THE NEXT WEATHER 34: Cassie Donish & Ruth Williams
This week on The Missouri Review’s Soundbooth Podcast, we’re sharing the first installment of a new series of recordings from literary events in Columbia, Missouri. With this series, we hope to open up the local literary community of Columbia to listeners both local and remote. Tune in to hear writers from Columbia and those visiting from out of town read in a variety of settings with plenty of local flavor. This week we’re thrilled to share our recording from THE NEXT WEATHER Reading Series hosted by Yellow Dog Bookshop in downtown Columbia. This reading features poets Cassie Donish and Ruth Williams. Donish’s new book Beautyberry is out with Slope Editions and Williams’ new book Flatlands is out with Black Lawrence Press. For more information about THE NEXT WEATHER, like them on Facebook or stop by Yellow Dog Bookshop and ask around.
Raising Our Glasses to the Editors Prize Winners
By Michael Nye
This weekend was our annual Editors’ Prize weekend. We brought the winners of our 23rd Annual Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize into Columbia this past weekend for a reading and reception and general high-quality hanging out time. TMR has been fortunate enough to receive support from a private donor to fund the prize and, for the ninth consecutive year, bring our writers to town.
The writers–Kai Carlson-Wee, Melissa Yancy, and David Zoby–were wonderful people. Given that they had to travel on Friday, they held up remarkably well all weekend. It’s a thrill to have them in town, but anyone who has made weekend trips knows how exhausting all the airport madness can be on the mind and body. I met Kai briefly at this year’s AWP Conference, but this was my first time meeting Melissa and Dave. All three of them are smart, charming, confident people, and it was great to spend a few hours with them.
For the second year in a row, we were fortunate enough to have the Editors’ Prize issue available at the reading. It showed up on Tuesday, just four days before the event. For the writers and our readers to be able to see the work while listening to the reading is a nice added bonus. We had a full house at the reading Saturday night, with many of our donors and readers able to come out and mingle, tell their best knock-knock jokes, and generally have a wonderful time.
Pulling off the Editors’ Prize weekend is a major task, and there are several people who need to be acknowledged for their hard work. Our marketing director, Kris Somerville, had so much to juggle this week, with multiple schedules and venues, plenty to coordinate, and she made it all run smoothly. Our intern staff helped with promotion, transportation, greetings, and making everyone feel welcome. Our readership and the supportive Columbia community not only made this weekend happen, but made it worthwhile, exciting, and reminded us all of what a great city we have here. Finally, our writers: for all the planning we do, it really comes down to the writers (who we usually have never met), and Kai, Melissa, and Dave were absolutely wonderful.
Thank you, one and all, for making our prize weekend such a huge hit!
In my publishing class last week, we had our fourth and final Skype conversation. We spoke to Dave Housley, one of the founding editors of Barrelhouse. Like many independent literary magazines, Barrelhouse was founded on the premise of “Well, why not?” when five friends, after weeks of talking about it, decided at a bar (hooray, beers!) to start a magazine.
Barrelhouse is an eclectic and fun magazine, one that embraces pop culture as being part of the literary zeitgeist rather than being elitist. As with all the magazines we spoke to this semester, the personality of the editor has a clear imprint on the content that is published in the magazine. With magazines like Hobart and Barrelhouse, this is relatively consistent, in that they’ve had many of the same editors for years. Gulf Coast too has a specific aesthetic, but with the editors changing every two years, even if they are all in the same graduate program, the magazine’s taste changes a bit too.
One of the neat things about Barrelhouse is that they do more than just a literary magazine. They have started publishing books, with two currently out and more on the way; hold an annual conference, Conversations and Connections; and offer an online workshop. Some of this is necessity, some of it is just fun, and often, it’s a mixture of the two.
