Welcoming Big Changes for SDWG in 2017


Welcoming Big Changes for SDWG in 2017

By Elli Meeropol

2017 looms, and seven years after Straw Dog Writers Guild was conceived in Patricia Lee Lewis’ living room, we are poised for big changes. Two original members of the group, Jacqueline Sheehan and Patricia Lee Lewis, are stepping off the Steering Committee and moving to the SDWG Advisory Board. We are so grateful for their leadership and dedication, and do not plan to let them entirely off the hook.

Two big changes have already begun. Most exciting is our hiring first staff person for SDWG. After an exhaustive reviewing and interviewing process, we hired Laura Stone as the part-time Administrative Director. Laura started work on December 1. She has been getting acquainted with our mission, our members and committees, our website, and our plans for the future.

Laura Stone

Laura has worked in the arts and nonprofit community for over 10 years, as a Program Coordinator and Youth Arts Program Manager. She is an experienced writing group facilitator, fundraiser, social media marketer, web designer, events planner.  She has a strong passion for community building through the arts. She also writes and plays nature-inspired songs for children on her ukulele.

She recently received a certificate in Nonprofit Management from Marlboro College Graduate School. Laura is looking forward to meeting and working with SDWG members and is inspired and very thankful to be on board. She will be attending most Straw Dog events; please introduce yourself to her.

The second big change is that Straw Dog has joined Click Workspace in Northampton with a Community Membership for the organization and an individual membership for Laura. This gives us a home. We can use the meeting room for our second Saturday craft programs, the big downstairs space for larger gatherings, and conference rooms for smaller meetings, as necessary. Click is an exciting co-op working venue. Check it out at

Change can be unsettling but it offers huge opportunity for growth. Please join me in welcoming Laura, exploring Click (you can sign up for their community newsletter to hear about the wonderful programs offered there), and adding your talents and energy to our local literary arts organization.


Perugia Press Turns Twenty

Perugia Press Turns Twenty:
Celebrating Milestones with our Local Community

Susan Kan

By Susan Kan and Rebecca Hart Olander

For 20 years, Perugia Press has published the best new woman poet each year—the winner of our annual, national contest that draws more than 500 yearly submissions. Our aim is to produce beautiful books that interest long-time readers of poetry and welcome those new to poetry, and to give a leg-up to women at the beginning of their publishing careers.

The press began as a one-book experiment, and we have gone on to produce books that earned nationwide acclaim. Many Perugia Press poets have published additional books, won poetry prizes, and been hired to teach college-level creative writing. Excellence comes this way: one book at a time. Read more of our story here.

On November 12th, Perugia Press will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an afternoon of free, drop-in, poet-led workshops and conversations, and a reunion reading in the evening. At that time, founding director Susan Kan will step down, and the new director, Rebecca Hart Olander, will formally take over. This year, 2016, is momentous for Perugia Press.

Why is the anniversary of Perugia Press important to our local writing community? Why is it important that Perugia Press is based here?

As Chase Twichell says in her blurb for our commemorative anthology, Brilliance, Spilling (to be released at our anniversary events), “In the last few decades, the publishing of poetry has gone through a seismic shift. Although the big commercial houses still publish a few volumes, it’s small presses like Perugia Press that are doing the essential work of scouting out the best new poetry and bringing it into the world. The future of American poetry literally depends on this kind of dedication and effort.”

For a small press to survive and thrive is what we’re celebrating. For the local community of writers and readers of poetry, this means access to an established, mature resource, a bank of knowledge about publishing. Although Perugia Press doesn’t specialize in publishing local writers, we are firmly rooted in this community, and benefit greatly from it. Likewise, the community benefits from having us here. We bring our award-winning poets to the area for readings, and the valley shows up to listen. With our poets comes a network; they serve as ambassadors for the press, taking news of this amazing community back home with them. We invite local poets to participate in this sisterhood.

When Nikky Finney lived in Northampton—as the poet-in-residence at Smith College—she became a friend of the press, participating in the judging day for our contest and reading twice with our poets, once with Lynne Thompson, another time with Nancy Pearson. At the reading with Nancy, she noted that the audience was lining the staircase leading to the full room. She said we needed to take this in, that most towns and cities across the country don’t have our appetite for poetry, don’t spill out of rooms to listen to it.

