Free Writing Workshops for Young Women Writers at The Carnegie Center

Free Writing Workshops for Young Women Writers at The Carnegie Center

The Carnegie Center, located in Lexington, Kentucky, is taking applications for the 2016 Young Women Writers Program, a series of free writing workshops geared toward youth interested in expressing themselves through writing. A committee will choose 6 promising writers in grades nine to twelve to participate in six 4-hour workshops.

February 13: Magical Realism with Sarah Combs

February 20: Creative Nonfiction with Journey McAndrews

February 27: Fantasy with Gwenda Bond

March 5: Spellbinding:The Art of Performance with Bianca Spriggs

March 12: TBA

March 19: Poetry with Kate Hadfield

Writers with professional literary backgrounds will teach the participants how to express themselves through different genres such as sci-fi, young adult fiction, and creative nonfiction. Participants will also master the methods of giving a successful public reading, as well as learn about different careers in writing and publishing.

Deadline for applications is January 8, 2016. Download an application here.

The Carnegie Center

The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning
251 West Second Street
Lexington, Kentucky 40507
P:(859) 254-4175 / F:(859) 281-1151

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WIRED Covers Magical Realism in Bolivia


If you’re a geek like me, you probably know WIRED as a nerd magazine with its printed magazine of electronics and gadgets. They’re more than that, I realize. They recently published a short article on magical realism art by Thomas Rousset and Rapaël Verona in Bolivia, referencing the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude).

Check it out at WIRED.

Books for Self-Published Authors

Tools for Writing

As Stephen King writes, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Writing Technique and Style

  • William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style – The first rule of being a writer: master the English language. Sure, there are some deviant authors who can break the rules–Cormac McCarthy doesn’t use quotation marks and Dashiell Hammett changes nouns into quirky verbs–but they understood the rules. You can’t break anything unless you know what’s to be broken. The Elements of Style teaches proper English grammar to readers, right down to the last period.
  • Renni Brown and Dave King’s Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print – Though this book doesn’t guarantee getting into print (if you’re already a self-published author, you’ve got that down), this book has useful pointers for improving your writing technique.
  • Caroline Sharp’s A Writer’s Workbook: Daily Exercises for the Writing Life – If you are looking for a writing exercise book outside of your high school English textbooks, this book is a good start. Sharp’s writing background helps carries you through exercises to generate and write well-formed stories.
  • Jane Straus’s The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation – Looking to improve your grammar without taking an expensive English class? Pick up this book. It has useful lessons and exercises for everyone. If you’re really looking for an interactive and immediate test of your English grammar, try The Blue Book‘s free online grammar quizzes.

Advice from Experienced and Successful Authors

  • Stephen King’s On Writing–Many authors and critics quote King’s book (an example on Writer’s Digest). It’s a must-read book in the writing community. From King’s childhood to his adulthood as an English teacher and a famous writer later with all of the adversities in between, On Writing shows how even well-known writers are human.
  • Haunted Computer Book’s Write Good or Die–Need advice from successful and obscure writers? This book holds dozens of writers who voice their thoughts about becoming a writer.
  • Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running–This book is an invaluable read for writers looking for a glimpse into the world-renowned magical realist’s brain. His writings on short stories are especially important for short-story writers.
  • George Orwell’s Why I Write–The Animal Farm and 1984 writer writes about his life as an Englishman, and his writing style and reasons for writing.

100 years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Blubber Island author, Ismael Galvan, shares his take on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude from the viewpoint of a Chicano.




I have discovered a writer who didn’t write a story with words, but wove a mysterious living thing from strands of his soul. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is a book that hardly requires additional praise. It was awarded the Nobel Prize, has been translated in every major language, and is considered one of the first major works of magical realism. What can I add that hasn’t already been said? It’s a waste of time to write a review, and so I’ll try instead to write about the experience I had.

To give you a little background, the story is about the founding and collapse of an imaginary town named Macondo, whose existence is intertwined with the bloodline of the man that founded it. Immediately the storytelling quality mixed with real historical events reminded me of the way my grandparents told us stories. It starts off as a realistic…

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Review: Buzz by Robert Zverina

Anyone who has read Buzz by Robert Zverina probably wonders the same thing.

“Houston, we have a problem. Why isn’t this book under a big publisher?

Orbiting the moon landing of the U.S. Apollo 11 in 1969, Buzz tells the ordinary tale of Buzz Polstar, the son of Czech political refugees, and his time growing up in Long Island. Buzz showcases Polstar’s nostalgic childhood in the 1960’s, his mundane college career, and his apathetic adulthood.

What makes this book a brilliant read is the witty yet reflective narrative voice of Robert Zverina. Calm and collective with a trace of humor, Zverina delivers an easy, relative read for people looking for a break from the extraordinary. His stream of consciousness throughout the book pounces back and forth between the present and the past, giving few clues to the future. Though Zverina has a unique style, Buzz is imbued with John Fante’s somewhat-sober optimism and Charles Bukowski’s poetic play on words, minus the perversion.

