Reading as a Means to Clearer Prose

by Fawn McManigal

We writers hear the recommendation all the time: read everything you can get your hands on, then read some more. Maybe you’ve also been advised to read outside the genre in which you write: articles, obituaries, recipes, stats. Read! Read! Read! I agree. Read the works of others. But don’t forget to read your own work--out loud, in front of a group of peers.

If you’re the type of person who reads aloud during revision, congratulations. Hearing our words permits us to see the language on the page more clearly. This practice of reading to ourselves, however, does not afford the same level of care and precision that occurs when we anticipate reading that same piece to an audience.

This truth became clear when I was asked to read one of my essays at a reception for the journal in which it had been published. During mock readings of this piece, I was surprised by the number of times I stopped reading because something disrupted the story’s flow. Several sentences required that I move a clause, add or remove a comma, or insert a more suitable word--all to a piece that I, and the editor of the journal, had considered finished. Had I edited in this way prior to submission, the essay would have been tighter.

Though the act of reading your work in front of your peers may be terrifying, it won’t ruin you. For those feeling hesitant, try to start simply. Select a venue where authors are limited to roughly five minutes of reading time. It takes about two minutes to read one page of prose aloud. Choose a piece or number of poems you think you can read, without rushing, in the specified amount of time. Then practice. Time yourself. If you don’t finish in time, edit the work to fit or choose another piece. Practice some more. Then go rock your reading. Afterward, you’ll want to do it again.

Bloomsday, Revisited

By Kori Waring

June 16th was Bloomsday, the only internationally celebrated holiday honoring one particular work of art: James Joyce’s Ulysses. One hundred and ten years to the day after Joyce’s novel takes place, literary nerds of a certain breed congregated in cities across the world to dress up like this:

And do things like this:

image.jpg

And eat this for lunch:

gorgonzola sandwich, burgundy

In belated celebration of Bloomsday, I want to share a list I compiled—in a totally normal, non-obsessive way—of portmanteau words (i.e. words made by combining two or more words) that James Joyce invented for the third chapter of Ulysses (“Proteus”). For equally normal, non-obsessive reasons, I’ve organized them not alphabetically, but by parts of speech, and can tell you that of the sixty-four invented portmanteaux I counted, 55% are adjectives, 39% are nouns, 3% are verbs, and 3% are adverbs. Also, because there were so many adjectives, I broke those down by their constituent parts of speech too. Y’know. Like you do.

Adjectives:

(noun+participle) noun:

“…strandentwining cable of all flesh” 
“…whiteheaped corn”
“…whitemaned seahorses”
“…skeweyed Walter”
“…chalkscrawled backdoors”
“…bloodbeaked prows” 
“…peacocktwittering lashes”
“…milkoozing fruits”
“…fourworded wavespeech”
“…allwombing tomb”

(noun+adjective) noun: 
“…hundredheaded rabble”
“…froggreen wormwood”
“…saucestained plates”
“…gumheavy serpentplants”
“…windraw face”

(adjective/adverb+participle) noun: 
“…lowskimming gull”
“…seawardpointed ears”
“…longlashed eyes”

(verb+adverb) noun
“…pushedback chairs”
“…turnedup trousers”

(noun+noun) noun:
“…whiterose ivory”

noun+adjective:
snotgreen
bluesilver
basiliskeyed
saltwhite
saltblue

noun+participle: 
redpanting
moondrawn
horsenostrilled
ghostcandled

adjective+participle: 
sanguineflowered
myriadislanded

adjective+adjective: 
allbright

3+ word adjectives: 
brightwindbridled
shellcocoacoloured 

Nouns:
seaspawn
seawrack
ghostwoman
contransmagnificandjewbangtantiality
razorshells
facebones
stoneheaps
whalemeat
lacefringe
wavenoise
dogskull
dogsniff
monkwords
marybeads
roguewords
manshape
serpentplants
wavespeech
foampool
corpsegas
seachange
seadeath
creamfruit
abstrusiosities
shellgrit

Verbs:
bigdrumming
loudlatinlaughing 

Adverbs:
duskward
greengoldenly


Do I have opinions about the effect these words create in “Proteus”? I do. Would those opinions take up more space than is reasonable for a blog post? They would. You don’t need me, though. Read Ulysses and decide for yourself. It has a reputation for being a tough read, and it’s true that you have to be willing to let some allusions fly over your head, but mostly Ulysses requires one thing: forget everything you know about reading fiction, and let the book teach you how to read it. I promise it’s worth the effort. James Joyce will blow your mind.

