[King]Solver to Our Problems  


by Kim Bartenfelder

 Barbara Kingsolver/ Photo by David Wood

Barbara Kingsolver/ Photo by David Wood

Fifty years, before the advent of the twenty-four hour news cycle and social media, before we had anything remotely reminiscent of modern media, we had books. Literature was the most direct way to inform the public and draw attention to the environmental concerns of our time. But as modern media has continued to grow and morph into a behemoth of instant gratification, it’s really contemporary writers like Barbara Kingsolver, who have worked to shift the focus back to the details. 

Whether in-person or in her writing, Kingsolver uses her mastery of her own understanding of the world around her—specifically her home of Appalachia—to inform the public about what she sees as the pressing environmental concerns of our time. Kingsolver’s writing recalls one of the pivotal moments for the environment and literature: the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962, which helped launch an environmental movement around pesticide use and allowed the public a deeper glimpse at the environmental stakes associated with the use of DDT, setting the tone for literature to function as an informed advocate for the public. 

Like Carson, Kingsolver’s admiration for the natural world is ever-present in her writing, from the imagery of Appalachia’s bountiful forests to the unforgiving mountainous terrain, to utilizing details about animal and plant diversity to create balance between poetic justice and scientific fact. 


Whether in-person or in her writing, Kingsolver uses her mastery of her
own understanding of the world around her—specifically her home of Appalachia—to inform the public about what she sees as the pressing environmental concerns of our time. 


To do this, she draws inspiration from her predecessors, namely David Thoreau. “[His] gifts as a writer, [have] transcended his contributions to natural science. [He] dismissed the notion that poetry and science are incompatible, and captured for his readers the simple wonder we hastily leave behind in the age of reason,” she notes in her 1995 collection of short essays, “Hide Tide in Tucson” (HarperCollins, 1995). 

Kingsolver channels this same energy in her fiction, from her earlier works like “Prodigal Summer," released in 2000, to her more contemporary “Flight Behavior” (Harper, 2012).  To inspire readers who are passionate, who have a desire to become passionate, or are native to Appalachia, Kingsolver uses fictional stories to emphasize the true nature of how the environment functions in a world of human influence (and sometimes destruction).   

In her “Prodigal Summer,” a novel told in three short narratives, the focus is on the environment as a safe haven. In the first story, her character Deanna initially finds peace in the solitude nature of the forest, which enables her to conduct research for the government while allowing her to reflect. The three stories intertwine through their connection of the characters’ love for the environment and their love for others. And yet, despite nature’s natural comfort, its isolation also serves as a realistic fear for her characters. In the second story, the narrator Lusa struggles with her identity in the context of her new environment: “Now she felt like a frontier mail-order bride, hardly past her wedding and already wondering how she could have left her city and beloved career for the narrow place a rural county holds open for a farmer’s wife.”  

Kingsolver’s novel, “Flight Behavior,” examines a more critical side to the environment. After carrying on an affair with a younger man, the main character Dellarobia, wanders into a field behind her house and notices it is covered with monarch butterflies, too many to count. The culprit for this phenomenon is global warming and climate change, which has disrupted the monarch’s traditional migration patterns, leaving them in grave danger of dying off come winter in Appalachia—a stark, dually-faceted warning about the nature of human behavior. 


Rather, while lyric in its approach—and an absolute joy to read—Kingsolver’s writing is also a call to action.


But while Kingsolver often utilizes the power of fiction as a platform to call out the injustices humans have enacted on the planet, the consequences of the events in her books are hardly fictional. Rather, while lyric in its approach—and an absolute joy to read—Kingsolver’s writing is also a call to action. She has reinvigorated the function of literature in our modern context, pushing readers to look past their electronic screens and uncover the real news, the real talk, the real beauty, and the real power they have to change and control the human influences on the environment. In this way, she not only serves as the catalyst for environmental change in literature, but she is enlightening readers and future writers to continue to champion nature.  


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Kim Bartenfelder is an undergraduate student at
George Mason University seeking a degree in English.
English spans more than written word but rather
generations, history, moral lessons, and two sense.
Kim's two sense is that all literature is good literature.
The ones that leave the biggest impression are the ones
that match your vibe. 

So you have a manuscript...

by Stefan Lopez


What does Stillhouse Press look for in a manuscript? What’s the common thread running through space age romance, paternal combustion, plantation poetry, and disability care reform?  

“We want something unpredictable, bringing a new experience to the table.”  


In celebration of four productive years of publishing, we’re releasing a series of interviews with members of Stillhouse Press, from submissions and acquisition, from cover design to release, all to shine a light on the publication process.  

Aryelle Young is Stillhouse Press’ current submissions editor, and one of the first to have a say about what gets published. She works with all the submissions, assigning them to teams of readers, reading through reader reviews, going back to the manuscripts themselves, and sending promising pieces up the editorial ladder. 

Marcos L. Martínez is the next link in the manuscript chain. An alumnus of George Mason University’s MFA Creative Writing program, Martínez is one of the founding members of Stillhouse Press, and serves as the acquisitions editor. 

Choosing a manuscript is a daunting task. Even small publishers get a sizeable amount of submissions. “We had contest submissions open for a couple hours, and we got five manuscripts in that time alone. I haven’t been here that long but I’d guess that we get well over a hundred manuscripts a year,” says Young. 

It’s an especially formidable number, when considering that Stillhouse publishes an average of two titles annually. The judging process must therefore be thorough.  

 “A lot of what I’m doing right now is outreach at things like conferences and readings, to keep an eye on authors we are interested in. I also work with our other editors on manuscripts that we think have potential,” Martínez says of his role. 

Each manuscript sees multiple rounds of vetting from teams of volunteer readers—largely sources from George Mason’s MFA , BFA, and English programs—who read the manuscripts on a deadline, give each one an individual score, and then discuss the assigned manuscripts together, comparing reactions.  


For prose, Stillhouse asks its readers to look for the classic staples of good writing, such as dynamic characters, interesting subject matter, and powerful language. The factor they most heavily weigh is the author’s competence and voice: “We look for strength of writing and a good clear voice,” Young says. “A few mistakes aren’t a big deal as long as we can see a writer’s vision coming through in the manuscript.”   

“Strong voice can mean a variety of things,” says Martínez. “Think of it as having a distinct personality and a unique sense of writing. A narrative that’s distinct or unique, or a unique type of storytelling, like hybrid works.”  

He uses Mark Polanzak’s POP! as an example: “What really fascinated us was that it was a memoir that included moments that were obviously fiction. The opening was really eye-catching. Polanzak’s father disappears in a literal puff of smoke.”  


As for Poetry, Stillhouse wants something that can’t be easily fit into a simple stylistic label.  

“We’re looking for something that pushes the envelope, not just transcendentalism or romanticism or love poetry," Young says. At the same time, it can’t be completely divorced from developments in the wider world of poetry. Quite the opposite: “We want something that’s part of the contemporary conversation.”   

“Our most recent poetry publication, [Carmen Gillespie's] The Ghosts of Monticello was actually submitted in our nonfiction contest,” says Martínez.  

Once Aryelle and her team find a prospective manuscript, it is then opened up for discussion by all of Stillhouse’s editors.  

“Generally, we all get together at a big table. We talk about what we think are the manuscript’s pros and cons. Does it fit our vision? What kind of marketability does it have? What are some of the challenges does it present? The decision to publish has always been unanimous,” says Young. 

Even after the unanimous vote is received, the process is not over. A proposal is sent to board members. 

"If they give the okay, we talk to the author and see if they’re willing to work with us."  

It’s a complex process, which takes plenty of time and effort, and according to Martínez, “in the best circumstances, the timeframe from submission to acquisition takes six to 12 months. From acquisition to publishing it takes, at the very least, a year.”  


So what should prospective authors aim for? 

Aside from writing well, don’t put too much in the cover letter. “It isn’t a make or break factor.” Young says, “The shorter and more concise it is, the more likely it’ll make an impact. Don’t take the mystery out of reading your manuscript. We want it to grab us as we read, not have it laid out before we even start.“ 

Martínez suggests expanding your efforts outside of your writing. “It’s really important for authors to engage with their community, and find a base with other authors and peers… Often we write in isolation, and that’s an important process, but you need to build a network of people already interested in your work.”  

In the end, they both suggest patience and perseverance. “The publishing process normally takes a long time. Just because you didn’t get a response, or got rejected, doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is bad. Keep writing, and keep submitting.”  

"Keep writing, and keep submitting."


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Stefan Lopez has an internship with Stillhouse Press,
a Bachelor’s Degree in English from George Mason University,
and a head full of empty.

Tiny Books: Triptychs IN MINIATURE


By Meghan McNamara 

 "Superman on the Roof."

