“On the Brink of the Storm” by Stephanie Gunther Vaughan: Inprint Workshop Participants on Harvey

September 18, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZOn Monday, September 11, An Open Book posted the first in a series of micro essays by participants in Inprint’s nonfiction workshop led by poet Cait Weiss Orcutt. She says, “Each piece serves as a proof of our city’s resilience—you can give us rain, wind, uncertainty and days of isolation, but as soon as we can find a pen, we will turn that into art.” For her full introduction and the first essay in this series, click this link.

 

“On the Brink of the Storm” by Stephanie Gunther Vaughan

The sun was burning the dry pavement under my bare feet as I stood at the mailbox. I was cautious not to step on the tiny camouflaged chameleons that leapt around the lower leaves of the vines that curled endlessly around the gate, where the mailbox was hinged. The competing green and brown lizards scurried by my freshly painted toes, seeking a new refuge. I stared up at the reaching arms of the once young oak tree that stretched above me, its protective branches covering most of our front yard.  Only 13 years in this house, a chapter in mine, a short lifetime of my oldest daughter. Continue reading

“Harvey” by Mike Nichols: Inprint Workshop Participants on Harvey

September 18, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZOn Monday, September 11, An Open Book posted the first in a series of micro essays by participants in Inprint’s nonfiction workshop led by poet Cait Weiss. She says, “Each piece serves as a proof of our city’s resilience—you can give us rain, wind, uncertainty and days of isolation, but as soon as we can find a pen, we will turn that into art.” For her full introduction and the first essay in this series, click this link.

“Harvey” by Mike Nichols

As the wind and rains on the dirty side of Hurricane Harvey increased, I sat on the wet tiles of the front porch of our sturdy house on the south shores of Lake Livingston in San Jacinto County. All of the outdoor furniture had been moved to the safety of the basement or garage.  I watched the strong waves break over the dock and over the ten-foot concrete apron across an expanse of lawn moving nearer and nearer to the porch stairs. I knew the power of these waves, punching with eight pounds of force for every cubic foot of churning water overflowing its banks and its iron bulkheads in this ninety thousand acres lake. I had seen the result of Hurricane Ike tearing the roof off our next-door neighbor’s house and destroying our dock. I was powerless against the whims of Hurricane Harvey. All I could do was watch and wait. 

As my stomach churned with fear, I thought about the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot – Sukkot was a precursor of American Thanksgiving, a festival thanking God for the bounties of the fall harvest. Jewish tradition mandates that during Sukkot, families must eat their meals and sleep under an arbor.  The ritual requires the arbor to be temporary, without walls, and with a lattice roof through which the family can see the night stars.  The liturgy reminds Jews of our time in the wilderness living as nomads in fragile structures.  I always understood Sukkot as a physical reminder for us to have compassion for everyone in the world who lives without the security of a stable home and community and as a reminder that we are responsible to help those people who live in fragile circumstances because of their economic, social, political, or immigration status. Continue reading

“Overwhelming Oddity” by Phyllis Robinson: Inprint Workshop Participants on Harvey

September 12, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZYesterday, An Open Book posted the first in a series of micro essays by participants in Inprint’s nonfiction workshop led by poet Cait Weiss Orcutt. She says, “Each piece serves as a proof of our city’s resilience—you can give us rain, wind, uncertainty and days of isolation, but as soon as we can find a pen, we will turn that into art.” For her full introduction and the first essay in this series, click this link.

“Overwhelming Oddity” by Phyllis Robinson

“The Teacher Jesus said, ‘The man who hears what I teach but does not do it is like a man who builds his house on dirt. The dirt is soft, and when the rain comes and the wind blows, the house falls down and all his work is lost.’” –Kate McCord

Sometimes, rain offers lovely, vibrantly fresh surprises like the blooming of grandma’s Oxblood Lilies handed down to me by my mother. They grew outside my grandmother’s favorite sitting spot where she could always enjoy the bounty nature offered. The crimson hue closely resembled the red cardinals that fascinated her as she gazed outside from her perch through the bubble-flicked glass panes of the white frame house my great-grandparents had once called home. The cardinals visited frequently pecking at will and flocking to cover the spread beneath the billowy boughs of ripened fruit-filled cascades overwhelming the branches of her favorite pear tree. Continue reading

“Getting Undammed” by Paige Hassall: Inprint workshop participants write micro essays after the storm

September 10, 2017, by

260px-Harvey_2017-08-25_2231ZCait Weiss Orcutt teaches Inprint’s Personal Essay Workshop which started on the afternoon of Wednesday, September 6. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Chautauqua, FIELD, Tupelo Quarterly & more. She is founder of the Writers Guild Community Creative Writing Workshops in Columbus, Ohio, Editorial Advisory Board Member of Mad River’s Slash Prize, and Online Editor of The Journal. A recipient of an Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellowship, she is a graduate student at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program. Here Cait talks about the first workshop gathering.

Cait Weiss Orcutt: This past week, our Personal Essay workshop met for the first time. I had come to class planning to talk craft—what is Creative Non Fiction, for instance, and what (or who) makes “fact” fact? Instead, it quickly became apparent that, while the sky outside was clear and blue, the class was still caught in the storm.

And why shouldn’t they have been? Why should we force ourselves to pretend we’re okay? If writing is about honesty, why lie about what is really weighing down our thoughts, troubling our dreams and hurting our hearts. An enormous, historic disruption occurred—and for many, if not all of us here in Houston and beyond, the recovery effort contains its own disruption, grief and trauma. How can we write anything “personal” without sharing what we’re going through? Continue reading

Alex McElroy’s Daddy Issues

September 6, 2017, by

b8cdb2_1c5104284dba40639874ee974aa2c874-mv2_d_1200_1575_s_2Alex McElroy, an Inprint Brown Foundation Fellow, has accomplished much as a writer: his work appears or is forthcoming in The Atlantic, Black Warrior Review, Tin House, The Kenyon Review Online and numerable other respected journals; he is currently a Fiction Editor for Gulf Coast; and he was awarded the 2016 Neutrino Prize from Passages North. What he can now add to his impressive CV is a book, specifically his chapbook, Daddy Issues, which, oh by the way, won the 2016 Editors’ Prize from The Cupboard Pamphlet. He’ll be reading at Brazos Bookstore on Friday, Sept. 8 at 7 pm, so I caught up with this busy man to ask him some questions about this latest accomplishment. Here’s what the handsome man had to say.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: Daddy Issues is a chapbook, which is a kind of publication that people may not be familiar with or typically associate with fiction. What exactly is a chapbook and how did this work come to be so?

ALEX McELROY: Chapbooks are normally shorter than full-length collections—and, like you said, they’re often associated with poetry rather than prose. In my case, I chose to write a chapbook because I had a series of stories that didn’t fit into a full collection—tonally, thematically—but which worked together quite well. I didn’t want to give up on those stories just because they weren’t right for a larger collection. So, I gathered them into a chapbook. Publishing Daddy Issues was an opportunity for the stories to speak to each other without forcing them into a full-length collection of stories. Here, the subject matter and themes feel more concentrated than they might in a larger book. And I’m very glad that the pieces were able to find a home together in Daddy Issues. Continue reading