Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How a skull found in David Attenborough's garden has solved one of Victorian Britain's most gruesome murder mysteries


On a bright, spring morning, coal porter Henry Wheatley and his companion were driving their horse and cart along the Thames.

Shortly before seven o'clock, just before arriving at Barnes Bridge, South London, Wheatley noticed a wooden box lying half-submerged in the water.

He got down from his cart and, with some difficulty, hauled the box on to the bank. Noticing that it was tied with cord, Wheatley took out his knife and cut it open.

He then gave the box a kick and it collapsed. What he saw next turned his stomach. A mass of white flesh fell to the ground. At first, Wheatley's companion suggested they'd stumbled across a box of butcher's offcuts.

Workmen building an extension at the Richmond home of Sir David Attenborough unearthed a skull in the naturalist's garden. The police are almost certain it is that of Mrs Thomas, who was murdered 130 years ago
But Wheatley knew his find was far more grisly  -  in fact, he'd stumbled across the body parts of a dismembered woman. The date was March 5, 1879. Wheatley immediately reported his find to the police at Barnes.

A pathologist identified the body parts as belonging to a short, somewhat tubby woman.
The corpse had been cut up with an ordinary meat saw, and a contraction of flesh away from some of the bones suggested that the pieces had been boiled.

However, the body was missing not only a foot, but also something vital to help with identification  -  its head.
Five days later, another gruesome discovery was made  -  this time on a manure heap in an allotment in Twickenham, about five miles from Barnes. It was a box containing the missing foot, which had been boiled in the same way as the rest of the corpse.

For the next few days, the police could only guess as to the identity of the body  -  which some newspapers speculated could have been used by medical students for dissection.

However, by the end of the month and with help from a key witness, the police and the public learned the body belonged to a 50-year- old woman called Julia Martha Thomas, who lived in Richmond.

Kate Webster
Kate Webster - who murdered her elderly employer with an axe after she returned home from church on a Sunday evening

She had been murdered by her servant, a 30-year-old Irish woman called Katherine Webster.
Because of the gruesome nature of the corpse, the public were fascinated by the case. Some people even removed pebbles and twigs as souvenirs from the small garden of Mrs Thomas's cottage in Park Road, Richmond.

What was never discovered was Mrs Thomas's head. Its location remaining a secret  -  until last week, a full 130 years later.

On Friday, workmen building an extension at the Richmond home of Sir David Attenborough unearthed a skull in the naturalist's garden, and the police are almost certain it is that of Mrs Thomas.
Should this indeed be the case, then the final chapter of one of the most foul murders in Victorian London can now be written.

As a crime novelist, I've long been fascinated by the tale of the Richmond Murder  -  and I've even written a book based on the killing.

The murderer, Katherine Webster, was born in a small village in County Wexford in 1849. She spent her teenage years in and out of prison. At around the age of 17, she fled to Liverpool, where she lived as a drifter and furthered her skills as a burglar.

However, she soon found herself locked up and was sentenced to four years of penal servitude in 1867.
Released after three years, she made her way south to London, where she apparently attempted to make an honest living.

In 1873, she lodged in Rose Gardens, Hammersmith, West London, next to a family called the Porters, who would play a major part in her fate six years later.

Some time the following year, she gave birth to a son out of wedlock.

Unable to make ends meet Webster once more turned to thieving and, in 1875, she was sentenced to 18 months in London's Wandsworth prison for a staggering 36 offences of larceny.

As soon as she got out, she re-offended, and was locked up for another year in February 1877. In January 1879, she finally appeared to turn her back on a life of crime by taking a job as a servant for Mrs Thomas, at her home in Richmond.

Aged around 50, and recently widowed, Mrs Thomas was a small woman who took her religion seriously and was a devoted worshipper at the local Presbyterian chapel.

Unsurprisingly, the two women did not get along well. Mrs Thomas often had to reprimand her new servant for her violent temper and less than capable serving skills.

Builders unearthed a skull, believed to solve a 131-year-old riddle, in globe-trotter Sir David Attenborough's garden 
Gruesome: Builders unearthed a skull, believed to solve a 131-year-old riddle, in globe-trotter Sir David Attenborough's garden

On the evening of Sunday, March 2, Mr s Thomas returned from an evening service at the chapel. She found Webster had been drinking and a row ensued. The drunken servant girl was unable to contain herself and during the course of the argument she pushed her employer down the stairs.

