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meet the wilde readers of November: Jim Karantonis and Patrica VanAmburg

Join Wilde Readings on Election Night for November Wilde Readings — live and in person at the Columbia Art Center. Featured authors are Jim Karantonis and Patricia VanAmburg. Laura Shovan is your host. Please spread the word – bring your friends, family, and students. All are welcome. We encourage you to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center, or when you arrive. The number is 410-730-0075. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

We asked Jim and Patricia our favorite six questions, and this is what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Jim: Me. I do. My older Brother Zack gave me permission to use his name rather than Jim in my novel. Zack sounds far more Greek than Jim. I’ve always needed and thrived (maybe escaped) with an audience, even as a child. Some things never change.

Patricia: In recent years, I think it has been my dad–though I also find myself writing about my granddaughters and other young women/children from the news.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Jim: On the deck during warm weather, especially afternoons. In the winter at the main library in Columbia and the library at Howard Community College. And then came Barnes and Noble at the mall.

Patricia: Just jotting ideas, I would probably sit in my favorite livingroom chair overlooking Wilde Lake. For serious composing, I would need the computer on my bedroom desk–between two windows. But I have to admit that I also write at stop lights when driving.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Jim: A cup of coffee. Some music, classical violins is my first choice, next soft jazz. Set up my pens and red markers, and open my notebook with notes, notes, and more notes. Peruse the notes on events and individuals in my life that had an impact, and even those I just remember for their quirkiness. Take more notes about  my past, and stories I’ve told on stage or to friends but haven’t put to paper. Anything to not get started with the difficult part . . . writing.

Patricia: No. I just know when a poem needs to get out. Probably the most formal preps I have ever experienced were the February poetry workshops.

Who always gets a first read?

Jim: My muse, Mary Lou Hobbs. She is my wife so she better be first.

Patricia: Usually, my critique partner, but, increasingly, I rely on my husband to give the non poet viewpoint.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Jim: Just finished for second time, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller. Published in 1959, and although I was just a teenager that was about the time I read it. (A post-apocalyptic novel that in those days we called science fiction.) I do save certain passages from novels of fiction that may capture my own feelings about self and society. I constantly check back with sections of history texts, biographies, and auto-biographies. Especially those related to civil rights and Martin Luther King, Jr., and those about soldiers and war.

Patricia: Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard. I sometimes reread Tom Robbins and Louise Erdrich for the beauty of their imagery.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Jim: For poetry it was Billy Collins. The most honest presentation about his own writing, and his take on attempts by others. For a novel, I can’t recall any but probably because I’ve not attended many. The best interview where I was fortunate to be in the audience was one at the main Baltimore City Library. The excellent author, George Saunders, had the stage. He kept the audience engaged, serious and not so serious, and remarkably at the right times. 

Patricia: Probably a Leonard Cohen concert because he was one of my favorite poets. I also enjoyed workshops with Galway Kinnel and Sharon Olds at Omega. For a traditional reading, I would have to mention the mythology issue of Little Patuxent Review which I had the pleasure of guest editing.


About the authors:

James (Jim) Karantonis is a storyteller, a writer, and a retired civil rights worker. Jim was a medic and psychiatric specialist during the Vietnam War. He has shared his military experience on stage for Baltimore’s popular Stoop Storytelling series, and on public radio’s WYPR. Jim’s first short story “A Crazy 8’s Christmas” won the Spotlight Award from New York’s Slice Magazine. Numerous stories and poems appeared in The Muse, a literary publication of Howard Community College in Columbia, MD. The novel of Crazy 8’s: Soldiers Still was published in 2021. Jim’s working on a memoir of how this White, Greek “Hillbilly” from southern West Virginia was privileged to work closely with Coretta Scott King and the 1st National King Holiday.

Patricia VanAmburg retired Emerita from Howard Community College where she taught literature and creative writing. She also served several years on the editorial committee of Little Patuxent Review literary magazine. Her poetry chapbooks include Watching for Birds (2014) and Refugee Heart (2022).

Meet Wilde Readers: Desirée Magney and Neha Misra

The hosts of Wilde Readings – Laura Shovan, Linda Joy Burke, Faye McCray, and Ann Bracken – are happy to host the first reading of the 2022-2023 season with two authors, Desirée Magney and Neha Misra! The event is at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 13th on Zoom. Register for the Zoom event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_dptdMYcaTKqZ16Kt4aIsqw

Click here for more information about the event and how you can participate! Now, meet Desirée and Neha with our favorite six questions for writers:

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Desirée: My mother is the person who shows up most often in my writings. I’m currently working on a book about her and my struggles to understand how her childhood trauma shaped the adult and parent she was. As I say in the book, “Her life was like a combination of the fairy tales in my childhood bedroom bookcase – part “Cinderella” with the evil stepmother, part “The Seven Princes” with the lost brothers, part “Little Red Riding Hood” with the wolf disguised. I wouldn’t have believed her childhood stories if I hadn’t heard them corroborated over-and-over again during visits in our living room with her three brothers.”

