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Sandi Sonnenfeld

Fiction & Creative Nonfiction

CUTTING FEDERAL FUNDING OF THE ARTS & HUMANITIES SHORT-SIGHTED

This piece originally appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal on March 22, 2017

Also see Currents, which is put out by the The Benjamin Center at SUNY New Paltz which commented on my thoughts.

With crucial federal programs like the ACA, EPA, Planned Parenthood and Medicaid under attack by the Trump Administration, it may be easy to overlook some of the other domestic programs slated for elimination. Yet the proposed budget President Trump introduced this week calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). Under the CPB’s auspices, local NPR and PBS stations offer the only free broadcast venues dedicated solely to the presentation of accurate news, arts and educational programming.

The elimination of federal funding for the arts and humanities is especially problematic for those of us who live in the Hudson Valley. According to a SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach study, Mid-Hudson arts & culture organizations attract 2.6 million day and one million overnight visitors to the region each year, injecting $498 million directly into our local economy every year. The local arts scene also directly and indirectly employs nearly 5000 residents. In Dutchess, Ulster and Orange Counties, Arts Mid-Hudson helps provide grants to 393 organizations and individual artists.  Guess where much of Arts Mid-Hudson’s funding comes from?  From the New York Council for the Arts, which is funded by New York State and yes, the NEA.

Continue reading “CUTTING FEDERAL FUNDING OF THE ARTS & HUMANITIES SHORT-SIGHTED”

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On the Transformative Power of Fiction

childrenreading
Photo by Sandi Sonnenfeld

168 Books Worth Reading

My mother said I was a late reader. Since I didn’t start to talk until I was three years old (though when I did so I supposedly skipped the typical baby talk and went straight to full sentences), I guess that isn’t surprising. I didn’t begin reading until I was seven, which isn’t all that usual, but given that two of my older siblings began reading as early as four, it probably seemed delayed to my parents. Either way, I certainly made up for it, as by the time I was eight, I had already read both The Secret Garden and the entire More-of-a- Kind-of-Family series (if you are not familiar with that group of novels, think of them as the Jewish version of the Little House books—only set in the Lower East Side rather than the pioneer towns of Minnesota) at least three times.

Writers are first and foremost readers. Like with any other craft, it helps to study with masters who can show you how to maximize your tools. Luckily, for writers, all you need is a library card and your free apprenticeship can begin.

I do know that my parents made sure that my siblings and I participated in the summer reading program at our local public library in elementary school, whereby participants were expected to read at least one book each week for 10 weeks. I recall the children’s librarian asking my mother to withdraw me from the summer program at the end of third grade because I plowed my way through 10 novels during the first week and it made the other students “feel bad” to already see my name at the end of the “race track” posted to the wall of the children’s reading room that charted each kid’s progress when the program had just began. Continue reading “On the Transformative Power of Fiction”

Short Story: We Would Have Had Wings

mallards on the move
Public domain image from Gateringe.com. Credit: Noah Kahn, USFWS

Intellectual Refuge recently published a favorite story of mine, We Would Have Had Wings, after nearly a 10-year search to find it a home.  One reason I like this story is that I experienced a shift in my writing when I wrote this–a move away from internal narrative and man-made structures to ground my characters in the more natural world.  Since then I found myself routinely drawing on nature and animal behavior to help my protagonists better understand the worlds they inhabit.  For someone who grew up in the suburbs and spent my entire adult life in cities, drawing on natural elements has been a refreshing and welcome change.

Chris Schneider, editor of the online zine Intellectual Refuge, continues to be a strong supporter of both my fiction and creative nonfiction.  For this, I thank him most gratefully and encourage people to support the magazine.

As a member of Authors United, I am actively involved in our attempt to persuade the Antitrust Division of the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into Amazon.com’s anti-competitive behavior when it comes to both the sale and production of books.  To better understand what’s at stake please review the following links:

Authors and booksellers pressure FTC to investigate Amazon
Authors turn up noses at Amazon’s all you can eat books

Short Story: That American Thing

tin lizzy

 

The Jewish Literary Journal, the only online zine that publishes all genres of creative writing on Jewish themes and Jewish identities, has just published one of my short stories, “That American Thing,” which is very loosely based on stories my father used to tell me about how my grandparents met when they first immigrated to America.  I was well into my teens before I understood that my father often stretched the truth a bit when it came to our family’s history, so perhaps it’s not all that surprising that I grew up to be a teller of story.  You can read the story in its entirety here.

Amazon Destroying American Publishing

When NYC’s Coliseum Books finally went under two years ago, it seemed impossible that so great an indie located adjacent to Bryant Park and the main branch of the New York Public Library on Fifth and 42nd Street, couldn’t stay solvent given how much foot traffic passed by its door each day.  But that is what Amazon and other online retailers have brought us to–readers are just passing by in favor of cheaply produced and all too often, poorly written, e-books that have completely devalued the writing and editing professions. Gone is the joy of book browsing, that exciting moment when you go into a bookstore and see that your favorite author has a new novel out in hardcover.  Gone too is that great frisson of pleasure when you could run your finger over each of the covers on the table displaying recently issued paperbacks, murmuring to yourself–“got it, got it, read it, read it, wow, this looks great, I have to get this one; ick, not another one by her–oh, no, not yet another novel about vampires….” Continue reading “Amazon Destroying American Publishing”

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