Review of Andrei Snær Magnason’s LoveStar in latest issue of Kenyon Review Online

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Just in time for summer reading, my review of Icelandic author Andrei Snær Magnason’s novel, LoveStar, is up at KR Online. Check it out:

http://www.kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2014-spring/selections/lovestar-by-andri-snaer-magnason-738439/

 

 

My “Top Ten Books on Writing” at Read Her Like an Open Book

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Be careful what you read. I say this because as much as the proliferation of “top ten” lists all over the Internet perturbs me, the list-as-blog-essay has penetrated my brain as well. Although the seed really was planted the other day, when I got to thinking how useful it would be to jot down a list of the craft books I’ve found most indispensable throughout the years and share it with my students. But why not just share my carefully-crafted list with them? And voila, the blog-post-as-list-essay was born. Hopefully mine isn’t as annoying as the “Top Ten Signs Your Boyfriend is Getting Ready to Dump You” variety. Quite the contrary. I hope you’ll find these books — selected without any political correctness, with in fact more male authors than female — as indispensable as I have. In assembling my go-to craft reads I didn’t let myself think too much, just knelt at the dusty bookshelf and quickly pulled off the ones that I’ve returned to the most.

Perhaps one day I’ll have my own to proudly add to the shelf, chock full of pithy wisdom, earth-shattering analysis, and inventive writing exercises. But for now, you may check out my “top ten” list here:

http://readherlikeanopenbook.wordpress.com/2014/04/22/guest-blogger-vanessa-blakeslee-the-ten-best-books-on-writing/

Where to Plug into Orlando’s Literary Scene

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Since I’ve been “out there” in full force lately promoting my debut collection, Train Shots, plus teaching creative writing courses to a bevy of bright-eyed and talented students at Rollins College, I’m frequently asked about literary happenings in Orlando — where to meet other serious writers and engaged readers, what’s going on outside the insular orb of campus or simply one’s writing desk. Rather than respond to a barrage of individual emails, I decided to post my recommendations here, in one convenient spot for earnest seekers to find and, I hope, share.

Orlando’s got a vibrant, A-list literary culture so if you’re new to the area, a college student, or just wondering where to start, look no further. Simply show up to any of these events, introduce yourself, and you’ll be warmly welcomed. It won’t take you long to realize that this is an intimate yet growing crowd, and many of the faces you see at one event will appear at another. Below I’ve assembled a neat list of gigs you should be sure to attend if you’re in town, including contact info and direct links on where you can sign up for monthly newsletters when available. Some of the newsletter blasts are spotty—remember, often these organizations are run on the goodwill of volunteer efforts, interns, or very, very thin budgets—so I advise also following them on Facebook, Twitter, etc., so you don’t miss out on a spectacular author who’s in town, workshop, or submission deadline. Otherwise, no excuses or whining about how “there’s nothing going on in Orlando”—during winter and spring, especially, there’s nearly a literary event happening every night of the week. Don’t go and you only have your lazy self to blame.

Winter with the Writers at Rollins College: this is undoubtedly the area’s most celebrated event, which takes place every February. Director Carol Frost brings in an a rock star line-up that in the past has included Andre Dubus III, Margot Livesey, Jim Shepard, Michael Cunningham, and Paula McLain, plus noteworthy emerging authors. Master classes take place in the afternoon, readings in the evening; events are free and open to the public.

www.rollins.edu/winterwiththewriters

www.facebook.com/winterwiththewriters

Twitter: @RollinsWWW

 

Functionally Literate, the quarterly reading series hosted by Burrow Press. Each event features visiting writers and talented locals from all over the Central Florida lit community. Recent readers have included David James Poissant, Terry Godbey, and yours truly.

Sign up for their monthly email at http://burrowpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/burrowpress

Twitter: @BurrowPress

 

The Kerouac Project: The Kerouac Project provides four residencies a year to writers of any stripe or age, living anywhere in the world. Each residency consists of approximately a three month stay in the cottage where Jack Kerouac wrote his novel Dharma Bums. There’s usually a welcome potluck for the incoming writer as well as a farewell reading/potluck at the residency’s end – your chance to hang out in a piece of local literary history with a friendly and supportive crowd. Added bonus: local writer-guru Mary Ann de Stefano of MAD ABOUT WORDS occasionally teams up with the resident to offer a specially-themed workshop.