Neha: Grandmothers across time and space

Where is your favorite place to write?

Desirée: My favorite place to write is in the quietest room in my house. I like to work at my kitchen desk but because I have a dog and a retired husband at home, that is rarely the quietest room. Luckily, I have another room – sometimes referred to as a tree house, sometimes a Rapunzel tower. It was originally planned as a small rooftop deck but we enclosed it and it has beautiful views of the treetops in Rock Creek Park. The only reason I don’t use that room as my exclusive office is that it isn’t sufficiently heated and cooled.

Neha: Amidst tree elders

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Desirée: I need coffee and a clean desk.

Neha: It is a mix of music, nature meditation, and incense

Who always gets a first read?

Desirée: My first reader depends on whom I’ve written about. In stories I’ve written and published about my daughter, she’s always been my first reader. I want to know if she remembers things differently or remembers more details and I don’t want to invade her privacy. Plus, she’s an excellent writer and editor. In a story I wrote about my son – a fun piece about going to museums to see Van Gogh’s paintings – I gave him first dibs. But for stories about my mother, I usually have my husband or daughter read them first.

Neha: One of my personal council members – beautiful humans I love and trust the most!

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Desirée: I rarely reread a book. But over the years, I’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird a number of times. I’ve also reread one of my favorite memoirs, The Four Words for Home by Angie Chuang. LPR published one of her pieces in 2012 and that is how I got to know her as a writer. Lastly, I love rereading Anne Lamott’s, Some Instruction on Writing and Life. Her book is full of good advice and powerful sentences, some of which I’ve added to my list of favorite quotes.

Neha: Gitanjali (Song Offerings) by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Desirée: I suppose my bias as the former publisher of Little Patuxent Review (LPR) comes through in this answer. I’ve loved every LPR reading. Prior to the pandemic, they were held twice a year on the second floor of Oliver’s Carriage House in Columbia, Maryland. The rustic wood beams and fireplace, gave the readings a comfy feel that blocked out everything but the stories shared within those four walls for those two hours. Since the pandemic, they’ve been held virtually and haven’t suffered from the online venue because the most impressive part of the readings have always been the writers and other artists who grace the podium and share their art with us.

Neha: The Sanctuaries D.C. closing ceremony reading to honor the journey of an incredible local arts collective

Desirée Magney, a memorist, poet, and attorney has published in bioStories, Bethesda Magazine, Delmarva Review, The Washington Post Magazine, Washingtonian Magazine, the Writer’s Center-Art Begins with a Story, Jellyfish Whispers, and the Best of Storm Cycle Anthology. She was a member of the board and publisher of Little Patuxent Review, has contributed to its blog, and served as a nonfiction submission reader. She has taught memoir writing at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Neha Misra is a first generation immigrant poet, contemporary eco-folk visual artist, and an award winning climate justice advocate. Neha’s multi-disciplinary Earth stewardship centered creative studio uses the power of art to build bridges between our private, collective, and planetary healing. She is a 2022 Public Voices Fellow on the Climate Crisis – an initiative of the OpEd Project and the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication to change who writes history. Learn more at: http://www.nehamisrastudio.com

meet Tracy Dimond and Melanie Henderson – June Wilde Readings guests

The hosts of Wilde Readings – Laura Shovan, Linda Joy Burke, Faye McCray, and Ann Bracken – are happy to host the final reading of the 2021-2022 season with two dynamite authors, Tracy Dimond and Melanie Henderson! The event is at 7 pm on Tuesday, June 14th at the Columbia Art Center and on Zoom. Register here for the Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_vBEdi7IkSiKoSYzVb1XbTg

All are welcome to the Wilde Readings to hear Melanie and Tracy and to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center (410-730-0075), or when you arrive. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

Now, meet Melanie and Tracy with our favorite six questions for writers!

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Melanie: My great great grandfather

Tracy: There isn’t one person, all my poems are haunted by things I’ve overheard.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Melanie: In bed on my laptop

Tracy: For the past few years, I’ve gone to Cacapon State Park. I love going to the cabins in the winter, outside of the busy season, and writing without Wi-Fi. I’ve also started running to Cacapon Mountain Overlook when I’m there—it’s a magical view of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania that you experience after ascending almost 2,000 feet in 5 miles.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Melanie: No

Tracy: I am notoriously sporadic in my writing practice. If I’m running and going to the gym, that’s usually a sign my brain is spinning ideas. I need movement and I need observation. As long as I have an idea and my headphones, I can draft something.

