Writing is a
solitary act, as we know, but writers do need communities. Tell
me about the local writing community.
Well, it's less like a community,
and more like a big, gnarly menuendless,
strange, ever-morphing. Select to your taste. My local writing
community revolves around The Writers Center, as well as writers
and poets I've run across at the Washington Independent Writers
Association, the The Women's National Book Association, and at
various reading series, including readings at Candida's World
of Books among others.
Of course, each writer will have
a unique take on the so-called community. Within the D.C. area,
there are plenty of children's book writers, copyeditors, biographers,
scriptwriters, mystery writers, poets galore-o-rama. However,
Richard Peabodypoet, writer, teacher, editor of Gargoyle
is the patron saint of us all, say I.
What is probably
the greatest misperception about the local literary scene?
Well, again, that it's small
(on the contrary: it's ginormous) and that it's all in English.
Qué tal la vida literaria.
We all know
that political writers of all stripes, historians, and mystery
writers are popular here in the D.C. area. What genres are as
equally represented here in D.C. but don't get enough attention,
in your opinion?
Poetry, literary fiction and
creative nonfiction. To get a sense of the size of the former,
just check out Beltway. As for literary fiction and creative
nonfiction writers, these tend to come out of the many MFA programs
in the area. To give you an idea of the size of that, check out
The Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Almost every
university in the region, it seems, is a member.
What are some
resources for local writers or people who want to get involved
in the local community? Blogs, journals (both online and not).
Classes? Writing groups?
Well, again, The Writers Center
has such a wide range of offerings, from poetry to travel writing
to comedy writing to screenplay writing8
weeks, one weekend, one dayyou name it. The Washington Independent
Writers Association runs a superb series of conferences and "PubSpeaks."
There's the F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference in Rockville, MD and
the Pure Sea Glass Writers At the Beach out in Delaware, among
others. A great resource for local literary happenings is Beltway's
Resource Bank of Regional Reading Series.
As for the on-line community,
I check in regularly with lit-bloggers The Happy Booker, 32 Poems,
Work-in-Progress, and local poet E. Ethelbert Miller's E-Notes.
And you could spend all night surfing on Beltway's lit-blog list.
Who are some
of the writers who have influenced you? Who are some of your
favorite writers in general? What about local writers?
Of course, this list could change
tomorrow, but right now my top three favorite writers are V.S.
Naipaul, Edith Wharton, and Patricia Klindienst.
As for local writers, for a while I was in a writers group here
in D.C. with some wonderful writers, among them Mary Kay Zuravleff,
Leslie Pietrzyk, and Kate Blackwell. I'm also a huge fan of the
nonfiction of Sara Mansfield Taber and Lisa Couturier, both of
whom teach at the Writer's Center.
a travel writer, and you teach travel writing at the Writer's
Center. Why does this genre interest you? How did you get started?
I got started when I was living
in Mexico City (where I still live part time). I wanted to write
about it, and, at the same time, escape it, so I cooked up the
idea of traveling through Mexico's nearly 1,000-mile long Baja
California peninsula, which turns out, no surprise, to have an
intricate, if oftentimes remote, relationship with the city.
The result was my memoir, Miraculous Air.
I've continued in this genre with long, novela-like travel essays
(translation: you'd call them "creative nonfiction"
and their only homes, for now, are literary journals.) The latest
to be published is a lengthy essay in The Massachusetts Review
about a journey to the Emperor of Mexico's castle in Italy.
advice would you give someone just starting out as a writer,
particularly here in the D.C. area?
Don't be shy! Sign up for a workshop,
attend readings and conferences, join some groups. Learn your
craft (it's a never-ending journey of learning). Get to know
who's who, what intrigues you and charms you, what bores you,
what repels you. Shape your community to your own taste. Here
in D.C., you can do that.