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Lowell Celebrates Kerouac 2015 Is Underway

8 Oct


Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! is officially underway, kicking off on Monday with a reading by Michael McClure. As if McClure alone wasn’t enough to draw a crowd, Tim Z. Hernandez, author of Manana Means Heaven, and David Amram will be there, along with lots of other special guests and a great crowd of Beat scholars and fans. You can view the whole 2015 Lowell Celebrates Kerouac! line-up here.

Whether you’re attending LCK or living vicariously through others’ reports, here are a few links to get you in the spirit:::

10 Articles on Jack Kerouac’s Catholicism to Celebrate the Pope’s Visit to the US

25 Sep

9780809323210_p0_v1_s192x300Benedict F. Giamo’s Kerouac, the Word and the Way: Prose Artist as Spiritual Quester

Pope Francis is in New York City. There are cops everywhere. Everyone I know, Catholic or not, is excited. I’ve never quite seen so many people excited over a religious figure’s visit.

In light of all the enthusiasm over the pope’s visit to America, I thought it would be enlightening to close the week out with a few articles exploring Jack Kerouac’s Catholicism.

  1. The American Conservative’s “The Conservative Kerouac” says: “Yet this bopping, scatting, mystical jazz poet who almost singlehandedly willed the 1960s counterculture into being was himself a political conservative and a Catholic.”
  2. The George Bulletin‘s “Discovering the Catholic Kerouac” says: “At the core of ‘On the Road,’ and at the heart of all his work, is the Catholic and Beat insistence upon an underlying spirituality that inhabits all creation. Kerouac saw the world, and everything in it, as Holy.”
  3. Culture War Magazine‘s “The Apocalypse of Jack Kerouac” says: “The Catholic overtones of Kerouac’s thought are as obvious as a notion of his not utterly incompatible with Catholicism, but occasionally mistaken for it….”
  4. Patheo‘s “5 People It’s Easy to Forget Are Catholic” says: “He was no angel, and certainly not a practicing Catholic (he stopped attending Mass at 14), but it has been rightly pointed out that Jack Kerouac never left his Catholicism.”
  5. The Arts Fuse‘s “Visions of ‘On the Road,’ the Movie” says: “Kerouac’s Catholicism is just one of the elements that’ve been ‘cropped out,’ so to speak, from a new film version of On the Road, directed by Walter Salles and written by Jose Rivera.”
  6. Hermit’s Thatch‘s “Kerouac’s Buddha & Jesus” says: “Personal experience can play into this identification of religious or psychological style.”
  7. CThe Merton Journal’s “Visions of Tom — Jack Kerouac’s Monastic Elder Brother” says: “Having been baptized, brought up and educated a Catholic, by the time he was 19 he had serious misgivings though he continued to have conversations with a local priest, Fr ‘Spike’ Morisette who also had his own struggles with his faith.”
  8. atholic Culture‘s “Three American Sophomores: The Restlessness of Thomas Merton, J. D. Salinger & Jack Kerouac” says: “This is where Kerouac’s religion and pursuit of detachment fails—and fails hard. Taking drugs is one of the most self-centered actions possible.”
  9. The Eponymous Flower‘s “Jack Kerouac was Catholic” says: “Indeed, he was eager to attack the Communists like Ferlengetti and Ginsberg, from whom he disassociated himself from several times in the interview. Despite being terribly drunk, he has moments of clarity and makes one of the most sartlingly accurate description of the false prophets… “
  10. Livemint‘s “Hit the road, Jack” says: “Many readers never get beyond that party-hearty surface and the book’s confessional stream-of-consciousness style. Leland draws a much more complex portrait. Despite the myth that the writing of On the Road was the next thing to speaking in tongues, a laying down of ecstatic inspiration by a Beat young savage, Kerouac was in fact a meticulous, driven writer, a man who “worked hard on his spontaneity”.”

That’s barely scratching the surface. Kerouac’s religious has been dissected by scholars and laymen alike for decades.

Photos and Video from My Reading at WORD Jersey City

22 Sep

Last month I had the exciting opportunity of reading at WORD bookstore in Jersey City with my friends and colleagues from the  Hobart Festival of Women Writers. One of my very best friends, Sue Jin Chang, came out to support me and took me out for a drink at Barcade to calm my pre-reading jitters. I was, after all, reading with highly esteemed writers whom I admire.


Poet and cofounder of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Cheryl Clarke, PhD, emceed the reading.


