Jeffrey Voccola Receives the Inaugural Blue Mountain Novel Award

Jeffrey Voccola
winner of The Blue Mountain Award for his novel KINGS ROW

Jeffrey Voccola, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania has won the inaugural Blue Mountain Novel Award for his novel, Kings Row. The award carries a $1,000 cash prize and publication with Hidden River Press, an imprint of Hidden River Publishing.

Jeffrey received an MFA from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Cabinet, Noctua Review, Cottonwood, Beacon Street Review, Folio, Whirligig. His essays have been published in Inside Sources, The Las Vegas Sun, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jeffrey is currently Associate Professor of Fiction Writing and Director of the Writing Program at Kutztown University.

Kings Row is what Jeffrey calls a “literary mystery” about the murder of a university freshman in a post-industrial college town by one of the working class men of the community. Describing his novel, Jeffrey tells us, “Kings Row explores elements of racism and class-ism as they exist today, particularly in small communities…as rapid changes in demographics and social norms threaten their way of life. Kings Row is a tragic and heartbreaking story of two Americas growing farther apart. The book contains multiple points of view, including the victim, Christopher Roche, and the murder is mentioned in the first chapter. As a result, the reader is able to follow these two young men as their lives intersect. As a professor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, I have a deep understanding of the characters, setting, and premise of this novel. Although the book is a work of fiction, the central conflict is based on an actual event that took place in Kutztown only a few years ago.”

The manuscript captured the imagination of our staff at Hidden River for its deep understanding of a struggle taking place across the U.S. and in all areas where the shifts in economy have hollowed out formerly thriving manufacturing towns, ruining lives and families and fracturing communities. The violence that takes place in the novel is representative of the kind of rage that is boiling beneath the surface of our society, rage which is often taken out on the most vulnerable among us rather than on those truly guilty of destroying our once-thriving economy.

Exploring a heartbreaking subject with language both honest and transcendent, Kings Row carries the reader along, through its exploration of the inner lives of many characters, to create a tapestry of suffering truly illustrative of current day America.

Here is a clip of Jeffrey reading from a portion of the novel:

The Blue Mountain Novel Award is offered yearly by Hidden River Arts. It’s next deadline is November 15, 2018. For more information and guidelines, please see our blog page for The Blue Mountain Award.

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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

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.