Full house at Aster Cafe's River Room

Writers of color showcased at Gazillion Strong’s AWP event

Through poetry, fiction, memoir, and spoken word, 11 literary artists took part in Gazillion Strong Presents: Writers of Color Showcase, at Aster Cafe in Minneapolis on Wednesday, April 8. Co-sponsored by Boneshaker Books, Moon Palace Books, and Gazillion Strong, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit organization, the event is one of several free, off-site events being held in conjunction with the 2015 Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, April 8 through 11. More than 12,000 writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers are expected to attend the national annual event in this year’s host city, Minneapolis. To the delight of a packed house, Kao Kalia Yang, acclaimed author of The Late Homecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, read an excerpt from her forthcoming volume, The Song Poet, a memoir about her father, Bee Yang, a Hmong man working in the factories of Minnesota. The Song Poet will be published by Metropolitan Books in 2016.Kao Kalia YangOther highlights included readings by Los Angeles-based Nicky Sa-eun Schildkraut and Rachel Rostad, a Macalester student and recipient of an Academy Of American Poets Prize, both of whom explore their exaperiences as Korean American adoptees, among other themes, in their poetry and other genres. Nicky Sa-eun SchildkrautMatthew Salesses offered a sample of his forthcoming novel, The Hundred Year Flood, the story of a young man who escapes to Prague in the wake of his uncle’s suicide and 9/11.Matthew SalessesKeno Evol, a poet, educator, spoken-word artist, fashion designer, revolutionist, dancer, and director rocked the stage with a dynamic spoken word performance. Evol has developed curriculum for Crack The Page. Shift The Stage. Continue Reading

Pictured from left to right are volunteers with the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop at a reading at Hamline University on September 20, 2014: Dain Ingebretson, Kathryn Savage, Anika Eide, Peter Pearson, Nico Taranovsky, Jennifer Bowen Hicks, Elizabeth Tannen, Deborah Appleman, Mary Stein, Nell Ubbelohde, Scott Carpenter, Wendy Brown-Baez, and Bill Breen. Photo by Henry Breen. 

Beyond Bars Reading Brings to Light Writing from American Prisons

The United States has the highest rate of incarceration on earth, with 2.3 million people imprisoned in 2013—one in every 100 adults. Yet in spite of the prevalence of imprisonment in our country, many Americans see prison inmates as very separate, an Other they find easy to vilify or at the very least forget about and ignore. On Wednesday, April 8, 2015, 7 PM at Minneapolis Central Library, writers who teach creative writing in prisons will share some of their students’ work at Beyond Bars: Voices of Incarceration, a free, public reading offering a rare chance to see past stereotypes into the hearts and minds of imprisoned writers. The Beyond Bars reading is one of a dizzying array of readings and other programs taking place in Minneapolis April 8-11 as part of AWP, the annual gathering of writers and creative writing teachers sponsored by the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. The AWP conference is happening in Minnesota for the first time ever this year. According to event co-organizer Peter Pearson, the Beyond Bars reading will feature student work from the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop; Hennepin County Library Outreach Services; the Women’s Writing Project in Ramsey County, the North Carolina-based program Revised Sentences; Literature on Lockdown, a regular feature from The Missouri Review literary journal, and Words Without Walls, a program based at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. Other participants may be added closer to the event. Readers will include Patrick Jones, a librarian with Hennepin County, Sarah Shotland with Words Without Walls, Cody Leutgens of Revised Sentences, and Diego Vazquez, Jr. with the Women’s Writing Project. Jennifer Bowen Hicks, the founder of the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop, will also read, along with writers Kate Shuknecht and Mike Alberti. It was an encounter at another AWP conference years ago that planted the seed for Bowen Hicks to start the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop. Continue Reading

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Top 12 Off-Site AWP Events

Twin Cities literati are gearing up for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference on April 8th-11, where we will be descended upon by authors, poets, publishers and editors from all over the country and beyond. Even if you can’t manage the $285 nonmember fee for the conference, never fear, as there are plenty of off-site events happening in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, which are open to the public. These readings, parties and events are great places to soak up some of the energy of AWP and possibly rub elbows with some great writers both from Minnesota and from far away places. There’s a full list of off-site events on AWP’s website, but here’s a list of some of the ones we’re most excited about. Riot Act Reading Series presents AWP Calvalcade of Stars in conjunction with Punk Hostage Press in Conjunction with Hot Lava and the Black Forest InnThursday, April 9th at 7 p.m. at the Black Forest Inn, 1 E. 26th St.Facebook Event There’s no reason that literary events have to be stuffy. Case in point, the Twin Cities’ own Riot Act Reading Series, which revels in debauchery as part of their aesthetic. Continue Reading

MN State Senator John Marty and author/comedian Lorna Landvik appear on the current edition of Democratic Visions. 

