Tuesday, March 30, 2010
On Thursday, April 8 from 7 to 8 PM we will have our second of a series of readings in the Kelley Lounge of the RMC. Published authors from this year's R2 will be reading their work and there will be FREE food, so you should definitely come check it out!
If you're feeling brave and want to read your own creative writing, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org before Wednesday, April 7.
See you there!
P.S. Don't forget: staff applications for the 2010-2011 editorial board are due April 5 by 5 PM! Check the website for more details.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Please join us for a reading by
March 16, 2010
To read exerpts of her writing, go here:
The Rice Department of English and Fondren Library's Cherry Reading Series continues at your neighborhood bookstore with the fantastic Elizabeth McCracken. She is the author of The Giant's House, which was nominated for the National Book Award; Niagara Falls All Over Again, winner of the PEN/Winship Award; and Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?, a collection of stories. Her most recent book is a memoir titled An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination about the loss of her first child in the ninth month of pregnancy, called by McCracken "the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending."
"Reading it is a mysteriously enlarging experience. It could pair neatly with Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking: it's hard to imagine two more rigorous, unsentimental guides to enduring the very bottom of the scale of human emotion." Lev Grossman
"Alert to every nuance of feeling, McCracken writes with such clarity and immediacy that we hope anyway. 'It's a happy life,' she says, 'and someone is missing.' That these statements can both be true is the mark of great emotional maturity, and of a writer who rises to the human complexity of grief with all her powers, and all her heart." Mark Doty
"In An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, Elizabeth McCracken does not howl out her loss. She is devastatingly calm and in this matches measure for measure her own fine writing. By the end of this memoir you will have held a beautiful child in your hands and you will have acknowledged him. This book is an extraordinary gift to us all." Alice Sebold
"If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ¬music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don't just stick there scowling at the problem. But don't make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people's words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient."
"Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ¬being satisfied."
"The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying "Faire et se taire" (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as "Shut up and get on with it."
"Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can't sharpen it on the plane, because you can't take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils."
"Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you."
"Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ¬internet."
Monday, February 8, 2010
Overall the quality of writing this year is stronger than those of last year. The diversity in themes is perhaps what surprised me the most. In fiction, we received a lot more genre fictions than before, including even quite a few sci-fi and romance fictions. I want reiterate our stance on genre fiction this year, which is that we are open to fiction in any style. They are judged with the same standard as any kind of fiction - good writing, thought-provoking ideas, and fresh perspectives. In both fiction and non-fiction, we also received quite an eclectic pile of writings that focus on multi-cultural themes. We are very happy to see these new trends.
Some people have asked us about our selection process. So here is how it works for R2:
When we get the submissions, the web master takes them and formats them so that they do not have the authors' names on them, are all formatted in the same style, and randomly compiled in a list, meaning a writer submitting more than one piece would not have those piece appear next to each other when the rest of the staff reads them.
Then the section editors, the managing editor, and the editor-in-chief take the submissions home for the winter break (that's right, we still have to WORK during break!). The EIC and the ME read everything and gives it either a Yes/No/Maybe. None of us knows what each other thinks about the pieces and our policy is to not discuss them until the Big Read. The section editors do the same for their own sections (neither the EIC nor the ME can submit to the magazine).
Then we come back for the Big Read (January in the Spring semester), which is open to anyone interested in creative writing. (YOU DO NOT HAVE TO HAVE WORKSHOP EXPERIENCE!) What happens here is that we have all the blinded submissions for people to look at and rate a Yes/No/Maybe. Each piece would be rated 3 times, by 3 different readers. Then at the end of the night, we compile the votes for each piece.
Once the votes are compiled, those that have 3 straight Yes's or 3 straight No's from the EIC, ME, and the section editor, would either go automatically into the Yes or No pile. Then the ambiguous ones where there are 2 No's and 1Yes, etc, would go into the Maybe pile. Associate section editors, however, can petition to us about a particular piece if necessary.
After the Big Read, we have the second Maybe Read where we decide on the Maybe pieces. Here all the associate section editors meet for that section. By this point, we start the finalizing discussion. We talk about the pros and cons of each piece and arrive at a consensus. It can get a little tricky when one of the editors knows the writer of a piece because he/she took the same creative writing class. If the editor is an associate editor, he/she would refrain from discussing the piece. The EIC, the ME, and the section editor each have final veto power, although this has never been used before.
Therefore, as you can see, we try to keep the selection process as objective as possible by blinding the submissions. But obviously, a certin degree of subjectivity still operates in the selection process. So if your piece was rejected, it may not be that it was sub-par, but because sometimes it could just be due to the overall consensus of a particular mix of individuals. Sometimes, a section editor could eschew a certain kind of writing style and therefore influence the overall styles of the pieces published in that section. Like many things in creative writing, this subjective component is inevitable. However, we do have pieces where everyone agrees on "Yes" instantly.
I hope this is helpful for those of you interested in how the R2 selection process works. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!
"Friedrich Nietzsche is the author of several books of philosophy. And God is dead."
Or like this one from Tiger Beat for Men in 1971 (perfect for a senior)
"Norman Mailer is a magnificent writer and one brilliant son of a bitch. He's outlived, outloved and outbrawled every last one of you miserable pansy bastards who sit around reading magazines."
or it could even have some kind of a foreshadowing element, although hopefully not as pessimistic as this one
"Sylvia Plath is a poet living in London. She Recently purchased a gas oven."- 1963, Opaque and Oblique.
or perhaps more complex like this one from the Paris Review:
"William Burroughs elaborates cardboard assumptions near the horizon. He laments the dachshunds' cruel design."
