Filed under: Nonfiction, Opinion, Post by: Paula B, Reviews, Uncategorized
It’s now been almost 72 hours since Seattle’s own Sherman Alexie closed the annual national celebration of all things writerly known as AWP. But writers everywhere, and this writer in particular, remain jetlagged and not just because of the 12-hour trips each way for those of us in the east coast.
(Ahem, if you don’t know anything about AWP check out Peter Mountford’s Guide to AWP for People Who Don’t Know What AWP Is. His Useful Stereotypes are especially on-point: example 1. Earnest Poet, example 2. Mid Level Writer You’ve Never Heard Of. )
This was my second year attending AWP and I have to say I was a little less dazed and confused but just as googly-eyed as the first time.
There was running into my undergraduate prof., Allen Gee, at the top of the fourth floor escalator on registration day, then later in a rather intense panel on Writing Fictional Characters of Another Race led by the phenomenal Randa Jarrar and Mat Johnson among others. (I chased them both after the panel and hope to feature them on StS soon!)
While womanning the StS table at the bookfair along with StS Asst. Poetry Editor, Alicia P, I saw and invited (manhandled-fawned) over the Great Joy Harjo whom we featured back in November, and yes there were pictures and yes this is us bragging.
There was the joy in Joy Castro‘s packed panel on Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family which offered touching and surprisingly humorous tales of the logistical and emotional negotiations endured when writing about everything from incest and sex addition to adoption and parenting and autism. StS will work tirelessly to bring Joy to you in the near future.
Dorothy Allison was greatly missed at Lambda’s 25 for 25, but at least I was able to see Butterfly Boy’s Rigoberto Gonzalez in action. Then, there was the pleasure of a first-time reading with Chang-Rae Lee and the discovery of the lazy charm of Chris Abani. (You had to be there! Were you? Tell us about it in the comments! But rest assured Abani would approve of my qualifier.)
Finding and sitting next to former StS Blog Editor, Sheila McMullin, at The (She) Devil Inside: Unlikeable Women in Fiction, where Samantha Chang and others referred to Edith Wharton and Claire Messud’s work to illustrate how Likeable = Respectable in literature and in life, was a special treat. And an impromptu reunion with StS featured poet Javier Huerta in the convention lobby and later at a ConTinta/CantoMundo offsite reading moved me so, it’ll have to be its own post.
So l’ll stop here and not bore you with any more of my literary stalking, or with what could very well have been three George Saunders sightings –Asst. Fiction Editor, Julie D. is my witness–except we couldn’t be sure. We were too tired and either non or under-inebriated to approach him, though he was, we swear, no more than 5 feet away all three times.
Will continue AWP-detoxing for weeks to come. Bear with us.
Filed under: Announcements, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Post by: Sheryl R, Uncategorized
For those of you in Seattle for the AWP conference, don’t forget the So to Speak reading today, Saturday, March 1, from 3 PM to 5 PM! Our reading features poetry by Laura-Gray Street, fiction by Jessica Barksdale, and nonfiction by Tim Denevi and takes place at the Pine Box, a restaurant and bar located only a half-mile from the Washington State Convention Center at 1600 Melrose Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122. We’d love to celebrate great feminist writing and have a drink with you! Most importantly, you’re not going to want to miss the line-up!
Filed under: Announcements, Nonfiction, Opinion, Poetry, Politics, Post by: Sheila M, Uncategorized
Former So to Speak Poetry and Blog Editor Sheila McMullin on the history of the StS blog and using online platforms to advocate for social change:
On March 8, 2011 I launched So to Speak’s blog with a simple one line post. No in-depth journal and provocative claim, just a quick message with the beginning word “Celebrating.” With this word began So to Speak’s interaction as an online open forum for discussing feminist issues as they pertain to art and artist communities. In those early days our editorial circle saw the blog as a supplement to the print journal, providing a space for our contributors to speak in broader terms on their creative process and artistic and feminist intentions in relation to their printed pieces. The blog was an opportunity for the community at large to engage with our activist-driven organization and find in us a community of peers who understand the importance of celebrating feminist dialogue, a safe space to explore identity relations, questions, and build new relations. It was a space for those curious to learn. A place for those skeptical to debate. It is no secret that women and those who don’t identify as cisgender are unproportionally harassed and denigrated on the internet. In launching a blog dedicated to feminism in the arts, I with Blog Co-editor Alyse Knorr were fulfilling a lack we saw in So to Speak’s organizational structure, and stepping up to fight against the notion that women aren’t allowed to play. Of course feminists and budding feminists waiting for a call to action were on the internet. And So to Speak needed to find them and bring them together. We believed that to meet the needs of our feminist allies we had a firm obligation to participate in the online community.
