The Fox Cities Book Festival 2014 has come and gone, but my memories are still fresh with my friends’ talented works still on the tip of my eardrum. It was so exciting to see published friends share their work this year!
My dear friend from college, Nathan Reid, read his most recently published piece in UW-Fox Valley’s Fox Cry Review. With extra time to spare at the end of the event, Nate offered to show more of his talent. Something he’s picked up over the last few years and has excelled in quickly. He performed a spoken word poem. If you’re curious what that might sound like, you can listen on his website. They are brilliant, passionate pieces about seeking truth. He currently lives in Madison so it was a special treat to get to see him and hear his work again.
If you’re wondering how brilliant he really is, just read his About page; or, better yet, his poetry!
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Then my editor/fiction professor/writing mentor/friend, Nikki Kallio, was presented the Mill Prize for her piece “Geography Lesson” at Atlas Coffee Mill. She was given a certificate and a chance to read a powerful snippet of her winning work. I got goosebumps and tears in my eyes knowing there was only one award left and her name was about to be called. There is never a more beautiful moment when someone you know gets everything they deserve.
Nikki has been an enormous inspiration in my writing. Shortly after I hit a low point, I signed up for a fiction class to bring life back into my soul and my writing. She happened to be the professor. All of her assignments brought out crazy stories I didn’t realize were in me. She is the reason I have started sending out my stories for publication. She has always been honest about my work and has helped me grow as a writer. I have so many things to thank her for. It was wonderful to see her accept an award that she so much deserves.
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On Saturday I found my way to Atlas Coffee Mill again to do some writing of my own, but instead I attended Halimah Marcus’ presentation Electric Literature: Adapting the Literary Magazine for the Digital World. It was interesting and I wanted to learn more about her views of self-publishing since many of my writing friends have started using it to get their writing out there. I’ve been considering it lately myself. Halimah seemed a little tired after having to defend her views from some of the stubborn audience members so perhaps asking her questions was a bad idea, but I did. By the end of the conversation, she said, “Maybe your story just isn’t any good. There’s always that. Maybe it’s just bad story. Maybe you need to write a better one.”
My jaw dropped and that was that. I walked away fuming. No. Johnny Be Good; Johnny Be Rotten would be published. I was even more determined to make it happen. I have never felt so strongly about a story I’ve written in my life. But by the time I sat through Larry Watson‘s The Legacy of Loss: Fiction, Family and Religion presentation, I thought that perhaps she was right. Maybe there were parts that needed to be rewritten…
So I found my way back to the one place that I knew would spark my inspiration to edit Johnny: Harmony Cafe. I feel at home under Harmony’s roof and, therefore, my work flows. My fingers tweaked each word, each sentence right into the start of the Slam Poetry competition with Karla Huston.
It was made up mostly of high school students and a few older folks who stepped up to the podium. Random people in the audience were chosen as judges and the winners walked away with a box of macaroni & cheese. There’s nothing like food when you’re a starving artist!
After the poetry slam, I continued editing up until the moment I heard the barista call “closing time!” I checked the clock. It was still early and I was not ready to ruin my editing streak so I asked for the best bar to continue working. Dr. Jekyll’s was her recommendation. Of course, Dr. Jekyll’s! Plus, my car was already parked in the back lot.
I found my way to a table with a Magners pear cider (just like I had in England) and continued editing. As soon as I finished, several people approached me. Each of them curious what I was working on. I was honest and since they were either Lawrence students and/or writers, too, it made for interesting conversation. But there was one group of guys at the bar that made my night complete. The social media specialist from Miles Kimball was celebrating his bachelor party, and I assume now that his buddies dared him to talk to me to get a picture for his future wife.
Yes, they got the picture.
Yes, we talked … about work!
I told him I was a social media specialist, too, and he taught me more about my job than I knew before I entered that bar. I bought him a shot and headed home to meet my boyfriend who had just gotten out of work. Of course, I told him every detail of my day and then made him read my new version of Johnny. I was so nervous but he promised the changes were good but he was glad I kept the ending.
Cross your fingers the literary magazines feel the same way and publish it this round!