Archive for the 'Laura Kopchick' Category

This Is Just A Great Story…

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Every once in awhile, in the literary world, a really fantastic book written by an “unknown” comes out of nowhere and knocks the “big-boy” books (the ones written by the famous authors, and promoted by the literary machines) out cold. That’s what happened this year with the Pulitzer in Literature when Paul Harding’s “Tinkers,” a novel published by Bellevue, a small Literary Press, took the Prize. The book almost didn’t get published at all (several large presses passed on it before an editor at Bellevue agreed to give it a look. The editor stayed up all night reading it, weeping at the loveliness of the prose, and agreed to give it an initial 500 copy run). It’s the first time a book by a small press has won the award in almost thirty years.

Harding is 42, this is his first book, and no one called him to tell him he’d won the Pulitzer. He found out by accident, after looking at the Pulitzer site to see who’d won. When the book got taken he and his family had been living off of unemployment and his wife’s small income. Now Random House has given him a lucrative contract for his next two books, he’s teaching at the prestigious Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and “Tinkers” hit the NY Times Bestseller list. All due to word of mouth from small Independent Booksellers, who promoted the book to their customers and to each other. No reading tour, no big publicity machine, just enthusiastic readers excited about a book they read and loved.

I haven’t read the book yet. Last week I hit 3 different bookstores and no one had it in stock (!!! But all three stores had plenty of books by Stephanie Meyers, on her own end cap). So it’s on order from Amazon.

Here’s a great article about Paul Harding and his little book that could…

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on May 3rd, 2010 |1 Comment »

What I Learned About Writers (and Writing) At the AWP Conference in Denver Last Week

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Last week, approximately ten million writers (or what felt like it, at least) descended upon the Hyatt Regency Hotel (we also took over the convention center across the street) in Downtown Denver for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. When I first started going to the conference, back in 1995 (it was in Pittsburgh that year) the conference registration fees were twenty bucks (this year? $185), there were about 500 people in attendance (this year? about three thousand. Easily), the journal room had about 20 tables (this year? The entire second floor of the Denver Convention Center), a somewhat manageable ten-page selection of panels spanning 3 days (this year? A giant phonebook size book-worth of about 500 panels, and readings, spanning 4 days). The sheer size of this conference is a testament to the burgeoning popularity of Creative Writing Programs at Universities across the country. Famous luminaries mingled with unknown writing teachers, graduate writing students, and first-time published novelists and poets handing out postcards promoting their newly-published tomes. The only way to enjoy this smorgasbord of writing is to put away your complimentary planner for the conference (given to you along with your giant conference panel book upon registration) and just allow yourself to wander in and out of reading rooms, panel discussions, bookfairs and happy hour celebrations. That’s what I did this year and I had a blast. I learned some things, too, about the writing world. Here are the top five things I took away from my three days in Denver:

1. Writers like to drink
I know it’s a cliche, but the bar at the Hyatt Regency was at capacity from the time it opened up at 9 AM until it closed down at 2 AM. On Saturday night, the night the conference ended, they had to open up 2 extra temporary bar carts to accommodate the drinkers. When my friend Jason went up to order his sidecar (I know, I know, but he’s a wonderful poet with 2 great books out. So he’s allowed to drink whatever he wants, in my opinion) the bartender mentioned that they were out of vodka, and almost out of rum, and most mixers. “Who are you people?” the bartender asked him. “What conference is this?” He’d been working that bar for five years, and had served conferences every weekend, and had never seen his bar go dry before.

2. Writers like their Apple products
It’s just a rough estimate, but I’d say 99.9 percent of conference papers were delivered using an IPAD. These IPADS (and accompanying I-Phones) were also happily deployed at happy hour gatherings, or at dinners, or book launch parties, for any number of reasons. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many Apple products in my life. Denver was one big Apple commercial.