Today StS is still all these things under the care of the current editorial circle, and better, more expansive, more in-depth, more provocative. I am eternally grateful to Blog Editor Sheryl Rivett and her Assistant Blog Editor Paula Beltran for continuing and fostering StS’s online presence. One thing many people don’t really yet understand about encouraging online communities through dedicated and consistent blogging is that it takes a whole lot of energy and a s**t-ton of time. With open minds embracing online opportunities So to Speak has been able to be more of an engaged feminist advocacy group expanding its reach to promote gender parity in the arts and in our communities at large.
That beginning celebratory word on StS’s fresh blog, jumpstarted my personal endeavors of becoming more involved in utilizing web presences for social causes within organizations dedicated to advancing gender parity. I want to celebrate creative bravery. These days many of us engage in online communities through various social media sites that encourage surface level and sensationalist interactions. With sites like Facebook the tendency becomes to showcase only the most thrilling, titillating side of ourselves. These kinds of interactions can at times be a reprieve or fun, but if taken too seriously can interrupt crucial opportunities for empathetic human interaction. Similarly to how hyper-sexualized advertisements and media affect our collective conscious on definitions of “natural” and “beauty,” our most popular social media sites can actually make us feel more lonely, more isolated. Through these sites we have been trained to compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel, a well-worn yet accurate phrase. I don’t deny that sites like Facebook and Twitter play huge roles in providing low-budget socially-conscious groups opportunities to advertise, promote, and connect. These are often the hubs individuals go to see what’s the latest and check updates on news and events. But sites like these can also encourage an ego that denies the validity of another’s identity because of the lack of an ultimate goal of interacting in offline spheres. We forget the avatar on our screens represents a beating human heart, with just as many complex emotions and needs as we have.
I like using the internet very much. It is fun, serves a knowledge-based purpose, and connects me to like-minded folks and family and friends all over the globe. And while the internet allows me to stay in touch with people I love and explore the world without necessarily leaving home, it is still incredibly important to remember that the surface level of interaction while on the internet is through an inanimate object.
As I have become more involved in online communities I understand more the complete necessity for my online presence to directly influence my offline actions. The internet is a tool to make my material and physical life more fulfilling, more understanding, more substantial. So, for AWP 2014 I wanted to bring together creative literary thinkers who actively engage online in platforms they either built themselves because they saw a lack and wanted to fill that space with positive community-focused interaction or significantly monitor and update a unique platform with a socially conscious action-orientated mission for creative thinkers who want to learn to engage online in meaningful, nourishing ways and to talk about how to do so in productively.
On Saturday, March 1, the panelists and I will discuss building unique online platforms, or participating in already existing platforms to shape a cyber presence that provokes actual social change and propagates dissemination of educational materials in the physical world. We’ll discuss and explore opportunities for using our online platforms to evolve typical trite conversations, to change language, to vocalize inclusivity, reform out-of-date sexist traditions, and push out of comfort zones to empower individuals. Through our conversation, I hope we can come together to celebrate our unique visions and encourage users to create an internet that moves away from trolling, harassment, anxiety-provoking sites and moves toward representing the diverse cultures we participate in and the diverse human beings we are.
For you, in the cybersphere, who are ready to start using your online platform to advocate for social change consider what it means to blog with integrity, and focus on opportunities for offline activism by providing links at the end of your posts to others’ organizations or groups who argue for similar productivity you do and could benefit from a charitable donation or some type of volunteer action.
Now go write and share!
Headed to AWP? Be sure to check out the panel that Sheila is moderating!
