In Defense Of…

Confession: for a few months, I pondered ending the reading series that I’ve been running for over five years, The Writers’ Showcase. The series has undergone a lot since its inception, including three venue changes and a co-host who moved to Philadelphia. However, after talking to writer friends from across the county, I’ve decided to keep it going. I’m grateful to them for sparking my motivation to keep doing this thing. We’ve had a lot of conversations about the Trump age and what this means for the arts, namely if the NEA and NHE are totally defunded, which has been proposed in the Trump budget. No matter the fate of those organizations, it is imperative that we keep these local reading series going as a means to give a voice to writers. Writers have always been a form of resistance, and we need to ensure that we have spaces and series to make their work available to the public. With that in mind, I am going to host another edition of the Writers’ Showcase in April, and we’re thrilled about the line-up, which is included on the flyer below. I am also committing myself to continue writing book reviews for other writers. My goal is to write 4-6 reviews a year, a schedule I’ve been able to keep up with over the last few years and one I think I can maintain. Here is a new review I wrote of Patrick T. Reardon’s book Requiem for David, which I highly recommend. I was not familiar with his work until the editor of At the Inkwell asked me if I wanted to review it. Another goal for me is to review books of authors I’m not familiar with, as a way to expose myself to work outside of my usual circle and do the same for others.

Let’s think about ways that we can continue supporting our local art scenes because we really need that right now.

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When it gets closer to the date, I will post the bios of our featured writers for April.

New Review

I wanted to share a review written by Dante Di Stefano for Waiting to the Dead to Speak, published by Arcadia Press. I am grateful for this thoughtful review and the context Dante places the book in, post-election, namely the class issues. You can check it out here.  Here is an exert:

The Scranton, Pennsylvania of Waiting for the Dead to Speak, a place freighted with pasts and vanishings, could be anywhere in Middle America; Fanelli’s poetry mainlines anthracite and coal dust, caked in creosote and lye, in order to deliver a rustbelt bucolic in which empathy outflanks hate.

Next post, I’ll reflect on 2016, and share some of my favorite films and books of the year.

Something Worth Celebratin


Tonight, we’re celebrating five years of the Writers’ Showcase Reading Series in Scranton. I hear that there will be cupcakes. There will also be featured readers taking  the stage to share their work. I’m going to get a little sentimental for a moment. The Writers’ Showcase has undergone three different venue locations. Yes, three! We started out at New Visions Studio and Gallery, a wonderful space in downtown Scranton that closed its doors about two years after we started the reading series. Then, we moved to the Vintage Theater, also downtown. Unfortunately, that venue closed a few months after we relocated. Last year, we found a new venue, the Olde Brick Theatre. They have been incredibly supportive of everything we do.

Since the series started, we’ve mixed local writers with regional and national writers. We’ve had features come from as far away as Boston and Chicago, yes Chicago, to take part in a reading series in Scranton, of all places. My original co-host and co-organizer, Jason Lucarelli, wanted to start this series with me because there were few reading series in Scranton back in 2011. The city was also in MUCH worse financial condition than it is now. At the time, Scranton made national headlines because the mayor had to temporarily pay city workers minimum wage, due to the city’s debt and distressed status. Now, five years later, the city is almost out of distressed status, in part, because it sold off a lot of its assets, including the Parking Authority and Sewer Authority. There are no more headlines on NPR or Fox News about the city’s crisis, thank goodness.

Perhaps more importantly, the downtown has a different look. Back in 2011, there were entire blocks of downtown with vacant storefronts, especially on Lackawanna Avenue. Now, most of those empty storefronts have been filled. Last night, after I had a reading during the First Friday Art Walk, I marveled at how many boutiques have spread through the downtown, from Penn Avenue to Spruce Street. I also took a moment to feel grateful that a poetry reading on a Friday night had so many people at it. Even more people flooded  a holiday market held at the location of a former popular department store, The Globe. This says something about the potential this city has.

Scranton’s future still has yet to be determined. It still has many obstacles to overcome, namely matters of long-term employment prospects for young people, but the city has changed since the Writers’ Showcase Reading Series started five years ago. The downtown has more businesses and restaurants. There is a community of young artists trying to create something here. The city is moving forward with paying off its debts and getting out of its distressed status.

Tonight, we’re going to celebrate five years of a reading series that has connected national writers with local ones. We’re also going to celebrate the progress the city has made.

New Review/Upcoming Readings

I want to thank fellow poet Matthew Hamilton for this new review of Waiting for the Dead to Speak. Since Matthew is a vet, I appreciate his close analysis of some of my poems that deal with war from the perspective of a civilian who had friends that had to do two or three tours in Iraq. I am also grateful for the closing words of his review:

I admire Fanelli’s bravery enormously. This is not an arrogant poet seeking recognition. Fanelli writes from a sympathetic and forgiving heart. He encourages us to stand fast, to claw our way out of the disillusioned and absurd world of the rabbit hole.

I also want to note that the Scranton book launch is coming up this Friday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at the Olde Brick Theatre. This month, specifically within the next two weeks, I have readings in Reading, Scranton, Boston, and NYC. Here are the dates and info:

Thursday, October 6 2016 6-8 p.m.

First Thursday Poetry Night

GoggleWorks Center for the Arts, Reading, PA

Friday, October 7 2016 7-9 p.m.

