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AWC Short Short Story competition results

 

First we would like to thank everyone who entered our writing competition.

Our winners are:

1st Darothy Durkac — “What He Did With The Insides”

2nd Kelly Creighton — “Until They’ve Hatched”

3rd Hugh McQuillan — “Music To Drive By”

Shortlist

Soojin Kim — “You Sound Well”

Ellen McCarthy — “In The Rain”

 

From Robert Olen Butler:

I have to say that I was truly impressed with the high quality of submissions in this contest.  The decision process was arduous and nuanced.  The top twenty or so would have been among the winners of more than few flash fictions contests I’ve judged.  And I saw real potential in virtually all of them.  Ireland must have been a powerful lure for nascent talent.  That I might have a chance to work with some of these writers is very exciting for me as a teacher.

 

The three winners are:  First place, “What He Did with the Insides.”  Second place, “Until They’ve Hatched.” Third place, “Music to Drive By.”

 

As you know, I took pains to judge these anonymously.

 

And please send all the submitters my warmest regards.  There’s not a one of them I wouldn’t be sincerely delighted to work with.  Honestly, given my years of experience judging contests, that surprises the hell out of me.

 

Best,

 

Bob Butler

Short-Short Story Contest, judged by ROBERT OLEN BUTLER

 

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Judge: ROBERT OLEN BUTLER–Pulitzer Prize Winner & F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature

 

Three Winning Stories will be published in the 2014 February edition  of:

THE STINGING FLY MAGAZINE

 

How deep can you dive into your imagination? How breathless can you make readers feel? How brief can you make your best stories? Dazzle us with your brilliant brevity and you might just win a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience during that magical month of December with Abroad Writers’ Conference at Ireland’s historic and awe-inspiring Lismore Castle in County Waterford.

 

In 500 words or less write a standout story that seduces us, sings to us, shakes us, grabs us by the throat, or that’s so quiet we have to strain to hear. Any subject and any genre, but whatever you do be interesting and make us care. Take the leap, you just might be about to lose and re-find yourself inside a twelfth-century castle in picturesque, hospitable, and literary-loaded Ireland.

 

1st Prize: Free Admission to award-winning author Ethel Rohan’s 3 Day “Brilliance of Brevity” Workshop*. single room for seven nights, conference & a Celebratory dinner in the castle with Judge, Robert Olen Butler.  Value $1, 085.

 

2nd Prize: A scrumptious full banquet dinner at Lismore Castle with conference luminaries: Robert Olen Butler, Karen Joy Fowler, Sarah Gristwood, Mariel Hemingway, Edward Humes, Claire Keegan, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Anne Perry, Michelle Roberts, Ethel Rohan, Alex Shoumatoff, Patricia Smith, Jane Smiley, and Lily Tuck.

 

3rd Prize: A complimentary pass to conference events at Lismore Castle.

Entries Accepted June 1st through July 15th,   Winners Announced August 15th, 2013

$10 Entry Fee: https://abroadwritersconference.submittable.com/submit

For Full Contest Details Visit: http://www.abroadwritersconference.com

For Full Conference Details & Registration Visit: http://www.abroad-crwf.com

*A $500 value to be used in full payment for Ethel Rohan’s “Brilliance of Brevity” 3 day/15 hr. workshop or can be applied as a $500 discount toward a conference package purchase

Michele Roberts will be teaching a workshop at Lismore Castle

Michèle Roberts
(Hertfordshire, England, May 20, 1949)

Michèle Roberts

Michèle Roberts

Michele Roberts is an English writer of mixed French-English background, the author of numerous highly acclaimed novels, dramas, poems, short stories and essays. She examines the nature of love and the female identity, based on her experience as a woman, of two cultures – French and English, and, later, comparing women through history blurring time, paces, and identities. This way she attempts to re-write the history and to imagine what the future might have been in the light of different historical events. Inspired by the Feminist Movement, she is deeply concerned with the identity of women, but not only the way society view it. She pictures the women as a productive and successful member of society, but also as an individual in search for true self, regardless of social restrains. Her heroines are “whole”, individuals who recognize and live in peace with their own contradictions and differences. They love, interrogate the nature of love, sexuality and explore the possibility of sharing the experience in more than one-way, symbolically representing a conflict between the public and the private, and modes associated with masculinity and femininity.
One of the most significant themes in her work is the mother-daughter relationship. Her style uniquely combines fantasies and myths, described in classical and religious language.
She was Poetry Editor for Spare Rib (1974) and City Limits magazine (1981), formed a writers’ collective (with Sara Maitland, Michelene Wandor and Zoe Fairbairns) as a feminist activist with the Women’s Liberation Movement, serves as a Chair of the British Council literature advisory panel, and is a regular book reviewer and broadcaster (contributor to “Night Waves” and “Woman’s Hour”), as well as a strong literary translation supporter.
She won the Gay News Literary Award 1978 for “Piece of the Night”, the W.H.Smith Literary Award 1993 for “Daughters of the House.” Michele Roberts is Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

Major works:

A Piece of the Night, 1978
The Visitation, 1978
Tales I Tell My Mother, 1978
Touch Papers, 1982
The Wild Girl, 1984
The Mirror of the Mother, 1986
The Book of Mrs Noah, 1987
More Tales I Tell My Mother, 1987
The Seven Deadly Sins   (contributor), 1987
The Journeywoman, 1987
Food, Sex & God: on Inspiration and Writing, 1988
In the Red Kitchen, 1990
The Seven Cardinal Virtues   (contributor), 1990
Psyche and the Hurricane, 1991
Daughters of the House, 1992
During Mother’s Absence, 1992
The Heavenly Twins, 1993
Flesh & Blood, 1994
All the Selves I Was, 1995
Child-Lover, 1995
Impossible Saints, 1998
Fair Exchange, 1999
The Looking Glass, 2000
Playing Sardines, 2001
The Mistressclass, 2002
Reader, I Married Him, 2006
Paper Houses, 2007
The Secret Gospel of Mary Magdalene, 2007                                     The Heretic’s Feast, 2012                                                   Ignorance, 2012

Karen Joy Fowler’s new book, ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’

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Karen Joy Fowler’s ‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’

By Ron Charles

You know Karen Joy Fowler, though probably only for her least representative novel — that charming bestseller “The Jane Austen Book Club.” It landed with perfectly calibrated Janite wit in 2004 during a wave of renewed enthusiasm for Austen and book clubs. But aside from that domesticated crowd-pleaser, Fowler is also the author of genre-blending works of historical fiction and fantasy. Her stories have won the Nebula Award, the Shirley Jackson Awardand the World Fantasy Award. In 1991, she co-founded the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, a prize “for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.”

One never knows what to expect from her.

Her new novel, for instance, involves an ordinary Midwestern family: two parents and three children.

The younger daughter is a chimpanzee.

And why not? If Gregor Samsa can turn into a cockroach and Edward Albee can ask, “Who is Sylvia?”, a chimp for a sibling doesn’t seem so far down the evolutionary tree. In fact, just as most of us have decided that we should probably stop torturing chimps to death in the name of science, an outrageous community of simian novels has been congregating in the branches of the library, from the “autobiography” of Tarzan’s sidekick, “Me Cheeta,” by James Lever, to “The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore,” by Benjamin Hale.

But there’s nothing fantastical about Fowler’s new novel with its drawing-room title, “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.” In fact, the plot is inspired by several real experiments, including the work of Winthrop and Luella Kellogg, scientists at Indiana University who raised their baby son alongside a chimp for almost a year in the early 1930s.

Fowler places her story in the 1970s and extends the experiment to five years. Dr. and Mrs. Cooke live in a farmhouse with a gaggle of graduate students in Bloomington, Ind. They have a son named Lowell and two new daughters, Rosemary and Fern. Rosemary never stops talking; Fern never starts. But their parents have “promised to love them both exactly the same.” So far, so normal.

In a witty, conversational voice, Rosemary reluctantly parcels out the details of her “chimped-up household.” She doesn’t mention her sister’s body hair issue until page 77. “I spent the first eighteen years of my life defined by this one fact,” she says. “It’s never going to be the first thing I share. . . . In my defense, I had my reasons,” she adds. “I tell you Fern is a chimp and, already, you aren’t thinking of her as my sister. You’re thinking instead that we loved her as if she were some kind of pet.” She’s right, of course. Fern’s identity is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The mechanics of this weird family arrangement are irresistible: How did the Cookes care for these two toddlers, feed them, dress them, keep them from hurting each other? “What was the goal of the Fern/Rosemary Rosemary/Fern study before it came to its premature and calamitous end?”

As an adult looking back on her famous childhood, Rosemary is curious about those questions, too. But the answers are elusive because once Fern left the family, no one mentioned her again, and it’s not at all clear what precipitated her departure. All Rosemary can do now — many years later — is try to excavate memories of their time together and catch lingering impressions of her sister still persisting in her own personality.

