Frequency is very happy to welcome two new volunteer staff-people to the team: our new Programming Coordinator, Christena Carollo and our Writer in Residence, Craig Demi. Christena will help organize our class calendar, working closely with current and new instructors, while Craig will build on the work of our previous Artistic Director by cultivating strong partnerships between Frequency and other individuals and organizations in and around Providence, helping us serve the community and grow. Read on to learn more about each of them.
Christena Carollo is a Florida native who moved to the Ocean State two years ago to experience the seasons and New England’s undeniable charm. She is a graduate of the University of Florida and studied journalism with an outside concentration in creative writing. By day, Christena works as a marketing associate for Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, a non-profit in Providence that provides services for immigrants and refugees in the community, and by night, she devotes her time to family, her dog Rosie, her cat Shia, sporadic episodes of writing and painting, and watching Netflix. She enjoys traveling, collecting books (more than she can even keep up with), meeting new people, and discovering new vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Christena is a Frequency Writers alumna and is passionate about fiction writing and connecting with those who love the craft. She aspires to one day work in the publishing industry.
Craig Demi has called Providence his home for over a decade. He is a graduate of Bennington College, where he had the great fortune to study creative writing under the guidance of writers such as April Bernard and Mary Oliver. He has been a baker, a flower delivery driver, and a stable mucker, and currently is the Director of Operations at Southside Community Land Trust. Craig served as student editor of the Wildwood Journal. He is a Frequency Writers alumnus and has been a member of the HiFi Collaborative—Rhode Island’s historical fiction writers’ group. He also received the honor of being named for a 2016 Fellowship Award in fiction by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. His writing has appeared in American Fiction 17 published by New Rivers Press (2019), and Meat for Tea; The Valley Review and Missing Providence; A Frequency Anthology.
What’s a book that made you love speculative fiction? Do you still feel the same about it today?
The shortest list I can give: Frank Herbert’s Dune, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Also movies and shows (Star Trek, The Twilight Zone, Blade Runner). With many classic works, there are elements I see differently now: Blade Runner‘s Deckard is violent and yet backed by a sultry saxophone, Dune‘s politics are (excuse the pun) a can of worms. I believe there’s still room for them, yet I understand why others would rather update the canon or toss out the idea of a canon altogether.
What’s a classic of the genre that you think is important to understanding speculative fiction?
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, because of its influence, its placement right at the splintering off of the new branch of genre, and how it remains so surprising. To read Frankenstein is to see how modern it is.
How about a recent work of speculative fiction that you’ve enjoyed? What does it have to say about the state of speculative fiction?
Parasite is in theaters and I’ve been telling everything that breathes to go see it. The film is funny, suspenseful, and (while others might call it realism) I think it’s such a good example of how Samuel Delany described the speculative: a form “in dialogue with the present.” So I have to include it here. Director Bong Joon-ho’s speculative approach—taking a metaphor and literalizing it, giving it teeth*—is great satire, and thrilling. I also want to mention Alice Sola Kim’s “Mothers, Lock Up Your Daughters Because They Are Terrifying,” and Louise Erdrich’s “The Stone,” which similarly are wound by a speculative approach, but are more interested in personal desires and fears than societal ones. Both works are gorgeously crafted and stick with you.
*Check out Jia Tolentino’s recent article, which describes this turn (with reference to one of my favorite academic texts, “Do Metaphor’s Dream of Literal Sheep?”) while comparing another three excellent works of speculative fiction (Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad, Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, and Yoko Ogawa‘s The Memory Police).
Do you always set out to write speculative fiction? Do you write realism as well?
So far my fiction has inevitably included an element that doesn’t fit our world as we know it, but it’s hard to say how intentional that has been. I read and love all types of literature. That said, the works that really excite me tend to have something speculative. I always tell my students to write what they’d like to read, so I do the same. Writing is too hard to begin with; it’s not worth worrying what other people want.
I also write poetry and essays, though I wouldn’t call either “realism.” Anyhow I’m suspicious of the term, which is a set of aesthetic assumptions huddled under a trench coat. It’s a genre like any other, but in Western literature it is saddled with the misleading and stuffy label of “real.” I tend to sit down to write because I was inspired by something sensory–an image, a setting, the sound of a string of words–and move from there. Where I think the genres diverge is that poetry and essays have an associative logic instead of a character logic. And they digest differently. I structure my fiction thinking about immersion, which means taking into account pacing, the rise and fall of tension (aka, plot). Poetry and essays can be objects, the reader can float on top of the words.
