Announcing Two New Calendars for 2020

30 Sep

A friend reached out to me asking if I had a new calendar on sale yet. I was so surprised! I didn’t realize people looked forward to them so much. I love creating them, picking a theme, selecting the photographs, and creating new artwork, but I’ve never had huge sales on them (it’s super hard to make any significant profit since it costs so much to print them because of the color photography) so I didn’t think anyone was paying all that close attention to when they came out. After all, it’s still only September!

Well, I’m happy to announce that I now have not one but two calendars for sale for the year 2020!

Hellas is a calendar featuring photographs I’ve taken in Greece. This one is dear to my heart. I create it with my father in mind because years before I began creating calendars, he always wanted me to get him calendars. My first foray into calendar-making began with creating a calendar that I thought he would like. Now I have the pleasure of sharing my heritage with you and other Hellenophiles every day of the year with this calendar!

My Cup Runneth Over is a calendar devoted to those seeking to cultivate an attitude of gratitude throughout 2020. If Hellas was created with my father in mind, then My Cup Runneth Over, with its subtle coffee theme and optimism, is inspired in part by my mother. If you’re into mindfulness, spirituality, and gratitude and are seeking subtle reminders to find the good in each day, then this is the calendar for you.

 

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Experience the beauty of Greece every day of the year with HELLAS, a 2020 calendar. The natural landscape of the Mediterranean comes to life in the rich, colorful photography of Greek beaches, wildflowers, and lush palm trees. As you record your daily appointments in the calendar, the stresses of life will recede like the tide of the ocean. This calendar features US and Greek holidays. On sale now.

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Cultivate a life of gratitude each day of 2020 with the Your Cup Runneth Over Calendar. Each morning as you savor a cup of coffee, take a moment to give thanks. Every day offers a fresh start and an opportunity to practice thanksgiving. By focusing on the things you have to be thankful for, even if some days they may feel like small things, you will transform your attitude and become a more positive person. Your newfound optimism will help you to enjoy the life you currently have even as you seek to improve it one day at a time. Consider these prompts: What are you grateful for experiencing as a child? What friendships are you thankful for today? What do you appreciate about your neighborhood? How can you tell someone you’re thankful for them today? Each day, take a moment to stop and smell the coffee! On sale now.

Have you started planning for 2020 yet?

Don’t forget to mark your calendars with my upcoming events. Find my list of upcoming readings and writing workshops here. I’d love to mark my calendar with any readings, art shows, and concerts you’re involved in too, so drop me a line in the comments section with your upcoming events.

If you’re new to my page and are curious what else I’ve published, hop over to my Publications page to check out my books.

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Cornelia Meatpacking District

28 Sep

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For many years, the Cornelia Street Café was one of my favorite haunts in all of New York City. Situated on a tiny, quiet street in the Village, it burst with energy and innovation. “Minister of Culture, Wine Czar, Dean of Faculty” Robin Hirsch gave the stage to the exquisitely unique musicians and poets that make New York City so great.

Among the monthly guests was David Amram. Composer, author, veteran, he began his professional career playing French horn in the National Symphony Orchestra in 1951. A few years later, after serving in the US Army, he moved to New York and began playing in bands by jazz musicians Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Oscar Pettiford. A decade later, Leonard Bernstein selected him to be the New York Philharmonic’s first composer-in-residence. In between that time, he’d written the scores to such films as Splendor in the Grass and The Manchurian Candidate. To host a musician of Amram’s caliber spoke to the esteem of the Cornelia Street Café, though both the Café and Amram always brought in up-and-coming acts as well. At his monthly Monday night sessions at “the Cornelia Street Stadium,” as he always called the tiny venue, Amram shared not just his music but stories of life in the ‘50s and ‘60s in the Village. He’d talk about the great international instrument shop he frequented and the poetry and music venues that have now shuttered.

And then just like that Cornelia Street Café became one of them. Opened in July 1977, the café closed due to rising rents on New Years 2019.

The news of Cornelia Street Café’s shuttering is a huge loss to the literary community and to New York City. While New York’s profitability is positive, its rampant gentrification destroys the very thing that makes the city so exciting, beautiful, and unique. If a city loses its artists, it loses its heart, its pulse.

