Creating Together

By Aaron Noriega

My name is Aaron Noriega, I’m a creative writing major an artist, a performer, and a musician. One of the reasons why I chose to go to SUNY Purchase was because of the many ways for students to express themselves. There are classes like Experimental Workshop, senior art projects, and student-run clubs, however, I found that our campus doesn’t necessarily reflect the creativity one would expect from an art school. Though the students at Purchase are constantly making brilliant art, the campus’s walls and grounds are often bare. I found myself wondering how many students felt the same, whether they, too, looked at our campus and wondered “What can I do to share my work and find others who want to do the same?”

I found myself incredibly lucky to be rooming with a bunch of film majors this semester. Though I’m not estranged from having artistic friends, I was used to creative writers and visual artists. I had never explored the art of filmmaking, except for perhaps a screenwriting course during my freshman year. The new environment was refreshing and a real beacon of growth for myself creatively. My roommates and I weren’t just bouncing ideas off each other, we were beginning to create whole storyboards and plans for our creative future. I want this to be something bigger than just three art students in a dorm at three in the morning, though.  

What I love about The Writer’s Club is the deep sense of community. I found that within it, even if it’s to work in solitude there is a space created to put your soul into something. The stories I was writing, the music, and the art I was making connections in ways I would have never thought possible.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just bring all the brilliant brains on campus into one room to just create something? What could we do if we created a space to create together, to step out of our comfort zones? The idea of a club comes to mind, all creative minds are welcome. Students could gather once or twice a month whether it’s to help one another with creative work or to give an outside perspective. Or they could come together with a theme, and try to collaborate and create a piece together, I would love to see works from all artists and the mixing of all mediums The club could be called Mediums Move. Each month could be dedicated to a specific theme, the art-if possible- combined into one big project by the end of the year. There could be ways to find places to share the art. Creating social media pages, and getting as many students involved as possible. There is nothing more beautiful than creative minds working together to make art.

What Does Fanfiction Mean For The Future Of Writing?

By Cephie Howell

It is somewhat well-known that the first modern record of ‘fanfiction’ can be traced back to the 1970’s, with the very active Star Trek fan community. This primitive form of fanfiction was published in fan-run magazines, quickly gaining so much popularity that the show’s creators were eventually compelled to acknowledge it. Now, fanfiction is a widely recognized part of fan culture, with even the most casual fans of shows, books, music, and movies participating in either the consumption or production of fanfiction.

            It is difficult to find exact statistics that detail the real number of people who consume fanfiction on a daily basis, but by examining specific websites and organizations we can see how widespread fanfiction really is. FanFiction.net, a very popular fanfiction website, has over 14 million new stories published each year, according to public statistics. Traffic metadata also shows that in December of 2021, the other popular website Archive of Our Own, had 1.7 billion page-views, a number that had been steadily rising throughout that year.

            With so much content, how does a fan find the stories that most interest them? The primary way to filter through these archives goes as follows; the reader goes on the website and selects which fandom, the book/franchise they want to read from, then by characters, and they can narrow it down even further by the scenario they want to imagine. For example, you want to read about Superman and Batman meeting in a coffee shop? There’s a tag for that. How about a raunchy dystopian buddy-cop adventure starring the cast of Hamlet? There are several tags for that. Want to see Jesus and Lucifer suddenly get the hots for each other? There’s definitely a tag for that. The system of tagging works with pertinent details about the plot, settling, characters, and the interactions that will ensue means that a reader can find exactly what it is they want to read. It completely cancels out the worst part about finding a book you enjoy— sifting through all of the books, and plots, and mediocre characters that don’t interest you. This likely reflects what the future of the creative market looks like, a completely customizable and personalized experience, something that will go a long way to aid in the exposure of all sorts of new writers and novels.

