(About) Artist’s Statements

I’ve needed to write an artist’s statement for a while, but it’s been difficult. It’s easy for me to list my accomplishments as facts, turning lines on my CV into sentences. But despite writing about personal things in my poetry, I haven’t been comfortable writing a full statement about what I believe about creating art. ThenI was confronted with the need for an artist’s statement for a project proposal. Here’s what I wrote. What should I add? What should I take away? I know the statement will be fluid, and change over time.

Artist Statement

I come to poetry from a background of music performance and scholarship and the study and love of literature. I believe in the philosophy of tikkun olam, “repair of the world,” and I believe that through art, I can leave the world a better place that it was when I arrived. Inspired by history, language, and the mythopoeic, I create works that address social justice issues, particularly those involving women; the environment; and the nature of compassion.

My work includes poems, lyrics, libretti, and plays. In my poetry, I’m interested in how language works in creating a story or a moment. I consider word histories, regionalisms, and slang, and often use wordplay. I use words taken from an influential source or write using a meter from such a source. In my poem “Re-Writing King Lear in a time of Pandemic,” for example, I use almost exclusively words from Shakespeare’s play and those that can be anagrammed from “King Lear” and “Covid.” I’m interested in the scientific names for plants and creatures, and use these in writing about the environment. I use place-names from history and folklore in poetry about race, destruction, and erasure. I match cadences and rhythms to the sounds the objects I write about make. I think of language and sound as a sandbox for me to work in, in all of my writing, and I create connections between words and images and meanings in ways that communicate with a wide range of readers and listeners.

In writing text that will be sung, I tell stories about women; about prejudice; about resilience; and about my own lived experiences. I work to create texts that singers will want to sing, both from technical and artistic perspectives, and texts that lend themselves well to the medium of vocal music and opera. I think about diction and pronunciation and phrasing and where singers will need to breathe. I craft lyrics that fit the requirements of a piece: short, regular lines for young singers, texts that offer opportunities for virtuoso passages or extended techniques for more experienced performers. I work closely with composers and performers throughout the process of creating new works that will be set to music, re-writing and changing elements as the piece demands.

My playwriting also engages with women’s issues, exploring the place and rights of women in society, how women are viewed by men, and the concept of the monstrous feminine. I’m influenced in all of my work by feminist authors and visual artists, like Marcin Nagraba and Agnieszka Osipa, whose Pagan Poetry photograph series inspired my song cycle From Wild Sleeping Waters; by writers who are creative and intelligent in their use of language, like Helen Macdonald and Paul Kingsnorth; and writers who work with important issues through highly imaginative frameworks, like Maria Headley Dahvana, Margaret Killjoy, and R. B. Lemberg.

Tomorrow: Spooky Songs for Singing

Tomorrow, tune in to Facebook live 1 12:30 PST/2:30 CST as my collaborator composer Lisa Neher and Jessica Saunders of Saunders Voice Studio introduce a new set of songs for young singers!

The songs will be published through Lisa’s company, and will include sheet music and accompaniment sound files, so your singers can practice at home and perform online.

I loved writing the lyrics for these three songs! “The Ghost of the Wych Elm,” based very loosely on a real-life mystery, asks if you’ve seen this sad ghost, out in the woods and searching for her hand and her name. In “Werewolf Song,” singers get to howl and growl as they turn into werewolves and chase more mundane critters through the streets. Finally, you’re invited to join zombies, mummies, and more at “The Witches’ Party,” full of spooky fun.

Reviews: Black Futures, The Photographer of Mauthausen, and more

Half Life by Jillian Cantor. 1/5
I really wish people writing about music and musicians had actual musicians read their work before publishing it. Most orchestras don’t call the pianist the “principal piano,” and being the pianist for an orchestra does not mean playing non-stop piano concertos with said orchestra. Not every piece is a “song.” Not every musician has or needs perfect pitch, and having it doesn’t automatically make you a good musician.

