Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Spotlight on Literary Events: February 2017

2017 AWP Conference & Bookfair
Washington Convention Center 
& Washington Marriott Marquis
February 8 - 11, 2017
Celebrating AWP's 50th anniversary!

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is an essential annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers. Each year more than 12,000 attendees join our community for four days of insightful dialogue, networking, and unrivaled access to the organizations and opinion-makers that matter most in contemporary literature. The 2016 conference featured over 2,000 presenters and 550 readings, panels, and craft lectures. The bookfair hosted over 800 presses, journals, and literary organizations from around the world. AWP’s is now the largest literary conference in North America. Join us in Washington, DC, in 2017 to celebrate the best of what contemporary literature has to offer.

Visit the Writer's Center and Poet Lore at booth #234.

The Life of a Poet: Conversations with Ron Charles – Brenda Shaughnessy
The Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20003
Tuesday, February 7th, 7:00 pm

Join Ron Charles, The Washington Post Editor of Book World, for an in-depth discussion with poet Brenda Shaughnessy. The Life of a Poet series offers a rare opportunity to consider a writer’s entire career and explore the major events that have shaped their work. Readings from the work are interspersed throughout the conversation. A book signing will follow.

Brenda Shaughnessy earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and an MFA from Columbia University. She is the author of Interior with Sudden Joy (1999), Human Dark with Sugar (2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, Our Andromeda (2012), and So Much Synth (2016). Her work has appeared in theYale Review, the Boston Review, McSweeney’s, and Best American Poetry, among other places. With C.J. Evans, she edited the anthology Satellite Convulsions: Poems from Tin House Magazine (2009).

East City Bookshop 
645 Pennsylvania Ave SE, Suite 100 Washington DC 20003
Friday, February 10th, 6:00 pm

OutWrite presents readings from four authors: Everett Maroon, Risa Denenberg, David Eye & Craig L. Gidney. Moderated by Joe Okonkwo. RSVP on Facebook, or email This event is free and open to the public.

Kelly Link - Get in Trouble: Stories & Juan Martinez - Best Worst American: Stories
Saturday, February 11th, 6:00 pm
Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008

Link’s hauntingly original work has won her legions of fans—including Michael Chabon and Neil Gaiman. Her latest collection of short fiction features nine stories made of wonder and magic. 

An assistant professor at Northwestern University, Martinez was born in Colombia and has published his fiction in literary journals including TriQuarterly and McSweeney’s. In his first collection he paints a world that’s slightly askew, with characters flummoxed not by the strange but by the ordinary. 

Sligo Journal Reading
Sunday, February 12th, 2:00 pm
The Writers' Center
4508 Walsh St., Chevy Chase, MD 20815

Join editor Robert Giron (recently selected as one of the Heroes Latinos LGBTQ, part of the Latino LGBT History Proeject) and writers published in The Sligo Journal, a publication of Montgomery College. The reading will be followed by a reception. 

Then Come Back: A Celebration Of Pablo Neruda
Tuesday, February 14th, 7:30 pm
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003

Reading Neruda’s poems and poems of their own inspired by him are: award-winning poet, editor, and translator Forrest Gander and poet Javier Zamora. Gander's most recent poetry collection is Core Samples from the World.  Zamora was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US; his first collection of poetry is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. The post–reading conversation will be moderated by poet and translator Carlos Parada Ayala. 

The Deaf Poets Society Reading
Sunday, February 26th, 2:00 pm
The Writers' Center
4508 Walsh St., Chevy Chase, MD 20815

We’re pleased to feature poets published in the Deaf Poets Society, a recently launched on-line journal. Editor Sarah Katz will be joined by Gregory Luce, Jen Stein, Camisha Jones, Carrie Addington, and Isis Nelson. The reading will be followed by a reception.

