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Celebrating 1 Year: Giveaway of Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Vikram

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One year ago, Sweta Srivastava Vikram’s most emotional poetry collection Saris and a Single Malt was on tour with Poetic Book Tours.

Chick with Books said of the collection, “Heartfelt, raw, honest and thought-provoking.”

Jorie Loves A Story said, “Vikram bleeds her emotions through words.”

Diary of an Eccentric said, “Saris and a Single Malt is a touching tribute to Vikram’s mother, a love song from a grieving daughter.”

This is a poetry collection that is raw and beautiful. And as part of the celebration, Vikram is offering 4 copies of the book to some lucky U.S./Canada residents.

SARIS AND A SINGLE MALTAbout the book:

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

IMG_2240About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning author of 11 books, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, mindfulness writing coach, and wellness columnist. Sweta’s work has appeared in The New York Times and other publications across nine countries on three continents. Louisiana Catch (Modern History Press, 2018) is her debut U.S. novel.

Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the Indian Himalayas, North Africa, and the United States collecting and sharing stories. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, and mindful living to female trauma survivors, writers and artists, creative types, busy women, entrepreneurs, and business professionals in her avatar as the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife. You can find her on: Twitter (@swetavikram), Instagram (@SwetaVikram), and Facebook.

Enter below to win 1 signed copy and a $15 Amazon gift card or 1 of 3 other signed copies of Saris and a Single Malt.

Entrants must be U.S./Canada residents. Giveaway ends on Aug. 28, 2017, at 5 p.m. EST

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Sweta Vikram and her father

Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 46 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

***I consider Sweta a friend and her book is on tour with Poetic Book Tours.***

Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is highly emotional and raw.  It is clear that her mother’s sudden passing left a void in her life, and she was adrift with anger, despair, and confusion.  She spent time with family in India, people who she viewed as vampires (sucking the life from those around them for gossip), but respected her mother enough not to say anything.  There is a delicate balance in grief — when we want to cry out and shout out despair, we must be respectful that others are grieving in their own way as well.  At the same time, there are those who continue to lack compassion or empathy, making the grieving process even more difficult.

This collection made me cry on more than one occasion as I thought about those who have left my life — some suddenly, some after long illness — and each time the grieving process was different and difficult. My nana passed at a critical time in my life as a college student, and I carried a lot of guilt about her passing before I could make it to the hospital to see her after my classes. I procrastinated that day, wanting to eat dinner and rest after a trying week of classes and wanting to avoid the sadness of seeing her with tubes everywhere in an ICU where germs were kept at bay as much as possible. When I arrived just after she left this world, I was tormented by guilt. I wanted to know why she left before I got there. Sweta’s poem, “Why Didn’t You Wait for Me?” struck a chord. Can they see us after they have passed? Can they send us signs? I think it’s possible, and whenever I see a ladybug, I think of her.

From: JFK: Terminal 4 Airport Lounge (pg. 4)

At first I try to hide the fact,
but any passerby could look inside me
and tell it was fake calm that I was drinking
at the airport lounge in a wine glass.
But, inside that one glass,
I could become invisible.
Inside one sip of wine,
I could whisper my fears.

Like love, grief is an emotion that bonds us. Through these poems and mini essays, Vikram show us the entire grieving process and how it tears us down so we can rebuild ourselves. Saris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a tribute to a wonderful woman, who may have lived differently than her daughter, and while it comes after her passing, it signals to us to cherish those we have. We need to pay closer attention to our now and less to the past. We need to be better about showing our appreciation in the now, rather than when it is too late.

RATING: Quatrain

Other reviews:

Guest Posts and Interviews:

About the Poet:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “one of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, five-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Amazon bestselling author of 11 books, writing coach, columnist, marketing consultant, and wellness practitioner who currently lives in New York City. A graduate of Columbia University, she also teaches the power of yoga, Ayurveda, & mindful living to female trauma survivors, creative types, entrepreneurs, and business professionals. Sweta is also the CEO-Founder of NimmiLife, which helps you attain your goals by elevating your creativity & productivity while paying attention to your wellness.

Mailbox Monday #387

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

SARIS AND A SINGLE MALTSaris and a Single Malt by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, which I purchased. Follow the blog tour with Poetic Book Tours.