Now that I have that off my chest: this novel fictionalizes the life of Marie Curie and, in parallel, imagines a life for her–as Marya–had she not gone to Paris to study when she did. The author is clearly trying to create numerous parallels between these two lives, including having Marie’s sister Helena marry Jacques Curie in the version where Marya stays in Poland. Because of this very tight connection between the parallel worlds, though, the story is restricted in imagination and originality. The storytelling is a bit heavy-handed: it’s obvious from the start that Marya’s husband will cheat on her with Leokadia; that Marya will return to him; that Marya and Pierre Curie will feel attracted to one another; that the real-life affair between Marie and Paul Langevin will be mirrored by Pierre and Jeanne Langevin; and so on. Ultimately, the novel is a bit of a slog with few rewards.

The Photographer of Mauthausen written by Salva Rubio; drawn by Pedro J. Colombo; colored by Aintzane Landa. 5/5
This is an outstanding graphic novel about the power of testimony and the forms that testimony can take. Crafted with detail and attention and compellingly written, this book is an important contribution to literature about resistance and organization in WWII concentration camps, as well as an illustration on the need for historical accuracy, evidence, and documentation. This should not only be very well-received among regular graphic novel readers, but also those interested in WWII, the history of photography and journalism, and current activism. There’s some swearing and of course images of the atrocities of Mauthausen, but I’d recommend this nonetheless for readers ages 12 and up. I’d love to see it taught in schools and chosen by book clubs for meaningful discussion.

The Ravine by Wendy Lower. 2/5
This memoir follows the work of the author in seeking out more information about a devastating photograph of the murder of Jews in Ukraine during the Second World War. The author’s explanations and descriptions of the war and its various entities is often simplistic, and while her writing about the power of photography and its use during the war and after is more engaging and informative, she remains at a distance in the narrative, even as she sifts fragments of human bone from a mass grave. The writing is often stilted and in the passive voice. I don’t know if this is to make the work seem more scholarly–it is non-fiction, but not scholarly at all–or because of her own lack of ease with the subject matter. Unfortunately, the book ends with tepid platitudes and is, as a whole, unsatisfying.

The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser. 1/5
In this fairy tale, when a middle-aged woman is left by her husband, she discovers that she has inherited a house and its valuable contents in Scotland from a distant family member. Off she goes, Cinderella to the ball! Once in the house, she makes friends in the town and begins a friendship with the local bookseller, who happens to be rich and handsome, albeit emotionally very, very screwed up. The heroine wins him over and makes him want to be a better person, although why, I don’t know–he’s emotionally abusive and violent at times. But it’s a fairy tale, so apparently that doesn’t matter. And he promises to be better. Then he gets into a fistfight with his brother, but the heroine helps t hem reconcile. Did I mention it’s a fairy tale? In the end, everyone is happy. There’s a token Sassy Black Friend and Devoted Lesbian Couple, in place apparently to make the story more diverse than it really is: it’s about white, financially comfortable people having mid-life crises and overlooking really serious issues in other people in order to convince themselves that they are still sexy, still desirable, still valuable in a society that values those attributes. It was all kind of sad to read.

Black Futures by Kimberly Drew; Jenna Wortham. 4/5
An excellent collection of writing and art by Black artists on topics ranging from reparations to BLM to food cultures to music. This will be especially valuable for educational use and reading groups.

The Project by Courtney Summers. 2/5
A thriller about cults and belonging, in which the protagonist is an easily-swayed and not terribly smart young woman seeking her sister. A lot of plot elements don’t make a lot of sense, and the denouement was predictable. A round of developmental editing would have helped round out the characters more and made the author consider certain plot choices that seem arbitrary or irrelevant.

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day. 1/5
In a dystopian world where children are trained to become astronauts in their teens, protagonist June is a precocious, self-centered, thoughtless child who grows into a hubristic, self-centered, thoughtless, and reckless adult. Driven to show that she is always, always right and better, June rejects the critical necessity of teamwork in engineering in order to follow her own agenda, leading to the ends of others’ careers and health. In addition to having one of the least sympathetic narrators I’ve ever read, this book offers a view of engineering and science that is completely antithetical to the way those things should work. Engineers are unethical, withholding vital information; they keep deadly secrets in space; they behave like children. Perhaps this is intended as a cautionary tale about what happens when we let the cult of genius aggrandize itself unchecked, but I think the author genuinely thinks this is all heroic or realistic or something. Want good books about women in space? Go read The Calculating Stars and its sequels instead.

