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Intern’s Post: Anna Ball and Politics and Prose

August 26, 2014

Our summer intern, Anna Ball, has headed back to the University of Maryland, where she is currently a junior.  At PR, she did everything from researching magazines and other publications, to assisting with #55’s production, to helping organize our inventory of past issues and swag. Anna  was responsible and more than competent.  

As a parting gift to PR, she wrote the essay below about reading, writing and  working at Politics and Prose, one of the key bookstore/coffee houses in the DC area.


Summer Intern Anna Ball

Summer Intern Anna Ball

As that iconic literary figure, Holden Caulfield, famously says, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.” Like many people who relate to this desire, especially those with an interest in writing something of their own, I’ve often put down a book with a million questions in mind. Where did that idea come from? Were the characters from the writer’s life? Did the writer go through something similar? What is the creator of this bound universe like? More than not, the access we have to writers is limited to what they put on the page for us, and while their ability to bear witness to the human condition is usually enough to satisfy our craving for connection, it can leave us wondering about the living person behind the words.

Before I started working in the coffee shop at Politics and Prose, DC’s favorite bookstore and literary hotspot, I didn’t have many opportunities to come face to face with established authors. The image of a successful writer as aloof or unapproachable had been planted in my younger mind and taken root (and I wouldn’t be surprised if the hand behind Holden was himself responsible). Since then, during my year and a half of supplying lattes to this thirsty community of readers, I’ve had my chance to brush shoulders with contemporary scribes (or at least to admire corners of their faces between the heads of all the fawning fans in front of me). And alas, let it be known: published authors are people, too! From the young debut novelist wiping his brow after his first reading, to the seasoned, celebrity columnist chatting softly with a friend over lunch, the writers I’ve observed from behind the counter have all been refreshingly human.

One auburn-haired woman in particular has made it clear to me just what lovely creatures auspicious authors can be. Her third novel, which came out last year, was well received, earning a Notable Book of 2013 title in the Washington Post and an interview on NPR. With her success, this bespectacled crafter of words remains grounded and startlingly normal. And let’s remember, the ultimate test of character can be found in the line at 8 AM for that first jolt of caffeine. Almost every weekday morning, after the initial rush of coffee-guzzlers, she appears calmly at the cash register for her usual drink. (Skim mocha, please!) Probably due to the razor sharp observational skills that she has transformed into a livelihood, she understands how hectic it can get behind the bar. She sets down her reusable mug and glows with patience. There is never a day when she doesn’t exude a positive energy; she always smiles warmly, looks me straight in the eye and asks me how I’m doing.

I have to admit, it took me months to figure out that this beaming regular customer was also the prized local novelist I had heard so much about. I guess it comes as no surprise—I was on the lookout for a grouch instead of an angel. I’m glad to know that one day, if I’m lucky, I can follow her example. So, now that I’ve fulfilled Holden’s dream and met the author, I’d better get to reading that book!

Issue 55 is IN and Ready for Reading!

August 19, 2014

For your end-of-summer reading, featuring the work of Leslie Pietrzyk, That Rutkowski, Mary Collins, Ashley Strosnider, Linda Parsons Marion, William Cordeiro and many others.

Our beautiful cover, "Heron," photographed by Philip Friedman

Our beautiful cover, “Heron,” photographed by Philip Friedman

A New Year and Good News

August 6, 2014

PR docks its rowboat for the season and heads back to the work of producing the literary magazine, beginning with the very good news that Editor-in-Chief  Julie Wakeman-Linn and Fiction Editor J.W. Wang will be going to AWP15. Their proposal, “Slush Pile Standouts,” was among the 500 out of 1300 proposals accepted for the conference to be held in Minneapolis in April. Read the full proposal below, and, if you’re attending the AWP, plan on joining us for this lively and informative session:     

Slush Pile Standouts: Thoughts from the Editor’s Desk. (Julie Wakeman-Linn, Mark Drew, Cara Blue Adams, Erin Hoover, J.W. Wang)

The slush pile acceptance rate at a typical literary journal is less than 1%, and frequently the editors do not read past the first page. What do editors look for, and what can writers do to give their submissions a greater chance of success? How much effect do cover letters have? This panel offers thoughts, comments, and suggestions from the editors’ point of view: what catches our attention, what are some common pitfalls, and what we love to see, and what a “dream submission” may look like.

Postcard From a Wednesday Evening

July 16, 2014

While PR floats and spins down the river in a literary inner tube, dragging her toes through ripples of possibility, she is proud to report on some of the happenings of our more active editors.

Associate Editor Marianne Szlyk sends us a link to her book review in the Philadelphia Review of Books.

Robert Giron reminds us that, and I quote his Facebook post on this,

The Gival Press Short Story Award deadline is coming up on August 8th. Prize: $1K and online publication.


Lisa Lister-Conover travelled to Ireland and back with creative writing students from George Mason University, where she teaches.

