How to Survive in DC: An AWP Guide

I've compiled the following tips for my writer-tourist friends arriving in DC this week. I hope they help!

1. Escalators
STAND on the right.
WALK on the left.
LAY DOWN UNDER THE FEET OF DCers if you violate this rule.

2. Visiting a Starbucks
Our Starbucks are not like normal Starbucks. Please keep in mind the following guidelines.

a. There may or may not be a line. If you can discern a line, get in it. You must "box out" like in basketball to prevent skipping from people who are busier and--frankly--more important than you.

b. You may be familiar with Starbucks's friendly baristas who are happy to help you, customize your beverage, etc. We don't have any of those. We have embittered, surly folk whose job it is to actively prevent you from getting anything you may have ever wanted in your entire life.

c. Since the baristas will not call out your drink (or fail to do so correctly), someone may "mistakenly" take it. Please understand, in DC, there are no mistakes.

d. If someone takes your drink, pay it forward. Steal someone else's. DC: trickle-down economics works!

3. Weather
Our weather is unpredictable, but one thing you can be sure of is that it will be unbearable. Be sure to pack the following:

Umbrellas (2--1 will fail due to high winds and/or be stolen)
A swimming suit or board shorts
A parka
A light cardigan/tank top set
A warm hat
Crocs (just kidding--are you even reading this?)

4. Socializing with the locals
You can identify most DC residents easily, as they begin conversations this way:

"Hello! I am [DC Resident's name]."
"Hi, nice to meet you."
"Yes, it is. What do you do?"

Recommendation: do not reveal you work in the arts, are an artist, enjoy art, or advocate for arts funding. Instead, say, "I am a lobbyist." This will make most people vanish into thin air.

5. Riding on Metro

Here's a tip from a nearby DC insider: "Avoid the Red Line like an STI." The Red Line routinely experiences delays, single-tracking, and other debacles, rendering it nearly useless. Fortunately, this year's AWP is located: on the Red Line.

Purchase a dollar-value farecard rather than a multi-day farecard (which come with all sorts of pointless time restrictions). You can roll the dollar value over onto new cards, should you need to reload, and you can also precisely calculate your roundtrip fares using the fareboard at the card machine.

Make sure you insert your farecard into the turnstile so that the arrow points toward the machine. It will pop out the top. Pull it out and the gate will open, allowing you to pass through.

6. Having a drink or two

Recommended frequently: multiple times throughout the day.

Happy Hour is the dominant drinking mode for DCers, and you'll find generous and festive happy hours throughout the city.

7. The Smithsonian

Worth seeing: First Ladies' dresses, Portrait Gallery, Hirschorn. Skip: the rest.

DO NOT GO INTO THE NATIONAL AQUARIUM unless you are interested in paying $20 for the equivalent of looking at fish tanks in your neighbor's living room.

8. Eating

As much as people in DC love to drink, they also love to eat. There are a ton of great restaurants around, no matter what kind of food you're looking for. If I were you, here's what I would cry about having missed:

Ben's Chili Bowl (U Street)
Matchbox (Gallery Place/Chinatown)

That is all.

Enjoy your visit.
Jaleo (Penn Quarter)


Consider life without the NEA

Here's roughly half of the literary organizations receiving support from the NEA in 2010.

Consider the number of presses, publications, and author support organizations here, and then consider how your involvement in advocacy will make a difference this year.

A Public Space Literary Projects, Inc.
Brooklyn, NY
To support the publication of the quarterly literary magazine A Public Space. The journal will pair emerging writers with mentors to develop new pieces of fiction for publication.

Academy of American Poets, Inc.
New York, NY
To support the publication and promotion of American Poet magazine. The Academy also will expand its online publishing initiative, poets.org, which serves nearly one million visitors each month.

Alice James Poetry Cooperative, Inc. (aka Alice James Books)
Farmington, ME
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of books of poetry. The selected poets will also read from their works at venues around the country.

American Poetry Review
Philadelphia, PA
To support the publication and distribution of American Poetry Review. The journal will expand its reading audience through direct mail campaigns, Web promotion, and advertising.

Antioch University (on behalf of The Antioch Review)
Yellow Springs, OH
To support the publication and promotion of The Antioch Review. The journal will hire a part-time staff member to carry out a Web-based marketing campaign, and increase support for artists.

