About Hidden River Arts

Hidden River™ Arts, the independent literary and performing arts organization based in suburban Philadelphia is dedicated to the service, support and celebration of all artists. Named after the Schuylkill (Dutch for "Hidden River") which winds its way through the region, Hidden River™Arts is committed to nurturing the artistic community by providing varied and supportive services to creative writers, and artists of all genres. We offer competitions, publication, shows and live events, as well as outreach through workshops, classes and audience building events.

The Semi-finalists and Finalists announced for 2018 Eludia Award and the 2018 Hidden River Playwrighting Award

Hello, everybody. Just wanted to let those who submitted to our 2018 Eludia Award and to our 2018 Hidden River Arts Playwrighting Award that we’ve announced our semi-finalists and finalists. Please see the full lists here.

Please note that these announced semi-finalists and finalists are for manuscripts submitted for the 2017 deadlines, and will be considered as recipients of the 2018 awards.

For further information about the latest round of the Eludia Award, which deadlines May 15, 2018 and the Hidden River Arts Playwrighting Award, which deadlines June 30, 2018, please see the links. There you will find guidelines and submission information for both.

Please be sure to follow our blog for the announcement of the Eludia and the Hidden River Playwrighting Awards.

As ever, our sincere thanks go to those who have entrusted us with their creative work. We here at Hidden River have always devoted ourselves to the careful reading and consideration of your manuscripts, and will always be in awe of the wonderful, talented community of writers whose work has been shared with us.

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Interview with Miriam Seidel, author of THE SPEED OF CLOUDS

Miriam Seidel, author of The Speed of Clouds

We had a chance to sit down for a conversation with the truly terrific Miriam Seidel, whose first novel, THE SPEED OF CLOUDS, has just been launched by New Door Books. A short while ago we offered a brief review of the book by our Assistant Fiction Editor, Brittany Loeffler. But I saved the best for myself, getting to delve more deeply into Miriam’s thoughts about her book, about her choice of genre, and so much more. As some of you may know, Miriam is our beloved graphic design genius here at Hidden River. She has designed the covers of every one of our books so far. She designed her own cover as well. You can check it out right here:

The Speed of Clouds by Miriam Seidel

Okay. So let’s get to the interview!

DLS: Can you talk about your personal fascination with speculative fiction and sci-fi? Has this been a life-long interest?

MS: Yes, I’ve always loved science fiction, although when I was younger it was more fantasy—A Wrinkle in Time, The Borrowers, The Lord of the Rings. I discovered Star Trek and sci-fi magazines in high school. Then when our son was little, I took him along to Cons. I told myself it would be fun for him, but it was really for me. What drew me to speculative fiction and fantasy was probably what draws so many people—the feeling that there’s more to the universe than what we experience day-to-day, and the chance to experience vaster reaches of space and time, and have your imagination stretched by other possibilities.

DLS: You present this world through the experiences of a female protagonist, which is unusual. This is a very male-dominated world. Could you talk about that a bit?

MS: Yes and no. Traditionally sci-fi was extremely male-dominated, but there have always been female fans (like me) and women writers. Women fans were central in the development of fan fiction, which started as a response to the first Star Trek series. And Mindy, the main character, is part of that tradition, having written fan fiction and editing her own zine. And you see other women fans in the story—she’s not just some token woman hanging with fanboys.

In the last decade or so the SFF field has seen a surge in women writers, including women of color, queer women, disabled women. Many exciting new voices are Asian women—Aliette de Bodard, Alyssa Wong, JY Yang. There was even an attempted backlash by a group of male writers who felt threatened by the changing demographics in the field, and they tried to skew the voting for the Hugo Awards. But now N.K. Jemisin, a brilliant African-American woman writer, has won the Hugo twice in the last two years, for the first two books in her Broken Earth trilogy. And on the fan level, lots of younger women are writing fan fiction and doing cosplay at conventions. So it’s really opening up.

Since we just lost Ursula K. Le Guin, I’d just like to say that she really led the way. So many people were inspired by her example, her stubbornly original way of approaching science fiction—different from the dominant, somewhat macho ethos of her time. There’s been a real outpouring of sadness since her death, partly because in recent years she was willing to speak up as the wise (sometimes stern) old woman writer.

DLS: Your main character is also disabled, which adds interesting complications to the issues she faces and the challenges she has to overcome. Can you talk a bit about your choice to create a disabled character?

