Category Archives: Poetry

“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).


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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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

July 1st Poetry Reading: Diane Kendig & Hannah Rodabaugh

Join us for a First Wednesday Series reading by poets Diane Kendig & Hannah Rodabaugh. Open mic to follow. We will also be celebrating National Gingersnap Day. The reading will be live on Zoom and Facebook. If you would like to participate in the open mic, please register here.

Diane Kendig’s recent collections include Prison Terms and the anthology, In the Company of Russell Atkins. A recipient of OAC Fellowships and other awards, she has published poetry and prose in journals such as J Journal, Under the Sun, and Blueline. She curates, “Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry,” now in its sixth year with over 2200 subscribers.


Hannah Rodabaugh received an MA in literature from Miami University and an MFA in poetry from Naropa University. She is the author of With Words: Verse in Concordance (Dancing Girl Press). She received grants from the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and the Alexa Rose Foundation, and she is a 2017 Artist in Residence for Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. She works as a teaching writer at The Cabin and as a co-curator for Ghosts & Projectors, a Boise-based poetry reading series.

First Wednesday Zoom Features Terry Provost & Nicole Robinson

We sure will miss hanging out with you at the Soap Gallery, never mind that it will be National Chocolate Macaroon Day.  But join us for the next best thing: these poetry readings will be off the charts! Open mic to follow. For an invitation to Zoom, please email We’ll open the Zoom Room at 6:30, Wed. June 3. Reading begins at 7:00. Or kick back and catch us on Facebook Live.
Terry for Schubert
Originally from Troy, New York, Terry Provost is an adjunct professor of math at Tri-C, who has written poetry for over 20 years, performing it from Seattle to Providence. His two books are Compassionate Imperialism, and An Uncountable Infinity of Orgasms. He hosts Bowled Over by Poetry at Mahall’s in Lakewood, Ohio.
nikkiLit Youngstown board of directors member Nicole Robinson’s poems have appeared in Great River Review, The Columbia Journal, CALYX, and elsewhere. She has received an Individual Excellence Award for poetry from the Ohio Arts Council and holds an MFA in poetry from Ashland University. Robinson is the Narrative Medicine Coordinator at Akron Children’s Hospital.