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5 Burning Questions with Christine Davis Merriman

This Tuesday, Oct. 9, we’ll feature two fiction writers–a slight departure from our normal structure! (Spooky, we know.) One of our two fiction writers this month is Christine Davis Merriman.

Below are Christine’s answers to our 5 Burning questions (and a couple of bonus ones for our in honor of our 4th Anniversary):

What is your first memory of writing for fun?

I wrote my first story just about as soon as I learned to use a pencil. In a black-and-white composition book my mother bought me to use in kindergarten or first grade, I printed a story about an amazingly strong little mouse.

How many drafts = done?

For me, that number is incalculable and, perhaps, infinite. Shall I begin the count with the first conversations I had with characters in my mind?; memories of stories that first came to me in early childhood?; early chapter versions extrapolated from short stories written as an MFA candidate forty or more years ago?; the first full manuscript submitted to my publisher about seven months ago?; a series of edited versions produced after input from copyeditor, content editor, style and format editor, and history fact checker?; a newer version in which chapters were rearranged to make the chronology work better?; an expanded version in which a scene has been added or dialog expanded to develop a theme or reveal a character more fully? Even now, as I read the first published version of my debut novel, potential revisions come to me: “I could have said it better that way” or “I should have crafted that sentence or that paragraph differently.” How many drafts is that?

And don’t forget, each reader will take in a slightly different version, filtered through her or his interpretive lens.

What is your favorite book or favorite book-of-the-moment?

My favorite book-of-the-moment is Alice McDermott’s The Ninth Hour, which is about nuns and the Irish-American community they serve in 20th century Brooklyn. In reading the book, I began noticing (and trying to learn from) the way McDermott immerses the reader (seamlessly, from page one) in plot and setting (including sights, sounds, smells) and at the same time develops character (using gesture, physical appearance, dialog, and internal monologue).

What is it about your discipline that gets you the most excited?

As a fiction writer, I get excited when I am in the shower and an epiphany or an enlightenment of theme comes to me, or when I go for a jog down a country lane and my characters begin to talk with me, revealing something new about themselves.

What’s your favorite word or words? What about it/them appeals to you?

My favorite word is psithurism, which means the sound of wind in the trees and the rustling of leaves, a sound I love to hear while sitting outside on my balcony; it’s a soothing and comforting sound. Hearing it, I feel as though the trees are whispering to me. The pronunciation of the word itself is onomatopoeic and imitates the sound it refers to.

Bonus question: This reading is our 4th anniversary reading. What is something you either have done for four years straight or something you hope to do for that amount of time?

I retired in 2017 to focus on writing fiction. I hope to continue writing fiction for four years straight so that I can complete the Lissa Power series, which I have just begun with my debut novel.

Here’s the projected lineup:

At the Far End of Nowhere: Set in Baltimore and northern Baltimore County, this novel takes Lissa from age four through 22 and portrays the unique bond between young Lissa and her elderly and eccentric father. Published in September 2018 by Green Writers Press.

Where Everything Begins: Lissa awakens from her sheltered American childhood as she spends her junior year abroad in France (1973–74) and travels around Europe. This novel is a work in progress.

Culture Shock (provisional title): Lissa experiences a whirlwind year of activity and culture shock when she returns home from France to finish college and pursue her dream of becoming a writer. This novel is still in the conceptual stage.

More Lissa Power Novels: I anticipate writing additional novels that follow Lissa through marriage, motherhood, divorce, and beyond. Stay tuned!

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CHRISTINE DAVIS MERRIMAN, a Baltimore native, completed her MFA in Imaginative Writing–Fiction at UMass Amherst forty years ago. As an undergrad, she won Towson State University’s John S. Lewis Fiction Award for a collection of short stories, and was eager to pursue a career in fiction. Then “life” intervened, with marriage, a son, divorce, a second marriage, and a thirty-year career at Johns Hopkins. In 2017, she retired, put down her technical writer’s pen, and completed her debut novel, At the Far End of Nowhere. Christine and her husband live in a 1929 farmhouse in northern Baltimore County, Maryland.