She ran down after her, and seeing that Mrs Thomas appeared to be badly hurt, she decided to strangle her.
What happened next is like something out of a horror film. For the next 24 hours, Webster cut up the body of Mrs Thomas and boiled the pieces in a big copper pan.

Why she decided to boil the pieces is not clear, but it is likely she was hoping to disintegrate the flesh. She was unsuccessful and her attempts to burn the body parts also failed.

At this point , Katherine Webster decided that the only way to dispose of the body was to parcel it up and throw it in the Thames.

She placed the pieces in a box, and put the box into a large black bag. Then she assumed Mrs Thomas's identity.

On the late afternoon of Tuesday, March 4, she walked to her friends the Porters, whom she had not seen for months, and told them that she was now called Mrs Thomas and that her aunt had left her a house in Richmond.

Webster asked Mr Porter if he knew of an agent who could sell the house for her.

A little later, Webster, Mr Porter and his teenage son Robert went for a drink at a nearby pub. Robert carried the black bag, and it sat under the table while the three had ales.

Then Webster left  -  saying that she had to quickly see someone. When she returned, Porter saw that she no longer had the bag.

In fact, she had thrown it off Hammersmith Bridge.

Webster's greed knew no bounds. As well as trying to sell her victim's house, she also attempted to sell all its contents.

A man called John Church offered her £68 for some of the furniture, and she took £18 as a down-payment  -  insisting it be in cash or gold.

However, Webster was worried her crime would soon be discovered, and on or around March 18 she fled back to County Wexford.

Back in London, John Church began to grow suspicious and tracked down a friend of the real Mrs Thomas, who informed him that she was in fact in her 50s  -  and was most certainly not in her 30s with an Irish accent.
Church informed the police and, with evidence from Church and the Porters, they quickly put the puzzle together. On the 25th, Webster was arrested and detained at Clerkenwell prison.
At her trial that April, huge crowds thronged around the Central Criminal Court in London. Webster was found guilty, although she denied the murder.

She finally confessed the night before she was hanged at Wandsworth Prison on July 29.

What she never admitted was the location of Mrs Thomas's head, a secret which she took to her death at the end of the long rope.

Now, thanks to the unwitting help of Sir David Attenborough, the case can be finally closed.

Matt Fullerty's author site is www.mattfullerty.com

His novel based on the crime, THE MURDERESS AND THE HANGMAN, is currently with Watson, Little Ltd, and looking for a publisher. 


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New Yorker unveils '20 under 40' young writers list

New Yorker

New Yorker editor David Remnick said the list was “meant to shine a light on writers and get people to pay attention". Photograph: Harry Bliss/AP
Martin Amis, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes made a list of the best young British novelists in 1983; David Foster Wallace, Jhumpa Lahiri and Jeffrey Eugenides were named among the best American writers under 40 in 1999. Now the New Yorker has selected the 20 young writers it believes we'll be reading in years to come, with Jonathan Safran Foer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Joshua Ferris and Wells Tower all making the cut.

The eminent American literary magazine will publish the '20 under 40' fiction writers it believes are worth watching in its Monday issue. Ranging from the 24-year-old Téa Obreht, whose debut novel will be published next year, to the 39-year-old writer Chris Adrian, the list is an eclectic mix of famous and lesser-known names, neatly dividing between the genders and providing readers with a guide to potential future literary stars.

The list, compiled by the magazine's fiction team, is restricted to writers who are from or based in north America.

"I was a boy when my family left the Soviet Union," said the award-winning Canadian author and filmmaker David Bezmozgis, 37. "We came to Canada with nothing and my parents had never heard about the New Yorker or most anything else. It seems strange and remarkable to me that 30 years later I would find myself on such a list.

"But then, it seems that a number of writers on this list are from somewhere else. So I suppose it means that the trend in American life is being reflected in new American writing."

New Yorker editor David Remnick said the list was "meant to shine a light on writers and get people to pay attention". "What matters is that someone pays attention to a writer they might not have known, and that they read – that's all I want."

36-year-old Philipp Meyer, whose debut novel American Rust was published last year, said it was "enormously validating" to be chosen by the New Yorker – though he admitted that such an exercise "seems very useful when you're the one picked, but if you are not picked, you need to ignore it completely."

Some acclaimed American writers just missed out by dint of age; Dave Eggers is 40, Aleksandar Hemon 45, Colson Whitehead 40.

