The Central Connecticut State English Department in conjunction with the Connecticut Literary Festival annually publishes an anthology of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry by Connecticut writers.
The anthology was generously supported by an anonymous donor grant, which was administered by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Culled from over 400 submissions, the 2021 edition of the Connecticut Literary Festival Anthology offers a lush bouquet of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry that readers are sure to relish. Within its pages, I found new works by writers I have long admired: Chris Belden, Lary Bloom, Ken Cormier, Margaret Gibson, Raouf Mama, and Bessy Reyna. Just as enjoyable is the work of writers who are, for me, new discoveries. The literary arts are alive and well here in the Constitution State. This collection is ample proof. —Wally Lamb
Congratulations to our 2021 Contributors
Candace Barrington, Christine Beck, Chris Belden, Kethry Bentz, Lary Bloom, Victoria Buitron, David Cappella, Holly Carignan, Julie Choffel, Z’Jahniry Coleman, Ken Cormier, Jason Courtmanche, Thomas Cowen, Anthony D’Aries, Kelly de la Rocha, Kenneth DiMaggio, Daniel Donaghy, Regina S. Dyton, Meghan Evans, James Finnegan, Cathy Fiorello, Kathryn Fitzpatrick, Sean Frederick Forbes, Elizabeth Gibbs, Margaret Gibson, Benjamin S. Grossberg, Nora Holmes, Mackenzie Hurlbert, B. Fulton Jennes, Christine Kalafus, Raouf Mama, Crystal D. Mayo, Amanda Parrish Morgan, Amy L. Nocton, Victoria Nordlund, Monica Ong, Bessy Reyna, Lorraine Riess, Samantha Schwind, Wendy Tarry, Christopher Torockio, Brittany Walls
Thank you to the over 300 CT writers who submitted. And thanks to designer Jillian Goeler from Jag Ink.
Check back for updates on the Oct. 22 release party at Real Art Ways, the forthcoming reader’s guide prepared by CCSU English faculty, and a limited reading tour sponsored in part by the CT Humanities.
Candace Barrington lives in New Haven, Connecticut, and teaches ancient, medieval, and contemporary global literature at Central Connecticut State University. She collaborates with authors, translators, and scholars on every continent (except Antarctica); this story began in an online writer’s workshop that originated in Cyprus during the 2020-2021 pandemic lockdown.
Christine Beck is a poet and teacher of literature and creative writing. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. Christine Beck is a former Poet Laureate of West Hartford, CT. Her books of poetry include Blinding Light (Grayson Press), I’m Dating Myself (Dancing Girl Press), Stirred, Not Shaken (Five Oaks Press) and Beneath the Steps: a Writing Guide for 12-Step Recovery. Her website is www.ChristineBeck.net.
Chris Belden is the author of the novels Shriver and Carry-on, as well as the story collection The Floating Lady of Lake Tawaba.
Kethry Bentz‘s love of literature was first sparked when their mother plopped them down on their bedroom floor and read aloud the entire set of Magic Treehouse books. Raised in the rolling hills of northwest Connecticut, Kethry’s logomania can only be rivaled by their love of all things nature. Hiking, studying bugs, and listening to the birds sing their unnamed songs are what brings them peace when they’re not reading or writing.
Lary Bloom’s books include Sol LeWitt: A Life of Ideas, Letters From Nuremberg, The Test of Our Times, The Ignorant Maestro, The Writer Within, and Lary Bloom’s Connecticut Notebook. His plays: Worth Avenue, Wild Black Yonder, A Woman of a Certain Age (lyricist). His columns have appeared in the New York Times, Hartford Courant, and Connecticut Magazine. He lives in New Haven, teaches in the Yale Writer’s Workshop, and is a freelance book editor.
Victoria Buitron is a writer and translator who hails from Ecuador and resides in Connecticut. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Lost Balloon, XRAY Lit Mag, Entropy, Bending Genres, and other literary magazines. Her debut memoir-in-essays, A Body Across Two Hemispheres, is the 2021 Fairfield Book Prize winner and will be available in Spring 2022 by Woodhall Press.
David Cappella is the co-author of two books on the teaching of poetry: Teaching the Art of Poetry (Routledge) and A Surge of Language (Heinemann). He won the 2006 Bright Hill Press Poetry Chapbook Award. His poems have appeared nationally and internationally. His book Gobbo: A Solitaire’s Opera will be published in Summer 2021 by Ervená Barva Press and will be published as an Italian bi-lingual edition by puntoacapo Editrice in November 2021.
