Thursday, July 31, 2008

Student Open Mic at Residency

In case you haven't noticed on the residency schedule, there will be an open mic for student readings Tuesday afternoon at 2:00--we'd like to hear what you're working on, so bring something to share with your peers and faculty. And please limit yourself to no more than 5 minutes so others will have a chance to read.

REMINDER: Read the Residency Guide!

Hello All,

Looking forward to seeing most of you on Sunday. Just a reminder to read the "Student Residency Guide--Aug 08" on the program website if you haven't already. It has everything you need to know about what to bring, how to get here, where to check in, etc.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Last Day for Screenplay Pitches

Today is the last day to get your 3-sentence pitch to me for the Screenplay panel at the residency. So far I have received a pitch from NONE of our screenwriting students and only three in total, so the rest of you have a great opportunity to have a panel of professionals speak to you about your idea. Email it to me today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Residency Schedule and Lit Fest

The schedule for the full residency week is up on the program web site. A poster is also up there for the evening readings--again, if you live in the area, PLEASE invite your friends and family to come to the evening events, which are free and open to the public. The more people we get in attendance at these events, the better for the program. And there are some good ones this time...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Mainevermontnewhampshiremass" in Weird Tales #350

Hello all! Just a brief note to let you all know that my short story "Mainevermontnewhampshiremass" will be in the latest issue of Weird Tales alongside fiction by the likes of Norman Spinrad and Karen Heuler. Weird Tales just celebrated its eighty-fifth anniversary with a reimagining of its content, design, and themes. It should be at newsstands in a week or three, so check it out.

Also, let me wish you all a good residency. I've gotten a job and will be moving to California at the end of the month, so will be unable to attend.

Hello, Fellow MFA Students!

My name is Matt Renfer. Born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I have had an interest in reading and writing since I can remember. I came to WestConn undeclared in 2003 and decided on a major in my third year after writing for the student newspaper, The Echo. I wrote as much as I could, and found the experience of being published highly rewarding. I worked my way up the ranks as News and Managing Editor where I discovered a hidden passion of mine: editing. During this time, I also highly enjoyed WestConn's writing department with professors such as John Briggs and Ed Hagan. I'm especially fond of writing short stories and flash fiction. I graduated this past May with a degree in English: Professional Writing.

My goal is to make it one day on the editorial board of a political magazine (such as, Time). I want to be able to write for a magazine and have a say on its content.

I’m absolutely enthralled about starting a career in my field. For the past few months, I've been sending out resumes to numerous publications around CT. I went for an interview with Penny Press (they do crossword puzzles and word games) for an editorial assistant position last week! They will be calling me back this Thursday with a decision.

I have an extremely curious mind and absolutely crave learning. I’m the type of person that can literally spend hours in Borders perusing through books. I love museums and trips to somewhere new. I highly enjoy history, namely military, as well as politics, sociology, and psychology.

As far as reading goes, I feel that a greater sense of humanity is acquired by reading short stories, essays and novels than by studying a field such as history or psychology. While I do enjoy such fields, I feel that they are limited to factual knowledge, whereas a piece of literature or poem can really tap into the human spirit.

If I were to give writing advice, it would be something that I have trouble with: getting started. When I’m having trouble writing, I try to get a draft down without caring at all how it sounds. Then I go back and essentially rewrite that first draft a great deal. It’s an evolving process. For me, I need to see words on the page in order to formulate further thoughts.

I am a big fan of Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird,” where she argues that “shitty first drafts” are the most effective way to begin the writing process. I will close this introduction with a few of my favorite quotes from her book:

“Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you.”

“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here- and, by extension, what we're supposed to be writing.”

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.”

I look forward to meeting everyone. Good luck!

Writing job sites

With the Hartford Courant cutting its staff by 25 percent (voluntary and involuntary buyouts), many job sites have been passed around (thankfully I survived the cuts). Anyway I thought I'd share some of these links for those of us looking for writing and writing-related work:

UC Berkley's Journalism job site
A mix of journalism, academic and freelance jobs
The most comprehensive journalism job site, plus a few academic, PR, etc. listings

Ragan Career Center
Lists quite a few PR and communications jobs

Higher Ed Jobs

Editor and Publisher

Friday, July 18, 2008

Congratulations... Ron Samul, recent graduate of the MFA program and MFA Writing Mentor. Ron has accepted a full-time teaching position at Mitchell College. Give him a slap on the back when you see him at the residency!

