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Gloria Mindock, Editor   Issue No. 63   February, 2011




Welcome to the February, 2011 Newsletter

In this newsletter, Catherine Parnell and Marcus Speh are interviewed. There is also a memorial written by Pamela L. Laskin about the editor/publisher, Susan Bright, of Plain View Press who passed away recently. Our thoughts and prayers go to her friends and family.

Červená Barva Press at AWP

Červená Barva Press has a booktable at AWP in Washington DC. If you are at this conference (2/3-2/5), please stop by the table. I would love to see you! Some presses know their location in the bookfair. I did not get where my press table will be so be sure to look it up in your directory when you get it. All the chapbooks will be on sale as well as many of the full-length books. You don't have to wait until Saturday when all the presses mark down their books! I'm doing this right away!

Červená Barva Press will be having book signings at their table. Here is the schedule:

  • Friday 1:00PM-Susan Tepper & Gary Percesepe will be signing copies of What May Have Been: Letters of Jackson Pollock & Dori G (Červená Barva Press, 2010)
  • Saturday 11:00AM-Elaine Terranova will be signing copies of Elegiac: Footnotes to Rilke's Duino Elegies (Červená Barva Press, 2010)
  • Saturday 1:00PM-Stacia Fleegal will be signing copies of The Lines Are Not My friends (Červená Barva Press, 2010)
  • Saturday 2:00PM-Gloria Mindock will be signing copies of her book, Nothing Divine Here (U Soku Stampa, 2010, Montenegro)

Come join us! I hope to see many of you at these book signings!

I will also be a part of the tribute to my friend, Rane Arroyo. Please join us at this tribute on Friday at 10:30-11:45AM Thurgood Marshall North Room Marriott Wardman Park, Mezzanine Level F129.

White As Silver by Rane Arroyo

One Poem Festival Celebrating Rane Arroyo. (Glenn Sheldon) A diverse selection of fellow writers, friends, and former students each perform a poem by-or about-poet, playwright, and professor, Rane Arroyo, to celebrate his life and work. The session will open with an invocation by Francisco X. Alarcon and an introduction by Glenn Sheldon.

Červená Barva Press announces the publication of Rane Arroyo's new book of poems, "White As Silver." Books will be available at the New Sins Press booktable and at the Červená Barva Press booktable. You can also order it through our bookstore, White As Silver at The Lost Bookshelf.

Červená Barva Press is working hard to catch up with its publications. In the coming months, look for books by Denis Emorine, Judith Skillman, Alexander J. Motyl, and Morris Berman.

A memorial to Susan Bright, editor and publisher, Plain View Press
by Pamela L. Laskin

On Thursday December 30th, 2010, publisher, editor and poet, Susan Bright, of Austin, Texas, passed away after a short battle with cancer. I had heard this from a fellow Plain View poet, Diana Raab, and I was incredulous. Susan had been a fairy godmother not only to me, but to so many writers struggling to find their way through the brambles and branches of the forest. With her radiant smile and generosity of spirit, she nurtured creative talent and made people believe in the power of their own voice. Susan, herself a writer (20 volumes of poetry), brewed a terrific concoction of eclectic and artistic work. Every year I got to hear this at the annual AWP conference. Susan made certain the writers could meet and greet, at a reading and party she hosted. It was at these parties where I had the opportunity to share verse, to hear stories committed to Susan's values of feminism, the environment and of a humanistic world. I have conversed with authors, many of whom reiterate the same message: "her uncanny insight spoke to me of a woman who, with nobility, speaks and acts for the concerns of humanity we hold dear." (Charles Nauman).

Marion Deutsche Cohen reminds us, "to honor those beautiful spirits who have been meaningful in our lives. Susan was a true inspiration on every level. Her light continues shining brightly in our hearts through all eternity."