"Superman on the Roof."

Last night I read a whole book in one sitting. It took me 45 minutes. When I was done, I couldn’t stop thinking about the family—the father’s cruelty towards his children, the mother’s complicity, how little resolution I was left with in the end. I thought about the author, and how the dedication suggested that at least some of this book is based on his life, on the death of his own sibling, perhaps. 

Lex Williford’s novella-in-flash, "Superman on the Roof" (Rose Metal Press, 2017), is a single narrative, told in ten self-contained stories, nearly every chapter the same line repeated—“after our kid brother Jesse died”—and another memory. Related from the perspective of the eldest sibling, Travis, "Superman on the Roof" is a captivating glimpse into one family’s loss of their youngest member, Jesse, from a rare blood disease. 

Amidst the backdrop of 1960s Texas, the language is stoic, and at times stilted, the tenor decidedly southern gothic. Travis describes his brother’s body in technical detail—“spotted with yellow-blue bruises on his chicken-bone knees and elbows and shins, his belly white and round and thumping hard as a honeydew melon”—a kind of affection seeping between the lines: “Hearing him laugh, Maddie and Nate and I joined him, still warm from our beds,” he says. “Maddie punching us hard whenever we bumped or splashed him, three rowdy kids and one sick kid all crowded into a three-tubed vinyl pool from FedMart.” 

Unsentimental and poignant in the same stroke, Williford explores the wicked side of grief, how poverty colors loss, and the way death needles its way into the human identity, forever reshaping the lives it influences. The characters are evocative, their collective loss the provocateur for their own cruelty, towards one another and themselves. “It was only right and fair that my father should turn against me,” Travis says. “And all I could do—my father’s eldest son, the one who’d killed his youngest—was to stand silent over the years as my mother and father’s grief and rage twisted itself like tanged thorns into switches, belts and boards.”  


Less linear, but no less ambitious, Alex McElroy’s "Daddy Issues" (The Cupboard Pamphlet, Vol. 30, 2017) is a five-story collection that distorts the boundaries of voice, character, and form. The first story, “The Death of Your Son: A Flowchart,” is conveyed exactly as the name suggests—in flowchart form—a brilliant vehicle by which, in the space of just 16 pages, the narrator covers the accidental death of his son at his brother’s careless hand, his long concealed infidelity, and the guilt that weaves its way through both these truths. 

 An excerpt from “The Death of Your Son: A Flowchart."

An excerpt from “The Death of Your Son: A Flowchart."

Akin to Jennifer Egan’s chapter in PowerPoint (featured in her 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "A Visit from the Goon Squad"), the flowchart allows for—and in many ways creates—levity, permitting readers to navigate the complex landscape of a father’s mourning and still come out the other end laughing at the dark comedy contained within it.  

McElroy’s stories vary in both form and approach, veering towards the downright experimental, as is the case with the title story in the book. Told through a series of choppy, vignette-like paragraphs, “Daddy Issues” serves as a sort of thesis for the collection, reflecting on the relationships between fathers and their children, on the intricacies and sometimes the banalities of being a parent, and also just of life. 

“Anthony Henson’s son screamed in the night. He did not know how to raise his son by himself—but to whom, he wondered at night, lying in bed beside his son and massaging his neck and chest, to whom should he apologize?” reads one paragraph.

“Jorge Menendez sprays poison on rocks for nine hours every day,” reads another.  

A week later, and several pages into my next enterprise, I am still considering these strangle little graphs, still reflecting on what I should think McElroy is attempting to convey. 


I’d be remiss to discuss tiny books without the context of their modern origins: the poetry chapbook. Bryan Borland’s latest collection, "Tourist" (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2018) is easily one of the most timely I’ve read in recent months. 

Penned during the book tour for his second full-length poetry collection, "DIG" (Stillhouse Press, 2016), "Tourist" is a haunting snapshot in time, and Borland, the cultural observer. Capturing both urban and rural portraits of the United States during the 2016 election cycle, the poetry in this collection is largely inspired by his experiences on the road, and his need to write so palpable; it’s as though the words can’t leave him fast enough. 

 
 Poem "Indiana" from "Tourist."

Poem "Indiana" from "Tourist."

 

Borland wrote “Indiana” after his reading was moved off campus for promoting “gay poetry.” Breathtakingly spare, yet ripe with the painful irony of too little progress, the source text for this erasure is one of Borland’s own, “Flawed Families in Biblical Times,” which first appeared in his collection, "My Life As Adam" (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2010). It was one of the poems he selected to read that evening.  

His contemporary poetry—as it has in the past, for his relationships—examines the United States’ flagrant intolerance, largely embodied by the likes of candidate Donald Trump and the “Make America Great Again” movement, and explores the fragility of human life. “Chelsea Bomb,” the poem Borland wrote after the a pressure cooker bomb exploded in a New York City dumpster just blocks from him, is one of the most chilling in the collection, the final lines an evocative reminder of the very real, very tangible fears of our time. 

you will worry
through the night
 even when I call you
from a speeding car
even when
you know I’m safe
you are full of fear
my backpack is full of books

— excerpted from "Chelsea Bomb," Tourist


Taken together, these three small books comprise fewer pages than most full-length prose titles. They are spare in their language, yet dynamic in their undertaking. They steal my breath and my heart. They are only a small slice of the beauty contained in the world of modern literature, and yet, in the landscape of economy—which, in the era of instant gratification, we seem so often to be moving deeper into—they demand so little and give so much in return. Do your brain a favor and pick up a tiny book. I promise, you won’t only finish it—you’ll be rushing back for more. 


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Meghan McNamara a graduate of George Mason University's Creative Writing MFA program. She serves as the Director of Media and Communications for Stillhouse Press. 

Hope, Grit, and Resilience: The Inspiration Behind Dan Tomasulos' American Snake Pit

By Tyrell Jordan

 "American Snake Pit" will be released May 1 by Stillhouse Press. 

"American Snake Pit" will be released May 1 by Stillhouse Press. 

Daniel Tomasulo is a man of many degrees, from his MFA in creative writing—which helped him write his way through his forthcoming memoir, American Snake Pit —to his work in the field of positive psychology. 

But while his knowledge and experiece are captivating, it’s the stories of his patients that show the true value of his work. 

I was nervous at the start of our phone call, but the tone of Tomasulo’s voice is friendly and warm, and my feeling quickly changed. He is, after all, a psychologist by trade. His job involves setting people at ease. 

American Snake Pit is the story of the disregarded souls who ended up in his care after Staten Island's Willowbrook State School for people with intellectual disabilities closed its doors for good in 1987. The book details his struggle to give voices to those who could not advocate for themselves.


Tomasulo’s voice is friendly and warm... He is, after all, a psychologist by trade. His job involves setting people at ease. 


I was curious about who he would like to meet with again, if he had the chance.

"Jake," he answered easily.

Jake was an austistic savant, who Tomasulo worked with during his time at Walden House, an experimental, community-based home for the intellectually and mentally handicapped that he helped established in the 1980s, and one of the first of its kind. Jake's ability to memorize information systems—most notably the Manhattan phone book—and recall it from memory at will made his intellectual disabilities difficult for the state to classify. 

“He was fascinating person," Tomasulo told me. "He had many abilities, as well as disabilities."

The way he described Jake made it seem like his disabilities, while handicaps, were also the underlying foundation for his remarkable abilities.  

Tomasulo’s purpose for writing this book is something I haven’t encountered with other authors: “I’d like [people] to have more compassion for [those] with disabilities… and to have more hope in their own lives,” he said. “I’d want people to realize that despite the situation, the people of Willowbrook have lived meaningful lives. They are exemplars of hope—and inspiration for us all.” 

This compassion and understanding is the driving force behind his work—giving a voice to those who otherwise did not have the ability to tell their stories. 

“Unlike the Women's Liberation Movement, or the Vietnam War, or the Civil Rights Movement, this group didn’t have an author," he said. "This became my mission—to help tell their story.”  


Unlike the Women's Liberation Movement, or the Vietnam War, or the Civil Rights Movement, this group didn’t have an author. This became my mission —
to help tell their story. 


But Tomasulo couldn’t tell his patients’ stories without first telling his own. While Walden House helped save many living with severe handicaps from a life of institutionalization, in many ways, it also saved Tomasulo, giving his early life as a psychologist its focus. 

 Tomasulo, reading from his collection in early March at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Tampa, Fl.

Tomasulo, reading from his collection in early March at The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference in Tampa, Fl.

As a writer myself, I have chapters of my novel that I enjoyed writing, and those that were difficult for me to write. This was true for Tomasulo, as well. 

