Open Book cohabitants Milkweed Editions and Loft Literary Center collaborated to produce "Views from the Loft," a distillation of more than three decades of Loft newsletter essays and interviews.
For the past few years Loft Literary Center's Director Jocelyn Hale has wondered how best to celebrate the center's impending 35th anniversary. How to capture the creative writing, teaching and inspiration that happens in its classrooms, lectures and even hallway conversations?
It was while perusing the archives of the Loft's newsletter (titled "A View from the Loft") that she realized the center already had the makings of a great book, comprised of original essays by - and interviews with - some of the state's top writers, offering their thoughts on putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
For example, here's an excerpt of Sandra Benítez' essay for "A View from the Loft":
When I write, I touch the core of the girl I've always been, and with this heart I try to access mythic stories. When I write, I allow my mind to travel. Crossing time and space, I stand once again on the threshold of a Salvadoran hut. In my stories, I do not hold back. I step inside a simple hut and am surprised by tesoros [treasures]. ...Writing stories is the mirror that tells me who I am.
Hale approached her colleague - and Open Book cohabitant - Daniel Slager, Editor-in-Chief of Milkweed Editions about the idea of publishing an anthology. Slager immediately saw the appeal. On August 5th, Milkweed Editions will release the product of their collaboration, Views from the Loft: A Portable Writer's Workshop.
Hale says the book is for anyone who loves to read and aspires to write:
Many of the essays are very funny and so many musings about the writing process are applicable to all creative processes and life in general.
While Hale was not involved in the selection process (a diplomatic gesture), she admits she was particularly pleased to see the anthology starts off with Kate DiCamillos' "Comes a Pony" and includes Lewis Hyde's "A Tall White Pine: Thinking About Prophecy." There are also words of wisdom from Lorna Landvik, Pete Hautmann and J. Otis Powell! (FYI: the exclamation point is part of his name, not my personal commentary).
Hale says the book also marks a turning point in the life of the Loft's newsletter - one from physical to digital. The Loft continues to produce essays and articles in the View and on the Loft's Writers' Block blog on its website. But Hale admits to a sense of loss since ceasing to provide the View in print. She says the printed anthology is a book many in the literary community will treasure for years.
Steve Healey is the author of Earthling and, most recently, 10 Mississippi. He lives in Minneapolis, has taught at both Macalester College and the University of Minnesota, as well as at several Minnesota correctional facilities.
10 Mississippi consists of poems which explore our hide and seek games with our own memories, and the torrential flood of information - both inane and horrifying - that flows over us every day. Here's a poem from the collection which I think does a good job capturing Healey's distinct and powerful way with language.
The body recovered from the Mississippi River
this afternoon has been tentatively identified
as that of authorities on Tuesday identified
the body pulled from the Mississippi River
on Sunday evening as police on Saturday
identified a body discovered in the Mississippi River
this week as that of the crew recovered the body
of the man in the Mississippi River Wednesday night
and authorities suspect he may be the same man
bystanders witnessed enter the river Sunday
after several hours of searching the murky waters
of the Mississippi Tuesday night divers recovered
the body of a thirty-nine-year-old woman
local authorities pulled an unidentified body
out of the river's floodwaters Saturday
a body pulled from the Mississippi River
was identified Monday as that of the body
found last weekend in the Mississippi River
was identified Tuesday as that of a man from
the body of a man believed to be in his twenties
was pulled from the Mississippi River on Thursday
police said authorities are investigating after
a body was found inside a vehicle at the bottom
of the Mississippi the search ended Wednesday
after his body was discovered downstream
identification was released Friday night
of the man whose body was pulled from
Monday morning according to the sheriff
a body was pulled from the river.
- "1 Mississippi" by Steve Healey, as it appears in his collection 10 Mississippi, published by Coffee House Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.