Burlington Book Festival

The Dipper - September 2019

"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know

 

September News

Welcome to September! We hope you all had a good August, read some books, attended a reading or two, and maybe even wrote a thing or two. Although we took August off from writing The Dipper, that doesn’t mean we were lazing in our hammocks. Oh no. We’ve been up to stuff…

Our first Poetry & Pie in 2017 was just our third event and it was a major leap for this fledgling organization. We learned a lot that first time out and Poetry & Pie II was even better. But, you know, we think that this year’s Poetry & Pie was our best one yet! We owe much of the day’s success to the many talented, patient, and energetic people who help make our literary dreams come true. Our grateful thanks to all of you for making this event not only possible but perfect. We can’t wait to do it all again with you next summer!

As if Poetry & Pie weren’t amazing enough on its own, the day also marked the release of our first Little Dipper chapbook, Half-Fabulous Whales, by Rena J. Mosteirin. Little Dippers are produced as limited editions of 25, numbered and signed. They have letterpressed covers and are hand-stitched with linen thread that matches the cover’s ink color. Creating these books has been a dream of ours for some time and we’re thrilled with how they’ve turned out. We’re busy working on the second edition, an essay by Ben Cosgrove, which we intend to release by the end of the year. Although Edition 1 is sold out, you can visit the Little Dipper page for more information about the Little Dipper series and to download a free digital version of Half-Fabulous Whales.

One of our favorite things about the Slow Club Book Club is that we really are slow… and quiet. Sometimes we hear from members about their thoughts about the current book, but, even when we don’t, we really enjoy knowing you’re all out there, reading along at your own pace. We recently sent a check-in newsletter to members about the current book, Tove Jansson’s The Woman Who Borrowed Memories. We’ll soon be announcing our final book in our year of Women in Translation. Visit our Slow Club Book Club page for more information.

Have you heard about Ducks, Newburyport, by Lucy Ellmann, which has been longlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize? The Guardian says this “1000-page monologue of an angst-ridden US homemaker fretting about love, loss and the state of the nation is an unabashed triumph.” Already released in the UK and coming out on September 10 in the US, this book is really calling to us. In fact, we have a crazy idea: let’s read this behemoth together! We’re still finalizing the plan, but the general idea is to work our way through the book at a steady pace of about 50 pages a week starting on September 20. If you’re up for the challenge, sign up for the Ducks, Newburyport Read Along and we’ll be in touch on September 10 with more details.

September, Schmeptember! It’s still summer in our our hearts, which means you still have time to complete your Adult Summer Reading Bingo card and claim your “Still North, Still Reading” tote bag from Allie Levy of Still North Books & Bar (opening later this year in Hanover, New Hampshire). To play, just download the card, and note the books you’ve read that match the card’s categories. Once you have “bingo,” take a photo of your completed card and email it to hi@stillnorthbooks.com. You’ll win a “Still North, Still Reading” tote!

Speaking of summer, we’ve been busy collecting and sharing summer reading lists on our blog. Check out the lists from Allie Levy of Still North Books & Bar; Becky Karush, creator and host of the READ TO ME podcast; writer and musician Ben Cosgrove; Angela Evancie, host of the Brave Little State podcast; Christopher Hermelin and Drew Broussard of the So Many Damn Books podcast; reader, writer, and book lover P. T. Smith; and Katherine Forbes Riley, author of The Bobcat. If you can’t find a book in all those lists to carry you into October, we need to know!

Miciah Bay Gault’s debut novel, Goodnight Stranger, came out on July 30 to much acclaim (in fact, The New York Times just included Goodnight Stranger in their The Shortlist column). Miciah, who teaches in the MFA in Writing & Publishing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts and coordinates the Vermont Book Award, graciously answered all our questions about her book and her writing process in an interview on our blog.