Susan would always sign her e-mails, "onward." Pat Falk says this is quintessential Susan, "onward with the joy of good work, the commitment to keep on going." And that is exactly where Susan is now. And so, dear fairy godmother, here is my poem for you:

Seasonal Shifts

I borrowed your words
when mine were wet and wild;
shivering, you lent me a shawl
to wrap around bones
that rattled restlessly.

Covered in your caravan,
I was safe from the elements of scorn
since this shawl
was stitched by many voices;

the warmth of voices
draped in your laughter
seeped into words
from all over the world.

When summer came
I crept out of the cape
became a body
bound by your cover.


Rain Mountain Press, 2010
155 Pages/Poetry
ISBN: 978-0-9602211-7-6
To order:

And Rob Cook, in his bold and incantatory "Song of America," tells us, "I'm raising my child to drown and to drop dead and to carry buidings on his back." It appears our poets are at last ready to confront the hysteria and violence of the past eight years, and who can say there's a better year than 2009 to begin"
~Publisher's Weekly, Review of Best American Poetry 2009

"…Reading these poems closely, looking into their eyes, you can't help but know that no matter which side of the mirror Cook appears to be on, his reflection is pretty much your own…"
~Paul B. Roth, Editor & Publisher The Bitter Oleander

Straight Up and No Sky There by Stephanie Dickinson
Rain Mountain Press, 2010
Pages 187/Fiction
ISBN: 978-0-9802211-8-3
To order:

"…Stephanie Emily Dickinson is like a combination of Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson and Flannery O'connor…"
~Jill Hoffman, author of Mink Coat, Jilted Black Diaries, Publisher, Mudfish

"Half Girl is a trip we take with a fallen angel and we wonder how she came to fall…so vivid that the film version keeps playing and replaying across my mindscreen."
~Rosemary De Angelis, Director, New York Drama Desk Award Winner


Catherine Parnell

Catherine Parnell teaches English Composition and Creative Writing at Suffolk University and the University of Massachusetts, Boston, where she also worked for several years as the Program Coordinator for the William Joiner Center for the Study of War and Social Consequences. She is the fiction editor for Salamander and an associate editor for Consequence Magazine. Her chapbook, The Kingdom of His Will, was published in 2007. Recent and forthcoming publications include stories and reviews in Dos Passos Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, roger, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Stone's Throw Magazine, Another Book, Used Furniture Review, Salamander and Consequence.

Talk about your writing. What sorts of things interest you? Where do you find your ideas?

I'm a fan of what Walker Evans had to say about life. "Stop. Stare. Pry. Listen. Eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You aren't here long." I spend much of my time watching what goes on around me, wondering why people do the things they do. For me it's a matter of finding the inner world, the place where stillness exists in the midst of chaos. Or where the chaos exists. I also find writing about sin - capital, grave or venial -a bit like a prayer. To Whom? I have no idea.

Who are your favorite writers and why?

Dostoyevsky, George Eliot, Jorges Luis Borges, Virginia Woolf, Italo Calvino, Milan Kundera, Anne Carson, Alice Munro. So many writers, so little time. What draws me to a writer is a philosophical way with paradox, an incisive prose style, and an activist imagination at work. There's no line in the sand, unless, of course, we're talking about hysterical realism, in which case I get hysterical.

Talk about your chapbook, The Kingdom of His Will.

The Kingdom of His Will rose out of my oldest son's desire to join the Marines while he was still in high school, and allow me to emphasize still. I don't think my son has forgiven me for writing about what he felt was his experience, but it was indeed a shared experience, a fact that my young-in-body and at-heart son failed to recognize. I suppose the chapbook was a protest piece, but it was also a letter of love. Perhaps one day my son will read it and see more in it than Mum Thinks Not. At any rate, there was little or no debate involved in his decision at that time; I let him sort it out. In the end he went off to Middlebury College where he is now a stellar student. But I feel certain he will one day soon join the military. My feelings about his decision at this point in time are radically different. It's his life, and he's had time to consider all his options. Regardless of how things shake out for him, he is embarking on something (Marine Corps life?) that will shape his life in important ways.

