A Few Delicious Things Coming Up

Hey everyone, two quick things to announce:  1) My next memoir workshop starts Wednesday, September 21 from 7 to 9 PM Eastern Time on Zoom. It will go for eight Wednesdays until November 16 (skipping the week of October 5 for Yom Kippur).

The focus is on craft, especially using emotion, sensuality, storytelling, lyricism, and voice. Everyone will get frequent feedback in a supportive atmosphere; class size will be small. The fee is $325.

Writers at all levels are welcome. For more information or to register, please contact me at minkowitz46@gmail.com.

2) We have a fabulous LIT LIT coming up for Friday, October 7 at the Howland Cultural Center! 🙂 Let me know if you want to read! For those of you who don’t know the drill, it’s 7 to 9 PM at the Howland, 477 Main Street in Beacon New York! Everyone who wants to can read their own writing of any genre of up to five minutes in length, until we run out of time. Because of the unique magic of Beacon, we get amazingly good memoir writers, novelists, poets, playwrights, and others!

I also keep a few slots so that people can sign up at the door. Or just come and listen. Lit Lit is a great place to meet Beacon writers and readers 🙂

To sign up, please email me at litlitseries@gmail.com. The event is free, and soft drinks, wine, beer, and snacks are available by donation. Masks are required.

I Wanna Be Your Writing Coach

Yep, I do! And I bet you have a writing project you might like some help on.

Hire me to help you figure out where you’re going with a piece of writing — and help you get there! (I also have some good strategies for helping you publish it.)

I’ve been teaching writing students and coaching authors for 23 years, and a professional writer for 35. I’m a gentle but perceptive teacher, and I’m here to help you make art.

Hit me up at minkowitz46@gmail.com. Or just use the form below.

Queerness as Holiness


This is a brief talk I gave at the First Presbyterian Church of Beacon as part of their first Pride Service, June 26, 2022.

By Donna Minkowitz

Since I first felt the power of queerness in my life when I was 14, it has seemed to me like a kind of fierceness, a kind of fire, the sensation that radical joy is worth fighting for, that sex is worth fighting for, that the funky beautiful intoxicating overflowing life force inside yourself is a thing to defend, a thing to show, a thing to love, a thing to refuse to squash or strangle or imprison within gates of adamantine iron.

I’m here to speak on behalf of of that life force.

As a young adult in the 80s, I was part of the first generation of activists to reclaim the word QUEER for ourselves. Some of the stronghearted holy power of queerness comes across in these lines that the gay singing group The Flirtations used to sing, which were written by a black gay British man named Labi Siffre:

the higher you build your barriers
the taller I become
the more you refuse to hear my voice
the louder I will sing

“When they insist we’re just not good enough,” the song says, “just look em in the eye and say/We’re gonna do it anyway! We’re gonna do it anyway!
Anyway!

And that my friends, is the buoyant, ever-defiant power of queerness.

This fiery joy is also what our queer brother the Jesuit priest and poet Gerard Manley Hopkins had in mind when he spoke of Jesus metaphorically as a falcon:

“I caught this morning morning’s minion,
kingdom of daylight’s dauphin,
dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding of the rolling level underneath him steady air
, and striding high there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing in his ecstasy!
Then off, off forth on swing, as a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding/ Rebuffed the big wind…
Brute beauty and valor and act, oh air, pride, plume here/ Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion times told lovelier, more dangerous. Oh my chevalier!”

For that is queerness too, the wild life force that refuses to give in to narrow demands of propriety. Queerness is also the ecstasy Hopkins is invoking in this poem, and the willingness to embrace wild, unchained beauty even when it might be socially or politically dangerous, because all beauty and pleasure comes from God, in fact, as Hopkins is suggesting in this poem, it IS God.

Beyond this, queerness is the radical belief in the goodness and innocence of pleasure, and I am thinking of myself at 14, discovering kisses and affectionate touch, discovering hands shoulders long hair and bellybuttons in all their sweetness and goofiness.