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When Becky Karush, creator and host of the READ TO ME podcast, asked us to suggest a book for her podcast, we didn't hesitate! Mary Ruefle's Madness, Rack, and Honey is one of our favorites. We love the way Becky found her way into this book, which she initially found challenging. As she put it, “How do you read work that makes you feel... stupid?…It moves faster than I can catch. I get wavery inside. I slap up walls between me and the work to protect myself — and I am lost. This is why Mary Ruefle's MADNESS, RACK, AND HONEY is a gift.” While you’re on the READ TO ME site, check out the other episodes too; you’re sure to find an episode that appeals to your reading tastes.


September’s Shooting Stars

A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month!

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September Highlights

On Thursday, September 5, a group of New England Poets will gather at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, to read from the recently published Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall. The reading by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Kyle Potvin, Scott T. Hutchison, Jessica Purdy, Andrew Periale, and James Fowler begins at 6:00 pm.

Sydney Lea

Sydney Lea

On Friday, September 6 at 6:00 pm, you have a difficult choice: either catch former Poet Laureate of Vermont Sydney Lea reading from Here, his thirteenth poetry collection, at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, or see award-winning poet Phillip Williams reading at the Frost Stone House Museum in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

David Shields, Rita Banerjee, and Frances Cannon kick off the Vermont College of Fine Arts Fall 2019 Reading Series at Cafe Anna on the VCFA campus in Montpelier, Vermont, on Wednesday, September 11. The series continues on Friday, September 27, with readings by Janaka Stucky, Miciah Bay Gault, and Erin Stalcup. All readings begin at 5:30 pm.

Sue Burton

Sue Burton

Also on Wednesday, September 11, Madeline ffitch is reading from her new and widely acclaimed novel, Stay and Fight, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, at 6:00 pm.

Poets Sue Burton and Sara London are reading at the Fleming Museum of Art on Thursday, September 12, in Burlington, Vermont, as part of the Painted Word Poetry Series. The reading begins at 7:00 pm.

Patrick Donnelly ends this year’s Hyla Brook Reading Series with a reading on Thursday, September 12, at 6:30 pm, at The Frost Farm in Derry, New Hampshire.

Chen Chen. Photo by Jess Chen

Chen Chen. Photo by Jess Chen

The AVA Gallery’s quarterly story-telling series, The Mudroom, returns on Thursday, September 12, in Lebanon, New Hampshire, with the theme “Breaking the Rules.” Food is available for purchase starting at 6:30 pm. The storytelling begins at 7:00 pm. Tickets go quickly for this event, so grab yours soon.

The 5th Annual New Hampshire Poetry Festival is on Saturday, September 14, at New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire. This year’s festival features headline reader Ilya Kaminsky. Workshop leaders are Chen Chen, Patrick Donnelly, Maudelle Driskell, and Joan Houlihan. Visit the Festival website for more information and to register.

Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison

Join a community celebration of Toni Morrison at 118 Elliot in Brattleboro, Vermont, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm on Saturday, September 14. The event will feature local writers and community members reading the work of Ms. Morrison, followed by an open mic for others to share brief statements, quotes and favorite lines by the author.

The Kent’s Corner annual Words Out Loud series begins on Sunday, September 15, with readings by novelist Susan Ritz and poet Sue Burton. The series continues on September 22 with Rick Winston and Elizabeth A. I. Powell, and on September 29 with Daniel Lusk and Janet Pocorobba. All readings take place at the Old West Church in Calais, Vermont, and begin at 3:00 pm.

Best-selling author Emma Donoghue (Room) presents her latest novel, Akin, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire, at 6:00 pm on Thursday, September 19.

On Wednesday, September 25, see novelist Rachel Lyon read as part of Bennington College’s Fall Literature Readings. The reading will be held in Franklin House on the Bennington campus from 7:00 to 8:00 pm.

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The Burlington Book Festival arrives on the scene September 27 to 29 at various locations in the Queen City including The Fletcher Free Library and Contois Auditorium. Garret Keizer gives the inaugural reading and the festival is dedicated to Governor Madeleine Kunin. Other participating authors include Peter Money, Nancy Richardson, Megan Price, and Emily Bernard. This year’s Festival features “Says You! The Inside Story,” a special benefit event. Please visit the Festival website for the full schedule of events.

Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!

 

Worth a Drive

  • Amherst Poetry Festival - September 19 to 22 in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Festival kicks off with a block party and poetry slam on September 19. Workshops, readings by Paisley Rekdal, Adrian Matejka, Paige Lewis, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Melanie Goodreaux, and Alicia Mountain, and more. Plus the annual Emily Dickinson Poetry Marathon, a one-day reading of all 1,789 of Emily Dickinson’s poems!

  • BLK FMNNST Loaner Library 1989–2019, Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts - September 25 (also meets November 7 and December 5) - A community book club facilitated by Gwendolyn Van Sant. The book for the September event is Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

 

Worth a Listen

We’ve been saving up podcast episodes since we didn’t have an August Dipper. Here’s a bunch of truly riveting conversations for you!

  • Max Porter discussing his novel, Lanny, with David Naimon on Between the Covers was quite memorable and fantastic.

  • Don’t miss Aimee Nezhukumatathil with Franny Choi and Danez Smith on the VS podcast.

  • Mira Jacob on So Many Damn Books!

  • Local author Peter Orner on KCRW’s Bookworm discusses his latest, Maggie Brown & Others, with Michael Silverblatt. And while you are over at Bookworm, don’t miss the conversation with Ocean Vuong all about proximity.

  • Julia Phillips discusses the inspiration for her debut, Disappearing Earth, with Maris Kreizman on The Maris Review.

  • Sarah Broom’s conversation with Paul Holdengraber on A Phone Call From Paul was so inspiring. Her book, The Yellow House, is at the top of our stack.

 

We're Looking Forward to These September Releases


Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines

MacDowell Colony Winter/Spring 2020 Residency
Applications open mid July for the Winter/Spring 2020 residency season (February 1 through May 31) in Peterborough, New Hampshire. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations, and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. Applications must include a description of your proposed project, a letter of reference, and information about your artistic work such as education, training, and artistic achievements, as well as examples of current work. There is a $30 non-refundable application processing fee.
Deadline: September 15 | Details

Northern Woodlands Conference
Register now to attend this year’s Northern Woodlands Conference (October 18-20) at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont. The conference is a fun, informal weekend and vibrant mix of speakers. This year’s gathering includes natural history talks, readings, writing workshops, and hands-on experiences, from nature journaling to photography to late-season bee lining! Featuring presentations by David Carroll, Chris Maynard, Laurel Symes, Wyatt Oswald, and a special celebration in honor of Northern Woodland’s 25 anniversary. $225 to $425.
Deadline: September 30 | Details

“Poems of New Hampshire” Poetry Contest
This contest, sponsored by the Peterborough Poetry Project, is open to anyone living in, visiting, or intrigued by New Hampshire may enter by writing and submitting up to three original unpublished poems on the theme of "New Hampshire, past, present, future, or fantasy." The writers of the first-, second-, and third-place poems will win $75, $35, and $25, respectively.
Deadline: September 30 | Details

SNHU Mountainview Low-Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction
Applications are open for the January 2020 cohort. You will spend two years honing your skills in a small cohort of students, learning from national best-selling and award-winning authors, and receiving personal consultation from leading agents and editors. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis. $40 application fee.
Deadline: October 1 | Details

Hunger Mountain Issue 24: Patterns
General submissions are open in prose and poetry on the theme of patterns. Work must not have been published before, including online.
Deadline: October 15 | Details

Lifelines Magazine
Accepting submissions of original and unpublished short stories, nonfiction, poetry, and artwork for their 2020 issue. While they consider a broad spectrum of subject matter for publication, they are looking for pieces that speak to the experience of medicine in some way.
Deadline: October 31 | Details

Tupleo Press’s Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize
Now accepting submissions for the annual poetry prize for adult writers. This year’s prize is judged by Cornelius Eady. The Sunken Garden Chapbook Poetry Prize includes a cash award of $1,000 in addition to publication by Tupelo Press, 25 copies of the winning title, an introductory reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, a book launch, and national distribution with energetic publicity and promotion.
Deadline: October 31 | Details