Saris and a Single Malt is a moving collection of poems written by a daughter for and about her mother. The book spans the time from when the poet receives a phone call in New York City that her mother is in a hospital in New Delhi, to the time she carries out her mother’s last rites. The poems chronicle the author’s physical and emotional journey as she flies to India, tries to fight the inevitable, and succumbs to the grief of living in a motherless world. Divided into three sections, (Flight, Fire, and Grief), this collection will move you, astound you, and make you hug your loved ones.

Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War by Artemis Joukowsky, Ken Burns, which I won from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

Official companion to the Ken Burns film premiering September 20, 2016, on PBS tells the little-known story of the Sharps, an otherwise ordinary couple whose faith and commitment to social justice inspired them to undertake dangerous rescue and relief missions across war-torn Europe, saving the lives of countless refugees, political dissidents, and Jews on the eve of World War II.

In 1939, Rev. Waitstill Sharp, a young Unitarian minister, and his wife, Martha, a social worker, accepted a mission from the American Unitarian Association: they were to leave their home and young children in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and travel to Prague, Czechoslovakia, to help address the mounting refugee crisis. Armed with only $40,000, the Sharps quickly learned the art of spy craft and covertly sheltered political dissidents and Jews, and helped them escape the Nazis. After narrowly avoiding the Gestapo themselves, the Sharps returned to Europe in 1940 as representatives of the newly formed Unitarian Service Committee and continued their relief efforts in Vichy France. This compulsively readable true story offers readers a rare glimpse at high-stakes international relief efforts during WWII. Defying the Nazis is a fascinating portrait of resistance as told through the story of one courageous couple.

Mr. Darcy’s Journey by Abigail Reynolds for review from the author.

Mr. Darcy is at his wits’ end. Elizabeth Bennet, the woman he can’t live without, overhears him insulting her family. Now she won’t even listen to his apologies. Then his old friend Sir Anthony Duxbury tells him two of their friends are in terrible danger. If Darcy wants to help them, they have to leave for Yorkshire immediately.

But something doesn’t add up. Elizabeth claims to know Sir Anthony, too – but by a different name. What game is his old friend playing? And is it dangerous?

Even Sir Anthony says the trip is dangerous. The Luddite rebels are on the verge of armed revolt – and he should know, because he’s one of them. Darcy’s cousin Lady Frederica decides she’s going with them anyway, and insists on bringing Elizabeth. Could this be Darcy’s chance to earn Elizabeth’s forgiveness and her love?

Elizabeth would rather face a squad of Napoleon’s soldiers than spend three days trapped in a carriage with Darcy and his headstrong cousin, but she has her own reason for agreeing to come. If she can just manage to keep her temper, she may be able to rescue her uncle from financial ruin.

But when a Luddite riot erupts around them, it’s Darcy and Elizabeth who need rescuing – from each other.

What did you receive?

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The Great Smoky Mountains

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When you go on vacation, you need some good reading and a variety.  Fun books, books you can dip into and out of in a pinch, and books that can hold your attention before bed.

I haven’t had a vacation in a long while that wasn’t back to Massachusetts, so I’m really looking forward to seeing a new place — Tennessee — and enjoying some non-review copies…

Here’s a list of what I’m thinking of taking — any suggestions, should I nix any of these? Should I take only 2?

Too many, right?  Some are ebook, so they take up less room. What kinds of books do you take on vacation?  Do you read them?  Am I overly ambitious?

My other option is just to bring 1-2 books and write my own stuff.  What say you?

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The Best Books of 2015

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I hope everyone’s 2015 ended with some great reading, family, friends, and fantastic food.