All this sounds like rich material for a novel, but there’s more. “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves” isn’t just about an unusual childhood experiment; it’s about a lifetime spent in the shadow of grief. Clearly, something traumatic happened when Rosemary was 5, something that turned her from a loquacious little girl into a quiet young woman. But unearthing the details of that event means digging in a mental landscape strewn with psychological land mines. Others can’t or won’t tell her the truth. Her own memories are confused and clouded. She’s grown wise and skeptical about the slippery nature of family history. “Language does this to our memories,” she says, “simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”

Although the story moves erratically over almost 40 years, it focuses on a few chaotic days in 1996 when Rosemary was a fifth-year student at the University of California at Davis. An unlikely friendship with an unstable fellow student triggers a series of confusing feelings. “This, finally, was the moment the hypnotist snapped her fingers,” Rose says ruefully. Curious but wary, and with a wry reference to the damage done by Sigmund Freud, she begins reconstructing what happened to her and her family, handling old memories worn “thin as Roman coins.” Refreshingly, she has the humility to admit that she can’t tell whether she’s making some of this up: “I was completely buried in the unremembered, much disputed, fantasyland of the past.”

Plot is not the novel’s strongest suit. The wackiness that stumbles into the final chapters feels incongruous with the book’s poignancy and its serious themes. But Rosemary’s voice and her efforts to understand — and forgive — herself are moving. Fowler has such a sprightly tone, an endearing way of sloughing off profound observations that will illuminate your own past even if you have no chimps swinging in your immediate family tree.

It’s also impressive how gracefully Fowler resists the impulse that could have turned her novel into a shrill PETA poster. Toward the end, she offers a stomach-churning summary of animal research done during the 20th century, but that’s more a lament than an argument, an acknowledgment that “the world runs on the fuel of this endless, fathomless misery.” What does it mean to be human, she asks, and what does it mean to be humane? Although there’s little doubt where her sympathies lie, Fowler manages to subsume any polemical motive within an unsettling, emotionally complex story that plumbs the mystery of our strange relationship with the animal kingdom — relatives included.

 

Charles is the fiction editor of The Washington Post.

Karen Joy Fowler will be joining us at Lismore Castle, December 9 – 16, 2013. Karen will be teaching a five day Fantasy Writing Workshop, limited space.

 

WE ARE ALL COMPLETELY BESIDE OURSELVES

Karen Joy Fowler

Marian Wood/Putnam. 310 pp. $26.95

Getting to Know Best-Selling Author Jacquelyn Mitchard

Getting to Know Best-Selling Author Jacquelyn Mitchard

By Joan Brunwasser

I grew up with the story of Our Lady of Angels fire all around me. It was more than an event, it was a sunset on the bright stable way people saw their world. That fire blew that neighborhood up. There was no one who didn’t know someone who’d died in OLA. I was struck by how surviving an event could be just as paralyzing as dying in that event — that the survivors were changed forever.

::::::::

Trial by Fire, The Backstory of Second Nature

 


me, literally, today by Chris Cohen [photo credit]

My guest today is best-selling author, Jacquelyn Mitchard. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, written in 1999,  was also the first selection of the Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club, making for a stellar career kickstart. Welcome to OpEdNews, Jackie.


hardcover book jacket by Jacquelyn Mitchard website

 

JB: I just finished reading Second Nature, a novel based on the 1958 fire that killed 92 children in their Chicago school.  What made you choose this as the backdrop for your book?

JM: That happened when I was a baby, and I grew up with the story of Our Lady of Angels all around me. It was more than an event, it was a sunset on the bright stable way people saw their world. That had been a close-knit, West Side neighborhood, filled with brothers who married sisters and cousins and grew up down the block from each other, who played cards and had dinner together on Sunday nights.

That fire blew that neighborhood up. People didn’t just move to the suburbs; they moved to Miami, to California, as far as they could from that school, because there was no one who didn’t know someone who’d died in OLA. A friend’s older brother died in that fire, and his presence in that house was as real as any of the living children, even those who never knew him. I was struck by how surviving an event could be just as paralyzing as dying in that event — that the survivors were changed forever.

JB: I grew up in Chicago, too, and that fire has haunted us ever since. You chose Sicily Coyne as your central character. At the time of the fire, she’s a 13-year old student. Why a girl and why that particular age, Jackie?

JM: Twelve or thirteen is the time in a girl’s life when she’s at the end of childhood and becoming aware of herself as a woman. It’s when her awareness of her body image is at its most self-critical. She’s not a little kid. Little kids adapt to injury; their awareness of themselves in a wheelchair or having lost hair to chemotherapy or sustaining a wound, those are real, but, if the kid has a reasonably supportive family, those things are tempered by the resilience of being accepted, at the deep heart’s core, for who you are rather than how you look. Sicily had this sense of herself, too.

So in a very real way, she became trapped in a damaged face — that was all anyone could see — and she was screaming, “Hey, look! I’m still me!” The burn itself was a source of both bitterness and toughness, but her sarcasm and bitterness came from being seen, yet unseen. And I’m just very attracted to understanding the psychology of that age of person, which is why the imprint for which I’m the editor -in- chief is a Young Adult imprint. It’s the age of being epic, living a week in an hour, a year in a month, a lifetime in a year.

JB: And, boy, has a lot gone on for Sicily. She’s a woman/child who had to grow up fast because of that fire and losing both of her parents.  Yet, she’s also very unsophisticated and sheltered in many ways. It’s an  odd combination. Can you talk about this?

JM: Like many “sick kids,” Sicily has been both coddled and deprived. Life itself has robbed her of so much; and yet she’s given everything but what she can’t have — the chance to be normal. She has every material advantage and she’s protected from the realities of paying bills and jockeying for social position.

People may whisper about her, but there’s a kind of holy deference for a kid who’s part of a local legend: her prerogatives are in line with her losses. And the aunt who adopted her, Marie, is torn between those two poles, as well — deeply and nearly neurotically protective of Sicily, but also determined to push her into as normal a life as is possible, for Sicily to be “not as good as, but better than.” The reason that some readers found Sicily annoying is that she really never grew up: she’s stopped, an accomplished adolescent but in her reactions and her emotional landscape, still a middle-school kid.

JB: Interesting. I didn’t find Sicily  annoying. I found her situation incredibly and painfully poignant. I admit I’d never really thought about what surviving such an experience might be like before.

JM: Many people thought of her as “spoiled” and “shallow.” Many other readers found her affecting and real. I think it often depends on what you’ve been through in life, and maybe what you’ve been through in books, what you tend to gravitate toward. Sometimes, people just really don’t have a big tolerance for real life in fiction, even though they say they want characters who are “real.” Like take Kinsey Mulhone, in Sue Grafton’s wonderful mysteries. She’s tough, thin, single, smart, and she never gets past the age of about 36. She goes down easy, like a cool drink on a hot day, so the story can gallop off everywhere.


when my last child was born, six years ago by Arty Hitchcock [photo credit]

JB: The Cappadora family was featured in your first book, The Deep End of the Ocean and you bring them back in Second Nature. In fact, we see that Beth Cappadora becomes surprisingly close to Sicily.  Why does using utilizing the reappearance of characters from one book to another seem like a good idea?

JM: With continuing characters, you have to be careful about flaws because unless it’s a very literary novel or the flaws are the point (I’m thinking here of John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany), you have to convince readers to embrace a character who has flaws, because there’s a belief about how you’d react in the same circumstances and that way is usually very positive or even heroic — and that’s exactly how I am too!

You try to think you’d be the best at this. But the psychology in this book is based on real accounts of people who are disfigured, and it affects people in ways that aren’t always attractive. It’s the same way as dealing with depression in another person. Depressed people are sad, and it’s awful that they’re sad, but they sometimes behave in ways that are deeply provocative or upsetting to other people. They’re not fun to be with.

Personally, I thought Sicily was just what she should be, smart and strong but also naive and bewildered, and really able to put up a good front by talking tough. As for the Cappadoras, it wasn’t a marketing decision. So many people, thousands of people, have asked me, what happened to [Beth’s son] Vincent? And I knew that Vincent would not have grown up to be a perfect human being, either, not given his temperament.

I thought, what if Sicily — with this new face which actually would be aesthetically very good, given that this book is set about ten or fifteen years in the future, when face transplants won’t be so uncommon — were to run toward love and fall for just the most attractive, worst possible guy, in the encyclopedia entry about commitment issues for reasons of his own past?

But it was natural, because she already loved Beth, who had documented this whole process [face transplant] because of Sicily’s past, because of the fire and its being the stuff of legend on the West Side of Chicago. Why think up new people to populate a place you already know, if the people who already know are already there, frozen in time, like the game Statue Maker? They were perfectly interesting people.


with son Rob, 1999 by Jill Krementz [photo credit]

JB: Agreed. All that medical information, both about burns and recovery and the whole field of organ transplants, was fascinating. And I found the most compelling images to be Sicily’s prosthetic nose, on the one hand, and her inability to eat properly, a routine task we do daily and take completely for granted. Was it hard to find the right balance between giving enough grisly details to make it real without grossing readers out or turning them off?

