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

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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.

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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

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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.

Semi-Finalists, Finalists and Winner Named in William Van Wert Award

It’s been a long, hard haul, but we’ve named the semi-finalists and finalists and winner of our last  of  the 2016 William Van Wert Fiction Award. Each year, the submissions grow, and the talent increases — so the abundance of wonderful work is both a joy and a real challenge. Thanks to all the writers who have trusted us with their writing; we love you all.

We have extended our deadline for the submissions for the 2018 Van Wert Award, since we have been short-handed on staff, and need addition time to go through our most recent submissions, for the 2017 award.  We are several months behind in our announcements, since our policy is to make sure that every single submission gets at least three independent read-throughs before being moved to the next level.  That takes a lot of time, but we are committed to treating everyone’s writing with great respect.  We hope to have everything caught up shortly, and appreciate you all being patient.

Please be sure to bookmark the blog, since this is where we announce our events, our competition results and any upcoming activities, including new competitions or opportunities.

Semi-finalists

Allen, River, Green Bay, Wisconsin, excerpt “Weather the Storm” from The Long Walk Home
Beals, Ellen Wade, Glenview, IL, excerpt, The Good and the Bad of It
Bowman, Jan, Columbia, MD, “Flight”
Brady, Carmen, Lebanon, NH, excerpt, Call of the Song Sparrow
Brandfon, Emily, Brookline, MA, “Struggling to Survive”
Breakell, Jane, Brooklyn, NY, “The Shinbone Coast”
Conde, Kathy, Superior, CO, “Faith Healing”
Corpora, James, Bishop, CA, “The Valley Called Death”
Cusick, Greg, Durham, NC, “A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions”
Emerson, John, Schenectady, NY, excerpt, God Naked and the Devil in Rags
Farrar, S.P., Los Angeles, CA, excerpt, Touch the Pacific
Fears, Iman, New York, New York, “Baby One More Time”
Franklin, Emily, Newton, MA, “Mathematics in the Age of Anxiety”
Greer, Larkin Edwin, New York, New York, “Blindfold”
Hanger, Kaitlin, North Miami Beach, FL, “The Depths of Superior Alchemy”
Harlow, Enid, New York, New York, “The Nanny”
Johnson, Chandra, Salt Lake City, Utah, “A Dull Knife”
Johnson, Chandra, Salt Lake City, Utah, “The One You Feed”
Kaufman, Mervyn, New York, New York, “According to Plans”
Kelly, April, Lynchburg, TN “Mobius Script”
Kinerk, Robert, Cambridge, MA, “I’m Letting My Thoughts Dwell on Inner Grace”
Lee, Aaron, North Point, Hong Kong, excerpt The Unfortunate Three
Lindensmith, Michael, Bridgewater, VA, “Weather Moves from West to East”
Luvaas, William, Los Angeles, CA, excerpt Beneath the Coyote Hills
Malicka, Phillippa, New Delhi, India, excerpt, Call Me Fishmael
Mayer, Jack, Middlebury, VT, excerpt, Before the Court in Heaven
McGuire, Michael, Jalisco, Mexico, “Waiting for the Word”
Meek, David, Fredericksburg, VA, excerpt, Timespawn
Morton, Maris, New South Wales, Australia, “O Fortuna”
Pack, Jimmy, Jr., Philadelphia, PA, “A Phenomenon of No Natural Process”
Paige, Paula, Cromwell, CT, “Killer Bod”
Quinn, Jim, Philadelphia, PA “All Old Dead Days”
Reed, Mary Hutchins, Chicago, IL, “Before the Fall”
Reitano, Gail, Bolinas, CA, excerpt, Headfire
Roan, Carol, Winston-Salem, NC, “A Change in the Air”
Rowe, Tim, Alexandria, VA, “An Unmistakeable Presence”
Sadler, Lynn Veach, Pittsboro, NC, “The Rub of the Green”
Schultz, Anneliese, Richmond, Canada, “Back in Line”
Seiber, Lones, Morristown, TN, “Goodbye, God; I’m Going to California”
Shankman, Jim, New York, New York, excerpt, Tales of the Patriarchs
Soros, Erin, North Vancouver, BC, Canada, “Fallen”
Termini Steven, Dickinson, TX, “Verses in Twine”
Thomas, Dar, Pittsburgh, PA, “Amazing Grace”
Troester, David, Salt Lake City, UT, “Disciples”
Turner, Victoria Sayo, Singapore, excerpt of novel, Isaant
Worsham, Sandra, Milledgeville, GA, “Blank Spaces”
Younger, Paula, Denver, CO, “Resurrecting Grandma”