I’ll end with a quote. Stephen Dedalus thinks this in a self-deprecating way in “Proteus,” but I think in an odd, Joycean way it does a pretty good job of capturing why we read literature, and certainly why you should read Ulysses:

“When one reads these strange pages of one long gone one feels that one is at one with one who once…”

Yes. 

Happy Bloomsday, internet.

Why Net Neutrality Matters

by Kate Weiss

Service providers (or ISPs) don’t discriminate between bits of data--this is one of the basic building blocks of the internet. No matter where the data is coming from or what website you are looking at, the data going to your computer is treated the same by your internet service provider. So whether you are watching Netflix or checking to see if a book is available at your local library, the company you pay to bring the internet to your house treats each search the same.

Until very recently, ISPs have treated data like phone companies do. There are no priority phone lines. Everyone, from individuals to telemarketing companies, uses the same wires. So no matter whom you are calling, the data is treated equally, so if the phone line is not busy, you are put through. It has always been that way with the internet, too. Whether you are watching a TV show, checking your Comcast email, or reading the newest issue of Duende, your ISP treats the data equally. This is how the internet works. It is how Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the internet, believes it should work[1]. There are no priority lines.

Now, though, Verizon and Comcast—which are quickly becoming our only options for bringing internet into our homes—want to charge their customers differently for different types of data, and charge businesses more to use the priority line. Giant companies that can afford the priority line will be in first line, gaining priority access to the screens of internet-users, while self-published journals, blogs, and websites will all be at risk waiting in the second line.

If our phone lines worked the way Verizon and Comcast want the internet to work, with a priority line for companies who can afford it, and a second line for everyone else, big companies would get priority. In a January 2011 column on Locus Online, Cory Doctorow makes a great analogy that I am going to adopt here: imagine calling your favorite indie bookstore to see if they have a book on hand, but instead of the line ringing at the bookstore, you hear a robotic female voice say, “Between the Covers has not paid for priority service. Please press 1 to be immediately connected to an Amazon sales reparative, or hold for 5 minutes while we connect you to Between the Covers.”

Amazon, in this theoretical example, has paid the phone company to be in the priority line whenever you try to call your local bookstore. But phone lines don’t actually work this way and never have. This is because they are treated and legislated as a public utility. The advocators for net neutrality argue that the internet should also be treated like a public utility, and that no one, not even wealthy companies, can pay to have priority for their data.

Cory Doctorow explains what is at stake here, and it is everything:

“Here’s something every creator, every free speech advocate, every copyright maximalist and every copyfighter should agree on: allowing the channels to audiences to be cornered by a handful of incumbents is bad news for all of us….This is the big fight for us – the fight over who gets to decide who will be heard and how.” [2]


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23205244

[2] http://www.locusmag.com/Perspectives/2011/01/cory-doctorow-net-neutrality-for-writers-its-all-about-the-leverage/

A Chill Up the Spine

By Cerridwen Aker

I’ve been sitting with fear a lot lately. Not in a crippling sense, but casually--like we arrange to meet a couple times a week for coffee. But still, it’s there. So I've started to explore it to better understand how fear can both control and liberate us as writers.

Adrienne Rich writes, “Lying is done with words and also with silence.” As I work on my senior thesis, I'm attempting to slice those barriers of silence within my family, and to expose narratives of trauma and redemption in my maternal line. But I have come to realize that with the nature of this work, it is easy to keep myself at a distance. There is safety in looking at it from afar, and that’s a problem.

A dear friend and Goddard College BFA graduate, Seema Reza, posted an exercise to her blog a few months ago (you really should check it out here). Her assignment was to propose twelve specific unanswerable questions to yourself, and then try to answer them.

And I did.

I bartend, usually late. Afterward I ride the train home through a quiet city with the slick sound of rain against the windows. During such a train ride I began to scratch out my twelve, and you know what came up? A boatload of fear. Sitting with those twelve questions was so uncomfortable. All my questions represent uncertainty, loss, discontent, shame, and the ways I run from actualizing myself as a writer and an individual.

Then I started thinking about our journal, which “seeks authenticity & soulfulness, earthiness & expressiveness, a chill up the spine.” How powerful that ‘authenticity’ and 'a chill up the spine’ are in the same sentence, representing our ideals at Duende. While these qualities are an accumulation of things, sure, I believe fear is at the core. 