And finally, here's a great one that really uses the writer's last words to further assert his essential self. This one's from Disembowelment Weekly:
"Stephen King is a horror author. That's horror, not whore."
Friday, January 15, 2010
Sunday, November 22, 2009
1st place prize in each section: $500
2nd place prize in each section: $250
Submission limits: 3 fiction pieces, 3 creative non-fiction pieces, and 5 poems
Questions? Details at www.r2mag.rice.edu
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
1. Make eye contact at the beginning and end of a piece, also (if poems, for example), between individual pieces. It can be hard to make eye contact while reading (try to if you can) so make sure at least a few times you do this.
2. Don't mumble. Check in with someone in the back of the room to make sure your voice carries.
3. Read slower than you think you should. In rare cases, a reader is too fast, but this seem very rare. Speedy is usually the rule.
4. Don't give too much background: just enough. Talk between pieces sometimes, but for short works (e.g. some poems, flash fiction) read two or three in a row just announcing titles. A little mystery can go a long way. But this varies with genre so see what's appropriate for fiction, poetry, non-fiction, etc.
5. Watch the pacing between pieces. For poets, don't rush from one work to the next. Figure out a suitable pause, even between short lyrics.6. Resist the temptation to over-read. Writers are hungry for audiences, but it's always better to leave an audience wanting more. So, if you can reasonably squeeze, say, 12 poems into a reading, try 10 (as opposed to 15). This will also give you the time to practice the tactics I list above.
First off, it's ok to be nervous. The best reader I know gets so nervous before her readings she can barely talk, but she still manages to bring people to tears with her poems (and not because they are sad). Once she is at a podium, she leaves her nervousness behind and reads as if it is the most important thing she has ever done. I've had my voice crack, my throat get dry, my hands shake, and I've blushed so fiercely I've thought people might think I was on fire. Find a way to get past however your nervousness manifests. Accept it if it is there, but learn to concentrate just on the work and on the fact that you wrote it to communicate to someone else. People are mostly at a reading to be the best listeners they can. Your job is to give them your work as clearly as you can. I find it really useful to shift how I think of my work a few hours before a reading. I stop thinking of my poems as things I have written or things I may revise--and I start to think of them as poems that exist in world--poems that I want to do well by as a reader. In other words, I stop focusing on the fact that I wrote them and start thinking of them for what they do in language. For me, this grew out training in theater. Think of it this way: if you were an actor, you would be given someone else's words and your job would be to communicate those words well--to make sure your audience understood the ideas in them and that they felt the emotion in them.Treat your own work the same way. Think about how your pacing and tone of voice and expression can help a listener build images and action in their minds. Vary your tone, speed, etc to suit what is happening in the piece. Read your work like it is the most important thing in the world--not because you are trying to prove to anyone what a good writer you are but because you are trying to help them hear what it is the piece is communicating. Practice your reading a few times, maybe even in front of friends, but once you are up in front of the microphone, have fun, enjoy what you are doing and speak to your audience. You are in conversation with them, and they are waiting eagerly to hear what it is you have to say.
Stick to time limits. Religiously.
Read with energy and flair, but let the lines themselves do the work. This isn't to say that you can't "do the police in different voices," (from Dickens, cited by T.S. Eliot), i.e. give the characters in a short story or a poem some identity of their own, change tone, tempo, etc. etc. but there is a certain kind of "dramatic reading" voice that is cringe-inducing in an audience. That said, you don't want to just stand there and read as if you were reading aloud to yourself. That is an audience out there. Stand up straight, look them in the eye, and read with enough energy and volume to be heard. Too slow is probably better than too fast. Let the words direct you in how to speak them. And remember you can experiment with different ways to read a line or passage; try varying volume, tempo, intensity, and phrasing for instance.
Never hold for an expected laugh unless you are really really sure that's what you're going to get, and even then only hold for a heartbeat. Audiences are wildly inconsistent and will probably respond differently every time you read. You can learn something from readings if you are willing to be, as they say, "in the moment," always open to finding something new in your work. Audiences like to feel that you are not just reading at them, but sharing in the experience yourself.
- Less is more. You may want to share everything, but in an Open mic scenario, you want to leave people wanting to hear the rest rather than waiting to hear the next reader.
- Practice. Read your piece to yourself at least three times. You'll be able to figure out which phrases are liable to trip you up. You'll be familiar with the rhythm. Practice some more.
- Practice will also get you familiar enough with the piece that you'll be able to tear your eyes away from the page and make eye contact with your audience. This is important.
- Slow the heck down. Write SLOW on the top and bottom of every page. If it feels way too slow, it's probably about right. Adrenaline can get the best of us, and in those cases, we naturally speed up. So fight that.
- People have come to hear you read your work, not to hear you talk about your work. If you must preface your work, keep it limited to the information necessary for the audience to understand the piece.- Most important, HAVE FUN! As writers, we only rarely get the chance to share our work in person. Take advantage of the opportunity, and enjoy it.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
On Friday, October 30 at 9 PM, bring poetry, short stories, creative nonfiction, flash fiction, short reflections, ghost tales, or anything creative you have written to Lovett Undergrounds to share with us. Refreshments (snacks, beer, etc.) will be provided.