            But why is it that people write these strange niche stories? They aren’t getting paid for it, and most might even think them strange, so what compels a person to write a fanfiction? For many it boils down to a genuine passion for writing. Fanfiction can be a fun and engaging way for people to both expand on characters and worlds that they adore, while also sharpening their writing skills. One of the hardest parts of writing is creating a world and characters that suit that world, but writing fanfiction completely sidesteps those issues by using previously existing cannons as a writing prompt for new adventures. Another aspect of fanfiction that has historically brought in many new readers is that fanfiction has been a way for people to tell queer stories that the mainstream media have always avoided. Fanfiction and queerness have gone hand in hand in more ways than just sharing stories about queer relationships, it has also been a way to foster new and safe queer communities. It isn’t uncommon for a casual purveyor of fanfiction to have made friends in the comments of a favorite fic! What might begin as sharing common interests in a specific ship can bud and grow into large groups of interconnected individuals all creating a safe space for the creation of art, and that is a very beautiful thing.

            For many a love of fanfiction stems from a want to expand on worlds and ideas that have captivated you. Perhaps the ending of a series was disappointing, fanfiction can be a great outlet to practice one’s writing while also learning how to critique the media we absorb. It has historically been a way for queer individuals to find themselves in the characters that inspire them, and to use their voices and imaginations to shape media in a way that allows for a representation that isn’t often given by the major corporations creating the stories we consume. Fanfiction; whether a hobby or escape, a means of growth or of comfort, has something for everyone. As our culture continues to shift and change with the times, it will be interesting to see where this fanfiction phenomenon goes in the future.

Make My Mood

By Juliana Warta

While it may seem tedious to create a mood board for a project that may never have a visual component, it still does come in pretty handy, or at least it has for me. Having a visual reference or simply a collection of ideas and inspirations for a story can make the writing process both easier and more vivid.

So how do you create a mood board? What apps are helpful? What could you search for? A great place to start is Pinterest. Pinterest has many aesthetics and pictures that you can look through, and it’s very easy to search without having to be too specific.

Pick a color/ tone. You want to think of the color or tone you want your story to have. If you’re writing a more mystical/fantastical story, you may want to have a warm color like yellow or a sage green. If it’s horror or a much darker story you’re writing, you may want to consider a dark red or brown or a moss green. Thinking in terms of color might help you establish mood in your story. Searches that may help include: “fantasy aesthetic,” “dark aesthetic,” or “night/day aesthetic.” Most of the time you can find exactly what you’re looking for just by adding “aesthetic” to the end of it.

Think of your setting. If this takes place in medieval times, a castle might appear in some of the pictures or a village with simple cottages. However, if this takes place in a modern period, you may want to think about where your characters hang out. Perhaps a local coffee shop or movie theater? This will not only give you an idea of where the story takes place, but also gives some insight into your characters. Think about why they like going here so much. Is this coffee shop a quiet place for them to do work? Do they meet their friends here? Do they have a crush on the barista and come to say hi every day? Searches may include: “medieval aesthetic,” “movie/coffee shop/ library aesthetic.” Sometimes adding “date” before aesthetic gets you more pictures with people in them.

Quotes about the message/theme: You may want to think about some quotes that relate to your story, whether stemming from theme/motif or a motto they might live by. These quotes may never appear in the story itself, but are important to have for background. When creating your character, it may help to create a moral code for them or people that they look up to. You can also search for quotes from your favorite books or tv shows, one that you think inspires or relates to what you’re currently working on. Searches for this may include: “quotes about never giving up,” ( sometimes quotes may come up in aesthetics.)

Aesthetics for your characters (physical appearance): Now it’s time to start crafting your characters within the story. Having references to what you want them to look like can really help with description. If your character’s bright red hair is important to the story, or the first thing people notice about them, it may be helpful to have some faceless pictures of red heads. You should also think about eye color and skin color. Do they have bright blue eyes or a more subtle dark brown eye color? Also think about what this may say about your character; are they aware of their most captivating feature? Do they like to show it off or keep it to themselves? Do they get complimented on it a lot and how does that make them feel? Searches may include: “(color) eyes aesthetic,” or “(hair color) hair aesthetic.” Also try searching up specific features on someone’s face, maybe “freckles,” or “pale skin.”

