Old Dominion University Literary Festival Starts this week


NORFOLK, Va. – This is a short post, but here is a reminder that the 2014 Old Dominion University Literary Festival starts tomorrow and runs through the weekend. You can review the schedule via a digital brochure by clicking this link.

In an email, festival co-director Luisa Igloria wrote:

We have a wonderful lineup under an umbrella theme with a focus on literature, food, community, and sustainability: ‘The Hungry Heart is Telling You.’

Highlighted speakers include celebrity chef and motivational speaker Jeff Henderson and National Book Award winner for poetry Nikky Finney.

 

Tagged , , ,

On the gathering of news and its devaluation


Hat

PORTSMOUTH, Va. — I hesitate to be vocal on issues because I sometimes work as a journalist. There is an idealized objectivity people who do this sort of work are supposed to maintain. Objectivity is debatable, especially when you have worked in opinion writing, but imposing my own bias troubles me.

That’s especially so on social media, where I have avoided discussion of recent events in Ferguson, Mo., though I have followed coverage intently.

If you care about the lives of others, it is hard not to be concerned about the issues represented by – but clearly not exclusive to – what is happening in Ferguson. I happen to care about life, opportunity, and progress for people whether or not they look or love the way I do. Though I am not covering events in Missouri, I have taken note of some criticism of the media and the arrest of reporters on the ground.

I find the best way for me to support our potential for a more free and just society is to express my support for journalism and, however infrequently, engage in it to the best of my ability.

Sometime that means fairly, if critically, representing views reasonable people may not appreciate. This is important even if it’s only to document for future generations that somebody actually thought this thing in quotes and then went ahead and really said the thing aloud in front of other people, for Pete’s sake.

Whatever the issue, whenever it arises, I believe in news gathering as the principal means of aiding public discourses and offering potential paths for social change. I believe that people with access to better information make better choices. I believe that newsgathering outlets, at best, perform a service many of the people who benefit from this service take for granted, in part, because they cannot differentiate actual journalism from what some people say about journalism.

I know these people may come to miss significant newsgathering capabilities traditionally aligned – especially on local issues – with the print industry if journalists cannot determine ways to fund local reporting as they continue to transition online.

One small way to support efforts to provide light and context to issues such as what is happening in Missouri is by supporting efforts to provide real journalism designed to inform people, even when those people may not like what they learn from this coverage. It makes sense to me to urge people to invest first in local media, then consider national sources, such as those who have reported extensively on issues such as race and the militarization of local police forces. But there are ways of investing in news gathering in other communities and nationally, as well.

I hope people will consider supporting journalism for what it does, not only fault it where they feel it falls short. It’s easy to bash the media, but media is term that really discusses a delivery system for a wide range of content, much of it varying wildly in quality. Faulting a newspaper for not being as successful as website, at least not yet, is as absurd as it is a secondary matter.

When I say I support journalism, I mean that I support public-interest newsgathering itself, not the various ways in which news is delivered or the type of content that, however entertaining, is not exactly in the public interest. And I acknowledge my subjectivity on this matter.

Newsgathering organizations are doing important work right now in Ferguson. Many are doing strong work, for example, addressing issues that predate and will survive the attention we are paying to this place now. These are issues that touch many communities. This speaks to the universal nature of the specific story. This also speaks to the way one specific conversation leads to other discourses.

Journalists are also doing important public-interest newsgathering in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, where I live. It may not always be about the biggest national issues, but that’s kind of the point. Local reporting matters to people here, whether or not they appreciate it. Local coverage includes “localizing” national stories such as Ferguson, and, as The New Journal & Guide has done, forwarded reports from The St. Louis American, a newspaper serving the African American community in Missouri.

People who value journalism that reflects public debate, problems, and potential solutions should think about how information comes to them, understand the difference between gathering and disseminating news, and make an informed decision to support the process of news gathering by those they feel do it best.

Journalism is conducted at great cost, amid difficult circumstances, and faces heavy criticism from citizens and organizations that both consume its work, often for free, while they effectively or actually obstruct it through indifference, obfuscation, and generalizations.

