Friday, December 12, 2014

Entry # 232 - "Interview with Deepan Chatterjee"

Entry # 232 – “Interview with Deepan Chatterjee”

By Jan Bowman

b22aea_4bc5c21faebd4b1e8f9fefea55a8ebb1.jpg_srz_p_196_320_75_22_0.50_1.20_0Interview with Deepan Chatterjee – “The First Propetical: A collection of poetry and short fiction.”
Dr. Deepan Chatterjee is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in Maryland. He has over fourteen years experience (eight of them postdoctoral) in providing diagnostic evaluations, individual, family and group psychotherapy, crisis counseling, psychopharmacological consults, as well as psychological assessment services to children, adolescents, adults, couples, geriatric adults, families and criminal offenders. Dr. Chatterjee’s writing has appeared in several newspapers, online blogs and literary magazines, including The Statesman, The Telegraph, The Tower, The Harbinger, The Daily Kos, Altarum Institute’s Health Policy Forum, among others. His poetry has also been featured in art exhibitions, including “Poets and Painters” at The Artist’s Gallery in Columbia, Maryland. He is the author of a recently published collection of short fiction and poetry entitled “The First Prophetical.” Dr. Chatterjee lives with his wife in Columbia, Maryland. Learn more about him at www.drdeepanchatterjee.com.
Jan: For whom did you write this book? Who would be your ideal reader?
Deepan: I wrote this book for a variety of readers – those who grew up in a foreign country (like I did) and then immigrated to the United States, those who reside here and wish to learn about other cultures and traditions, and anyone in general who loves reading short fiction and poetry. I have tried to include a variety of stories, including a murder mystery, a O’Henry type short story with a twist and a story with a psychologist as the narrator. Also, there are a variety of poems that I feel reflect many different moods. As such, I do not have an “ideal” reader in mind.
Jan: How does your background as a Clinical Psychologist influence your writing? And why do you write?
Deepan: I think my profession has a lot to do with my writing. I see writing as a sort of therapeutic catharsis, if you will. I write to relieve the stress and anxiety that inevitably comes with my job. I also write to escape the everyday mundane world of work and family life. Writing brings me great joy, and I would love to do it full-time if I could.
Jan: Many of the short prose pieces are listed as fiction, but seem more like they could be regarded as creative nonfiction. Why did you decide to write them as fiction?
Deepan: The stories are actually fiction. I have been asked by some readers and friends who have read my book if the characters depicted in the short stories are any of my patients in real life. My answer has always been that all the characters in my stories are fictional. They are part amalgams of different patient narratives, as well as part creative imagination.
Jan: This collection combines both fiction and poetry. Which do you prefer to write?
Deepan: Both, actually. I used to write poetry a lot at one time in my earlier life. I have started writing short stories again after a long time, and feel like I am really enjoying the process. I might go back to poetry again, who knows? However, I am thinking of writing another collection of short stories in the near future.
Jan: You have three poems on the topic of “Perfection” that are separated by short prose works, tell me about those poems and why you’ve positioned them as you have in the collection?
Deepan: That is a great question.The three parts of Perfection are interspersed between a story with a shocking ending, a reflective short piece, and a murder mystery. I think I was trying to evoke a variety of emotions in the reader, going from shock to a neutral pondering to the thrill of a “detective” story. If you read the three parts of perfection, they act as buffers between the different emotional states.
Jan: I try to take at least two intensive writers workshops each year, mostly in the summer to build connections with other writers and to help me grow in my development as a writer. Have you explored taking intensive summer writing workshops, and if you did, what would you consider the most valuable thing you could gain from that experience?
Deepan: I have considered participating in intensive writer workshops before. The only thing that prevents me from doing so is my full-time job as a Clinical Psychologist. I am also a Partner in our practice, and between my full clinical caseload and the added administrative responsibilities, I haven’t had the time. However, I am hoping to make some time in future for workshops. It would be really nice connecting with other writers.
Jan: Who are among your favorite authors? What are you reading now?
Deepan: As far as prose goes, I love Ernest Hemingway, Paulo Coelho, Satyajit Ray, and Amitav Ghosh. My favorite poets are Rumi, E.E. Cummings, Rabindranath Tagore, and Walt Whitman. Right now I am reading “Beyond the Pale Motel” by Francesca Lia Block.
Jan:  How can readers find out more about your new book and perhaps order it?
Deepan:  Here are links to my website.   www.drdeepanchatterjee.com.