Of those I read in the year 2015 — those published in 2015 and before — these are the best in these categories:

Best Series:

Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue)

Best Children’s Book: (TIE)

Best Memoir:

Displacement by Lucy Knisley

Best Nonfiction:

LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart

Best Short Story Collection:

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War 

Best Young Adult Fiction:

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Best Reference:

How to Entertain, Distract, and Unplug Your Kids by Matthew Jervis

Best Women’s Fiction:

French Coast by Anita Hughes

Best Historical Fiction: (TIE)

Best Fiction:

Best Poetry: (TIE)

Here is the list of BEST BOOKS PUBLISHED in 2015:


  1. Wet Silence by Sweta Vikram
  2. The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
  3. Vessel by Parneshia Jones
  4. LOVE: A Philadelphia Affair by Beth Kephart
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck
  6. The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy
  7. Miss Emily by Nuala O’Connor
  8. One Thing Stolen by Beth Kephart
  9. The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson
  10. The Sound of Glass by Karen White
  11. Mistaking Her Character by Maria Grace
  12. Earth Joy Writing by Cassie Premo Steele, PhD


What were your favorites in 2015?

Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Source: Sweta Srivastava Vikram
Paperback, 72 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, which is on tour tomorrow with Poetic Book Tours, is a stunning collection of poems that give voice to the often solitary lives of Hindu widows.  Whether these women loved their husbands, fell in love with them, or merely stayed out of their way, without them in their lives, these women struggle with the emptiness — a vacancy where desire, love, and affection should be.  These women could wail and weep but it does not negate the fact that they become spectators in their own lives once their husbands are gone.  They become apparitions of themselves, hollowed out and shoved to the background like furniture or paintings on the wall, only as useful as the remaining family allows them to be.

Despite their losses and Hindu traditions, these women are still very much alive.  In “Eulogy” (pg. 39), the narrator says “I am a lady,/but I didn’t promise/to sleep in your shadow.”  Despite their vitality, these women are in the shadows with no way out that would allow them to retain their respect.  “Silence became my lover, that’s why.//Just so you know, my every kiss was real./I wrapped them in turmeric and sandalwood,/left them in your urn wrapped in a white sheet.//” (from “Silence Became My Lover”, pg. 34) In spite of their continued devotion, they must remain silent about it and their feelings and desires — in the eyes of the family, they have become non-entities without an anchor.

Many of these women loved deeply, passionately, but who can they share their memories with, except for their own grief and the silent walls around them.  In “Never Abandoned” (pg. 7), the narrator laments, “we came crashing like a wave./We contained each other.//Even the rain can’t erase/the warm memories of our togetherness/the cold bones others try to break.//”  For those widows who were abused or cuckolded, how do they move on from the death of their husband?  Can they?  They are still expected to wear grief like a devoted wife, honoring a marriage that to them may have been plagued with abuse and disappointment.  These women are trapped in a different way than those who can feel comfort in their loving husband’s memories.  There is no second chances at love or passion without consequence for these women.

Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a collection of eulogies, odes, and laments, but at its heart it is a collection that gives voice to the voiceless.  The women in these pages, though unnamed, are given new life, and their passions are presented to all readers in a way that is open and honest.  In the “wet silence” of their grief, there is no pretense, no hypocrisy; there is only the bare truth.  It is a collection that should be used in schools, read in book clubs, and held up high on the best of poetry lists.

Sweta is someone I call friend, but she stuns me with each new book, and there is nothing less than awe inspiring in this collection.

Other reviews:

Guest Posts and Interviews:

PoeticButton

 

 

 

 

Mailbox Monday #335

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Gates of Rutherford by Elizabeth Cooke, a surprise from Penguin.

Charlotte Cavendish has been dreaming of her old home at Rutherford Park. It is April 1917; she is nineteen years old. And everywhere there is change. The war still rages on the Continent, where her brother fights for the Royal Flying Corps. Her parents’ marriage is in jeopardy, with her mother falling for a charming American in London.

But not all is grim. Charlotte is marrying Preston, the blinded soldier whom she nursed back to health. Her parents couldn’t be happier about this. The young man hails from a well-established and wealthy family in Kent, and he’s solid and respectable. They hope he’s the one to tame their notoriously headstrong daughter.

But as time passes, Charlotte slowly comes to the realization that she is not truly happy. And for a reason she is only just beginning to understand. A reason she dare not reveal to the family—or the world.

WET SILENCE BOOK COVER2.  Wet Silence by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, for review from the publisher Modern History Press.