Author Victoria Dalpe (Parasite Life) will be teaching The Beautiful Grotesque: Exploring the Beauty and Monstrousness of Horror for Frequency this fall. We spoke a bit about why she chose horror, her thoughts about the genre, and her hopes for the class. (Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for space.)
What drew you to horror as a writer? Is it something particular to the type of stories you want to tell, to the way you want to tell stories, or something else entirely?
Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I’d been attracted to the darker things in life. My personality always had me covering my eyes then peeking through gaps in my fingers. That place is where horror lovers live.I think horror is a genre that allows you to play in the what-if scenarios: what if I were in danger, what if I had to fight my way out, what if the worst thing that I could imagine happened… how would you react? Who would you be afterward? There is a catharsis that comes after the movie ends, or the book closes when you remember you are safe. Like roller coasters or haunted houses, it’s almost like we crave being frightened in controlled environments. It helps us stay grounded I think. It’s healthy.
This class will look specifically at the female experience of horror. Many of us are familiar with the image of the final girl in slasher films. Are there other roles, relationships, and contexts connecting women and horror that we’re less familiar with?
The final girl is super important to a certain type of horror, specifically slasher horror, and there is some wonderful film theory on her, and why she exists, like Men, Women, and Chainsaws by Carol J. Clover which came out way back in 1992. But the discussions about her are often about male viewers. The final girl is less about women’s empowerment and more about men being able to comfortably sympathize and identify with a woman character.
What my class aims to focus on is totally different. Essentially, I want to look at horror stories written by women about women. The stories I’ve chosen are themselves more domestic, more surreal, more psychological. Is the danger coming from the outside or inside the main characters themselves? The stories I’ve chosen deal with the role of the husband or male character as part of the threat. They also deal with women and their relationships to their homes and the perceived safety or threat therein.
As an author in New England working within the weird fiction genre, how do you grapple with H. P. Lovecraft’s complicated legacy in your work and personally?
Lovecraft had some heinous views. There is no denying that. His work is oft-cited as extremely influential for its blending of genres (sci-fi, horror, fantasy, etc.) but refusal to be any one of them. He was a lover of science and did not feel his audience was owed easy resolutions at the end of his tales. He was also a racist in his personal life, which we know from his exhaustive letters.
I love the genre of weird fiction and its ability to blend with other genres and to be its own thing, I love the huge and mysterious worlds and monsters Lovecraft created in his fiction. In my own work, just by being a woman, I am bringing something different to his work. My mythos stories are about giving birth, about outsider characters encountering the fantastical, about dealing with grief and loss. Lovecraft’s work was dry, there were few women characters, his male characters had little depth, and most stories were told from a distance. So, when I write mythos, I like to bring women and emotion in. In life, he was an eccentric, frail man who held in him a lot of fear. I can appreciate the work he put out and also frame him as a flawed figure, for his time and for ours.
Could you recommend a story, essay or poem for people who are interested in taking your class that relates to its content in some way?
There are so many amazing women writing horror/weird fiction these days. There have also ALWAYS been women writing horror, in fact, if you consider Mary Shelley essentially invented the genre with Frankenstein. Women have always been writing and reading the scary stuff, and ghost stories especially have often been the territory of women.
An awesome story that is disturbing and surreal, would be “The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link, available to read free. Some further reading: Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House; Tananarive Due’s books are incredible and terrifying, including The Good House, My Soul to Keep and The Between; Joyce Carol Oates’ collection; Helen Oyeyemi’s White is For Witching; Gemma Files’ Experimental Film; And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe by Gwendolyn Kiste. My novel, Parasite Life, fits in as well.
There are still seats available for The Beautiful Grotesque. Register here!
The days get a little shorter, the air a little crisper. The quality of sunlight changes from white hot to golden everything. Come September, Autumn saunters back to New England like an unrepentant house cat returned from raising hell and settles around your ankles, cozy and crackling, all mild-mannered again. But just as the season settles in, I start to get an itch: to go back to school, to learn something new, and to gather with other people who want to do the same, to read and talk about reading, and to write. Do you ever grow out of that feeling?
I hope not.
If you’re feeling that itch, too, then you need to check out our upcoming multi-week classes and one-day workshops where you can stretch your imagination, sharpen those skills, and engage your creativity with others in our community.
