Writers & a river village

This weekend, walk right into a book (in the form of a river village) with writer, artist and activist, Bill Batson. Nyack Sketch Log, his book collection of favorite local sketches and essays, is now a walking tour. The two-hour, October 6 Nyack Sketch Log tour, conducted by Bill Batson, includes two museum visits (Edward Hopper and Historical Society) and a $5 donation to the Historical Society of the Nyacks.

But before you put on your walking shoes and head out the door, delve into local writing inspired in Bill Batson’s memoir writing class, Writing Your Truth. River River Writers Circle sponsored Words & Images, a column featuring his students’ writing this summer in Nyack News and Views.

Words & Images: “I’ve Never Stopped Loving You”
Words & Images: Reparation Discussion from the Slave Holding Side

Words & Images: Carrington Bookshop

Words & Images: Olympic Experience

Nyack Sketch Log Tour, Saturday, October 6
Buy tickets for the 11-1p or 2-4p tour at Bill’s Nyack Farmer’s Market booth or at nyacksketchlogtour.brownpapertickets.com
 

Celebrating American Veterans – River River Writes with Craft of War Writing

Just before Memorial Day this year, we joined up with Craft of War Writing, a community writing group for veterans based in New York City, to generate new memoir work.

In collaboration with Voices from War, Craft of War Writing seeks to bring veterans’ stories to light, recognizing that each individual’s unique experience contributes to the complex truth of a broader story, in which military service to the United States plays only a part. True to this spirit, we delved into the details of the small experiences that have formed us. In order to enhance our portrayal of what we remember, we explored the things we might not remember so clearly.

Thank you to John LoSasso for bringing about this wonderful meeting! We hope you enjoy these excerpts from our Memorial Day circle. For more information, visit Craft of War Writing here .


I don’t remember when stickball went out of style
Paul Foster

I remember my mother buying pencils for us from the corner candy store. It is the latter part of January, Nineteen Sixty-Two. We’re starting school in this country for the first time, P.S. 39.  I remember living on 827 Kelly Street. I remember hearing the voices of the adults. My mother screaming in urgency to get up and get dressed. The building next to ours is on fire. I remember going to the bathroom to wash up. I did not want to go outside with a dirty face, and I remember my Aunt Maria busting the bathroom door open and screaming, “Boy, get out of here.”

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Upcoming Opportunities for Writers

We are pleased to announce two wonderful opportunities available to the River River writing community at no cost. Please email Donna for more information, on your own behalf or on behalf of any wonderful writer in your life!

The “Strategies for Revision” workshop with Mary Beth Keane is made possible through a grant from the Arts Council of Rockland and the New York State Council on the Arts. Prose writers must submit 5,000 words and a brief cover letter.  Date/time: Saturday, April 7, 12-3pm Deadline: extended to March 9, 2018 Place: Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space, 119 Main St. Suite 2, Nanuet, NY 10954 Objective: Attendees will receive comment and revision advice based on reading and discussion in a workshop with other writers, led by Mary Beth Keane. Attendance requirements: in-person attendance is required. All reading of other participants’ work should be done prior to the workshop. Attendees will be expected to engage in discussion of each other’s work, keeping in mind each writer’s intentions and doing our best to keep each other writing.

The scholarship to Summer Writers’ Week at Manhattanville College is an unparalleled opportunity, beyond its $750 face value. Applicants must submit a writing sample in their chosen genre and a letter of need. Participants get a weeklong intensive in one of 5 genres with well-known instructors: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, dramatic writing, or graphic novel narrative. See MvilleMFA.com for details about instructors in your genre of choice. Housing costs extra, but it’s only $45/night. We all dream of retreats like this… and here’s an opportunity right across the river. Thank you to Lori and Manhattanville College for making this available!

Crossing the River: write! at Manhattanville College

For about a year now, River River Writers’ Circle has been earning its double-riparian moniker, crossing from the west to the east bank of the Hudson to Barat House at Manhattanville College. The MFA program at the College partners with us to offer our writing circles at this welcoming, intimate cottage, formerly the residence of the program’s founder, Sister Ruth Dowd.

