Meet Angie Pelekidis, Author of Unlucky Mel, Winner of The Blue Mountain Novel Award

Angie Pelekidis

We are happy to introduce you all to Angie Pelekidis of Port Crane, New York, who is the winner of our Blue Mountain Novel Award for her wonderful novel, Unlucky Mel.
Angie introduced her novel to us by saying, “Unlucky Mel…is (a) comedy loosely based on Hamlet, but with a revenge plot of epic ineptness, (and) a comedic female protagonist….who’s struggling to balance her sense of family duty with her creative and professional ambitions.”

This caught our attention. A revenge plot, loosely based on Hamlet, with an epically inept female protagonist? What’s not to like?

Her synopsis took it further: “When Melody Hollings’s widowed father starts behaving strangely, she chalks this up to his trying to manipulate her into moving back into his hoarding house of horrors. She’s in her final year as a Ph.D. student, living with her boyfriend, and enjoying her independence from her needy father. But as Collin’s behavior becomes more bizarre, Mel learns he has dementia. Her only hope is to land an alumni fellowship after she graduates so she can stay local and care for him. For this to happen, she needs her friend and mentor, Ben, to edit her dissertation and reciprocate all the help she’s given him with his writing and life. Instead, he trashes her book and wins the fellowship for himself. Forced to move back in with Collin, she plots her revenge against Ben. But her vengeful acts escalate as they fail to make a dent in his blessed existence.”

The comedic escalation is deftly combined with the growing stress Mel feels while handling her father’s needs, teaching too many students, and feeling uncertainty over her own future.

A novel blending humor and pathos, Unlucky Mel promises to be a great addition to our growing list of titles. It also seems a pretty safe bet that Angie will fit right in with our growing family of unique and highly-talented writers.

Angie Pelekidis received a Ph.D in English/Creative Writing from Binghamton University in 2012, where she also earned an M.A. in the same field. Her dissertation, an unpublished short-story collection titled Patrimonium, won the Distinguished Dissertation Award for Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Confrontation, North Dakota Quarterly, Masters Review, Bluestem, Eleven Eleven, and McSweeney’s. She won first prize in the New Ohio Review’s Fiction Contest, which was judged by Ann Beattie.

We want to congratulate Angie and welcome her to the Hidden River Arts family.

The Blue Mountain Novel Award is offered annually for an original, unpublished novel. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and publication with Hidden River Publishing. The next deadline is March 31, 2020. Please see our guidelines for further information. A list of the semi-finalists and finalists of the Blue Mountain Award may be reviewed here. You may also be interested in a profile of our first Blue Mountain winner, Jeffrey Voccola, and his novel, Kings Row.

Please be sure to follow our blog for all updates of Hidden River activities.

The Story of the String-Heel Incident of Angola Prison is Told Through Poetry in Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola’s History by Carol Tyx, Willow Run Poetry Book Award Winner

Carol Tyx
Winner of Willow Run
Poetry Book Award

We are pleased to introduce you to Carol Tyx, of Iowa City, Iowa, who is the inaugural winner of our Willow Run Poetry Book Award for her stunning collection, Remaking Achilles: Slicing Into Angola’s History. Tyx received the cash award of $1,000 and her manuscript has just been published on the Hidden River Press imprint of Hidden River Publishing.

Inspiration for Tyx’s work came from a gruesome historical event in 1951, when 37 inmates of Angola Prison in Louisiana slashed their own Achilles tendons in order to make public the brutal conditions at the prison. Interest in this event led Tyx to the prison itself, where she did extensive research and, with what began as a plan for one or two poems, found herself writing an entire book of poetry based on this incident. More information about Carol’s experience with this horrifying history can be read here.

Carol teaches writing and American literature at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her teaching interests include African American literature, U.S. Latino literature, creative writing, and service learning. Along with a colleague and many students, she facilitates a prison book club. Her poetry has most recently been published in Minerva Rising, Hunger Mountain, Big Muddy, Iowa City’s Poetry in Public, and Rising to the Rim, published by Brick Road Poetry Press.

