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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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The Artist’s Dilemma: Refuse the Addiction of Social Media or Fail at Self-Promotion?

The common belief these days is that, without constant presence and self-promotion on social media platforms, an artist is doomed to obscurity. It can’t be denied that the platforms themselves have encouraged this thinking. But how much success can you expect? Does a constant promotional presence on Facebook, for instance, guarantee that you and your work become more recognizable, and most important, that your posts reach those who want to engage with your artwork or your activities?

Drew Zeiba takes on this topic in his article, “Can You Make It As an Artist in 2018 Without Constantly Plugging Yourself on Instagram?” on Vulture Just what is an artist’s role in society, and does that role include the endless need to self-promote? Zeiba says, “There is a long tradition of artists refusing to play the self-promotion game. Isa Genzken and David Hammons are famous for preferring not to talk to the press; Stanley Brown destroyed his early work and his own image. But in today’s globalized art world, in which collectors buy work based on pictures scrolled through on their phones, isn’t logging off forever rather self-defeating? Refusing to be an artist-as-public figure in the era of social media seems almost reckless — like willful career suppression, if not suicide.” Many cite the addictive quality of social media, and how much time and energy can be wasted on these platforms that is best used in making art.

On the other hand, as Zeiba says, there are those success stories that underscore the uneasy feeling that no artist can afford to unplug entirely: “Brad Phillips is in many ways the poster boy for why artists should be on Instagram. Thanks to the platform, he got a book deal with a prestigious British publisher, mounted solo shows in East Hampton and Oslo, and made direct sales by DM (which means he didn’t have to give a gallery 50 percent).”

But as Phillips himself points out, it is a “double-edged sword”. His article “How Instagram is Changing the Art World,” on Vice talks about the love/hate relationship that he, and other artists, have with Instagram and other social media platforms. Phillips writes, “I have, through Instagram, sold a great deal of work privately to people. I’ve had a solo show in Oslo at Bjarne Melgaard’s gallery. I’ve been included in many group shows. I had a solo show in East Hampton at Harper’s Books. Entirely due to Instagram I’ve had a hardcover book of my drawings published by a reputable English art book imprint. None of the above “developments” in my career, none of the sales, were facilitated by my gallery in New York. That’s not the fault of the gallery. The art world right now is a youth-fetishizing cannibalistic death cult of speculation and interior design masked as progressive painting.”

What is the role of the gallery in this new world? In the past, galleries offered validation, support, protection, promotion. It was the gallery that made the connection to the buyers. For that service they often required 50% of any sales, which while it sounds high to the outside world, was the only way that the gallery could be maintained — especially in an essential city like New York, where real estate costs are quite high and the space for a gallery is an expensive proposition. The gallery owner also needed to make his/her own living through the sale of the artist’s work.

The curators of creativity are being muscled out by these social media platforms. Who, now, is the arbiter of taste in the “art market”? Phillips, again: “Most collectors buy what other people buy, and what other people buy is what is happening right now, today, and if Instagram is anything, it’s an encapsulation and display of the most urgent present moment. Knowing that they can cut out the middle man, knowing that artists will be happy to sell work privately means collectors can arrive at the same point for half the price.” The point worth emphasizing here is that collectors can arrive at the same point for half the price That means that the artist is no better off in terms of profit from sales. It also means that the artist now must be his/her own promotor and curator, a job that was formerly a full-time job for someone else, someone who was devoted to being the social arbiter of artist’s work — and most importantly, who had a more extensive understanding of the artist’s work, and how it was positioned within the history of art movements and styles — a larger picture and a much more erudite approach. That, it can be argued, is a great loss. And, with the artist taking on the work of promotion, where is the time to grow and mature and create as an artist?

Obviously, this is not a new issue. Stephen Sondheim addressed it in Sunday in the Park With George — this situation where creative people find that much of their time is spent in doing everything BUT making art. In “Putting it Together“, illustrates the experience of the creative “market” and its demands on the creative person.

The digital world, however, presents other problems — one being the security of the artwork. Much like the problems with piracy that have plagued the musician or the writer, there is the issue of image theft for the artist who puts work on these platforms. Phillips bemoans this for himself and his colleagues, “But a key issue artists are coming up against now, myself included, is the loss of control over the imagery we post. Our work is screenshot, then disseminated without consent. In an age where a JPEG has almost as much value as the physical object, this is problematic. Artists I’ve known have had their work taken off Instagram and included in publications without being compensated, never mind notified. But at least there their work is identified as their own. Straight up duplication and theft is equally common. I’ve seen my own art recirculated back to me without credit or worse, credited to a stranger. Some people think artists should be flattered by imitation but in the end it just makes it harder to use those images later for artwork and there’s the risk of being accused of appropriating your own work after it’s recycled and reposted on the internet thousands of times.”