Literary Trivia 
Monday, February 27th, 6:30 pm
Petworth Citizen

829 Upshur Street, NW Washington, DC 20011

Join The Writer's Center as we bring literary trivia to Petworth Citizen.  Teams of one to four will have an opportunity to show off their book smarts with four rounds of literary questions. Monday nights are all-night happy hour at the bar, so don't miss out, The contest runs from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Interview with Pushcart Prize nominee Holly Karapetkova

This is the first interview with our six nominees for Pushcart Prizes. 

Interview conducted by Ellie Tipton, Managing Editor of Poet Lore, for Holly Karapetkova, 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee.  


Sometimes the moss in a tree
is just moss.
Sometimes it is a body
swinging from a rope.
How you tell the difference
is by getting close enough to see.
Or by waiting for the sun to rise
high enough to clear
the shadows stuck
to your own feet.

The boy is just a boy,
not a big-eyed monster.
The river’s cold and the wind
colder. This is how it works:
I hit him and he screams.
This is how it plays out:
I wring him like a dishcloth
and the truth gushes forth—
the only truth
that will make it out of here alive.

ET: Thank you for this piece, Holly. I think it is interesting that you are taking on the topic of racial violence as a white writer. It seems that there are many white writers who would avoid this subject all together for various reasons, yet, white writers are being asked more and more to examine whiteness and the privileges it provides. Can you speak about how you entered this conversation?  

HK: Well, for many years I was afraid to write about race. I thought I would put my foot in my mouth (or worse) in trying to approach the issue from the position of privilege. But the more I immersed myself in the work of writers of color and the more I began to understand the deep wounds of racism, the more I realized how race had dominated my life, too. The recognition that I had also been traumatized by racism (in that it had dehumanized me and made me into something hateful to myself) gave me permission to enter the conversation. I also realized at some point that white silence can be as harmful as saying the wrong thing—it implies that racism doesn’t concern white people, which is absurd since white people are the ones who have (in the past and present) propagated and benefitted from it.

I’ve spent quite a few years and written many failed poems in trying to figure out how to approach whiteness, in part because of how slippery and insidious it is. I don’t think we can afford to forget about the physical violence at the center of American racism, and in this poem I am trying to confront my own complicity in racial violence.

ET: That’s fascinating, thank you. Can you describe your process for this poem?

HK: I was visiting my parents near Charleston, South Carolina, a city with incredible beauty and charm (antebellum houses facing the sea, old cobblestone streets) but one that also has a deeply disturbing history. Somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of all slaves entering the U.S. came through Charleston. Once you know this fact, it’s difficult to see the beauty without also seeing the violence behind it.  

I went for a walk in the early morning, and the sun was rising, casting long shadows through the moss-draped trees. It was lovely, but I’d recently viewed the lynching postcards on , and I couldn’t help but see bodies hanging from every branch. The first draft of the poem was written in my head on that walk, and though the poem underwent quite a bit of cutting and revision (including some helpful editorial changes suggested by Poet Lore’s Executive Editor,  Jody Bolz), the initial impulse remained intact throughout the revision process.

ET: As a former writing teacher, I think a lot about asking why a piece needs to be written. While the timeliness of this piece is fairly obvious, I’m interested to hear from you why you felt that this poem is urgent? What about it called to you to bring it into the world?

HK: I grew up in the South in a very racialized environment; I never participated in racial violence or outward expressions of hatred, but I continue to be haunted by the more subtle forms of racism and discrimination I was co-opted into before I was even aware of what was happening. Toni Morrison discusses racism as a cause of psychosis, and I have appropriately spent much of my adult life obsessed with the ways that whiteness works-- in both historical and contemporary contexts. I’ve been writing poems about my psychosis for quite a few years now, and I have approached it from a variety of angles. Sometimes, I confront the abstract idea of whiteness, and sometimes, (like in this piece) I confront the physical, bodily violence that accompanies it.

