Wednesday, February 26, 2014

AWP: Some Alternatives

By now you know that everyone is talking about the AWP Conference. Non-stop talking. It’s all over the blogosphere, Twitter, and Facebook. Lots of people are offering advice on how best to do the conference, e.g., what kind of clothing to bring, where to get sushi, which bars are the coolest.

Judging from the various comments I’ve seen, many regard the weekend as prime schmoozing time. Clearly, the hottest readings are the off-site ones (you know, the ones you didn’t pay for with your registration fee). And just as clearly, there will be some drinking and partying going on. One poet-blogger advised last year that others follow her example and carry a flask.

I went in 2007 when the conference was in NYC. That will probably suffice for a lifetime. It was okay, but really not my kind of thing. I’m not much of a party girl and I don’t drink. I know that there are plenty of other things to do, but this upcoming conference in Seattle is too far away, too expensive, and too big. I prefer smaller events.

So what will I be doing? I’m staying home! But poet Julie Brooks Barbour has invented an online Facebook version of AWP: "The Facebook Writing Conference." On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, February 27, 28, 29, there will be “panels.” These will be led by a handful of invited writers and others will be invited to chime in. The discussions will go on all day. Thursday’s topic is “Place.” Friday’s is “Teaching the Creative Writing Workshop.” Saturday’s is “The Practice of Submission.”

I’ve been invited to be a panelist for the Creative Writing Workshop discussion that will take place on Friday. Julie sent me five questions. I’ve sent back my responses which she will post in due course. I think there will also be some surprises along the way. I think there might also be some kind of mini-book fair. I hope at the very least to get a list of titles and order some from Amazon.

But I’m not a total party pooper. I do go out of the house from time to time. I’m going to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival in May and will be leading a group reading there. Later that month I’ll be hosting the West Caldwell Poetry Festival in New Jersey. In July I’ll be going to the Mayapple Writers’ Retreat in Woodstock, NY. In October I’ll be attending the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival in Newark, NJ. Happily, not one of these events requires that I board a plane.

Friday, February 21, 2014

West Caldwell Poetry Festival

For the past ten years I have run an event called "Poetry Festival: A Celebration of Literary Journals." The event takes place at my local library and has always included twelve journals and editors. Each editor has invited two poets to read for the journal, so we have had a total of 24 poets reading. After last year's festival, I seriously considered not doing it again. A number of print journals had gone out of business, so it was getting harder and harder to find journals. Also, the turnout seemed to have diminished a bit the past few years. Then one day while debating with myself whether or not I'd do it again, it occurred to me that instead of dropping it perhaps I should revise it. I began to think of ways to revitalize the festival. Before long I came up with a plan that I'm excited about.

I decided to switch the focus from journals to new poetry books. I first compiled a list of poets with new books, poets within reasonable driving distance. The list was fairly long, so I had to make choices. I hate making hard choices, but I did it. Three guy poets and three women poets. All with different presses.

I then planned the structure of the day. Two reading sessions, each with three of the poets, so each one gets to read a decent amount of time. Then I began to think of other activities with which to fill the program. I came up with a bunch of possibilities. I narrowed the list and ended up with one publishers' panel and one creative process discussion. So now I had the event divided into four segments.

I also wanted to include journals as in the past but decided to pare down to eight from twelve so that there would also be table space for the publishers.

I arranged a meeting with my librarian to present this new format and get his endorsement. He was fine with it and agreed that change is a good thing.

Next came the implementation. I issued invitations to the six poets. Within that same day I'd received an enthusiastic yes from each of them. Off to a good start! Then I invited the eight editors. Within a day or two, all eight spots were filled. Then I issued invitations to four publishers and soon had all four lined up.

The Six Featured Poets: Teresa Carson, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Priscilla Orr, BJ Ward, Gary J. Whitehead, and Michael T. Young

The Publishers' Panel: Joan Cusack Handler with CavanKerry Press, Roxanne Hoffman with Poets Wear Prada, Anna Evans with Barefoot Muse Press, and Ellen Foos with Ragged Sky Press

The Creative Process Discussion: the six featured poets

The Journals: Adanna, Edison Literary Review, Exit 13, Journal of New Jersey Poets, Lips, Paterson Literary Review, Raintown Review, and The Stillwater Review

Books and journals will be available for sale and signing.

See the website for Schedule and details. Please mark your calendar and plan to join us!

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Giveaway and Sundry News Items

Right now there is a week-long Goodreads Giveaway of one copy of The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop. Click on the link below and sign up. Even if you already have the book, you could use a second one as a gift. Please note that the Giveaway will end midnight on Friday, February 21. You must enter by then in order to be eligible.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Crafty Poet by Diane Lockward

The Crafty Poet

by Diane Lockward

Giveaway ends February 21, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The Crafty Poet: A Portable Workshop received a very nice review from Erika Dreifus in "The Practicing Writer," a monthly newsletter which is the companion to Erika’s blog of the same name. In both her newsletter and her blog, Erika provides all kinds of useful information for writers. For example, she regularly includes lists of paying markets.

