Every fourth Saturday I come here, from Philadelphia, to play Scrabble. After I take Septa to Trenton, Barbara – our well-known Classics fixture – picks me up and drives me the short mile. Classics is such a friendly place! Somebody always brings in Scrabble food, or we go to that little outdoor place around the corner and across the street. Sometimes, to start out, Barbara and I are the only ones here, but soon other friends arrive. Barbara knows their names; I don’t. Little by little, though, I’m beginning to recognize people and things about them. I know, e.g., that John is, like me, a writer and, like me, has written memoir. On “Scrabble day” Classics is like a little commune; it’s everybody’s home. I assume it’s that way all week.

There are going to be two serendipities in this post. The first involves how I came to know about Classics. Well, first I came to know Barbara. Meeting her was itself serendipitous. About eight years ago my friend Susan and I were playing our weekly Scrabble game – or two or three… — in Starbucks on 10th and Chestnut in, yes, Philadelphia. Along came two friendly strangers, interested in watching our game. By the next game, they had joined in. They also joined in the next week, and the next, and the next.

And so began our Scrabble group — Barbara, Bruce, Susan, and me — meeting at that same Starbucks. This went on for several years until life evolved and Barbara got involved with Classics. Now we join her there, for Scrabble. (Barbara and I also sometimes meet for thrift-shopping, usually in Trenton.)

And then something serendipitous happened for my life as a poet/writer! I’m a mathprof and also the author of several books, poetry and memoir (one book about my passion for math), published mostly by small presses. Like many poets/writers, I have almost as many unpublished books as published. And like many poets/writers, I’m always on the lookout for (A) places to do featured readings (as opposed to open mics) and (B) publishers for unpublished books.

It wasn’t long before Barbara invited me to do a featured reading at Classics. And I never dreamed that a small bookstore reading, in a town over an hour from where I live and where nobody but Barbara and Classics knows me, could lead to so much! After Barbara, and then Eric’s, invitation about two years ago I did one Classics reading, attended by about ten people (and sold more books than I often sell at readings). Then, about a year later, when a new chapbook of mine was released – Parables for a Rainy Day – I did another.

Eric, by the way, is one of the kindest poetry reading coordinators I have encountered. And I’ve encountered many, most of whom you have to email more than once, indeed more than twice, in order to get an answer to a reading query, and many of whom consent to schedule you and then forget about it, and many of whom actually do schedule you and then forget about it. Not Eric! Eric gets back to you right away – give him a day or two – with a reading date. So I, like many, very much appreciate Eric.

At my own second Classics reading about a year ago – again, in this small town that barely knows me – something happened that’s every writer’s dream. At that reading was an actual talent scout! Elizabeth – another familiar figure around Classics – runs a press called Red Dashboard and she was at the reading looking for authors. And then – again, every writer’s dream – she heard me read and invited me to submit a book manuscript – not a chapbook, mind you, but full-length. No reading fees! No fees of any kind! (So many presses, small and large, charge anything from five to twenty-five dollars to accompany the submission of a manuscript). Of course I sent Elizabeth a manuscript right away, probably as soon as I got home from the reading.

At that time my books totaled 21, with the possibility (which did pan out) of finally placing the sequel memoir to Dirty Details: The Days and Nights of a Well Spouse (Temple University Press) being released by a small press, Unlimited Publishing. (That memoir is titled Still the End: Memoir of a Nursing Home Wife.) Of course, I was thrilled to have the sequel memoir published, but I still had many poems, both new and backlog, uncollected in books. So I was very happy when Elizabeth emailed me back, after a not very long wait, with an acceptance for my 23rd book (Lights I Have Loved).

Only at Classics has such a thing happened to me, or perhaps to anybody! In my almost-forty years as a serious writer, I’ve found publishers – and I always have to search anew – at book fairs, open mics, and mostly by hard-core sending out queries to people I never met and vice versa. Only at Classics does a book fall into my lap!

Find out more about Marion Cohen on her website:



How to Date a Werewolf, by Classics author Jessica Eppley

So you’ve met the man of your dreams! He’s loyal, he’s affectionate, and he’s an animal lover…well, I guess you’re the real animal lover here, because your boyfriend happens to be a little more inclined towards his wild side. Your boyfriend is a werewolf.

Don’t go running for the door just yet. It is possible to have a healthy relationship with a werewolf without that nagging fear that he’s going to devour you face the first every time he goes in for a smooch. Impossible you say? Not if you follow my ten easy to follow guidelines.

