Archive for the ‘Crap you can do with a Writing Degree’ Category

Nicholson interviews Campion

September 19, 2013

Inside the Writers’ Dojo:

An Interview with Christopher Campion

by Travis Nicholson

 

Chris Campion began training in the martial arts at eleven, when an Okinawan karate studio opened near his home. With the encouragement of mentors both “on the mats” and behind the typewriter, he has recently completed his debut novel The Jiu-Jitsu Bum (Northampton House, August 2013). He’s also published short fiction through Fiction365.com and East Meets West: American Writers Journal. I recently had a chance to catch up with Chris and get his thoughts on martial arts, life after publication, and Alec Baldwin.

Chris Campion

Chris Campion

Travis Nicholson: So, the big topic first. Tell us about your book.

Christopher Campion: It’s about redemption and second chances set amidst the seedier side of Scranton PA and its characters. I guess you could say it’s slightly noir. The protagonist has to fight not only himself but the world, which always seems to be against him. Practicing Jiu-Jitsu helps him come to accept his lot in life, which changes him mentally, physically, and even spiritually. Like anything in life, nothing is gained without losing something in the process. There are no clean new beginnings.

TN: How has your own experience with the martial arts helped shape your work?  Any experiences in a tournament or training you’d like to share?

CC: I practically grew up in a dojo, so martial arts and budo tenets were chiseled into my little brain. I’d like to credit my karate sensei of many years for that. He was not only my sensei but a real mentor whose advice kept me on the straight and narrow. Later in life, when I’d slip from time to time, I’d hear his voice in my head, and it’d get the wheels back on track. I guess that lasting effect is something I wanted to incorporate with my main character and the novel’s plot. I also wanted to inject some real life situations and people I’ve met through years of sweating on the mats. I did a couple Jiu-Jitsu/grappling tournaments, mostly in New Jersey. I didn’t do particularly well, but it was great experience. I remember this one guy caught me in a neck crank, and I literally heard my neck slowly pop a few times like popcorn. Another Brazilian guy cut my face open with his gi as he went for a choke. Things like that I put in the book. Other than the possibility of nasty injuries, it’s a real rush. You feel so alive after you compete that you never really want to come down from it. It’s certainly one of the best ways to see what you’re made of. Because of that, I knew I had to have a tournament scene in the novel.

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TN: What’s next for Chris Campion? Working on anything new these days? Publicizing The Jiu-Jitsu Bum, maybe? What’s your strategy with Northampton House to get it in readers’ hands?

CC: Well, I’m always reading to build my vocab and overall familiarity with literature and the craft. I’ve been working on a couple short stories that I’d like to submit to competitions and journals. I’ve also been plotting a new novel, but I’m really taking my time on that. In fact, there might even be two or more novels in the making. I’ve got to sort everything out and see what I’ve got to work with. I want my next one to be a hundred times better than the last. I want it to have more of my own thoughts, experiences, and personal philosophies on the world. And of course, I want it to be well-written and have a page-turning plot. As for my marketing strategy, I watch Alec Baldwin’s Glengarry Glen Ross “art of selling” speech then cold call random names from the phone book. Just kidding. I’ve been trying to  get the word out about The Jiu-Jitsu Bum anyway I can through Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, interviews, guest blogging, and hitting up anyone who’d be potentially interested in the book. It’s draining, but it must be done. It’s kind of nice stepping away from the seriousness of writing and learning a little bit about promoting something. I’m also in the process of trying to get in on more local readings. They’re always fun to do. But as I told another writer, I think the best way (so far) to get the word out is by simply telling people face to face about it, especially avid readers. Nothing seems to beat word of mouth. I’ve honestly gotten the most sales that way. But that’s just me. I don’t think ANYONE truly knows the best way to sell. You just have to get it out there and see what works.

TN: About six months ago you had an article about confidence published by The Write Life. Anything you want to add now that your novel is out there in the hands of strangers?

CC: I think at this point, I won’t have too many moments of doubt when it comes to writing. I think I hit a point where I was doubting myself and overanalyzing way too much. Looking back, that was kind of pointless because I’d already published five short stories and I had a bestselling author encouraging me. It’s kind of like that scene in The Last Samurai where the one samurai tells Tom Cruise’s character that he’s not winning because he has “too many mind.” Then he tells him to have “no mind” (to stop thinking about everything and everyone around him and just go with it) and that changed everything. Lately, I’ve just been writing from my gut. I know I’m not perfect and I know I still have so much to learn. But I’ve recently been writing with a lot confidence and not looking back. And I make sure I’m still having fun doing it. I think that’s how it should be. But it’s always some kind of a struggle. Writing has never really been “easy.”

TN: Here’s a fun one: Who would you cast in the movie version of your novel?

