Are you looking for ways to celebrate National Poetry Month in South Central Pennsylvania? There are plenty of amazing literary events happening in April! Check out some of the highlights below, and don’t forget to stay updated with the Triangle through our blog and calendar.
- April 11th & 12th: the 13th Annual Spoken Word Poetry Festival. This annual poetry performance hosted by the Theatre of the Seventh Sister is being held over two days (this Saturday and Sunday) at the Community Mennonite Church of Lancaster in downtown Lancaster. The spoken word reading is like no other, including familiar local writers, high school students, and grandparents. Come see written works burst into life on the stage at 7pm on Saturday or Sunday.
- April 18th: Mid-Atlantic Region Small Press Expo. Come out and enjoy free readings, workshops, book signings, and more at the Strand-Capitol in York. The expo begins at 11:00 am and ends at 5:00 pm.
- April 23rd: Andrea Gibson at Tobacco Avenue. Andrea Gibson is a widely acclaimed poet and activist from Colorado. Her poetry has garnered over one million views on YouTube and the title of the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam. This isn’t Gibson’s first time in Lancaster; when she was at the Ware Center in the Spring of 2013, over 300 people were in attendance! Tickets are $11 in advance and $16 at the door. Gibson’s show is from 7-9 pm at Tobacco Avenue in Lancaster.
- April 28th: Lancaster Story Slam: Love Hurts. The Lancaster Story Slam theme for the month of April is “Love Hurts”. Join us for a memorable night of storytelling from 8-10 pm at Tellus360 in Lancaster. Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 at the door.
In 2011, I enrolled in Arcadia University’s MFA, and if we’re trying to pinpoint where the writing life began for me, it might as well be right there. That moment I submitted my application and, rather quickly, heard back that I was accepted (rather quickly in this case due to my application a mere day before they stopped accepting applications).
Really we could look back as far as my childhood and sensitivity and unsure footing in school, but I think we all have those stories, and those don’t generally dictate that we’ll become writers. Sometimes it means we’ll be musicians or drug addicts or abusers or quiet, careful people who can’t bear to think about inconveniencing anyone at all. In my case, it was becoming a writer, more or less, and one that started their journey to the writing life through the pressure of his wife and some sense that an MFA was the next logical step.
So it’s 2011 and I’m starting my writing life. I meet my cohort, I write feverishly and submit and feel important and not important. I learn that I can’t get away with this, but I can get away with that, and I form up the voice in writing that I’ve had sometime in 2012, I’d say. I get cocky about it. I get publication credits to my name and go to Scotland and feel a bit like I’m invincible, which even then I know isn’t true. I watch family members die and write down how I’m feeling to use later on. I begin using everything as material—I stop looking at life as a stage and more as source material. I don’t care if I impress anyone as much as I care about writing stories that are impressive.
And then I graduate, and I join my little writing group from fellow cohort members, and I venture out into the wilds of writing after the program. I still get published; I still push myself to write. I still feel a bit like I know what I’m doing. Earlier this year I became the editor of Third Point Press, and that feels good, too. It feels like a natural progression. Like I am making a difference and giving back to writing; to the writing life.
All things being equal, though, it doesn’t add up. For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking: what the hell has writing really done for me? What am I getting back? Why the hell am I pushing myself so hard?
First, a bit of my thinking on this. Let me feed you the cynicism as well as the understanding: I know that there isn’t money and rarely fame. I know that writers tell each other they do it for the love of writing. I know you need to put in your time before you get anywhere. I know it’s a thing for passion and not for paycheck. I get it. Really, I do.
But I also don’t quite have enough money to let passion fill my belly. My blinders aren’t nearly so effective as to block out the return on investment of my effort. For a long time I wrote because writing felt better than not writing. I wrote because it was how I defined myself—I am a creative and a writer so I write. But—sometime between getting the MFA and now, that stopped being true. I don’t like thinking about writing or actually writing or revising. I think about the whole process, from start to finish, and then look at what I get out of it: a story maybe a dozen people will read and enjoy. Maybe even a few retweets/likes on Twitter, or another lit mag will ask me to send them some work so I can restart the whole process again.