"It's disappointing they didn't manage to find a space for Dave Eggers but I suppose that's their rules," said the Booker-shortlisted British author Philip Hensher, who was picked as one of Granta's best young British novelists in 2003, at the age of 37. Although he admitted that it made his publishing career "a bit easier overseas", he did feel that "these age-related things are a bit artificial".
The New Yorker list might include 10 women, but Hensher said that in general such line-ups can be "rather unfair to women novelists".

"There's a well-known phenomenon of the woman novelist who puts off her career, maybe to have children," said Hensher, "so she doesn't really make an impact until after she's 40 … a good example is Penelope Fitzgerald, who only emerged about five years before the first Granta list, and of course she was 60."
He suggested it might make more sense to select the authors "who have just emerged in the last five years", rather than basing it on age. "Novel writing isn't necessarily something that young people are very good at," he said. "I was 29 when I published my first novel, but I wish I'd waited."

Ben Okri, who won the Booker prize aged 32 for The Famished Road, said he felt lists like the New Yorker's could be "pretty dangerous".

"They're very helpful for writers and they are encouraging, and can identify future talents, but on the other hand sometimes they're too soon," said the author at the Guardian Hay festival.
"We will see in 10 years' time [how these authors have fared]. What matters is not the list but that mystical quality called genius – and a bit of luck."

Beijing-born Yiyun Li, who like two other authors on the list – Jonathan Safran Foer and Dinaw Mengestu – won the Guardian First Book Award, praised the New Yorker for including a host of short story writers in its line-up. "[That] means a lot to me, as I love stories, and it is always encouraging that The New Yorker treats stories and story writers seriously," she said.

The top 20

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 32
Chris Adrian, 39
Daniel Alarcón, 33
David Bezmozgis, 37
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38
Joshua Ferris, 35
Jonathan Safran Foer, 33
Nell Freudenberger, 35
Rivka Galchen, 34
Nicole Krauss, 35
Dinaw Mengestu, 31
Philipp Meyer, 36
C  E Morgan, 33
Téa Obreht, 24
Yiyun Li, 37
ZZ Packer, 37
Karen Russell, 28
Salvatore Scibona, 35
Gary Shteyngart, 37
Wells Tower, 37 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Unpublished Stieg Larsson manuscripts discovered

Stieg Larsson
A young Stieg Larsson on holiday in 1987. Photograph: Per Jarl / Expo / SCANPIX/Press Association Images

Sci-fi stories The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo author wrote when he was 17 and sent to a magazine discovered in library.

The National Library of Sweden has unearthed unpublished manuscripts by a young Stieg Larsson, author of the bestselling Millennium Trilogy, which begins with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

According to Sweden's deputy national librarian, Magdalena Gram, "they were donated to the national library in 2007 and well known by us. The manuscripts were an integrated part of an archive from the Jules Verne Magasinet, a magazine with science fiction materials."

The science fiction stories, written around 1970 when Larsson was 17 and called The Crystal Balls and The Flies, were sent to the magazine by the teenager in the hope of having them published, but were rejected. In his accompanying letter to the magazine, Larsson described himself as "a 17-year old guy from Umea with dreams of becoming an author and journalist". Larsson did go on to become a founding editor of the magazine Expo, and then a hugely popular author, but did not live to see all his dreams become reality.
Larsson died suddenly at the age of 50 in 2004, just a few months after selling the first book in the Millennium series and leaving completed manuscripts of the two subsequent books. There are also believed to be 200 pages of a sequel to the trilogy stored on the late author's laptop.

Given the global success of the trilogy – the books have sold 22m copies in 42 countries and a Hollywood adaptation is under way – there is likely to be massive interest in any unpublished material, despite its age.
However, the discovery is also likely to intensify the bitter dispute around Larsson's estate. When the author died intestate, his partner of 32 years, Eva Gabrielsson, lost all rights to his estate to Larsson's father and brother. In 2005, she refused an offer by the family to hand over Larsson's computer in exchange for the half of the flat she had shared with him. There is speculation that outlines for six further novels are also contained in the laptop.

Gram could not say if the stories would ever be read by a wider audience. "A national library is not a publisher. The rights to the texts are owned by Stieg Larsson's father and his brother," she said, and confirmed that the library was in contact with Larsson's heirs.