Perhaps the thing I’m most excited about with Barrelhouse is Book Fight, the new podcast by editors Mike Ingram and Tom McAllister. Very broadly, it’s about books. In their own words, “Book Fight aims to capture the conversations writers have about books when they think no one’s listening: funny, passionate, sometimes contentious, and always honest.” The quality of the audio recording is excellent and, even more rare, the cohesion between Mike and Tom is perfect. I’m a tough critic, but those two are genuinely funny and smart, the kind of give-and-take that televisions shows will look for (often unsuccessfully) for years. Definitely subscribe to Book Fight.
There are just two more classes (!!!) left in the semester. Why I’m still surprised at how fast the semester goes, I don’t know …
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
Ghosts, Handcuffs, and Martinis
This past Friday, we celebrated the release of our summer issue by combining literature, alcohol, and handcuffs. That’s just how we get down. Roughly 75 readers, friends, and supporters (there is some overlap in categories there) swung by The Vault, the speakeasy style bar in the basement of the Tiger Hotel, in order to swill a few drinks, snag the latest issue, and generally have a good time.
We can’t always throw a launch party. Mostly, this is due to timing. Our winter issue usually comes out right around New Year’s, and Columbia is fairly quiet at the beginning of January. We have two other regular events in the spring–the Murry’s Dinner and Fundraiser and our Editors’ Prize Reception–and the latter, in many ways, is kind of like a launch for our spring issue. In the past, we’ve had launch events for our fall issue but a busy academic school schedule and our Peden Prize celebration jams up our social calendar. Unless you’re Jay Gatsby, throw too many parties and the shine comes off.
For this launch, however, we had all kinds of good news. We offered drink specials on the Houdini Martini and some blueberry (or is that “boo-berry”?) and lemonade concoction that was might tasty. We had a magician who performed all kinds of slight-of-hand tricks to oohs, aahs, and applause. We passed out copies of the new issue. We took a bunch of photos of us all having a genuinely good time.
The summer is always an odd time for us. In many ways, it feels like our year really begins with the autumn semester, so our January 1st, our New Year’s Day, comes in August. Not only do we say goodbye to our summer interns, but in my case, I’m also saying goodbye to students that we’ve had for two, sometimes three, consecutive semesters. We also have the most staff turnover around this time, too. So we’re saying goodbye to friends that have been with for years, and that’s always a little bittersweet.
Kate McIntyre, our anthology editor, has been working on textBOX for the past two years. She’s been building content, mentoring our interns, reshaping the website, and making it a rich source of stories, poems, essays, author interviews, and audio content for use in the classroom and online readers. Before that, Kate has been a senior reader on manuscripts, giving us another set of fresh eyes and insightful opinions on the work we’re considering for publication. Kate’s been an integral part of our magazine for years, and we’re sorry to see her go, though, of course, we’re happy for her and her new gig: in the fall, she’ll be a visiting assistant professor at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania.
Patrick Lane has been our web editor for almost seven years now. Our web presence has gone through an amazing transformation during this time, as Patrick has worked to keep our site lively, readable, and informative for our readers. It’s been a gargantuan task. For a magazine (any organization, really), the website is the first thing that people see now, both your longtime readers and your new ones, and so much of our success is due to all the work Patrick has done to nudge readers into all the diverse nooks and crannies of our website.
Austin Segrest is leaving TMR but remaining in Columbia. He has been poetry editor with us for two years. His work has been outstanding, giving us eight issues of work he’s selected after reading hundreds of poetry manuscripts and making wonderful selections for our popular Poem of the Week feature. He’s been terrific to work with over the last few years; even better, he’s a good friend, someone who has been a cherished addition to the Columbia community. He throws great parties, is a great drinking buddy, swims like a dolphin, swings a mean tennis racket, and can also write poems like this, and this, and this. Which is pretty amazing.
