IR’s Fabulous Interns

Two weeks ago, I posted a link to the first of a series of interviews I’m doing for the NPR station WFIU with one of IR’s lovely interns, Kelsey Adams. This week, I’d like to feature the rest of our awesome team!

Avery Smith is our  prize intern. Here’s what she says about her writing, her work at IR, and her studies at IU:

I write poetry in every facet of my life: in classes at IU, on my own time, and also in my work at Women Writing for (a) Change. I love writing poems to explore perception: how people perceive, how places, words, and events can be perceived on various levels, and what exists beyond the surface level of perception. I think my work has taken on a more philosophical bent due to the classes I’ve taken at IU, and in response to the work of many of my favorite poets: Kazim Ali, W.S. Merwin, Wallace Stevens, Naomi Shihab Nye. Working at IR gives me exposure to what is new in literature, and it gives me hope that people still read and care about the written word, that the written word has the power to engage and change whole lives.

Shilpa Reddy is our publicity intern. She primarily writes fiction. Of her own work, she says,

I like focusing on the small things and overlooked details in life. I love to spend time describing places I see daily, because it allows me to appreciate the space around me in new ways. I’m also interested in the way that science and literature intersect. As a student of both the sciences and humanities, I’m always looking for connections between the two, and I’m fond of authors who do the same. Writing has allowed me to realize what I really care about, and to find resolutions to problems I wouldn’t be able to solve in real life. It helps me distance myself from myself, so that I can be more honest with my life.
“IR is a hidden gem at IU,” Shilpa says. “I always wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a publication, and it’s exciting to be a part of the process.”
Emily Mullholland is our subscriptions intern. She’s not a creative writer herself, but she is a voracious reader. Here’s what she has to say:

When I was in middle school, I used to dream about being a writer. I was convinced I would have a published novel by the age of 18. Things changed, however, when I read To Kill a Mockingbird. From that point on, I began directing my attention toward the writing of others (friends, authors I enjoyed). I tweaked my dream, deciding I wanted to go into editing and publishing. Things just took off from there.

I was a fan of IR before I even knew that internships were offered here! When it comes to opportunities to gain experience in this world, IR has been the culmination of all of my work. Working at IR has convinced me that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life, if I can.

We are so lucky to have such fabulous interns here at Indiana Review. Thanks, ladies, for all that you do.

Round-Up

We’ve got some merry news. This spring, Q Ave Press will publish Heather June Gibbons‘s chapbook, Flyover! We’re lucky enough to feature her poem, “Memory is a Bull Market,” forthcoming in IR 34.1.

 

 

 

 

We’d also like to extend our sincerest congratulations to 30.2 contributor Greg Wrenn! His first book of poems, Centaur, won the 2013 Brittingham Prize in Poetry and will be published in February 2013 by the University of Wisconsin Press.

 

 

 

▶ And check out this list of “Literary Heirs” by Stephen Heyman in the NYT, a flashy and substantial gathering of excellent literary magazines.

▶ In case you missed it: “A Publisher’s Menagerie: Stories behind Publishers’ Animal Logos” by Elisabeth Watson.

▶ We eagerly await The Morning News 2012 Tournament of Books which starts next month.

▶ AWP is less than three weeks away! Will you be there?

The Art of Procrastination

Image: Wendy MacNaughton for The New York Times

I don’t know about you, but it seems like the amount of time I spend procrastinating increases as my workload increases. Before I can force myself to focus, I have to clean my apartment, re-alphabetize my bookshelf, eat a snack, brush my teeth, text everyone in my contact list, drag a shoelace around the apartment for my cat to chase, and check all my favorite websites and blogs. There are so many wonderful, fascinating gems out there in the great wide world web! Here are a few of my current favorites.

1. Awful Library Books

Image: awfullibrarybooks.net

Two Michigan public librarians bring us the best of the worst in current library book holdings. Take, for example, this treasure, which examines how junk food can “convert a normal brain into a criminal mind.”

2. Haiku For The Single Girl

Image: This Isn’t Happiness

You, too, can write haiku!

3. Ommwriter

Introducing OmmWriter Dāna from hs&co on Vimeo.

