Aja Gabel, UH Creative Writing Program alum, sells first novel to Riverhead Books


October 24, 2016, by

Aja GabelAja Gabel, University of Houston Creative Program PhD, Class of 2015, has sold her first novel, In Common Time, to Riverhead Books, where it will be published next year. We caught up with Aja in the calm before the storm of her literary debut. Some of you may know Aja as the recipient of the Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/Fondren Foundaiton Fellowship, winner of an Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Nonfiction, and winner of an Inprint Alexander Prize in Fiction. Aja also taught writing workshops for Inprint and was one of Inprint’s beloved live tweeters.

MAT JOHNSON: Congrats on placing you first book with the prestigious Riverhead imprint of Penguin Random House! Can you tell me, what’s the novel about? Did you start this book at the writing program, or after?

AJA GABEL: Thanks! The novel is about a string quartet, and how they manage their personal relationships as they battle for professional success. Each member desperately needs the quartet to succeed, but for very different and secret reasons, and along the way they navigate heartbreak, death, birth, marriage, injury, failure, and more. It’s told from all four of their perspectives and covers about 25 years. I played cello for 20 years, and I’ve always been fascinated as to how professional ensembles make a living together while also maintaining relationships with each other. It seems like it must be full of all kinds of turmoil and drama (hence, the novel).

I came up with the idea in the very first workshop I took with Chitra Divakaruni, when she forced us to pitch novels, and I panicked. That synopsis I pitched back then was so silly, but the general idea stayed with me. It took me a few years, but eventually I figured out how to actually make it into a novel that didn’t sound like a Lifetime movie. Hopefully.  Continue reading

Lauren Groff & Ann Patchett charm audiences at Inprint reading


October 21, 2016, by

RM3_3546Last Monday night, the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series brought award-winning writers Lauren Groff and Ann Patchett to the Alley Theatre. Trying to find a seat in the sold-out crowd, I ran into a friend from my graduate program. We fell into a sudden and deep discussion about marriage, and what it means when only one rather than both members of a couple are able to pursue the career of their choice. How can you decide whose vocation will shape a family’s life?

RM3_3593Both of the featured novels that night, Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, concern the consequences of marriage, either maintained or dissolved, and the discussion that followed revealed the depth with which both writers have entertained questions similar to our own.

Groff introduced her reading by describing the composition of Fates and Furies, which examines a marriage from husband Lotto’s perspective before we hear from his wife Mathilde. As moments and phrases leapt to mind, Groff says she darted from her desk to record them on butcher paper hung from the wall, one for each character. Her startling language and sharp sense of the absurd was a perfect complement to Ann Patchett’s reading, which featured a large cast of Benadryl-tripping, gin-stealing, gun-toting kids whose families have been recombined by their parents’ changed relationships. In her selected passage, they mistake their longing to spend summer at a nearby lake as the source of their dislocation and sorrow. Continue reading

Monster Manuscripts


October 19, 2016, by

Jack-o'-Lantern_2003-10-31I asked several local literary tastemakers for their recommendations of spooky stories and haunting poems, inspired by this month’s Halloween celebration. After all, is there really a way to know that the person in the Ken Bone costume at your next party is not the man himself?

The next time you’d like to get your mind off the horror of this election season, consider grabbing a copy of work by Angela Carter (like “The Bloody Chamber”), Stephen King, Flannery O’Connor, Shirley Jackson (“The Witch,” “The Lottery,” The Haunting of Hill House), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, the Ripliad), Helen Oyeyemi (White is for Witching), Edgar Allen Poe, or any of the below:

Robin Davidson, Houston Poet Laureate

The first story that comes to mind for me is William Butler Yeats’ piece “Red Hanrahan,” a story of Samhain Eve (Gaelic for what we call Hallowe’en but is the evening prior to the Celtic New Year, November 1, when the doors to the other world are open and spirits are said to be a’travellin’) in his collection of Irish/Gaelic folklore called Mythologies. I’ve used the story often with my students as a creative writing prompt at Halloween… Continue reading

Houston writer Jennifer Staff Johnson gives first public reading


October 12, 2016, by

Jennifer Staff Johnson.689f418bce3e5f33635012ea502526aa21The Gulf Coast Journal’s Reading Series presents writers from the University of Houston’s nationally acclaimed Creative Writing Program, as well as renowned writers whose work has appeared in the magazine. This Friday, the Series presents Lisa Olstein, Henk Rossouw, Corey Campbell, and Jennifer Staff Johnson at Rudyard’s Pub in Montrose. Reading starts at 7 pm.

This week marks the very first public reading for Jennifer, who is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction at UH. She sat down with Inprint blogger Charlotte Wyatt to discuss her work and how Houston has shaped her writing.

CHARLOTTE: This is your first — okay, alright, second reading ever, but your first reading was Wednesday night as part of the Poetry & Prose series through UH. How did you choose what pieces to read this week? How did you prepare? Continue reading

Failure to Identify and Tintero Readings came together to present Rodrigo Toscano & Charles Alexander


October 10, 2016, by

UprightIMG_7239On one of the first cool nights of Houston’s autumn, September 27, Rodrigo Toscano flew in from New Orleans and Charles Alexander came from Victoria, Texas to deliver their singular and meditative poetry at Kaboom Books. They were brought together by a partnership between Failure to Identify and Tintero Readings.

Failure to Identify bills itself as an “Occasional, Itinerant, Sporadic, Vagabond, Versatile, Irregular, Incidental, Intermittent, Roundabout, Accidental, Stray, Raro, Combustible series of arts & writing events.” Tintero Readings is the events arm of Tintero Projects, run by married couple Lupe and Jasminne Mendez, which “aims to promote writing and reading opportunities for emerging Latinx poets and writers in the Houston” and beyond.

Toscano works for the Labor Institute, “a non-profit organization that provides labor unions and community groups with education on health and safety”—and this has inspired his work, which recalls Muriel Rukeyser in its activist intentions. He read from his newest book Explosion Rocks Springfield, inspired by an “actual event in Springfield, MA,” in which a gas leak combusted “almost four square blocks of property,” including a daycare, where the kids were fortuitously on a school trip, and a strip club, which was evacuated in the nick of time by a quick-thinking manager.  Continue reading

A Sacred Space


October 6, 2016, by

On Friday, October 7, Inprint is launching a new program, the Inprint Writing Cafe. From 9 am – 12 pm on the first Friday of every month, we will transform our workshop/meeting/readings space into a writing cafe, where all writers can come and spend the morning writing in the pleasant Menil neighborhood with the company of other writers. 

small Ernie Williams croppedWe are proud to present this essay, which came our way a few weeks ago and celebrates the power of people coming together as writers, by Ernie Williams. Ernie Williams, who works in the HVAC industry, has taken a number of Inprint workshops, in several genres, but he has found his deepest connection with the personal essay. 

A room in an old house.  A well-worn wooden floor.  In the center of the room stand two substantial wooden tables, surrounded by twelve chairs.  The pale green walls are adorned with posters advertising literary events of long ago.  The late afternoon sun peeks through the blinds, bathing this silent space in a harsh light.  When this room sits empty, it is nothing, just four walls and a ceiling.  But when people enter this space, it becomes something else entirely.

Five years ago I sat in this very room, and as a group of strangers slowly trickled in, I wondered just what I had gotten myself into.  I pretended to be something I was not, and these people were sure to expose me as a fraud.  But that didn’t happen.  Over the course of ten weeks I fell in love.  With writing.  Everything changed.  It didn’t matter if people found out I didn’t know what I was doing.  I discovered I could mine my own life and create something worth reading. Continue reading

Writing Under the Same Roof: Two Houston Writers Talk Fiction, Love, and Utopia


September 26, 2016, by

PrintAllegra Hyde and Alex McElroy met while completing their MFAs in Fiction at Arizona State University. They married upon graduating in spring 2015, and then spent the following year in Bulgaria, where Allegra completed a Fulbright Grant. This past summer, they settled in Houston, so that Alex could begin studies as a PhD candidate in Fiction at the University of Houston.

Allegra’s first book, Of This New World, recently won the 2016 John Simmons Iowa Short Fiction Award. She will be launching the book this Monday, October 3rd, at 7:00 PM at Brazos Bookstore. To mark the occasion, Allegra and Alex sat down to discuss the collection, writing as a couple, and their burgeoning love for Houston.

ALEX McELROY: What’s it like to bring out your first book in a city that’s still very new to you? Continue reading

Mary Beard as our Virgil


September 21, 2016, by

Smaller Mary Beard photo 1 IMG_7189On first meeting celebrated historian Mary Beard, I was struck by two observations. 1) She has the most impeccable, chirpy, and patrician British accent I’ve ever heard, and 2) she wears the flyest kicks—gold-colored, metal-studded sneakers—I’ve ever seen. Her life’s work bears this dual legacy. She is an Oxbridge-trained professor of classics and author of over a dozen well-received books, as well as an approachable public intellectual, who writes a popular blog and frequently appears on “telly” as a commentator on all manner of news stories.

Mary Beard read at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston on Sunday, September 18, as part of a partnership with Brazos Bookstore. Before there were such categories as “creative nonfiction” or “memoir,” there were chronicles of the time, and Romans documented activities both contemporaneous and ancient. She presented an engaging talk, complete with photo documentation, on the subject of her newest history SPQR.

Beard first described her personal investment in Roman history by detailing a visit in 1973 to the eternal city. What struck her most was not the ancient remains or the Renaissance art, but the SPQR emblem still stamped on manhole covers, door handles, and garbage cans. Representing the Latin phrase for the Roman Senate and People, it is the longest running acronym in the history of the world. Continue reading

Bon Voyage, Professor Kastely!


September 19, 2016, by

J. Kastely with studentsOn August 24th, the UH Creative Writing Program started things off for the Fall 2016 semester by allowing long time chair, J. Kastely, to quit his job.

Kastely, who suffered through what must have seemed like a million (it was only 14) years of whiny writers of the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty persuasion, was ceremonially unchained and allowed to roam free from his office, to pursue his varied philosophical interest.