“The chapter on my moving into the boarding house was difficult because it was the end of my relationship and I had run out of money—a very low spot in my life,” he said. “But maybe because of the difficulty, it was also the chapter that had the most humor.” 

It took him the better part of ten years to write his reflection on his time at Walden House, but while some of it was painful, much of his writing is infused with humor. “The chapter back with Jake was really fun to write because I was able to recall all of his antics,” Tomasulo said. 

He acknowledges that helping people communicate beyond their disabilities takes a certain resilience of spirit, and he hopes that’s something more people will understand by reading his memoir. 

“I’d like [people] to have more compassion for people with disabilities—especially with intellectual and psychological disabilities,” he told me. 

Thirty years after the closure of Willowbrook State School, there is still much the general public doesn’t understand about the treatment of those with severe intellectual disabilities, but Tomasulo’s American Snake Pit is a step in the right direction. 


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Tyrell Jordan is a freshman at George Mason University,
seeking his BFA in Creative Writing. He has written a novel and is currently at work on its sequel, both of which he hopes to have published.

Maybe We Can't Live Without Amazon

By Meghan McNamara

I say it a lot these days: Amazon is taking over the world. 

We buy our gadgets from Amazon, our groceries—some might even say our news, if you count the fact that Amazon's president and CEO, Jeff Bezos, also owns the nationally syndicated Washington Post. Soon, we may even buy our healthcare from this behemoth online retailer. Often, our dollars support Amazon in ways we aren't even cognizant of

Amazon's influence isn't hyperbolic; this company is redefining the way
we purchase and pay for almost everything these days.

What started out as an online book retailer has quickly, in the span of just twenty years, spiraled into a nationwide dealer of goods and services. And there’s plenty about that which might give government regulators cause for concern. But what most of the Amazon-consuming public likely isn’t privy to, is the complete lack of regard (or seeming disdain) that the company continues to show the publishing community.

It’s no small secret that independent publishers get short shrift with big box stores, but these days, Amazon is extending their indifference as far as big publishing houses, distributors, and authors.

For Stillhouse Press, this is hardly surprising. In 2017, we had two titles listed as “Unavailable” on their publication date, despite showing up for presale for months leading up to their release. What’s more, warehouses showed the titles as "in stock," but after several hours on the phone with out-of-country call centers, Amazon unapologetically told us there had been a “glitch in the system,” and we needed to be patient while it worked itself out.

 Source: Twitter,  @kellyforsythe_

Source: Twitter, @kellyforsythe_

In the end, our distributor couldn’t force Amazon's hand on the matter any more than we could and the books continued to show up as unavailable for the better part of the week that followed. As a result, we ended up returning to Ingram’s distribution arm, for little reason except that they had more pull with Amazon than the smaller distributor we had been using.

Stories like this are a dime a dozen—and hardly the only thing Amazon is doing to undermine small presses. Last November, Goodreads.com—one of the many businesses owned by Amazon—took their previously free book “Giveaway” option to market. What had once functioned as a grassroots marketing tool for indie publishers and self-published authors is now a $119/book marketing investment.*

Why offer something for free when you have the power and visibility to charge for it? seems to be the modus operandi here. And sure, it seems like an excellent way to pull in even more in profit, but some are dubious about whether or not the program will stick around. As an indie press or self-published author, often times the funds just simply aren’t available.

 Source: Swenson Book Development

Source: Swenson Book Development

Perhaps one of the most palpable areas where publishers are starting to feel the impact of Amazon’s capitalist ways, however, is with the company’s [in]famous "buy button."

 Amazon's "Buy Button," now available to the highest bidder.

Amazon's "Buy Button," now available to the highest bidder.

With the exception of books, Amazon has historically offered their buy buttons to the highest bidder—the party that could offer a new good at the best (read: cheapest) price, regardless of who had brick and mortar rights to distribute the product. The emphasis on new is important here, because with booksellers, it should—in theory—be the publisher who holds the only new copies of a just-published or forthcoming book.

Not only does allowing third parties the right to a book's buy button undercut publishers, distributors, and authors (who see no dividends from books sold by third parties), but it ultimately begs the question: Where are these third parties sourcing their "new" books from? Some publishers have attempted to stand up to Amazon, but it doesn’t look like the company has any intention of changing its policy.

So... where do we go from here?

If my bookshelf and the recent Association of Writing and Writing Professionals conference (AWP) are any indication, the independent literary community is as ebullient and self-supportive as ever. But, if it is to continuing flourishing while the most popular platform for sales continues to re-write the rules, we in the book-buying community have to adapt our habits. 

I get it : it's simply easier to buy your books from Amazon.
It's faster, often even slightly cheaper. But lately I've thinking about how important ease really is in the book buying process.

Last week, while surfing the web and drinking my morning coffee, I came across a book that gave me that "I have to have this" feeling. I get it often, sometimes twice a week (to my partner's dismay). I navigated easily to the Amazon site. As a Prime customer, it could be on my doorstep in two days. 

But I didn't end up adding the book to my cart. Instead, I called my local bookstore, One More Page, and spoke to a human (terrifying, I know). It took five minutes. I chatted with the woman on the other end of the line, exchanged pleasantries, told her I'd see her in a week. It will take about five days for my book to reach the store. But that's fine. I can wait. In fact, I am already looking forward to the trip, to the inky goodness of freshly-printed pages and colorful rows of un-cracked spines.

Maybe we can’t live without Amazon — where would I buy my fancy French sea salt, or those perfectly sized tension rods at a moments notice?— but we can change what we depend on it for, and I would argue that books should not be one. #BuyBetter

* As of press time.

It’s that time again…

#AWP18 (or, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs) is upon us! And just in time for some much needed sun, no less. But how do you tackle a daunting schedule and make sure you’re checking all the boxes? Fret not. At least as far as Stillhouse Press and its friends are concerned, we’ve got a few suggestions to ensure this year’s conference is an engaging, networking, and inspiration success.  


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Can't afford AWP? Don't buy into the hype? Happen to be stumbling around Tampa? Check out Whale Prom, the anti-AWP , where you can find our very own Bryan Borland, author of DIG and fellow small press publisher for Sibling Rivalry Press.  

Whale prom is free and open to all AND, if that’s not enticement enough, you can get your hands on an early release of Bryan’s forthcoming collection, Tourist, inspired by his book tour for Stillhouse Press’ 2016 poetry title, DIG

Catch Bryan and his partner in crime, Seth Pennington, at the Sibling Rivalry happy hour and have him sign your book! 

--------------------------------------------------------------Happy Everything Hour, Sponsored by Sibling Rivalry Press

Red Star Rock Bar
Thursday, March 8, 2018  
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. 

THURSDAY 

Beyond Queues and Fees: Poetry Books Outside the Contest Model

Are you a poet looking to get your collection published? Then this panel’s for you. Join former Stillhouse poetry editor and current art director, Douglas Luman, and several other talented editors for a fascinating discussion on how to circumvent the classic contest submissions model (and associated fees!), in favor of a more sustainable and inclusive approach. 

Grand Salon B, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m. 

Writing Resistance: LGBTQ Writing as a Platform for Change

With the safety and lives of LGBTQ individuals at stake now more than ever, the call for politically driven writing is even more urgent. Hear friend of Stillhouse, Seth Fischer and fellow LGBTQ writers discuss the importance of using their writing as a platform for activism and change.  

Grand Salon D, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. 

Sound and Fury: Understanding Voice in Fiction

As a press in search of voice-driven works, we’re especially excited for this panel, which considers where voice comes from, and how to use it to play with narration, point of view, and style. 

Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. 

Superconductors: Poets & Essayists Channeling Science

Catch Generation Space co-author, Anna Leahy’s panel on the connections between science and the literary arts. This panel discussion explores how key historical moments in science have helped shape the literary landscape of these writers’ lives. BONUS: Pick up a copy of Generation Space at the book fair and have Anna sign it! 

AWP18_Postcard.jpg

Room 24, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
3:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. 

GMU Creative Writing Programs & Stillhouse Press Host AWP 2018

Join Stillhouse Press and George Mason’s Creative Writing Programs for drinks and light bites, and catch our very own Dan Tomasulo, author of the forthcoming memoir, American Snake Pit, read from his new book! 

Bernini of Ybor
Thursday, March 8, 2018
5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

#AWP18 Keynote Address by George Saunders

Love George Saunders? Yeah, that’s a dumb question. Who doesn’t? Hear him read and discuss his work in this keynote address. 

Ballroom A & B, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Thursday, March 8, 2018
8:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.


FRIDAY 

Strong Medicine: The Poetry of Addiction

The “milk of paradise” can lead to masterworks, while addiction deserts ambition and destroys lives. In this panel, five award-winning poets—including a few of our absolute favorites—explore the swerve from inspiration to ruination from different perspectives and diverse writing styles.  

Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Friday, March 9, 2018
10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.

Yoga for Writers

GET LOOSE! Stretch those limbs, clear out those toxins, and take a few [much needed & very deep] breaths with a mid-conference yogi sesh. We’ll see you there. 

Room 10, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Friday, March 9, 2018
9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Challenges and Triumphs: Underrepresented Voices in Publishing

Diversity is key. At Stillhouse Press, we feel that it’s the work of small presses to represent ALL voices, all sexual orientations and identities, genders, and races. Come here these agents, editors, and authors discuss the challenges they face as part of communities underrepresented within the publishing industry, their approaches to overcoming these obstacles, and what we can do to foster diversity and inclusivity among both readers and publishing professionals. 

Grand Salon C, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor  
Friday, March 9, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.


SATURDAY

This Is Scary and Here We Go: Fear in the Driver’s Seat

For many in the literary community, these are terrifying times. But when fear strikes, we must write through it. Catch one of our favorite writers—and former Stillhouse fiction contest judge, whose 2016 pick debuts this fall!—Porochista Khakpour and a panel of epic women discuss how fear both holds them back and drives them forward, despite and sometimes because of it. 

Room 5 & 6, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Saturday, March 10, 2018
12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

Writing the Pain: Memoirists on Tackling Stories of Trauma

Writing about traumatic experiences does not repair them. However, re-entering those memories, pulling them apart, and putting them back together can transform them into something meaningful, perhaps even beautiful, for both writer and reader. Hear George Mason’s very own Kyoko Mori and others discuss loss, illness, grief, or family dysfunction in poetry and prose. 

Ballroom A, Tampa Convention Center, First Floor  
Saturday, March 10, 2018
1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Passing Into Pages: A Tribute to James Salter

If there’s one thing the last George Mason Professor Alan Cheuse instilled in his students (and there were many), it was a fervent love for James Salter. “Life,” Salter wrote, “passes into pages if it passes into anything.” Celebrate the brilliant short story and novel writer’s life at this panel, which includes George Mason’s very own, Tim Denevi.

Florida Salon 1, 2, & 3, Marriott Waterside, Second Floor
Saturday, March 10, 2018
4:30 pm to 5:45 pm

Meet Lindley Estes, Moonshine's New Blog Editor!


Welcome to Moonshine Murmurs in 2018 


I wanted to take the first blog of the year as an opportunity to introduce myself. I’m Lindley Estes, a first-year MFA student at George Mason University focusing on fiction, and this corner of the internet's newest editor. 

I’m a longtime daily news reporter who went back to school to focus on the craft of fiction, which I didn’t get to write often enough before. 

Right now I’m reading "How Should A Person Be" by Sheila Heti (it’s for class, but it’s still great), and re-reading E.M. Forster’s "Howards End" (which I was also once assigned and adore). 

I’m also a believer in the small, independent press. It is exciting to be a small part of Stillhouse Press, which releases writing that different and bolsters new voices. 

This semester you can expect content on this blog that goes behind the scenes of our small press, features on our staff writers and our interests, and interviews with the authors Stillhouse Press is bringing to your bookshelves. 

Want to read something in particular? Want to have a conversation? That’s what the comments are for, leave me one. 


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Lindley Estes is a first-year
fiction student in
George Mason University's Master's
of Fine Arts
program and an editor
for Stillhouse's
Moonshine Murmurs blog.

A Bookworm's Guide to Washington, D.C.


By Hannah Vandegrift

"Quiet and relaxing" and Washington D.C. seem a juxtaposition to most, but there are plenty of quiet corners around the city that provide a welcoming environment for the wandering reader. Here are some of our favorite spots to relax with a cup of coffee (or tea) and a good book.

 The cafe at the Museum of the American Indian. 

The cafe at the Museum of the American Indian. 

Smithsonian Museums
 

Of course, places like the bustling Air and Space Museum, are not good places to relax, but there are a few that can be safe havens from the bustling crowds. 

MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN 

My personal favorite, this museum is four floors of fascinating exhibits, as well as a restaurant and café on the bottom level. The café is a great place to charge your phone and sit down with authentic Native American cuisine or a simple cup of coffee.

THE SMITHSONIAN CASTLE CAFÉ and GARDEN

One of the lesser-visited of the Smithsonians, this beautiful castle provides a welcome sanctuary. If it is warm enough, the castle’s garden area (which includes the African and Asian Art museums) is a beautiful escape from the city's busy city streets.

 NATIONAL GALLERY of ART, RENWICK GALLERY, HIRSHORN GALLERY,
and the NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY

It might seem obvious, but art museums and galleries are a great source for quiet spaces. Wander through the halls of each museum before finding a bench or corner to settle in. Some of the galleries even offer food and beverage options, if you need to refresh.

 The National Gallery of Art. 

The National Gallery of Art. 

The National Mall


During the warmer months, spreading out on a blanket in the grass underneath the Washington Monument or on a bench by the Reflecting Pool can be better than the beach. It's great for people-watching or lying on your back
with that great new novel.

 Coffee and reading at Politics and Prose. 

Coffee and reading at Politics and Prose. 



Our Favorite D.C.. Bookstores


Throw and stone and you’ll hit a coffee shop or bookstore in Washington D.C. Some of the best-known ones, tucked in several locations around the city, are Busboys and Poets and Politics and Prose. Inside, you can shop for a new book, enjoy a meal, or even attend an author signing and reading at Politics and Prose. And with several locations to choose from, Busboys and Poets makes for an easy trip!
 

Library of Congress


While this famous library is known as a popular tourist destination, it is also a great resource for researchers and readers. And, most importantly, it’s free. Become a "Registered Reader" and gain access to the library's vast collection of books and research, as well as use the Main Reading Room. And don’t worry about being inundated by tourists; most
simply view the reading room from above. Visit the website for more information. 
 

U.S. Botanic Gardens


If it’s warm, snatch a seat among the local and exotic plants in D.C.’s outdoor botanical gardens. There are plenty of places to sit and read in the shade or sun. Too cold? Step inside and warm up! The humidity is kept as high as your average steamy jungle all year round.

There's always something going on in the city, but sometimes the best escape from finals or the holiday frenzy is a well-lit place and a good book. Don't worry about transportation. For the vehicle-less, almost any destination in Washington D.C. is accessible by bus or metro. And, for those wanting to avoid the traffic, all metro parking is free on weekends, bypassing backups on I-66 or I-495. 

Have a suggestion? Let us know in the comments section if we missed any of your favorite areas.


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Hannah Vandegrift is an intern for Stillhouse Press.
She is a sophomore preparing to graduate in May 2020 with a BA in English
and a minor in Sociology. She currently works at Diversity, Inclusion,
and Multicultural Education as a Research Student for Research and Assessment.
She loves stories of all kinds, whether they are from books, poetry, film, or TV.

The perfect pairing for all your stillhouse reads


THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS UPON US!

As 2018 steadily approaches, we've go a few drink recommendations
 to pair with your favorite Stillhouse Press selections.


Carmen Gillespie’s latest collection interrupts the everyday to bring us the spiritual visitations of Sally Hemings, her half-sister Martha Wayles Jefferson, and other famed and forgotten residents of the Monticello plantation. These poems reach into the distant past to unearth songs of pain and longing, weighty with the long history of American silence that continues to circumscribe our lives today.

Monticello Spiced Rum Punch

History is a tough pill to swallow. For this, we'll need plenty of rum.  
Adapted from this Bon Appétit recipe, this rum punchis made to satiate partygoers and historical ghosts alike. 

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup Kopper Kettel chai spiced rum
  • 1 cup George Bowman rum
  • 1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 1 cup meyer lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup Luxardo maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 cup simple syrup, 2 teaspoons bitters (Angostura works well)
  • 1 cup sliced mangoes
  • 1 cup of assorted citrus fruits, sliced into rounds

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to bowl. Mix well.
  2. Chill.
  3. Serve with ice. 

Maybe mermaids and robots are lonely. Maybe stargazing dinosaurs escape extinction, and ‘80s icons share their secrets and scams. A boardwalk Elvis impersonator declines in a Graceland of his own, Bigfoot works as a temp, families fall apart and come back together.

The Elvis Peach

Rumor has it, Elvis once reportedly drank so much peach brandy
it nearly killed him. 
Adapted from Food & Wine, this brandy-based brew will take you from fabulist faraway worlds to Great Recession realism in a single sip.

Directions

  1. Add the rum, peach brandy, black tea, simple syrup and lemon juice to a large pitcher.
  2. Stir, add the water and stir again.
  3. Refrigerate until cold.
  4. Serve in collins glasses with citrus garnish. 

