Wednesday, July 06, 2005

ART: The July newsletter musics of Rachel Barenblatt at inkBerry; "The Rural Life" author among July visitors

By Rachel Barenblatt

July crept up on us here at Inkberry! Over the last few weeks we've been
accustoming ourselves to being a three-person office (expect to hear from our
summer intern, Holly, in next month's inkmail), fighting the heat (our
oscillating fan runs non-stop these days, and we're partial to the large iced
coffees from Brewhaha around the corner), and generally doing our part to live
the literary life. Sometimes that means sharing progress reports on our writing
when we first get to work; other times it means ordering corkboard squares for
the walls to combat the neverending piles of paper writers (and
administrators) seem to accrue.

Our first online workshop of the summer is finishing up this week. This was our
first-ever humor workshop, "The Pun is Mightier than the Sword," taught by Seth
Brown. One student emailed me last week saying, "I just have to bubble a little
about how much fun I am having in Inkberry's online course on humor writing.
The readings are funny and informative, the assignments are a joy to do, and
Seth's comments are helpful..." That comment was prescient;it's almost like she
knew evaluations were coming! This week we sent out evaluation forms, and the
answers have been really positive. When asked what could be better about the
workshop, one student responded, "Besides more snacks and pop? Nothing --
everything worked." Who could ask for better feedback than that? (And rest
assured, we'll add snacks to our online workshops as soon as we figure out how
to share them virtually.)

Maybe the most exciting thing happening in July is the first of our Sense of
Place/Community Renewal projects: a weekend with Verlyn Klinkenborg,
co-presented by the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation and funded by the
National Endowment for the Arts. On July 30, WRLF will offer a nature walk at
1pm at Sheep Hill Farm in south Williamstown, and at 3pm Verlyn will give a
talk on nature writing there. That night, at 8pm, he'll read his work at the
Contemporary Artists' Center in North Adams (followed by a question-and-answer
session and a booksigning). And the next morning, on July 31, we'll present a
moderated discussion on farm history featuring Verlyn alongside Williams
College environmental studies professor Hank Art, again at Sheep Hill Farm.

Verlyn is author of several excellent books, among them *The Rural Life*, a
meditation on the rigors and wonders of country life. We couldn't be more
excited about bringing him here...and thanks to the National Endowment for the
Arts, all three of these events are free and open to the public. You'll hear
more from us about this as the weekend approaches. For now, put it on your
calendar; we hope you'll join us for these conversations on rural living and
sense of place.

Behind the scenes this month, we're working on putting our fall calendar
together. It goes to the designer mid-month, and to press at the end of the
month, and will hopefully be in your mailboxes by early August -- just in time
for you to sign up for Inkberry workshops by September! This fall we'll offer
workshops in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. We're also planning a series of
free salons and screenings at Inkberry, and in anticipation of those, we're
spiffing up our space! We just ordered a television and a nifty shelving unit
to put it on (so we can again watch the "poets on poetry" video series that the
Lannan Foundation donated in our first year), and we're experimenting with
draping our beautiful inkberry cloth
( around the
library. Expect our space to be much prettier by the time fall rolls around!

Speaking of our space, we're seeking a donation of a desk. (Our intern has
currently set up shop at a folding table; it suffices, but it's not ideal, and
we'd like to do better by her.) If you live in the area and have a desk you'd
like to donate, let us know.

As usual, I'll close with a few book recommendations, since I've had the
pleasure of reading a lot of terrific things lately. Two very different novels
top the list for me this month: Jeffrey Eugenides' *Middlesex*, and Alan
Garner's *Thursbitch*. *Middlesex* is a rollicking epic American immigrant
novel, telling the story of Greek-American Cal (born as Calliope -- yes,
there's a gender change in there) and the generations that led to her/his
transformation. Along the way we move from Smyrna to Detroit, negotiate
immigrant stories and vast swathes of American history, and explore destiny and
free will -- and maybe even true love. *Thursbitch* is a spare little novel
that interweaves a contemporary storyline with a narrative set in pre-modern
Yorkshire. Garner's use of language is spectacular, and his creation of
mystical religious tradition knocked my socks off. I recommend both of these
highly. (The Garner book is British, so it may not be in your local bookstore;
ask your library to order it, or pick it up from

And that's the news from Inkberry! Stay cool, keep writing, and come see us

-- Rachel


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