Another issue is the erratic, unfathomable application of censorship rules on these platforms. Many artists complain of having work flagged, or removed, or having accounts taken down completely even when the work does not violate whatever the terms of the platform might be. There are often no humans with whom you can speak. There are often no clear reasons for the haphazard ways in which the “rules” are applied. Censorship, it appears is visited upon women artists much more often than upon men, for instance.

Zeiba speaks about the response of artist Jake Borndal, who quit Instagram, citing several issues, addiction being among them. He quit Instagram when he quit smoking. Borndal also wants to remind everyone that these platforms, in particular Instagram, which seems to lend itself so well to the visual, is anything BUT a creative space. Writes Zeiba, “It is a space bound by certain social, aesthetic, and user-agreement constraints, all of them prescribed either top-down by Instagram design or policy, or more amorphously by cliquish consensus among a segment of users, in turn shaping the kind of content that might be made and shared.”

Bottom line: for the so-called benefits that might be offered through the use of these social media platforms, the loss — of time, of creative freedom, of quiet and personal rumination time — may just be too high. What does that mean for artists in these current times? Might there be other ways in which artists can find each other?….can find their audience? One suggestion: might we begin to think seriously about creating our OWN social media platforms where artists, writers, musicians, performers, can gather, can curate the work of each other, can provide a sort of gallery/performance space? Might there then be the possibility to address such issues as piracy, since these platforms are created by, run by and meant to benefit the artists themselves?

Tuan Phan Receives The Panther Creek Award in Non-fiction From Hidden River Arts

Tuan Phan, Winner of
The Panther Creek Award

Hidden River Arts, the inter-disciplinary independent arts organization located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce Tuan Phan of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as the inaugural winner of The Panther Creek Award from Hidden River Arts, for his memoir, Remembering Water.

Phan speaks of his memoir, “Remembering Water is a memoir of my escape from Vietnam in 1986 and my return to live there thirty years later. It delves into my memories of the past Saigon my family left, my return, the family members with whom I’ve reunited and the locals I’ve met. It encompasses the Vietnam of my childhood memories as well as the present-day version of Vietnam, from Saigon’s booming development and its high rises, to the countryside and Mekong Delta. In 1986, I escaped from Vietnam, a member of a mass exodus of refugees that have been named the “boat people”. I was only eight years old at the time. 21 years later, I returned to visit Saigon as a foreigner in the birth city. This new Saigon is now a humming modern metropolis, a complete remake of the quiet, poverty stricken city that I left. Remembering Water is a memoir and reflection of my departure and return. It encompasses the Vietnam of my childhood memories as well as its present-day form, from Saigon’s booming development and its high rises, to the countryside and Mekong Delta. I’ve lived in Vietnam for nearly two years, the book is an account of that return and stay.”

Tuan Phan is a Vietnamese American who arrived in the United States in 1986, when he was eight, where he and his family have lived and where he was educated. After a childhood learning English and forgetting his mother tongue, he is now back in his birth country, teaching English and relearning his first language, while re-immersing himself in Vietnamese culture and life.

The Panther Creek Award is offered yearly for an unpublished book-length work of non-fiction. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and publication with Hidden River Publishing. Submissions for the next cycle of the award will be accepted beginning on January 1 and deadlining April 15, 2019. For more information about The Panther Creed Award, please see our guidelines.

For a list of the semi-finalists and finalists of this first cycle of The Panther Creek Award, please see our News and Awards announcement page.

Hidden River Arts was established over twenty years ago in Philadelphia, PA as an organization focused on “serving the unserved artist”, looking to provide supports in the form of awards, live arts events, workshops, and publication to bring attention to artists working in under-recognized areas, or in under-recognized forms. More on Hidden River Arts can be found at our website http://www.hiddenriverarts.com as well as here on our blog. We encourage you to follow us here to be sure you are updated with our news, events and activities.

Justine Dymond Is Winner of the 2018 Eludia Award

Justine Dymond has won the 2018 Eludia Award for her story collection, THE EMIGRANT AND OTHER STORIES

Hidden River Arts, the inter-disciplinary independent arts organization located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is pleased to announce Justine Dymond of Belchertown, Massachusetts, as the 2018 winner of The Eludia Award, for her collections of stories, The Emigrant and Other Stories.