Some early praise for Remaking Achilles:

Remaking Achilles brings alive the vivid realities of Angola’s history. I study Angola, …this collection paints the horrors and injustices of time past in a way that the simple facts never do. Carol Tyx has done a remarkable job of reminding us all of where we came from and why we do not want to return.” (Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, retired criminal justice professor and Angola historian)

“These sterling voices pretending to be persona poems are so well researched and authentically rendered that the painful and traumatic memories of Angola will continue to haunt readers long after the last pages are sliced open and left bleeding.” (Frank X Walker, author of The Unghosting of Medgar Evers)

“A compassionate and imaginative retelling of a harrowing period in American penal history. With each vivid and lyrical insight, Carol Tyx weaves a compelling poetic tale depicting the effects of institutional racism and cruelty, of unimaginable hardship, but also of the human impulse to resist and seek dignity. In the darkest hours, there are sparks of light.” (Andy Douglas, author of Redemption Songs: A Year in the Life of a Community Prison Choir)

Like the ghostly inmate who takes his place in the long line of U.S. prison atrocities, Carol Tyx claims her place in a long tradition of poets like Muriel Rukeyser (The Book of the Dead, 1938) and Carolyn Forché (The Angel of History, 1994), incorporating individual impersonations and historical documents into lines that incriminate us all. (Cecile Goding, The Iowa Summer Writing Festival)

Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola’s History is available at online bookstores, and can be ordered at your local brick and mortar store. It is currently a newly available book on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. It takes a little longer for IndieBound and Powell’s to create a listing, but they will be making the book available shortly as well. The eBook version will also be uploaded shortly, so if you prefer an eBook, please give us about a week, and check back!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

The Willow Run Poetry Book Award is offered yearly for a book-length collection of original poetry. The next submission deadline for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award is February 20, 2020. For more information, please see our guidelines.

HEATHEN HILL by Jason Forbach Reading September 9, 2019

HEATHEN HILL READING INVITE copy

 

Hidden River Arts is very pleased to announce that the winner of our most recent Playwrighting Award, Jason Forbach, will have his winning script, HEATHEN HILL, read at the Shetler Studios Bridge Theatre, 244 W. 54th Street, in New York, on Monday, September 9. 2019, at 1:30 pm.

Jason, currently in the cast of Phantom on Broadway, has been a Broadway actor for over 14 years.  HEATHEN HILL is Jason’s first play, which he describes: “Heathen Hill is an ensemble play set in the very near future in an ever expanding Alt-America. Six men in an internment camp for homosexuals turn toward creativity, art and truth as a way to survive. As the political environment of this country continually spirals toward hostility, the play examines the retaliative strength and liberation found through beauty and expression.”

The reading will be directed by Kevin Newbury, and will star Dan Amboyer, best known for his starring role as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in the television movie “William & Catherine: A Royal Romance”.

Our other amazing cast members include Paul Schaefer, Kevin Ligon, Evander Duck, Jr., Daniel Ching, Alan Ariano, Jacob Keith Watson, Alan Wiggins and James Jackson.

After about fifteen years in Philadelphia, the Hidden River Arts Playwrighting Award has now moved New York, in a decision aimed at providing more benefit to our winning playwrights.

Broadway World wrote a wonderful article about this event, and about the play itself.

The Hidden River Arts Playwrighting Award is offered yearly for a previously unproduced full-length play. The winning script receives a $1,000 prize and a public script-in-hand reading. If you are interested in submitting, please consult our guidelines.

The next deadline for the award is June 30, 2020.

For further information about this event, or if you are interested in attending, please contact our Founding Director, Debra Leigh Scott, at hiddenriverarts@gmail.com at your earliest opportunity, since seating is limited.

Slouching Towards Publication

A guest blog by David Hallock Sanders, author of Busara Road

© 2018 David H. Wells

This is not a feel-good story. It’s too full of disaster, disease, and failure.
It’s not a sob story, either, even though it does include some sobbing.
It’s also not a how-to story, although it does have bullet points.
But then again, it ends on a happy note, so maybe it is feel-good after all.
And maybe that’s where I should start, with the ending:
This year my novel, Busara Road, got published.

That may sound like solidly feel-good news, except that it took me 20 years to get the book into print – years filled with grave setbacks, personal traumas, and drawers of failed drafts.

Let’s go back to the beginning. In 1999 I wrote my first draft of something that was not yet a novel, but was more like a short-story attempt that got way, way out of hand.

It was titled Return to Kwetu, and contained many of the same characters, settings, and themes that would one day become Busara Road. The core story, which has remained remarkably intact over the years, involved an American Quaker boy who gets transplanted to Kenya in the early sixties, just after Kenya’s long and bloody struggle for independence. The story followed this kid, Mark, as he comes of age in a nation that is coming of age itself.

That first story was a long, royal mess. Rambling, leaden, and confusing, it just kept growing longer and longer, until it was so unwieldy that I finally abandoned it.

Two years later, though, I excavated the original story and took another look. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe I was dealing with a novel here. I renamed it Kijiji Road, and began again.

I fleshed out some of the more compelling characters. I wrote new scenes that became new chapters. I ended up with several hundred pages of new text – some of it interesting, most of it not.