Ingredients


    When Mark Polanzak was seventeen, his father spontaneously combusted on the tennis court, vanishing forever. It is also entirely possible that he died of a heart attack. 

    The Gin Fiz Wallop

    Like Polanzak's hybrid memoir,
    each slurp of this fizzy little number
    is scarcely what you might expect.

    Ingredients

    • Combine 2 ounces Catoctin Creek Watershed Gin
    • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
    • 2 teaspoons of simple syrup
    • Club soda
    • 1/2 package of Pop Rocks
    • Pinch of granulated sugar 

    Directions  

    1. On a small plate, combine Pop Rocks and sugar
    2. Wet rim of highball glass with a slice of lemon 
    3. Add gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice to cocktail shaker and shake well.
    4. Strain into glass, careful not to disrupt the rim.
    5. Top with club soda and serve.

    Bryan Borland’s third poetry collection examines what it means to dig—to undertake the intense labor of unearthing the personal/political/artistic self and embracing the consequences of that knowledge.

    The "DIG This" Manhattan

    We're craving bourbon for this sexy love story, the way readers crave
    their next Stillhouse fix. Adapted from this Ted Allen cocktail, you need this Manhattan like you need blood in the throat. 

     

    Directions

    1. Add ingredients to cocktail shaker.
    2. Shake well.
    3. Rub an orange pee along the rim of your martini glass.
    4. Strain drink into glass.
    5. Garnish with one (or two!) cherries.



    Ingredients


      For poet Anna Leahy and scientist Douglas R. Dechow, quintessential children of the Space Age, love for each other and love of space are inseparable. The moon landings, the shuttle program, the prospect of manned travel to Mars: each stop in humanity’s journey to space has marked a step in their ongoing love affair with each other and the cosmos.

      [Generation] Space Punch

      Adapted from the Belle Isle Craft Sprits recipe,
      t
      his spacey brew will have you reaching for your dearest...
      or maybe just another mug of this stellar concoction. 

      Directions

      1. Combine ingredients in punch bowl.
      2. Add ice.
      3. Garnish with rosemary and serve immediately.

      Ingredients

      • 1 bottle Belle Isle Ruby Red Grapefruit
      • 2 bottle sparkling wine (try Virginia's Horton Sparkling Viognier)
      • 5 ounces St. Germain elderflower liquer
      • 5 ounces white grapefruit juice
      •  3 ounces lemon juice

        Lindley-0100.jpg

         

        Lindley Estes is a first-year fiction student in
        George Mason University's Master's of Fine Arts program
        and an editor for the Moonshine Murmurs blog.
        She's partial to bourbon. 

        Questioning the Past: An Interview with Carmen Gillespie

        By Caitlin Herron

         Carmen Gillespie’s  The Ghosts of Monticello , the third book of poetry from Stillhouse Press.

        Carmen Gillespie’s The Ghosts of Monticello, the third book of poetry from Stillhouse Press.

        Carmen Gillespie gladly finds time to discuss the importance of questions and [re]creation of historical figures. These ideas are central to the evolution of her latest poetry collection, "The Ghosts of Monticello: A Recitatif" (October 2017), winner of Stillhouse Press' 2016 Poetry Contest.

        Despite a busy week taking care of her 10-year-old and the close of George Mason's annual Fall for the Book festival, Gillespie found some time to speak with me about her inspiration for her new book and what brought her to this moment in her writing career.

        Although she has always written poetry, and can’t imagine her life without it, Gillespie says her love of the form has been deeply intertwined with her academic pursuits over the last 15 years. “In academics, I tend to focus on black female writers. There is so much that is still covered that needs to be excavated,” says Gillespie, English professor and director of the Griot Institute of Africana Studies at Bucknell University and the author of several books of poetry and critical works.  

        Part of what motivates her work in both poetry and Africana studies are questions, she says. “Sometimes poetry and academics have the same questions but not the same answers, and sometimes poetry is more effective at answering them.” 

        This was certainly the case while attempting to answer some of the central inquiries about the life of Sally Hemings, Thomas Jefferson, Martha Jefferson, and others featured in her collection. Primarily, Gillespie wanted to explore the idea of whether or not Hemings had any agency in her story, especially in her relationship with Jefferson, the third president of the United States, with whom Hemings was thought to have had six children. “I can’t believe that every encounter she had with Jefferson was about violence. My understanding of human beings is much more complicated than that, so that is what I wanted to explore,” Gillespie explains.

         Stillhouse authors Douglas R. Dechow, Carmen Gillespie, and Anna Leahy, with Acquisitions Editor, Marcos L. Martínez at George Mason University's 2017 Fall for the Book festival. 

        Stillhouse authors Douglas R. Dechow, Carmen Gillespie, and Anna Leahy, with Acquisitions Editor, Marcos L. Martínez at George Mason University's 2017 Fall for the Book festival. 

        But she did not stop with Jefferson. Gillespie also wanted to expand upon what Hemings' relationships might have been like with others on the plantation, given her position as both a slave and the lover of such a powerful character. “So many people have said so much about Jefferson, but it was interesting to me to focus on her other relationships with her mother, Martha Jefferson, and her half sister, and how that dynamic would work if they were to have a conversation,” says Gillespie.

        She sees her collection as a dynamic story, and one which she hopes “makes the link between our contemporary situation and the paradoxes of the past.”

        Interestingly, this questioning of the past in Gillespie's collection is formed by language that was originally written to be sung on-stage. "The Ghosts of Monticello" got its beginning as a libretto for an opera performed at Bucknell University, where Gillespie enjoyed engaging with the actors and musicians. “I am inspired, energized, and sustained by theater, dance, and music performances,” she says, noting that when composing something for people to sing versus developing the structure of a collection, the writing can be quite different. 

        For those thinking about writing fictionally or poetically about history, Gillespie offers some choice advice. First, she says, research is critical. “If you are going to write about something that actually happened, it is really important to know your subject well... People are often afraid to do that research, and think it will inhibit the imaginative experience, but I don't find that to be the case.” Second, she emphasizes how important it is to be “an observer of human experience and understand how people interact.” Says Gillespie, “Ask the questions: what does it mean to experience grief or lose a child? Once you start thinking about these things, the characters speak to you rather than you having to create them.”

        12246876_1657121484548276_2548580781967135878_n.jpg

         

        Caitlin Herron is the events intern for Stillhouse Press.
        She will graduate with a BA in Writing and Rhetoric in December 2017.  
        She also works part time in Parks and Recreation for Fairfax County. 

        Dear Friends of Stillhouse Press

        We're offering free shipping on all of our titles for the indefinite future, when you buy our books directly from www.stillhousepress.org. Allow us to explain why.

        These are tumultuous times for small indie publishers. Like most small presses, Stillhouse has spent the past few months attempting to adjust to a set of sudden policy changes at Amazon, which have dramatically affected all publishers, but especially very small presses, like Stillhouse. Here are links to a few good explanations and discussions of this change:

        When Stillhouse Press published its first book, Wendi Kaufman's wonderful Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories, in the fall of 2014, Amazon stocked the book regularly and made it available on the usual shipping schedules. Our next five books were also listed this way. But starting in January of this year, that reliability came to an end. If a book wasn't "temporarily out of stock," it was listed as available in "1-4 weeks," or even "1-2 months." 

        This is patently false. Both Stillhouse Press and its distributor, Ingram, have an ample stock of books.

        If you visit Amazon to purchase one of our books and they are telling you it will take more than a day or two to ship, or that it is "temporarily out of stock," please consider purchasing from Stillhouse directly. Or, if you are lucky enough to have an independent bookseller nearby, consider ordering our books from them. It may take a few days, but you'll be supporting a local business that provides jobs to your neighbors, and helps to strengthen your local economy. 

        And, as always, from all of us at Stillhouse Press, we thank you for your support!

        Sincerely,

        Stillhouse Press

        Better Together: Anna Leahy and Douglas R. Dechow on Co-Authoring & Space

        By Evan Roberts

        “Hers, mine, and ours,” says Douglas R. Dechow, co-author of Stillhouse Press’ "Generation Space," a memoir that follows the beginning and end of NASA’s space shuttle program. These are three distinct writing methods that exist between Dechow and his co-author and poet, Anna Leahy. Both together and apart, the couple has a long and prolific history of space exploration coverage and authorship, including Leahy’s book "Constituents of Matter" (Kent State University Press 2007) and Dechow’s "SQUEAK: A Quick Trip to Objectland" (Addison-Wesley Professional 2001).

