Barbara Shoup Stepping Down to become IWC Writer-in-Residence; Rachel Sahaidachny taking over as Executive Director

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 29, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — After a decade of leading the Indiana Writers Center, Barbara Shoup will step down in June from her leadership role to become the IWC’s first writer-in-residence. Rachel Sahaidachny, programs manager, will become the new executive director.

The changes are effective July 1.

“When I took over the leadership of the Indiana Writers Center in 2009, I thought it would be a temporary thing — a year, maybe two,” Shoup said. “But a funny thing happened. I loved solving the puzzle of how to re-energize the Writers Center. And here I am, ten years later.”

The IWC this year celebrates its 40th year of supporting aspiring and emerging writers. In the decade since Shoup took over, the non-profit group has grown to provide more than 70 classes a year taught by professional writers, many of whom are nationally known.

The annual “Gathering of Writers” features the best of Indiana writers and writing, and a robust playwriting program features a play festival that showcases the writing of students. The IWC publishing imprint has produced an anthology of Indiana writers and a curriculum for teachers to use, and recently published a book of short stories by IWC founder, Jim Powell.

Outreach programs have included memoir workshops with women affected by abuse, woman veterans and the elderly. The ongoing summer program “Building a Rainbow,” brings a world of writing to more than 200 youth in the community, culminating each year with a published book of their work.

Partnerships have become important to the IWC’s mission in the community. Through a partnership with the Indianapolis Public Library, the IWC offers free writing classes and book discussions at library branches. “We’ve partnered with more than eighty organizations on a variety of programs since 2009, including the Wheeler Center for Women and Children, GenderNexus, Asante Children’s Theatre, Dance Kaleidoscope, Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and PEN America,” Shoup said.

“Our visibility is at an all-time high in the community,” Shoup said. “People new to us often say, ‘Wow! You do so much with so few resources!’ Indeed, we do.”

Shoup mentioned that the Independent Book Review, which celebrates small press and self-published books, recently singled out the IWC as one of  ten literary organizations in the nation “promoting writing centers, classes, and community.”

“Increasing resources available to continue the IWC’s mission is a top priority moving forward,” Sahaidachny said. She said she will work with Celeste Williams, IWC board of directors president, to help strengthen the board and fulfill that fundraising goal.

The board has set a goal to raise $40,000 to celebrate our 40th anniversary this year,” Williams said. She encouraged all who support the IWC’s mission to give in order to help ensure the center’s future. 

Shoup said she is confident that Sahaidachny, program director since 2015, a graduate of Butler University’s MFA program in creative writing, and published poet, is ready for the leadership role.

“As IWC’s Programs Manager, Rachel has earned the respect of the established writers who teach for us as well as our community partners. She’s connected with emerging writers throughout the state, developed new partnerships, taught classes, assisted with grant writing, and facilitated memoir workshops.”

“I am really excited to take this next step with the IWC, and continue to support writing and literary arts in Indiana,” said Sahaidachny.

Shoup said she is ready to return to her “writing life.” As the IWC’s first writer-in-residence, she will have the opportunity to define the role. She intends to teach more classes in addition to continuing to work with outreach programs.

Sarah Ginter will be the new Programs Manager. Ginter holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from Indiana University and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Butler University. She was previously the assistant to the Director of the Efroymson Center for Creative writing at Butler University. Currently, a middle school English teacher and freelance editor, Sarah has taught and volunteered for the IWC since 2016.


 

Written by Indiana Writers Center — May 29, 2019

A play in a pub: ‘Bloomsday’ coming June 9 for one-night only: Discount code for IWC members

 
Lou Harry & Patrick Chastain invite you to celebrate James Joyce and his novel Ulysses at this live reading of the play Bloomsday by Steven Dietz!
 
When: Sunday June, 9th, 6-8 p.m.
Where: The Aristocrat Pub, 5212 North College Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46220
 
“Bloomsday” is set during a celebration of that famous (to literary folks, at least) day when fictional Leopold Bloom wandered around Dublin in James Joyce’s Ulysses.
A brief encounter between a Dublin guide to locations in James Joyce's Ulysses and an American who never read the book is complicated and enhanced by visits from their 35-years-later selves in a reading of Steven Dietz's award-winning play. Come early for live music, order cottage pie or bangers and mash (with a draft, of course) and enjoy this magically beautiful one-night-only local premiere in the perfect setting.
 
The cast of professional actors who will be bringing the play to life: Frankie Bolda, Ryan Claus, Beverly Roche and Adam Crowe. Musician Mina Keohane will open the evening with a a brief performance, followed by an interview with Lou Harry.
 
IWC members receive $3 off with the code: Leopold
This is a single-use promo. One use per purchase.
Seating is limited to 50.

Written by Rachel Sahaidachny — May 28, 2019

Undocumented: Poems of Social Justice, a reading by Indiana Poets Laureate

It's National Poetry Month! We are excited to host a special reading sponsored by PEN America, featuring former Indiana Poets Laurete: Norbert Krapf, Karen Kovacik, and Shari Wagner. Poets will read their work from the anthology, Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice, recently released by Michigan State University Press.

The program will also feature several guest appearances by other local writers sharing poems from the anthology. Copies of the book will be available for sale, from Irvington Vinyl & Books, and poets will be available to sign the book.

This event takes place on Saturday, April 20th, at 7 p.m., at the Circle City Industrial Complex, in the Schwitzer Gallery on the second floor. It is free and open to the public.