Updates

Michelle on the Last 4 Years of W&W

Milestones like birthdays and anniversaries offer us occasions to pause, reflect, and completely freak out about how quickly time has passed. Four years ago this month, I started what is now known as Writers & Words, a Baltimore reading series. For those of you who haven’t heard the story, Writers & Words began with a single reading I called Whiskey and Words, that I largely set up because I was fresh out of writing school, trying to sell my first book, and had no idea how to actually be a writer. 

In short, I wasn’t sure how to connect with the larger Baltimore writing community, and so with the help of a couple friends, I created that connection for myself, my friend group, and now, many other Baltimore writers who have followed.

We’ve come a long way since that first reading on the unfinished second floor of a small whiskey bar, Ian Anderson’s iPhone serving as the only light and a barstool our podium. I remember feeling anxious that night, because although I’d worked so hard to get people in the space, I’d completely forgotten to decide and practice what I was going to read. It was going to be hard to sell that book—the entire impetus for the evening—when I hadn’t prepared to read from said book. I ended up reading a few sections of what would later become Notes From My Phone*, which would later-later be published by the two people who made that first night happen.

Steven Leyva
Steven Levya at Whiskey and Words, October 2014

When I look back over the last four years now, I’m humbled by how many people have put hundreds of unpaid hours into this series and community, simply because they wanted something like this to exist. I may be listed on our website as the founder of this whole thing, but anyone who’s read for us or attended a reading knows the truth: W&W thrives because of the amazing editors who have given tirelessly over the last four years as well as the 181 unique readers who have read for us since October 2014.

The early years were successful due to two of the hardest working people I know: Michael B. Tager and Ian Anderson (now partners in Mason Jar Press). Without Michael’s hustle and Ian’s charm, this project would have never left that phone-lit room of 2014. We’re also eternally grateful for the readers who shared their talents and time with us that first year, along with our first hosts Blue Pit Whiskey Bar and Artifact Coffee. I still can’t believe you all took a chance on us, but you’ll forever remain a special group of W&W alumni.

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Important Meeting with Ian Anderson, Michael B. Tager, and Michelle Junot

During years two and three, I took a much needed hiatus from my own role in the series, and I don’t mind saying that Writers & Words really bloomed in the time I was away. Under the direction of Tager, new editors joined the team—some for a short time and others for the long haul. The words ‘thank you’ seem inadequate to thank these folks now, but I want to, on the behalf of the writing community at large, offer heartfelt gratitude to all our staff, past and present:

  • Michael B. Tager
  • Ian Anderson
  • Amanda Ponder
  • Maria C. Goodson
  • Cija Jefferson
  • Mike Shattuck
  • Jessica Welch

I especially want to highlight Maria Goodson, Amanda Ponder, and Cija Jefferson. My goodness, these women! All three have egos the size of peas paired with talent and drive so beyond my own that I’m constantly wowed and humbled to share in the fruits of their labor. Amanda does all of the design for us…for free. Cija takes on the hosting and booze-buying responsibilities, easily making her VIP every second Tuesday of the month. And Maria…people…Maria runs the entire operation. She invites readers, she corrals readers; she keeps us on track, publicizing every reading, and she does all of this while smiling like it’s no big deal. (I take on blog posts every 3-4 years and lead the silly games…clearly my contributions are also noteworthy.)

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The W&W Team – Cija, Michelle, Maria, Amanda, and Michael

Although our staff has changed from those early days, our goals and our love for this community has not. Honestly, we’re really just getting started.

To that end, I hope you’ll all consider applying for our 3rd annual writing retreat in The Woods—an endeavor brought to you by W&W and our amazing partners, Ink Press Productions. Sunday—yes, Sept. 30 Sunday—is the last day to apply to this year’s event. Don’t miss your chance to be a part of it, especially if you’re like four-years-ago me, looking to find your place in the larger writing community.

I plug this not only because I’ve been the slacker of the group and have not plugged this as much as I should have, and not only because it’s the very last day you could possibly hope to apply, but because this retreat actually plays a huge part in our future.