Cofounder of the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, Breena Clarke read from her novel Angels Make Their Hope Here.


E. J. Antonio, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at last year’s festival, read her powerful poetry.


J. P. Howard, who hosts the Women Writers in Bloom Poetry Salon, read her poetry.


Evie Shockley performed her poetry, including a provocative piece on the recent events in McKinney.

It being a reading featuring women authors, I decided to go the feminist route and read a selection from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” about the woman who was a catalyst for On the Road.

Sue Jin — whom you may remember from this jazz outing for peace and her mix Music and Poetry for On the Road — took these photographs of me.

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And here is a video of me reading a snippet!

Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Other Writers in Uniform

21 Sep
Flavorwire posted photos of writers from the Lost Generation’s F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway to the Beat Generation’s Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg in uniform. 
So often the media portrays writers as counter-culture rebels who refused to conform, but every once in a while we catch a glimpse of them wearing a uniform just like everyone else. In Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” Paul Maher Jr. and I were careful to show the tensions between Kerouac conforming and rebelling.
I think that’s how all our lives are. There are moments when we fall in line because it is advantageous to us or because we feel called to do so and moments when we blaze our own path.

Sophfronia Scott on Writing About a Generation

26 Aug


I had the opportunity to interview Sophfronia Scott for the Festival of Women Writers. She is the queen of outlining, and her discipline makes me realize how structure can actually free up creativity. Sophfronia’s first big publication was writing about Generation X for Time Magazine. Since I am interested in the notion of categorizing people and literature by generations — the Beat Generation! — I was excited to ask her about her role in speaking for a generation.

Here is a snippet from our Q&A:

Nikolopoulos: While at Time Magazine, you and David Gross collaborated on the story “Twentysomething,” about Generation X. From the Lost Generation to the Beat Generation, and from Generation X to Generation Y, society tries to label groups of people based on when they were born and their shared historical and cultural experiences. As a writer, in what ways do you see yourself speaking for your generation?

Scott: The point of the Time Magazine story was that our generation, having observed and taken in the issues of the previous generation, seemed to be proceeding with our lives in a very thoughtful, observant manner. As a writer I tend to pursue my projects in similar fashion. Yes, I want to tell a good story or write an engaging essay but I’m also conscious of the fact that the story or essay has a deeper meaning. The story or essay interests me for a reason—I know I’m trying to say something important even if I don’t know right away what it is. The novel I recently completed explores sexuality, love, identity, and faith and when you read it you may find it challenging to what you believe about these things. In the big picture my writing, I hope, on some level will always leave you questioning who you are, what you believe, what your life is, in a style that will move you in positive ways.

If you missed it, I also did a Q&A with fellow Festival instructor Esther Cohen.

And, Breena Clarke interview me for a Q&A.

Nerdy Travelers Rejoice: A Bucket List of Literary Museums for Literary Travelers

21 Aug
Bustle came out with a listicle entitled “9 Best Museum In The World for Book Lovers, Because There’s Nothing Like An Original Manuscript.” It has some fantastic recommendations that this nerdy traveler will undoubtedly be adding to her bucket list.
No list can ever be complete, so I’d like to add my recommendations:
The Beat Museum
It should come as no surprise that I’d recommend the Beat Museum in San Francisco. Not only can you see a huge collection of Beat Generation mementos, but there’s also a bookstore that sells first editions, signed copies, and other collectibles.
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historical Site and Interpretive Center
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center out on Long Island is the place for fans of the Good Gray Poet. What I love about this museum is that it gives a snoopy look into the private home life of the poet and also keeps his tradition alive through contemporary poets. There’s also a wall in the museum that makes me think Whitman inspired Kim Kardashian….
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Speaking of birthplaces, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace is a must-see. (It’s currently closed but will reopen in a few months.) Oh, sure, he’s remembered today for being one of our presidents, but he was a prolific author, and his birthplace shows how he went from a sickly reader to a big-game hunter. I wrote about the museum in the introduction to his Hunting the Grisly.
Washington Irving’s Home
Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is also a fun visit—particularly around Halloween! I went there a few years ago with a friend and to this day we still talk about it.
Junibacken Museum
I mentioned the Junibacken Museum, devoted to Astrid Lindgren’s works in Stockholm, Sweden, in a recent post. It’s particularly fun for children, but even adults may enjoy it.
The Writer’s Museum
I would also recommend The Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. My sister and I visited there quite a few years ago and saw the literary lives of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson come to life. My sister does a mean Robert Burns impersonation.
Some people go to the beach on their vacations. I visit museums and bookstores.

