In this talk, originally delivered on Thursday, November 5, 2020, I discuss the role of borders in “Big Science.” I’ll share excerpts from my novel Charmed Particles and discuss the research I conducted in preparation for writing it. As part of my background research for the book, I worked in the archives at Fermilab (one of the sites under consideration for the SSC), interviewed theoretical particle physicists working at Fermilab at the time of the SSC proposal, and combed through Environmental Impact Statements and transcripts of public hearings to bring voice to both sides of the conflict over the push, in the late 1980s, to find a location in the United States for the proposed (but never completed) Superconducting Super Collider (SSC).
A quick update from the Kolaya/Millers. We are still here in Germany, currently feeling as safe as possible and very well cared for by the remarkable staff of the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg (HWK).
Many things are closing, but for now, shops and transport are still in operation; however, it seems likely that within the week, the government will impose a lockdown similar to what we’re seeing in Italy, France, and Spain. For now, though, the grocery stores are still reasonably well stocked, and we have everything we think we might need in the coming weeks.
Brook and I are still working on our book projects, though it’s sometimes challenging to focus with the news changing by the minute and so many heartbreaking stories coming over the wire, but we’re enjoying time with our fellow fellows—smart and interesting and kind folks from all over the world. We’ve been painting together, watching movies, learning German, and experimenting with some creative writing prompts!
As many of you are now experiencing, schools have closed here for at least a month, but the fellow kids have gotten creative! Here’s a pic of the boys and their new friend Kathryn from this morning, ready for the first day of their kid-designed HWK school.
We are thinking of and missing you all—love from all four of us!
A geeky writer’s dream come true: someone doing a whole academic workshop on your book. Even better: you get to be there!
So excited for this event on Charmed Particles on Friday. Thank you so much to Susan Gaines, Dorothe Poggel, Anton Kirchhofer, Anna Auguscik, Karsten Levihn-Kutzler, Petra Groß, Uwe Schimank, Rebecca Käpernick, the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg, and the FMS program for making it possible!
He’ll be working on a new scholarly book about Cognitive Literary Studies called Narrative and Experience and I’ll be finishing my next novel, a book about a 19th Century naturalist who goes in search of a mysterious creature he learns about from the natives of an island he’s sent to explore.
Our two sons (12 and 13) are attending the Max-Planck Gymnasium here in Delmenhorst, which has been a crash course in German-language immersion for them. Thankfully, there are many kind English-speaking teachers and fellow students to help them along!
I’ve been settling in to work on my book, tentatively titled The Second Voyage of Audley Worthington. It’s been especially dreamy to have an office space devoted only to my writing where I can put up what I like to call my “murder wall”—post-its of all of the dates and timelines and big and little ideas I’m trying to hang onto while writing this book!
We’re especially loving the interdisciplinarity of the HWK. On Wednesday, we went to an outstanding lecture by Kenny Coventry of the University of East Anglia on his research into the way particular words used for spatial concepts work across languages. Later there was a lovely dinner, followed by drinks in the cozy fireplace room, where Lida Sherafatmand, an Iranian-born artist now working in Malta, drew a portrait of me!
(Review by Ellis: “Wow! That is amazing! But she forgot to put in all your wrinkles.”)
The staff here at the HWK (or Hah-Vay-Kah as it’s pronounced here) have been incredibly welcoming and helpful to these four bungling Americans with only rudimentary German-language skills!
Special thanks to Kerstin Schill, Dorothe Poggel, Thurid Werner, Wolfgang Stenzel, Christine Gehrking, Bijan Kafi, Michael Killig, Jens Bagull, and Kerstin Labusch for helping us get oriented!
Initially, we thought we’d all four be squeezing into a single tiny 500-800 square foot apartment and likely to murder each other before our time here was done. Instead, the HWK staff surprised us with two adjoining apartments!
The boys are delighted to have their very own flat! They’ve had fun exploring the institute’s ping pong and foosball room and getting to know the other kids and families here at the institute.
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Dr. Schill and the HWK team, to Susan Gaines and the Fiction Meets Science board, and to our departments and universities for making this adventure possible for us!
Writer friends, scientist friends, artist friends, social science friends, I cannot say enough good things about this place—it is THE DREAMIEST! To quote the text I sent to our family when we arrived: “It’s ten thousand times better than we even expected!” If you’re interested in applying, you can find more information here.