JM: Readers still found it grisly! I did an insane amount of research on burn injury and musculature and anatomy. For me, the prosthetic nose was one of the tenderest details, the way she had to take care of it because it was, you know, the Cadillac of prosthetic noses. It was just fascinating, like the way a prosthetic nose, for example, attaches (with magnets!).

I majored in Biology, and, I have nine children, thus, you know, nothing grosses me out. I’d have gone on forever. But yes, had to back off on some of the detail. Burn victims go through an incomprehensible hell — so, by comparison, the face transplant, even though it required, well, removing Sicily’s existing face, was relatively simple compared with the fifteen surgeries she’d had to try to mend the tissue on her face. In real life, that would have been more like thirty surgeries, each more appalling than the last.

JB: Magnets? Yikes! What a concept. The book is very steeped in firefighter culture and lore. It sounded very authentic to me. How did you accomplish that? Did you get to ride around with them?

JM: Oh, yes I did! I spent two weeks with the gallant ladies and gents at Madison Wisconsin’s Southside Station 6, and they taught me with generosity and detail. Firefighters in a number of cities surrounding Chicago also answered my questions. You know, there is no better job on earth than theirs. Indeed, they could get badly hurt; they could die. But who can do what they do, deny instinct for the greater good, as they do?

Despite danger, there is such intense training, minute attention to safety and detail, that tragedies such as what happened to Jamie Coyne are almost unknown. But authentically, if they happen, they happen in those kind of gruesome old buildings where fire can’t escape. My pal Eric used to be an English teacher before he became a firefighter, and he told me, “You know, you admire police. They lay it right down every day. But when the police show up, people grumble. When we show up, everybody cheers. Here come the Marines!” They’re just so cool. I guess they know it, but can you blame them?


my favorite, my ‘Wuthering Heights’ picture by James Schnepf [photo credit]

JB: Lucky you! Thank you, Jackie. Let’s take a break here.

When we return for the conclusion of our interview, we’ll talk about the time she called Buckingham Palace, how she juggles her writing and her family of nine children, and her quirky ambition now that she’s no longer afraid of heights. Please join us! 

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Mitchard’s website

Submitters Website: http://www.opednews.com/author/author79.html

Submitters Bio:

Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of transparency and the ability to accurately check and authenticate the vote cast, these systems can alter election results and therefore are simply antithetical to democratic principles and functioning. Since the pivotal 2004 Presidential election, Joan has come to see the connection between a broken election system, a dysfunctional, corporate media and a total lack of campaign finance reform. This has led her to enlarge the parameters of her writing to include interviews with whistle-blowers and articulate others who give a view quite different from that presented by the mainstream media. She also turns the spotlight on activists and ordinary folks who are striving to make a difference, to clean up and improve their corner of the world. By focusing on these intrepid individuals, she gives hope and inspiration to those who might otherwise be turned off and alienated. She also interviews people in the arts in all their variations – authors, journalists, filmmakers, actors, playwrights, and artists. Why? The bottom line: without art and inspiration, we lose one of the best parts of ourselves. And we’re all in this together. If Joan can keep even one of her fellow citizens going another day, she considers her job well done. Joan has been Election Integrity Editor for OpEdNews since December, 2005. Her articles also appear at Huffington Post, RepublicMedia.TV and Scoop.co.nz.

ROBERT OLEN BUTLER won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award

253346_10200258442478168_2101508810_nROBERT OLEN BUTLER just won, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature.

He says, “Grateful to say I’ve won the F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature, from the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference. I’m the 17th, after such folks as William Styron, John Barth, Joyce Carol Oates, E. L. Doctorow, Norman Mailer, John Updike, Edward Albee, Grace Paley. The award will be announced May 7 at a preview of the new movie of The Great Gatsby.”

Robert will be teaching a workshop at Lismore Castle, December 9 – 16, 2013.

 

Authors teaching at Lismore Castle

 

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Meet our instructors who’ll teach workshops/lectures at Lismore Castle, December 9 – 16, 2013.

Robert Olen Butler

ROBERT OLEN BUTLER — Pulitzer Prize Winner and F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature

 

Robert Olen Butler has published twelve novels—The Alleys of EdenSun Dogs,Countrymen of BonesOn Distant GroundWabashThe DeuceThey WhisperThe Deep Green SeaMr. SpacemanFair WarningHell and (forthcoming this August) A Small Hotel—and six volumes of short fiction—Tabloid Dreams, Had a Good TimeSeverance, IntercourseWeegee Stories, and A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, which won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Butler has published a volume of his lectures on the creative process, From Where You Dream, edited with an introduction by Janet Burroway.

A recipient of both a Guggenheim Fellowship in fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts grant, he also won the Richard and Hinda Rosenthal Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. He has twice won a National Magazine Award in Fiction and has received two Pushcart Prizes. His stories have appeared widely in such publications as The New YorkerEsquireHarper’sThe Atlantic MonthlyGQZoetropeThe Paris ReviewThe Hudson ReviewThe Virginia Quarterly ReviewPloughshares, and The Sewanee Review. They have also been chosen for inclusion in four annual editions of The Best American Short Stories, eight annual editions ofNew Stories from the South, several other major annual anthologies, and numerous college literature textbooks from such publishers as Simon & Schuster, Norton, Viking, Little Brown & Co., Houghton Mifflin, Oxford University Press, Prentice Hall, and Bedford/St.Martin and most recently in The New Granta Book of the American Short Story, edited by Richard Ford.

His works have been translated into nineteen languages, including Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Polish, Japanese, Serbian, Farsi, Czech, Estonian, and Greek. He was also a charter recipient of the Tu Do Chinh Kien Award given by the Vietnam Veterans of America for “outstanding contributions to American culture by a Vietnam veteran.” Over the past fifteen years he has lectured in universities, appeared at conferences, and met with writers groups in 17 countries as a Literary Envoy for the U. S. State Department.

Since 1995 he has written feature-length screenplays for New Regency, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Disney, Universal Pictures, Baldwin Entertainment Group (for Robert Redford), and two teleplays for HBO. Typical of Hollywood, none of these movies he was hired to write ever made it to the screen.

He is a Francis Eppes Distinguished Professor holding the Michael Shaara Chair in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Under the auspices of the FSU website, in the fall of 2001, he did something no other writer has ever done, before or since: he revealed his writing process in full, in real time, in a webcast that observed him in seventeen two-hour sessions write a literary short story from its first inspiration to its final polished form. He also gave a running commentary on his artistic choices and spent a half-hour in each episode answering the emailed questions of his live viewers. The whole series is a very popular download on iTunes under the title “Inside Creative Writing.”

He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the State University of New York system. 

 

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KAREN JOY FOWLER–PEN/FAULKNER finalist, World Fantasy Award winner

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and three short story collections. The Jane Austen Book Club spent thirteen weeks on the New York Times bestsellers list and was aNew York Times Notable Book. Fowler’s previous novel, Sister Noon, was a finalist for the 2001 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction. Her debut novel, Sarah Canary, was a New York Times Notable Book, as was her second novel, The Sweetheart Season. In addition, Sarah Canary won the Commonwealth medal for best first novel by a Californian, and was listed for the Irish Times International Fiction Prize as well as the Bay Area Book Reviewers Prize. Fowler’s short story collection Black Glass won the World Fantasy Award in 1999, and her collection What I Didn’t See won the World Fantasy Award in 2011. Fowler and her husband, who have two grown children and five grandchildren, live in Santa Cruz, California.

She is the co-founder of the James Tiptree, Jr. Award and the current president of the Clarion Foundation (also known as Clarion San Diego).

“No contemporary writer creates characters more appealing, or examines them with greater acuity and forgiveness, than she does.”
—Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

“What strikes one first is the voice: robust, sly, witty, elegant, unexpected and never boring. Here is a novelist who absolutely comprehends the pleasures of imagination and transformation.”
—Margot Livesey, The New York Times Book Review

“An astonishing narrative voice, at once lyric and ironic, satiric and nostalgic…Fowler can tell stories that engage and enchant.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

 Sarah Gristwood

SARAH GRISTWOOD –Best-Selling Tudor Biographer

Sarah Gristwood is a best-selling Tudor biographer, former film journalist, and commentator on royal affairs.

 

Sarah Gristwood began work as a journalist, writing at first about the theatre as well as general features on everything from gun control to Giorgio Armani. But increasingly she found herself specialising in film interviews – Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro; Martin Scorsese and Paul McCartney. She has appeared in most of the UK’s leading newspapers – The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph (Daily and Sunday) – and magazines from Cosmopolitan to Country Living and Sight and Sound to The New Statesman.