Who always gets a first read?

Melanie: My longtime writing family, Truth Thomas

Tracy: I have good friends in my writing group, and I’ll often send them the pieces where my first question is “is this a diary entry or writing?” I feel safe giving them writing that still feels very raw. Honestly, I also thrive on an audience as first readers—I want to see how different lines land with an audience.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Melanie: American Journal by Robert Hayden

Tracy: I’ll stick to poetry—I have read Dorothea Lasky’s Black Life over and over. She will shift from hilarious to devastating within one poem. That book has been instrumental in my own writing for almost a decade.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Melanie: That’s a pretty tough question. However, I’d have to say I was most moved by a reading given by the illustrious poet, Reuben Jackson, at the American Poetry Museum when it was located on Good Hope Road in SE, DC about 15 years ago.

Tracy: This is such a difficult question—I’ve had the privilege and joy of attending so many incredible readings as an events organizer and community member! This question will probably always change for me, depending on my mood. Today, I’ll say the spirit of the Artichoke Haircut series really grabbed me when I first moved to Baltimore. Local and national writers would be paired, then the hosts would transition to an open mic. It was held at Dionysus in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore, and is one of the reasons I applied to the University of Baltimore (the series hosts went there).

Tracy Dimond is a 2016 Baker Artist Award finalist. She is the author of four chapbooks, most recently: TO TRACY LIKE / TO LIKE / LIKE from akinoga press. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. Find her online at poetsthatsweat.com.

Melanie Henderson was born, raised and lives in Washington, DC. Prior to earning an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University, she studied poetry at Howard University and the Voices Summer Writing Workshops (VONA). Her debut collection of poems, Elegies for New York Avenue, won the 2011 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. She is the Managing Editor of Tidal Basin Review and Poetry Editor for Cherry Castle Publishing.

Six Questions with Faye McCray and Laura Shovan – April Wilde Readings

Happy National Poetry Month! The Wilde Readings team is excited to invite you to an in person event at the Columbia Arts Center on Tuesday, April 12, 2022 at 7 pm. For the first time, Wilde Readings will feature its wonderfully dedicated hosts Ann BrackenLinda Joy BurkeFaye McCray, and Laura Shovan. All are welcome! We encourage you to participate in the open mic. Please prepare no more than five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up in advance by calling the Columbia Arts Center (410-730-0075), or when you arrive. Light refreshments will be served. Books by both featured authors and open mic readers will be available for sale.

Read what Faye and Laura had to say about our Six Questions!

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Faye: A combination of people I grew up with in New York. I grew up in the southeast section of Queens and spent so much of my formative years on buses and subways and playing in the neighborhood. The voices, the dialect, the sights and smells are still so vivid to me. Whether I’m remembering the owners of the corner store, or my elderly neighbors foam rollers – someone always shows up in my fiction.

Laura: In my writing for adults, the person who shows up most often is my husband. We met when we were teenagers. I didn’t write about him, or us, for many years, but after we’d been married for about 25 years, the poems started to come — exploring what it means to be in a long marriage.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Faye: A quiet café, tucked away in the corner while sipping on something hot and nibbling on something sweet.

Laura: A sunny spot with two napping beagles. This winter, I tried poet Juan Felipe Herrera’s “Jabberwalking” method, taking a notebook with me on neighborhood walks, filling it with doodles and scraps of observations.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Faye: I usually need some time for reflection. A long walk, a slow meal – something that allows me to dream a bit before I write.

Laura: I have a large stack of index cards with quotes about writing and the creative life. When I’m working on a novel, I pull a bunch of the cards that feel like good advice for that particular story. Then I incorporate a “Quote of the Day,” into my draft. As I’m writing this, today’s quote is from the artist Modigliani: “It is your duty in life to save your dream.”

Who always gets a first read?

Faye: My spouse – he always gives me just the right combination of encouragement and critique.

Laura: It depends on the genre I’m writing. I don’t have a consistent reader for poetry, but I’m part of a critique group for children’s fiction.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Faye: The Color Purple

Laura: When it comes to rereads, I turn to fantasy. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, I’ve read and listened to more times than I can count.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Faye: I saw Toni Morrison in Baltimore. I honestly can’t even remember what she read – I was just in awe of her presence. She filled the whole room.

Laura: I attended the first Dodge Poetry Festival when I was in high school. I had never been to an in-person poetry reading before. Galway Kinnell read first thing in the morning in a light-filled little church. Sonia Sanchez is the other poet I remember. She had so much style — her poetry, her performance, and her cape. I got myself a black cape and wore it all through senior year of high school.