Communication is Key

(We’re not just barking at the moon here)

As with any relationship, communication is crucial. The best way to manage your mangy mate’s temperamental nature is to not be afraid to express your feelings while acknowledging his. Are you peeved at his snippy attitude in the days prior to the full moon? Well, allow him to vent his frustrations with understanding and a nonjudgmental attitude. Tossing him a chew toy is also effective.

Encourage Good Hygiene

(And monthly flea baths)

No one likes a dirty dog! Pamper your man-beast with a surprise spa date together! Seaweed wrap and manicure for you. Haircut and anal gland expression for him. You’ll both be relaxed and smell a heck of a lot better.

Go Out to Eat

(Not recommended for vegetarians)

So he takes you to your favorite restaurant every Friday? It’s time for you to return the favor! A candle lit venison dinner in a secluded forest under a full moon is a great way to get the romance back…and also prevents him from dragging bloody carcasses back to your apartment. Hope you like your steak rare!

Be Social

(No butt-sniffing…unless you’re into that)

Everyone needs a little random consideration, and your beastly beau is no exception. A casual phone call to the office in the middle of the day can perk up even the droopiest ears. Ask him what he wants for dinner, how his day is going, and if he wants the ball. He wants the ball doesn’t he? YES HE DOES!

Mark your Territory

(Keep the b*tches back!)

Being a werewolf boosts his appeal to the opposite sex, so make sure those doe-eyed damsels know he’s your devotee! You could leave a few belongings at his apartment sure, but a little bottle full of your eh-hem…natural perfume stealthily dribbled into the decorative plants at the outdoor café will make your ownership of him known to rivals. Just make sure the wait staff doesn’t see you.

Share his Interests

(Which is killing…lots of killing)

So you’ve never been into hunting, okay. He loves you anyway, but there’s no harm in trying something new. After all, he does wear clothing and bathe for you every now and then. Give a little, get a little. Just don’t wear pumps in the forest, and be sure your laundry detergent has a strong stain remover.

Me Time

(Don’t be afraid of your own lone wolf)

He’s a pack animal, so it’s not natural for him to be away from you. Unfortunately that makes him a little clingy. Express your need to have some alone time by spending your full moon nights soaking in a bubble bath with a good book. Make sure your doors have strong locks, preferably silver ones.

Assert your Dominance

(Be a she-wolf!)

Put him on his back and show him whose boss! No need to elaborate here.

Acknowledge his Human Side

(You know, before he was awesome)

Your lupine lover has a soft side too, his human side. Find the time to discuss his life before he was turned. Ask him how it happened, visit his old haunts with him, exact revenge upon the wolf that bit him, and so on.

Release the Beast

(If you can’t tame him, join him!)

No woman should change just for a man, but if you’re so inclined towards the nocturnal lifestyle, allowing your boyfriend to bite you might be just the thing to kick this relationship into full blown pack-mode. You can have a lot of fun roaming the night side by side with your furry fling, just make sure he knows who’s alpha if you do.

The truly important things in any relationship, whether they’re paranormally prone or not, is trust, respect, and love. Keep these three things in mind when following the above advice. If you manage to get though the first few months without losing a body part, your wild animal should become your beloved pet in no time!

Jess Eppley is the author of the YA Fantasy series the Books of Siavon. The series includes The Ruby Child, The Tail of Murias and The Blood Moon. You can purchase her books at Classics Books or through her website at


Photographing Caroline Gibson, by Ricardo Barros

Caroline Gibson with Rawhide Mask

I believe that, if you make room for them, good things will happen in your life.

Caroline Gibson and I had never met before I photographed her. I had no expectations of the imagery we produced at our first meeting. In fact, I thought it was me who was doing her a favor. My wife, Heather, had seen Linny’s artwork and wanted to help her by arranging for its exhibition at a nearby art center. Heather ‘volunteered’ my services to produce newspaper publicity prints for that show.

Linny knocked on our door after dinner one evening and proceeded to unpack her artwork in our living room. She was employed by a local hardware store. The pieces she laid on our rug blended off-the-shelf, hardware inventory with organic materials such as leather, wax, and sticks. They suggested rituals, perhaps those of a priestess, even though some of it was discomforting for me.

I sensed Linny’s integrity and responded to the intensity of her passion. I found myself unpacking more and more equipment. Soon our living room was cluttered with my photo gear and her artwork. My pictures, which were supposed to depict her artwork, evolved into images of Linny interacting with her sculpture. Ultimately one of these photographs became her portrait, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. The next day I simply made Linny’s publicity prints, archived the negatives, and moved on to address other concerns.

