Friday, April 30, 2010
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Poetry of Resistance
A Reading Sponsored by:
The NY Activists Poets' Roundtable and the Brecht Forum
Thursday, May 13, 7:30 PM
Brecht Forum: 451 West Street (at Bank Street)
Suggested donation $6, $10. No one turned away.
For more information email email@example.com or call 917-602-4070
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Inspired Word - Friday, April 23 featuring Ngoma Hill, Jared Singer, Jade Sylvan + NEW Open Mic!
Date: Friday, April 23, 2010
Location: (Le) Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 505-FISH (3474)
Cover Charge: $10
At (Le) Poisson Rouge, the hottest club in downtown Manhattan, The Inspired Word presents (in alphabetical order) Ngoma Hill, Jared Singer, Jade Sylvan. +Plus the NEW 8-slot open mic!
Ngoma is a performance poet, multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and paradigm shifter, who for over 40 years has used culture as a tool to raise sociopolitical and spiritual consciousness through work that encourages critical thought.He has been published in AFRICAN VOICES MAGAZINE, LONG SHOT ANTHOLOGY, THE UNDERWOOD REVIEW, SIGNIFYIN' HARLEM REVIEW, 'BUM RUSH THE PAGE/DEF POETRY JAM ANTHOLOGY,POEMS ON THE ROAD TO PEACE (Volumes 1,2&3)-Yale Press and Let Loose On the World(Celebrating Amiri Baraka at 75). He was featured in the PBS Spoken Word Documentary, "The Apro-Poets" with Allen Ginsberg. Ngoma has hosted the slam at the Dr. Martin Luther King Festival of Social and Environmental Justice Festival (Yale University-New Haven, CT) for the past 14 years. His latest C.D. "State of Emergency (The Essential Ngoma) Is a 2 Disc "best of "compilation is available on CDBaby.com and iTunes.com -For further info go to http://www.ngomazworld.com/ or check out myspace.com/notyouraveragestringthing.
Jared Singer is a poet and audio engineer who lives in New York City. While he may have physically grown up with his peers, he has never forgotten the imagination, magic, and nerdiness that were cornerstones of his childhood. He hopes to remind others of these more creative times. He has been published by The Legendary and has also appeared on the Indiefeed Peformance Poetry Podcast.
Jade Sylvan's first full-length collection of poetry, The Spark Singer, was published in 2009 by Spuyten Duyvil Press. Her first novel, Backstage at The Caribou, was published in 2009 by Ray Ontko & Co. She has performed and facilitated writing workshops across the country. Despite promises from adults that she could do anything if she set her mind to it, she never learned how to whistle as a child. She is currently at work on a second novel, an album of songs, and more poetry. You can find her at http://www.jadesylvan.com/.
The NEW 8-slot OPEN MIC! Slots will go to the first eight people to sign up at the door. Line starts at 6:30pm. Get there early. Each reader gets 2 1/2 minutes.
Please join us for an awesome night of passionate words.
Must be 21 years of age or older to enter. Please make sure to bring ID.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
MIKE’S TEN COMMANDMENTS TO WRITING SUCCESS: A NO-FAIL APPROACH/Part 1
By Michael P. Geffner
These principles represent the best advice I can give anyone interested in making writing a career. Study them, learn them, and, most of all, do them. You'll be amazed by the results.
1) Be a letter writer, not a resume sender. Resumes get shoved into the bottomless pit of file cabinets or dumped into the black holes of wastebaskets. Learn instead to be an aggressive composer of letters, though not sending these so often to the same editor that you become increasingly annoying. There's a fine line between persistence and being a nuisance. Don't cross that line, lest you risk turning people off who control your fate in the industry. In your letters, sell yourself like a salesperson, with you, of course, being the valuable commodity: who you are, what makes you different and better, what passions you have, how eager you are to work hard, and why you-and not someone else--should be working for the publication. The stationery and envelope should be of the highest quality (first impressions count!) and smaller than standard letter size (the small size virtually guarantees you'll be put on the top of the pile by the secretary). The letter itself should be flawless and tightly constructed, and the envelope should always be marked "personal and confidential" (to pass the gatekeeper). Your singular theme should be this: I know I can make a difference at your publication. You need people like me. You must use me.
