Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Things I'm Not Reading

You know, I've been saying for a couple of weeks now that I was going to write a bit about what I'm reading. Here's an embarrassing thing: As I'm looking at what I've recently read, I find I'm not terribly excited about much except maybe one or two things.

Here's the thing. When your work is centered around writing and publishing, you find yourself reading things you have to read and then you start thinking about what you should read. This summer, I actually had a bit of a crisis when I realized that I didn't read so much for pleasure anymore.

I'm not sure I've corrected that.

But I consider it something to work on.

Something I recently read for pleasure (although since neoNuma Arts is all about the arts, it has some bearing on that part of my life) is the first couple of chapters of No Fixed Points by Nancy Reynolds and Malcolm McCormick. This is a history of dance in the 20th Century. It has 928 pages. I love dance, but this is mostly on my shelf as a reference book, for when I want to look up a particular dancer, to get some background on some particular choreographer. In the two years since I bought the book, that's how I've used it.

I picked it up the other night, however, because I love the characters of modern dance, especially the proto-moderns---Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, Ted Shawn. These are such fascinating characters to me. They had such force of personality to accomplish what they did. Oh, they were arrogant, self-important, and often bombastic in their claims. And they changed the world of dance, arguably took it out of the burlesque show and put it in the art world.

These chapters were refresher courses for me, as I've read a bit about these folks before. Maybe more than a bit. Definitely more than a bit when it comes to St. Denis and Shawn. But reading Reynolds & McCormick's retelling of familiar tales was pleasurable reading indeed.
No Fixed Points isn't only about Modern Dance, but also about ballet. It's a personal failing, but I have so little interest in ballet, so when I got to the chapters about ballet in the early 20th century, I set the book down and I haven't picked it up in a week. I'll probably get back to it---if only the chapters on the Moderns.

This summer, I plugged one of many many holes in my reading education. I finally read Willa Cather's My Antonia. This book came into vogue as high school required reading a few years after I graduated from high school and I watch high school students buy it all the time in my day job at the bookstore. I figured it was time to read it myself, especially since I had a copy on my shelves.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cather managed to write her characters with such warmth and care---even the ones you clearly were not meant to like---that it was pretty hard to avoid getting involved in the prairie story of immigrants. There are also a multitude of meta-textual information on my head that sometimes interfered with that involvement, most notably the much discussed sexuality of Cather. There were passages that made me stop and think, "yes, I suppose that is a lesbian point of view." Or something like that. There are also conceits of the time period, stylistic choices that would get slammed in a modern writing critique group. For instance, there's a section when Antonia is barely a background character. It seems as if Cather forgot for a moment that Antonia was the titular character. I can just imagine how that would play in an MFA thesis committee today.

But the story is engaging, really quite modern. If you've not read it, I say check it out at the library and give it a go. It's worth the time.

Speaking of what high school students have to read, I watch what they have to buy and wonder if teachers are programed to take the joy out of reading for students. I read this a couple of years ago, mostly because I had a copy on my shelf and I was seeing students buying it: A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I head young readers complain about it, how boring it was, etc. I actually rather enjoyed it, but I was reading it in my 40s, not my teens. It seems to me that the story is a bit slow moving, a bit subtle for kids raised on "explosion movies" (my dismissive term for most Hollywood fare) and video games. I wonder if teachers assign it because they have to, or because it's about teenagers and therefore should be relevant to the students . . . or what? I don't know. Surely there's more relevant books for high school students than this World War II era story of friendships in an all-boys prep school. Of course, as we are currently in a war without an end in sight, the anxiety about graduating and going to war may be relevant. But in any case, it is a book I enjoyed without seeing why anyone thought a modern high school student might. If anyone knows a teenager who actually grooved on this book, I'd love to hear from him/her.

In Other News
I've started writing these tiny, 70 word reviews for a local gay magazine called OutSmart. You can see what I've read recently by going to and clicking on "readout" (you have to scroll down quite a bit). One of the books I reviewed this month is one I Really Like A Lot. I suddenly feel like I shouldn't talk about it here, though, while the current issue of OutSmart is on the stands. In October, I'll talk more about it.

I'm starting to get information out about this Houston Writers Festival that I'm putting together for the Barnes & Noble where I work. I've started a webpage for it here: Check it periodically for additional information as it becomes available/confirmed.