About the authors:

Faye McCray is an author, playwright, and essayist whose work has been featured in the HuffPost, Parade Magazine, Little Patuxent Review, AARP Magazine, Madame Noire, Black Girl Nerds, and other popular publications. She is the author of I am Loved!, Dani’s Belts, and Boyfriend. Faye is also a proud board member of the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society. Find Faye at www.fayemccray.com, on Twitter and Facebook @fayewrites, and on IG @heyfayemccray.

Laura Shovan is an author, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, won the Harriss Poetry Prize. Her work appears in journals and anthologies for children and adults. Laura’s award-winning children’s novels include The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Takedown, and the Sydney Taylor Notable A Place at the Table, written with Saadia Faruqi. She teaches for Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program.

six questions with writer Meg Eden

Meg Eden

Writer Meg Eden joined the Wilde Readings open mic event via Zoom on March 8, 2022.

Meg is a writer and creative writing instructor. She received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Maryland College Park, and has taught at a range of places, including Anne Arundel Community College, Southern New Hampshire University online, University of Maryland College Park, Eckleburg Workshops, and The Writer’s Center in Bethesda since 2013. Meg is the author of five poetry chapbooks, the novel Post-High School Reality Quest (2017), the poetry collection Drowning in the Floating World (2020), and the forthcoming middle grade novel in verse Selah’s Guide to Normal (2023) with Scholastic.

HoCoPoLitSo: Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

ME: Oof, I’m not sure! Pieces of my parents and childhood friends definitely show up in my writing, but the most common I guess–for any writer really–is the self: my vulnerabilities, painful moments, things I wish I could do differently, etc.

HoCoPoLitSo: Where is your favorite place to write?

ME: This changes depending on the season. In winter I’ve really liked writing at home under my heated blanket, but in warmer months I love going to the trail or gym then writing in a Panera or Chick Fil A with a giant glass of tea.

HoCoPoLitSo: Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

ME: Some timed element of browsing or reading. I prefer writing when I have a reaction to something, a strong emotion I have to get out. But if I don’t have time for that, I always have soundtracks for my writing, so the first song conditions me to get into the world of the story.

HoCoPoLitSo: Who always gets a first read?

ME: This really depends. My critique group is usually the first emailed to see if anyone wants to read. But sometimes my husband gets an early read, other times friends that aren’t writers but have been with me a long time. It really depends on the project, how I feel about the project, and what I need. Sometimes I need positivity passes at first to gain confidence, while other times I feel confident and just need the feedback.

HoCoPoLitSo: What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

ME: I don’t tend to read books more than once, to be honest. I’m not sure I’ve ever read any more than twice besides the Bible–which I know is such a cop-out, Sunday school sounding answer but it’s true. It’s the most versatile book and always has something new to teach me. That said, I predict I’ll read Corey Ann Haydu’s One Jar of Magic (as well as her most recent Lawless Spaces) and Sarah Crossan’s Toffee more than twice in my life time. Now shows/movies are a different story. I have to annually watch Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra, as well as BBC’s Bleak House. I find that I learn a lot narratively from other storytelling devices than books sometimes.

HoCoPoLitSo: What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

ME: Probably an Inner Loop reading. I love Inner Loop (a local DC series) because you really feel the fellowship and community. I always meet new people and connect with old friends.

Join Wilde Readings Open Mic in April (National Poetry Month!) and meet other writers! You can keep up with Wilde Readings events here.

six questions with Mary Brandenburg and Hananah Zaheer

Mary Brandenburg (left) and Hananah Zaheer (right) for February Wilde Readings

Mary Brandenburg and Hananah Zaheer are the feature writers at February Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Mary and Hananah as well as other open mic readers for a free reading on Zoom (and Facebook Live) on Tuesday, February 8 at 7 p.m. Click HERE to register for the free event. Click here for more details about the event.

We asked Mary and Hananah our favorite six questions about their reading and writing, and here’s what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Mary: Honestly, I don’t have an answer for this question! I don’t tend to write about people, rather I focus on nature, my relationship to the numinous, the divine.

Hananah: A compilation mother, not mine exactly, but mother figures based on so many.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Mary: I don’t have a ‘favorite’ place to write, that is, a place where I settle down. I have a space in my home, my study, where most of my current poems are written. However, I have had the opportunity to spend several vacations on the coast of Maine, and that is always a place where I can write, once I have arrived, my mind has settled, and I have shaken of the echoes of ‘home’. That can take a few days!

Hananah: In bed, or wherever I can find complete isolation.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Mary: No, I really don’t! I find I have to sit quietly and empty myself so my muse(s) can find me. Yet sometimes lines will come to me while walking or driving, especially if I am alone and driving a long way and my mind is empty.

