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?

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Carol Tyx Receives Inaugural Willow Run Poetry Book Award

Carol Tyx
Winner of Willow Run
Poetry Book Award

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

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

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

We here at Hidden River are extremely proud to be bringing this powerful collection out into the world. Please be sure to follow us here for updates and book launch information as the time grows close!

The Willow Run Poetry Book Award is offered yearly for a book-length collection of original poetry. The next submission deadline for our second award cycle is February 15, 2019. For more information, please see our guidelines.

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. Its next deadline is November 15, 2019. For more information and guidelines, please see our blog page for The Blue Mountain Award.

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


(ephotozine.com)

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.


(miriadna.com)

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