about energy.

clockTime, after all, is just a state of mind—we make time for what we want to make time for. “I can’t go to the gym, I don’t have time.” “I can’t cook dinner, I don’t have time.” “I can’t write a query letter, I don’t have time.” I have the same excuses: a full-time job, school, family, which includes a 21-month-old daughter. And I had the same self doubts you may have over your shoulder like a backpack—something to keep your work safe, but oh so heavy to lug around. I used to think one rejection meant my work was “no good.” Giving up is easy. But the only notion you should be giving up at this point is expectation.

A friend and peer, who many of you know from the Wilkes Creative Writing Program, Danielle Poupore’s, MFA (AKA, Danielle E. Curtis), essay, “Lilac Blossoms: A Dead Squirrel Story” was rebuffed fourteen times before being published in Split Lip magazine in March. Persistence, perseverance, and faith in your own words are your greatest tools. Use them to your advantage. Time is not the enemy. It’s simply a distant relative passing through town looking for a place to “crash” for the night. Learn to invite them in with open arms; embrace the time you do have, even if the only room you have left in your soul at the end of the day is a worn couch without pillows. There is pride and reward in effort.

It’s “Submittable” and More

Once you have a submittable story, set of stories, or script, depending on your genre, visit Poets & Writers website (www.pw.org). In the top navigation, find “Tools for Writers.” Underneath that you’ll see “Contests,” “Lit Mags,” and “Small Presses.” Once there, you can segment your search by Genre, Subgenre, Format, and Payment. And don’t get overwhelmed by your search results. There are 885 literary magazines that pop up without conducting an Advanced Search. But if I specify, “Creative Nonfiction” and “Autobiography/Memoir,” then my results are a much more manageable 133. Remember, this is a numbers game, but not a race. Concentrate on upcoming deadlines first, then make a commitment to submit a piece at least once a month. Follow the Rule of 25s, but unlike writing goals, submissions are not supposed to be part of a daily routine. I submitted my essays and excerpts sporadically over an entire year.

Most online magazines have made the transition to electronic submissions, which not only makes it easier to submit your work but also to track them through a system called “Submittable.” Once you make your first submission, and your account is set up, you can check the status of a piece any time of day. Be sure to read each publication’s submission guidelines carefully—word count limits, publication deadlines, and anything else that a specific journal prefers. There are still many “traditional” publications that will require a more detailed project description, query letter, or even a paper submission.

“Simultaneous Submissions” is your best friend. Find magazines that accept them and send, send, send. Just be sure to follow their instructions. If one of your pieces gets picked up, then notify the other magazines immediately so they can take your submission out of consideration—unless, of moneycourse, they permit reprints. I’ve had two essays “reprinted,” so look for those opportunities as well. And don’t forget about contests. Just be aware, most have submission fees. So, that option can get costly. On the flipside, contests offer monetary awards and oftentimes, major publication opportunities. Look for contests no more than $15 per entry. There are literally thousands, depending upon your genre.

Another word of advice—don’t expect payment, if your work is accepted. We all want to make a living at writing, but right now the focus should be on getting published, putting your name out there into the Universe, and forming a strong identity as an author. As of September, when my seventh piece is scheduled for publication, I will have earned exactly $45 from my yearlong submission/publishing efforts. So, if you’re looking for a mammoth payday, consider becoming an actuary or a nurse anesthetist.

Sticks and Stones

Rejection is not a 4-letter word, even though it may elicit a few when you get that response from an editor, agent, publication, or contest. Just remember, reject and accept have the same number of letters. The word you would rather hear is obvious, but one rejection does not an author make. They’re just sticks and stones. But the forest ahead doesn’t have to be so bleak. Turn any rebuff into feathers and leaves falling harmlessly at your feet and keep walking until you reach a clearing—every deep wood has one.

So, what am I really trying to say? Who do I think I am? Today, I hope I’m your drill sergeant, your platoon leader. I’m your inspiration, your mentor. I’m your best friend, your confidante. I’m that devil on your shoulder; I’m that saint.

Today, I’m an author. And so are you.

Being a writer is a complicated relationship. Don’t just look for The One. Find the many—you deserve to be an author for years to come.

So, what now you may ask? In the words of a wise mentor, teacher, writer, author, and friend, Kevin Oderman: “Onward.” I submit to you—there’s no place else to go.

***

Michael J. Soloway grew up eating oranges, catching lizards, and listening to the gasp of tennis ball cans being opened in south Florida. He received his Masters Degree in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and will earn his MFA in January 2014. In addition, Michael has served as Michael Solowaymanaging editor of more than a dozen nonprofit magazines and just finished his first memoir Share the Chameleon, about attempting to break his family’s cycle of abuse, as he becomes a father for the first time in his 40s. Brevity Magazine published Michael’s short essay, “Introducing Mother Nature,” in 2012. In addition, Split Lip magazine published his nonfiction essay, “Sticks and Stones,” about his grandmother’s slide into dementia, in March 2013. His work has also appeared in Red Fez, Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts, and Under the Gum Tree magazines. An excerpt from Share the Chameleon will appear in Split Lip magazine in September 2013.

Introducing Northampton House Press

May 1, 2013

Northampton House Press LLC, a company founded in 2011, is buzzing with activity–and involvement from the Wilkes commuity.

EmpyresNew titles includes Blood & Honor by Wilkes alum Chelle Ang, Ordinary Angels by Joan La Blanc, The Mirror of Aberrantine from alum C. M. Mullane (Chad Mullen), and Empyres: Bloodblind by Wilkes alum John Koloski.

“It’s thrilling to see my book become a reality,” Koloski said. “I thought nothing could compare to seeing the e-book online, but then I held my first galley copy! That beautiful glossy paperback came with a note from Dave Poyer stating that there’s nothing like a new book in one’s hand. He was absolutely right!”

Koloski has also taken on the role of Science Fiction and Horror acquisitions editor, while Joan La Blanc acquires Romance, Wilkes faculty member Bob Arthur manages Poetry acquisitions, and David Poyer acquires all other genres.angels

The Wilkes connection to Northampton House Press doesn’t end there. Poyer said, “Works are in production from Neil Shepard, Rashidah Abu-Bakr, and Ken Vose, along with several books by graduated program members.” This semester, Wilkes student William Horn is interning with the publishing house.

“Northampton House publishes carefully selected fiction—historical, romance, thrillers, fantasy—and lifestyle nonfiction, memoir, and poetry,” Poyer said. “Its mission is to discover great new writers, especially those graduated from accredited MA/MFA programs who have not yet achieved commercial recognition, and give them a chance to springboard into fame.”

arthurThe publisher aims to bring something new to the marketplace and to readers, particularly the kind of works that may be overlooked by large trade houses. “Watch the Northampton House list at www.northampton-house.com,” Poyer said, “and Like us on Facebook to discover more innovative works of high quality from brilliant new writers.”