Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Editor Harte Weiner: She and her band of editors will make you cut yourself while shaving

Harte Weiner at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Somerville

Editor Harte Weiner: She and her band of editors will make you cut yourself while shaving

Article by Doug Holder

The renowned poet W. H. Auden said (and I paraphrase), “a good poem makes me cut myself while shaving.” And I guess the same principle applies to good editing. It cuts the fat off the bone of the manuscript, leaving it clean and making the readers hungry for more, more, more.

One morning, at my usual grazing grounds in the Bloc 11 Cafe in Somerville, I met Harte Weiner, founder of CambridgeEditors. We huddled around the fireplace and Weiner told me about the history of the said organization, she recalled “In 2003 I started CambridgeEditors. We have grown to about 35 editors and expanded from what remains our focus, creative writing, humanities and social sciences—to editing in other fields and professions. We are a little and literary company run out of my home in Cambridge, MA.”

Weiner, who is a member of Cambridgeport’s Temple Eitz Chayim where she met the poet Harris Gardner, loves the community there, and its encircling lyric-historic neighborhood. She has a very interesting literary background. Weiner told me in the 1980s she was an intern for the formidable literary magazine The Paris Review. Reviewing manuscripts for possible publication, she and others could work in the Upper East Side apartment of George Plumpton, the Review’s founder, just above the brick walled enclave of the office itself. Three responses slips were provided for return with their SASE’s. On the Review’s famous letter head stationery of iconoclastic American Eagle with pen wearing a French Revolutionary’s helmet of liberty, exciting new submissions received either, ‘Thank you, we’d like to see more;’ or the offer to publish.” Weiner remembers her elation at coming across real talent that she would pass along to Jonathan Galassi, the Review’s Poetry Editor at the time. Later Weiner would join the Masthead for some years as Contributing Editor.

During this period Weiner met such people as Tom Jenks of Narrative Magazine. Jenks, a fellow work-study intern whose Columbia School of the Arts degree took the fiction route. Pursuing a career in publishing, Jenks played a key role in the edit of The Garden of Eden, a Hemingway novel to emerge posthumously from Scriber’s.

Weiner also served as the Assistant Director at The Academy of American Poets. There she worked for a spell alongside the poet Henri Cole, also a Columbia School of the Arts classmate. Meeting ‘more or less every famous poet she’d ever wanted to meet,’ Weiner joined Henri in dining with these poets after Donnell Library readings.

The editor has had extensive teaching experience at Harvard University and Tufts University—right here in Somerville. At Tufts Weiner said, “I taught for five years along with David Rivard, Marie Howe, and a great poet we lost recently, Lucie Brock Broido.”

Weiner's first love is poetry. She has studied with likes of Derek Walcott, Seamus Heaney, Phillip Levine, and Robert Pinsky—to name a few.

Earlier in her literary career she published poetry in the Harvard Review, The Paris Review, and was the recipient of the prestigious Grolier Prize in 1981. She hopes to re-focus increasing each year on writing of her own, and is pulling together a selection called, Haunted Timmy. “It’s not what it sounds,” says Weiner, who first divulged the title around Halloween time.

Weiner told me that she started CambridgeEditors by posting flyers around Cambridge and was a habituĂ© of Gnomon Copy in Harvard Square. This is reminiscent of what Eve Bridberg, the founder of the writer’s organization Grub Street, did to jump start her fledgling enterprise. Weiner told me that her group has grown over the years—to a much more wide-reaching clientele.

I asked Weiner what it takes to be an editor at CambridgeEditors. She replied, “Well, they have to go through a series of tests. We seek people with advanced degrees—mostly PhD’s. With our creative writing it is more by invitation. Poet Charles Coe is one of our creative writing editors.”

The typical client according to Weiner is from Cambridge and Somerville or just across the river that separates the little and literary art scene from Boston’s antiquarian one (although she has a fair number of international clients), usually academics, graduate students, or writers who want to have their manuscripts, articles, poetry, novels edited. And if you view the CambridgeEditors website you will see a plethora of testimony from folks her organization has helped over the years. Is money a little tight? Weiner said she customizes her editing to fit people of lesser means. And if she is really enamored with a project—she might offer a discount as well.

