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The Writing Process Blog Tour

April 17, 2014
Hey, I want to thank Dean Rader for inviting me on this cool international Writing Process Blog tour.  You can read about Dean’s responses to the prompts about writing and the writing process at  http://www.deanrader.com/writingprocessblogtour.html.
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Here’s my copy of Dean’s book, it’s currently sitting on the kitchen counter, well, it’s not a kitchen counter, it’s actually a taxicab-yellow bar with matching barstools where my friends and I hang out, drink wine, and talk about “best books ever.”  I tend to stack up cool books here that I read in the a.m. while drinking an espresso shot and a granola bar.  (I’m lying about the granola bar.  I hate granola.)   I’m not lying about reading poetry with my morning coffee, though.  Try it instead of wolfing down one of those heinous granola bars. You’ll lose weight I guarantee it. “Reading Instead of Eating” is my exclusively formulated weight loss program.  For paypal instructions to download “Reading For Losers” see my next blog post.  Ah-hem, back to Dean’s books.  Wow, this guy can poet.  He is the author of Works & Days, winner of the 2011 T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize, and, the beautifully crafted Landscape Portrait Figure Form.  He’s also a scholar and author of Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI, and Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry, among a gazillion other things.
LeAnne Howe Answers The Questions
1.  What are you working on?
  • A novel set in the Middle East and Oklahoma in 1913-1917, & 2011 with a Choctaw protagonist, or two.
  • A chapbook of poems on Mary Todd Lincoln.
  • A new play co-authored with actress and playwright Monique Mojica titled,  Sideshow Freaks and Circus Injuns.  (In rehearsals this summer in Toronto, Ontario.)
  • A couple of scholarly books.
2. How does your work differ from others of its genre?
  • That’s hard to say because I write in different genres.  The novel I’m working on is composed of many different genres woven together.  In a way its a continuation of the work I began in Miko Kings: An American Indian Baseball Story, 2007, Auntlute.com.
3. Why do you write what you do?
  •  I’m afraid I can’t do anything else.  
  • Well, there are a couple of other things I can do.  
  • Maybe I would rather live inside of books.  See the above paragraph.
  • Seriously, I began writing about Choctaws because I am Choctaw and so few were writing fiction and poetry about our tribe.  Happily that has changed.  And as an artist I have changed too, and my writing is developing in new directions that I could not have imagined even five years ago.
4. How does your writing process work?
  • The story tells me what I’m working on.  I let the voice develop the form I’m writing.  Sometimes it’s only a line that I begin with, and frequently I don’t know what I’m working on until the body begins to take shape.  I also think I become a new writer with each book I finish. 

Up Next is the Fabulous Heid Erdrich

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s another book that sits on my taxicab-yellow bar.  I frequently grab Cell Traffic, 2012, first thing in the morning for an eye-opener.  This amazing book gets me off to work and I teach it in my classes.  Heid and I have been friends for many years even after the time I nearly ran her down in the middle of the street in Austin, Texas, sometime after 1 am.  We were in Austin for the AWP conference and I was driving my brother’s big old Ford truck and couldn’t find the brake pedal as quickly as I would have liked.  Whew, was that a close call.  

Now for the serious stuff: Heid E. Erdrich is also the author of National Monuments which won a Minnesota Book Award in 2009.  Her new non-fiction book is Original Local: Indigenous Foods Stories and Recipes from the Upper Midwest, 2013. Heid is Ojibwe enrolled at Turtle Mountain. She engages the world in many forms, most recently through short poem films which you can see at heiderdrich.com.

Thank you Heid for joining in The Writing Process Blog Tour.  Her answers to the questions are on her blog, http://blog.heiderdrich.com/2014/04/16/blog-tour/. Oh, and for those who don’t think they can strictly adhere to my “Reading Instead of Eating”  weight loss program, you can check out Heid’s newest book and prepare a delicious indigenous breakfast while sipping your morning java.
But whatever you do, read!
original local cover

 

At Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem NC

February 23, 2014
View from the pond at Graylyn International Conference Center, 2014.

View from the pond at Graylyn International Conference Center, 2014.

What a lovely time to be in the south!  Bright blue skies, warm temperatures in the 60s, and heavenly food at Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem.  Graylyn (above) was constructed in 1932 and served as a country estate for the Gray family.  They lived here off and on in the 1930s and 1940s and finally the estate was donated to Wake Forest University in 1972.   (I’m sure there’s more to the story but I don’t know it.) Anyone who does reply here.