Turning to history she wrote two bestselling Tudor biographies, Arbella: England’s Lost Queen and Elizabeth and Leicester; and the eighteenth century story Perdita: Royal Mistress, Writer, Romantic which was selected as Radio 4 Book of the Week. Presenting and contributing to several radio and tv documentaries, she also published a book on iconic dresses, Fabulous Frocks (with Jane Eastoe); and a 50th anniversary companion to the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, as well as collaborating with Tracy Borman, Alison Weir and Kate Williams on The Ring and the Crown (Hutchinson), a book on the history of royal weddings. 2011 also saw the publication of her first historical novel, The Girl in the Mirror (HarperCollins). In September 2012 she brought out a new non-fiction book – Blood Sisters: the hidden lives of the women behind the Wars of the Roses (HarperPress).

A regular media commentator on royal and historical affairs, Sarah was one of the team providing Radio 4’s live coverage of the royal wedding; and also spoke on the Queen’s Jubilee for Sky News and for Woman’s Hour.

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EDWARD HUMES — Pulitzer Prize Winner

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author, Edward Humes’ latest book is Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash (Avery Books, April 2012). His other books include Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution, the PEN Award-winning No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year In the Life of Juvenile Court, the bestseller Mississippi Mud, and Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion and the Battle for America’s Soul.


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CLAIRE KEEGAN–Rooney Prize for Irish Fiction

Since her first book was published in 1999, Claire Keegan has accumulated nearly a dozen prizes, and accolades from writers such as Richard Ford and Hilary Mantel. But the form she works in – the short story – has always been something of a specialist taste. Keegan, who has published two collections of stories (Antarctica and, in 2007, Walk the Blue Fields) and now one long story, Foster which was published in the New Yorker.

Claire Keegan was born in 1968 and grew up on a farm in Wicklow. Her first collection of short stories, Antarctica, was completed in 1998. It announced her as an exceptionally gifted and versatile writer of contemporary fiction and was awarded the Rooney Prize for Literature. Her second short story collection,Walk the Blue Fields, was published to enormous critical acclaim in 2007 and won her the 2008 Edge Hill Prize for Short Stories. Claire Keegan lives in County Wexford, Ireland.

Keegan has won the William Trevor Prize, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Olive Cook Award and the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award 2009. Other awards include The Hugh Leonard Bursary, The Macaulay Fellowship,The Martin Healy Prize, The Kilkenny Prize and The Tom Gallon Award. Twice was Keegan the recipient of the Francis MacManus Award. She was also a Wingate Scholar. She was a visiting professor at Villanova University in 2008. She is a member of Aosdána.

JACQUELYN MITCHARD — Best Selling Author and Editor-in-Chief of Merit Press

Mitchard’s book, ‘The Deep End of the Ocean’ was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club and named one of the most influential books of the past 25 years by USA today.

Mitchard is the author of 24 novels and books of non-fiction for adults, young adults, and children, including ‘The Deep End of the Ocean,’ the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, named by USA Today as one of the most influential books of the past 25 years. A longtime journalist and teacher, Mitchard is a faculty fellow at Southern New Hampshire University, and a contributing writer for Parade Magazine and More magazine, among others.

 

Merit Press Books, an imprint solely for young adult titles. The imprint joins the company’s current fiction lines – including Tyrus BooksPrologue Books, and Crimson Romance. F+W plans the release of five original Young Adult titles through the remainder of the 2012, as well as twelve titles planned for 2013. Other imprints currently are under development and will be announced in coming months. F+W Media is a community-focused, content creator and marketer of products and services offering a diversified portfolio of books, ebooks, magazines, events, competitions, e-commerce, education, video, and more. The Company’s fiction strategy aligns with the overall F+W mission to meet the needs of its communities in all forms, creating an exceptional consumer experience.

“The mission of the line is to provide an abundance of intensely readable, highly suspenseful and unforgettable fiction for readers aged thirteen and up, with a particular emphasis on strong, savvy, female heroes rising to conquer sometimes stunning challenges thrown at them by a very real contemporary world,” said Karen Cooper, Publisher. “We knew we needed expert guidance for the creation and growth of the line. Jacquelyn is the ideal partner for this new initiative, and we are thrilled to work with her.”

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MICHELE ROBERTS–Man Booker Finalist

Michèle Roberts is the author of twelve highly acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House which won the WHSmith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her memoir Paper Houseswas BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in June 2007. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud- stories of sex and love (2010). Half-English and half-French, Michèle Roberts lives in London and in the Mayenne, France. She is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.
 Michèle Roberts is one of those writers descended perhaps as much from Monet and Debussy as Virginia Woolf or Keats… To read a book by her is to savour colour, sound, taste, texture and touch as never before. The Times

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ETHEL ROHAN–Short Story Award winner

Ethel Rohan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland, and now lives in San Francisco. She is the award-winning author of two story collections,  Goodnight Nobody (2013) and Cut Through the Bone (2010), the latter longlisted for The Story Prize. She is also the author of a chapbook, Hard to Say, PANK, 2011.

Her work has or will appear in The New York TimesWorld Literature TodayTin House Online, The Irish TimesThe Stinging FlySouthword Journal, and The Rumpus, among many others. She received her MFA from Mills College, CA, and is a reviewer for New York Journal of Books and member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grottoand PEN America. Visit her at ethelrohan.com.

 

 

 

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ALEX  SHOUMATOFF–Contributing Editor Vanity Fair

Alex Shoumatoff first broke into the pages of Vanity Fair in 1986, with a piece on the murder of Dian Fossey, an American zoologist who was fighting for the survival of the mountain gorillas in Rwanda. Since then he has written dozens of pieces for the magazine, many of them from the world’s most remote and inaccessible places, including the Amazon and Tibet. The author of 10 books, he founded Dispatches from the Vanishing World in 2001. The site, which is read each month by people from more than 90 countries, is dedicated to raising consciousness about the world’s fast-disappearing natural and cultural diversity, and to promoting the societal transformation that needs to happen if the planet’s life-support systems are to remain viable much longer. A guitar player and songwriter since the 1960s, Shoumatoff is finally releasing his first CD, Suitcase on the Loose, a bag of tunes written over the last 38 years.

JANE SMILEY — Pulitzer Prize Winner and F. Scott Fitzgerald Award for Outstanding Achievement in American Literature

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained an A.B. in literature atVassar College (1971), then earned an MA at the University of Iowa (1975), M.F.A. (1976) andPh.D. from the University of Iowa. [1]While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar. From 1981 to 1996 she was a professor of English at Iowa State University,[1] teaching undergraduate and graduate creative writing workshops, and continuing to teach there even after relocating to California.

Smiley published her first novel, Barn Blind, in 1980, and won a 1985 O. Henry Award for her short story “Lily”, which was published in The Atlantic Monthly. Her best-selling A Thousand Acres, a story based on William Shakespeare‘s King Lear, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992. It was adapted into a film of the same title in 1997. In 1995 she wrote her sole television script, produced for an episode of Homicide: Life on the Street. Her novella The Age of Grief was made into the 2002 film The Secret Lives of Dentists. Her essay “Feminism Meets the Free Market” was included in the 2006 anthology Mommy Wars  by Washington Post writer Leslie Morgan Steiner.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel (2005), is a non-fiction meditation on the history and the nature of the novel, somewhat in the tradition of E. M. Forster‘s seminal Aspects of the Novel, that roams from eleventh century Japan’s Murasaki Shikibu‘s The Tale of Genji to 21st-century American women’s literature.

In 2001, Smiley was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters. She participates in the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in association with UCLA. Smiley chaired the judges’ panel for the prestigious Man Booker International Prize in 2009.

 

PATRICIA SMITH – National Book Award finalist in Poetry, Winner of 2 Pushcart Awards

Called “a testament to the power of words to change lives,” Patricia Smith is a renaissance artist of unmistakable signature, recognized as a force in the fields of poetry, playwriting, fiction, performance and creative collaboration.

She is the author of six critically-acknowledged volumes of poetry, includingShoulda Been Jimi SavannahBlood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist, andTeahouse of the Almighty, a National Poetry Series winner (all from Coffee House Press), Close to Death and Big Towns, Big Talk (both from Zoland Books),Life According to Motown (Tia Chucha), just released in a special 20th anniversary edition. She is editor of the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir, coming in November 2012 from Akashic Books.

Her other books include Africans in America (Harcourt Brace), a companion volume to the groundbreaking four-part PBS history series, and the children’s book, Janna and the Kings, a Lee & Low Books New Voices Award winner.

Patricia’s work has appeared in Poetry (including the journal’s 100th anniversary edition), The Paris ReviewGrantaTin HouseTriQuarterlypoemmemoirstory,EcotoneAble Muse and many other journals, and in dozens of groundbreaking anthologies–including Best American PoetryBest American EssaysVillanelles,Killer Verse–Poems of Mayhem and MurderAmerican Tensions–Literary Identity and the Search for Justice, and 100 Best African American Poems. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, for her poems “The Way Pilots Walk” and “Laugh Your Troubles Away!” In the summer of 2012, she was awarded a fellowship to the prestigious McDowell Colony, where she worked in a studio once occupied by James Baldwin.

