Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Sarah Rose Etter

The first line came to me, and it hung out in my head like a buzzing fly…It felt like a door was opening, and all I had to do was step through it and follow the path beyond.

I recently talked with novelist Sarah Rose Etter about her debut novel, The Book of X; tragic characters; volcanic landscapes; how to ground readers in surrealism; and more. You can read the full interview here in CRAFT Literary.

Explore, have fun, be an artist on the page. Don’t limit yourself to writing what you’ve been taught. Write what is in your guts. Go into the mud.

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Find out more about Sarah Rose Etter at sarahroseetter.com. Sarah’s book The Book of X (July 2019) is available from Two Dollar Radio.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Oliver de la Paz

If you’re looking for ways to “fix” something that isn’t “broken,” then you’re really doomed to go on searching for answers that aren’t there. And really what needs adjusting are the kinds of questions we ask. There’s a parallel, of course, to how we think about neurodiversity—so much of the obsession is with “fixing” something. But shouldn’t we be in the business of listening instead?”

I recently talked with poet Oliver de la Paz, author of the outstanding poetry collection,The Boy in the Labyrinth, about mythic metaphors, the problem with story problems, empathy in the digital era, and the role of poetry in the endless exploration of ourselves. You can read the full interview here in The Common.

There’s something beautiful in the attempt to reach beyond ourselves, yes? Beautiful but also a kind of reaching into the void. You’re never sure the vehicle your tenor is riding on will get you where you need to go.

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Find out more about Oliver de la Paz at oliverdelapaz.com. Oliver’s book The Boy in the Labyrinth (July 2019) is available from University of Akron Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Sion Dayson

The book is very much about the power of the unsaid, too. Things don’t have to be explicitly stated for you to know them to be true.

I recently talked with novelist Sion Dayson about her debut novel, As a River; writing characters full of contradictions, how to face emotionally-charged scenes, deciding when to reveal secrets & more! You can read the full interview here in The Adroit Journal.

“Writing has always worked best for me when I don’t prod too much at my creative impulses and let my curiosity guide me.”

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Find out more about Sion Dayson at siondayson.com. Sion’s book As a River (October 2019) is available from Jaded Ibis Press.

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Rene Denfeld

“Change isn’t a big grand gesture we make. It’s those little decisions we make all day long.”

I recently talked with novelist Rene Denfeld about her newest novel, The Butterfly Girl; everyday rebirths; the frequent misconceptions that society has about homelessness; and the ways in which our imaginations can save us. You can read the full interview here in The Rumpus.

“The greatest healing comes in proximity to others, when we invest in our own vulnerability and care, and when the love we show others can become a mirror to our own soul.”

Two years ago, I interviewed Rene about her novel, The Child Finder, and now our conversations have become a sort of a tradition. I will support Rene’s writing for as long as we live. She brings such magic, empathy, and sublime knowledge to everything she does, and our world is better for it.

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Find out more about Rene Denfeld at renedenfeld.com. Rene’s book The Butterfly Girl (October 2019) is available from Harper Books. 

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Miciah Bay Gault

I’m not sure you can really know a person—or a character—without knowing what they believe.

I recently talked with my former professor and Hunger Mountain editor, Miciah Bay Gault, about her debut novel, Goodnight Stranger; loneliness; the supernatural; the role of belief in living and writing; and our failure to belong in specific “categories.” You can read the full interview here in Electric Literature.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I believe we (writers) should chase our fears and delights, looking for what’s true about us.

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Find out more about Miciah Bay Gault at miciahbaygault.com. Miciah’s book Goodnight Stranger (July 2019) is available from Park Row Books. 

Wisdom from Writers: A Conversation with Brandon Amico

We have the choice to either give in to inevitability or to scream something back into the void.

I recently talked with poet Brandon Amico about many of the central themes in his poetry collection, Disappearing, Inc.: social media, obsessions, politicized violence, climate change, and the role of poets & writers today. You can read the full interview here in The Adroit Journal.

“We create, in part, to fill the gaps that have opened in our lives, or that will open one day, because everything is on a limited basis.”

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Find out more about Brandon Amico at brandonamico.com. Brandon’s book Disappearing, Inc. (March 2019) is available from Gold Wake Press. Brandon is also a freelance copywriter who helps other authors with their book marketing. See his freelance website here.

Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?

(Thank you to Joyce Carol Oates for this wonderfully spooky title.)

Friends, I am so sorry I have neglected this blog in the last few months. I’m still getting settled in with my new routines here in…New York City!