I’m staying here, and have been walking the grounds today, writing and trying to finish some poems I’ve been working on for years.  Or so it seems.  Poems are all I can work on when I’m on the road.  Fiction requires so much more head room.

This morning green-headed mallards were honking and flying around the pond.  You can see a few on the other side of the water. Being here has really been a joy.  A shout out to my hosts for ensconcing me at Graylyn so I can write, and prepare for my lecture/reading on Monday night , 2/24/14 at Wake Forest University.  I taught at Wake as a visiting writer over a decade ago in the spring of 2001.  As I remember the undergraduate fiction writers were very good.  During the interim years, the friends I made have remained in touch, but mostly through email.  What a treat it is to see them again.  Women’s Studies professor Mary DeShazer and I had a great meal (Thai food) last night in downtown Winston-Salem.  Her new book Mammographies: The Cultural Discourse of Breast Cancer Narratives (2013) is a must read! Mary argues that breast cancer narratives of the past ten years differ from their predecessors and suggests that the ethics and efficacy of genetic testing and prophylactic mastectomy have shifted the politics of prosthesis and reconstructive surgery.  And today so many women are opting to have their breasts removed rather than risk breast cancer.  The book is a companion to Mary’s 2005  Fractured Borders: Reading Women’s Cancer Literature.

My other dear friend in Winston-Salem is Emily Herring Wilson, also a writer.  She and I met nearly 20 years ago at MacDowell Colony, a writer’s retreat in New Hampshire.  Her recent books include Becoming Elizabeth Lawrence: Discovered Letters of a Southern Gardener (2010), North Carolina Women: Making History by Margaret Supplee Smith, Emily Herring Wilson, and Doris Betts (2007); No one Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence (2005); and, Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence–A Friendship in Letters (2003).  She’s currently at work on a new biography and we spent a lovely evening together catching up by a warm fire at her place.  It’s still cold here at night.

I promised I would post a picture of Kirstin Squint’s class at High Point University in High Point.  I was just there last week. They were a great class and asked a lot of good questions about my first novel, Shell Shaker, (2001)  Picture below: (top row, left to right) (me), Kyle Rother, Nick Lieberz, Cole Gibson, Kevin Garrity, Patricia Chandon, Lexi Koperna, Shannon Curley.

(Bottom row, left to right) Stephanie Bogutz, Michelle Tarangelo, Julia Choquette, Sydney Anderson, Amy Sanborn, Olivia French.

Next week, I promise to post reviews of Susan Power’s new novel, and Ken Hada’s new book of poetry!

Yah! Go High Point!

Yah! Go High Point!

Readings at High Point University and Wake Forest University

February 20, 2014

If you are in the neighborhood, I’m reading around North Carolina.  Tonight at High Point University, High Point, North Carolina. Monday at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem.   Come along if you can! YAH.

highpoint2LeAnneHowe (2)

Books for the Soul

February 5, 2014

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Okay, I haven’t been keeping up with current events. I didn’t know who was playing in the Super Bowl, and I completely blanked on the President’s State of the Union Address.  But I have been reading books.  Well. . . , I haven’t managed to read three books a week, but I swear in late November, early December I read four and five books to keep up with my  excellent Illinois MFA graduate students.

Each week when the Illinois’ MFA candidates and I met for class (at my house) we enjoyed great food and wines. Kristin Walters (fiction) provided excellent wines and champagnes, Nolan Grieves (fiction) brought specialty handmade desserts, and Katherine Scott Nelson (fiction) brought her incredible homemade breads. Check this out:

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It was a cold evening in Urbana, Illinois and we sat around drinking red wine with hot Challah bread, (above) fresh fruits and vegetables and we talked about great books.  I miss hanging out with them.  For grins I’ve added a picture of the cheesecake that Scott also made.  We ate it the night we discussed The Lover by Marguerite Duras. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that I’m on sabbatical, I’m reading fewer books and on a diet. No more rich desserts while reading, just trashy gluten free, and living without  (everything good) magazines.  I also found  an internet article on how to spoil myself with chocolate salt rubs.  (It’s good to be bad.)

Ahem. Back to books.  Here are a few recommendations.  If you don’t do another thing this February, read poet Dean Rader’s new book of poems Landscape, Portrait, Figure, Form, Omnidawn, 2013.  The lines are gorgeous, the sentiments inextricable from experience.  “Here is wind as it locks and reloads above the waves. And there, the clatter of gulls scattershot across the beach. Notice the couple caught in mid-laugh as the little dog of time tags along behind them, its leash a tink tink tink in the distance.”  - From “Self Portrait As Photograph Never Taken.”

