(Curating AWP 2013 is a series of short posts on presenters and presses participating in the AWP Conference and Bookfair.)

The Center for Fiction

Celebrate fiction. Celebrate stories that are true and real even if their details don’t map one-to-one to the events in the real world. Visit with the stewards of a mid-Manhattan oasis for nurturing, teaching, and recognizing fiction writers and readers. The Center for Fiction, founded in 1820 as the Mercantile Library, is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit whose mission is to “encourage people to read and value fiction and to support and celebrate its creation and enjoyment.”

Center for Fiction Bookshop

When I discovered the Center on 47th Street, I felt a sense of homecoming, and even though it was closed at the time and I have yet to physically enter the building, I’m gladdened by its very existence. Plus I can spend hours at their website.

Posted by: Anne Britting Oleson | January 18, 2013

Curating AWP: Encircle Publications

(Curating AWP 2013 is a series of short posts on presenters and presses participating in the AWP Conference and Bookfair.)

Encircle Publications:  Book fair table #Q18

Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, the guiding light behind Encircle Publications, began publishing The Aurorean in 1995.  At that time the press was located on Cape Cod; the magazine itself had a cardstock cover and a stapled spine.  Since then, Cynthia and Encircle Publications have relocated

Cynthia Brackett-Vincent

to Farmington, Maine, and the magazine has become slicker and more sophisticated-looking.  But Brackett-Vincent’s love of a good poem, and her nurturing of poets, has remained constant.  Over the years she has published such poets as Robert M. Chute, Virgil Suarez, Monica Flegg and Michael Macklin; last year, the press published an anthology appropriately entitled Favorites from the First Fifteen Years, with poems from all the years of The Aurorean’s life .

Encircle Publications also publishes The Unroarean, a semi-annual broadsheet series.  In the past couple of years, the press has published the winners of an annual chapbook contest (this year’s deadline is September 1st); new titles have included Rumor of Hope by Laurel Mills, and Nectar by Lisa Bellamy.




Posted by: bsprescott | January 15, 2013

The Indie Writer at AWP: “What Are YOU Doing Here?”

The prospect of attending a conference held by and for writing programs and presses feeds anxiety in the indie writer. As I did once, you may run into a published book author and writing program instructor who asks, “What are you doing here?” while looking over your shoulder into the crowd.

You may have an MFA from a respectable program but you don’t teach at one and aren’t looking for a job at one. You may have a few credits in recognized publications but the book-length manuscript that you hoped would be in shape by now isn’t. And yet, you know that supporting the other guises worn by scurrying conferees are identities as writer, reader, and lover of the word in all of its forms. Therefore, the conference, as one of the largest gatherings of your tribe, has endless potential as a source of inspiration, renewed energy, and new connections.

Tanya Whiton, Assistant Director of the Solstice Creative Writing Programs of Pine Manor College, concurs. As a writer and administrator, she is expert in the care, feeding, and occasional butt-kicking of all kinds of artists, as I know from personal experience. She says, “It is overwhelming as hell, yes, but there are always a few moments of inspiration that make it worth it.”

What luck has met your prepared mind at AWP? What luck are you preparing to meet this March?

To prime the anticipation pump which, unlike that pesky anxiety, actually increases your chance of catching and making the most of potential luck, here are ten of our collective inspirational moments from years past. Much respect and thanks to all of those involved.

