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Susan Stinson

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March 21st, 2017

12:31 pm: Save the National Endowment for the Arts
I've never received an NEA grant in support of my writing. But I've applied for one every year I was eligible since the early 1980s. Before I had met the publication requirement — it was/is something like publish five different stories or novel excerpts in two different publications that regularly publish fiction or publish a book within the past ten years — I used the eligibility requirement as goal. I knew that one of my best and strangest teachers as an undergraduate, the ornery poet Ed Dorn, may he rest in piece, had never received an NEA grant and that the lesbian content of much my work might create barriers to in an awards process that had been subject to political scrutiny. That means that I've been applying for an NEA grant for more than thirty years. I've got an application in right now. That was the hardest one yet to get together the hope and the will to do in the current political climate. I did it, though. We are not giving up important things like public support for the arts when they are threaten but have not been eliminated, not giving up that easy. For me, applying for an NEA grant all of these years has been an act of commitment to my work. I believe that my writing matters. I believe that it's worthy of funding, that it is valuable to others. I keep thinking about how differently some people understand and tell stories about the seventeenth and eighteenth century in ths country than how I tell them. I'm trying to tell a story good and true enough (true in the deep way of all powerful fiction, says me), that it will be in the minds and hearts of people, bumping up against those other stories, shaping them. I have always been ambitious for my writing, ambitious about who it might speak to, what it might do. I know how much art of all kinds has moved, pleased, comforted, transformed, taught, and opened expansive new rooms in my inner worlds. The NEA is important. The NEH is important. Support to museums and libraries are crucial to me every day. The Corporation for Public Broadcast keeps me company in so many moments.  #SavetheNEA

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February 15th, 2017

09:27 pm: Fat Imagination at Organ Recital
That was an incredible night of fat art. Seriously, I've never experienced anything like that — one tremendously moving piece after the other. I feel as if my blood is moving through my body a little more freely after that. Great to see so many folks I haven't seen in too many years. Also: tin foil walls.

I'm typing riding backwards on the train home, so disruptions might happen. I want to tell you a little more about Fat Imagination Monday night.

You should know that most people there were coming straight from work on a cold, windy February Monday night. Kelli Dunham is organizing a week-long storytelling festival in on bodies, health and healthcare while doing a demanding fulltime job. Everybody is under extra pressure because the threat of loss of healthcare, jobs, homes, because of tension created or increased by so many things right now. This night of storytelling was an act of resistance. It was a profound one.

People came out! The seats were full. JACK is a community arts space, and I was reminded of how important that is. The women's bookstores used to work like that for me and communities I was in Northampton. I miss them. (The library, too, at times in other forms.) We moved the sturdy, armless chairs from the back tier of the low risers to the floor to create more accessible seating. (Chairs with arms often cut into my legs or don't fit at all. I'm not the only one.) There was a mike, a stool, and a music stand. There was a table covered with a cloth with pictures of Divine as an altar with photos and objects to remember Heather MacAllister and other beloved folks who have died.

Glenn Marla and Hana Malia curated the event. I would grab the chance to see Glenn perform any time, and advise everybody else to do the same. Both of them were so good, and their gifts, art, and community engagement drew the whole thing together and held us in the common warm, attentive space in such skilled, warm, funny ways.   Glenn opened with the story of a call he made to his mother on the night of the presidential election. He had a painted cat food can phone, a great mother puppet, and painted pasta backdrop with ricotta cheese that dropped from above like a great cloud. Glenn's story made me braver because he was making such wonderful, moving, tender-hearted, honest art out of things that sound a lot like the chronic gut ache I've had in response to so such much news coming out of the election. It was amazing. 

Later, Hana also told a great story, that swung from something that had happened that day at work to a gnarly old fat dyke of a teacher she had had when she was a kid, who used to ask her to stay after school to practice yelling out the window to encourage her to speak up more in class and went swimming with the class, locker room and all, with her one very present and one missing breast. Then Hana sat down in her gold glitter skirt and general utter gorgeousness and sang the Bonnie Raitt/John Prine song, "Angel From Montgomery."  Sang it so beautifully!  I've loved that song ever since my older brother brought a Bonnie Raitt album home from college.  It was as if Hana was laying a gift especially for me on the Divine tablecloth table.  Also, Hana was visibly moved by my story in a way that was another deep gift.  Deeper, really, than I can say. 

