An Interview with Deanne Stillman

twentynine palms coverDeanne Stillman is the author of four books, including Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, a Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History, and Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave. In 2013, Inlandia’s online literary journal published “The Lost Children of the Inland Empire”, an excerpt from Desert Reckoning. She teaches in the UC Riverside-Palm Desert MFA Low Residency Creative Writing Program.

 

 

Cati Porter: Much of your subject matter is inspired by the west — old and new, including the Inland Empire. What brought you to this region?

Deanne Stillman: I grew up in Ohio and had been wanting to escape for as long as I can remember. My father used to read the Edgar Allan Poe poem, “Eldorado,” to me when I was little. I would vanish into it, and later started to read Mary Austen, Willa Cather, Native American myths; Tony Hillerman was a professor of mine at UNM – an early trail guide. Also, I grew up around horses; my mother was an “exercise boy” at the racetrack, and that fueled my wanderlust. I was writing as a little girl as well, and knew I wanted to continue. Everything came together when I got out of Dodge, and, well, came to Dodge.

 

CP: In 2013, a year after Desert Reckoning was published, Inlandia brought you out to present for us at the Riverside Public Library, and it happened the same week the Christopher Dorner manhunt took place. What was that like?

DS: Strangely, Desert Reckoning – about a manhunt – merged with the Dorner manhunt as it was unfolding. One of the characters in my book, Rande Linville, lives in Big Bear, and had spotted Dorner’s burning truck during the search. He alerted cops, putting them on Dorner’s tail. Weirdly, Rande was planning to come to my talk that night, but his neighborhood was locked down as I was speaking! Remember the sirens? That was cops chasing Dorner. Also, the cabin where Dorner was killed was owned by some people from the Antelope Valley, where my book takes place. In the end, Dorner went out in a blaze of glory, like Donald Kueck, the hermit I wrote about. He had probably seen the coverage; I wrote about it for Rolling Stone and the manhunt became the template for other law enforcement agencies.

 

CP: Former Inlandia Literary Laureate Gayle Brandeis says of your work, “One of the greatest gifts of this book is how Deanne Stillman is able to open our hearts to people we might otherwise judge or dismiss.” How is it that you are able to paint such a complex portrait of the people you write about?

DS: Certain stories call me; they are place-based, generally, with the desert as a character. I’m sympatico with the people who live there, due to my riches-to-rags childhood which took my family from the right side of the tracks to the wrong side in about 24 hours. Suddenly we were persona non grata as far as certain relatives were concerned. I learned about America’s dirty little secret, class, at a young age. There were castaways, and I had become one.

 

CP: This is the fifteenth anniversary of the publication of  Twentynine Palms: A True Story of Murder, Marines, and the Mojave, about two girls killed by a Marine in Twentynine Palms after the Gulf War. What drove you to write this particular book?

DS: I was hiking in Joshua Tree National Park and afterwards, I stopped at a bar for a drink. I heard people gossiping about two girls who had been “sliced up by a Marine.” I asked about them and was told that they were “just some trash in town.” That hit me hard and I knew I would tell their story.

 

CP: Twentynine Palms was an LA Times “best book of the year” and bestseller, and Hunter Thompson called it “A strange and brilliant story by an important American writer”.  It’s taught in many college literary nonfiction classes, yet remains controversial. Can you talk about that?

DS: The town depends on the Marines and tourism for income. In part, my book is about a Marine with a history of violence towards women, and the culture that aggravated his behavior. The murders of Mandi Scott and Rosalie Ortega happened on dollar-drink night, which was Marine payday, when violence spiked. Twentynine Palms, which I love by the way, is the portal into Joshua Tree National Park. Some town elders were concerned that my book would drive tourists away. But to this day, people tell me they have visited Twentynine Palms because they love the way I wrote about the desert.

 

CP: All of your work features heavy material — a mustang massacre, the killing of two girls, a hermit who digs his own grave and commits suicide by cop.   Does this affect your emotional well-being?

DS: Yes, it does. It’s one of the reasons my books take years to write. Sometimes I have to step away. Incidentally, people come to me with violent stories all of the time. I am generally not interested. There must be a way in for me, and most stories of crime are smaller than the sum of their parts. I simply cannot write those.

 

CP: Your book Mustang will soon be released on audio with an all-star cast: Anjelica Huston, Frances Fisher, John Densmore (the drummer in the Doors)…. What has the process been like, seeing your book move into an audio format, and, more importantly, did you get to meet Anjelica Huston?

DS: Well, the cast is an embarrassment of riches, and they sound great! Everyone is now involved in the wild horse campaign, and some were before Mustang came out, such as John Densmore. I met Anjelica Huston some time ago; she had optioned Twentynine Palms.

 

CP: You’re also an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, with credits going back to the 80s teen television show “Square Pegs” and a recent play, “Star Maps”, performed at the Ink Fest series at the Hudson Theatres in LA.   What other projects do you have on the horizon?

DS: My next book, with roots in Mustang, is Blood Brothers: The Strange Friendship Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill, which I’m writing for Simon and Schuster.