It was also a loss for me. My editor and mentor introduced me to Cornelia Street Café, urging me to check it out. Soon I began attending Amram’s jams, Three Room Press’s Beat-centric events hosted by founders Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, and a slew of other readings. I got to hear impressive poets like Steve Dalachinsky (who passed on September 16), Anne Waldman, George Wallace, you name it! It was also the place where Sopranos actor John Ventimiglia came in and sat across from me at the table where I was seated. Incredibly, more than once I found myself on stage. David Amram kindly invited me to read from Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” coauthored with biographer Paul Maher Jr.,which is one of the highlights of my life. I also had the great pleasure of reading a section from my memoir-in-progress at the Greek American Writers Association, thanks to an invitation from the ever-gracious Penelope Karageorge. I, in turn, introduced many of my friends to Cornelia Street Café, and when the news broke that it was closing, we grieved because it didn’t just mean the loss of a venue—it meant the loss of a community spirit.

So, when my mentor emailed to alert me that Cornelia Street in Exile was heading to the Meatpacking District for a Sunday afternoon outdoors at Gansevoort Plaza on September 15, I had to go! I was also intrigued. Though there was a beautiful—and ohmygosh delicious—restaurant at the street level, to get to the performance venue you had to descend down the stairs into the cavernous basement. It was dark and narrow, lit by candlelight. Plush red drapes and mirrors perhaps sought to make the tiny room elegant and more spacious, but in fact the space felt womblike. It was, after all, a place pregnant with creative possibilities, where one grew, evolved, and was, in a way, reborn into the slippery city night. So how would it work to for Cornelia Meatpacking District to be out in broad daylight, on the street, for passersby to wonder it?

 

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Hirsch and Amram

Incredibly well, actually. When it was open, Cornelia Street Café often hosted a full day of events over Memorial Day weekend that spilled out onto the sidewalks. It felt very much like one of those events. Of course, that’s probably thanks to the Shinbone Alley Stilt Band, who were a staple of the summer events and who helped create a seamless transition from one performer to the next at Cornelia Meatpacking District by stilt-walking from the stage to the crowd to perform between sets. That got people’s attention!

David Amram & Co. held the show together, playing many of our favorites and introducing—and even performing with—the other musicians and poets. It was a full afternoon of delight thanks to all the fun musicians and poets who read. As it was more performance-driven, I missed getting to hear David’s stories, which for me are always fascinating, but poet—and new dad—Frank Messina told how he’d met his wife at the Cornelia Street Café!

 

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Messina and Amram

The event also included Arturo O’Farrill Trio. Son of the legendary Latin jazz musician Chico O’Farrill, Arturo is a musician in his own right: the Grammy Award winning musician is known for his free jazz and experimentations with hip hop. There was also Rogerio Souza and the Billy Newman Quarteto.

The lively music soon had people dancing at the front of the stage! Proprietor Robin Hirsch, publisher Kat Georges, attendees in the crowd, and a bold young woman who seemed to enjoy the attention danced and swayed and moved to the music. The sun then began to set over the Hudson, and with it the show came to a close.

Though it lacked some of the intimacy of the basement and felt commercial because the corporate sponsors were profusely thanked between each set, the event was a success. It showed the resilience of the arts and captured the beauty of community. Many of the familiar faces were there, but so were new people, intrigued by musicians playing jazz on stilts, the charm of VickiKristinaBarcelona Band, and folk musicians singing of bad dates. Four hours long, the Cornelia Meatpacking District felt organic—and hopeful.

Next up, Hirsch brings Yom Kippur for Yogis to the Integral Yoga Institute for Cornelia Integral on October 3 at 7pm. Tickets are $20. FMI: iyiny.org.

On Sensitive Topics: How Do We Contribute in Love and Truth to Controversial Trending Topics?

22 Sep

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I’m pleased to share with you a new panel that I’ve organized!

On September 24th at 7pm, the Redeemer Writers Group will kick off their first meeting of the fall with the panel discussion “On Sensitive Topics: How Do We Contribute in Love and Truth to Controversial Trending Topics?” Panelists include Sophfronia Scott (author of Love’s Long Line and This Child of Faith) on gun violence; Cristina Spataro (licensed mental health counselor) on mental health; Jerome Walford (graphic novelist: Nowhere Man and the Gwan Anthology) on immigration and asylum; Nayamka Ward (Rebranded Christianity blog) on race; moderated by Mary B. Safrit (Unsuitable podcast).

