Content Tagged ‘uncw’

 

It’s Time for Writers’ Week!

Ecotone and Lookout staffers are gearing up for the 18th annual Writers’ Week, held Monday, October 30 to Friday, November 3 on UNCW’s campus. More than a dozen notable authors and publishing professionals will participate in readings, craft talks, and panels, including 2017 Buckner Keynote speaker and poet Ross Gay, fiction writers Kristen Iskandrian and David Jauss, and graphic memoirist and Believer editor and art director Kristen Radtke. All events are free and open to the public.

Lookout’s own Emily Smith will moderate a publishing panel that includes Radtke, The Book Group agent Julie Barer, and poet and Northwestern University Press/TriQuarterly Books editor Parneshia Jones. The panel, which takes place Wednesday, November 1 at 2 p.m., will be preceded by a talk with Barer, whose clients include such literary heavy-hitters as Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere), Joshua Ferris (To Rise Again at a Decent Hour), Ecotone contributor Bret Anthony Johnston (Remember Me Like This), and UNCW MFA alum Garrard Conley (Boy Erased).

For more information about Writers’ Week, including a full schedule, visit uncw.edu/writersweek.

Making a List: Ten Pieces of Advice from Nikky Finney’s Reading at UNCW

new_coverThis spring, University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Department of Creative Writing hosted visiting writer Nikky Finney, distinguished South Carolinian writer and teacher, whose fourth collection, Head Off & Split, was awarded the 2011 National Book Award for poetry. Before coming to UNCW I didn’t seek out poetry, but since beginning my MFA here last fall, and working as a TA for the Pub Lab, I’ve been inundated with poems. As a fiction writer, one prone to writing concise vignettes and flash fiction, I’m fascinated by the distinction between poetry and prose. I attended Nikky Finney’s public reading on Thursday, April 21, eager to hear her experience with words and form. The Kenan Hall room was packed with faculty, students, and Wilmingtonians, and I found a seat on the floor in the back, where I could only see the poet when a sea of shoulders in front of me shifted just so. But I could hear her speak, and between poems Nikky Finney offered habits that improve her writing, told anecdotes about her family and how they’ve influenced her work, and shared her deep connection to the beach. She spoke with such authority, intimacy, and openness I couldn’t resist scrawling down quotes in my notebook. I left the reading, perhaps just as muddled about the distinction of prose and poems, but armed with two of her books, the desire to get home to my writing desk as quickly as possible, and the intention to connect more deeply with the quiet places Wilmington offers writers. I’m excited to share her words and ideas that have already begun to nourish me, with our readers.

1) “You have to go to the word, go to the root, go to the definition.”

2) “That’s your job: you have to pay attention. Poems are walking by every day. You gotta pay attention.”

3) “If you do what you’ve already done, you’re gonna get what you’ve already gotten.” (advice Nikky Finney shared from her grandmother)

4) Keep an epigraph journal.

5) Talk about hard things in a loving way.

6) “Take the opportunity, so you don’t live with the regret.”

7) “You know, we live in a really noisy world.” Do something for yourself that is aware of how noisy the world is. “You have to figure out the noise in your life and then shut it down, it’s not helpful to you.”

8) “I listen to what makes my heart flutter.”

9) Face the thing you really need to be looking at.

10) “Reporting is the reporter’s job, but my job, my student’s job, your job, is to make something of what you know about humanity. Because that is why we’ve had art for thousands of years. To make us better…to have the kind of conversations we are having.”

–F. Morgan Davis, MFA Candidate in fiction, Pub Lab TA

What We’re Reading: The Graduation Edition

In honor of the MFA students graduating from our program at UNCW this semester, and because we think National Poetry Month should be every month of the year, we found four graduating poets and one professor to share the poetry collections sitting on their bedside tables. What we discovered is a delightful array of poetic bounty that is sure to help inspire through the long days of summer–or life in the “real” world.

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photofrom left: Pernille Smith Larson, Jacob Bateman, Christina Clark


I’m reading Ron Rash’s New and Selected Poems alongside The World Made Straight. I’ve become obsessed with his North Carolina/ Appalachian lexicon and how his masterful prose lines sometimes read like poetry. I’m beginning to see that he operates much like Carver in that some of his narrative poems reincarnate in his novels, and I’m always a sucker for genre-stealing/genre-complicating. Up next is Above the Waterfall, which I hear is even more lyrical. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if I read him outright by summer’s end.

Elizabeth Davis, MFA candidate in poetry


I’m currently reading Chloe Honum’s poetry collection The Tulip-Flame. Initially, I picked the book up because it was chosen by one of my favorite poets, Tracy K. Smith, for a first book award. The Tulip-Flame includes different narrative strands with thematic connections: a mother’s suicide, a failed romantic relationship, the art and practice of ballet, and the growth, decay, and resurgence of a garden. These poems are stark, short, and gorgeous. They are both emotionally restrained and deeply moving. Not too long ago, I heard a writer tell an audience that writers should read outside of their comfort zone, by which s/he meant reading the kind of poems, stories, novels, etc., that you do not write yourself. I’m reading outside of my comfort zone by reading The Tulip-Flame, and it’s an inspiring and pleasurable experience.

