Author Archives: lityoungstown

“Start a new draft by imagining other angles”: a Conversation with Janet Wong

Lit Youngstown’s summer intern Danny Gage asked children’s author Janet Wong a few questions about her work and writing life. Janet will be a featured writer at the online 2020 Fall Literary Festival September 24-26.

DG: Do you think that being a lawyer, specifically at Universal Studios, is why you have an eagerness to write for children, as well as even teach them poetry? Did the setting you worked in as a lawyer make the career shift easier?

janet wongI think that my experience as a lawyer has transferred over to my writing career in three main ways.

First, it makes me kinder and more compassionate. I became ashamed of the way that doing my job was turning me into a mean person. Not every lawyer does mean things, but I did. In my job as Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios Hollywood, I needed to fire a lot of people—and the sad part was that it started not to bother me.

Second, my legal experience makes it easier for me to deal with publishing contracts. A lot of writers sign whatever contracts come their way. We’re so used to being rejected, that when someone is willing to publish our work, we’re practically willing to give it away. It isn’t fun negotiating a contract (and it’s even less fun to read one), but more writers need to stand up for better deals.

And third, viewing things like a lawyer makes the revision process less painful. We all know the feeling of falling in love with our own writing and thinking that the draft we just wrote is the best thing we could possibly produce. Lawyers are constantly forced to think of other angles. When negotiating or arbitrating or litigating, you have to anticipate what the other side will say. You have to consider other approaches that might be perceived as equally (or even more) legitimate. When we, as writers, force ourselves to start a new draft by imagining other angles, we expand our options.

I like to tell young writers, “Don’t try to make each draft better. Just try to make it different, to give yourself a choice. Ultimately you might still prefer your first draft, but in that case, trying another angle has reinforced how brilliant you are!

While in college, you studied art in France at the Université de Bordeaux. That must have been an experience. Do your experiences in France still reside with you, and if so, how have they been translated into your writing?

Living in France was a dramatic change, mainly because it opened my eyes to art, but it was pretty must just an extended year-long vacation. That being said, when you live in another place—somewhere very different from where you grew up—it obviously changes who you are.

For me, the biggest physical change in my life involved moving from the West coast to the East coast (Connecticut, where I attended Yale; and Princeton, NJ, where I live now). For someone else, moving from an urban to a rural environment (or vice-versa) just 100 miles away might be a huge catalyst for creative growth.

Artists and writers have moved all over the world for centuries because they know that this will shake up their ways of thinking. Actual travel nowadays is pretty difficult, but luckily virtual travel is as easy as clicking away on your computer. We can surf the web and visit sites that offer a new perspective to us. Read blogs written by people in other countries. Or spend a week diving into another country’s art by visiting museums and galleries virtually. Many of us feel “stuck” sometimes; we can open new worlds with a few clicks.

You say that A Suitcase of Seaweed is the own favorite of your own works because it touches on all sides of your heritage. Can you see yourself creating another book that will become your own favorite that possibly discusses your evolution from lawyer to writer, or is A Suitcase of Seaweed permanently etched in your heart as a favorite?

Every other new book of mine becomes the new favorite! I’m super excited about the next book that I’m doing with Sylvia Vardell, to be released in January 2021. It’s called HOP TO IT: Poems to Get You Moving, and it contains poems by dozens of poets, both established award-winners and new poets. While many of the poems are explicitly about movement—and get kids jumping, running in place, or dancing—a number of these poems address current topics such as COVID and getting out to march or exercise your voice. Please look for it on Amazon in January or pre-order now by calling QEP Books (the main distributor of this book).


How to Acquire a Literary Agent and Beyond

How to Acquire a Literary Agent and Beyond

This webinar will give writers a basic introduction on how to prepare a manuscript for querying an agent, what to include in the query, and what happens next.
Meet the teaching artist: Mary Ellen Shupe is an agent with the Belcastro Agency, seeking adult fiction mysteries, thriller, suspense, and general fiction. She is looking for a unique voice and a strong protagonist full of attitude; she likes dark and intense but wouldn’t turn away something that’s a little on the lighter side. She is also looking for young adult: fantasy, science fiction, action/adventure, contemporary, magical realism, mystery/thriller, and horror.

How to Acquire a Literary Agent and Beyond. Monday, August 31, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST, on Zoom. Register here by August 24. Course fee is $15 (or pay as you are able). Please click

How to Acquire a Literary Agent and Beyond


to pay via Paypal or credit card or mail a check payable to Lit Youngstown/323 Wick Ave. #9/Youngstown 44503. Thank you!

