5.5 Questions for Jacob Hebda: On Mailer Conferences
Jacob Hebda is currently a 512/514 student and Wilkes University graduate assistant who has attended three Norman Mailer Society Conferences. In 2014, Hebda presented a paper on Mailer's cosmology compared to that of Ralph Waldo Emerson titled, "Clashing Cosmologies: Mailer's An American Dream as a Romantic Nightmare."
In 2016, Hebda presented a paper on John Milton's influence on Norman Mailer titled, "The Mailerian Ego and the Problem of Evil in the Modern World: A View of the Russian Section of The Castle in the Forest through the Authorial Ego of D. T." In 2017, Hebda presented a paper on the characteristics of the epic tradition evident in Mailer's Ancient Evenings titled, "A Novel of Epic Proportions: Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings and the Epic Tradition."
Hebda earned his B.A. in English from Misericordia University in 2014, and his M.A. in English from the State University of New York at New Paltz in 2017.
Danie Watson is a freelance writer based in Scranton, PA. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in fiction from Wilkes University, where she serves as a graduate assistant.
When I began working as a writing tutor at Misericordia University's Writing Center, the coordinator of the Center, alumni Matthew Hinton (M.F.A. '10), introduced me to Norman Mailer and his work. Hinton suggested many of Mailer's works to me, including the World War II novel The Naked and the Dead (1948) and the Egyptian novel Ancient Evenings (1983). He also let me borrow his copy of On God: An Uncommon Conversation (2007), a series of interviews with J. Michael Lennon in which Mailer articulates much of his spiritual beliefs, including his attention to superstition. Since I was hoping at the time to write novels that engage with the trauma of warfare, I picked up a copy of The Naked and the Dead from a local library bookstore. To my surprise, the book was signed by Mailer, and this experience gave me the eerily comforting impression that Mailer was watching over me during my earliest steps as a writer..
My composition process for a conference paper begins with reading the text I wish to explore in my analysis. As I read, I observe image patterns and diction and take notes. This material becomes the evidence I use in my paper to support an argument or interpretation of the text. The next step for composing a conference paper is research. I check out existing scholarship and figure out how my analysis can fit into this academic conversation. I also take a look at source materials for the text, like books Mailer was reading while he was writing. Once my research is complete, I can create an abstract outlining my argument and how it fits into current scholarly discourse, which I send to the Norman Mailer Society as a paper proposal. If my proposal is accepted, I then write the paper itself, dipping back into the text and conducting further research as needed. When the paper is finished, I like to get a second opinion on my work by asking a colleague, such as Matthew Hinton or Dr. Bonnie Culver, to read it. I revise the paper based on the reader's suggestions and present it orally at the conference, where I receive more feedback from the audience. My favorite part of the process is the research, because I love the surprises that inevitably arise from so many intersections of written work. Whether I discover how writers are inspired by each other or how critics interpret their art, participating in this vast web of interaction remains a powerful and humbling experience, as well as an opportunity to learn.
My interest in Norman Mailer stems largely from my fascination with religious beliefs, and Mailer's unique take on spirituality drew me to his work. I want to see how Mailer's beliefs shaped his writing, and this desire has since broadened to include intertextual studies examining how Mailer's work interacts with other celebrated works of literature, such as John Milton's Paradise Lost and Homer's Iliad. I am also curious about Mailer's relationship with the American literary tradition, especially nineteenth century American writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville. Currently, I am drifting toward studying Mailer's identity as a Jewish man, simultaneously the member of a minority religious group while enjoying a privileged gender role, and tracing how these intersections impact his work and thought. For my next project, I am considering examining Mailer's controversial attitudes toward gender in The Prisoner of Sex (1971) and one of his novels using a feminist framework.
One of the reasons I applied to the Maslow Family Graduate Program in Creative Writing was that it was founded on Norman Mailer's philosophy that a creative writing program must place the writers and their work first, and the fact that many Norman Mailer Society members were affiliated with Wilkes University suggested to me that the Mailerian spirit of artistic freedom lives on in this creative writing program.
Norman Mailer is such a prolific writer that it is difficult to for a young scholar like myself, who was only begun exploring the tip of the Mailer iceberg (pardon the Hemingway pun), to offer recommendations. I would start with a piece that aligns with your personal interests, not unlike how I got into Mailer through his spiritual beliefs and his treatment of war. Mailer has written so much across so many genres that he offers something for almost anyone. But if I had select a single book for a reader interested in Mailer, I would choose The Naked and the Dead (1948), Mailer's first novel. What better place to begin reading Mailer than where he started his career?
I would suggest reading up on past criticism, especially scholarship on the Norman Mailer text you are interested in reading. The Mailer Review is the best place to find academic writing on Mailer.