Archipelago Books, Inc.
Brooklyn, NY
To support the publication and promotion of works of fiction in translation. Proposed titles will be translated into English from German, Swedish, Russian, Arabic, Dutch, Polish, and Croatian.

Aspect, Inc. (aka Zephyr Press)
Brookline, MA
To support the publication and promotion of new bilingual books of poetry by Zephyr Press. Proposed works will be translated into English from Chinese, Polish, and Hebrew.

Badgerdog Literary Publishing, Inc. (on behalf of American Short Fiction)
Austin, TX
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of the quarterly journal American Short Fiction. The journal also will publish short stories exclusively on its website, updated monthly.

Bard College (on behalf of Words Without Borders)
Annandale-Hudson, NY
To support publication of Words Without Borders, an interactive website devoted to international literature. The free-of-charge website features audio recordings, nonfiction, short stories, poems, and novel excerpts drawn from more than 66 languages in 86 countries.

Bard College (on behalf of Conjunctions)
Annandale-Hudson, NY
To support the publication and promotion of the journal Conjunctions. Published twice a year, each issue of the journal has a unifying theme and averages more than 400 pages.

Big River Association (aka River Styx)
Saint Louis, MO
To support the publication and distribution of River Styx, St. Louis's oldest literary magazine. Contributors are selected from an annual pool of 6,000 submissions.

BOA Editions, Ltd.
Rochester, NY
To support the production, promotion, and related expenses for new volumes of poetry and fiction. Scheduled authors include Peter Makuck, Wyn Cooper, Craig Morgan Teicher, Anne Germanacos, Barbara Jane Reyes, Jeanne Marie Beaumont, and Sean Thomas Dougherty.

Boston Critic, Inc. (aka Boston Review)
Somerville, MA
To support the inclusion of fiction and poetry in the general interest magazine Boston Review. Fiction selections will be chosen by novelist and editor Junot Díaz.

Boston University (on behalf of AGNI Magazine)
Boston, MA
To support the publication and promotion of the literary journal, AGNI. The journal will automate its website, continue a direct-mail campaign, and place advertisements in a national publication.

Bowery Arts and Science, Ltd.
New York, NY
To support the publication and promotion of books of poetry. Authors include Cynthia Kraman, Fay Chiang, Celena Glenn, Rachel McKibbens, and Ishle Yi Park.

Center for Religious Humanism (on behalf of Image: A Journal of the Arts & Religion)
Seattle, WA
To support the production and promotion of, as well as increased writers' fees for, Image: A Journal of the Arts & Religion. The journal will increase its national reach through a direct-mail campaign.

Center for the Art of Translation (on behalf of Two Lines)
San Francisco, CA
To support the publication and promotion of anthologies of literature in translation. The center will publish one book of Francophone literature and one of Arabic literature.

Children's Book Press
San Francisco, CA
To support the publication and promotion of multicultural and bilingual board books for early readers. The press will continue a five-year program to encourage reading among bilingual children.

Coffee House Press
Minneapolis, MN
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of volumes of poetry and fiction. Scheduled writers include Karen Tei Yamashita, Travis Nichols, Andrew Ervin, Aaron Morales, Ange Mlinko, Greg Hewett, and Lightsey Darst.

College of Charleston (on behalf of Crazyhorse Literary Journal)
Charleston, SC
To support the publication and promotion of the literary journal Crazyhorse. The journal will undertake a direct-mail campaign as well as increase its print runs, author payments, and advertisements.

Colorado State University (on behalf of Colorado Review)
Fort Collins, CO
To support publication and promotion of the Colorado Review. The journal will offer free subscriptions to 150 rural public libraries.

Copper Canyon Press
Port Townsend, WA
To support the publication, promotion, and national distribution of books of poetry. Proposed authors include Richard Jones, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Jean Valentine, Ruth Stone, Stephen Dobyns, Juan Ramon Jiménez, and Chase Twichell.

Creative Nonfiction Foundation
Pittsburgh, PA
To support the publication and promotion of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction. The journal will launch a redesign of its issues, featuring long-form essays, as well as columns about books, writers, and the craft and business of writing.

Curators of the University of Missouri at Columbia (on behalf of The Missouri Review)
Columbia, MO
To support the publication, promotion, and related expenses for The Missouri Review. Audiobook versions of the journal also will be produced.

Dalkey Archive Press
Champaign, IL
To support the publication and promotion of works of translation of fiction and nonfiction. The press will publish titles from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Japan, Norway, Portugal, and Slovenia.

