Tag Archives: writing

An Interview with Jan LaPerle

Jan LaPerle, a career counselor for the Army Reserves, has published three books of poetry and fiction. On October 7-8, she’ll lead the Sundress Academy for the Arts‘ first writing retreat for veterans and current service members, along with poet Jeb A. Herrin.

Sean Purio, an active duty officer and student in the University of Tennessee’s creative writing Ph.D. program, interviewed LaPerle on behalf of Sundress.

Sean Purio: What advice would you give to people making the transition back into the civilian world? If you were to suggest to them a particular book, poetry collection, author, or film, what would it be?

Jan LaPerle: I’ve never been deployed, never been to war, so I’m not sure my advice here counts for much. But there are other transitions. A few weeks ago my husband and I watched American Sniper. There is a moment in the movie when Chris Kyle had just returned from his third, maybe fourth deployment and he was sitting in front of the TV – the TV was off – and his family was running around him, laughing, screaming through the house and he did not seem to hear them, he did not move, just kept staring blankly. Every time I return from Annual Training or a school or some other mission I’ve been on for the Army, I feel, for several days, like Chris in that chair. It’s like stepping from one world to the next; suddenly I’m just home and it’s just really different. In a few days I’m okay again though. For Chris it took a long time – it took finding new purpose, so that’s what my advice would be: find purpose.

SP: Is there a particular book, poetry collection, author, or film you would suggest people encounter before going into the armed forces? Why?

JL: I’m not really the kind of person who does a lot of preparation for making major life decisions. I joined in 1996 when my parents divorced and my dad cut me off from college funds. I went on Active Duty without having any idea what it would be like – I just needed somewhere to go, something to do. I finished my time, got out completely and 10 years later joined all over again into the Reserves. I joined because it seemed to be the right thing to do at that moment. Turns out it was.

My husband and I listened to Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance on our way to NH last summer. Vance discusses how his time in the Marines sort of straightened him out, forced him to have discipline, and provided him with mentors who cared about his welfare. Last weekend when I was cleaning out our attic, I found a picture of me at my Basic Training graduation. My eyes were red and puffy. I don’t know the name of the Soldier beside me, but I remember the feeling of not wanting to leave because for the first time I really felt like I was part of something. During a 12-mile road march I remember falling behind and looking ahead to PVT Jones who was looking back at me with her hand out, waiting to pull me along.

SP: What do you think is the role of cultivating an artistic sensibility—a way of perceiving the world—for those who serve (or have served) in the armed forces?

JL: Two I can explain right away. The first has to be as a release. I’m a Career Counselor, so I get to talk to a lot of Soldiers. The stories they tell me – I don’t think I could function without getting those stories out in some form or another. And to keep working at getting closer to this. I would think it would be important to remember, to have something to go back to (also to lighten the weight of memory). I’m reading a collection of stories and poems by Soldiers called Warrior Writers: Remaking Sense. This, from the introduction: “there is a deep necessity to create when so much has been shattered and stolen – a profound sense of hope comes from the ability to rebuild.” 

The second reason is because the people who haven’t served, civilians, really want to know. My best friend always asks question after question after I spend time away for Army – she’s curious, and fascinated. Other people I know just make assumptions about what it is a Soldier does, and they’re often terribly wrong. Making connections between veterans, between veterans and civilians, is important, they’re less apt to feel isolated (that’s the hope).

SP: It’s a loaded question if ever there was one, but: Why do you write?

JL: I don’t remember ever not writing – while I was cleaning my attic last weekend I condensed boxes of journals into a storage tub, and there are journals up there dating back to childhood. I write now because I want my next poem (or story) to be better than the last.

I’m reading Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey and, I think, this here where she quotes Barbara Herrnstein Smith helps explain: “varying degrees or states of tension seem to be involved in all our experiences, and that the most gratifying ones are those in which whatever tensions are created are also released.” When I am able to squeeze the juice out of a moment, an experience, a time in my life and make from it a poem (or story), there does seem something more gratifying about the moment/experience.