This event is for writers of all genres and levels as well as readers who are interested in dialoguing about how the world shapes literature and how literature shapes the world. Panelists will share their stories of how faith informs their writing, how they research hot-button topics so they have a well-rounded, accurate viewpoint, and how they respond to critical responses to their work. The panel will begin with a reading from each of our esteemed panelists and will close with a Q&A from the audience.

We’ll meet at 1166 Avenue of the Americas, 16th floor. Registration is required. Please register at least 24 hours before the meeting to ensure your name will be included on the building security list.

 

Find out about my other upcoming events here.

My Q&A with Ifeona Fulani

4 Sep

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Ifeona Fulani is the author of the novel Seasons of Dust, which follows a Jamaican immigrant family over the course of five decades, beginning in 1950, as well as the more recent short story collection Ten Days in Jamaica. She also edited the nonfiction work Archipelagos of Sound: Transnational Caribbeanites, Women and Music. She is the recipient of the Mitchener Fellowship – University of Miami, New York Times Creative Writing Fellowship, Burke-Marshall Fellowship – NYU, and McCracken Fellowship – NYU. Ifeona Fulani is a Clinical Professor in the Liberal Studies department at New York University. She has taught in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, the Gallatin School, the College of Arts and Science, as well as, the Eugene Lang School, The New School.

At the Festival of Women Writers this September 6-8, Ifeona Fulani will be teaching the writing workshop NOTHING HAPPENS NOWHERE: Grounding Your Story in Place. Here’s a description:

In this workshop we will explore one of the most fundamental challenges facing a writer of fiction, that of setting your story in a place in which your characters and their actions can unfold meaningfully.

Character is a product of dynamic interaction with place, whether that place is a modern city, a medieval castle or a space station on an alien planet. No matter where, how can setting support a character’s desires and actions? How will it frustrate them and generate conflict?

We will consider these and other questions relating to using setting and place in ways that work with or against your character to develop your story and reveal its ultimate meaning.

You can register for her workshop and mine, Wild Women on the Road, here.

You can read my interview with Ifeona Fulani here.

My Q&A with Marya Hornbacher

28 Aug

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Marya Hornbacher‘s first book, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, was shortlisted for the Pulitzer Prize when published in 1998. The book has changed countless lives, is now taught in universities across the country, and has been translated into sixteen languages. I had the humbling opportunity to interview her, and I asked her about what it was like to publish at twenty-three years old and what advice she has to other writers, how she practices self-care while writing about difficult topics, and her latest project on the women’s solitude. Check out my interview with Marya here.

Marya Hornbacher and I will both be teaching this year at the Festival of Women Writers, taking place this September 6-8. I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here. If you’re taking my workshop — or are just interested in the topic — I recommend checking out Marya’s Longreads essay “The Ways of a Wandering Spirit.

Marya’s workshop is called INVENTING THE ‘I’: Crafting A Powerful First Person Voice. Here’s a little bit about it:

This workshop will explore the risks and rewards of writing in the first person—the ‘I’ persona.

Whether we’re writing in the voice of a fictional character or in the guise of our nonfictional “selves,” the voice of the storyteller, that narrating I, must be compelling enough to carry the reader from the first word of our work to the last.

This workshop will explore how this voice of I becomes a character in her own right, one with depth and dimension, insights and blind spots, strengths and failures and flaws, one whose perception of reality is engaging enough to keep the reader turning the page.

Through both generative writing exercises and examples from literature, we will explore techniques for finding, strengthening, and clarifying our use of the first person voice.

You can register for the workshop here.

See you in the Catskills for this writing retreat!

 

My Q&A with Yolanda Wisher

22 Aug

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Former poet laureate of Philadelphia, Yolanda Wisher not only writes her own powerful poetry that feeds souls but she also works to build platforms for other writers. She educates, and she entertains. She provokes, and she nurtures. For a decade, she has taught English to high school students, inspiring them to reflect on literature and language. She served as Director of Art Education for Philadelphia Mural Arts, founded and directed the Germantown Poetry Festival and Outbound Poetry Festival, and has led workshops and curated events in partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the U.S. Department of Arts & Culture. Now, Wisher’s labor of love is as Curator of Spoken Word at Philadelphia Contemporary. Also, she’s one of the first groups of artists with studios at the Cherry Street Pier on the Delaware River Waterfront.

