Creative writing can help after Harvey

October 3, 2017, by

When any great loss occurs, we need time and a way to process that loss. It’s difficult enough when one loses a beloved car or musical instrument, photos, books, a favorite chair – but when one loses all of it at once – one’s house and nearly everything in it – and when whole neighborhoods are inundated, the loss becomes one that all of us in the region must process, either directly or indirectly. It’s as if there is a toxic gas release or poisons in the water – the malaise affects us all, in one way or another.

There is also the matter of processing the grief that follows loss. Even though this is a different sort of grief than the loss of a family member or friend, still one is haunted by what is missing, or what happened down the road (especially in the quiet hours of the night, when one has time to reflect).

Writing through the grief – acknowledging somehow what happened and what it means to us – is one way to metabolize and learn to live with loss. It’s also cathartic in such circumstances to know those things for which one is grateful, and to whom one is grateful, and to pay tribute to them.

To demonstrate the way creative writing—some unleashing of the unconscious—can help after Harvey, a few weeks ago, at an Inprint Board of Directors meeting, after we were officially adjourned, Cait Weiss Orcutt—a poet, Inprint C. Glenn Cambor/MD Anderson Foundation Fellow, experienced writing teacher, and PhD candidate at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program—led us in a writing exercise to show how one might write creatively in response to trauma, and emerge from the experience both slightly relieved and with a text one might expand upon, and perhaps eventually share with others. Continue reading

Poet Conor Bracken’s chapbook focuses on Henry Kissinger as a model for “everything wrong with masculinity.”

September 29, 2017, by

9781495157684On Friday, September 22, the Houston literary community gathered at Brazos Bookstore to celebrate the release of Conor Bracken’s award-winning chapbook Henry Kissinger, Mon Amour. The manuscript was the recipient of the 2017 Frost Place Competition sponsored by Bull City Press. Bracken, a former Inprint Fellow and current Inprint Poetry Busker, is an active local writer and teacher, and the event was warm and collegial.

IMG_1527Fellow University of Houston Creative Writing Program alum Analicia Sotelo helped introduce and open for Bracken. She described Bracken’s work as interrogating “the white male situation.” Their writing shares, Sotelo says, an interest in “the subtle exploration of power play.” She proceeded to read from her own accomplished chapbook Nonstop Godhead, which includes such titles as “Apologia over Marinated Lamb” and dwells on major Hispanic modern painters such as Salvador Dali and Frida Kahlo.
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“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

George Saunders in the Forest At Night

March 14, 2017, by

rmfoto.com-79On March 6th, George Saunders made his third appearance with the Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series, in order to celebrate a first—his only novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, just debuted #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

To tour the book, Saunders has partnered with local actors in different cities to stage readings of the text. He borrowed performers from Houston’s own Alley Theatre—an experience he compared to driving a Lamborghini—for a scene in a graveyard haunted by two of his characters. Appropriately enough, the reading shared the stage with an eerie woodland set for the theater’s current production, Let the Right One In.

rmfoto.com-121Novelist  and Director of the University of Houston Creative Writing Program Alex Parsons interviewed Saunders, whose humane wit set the tone for the evening. “We’re just a couple of guys in the forest at night,” he said, settling into a chair wedged between the scenery. Continue reading

Houston Writers Take Over DC During AWP

March 10, 2017, by

2013-AWP-logoThis year, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs held its annual conference (AWP) in Washington, D.C.  More than 12,000 writers and publishers flooded the city for four days of craft talks, panel presentations, readings, and more.  Houston writers represented the best of our city’s expansive literary community.  In fact, Houston was so well-represented at AWP it would be impossible to list every event.  Instead, I’ll highlight just a few.

Poetry fans packed the house at DC-bar Bayou for a late-night reading hosted by University of Houston-based Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts.  (Other hosts for the event, called The Magnificent Seven, included AGNI, American Literary Review, Boulevard, cream city review, Pleiades, and PoemoftheWeek.org.)  The spirited crowd cheered readings by Chen Chen, Alice Elliott Dark, Matt Donovan, David Keplinger, Shara McCallum, Gregory Pardlo, Caitlin Pryor, Maggie Smith, and Ryo Yamaguchi.  Gulf Coast also held down a table at the book fair throughout AWP, and presented Gulf Coast: 30 Years in the Life of a Student-Run Journal, a dialogue with several past journal editors. Continue reading

All They Will Call You: A Little Something for Everyone

February 10, 2017, by

Hernandez picSometimes things just come together. I was recently thinking about how I could make the Houston area more aware of Tim Z. Hernandez’s engaging new book, All They Will Call You, as I recently interviewed him about it for Origins Journal, and low and behold I get an email the other day from the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program (which I am a part of) about how he is coming to UH’s Graduate Library for a brief talk and that he’ll be reading as part of the Gulf Coast Reading Series this Friday, 17, 7 pm. The talk, unfortunately, is primarily for students, but the the Gulf Coast reading and his book is for everyone. And by “everyone” I mean exactly that, since the book touches on such a variety of ideas that anyone who enjoys serious literary work or even just a good story will find it worthwhile.