Emerson College (on behalf of Ploughshares)
Boston, MA
To support the publication and national distribution of Ploughshares. The editorial policy of Ploughshares stipulates that each issue be guest-edited by a writer who is given editorial autonomy to apply his or her aesthetic vision.

Fence Magazine, Inc.
Albany, NY
To support the publication and promotion of Fence magazine, titles by Fence Books, and a catalogue. Scheduled poetry titles include Ben Doller's Dead Ahead, Aaron Kunin's The Sore Throat, and Martin Corless-Smith's English Fragments/A Brief History of the Soul.

Four Way Books, Inc.
New York, NY
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of books of poetry. Scheduled authors include Priscilla Becker, David Dodd Lee, Jamie Ross, Daniel Tobin, Monica Youn, and Megan Staffel.

Graywolf Press
St. Paul, MN
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of volumes of poetry and creative nonfiction, with an emphasis on international fiction and emerging and mid-career writers. Scheduled authors include Alyson Hagy, Jeffrey Allen, Robert Boswell, Per Petterson, Bernardo Atxaga, Nathacha Appanah, Tiphanie Yanique, and Maile Chapman.

Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts
Houston, TX
To support printing expenses, website development, and artist fees for the journal Gulf Coast. The project also will include a free reading series, a literary contest, and a small press journal and book fair.

Heyday Institute (aka Heyday Books)
Berkeley, CA
To support the publication of an anthology of African American writers in California. Contemporary emerging writers will be featured alongside established authors such as Walter Mosley, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, James Madison Bell, and Maya Angelou.

Kenyon Review
Gambier, OH
To support publication and costs and related expenses for the Kenyon Review and KR Online. The publication will integrate its print and online content and will launch a marketing campaign to promote both the journal and the website.

Les Figues Press
Los Angeles, CA
To support the production, distribution, and promotion of new works of poetry and prose as part of the press's TrenchArt series. The series specializes in innovative literary work that may not fit into a specific genre.

Milkweed Editions, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN
To support the publication and promotion of works of poetry, fiction, and an anthology. Scheduled authors include Eric Gansworth, Kira Henehan, Éireann Lorsung, and Arra Lynn Ross.

Muae Publishing, Inc. (aka Kaya Press)
New York, NY
To support the publication and printing of Asian American literature. The press plans to promote its titles with reading tours, conference appearances, on the Internet, and through direct mail.

Narrative Magazine, Inc.
San Francisco, CA
To support the artists fees for Narrative Magazine, a free online journal of new literature. Recent contributors have included Joyce Carol Oates, E.L. Doctorow, Amy Tan, and T. C. Boyle.

One Story, Inc. (aka One Story)
Brooklyn, NY
To support the publication and promotion of the literary journal One Story. Each issue features one short story by one writer.

Orion Society
Great Barrington, MA
To support feature-length pieces of literary prose in Orion magazine. A bi-monthly literary and visual arts journal devoted to exploring the relationship between people and the natural world, the magazine currently has 20,000 subscribers.

Oxford American Literary Project
Little Rock, AR
To support the publication and promotion of the literary magazine The Oxford American. The magazine continues to highlight the work of emerging and established Southern writers and Southern culture.

Poetry Flash
Berkeley, CA
To support the publication and distribution of Poetry Flash, a free tabloid of event listings, readings, workshops, and literary news. Divided into geographical sections, Poetry Flash lists programs throughout California, the Pacific Northwest, and the Southwest.

Provincetown Arts Press, Inc.
Provincetown, MA
To support publication of the 25th anniversary issue of Provincetown Arts. The press will improve its website, increase artist fees, and publish a companion anthology of previously published work.

Rain Taxi, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of the Rain Taxi Review of Books. The quarterly magazine has a national circulation of 18,000 copies.

Rose Metal Press, Inc.
Boston, MA
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of works in hybrid genres. Scheduled books include a book of essays and poems exploring the craft of writing prose poetry, a chapbook of short short stories, and a book of prose poetry.

Sarabande Books, Inc.
Louisville, KY
To support the publication and promotion of collections of creative nonfiction and poetry. The press will promote its authors online to rural and urban schools and libraries.

Small Press Distribution, Inc.
Berkeley, CA
To support the development and dissemination of print and online outreach materials to market small press titles and journals to bookstores, libraries, educators, and other readers. Approximately 450 small and independent presses are represented.