That attempt failed as well.

I started over. This time I reconceived the work as a magnum opus in three parts. The first section would be the boy’s childhood in Kenya. The second would be the span of his adulthood back in the United States. And the third section would be his return, in his aging years, to the village where he’d lived as a child.

By 2007 the manuscript, now titled Busara Road, had grown to over 800 pages, yet I was still stuck fumbling around in the character’s early life. I was finding the whole thing completely unmanageable. Another failed attempt.

Here I was, eight years in, and I still didn’t have a legitimate draft.

So I decided, once again, to start over. I set parts two and three aside to concentrate on the first section. I decided to focus on the plot, a sensible approach that I should have taken eight years earlier. I bought new software to help me create a master plotline, filled poster boards with scene-by-scene index cards, and charted each chapter in detail to track my through-lines, thematic developments, character motivations, etc., etc. I lugged boxes of notes and source materials with me to more than half a dozen writing residencies.

It was slow going. But by 2011, I finally had what felt like an actual, presentable draft.

And then disaster struck.

My computer suffered a catastrophic hard-drive crash. Even worse, I had not been backing up for years.

I lost everything.

A long road back

The wonderful writer Pico Ayer has written movingly about losing his home and all of its contents – including 15 years of notes and manuscripts – to a devastating fire. He ultimately described the experience as liberating, one that left him with a strange sense of freedom.

I don’t have Mr. Ayer’s Zen Buddhist composure.

When I lost my novel I nearly lost my mind. I literally curled in a ball on the floor, sobbing and moaning, “I fucked up! I fucked up!” My wife, grasping the seriousness of the situation, fed me shot after shot of whiskey.

From there I began a painful, lengthy period of reconstructive surgery. I dug through cardboard boxes for old printouts of early chapters. I thumbed through file cabinets for old notes and searched through old thumb drives for discarded text. I reassembled all of this material the best I could, and assessed what I had.

The whole thing was a mess. The novel’s narrative voice was all over the place. Scenes meandered. Characters behaved in inconsistent, unconvincing ways. Story arcs conflicted. Tenses battled – present in some sections, past in others.

And this wasn’t only the fault of the disjointed drafts. The entire novel suffered from these shortcomings. It just wasn’t working.

That stark realization, I now believe, was a gift. My version of Mr. Ayer’s liberation.
So I started over, once again, from the beginning. I re-plotted the book in detail, chapter by chapter. I re-defined character bios and thematic threads. I dispensed with the wandering prose that had diluted early drafts and focused on simply telling the story. I even re-wrote the whole novel as a screenplay, which taught me a lot about plotting and pacing and efficiency.

I signed up for a one-on-one novel intensive with Nancy Zafris, a marvelous writer and teacher who literally tore the manuscript into pieces and helped me reassemble it with a better, stronger structure.

It took me two years to complete a new draft. I submitted an excerpt to the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Prize for a novel-in-progress, and was shortlisted as a finalist.
I pitched the novel to agents at conferences – AWP in Seattle, PWO in Philadelphia, Grub Street in Boston. I got requests to see more of the manuscript, and sent it off with high hopes.

I sent the new manuscript to more editors and publishers. I pitched it to the agents of writers I knew. I pitched it to the agents of writers I didn’t know. I got more requests to see the complete manuscript.

I was certain that acceptance was near at hand.

But no.

“The writing is beautiful,” said one agent, “but I don’t know how to sell it.”

“I love it,” said another, “but just not enough.”

I continued to collect rejections. I felt lost.

And then I got cancer. Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Over the next half-year, throughout chemotherapy so debilitating that many days I couldn’t sit upright for more than an hour at a time, I started re-writing the novel again. I cut scenes, added scenes, moved scenes. I changed the entire narrative voice from past to present tense. Decided I didn’t like it, and changed it all back. I continued to send the manuscript out, and the rejections continued to arrive in return.

But as the Buddha said, “Each day we are born again.” And one of those days finally brought acceptance.

This spring Busara Road was published by New Door Books. Hardcover. Paperback. E-book. Big release party. The works.

So there’s my happy ending.

And what did this whole saga teach me? Here is my promised set of bullet points, my three-p finale of lessons learned:

• Patience. Things simply take the time they take to get to where they need to be. Had any earlier draft of the novel appeared in print, I would have been disappointed in both myself and the work.

• Persistence. I was determined not to give up. I was stubborn about seeing each stage through to its completion, and when it didn’t lead me where I’d hoped it would, I’d find another way forward. And finally:

• Pain management: Sometimes, when anguish overwhelms, a shot of whiskey works wonders.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more information about David Hallock Sanders, check out his website. For more information about his novel, Busara Road, check out information here.