Thanks for the Memories!

In partnership with the YSU Art Department and partially funded by a Wean Foundation Neighborhood SUCCESS Grant, Lit Youngstown is helping to create a mural on Andrews Ave. downtown.

The first step was to solicit memories from those who remember downtown–yesterday and long ago. We share the memories here. Some will be selected by YSU art students for a memory ribbon, painted throughout the mural design.

If you would like to send a memory, please do, here. We will keep the link open, so future art classes can add to the mural. There will soon be a website dedicated to the project, so we can follow the progress.

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“To discover the heartbeat of a work”: a Conversation with Quincy Flowers

Lit Youngstown’s summer intern Danny Gage asked novelist Quincy Flowers a few questions about his work and writing life. Quincy will be a featured writer at the online 2020 Fall Literary Festival September 24-26.

DG: Do your different experiences at the University of Houston and NYU influence your perspectives while writing?

Headshot 1This is an interesting way to put this question. I almost missed this part about different experiences and moved forward by describing how my experiences at UH and NYU, together, influence my writing to this day, which they positively do. But yes, they influence my writing in very different ways.

 NYU’s Graduate Creative Writing Program was housed within the English Department when I arrived and was part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, which has specific requirements for graduation and full-time student consideration. All students in the program received special removal of one course requirement every semester so that we were taking two courses instead of the mandatory three. The argument was that we needed to have time to write. Part of what we were being offered was space to create.

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Teen Writers Workshops (Zoom)

Teen Writers Workshops
Mondays 7-8:30: July 13 & 27, August 10 & 24

Teen Writers Workshops facilitated by Carrie George will be informal, respectful gatherings for writing and creative expression. All experience levels welcome. Teens only, please.

Register one time here for the Zoom meeting room,  attend any number of workshops. Is this your first Zoom call? Here’s a quick and easy tutorial.

Meet the teaching artist: Carrie George is a poet, photographer, and MFA candidate at the Northeast Ohio MFA program. She is the current graduate fellow for the Wick Poetry Center in Kent, OH, where she teaches poetry in local schools and various community programs.

August 5: Ted Lardner & Kathleen Strafford

Join us for a First Wednesday Series reading by poets Ted Lardner & Kathleen Strafford on Zoom and Facebook Live, Wednesday, August 5 from 7:00-9:00. Open mic to follow (readers: please register for Zoom). We will also be celebrating National Oyster Day.


Here is the link to register for Zoom. The Zoom room opens at 6:30. Is this your first Zoom call? Click here to watch a brief tutorial. To watch on Facebook Live, tune in to our Facebook page and it will begin automatically.

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Writing Workshop: Personal Narrative as Resistance

Putting the “I’s’ in Activism: Personal Narrative as a Form of Transformative Resistance

Sharing stories is one of the most fundamental means of communication. In 2020, our reliance on connecting through personal narratives is as strong as ever as we continue to use various social media platforms to share our stories with the world. Speaking out about social injustice is proving to be a powerful way to expose oppressive power dynamics and motivate change. Channeling our experiences into compelling narratives that inspire dialogue helps to heighten our awareness of the complex social issues that plague our communities. In this workshop we will focus on crafting strong, personal narratives about injustice as a form of transformative resistance, with the suggestion that sharing these narratives with your community can be a powerful tool in combating social justice issues. Continue reading

Making the Best of Things

Thanks so much to all who came out to Diane Kendig’s and Hannah Rodabaugh’s reading July 1! We loved the images the poets shared with their ekphrastic poems, and it was a kick to hear open mic readers from all over the map. Many thanks, too, to Allison Pitinii Davis & Danny Gage for hosting the evening with grace.

Here is a link to the recording.

We still miss seeing everyone, for real, but these Zoom readings have their own charm.



New Book News!

Please join us in congratulating many of our 2015-2019 First Wednesday and Fall Fest writers whose new books are coming out without the usual book launches and other gatherings to mark this important event. If you would like to support these authors by purchasing a book, please follow the links below.

Dead Shark on the N Train, poems by Susana H. Case


In this sassy, gorgeous book, Susana H. Case takes us on one helluva ride with a dead shark as fellow passenger, brought in from the beach and left on the floor of the N Train, its jaw decorated with a Metro Card, a cigarette and a can of Red Bull. The shark is just one of the stars of Case’s seventh volume of poems. Consider, as well, “Radiance,” a scorcher of a poem about a breast: “Lie with me, lie to me,/ until your tongue burns.”  If you haven’t met up with Case’s work, it’s time you did.—David Tucker, author of Late for Work


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