About the Poets Laureate:

Norbert Krapf is the author of twelve poetry collections, the most recent being The Return of Sunshine and Catholic Boy Blues, which he has adapted into a play being performed at IndyFringe in June. He collaborates with jazz pianist Monika Herzig and bluesman Gordon Bonham.

Karen Kovacik is a poet and translator. She's the author of the poetry collections Metropolis Burning and Beyond the Velvet Curtain; the editor of Scattering the Dark, an anthology of Polish women poets; and the translator, most recently, of Jacek Dehnel's Aperture, a finalist for the 2019 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. She has been awarded two NEA fellowships and a Fulbright research grant for her translations. Kovacik is professor of English at IUPUI.

Shari Wagner is the author of three books of poems: The Farm Wife’s Almanac (forthcoming this summer), The Harmonist at Nightfall: Poems of Indiana, and Evening Chore. Her poems have appeared in North American Review, Shenandoah, The Writer’s Almanac, and American Life in Poetry. She has an MFA from Indiana University and teaches for the Indiana Writers Center, IUPUI’s Religion, Spirituality and the Arts Initiative, and, starting next Fall, the Theopoetics program of Bethany Theological Seminary on the Earlham campus in Richmond, Indiana.

Written by Rachel Sahaidachny — April 12, 2019

From a Stack of Paper to a Possibility: On Playwriting

By Laura Town



[Photo: Playwright Laura Town with cast members, instructor Andrew Black, and Director Deborah Asante.]


I did not know what to expect from a writing class. Even though I had been a liberal arts major in college, had written a novel, and write non-fiction daily for clients, I had never taken a class. In fact, I prided myself on not needing a writing class. After all I’m a decent writer. Why pay to take a class?

But this time I was stuck. I found a story I wanted to tell. And I had even written the screenplay version, but I needed to hear it, needed to see it, needed to know other people’s reactions. After searching in vain for a course on screenplays, I found a playwriting class taught by Andy Black, signed up, and held my breath.

The story I’m working on is the story of the Crispus Attucks 1955 basketball season. The all-African-American school was the first to win the championship of an integrated sport. Those of you from Indiana know the hoopla and prestige of the high school basketball tourney. In the 1950s, high school basketball was even bigger. The winning team received a key to the city from the Mayor, and a parade, and housewives baked the team pies. But the Crispus Attucks team, led by future Olympian and NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, never received a parade, or a key, or pies. Mayor Alex Clark had decided that the team’s supporters would likely riot and damage the city. In one interview about the parade, he asked what would happen if during the parade “a white girl kissed a black boy?” The rejection from the city, not only in the denial of the parade but also in other ways, was painful for Oscar Robertson and his teammates all their lives.


I wanted to be sure to tell the story with sensitivity and honesty, and to try to remember what it felt like to be sixteen and have a dream, and then what it feels like to be denied that dream unfairly. The countless hours of research and writing started to seem well spent the first day we had actors come to class. Once I could hear the dialogue read, along with everyone’s suggestions, it helped turn the screenplay from a stack of paper to a possibility. And then one of the actors, suggested I turn it into a play. After all, this was a playwriting class. And plays are easier to get produced than movies. A play I could share with the community, and maybe schools would be interested in it.

With this suggestion and with teacher Andy Black’s encouragement and excellent suggestions, I narrowed the cast, the speaking roles, and the scope of the screenplay so it could be staged. And every week I brought in more pages for actors to read, knowing we could never get through it all.

While I was writing the play, I was also interviewing the players and the family members of the characters I was constructing which continued to shape the work. With connections that Andy has, the Pacers heard about the project and they have gotten involved. The Pacers generously held a staged reading for the living players and other basketball greats who were alive in that era, and we received very helpful feedback.  We’re hopeful the play will be staged in Indianapolis sometime this year or early in 2020.

The class I took with the Indiana Writer’s Center not only encouraged me, and helped shape the work, but it also introduced me to a wider artistic community than I had before. It’s very easy for writers to sit at their desk and not venture out, but it’s vital and rewarding to connect with others who are passionate about creating art. Hearing from other playwrights and hearing the work read aloud by actors has been immeasurably helpful and I’m grateful to the Indiana Writer’s Center and Andy Black for those opportunities.

***

 

 

Written by Indiana Writers Center — March 22, 2019

Transformative Story Writing: space and time for transgender and nonbinary folks to tell their stories

Thanks in part to a grant funded by Indiana Humanities, Indiana Writers Center will partner with Gender Nexus for the next memoir project.

A twelve-week memoir writing workshop series beginning March 5 has been designed to provide the space and time for transgender and nonbinary folks to tell their stories. “Writing about our lives doesn’t just record events, it helps us define and develop ourselves as human beings and make the next transition required of us in life” (Jerome Bruner, psychologist). Writing offers the opportunity to illuminate the hardships and to celebrate the inner strength and resilience of the gender journey.

The workshop will be led by Barbara Shoup, the author of eight novels and the Executive Director of the Indiana Writers Center, whose Memoir Project has conducted memoir workshops for homeless women, incarcerated girls, survivors of domestic violence, women veterans, and others. She has taught writers of all ages and abilities for more than forty years.

No writing experience is required, and anyone over sixteen-years-old is welcome.

Stories by each participant will be published in a book at the end of the workshop, celebrated at a public reading, along with a couple other surprises along the way!