Hananah: Usually a combination of worry, coffee, social media, coffee, pep talk.

Who always gets a first read?

Mary: Sometimes it’s my husband, who sees the world very differently than I do! And often a close friend will listen to something I want to share.

Hananah: Mostly my friend writer K.K. Fox, but I have a couple of other writer friends who are my first readers, too. These days my younger son, Yezen, is honing his editing skills and likes to give me feedback on beginnings.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Mary: I love Mark Nepo’s The Way Under the Way, Rilke’s Book of Hours, Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, as well as David Whyte’s House of Belonging.

Hananah: To name a few–Revenge-Yoko Ogawa; We, the animals–Justin Torres; Department of Speculation–Jenny Offil; I hold a wolf by the ears–Laura van den Berg; This is how you lose her–Juno Diaz; A house on Mango Street–Sandra Cisneros; A lesson Before Dying–Ernest Gaines

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Mary: I’ve not attended very many poetry readings. However, in early 2019 I visited a poet friend, whom I had never met face to face, who lives in Tallahassee, Florida. She took me to a local poetry reading and there I discovered how many, many forms a poem can take! Each reader was entirely different! Each poem was so unique! That gave me a sense of freedom and license – permission to just be me and have my own voice. And it’s ok!

Hananah: Grace Paley at the F. Scott Fitzgerald conference in 2005. I was new to teaching, a fresh MFA and she was all grace and magic.

REGISTER FOR WILDE READINGS HERE to hear more from Mary and Hananah!

Mary Brandenburg began keeping a journal at age 13. She discovered that writing, whether in journal form or in poems, holds the power to heal. She has self-published two books of poetry: The Intelligence of Leaves and Limitless Belonging. In the early 1980’s Mary became a practitioner of acupuncture, for her the discovery of the intersection of spirituality and wellness. Her poems are a reflection of her time in the treatment room, as well as time spent roaming around the natural world, hanging out with animals, trees, moonlight…and each other. She lives with her husband, John, and their amazing miniature Australian Shepherd ‘Tooey’.

Hananah Zaheer is the author of Lovebirds (Bull City Press, 2021). Other work has appeared in Kenyon Review, Best Small Fictions 2021, Waxwing, AGNI, Smokelong, Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Alaska Quarterly Review (with a Notable Story mention in Best American Short Stories 2019) and Michigan Quarterly Review, where she won the Lawrence Foundation Prize for Fiction. She is a fiction editor for Los Angeles Review.

six questions with Emily Rich and Leona Sevick

Emily Rich and Leona Sevick are the feature writers at January Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Emily and Leona as well as other open mic readers for a free reading on Zoom (and Facebook Live) on Tuesday, January 11 at 7 p.m. Click here to register for the free event. Click here for more details about the event.

We asked Emily and Leona our favorite six questions about their reading and writing, and here’s what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Emily: My parents.

Leona: While I have written about all of my family members, I suppose my mother shows up most often in my work. She was a South Korean immigrant and a complex person, and I write about her challenges with language and with the small town American culture she raised my brother and me in. I’ve also written about her struggle with illness, though I seldom name her in those poems. My mother died suddenly in late summer, and I have had some difficulty writing since then. I am working through my grief, and I’m confident the writing will come again.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Emily: I think I’m sort of antsy when I write. I have a desk that I’ll sit at for awhile, then move to a comfy chair and use a lap desk. The most important thing is to have quiet. I’m not someone who can write in a coffee shop, for instance.

Leona: My busy kitchen—at a rustic wooden island on a backless stool that keeps me alert.

Who always gets the first read?

Emily: Ideally other writers whose opinions I trust. I was most productive when I met with a regular writing group, but that’s not been possible recently. Sharing critiques with writers on line (the Writers Center in Bethesda has several on-line groups) is a pretty good substitute.

Leona: I have a close friend who is a novelist, and he is an excellent first reader. He is highly attentive to language and helps me make my words more surprising, more active. He is also painfully honest in his observations.

Do you have any consistent re-writing rituals?

Emily: The best thing I can do to get in the mindset to write is to read. I write nonfiction, so I have several essay collections, as well as lit mag subscriptions that I turn to.

Leona: Before I write I like to read a poem or two that I admire. I generally identify them days before and then revisit them for inspiration.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Emily: William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury; Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.

