From Despair, Light: An Interview With Vince Pantalone

Pantalone

Keep Moving Forward is the story of Nick Pantalone and his fight with cancer. The book is available on Amazon and proceeds go to The Four Diamonds Fund, a foundation that assists families dealing with childhood cancers. Vince Pantalone was Nick’s father and the book’s narrator. He has spent the last thirty-five years teaching and coaching in Central Pennsylvania.

 

Curtis Smith: Congratulations on Keep Moving Forward. The book’s origins are rooted in heartache, but as I look over the reviews on Amazon, I’m taken back by the kind words and statements of thanks. That must be rewarding.

Vince Pantalone:  It is rewarding that those who read the book get a glimpse into the special kind of person Nick was.  Our family always knew that Nick had a uniqueness to him, but when he began his battle with cancer, this inner force of strength emerged from within him.  His blogs illustrate this inner force.

 

CS: The book has a unique structure—your son Nick kept a blog during his cancer treatments, a three-year journey of incredible ups and downs—and you took the blog and added your own voice as you looked back on his fight. It’s a structure that provides a real depth of both voice and perspective. Did this format come to you at the project’s beginning? Or did it dawn on you as you were going back through the blog posts?

VP:  Actually, it was my family who suggested we publish Nick’s blogs in hopes that others with similar battles would find hope.  I added my perspective to “fill in the gaps” between Nick’s blogs, to let the reader know what had transpired between the journal entries. Read More…

American Culture Outside of American Literature

Saint YBARS

An interview with Beth Julian

 

Beth Julian grew up in Harrisburg, PA and attended Central Dauphin East High school. She attended Lebanon Valley College, graduating in 2009 with a degree in English & French.  She received her Masters in American Studies at Penn State Harrisburg in 2011. She is the Director of the Center for Writing & Tutoring Resources at Lebanon Valley College.

 

Saint-Ybars  is put out by Les Editions Tintamarre, which is part of Centenary College of Louisiana. Les Editions Tintamarre publish novels that are deeply a part of American culture yet not a part of American literature because they are not in English. Saint-Ybars is the first book that Les Editions Tintamarre has published in English.  Check them out here: http://www.centenary.edu/editions/aboutus.html  —

 

Curtis Smith: Congratulations on your translation of Alfred Mercier’s Saint-Ybars. I knew nothing about him or his work until I did a quick Google search. I enjoy hearing a book’s origin story—but I’m sure the route of a translator is different than most. What led you to this author?

Beth Julian:  Thank you! I found this author through sheer panic, in a way. During my first year as a graduate student at Penn State, I arrived at the point where I had to decide what to write my thesis about. I really didn’t have a clue: I narrowed it down to American literature, which didn’t help me much. I was talking to a classmate (who is now a colleague of mine at LVC), and I told her that I wish I could find a way to tie in my two undergraduate majors of English and French. I loved French literature, and I did some translating in undergraduate coursework, but I didn’t think there was a way to bridge the two interests. My classmate said, “You should look into Creole literature—there’s a whole genre of literature that’s practically unknown to Americans.”  So I did some Google searching and came across Les Editions Tintamarre and Centenary College of Louisiana. I took a chance and e-mailed Dr. Dana Kress, who teaches French at the college and also runs the publishing company. We exchanged a few e-mails, and before you know it, I had my thesis project. It really is a strange story—Dr. Kress really went out on a limb and trusted a student to translate one of his favorite works that he always wanted to see published in English. There was no guarantee that it would be publishable, but after revisions and a couple years, both of us ended up extremely happy with the end product. And Mercier’s lack of fame was both positive and negative: the work was unique and hidden for decades from the American audience, but finding articles and sources proved to be very difficult. I spent a lot of hours digging through databases, looking at microfilm, and trying to break down dense 19th-century articles written in French!

Read More…

The Emerging Writers Festival: A discussion with Erik Anderson

EWF

Recently, Curtis Smith asked Erik Anderson about his involvement with the Emerging Writers Festival at Franklin and Marshall College – and we are happy to feature that discussion here. But first, a quick bio of both Smith and Anderson:

Curtis Smith’s stories and essays have appeared in over one hundred literary journals. His work has been named to the Best American Short Stories Distinguished Stories List,The Best American Mystery Stories Distinguished Stories List, and the Notable Writing list of The Best American Spiritual Writing. His most recent books are Beasts and Men (stories, press 53) and Communion (essays, Dock Street Press). His next book, an examination of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, will be put out by Ig Publishing this month.

