Q & A with Richard Peabody,

Editor of Grace and Gravity

 

C.M. MAYO: How did you go about deciding which writers to include?

RICHARD PEABODY: There are a couple of websites devoted to local poetry and I've been toying with putting together a local fiction website. This would be a logical extension of the Literary Washington book I've been putting together (a la Ferlinghetti's Literary San Francisco) since 1979 or so. (Michele Slung had a piece on me in the Washington Post Book World way back then.) A couple of others have done similar books since then but nothing like what I envisioned which would include photos plus a history of local literary magazines and presses. So, in compiling a list of local women who had published novels or books of short stories, I developed a pretty good “who's who” of women writers in the area. Most of them I already know, but a lot of names were new to me. I sent out an invitation to 42 women and wound up with 32 who agreed to participate.

 

C.M.: Is there any one thing (or things) that you would say characterize writing by women in DC?

R.P.: Sass? But then that's what I was after. Something a little different. You can only read so many worker bee stories before you nod off. I think the work here does examine a lot of so-called "women's issues." And when given a choice I tended to go with shorter more dialogue-heavy, risky pieces. The work in the book runs the gamut covering everything from losing a child, suicide, murder, first love, caring for elderly parents, the works. This is serious writing about life and universal concerns though the delivery is not always traditional.

 

C.M.: Do you see writing in DC as being different from writing in other parts of the country?

R.P.: Not the actual writing per se, but both the attention given to and promotion of the arts in general are different. I always say that L.A. is DC's sister city. If you're not writing a script in LA, or acting, you don't exist. Same here. If you're not a Hill wonk or worker bee you're invisible. So many excellent women writers have lived here and moved on without getting the recognition they deserved. (All three of the blurbers for example. Now they're all doing very well.) So, this book was another way to put a spotlight on some local talent. I have always tried to promote the local art scene, in spite of the fact that most people don't even know it exists. I mean when the NY publishing world considers fiction from DC they think only in terms of political thrillers or thinly disguised tell alls. That's why Gore's daughter has a new novel out, and why the woman on the cover of the Washington Post Magazine a few weeks ago who spilled her guts in her Blog about guys she slept with on the hill, has a 6 figure book contract for a novel!

 

C.M.: How do you see the DC writing scene today?

R.P.: I think the DC writing scene fiction-wise is divided into a couple of separate worlds. I mean there are a lot of genre writers and a huge pool of Mystery, Romance, and Sci Fi writers. Outside of that you have the people who circle around the PEN/Faulkner Awards and their reading series, and attend the MFA Programs at Johns Hopkins, American University, George Mason, and Maryland. Then you have another layer of people who attend classes at places like the Writer's Center or the Jenny McKean Moore porgram, start local zines or ezines, or help out on existing zines. A lot of those folks write reams of fan fiction on the web. Then you have the wildly independent types like Zane, the local erotica writer, who is a definite success story. But the fiction writers who get the most attention in this town are the journalists who write mass market fiction or cater to the thriller and mystery markets. Most of the world is only aware of these folks. Some are serious writers, others not so serious. Such a narrow focus is a shame when you realize that Tracy Chevalier, Laura  Hillenbrand, A. M. Homes, and Julia Slavin, all attended BCC high school. This area has been home to so many talented women.

See pictures from the launch .

 

The Women’s National Book Association and the National Women’s Party

to Host the Launch of

Grace and Gravity : Fiction by Washington Area Women

 

 

            Can it be true? Editor Richard Peabody says it’s so: an anthology of Washington women fiction writers has never been done before. Says Peabody, a well-known area fiction writer, poet, editor, and teacher, “Seemed like an obvious no-brainer to me.”  The result is his Grace and Gravity: Fiction by Washington Area Women, a collection Elizabeth Hand lauds as showing “the range of women writing for a new century --- compelling and original.” Thirty-two Washington area women are represented: Doreen Baingana, Abby Bardi, Anne Becker, Jodi Bloom, Susan Burgess-Lent, Sophy Burnham, T. P. del Ninno, Lucinda Ebersole, Barbara Esstman, Ivy Goodman, Patricia Griffith, Melissa Hardin, Judith Harris, Donna Hemans, Patti Kim, Karen J. Kovacs, Robin Alva Marcus, C.M. Mayo, Julia Meek, Margaret Meyers, Mary Overton, Frances Park, Carolyn Parkhurst, Sally Pfoutz, Leslie Pietrzyk, Barbara Ann Porte, Nani Power, Mary Quattlebaum, Lisa Schamess, Myra Sklarew, MaryAnn Suehle, Elly Williams, and Mary Kay Zuravleff.

 

            On Thursday October 28 at 7:00 pm WNBA and the National Women’s Party will be sponsoring the publication presentation of this path-breaking anthology. The event, which will include a reading and a panel discussion with the writers, will take place at the NWP’s historic Sewall-Belmont House located at 144 Constitution Ave NE, Washington DC. The event is open to the public. WNBA members and NWP members receive free admission, and nonmembers pay $10. 

 

            An historic, nonpartisan and nonprofit organization, the National Women’s Party promotes and educates the public about equality for women under the law. Its headquarters are on Capitol Hill in the Sewall-Belmont House, a National Historic Landmark which also serves as the NWP’s museum and a living monument to Alice Paul, author of the Equal Rights Amendment.

 

            Richard Peabody is a long-time DC area fiction writer, poet, anthologist, editor of Gargoyle Magazine, and writing teacher. His own books include the novella Sugar Mountain, the poetry collections Last of the Red Hot Magnetos and I’m in Love with the Morton Salt Girl, and, co-edited with Lucinda Ebersole,  the “Mondo” anthologies, among them,  Mondo Barbie, Mondo Elvis, Mondo James Dean, and Mondo Marilyn.

 

            Grace and Gravity is published by Paycock Press and will be available for sale for $14.95 at the event, as well as Amazon.com, the Writer's Center.

 

            The Sewall-Belmont House is located on Capitol Hill at 144 Constitution Ave NE, Washington DC. For more information, call  (202) 546-1210 or visit

 

How to Get There:

From the “Union Station” Metro Station (red line): At the intersection of Massachusetts Ave NE and Second Street, walk up Second Street (to the right) for about three blocks. Walk past the Senate parking lots and Hart Senate Office Building (on your right) until you reach the intersection of Second Street NE and Consitution Avenue NE. The Sewall-Belmont House will be on the right, at the corner of these cross-streets.

 

From the “Capitol South” Metro Station (blue and orange lines): Walk up First St NE in the direction of the Capitol for about four blocks, past the Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court, until you reach the Constitution Avenue. Turn right and walk for a block, past the Dirksen and Hart Senate Office Buildings (on your left). The Sewall-Belmont House will be on the left, at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Second Street NE.

 


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