David Stone

Love Lines for Your Valentine

Still need to write your Valentine? Use lines from a local poet.

Someone seeking clarification about another’s romantic intent and who enjoys the use of lowercase letters like e. e. cummings might appreciate a line from Cindy Rinne’s “Another Park Poem.” Inspired by a walk in Riverside’s Fairmont Park, Rinne wrote, “did you try to carve the bark/ leave a heart…” Rinne lives in Redlands. Her next work is titled “Quiet Lantern.”

Courageous individuals who are willing to be vulnerable might use lines from Cati Porter’s poem “Clearly.” “Look at me/ and tell me that you want me, that you want to heart/ the distance and that you cannot in the object see/ a flaw, and though I am (flawed) I am for you, and/ there is a small tight thought that is wound in me,/ that knowing that you love, a lightning, a lightning/ on the inside: so that you see; so that you know.” Porter lives in Riverside. Her latest book “My Skies of Small Horses” comes out this month.

Seasoned lovers may like to use lines from “Litany” from Claremont poet Lucia Galloway’s latest chapbook “The Garlic Peelers:” “O love, what is your wish?/ We’ve half again as much to say as we have said./ Set down the goblet, and the carmine wine/ sheets down its sides to pool in the bowl./ Let’s drink our words instead of hoarding them.”

Sweethearts who remind you of characters from the The Big Bang Theory should appreciate lines from Marsha Schuh’s “You and Me in Binary.” Appropriately published in the computer textbook Schuh co-wrote with Stanford Rowe, Schuh imagines a world based on four, considers the dominance of the decimal in our world and closes her poem with pondering the numerical effects of becoming a couple: “Then we unlearn it all /learn to speak binary,/ a better way,/ two as opposed to eight or ten,/ the most significant bit,/ the least significant bit/ one-two, on-off, you-we,/ binary.” Schuh resides in Ontario.

Lovers in a more ambiguous relationship may resonate with lines from the Palm Springs poet and writer Ruth Nolan. In her forthcoming book, “Ruby Mountain,” she writes, “shouldn’t I pretend you did it for love/ shouldn’t I believe it was a mistake/ shouldn’t I wonder why not/ shouldn’t I wonder why. . . .”

Those pained may appreciate the words of the title persona in Nikia Chaney’s “Sis Fuss.” The poem “Syllogizing Sis Fuss” closes: “we all hurt. And if we all/ hurt then we all hurt/ each other and the next.” Chaney lives in Rialto.

Jennifer and Chad Sweeney from Redlands are a couple, who are both accomplished poets. Jennifer provides profundity and striking imagery in her book “Salt Memory.” She writes, “As water poured into the heart flows out the palms, so does love return, as thirst, as satiation—the shape the lost ocean has carved onto the salt brick desert.”

With characteristic quirky humor in his book “White Martini for the Apocalypse,” Chad writes, “It was love./ She taught me to drive her bulldozer./ I taught her to forge my signature!”

In earthier lines from his poem “Effects,” first published in Caliban, Chad writes, “The best sex in the world happens during conjugal visits. I’ve gotten myself into prison twice, just to have it. That’s why I’m calling. Happy Valentine’s Day!” Chad Sweeney teaches creative writing at Cal State San Bernardino.

The longing and transformative power of love comes through in the closing lines of Judy Kronenfeld’s “Listen” from her forthcoming collection, “Bird Flying Through the Banquet,” 
“Let your eyes rest/ on my face. Arrest me/ in turn. I will burst/ from the seed/ of myself.” Kronenfeld is professor emerita from UCR.

Ontario poet Tim Hatch gives words to the desire to comfort one’s dearest when he or she is gone: “Scatter my memory where my memories are sweetest. Gulls cry, salt breeze carries me away. When you’re there you can breathe deep, take me inside and remember.”


For a wider array of classic poems to use for Valentine’s Day, search the Poetry Foundation’s website for “Poems for Valentines” or the poets.org site for “love poems.”

Return to lender? Borrowed books don’t always have to end up with original owner by Cati Porter

Twenty-five years ago, I borrowed Milan Kundera’s “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” from a boyfriend, along with a couple of books by Jack Kerouac and a college lit anthology.

I read them all. At some point, we broke up, quietly disappearing from one another’s lives, never to speak again.

I never returned those books.

Later, from a high school friend that I’d reconnected with after moving back home, I borrowed two short story collections by Woody Allen, a memoir of a young Chinese woman, and probably others that I’ve just assimilated because, as you might have guessed, I never returned those either.

Maybe it’s just me, but there is something about borrowing books from a friend that makes me feel that I can be leisurely about returning them. My friends don’t charge me late fines, and there is no revoking of my library card if I fail to return them on time.

Of course I should have returned them, but all these years later, I only half-regret that. I didn’t borrow them with the intention of keeping them, but time passes and people move on, and sometimes only the books remain.

Among my books, I still have a couple of high school textbooks: another literature anthology – which, incidentally, contains a poem by someone I have in later years gotten to know and work with as a mentor – and also a book on Greek myths, both lost in the mess beneath my bed until it was too late to return them with dignity, fines paid, the books long replaced.

