Camille Dungy Walks the Red Carpet!

Camille Dungy’s collection, Suck on the Marrow, has been nominated for an NAACP award. Tomorrow night she walks the red carpet at the awards ceremony along with an impressive list of fellow nominees: Nikki Giovanni, Derek Walcott, Alice Walker, and Major Jackson. Wish her luck and come her read her work at Austin Community College, April 13, 7 pm, Gallery Theater, Rio Grande Campus, 1212 Rio Grande. It’ll be a great night.

The Objective

I must have been run over in my sleep last night. I woke today feeling tired and sore but I still got out of bed and headed over to Mueller park to resume training for a triathlon I’d like to participate in. I’m drawn to the triathlon because the objective is balance, variation and health. Later I went to school, walked the dog (slowly, carefully), worked a little, and I’m currently doing homework, anticipating my next class and heading to a basketball game at UT tonight. One of my classes was canceled, and now I have time to start.

I’ve been unsure of what to write to introduce myself as the blogger for ACC’s Creative Writing Program. As a general rule, I like to avoid generic bios about myself. I tried to write some poems but they were duds and a stirring narrative didn’t seem like the right fit. “A girl sits in an ACC media lab and laments the loss of her laptop in the Hyde Park robbery of July 2010. She smells cigarette smoke on someone’s clothes and cloying air freshener. She wonders if she’ll disturb the others by streaming funk music videos on YouTube while she waits for inspiration to strike.” See, it’s just kind of lame.

So I’d like to start by discussing a creative block that is very close to my heart: procrastination. I want everything I write to be brilliant and so I figure that if I mentally map out my stories, poetry and essays, when I sit down an hour or two before my deadline to write, it’ll flow from my fingertips. I sit somewhere silent and study adhesive remnants on the side of a table, dust in the back left corner of a desk, a cursor blinking, mocking, blinking. I need the perfect sentence. Time ticks by. I’ll do it later. If I wait long enough, I’ll have to come up with something–right?

Writing is cathartic for me. The trials and histrionics of my personal life fit nicely into stories. If it doesn’t work as a story, I can try it as a poem or a song. What starts as memoir takes on its own life to become fiction. A short story stretches into a novel. An aimless novel blooms as one vivid scene. Crazy dreams about squids releasing their ink into the ocean as they escape can live forever as allegory for my ability to rise above the daily madness through written expression. I can be calmed and healed this way.

It’s just that I’m busy. Between school, work and trying to maintain a social life (not to mention cleaning, grocery shopping, showering and other basic keys to a happy, healthy lifestyle), I feel flustered and sometimes just exhausted. So what is there to do? My answer is to keep trying. If all I write is two sentences on that great American novel I’m working on before I fall asleep at my desk, then I’ll write those sentences.

For me, the objective is balance, variation and health. What’s your objective?

-Joanna

Scholarship Information

The ACC Creative Writing Department is currently offering scholarships in the Fall and Spring to help pay for books and tuition.

Fall Creative Writing Scholarship ($500 for Spring tuition and books)
 Fall Scholarship Application deadline: November 15th

Spring Creative Writing Scholarship ($500 for Fall tuition and books) 
Spring Scholarship Application deadline: May 15th

Criteria:

  1. Overall 3.0 GPA
  2. 15 hours of completed ACC coursework
  3. Successfully completed English Comp. I (ENGL 1301)
  4. Completed at least one ACC creative writing class

To apply:

  1. Complete the Creative Writing Scholarship application (click here to download the application)
  2. Attach a cover letter – this is your opportunity to expand on your ambitions as a creative writer and describe what you hope to achieve at ACC and beyond.
  3. Include a creative writing sample (one prose piece, five to ten pages of screenplay or play, or three poems) .
  4. Send everything to: Charlotte Gullick, Department Chair Creative Writing Austin Community College 1212 Rio Grande Austin, TX 78701

Balcones Poetry Prize 2011

The $1,500 Balcones Poetry Prize for 2010 has been awarded to
Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been by Chase Twichell.

The Balcones Center for Creative Writing at Austin Community College is pleased to announce the 2010 Balcones Poetry Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of poetry published during the year.