To our community members:
Frequency will no longer be co-hosting NecronomiCon 2019’s opening night reading. We did not exercise due diligence before involving ourselves with this event and, having heard objections from members of our community, we agree that our participation isn’t compatible with maintaining Frequency as an accessible, welcoming, and safe writing community. We are sorry.
Frequency’s Board of Directors and Staff
Frequency is thrilled and grateful to announce that we are a 2019 recipient of a RISCA Investment in Arts & Culture grant (IAC). Frequency Writers is proud to serve our community by advocating for adult creative writers and offering creative writing courses for writers at any point in their journey. RISCA’s continued generosity allows Frequency to continue to grow and thrive.
From the bottom of our hearts and with sincere gratitude, we thank the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts for their support as well as the work they do to help keep our local arts community one of the richest and most dynamic around.
The Rhode Island State Arts Council provides funding, technical assistance, and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations, and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders. For more information about the work done by RISCA, or to learn more about the other recipients, visit https://risca.online/category/grants/recipients/
FW: I really love your egalitarian approach to drawing—it really meshes with Frequency’s own ethos. Do you remember if you always advocated for this playful, inclusive approach or if it was something you had to learn as you grew as an artist and an educator?
FW: You casually dropped into one of our conversations reading comics for the blind—I am dying to hear about that and how /if it influenced your own reading or drawing of work?
FW: Comics you’d recommend to our audience?
Thank you to What Cheer Writers Club for their generous gift of $1000. Frequency’s relationship with What Cheer started a year ago, when we began holding classes in their gorgeous space. Many Frequenters have been What Cheer regulars–checking out readings, networking at events, and some are podcasting (shout out to, Artclectic!) in their ridiculously cool studio.
As the oldest creative writing non-profit in Providence, Frequency has been providing the affordable and inventive writing workshops for almost a decade. Currently, we are developing a new class for the common good, and What Cheer’s gift will help make that possible.
Thanks so, so much to Ann, Jodie, and Jillian for supporting Frequency and the Rhode Island /southern New England community of dedicated readers and writers!
Rekha Rosha, Board Chair
Long-time Frequency instructor, Victor Wildman, answered a few of our questions about his upcoming course and using cinema to become a more attentive writer.
Victor, you’ve taught numerous classes at this point where you incorporate the study of cinema in order to stimulate student writing. This one is focused on the figure of the Solitary Woman. Do you see this course as a meditation on character, setting or both those things?
“Meditation” might be the right word here in so far as it necessitates a certain openness, a withholding of judgement, a holding back, and ultimately a capacity to stand before a character, not with the mindset of an all-powerful creator, but as a witness. It’s about learning to pay attention, to wait for things to happen, or not happen. Observing a single character in a specific cinematic setting focuses your attention in a way that allows you not only to look, but to see.
How have you noticed your courses that braid cinema with literature affect student writing?
In a number of ways. Normally, it’s been about developing certain techniques for handling material. I often have students mimic in their writing something that a film is accomplishing on a formal level. For example, for Image into Text, one of the assignments was to generate, as Bergman does in Persona, a whole piece from a selected number of individual images, and just as Bergman brings the movie projector itself into the film, to make the physical process of writing the piece an element of the text. It was also about thinking about the kinds of things that, seemingly, only film could do, and to try to do them, in a formally approximating way, in the writing. I often use film to make students more viscerally aware of form, and this often leads to writing, that while initially restricted in its means, is surprising to the reader and the writer alike. In this way students often succeed in writing something that is awake, i.e. that feelsboth necessary and real.
Is there a particular text (novel or short story) you return to again and again for its cinematic quality or cinematic attention to detail?
The novel students will be reading during the six weeks of the course, along with watching and discussing the movies and doing the writing, Carpenter’s Gothic by William Gaddis. I see this book as the perfect literary analogue to the films we will be watching in that at the center of it is a solitary female character, Elizabeth Booth, who we come to know very well, not through any dominating authorial expositional intrusions but, much more cinematically, through observation. One of the most beautiful things about the book is how intimate we become with Elizabeth Booth by paying her the respect of our attention. And Gaddis makes our comprehension of even the minutest plot points dependent on precisely this attention. Moment to moment we are forced to give it to her, for otherwise we lose the sense of the entire book.