Bloodroot Literary Magazine
Submissions are open for Bloodroot, Volume 12. Send three to five pages of poetry or 10 to 12 pages of fiction and nonfiction in Microsoft Word format. For other work, like an experimental form or digital project, please send a one-page proposal and they will be in touch if they want to see more. They are looking for new, unpublished work.
Deadline: December 31 | Details

Center for Cartoon Studies, MFA Degree and Certificate Programs
Now accepting applications for the MFA, one- and two-year certificate programs, and low-residency second-year option. Learn all you need to know about making comics and self-publishing in a prolific and dynamic environment and community. $50 application fee.
Deadline: rolling admissions until programs are filled | Details

Junction Magazine
Junction Magazine founder James Napoli has moved to Minneapolis. With his blessing, a local collective has decided to re-launch the magazine, and they invite you to contribute. Pitches and submissions should fit into one or several categories/subject areas: arts and culture, food and farm, people, wild, photo essays, and the calendar.
Deadline: rolling submissions | Details


Upcoming Workshops and Classes

Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop One-Day Craft Classes and Multi-Week Workshops
Starting September 7
The Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop hosts a series of one-day craft classes and multi-week workshops throughout the fall. Class topics include nonfiction writing, fiction character development, writing about the body, writing dialogue, memoir writing, short story writing, poetry revision, and more.
Location: Williamsburg, Massachusetts | Cost: $60-$350 | Details

Igniting Creativity with James Crews
Saturdays starting September 7, 1:00 to 3:30 pm

Many of us have the idea that poetry is some abstract, inaccessible craft reserved for those in obscure academic circles. As this workshop will reveal, however, beautiful and moving poetry can emerge from the details of everyday life. Each week, we will work from examples and prompts that invite us to turn the so-called ordinary objects, images and memories of our lives into fuel for extraordinary art that reaches out and touches others. All skill levels are welcome.
Location: Equinox Village, Manchester, Vermont | Cost: $75 | Details

Writing Intensive: Drafting, Developing, and Revising Your Work with Joni Cole
September 8, 9:30 am to 12:30 pm

Writers face a lot of very real challenges, from the intimidation of a blank page, to a sense of staleness during the drafting process, to a dearth of quality feedback. During this interactive workshop, we’ll cover techniques of narrative craft essential to empowering your prose. You’ll find your muse (and likely not where you expected). And you’ll get instructive feedback to help you write forward productively. Open to new and seasoned writers serious about making progress. Space is very limited.
Location: Writer’s Center of White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: $115 | Details

Writing Ecopsychology: Nature Writing and Personal Narrative with Carly Wynn
Sundays, September 8 to 29, 1:00 to 2:30 pm

The natural world provides ample opportunity to connect with our creative selves. Words can be harnessed to capture the essence of our most profound experiences in nature, and to share those experiences with readers. This class is an opportunity to take a deep dive into personal experiences in nature and their link to the emotional currents of our lives. No prior ecopsychology experience necessary, though participants should come prepared to write about their experiences in nature and how these experiences link to personal or universal themes.
Location: Writer’s Center of White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: $145 | Details

OSHER @Dartmouth Fall Term
September 16 to November 15
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Dartmouth is a volunteer, non-profit (501c3) organization that provides educational programs year-round for residents in the greater Upper Valley and North Haverhill. The coming term offers a variety of classes in writing and literature, including classes on James Joyce’s Ulysses, writing and telling the well-told story, reading graphic novels, Shakespeare, John Updike, participating in writing circles, and writing poetry. Classes are open to members only ($70 annual fee).
Location: Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: $40 to $80 | Details

Introduction to Bookbinding: Making a Pamphlet with Deborah Howe
September 9, 5:00 to 6:30 pm

In this workshop you will make single signature, pamphlets with covered boards and possibly double signature pamphlets. Variations of pamphlet binding, tool cleaning, and brush cleaning will also be reviewed.
Location: Dartmouth Book Arts Workshop, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