2) Come up with five solid ideas, things hopefully you're passionate about and expert in, and write a couple of paragraphs on each (exactly what the story is and how you'd be attacking it). Make sure these "pitch letters" are well written (the editor will be judging your writing talent every step of the way) and targeted at the appropriate publications, ones publishing similar type stories. Fitting your story to the right publication is key. It should be as natural as a hand slipping smoothly in a glove.
3) Timing is everything. Spot trends and hit publications quickly with story ideas based on these, before someone else beats you to the punch. The hot item of the day approached uniquely is always a great way to get into print. Believe me, a well-timed pitch is gold!
4) Establish as personal a contact as possible with editors. Try to establish a phone connection at the very least, but face time is infinitely better and should without question be your goal. It's harder to reject a real live breathing person than a faceless name at the top of another letter. In fact, in your letters to editors, write a sentence about how you'll be calling on a specific day to discuss your "wonderful" ideas. This opens the door for your phone call. It won't be easy. It's like telemarketing at this point. But remember: Every rejection puts you closer to a sale. Though you'll have to pass some gate keepers to get to the top editors, always be professional, polite but pleasantly forceful. And if anyone asks what your business is with this editor, say it's personal. I mean, let's face it, your career is personal. Also, as a way around secretaries and assistants, you can call before 9 AM and after 5 PM-when they aren't there. And be prepared what you'll say if the editor actually gets on the line. Don't ramble. Get to the point and get off. Less is better. Make contact and leave on a high note. You want editors liking you enough to take your phone calls, not dreading the next one.
5) Study and immerse yourself in the marketplace. You need to get in the game to win it. Read media columns and industry magazines, join writing clubs, scan the net for resource sites, buy market books, get insider newsletters. Know the business inside out. Talk the talk and walk the walk. Editor and peers will know a professional when they see one.
6) Read what the best writers in your particular genre are doing. If you're a magazine writer, get yourself a copy of the annual anthology Best American Magazine Writing. If you're a short story writer, pick up The Best American Short Stories. See how it's done at its best. It'll be a great guide for what YOU should be doing. And read not for enjoyment but to learn. Study the writer's art and craft, and even try to imitate it. In pop speak, this is called Modeling.
7) Networking is nearly as important as talent. This took me a long time to understand--and believe. I always felt that the talent alone would get me to where I wanted to go. Not true. I found that out the hard way. You need to know people. A lot of them. My advice: Write "networking letters" to major editors (at the top of the masthead), not asking for work (never do that in a networking letter!) but simply for advice on how to succeed as a writer. I mean, these are the industry leaders you'll be contacting. They know a ton of inside info you don't, as well as a ton of other influential people in the business. Try to arrange a face-to-face meeting, between 15 minutes to a half-hour long at THEIR convenience in their office. You'll not only likely get some wonderful advice but will also establish yourself with a power broker. If he or she likes you enough and believes in you, he or she will likely consider you for future or current work (without you ever asking), or might refer you to another power broker. In other words, it multiplies naturally. One contact could lead to six. And after every visit, write a thank you note for them both graciously giving you their precious time and imparting some great information. Networking can also include your friends and family, who may have contacts in the field. Don't be afraid to reach out for help. You'll be amazed how many people will reach right back.
8) Do something toward furthering your writing career every single day. Read a book on writing. Write a pitch letter. Apply for a writing job. Set up an interview for a writing job. Write a networking letter to an editor. Arrange a meeting with an editor. Read a book by a great writer (not so much for entertainment but analyzing what the author does to achieve a certain effect). Read magazines and newspaper articles about the industry in media/publishing sections (This is a wonderful way to find the names of top agents). The thing is, you need to be proactive and be it daily. Action breeds action! It also adds up: A single "positive" every day builds into 365 in a year!
9) Write every single day, no matter what. Your mind is like a muscle. It needs a regular workout to stay strong and sharp. It's like the man who asks someone on the street, "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" And the other man says, "Simple. Practice, practice, practice."