3. There are way too many writing students who will be seriously disappointed when they don’t get tenure-track teaching jobs when they graduate this year
I found out from a friend of mine I graduated with that at Michigan (my MFA Alma Mater, which was recently ranked as the #2 MFA Program in the country, after Iowa, by Poets and Writers Magazine) they received 885 applicants this year for 12 fiction spots. There are now 150 MFA programs in the U.S. (and this isn’t counting low residency writing programs or MA and PHD writing programs). All of these programs are dumping out graduates each year onto an already over-saturated market. It seems the smart applicants are using MFA programs now (at least the top-ranked ones, like Iowa, Michigan and UVA) as paid internships to finish up writing their novels already under contract at major publishers. This is what Nami Mun (a fiction writer I’ve been in awe of since her debut novel came out a couple of years ago) told me she did when she went into the Michigan program a few years ago. Sure, you have to take a few classes while you’re there, but really the top programs have serious money to offer their students, and who else is going to pay you to finish up that novel?

4. Even big-name writers still get rejected
This is the bomb Sherman Alexie let drop at his reading for the Beloit Poetry Journal’s anniversary celebration. He gets tons of rejection slips (many without even any writing! just the standard blank rejection slip!) and has taken to calling them “spankings.” He admitted that he’s still a bit bruised when he gets the slips, but it’s proof that in the saturated writing world, when the top journals are getting a couple of hundred submissions every month, even the big names can’t count on automatic acceptance. (That’s a blurry cell phone picture of Alexie at his reading at the top of the page).

5. And Finally, Writers are Insecure
The lines are drawn at AWP. Between non-book people, one-book people, one-book people whose books have won awards, two-book people, and heavy-hitters like Michael Chabon (who gave the celebratory opening night talk) and George Saunders. At AWP, you quickly realize that there’s always someone more important above you on the totem pole of the writing world. So just go with it. Take those spankings you get from potential agents, editors and publishers in stride.

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on April 18th, 2010 |4 Comments »

So, What DO We Look For When We Read?

Recently, Tim Morris sent me the link to an editorial by James Woods in the New Yorker that explores, among other things, the predictability of the tropes many contemporary writers employ in their novels. Mr. Woods argues that tropes aren’t a recent development in novels (he points out that the 19th century novels relied on popular plot manipulators such as eavesdropping, or gossip, or evil wills that leave the protagonist destitute) and that perhaps the more contemporary tropes (his scathing critique of gestures used in language by contemporary writers is hilarious) are in fact reminiscent of ones used in the past, only tweaked in response to what readers of “realist” fiction in today’s world expect. Mr. Woods ends the editorial by taking to task the problems (as he sees them) in Chang-Rae Lee’s new novel Surrendered (which, as it turns out, I’ve read a couple of great reviews of. And these reviews praise exactly what Mr. Woods, it seems, finds problematic about the novel).

After reading the article I found myself agreeing, in many ways, with Mr. Woods. Lately I’ve found myself beginning novels and then abandoning them, leaving a stack of discards on my bedside table that blocks my alarm clock. And it seems that I give up on many of these novels for the same reason–I grow desperately bored with them. And it’s usually not due to the predictability of the plot (which is what Mr. Woods ultimately complains about with Surrendered) but rather the “writerly, MFA graduate” tropes that I’ve noticed lately in many much-ballyhooed novels. There’s the alternating first person point of view chapters (or, sometimes, the alternating third person limited point of view), the enigmatic alcoholic (or depressed, or heroin addicted) love interest for the protagonist, the broken families and wrecked marriages, the prose that wanders on for paragraphs describing exactly the way the sun looks as it sets over the cornfields (or the suburban mini-mart, or shopping mall). It seems to me that these are tricks we’re taught in writing programs (pay attention to those objective correlatives! Introduce a new problem for your protagonist as soon as the old problem is resolved!) and I’ve found myself growing bored to death with these writerly tricks (my most recent put-down? Let the Great World Spin, which won last Year’s National Book Award.  Why? Well, I didn’t really find the characters all that interesting, and there’s the alternating third person limited POV sections, but–most annoying for me–there’s the language that’s trying really hard to make the ugliness in our world seem beautiful, and to guilt the reader into feeling shame for the crime of wandering around, blissfully unaware of all of the suffering people around us.  But maybe the book gets better in the second half.  I’m too busy turning my head as I drive past those guys asking for change out on Division Street and so am currently stalled out in the middle of the second section of the book ).

