I first met Ann Mallen years ago at a critique group meeting in PGA, but between her busy schedule and the constant changing nature of critique groups, I didn’t see or hear from her for a long time. Then in January of 2015 I received an email forwarded by the leader of the PGA critique group, from Ann, saying that she was going to host a small reading in her living room. I am always looking for new and exciting ways to feed my art, so I RSVP’ed right away to attend. Only I didn’t read the email carefully enough and I ended up on the list of people to read. Ooops. I read in her living room that night in front of a friendly audience. It was wonderful. In just a two short years The Cream Literary Alliance has become a not for profit organization of which I am proud to be an active member as well as a board member. Ann agreed to ‘speak’ with us today. First let’s find out a little about her.
Ann Mallen graduated magna cum laude with a B. S. from the University of Connecticut where she received a fellowship award and was inducted into the Phi Upsilon Omicron Honor Society. She received her Master of Arts in Teaching from Quinnipiac University where she also received a fellowship award. After a decade of teaching, a serious illness forced her to stop working and she opened her own tutoring business. Eight years later, Mallen left tutoring to pursue a life-long dream of writing. In 2008, she was a finalist for an award at Wesleyan Writers Conference. She studied at the Writers Academy at the Kravis Center for four years and received a fellowship to attend Summer Literary Seminars in Montreal. In 2012, she attended Bread Loaf Writers Conference as a contributor. She also went to Eckerd College’s Writers in Paradise on scholarship. In 2015, she founded a nonprofit, The Cream Literary Alliance, which organizes public readings and craft classes by accomplished writers.
SR: Welcome to the blog, Ann. We are so glad you are here with us today. I must say reading your bio, you’ve got quite an impressive resume. What types of things do you write? Tell us about your publishing history.
AM: Thanks, Stacie, I appreciate the opportunity. My short stories have appeared in The Cortland Review, Grey Sparrow, CALYX: A Journal of Art and Literature by Women, and The Evening Street Review. My collection of short stories was a finalist for the Eludia Award from Hidden River Arts. My essays have appeared in The Palm Beach Post, The Hartford Courant, The Washington Post, and Reed Magazine (a top five finalist for the Gabriele Rico Nonfiction Challenge). Another essay was produced as part of The Creative Nonfiction Foundation’s Writing Pittsburgh Project.
SR: Wow. That’s a lot of publishing cred! We at TheTuesdays Writers have attended many writing conferences and workshops together and individually. What is your favorite piece of writing advice?
Years ago, I met Josip Novakovich, International Man Booker Award finalist, at the Wesleyan Writers Conference. He told me that if I were disciplined enough I could design my own course of study that might be comparable to an MFA. The key word here is disciplined. Another mentor, Julie Gilbert, a Pulitzer nominee and an excellent writing teacher, insisted that a serious writer should keep a journal with thoughts and feelings about one’s daily writing practice. Both of these mentors stressed discipline. Of course, when I maintain a daily practice, it shows in my writing. At times, I’ve had to set it aside for some crisis, but I don’t abandon it. To have any chance of creating decent work, one must write and read. A lot. And daily.
SR: Wholeheartedly agree. Can you tell our readers how the idea for The Cream Literary Alliance was born?
AM: After attending several conferences and meeting many writers, I noticed social media posts of literary readings in cities all over the country. I knew of only one such event in West Palm Beach. I wanted more. I also had just received some lousy news about my health, and I needed a distraction. So, I invited local writers to my house to read from their best work in my living room. I bought a table-top podium, wine, and hors d’oeuvres from a local chef. I baked desserts and whipped cream to go with the treats, which inspired the name of the group. I expected maybe six writers would show up for the first night, but twelve arrived. We grew in the next three months until we no longer fit in my living room. I asked if we wanted to form a nonprofit, and the answer was a resounding yes. So, I filed the ridiculous amount of required paperwork, and voila.