Sign up for the newsletter here: http://kerouacproject.org/

https://www.facebook.com/KerouacProject

https://twitter.com/Kerouac_Project

 

Timucua Arts White House: Benoit Glazer and Elaine Corriveau open their downtown ‘White House’ to musicians and the people who come to hear them. This is quite possibly the coolest “underground” venue in Orlando, where all that’s required is you show up with a bottle of wine and a smile. Literary events have been held here as well, so it’s worthwhile to get on their newsletter at the link below:

http://www.timucua.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Timucua-Arts-white-house/273395199390998

https://twitter.com/TimucuaArts/

 

There Will Be Words: Named Orlando’s Best Literary Reading Series by the readers of the Orlando Weekly, There Will Be Words showcases the best writers Florida has to offer, on the second Tuesday of every month at Gallery at Avalon Island, 39 S. Magnolia in Downtown Orlando. In addition, host J. Bradley and his partner-in-crime, Laura, also produce limited edition chapbooks every show, where part of the proceeds go towards paying their writers. The show starts promptly at 7pmand runs until 8pm. The event is free.

http://therewillbewords.com/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/twbw1/

https://twitter.com/twbworlando

 

Silver Fern Writers: Geoff and Janet Benge, who are movers and shakers over at the Kerouac Project, offer this free, well-attended workshop and publishing series on the 3rd Wednesday of each month starting at 6:30 P.M.

http://www.silverfernwriters.com/index.html

 

Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA): This is an acclaimed residency program in nearby New Smyrna Beach, unique in that it is a mentoring program that couples prominent Master Artists with selected Associate Artists for three-week periods. Scholarships are available. Every residency session the ACA conducts an Outreach, often with Stetson University, UCF, or the Timucua White House, in which the Master Artist reads, displays or performs their work, free and open to the public. Previous world-renowned Master Artists in Literature have included Rick Moody, Mark Doty, and Victoria Redel. I only wish I’d taken advantage of its programs sooner.

http://www.atlanticcenterforthearts.org/

https://www.facebook.com/atlanticcenterforthearts

Twitter: @Atlantic_Center

 

Bookmark It: Orlando’s only indie bookshop, Bookmark It hosts book clubs, hands-on workshops, book launch parties and more out of its cozy East End Market location. Proprietor Kim Britt places a special focus on local authors.

http://bookmarkitorlando.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bookmark-It/457499917689946?ref=br_tf

https://twitter.com/bookmarkit_shop

 

*Note* – this list is in no way meant to be all-encompassing, just a starting point based on the quality of talent and consistency. There are numerous other great reading series, workshops, and the like, including Literacolypse, Literature Out Loud, Parcels: MFAs in Progress hosted by the UCF English Department, as well as annual weekend events such as the Florida Writers’ Conference and UCF Book Festival. A good bet would be to check the calendar listings at the Orlando Weekly and Sentinel so that you don’t miss out.

 

Interview with Coe Douglas at Tampa Review Online

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Coe Douglas in person in Orlando — it was just after the Functionally Literate reading, an event of A-list proportions in which I was honored to read with the much-lauded Terry Godbey and David James Poissant. Somehow, in the midst of the crowd buzzing over the new Bookmark It book cart and despite the long book-signing queue, I managed to have a memorable and quick exchange with Coe, who’d come all the way from Jacksonville for the reading. We connected over our shared enthusiasm for the low-res MFA model, and he offered to continue our conversation over Facebook chat for the Tampa Review Online — the first such interview I’ve ever taken part in. What ensued was a lively, deeper exchange on writing that I’m happy to share with you here. Coe aptly titled our dialogue,  “Saying Yes to Small Things” ~ I couldn’t agree more!

http://tampareviewonline.org/blog/saying-yes-to-small-things-an-interview-with-vanessa-blakeslee/