35 years of literary wisdom

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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.

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