And bye- the-way I had this prolific editor edit this article-- and I am a better writer for it!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The Hate U Give written by Audrey Wells

The Hate U Give
written by Audrey Wells
directed by George Tillman Jr.
Based the YA novel of the same name
© 2017 by Angie Thomas
Harper Collins
ISBN 978-0-06-249853-3


The Hate U Give is an adaptation of Angie Thomas' best selling YA novel of the same name. The title is shortened from the source for an acronym, THUG LIFE, coined by the rapper Tupac, which stands for “The hate U give little infants fucks everyone.” The novel was begun as a response to the shootings of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown, etc. (How dispiriting that such at sentence can end with “etc.”) I hope you will find The Hate U Give as challenging as I have and accept its challenge to seek answers for this question: “What is wrong with us that we need a movie like THUG?”

Even though the story is straightforward, the life of its heroine, Starr Carter, is complicated. She's the daughter of an ex-con and former gangbanger, Maverick Carter and a nurse, Lisa Carter. Her parents have enrolled Starr and her two siblings in Williamson, a suburban, virtually all white, prep school where they hope to educate their children out of Garden Heights. This hope means that everyday Starr must flip her personas back and forth between her black Garden Heights neighborhood and her white Williamson prep school.

The movie begins with a voiceover of Starr describing her discomfort with these necessary personality flips. However, this is not a sentimental movie “I remember mama” voiceover; it is an introduction to a tragic story told in the voice of an 18-year-old who is still processing the trauma of her 16th spring. As her narration proceeds it bleeds into a flashback of their father, Maverick, giving 10-year-old Starr and her 12-year-old brother "The Talk" (instructions on how people of color, must behave for the police during routine traffic stops) and we realize that this movie is not going to be a Hollywoody coming-of-age story. As surely as the gun in the first paragraph of a short story will be used before the last one, this flashback lets us know we will soon see a routine traffic stop fulfill the implied tragic promise of “The Talk.”

The movie led me to read the book because Starr has another flashback this one of a drive-by shooting of a childhood friend she witnessed when much younger. A stray bullet kills her playmate, part of the random violence of the neighborhood. This incident went by so rapidly in the movie that I missed the playmate’s name and became uncomfortable with that anonymity. I got the book from the library to find out and by the time I discovered the friend’s named was Natasha I was so involved in the new details of the novel that I had to finish it.

The Hate U Give in both media entertains as a tragedy of our culture, which is to say both claim our attention to inform us in a way that the nightly news cannot. When, during a routine traffic stop, a White cop shoots her unarmed childhood friend, Khalil while Starr watches and then holds him while he dies, The Hate U Give by association frees the deaths of Oscar Grant, Tamar Rice, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland and a myriad of others from the abstraction they have on the news and gives them an urgent presence. Khalil’s death and Starr’s response to it demand our empathy and provoke a catharsis as theater and other narrative arts have since Aristotle.

The two works complement each other. The young adult novel has five sections and 26 chapters covering the 13 weeks between the murder of Khalil and the grand jury decision not to indict the cop. Each chapter is a coherent scene so that the movie follows the book with minimal modification. What the book gives us that the movie cannot are details of the lives, the families and the community of Garden Heights. What the movie gives us that the book can't is the emotional immediacy of the shootings and deaths. So I recommend them both because they expose us to our cultural ignorance and to the consequences of that ignorance while encouraging us in our remediation.

Racism is a spectrum disorder; out on the right end of that spectrum, we have David Duke, Steve Bannon and Republican strategies to stay in power; out on the left we have biracial couples (the fastest growing demographic in the country) and a human desire to replace politics with a commitment to care for each other. The rest of us us are in the middle and, I hope, trying to grow toward the left. The Hate U Give provides us with an entertainment to nourish that growth. It educates us about a community of which, if we are honest white folks, we know little. This movie and book will help you stop wasting energy on any defensive need to declare, “I’m not racist!” It will free up that energy so you can use it to grow.