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Karen Joy Fowler, Fantasy best describes our modern Bizarre World

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Karen Joy Fowler, author of five novels and two short story collections. Her short story collection, Black Glass, won The World Fantasy Award.  Fowler spent over an hour sharing her wisdom about what makes good sci fi/fantasy.

According to Fowler, many students haven’t read much contemporary sci fi or fantasy, so that when they go to write it, they rely on old tropes and standards to tell their stories.

Fowler is clear that when writing fantasy and science fiction for our contemporary world, it is important, first and foremost, to write good fiction. All standards of fiction writing need to be applied to genre fiction. Genre writers need to be able to do it all: plot, character development, setting, scene, symbolism, as well as create an original new world.

Karen Joy Fowler is very interested in fantasy and sci fi as explored through the short story. She offered several places to read quality work of this variety including: “Eclipse,” an anthology out of Australia, “Fantasy and Science Fiction” magazines, Best Of collections (but she warns, these publications can be agenda driven), “Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet,” Tor.com, and “Turkey City Lexicon,” which discusses in length the pitfalls to avoid when writing sci fi/fantasy.

Fowler says,  fantasy and sci fi do nothing but discuss contemporary issues. Fantasy is a stronger vehicle than ‘realism’ to portray “reality” because the real world is becoming more and more bizarre every day.

Fantasy and science fiction are genres of setting, first and foremost, Fowler asserts. Karen Joy Fowler offered more advice for those of us who work in these genres. When creating ‘evil people,’ keep in mind that most people who do bad things think they are doing something good. Do not promote stereotypes and prejudice. And, possibly most importantly, Fowler urges us to be creative. The future of fantasy and science fiction needs more imagination and fewer world-weary immortals.

Karen will be teaching a workshop that covers Fiction/Historical Fiction and Fantasy at Lismore Castle, December 9 – 16, 2013.

Patricia Smith was just awarded the Lenore Marshall Poetry Award

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“Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah” has just been awarded the 2013 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets for the most outstanding book of poetry published in the United States last year.

Patricia will be teaching a poetry workshop at Lismore Castle, December 9th – 16th in Ireland.

The Art of Being There: Immersion and Narrative in Nonfiction and Biography by EDWARD HUMES

Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes workshop.

The Art of Being There: Immersion and Narrative in Nonfiction and Biography

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A principal method for accomplishing this feat of turning life into narrative is immersion – the art of insinuating oneself inside a place, process, institution or person’s life, then using first-hand storytelling to reveal character, drama and import. Immersion nonfiction is about getting inside a story, in search of the insights, depth and detail that can imbue nonfiction prose with the same richness seen in great novels, and that can illustrate and expose important issues of culture, society, justice and government through highly dramatic and human narratives. Immersion writing has a storied history in America, dating back to such turn-of-the-century muckrakers as Nellie Bly and her classic “Ten Days in a Mad-House,” and continuing with such modern masters of the craft as Tracy Kidder and John McPhee. Whether your goal is short-form writing or long, 500 words or 50,000, the same approach and skills will serve a writer well.

 

This course will serve as a mini-boot camp for immersion research and narrative building. We’ll use the landscape and rich resources of our workshop setting as fodder for a series of “quick fire” research and writing exercises including:

 

— the sense of a place (treating setting as character)

 

— bringing characters to life

— interviewing 101

— using the historical to inform the present

In class we’ll analyze a series of short readings in a variety of narrative nonfiction genres, including crime, biography, environmental/nature and other specialized topics of interest to the group. We’ll explore in-depth the research methods and techniques for “getting inside,” for developing setting and character, and for building coherent narratives with strong beginnings, middles and ends while remaining true to your source material.

A Full Manuscript Critique from New York Times Bestseller Jacquelyn MItchard

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Open only to six students, #1 New York Times Bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard (‘The Deep End of the Ocean’) will host a full-manuscript intensive critique. Each student will receive advance digital copies of the other writers’ manuscripts and, at Lismore Castle, Mitchard will lead a full half-day session on each completed book of fiction or creative non-fiction. Admission to this class is based on individual manuscript potential, and application must be made well in advance of the conference in order to assure that the extra demands of a full-book seminar can be met. Mitchard also will provide a written critique with editing and revision suggestions to each participant. Contact conference organizer Nancy Gerbault for guidelines and specifics.

Jacquelyn Mitchard has written nine novels for adults, including several New York Times bestsellers and several that have enjoyed critical acclaim, recently winning Great Britain’s People Are Talking prize and, in 2002, named to the short list for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. She has written seven novels for Young Adults as well, and five children’s books, a memoir, Mother Less Child and a collection of essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship. Her essays also have been published in newspapers and magazines worldwide, widely anthologized, and incorporated into school curricula. Her reportage on educational issues facing American Indian children won the Hampton and Maggie Awards for Public Service Journalism. Mitchard’s work as part of Shadow Show, the anthology of short stories honoring her mentor, Ray Bradbury, currently is nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Audie Awards. She served on the Fiction jury for the 2003 National Book Awards, and her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, later adapted for a feature film by Michelle Pfeiffer. Mitchard is the editor in chief and co-creator of Merit Press, a new realistic YA Fiction imprint. A Chicago native, Mitchard grew up the daughter of a plumber and a hardware store clerk who met as rodeo riders. A member of the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa tribe, she is a Distinguished Fellow at the Ragdale Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois. Mitchard taught Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction at Fairfield University and was the first Faculty Fellow at Southern New Hampshire University. Her upcoming YA novel, What We Lost in the Dark, will be published in January by Soho Teen. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.

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

Mariel Hemingway: Challenging the Stigma of Mental Illness

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November 19, 2011, McLean Hospital presented the McLean Award–the hospital’s highest honor–for her commitment to serving as a champion of mental health issues, including suicide prevention. “It’s about overcoming stigmas and giving people the permission to address that this is their life. We’ve just got to get rid of the stigma, and the shame.” Mariel Hemingway
http://youtu.be/oGhCPchPSPw

“Our families are not bad. Mental illness is not separate–it’s a part of me.  It’s now time for me to step into the shoes of helping other people with this journey.” Mariel Hemingway

Every family, even famous ones, have secrets. The Hemingways are no different.

“We were, sort of, the other American family that had this horrible curse,” says Mariel Hemingway. She compared her family to the Kennedys — but the Hemingway curse, she said, is mental illness.

Hemingway, granddaughter of acclaimed author Ernest Hemingway, explores the troubled history of her family in “Running from Crazy,” a documentary that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday. Barbara Kopple is the director; Oprah Winfrey is the executive producer.

“Knowing that there’s so much suicide and so much mental illness in my family, I’ve always kind of been ‘running from crazy,’ worried that one day I’d wake up and be in the same position,” Mariel Hemingway, 51, said at a support group for families of suicide, as shown in the film.

Mariel will be giving a talk at Lismore Castle about her family history with mental illness.

Sunday December 15th, Mariel Hemingway will be giving a four hour workshop based on her book, Running With Nature.

Running With Nature is a lifestyle, it’s about how to achieve our individual balance in life. How to alleviate depression, relieve stress and boost our daytime energy.

The information contained in her book and workshop is based upon her personal experiences and it’s not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician or other healthcare provider. Any attempt to diagnose and treat any physical condition should be done under the direction of a healthcare professional.

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