MFA-style workshops are not known for focusing on generative work. Students may receive a warm-up prompt at the opening of a workshop to get the juices flowing and to create a trusting dynamic, but most of the time are expected to take their peers’ comment and discussion with quiet dignity and “really write” in solitude. Circles like write! acknowledge the creative ballast provided by a solid group dynamic, but provide it for the raw creative process. The energy that traditionally goes into discussion is spent on the page. Write! was therefore a bit of a novelty—and a challenging one—to bring to an MFA setting, where writers are more accustomed to a solitary, at times highly protective, creative process.

But novelty, challenges, and approaching the creative act from a place slightly outside our comfort zones all define a writer’s life. Here are some of the fruits of our afternoons. Many thanks to Alice Green, Maureen Amaturo, and Talia Woolfe for sharing their work. Enjoy!


The Face within Me

Alice B. Green

In the hairline of a moment,
in the reflection of a mirror,
I sometimes see her sallow cheeks
And the large, soul-saddened eyes
of a heart stained by lies.

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Borrowed Pages – “the last day”

On the first day of September, we ended our long series of “write!” salons at JohnnyCakes Cafe in Nyack, which we “prompt”-ly eulogized in verse. Many thanks to Mary Blehl for sharing her fresh-on-the-page musings.

Our community “write!” salons continue at three other times and places this fall; check our calendar for details.


Last Day Hodgepodge 

by Mary Blehl

 

The last day never happened.

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Summer Writers Week Returns to Manhattanville College

With a bang that I think you could hear from this side of the river, Summer Writers’ Week returned to Manhattanville College the last week of June after a 2-year hiatus, bringing an invigorating infusion of craft development talks, readings of new work, and inspiring discussion to local writers. Workshops in poetry, nonfiction, fiction, YA fiction, and dramatic writing formed the week’s backbone, led by Melissa Tuckey, Michael McGregor, Mitchell S. Jackson, Meagan Brothers, and Sharbari Ahmed. Additional talks and readings featured a keynote reading by PEN/Faulkner Award winner Joseph O’Neill.

In keeping with Manhattanville’s tradition of inclusivity and community engagement, this program overflowed with offerings that were free and open to the public, including not only the keynote reading, but also intimate readings and craft discussions with Carl Potts on the Graphic Novel; Dan Zevin on writing comedy; Con Lehane and John Langan in writing genre fiction, particularly mystery and the fantastical; Rivka Galchen, who reprised a recent presentation for NPR on cross-genre works; New York Times book review fiction editor Greg Cowles on the art of writing reviews; Suzanne Parker on structuring the poetry manuscript; Kristin Prevallet on writing and the mind-body connection; and Alan Felsenthal of the Song Cave on starting a small press.

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The Shifting Boundaries of Story and Medium: Interview with Matthew Derby

By Sylke Jackson

This post appeared originally on the CILK119 blog. 

This weekend, Cuppa Pulp Writers’ Space welcomes Matthew Derby for the River River biannual Lodestar Reading. His recent novel, The Silent History, co-authored with Eli Horowitz, Kevin Moffatt, and Russell Quinn (Farrar Straus and Giroux 2014), was originally conceived as the first major exploratory interactive novel designed for digital platforms.  In this interview, Sylke and Matt discuss reaching beyond the boundaries of print media to tell a rich story about children, language, and the questions addressed in the novel that made him delve into unconsciously held thoughts and feelings about his late sister.

The Guardian called The Silent History “A compelling story about difference, rights and power”; Wired called it “Entirely revolutionary.” Matt’s work has also appeared in The Anchor Book of American Short Stories, Dzanc’sBest of the Web 2009, McSweeney’s, The Believer, Guernica, and elsewhere. He is also a designer for Harmonix, a video game studio in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


SJ: Is there any moment or experience in your childhood that you’d point to that opened the door to the kind of work that you are doing now?

MD: I grew up in a big Catholic family. I had six siblings, most of whom were significantly older than me. By the time I was six, all but two of them were already in college. They left a lot of stuff behind in the house when they went away – mostly books and records – and I pored over these materials like an archaeologist struggling to understand an ancient civilization.

The Beatles were the one thing all of my siblings seemed to have in common, so I spent most of my time listening to their records and reading the many books we had about them. I became fascinated with the ‘Paul is dead’ conspiracy theory, and spent many afternoons scaring myself silly looking for the clues about his death scattered throughout their recordings. One day, I read that, if you played the very end of “A Day in the Life” backwards, you could hear, instead of an orchestra reaching a spastic climax before hitting a single, unforgettable note, the sound of Paul’s car skidding and crashing in the moments before his death. I went straight to the record player and spun the record in reverse, and what I heard sounded astonishingly like a car crash.