        “Anna writes to learn and her writing process is overtly one of discovery,” Dechow says. “I could contrast that with my own process, which is more an attempt to codify something that I already know or believe, to see what I know or to test what I believe.” But together they are greater than the sum of their parts, explains Dechow. In the process of their joint authorship, a “deep intermingling” of their writing methods occurs and produces new, collaborative writing intentions.

        But apart, the writers are just as different as their methods. "Generation Space" alternates between their disparate perspectives: Leahy has the mind and experience of a poet, and Dechow of a scientist. But Leahy claims their perspectives are not irrevocably different. “Our differences emphasize each other’s strengths, which may be why we were attracted to each other in the first place. As a scientist, Doug keeps a lot of detail organized in his head. For instance, he recognizes technological objects—aircraft, rockets—at a glance and often can rattle off the historical or engineering contexts of artifacts. Over the years, I’ve let myself off the hook a bit for doing that sort of work, knowing that I could count on Doug.”

        Much like their shared passion for space exploration, their passion for writing provides a firm foundation for the couple’s personal lives. “We disagree regularly and sometimes irritate each other, but we rarely argue—writing together has strengthened our ability to disagree and keep moving forward. Being able to revise a sentence together—to treat something external to ourselves as the most important task—probably helps us keep the rest of our relationship in perspective," Dechow says.

        There’s a certain proof of compatibility that can be found in the co-authoring process, he explains. “We have grown to know each other’s voices so well that there are undoubtedly sentences that I suggested to Anna that wound up in her chapters and vice versa. Of course, every so often, I would catch a sentence and say, ‘I can’t believe you wrote that. But, it’s your chapter, so you can say it the way you want.”’

        “Our first conversations, when we were getting to know each other, were about writing,” says Leahy, who admits that the writing process can sometimes be strenuous on a relationship. “If we had tried writing together early on in our relationship... I think we would have botched both the writing and the relationship. For us, the relationship had become strong before we became co-authors.”

        Regarding future space exploration, particularly commercial space’s part in that future, Leahy says their interest has always been predominantly with the government-funded NASA. "In a competition between NASA and capitalist ventures, our hearts were with NASA, its rich history, and the importance of its programs to science. In Generation Space, we talk about our initial resentment of commercial space and a conversation with Garrett Reisman, a former Shuttle astronaut who now directs crew operations for SpaceX."

        But commercial ventures certainly have their place, Leahy says. "As we looked more deeply into commercial space, we understood its potential to pick up the technology that NASA had developed and run with it — NASA had taken the risks, and NASA’s work belongs to all of us. Commercial space is set to complement NASA’s ongoing efforts.”

        From the dawn of human civilization, we have always had our eyes set on the constellations. The cause of our enduring fascination with the stars, according to Leahy, “Humans are a curious bunch, in both senses of the word curious. We want to know the unknown. We want to understand what’s out there. When we explore what surrounds us—the universe—we push our thinking to its limits... In Generation Space, we grapple with what that really means—with what it means to be here because there exists an out there of space.”


        Anna Leahy and Douglas R. Dechow work and teach at Chapman University in Orange, California. Anna's first book, "Constituents of Matter" (Kent State University Press, 2007) won the Wick Poetry Prize. They have written the Lofty Ambitions blog together since 2010.  Anna is the author of the chapbook, "Sharp Miracles" (Blue Lyra Press, 2016), and her nonfiction book Tumor is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in 2017.  Doug is the co-author of "SQEAK: A Quick Trip to Objectland" (Addison-Wesley Professional, 2001) and "Intertwingled: The Work and Influence of Ted Nelson" (Springer, 2015).


        Evan Roberts is the former editor of Moonshine Murmurs and has worked as an editorial assistant, reader, and media contributor for Stillhouse Press. He graduated from George Mason in the fall of 2016 with his Bachelors of Art in English.

        2017 Spring Conference Review

        By Caitlin Herron


        It’s spring conference season in the DMV, and it’s a great opportunity to connect with your literary community, grow your skills, and network with other local writers.  Regardless of your writing experience or genre, there are several upcoming events where you can hear some fantastic readings, socialize, and expand your knowledge of the writing world (and even catch some of our authors in the process!) These are events you won’t want to miss!


        2017 NEW LEAVES WRITERS' CONFERENCE

        Hosted by Fall For The Book, in coordination with George Mason University's Creative Writing Program.

        George Mason University, Fairfax Campus
        Monday, April 3 - Friday, April 7
        Registration: Free
         

        With no registration fee and no sign-up required, this conference is great for writers with changing schedules. This years’ conference highlights its first “Day of Translation” on Wednesday, April 5, presented by our friends at The Alan Cheuse International Writers Center and The Center for the Art of Translation. The day features acclaimed translators and writers presenting on “Translation as a Political Act,” “The Art of Translation,” and other topics. The rest of the week includes readings from established writers Laura van den Berg, Spencer Reece, Helon Habila, and the Loud Fire reading by Mason’s MFA students. (Several Stillhouse Press staff members past and present will be there, so don’t miss it!) On Tuesday evening, Mason MFA alum Mike Scalise will be reading from his memoir "The Brand New Catastrophe "(Sarabande Books, 2017). And on Wednesday night, be sure to check out Linda Chavers reading from her chapbook "(This Fucking Body Is) Never Yours," from our friends at Gazing Grain Press.


        ARTOMATIC

        Crystal City, Arlington, VA
        March 24 - May 6
        Entry: Free
         

        Artomatic is a fun way to experience all of the performing and visual arts the D.C. area has to offer - in an old laundry building! That’s right, this space has been converted into a venue for writers and visual and performing artists to showcase and sell their work. With so many weeks to visit, there is plenty of time to get a taste of this unique event. Come April 1 for a reading by Stillhouse's Andrew Gifford, author of "We All Scream: The Fall of the Gifford's Ice Cream Empire" (forthcoming May 1, 2017), and get your hands on his exciting memoir a full month before its official release.


        CONVERSATIONS & CONNECTIONS: PRACTICAL ADVICE ON WRITING

        Hosted by Barrelhouse


        George Mason University, Arlington Campus
        Saturday, April 22, 9am-6pm
        Registration: $70
         

        This conference is the premier way to connect with writers and editors through a day packed with workshops, panels, and ending in a legendary boxed wine reception! Panel discussions include flash fiction, point of view, handling grief, and a myriad other topics.  There will even be a panel with Barrelhouse Magazine editors giving advice on how to get your work out of the slush pile and into a lit mag. This year's conference will feature our very own editorial director Marcos L. Martínez, Stillhouse friend and Editor of Smokelong Quarterly, Tara Laskowski, and Rion Almicar Scott, author of "Insurrections" (The University Press of Kentucky 2016), a 2016 Pen/Faulkner finalist. A highlight of this conference is its speed dating event, where attendees can bring their poetry, short fiction, or first few pages of an essay or story for a 10 minute critique with an editor. Lit mags attending include Barrelhouse, Smokelong Quarterly, Potomac Review, Gettysburg Review, and many more. This conference offers a great way to get feedback on your work from a range of editors in your genre.  The best part?  Your registration gets you a book by a featured writer and a subscription to a participating lit mag.  At $70, you get a lot of bang for your buck!  


        KENSINGTON DAY OF THE BOOK FESTIVAL

        Kensington, MD
        Sunday, April 23, 11am-4pm
        Registration: Free


        The Kensington Day of the Book Festival is a lively outdoor literary festival for every reader in your family. Over 100 authors, poets, and artists will be lining the streets of this charming downtown for book sales, readings, and more! There will be tents with an on-the-spot poetry competition, an outdoor kid’s show, and even demonstrations from cookbook authors. Stillhouse's Andrew Gifford, ("We All Scream," May 2017) is a special guest speaker, so you won’t want to miss this event, rain or shine!


        BOOKS ALIVE! 5th ANNUAL WASHINGTON WRITERS CONFERENCE

        Hosted by Washington Independent Review of Books

        College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center
        Hyattsville, MD
        Friday, April 28 – Saturday, April 29

        Registration:
        Mar. 2 – Mar. 31 $250
        Apr. 1 – Apr. 29 $260
        Student Discount rate: $130
         

        If you have a novel, story collection, or idea that’s itching to be pitched, this is this conference to hit this spring! After Friday’s “How to Pitch an Agent” session, participants will have the opportunity on Saturday to meet face to face with up to three agents for five minutes apiece. Agents are looking for work in all genres: YA novels, memoir, sci-fi, fantasy and more. Not looking to pitch? There are still plenty of panels from publishing industry experts to attend, including the keynote address from Judith Viorst, best known the children's classic, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." This is a great event to meet established authors in your genre and get advice from industry experts!