Still, local news gathering matters. An online aggregator does not magically come up with real reporting on a local issue. I have never seen The Huffington Post at a local city council meeting. On that last one, all thanks be to Zeus.

A local newsgathering organization gathers news by using real reporters who earn real money by covering real beats amid real difficulties. Sometimes there are real lawyers, such as the times in my own career when I was prevented from attending government meetings or court hearings. I’m fairly sure just having a lawyer’s business card in my wallet cost The Pilot $150. And sometimes I called the number on the card.

Point being: real news that digs costs real money.

The aggregators swoop in later, and often so do other outlets with lesser resources. Surely newsgathering organizations are imperfect. In part, this is because they employ reporters, not aggregating bots like bogus Twitter “publishers.” Some criticism is deserved, but some is merely shooting a messenger without applying critical thought to a greater discourse.

There should be concern about smaller newsrooms, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need newsrooms.

We are simply better off as Americans with newsgatherers than we are without them.

Since real issues also exist here, wherever here is for you, people who say they support progress and diversity in our communities might support their local, significant newsgathering organization. Where I live, that might be The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk or The Daily Press in Newport News, both newspapers that maintain relatively substantial newsrooms, the ongoing issues of the print industry aside. [Full disclosure: I was a staff writer at The Pilot, and I sometimes write for it and sister publications as a stringer.]

The Daily Press recently noted the importance of and desire for local coverage in a story by J. Elias O’Neal discussing the newspaper’s recent redesign, which now includes stories that were zoned to readers of smaller geographic areas. O’Neal wrote:

The separate Town Square sections, which were traditionally folded over the main Daily Press publication, have been absorbed into the paper — an effort by newspaper executives to beef up local news content in the main body of the paper.

In the long run, the content matters more than whether or not it is on paper. Local news is the core product.

So what is support for your local newsgatherer? You can subscribe to the print or paywalled online edition. If you have the means, buy an advertisement, even a little one. Broke? You can also contact the news gathering organization. Or proactively share content from their original pages, not those of aggregators or blogs adopting their content. Write letters to the editor about issues that seem not to be covered or are being covered in ways you like or dislike. You can disagree with what they publish, and, as strange as it sounds to non-newspaper people, committed, transparent newsgatherers may very well publish your disagreement. Additionally, as The St. Louis Post-Dispatch demonstrated this week in regards to a staffer’s controversial tweet, legitimate newsgathering organizations tend to be clear about when their folks have made a mistake.

You can also subscribe to a number of smaller newspapers that engage in community journalism. In my community, these include The New Journal & Guide and The Suffolk News-Herald. Clicks and shares are nice enough. Subscriptions and ads – real support, not lip service – are better.

So what if you think this is all baloney?

That reporting is out of touch?

That real voices are still marginalized?

There are ways to demonstrate on your own. There are government meetings to attend. There are groups that need help, either with money or sweat equity. You can also help real journalism by getting smart about it.

Be a citizen.

Employ some of the tools of reporting to your citizenship. Google your state’s open records laws. Take ‘em out for a spin. Review court records of real cases involving real people in your community. Find out whether law enforcement and government agencies are representative of the communities they serve in either hiring practices or the people they cite for traffic violations.

Think critically. Ask questions. Do some legwork where there are real, local streets, not only by liking something you zip past along the information highway.

If nothing else, you’ll have a better sense of why aggregation is so frustrating to people who have done real journalism and would like to see a real future in it. Newsgathering is vitally important, increasingly undervalued work that places the cornerstone of pretty much every argument worth having.

Liking an aggregated story online isn’t enough. Your local journalists need a more direct form of affection.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Norfolk: Chef cooks up fundraiser for The Dwelling Place


Chef Kup

NORFOLK, Va. — Hampton Roads chef Kyle A. Kupiszewski hopes to help raise $100,000 for The Dwelling Place, a shelter for homeless families which suspended operations earlier this month due to funding isues.

On July 3, Janie Bryant of The Virginian-Pilot reported that the Norfolk shelter hopes to reopen in the fall.

Kupiszewski told me in an email that he also will donate profits from vending work at the 32nd Annual Norfolk Waterfront Jazz Festival this weekend to the effort. The festival begins this evening at Town Point Park along Waterside Drive downtown.