And I’m writing this letter to you, writing life, because I don’t get it. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do with you.
How am I supposed to convince myself that it’s worth it to struggle and dislike and doubt myself over and over just so I can send my stories out to the dozen who will read it? How should I make the scale balance on that one? It’s great to say that I write for the love of it, but what is there to love?
I wrote up a simple tweet yesterday: Thinking about taking a year off writing. I was met with a response that was overwhelmingly no no no wait. I don’t at all think that anyone who told me to reconsider were doing so out of fear or malice, but deep down I thought that part of staying in the writing life is to make sure that nobody pulls back the curtain. By denying how one-sided this thing is, we can deny that it’s crazy to be part of it—all of us, so long as all of us convince ourselves we can muscle through the nonsense of being a craftsperson who doesn’t get rewarded for their effort.
And I guess that’s the rub: it seems so incredibly wrong, but I can’t settle how much writers (especially, though other artists fall into the same trap) are willing to grind away at creation knowing they will get next to nothing out of it. I write this not as a revelation—I think we all know it—but more as an acknowledgement. I see it, writing life. I see what it is I signed up for.
So now I’m considering a break, and most folks have recommended something akin to that anyway (though, intelligently, suggesting I fill that time with something else creative to keep the exercise up). As I’m overseeing a lit mag, I think I won’t be hard pressed to keep myself occupied. That being said, I wonder if I’ll even be able to “give up” on writing—more likely it will be I stop submitting my work, I stop involvement in my writing group, and just generate material without any expectation of anyone else seeing it. That might be worth it. That might stop this race I’ve been having since 2011 and allow me to rest up a bit. At least get some of the cynicism out of my mind.
And I wonder how many writers experience this and keep it all in—how many of them punish themselves for not having what it takes. I think about Bukowski saying that if you need to work hard at it, you shouldn’t. I think about how dumb it is to think about Bukowski. I imagine myself not being a writer anymore and what I’d be instead (those who can, do. Those who can’t, become editors?). I realize this is probably just some funk that I’ve been ignoring for a few months, I need to face it head on and address it. I listen to my writerly friends telling me to suck it up or to take a break or to listen to what feels best.
The writing life isn’t an easy one. It’s not one that makes you feel like a master or like you’re getting back what you put into it. It’s not something that pays off—at least not in my experience (again—I’m super new at all of it, and I recognize that), and it’s not something that pays the bills.
I guess what it comes down to is I don’t know how to fix it, and I don’t know if I’d even have the energy to try had I a solution. Right now, it doesn’t seem to be worth it, and when I sit down to write I feel like I’m just lining myself up for another story to throw into the sea of already existing stories. Right at this moment I’m content in stepping away and seeing where that takes me, and whether that’s a month-long process (I suspect much longer, as I can go a month without writing by accident) or it’s a yearlong one, it’s one I think I’m itching to take.
How can standard literary formats stand up to the ever-morphing, ever-fragmenting, ever-confusing society we live in today?
It can’t. Paragraphs can’t, line-breaks can’t, and traditionally formal elements can’t.
The novel can’t.
We are against the tyranny of paragraphs and stanzas and like to explore the infinite ways that humans can express themselves.
We’re a team of artists, editors, and writers from around the USA. We sift through thousands of submissions and select the choicest literary absurdities. We believe we can change the world with words by changing the way people read and write.
When we started out, our simple aim was to discover and publish stories that cannot be categorized as poetry or prose. Since then, we’ve published over 1500 stories, just scratching the surface of the infinite ways that humans can use words to express themselves.
This idea has grown into something much more expansive – a network of artists and creators that span the globe, working together to explode literature into as many forms and mediums as we can find.
