Readings and Workshops from Backwaters Press
January 24th, 2018
Omaha, NE—The Backwaters Press, an independent nonprofit literary press based here in Nebraska will continue their ongoing Reading Series next Wednesday at Gallery 1516. The event will cross genres with poet Maria Nazos and fiction writers AE Stueve and Theodore Wheeler.
Nazos was raised between Joliet, Illinois and Athens, Greece. Her work is published or forthcoming in the New Yorker, Drunken Boat and the Mid-American Review. Though settled in Lincoln now, her poetry is informed by narratives and imagery from her travels around the world.
“I would say that no matter what,” Nazos said, “even if I’m situated in a particular place or if I’m traveling, the landscape, the physical environments, humanity, the people in it are always going to somehow inform where I am. I would say that it’s pretty much inextricable and inescapable I think on some level as someone who is always travelling, even if I’m in one place and as someone who’s always noticing and interested in people and curious about customs, traditions even if it’s literally in my own backyard. I would say that I since I’ve moved to Nebraska, even five years ago, I see the Nebraskan landscape, I see the Great Plains figuring into my work. I see when I cross the border and I was I was traveling by myself through Belize in Guatemala, I see the idea of borders informing my work, or the lack thereof.”
Former is the title of Stueve’s last novel, the story of a post-apocalyptic Midwest. Stueve now writes prose, but his writing is very much based in imagery—specifically comics, which were his first major influence.
“I definitely think about panels,” Stueve said. “I learned how to read reading comics and I also learned how to write reading comics, so I had to—when I started writing professionally and writing things that weren’t silly comics on you know lines of paper—I had to untrain myself to think panel to panel because it’s not how prose is written. Right now, I’m outlining this new thing and it’s twelve chapters, and when I’m writing them down I’m thinking chapter one is like issue one and then what’s going to happen on page one, page two, page three. And your average comic is 20 pages, so I can just think ok, this is what has to happen and then I just kind of transpose that into prose.”
Wheeler will read from his most recent historical novel, Kings of Broken Things. Set during Omaha’s “Red Summer,” it’s based on real story of mob fueled racism and lynching just after World War 1 in the time of prohibition. Many of Wheeler’s characters are fictional, but extensive research has rendered a frightening portrait of race relations in local history.
“For the last ten years I’ve reported on civil law,” Wheeler said, “so I’ve been at the courthouse where the race riot in the lynching occurred so just being in that space and thinking about these issues I guess more or less was my introduction to the history. When I started writing the book, going very deep into it and spending a lot of time in those spaces, I [thought about] what it means to be a contemporary Omahan in context of these events that happened a hundred years ago and in what ways they reverberate through our daily experience yet today.”
The following Saturday at Gallery 1516, Wheeler will host the Unblocked Workshop, free for the community.
“So mostly I wanted to impart somewhat on how to write through research or how to write creatively and research in a way that doesn’t come off as like a news article or a straight you’d write for a composition class. So I’m calling it ‘write where you live at the intersection of place of memory and history’ where we’ll be writing somewhat personal anecdotes and remembrances of local history but also using different sources, like online sources. The Durham Museum has an incredible online photo archive, which I use a lot in writing my book, but it’s mostly to help people write about where they actually live or where they grew up in a way that’s beyond straight reportage and getting into that creatively and to a sort of deeper remembering of place more or less.”
The Backwaters Press Reading featuring Maria Nazos, AE Stueve and Theodore Wheeler is next Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 7:00pm at Gallery 1516. Wheeler’s writing workshop is also at the gallery on Saturday, Feb. 3 at 11:00am. The workshop is free, but spots are limited. For more information about either event or registration for the workshop, find Backwaters Press on Facebook.
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