From PA to FL: Wilkes at Mailer
Wilkes faculty, alums, and students participated in panels and presentations at the 15th Norman Mailer Society Conference held October 26 to 28 in Sarasota, Florida, sponsored by the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus. The annual Wilkes University Readers Theatre reading featured Dr. Bonnie Culver and Matthew Hinton (M.F.A. '10) in a performance and discussion titled "Remembering Norman." Program co-founder and founding faculty member Dr. J. Michael Lennon presided as president of the Norman Mailer Society and stepped down during the conference. Maggie McKinley was elected in his stead. Current M.A. student Jacob Hebda presented a paper on the characteristics of the epic tradition evident in Mailer's Ancient Evenings titled "A Novel of Epic Proportions: Norman Mailer's Ancient Evenings and the Epic Tradition."
Pay it forward initiative
Alumni and faculty may nominate one incoming student in each cohort for the Pay It Forward scholarship, which applies $2,500 against his or her first semester's tuition.
If you know a writer who would be a great asset to our program, you have the power to pass along a $2,500 program award. This one-time payment is used to offset tuition— an incredible benefit when you consider that most creative writing students pay tuition out of their own pockets. The deadline for applications is December 15, 2017 for the next January residency.
To Pay It Forward, share our program's successes with a prospective student. Send me their contact information and we'll track them through the admissions process. Or, simply ask them to reference your name when completing their application. The Pay It Forward award will be applied to their first bill once they are accepted into the program and begin their studies.
Students: The annual Etruscan Prize for the best single page in any genre will be judged this year by Etruscan author Bruce Bond. Winner receives a $100 honorarium, a complimentary subscription of Etruscan titles, and a limited edition broadside of the winning piece.
"Send us one page: your best page, in any genre. It can be beginning, middle or end. It can be prose, script, or poetry. Send us a page that sings."
Deadline is April 15, 2018 | Please submit entries to: etruscanpress.submittable.com
Beat the winter blues with a creative writing workshop!
Nonfiction Places and Spaces
Place plays an important role in both fiction and nonfiction writing, often assuming the role of another character in novels, short stories, memoir, essays and literary journalism. In this adult workshop, we'll consider writers who have made place and location central to to their writing. Participants will write about personal and public landscapes from a variety of perspectives, from memories of home to capturing places visited. Exercises will include incorporating multi-sensory detail, the role of research, and using place to support character description. Fiction writers who are setting their work in real-life places also will benefit from this workshop.
Social Media for Beginners
Social Media isn't just for liking photos of your second-cousin's lobster dinner or watching hilarious cat videos -- you can learn to wield the social sphere to your professional and creative advantage! This six-week adult workshop introduces you to the various social media platforms that are popular today, and will teach you how to market yourself and your writing in unique and exciting ways. In this class, your instructor will work with you to build your online persona and show you how to reach out to new communities and new readers. Classes are divided into lecture and activity sessions, and each class will have a take-home assignment.
Preparing You and Your Manuscript for Publication
This five-week workshop is designed for adult learners over the age of 18. Participants will be provided an overview of how to prepare completed literary projects for submission to publishers. Through a variety of lectures, workshop exercises, and group discussions, participants will discover what it takes to prepare themselves – and their work – for consideration. A comprehensive look at industry standards and best practices include crafting a project synopsis, drafting a query letter, understanding the author questionnaire process, creating a thumbnail, keynote, and writing the book description.
Creative Nonfiction: Memories and Memoir
Writing memoir requires transformation of complex, often incomprehensible emotions into clear words with which a reader could empathize. Learning from our memories comes from allowing ourselves to explore the gray areas and know that feelings – good or bad – are important. Understanding memories and perceptions is essential to this process. The writer needs to be sensitive to the idea that others involved in these may have different perceptions and memories and may not want to share their personal matters with the world. Open to adults of any age.
Realistic Fiction: Employing Reality and Real Imagery into Fiction Writing
This adult workshop will focus on using real environments to cultivate scenes in realistic fiction writing. During the six-week workshop series, participants will focus on imagery, dialogue, character, timeline, and studying the "greats" (imbuing inspiration from great writers). Each workshop will include exercises, free writing, discussion, and takeaways for continued writing.
Faculty, Alumni, and Student News
Lenore Hart and David Poyer taught at the Ossabaw Writers Workshop on Ossabaw Island, GA from 27-30 October.
Lenore Hart's The Night Bazaar sets up its tents at KGB Bar on December 13. Six anthology authors will present individual and group dramatic readings (some in costume, of course) selected from stories in the anthology. The reading will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Red Room. Readers include Wilkes faculty, alums, and NHP authors Gregory Fletcher, Mau VanDuren, Naia Poyer, Frances Williams, Corinne Nulton, and Lenore Hart.
The Night Bazaar is nominated for the 2017 James Tiptree Award, specifically for the story "The Kindly Ones" by Naia Poyer. The James Tiptree Jr. Award, since 1993, has sought to promote and recognize works of speculative fiction that 'explore and expand our understanding of gender.