Next I recommend Paula McClain’s The Paris Wife, it’s told from the POV of Hadley Richardson, Hemingway’s first wife.  It’s been out since 2011 but I didn’t get around to finishing it until January 2014.  From Philip Carroll Morgan’s Riding Out The Storm, I learned a great deal about the Chickasaw Byrd family.  I  predict Morgan’s book will win awards from the Oklahoma Center for the Book.

Before you draw breath run out and buy, steal, but read The Whetting of Teeth (Organic Weapons Art, Detroit, 2012) by poet Jamaal May.  His work is new for me, but now I’m hooked.  Here’s a small offering.  “Go ahead and squeeze, but not before you put on some tea, clean two cups, lift shades and pin back curtains.  Not before the end of this song, before dawn reaches in, before you turn the page, or a woman apologizes for dialing the wrong man again — not before you learn her name, how to pronounce it, how to sing it with and without regret catching in your throat — Are you done?”  - From “How To Get Your Gun Safely Out of Your Mouth.”

What can I say about the Tenth of December by George Saunders, it has received praise from everyone everywhere. Saunders is truly the Meryl Streep of the writing world.  And like everyone else, I love his stories.  Read it again and again, just before sleep. “Sticks” is my fav.

For everyone who thought that I was exaggerating in “I Fuck Up In Japan” in Choctalking On Other Realities, Aunt Lute Books, 2013, about how Japanese people wanted to try on my red beaded warrior coat, here’s a couple of pixs.  (I have others but . . . I can’t show them.)

Next week: Reviews of Ken Hada’s new book, and Mona Susan Power’s new book!

leanne1-osu

Here,  one of the men in Japan at the Amnesty International dinner decides to try on my coat.  (It's too big for him.)

Here, one of the men in Japan at the Amnesty International dinner decides to try on my coat. (It’s too big for him.)

What I’m reading this week

November 17, 2013
Sovereign Stories came in the mail this week.

Sovereign Stories came in the mail this week.

Recently I made a decision, well, a plan to read three new books a week.  I can’t tell you how much better I feel about myself.  I’ve made a pact to devote time to reading for pleasure, something I usually don’t do during the academic year because of all the class readings, student papers, committee work, and manuscripts  and of course, tenure review papers.  (You get the idea.)  So, I’ve put a plan in place. Read a couple of books of poems, and a novel, and/or a scholarly book each week.  But the number is 3.   In some ways, I think I’m returning to a pattern in my life when I was very little and living in Bethany, Oklahoma.  The Bookmobile would come to our street and the neighborhood kids, myself included, would pick out a couple of books to read.  Funny how memory plays tricks, perhaps it was only one book, regardless, I had a Bookmobile card that  I’d filled out myself.  Each of us would run to the big van, greet the driver and decide on a book we hadn’t read.  It was quite thrilling.  Only two events happened in our poor neighborhood in Bethany that were worth screaming for: the day the Bookmobile would arrive, and (in summer) the day the Ice Cream man in his red and green truck stopped on our street.  “Back in the old days,” there was no such thing as going to the library, or running to a Brown Derby for a dip cone, even though it was only 5 cents.  Life for a one-car family living on the edge of poverty, (less than $2100.00 a year) meant no frills, no books, no joy rides that burned gasoline. We were a family that had to rely on my grandmother’s stories on Saturday nights for adventure thrills.  (More on that later.)

The history of bookmobiles begins sometime in the mid-nineteenth century in Great Britain.  By 1904 in the US, the People’s Free Library of Chester County, South Carolina starts carrying wooden boxes of books to rural areas.  The concept continues today and Bookmobiles are still in use worldwide.  Check out the Association of Bookmobile Services and Outreach at: http://abos-outreach.org/  

Like so many children all over the world my lifeline to reading was the Bookmobile.  Recently, I was asked in an interview when I knew I wanted to become a writer.  I said by the age of six or seven because I began writing dinosaur stories.  After thinking about it, I realized  it was because early in my life I was exposed to reading books, and of course hearing my grandmother’s stories.   But what if the Bookmobile had missed our street?  Would I be the writer I am today.  Probably not.  Thank you Bookmobile, you fostered a desire in me to write, and to read.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are my choices of the week!  Sovereign Stories by Padraig Kirwan, Lovely Asunder by Danielle Cadena Deulen, and On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year by Lee Ann Roripaugh!  YAH.