An information session will be held on Tuesday, February 26, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
at GenderNexus, 1100 West 42nd Street, Suite 315, Indianapolis, IN 46208, where Barbara will answer questions about what to expect during workshop. You can sign up for the information session here through Eventbrite.

You can sign up for the free workshop for transgender and nonbinary folks here through Eventbrite. (must select your preferred time frame.)

Written by Barbara Shoup — February 15, 2019

Jim Powell: Witness

By Celeste Williams

Some 40 years ago in Indianapolis, when disco dancing and aerobics drew bigger
crowds than Robert Bly and Etheridge Knight, Jim Powell conceived and breathed life into “one special non-profit organization” dedicated to writers and writing — the Indiana Writers’ Center.

While there has been evolution since 1979, including the deletion of a strategic
apostrophe, it is impossible to separate the organization from James Edward Powell. Powell, who turns 69 on February 19, is retired from more than 40 years of teaching, including two decades of nurturing the first half of the IWC. He is ready to celebrate his own major literary milestone: the publication of a book of more than a dozen fiction stories: Only Witness.


The IWC, which is publishing the book of short stories, will combine the launch of
Powell’s new volume and his role in the founding of the Indiana Writers Center at a reception and fundraiser March 8 at the Circle City Industrial Complex.

“Given his lifelong support of Indiana writers, it seems fitting for the IWC to publish his first collection of stories as part of the celebration of our 40th anniversary,” said Barbara Shoup, executive director of the IWC.

It is fitting, too, that the IWC pay homage to its creator. In writing.


——

 

Powell is seated in the front room of his Broad Ripple home, a laptop atop a stack of books on a coffee table. A clear oxygen line rests near his hip and snakes around the corner out of sight. He mostly ignores it, though the lifeline is close enough to grab if need be.

One can tell he’d much rather ignore the COPD that has constricted his breath and landed him in the hospital for more days than he’d like to count. He occasionally slips a monitor on a finger to check his oxygen level.

The percentage is high. Good.

“I’ve had a horrible health year,” he says. “This past year has been 16 days in the hospital three different times altogether. But that’s the disease,” he says with a resigned shrug.

“I still enjoy things,” he assures with a smile and a clear, steady gaze beneath a shock of white hair. He says illness might have cut short hobbies like gardening, biking and extended Mexico vacations, but not has not turned off his mind. And, Powell insists, he continues to “hear the voices of fiction” in his head: “They keep trying to get out!”

Powell says that image “stems from the many calls I’d take at the Writers Center from people telling me they had ‘a book in my head.’” His reply: “That must hurt; better get it out!”

Powell’s “head-book” has gotten out.

Only Witness includes several stories he has had published in magazines, and a number of newer ones. Its pending publication sends a smile spreading across his goateed face. He says he looks forward to the cover — an “infinity view” concept of a wide, verdant vista melding into endless sky.

 

Intellectuals & Liars

 

Powell’s view of the past stretches back to a childhood in tiny Elwood, Indiana, a place he describes as an unlikely “literary capital of Indiana,” the home of poet Jared Carter, a couple of lesser-known authors, and of course, former presidential candidate, Wendell Willkie.

The Willkie High School graduate said he won a writing contest in 6th grade, with a story called “ ‘Xeo’s Long Journey,’ a trip through the Egyptian city of the dead. I wrote a book of poetry in high school. But I never viewed writing as a career. I wanted to be an architect.”

Elwood is a “good place to be from,” he says with a chuckle, noting that leaving the little town was likely a forgone conclusion.

Powell majored in political science at Purdue —urban studies, of all things for a kid from rural Indiana. “But writing was always there, and my imagination was always there, too, so that was good.”

When Powell soured of politics during the Vietnam War, the writing instincts were at the ready as a replacement. “I went to George Washington University for two years, then I just got burned out on politics, because there was anti-war every second of your life. I worked at the Smithsonian for five or six months, came back to Purdue, wanted to change majors but couldn’t graduate if I did, so I graduated poly sci.

“But I started taking literature classes and creative writing classes.”

Powell says Italian-American fiction writer, Arturo Vivante, was a visiting professor at Purdue “who was very encouraging — too much so, perhaps, because I was pretty bad.”

Powell says he had a problem with an essential ingredient of storytelling: plot. “I didn’t know what plot was.”

He says Vivante sent one of his stories to the New Yorker. The rejection letter said something like, “ ‘This piece has problems with the narrative flow.’ Basically they were saying it had no plot!”

Still, he persisted. Powell received an MFA from Bowling Green in Ohio in 1976, then followed his literary interests to California. In 1977, he and a couple of friends started a bookstore in Santa Monica.

The store, “Intellectuals and Liars,” mere blocks from the Pacific Ocean, was a dream, the name coming from a quote depicting “two people you can’t trust,” Powell says. “We thought that fit fiction writers and poets pretty well.

“It was really cool, but it was awful competition, with 10 literary bookstores in L.A ., all better established than us. We were so broke. It’s not a good town to be broke in.”

Powell says his bookstore dream “only lasted six or seven months, because Lenny (a business partner) tried to kill me.” Powell offers no detail of said attempted murder, which was really extreme exasperation of Powell’s lack of customer service skill, he explains.

“I wasn’t meant to be a clerk. That was the end of my bookstore days. I came back to Indiana.”

Powell says he returned, in part to care for his widowed mother. His grandparents, who lived south of Indianapolis, were aging, too. He stayed with them as he looked for work in Indianapolis.