Everybody who read was great. It's really true. I keep losing the signal and am going to be overtaken by events once I get home, but if you seek out the other storytellers at the Organ Recital site or the Fat Imagination event page, you won't be sorry.  Here they are:

Roz the Diva
Geleni Fontaine
Fancy Feast
Bryson Rose
Janie Martinez
Leah Strock

PS  I wrote about the first fat event Glenn Marla performed in -- it was one I read in, too.  It was a benefit for Nolose called Jiggle-O.

Photo credit Kelli Dunham

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February 8th, 2017

11:34 pm: Monday, Feb 13: Fat Imagination, night of fat storytellers
They've just announced the line up for this!  It's very exciting -- and a little bit intimidating, too.  Please come if you're near Brooklyn next Monday!  Fight for our bodies! Fight for our stories!
Organ Recital presents: FAT IMAGINATION, A night of fat storytellers curated bye Hana Malia and Glenn Marla 

Fat Imagination celebrates the magic it takes for fat people to live despite the forces intent on dehumanizing and shaming fat bodies, fat sexuality, and fat stories into silence .
In a world that hates us "for our own good," tonight is a night where we allow our stories to know better. Where we will use our histories, our language, and our bodies to remember where we come from and imagine the worlds we want to build each other.
Susan Stinson
World Famous "BOB*
Roz the Diva
Geleni Fontaine
Fancy Feast
Bryson Rose
Janie Martinez
Leah Strock
Finally, to further celebrate our many forms of Fat Imagination and the 10th anniversary of the death of fat activist and founder of Big Burlesque The Original Fat-Bottom Revue Heather MacAllister aka Reva Lucian, we welcome you to contribute to a communal altar in the space. Bring offerings for our dead and living fat communities, our fears, our fucking, our dances, our dreams, and our love.
Sliding scale $5-$15 with proceeds going to support Organ Recital and an accessible night for all performers.

Location: Jack Brooklyn (505 ½ Waverly Avenue between Fulton and Atlantic in Clinton Hill) The theater has 55 chairs plus floor seating, is wheelchair accessible, and has tinfoil walls.

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January 25th, 2017

08:53 pm: Organ Recital Feb 13
Organ Recital is a storytelling festival about bodies, health, and healthcare being held in at Jack in Brooklyn February 13 - 18.  The festival organizer is the wonderful storyteller, comic, nurse (and more!) Kelli Dunham.

I'm going to be part of FAT IMAGINATION, an evening of fat storytellers curated by Hana Malia and Glenn Marla.  February 13, 7 pm.

Here's the whole schedule.

Kelli writes    FIGHT FOR OUR BODIES
                       FIGHT FOR OUR STORIES

I am so in the mood to do just that. More later.  Come if you can!

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September 17th, 2016

05:55 pm: Edward Albee
I've been thinking about Edward Albee. We never spoke, but he got a Pioneer Award from Lambda Literary in 2011, the year I got an Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Award. His speech caused a stir because he said that he wasn't a gay writer, but a writer who happened to be gay. (Terrence McNally, the playwright who introduced him, said that he picked him up at a party way back in the day.) I was so full of joy that day, and he was surely part of that for me, since he made me part of his lineage by showing up for that honor, no matter what he said about it. I mean, I already was: I read Zoo Story in high school. I'd seen Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I want to read or see the rest of his work, sooner or later. I got a stubborn, affectionate family feeling from him from the stage. May he rest in peace.

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July 27th, 2016

12:02 pm: Last night I stopped by the Tuesday farmers market behind Thornes. I wanted blueberries, and I got them. I also got some of those little orange tomatoes. Ran into Ruthy. She's part of Pedal People, and she has a show on Valley Free Radio about people who live around here. (I love that.) She recently read my first novel, Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, and she's going to interview me on the show on Wednesday, Aug 10, 4 pm.

Ruth was talking to another woman I recognized from years and years in the community, but whose name I've forgotten. She was in the process of getting a battery kit for her bike. Maybe we'll do a public forum and e-bikes and trikes sometime.