The way a character dresses can say a lot about their personality. If they are quiet and shy, they might wear more monotone and baggy clothes to stand out less. But if they are loud and outgoing, they may wear more preppy skirts or happy colors. Some questions to ask yourself while creating this mood board might be: what is my character’s most appealing/loud feature? What would my character wear on a daily basis? What might my character wear on a first date or fancy event? How a character dresses in a story set in medieval times might inform you about their job or social status. If you’re setting up two characters in conflict, you might want to differentiate how they dress.  

Having mood boards for your character’s hobbies or favorite things can really help create their personality and give the reader a good idea of what they’re passionate about. Even if it’s not a central idea in the story, it still makes your character feel like a real person and makes them more relatable. Think about what they like to do in their free time, such as reading or art. You can delve deeper by asking what type of books they like to read or what type of art they enjoy (painting, drawing Etc.) and where they like to go to do these things? Do they have friends that share these interests with them?

By the time you’re finished you should have more than enough material to look back on for inspiration. And who knows what else you might discover along the way!

(An example of a finished product)

Can Artificial Intelligence Replace Writers?

By Sebastian Rios-Rodriguez

Artificial intelligence has been integrated into society with tools such as Alexa, and Siri, a concept that not too long ago only existed in science fiction. As a writer of science fiction, I have read many stories concerning A.I. Today’s technology hasn’t advanced enough for them to overthrow us, but it has gotten to the point where A.I can generate creative works. Now it seems artificial intelligence can even write stories, and make art as well. A.I programs such as Dall.E 2, an A.I art generator, and Writecream, a fiction A.I generator, has seen a rise in popularity, among other similar programs. Social media has begun to make use of these A.I programs to create pieces of artwork, or create stories or screenplays, one such example being a Batman screenplay. YouTubers like, Jazza,  a popular artist on the platform boasting 6.12 million subscribers, has compared the creative work of A.I work, and humans. Art generated from A.I for sure have created some quality pieces and are even posing a threat to artists. After seeing videos on the topic, I decided to investigate whether or not it really could replace writers.

Sassbook.com is an A.I program that is both free and has diverse genres to choose from, so I started there. The way A.I writing works is by using a set of programming that can learn and also pull information and data from the internet. This information is based on the keywords and phrases you input into the program.  The A.I can effectively learn to craft a story using all the information it gathers. You can pick what genre you want when using the A.I, and input a phrase and keywords. There is a recommended 15-30 word limit on the prompt you put in. By doing this the A.I will craft a story using the words and phrases you input. I followed this process by inputting, “A man in space, fighting an alien army, but he finds out they are the good guys.” It was a random line I came up with to generate the story. The stories are often short, but you can keep clicking the button that generates more writing, each click adds to the story. The A.I can keep a coherent story after I clicked a couple of times. It built upon the original prompt and continued to write more. I had the option to choose a genre but decided to keep it neutral in order to, see what the A.I would come up with on its own. It would seem that A.I really could replace fiction writers. Or could it?

A.I has its limits; The story might be coherent, and the syntax can sound unnatural or jumbled, thereby confounding meaning. The A.I needs a bit of help sometimes requiring you to go in and fix sentences or include more clarification for a certain element. This could include things like the A.I confusing a description of a place or action for a description of a person. Another example, the A.I, would write out actions, including much-unneeded detail. It gave too much where not much was needed. Creating longer pieces would be difficult for the A.I as it would run into problems with too much description, as well as having clunky sentences. It can sustain a narrative, but a confusing one when you can’t tell who is talking. The dialogue is also not the greatest, sounding generic and lifeless at times.

The A.I create original work, paired with a writer it is an immensely powerful tool to test out ideas, and even get new ones. If a Writer gets writer’s block, this is an excellent way to test out ideas and experiment with storytelling. Writer’s block is something many writers, both experienced and inexperienced face. With programs like these on the rise, we might see a surge of writers utilizing the A.I. Artificial intelligence should be looked at as a tool, and not as competition for writers.