You teach at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and Suffolk University. What classes are you teaching? Talk about your love for teaching and the challenges.

Last semester I'm taught Freshman Composition at Suffolk and a fiction creative writing class at UMB. The classes have more in common than you might think. There's a creative element in any type of writing; the trick is to tease it out so that the writer finds his or her voice and style. With a few exceptions, I find that today's students have no idea what voice is - they adopt and mimic what they've heard or read. And therein lies the problem. My students are children of the Cyber Nation, and books are not generally a part of that world. So the first step is to get students to read and think critically about what they've read.

But something far more disturbing is happening to our language. It's disintegrating. It would be easy to point fingers - and is it ever tempting, but the reality is that we have a generation of students who cannot write. And if you can't put a sentence together, how can you write an essay or a story?

I'm always asking myself why I teach. And the answer is always the same. I love the rapid-fire exchange of ideas, the intimacy of the classroom, the idea that a group of people comes together to inform and possibly reform and re-form. I also believe if we lose the ability to communicate with grace, dignity and style then we as a civilization are lost.

You are the fiction editor for Salamander. Talk about your involvement with this magazine and what type of fiction you look for.

I've been working with Jennifer Barber, the founding editor, for years now, and I think it's impossible to say exactly what we are looking for. I'd have to fall back on the "I know it when I see it." We look for a consciousness (not to be confused with self-consciousness) in narrative, a potentiality where the shape of what happens affects all levels of interpretation. The failure of something to happen, when barriers are erected and possibility, exploration and reflection are snuffed out - well, that frustrates me as a reader. I swoon when I sense a distinctive voice, a commitment to the exploration of the unpredictable, and a clear engagement with the world around us, so I suppose those are some of the numbers in the equation.

You also are an associate editor for Consequence.

When George Kovach, the founding editor, approached me about working for the magazine I was hesitant. I'm not a Veteran, and I have slim ties to the military community, but the idea that a magazine might dedicate itself to an exploration of the culture of war seemed too good to pass up. My work at the Joiner Center prepared me for a hard look at writer activists and the many forms activism takes. Consequence is all about discourse and democracy. George honors the individual voice and experience; he encourages and accepts political, social and philosophical pieces about what war and the business of our country is doing to us as a civilized human beings. Or maybe not so civilized.

What do you see when reading submissions? Is there an error that many writers make when submitting?

Most submissions are technically adequate works, which is to say the sentences are well-written and the accepted devices of narrative stack up nicely. (And when I see work lacking these elements I am saddened, for it reflects a disconnect between the self as writing mechanic and the self as writer.) If you're asking if I see a trend in topic and content, then I'd have to say no. The work I see is all across the literary universe. Some feels invitingly confessional, some disturbingly so.

What are you reading now?

I just read Thomas Lynch's Apparitions and Late Fictions and Austrian-born Stefan Zweig's Journey into the Past. Both books deal with literal and metaphorical death, and how life is unstrung by loss. I also read, on a whim, Malcolm Bradbury's Eating People is Wrong (a title to die for), which contains on of the funniest exchanges I've encountered recently. The main character, when prompted by the statement "I suppose you know lots of writers," says "I know some…but I prefer people."


Marcus Speh

I live in Berlin, Germany with my wife Carlye, who is an American artist, and our daughter Lucia. I am originally from Rhineland-Palatine in the South where it's warm and the people grow and drink wine and are generally jolly people, but I grew up in Hamburg, in the North, where the people are rather stiff, drink beer and try to appear British. I attended school in London for a while. A physicist by training, I teach informatics at a business school and I also do some coaching. I began to write when I was about six years old but I only started publishing flash fiction in 2009, in a literary online magazine.

Describe your favorite place to write.