In describing her award-winning manuscript, Ms. Dymond says, “The stories in my collection range widely in setting and era, including France during World War II, Maine in the early eighteenth century, and Tennessee in the twenty-first century. What the stories all have in common, however, are characters who experience life as foreigners, whether in their own countries or not, and who long for a real or imaginary elsewhere. Each character has a different impulse that propels their longing. For one couple, it is discomfort with their identity as Americans as they spend time in another country. In the title story, a young teacher discovers freedom and desire inside the walls of a prison. In another story, a teenager in Washington, D.C. yearns to be included in the lives of strangers. In the story titled “Intruder,” a woman in colonial New England gradually realizes that her neighbors want her to be elsewhere. Each story represents a border experience, imposed from the outside or inside, that paradoxically confines and propogates the human desire to be somewhere else.”

Given that we live in a time so filled with xenophobia and nationalism, so filled with out-of-control hatred of the “other,” The Emigrant and Other Stories speaks to our lives in a very timely and powerful way.

Justine Dymond is Associate Professor of English at Springfield College in Massachusetts, where she teaches literature and writing. Her short story “Cherubs” was selected for a 2007 O. Henry Prize and was listed as a distinguished story in The Best American Short Stories 2006. Her stories have appeared in Pleiades, The Massachusetts Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Meat for Tea, Lowestoft Chronicle, and Cargo Literary, and have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and The Best American Travel Writing. Her fiction has been honored with grants and awards from the Vermont Studio Center, Writers OMI at Ledig House, and Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. Demeter Press issued her co-edited collection Motherhood Memoirs: Mothers Creating/Writing Lives in 2013. She is currently writing a novel based on the life of a woman who was tried for infanticide in Boston in 1733.

The Eludia Award is a first-book award, offered yearly for an unpublished book-length work of fiction written by a woman writer, age 40 or older. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and publication with Hidden River Publishing. The next submission cycle for the award deadlines March 15, 2019. Please see our guidelines for additional information.

Hidden River Arts was established over twenty years ago in Philadelphia, PA as an organization focused on “serving the unserved artist”, looking to provide supports in the form of awards, live arts events, workshops, and publication to bring attention to artists working in under-recognized areas, or in under-recognized forms. More on Hidden River Arts can be found at our website. And the names of our semi-finalists and finalists of the 2018 Eludia Award cycle can be found here.

Marjorie Sandor Is Named The Inaugural Winner of The Tuscarora Award

Marjorie Sandor, Winner of The Tuscarora Award for Historical Fiction

Hidden River Arts is pleased to announce Marjorie Sandor of Corvallis, Oregon, as the inaugural winner of The Tuscarora Award for Historical Fiction for her novel, The Secret Music at Tordesillas.

Ms. Sandor speaks of her novel, “The novel tells the story of a 16th-century musician of Jewish descent navigating the ever-growing terror of the Spanish Inquisition from within the court of the Catholic Kings Fernando and Isabel, and later, that of their tragic, intriguing daughter, Queen Juana “the Mad.” Forcibly converted to Christianity as a child, the gifted young instrumentalist Juan de Granada carries in his memory a music—and a culture—now punishable by death. The dangers of his daily life gradually increase as he finds himself drawn close to a young woman of the court, herself the daughter of converts, whose courage and secret passion for the old traditions threaten her life, and the lives of those she loves.”

While exploring a particular historical time and place, the novel also explores the very human and timeless struggle to hold fast to personal and artistic liberties in a time rife with national paranoia, ethnic cleansing – certainly relevant to our times. The Secret Music at Tordesillas reveals a nearly-undocumented aspect of the Spanish Inquisition: the way that cultural and religious oppression threatens to doom forbidden artistic practices.

Marjorie Sandor is the author of four highly-acclaimed books of short fiction and essays, including the linked story collection Portrait of my Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime, winner of a 2004 National Jewish Book Award. Her work has appeared in such journals as AGNI, The Georgia Review and The Harvard Review, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Pushcart Prize. Her edited international short-story anthology, The Uncanny Reader, appeared in 2015. She teaches in the MFA Program at Oregon State University and the Rainier Writing Workshop.

The Tuscarora Award is offered yearly for an unpublished book-length work of historical fiction. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and publication with Hidden River Publishing. The next submission cycle for the award deadlines May 31, 2019. For information, please see our guidelines.