We thank our community by offering, on November 12th, an opportunity to sit down with us and our poets to find out how a small press works, what our poets are thinking about, and have questions answered about submitting manuscripts to poetry contests and book publishing.


Susan Kan is the director of Perugia Press. She founded the press in 1997 and is proud of the work she has done to bring women’s writing to the forefront year after year. She looks forward to continuing to serve on the board of Perugia Press.

Rebecca Hart Olander is the incoming director of Perugia Press, as well as an instructor of writing at Westfield State University. After serving on the board of Perugia Press, and as a judge and screener of manuscripts, she is thrilled to be taking the helm of the press as it moves into its next phase.

Note: See the Straw Dog Bulletin Board for details about the Perugia Press anniversary celebration on November 12th, along with area readings on the 10th and 15th of November featuring Perugia Press poets.


The Depressed Novelist’s Complaint

Photo: Jason StempleThe Depressed Novelist’s Complaint,
or How I Learned to Love the Gray

By Jane Yolen

Having just finished a major Holocaust novel for young adults,* I find myself at loose ends while waiting for editorial feedback. I’m not new at the writing game. My first book was published in 1963, my first novel (for middle-grade readers) in 1967. I’ve written over 60 novels since then, for children, young adults, adults.

But every single time I finish a novel, I’m struck with three thoughts:
1. I’m depressed. A kind of post-natal droop. I wonder if it’s good enough. I want it to be the novel, the one that changes the world, that brings about peace, wins major awards, sets my name in the books of great novel writers. Or at last I hope I haven’t embarrassed myself, my editor, my publisher.

2. I have no distance from the book. Ask me what it’s about, I’ll tell you it’s about 98,000 words. It’s about the Holocaust. It’s about Hansel in Gretel only not. (Though the wicked witch, a Mengele-type doctor, gets pushed into the oven at the end.) It’s about time I finished it. It’s about me.

3. I itch to get back to work—on the revisions of this book or a new one. I can’t decide which though, in the end, my beta readers and then my editor will decide that for me, depending upon how soon they get back to me, and how many questions I have to answer with the editorial-directed revision.

So, if it’s this painful, why continue? Read the above carefully. Nowhere do I say it’s painful. In fact, I’m never more alive than when writing something that could be significant (though rarely is). That I fail means I have another chance. If I’m perfect, there is no room for growing. And, at 77, I am all about growing! Consider the alternative.

*The book is HOUSE OF CANDY, due out from Philomel/Penguin Books in Fall 2017 or Spring 2018.

Jane Yolen, sometimes called America’s Hans Christian Andersen (she cops to Hans Jewish Andersen) has published almost 360 books between 1963 and 2016. They have brought her many awards (one of which set her good coat on fire) and honorary doctorates from six institutions, among them Smith College and the University of Massachusetts. She was the first writer to win an Arts & Humanities Award from New England Public Radio and was one of this year’s Massachusetts Unsung Heroines.



August 15, 2016

Meet Andrew Connelly, Straw Dog’s First Scholarship Recipient

by Becky Jones

Andrew ConnellyAndrew Connelly was chosen by his teachers at the Easthampton High School as the recipient of the first Straw Dog Writers Guild Scholarship given to a senior with a promising future in writing. Andrew is soon heading off to Fordham University’s NYC campus across from Lincoln Center, to pursue his passion in theatre, especially set production.

Since he entered junior high, Andrew has been involved in set design, lighting, and the Drama Club (including as president for two years), and he does it all with passion, humor, intelligence, and creativity. The Drama Club hosted a 24-hour playwriting and production event last year, and Andrew provided the writing prompts, stayed up all night to co-write a play, and acted in another play. His college essay focused on making Broadway plays accessible to a wider audience through telebroadcasting, as Andrew believes more people will make the effort to attend plays if they can see them affordably ahead of time, and that actors as artists will appreciate having a wider audience see their work.