Visuals from Sassbook.com:

Are You Really Getting What You’re Paying For? A Glance at Unused and Unknown Student Resources

By Michael Abramson

Let’s face it: college isn’t cheap. Many of us are spending thousands of dollars out of pocket and taking on even more in loans in order to be here. Most students would say that it’s worth the cost—and I agree! The important thing is to make sure that every dollar counts. College is a unique experience that is just as much about forming connections with students and professors as it is about education. As of Fall 2022, SUNY Purchase College has an enrollment of over three-thousand students, all of whom pay the MSAF and have equal access to a wealth of resources available on campus that so few know about.

Never heard of the MSAF? The acronym stands for: Mandatory Student Activities Fee. It’s something that every single student pays as part of their tuition regardless of part-time, full-time, commuter, or resident status. This money is allocated for student clubs and events like Culture Shock (a spring festival with famous performers and fair rides), STOOD parties put on by clubs with live music, and more.

But what about the resources we pay for that aren’t advertised?

For example, the New Media school has a laser cutter and 3D printer (CMFT 0082) right next door to a fully functional woodshop (CMFT 0080) in the basement of CMFT. I used the laser cutter once to create wooden tokens for a story I wrote in a creative writing course on building alternate worlds. s long as you bring your own materials during lab hours, someone will teach you how to use the machines. Hours for open hours to use the laser cutter and 3D printer are not currently posted, but make sure to keep an eye out! There is also a screening room (CMFT 0065) in the CMFT building with built in seating and projectors that can be rented out by students for viewing parties, or even just hooking up a gaming console and playing with friends. Any student can book the screening rooms—or any other available room—through RoomBook on the Purchase Webpage.

On top of access to many different types of equipment in CMFT, the campus has a whole department in the basement of the Social Sciences building dedicated to loaning technical equipment out to students for classes, group projects, or personal endeavors. Campus Technology Services, or CTS, has tons of equipment such as: microphones, speakers, lighting equipment, laptops, tablets, headphones, and more. On average, rentals last about one to two weeks, but can be extended for the full semester upon request. It won’t always be approved, but it never hurts to ask!

Purchase also offers access to free yoga classes at the Wellness Center in Fort Awesome. With classes taught every day, different instructors offer different courses. Ranging from Pilates with Paul to Yin Yoga with Jane, the Wellness Center offers students a safe place to relax and escape from the stress of assignments. Purchase also offers free lectures from visiting artists, writers, concerts, and more!

There are also places where students can get things! Everyone loves things and The Freestore gives students a place to get just that. The Freestore is an on-campus thrift store located on the second level of D-Hall that is completely free to students. All goods are donated from the student-body and the surrounding community. On a good day, you can find big brand bags or cooking appliances, and on the bad ones, you can find some silly props for a short film you’re shooting in the tunnels beneath the plaza. The FreeNew is a similar concept. All around the campus are sheds containing things left behind by students who either moved or graduated: old fans, storage cubes, even ice-cube trays, etc. They open at the end of each semester so students can get rid of things they don’t need; one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Finally, The Food Pantry, which is located on the bottom floor of the library, where students can go and pick out food that has been donated. Canned goods and non-perishables are at the tips of our fingers and any student is welcome to take some as long as they have a valid student ID. Everything is completely anonymous and confidential so everyone can have equal access to food on campus. These are only some of the resources available that I’ve managed to discover. Reach out to professors, send emails to directors, take advantage of the resources you are paying for and make your education work for you!


Throw Me a Line; A discourse on lineation in visual art and poetry

By Natalie Çelebi

Photo : Blue Painting by Wassily Kandinsky​

To the poet, the line straddles a nexus of beginnings and ends– at once a breath drawn and a final exhale. Likewise, to the visual artist, the line deftly asserts and differentiates. Lately, I’ve wondered about the line, its sojourn into physical and conceptual space. There’s no denying–it gets around. But what does it do? What are its means as a constructive basis across these two disciplines?

Every poem leaves the trace of an invisible mover; under whose careful craft do these black strokes soar across the page, under whose charge do these ants march left to right?

