Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Robin Oliveira lectures at Pacific residency

upstreet Fiction Editor Robin Oliveira delivered a lecture on “Demystifying the Editorial Process” during the Pacific University MFA in Writing Program Winter Residency at Seaside, Oregon, on Saturday 17 January. Robin’s lecture began with an overview of upstreet’s history, policy and practices, including submission guidelines and the qualifications of the editorial staff. She described the submission-evaluation process, giving a brief statement about what each of the genre editors is looking for.

Regarding fiction, Robin emphasized her belief that character is desire. “If your characters don’t want something,” she said, “there is nothing for the reader to hold on to, and ultimately, no reason for the story. The conflict has to be up front, beginning with line one. A character wants something, and is up against some person, thing, or other obstacle that prevents him from obtaining it.” She went on to discuss various story elements such as scene, dialogue, subtext, time, and drama at the sentence level, citing Douglas Glover’s essay, “The Drama of Grammar,” in the Canadian journal The New Quarterly (No. 105, 2006).

Robin concluded by saying that she thought the biggest challenge for writing students is story structure. “When I’m reading a shortlisted story,” she said, “I discover that it is almost always the ending that fails. When you are editing your stories, check the through line. Boil down your story to its complication, action and resolution to see if it has the architecture to carry it through to a successful end. A successful story is a story in which a character comes to grips with his or her desire through a series of actions in which emotional change takes place that is of significance to the character, and therefore to the reader.” She went on to discuss three stories—Charles D’Ambrosio’s “The Point,” Tim O'Brien’s “The Things They Carried,” and Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”—reducing the stories to their architecture to illustrate successful resolutions.

Pacific University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing is a low-residency program in which each student creates a portfolio of fiction, nonfiction or poetry under the supervision of writer advisors. The Atlantic Monthly’s 2007/08 Fiction Issue rated the Pacific program as one of the nation’s top five low-residency MFA in Writing programs, along with the programs of Antioch University, Bennington College, Vermont College of Fine Arts, and Warren Wilson College.

Robin Oliveira, who lives in Seattle, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel-in-progress, The Last Beautiful Day, was awarded the 2007 James Jones First Novel Fellowship. An excerpt from the novel appears in the 2008 issue of Provincetown Arts Magazine. The upcoming upstreet number five is the third issue for which Robin has served as Fiction Editor.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Boisseau poetry collection
available for pre-ordering

A Sunday in God-Years (Arkansas, 2009), a poetry collection by Michelle Boisseau which will be released February 1, is now available for pre-ordering through Barnes & Noble, Borders, Target, and Amazon.com, and also by local independent booksellers and directly from the publisher. A poem from the book, “Recriminating Rags of Sunlight,” appears in upstreet number four (p. 75).

A winner of the 2009 University of Arkansas Press Poetry Series, A Sunday in God-Years takes its title from the notion that if we consider ourselves inside the long stretch of geologic time, human history happens in the blink of God’s eye as he rolls over during a Sunday nap. The book is centered on the long poem “A Reckoning,” made up of fifteen shorter sections (some of them documents like wills and runaway slave notices). This long poem tries to reckon and recognize the sticky webs that bind the heirs of those who were slave holders (like the Boisseaus) and of those who were held as slaves.

“In every line on every page of this beautiful and ambitious book, the present comprehends the past ‘the way the sidewalk burns hours after / the sun’s gone down.’ Unsentimental, stunningly alive in sound as well as sense, compassionate, unflinchingly honest, A Sunday in God-Years is a flat out wonderful book, one of the best I’ve read in years.”—Alan Shapiro, author of Old War: Poems

“Even a ‘ragged chunk of limestone’ opens up expanses of geological, historical, and familial time in the artful hands of Michelle Boisseau, who revisits her slave-owning ancestry for a reckoning. . . . Her poems are a unique blend of sensuality, rue, fresh insight, engaging candor, anguish, wicked humor, taut lyricism and a pungent dash of caustic.”—Eleanor Wilner, author of
The Girl with Bees in Her Hair

“The title of this splendid book reflects the tonal complexity of these richly layered poems. . . . Boisseau sounds like nobody else and her vision demands our attention.”—Mark Jarman, author of Epistles: Poems

Michelle Boisseau is Professor of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she also serves as associate editor of BkMk Press. She is the author of three books of poetry: No Private Life; Understory, winner of the Samuel French Morse Prize; and Trembling Air, a PEN/USA finalist. She is also co-author (with Randall Mann and Robert Wallace) of the popular book Writing Poems (Longman, 2007), now in its seventh edition.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Greenbaum poem on Poetry Daily

“Little White Truck,” a poem by upstreet Poetry Editor Jessica Greenbaum, will appear on Poetry Daily for Monday 12 January 2009. The poem, which was originally published in the Winter 2008/2009 issue of Salamander, appears below:

Little White Truck

Because the white truck traveling the span of the Williamsburg Bridge
could be the white fastener traveling the top of a zip-lock bag,
the East River and tugs might be contained without spilling
in today’s October light, along with this new spray of trees and
picnic tables which appeared when the industrial tide of Williamsburg
went out. If these could be contained, then likewise the two cyclists,
now dismounted and steadying their bikes as they kiss, and surely
it could hold the music they heard last night eddying again
around their thoughts, and the memory of their first idea of the future
loosed when he held her in a doorway lit by cobwebs of spring rain.

©2008 Jessica Greenbaum