MS: Mindy came to me all of a piece—disabled, irascible, and with this rich inner life that doesn’t match her outer self. I probably met some disabled fans at the Cons I went to, but I don’t remember any individually. Mindy has lived with her disability, spina bifida, from birth, but I know there’s a certain category of sci-fi fan that seems not to invest much interest in their physical body compared to their passion for imagined worlds. I know because I was that way when I was younger. By the end of the novel, Mindy has both connected with other people and learned to inhabit her body in a new way. Those changes were important to me.

DLS: What are your current projects? Is there a follow up to this novel?

MS: I’m in the early stages of a straight sci-fi/fantasy novel. I do think about Mindy, but haven’t seen her appearing in another novel—not yet, anyway.

DLS: Is there anything else you would like to say about the book, about this sci-fi fan community, Cons, etc.?

MS: In a way, The Speed of Clouds is about the difficulty and inevitability of change. All the supporting stories are about this too. But, thinking about this now, I’m seeing the world of sci-fi fandom as a place where you sort of develop a muscle for dealing with change, because with each new story, you have to learn a whole new world, or at least some new twist that makes everything different. Right now, we’re seeing the ugly results of people terrified of change, and trying to turn the clock back, which ultimately never works. Fans and writers in SFF operate in a different arena, and that gives me some hope.

DLS: Thanks so much, Miriam, for taking the time to talk with us!

For our readers – when she is no longer so swamped with book launch activities, we are hoping to convince Miriam to give us a guest blog on the craft of Speculative Fiction. If that is something you would enjoy reading, please make comments down below, and let us know if you have any particular questions you would like to ask Miriam for the blog!

For those interested in learning more, or in purchasing the book, here are some links for your perusal:

Speed of Clouds Media Kit

Author Appearances (And obviously, Miriam is available for readings, book clubs and other appearances.)

Miriam’s Goodreads page.

Booksellers:
Powell’s Books

Barnes & Noble

Amazon

Amazon Kindle

The Speed of Clouds by Miriam Seidel – a Review by Brittany Loeffler

The Speed of Clouds by Miriam Seidel

Miriam Seidel’s The Speed of Clouds is a coming-of-age story that readers of any genre will enjoy. Taking place in 1999, Mindy Vogel loses her leadership role for the sci-fi zine she created and is forced to gain another perspective on life while inserting herself into a new SkyLog fan group that eventually becomes her family. Wheelchair-bound, Mindy overcomes medical obstacles all while living in a scientific fantasy world of her own.

Seidel takes a unique approach to the sci-fi genre by incorporating a world of cyborgs, artificial intelligence, and foreign species into a believable story that takes place just before the Millennium. She builds a world away from planet earth with history, wars, and relations through Mindy’s obsessions and fan fiction. Readers have the joy of reading two versions of Seidel’s novel, one based in the real world and one that takes place in another time and universe. However, readers must pay close attention to each of the three storylines offered throughout the novel to fully grasp the world of SkyLog.

Mindy is truly a character that everyone can relate to in some fashion. Stubborn at first, the main character slowly realizes that she must live her life joyously rather than indulge in her pessimism. It is greatly appreciated the steps Seidel takes to make Mindy’s handicap incredibly realistic as she overcomes everyday struggles due to her disability.

It’s refreshing to hear a story told from a group of people who sometimes fall under the radar. Mindy and her friends can be found at Comic Cons, arguing about fictional characters, and obsessing over a fantasy world.

A truly heart-warming read, I would recommend this book to both lovers to science fiction and realistic fiction. I would never have thought to pick up this book on my own, I’m glad it found its way into my library to enjoy again and again.

Publisher: New Door Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Paperback: 278 Pages
ISBN-10: 0999550101
ISBN-13: 978-0999550106
Author: Miriam Seidel
Reviewer: Brittany Loeffler

Defining Creativity

“What is an artist? A provincial who finds himself somewhere between a physical reality and a metaphysical one…. It’s this in-between that I’m calling a province, this frontier country between the tangible world and the intangible one—which is really the realm of the artist.” — Federico Fellini

Questions about creativity, art, the creative process, the artistic life — however you phrase it, the curiosity is based on one thing: the fact that those who do not experience their own creativity are incapable of understanding those who dwell within theirs.

Fellini is right that the artist lives in a liminal world, between dream and manifestation. But so do we all.  The biggest difference is that the artist recognizes that world of liminality; others aren’t aware of the fact that a part of them lives in that place of dreams all the time.

The best way for anyone to understand creativity is for them to be introduced to their own creative energies.