Holly Carignan lives in Connecticut with her three irresistible, pesty, entertaining cats. She has an old, unused MA in psychology and, more recently, a BS in biochemistry. When she is not slogging away in a hospital lab, she is home writing by computer light in the comfortable darkness of her messy house. She is a proud member of the Westport Writer’s Workshop, and is forever indebted to them for their friendship and support.
Julie Choffel grew up in Austin, Texas, where she studied geography, ecology, and writing. Her poems have appeared in many journals, most recently in New American Writing, Interim, Salamander, Western Humanities Review, and the Wallace Stevens Journal. She is the author of The Hello Delay and The Chicories, a graduate of the MFA Program for Poets and Writers at UMass Amherst, and an adjunct professor of creative writing at the University of Connecticut.
Z’Jahniry Coleman is an eighth-grade student. Outside of writing, her main hobby is cosmetology (hair, nails and a little bit of makeup). She wrote the poem included in this anthology for a contest when she attended Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts Magnet Middle School. It was inspired by a scene from the Netflix show Ginny & Georgia.
Ken Cormier is the author of Balance Act and The Tragedy in My Neighborhood. He has released four collections of original music, and he makes radio fiction and documentary pieces, many of which have aired on public-radio affiliates around the US and on the BBC. He directs the Creative Writing Program at Quinnipiac University. More info at: thebenjysection.com/kencormier
Jason Courtmanche is Assistant Professor in Residence in English, Affiliate Faculty in Teacher Education, Director of the Connecticut Writing Project, and Assistant Coordinator of Early College Experience English at UConn. Recent publications have appeared in English Journal, CT Literary Anthology, Professions, WPA, Deep Reading, Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, Resources for American Literary Study, Writers Who Teach, What Does It Mean To Be White In America?, What Is ‘College-Level’ Writing?, and Nathaniel Hawthorne in the College Classroom.
Born and raised in New York City, Thomas Cowen, lives in the beautiful town of Ridgefield, CT. He is an above-average sales engineer, retired amateur boxer, and barely serviceable hockey player. He has been published in The Forge Literary Magazine, Good Men Project, and Daily Inspired Life. He graduated from the Newport MFA at Salve Regina University and is working on a book about courage and his incredibly brave son, Justin.
Anthony D’Aries is the author of The Language of Men: A Memoir (Hudson Whitman Press, 2012), which received the PEN Discovery Prize and Foreword’s Memoir-of-the-Year Award. His work has appeared in McSweeney’s, Boston Magazine, Solstice, Shelf Awareness, The Literary Review, Memoir Magazine, Sport Literate, Flash Fiction Magazine, and elsewhere. He currently directs the low-residency MFA in Creative and Professional Writing at Western Connecticut State University.
Kelly de la Rocha’s work gives voice to what often goes unnoticed — Malawian schoolgirls, empty metal hangers, a woman in a food pantry line, a film container full of marigold seeds. A poet, journalist and editor living in Farmington, her poems have been featured in The Poetry Institute’s Circumference Magazine, Poetry on the Streets’ Essential Voices from the Pandemic, Gallery and Studio Arts Journal, The Revolution (Relaunch), Syracuse Cultural Workers’ Women Artists Datebook and others.
Kenneth DiMaggio was born in Hartford, raised in New Britain, and educated in a blue-collar Cat’lick family and several state universities from Connecticut to Nebraska. He is back again in Connecticut teaching English at Capital Community College in Hartford. He has previously had work published in Paterson Literary Review, Illuminations, Down in the Dirt, and Chiron Review.
Daniel Donaghy is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Somerset, co-winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize, and Start with the Trouble, winner of the University of Arkansas Press Poetry Prize.
A lifelong social justice activist, Regina S. Dyton’s work is at once personal and political expressing the array of feelings and experiences in the intersections of identities. Regina is a contributor to the 2020 “Every Kinda’ Lady Poetic Anthology” and the June 2021 “Chicken Soup for the Soul book of writings by African American women”. She has presented dramatic readings of her work in several local venues.
Meghan Evans is a native of Hartford, CT. She attended the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and earned her B.A. at Trinity College. She earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She currently teaches in the English Dept at CCSU.
James Finnegan has published poems in Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, The Southern Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, as well as in the anthologies: “Good Poems: American Places” edited by Garrison Keillor; “Laureates of Connecticut”; “Shadows of Unfinished Things”; “Imagining Vesalius”; “Waking Up to the Earth”; and recently “Walkers in the City”. He posts aphoristic ars poetica on the blog ursprache: https://ursprache.blogspot.com
A family therapist and church musician by day, Cathy Fiorello is a voracious reader and scribbler of poems by night. Her poem, “Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott,” was produced in a monthly writing workshop that focuses on 12-Step recovery. She has been published in Families: the Frontline of Pluralism and Ruminate and is currently seeking an agent for her Contemporary novel, Dreamreader. You can follow her at cathyfiorello.com.