He’s also set up a GoFundMe page. It could use a little love.

At the page, he wrote:

I believe it is our jobs as human beings to show some compassion and give others a hand when they need it most, not when it is convenient for us. […]

Every dollar counts so please donate what you can.

Donations go to Ecumenical Family Shelter Inc, according to the page. Again, you can find it by clicking on this link.

In a statement, The Dwelling Place said a number of local business are contributing to the effort to raise funds.

The shelter said donations may be mailed to The Dwelling Place via P.O. Box 6194, Norfolk, VA 23508. Additionally, there is a PayPal site for the charity at this link.

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Beach: Photos from the farm


VIRGINIA BEACH — Further adventures with my wife’s Nikon. I miss my old Canon from work, but I’m getting more comfortable with this one.

F4

F8

F5

F3

F1

F2

F6

F7

F10

F11

F12

F9

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Norfolk: Chrysler Museum’s return enlivened by massive duck


Duck8

NORFOLK, Va. — A 40-foot-tall “Rubber Duck” by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman recently came to the Hague – no, not that one but an inlet near the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk.

The installation, floating on the water near the recently reopened museum, has caused quite a stir. My kids love it. I do, too. The awesome Teresa Annas of The Virginian-Pilot has some details at this link.

I’ll share a few of my photos from from a recent trip I made with one of my kids. On that day, a nearby heron seemed unfazed; it sought only dinner, snapping up a fish and a crab while we watched and the expressionless duck looked on, too.

The duck will be at the Chrysler until May 26. For more information, click this link.

Duck1

Duck5

Duck3

Duck4

Duck7

Duck6

Duck2

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Hiatus gonna hiat


PORTSMOUTH, Va. – For those of you checking in from time to time, it’s clear that there hasn’t been much new here for a while.

Sorry for that.

I started teaching this fall, and I haven’t figured out a schedule that works yet. It’s fairly unlikely that I’ll post until the semester ends, though there are a number of people I hope to speak with down the road.

It may be pretty far down the road, though.

We’ll see.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

And commenting or emailing.

And entering silly contests.

And reading my bad puns.

If you dig great writers, maybe check out the archives.

Or a book.

Books are good.

 

New story “Volunteers” is out at Tampa Review Online


PORTSMOUTH, Va. – My new short fiction story, Volunteers, just came out at Tampa Review Online.

I hope you’ll check it out by clicking on this link.

Thanks. Let me know what you think.

Tagged , , , , ,

Wisdom, Vol. V: Ambrose Bierce, you deserve better than this


AmbroseBierce

NORFOLK, Va. — A few more, among friends. Read the master list by clicking this link. For those just finding this, these entries are from a writing exercise I’ve returned to a few times in recent years because it (a) is fun and (b) forces me to think about what words represent while manipulating the meaning into something at least, I hope, relatively funny. I generally stay away from words Bierce defined in The Devil’s Dictionary, since I cannot hang with that guy, but every now and then I try one out.

anger  The chief emotion experienced when one realizes her proximity to the joke’s posterior.

binary  In love, the relationship between subset elements of a whole, as determined by property and attorney fees.

curiosity  Potentially fatal, but only when the cat is asking the right questions.*

dichotomy  A partition of logic revealing the binary relationship of purity and reality.

humility  The virtuous seek it in others.

ideal  Homes often look this way from the outside.

idol  A sacred object symbolizing the deity one hopes will punish the sins of others or grant its holder’s wishes, whichever comes first.

idolator  To those within a congregation, those without.

idolatry  Any form of faith based upon unproven practices, assumptions and traditions.

metaphor  A figure of speech that seeks to elevate the story by signaling its better.

semantron  A percussive instrument that announces the start of a march when it is struck with a mallet, serving also as a warning to the marcher.

transgression  The origin of competing pursuits as viewed from anywhere else on either axis x or axis y.

* Bierce defines curiosity as: An objectionable quality of the female mind. The desire to know whether or not a woman is cursed with curiosity is one of the most active and insatiable passions of the masculine soul.