Arts for Assets Sake

What’s Art Good For? Apparently, for collateral.

It is long known that the “art market” is filled with speculators and asset hounds who are hoovering up the “hot” artists not for aethestic purposes but as investment. The horror stories of what that has done to the art world abound. But I confess, I had to read Georgina Adam’s article, “In Debt We Trust” in The Art Newspaper several times before it began to sink in and I started to realize, with horror…..My God…..this is really happening.

Those same investors who have been turning the art world into a kind of Thunderdome are now part of an increasing trend: Art-secured lending. What does this mean? It means that the owners of art-as-asset are now borrowing against that art in yet another layer of frenzy – creating a bourgeoning market for lenders smokin’ hot to get in on the action.

Adam writes, “Warhol or a Wool hanging on your wall may give you great pleasure, but it used to be that art gave you no monetary return—unless you sold it….No longer. Today that work of art can remain on your wall and at the same time give you cash in hand, allowing you to buy more art, inject some money into your business, cover a guarantee at auction or pay off an urgent tax demand.”

If you have any doubt that this is becoming a huge market, “…according to a report published last year by Deloitte and ArtTactic, in 2017 the global total of loans outstanding against art was eye-popping: between $17bn and $20bn.”

Piles and stacks of money – coins and US dollars.

Evan Beard, who is a national art services executive at US Trust claims that “the market” of art-buyers are less likely to purchase art for aesthetic purposes, but as what he called a “strategic asset”.

Aside from the overwhelming nausea and disgust I feel toward the kind of people who treat the creative effort of the arts community as little more than a stock option, I have questions about what this means for the artist him/herself. It has long disgusted me that art is sold, resold, sold again, auctioned — and that the rising prices of any given piece of art do not benefit the creator of that work of art, but those who “own” it through purchase. It seems to me that some portion — if not the lion’s share — of the increasing value of a work of art should go to the artist or his/her estate. I know that this is distasteful to those who don’t want to monetize art at all — and I understand that completely. But my argument exists within the boundaries of a rapacious capitalist economy, fueled by greed, where it seems that the same, very few, elite at the top of the food chain are the ones who see ALL the increase. If we are forced, as artists, to live in this world, why shouldn’t there be new kinds of contracts upon the sale of a piece of work that withhold a certain portion of any financial increase for the artist alone?

Another question: If these purchasers and speculators of art can borrow against the value of their collection, can an ARTIST borrow against the value of his/her own unsold work? Or is such financialization reserved only for those 1%-ers who play in this game of capitalist roulette?

I’d love to hear from you about this. As visual artists, what do you feel about what has happened to the art market? As collectors, how do you feel about the direction that art-speculation is going?

IN PROGRESS by Catharine Leggett

 

Leggett good reads photo

We here at Hidden River Arts are thrilled to announce that IN PROGRESS by Catharine Leggett, which won our fifth annual Eludia Award, has launched.

Catharine’s short stories have appeared in the anthologies The Reading Place, Slow the Pace, Lose Yourself, The Empty Nest, Law & Disorder, Best New Writing 2014, as well as in the journals Room, Event, The New Quarterly, Canadian Author, and The Antigonish Review. Other stories have appeared online in paperbytes, Per Contra, and Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism, as well as on CBC Radio. The Eludia Award brings with it a $1,000 cash prize and publication on our Sowilo Press imprint.  Shortly after winning our award, Catharine learned that her novel, The Way to Go Home, was accepted for publication with Urban Farmhouse Press. She lives in London, Ontario, Canada and taught creative writing in the continuing studies program for Western University. We are thrilled to welcome Catharine to the Eludia Award family of fantastic women writers.

To mark this birth, we’ll be catching up with our earlier winners and sharing their latest projects and creative adventures. Please follow our blog, where we will be announcing some events and some sales in order commemorate this book launch and to celebrate our other Eludia winners.

The Emigrant and Other Stories, our sixth Eludia Award winner, by Justine Dymond, is scheduled for publication in fall, 2019.

The Eludia Award is given yearly as a first-book award, for a book-length work of fiction (either a short story collection or a novel) by a woman writer, age 40 or above. It carries a cash award of $1,000 and publication by Sowilo Press, an imprint of Hidden River Publishing. The deadline for our current cycle of submissions has been extended to June 30, 2019.

In Progress is available at AbeBooks, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and if you don’t find it at your local bookstore, it is easily available by order. If you prefer eBooks, our Kindle edition has also launched!

Book clubs, reviewers and requests for interviews?  Please contact us at hiddenriverarts@gmail.com so that we can talk!