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Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been: New and Selected Poems, published by Copper Canyon Press, gathers the best of Twichell’s previous six books (since 1981) with a generous selection of new poems. The title is not only a clever turn of phrase, but also a serious reflection of her poetics. She gives voice to a Zen sensibility that, rather than offering all the answers to life’s problems, raises insistent questions. In poems of lyrical grace and stark reality, she goes looking for answers that have a mathematical certainty, and instead finds horses. In the midst of a witticism, we are made to contemplate the irreducible, irreplaceable, vanishing forms of nature. The 2010 judges praised her “honest and exquisite poems,” her “naked awareness” and “confident articulation” which are “never presumptuous or arrogant or rash.” “She has a gift for making the ephemeral concrete; thought wears the emblem of language but silent consciousness inhabits senses and intuitions beyond the realm of ideas.” The new poems in particular reflect “the second innocence of an adult mind open to the fearless vulnerability of childlike discovery—and resonating with images of childhood that counterpoint the insights of late middle age. This alternation of imagery infuses the lines with a vital dynamism…between the free animal nature of children and the adult resignation before death.” Twichell was editor of Ausable press from 1999 to 2009, and has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Twichell will visit Austin Community College to read from her book October 20, 2011.

Four finalists were also named:

  • Preliminary Report, by Jon Davis (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Winter’s Journey, by Stephen Dobyns (Copper Canyon Press)
  • Suck on the Marrow, by Camille T. Dungy (Red Hen Press)
  • Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, by Tony Hoagland (Graywolf Press)

The judges for the 2010 prize were Robert Bonazzi, a San Antonio poet, critic and biographer; Elizabeth Scanlon, a poet and professor at Austin Community College; and John Herndon, poet, professor and associate director of the Balcones Center for Creative Writing.

Former winners:

  • Bill Berkson, Portrait and Dream, 2009
  • Michael McGriff, Dismantling the Hills, 2008
  • Aimee Nezhukumatahil, At the Drive–In Volcano, 2007
  • Lorna Dee Cervantes, Drive, 2006
  • Aaron Anstett, No Accident, 2005
  • Lorenzo Thomas, Dancing on Main Street, 2004
  • John Hogden, Bread Without Sorrow, 2002
  • Carol Potter, Short History of Pets, 2001
  • Dana Levin, In the Surgical Theatre, 2000
  • Arthur Sze, The Red-Shifting Web, 1999
  • Reginald Gibbons, Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, 1997
  • Lucia Perillo, The Body Mutinies, 1996
  • Kathleen Halme, Every Substance Clothed, 1995

Balcones Fiction Prize 2011

The Balcones Center for Creative Writing at Austin Community College announces that the $1,500 Balcones Fiction Prize for 2010 has been awarded to Linh Dinh for his novel, Love Like Hate (Seven Stories Press).

Linh Dinh
Linh Dinh

Final judge, filmmaker and ACC Creative Writing professor Luke Garza, chose Love Like Hate out of six finalists. The first annual Balcones Fiction Prize attracted fifty nominations of novels and story collections.

Garza praised the novel for its verisimilitude. “I felt as though I were watching real people in real time,” wrote Garza. “His characters are, at times, a bit outrageous, but always within the realm of believability.”

Dinh’s novel follows characters through modern Vietnam. “Though Vietnam has often been depicted, in films, books and on television, it is nearly always unrecognizable from the Vietnam that I know. Hence, Love Like Hate,” wrote Dinh upon winning the fiction prize.

Dinh was born in Vietnam and immigrated to the U.S. in 1975. While the novel was inspired by Dinh’s two-and-a-half year stay in Vietnam starting in 1999, he says the setting is secondary: “I’m attempting to show how the individual is formed and deformed by the forces of history.”

Linh Dinh is the author of two story collections and five books of poetry. He is currently writing political essays about the decline of the United States. Dinh will visit Austin Community College to read from his book in spring 2012.

The other five Balcones Fiction Prize finalists are:

  • The Book of Harold: the Illegitimate Son of God by Owen Eggerton (Dalton Publishing)
  • Breathing, In Dust by Tim Z. Hernandez (Texas Tech University Press)
  • The Colony by Jillian Weise (Soft Skull Press)
  • Georgic: Stories by Mariko Nagai (BkMk Press)
  • How to Escape from a Leper Colony Tiphanie Yanique (Graywolf Press)