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Author: Amy McDaniel

Art is Both Necessary and Not Enough

Because 100% isn’t enough right now, 200% of book sales (full cover price doubled) through the websites of 421 Atlanta and Publishing Genius will go to either the Southern Poverty Law Center or MALDEF Mexican American Legal Defense (for Lay Me Low by Chris Cheney). Jane Liddle’s Murder is particularly timely. Indie literature is already a site of resistance. It’s a way to clarify and communicate an alternative mode of being in a world that mostly asks us to be unthinking and unfeeling. It’s an alternative economy already, so it makes easy sense to shift into a higher gear. I give money to SPLC whenever I can anyway,...

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Hose-water Cereal and Day-Old Scones: A Single Stroke Seven Menu by Lavinia Ludlow

The characters in Lavinia Ludlow’s Single Stroke Seven (Casperian Books) may not enjoy the most appetizing of cuisine, but this book-themed menu put together by the author makes for a hilarious, if stomach-turning, read. In a review of Single Stroke Seven at Necessary Fiction, Alex Kudera writes, “I couldn’t stop turning pages.” There were two goals resonating in mind while drafting this book. I wanted to redefine the phrase “suffer for your art” and exploit the spirit of the “starving musician.” By thrusting the characters into advanced states of survival mode, they were forced to devise cringe-worthy solutions to hunger and medical care. Below are a...

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Thoughts on Readings and Small Press Publishing

Resistance, Connection, and Readings Last week, I went to an excellent reading hosted by Scott Daughtridge, who runs the series LostInTheLetters and The Letters Festival. Scott brought in four great writers: Sabrina Orah Mark, Sarah Rose Etter, Ashley Jones, and Gina Myers. Sabrina read at a series that Jamie Iredell, Blake Butler, and I used to help run, Solar Anus, in 2009, and while you can’t yet read the wonderful pieces she read last week, you can read this piece from her 2008 book Tsim Tsum. And then you’ll want to read the whole book. Ashley Jones has a book coming...

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Not a Very Intelligent Perspective: Racism and the Failures of White Thought

A student from Afghanistan told me a story about an American man who said he wanted to free Afghan women. He wanted to take the headscarves off Afghan women and burn them (the headscarves). My student did not think this would free her. What he would be doing, she said, is attacking her. I don’t know if she told the man that. If she did, he probably didn’t understand. I can imagine him saying, “I’m on your side here!” I’m sure he thought he was. This is where his thought fails, and his racism persists. By this I don’t mean that racism is...

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On Reading Privately: Suzanne Scanlon’s Promising Young Women

I promised to write about Promising Young Women for the first entry in my summer reading journal, but I’ve avoided it for over a month since finishing the book reading to the end. To begin with, I kept leaving it places where I wasn’t. Then I was reading other books and thinking about those. A journal is supposed to be immediate, and I’d let immediacy slip past. That wasn’t it’s fault. Promising Young Women is as immediate as a cool and perfect thing can be. It lives right where immediacy isn’t intimacy and coolness isn’t remote. Then I worried I wouldn’t have anything smart to say about...

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Interview with Amanda Johnston, Organizer of Black Poets Speak Out

Amanda Johnston is a poet and one of the organizers of Black Poets Speak Out (BPSO), which started as a hashtag video campaign in response to the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown. I talked to Amanda recently to ask about the origins and evolution of the BPSO movement and how it has interacted with her practice as a poet who is politically engaged. From what I understand, what became Black Poets Speak Out originated with you and then took its form as you talked and collaborated with some other poets. Could you...

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Reconstruction Reading List: Eric Foner and David Blight

South Carolina and every other state and entity and person must stop flying the Confederate flag: Yes, absolutely yes. I began campaigning against the old Georgia flag, with its Confederate motif, in 5th grade. Nothing will ever convince me that the flag constitutes anything but hate speech. But our response must not end there. We must also understand that the Confederacy seceded from the Union and fought the Civil War to preserve the institution of slavery. The Union may not have fought against slavery, but without a doubt the South fought and died for the cause of slavery. We know this intuitively;...

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Neighborhood Food Drive: Halle Butler on Screenwriting

Halle Butler, author of the intensely excellent new novel Jillian (Curbside Splendor), is at work on a movie called Neighborhood Food Drive, a dark comedy that she wrote with her partner, Jerzy Rose. They previously collaborated on Crimes Against Humanity. Halle and Jerzy need $$$$ to make the movie, and I really want to see it, so if you want to see it too, please check out and contribute to their Kickstarter. But first, here’s what Halle has to say about screenwriting. How did you learn to do it? I learned to do it by doing it, really. I was friends with a lot of filmmakers in college,...

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Summer Reading List Roundup!

Reading summer reading lists is, apparently, at the top of my summer reading list. I think it’s the anticipation, and the association with school’s out by the pool reading whatever I want in June and July waiting till August to read the assigned books and being delighted by those, too. Especially The Search for Delicious, mainly because it had a map in it. Year-end “best of” lists are not anticipatory. They are wintry. So here are some of the lists I’ve been reading, with great anticipation and intention: All summer, I’ll do a kind of Summer Reading journal beat here. I promise...