Chapter one of Troublesome Creek, Lenore's novel currently in-progress, will appear in the Spring 2018 issue of The Virginia Literary Journal. Lenore's poem "Struck By Light" was named the winner of the 2017 Connecticut River Review Poetry Prize. The judge was Benjamin Grossberg. The prize was $400, and the poem will be published in the spring edition of the Connecticut River Review.
J. Michael Lennon has edited The 1960's Collection--a boxed set containing the works of Norman Mailer to be published by the Library of America. Volume one Four Books of the 1960's, will contain four Mailer works from the 1960s: An American Dream, Why Are We In Vietnam?The Armies Of The Night and Miami and The Siege Of Chicago (all four won, or were nominated for, the National Book Award). Volume two, Collected Essays of the 1960s, will contain 36 of Mailer's essays from the 60's, beginning with "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" and gathers for the first time all the essential essays from the classic collections The Presidential Papers, Cannibals and Christians, and Existential Errands. Publication date for the boxed set is February 27, 2018.
Associate Program Director Bill Schneider (M.F.A. '14) was invited to be a reader of United Airlines employee entries for the anthology Farewell to the 747: Queen of the Skies. He attended a farewell event held aboard a United 747 at Newark Liberty International Airport on October 24, where many of the entries selected for the anthology were presented.
Alumni and Student News:
J.C. Alonso Jr. (M.F.A. '14) had his poem published in Haiku Journal Issue 52. His novel Murderer's Wake, a sea story of a merchant marine was published by Northampton House Press (print date Jan 1, 2018.) Alonso was also hired as Adjunct Professor at Nova Southeastern University, and hired as Writing Lab Instructor at Broward Colle.
Molly Barari (M.F.A. '17) led two book discussions on the South Dakota One Book, Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, as a South Dakota Humanities Council Scholar this fall. Barari was selected by the Humanities Council earlier in the year to receive the scholar honor.
Maxwell Bauman (M.F.A. '15) had his collection of Jewish-themed short stories The Anarchist Kosher Cookbook published by CLASH Books. The book is available for preorder via Amazon and B&N, and will officially be for sale on Dec 5th.
D Ferrara's (M.A. '14) short story "The Bookkeeper" has been accepted for publication by Duct, a journal of stories. Cheryl Bazzoui (M.A. '14) had her new novelPressure Cooker Christmas come out in November. It is a satisfyingly realistic contrast from the usual sugar-coated Christmas novels. It is told through the voice of Marlene O'Malley, wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, nurse, friend, etc., as she and her husband, Bob, close in on their most unforgettable Christmas. Marlene insists she loves Christmas. Bob hates Christmas. He wants to cancel their annual Swearing in of the Christmas Tree party, but it's become a Willow Lane tradition. Their far less than perfect family is irresistibly lovable, despite their many foibles. This story will help even the most Scrooge-like reader find a generous helping of Christmas spirit. Bazzoui writes under the penname of Ann McCauley. Learn more about her at www.annmccauley.com
Patricia Florio (M.F.A. '11) co-founder of the Jersey Shore Writers (2001) was asked by the Bradley Beach library, Fourth Avenue Branch, to form a monthly writing group on Thursday, November 9 at 6:30 pm. This comes on the heels of her library readings to children from her current children's book, Puppy in My Pocket.
Rachael J. Hughes's (M.F.A. '12) Memoir Us Girls is slated for publication this fall with Big Table Publishing.
Maureen Hooker (M.F.A. '09) will be the keynote speaker for a state conference of Vidant Hospitals' Information Technology Systems Managers on January 18, 2018 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, NC. (Book signing too).
Jennifer Jenkins (M.F.A. '17) had her story "Ambulance" printed in Parentheses Journal in October 2017. Her book reviews have appeared in Hippocampus Magazine in April, July, and October 2017. She was also awarded an honorable mention for Glimmertrain's Very Short Fiction Award in September 2017.
Mark Levy (M.A. '08) joined Messner Reeves LLP, a Denver law firm, in October as Intellectual Property Counsel. That's a rare situation in which being 68 years old is an advantage.
Lori A. May (M.F.A. '13) has an essay, "This is What it Sounds Like," in the latest issue of Panorama: The Journal of Intelligent Travel.
Nisha Sharma (M.F.A. '13) sold at auction The Singh Family Trilogy, in which three Sikh-Punjabi brothers bound by tradition and love pursue the ultimate act of revenge by taking down an empire in the name of honor to Avon Impulse, a Harper Collins Imprint.
Christy White (M.A. '17) had three poems from her thesis, Unexpected Comfort, chosen to be published in the Fall 2017 online zine, The Blue Guitar Magazine. The poems are: "Blessing," "Reading a Used Paperback at Midnight" and "On This Earth We Call Home."The Blue Guitar Arts and Literary Magazine is a project of The Arizona Consortium for the Arts.