Kathryn Fitzpatrick is an MFA student at the University of Alabama with works published or forthcoming in Hippocampus, Out Magazine, Cleaver Magazine, and elsewhere. Her micro essay, “Leslie” was longlisted in Smokelong Quarterly’s Grand Micro contest. Kathryn is a fourth-generation resident of Thomaston, Connecticut, where she works at a bank.
Sean Frederick Forbes is an Assistant Professor-in-Residence of English and the Director of the Creative Writing Program at the University of Connecticut. His poems have appeared in Chagrin River Review, Sargasso, A Journal of Caribbean Literature, Language, and Culture, Crab Orchard Review, Long River Review, and Midwest Quarterly. Providencia, his first book of poetry, was published in 2013. He serves as the poetry editor for New Square, the official publication of The Sancho Panza Literary Society.
After years of working for media, higher education and non-profit organizations, Beth Gibbs, M.A.,is pursuing her passion to write fiction and nonfiction for mainstream audiences. She uses her energy and sense of humor to inspire, inform, and entertain. She has published a personal growth book titled, Enlighten Up! Finding Clarity, Contentment and Resilience in a Complicated World and a children’s book, Ogi Bogi, The Elephant Yogi. Her personal blog can be found at bethgibbs.com
Margaret Gibson, Poet Laureate of Connecticut, has published 13 books of poems, most recently The Glass Globe, August 2021. AWARDS: the Lamont Selection, Melville Kane Award, the Connecticut Book Award. She was a Finalist for the National Book Award, 1993, and for the Poets’ Prize, 2016. With a grant from the Academy of American Poets, she edited an anthology, Waking Up to the Earth: Connecticut Poets in a Time of Global Climate Crisis. Her website: www.margaretgibsonpoetry.com
Benjamin S. Grossberg’s books include My Husband Would (University of Tampa Press, 2020), a Foreword INDIES Book of the Year, and Sweet Core Orchard (University of Tampa Press, 2009), winner of a Lambda Literary Award. He is Director of Creative Writing at the University of Hartford.
A rising senior in West Hartford, Nora Holmes has been recognized by the New York Times, NCTE, and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. In 2021, she was a finalist for the Sunken Garden Poetry festival opening for the keynote poet Chen Chen. When not writing, she competes in track and cross country at the regional and national level. Her interests include women’s rights, archeology, and her dog: Liam.
Mackenzie Hurlbert is a short fiction writer with previous publications in Written Tales: Horror, Flash Fiction Magazine, Poor Yorick, Folio Literary Magazine, Five:2:One’s The Sideshow, and We Walk Invisible. Her story Milk Teeth received an honorable mention in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards. She studied at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven, CT, and is a proud member of the Northern Connecticut Writer’s Workshop.
B. Fulton Jennes is the Poet Laureate of Ridgefield, CT. Her poems have or will appear in the 2020 Connecticut Literary Anthology, Comstock Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Night Heron Barks, Tar River Poetry, Stone Canoe, Vassar Review, Connecticut River Journal, Naugatuck River Journal, and many others. In 2021, her poem “From the Room of an Unknown Girl” was awarded the Leslie McGrath Prize. Blinded Birds, a chapbook, will be published in the spring of 2022.
Christine Kalafus’s award-winning manuscript, Blueprint for Daylight, a memoir of infidelity, cancer, colicky twins, and the flood in her basement, was excerpted in Connecticut’s Emerging Writers. Essays have appeared in Longreads, PAGE, and the Woven Tale Press. Her poem “Horses” was the recipient of The Knightville Poetry Award and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Christine is an instructor at Westport Writers’ Workshop and facilitator of the Quiet Corner chapter of the Connecticut Poetry Society.
A best-selling author and an award-winning storyteller, Dr. Mama is the only one in the world today who tells in English, French, Fon, and Yoruba folktales from his native Benin and other parts of the world. He is a Distinguished Professor of English and a CSU Professor at Eastern Connecticut State University.
The Good Samaritan is part of his debut novel-in-progress, Burning Candles, a lyrical work of social criticism shot through with magical realism.
Crystal D. Mayo is a writer, actress, and mentor for Girl’s Write Now. Her memoirs Teaching You a Lesson, The Evolution of Hip Hop, Mother to Son, Remembering Ma Bea, and numerous others have been published in African Voices, Our Voices, Our Stories, The Bronx Memoir Project Volume III, IV and V. Her monologue Mother to Son is featured in 08:46 the anthology for black playwrights, produced by the New World Theater.