Erika begins the review with this disclosure: "I’ve known Diane Lockward for quite some time. Earlier in her career, she taught English at the New Jersey high school I attended (in fact, she was one of my sister’s English teachers)." The high school referred to is Millburn High School, same one Ann Hathaway attended. Sadly, I did not have the privilege of having both Dreifus sisters as my students, but I am happy to have Erika now as my reviewer. Read the rest of the review HERE. You can also sign up for the newsletter at the same site.

I was also happy to find this in Erika’s newsletter:


Another nice piece of news is that I was recently invited to be the Featured Poet in the Poetry Spotlight at Cultural Weekly.  My three poems are "Invective Against the Bumblebee," "Organic Fruit," and "Linguini." All three are from my book, What Feeds Us. Cultural Weekly is an online newspaper with several columns, including Film, Art, Architecture, Music, and Dance. Each issue is also distributed via email. You can sign up at the site if you want to receive the weekly newsletter. (Bottom of the screen, right side)

I was also recently invited to become part of the "This Is Poetry" project that will result in eight volumes of poetry, each devoted to a different theme. The first volume will focus on women in the small presses. I'll be part of that first print volume. In the meantime, the woman behind the project is posting the poems as she selects them on Tumblr. My poems are Pyromania and The Best Words. Both poems are from my book, What Feeds Us.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Planning a Girl Talk Reading

For the past six years I have organized and run an event called "Girl Talk: A Poetry Reading in Celebration of Women’s History Month." Each year since keeping this blog, I’ve posted something about the event after it took place. I’ve then received notes from other women poets saying that they’d love to attend such an event or organize one. I thought that this year I would post details before the event so that others might feel motivated to host such an event and have time to do the planning. So here’s how it goes.

1. Choose a date. Ideally, this should be in March since that’s Women’s History Month, but if March doesn’t work out, a different month is fine. Decide where you want to hold the reading. Mine is held in my local library, a place that has a great reading room and has become a congenial place for poetry. I always choose a Saturday, daytime, but you could choose any day of the week or could hold your event in the evening. Once I have a date in mind, I contact the librarian, and if the date is available, he puts Girl Talk on the calendar. A house reading would also be a lovely option if someone has a space large enough to accommodate the readers and guests.

2. Decide how many poets to include. I begin with two dozen, but somehow the list always grows as each year I get requests from women who want to read the next year. You can, of course, keep your group smaller, but I wouldn’t go much larger than 30. I have 32 on this year’s list, but typically a few readers cancel last minute. Be prepared for that. Make a list of who you want to invite to read. Aim for some diversity. Invite each poet to read one woman-related poem. I stick with poets who live within an easy driving distance. That reduces the chance of last-minute cancellations and seems to bring in more visitors. Send out your invitations. I do this by email. Be sure to give a deadline for response.

3. Once the list is compiled, I ask for a brief bio from each poet—3-5 sentences—and make a page at my website. This is not essential, but it’s a good way to publicize the event. I ask poets to link to the site from their own reading calendars and to use the link when they invite friends to attend. I prepare a list of readers to hand out at the event. If I didn’t have the website, I would include the bios there.

4. I ask for volunteers to bake cookies. I decline any offers for store-bought or bakery cookies. Homemade only! I usually get more volunteers than I need. The cookies are for the reception that follows the reading. The poets and all visitors are invited to join in.

5. I ask poets with books published within the past 5 years to send me title and price, one title only per poet. These books are placed on the book sale table at the reading. Poets may put out 6 books, but replenish if they get lucky and sell out. The library provides two volunteers to handle book sales.

6. Next comes the pr. I post notices of the event in a variety of online sources and local newspapers. I prepare and send a flier to all of the poets and ask them to post it and use it in their email invitations to friends and relatives. If everyone helps a bit with the pr, you can be sure of a good turnout.

This is just one half of the room. We also fill up the other side.
7. I have one short meeting with the librarian about two weeks before the event. We go over room setup, book sales, and any last-minute details.

That’s it for the planning. At the event you’ll want to arrive a bit early to greet people and get the volunteers set up with the books. Be sure that prices for the books are very visible. I ask my poets to use straight dollar amounts so no one has to mess with silver change. All the cookies get put in the kitchen until the reading is over.

I use alphabetical order for the reading. I begin with a welcome to the audience. Then I introduce each poet by name. She gets up and reads at the podium. The mic is set up there. About halfway through we take a 10-minute break. Caution: Don’t let the break go much over that or you will lose some people. Then we go through the remaining poets. Throughout the reading I remind everyone that books are available for sale and signing.

After the reading, the bakers get their cookies and put them on the table at the back of the reading room. Chairs are moved up to allow poets and visitors to circulate. There’s lots of good conversation during this time and lots of good cookies are eaten. There’s also a table set up at the front of the room where poets and visitors can put out fliers, postcards, notices of workshops, etc. (Nothing for sale there.)
That’s it! The event runs from 1:00 - 4:00. We leave well nourished with poetry, cookies, and girl talk.

Let me know if you decide to do a similar event. I hope you do.

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