Letter from the WNBA-NYC President and Vice President and President Elect, WNBA-National
November 12th, 2014
Dear Members of the WNBA-NYC Chapter,
It is hard to believe that the holiday season is upon us! I hope everyone is happy and healthy and looking forward to all of the joy that this season can bring.
This has been a very busy and exciting fall programming season for us and we are excited to share the two pieces below that give you a recap of our signature October, National Reading Group Month (NRGM) event and, the Balancing Commitment and Craft in Political Fiction panel that was held last week at Pace University. The remarkable authors who participated in these events shared so much about their writing; their inspirations, the challenges they face, tips on how to navigate the publishing process, their writing habits and the importance of the communities they are a part of. To say that they were inspiring is an understatement. We were so honored to have them as our guests.
In addition, we also had a wonderful networking party in September and a great neighborhood lunch and tour of the new St. Mark’s Bookshop in October. On December 10th, our Holiday Party (members only) will take place at a quintessential New York location. Click here to rsvp if you have not already.
As always, we would love to have more of our members volunteer at events, as committee chairs or as board members. At the moment we need assistance with our blog (blog editor and writing for the blog) our newsletter (newsletter editor and people to write for it) and we will need to fill the chapter’s treasurer position in June when Pauline Hsia, who has done a wonderful job, comes to the end of her term. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In closing, thank you all for your support and membership and I hope to see you all on December 10th!
Executive Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach
Vice President and President Elect, WNBA-National
REMINDER: KRC BOOK DRIVE IS STILL ON! ENDS DECEMBER 15, 2014
We are still collecting books for this worthy cause. You can bring books to the holiday party or get in touch with Jessica Napp, our VP of Communications, who will provide you with direct shipping information.
Kids Research Center (KRC) was founded by WNBA member, Marlene Veloso, and provides free literacy programs to children and families living in low-income neighborhoods. To date, KRC has collected more than 12,000 books for children; built 6 colorful reading rooms; and held countless literacy workshops throughout the NY-Metro area.
Last year, the WNBA-NYC Chapter collected 560 books for Kids Research Center. All of the books went towards building a brand-new reading room at the Campos Plaza Community Center in New York City. KRC collects books for children ages 3-15. They collect picture books, early readers, chapter books, and middle grade books. Books collected during the WNBA Book Drive will go to a brand-new reading room, scheduled for a spring 2015 opening.
NATIONAL READING GROUP MONTH
WNBA-NYC Chapter Event: Tuesday, October 21st @ The Strand-Rare Book Room
By Jessica Napp, VP Communications, WNBA-NYC
On Tuesday, October 21st the WNBA-NYC chapter hosted an outstanding panel of authors in celebration of the WNBA’s National Reading Group Month. Held in The Strand’s Rare Book Room for the 3rd consecutive year, the NYC chapter hosted a dynamic group of authors who, as part of a dynamic panel, discussed the process, challenges and rewards of writing. Moderated by Tessa McGovern Smith of bookgirl.tv, our panelists included: Jean Hanff Korelitz , You Should Have Known; Kimberly McCreight, Reconstructing Amelia, Susan Rieger, The Divorce Papers, and Lucy Rosenthal, The World of Rae English.
The lively conversation was full of practical advice for writers, such as how to have a successful window of writing time; answers ranged from keeping your tush in the chair until you get something down on paper to creating a routine that is disciplined and distraction-free. Much time was spent discussing good ideas v. bad ideas and how to know the difference, when to abandon a bad idea, and when to keep going with a good idea that just needs some time to mature. No panel these days would be complete without a mention of social media and its importance in creating a community for books and authors, and ultimately, as another avenue for marketing and selling books.
We thank all of the women for their participation on the panel and we encourage all members who did not have the opportunity to attend to check out each of these books. They are bookshelf musts!
And a big THANK YOU to our NRGM sponsors!
Silver Sponsors / Premier Sponsors
- Hogarth — An imprint of The Crown Publishing Group
- Read It Forward — Read it first. Pass it on.
- Sourcebooks — An Independent Vision
Friends of National Reading Group Month
WNBA-NYC Chapter Event: Balancing Commitment and Craft in Political Fiction
The political fiction panel speakers, left to right: Céline Keating, Elizabeth Nunez, Tiphanie Yanique, Ellen Meeropol, Marnie Mueller.