Recognized as one of the world’s most formidable performers, Patricia has read her work at venues round the world, including the Poets Stage in Stockholm, Urban Voices in South Africa, Rotterdam’s Poetry International Festival, the Aran Islands International Poetry and Prose Festival and on tour in Germany, Austria and Holland. In the U.S., she’s performed at the National Book Festival, Carnegie Hall, the Dodge Poetry Festival, Bumbershoot, the Folger Shakespeare Library and St. Mark’s Poetry Project, sharing the stage with noted writers such as Adrienne Rich, Sharon Olds, Rita Dove, Joyce Carol Oates, Allen Ginsberg, Walter Mosley, Gwendolyn Brooks, Billy Collins, Galway Kinnell and “Lord of the Rings” star Viggo Morgensen. She has collaborated with Boston stalwart Philip Pemberton (currently lead vocalist of Roomful of Blues) and the blues band Bop Thunderous, and as an occasional vocalist with the stellar improvisational jazz groups Paradigm Shift and Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble. Patricia is a four-time national individual champion of the notorious and wildly popular Poetry Slam, the most successful competitor in slam history. She was featured in the nationally-released film “Slamnation,” and appeared on the award-winning HBO series “Def Poetry Jam.”

Recordings of Patricia’s work can be found on the CD “Always in the Head” as well as in the compilations “Grand Slam,” “A Snake in the Heart” “By Someone’s Good Graces” and “Lip.” A short film of her performing the poem “Undertaker,” produced by Tied to the Tracks Films, won awards at the Sundance and San Francisco Film Festivals and earned a prestigious Cable Ace Award as part of the Lifetime Network’s first annual Women’s Film Festival. As a budding voiceover artist, she was the radio voice of the Oil of Olay Total Effects product line.

The book Blood Dazzler was the basis for a dance/theater production which sold out a week-long series of performances at New York’s Harlem Stage. The Play Company in New York City produced “Professional Suicide,” a one-woman show that got its start while Smith was writer-in-residence at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, and a selection of Patricia’s poetry was also produced as a one-woman play by Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott and performed at both Boston University Playwrights Theater and the historic Trinidad Theater Workshop. Another play, based on Life According to Motown, was staged by Company One Theater in Hartford, Ct., and reviewed favorably in The New York Times.

An accomplished and sought-after instructor of poetry, performance and creative writing, Smith appears often at creative conferences and residencies, customizes workshops for all age groups and is available for intensive individual instruction. She is a Cave Canem faculty member, a professor of English at CUNY/College of Staten Island and a faculty member of the Sierra Nevada MFA program.

 

 

LILY TUCK — National Book Award Winner

Lily Tuck (born Oct. 10, 1938) is an American novelist and short story writer whose novelThe News from Paraguay won the 2004 National Book Award for Fiction. Her novel Siam was nominated for the 2000 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. She has published four other novels, a collection of short stories, and a biography of Italian novelist Elsa Morante .

An American citizen born in Paris, Tuck now divides her time between New York City andMaine; she has also lived in Thailand and (during her childhood) Uruguay and Peru. Tuck has stated that “living in other countries has given me a different perspective as a writer. It has heightened my sense of dislocation and rootlessness. … I think this feeling is reflected in my characters, most of them women whose lives are changed by either a physical displacement or a loss of some kind”.

 

Daily Schedule

December 9th:

12:00 – 3:00 workshop

5:00 – 8:00  Lectures

8:00          Dinner in castle

December 10th – 15th

7:30 – 10:30  Workshops

10:45 – 1:45  Workshops

2:00 – 5:00   Workshops

5:00 – 8:00   Lectures/Readings and festivities

8:00           Castle Dinner

December 16th

7:30 – 10:30  Workshops

 

Workshops dates and times are list by groups.

Group 1, 2, 3, 4….3 hour/5 days

Group 5…………… 8 hours/2 days with lunch break

 

Group 1

Dates/time: 12/09 @ 11:00-2:00, 12/10-12 @7:30-10:30, 12/14 @2:00-5:00

Robert Olen Butler–fiction

Patricia Smith–poetry

Group 2

Dates/time: 12/09 @2:00-5:00, 12/10-12 @10:30-1:30, 12/13 @2:00-5:00

Michele Roberts–fiction, historical fiction

Alex Shoumatoff–non fiction, memoir, biography

Group 3

Dates/time: 12/12 @2:00-5:00, 12/13-16 @7:30-10:30

Jane Smiley–fiction

Sarah Gristwood–Historical Fiction

Group 4

Dates/time: 12/10-11 @2:00-5:00, 12/13-15 @10:45-1:45

Lily Tuck–fiction

Edward Humes–non fiction, biography, memoir

Group 5

Dates/time: 12/14-15 @ 8:00 – 5:00 with a one hour lunch break

Jacquelyn Mitchard–fiction, memoir and YA

 

History of Lismore Castle

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Lismore is possibly the most spectacular castle in Ireland. It’s situated high above the Blackwater River with views of rolling, wooded hills and the Knockmealdown Mountains and beyond. It’s no wonder this site has been occupied for centuries before the first castle was ever built. There was almost certainly a settlement here before Lismore Abbey was built in the 7th century, as the Irish name of the site, Lios Mhor, means big fort. They abbey was an important ecclesiastical center and
seat for learning up to the time of King Henry II who is reputed to have stayed here in 1171.

In 1185, Henry’s son, Prince John, made his first expedition to Ireland. During this visit he came to Lismore and ordered the construction of a “castellum”, a detached fort or fortlet used as a watch tower or signal station. And when John became King of England he handed the castle over to the church and it was used as a Bishop’s Palace until 1589, when it was leased to Sir Walter Raleigh, who later purchased it. When Raleigh was imprisoned for High Treason in 1602, he was forced to sell Lismore Castle, along with 42,000 acres, for £1500 to Richard Boyle, who became the first Earl of Cork, often referred to as the “first colonial millionaire.”

When Boyle came to Ireland in 1588 he had little more than twenty-seven pounds in his pocket, but proceeded to make his fortune from a number of endeavors, including iron-smelting and linen-weaving industries, as well as being appointed to various government positions. Oliver Cromwell is reported to have said of Richard Boyle, ‘If there had been an Earl of Cork in every province it would have been impossible for the Irish to have raised a rebellion.’

Upon purchasing Lismore, Boyle made it his primary residence and set about to transform the simple keep into a magnificent residence. Boyle is responsible for the layout of the estate as it’s seen today, which included the addition of a castellated outer wall, the Riding Gate, an impressive courtyard and additional apartments. Inside, the apartments were lavishly decorated with fretwork plaster ceilings and hanging tapestries of embroidered silk and velvet. Also within the walls of Lismore, Boyle also built a remarkable family, which included fifteen children, seven girls and eight boys.

Sixth son, another Richard, known as Richard “the Rich,” was born in 1612. In August 1624, at just eleven years and ten months of age, he was knighted. He then set forth on a Grand Tour with an annual allowance of £1500…roughly £743,000 in today’s money. That’s quite a sum for a twelve year old.

Under the command of Lord Castlehaven, the castle was sacked during the Cromwellian War when forces stormed through Lismore in 1645. When the castle descended to Richard Jr., he became the 2nd Earl of Cork and also held the titles of 1st Earl of Burlington, Lord High Treasurer of the Kingdom of Ireland, Viscount Boyle of Kinalmeaky, Baron of Bandon Bridge and the 1st Baron Clifford of Lanesborough in York England. Upon taking possession, Richard set about to make the castle habitable again, but neither he or his successors lived in the castle again, having moved to Youghal in County Cork.

The first Earl must have been very proud of his surviving progeny. His daughters entered into wealthy marriages, and of his surviving sons, two others made names for themselves in Irish and British history. Along with the sixth son’s accomplishments, the eleventh son, Roger (named for his first brother who died at 9 years of age) was a noted British soldier and statesman. He was created Baron of Broghill in 1627, fought in the Irish Confederate Wars, subsequently becoming known for his antagonism toward Irish Catholics and their political aspirations. In 1660 he became the first Earl of Orrery. Roger was also a noted playwright and writer on 17th century warfare.

As well, the first Earl’s fourteenth child, Robert, was born in 1627. He became an Irish theologian, natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, inventor and gentleman scientists who was noted for his works in physics and chemistry. Robert was best known for the formulation of Boyle’s Law, one of several gas laws and a special case of the ideal gas law. He is regarded today as the Father of Modern Chemistry. Among his works, the 1661 publication of The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.