She’s pretty incredible. And, I got to interview her! We chatted about how themes emerged in her writing, bringing poetry to the masses, and her tips for completing projects when one is busy and has LOTS of ideas. You can read her responses here.

Yolanda Wisher will be joining us at this year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers, taking place September 6-8. She’ll be teaching RAG & RIFF: The Poetics of the Quilt. Here’s a description:

The Gee’s Bend quilts are the work of several generations of Black women quilters in the rural town of Gee’s Bend, Alabama.

Their work has been shared in museum exhibitions across the country to much acclaim. The quilts, which initially served as functional objects and heirlooms, have been heralded as modern and postmodern art, gospel, and jazz.

They were born out of slavery and sharecropping, the landscape of the South, and the personal stories of the women and men whose lives are sewn into them. Like poems, the Gee’s Bend quilts play with forms—some borrowed and reimagined, some invented and organic.

What can the poet learn from the history, the matriarchal vernacular and the abstract architecture of Gee’s Bend quilts? For starters: the revelatory properties of color, the turn and bend of a line, its asymmetrical rhythms, and the individual voice that must come through the assemblage of fabric.

As Gee’s Bend quilter Mensie Lee Pettway said, “Ought not two quilts ever be the same.” In this workshop, we will riff off the history, craft, and colors of Gee’s Bend quilts as we consider our own inherited folk forms. We will use the quilters’ techniques to create our own layered and vibrant poems.

 

You can register for Yolanda’s writing workshop and mine, Wild Women on the Road,  here.

My Q&A with Diane Gilliam

21 Aug

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Poet Diane Gilliam was born into a family that was part of the postwar Appalachian outmigration, and the region’s people populate her poetry collections One of Everything (2003), Kettle Bottom (2004), and Dreadful Wind and Rain (2017). Among her many awards and honors are the Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist’s Fellowship (2003), the Perugia Press Prize (2004), the Ohioana Poetry Book Award (2005), the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing (2008), and the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation (2013).

This year, she’ll be joining us for the first time at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I asked her about why she chose a generational approach in her first book of poetry, how poetry shapes and expands community — which she answered with a story! — and how the Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of Her Own Foundation has furthered her career. You can read her answers here.

At the Hobart Festival of Women Writers she’ll be teaching LEAPING Poetry. Here’s a bit about it:

We will be talking about energy and LEAPING in poems we admire and in poems of our own.

Some of our questions will be:  Where does vision come from?  What are some sources of energy in poems?  What can we say about the nature of a leap?  How do vision, energy and leaping manifest on the page?  What textual strategies conjure them?

I’ll provide a handout of LEAPING poems and prompts for new poems as well as for revision.  Participants are invited to bring a LEAPING poem of their own or someone else’s, and one of their own that’s in need of some LEAPING energy.

You can register for the workshop here. This year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers will take place September 6-8. Join us in the beautiful Catskills for this writing retreat!

I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here.

I’m September’s Featured Reader at the Forest Hills Library

15 Aug

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I will be the featured reader at the Open Mic and Reading Series at the Forest Hills Library in Queens (108-19 71 Avenue, Queens, NYC) on September 26, 2019, at 6:30pm.

Here’s a bit about the series:

Open Mic is for all performers of any genre to take the mic for four minutes. Spectators are also welcome. Featured readers are as follows: September: Stephanie Nikolopoulos, October: Lancelot Schaubert, November: Julia Knobloch

I am thrilled! I love, love, love libraries. I spent a big part of my childhood at the Closter Public Library, where every summer I joyously, vigorously participated in the library’s reading challenge. My family also spent a lots of Sundays at the Englewood Public Library. After I left New Jersey, I chose my first apartment in New York based partly on the fact that it was on the same block at one of the branches of the New York Public Library.

Libraries have exposed me to books I would’ve never discovered otherwise. They’ve afforded me opportunities to read more books than I could afford to buy. They’ve been a fundamental source of research for the books I’ve written and the ones I’m writing. They’ve also been a quiet place to write. A place of comfort. A place of inspiration.