And, I, Joanna Howard, am hard at work on the essay “When Good Cats Go Bad:  How to Tell If Your Cat (or mine) Has Been Using iPhoto.”  Evidence below:




A Tease of What’s to Come. . . Soon

July 9, 2014


Electric Lit: Lanette Cadle and DMAC

July 2, 2014

PR is delighted to have Lanette Cadle, poet, Moon City Press senior editor, and Associate Professor of English at Missouri State University, share some of the work she has done at the Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC) at Ohio State University this year.  If anyone is using digital technology to further creative and critical composition, it’s Lanette.  Here’s what she has to say about her work at DMAC this year:

The Digital Media and Composition Institute at Ohio State University describes itself as a “two-week institute on the effective use of digital media in college composition classrooms,” one that lets participants “explore a range of contemporary digital literacy practices—alphabetic, visual, audio, and multimodal.” (quotes from the DMAC site ). This summer institute run by Cynthia L. Selfe and Scott Lloyd DeWitt gives composition teachers and graduate students the opportunity to intensively examine and practice multimodal composition in ways that encourage transferring those experiences to the classroom. As a DMAC participant who teaches composition, poetry and rhet/comp pedagogy for classroom teachers, my experience at DMAC served to enrich and expand my current practices into a deeper appreciation and implementation of 21st century literacies. It also served to highlight for me the similarities rather than the differences between the writing genres I teach. For example, a persuasive video uses heightened poetic tropes in its literal imagery. In the same way, a video or podcast poem uses persuasive constructions usually thought of as rhetorical to mesh image and sound with text.

Below are some examples of Lanette’s project, Concept in 90.


The Essay version:

The Poem:

And Another Poem, “In the Days of Tra-la-ing”

From Just a Blog, a post describing the process that went into the production of each video.


Reading from Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Israel/Palestine: Poets Respond at Performetry: Old Poems, New Poems, Your Poems

June 20, 2014

Associate Editor Marianne Szlyk writes about last week’s event at Bloom Bars.


One of the pleasures of living near a major city is discovering various neighborhoods and local institutions. This year I’ve begun attending Performetry: Old Poems, New Poems, Your Poems, an event held once a month at Bloom Bars, a DYI arts venue in Columbia Heights. This venue is a peaceful, old-school storefront on a quiet street parallel to 14th Street’s mix of big-box stores, hip eateries, and pedestrians with strollers and shopping bags. Unlike the cafes and restaurants that line 14th Street, Bloom Bars is alcohol-free. It is also family-friendly, and Performetry is very much a family event, run by local writers Elizabeth Bruce and Robert Michael Oliver. In fact, they provide home-cooked food (soup, bread, and vegan dessert) at their event for poets and audience members alike. The food is free although a donation of $10 is recommended for those who attend.


This past Sunday I helped to organize a reading from Before There Is Nowhere to Stand: Israel/Palestine: Poets Respond, an anthology edited by my University of Oregon poetry teacher Joan Dobbie and her niece Grace Beeler. Performetry and Bloom Bars seemed a natural setting for this reading as they are part of the poetry scene related to Split This Rock, a political-poetry festival held in D.C. every other year. Joan and I, in fact, reunited at the 2012 Split This Rock where she and other poets read from the anthology.


This time around local poets from the anthology and writers/professors from Montgomery College read from Joan and Grace’s anthology. Potomac Review associate editor Stephen Bess reminded the audience of the works’ importance before reciting the three poems that he chose. History and Women’s Studies professor Jean Freedman juxtaposed a poem by a Palestinian with one by an Israeli with one by an American.  She also wrote a song in honor of this reading, which she performs a capella. Poet and novelist Mike Maggio, also an associate editor at PR, set his two poems reflecting his experience in the Middle East, “Sunday Morning – Amman” and “Dirge,”alongside poems by other authors, including Sam Hamod’s poignant “There Must Be Something Dangerous About a Zoo in Rafah Palestine.” The engaging poet, playwright, and women’s historian Bonnie J. Morris concluded this part of the reading with her poems, one of which revealed how she chose a life of activism.


Although the audience was not large, as Sunday was Father’s Day, Performetry always provides a way for poets and poetry-lovers from different milieu to mingle and find common ground and ways to collaborate. Indeed, attending Performetry is a way to plug into the vibrant literary scene in DC, as Elizabeth and Michael also facilitate Writers on the Green Line, a literary workshop led by various local poets, and Performetry itself offers a chance for writers to perform at the open mic or even as featured writers. Elizabeth, Michael, and Sarah Pleydell are also teaching Acting for Writers Summer Intensive FLYER in B&W word June 21-Aug 16 2014 starting Saturday, June 21 and continuing through August 16 at Centronia at 1420 Columbia Rd., NW, in Columbia Heights (Washington, DC). ACTING FOR WRITERS will be a great way to engage live audiences and meet other writers in the area.

The next Performetry will be held on July 20 with Laneta J. Hill as the featured reader. The evening will also be a farewell party since she is moving to Newark, NJ. Performetry will resume in September.



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