Wet Silence bears moving accounts of Hindu widows in India. The book raises concern about the treatment of widowed women by society; lends their stories a voice; shares their unheard tales about marriage; reveals the heavy hand of patriarchy; and, addresses the lack of companionship and sensuality in their lives. This collection of poems covers a myriad of social evils such as misogyny, infidelity, gender inequality, and celibacy amongst other things. The poems in the collection are bold, unapologetic, and visceral. The collection will haunt you.

What did you receive?

Guest Post: The Magic of Poetry by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a poet and novelist, and dare I say an activist?! Her poetry books have been reviewed on Savvy Verse & Wit, and she’s even visited for a Q&A and a guest post about creativity in the past. I’ve known her for what seems like forever, and after meeting her in person more than once and chatting with her on social media and email, I can say that we are kindred spirits, poets, and friends.  Check out my reviews of No Ocean Here, Because All Is Not Lost, Beyond the Scent of Sorrow, and Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors.  Here are her interview and previous creativity guest post.

Today, she’s going to share the magic of poetry for National Poetry Month!

J.D. Salinger once said, “Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.” He’s probably right.

In the first week of April, I got caught in the rain three days in a row. I love the rains and call myself a pluviophile (aside from urban dictionary, is pluviophile even officially considered a word?) While the lover of rain inside me was happy to wash away the unmentionables in the downpour, it wasn’t that simple. The wind mutilated my umbrella. The cold seeped inside my bones. My body collapsed with the onslaught.

For two weeks, I was on bed rest, fighting 103F fever and sinusitis. I had no taste in my mouth. To top it all, the strong antibiotics reacted and I had to be put on a counter dosage. Life came to an un-poetic standstill.

The only thing that soothed me at this time was a stray star that I would spot outside my bedroom window every night. I live in New York City—this was definitely an unusual and poetic occurrence. True to J.D. Salinger’s words, I started to attach a meaning to this mystical happening and wondered about the pleasant surprise.

Right about this time, my sister-in-law (husband’s sister) who lives in Singapore told me that our five and a half-year-old niece, Noyonika, had written a poem in school. It was about a star.

How To Catch A Star (By Noyonika)

I will sit on a broom
And fly to the moon
And catch my star

It is very dark when I fly to the moon
I am scared, it is so dark!

But I am brave and I carry on
To catch my star
Then I see something
Yippee, Yippee!

It’s my star!
It’s golden, pink and purple
It’s beautiful, it’s colossal
And it glows in the dark!

I reach my hand out
And catch my star
And I tell the broom:
‘Take me back to my room.”

Was that Noyonika’s star that I saw outside my window? Yes, you could say my fever-induced delirium made me imagine that. Or was it pure poetry? My niece, thousands of miles away, and I bonding over a remote incandescent body in the sky via the path of verses. The way I look at it, poetry paves way for imagination with a touch of human connection. With all due respect, in this sometimes cold, unpredictable, and impersonal world, attaching emotions in oddest of places is what keeps us sane, Mr. Salinger.

Thanks, Sweta, for sharing the magic of poetry with us and the world.

About the Poet:sweta

Sweta Srivastava Vikram, featured by Asian Fusion as “One of the most influential Asians of our time,” is an award-winning writer, Amazon bestselling author, novelist, poet, essayist, columnist, and educator. She is the author of five chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a novel, and a nonfiction book. Her work has also appeared in several publications across three continents. Sweta has won three Pushcart Prize nominations, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members’ Choice Awards 2011, and writing fellowships. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in New York City with her husband and teaches creative writing and gives talks on gender studies while managing a career in digital marketing. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Guest Post: Creativity & Mortality by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Please click on the image for today’s tour stop.

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a delightful and passionate poet looking to promote social justice, but more than that she’s not what people typically picture when they think of a poet. Most people I talk to think poets are crazy, depressed, or drunk. Sweta is optimistic, cheerful, thoughtful, and passionate; I haven’t seen her crazy, drunk, or depressed, but I’m sure that there are times when she feels those things, just like we all do.

I’ve reviewed several of her poetry collections on the blog, including her most recent No Ocean Here, which I enjoyed because it made me sad and made me think. But even more wondrous for me was meeting her in person and realizing that she is the same person whether online or off and that she’s as honest as I expected. She’s a delight and so fun to hang out with for lunch or even 10 minutes.