10) Don't give up. The secret to ultimate success of any kind, I'm convinced, is persevering in the face of repeated rejection. If a newspaper/magazine/publishing house/literary agency doesn't accept you at first glance, try them again six months later. Editors, people, and philosophies change frequently. If you're not the cup of tea for one, you might be for another. The trick to succeeding as a writer, I feel, is having the strength and conviction to jump hurdles. Never take "no" for a final answer. Simply consider it the start for coming up with a more effective approach. Bottom-line is, if you write well, have great ideas and are well connected, success is definitely yours!
1) Don’t forget that networking is just as important as your talent and computer. It’s a must-have tool in your writing existence. You need to seek out contacts, preferably the power brokers at the top of the masthead or high-level editors, and cultivate them as “allies.” If you ignore this aspect of the business, believe me, you’ll suffer the consequences. I hear all the time from writers, “But I don’t like to mingle. I’m too shy. I’m not a good talker.” My response is matter-of-fact: “This is the way the game is played. If you don’t want to play, don’t expect to win.” Which means: Don’t expect editors to come to you. They won’t. Like Mohammed, you need to go to the mountain. I don’t care how much talent you think you have. It’s not enough to “make your career” all by itself. And remember: If you’re not cultivating contacts, some other writer out there is.
2) Force yourself to work under deadline pressure. Deadlines are what separate the professional from the hobbyist. Pros can’t wait for inspiration, or an act from God, to propel their creativity. They write because they have to, because someone on the other end is waiting for their work. They write whether rain, sleet, or snow, and all hours of the day and night. I’ve tortured myself to hit deadlines over the years, from five-minute ones to monthlies. That’s the nature of the beast. It’s where the tough gets tougher. So, either get assigned to something with a due date or create an artificial one. If nothing else, it’s good practice to see how well you function in such a situation. You may actually find that you’re not cut out to write professionally, that in reality you’re merely a dabbler. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just good to know where you stand.
3) Build a portfolio before you start hitting the major newspapers/magazines/publishers. Mind you, I’m not even remotely suggesting that you work for free. I’m really not. In fact, I insist on writers ALWAYS getting paid at least something for their hard work. What I am saying is this: You can’t expect to be published in the New York Times or sell a book for a $400,000 advance or get a major assignment from Sports Illustrated or People Magazine with little or no experience. You must pay your dues, like any other profession. You won’t go from singing in the shower to headlining in Vegas. That’s not realistic and you’ll be hitting your head against a brick wall if you try. Instead, moving up the publishing ladder a step at a time, for more and more money, you should get at least 5-8 clips together, sizeable ones that show off your writing ability, before considering the “big boys.” Begin with local papers or small magazines or trade publications. Make your “bones” there, where the competition isn’t too stiff and where you’ll have the freedom—and opportunities—to develop your own voice. And consider each story you write an audition for something better and higher paying. In other words, write the heck out of it. Make it brilliant!
4) Read something every day. Magazines, newspapers, books. But try to be choosy. Read things written by great writers. And don’t be a passive reader, be an active one: analyze what the writer is doing, what the writer does to achieve a certain effect, what the writer does with plot, characters, dialogue, action, exposition, etc. Read, read, and read. The theory: Whatever goes into your brain is likely, in time, to find its way out. It’s called “filling your cup.” By mere osmosis, you’ll absorb the craft without even knowing it. Great writing will be in you, dying to get back out.
5) Write something every day. No matter what. Forget that you’re tired or don’t feel like it. You’re supposedly a writer. So write. Don’t be a pretender. And don’t even think about that dreaded of all things creative: writer’s block. If you’re convinced you have writer’s block, just write about it. Write about why you think you’re blocked. Trust me, this’ll snap you out of it in a hurry. Remember, all writers, from Tolstoy to Hemingway to Stephen King, have written badly before they wrote well.
6) Make friends with other artists, especially with happy, positive, and successful ones. It’ll inspire you to be around other wonderfully creative people and to be able to share ideas back and forth. Afterwards, your energy will fly off the chart.
7) Make sure you spell correctly and are grammatical in your dealings with editors. I can’t tell you how many letters/notes/e-mails I get from “writers” with grossly ungrammatical sentences and a slew of misspellings. I cringe. It turns me off immediately—as I’m sure it will with editors. These are the tools of your craft. Learn how to use them—or else. Buy a grammar/spelling book, for God’s sake. Get a good “spell/grammar check” program. There’s no excuse for sloppy English. One misstep will likely sink you with an editor you’re trying to sell a story to.