Among my recently borrowed books, I currently have a collection of poetry by Tristan Tzara, two short story collections, a novel, and CDs of Dylan Thomas reading his poetry.

Yes, I intend to give those back. But for all the books I’ve borrowed and kept, I have loaned out three times as many, many of which are either still out, some never to be returned.

Books are meant to be shared. I have never been stingy about loaning my books, even prized volumes that are personally inscribed. I am a collector, but I am not a hoarder, and I would rather a book keep making the rounds than sit on my dusty shelf.

A friend stopped by my house this week in need of poetry. He is a voracious reader and recently consumed a 900-page biography of Darwin after recommending to my husband a multivolume biography of Lyndon Johnson, which we promptly ordered.

In addition to borrowing books, I believe in buying books and supporting our local booksellers, like Cellar Door Books, Renaissance Books, Downtowne Books and the Mission Inn Museum store.

I like real books with tangible pages that can tear, dog ear, wrinkle, stain. New or used, purchased, found, loaned or given. I am not one to turn pages gently in the upper right corner, never breaking the spine.

I open my books flat, I write in them – even borrowed books, though those I only write in lightly with pencil – and I fold corners and improvise bookmarks, cram them in my purse to be jammed up against a fat wallet, multiple pens, vials of pills. I am rough with my books. I like them lived in. A pristine book is an unloved book. I love my books, sometimes to death.

One of my favorites activities is looking through friends’ bookshelves, always attuned to the evidence of lives lived in the company of books: smears of chocolate, coffee, ketchup, grease; notes in the margin, or scrawled across the page, covers detached and taped back on.

I prefer to acquire used books over buying new for that reason; the cost savings is just a bonus. I love knowing that the book had a secret life before it came into my own – that somebody loved it, then set it free. But nothing beats a free book, a book freely given or loaned. Loaning a book to someone is like belonging to an exclusive club, one where to become a member requires trust, faith, and a willingness to let things go.

That is one reason I love the new Little Free Library trend. We trust, lend and sometimes let it go. To find one near you, all you need to do is visit littlefreelibrary.org and click on the “map” tab, then select “near me.”

According to this map, there are nine near me, including at a favorite sandwich shop, The Back Street, and up on Box Springs Mountain near the big C. There is also one in front of the Women’s Club on Brockton, and another at a private residence on Falkirk and one at a private residence on Victoria Avenue at Madison.

No, you can’t reserve a book. No, there isn’t a huge selection. But the fact that so many people value books in this way is heartening and I am reminded of all that communities do for each other. This is just one way for neighbors and strangers to connect, even if they never in fact meet. Books shared are the best kind of books around.

That Milan Kundera book? Loaned to another friend, mom to one of my oldest son’s elementary school classmates. I haven’t spoken to her in years. It is doubtful that I will ever get it back.

And that’s just the way it ought to be.

Inlandia: Past, Present, and Future by Cati Porter

People poured out of the elevators and onto the rooftop of the Riverside Art Museum last Friday night for the Totally Amazing Kickoff Event for the Marion Mitchell-Wilson Endowment for Inlandia’s Future. The invitation read, in part, “Marion would want you to attend.” With a 60″ banner of Marion flying at the entrance, she was definitely there, watching over all of us. Marion had many friends, and it was my privilege to be counted among them.

This was an event to remember.

With a drink in their hand, old friends and new listened to live jazz. Emceed by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Teresa Rhyne, and with speakers Heyday founder and publisher Malcolm Margolin, acclaimed photographer Douglas McCulloh, and award-winning local treasure and inaugural Literary Laureate Susan Straight (“There should be a statue!”), there was no shortage of talent present, and the space buzzed.

When the night was over, Marion’s wish had come true: We reached our goal of $100,000.

This is the power of friendship, and of community. I am in awe of all of you.

Some have asked what this endowment is going to do. In short, it will ensure the future of the Inlandia Institute and further the good work that Marion, Inlandia’s founder, set out to do.

Inlandia, since its inception, has provided hundreds of programs, and served many thousands, including creative literacy programs for youth.

SCIPP (Students and Coyotes Instruction in Poetry and Prose) at Bryant School of Art & Innovation in Riverside, a program created by Inlandia’s third Literary Laureate Juan Delgado, helps kids learn to write their own stories, songs, screenplays, and poems, present them in front of an audience, and allows them to see their work in print in a small book.

Other in-school presentations have included authors like Straight and Gayle Brandeis, inspiring the next generation to read and to write.

We’ve also brought puppetry programs to schools through Puppet Palooza, and writing workshops and readings to at-risk youth through a partnership with the Women Wonder Writers program.

Inlandia isn’t just for children, though; Inlandia offers creative literacy programs for adults, too. Our free creative writing workshops program has grown from one held in downtown Riverside to a half-dozen held at local libraries across the region, as well as an annual Family Legacy writing workshop for seniors and a Boot Camp for Writers series of workshops.