When I was talking about the blog tour, she volunteered to talk about creativity, particularly in relation to her latest project. Without further ado, please giver her a warm welcome.

2012 was an extremely dark year for me. I worked extensively on social issues affecting women. Researching, writing, and editing such pieces required me to traverse through and unravel a lot of unpleasant situations. I was exposed to unimaginable hopelessness and pessimism. There were days when I saw nothing encouraging about humanity. And even though I am a die-hard optimist, it was hard to see even a ray of optimism inside my well of poetic darkness. Thus began my quest to understand poets and writers and the impact of darkness and mortality on their work and lives.

Mortality, specifically the finality of death, is an esoteric subject. In a paper dealing with effects of mortality salience on the creative expression, Clay Routledge et.al. stated that amplified concerns for mortality decreased creativity when the act was self-directed but not when it was community directed. This got me thinking of the fact that so many genius artists have died so young. Is it that these artists simply could not face the reality which their creations exposed them to? Or could it be a vicious cycle where artists who are forced to peel back and critically examine the layers of melancholy, misery, pain, and sorrow find themselves pushed into abject loneliness because of the gloomy vision they see the world in; and in turn find their creativity stifled to the point where their very existence becomes a downward spiral into depression and eventually death.

Anaïs Nin said, “People living deeply have no fear of death.” But the truth is that death isn’t a light subject for anyone; especially not for artists who, when they explore the dark sides end up re-living death in a myriad of ways as they bring forth their creations into the world.

Thanks, Sweta. I, too, wonder about the abyss that artists look into when they create and what enables some to re-emerge on the other side, while others fall over the cliff.

No Ocean Here by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

No Ocean Here by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, published by Modern History Press, is a collection of poems about the subjugation of women and all of its forms, across not only the Middle East and Africa, but also throughout the various parts of Asia and South Asia.  These poetic portraits are often prefaced by some facts about a particular woman’s story encapsulated in the poem or about statistics of crimes against women in various countries.  Not all of the poems are prefaced, but even those that are could stand on their own and speak for the women they represent.  Beyond the violence and inequality women deal with on a daily basis, these poems also shed light on the women-on-women violence and the silent acceptance among older women of continuing these traditions with the younger generations.

From War (page 12; which is related to Sri Lankan battles)

The sun was shining on shells
of burnt-out houses in their neighborhood.
Her mother, sister, and she were drinking

coffee, thanking bees for leaving them alone
when three men in uniforms entered

their house under the pretense of search.

All cavities of the women's trust were emptied out
when each man selected a victim:

Vikram’s poetry not only provides a story that is easily accessible on the surface, but she also provides themes and hardships that call for closer inspection.  In this way, her collection would make an excellent book club pick, which could be even further enhanced by additional materials on the subjugation of women across the globe even today. Her poetry speaks of social injustice in a way that shocks the reader, but also pays homage to those who have suffered with the deft strokes of her imagery.  Some poems are stronger than others in terms of theme and imagery, while others are more in-your-face and full of surface meaning.

No Ocean Here by Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a vast ocean of pain, discomfort, and horror that should make women in the modern world, including those inside and outside the United States, stand up for themselves and others. Beyond that, it should make men stand up and take notice that their actions and those of other males in societies across the world should not be tolerated — and ended.

About the Author:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an award-winning poet, writer, novelist, author, essayist, columnist, and educator. She is the author of four chapbooks of poetry, two collaborative collections of poetry, a novel, a nonfiction book, and a book-length collection of poems (upcoming). Her work has also appeared in several anthologies, literary journals, and online publications across six countries in three continents. Sweta has won two Pushcart Prize nominations, an International Poetry Award, Best of the Net Nomination, Nomination for Asian American Members’ Choice Awards 2011, and writing fellowships. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in New York City.

This is my 6th book for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013.

 

Click on the image below for today’s National Poetry Month Blog Tour post:

AWP 2013 Boston

Although I’m still working on a poetry manuscript and it’s taking me longer than expected, I wanted to take the time to attend the big writer’s conference for two reasons:

  1. It was in Boston, which I miss
  2. I’ve never been to a conference of this size with so many writers and I wanted to see what other people were doing and how they coped with time management and other issues.