  1. On our way through the hotel lobby on the first morning of the conference, we ran into Walter Mosley, whom I had met when he spoke at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard. He escorted us to our SND rendezvous in the lobby cafe and sat down. Kasey was at the table on the phone but murmured, “I’ll call you back,” and slipped her phone into her purse. Later she said she didn’t know what wasLaure-Anne Bosselaar happening but she didn’t want to miss any of it. Mr. Mosley wandered off just as the stunning Laure-Anne Bosselaar swooped over to envelop us in her warm and loving energy. We were set for the day.
  2. A panel presentation by Lan Samantha Chang included a brilliant analysis of “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien. I came away exhilarated, both by its agreement with my own thoughts on the story and by its deepening of my understanding of ways to approach this classic text in teaching it.
  3. We attended Tim O’Brien’s keynote speech in which he spoke about, among other matters, becoming a father at an advanced age. He brought himself and the audience to tears. It wasn’t until later that we were able to parse how much of our collective response was to the “facts” of the story–did that really happen that way?–and whether that query even mattered.
  4. One night at a conference, Anne and I were too tired to stay up but too wired to fall asleep. We turned out the lights in our shared hotel room but continued to talk in the dark. She told me about her chance meeting with novelist Stephen Benatar on her first trip to London when she was young, and how he had been the first author to take her seriously as a Kensington Church Streetwriter. Although she had long since lost touch with him, we agreed that it was never too late to reconnect and thank him for that early show of faith. She did contact him and found him very much the lively and caring spirit that she remembered. Taking the risk of reaching out led Anne to some of her best Awesome Adventures, which include her attendance at Stephen’s book party in London this past summer.
  5. A rumored reception hosted by our MFA program at AWP in Austin fizzled into a few friends gathering at a bar before dinner. After a long day of conference schlepping, I was perhaps a wee bit cranky, so when a classmate made a questionable remark, I strangled the urge to deck him and instead walked away. When I returned, the tune “El Paso,” which my husband sang to me the first time we met, played over the sound system. As he was also there, I naturally pulled him out of his seat to dance. Apparently a passerby leaned in the open window and commented, which I didn’t know but inspired Anne to write “Brenda’s Poem.”
  6. At a SND conference huddle, Jan dreamed of a meaningful conversation with one of her long-time inspirations, Jayne-Anne Phillips, who was one of the major speakers that year. Although the chance of it was slim, luck comes to the prepared mind, so we rehearsed the introduction of each other as a way to take the edge off of talking to strangers. Our Anne describes herself as an easily frightened person, but a few hours later, when she found herself standing between Jan and Jayne-Anne Phillips, she calmly introduced herself and said she had learned of Ms. Phillips’ work from her friend. She then turned and tapped Jan on the shoulder and introduced the two to each other. Dream encounter? Check.A. Van Jordan
  7. I was chatting with Van Jordan in the hotel lobby when two writers stopped to say hello to him. They were obviously starstruck, as I am, but hopefully I’m cooler about it. After they moved on he shrugged and a grin tugged at his mouth. He said, “This is the only place that happens. I have to take it where I can get it.” While I doubt that’s strictly true–read his work and look at him!!–I’m thrilled to know that others in this crazy world have sense enough to grant rock star status to this kind of poetic talent.
  8. Thinking I had hit a wall for the afternoon, I decided to return to my non-conference hotel for some down time before the evening events. As I pushed out through the revolving door of the conference hotel, I saw the lovely face of Brenda Edmands as she revolved her way in. We went around a full revolution, laughing together through the glass. She hadn’t been at the conference but was in town for another reason and so decided to drop in right at that moment. We sat in the lobby for a good catch-up, and all fatigue was forgotten.
  9. Years ago during AWP in Atlanta, we met over dinner with Jan’s long-time friend who was an expert in this new thing called social media. Way back then, she suggested that we create a blog (what’s a blog?) that we would take turns posting to. As we know now, that was excellent if early advice. We could lament not taking it before now. On the other hand, SND is comprised of writers of a certain age who are wise enough to not say something if we have nothing to say.
  10. During a disjointed but nonetheless deeply compelling speech, Sonia Sanchez asked the audience to chant with her for peace.
    Peace. . . .
    Peace. . . .
    Peace. . . .
    Much later, while listening to NPR on the way to a party with my husband, I heard a report that a suicide bomber in Pakistan had killed a group of elders who had gathered for peace. I remembered the solace and deep yearning of the peace chant from years before. We arrived at the party but the insanity of this story gripped me. My husband went inside while the truck cooled in the late-winter weather and I scribbled in a notebook. My response eventually evolved into a rare-for-me poem, “Sonia Sanchez Reads NPR Headlines, March 2, 2008.”
    Peace. . . .
    Peace. . . .
    Peace. . . .Sonia Sanchez
Posted by: rlbwelsh | January 14, 2013

Curating AWP: On Inspiration

(Curating AWP 2013 is a series of short posts on presenters and presses participating in the AWP Conference and Bookfair.)

Samuel R. Delany is one of the writers who made me want to be one.  I discovered him in the late sixties-early seventies, about the time I started hanging out at science fiction conventions.  

I especially loved finding clusters of writers grouped around each other late at night, leaning against a bar.  I would lurk on the periphery, close enough to eavesdrop but not so close as to be caught intruding.  Listening to their conversations—about writing, about story development, characters, about their lives as writers—thrilled me, excited me beyond measure.  I would eventually leave to find my way to my hotel room, exhausted but exhilarated, thinking, “I’ve got to get me some of that!”

I went to grad school and got an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Stonecoast program of the University of Southern Maine.  I started a writing workshop, wrote a weekly column, had a few things published and managed to find inspiration throughout my life.