8) Know as much as you can about the editor and the publication/publishing house before firing off a proposal. The more you know, the more you can “target” your approach. It’ll likely also give you a step up on the competition, since most writers don’t do this extra homework (at least, they didn’t until they read it here). A great example of someone going that extra yard for success is the great golfer Jack Nicklaus. Before playing in tournaments, The Golden Bear would arrive in town a few days early just to scout out the course. Taking a golf cart, he’d ride around jotting down in a small notebook observations and ideas on how to play certain holes. No wonder he won more major tournaments than anyone else did. One time, playing in the Masters, another golfer noticed that Nicklaus look decidedly perplexed. “What’s wrong, Jack?” To which Nicklaus responded, “There’s supposed to be a telephone pole there.” The pole had been removed a day earlier. Jack knew it was there!
9) Find a mentor. Someone who’s a successful writer who can teach you the ropes and keep you from making the same mistakes he/she did. A tour guide, in a way, who can lead you down this dark, mysterious tunnel called the writing business. It’ll not only save you a ton of time reaching your goals as a writer but will also keep you from climbing the wall with frustration. A mentor can be your answer man (or woman) on all problems.
10) Stay on the case. Don’t be a lazy slug even for a moment. Be relentless in your writing and your search for work. Do everything to improve yourself as a writer and never stop sending letters and making phone calls to editors. Aggressiveness, without being annoyingly so, is the key. That is, don’t stalk your editors. You’ll force them to run for the hills and never look back! Just show editors that you want it. They’ll likely be swept up in your passion, and may ultimately even admire you. Bottomline, fight for your writing dreams with everything you have and never let go!
1) Pitch stories that you absolutely own. The best way to get an editor’s attention, especially if you’re relatively new to the game or not very high up on the “publishing credits” ladder, is to offer an idea that no one else can do—but YOU! Is it an exclusive interview with someone who’s turning down everybody else? Is it a story that only you know about? Are you the sole expert in this subject? Own a story up and down and you’ll have a huge advantage like you never had before.
2) Always push for more work. Once you’ve made headway with a publication—which means you’ve built up a mutual trust and respect with an editor or editors—keep asking for more assignments or keep pitching ideas. Writing can often be a momentum business. Don’t stop the flow. Also, if you have a published story on the stands, it’s the best time to pitch editors at other places. You’ll seem like the hot commodity of the moment.
3) Rejection should only be the beginning, not the end. Two things to consider here: A. Just because a publication nixes your story idea—or you in particular—doesn’t mean the next place will do the same. If you believe in yourself and your idea, never give up on it. B. Just because a publication rejects you outright doesn’t mean the same place won’t accept you six months later. At most places, there’s high turnover. Editors, as well as mission statements, change quickly.
4) Don’t hang all your hopes on resumes, clip packages, and query letters. Go into any high-level editor’s office and you’ll see stacks of unopened envelopes that nearly reach the ceiling. You’re annoyed, or depressed, that an editor hasn’t gotten back to you? Don’t be. He or she likely hasn’t even seen the contents of your envelope yet—and may never. Make phone calls (without being a stalker). Make meetings (without being demanding). In the writing game, as in most businesses, relationships matter more than anything in an envelope.
5) Learn to negotiate for more money. No matter what a publication offers, it’s often way less than it can afford. Always express mild disappointment at the first number, then pleasantly, professionally, ask for a little more. Understand that I don’t suggest this method for rank beginners. You’ll risk losing the assignment. It’s also running before learning to crawl. But for anyone with decent experience, you’ll gain greater respect by not jumping at the first number thrown at you. Also, if in the end a place refuses to budge on the story fee, ask for something else that doesn’t cost them money, such as your byline bigger or your name—and story teased—on the front cover. Or simply agree to do the story at their price for now (make it seem like you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart) but, if they love the final product, that the next one will have to pay more. Always have a strategic plan when negotiating a story deal (have an answer ready for anything that might come up) and always get it in writing.