A Collage of Art and Literature at the Guggenheim

14 Aug
Carol Bove, Vague Pure Affection, 2012, wood and steel shelves, paper, brass, concrete, and acrylic, 85″ x 35 1/2″ x 16″. © Carol Bove, photo courtesy Maccarone Inc., New York
When I was growing up, I wanted to be an artist. So I became a writer. At Scripps College, I majored in English literature and minored in studio art. I wrote my thesis on the influence the Abstract Expressionist painters had the Beat Generation. At The New School, I studied the collaboration between the poets and painters of the New York School, which also touched on a lesser extent on the Beats. Next month, at the Festival of Women Writers in the Catskills, I will be teaching a writing class called Cut-Ups, Jazz-Poetry, and Picture Poems: Writing Under the Influence of the Beat Generation.
So you can imagine how excited I am about the Storylines exhibit at the Guggenheim. Robert Anthony Siegel did a provocative write-up on it in The Paris Review.
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You can pick up your copy of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” here.

This May Improve Your Mood about Your Social Media Presence

12 Aug

WereAllKerouacy02 copy

This is me reading at Ronnie Norpel‘s fantastic reading series Tract 187 Culture Clatch at The West End —/ photo by author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Over the years, I’ve blogged about everything from twitter to pinterest, in the effort to help fellow writers think about their social media presence. Why? Because every conference and expo I’ve attended has drilled the need for social media into my head. Swirling around my brain, I hear platform, platform, platform.

But platform is about so much more than social media.

According to Rob Eagar’s article “Stop Grading an Author’s Social Media Presence” on Digital Book World, publishers are “misguided” in how they look at an author’s social media presence. He suggests what authors and publishers should focus on is:

  1. Email list and performance
  2. Monthly website visitors
  3. Speaking schedule or webinar participants
  4. Previous sales history

I’d highly, highly suggest reading the full article. What he says makes a lot of sense.

Does this mean we abandon social media?

By no means! It means social media is simply one tool in our toolbox. Okay, toolbox metaphors aren’t quite my lingo—nor my “brand”—but the point is that publishers, agents, librarians, and readers value the fact that an author uses social media, so we should maintain our online presence, but we should also look to diversify. Give a reading. Engage with people who leave comments. Send out a newsletter. Host a webinar. Maintain your backlist. Participate in a panel.

That’s what I’m doing at least. Or at least trying to do.

You can find the facebook page Paul Maher Jr. and I run for Burning Furiously Beautiful here.
My Twitter handle is @stephanieniko.
I pin about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and lit life and 1950s fashion and nighttime road trips and the Greek beauty and deer on Pinterest.
I write articles for other publications.
I am reading at Word Bookstore in Jersey City.
I am teaching a writing class at the Festival of Women Writers.
I am participating on a panel at BinderCon.
I am co-organizing the faith and writing conference called The Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice.

There’s so much more to writing than, well, writing. I enjoy it, though. It’s stretching me as a writer, as an entrepreneur, and as a person.

Breena Clarke Interviews Me for the Festival of Women Writers Blog

22 Jul


Novelist Breena Clarke — whose book River, Cross My Heart was an Oprah book club pick! — recently interviewed me for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers blog.

She asks:

Clarke: I’m of the generation that kind of took our counter-culture marching orders from the Beats. You’re a couple of thousand years younger than me. How did you fall under the spell of Jack Kerouac and the Beats?  

You can read my answer that question and her others here.

I’m super excited to be participating in the Festival of Women Writers again this year!

I’ll be reading from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” with Festival participants at WORD bookstore in Jersey City (123 Newark Ave.) on August 18 at 7:30pm.

Then September 11-13, I’ll be returning to the Catskills to teach a writing class at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers.

Daniel Radcliffe’s Looking Very Beat Generation-Era Again

20 Jul
Radcliffe image via
Though heaps of liberties were taken in the film Kill Your Darlings, I happen to have enjoyed Daniel Radcliffe’s portrayal of a young Allen Ginsberg. It appears the Harry Potter actor is a bit of a trickster and has been inserting himself into photographs from the 1940s. Check them out.
Also, did you happen to catch Daniel Radcliffe rapping Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady”? His girlfriend Erin Darke totally stole my dance moves.
Get the REAL scoop on the story behind Kill Your Darlings in my book, coauthored with Paul Maher Jr., Burning Furiously Beautiful
And find out when you can next hear me read from the book here.