SP: I’m always curious what books artists are reading. What books have you read recently and what did you find remarkable about them?

JL: Last night I finished The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, which is now one of my favorite books (my husband says I say this at the end of most books). I’m amazed by Walls’s persistence, her determination to succeed when she had everything stacked against her. Her book made me want to be better (this is a big idea, of course, but something I’m constantly working on) and before that book I read Grit by Angela Duckworth and Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – there’s clearly a theme here.

Jan LaPerle lives in East Tennessee with her husband, Clay Matthews, and daughter, Winnie. She has published a book of poetry, It Would Be Quiet (Prime Mincer Press, 2013), an e-chap of flash fiction, Hush (Sundress Publications, 2012), a story in verse, A Pretty Place To Mourn (BlazeVOX, 2014), and several other stories and poems, and in 2014 she won an individual artist grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. LaPerle was on Active Duty at Fort Campbell for three years and has spent 12 years as an Army Reservist, most recently as a Career Counselor.

Sean Purio is an active duty officer working toward his PhD in Creative Writing. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

An Interview with Jeb A. Herrin


The Sundress Academy for the Arts’ first writing retreat for veterans and current service members will take place October 7-8 at Firefly Farms. A weekend pass includes one-on-one and group instruction, writing supplies, food, drinks, and all on-site amenities for $75. Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are available to rent. The event will be open to people of all backgrounds and experience levels. Space at the workshop is limited to 15 people, so reserve your spot today!

On behalf of Sundress, Sean Purio interviewed Jeb A. Herrin, a poet and U.S. Army veteran, who will lead the retreat along with fiction writer and current military service member Jan LaPerle.

Sean Purio: What advice would you give to people making the transition back into the civilian world? If you were to suggest to them a particular book, poetry collection, author, film, what would it be? 

Jeb Herrin: As far as advice, I always make sure I tell my buddies to never go it alone. Even if the transition isn’t a hard one to make, we’ve spent so many years working as part of a team that it doesn’t make sense to try and move back into our old lives on our own. Whether it’s just staying in touch with the friends you served with, reaching back out to the friends you had before you joined, or just making new friends, it’s still good to have someone watching your back.

In regards to recommendations, Yusef Komunyakaa. I love his collection, Dien Cai Dau, but I don’t think there’s a bad Komunyakaa piece.

SP: Is there a particular book, poetry collection, author, or film you would suggest people encounter before going into the armed forces? Why? 

JH: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. It sets a realistic precedent of what to expect from military service; not just the job itself, but the diversity of people you meet, and the expectations placed on you by your peers and the civilians who don’t know what it’s like to do the job.

SP: What do you think is the role of cultivating an artistic sensibility—a way of perceiving the world—for those who serve (or have served) in the armed forces?

JH: I think we spend so much of our time in the military looking at things head-on, looking for the best way to overcome obstacles or to accomplish tasks. Looking at these experiences with more of an artistic eye gives us different perspectives by which to judge them, which is really important for our own mental health. Rather than looking back on our time and dwelling on whether we made the “right” choice or the “wrong” choice, we get the opportunity to see more of how our choices affected us on a more personal level. The downside of that is sometimes we get stuck in the bad, and it’s good to have that backup I talked about before to keep us in the good.

SP: It’s a loaded question if ever there was one, but: Why do you write? 

JH: Because it’s fun. It gives me the opportunity to explore ideas, daydreams, storylines that get stuck in my head; not unlike listening to a song because it’s been stuck in your head for the past week. It also gives me the opportunity to read a story that I wish someone else would write.

SP: I’m always curious what books artists are reading. What books have you read recently and what did you find remarkable about them? 