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Urban art exhibit @ ArtsWestchester hosts River River Writers Circle

We’re looking forward to our next trip to ArtsWestchester’s “From the Streets” on Saturday, July 8, for a private tour and writing session. Mark this one on your calendar and RSVP here. At the invitation of ArtsWestchester’s Megan Thomson Connor, a River River regular, Donna and I visited on a recent afternoon.

From this exhibit of work by “wall writers” of the early graffiti and urban art movement up to the present day, we learned a bit about how the artists form and interact with their communities & their neighborhoods, approach materials & iconography, incorporate identity & signatures, handle property disputes, and face the challenges posed by art collectors and curators.

The ArtsWestchester exhibit space features several new installations for From the Streets, many of which will be painted over once the show ends.

The work ranges from two-story-high murals to a subway-lettering poem around the inside of the old bank vault, and includes sculpture, film, photography, and 3D-effect art. Curators Marc Leader (@212arts) and Melissa McCaig-Welles (@mccaigwelles) highlight those “pioneers of the movement to the present day as well as those who have lent themselves as trendsetters, tastemakers and proponents of social change.”


The exhibit presented by ArtsWestchester’s Folk Arts Program runs through July 15. Check out artsw.org for more information. Hope you can join us on Saturday, July 8!

Guest poet Rachel Eliza Griffiths @ The Carson McCullers House, Nyack NY

We lit up another full house for poetry on June 9, as local writers and musicians opened the mic for featured guest Rachel Eliza Griffiths at the Carson McCullers House in Nyack, NY.

Our open mic stretched to include eight readers and songwriters while Griffiths battled rush hour on Tappan Zee Express. With performances from some regular attendees of our community writing groups, some new friends, and two even newer wordsmiths from Nyack High School to delight us, the evening sweetened through the backdrop of falling evening light and a breeze from the Hudson River through the open doors to the screen porch.

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Rachel Eliza Griffiths, a poet and visual artist, read from her most recent collection, Lighting the Shadow (Four Way Books). With effervescence and humor, as if just arrived on a rocket ship instead of a late commuter bus, Griffiths offered insight into her writing process, her interest in the work and life of Frida Kahlo, and past and upcoming projects. Her other poetry collections are Miracle Arrhythmia (Willow Books), The Requited Distance (Sheep Meadow Press), Mule & Pear (New Issues Poetry & Prose). Her visual and literary work appears widely in a broad range of publications, including The New York Times, Poets & Writers, American Poetry Review, Callaloo, and Guernica. Griffiths has received fellowships from Yaddo, Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, Vermont Studio Center, Millay Colony, and the Cave Canem Foundation. Her video project, P.O.P, which gathers more than 100 contemporary poets in intimate interviews, is now featured online by the Academy of American Poets. She is currently teaching creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and the Institute of American Indian Arts. (Whew!)

Our thanks to Nick Norwood, the director of CSU’s Carson McCullers Center for Writers & Musicians, for co-hosting this event with River River Writers Circle. Thanks to all who signed up for the open mic and to everyone who attended. Stay in touch for future readings and events!

I’m At Risk for Screen Poisoning. Are You?

A couple of weeks ago, author Emmy Laybourne and mentee joined us for a Q&A on literary mentorship at American Bulldog in Chestnut Ridge. Writers in attendance came away with a renewed sense of what it takes to draft a novel or other long written work, and how a “Pro in Your Corner” can shorten your drafting time and keep self-confidence strong.

To encourage you to seek out your mentors, whether online, via favorite writing treatises, or in person, we are delighted to share some of Emmy’s wisdom for staying on track. This blog post originally appeared in her newsletter. Enjoy!


“Screen poisoning” is what I call an illness that sets in when I’ve been spending too much time in front of my computer and engaged with my phone. Symptoms include physical complaints such as dry eyes, strained vision, shoulder and/or neck pain, feeling drained; and mental difficulties like fogginess, being easily distracted, fractured attention span, forgetfulness, and… I can’t remember what else.

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