Pernille Smith Larson, MFA candidate in poetry


Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, by Franz Wright, was one of those books I’d been told to read about a half dozen times, but had never gotten around to. The poems are brief and clear. You can read them very quickly—they have that kind of accessibility, which generates interest in what comes next. Moving back through them it became clear that they work just as well if you take each poem slowly and seriously. I remember a professor once saying, of some poem we’d read, that it was unimposing in its artfulness. I thought of that often reading this book. I think it’s the kind of work most poets would really love to be able to generate.

Jacob Bateman, MFA candidate in poetry


I first heard about Anne Sexton’s Transformations via Pernille Smith Larson, one of my MFA classmates. I had been working on a fairy tale series, and the collection was mentioned as a good potential reference for inspiration. Transformations is striking in that it haunts and at the same time manages humor. It retells old Grimm fairy tales while also redefining and refining them into modern poetry. Sexton accomplishes this in part through her use of more modern diction and imagery. Prior to reading this, I had also read a handful of Sexton’s most famous poems, “The Starry Night” and “Her Kind” come to mind, as well as her award winning collection Live or Die. Transformations lived up to and has exceeded my expectations as a collection. It manages to breathe new life and adult themes into stories that have been around for centuries–stories that we’ve known in some version since we were children. I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in fairy tale lore or anyone who is a fan of Sexton’s other works. Especially if you are inclined—as I am—toward weaving fairy tale imagery and concepts or themes into your work.

Christina Clark, MFA candidate in poetry


I have two very different books next to my reading chair. One is just out from Emily Carr, a former student and UNCW alum: Whosoever Has Let A Minotaur Enter Them, Or A Sonnet from McSweeney’s Poetry Series. It is bold, fresh, fractured and surprising, trying to approach emotion through language in new ways. The other is Tugs in the Fog, selected poems by Joan Margarit, the Catalan poet. Margarit has written some beautiful, direct poems about ageing, grief, and memory. I find myself moved by both books, in different ways.

Mark Cox, MFA faculty in poetry

Big Lookout and Ecotone Sale This Saturday!

CAS Open House 2016As part of UNCW’s College of Arts and Science’s Open House this Saturday, April 16, Lookout and Ecotone will be selling (very gently used) books and back issues for a steal! You can get books from Lookout’s entire catalog–including our newest release, Honey from the Lion–for only $3. We’ve never had a local sale with discounts this big, and we’re excited to share what we’ve been up to with the Wilmington community.

And the Open House has plenty of other things besides reading material to offer. Come by from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m to see a marine animal touch tank, a fossil sifting exhibit, musical performances, poetry readings–from our own MFA and BFA students– and more. The event is free, family friendly, and open to the public.

Behind the Scenes: How To Be Independent

I’ve worked at a local bookstore as long as I’ve known about UNCW’s Publishing Laboratory. They’re both small, independent, and full of people I want to be when I grow up. They both give loving homes to books that might be ignored at larger institutions.

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But here’s the thing about being small: it takes big effort. Huge, in fact. Let’s just go ahead and call it a gigantic labor of love. Small presses like Lookout compete with larger publishers before the book even makes it to the shelf (if it does that). Most indie publishers have limited budgets from which to offer authors advances for their manuscripts, and it’s not surprising that big numbers consistently compel great writers to sign with the big houses and their imprints.

Even when indie publishers bring great titles into the world (or, like Lookout, only one per year), it’s especially difficult for bookstores to sell the books of small presses. At Pomegranate Books, where I work, we often receive boxes of press kits and advance reading copies for the big books that big publishers want us to stock. Sure, we’d love to shelve every novel by our favorite indie presses, but will those titles move as fast as the mass-marketed books that everyone and their cousin want to read?

Pomegranate Books is small, but even for larger independent stores with more shelf space and more customers, there are different challenges to selling indie books. Trade publishers often offer volume discounts, or additional in-store advertising money to incentivize stocking and prominently displaying their books. So big-publisher books get coveted window display and shelf space even if a bookseller would prefer to give attention to her new favorite by an indie press. The New York Times wrote about this back in 1996, and it’s still a tiresome obstacle.

Instead of advertising money, Lookout offers gratitude to indie bookstores in the form of author visits, signings, and readings in their stores. At Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, Lookout’s publisher and editors tagged along with authors Steve Almond and Matthew Neill Null to offer free publishing workshops and to serve on panels after the authors’ readings. And Lookout celebrates indie stories such as Brookline Booksmith, which to date has sold almost six hundred copies of its first title, Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories by Edith Pearlman! That collection found its way into the hands of hundreds more readers thanks to the generous support of booksellers at Harvard Book Store, Porter Square Books, and Politics & Prose, which hosted Edith Pearlman for one of her first public readings from Binocular Vision.