JH: I finally started getting into Brian Turner’s Here, Bullet. I haven’t gotten too far into it yet, mostly because his poems are really visceral and I want to give each of them time to process. I don’t know if this works in with your question, but I’ve also been reading Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series to my son. He’s not quite old enough to get into them on the same level I do, but he keeps bringing the books to me to read for him, so I like to oblige; encourage that spirit of adventure and education that comes with reading. What I really like about Pratchett is his ability to delve into all sorts of different personalities and stories for his characters, and build a real world that mimics our own, while still embracing the wonder and discovery that you get with really good fantasy.

__

Jeb A. Herrin was a medic with the 3rd Infantry Division during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. He earned his BA in English and MFA in Poetry from the University of Tennessee, where he was the 2016 winner of the John C. Hodges Award for Creative Writing for Poetry. His work can be found in Political Punch and O-Dark-Thirty. Jeb has future plans of blending the world of composition with creative writing as well as finding ways to make the voice of the veteran heard. He lives in Knoxville with his wife, son, and two dogs.

Sean Purio is an active-duty officer working toward his PhD in Creative Writing. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Sundress Academy for the Arts Announces Writing Retreat for Veterans


Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to announce its first writing retreat for veterans on October 7-8, 2017. This two-day retreat at SAFTA’s Firefly Farms is for military veterans and current service members and will be a space for creativity, writing exercises, discussions on ways to write about trauma, advice on publishing, and more. This weekend will be an opportunity to express shared experiences and learn to write your story for a non-military audience.

A weekend pass includes one-on-one and group instruction, writing supplies, food, drinks, and all on-site amenities for $75. Tents, sleeping bags, and other camping equipment are available to rent.

The event will be open to people of all backgrounds and experience levels and will provide an opportunity to work with talented, published fiction writers and poets, including Jeb A. Herrin and Jan LaPerle.

Herrin

Jeb A. Herrin was a medic with the 3rd Infantry Division during Operations Iraqi Freedom and New Dawn. He earned his BA in English and MFA in Poetry from the University of Tennessee, where he was the 2016 winner of the John C. Hodges Award for Creative Writing for Poetry. His work can be found in Political Punch and O-Dark-Thirty. Jeb has future plans of blending the world of composition with creative writing as well as finding ways to make the voice of the veteran heard. He lives in Knoxville with his wife, son, and two dogs.

 

Photo_Jan_Sundress

Jan LaPerle lives in East Tennessee with her husband, Clay Matthews, and daughter, Winnie. She has published a book of poetry, It Would Be Quiet (Prime Mincer Press, 2013), an e-chap of flash fiction, Hush (Sundress Publications, 2012), a story in verse, A Pretty Place To Mourn (BlazeVOX, 2014), and several other stories and poems, and in 2014 she won an individual artist grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. LaPerle was on Active Duty at Fort Campbell for three years and has spent 12 years as an Army Reservist, most recently as a Career Counselor.

 

Space at this workshop is limited to 15 people, so reserve your place today.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Sundress Academy for the Arts Presents Form in Fiction: A Workshop

Join us for an exciting writing workshop, “Form in Fiction: How to Use Form to Your Advantage,” which focuses on the ways we can use form to help generate new works of fiction with our own Katherine Bell. This workshop will run from 1PM to 4PM on Saturday, September 9th, 2017 at Firefly Farms, the home of the Sundress Academy for the Arts.

In this workshop, participants will look at a variety of formal short stories, including epistolary stories, fragmented or braided stories, and “unusual” point-of-view-driven stories, to see how the authors work within and beyond their chosen forms to craft successful and impactful short stories. Workshop participants will generate their own short stories inspired by the formal work we’ll encounter and share their work in a creative environment. We will use this workshop to create new work and celebrate the joy of creating while under constraint.

Katherine Bell

Katherine Bell is the current Writer-in-Residence at the Sundress Academy for the Arts in Knoxville, Tennessee. Originally from Frederick, Maryland, she earned her MFA from Eastern Washington University in 2017 and has been published in The Fem, Welter Literary Journal, Connotation Press, and others.