Maura Lammers started as an intern with us, then became an office assistant, which has been her role with us for the last year. She and I often talk first thing in the morning, particularly on Mondays, when both of us desperately need the coffee machine to hurry up and finish its percolating. Along with being one of the warmest, most generous people we have in the office, she has been one of our best staffers, too. One of the best young writers to come through MU in my four years, she’s an emerging writer who is just beginning to publish her work. Also, much to my delight, she invited me to be a mentor and join her at her honors graduation this spring, where we got to wear robes and live tweet the whole shebang. In a few weeks, she’s off to eastern Washington where she’ll be working in AmeriCorps for the next year.
Kyle Burton, like Maura, started off as an intern, and then became an editorial assistant with us, where he’s been working on developing and redefining our digital platform. He also has educated me on film and sports to the extent that I’m not watching either one quite the same way anymore. Even if he liked The Dark Knight Rises a lot more than I did. Kyle’s focus has shifted to screenwriting, and he’s working on breaking into the film business and becoming the next William Goldman. He’s a smart and passionate reader, and we’ve had a few whiskeys (only after business hours!) over the last few years. I’m really proud to call him my friend.
Claire McQuerry has been the contest editor for the past three years, which are also the three best years the Editors’ Prize contest has ever had. She’s also developed our Audio Competition from a floundering idea to an innovative, delightful, and successful outlet for some of the best audio performances on the web. Like Austin, she’s a fantastic poet–her debut collection Lacemakers came out on SIU Press–and a terrific mentor to our students. Her work has been outstanding on so many levels here at the magazine. She’s on her way to Washington (the state, not the capital) where she will be a visiting assistant professor at Gonzaga University.
Claire’s departure is a big one for me. Though she will be in town frequently over the course of the next year, it’s her first step (“leap”) out of Missouri, and she won’t truly be returning. She has been in Columbia as long as I have, and while I’m happy for her, her departure also saddens me deeply. She’s one of my close friends her in town, and while I’ve never written much about my personal life on this blog (and I’m not starting now), she’s been a remarkably supportive and great friend to me through some tumultuous events in my life. I’m going to miss her terribly.
We have some wonderful people joining our staff, and they have big shoes to fill. But Tanya McQueen, Chun Ye, and Mike Petrik are going to be terrific. And we’re full speed ahead here–our fall issue is already full and in production– to make the next issue, and the next year, absolutely wonderful.
Follow Michael on Twitter: @mpnye
On Literary Readings and Community
The number of “Best of 2011” lists is pretty daunting. Not only does ever major media outlet have a “Best of 2011” list, some even have a “Worst of 2011.” There are lists for Most Overlooked and Underrated and Overrated and probably several others that my brain is unable to process at the moment. Often the effect of these lists is to remind me that there were many terrific books this past year that I did not read and, perhaps even worse, never heard of in the first place.
While I missed many books this year, I went to a ton of author readings. Last semester alone, I attended about seven events at the University of Missouri (new PhD student readings and visiting writers), probably three more at Orr Street Studios, and another, oh, let’s call it five at Get Lost Bookstore in Columbia. Over the last five months, I probably went to an average of a reading per week. If I sit and think about it for a while, there are also all the readings from this past summer and this past spring, which would then include readings I went to in St. Louis and Washington, D.C., where the AWP Conference was in February.
Believe me, all semester long, I bitched and moaned about going to readings. We all did. Hey, people like to complain. There was definitely a time this semester when I looked at my calendar, and there was something like seven readings in ten days. I tried to make all of them, too. But why? Why did I want to go to all these things? Especially when, as you probably can guess from this, more than once, I had the sinking feeling I didn’t want to go at all.
But readings aren’t just about me. They are about my literary community, my arts community, and even when I’m cranky, it was always the right decision to get myself in gear and attend.
Readings are, in many ways, just like editing a magazine journal. To paraphrase Joyce Carol Oates, editing is a we, and one can get somewhat tired of an I. She was talking, of course, about the difference between being an editor and being a writer, and why being a magazine editor is an attractive vocation. But the same idea – being involved and being for other people rather than just yourself – applies to readings.