Although Polstar is a great main character, his life’s story is common compared to his family’s history. Polstar’s stepfather, mother, and father escaped the Czech Republic under political pressure, landing in the U.S. as political refugees. Even Buzz’s birth during the moon landing was remarkably climatic over Buzz’s unexciting life. However dull Buzz’s life seems in the book, it’s easy for readers to see themselves in his life. If readers are looking for a less-whiny, contemporary version of Catcher in the Rye starring a regular person with a realistic perspective on a New Yorker’s life, Zverina’s Buzz is it.

In spite of being an indie author, Zverina is light-years away from the average indie author—and it probably comes from his well-rounded background. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Cornell University and a Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from Brooklyn College, CUNY. Even if anyone subtracted his educational background, Zverina has another trick up his space suit sleeve: he was mentored under the late Allen Ginsberg, one of the leading figures of the 1950’s Beat Generation. The anti-materialism, anti-conformism, and pro-drug theme—remnants of the post-World War II writers—shines through Buzz like a satellite in the middle of space.

Like its name, Buzz should be buzzed up by all readers needing a small step away from the mediocre in indie books.

Post notes:

Does this book fit into magical realism? There are some scenes that are told in reality, but they have a magical, inhumane element that changes the meaning (and the seriousness) of the scene. However, I still think Buzz is closer to a slice-of-life drama than magical realism.

Great Magical Realists from Around the World

Since many readers like my post on Japanese writers from my personal blog, I thought I would share a similar about writers in the magical realism genre.

Massimo Bontempelli (Italy)

Considered the father of magical realism, the Italy-born author has left tracks for authors from all over the world in the magical realism genre. He is famous for L’amante Fedele (The Faithful Lover), a short-story collection that won him the 1953 Strega Prize, Italy’s most prestigious literary award. His stories are written with clarity and realism, yet, the magical elements emerge in a slow, deliberate manner, as if they were always meant to be a part of reality. His writing style doesn’t fair as much on the poetic side as it does in a direct, easy-to-read way. If you’re into Franz Kafka and you know your way around Italian culture, Bontempelli will surely deliver you a good read.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is seen as the godfather of magical realism. His popular works, One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, has earned him multiple awards, including the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. Marquez’s works follows the theme of solitary and family life in a fictional village called Macondo. Similar to Bontempelli, Marquez is easy to digest, but his writing style is heavy on the poetic side.

Isabel Allende (Chile)

Author of The House of Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), Isabel Allende entered the writing world with an activist’s pen, cutting through criticism and becoming a popular magical realist author comparable (but definitely different) from Marquez. As letters to her family (The House of Spirits was created by a letter to her dying grandfather, and Paula was a letter to her daughter), Allende possesses both vivid story-telling and realistic backdrops of families. If you like Marquez, Allende should definitely be a favorite as well.

Ben Okri (Nigeria)

Although his works deals greatly with post colonialism, The Famished Road author has been a favorite among magical realism fans for years, even claiming the 1991 Booker Prize. Okri, a Nigerian novelist and poet, has written numerous books that uses spirits in a realistic setting. Though his works are comparable to magical realistic greats like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Okri does not place himself in the same genre. Still, his work is appreciated by magical realism readers as he continues to write stories of his childhood and homeland.

Haruki Murakami (Japan)

Probably one of the most famous contemporary writers in magical realism, Haruki Murakami has set the bar high for writers nowadays. Though his books are easy to read, they are laced with complexities and concepts that slowly seep into the reader’s mind. Many of his books, including The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and 1Q84, have met great success around the world, and in his homeland, Japan, his books are consistently sold out before they hit the stands. Although I’d recommend many readers to Murakami first for magical realism, his perspective comes from that of a displaced Japanese person, and thus, many of his works reference Japanese culture.

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Just a personal note

All of these writers are in some way or form associated with social and/or political change. Bontempelli was an active Fascist; Marquez was a journalist for El Espectador, and ended his time there with an expose on illegal smuggling; Allende escaped her hometown to Venezuela because of a CIA-backed military coup; Ben Okri consistently writes about post-colonialism, criticizing the government to the point he’s been added to death lists; and Murakami spoke out about Israel’s bombing of Gaza when receiving the Jerusalem Prize in 2009.  What does this mean? It means that even when you’re writing fiction, understanding political and social issues helps your work.

5 Days

Official book launch on September 30th, 2012!

Because it’s five days till the big day, I’ll take a moment to write about Franz Kafka, one of my favorite writers in magical realism. My recommendation for reading Kafka: read  Metamorphosis.  It’s written very well, and if you don’t mind the old prose, it’s accessible. Although the realism is there, I think Kafka uses more magical elements in his stories.