CC: George Clooney as Evan. Elisabeth Shue as Cindy (Evan’s wife). Jack, the oldest son, would be John Cena and the youngest son, Tim, would be played by Russell Brand. Victor, the sensei, would have to be Bas Rutten* – no doubt. Samuel L. Jacksonas Tyrone. Ginger, the street vixen, would have to be Charlize Theron. And I’d cast Anne Ramseyfrom Throw Momma From The Train as Sherry (Evan’s mother) but she died a few years back, unfortunately.

*Bas Rutten is a world-renowned mixed martial artist who has recently made the transition into acting

TN: How did the Wilkes Low-Residency Creative Writing Program help you accomplish your goal of publication?

CC: Wilkes and everyone involved taught me (both directly and indirectly) everything. Coming into the program, I had so many holes in my writing ability; I was so naïve about the publishing industry; and I was especially naïve on how hard I’d have to work to create something worth publishing. But Wilkes changed all that. It exposed me to so many authors and perspectives on literature that I was simply oblivious to. It taught me to trust my visceral instinct when it came to feeling a story coming on. Plus, my cohort, The Mobies, was just awesome because we were all serious but could laugh at one another too. I wouldn’t change meeting them for the world. And I have to give mad props to my mentor David Poyer who took me under his dragon-like wing and made me think like a serious novelist. I could have never imagined learning so much from him and accomplishing the things I did from his constant encouragement and corrections. So when it came time to publish with him (at Northampton House Press), I was already in a serious mindset and had no problem meeting deadlines and getting things as flawless as possible. Plus, David always gave me the confidence to write like myself. From day one, David treated me very seriously and the time with him was intense (to say the least) but he taught me how to fearlessly stand on my own two feet and to become a dedicated and professional writer. In all, I don’t think I could have learned everything I did, immersed myself in the writing life, and had that kind of personal attention anywhere else than Wilkes. It’s just an awesome program.

Bum Check out the novel at Amazon.com

TN: Any final thoughts you’d like to share with your potential readers?

If you’re looking for a book that has some literary elements but some heavy/noir moments along with nasty fight scenes, then I think The Jiu-Jitsu Bum will be right up your alley. I’m toying with a sequel and I’m also outlining (slowly) two other novels. I’m always plotting a short story or two. There are so many sides to me besides the martial arts in terms of views on the world and personal philosophy and I’m really looking forward to incorporating that sort of thing in my future works, whether they are martial-arts themed or not. I think every writer secretly wants to achieve that. In closing, I’d like to thank The Write Life for this enjoyable interview. Wilkes has always been there for me and the teachers, staff, and students are extremely exceptional people. I could never have achieved the things I have without them.

Time of the Locust by Morowa Yejidé

August 14, 2013

It’s always great to share news of our alumni, but it’s especially great to share news of forthcoming first novel publications.

Morowa Yejidé

Morowa Yejidé

“When you work so hard at something and constantly dream and strategize about it and then you finally do get a YES, it’s hard to believe it,” Morowa Yejidé said. “That was my initial reaction to hearing that my novel, Time of the Locust, was going to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster. Disbelief.” The Wilkes alum said the premise of her novel had been floating around her mind for several years before she even put pen to paper. It’s the story of an autistic boy living in the universe of his mind and his supernatural relationship with his incarcerated father.

Prior to focusing on her thesis, Morowa had a few sample chapters that were published as short stories. With that early success and encouragement, she took the project further. “I decided to give a complete manuscript a serious effort through the Wilkes MFA. The faculty really seemed to be in the trenches as working writers—which was what attracted me to the program,” she said. “I listened to Robert Mooney read one of his powerful, visually-driven narratives and knew right away I wanted to work with him as my Faculty Mentor.”

Morowa was determined to strengthen the story, but she was also eager to have an audience. “I continued revisions along the way, working with Mooney, sending the manuscript out, sort of building the plane while I was flying it. After many rejections from various agents and publishing houses large and small, I decided to try some national competitions.” That’s when she began making headway. “Time of the Locust placed as a finalist in the 2012 PEN/Bellwether Prize and the Dana Awards.”

The Wilkes alum had already seen success in other venues. Her short stories have appeared in the Istanbul Literary Review, Ascent Aspirations Magazine, Underground Voices, the Adirondack Review, and others. One of her stories had been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, too, but she still wanted the book manuscript to strike a chord with publishers. Once she had the selling point as a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize and the Dana Awards, Morowa took another chance. “I sent out more queries. The rest is, as they say, history. Time of the Locust is forthcoming Spring 2014.”

More about Morowa Yejidé can be found on her website at http://morowayejide.com.