Though lines are more often obscured in visual art, they serve as a similar constructive basis, leaving the scent of a not dissimilar mover. The intuitive drawing of the line is more divisive than we might initially think– an assertion, literally, against white space, an observation of illustration as opposed to blankness. This same tension, procured by the line, is readily observable in poetry. The white space of the page and the black text of the line exist simultaneously– the voice of the poem and the silence of the page are at once actualized. It is then the reader who traverses these silences and their acquittals.

The simultaneous assertion of these oppositions, this paradox, is in part the life of the poem, and the primary source of its constructive tensions. That a human scrawling can exist amongst an invisible order– or at the very least, a voice out of what might otherwise be deemed silence– asserts a tension around which art finds itself uncompromisingly gathered.

It is worth observing also that in the simplest visual terms, the line in poetry is a horizontal line. In his famous treatise Point and Line to Plane, Wassily Kandisnky writes that in the human imagination the horizontal line “corresponds to the line or plane upon which the human being stands or moves.” This perhaps is the most poetic basis on which to build our impressions of the poem’s structural nature and the purpose of the line; to stand, to move.

Though up from what does it stand? From what is it spurred into motion? It may suffice for now to say that poetry moves from and out of the invisible. The artist’s often indefinable inspiration, contextual mysteries within the writing, the mysterious arrival of a poem itself may all be things which signify and constitute these invisible points. Regardless, the line articulates these invisibilities and furthermore, it moves both at the joining and in the wake of their connection. It is the basis on which a poem is propelled logically and tonally, the poem’s vastness cocooned also in each line.

A line, in works of visual art, encompasses this same ethos of movement, a visible articulation of invisible points, toward which they are joined into critical parts of a whole. It is here in motion from the point to the line that Kandinsky notes, “the leap out of the static into the dynamic occurs.”

Some poets believe the line is breath; the syllabic spell of iambic pentameter was originally meant to encompass the measure of a single breath. Poets who write in projective verse–Jorie Graham, Barbara Guest, Ocean Vuong (to name a few contemporaries) – make white space an even more integral part of the line, so one measures the cosmos of the poem visually as well as linguistically, thematically, and the breath between each abstract term, each ‘line,’ becomes enveloped by this basis of survival: breath.

The lines of a painting or drawing may be more numerous than the lines of a poem, but each of them carry respectively the same necessity; each is air to their respective body. Both the poem and the drawing obscure the line, transform it, expound upon it, and when undressed, can also be brought to it, distilled in its brave and necessary insistence to move, to speak.

Temporalities should also be considered– the line as a unit of motion is also necessarily one of time. In Medieval times, before paper was easily procured, there existed a mode of recycling whereupon writing was scraped or washed off animal hides to be reused. These collective documents, called palimpsests, exemplify a unison among the disparate, containing not only the contents of a present document but traces and shades of previous writings.

It is through the destruction and transformation of the line that a painting contains and expounds upon its own past. Drawing then itself earns a kind of palimpsestic quality, past records of the line destroyed and transformed by the artist, quipped into form. It is called a pentimento in painting where earlier drafts haunt the final work and these spectral lines again reemerge.

Poetry, too, is a picture of palimpsests and pentimenti. When writing or reading a poem, there is a feeling one is impressing and being impressed upon by previous voices; who–yet again–are these invisible movers? Whether they be an engagement with the work’s previous selves, or with voices of the past at large—a work of art is always in conversation with its predecessors; an inky palimpsestic chorus, worn and feathered lines flanking each written word, each emerging shadow and shape. Between the two
disciplines lies yet another convergence; the past, and present, in all its looming candor, is on the line

An Ocean of Fear: How Subnautica uses a Thriller Author’s Technique to Create Terror

By Brandon Dennis

Photo by Kellie Churchman

“ Attention. Hull failure imminent. All personnel: abandon ship.” Announces a faintly staticky robotic voice, vaguely British, quiet in comparison to the steadily blaring siren over the dull base rumble of explosions. A third sound grows audible: your own ragged breath. You’re sliding down a ladder into a tiny pod of a room. You take no time to look around as you throw yourself with a grunt into a single chair attached to the wall. Before you’re even fully seated, your finger lands on the button on the armrest, causing a harness to lower over your shoulders and torso. The same voice, louder this time: “Launch in 3… 2… 1…” You brace yourself with the handles of your harness as the room rumbles. Gravity loses meaning. You peer up through the glass hatch from which your ladder descends just in time to see the brilliant flash of a detonation with a blast far louder than any previously heard. Your pod shakes from the proximity. A metal panel and a fire extinguisher are ripped from the wall as the red warning lights spin and a rapid high-pitched beeping fills the room. You have no time to react. The panel catches you squarely across the temple and everything goes black.