Sun Publishing Company, Inc. (aka The Sun)
Chapel Hill, NC
To support printing extra copies of The Sun to distribute free to community college libraries across the country. The Sun is a monthly magazine with 65,000 subscribers featuring prose, poetry, interviews, creative nonfiction, and photography.

Teachers and Writers Collaborative
New York, NY
To support the development and dissemination of materials related to the teaching of creative writing and the literary arts. The collaborative will publish Rouse Our Rhyme, a book on teaching poetry in the K-12 classroom, issues of the quarterly magazine Teachers & Writers, and issues of an e-newsletter.

Threepenny Review
Berkeley, CA
To support authors' fees and promotion costs for The Threepenny Review. The proposed issues will be promoted through a direct-mail campaign, collaborative literary events with other organizations, advertising, appearances at local book fairs, and the journal's website.

Tupelo Press, Inc.
North Adams, MA
To support the publication and promotion of new collections of poetry and international literature. Proposed authors include Gary Soto, Ellen Doré Watson, Michael Chitwood, Megan Snyder-Camp, Rebecca Dunham, and Stacey Waite.

Ugly Duckling Presse, Ltd.
Brooklyn, NY
To support the publication and promotion of books of poetry and a book of prose, poetry, photography, and essays. Proposed authors include Demosthenes Agrafiotis, Clark Coolidge, Marosa Di Giorgio, Eugène Guillevic, Christian Hawkey, Cole Swensen, and Ivan Yauri.

University of Central Missouri State University (on behalf of Pleiades & Pleiades Press)
Warrensburg, MO
To support the publication of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing and books of poetry. As part of its Unsung Masters Series, the press will publish a book of essays and a sampling of poems by an under-appreciated poet.

University of Chicago (on behalf of Chicago Review)
Chicago, IL
To support publication and promotion of a special issue of the Chicago Review focusing on new writing from Italy. The journal will bring featured writers to Chicago for readings.

University of Hawaii at Manoa (on behalf of Manoa: A Pacific Journal of International Writing)
Honolulu, HI
To support the publication, distribution, and design of the literary journal Manoa. The journal features literary poetry, prose, and translations as well as photography and visual art.

University of Houston (on behalf of Arte Público Press)
Houston, TX
To support publication and promotion of anthologies celebrating the 30th anniversary of the press. The anthologies will feature previously published poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction celebrating the best of Arte Público Press.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (on behalf of Ninth Letter Literary Journal)
Champaign, IL
To support the publication of the literary and arts journal Ninth Letter. Issues will feature new literary prose and poetry from new and established writers as well as graphic design produced by students at the University of Illinois School of Art and Design.

University of Massachusetts at Amherst (on behalf of Jubilat)
Amherst, MA
To support the redesign of Jubilat's website and to print and promote issues.Recent contributors to the journal include Daisy Fried, Terrance Hayes, Cathy Park Hong, Karen Volkman, and Rosemary Waldrop.

University of Nebraska at Lincoln (on behalf of University of Nebraska Press)
Lincoln, NE
To support the publication, promotion, and distribution of translated fiction and literary fiction and creative nonfiction. Featured authors include Isabelle Eberhardt, Édouard Glissant, Olivier Rolin, Ana María Shua, Toni Jensen, Terese Svoboda, Robert Vivian, Fleda Brown, Ellen Cassedy, Sonya Huber, Patrick Madden, David Mogen, Jon Pineda, and Tracy Seeley.

University of North Carolina at Wilmington (on behalf of Ecotone)
Wilmington, NC
To support the publication and promotion of a trade paperback collection of Edith Pearlman's work. Other planned activities include raising artists' fees and a cross-promotion of this series with the biannual journal Ecotone, which seeks to bridge the gap between the literary world and the worlds of science and environmentalism.

University of Texas at Austin (on behalf of University of Texas Press)
Austin, TX
To support the acquisition, publication, promotion, and distribution of English-language translations. The University of Texas Press is an international press, dedicated to publishing English-language translations of literature from all over the world with a specific focus on Latin America and the Middle East.

San Francisco, CA
To support the publication, promotion, and related costs of Zyzzyva, a journal featuring the work of West Coast writers. Each issue includes approximately 20 writers, one-third of whom have never been in print.


An Open Letter to My Literary Community

Dear Writers of America,

Why aren't you more actively engaged in supporting federal, state, and local funding for the arts?