Amanda Parrish Morgan’s first book, Stroller, an examination of cultural attitudes towards parenting and young children, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury’s Object Lesson series in 2022. Some of her other essays have appeared in Guernica, The Rumpus, The Millions, n+1, Electric Literature, Carve, The American Scholar and the Ploughshares Blog. She’s also written pieces for JSTOR Daily, The Washington Post, Real Simple, Women’s Running, and ESPNW.
Amy Nocton lives in Storrs, Connecticut with her family. She teaches high school Spanish and English composition at the University of Connecticut. When not working, Amy enjoys reading and visiting with family and friends both in the States and abroad. She has been previously published in Poetry Ireland Review, Ethel Zine, Inti,: Revista de literatura hispánica, The Bookends Review, Dodging the Rain, and through the Connecticut Writing Project at the University of Connecticut.
Victoria Nordlund is the creative writing director at Rockville High School in Vernon, CT, an adjunct professor at the University of Connecticut, and a lead master teaching artist at The Mark Twain House. Her poetry collections Wine-Dark Sea and Binge Watching Winter on Mute are published by Main Street Rag. A Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize Nominee, her work has appeared in PANK Magazine, Rust+Moth, Chestnut Review, Pidgeonholes, and other journals.
Monica Ong is the author of Silent Anatomies, winner of the Kore Press First Book Award in poetry. A Kundiman fellow, Ong has been awarded residencies most recently at Studios at MassMoCA, Millay Arts, and Yaddo. Her work has been published in POETRY Magazine, Waxwing Magazine, ctrl+v, and forthcoming in Scientific American. You can find her visual poetry and objects in the Collection of American Literature at the Yale Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Bessy Reyna, former opinion columnist for the Hartford Courant, Identidad Latina, and contributor to ctlatinonews.com. Her work has been published in anthologies in the USA and Latin America. Her book “Memoirs of the Unfaithful Lover” is bilingual poetry. She has participated in poetry readings and festivals in the USA and Latin America. She is Bolton’s Poet Laureate. Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the CT Center for the Book (www.bessyreyna.com)
Lorraine Riess is a member of Connecticut River Poets where she participates in group readings at local venues. Her work has appeared in publications and anthologies in the shoreline area. Her first collection of poems is due to be published later this year. She is currently the Poet Laureate of Haddam, CT.
Matroyshka Doll honors women who have chosen not to have children and the pressure that comes from that decision.
Samantha Schwind is a freelance writer and proofreader based in Connecticut. She studied professional writing and psychology at Southern Connecticut State University as well as publishing and digital media at New York University. Her poetry has appeared on The New York Times Learning Blog. In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading romance novels, writing poetry, binge-watching Netflix dramas, and spending time with her wonderful dog Ducky.
Wendy Tarry was born and raised in Ottawa, Canada but now makes her home on the Connecticut Shoreline. Tarry holds degrees in English and Education from the University of Ottawa and a Master’s in Divinity from Queen’s University. Her poem “After the Protest” was published in the “Connecticut Literary Anthology 2020”. She enjoys working in a local library, assisting with worship at her church, and exploring Connecticut with her husband and their two daughters.
Christopher Torockio is the author of two collections of short stories and two novels, most recently The Soul Hunters (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). His fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, The Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly, West Branch, Willow Springs, and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and son in Willimantic, and teaches at Eastern Connecticut State University.
Brittany Walls is a writer from Milford, who fell in love with poetry at age 10. Despite pursuing other side hustles, she kept coming back to the basics. Aside from poetry, she owns a crocheting business, Zorah UnThreaded LLC, which specializes in self-care and confidence building through crochet. Any way she can express herself and share with others makes her happiest!
2020 Anthology Celebrating Nutmeg Writers
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Anthology Reader’s Guide. Central Connecticut State University English Department faculty wrote the guide. It includes study questions and writing prompts on twelve pieces published in the 2020 anthology. The guide was designed for educators, librarians, and book groups. Click to Download the Anthology Guide.
It feels like we have become unglued from one another since March of 2020; masked strangers passing each other in anonymity. But this anthology glues us back together and helps us find ways to heal and talk with one another. Important stories are told, and we should heed them. —Lisa Comstock, Director for Connecticut Center for the Book
This anthology brings together poets, fiction writers, and essayists to create a snapshot of the rich and varied work being done in the Nutmeg State. The voices in this anthology offer us a mirror of our times, reflections of other times, and meditations on the state of our hearts. Readers looking for evidence of Connecticut’s vibrant literary community will find it here. —Sarah P. Strong, The Mouth of Earth
The Connecticut Literary Festival is an annual celebration of the literary arts hosted at Real Art Ways in Hartford. Join us online this Fall to celebrate the vibrant literary scene in the Nutmeg state.