About My book

I have written and published a collection of my short stories and poems. This collection includes many stories that draw upon my own experiences as an immigrant and as a psychologist. I have tried to include several genres in the writing, including minimalist styles, abstract postmodern styles, as well as a murder mystery. All the stories and poems have a common psychological thread running through them. In keeping with the Eastern philosophy of “daana”, I have decided to donate all the proceeds from the sale of the book to charity. Please visit the following websites to buy this book:

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Entry # 231 - "Tips to Beat Block & Banish Fear - using Pat Schneider's Writing Alone and With Others"

By Jan Bowman

Pat Schneider’s Writing Alone and With Others, is a fourth entry in a series about craft books that I have reread recently and found useful. And while many wonderful books on the writer’s craft are available, sometimes when the flame of inspiration flickers, it helps to read practical books on craft. In recent blog entries I have given my impressions about four books that offer ideas that have helped me improve my writing. Perhaps these will be useful to you.

PatSchneider's bookSchneider’s craft book is divided into three sections.
Part 1 – The Writer Alone - explores a range of topics essential to the individual writer, whether facing fear, finding your voice, or practicing your craft and working toward a disciplined writing life. A final topic in this section examines ethical questions writers face, whether they are concerned about spirituality, privacy and the politics of what they write.

Part 2 – Writing with Others – guides writers through the process of working in workshops or in small writing group settings to promote healthy growth experiences. The last topic includes an insightful discussion of ways to empower the silenced, so that writers who find the process of working with others intimidating, feel empowered to grow and risk in a place of safety.

Part 3 – Additional Exercises – offers more than 60 pages of writing exercises and story starters designed to address specific problems writers face in writing and revising. This section alone is worth the price of the book.
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Craft books can help writers grow. Truman Capote said, “Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself.”

Special Note:  I have turned off the comments section temporarily. Am having hundreds of inappropriate email/comments from websites unrelated to writing. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Entry # 230 - Some Thoughts on the Craft Book: Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson

Entry # 230 – Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson.

By Jan Bowman LeavingATraceEntry # 230 – Week Three – Leaving a Trace: On Keeping a Journal by Alexandra Johnson.
Here is a third entry in a series about craft books that I have found useful. And while many wonderful books on the writer’s craft are available, sometimes when writers face a temporary lag in their productivity, when the flame of inspiration flickers a bit, it helps to read practical books on craft. I offer my impressions about these four books in no particular order, other than the order in which I plucked them from my reading desk. I hope to offer just enough information to whet your appetite for more. For the next four weeks, I will present some thoughts on each of four books that I recently reread.
A quick scan of the contents of Leaving a Trace, reveals an inviting organization of three parts that explore: Part 1 – The Successful Journal: Practical Inspiration, Part 2 – Transforming a Life: Patterns, and Part 3 – Meanings, Crossover: Moving a Journal into Creative Work. Johnson’s book inspired me to dig through dozens of my old notebooks to see what kinds of things I had recorded in more than thirty years of writing journal entries about my life and what I have seen and done.
Part One – explores ways to use past journal entries to trigger memories of events and to increase our observational skills of the world around us. Whether writers decide to use single purpose journals dedicated to topics like travel or books read, or whether they combine a range of experiences in daily journals, the journal is rich soil to replenish the imagination when we feel depleted and come up empty in our writing.

Part Two – looks at finding hidden patterns in journal entries that can only be recognized as writers see anew those topics and descriptions recorded over time.

Part Three – moves forward describing methods for using journal information in both fiction and nonfiction. Mining the journal data allows writers to “leave a trace by regaining a past and imagining a future.”

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I did not reread the chapters in order. Instead I dipped into some that were particularly relevant to my current projects. And am pleased to say that after a couple of days of reading only two of my old  journals I gleaned three ideas that I will use in three stories that had stalled to a crawl.

 Special Note:  I have turned off the comments section temporarily. Am having hundreds of inappropriate email/comments from websites unrelated to writing.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Entry # 229 - More Crafty Essays About Notebooks

Entry # 229 – More Crafty Essays About Notebooks

By Jan Bowman Week Two – Entry # 229 – looks at a collection of craft essays, Writers and Their Notebooks, edited by Diana M. Raab and with a Foreward by Phillip Lopate.

