Goodwill and Gratitude: Twelve Years with Poets & Writers

by Jamie Asaye FitzGerald

For the last twelve years, I’ve worked for Poets & Writers, Inc. Founded by Galen Williams in New York City in 1970, and guided for over thirty years by the steady hand of executive director Elliot Figman, P&W is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization serving creative writers. Its mission is to foster the professional development of poets and writers, to promote communication throughout the literary community, and to help create an environment in which literature can be appreciated by the widest possible public.

I was hired as a program assistant in 2005, and have directed the California branch office of P&W and its Readings & Workshops (West) grant program for the past three years with the help of program coordinator and fellow poet Brandi M. Spaethe. I didn’t understand at the beginning how foundational the organization’s mission and key values of service, inclusivity, integrity, and excellence were, but over the years these tenets have seeped into my bones and informed my work and my life. I consider my time at P&W as post-post-graduate work—my unofficial PhD in literary community.

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Why Write About the Hardest Things

by Antonia Crane

My mom’s aggressive cancer returned the same week I got into an MFA program for writing— a terrible idea considering the recession of 2008. Mom insisted I “Get that degree!” so I enrolled even though I had no way to pay for it. I’d lost my personal assistant job, and my sugar-daddy-once-removed, a stout, Mexican man who was missing part of his thumb, suddenly disappeared for good.

A few weeks into grad school, I drove up the California coast to Humboldt where redwoods cast long shadows and the icy ocean raged silently while I euthanized my mother. I immediately plunged back into sex work. There’s no pamphlet on how to keep showing up for class when your favorite person dies. It’s like waking up without arms or feet. I floated in the fog of her absence and I wrote about her frail limbs and her moans of pain when I took her off the morphine for a few hours those final days. I wrote about her peeing the bed. Spilling milk on the floor. Choking on water. I wrote about her writing her own obituary and her cobalt blue vases filled with her orange azaleas. I wrote about meeting men in motels off the 405 to jack them off—how I was usually one hand job away from being homeless. I wrote about my mom’s feeding tube and her pastel fuzzy socks I slid off her feet before they took her body away. In my mind and on the page, my mom’s dying body merged with mine going through the motions of sex work. I couldn’t separate the two because they were braided in my mind. I kept Cheryl Strayed’s essay “The Love of My Life” (The Sun, # 321) close at hand because it gave me permission to write about my specific raging body grief and how I hurled my pussy at the world and dared it to keep me safe. Continue reading

Writing and Activism: Let’s Thrive

by Désirée Zamorano

So many of us since Election Day have hovered over our keyboards and felt frozen.

Indeed, why shouldn’t we feel petrified, the legacy of Obama under threat, the vision of who we are, as US citizens utterly upended, the walking nightmares announced each and every day? We find ourselves playing an emotional and draining game of lethal dodge ball, and scramble to regain our footing, our equilibrium, our creative muse.

Then we find ourselves with that perpetually dissatisfied editor shrieking at the back of our skull, telling us in articulate and inchoate ways how we’re never going to write again, the world will never right itself, nothing we’re writing now will make any difference; it’s time, the voice continues, to discard this fallacy of being a writer and instead do something that will make a difference!

Ha. Of course as writers we fall prey to making it all about our creativity. So what can we do?

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WWS at AWP17

Are you feeling anxious just yet about this year’s AWP conference? Not to worry because we have a guide to all events where you can find the happy, shining faces of Women Who Submit and friends. And while you are combing the bookfair, be sure to find us at booth 975 with Roar Feminist Magazine and Dandelion Review to pick up an “I submitted!” button and to add your name to the WWS daily giveaway. It will include one WWS tote with books, chapbooks, and zines from our members including copies of Posada: Offerings of Wintess and Refuge (Sundress Publications 2016) by Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Gent/Re Place Ing (Write Large Press 2016) by Jessica Ceballos Campbell, Surveillance (Write Large Press 2016) by Ashaki M. Jackson, Cake Time (Red Hen Press 2017) by Siel Ju, Excavation (Future Tense Books 2014) by Wendy C. Ortiz, Wrestling Alligators (Martin Brown Publishers 2016) by Diane Sherlock, Traci Traci Love Fest, a collection of poems from L.A. poets writing in support of poet, performer and community activist Traci Kato Kiriyama as she battles breast cancer and more!


