• Q&A With Cecily Sailer

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    Recently I got the chance to ask some questions of Cecily Sailer, Education Programs Manager for Badgerdog Literary Publishing in Austin. Badgerdog runs writing programming for youth and adults, and also publishes the literary magazine American Short Fiction.

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    Q. Tell me a bit about Badgerdog’s programs for youth and adults.

    A. This is a large part of the work we do. Our overarching goal is to build literary communities here in Central Texas (and beyond). In both our youth and senior programs, we bring professional and practicing writers into classrooms and community spaces to lead creative writing workshops. In these workshops, our teaching artists introduce writers of all skill levels to classic and contemporary texts, and these poems/stories/plays become inspiration for the writing that happens in the classroom. A good amount of workshop time is also reserved for sharing the work created each day by reading aloud at the end of class.

    We also host reading events for all of our writers, allowing them the opportunity to share their work with a larger public. Why should amazing poems and stories sit idly in a notebook?

    Finally, all of our writers have the opportunity to publish their work in our anthologies, Youth Voices in Ink and Silver Voices in Ink, which are published annually. The reading events and publications are a large part of the community-building process I mentioned earlier. It’s risky when we put our work out there, but this is how we discover and rediscover the people we know (and don’t know) and the larger world we live in.

    I should also mention that, in addition to our education programs, we publish American Short Fiction, a nationally distributed, award-winning literary journal released quarterly. This publication truly delivers some of the finest new fiction out there, and it reaches readers across the country.


    Q. It’s really great that you guys foster a community for writers that pays so much special attention to sharing the work that is being done. There are so many writers out there with such great talent who would otherwise not have a chance to share their work, I’m sure.

    You mentioned American Short Fiction. Besides publishing the journal, what does the relationship between Badgerdog and ASF look like? That is, is there an exchanging of ideas, planning of events, etc., that goes on there?

    A. That goal of building literary communities is what unites American Short Fiction and our education programs. Whether in the classroom or through the connection of great writers with a national readership—we believe that reading, writing, and great literature foster powerful connections (and conversations) among people who might otherwise remain unknown to one another. Certainly American Short Fiction and the education programs differ in their day-to-day activities, but we are always guided by our shared values, and we are always contemplating how these two ends of the organization can collaborate.

    We also see ASF and the writers-in-the-schools program as two ends of a larger literary continuum. Where the education programs work largely with young writers, bringing the literary arts into communities and schools with diminished access to arts programming, American Short Fiction provides opportunities for emerging and established writers to find their readership and to gain deserved recognition.

    I will say that we while we host events specific to our programs or to the journal publication, we also support one another in every endeavor. You’ll typically find the entire Badgerdog staff at all of our events–ASF launch parties, community-wide readings for students, or the LitCrawl ASF helped organize as part of the Texas Book Festival. We are also in regular conversation about how we–both the writers-in-the schools program and ASF–can best live up to our shared mission.


    Q. In addition, I understand that Badgerdog holds workshops at WriteByNight. What happens on Second Saturdays?

    A. On Second Saturdays we colonize a portion of WriteByNight’s stylish work space and fill it with as many as 12 young writers and one Badgerdog Instructor. Then the group spends two hours getting creative, reading poetry or fiction, talking about how writing works, and writing new pieces with specific themes or within a specific genre.

    Last month, for example, we hosted a workshop called Creatures & Characters for third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade writers. Our instructor, Cara, brought in Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings, a stunning encyclopedia of mythical beings that makes the imagination drool. This became inspiration for the students’ own writing. To get started, they talked about what kind of details they would need for a creature/character of their own making–the creature’s lifestyle, beliefs, fears, movements, etc. And then the writing began!

    This past Saturday we had a workshop on graphic storytelling for middle-school writers, and in January we’ll be doing collage/found poetry with elementary-school writers. We see these classes as a great way to reach students we don’t get the chance to work with during the school year or as part of our summer camp. The workshops are fun for everyone involved–the writers, our instructor, our volunteers. It’s a great way to start the weekend. And we’re so grateful to WriteByNight for letting us set up shop for a few hours each month!


    Aundraya Ruse recently moved to the Austin area after graduating with a B.A. in English (creative writing focus) from Texas Tech University. Catch her on Twitter here.

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