The queer life force within me has saved me so many times, it saved me as a teenager when the enlivening, flowering beauty of puberty gave me a power to stand fast against the violence I was experiencing at home, as a young and as an older adult when the sunny queer force in my blood gave me hope and creative power that always let me sail past depression and obstacles.

Thank you very much for inviting me here today to your beautiful congregation to speak about the connection between queerness and holiness.
And thanks to the supremely alive, defiant queer life force inside me that keeps my blood flowing. Thank you.

Next Lit Lit: Shaina Loew-Banayan!

NEXT LIT LIT: chef/writer Shaina Loew-Banayan, who just got a glowing review in @newyorkermag, is our featured author Fri. June 3, reading from their tough, tender, lyrical memoir Elegy for an Appetite. I’m so excited about this! It’s a memoir about, among other things, being a chef and someone who is crazy about food who also has an eating disorder. 7PM @howland_cultural_center in Beacon, followed by our regular awesome literary open mic. 477 Main St. in Beacon NY.
All of the advance signup slots to read in the open mic are full, but if you arrive by 6:30 you have a good chance of getting a spot! See you there! #beaconny #beaconnewyork #openmic #foodwriting #hudsonvalley #literature @cafemutton #hudsonny

Donnaville: Work in Progress

Hey there! I thought I would describe to you what I’ve been working on since late fall of 2019. It’s a new book called DONNAVILLE, and it takes place in a city that is, yes… the city of my mind. You know how the poet Delmore Schwartz once wrote, “The mind is a city like London/Smoky and populous: it is a capital/Like Rome, ruined and eternal,/Marked by the monuments which no one/Now remembers”? This book imagines that city, er, my city — the little citystate of my mind.

You know how Sylvia Plath once wrote, “Is there no way out of the mind?” (Look it up, it’s a terrifying poem.) Well, sometimes Donnaville feels a little bit like that, because its central location is a prison, and one of the two main characters is the Jailer, who is also a janitor and torturer.

You know how Denise Levertov once wrote to a lover, “You invaded my country by accident/not knowing you had crossed the border./Vines that grew there touched you”? And then she tells him, “I invaded your country with all my/’passionate intensity,’/pontoons and parachutes of my blindness./But living now in the suburbs of the capital/incognito, my will to take the heart/ of the city has dwindled. I love its unsuspecting life,/its adolescents who come to tell me their dreams in the dusty park…”? Well, Donnaville is also about that, what happens when people approach the “countries” of other people’s minds, and try to have relationships with them. When different countries (or citystates), in other words, try to get together.

So, I have finished preliminary edits. It will be a long while before this book is out, but if you want to read some short excerpts, you can read them here, here, here , here, and here. Hope you like! 🙂

Vote For Me!


Edited on April 20: oh my God, I’m a finalist! Truly did not expect that. If you want to, please vote for me to advance further. For this readers’ choice award, people actually get to vote once a day!

Okay… For the very first time in my life, I get to say, “Vote for me!”

I’m thrilled to have been nominated for Chronogram Magazine’s annual award for the best author in the Hudson Valley 🙂 This is a readers’ choice award, and finalists and the winner are determined by whoever gets the highest number of votes. It’s the absolute truth to say I would be honored if I got yours.

Just to refresh you, I am the author of two award-winning and critically acclaimed memoirs. I am the founder of the Lit Lit series in the Hudson Valley, the winner of a GLAAD Media Award and Radcliffe College’s Exceptional Merit Media Award, and a writer who has gone undercover to write about white nationalists and the Christian right.

Everyone is allowed to vote, whether you live in the Hudson Valley or not.

You can vote for me at this link. (Please just scroll down slightly from the Artist category where this page begins, to the Author category where I am.) Many thanks, and if I win, I’m giving out pie!

Lit Lit, the New Reading Series

Image: Poet Addison Goodson reading at Lit Lit.

Update: the next Lit Lit will be Friday, June 3 at 7 PM, at our regular location, the Howland Cultural Center. We are thrilled that Shaina Loew, author of Elegy for an Appetite and chef/owner of Café Mutton  in Hudson, will be our featured reader this month and sign books!! Advance open mic signups are now closed.  Proof of vaccination is required at the door.