Riddle Field by Derek Thomas Dew. 1/5
While I appreciate that this collection of prose poems and poems may have been cathartic for the author, it’s not very good writing. There’s an overflowing of constant flowery language and a sense of desperation in trying to create images, and ultimately not much of it coheres. There is so much repetition that words and phrases become less effective and meaningful and turn into a drone to be ignored. I wish the author had gone a few rounds with an editor–or, if they did, had been able and willing to edit to develop a more honed work.

The Radium Girls: Young Readers’ Edition by Kate Moore. 1/5
To begin with, while newspapers of the times may have called the women who used radioactive paint to paint clock dials “radium girls,” we now live in a time when we should be calling them women, because they were. Many may have been young, yes, but they were still working women who don’t deserve to be remembered with the belittling name of “girls.” Moore used “girls” in her original edition of this book and does so even more in this “young readers’ edition,” and it’s disrespectful and infuriating.

I’ve read the non-young-readers’ edition of this book, and came away from this edition confused as to who the author and publisher think the young readers’ edition is for. The regular edition is perfectly fine for average readers ages 13 or so and up, and this young readers’ edition lifts whole passages out of it without change. At the at the same time, this new edition includes new text that is astonishingly condescending to readers of, say, 8 and older. So the target audience for this is very unclear. The cutesy material added to dial down the ages for the marketing of the book is pretty horrifying given the seriousness of the topic.

As in the original edition, too, the author spends a lot of time detailing how pretty the dial-painters were, as if their beauty is what made it so awful that they died in the ways that that did, rather than the fact that they were human beings who were routinely lied to in their workplaces. Whether their hairstyles were “cute” or their smiles “shy” is objectifying and irrelevant.

Finally, the writing just isn’t very good. It’s often repetitive and full of tired phrases and cliches, and not terribly compelling. The author introduces errors of scientific fact as well. I can’t in any good faith recommend this book or its original edition because of these myriad issues.

Olav Audunssøn by Sigrid Undset. 2/5
After reading the translator’s outstanding introduction to this I thought I’d be in for a treat, but alas the repetition and unending grinding of slow-moving plot points and relationships didn’t keep my attention.

Reviews: werewolf bites, hollow places, and a badass Final Girl

Kitty’s Mix-Tape by by Carrie Vaughn. 5/5
This is a fun collection of short stories set in the fabulous world of Kitty Neville, werewolf extraordinaire. Readers will enjoy stories of established characters like Rick, Kitty, and Ben, as well as stories involving new characters and settings. The stories are delicious small bites.

Call My Name, Clemson by Rhondda Robinson Thomas. 5/5
This is an outstanding work of scholarship, memoir, and call to action, documenting the enslaved persons on whose labor Clemson University was built and operated, the pervading institutional racism of the University, and the struggle of Black professors to hold the University accountable. Thomas’s Call My Name public history project is a groundbreaking collaborative work, and this is reflected in the essays and responses in this book. This is an essential read for anyone interested in social justice, racism, higher education, reparations, and grappling with American history.

The Girl Without a Name by Suzanne Goldring. 1/5
Dick–or Stevie (why does this man have two names?)–has a stroke, and in trying to help him recover by talking about his past, his daughter tries to figure out why he has a photo of an unknown young woman. She thinks she finds out, but she doesn’t. In flashbacks, the reader learns that her dad was, in fact, a dick, manipulating women and using them as a way to cope with PTSD. The mystery woman, we also learn in flashbacks, was an almost unbelievably naive and simple person who yearns after Dick/Stevie for most of her life, until he leaves her to die and she finally gets a clue. Told in very simple and bland language, this novel seems as though it was written specifically for an audience of new adult readers, but it’s not the kind of book to get anyone hooked on reading.

