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Jack Straw Writers Program

The purpose of the Jack Straw Writers Program is to introduce local writers to the medium of recorded audio; to encourage the creation of new literary work; and to provide new venues for the writer and their work. The program was created in 1997, and each year a single curator selects 12 writers/writing teams out of dozens of applicants based on artistic excellence, diversity of literary genres, and a cohesive grouping of writers.

Twelve writers/writing teams are selected by a curator each to participate. The program features voice and presentation training, in-studio interviews, public readings, a published anthology, and internet podcasts. All live readings are recorded, and selected portions are produced for podcasts and radio broadcast. 

To date, the Jack Straw Writers Program has included more than 150 Pacific Northwest writers who represent a diverse range of literary genres. Writers Program participants have included legendary Litmus Inc. founder Charles Potts (2007), Seattle Poet Populist Jourdan Imani Keith (2006), Stranger Genius Award recipient for poetry John Olson (2004), Floating Bridge Press founder Peter Pereira (2001), Writers In The Schools founder Kip Robinson-Greenthal (2000), and humorist David Schmader (1998).

The 2010 Jack Straw Writers Anthology

Volume 14 of the Jack Straw Writers Anthology features new work from the twelve 2010 Jack Straw Writers: Roberto Ascalon, Brian Barr, Katherine Grace Bond, Bill Carty, Martha Clarkson, Amber Flame, Esther Altshul Helfgott, Marjorie Manwaring, Denise Calvetti Michaels, Tara Roth, Louise Spiegler, and Michael Dylan Welch.

Copies of the anthology are available for purchase at the University Book Store, Open Books, and The Couth Buzzard. Thank you for supporting Jack Straw's programs with your purchase!

Jack Straw Writers Program in the News:

2010 Jack Straw Writers Program curator Jared Leising was a guest on KBCS's Voices of Diversity program on Wednesday, April 28th, along with Sam Hamill, 2006 Jack Straw Writer Jourdan Imani Keith, and Daemond Arrindel.  Listen to the show here!

"Local nonprofit arts organization Jack Straw Productions operates under the assumption that while not every author can be a Sedaris-level performer, they can be a little more comfortable—and entertaining—while reading their own work."
-The Stranger


2010 Jack Straw Writers Program

Jared Leising is the curator of the 2010 Jack Straw Writers Program.  He is the author of the chapbook The Widows and Orphans of Winesburg, Ohio. His poems have appeared in various Washington publications such as Pontoon, Crab Creek Review, Stringtown, as well as on Metro Buses and local radio. Jared was selected as a Jack Straw Writer in 2001, has worked as a writer-in-residence for Ballard and Nathan Hale High Schools, been a nominee for Seattle Poet Populist, and before moving to Seattle, he received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Currently, he teaches English at Cascadia Community College, and is a board member of the Washington Community College Humanities Association and 826 Seattle.


The 2010 Jack Straw Writers are Roberto Ascalon, Brian Barr, Katherine Grace Bond, Bill Carty, Martha Clarkson, Amber Flame, Esther Altshul Helfgott, Marjorie Manwaring, Denise Calvetti Michaels, Tara Roth, Louise Spiegler, and Michael Dylan Welch.

Roberto Ascalon is a poet, writer, arts educator, and spoken-word performance artist. Roberto uses his love for the craft of poetry to transform the world that surrounds him. He connects with audiences via universal narratives that encompass topics like racism, first kisses, love, family, and Spam. He has taught at Nova High School, participated in the Seattle Arts and Lectures Writers in the Schools program, and worked as a teaching artist and mentor for Arts Corps, Youth Speaks Seattle, and the Service Board.

Brian James Barr is a writer and photographer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Tin House, Oxford American, The Believer, and several others. In addition, he served as music editor for Seattle Weekly from 2006-2009. A native of western Pennsylvania, he lives with his wife in West Seattle, where he has been obsessively photographing the great neighborhood of White Center with his old Nikon F2.

Katherine Grace Bond has written or contributed to more than 20 books, including the bestselling Legend of the Valentine (Zonderkidz) and Peculiar Pilgrims: Stories from Left Hand of God (ed. Linda Wendling, Hourglass Books). Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Gayle Brandeis’s Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco), Arabesques, Beyond Magazine, and Margin: An Online Journal of Magical Realism. Her chapbook, Considering Flight (Brassweight Press), was the catalyst for her current project—an urban fantasy novel in verse in which a girl travels through time by means of Impressionist paintings. Katherine is the creator of Teen Write, an acting/writing camp modeled on the Hero’s Journey.

Bill Carty is a writer and teacher originally from coastal Maine. He attended Dartmouth College and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington before moving to the Northwest a few years ago. His poetry has appeared in Diagram, New Orleans Review, and The Blue Mesa Review. He currently teaches English at Edmonds Community College and occasional writing workshops with 826 Seattle. 

Martha Clarkson manages corporate workplace design during the day and is a fiction and poetry writer. Her work can be found in Seattle Review, monkeybicycle, Nimrod, Portland Review, Opium, elimae, and others. She has story mentions as ‘Notable Readings’ in 2007 and 2009 Best Non-Required Reading. She does not raise goats but likes their cheese.

Amber Flame is an award-winning performance poet, vocalist and educator. Whether exploring rhythmic and harmonic structures as a framework for spoken word or blending voice in song, she tests the boundaries between genre and medium. Under the Jack Straw Writers Program, she continues work on her first piece of magical realism, The Strange Disappearance of the Lluva-Nubes Twins the Day of the Duststorm. The novel weaves the input and perspectives of various key members of a desert town to tell the story of Margrete Lluva-Nubes and her four daughters, through short interconnected stories with dense imagery and lyrical language.