            This is not the start to an odd, second person sci-fi novel, nor a written account of an eighties sci-fi movie: it’s the start of Unknown World’s survival horror, Subnautica, a game in which you collect resources and explore an alien ocean to find and construct a way home.

As you reawaken and emerge through the hatch above the ladder, you find yourself standing on a “lifepod,” a single floating spec of safety in a massive ocean. There’s nothing in any direction except ocean- nothing save the hulking mass of your spaceship, the Aurora, miles away and larger than a skyscraper, half submerged in the sea.

            The plot is clear. A “fishbowl scenario,” as described by thriller author and essayist Benjamin Percy. You are on an unknown alien planet and the conflict doesn’t hide. You’re trapped. It is this lack of context that adds the “horror” to the description of this game. You are alone, and you know nothing. When addressing how much backstory to include in a story, Percy asks “How about none?” He reasons making inferences and filling in the blanks of the narrative is part of the pleasure of reading a story. The reader become a “coauthor.” As you eventually work up the courage to dive into the sea, this internal coauthor is firing on all cylinders. There could be anything beneath those waves.
            Subnautica was designed to take advantage of that terror. As the game is played, you collect materials, build gadgets and tools to help you survive. In the vicinity of your little “lifepod,” you learn to avoid sand sharks and barracuda-like stalkers. At first, they’re frightening, leaping out and ambushing you seemingly at random. But you learn. Sand sharks are only quick in bursts, stalkers can be distracted with an offering of fish.  While the ocean is far from safe, you grow in confidence as you play. Eventually, you even manage to build yourself a personal submarine, and learn of blueprints for a rocket in the captain’s quarters of the Aurora: your way home.

It’s here the game borrows from literature what Percy calls “the reversal”.” It’s a subversion of expectations as, according to Percy, “We’re vulnerable to the terror because we don’t see it coming.” It’s no coincidence that the safest biome in the game, appropriately named the “safe shallows,” is set directly next to the hyper-dangerous “crash zone,” where the Aurora looms. The promise of escape and the murky waters around the Aurora hide the lurking leviathan. At least until it attacks, ripping apart your safe submarine and nearly devouring you. That instant transition from comfortable and familiar to frightening and unknown mirrors the sentence structure of a thriller suspense novel. If the game began immediately with you, the player, swimming desperately away from the hungry jaws of a “Reaper Leviathan,” the effect would be far weaker. Those hungry jaws don’t show up until you’re comfortable in the ocean, confident in your knowledge of the world around you and hopeful from the promise of escape.

By borrowing from literature, Subnautica is careful to provide you with just enough context to construct a narrative and reverse your expectations when you start to feel safe. With literary techniques, Unknown Worlds takes Subnautica from a forgettable gaming experience and transforms it into a sucker punch of terror.


A Collector’s Guide to Local Bookstores

By el j ayala

Despite fears it might, reading has not died out. It has changed though; books are mostly bought online nowadays through venues like Amazon and Thrift Books. People go based on book recommendations; the days of aimlessly flipping through books seems to be behind us. There are few physical bookstores left, but even then it is hard to find hidden gems at your local Barnes & Noble, so we collectors must mine the shops of unsung proprietors: independent bookstores. These tiny shops hold more wonders than you might expect. Here are a few local ones: Arcade