The Creative Writing Program was reluctant to let Kastely go, because Professor J. Kastely was truly excellent at this job—no joke, sublimely so—and none of the subjects interviewed for this blog post could imagine a Creative Writing Program without him. And yet novelist Alexander Parsons has generously agreed to step into that role, at least until one of our bear traps proves successful.

Continue reading

“Storied” Exhibit Opens at UH Libraries


September 17, 2016, by


On Wednesday, September 14, the University of Houston Libraries celebrated the opening of Storied: The First 10 Years of the Creative Writing Program with a reception in the Elizabeth D. Rockwell Pavilion of MD Anderson Library. The exhibit was put together using UH Libraries Special Collections materials and focuses on the founding and first decade of the UH Creative Writing Program. It highlights faculty members Cynthia Macdonald and Donald Barthelme, as well as showcasing works by alumni who graduated within that first decade (1979-1989).

Within the first few years of its founding, the UH Creative Writing Program had already become a leading program in the nation. Inprint formed virtually alongside the program in the mid 1980s and quickly became a crucial source of fundraising and support for students and the student-run magazine Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.

Continue reading

Over 100 authors featured at upcoming first Lone Star Book Festival


April 7, 2016, by

Lone Star Book Festival copyThis weekend more than one hundred nationally and internationally known authors will be featured as part of the first annual Lone Star Book Festival. Nothing like the Lone Star Book Festival exists in the area and the festival will have something for everyone. We had a chance to interview John Barr, one of the festival’s key organizers and founder, about the exciting weekend ahead and how the festival came into being. 

INPRINT: What inspired you to put this festival together?

JOHN BARR: Well, we have always loved reading and books and think it is vital for a healthy society to read. Also, the Kingwood campus is, we believe, a beautiful venue for a book festival. Lastly, we thought that it was time for Houston to have a multi-genre book festival.

INPRINT: What can attendees expect from the two days?

BARR: Attendees can expect to find a diverse group of authors from across the country willing and wanting to discuss their newest books, sign autographs, and chat with audience members. In addition, on the campus quad, attendees will find Brazos Bookstore selling books, music being played, and exhibitors including literary presses, local organizations focused on literacy, publishers, and many local authors. Continue reading

Fred Moten packs the El Dorado Ballroom


April 4, 2016, by

IMG_5411On March 21st, a diverse community packed the historic El Dorado Ballroom to hear the words of Fred Moten. Moten, professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, is a celebrated scholar, who’s authored the critical books The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study and In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. In addition, his distinguished poetry collections include Hughson’s Tavern, B Jenkins, The Little Edges, and The Feel Trio, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2014.

Moten is known for his densely-packed lyricism, tackling social issues with wordplay, and complicating the conventional notions of radical poetic lineages. After an introduction by UH professor Michael Snedicker, Moten remarked that he “wanted to bring other voices” into the reading and played a “musical epigraph.” Some piano riffs, finger snaps, vocals, flute trills, and bass thrums later, the song, played uninterrupted in its entirety, was revealed as Carmen McRae’s version of the jazz standard “Sometimes I’m Happy (Sometimes I’m Blue).”

Earlier in the day, Moten delivered a talk on “Hesistant Sociology: Blackness and Poetry” at the University of Houston. There too, he employed musical epigraphs. One was a recording from a section from Zong!, the innovative masterwork by M. NourbeSe Philip, which linguistically and phonetically deconstructs the legal ruling of slave ship sailors who threw 150 humans overboard in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in order to cash in on lucrative insurance. The other was a solo Thelonius Monk practicing his tune “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You.” Continue reading

To get the news from poems: Why Sara Cress’s “Breaking Poems” project is worth reading closely


March 30, 2016, by

12884453_10153948657976390_1763700063_nEvery night before bed, Sara Cress writes poetry in response to the headlines she’d spent the day surrounded by in her job. She posts most of her poems to her Tumblr site, but she has also published two slim volumes of them: Breaking Poems and 2015 Yearbook.

She identifies with a migratory songbird, “a mere puff,” she writes. She grieves the attacks in Paris. She, like most of the Internet, laments the revelation that bacon is very likely carcinogenic.

Cress, who received her degree in creative writing from the University of Houston, is making two essential assumptions. One is that poetry has something to say to the news. You’re probably familiar with that William Carlos Williams phrase — if you’ve shopped at Barnes & Noble, you’ve seen it on a tote bag: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” For Cress, it seems so. There is something about poetry — its complexity, its empathy — worth taking to the news of the day. The day, that is, we live in now: a day on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, scrolling, scrolling, where authority is dictated by “pageviews” and trending topics are flimsy as fame. “Poetry is the way I’ve always responded to sadness and frustration,” writes Cress in an email. “I started writing [the breaking poems] for me. … But a few months in I started to see that I was interpreting the news in a way that perhaps made it more palatable and heightened emotions about worn topics.”

It reminds me of something that James Kastely, Director of the Creative Writing Program at UH, once wrote: ““If there is any problem it is not that there is an excess of rhetoric but rather that there is not enough.” Continue reading

Ben’s Hyperbolic Brazos Bulletin: National Poetry Month Edition


March 22, 2016, by

4_25 Martin Rock CoverWith April around the corner, we thought we’d check in with one of Houston’s literary hot spots, Brazos Bookstore, to get the scoop on what they have specially planned for National Poetry Month. Here’s what Ben Rybeck, Marketing Director of Brazos Bookstore, has to say… 

Ah, springtime—can you smell it in the air: scents of decay, of heartbreak, of existential dread? With the blossoming flowers and warmer days comes National Poetry Month. At Brazos, we love hosting poets—especially the ones who bum our shit out (no, no, in a good way!)—and to celebrate poetry in April (insert some stock phrase about how it’s “the cruelest month”), we have a roster of the local and the national, the burgeoning and the established. Here are three such upcoming events:

Calypso Editions Reading

Saturday, April 9, 7pm

For more information click here

Houston poet Robin Davidson is a boss—but you don’t have to believe me: her boss-ness has been confirmed by official government decree. Yes, Davidson is Houston’s current—and second—Poet Laureate (she’ll finish her term next year). It’s a magnificent position—the kind that seems, in its own way, as far-fetched as wanting to be an astronaut, or a president. Wait, you can be a poet—like, officially?? (Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be poets? No, I guess I should consider my audience here.)

But Davidson also runs Calypso Editions, which is another rare thing: a thriving poetry press—and right here in Houston, no less! So join us for a collection of Calypso poets reading their works. Nobody should ever forget: Houston is a serious poetry town—take that, Austin snobs!—so come honor Calypso, one of our great treasures. Continue reading

“The Way Language Can Become a Living Thing”: Tracy K. Smith’s Extraordinary Light


March 11, 2016, by

RM3_2899I walked all over Rice University before heading to Tracy K. Smith’s reading for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series last Monday. I was excited:  it was perfect weather—clouds but not raining, warm but not hot, cool but not cold.  The light was starting to dim.  So what do you do about this—inner or outer weather?  Prose or poetry?  Luckily, Smith does both.

Rice University President David Leebron did some introductions, reminding those of us sitting in the audience that it was the last day of Black History Month, and the ninetieth anniversary of that tradition.  It was also the fiftieth anniversary of the first African-American undergraduates attending Rice.  Smith herself is interested in the intersections between the undergraduate experience and race, and read from her lyric and moving memoir, Ordinary Light, in which part of her narrative concentrates on how she felt as an undergraduate while taking courses that made her profoundly consider what “African-American Studies” meant not just in a course catalogue, but in her negotiations with others (including a white boyfriend who rejected her and broke her heart),and, most importantly, with herself.  Her memoir was a National Book Award finalist—and one can see why:  she explores in her juxtapositions of memory, epiphany, and speculation what her parents (particularly her mother) might have felt and experienced.  Much of this is connected to her mother’s struggles with cancer while Smith was in her twenties—in which she was both “changed and consoled.”  This was one of the challenges that allows Smith to intersect thoughts regarding race, family relationships, education, faith, and religion all in the context of a coming of age narrative that makes the reader feel like they are completely in the author’s head, with very little authorial distance employed—a technique that makes the reader trust Smith from sentence to shining sentence, although the light hardly seems “ordinary,” but clear and illuminating in a memorable and engaging way. Continue reading

Inprint awards more than $200,000 in prizes and fellowships to creative writing students in Houston


March 2, 2016, by

Who will be the James Baldwin, Jane Austen, Somerset Maugham, or J. D. Salinger of this generation? For Inprint, supporting the next generation of great writers is crucial to helping us fulfill our mission of inspiring readers and writers.

Inprint is proud to be awarding $201,500 in direct support during the 2015-2016 academic year to some of the nation’s top emerging creative writers in Houston. The money is awarded as prizes and fellowships to University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP) graduate students and a prize for an undergraduate at Rice University.

This year marks Inprint’s highest single-year amount of support for these creative writing students. Since 1983, Inprint has provided more than $3 million dollars in direct support to more than 500 students. Recipients of these fellowships and prizes are changing the face of contemporary literature and have gone on to publish books, win literary awards, serve as educators, and enrich the cultural life of Houston and other communities nationwide. The collaboration between Inprint and the UH Creative Writing Program—a community-based literary arts nonprofit and a university-based creative writing program—is unique in the country, benefiting both the writers and the Houston community. Continue reading

Saying ‘yes” to the world: Anthony Doerr reads for H-town


January 29, 2016, by

RM3_8019It felt electric when I walked down to my seat on Monday night for the highly anticipated, sold-out Inprint reading by Anthony Doerr.  Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for All the Light We Cannot See, Doerr’s novel about war-ravaged France has been on the New York Times bestseller list for the better part of two years.

There was so much interest in his visit to H-town that, for the first time, Inprint, in collaboration with Houston Public Media, live-streamed the reading.  In fact, tickets for Doerr’s event, part of the 2015-2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, sold out in 90 minutes. According to St. John Flynn, Arts and Culture Director at Houston Public Media, more than a thousand people saw the reading online, and that number will rise, as it will soon be available on the Inprint website for those who still wish to partake.