The Boyle’s owned many properties, including Chiswick House, Burlington House, Bolton abbey and Londesborough Hall, until 1753 when they were acquired by the Cavendish family. Daughter of the 4th Earl of Cork, Lady Charlotte Boyle, married William Cavendish, 4th Duke of Devonshire and future Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland. These properties were part of Charlotte’s dowry. Their son, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, carried out improvements and restorations at Lismore, which included the stunning arched bridge over the River Blackwater in 1775, the year preceding the American Revolution.

The Sixth Duke of Devonshire, William Cavendish, was known as the Bachelor Duke and is largely responsible for the castle’s present appearance, which has been described as a “fashionable quasi-feudal ultra-regal fortress,” including using Derbyshire stone from England. Of all of the Boyle estates, Lismore was always the Duke’s favorite. His love of the estate grew into a passion and dedicated much of his time to the preservation and updating of the estate. The Duke was a favorite patron of Charles Dickens, William Thackeray and Joseph Paxton, the latter who joined the Duke’s estate as an under gardener in 1823. They became great friends over the years, the Duke often consulting with Paxton before making any changes to the castle. Paxton was a botanist, inventor, engineer, architect, town planner and railway promoter, as well as an organizer in the Crimean War who went onto become a Liberal member of Parliament. Tsar Nicholas the first of Russia knighted Paxton in 1844 and later knighted once more in 1851 by Queen Victoria. In that same year, Paxton designed London’s Crystal Palace, which was subsequently in a fire in 1936. Paxton’s Tower at Lismore more is a stunning memorial to the influence he had on the appearance of the castle today.

During the last great restoration of the 1850s, the Duke hired J.G.Crace of London, a leading maker of Gothic Revival furniture, to transform the ruins of the chapel in the old Bishop’s Palace into a medieval-style banqueting hall that included a huge stained glass window, choir stalls and Gothic stenciling on the walls and roof timbers. The chimney piece was exhibited at the Medieval Court of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 before being installed at Lismore.

Following the Bachelor Duke’s passing, Adele Astaire married Lord Charles Cavendish, son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire, and lived in the castle until the Duke’s death in 1944. She then returned to America, but she continued to return to Lismore for a month every summer, often traveling with her famous dancing brother Fred. She continued to use the castle until her own death in 1981.

Lismore is still owned by the Dukes of Devonshire, but it’s only lived in part of the year. The present duke is Peregrine Andrew Morny Cavendish, the 12th Duke of Devonshire who was born in 1944, and currently lives on the family’s Bolton Abbey estate in England. His son, William Burlington, maintains an apartment in the castle and converted the derelict west wing in 2006. It’s now open as an art gallery.

The incredible gardens at Lismore Castle are open to the public. They’re divided into two very different sections. The Upper Garden is a stunning example of a 17th century walled garden. It was first constructed in 1605 by Richard Boyle, first Earl of Cork. The outer wall and terraces remain intact, though plantings have changed to suit those living in the castle. Visitors will see espaliers of fruit trees, herb beds and vegetable plots along with stunning flowers, which are cut and brought into the house.

The Lower Garden was mostly designed in the 19th century for the sixth Duke of Devonshire. This is an informal garden with shrubs, trees and lawns. The Yew Avenue dates back to perhaps the 17th century, if not earlier when the Bishop’s Palace was still occupied.

Both gardens are set within seven acres within the castle walls. Visitors enter through the Riding Gate. The Lower Garden is to the right. The Upper Garden is accessed by crossing the gatehouse and exiting on the other side of the main driveway into the estate.

December 9 – 16, 2013, Abroad Writers’ Conference will be holding a conference at Lismore Castle. authors joining us are: Pulitzer Prize Winners, Robert Olen Butler, Edward Humes, Jane Smiley and Junot Diaz; National Book Award winner, Lily Tuck; Best Selling Authors, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Alex Shoumatoff and others to be announced.

These Jet Jewels by Laura Glen Louis

 


Poetry Review by Jane Downs

 

THESE JET JEWELS

 

Some, like elephants, by Laura Glen Louis, El Leon Literary Press, Berkeley, California, 2010, 28 pages, $15.00 paperback.

 

Some, like elephants, circle the ground

They sniff every inch the downed, and glean. (p.21)

 

The elegies and laments in this chapbook explore in musical and unsparing language the deaths of four people who touched Laura Louis’s life deeply. In the title poem, “Some, like elephants,”  mourning takes many forms—“Some slash the sky…some walk from town to town…some rage at the moon.”  Like the elephants, Louis chooses to circle the specter of death in an unflinching attempt to glean meaning. The elegies offer remembrance and praise but also bring both Louis and the reader closer to an acceptance of what is inevitable and ultimately unknowable.

 

In the first poem, “An Attempt,” death almost becomes a lover in the opening stanza.

 

I’d not lived till I’d felt the singe

of Death’s hot breath as He rushed past

Were His touch not so chill a hover

I’d have sworn He was my lover (p.3)

 

“An Attempt” begins as a formal sonnet then breaks down into forms defined by Louis’s own experience of death and language.

 

But elegy and lament

—these jet jewels—

have no set arrangement.

For honoring the dead there are no rules (p. 3)

 

The image of elegy as a “jet jewel” conflates death with something both precious and outlasting human life expectancy.  Jewels are made of minerals mined from the earth. They are cut and polished for clarity and brilliance just like the words in Louis’s poems. The image also alludes to the book’s many references to stones beginning with the book’s cover photograph, taken by Louis, where stones resemble speckled eggs. These allusions continue until the final poem, “The hour of the stone.” These stones are in contrast to the motif of wings that first appears in the poem, “Alight.”

 

Below the hawk

one other sent,

low and sleek,

wings folded arrow, (9)

At the end of “An Attempt,” Louis questions her right to “write of the day/they died, or the way.”  She justifies herself by asking another question that can only be answered by her own refusal to believe there is no meaning in death. “If their loss did not intelligence give/why then did we send them forth?”

 

The longest poem, “A Burden of Wings, Agnes 1984-2005” elegizes a young woman who committed suicide.  Told in four sections, the first three parts are the narrative of Louis’s brief and keenly felt encounter with an old boyfriend’s daughter and her reaction to the daughter’s suicide at age twenty-one. This is Louis’s most intensely felt and personal elegy. At their first meeting Louis says,

 

She came skittering across the road like a waterbird

some massive-winged creature on impossible legs

What use, legs? She was built for soaring (p. 15)

 

Here, Louis refers to the nature of Agnes’s undisclosed mental illness. Louis’s identification with the young woman is passionately felt. After all, Agnes could have been her daughter.

 

We fell on one another like long lost kin

Her harp/my piano, my cloth/her clay (p. 15)

 

Look, we wore the same size glove

Both made things with our hands, for love

Found self in silence, and solace at the fount (p. 16)

 

The poem shifts to the day of Agnes’s funeral where Louis thinks of Agnes’s illness as “no more visible than the blood in a ballerina’s slipper” and then to Louis’s meditations on Agnes and the day of the suicide. The incantatory final fourth section breaks away from the narrative and takes flight.  Japanese tradition holds that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted the wish of health and a long life. The section begins with “Thousand Cranes, the shop was called,” a place where Louis and Agnes shopped. Louis touches on myth, the solace of repetitive work, and the missed opportunity to impart her own wisdom that might have saved Agnes.

 

Fold, bend

colored squares

six by six by six by six

A thousand folds, a thousand bends

A thousand more, a thousand cranes  (p.19)

 

In the second part of the quartet, a coffin contains Agnes’s body six feet under. The “waterbird” of the first part of the quartet reappears as a paper crane. Louis attempts to contain Agnes’s death between the folds of origami wings. She also gives Agnes the graceful flight of cranes.  A thousand folds, bends, and cranes serve to push the boundaries of Agnes’s death outward, not just in flight, but to encompass thousands of deaths. The poem ends with Louis’s regret that “I know how to fold the crane. I/ could easily have taught her.”

 

Louis’s poems contain tenderness, honesty, and a gentle humor.  In the final poem she ruminates about times she escaped her own death.

 

Sixteen,

nearly stepped into the path

of a MACK, walking

while reading Abe Kobo

Ah—to be undone by truth

and beauty (Really,

not a bad way to go) (p.28)

 

 

In the last stanza of the book Louis says, “…let me not die from a lack/of heart, or of a failure to communicate.”  By writing this book Louis assures that this particular death will not come to pass.

FLOWER PEPPER by Britt Tisdale


FLOWER PEPPER

Hua Jiao (花椒). Szechwan pepper, literally flower pepper. The outer pod of the tiny fruit widely grown and consumed in Asia as a spice; produces on the tongue a tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation like the effect of carbonated drinks or a mild electrical current; numbs the tongue in preparation for hot spice.

