A shiny word: a term used to describe a fully detailed, largely or mostly imaginary world created in the mind of a child. It's a kind of imaginary friend on steroids with a panoramic component that makes it almost immersive. Think of one of those weirdly alluring, alternative worlds conjured up by filmmaker Christopher Nolan -- movies like his Batman trilogy, Memento, and the radiant, dreamlike Inception. But no surprise, a paracosm is also a kind of virtual arena that writers, creative artists, musicians and stellar biz pros, science pros and excellent public servants evoke sometimes to the great consternation of those around them -- even when they are not birthing a great offering.
"Paracosm" is the title of one of the award-- winning fiction pieces chosen by the TU/Nimrod International Journal crew: a short item by Dr. Jacob Appel. A doc, medical ethicist, writer, and polymath, Appel is one of the headliners for University of Tulsa literary magazine Nimrod's upcoming annual event. In addition to "Paracosm," Appel wrote The Man Who Wouldn't Stand Up, also a fiction piece. The book is one that I read some time ago with enormous interest. One of the characters is named Ray, and one of the characters couldn't stand up. Or perhaps I should say didn't stand at a mandated moment.
Early in the book, there is an unforgettable conversation, at a baseball game no less, about the appropriateness of various phrases for black people: an adult/child exchange that is little short of astonishing. I really, really want to meet this fellow, and anybody who's interested in the world of imagination and lucid writing should want to as well.
Appel is a fellow who is working in the great tradition of astonishing literary talents who are also medical doctors or life science gurus, including the poet William Carlos Williams. Most readers will recognize one instance of Williams' work, "The Red Wheelbarrow."
The pantheon of writer-docs also includes Lewis Thomas, the stunningly lucid biologist and author of one of the most powerful pieces of short science writing in English, The Lives Of A Cell. Other instances include Oliver Sacks, of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat fame, and my current favorite, Atul Gawande, a deeply influential medicine, health care policy, and bioethics writer for The New Yorker magazine.
Appel will be speaking on the conference's major theme "Hunger and Thirst: Their Fulfilling Desire," together with a whole range of other first rank writers including Nimrod chief Fran Ringold.
Dr. Ringold is currently the senior advisor to Nimrod and was editor-in-chief for over 40 years, having completed two terms as Oklahoma's Poet Laureate. Her books include The Trouble With Voices: Poetry, Every Other One, with the much-missed Dr. Manly Johnson, and Making Your Own Mark: Writing and Drawing for Senior Citizens. A wily profile of Dr. Ringold can be found in last week's issue of UTW.
The annual mini conference and awards handoff features a keynote address by National Book Award finalist Cristina Garcia, music by Vintage Wildflowers, and readings by Dr. Appel, Sarah Crossland, Kristina Gorcheva-Newberry, and Lynn Shoemaker. This year's confab is the 35th annual rendition of the TU lit journal's awards ceremony and dinner. If will be held on Friday, Oct. 18.
The next day will see the Nimrod conference, which will offer a bevy of one-on-one editing sessions with experienced editors in addition to myriad presentations by more than 30 established, published writers of fiction and poetry.
Some of the Saturday morning sessions will include an exploration of jazz and other forms of music as tools (usable by writers, irrespective of whether they are musicians or even have any musical knowledge whatsoever), inspirational springboards for writing, a session on "The Narration of Loss," and a workbench on "Writing from History and Legend."
There is a whole range of other folks firing up "Hunger And Thirst," including some local luminaries heavily involved in the workshop's multi-track sessions, including the wonderful Deborah Hunter, a local poet, performance artist, actress, and scholar. She is an artist who has facilitated many poetry workshops at Living Arts of Tulsa and elsewhere here in T-Town and who's been a poet in residence in area schools and community programs since the late '90s. She was also a 2013 Oklahoma Poet Laureate nominee. Alicia Latimer, a librarian at the African-American Resource Center/Tulsa City County Library system, has been engaged in community theater for the past 24 years and is the author of the novel Soul Ties: Those Eyes, Those Eyes. And Eilis O'Neal will be participating and orchestrating as usual. She is the editor-in-chief of Nimrod and is the conjurer of a whole array of young adult fantasy pieces including The False Princess. O'Neal's short fantasy pieces have appeared in the periodicals Realms of Fantasy, Strange Horizons, Fantasy Magazine, Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and a range of other publications.
Come to Nimrod's annual event -- it's an impossible conflation of inspired writers and speakers, well-crafted tutorials on improving your writing and communication skills, and a passel of uncharted fun. Registration forms and information can be found at utulsa.edu/nimrod/conference.html.
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