As Rich Levy introduced Doerr, he surprised me by saying Doerr would be reading from a short story—his 2011 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award Winner.  Doerr, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, has described himself as coming from a place where if you described yourself as a “writer,” you would be called “precocious or pretentious.”  Doerr, who is likeable and easy-going, certainly is not pretentious.  But he sure can write.  Continue reading

A whirlwind of poetry and translation comes to Houston


January 21, 2016, by

Kim Kyung-JuThe wonderful thing about literature is that you can travel the world without stepping outside your door. Houston’s diverse literary community celebrates that fact by presenting many authors from different parts of the world.

On Friday, January 22, to celebrate the English-language version of his bestselling collection, Korean poet Kim Kyung-Ju commences his debut tour through the United States at Asia Society Texas Center, in collaboration with Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts. Kim will read in concert with his Tucson-born, Seoul-based translator Jake Levine. The multi-lingual program also features Luisa Muradyan and Henk Rossouw, students from the Creative Writing Program at University of Houston (both are Inprint fellowship recipients), presenting translation and transnational work in Ukrainian and languages of South Africa, respectively.

A power house, Kim Kyung-Ju is one of the most distinguished young writers in Korea. His first volume of poetry, I Am a Season that Does Not Exist in the World, has sold over 20,000 copies. He is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, essays, and translation. Additionally, his poetic-dramas have been performed in Seoul and New York. Apart from writing, Kim has curated several art exhibitions, is the organizer of the Penguin Rhyme Club, and produces inter-disciplinary, collaborative projects with musicians and artists. Most recently he took part in the poetic hip-hop project Poetic Justice with the acclaimed Korean rapper MC Meta. Continue reading

Indie book presses are continuing to find great new talent


January 11, 2016, by

Indie book night imageAnother exciting evening of literary fun awaits Houstonians tonight as Brazos Bookstore presents Indie Book Night. Inprint blogger Erika Jo Brown interviewed Brazos’ Ben Rybeck to get a sneak peak on tonight’s event.

ERIKA: What can an attendee expect from Indie Press Night? What’s on the program?

BEN: For this event, editors from five different independent publishers (Archipelago, New Directions, Open Letter, Restless Books, Tyrant Books) will gather to drink beer, eat snacks, and talk with attendees about upcoming releases. Will there be hobnobbing? You bet. Networking? Duh. Jump rope? No. As ever, we’ll have books for sale—but wait (as they say), there’s more! The publishers will have some giveaways and prizes too. So basically, attendees can expect, to paraphrase Mark Twain, a hella wicked time.

ERIKA: How might attending this event satisfy a New Year’s resolution?

BEN: Come meet some editors—and then, years later, when you run into them at AWP (Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference) as you hunt around for a home for your novel in which somebody walks and thinks for 200 pages…well, maybe the editor will remember your name! So if your New Year’s Resolution is to get a book published (or at least get a personalized “no”)—but I guess I shouldn’t make any promises. Just come! Continue reading

The Inprint 2015 Houstoncentric Holiday Book Buying Guide


December 22, 2015, by

As the holidays are literally hours away, Inprint has put together a Houstoncentric Holiday Book Buying Guide to help with that last minute gift buying—or to give your personal reading list a happy local boost.

Inprint shared this list during its monthly appearance on the Open Journal Radio Show on KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston’s Pacifica station. All the books on the list are written by current or former Houstonians (with one technical exception). Whether you are looking for a holiday gift or something good to read yourself, it’s always nice to try something published by a fellow Houstonian. Read and enjoy and happy holidays!

Whisper-HollowFINAL3Andrew Brininstool, Crude Sketches Done in Quick Succession (fiction)

Chris Cander, Whisper Hollow (fiction)

Tracy Daugherty, The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion (nonfiction)

Adam Day, Model of a City in Civil War (poetry)

Marisa de los Santos, The Precious One (fiction)

David Eagleman, The Brain: The Story of You (nonfiction) Continue reading

Bringing Little Free Libraries to Houston


December 3, 2015, by

IMG_7413 (1)My first encounter with a Little Free Library was during a walk through downtown Minneapolis this spring. It was purple and hot pink with a glass front window and a note that said, “Take a book for yourself, leave a book for your neighbors.” Inside was a motley selection: picture books, biographies, young adult titles, self-help books, and novels. I was so moved by this bespoke book exchange that I wanted to hug whoever had dreamed up such a brilliant idea that combined literacy and community and the charm of a lemonade stand—and I wanted to build one for my own neighbors back home.

“Take a book for yourself, leave a book for your neighbors.”

The Little Free Library movement came about in 2009 when Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin built a model of a one-room schoolhouse, filled it with books, and installed it on his front lawn as a tribute to his mother, a beloved reader, neighbor, and after-school tutor. When neighbors and friends began asking Bol to build little libraries for them to install, a global movement was born. Today, approximately 30,000 little libraries have been established and more than 40 million books have been exchanged. And six new ones are coming to West University Place—each designed to look like a neighborhood landmark. Continue reading

Salman Rushdie and the Art of Allusion


November 23, 2015, by

Rushdie at the podium - Inprint 11.9.15Best known for The Satanic Verses and the Booker Prize-winning Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie charmed the audience at his sold-out Inprint reading on November 9th as he read from his new novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights.

It was a full house in the Cullen Theater at the Wortham Center, a night that was not exactly cold, but not so hot and humid.  You could walk through the city all night if you wanted, but once the lights dimmed, you were happy to be waiting for Rushdie to come out, and he disarmed everyone immediately by waving at the audience.  It made you feel like he was happy to be in Houston, a place he has been before, including the day before 9-11.

Rich Levy, executive director of Inprint reminded us of how many awards Rushdie has won—and the list is long.  It is his third appearance with Inprint, and Levy explained that he was born in Mumbai before the partition of India, but when he speaks, Rushdie seems like a Londoner to me, more like Cambridge than anywhere else.  Now, he lives in New York.  It is amusing and inspiring when Levy reports that Rushdie started out as a copy writer for the famous advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather.

Ibn Rushd, the hero of his new novel, is a scholar committed to recovering the legacy of Aristotle, so right away the fusion of the east and the west is established in a way that winds itself through the entire novel. The allusion hovering over the narrative is to A Thousand and One Nights, a work Levy tells us prompted this response from Rushdie in a 2006 interview: Continue reading

The UH Creative Writing Program continues to brim with literary talent after 35 years


November 17, 2015, by

UH Creative Writing Program logoThis year the University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP) surpasses its 35th year, which is quite an accomplishment. This highly competitive and nationally renowned program admits and graduates the world’s top emerging writers. The pool of literary talent from the UH CWP is impressive and has helped sustain Houston as a thriving literary city. Inprint’s support—more than $3 million in prizes and fellowships awarded to UH CWP students, including $150,000 in recruiting fellowships this fall—plays a key role in attracting and retaining these young writers.

Giuseppe Taurino, assistant director of the UH CWP, says, “We’re excited to meet and work with new students who share the desire and ability to do great things, and are proud of the graduating students who leave better equipped to go out and pursue them. Hello, Goodbye. In the end, it’s all relative, really. Our UH CWP community grows, and the people who comprise it will always be part of the fold.”

Take a moment to learn more about the writers that have just graduated from the UH CWP and see what they are doing now, and get to know the writers that have just entered the program.


Conor Bracken (MFA, Poetry) is, for the immediate future, sticking around Houston while his fiancée finishes her Ph.D. (in American Lit) at Rice. Conor taught a poetry workshop with Inprint this summer, was pouring wine at a wine bar, and is transforming his thesis into a contest/submission-ready manuscript.

Maybe this isn’t very revelatory, but the thing I loved and will miss and fondly remember from the UH CWP was the community – so many writers with so much enthusiasm in such different spots of their careers all so ready to hang out and talk about everything over a Topo Chico or a Lonestar. Everyone I met and talked with was supportive, curious, and genuinely interested in my life and work.  Continue reading

Jockeying the Book-Signing Line


November 9, 2015, by

11.. Line for book signing at Danticat & Woodrell reading RM2_2877
As the 2015/2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series continues tonight with a sold out reading by Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie and a long book signing line expected to follow, Houston writer Sam Dinger gives us his take on how he prepares for the magical moment when he gets to meet one of his favorite authors.

I just rushed out the back of the room to get a good spot in the book signing line. I’m holding a clean, new copy of the new book. There is paperdust on the edges of the pages. There are something like a million of us in this line and it’s looking like I won’t have the chance I hoped  to have a meaningful interaction with this writer I love, or want to love, or, let’s face it, whom I want to love me. But all hope isn’t lost. I remember that there are things I can do. I have a plan.

In the many book signing lines that I’ve stood in, I’ve developed a list of things that I do to up my chances for any of the above hopes–that is, for the chance of a meaningful interaction. Some of them are simple and small, others require a little something more. Continue reading

“Her Teachers Thought She Was a Dreamer”: Sandra Cisneros and the Backward Glance


October 22, 2015, by

RM3_6265Last Monday was hot for October—a strange day, full of distractions. The radio was full of news but it all seems old.  I self-medicate with baseball, flinch when my team doesn’t win.

I was going to hear Sandra Cisneros read from her new nonfiction, A House of My Own: Stories of My Life.  I think of her poems, the ones I taught in my multicultural literature class.  My favorite was “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me.”  I love that poem.  Everyone had to write an imitation of this poem, but it was “You Bring Out the Blank in Me.”  You had to fill in the blank to make it the right poem for you.  I did it too.  I think of her primarily as a fiction writer or a poet, but I think all those pieces are stories of her life, too.  Maybe names have been changed—not sure.

I drive early to Rice–I don’t want to be late.  When I pull in to park, the sky is pink, like the West, or Mexico, or somewhere else that you might have imagined when the real sky was too dark.

This reading is sold out.  I told my students: “Hey, I think this is going to sell out.”  They look at me like maybe I want them to do something.  I do.  Or I did.  Those tickets are gone. Continue reading

Reflections on Geraldine Brook’s The Secret Chord


October 19, 2015, by

This is the second of a two-part review of special events at Christ Church Cathedral, in partnership with Brazos Bookstore.

24611425In his witty introduction to Geraldine Brooks’s reading, Benjamin Rybeck jokingly accused her of not actually writing her own books. More likely, she traveled back in time to chronicle the rich historical backdrops and singular adventures of her characters.