Yep, in the middle of July, I packed my belongings (aka my books) up in four cardboard boxes and moved to the Big Apple. Was this an impulse move? Yes and no. My dear friend and former classmate at VCFA got a terrific job in the city, and I decided to move down with her. I’m still interviewing for positions in the publishing world right now, but am doing tons of freelance editing and writing in the meantime, which ultimately allows me the flexibility to explore  this wild and wonderful corner of earth and drink up all that it has to offer.

Of course, it’s a major shift from the quiet pastoral plaidness of Montpelier, and is more of a loud pavemented madness, but I do so love it here. I don’t mind the crowds so much (though I do stay as far away from Times Square as physically possible). One of my favorite things is to stand on a street corner and witness the many languages, faces, and human beings of this world, all congregating in one spot. On the whole, I find people here incredibly friendly (especially if they are a dog owner). The subways are not as overwhelming anymore. I do miss the nature and the visceral autumn-ness of Vermont, and most of all, the friends that I left behind there. But, I am finding my way in this new place and so happy for this experience. More New York-specific posts coming soon.

I do have a new plan for this blog, which means that it will be updated much more regularly! Lucky you!

It is October, the best month of the year. Hope you are all well, my ghosts and my stars. <3

Studying Nuclear Weapons Through An Artist’s Lens

Throughout my time at the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy, I couldn’t help but connect certain lectures and lessons with the many texts, films, and performances I studied as I was writing my graduate thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Below you will find a compiled list of some resources from my bibliography that I hope encourage your further exploration into the topic of the atomic bomb, nuclear weapons and waste, Japanese/Korean studies, and more. Keep in mind that this is an incomplete list, as there are many more resources I could have included. But I hope as you explore the links, you discover a new fact, a new perspective, or a new direction for your peace work. Please do write in the comments if something in this list resonates with you. And of course, if you come across a title that is not on this list, let me know!

 

Texts: 

Black Rain by Masuji Ibuse

Children of Hiroshima, edited by Dr. Arata Osada

“Hiroshima, City of Doom” by Yōko Ōta

Poems of the Atomic Bomb by Sankichi Tōge

Hiroshima by John Hersey

Trinity by Louisa Hall

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

The Emissary by Yoko Tawada

Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins

Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen

Dictée by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Contemporary Japanese Literature: An Anthology of Fiction, Film, and Other Writing Since 1945, edited by Howard Hibbett

Hiroshima: A Tragedy Never to be Repeated by Masamoto Nasu

Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto

Hiroshima Notes by Kenzaburō Ōe

 

Films: 

In This Corner of the World

“Anointed” (a poem by Marshallese poet, Kathy Jetñil-Kijiner)

Day of the Western Sunrise

Hiroshima Mon Amour

“Navel and A-Bomb” (a short avant-garde film by Eikoh Hosoe)

“General Paul Tibbets – Reflections on Hiroshima” (an interview with the pilot of the Enola Gay)

 

Performance Art:

A Body in Fukushima by Eiko Otake (here are two clips from the full film: one and two)

Eiko Dances with the Hiroshima Panels

 

Let’s Talk about Nuclear Weapons: A Beginner’s Guide to the Nuclear Vocabulary

When it comes to talking about nuclear issues, experts tend to throw around many acronyms and hyper-specific terms that, from an outside point of view, can appear to be quite exclusive. In order to include a broader audience into the conversation, I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to some of the key words we should all know when discussing nuclear weapons:

Deterrence: The theory that nuclear weapons are intended to deter other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons, so as not to induce mutual destruction.

Disarmament: Most often refers to the total elimination of not just nuclear weapons, but of all weapons of mass destruction.

Hibakusha: A Japanese term to describe the survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; historically and globally, ‘hibakusha’ means “irradiated people” (this includes people affected by nuclear test sites, nuclear waste disasters, etc, such as in Kazakhstan, Chernobyl, The Marshall Islands, Southwest United States, etc.)

IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency): An international organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons): A coalition of non-governmental organizations in 100 countries promoting adherence to and implementation of the United Nations’ nuclear weapon ban treaty.

INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty: This treaty between the US and Soviet Union was adopted in 1987 in order to eliminate all short and intermediate-range missiles from their nuclear stockpiles. On August 2, 2019, the treaty expired as the US and Russia both refused to resume their compliance to the treaty, causing many around the world to wonder if we’ve just entered the beginning of a second Cold War.

NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty): Signed on July 1, 1968 and still in force today, this landmark treaty’s objective is to help curb the spread of nuclear weapons and to prevent countries from increasing their nuclear arsenals. While the treaty has effectively encouraged a great reduction in nuclear weapons worldwide, the treaty itself does not directly advocate for total disarmament.

PTBT (Partial Test Ban Treaty): Signed in 1963, this treaty bans all test detonations of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, and in outer space. The CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty), adopted in 1996, endeavors to include underground explosions among other nuclear detonations in the total ban. As of this date, the CTBT has yet to enter into force.

Sustainable Development Goals: collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 to be reached by 2030. Included in the list are goals such as no poverty, gender equality, zero hunger, clean water and energy, climate action, and more.

TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons): Passed on July 7, 2017, this treaty is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the goal of leading toward their total elimination. In order to enter into force, 50 countries must ratify their signatures. As of today, there are 70 signatories and 25 ratifications. 

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For a more comprehensive list of terms and information, check out Learn WMD and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

 

ICAN, You Can, We Can Abolish Nuclear Weapons

Two weeks ago, I returned from a truly unparalleled experience in Hiroshima, Japan. It was my second trip to Japan this year (I had embarked on a solo adventure to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Tokyo in January), but this particular time was a trip unlike any I have ever had before and probably ever will.

To my great surprise, I was selected as one of 15 international participants for the inaugural Hiroshima-ICAN (International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons) Academy on Nuclear Weapons and Global Security, a 10-day intensive for young professionals ages 25 and under. The Academy ran from July 30 through August 8 and included eight participants from nuclear-weapons states (e.g. USA, Russia, China, France, and England) and seven from non-nuclear-weapons states (e.g. Germany, Japan, South Korea, Canada, The Netherlands, Belgium, Australia). Throughout our 10 days in Hiroshima City, we heard testimonies by atom bomb survivors; learned about global trends on nuclear weapons and global security through exchanges with UN officials, diplomats, and NGO members (including members of ICAN and Peace Boat); and brainstormed concrete plans on how to engage young people in the realization toward a more peaceful world. Most humbling of all, we had the opportunity to participate in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6th and honor the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing.

How did this all come about? It all started back in May when the Academy’s application came across my Twitter feed. I had been following the ICAN organization for several months as I worked on my thesis, so when ICAN shared this opportunity online, I knew that I had to apply—not only to research for my novel, but to become the global citizen I want to be. And there’s really no greater opportunity than to engage in nuclear disarmament and peace education in one of the two cities to ever experience nuclear warfare. For the application, I wrote a 700-word essay which assessed the current situation on nuclear disarmament, the priority agenda for action, as well as my personal involvement and interest in nuclear issues. I’m quite proud of that essay, and still, I never expected to be selected.

The majority of the other participants—my brilliant new friends—were hardcore students in the nuclear policy field. In contrast, I came to the Academy as “the artist” whose goal was to learn as much as she could about the technical elements of nuclear policy and international law, and translate that information into meaningful articles and texts for the masses. As someone who is usually a vocal presence in the classroom, it was at first difficult for me to take a step back and realize that I was not an expert on this topic and THAT’S OKAY! I quickly learned that one of the greatest tasks I could do at the academy was to listen, record, and absorb.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned at the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy was that when it comes to the abolition of nuclear weapons, we need everyone to put the specific skills that they have to good use. I remembered what Sasamori-san told the audience at the University of Vermont Hibakusha Stories event in 2018. She said that we must do whatever we could to ensure that no one suffers as the people did—as she did—on August 6, 1945 and August 9, 1945. Education is the first step: We must tell the stories of how nuclear weapons have affected people since 1945, provide information on the dangerous health effects of nuclear weapons, and explain why we should be extremely concerned that the Doomsday Clock is once again at two minutes before midnight. The humanitarian aspect of nuclear weapons is a key part of bringing awareness to the masses. In many ways, this humanitarian education is synonymous with storytelling.

I’ve already begun that work with my thesis, which attempts to reignite empathy and remembrance for the nuclear tragedies of the past. My hope is that, through my fiction, the curious will be inspired to read the personal accounts of the hibakusha and explore how you too can join in the movement for a peaceful world.

Be on the lookout for more blog posts coming soon, including specific highlights of the Hiroshima-ICAN Academy, a guide to the vocabulary of nuclear weapons, and supplemental books and films for continued education on the nuclear issue!