Andrew lives this value of inclusion. He appreciates his family because of their ethic of working things out together based on respecting each other’s unique contribution. He looks up to his drama and art teacher Amy Davis not only because of her talent, creativity, and spontaneity but also because of her ability to see the good in others. In Andrew’s words, “I wish I could mimic that trait,” and he does. In his graduation speech, inspired by the question “What is a legacy?” from the Broadway musical Hamilton, Andrew named the legacies his classmates leave behind in the memories he carries of them. “I didn’t want it to be a shout-out to my friends, so I made sure to include people I don’t know as well. But then I didn’t want to leave anyone out, so I used a twitter account to write something about every single student in my class [over 100], even those I don’t know too well or have had some negative experiences with in the past.” He said he was chosen to be the class speaker not only because he’s class valedictorian but also because Andrew pays attention. Clearly, if he could give a detailed memory about every student, he’s been paying attention.

The youngest of three sons, Andrew has grown up in a family of readers and theater-lovers. His two older brothers were in the EHS Drama Club before him, so “I grew up in it.” His mom headed the organization that ran the shows, was band booster and frequently took her sons to theatre. Andrew’s oldest brother worked at the library, and his next oldest brother was such an avid reader that the children’s librarian asked him what books he was reading so she’d know what great books to order for the library. Andrew spent so much time there that he didn’t need his library card to check out books.

When I asked Andrew to name a favorite book from any period of his life, his face lit up. He most remembers Gingerbread Man and Make Way for Ducklings because he read them over and over and over again. When I set about to take his photo, we decided to take it in front of the Make Way for Ducklings print on the wall behind him, the backdrop to our hour-long conversation. It was Andrew’s idea to enhance the photo by holding the actual book, so he searched through the large supply of kids’ books on hand because he and his mom regularly care for his young nephews. He couldn’t find it then, but by the time I got home there was an e-mail from Andrew with the photo above.

Now an older reader, he’s getting into Shakespeare. Andrew was thrilled to get the complete works of Shakespeare at the library book sale where he volunteered and admitted, “I have a book-buying problem.” He’s seen a bunch of Shakespeare this summer and loves the way the written words come to life. Andrew enjoys seeing different productions of the same play because “you can see different interpretations and aspects of characters. I love that Shakespeare’s plays lend themselves to be adapted to different times.”

Andrew's set designLast summer Andrew spent five weeks in a program in set production and art at the Savannah College of Art and Design, learning more of the craft of bringing theatre to life. He made a series of 3-D set designs for song and theatre as well as fabric and costuming sketches. At SCAD, Andrew began to see himself having the artistry and creativity that I could so clearly see.

Andrew mulls ideas in his head. “I’m probably writing speeches, never to be delivered, all of the time,” he said. His writing inspiration often comes late at night. He doesn’t mind if his thoughts aren’t organized at this point but tends to pay attention to grammar and having complete sentences right from the start. Later (by which he doesn’t mean that same night) he edits and reorganizes his thoughts. There’s a sample of his writing at the end of this article.

Since his passion is about the three-dimensional aspect of theatre, both Andrew and I were curious about why his teachers chose him for this writing scholarship. While he is not yet a playwright, novelist or poet, Andrew is clearly a writer even when he’s talking. He’s articulate, choosing his words carefully and thoughtfully. He’s a prolific reader, puts his heart into his original writing, and has found a life passion, “which is also the passion of a writer.” He continued, “Theatre is about making literature come alive. Both theatre creators and writers seek to do the same thing, which is to tell a story, and in that sense we share that objective even if our means are different.”

Andrew is engaging, funny, literate, and earnest. He earned this scholarship because of his passion, enthusiasm, and attentiveness, and he happens to be one smart human being who also enjoys making music with his clarinet and guitar (he had to return the baritone sax to the school), searching for old vinyl records, and baking and cooking, taking after his father who was once a chef.