Tagged , ,

2013 Fortune Writing Contest winners revealed; Alex, you are not among them


Alex; Norfolk, Va.

Alex; Norfolk, Va.

UPDATED; Aug. 3 – Contest winners and many of the fine runners up are now on display at Fair Grounds in the Ghent neighborhood of Norfolk, Va.

Fair Grounds is on the second floor of 806 Baldwin Ave., at the corner of Colley and Baldwin avenues. So go up. Gaze upon the wisdom of your friends and neighbors. Maybe grab a bite. Have a little coffee. See where it goes from there.

Thanks again to all at Fair Grounds, as well as the many winner, runners up and entrants.

Alex, you still do not win.

__________________________________

NORFOLK, Va. — First off, I have some bad news for Alex, because “I win. (:” was a fortune that did not.

Had the emoticon been winking? It might have made a difference, Alex, but I cannot say.

Anyway.

Readers, you could have been topical, but you didn’t go there, ensuring the 2013 Fortune Writing Contest was 2013 in name only.

Only one or two NSA gags. That’s it?

[If only NSA page views counted on my WordPress stats.]

Look, we’ve been topical before here. Last year, two entries by Connie Sage called the election faster than that one guy at The New York Times, what with his fancy-pants math.

But maybe I’m looking at this wrong.

What you’ve done, by avoiding the obvious Jay Leno-ish path of topical jokiness, is gone full-on classic.

Collectively, you are the simple black dress of the sketchy online contest constituency.

And everything you sent was fun. Opening my email in June was a joy. When I saw a paper-ballot entry from “Ramona Quimby,” I was fairly stoked.

So thanks again to Fair Grounds News & Coffee at the corner of Baldwin and Colley avenues in Norfolk, where winners and some of the runners up will be on display soon, until Mr. Fair Grounds himself gets tired of them. Announcement to follow.

And additional thanks to judges Cortney Doucette, Tom Robotham and Gary Potterfield, winner of the very first contest. The judges picked from 20 finalists I forwarded from the more than 100 entries, and they also picked some art entries for special prizes. They picked blind, meaning they did not see names, only the fortunes themselves.

Without further ado, the winners are:

FIRST PLACE

Lynn Waltz; journalist, writer and editor; Norfolk, Va.

Lynn Waltz; journalist, writer and editor; Norfolk, Va.

SECOND PLACE

Ramona Quimby; slave to the wage; Norfolk, Va.

Ramona Quimby; slave to the wage; Norfolk, Va.

THIRD PLACE

Dani Al-Basir; poet; Norfolk, Va.

Dani Al-Basir; poet; Norfolk, Va.

HONORABLE MENTION

Paolo Caricasole; researcher; Norfolk, Va. & Italia

Paolo Caricasole; researcher; Norfolk, Va., & Italia

RALPH S. MOUSE TROPHY OF BEVERLY CLEARY REFERENTS

Quimby 01

Ramona Quimby; slave to the wage; Norfolk, Va.

THE PETER LORRE AWARD FOR ANGELIC SKETCHING

Anonymous; Norfolk, Va.

Anonymous; Norfolk, Va.

FINALISTS

Dimirsky 01

Mike Dimirsky; coffee guru; Norfolk, Va.

Steve Galli; Cranston, R.I.

Steve Galli; Cranston, R.I.

Stephanie Hale; Norfolk, Va.

Stephanie Hale; Norfolk, Va.

Gabe Harrell; Norfolk, Va.

Gabe Harrell; Norfolk, Va.

Bill Hart; shipyard worker; Norfolk, Va.

Bill Hart; shipyard worker; Norfolk, Va.

J.C. Kreidel; managing director at Vox Optima LLC; Chesapeake, Va.

J.C. Kreidel; managing director at Vox Optima LLC; Chesapeake, Va.

J.C. Kreidel; managing director at Vox Optima LLC; Chesapeake, Va.

J.C. Kreidel; managing director at Vox Optima LLC; Chesapeake, Va.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Chris Overton; bartender & barista; Norfolk, Va.

Chris Overton; bartender & barista; Norfolk, Va.

Peter Graves Roberts; writer; Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Peter Graves Roberts; writer; Kitty Hawk, N.C.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Lynn Waltz: journalist, writer & editor; Norfolk, Va.