I often use an old Olivetti Lettera 32 mechanical typewriter that stands on a small Kauri wood desk in a bay window of our living room. From that window I have a good view of the street and of the people tumbling out of the half-way house next door. It is light there and I can see a lot of sky which is not typical in Berlin where the houses are high and the streets are relatively narrow. I have also written in longhand in cafes and in my university office but my favorite place to sit down and write is at home near my family. I love it when one or both women in my life suddenly play music or break out in song and I'd hate to miss it.

What is the writing scene like in Berlin and in Germany in general?

I can only speak about the English-speaking writing scene in Berlin since we moved here from New Zealand in 2003 and lived in London for ten years before 2002. This scene is extraordinarily vibrant: there are readings and performances all the time, usually more than one per night every night of the week for people of all ages though young people dominate - Berlin is the Mecca of youth it seems to me: everybody (except me) is currently 25 years old (and will remain 25 for at least another 5 years). There are large-ish bookstores that only have English books. The quarter where I live, Prenzlauer Berg, used to be a vibrant Jewish quarter before the war - Europe's largest active synagogue is still here today - and is now populated with artists and writers. There are many cafes and especially in the warmer months of the year I often feel I'm in Paris, France, and not in a German town. On some streets, in many restaurants and shops you only hear English - it is most extraordinary and didn't used to be this way when we got here eight years ago. Berlin has grown into a global playground very, very quickly. You see, I could go on and on: it's a wonderful town to live in and a great place for a writer, even a writer of English. We have two new English-speaking literary (print) magazines in town now - Sand and Teller, I have joined a writing group (of which there are many) and there are English-speaking shows, stand up comedy and theatre all over town. A very exciting time, really, for any foreigner to be here. I know a bunch of people who followed the city's call lately and haven't regretted it. It makes one think of the 1920s in a way, though of course the world has moved on.

Do you think in German, then write in English? Describe your writing process.

Good question. As a teenager, I used to write in German. A lot. For the drawer only. In the late 1990s, I slowly began to switch to English (I wrote a lot of poetry then). I've translated some of my work to German and since the beginning of this year, I've written several German flash pieces which I float on a German speaking blog only, Having gone to school in London (briefly), and lived and worked there for ten years, and speaking English in two marriages for the past 20 years, I've become a linguistic and artistic expatriate in my own country. It's alright though, it gives me plenty of perspective, which is good for the writing, and I have a much easier time playing with English as material for linguistic sculpting. My inner critic is much harsher with my German texts, which makes it easier to get it all out at first - later, during editing, I do often involve my wife, a native speaker, as a copy-editor.

I have two modes of writing. One could be called "24/7": in this mode, I write either on my computer or in a small notebook, or in my head. I need a lot of inspiration which comes from pictures, from people I see and talk to, or from the stories of others that I read. I throw myself into a sea of information and aesthetics and I usually emerge with something between my teeth. Most of what I produce in this mode is flash fiction of 150-250 words. The other writing mode is "RoboWriter": I own a mechanical typewriter, an Olivetti Lettera 32, a most beautiful piece of equipment, on which I write in the early mornings before anyone is up or late at night. This is for the longer pieces. I regularly write two to four pages - about 700-1500 words in one go, then I let it sit for a day or so, sometimes for longer, before I read them and rewrite them on the computer. Altogether, I like to switch modes, media and places. I get bored easily with one way of doing things so I must change my approach relatively often. From the outside, it must look rather erratic and playful, and on the inside, it feels erratic and playful, too, but this is the way I work when I write.

Why did you start using the pen name Finnegan Flawnt? Why did you retire your pen name? Was this name used for a special project only?