We live in a world that has systematically devalued and destroyed opportunities to experience our creativity.  Standardized testing, rote teaching, drilling and killing — that is too often how our children are “taught”, and with that kind of numbing out, adults rarely have ever felt their own creative energy.  And to live a life without ever having felt your own creative energy surging through your mind and body — well, that’s not living at all.

Pedagogical theorists are, finally, realizing how under-developed our students are when they are denied time to explore creativity.  But after reading mountains of educational theory on “teaching creativity”, I’ve come to the conclusion that none of them know what they are talking about.  Unless you are an artist, you cannot introduce someone to art.  I saw this in the years when I was a residency artist in the state arts council programs.  I remember one day, walking down the hall of a public school in New Jersey, overhearing a kindergarten teacher giving instruction to the children:

“We’ll be drawing pictures of apples today.  And what colors are apples?  They are red, green, yellow.  There are NO purple apples.  No blue apples.  So, let’s be sure that we use the right colors, everybody!”

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to rush into the room and push her out of the way, and tell the children, “YES there are purple apples!  There are blue apples!  There are polka dot and striped apples!  And where are they?  In your imagination!  So draw whatever kind of apples you can imagine!”

It is impossible for a non-artist to teach creativity.  There, I’ve said it.

So what we need is an avalanche of artists, a flood of artists, entering all levels of the population — interacting with the youngest children and the oldest seniors — inviting them to see their own purple apples, to imagine their flavor, to smell their perfume.

Our society needs its artists now more than ever.  They are the shamans who will lead the way into that liminal province, that is the place where all is possible, pre-manifest and yet real.

So how does one begin to experience their own creativity?  Here’s how:

Go find the artists.   Turn off the TV, the computer and the smart phone.  Surround yourself with live art, if only a little bit, each and every day.  Go to an art museum, listen to all kinds of music (not just the kind you are most used to!), learn about the theatres in your area, and buy tickets — or better yet, go to their preview nights, when audience is often invited to view for free.  Watch live dance performance. Go to poetry and literary readings. Attend open mics in your neighborhood.  Read books – all kinds, but especially literary works and poetry.

Carry a notebook in which you can sketch and write.  Consider taking music or singing lessons.  Try acting.  Draw.  Take a pottery class.  Dance — even if it is only in your living room when nobody is watching.   Invest in some inexpensive art supplies – a sketchbook, some pencils, maybe some water color.  Buy a cheap camera and start taking pictures.  Buy a box or two of those magnetic word poetry kits and play with word combinations on your refrigerator each morning, as you wait for your tea or coffee to be finished.

Buy yourself a copy of THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron and read it.  Do the exercises.  Follow her guidance.

Hang out with artists.  Get to know some of the people in your community who are involved in the arts, and spend time with them.  Get involved with what they do.  Your life will begin to change.  It will widen, and suddenly feel more infused with energy.

YOU will feel more alive.  You’ll realize that artists are all around you, and that the world is filled with creative wonder.  You’ll begin to feel the flow of that creative energy moving  around and through you.  You’ll never need to ask again, “What is creativity?”  You will know for yourself, and it will feel wonderful.

Meet Cheryl Romo, Author of Ruby Hands, Our Latest Sowilo Press Novel

Cheryl 3

Ruby Hands by Cheryl Romo is the latest title to be published by Sowilo Press, an imprint of Hidden River Publishing. A contemporary mystery/thriller, it is set in the Mohave in Arizona, and steeped in the tension and mysticism of the Mohave people and the outsiders, those non-indigenous people who interact with the reservation.

The story begins when Daisy Sandoval, a young mother who teaches school on the Native American reservation, is found near death in a ravine. Tribal members suspect foul play, understandably. They all know how dangerous Harlan Sandoval, her ex-husband is. A defrocked Pentecostal preacher, Harlan now heads a family-run criminal gang on the reservation. It seems his reach knows no boundaries.

Daisy’s aunt, Kate Thorsen, a freelance writer in the midst of her own mid-life crisis, flies to Arizona when she learns that Daisy is barely clinging to life. After Daisy dies, Kate moves to the reservation determined to solve the riddle of her niece’s death. Daisy’s two children are missing. Their home has been trashed. Mysterious goings on become more and more frightening. In a place where cultures clash and people distrust outsiders, few are willing to talk. But Kate eventually finds her life radically changed by a Mohave shaman, who dares her to stand up to Harlan and his thugs.