writers_and_their_notebooks
During a recent blog entry #228, I mentioned that many wonderful books on the writer’s craft are available and useful. Sometimes writers face a temporary lag in their productivity and the tiny flame of inspiration flickers a bit, and at those times, it helps to read good books on craft. I offer my impressions in no particular order, other than the order in which I plucked them from my reading desk. I hope to offer just enough information to whet your appetite for more. For the next four weeks, I will present some thoughts on each of four books that I recently reread.
Essays in Diana Raab’s (editor) Writers and Their Notebooks, explore a diverse group of writers who use journals to develop their writing craft. Section essays examine five topics. Here are my favorite essays in each section:
  1. The Journal as Tool – Kim Stafford’s essay, “the Place of No Limit” examines her journal methods as she uses intuitive pocket journal notes that move from the personal into poetry (upon reflection), and her methods recording notes on her computer into files that evolve into prose. Stafford offers examples of each and sample poetry and prose that came from those notes. 
  2. The Journal for Survival – Zan Bockes’ essay, “Musements and Mental Health” speaks candidly of using the journal as a tool for therapy. Bockes’ entries deal personally with her own struggles with mental illness and her attempt to use journals to cope and reach catharsis.
  3. The Journal for Travel – Bonnie Morris’s essay,”Writing in Public Places” describes the process of writing in public places and the rich insights writers can gather in observational notebooks. Whether journaling at a local coffee shop, doctor’s office, or a train in China, the writer’s notebook captures specifics of essential human behaviors in particular times and places.
  4. The Journal as Muse – Rebecca McClanahan’s “Thoughts on a Writer’s Journal” explores multiple purposes for writing journals in the development of a writer’s life. Journals function as compost bin, life record, confessional booth or playroom for ideas.
  1. The Journal for Life – Kyoko Mori’s “Forgetting to Remember–Why I Keep a Journal” describes his memory of his grandfather’s notebook, in which details of culture, language and ancestors were carried from the old world to the new world. It’s a profoundly touching essay.
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The following review of this collection appeared in the Midwest Book Review.
I did not write it. Wish I had.

“Writers And Their Notebooks is an anthology of essays by established and professional writers, discussing the value of simple notebooks to collect ideas, play around with words, discover new insights into evoking emotion with language, and much more. From sample journal entries that evolved into published pieces, to valuable advice for aspiring writers, to individual approaches to notebook keeping and much more, Writers And Their Notebooks is filled with tips, tricks, and techniques for getting creative juices flowing. An excellent supplementary reference for any would-be writer’s shelf.”
~Midwest Book Review

Please note that I have closed my blog comments sections - temporarily - because I was getting hundreds of inappropriate posting attempts from unpleasant sources.  Until further notice, if you wish to contact me directly try this email address:      email:  janwriter@comcast.net      




Saturday, October 18, 2014

Entry # 228 - "Crafty Readings for Beginning Writers"

Entry # 228 – “Crafty Readings for Beginning Writers”

By Jan Bowman OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWriters who want to grow in their writing do well to spend their time actually writing. But sometimes when I’m feeling burned-out in my keyboard work, I take a break and read books on the writing craft. Yes. Writing requires attention to details, just as painting or carpentry does, but writing also requires stepping back from work and looking at the resulting efforts from a distance to see how even and whole it is.
During a recent lull in my productivity I turned to four splendid books on craft and I can recommend them highly. For the next four weeks, I will present some thoughts on each of these books. Here they are in no particular order, other than the order in which I plucked them from my reading desk. I offer just enough information to whet your appetite for more, I hope.
Steering the Craft 
Week One: Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis week let’s look at the craft book, Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin, because this is a wonderfully useful book filled with common sense discussions and exercises whether you are, as Le Guin says, “the lone navigator or the mutinous crew” in a writers’ group seeking to improve a story. She says that the title comes from a workshop she gave by the same title in 1996 and that “. . . exercises are consciousness raisers: their aim is to clarify and intensify your awareness of certain elements of prose writing and certain techniques and modes of storytelling.”

In ten short chapters, Le Guin deals with setting your sails, sheets, and jibs for keeping your writing – on course. She offers the usual attention to basic writing elements, such as grammatical issues, but explores more complex issues like point of view and voice, with great humor and examples from master writers that can help even more experienced writers stay their course. I found that Chapter Ten, “Crowding & Leaping” – and the exercises – “A Terrible Thing To Do” helped me take a new look at one of my current stagnant writing projects.

Le Guin says, “Some people see art as a matter of control. I see it mostly as a matter of self-control. It’s like this: in me there’s a story that wants to be told. It is my end; I am its means.”



Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com
 




Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Entry # 227 - Breadloaf - 2014 Notes from Julie Wakeman-Linn

By Jan Bowman

BreadloafIn my previous Entry # 226 – Interview with Julie Wakeman-Linn, we spoke mostly about her experiences as an Editor of the Potomac Review. Today my blog entry presents a post she shared with me – written about Breadloaf Conference on day four in August 2014.