When she approached the stage, Brooks gamely replied: “I wish I were a time traveler then I could go to Scotland and meet a hunky guy in a kilt.” It was just the sort of improvisation that you attend readings for—to witness the spirited mind of your favorite author (and to hear it in her slight Australian accent).

Brooks started with a few words about reading at a church, mentioning that she was rereading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, one of her favorite books, which centers on the minister John Ames. She also noted that temple is the place where King David, the main character of her new book The Secret Chord finds “solace and peace.”

In researching the second Iron Age in Israel, Brooks endeavored to replicate aspects of life as it would have been lived—and experienced the origins of several Biblical idioms. She literally “separated the sheep from the goats” and learned how to “be a good shepherd.” Continue reading

David Eagleman talks about the The Brain: The Story of You


October 15, 2015, by

IMG_4450Last week brought two bright stars of the literary world—David Eagleman and Geraldine Brooks—to Christ Church Cathedral, in partnership with Brazos Bookstore.

From one perspective, the writers could not be more different. Eagleman is a neuroscientist who directs a research laboratory at Baylor College of Medicine. Brooks is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of historical fiction. Yet both explore notions of society, time, vision, and humanism in their writing. And their books have been translated into dozens of languages.

This is the first of a two-part review of the special events.

In Reverend Art Callahan’s welcome to David Eagleman’s reading, he quipped that “at church, we do not leave our brains at the door.” This was a perfect prologue to a fast-paced, multimedia event that held the audience (and their brains) rapt.

Eagleman is clearly passionate about the public understanding of science. He’s written for The New York Times, Discover Magazine, Atlantic, Slate, Wired, discussed new trends on NPR and BBC, and serves as an editor for several scholarly journals. Continue reading

Ben’s Hyperbolic Brazos Bulletin


October 6, 2015, by

One of the hot spots of Houston’s literary life is Brazos Bookstore. We are thrilled to have Ben Rybeck join An Open Book as a regular contributor to give us an update on all the exciting happenings with the store. 


Using the time-honored tradition of exaggeration to combat the notion that only quiet, studious things happen at bookstores

IMG_4485Here at Brazos, we do many quiet things. We take books off shelves, we put books on shelves, we carry books in our arms, we sit and read books old and new, we take out the trash (usually not full of books), we drink water, we whisper to well-mannered customers about Jonathan Franzen and Alice Munro…

But then, sometimes, the store literally explodes (clarification: not literally) with excitement—and by sometimes, I mean this happens always, all the damn time. Consider October, for example, when we’ll host Houston’s own neuroscience rock star David Eagleman (10/8); a poetry night with Nick Flynn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Gregory Pardlo (10/19); and other mind-altering literary luminaries like Sloane Crosley (10/16), Eileen Myles (10/24), and Richard Ford (10/26). Plus, we’ll have works of literary horror on display leading up to Halloween. (If you stare at the display for long enough and say “Brazos Bookstore” three times…well…look out behind you.)

But, as they say on infomercials, wait—there’s more! Here are three highlights of our October programming sure to literally blow your mind, literally (see earlier clarification re: use of the word “literally”). Continue reading

Jonathan Franzen and The Great American Novel


October 5, 2015, by

Purity with borderOn Monday, September 21st, I went to the Wortham Center in Houston for Jonathan Franzen’s sold-out Inprint Margarett Root Brown reading.  I couldn’t wait to hear something from his new novel, Purity, for reasons that are a little impure. For better or worse, I had that same feeling that I have when I go to rock concerts, as in, maybe there will be high drama or difficulties and I am going to be there.  Yay me.

No wonder it feels a little hysterical in the room when I get my seat.  It is completely bustling, packed. He has won a slew of awards, sold millions of copies.  It’s nice to anticipate, a feeling that you think might be becoming extinct as we are previewed to death about so many things now.  Even if you have read the book, you don’t know what he will choose to read and how he might sound.

Franzen looks exactly like you expect from photographs:  glasses, jeans, casual without trying. Levy tells us that “Charlie Brown” is Franzen’s favorite comic strip, and I think of how so many times it is Lucy cruelly taking away the football before Charlie Brown comes in for the kick that parallels Franzen’s dramatizations of American desires and subsequent disappointments.  He is good at reminding us how it feels when we hit the ground, duped, yet weirdly, up for it again when Lucy lies to us, asks us to kick it.  Franzen has not written books called The Discomfort Zone for nothing.

Franzen is funny right off the bat.  I already like him since one of his favorite things is Kafka’s Metamorphosis, Gregor’s struggles being grotesque yet hilarious.  Franzen has learned much from him.  Franzen looks at the audience and confesses: “It is always weird reading from one side of the stage.  I feel like I should be showing you slides.”  In a way, he sort of does, showing us glimpses of the main characters through a series of short readings on (or from) each.  Continue reading

Mary Karr discusses The Art of Memoir


September 24, 2015, by

IMG_4270On Thursday evening, September 17th, an audience assembled in a downtown Houston church to celebrate the Word—that is, we gathered to venerate the literary words of Mary Karr, memoirist, poet, and author of the newly released craft book, The Art of Memoir.

It was a rare treat to be in Christ Church Cathedral, with its calming gardens, majestic stained glass, well-worn, worshipped-upon wooden pews, aroma of aged books, and the idea of “ministering” in mind. Through her memoirs Lit, The Liar’s Club, and Cherry, as well as poetry collections Abacus, The Devil’s Tour, Sinners Welcome, and Viper Rum, Karr has concocted spiritual balms for readers, who appreciate her signature wit and honesty.

The event was doubly jubilant, serving as a homecoming of sorts for the Texas-born author and as a launch for Inprint’s new season.

As a Southern storytelling worth her salt, Karr began by drolly reflecting on her genesis as a reader, writer, and social person. “I was a biter,” she joked, of her youth, and “my career goal in high school was to stay out of the penitentiary.” Later, she expounded on her struggle to find her voice: “I wanted to be fancier and go to school at the Sorbonne…not a red-neck from Port Arthur. TX.” Continue reading

If you want to read the latest Atwood, can you wait a while? Say, 100 years?


September 20, 2015, by

As we launch the 35th season of the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series tomorrow with National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen, reading from his latest novel Purity, this story reminds us how fortunate Houston is to have the world’s great literary figures make a stop in our city. Both Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell have appeared in front of sell out audiences as part of the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series. Lucky for us, some of their work won’t be read for a 100 years!

Future Library, Katie Paterson  Photo (c) Kristin Von Hirsch 2016

Future Library, Katie Paterson
Photo (c) Kristin Von Hirsch 2016

If you want to read Margaret Atwood’s latest piece of writing, Scribbler Moon, you will have to wait a while, say, for another century.

Atwood is the first contributing author to the Future Library project, an artwork created by Scottish artist Katie Paterson for The City of Oslo. Paterson has planted a thousand trees in a forest just outside the city where they will be looked after for one hundred years, until 2114.  In each of those hundred years, one author will be commissioned to write a manuscript of some sort and that piece of writing will be placed, unpublished, in a secure and specially designed room in the new public library being built in Oslo. They will all remain unread until the collection of one hundred manuscripts is complete. Then in 2114, the trees will be cut down and the wood will be used to supply paper for a special anthology of books in which one hundred years of writing will be published. Continue reading

Uncovering the Path to Uncovered: A Celebration of Leah Lax


August 31, 2015, by

Book jacket for Uncovered by Leah LaxAs any writer will tell you, the publication of a book is an occasion for celebration—especially one that has been written and rewritten and agonized over for a decade. So it is clearly time for Leah Lax to celebrate the publication (on August 28) of her long awaited and compelling memoir, Uncovered: How I Left Hasidic Life and Finally Came Home.

Inprint’s connection to Leah and this book goes back many years. You might consider this “extra-textual”: it’s not in the book.

Sometime in early 1996, when I was still “the new guy” at Inprint, I received a phone call from Rosellen Brown, the acclaimed writer and faculty member at the UH Creative Writing Program (UH CWP). Rosellen had a friend in the Houston Hasidic community who was a school teacher and a talented writer. Inprint gave scholarships to Houston-area K-12 teachers to take our writers workshops. (Now we offer Teachers-as-Writers Workshops, essentially the same thing.) Rosellen wondered: Could her friend Leah receive a teacher scholarship?

Of course, I said—and the rest is history. Continue reading

Matthew Salesses talks about The Hundred Year Flood and more


August 27, 2015, by

A big congratulations to Houston writer Matthew Salesses. Matthew, a current PhD candidate at the UH Creative Writing Program, has received the Inprint Donald Barthelme Prize in Fiction, teaches Inprint Writers Workshops and Inprint Life Writing Workshops at Houston Methodist Hospital, has served as an Inprint Poetry Busker, and can also be found live tweeting at some Inprint readings.  Matthew’s new novel The Hundred Year Flood was just published and is receiving rave reviews. He reads on Friday, August 28, 7 pm at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet. All his fans are excited to hear him read. Here Inprint blogger Erika Jo Brown talks about Matthew’s new book and shares her lively email exchange with him.

salesses-hundred-year-flood-20201-cv-ft-v1As you read Matthew Salesses’s beautiful new novel, The Hundred-Year Flood, the Prague setting and “love square” may remind you of The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The visceral treatment of a natural disaster may call to mind the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, especially for readers around the Gulf. The haints and spirits that follow the protagonist may suggest the hauntings of Beloved. The bewitching effects of an artist couple will delight fans of The Woman Upstairs. The novel’s compelling, phantasmagorical tone may stir up thoughts of Murakami.

With these literary constellations, Salesses has conjured up a wholly original novel, touching on the reverberations of adoption and how family secrets can affect nearly-grown children—an age of development often overlooked in this context.

Salesses is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Houston, and a regular workshop leader for Inprint. We recently emailed about his brilliant book. Continue reading

Words and Art Reading featured poetry and prose inspired by Ben Butler’s UnBounded


August 24, 2015, by

IMG_4154As a proud UH graduate student (go Coogs!), I don’t often make it to the Rice University campus. But on a serene Wednesday evening, during the first true break in the heat, when the hallowed walkways and archways were glazed with late-summer rain, I found myself entering the Rice Art Gallery, attending my first ever Words and Art reading.