Cheryl is our fourth Eludia Award winner. She is from Roseville, California.
In her career as a professional journalist, Cheryl has received numerous awards for both her writing and investigative reporting. She is the former editor of Common Cause Magazine, Sacramento Magazine and Public Utilities Fortnightly. As a freelance writer, her award-winning stories and personal essays have appeared in publications such as American West Magazine, In These Times, Catholic Digest, The Cornish Pagan Wheel, Orange Coast Magazine, Sacramento Magazine, the San Francisco Examiner Magazine, Quill, Daily News of Los Angeles, In Los Angeles Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, and The Daily Breeze.

Prior to becoming a full-time freelance writer, Cheryl was an editor and legal affairs reporter for the Los Angeles Daily Journal where her ground-breaking reporting launched federal investigations and changed state law regarding the treatment of children living in government-controlled institutions (chiefly foster care and juvenile justice).

She tells us that when she is not writing and researching, she volunteers with victims of domestic violence and tends to her garden.

Cheryl’s novel, Ruby Hands, reflects her many years of investigative training. Her sharp observational eye, and her understanding of the complexities of character shine throughout the manuscript.

We are very proud that this beautiful novel which has been published on our Sowilo Press imprint, as the fourth in our Eludia series.

Our fifth Eludia Award winner is Catharine Leggett, of Ontario, Canada, whose short story collection, In Progress, will be published by Sowilo Press in 2018.

The Eludia Award is an first-book award, for a work of fiction – either a novel or a collection of short stories – given to women writers age forty and above. The award
was established to bring attention to the many important voices of mature women writers, a demographic too often overlooked in our youth-obsessed culture. The winning manuscript receives a $1,000 prize and publication (with standard contract and royalties) on the Sowilo Press imprint of Hidden River Publishing.   The submission deadline for the fifth Eludia Award is extended to March 15, 2018. For further information about The Eludia Award, please see our guidelines.

Defining the Role of the Arts in Dangerous Times


(Image: Street art in Lisbon, photographed by Maria Panichelli)

That we are living in times which are both insane and very dangerous can’t be disputed. That such times have occurred throughout human history is also indisputable.

As Founding Director of Hidden River Arts, I think it’s essential to examine the role we play, as an arts organization, in supporting artists and the arts at such a time. Our mission has always been to “serve the underserved artist”, and we’ve done our best to live up to that mission. There are so many kinds of underserved artists, however, that it feels overwhelming. Still, this mission seems even more important, during times when the budgets for arts funding are stretched to the limit, when grants for individual artists have all but disappeared across the United States, when other countries – most whose funding for the arts has far outstripped that in the U.S. – are also falling victim to neoliberalism, austerity and the winds of authoritarianism. Art is always under attack in such times, and this is no exception.

What also seems important in these times is to explore the kind of art we, at Hidden River, are supporting and promoting.

Diversity is increasingly important, both in the artists we support and in the art that we are helping to fund through our competitions, our live events, our publishing. A chorus of voices, a multiplicity of perspectives, a growing community willing to honor and celebrate each others’ differences – that is very much a part of what we hope to build. This is an area where I feel we still have a lot of work to do. We will be working harder than ever this year and onward to reach out to communities of artists both here in the U.S. and internationally, which are more racially and religiously diverse. It’s true to say that we have always tried to do that; it is also true that we need to try harder.

This autumn, I left my academic work in order to focus more of my time on Hidden River Arts and its programs. I did this for several reasons, all which constellate around the idea of hope. I left academia because I no longer have hope in the possibility of restoring American higher education by fighting from the inside. I plan to work as an educational activist now, standing outside the institution. I choose now to focus on my own creative work and on the important work we can do through Hidden River. That is where I feel an enormous amount of hope. As an individual, I have come to a crossroad, and I believe that Hidden River has come to its own crossroads as well.

On a personal level, I am no longer willing to allow useless negativity, victimhood or learned helplessness to exist in my life. That there is negativity, that people are victimized, and that feeling helpless or hopeless has become a kind of default state – all this is true. It’s actually a normal reaction to the abnormal conditions we find ourselves in. But I’ve personally lived weighed down by such negativity, with a sense of victimization and helplessness for too long. I know I’m not alone; I think that far too many of us have, in the last several decades, fallen into this kind of despairing state. There are some who would say that this is part of an intentional crushing of the human spirit that comes in times of great inequality and growing authoritarianism. So, as an individual artist, I want my work to stand in opposition to that which crushes the human spirit. That doesn’t mean that the negativity we observe and experience shouldn’t be addressed. Quite the contrary. What it means is that addressing the negatives is only part of what must be done. Seeing beyond them to the newer visions, to possibilities for rebirth, to the rebellious and the revolutionary – that is essential. Art is essential to rebellion and revolt as Chris Hedges says so beautifully. That’s why authoritarian governments work so hard to control it and to crush what can’t be controlled. Vercors believes that the very source of art is man’s revolt against his own ignorance, and his desire to create a universe over which he has some sovereignty.