“Work …as a writer,” he says with a note of sarcasm. “In 1977. There was no work for a writer in Indianapolis in 1977.”

 

Freedom & Frustration

 

But there was something called “Free University.” Powell had a cousin, a poet, Tom Hastings, who was teaching poetry classes with the free-wheeling, counter-culture-ish organization born out of the Berkeley free-speech movement, with the motto: “Everyone Teaches, Everyone Learns.”

Classes were either free, or at least, very cheap.

“Free U was a hugely successful thing here in Indianapolis for a few years,” says Powell. But the “organization,” such as it was, was not defined by its intellectual pursuits.

“We had 300 disco-dancing classes a term,” Powell says. “Then, when disco died, aerobics came up.”

Disco and aerobics were blessings disguised in leg warmers for the Free U writers. “They were bringing money in like you can’t even believe,” Powell says. “So, they had plenty of room for free writing classes that made no money at all.”

Hastings taught poetry, while Powell taught fiction. Hastings published a photocopied lit-mag of sorts, called the “Indianapolis Broadsheet,” the only literary publication in Indianapolis at the time, which didn’t last, as “Tom was a poet, not an administrator.”

Hastings moved to Bloomington to teach at an alternative high school, and Powell was left with the Free University literary “stuff.”

Literary life continued to be a challenge in a city addicted to line dancing, group exercise and macramé, Powell says.

Case in point: “There was a reading at the old Hummingbird Café with Robert Bly, Etheridge Knight and a jazz saxophone player from New York. “Eight people showed up,” Powell says. He was astonished, appalled, and distressed.

“I said to myself: ‘I can’t live here.’

There were others in town with similar frustrations.

“Two guys had been running a series at the art museum who had been kicked out because they spilled wine in a grand piano in one of the reception halls,” Powell says. “So that was dying. And, there was an open reading series at a The Broad Ripple Tavern. I was up there with (poet) Alice Friman.

“The reading I went to got cancelled because the owner of the bar said that the time before, plugging the amp in, [someone] had unplugged the freezer and ruined a lot of stuff.”

Powell pauses, smiles. “…I thought he just wanted to get rid of the poets, to be honest with you. So we were sitting around there with nothing to do, and I volunteered to find a new place for the readings.

“…Famous last words!”

 

Born in the Alley Cat

 Left to right:  Jim Powell, Alley Cat Lounge owner Ray Modlin, and series host
Kevin Corn.

That’s when the Writers Center was conceived. In 1979. In complete frustration; with alcohol as a courage-booster.

Powell says that he knew that the Alley Cat, a “historic” bar he describes as “one of the 10 best dive-bars in the United States,” had two back rooms — one for pool, and one empty— a perfect venue for meetings and readings, he thought.

“I was scared to death, because Ray, the owner back then, was a big, gruff, truck-driver-type guy.”

Powell says he loosened his fear with a few drinks then approached Ray. “I said, ’Ray, wouldn’t you like to have a little poetry reading in here?’” Powell says he was astonished by the reply.

“He said, ‘Really good idea!’” Powell laughs with the memory.

“We were there eight years. Twice a month. So that was the first formal activity of the Writers’ Center. We decided it was an organization. It was the ‘Free University Writers Center.’”

Powell says it was fortunate that the fledgling center, though still connected to Free U, kept its own financial books. Because Free U was in trouble.

“Free U lasted until 1984,” Powell says. “And ended in semi-scandal, after the director, who was a good guy, but he was spending the money like it was his own. By then, aerobics and disco dancing had died. They were failing quickly, and had gone into bankruptcy.”

The writers center had cultivated its own books — and friends. It thus was thrown free of the mothership’s crash.

“A donor came forward with start-up money, and we incorporated in 1984 as the Writers’ Center of Indianapolis.”

The plural-possessive placement of the apostrophe after the ’S’ was very purposeful, Powell says, “because it was owned by the writers. That was the idea. It’s a redundant apostrophe; you don’t need it. (The IWC dropped it a few years ago.) But we were emphatic.”

Imagine it: A group of writers sitting around a table in a smoke-filled bar, drinking and discussing the placement of punctuation. Electric.

“It was very much art for art’s sake,” Powell says with a smile.

“Something was needed, I think. There was nothing else like it around town.” Powell visited more established writing groups, in Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis. “The Loft in Minneapolis was huge. Minneapolis was a place where people did the arts.”

Not so much in Indianapolis, then.

“We were always struggling,” Powell says. “The fiction workshop met right here in this living room, for years.” Powell’s front room is warm, with low lighting and wood floors. Books are placed as though they are being read, or waiting to be.

“We had no headquarters; this was the headquarters,” Powell says. “I always had a full class of about 10 people.” The room in the Broad Ripple bungalow isn’t large; it would certainly be an intimate gathering.

 

Writing Nomads

 

As the group grew, Powell says there were other venues for the wandering writers. A printer offered the second floor of his company in Speedway.

“We took it. It smelled like ink. It was bad, and probably contributed to my COPD, when I think about it. But it was space.”

The group was getting grants by then, and the free space was welcome. After that, Marian College housed the center. First, rented space in a dorm, then the caretaker’s cottage, Stokely Mansion, “which was pretty doggone nice,” Powell says.

There was enough room to run one class, a library where there was comfortable seating, an office and kitchen. “We did a lot of events there — some twice a week. More poetry than fiction, for sure.”