I, like most writers, write about my personal obsessions, but in this case, my personal obsession is also one of the central traumas plaguing our country. I believe that until we (and by “we” I mean white folks but also the nation as a whole) confront the brutal and unethical nature of our past we won’t be able to heal as individuals and as a society. This poem is about getting close to that past and questioning the high cost of some of our power structures, which is the first step in rectifying our patterns of behavior.

ET: In relation to getting close to the past, the concept of Time in this poem seems blurred. In other words, it feels as though this poem references the past, but the events in the poem seem ongoing. How do think about Time in this poem?

HK: Yes—this is a great assessment of the way the poem works. I feel I have spent my entire life trying to shake the racist legacy that I inherited from my Southern childhood, and my personal experiences are (I believe) very much representative of what we are living through as a country: though it feels some days like we are making progress, this poem is about how our past is constantly returning to haunt us. Many of the conversations surrounding our recent presidential election, not to mention the recurring violence to which Black Lives Matters and other groups are responding, make clear how far we have to go in dealing with our past.

ET: Finally, what do you hope that your readers will come away with after reading this poem?

HK: While the title and some of the imagery place this poem in a very particular social context, it is also about human violence and power more broadly. I am fascinated by the ways we are able to lie to ourselves, to accept the narratives presented to us even when they contradict our lived experience and common sense—for example, when those narratives ask us to see another human being as inhuman. I am also fascinated by the ways that “truth” is presented to justify the behavior and desires of those in power. I hope this poem will call readers to examine the particulars of racialized violence but also the abuse of power and “truth” in other ways.

Subscribe to Poet Lore here.

Purchase the Spring/Summer Vol. 111 Number 1/2 
issue where Holly’s poem appears here.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Write, Revise, Research, Submit Rinse, Repeat!

~By Kathryn Brown Ramsperger

So it’s the beginning of a new year and you’re itching to make progress on your novel. You’re meeting your daily writing goals! Congrats! However, if you want to get published, you’ll have to keep up a certain pace after January. I suggest resolving to set aside an hour or two every day to write, revise, research, and submit. Here’s how I wrote my forthcoming novel, The Shores of Our Souls, which will be published by Touchpoint Press later this year:

Write More: You may not believe me, but it’s perfectly achievable to write a full novel in 30 days, 60 days, or 90 days—if you write every day. Even if it takes you three months to get your first draft, that’s amazing progress!  Even once you have your first draft, though, you have to keep writing as often as possible.

Revise More:  I had a critique group, a book club, and two developmental editors read my work. Each time we met, I used their feedback to revise my novel. My writing strengths are dialogue, detail, and characterization, and my weakness used to be the plot. Notice I said, “used to be,” that’s because I learned more about constructing the plot each time I revised. The more your work is read, the more your weakness will become your strengths. The more your writing improves, the better your chances of securing an agent and/or publisher.

Research More:  There is a cornucopia of resources online, in print, and in the community that can advise you on writing fiction. Use them. Ask questions. Take a class. You can research a scene, a method or technique, or facts to solidify your writing. You can also research how to submit and market your book.

Submit More: Once I completed my third draft, I began submitting my manuscript to agents. I also submitted stories to 25-30 literary journals every quarter.  Many agents wrote lovely words about my manuscript, but I submitted to over 200 agents before I found the right fit.  In fact, it was a guest blog that I wrote that caught the attention of my now agent—an agent who subsequently submitted my work to 197 publishers before it was accepted by Touchpoint.  All along the way, I saw sparks of interest from agents. This made my heart sing because a) it meant the publisher read my pages; and b) they liked my work enough not to send a standard rejection form letter. 

Rinse and Repeat!  If you knock on 50 doors selling vacuums, you’ll sell less than if you knock on 500. Publishing (good enough) fiction is a numbers game. I call my “rejections” my “permission slips to proceed.”  Every time I got a rejection, I sent a query to another publication—either a journal, an online magazine, or an agent. Agents look for a portfolio of fiction to show that you are a serious professional.  