Leona: As a teacher, I’m always rereading works in preparation for classes. One book that I choose to teach again and again and enjoy rereading is Jhumpa Lahiri’s collection of stories, Unaccustomed Earth. Her ability to sensitively describe the lives of first generation immigrants and the struggles of their children is deeply moving to me.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Emily: Several years ago I attended the Tin House Writers Workshop where I got to listen to fabulous readings by the likes of Maggie Nelson, Cheryl Strayed, and Anthony Doerr. What struck me was the honest way each of these very accomplished authors talked about self doubt and about how difficult the writing process can be sometimes. Beyond that, I hosted a reading for the Bay to Ocean Journal, the lit mag I manage, just a month ago. I was thrilled to have a community of writers come together, share their words, and get to know each other. We’d all come out of a long period of quarantine (which it looks like we’ll be reentering, unfortunately), and the event was joyful and full of hope.

Leona: When I was at Bread Loaf years ago, I had the honor of hearing Philip Levine read. As someone who writes also about the working class, I found his words and reading style—filled with humility and good sense—inspiring.

About Our Guests:

Emily Rich is managing editor of the Bay to Ocean Journal, published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association. She has taught memoir writing at the Bethesda Writer’s Center and through the Lighthouse Guild at Salisbury University. Her work has been published in The Pinch, Cutbank, Hippocampus, Delmarva Review, and Little Patuxent Review, among others. She’s twice been listed as a notable in Best American Essays. She lives in Trappe, MD with her husband and three hyper Labradors.

Leona Sevick is the 2017 Press 53 Poetry Award Winner for her first full-length book of poems, Lion Brothers. Her recent work appears in Orion, Birmingham Poetry Review, Water~Stone Review, The Pinch, and Blackbird. Sevick was named a 2019 Walter E. Dakin Fellow for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and she serves as advisory board member of the Furious Flower Black Poetry Center. She is professor of English at Bridgewater College in Virginia, where she teaches Asian American literature.

six questions with Kenneth Carroll and Marlena Chertock

Kenneth Carroll and Marlena Chertock are the feature writers at the December Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Kenneth and Marlena as well as other open mic readers for a free reading on Zoom (and Facebook Live) on Tuesday, December 14 at 7 p.m. Click here to register for the free event. Click here for more details about the event.

We asked Kenneth and Marlena our favorite six questions about their reading and writing, and here’s what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Kenneth: My mother.

Marlena: I often write autobiographical poetry, so I guess I show up most in those pieces. My short stories focus on science fiction about climate change. I’m drawn to writing about astronauts, especially unlikely ones — the astronauts I’ve written about are disabled, mentally ill, young, or stuck on Earth due to too much space trash.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Kenneth: Any place where I’m supposed to doing something else.

Marlena: I tend to write on my computer because I have terrible handwriting and am a fast typist. But if I’m spending time outside on a nice day, I sometimes remember to bring a journal. Writing under trees is especially inspiring and calming.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Kenneth: Review my notes.

Marlena: Not really. I tend to write when the inspiration strikes, which is always at random times. Often when I should be sleeping.

Who always gets a first read?

Kenneth: The ancestors.

Marlena: I share pretty much every single poem and shitty first draft with my friend Codi, who was in the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House with me at the University of Maryland. It’s nice to stay in the habit of sharing writing, which can be so isolated. But I’ve been grateful to have found such a welcoming writing community in the Washington, D.C. area.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Kenneth: August Wilson, Two Trains Running

Marlena: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Kenneth: Lucille Clifton at St. Mary’s College.

Marlena: I was so lucky that Patricia Smith visited my class at the Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House when I was a junior. She was such a gracious visitor, taking all our questions and reading some of our baby poems. When she took the stage for her reading that night, her whole presence shifted. Her voice, her cadence, her power — it was palpable!

Kenneth Carroll is a native Washingtonian whose poetry has appeared in Icarus, In Search of Color Everywhere, Potomac Review, Worcester Review, Obsidian, Words & Images Journal, Indiana Review, American Poetry: The Next Generation, Beyond the Frontier, Gargoyle, Spirit & Flame, and Penguin Academics Anthology of African American Poetry. His book of poetry is entitled So What: for the White Dude Who Said This Ain’t Poetry, published by Grace Cavalieri. He is former director of DC WritersCorps and the African American Writers Guild and a former Pushcart nominee. He is married and the proud father of a daughter and two sons.

Marlena Chertock has two books of poetry, Crumb-sized: Poems (Unnamed Press) and On that one-way trip to Mars (Bottlecap Press). She uses her skeletal dysplasia as a bridge to scientific poetry. She is queer, disabled, and a 2020 Pushcart Prize nominee. Marlena serves as Co-Chair of OutWrite, Washington, D.C.’s annual LGBTQ literary festival, and on the Board of Split This Rock, a nonprofit that cultivates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. Her poetry and prose has appeared in AWP’s The Writer’s Notebook, Breath & Shadow, The Deaf Poets Society, Lambda Literary Review, Little Patuxent Review, Noble/Gas Quarterly, Paper Darts, Paranoid Tree, Plants & Poetry, Washington Independent Review of Books, WMN Zine, Wordgathering, and more. Find her at marlenachertock.com and @mchertock.