Erik Anderson teaches creative writing at Franklin and Marshall College, where he directs the annual Emerging Writers Festival (http://www.fandm.edu/english/emerging-writers-festival). He is the author of The Poetics of Trespass (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2010), as well as two forthcoming books: Estranger (Rescue Press, 2016) and Flutter Point (Zone 3 Press, 2017).

Curtis Smith: Can you tell us about the history of the Emerging Writers Festival? What have been some of the highlights of years past?

Erik Anderson: The festival (or EWF, as we call it) started in 2002 with a group of students and faculty who wanted to bring several younger writers to campus to learn from and interact with them, formally and informally. From the start, it has been a collaborative effort, and it has always had a DIY spirit, part of which has to do with the successive student cohorts who have planned the festival over the years, each time putting their own unique stamps on it. Initially, there wasn’t any sense that the festival would continue after that first year, at least not during the planning phase, but then it turned out to be an enormous success, and fifteen years later we’re still following, with some variations, the same general formula. And while I have too many highlights to name, one from last spring sums up, to my mind, what’s great about that formula. At our opening dinner, one of our seniors, having agreed to emcee the event, stood up in front of the Provost of the College, our five emerging writers, the English Department faculty, and two dozen other students, and ushered in the new festival with humor, grace, and some pride in the organizing work he and the other students had done. That senior was, and is, a fine writer, but in that moment he was also an integral part of something more: a community of writers he had, in fact, helped to create.

 

CS: There seem to be a lot of cultural offerings in Lancaster these days. How do you see the Festival in terms of what it offers not just to the Franklin and Marshall campus but to the city as a whole?

EA: This touches on another highlight, actually. Every year, at nearly every event, there are faces from the community I don’t recognize. Sometimes it’s just a single person. Other times it’s several. Last year, for instance, an F&M alumna brought a group of her high school students to campus for a day. We were thrilled to have them here. And their presence proved that what I’ve said above about the festival’s ability to build community applies to Lancaster as well. Yes, the festival is a resource for the campus, but for three days every spring – and this, too, is part of what makes the formula work – it also integrates the national literary community with the local one. The College is the site of that integration, but it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the sole beneficiary. So consider this an open invitation. Our events are well worth the trip, at least in part because they’re all free.

 

CS: Who are the writers coming this year? Besides reading their work, what other offerings can we expect?

EA: I’m always struck by how stellar each year’s lineup is, and this year is certainly no exception: Robin Coste Lewis, Kerry Howley, Julia Pierpont, Suzanne Scanlon, and Phillip B. Williams. Beyond the readings (Wednesday 4/6 and Thursday 4/7 at 7:30pm, in F&M’s Green Room Theatre), there will be craft talks, receptions, a panel, and even a BBQ. The craft talks (visit our website for scheduling details) are semi-formal workshop sessions with individual writers held throughout the day on Thursday 4/7 and Friday 4/8; these sessions tend to be interactive and always involve some element of creative writing instruction, often including exercises done on the spot. The receptions, held after the readings, are an opportunity to meet and mix with our emerging writers. Because the writers’ books will be for sale at the readings, the receptions are also a great opportunity to get your copies signed. Finally, on Friday afternoon, at 12:30pm, there will be a wide-ranging panel discussion with all five writers, followed at 1:30pm by our annual Bye-Bye BBQ (both at the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House).

 

CS: As Festival organizer, I’m sure you have your own behind-the-scenes set of worries and rewards. Can you share some of them with us?

EA: My worries are always the same. Will I forget to do something I’m supposed to? Will someone else? Is our collective checklist missing some vital item? Somehow everything gets done that needs to, however, and even those small things that slip through the cracks don’t often matter as much as they sometimes seem to. That’s because the festival is so rewarding, personally and professionally. I’m always a little sad when it’s over.

 

CS: What advice would you have for local folks who’ve never been to an event such as this but who’re interested in checking it out?

EA: There’s a line in one Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets that goes, “Whatever is going to happen is already happening,” and, according to Alice Notley, one of the things the line means is that if you aren’t doing something now, you aren’t ever going to do it. So my advice is to follow your interests: if one of our writers or events piques your curiosity, attend! And when you’re here, don’t be a stranger. Say hello. Introduce yourself. We’ll be glad to meet you.