I first recognised the power of online literature and publication at the end of 2008, having been an Internet and web buff for much, much longer. For the first time then I not only wanted to write, I also wanted to be read and I began writing a blog under the name Finnegan Flawnt. I still love that name, actually. For some reason, mysterious even to me, I love all things Irish. Two of my favorite writers are Irish - Joyce and Beckett. But the main reason was that I didn't want anybody who knew me in real life (except my family) to know about it because I had no idea if I was any good or (not necessarily related) if I would receive any validation. When it became clear that some people, at least, liked my writing, I began to think about retiring Flawnt and finally killed him in a grand gesture on Bloomsday, on 16 June 2010. It was a memorable event - the magazine Metazen even published a critical obituary and many people contributed. I felt very, very honored and a bit sad, too. A main reason to retire as Flawnt was that I had begun to spend too much time online to maintain his precious personality and I wanted to write another novel - I knew I could not keep FF going and be both effective and happy with it.

You are a member of Fictionaut (Founded by Jürgen Fauth) Describe your involvement with this group. I belong to this group and have found the writers to be so supportive of each other. They are just a nice and very talented group of writers which I find inspiring. What has your experience been like on this site?

I was invited to Fictionaut by Frank Hinton who edits Metazen, a very cool Canadian literary magazine specialising in meta-fiction, in the fall 2009 as Finnegan Flawnt. At the time, Fictionaut was my first and only community of writers - I did not know anybody nearby who wrote in English. Fictionaut is indeed an amazing place. I have tried other virtual communities since but I've not found elsewhere what Fictionaut has to offer: excellent writing, excellent comments, a boost both for your ego (if people like your work) and for your skills (if you engage). The striking characteristic of Fictionaut compared to, say, Zoetrope, is its openness. With a few (important) exceptions (of private groups), everybody can get into anybody's viewing window. I have met dozens of writers like myself who started out rather insecure about who they were as writers and what they were able to do, and who returned from fictionaut more fully formed, enriched and encouraged, with vital information regarding publication, writing, networking. There is an occasional flaming event, but it happens rarely. Also, there is the excellent blog that comes with Fictionaut where sometimes very famous writers, editors, and Fictionaut members are interviewed by intelligent, caring writers. As you can see: I spend a fair amount on that site and I haven't regretted a minute of it. I can't begin to say how grateful I am to the community - and the people I've met there - like yourself! Wonderful! - I am a little less active now because I've reached out to my local writing community, which is also a lot of fun but not virtual, of course.

I notice, from reading your work on fictionaut, that you write stories with subjects that are so broad. Your writing is amazing. How do you come up with your subject matter in fiction?

Thank you for saying nice things about it. I suppose I do have a fairly large range of topics. I have noticed though (partly through reflection in people's comments on Fictionaut) that I don't just write about everything. Existential issues - life and death - as in the writings of the great philosopher-writers, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Camus, are at the centre of my interest and concern. There are sub-issues, like masculinity, but existence and the conditions of existence (or annihilation) are key. There're simply a lot of characters, stories, lives even, that fit under that enormous umbrella. My other big interest is writing and the writing process and writers themselves - I share this with a number of literary writers of the past, like Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett. I suppose my own interest in writing as a topic (one could call it meta writing, though it rarely is non-fiction) comes from the fact that I'm a late joiner to this game of literature. I joined at a great time though.

Do you usually favor writing flash fiction or longer pieces?

I actually favor long pieces in principle, but I write flash or very short fiction in practice. Even longer pieces - a novella I'm working on for example - I found I can only complete in "flash mode", by writing relatively short pieces that I then combine to a larger whole. John Gardner called this method "fictional pointillism". I'm glad there's a name for it! The reason why I favor longer pieces in principle is that to face existential issues as described above you need a larger canvas. My canvas consists of 100,000 pieces, which is a complex undertaking but it's great fun to organise them into what, in the end, I hope appears will appear as a coherent whole. Or at least as coherent as life itself, which seems totally erratic and random at times, but, I feel, is the result of deep connections between all things. I suppose flash fiction is my way to explore these connections whose totality amount to a very, very long piece indeed.

What are you working on now?