Thank you to everyone who’s already pre-ordered! If you’re interested in ordering the book, you can do so direct from the publisher here. Ordering direct from indie presses like Broadstone helps support the vital work these small presses are doing in making a home for poetry.
If you read the book and don’t think it’s terrible, I’d be super grateful to have you rate and review the book on Amazon, and/or Goodreads.
I know it’s unusual for book clubs to read books of poems, but one of my biggest goals as a writer is to make work that invites readers in–especially folks that think they don’t like poetry. (Top Secret Confession: I used to think that, too!) I’d love to talk with your book club in person or by video chat. If you’re interested, you can reach me here.
Do you or someone you know run a reading series or host literary events? I love to read, talk to budding writers, and connect with readers. You can reach me here.
Are you a book reviewer interested in reviewing the book? I’ve got a box full of ARCs, and I’d love to send one your way! You can reach me here.
Do you love the cover as much as I do? Check out more art by painter and generally awesome person Michael Eble here.
And finally, thank you times one million to friends and colleagues who’ve helped this book find its way to readers via blurbs, excerpts in publications, readings, etc.
Hope you can join me on Monday, October 21, 7 p.m. at Orlando’s Park Avenue CDs to celebrate the launch of Other Possible Lives. Stay tuned for more details coming soon!
UPDATE: 😍🤩😁 Look how beautiful this cover is!! Thanks to Michael Eble for the cover image and to Larry Moore and Broadstone Books for the design!
I’m excited to share the news that my next book of poems, Other Possible Lives, is coming out this fall. I’m looking forward to sharing the cover and blurbs soon.
Here’s my wish for this book: that it will find its way to readers who will love it as much as I do. Thanks in advance for putting up with the occasional promotional post over the next few months, and deep gratitude to the friends and colleagues helping this book find its way to readers via blurbs, excerpts in publications, readings, etc.
One of my favorite things as a writer is connecting with readers; I’d love to visit your campus, talk with your students and book clubs (in person or via Skype), participate in your reading series, etc. If you’re interested, I’d love to hear from you! You can drop me a line at chrissy AT chrissykolaya.com
As you may know, with all new books (but especially with books of poems) it’s challenging to get them on readers’ radars. Pre-orders are one of the most helpful things you can do to help give a book legs, and this one is available here.
And finally, word of mouth is key, so I (and ALL writers!) deeply appreciate it when you’re able to review, give books as gifts, ask your libraries to order copies, invite us to your campus/institution/book clubs to read and give talks, and share books you like via social media and IRL recommendations. It doesn’t have to be for this book—just do it for the last book you really loved, especially if it’s one you think isn’t getting as much attention as it should. I promise there’s a grateful author on the other end!
When I arrived at the University of Central Florida (UCF) this fall, I met the composer Alex Burtzos, who asked if I’d like to collaborate on a piece he’d be writing for the UCF Chamber Choir to perform during the annual UCF Celebrates the Arts event.
Amy Watkins is the author of the chapbooks Lucky, Milk & Water, and Wolf Daughter (coming in June 2019). She lives in Winter Park with her husband and daughter and a mean-spirited ginger cat.
6:30 p.m.: Nylda Dieppa
Nylda is an author, educator, coach, and social justice activist living in Orlando, FL. She is the author of the award-winning book Alborada: A Poetic Memoir Across Cultures and has read her poetry in a variety of venues in Orlando and New York City. The proud grandmother of six delightful grandchildren, Nylda is the leader of the Maitland Writers Group and publishes its eponymous newsletter.
7pm: Stacy Barton
Stacy Barton is the award-winning literary author of Lily Harp (2015 INDIEFAB), Like Summer Grass, and Surviving Nashville: Short Stories. Her work has appeared in various literary journals including Gargoyle, Best of Potomac Review, Ruminate, and Southern Women’s Review. Stacy is also the author of picture books, plays, animated short films—plus hundreds of live shows for Disney, SeaWorld, Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey and others.
7: 15 p.m.: Chrissy Kolaya
Chrissy Kolaya is a fiction writer and poet who’s brand new to Orlando, having lived all over, from Chicago to California to rural Alabama, and, most recently, the frigid wilds of Minnesota. She teaches creative writing at UCF and is the author of two books: Any Anxious Body: a book of poems about family secrets, and Charmed Particles: a novel about high-energy particle physics, gifted and talented teenage girls, Mary Kay ladies, and one woman’s obsession with novelty convenience foods of the 1980s.