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The Woods, December 2017

As I’ve said, this series has been an operation of love for all of us for four years. That includes our many talented guests who have shared their work and time with us and you without any kind of compensation. (Yes, that even includes those who have joined us from NYC, Philly, DC, and beyond.)

Before we turn five, we’d like to start compensating our monthly readers in some way. This has been and will remain our hope and focus until we accomplish it. W&W profits from The Woods annual retreat goes toward this endeavor.

We have many more surprises in store for this next year, and lots of things to accomplish before we turn five (we’re going to be in kindergarten!), but for now make sure you apply for The Woods and plan to join us for our next reading on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Thank you for continuing to support us. Thank you for supporting our writers. And thank you for bringing your voices into the world through written word, spoken word, canvas, music, and all the other ways you’ve shared yourselves with us.

And, as always, huge thanks to Charmington’s. Don’t forget to tip your barista.

With all love and awkwardness I can offer,

Michelle
Creative Editor and Founder

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Michelle and Michael

 

Special thanks to all the readers from the last four years. We love you.

Steven Leyva

Ann Marie Brokmeier

Michael Tager

Michelle Junot

Mandy May

Drew Robison

Amanda Ponder

Sarah Pinsker

Sue Loweree

Ian Anderson

D Watkins

Mychael Zulauf

Lucia Treasure

Tracy Dimond

Dewey Fox

Niall Sweeney

Dustin Fisher

Jacob Budenz

Matthew Falk

Jessica Welch

Rachel Adams

Justin Sanders

Judith Krummeck

Sarah Bare

Betsy Boyd

Cory Cone

Stephen Zerance

Ashley Phelps

Michael Shattuck

Kendra Kopelke

Stephen Matanle

Michelle Dwyer

Alyse Richmond

Anthony Moll

Tracy Hauser

Jen Michalski

Mary Adelle

Danielle Ariano

Mark Banks

Maria Goodson

Lisa Lance

Kevin Krause

Cherrie Amour

Rachel Demma

Lionel Foster

Michael Kimball

Sharea Harris

Bernard Haske

Adina Ferguson

Analysis the Poet

Dave K

Dave Housley

Seola Lee

Tyler Vile

Kate Gillespie

Elisabeth Dahl

Abby Higgs

Pantea Amin

Dylan Kinnett

Molly Margulies

Cija jefferson

Benjamin Warner

Derick Ebert

Jenny Xie

Andrew Klein

Jon Patton

Tracey Lewis-Giggetts

Celeste Doaks

Kurt Crisman

Tyler Mendelsohn

Joseph Young

Dana Cunningham

Jessica Dotson

Bremer Acosta

Lisa Van Wormer

Courtney Sender

Rachel Howard

Jose Diaz

Stephanie Joyal

Kathy Flann

Slangston Hughes

Nancy Murray

Alan Resnick

James Magruder

Hannah Sawyerr

Khaliah Williams

CL Bledsoe

Jordannah Elizabeth

Jordan Card

Tim Paggi

Jessica Hudgins

Lady Brion

Tariq Toure

Tom Monteleone

JP Allen

Ayon Nandi

Theresa Columbus

Nate Brown

Thea Brown

Erin Drew

Ron Williams

Jaime Fountaine

Saida Agostini

Mike Ingram

Temim Fruchter

Andria Nacina Cole

Terri Davis

Karen Strother

Perry McAlister

Wallace Lane

Terri Steel

Alex Hacker

Jennifer Lee

Jung Yun

Girl Genius

Kayla Smith

Lynne Price

Malka Older

Leon Thornton, Jr

Nathan Hollaway

Tecla Tesnau

Jane Delury

Simply Sherri

Dale Beran

Katie Feild

Meghan Phillips

Dora Malech

David Olimpio

Carolyn Eichhorn

Derrick Cullen

Aditya Desai

Claire Dorsey

Natalie Ko

Wallace Lane

Terri Steel

Alex Hacker

Jennifer Lee

Anya Creightney

Rachel Coonce

Mohamed Tall

Tom McAllister

Sarah Smith

Deena Zeina Zaru

Zach Powers

Kate Wyer

Timothy Gager

Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson

Dave Ring

Kem Joy Ukwu

Joanna Valente

Jeannie Vanasco

Mahogany Star

Heather Rounds

Gina Myers

Joyce Lombardi