Hidden River Arts was established over twenty years ago in Philadelphia, PA as an organization focused on “serving the unserved artist”, looking to provide supports in the form of awards, live arts events, workshops, and publication to bring attention to artists working in under-recognized areas, or in under-recognized forms. In addition to the information here on our blog, you may explore our Hidden River Arts website.

The semi-finalists and finalists of this inaugural cycle of The Tuscarora Award can be found here.

The Precarious Artist

Musicians performing in Nashville. (Alamy Stock Photo)

A stunning vote to oust the current president of the Musician’s Union and replace the leadership was prompted by grave concerns about the on-going difficulties of a musician’s professional life. Michael Cooper of the New York Times writes, “The leadership team of the New York local of the musicians’ union — the union’s largest local in the nation — was voted out of office on Tuesday in a stunning upset, amid concerns over the underfunded musicians’ pension plan and broader changes facing music, the original gig economy.”

Valid concerns about the underfunded pension plan is what sparked the vote to change leadership; it also sparks larger questions and concerns about the ways in which union representation has failed to keep up with the needs of membership — not just with the musician’s union, but with all unions. Artists have long lived the life of “gig economy” practitioners, and unions are meant to protect them from the many ways in which a capitalist culture undervalues, underpays and exploits their work. Fears that union representation is out of touch with its membership are well-founded; it is one of the reasons that younger artists are opting out of union membership.

The newly-elected president of the Musicians Union, Adam Krauthamer, was elected with a robust 67% of the vote. Before his election, he founded Musicians for Pension Security, out of a growing concern about mismanagement of the union’s pension funds.

The widespread insecurities of life in the arts cannot be off-set by unions which fail to ferociously guard the well-being of their membership. Addressing such problems is essential in an economy that makes survival of society’s artists even more at risk. Looking beyond the issues with unresponsive unions, it isn’t hard to identify problems with the financial well-being of visual artists, writers, poets, photographers…..In a society that refuses to adequately support its artists, that leaves us to try and protect ourselves. We here at Hidden River Arts welcome ideas and comments about ways in which we can all support each other – how might the artistic class (I don’t use the phrase “creative class” since that term has been usurped by the business community) build their own networks, inter-disciplinary networks, in order to support and protect each other? What sorts of projects and protections might we establish to protect our fellow artists?

Live Arts: A Combined Effort and Commitment to Community and Creativity

One of the most important things for a vital community is a live arts network where musicians, writers, poets, playwrights and their audiences can meet, share some food and drink and enjoy a night of creative exchange. Hidden River Arts is located in Philadelphia, where we are fortunate to have such vitality. We are blessed with arts organizations of all sizes, and with venues that range from those of the most expensive theatres to small pubs and community spaces where art can be made and shared. Our intern, Nancy Allen, writes of her experience at one such event. Nancy is a student in the Creative Writing program at Temple University here in Philadelphia, and is just beginning to explore such opportunities. I’m grateful that she was willing to share this information with us. I hope that, as you read through, you will be thinking about the possibilities and opportunities that might exist in your own part of the world. We here at Hidden River would love to hear about them. One of our goals in 2019 is to begin building networks for artists – live arts venues, venues for book and poetry readings, spaces for gallery shows and other mixed-art activities. If we all share our knowledge of our own communities, towns and cities, we will be able to build such a network from our combined information. Then, with that network in place, we can begin to create “tours” of indy artists who can work cooperatively to support each other’s work, to invite each other to different parts of the U.S. and to other countries, other parts of the world…making it possible to create some really wonderful fellowship among artists and audiences. Boy, do we ever need it!

Debra Leigh Scott
Founding Director

Nancy Allen is an intern here at Hidden River Arts as well as a Creative Writing major at Temple University

On September 26, Moonstone Arts held a poetry reading at Fergie’s Pub hosted by Alina Macneal and Jennifer Hook, where Catherine Bancroft and Lisa Grunberger performed, and the reading was followed by an open mic. Moonstone Arts Center, for more than 35 years, has held events for poetry all across Philadelphia. It is a Philadelphia institution, the likes of which every city and town deserves. Moonstone Arts began in 1981, in a second floor space above Robin’s bookstore. Both the bookstore and the programs were run by Sandy and Larry Robin, and both quickly became Philadelphia institutions. The Moonstone fundraiser, “Sounds and Words,” will be held this year on November 10.

An institution for over 20 years in Philadelphia, Fergie’s Pub is a popular spot for live arts and social gathering

Fergie’s Pub, over twenty years old, has opened its doors to a variety of arts programs, live music, theatre readings, and literary activities for years, believing that a traditional “publick house” was meant to be a center for all sorts of creative and social activities.

