We send letters weekly. Here’s our archive (in progress).

2020 // October 18, October 11, October 4, September 27, September 20September 13, September 6, August 30 

Want these in your inbox? Join the list.

“House of Highlights" ⚾️ and getting dragged.    | Flodesk
September 6, 2020


Dear writers, 


Lately we've been thinking about systems and processes, methods and tools. It's application season—lots of people are applying to fellowships and grants, residencies, graduate programs, and more. It's back-to-school season, and some of us are figuring out how to organize our work as teachers and as students. We offer to you: "HOUSE OF HIGHLIGHTS: an afternoon walk conversation." (soundtrack note: the Labor Day party music they play in the parking lot of the northern part of our favorite park ).


Q: It's summer, and yesterday I was looking at House of Highlights on Instagram 🙌🏾 and wondering where the hell all the great baseball plays were (no offense to basketball, but the cusp of October always brings my mind to baseball). When I was younger, I was an excellent baseball player. Like, really really good. At 10 or 11 years old, only a few kids really understand the rules of any sport, and even fewer can actually play. I was that kid who would dive or leap to make an amazing catch or an unbelievable throw. I would hear parents around me gasp and talk—how did he do that!—but what they didn't know is that I practiced sliding and running and jumping for catches thousands of times a week, all day every day at home. By the time I got to a game, it just felt like second nature. 


S: [Rolls her eyes because she's heard all this before.]


Q: So what I've been thinking about lately is this: discipline, practice, putting in the work is what truly helps you become a better writer. 


S: I mean, obviously you can't write without writing. But discipline alone is not quite it, at least not for me. As an artist, I'm totally used to “putting in the work.” I can go to the studio every day. I can do what it takes to get things done. But writing is different: simply showing up is not enough. I have to figure out how to get into some other state, beyond my thinking self, to find a way to intuit my way forward and then transcribe that intuition. And that process requires something more from me than just discipline.


Q: Good point. But that's exactly why writing regularly is so important for me. It's like I'm kicking a ball uphill—


S: Wait, more sports?


Q: —and if I spend some time with my book every day, the worst that can happen is I won't get any further, I'll stay in more or less the same place. But if I don't show up, the ball starts rolling back down the hill and then I'll have so much more work to do just to get back to where I was. 


I'll switch to a different metaphor: the challenge is to keep the fire going, and imagination is the fire. When you're writing a novel, keeping it alive is crucial—once it dies, you have to think all that stuff up again. 


S: I get it. In one of the interviews I was reading last week, with the hilarious novelist Mary H.K. Choi, she said something I found very astute: 


Let go or get dragged. It’s healthy and realistic to have a consistent practice but I’ve also learned that every piece of work has its own particular rhythms that you’d do well to honor. I’ve wasted a lot of time setting agendas that the writing is largely indifferent to


I'm not trying to get dragged, which means sometimes I do have to let go. And letting go looks like reading, or researching, or playing in relation to my work.


Q: I don't disagree. My point is that when you're in the zone, intellection feels easy, not like work. It is the letting go. 


Lately I have been using generative writing and prompts to help with that—giving myself the freedom to play with language. One of the first prompts I added to the prompt library in together.atlouisplace.com ("Lips thumped, thick as thugs throughout the night") is one I turned to last week when I had one eye on my work, one eye on the waiting room during morning writing sessions. 


Speaking of generative writing; speaking of morning writing sessions—


Friends, it's been such a pleasure to read and learn more about the work of our new members 🤩. For the last week or so, we've been hustling nonstop to get together.atlouisplace.com ready for you—and we finally opened our doors today. 


Members, check your inboxes for your invitations. 


Everybody else: ready to join us? Why not now? Everyone is welcome.

What we're reading

👉🏾 Kimberly Alidio riffed on the power of language poetry in an article for the Poetry Foundation. An excerpt:


My new book is a sequence of poems without pronouns. It has no lyrical “I.” The poems are without conjunctions and prepositions. There is no received narrative structure, syntactical ordering, or consistent poetic line. The poems do have their own system of arranging language that came out of a procedure. This procedure arose from a need to see social and intimate relations in a more livable way. The need to do so reflects a long cycle of learning from survival and grief. But my book is not about such lessons, personal or collective, because the need to reorder normative relations of self, lover, body, and nature for me must occur inthe very medium of poetry: language.