Coordinated by Mary Wemple, a local poet-artist, the Words and Art reading series has been going strong since 2011. This particular reading featured poetry and prose inspired by artist Ben Butler’s sculpture/installation Unbounded.

Consisting of 10,000 hand-pegged poplar sticks, arranged into organically-shaped, three-dimensional grids, the work was magnificent. It managed to simultaneously draw attention to the scale and chaos of human behavior, and create a calming landscape for reflection. Continue reading

The personal essay is alive and well


August 4, 2015, by

2_Speaker and audience GOODIt’s a decent crowd at Brazos Bookstore, on a Thursday evening in late July. Wine, beer, and water are on offer, and cheese and crackers. It’s festive, convivial, the usual gracious Brazos atmosphere for a reading—with the exception that we aren’t gathered to listen to a single visiting writer. Instead, unusually, we’re here to listen to each other.

Brazos has graciously agreed to host a group reading by the members of Erika Jo Brown’s Inprint personal essay workshop. They’ve been meeting under Erika’s guidance for two months this summer to think about and experiment with the craft of this varied, extensive form, which (as Erika points out in her course description) can be both “intellectually rigorous and exploratory.” These folks are used to reading to each other, sharing and responding to each other’s work, and considering examples by selected essayists to help them think about such matters as “narrative arc, emotional ‘stakes,’ concretizing details, dialogue, point of view, characterization,” and  more. They’ve been working, three hours a week for eight weeks at Inprint House. Now they’re going to take a big step outside the intimate confines of the workshop and strut their stuff publicly.

You can spot the essayists—they’re the restless ones with papers in their hands. The rest of us—friends, family, and curious others who found the reading on the Brazos schedule—are here to support them and listen to a sample of their work. Continue reading

Word Around Town Celebrates 10 years with citywide poetry tour


July 31, 2015, by

11014968_978827775475073_8222462771485068992_nThis Sunday, the 10th anniversary season of Houston’s widely celebrated Word Around Town (WAT?!) Poetry Tour begins. The tour features seven straight nights of poetry in seven different venues across the city. The tour will feature 16 of Houston’s top poets and a select nightly feature.

The WAT?! Poetry Tour kicked-off its inaugural launch in the summer of 2006 with 12 poets. The tour’s purpose is twofold: 1) to introduce poets to venues they’ve never been to and 2) to expose audiences to poets they’ve never heard before. This year’s tour features  Kool B, Brother Said, Chris Crawford, Gerald Cedillo, Deep, Corina Delgado, Winston Derden, Marlon Lizama, Tracy Lyall, Jonathan Moody, Joshua Nguyen, Nyne, Bishop Ragtime, Bucky Rea, Roses, and Royal the Poet.

We had a chance to interview Lupe Mendez, Houston writer and one of the lead organizers of the tour.

INPRINT: How long have you been involved with WAT and how has being involved with it shaped you as a Houston writer?

LUPE: I have been one of the lead organizers for the tour for the last 7 years; with this tour, it marks my 8th year as an organizer.  I would say organizing has helped me push the limits of discipline in my own writing time. It’s been a good 5 years since I have held a spot in the line up and so getting to hear such amazing poetry from the featured poets encourages me to sharpen my words, it builds the excitement in my own writing.

Continue reading

Houston Tiny Press Part 1: “DIY Ain’t Easy, Baby”


July 8, 2015, by

11289035_10206706164962998_3628100838413190612_oAlthough Houston proves itself in the literary arena with multiple organizations hosting readings, workshops, and arts journals, our sprawling oil city isn’t the first place people think of when they imagine an extensive scene for actually publishing those works. However, this city is proving itself in that sphere as well. Houston is experimenting, fruitfully, with tiny presses. Some of these small publishers are working to blur the lines between craft and literary production, while others are trying to pull the DIY culture of zines into a more traditionally poetry and prose-based atmosphere.

I sat down with Traci Lavois Thebaud and Kalen Rowe to discuss their DIY-based literary projects, Anklebiters Publishing and Whatever, Mom Publications.

Sara: Talk about your projects (publishing and otherwise!). What role do you think you have in Houston?

Kalen: My friend Chris Wesley and I had been talking about making an anonymous poetry zine, and wanted our friends to contribute. All of us helped make the first two issues of what we called Poets Anonymous. The zines were made cheaply and DIY with ten poems by ten poets in each. I printed a few on my printer until the ink ran out and Chris printed the majority at his mom’s work.  Continue reading

Blue Sun, Yellow Sky: An Interview with Jamie Jo Hoang


June 29, 2015, by

Jamie Jo HoangWe are always thrilled when former students of Inprint Writers Workshops write us with the news that they’ve finished a book that they started in one of our classes. Jamie Jo Hoang is one such young writer, and her self-published book Blue Sun, Yellow Sky, is about an artist who develops a condition which will rapidly lead to blindness, and her journey to accept her condition. The book is available locally at Brazos Bookstore. Inprint asked Jamie Jo to tell us more about herself and her writing.

Inprint: Please tell us how you got your start in creative writing.

Jamie Jo Hoang (JH): For most of my life I have been a listener. I listened to the stories my grandmother told while she chewed tobacco on the front stoop of our small apartment building in Orange County. I listened to the stories my parents told of their escape during the Vietnam War. And I heard the stories of others come to life in books I found at the local library when I was kid. Then during my freshman year of college at UCLA, I applied for admission to the School of Film and Television, and it was there that I really learned the craft of creative writing.  I continued taking writing classes after college and Blue Sun, Yellow Sky began in an Inprint class taught by Aja Gabel. That Inprint class is also where I met two of my best friends (a.k.a. my creative writing soundboards) Shawn and Ellen. Continue reading

Houstonians celebrate Shakespeare, the long and short of it


June 23, 2015, by

IMG_4691On a sunny, breezy Friday, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers gathered at Brazos Bookstore to celebrate its partnership with the Houston Shakespeare Festival (HSP). This summer, the bookstore is hosting a series of Bard-tastic events, including dramatic performances of Shakespeare’s sonnets and soliloquys, and two informal book club gatherings that offer a sneak peek into HSF’s repertory productions of Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice.

The first event, all about sonnets, was emceed by Jim Johnson, HSF executive director and UH professor of voice and dialects, who presented a theatrical dish fit for the gods. Throughout the evening, he also explicated interesting tidbits for the audience’s edification.

Readers included Suzelle Palacios, a BFA alumna from UH, who’s heading to the Old Globe MFA program this fall; Kat Cortes, a current MFA student at UH, who’s teaching with the HSF conservatory, an intensive two-week program for high school students; Liz Wright, Brazos bookseller, who participated in Wellesley College’s Shakespeare Society for four years; and Carolyn Johnson, Houston-based actor and director, as well as Jim Johnson’s wife, their partnership proving that there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

The evening kicked off with the classic sonnet 18, which asks the age-old writerly question: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? This selection was followed by early sonnets 1 (From fairest creatures we desire increase / that thereby beauty’s rose might never die) and sonnet 2 (When forty winters shall besiege thy brow / And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field). Johnson explained that these “fair youth” sonnets expound on the theme of procreation and illustrate that the course of true love never did run smooth. Continue reading

On the road with Inprint


June 19, 2015, by

BEA logoLike physicians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and fans of anime, those in the literary world have their own conventions—that is, annual conference where those in the field share new ideas. (Here, I do not mean “convention” as in a distinct protocol of behavior, although that argument can, of course, be made….).

AWP is the bad boy of literary conventions, where thousands upon thousands of creative writers descend upon a hip city, ostensibly to attend professional development panels and hawk their books. In reality, carousing, quaffing, cavorting, capering, and kvelling are top priorities on the itinerary.

BEA (BookExpo America) is AWP’s sophisticated, practical cousin. From a creative writer’s perspective, this conference has a 401K and knowledge about fine wines. It’s less about hysterical events in a writer’s life that result in a book, and more about packaging and marketing that book once it’s written—the business and politics of publishing.

As a creative writer entrenched in the former convention, I spoke with Rich Levy, Inprint’s Executive Director, about his recent travels to BEA in New York, to see how the other half (of the book world) lives.

Erika: Why does Inprint visit BEA?

BEA gives us the opportunity to connect personally with publicists at major publishing houses.

Rich: BookExpo America is the publishing industry’s national trade show, which primarily serves independent book sellers, always held in May. Although we are somewhat fish out of water there, BEA gives us the opportunity to connect personally with publicists at major publishing houses. We meet with them (1) to tell them about the Inprint Margarett Root Continue reading

Houston novelist brings coal-mining to life in Whisper Hollow


June 10, 2015, by

Chris Cander - by Caroline Leech“I’ve loved to write my whole life,” says Houston author Chris Cander, whose novel Whisper Hollow was published this spring by Other Press to critical acclaim. “It’s always been a passion for me.”

A former fire-fighter, Chris was also a competitive bodybuilder and model before she brought her literary calling to the fore. Now, however, she knows she made the right choice.

“I can legitimately say that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing and I passionately love the way I get to spend my days. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that, I know, but now I really am doing my favorite thing.”

The publication of Whisper Hollow did not, however, happen overnight.

“It took a very long time to get this story to this point. I wrote it, and then I rewrote it, I think, four times from beginning to end. It’s four hundred pages long, and there are at least that many other pages that will never be read because they were rewritten and filed away somewhere.” Continue reading

Gwendolyn Zepeda’s Monsters, Zombies and Addicts


June 5, 2015, by


To be honest, before I started reading Gwendolyn Zepeda’s new collection, Monsters, Zombies and Addicts (Arte Público Press, 84 pages, 2015), released near the end of her two-year tenure as the first Houston Poet Laureate, I worried that the poems would be boosterish. Part of the gig, I knew, is to represent the city. Would every poem mention a bayou? Would she have been contractually obliged to champion the merits of the Downtown Living Initiative? Thankfully, the collection doesn’t show the strain of feeling that burden of representation. There are alligator gar. And freeways — and bayous. But you don’t learn much about Houston. Instead, you learn a lot about the kind of person, the kind of poet, that the city wanted to choose to represent it: sometimes chatty, sometimes vulgar, sometimes sentimental, and always funny, smart, honest, and tough.

