Reading to keep existential anxiety at bay in the summertime

As of two days ago it is officially summer. 

I have mixed feelings about the summertime. I love swimming, hot weather, drinking iced coffee, warm nights, walking for hours without any destination, going to sleep red and waking up a shade darker. At the same time, as a student who takes classes nine months out of the year, June through August presents a kind of chasm in which routine is discarded and needed to be refound. I inevitably find myself with time on my hands to ponder too much. Recently I've been wrestling with the idea of existential dread and how to utilise the thoughts which arise from it to initiate helpful, discrusive thinking. I don't really think there's one solution, but I find comfort in texts which offer empathetic narratives. 

David Biespiel to publish memoir in October 2017

"In his beguiling voice . . . Biespiel’s supple memoir of becoming a poet will surely inspire other writers." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

A beautifully rendered memoir about creative beginnings in the vein of Umberto Eco’s classic Confessions of a Young Novelist.

The Education of a Young Poet (Counterpoint Press) is Attic Institute of Arts and Letters' president David Biespiel’s moving account of his awakening to writing and the language that can shape a life. David writes for every creative person who longs to shape the actions of their world into art and literature. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer’s craft coupled with a classic coming of age tale that does for Boston in the 1980s what Hemingway's A Moveable Feast did for Paris in the 1920s.


...and they're free! Podcasts for Writers

A couple of years ago, my husband and I went on a long backpack. It was really very long. We crossed state lines; we passed from one season into the next. For weeks, we talked - about the scenery, the route, memories we had just remembered, the food we were missing. Eventually, we were talked out. We just walked, enjoying the quiet, the rustling, the birds. As the miles stretched into the hundreds, I discovered podcasts.

Writing Prompt: Gotcha!

Our free write is based on this picture: 

Write a poem, passage, or story about what you see happening here. Think of the physical: Is it hot? Noisy or not? How does it smell? Think about the softness of the monkeys' fur, the rebuke of the stick. 

Be as silly, literal and slapstick as you like.

Try taking sides: Start your piece with either "He had it coming" or "It was unfair."

Just 15 minutes! Ready, go... 




Independent Bookstore Commemorates Fictitious "Bowling Green Massacre"

One of the biggest embarrassments of the early Donald Trump administration occurred when Trump advisor and spokesperson Kellyanne Conway made reference to the "Bowling Green massacre," a terrorist attack that did not actually occur. Many have mocked Conway over the made-up attack, but no one’s done it better than the Harvard Bookstore.

This Writing Residency Comes with Cinnabons

If you want a writing residency with a different flavor, then forego the pastoral setting and head to the Mall of America. MOA is looking for a writer to do a five-day residency to celebrate its 25th anniversary. According to their website, "the winner will have the chance to spend five days deeply immersed in the Mall atmosphere while writing on-the-fly impressions in their own words."

"The contest winner will stay in an attached hotel for four nights, receive a $400 gift card to buy food and drinks and collect a generous honorarium for the sweat and tears they’ll put into their prose." And there's this tantalizing hook: "Where will the winner’s lovingly crafted story end up? Just wait and see!"

Winners Announced for the Attic Institute's "Snowpocalypse" Writing Contest

In honor of our recent crazy weather, we set a theme of "Snowpocalypse," and invited a submissions related to snow, cold, or winter. Our judge was David Ciminello, award-winning author, poet and screenwriter, and an adjunct fellow at The Attic Institute (...also an actor, but that's another story!). From the stack of entries, David selected a first and second place award winners. And they are...


First Place: "A Prayer for Winter" by Alene Bikle

Second Place: "The Bright White Light, The Clean Chill Air" by Stevan Allred

Congratulations to Alene and Stevan! Their pieces appear below. Enjoy reading them, and thanks also, to all who submitted to the contest. 


Chuck Palahniuk joins the Attic Institute as new Associate Fellow in Fiction

Associate Fellow at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters

We are delighted to welcome Chuck Palahniuk as a new fellow at the Attic Institute. Chuck's novels include the bestselling Fight Club, which was made into a film by director David Fincher, Survivor, Invisible Monsters, Choke, Lullaby, Fugitives and Refugees, Diary, Stranger Than Fiction, Haunted, Rant, Stnuff, Pygmy, Tell-All, and Damned. Portions of Choke have appeared in Playboy, and his nonfiction work has been published by GearBlack BookThe Stranger, and the Los Angeles Times.

Learn more about Chuck's upcoming ten-week workshop: The Writing Wrong Workshop.

Praise for Zahir Janmohamed's Workshops at the Attic Institute

Do you want to know what it's like to study with award-winning writer Zahir Janmomhamed? 

Jennifer Van Alstyne, summer 2016 participant: "I just wanted to pass along feedback on the Personal Essays meetup I attended this week. The class was what I had been looking for and exceeded my expectations. Zahir is a generous and engaging instructor. The amount of information presented was great and gave me a lot to reflect on and provided motivation for my own projects. Please bring Zahir back for another class."

Dawnn McWatters, summer 2016 participant: "Over the past year and a half, I've taken several longer-term workshops at the Attic. Zahir's workshop provided a range and depth of perspective -- both personal and literary/political. In addition, our workshop's participants represented the most diverse group of fellow writers that I've sat with since I began taking classes in Portland. As a white, straight woman from an impoverished, rural background, now raising (and writing about my experiences of parenting) a biracial adopted child, I didn't realize how hungry I was to be challenged and validated, all at once. I got more than I'd intended - and a great deal of what I was needing - from his brief workshop."

Zahir's writing has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Foreign Policy, Boston Review, Guernica, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Nation, Racialicious, and many other publications. He has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, where he was the inaugural recipient of the Anne Cox Chambers fellowship for long-form journalism, as well as from the VONA workshop for writers of color. 

Learn more about Zahir

Register for Zahir's upcoming Personal Essay Writing Workshop

Adjunct Fellow Wayne Gregory featured in new anthology

Wayne Gregory has a short story in the upcoming anthology, Fashionably Late. The stories in this collection explore the impact of exposing long-held secrets and addresses the questions of what happens when adult men come out and what triumphs and struggles they experience. Filled with tales about divorce, conversion therapy, misadventures in dating, overcoming bigotry, and gender exploration, Fashionably Late paints a vivid picture of gay, bisexual, and transgender men experiencing their second coming-of age. The release of the book coincides with National Coming Out Day (October 11, 2016). Learn more:

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From David Biespiel, President of the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters


Letter in 2010 announcing the new Attic Institute

"Eleven years have gone by in a blink. But today begins a new era as we renew our dedication both to the word and to the world."


Interview about the founding of the Attic Institute

"All sorts of excellent pieces of writing get started and finished here. That's what it means to be a literary studio."


Essay in the New York Times on they mysteries of poetry

"Poetry connects us to our past, and poets unmask both private and civic memories, dreams, and urgencies. By harmonizing the body with the mind, serving both young and old, poetry is a guide to deliver us into a fresh engagement with our inner lives and with modernity."


Essay on poets and democracy in Poetry magazine: "This Land Is Our Land"

"America's poets have a minimal presene in American civic discourse and a miniscule public role in the life of American democracy. I find this condition perplexing and troubling -- both for poetry and for democracy."