All of this has me thinking about what it is that we look for when we read. What makes us stick with a book? What makes us put one down? There must be some universal “it-ness” that we’re looking for (or maybe that editors and agents are looking for) but what is this “it-ness”?

So what do you look for when you read? And what’s the latest book you’ve decided to put down (or one that you just kept on happily reading?)

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on April 5th, 2010 |2 Comments »

Is This What You’re Looking For?

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There’s one question I hear from students more than any other. Before a big essay is due, or a poetry portfolio or short story, students tend to wander into my office, rough draft in hand, a nervous shiftiness in their eyes as they slide the pages across the desk to me. “What is it, exactly, you want my help with?” I’ll ask. And the answer is almost always, “I just want to know if this is what you’re looking for.” And I never know quite how to answer this question. Yes, we spend several class sessions discussing what goes into a well-written short story (a well developed character with believable dialogue, attention to detail in setting, a clear catalyst, a plot that consists of distinct scenes that build in tension to a clear climax scene where the protagonist finally acts–rather than reacts–and makes a decision from which he/she can’t turn back). And we read chapters in a textbook that also talk about these elements of good fiction (or poetry, or essays). And these textbooks aren’t written by me (the text I use for Introduction to Creative Writing was written by Stephen Minot, for example, and I’ve never had a student come into my office and ask “Is this what Minot is looking for in a short story?”). But there seems to be this idea that what makes up good writing is unique to each individual instructor, and if the student can just manage to puzzle together what that “something” is that each instructor believes to be good writing than the student can ace the essay (or short story, or poem).

I think this is also why, in the hallways between classes in Preston Hall, I’ll often overhear a distraught student complain to a friend, “Professor ____________ just doesn’t like my writing!” There’s something so personal about that comment. It seems to imply that some students believe that writing professors grade in an arbitrary, subjective way (and I imagine the professor in her office, red pen in hand, complaining about how well structured the essay is, and how clear the thesis statement is, but *dang it* the writer uses too many adverbs for the professor’s liking and, so, the essay must fail!).

Granted, those of us who grade writing can not simply go down a page and look to see if the equations add up properly. We can’t run a form through a scan tron machine to tabulate a grade. But I would argue that most instructors of writing are probably going to be able to pick out the weaknesses in any essay, and will (in turn) be in the same ballpark with the final grade for the essay. There is an objectivity to how we grade, even if some of the students prefer to shift the blame of a poor grade on an essay off of themselves and onto the professor. In other words, some students believe that the grade they received was not the one that they earned, but rather the one that was given to them. And another professor–if they could just find the right one!–would give them the “A” they so justly deserve.

When I was in graduate school, those of us about to teach composition for the first time were required to attend a series of “teaching prep” classes, many of which concerned grading procedures. A tenured professor had us read a small pile of student essays and we had to grade these essays (privately, on our own) and then come back to the class and announce the grade we had given each essay and why. We spent hours going over each essay (taking off a certain number of points for a poor thesis, more points for unclear topic sentences, etc.) and by the end of the training–amazingly–the thirty or so of us in the room had come within a half-letter grade of each other. It’s not that we didn’t all understand going into the training what to look for in the writing, we just weren’t sure how many points to take off for each lacking element. And maybe this is that loophole that leads some students to believe that if they could only find the professor that *likes* their writing then they’d be set.