And while you're at the neoNuma homepage, I'll point out that the calls for work page is updated with the calls I posted a couple of weeks ago. I've already gotten a few submissions (which fall under the category of things I have to read, but that's okay).

Fieldwork begins next week. It looks like an interesting group is forming. Can't wait to see what everyone will bring to show.

That should be more than plenty for tonight. More soon.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Good heavens. I just noticed a big ol' blunder.

In the call for work below, I put in the wrong zip code for submissions.

I've corrected it now, but if you've mailed me anything before today (09-17-08), please email me at: neo (at) neonuma (dot) com. If it was already returned, email me. And for the record, the correct mailing address for all things neoNuma is:

neoNuma Arts
P.O. Box 460248
Houston, TX 77056

needs a proofreader

Sunday, September 09, 2007

addendum/correction/clarification on submission guidelines

Just a quick note this morning to say I wasn't clear enough on my submission guidelines for the "Art Stimulates Lit" anthology.

The stories must have, central to it's workings, some historical artist or work of art. Hence my examples of novels that are about or based upon Nureyev, Woolf, or Whitman. Another example comes to mind from another medium---Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George, based upon George Seurat and his painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte'. I've also recently noticed a novel (but haven't read it) called The Uncertain Hour about Petronius, the author of The Satyricon.

That sort of thing.

Clearer? Ask questions if I'm not communicating.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Submission Guidelines

Howdy, everyone. I know I said the next blog would be about what I'm reading, but this is what I'm hoping to be reading in the next few months. If you're not a writer, point out this blog to someone who is! Thanks!

(i'll be back soon enough with some blather about some books i've read recently.)

Art Stimulates Lit
a fiction anthology about art and artists

neoNuma Arts, publisher of Able to... and The Fatal Gift of Beauty and Other Plays, is soliciting short fiction on the theme of art and artists for an anthology to be published in 2008.

In each story, an artist or work of art must play an integral part. This may be a fictionalized biography, a story of one person’s relationship to an artist or work of art, or some combination or permutation of the same. The artwork may be from any realm of creative endeavor, not only visual art, but dance, theater, music, and other literary figures are equally fair game for stimulating the literary imagination. For models, consider Colum McCann’s Dancer (Rudolf Nureyev), or Michael Cunningham’s The Hours (Virginia Woolf) or Specimen Days (Walt Whitman). Do NOT consider Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Length is open—shorter than a novella (although neoNuma would be interested in seeing novels and novellas along similar themes). Genre is open. Stories should be human, character driven explorations of art and artistry.

Submit stories to:

neoNuma Arts
P.O. Box 460248
Houston, TX 77056

Authors will be paid a royalty, based on sales. Previously published stories are acceptable, with proof of available anthology rights.

Questions to:
Deadline: March 31

neoNuma Arts is looking for a few good psalms

Here, at the beginning of the 21st Century, life is much different from ancient Israel. The world of electronics and instant communication give us a different set of images to use in expressing our praise and worship, new cultural contexts within which to speak of and to God.

As such, neoNuma Arts is seeking out poets and other wordsmiths to create a modern psalter, one that uses imagery that might draw modern people into worship and praise in new and unexpected ways.

Form is open—free verse or any form known to poetry.

Content may be as broad as the Biblical psalms, which are:

songs of praise and worship to God (Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. –Psalm 41)

songs of despair and lament (My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? –Psalm 22)

songs addressed to the faithful (Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. –Psalm 95)

even personal songs (O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. –Psalm 139)

but they are all songs that might be useful in personal devotion and corporate worship. While we don’t expect this book to become standard use in any church’s worship services, the intention is that any of these modern psalms could be used in such a way.

Is there poetry and praise in modern church architecture as the ancient psalmists found in the tabernacle and temple? Can SUVs and jets evoke imagery that draws us to God as chariots and horses once did? What in this 21st Century world brings us to joy and praise and awe? Conversely, what modern imagery might we borrow to express our despair and loneliness and brokenness?

The editors for this volume, Alan Berecka, Jill Alexander Essbaum, and Anne McCrady, will be looking for psalms of high craft and literary worth.

Submissions to:
Deadline: February 29, 2008
Projected publication date: November, 2008

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