Friday, June 19, 2009

Brown and Juska

Last Monday, I read at the Rosemont Writers' Retreat. For a week, writers live in Connelly Hall with its architectural mix of old and new on Rosemont College's bucolic campus. In the mornings, participants write, attend lectures, and/or do yoga. In the afternoons, they workshop. Each day there is a lunch time reading which is free and open to the public, and each evening there are casual faculty readings for the retreat participants. Carla Spataro does a great job of bringing established writers/teachers to lead workshops in short story, poetry, and novel writing. Plus there's yoga. And it's a local oasis. No airfare necessary. You can disappear and devote yourself to the life of letters for a week without going broke.

I was flattered to be in the company of two very talented and accomplished writers who were both leading workshops at the retreat.

Randall Brown is a flash fiction wizard. He read several pieces. He brings an enthusiasm and energy to both his writing and his readings. Before each selection he gave its genesis. His first piece, for instance, came one day when he decided to explore what the internet had to offer in lieu of getting down to writing. After several distractions he came to this last one:
I moved to a name generator that gave me my robot name Supernova Bombedier, my porn star name Hard John Thong, my hip hop name MC Slim Dogg T and then a random one, Morton Bonsey. What happened after that was odd enough to become story worthy.
"Morton Bonsey" appears in Brown's collection called Mad to Live. In it, the author observes the character he has created. Morton becomes independent of his creator; he becomes a better man than his creator. It's intelligent, smart and funny and it is really short. How does he do that? For a long list of Randy's many publications and writerly endeavors, visit his website.

I read an excerpt from the first chapter of When Love Was Clean Underwear, which was published in Philadelphia Stories this month.

Elise Juska was the last reader. She has published three novels and is at work on her fourth. She has also published many short stories. This evening she read the first half of a short story called "The Nice Guy." In this story, a man picks up a lost cell phone. The next morning the owner of the cell phone's mother calls him and convinces him that he should bring the phone to her daughter, a college student. Juska carefully intertwines his past relationship with a girlfriend who came to hate his laidback accommodating ways and his current attempt to do the right thing and hopefully win the girl. Will the nice guy win out in the end? Luckily, the story will be published in the next issue of the American Literary Review so we can find out.

Visit Elise's website for information on her latest novel One for Sorrow, Two for Joy. I picked up a copy after hearing her read and can not wait to delve in.

And mark your calendars for next year's Rosemont Writers' Retreat!