Esther Altshul Helfgott is a Seattle writer, teacher, and poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. Her work appears in online and print journals including Maggid: A Journal of Jewish Literature, DRASH, American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the Human Sciences, The Journal of Poetry Therapy, HistoryLink, Switched-on-Gutenberg, The American Psychoanalyst, The Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Review, Literary Mama, Real Change, Moondance, poetrybay, and Pontoon. Esther is the author of “The Homeless One: A Poem in Many Voices” (Kota, 2000), a story of homelessness and schizophrenia, which has been performed as reader’s theatre and as a play. She is founding curator of the It’s About Time Writer’s Reading Series (begun in 1989 and now held at the Ballard branch of the Seattle Public Library). She has written auto/biography on Seattle child psychoanalyst Edith Buxbaum and is at work on a study of Seattle educator Eleanor Siegl and her Little School.

Marjorie Manwaring lives in Seattle, where she is a freelance writer and an editor for the online poetry and art journal the DMQ Review. Her work has been published in Crab Orchard Review, Floating Bridge Review, Sentence, 5 AM, Crab Creek Review, and other journals, and her chapbook Magic Word was published in 2007. Marjorie is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and she has been awarded writing residencies through the Whiteley Center at Friday Harbor on San Juan Island and Artsmith on Orcas Island.

Denise Calvetti Michaels was awarded the Crosscurrents Prize for Poetry by the Washington Community College Humanities Association for her prose poem "Notes on New Orleans." Her work is in anthologies such as In Praise of Farmland (Whit Press), Mute Note Earthward (WPA), Between Sleeps (En Theos Press), and Beyond Forgetting (Kent State University Press). "Polenta," a memoir, is included in The Milk of Almonds, Italian American Woman on Food and Culture (Feminist Press, 2002). Denise teaches Psychology at Cascadia Community College where she also coordinates community service projects. She earned an MA in Human Development from Pacific Oaks College and received the Martin Luther King Humanitarian Award, along with her colleagues, for their work to address institutional racism.

Tara Roth is a musician and writer who is originally from the Chicago area and now lives in Seattle. She has played, recorded, and performed in various projects with local musicians, including the duo The Apostrophes, a current project with her husband. She has a Master’s degree in English from Western Illinois University and is a lecturer in the English department at Seattle University, teaching seminars in writing.

Louise Spiegler writes fiction for young adults, though she knows the future may bring change (travel brochures? blues epics? get-well cards?). Her first novel, The Amethyst Road, was published by Clarion in 2005. The story of a quest set in an alternative Pacific Northwest and seen through the eyes of a girl caught between two cultures, it was a finalist for the Andre Norton Award (Hugo-Nebula Awards Program). Her next novel, The Jewel and the Key, will be published by Clarion next year, should the stars align properly and revisions progress well. It is set both in contemporary Seattle and Seattle of 1917, as America enters World War I and the Pacific Northwest is convulsed by battles for free speech and workers’ rights. The Jack Straw program is providing support and encouragement for her new novel, The Lares, set in Ancient Rome. She teaches History and English at Cascadia Community College, and lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons.

Michael Dylan Welch is grateful to the local poetry community for boundless inspiration and opportunity. His poems have been published in hundreds of publications, including two Norton anthologies, and translated into fourteen languages. Michael is currently Haiku Society of America vice president. He cofounded the Haiku North America conference in 1991, and the American Haiku Archives in 1996. He founded the Tanka Society of America in 2000, serving as president through 2004. Michael’s small press, Press Here, publishes haiku and tanka books, and he edits Tundra: The Journal of the Short Poem. He’s a contributing editor to Spring: The Journal of the E. E. Cummings Society, and to Juxtapositions: The Journal of Haiku Poetics and Culture. Recent books include Fifty-Seven Damn Good Haiku by a Bunch of Our Friends (Press Here, 2010), Noh (PIE Books, 2010), For a Moment (King’s Road Press, 2009), and 100 Poets: Passions of the Imperial Court (a translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu; PIE Books, 2008). Michael uses his MA in English as a technical writer and editor, and he’s edited 200+ trade books. He curates Redmond’s SoulFood Poetry Night near where he lives with his wife and two children in Sammamish.


Jack Straw Productions gratefully acknowledges The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, 4Culture King County Lodging Tax Fund, Washington State Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, PONCHO, ArtsFund, and individual contributors for their support of the Jack Straw Writers Program.







Copyright 2010 Jack Straw Productions ~ All rights reserved


About the podcasts

Jack Straw Productions produces bi-monthly podcasts featuring excerpts from live readings and interviews highlighting literary artists from the Jack Straw Writers Program.



Current Writers' Links

Brian Barr
Katherine Grace Bond
Martha Clarkson
Esther Altshul Helfgott
Marjorie Manwaring
Denise Calvetti Michaels
Louise Spiegler
Michael Dylan Welch

Previous Jack Straw Writers Program

2009 Writers
2008 Writers
2007 Writers
2006 Writers
2005 Writers
2004 Writers
List of writers to date


Jack Straw Writers Program Events

Sunday, Nov. 7, 2pm
Elliott Bay Book Co.
1521 10th Ave., Seattle
Brian James Barr
Bill Carty
Esther Altshul Helfgott
Tara Roth

Saturday, Nov. 13, 2pm
SPL Central Branch
1000 Fourth Ave., Seattle
Final reading with all 2010 Jack Straw Writers!