I never know where inspiration will come from.  Sometimes I think it’s deserted me.  Other times, all I have to do is look out the window and see a dozen turkeys tossing apples back and forth in our orchard and I’m off on a riff about volleyball in the animal kingdom.  Or I let my gaze wander over my bookshelf, and there’s a book I haven’t read in thirty years and I wonder how it (or I) may have changed in that time, so I pick it up, and whammo, inspiration by the bucketful.

So when I saw Delany’s name listed as a featured reader at this year’s AWP conference, I sat up straight.  I can’t wait to sit in the audience and listen to him read, anything, transporting me back to my twenties when I was a writers’ groupie, wishing I were a writer.  I will be there, sitting on folding chairs at  rapt attention, listening.

Posted by: Anne Britting Oleson | January 10, 2013

Curating AWP: New York Review of Books

(Curating AWP 2013 is a series of short posts on presenters and presses participating in the AWP Conference and Bookfair.)

The New York Review of Books:  booth

January 10th issue

When The New York Review of Books was founded, 50 years ago, the publication vowed to be “one in which the most interesting and qualified minds of our time would discuss current books and issues in depth,” according to its own website.  Robert Silvers, one of the original editors, continues to steer the magazine (the other founding editor, Barbara Epstein, died in 2006).  Contributors have included Truman Capote, Susan Sontag, Mary McCarthy, Gore Vidal, Nadine Gordimer and George Soros; articles have ranged from topics such as the Viet Nam War, to the environment, to US-sanctioned torture and blackout sites.  All this, of course, on top of an ongoing intellectual discussion of books.

In addition to the magazine, the NYRB also is the publisher of several imprints of books:

  • NYRB Classics, which are billed as “innovative…fiction and non-fiction for discerning and adventurous readers” and which republished Stephen Benatar’s Wish Her Safe at Home in 2010
  • NYRB Collections, which are works by contributors to The New York Review of Books
  • The New York Review Children’s Collection, which publishes children’s classics such as Pinocchio and Walkabout
  • NYRB Lit:  this series is of ebooks, featuring contemporary literature in translation from around the world.

Posted by: Anne Britting Oleson | January 7, 2013

Curating AWP: Naugatuck River Review

(Curating AWP 2013 is a series of short posts on presenters and presses participating in the AWP Conference and Bookfair.)

Naugatuck River Review: Bookfair Table W5



According to an editorial statement by NRR’s editor, chief bottle washer and muse-in-charge Lori Desrosiers, “this is a literary journal founded in order to

Lori Desrosiers

publish and in doing so to honor good narrative poetry.” The first issue appeared in 2009*, and Desrosiers has put out two issues per year since then. While the spring/summer issue is traditionally for open submissions, the winter issue each year is devoted to contest entries. The magazine seeks to publish poems with a strong sense of story. Past issues have included works by Jenny Doughty, Edward Byrne, Issa M. Lewis, Dianne Lockward, Taylor Mali, Bruce Pratt, and a host of others.


Additionally, editor Lori Desrosiers has organized readings across the country featuring poets appearing in the magazine.

The magazine will also be hosting two readings during the conference:

Pam Uschuk, Doug Ramspeck
John Victor Anderson & Lauren Wolk**
12:00 noon on Thursday, March 7
at the Alice Hoffman Book Fair Stage, Exhibition Hall D,
followed by signings at their table, W5. 


Off-Site Reading at LIR
Directly across Boylston from the Hynes Convention Center
Saturday March 9, 4-6pm
Hosted by Lori Desrosiers, Publisher, Naugatuck River Review
Featured Poets:
Doug Ramspeck
John Victor Anderson
Lauren Alleyne
Thomas Moore
Taylor Mali
Judith Waller Carroll
Mary Leonard
Lisa Wujnowich
Leona Sevick
Paul Hostovsky
Mary Dingee Fillmore
Valerie Wallace
Martin Ott
Joel Moskowitz
Margaret Von Steinen

*Disclaimer: I was one of the poets lucky enough to be included in the inaugural issue.

Posted by: bsprescott | January 6, 2013

SND at AWP 2013

Simply Not Done is returning to the AWP Annual Conference & Bookfair in 2013. It’s been a while. Life happens and gathering with the tribe isn’t always possible. Still, we persist as writers, and with AWP visiting New England this year, it once again becomes part of our writing life. In the next several weeks, we’ll preview a selection of must-see exhibitors and presenters.

AWP 2013