Writers, when writing, spend their time alone. The solitude is essential for deep thinking and the process of creation. Loneliness, of course, goes hand-in-hand with this quiet, and after spending years working on something – poems, a novel, stories – getting in front of an audience of people and sharing that work can be a welcome shift.
It can also be a disaster. Many of us, I’m sure, have been to readings that were … well, lackluster. We’ve also been to readings where people are trying a wee bit too hard to be “entertaining.” There are plenty of these stories. This makes the readings that are really and truly an amazing experience. For me, hearing Edward P. Jones read his work is still one of the most incredible things I’ve ever heard.
Readings are the chance for writers to be outgoing, extroverted, friendly, celebratory. Listeners, often writers and avid readers too, are warm and gregarious. Alcohol is (hopefully) involved. We gossip. Laugh. Shake hands. We crave remarks and thoughts about the work, discover what other people are working on, what we’re reading: we want to know who and what is being read not just published. We’re eager to talk.
Here in Columbia, there are three regular spots for readings: any event our English Department holds, the Hearing Voices series at Orr Street Studios, and at Get Lost Bookshop down on Ninth Street. I attend as many as I can, and hope that wherever you’re reading this from, you’re doing the same in your part of the world.
Follow Michael Nye on Twitter: @mpnye
The Summer Launch!
We’re delighted to announce our summer launch party! In celebration of the release of our Summer 2011 issue, Significant Others, we’d like to invite you to join us in sunny downtown Columbia on July 28th at The Bridge, the new live music venue featuring local, regional and national music acts and located within the Columbia Academy of Music. For those of you who like maps and directions and such, The Bridge is at 1020 East Walnut Street. For those of you who don’t like maps, it’s right across the street from Ernie’s. This event is free and open to the public. Get after it!
Our event kicks off at 7 pm, and runs until The Bridge throws us out. Technically, our launch will be “over” at 9 pm, but like our fabulous spring launch, we really just stay hanging out until the doors are closed and the bright lights are thrown on. The Jazz Odyssey hits the stage at 9 pm, and there is a great patio where you can come and meet our entire staff (and, of course, former staff members who are certain to show up and say “Yo!”)
The summer issue has just shipped this week, and should be in your hands soon. The issue includes fiction by Amin Ahma, Tom Barbash, Arna Bontemps Hemenway (yes, that’s his real name, and his story is, believe it or not, even better than his name!), A.R. Rea, and Elisabeth Fairchild’s first published story; nonfiction by Daniel Anderson, Anthony Aycock, and John “Let’s Play Two!” W. Evans; poetry by Diane Seuss, Steve Gehrke, and Peter Jay Shippy; and Patrick Hicks sits down with Brian Turner to talk about the poetry of war.
You can snag copies of the issue at the summer launch. More important is that you come to the launch and have a good time. Like spring. Remember?
We had lots of music. Like seventy five bands. Okay, not that many. But we did have music from Shoreside, Andre and the Giants, Mary and the Giant, and Belligerent, to name just a few. We kept it cool to start off the evening and then got progressive louder. Which is always a good thing.
People rolled in at all times, which is the idea. Show up early, show up fashionably late, it doesn’t matter. You will get this kind of delighted greeting no matter what. And as long as you stay and hang out for a bit, well, what more can we ask?
Here, I’m talking basketball with Jesse Garcia, the owner of Sideshow. I’m a Celtics fan, he’s a Bulls fan. We both had a rough 2011 NBA Playoffs (though on this evening, his Bulls were looking pretty good). Not that this dampened our spirits one iota.
I was asked to get on stage and say something. I have no idea what I said. Basically, it was something like “You guys are the best!” and You Guys all agreed with that sentiment and held their beverages high in the air. Good call.
See? We throw a good party! More photos from our Spring Launch: PERIL are available on our Facebook page; come check ’em out. And don’t forget to come to our Summer Launch. The Bridge, July 28th, 7 pm. We’d love to see you there!