Lynn Waltz: journalist, writer & editor; Norfolk, Va.

Juliet Wilson; adult education tutor & conservation volunteer; Edinburgh, U.K.

Juliet Wilson; adult education tutor & conservation volunteer; Edinburgh, U.K.

RUNNERS UP

Anonymous; Norfolk, Va.

Anonymous; Norfolk, Va.

Anonymous

Anonymous; Whereabouts Unknown

Sean Collins; Fair Grounds porch boss; Norfolk, Va.

Sean Collins; Fair Grounds porch boss; Norfolk, Va.

Doucette 02

John Doucette; scribbler; Portsmouth, Va.

John Doucette; scribbler; Portsmouth, Va.

John Doucette; scribbler; Portsmouth, Va.

Edwards 01

Kim Edwards; college instructor; Norfolk, Va.

Tomasz Foster; Norfolk, Va.

Tomasz Foster; Norfolk, Va.

Andrea Frisbie; barista; Norfolk, Va.

Andrea Frisbie; barista; Norfolk, Va.

Mary Harrelson; waitress; Virginia Beach, Va.

Mary Harrelson; waitress; Virginia Beach, Va.

Bill Hart; shipyard worker; Norfolk, Va.

Bill Hart; shipyard worker; Norfolk, Va.

JC Kreidel; managing director at Vox Optima LLC; Chesapeake, Va.

JC Kreidel; managing director at Vox Optima LLC; Chesapeake, Va.

Claire LeDoyen; student; Suffolk, Va.

Claire LeDoyen; student; Suffolk, Va.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Brian Monahan; actor; Los Angeles, Calif.

Lucille "Lucy" Nordan; housewife & artist; Norfolk, Va.

Lucille “Lucy” Nordan; housewife & artist; Norfolk, Va.

Michael Reilly; bereavement specialist; Norfolk, Va.

Michael Reilly; bereavement specialist; Norfolk, Va.

Bob Voros; graphic artist; Norfolk, Va.

Bob Voros; graphic artist; Norfolk, Va.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Jay Walker; poet; Cranston, R.I.

Lynn Waltz; journalist, writer & editor; Norfolk, Va.

Lynn Waltz; journalist, writer & editor; Norfolk, Va.

Lynn Waltz; journalist, writer & editor; Norfolk, Va.

Lynn Waltz; journalist, writer & editor; Norfolk, Va.

Juliet Wilson; adult education tutor & conservation volunteer; Edinburgh, U.K.

Juliet Wilson; adult education tutor & conservation volunteer; Edinburgh, U.K.

Thanks to all who entered.

And good luck.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Fortune Cookie Fortune Writing Contest prize books announced, entries due July 1


PORTSMOUTH, Va. – There is a week and change left to send your entries in for the 2013 Fortune Cookie Fortune Writing Contest via email to jhdouc@verizon.net.

You can also enter via paper ballots at the front counter at Fair Grounds News & Coffee at the corner of Baldwin and Colley avenues in Norfolk.

This year’s prizes include the following books, some by authors featured at the blog. Each book is autographed by the author, unless otherwise noted.

  • Mike D’Orso’s narrative nonfiction collection Pumping Granite
  • Dorianne Laux’s poetry collection Facts About the Moon
  • Alice Randall’s literary parody The Wind Done Gone
  • Sheri Reynolds’ novel The Homespun Wisdon of Myrtle T. Cribb
  • Patrick Rosal’s poetry collection My American Kundiman
  • Tim Seibles’ poetry collection Buffalo Head Solos
  • Joy Williams’ short story collection Honored Guest
  • Two copies of Digestate: A Food & Eating Themed Anthology edited by J.T. Yost (unsigned)

The first place winner picks three books and wins a Fair Grounds gift certificate and a mug. Second place picks two of the remaining books. Third place picks one of the remainder. This year, two honorable mentions of my choosing also will get prizes.

I hope you’ll enter as often as you like. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries so far.

Want to see past entries? Here are the winners and runners up from 2012, and click this link for the winners and runners up from 2011.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 66 other followers