Unmarried Women of the Country Estate by Charlotte Furness. 1/5
This is a well-intentioned book that is also, unfortunately an object lesson in what happens when writers without training in history, gender studies, or related fields take on complex historical matters. Author Furness uses mostly primary sources, largely ignoring the vast and important body of scholarly literature already about this topic. Furness’s long quotes from the primary sources go uncontextualized; the author often simply sums these up by simply stating that they are important, but never delves into why they are important, leaving these claims unexplored and unsupported. The lives of these women are important–as many historians have written. I wish Furness had read their work before or while writing this.

All the Sonnets of Shakespeare by Edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells. 5/5
This is an excellent resource for educators and anyone interested in Shakespeare. The editors provide thoughtful and up-to-date commentary on the sonnets and their origins, and a carefully glossed presentation of each sonnet to assist readers.

The Cry of the Lake by Charlie Tyler. 2/5
Described in the blurb as a thriller, this novel is in truth a complicated revenge story in which a traumatized, manipulated girl creates an entirely fictitious identity for herself and her (also traumatized) sister, meticulously planning to frame a man for murder. The hand of the author as deus ex machina is a bit too obvious throughout, and there’s very little feeling of true tension as to whether the wrongdoers will be caught and punished, or the innocent vindicated and helped. The characters are out of melodrama, and those whose actions and behaviors are truly odd are never viewed as such by those around them, which detracts from any sense of reality.

Last Cast at a Baggage Auction by Eric J. Guignard. 2/5
Dear authors, you know, when you set a book in the past, a past when people often used homophobic and transphobic terms in everyday conversation, that doesn’t mean that YOU need to use those terms in your characters’ conversations. You can establish the setting in ways that don’t perpetuate harm. The protagonist in this novella is a crude, immature jerk, which is too bad because his being so has no real role or purpose in the overall premise, which is a pretty good one involving the intersection of technology and the supernatural.

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow. 3/5
This is a book that preaches to the choir. If you understand everything Doctorow writes about here in terms of cybersecurity and government ops and private industry-as government, then it’s a mostly fun ride through the chaos of modern warfare and political force while watching the narrator develop a conscience, or at least kind of a conscience. If you don’t know much about this, then you might find this hard going. It could be educational, which I think is one of Doctorow’s motives in publishing it, but you’ll still need other sources on ethical hacking and related topics.

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong. 3/5
Former lovers who are the scions of their families’ gangs team up to fight a supernatural monster in 1920s Shanghai. Using Romeo and Juliet as inspiration, this novel is full of Shakespearean easter eggs for those in the know, and a fine creature-horror read for those who aren’t. The author does a nice job weaving together the supernatural, political, and personal strands of the story, and captures the complexity of the time period well. Many of the characters, though, are undeveloped sketches, and I could have done without the cliched ending of “but wait, there’s more,” especially I don’t think a continuation is necessary or even the best route to take with the premise.

The Loop by Jeremy Robert Johnson. 5/5
I read this in a blaze–not because it was bad, but because it is a fantastic ride of a horror story of the creature variety, with fights and twists and poignant moments and some very true high school student behaviors and a Final Girl to blow away all other Final Girls. In a small town in Oregon, the local med-tech company starts experimenting on high school students, and as you’d expect, things do not go well. Altered students rampage, killing and infecting the town, while adults fall into induced comas, only to be murdered by said students. Lucia, who has been a survivor all her life, leads a handful of friends though a harrowing pursuit as they seek shelter and safety. It’s a terrific race against attackers and time to the very last page. If you like horror, creatures, conspiracies, big business gone bad, people getting their comeuppances, and Strong Female Protagonists, you’re going to love this.