Interview with Christopher D. DiCicco

somy

Author of So My Mother, She Lives in the Clouds

Late last year, author Christopher D. DiCicco came out with his first collection, published by Hypertrophic Press. This small press, spending as much time pairing the beautiful writing it accepts alongside equally staggering imagery, found DiCicco’s work after requesting he submit a piece or two to their lit mag.

I have the good fortune to know Chris personally, though I’m quick to say that even if I didn’t know him, I’m quite sure I’d know him through his work, which is unapologetic in the liberties it takes as much as it is embracing and unforgettable in the feeling it brings about in the reader. Soon after the release of his collection, I asked Chris a few questions about it, the process of his work, and where he sees himself going in the future.

Matthew Kabik: While this is both a generic but difficult question, I’m curious what you think your style is–what atmosphere or emotion do you find you’re most typically going for? 

spiral bookcase

DiCicco reading recently at the Spiral Bookcase (photo by Anna Pelger)

Chris DiCicco: To describe my style is to paint a picture of a serious man sketching a sad child coloring a dragon. Though, without a doubt, the man will later eat a marshmallow and seem much less serious. What I mean is my style is a touch sad fantasy and a meta-brushstroke or two; probably most so when I’m using the first-person removed technique, but that’s not all the time, though I like it best.  I like stories within stories, shadow stories casting their shade on the other more obvious elements. I like to develop my narrator through the story she/he tells. And I like a poetic minimalism where the lines are careful enough to show only so much, making the reader slow down. But man, you’re right, it’s a tough question. There’s so many layers to style, and I’m not always sure where they begin. I guess, at some level, my style is offbeat. I like realism, how honest it is, and how hard it can be to explain real everyday things, like a kiss or a traumatic death. Those things happen, and sometimes it feels impossible to say why they did. In the same vein, something fantastic can happen in a story with just as little explanation–and I like that–it’s part of my style. Boys become dogs, dead fathers wake up, and, just like real life, I’m not going to say why or explain. That’s part of my style I suppose, part of the tradition I subscribe to at least. Okay, next question.

MK: When writing these stories, did you find that they built off of each other? Do you think that they are all part of a single theme, or are they more separate than that?

CD: I used to have this fear that my collection was completely disjointed and random, and then I read it and developed a new fear—that my collection was only about one thing. And I’m still not completely sure which one is more true, but I’m almost satisfied that the stories in the collection have at their heart a single theme of coping with loss, disappointment, and the impossible. What’s kind of cool, I think, is that some of the stories are quite different from each other, but still the same. That’s either cool or awful, one or the other.

MK:What did you enjoy most in the process of getting the collection together?

CD:Honestly it’s been such a huge part of my life, these stories, writing them, revising them, pushing them out to journals, pulling them together for the collection. It’s just so much, the process. It’s not like one day I finished the last story and was like, well that’s it, time to put this thing together. It didn’t start with awesome Hypertrophic Press. It started on a road trip with my family, driving through Montana, with a story called “Leap of Hay” that never made it into the collection. So what did I enjoy most? That’s like explaining what I love most about my wife–there’s so much to her. There is so much to this. Years of small gestures. Months of edits. Days of dreaming in story ideas, sharing them with good friends who happen to be writers. Any writer worth a spit knows the process is you, you doggedly biting at words and spitting them out for some reason you stopped trying to understand. Okay, what did I enjoy most, let me try. I enjoyed learning who I am.

MK: What’s your favorite story in the collection, and why?

CD: Can’t really say I have one, but I’m happy with quite a few of them. I don’t know, actually, the more I think about it, the more I feel all of them are special. You see, it’s terrible, but I can appreciate a story for a single good line. That’s it. One line. One good turn of a phrase. My favoritism is askew, completely. “Life Where You Want It” and “In Your Father’s Backyard” and “Bloodhounds” and “Why the Wolves Take the Calves First” and “The Greater Migration” and “Pennsylvania is No Concern”  and “My Son” I like those stories. But the others too. Those were the ones that first came to mind. The thing is, to me, all my stories have favorite moments, places where the writing clicked. And who am I to say one moment is better than the next? I have favorite lines, favorite words, favorite paragraphs, favorite dialogue, it’s terrible how much I fav the heck out of hell.