You learn a lot about the kind of person, the kind of poet, that the city wanted to choose to represent it: sometimes chatty, sometimes vulgar, sometimes sentimental, and always funny, smart, honest, and tough.

Zepeda is best at homing in on the strange pleasure or pleasant strangeness in her everyday life. These poems are anecdotal, observational. Often, they begin the way the story a friend wants to tell you would:

“A woman who worked in our building killed herself this morning.”

And: “You say I flirt too much.”

And: “The other day I was working on a story.” Continue reading

Poet Kenan Ince featured at First Friday on June 5th


June 2, 2015, by

Kenan InceFor more than fifteen years, Inprint has been proud to serve as host to First Friday. First Friday is the oldest poetry reading series in Houston, held on the first Friday of every month since 1975. The series is coordinated by Robert Clark and features a wide range of local and regional poets. Each evening begins at 8:30 pm with a reading by the featured poet, followed by an open mike. Clark and many involved in First Friday also help organize the annual Houston Poetry Fest, which takes place every October at the University of Houston Downtown.

On June 5, First Friday will feature Kenan Ince, a Houston writer to be reckoned with. A Dallas native, Kenan is currently a PhD student in Math at Rice University. Well-known in local writing circles, Kenan has given many readings around the city, was a juror at Houston Poetry Fest, and has been published in Word Riot, The Hartskill Review, and HeART Online.

Inprint blogger Sara Balabanlilar says she has encountered Kenan’s work in two very different Houston venues—the now defunct East Side Social Center (a beloved punk and DIY venue with the curated remains of Sedition Books’ collection) and Rice Gallery, in a night of poetry that responded to the current gallery installation. Both readings left an impression on Sara: “The audiences of the two spaces were entirely different, but Kenan handled both with ease.  During both readings, Kenan drew listeners into a series of beautifully imagined thought experiments that rendered them silent. His poetry is activist, certainly, but also with an amount of nostalgia that offsets a sense of political cliche. His metaphors are beautiful, extended forays into experiences that are entirely different from our daily Houston lives.”  Continue reading

Founding class of creative writers graduate from HSPVA


May 29, 2015, by

HSPVA Seniors 3259This week saw the emergence into the wider literary world of the first graduating class from the four-year Creative Writing program at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA).

When Judith Switek was appointed Director of Creative Writing in 2010, she also took on the challenge of designing the new writing curriculum.

croppedJudith Switek - main - 3273“I went to visit a couple of other fine arts schools,” she says, “and of course, I talked to the other art form department chairs at HSPVA to see how their programs were structured. For example, for the first two years in Art, they give the students a taste of lots of different styles. Then as juniors and seniors, they can decide what they want to focus on. I knew I wanted to do that with my program too. I studied playwriting at NYU without ever having written a play before, but if I’d never had the chance to try playwriting, I would never have known how much I loved it. This way, the kids are able to try everything out and see what they feel strongest in. Continue reading

Watchful Eye reading presents an evening of wonders


May 27, 2015, by

IMG_4531On May 13, I attended one of the most anticipated readings in Houston to date. From every corner of the city, people assembled in the lobby of the Menil Collection for the Watchful Eye reading of poetry and prose by select Writers In The Schools (WITS) students.

Families with young scholars, K-12, in public schools, private schools, and some alternative programs, such as one-on-one hospital visits, joined together to witness diverse talents and celebrate the joint powers of visual and literary arts. Many students were already familiar with the building and its collections, having visited as part of a WITS-organized school trip. These little ones were able to act as tour guides.

The evening began at 7 pm. Several students were still wearing their school uniforms. Some were outfitted in suits. Ribbons and patent leather shoes shone, and guardians tried vainly to comb over stubborn cowlicks before the short readings.

Long Chu, associate director and veteran employee of WITS for the past 18 years, introduced the program of around 50 students. He also gave a little history of the collaborative partnership between WITS and the Menil, which was established in 1989. He cited the Menil as “a true gift to the city of Houston,” and explained the organizations’ mutual objectives to instill “a passion for creative learning.” Karl Kilian, director of public programs at the Menil, also said a few words of encouragement, then introduced Dinorah Pérez-Rementería as the evening’s emcee.  Continue reading

Geoff Dyer and the Art of the Great Day


May 20, 2015, by

RM4_5819May 12th was balmy—not as hot as usual in Texas in May.  You could sit outside and feel the day slipping away. That is always a good feeling if you have done something interesting.

I mostly graded papers.  Some of it was interesting.  This is how it goes.  Still, I wanted a little more from my daylight buck.  I sat outside at Bayou Place looking straight at the Wortham Center waiting for seven o’clock to roll around.  It would be the final reading for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series.  I was excited:  nonfiction by the English writer Geoff Dyer.  I felt like I had read a lot of fiction during the day: “Gatsby enjoys socializing with the Buchanans and finds them so interesting!”

And, some of the English: well, dicey.

I thought: how do you grade writing anymore anyway?  I thought: how do you know if you have had a great day?  I thought: how do you know if you know what you are doing?  How do you know if you don’t?

It’s more about how you feel at that moment, right?  Well if you want to learn how to whip that up, and get it down, there are worse places to go than the writing of Geoff Dyer, and lucky for me, that is exactly where I went.  He read from his newish book Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H. W. Bush.  Continue reading

A host of literary activities planned for Comicpalooza 2015


May 18, 2015, by

Comicpalooza 2015 logoFor those of us who have a passion for the written word, we think of the books we’ve read over our lifetime that helped inspire this passion in us. As kids we began reading classic children’s books, then moved on to middle-grade page-turners, and as adults we developed our own areas of reading interests.

For many of us however, the passion for good stories comes from a variety of sources, such as graphic novels, comics, screenplays, as well as short stories and novels encompassing a wide variety of genres.  Houston’s annual Comicpalooza convention—which returns for the sixth year to the George R. Brown Convention Center on Memorial Day weekend, May 22 – 25, 2015—celebrates this fact. This popular convention, which has a host of literary activities planned, is expected to attract 45,000 people.

We talked to Vijay Kale, the curator of the literary activities, who shared more information about the convention with us.

INPRINT: Vijay, what initiated Comicpalooza to add a literary track of activities? Was it someone on the planning committee, was it feedback you received from the public, or was it something you conceived of?

VIJAY: The George R. Brown Convention Center enables Comicpalooza to use 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space to offer a wide range of events and content.  The ability to provide more than 2,200 hours of programming allowed for a Literary Track to include more than 50 literary panels and writers. We are extremely proud of the local and national talent assembled, which includes many well-known Texas-based writers as well as national best-selling authors. This year’s guest list and programming is the best so far, and we hope to further improve by including more professional writers and local organizations. Continue reading

A Houston Conference for Emerging Writers, BoldFace 2015


May 14, 2015, by

Boldface 2015When we think of writing conferences, we always think they take place somewhere in the Northeast, along a beautiful coast, in a remote location, or in a popular tourist destination. Houstonians however do have access to one of the best writing conferences right here in Houston.

Boldface is a summer writing conference run by Glass Mountain, the University of Houston undergraduate literary journal. The journal caters to undergraduates across the nation, but the Boldface Conference is open to any emerging writer who is interested in signing up. Inprint blogger Sara Balabanlilar interviewed Joseph Roberts, the head fiction editor of Glass Mountain, to get more information about this year’s Boldface Conference. The visiting writers to the conference include poet Blas Falconer, non-fiction writer Gail D. Storey, and novelist Coert Vorhees. To register and learn more about the Boldface Conference click here. 

SARA: Tell us a little bit about Boldface.

JOSEPH: Boldface is a weeklong conference for undergrads and local emerging writers. The first Boldface was in June 2009. This year the conference will last from May 18th to the 22nd. The conference itself consists of various writerly things such as workshops (run by UH’s own Creative Writing Program graduates), Master classes (also run by grad students) where all sorts of different aspects of writing are taught or discussed, to visiting writers and open mics throughout the week. Continue reading

A Houston Independent Bookstore Day Celebration


May 11, 2015, by

IMG_4485On Saturday, May 2, perhaps your Facebook feed was filled with friends posting from their favorite bookstores across the country. It was a day to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, honoring those special places that pull triple duty as retail stores, community centers, and performance venues.

Of course, there’s no team like the home team, and Brazos Bookstore scheduled a day of events to please every bibliophile. The inaugural celebration packed eight hours of special events, with an agenda including family-friendly story time and crafts, a drunk coloring part for adults in homage to the new book Hemingwasted: A Loving Look at Literary Lushes, a reception for the new Shakespeare-inspired mural on the front window of the store, and more.

Mark Haber, sales floor manager at Brazos, talked to me about the benefits and opportunities of the day’s activities. “Our bookstore is truly a community center,” he enthused. “Today, I’ve seen people who wouldn’t necessarily know each other rub shoulders. It’s just a great opportunity to talk about books and be around books.” Continue reading

What can we learn from Kimberly Meyer’s The Book of Wanderings?


May 1, 2015, by

A big congratulations to Kimberly Meyer, whose memoir The Book of Wanderings came out this March. Kim holds a PhD from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, where she received an Inprint Brown Foundation Fellowship and an Inprint Michener Fellowship. Her work has recently appeared in The Best American Travel Writing, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, Ecotone, The Oxford American, The Georgia Review, Agni, The Southern Review, and Third Coast. She teaches in the Great Books program at the University of Houston Honors College. Here, Sara Balabanlilar, Kim’s student (and Inprint’s newest blogger) talks about The Book of Wanderings and what we can learn from it.

cropped Kim Meyer GetInline-19Houston is a city filled with the angst of constant coming and going. Old buildings fall into disrepair and are easily replaced with three-story condos overlooking huge unused lots or old factories. Paved roads shift and crack in our sandy soil, which is persistent enough to keep any street too smooth for too long. The construction is endless here. All of these things lend to an air of constant change, of dissatisfaction with the space around us and the constant impetus to evolution and growth.

Meyer_TheBookofWanderingsAAt first, Kimberly Meyer’s The Book of Wanderings seems to be in a similar vein of longing. In the first few pages, she describes an early trip to a chapel in New Mexico: “The chapel became a sign of what we were seeking in traveling with our daughters: remnants of something genuine that suburban sprawl had not yet swallowed up in its ravenous maw.”