Videos: Lorna Landvik & John Marty

Author Lorna Landvik reveals that her recent novel best to Best to Laugh borrows some from her own life in Hollywood.  Minnesota’s most gifted humorist, like the Korean-American protagonist of her book, had been a stand-up comedy hopeful in L.A. who supported herself with a series of eclectic temp jobs and a residential complex injected with LaLa Land characters and urban legend.  Landvik also tells of her real-life adventures on the 3,700 miles long Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament from L.A. to D.C. in 1986.  Landvik’s quick, sharp and easy wit is a delight that is rarely seen on home flatscreens. I consider her Dem Vis appearance a satisfying stew of sly insight on being Minnesotan. State Senator John Marty, Minnesota’s leading progressive law maker, here makes a solid case to Democratic Visions host Tim O’Brien for SF 890 the “Worker Dignity Bill.”  Marty (DFL, Roseville) and co-author Senator Chris Eaton (DFL, Brooklyn Center) proposed legislation would extend the phased-in minimum wage increase; increase the working family credit to exceed the federal earned income tax; provide increased child care assistance to all low-income workers and, among other actions, would reform MinnCare.  SF 890 was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Human Services and Housing on February 16 where it awaits further action. The full version of the current Democratic Visions includes a short segment on the St. Olaf College dedication of its memorial to civil rights martyr James Reeb.  Rev. Reeb, a 1950 graduate of the Northfield school, was murdered in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago.  He and two other activist clergy had been beaten on the evening of the “Turnaround Tuesday”  march led by Dr. Martin Luther King.  This demonstration had concluded with prayer on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on the highway to Montgomery, the Alabama State Capitol. Lorna Landvik on Dem Vis -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hv7-quYbWXg John Marty on Dem Vis -https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CG_Gp8M90U0 Full Democratic Visions programhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAgWRNasNKo CABLE TV SCHEDULEEden Prairie, Richfield, Minnetonka, Edina and Hopkins Comcast Channel 15 – Saturdays 2:00 p.m.. Sundays 9 p.m., Mondays 10 p.m., Wednesdays 5:30 p.m., Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 — Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 — Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.  Program is streamed at the MTN website during cablecasts.Champlin, Anoka,Ramsey, Andover – QCTV Channel 15.  Click here for schedule. Democratic Visions is produced by Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Edina volunteers at the Bloomington Community Access TV studio. Continue Reading

Diverse though our experiences may be, we were all children once, and I believe that reading children's literature helps us to see ... through the lens of that commonality. - Linda LeGarde Grover

Learning in traditional ways from Native children’s literature

n Ojibwe tradition, as well as in all other Native cultures that I know of, womanhood from birth until the return to the spirit world is a sacred state, honored and respected. Countless generations of storytelling, combined with observation and experience, are the foundation of Ojibwe teaching and learning. For girls, this has been intertwined with preparation for the passages of the female life; the words themselves, ikwe for woman and kwesens (“small woman”) for girl, indicate a meaningful seamlessness in the cosmology of tribal womanhood. The position of Ojibwe woman is equal in status and power to that of Ojibwe men; this concept is so basic to our worldview that it is rarely even stated. Many Native women feel that our cultural role, including our gifts and resulting obligations, is beyond the constructs of majority American feminism, that “indigenous feminism” as defined by majority feminists is not empowering and inclusive so much as simply missing the point. We are Native women; our culture honors womanhood. The students in the American Indian Women course that I teach, both Native and non-Native, have sometimes struggled to understand (and to reconcile with some preconceived stereotypes) the manifestations of female power and position in cultures unfamiliar to them. As their teacher – a storyteller and an older Ojibwe woman – I thought that they might find it helpful to apply their own experience and knowledge to their questions by stepping back to their childhood days through an examination of Native children’s literature. Diverse though our experiences may be, we were all children once, and I believe that reading children’s literature helps us to see and learn through the lens of that commonality. Continue Reading

Minnesota Writer Sherrie Fernandez-Williams

Writing toward hope: How New Yorker Sherrie Fernandez-Williams found her voice in Minnesota

Sherrie Fernandez-Williams was a child of few words. That’s surprising since words are now her stock-in-trade. “I was slow to speak,” says the author of the new memoir, “Soft.” “I used to create an imaginary world in my room, and I actually came to story before I came to words.” Her mother, a single parent raising eight children in a housing project in the Brooklyn section of New York City, was pretty happy that her youngest child was content to play in silence. But Fernandez-Williams is no longer silent. She discovered the joy of words as a third-grader when she was assigned to write a short composition. Continue Reading