Personally, I tend to evade conflict. I’m highly skilled in avoidance tactics. But lately I’m seeing fear as something else—not polarizing, but inspiring. Something that chases us forward. And that’s just it—a chase. I run while it follows, but that’s the point; to drive me toward something raw. It is visceral: a spasm in the stomach, curling toes, a chill up the spine.

Whatever you are currently working on or thinking of submitting, I encourage you to sit with this doubt, at least for a little while. Write your twelve questions. You won’t be disappointed. There are only a few days left to submit to Duende. Share your fear with us.  

 

On Women & Race & Wikipedia

by Amy Cain

Remember when Wikipedia got called out for being sexist last year? It was first brought to public attention in a 2013 New York Times blog post, in which novelist Amanda Filipacchi described how women were being systematically removed from Wikipedia's American Novelists category, and filed away in a new sub-category: American Women Novelists. As a result, the American Novelists category was becoming...well...just a long list of men.

Of this trend, Filipacchi writes, "People who go to Wikipedia to get ideas for whom to hire, or honor, or read, and look at that list of 'American Novelists' for inspiration, might not even notice that the first page of it includes far more men than women...it's probably small, easily fixable things like this that make it harder and slower for women to gain equality in the literary world." It's obviously an excellent point, but it was laughable to the Wikipedia editors who were responsible for the change. One of them called the whole thing a "hullabaloo" and chalked the changes up to a mere issue of diffusing categories. Nevertheless, and despite the supposed importance of sub-categories, women were quickly restored to their original category of American Novelists.

As women in the literary world, we are not ignorant to the ways in which male writers are privileged. Despite the fact that many folks talk about how far we've come, that it has "gotten so much better" for women, we still have a difficult time being taken seriously in a literary landscape dominated by men. However, as I researched this brief Wikipedia scandal, I was surprised to find that while women were rushing to defend the inclusion of women novelists on Wikipedia, they failed to point out another glaring issue: the lack of women of color represented in these categories.

As a quick experiment, I went through the category of 21st-Century American Novelists on Wikipedia. Skipping all of the male novelists, I plodded through various letters of the alphabet, tallying up women of color represented vs. white women represented. My findings were not surprising, as women of color are some of the most marginalized and underrepresented people in America. I found that under "A" there were 46 white women and only 9 women of color. Under "E" there were 30 white women and only 3 women of color. Under "J" there were 32 white women and only 5 women of color.

My point is not to call out Wikipedia yet again. My point is that when we rush to defend our positions in literature, especially from a feminist standpoint, we need to be aware of those we are excluding. What does it mean that so few women of color appear on the 21st-Century American Novelists list? I suppose if I had to hazard a guess, I might say that it is both a reflection of Wikipedia's editor pool (comprised largely of white males), and also of the publishing industry in general, which runs rampant with institutionalized racism. But, you know, that's just a guess.

What can be done about this? Well, we can start by talking about it. Our society is not colorblind, no matter how much white people like to pretend it is. Racism is real, and yes, it is all of our problem. And if you are white, it is definitely your problem. Why are people so afraid to talk about race? Of course we need to point out things like sexism--duh! But we also need to recognize the other gaping holes in our literary landscape. People of color are writing, and too many of their voices remain unheard. So ask yourself--what can I be doing about this?

Springtime in Plainfield

By Cameron Price

In Plainfield, Vermont, the sun is shining (sometimes), the fields are muddy, and the grass is brown. This must mean Spring Residency at Goddard College! Though the pastoral New England landscape was still waking up from a long winter’s nap while we were on campus two weeks ago, the Duende team was in full bloom and hard at work.

First of all, let me set the context for you: our eight-day academic residencies occur twice a year, which means they are the only opportunities we have to meet face-to-face. It goes without saying, then, that our time together is precious and limited. Even so, we managed to accomplish much over the course of the residency.

Our first order of business was to welcome new members to our team: Denise, Lauren, Jørn, Ah-Keisha, Jan, and Jeric (their bios can be found on The Editors section of our website, right under the Who We Are tab). Since the online publication is 100% volunteer and student run, it is quite exciting to witness the interaction between the amorphous nature of our team and the developing identity of the journal. As new Goddard students come to lend their skills to Duende, they bring along fresh talent and insight, thus expanding the concept of what Duende is and what it can be.