 

And, last but not least, here’s a tool that *might* help you stay focused. Let me know if it works for you…

Poems, Stories, Storming In

I’ve been doing some solitary brainstorming about brainstorming. Let me explain. I’ve been storming, mainly on my own, in my head, trying to wrangle up all the amazing ideas that I witnessed develop as a result of collaborative problem-solving. And I’m screeching to a thundering halt. This attempted recall began after I read Jonah Lehrer’s article “Groupthink” in The New Yorker this week. He recounts how, in the 1940s, ad man Alex Osborn’s revolutionary strategy of “brainstorming” erupted on the corporate scene, positioning Osborn as “influential business guru.” Osborn advocated for many minds working in rapid fire to generate ideas, and proposed that many more ideas in commando-fashion attacking a problem would create the most innovative solutions. Since then, brainstorming has been applied in numerous situations—corporate strategy, product development, academic research, and as a pedagogical tool, to name a few. As a result of Osborn and the pervasiveness of his method, I’m sure we’ve all brainstormed at one time or another.

One way brainstorming intersects with the literary is in the realm of a writing workshop. Yes, my brain storms all the time, on its own, night and day. Sometimes I wish it would calm down a bit and just bask in some sunshine, and other times when I want some good old fashioned thunder, I’ve got nothing. But it’s in group workshop that brainstorming, collective problem-solving, actually becomes problematic. Critiques of the workshop call it “groupwrite,” the phenomenon in which a bunch of writers get together to “fix” a poem or to “solve” a problem it’s having. Writers not in a traditional workshops often long for someone to tell them what to do, to help them mend their not-quite-right poems (or stories). However the problem with this approach is that it assumes too much—that the group knows the poem’s intent, that there is only one way the poem can work, and the group will come to that creative solution. This is not to say there aren’t amazing groups of writers and great workshops, or to say I don’t have amazing readers myself, of my own work. But jointly, brainstorming mentality has the ability to strip the poet of his agency. When groupwrite happens and the writer turns to the group to mend his piece, what results, I find, is a faltering of voice, an evening of texture, and distillation of originality. Further,one main requirement of brainstorming is to eschew negative feedback and criticism. Yet for great ideas to be developed, in my mind, discernment is crucial. In workshop we talk about issues with the writing, but not issues with the proposed revisions. Not all solutions are equally plausible or helpful.

And sure enough, Leher writes that when Osborn’s technique was tested, “‘brainstorming groups think of far fewer ideas than the same number of people who work alone and later pool ideas.’” Which is when it hit me. This is what a literary magazine is! Here at IR we don’t sit down together and write a whole issue conjointly, rather writers work on their own–near, far, all over the globe, storming away to come up with rich and glorious and weird and terrifying stories and poems. And they send them to us, offer them up to the group. Who is discerning and takes those literary ideas, and pools the best of them into a carefully crafted collection. Groupwrite? No. A group of amazing writers. And the result? Lightning bolts galore.

Jonah Lerner “Groupthink.” The New Yorker, January 30 2012

Young Writers and Workshops

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kelsey Adams, one of IR’s wonderful interns, for south central Indiana’s NPR station, WFIU. Kelsey is an undergraduate fiction writer in her senior year at Indiana University, and she makes for an eloquent and thoughtful interview subject. (Stay tuned for a couple of follow-up talks with her in the future!)

“Here at IU is where I really began to feel as if I was a writer,” Kelsey says, and–though this didn’t make its way in to the final interview–she told me with humility and wisdom that she sees herself writing in the tradition of Lorrie Moore. What a gift, I thought, to find your writerly identity as an undergrad! A long time ago, I had a conversation with a friend that would always stay with me, a conversation about the importance of heroes. I think one of the great benefits of creative writing programs is that they expose young writers to older ones, allowing them to find their literary heroes. Creative writing workshops let us see our own writing as literature, just as we learn to read literature as if it were workshop writing. Only when we’re then able to locate our work in the vast landscape of literature that’s already out there, workshop wisdom tells us, can we take ourselves seriously as writers. (And only then, paradoxically, after we begin to take ourselves seriously, can we actually become ‘serious’ writers.)

They also teach us some serious rules. As anyone who’s been in a creative writing workshop knows, there are a handful of sayings that come up a lot: “Show, don’t tell!” “The ending has to be earned!” “Let your characters make their own choices!” The list goes on–and gets more and more specific. Of the story from which she reads excerpts in this interview, Kelsey says, “This one started [with my reacting to how] they always tell you, ‘Never write a cancer story.’ …I did it anyway.” Another thing you learn in a creative writing workshop is when to break workshop commandments. The premise of Kelsey’s “cancer story”? A woman discovers her cancer has been cured, but realizes she wishes it hadn’t been, wishes she were still sick.

On the excellent Web site Open Culture, there is a recent post recounting advice about writing from great writers: Henry Miller, Elmore Leonard, Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, and that poster boy for grammatical correctness, William Safire. A couple of these pieces of advice stick out as particularly hypocritical–and particularly wise. Neil Gaiman advises:

The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

And George Orwell says,

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.