So You Want to Build a Platform: But What is It & Why Do You Need One? Women Writers & Editors Speak Out (Sheila McMullin, Rosebud Ben-Oni, Molly Gaudry, Sheryl Rivett, Arisa White)
Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
Saturday, March 1, 2014
10:30 am to 11:45 am
While women’s voices are underrepresented in print publishing, online activism can balance the scales. Cultivating an online presence is not as easy as DIY and shameless self-promotion tales make it look. Creative thinkers, to highlight minority and emerging voices, develop unique online resources to build ever-expanding communities and celebrate accomplishments. Panelists explore empowerment, utility of web-based writing, maintaining professionalism, and ways to keep viewers returning and sharing.
Filed under: Announcements, Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Post by: Sheryl R, Uncategorized
The staff of So to Speak would like to invite you to our offsite reading at the 2014 AWP conference in Seattle, Washington!
Our multi-genre reading will be held on Saturday, March 1 (the last day of the conference) from 3 PM to 5 PM and will feature poetry by Laura-Gray Street, fiction by Jessica Barksdale, and nonfiction by Tim Denevi. The reading will take place at the Pine Box, a restaurant and bar located only a half-mile from the Washington State Convention Center at 1600 Melrose Avenue, Seattle, Washington 98122. We’d love to celebrate great feminist writing and have a drink with you! Most importantly, you’re not going to want to miss this line-up:
Laura-Gray Street’s work has appeared in Many Mountains Moving, The Human Genre Project, Isotope, Gargoyle, From the Fishouse, ISLE, Shenandoah, Meridian, Blackbird, Poetry Daily, The Notre Dame Review, The Greensboro Review, and elsewhere; selected by George Garrett for Best New Poets 2005; commissioned by the New York Festival of Song; and included in Pivot Points, an exhibition of poets and painters that traveled internationally. Street has received a Poetry Fellowship from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the Editors’ Prize in Poetry fromIsotope, the Emerging Writer in Poetry Award for the Southern Women Writers Conference, the Dana Award in Poetry, and The Greensboro Review’s Annual Literary Award in Poetry, and fellowships at the VCCA and the Artist House at St. Mary’s College in Maryland.
Jessica Barksdale is the author of twelve traditionally published novels, including Her Daughter’s Eyes and When You Believe. Her novel Becca’s Best is forthcoming from Ghostwoods Books. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in Salt Hill Journal, The Coachella Review, Carve Magazine, Mason’s Road, and So to Speak. She is a professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension.
Tim Denevi’s first book, Hyper, a memoir and history of ADHD, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2014. He received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa, his MA in English from the University of Hawaii, and his BA from Northwestern University. Recently he was awarded fellowships by the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts.
Can’t wait to see you there!
Filed under: Christina C, Fiction, Nonfiction, Opinion, Uncategorized
By Christina Elaine Collins
The mute woman found in myths and folklore embodies issues of marginalization, subjection, and self-determination. She is an intriguing figure because she invokes both empathy and irritation, embodying both women’s experiences with silence and women’s resentment of that silence. Folk narratives offer a particularly compelling context for exploring silence as a feminist issue. Folk narratives exhibit patterns in character roles and gendered themes, and female silence is easily identifiable as one such pattern. It can be detected as early as 8 AD, when the Roman poet Ovid retold the Greek myth of Philomela in Book VI of the Metamorphoses, a fifteen-volume narrative poem.
In lines 401-674 of Book VI, Ovid explains how Philomela is raped by her sister’s husband, king Tereus of Thrace. When Philomela threatens to tell the world of his rape, Tereus violently cuts off her tongue, rapes her again, and locks her in a cabin in the woods. Thinking her absolutely silenced, he tells his wife, Procne, that her sister is dead. Philomela, undeterred, passes a year in the cabin weaving “purple signs” onto a tapestry that “tells the story of her wrongs” (Ovid 329). She gives this tapestry to her attendant, who delivers it to Procne. The enraged queen releases her sister and brings her back to her palace, where she seeks revenge on her husband by killing their son and serving the body to him as a meal. While eating, Tereus asks to see his son, and the sisters delight in their triumph; Procne informs him that his son is in his stomach, and Philomela bursts onto the scene with his son’s head. As Tereus attempts to kill the sisters, all three are transformed into birds. According to Ovid, Tereus becomes a hoopoe, Procne a swallow, and Philomela, most significantly, a nightingale (329-335). The nightingale’s song is particularly plaintive and mournful, and this transformation gives Philomela a voice to mourn her real voice and the violation that its loss represents.
