Sunday, September 15, 2013

Call for Submissions for Issue 11: "Wonders of the World"

Chautauqua publishes writing that expresses the values of the Chautauqua Institution, broadly construed: a sense of inquiry into questions of personal, social, political, spiritual, and aesthetic importance—and when, where, and how those values and questions intersect.

Since the Institution’s founding in 1874, the Chautauqua philosophy has been that everyday life should integrate leisure, education, fine arts, and spirituality. The Chautauqua way of life encompasses all of the ways we enrich our lives: learning on vacation, leisure in work, and passion for art and life in all activities. In the pages of Chautauqua, readers will find a season between covers. Also, in keeping with the values of Chautauqua, each issue has four sections: Life of the Spirit, Life in Art, Life Lessons, and Life at Leisure.

We are now reading for Issue 11: “Wonders of the World.” Beyond your Machu Picchu or Great Pyramid vacation stories, we are also looking for the simpler wonders in life—the mysteries of love and spirituality, the small-town superheroes, the magical places less known to the outside world, inventions and discoveries that change lives, the healing power of time spent in nature, or all-night conversations with loved ones. We seek a sense of wonder that is uniquely human, containing both our susceptibility to awe and the troubling challenges that come with confronting such overwhelming phenomena—even ones of great beauty.

 Our current reading period closes November 15 (at midnight, PST).

If you are considering submitting to Chautauqua, please consider ordering the current issue or preordering the next issue here. You will get a thorough feel for the kind of writing we love—and, clearly, what we publish.

All submissions will be considered for the Editors Prizes: $500, $250, and $100 for each issue. These awards will recognize the writing we as a staff feel best captures both the issue’s theme and the spirit of the Chautauqua Institution. The first place winner will automatically be nominated for the Pushcart Prize. 

Thank you for your interest, and please do share your work with us!  We look forward to reading your work, and we thank you for allowing us that honor.   

—the editors and staff of Chautauqua

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

“Art and Science and War and Silhouettes:” A Conversation with Sarah Averill


            Sarah Averill—writer, teacher, and winner of the 2010 Chautauqua poetry contest—knows poetry.
            Like many writers, Averill grew up in a household filled with books. She cherishes memories of her father reading The Hobbit to her when she was small, and remembers growing to read “everything” on her parent’s bookshelves, regardless of the reading level or subject matter.
            “I got in trouble once in third grade,” she admits, “for bringing in a trashy romance novel.”
            Her father’s love for songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon nurtured Averill’s budding love for lyrics and wordplay. In the second grade, her grandfather presented her with a paperback Robert Frost anthology. It was her first experience with poetry. Within the same year, she wrote her own book of poetry, which she remembers fondly as being filled with “terribly deep metaphors” that she considered “mind-blowing, like ‘life is a river’ and ‘my heart is a clock.”
            Growing up, Averill also developed a deep fascination with science. She appreciated “collecting and observing weird things,” and enjoyed going to museums. Once, she even created her own museum in her backyard by filling empty concrete cylinders with “neat things… [like arrangements of broken glass, pine cones, antlers, [and] plants” that she discovered by exploring in the woods. Now, she says, she considers switching from teaching history to museum education.
            “I really just love showing people things they wouldn’t have noticed and getting the excited about them,” she says. “That’s what I love about teaching and writing as well.”
            As a Buffalo native, Averill heard often of the Chautauqua Institution—the performances, the art, the music—but the first time she heard of the writers’ program was during a poetry workshop with Philip Terman in 2010. She hadn’t attempted to publish anything since high school, but she allowed fellow poet Fred Zirm to “talk her into [entering.]” Much to her surprise, her poem “How Beautifully the light Includes These Things”—written about the Children’s Museum in Utica, NY—won first place. It was featured in The Chautauqua Daily, the local newsletter, and went on to be published in Chautauqua.
            Averill is working toward her MFA in creative writing at Goddard in Vermont. She cites as inspirations her mentors while there, Kenny Fries and Elena Georgiou. She also enjoys the work of e e cummings, Mark Doty, and Louise Gluck, among others.
            “One of my mentors… told me to get up and read poetry every morning, and I think that’s really helpful,” she says.
            Averill is working on two collections of poetry. The Throwing-Away Doll is based loosely on the experiences of her grandparents, who lived in Japan after WWII, and The Capture of Snow is about “art and science and war and silhouettes,” she explains. She is currently adapting a series of poems featured in Snow into a biographical novel about Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, a Vermont farmer who created a way to photograph snowflakes.
            “I’m most inspired by the process of creation and how that drives people who create and discover—artists, musicians, scientists,” she says. “I think that the more random and esoteric knowledge you have, the more you have to draw from in your art.” 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"If It Makes You Cringe, Hit Delete:" Words of Wisdom from Anna Scotti


