Friday, October 1, 2010

The Second, Welcome Rain

59º ~ beautiful sun that finally feels like an autumn sun, all slantwise and golden rather than a direct and blazing beam, the breezes have returned as well, although we still lack the relief of rain

Jon Tribble & Allison Joseph
Busy times here at the desk of the Kangaroo.  Yesterday was a second, welcome rain of poetry, (the first having been written about here), a campus visit by Jon Tribble and Allison Joseph.  In the morning, Jon and Allison represented Crab Orchard Review during "A Forum on Editorial Roles" for Banned Books Week.  While the conversation turned mostly to issues of challenges and banned books, we did have the benefit of Jon & Allison's 15 years of experience as editors of COR.  Next time, we will plan a longer session as the students were filled with questions.  I'm so proud to say that we filled the room with 40 audience members made up of faculty, staff, and students from Pulaski Tech, UCA, and UALR.  We are proving that there is an interest in creative writing in central Arkansas in both traditional and non-traditional students alike.

A few of us were lucky enough to have lunch with Allison & Jon at Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock, AR.  If you're in the area, I highly recommend this restaurant, which is owned in part by Paula Martin Morell, a local writer and editor who records her public radio program there, Tales from the South.  During lunch, several former students received great words of wisdom from J & A about MFA/PhD programs, applications, and the general literary scene in America.  All of us learned more about the behind-the-scenes action of running a book series.  One of the most important things that stuck out to me was from Jon talking about reading submissions for the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry competitions.  He said that often when a book makes the semi-finalist rounds but not the finals it is because there is a lot of promise there but the book isn't quite ready.  This is important b/c the publisher has no idea what kind of person the writer is and how he/she will respond to the working relationship between editor/writer.  Therefore, the book needs to be FINISHED and ready to go from the start, as there is not the building of relationships as there is when a book is signed outside of a competition setting.  Also, if a book makes the finals, then it is READY and if it doesn't win that round, it is 70% likely to find a home (at least that is the general statistic for books that go through the COR competition and make it to the finals).  In other words...finalist status is a GREAT step.  The eventual selection is just a matter of taste for the judge, so it becomes very subjective there.

After lunch, we let Jon and Allison off the hook for a bit and they explored Little Rock/North Little Rock.  Both have connections here, as Jon grew up here.  After completing their graduate degrees, they returned and Allison taught at UALR for a few years while Jon split his teaching between UALR and PTC.  Old home week, indeed.

My favorite!
Finally, the day culminated in Allison's most wonderful & amazing reading from her new book, My Father's Kites, out this year from the wonderful & amazing, Steel Toe Books.  We had approx. 125 students, faculty, and staff, as well as people from the community at large in attendance.  (I've learned that when putting together an event like this, one of the biggest fears is that 4 people will show up.  Swhew.  I started to relax a bit when I saw those seats filling.)  Thanks to all who attended and helped out in ways large and small.  Much praise is due to Allison for her charm and her words.  She delighted us all!  If you ever get the chance to host or attend a reading with Allison, go for it.  Her reading style is clean, clear, and most of all ENERGETIC.  At one point she sang.  As she read, her body movements became a part of the poems, but not in any distracting way.  She is the epitome of grace.  As evidence, I offer the fact that there was a line of over a dozen people waiting to buy My Father's Kites and get Allison's autograph.  And many of these were community college students, for whom book buying is a luxury.

Finally, I was so proud of our students who engaged with the reading and asked thoughtful questions during the Q & A, again proving that literary events like this are welcomed and necessary on our campus. 

As we say, in our geeky way, around the halls:  Go TEAM ENGLISH!


Sherry O'Keefe said...

wanted to let you know i appreciated you sharing this with us. small details make a difference - interesting to hear about the unknown factor of a poet working with an editor. good stuff to know.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Sherry. It was a power packed day!