Jan:  In August you returned for the third time to the Breadloaf Conference. Please tell us about your experiences there. Who taught your workshop and who impressed you in the craft talks. What new things did you discover about your own writing?

Julie:    Ursula Hegi, who is amazing, taught me a lot about point of entry into fiction. Andrea Barrett gave an incredible craft talk on Point of View.  And as for my own writing? Breadloaf is so much fun but it also gave me a nice shot of confidence in my work. It is a competitive admission conference and being there makes a writer feel good. Being surrounded by other serious and talented writers leads to marvelous conversations about the writing life, too.

Julie's  Blog Notes from Day Four – Breadloaf Writers Conference – 2014   
 

Vermont, whether cold and rainy or sunny and balmy, is beautiful. The mountains around us soothe. I am always optimistic but somehow it seems people check their egos at the bottom of the mountain before they come up. The US Poet laureate asked my table of regular writers, if she could join us. She was lovely, by the way. There is a flood of hope for opportunities, a sharing of information and don’t get me started on the swapping of books-essays-poems-you must read. I think only at end of semester English Major parties or in grad school after the killer comprehensives do you participate in such a sharing of ‘you must read this.

I’m studying with Ursula Hegi, an incredible writer and teacher. The workshop leaders’ credentials are too extensive to list here. Check out the conference website for that. The workshop group of ten is acting like old friends, although we’ve only been together 4 days. Certainly it is a competitive admission conference and even within that there are hierarchies—the talented hard working waiters are here on full scholarship. The Scholars have been granted the competitive tuition scholarships and our Fellows selected for their publication records and awards. I’m here as a participant. I’m lucky because my college foots my bills as professional development so I’ve never even applied for a scholarship and that probably takes away any concern I have about who is who.

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Ursula Hegi is a bi-cultural writer who has published twelve books. Her Burgdorf Cycle encompasses Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother’s Palm, The Vision of Emma Blau, and Children and Fire. Hegi’s work has been translated into many languages. Her awards include the Italian Grinzane Cavour prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the PEN/Faulkner Award. She is on the MFA faculty at Stony Brook Southampton. She has also taught at Barnard College and at the University of California at Irvine. She has served as a juror for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.       
online search website link:   Ursula Hegi
barrett_andreaphoto_9526 
Andrea Barrett is the author of six novels, most recently The Air We Breathe, and three collections of short fiction, Ship Fever, which received the National Book Award; Servants of the Map, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Archangel, which was published in 2013. She has received fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation,  the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives in western Massachusetts and teaches at Williams College.  search online or go to website:     http://andrea-barrett.com
PotomacReview 
Julie says: As Potomac Review editor, I am looking among the scholarship writers for likely contributors to the next issue.
In a way, I’m here as triple threat– writer, editor and friend. Yes, I also come to be with writer friends and study with them. So it’s day four of another great year at Breadloaf, although it is the coldest of the three times I’ve been here.  Here’s contact information if someone wants to follow up with me about writing, my work and the Potomac Review.
 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Entry #226 - Interview with Julie Wakeman-Linn, Editor of the Potomac Review

Julie Wakeman-Linn, Editor of Potomac Review answers questions about the joys & sorrows of editing a literary journal and my next post (Entry #227) will share more details of her experiences at the Breadloaf Workshop.

Jan:   Eli Flam founded the Potomac Review back in 1993. How has the Potomac Review changed since those early days and what do you see as the current mission?
Julie:   Our mission is very different. Eli published quarterly and only accepted submissions from the region (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware). He also had an environmental focus. It was a beautiful regional journal.

We, on the other hand, accept submissions from all over the globe. In our last issues, we have published writers from Australia, Taiwan, Canada and the U.S. We don’t have a thematic focus—instead we strive for a combination of styles and content, ranging from formal poetry to free verse to traditional narrative to experimental fiction. We also try very hard to represent a variety of writers, balancing the number of men and women and including people of color.

Jan:   How did you get involved in this publication, taking on the role of Editor-in-Chief?
Julie:   In 2004 The Potomac Review was housed in name only at Montgomery College. None of the faculty or students were participating at all. I volunteered to re-shape it to include faculty as editors and students as interns. In fact, the Potomac Review internship is one of the coolest things I get to do. We select a team of the best, brightest, most eager creative writing students and teach them the publication business from the inside. I have an incredible supportive Dean and Vice President above me.

