The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Sacha A. Howells On Being Chosen as an Emerging Voices Fellow


 
This week, Sacha A. Howells reflects on being accepted as a 2012 Emerging Voices Fellow and how that vote of confidence pushed him towards his writing journey. Read his take below: 
 
"Writers spend a lot of time alone in rooms with cold, blank screens—there’s no other way to do what we do. But, especially when we’re new to writing, that isolation brings along a litany of doubts. Is what I want to say worth saying? Will the images and ideas in my head ever come out how I want them to on the page? Am I good enough?
 
'You needed this,' my writing teacher, Lou Mathews, said when I heard that I’d been selected as an Emerging Voices Fellow. 'It’s time to take yourself seriously as a writer.' Because that’s what this program does. No matter what you’ve achieved, how much or how little you’ve had published, being chosen as an Emerging Voices Fellow is a vote of confidence in the value and potential of your work—someone believes in you. 
 
Suddenly, you’re forced to put writing first, to devote your time and mental energy to it, to give readings in front of dozens (and then hundreds) of strangers, to think about literature and engage with current authors, to consider your own work in the spectrum of those who’ve come before.
 
The Emerging Voices Fellowship does many wonderful things. It introduces you to Los Angeles’s wide, generous writing community. It pairs you with a mentor to work closely with you over months. It exposes you weekly to writers and poets who share their work and their ideas. It shows you how to give back to that literary community. But, most importantly, it makes you take yourself seriously as a writer. 
 
So apply. You need this." 
 
To apply for the Emerging Voices Fellowship and for more information, click here.
 
 

Writers’ Reel: George Saunders on the Importance of Kindness

Back in 2013, author George Saunders gave a commencement speech to Syracuse University students that quickly went viral after The New York Times reprinted it. It has recently been published in book form, Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness. Check out the animated book trailer! 
 
“So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” – George Saunders
 
View the book trailer here:
 

 

 

Bookmark This: Kima Jones On Being an Emerging Voices Fellow

 
This week, 2013 Emerging Voices Fellow Kima Jones writes about her experience of moving away from family and friends to be a part of the Emerging Voices Fellowship. Jones shares what the fellowship meant to her, from working with her mentor poet Harryette Mullen to finding a literary community.
 
Read her take below:
 
“I was both nervous and a little tearful that night in Crenshaw as I boarded the 210 bus, which was heading for the 2013 Emerging Voices Welcoming Party.  I had been in L.A. for just a week or two, but I already missed my family and friends back home. On the bus, I double-checked the venue’s address on my phone and scrolled up and down the list of people who said they were coming out for the first reading. I didn’t know any of those people. I came across the country alone to accept a fellowship, and my first public reading would be held in the absence of anyone who cared about me. When I arrived at the gallery, I hugged my cohort members and met their spouses and family members. I sat in the front row and I clapped for each of them the way I wanted someone to clap for me. It was the happiest, but also the loneliest night of my professional life.
 
Time has a way of ironing things out, though. Over the course of the fellowship I worked vigorously with my mentor, Harryette Mullen, at her favorite coffee shop, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, in Westwood. Most of our meetings lasted an hour or two, and we discussed everything from my manuscript to the best manicures. I was writing a book that sent me into fits of tears at every turn, and Harryette was able to help me by investing in both my poetry and in my life outside of my writing. Harryette encouraged my journaling, self-care, and vegan cooking as much as she encouraged the assigned reading and rewrites. Harryette saw me as a whole person— a poet, sure—but also someone’s daughter and sister and friend.
 
In July of 2013, I gave my final reading as a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow at the Hammer Museum. I invited my friends Yolanda, Ashley, Carlyle, Marytza, Jamal, and Noriko. I met all of these wonderful people during the course of my fellowship. They were people who had come up to me after my readings and invited me out for coffee, people who I lunched with, went to the library with, people who helped me get through my first year of living in L.A. I decided to stay here in Los Angeles because PEN Center USA gave me so much of what I didn’t have at home. In Los Angeles I have a literary community, I have a mentor, I have writing dates with other writers, I have readings, I have the lifelong support of PEN Center USA and its staff. While my fellowship is formally over, I will always be a PEN Center USA member and an EV Fellow. I have my 2013 cohort to lean on and share with, and I have a best friend in Lilliam Rivera. I have an incredible ally and supporter in Harryette Mullen. Leaving New York was the hardest decision I’ve made to date, but, if I had to do it again, I would make the same decision over and over for the rest of my life.”
 
To apply for the 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship and for more information, click here.
 
 
 

Writers’ Reel: Remembering Gabriel García Márquez

 
Last Thursday, Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez passed away at the age of 87. Rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape, his fiction combined the fantastic with the realistic in a highly original synthesis. García Márquez wrote 16 novels and short story collections, notably Love in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude, along with countless articles during his time as a journalist. In this video, García Márquez recalls his upbringing in a house filled with women.
 