From Andrew’s college essay on making Broadway more widely accessible:

There has to be a way for a kid striving to understand himself, to hear the stories of relatable and diverse characters
. . . . Theatre is one of the greatest human creations. It takes the talents of dancers, actors, musicians, and technicians and combines them into a spectacular show. Theatre gives a voice to its artists, who use it to share their world with audiences. I cannot think of one reason why an artist would not want their world shared with as many people as possible. Therefore, I believe in accessible theatre. Because those worlds not only entertain people; they save people. Theatre has a message and that needs to be shared.


Becky by Carol DukeBecky Jones has had her fiction and poetry published in Peregrine, Patchwork Journal, and The Cancer Poetry Project 2. She is at work on a collection of essays about her former work as a hospital chaplain and her journeys through cancer and loss. She leads bereavement writing groups in the community and has a small counseling practice. She volunteers for Cancer Connection and Straw Dog Writers Guild and is an active member of the Northampton Friends Meeting (Quakers).

July 15, 2016

Notes from the Tunnels

By Liz Bedell

Liz BedellI spend most dawns curled up on the ratty old sofa in my study, trying to find the red thread of narrative. Some mornings I clutch at it convulsively, willing its taut energy to remain long enough to guide me out of the labyrinth’s depths, away from my Minotaurs, and onto the page. On gentler mornings, I watch inky blue fading to rosy promise, breathe deep into my belly, and settle in to discover where writing will bring me.

I view these morning sessions as a practice, a limbering exercise to get my writing fingers moving again, whether in rote scales or unanticipated melody—I am open to both.  And so it’s proved—I write for between an hour to an hour and a half, usually finishing around 6:30, sending a flood of words onto the screen and remembering to hit save just often enough. Often, I begin by letting my mind play through the “remember this!” notes I made the previous day—the absurd lineup of six Priuses along one edge of the Coop’s parking lot, the honking laughter of the man behind me in the movie theater, the lithe grace of the child running at full tilt across the field. What emerges aren’t full scenes or even character sketches, though I’ve come to understand several dim characters in my novel far better. But it’s vital, quicksilver work, work that will make story and scenes quicken later on. For some reason I have faith in its worth.

In these mornings, I am tunneling. Virginia Woolf coined that term as she was writing Mrs. Dalloway, noting her “discovery; how I dig out beautiful caves behind my characters; I think that gives exactly what I want; humanity, humor and depth. The idea is that the caves shall connect, & each comes to daylight at the present moment” when it is needed in the novel. From her diaries, it seems that for Woolf this tunneling took the form of forays into characters’ minds and thoughts, playing with style, voice, imagery, and scene. For me, it’s involved writing lots and lots of letters, between a Parisian wife before she became a widow to her trench-bound husband, from a callow French boy to his English summer-chum, etc. And diary entries, galore.  And official telegrams. And so on.

All couched in words that tumble through my fingers, forming story, twisting together in a sturdy cord that pulls me from each night’s depths into the confident morning light, lighting my path through tunnels I did not know I was making.

—Liz Bedell is a Northampton-based writer and editor who is at work on a novel set in post-World War I France. She taught high school English for many years before leaving to focus on her own writing. She also works as a freelance editor and writing coach and runs creative writing workshops for adults and teens. Check out her website here.



May 1, 2016


Writing Life

By Jane Roy Brown

My friend Martha had just retired, and we were having a typical conversation about what she wanted to do next. Martha ticked through a list—serve on the town conservation commission, maybe take a class at the community college, read more, spend time with her grandchildren, travel.

Then she paused. “I have some family stories I’d like to write,” she said, eyes dropping to the floor.

“That’s great, Martha,” I said. “By all means, do it.”

Another long pause, eyes still cast down. “I wouldn’t have the slightest idea how to begin,” she said at last.

I count that moment as the beginning of my third career. I had heard similar comments from other people over the years—usually women, often older, whose children had launched, or whose other responsibilities had lightened enough to allow them to focus on themselves. Usually, these brief conversations took place at cocktail parties when someone asked me what I did, and I told them I was a professional writer. Typically, the woman got a dreamy look and said she had always wanted to write. And I would say what I’d said to Martha: “Wonderful! Do it.” And she would say, more or less, what Martha had said to me: “I don’t know how to start.”

