Hobart Festival of Women Writers 2018 is, as always, excited to have Stephanie Nikolopoulos, writer, editor, blogger, and journalist, on our team and as a Participating Writer at Festival 2018. Stephanie Nikolopoulos, based in New York City, is the author, along with Paul Maher Jr., of Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Stephanie also wrote an introduction to the reissue of the travel classic A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird and contributed to Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia. Her personal essays and journalism on visual arts, literature, endangered languages, and Greece and Sweden have appeared in such publications as BOMBlog, Brooklyn Rail, Gothamist, The Literary Traveler, and The Millions as well as mentioned by The New Yorker (Page-Turner), The Paris Review (On the Shelf), The Huffington Post and other media outlets. For more than a decade she has edited books for a publishing house. She is also the visual arts editor for Burnside Writers Collective, where she writes a column about church architecture called Church Hopping and offers live tours. She has taught writing classes in New York and Michigan and written curriculum for authors. She has given readings at the Bowery Poetry Club, Cornelia Street Café (reading at Cornelia Street cafe with David Amram, The Sidewalk Café, and other establishments.
With her ear to the ground of the publishing world, Stephanie Nikolopoulos has a deep love and understanding of literature and the writing life. She brings her keen insights to the Q&A she conducts for the spotlights of our first-time Participating Writers.
This week, Breena Clarke turns the tables on Stephanie.
Breena Clarke, Hobart Festival of Women Writers co-organizer has a few questions for Stephanie Nikolopoulos.
BC: What are your thoughts about the value of women writers’ festivals and conferences? Why do we need them?
: The 2016 VIDA Count reported that only 33% of the bylines at The Nation
were by women; 35% of the writers for The Paris Review
were women; 36% was the number for The Atlantic
; 37% of the bylines at Harper’s
were by women writers; and 39% of the bylines for The New Yorker
were by women. A few well-known literary journals better represented women, such as Jubilat
(64.4%), Harvard Review
(59.3%), and Prairie Schooner
(57.3%). (more about the Vida Count)
In the wake of the #metoo movement, we’ve seen Sherman Alexie, Garrison Keillor, and Lorin Stein accused of harassment. There is a greater need for equality and empowerment of women writers, and women writers’ festivals and conferences can help with that.
I designed The Heroine’s Journey, my workshop for the Hobart Festival of Women Writers, specifically with the goal of encouraging all women—regardless of experience or background—to see themselves as powerful, creative forces of change in this world. The stories we tell ourselves and the stories we tell the world matter. Women’s stories matter. We each have a unique voice, a unique perspective, a unique creativity. When we share our stories, we share ourselves. And when we vulnerably offer up ourselves, we are showing how strong we truly are. In doing so, we encourage and inspire. We transform first ourselves, then each other, and then the world.
BC: What are your thoughts about writers’ communities and affinity group movements?
SN: One of the reasons I became so intrigued by the Beat Generation when I was a teenager was because I was enthralled by the idea of a literary community where writers hung out together, edited each other’s work, promoted each other’s work, and did readings together. They even referenced each other in their works! Up until then, I had this vision in my head of writers toiling away on their lonesome, but there is actually a rich tradition of literary friendships, communities, and movements. Two years ago I taught a workshop called Literary Relationships: Writing In, Into, and To Community, where we explored everything from literary festivals and writing residencies to collaborating with other writers. It was so much fun because that’s what we at the Hobart Festival of Women Writers are doing! We’re creating community amongst ourselves—not just for the time we’re here at the Festival, but online, on the page and in the world.
BC: Do you believe it is most productive for women writers to form groups with cultural affinity, racial identity affinity or gender affinity or is it best to achieve an intersection of all?
SN: Writing workshops, conferences, and festivals, in general, are important for supporting and inspiring writers at various points in their literary journeys. Affinity groups, in particular, can be a safe space to share work—especially when it’s at its rawest form—with others whose similar backgrounds can help sharpen the details of the work. For example, a few years ago I was invited by Penelope Karageorge to read with the Greek-American Writers Association at Cornelia Street Café. I read a scene from my memoir-in-progress about my family attending a baptism in Greece. The piece normally gets big laughs as a fish-out-of-water story when I read it for general American audiences, but the Greek-American audience did not seem to find the humor in it. It made me realize I need to work harder at being a bridge between the two cultures, particularly when it comes to assumptions regarding traditions and religion.
I believe it’s equally important to workshop in a more diverse setting. Receiving outside perspectives can help us see blind spots in our writing. When I was earning my MFA at The New School, one of the men in my workshop suggested that I, the narrator, seemed jealous of one of the male characters in my memoir. He said it with almost Freudian implications, which horrified me! The truth was that it wasn’t jealousy so much as feelings of frustration, anger, and sadness that the male character had benefited from growing up in a misogynistic culture while I was a victim of it. His comment pushed me to dive even deeper into the subject matter. People are wont to read with their own biases and agendas that we cannot control, and having early readers who come from vastly different backgrounds and perspectives may help a writer at least get a sense of the types of issues that might be misinterpreted.
We need time alone to write, but being an active part of writing communities encourages us, pushes us to become better writers, and helps us establish broader connections. We writers need to find our tribes. Be open. We may be surprised to discover who are kindred spirits are.
will be returning to her role as Spotlight Interviewer in subsequent weeks. Find all of our spotlights of the 2018 Participating Writers at www.hobartfestivalofwomenwriters.blog
You’ll find a complete history of our five+ consecutive years of platforming women writers in Hobart, NY, the Book Village of the Catskills, recently profiled on the TODAY SHOW. watch TODAY SHOW
Come be a part of the community of Hobart Festival of Women Writers. We welcome all readers, writers, and lovers of language. Registration for The Heroine’s Journey with Stephanie Nikolopoulos
and all other Festival workshops is open May 15th at Hobart Festival of Women Writers.com
For more information about Stephanie Nikolopoulos
, visit her blog at Stephanie Nikolopoulos.com
This blog features her rambling thoughts on Greek American identity, the Beat Generation, social media, and the literary life. Yiasou!