While fans devour posthumously discovered and published work, its publication does not always enhance a writer's reputation. Philip Larkin's Trouble at Willow Gables and Michaelmas Term at St Bride's, two novels of lesbian intrigue set at a girls' boarding school, published after his death in 1985, led many to agree wholeheartedly with Larkin's own note that they were "unforgettably bad". Last year saw the publication of Vladimir Nabokov's uncompleted final novel, The Original of Laura, that he had requested be destroyed upon his death. Again the critical response was overwhelmingly negative.
Michelle Pauli
The Guardian
Wednesday 9 June 2010

Monday, June 28, 2010

Is Bernie Madoff 'Free at Last'?

In a recent New York magazine article, writer Steve Fishman sheds light on Bernie Madoff's life behind bars. The lengthy profile reveals a string of insider details, some far more telling than accounts of Madoff's prison rumble back in October.

For starters, the disgraced financier viewed by most as a thief and criminal for swindling an estimated $65 billion in history's worst Ponzi scheme, is regarded as somewhat of a celebrity at the federal correctional complex in Butner, N.C. He has an entourage of "groupies," according to the article, and though he shuns all autograph requests, he has managed to cultivate these relationships over time. Some even go as far as dubbing him "a hero" and turn to him for advice on anything from investing to entrepreneurship.

Then there's Madoff's talent for delegating duties on to others, hiring an inmate to do his laundry for $8 a month -- negotiating a discounted rate nonetheless. On the flip side, Madoff has energetically thrown himself into the prison-work world, even though he's exempted from chores because of his age. Fishman writes:

"He proposed that he serve as the clerk in charge of budget. He had qualifications—he'd been chairman of NASDAQ. 'Hell, no,' said the supervisor to Evans, laughing. 'I do my own budget. I know what he did on the outside.'"

Instead, Madoff was assigned to maintenance and cafeteria floor-sweeping duty.

Perhaps the most startling inclusion in the article is that Madoff reportedly feels little remorse for what he has done. Instead, Fishman suggests he might even be relieved that he is no longer living a lie. The article explains:

"'It was a nightmare for me,' he told investigators, using the word over and over, as if he were the real victim. 'I wish they caught me six years ago, eight years ago,' he said in a little-noticed interview with them."

As for his victims...

"'F--k my victims,' he said, loud enough for other inmates to hear. 'I carried them for twenty years, and now I'm doing 150 years.'"

For an in-depth view on Madoff's life in prison, read Steve Fishman's full article in New York magazine.


Message Edited by ReneeDeFranco on 06-09-2010 10:08 AM

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Regrouping After the MFA: How to Find Community Postprogram

After a brief but torrential thunderstorm in mid-June, eight writers of poetry and prose, myself included, huddled around a picnic table crowded with three-buck beer and leaves of printed-out poems, stories, and essays in the concrete garden of a Brooklyn bar. It had been almost a year since I'd taken a seat at a table with other writers to talk about the stuff, the meat of our writing—inspirations, obsessions, discoveries—and the project at hand every time each of us settles in to confront the blank page. All of us had spent an intense two years together at the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College, a small liberal arts school nestled in woody Bronxville, north of New York City. Many of us had migrated to the city after graduation, and while we saw one another often enough, touching base at parties and readings, our writing lives had become privatized, with only the most dramatic aspects—I haven't been excited by a word in three months! My thesis is moldering!—shared among us. So, about thirteen months after graduating, a group of friends and I, guided by our assiduous organizer, Hossannah Asuncion, decided to create a new program in order to reestablish the connection that the MFA experience had provided. We would get together once a month to check in with one another, warm ourselves up with a few brief free-writes, and discuss a predetermined topic on which we had all read a few essays before meeting. We could also bring works-in-progress to share, though workshop-style critiquing would not be on the agenda—our gatherings would celebrate our writing as art, and our work as artists.

Perhaps the shocking burst of rain was an apt metaphor for the two brief years we'd been ensconced in, and saturated by, a lively stream of words. The way whole days of digging in to work felt like a deluge after which the world often shone. The way words became new again in the voice of a classmate, and how the dross would be purged by the workshop process, revealing the tender bones and pulse of a piece. A creative writing program had offered to many of us an ideal experience—and then it was over. Of course, a workshop-heavy curriculum can have debilitating effects as well: Participants can tire of their work's being scrutinized in its infancy; differences in critical approaches can stifle discussion; and the compounded anxieties of the final semester can weigh on relationships, especially as solitary time to write becomes precious and staunchly defended. I'm sure the capacity for inducing this exhaustion informs our universities' having limited the MFA track to two or three years. After a while we're inundated and need to move out on our own. But writing programs don't tend to teach the skill set required to work fruitfully—and joyfully—beyond their gilt walls.