When Meyer’s small trips around the U.S. turn into a grander trip with her oldest daughter, Ellie, following the journey of a prolific medieval friar, her goal remains the same. She follows Felix Fabri’s journey as closely as she can, visiting chapels, churches, and pilgrimage sites just as he did. Her route starts near Fabri’s hometown of Ulm, then quickly moves into Italy, along the coast of eastern Europe, down through Greece into Israel and eventually Egypt. However, Meyer’s efforts to mirror Fabri’s tracks are undercut almost immediately, and regularly again throughout the trip. In Italy, she and Ellie get sick. Later, their guide through the desert turns out to have dubious plans for them. The idea of recreating perfectly a centuries-old pilgrimage path becomes imperfect. Continue reading

Another Country, Near and Far: Henríquez and James Read in H-Town


April 28, 2015, by

RM3_7327Once again, I am running late, headlights mocking me as I creep up 59.  But then, a break, and I fly to Louisiana Street and head to a restaurant for Inprint’s Books & Bellinis, a young professionals mixer, before the Inprint reading.  My Multicultural Literature students are coming tonight, too.  We are all excited: we do not know these writers reading tonight.

What I mean is that we don’t know them yet.

I meet some new friends—or writers I know from Facebook–in person, and let me tell you, in person is better.  Two of my friends win books at the party and I feel happy for them:  what is better than a new book, by a new writer, that you have never read?

Well, not much.

I walk with my friend Elizabeth to The Wortham Center and see my students.  They look so grown up to me—we have read a lot of books together.  Some of them are graduating in May.  I am not sure if I am ready for it, not sure if I am ready for them to emigrate from the benevolent despotism of my classroom to The Next Big Thing.  No wonder people stay in college forever.  There are worse countries to visit, hang around, linger.  Everyone migrates somewhere; even the suburbs of Houston seem like independent states sometimes, each a new country, with languages that I cannot recognize at times.  That is because so many people from so many different countries come to Houston:  it is ever changing, kaleidoscopic, never boring. Continue reading

A literary recap of MenilFest 2015


April 25, 2015, by

IMG_4458Although the weather was cloudy and grey, spirits were bright at MenilFest 2015 last Saturday. MenilFest is a multi-pronged cultural celebration, combining an indie book fair, literary lectures, musical performances, film screenings, and more.

The indie book fair flanked the northern, eastern, and southern sides of The Menil Collection museum building, providing an opportunity for local ‘zines, publishers, authors, and nonprofit organizations (I spied Friends of the Houston Public Library, the Hare Krishna Cultural Center, and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, among others) to display their wares and welcome conversation.

There was printed matter for everyone—romances, poetry, mysteries, cookbooks, Spanish-language, spiritual, YA, and even some book-related crafts.

Brazos Bookstore touted literature by Houston-based authors, like Nick Flynn, Tony Hoagland, Lacy Johnson, Thomas McNeely, (and, in full disclosure, moiself). I spoke to Benjamin Rybeck, events coordinator, about the store’s involvement with MenilFest over the years. “We are first and foremost a community bookstore,” he explained. “We come every year to meet our neighbors.” Continue reading

What is the future of the book?


April 22, 2015, by

What could be more delightful than sipping on complimentary wine and munching on cheese and crackers in an elegant gallery? Well, how about pairing that pairing with a succinct and stimulating panel conversation about the future of books?

On Thursday, April 16, about 45 Houstonians gathered at  The Printing Museum to attend the most recent installment of Ligatures, presented by Gulf Coast. The series is aptly named—a ligature is a typographical element that combines two letters. Generally, it is redolent of threads that bind.

This event brought together four notable artists, critics, and creative writers to discuss the craft, historical artifact, and future of artist books. Raphael Rubinstein, professor of critical studies at the University of Houston School of Art, moderated the panel, which consisted of artists Suzanne Bloom and Chitra Ganesh, and poet Roberto Tejada. Each, in fact, have multi-hyphenated practices—muralist, graphic novelist, anthologist, educator, etc.

A roundtable of favorite books and seminal text-based works kicked off the discussion. Rubinstein cited An Anecdoted Topography of Chance, a catalog of descriptions of everyday item on the desk of Fluxus artist Daniel Spoerri from the 1960s, which he described as “a portrait of a moment in time.”    Continue reading



April 17, 2015, by

20150411_130123If you have any writerly friends or circulate in literary circles, you probably couldn’t help but notice all the #AWP15 hashtags and selfies last week on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Every year at this time the Inprint staff notices a mass exodus of writers leaving Houston for a few days to go to this thing called AWP. Last week it was Minneapolis, next year it will be Los Angeles. One wonders what AWP really is. What happens when so many writers congregate in a square mile? Is it an academically inspired conference where writers exchange thoughtful and innovative ideas, or is it just one big party?

We asked Sam Dinger, Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/Michael and Nina Zilkha Fellow, Inprint Poetry Busker, and MFA fiction student at the UH Creative Writing Program, to be our eyes and ears at AWP. This was Sam’s first time at AWP and here is how he breaks it down for us.

Inprint: What exactly is AWP? Who attends?

Sam: It’s pretty true to its title–Association of Writers and Writing Programs–so this year Minneapolis was crawling with thousands of people who were either writers or parading as writers, publishers, teachers, agents. Ask any Uber driver. And some of them even liked us. A kind fella who picked me up after I had spent a couple loud hours at the Hilton bar (where everyone seemed to end up) didn’t miss a beat before telling me that he loved giving rides to writers. He said he liked it when there were two of them. That way he could listen to them talk. As I type it, this sounds a little like observing an animal in its natural habitat. And I guess it is. At once, AWP seems to fulfill and complicate all stereotypes of writers. But it’s funniest when it confirms them. I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Minneapolis. And when he picked me up from the airport, my uncle asked, “Did you bring a beret?” When I made it to the convention center the next morning, there were about fifteen people outside for a smoke break, and several wore berets. Continue reading

Inprint Poetry Buskers at Sunday Streets


April 2, 2015, by


Cigna Sunday Strreets logoApril marks National Poetry Month. As we kick off this month, we thought it would be nice to showcase one of Inprint’s favorite programs, the Inprint Poetry Buskers. These poets spread the joy of poetry by writing poems on demand, using typewriters, at festivals and special events throughout the city. The Inprint Poetry Buskers can often be found at Sunday Streets. This past Sunday, they were writing poems on demand at Sunday Streets on Westheimer. Here, Inprint blogger and poetry busker Allyn West talks about poetry busking at Sunday Streets.

IMG_0533Sunday Streets is a hard thing to explain. The City of Houston, through its partnership with Cigna, talks about the initiative as a way to promote health and fitness. Those of us who have been to one, though, know that it’s much more than that. Sure, you’ll see people riding their bikes or jogging or doing parkour in the middle of the street, but you’ll also see organic farmers hawking fresh turnip greens and aspiring rappers peddling demo CDs.

I prefer the latter uses to the former. Besides, you can’t burn enough calories to offset the small-batch ice cream and brisket-slathered curly fries you buy from the food trucks that are parked on the route. Sunday Streets is really about the people you share the city with. The physical barriers of our vehicles and houses are dissolved. It’s a time when you can study the full behavioral range of Homo sapiens. You can bark, “Free poems here!” and other people look only somewhat askance at you. What a blessing. Continue reading

Ogres, Pixies, and Giants: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Improvisations


March 31, 2015, by

RM4_7707There was a lot of anticipation for Monday night’s Kazuo Ishiguro Inprint Margarett Root Brown reading from, The Buried Giant, his first new novel in ten years.  I knew it was sold out—left early, warmed up by listening to his interview with St. John Flynn of Houston Public Media, which you can hear here:

Just like everyone else streaming into the beautiful Wortham Center, I was excited.  He was on a “limited” U.S. book tour and Houston had made the cut.

RM4_7669Multiple nominee for the prestigious Man Booker Prize, Ishiguro won in 1989 for his best known work, The Remains of the Day, which was also made into an excellent film starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.  Never Let Me Go had also been made into a film, and Ishiguro has been listed as one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1948 by The Times.  Recipient of the OBE award from the British Crown, he is a palpable force in English letters, tending to experiment stylistically while hovering on similar themes:  self-denial, acceptance of fate, the dance of time with potential and real regrets.

Although born in Japan, and influenced by the culture of the Samurai in interesting ways, Ishiguro comes across as thoroughly English, having lived there since he was five in 1960.  He did not speak English, but enjoyed American Westerns on television, and later, became hugely influenced by the novels of Charlotte Bronte, particularly Jane Eyre and Villette.  Ishiguro began as a singer-songwriter, interested in jazz and its improvisational modes—an influence that has carried over to his writing. Continue reading

“People Have to Breathe Where They Live”: Mary Szybist and Kevin Young Inprint Reading


February 25, 2015, by

RM4_4264Monday night is rainy, cold—a good night for poems.

The weather keeps some people away, but not everyone.  Inprint executive director Rich Levy introduces Mary Szybist and Kevin Young as the readers for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series in Cullen Theater at Wortham Center.  Szybist has won a National Book Award, Young an American Book Award.  I see some of my current students in the audience: I am happy they have come.  You don’t get a double billing like this every day.  Each poet has a theme it seems:  Mary, ascension, Kevin, grief.  There are difficulties with both, yet also acceptances.  You don’t have to resolve everything in order to understand it better.  Sometimes understanding it better is as good as it gets.

Szybist reads from Incarnadine, which won the National Book Award.  Before you even open the door to her poetry, you think of crimson, the red that is more luminous than cherry red, the red of Botticelli’s angels, the red of the Virgin Mary.  Szybist is preparing you for what is her obsession:  the strangeness of the annunciation, the anticipatory moments not only of the biblical Mary, but of our own every day lives, in which “dutiful” acquiescence has profound consequences.  Her poems circle around the scene of the Annunciation—but do not linger there, taking the notion of expectancy to every realm, both immediate and imaginative.

Before you even open the door to her poetry, you think of crimson, the red that is more luminous than cherry red, the red of Botticelli’s angels, the red of the Virgin Mary.