Many of us, myself included, have found personal benefit in this funding. Several years ago, I was one of 11 artists to receive a $5,000 grant for poetry from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. The poems receiving that award ultimately became the centerpieces of my first collection, The First Risk. The funding I received from the Arizona Commission not only provided significant financial support as I balanced my "two full time job life" (one that paid/one (being a writer) that didn't), it also provided me with the emotional fuel to complete the collection.

In the 90s, Congress decided that artists funded by the National Endowment for the Arts were doing harm to traditional American values. In response, they cut funding to the Endowment, crippling its ability to support individual artists. Today, writers and jazz musicians are the only independent artists eligible to receive project grants from the National Endowment.

Each winter, we as a community celebrate our colleagues, peers, and friends who receive this generous and essential awards. We revel in the knowledge that poetry and fiction matter to our culture, that many of us who work low income jobs or without health insurance can find legitimacy through our art.

Each year, the National Endowment and state arts agencies provide millions of dollars to the organizations that allow us to connect with our audiences and readers: nonprofit presses (now the bread and butter of poetry publishing), literary centers, writing conferences, publishing collectives, book review outlets, and so on.

While federal or state funding should never be considered a crutch or an essential income stream, it is important. To paraphrase Adrienne Rich, federal funding is not "more necessary" than sales revenue, donations, or grants--"but it is necessary."

In an article published today, The Huffington Post reports that Congress is yet again pilfering the measley arts coffers in an effort to close our budget gap.

And, if we don't act, they will take that money.

They have already taken the arts out of our schools. Now they will take money away from our presses, meaning fewer books can be published. They will take money away from our literary centers, meaning fewer writers can be remunerated for appearing there, fewer staff can be hired and sustained. They will take money away from our state and local arts agencies, whose goals are to fund smaller projects and organizations, more individual artists in other disciplines.

They will pull the plug on the arts, and many of our organizations--well run or not--will wither and die.

The good news is there is something you can do. (And, if you ask me, there's something you must do.) Become an advocate for the arts by telling your story. Explain the value arts organizations give to YOU, your family, your community.

Get involved on the state level by locating your state advocacy agency (often called "Alliance for the Arts," "Citizens for the Arts," "or "Action for the Arts") and sign up to be notified when important votes come up in the legislature.

They will prepare your email or print letter for you. All you have to do is click send or print it out.

And it matters.

When 10 people contact a legislator about an issue, it makes a difference. If 100 people contact 10 legislators, it makes a significant difference. When 1,000 people contact 100 legislators, it has a snowball effect. Imagine what we could do if even just 1,000 writers signed up to be arts advocates and made a commitment to be more involved with arts policy in our country.

Writing is an isolating art. We are often not at the table when larger discussions of "the arts" occur. But that's our own fault. We aren't going to be invited to this party, so we need to crash it. We'll make our own seat.

Help save federal funding for the arts by signing up for the Arts Action Fund through Americans for the Arts. You'll get only a few emails each year updating you on the progress of our advocacy, and you'll only be asked to send a few yourself.

Those twenty minutes you'll spend this year advocating the arts can have twenty years of impact.

What else will you do this year to make such an incredible difference not only in the future of American art but the future of America?

A culture is remembered through its art. We are the makers of that memory. We are the makers of our future.


From Busboys and Poets

What you can't hear in the beginning is me explaining that the poem titles in Nanopedia come from neologisms of American origin, or words or terms that have been corrupted by American culture in some way.



"Although all poets aspire to be birds, no bird aspires to be a poet."

— Mary Ruefle



Happy birthday Arden! Today you are 5, or, according to an online schnauzer age calculator, you are 33 in human years.

Here are five special things about you:

1. Your grunty old-man-clearing-his-throat noise you make all the time (a-hem-hem-hem-hem) is totally adorable and makes everyone fall in love with you. Also, your "NAR NAR NAR" growly bark you make when you think someone is up to no good in the hallway.

2. Your eyebrows, or "awnings," as we call them, when they grow too long and hang over your face like Tammy Faye Bakker.

3. Your "diva toenail" that has grown to be about four inches long, so you can wag it in the face of all the no-good dogs you run into outside who don't show you the courtesy you deserve!

4. That you give kisses all the time, although sometimes reluctantly when we ask for them. That you yawn in our faces with your mustard gas breath. That you don't fart until you are deep under the covers...and we least expect it.

5. That even though you are always a lady, sometimes you are a fierce lady!