It was during that era that the Writers’ Center took over Ball State’s spring poetry festival, which had lost its funding. It started as the Spring Poetry Festival, became the Fall Fiction Festival, and eventually The Gathering of Writers, which today remains the IWC’s signature writing event of the year (March 9 this year at the Indiana State Library).

“We had good turnout right from the beginning,” Powell says. “We could have made money, but we broke even.”

The Writers’ Center revolved around events like The Gathering. “I always thought of it as a political act, too, Powell says, “all of which was supporting writers and the education of writers.

“I believed communication was the bottom-line in politics. If you teach people to be better writers, you get better …everything.”

Being the only writing game in town had its benefits, Powell says. There was little competition for grants. Powell admits, the writers were a bit full of themselves. “If you saw the mission statement, gosh, it was 20 pages long!”

They were also busy, with some ideas that worked, others that didn’t, including “a creative writing road show” where writers went to libraries around the state. “That was great idea that didn’t work very well.”

The Writers’ Center was more successful publishing chapbooks and anthologies, and had a magazine, “INprint, while still affiliated with Free U. (INprint became Flying Island, which is now entirely online.) Powell edited what he calls the center’s “first ‘big’ book” called, New Fiction from Indiana.

Indianapolis Star columnist Dan Carpenter wrote a column about the fiction anthology, Powell says, and sales took off. “All of a sudden, we sold 400 copies of that book!”

 

Upheaval; renewal

 

Powell was so busy, he had stopped writing himself. “Writing and editing don’t mix,” he says. And, by the mid-1980s, he was also teaching at IUPUI. And the Writers’ Center paid next to nothing.

“I was being paid very little, and oftentimes, not at all. I got paid one month out of the last 13 months I worked there.”

By the 1990s, Powell felt overworked, underpaid and depressed. “I knew by 1996 that I wasn’t good for the organization and it was killing me, too.”

His personal life was in shambles. A first marriage ended in divorce after just two years, and his mother was beaten when a burglar broke into her house. “I was a wreck,” Powell says.

“We did good work, still. But the organization needed more. I wasn’t the right person to do that.”

Powell says he had spent a good deal of his own money to keep the organization going. “I’m glad I did, but I shouldn’t have. Our board didn’t do their job; I wasn’t getting support. The relationship was severed. It was a sad departure.”

It was 1999. About three others who tried to direct the chaos followed, with varying levels of success. Barb Shoup, an author and former writing teacher, took on the executive director position 2009, a post she holds today.

Shoup gives Powell credit for keeping the organization afloat even during the hard times. “During his 20 years as the center’s director, Jim touched the lives of hundreds of writers, including my own,” says Shoup, who has written more than nine books.

Lists of Writers’ Center-sponsored festivals are replete with notable literary names, including (in no particular order): Susan Neville, Jared Carter, Etheridge Knight, Michael Martone, Alice Friman, Mary Oliver, Tobias Wolff, Andrei Codrescu, Patricia Henley, Scott Russell Sanders, Rita Dove, Dan Wakefield, Yusef Komunyakaa, Haki Madhubuti, Mari Evans, Robert Bly, Denise Levertov….

Powell, who had started teaching part-time at IUPUI in the 1980s, became a full-time instructor. He advised the student magazine, “Genesis,” and it thrived. Now retired, he is a senior lecturer emeritus.

Powell says starting his own writing again coincided with a health scare. He had smoked for 35 years, quitting “not soon enough, believe me. In 2010 they thought they saw spots in my lungs.” It turned out not to be cancer, but the COPD (the ominous acronym stands for “chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”) was steadily, stealthily stealing his breath.

Since then, with the help of a creative renewal fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, Powell has attacked his writing with more urgency — at life-affirming speed.

“I started writing fiction again,” he says with a smile. “And I gotta tell you, it just came; it just flew out of me. Happily, it was much better fiction than I had ever written before, too. Because I knew so much more about it, having taught, and having edited.”

And, at long last, he had figured out the meaning of plot. The late Prof. Vivante would be proud.

“Once I started writing again, I have written pretty consistently,” Powell says. “I have 70-75 stories written to the end. Probably 30 of them edited enough to be published. About 18 of them in this book coming out. One more I’m working on…”

Powell has had stories published in Bartleby Snopes, Crack the Spine, Flying Island and Storyscape, among others.

 

‘Maddening’ Crowd; Fortunate Friendship

 

Success isn’t a smooth path. Powell says his stories have been rebuffed plenty of times. He seems to prefer rejection to not having written anything to reject.

Powell smiles through a recitation of recent refusals. “I got a rejection from North American Review today; I got a real encouraging one from somebody last week.” His ego seems beyond bruising.

Powell has many opinions about the way the written word has evolved. Much has changed in the writing world, and Powell realizes he has had a pretty good seat to the evolution.

The future? “I don’t know about the future,” Powell says.

“These hundreds of literary magazines are not going away — well, some of them should. What disappoints me is it is hard for me to find things that have substantial meaning, unless I come back to ‘mainstream’ fiction.”

He names some of his favorites.

“I like Georgia Review, Southern Review, Glimmer Train (which he notes will soon stop publishing). I’m not sure they are being read …by people. It used to be you got published, you were read, you got a book, and you might become famous. That was one out of a hundred people. Now, it’s one out of ten-thousand people.”

Don’t get Powell started on his view of creative non-fiction.