Post-Grad, Post-Production: Kevin Conner and the Big Screen

July 31, 2013

M.A. alum Kevin Conner’s film, “Pitchfork,” is in post-production. The film began as a short film project during his time in the Screenwriting Foundations course taught by Ross Klavan. Conner says the film has a simple premise: “A no-luck farmer finds happiness again. It’s a basic love story, with just a few twists.”

Since graduating, Conner has continued working with artistic directors Todd Oravic and Ryan Wood, both recent undergraduate Wilkes students. “Working with Todd and Ryan has been great,” Conner says. “Their energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge made completion of the film possible. I learned an awful lot from them. They are two talented gentlemen.”

Conner is thankful for his time in the Wilkes program for connecting him with the greater writing community. “In my opinion, this is the great intangible of the Wilkes program,” he says. “We all need help from others to keep projects moving along, and the program provides writers with the community necessary to see ideas through. It’s a very valuable resource.”

Sandee Gertz Umbach Earns National Recognition

July 10, 2013

pattern

Alum Sandee Gertz Umbach recently took 2nd place in the Working Class Studies Association’s national “Tillie Olsen” Award for Creative Writing for her published book of poetry, The Pattern Maker’s Daughter.

Each year, the WCSA issues a number of awards to recognize the best new work in the field of working-class studies. The review process is organized by the past-president of the WCSA, and submissions are judged by a panel of three readers for each of the five categories of awards. Comments from judges included this remark: “Sandra Gertz Umbach has a fresh way of seeing the everydayness of working lives.”

While in the program, Gertz Umbach worked with Neil Shepard. The alum says her mentor “helped me to push to the finish line on this book when at times it seemed impossible.”

Congrats, Sandee!

Todd McClimans: Grad Earns National Recognition

July 3, 2013

M.A. alum Todd McClimans has recently been honored with national recognition for his creative work. While in the program, McClimans worked with Lenore Hart and David Poyer on his alternate-history middle grade manuscript, Time Traitor. The manuscript has been declared one of five finalists in the 2013 National Association of Elementary School Principals Children’s Book Award competition.

“I couldn’t believe that my manuscript, Time Traitor, had been named one of the finalists,” says McClimans. ”I’ve been struggling to get my manuscript noticed in the slush piles of many agencies. Becoming a finalist let me know that I had written a viable story and that I do have a chance at achieving my dream.”

McClimans credits the Wilkes writing program for the development and success of his project. “I can’t overstate how much I learned from David Poyer and Lenore Hart,” the alum says. “Dave taught me how to take an idea from beginning to end with the dreaded outline, to hone my voice for brevity and exactness, to trust my story and myself, and to push through self-built walls. With Lenore, I learned to pull my language together and to further hone my voice to reach younger readers. I’m so grateful for their guidance, support, and friendship. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

New Managing Editor for Etruscan Press

June 26, 2013

 

EtruscanLogo

Etruscan Press is delighted to announce that Dr. Jaclyn Fowler has agreed to accept the position of Managing Editor of Etruscan Press. Jackie received her M.F.A. and M.A. from Wilkes University’s Creative Writing program.

Prior to coming to Etruscan Press, Dr. Fowler taught English, Creative Writing, and Education to K-12, undergraduate, graduate, and adult learners in both the traditional ground and asynchronous online classrooms. She also served several independent schools as head of their academic programs and sits on the PA State Board of Private Schools.

Dr. Fowler received her doctorate in Education and Second Language Acquisition from The Pennsylvania State University.

Hippocampus Magazine seeks editors & readers

June 19, 2013

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Hippocampus Magazine, founded by Wilkes alum Donna Talarico, is looking for a few additional volunteer readers and copy editors to join their staff. These are unpaid volunteer positions, but the experience is great for resumes! Reading submissions is a fantastic way to improve your own writing, while also helping shape future issues of a thriving creative nonfiction magazine.

Visit Hippocampus Magazine online for more details and contact Donna Talarico if you are interested in volunteering.

 

 

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

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.

Kait Burrier interviews Crystal Hoffman

April 10, 2013

Typewriters, Pilgrims, and Poetry:

An Interview with Crystal Hoffman

By Kait Burrier

Crystal Hoffman has led poetry workshops across the country, from public libraries to Burning Man Arts and Music Festival. She has taught at cover-sulfurwaterAmerican University of Beirut. Poems from her chapbook Sulfur Water (2012, Hyacinth Girl Press) have been translated into three languages. Hoffman studied creative writing at Carlow University and earned her M.A. from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is currently walking across the United States, gathering and scattering American myths via poetry.

Hoffman began her journey on March 25th, 2013, equipping herself with a tent, a change of clothes, an Olivetti 32 typewriter, and a modified cart affectionately named Connie. She left western Pennsylvania and is headed toward the Pacific northwest on what she anticipates will be a 6 month long journey spanning 2,550 miles on foot. She may be one of the few people who clicks the pedestrian icon while long-distance Google-mapping.