I’m usually suspect of a student that comes to me after receiving a “C” on an essay and complains that they’ve always received “A’s” on their essays before. I find it hard to believe that any two writing professors, when confronted with the same piece of writing, wouldn’t at least come up with roughly the same letter grade. I find it very hard to believe that student can be an “A” writer for one instructor and a “C” writer for another (and I’m not talking about those anomalies where a traditionally “good” writer turns in an uncharacteristically poor essay. Life happens, kids get sick, or midterm pressures pile on, and so they whip something out the night before the essay is due and they don’t look the professor in the eye when they hand the thing in. And I’ve found that these students are aware of the poor writing they’ve done and take responsibility for the poor grade).

But this business of grading isn’t easy. Just the other day, I had a colleague ask if I find grading creative writing assignments more difficult than grading academic essays. And the truth is that I really don’t find a difference. There are still quantifiable, objective elements that I’m looking for. What’s difficult for me is knowing that, on “paper handback” days, a lot of students will leave class disappointed with their grades, and rather than accepting responsibility for the grade that they’ve earned, they’ll find a friend in the hallway after class and will wail, “Professor Kopchick just doesn’t like my writing!”

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick, Uncategorized |on March 13th, 2010 |No Comments »

Texas Writers? Let’s start with Highsmith…

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One of my favorite “guilty pleasure” writers to read (“guilty” in that enough of my creative writing professors rolled their eyes when I mentioned her name that I learned soon enough to keep my mouth shut about her) is Patricia Highsmith (writer of all the Ripley Books and Strangers on a Train). I’ve always been able to pick up stacks of her books at Half Price stores and library book sales for only a couple of bucks. And there are so many of them, too! All of them filled with morally corrupt characters who all seem incapable of any human feelings at all–and yet so determined to fake being human! Many of the stories, and novels, would be classified as suspense dramas, or maybe crime thrillers, but I really enjoyed them for the prose more than the plot. It’s as if Highsmith herself were incapable–like her characters–of describing human emotions. As a result, the characters wandered through exotic lands (a remote beach in Africa, a small town in Italy), often alone, meeting up with colorful locals (and awful American tourists) with usually catastrophic results (you can count on at least one dead body to pop up in a Highsmith story). The language just seems so stripped down in a Highsmith story. Like the characters just want to get themselves down on the page before someone has the chance to delete them. And they always end up rooting themselves in those exotic locales until they do enough damage that they have no other choice but to move on.

So imagine my surprise when, one day, after reading her stories for years, I happened upon Highsmith’s Wikipedia page. And where was this writer of stripped down killers who visit exotic locales from? Fort Worth, Texas. Yup, gateway to the West. City where cattle drives still take place daily. The same city where I live now. I’d seen dozens of author photos of her, of course. Most often black and white, usually a cigarette poised in one hand, a subdued cardigan sweater buttoned up to the neck. She just always looked so (forgive me, Jackie) British to me. Or maybe it was her characters’ adherence to proper social graces (and their willingness to kill in order to maintain a proper tea time, or to punish someone who wears the wrong kind of trousers with their cashmere blazer) that led me to think of her as British.

But a Texan? Really? Granted, it seems she high-tailed it out to NYC (and eventually to Europe) as soon as she reached adulthood. But there’s a good chance those years in Fort Worth made some sort of impression on her as a writer. And it’s made me wonder what sort of writer a Texas writer is. Is there a commonality that exists? Some linking characteristic?

Discuss.

– Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on February 21st, 2010 |1 Comment »

As Soon As I Get Some Free Time, No Revision Necessary, and Other Myths About Creative Writing (and Writers)

It was my final semester in the MFA in Fiction program at the University of Michigan and I was meeting with my thesis advisor, Charles Baxter, in his near-empty office on campus (he wrote at home, in a lovely book-lined office above the garage in his Ann Arbor house). As he red-penned my stories, pausing every few minutes to complain about my obsession with first person narration and my lack of redemptive male characters, I imagined that he would rather have been at home, polishing up the final draft of Feast of Love. It was no secret that he taught because he had to (he often told us that all American writers taught because they had to–who could make enough money just selling books besides Stephen King?). After he finished with my manuscript, red pen finally exhausted, he sighed and looked out the window at the snow covered expanse of ground outside. Then he told me about going to the doctor that morning for a check-up. I imagined this great writer, a man I admired (and whose writing floored me) sitting on one of those doctor’s tables, blood pressure cup around his arm, making small talk with a doctor who probably didn’t have a clue about Baxter’s literary accomplishments.