Maybe it was because Martha wanted to write about her family, her life. Or because I had reached the age when I understood, at a cellular level, that life was a comet’s tail in the night sky. But this time I heard the familiar words as a call to action, maybe even a calling: I would help people write stories from their lives. Memoir, yes, but not just memoir. Stories about parents and grandparents, where they had come from, how they had lived. The stories they had passed down.

I held my first workshop in 2012, trying different ways to silence the naysaying voices the novice writers had internalized from earlier writing experience. Working with collage, mind-mapping, and other visual tools, the women in the early workshops managed to tell stories swollen with emotion, lush in remembered details. By the time we moved on to words, they knew they had stories in them and that the stories intrigued the other people in the small group. I witnessed that spark of realization: I have something to say, and it’s interesting. I heard the stories evolve, and I could see the writers gaining confidence. When they read their work, they owned it. They found meaning in the process and in the product.

I remember one woman who wrote about not being able to sleep at night since receiving the late-night phone call from the police, telling her that her healthy 29-year-old had collapsed while working out at the gym and, inexplicably, died in the ambulance. She cried when she read her account of this memory, of her haunted nights during the years since. The other writers teared up too, but they listened with respect, not attempting to hug or comfort her, sensing that it wasn’t necessary. This woman was finding the comfort she needed in her own words. Like the conversation with Martha, this moment was revelatory for me: Reading someone else’s life story can be transporting. Writing a story from one’s own life has the power to heal.

Martha lives an hour away, and only when I offered a weekend retreat last winter was she finally able to attend a workshop and start her story. Encouraged by four other women, Martha began writing, prompted by faded photographs. She described her mother’s life as an Italian immigrant to this country, the bitterness that settled in her face after men had tried to rape her aboard ship, when she was alone except for infant Martha, and then stolen money from her when she arrived in the country. Martha cried when she read it. “My daughter experienced her as hard woman who was too hard on me. ‘Why do you let her treat you that way, Mom?’ she’d say. But even when she was tough, I always knew my mother loved me. I want my daughter to know what my mother lived through, why she was the way she was.”

At the end of the emotional reading, she thanked the other writers, “I didn’t think I could do this,” she said, tears still in her eyes, “but I’ve finally started.”

Jane Roy Brown has worked as a writer and editor for thirty years. She is an award-winning travel journalist, a landscape historian, and the coauthor of One Writer’s Garden: Eudora Welty’s Home Place. Jane leads writing workshops through her business, The Heart of Story: Writing Stories of Our Lives.


April 1, 2016


Listening to Other Voices

Guest Blogger:  Ellen Meeropol

We read for so many reasons – to be entertained, to armchair-travel, to be goosed into other ways of thinking, to learn, to experience lives very different from our own. To expand our world.

We choose our books in many ways too. We browse bookstore and library shelves. We read reviews in print or online. We ask our friends what they’ve read and loved recently. We discover new authors at readings and book festivals.

Depending on who we are, and where we live, it’s easy to become stuck in a rut about book choices. We may find ourselves limited to books appearing on bestseller lists or featured on the New Fiction shelf in the library, books with reviews and ads in the Sunday Times. We might find ourselves reading mostly white authors, or mostly famous male authors, or mostly U.S. authors, or mostly books published by the big corporate presses. Some of these books are amazing, not to be missed. But what else might we be missing?

The playing field in publishing is anything but level. Authors of color, or minority ethnicity or sexual orientation, disability or age, or any “outsider” identity are more likely to be published by an independent press, less likely to have strong national distribution and marketing budgets to bring their books to our attention. Does it matter?

I think it does. Voices that tell stories out of the mainstream – of racial hatred and violence, of Islamaphobia, of bashing immigrants and shaming the poor – these voices are often marginalized. We may have to look harder to find their books. But to expand our world, it’s worth it and it matters a lot.

—Ellen Meeropol is the author of two novels, On Hurricane Island and House Arrest, both published by Red Hen Press. A former nurse practitioner, a part-time bookseller, and literary late bloomer, Ellen is fascinated by characters balanced on the fault lines between political turmoil and human connection.