Tickets are $25 or $15 for students, and include instruction, snacks, and drinks.

Reserve your space today!

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Our New Reading Series Coordinator: Brynn Martin

As a born-and-raised Kansan, nothing could have prepared me for a rainy-evening drive down curving Tennessee roads to a little house in a holler just outside of Knoxville.

I’d been invited to a SAFTA workshop by Luci Brown, who I met and became friends with through our MFA program at the University of Tennessee. I was new to the state, new to graduate school, and aching for more friends, so I agreed to tag along. I’d heard something about Sundress and a farm from other people in the program, but it wasn’t until we pulled up to the property that I started to get it. I was charmed by the rain-soaked leaves covering the paving stones that lead to the front porch and even more enchanted with what was inside the house – a cozy living room full of other writers excited to talk about craft and generous enough to provide me, a newbie to poetry, with feedback on my work.

The weekly workshop was the gateway to my time with SAFTA and has remained a consistent part of my weekly schedule. Even so, it was the people who kept me coming back and who pulled me further in to the community of writers connected to Sundress. I got involved in Stirring as a guest editor, with Firefly Farms as a diligent-if-untrained farmhand and professional ATV driver, and I’m thrilled to now serve as SAFTA’s reading series Coordinator.

IMG_9398

I fell into indifference with poetry in high school because of AP English classes, but that indifference was transformed into adoration when, during my senior year, a teacher introduced me to spoken word. My commitment to poetry and writing has snowballed since then, becoming a Bachelor’s degree in English and then a Master’s in poetry. My studies informed my desire to make poetry more accessible to a broader audience; poetry is dreamy and I want to share it with everyone. Through my work with SAFTA, I hope to do just that.

20117089_869014026579096_6917570834121253372_o

When I’m not hanging out with my SAFTA pals or attempting to write poetry, I’m with my cat, Luna, who is objectively the most beautiful cat there’s ever been. I also enjoy painting, watching Game of Thrones and Parks and Recreation, witty banter, and pretending to know things about interior design and tequila.

__

Brynn Martin is a Kansas native living in Knoxville, where she recently received her MFA in poetry from the University of Tennessee. Her poetry has appeared in Public Pool and Contrary Magazine. She loves ee cummings and cats almost equally.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Sundress Reading Series Presents: Tanque R. Jones, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, and Erica Wright


Sundress Academy for the Arts is excited to welcome Tanque R. Jones, Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick, and Erica Wright for the August installment of our reading series. The reading will take place from 2-4 p.m. Sunday, August 27, at a NEW location:
Hexagon Brewing Co., located at 1002 Dutch Valley Dr. STE 101, Knoxville, TN, 37918. The Sundress Reading Series is free and open to the public.

Tanque R. Jones Headshot (2)Tanque R. Jones was one of the first poets to receive an MFA from the University of Tennessee in 2014. Her poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, Colere, West Trade Review, and Clackamas Literary Review. Her first book, Woman in Transition, was published by WordTech Communications in 2016. In this sultry, hard-hitting collection, the poet is a truth-teller, speaking of race and class in East Tennessee, embodying strength and honor.

 

Shannon E Hardwick

Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick’s work has appeared in Salt Hill, Stirring, Versal, The Texas Observer, Devil’s Lake, and Four Way Review, among others. She is listed as a contributor of both poetry and prose in A Shadow Map: An Anthology of Survivors of Sexual Assault published by Civil Coping Mechanisms. Hardwick has chapbooks out with Thrush Press and Mouthfeel Press, and serves as the poetry editor for The Boiler Journal. Before Isadore is her first full-length collection.

 

Erica WrightErica Wright is the author of the poetry collections All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) and Instructions for Killing the Jackal (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. She is the poetry editor at Guernica Magazine as well as an editorial board member of Alice James Books. Her latest novel is The Granite Moth (Pegasus, 2015).