            A thousand miles from the quiet lake by the Chautauqua Institution, Anna Scotti lives in the blur of sunlight and sound that is Hollywood, California. By day, she is an English teacher; at night, a writer whose contributions to Chautauqua have made the journal what it is today.
            She began her writing career at a young age, when at thirteen her English teacher submitted one of Scotti’s short stories to The New Yorker. Now, she admits to having been “really surprised” that it was rejected, but her early experience with the publishing industry did nothing to diminish her self-confidence.
            “[My English teacher] Miss Jenal’s confidence gave me confidence in myself,” she says.
            Scotti continued to study writing in college, reading and sharing random poems with classmates and friends. Her first published work, however, was prose—and born out of a nightmare. While living and working in San Francisco, a man saw Scotti on the street. He began to stalk her, going so far as to move into her apartment building for the purpose of threatening her. When he was finally arrested, she says, the police found an “apartment full of weapons.” In need of a fresh start, Scotti moved to Los Angeles, but she couldn’t shake the memory of the stalker from her mind. A co-worker suggested that she write the story down. As a way to cope, Scotti parlayed the experience into her first novel, Sweet Dreams, My Darling. She sent it to her uncle, an agent in New York, and published it under the pseudonym Anne Joseph.
            While she enjoyed working on novels and poetry, Scotti’s agent thought that her voice was better suited to magazine writing. He recommended that she pursue a job for a brand-new magazine, Buzz, where she wrote an anonymous column, “Whispers.” There, Scotti talked about restaurants, nightclubs, and celebrity news around LA. She also wrote profiles for magazines like Redbook and Ladies Home Journal.
            “I specialized in rather boring celebrity and style fluff, and also in what’s called ‘real life drama,’” she says. “Crime, disease-of-the-month, adoptions gone wrong…interesting stuff, but also very difficult. I was never able to distance myself from my subjects as real journalists learn to.”
            Scotti stumbled across Chautauqua in an unusual way—she found the copy of the journal at a yard sale, and was immediately hooked. She was “intrigued” by the division of the book into sections, and “worked up the courage” to submit a handful of poems. She ended up being featured in multiple volumes. Writing talent runs in the family, as well; Scotti’s daughter will be featured in our Emerging Voices edition this June.
            Now, Scotti works as a history and English teacher of middle and high school students, people who she says inspire her, “in a very real—and… completely unsaccharine way.”
            “My style as a writing teacher is somewhat infamous, but also effective,” she confesses. “I mostly just stand over the desk and yell, ‘Not good enough!  Make it better!’” And the kids deliver. They walk away from Scotti’s classes with both a desire to learn and the understanding that creative work is never perfect the first time around.
            “It took me a long time,” she says of the writing craft, “to learn something very simple:  if it makes you cringe, hit delete.”
            Because she wanted to write in a variety of genres, Scotti began her career with a pen name. Now, however, she is using Anna Scotti, for everything from the young adult novel—Big and Bad and How I Got My Life! Back—in the works to her next project, an as-yet unpublished collection of poetry called The Proximity of the Sun. The only exception to the no-pseudonym rule is when Scotti writes “occasional poetry,” a time-honored tradition where a writer puts together a poem for a special occasion like a birth or a wedding.
            “Writing an occasional poem is like solving a puzzle, and it’s good exercise,” says Scotti. “It takes the poet outside of herself and outside of that favorite pastime of all poets, contemplating our own navels.”

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"A Moral Guideline:" Interview with Richard Krawiec