We discovered tNY (formerly called The Newer York before The New Yorker sued them) in 2013 and have since been hooked on the idea of telling stories through artifacts. tNY’s Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature has published literary artifacts (stories told through unique forms) since its inception; there’re stories told through the text of: a karaoke machine, a performance report, a job application, an instruction manual, an employee contract, a worksheet, a definition, a screenplay, and that’s just a toe-dip into the world of tNY Press. (Get lost in the depths of the EEEL for yourself)
The Triangle is hosting Stories in Artifacts: A Workshop in Experimental Storytelling THIS SATURDAY at the Lancaster Public Library. In order to provide some context for what got us interested in literature that experiments with form, I decided to ask Josh Raab some questions about experimental writing and the ideas behind what makes it subversive. Below is a gallery of the gchat interview that Josh and I had. Very little editing was done to this, so relish the misspellings, the imperfect nature of text-based communication, the small lag of response time that creates confusion. The point being: it’s an artifact.
BUT IS IT LIT? is the Triangle’s way of reviewing non-standard texts. We find—or one of our friends, neighbors, or literary comrades finds—something interesting that can be read as literature. Someone reviews it, sends it, we post it, and the age-old conversation continues: what is lit? Today’s review comes from our good friend Michelle.
Over the years, I’ve come across many pieces of US currency with interesting doodles and scribbles. I began photographing the money this year to keep track, because I continually spent it before finding any meaning in the writing.
For the majority of my life, I was under the impression that writing on money was a crime. This was probably the work of the same teacher who told the class that lightning would strike us dead if we lied in front of the lord. Obviously I’d be dead now if that were true, Sister Mary! While it is illegal to fraudulently alter a bill to increase its value, or deface it so thoroughly that it must be removed from circulation, the scribbles I’ve found are just frowned upon—some more heavily than others, I’m sure.
Obviously, these are lit in the best way. The messages, cryptic and fascinating, travel between hands and stores, seen by hundreds of people if not more. An interesting project lies in which messages are actually seen as more than random. Here’s to writing in whichever form moves you!
On January 28th, Tellus 360 was packed with people waiting to hear stories. It was a Tuesday. It was cold (it was January). It was a literary event. Why were people out, and why so many?
Well, if you were there for Lancaster Story Slam’s inaugural event, a night of storytelling themed “Embarrassing Moments,” you understand. If you weren’t, it might be hard to explain, but I don’t think I’d be alone in testifying that there is something powerful about watching people tell honest, unscripted stories… about being people. It’s a sharing rooted in human history.
In order to dig deeper into just how Lancaster Story Slam came to be (and how it came to be so instantly popular), I met the LSS’s event producer, Carla Wilson, the woman without whom these monthly storytelling events wouldn’t exist.
We met at Prince St. Cafe, and as we took our first sips of our coffee, I asked Carla what her creative life was like. Heading up a storytelling series, I figured she must write. Maybe a memoirist, a poet? I was surprised when she laughed, ” I don’t have this whole storyboard running in my head. It’s one of those things I have a jealousy about.”
“So you don’t tell stories at slams?” I asked.
“No, never. I’ve heard so many, I might be able to do it. But, no, I haven’t yet. I got really close [to signing up] at West Chester in January. Then I just backed out,” she said.
Carla isn’t a storyteller. She isn’t a writer, painter, or musician, but she’s exactly the kind of person that people who make art need so desperately. She connects, communicates, promotes, and creates venues for the art to happen. And she’s damn good at it.
Carla Wilson’s return to Lancaster County last October was not only exciting for her and her family, but for the arts community at large. She brought with her a formula for a special brand of literary gathering that Lancaster’s been lacking. A story slam is born of a marriage between creative non-fiction and poetry slam. In Philly, the story slam has been a staple for years. Podcasters will recognize the genre from shows like The Moth and StoryCorps. Philly’s First Person Arts has been holding twice-monthly slams for years. Locals from West Chester will point to the West Chester Story Slam (WCSS), or its creator Jim Breslin, the friendly bespectacled man whom Carla met through her marketing agency back in 2012 and eventually inspired her to create a sister event in Lancaster. In January 2015, Lancaster Story Slam premiered at Tellus 360 to a crowd of just under two hundred people, which for a literary event, especially one in its infancy, is beyond impressive.