        12246876_1657121484548276_2548580781967135878_n.jpg

        Caitlin Herron is the events intern for Stillhouse Press and a copy editor for George Mason's student newspaper, Fourth Estate. She will graduate with a BA in Writing and Rhetoric in December 2017.  She also works part time in Parks and Recreation for Fairfax County. 

        #PowerOfThePen at AWP

        Hello, from the other side of AWP! It was a long and amazing weekend of running between panels, readings, off-site events and the Stillhouse Press booth at the Bookfair. The Stillhouse team is thrilled to have had the opportunity to connect with so many great writers, readers, publications, and organizations—not to mention all the opportunities we had to show off our authors and their books! (We’ll take this one last chance to say: if you missed your opportunity to snag a book at the Bookfair, you can order online.)

        In honor of the 50th anniversary of AWP and its presence in the nation’s capital this year, we wanted to do something special. If you were at AWP and stopped by, you might have noticed us hanging out with a whiteboard and asking people to participate in our social media project. (Maybe you even stopped by!) We collected all the photos and selected our favorites. 


        We asked, “What is writing’s role in 2017?”

        Here’s what you had to say:

        1. “To remember who we/you are, remember who we/you were.”

        2. “Bear witness and document history.”  

        3. “To remind us of the scientific facts!”

        4. “RESIST.”

        5. “To fight the tyranny of ignorance.”

        6. “To tell the stories from the perspective of the lion. #resist #minorityrepresentation”

        7. “Speaking truth to power.”

        8. “Be ever-moving forward and amplify those that have been/will be silenced. #resist #queeraf”

        9. “To be not alone.”

        10. “‘To reflect the times’ - Nina Simone + speak out against the sh*t!”

         

        11. “Truth and beauty as always, and now...more than ever the will and grace to fight for it.”


        There were so many more folks who participated and gave us their two cents. You can check out the other photos on our Twitter page, @StillhousePress, or search #PowerOfThePen. We had a fantastic time talking with everyone who stopped by to tell us what they thought. As writers and poets, we all have a lot of work to do in 2017. And we at Stillhouse Press look forward to working alongside you.

        Want to participate? It’s never too late! Tweet @StillhousePress with your answer or comment on this post!


        Alexandria Petrassi is the editor of Moonshine Murmurs, a reader for Stillhouse Press, Phoebe, and So to Speak, the Lead Editor at Floodmark (a blog devoted to providing eclectic inspiration for writers), and a first-year poetry student in the MFA program at George Mason University. She also has a day job in health care, where she works in Digital Communications.

        Conference Networking: A Newcomer's Guide

            With conference season just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for all of the exciting networking and development opportunities ahead. The AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs) Conference is in Washington, D.C. this year, which means that many local writers and students in the DMV will have the opportunity to attend the biggest literary conference in the world for the first time. What’s the best way to use the conference to expand your network?  How do you avoid imposter syndrome as a first timer?  Michelle Webber, Communications Director at Stillhouse Press and resident conference guru, has some helpful hints about how to grow your network and get the most out of the experience.


        Know Before You Go: Do Your Research

        Spend some time investigating what writers and organizations will be there. This may sound simple and intuitive, but it can be more work than you think! One scan of the list of 2017 exhibitors will show you just how overwhelming your “to do” list could be, but don’t freak out!  Print out the list, grab a highlighter, and start annotating. Once you’ve done that, prioritize based on your individual needs. If you’re an author looking to make a personal connection with the editors of a literary magazine that you love, flag them. If you’re an undergraduate looking into MFA programs, make sure they are high on your list. This cheat sheet will help you craft a schedule that will take you everywhere you want to be.

         The book fair floor at the 2016 AWP Conference in L.A. 

        The book fair floor at the 2016 AWP Conference in L.A. 

        Plan a Loose Schedule That Includes Breaks

        Do the same thing you did with the exhibitor list with the conference schedule. Pick out the events that sound interesting, then the ones that you cannot miss. Prepared to be disappointed: the two panels you want to see most will almost certainly be at the same time. You’ll have to make a choice, but that’s okay: the conference is long and there’s always something just around the corner.  Scheduling breaks (even if it’s just thirty minutes for coffee) is absolutely essential.  If you’re a first-timer, you will be tempted to fill every single time slot in your day. DON’T DO IT!  It’s really easy to burn out, and if you over-schedule yourself, you’ll miss out on one of the most important parts of conferences: being there! It’s also a good time to make some notes for yourself and reflect on what you’ve seen.

        Take Notes

        Don’t be afraid of looking rude if you scribble notes in the middle of a presentation or panel. Write down quotes from authors you love, pieces of advice that you find particularly helpful, any books that you want to add to your “to read” list. After each day of the conference, go back to your hotel and do a little journaling. Write down your impressions from the day; make lists of the people you met and how they fit into your network.  You’ll collect a lot of free swag and pieces of paper—write on these too! Write deadlines on bookmarks, notes about the conversation you had on the back of business cards, throw away any fliers or inserts that you don’t need.  Culling one day at a time is much easier than trying to remember the details of a conversation you had three days ago.

        Don’t Be Shy — Say Hi!

        Introduce yourself to one person at every panel you attend. You may be surprised at how few degrees of separation there are between writers, especially at a big conference like AWP.  If you’re a member of a lit organization, invite them to swing by your table or come to your offsite event. Every face-to-face conversation is an opportunity to grow your network!

        The same goes for presenters. Attend a panel that was helpful? Watch a keynote that really unlocked something for you? See a reading of an emerging writer you really admire? Stay behind afterwards and interact with them. Introduce yourself, ask questions, tell them what you enjoyed about their lecture. This may be difficult for the bigger events, but many presenters expect and even enjoy interacting with audience members after their events.  The same goes for the bookfair!

        Authors, Agents, and Publishers are People, Too!

        Last year, without meaning to and without even knowing who he was until he said it, I met Chuck Palahniuk’s agent at the LitReactor booth. I also had drinks with the Poet Laureate of New York at my hotel bar. These experiences taught me a valuable lesson: the best way to make meaningful connections is putting your respective literary positions behind and focus on the person standing in front of you. At AWP, you’re all on even footing. You’re writers attending an event to listen to and meet other writers. When you meet your literary hero at an after party or shake hands with the editor of your favorite literary magazine, remember that they’re people just like you. Conversations lead to connections; fangirling leads to restraining orders.

        BONUS ADVICE: Don’t forget to keep in mind the context in which you’re meeting these people. If you’re at a panel and the agent mentions she’s taking pitches, go ahead and do it. But don’t be that guy who shoves his manuscript under the stall door or gets too drunk and pukes on Sherman Alexie’s shoes (true story from a friend of a friend—seriously, don’t do it).

        Follow Up

        After you’ve done all the networking legwork at the conference, meeting people, shaking hands, and exchanging cards, it’s absolutely essential to follow-up when the event is over. Believe it or not, most people who say, “I’ll shoot you an email,” never do. Pursue the leads you worked so hard to attain. If you said you’d send that editor a query letter, do it! If you talked to another literary organization about throwing a joint event, get in touch! Making a connection without follow through isn’t really making a connection. Once you’ve made contact, you have to maintain it. If you don’t have anything immediate that you need to address with someone, but your work may bring you to their doorstep later, send them a “nice to meet you, hope we get to work together” note. If you got an emerging author’s contact information, send them an email saying how much you loved their reading.  We all like a little affirmation that we made a difference. Going the extra mile is what will take these casual interactions from isolated incidents to nodes on your personal and professional network.


        We want to know: what’s your best piece of conference advice?  Leave a comment or ask a question on our blog through February 8 and you will be automatically entered to win a signed copy of Christina Olson’s "Terminal Human Velocity."


        Michelle Webber has worked as a reader, an Editorial Assistant, and Social Media Editor for Stillhouse Press and currently serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications.  She is currently working on a collection of linked short stories and will graduate with a BFA in Fiction from George Mason University in May.

         

        Poetic Narrative: A Conversation with Christina Olson

        By Alexandria Petrassi

        The sky outside my building in Chicago is slate-gray, heavy with a promise of snow, as I settle into a coffee shop booth for my phone interview with Christina Olson, author of the forthcoming book of poetry from Stillhouse Press, "Terminal Human Velocity." She is calling from Kentucky, where she teaches at the low residency MFA program at Murray State University. Of course, the weather is at least a little better there in January, but nonetheless our conversation starts with winter. I learn that winter is one of the many images threaded throughout her latest collection. “When I was writing the early poems, it was the coldest winter on record, so one of the things that happened after I moved to Georgia is that I started romanticizing winter,” she says. Despite our talk about winter and the miles between our phone lines, our conversation is warm and engaging; a welcome break to my Monday afternoon.