Crystal intends to revive the American myth and engage interested strangers in acts of poetry, much like she did as a founding member of the Typewriter Girls Cabaret. Along with poet Margaret Bashaar, Hoffman organized cabarets focused onparticipatory compositions. Many Typewriter Girls performances included various performing artists and writing games like Exquisite Corpse, and each event began with a typewriter at the door where, upon entering, audience members contributed a phrase to a collective poem.

In her Poetry Pilgrim Project, Crystal will engage in narrative therapy techniques with willing storytellers. Each poem will reflect that individual’s “hero’s journey” in the form of a poem. Crystal will type the poetry on card-stock, tie it with a ribbon, and present it to the individual, unearthing collective glorified narratives that will upturn a trail of American mythologyforged by poetry.

Kait BurrierPhoto: Jason Riedmiller

Kait Burrier
Photo: Jason Riedmiller

I recently had the opportunity to ask Crystal about her write life and about the Poetry Pilgrim Project:

Kait Burrier: You’re a poet, a performance artist, a teacher, an activist—how has all of this informed your writing?

Crystal Hoffman: When I write, I typically hear a voice speaking the words in my head. If I don’t or I’m concerned that something needs altered from how it came out originally, I will repeat it over and over out loud until it sounds right. This sometimes makes me look like a psycho in coffee shops—adds color to the place. I blame this need to hear on how central performance has been to my creative career.

As an activist, I attempt to resolve the paradoxes that frustrate me most in my work. I write poems that I wouldn’t call “issue” poems necessarily, but they attempt to work out why certain injustices and absurdities occur through narrative and images—not necessarily consciously, but they come up. The actual experience of protest I also find to be a poetic one, an energizing one, one wherein you can hear the magic of certain phrases.

There is also a beautiful absurdity to it. I used to be the one always itching for the game to be stepped up, looking for confrontation, hoping for a battle. It was in this space where I could see very clearly how I try to write the situations around me and get frustrated when I can’t manifest them. I have a lot of need for the control of my own story. I’m trying to get over this.

Crystal Hoffmanpoetrypilgrim.com

Crystal Hoffman
poetrypilgrim.com

In terms of being a teacher, I think that I’ve learned more about writing from teaching poetry at the American University of Beirut than I have in all of my schooling—preparing the classes, clarifying concepts for students, grading, re-evaluating my own standards, being forced to assess things I wouldn’t typically read. It was radical. It was possibly the most vital experience of my life.

KB: You are a founding member of the Typewriter Girls. Will you share about this experience?

CH: The Typewriter Girls were my central creative project for about five years. It was a beautiful thing. I was able to utilize the performances to serve as an outlet for nearly all of my creative urges: comedy, collaboration, theater, poetry, dancing, games, performance pieces, even writing the press releases became a pleasure—I wrote them like stories, absurd ones, and people responded to them!

However, this was also problematic, as it came to consume too much of my creative energy, which made me angry, as I became too attached… It was a rush, but a draining one. Margaret (Bashaar, of Hyacinth Girl Press) and I are actually planning on doing a reunion show, but we’re not going to be doing them regularly as we were before. I would love to start writing sketch comedy again and writing scripts for performance art pieces, but I think I’d like to do it as a part of festivals or in someone’s already established troupe.

I see this walk as almost the opposite of the Typewriter Girls, despite the fact that the interview-poem process I will be writing along the way was developed through them.

KB: You have been active in multiple cities across the country in alternative poetry readings. You have taught both locally and abroad. Now you will travel across the country on your own with a typewriter. What do you hope to find? What do you hope to share? Do you have any plans or will you take a day-to-day approach?

CH: I’m definitely taking the day-to-day approach. I know that I’m going to be taking the Great American Discovery Trail at first through West Virginia and to Cincinnati. At that point, I’m going to see what feels right. Hopefully, I can head north from there and get to Montana by July. The only big thing that I want to make is the Rainbow Gathering, but it’s not a huge deal if I don’t. I’m going to try to set up last minute readings/writing sessions as I get a better idea of my timeline, but for now, it’s nebulous. Anything can happen. I like that.

www.poetrypilgrim.com

poetrypilgrim.com

***

If you’re feeling generous, you can donate to Crystal Hoffman’s Kickstarter here: http://www.poetrypilgrim.com/ 

If you’re still feeling generous and want to give her a pair of new walking shoes in exchange for a poem, or if you just want to see what she is up to, you can see Poetry Pilgrim Project updates here: http://www.poetrypilgrim.com/

Kait Burrier is an MFA candidate in the Wilkes Creative Writing Program. She and photographer Jason Riedmiller travel near, far, and further to bring NEPA the latest in live music. Pick up a copy of the Weekender or check www.theweekender.com for updates.