Registration opened on Wed., March 6, and I had planned to get my registration and spend the day with my hubby in Boston, while the little one was watched by her grandparents. While I did pick up my conference badge, etc. and we did get to have a lunch at an Irish pub, Sólás, that had phenomenal smoked Gouda and bacon fondue and some great chowda and soup!  Unfortunately, that’s when we got the call that the little one was running a fever and was not eating, etc.  Let’s just say that the plan to go out and about and take photos and just explore did not happen as I had expected and we headed home.  And this was a continued issue for me throughout the remainder of the week — worry over the kiddo and balancing that with the conference that I paid for, plus a lovely blizzard!

Thurs., March 7:

My first panel was “Revival of the Literary Salon with the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop” with Jessica Piazza (whom I’ve interviewed for 32 Poems), Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Samantha Milowsky, and Jade Sylvan), which was fun.  We learned about the creation of literary salons or writing groups that mix genres and music or more to experiment with form and just have fun.  It is less about critiquing work outright and more about learning and sharing with others.  A fun environment in which to share work that may be in draft form or that may be hard to finish for some reason, etc.  It can help provide feedback without being formal.  This panel ended with a writing exercise, similar to the game of Taboo, in which groups were randomly formed to write about an object in poetry from without using a certain list of words.  My group’s poem was not as good as the others in my self-critical opinion, but I confess, I’m not really a morning writer and this was the 9 a.m. panel.  I also felt for a long time like the most “normal” person in the room, and I’m far from normal.

I did end up missing 3 panels — “Keeping Track of Your Book,” “Sources of Inspiration” with Matthew Pearl and “The First Five Pages: Literary Agents and Editors Talk” — because I decided to meet with Sweta Srivastava Vikram at her publisher’s booth, Modern History Press, for a chat that turned into a 2 hour lunch!  Sweta is as lovely and honest in person as she is online, and I really love that about her.  You can check out an impromptu photo with one of her other poet friends, Rajiv Mohabir, here on Facebook.  We had such a great discussion of personalities online and offline and how disingenuous it seems when people have separate personas online and off, as well as a discussion about pulling back from friends in need because they seem to always be in need, etc.  Was a great discussion of chowda and lobster bisque!

The second panel I attended, “What a Novella Is,” was moderated by my friend K.E. Semmel, and touched upon the hardships of writing and defining a piece of work.  The panelists talked about how difficult it is to define novella beyond a simple word count, but most agreed that there is a single line of story but that it goes deeper than a short story would.  There were questions from the audience about Novella and it was discussed that writers need to take a hard look at their longer pieces to see if it is a novel in progress or a short story with too much excess before deciding its a novella.  There were some great novella recommendations from the panel, including one of my recent favorites — We the Animals by Justin Torres.  For a more in depth recap, please check out Melville House.  For this panel, I missed these panels “Lady Lazarus and Beyond: The Craft of Sylvia Plath,” “Writing the Great Hunger,” and “Literary Boston: A Living History” — I think it would be great to split panels up between friends and compare notes, since so many panels are at the same time in different rooms.

“The Chapbook as Gateway” panel with B.K. Fischer, Stephanie Lenox, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Susanna H. Case, and David Tucker was interesting and discussed how poets can use chapbooks as a limited edition to gain audiences and readers before a first book comes out, like a preview to greater work to come.  It was touted as a possible marketing tool at readings, with poets remarking on how many copies are available in the limited edition chapbooks and that only those readers acting quickly will have the gem.  It was interesting to note that some of the poets also have published other chapbooks even since their first book and that they find they like the form as a way to reach new readers at readings and to fill in the gaps between books.  Unfortunately,this panel was at the same time as “Does Place Still Matter,” a panel with Stewart O’Nan.