“Creative nonfiction didn’t exist when I was in school. I don’t like it. I don’t like reading it. Most of it would be a better novel. Now it’s acceptable to bend the truth and call it ‘memoir.’ I hate that!”

And, more people have decided they have books living in their heads that they want to extract.

“When I got my MFA, there were 15 programs in the country. There are now 175 residential, and there are 50-75 non-residential, and every little damn college in the world has a creative writing program now.”

Powell doubts the need for so many programs dedicated to mastering writing.

“It’s a shell game. There are a lot of people who write really well out there,” but cleverness seems to win over substance. "Now you’ve got 53-word stories… six-word stories! Micro-fiction! It’s maddening.

“But it is consumable. You consume it and forget it.”

Still, Powell surmises, despite the spun-sugar nature of some contemporary literature, change might be good in the long run. “Literature has changed over time. It keeps changing. What is brought into the canon if you will, will be different, and should be. …And that’s good.”

His view of the Indiana Writers Center — which excised the possessive ’s’ sometime after his exit?

 “I am proudest what the Writers Center has done — to try to be more connected to the community; get us out of the ‘art for art’s sake’ mindset” that marked the center’s early years.

Despite his views of the modern writing landscape, Powell, a man who still on occasion instructs young, aspiring authors from an “emeritus” position, has somehow avoided seeming curmudgeonly.

Getting himself back in the writing chair has seems to have been the cure.

Shoup, who took over the Writers Center from a burned-through Powell ten years ago, says his voice has come back strong. Of his story collection, she says: “…each story is filtered through the lens of a writer who knows who he is and where he’s from.

“It has been an honor for me to serve as the executive director of the Indiana Writers Center, where Jim’s legacy is alive and thriving.”

Powell says he looks forward to the launch that has been a lifetime coming. He admits to being nervous; he hopes to summon the stamina to enjoy the limelight. “I look forward to celebrating IWC's 40th will all the energy I can muster.”

Powell also wishes to share the glow with his wife of ten years, Karen Kovacik, an English professor at IUPUI, a former Indiana poet laureate, whom he lauds for her brilliance as a writer and award-winning translator of contemporary Polish poetry.

To Powell, his wife’s genius extends to her baking prowess, which has added to his waistline, but also her “patience and care,” as his health brings unexpected challenges to their life together.

Another serious influencer in Powell’s life is his next-door neighbor, Dan Wakefield.

Wakefield, novelist, journalist and screenwriter, whose best-selling novels “Going All The Way” and “Starting Over” were produced as feature films, credits Powell with his eventual return to his hometown.

Powell had invited Wakefield back to Indianapolis several times to give workshops for the Writers’ Center. “I was living in Boston at the time,” Wakefield says. He wonders if he would have come back to the place he had not lived since 1950, were it not for Powell’s call.

“He was sort of my re-introduction to the city,” says Wakefield, who moved back to Indiana in 2011. “I have always been very grateful to him for that.”

In a stroke of serendipity, Wakefield became a neighbor when the house next-door to Powell and Kovacik came on the market.

The closeness is more than geographic. “He is a serious writer and a dedicated writer as well as a talented writer, Wakefield says of Powell.  “I really admire his dedication and the work he puts in to make his work first-class.

“And, he is a great editor and helped me enormously in things I am working on now.” Wakefield says he has read all of the stories in Powell’s new book. “They are all high-quality.”

 

A World View, with Endings

 

Powell says the book is named for one of the stories. “But it also fits my approach to writing and the way I see the world.”

“Ambivalence” has been a regular criticism of his writing, Powell says. That state of mixed-feelings came honestly — out of growing up in a household marked by alcoholism.

“One of the things that gets born in those households is ambivalence. So, the endings of my stories are soft, usually. The change in the characters is subtle,” he says.

“I have always had this problem. I found a note from one of my professors said, ‘You just can’t do it, can you?’” — “It” being, finding a suitable resolution to his stories.

“I can now,” Powell says, with an air of triumph. His stories now have a narrative arc, and, “they do end.”

Even so, he says his world view has changed little. “I don’t have characters having great victories. I occasionally have them having great losses, but usually, it’s softer, you know? They change, but not a lot. It’s the concept of witnessing — of seeing the world.

“A lot of these characters are kind of like me in a way.

“So it’s a witnessing — only.”

 

Celeste Williams is a journalist and playwright, and is currently the president of the board of directors of the Indiana Writers Center.

_____

More information about the benefit:

Only Witness

A Benefit for the Indiana Writers Center featuring Jim Powell,
with an introduction by Dan Wakefield

Friday, March 8th    6-8 p.m.
Schwitzer Gallery of the Circle City Industrial Complex
1125 Brookside Ave., Indianapolis, IN 46202

$35- individual (includes a copy of Only Witness)
$50- couple (includes 1 copy of Only Witness)

Go here to register for this event.

 

 

Written by Indiana Writers Center — February 15, 2019

"Believe in Yourself and Be Persistent," Writing Tips from IWC Instructor Tracy Line

Tracy Line teaches several classes for the IWC, including Beginning Writers Boot Camp, Memoir 101, and Faith Writing. Her next class is an online class meant to get your butt in the chair and help you meet your weekly writing goals, Winter Warriors Online Writing Club.

We asked Tracy a few questions about her own writing.

What was the greatest piece of advice you ever got about writing?
Believe in yourself and be persistent. Lots of people write books, few people finish them.  

Why do you write?
I write because it brings me joy. Writing feels like a part of who I am. It is the one activity I can lose myself in. When I write, I lose all track of time.  