Six Questions with Kristin Kowalski Ferragut and Lucinda Marshall

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut and Lucinda Marshall are the feature writers at the November Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Kristin and Lucinda as well as other open mic readers for a free reading at the Columbia Art Center (and virtual) on Tuesday, November 9th at 7 pm. See details about the event below.

We asked Kristin and Lucinda our favorite six questions about their reading and writing, and here’s what they had to say.

Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Kristin: Notably my children, my dad, me or previous me(s) from different days, men I love(d), and friends who have died show up often in my writing. It’s not usually what it seems at face value. For instance, I may be writing “you” in a poem exploring love or estrangement, but the “you” might be pieces of me and a composite of others real and maybe more fictional characteristics that represent wishes, fears, or possibilities.

Lucinda: I have a number of first person poems, so I think I would have to say that I am that person. My work covers a broad range of topics, and even when the poem isn’t personal, my point of view is reflected in virtually everything I write.

Where is your favorite place to write?

Kristin: I could stare out on nature maybe forever, at least longer than I’ve ever tried. It puts me in a meditative, often melancholy state from where I’m better able to access images. I write mostly in my Nook in my room looking out on our trees, squirrels, birds. I love getting away to look out other windows on woods and sky. Sometimes I write outside. When it’s cold I have a little portable writer’s fort I like to go out in, especially in the snow. (Here’s the story on that: https://www.kristinskiferragut.com/post/writing-fort)

Lucinda: Where I am. I don’t have a specific writing place. I’ve written in the shower, on planes, in doctors’ offices, standing in the checkout at the grocery store, under the covers with a flashlight. And I’m not picky about what I write on. I have a lot of blank notebooks that are never in the right place at the right time. One of the poems in my book, “Serenity Prayer For Singular Existence” was written on my forearm when I couldn’t find any paper.

Do you have any consistent pre-writing rituals?

Kristin: I prefer writing in the morning and usually jump in pretty quickly. I tend to grab coffee, sometimes tea, and seltzer water, light a candle, and start the writing/window staring. I do have a writing mix on Spotify, the songs are instrumental or in other languages, sometimes I play it. When I’m outside, well, there’s not much better than musing to the tune of a moving river or calling birds.

Lucinda: I don’t. The best way for me to get writing is to be in the middle of something else that has an imminent deadline or otherwise deters me from having writing time. Those are usually the times I am suddenly struck with inspiration.

Who always gets a first read?

Kristin: There’s no one person that consistently reads my work first. It’s kind of a lovely dream to imagine one. I belong to three writer’s groups  —  DiVerse workshop, La Mads, who used to meet out of La Madeleine’s in Bethesda, and Gaithersburg Writers. I do as little Zoom as possible so my attendance to these groups has been spotty for the past year and a half, but I trust them with new and fragile work. I have a few friends who will also sometimes read early work and offer feedback, for which I’m grateful.

Lucinda: There is no one specific person.

What is a book you’ve read more than twice (and would read again)?

Kristin: I got the poetry collection “And Her Soul Out of Nothing” by Olena Kalytiak Davis around ’97/’98. Since, I’ve shared it with many people and often reread before sharing, wondering, is it really as good as I remembered? And always come back to Yes, it is. Another one I give away a lot, and thus revisit a lot is Sam Shepard’s short stories, “Cruising Paradise.”

Lucinda: There are so many, among them Kristin Kowalski Ferragut’s “Escape Velocity”, truly a stunning collection and I’m thrilled to be reading at Wilde with her.

What is the most memorable reading you have attended?

Kristin: I believe it was May 2019, the last live Gaithersburg Book Festival. Lucinda organized the poetry that year and it was awesome! I sat under a tent all day while incredible poets spoke before me — Grace Cavalieri, Reuben Jackson, Ethelbert Miller, Katherine Young, Rose Solari, Alan King… And while I listened my son drifted about the festival collecting hugs. Beautiful day!

Lucinda: Oh Goodness–all of them. I don’t think I’ve ever gone to a reading where there was not something memorable. When I was mentoring the Gaithersburg Teen Writing Club we held a few readings for parents and hearing the kids get up and read the work that we had been workshopping was really a thrill.

About November Wilde Reading

Register for our event at: WildeReadingsHoCo@gmail.com
You can sign up for the open Mic either by sending an email to: WildeReadingsHoCo@gmail.com

Registration for the in person event will be limited. All attendees must follow Columbia Art Center Covid protocols.
We encourage attendees to participate in the open mic. Please prepare up to five minutes of performance time/two poems. Sign up when you arrive.