“Women Poets on Mentoring” with Allison Joseph, Rebecca Dunham, Brittany Cavallaro, Shara McCallum, and Tyler Mills was an excellent panel to end the day with and circled back to the earlier discussion Sweta and I had over lunch.  Each talked about their mentee-mentor relationship and the differences between it with their advisor-advisee relationship.  It was very engaging and it was clear that the relationships between these women were mutually beneficial.  However, there were questions from the audience about how to find mentors if you are not in a college or graduate program, and the women suggested writing programs at local centers, connecting with favorite authors through letters or email and even online, and just attending events, though they cautioned that pushing work and reviewing work early on in the relationship is not advised.  The panel also talked about how to balance the mentor-mentee relationship with other obligations, like jobs and family.

After this panel, I headed home and missed the keynote with Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, even though I really wanted to attend.  There was a big time gap between the panel and the keynote and my daughter had a fever and was feeling poorly, so I headed home.

Friday, March 8‘s blizzard hit my parents area harder than Boston, so we received a lovely 22 inches of snow and getting to Boston was going to be difficult, so I chose to miss all the panels I had prioritized and wanted to see more than the others in the schedule (including Fred Marchant’s panel on his 20th anniversary of his first book, etc.) to care for my still sick daughter.  She slept a great many hours on my lap throughout the day.

Sat., March 9:

I chatted with Sweta when I arrived at the bookfair (which is an overwhelming 3+ rooms) and met a couple poet friends of her throughout our chats.  After out morning chat and a couple of stops around the bookfair, I headed to the “Lower Your Standards: WIlliam Stafford in the Workshop” panel with Fred Marchant, James Armstrong, Phillip Metres, Alissa Nutting, and Jeff Gundy.  Jeff Gundy and Alissa Nutting were hilarious, with one of them talking about their own first workshop experience and being half-naked in the bathroom crying even though they had no reason to pee.  It seemed that some of the panelists knew Stafford well when he was alive and they talked about his workshop philosophy and his hands off style of teaching, as well as his negativity toward grading and even praising students as too much guidance, etc.  It was a good panel about guiding writers in their process and remaining less focused on an outcome/finished product.  I did miss a panel with Yusef Komunyakaa for this panel about “Breaking the Jaws of Silence,”

“Bringing Poetry to the People” with Taylor Mali, Samantha Thornhill, Jon Sands, Roger Bonair-Agard, and Michael Salinger was a great panel about how to get poetry out to the community, but it also was more about providing those with stories to tell a way in which they can tell those stories that is accessible.  There were several programs that focused on needle-exchange programs and prisoners and how to get those people to write poetry as a way to cope, etc.  While inspiring, those are not things I could see myself doing, but I’d be interested in supporting those programs for sure because some of the poems these people shared from the participants were emotionally jarring and moving.  PopUpPoets showed a video of breaking down walls among commuters etc. as each poet boards a train, for instance, and stands up to begin reading poetry, and sits down before another stands up in a sort of round robin.  As someone who is incredibly nervous reading in public, this also is not for me, but I really love the idea of getting poetry greater exposure among the general public!

I checked out the rest of the bookfair and met up again with Sweta, who was my buddy this conference.  I felt like a zombie at this point and some of the people walking around the book fair seemed like zombies as well.

My final panel, “Master of None: Surviving and Thriving Without an MFA,” with Ru Freeman (loved Disobedient Girl), Rebecca Makkai, Samuel Park, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Ida Haffermer-Higgins, has given me hope that I won’t have to incur a lot of debt to get a book published or find an agent, if I get a novel done and need one.  Unless I’m interested in teaching or embarking on another profession, I have no need for an MFA unless like someone in the audience said, “I need a structured program to sit down an write.”  I love that the women on this panel are balancing family and other jobs, and though it is sad to see that they have to hold down other jobs to make ends meet and that they cannot simply write all day, Ru Freeman was witty with her quips.  She even pointed out that big publishers certainly make a ton off of the books they publish when Samuel Park said that the editors no longer edit but have other jobs and duties that they fulfill off the clock.  Freeman also said that she finds men tend to have more time to write than women who are juggling full-time jobs and family obligations, but some male audience members wonder if that’s true for all men.  I’m sure she didn’t mean all men and was just making an observation based on her experiences.

Like most other people, I left the conference after this panel, though I wanted to spend time with family and be with my sick girl, who was feeling better and seemed to be eating solid food again but was still out of sorts.