Super Interns launch

I am currently working with Super Interns (, which is a website dedicated to creating win-win internship experiences for students and employers. Super Interns is officially launching this month, so if you or someone you know might be interested in having an intern or being an intern, read on.

Here's what you can do next to learn more about Super Interns opportunities:

1. SUBSCRIBE! Super Interns is developing some amazing free resources, tips, and tools for interns, employers, small business owners, parents, educators, hr professionals, career consultants, and others!

Click here to join the list and receive your free materials!

2. REGISTER! If you'd like to learn how to work with interns in your job or business, please register for the Super Interns complimentary teleclass (a class that meets by phone):

"How Everyone Can Work with Interns in Any Business!"
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
7-8 pm (EST)

To learn more about the class, click here:

To register (takes just 10 seconds!), click here:

Even if you can't attend the live call, register anyway. By doing so, you'll receive a link to the audio recording that you can listen to at your convenience on your computer or iPod.

3. APPLY! Looking for an internship or some hands-on experience volunteering for a start-up business? Super Interns is currently accepting applications for interns! This is a great opportunity for students, from high school to graduate level, to get credit and valuable work experience. Super Interns also takes volunteers – recent graduates, career changers, and others -- who want to volunteer to gain specific skills and add relevant experience to their resume. We work virtually, so anyone, anywhere, can apply!
To apply, send a cover letter and resume (if you have one) to

For more information on this internship opportunity, click here:

4. PASS IT ON! Please pass this email on to anyone you know who might be interested in Super Interns. This includes students, parents, employers, business owners, educators, and others.

I hope Super Interns will be of great benefit to you or someone you know.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


As some of my MFA colleagues know, I have been planning a two week trip to Lithuania with my mother and two sisters. A few of you may remember critiquing a piece, "In Search of Frank Zappa's Head" during one of the semester evening workshops. This is a trip of a lifetime as my family's nationality is Lithuanian on both sides and we hope to meet relatives that my mother has written to but never met or spoken with during her 87 years. Needless to say we anticipate quite an adventure - and I hope for lots of writing and photography to come out of these travels.

Tomorrow is the big day we take off. I invite you to follow our adventures by visiting my blog, The Eclectic Writer, during the next couple of weeks. I hope to update frequently with narrative and pictures.

I look forward to seeing many of you, and meeting the new students, during the residency!


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summer Work for United Way

The United Way is currently seeking a part-time data entry/analysis person for a Summer 2008 project.

Position responsibilities:
· Data entry – Inputting of information from spreadsheets received from 100+ agencies
· Data analysis – Find common outcomes from information currently being gathered and make recommendations regarding future research designs
· Research

This position offers flexible work hours and location. The project is expected to run approximately 6 to 8 weeks. The salary is $10.00 per hour with a maximum project amount of $1,500.00.

Interested candidates should contact Dr. Ellen Durnin, WestConn Dean of Graduate Studies and External Programs at 203-837-8386 or via email at:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Residency Information Now Available


New information on the August residency is now available at the upgraded program website ( You can find the following documents under the Current Students heading:
  • Residency Schedule
  • Student Residency Guide-Aug08
  • '08-'09 Student Guide
  • '08 Thesis Advisement Guide
In the coming days, I will provide you with appointment schedules for student/faculty meetings.

Also, I want to emphasize that the residency runs through Saturday evening. The residency closes with Daniel Asa Rose and Gloria Frym, a reading you won't want to miss. Please resist the temptation to duck out early and skip the Saturday evening reading; if you were reading that night, you wouldn't want your audience to suddenly skip town, now would you? And the pub will be open Saturday night for final-night revels.

Arrival Reminder

Plan to arrive on the Westside campus on Sunday the 3rd in time for 4:00 new student orientation (required for all new students) or for the 5:30 welcome BBQ at the Ives Center (in case of rain, backup location for the BBQ is Westside Classroom Building, President's Reception Room).

