Category Archives: Fall Literary Festival

“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).


“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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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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Registration is open for the Fall Literary Festival

The 4th annual Fall Literary Festival Sept. 24-26… all online. What will we miss? Hugs. kristinavogelSpontaneous conversations. Jazz. Cake. But we’ll do our best to create a welcoming, interesting and enjoyable conference. This year’s visiting writers and presenters are outstanding, with a range of topics, genres and styles.
Take a look at the conference lineup here. We’ve included audio clips of some of our presenters.

Who will enjoy the conference? Readers and writers of any experience level who are comfortable with adult themes. We have a special price for graduate students and part-time faculty, and this year we’re making it easy for faculty to bring their whole college or high school class.

“I felt like an outsider, which is probably why I am a writer,” a Conversation with Cynthia Atkins

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

DG: In what ways has your home, Southern Appalachia influenced your writing and your views on existence?

cynthia atkinsCA: I’m a native Chicagoan, by way of New York City, Brooklyn, and I wound up living in Rockbridge County, VA by way of love. I met my partner and hubby, Phillip at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. We fell head over heels, and so I moved to these parts 25 years ago. I guess this is my forever home now. I raised my son here and I feel I now have roots in these parts. But at first, I felt like a Yankee, very much a fish out of water—A proud feminist and a Jew, living in a college mountain town where Confederate flags still hang and so much Civil War history.  Bathroom wallpaper had Civil War generals.  As a Midwesterner, this was all foreign to me. So while this has been a peaceful and very loving community, I have often felt ‘an outsider’—Perfect strangers thought they had every right to ask me ‘what church I belonged to’—when I’d respond, “I’m a Jew”—a few mouths dropped open. As a writer, I’ve found I’ve never felt comfortable belonging to any one group or grouping. I felt like an outsider, which is probably why I am a writer. Continue reading

Lou Yuhasz Memorial Scholarship 2020

15541501_10154954949284391_8637914403878757999_nThe third annual Lou Yuhasz Memorial Scholarship is open for submissions until March 31, 2020.

Each year, we award one $100 scholarship, and invite the recipient to read their work at the Fall Literary Festival, September 24-26. The winner and runner-up will receive free registration to the Festival.

If you will be a NEOMFA student in fall of 2020 and would like to compete for the prize, please send a cover letter and 10-page writing portfolio (name on cover letter only) to The deadline is March 31.

Lou was an enthusiastic writer and Lit Youngstown volunteer and participant, and we miss him. To honor his spirit, we created this scholarship, and are grateful for contributions to the scholarship fund, which will allow us to offer this award well into the future.

2019 scholarship recipient: Steven Caumo, selected by NEOMFA Professor Craig Paulenich and alumnus James Winter
2018 scholarship recipient:  D.T. McCrea, selected by NEOMFA Professor Robert Miltner and alumna Amy Sparks.

Fall Literary Festival Seeks Proposals

kristinavogelLit Youngstown seeks proposals for In Many Tongues: Constituents of the Barbaric Yawp, 4th annual Fall Literary Festival, September 24-26.

Submissions are now closed. Thank you!

The literary arts conference will include creative readings, craft talks, workshops and panel discussions on writing, reading, teaching, performing, editing and publishing creative works. Highly acclaimed visiting faculty will share their experience and insights, and presenters from Ohio and beyond will speak on a variety of topics.

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