Years later, when searching for photographs to include in an exhibit of my own, I rediscovered this image. This time I was able to see this portrait in a different context. It helped me realize that those who follow their passion are on the road to self-discovery. I learned that when people fuse Inspiration with Integrity, they produce an expression of Identity.

Linny had left me a gift. She helped me learn that this is exactly what portraiture is all about. And, quite unexpectedly, my inadvertent, first, sculptor portrait eventually became the cover of my book, FACING SCULPTURE: A Portfolio of Portraits, Sculpture and Related Ideas.

Ricardo Barros

Ricardo’s book, FACING SCULPTURE: A Portfolio of Portraits, Sculpture and Related Ideas is on sale at Classics Books.  Learn more about Ricardo’s photography at


How to Describe Your Book in 25 Words or Less, by Jessica Eppley

As an author, one of the most common things people ask me is “What is your book about?” It is a pretty legitimate question, yet almost every time I stumble through a response that does not really answer the person’s question. I’ll state that it is a young adult fantasy, the protagonist is female, and it is part of a series, but I’ve never been able to belt out a homemade synopsis on the spot.

As strange as this may sound, I don’t think it is all too uncommon for a writer or an artist or anyone else who creates for a living to have a hard time talking about their work. The reason for this? To us, this creative work is an incredibly intimate and personal aspect of ourselves. It is like a diary we are literally allowing the world to open it up and read. We are permitting you to see us naked, to take in every detail, and to judge us for both our strengths and weaknesses.

I write in the privacy of my own mind and I keep my creations close to me. I invest emotionally in my characters and the world they live in. I cry with them, I laugh with them. When one of them dies, I feel loss. They are very real to me and I am protective of them. It is a feeling akin to that I can imagine a mother feels. The first time one of my books becomes available to the public, I feel like I am watching my child board the school bus for the first time. I am full of pride, apprehension, dread, and joy all at once. I am terrified that it will fail, that people will laugh at it, yet I am beyond proud of my work and astonished that I was able to come this far with it.

I hope to overcome this hiccup in my publicity skills someday, but I pray that I will never lose that humility when it comes to my work. I pray that I will never fall to commercialism no matter how well my book does, and that my heart and soul will remain within my work. I hope I will always write for myself first and my audience second. Even though ultimately I want my audience to accept my work, I do not want to lose touch with what makes me a unique writer. So yes, I am shy when it comes to talking about my work, but that is because my work is so dear to me. Believe me, I will do my best to answer your questions! In the meantime, if you want to know more what my books are about than what I can tell you, I suggest you read them and find out for yourself!

Jessica’s book, The Book of Saivon, is young adult fantasy with a female protagonist, and is on sale at Classics!  Follow Jessica on Twitter at


Some Tips for Getting Published, by Nancy Scott

As the author of five books of poetry and managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in central New Jersey, the question I most frequently get asked is, “How do you get your poetry published?’ The quick answer, “I work really hard at it.” There is no magic bullet for finding a publisher. I have had over 200 poems and short fiction published in journals and anthologies, and four different presses have published my books. Very often a press will be interested in a second book.

Before you tackle publishing a book of short stories or poetry, it’s important that you get some of your work published elsewhere first. This is not the case for fiction or non-fiction. Publishers want to know that you are not only a good writer, but also a serious one, and know the audience for your book, because very few have any budget to help you with marketing. That’s up to you.

A few years ago, I was entirely committed to placing my work in print journals; now I have far more work published in online journals. Although it is really cool to hold a copy of the journal in your hand, and admire the cover image and the layout of your poem, I find that I get as much satisfaction from seeing my work online at a beautiful website where there is a continuing audience, especially where journals archive your work indefinitely, but still return the rights to you after the work is published, so that you can publish the work in your manuscript.

You have to do your homework. Unless you are famous, no journal is going to come knocking at your door. There are many resources for locating journals to submit to, among them, Duotrope’s Digest, New Pages, LitLine, and Poets&Writers. Most journals have websites, so you can explore who and what they publish. Chances are slim that you will have work accepted by Poetry or Ploughshares or Narrative at first, but there are hundreds of other journals. More and more accept online submissions so you don’t have to waste money on stamps and return envelopes.

Before you send out work, revise, then revise again, make sure you have no spelling or grammatical errors, and don’t use crazy fonts or weird layout. Follow the guidelines to a T. If something is unclear, contact the editor and politely ask for an explanation. When your work is accepted, contact the editor and express your delight. If you are asked to forward additional information or okay proofs, do it right away. When submitting a whole manuscript or a short story you may be asked to pay a reading fee, but avoid journals that ask for a reading fee for individual poems. Expect a free contributor’s copy. Sometimes you will be asked to pay for your copy. That’s up to you, so know beforehand. Most journals are not greedy; they are just broke.