Carla grew up here, but she lived in Chester county for most of her adult life. There she raised a family and started her marketing business, Wilson Media Services. It was in West Chester, and through her business, that Carla met Jim. He wanted some help with marketing this event he’d been doing for a few years. First it started in his living room, and then it was being held above a bar. It was a storytelling night. Carla was interested and soon became a regular attendee of the West Chester Story Slam. After reading an article about the WCSS that ended with the statement, “Jim wants to expand story slams to cities like Lancaster and Philadelphia,” Carla approached him and said, “You know I’m moving to Lancaster, right?” He laughed and asked her if she wanted to do it.
She thought she was offering to help him make connections, maybe assist in promotion, spread the word. But Jim wanted her to take the reins, as he was swamped with the WCSS and the newer DelCo Story Slam. “From there I just kind of laughed. I was like, ‘Um, sure. Why not?'” said Carla. “We all need more projects, right?” she laughed.
In the fall of 2014, after asking around town and walking in to a number of Lancaster city bars and venues, Carla and Jim happened across Tellus 360. Carla had heard about it, but when they stopped by one afternoon, the venue was closed. “I always say this really fell into place. The door [to Tellus] was ajar. We could see people in there. So we were like, ‘Hey we’re trying to find a venue for this thing.’ And the marketing guy was there and he just took us on a tour of the building and told us, ‘You have got to do this here.’ And Jim and I looked at each other and said, ‘We totally want to do this here.'”
It was a match made in storytelling heaven. Since Tellus 360’s recent renovations, they’ve become a hit for touring performers, musicians, and gatherings. Their back room (‘The Temple’) boasts plenty of room for major live events. This stage is where the Lancaster Story Slam was born. When I attended the first slam in January, I was blown away by the turnout, the enthusiasm, the overall bigness of the event. Honestly, my initial reaction was that it was too big for a literary exchange. How can you connect with an audience on a truly personal level from the a 4-foot stage, with a big-time sound system, and two hundred faces hidden behind show lights? Simply put: I was wrong. Stories hush people; they make room for collective engagement. Widespread laughter makes you laugh harder. A gasp in a room full of people is like a rush of wind.
So I had to ask Carla, what was the key to getting the word out about this event? What brought so many people? Carla is a wordpress wiz. Using websites and blogs to connect and share ideas is a big part of what her business does. She says the publishing of a single blog post (written by her about why she was excited to bring a story slam to Lancaster) which was then shared by Tellus and West Chester Story Slam, was the catalyst for a slew of newsletter subscribers. They used other forms of social media to spread the word as well, following Jim’s model of promotion for other slams. The idea truly seemed to resonate with people. They were hooked.
I asked Carla what she thought it was about Lancaster that set it apart from other cities doing story slams. She had this to say: “I just think it’s the size of the creative community here in Lancaster, honestly. The venue is big as well, which helps. The other slams had typically been in a restaurant. At max 75 people could be there. So now that we have this humongous room at this amazing venue, with a whole marketing department with their pulse on what’s happening… But really the biggest difference in the Lancaster story slam is the creative community and all the support we have behind it.”
Lancaster Story Slam has a season of events planned. You can catch it every fourth Thursday until November, when they’ll hold a Grand Slam featuring all of the winners of the ten preceding slams. So far, that list includes Matthew Kabik and Joanne Rafferty, whose stories you can listen to on the LSS’s podcast.
Lastly (pay attention, aspiring slammers), we have the scoop on Carla’s advice for impressing the judges. I asked what makes a great story and Carla said, “Does it have a beginning middle and an end? What’s really important is does that beginning have a hook? I think if you have a hook, I’m on board. I’m in. Take me for a ride.”
The sun is out today. Snow melts. Birds chirp. The future brightens. All signs that a new season of literary events is on the horizon. Thanks to the incredible success of our Spelling Bee Fundraiser in early 2015, we’re proud to say we’ve got a ton of exciting events planned and in the works for the entire year. For now, we’ll just keep you up to date with the next two months, which should be enough to keep us all busy.
1. (this) Sunday, March 15th – Free Writing Session at the Fulton Street Arts Co-op, 5-8pm, $10, 321 E. Fulton St., Lancaster, PA, 17602.