Booksellers, 9 Theodore Fremd Ave, Rye, NY
Arcadebookstore.com

I turned the around the corner into the little white building hiding alone on its own street. I was greeted by tall white bookcases with deep shelves. No bookcases were stacked with books in front of each other, but I saw large cardboard boxes on the floor behind the counter with new titles peeking out of the tops. I was greeted by the owner, Patrick Corcoran, who has run the shop himself for the past 30 years and so knows it like the back of his hand. Having recently developed a love of nature-based literature, he showed me an expansive collection of birding books. But after some browsing, I ended up opting for a romance called Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman (great book by the way.) We talked briefly as I was checking out, and I talked about being in a moment of upheaval. He looked me over and recommended The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, a fantasy book about being lost in your own life, and the best recent contender for an instant classic that I’ve read. As I left, I found Patrick outside feeding a local dog and thought it best not to disturb him. Bronx

River Books, 37 Spencer Place, Scarsdale, NY
Bronxriverbooks.com

It was a Tuesday morning and people were bustling in and out, several of them stopping to talk to the owners, a lovely older couple named Mark and Jessica who told me a bit about the store’s history as I browsed. They recently celebrated the store’s four-year anniversary. At the time of their opening, they were the newest independent bookseller in Westchester by a decade. They’re still going strong, with a huge selection of around 17,000 titles, about 15,000 of those endorsed by customers. The owners showed me some investigative journalism on the IRA, as well as Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford, and Skippy Dies by Paul Murray. This place seems to have a slight propensity for UK literature, which I can’t help but find endearing. Under each of these titles, the owners had placed a handwritten review. But I was most excited to see that they had a sports section, specifically baseball. I walked out with The Ultimate New York Mets Time Machine Book by Martin Gitlin and another Mets-based So Many Ways to Lose by Devin Gordon, a perfect book for any baseball fan that likes to laugh or cry along with the losing team.

The Village Bookstore, 10 Washington Ave, Pleasantville, NY
Thevillagebookstore.net

This bookstore felt intimate, not only because of its cozy size, but because it heavily features local Westchester authors, and several signed titles. This place is especially well-suited for those who love YA, something underrepresented in many independent bookstores. It’s one of their biggest sections, even going so far as to celebrate the “new classics,” which is how I ended up with a copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. Every section has at least a few handwritten book recommendations for the unsure reader, even among their puzzles section and children’s picture books. But the crown jewel of this bookshop is their curated poetry selection, where I found The Way Back Home by Courtney Peppernell, a novella told through a series of poems about coming together as a community to rebuild after a time of great separation.

Scattered Books, 29 King St, Chappaqua, NY
Scatteredbooks.com

I saved my personal favorite for last. For those easily overwhelmed by choice, this is the place for you. Their collection is small, by select, every book a solid choice. There only have three sections: Penguin Classics, books on display, and books sorted alphabetically by author. It’s a great place for hidden gems. The atmosphere is cozy, with comfortable seating if you want to curl up and read. They have bunnies too! If you’re lucky, one much cuddle up while you’re perusing the shelves. They regularly have events with local authors, including book signings, Q&A’s, and launch events. The clerks are kind and happy to help you find a title you might not even know you’re looking for. A book I found there was Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, which employs jaw-dropping prose to pose an enthralling new take on the backstory behind Shakespeare’s classic, Hamlet.

I hope you found this local guide helpful. It is important, as participants in our local economy, to be aware of what businesses we are supporting with our patronage. I hope the next time your shelves are feeling empty, you opt for one of these smaller businesses to fill them.

Between Alaska and Here: A Micro-Interview with Carlie Hoffman

By Claire Torregiano

Carlie Hoffman is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection, This Alaska (Four Way Books, 2021). Hoffman earned her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, where she was the recipient of a creative writing teaching fellowship, a Philip Guston Endowed Writing Fellowship, and was a poetry editor of Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art. Currently, she is a lecturer in creative writing at Purchase College, SUNY. Hoffman is also the founding editor and editor-in-chief of Small Orange, a poetry journal. She lives in Brooklyn. As her former student, I was delighted to speak with her about her creative work and process. We spoke over a video conference call in September 2020 and discussed the processes of drafting, revising, and arranging this collection.

CT: When did you decide you were going to write a book of poetry?