Write, write, write, and good luck!

Nancy Scott’s most recent book is On Location (March Street Press, 2011), which is a collection of poems inspired by the works of artists from all over the world.  Find out more at

A Hard Head and Delayed Blessings, by Theresa Bowman Downing

The Hood

It rings with many sounds.

Late night car horns.

Signifying conversations.

A woman’s screams.

The boasts of men.

The boasts of women.

A symphony of profanity.


It reflects misery, hopelessness, and decay.

Streets and sidewalks glitter with broken glass,

Boarded up homes, and unkempt yards.

Street corners overflowing with a lost generation,

a runway of chemical zombies.


The old generation struggles to maintain.

They struggle to regain the beauty and peace of yesterday.

They sweep.  They paint.

They beautify with flowers and trees.


We all live here together.

This is the hood.

This is my neighborhood.


Distorted Body, Freed Soul


I came into this world as a beautiful creation.

With skin that resembled Mother Earth.

With hair like lamb’s wool.

With teeth as white as the whitest pearls.

With eyes that sparkle day and night.

With a body of strength and virility.


But as I mature…

My beauty fades.

My ski is bruised from the force of your fist

And the swing of your baton.

My back is perforated with holes

From your piercing bullets.

My pleading eyes are full of tears.


Yet, there is a part of me that you cannot destroy…

For God has called me home

And my soul has been set free at last.

No more struggle.

No more pain.


Dedicated to all Black Africans who have lost their lives in the struggle for freedom…yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Theresa Bowman Downing is the author of A Hard Head and Delayed Blessings: Poetry Reflecting the Life and Times of an African American Woman, which is available at Classics.


On Organizing a Reading or a Collection of Poems, by Anca Vlasopolos

For me, the organization of my poems whether in a collection or for a reading becomes of utmost importance. I take my cue from my predecessors—the British Romantic poets who saw the unity of the whole poetic work, and their successors, Baudelaire with Les Fleurs du mal and its chapters, as well as W. B. Yeats and his books, each answering and continuing the preceding work. I want to guide the reader along a thread that traces the journey of the poems so that they’re not like beads on a string, each equal and separate though tied together, but rather like moments along a walk taken in hyper-aware solitude.

Sometimes the journey follows the cycle of seasons; sometimes it offers a narrative of the inception, growth, cresting, and death of love; sometimes I reach for the cumulative effect, as when I read a series of poems about homeless people around the campus where I teach, in the inner city of Detroit, in the hope that the differences among the “homeless” begin to individualize them rather than treat them as a social phenomenon. I believe that the scatter-shot approach to reading that I’ve observed in so many readings tends to fatigue the audience instead of pulling them along.

At each reading and in each collection of poems I’ve written, I try to end with poems that lead to a sliver of transcendence, that much-despised word of postmodernity. If poetry does not draw us out of ourselves toward a region we have not hitherto explored and felt on our skins and psyches, there’s not much use for it, I opine.

Anca Vlasopolos has published a detective novel, a memoir, various short stories, over 200 poems, the poetry collection Penguins in a Warming World, and a nonfiction novel, The New Bedford Samurai. You can learn more about Anca at

Saris and Curries for American Readers, by Shobhan Bantwal

Saris and Curries for American Readers, by Classics author, and guest blogger, Shobhan Bantwal 

In the American fiction market brimming with Caucasian, African-American, even Latino characters, there are few that are Indian. Despite the rising popularity of ethnic fiction fromAsia, it is still a mere fraction of the thousands of fiction books churned out by American publishing houses each year. So when I decided to step into the difficult-to-penetrate realm of fiction, I knew it was going to be a serious challenge, especially since I took up writing at the late age of 50.

As a naïve neophyte I had no clue as to how I was going to capture the attention of agents and publishers with my mainstream stories when the publishing world expected every South Asian author to write somber literary fiction. My fiction was a rare jumble of genres—multicultural commercial women’s fiction with romantic and literary elements. I simply call it “Bollywood in a Book.”

Amazingly enough, despite many rejections, a highly reputable agent, the late Elaine Koster, who was once a publisher for Penguin and launched the careers of such famous writers as Stephen King and Khaled Hosseini, loved my writing and signed me on. Consequently my book rights were sold to Kensington Publishing.