Exploring Emerging Forms of Storytelling: A Guest Blog by Duncan Brady

Brady, Duncan  Duncan Brady is an intern here at Hidden River Arts.  He is a fourth year student at Temple University studying, among other things, film and creative writing. This is the first guest post in a series, where Duncan explores some of the new, exciting ways of telling a story, and creating narrative. 

campfire storytelling

Why do so many people still dream of writing a book in their lifetime?

Seriously. Polls from the New York Times and Publishing Perspectives have shown us that around 80 percent of all Americans (myself included) want to write a book but only a small fraction of those aspiring authors ever even set out to actually do it.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with people wanting to be a storyteller. In fact, it’s just the opposite. There are so many emerging forms of storytelling today that I just wonder why the vast majority of American minds are still hooked on this tried and true “American Dream” idea of publishing a book.

Do people still read actual, physical books?

Despite our average daily reading time going down in the last several decades, WHYY online reports that print sales have been on the rise every year since 2013.

When I started looking around, though, it became quickly obvious to me that we are telling and consuming stories as a culture in far more interesting ways than simply reading ink off of a white page. (The irony of this written blog is not lost on me, of course). Whether it’s through spoken word, as in the famous Moth series, or the animations we’re so familiar with on YouTube.

Storytelling on stage

Just last month, my friends and I reeled in excitement over the latest installment of the Netflix show, Black Mirror, which became the first streaming service to offer a fully interactive choose-your-own-adventure story for the screen. This movie, (or is it more of a game?) Bandersnatch, can last anywhere between 30 and 90 minutes and has over one trillion combinations of filmic experiences.

bandersnatch

When I first played Bandersnatch, I found myself glued to the screen while I moved through the story almost a dozen times, spending nearly seven hours taking in as much of it as I could. It got me to thinking…

…Why aren’t we telling stories like this more often?

The more I thought, the more I realized that we really are telling stories in more interesting ways. Podcasting has become one of the fastest growing forms of storytelling in the last five years. The number of monthly listeners has more than doubled since 2013, and now, half of American households are podcast fans. (Podcast Insights 2018). Look no further than the episodic dramas, Serial and S-Town, or the metanarrative, Launch.

Beyond this, the average American spends over half of their household leisure time watching TV, a growing amount on streaming services and portable devices. Much of our other leisure time is spent playing games. Every year the capabilities of video game platforms increase, with higher demands for state-of-the-art gameplay mechanics, orchestral masterpieces for soundtracks, and innovative forms of storytelling to draw players into the experience. Here are the WatchMojo ranked Top 10 plots in video games.

Brady post image 1

It doesn’t stop there, though. Users everywhere are creating thousands of hours of content every second on social media platforms, whether through the outdated seven-second storytelling on Vine (R.I.P), live self-broadcasting on Facebook, or publishing short stories on Instagram and Snapchat. Our lives and stories are everywhere. It’s difficult to look at our collective obsession with sharing and storytelling in 2019 and not say that we are making new and interesting work.

And yet, our growing culture of artists is struggling to find financial success in content creation. Why? Clearly, people enjoy these new storytelling forms, both as makers and consumers. There just aren’t enough people getting paid for their work. This is a huge problem! Artists and storytellers are constantly pressed for money, and, save for the lucky few, need to work additional jobs just to keep going. There needs to be a real change with what media is assigned monetary value if amateur artists are going to see that their dreams can be bigger than Harry Potter.

Brady blog image 2

Yes. Bigger than Harry Potter. I think part of the problem with our aspirations as storytellers is our romanticization of literature as the acme of storytelling. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I dreamt of seeing my name on the spine of an old hardcover drifting around the shelves of a used book store in fifty years, but until we begin to show that we value these other forms of storytelling as much as we value the hardcover novel, the dreams of our artists are in danger of becoming stagnant.

Brad blog image 3

What I think it takes is for you as the storyteller to find the medium that speaks to you. I’ve spent the last several years experimenting with as many story forms as I can, and I’ve been invigorated about my own creativity since taking that exploration. So, try something new. Branch out from the old pen and paper (or, more likely, finger and keyboard). More than ever, we have the capabilities as amateurs to create in whatever way we see fit. Let’s start a revolution of storytellers who are tired of a culture where we read, write, and repeat. For my part, I plan to come back to this blog a few times each month with a brand new type of storytelling to rant and rave about. Here, I’ll share everything I know about the structure, the content, and how to stay true to your artistic voice without giving up and backsliding into the “financially viable” story forms once again. If we both do our homework, we can make our artistic landscape a little less repetitive, and a lot more fun. Are you ready?

Brady blog image 4