The MFA experience does not necessarily prepare us to be writers in the world. Our time as students is set apart as a sacrosanct period during which we perform the very important work of honing and polishing our craft, but little guidance is given as to how we might preserve that sacred lifestyle (as well as the more profane, yet necessary, moments of criticism and editing) once outside the bubble. On the other hand, no one could have told us then that our devotions would flag and that distractions—such as earning a living and making our way in the world—would threaten to prevent us from writing altogether.

This is not to say that constant connection to a writing community is necessary, or even entirely healthy. Once I'd successfully cast off those workshops and conferences, a momentary sense of liberation washed over me. When my thesis crossed over into the hands of my advisers, I was immediately walloped by a profound exhaustion, and there was freedom in that fatigue. I needed a break from the intensity of the MFA experience—from workshops, and even from writing. The project I had immersed myself in for two years (at times a desperate, sinking immersion) had worn me out, and I required some time to let the omnipresent criticism, however sparkling or seductively constructive, settle within me. It was like recovery after a marathon, when my legs were ripped and clunky and I needed to cross-train for a while, to teach myself how to move again. But the respite from writing and talking about writing soon devolved into a drab routine. Instead of slowly starting over, I had let myself stiffen, and the loss of my teammates—and our shared field—made the process of resuming the race profoundly difficult.

Excuses abounded. At first, no amount of time seemed long enough to sit and work, and when I'd attempt to write in short spurts, the words danced only on the surface of ideas and questions. Sometimes language simply felt inert. I often had the sense that I was playing with plastic blocks rather than textured, living things. Some pleasure had seeped out of the project of making art with words—a joy that I have discovered came from sharing both my poetry and the process of writing it. While I can't say this perception was common to all my peers, it seems that each of us has experienced an occasion—however extended—of craving community.

In Asuncion's experience, it has been a struggle to continue the writer's life after leaving an MFA program. In a society that often diminishes the value of the written word, students of fine writing can find their ventures trivialized as flighty or idealistic. "More often than not, I feel like the world is telling me that doing an MFA program was a bad decision," she says. "And more often than not, I'm like, ‘Yeah, time to start studying for the LSATs.'"

"I often feel stuck in my writing life," fellow salon member Rena Priest recently told me. "I have long patches of time where nothing I write is satisfying to me, and I have periods where nothing I read is resonating. When I am with other writers talking about writing and all the triumphs and struggles it involves, the ennui recedes." For Hila Ratzabi, another member of our group, connecting with other writers forces her to think about writing and to return it to the forefront of her mind where it belongs—but from which it can quietly slip as the static of the world interferes with our creative frequencies. "Thinking and talking about writing are not the same as writing, but having a community where it's safe to say, ‘I haven't written in months, and it sucks, but here's who I read when I can't write' is a blessing," Ratzabi says.

Without the meeting of friends and colleagues to help reframe myself in my project—and in the living portrait of us all doing this work together—writing began to feel like a secret game of limited consequence. I felt as if my contributions to anything larger than myself were nil. In fact, at our second salon, the question was posed, "To whom do you write?" For several months, I noticed, I had been writing primarily to words themselves, fiddling with language with nothing much at stake. My work on the page was reflective of my practice: scrawling on the train or for a few minutes at lunchtime, or making mental notes while running. I didn't feel I had an audience, and, curiously, my writing had even receded from conversation with my imaginary listeners, Dickinson and Stein among them. During my time at graduate school, the writing process itself had induced an exceptional sense of accomplishment, a purposefulness that comes from knowing that one is doing the work that one is supposed to be doing.

At times, the validation that we achieve through being and acting—in this case, writing—genuinely wavers, and we are compelled to look to one another not for appraisal but for support. Asuncion, who had rounded us up with the aid of a Google group she and others had created for Sarah Lawrence MFA alums, was inspired to start the salon by a similar series of gatherings she'd been attending that had been organized by Kundiman, the Asian American poets organization, whose members began running informal salons in January. She experienced the salon format as more of a generative field than an editing session for pieces in assorted stages of existence. Asuncion herself has written several pieces this year as a result of short salon exercises. For our group, exercises have ranged from creating a portrait based on a character we frequently noticed at our meeting spot—the mustachioed fellow leaning over his Belgian ale doesn't know how many weird narratives were spun about him—to drafting radical rewrites of work we'd each brought to the table. But most central to the salon, and for me its most vital aspect, is topical discussion.