Catherine Bancroft is an artist and writer who has performed her poetry at the Philadelphia Poetry Festival, Green Line Cafe, as well as other venues. Catherine has had her work shown at Muse Gallery, Off the Wall Gallery, The Sketch Club, The Main Line Arts Center, FireWorks Gallery, and many other places. She works mainly in collage, acrylic, mixed medias, and altered books. Her current Ellis Island Series was inspired by photographs of early 20th century immigrants. Catherine has also co-written two children’s books, Felix’s Hat and That’s Philomenia. She has also written book reviews for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Lisa Grunberger is a professor in Temple University’s English department. She holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Religions from the University of Chicago. Grunberger is an award winning poet, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, and she is the author of Yiddish Yoga: Ruthie’s Adventures in Love, Loss and the Lotus Position (Harper Collins Press), and has recently staged her new play, Almost Pregnant, at The PlayGround at the Adrienne during the Fringe Arts Festival this past September.

As we mentioned, Moonstone Arts Center is having their 1st Annual Fundraiser on November 10th at 7pm. Eleven poets and two bands will be playing that evening. You can find more information and purchase tickets through their website, moonstonearts.org. If you are interested in discovering more about the poetry scene in Philadelphia, check out Phillypoetry.org, which serves as a great resource for events and places to go in the city for poets and poetry lovers.

It’s important for writers to stay connected and attend readings and live arts events throughout their city. This is great for the community and offers wonderful opportunities for the artists. We would welcome hearing from you in our comment section about the sorts of live arts events that help to create community and support local artists in your town or city! It would be a wonderful thing to begin building a national network of community arts venues and organizations to help artists move beyond their own local territory, grow their audience and develop relationships with colleagues across the country.

Autumn Activities Begin


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Welcome to Autumn, 2018 everyone. We are back at our desks here at Hidden River, and I thought I’d give you a heads up on some of the activities. This will, essentially, be a kind of blast of information. The fully detailed blogs will be coming for each of these headlines, so be sure to subscribe to our blog so you’ll be notified when more is published.

We’ve been hard at work reading manuscripts, naming semi-finalists, finalists and winners for our literary awards. We are working with our newest writers on our forthcoming titles: Catharine Leggett, whose Eludia-winning manuscript, In Progress, is….you guessed it, in progress. Jeffrey Lesser, whose book on vocal technique, Your Voice, Your Instrument: Learning to Play, is launching our newest imprint, Many Frog Press (yes, Frog is singular — and there is a story to the name). We will shortly be releasing the eBook of Cheryl Romo’s book, Ruby Hands. The paperback of the book was released in the autumn of 2017. Complete profiles of our new writers, and more information about each of these releases will be coming shortly. It’s hard to believe that it is already October, since here in Philadelphia, the temperatures have remained in the high 80s, and are only now beginning to drop. The leaves have been slow to turn, but our Philly Fringe Festival has ended, our students are back in school, and there are signs everywhere that Halloween is fast approaching.


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Recent winners of several of our literary awards have been named. We will be writing profiles and providing much more information about each of the winners, as well as posting the complete list of semi-finalists and finalists of each category very shortly. Jeffrey Voccola, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, is the first winner of our Blue Mountain Award, for his wonderful novel Kings Row. Marjorie Sandor of Corvallis, Oregon has been named the first winner of our Tuscarora Award for historical fiction for her fascinating novel, The Secret Music at Tordesillas. Our inaugural Willow Run Poetry Book Award has been won by Carol Tyx, of Iowa City, Iowa, for a powerful collection of poetry, Remaking Achilles: Slicing Into Angola’s History. And our latest Eludia Award winner is Justine Dymond, of Belchertown, Massachusetts, for her remarkable collection of stories, The Emigrant and Other Stories.

We continue to work on our literary award submissions, and will shortly be naming the winners in our script awards and several other categories. This is the first year since we’ve expanded the award categories, and the dedication we feel toward the writers who have submitted to us causes things to move a bit more slowly than we had hoped. But the choice is between rushing through the creative work with which we have been entrusted, or providing several readings for each manuscript, done with intention and attention — not to mention great affection and respect.


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We are a bit buried in all this work right now — but it feels wonderful to be this busy with such wonderful activities. Stay tuned for more details of everything we’ve mentioned here, as well as for other blogs, the launch of our book reviews and news about other Hidden River Arts activities.

Enjoy your autumn — and if you are doing NanoWriMo, have lots of fun. Be sure to follow us here, so you won’t ever miss a new post.

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.

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