Jamesha Caldwell

Karen Bennett

Laura Plaster

Nicole Clark

Colette Shade

Nadia Prupis

Amy Saul-Zerby

Gwen Van Velsor

Anthony Dobranski

Sherri Flick

Danielle Evennou

Kasai Richardson

Shaunna Jackson

Dana Trovato

Julia Friedrich

Melissa Brooks-Cuffee

Talya Tavor

Victoria Adams-Kennedy

Dan Brady

Tyrese Coleman

Grant Goodman

Katie Rainey

Jane Lewty

Diane Pomerantz

Joe Coastal

Clynthia Graham

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October Details + Fire Sale

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Hey Groupies,

Thank you all who supported our two big events in September. We’re looking forward to a great kick off for year two tomorrow night at Charmington’s with four fantastic readers. If any of you have lingering annual packets, please bring those with you tomorrow. And we’re also going to be having a FIRE! Sale to clear our stock of year one zines. All old zines will be $1 and October zines will be $3. After they’re gone. They’re gone.

Now for the real reason you’re following us, our readers:

Dave K.’s work has been published in Front Porch Journal, Battered Suitcase, Cobalt, Welter, Artichoke Haircut, and on the Station North LED billboard. He is the author of stone a pig and MY NAME IS HATE, both self-published, and was Baltimore’s second best local author in 2014 and 2015, according to Citypaper. In his spare time, Dave K. is a traditional Czech farmhouse cheese made from sheep’s milk.

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Memoirist, Adina Ferguson, is a proud native of Washington, DC. She recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from University of Baltimore. Her debut memoir collection, I Dont Want to Be Your Bridesmaid was released May 2015. Adina has been published in Soar, Future Cycle Press 2012, Roll: A Collection of Personal Narratives, The Starting Five and other publications.

www.notyourbridesmaid.com

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Bernard Haske is retired from The Baltimore Sun. His first book of poetry, The Color of Humans, was published in 2014. He lives in Catonsville.

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Analysis is a poet/spoken word artist, progressive minister, educator, organizer, consultant! Twitter @AnalysisThePoet

–Writers & Words

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September Recap

Hey People,

We had two wonderful events in September:

Our monthly reading was on Tuesday, Sept. 8 where Kevin Krause, Rachel Demma, Lisa Lance, and Cherrie Amour completely rocked it. Thank you all.

On Friday, Sept. 25, we partnered with Seltzer for our first annual Seltzer & Words event where we hosted 11 wonderful open-mic-ers and 3 fantastic readers: Sharea Harris, Lionel Foster, and Michael Kimball.

Thank you to everyone who came out and supported us. We’re looking forward to a great October reading to celebrate our first birthday!

Photos from September 8 Reading:

–Writers & Words and Seltzer

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September Details

Hi Writers and Readers,

We are back and ready to finish out our first year with our reading on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Please join us for four fabulous readers as well as the completion of our Year One Annual submissions.

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Details about our writers below:

Kevin Krause recently returned from riding his bicycle from Astoria, OR to Baltimore, MD, his home. He published his first short volume of poetry, flora / fauna in 2013, and his work has appeared in magazines and journals including JMWW, The Light Ekphrastic, and Urbanite. He currently teaches writing at the University of Baltimore.

