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The Nittany Valley Writers Network Newsletter
November 2011

The NVWN is a sharing, supportive, inspiring community linking local writers of all genres and levels of experience:  expert and novice, published and hopeful.

Network Events

Wed 8 Nov – NVWN Meeting and speaker Dr. Heather Jordan on Writing, Teaching, and the Fourth Genre  – The 2nd Tues of the month, 8 Nov, 7-8:30pm in Schlow Library’s Community Room.  Heather will discuss how her fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and creative nonfiction (the fourth genre) fits into her life and informs each other, as well as the relationship of her writing to teaching. She is the author of a novel, Through Your Hands (iUniverse, 2011); a poetry chapbook, Cheap Grace (Finishing Line Press, 2011); and literary criticism, including How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War (University of Michigan Press, 1992), with additional books in the works. She teaches English at Penn State and has dedicated herself to writing one poem a day for the past eight years.

Wed 16 Nov – NVWN Early-Risers Breakfast – Every 3rd Wed, 7-8am at The Waffle Shop, 1610 W College Ave, State College. All are welcome – ask for the Writers Table.

Tues 22 Nov – NVWN Writers Social – Every 4th Tues, 5:30-7pm at The Autoport, 1405 S Atherton St., State College. All are welcome – ask for the Writers Table.

Other events:

Tues 1 Nov – 3:30pm – Foster Auditorium (inside Paterno/Pattee Library) – A lecture by John Edgar Wideman, IAH Distinguished Visiting Artist and two-time recipient of the International PEN/Faulkner Award. Acclaimed author of two dozen books of fiction and nonfiction, Pittsburgh-native John Edgar Wideman is the first author to have won the International PEN/Faulkner Award twice: for Sent for You Yesterday (1984) and for Philadelphia Fire (1990). He has won an O. Henry Award (2000), and has also received a MacArthur Prize and Lannan Literary Award. His nonfiction book Brothers and Keepers received a National Book Critics Circle nomination, and his memoir Fatheralong was a finalist for the national book award. In 1997 his novel The Cattle Killing won the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for Best Historical Fiction.

Wed 2 Nov – 7:30pm – Foster Auditorium (inside Paterno/Pattee Library) – A reading by John Edgar Wideman, IAH Distinguished Visiting Artist and two-time recipient of the International PEN/Faulkner Award

Thu 3 Nov – 7pm – Palmer Lipcon Auditorium, Palmer Museum of Art – Rich Doyle presents “Stairway to Eleusis: The Exegesis and the Dharma of Philip K. Dick” as part of the Resident Scholar Lecture Series. In its daily entries, diagrams and sketches, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick documents a famed science fiction writer’s eight-year attempt to fathom what he called “2-3-74,” a post-modern visionary experience of the entire universe “transformed into information.” Dick’s experiences in February and March of 1974 with what he variously called VALIS, Firebright, Sophia and Zebra sent him on a classic visionary quest through the esoteric literatures and sciences of the planet as he focused his polymath sensibility, wide-raging erudition, and zen-like humor on a cosmic whodunnit: Who – or what – was VALIS? This talk will explore, re-enact and simulate some of Dick’s newly published The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick, arguing that Dick’s quest actively and creatively remixes the Greek Mysteries of Eleusis as he exhausts language and induces ego death in pursuit of a glimpse of reality. The talk argues that Dick’s nearly nine thousand page text can be productively understood as “dharma” or instruction for creatively thriving through a planetary scale infoquake.

Thu 10 Nov – 7:30pm – 108 Chambers Building, PSU – Dave Housley to open Red Weather Reading Series. Dave is the author of the short story collection If I Knew the Way, I Would Take You Home, which will be released in 2012 from Dark Sky Books.  His first collection, Ryan Secrest is Famous, was published in 2007. His fiction has appeared in Columbia, Hobart, Mid-American Review, Nerve, PANK, Quarterly West, Dzanc’s Best of the Web Anthology, and other literary magazines and anthologies. He’s one of the founding editors and fiction editors at Barrelhouse Magazine, and the co-founder and organizer of Washington DC’s Conversations and Connections writer’s conference

Monthly Forum

On the topic of writing the next chapter of your life or “how does your writing affect your real life?”, there were many interesting ideas:
– Writing pays the bills, or it doesn’t
– My next chapter would be called “The Best is Yet To Come”
– Fictional Memoir
– Many great novelists were journalists
– If you have messages or convictions that you give to your character(s), expect them to point right back at you.