His name was Mao. “Like the dictator?” I asked when my Chinese mother first told me about the young man, before I met him and the black hair fell across his eyes, curtaining their coldness. I remember how he bowed low to the ground. If I’d had more wherewithal, I’d have known right away that something was amiss. But I did not. I was barely twenty, new to Shangai, transfixed by his movement, sinuous as a tiger. When we sat for dinner, I sneaked glances at his angled face through the white dumpling’s steam as he gouged it with a chopstick and muddied it with soy. He felt immediately familiar to me; back then, I didn’t realize that what I recognized in him was the pepper, so like my own at the time—all pepper, no flower. I remain in country to this day to protect my sons from the pepper they receive at Mao’s hand. But let me back up.
My name is Hua Jiao, flower pepper. These days, though on the outside I look like every other old woman in China, on my inside I am more aligned with my American name, Gracie, given me by my adoptive parents who brought me as a baby to the United States, specifically, to the deep South where the same white church is found on every corner, and Thankful Baptist is practically a franchise. I ought to be thankful, they often reminded me, the American parents who changed my name. To their thinking, it was doing me a favor to rescue me from China, to grant me American citizenship, an intact family, opportunities. The mom had longed for a child, unable to conceive her own, so she hurled herself into my rescue with frenetic intensity. Oh, how I resisted! To my mind, America was like the new mom’s smile—painted on, pasted on, red like fake love. How I longed to wipe that smile from her face! I used to imagine the red mouth gaping wide, stretching over the top of her head, the smile itself swallowing her whole.

“How can you call China home?” the mom complained when I did not list her in a family tree project my sophomore year of high school, instead detailing various branches of the Chinese lineage I’d spent the previous summer researching. “You lived there for one year when you were a tiny baby. One year! You are fifteen years old, Gracie, you can’t possibly remember.” That’s where she was wrong. I did remember, played it out in my mind like the old-fashioned film reels Mr. Lesh showed us in third period history. I suppose it was my flair for drama that dredged up one particular memory as a series of grainy celluloid squares, but I knew it was real: the winding black staircase, stretching round and round, reaching to what felt like the heavens; up, up, up, the sensation of my baby face, my tummy, buoyed with excitement to see my Chinese mother. I squirmed in the foreign arms of the American mom, struggled against them, beat them with frantic fists, and I felt the moment she gave up, hold loosened, tension released. I clawed toward the wooden door with its green, peeling paint, thrust my small body at the familiar face peering from behind a taught chain as I sputtered in Mandarin—the language of comfort, of rightness, of home.

I clutched my Chinese family tree drawing and, with the particular angst only a teenager can muster, narrowed my dark eyes at the American mom, my Asian eyes that would never be big and wide like her blue ones. “It helps to know what’s not home, as a basis for comparison.” I flung the words at her like darts. The counselor had a fancy label she put on me—Reactive Attachment Disorder; all I knew was I felt lonely and displaced, that I craved to fit in. Against all reason, I attributed every distress to the event that occurred when I was thirteen months old, when the adoptive mom took me from my true mother. My weapon-words hit their target, and I knew it. I did feel a prickle of remorse when I glimpsed the pain welling in those Miss America eyes, but I turned away—from her, from compassion—flung long black hair over my shoulder, the hair I brushed five hundred strokes a day, and rinsed with rice water the way it was described in the books I borrowed from the library on my American library card, books like Traditional Chinese Beauty Secrets and Timeless Herbs for Timeless Beauty. I knew it ground the mom’s nerves like pearl powder when she’d enter the kitchen laden with shopping bags and find me digging chopsticks in a rice bowl, poring over a volume on folding origami or Chinese writing.

“Can’t you just try?” was her constant refrain. Try—such a loaded word. Try what? To be her real daughter? Try encompassed conformity, fitting in, blending like American cheese, processed until it was formless and runny, without taste or texture.

“The kids at school probably think she doesn’t even speak English,” said my brother Ryan one day as he stood at the kitchen counter making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He was also adopted, and figured he could identify with my issues, considered it his right, his requirement even, to tease me. But I knew even he did not understand, for his adoption was domestic, his skin white as flour.

“Ryan!” The mom hated it when he made comments like that.

He licked peanut butter from the knife. “What? If she’d talk, they wouldn’t think that.”

“Gracie Smith, you are an American citizen,” said the mom. “Why can’t you accept that?”

Once, I discovered a crumpled adoption brochure, Oriental Children in American Homes, stuffed in the back of a kitchen drawer. I smoothed it out on the breakfast table and read my own care instructions as if I were a new puppy. The pamphlet explained how my parents should help me understand and embrace my Asian heritage. I found the following listed under Examples:


  • Celebrate Chinese holidays
  • Incorporate traditional Chinese foods
  • Introduce other adopted Chinese children

Others afflicted with the yellow skin. Only from library books did I learn my coloring was referred to in that way—yellow, like a water-stained book page, or vinegar, or urine. My parents didn’t refer to it at all. They acted as if I were a regular old part of the family along with Ryan, who was in my opinion the most truth-telling of all when he called us The Kids My Parents Bought.

Even as I neared  the end of high school, the American mom still sat on the edge of my bed at night, tucked in the covers, kissed my forehead, as if holding onto this ritual kindness like an incantation would somehow break through my resistance. I remember how she’d smile at me hopefully, like a balloon filled with too much air, ready to pop. I stared, brushed away her hand as it tucked the hair behind my ear, rolled my face toward the wall. She must’ve worked hard to keep her expression serene, judging by the weeping I heard through the air vents after she’d turn off my light and go upstairs to my dad. I heard my name in between sobs. It made me feel better if she felt as miserable as I did, if her stomach, like mine, churned and roiled and never settled. I felt no empathy for her as I went to sleep listening to her cry.

It must have been pure exasperation that made the American parents agree to the foreign exchange plan I concocted my junior year at Georgia State. I thought of the old adoption brochure as I spread out study abroad pamphlets on the breakfast table during a weekend home from school. The dad rifled through the literature with characteristic impartiality; he’d always attempted to straddle the divide between the mom and me. “Shanghai? Don’t you want to go somewhere more, I don’t know, cultural? Shanghai is quite westernized, honey, you’re always talking about exploring your heritage.” He popped open a Diet Coke, and scratched his head.

The mom folded a paper napkin and placed it beneath his soda can. By the time I was in college, her eyes had taken on a permanent narrowness ironically like my own. She seemed to have given up, perhaps considering her opportunity to win relationship with me lost once I moved out of the house. She looked directly at me as if in challenge, and said to my dad, “She’s considering Shanghai only.” I did not look away, failing to realize that the very directness of my gaze proved just how American I really was. “She wants to find her mother,” said the mom, her voice acrid with resentment. With mixed satisfaction and regret, I realized that, in her eyes, I had indeed reverted to Hua Jiao.

I whipped my hair so it sheeted down my back, and announced, “Actually, I plan to live with my mother.” They both gaped. Such simple people, I thought. What possessed them  to travel all the way to Shanghai to pluck me out in the first place? I was sure they’d only considered the international adoption since it was church-sponsored and -approved, the congregation raising money to shrink wrap, plasticize, evangelicalize me into their very own Mulan doll. “I have been in touch with my mother for several months now. She wants me to come.” I hoped the words would cut.

The lines between the mom’s eyebrows deepened into trenches as she frowned. “How—how did you find her?”

“Not so hard when she was trying to find me, too,” I said, my defiance stinking like rotten meat.

She said nothing. She was so quiet, so still.

The dad had many logistical questions, playing peacemaker, ignoring the relational carnage all around him. “I’m sure that’s a fine arrangement, explore your roots, long as you don’t let the school work slip.” He bent back over a brochure. “Fudan University? Is it accredited? If I’m paying for classes, they’d better be worth something in America.”

I think, at that point, she realized—the American mom who knew me better than I was willing to admit. Believe it or not, the intention wasn’t formed in me, not yet. When I departed the United States, I was packed for two quarters, return flight booked for just before summer vacation.

When I arrived in Shanghai, my Chinese mother did not pick me up at the airport. Instead, she sent her driver who stood in the line with a placard marked Hua Jiao. I was not surprised my mother had a driver; I’d already learned from her Evita-like account of the past two decades not to expect the old front door with the peeling, green paint. Her current husband was an investment banker who seemingly provided all she could want. I soon learned the two things he could not provide: 1.) a son, and 2.) social prominence attainable only through blood relation. My Chinese mother was determined to acquire both.

“Xie xie,” I murmured to the driver outside the airport—thank you—as he hoisted my bags into the trunk of the black car. He smiled, nodded, but remained silent as he opened the door, ushered me into the back seat. As we traveled along the highway into the city, the scene looked like something from an apocalyptic movie, smog close around us, blocking the sun. Clumps of buildings grew denser, until we were passing one city center after another, like twenty Atlantas all crammed into one—futuristic in shining glass and steel. I clutched the seat with both hands as horns blared and drivers zoomed around us as if in amusement park bumper cars. Even with the windows up, I was exposed to the rotten egg stench of burning coal and diesel, mixed with the rancid smell of sewage which collected on the street where men peed out in the open.

