I’ve mentioned Jeffrey S. Hillard here before. He was one of my professors when I returned to college at Mount St. Joseph University for an English degree in the early 2000s. I took two creative writing classes from him: Short story, and Poetry.
Jeff is a gifted poet. I think you’ll agree when you read it. It is accessible, and it sings. This year he received the honor of being named the Cincinnati Public Library Foundation’s Writer in Residence. You can read all about it here.
He is also an inspiring teacher.
This week Jeff published a blog post on the library site entitled, Anatomy of a Poem (1). If you have any interest in reading good poetry, understanding poetry, or writing poetry, this is a must-read. This is where Jeff really shines.
Beginning tomorrow for two or three days, it will be free from Amazon on Kindle. It’s a short little book on writing that contains several gold nuggets of ideas to spark your creativity, and exercises to prompt you to practice. I read it in less than an hour, but intend to go back to it and use the exercises over and over again. I know Jeff personally. I know how talented he is. If you read this book, you will see for yourself how intuitive, insightful, and supportive he is.
Here is the review I just left on Amazon.com:
Finally—poet, author, and educator Jeffrey Hillard puts his experience, skill, and enthusiasm for writing down on paper for our benefit. In Story’s Triumph, the first in a planned Write-Up series, Hillard encourages us to take our writing, and creativity, to the next step. By sharing a few simple concepts like the use of details and recycling our mistakes, Hillard explores and explains techniques some of our most favored and successful writers have employed to bring the word on the page to life.
This short and entertaining book contains unique and fun exercises after each topic to encourage writers to stretch the boundaries of our imaginations and sharpen the impact of our writing.
One of my favorite lines from the book is “Your imagination can work wonders with things that you can’t yet fully envision.”
Hillard “gets it.” He understands the written word, the writing process, and the writer. His book is informative, encouraging, and will make you see your writing and its possibilities in a new light. His enthusiasm is contagious.
Story’s Triumph is a book to read slowly, practice with, and then keep close-by to re-read again and again.
I’m looking forward to the next book in Hillard’s Write-Up series.
I had to pay a lot of money to tap into Jeff’s writing experience and wisdom through college-level courses I took from him at the College of Mount St. Joseph. I bet you will find at least one idea in Story’s Triumph that will not only cause you to see your work-in-progress in a new light, but that will help you to improve it.
Congratulations to teacher, mentor, and friend Jeffrey S. Hillard of Cincinnati for writing a winning poem in the Cincinnati Public Library Garden 2012 Poetry Contest. The contest was held as part of the 2012 Poetry in the Garden series sponsored by the Friends of the Cincinnati Public Library.
A panel of published poets and literary professionals selected four winners from among the nearly 300 entries in this inaugural contest, co-sponsored by the Grailville Retreat & Program Center.
Jeffrey Hillard’s “After the Flood,” one of four winners In the Garden 2012 Poetry Contest, is a poem from Jeff’s unpublished manuscript called HAVANA RIFFS: Poems on Cuba, based on his three trips to the country in the 1990s.
The winning poets will read from their work on Tuesday, April 17 at 7:00 p.m. as part of the Main Library’s (800 Vine St., (513) 369-6900) 2012 Poetry in the Garden series which is being held on the Tuesday evenings in April at 7:00 p.m.
It’s a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month.
After the Flood by Jeffrey Hillard
at La Casa de las Americas, Havana, Cuba
In a painting the curator wipes dry,
the wet, bedraggled condor, now a dark blue,
lifts its wing into the shape of a mountain.
The wing’s shine, gone. On her knees, the curator
pins the painting to a blanket in the courtyard
outside, pats dry each delicate inch of painting
thick with floodwater stain. She dries rooms
of floating colors
and clips wet books dangling
like tents from wires strung across the courtyard,
her knees reddened raw, the sun continuing to cook
the ground, mud wrapping around her ankles.
After twenty straight hours
of no sleep, one recurring dream now balances
her on a bank as she plunges both feet
into a swift
river to plug its flow.
Up and down, on and off
her knees, with days yet to scrub and dry,
she once even dozed on a charcoal drawing.
When she woke, the river had ebbed
before she could drown.
Jeff is the publisher and editor of RED!Webzine. He has also contributed numerous stories to the local Cincy Beat street newspaper. From 1989 to 2005, Jeff published or served as editor for five books of poetry. More recently Jeff has self-published a youth book for readers 9 to 14 years old, A Bunch in a Month – seeing Bible, imagining lives . Available on Smashwords, A Bunch in a Month is a devotional created to be read and re-read over and over, with flash-fiction stories connected to a Bible verse that inspire the reader to reflect on the story – and his or her day.
On Saturday I visited professor Jeff Hillard’s Cincinnati Authors class at the College of Mount St. Joseph to talk about Dancing in Heaven. I’m going to tell you more about my morning there next week, but for now, I wanted to introduce Jeff and the Cincinnati Authors’ class to you.
Jeff is a well-loved English and Creative Writing teacher at the College of Mount St. Joseph. I first met him when I took his Poetry class in 2004. I later took a Fiction: Short Story class from him as well. He is an interesting and energetic teacher with a lot of ideas. Jeff also is an awesome writer and poet.
I’ve worked closely with Jeff over the past three years as web-editor for his online magazine, RED!webzine, stories of transformation in the lives of prisoners, and of individuals re-entering society, and the innovations making it happen.
Jeff recently self-published a small ebook aimed at getting youth interested in reading called A Bunch in a Month. It is a month’s worth of daily devotional for ages 9 – 15. Each day has a Bible verse followed by an inspirational short story to encourage young readers to think about what it all means to them in their own lives.
Jeff created the Cincinnati Authors course in 1993. He is the only instructor of the course. “I created it because I believed students should become acquainted with local and regional writers whose work is incredibly meaningful and deserving of attention,” he says.
I asked Jeff a few questions about the course.
What do you hope students will get from the class?
“I hope that students will become familiar with the great wellspring of writing and writers living “right under their noses”; that is, there are many working writers in Greater Cincinnati – past and present – that have made a literary impact in both quiet and large ways. I hope to connect students with those writers.”
How often do you teach the course?
“I always have a “revolving door” of writers coming into the course. Since 1993, I have brought over 70 writers into the class. For about 12 years, we only rolled out the course once every two years. Now, it is so popular that we roll it out nearly every semester – certainly once a year. The genres we cover vary from children’s literature to screenwriting. Naturally, it also involves fiction, poetry, journalism, essay writing, and memoir writing.”
“Past authors are plentiful, too many to name. One of my favorites, of course, is the major American novelist Thomas Berger, who is Cincinnati’s greatest all-time novelist – and the strangest. He is from my hometown of Lockland, and he is basically a recluse who lives in New York. He has written 23 novels and his place in the country’s pantheon of major novelists is secure. He wrote the novel Little Big Man, which was made into a movie starring Dustin Hoffman. He also wrote a novel, Neighbors, that was made into a movie starring the late John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd of Saturday Night Live. Berger is by far both our strangest writer and most significant ever coming out of Cincinnati. By the way, I know Thomas Berger fairly well. His parents, in Lockland, were wonderful supporters of me in my early writing career. And they told me many stories about their famous, extremely private son.”
The students in the Cincinnati Authors class read the authors’ books, then journal and hold small group discussions about them. The author then comes in for a discussion and question and answer period. I was happy to be able to share my memoir, Dancing in Heaven, with this very attentive class. I’m going to write more about my experience there next week.