Practicing Non-Judgement: A Meditation and Writing Retreat with Jeffrey Slayton and Joni Cole
September 20, 5:30 to 8:00 pm

As humans, part of our mind’s natural capacity is to analyze and try to make sense of our experience. When this process is unconscious we can have a tendency for our analysis to turn into habitual judgement of others and ourselves. This workshop offers participants the opportunity to practice ways of letting go of blame and judgment; to shift our minds into a more open, supportive, and tranquil space. During this retreat we will practice sitting and walking meditation. We also will write from a “prompt,” as a means of inspiring a freedom of expression and rich creative flow. Absolutely no meditation or writing experience is required to attend this retreat.
Location: Shambala Center of White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: free but donations are appreciated | Details

Ways of Re-seeing in Words: Ekphrastic Poetry Workshop with Rick Agran and Karla Van Vliet
September 22, 9:00 to 11:00 am

In this workshop participants select a compelling work of art from the reVision exhibit and seek to celebrate and explore it in words.
Location: Kent Museum, Calais, Vermont | Cost: free | Details

Fall Writing Workshop with Robin MacArthur
Tuesdays, September 24 to October 29, 5:30 to 7:30 pm

This supportive, encouraging and semi-formal workshop is for writers of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry. Both new and established writers are welcome, though we do have an application process for this intimate session. In this six-week workshop, we will get to know one another and our goals. We will do some generative work, talk a lot about process and some about craft, and create a generous circle of (gentle) feedback.
Location: Word House, Brattleboro, Vermont | Cost: $180 | Details

Writing Memoir: A Sense of Memory with Jenny Gelfan
Thursdays, September 24 to November 12

Our lives are full of stories: comedies, dramas, mysteries, the wonders of everyday moments. This class will guide you to dive in and gather images, sounds, fragrances, feelings, and experiences, that you can capture in words. These fragments together tell a story about each life. The class' focus will be on exploration. You will write from prompts, have an opportunity to read what others have written, and enjoy each other’s creativity.
Location: AVA Gallery, Lebanon, New Hampshire | Cost: $25 | Details

Sustenance: A Yoga and Expressive Writing Workshop with Deb Heimann and Joni Cole
September 28, 12:00 to 3:00 pm

In this intimately-sized three-hour “retreat” we welcome all who wish to reap the warmth and sustenance within ourselves, as a means of preparing for the winter ahead. As part of the yoga experience, we will practice breathing exercises, poses to nourish us, and heart-centered intention. We also will write from a “prompt” as a means of exploring and harvesting our thoughts and feelings on the page and aloud. Absolutely no yoga or writing experience is required to attend this retreat.
Location: Upper Valley Yoga, White River Junction, Vermont | Cost: 55 | Details

Letterpress Intensive Informational Meeting: Bilingual Poetry with Won Chung
September 29, 2:00 to 3:00 pm

The Letterpress Intensive workshop is offering an opportunity to explore letterpress typography by typesetting and printing poetry interlined with its translation in a second language and typeface. Participants will learn about historic typefaces and how to hand set and print a short poem of their choice using movable metal type. At the end of this introductory session, attendees can decide if they would like to register to participate in this workshop. Subsequent sessions will be held on Sunday afternoons from 2:00 to 5:00 pm through the term.
Location: Dartmouth Book Arts Workshop, Hanover, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

The Art of Writing: The Power of Visual Media in Storytelling
September 28, 8:30 am to 3:15 pm
The League of Vermont Writers’ fall Gathering. Details are still being finalized. Check their website for more information.
Location: St. Albans Historical Society & Museum, St. Albans, Vermont | Cost: $47 non-members, $32 members | Details

Family, Memory, Place: Writing Family Stories with Maura MacNeil
September 29, 3:00 to 4:00 pm