On Sunday, we’ll be going together as a group to the open model session at The Fulton Street Arts Cooperative to freewrite. This will be a unique experience, bringing together local writers, artists, and a shared subject: the naked body. Bring your notebook, pen/pencils, $10 admission, and BYOB if you so choose. Be prepared for: model nudity, inspiration, a room full of artists and writers. Let’s get together and fear no lit.
2. Wednesday, March 25th – Snakes in the Makespace: A literary reading featuring Nick Kratsas, Meghan Lamb, and Alex Domingos, 7-9pm, $5 suggested donation, 1916 Third St., Harrisburg, PA, 17102
We’re finally teaming up with Harrisburg’s DIY arts jewel, The MakeSpace, to host a reading for touring poet Nick Kratsas. Harrisburg-based features include Meghan Lamb (who’ll be performing with the accompaniment of a video installation) and Alex Domingos. This reading includes an open mic, so anyone can bring a poem or short-short story to share. This event is going to be personal and fun; the MakeSpace is small, but if you’ve been there you know it’s as cozy and welcoming as your favorite living room. Email us about carpooling if you need a ride!
3. Sunday, March 29th – Sip and Snip: A Collage Social Event featuring the Triangle at DECA, 7-9pm, $15, 12 W. New St., Lancaster, PA, 17603
Discerning Eye Center for the Arts is an exciting studio space in Lancaster City that hosts a monthly event called Sip & Snip. Artists gather to drink (it’s 21+ and BYOB) and collage. Each month features a local artist, and The Triangle’s Erin Dorney and Tyler Barton will be March’s feature. Attendees can expect to be exposed to the ways in which collage can transcend art and writing. We’ll be experimenting with erasure/blackout poetry, ekphrastic writing, and visual poems/image macros. This is a generative workshop, so come prepared to MAKE something.
4. Saturday, April 4th – Stories in Artifacts: A Workshop in Experimental Storytelling at the Lancaster Public Library, 2-4pm, FREE, 125 N. Duke St., Lancaster, PA, 17602
For the second year in a row, we’ll be hosting a free writing workshop at the Lancaster Public Library. This one focuses on story-telling through experimental forms. This writing workshop is for poets and writers of all experiences, genres, and ages.
This is a generative workshop, which means you will write and create things during our two hours together. We will explore how writers can contextualize stories by telling them through new, yet familiar, forms. Can a grocery list tell a story? Can an entire story be told through an short email exchange? Can a writer use the scraps, junk, and forgotten items of a junk drawer to provide a reader with character, plot, and theme? We want to take seriously the idea that literature can be anywhere, that it can look like almost anything.
Need more to look forward to? Our Fear No Lit reading series, now hosted by The Triangle’s Eliot White, continues on April 9th at Dogstar Books. We’re also plotting an Embarrassment Reading at Modern Art for May, and a flash-fiction reading series from June to December all across the Triangle. Stay tuned each month for more interviews, But Is It Lit reviews, and visual interviews with writers Roxane Gay, Alexandra Naughton, Allegra Hyde, and Future Tense Press. And of course, with web content, we’re always looking for contributors! Email us at thetrianglepa at gmail dot com.
For Visual Interviews we send a writer a disposable camera and a list of ideas to photograph along with a few short questions. Once the camera is mailed back, we develop the photos and arrange them collage style to give you a unique glimpse into the life of the writer we’ve selected. Check out past Visual Interviews and stay tuned because we have Alissa Nutting, Alexandra Naughton, Allegra Hyde, and Matthew Simmons and Kevin Sampsell of Future Tense Publishing coming up over the next couple of months!
Photographs and text by Janice Lee: a) Moosh; b) a tree that Janice Lee has seen; c) a selfie that isn’t of Janice Lee’s face; d) the sky; e) a squirrel running up a tree; f) food in Janice Lee’s car; g) Janice Lee’s desk; h) Janice Lee’s favorite local cafe; i) how Entropy makes Janice Lee feel; j) mirrors on mirrors on mirrors; k) something important to Janice Lee that is irreplaceable; l) more Moosh.