CH: I didn’t really realize I was writing a book. With poetry, you have a bunch of poems already and then you have to figure out how they’re in conversation with each other. I never felt like I was finished with the draft, actually. I still don’t feel like I’m finished. It’s a strange experience. I started writing the book in grad school, where I workshopped the poems. At the time it was a thesis that I eventually revised into this book. When I submitted it, my advisor said, this is a book. They gave me suggestions on what was missing and what needed to be revised. When This Alaska was accepted for publication, I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to put it away now.’ I had started working on a second collection, and I just put it away.

CT: What was the biggest change from the first draft to the final publication?

CH: I’m in the process of talking to one of my editors about making it into the final draft for publication. And the thing that I’ve realized through this process is that I’m so obsessed with word choice, and I’m really excited about that because I feel like I have a stronger grasp on language and the connotations of words. Words can really alter what it is you’re trying to say, and you have to think about line-by-line and word-by-word what it is you’re communicating.

CT: Is there anything you didnt want to change from your first draft?

CH: I’ll take a poem out if I need to. I’m happy to cut things out and make edits. But there was a conversation about the title: This Alaska. The tangible setting of the collection does not actually take place in Alaska; it’s more about the imagination’s reaction to trauma. The speaker moves between real, tangible spaces and this imagined Alaska-world, and these shifts are woven throughout the collection. I had two readers who had opposing critiques about the movement of these two different spaces. One of them said the collection required more poems set in the real spaces, while the poems in the imagined spaces in Alaska belonged somewhere else. The other reader said that the imagined spaces had to stay in the collection. Having those opposing viewpoints compelled me to think about what I was trying to accomplish in the book, and this conversation led me to put the collection back into sections. I had previously taken the book out of its sections at some point during the revising process, but after the conversation with my readers, I realized the collection had to be in sections in order for the movement between spaces to work. The one thing I was hell-bent on was making the imagined Alaska-world work with the real space.

Replacing the Zombies: A Micro-Interview with Donika Kelly

By Claire Torregiano

Dr. Donika Kelly is the author of the award-winning poetry collection, Bestiary (Graywolf Press, 2016), which won the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, the 2017 Hurston/Wright Award for poetry, and the 2018 Kate Tufts Discovery Award. As a former student of Dr. Kelly, I conducted this interview through email in September 2020. We discussed her drafting process and advice for students who are looking to publish collections of their own.

CT: What was your drafting process like for Bestiary?

DK: I went through several drafts of Bestiary over the course of four years or so (the timing is a bit murky in my head). In the penultimate draft, I had a sequence of zombie love poems at the center of the book, which worked, but more as a turning away instead of a turning toward the thematic concerns of the book. The poet Mark Jarman offered to take a look at the manuscript, and his main feedback, as I recall it, was to take those poems out. While I disagreed with his particular reasons, I knew he was correct, and I replaced the zombies with “How to be Alone.”

CT: How did you decide on the structure of the collection, in terms of how the poems are in conversation with each other?

DK: The task then became how to get from “Out West” to “How to be Alone,” and then how to transition out of that sequence toward “Back East.” Those three poems functioned as a kind of scaffold for the book. I printed out all the poems I thought belonged in the book and spread them out on the floor. I tried to listen to how poems were speaking to one another, [both] imagistically and thematically. Some poems fell away; others came into the rotation, and eventually I had a draft I felt good about. Finally, my editor suggested some sequencing edits after the book was accepted for publication, and I did move a few poems around. 

CT: Do you have any advice for students who are looking to publish a collection or chapbook, in in terms of the drafting process? 

DK: My big take-aways in that process were several-fold. First, having a vision for a project is great, but it helps to be open to feedback from mentors and friends. Second, printing out the poems and putting them next to each other is so helpful. Looking at a Word doc can’t approximate the tangible experience of moving the poems around. Finally, figuring out the first poem in sequence—whether that’s a chapbook, a full-length collection, or a short series of poems—is clutch. But! It’s also helpful to figure out the poems that can function as transitions, poems that can bear the weight of a significant turn in the collection.