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Rachel Demma was born in Washington, DC, grew up in the Maryland suburbs, and now lives in Baltimore in a small row house with her small cat, Black Aggie and her small dog, Waffles. She has attended many schools where she did not formally study creative writing, including Washington College on Maryland’s own Eastern Shore, Stanford University in California’s own Silicon Valley, and Johns Hopkins University in her own town. She will hopefully earn her Doctorate of Education at the University of Pennsylvania approximately 1,065 days from now. John Updike’s short story, “A&P” made her want to write short stories, and she made several poor attempts to approximate its tone and style after she read it in middle school. Her short fiction and prose poetry have been published more than once in Opium Magazine, as well as in Ghoti, DCist and JMWW. She is thrilled that the story you will hear tonight will be published in Free State Review.

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Lisa Lance has an M.A. in Writing from Johns Hopkins University, and her articles and essays have appeared in print and online publications including The ButterFull Grown PeopleBaltimore MagazineNational Parks TravelerBmoreartOutside In Literary & Travel MagazineSauce Magazine, and others. She is a nonfiction editor for The Baltimore Review. You can find links to her work on her website, www.lisalance.com.

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Baltimore-based poet/author Cherrie Amour writes about love, life and relationships. In her first book of poetry, Free to Be Me, Poems on Love, Life and Relationships, Amour explores her intimate journey of trials and triumphs from childhood to adulthood. Her poem, “Hermoso Negro” won a 2013 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award and is featured in the 2014 Paterson Literary Review. Amour also has two poetry CDs “Love’s Journey” and “ilovemesomewords.” Born in the Caribbean and raised in Canada, Amour’s eclectic background serves as a strong influence in both her performances and her writing.

–Writers & Words

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July Recap & More

Hey Friends,

Remember July? That carefree month long ago? Well we had a reading–a fantastic reading if we’re being honest and humble–that maybe you missed because you were doing cool vacationy things. Good for you.

In any case, we went on vacation ourselves before we could get the photos from that event up. So you can check those out below. (You’re welcome.)

ALSO, though. We’re back from vacation. And so there’s LOTS to talk about:

  1. We extended the submission period of our Annual Zine. We’ll now give and take packets until our reading on Tuesday, September 8.If you haven’t received a packet, you can catch us at another literary event (like Michelle’s book signing on August 29, 1-4pm at Ukazoo books in Towson), or you can pick one up and complete it at our September 8 reading. If you have a packet and just want to turn it in, you can submit to any one of the Writers and Words’ team or just bring it with you when you come to our awesome September 8 reading.

    More details about where we’ll be and when we’ll be there for a packet exchange can be found on our Facebook page. And more details about the actual Annual Zine can be found here.

  2. We have a dynamite line up for fall being finalized this week, so check back for reading details for our September and October readings early next week.
  3. We have a really exciting event that that Seltzer is partnering with us for on Friday, September 25. Official announcment coming in the next week, but you’re going to want to save that date. Seriously. 7pm. September 25. Tell your friends.
  4. We’ve all missed you and we’re so excited for fall! Get ready for a great start to Year Two of Writers and Words!

July Photos

–Writers & Words

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Big News: Our Experimental Year One Annual

Hey Everyone,

We’re in denial about summer coming to a close, so we’re postponing it! Or, at least we’re postponing the closing of our Annual submissions. We’re extending the deadline to our September Reading, Tuesday, September 8! If you didn’t get a packet yet, you still can. We’ll use our Facebook page to tell you what literary events you can catch us at to either pick up or submit your packet, so stay tuned. If you have any questions, or want to mail the packet instead, email us at writersandwords@gmail.com.

See you in September!
Michelle

Writers & Words

Dear Baltimore,

When I started Writers & Words last October, it was [briefly] known as Whiskey & Words, it wasn’t a series—just a half-thought through event to get something literary in my life, and it made me quickly realize that I was in over my head.

I subsequently enlisted the help of two friends—one to read and one to be the emcee because I suddenly remembered that I’m an introvert who struggles to speak in front of crowds—and approached two others with held breath and asked if they would read for us.

Steven Leyva Steven Leyva, Whiskey & Words, October 8, 2014

I am thankful to God that they all said yes! (exclamation point included.)

That first reading was a shot in the dark—quite literally for those who remember—but you showed up and it was clear that it was only the beginning of something bigger.

Since then, Mike and I have spent…

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