What family stories do you carry with you? What story do you tell over and over? What landscape do you cherish the most? One of the deepest human instincts is to tell our life stories, to figure out who we are and what it means to be human. This interactive workshop explores how the landscapes of our lives shape the stories that we tell. Participants explore the themes of family, memory, and place through sample narratives and a series of short writing exercises, gaining a deeper awareness of how their stories can preserve personal, generational, and communal history.
Location: Plainfield Town Hall, Plainfield, New Hampshire | Cost: free | Details

Comics Workshop with Marek Bennett
October 5
Join New Hampshire teaching artist Marek Bennett for a hands-on comics creation lab, featuring basic techniques of cartooning, comics creation, and self-publishing. Learn to create and publish original comics based on primary sources of social justice activism in Vermont and elsewhere. No experience required.
Location: Billings Library at UVM, Burlington, Vermont | Cost: free | Details

Writer’s Workshop with Rick Bass
October 11 to October 13
Writer and activist Rick Bass leads an intensive weekend workshop for up to eight writers who seek to improve their craft. Hands-on group sessions, both mornings and afternoons, will include active workshopping of individual manuscripts and craft-focused discussion. Writers at all levels will find support and challenge for their work. To apply, e-mail up to 15 pages of a manuscript—fiction, poetry or non-fiction—to landskeinfarm@gmail.com. Manuscripts will be reviewed and accepted on a rolling basis. A non-refundable deposit of $375 is due upon acceptance.
Location: Craftsbury Outdoor Center, Craftsbury Commons, Vermont | Cost: $1,250 | Details

Vermont Humanities Council Fall Conference
November 15 to 16

Registration is open for the 2019 Fall Conference, “Searching for Home: Journeys, Quests and Migrations.” The conference includes talks and breakout sessions on the topic of “the search for home.” This year’s plenary speakers include essayist and novelist Kiese Laymon, clarinetist Kina Azmeh, Dr. Hasia Diner from New York University, and professor Carol Dougherty from Wellesley College.
Location: University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont | Cost: $149; $99 for students | Details

Interview: Bethany C. Morrow

The Burlington Book Festival lands in Burlington, Vermont, on October 12 to 14, with an amazing lineup including Mary Jo Bang, Dan Chiasson, Maria Hummel, Mark Leyner, Bethany Morrow, and Sharon Olds. This is the last in a series of four interviews in celebration of the Festival.

Bethany C. Morrow is the author of the debut novel, MEM, published by the wonderful small publisher, Unnamed Press. Publisher’s Weekly describes MEM as “ambitious and insightful, raising questions about memory, trauma, and humanity.” Morrow was an Indies Introduce Debut Author selected by the American Booksellers Association. Originally from California, she currently lives in upstate New York.

Thank you, Bethany!

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Literary North: Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

Bethany Morrow: I think my writing process adapts to each individual project, but there are some places where I start. The transition from thinking about writing something (which is a step in the writing process) to literally writing about it requires, for me, a first line; an inciting incident, or reason the story is starting now; a character I know (or think I know for now); a sound (as in a song that matches the emotional tenor of the character or incident or); a climax.

Once I have those things I write a first chapter, which tends to be establishing, so it's not very long. Like introducing yourself before you start blabbering on to someone who doesn't want to know you, lol. And then I see what I've learned from that introduction, and go back to thinking. Once I know the next few steps, I start writing toward the end of the first act, at which point I stop again and go back to thinking because things organically develop and I want to write the story not the story that first appeared in my head if it isn't true anymore. The process goes a bit like that through the climax, until I know how it ends.

LN: What influences have helped shape you into the writer you are today?

BM: A reader might be a better person to answer that. I can only say what meant a lot to me as a young reader/writer: Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and everything by Toni Morrison (especially up through Love, since that's when I was rabidly reading and rereading her, including essays and interviews).

LN: What was the kernel of the idea for your novel, MEM? What inspired you and influenced your writing as you worked toward its completion?

BM: The kernel of the idea was making cloning more interesting than I find it in real life, lol. And then determining that the most interesting person in that world would be such a clone, but one that doesn't match her intended purpose, and because there's an expectation on her to prove her humanness, she has such a shallow pool of "respectable" identity expression while others who are never questioned are free to be inhuman. 