Inlandia also publishes books of local interest and national importance. In November of last year, we published No Easy Way: Integrating Riverside Schools – A Victory for Community by Arthur L. Littleworth, which tells the story of the 1965 voluntary integration of Riverside Unified School District, which spurred a series of community conversations that brought people together to talk through tough issues.

Coming in 2016, look for more books by local authors including the local signing sensations The Why Nots, an all-women’s musical group that has been performing together for forty-five years, and one on noted and noteworthy architect Henry Jekyl, who left a legacy of beautiful Riverside homes, and a few mysteries, by Dr. Vince Moses and Cate Whitmore.

In addition to those, we will also be publishing the winners of inaugural Hillary Gravendky Prize, an open poetry book competition with both a national and a regional winner, judged by award-winning CSUSB faculty poet Chad Sweeney. We are thrilled to announce that Kenji Liu (Monterrey Park, CA), was awarded the National prize for his manuscript Map of an Onion, and Angela Ina Penaredondo (Riverside, CA), was awarded the regional prize for her manuscript All Things Lose Thousands of Times.

Inlandia is also proud partners with local libraries and other arts organizations to provide other opportunities for literary engagement including the Riverside Public Library, where Inlandia recently began an outdoor summer reading series during Arts Walk, Literature on the Lawn; Poets in Distress, a performance poetry group, will be presenting on October 1. We also have a brand-new partnership with UCR’s Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts, the Conversations at the Culver series where just this past week we kicked off the series with Pulitzer Prize finalist and UCR professor Laila Lalami.

We also take pride in participating in community activities, from Riverside’s Day of Inclusion and Day of the Dead festivities, to the Native Voices Poetry Festival in Banning at the Dorothy Ramon Center to Western Municipal Water District’s Earth Night in Garden in April. Inlandia will also be a part of the upcoming Long Night of Arts & Innovation on October 8 and the Riverside Festival of the Arts on October 10, with interactive literary activities, including a Long Night of Arts & Innovation-sponsored Poetry Box: Bring a poem you wrote at home or write one on the spot and drop it in the box for a chance to win the Long Night Poetry Contest. One poem will be selected for publication on the Long Night of Arts and Innovation website.

Marion once said that Inlandia was “on the cusp”. I think whatever comes after the cusp: we’re here. Welcome to the future. Inlandia means a lot of things to a lot of different people. But to me, Inlandia means all of us. We are all Inlandia. Thank you.

Inlandia Founder Remembered by Cati Porter

No one could ever say “no” to Marion Mitchell-Wilson.

After I began attending Inlandia events in late 2007, Marion invited me for coffee. Before my cup was empty, I had agreed to become a member of Inlandia’s Advisory Council.

Smiling, thoughtful and almost always full of energy, Marion had a way of making you want to help with her projects. And you never regretted it.

Marion, founding director of the Inlandia Institute, died a week ago after a long battle with breast cancer.

I never envisioned an Inlandia without Marion. Occasionally she would say things like, “Cati, when I retire,” but I couldn’t think past the here and now.

Even after she officially “retired” in 2012 to work on getting well, she continued to be present for me, whispering suggestions and offering solutions, serving as Inlandia’s institutional memory.

Many of us have fond memories of Marion, and how she got us involved in promoting the Inland area’s literary life. We’ll share a few thoughts here from several Inlandia board members and local writers.

FRANCES J. VASQUEZ

Marion Mitchell-Wilson cared passionately about many things and all things Inlandia: the people, their stories, and the literary expression of our regional voices. Multi-talented, she was a wonderful gourmet cook who loved to share her bounty and her kindness with others.

One Friday, I helped Marion with preparations for an Inlandia member reception being held the next day. Her amazing menu included a favorite recipe for asparagus spears roasted with orange slices in lemon-infused olive oil and orange vinaigrette. And, a reconstructed whole poached salmon with cream cheese, cucumber sauces, and other delicacies.

During several hours of washing, peeling, and slicing fruits and vegetables, I spilled water on the kitchen floor. I asked for paper towels or rags to wipe the floor with. Marion, in her efficient way, quickly turned to a drawer and handed me a large cloth towel. I bent over to wipe the spills when Marion stopped me. “No, Frances. Don’t bend. Skate like this.”

Marion tossed the towel on the floor, stepped onto it with both feet and skated gracefully around her kitchen floor. We both laughed heartily and continued with the food preparations.

ELIO PALACIOS

I met Marion at last year’s Advisory Council workshop. My first impression was how unassuming she was considering the part she had played in creating and shaping Inlandia. And her love of and dedication to Inlandia was also very apparent as was her knowledge and wisdom.

KAREN RAE KRAUT

Marion and I met in 1990 when the California Humanities Council sponsored a series of public programs on the theme of “Place” and its effect on how we experience our lives. How’s that for foreshadowing?

Our expanding group of interested people went on to receive a grant from the Humanities Council to locally sponsor the American Renaissance Chautauqua, which resulted in the formation of a non-profit organization called the Inland Empire Educational Foundation. IEEF (rhymes with leaf), as we fondly called it, sponsored reading and discussion groups and public programs for the next five years.

Marion was an important part of all these free programs, and her vision and common sense contributed greatly to their success.