I had the opportunity to attend the Open Mic and Reading Series at the Forest Hills branch of the Queens Public Library a few months ago when fellow New School MFA alum Gabriel Don was the guest reader. I’m so honored that meditative poet-librarian and talk show host Vijay R. Nathan has invited me to read.

Hope to see you there!

In the comments, let me know your favorite thing about libraries.

 

My Q&A with Nancy Agabian

14 Aug

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Nancy Agabian is a writer, teacher, and literary organizer working in the spaces between race, ethnicity, cultural identity, feminism and queer identity. She was honored as a finalist for the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially-Engaged Fiction for her recently completed novel The Fear of Large and Small Nation, which is based on her experiences as a Fulbright scholar in Armenia. In 2012 she was awarded for excellence in teaching at Queens College, where she taught as an adjunct for a decade. She currently is teaching in the Writing Program at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University. And get this — this year she’ll be joining us at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers to teach the workshop WRITING LYRICS: Image, Emotion, and Justice! Here’s a little about her workshop:

Though we use the word lyric to describe a line of text in song, rap, or poetry, the word, according to the dictionary, refers to “expressing the writer’s emotions, usually briefly”.

In this generative all-genre workshop, we will write about the emotions that arise from experiencing and witnessing racism, in and outside of ourselves, on the street, in our workplaces and schools, on TV and online.

Looking to the work of Langston Hughes, Audre Lorde and Claudia Rankine, we will do a few writing exercises to explore the use of image, metaphor, and point of view as ways to translate the emotions of our experiences into expressions of justice.

(This 2-hour workshop was featured at the Queens Public Library, sponsored by St. John’s University and The Newtown Literary Journal).

You can register for the workshop here. This year’s Hobart Festival of Women Writers will take place September 6-8.

I had the opportunity to interview Nancy for the Festival blog. We chatted about women as keepers of family history, her writing process, and how performance art has influenced her writing. You can read my interview with Nancy Agabian here.

I’ll be teaching the writing workshop Wild Women on the Road, which you can register for here.

 

My Q&A with Novelist Ellen Meeropol

10 Jul

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I’m so excited to have interviewed Ellen Meeropol, author of House Arrest, On Hurricane Island, and Kinship of Clover for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers. I’m fascinated by the questions her novels pose about where the government should draw the line between keeping our nation safe and terrorizing our own citizens as well as how far is too far when it comes to activism.

Here’s the promotional copy for On Hurricane Island:

As a major hurricane threatens the northeast, math professor Gandalf Cohen is abducted by federal agents and flown to a secret interrogation center off the coast of Maine. Austin Coombs, a young local resident, is a newly hired civilian guard assigned to the detention center. Henry Ames, a man of personal secrets, is the FBI special agent in charge of Gandalf’s case and doubts the professor’s terrorist involvement; Tobias, his second-in-command, disagrees, preferring violent interrogation. As the hurricane slams the shore, conflict detonates and each character must choose a side if they’re to survive the storm.

Told over the five days approaching the anniversary of 9/11, by varying voices on both extremes of the political divide, On Hurricane Island is both a fast-paced political thriller and a literary examination of the sociopolitical storm facing our society. How far should government go in the name of protecting our national security? What happens when governmental powers of surveillance and extra-legal interrogation are expanded? How free are we?

Ellen Meeropol has worked as a daycare teacher and women’s reproductive health counselor before becoming a nurse practitioner. It was in her twenty-four years working at a children’s hospital that she began authoring and co-authoring articles and book chapters focused on pediatric issues and latex allergy. The nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau honored her for excellence in nursing journalism, and she received the Ruth A. Smith Writing Award for excellence in writing in the profession of nursing. She went on to receive the Chair’s Excellence Award from the Spina Bifida Association of America for her advocacy around latex allergy and spina bifida. In 2000, Meeropol decided to pursue a life of letters in earnest and earned her MFA from the Stonecoast Program at the University of Southern Maine. She didn’t leave behind her advocacy though: her novel Kinship of Clover involves a character who has spina bifida.

You can read my conversation with Ellen Meeropol here.

For more Q&As with the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, visit the Festival blog.

Register for the wonderful weekend of writing and community in the Catskills, and sign up for workshops by Ellen, me, and others here.

How much power should the government have to keep our country safe–what if it means less privacy and less due process? What cause would you break the law for? Let me know in the comments below.