“He asked me what I do for a living,” Charlie said, “and when I told him that I’m a writer he told me he has a book he’s going to write as soon as he retires and gets the time.” Then he launched into a fairly long complaint about how he should have shot back something about practicing medicine as soon as he got Feast of Love out of the way, because how difficult could surgery be, after all? We all watch television. We see doctors perform surgeries all the time these days. “As if just having time is all that’s required of a writer,” he said. “Can you imagine?”

This conversation has always stuck with me (along with some of his more memorable quotes on teaching students to write literary short fiction, such as “I can only help you to write stories about characters who live on planet Earth–you’re on your own with aliens”) because since becoming a teacher of creative writing I, too, have had people tell me pretty much the same thing–that they’d be able to write the next great American novel, too, if they only had the time. And who knows? Maybe they would be able to write a fantastic novel with no formal coursework in writing. In fact, the winner of this year’s Katherine Anne Porter Award in short fiction works with computers at Harvard–he’s not an MFA graduate (or, as far as I know, a formal student of writing at all). But this writer, like all writers I know, worked and reworked those stories, making sure that the narrative point of view was consistent and clear, the plots of the stories had clear catalysts, climax scenes, and resolutions, and the exposition balanced nicely with the dialogue and action. In short, he had read (and learned to work and revise) enough to create finely polished, wonderful stories with resonance. That doesn’t come merely with enough writing time, but with work and effort.

So, the first myth of creative writing would be that anyone can produce well-crafted fiction, if given enough time. And another myth would certainly be that writing is divinely inspired, and any revision ruins the original inspiration. I always think of Coleridge and his poem “Kubla Khan” when I think of this myth. My Modern Poetry Professor in grad school told us that Coleridge claimed the poem to be inspired by either God or opium, depending on the myth, and that he wrote the poem in one draft without revisions. As far as I know, he’s the only writer to claim to eschew revision. After his death, however, multiple drafts of this poem were found. Even divine inspiration, it seems, benefits from sober revisional practices.

I always try to end my creative writing classes with a quote a former professor told me. He told us “Be a producer rather than a consumer, and surround yourself with beauty that you create yourself.” I think that everyone should produce something that they’re proud of–and writing is certainly one way to create beauty in the world. But also students and aspiring writers should remember that writing is difficult, and has a tradition, and a set of expectations that readers demand (whether the writing is divinely inspired or not). Ben Marcus, another former professor of mine, once told me that “Writing should practically kill you.” I think he was joking, but I’ve found these words to ring true, especially when I find myself debating the means of perception in a story, or whether or not to let go of my obsession with first person and to go ahead and try a third person point of view. It’s certainly not easy, this business of writing, and even when you’ve finished with a draft of something you’re proud of there’s always an editor, or an agent, waiting to tell you all of the mistakes you’ve made. Even so, there’s nothing better than seeing a creation come to life, and knowing all of the terribly difficult effort that went into that creation.

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on February 5th, 2010 |No Comments »

Oh, Christmas!

Here’s a poem by a former professor of mine.  He used to read it to us at the end of every fall semester, on the last day of class, as a final send-off before the Christmas break.  I’ve always loved this poem for the way that it so perfectly explores the mixed blessings the American holiday season bestows upon us.