Continue reading

Puzzling through stories with Peter Turchi


February 4, 2015, by

Inprint loves to showcase the best in new books by top local authors. One of the most interesting books to come out in the past year is A Muse and A Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic by Houston writer Peter Turchi. Turchi is the author of several books, including Map of the Imagination: Writer as Cartographer, named by The New York Times as one of the 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time. Turchi,  a faculty member at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, serves as a frequent interviewer for the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series.  

A-_Muse_and_A_Maze-cover-236x300Some of my favorite books when I was just a li’l egghead were the Encyclopedia Brown stories by Donald Sobol. I went back to a collection of them recently after reading A Muse & A Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, & Magic, the new book by University of Houston creative writing professor Peter Turchi.

The Encyclopedia Brown stories present themselves as mysteries. They concern Leroy, a.k.a. “Encyclopedia,” a 10-year-old “Sherlock Holmes in sneakers,” whose father happens to be the chief of police of Idaville, a town “like many other seaside [ones],” with “lovely beaches, three movie theaters, and four banks.” Except no one, writes Sobol, “got away with breaking the law in Idaville.”

The lawbreakers are your typical seaside layabouts; nothing to see here. Encyclopedia’s primary nemesis is a fledgling sociopath named Bugs Meany, instigator of a gang of would-be toughs called the Tigers who try to scam the other townies. Each chapter begins with an aggrieved victim seeking out Encyclopedia and his sidekick, Sally Kimbell. They ride their bikes to the scene of the crime; the story of the accuser and the story of the accused are told, and Encyclopedia pauses dramatically while Sobol interrupts to direct you to page 64 for “the solution.” In the end, some detail that violates the rate at which water evaporates, or the conventions of elevator repair, or the date when the Liberty Bell was cracked, is the lie that tells the truth. The antique lamp or the champion yodeling toad is returned to the rightful owner, and order is restored.  Continue reading

Karen Russell’s “Cosmic Strangeness”


January 30, 2015, by

RM4_0854-001I drive into the concrete city, heading down Louisiana until I hit Texas Avenue.  It is only six. I am early for a reading at the Wortham Center that won’t start until seven-thirty.  I am meeting friends nearby.  Plus, I have secret ambitions for parallel parking.  It never ends up happening, but I can imagine it.

As I am looking for a space, I see Rich Levy, executive director of Inprint, walking with Karen Russell, the author of Swamplandia, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. I know who she is because I have been handing out slick advertisements with her picture on them to my students all week.  I tell them there is nothing like hearing an author read her own work.

It is not too cold, but she has on black boots and a coat anyway.  She is from Florida.  She and Rich are walking and laughing.  She looks so young to me! I think of how famous this writer has become, and what that must feel like.  The brochures have told me that “Russell was the youngest of the 2013 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius’ fellowship recipients, and she has been included in The New Yorker’s 20 Under 40, the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, and Granta’s Best Young American Novelists.”  As I see her walking and laughing, I think what a big deal she is, but she isn’t acting like it.  Continue reading

A Telling Story: Lacy M. Johnson’s The Other Side, Nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award


January 27, 2015, by

The Other Side Cover Galley Mech.inddLast week Houston’s literary community was buzzing. Houston writer Lacy Johnson was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for her book The Other Side: A Memoir. We are thrilled for Lacy who is an alum of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program and a former recipient of an Inprint Fondren Foundation Fellowship. Lacy now serves as University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts’ Director of Academic Initiatives. We asked Houston writer and University of Houston Creative Writing Program PhD candidate Austin Tremblay to share his thoughts about Lacy and her memoir with us.

“I have something important to tell you” is a familiar lead-in, especially for writers. We might say this to fellow storytellers, friends, family, or the stranger two barstools down, and we might mean that we have good news, a severe warning, or an epiphany. What we will always mean, though, in spite of these variables, is that we have a story to tell. And we think you, storyteller, friend, family, stranger, should listen.

I have something important to tell you: Lacy M. Johnson’s memoir, The Other Side, has been named a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award. It is incredibly exciting that this work has received such a nod. It’s a harrowing book, often difficult to read due to the nature of its subject matter. And yet, it’s a heralded book, and difficult to put down. As Johnson’s website describes, The Other Side is “the haunting account of a first passionate and then abusive relationship, the events leading to Johnson’s kidnapping and imprisonment, her dramatic escape, and her hard-fought struggle to recover.” Continue reading

Physician turned writer, Michael Lieberman talks about his work


January 19, 2015, by

mwl-head-shot-color-1 copy 2This month Mike Lieberman, Houston poet and novelist, came out with his third novel, The Women of Harvard Square. We caught up with Mike this week to talk to him about his prolific writing life.

For those of you who do not know him, in addition to his literary accomplishments, Mike is a former research physician who chaired the department of pathology at Baylor College of Medicine for many years and was also the founding director of The Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute. He is a member of the Inprint Advisory Board and on the Board of The Jung Center of Houston. A graduate of Yale College, he received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Mike is warm and engaging and he will talk about The Women of Harvard Square and sign copies this Thursday at The Jung Center, 5200 Montrose, at 5:45 pm. The reading is open to the public.

Inprint: Tell us a little bit about The Women of Harvard Square and how it compares to your other novels. Continue reading

From the desk of Giuseppe Taurino: Notable books published by the UH Creative Writing Program community in 2014


December 16, 2014, by

Houston’s literary community is brimming with activity. One of the key players making Houston such a vibrant literary city is the UH Creative Writing Program, nationally ranked as one of the best creative writing programs in the nation. Inprint is proud to continue providing fellowship, prizes, and other support for emerging writers in the Program, surpassing a total of $2.8 million to date. Giuseppe Taurino, Assistant Director of the Program, will now blog on An Open Book to share exciting news from UH. His inaugural post  extols the virtues of 15 notable books written by faculty, alums, and students from the Program, many of whom have received Inprint fellowships and prizes.

I grew up in a working class immigrant family. My parents, along with most of my mother’s family, came to New York City from Italy in the early 1970s. None of them finished grade school. The moment I made it to October of my first semester at NYU, I’d gone further in school than anyone on either side of my family had ever gone. And when I actually earned my bachelor’s degree, I became proof that everything my parents endured over the course of their journey had been worth it. Even my father’s father, who was rarely impressed by anything, believed I’d taken the family to new heights. He was convinced my BA in Psychology made me a doctor—the first in the family—and went so far as to ask me to review and assess the medical reports detailing his heart and blood pressure conditions.

Rightfully or not, I’d earned a reputation for being an academic within my family, and book-smart amongst my friends. My being nervous about the ability to perform in a school setting was probably the last thing any of them would ever expect, but that’s precisely how I felt when I decided to leave Queens to pursue an MFA degree at UH. Coming from a background that didn’t value literature, having only taken a handful of lit courses as an undergrad and continuing ed student, and having exactly one completed short story to my name, I was convinced I’d be exposed at UH. From the day I was notified of my acceptance, to the day my then-girlfriend and I packed up my crappy car and started driving west, I kept thinking whoever decided to let me in had probably made a mistake. Continue reading

Michael Cunningham’s Elegant Usurpations


November 15, 2014, by

MC podium RM3_5254It’s another Monday night at the Wortham Center in Houston, and this time I didn’t mess around getting the tickets for the Inprint Reading featuring Michael Cunningham, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of one of the most important books written in a long time, The Hours. Good thing: it is crowded already when I blow in at 7:25, and you can tell people are excited. You can’t blame them: The Hours didn’t just help us figure out how to read Virginia Woolf’s masterful Mrs. Dalloway, and it didn’t just give us another great film with Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, who won an Academy Award for her unadorned portrayal of Woolf. Cunningham is speaking tonight on his new novel, The Snow Queen, but, at least for me, there is no getting away from The Hours and lines like these:

Still, there is this sense of missed opportunity. Maybe there is nothing, ever, that can equal the recollection of having been young together. Maybe it’s as simple as that. Richard was the person Clarissa loved at her most optimistic moment. Richard had stood beside her at the pond’s edge at dusk, wearing cut-off jeans and rubber sandals. Richard had called her Mrs. Dalloway, and they had kissed. His mouth had opened to hers; his tongue (exciting and utterly familiar, she’d never forget it) had worked its way shyly inside until she met it with her own. They’d kissed and walked around the pond together….

It had seemed like the beginning of happiness, and Clarissa is still sometimes shocked, more than thirty years later, to realize that it was happiness; that the entire experience lay in a kiss and a walk, the anticipation of dinner and a book…. The dinner is by now forgotten; Lessing has been long overshadowed by other writers. What lives undimmed in Clarissa’s mind more than three decades later is a kiss at dusk on a patch of dead grass, and a walk around a pond as mosquitoes droned in the darkening air. There is still that singular perfection, and it’s perfect in part because it seemed, at the time, so clearly to promise more. Now she knows: That was the moment, right then. There has been no other.

― Michael Cunningham, The Hours

Continue reading

Readings on Readings on Readings


November 10, 2014, by

cookieLast week—during the week—there were no fewer than 7 readings in Houston. And readings—and their high frequency and quality—seem to be a perennial source of confusion for writers in this city. Bring up readings to a student in the Creative Writing Program at UH and you’ll likely hear either excitement: “I know! I can’t wait,” or quiet guilt and dread—as though each reading torments like another book one hasn’t read and, you know, really should—“Gah, I haven’t been to a single one yet.” Trying to navigate this writing life that I’m supposed to have—which I’m learning means “that I’m supposed to make for myself”—is not what I expected when I was dreaming about it in my Business Statistics class three years ago: drinking coffee and letting brilliance flow from my fingers for hours a day.

Nope. When the time comes every day for me to write it’s like, I don’t reeealy have to write today, right? Which may not seem like a compelling argument right now, but that argument comes—from the Devil, I think—via my sleeping self at 6:00 or so in the mornings. And I’ve proven pretty much unable to beat it so far. That adds up to a lot of days of not-writing. And when I do sit down to write—when I steal a few minutes at work or in the afternoons or evenings (something gave me the guts this past Sunday afternoon)—writing turns out to be hard work. More simply put: writing is work. Like real, actual work. Amazing. Continue reading