The strength of our new group dynamic emerged during our second meeting, when a key issue came up regarding the diversity of the narratives represented by Duende. As mentioned in our previous blog post, one of our newest team members, Jeric Smith, made the observation that journals often subconsciously adopt a homogenous set of narratives. For example, let’s say that the editors of a hypothetical literary journal shared a common socioeconomic, cultural, and educational background. Without meaning to, the editors might gravitate toward selecting submissions with which they felt a sense of familiarity. A lack of awareness of this proclivity can result in a journal that only tells one story. Furthermore, many readers (and potential submitters) might view the content of the journal and decide, based on what they see, that “there isn’t a space for me," thus self-selecting out of sharing art and literature which would advance needed conversations about equality, diversity, privilege, inclusion, and the future of the literary journal in general!

I was grateful for and inspired by the frank, candid, intelligent, and compassionate round-table discussion had by the Duende team around these important questions. During the course of our meeting, we brainstormed ways to ensure that Duende stays committed to being an inclusive, multi-narrative platform where quality art and literature can be accessed.

Though we accomplished a lot of work during residency, there was also fun to be had. On Wednesday night, the bi-annual, student-led reading occurred in the Manor Oak Room. Twinkling lights had been strung along the mantle of the fireplace, creating a gauzy halo around the readers, many of which were our own Duende team members. It was one of those seamless readings that could not have been planned. Serious pieces were balanced with funny ones; there were essays and short stories, sonnets and slam poems, hip-hop songs and radio recordings. It was a meaningful way to reconvene after Duende's intense round-table discussion earlier in the day.

I have high hopes for what the Duende team will accomplish this semester. Now it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves, boot up our computers, and spend the rest of the semester writing posts, video-conferencing, researching, and reading submissions. Despite the space between us, I know we will continue (like last semester) to be a cohesive group, dedicated to the production of a gorgeous and top-of-the-line inaugural issue of Duende.

Stay tuned! 

Growing Our Vision

By Ah-Keisha McCants

 

“Diversity ensures that the next generation moves beyond the stereotypes, the assumptions, and superficial perceptions that students coming from less heterogeneous communities harbor, consciously or not, about people who do not look like them.”

- Justice Sandra Sotomayor

 

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the state of Michigan’s ban on Affirmative Action in college admissions. The 6-2 ruling struck a chord with those concerned about the state of race and the shaping of opportunity in the United States. Justice Sandra Sotomayor, in an unprecedented display of dismay over the social implications of such a ruling, released a 58-page response. In it, Sotomayor echoed group discussions we've been having lately at Duende: “The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race…with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”

As we approach the launch of Duende's inaugural issue (due out in October 2014), we’ve had to ask ourselves complicated questions about our vision. It was just one week ago that we began the spring semester at Goddard College, welcoming students new and old to the Plainfield, Vermont, campus for their required eight-day residency. During that time, Duende welcomed new editors, readers, and contributors to the family. One of our newest team members, Jeric Smith, shared a heartfelt statement about the importance of diversity in Duende’s future. As a group, we addressed issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class in an effort to define our purpose as a vehicle for social change and acceptance.

It has become evident that to live our mission of embodying “authenticity and soulfulness,” we must broaden our view beyond the superficial. We must be specific, inviting not only a diverse range of art, but of artists to populate our pages.

We had to ask ourselves what it means to be a literary magazine that goes against the mainstream hegemony of literary magazines. For example, the VIDA count, in an effort to expose the disparities between women and men published in “prestigious literary venues,” has begun, after four years of reporting, to show a decrease in gender bias in some literary publications. But as a recent Salon Magazine article noted, “We need a VIDA count for race as well as gender.”

What will it look like to be inclusive of nontraditional narratives, or better yet, to challenge our own implicit biases? What better way to answer those questions than to revise our focus?

Duende seeks to create a space that welcomes eclectic voices, moving beyond the cursory and concealed mechanisms of publishing that keep so many writers of color, women, queer writers, and other underrepresented groups from being heard. It is essential that we create a space that opposes discriminatory traditions in publishing.

At Duende, we intend to continue the dialogue about how we can better support diversity in our journal, as well as at Goddard College. We welcome our contributors and readers to lend their voices to the conversation.

We are committed to publishing a majority of work by those marginalized in the literary world: LGBTQ, people of color, youth and elders, differently abled, and immigrants. These stories deserve a wider view. To paraphrase Langston Hughes: we, too, are America.

We cannot wish away inequality, but at Duende we will work to create a literary journal built on a vision of equality, one issue at a time.