ELLEN ESTILAI

It was impossible to be part of the Riverside arts and culture scene and not know Marion Mitchell-Wilson, but I really got to know her after she invited me to a meeting with Malcolm Margolin at the Riverside Main Library to talk about the literary landscape of what we would eventually come to know as Inlandia.

That meeting helped lay the groundwork for Heyday’s book, “Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire.”

When the anthology was published, no one in the community wanted that journey to end. Marion was the engine that drove the bus, and she cajoled and sweet-talked fellow travelers into hopping on.

In 2007, I retired from the Riverside Arts Council to devote more time to writing. I was hoping for a respite from meetings and committees, but Marion was having none of that. She told me she wanted me to serve on the advisory council of a new organization, the Inlandia Institute.

“It’s just a few meetings a year,” she assured me. When I demurred, she said, “There will be liquid facilitation.”

I’ve now been in for eight years, as a council member and board member, but also as a writer. Luckily for me, the Inlandia Institute emerged just as I was learning to be a writer. I cannot imagine writing without Inlandia’s support. Like many others in this unique literary community, I am indebted to Marion for her vision, strength, and yes, occasional liquid facilitation.

ENDOWMENT

When Marion first learned the cancer had returned and was terminal, she met privately with Inlandia board members and staff, sharing her one big wish: that an endowment be founded in her name, so she could ensure the future of the organization.

In keeping with Marion’s wishes, the family is requesting donations in lieu of flowers.

Contributions can be made via PayPal, using donations@inlandiainstitute.org, through CrowdRise and by mailing a check to the Inlandia Institute, 4178 Chestnut St., Riverside, Ca., 92501.

And save these dates: Aug 28 for a memorial service at the California Citrus State Historic Park, and Sept 18 for a special endowment kickoff party in Marion’s honor at the Riverside Art Museum.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Submitting by Cati Porter

Most of you know me as the face of Inlandia. Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed for the My Awesome Empire radio broadcast. One of the things they asked was how did I get involved with Inlandia. I have Marion Mitchell-Wilson to thank, who invited me to coffee and the rest is history. Everyone who knows her knows that you can’t say no to Marion.

Marion and I met at an Inlandia event—I can’t even remember which, this was so long ago, but Inlandia was still housed at the Riverside Public Library, and Marion ran the organization from her post as Development Officer at the library, curating their arts and culture calendar. I was just a few years in to my own foray into arts & culture, having founded Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry, an online literary journal dedicated to poetry. The first Advisory Council meeting that I attended was in 2009, and shortly after that Inlandia broke from the library and formed its own independent nonprofit. I never envisioned then that I would someday be at the helm.

Marion had as one aspect of her vision for Inlandia, the preservation of the voices and stories of those that make this place home. In furthering that mission and vision, coupled with my own interest in writing and publishing, I have been working hard toward expanding Inlandia’s publications program. We have been slowly adding books to our catalog, both through Heyday and independently, and with the launch of the Hillary Gravendyk Prize, we hope to continue to bring books to the public for many years to come. It’s a slow process, though, one that requires patience as we gain speed.

Through Poemeleon first, and now through Inlandia, I’ve learned many things about publishing. It hasn’t been easy, and as a writer myself, it’s been challenging to follow my own advice sometimes, but years ago I found a very helpful list of “50 dos and don’ts”, which I’ve modified for my own use. For those of you looking for a publisher, or looking to submit work to Inlandia, try to keep these things in mind:

– Do read submissions guidelines carefully—it shows you respect the editor’s time, and that you take the submission process seriously.

– Don’t ask for feedback on your work, because, again, it shows you respect the editor’s time; if you want feedback, find a writers workshop to join or form your own.

– Do keep cover letters brief; don’t include anything personal other than your contact info, and don’t try to summarize what you are trying to do with the poems.

– Don’t include a bio that is a mile long—editors don’t need to see everywhere you’ve ever published; only include a handful of recognizable and recent credits, or don’t include any at all.

– Do spell check everything and proofread until you’re certain they are no typos, and don’t freak out if you find out later that there was a typo, because if the work is good, that can be fixed later; editors understand.

– Don’t center your poems or use any other weird formatting or font or use ALL CAPS unless you have a very strategic reason to do so.

– Do your research and submit only to journals that you’ve actually read and think might like your work.

– Don’t put the copyright symbol on your poems—copyright is inherent from the moment of creation. (And if someone is out to steal your work, the copyright symbol isn’t going to stop them.)

– Do submit to more than one press or journal at a time, as that ups the odds of the work getting picked. (Exception: if a press or journal specifically states no simultaneous submissions.)

And lastly:

– Don’t take rejection personally! There are so many reasons why an editor might pass something up. And if you get a personalized rejection, submit again—promptly!

Right now, Inlandia is gearing up to reopen submissions but we are not currently accepting full-length manuscripts. One of our goals is to provide services to authors—whether they are looking for a publisher, or want help publishing it themselves. All writing has an audience somewhere, it just takes patience, strategic submitting, and time.