But despite my editor and agent’s enthusiasm, I was plagued by doubts. Not many American readers know a lot about Indian culture. Was I capable of educating them about India without turning them off? Could I write convincing love scenes? Would Indian characters wearing saris and kurtas appeal to romance readers? I realized I would never find out unless I tried to introduce all of the above ideas to my potential audience.

I incorporate the concepts of arranged marriage, spicy cuisine, superstitions, virgin brides and grooms, India’s notorious caste system, and hot-button controversial subjects like dowry and female-fetus abortion to make my fiction not only more intriguing but vivid and educational at the same time. I believe readers have curious minds and truly want to learn. Nonetheless that learning needs to be combined with an absorbing story, the right dose of emotion, and engaging characters.

By doggedly pursuing my colorful hodgepodge of genres and cultures and topics I have gradually managed to capture the interest of a growing number of readers. They are an appreciative audience, eager to dive into a different kind of story and learn about other cultures.

And while I entertain my readers, it has been a marvelous educational experience for me. Promoting my books to a mainstream American readership is hard work, often frustrating, and very expensive. But there is immense satisfaction in stirring interest and reaching more readers with each new book.

My latest book is THE FULL MOON BRIDE, the story of a young Indian-American attorney who is so hung up on her plain looks that when a handsome man introduced to her by her parents, proposes marriage, she assumes he is after her money. Will she be able to accept the fact that she has a lot more to offer him than her wealth, and that true love can come through an arranged match?

Shobhan Bantwal has five books published to date by Kensington, with one more scheduled for release in 2012. Her articles and short stories have appeared in The Writer, Romantic Times, India Abroad, Little India, and New Woman magazines. Her short fiction has won honors/awards in contests by Writer’s Digest, New York Stories, and  New Woman. Her debut book, THE DOWRY BRIDE, won the 2008 Golden Leaf Award.

Publishing: The Good, The Bad and The In-Between, by Raining Deer

by Classics author, and guest blogger, Raining Deer ©2011

The Road to publishing your own work is a journey of the good, the bad and the in-between.

The GOOD  is the Creative Process — writing as a craft/art.  If you are a skilled writer, expressing your thoughts or storytelling may be a fairly natural thing for you.  I always say, “if you can talk, you can write,” i.e. – you should be able to write what you say.  But that’s not always the case.

For some, who don’t speak “the King’s English” writing may be more of a challenge.  Nevertheless it is always necessary to convey your thoughts from the “reader’s” perspective.  With that in mind, whether you consider yourself a writing technician or someone who just likes to tell a good story and will leave the grammatically correct aspect to an experienced editor, remember to write in such a way that the reader fully gets the point of what you are saying.  

The BAD in publishing can be lined with rejection – letters that is, if you are seeking a publisher.  This can be a lengthy, tedious process, and you might need to grow an extra layer of skin to soften the blow of rejection.  You could seek out a literary agent to run interference, but there are costs associated with having an agent represent you.  And still, you may not get a deal within the timeframe that you set for yourself.

If you don’t have or want an agent, are thin-skinned, or you or your agent don’t think your material will grab the attention of a small or large publishing house, self-publishing is always a good alternative.  Especially if you have a story or a topic that you simply must write about and it’s just oozing out of your pores, so to speak, self-publishing might make the most sense. 

The IN-BETWEEN is that, in any event, you must understand that you are a writer, but you will be in the business of marketing.  For some this is a hard concept to grasp. If you get a book deal with a publisher, your job will still be to market your book.  If you self-publish, your job will be  — to market your book. Today, even if you have limited financial resources, with desk-top publishing and a plethora of  electronic avenues for getting exposure for your work, self-publishing is a proverbial snap.

Once your manuscript has been written, edited, proofread, priced competitively, printed or set up as an e-book, you establish a website, start a blog and start some chatter on face book, Twitter, LinkedIn or some other popular on-line sites, and you’re good to go.  At least the ground work is all done.  Then comes the networking.  Actually, the networking should have begun from the moment of conception – or your book topic, because when you decide you want to write a book you have to know your audience, — i.e., who will be willing to pay money to read your work, and have a plan for accessing that audience.

In any case, see the good and don’t let the bad or the in-between deter you from following your passion.  As they say, “Don’t die with the music in you” or in this case, don’t die with your story in you.  Get it out.  Write about what you know and get it out.

Raining Deer is the author of BCV – RITES OF PASSAGE FOR BREAST CANCER VICTORS, which is available at Classics, , 117 South Warren, downtown Trenton,  You can learn more about Raining Deer at