Screenplay Pitch Reminder!

Louisa Burns-Bisogno, David Rich, Karen Smith-Vastola, and Leslie Dallas will speak briefly about the art of the pitch, then they will provide feedback on pitches you have submitted--they're likely to ask you a few questions about your story, identify problems or possible pitfalls, suggest changes, or "buy" your idea.I'd love to have as many of you as possible participating in this panel (come on, even if you're a poet we all know that you secretly want to sell a screenplay). So email your pitch to me by July 28, and I'll pass all of the pitches to the panel so they can read them in advance.Please provide a teaser pitch--keep it to about three sentences--but be prepared to provide a fuller story pitch. If the panel wants to know more, they'll ask for it.

I've only received ONE pitch so far! Get 'em in!

Travel arrangements

Anyone who travels from out of state to the residency,

I'm a first semester student, and I'm debating whether to rent a car or take the shuttle from the airport. I'm pretty sure I'll be flying in to Hartford. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Field Guide To Writing Flash Fiction Featuring Shouhua Qi, Tom Hazuka ...

Bliggidy Blog

Forthcoming from Rose Metal Press

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field.
Edited by Tara L. Masih.

  • Rose Metal Press

  • Bliggidy Blog Post

  • Flash Fiction From Contemporary China

  • Feature Story On Qi

  • Hazuka In Connecticut Review

  • Connecticut Review
  • Friday, July 11, 2008

    PR Internship--$10,000

    Danbury Public Schools has a$10,000 Public Relations internship available for 2008-09. If you decide to apply for this, please inform me; I can provide a rec, and I will put you in touch with our Career Development Coordinator, Maureen Gernert, will guide you through the application process.

    "The Public Affairs Intern reports to the Superintendent of Schools or appropriate Administrator as designated by the Superintendent. The Intern's primary job is to promote the Danbury Public Schools to prospective families, existing families, and the community. The position also assists the Superintendent in district-wide event planning.

    Duties and Responsibilities:
    • Compile information from schools for potential story ideas
    • Write all press releases and weekly "What's Happening" media advisories/Board Briefs
    • Produce and host weekly cable reports in conjunction with the High School
    • Respond quickly to media requests for information and interviews
    • Plan and host monthly tours of schools for the real estate community. Tours for legislators are arranged on an as-needed basis.
    • Compile information packets, complete with brochures, pamphlets, press releases, and recent newspaper articles for distribution to public
    • Write district-wide videos that are shown at conferences


    Superior presentation and communications skills (oral and written); high standards of ethics, honesty, and integrity; demonstrated academic training in media communications; ability to research and develop; knowledge of development and trends in public relations; enrollment in a BA program in Language Arts or Communications and/or equivalent education" [in other words, enrollment in the MFA program with first or second genre in PR or some experience in PR or PR-related activities--bc]

    My understanding from Maureen is that they need someone who can be in the offices 2-3 times per week (not sure how many hours they mean) and who is flexible enough to attend occasional evening Board meetings.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Blessings All Around

    A few days before Sophie was born, one of my essays "My Zen Garden" was accepted for publication in the Christian Science Monitor. Thanks to Kristin Nord for helping me write and rewrite this piece last fall. I still had to cut it down further to fit their word limit but I'm happy with the piece. I can send it to anyone if they want to read it. No word yet on when it will be published. I'll keep you posted. 


    Pass Out the Cigars!

    Sophie Bouchard, my greatest creation (although I can't take all the credit), was born on July 5th at 11:07 pm. She's a teeny one at 6 lbs, 2 oz., a pound of which I think is hair, but she's full of personality (and poop) and really the most beautiful person I've ever seen. Not that I'm biased or anything...

    Residency Arrival and Schedule

    Folks, the residency schedule is almost complete, and we'll be posting it soon. Laurel will also be sending you more specific information on accomodations, check-in, etc. Meanwhile, I just wanted to make sure that you all know to arrive on the Westside campus on Sunday the 3rd in time for 4:00 new student orientation (required for all new students) or for the 5:30 welcome BBQ at the Ives Center.

    Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    The Wrinkled Page

    Welcome new students. I hope you have as rewarding an experience as I did in this program.

    I just wanted to welcome any and all of you to check out my new blog, The Wrinkled Page. I've started to seriously market my writing and look for an agent instead of lazing around on my bum and reading constantly while consuming excessive amounts of coffee. Ah, the luxury of summertime for teachers. I know that fall is rapidly approaching and it will soon be back to "real life," but for now, my blog is a fun way to stay connected and get some of my thoughts from brain to print.

    So please, check it out, and have a great residency! I wish I could be with you.


    Tuesday, July 08, 2008

    Pitch Your Screenplay Idea


    A full schedule for the residency is forthcoming, but in the meantime I want to let you know about the screenwriting panel I've scheduled. Louisa Burns-Bisogno, David Rich, Karen Smith-Vastola, and Leslie Dallas will speak briefly about the art of the pitch, then they will provide feedback on pitches you have submitted--they're likely to ask you a few questions about your story, identify problems or possible pitfalls, suggest changes, or "buy" your idea.

    I'd love to have as many of you as possible participating in this panel (come on, even if you're a poet we all know that you secretly want to sell a screenplay). So email your pitch to me by July 28, and I'll pass all of the pitches to the panel so they can read them in advance.

    Please provide a teaser pitch--keep it to about three sentences--but be prepared to provide a fuller story pitch. If the panel wants to know more, they'll ask for it.

    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Sentence Interview

    Hello All,

    I was interviewed on Cross-Cultural Poetics a few months back and the link is up on their web site. If you're interested in listening to a 15-minute interview about prose poetry, it's #158:


    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Words of Wisdom


    by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

    Sometimes people ask me for help or suggestions about how to write, or how to get published. Keeping in mind that this is all very ephemeral and personal, I will try to explain here everything that I believe about writing. I hope it is useful. It's all I know.

    I believe that – if you are serious about a life of writing, or indeed about any creative form of expression – that you should take on this work like a holy calling. I became a writer the way other people become monks or nuns. I made a vow to writing, very young. I became Bride-of-Writing. I was writing’s most devotional handmaiden. I built my entire life around writing. I didn’t know how else to do this. I didn’t know anyone who had ever become a writer. I had no, as they say, connections. I had no clues. I just began.

    I took a few writing classes when I was at NYU, but, aside from an excellent workshop taught by Helen Schulman, I found that I didn’t really want to be practicing this work in a classroom. I wasn’t convinced that a workshop full of 13 other young writers trying to find their voices was the best place for me to find my voice. So I wrote on my own, as well. I showed my work to friends and family whose opinions I trusted. I was always writing, always showing. After I graduated from NYU, I decided not to pursue an MFA in creative writing. Instead, I created my own post-graduate writing program, which entailed several years spent traveling around the country and world, taking jobs at bars and restaurants and ranches, listening to how people spoke, collecting experiences and writing constantly. My life probably looked disordered to observers (not that anyone was observing it that closely) but my travels were a very deliberate effort to learn as much as I could about life, expressly so that I could write about it.

    Back around the age of 19, I had started sending my short stories out for publication. My goal was to publish something (anything, anywhere) before I died. I collected only massive piles of rejection notes for years. I cannot explain exactly why I had the confidence to be sending off my short stories at the age of 19 to, say, The New Yorker, or why it did not destroy me when I was inevitably rejected. I sort of figured I’d be rejected. But I also thought: “Hey – somebody has to write all those stories: why not me?” I didn’t love being rejected, but my expectations were low and my patience was high. (Again – the goal was to get published before death. And I was young and healthy.) It has never been easy for me to understand why people work so hard to create something beautiful, but then refuse to share it with anyone, for fear of criticism. Wasn’t that the point of the creation – to communicate something to the world? So PUT IT OUT THERE. Send your work off to editors and agents as much as possible, show it to your neighbors, plaster it on the walls of the bus stops – just don’t sit on your work and suffocate it. At least try. And when the powers-that-be send you back your manuscript (and they will), take a deep breath and try again. I often hear people say, “I’m not good enough yet to be published.” That’s quite possible. Probable, even. All I’m saying is: Let someone else decide that. Magazines, editors, agents – they all employ young people making $22,000 a year whose job it is to read through piles of manuscripts and send you back letters telling you that you aren’t good enough yet: LET THEM DO IT. Don’t pre-reject yourself. That’s their job, not yours. Your job is only to write your heart out, and let destiny take care of the rest.