Never give up! Don’t stop writing, researching markets, or submitting! Today’s authors are lucky to be able to send simultaneous submissions. Take advantage of this opportunity, and don’t worry too much about rejections.  If you take these steps, you’ll soon have a home for your book baby.

Kathryn Brown Ramsperger’s debut novel will be published by Touchpoint Press in summer 2017. You can read more about it at, where you’ll also find information about Kathryn and her other writing, including her nonfiction, short stories, and blog. She’s also a creativity coach, and you can contact her at 301-503-5150.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Meet the Instructor: Marija Stajic

 ~ By Catherine Gregoire

            At the Writer’s Center, we love welcoming new members to our ever-expanding community of talented writers, authors, teachers, and literary enthusiasts. This is why we’re especially excited to welcome Marija Stajic, the newest TWC workshop leader!
            Marija comes to TWC with a long literary history. She is the winner of both The Writer’s Center 2014 Undiscovered Voices Fellowship, and the Neoverse Short Story Award (top 20 out of 4000). Her unpublished novel, Refugee and her book of secrets, was a Washington Writer’s and Publishing House 2015 competition finalist. Marija received a BA in Literature from the University of Nis in Serbia, and an MA in International Journalism from American University. She studied fiction at both The George Washington University and The Writer’s Center, and playwriting at HB Studios in New York City. Marija’s work has been published in the Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, South 85, Gargoyle, Epiphany, Lunch Ticket, Inertia literary journals, and in the Defying Gravity and Threads anthologies. Marija is also the author of three collections of poetry in Serbian.
Born in the former Yugoslavia, Marija is no stranger to transcultural and transnational experiences. In fact, she says that her time spent living in various countries has made her a better writer. In fact, she plans to draw on her unique background to teach two upcoming Winter/Spring workshops: Multicultural Fiction and How to Build Complex Characters.

The Writer’s Center: Why are you teaching these particular topics? Why are they important to you?

Marija Stajic: “I'm teaching these particular topics because my brilliant former novel teacher, Amin Ahmad, thought that I would do a good job. It is/was something that TWC didn't offer until now. I believe diversity and options in education are always good.”

TWC: How would you say the concept of sharing culture and reaching beyond one’s culture through writing can impact both writer and audience?

MS: “I think people read fiction because it transfers them into different worlds—often ones they would never be able to experience in person. I know that I love to read about cultures I know nothing about. It's mysterious; it's exotic. I feel like I'm learning while I'm hovering over a scene a great writer created—like Junot Diaz of Dominican Republic, Jhumpa Lahiri of India, or Orhan Pamuk of Turkey. I also believe that people should write what only they can write. I happen to have a somewhat unique experience of growing up in the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia under Tito, then living in dictatorship of Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, then surviving NATO bombardment of Serbia, and then immigrating to the United States five years later to start a whole new life. As I recently said to a Serbian journalist who is writing a story about my winning the Neoverse Short Story Writing Competition, I am bilingual, have two college degrees in two languages, and I have two driver's licenses. I had to take a test to become an American citizen. I had to do things twice that most people only do once. I believe these unique experiences make me the writer I am today, for better or worse. Why not share my experiences with people who are interested in hearing about them?” 

TWC: What are you up to next? What are your future plans and goals?

MS: “I will be teaching two TWC courses in January: Complex Characters and Multicultural Fiction. For more than 15 years, I have been teaching Serbo-Croatian and Bosnian languages and literature, but this will be a different kind of teaching. I am excited about it. I look forward to being a part of TWC's community of teachers and writers. I plan on immersing myself into my best teacher-self, and preparing for these courses with energy and enthusiasm. I'm also writing my second novel, The American Sorceress. I'm only at 55,000 words of the first draft, but I am hopeful that after some strenuous and diligent workshopping with my TWC peers, I will be able to find a legitimate publisher for it.” 

We’re excited to have Marija on board to teach these exciting new classes! We believe that just as it has for Marija, an exposure to multiculturalism will make us all more effective writers. We hope you can join her in January! Click here for course registration information.