About Our Guests Kristin and Lucinda

Kristin Kowalski Ferragut teaches, plays guitar, hikes, and supports her children in becoming who they are meant to be. She is author of the full-length poetry collection Escape Velocity (Kelsay Books, 2021) and the children’s book Becoming the Enchantress (Loving Healing Press, 2021). Her poetry has appeared in Beltway Quarterly, Nightingale and Sparrow, Bourgeon, Mojave He[Art] Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Fledgling Rag, and Little Patuxent Review among others. For more information see her website: https://www.kristinskiferragut.com/

Lucinda Marshall is the author of Inheritance Of Aging Self (Finishing Line Press, 2021). She lives in Gaithersburg, MD where she is the Founder of DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, and helped create the Local Poets collection at Quince Orchard Library. Lucinda is also an accomplished mixed media and fabric artist.

six questions with Ned Balbo and Jane Satterfield

Ned Balbo and Jane Satterfield are the feature writers at the May Wilde Readings, a monthly community open mic supported by HoCoPoLitSo. Join Ned and Jane as well as other open mic readers for a free, virtual reading on Tuesday, May 11th at 7:00 pm.  Register here Get to know Ned and Jane with our Six Questions.

Q: Who is the person in your life (past or present) that shows up most often in your writing?

Ned: I haven’t counted, but Betty & Carmine, my adoptive parents, have racked up quite a few appearances… as have my birth parents, Elaine (Betty’s much-younger sister) & her belated husband Don. 

Jane: It would be interesting to take an inventory… my parents (and their parents) show up in my recent book, Apocalypse Mix, in the context of poems about war’s generational impact on soldiers and civilians, and I’m pretty sure that the presence of other women writers and artists—present and past—is strong.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write? 

Ned: My home office where files, books, knick-knacks, Golden Guides, drafts & memorabilia are all in easy reach & my lap is available to Wyatt, our affectionate polydactyl cat. 

Jane: My second-floor study has plenty of books within reach; I work near a window that offers the welcome distractions of suburban wildlife—the crows, foxes, squirrels, and assorted birds that sometimes make their way into poems.

Q: Do you have consistent pre-writing rituals? 

Ned: Nothing consistent. Sometimes I wander the Internet: musing on pop culture trivia that’s crossed my path while thinking about the poem I’m working on, or gathering background information in PDF form for research purposes. Lately, if I’m in the mood for music, I’ll call up Eno via iTunes (Ambient 1, Harold Budd collaborations, Thursday Afternoon, Neroli, Compact Forest Proposal), Sufjan Stevens’ Planetarium, or maybe Andrew Bird’s Echolocations.

Jane: Music and meditation are often helpful, but I don’t have any consistent pre-writing routines. I am, however, a notebook fanatic—I like to collect images, ideas, research notes, opening lines so I never have to face a blank page.

Q: Who always gets the first read? 

Ned: Jane. She has a way of just  asking questions gently that point me in the right direction if a poem isn’t quite right. I also listen for the degree of enthusiasm she conveys in her always supportive way. If it’s less than I’d like, I know I have more work to do. 

Jane: Ned. He has a perfect ear for the soundscape of a poem and asks all the right questions that encourage me to return to the page. I’m lucky beyond belief that his listening also turns my attention to subjects I’ve overlooked, written off, or avoided…

Q: What is a book you’ve read twice and would read again?

Ned: Prose – Jane Austen, Mansfield Park; Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Poetry – Denis Johnson, The Incognito Lounge; Elizabeth Spires, Globe; Andrew Hudgins, Saints & Strangers; Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars.

Jane: I’ve cracked the spine of copies of Plath’s Ariel, Shapcott’s Her Book, and Levis’ Winter Stars. I’ll probably do the same with recent favorites like Erika Meitner’s Holy Moly Carry Me and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Oceanic. I’ve revisited Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway more summers than I can count.

Q: What is the most memorable reading you’ve attended?

Ned:  A.E. Stallings at Loyola University Maryland in 2019: not only was she gracious & her poems brilliant but she shared extensive footage, photos & anecdotes on her work in support of Syrian refugee families who’ve fled to Athens, Greece (where Stallings lives) – their children especially, whose poems & artwork reflect both hardship & hope.

Jane: I attended a Simon Armitage reading in a pub in Huddersfield back in 1994 that had all the fabulous energy of a football match — Armitage recited his poems and, since Huddersfield is his hometown, there was a palpable sense of poetry’s connection to the community. Several years ago, I hosted Paisley Rekdal in Loyola’s Modern Masters Series the day Guggenheim winners were announced. Paisley read a sequence of Mae West poems that would later appear in Imaginary Vessels — an amazing mini-seminar in the sonnet.

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