Plus, don’t forget to reread this piece by Lauren Eggert-Crowe for reminders on how to stay happy and healthy over the next week, and we recommend checking out Entropy’s guide if you are looking for avenues of resistance and action. Continue reading

A Tax Primer for Writers

by Michelle Joy Lander

“Income tax returns are the most imaginative fiction being written today.” -Herman Wouk

Writers and artists are notoriously right brained. While this allows for creativity, flights of imagination and pure magic, it can be a hindrance when it comes to more practical matters. Such as income taxes.

It wasn’t until I attended a workshop on finances and taxes offered by the Writers Guild of America, West that I learned the scope of deductions available to writers. The average tax preparer is not well versed in these and there are misconceptions as to what constitutes a “business” versus a “hobby.” If your objective is to make your living as a writer, you are a professional writer. Even if you also work slinging hash, teaching or performing brain surgery.

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Writer Goals for 2017

Goals are important to us at Women Who Submit. At every submission party we begin by asking each person in attendance to state a goal for the day. We encourage members to think of these goals as practical, short term tasks that can be completed (or at least begun) within our three hour meet ups. It is our mission to get results and help women and nonbinary writers physically hit send at least once before they leave us at the end of the day.

For more on the power of writing affirmations, check out LiYun Alavarado’s essay “THE POWER OF THE POST-IT: WRITING MY LIFE INTO EXISTENCE“:

“my own experiences creating vision boards and posting advice and affirmations around my home, have made me a true believer in the power of the post-it, or, more accurately, the power of clearly articulated aspirations, affirmations, and images posted prominently in our living and working spaces. I’ve come to believe that these post-its, lists, candle affirmations, and vision boards can function as powerful aids in attaining our hearts’ deepest desires—as writers, artists, and even as human beings.”

In this spirit, we share 2017 writing goals from our WWS-LA members. Please feel free to comment below and share your own goals for the coming year.

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What do you do?

by Lauren Eggert-Crowe

I’m never quite sure how to answer the question, “What do you do?” There are a few answers, depending on who’s asking. I’m an executive assistant at a Jewish anti-hunger nonprofit. This is where I spend the majority of my time and what takes up most of my brainspace. I’m also a writer, but I don’t write as often as I’d like to. My work in the literary community is often heavy on the social aspect. I support my friends at literary events. I organize readings and Women Who Submit submission parties. I forge connections and put in the effort to build community.

I started this job at the very beginning of the second Obama administration. Over the years I’ve sometimes found it difficult to marry the two halves of my life. I spend my weeks assisting the operations of a non-profit, and spend my evenings and weekends trafficking in book talk, fielding 10-25 reading invites a week. I listen to author talks, I donate money to the Library Foundation of Los Angeles, I read my friends’ books and I promote their successes on social media.

Two things happened to me this year that re-aligned my perspective on both my paid career and my unpaid career. The first was personal. The second was global. Continue reading

Promotion and Creativity

A few months ago I gave a TED talk. Although I am used to public speaking and performance, speaking from a memorized script that was supposed to sound extemporized in a packed ballroom under hot lights brought performance to a new level of intensity. This experience was exhilarating, and adrenaline-twitchy nerve-wracking in a way that an independent studio dance concert or an academic keynote is not. Despite the surge of nerves that made my knees shake and my mouth feel taut, despite the fast-slow pace that accompanies production of any kind and makes it feel like the performance will never happen and then like it passed too quickly, I felt satisfied and in control up on that small stage. I was prepared, ready to be up in front of this audience, even if it had taken a ridiculous number of redrafts to whittle the content of a book down to eight minutes of talking.

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Are you really, really ready to attend an M.F.A. in Creative Writing program?

(I wasn’t, but I did learn some valuable lessons!)

by Sarah Rafael García

If you would’ve asked me about a year ago if I’d recommend Texas State University’s Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing program to other writers (particularly women and writers of color), you would probably have to sit through a rant containing an array of emotions—anger, depression, regret and countless examples of microaggressions I experienced.

Although I still regret attending that program, I have also come to terms with the outcome. After all I became a stronger writer and mentor, not because of the MFA program but because the adverse experience forced me to seek support and resources outside of the MFA world, resources I’m not sure I would’ve sought otherwise. Continue reading

So you want to be a writer, Mija?!

by Iris De Anda

On the lower shelf of my bookcase, there is a row full of journals spanning the years of my writing attempts. A self portrait of a young girl at the age of 13, who took pen to paper on the bedroom floor. What began as stream of consciousness turned into wannabe poetry by the age of 15, when I ventured into my first open mic at a coffee shop in Alhambra, CA. Some girl approached me afterwards and said something about my words meaning something to her. I was perplexed and inspired, and I didn’t do another open mic for about 3 years. Always reading, always writing, never sharing was my silent motto.

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