And as Director of Hidden River, I want to rededicate our organization to that same goal: to stand against that which crushes the human spirit. We want to call forth rebirth, rebellion, and yes, even revolution.

What This Means for Artists

That means that we stand against that which crushes the artist. In this economy, that means the invisibility, the desperation and the struggle which are likely to be the realities of those wanting to live creative lives. This year, we are expanding our programs to offer more supports to artists: that includes interviews, craft discussions and reviews on this blog. It also means a brand new series of podcasts, online classes and an online interdisciplinary arts journal. We are going to be very busy.

We are also expanding our competitions, offering more awards and publication possibilities to writers in a variety of genres from literary fiction to historical fiction, to speculative fiction to YA. We are offering new playwrighting awards, poetry competitions and non-fiction competitions. We will also be offering awards to visual artists and musicians, filmmakers and animators . Our online journal will include all these genres, and will be published bi-annually. It’s about growing our community, providing platforms for artists to speak with each other, to discover and build their audiences, to create transformative networks.

We are growing our internship program, which is already robust, so that more students and interested beginners of all ages will be able to work with us, and will have opportunities to work with the many artists with whom we hope to be building community.

Hidden River Arts has never pursued grants or funding from organizations that would then claim the right to have oversight of our choices or our activities. We have only held one small fundraiser in our entire 20 year history. That will change this year, since the expansions will require that we hold some crowd-funding activities. But pursuing that kind of fundraising means that the power remains in the hands of the people who are members of our community, not in some hierarchical power structure to which we have to answer. It also means that the power to make their own kind of art lies within the purview of the artists themselves. Art by and for the people, not for the powers that fund.

For The Community

First of all, it means that we are looking to make our programs more accessible to the larger community. Out of financial desperation, there are arts organizations, theaters, performance venues and programs which are now “rebranding” themselves for exclusivity, charging exorbitant ticket prices to guarantee that the audience is filled with members of the 1%.

We will never turn ourselves into a luxury brand. We are here to provide, as best we can, for the 99%.

This restated focus means that we will do our best to make our programs available to as many people as possible. We have always offered free live arts events and readings, and will continue to do that. Our podcasts and craft discussions online will be available to everyone. So will our online journal. In other words, we stand against anything that crushes the spirit of our arts audience as well, or anything that would turn audience away for lack of funds.

It also means that we will be looking more actively for art that speaks to the human spirit and the social predicaments, the economic struggles, the issues of human rights. It does not mean that we will be looking for preach-y or pedantic work. Nothing crushes the spirit more than that! We want work that looks closely at the human experience, the social worlds within which we live, the governments, the economies, the power structures and how we can navigate our way through them, as individuals, as families, as societies — maintaining and acting through our many strengths.

We want art that presents truth while reminding people of their own power. We want the energy of the trickster to be alive and well. I was asked recently, “Do you want to be a victim or a trickster?” I think the answer should be obvious to all of us. We want artists and art to reflect the ways we can remain unvanquished, resilient, buoyant, rebellious, triumphant. That is our re-clarified mission at Hidden River Arts, and we hope that you will join us.

Orla McAlinden, Author of The Accidental Wife, Receives Much Acclaim in Ireland

mcalinden

Our latest author and winner of third annual Eludia Award, Orla McAlinden, has been receiving what seems to be endless praise for collection of stories, out on our Sowilo Press, The Accidental Wife. The latest is the prestigious Irish Book Awards honor of Best Short Story of the Year for her story “The Visit”, a story from her Accidental Wife collection.

This week’s interview with Orla has her discussing her life before taking up writing, and what has happened to her world since.

The Accidental Wife is a collection of inter-related stories about Northern Ireland during the time of The Troubles. Hailed as one of the best books of 2016, McAlinden is being recognized as an important new voice among Irish writers. Since we here at Hidden River in the U.S. recognized Orla’s talent when we awarded her our Eludia Award, it would appear she is also an important new voice across the Atlantic here in the U.S., as well.

The Accidental Wife is available here in the U.S. on Amazon, Abe’s Books, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s. In the UK, it is carried by Kenny’s and ships free worldwide.