When I was delivered from the jarring sounds and smells of the street to my mother’s door inside a thick-walled compound, I floated on waves of jet-lag. I think they provided a buffer to the strangeness of her welcome—the way she swooped in, pulled off my boots, exchanged them for house slippers as the driver deposited my bags in the marble foyer. She sat me at the tall kitchen counter, and brewed green tea that resembled a mug full of grass clippings. She was all business. That’s what I could not process, this detached air about her. Had I been willing to see it, I’d have realized from the first that she lacked true comfort, true nurture. Certainly, she cared for my physical needs, but her underlying agenda was never really hidden. For my part, I was fighting the tide of my entire life up to that point, what I stubbornly perceived as the lack of true mother-love, and I was determined to realize my dream of belonging in Shanghai. That night, I was pleased when my mother fed me hot wonton soup along with the tea, ushered me to a pillowy, down-covered bed in my own suite with a private bath. It wasn’t until the next morning, when I woke to car horns and smog-diffused sunlight, that I realized what had been lacking: My mother had received me perfunctorily, like a visitor to a bed-and-breakfast, instead of like the daughter she hadn’t seen in nineteen years. Despite the spell cast by my determination, I realized there ought to have been at least some ceremony to our reunion.

I brought my inquiries to breakfast. My mother was busy in the kitchen, having breakfasted already on a meal prepared by the ayi who arrived daily to look after the housework. Ayi had set a place for me at the counter with chopsticks and white china. She worked quietly at the sink while my mother chattered to me in Mandarin; having discovered I’d studied the language, she’d decreed full immersion. I sat on the stool before the sparkling white place setting, still bleary from the time change. I asked bluntly in English, “Why did you give me up?”

She paused only momentarily, holding in the air a thin, brown string with which she was tying a potted orchid to a stick of bamboo. I stared at the cord and thought how incomprehensible it was that our two bodies had once been bound together. “Of course you know why. Only one child, no waste it on girl.” She made this remark with no hint of apology, and returned her attention to binding the orchid. When I remained silent, she looked up at me again. She smiled shrewdly, her teeth evidencing a lack of dental care which belied the image she projected with her tailored clothing and her jewels. “I like we try again.”

And I—I took the crumb she offered, and called it a feast.

Classes soon began at Fudan University where I relished in the anonymity of physically blending in with other students on the quad. I made a few friends, young women who took pains to avoid any personal topic over bowls of noodles in the cafeteria, and who covered their mouths when they smiled. In comparison, I felt myself brash, loud, aggressive. At home, my Chinese mother instituted what she considered a subtle program of filing away my American ways as if shaving an unsightly callous, scheduling every bit of my free time not spent sleeping or studying. Her curriculum was quite as intentional as the university’s: teaching me the proper way to serve tea; making treks to the history museum; going over nuances of social decorum; visiting the hairdresser, the spa, even the dermatologist who erased traces of sun exposure from my face. She stocked my bathroom with date oil for shiny hair, and skin cream with crushed pearl for whiteness. All my life I’d sought these things by myself; to suddenly have my own mother taking care of me felt heavenly.

“Your name,” she said, telling me what I’d longed to know. “Hua Jiao. You are numbing spice. Use Chinese manners as flower, before pepper.” She rubbed cream into my feet, bent forward, clucked at their large size.

The root of her care for me was not, of course, love, but something far more selfish. You see, she knew Mao. For good reason, she chose him as her entrée into the prominent Sung family, rather than his staid elder brother who held strictly to custom, and married early to a girl of good breeding. My mother knew of Mao’s travels—philandering in foreign countries, despising the requirements of social position set out by his parents. She guessed correctly that my American upbringing would not put off this young man, but rather intrigue him. As for me, if I were supposed to act out the meaning of my name, it also acted upon me: after several months of preparation, when it was time to meet Mao, my palate was sufficiently numb.

The night I met Mao was also the first time I met my mother’s husband. She’d planned the dinner months prior to coincide with her husband’s birthday, a time she knew he’d return to Shanghai from overseas. She needed him to effect a gray presence in the host’s place at table—the illusion of a traditional, patriarchal household of the type which would prove impossible if he really lived daily with my mother. I stood at the top of the stairs waiting for the Sung family’s arrival. Even now, I recall how I smoothed the silk of my body-hugging qípáo, the traditional Chinese banquet dress; it was red, for luck. I listened for my cue. My mother’d instructed me to wait upstairs while she welcomed our guests, and the ayi took their wraps. In the lull after the initial greetings, I began my slow descent, step by careful step, as we’d rehearsed—me thinking the rehearsal was to teach me Chinese customs, her knowing it was to advertise her merchandise.

My eyes met Mao’s right away, his so dark they were nearly black. I forgot to feign demure as I held his gaze descending the full curve of the staircase. When I reached the bottom step, he bowed before I had the chance, long hair falling across his face. He reached for my hand,—now soft from the skin treatments—turned it over, kissed the palm. When I looked toward his parents, their faces had reddened in embarrassment at their son’s breach of etiquette. I felt my cheeks flame accordingly beneath the pearl powder.

Throughout all eight courses of the meal—stir-fried prawns, shark fins soup, roasted suckling pig, sea coconut with jelly—Mao continued to run roughshod over the norms of decorum my mother had so carefully taught me. He seemed to do it with intention, cavalier in flaunting his boorishness. Although he had been directed to the seat across from mine, he chose to sit right beside me, whispering in my ear that the other side of the table was much too far away. If conversation were an art, that night Mao was like a child scrawling black crayon across a beautiful canvas, further shaming his parents. By the time the dumplings were served, his remarks were zinging toward his family with particular cruelty as if he wanted for them shi mianzi, to lose face.

“My father used to be profitable in exports.” Mao said as he bit into the suckling pig. “Until he put me in charge of client relations.”

The elder Sung did not speak, but his eyes flared warning.

Mao laughed humorlessly. “We all know that business has gone to hell.”

By the time the ayi brought in the tray of rice liquor, Mao was resting his hand on my bare thigh, which had been revealed by the long slit on the side of my qípáo. I was shocked at his brazenness and, at the same time, thrilled by the attention being paid me by this handsome young man from a good Chinese family. I chose to interpret his churlishness as verve.

Without ceremony, Mao suddenly shoved back his chair and extended his hand to me. “Shall we?” he asked in his barely accented English. My eyes flew to my mother’s. She gave a barely discernible nod, though her husband frowned. Mao’s parents looked stricken, but remained silent, and stared at their plates.

I smiled up at this man who both frightened and compelled me. I took his hand. He stalked toward the French doors, led me onto the balcony. I wanted him to want me, but by that point even I was feeling some alarm. Once outside, I could see past the thick wall of the compound to the lighted shops on the street side where, even at that late hour, vendors sold whole fish and yellow bags of roasted chestnuts. The stench of garbage was strong in the night air.

“Hua Jiao,” Mao said. He ran his hand through my hair.

I cast down my eyes, tried to back up, create proper distance between his body and mine. I felt the silk, tight against my hips.

Mao gripped the back of my neck. He pushed me against the balcony rail in a gesture that was on the knife-edge of hostile. I tensed, raised my hands, pushed against his chest.

But then he said, “You are my flower.” He kissed me, and I kissed him back.

My mother clapped her hands in glee when I announced my engagement to Mao. The rondo to her finely tuned symphony proceeded allegro, solidifying her place at the top tier of Shanghainese society and providing her, finally, with a son.

I wrote to my parents back in the States that I would be taking a break from classes, as I had decided to get married. I half-expected, perhaps even hoped, they’d fly to China in protest, and drag me back home with them; as I have said, I think the mom had guessed, even before I left home, that it would come to this. But I received from my parents only lukewarm congratulations, along with thanks for my future in-laws’ offer of plane tickets to attend the wedding celebration. Within months, preparations had been made. My marriage to Sung Mao was imminent.

I met my parents at the airport. Though my black hair blended in with the crowd of Chinese at the exit from customs, the mom spotted me immediately. She dropped the handle of her large rolling suitcase and ran through the receiving line to embrace me. “Gracie.” I surprised myself by leaning into the softness of the name. Then she held me at arms’ length. She frowned. “What happened to your cheek?”

My hand flew to cover a bruise which had purpled beneath my makeup. Neither my Chinese mother nor my future mother-in-law had mentioned it, so I’d naively believed it to be concealed. My eyes darted to my dad who’d picked up the dropped bag, to my brother Ryan who trailed behind him, then back to the mom. My mom. Her blue eyes widened as she cupped my cheeks ever so gently, and her right thumb softly covered the mark. “Gracie.”

Britt Tisdale has written for publications including LeadershipGroupIgnite Your FaithRock & SlingMaggie Mae, and a forthcoming southern writers anthology. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a MFA (Fiction) in August 2012, and continues her work as a mental health counselor/creativity consultant in downtown Orlando, Fla. Britt has written a first novel, Arden Alive, and begun work on a second. You can find her at www.alivestudios.net.