Overexposed: Duende Does AWP

by Cerridwen Aker

 

Five days of sun dissolved to a cold spattering of March rain on my last morning in Seattle, and with it went much of my romanticism surrounding AWP. On Tuesday, before the conference began, Amtrak hurried me through industrial river towns, marshy farmland, expansive coastline and snowcapped mountains from Portland, Oregon, to the opulent King Street Station. The train-car was plush and nearly empty. Light split my wide window as I wrote and read, stomach clenched with excitement.

Fog rolled off Elliott Bay as seagulls dipped over the cobbled streets of Pike Place Market. With warm salmon pierogi in one hand and bitter coffee from the first Starbucks in the other, I began to inhabit downtown Seattle. Though it was only a three-day affair, AWP felt much like Duende: joyful, dark, and intense, wresting from me both a physical and mental response. Bodily exhaustion could not overtake the high. My head spun as I sipped artisan martinis and thanked Roberto Carlos Ascalon for his reading; as I bugged Steven Church about creative nonfiction; as I talked trauma in family narrative with Susan Ito and Christa Parravani; as I joined in the choreography of the New School's Ricky Tucker.

Conversation and dancing lasted later and later each night, leaving me sneaking back into a full house at 2am, footsore and sweaty. However, even with the caliber of attendees, much of the politics felt like high school: the cliques, the pretense, my giddy feeling of pseudo-popularity when MFA programs and journals sought me out at Duende's corner of the Goddard College booth.

The way materials were handed over was seductive, a secret writer's courtship, luring me in with words that were unspeakably sexy: fully-funded, teaching opportunities, publication. I was under the spell of AWP.

And what of Duende you might ask?

Duende Design Editor Cameron Price talks up Duende at the Goddard College AWP booth.

It seemed our little journal was quite the hit. Our booth was simple, the blue backdrop and white lettering of Goddard College emblazoned with cutouts of our bright Duende "D." It helped that our color was an unintentional match to the AWP lanyards, drawing eyes without difficulty. Our team was so successful with marketing that by the second morning, attendees could be heard asking, "Oh Duende? I've heard of you before."

There was more than just the glamour, though. Anna Bálint read from her essay, "Alexander 'Sandy' Taylor" during the Raven Chronicles panel. She spoke of legacy, of Manhattan apartments stacked with boxes of books after 9/11, and the sour smell of smoke. Brenda Miller moderated The Bellingham Review panel, addressing changing visions, podcasts, and online publication. Highlights included Angela Tung sharing an excerpt from her Annie Dillard Award winning essay, "An Old Man on the Frontier Loses His Horse," and Jennifer Militello reading from her newest book Body Thesaurus, a collection of diagnosis poems. Trust me, get the book.

Despite my exhilaration, by Saturday morning my perception started to fray. The sea of writer boys (in their H&M “worn” flannel and brown suede Hipster Cchukka boots) flirting with the waves of writer girls (with their painted red lips and high-waisted dresses) was no longer compelling. I was still breathing, but felt awfully close to drowning.

I left to nurse my hangover by walking through the book fair, where I picked up three Red Hen Press books for five dollars, along with an alarming amount of candy. Thankfully, children were scarce.

 

One of the few AWP kids, our faculty advisor's goddaughter, was a true marketing maven.

One of the few AWP kids, our faculty advisor's goddaughter, was a true marketing maven.

In reflection, I echo the advice that I was given in preparation for AWP: the book fair is simply the best. The range of panels should not be overlooked (several pages of notes fill my moleskin, and there are stacks of suggested books on my desk), but some are more of a platform for writers to talk about themselves. The offsite events are plentiful, wonderful, and demand caution. Self-care first.

On our second night in town, a fellow BFA student and I went on the famed Seattle Underground Tour--not nearly as hokey as I imagined. Deep in the tunnels of Old Seattle, we stared up at the skylights in the sidewalk. Small, square segments of glass made up one thick pane through which ghostly streetlight glowed. We learned that the glass used, which was not made with lead but instead contained manganese, turned a lovely lavender if exposed over time to ultraviolet rays.

Looking back, this is the best way I can describe my experience of AWP: overexposed. It was not so harsh that I was blown out, like a flashed photo in a darkroom. But on the crowded humid train home, trying to find space for my three extra bags of books, I felt a little like those skylights. In some sort of chemical reaction, my exposure to the vast and vibrant writing community of AWP had softened my consideration of what my future as a writer might look like as something sustaining, viable, and ever-shifting.