        As we begin our introductions, it becomes apparent that Christina Olson has a different background than most poets. “This is a bit of an over-simplification, but I always introduce myself as a poet who comes from a family of engineers,” she tells me. She found poetry in college, though she originally intended to study Interpersonal Communication. “Surprisingly—even to myself—I’ve fallen into a pretty traditional academic path,” she says, “but there has been a couple little detours here and there.”

        One such detour? After graduating with her MFA from Minnesota State, she found herself working in healthcare marketing. It’s here that the earliest poems from Olson's collection and some of the mindset behind "Terminal Human Velocity" took root. “Two things happened in that job: even though I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of the work, I realized I had to do something more creative. And my head was filling with this random flotsam about death and disease and things that will kill you,” she remembers. “It got me thinking...how do we reconcile the big fallible machine that is the human body? And then how do we make sense of it? What can we learn about what it means to be human when we look at science and the natural world?” These questions manifest themselves throughout her latest book, though she didn’t set out to write a collection on the topic. She says her approach was more: “How do I feel about my life? Complicated! Let’s write a poem. Do you want to write it about you? No! Let’s write about Ernest Shackleton.”

        "Terminal Human Velocity: the book for the person in your life who doesn’t know they like poetry,” she jokes. “And who also maybe wanted to know something about horseshoe crabs." - Christina Olson

        So figures from history, both large (like Ernest Shackleton, an eighteenth century Antarctic explorer) and small (Elvita Adams, who jumped from the Empire State Building only to be blown back inside after falling one floor in 1979) grace the pages of her collection, along with what Olson calls “last love” poems (poems written to dead people) and poems that recognize the beauty in the scientific. “Fact is not inherently interesting; stories are,” Olson says. “Even when I think I’m not telling a story, I realize it is a story.” Her skill with narrative in poetry is showcased in "Terminal Human Velocity," which looks at both macro and micro narratives, working to tell the story of everything in between. These poems are interested in what it means to be human, and approaches their questions through narratives of other people discovering the grand scale of our world. It’s a collection where the mind is firmly grounded in the body; it’s equal parts wonder and fear of what it finds.

        As we move on from "Terminal Human Velocity," I ask Olson about the best writing advice she has for other writers. Her best advice is to remember patience: “You need to practice craft, but you also have to respect the amount of time that process takes. I don’t think a writer should be project driven, I think they should be process driven. Process takes time. Craft takes time.”

        Before we wrap up our conversation, I ask her if there’s anything else she wants readers to know. We spend a minute talking about the at-times seemingly elusive accessibility of poetry for some readers, and how she hopes the narrative in her poems offer an access point. “'Terminal Human Velocity': the book for the person in your life who doesn’t know they like poetry,” she jokes. “And who also maybe wanted to know something about horseshoe crabs.”


        Alexandria Petrassi is Stillhouse Press's Moonshine Murmurs Blog Editor and a first year MFA student at George Mason University.  She's also the founder of Floodmark, a poetry blog that focuses on prompts, craft features, and interviews. 

        We're taking a brief break...

        ... to cozy up with a warm beverage, 
        put our nose in a book,
        and forget about the world for awhile.

         

        We'll be back January 18th with
        some fresh and exciting content.

         

        In the meantime, don't forget to visit
        the Stillhouse Store and stock up
        on all your holiday gift needs
        for the literary folk in your life.
         

         

        Enter "HOLIDAY_20" for a 20% discount on all Stillhouse Press titles ($20 minimum purchase; excludes presale titles). All presale titles are $1 off through the end of year, with discount code "PRESALE_LOVE"

        Revise and Conquer: Advice From Our Authors

        Revision can be one of the most difficult parts of writing.  Creating a story, essay, or poem has its own challenges, but revision requires patience, persistence, and flexibility. Whether you're revising your NaNoWriMo project or gearing up for the spring submission season, we're here to help!  We asked our authors to give us their best in revision advice.  Don't forget to share yours in the comments! 


        “A story should be exciting to read. It should pull us in and not let go. It shouldn't meander unless meandering is its thing. It shouldn't bore unless boring is its thing. And if boring is its thing, it should bore with intensity. What I mean is that stories should be bright and fresh. They should be something we've never read before and that we're compelled to read now. They should make us lean in, lean closer. They should make us want to explore. In revision, this often means cleaning. Wipe away needless words, sentences, images. Knock the dust off old phrases. Heighten contrasts between characters, between images, between emotions. Make the world of the story more vivid and interesting. Make a story that's never been read before and that must be read now.” 

         Matthew Fogarty, Maybe Mermaids & Robots are Lonely (Sept. 2016)
         

        “I was recently discussing revision with my husband, Seth, and he said that the act of revision is the act of removing oneself from the poem, which is absolutely true. Early drafts are so often so close to the poet, too close, which is why we often love those early drafts to the point of craft being obscured. Revision is the act of standing outside oneself to make the best choices for the work.”

        Bryan BorlandDIG (Sept. 2016)

         

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        “I’ve (perhaps sadly) come to see writing from the publisher’s POV. I think so many people keep their writing too close to them. They fear revision, they struggle with criticism, they’re exhausted by the process, they lack the patience to refine and hone their voices. To commit something that comes from such a secret, private place to the editor’s pen can be horrifying, yes, but necessary. My advice has always been to let go. Most instructors will tell you that 'writing is revision.' It’s also a business.”

        Andrew Gifford, We All Scream (Forthcoming May 2017)

         

        “I tell students to open their journals and start salvaging. Pick over the writing, find the bits worth saving. Don’t think of them as poems, not as even drafts. But as piles of scrap, something to sift through. Scrap it for parts, I tell them. Salvage the images and the metaphors.  I use the language of labor because it is labor. Their journals are workshops, places to tinker. Take the line worth saving, plug it into some other failing poem. Pump the pedal a few times, try the engine. Every once in a while, something will suddenly roar to life.”

        Christina Olson, Terminal Human Velocity (Forthcoming Jan. 2017)


        Now that you've read our advice, we want to hear yours!  What's the best revision advice you ever received?  Tell us in the comments below or Tweet at us using the hashtag #RevisionAdvice. 

        A Letter From The Editor

        Hello Moonshine Murmurs Readers!

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        My name is Alexandria Petrassi, the new blog editor. I’m a poet and first-year graduate student in the MFA program at George Mason University. Although I focus primarily on poetry, I also dabble in nonfiction, fiction, and the hybrid forms between genres. I am a reader for Stillhouse Press and GMU's literary journals, Phoebe and So to Speak—all of which I highly recommend you check out.  I’m also the Lead Editor over at Floodmark, a blog devoted to providing eclectic inspiration for creative writers via writing prompts, think pieces, and humor. I’ve been in Digital Media for almost three years, both professionally and through personal projects. I’m a constant traveller, and while I love adventure, there’s nothing like curling up on your couch with a good book. (Perhaps even a book from Stillhouse Press if I may be so bold?)

        I’m excited to join the team and I’m ready to work behind the scenes here to bring you the latest and greatest on issues in craft publishing, perspectives from our authors and poets, and the happenings in the D.C. literary community. I’d like to take this moment to talk about what you can look forward to in the coming months, but first I want to say a huge thank you to the previous editor, Evan Roberts, for his commitment and hard work on Moonshine Murmurs.

        So, what can you expect in the future from Moonshine Murmurs? We’ll continue our work exploring the D.C. literary scene and providing you with reviews of bookshops, events, and features on visiting and local writers. We’re also going to open up a dialogue on the craft of writing and publishing: there’s so much hard work that goes in on both ends of the process, and we’re committed to supporting both aspiring authors and committed readers. You can look forward to interviews with our authors, Andrew Gifford (We All Scream, May 2017) and Anna Leahy and Douglas Dechow (Generation Space, April 2017) and frequent updates on the happenings at Stillhouse Press. We also want to hear from our readers about issues that are important to you.  If there’s something you want us to talk about, feel free to send me an email (moonshinemurmurs@gmail.com).  Let’s keep the conversation going!

        Of course, there will be so many other surprises along the way, especially as we head into AWP 2016 in D.C.. I hope you’ll join us in what’s sure to be an eventful year at Moonshine Murmurs. And if you’re looking for something in the meantime, don’t forget about our latest post about NaNoWriMo.

        All the best and brightest,

        Alexandria Petrassi


        After working for a year as a marketing and editorial intern, Evan Roberts took over Moonshine Murmurs in June and worked through the summer months to develop and manage a robust calendar of content, including our independent bookstore series and our publishing process series, "From Still To Shelf."  He will graduate in December, and while we’re sad to lose him, we are so grateful for all of the work he’s done and wish him the best on his future endeavors.