Finalists

Allen, River, Green Bay, Wisconsin, excerpt “Weather the Storm” from The Long Walk Home
Beals, Ellen Wade, Glenview, IL, excerpt, The Good and the Bad of It
Brady, Carmen, Lebanon, NH, excerpt, Call of the Song Sparrow
Conde, Kathy, Superior, CO, “Faith Healing”
Corpora, James, Bishop, CA “The Valley Called Death”
Cusick, Greg, Durham, NC, “A Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions”
Emerson, John, Schenectady, NY, excerpt, God Naked and the Devil in Rags
Farrar, S.P., Los Angeles, CA, excerpt, Touch the Pacific
Franklin, Emily, Newton, MA, “Mathematics in the Age of Anxiety”
Greer, Larkin Edwin, New York, New York, “Blindfold”
Hanger, Kaitlin, North Miami Beach, FL, “The Depths of Superior Alchemy”
Harlow, Enid, New York, New York, “The Nanny”
Johnson, Chandra, Salt Lake City, Utah, “The One You Feed”
Kelly, April, Lynchburg, TN “Mobius Script”
Lee, Aaron, North Point, Hong Kong, excerpt The Unfortunate Three
Luvaas, William, Los Angeles, CA, excerpt Beneath the Coyote Hills
Malicka, Phillippa, New Delhi, India, excerpt, Call Me Fishmael
Mayer, Jack, Middlebury, VT, excerpt, Before the Court in Heaven
McGuire, Michael, Jalisco, Mexico, “Waiting for the Word”
Morton, Maris, New South Wales, Australia, “O Fortuna”
Pack, Jimmy, Jr., Philadelphia, PA, “A Phenomenon of No Natural Process”
Quinn, Jim, Philadelphia, PA “All Old Dead Days”
Reed, Mary Hutchins, Chicago, IL, “Before the Fall”
Reitano, Gail, Bolinas, CA, excerpt, Headfire
Sadler, Lynn Beach, Pittsboro, NC, “The Rub of the Green”
Schultz, Anneliese, Richmond, Canada, “Back in Line”
Seiber, Lones, Morristown, TN, “Goodbye, God; I’m Going to California”
Shankman, Jim, New York, New York, excerpt, Tales of the Patriarchs
Soros, Erin, North Vancouver, BC, Canada, “Fallen”
Turner, Victoria Sayo, Singapore, excerpt, Isaant
Younger, Paula, Denver, CO, “Resurrecting Grandma”

First Place

Turner, Victoria Sayo, Singapore, excerpt, Isaant

Congratulations, again, to all our wonderful writers and thanks to all who submitted their work!  Hang in there with us, and we’ll get out next round of announcements out soon!

Hidden River Arts Live Arts Summer Event!

Hidden River Arts will host a Live Arts Event on Sunday, July 26 at 2 p.m. at Cavanaugh’s Head House Tavern, 421 South 2nd Street in Philadelphia. We will be celebrating the wrap-up of our summer writers’ workshop, and our workshop members will be offering some readings of their work. We’ll also be celebrating the work of our first Eludia Award winner, Tree Riesener, who will be reading a bit from her winning collection of short stories, Sleepers Awake, which is forthcoming on our Sowilo Press imprint.

We’ll also be having some live music — more details on that as they are available!

We’ve had some wonderful live arts events both at Cavanaugh’s and at other venues around the city. Terrific readings and wonderful musicians, like Rosa Diaz at Live & Lit, or Alex Kruchoski and Zeke Francis, or Teresa McCann. It’s always a joyous event, with a focus on celebrating art and artists.

This event is free and open to the public. Come, and bring friends!

Hidden River Arts 20th Anniversary Celebration and First-Ever Fundraiser!

Please join us at our biggest-ever celebration at Hidden River Arts’ 20th anniversary. Tickets are available here.