Advent
By: Scott Cairns (from Figures For The Ghost)

Well, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas—everywhere,
children eyeing the bright lights and colorful goods, traffic a good
deal worse than usual, and most adults in view looking a little
puzzled, blinking their eyes against the assault of stammering
bulbs and public displays of goodwill. We were all embarrassed,
frankly, the haves and the have-nots—all of us aware something
had gone far wrong with an entire season, something had eluded
us. And, well, it was strenuous, trying to recall what it was that
had charmed us so, back when we were much smaller and more
oblivious than not concerning the weather, mass marketing, the
insufficiently hidden faces behind those white beards and other
jolly gear. And there was something else: a general diminishment
whose symptoms included the Xs in Xmas, shortened tempers,
and the aggressive abandon with which most celebrants seemed
to push their shiny cars about. All of this seemed to accumulate
like wet snow, or like the fog with which our habitual inversion
tried to choke us, or to blank us out altogether, so that, of a given
night, all that appeared over the mess we had made of the season
was what might be described as a nearly obscured radiance, just
visible through the gauze, either the moon disguised by a winter
veil, or some lost star—isolated, distant, sadly dismissing of us,
and of all our expertly managed scene.

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on December 6th, 2009 |No Comments »

In Praise of the American Short Story

Last year, in an article for the New York Times lamenting the lack of appreciation many American readers have for the short story, Stephen Millhauser said, “…here in America, size is power. The novel is the Wal-Mart, the Incredible Hulk, the jumbo jet of literature. The novel is insatiable — it wants to devour the world. What’s left for the poor short story to do? It can cultivate its garden, practice meditation, water the geraniums in the window box. It can take a course in creative nonfiction. It can do whatever it likes, so long as it doesn’t forget its place — so long as it keeps quiet and stays out of the way. ‘Hoo ha!’ cries the novel. ‘Here ah come!’ The short story is always ducking for cover. The novel buys up the land, cuts down the trees, puts up the condos. The short story scampers across a lawn, squeezes under a fence.” And I think it’s this squeezing under the fence bit that best sums up the quiet power of a really well-written short story–the best ones are able to sneak up on you, offer an emotional wallop, and are able to do so in the same small amount of time it would take you to watch a re-run of “Saved By the Bell.” These days, it seems that any writer showing up on an agent’s and editor’s doorstep, polished short story collection in hand, is met with pity. “Where’s the novel?” The agent will ask. “I can’t sell these!” The editor will wail. If this writer is lucky she’ll get a two-book deal, which involves a publishing house accepting her short story collection only along with a novel. And the novel will probably make its way to print, and eventually to the bookshelves of Borders. And the short story collection? No matter how craftily written, this poor manuscript will forever remain in “editing,” until the publisher releases the collection from contract (with pitying looks for the poor writer who has wasted everyone’s time). This seems to be a recent development, and it makes one wonder if a writer like, say, Raymond Carver (a writer known for brevity whose longest works are in the 12-page range) would even have a shot today in the publishing world. And there’s Cheever and Barth, both writers who are best known for their short stories. I think proof of this bias can be seen with Lorrie Moore (immediately buy Birds of America if it’s not already on your shelf), a master of the short story form, who, it seems, is forced to put out the occasional sub par novel (the problematic Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? was originally a much-loved short story in The New Yorker called “Paris.”)

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about the place of the short story in the American reading landscape. Publishers don’t want them because, well, they don’t sell. But there’s something beautiful in the way a short story invites you briefly into a world, lets you glimpse the grace of this world’s inhabitants (or perhaps the horror of their lives), and then releases you before you have a chance to even sit down and take your coat off.

Here’s a brief list of just a few of the stories that–no matter how many times I re-read them–punch me in the gut (almost all of these are contemporary, but since she’s my favorite short story writer, I had to slip in one by O’Connor):

“Hunters In the Snow” by Tobias Wolff. Not many writers can get away with a story that relies almost completely on dialogue and action (no exposition here, my friend). This story is chilling, and the ending is downright frightening.