 

 

The Sundress Reading Series is an award-winning literary reading series that is held monthly at 2PM at Hexagon Brewing Co. just outside of downtown Knoxville.

Tagged , , ,

A Week in the Writers Coop

IMG_7215

I was completely unsure what to expect when Erin Elizabeth Smith offered me the chance to test out the new Writer’s Coop at the Sundress Academy for the Arts at Firefly Farms.  I had been to several events at the farm itself, and, like most who stay at the farm, I was charmed by the colorful murals of mermaids, flowers, and Sylvia Plath, the shelves full of chapbooks, and, of course, the friendly animals (Jayne, the enormous resident donkey and professional selfie-taker in particular).  Though Erin warned me that the coop was still something of a work-in-progress and part of my job was to identify what still needed to be done, I arrived at Firefly Farms with high hopes of a good time full of productive writing.  I am happy to say that the Writer’s Coop did not disappoint.

IMG_7208

To access the coop, one has two options: you can have someone drive you on a four-wheeler, or you can walk the dirt and gravel path that winds behind Firefly Farms. The walk itself was quite easy; maybe a five minute jaunt when sober or ten when I had some beers down at the farm while getting to know the week’s residents. At the top of a small hill, the path widens and a tiny cabin appears.  Indeed, while the Coop started its life housing chickens, the Writer’s Coop resembles a charming re-creation of a log cabin that you might find in a museum more than anything else.

Erin and Joe, anticipating the needs of the future residents like myself, have included all the necessities: a front and back porch for catching the breeze, a comfortable bed, and, of course, a bottle opener mounted just outside the door.  The Coop even has its own outhouse close by.  Though I am the type of person who is normally horrified by going to the bathroom in outhouses or Port-a-Potties, I found the outhouse at the Coop to be fastidiously clean and completely devoid of smell.

I found my time at the Coop so enjoyable that the first morning, despite my hunger and need for a shower, I found myself lingering, writing poems and catching up on reading rather than making my way down to the farmhouse.  If you are like me and you work best in silence with few distractions, the Coop is the best possible place to write.  Something about feeling completely alone in nature without even the sound of passing cars really focused me.  I wrote five poems in the space of one afternoon while there.

I would recommend the Writer’s Coop to anyone who values alone time, peace and quiet, privacy, and affordability while still having options to commune with other authors (and play with adorable animals). Though I was lucky enough to test out the Coop, I will likely apply for my own residency in the future.

The Sundress Academy for the Arts is now accepting applications for fall residencies for the Writer’s Coop! Applications are free and rolling!

__


Chloe Hanson is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee. She earned her MA and BA from Utah State University, where she also helped to establish and direct the Science Writing Center. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several journals, including Public Pool, Off the Coast, and Driftwood Press. While she’s procrastinating her homework, she can often be found with a beer in her hand and her dog, Simon, by her side. She is the current Staff Director at the Sundress Academy for the Arts.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Project Bookshelf: Cheyenne L. Black

If I’m trying to look cool I’ll say this is my bookshelf:

And it’s true. When I bought the house in 2010, one of the first things we did was install these shelves. Note how I can never change the size of my television. Which is probably okay since we never turn it on. It’ll last forever I think. Note too that these are in perfect order, there is a fiction section, a poetry section, and a reference section. Most of these books haven’t been touched in at least six years—since I started school. Most of these books don’t even belong to me. They were inherited from my mother or belong to my now-adult-once-teen daughters.

But if I’m being honest about the current state of MY books I’ll show you these instead: 

And I’ll add that there are at least twenty more stacks of books that look exactly like this, on my desk, on my nightstand, on the floor near both of these, and anywhere I regularly try to stake out space in a house full of people. Because right now I’m always bouncing back and forth between home and school, my actual books, the ones I use, read, reference, and sleep with, aren’t on that wall at all. (See also: lesesucht.)