6) Whatever writing you do, try your best to be utterly unique and way above average. You want to put yourself in position where a publication or publisher can’t get what you do from any other writer. This is what gets the big jobs and the big dollars and the big careers.
7) Don’t beg. Always act as if you’re confident in your work and yourself, exuding an attitude that says, “I’d love to do this story for you, I really would, but if you’re not sure that you want it, I’m certain that some other publication will.” In other words, never show weakness, because editors will pick up on that and run away from it.
8) Don’t be a pest or a complainer or unprofessional. Editors will always choose the path of least resistance, wanting to work with writers that carry the least amount of baggage and write the cleanest, most thorough copy. Maybe if you win the Pulitzer, you’ll gain some extra rope. But until then, you best be a writer that editors love to work with.
9) Keep making baby steps upward. Don’t get too comfortable at a certain level. Keep challenging yourself. This will force you to make the work better and better, as well as help you make more and more money.
10) Don’t worry so much about people stealing your ideas. At the major publications, it hardly, if ever, happens. Plus, assuming you’re hitting a smaller, less trustworthy market, you should have so many ideas that if someone steals one that it wouldn’t matter in the least, because you have dozens upon dozens of them. The writing business is an idea business. If you don’t have ideas gushing out of your brain on a daily basis, you might want to try some other work.
Note: I plan to keep adding to this list as long as I live.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Just got this from one of my Facebook friends, Lorraine Miller, who asked me to pass it along on my blog:
phati'tude Literary Magazine is looking for a co-editor for its quarterly publication. This is an exciting opportunity to be a part of contemporary literature.
phati’tude Literary Magazine was founded in 1997 and is published by The Intercultural Alliance of Artists and Scholars, Inc. (IAAS), a NY-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. phati’tude is an attractive quarterly that publishes poetry, fiction and essays written by both emerging and established writers of diverse origins whose works exhibit social, political and cultural awareness.
The part-time, role of co-editor will include: proofreading submissions, collaborating in the selection process, and writing a book review column. You will work closely with the editor and founder of phati’tude. While the position is nonpaying (at this time), as we grow and obtain funding, we hope at some point to provide a stipend for your services. In the meantime, it is a "labor of love" that will keep you abreast with some of the hottest, award-winning writers on the literary scene today. To learn more about phati’tude Literary Magazine, go to http://phatitude.org/online/programs/phatitude-magazine/submission-guidelines.
If interested please email: firstname.lastname@example.org (subject: co-editor).
Art Director, phati'tude Literary Magazine
Friday, April 2, 2010
Reader Question: Do you prefer "interview" writing or another style?
Mike: I don’t enjoy doing simple Q&As, even though they're much harder than they look, but I adore profile writing. It allows me to combine my talent as an in-depth interviewer with my skills as a narrative storyteller. I especially love interviewing very well-known people, who have been interviewed a zillion times before, and getting them to say something totally original, if not "drop themselves" so revealingly it makes news.
Murder Your Darlings (Write for Your Reader)
By Rob Parnell
"Murder your darlings" was a phrase coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald. He was referring to what you might call your "best bits." He believed that these are the very "bits" you should always edit out of your work.
As Elmore Leonard once said, "If I come across anything in my work that smacks of ‘good writing,’ I immediately strike it out."
The theory is that writing you’re particularly proud of is probably self-indulgent and will stand out.
You might think this is good. Wrong.
You will most likely break the "fictive dream." (This is the state of consciousness reached by readers who are absorbed by a writer). And breaking your reader out of this fictive dream is a heinous sin!
Editing out "the best bits" is the hardest thing a novice writer has to do – after all, isn’t it counterproductive to write good things down only to cut them out?
Look at it this way…
When you start out, every word you write is precious. The words are torn from you. You wrestle with them, forcing them to express what you’re trying to say.
When you’re done, you may have only a paragraph or a few pages – but to you the writing shines with inner radiance and significance.
That’s why criticism cuts to the core. You can’t stand the idea of changing a single word in case the sense you’re trying to convey gets lost or distorted.
Worse still, you have moments of doubt when you think you’re a bad writer - criticism will do this every time. Sometimes you might go for months, blocked and worrying over your words and your ability.