But while you’re waiting, if you have individual prose or poetry selections, check out Inlandia’s online literary journal, Inlandia: A Literary Journey (www.InlandiaJournal.org). Or try these other So Cal presses and venues:

IE-centric Lit Journals:

PoetrIE/Tin Cannon

Wild Lemon Project

Pacific Review

Ghost Town

Crate

Mosaic

Muse

Shuf Poetry

See the Elephant

Presses:

Metaphysical Circus Press

Blue West Books

Jamii Publishing

Orange Monkey

Moon Tide

Spout Hill

Lucid Moose Lit

Cadence Collective

Sadie Girl Press

Arroyo Seco Press

For the Love of Words

Tebot Back

reVERB

Bank-Heavy Press

Kelsay Books

Aortic Books

Lummox Press

Locked Horn Press

I’m sure there are more presses out there—if you know of any, send me a link! Help me build a list of resources for Inlandia’s writers to include on our website.

A Conversation With Rattle Editor Tim Green by Cati Porter

We’re again in the midst of National Poetry Month, so I thought it might be a good time to catch up with one of our regular columnists, Timothy Green. An avid supporter of the literary community, Tim recently moved from Los Angeles to Wrightwood, a move that has proven fruitful for him and his family. Here is our conversation:

Cati: Inlandia is all about celebrating the region, so tell me: you’ve been living in the Inland Empire for a few years now. What convinced you that moving to Wrightwood was the right move, and how does it compare to where you were living before?

Tim: I grew up in western New York, and my wife in rural Washington, state. We moved to Los Angeles to work at Rattle, but we were never meant for the City of Angels. We managed for a while, avoiding crowds by time shifting our weekends and work hours, but then we had kids and realized we needed a change. We chose Wrightwood for the seasons, the nature, and the easy drive up—coming here felt like coming home. I’d never lived in a small town before, and now that I’ve experienced the friendliness of the line at the post office and how much everyone cares about things like Little League, I’ll never be able to leave.

Cati: Most people who follow this column know that you write for Inlandia Literary Journeys and by virtue of that know that you are the editor of Rattle, a prestigious literary journal based out of Los Angeles. You mentioned once that you read something like 80,000 submissions each year—is that right? How do you get through so many submissions?

Tim: Writers send us 100,000 poems a year now, which is 250 a day, every day—even Easter. When you consider that the average book of poetry is about 50 poems, that’s five books before bed each night. I don’t know how we do it—my wife Megan and I read everything, and we’re always reading. But, then, this is the 21st century; everyone is always reading. We’re just always reading something very specific: boxes of submissions.

Cati: Can you tell us about the literary community in Wrightwood? I understand there are a number of writers who live there? You’re a writer as well as an editor—how has moving to Wrightwood affected your writing?

Tim: Wrightwood is a great place for writers—it’s almost in the name, right? My office overlooks a few dozen Jeffrey pines, all of them full of squirrels and quail and Stellar’s jays. It’s a great space for daydreaming. And there are writers here—I met a few through Inlandia: MJ Koerper and Victoria Barras Tulacro. But there hasn’t really been a literary community; there hasn’t been a nexus to bring us all together.

Cati: Today in my inbox, I received notice that you are planning a Wrightwood Literary Festival? Can you tell me a bit about it—where did the idea come from, and what kinds of activities and special guests do you have planned? I understand you’re also leading a workshop, on polishing your writing for publication. That’s a great opportunity for folks who want an editor’s insider perspective.

Tim: We’re having this festival to bring us all out of the woods, so to speak. The festival was borne mostly of jealousy, to be honest. I love Wrightwood, but I wish there were more of an Idyllwild element to it. Wrightwood is a great gateway to skiing and hiking, or day-tripping the Angeles Crest, but it isn’t known for art—why not? There are artists here, many visual artists, many musicians, many writers. I thought we could show off the beauty of our mountains, while also giving our local artists something to rally around. 

Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado is giving a keynote presentation on hiking and storytelling, followed by creative workshops with local artists. It’s really a retreat: our goal is to provide a space where participants’ personal stories can come to life. The wildflowers will be blooming, the pine scent on the air will be at its peak—it will be a respite from the daily grind of the Inland Empire, capped off with a lively open mic.

My contribution will be a workshop on how to really move an audience through writing. We all have important stories to share, each one of us, but how do we make a complete stranger want to listen? As an editor, that’s been my job for the last decade, and I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Cati: Do you think the festival will become an annual event? If so, what do you think future years will have in store?

Tim: The festival is definitely going to become an annual event. We wanted to start small and build outward, and in the future we’d like to make it a whole weekend, spread across multiple venues in town, including more visual arts and theater. For now, more information for the May 30 event can be found at www.wrightwoodlitfest.com.

One Man at a Women’s Club by David Stone

Over thirty women filled the luncheon tables of the Beaumont Women’s Club on Sixth Street when I arrived. “Would you help us with an extra table?” asked Ruth Jennings, the Program Secretary of the Club. Getting put to work, I immediately felt like I was at a family event where the men had all escaped to another room.