While we were talking, I dropped a little orange tomato, which split. Ruthy picked it up, said, "It's still good," then showed me that she was carrying a split watermelon. "Want some?" She broke it open and handed me a piece. Friends, it was yellow inside. I had never seen the like of it. It was sweet, cold, sticky and perfect. I rode home covered with juice.

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July 17th, 2016

04:54 pm:

This made me enormously happy. More about Venus of Chalk.
Thanks, Roxane Gay!

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July 7th, 2016

01:45 pm: People of the Whale, a novel by Linda Hogan
I just finished reading People of the Whale by Linda Hogan.  It's one of the most beautiful books I've ever read.  Here is a passage from a chapter in which an A'atsike man who is a veteran of the Vietnam War, grieving and frozen by the terrible things he did in the war, goes to the Vietnam War memorial in Washington:

There are many kinds of walls, like the wall Thomas built in front of the water. There are walls of history, and the secrets of history. There are ones no one can breach or climb, the invisible boundaries of humans. Some walls seem righteous instead of ruthless. They don't claim property or hold something in or out. They keep things separate, but now, in the District of Columbia, it comes together for Thomas Witka Just.

Here in this Washington is a wall of revelations. A strange word, Thomas thinks, like the end of the world in the Bible. But at The Wall, it is the ground he sees first, as if it is not possible to look up. So he sees a box of donuts; some boy's favorite food. On the ground, a baseball sits before this portion of the wall. On it is written, For Dad.  A batch of carnations sits, still in its wrapper, leaned up against the heat of it all. There is a letter to a soldier, even a gold button with a rhinestone on the ground as if to signify a blouse this man's hands once unbuttoned?

Momentos. Poems are engraved on plaques. Someone took such care to write them, to preserve them. There are now nearly sixty thousand names and the reflection of light on one whole side of it. In the place of America it shines. The whole crying light of it.

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April 17th, 2016

09:34 am: May 4 Reading: Please come!

Writing about Disability

The Modern Real and Surreal: Writers and Artists on Our Age

Wednesday, May 4, 2016, 7 PM

Coolidge Museum at Forbes Library

Author reading followed by Q&A with:

Claire Blatchford, author of Coming to My Senses

Katherine Duke, author of Kissability: People with Disabilities Talk About Sex, Love, and Relationships

Susan Stinson, author of Venus of Chalk

Forbes Library is committed to providing universal access to all of our events. For questions about accessibility or to request accommodations please contact Lisa Downing at 413-587-1017 orinfo@forbeslibrary.org. Please let us know at least two weeks before the event if you require any special accommodations.

Curated and moderated by Forbes Writer in Residence Naila Moreira

Forbes Library ~ 20 West Street ~ Northampton, MA

~ www.forbeslibrary.org ~ 413-587-1011

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March 23rd, 2016

09:22 pm: May 1 Salon with Susan Stinson and Mistinguette Smith

A Straw Dog Writers Salon:
Balancing Solitude and Community in a Writer's Life
Northampton Friends Meeting House
43 Center Street, Northampton

May 1st  3-5 p.m.

Susan Stinson, writing coach, editor, and award-winning author of four novels, will join in conversation with Mistinguette Smith, poet, essayist, and director of The Black/Land Project, an organization that uses narratives to understand the nature of race, land, and place. Solitude can be a great gift to a writer. Isolation is not. Stinson and Smith will talk about strategies for building community that feed a writer's persistence, productivity, and joy in the work, even when working alone.

Susan Stinson is the award-winning author of Fat Girl Dances with Rocks, Martha Moody, Venus of Chalk, and Belly Songs. Her most recent novel is Spider in a Tree, about Northampton in the time of eighteenth century theologian, preacher, and slave owner Jonathan Edwards (Small Beer Press).  She has received the Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Award from the Lambda Literary Foundation and was the keynote for the 2015 WriteAngles Conference. From 2010-2015, she was Writer in Residence at Forbes Library in Northampton, MA, and she is the recipient of the 2015 Trustees’ Award.  MORE

Mistinguette Smith is a poet, essayist and director of The Black/Land Project, an organization that uses narratives to understand the nature of race, land and place. An alumna of the Cave Canem Writers Workshop, her work has appeared in the journals The Common, Rust, Pluck  and the anthologies Does Your Mama Know, Other Countries: Voices Rising, and the forthcoming The Relative Wild. A Buckeye by birth, she now lives in Northampton.

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