“My life was a strange one because the women, ruled by my grandmother, lived in a supernatural world, where everything was possible. Where the most marvelous things were simply daily life. And I got used to thinking that way.” – Gabriel García Márquez
 

 

 

Bookmark This: Susan Straight On Writing

Author Susan Straight, recent recipient of the 2013 Robert Kirsch Award, presented by The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, offers an honest portrayal of her own creative process for the Los Angeles Times. The author of eight novels and a professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, Straight details the many different places she’s written her novels, including motels, car interiors, and her own front porch.
 
“I joked all the time about writing in my car, about never having been to a writers colony but having finished my third and fourth novels in cheap motels where I stayed awake all night because in the first, someone was trying to kill his wife and she beat him up and he lay in the hallway moaning; in the second, two men were making drug deals all night long in the hallway; and finishing my fifth novel at Riverside's elegant Mission Inn, in 1995, because I felt the weight of Erle Stanley Gardner and the other writers who'd inhabited the lovely room where I wrote — by hand — feeling like a fraud.” – Susan Straight
 
 
 

Writers’ Reel: The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner Donna Tartt


 
This week, Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Learn more about the author’s creative process in this BBC Newsnight clip. In one highlight of the video, Tartt describes her practice of writing anywhere—on the bus, in the public library. She compares writing in public to being an artist sketching in a café.
 
“When I say that I can write on the Madison Avenue bus, I don’t mean that I’m writing pages of finished prose on the Madison Avenue bus, but things will occur to me and I’ll jot them down—and very often they will be the germs of things which will become pages of prose. That’s writing too. “ – Donna Tartt

 

 

 

Bookmark This: Meet At The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books!

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books takes place this weekend at the University of Southern California. There are so many great panels to check out, including some that feature wonderful friends of the Emerging Voices Fellowship. We’re providing a quick cheat-sheet below of some of the Emerging Voices family so that you can come out to support them. Please stop by the PEN Center USA at Booth 966 to pick up the 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship Application and more! 
 
SATURDAY, APRIL 12
 
Moderating Nonfiction: The Art of the Personal Story
Meghan Daum (2013 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Dinah Lenney (2008 EV Mentor), Leo Braudy, Pico Iyer, and Leslie Jamison
Conversation 1081  10:30AM
 
Young Adult Fiction: Putting the Story in HiSTORY
Cecil Castelluci (2013 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Katie Alender, Andrea Cremer, and Rachel Shukert
YA stage  12PM
 
Degrees of Fictionality: Representing “Truth” Across Genres
Janet Fitch  (Author Evening Host) will moderate panelists Dana Johnson (Author Evening Host), Leo Braudy, and Mark Jonathan Harris
Conversation 1022   12PM
  
Biography: Founders and Fighters of the Americas
Hector Tobar (2014 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Marie Arana, Steven Hackel, and Miriam Pawel
Conversation 1012   12:30PM
 
Fiction: Lives in Transition
Aimee Liu (1998, 1999, and 2011 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Natalie Baszile, Gina Frangello, and Michelle Huneven
Conversation 1073   1:30PM
 
Poetry: Imagination’s Sisters: Poetic Invention and Personal Narrative
Douglas Kearney (2014 EV Mentor) will join Joshua Beckman, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Carol Muske-Dukes, and moderator Eleni Sikelioanos.
Conversation 1113  2PM
He will also be reading from PATTER on the Poetry Stage at 3PM
 
The Truth Will Out: Getting the Story
Deanne Stillman (2004 EV Mentor) will join Annie Jacobsen, Scott C. Johnson, Walter Kirn and moderator Thomas Curwen
Conversation 1123   2PM
 
Publishing: Inside the Literary Magazine
Bruce Bauman (Author Evening Host) moderates panelists Jon Christensen, Tom Lutz, Robert Scheer, and Oscar Villalon
Conversation 1033   2PM
 
Fiction: With a Wink and a Smirk
David Kipen moderates panelists Diana Wagman (2004 EV Mentor), Jerry Stahl (2011 EV Mentor), Jim Magnuson, and Mark Haskel Smith.
Conversation 1134   3PM
 
Fiction: L.A. Stories
David Francis (Author Evening Host) will moderate this panel with Alex Espinoza, Janet Fitch (Author Evening Host), Matthew Spektor, and Antoine Wilson
Conversation 1084   3PM
 
Memoir: The Places that Make Us
Reyna Grande (2003 EV Fellow) joins Krista Bremer and Anchee Min in a panel moderated by Jane Ganahl.
Conversation 1034   3:30PM
 
Publishing: The Editor’s Voice
Editor Dan Smetanka  (Author Evening Host) will be moderating this panel featuring Deena Drewis, Peter Ginna, Ethan Nosowsky, and Bart Schneider
Conversation 1114   3:30PM
 
Nonfiction: What Shapes Us
Dinah Lenney (2008 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Erika Hayasaki, Geoff Nicholson, and Louise Steinman
Conversation 1144   3:30PM
 