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Thirteen Ways to Interact with the Writers of Color Google Doc

Give thanks for this amazing resource: A Google Doc that introduces and re-introduces you to writers of color in every conceivable literary and journalism genre. Give thanks to the 734 and counting writers who have willingly listed, for the benefit of the entire internet, their names, contact info, Twitter handles, place of residence, interests and specialties. Feel chastened by how much you don’t know. Allow your assumptions to unearth themselves and wither in the glare of reality. Discover. Google some people you’ve never heard of and read their work. Order some books. Reimagine what inclusiveness can mean. Control F for genre or...

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Black Words Matter: Poems by Baltimore Students

Black Lives Matter, and Black Words Matter. The nonprofit organization Writers in Baltimore Schools, founded by Patrice Hutton, hosts Black Words Matter write-ins, where Baltimore students write about race and police brutality. The poems below were composed at the most recent write-in on May 3, just two weeks after the death of Freddie Gray. In the time that’s followed, much has been written about Baltimore youth, but here are four young Baltimoreans in their own words. I almost forgot By Afiya Ervin (grade 10) I almost forgot about the time I took a walk with my sister and admired the artwork on...

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Partial Transcript of Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Press Conference on Freddie Gray

These are excerpts from Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s press conference on the charges against the officers who illegally detained Freddie Gray and contributed to his death. There may be some errors in this transcript. The findings of our comprehensive, thorough, and independent investigation, coupled with the medical examiner’s determination that Mr. Gray’s death was a homicide, which we received today, has led us to believe that we have probable cause to file criminal charges. The statement of probable cause is as follows: On April 12, 2015, between 8:45 and 9:15am, near the corner of North Avenue and Mount Street,...

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Four Punk Rock Prompts from Mindela Ruby

This week’s writing prompt comes from Mindela Ruby, author of the new novel Mosh It Up (Pen-L), about a sexually compulsive punk rock riot girl with good intentions. Music stirs the psyche in complicated ways. A symphonic Mahler mind-blower or a Descendents punk love tune can each mainline to our primordial gut. Writing about music, however, is no snap. Cite famous lyrics, and you’ll need to acquire and pay for re-use permissions. More importantly, how can language capture ineffable qualities of sound? Let’s rise from our desk chairs and jeté or mosh it up to inspiring chord progressions to...

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Old Bay and “Kathmandu” by Banira Giri

Eat: Baltimore You can put Old Bay on popcorn. You can sprinkle it on cucumbers if that’s what you’ve got. Old Bay on corn, Old Bay in a Bloody Mary, Old Bay on deviled eggs. Any potato. Fry or tot or chip. Of course any shellfish. Crab or shrimp. Old Bay has mustard, paprika, celery salt, bay leaf, black pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, mace, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, and ginger. A German guy invented it, but a map of Old Bay’s ingredients is a map of the world. Incidentally, Nepal is one of the largest producers of mustard,...

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Creamed Kale, Subpar Ribeye, and Ad Stories

    Eat: Wednesday, our host Bryan’s Volvo broke down right outside baggage claim. We’d extended a ride to a friend from Atlanta, Justin L. Daugherty of Sundog Lit, and his girlfriend, Sarah V. Melton, and they graciously stayed stuck with us, and Sarah even got AAA and rode in the tow truck with Bryan, whom she’d never met. Meanwhile our host Kim took the rest of us back to their house in a neighborhood called Seward and we drank our first of many Grain Belt beers in the backyard. When the tow truck arrived, we went to Birchwood Cafe and had...

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Frenzied, Zesty, Voracious: A Writing Exchange Between Caracas and Sarajevo

Narrative Witness: Caracas & Sarajevo Sarajevo is so far from us. I will never go there, it is so far away. Maybe I should get myself a map and fold it in order to bring Caracas closer to Sarajevo. — Fedosy Santaella, “The Trees of Sarajevo” Last summer, 22 writers and photographers built a 5,478-mile bridge out of words and images, stretched between Caracas, Venezuela, and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. As part of the International Writing Program (IWP)’s inaugural Narrative Witness collaboration, the participants met for videoconference workshops every week. They wrote in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Spanish, and English, and two translators worked lightning fast so that...

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April 2015 Editor’s Letter

Dear Reader, Writers go to AWP the way Jane Austen characters go to Bath. One moment, you’re pulled in a thousand directions, eager to talk to everyone you see, buy every book, commit to attending twelve overlapping events. The next moment, you don’t see anyone you know, you’re walking down row Z12 and don’t recognize any of the journals or presses, and you can’t figure out why you came. It’s dry as toast, but it’s also a bacchanal and it’ll take a month to recover. And just as English society went to Bath ostensibly for the healing waters, but really...

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Happy Formidable Women Day!

In honor of the release of The Motion by Lucy K Shaw, which is the first perfect-bound book I’ve released on my press, 421 Atlanta, I declare today to be FORMIDABLE WOMEN DAY. The secret theme of The Motion—from the cover picturing her sister and a painting by Tracey Emin to the very end—is formidable women, and Lucy herself is formidable in all that she does. Plus, it is the final day of Women’s History Month so it’s fitting that we look forward from history to celebrate the now and the future of the formidable women in our lives and hearts. Formidable women form other formidable...

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