There is only one cure for this – to write more; to get words out of your head and on to the page. When you do that, you’re ahead, no matter how bad you think you are.
After all, words are just the tools – a collection of words is not the end result, it is only the medium through which you work. In the same way that a builder uses bricks and wood to build a house – the end result is not about the materials, it’s about creating a place to live.
As you progress in your writing career, you become less touchy about your words. You have to. Editors hack them around without mercy. Agents get you to rewrite great swathes of text they don’t like. Publishers cut out whole sections as irrelevant.
All this hurts – a lot.
But after a while, you realize you’re being helped. That it’s not the words that matter so much as what you’re trying to communicate.
Once you accept that none of the words actually matter, and have the courage to "murder your darlings," you have the makings of the correct professional attitude to ensure your writing career.
This is a tough lesson to learn.
But, as always, the trick is…to keep on writing!
Rob Parnell is a prolific writer who’s published novels, short stories, and articles in the U.S., U.K., and Australia, and a teacher who’s conducted writing workshops, critique groups, and seminars.
Please visit Mr. Parnell’s Web site at:
Thursday, April 1, 2010
The Inspired Word
Date: Friday, April 9, 2010
Location: (Le) Poisson Rouge
158 Bleecker Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
New York, NY 10012
Phone: (212) 505-FISH (3474)
Cover Charge: $10
Please join us for an awesome night of passionate words.
Confirm your attendance on Facebook!
MUST BE 21 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER TO ENTER. PLEASE MAKE SURE TO BRING ID.
Internationally acclaimed poet, Ainsley Burrows has performed at festivals, cafés and institutions across Europe, America, Canada and the Caribbean, receiving numerous awards. These include Best International Performer of 2001 and 2002 from the Farrago Poetry Café in London, Munich’s International Poetry Slam Championship award in 2001.
Born in Chicago, Illinois to Ghanaian immigrants, Akua Doku is a working poet whose poetry has been published and performed throughout the United States. Akua was a member of the 2005 and 2006 Urbana Slam Poetry Team and a member of the Nuyorican Poets’ Café Slam Poetry in 2008 and earned the title of the first female slam champion at the 2005 Austin International Poetry Festival.
Up and coming actress/poet Sabrina Gilbert has performed at college conferences, venues and theaters along the east coast and in the Midwest. She continues to push the envelope in her work as she allows her writing to constantly evolve and defy the laws of gravity. In 2008 she became the Grand Slam Champion of Slam Richmond’s 2008 team, making her the first woman to do so! She also helped start Lyric Ave in 2003, which today is the largest poetry show on the east coast (consistently serving an audience of over 800 people). Her debut album "Come Get Me" took her colleagues by storm with it’s electrifying tracks and powerful messages! The album (executive produced by Ainsley Burrwos) has earned rave reviews from several internet radio shows, magazines and has not only touched fans in the U.S. but also those living in Toronto, Paris, London and Germany. Please visit http://www.burrowsink.com/
Vanessa Hidary, AKA The Hebrew Mamita, is a native New Yorker who seems to write a lot about Jews, men, race, and juicy thighs. She has aired three times on HBO’S Def Poetry Jam, was a finalist at Nuyorican Poets Café , and her solo show “Culture Bandit”, which has toured nationally, has been produced by LAByrinth theatre company, Roar @ Nuyorican Poets café, and the Hip Hop theatre festival, among others. She was featured in the award winning short film “The Tribe”, which appeared in numerous festivals such as Sundance and Tribeca Film. She is the director of the show “Monologues”: An evening of solo performances exploring Jewish Identity inspired by a 10-day trip through Israel . She received her MFA in acting from Trinity Rep Conservatory, and is currently working on a book that may be called "the Chronicles of The Hebrew Mamita.”
Meghann Plunkett is a recent Sarah Lawrence graduate, currently working as an assistant at Fourth Story Media, her poetry has been published in several literary magazines including Southword Press and The Shop Magazine. She will be the staff's poet-in-residence at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York this summer and teaching writing workshops that infuse improv, visual art and impossible thought. While she has somewhat adjusted to the real world, she assures you, she is not a real person.