Twenty years ago, I used a portion of a writing award I won for my own fiction and established an arts organization dedicated helping other writers. The mission, from the very first day, is summed up in our motto: “Dedicated to Serving the Unserved Artist”. We’re committed to finding, supporting and celebrating those outsider artists because there are so many creative people deserving of more recognition and help.

I named the organization Hidden River, after the Schuylkill River, which flows through the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania, which is my home. “Schuylkill” is Dutch for “Hidden River”. It seemed to perfectly describe our mission, which is to search out and support the hidden creative talent all around us – to celebrate that living, vital, powerful creative force that is the river of talent flowing among us. To support the artists.

This year, Hidden River Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Over those years, we’ve grown steadily. We’ve expanded to become an inter-disciplinary arts organization. What began with one yearly fiction competition, grew to include a yearly full-length playwrighting competition, residency programs, educational outreach, live arts events, gallery events, performances, a first-book competition for women over the age of 40, even production activities. We’ve run a robust internship program, and have watched many of our wonderful interns go on to jobs in publishing, theatre, performance. They’ve established their own literary journals, run their own arts companies, written their own books, taught their own workshops. We now have an independent small press, with several imprints, so that we can offer the possibility of publication to deserving writers struggling for recognition and support. There are other goals and hopes for even more growth as Hidden River moves into its next phase.

In marveling at just how long we’ve been here and at how much we’ve grown, it occurred to me: In all these twenty years, we’ve never once held a fundraiser. Hard to believe, right?

So this year, as we acknowledge this happy anniversary, we’ll be reaching out to the arts community to whom we have been so dedicated, and scheduling some celebrations as well as some fundraisers. We’ll have a local fundraiser in Philadelphia and an online crowd-sourcing fundraiser. We’ve decided to do this because, what also occurred to me is that, with just a bit of help, we could grow our programs bigger and faster, we could bring our workshops, classes and performances to more people, reduce our already-low fees even more. We could travel our programs, build a greater platform for online workshops and classes. The growth that took twenty years could now continue; in fact, we could expand in less time and reach out to support more people. A yearly words and music festival is one of our dreams. A re-established and expanded residency program. More theatrical and film production. More publishing. And always, the core of our mission remains to support the unserved artists among us whose talent and vision make the world a much better place. They are the primordial wellspring from which all of this flows.

So, those who will be in Philadelphia this summer, please join us for our 20th Anniversary celebration and first-ever fundraiser on Sunday, June 7 at 7 p.m. or 9 p.m. It’s going to be a wonderful event. We are gathering at L’Etage, the nightclub above Le Beau Monde, at 624 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia. The evening will include a cabaret performance with (in alphabetical order) Jean Brooks, Leon Carelli, Debra Leigh Scott and Denise Shubin. We’ll also be doing some readings of our award-winners’ work, and perhaps even a bit of reading from some of our many beloved interns! But most of all, it will be a time to gather together with people who love art, music, language and creativity to meet, mingle and celebrate.

To read more about Hidden River programs, please visit our website. To buy tickets for our 20th anniversary event, please click here.

Arts and Activism

What is the role of the artist during times of social upheaval and tumult? Elie Wiesel said “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” This is even more true, when it comes to the role of the artist in society. The problems of our society are extensive, and the voices of artists – playwrights, poets, musicians, performers – are essential to raising public awareness and giving voice to the issues, raising the call of dissent.

Founding Director of Hidden River Arts, Debra Leigh Scott, has been invited to give a presentation at The Davinci Art Alliance at 704 Catherine Street, Philadelphia, PA, on Thursday, May 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. where she will discuss the importance of activism in the arts.

Since its founding way back in 1931, the Da Vinci Art Alliance has been a dynamic organization presenting artists and their work, focus on community-based arts, cultural and educational dialogue for artists, individuals and families.

Da Vinci currently has over 140 members and holds exhibitions of members’ and non-members’ artwork as well as special events, workshops, performances, poetry readings, and lectures, and keeps its members informed on community events, news and opportunities. The mission of the non-profit artists-run organization is to support its members and to further community-based arts, cultural, and educational exchanges. I am proud to be offering my presentation there, since I’ve been fortunate to work with the many artists of Da Vinci, and admire the work that they do in supporting artists, the life of art, and the community.

Please join us at the Alliance. For those who are not in Philadelphia, Debra will be developing the program and offering the presentation in an online format – so stay tuned!