Philomela is unmistakably a forerunner for the mute protagonists of folk and fairy tales that we see from the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. Philomela’s voice, like that of the sister in the “The Six Swans” and the mermaid in “The Little Mermaid,” is something valuable that has been taken from her. The very power of her voice threatens Tereus, when she tells him, “I myself will cast shame aside and proclaim what you have done. If I should have the chance, I would go where people throng and tell it” (Ovid 327). This threat is what prompts Tereus to remove her tongue, her organ of speech, so that her “speechless lips can give no token of her wrongs” (329). The removal is violent, forceful, and clearly unwanted. “But he seized her tongue with pincers, as it protested against the outrage, calling ever on the name of her father and struggling to speak, and cut it off with his merciless blade” (327). The tongue itself, the physical manifestation of Philomela’s voice, becomes the subject of the narrative as it clings in vain to speech, “calling” and “struggling to speak.” The very fact that it “protested” indicates Philomela’s dissent and proves that her muteness is forced upon her completely against her will.
This tale not only describes a woman’s enforced silence, but also presents her perseverance in spite of losing her physical voice, as we will see in European folk and fairy tales of mute women. In fact, the myth of Philomela presents the prototype for stories of women who devise other ways of speaking when they cannot speak physically. Without a physical voice, Philomela resorts to storytelling through weaving; she writes her story because she cannot speak it. Elissa Marder argues that “[t]his text invites a feminist reading […] because it establishes a relationship between the experience of the violation and access to language” (160). According to Marder, Philomela “writes out of necessity and in response to violation”; that is, she discovers a secondary way to manifest her voice in the absence of the conventional means. Karen E. Rowe similarly points out that “Philomela’s trick reflects the ‘trickiness’ of weaving, its uncanny ability to make meaning out of inarticulate matter, to make silent material speak” (56). Rowe thus emphasizes the importance of voice as well as silence in Philomela’s story, viewing the myth as a paradigm for understanding the female voice in folklore and fairy tale. By weaving tales and singing songs, Philomela not only embodies the later archetype of the female storyteller, but also “breaks her enforced silence by speaking in another mode—through a craft presumed to be harmlessly domestic, as fairy tales would also be regarded in later centuries” (57).
Rowe’s concept of “enforced silence” is the key link between the tale of Philomela and later European tales like “The Six Swans” and “The Little Mermaid.” In those tales, silence is also imposed on the protagonist. The major difference is that Philomela is brutally robbed of her voice by another character, whereas “The Six Swans” and “The Little Mermaid” concern women who appear to give up their voices voluntarily. This difference is trivial in light of the shared theme of female silence, which always involves some degree of coercion, raising the overarching questions of voice and autonomy, questions that remain pertinent to feminists today. We must not forget Philomela.
Marder, Elissa. “Disarticulated Voices: Feminism and Philomela.” Language and Liberation: Feminism, Philosophy, and Language. Eds. Christina Hendricks and Kelly Oliver. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. 149-169.
Ovid. Metamorphoses: Books I-VIII. Trans. Frank Justus Miller. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press; London: Heinemann, 1977.
Rowe, Karen E. “To Spin a Yarn: The Female Voice in Folklore and Fairy Tale.” In Fairy Tales and Society: Illusion, Allusion, and Paradigm. Ed. Ruth B. Bottigheimer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986. 53-74.
Christina Elaine Collins is a Pushcart Prize-nominated fiction writer, an MFA candidate and English instructor at George Mason University, and So to Speak’s assistant editor. Her fiction can be found in various literary journals such as Jabberwock Review, Poiesis Review, Weave Magazine, and Rose Red Review. She has been a writer-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts as well as the Art Commune program in Armenia. You can find her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CElaineCollins.