What are you working on right now?

I am currently revising a memoir I’ve written on the experience of being a caregiver for my father, who has Parkinson’s disease and dementia. It is emotionally packed so it is taking me a long time to complete. I am also working on writing and submitting some personal essays.  

Favorite books or essays about the craft of writing?

There are so many good ones. I especially liked Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, On Writing by Stephen King, Writing About Your Life by William Zinnsser and Still Writing by Dani Shapiro.   

What’s your favorite book, or the best book you’ve read recently? What do you love about it?

I read both fiction and nonfiction and can never pick a favorite book because I like many books for different reasons. A recent favorite was Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate. It was such a compelling and shocking story and kept me engaged. I also enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. The main character is a bit odd, but by the end of the story, I found her to be very lovable.


Why do you like teaching at IWC? What do you look forward to about it?

I love meeting other writers, and sharing what I know about writing.  I’ve met so many amazing people and have kept in touch with many who’ve taken my classes. What a gift it is to connect with people who love the written word as much as you do.  

What advice would you give your beginning writer self? 

Quit worrying about the rules or how it all works, and just write. Thinking ahead to the business of writing and publishing can be detrimental to the creative process. The best writing comes when you are in a playful and relaxed state.  So write first, have fun and worry about the details later.  Also, read as much as you can. Reading helps you become a better writer.


Tracy Line has written columns and feature articles on faith, family, travel and life for nearly two decades.  Her work has been published in over 75 magazines, newspapers, websites and books. A graduate of Hanover College, Line is the author of Chasing God, Finding Faith from the Outside In  (Hawthorne Publishing, 2015).  She is currently working on her second book, and blogs about life and faith at www.tracyline.com.  Outside of writing, Line also enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her family. 

Connect with Tracy:

Twitter: @thewritertracy

Instagram: @thewritertracy

Facebook:

Written by Rachel Sahaidachny — February 05, 2019

Poet Ross Gay to Headline Indiana Writers Center’s Gathering

 

Ross Gay, poet and National Book Award finalist, will keynote the Indiana Writers Center annual event, Gathering of Writers, “Write Where You Are,” 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Saturday, March 9 at the Indiana State Library, 315 W Ohio St., Indianapolis.

Gay will also lead a three-hour poetry “master class” during the day-long workshops.

Gay says his opening keynote talk will center on “the practice of looking,” meaning “the discipline of attending to one’s own life. This talk will wonder about how such ‘looking’ might open windows,” says Gay, who is a professor at Indiana University.

Gay is the author of three books: Against Which; Bringing the Shovel Down; and Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. Catalog was also a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, the Ohioana Book Award, the Balcones Poetry Prize, the Hurston-Wright Legacy Award, and it was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. The Book of Delights, is forthcoming from Algonquin Press in February.

Gay will also teach a three-hour, poetry master class, “Making a Way Together,” for a limited number of participants. Says Gay: “In this three-hour generative poetry workshop, we will stoke our imaginations by (often collaboratively) writing and making a way together, exploring new approaches of looking at our connection to each other and the world.”

This year marks the IWC’s 40th anniversary. Gathering of Writers highlights the best of what the IWC offers experienced and aspiring writers, and provides an atmosphere of camaraderie among individuals who love the written word.

In addition to Gay, there will be sessions in poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and playwriting presented by published authors Callista Buchen, Tom Chiarella, Chris Forhan, Kate Gehan, Silas Hansen, Allyson Horton, Angela Jackson-Brown, Saundra Mitchell, and Chris White.

To register online: https://www.indianawriters.org/pages/2019-gathering-of-writers

Participants must register in advance to attend.* All master class registrations include registration for the Gathering.

Early-bird pricing available through January 26:

Members $65

Members + Master Class with Ross Gay $100

Nonmembers $125

Nonmembers + Master Class $175

 

After January 26:

Members $85

Members + Master Class with Ross Gay $125

Nonmembers $150

Nonmembers + Master Class with Ross Gay $200

 

  • Full-time Students are eligible for a discount on registration with a teacher recommendation.

Written by Rachel Sahaidachny — January 18, 2019

Hello Forty! Indiana Writers Center Celebrates 40th Year 1979-2019

In the 1960s and ‘70s, “Free University” instructors brought classes to the masses in Indianapolis — everything from candle-making, to metaphysics, to writing — for free or cheap. The Indiana Writers Center has its roots in this free-wheeling soil, and will mark its 40th anniversary in 2019.

 

In 1979 Jim Powell, who taught workshops for Free U., had a notion that writers in Indianapolis had something to learn from one another and could benefit from their own organization. He and a small group of like-minded writers met for the first time at Broad Ripple Tavern (now The Bungalow) in 1979, giving birth to what is now the Indiana Writers Center.

 

Forty years later—a wealth of stories, novels, poems, essays, articles, nonfiction books, memoirs, and plays inspired by our classes and programs under our belt—the IWC is just getting started!

 

We look forward to launching our Fortieth Anniversary fundraising campaign, and hope that you will give what you can to help ensure sound financial footing as we move into the future.

 

There will be plenty of just-plain-fun celebratory activities, too.

 

A highlight of our anniversary year will be publishing Jim Powell’s story collection, Only Witness. “I look forward to celebrating IWC's 40th will all the energy I can muster!” Powell said.

A book launch and reception for Powell will be held on March 8, at the Circle City Industrial Complex.