Machine by Elizabeth Bear. 5/5
A space opera the incorporates aliens, the Marie Celeste, hospital drama, disability, sabotage, and jumping through space–Machine has it all. Bear brings disability and physical otherness to the fore with her openly disabled protagonist, Dr. Jens, and the many different other forms of sapient life aboard the ambulance and hospital where they work in space. All of the various threads and themes of the novel are beautifully woven together, and the result is a thriller that is a blast to read.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher. 5/5
The Hollow Places is a wonderfully spooky delight. Kara and Simon show that you can be both from the American South and intelligent and SFF fans. I love that they have this experience together–that this isn’t one of those novels where only one character has a strange experience that can never be believed or understood by anyone else. I love that their relationship is one of growing friendship, and that romance is off the table. I love the realness and honesty of all of the characters’ voices I love the consideration of how things in one world or dimension have consequences in another, eve if it’s as seemingly small as missing work–no “and when we got back, only 5 minutes had passed!” tricks here. The atmospheres of the two worlds Kara and Simon experience are beautifully crafted and written, and the Hollow Places are scary as hell.

Body Talk by Kelly Jensen. 3/5
This is a collection of essays by people with bodily differences and disabilities for disabled or bodily different readers. The authors include writers and advocates and activists, musicians and actors and others, all of whom share their experiences with their bodies in a society where they are treated as Other. Topics range from body positivity and fat acceptance to gender identity, from using makeup to scoliosis, from eating dosorders to paralysis. Many of the essays are good–well-written and compelling. Others are weaker, and there is repetition among the essays that probably should have been avoided. But overall, this is an appropriate collection for readers who are unaware or only somewhat aware of how society treats bodily difference and how the different or disabled experience society.

The Conductors by Nicole Glover. 3/5
A nice historical mystery, with magic added in. Hattie and Benjy are former enslaved people who have worked as Conductors on the Underground Railroad–guides with magical powers who helped other enslaver people escape to the North. Now settled in Philadelphia in the aftermath of the Civil War, they are called on to help newly arrived freed people and solve mysteries. In this novel the couple is faced with a killer who marks their victims with magic commonly thought of as “cursed,” and find their own friends and relatives targeted for violence. An interesting concept, and the characters–who are initially somewhat unlikeable–develop and become more interesting and sympathetic as the story progresses.

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan. 1/5
In this mannered, 1950s-styled novel, a Bletchley Park alumna-turned-informal-spy and her husband, reunited after WWII, seek out a Soviet spy amidst the churches of London. The woman has poor communication skills, loves churches more than her husband, and is oblivious about many things, despite being called a person with great observation and pattern-finding skills; her husband is jealous, a chauvinist, and has poor communication skills; this is not a functional relationship and throughout I kept telling the woman to leave, but she didn’t. There is a lot of pressing of hands and bodies before dramatic turning away from each other, all very 1940s novels kinds of things. The spy hunt also lacks drama or much interest, and of course the spy is found to be close to home for the protagonists.

Where am I? August-November 2020

Want to hear me speak about my research, read my poetry, or attend an opera for which I’m the librettist? Here’s my schedule–so far–for the next few months. All times Central.

13 August: Poetry Reading at Writespace Houston on Facebook Live. No Facebook account necessary. 7 pm.

14 August: YouTube premiere of The Harbingers, a one-act a cappella opera with music by Rosśa Crean and libretto by me. Recorded in performance on 31 October 2019 at Rosehill Cemetery’s May Chapel in Chicago. 7 pm.

20 September: Curating Your Poetry Chapbook workshop through Writespace Houston. Join me in this workshop and learn about curating a chapbook manuscript that you can submit to publishers or publish yourself. We’ll talk about how to choose which of your poems to include, put them in an order that makes sense from an artistic and literary point of view, and prepare them for submission or self-publishing. 3 pm.

24 September: “Using Your ‘Research Pantry’,” workshop, Texas Music Library Association and American Musicological Society-Southwest Chapter joint meeting, 2 pm.

26 September and 3 October: Writing About Ghosts workshop through Writespace Houston. In this workshop, we’ll discuss finding inspiration in history and historical materials; how to research the past for your work and keep track of what you find; how to approach writing about the past in terms of language, like using slang and speaking conventions of different time periods; and develop new or on-going projects that beckon the ghosts of the past into our words.