MK: What will you do differently for your next collection?

CD: I wish I knew. I mean, I tried my hand at writing a short poetry collection this past summer, and I played around with creating a bunch of hybrid stories. But in the end, I don’t think I’ll do a lot differently with the next collection, except hopefully write even better stories. Maybe I’ll experiment with form. Maybe I won’t. I do think there’s a good chance I’ll write even shorter pieces. That’s something I wouldn’t mind pulling off.

MK: What are you hoping readers will gain by reading?

CD: I’m a very selfish writer. I don’t hope the reader will gain anything. When I sit down and write, there’s very little concern for the reader. They will interpret it how they will. I have an idea of how the story should work, of what the technique should produce, but ultimately, the reader will make it their own, and thus, the writing itself. And yeah we could argue literary criticism until the cows come home, but in the end, when I write, I feel for my characters, for the story, but that’s it. I’m very happy to hear readers feel something from my stories, but, all in all, that’s not how I write. I probably ought to care, but it’s hard enough pretending to be concerned about good writing, let alone what the reader will gain from it. How about, I hope my readers gain long lives and peace and tranquil nights and a reflective nature that allows them to become more empathic to the world around them.

MK: You also have a background in poetry–how has that affected your writing (both in how you approach it, and what you produce)?

CD: I suppose it’s a challenge as much as a benefit, and even then, that’s only if you consider poetic prose a good thing. But, either way, I suppose it pushes me to test the boundaries of form. That can prove tiresome, though. There’s a lot of people who question that kind of stuff. They need exact reasons for why I might do something that vears from the standard. And the thing is, when you have to explain your work all the time, then that’s exactly what it feels like—work. Typically I love talking craft, but sometimes it feels like the other person just wants to prove that what you’re doing is dumb. And I don’t know, if that’s what they want, then they’ll probably find their reason. This question is depressing me.  Probably because they’re right sometimes too. It doesn’t always work, but it doesn’t stop me from writing the way I sometimes do. Poetry cares about the rhythm of a line. I really enjoy writing a good line, but often it depends upon the lines before it. I end up reading my pieces aloud during the creation process–and then again at the finish. That’s how I revise. I don’t just read one line over again, I read it in context to what comes before and after. Each line gets revised in context to the whole. For each line, I start back at the beginning and read up to the next line I’m revising. I like to hear it. Aloud. It can be a long process, but luckily I write short pieces. What the hell did you ask me?

MK: What are you working on right now?

CD: A Yard’s Love Stout. You? Right now I’m just toying with one or two stories, and occasionally I come back to this poetry chapbook I wrote this past summer. It’s a pretty personal thing this chapbook. Whereas my stories meander around the things on my mind, the poetry I’ve been working on kind of jumps right into it without hesitating. It’s more or less a direct look at some things from my past that I’m able to process now. I’m kind of excited, though, to get back to writing stories. I have some ideas buzzing around, and I want to see what happens. All I know is that I don’t want to try anything hybrid anymore. That’s out of my system for the moment.

 

Purchase So My Mother, She Lives in the Clouds through Amazon, visit Hypertrophic Press, and visit Chris D. Dicicco’s author page

 

 

 

Post Script

This morning, we left for Minnesota. We’ve already said goodbye one hundred times, so this post is not another goodbye. We wanted to remind everyone of a few important things that will continue in our absence. 

  1. Thanks to our awesome new team member Jamie Beth Schindler, the Triangle calendar will remain updated with all the regional literary events. The Triangle began as simply a calendar; we think it’s necessary that there’s one place to find out about each and every gathering in the literary community. Please use it, share the events, invite friends, and keep the community active. If you have an event for her to add, just email her: JamieBethS [at] yahoo [dot] com.
  2. Third Point Press will continue to publish quarterly online issues of our literary magazine. We’re still reading for the September issue, so send in your best work! Editor-in-chief Matthew Kabik and Visual Art Editor Michelle Johnsen plan to organize another grown-up spelling bee, so keep your ear to the ground for that!
  3. Triangle team-member and bff Eliot White will still be hosting Fear No Lit readings at Dogstar books on an every-other-month basis. This August he’s featuring one of our favorite poets, Daniella Jo Hansen.
  4. Erin has created a helpful resource page for anyone looking to book readings or get in contact with local organizers.
  5. We miss you already.