I'm finishing a novella which I've submitted on a whim to a novella contest for first authors, and I've begun to write a radio play for another contest. Both to be finished within my research sabbatical, at the end of March. After that I'll probably assemble a book of German flash pieces and start another novel. And who knows, perhaps I'll even finish it. I work better with (external) deadlines - I love competition. I'm also writing more and more non-fiction: at present I'm completing a guest editorial for an online magazine that I admire greatly, and I have been invited to contribute other small articles, which is great fun and makes a wonderful change from worrying about characters and plot lines and what have you.

Talk about your project "One Thousand Shipwrecked Penguins."

It all began with an amazing vintage picture which I found on the net. It brought the phrase "one thousand shipwrecked penguins" out and I just knew I had to use this somehow. Also, I'd been looking for ways to get other people involved in my writing - not just as readers - and I like the simplicity and design of Tumblr. Put these together and "1000 penguins" was born: people submit their own digital photos and I write a weekly flash to go with the picture. Only recently, I've added a sister site to the penguins, called "kaffe in katmandu" which takes the concept even further: the kaffe is a writers' collective: members can post anything they like in a grid of posts - and non-members can submit posts, too. It is a little like a blog-based magazine, except a lot more open. It also allows people to share links on literature or critique, a photo or a song they found beautiful. A little like Facebook but - more open and way less clique-ish. Cultural backdrop: services like Tumblr have been enthusiastically embraced by a younger generation of 15-25 year olds whose blogs are just wild and who're crazy about sharing all kinds of lifestyle multimedia & messages. The kaffe and the penguins are, in a way, attempts to share this experience - and do some writing on the back of it.

What do you favor in terms of publication, online or print journals?

I don't think it's a question of favoring. Since I have only begun to publish in recent years, I don't have much of a print publication history but an online publication history instead, with only a few print magazines thrown in. For my type of writer, who enters the market from the side so to speak, online publishing is a pure blessing but I can already see how it can also be a bit of a trap for two reasons, mainly: on one hand, it just takes a long time to mature and grow as a writer - online media powerfully suggest (and show) that you can be a (small) star overnight. But that doesn't make you a great writer. It doesn't get you any closer to bringing out the fire in your belly. It doesn't help you wrestle your self-made inner demons at all. The other reason to be careful when publishing online is that the format clearly favors small and very small formats. I've benefitted from this since I do write a lot of flash and I like the small format. But if you want to grow out of very short fiction or add the long form to your writer's repertoire, online publication has its limitation. That is, of course, different again with e-book readers (like Kindle), which may yet turn out to be a real game changer in the publishing industry. By the length of my answer you can see: I don't favor but I watch carefully what happens - and I love online in all its forms as much as I love books printed on paper!

Who are your favorite writers and why?

The shortlist would be: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Gertrude Stein, Frank Kafka and Fjodor M Dostoewsky. The first four I love because of their relentless drive to innovate, try something new and still stay close to their own natures. I also love and rely on them for a non-obvious reason that I don't even quite understand myself: whenever I feel stuck or in need for words, not characters or plot or ideas or whatnot, but just words on a page, I pick up one of these four and usually, after a page or two, I'm cured and I can return to my own words. Stein in particular has the most calming effect on my brain when it's overheated. I plan to publish my own recording of Stein's fantastic lecture cycle "Narration", held in 1935 at the University of Chicago, at the kaffe in katmandu this year. Dostoewsky is the fifth force - continuously spelling both inspiration and aspiration. He's been that since I was a teenager. His passion and power are scary and seductive at once to any writer, I think. Freud has said that Dostoewsky could not be fully understood and appreciated without a grasp of psychoanalysis, which I believe is close to the truth: Dostoewsky has gone deeper down into the human soul than anyone (except perhaps Freud himself).

Any last comments?

Nothing except that I loved being asked these excellent questions, wish you lots of luck and success with the press and challenge everyone who got this far in the interview to take a look at the 1000 penguins and the kaffe in katmandu - and please submit something! Thanks for having me at this wonderful venue!


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