March 1, 2016

Reflections on the New Year

Wyoming Skyline copy (1)

By Patricia Lee Lewis

When the new year dawned, I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, watching the tops of snowy mountains glow pink in the rising sun and listening to Alasdair Fraser play his fiddle on the radio. For this turning of the year, he’d chosen a tune from the Shetland Islands of Scotland, very old. He said it made him feel what it was to be human, and he played it in the Gaelic manner, intimate and raw. The light and the music stirred my bones like an ancient memory.

I was brought to this beautiful tree-rock-river-rattlesnake-raven-being-blessed world with the question of how to be a human-being inside of it. Apparently (and events of 2015 certainly bear this out) a big part of being human is that we dominate and control, bring war and destruction on what we touch; but clearly there’s a lot more to us. We share forest trails, city streets, we create dwellings. Through our art, our writing, singing, painting, dancing, woodworking, yoga, sculpture, ceramics, our family and home-making, through whatever work we love, we find ways to nestle here as part of the whole of it, at least sometimes.

I believe the work we do in our writing circles–our capacity for attentive listening to one another, our common laughter and tears, our abiding gratitude, help us to grow larger, to soften and love more passionately each other and the home we and our fellow creatures have been given on this planet. It is good work. But my question is: with all the willingness in the world, have we time to tip the balance from acts of dominance and exploitation to acts of care and nurture? Everyday, we kill and everyday we rescue. Everyday, we have a chance to look in the eyes of other beings and see the enemy, or ourselves. Everyday, what do we choose? It matters so much.

I have to trust Rilke who famously told the young poet to forget about the answers and to live his way into the questions. Treasuring as I do my connection with you, your curiosity, talents and thoughtfulness, whether ours is an old friendship or new, deeply mined or untried–I pass along to you as a gift, the music, the dawn, the gratitude—and the not-knowing. I treasure our connections, and I wish you joy and creative wellbeing.





February 1, 2016

Nervous? Breathe and Speak Up

Guest blogger: Becky Jones


Susan Daniels, in her recent program on Dynamic Presentation, borrowed from her acting career to give the Straw Dog audience useful tools to enhance reading our writings to an audience. Her instruction gave us ways to appear strong and confident, even when we’re afraid. Her suggestions were simple: breathe into and from the belly, root yourself before you read, and shake out your nervousness ahead of time. She had more wonderful advice, but these are the things I keep coming back to.

Breathe in and out from the belly. “The body’s chemistry changes after only three belly breaths,” she said. In a few breaths, I indeed felt calmer and more centered. She had us yell at an “intruder” from both our bellies and our chests. Yelled from the belly, our words were steady, forceful, and effective. When we screamed “GO AWAY” from our chests, even our collective voices sounded afraid, weak, and unconvincing. I saw and felt how letting nervousness run the show reveals the very nervousness I am trying to hide, the fear that people will experience me as afraid and unconvincing.

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart – rather than slouched, one-legged, curled in on ourselves, and off balance. This helps us be tree-like. Redwoods send their roots downward about eight feet before turning them 90 degrees to intertwine with the roots of neighboring trees for stability. Each tree survives by being in a community of trees. Be like the redwoods, she urged. Send your roots downward but then let them join with the neighboring trees in front of you. They will become your partners rather than your judges. As I felt my roots move down and out, I noticed that my attention shifted away from my own nervousness and separateness from the group of people around me to their experience and our relationship.

The potential for transforming how I read my work in public feels big, but the impact feels more profound than that. Daniels gave me the opportunity to experience a sturdy inner calm and truth that have lingered with me. I find I am doing things that require my courage. I take deep breaths and then hear the timbre of my voice when I speak.

On the Thursday after the program, I learned about two artists’ residencies whose application deadlines were the very next day. Before, I had always assumed residencies were something only real writers applied for, which of course would not be me. My habit of fear would have kept me from even considering applying, and I would have been too shy to ask for references in the tight timeline given. But I noted my urge to apply and inhaled into my belly. By Friday evening I had submitted my applications, and now I am keeping my fingers crossed. Regardless of whether I am invited or not, I have made one more step toward claiming myself to be the writer that I am.