Jan:   Although the guidelines and deadlines are online, what kinds of work are you most interested in publishing at this time?
 Julie:   We are on the prowl for more excellent nonfiction. I, personally, like magic realism, but any story has to go through our three-tier system, so it’s not just a matter of what I like.

Jan:   What kinds of mistakes do you most often see in submissions that are deal-breakers for you and your section editors? What advice do you offer to those submitting work for publication consideration?
PotomacReviewJulie:   Mistakes in writing and in submitting can be deal-breakers. The funniest one occurs when a writer submits in the wrong genre. If a poet clicks fiction or a fiction writer selects poetry, the submission often gets lost in a “no-man-nobody’s-reading-it-land.” A big mistake in writing is a weak opening line or paragraph. A huge deal breaker is forgetting to tell us if the piece has been accepted somewhere else, leaving us wasting our time. That mistake usually puts the writer on our black list. And yes, editors can block writers from submitting.

Jan:   Tell us a bit about the annual Potomac Review‘s involvement in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Conference.
Julie:   We are involved with Barrelhouse Magazine in the lively one day “Conversations and Connections: practice advice on getting published.” Dave Housley, Susan Muaddi Darraj and I founded the conference in 2007 and it keeps rocking on. We are launching a new variation of it this January with a one day craft-intensive event at Montgomery College. We are no longer involved with the F. Scott Fitz Literary Festival.

Jan:   What are the joys and sorrows that you’ve discovered about working for a small literary journal? What is the best advice you have received, and what advice have you chosen to ignore about editing a literary journal?
Julie:   The joy of hearing that somebody loved something we published or the joy of meeting an author in person whose work we loved makes it worthwhile. I was at AWP and this guy walked up to our book fair table. I saw his name badge and called out “Coyotes”! Will Donnelly! Then  I had a great chat about how much we loved his work and how pleased he was with Potomac Review. We’ve had some incredible success stories. Jennine Capo Crucet—I heard her read at Breadloaf in 2008, published her in 2009, she won the Iowa Review Prize in 2010. Stories and essays we adored have been recognized in the Best American series. We haven’t cracked the Pushcart yet, but we hope to soon. For me,  joy comes with success for our authors.
The advice I ignored was from David Lynn of The Kenyon Review. We were having a casual chat at Sewanee in 2005 and when I asked his advice about editing a lit mag — he said, “Don’t.”

Jan:   What is the most useful thing that you have learned about your own writing as a result of working with the Potomac Review?
Julie:   Hmm, good question. I’ve learned about having patience with editors and I’ve gained a much greater understanding that any editor is only one reader on any given day. Another editor tomorrow may love a story or have room for it.

Jan:   What are you working on in your own writing right now?
Julie:   A new novel is out in circulation even as I type. Next up for me is to polish my novella, Challenges of Non-native Species, and to prepare my African short stories collection.
Breadloaf 
Jan:   In August you returned to the Breadloaf Conference once again; please tell us about your experiences there. What new things did you discover about your own writing?
Julie:    Ursula Hegi, who is amazing, taught me a lot about point of entry into fiction. Andrea Barrett gave an incredible craft talk on Point of View.  And as for my own writing? Breadloaf is so much fun but it also gave me a nice shot of confidence in my work. It is a competitive admission conference and being there makes a writer feel good. Being surrounded by other serious and talented writers leads to marvelous conversations about the writing life, too.

Jan:   What question do you wish I had asked? And what would you say in response to it?
Julie:    My question–Why don’t editors respond immediately to writers? And I’d answer this way: Try to respect that each issue is also an artifact, an object of literary art and it takes time and care to do it, if not perfectly, at least as polished as possible. Editors are people, too, usually with demanding teaching jobs, so be patient.

Jan:   Finally, thanks so much, Julie for taking time for this interview. Please provide readers with the Mission Statement of the Potomac Review and relevant links.

Potomac Review opens windows into the complexity of literature: in each issue, our selections span the spectrum of voice and style. We sample realistic and experimental prose and poetry. Drawing 95 % of our content from unsolicited submissions, we publish writers at all stages of their careers. Every issue includes work by emerging and by established writers. The Potomac Review features award-winning writers and has been recognized in the Best American series.  Our philosophy welcomes variety, and through it, we create an organic flow of ideas to contribute to the literary conversation.
Potomac Review no longer accepts paper submissions. Instead, submit your work electronically via our Online Submission Manager. 

About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan’s stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers. Her stories have been finalists for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, 2013 finalists in the Phoebe Fiction Contest, 2012 “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.
P5080027Her fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories. She has nonfiction publications in Atticus Review, Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers. Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com