My overall impression of this conference was that there is a sense of information overload and that you have to prepare ahead of time.  Getting the registration done the day before the panels started, allowed me to plan my days for the most part, rather than wandering around aimlessly.  However, I still felt I missed too many goodies, and would rather do this again with a buddy, maybe 2017 with Anna in DC.  I did want to attend some after conference readings, but alas family life and snow got in the way.  I did like connecting with poets, etc., I know from online in person and having lunch and longer conversations.  That aspect was so much fun, and the panels were great, but packed too close together so you are either forced to eat in a panel after grabbing something quick or skipping food until dinner.  As Fred Marchant told me after his Stafford panel, it’s the nature of the conference to feel incredibly guilty about missing out on friends’ panels or readings and feeling overloaded and lost, but all of us know that we are supporting one another in spirit, and I think that’s something I’d definitely keep in mind for next time.

If you attended AWP 2013, I’d love to hear your thoughts and read about what panels you went to and what you learned.  Feel free to check out my tweets from the conference.

Mailbox Monday #214

Mailbox Mondays (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch. This month’s host is Chaotic Compendiums.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

 

Here’s what I received:

1.  The Secretary by Kim Ghattas for review from Henry Holt.

In November 2008, Hillary Clinton agreed to work for her former rival. As President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, she set out to repair America’s image around the world—and her own. For the following four years, BBC foreign correspondent Kim Ghattas had unparalleled access to Clinton and her entourage, and she weaves a fast-paced, gripping account of life on the road with Clinton in The Secretary.

With the perspective of one who is both an insider and an outsider, Ghattas draws on extensive interviews with Clinton, administration officials, and players in Washington as well as overseas, to paint an intimate and candid portrait of one of the most powerful global politicians. Filled with fresh insights, The Secretary provides a captivating analysis of Clinton’s brand of diplomacy and the Obama administration’s efforts to redefine American power in the twenty-first century.

Populated with a cast of real-life characters, The Secretary tells the story of Clinton’s transformation from popular but polarizing politician to America’s envoy to the world in compelling detail and with all the tension of high stakes diplomacy. From her evolving relationship with President Obama to the drama of WikiLeaks and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, we see Clinton cheerfully boarding her plane at 3 a.m. after no sleep, reading the riot act to the Chinese, and going through her diplomatic checklist before signing on to war in Libya—all the while trying to restore American leadership in a rapidly changing world.

Viewed through Ghattas’s vantage point as a half-Dutch, half-Lebanese citizen who grew up in the crossfire of the Lebanese civil war, The Secretary is also the author’s own journey as she seeks to answer the questions that haunted her childhood. How powerful is America really? And, if it is in decline, who or what will replace it and what will it mean for America and the world?

2.  No Ocean Here by Sweta Srivastava Vikram for review from the poet.

No Ocean Here bears moving accounts of women and girls in certain developing and underdeveloped countries. The book raises concern, and chronicles the socio-cultural conditions of women in parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The stories, either based on personal interviews or inspired by true stories, are factual, visceral, haunting, and bold narratives, presented in the form of poems.

3.  Night Thoughts by Sarah Arvio, which I won.

In this remarkable and unique work, award-winning poet Sarah Arvio gives us a memoir about coming to terms with a life in crisis through the study of dreams.

As a young woman, threatened by disturbing visions, Arvio went into psychoanalysis to save herself. The result is a riveting sequence of dream poems, followed by “Notes.” The poems, in the form of irregular sonnets, describe her dreamworld:  a realm of beauty and terror emblazoned with recurring colors and images—gold, blood red, robin’s-egg blue, snakes, swarms of razors, suitcases, playing cards, a catwalk. The Notes, also exquisitely readable, unfold the meaning of the dreams—as told to her analyst—and recount the enlightening and sometimes harrowing process of unlocking memories, starting with the diaries she burned to make herself forget. Arvio’s explorations lead her back to her younger self—and to a life-changing understanding that will fascinate readers.

An utterly original work of art and a groundbreaking portrayal of the power of dream interpretation to resolve psychic distress, this stunning book illumines the poetic logic of the dreaming mind; it also shows us, with surpassing poignancy, how tender and fragile is the mind of an adolescent girl.

What did you receive?