Introduction by Andrea Baron –VP Programming, WNBA-NYC
Over 100 people attended our November 5th panel discussion on Political Fiction at Pace University in New York City. The Dyson College departments of Pace Publishing, Women’s and Gender Studies, and English departments co-sponsored the event, and the many students in the audience set the tone for a lively discussion of the traditions and inspirations for political fiction, as well as the challenges facing women writers.
Our authors discussed the challenges of writing political fiction — framing language, developing character, and structuring plot to dramatize conflicts of class, race, gender, and politics while avoiding the pitfalls of authorial intrusion and didacticism.
The panel included six accomplished novelists: Ellen Meeropol, author of House Arrest ; Marnie Mueller, author of My Mother’s Island; Tiphanie Yanique, author of Land of Love and Drowning: A Novel; Elizabeth Nunez author of Boundaries; and Céline Keating, author of Layla. The panel was moderated by writer and teacher Susan Breen, author of The Fiction Class.
Below Alex Grover, a Pace MS in Publishing graduate student who attended the event, shares his insights about the panel and what the authors had to say:
Duty against the Norm: How Five Authors Write Political Fiction in Order to Change Their World
By Alex Grover
Why aren’t more books tackling tough and ambiguous subjects?
That was my question after having the privilege to attend a powerful panel hosted by the WNBA-NYC called, Balancing Commitment and Craft in Political Fiction. The five novelists—Céline Keating, Elizabeth Nunez, Tiphanie Yanique, Ellen Meeropol, and Marnie Mueller—in a discussion moderated by Susan Breen talked about their united cause in not only giving voice to important, impactful movements but also giving themselves voices as women. As Yanique stated early in the conversation, “to be a woman writer, even today, is a political act.”
The novelists first discussed their books as examples of the niche political fiction genre, including a story of growing up as a white non-prisoner in a Japanese internment camp, a mindful revision of The Tempest, and a discovery of self-identity during the feminist movement of the late 60s and early 70s. Why did they write these books? For Mueller, it was wanting “to know my background, what my parents did during World War II.” For Nunez, it was a way to articulate how those who appropriated her culture in the past had generalized and transformed her people into something they weren’t. In writing Prospero’s Daughter, Nunez “talks back to Shakespeare.”
Breen, an author herself and an instructor at Gotham Writers’ Workshop in Manhattan, then asked the panel, “What is political fiction?” At its core, it’s “tersely political material,” said Mueller, “strung together with a plot.” From Meeropol’s experience, “Real political fiction should be partisan, but should ask the reader to take a stand.” As Yanique put it, writing political fiction meant “consciously writing against a particular kind of patriarchy.” No matter the interpretation of the question, the panel met at an agreement that all novels, no matter their structure, are political to some degree. “If you have a book that exclusively features white people in a white suburb,” she said, “that’s still political. That’s still making a statement. It’s just that that statement doesn’t go against the status quo.”
On writing and craft, the authors gave advice for those who wanted to pen their own novels. While a novel may be a vital tool in influencing our society, it must also be entertaining. “We are wrapping you up and pulling you in,” Nunez said, comparing the process to a sequence from Charlotte’s Web where a fly allows itself to be captured by the titular spider. “You don’t know you’re being eaten.” From implanting “zingers” in a work to using mystery as a vehicle for political subversion, as Céline described in her own observation of the genre, authors must still keep the audience’s attention.
As powerful as their statements were, the panelists recognized that there are barriers that must be overcome in the publishing industry. Considering minority writers, Nunez talked about how a publishing house will say they publish black writers, yet those writers are still gathered in marginal imprints, or ghettoes as Nunez referred to them, and not exposed to mainstream audiences. As Nunez asked when considering the problem, “Are we not human?”
The evening with these authors was an exploration of the underpinnings of contemporary thought, a writing workshop, and a challenging view of current publishing paradigms. Some standards of writing we consider to be normal are not. As Yanique asked, “There’s not one gay person in Maine?” She was referring to an unnamed and popular author that actively influences our perception of the times. Considering the many social issues of the present still unresolved, the panelists recognized their moral obligation—and accepted.
Alex Grover (@AlexPGrover) is a graduate assistant at Pace University Press. He has written articles for Quirk Books and Apiary Magazine and has work published in Strange Horizons (forthcoming) and Acappella Zoo. He is currently participating in NaNoWriMo.