Millions of books exist in this world—in fact, I encourage everyone to purchase So Many Books by Gabriel Zaid, an exhilarating read published by another indie press, Paul Dry Books—but our store has fewer than five employees. Perhaps, if we had the time and human capital to dedicate regular hours to discovering new books by small presses, we’d be able to better hand sell their books. Instead, we struggle simply to stay up-to-date on the titles brought to our attention through large mailings and marketing budgets.

The better an independent press can convey its mission, purpose, and we-consider-every-little-detail attitude, the more inclined a bookstore’s owners and staff will be to share that appreciation for thoughtfully made books with their customers. It’s extremely difficult to verbalize or advertise that feeling, but Lookout serves as proof that it can work.

These five best practices from Lookout Books include things I wish I saw more of as a bookseller—from every press, big or small.

RiverBendChronicle1.    Authors

Lookout seeks works by emerging and historically underrepresented writers, as well as overlooked gems. Unlike large trade publishers, they aren’t beholden to stockholders or corporate owners, so they tend to be less motivated by profit margins. Bookstores know that they consider their publications works of art by literary artists, not just best-selling retail items (though they hope for that too!).

 

2.    Marketing

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In developing media kits, Lookout makes or buys materials, when they can, from local or independent sellers. If a bookstore receives a promotional kit that includes unique, handmade materials, they’ll be more likely to give it attention. When Lookout staffer Anna Coe created coasters to celebrate the recent release of Matthew Neill Null’s Honey From the Lion, she ordered the wood slices from a supplier on Etsy and personally stamped and sealed every coaster!

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Lit News Roundup

At UNCW, we’re abuzz about our upcoming annual Writers’ Week, which will celebrate the tenth anniversary of national award-winning magazine of place, Ecotone. From November 3 until November 7, contributors from across the country will gather on campus to read, workshop, and talk about the craft of writing. For more information, visit the Writers’ Week web page, which includes the complete schedule of events and author bios. Visiting writers include Brock Clarke, Belle Boggs, Heidi Lynn Staples, Chantel Acevedo, Randall Kenan, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Patrick Phillips, and Mark Spitzer, as well as agent Michelle Brower and managing editor of Milkweed Editions, Patrick Thomas. A keynote reading by Kathryn Miles will take place on Wednesday, November 5 at 7 p.m. in the CIS building, room 1008. We will cap off the week with a ticketed farm-to-table supper celebrating the launch of Ecotone’s fall Sustenance issue in collaboration with nonprofit food system initiative Feast Down East.

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Congratulations to Lookout’s debut author and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Binocular Vision, Edith Pearlman, whose forthcoming book of stories, Honeydew (Little, Brown), has garnered a starred review from Kirkus. Shewrites with the wisdom of accumulated experience … Without quite the moral gravity of Alice Munro but with all the skill: Pearlman serves up exemplary tales, lively and lovely.”

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It’s Astoria to Zion Publication Day!

Lookout is thrilled to celebrate the official publication day of Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

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We unveiled Astoria to Zion last week during the surprisingly sunny whirlwind that was AWP Seattle. EcotoneLookout, and Milkweed Editions co-hosted a book release party atop downtown Seattle’s gorgeous Sorrento Hotel. Longtime friend of Ecotone Ben Fountain, who wrote the foreword, introduced the collection; contributors Brock Clarke, Cary Holladay, and Rebecca Makkai offered fantastic readings from their stories. For more photos from the event, please see our coverage on Facebook. Check back here for upcoming video interviews with the gracious contributors as well.

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Digital broadsides from Astoria to Zion, our best of Ecotone anthology

To commemorate Ecotone’s tenth anniversary, Lookout Books announces the publication of Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade.

Ecotone has established itself as a preeminent venue for original short fiction from both recognized and emerging writers, with more than twenty stories from our first sixteen issues reprinted or noted in the Best American, New Stories from the South, Pushcart, and PEN/O. Henry series. With the publication of this anthology, Lookout Books makes a permanent home for the vital work of regular contributors Steve Almond, Rick Bass, Edith Pearlman, Ron Rash, Bill Roorbach, and Brad Watson, along with rising talents Lauren Groff, Ben Stroud, and Kevin Wilson, among others.

Over the past month, we’ve teased you with first paragraphs, as well as introductions to some of our favorites, but now we bring you something more visual. Starting every Monday, we’ll post a digital broadside that pairs a compelling image or graphic with a short excerpt from a story in the collection. Look for this series every Monday and be sure to check our blog for additional updates. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, and you can also find our digital broadsides on Pinterest.