"I was fascinated with the idea of magical girls, which is this whole genre in anime/manga focused on girls with magical powers who are as feminine as superheroes are traditionally masculine. I just really needed there to be a magical girl who wore a hijab so that I could feel that my hijab could be as pretty as their tiaras."
I’m sitting with a friend of mine, all silver-dreadlocked beauty cradling a red wine martini in hand, at a bar in downtown Saint Paul. We are discussing poetry with a woman who has just flown over from Syracuse, New York to see this particular spoken word competitive bout. Nighttime has nestled in and all of the performers have dissipated. Winner announced, cameras turned off, the laugher and collected gasps in the air trickle down from the rafters. The woman passionately discusses wanting to meet Neil Hilborn. I still recall when he worked the cash register at a Tea Garden next to Macalester campus, beardless and fresh-faced, with piercing blue eyes crinkling at the edges. Never did I imagine this man going on to top 13 million views on Youtube and become an iconic element to Button Poetry.
Button Poetry is the largest digital distributor of spoken word in the world. With the assistance of the Knight Foundation, Button Poetry Live is a monthly poetry slam competition that features nationally renowned poets and local talent, as well as free writing workshops open to the public.
“Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference,” writes Stephen King, in his book, On Writing. I always remember this quote wrong, such that Stephen King credits having a supportive someone as making all the difference. A supportive writing community has made all the difference in my own writing practice. And in this, at least, I’m not alone. Many craft books and books on the writing life counsel writers to find a writing community and to get feedback on our writing. A writing group can be a great way to address both of these needs. But how do you find a writing group? Friends, acquaintances, and students who know I teach writing at the Loft Literary Center, often ask: Can the Loft help me find a writing group? The answer is, Yes! Because I get this question often, I decided to compile my response into a list and share it with you here. If you’re looking for a writing group, I hope you find this helpful.
Zinzi Clemmons's What We Lose is about many things, but most profoundly it's about the death of the narrator's mother, examining the loss in ways that are both unusual and devastating.
The structure of the book is slightly unusual. The story follows the same character and seems to always employ the same voice, yet sections are distinct, even fragmented, and chronology is loose. Interspersed with narrative passages are philosophical musings, historical analyses, journalistic essays, and even a few graphs. They're all about the novel's themes, but they don't build in the way most of us are used to. I'd like to look at some techniques Clemmons uses to hold this book together, despite the disparate-seeming parts.
“I write professionally,” I told her. “I’m a freelancer.”
She gave a sniff. “What, are you a trust fund baby or something?”
The question bothered me so much that I spent most of the next morning brooding about it, dreaming up responses I could say to her as soon as I had access to a time machine. I pictured a soapbox speech about how I achieved my dreams through hard work and elbow grease, and she could too, damn it! Anyone could...right?
Something scritch-scratched at the walls of my indignation.
Could anyone pick up freelance writing?
"As a young Hmong writer, I wanted to read other Hmong writers. I wanted to know if they were struggling, with their moms and cultures. I started this literary arts magazine and the only people I could convince to do free work were college kids. In not finding Hmong writers and voices in even the Asian American anthologies, and having these social scientists study us and speak for us, it was important for me and other Hmong writers to be able to tell stories in our own voices."
“What is the importance of poetry to youth? And what is its overall benefit to youth development?”
One of my favorite responses to that question is to describe my experience with a long-standing Chicagoan youth spoken word forum known as Young Chicago Authors (YCA).
In a darkly lit room in west end Chicago, nestled above a weathered green building with an almost comically placed “New Fish” shop sits Young Chicago Authors (YCA)—a home away from home for many youth coming from Chicago public schools that aim to refine their unabashed lyrical and literary sound.
One of my favorite parts of being an agent is seeing my authors celebrate the release of their books. It’s like Christmas, except it’s a figurative Book Christmas and it can happen almost any day of the year.
Yet what’s not often discussed is all the time it takes before those books reach readers and bookshelves. Many people and many steps lead to this happening, but also one important key in this process is the timing, specifically when publishers decide to release any book into the world.
Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones is the story of a family caught in Hurricane Katrina. It's also about lost mothers, new mothers, dogs, and community. The narrator is Esch, a fifteen-year-old girl who is newly and secretly pregnant and who grieves deeply for her mother, who died a long time ago.
I'm interested in the way Esch's memories of her mother affect her storytelling style and the greater narrative.
April Gibson is a poet, essayist, and educator whose work has appeared in Pluck!, Valley Voices, Tidal Basin Review, Literary Mama, and elsewhere. She has received a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, a Vermont Studio Center Residency, and is a fellow of The Watering Hole Poetry Retreat, a VONA/Voices Writing Workshop fellow, and a Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop fellow. Her chapbook, Automation (2015), was published by Willow Books as part of their emerging poet and writer series. Her current project is a full-length poetry collection titled The Black Woman Press Conference. I met April some years ago at a reading at Common Good Books and I was immediately struck by her poetry’s force and grace. It was my pleasure to interview this bright, bold light about her recent and in-progress performance and poetic work.