From London to Canterbury to South Dakota: Travels with Choctalking

November 8, 2013
tags:
Within a few minutes the changing of the guard began and all of us tourist got a tongue lashing for not moving out of the way of the horses.  Oh, yes, we were at fault.

Within a few minutes of taking this picture,  the changing of the guard began and we tourists got a tongue lashing for not moving out of the way of the horses. Oh yes, our fault.

Of late, I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, and in the middle.   Traveled to London to read at Goldsmiths University and gave the annual Keynes College lecture at Kent University in Canterbury (which was extraordinary).  The theater team I’m working with to create a new play in 2015 also attended the Origins Festival of First Nations, and, In the Balance: Indigeneity, Performance, Globalization. Both events were in London.  More on that in my next post.

Kent Professor David Stirrup and I, (along with many other scholars) went on an “Indigenous London” walking tour led by US scholar Coll Thrush.  We saw all the places where Natives died badly the past 500 years.  It seems whenever Natives come to London, by choice or by force, they get sick and die. (Note the large blue chicken near Trafalgar Square.  See below.)  By the way, I love the black cabbies in London and driving on the “wrong side of the road.”  I always scream when the cab I’m in swerves around a street corner at 90 kilometers per hour because I’m sure we’re heading for a crash.  Un-hem, thrillseeker here.

Both the King and Queen of Hawaii came to London and died.

Both the King and Queen of Hawaii came to London and died within a day or two other each other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe indigenous theater conferences in London were created by  professor Helen Gilbert at Royal Holloway, University of London and her amazing group of artists and academics.  Quite a few unique experiences occurred at the conferences that I soon won’t forget.  Thank you so much to Helen Gilbert for inviting me to the conferences, and to the literary scholars Padraig Kirwan, Goldsmiths University; David Stirrup, Kent University who hosted my readings.   See below, Padraig on the left, David on the right.

Thanks to my Illinois colleague Brenda Farnell, we were able to do some research on T.E. Lawrence and visited his home, Clouds Hill in Dorset.  Brenda is originally from York, UK.  And we also visited some indigenous mounds in southwestern England.   They all seem to be around 4500-5000 years old.  See below.  I am not sure yet how to think about the mounds in the UK, or whether Earthworks is a global architectural endeavor.  More on that later.

This is the Mai Don site, a series of raised ridges and a large platform mound in southwest England.

This is the Mai Don site, a series of raised ridges and a large platform mound in southwest England.  Truly amazing in scope and age.  People lived on the site for several thousand years.

Book signing at Keynes College at Kent University, Canterbury.

Book signing at Keynes College at Kent University, Canterbury.

Upon returning home to the US, I traveled to the University of South Dakota’s John R. Milton’s Writers Conference.  A great event,At Keynes College, Kent University, Pardraig Kirwan, left, and right David Stirrup.  like a mini AWP, with multiple creative writing panels.  I was deeply impressed by the works of Fred Arroyo and Natanya Pulley also of USD, Danielle Cadena Deulen from University of Cincinnati.  And it was great seeing Native poets  Tria Andrews and Cassandra Lopez.

In 2000 USD produced Indian Radio Days, directed by Cameron Mitchell.  So in some ways to Vermilion was like a homecoming and seeing old friends.

In 2000, USD produced Indian Radio Days, a play I co-authored with Roxy Gordon. At UDS the play was directed by Cameron Mitchell.  In some ways returning to Vermilion was like a homecoming.    

On Saturday, November 2, 2013,  I read with authors Joy Castro, and Patrick Hicks , followed Pam Houston’s reading.  Thanks to poet extraordinaire Lee Ann Roripaugh for inviting me to USD.  What a gift!

Visited Clouds Hill where T.E. Lawrence was living when he was killed in a motorcycle accident.

Visited Clouds Hill, Dorset, where T.E. Lawrence was living when he was killed in a motorcycle accident.  This is the garage for Lawrence’s cottage at Clouds Hill  that  he was renovating.   The inside of the cottage is filled with memories of the Hejaz.  Rugs, books, camel leather doors, and many other items.

BUY THIS BOOK OR I’LL LET HER GO!

October 9, 2013
A collection of story stories about my adventures in travel

A collection of short stories about my adventures in travel

Order from Auntlute.com right away. Ouch!

straight jacket

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