A few weeks earlier, Mrs. Jennings had written me a beautiful handwritten letter in response to my Inlandia Literary Journeys column, The Lost Art of Letter Writing. She had invited me to join Cati Porter, Executive Director of the Inlandia Institute, to discuss the work of Inlandia and share some of our poems. Written on gray cotton stationary, Mrs. Jenning’s formally formatted letter described her own remarkable personal letter collection, including letters written by relatives describing scenes of the American Civil War and the funeral parade of President Garfield in 1881.

Although in my childhood my grandmother Margaret Stone was a longstanding member of the Waverly Women’s Club in Pennsylvania, and my mother, a housekeeper, had been paid to wash the dishes for that group’s meetings, I had never been privileged to view the proceedings of any of their meetings.

When the women in Beaumont stood to start their meeting by saying the pledge to the American flag as I brought in the last of the extra chairs they had asked me to retrieve from the hall closet, I paused in the door and placed my hand over my heart, feeling like a kid in school. I quickly joined Cati Porter at our back table in time to listen to the women recite the Women’s Club Pledge as they held hands. At first I felt compelled to join the women in committing to virtue and service, but hearing my own lower voice, I fell silent and scanned the room. The youngest were middle-aged like myself. The oldest, Blanche B. Fries, sat directly in front of me. At a hundred years old, she told me she still teaches piano lessons to children. She has five students.

President Joan Marie Patsky, chairing the meeting from a podium at the front, encouraged members to pass a clear plastic jug and give “Pennies for Pines.” A thoughtful member told me of the Club’s service project, how they collect money to purchase property and to plant trees. I followed the example of most of the members and emptied my wallet of some green bills and not copper. A container for a fifty-fifty raffle soon followed. One lucky member takes home half the pot, and the Club earns the rest. They asked Cati to draw the ticket for the day. The winner shouted when she determined she held the winning ticket.

Cati and I filed to the back of the room to pick up one of the antique clear glass luncheon plates with a corner raised ring to stabilize a cup. Disappointingly, no matching glass cups were set out for this meeting. I have never dined with that form of dinnerware.

Stretched over several tables were finger sandwiches, deviled eggs, crudités, sweet breads, and fresh fruit. Back at the table, I pleasantly startled myself as I ate what I thought was a pitted natural olive, but turned out to be a homemade chocolate. I enjoyed the sweet treat just before I stood up to speak.

President Patsky introduced Cati and I to the members. Cati described the mission of the Inlandia Institute to promote literary activity in the Inland Empire region of California through writing workshops, readings, and the publishing of books through Heyday Books and more recently under the Institute’s own imprint. She announced the inaugural Hillary Gravendyk Poetry Book Prize. Cati read a poem from her book Seven Floors Up inspired by a sticker that came home with her son one day, “Caution Please Do Not Turn The Head Forcefully.”

Inspired by the fine penmanship in Ruth Jenning’s letter of invitation, I began my portion of the program with “If We Stop Teaching Cursive” and “Reading Time.”

Attempting to highlight the range of Inlandia publications, I read several of my poems from the 2013 Writing from Inlandia: “On Seeing the Cost of Time Change,” “Riding the Flexible Flyer,” and “A Dammed Life.” I displayed broadside prints for each of these poems with the block print illustrations I had created.

From Orangelandia: The Literature of Inland Citrus, I read “Wishing for a Ladder” and “Redlands Sunset.” From Inlandia: A Literary Journey, the official online literary journal of the Inlandia Institute, I read “Creosote,” and “A Rare Night Air.”

I closed with “Two Eggs,” “My Father’s Amputation on Tuesday,” and “My Top Drawer.”

The members asked Cati and I numerous questions about Inlandia and the topics brought up in my poems. They also spent several minutes in animated discussion of Timothy Green’s Inlandia Literary Journeys column “Poe and Poetic Discovery.”

More than thirty years after my mother had shooed me out of the kitchen at the Waverly Community House and told me a Women’s Club meeting was no place for a boy, I decided it was a great place for a man to visit.

On Waiting for an Acceptance by Cati Porter

This week I opened my email to find an acceptance for my poetry collection, “My Skies of Small Horses.” This is the moment that so many people wait for—sometimes briefly, sometimes forever. The acceptance is from a press—WordTech Editions—that I have long admired from a distance as I’ve watched other friends like Judy Kronenfeld publish with them. But the road to book publication is often a winding one, and mine is no exception.

This particular book began as my thesis for my MFA in Poetry from Antioch University Los Angeles. I had high hopes when I began submitting my manuscript soon after graduation. After all, I had found a publisher for my first poetry collection, “Seven Floors Up” (Mayapple Press, 2008) before I even entered the program. Now, with credentials, shouldn’t it be easier? But only after five years of trying am I finally going to see it in print.

Over those five years, I submitted my book over forty different times—sometimes to the same contest year after year, other times to presses whose aesthetics I thought matched my own, changing it slightly each time, adding and subtracting poems based on editorial comments, feedback from other writers, or just a gut sense of what works best. I tried on different titles for the book, different section titles, reordering the poems, trying to find the book’s most perfect form.

What I discovered? It’s easy to second guess your first impulse, and it’s equally easy to overlook flaws that other readers might see because you’re too close to the work. It’s taken countless critiques and rejections to get my manuscript to where it is now. And there is always the issue that good poetry is almost entirely subjective. Was it fine the first time out? Could it still be improved? Maybe, and probably!

As those five years dragged on, I kept coming back to the question, how was waiting for a publisher better than publishing it on my own? There is no one right answer. Seeing my work rejected was often painful, but publishing it too soon would have been equally so.

Waiting for a publisher, for me, meant that I spent a lot more time with the poems and made changes to the overall manuscript, that I otherwise may not have if I had gone straight to self-publishing. I could have saved time and money and had a book in print five years ago, but what I have to show for those five years, having waited, is an honorable mention, four semi-finalist nods, and one finalist—so, a little closer every time, and more time to submit work to journals, which is like vetting the poems—knowing that someone else finds value in and appreciates the work validates all the hours spent.

Self-publishing can be a viable option for those who can’t or don’t want to wait, or who, like me, have waited to no avail and have grown tired of waiting. The most important thing to consider is whether or not you have examined all of the options and revised the book to some form of finished that you feel good about.

Before the acceptance last week, I had in fact given some thought to self-publishing. There is something appealing about being able to control the overall aesthetic experience of the book, and most publishers are not willing to allow you to micromanage the process. But for me, waiting has meant that I now will have the support of an independent press whose experience outweighs my own.

As an editor and publisher as well as a writer, I’ve seen the system work from both sides, and am hopefully the wiser for it. Which is why it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to create new publishing opportunities, in order to bring more writing into the world.

In my time with Inlandia, we have expanded our imprint from books published solely through our publishing partner Heyday to adding independently published Inlandia Imprint books. I am grateful to have a great Publications Committee and volunteers who help select and prepare works for publication, and who have helped to shape the vision for publishing with Inlandia.

With the success of our first book of poetry—Vital Signs by Juan Delgado and Tom McGovern, and because of this expansion, coupled with my own love for poetry, I am beyond thrilled to announce that we are launching a poetry book competition.

The Hillary Gravendyk Prize is a poetry book competition with two winners—one drawn from a national pool and one from a regional (i.e. based in Inland Southern California). Each will have it’s own $1000 prize and book contract. Chad Sweeney, poet and faculty member at Cal State San Bernardino, will judge the inaugural contest.

The submissions window opens February 1 and will close April 30, at the end of National Poetry Month. For guidelines, please visit: http://inlandiajournal.org.

Everyone Has a Story by Cati Porter

Not too long ago, I was going into a CVS with my youngest son, and as we were walking in I noticed a young man near the door. As we approached, he said he was hungry. He didn’t ask for anything in particular. He looked to be a couple years older than my teenage son. He was disheveled but not actively panhandling. I’m generally pretty generous when it comes to strangers who are down on their luck, but I always wonder what their story is. This time, I asked. He told me he’d been living with a family member until recently, but had now taken to sleeping at the high school or in his brother and sister-in-law’s car; they were homeless too. When I came out, I brought him some sandwiches and water, but I always wonder if I shouldn’t have done more.

It’s easy for us in our comfortable lives to walk past people as though they were invisible. We are all isolated, even close as we may be to one another. We might think—can’t stop, or next time, or she doesn’t really look like she needs it. But who are we to make those kinds of judgments? I don’t know. I make them too. I don’t give to every stranger who asks. But here on the heals of the holiday season during the coldest months of the year, it may serve ourselves well to give it some additional thought.

Gertrude Davidson, a student at Cal Baptist University with an interest in writing, sent me this poem a while back. These are issues that deserve our attention, and I’m glad she sent it in.


THE STILL VOICE THAT SCREAMS HELP

by Gertrude Eugenia Davidson

The still voice that screams help on the streets and in the streetcorners.

When I drive I see them. They are everywhere and don’t care where they stop, sit or stand.

When I walk by the park I see them and so does everyone else who walks by. They are accustomed to every weather condition. They do not express their grievance to anyone but to themselves or among themselves.

They make friends in the streets and on the streetcorners. Do they care about what you think? I believe they do since they are human. Do you care about what they think? I believe not since you are human. Why? Because you are not instantly affected by their standing, sitting or stopping.

The still voice that screams help on the streets and in the street corners.

When I go shopping, I see them and I know you see them too. Sometimes, all they get is a bottle of water or just a soda. Do they need or want more? I believe so because they are human. They cannot get what you get and cannot have what you have now by virtue of their situation.

The still voice that screams help on the streets and in the street corners.

They look intently when you approach. Most never utter a word. They just stare. Their eyes do the talking. Their stare or gaze make the loudest noise. It leaves the echoes lingering on after you walk by.

The still voice that screams help on the streets and in the street corners.

The still voice that screams help on the streets and in the street corners will scream the loudest this time of the year. The still voice that screams on the streets and in the street corners will lose its voice this time of the year to the weather and to the festive season.

The still voice that screams help on the streets and in the street corners will be audible.

The still voice will say, HELP ME FOR I AM HOMELESS AND HELPLESS!