Check out the whole reflection , which is illustrated with images of recent work by artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed. Then read Alidio's poem " Dearest, I’m Writing from Inside This Place to You Who Is in a Totally Different Place " and learn more about her work on her site .


👉🏾 The perfect novels for quarantine? Loving Amir Ahmadi Arian's essay about loiterature —stories that rely on “lack of forward movement, of stalling and dithering, of wandering with no destination.” 


👉🏾 The fashion blog Man Repeller has published several breezy (in a good way) short author interviews in recent weeks. Check out this hilarious conversation with Mary H.K. Choi (quoted by Steffani above). It begins: “Q: How has your writing process changed since the pandemic began?” “A: I no longer write as if being chased by a pack of wild dogs." 


👉🏾 We can't wait to read poet and scholar Joshua Bennett's poetry collection Owed , which was released last week. Read his lovely poem “ American Abecedarian ." Then check out this detailed interview ("What is lost in the pursuit of the good life and all that it offers, all that it costs?") and this reading and craft talk in which he addresses his relationship with his father and the Black spoken word tradition.


👉🏾 Did anyone see the fascinating essay by Mariana Lim for The Paris Review about character-building for artificial intelligence ? “A rich and creative origin story will give substance to what may later seem like arbitrary decisions around the AI personality," she writes,"why, for example, it prefers green over red, is obsessed with ikura , or wants to learn how to whistle."


Silent Partners

Deadline: Monthly; see website for details.

Silent Partners provides monthly $1,000 grants to Black Brooklyn-based artists and Movement workers. The grants are administered by a group of Black panelists using funds provided by anonymous white partners who are otherwise removed from the process. To date, we have issued seven grants.

Full details and application: https://www.silent-partners.net/#apply  


Cave Canem Foundation Toi Derricotte & Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize

Deadline: September 15, 2020

A prize valued at approximately $2,500 is given annually for a poetry chapbook by a Black poet. The winner will receive $500, publication by Jai-Alai Books, and a weeklong residency at the Writer’s Room at the Betsy Hotel in Miami, Florida; the winner will also give a reading at the O, Miami Poetry Festival in April 2021. Mahogany L. Browne will judge. Using only the online submission system, submit a manuscript of 25 to 30 pages by September 15. There is no entry fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Full details and application: http://www.cavecanempoets.org/prizes/toi-derricotte-cornelius-eady-chapbook-prize


A Public Space Writing Fellowships

Deadline: October 15, 2020

Three six-month fellowships of $1,000 each are given annually to emerging fiction writers and nonfiction writers who have not published a full-length book. The fellows will work with the editors to prepare a piece for publication in A Public Space and will also have the opportunity to meet with publishing professionals and participate in a public reading in New York City. For fellowships from March 2021 to September 2021, using only the online submission system, submit a short story or essay of any length with a cover letter and a brief written statement between September 15 and October 15. There is no application fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

Full details and application: http://www.apublicspace.org


Write with us

This week, we begin our extended daily writing schedule in the community at Louis Place. Members, you can see the schedule and access the daily writing Zoom room at together.atlouisplace.com . See you on the other side!


✔️ If you're a member and didn't receive an invitation this afternoon to create login credentials for together.atlouisplace.com, first check to make sure you actually (a) submitted an application and (b) checked out . If you did both, send us an email.


✔️ If you haven't registered for Trajectory and want to be part of a small group cohort this month, do it now —your deadline is 8pm EST tonight. If you have registered, thank you—we'll be in touch if we have questions, otherwise you'll receive an email Tuesday with your group.


Here's what's on tap for this week:


Orientation & shoot the shit 

Tomorrow, Monday, September 7 

6pm GMT / 2pm EST / 1pm CST / 11AM PST. 

Audio and partial video recording will be available at together.atlouisplace.com if you can't make it.


Daily writing this week and every week  

Monday through Friday: 

7am CST / 8am EST / 12pm GMT 


Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: 

11am PST / 12pm MST / 1pm CST / 2pm EST / 6pm GMT 


Always use the daily writing zoom room ✍🏽 link in sidebar at together.atlouisplace.com .

Questions? Thoughts? Ideas? Let us know.


As ever,


Quincy and Steffani


PS: If you're not a member, now's a good time to join us. Sign up here