 

Other 40th Anniversary plans include:

 

    March 9: The Gathering of Writers at the Indiana State Library, featuring poet Ross Gay, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award and a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Books Critics Circle Award.  Gay teaches at Indiana University.

    Flash Fiction First Fridays: Every first Friday of 2019, featuring fun writing prompts and opportunities to be published in Flying Island.

    May scavenger hunt: Stay tuned for details of an exciting program planned for race month at the CCIC (which once was a factory that produced turbo-charged engines for Indy 500 cars). 

 

“I am very excited about what we have planned for this, our 40th year,” said board president Celeste Williams. “…honoring our history while looking forward to ensuring a bright future.”

 

I agree! And I look forward to celebrating this milestone with all of you.

 

And...

 

We want to hear from you!

 

Share Your IWC Story


Writers, here’s your prompt:
In no more than 150 words, tell us your story about the IWC and why it matters to you.
 
Then...
 
Snap a selfie and post it along with your story on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram...whatever using #writenowIWC or email it to us at iwcstories@indianawriters.org.
 
For fun, write “I’m a [your day job]. I’m also a writer” above your story. We love knowing the richness of experience our students bring to their work.
 
By posting or sending us your story/selfie, you agree to allow the IWC to use it as part of our Fortieth Anniversary promotional campaign.

 

Sincerely,

Barbara Shoup

Executive Director

 

 

Written by Barbara Shoup — January 02, 2019

Writers Finish What They Start - An Interview with Maurice Broaddus


[Photo by WyldStyle Da Producer]


Maurice Broaddus writes short stories and novels for young people and adults. He is a community advocate, and has taught many classes at the Indiana Writers Center. His next class on our schedule is "World Building" on January 26. This class is great for sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers. We asked Maurice to share a bit more about his writing processes and inspirations.

 

What was the greatest piece of advice you ever got about writing?

1. Writers finish things. This was something told to me by one of my teachers. He said what separates people who want to write/talk about writing from writers is the fact that writers finish what they start. Where this really helps me is in the fight against “the Shiny”: I constantly battle ditching what I’m working on to run with the latest shiny idea that pops into my head. Every time I have to remind myself that “writers finish things.” And it helps battle the imposter syndrome: did you finish what you started? Yes, then you’re a writer.

2. Your angst won't pay the bills. Sometimes we attach a lot of romance to the idea of being a writer. We have to be inspired. We have to wait on our muse. This “advice” was given to me by my wife during one of my “my muse has left me” sessions as I stared down a blank page. She reminded that my “muse” was now named Deadlines. This was a follow up to our “exposure won’t pay the bills” conversation. (Her other bit of clutch perspective was “you can go to as many conventions as your writing pays for” which helped me not only guard against the temptation to give away my stories early on, but challenge me to only submit to professional markets).

3. Do that $#!+. This was told to me by fellow author, Daniel Jose Older. I was feeling anxious about a project I was working on. It was a novel that was plunging headlong into territories of race, class, and politics. I called up Daniel and that was the advice he gave me. Writers have to be bold and take risks. It can be scary sometimes (which is why it’s good to have friends who can nudge you). In the end, taking those risks, accepting those challenges, only makes you a better writer.

Why do you write?

I write because I have to. There is something in me that compels me to write, to release my ideas into the world, to let go of the stories running around in my head.

What are you working on right now?

-Wrapping up a second draft of an urban fantasy novel that’s “(black) Harry Potter meets Stranger Things.”
-Doing the edits to my forthcoming steampunk novel, Pimp My Airship.
-Working on the sequel to my middle grade novel, The Usual Suspects.
-Starting a science fiction novel that’s “Black Panther meets Game of Thrones … in space.”
-Three short stories, one of which ties into my science fiction novel world.

Favorite books or essays about the craft of writing?

Wonderbook:The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff VanderMeer

Starve Better: Surviving the Endless Horror of the Writing Life by Nick Mamatas

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott

What’s your favorite book, or the best book you’ve read recently? What do you love about it?

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. There is a reason why she has dominated all of the fantasy awards for the last few years and why the conversation has started about whether we’re no longer in the age of Tolkien but rather the age of Jemisin. Her worldbuilding, her craft, her prose, her style…each novel is a lesson on writing.

Is there a writer whose work provided new understanding of what fiction writing is, and how it can be written? If so, who and how?

Kelly Link. Each of her short story collections are like labs in writing. She’s my inspiration for why I take short story writing so seriously and as opportunities to experiment with different areas of the craft.

Why do you like teaching at IWC? What do you look forward to about it?

I am always energized by being around other creatives, especially my peers.

Maurice Broaddus has written dozens of short stories, essays, novellas, and articles. His dark fiction has been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and web sites, most recently including Cemetery Dance, Apex Magazine, Black Static, and Weird Tales Magazine. He is the co-editor of the Dark Faith anthology series (Apex Books). And he’s the author of the Knights of Breton Court trilogy (Angry Robot Books). In his spare time, he sits on the board of Second Story, a non-profit organization whose mission it is to encourage creative writing among elementary school students. He also started the Phoenix Arts Initiative, which encourages use of the arts for at risk youth to express themselves. Visit his site at www.MauriceBroaddus.com.

Or find him on social media:
@MauriceBroaddus on Twitter
Maurice Broaddus on Facebook
@mauricebroaddus on Instagram

 

Written by Rachel Sahaidachny — December 03, 2018


© Indiana Writers Center 2012