“People Like That Are the Only People Here” by Lorrie Moore. This story has the perfect narrative voice. It’s like one of your best friends is telling you about a really, really bad experience while you share a glass of wine with her. It’s heartbreaking.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor. I know most Flannery-ites don’t think it’s her best, but I get chills every time the Misfit shows up. And, like Wolff’s story, the ending is tough.

“City of Boys” by Beth Nugent. The protagonist of this story is wise and smart and sad and hopeful all at the same time. And there’s that chilling refrain that occurs throughout the story, gaining menace as the narrative progresses (“rent control is not going to last forever in New York!”)

“Gryphon” by Charles Baxter. It’s difficult for me to bond with child narrators. But I find this story charming. Plus, it was made into a film by PBS.

“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver. The scene where the protagonist traces the cathedral with the Blind Man is gorgeous.

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates. Uh-oh, I’m starting to see a trend in my favorite stories (it seems I like the ones with the creepy predators).

Okay, I’m going to stop there. Those are just a few of mine. What are yours?

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on November 20th, 2009 |7 Comments »

Online Voyeurism

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Okay, I have a confession. I’m addicted to these new(ish) online confessional culture projects (Postsecret, Six-word Memoirs, Mortified), where people (often anonymously) admit (often embarrassing)  personal information that, not too long ago, would have only been revealed to a best friend after one too many glasses of pinot noir.  I caught the fever about seven years ago when I discovered Found magazine on the shelf at Shaman Drum bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The cover of the magazine featured what appeared to be a senior prom photo from the 1970s, complete with awkward boy in tinted oversize glasses and girl with impressively feathered hair.  Inside I found a slew of photocopied handwritten notes, love letters, post cards, photographs, all found by readers on street corners and alleys and dumpsters around the world.  The little grocery shopping lists seemed particularly heartbreaking–one shopper made a note to buy a single red rose and also reminded himself to refill his Valium prescription.  A love letter asked the recipient to check a box at the bottom of the page if he did, indeed, want to go to the prom with her and “get it on” afterwards in the backseat of his Camaro. I flipped through the pages of the magazine and imagined the lives of the people who had written these random notes (did the writer of the “prom” note ever receive a response? I imagined a girl in a bubblegum pink organza dress, waiting anxiously on the bench next to the doors of her high school gym, a wrist corsage bothering the skin of her arm, wondering why Bobby never returned the note to her locker like she’d asked). So much information about the lives behind these scraps of paper was conveyed in such a small amount of space, and I was reminded of Charles Simic’s quote about poetry, which states: “Little said, much meant, is what poetry is all about.”  I did, indeed, feel as if I’d found a sort of poetry in Found Magazine.

Although Davy Rothbart, creator of Found Magazine, isn’t planning a trip to the UTA campus anytime soon, we can look forward to PostSecret creator Frank Warren, who is coming to the Bluebonnet Ballroom on November 11 at 7:00 pm.  I’m looking forward to heartbreaking postcards with scribbled confessions on them and that sugary feeling I get in my veins when I get a glimpse into the private world of strangers. See you there!

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on November 6th, 2009 |No Comments »

Halloween

My favorite Halloween poem by one of my favorite poets:

All Saints Eve
- Bruce Bond

Here where the last of October tears
at the tiny hinges of its great machine,
where all the ten thousand TV’s stare
dazed as clear stones, lit with some bad dream
or other, some gang hit or dilapidated
condo, the fatal rubble of a ground floor,
we dress up our children like the dead,
though no one in particular, and scatter
them down the dark street. It’s all a bit
too exciting, the shakiness of the dear
earth beneath them. You can see them skip
with pure white greed, expectant. It’s nearly
criminal, this heaven—ah, to be young
and dead again. Go on, let your TV flicker
behind you. With every hungry bag they open,
a few sins fall in, the sweets they die for.

-Laura Kopchick

Published in:Laura Kopchick |on October 23rd, 2009 |No Comments »