SR: What other literary groups has The Cream successfully partnered with?
AM: We are honored to have partnered with several local entities. Aoili, a wonderful café, agreed to host our first event. Habatat Galleries, provided us a gorgeous colorful venue for a reading. The Palm Springs Library worked with us to create an inspiring and well-attended community event focusing on race. Additionally, EmKo, a multi-disciplinary art gallery, collaborated with us for a literary reading dealing with immigration. Our next event will be held at Oxbridge Academy. They’ve been incredibly supportive and actively involved.
We also promote other local literary events like the Palm Beach Book Festival, The Palm Beach Poetry Festival (a group who has supported and guided us well), The Writers Academy at The Kravis Center, and critique groups. The board chose the name to include the word “alliance,” as one of our goals is to form connections with other writing groups to increase the literary energy in South Florida.
SR: Why should people check out The Cream events?
AM: You don’t have to be a writer to attend TCLA events. Often, guests and family members come up to me after a reading to say how much they enjoyed it. We don’t want our events to be boring literary snoozers. We hope that by sharing stories, poems, and memoir excerpts, we can entertain and help people see that we are all more alike than we are different. Our tag line, “The Cream Literary Alliance, where words rise to the top” refers to our desire to share quality with the public.
SR: What do you see in the future for The Cream?
AM: We want The Cream to continue to grow, but we know that we can’t just hope this growth will happen. It takes hard work, planning, and fundraising. And, we’ll need to practice discipline. Our next goal is to host a mini literary conference in early 2018. We have a stellar list of top writers, editors, and teachers who are interested. We hope to have an agent or two as well. In seven or eight years, we envision a brick and mortar writing center where we can hold events, provide classes, and a support writers.
SR: What do you want people to know about The Cream Literary Alliance?
AM: I think the most important thing about TCLA is our inclusiveness and desire to work with other community groups. Our people write in many genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and YA. We have writers who focus on oral histories. Some are beginners; some are accomplished. We are young and old. Some of us have medical challenges. We come from many different countries. Yet, we are all connected by our words. At every event, I’m awed by the transformation of the crowd. We often walk into the venue like strangers, hesitant and shy. Yet, we leave as friends, hugging and exchanging contact information.
SR: Here’s your chance to plug upcoming events…
AM: On March 3, we will partner with Oxbridge Academy for a literary reading. Lise Funderburg, award-winning author and editor, is flying in from Philadelphia to read from her work. Local authors: Mary Simses and Stacie Ramey, faculty members of Oxbridge: Kevin Colling and Mike Brennan, and students: Sarah Ackerman and Liam Hart will also present. A reception begins at 6:30. This event is free and co-sponsored by The Cream Literary Alliance and Oxbridge Academy.
On March 4, from 9 am to 3 pm, Lise Funderburg will teach a craft class “Wrestling with Revision.” This writing class is designed for writers at any stage, from beginners to accomplished. $195 includes the class, breakfast, and lunch. There is no substitute for a writing class taught by a pro. It can be a career-changer. Register on our website at thecreamwpb.org. Look for the Professional Craft Class tab and click on the photo.
April 22, Lynne Barrett will teach a class “What Editors Want” at the Palm Springs Public Library from 10 am to noon. She will offer tips and strategies for submitting to journals and magazines. If you write, you need this class. Free. Co-sponsored by TCLA and the library. Details on our website.
We’d love to see new friends at our events.
If you’re interested in what we do and would like to support us, we will be participating in The Great Give, May 17, a day sponsored by the United Way of Palm Beach County to benefit local charities. Watch our Facebook page and our website for updates.
Also, Amazon Smile is a painless way to help us out. Instead of ordering on amazon.com, go to smile.amazon.com and choose Cream Literary Alliance, Inc. Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase to our nonprofit.
SR: Thank you so much for joining us, Ann. And to my Tuesday Readers out there, feel free to write to Ann in the comments below to tell her how you feed your art.