Erika Jo Brown

About Erika Jo Brown

Originally from New York, Erika Jo Brown is the author of I’m Your Huckleberry (Brooklyn Arts Press). She's currently a PhD candidate at the University of Houston, where she serves as an assistant poetry editor for Gulf Coast.

Imagine Wanting Only An Evening of Conversation Between Smart Writers

May 8, 2017, by

Upright and cropped IMG_9270On Monday, May 1, Kristen Radke, author of the newly released graphic memoir-inquiry-novel Imagine Wanting Only This, spoke to Houston’s own beloved, award-winning poet and writer Nick Flynn at Brazos Bookstore.

Radke began the event by expressing her “admiration for booksellers.” She is the managing editor of the popular indie press Sarabande, so is familiar with both sides of the book industry. She also explained that Imagine Wanting Only This is “about ruins and abandoned places.” She decided to read an excerpt from the very end and “give it all away.” The section, a monologue, read like poetry in its pacing and probing of abstract ideas. A slideshow of the accompanying illustrations was also played.

Radke then sat with Flynn, who asked about her role as an illustrator and a writer. She admitted that while she studied commercial art as an undergrad and creative nonfiction at the University of Iowa in graduate school, she essentially taught herself how to combine her two passions. As her project continued, she did her research. When Flynn asked which women comics she liked, she answered straightforwardly “every woman who’s ever been a comic” and touched the pop cultural history of comics as a boys’ club with women typically portrayed as “anatomically incorrect.” Continue reading

Colson Whitehead makes Houston visit, talks childhood, writing, disco, and more

March 29, 2017, by

upIMG_8906In an event co-sponsored by Brazos Bookstore and Rice University’s Humanities Research Center, National Book Award-winning author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, delivered a compelling and improvisational talk on Tuesday, March 21 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in the Museum District. After taking an audibly refreshing sip of water, Colson Whitehead launched into a familiar bit. “I was born of poor black child…” he began. The few nerds that instantly recognized the introductory soliloquy from Steve Martin’s cult classic The Jerk knew we were in for a wild ride.

He vividly described his childhood in Manhattan, jokingly referring to himself as “a shut-in reading comic books.” From a relatively early age he knew he wanted to be a writer, and more specifically, “to write the black Shining.” His continued devotion to science fiction and horror, among the other genre writing, signals his crossover appeal.

Whitehead proceeded chronologically to his teenage years during which he “wore black and smoked cigarettes…but never touched a computer.” He discussed his big break in journalism, observing that he wrote the “definitive think-pieces on Growing Pains and Who’s the Boss.” Continue reading

10 Year’s Young: Glass Mountain Celebrates Its Anniversary and New Boldface Conference Line-Up

March 16, 2017, by

IMG_3594Glass Mountain magazine is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. The upcoming issue, which will be released at a launch party on April 19, is a landmark event for this undergraduate literary publication. The journal’s name is inspired by a story from local legend Donald Barthelme.

Glass Mountain’s staff and editors in fiction, art, reviews, nonfiction, and poetry are all undergraduate students at UH, who receive submissions from the local community and internationally.  Singular in its mission, it exists exclusively for writers who do *not* have an MFA or other higher degree in creative writing.

The team runs a popular monthly reading series and open mic at Bohemeo’s. They also produce the weeklong Boldface Conference for Emerging Writers that will run May 22-26. The conference includes twice-daily workshops, craft talks, readings, panels, and the chance for private manuscript consultations with visiting writers—Bill Broun in fiction, Leah Lax in nonfiction, and Hayan Charara in poetry. The conference is open to everyone. Please note that discounted early bird registration ends on March 22, regular registration is available through May. Continue reading

Poet Sharon Olds made it back to Houston this fall

December 15, 2016, by

up right IMG_7651As 2016 comes to close, Inprint marvels at all the wonderful literary events that took place over the fall months. In November, Brazos Bookstore hosted a reading by poet Sharon Olds.

Olds was scheduled to appear in the 2015/2016 Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series with poet and University of Houston Creative Writing Program faculty member Tony Hoagland. Due to the Tax Day Flood in April, the reading had to be cancelled. A video was made that day during a break in the rain, featuring a reading and conversation between Olds and Hoagland, and Houston poet Martha Serpas in a private home. You can watch that reading here as part of the Inprint Archive of Readings. We were thrilled that Sharon Olds made it back to Houston this fall via Brazos Bookstore so her fans could  see her in real time. Here Inprint blogger Erika Jo Brown tells us about this memorable evening.

Appropriately, Sharon Olds’ reading at Christ Church Cathedral was preceded by the choir practice of tweens. Olds is revered—and occasionally controversial—for her delicate and unconventional poems about female sexual awakening and motherhood, among other topics.

On this night, she was introduced by Houston novelist Chris Cander, who extoled Olds’ “incomparable gifts of description” and lauded her latest collection, Odes, as a meditation on “what it feels like to occupy a mature woman’s body, mind and spirit.”

Continue reading

Poetry students experience the thrill of writing poems for the public

November 22, 2016, by

Upright IMG_7475One of Inprint’s most innovative and highly popular programs is the Inprint Poetry Buskers program. A collective of talented local writers and graduate students and alumni from the University of Houston Creative Writing Program, the Inprint Poetry Buskers write free poems on requested themes for attendees at festivals and special events throughout the city. The program demystifies poetry for the public and makes it more accessible, in a joyous and interactive way. Poet, Inprint blogger, and University of Houston Creative Writing Program graduate student Erika Jo Brown helped her undergraduate students appreciate the power of serving as an Inprint Poetry Busker.

A few weeks ago, intrepid students in my Introduction to Creative Writing Poetry class at the University of Houston felt the thrill and caliber of being an Inprint Poetry Busker at the Red Block Bash, coordinated by the Blaffer Student Association. They busily worked while emcees freestyled and drawing students sketched caricatures in the arts district courtyard.

These are their stories:

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

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

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

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

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