LN: What brings you joy?

BM: My son, of course, before everything. The right words. A sound too perfect to be translated into words. A shared happiness.

LN: What was the most memorable thing you read in the past month?

BM: I started reading What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, and from the first page, the gasp I made at the end of the first story, it's just intoxicating.

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Interview: Mary Jo Bang

The Burlington Book Festival lands in Burlington, Vermont, on October 12 to 14, with an amazing lineup including Mary Jo Bang, Dan Chiasson, Maria Hummel, Mark Leyner, Bethany Morrow, and Sharon Olds. This is the third in a series of four interviews in celebration of the Festival.

Mary Jo Bang is the author of several books of poems, including A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017), The Last Two Seconds (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Bride of E: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2009), and Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and was a 2008 New York Times Notable Book. She teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.

Of A Doll for Throwing, Publisher’s Weekly says, “Bang’s impeccable collection reads as a ‘circular mirror of the social order,’ reflecting the historicity of our current moment with wit, subtlety, and grace.” And The Washington Post writes, “Mary Jo Bang bends and tosses ideas as easily as one would a Wurfpuppe, a flexible doll created by Bauhaus artist Alma Siedhoff-Buscher that always landed with grace when thrown.”

Thank you, Mary Jo, for your wonderful answers to our questions!

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Literary North: Tell us a little bit about your writing process.

Mary Jo Bang: My writing practice changed when computers replaced typewriters. When I began, I kept notebooks or wrote on loose sheets of paper—when the poem felt resolved, I would type it. Now, I usually compose a poem on the computer and print it out when it feels somewhat settled. I then mark changes on that piece of paper and eventually go back to the computer and make more changes. I repeat that cycle for anywhere from minutes to weeks or months. Because it’s far easier to make changes on the computer, compared to retyping a poem from start to finish, I think the process of composing remains fluid for longer.

There is also the fact that when I began writing, I had the luxury of sitting in front of a blank piece of paper for hours or days, never knowing whether it might become something worth saving. I’m busier now and also clearer about what I want to say. I can’t imagine sitting in front of a piece of paper for days. I may not write as often but when I sit down to write, I write (meaning, I type what I write on a keyboard).

LN: What influences have helped shape you into the writer you are today?

MJB: I remain influenced by Samuel Beckett, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Sigmund Freud, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Jean Toomer, Gertrude Stein, early Eliot, my friends, my teachers, my students, The New York Times, New York City, the Surrealists, Baudelaire, Dante, Shuzo Takiguchi, every painting I’ve ever seen, my erratic brain, etc.

LN: Your most recent book of poems, A Doll for Throwing, was inspired by the Bauhaus school, and photographer Lucia Moholy. Why did you decide to write about this subject? What inspired you and influenced your writing as you worked towards its completion?

MJB: As always with inspiration, one sees or hears something, or one entertains a thought, and then there’s a next seeing or hearing or thinking. It’s all very messy and unpredictable at the beginning, but, at some point, you begin to shape whatever you’ve taken in by combining it with your pre-existing obsessions and preoccupations. In this case, I saw a rather non-descript photograph by Lucia Moholy in a museum and became curious about her name. I knew of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy—the famous Bauhaus Master-teacher and visual artist—and wondered whether she was related. I learned that she was his first wife and that she had taken most of the iconic photographs of the early Bauhaus buildings and workshop products but that those photographs came to be associated not with her but with Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus school and design movement. Her name had been all but erased from history. I felt, as a woman who has worked to establish herself as an artist against some odds (working class background, years of single parenthood), an odd kind of kinship. I eventually immersed myself in the history of the Bauhaus and used that place and era as an imagined stage from which I then wrote about my own experience of being a woman and an artist in the present—as well as my own experience of being a photographer, before I became a poet.

LN: What brings you joy?

