“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

QFest Presents: Bones of Contention and Maurice

July 28, 2017, by

qfest-smOn the heels of LGBT Pride Month comes Houston’s own QFest. Entering its 21st year, QFest is dedicated to promoting the arts that are by, about, and of interest to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer community, and this year has a wide range of films that reflect this mission. The festival runs from July 27 – 31 and has partnered with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Aurora Picture Show, and Rice Cinema, to name but a few, as venues for screenings. Each year the festival grows larger and stronger, so I talked to Kristian Salinas, the festival’s Artistic Director, about two of this year’s films that have strong literary ties: Maurice (playing Sunday, July 30, 5 pm at the MFAH), which is based on E.M. Forster’s book of the same title, and Bones of Contention (playing Saturday, July 29, 5:15 pm at Rice Media Center), which centers on Spain’s most famous poet, Federico García Lorca. For tickets and more information click here.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: What specifically about these two films made you decide to include them in this year’s QFest? Continue reading

A Book, a Movie, a Play—King’s Carrie

July 13, 2017, by

Carrie Artwork for MATCH JPEG_0We all know about the pig’s blood. Carrie was a game-changer not only for horror and teenage revenge fantasy movies, but also for the careers of Stephen King and director Brian De Palma. On July 21st and 22nd, however, Broadway Performing Arts Studio will put on a production of the ’88 Broadway hit Carrie: The Musical  at MATCH theatre , which, in my opinion, begs a number of questions, so I contacted director Benjamin Luss.

MATTHEW KRAJNIAK: I’d imagine that some books make for better musicals, but, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t think of Carrie as being such a book. What about it made Michael Gore, Dean Pitchford, and the other creators of the original Broadway production want to turn it into a musical and what qualities of a book make for a good musical? Continue reading

Our Wizard of Oz

June 30, 2017, by

gallery-0--The-Wizard-of-Oz--Presented-by-Class-Act-Productions-1497235164-400x190Through July 30th Main Street Theater and from July 8 – 16th Class Act Productions are staging The Wizard of Oz, a story that was popular in my childhood home, just like, evidently, the childhood home of about every person I told of this play.

For me, my mother and I would watch Judy Garland and Bert Lahr anytime one of my numerable ear infections happened and I couldn’t sleep. For others the ’39 movie or the original book by L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was often played or read at holiday gatherings, childhood events, or just ‘cause. With the dramatic growth in the children’s literature and YA markets over the past twenty years though, I’m curious as to what other books geared toward youths were popular before this contemporary explosion, and where Baum’s book fits in among them.

What I’m immediately reminded of is that there were no adolescents until 1904. More accurately, society didn’t more fully delineate an individual’s development until the American Psychological Association stepped in, meaning that before Baum’s 1900 book, writers didn’t pay much attention to non-adults because society wasn’t really Continue reading

Houston Veteran Authors Share Their Stories About the Forever War

June 19, 2017, by

Bigger Forever WarAs many of us know, writers are the true chroniclers of our history. Through their written pieces we learn about the complexities and varied lived experiences of a particular time and place. And often times—more than facts and figures—the stories, voices, challenges, and emotions of a character or a scenario stay with us long past the written piece has ended.

On Thursday, Brazos Bookstore presents a panel discussion about war fiction with three contributors to the 2017 veteran fiction anthology The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War. American troops have been on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade. This anthology, including the stories of more than 20 diverse veteran writers, gives readers a look at the aftereffects of the war, a war that continues on today. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an anthology of stories covering a literary terrain as expansive as the seemingly endless ‘war on terror’ that spawned it. These stories provide plenty of revelation on the nature of the war and the soldiers who continue to fight it.” According to Task & Purpose, the anthology “captures the truth about war better than nonfiction. It’s possible―likely even―that these pages from a handful of writers will come to define the warrior perspective for this generation. For that reason, this book is relevant. Its stories are tragic, moving, violent, and devastating, but not always in the ways one expects. It’s enough to enlighten those most insulated from the war.”

We asked Michael Carson, one of the contributors to the anthology who will be at Brazos on Thursday, a few questions about this project. Continue reading

Our Endless Love for Jane

June 8, 2017, by

summerofaustenpostcardOn June 9th Brazos Bookstore will kick off its Summer of Jane Austen celebration with a party and a screening of Persuasion at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Rienzi House. The screening is just one of nearly a dozen events Brazos has lined up from June through August to commemorate the ever-popular author and the 200th anniversary of her death. And, undoubtedly, Ms. Austen should be celebrated with her wonderfully mordant humor, pioneering of Realism, use of free indirect discourse, and focus on strong female characters.

However, there’s something about her that other historically-renowned authors—and even other timeless artists, politicians, and scientists—don’t have, and that’s namely the continued ability to enamor the public. She simply has a quality that gets at us, which makes us want to celebrate her consistently and widely.  For instance, here are but a few examples of the unique space we confer to her.  Continue reading

An Old Story Made New: Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde

May 29, 2017, by

blogimageWhat is it about an age-old story that makes people want to experience it again and again? Certainly variation via content, form, or other means can help, but how many times can a story play this quasi three-card Monte before people’s interests are sucked toward the table up the block?

The answer to this could surely focus on the machinations of narrative or even the socio-biology of humans, or, much more simply, the evident fact that folks love the salacious (like really love the salacious), but one thing is for certain: the phenomenon of a narrative never losing its color despite repeated washings is one that continues to happen. For instance, on May 31st the River Oaks Theatre is having a special film presentation of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, a story that has its origins in the 12th century, and, more to the point, has a history of being told and retold that is more varied and alive than arguably any other narrative. Continue reading

UHCWP Student Spotlight: Selena Anderson

May 26, 2017, by

1517556_10105358955057980_8598560224807440091_nSelena Anderson is one of the University of Houston’s newly minted PhD’s in Fiction. She completed her MFA at Columbia University where she won the Transatlantic/Henfield Prize. She has held fellowships at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, the Carson McCullers Center, and the MacDowell Colony. Her work appears or is forthcoming in AGNI, Joyland, Georgia Review, Callaloo, Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review Online, NANO Fiction, and elsewhere.

Recent UHCWP grad Melanie Brkich interviewed Selena about her work, her new teaching job, and what she’ll miss most about Houston.

Melanie Brkich: Congrats on successfully defending your dissertation! How does it feel to be a doctor?

Selena Anderson: Thank you, Melanie! It’s cool! I’ve been working towards it for a long time and it’s always nice to accomplish something that you’ve worked so hard for.

MB: What is your dissertation about? Where did you draw the inspiration for it?

SA: My dissertation is a collection of stories about people who want to win and who make a bad situation worse by trying to do something about it. The stories are set in Texas—but in my imagined Texas of the recent past. There are ghosts, tiny men, a slave ship, dolls, dudes who talk in third person, forest fires, and plenty of girls brooding in their apartments. Continue reading