    As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

    I have a friend who’s an Italian filmmaker of great artistic sensibility. After years of struggling to get his films made, he sent an anguished letter to his hero, the brilliant (and perhaps half-insane) German filmmaker Werner Herzog. My friend complained about how difficult it is these days to be an independent filmmaker, how hard it is to find government arts grants, how the audiences have all been ruined by Hollywood and how the world has lost its taste…etc, etc. Herzog wrote back a personal letter to my friend that essentially ran along these lines: “Quit your complaining. It’s not the world’s fault that you wanted to be an artist. It’s not the world’s job to enjoy the films you make, and it’s certainly not the world’s obligation to pay for your dreams. Nobody wants to hear it. Steal a camera if you have to, but stop whining and get back to work.” I repeat those words back to myself whenever I start to feel resentful, entitled, competitive or unappreciated with regard to my writing: “It’s not the world’s fault that you want to be an artist…now get back to work.” Always, at the end of the day, the important thing is only and always that: Get back to work. This is a path for the courageous and the faithful. You must find another reason to work, other than the desire for success or recognition. It must come from another place.

    Here’s another thing to consider. If you always wanted to write, and now you are A Certain Age, and you never got around to it, and you think it’s too late…do please think again. I watched Julia Glass win the National Book Award for her first novel, “The Three Junes”, which she began writing in her late 30’s. I listened to her give her moving acceptance speech, in which she told how she used to lie awake at night, tormented as she worked on her book, asking herself, “Who do you think you are, trying to write a first novel at your age?” But she wrote it. And as she held up her National Book Award, she said, “This is for all the late-bloomers in the world.” Writing is not like dancing or modeling; it’s not something where – if you missed it by age 19 – you’re finished. It’s never too late. Your writing will only get better as you get older and wiser. If you write something beautiful and important, and the right person somehow discovers it, they will clear room for you on the bookshelves of the world – at any age. At least try.

    There are heaps of books out there on How To Get Published. Often people find the information in these books contradictory. My feeling is -- of COURSE the information is contradictory. Because, frankly, nobody knows anything. Nobody can tell you how to succeed at writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At Writing”) because there is no WAY; there are, instead, many ways. Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently – sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a writer.

    In the end, I love this work. I have always loved this work. My suggestion is that you start with the love and then work very hard and try to let go of the results. Cast out your will, and then cut the line. Please try, also, not to go totally freaking insane in the process. Insanity is a very tempting path for artists, but we don’t need any more of that in the world at the moment, so please resist your call to insanity. We need more creation, not more destruction. We need our artists more than ever, and we need them to be stable, steadfast, honorable and brave – they are our soldiers, our hope. If you decide to write, then you must do it, as Balzac said, “like a miner buried under a fallen roof.” Become a knight, a force of diligence and faith. I don’t know how else to do it except that way. As the great poet Jack Gilbert said once to young writer, when she asked him for advice about her own poems: “Do you have the courage to bring forth this work? The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say YES.”

    Good luck.

    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    Video: JEN ALLEN BIG BAND, Imagination

    IMPAC-CSU System
    Young Writers 11th annual dinner,
    June 1, 2008

  • Video By Ron Samul

  • Jen Allen Big Band

    JEN ALLEN, keyboard
    KRIS ALLEN, alto
    LAURA TELMAN, trumpet
    JAKE THIBAULT, tenor / alto
    STEVE BROOKES, tenor / alto
    GEOFF BROOKES, trumpet
    KEITH GIBSON, guitar
    BEN BILELLO, drums
    PETER McEACHERN, trombone

    LAURA McCABE, lead vocalist

  • Jen Allen Big Band Photos & Bios

  • Video also posted @
  • Young Writers Trust

  • A couple other versions of Imagination ...

  • Version Two

  • Version Three