Reviews: New SFF, the cities we live in, and drama

The Year’s Best Science Fiction Vol. 1 ed. Jonathan Strahan. 5/5
An excellent collection of short SFF stories from writers who are now very well known and others who deserve to be. What’s especially nice about this anthology is the inclusion of stories by famous authors that haven’t been widely anthologized elsewhere, and that play against the author’s type a little bit. Strahan’s introduction is long and repetitive, and could have used considerable editing, but you can skip it and get right to the stories.

The London Restoration by Rachel McMillan. 1/5
In this mannered, 1950s-styled novel, a Bletchley Park alumna-turned-informal-spy and her husband, reunited after WWII, seek out a Soviet spy amidst the churches of London. The woman has poor communication skills, loves churches more than her husband, and is oblivious about many things, despite being called a person with great observation and pattern-finding skills; her husband is jealous, a chauvinist, and has poor communication skills; this is not a functional relationship and throughout I kept telling the woman to leave, but she didn’t. There is a lot of pressing of hands and bodies before dramatic turning away from each other, all very 1940s novels kinds of things. The spy hunt also lacks drama or much interest, and of course the spy is found to be close to home for the protagonists.

The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister. 1/5
In this novel, told through a courtroom drama and flashbacks, a young woman is in trial for the death of one of her companions in a catastrophically bad expedition to the Arctic. Virginia Reeves is hired by a wealthy woman whose husband and his crew have disappeared in the Arctic. Reeves’s background is as a guide for colonists in the American West, which does not make her the right person to lead this expedition, as the novel shows: she’s not a good leader or planner in almost every situation the author throws at her. Ultimately, members of the expedition die, Reeves is charged, and as her trial takes place, various secrets come to light. For a book about the Arctic, there’s remarkably little about the expedition’s time there; and there’s nothing that gives us any indication of why Reeves gets her nickname of “The Arctic Fury.” There’s even less about most of the other expedition members, and not nearly enough about their relationships to get any real sense of how they all operated together, or why these relationships cause such hand-wringing in Reeves’s mind. In short, this is a novel trying, perhaps, to be a bit gothic, but which just left me wondering why all of the characters were so incompetent and why I should care about any of them.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. 5/5
Black Sun is the first in a series, a powerful and compelling introduction to a SFF world based on the cultures, cities, and religions of indigenous, Pre-Columbian American civilizations. Full of detail and depth and complex, conflicted characters, it is written with great skill and beautiful timing and plotting. Everything about this feels real and immediate, and there is so much more I can’t wait to learn about the cultures presented here, the characters, and, of course, what happens next. The book ends with a cliffhanger of sorts, albeit one constructed so well that it also feels like an appropriate point to pause, so be prepared. But go read it, right now.

The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars; Kurt Kohlstedt. 3/5
A nicely illustrated overview of basic architectural and civil engineering objects and design in use in modern cities, this book offers short histories and vignettes about relay stations, urban reuse, warning symbols, manhole covers, and other things we encounter in daily city life. The histories are interesting enough, but rarely include the systemic issues that have contributed to the reasons for why many things as they are; a notable omission is the fact that overpasses across the Southern State Parkway were designed to keep buses (implicitly only used by BIPOC) from accessing the beaches the Parkway went to. A section on water fountains focuses on those in the UK, sidestepping discussion of the segregated fountains of Jim Crow America. Coverage of claiming stakes in the 1800s in the US briefly mentions that the “government began to force indigenous peoples into an area called Indian Territory [….] later, tribes were again forced to relocate.” This wasn’t relocation: it was genocide. There *is* a section of curb cuts, a major accessibility issue, but it treats disability activists as inspiration porn. Overall, this is a pleasant and interesting but a bit superficial book; those who enjoy it will want to search out more detailed and nuanced materials for further reading.

