Twelve thousand writers and as many violets! Here's what I've been up to.
Kathy Leonard Czepiel

It's almost violet season!

It doesn't quite feel like spring yet, but my crocuses are finally up, and I'll be watching for violets in my back yard soon. The wild varieties that we find hiding in our spring grass are simple cousins of the violets grown commercially in the Hudson Valley (and in my novel, A Violet Season) from the 1890s to the late 1970s. Those commercial violets were bred for their beauty (many shades of purple and blue, some of them with double petals), their fragrance (I'm told the Swanley Whites smelled the best), and their hardiness for shipping and disease resistance. If you live near New York's Hudson Valley, you may still be able to get yourself a bouquet of violets from Battenfeld Farm; it's the end of the violets' indoor growing season. Or, if you can find some in your yard, dig them up and transplant them to a spot in your garden where you can enjoy them clustered together. They're pretty tough little flowers, and they usually don't mind being moved. Interested in learning more about the Hudson Valley violet industry? Get yourself a copy of the fascinating video Sweet Violets from Willow Mixed Media. Happy spring!

Do you write?

Join me at the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme, CT for a three-hour workshop on "A Sense of Place," May 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. We will use the museum's world-class collection as a starting point for a discussion of how painters create a sense of place in their work, then shift to reading some samples of strong settings in fiction and move toward learning how we can create this in our own writing. Registration will be available soon at

AWP: 1 weekend, 12,000 writers 

I'm just back from the AWP conference, held each year by the Association of Writers & Writing Programs. To say that it was overwhelming would be an understatement. Twelve thousand writers descended on Boston, from graduate students and young writers hoping to learn a thing or two about craft to the big-name speakers, including Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Richard Russo, Amy Bloom, Cheryl Strayed, Anne Carson, and on and on. Some of the sessions were so crowded one had to arrive early to secure entry. (The crowd for "Art of the Ending" spilled out into the hall, making me wonder how many of us were desperate to figure out how to finish the stories we'd started!) There were panels, readings, sessions on academic theory and how to Tweet to your best advantage, and a book fair of literary magazines, small journals and other writerly organizations that took up three exhibition halls at the Hynes Convention Center. Some attendees got lost in there and never found their way out. My favorite event was an offsite reading in the basement of The Brahmin restaurant on Boylston Street, where my colleague Ken Cormier read with about fifteen other poets--though "read" is too tame a word for the incredible performance poetry that was offered up that evening. I was reminded of how many writers are pushing against the boundaries in spectacular ways, working outside the margins of what the marketplace--literary or popular--has come to expect. Fabulous! AWP is in Seattle next year, but if you're a writer looking for some juice, the conference season is just beginning. Pick up a copy of Poets & Writers from your local library and look through the back of the magazine for ideas on where you can go. And readers: get on the mailing lists of your local bookstores and libraries and colleges and community centers. There are readings happening everywhere all the time, and it's exciting to be in one of those small crowds, receiving the gift of a live reading from the artist who created it.

Upcoming Events

April 11
Presentation and book discussion
7 p.m., Books & Company
Hamden, CT

June 24
Presentation and reading
7:30 p.m., Case Memorial Library
Orange, CT

I Just Read...
Carlos Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana, a memoir of his boyhood in Cuba just before and during the revolution and the start of Fidel Castro's long reign. A novelistic account of boyhood in all its playful excess and fearful dangers, and a moving portrait of the struggle to recall a lost homeland.

Copyright © 2013 Kathy Leonard Czepiel, All rights reserved.