On the day after the program with Daniels, our Quaker meeting was deciding how we might support the decision of Northampton’s mayor to hang a Black Lives Matter banner at City Hall. As people were volunteering to be part of a contingent to speak with and listen to some city employees about how we might preempt the potential divisiveness of hanging the banner, a woman leaned over to me and whispered, “Do you think you’re supposed to be part of this volunteer team?” I said, “No.” But then I noted the hint of fear behind my “no.” I sat with her question, sent my roots down, remembered my listening and diplomacy skills, and found myself volunteering to be a member of the team.

The next Sunday, I participated in a discussion about what it means to us that our Quaker meeting has also put a Black Lives Matter sign in our quarters. The speaker before me stood to speak, saying in a tremulous, determined voice that she was practicing standing up for racial justice. When I took a turn to speak, I too stood to practice. Scared but in a resonant voice, I told the group that it is time for me to step away from the sidelines concerning racial justice, that ignoring racial injustice is my biggest white privilege. I see more clearly the truth that if I don’t stand up for others, by the time I need others to stand up for me, there will be no one left to stand. I described the lessons of Susan Daniels’s workshop and how I think her advice can be a template for speaking up for social justice and being effective allies to people of color. Shake out fears so that we are left with its residual steady energy; stand up; send our roots down and out to intermingle with others; and speak our truths from our core.

I don’t know if these examples are coincidental accidents of momentary bravery or signs of a genuine inner transformation, but I am grateful to have taken a few more steps on a more courageous track. Daniels helped me recognize that not only do I want my voice out in the world, but I want my voice to be out there in a powerful, generous, and decisive way.

Becky Jones has had her fiction and poetry published in Peregrine, Patchwork Journal, and The Cancer Poetry Project 2. She is at work on a collection of essays about her former work as a hospital chaplain and her journeys through cancer and loss. She leads bereavement writing groups in the community and has a small counseling practice. She volunteers for Cancer Connection and Straw Dog Writers Guild and is an active member of the Northampton Friends Meeting (Quakers).


January 1, 2016

Guest Blogger: Lori Desrosiers


In November, Lori Desrosiers joined a panel of esteemed local editors to discuss publishing in literary journals. During their compelling conversation Lori mentioned a new venture, Wordpeace ( I invited Lori to tell us more about this important new project, the kind that – in my opinion – we desperately need in these turbulent times.—Missy Wick, Straw Dog blog editor

From Lori Desrosiers:

Wordpeace is a new online journal of literary conversation with world events. It is on the web at I started it in June of 2015 with Monica Hand as poetry editor and Oonagh Doherty as fiction editor. For now, I am serving as non-fiction editor and webmaster.

In my introduction to the second quarterly issue, I wrote, “One gets a sense, gleaned from the upheaval and constancy of wars and racial violence, that many people may believe this is a given; as if there is nothing that can be done about it. However, we know there is something that can help. We can raise our voices in protest, in prayer, and in conversation.

“The viability of literary conversation is why we decided to put Wordpeace together, to put forward, through literature, the possibility of peace, that there might be change in the US and elsewhere to lead us toward a united world where there will be no extremes of wealth and poverty, and where all people of all faiths will feel safe to enter into not just conversation, but abiding friendship.”

Wordpeace accepts submissions year-round through Submittable and considers poetry, short fiction, essays and articles, as well as multi-media and cross-genre work. We are particularly looking for essays and poetry right now. We also publish an interview each month. The September issue features an interview with Joseph Ross, whose series of poems about Trayvon Martin are also featured in the journal. For more information, see the website or email—Lori Desrosiers

Lori Desrosiers’ poetry books are The Philosopher’s Daughter, published by Salmon Poetry in 2013, a chapbook, Inner Sky is from Glass Lyre Press and a second full-length book of poems, Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak will be out from Salmon in March, 2016. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She edits Naugatuck River Review, a journal of narrative poetry. She teaches Literature and Composition at Westfield State University and Holyoke Community College, and Poetry in the Interdisciplinary Studies program for the Lesley University M.F.A. graduate program.