Warmaidens by Kelly Coon. 2/5
I really enjoyed Coon’s Gravemaidens, the first book in this series, so I eagerly anticipated this sequel. It was, however, a disappointment. The plot is a a bit of a retread of the first book–remove the evil despot–and the characters are universally flat. They’ve all been saddled with new abilities as well as each now having a more significant flaw, but it feels like these attributes have been added as if the characters leveled up, like in D&D. The characters experience failure after failure, and while failure is great for plot, the characters need to be learning from those failures–and these never seem to do that, which is enormously frustrating. While it’s good to see that the feminist ethos of the first book is still very present, it feels much more self-conscious in this volume, often expressed through interior character monologues rather than by actions and actual conversations between characters. In addition, readers will not be able to understand what’s happening in this book, from plot to character development and relationships, without having read the first book.

Upcoming workshops at Writespace Houston

Join me for my upcoming workshops at Writespace Houston (you don’t need to live in Houston to join!):

Curating Your Poetry Chapbook
Chapbooks and poetry collections are staples of the poetry world–but how do they come together?
INSTRUCTOR: Kendra Preston Leonard
TIME: Sunday, September 20th, 3:00 – 6:00 PM CDT
PRICE: Early-Bird until Tuesday, Sept.15th: $45 for members, $60 for non-members. After Tuesday, Sept. 15th: $55 for members, $70 for non-members. Become a member here. Scholarships available here.
LOCATION: Online via Zoom
CAP: 15
Got poems? One way to get them out in the world is to publish them individually in magazines and journals, but it’s by no means the only way. Chapbooks and poetry collections are staples of the poetry world–but how do they come together?
In this workshop, bring your work and learn about curating a chapbook manuscript that you can submit to publishers or even publish yourself. We’ll talk about choosing which of your poems to include, putting them in an order that makes sense from an artistic and literary point of view, and preparing them for submission or self-publishing. All levels of experience are welcome, and you don’t need to have a lot of poems written yet to learn about the process.
Writing About Ghosts
In this class, we’ll explore using history in writing.
INSTRUCTOR: Kendra Preston Leonard
TIME: Starts Saturday September 26th and runs until Saturday, October 3rd, with scheduled video chat sessions on two Saturdays, September 26th and October 3rd, 10 – 11:30 AM CDT
PRICE: Early-Bird until Monday, Sept. 21st: $85 for members, $100 for non-members. After Monday, Sept. 21st: $100 for members, $115 for non-members. Become a member here. Scholarships available here.
LOCATION: Online via Zoom and Google Classroom
CAP: 15
History surrounds us and makes our world what it is. Every object, every sidewalk, every house or jail or meeting spot is dappled with layers of stories, events, and emotions. In this class, we’ll explore using history in writing, whether you’re interested in historical novels, writing a family history, or creating an epic poem about a famous—or notorious–event. We’ll talk about how to find inspiration in history and historical materials; research the past for your work and keep track of what you find; approach writing about the past in terms of language, like using slang and speaking conventions of different time periods; and develop new or on-going projects that beckon the ghosts of the past into our words.

Experience The Harbingers on YouTube

Join me on August 14, 2020 at 7:30 pm Central time for the YouTube premiere of The Harbingers, a cappella opera with music by Rosśa Crean and a libretto by yours truly. I’ll post the link for the video on the 14th.

The Harbingers was premiered on Halloween night 2019 at Chicago’s beautiful Rosehill Cemetery in the beautiful Horatio N. May Chapel.

Composed for 10 vocalists, The Harbingers brings together mythical gods of death to debate the ultimate fate of a doctor who has recently died. The Celtic Donn sings the afterworld into existence, where the doctor’s Soul finds herself surrounded by soft light and a gentle breeze, and in the company of the psychopomp and angel of death Azrael. But this calm moment ends abruptly as gods of the afterlife arrive to take the soul to their realms. The Soul is claimed first by Hel of Norse legend, and then the Morrigan of the Celtic world. The Turkic and Mongolian god Erlik, too, lays claim to the Soul, and the arguing gods call upon the Greek Fates–Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos–to judge their claims. This process is interrupted by the appearance of Sekhmet, a god of Egyptian myth, who tries to woo the Soul, promising her great things. As the Fates examine the Soul’s life, the complexities of that life repel some gods and attract others, and the Soul must decide whether to accept the invitations of a death god, be reborn, or leave the destiny of her afterlife up to chance in the river that leads to the afterworlds.