MJB: So many things! Right now, translating Dante’s Purgatorio into colloquial English. For me, translation is similar to working an endless crossword puzzle. I never tire of it. If I could, I’d give up sleeping for it, however, whenever my disembodied mind attempts to do that, the body that houses my brain puts its foot down and insists I go to bed.

LN: What was the most memorable thing you read in the past month?

MJB: Khadijah Queen’s I’m So Fine: A List of Famous Men & What I Had On, a delightfully subversive book of prose poems. She uses a fever-pitch stream-of-consciousness approach to construct brief narratives about growing up in Los Angeles. The poems play with received notions of celebrity, masculinity, femininity, fashion, film, and family (to name a few). The book becomes a ‘joiner’ collage of snapshots, each featuring another glimpse what it’s like to be alive in America in the present! It’s smart and funny and like nothing else you’ll read.

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Interview: Rick Kisonak

The Burlington Book Festival lands in Burlington, Vermont, on October 12 to 14, with an amazing lineup including Mary Jo Bang, Dan Chiasson, Maria Hummel, Mark Leyner, Bethany Morrow, and Sharon Olds. This is the first in a series of four interviews in celebration of the Festival.

To kick things off, we interviewed Festival founder, Rick Kisonak, who lives in Burlington. You may know Rick from his work as a film critic for Seven Days. We’re grateful to Rick for bringing such a wonderful group of authors to Burlington and for his support of Literary North.

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Literary North: What’s the history behind the Burlington Book Festival? Have you been involved with it since it began? How has the festival changed and grown over the years?

Rick Kisonak: I lived in Boston and worked at the Phoenix at a point in the late 70s and loved going to the Boston Globe Book Fair. I couldn't believe the number of personal heroes it was so ridiculously easy to meet and engage there—P Donleavy, Tom Wolfe, John Updike—it was crazy.

In 1981, I moved to Vermont to work at Burlington's Vanguard Press (the weekly from which Seven Days descended). That's where I began my illustrious career as a professional film critic. One morning in 2004, I woke up with a thought: Hey, the Queen City has a festival for everything: food, jazz, crafts, art, beer, you name it. But it did not have a literary festival. I ran the idea by a few cultural movers and shakers, who all loved the notion, and put on the first one the following September. Galway Kinnell, Grace Paley, and Russell Banks were among the headliners. We were off to a good start.

Since then, the Festival's reputation has spread throughout the literary world. I was stunned, for example, when I called John Irving one day, Richard Ford on another, and was told they'd heard great things. That kind of thing helps lure world class artists. Of course, Lake Champlain doesn't hurt.

LN: What Festival events or authors are you particularly excited about this year?

RK: Everyone who's coming this year is a rock star, among the most accomplished at what they do. The poem Sharon Olds has in this week's New Yorker is spooky good. Dan Chiasson is the magazine's poetry critic and a really fine poet himself. He's promised to read a collection I wrote in my twenties and tell me whether I should have chosen a completely different life path. I feel bad for him but he's an extremely nice guy. I suspect he's going to say film critic was the smart move.

Mary Jo Bang appeared years ago and became a friend so it will be wonderful to see her again. It's going to be a particular thrill to meet Mark Leyner. I've been an obsessive fan since the 90s when My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist and Et Tu, Babe were the biggest books in the country. Just a dizzyingly inventive mind.

LN: How do you choose the authors for the BBF?

RK: That's the part of the job I find most fun. It's a combination of choosing from among the writers who've gotten in touch to say they'd like to come and tracking down authors whose work I personally enjoy. I'm not a big fan of meetings. Never have been. My management style is more or less dictatorial. Which works fine since I'm my only employee.

LN: What sets BBF apart from the other literary festivals in New England?

RK: Lake Champlain?

LN: What was the most memorable thing you read in the past month?

RK: A movie script Mark Leyner wrote for a streaming giant (we've become e-mail pen pals). I can't share much in the way of details but am happy to report his mind just gets more dizzylingly inventive by the day. That Sharon Olds poem was pretty mind blowing too. Can't wait to hang with her.

Rick Kisonak, by Ed Koren

Rick Kisonak, by Ed Koren