The Facts of Fiction: The Fiction of Facts
David L. Ulin (Author Evening Host) will moderate panelists Geoff Dyer and Ruth Ozeki
Conversation 1124   3:30PM
 
Fiction: Lives on the Brink
Jillian Lauren (2013 EV Mentor) joins Dan Fante (Author Evening Host), Rob Roberge, Seth Greenland, and moderator Joseph Lapin
Conversation 1075   4:30PM
 
Fiction: Outside the Margins
Aimee Bender (2006 EV Mentor) with Karen Joy Fowler, Jeff Vandermeer and moderator Joy Press
Conversation 11354:30PM
 
Young Adult Fiction: It's the End of the World as We Know It
Cecil Castellucci (2013 EV Mentor) will be moderating panelists T. Cooper, Tahereh Mafi, and Lydia Millet
Conversation 1045   4:30PM
 

SUNDAY, APRIL 13
 
Publishing: Reaching Readers, Reaching Writers
Michelle Meyering (Director of Programs and Events, PEN Center USA) joins Patrick Brown, David Kipen, and moderator Chris Daley
Conversation 2121   11AM
 
Barbara Ehrenreich, Author of Living With A Wild God in conversation with David L. Ulin (Author Evening Host)
Conversation 2062   12PM
 
Memoir: Trails of Life
Samantha Dunn (Author Evening Host) moderates Eileen Cronin, Elizabeth Scarboro, Ron Suskind, and Mary Williams
Conversation 2122   12:30PM
 
Harryette Mullen (1999, 2000, 2013 EV Mentor) will be reading from Urban Tumbleweed
on the Poetry Stage   12:30PM
 
Young Adult Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales
Cecil Castellucci (2013 EV Mentor) joins Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, Marissa Meyer, and moderator Andrew Smith
YA Stage   1:30PM
 
Fiction: Writing Character & Culture
Sacha Howells (2012 EV Fellow) moderates this panel with Eduardo Santiago (2004 EV Fellow), Laila Lalami, Rebecca Walker, and Margaret Wrinkle
Conversation 2043   1:30PM
 
Poetry: The Art of Place; The Place of Art
Harryette Mullen (1999 and 2013 EV Mentor) will join David Biespiel, Sophie Cabot Black, Matthew Zapruder, and moderator David St. John
Conversation 2113   2PM
 
Publishing: The Agents Speak
Betsy Amster (Author Evening Host), Bonnie Nadell (Author Evening Host), and Melissa Flashman join moderator Sara Nelson
Conversations 2114   3:30PM
 
Fiction: Stories of Reinvention
Sarah Sun-lien Bynum (Author Evening Host) joins Francesca Marciano, Nina Revoyr, and moderator Brighde Mullins
Conversation 2044   3PM 
 

Writers’ Reel: Watch This 52 Second Poem by Billy Collins

Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, has been very vocal about using different mediums to bring poetry to the masses. In this video, director/animator Juan Delcan created beautiful, sparse images to accompany Collins's poem “The Dead.” This short film received a ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film of 2008. Take 52 seconds to celebrate National Poetry Month!   

Bookmark This: “How it Adds Up” by Poet Tony Hoagland

 
For National Poetry Month, we are featuring the poem “How It Adds Up” by Tony Hoagland. The piece is a beautiful exploration on the elusive nature of happiness. Hoagland’s poem can be found in his collection What Narcissism Means to Me, which became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
 
There was the day we swam in a river, a lake, and an ocean.   
And the day I quit the job my father got me.   
And the day I stood outside a door,   
and listened to my girlfriend making love   
to someone obviously not me, inside,   
 
and I felt strange because I didn’t care.   
 
There was the morning I was born,   
and the year I was a loser,   
and the night I was the winner of the prize   
for which the audience applauded.   
 
Then there was someone else I met,   
whose face and voice I can’t forget,   
and the memory of her   
is like a jail I’m trapped inside,   
 
or maybe she is something I just use   
                                       to hold my real life at a distance.
 
Happiness, Joe says, is a wild red flower   
                      plucked from a river of lava   
and held aloft on a tightrope   
                      strung between two scrawny trees   
above a canyon   
                      in a manic-depressive windstorm.
 
Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it—,   
 
And when you do, you will keep looking for it   
everywhere, for years,   
while right behind you,   
the footprints you are leaving   
 
will look like notes   
                                          of a crazy song. - Tony Hoagland
 
 

 

Writers’ Reel: Celebrate National Poetry Month with Kwame Dawes!


 
April is National Poetry Month. What better way to mark the first day than by watching this animated video, courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, illustrating Kwame Dawes’s poem “Tornado Child.” Dawes is the author of over a dozen books. His most recent collection of poems is titled Duppy Conqueror and was released by Copper Canyon Press. Watch the video, then go hug a poet!
 
I am a tornado child
         born in the whirl of clouds; the center crumbled,
         then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
         they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
         you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
         when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
         the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.” – Kwame Dawes