For more info, click here.

Hey everybody! I’m thrilled to announce that I will be hosting Lit Lit, a new monthly literary open mic at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, 477 Main Street on the first Friday of every month.

Come and read your work of any genre. Or tell a story, or perform your writing!

We would love to hear you. Or if that’s not your bag, just come and listen — we would love to have you do that, too!

You can sign up to read on the night of the event. Everyone gets five minutes each. Sign-ups are first-come, first-served, and we will take readers until we run out of time.

Wine, beer, soft drinks and snacks will be available by donation.

Seriously, I’m excited about this. Donna

Therapists (Jailbreak Part 4)

This is excerpt number four of my memoir in progress, tentatively titled Jailbreak. “The jailer” and “the harlequin” are both parts of me. You can find out more about the jailer here and the harlequin here. In the quatrain that opens this piece, the harlequin is speaking.

I have a wave of power inside me
I have a wave of fruit
I think I can be 300 feet tall
And I’m wearing a kickass suit

This confidence inside me my old therapist thought was a liability, my craziness talking. A lying dodge. On the whole she seemed to prefer the jailer. She and the jailer would have long conversations together. She never addressed the harlequin because she did not like him.

Therapy session between me and Robin:

Me: So.

I always start with So because Robin makes me start the show each time. Neither of us will ever say anything, the whole time, unless I begin. I hate the responsibility, and the bleakness between us, this room in which we seem locked together for 45 minutes at a time, a dungeon I pay to enter. Robin looking at me dryly as if I still haven’t learned anything in the 20 years I’ve been coming to see her.
Sometimes she actually says it: How long have you been coming to me, Donna?
Me (variously): Five years. Nine years. 19 years. 20 years.
Robin: Then why are you still doing X bad thing?

***
Maybe the harlequin didn’t like Robin, either.
Me/Harlequin: “I sometimes wish our therapy were more playful.”
Robin: “Therapy isn’t play. It’s hard work!

***
“I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do.”
Robin: “Yes you do!”

***
The harlequin ignores Robin, bides his time. Feeds me under the snow, through my root system, feeds me like birds at his many feeders, shines dazzling sunlight on me even in winter.
***

I’m sick of you wasting away without me, my love. I’m sick of you locking yourself in the dungeon to work. I miss you.
***

I will give you custard apples
and I will give you tajines warm with cinnamon
I will give you walks in the mountains
and I will give you a dog

Today I am not happy with everything E does and it makes me fear that my love is a farce. Would someone who really felt a lot of love be annoyed by her partner nervously going on about Trump when we’re having dinner at a new friend’s house? Be afraid that her partner sounded awkward and unconfident? Look at her partner’s face and think that she looked tired?

Why does E stir up the judge inside me? The judge rants, in my head, about E’s nervous boring chitchat. About something rude she said to Fred.

The jailer wants to break the house to bits, kick down the beautiful floorboards and mix them with dog shit, with peed-on papers from the doghouse, smash in the windows, sledgehammer the mirrors, destroy the furniture we built together and the art we put on the walls and shatter glass until it is so dangerous in here I have to leave.

***
The jailer resents E. He’ll be sitting there hammering more sheets of lead onto the cells and her voice will waft over and he will want to take his hammer to E’s lack of confidence and her belief she’s ugly. Put E in the deepest, dirtiest, most toxic dungeon cell, the saddest, scariest one and he will take his hammer to her and wipe out, wipe out all the awkwardness and the self-hate.
***
Did Bob invite us to dinner not because he likes us but just to get information on the outré sexual subculture that we have been involved in and he has not? Does he really enjoy our company? Does he think we’re cute? Does he think of us as boring?

This reminds me of the time I was eight and I thought my best friend Julie only liked me because I bought her bubblegum. She didn’t have any money, and I had some which I wanted to share. I liked her, and we hung out all the time, but I was afraid she only liked me for my money.

Now I realize Julie liked me for myself. But before the age of 12, I was certain that none of my friends liked me for me. I was sure they were with me only to get something from me. I often told them so and their feelings were hurt.

 

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