For the politically and socially driven, Tim’s book deals with some of the realities of immigration, both for the immigrants and host country. Sound familiar to any current events? The book centers on the worst plane crash in California’s history—a crash that claimed the lives of twenty-eight Mexican deportees and four Americans (and was the focus of Woody Guthrie poem turned song)—and explores why these men and women came into the states, what they had to go through because of the United State’s immigration policies, and how they shared much in common with those who were already citizens here. Lines are blurred, definitions are questioned, and identities are examined.   Continue reading

UHCWP Student Spotlight: Novuyo Rosa Tshuma

February 1, 2017, by

Novuyo TshumaIn her first year as a PhD student at the University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP), Novuyo Rosa Tshuma has already accomplished something extraordinary: international major press publication. Novuyo’s novel, The House of Stone, is forthcoming with W.W. Norton in the USA, and Atlantic Books in the United Kingdom. A recipient of the Inprint Fondren Foundation/Michael and Nina Zilkha Fellowship and an Inprint International Fellowship and a native of Zimbabwe, she has an MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her first collection, Shadows, was published to critical acclaim in 2013 by Kwela in South Africa, and awarded the 2014 Herman Charles Bosman Prize.

Houston writer and UH CWP faculty member Mat Johnson and fellow UH CWP classmate Melanie Brkich recently sat down with Novuyo.

MAT JOHNSON: This is your first year at UH–what made you interested in the program, and how has the transition been so far?

NOVUYO ROSA TSHUMA: I’m interested in strengthening my intellectual and creative writing interests, and the program has great faculty, an illustrious history and wonderful scholarship, and this was very attractive to me. Transitioning to a new place is always a mixture of excitement and disorientation, but I think it’s going well so far.

MAT: Your novel has just been bought by a USA and UK publisher, what is it about?

NOVUYO: The book has a microcosm of characters, I’m not sure I can summarize everything, but at the centre of the novel is our boisterous, wall-eyed narrator, Zamani, who, desperate to unshackle himself from an unsavory past and become a self-made man, rewrites and inserts himself into the history of a family he has become attached to, the Mlambos. And you know, he’s just obsessed with the past, he’s trying to reconstruct a self, he’s telling histories he has wangled out of others, and he’s an exposer of others’ ugly secrets, though he has secrets of his own he doesn’t want found out. Continue reading

Gulf Coast celebrates 30 years at Lawndale Art Center

January 21, 2017, by

GC 30th Anniversary - Smith readingThis week we talked to poet, Inprint blogger, and University of Houston Creative Program graduate student Erika Jo Brown about Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature & Fine Arts’ 30th anniversary celebration coming up Saturday, January 21, 7 pm, Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main Street. Since its inception, Inprint has been proud to support Gulf Coast, one of the nation’s reputed literary journals, which also holds readings and other activities. 

INPRINT: Congratulations on 30 years! For our readers that do not know a lot about Gulf Coast, please tell us about the journal, the organization, and all of the things you do.

ERIKA: Thank you! I’m pleased to work for Gulf Coast as a poetry editor and the reading series curator.  Gulf Coast was founded by Donald Barthelme and Phillip Lopate. We’re an arts and literary journal, run by very dedicated graduate students in the University of Houston Creative Writing Program (UH CWP). The print journal comes out each April and October. Recently, Gulf Coast merged with Art Lies. Unlike many lit journals, we’re committed to exploring visual art criticism, scholarship, and dialogues.  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.”

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Rabih Alameddine & Juan Gabriel Vásquez talk about fiction teaching empathy and guarding our memories

December 6, 2016, by

Rabih at podiumOn November 21st, the Alley Theatre was already decked for the holidays. A grove of themed trees in the lobby welcomed the Inprint Margaret Root Brown Reading Series for the final performance of the year. Inside, Rabih Alameddine and Juan Gabriel Vásquez read from their novels on the dormant set of A Christmas Carol, and artificial flurries escaped from their rigging throughout.

Though the theater looked towards Christmas, both Alameddine and Vásquez spoke towards the gratitude and displacement so many of us experience on the Thanksgiving weekend, whether or not we return home or reconnect with loved ones. Their words were melancholy and reflective. Alameddine’s The Angel of History spoke of loneliness and makeshift family; the narrator tells his lost love, “you left me roofless in a downpour.” Vásquez prefaced his reading by explaining the words he would read were not his own, and while he thanked his translator, compared the experience to reading someone else’s work. Continue reading