I’m currently in a constant state of flux between Washington state and Arizona, so I’m always carrying whole boxes of books back and forth. I carry more books back and forth than I do items of clothing. And because I’m only in each place for a few months at a time before I have to return to the other, I don’t really bother to unpack them exactly. I more distribute, stack, and scatter strategically. Moreover, when I’m in one place I will inevitably, never mind how many books I brought, need one that is in the other location and will pay shipping to have one of my kids send me the book or will buy another copy. Thus I now have two copies of many books, too, but I can never remember in which state. . . So the truth of my bookshelf presently is that it’s more box than shelf, more floorstack than display, more misplaced panic—than leisure. But I’ll probably pretend I have no idea what you’re talking about if you mention this to me in public.

__

Cheyenne L. Black serves as the editor-in-chief for Hayden’s Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is a third-year MFA candidate and Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children where she brutally and with much zeal strikes the ‘s’ from directionals like toward, afterward, and backward.

Tagged , , , , ,

Now Accepting Fall Writer’s Coop Residency Applications


The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is now accepting applications for short-term writers residencies during the fall residency period for our new Writers Coop during the weeks of August 14
th to December 31st, 2017. These residencies are designed to give artists time and space to complete their creative projects in a quiet and productive environment.

SAFTA is located on a working farm that rests on a 45-acre wooded plot in a Tennessee “holler” perfect for hiking, camping, and nature walks. Located less than a half-hour from downtown Knoxville, an exciting and creative city of 200,000 in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, SAFTA is an ideal location for those looking for a rural get-away with access to urban amenities.

The SAFTA Writers Coop is a 10×10′ dry cabin approximately a fourth of a mile from the SAFTA farmhouse. This tiny house is furnished with a twin bed, a desk, a wood-burning stove, a deck that looks over the pasture and pond, as well as a personal detached outhouse. While the cabin has neither electricity nor running water, residents will have full access to the amenities at farmhouse as well as solitude from other residents to write in the rolling hills of East Tennessee.

Each residency costs $150/week and includes your own private dry cabin as well as 24-hour access to the farmhouse amenities.

 

The application deadline for the fall residency period is rolling. All application fees have been waived for applications for the Writers Coop.

Find out more at www.sundressacademyforthearts.com.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Announcing VIDA Residency Fellowship Winners

sundresslogoSAFTA Presents VIDA Fellowship Winners,
Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris

Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is pleased to announce the winners of the VIDA fellowships for the fall residency period, Hera Naguib and Elina Mishuris.  SAFTA paired with VIDA, a research-driven organization aiming to increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing and further transparency around gender equality issues in contemporary literary culture, to offer these fellowships for two women writers in any genre.  The full scholarship was awarded to Hera Naguib and the fifty percent scholarship was awarded to Elina Mishuris.  Idra Novey served as the judge for this year’s VIDA Fellowship.  

hera.jpgHera Naguib is a poet and teacher based in Lahore, Pakistan. She earned her MFA in Poetry from Sarah Lawrence College through the Fulbright Scholarship Program and her M.Litt in Literature in English from Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. Hera’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, World Literature Today, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Spillway, among others.

 

elina.jpeg
Elina Mishuris is a writer and translator living in New York. She received an MFA in fiction and translation from Columbia University in 2016, and a BA from the Gallatin School at New York University in 2011. Currently an English Editor at Morningside Translations, she was previously a teaching fellow in the Undergraduate Writing Program at Columbia, and a Writing Fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi. Her writing appears or is forthcoming in
BOMB, Guernica, The Southeast Review, Slice, and Brooklyn Magazine.  In 2016, she was nominated for the PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize.

Applications for spring residencies at SAFTA are now open and can be found at our website.

***

The Sundress Academy for the Arts (SAFTA) is an artists’ residency on a 45-acre farm in Knoxville, Tennessee, that hosts workshops, retreats, and residencies for writers, actors, filmmakers, and visual  artists. All are guided by experienced, professional instructors from a variety of creative disciplines who are dedicated to cultivating the arts in East Tennessee.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: