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.