Screenshot 2015-07-26 16.31.42

 

Saying Goodbye (For Now)

I was a senior at Millersville, finally starting to think about life after college. I was starting to think about where I would find my people. In college, I’d surrounded myself with my people; they were everywhere. These people and I started a creative writing club; we started a literary journal; we were doing readings in coffee shops and in living rooms. I was where I belonged.

But I was leaving in 9 months.

That spring, when I wandered tentatively into readings at DogStar Books and Barnes & Noble, I quickly found that these places were also full of my people. I started going often, bringing my friends, and all the time wondering why, five miles away in Millersville, I had never heard about these things happening. I talked about this with Erin, who I’d recently met and who’d also felt similarly out-of-the-loop when it came to literary gatherings. And this is where the idea for The Triangle came from. We wanted to help people like us find new people like us, stay informed about what their people were doing, and spread creative influence and collaboration across the various communities in south central PA. We started with a simple calendar, hoping to share information with those who were searching for it. We wanted to help connect the already blooming literary communities we were discovering in cities like Lancaster, York, and Harrisburg.

I will always be surprised and grateful for how quickly we were welcomed. We were added to email lists, added on Facebook, and added to the ends of readings, when the host would ask the inevitable question, “So, what’s happening next week?”

Erin and I took The Triangle further than we ever could have imagined when we began in the spring of 2013. We never planned to host our own readings; interview writers; start a visual interview series; make Facebook and Twitter accounts to connect with writers; organize our own workshops (including one where writers dissected cow-hearts to investigate the realities of love); host flash fiction readings; be interviewed by WITF; meet writers from all over the country as well as right down the street; start a press; examine strange items through a literary lens; produce a Spelling Bee attended by over a hundred people

Photo by Michelle Johnsen

Photo by Michelle Johnsen

We didn’t plan for any of that at first, but we found ourselves doing anything that seemed interesting, different, important, or scary. The biggest thing we never planned for was leaving.

In a month, Erin and I will be moving to Mankato, Minnesota, so that I can pursue an MFA in creative writing. We plan to take what we’ve learned from everyone we’ve met and use it to foster literary community there, or anywhere we end up (which, in two years, may well be back here in Lancaster).

Enough with the sap. What does this mean for The Triangle?

  1. As an organization, The Triangle will be on an indefinite hiatus.
  2. This website will remain live until at least 2018. We hope it is used as a resource, an artifact, and evidence to prove what south central PA’s literary community has to offer (meanwhile providing us with endless nostalgia while we’re in the midwest). We are creating a resource page (coming soon, which we will link to here) which will provide links and information for writers to find other local writers, events, and opportunities.
  3. The calendar of events, which is how The Triangle originally began, WILL ONLY CONTINUE IF we can find a reliable person who would like to keep it up. This duty would take about two hours twice a month. If someone would like to volunteer, we would happily show you the ropes. We are also offering a small honorarium as an incentive. If you are interested, please email us.
  4. Third Point Press is still alive and well. We’re looking for south central PA writers to publish, so please send your work. We’ll also be donating our remaining funds to Third Point Press, as they plan to cover next year’s web hosting and Submittable costs, paying contributors, and eventually publishing books. Yes, books.
  5. We have no more events (for now), but please give yourself a hug from us if you’ve ever attended an event of ours, provided a venue for an event of ours, or participated in an event of ours. Keep doing what you’re doing. We can not thank you enough.
  6. If you’d like to come say goodbye in person, we’ll be hosting a yardsale on July 18th at our place where there will be a TON of lit to buy. We’ll also have stickers, drinks, hugs, laughs, and tears all FOR FREE. Come see us before we go.
  7. FEAR NO LIT

Visual Interview: Instant Future

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, Sampson Starkweather & Paige Taggart, and Luna Miguel coming up over the next couple of months!

namesmountainvhs tapeswriterswomansignsculpturebrainpicturestreet

Kevin Sampsell and Matthew Simmons are two thirds of Instant Future, an eBook-only imprint from Future Tense Books (a micropress out of Portland, OR). Interview curated by Erin Dorney and Tyler Barton.

Photographs and text by either Matthew Simmons or Kevin Sampsell… we honestly have no idea.

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