Good morning, Chautauquans! We're continuing our series of interviews with some of our valued contributors. Today's post features Richard Krawiec, an award-winning novelist, playwright, and poet.
            The image of an award-winning author brings to mind many different clich├ęs: black coffee, suits, paneled offices. Richard Krawiec comes attached to another word: prison.
            Krawiec, author of Time Sharing and Faith in What?, was born in Massachusetts, in a small neighborhood “one street over from the projects.” As a child, he spent Saturday mornings in the library, reading books like The Pokey Little Puppy and the Hardy Boys series, and afternoons out playing with his friends. Many of those friends were from rough areas, and from a young age, Krawiec knew that teachers and other adults saw him as different than his classmates.
            “[My classmates] had problems that were vastly different. Their fathers were fighting in the streets… [I recognized that] when I walked into a school, I was treated as if I mattered,” he says. “They were treated as if they had to be put up with.”
            As Krawiec grew, he became attuned to the differences between his life and his friends’, conscious of the distinction that the adults in his life saw between him and the people closest to him.
            “[There was] a lot of stuff I witnessed that I think people who were in the same classes missed,” he says. As a result, he adds, his work slowly began to resemble a sort of “moral guideline.”
            Krawiec earned his Master’s degree from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied all forms of creative writing. He discovered Chautauqua while searching for anthologies and magazines to which to submit, and enjoyed the quality of the work. A prolific writer, he has released several short stories, two novels, five plays, and two collections of poetry over the course of his career. His poetry collection She Hands Me the Razor received a special honor: the title poem was nominated for a Pushcart prize. Even as Krawiec worked on his own stories and poetry, however, he was driven by a desire to give voices to people that had none—people like the kids he grew up with.
            Before the 1990s, literacy programs—like the ones taught in prisons and homeless shelters around the country—focused solely on reading. As time went by, however, the classes began to expand to include writing. This was where Krawiec entered. He was part of a group that went into prisons, homeless shelters, and centers for at-risk youth and adults to teach writing. As time passed, the work with the prisoners began to inspire him. Krawiec’s play, Here, There, or In the Air, began as a workshop exercise with women on death row in Raleigh, NC. 
            “I could have ended up [in prison],” he says, describing an alternate future for himself as a child. “I understand where [the prisoners] are coming from… They’re people. Their lives matter.”
            Krawiec’s independent press, the Jacar Press, functions to supply poetry to those who perhaps are not immersed in the world of academia. The contributors also teach writing workshops, either in low-cost online classes or in their own communities. Currently, he says, they are seeking writers to work with young people. As for future projects—well, he has “a million of them.”
            And it's a good thing, too. His refreshingly honest demeanor and dedication to the voiceless confirm—the world could certainly use more of Richard Krawiec. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mark Liebenow: Writer, Hiker, Chautauquan

            Hello, Chautauquans! We're starting off our blog with profiles of some of the authors that we have featured over the years. 
            To many, nature folds into whatever is leftover past the world of brick houses and computer screens. To Mark Liebenow, nature is much more than a convenient background: it is something sacred.
            Growing up in Wisconsin, Liebenow was an avid outdoorsman. As a child in a farming community, “the world was [his] backyard.” He credits his time in the Boy Scouts of America with teaching him survival skills and instilling within a great love for nature. He also loved to read. While he favored books like the Hardy Boys series, he also read “anything that had words—magazines, cereal boxes, [and] the warning labels on pillows.” At the age of 10, he began to summarize his Boy Scout troop’s meetings for the newspaper. He quickly discovered that the meetings sounded similar, and so he attempted to find new ways to make the material sound interesting. In high school, he discovered journalism and poetry. In his sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Liebenow changed his major from pre-med to journalism and never looked back.
            “Writing,” he explains, “is how I have always understood the world.”
            Liebenow first discovered Chautauqua during college. His grandmother nominated him for a scholarship to act as the Wisconsin representative over the summer. That year, he attended as many seminars, classes, and workshops in literature and writing as he could at the Chautauqua grounds. After one memorable event, he even spoke with acclaimed broadcast journalist Ted Koppel, who said that a journalist “needed to be a specialist in one area of knowledge and be able to write.” As a journalism major with an interest in nature and religion, Liebenow took this advice to heart. Liebenow pondered Koppel’s words while exploring the lake and woods of Chautauqua and found that he felt called to go to seminary.
            For Liebenow, nature, writing, and spirituality are linked.
            “Nature is where I go when I feel disconnected… I feel the presence of the Other, the Power that flows through the Universe.  Hiking… renews the creative spark inside and shakes me out of the boxes of complacency I’ve settled into.”
            In 2001, Liebenow’s family suffered a terrible blow. His wife died, suddenly and prematurely, and he could not find any books that rang true in terms of his feelings about his loss. To cope, he threw himself into writing. Prior to his wife’s death, Liebenow had written three books on theology. Now he tried something different. His fourth book, Mountains of Light: Seasons of Reflection in Yosemite, is an exploration of the nature activist John Muir’s interpretations of the park. It features “geology, botany, and biology” of Yosemite while trailing a steady thread of Liebenow’s grief over his loss.
            While researching the Yosemite book, Liebenow spent a lot of time hiking alone. That way, he kept himself free from distractions and was able to “listen to nature.” The process, he says, “added a measure of danger,” but opened his mind to the sanctity of the natural world. A chapter from the Yosemite manuscript went on to win the Chautauqua Prize for Nonfiction, be named one of Best American Essays 2012’s notable essays, and receive a Pushcart Prize nomination.
            Liebenow also worked on a second manuscript alongside Mountains of Light: a grief manuscript about his late wife. An essay from the work, “Tinkering with Grief in the Woods,” won the Literal Latte Essay Award in 2012.
            Nonfiction is not Liebenow’s only genre. He is also an accomplished poet and beginning playwright. His poetry has been adapted into song by composers like John Orfe and Stephen Heinemann. He even worked as a lyricist for jazz musician Robert Levy.
            “Where all this will lead, I don’t know,” he admits, in keeping with his adventurous spirit, “but it’s exciting.”