New question: Can you teach/learn writing? What part is mechanics and what part art?  Share your ideas at the next Social (or with mts@uplink.net or Yahoo or Facebook).

                                                   Why Poetry Matters              by Sally Driscoll

While Zoë Brigley Thompson, our regular poetry columnist, is taking time off to have a baby, and other NVWN members are pregnant or new parents, I thought I’d fill in with a few words about poetry that celebrates giving birth, parenting, and the joy of babies.  It’s difficult for even the most original poets to avoid being sentimental about these topics; some have better luck using birth as a metaphor. Nevertheless, only the most cynical literary critics will find fault with the warm and uplifting poems about breast feeding or changing diapers published in Mothering magazine.

New parents might also especially appreciate Walt Whitman’s “There was a Child went Forth.” Although representative of nineteenth century society, the poem still attests to the many influences on childhood from parents, nature, and society, and vice versa.

His own parents,
He that had father’d him, and she that had conceiv’d him in her womb, and birth’d him,
They gave this child more of themselves than that;
They gave him afterward every day—they became part of him.”

Especially for Zoë, here are the first four lines of Sue Gân, a Welsh lullaby:

Huna blentyn ar fy mynwes  (Sleep my baby, at my breast,)
Clyd a chynnes ydyw hon;  (`Tis a mother’s arms round you.)
Breichiau mam sy’n dynn amdanat,  (Make yourself a snug, warm nest.)
Cariad mam sy dan fy morn; (Feel my love forever new.)

Worthy Links

NVWN web page:  http://schlowlibrary.org/nvwn > Nittany Valley Writers Network
NVWN Yahoo group:  
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nvwn/  (see Links and Files)
NVWN Facebook page:  
NVWN Blog (recently revamped!) –
https://nvwn.wordpress.com/ – email nvwnblog@gmail to get started.
This Month’s Recommendations:
Pennsylvania Poetry Society: http://www.nfsps.com/pa/

Critique Groups

Creative Writing Group – 3rd Tues 7-8:30pm – FrankRocco38@yahoo.com, 861-3625
All-In Writing
– Thu 6-8pm at Denny’s – Steve Brezler, scuttlebeez@yahoo.com
The Artist’s Way for Women – Tues 7-8:30pm, –
CLAW (Creating Literature At Webster’s) – Fiction – Jen,
W4K (Writers for Kids) – Virginia Loewen, vloewen@verizon.net, 238-1817
Christian Writers Roundtable – Laurel West, laurelwest975@gmail.com, 237-3010
OLLI Writers Group – All genres – Rita, ritalouise@gmail.com
Memoir Writing Group – 1st Thu 1pm – Barb Foley, knock3xs@hotmail.com
State College Writers Group – Fiction/poetry – Glenn, 234-1949, gbv750@hotmail.com


Programming:  Sally Driscoll (sallydriscoll@verizon.net), (814)231-0913
Technology:  Greg Halpin (gphalpin@gmail.com)
Marketing:  Zoë Brigley Thompson (
Critique Groups:  Karen Dabney (
Newsletter & Social:  Mark T. Shirey (
mts@uplink.net). Send items by the 25th.


Engineers employ technical writing, which is very different from the literary writing you learn in most English classes. Consider this passage by Edgar Allen Poe:

Helen, thy beauty is to me / Like those Nicean barks of yore / That gently, o’er a perfumed sea, / The weary way-worn wanderer bore / To his own native shore.

An Engineer would simply say:  Helen, I think you’re beautiful.