7:30 p.m.: Susan Lilley, Orlando Poet Laureate
Susan Lilley is a Florida native and is currently serving as Orlando’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Her poetry and non-fiction have appeared in American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Poet Lore, The Southern Review, Drunken Boat, Saw Palm, Hippocampus, The Florida Review, Sweet, and other journals. Her two chapbooks are Night Windows and Satellite Beach. She is a past winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Award and has held a State of Florida Individual Arts Fellowship. She has taught at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, and currently teaches literature and creative writing at Trinity Preparatory School in Winter Park. Her new full collection, Venus in Retrograde, was published spring of 2019 by Burrow Press.
Really excited to share the news about this collaborative project with composer Alex Burtzos, which premiers here in Orlando on Sunday!
UCF poet and musician collaborate on emotional choral piece
By Arielle Feldman | March 15, 2019
Based on a poem by Chrissy Kolaya, Alex Burtzos’ choral piece “Mirabilis” will be performed by the UCF Chamber Singers at UCF Celebrates the Arts.
“You are alive.” These three simple yet powerful words—painted on a wall near the World Trade Center ruins—brought Chrissy Kolaya to a record-screeching halt.
“The image of it just took my breath away,” says Kolaya, who came across the graffiti in the days following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. “It struck me that whoever had made it was engaging in a kind of entirely understandable magical thinking: if I write that this is so, it will be.”
So, Kolaya went and did her own writing, using the anonymous writer’s graffiti as inspiration for her poem “Annus Mirabilis.” At the time, she was working in publishing in Chicago, editing a series of books that frequently quoted the Bible. One verse in particular always stuck out to her: Isaiah 49:15-16, which reads, “I will never forget you./See, I have written you/on the palms of my hands.” The rhythm and cadence of those lines inspired the final line of her own poem: “See, I have written you/on the walls of the city.”
“Annus Mirabilis” is featured in Kolaya’s forthcoming book of poems “Other Possible Lives,” which is coming out summer 2019 and available to preorder here. Now the poem lives in musical form as well, thanks to a collaboration between Kolaya, who is a UCF English assistant professor, and UCF Music assistant professor Alex Burtzos. Burtzos composed a choral piece based on Kolaya’s poem, which will be performed by the UCF Chamber Singers at UCF Celebrates the Arts. The piece will premiere on April 7, 2019 as part of the UCF Choral Concert: Building Bridges, in the Walt Disney Theater at Dr. Phillips Center for Performing Arts at 7:30 pm. The concert is free for UCF students and people age 18 and under if tickets are reserved by April 5 at 5 p.m. Standard tickets are $5.
An interdisciplinary collaboration is born
Burtzos and Kolaya, both new to UCF, met at the College of Arts and Humanities faculty orientation in fall of 2018 and found instant camaraderie. Their conversation drifted to the types of poems that translate well into choral pieces. “What was interesting to me was that it wasn’t all what I had imagined,” says Kolaya. “I thought it would need to be a rhyme-y poem with a lot of repetition, but what Alex told me was that a short, image-focused poem was often the best.” Kolaya sent Burtzos a packet of all the poems she thought had potential for a strong choral composition. He selected “Annus Mirabilis.”
“Chrissy’s poem deals with a powerful national trauma, but this piece is intended to transcend that event by drawing attention to aspects of love, hope and optimism about the future,” says Burtzos.
More collaborations are coming
When asked if more interdisciplinary collaborations are on the horizon, Burtzos says, “Absolutely. Perhaps the best thing about working in an academic environment is that you’re surrounded by gifted, creative people all the time. I want to collaborate as much as possible.” He plans to write pieces for the UCF wind ensemble and orchestra next year.
Kolaya shares the same sentiment about blending disciplines at UCF. “I love those moments when artists from different areas are able to come together to create work,” says Kolaya. “There’s a fantastic energy in interdisciplinary collaboration. Being part of UCF Celebrates the Arts is also a great introduction to some of the cool things happening on our campus and the possibilities we have as an institution full of really interesting, creative people!”
Visit the choral concert’s webpage to reserve tickets. View the full line-up for UCF Celebrates the Arts here.