Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Interview with Doug Holder concerning the Somerville News Writers Festival

* This interview in Spare Change News was conducted before the festival and before it was known that Jimmy Tingle's Off Broadway Theatre was to close. Emily Singer was the host in place of Jimmy Tingle and it was held at the VFW Hall in Davis Square Somerville.

A Talk with Douglas Holder about the Upcoming Somerville Writers Festival
By Jacques Fleury: The Haitian Firefly

The Autumn chill has dawned. Soon we will all be in search of something warm and toasty to heat up our bodies. But I want to tell you about something that will heat up not only your bodies, but your minds and souls. Something warm and “literary.” I’m talking about the annual Somerville News Writer’s Festival to take place on Nov. 11, 2007 at 7 p.m. at the Dilboy VFW Hall 371 Summer St. in Davis Square in Somerville and it will hosted again by Jimmy Tingle.

In the past, the Festival has attracted writers from Hollywood and Pulitzer Prize Winners. The Festival was co-founded by local writer-publisher Douglas Holder, who is also a member of the Bagel with the Bards: a group of poets and writers who meet every Saturday at the Au Bon Pain in Cambridge/Somerville to share their works, resources, and create good vibes with each other. Some of the other writers participating this year are Haitian American writer Danielle Legros Georges, festival co-founder Timothy Gager, Lo Gallucco, Gloria Mindock and Douglas Holder just to name a few.

Spare Change News: Can you tell me when and why was the Somerville News Writers Festival established and what role did you play in this FABULOUS literary project?

Douglas Holder: The festival started in 2003. I was writing for The Somerville News, and the new owners came aboard and I was made Arts/Editor. The owners, the Norton and Tauro families wanted a higher profile for the paper. I had the idea of a Writer's festival, and I contacted Tim Gager. Gager and I proposed it to the board, and they were on board from the start.

Scn: How do you keep the festival running? Who are your sponsors and most ardent supporters?

Dh: Porter Square Books and Grub Street have been consistent supporters. The Somerville News does the lion share of funding.

Scn: What method do you use to attain and select your writers?

Dh: We want people who are respected for their writing, and can bring people in. Both Tim and I are connected in the Poetry and Fiction communities, so getting people hasn't been that hard.

Scn: Can you tell me a brief synopsis or interesting anecdote of a few of your writers, particularly the ones that you know personally like Tim Gager , Lo Galluccio etc…?

Dh: Well Lo is going to read the poetry of the late poet Sarah Hannah.

Hannah committed suicide last Spring and was scheduled to read at the festival. Lo will read from Hannah's work and from her own.

Scn: What are your aspirations for the festival? What do you hope to achieve in the next five years?

Dh: I hope to achieve another five years. Tim has plans to have a workshop sponsored by a local college.

Scn: Do you think that the writer's festival is necessary and why?

Dh: I think it is a good thing for Somerville- a showcase for national and local talent. It is a focal point for the writing community.

Scn: What do you get from co-hosting the festival?

Dh: Well of course I get publicity from it. Also I enjoy hosting, and introducing many of my friends and fellow writers.

Scn: What have you seen the writer's festival done for the writing careers of past participants?

Dh: Well many of the writers are very established, so the festival really doesn't affect them. I am sure the less established have gotten more recognition--and hopefully sold a few books. I hope the festival gives recognition to some of the emerging writers we have. The big names like Perrotta, Almond, Wright, Pinsky it out a sense of service to the community.

Scn: I know in the past the festival have sparked the interest and participation of popular a Hollywood actor and Pulitzer Prize winners. Do you have any high profile writers this year?

Dh: Robert Pinsky will be receiving the Ibbetson Street Press Lifetime Achievement Award ( former US Poet Laureate) Tom Perrotta, his screenplay "Little Children"was nominated for an Oscar, and of course Steve Almond, etc...

Scn: You do so much for the artistic family, how do you balance work, a personal life and your active participation in the writing community?

Dh: I don't have kids so that helps. I have a flexible job AND AN UNDERSTANDING WIFE DIANNE ROBITAILLE. .IT IS ALL A LABOR OFLOVE.

Scn: I read that Heny Roth have greatly influenced your writing. Can you tell me why?

Dh: Well he wrote about being Jewish, and he wrote beautifully about food. I did my thesis at Harvard on him. I am very interested in Jewish-American literature...I am Jewish. Both food and being Jewish often shows up in my work.

Scn: In your opinion, what do you think makes a good writer?

Dh: A good writer is someone who makes you cut yourself while shaving, as you read their work. A good writer is evocative, leaves you with something, captures a person,place or thing…

Scn: What advice if any do you have for up and coming writers?

Dh: Read, Read, Read. Write, Write, Write. Study. Study. Study. Get an internship in a lit.mag, join writers groups, attend readings, immerse yourself in the writing life.

Sc n: Is there anything that I did not ask that you wish to address? And merci for this interview!

Dh: That's about it.

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