I have always thrived in arenas that celebrate and engage ideas in all their intricacy and malleability, particularly ideas relating to perceptions of language. While not all classrooms are equally conducive to such vigorous exploration, the MFA roundtable at which I participated provided such a space and, ultimately, fed my writing. The salon reinvigorated that part of me that had been too easily neglected after leaving school, quelled by the seeming urgency of daily routines and pursuits unrelated to writing. In several of our conversations we've discussed how we can each create a space, physical and mental, where writing matters and can thrive after the intensity of the MFA experience. I've found that before establishing that room of one's own, separate from the mesh of the world, one needs to acknowledge that each of us is not alone in our endeavor; we are part of both a tradition and a living multitude of others.

As the very act of coming together on equal terms for a salon has reminded us that we are not isolated as writers, the material of our discourse has illuminated the fact that, despite having distinct styles and drives, we share a mutual human project. For discussion during our second meeting, Asuncion chose two essays on spirituality: Federico García Lorca's 1933 lecture "Theory and Play of the Duende" and Fanny Howe's "A Leaf on the Half-Shadow," published in the journal English Language Notes in 2006. These works stimulated a conversation that took off from group members' personal accounts of having sensed attunement to the spiritual while engaged in the process of writing—feeling the pull of flow, not knowing from where words were arriving; being moored in a mind state so lush and tangible, but beyond the realm of the known; approaching meditative clarity while working. My most gratifying writing hasn't been fed by my head, but by a universal, oceanic "something" exterior to ego. Without clear language to discuss phenomena such as this, experiences can feel ephemeral, or even inconsequential. But gathering with a group that understands and empathizes with the challenges posed by the shifting creative mind, and the elations that arise from meeting those challenges, I see that the importance of my work becomes more resonant.

In her essay "Survival in Two Worlds at Once: Federico García Lorca and Duende," Tracy K. Smith writes, "There are two worlds that exist together, and there is one that pushes against the other, that claims the other doesn't, or need not, exist." She refers to the capacity of duende, or the dark spirit (which some in our salon group perceived as death itself, the palpable movement of our own mortality within us), to both pull us toward and repel us from what some might call a higher state, a vaster consciousness, a discovery. In some ways, our lives outside of writing facilitate that centrifugal pushing away, and as I and many of my compatriots have found, a community that validates the opposite—a fearless movement toward the dark other—encourages the writing to approach those uncomfortable places. Talking about the act of writing has helped each of us to realize how much that wilder world does need to exist, and to negotiate its importance in our lives.

According to that Psych 101 standard, Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, when certain basic human requirements are met, our minds are free to explore more philosophical realms. Granted, as graduate students none of us was living a plush life, but we were able to focus less on the minutiae of survival and ego-driven pursuits (notwithstanding the occasional lovesick breakdown or ravenous scavenge for leftovers after a school event) and more on larger pursuits. There was art to be served, and it was our one and only job to serve it. In some respect, many of us joined an MFA program believing that if we wanted our writing to evolve from the fruit of our labor into art, it had to enter the public realm. It had to take a place at the table and enter into discourse with all of the other works that have been and continue to be written. While submitting pieces for publication and seeking opportunities to read remain excellent means of propelling the work into the world, nothing beats offering the tiny body of a poem or story to the live hands of a reader, or feeling that your quietest, most shuttered of lives is in conversation with another. Our postprogram salon has offered us not only a lively arena for sharing our writing with others, but, more important, it's given us a renewed opportunity to share our writing selves with a community of kindred minds each encountering distinct but similar challenges, as emerging artists in the wider world.


Send us a glimpse of your post-MFA story: your toughest—or brightest—transitioning moment, the virtues and vices of your program in retrospect, or a way you found to keep your community solid. Include "Post-MFA Story" in the subject line of an e-mail to editor@pw.org.

Jean Hartig is the editorial assistant of Poets & Writers Magazine. Her chapbook, Ave, Materia, won the Poetry Society of America's New York City Chapbook Contest and is forthcoming in 2009.

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