Scranton Launch Party for Waiting for the Dead to Speak

Old Bricke Theatre, 126 W. Market Street, Scranton, PA

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Newtown Publishing Center Showcase

289 Elliott Street,  Newtown Upper Falls, MA

Thursday, October 12 2016 7-9 p.m.

Poetry Night at the KGB Bar

KGB Bar, New York, New York

I will be one of the featured poets this evening.

Here is a flyer for the reading in Boston. I’m grateful to have two book launches within one weekend!



Thinking of NEPA, Thinking of Its Poets

Thursday evening was a celebration of the northeast, Pennsylvania literary community. The evening marked the release of an anthology I had opportunity to co-edit, Down the Dog Hole: 11 Poets on Northeast PennsylvaniaWe gathered at Keystone College in La Plume to read from the book, but also to mark the relaunch of Nightshade Press. An English professor at Lackawanna College, I was happy to see folks from other local colleges present, including Penn State Worthington-Scranton and Wilkes University. My hope is to continue to see this community grow among the colleges because we do far better when we support each other.

I’ve always struggled with my identity as it pertains to NEPA. As a teen, I couldn’t wait to get out of here, especially when the punk rock venues I hung out in  high school closed. They were my only refuge in the area, places I could go where I didn’t feel like an outcast. They got me interested in writing, music, and art. I escaped to college outside Philly and spent most of my weekends hanging in the city, record shopping, book shopping, and reading some of my first poems (very bad drafts) at the Philly area open mics. I cut my teeth in the poetry community in Philly and still keep close connections to that area today. Graduate school brought me back here, and I stayed. At this point, I’m grateful for the chance to teach what I love at Lackawanna College and to help foster the growing literary community here.

As I listened to nine other poets read from the anthology the other night, I was reminded how much there is to mine in this area. One of the poems in the book references John Mitchell, the labor leader who lead mining strikes in the early 20th century and met with Teddy Roosevelt for labor negotiations. Other poems celebrate the natural beauty of this area. Now that I’m older, I’m more comfortable with my place as a poet as it pertains to my native area. As I joined friends the other evening to celebrate this literary community, I was reminded how much has yet to be written about this area. The anthology is a nice start.









Down the Dog Hole We Go!

I have been sitting on this news for weeks and weeks now, but I am happy to announce that Scranton-based poet Tom Blomain and I recently edited an anthology called Down the Dog Hole, featuring 11-NEPA based poet writing about the greater Scranton region. The book will be out in the coming weeks through Nightshade Press of Keystone College. On Sept. 22, we will have a book launch at Keystone College, and we have a scheduled Scranton launch for Oct. 14 at the Library Express.

The featured poets include: David Elliott, Dawn Leas, Craig Czury, Erin Delaney, Jane Honchell, Susan Luckstone Jaffer, Nancy Dymond, Laurel Radzieski, Amanda J. Bradley, Tom Blomain, and I.

Here is a picture of the front cover. I will post a pic of the back cover, too, once I have a high res copy.

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Writer’s Showcase: August Edition!

I just want to give a quick shout-out to the fine folks at Electric/Diamond City for the wonderful write-up on the August edition of the Writer’s Showcase at the Old Brick Theater in Scranton. I’m thrilled we got to sit down with them for an interview and photo shoot. This reading series continues to grow, and I couldn’t be more proud. Check out the article here.

The reading will take place this Saturday from 7-9 p.m. Admission is $4. The Old Brick Theater is located at 126 W. Market Street in Scranton. I couldn’t be more excited about this edition’s line-up! Check out their bios:

Carrie Reilly is a genderqueer poet from Philadelphia and host of Wild Mischief: A Reading Series & Literary Gathering. Carrie earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University and has had poems published in Apiary Magazine and My Favorite Bullet, as well as the collective chapbook, “Bodies of Fire,” with poets Julia C. Alter and Julia Perch.

Raymond P. Hammond served over twenty-five years as a law enforcement officer at the National Park Service. He is editor-in-chief of The New York Quarterly Foundation and the author of Poetic Amusement, a book of literary criticism. He is also an adjunct professor at Keystone College and is the faculty advisor for Keystone College Press.

William Black’s short fiction has appeared in The Southern Review, Threepenny Review, Crazyhorse, The Sun Magazine, Harvard Review, and more than twenty other journals and magazines, and a collection of stories, Inheritances, came out in the spring of 2015. He lives in Scranton and teaches creative writing and world literature at the Johns Hopkins University.

Sarah Zane Lewis is a poet and science geek from Scranton, PA. She is the recipient of the Delta Epsilon Sigma National Writing Prize in Poetry, the J. Harold Brislin Medal for Distinction in Creative Writing, the Sister M. Charitas Loftus Medal for Excellence in Poetry, and a National Science Foundation Research Experience in biochemistry. The author of two chapbooks and several limited edition graphic poems, her work has also appeared in Pulp, and the recent SwanDive Press anthology, Everyday Escape Poems. Sarah Zane founded Seattle’s Word of Mouth poetry series, and featured at the Seattle Poetry Festival, the Seattle Poetry Slam, the National Poetry Slam, the Bumbershoot Music Festival and was the 2001 Bumberslam Champion. Sarah Zane served as Scoring Director for the National Poetry Slam, has coached a youth slam team at Brave New Voices, and mentored young writers through the Emerging Voice program. She holds a B.S. in Biotechnology and a lifetime membership to Trapeze School New York.

Kaylie Jones is the author of the acclaimed memoir, Lies My Mother Never Told Me (2009). Her novels include A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries, which was released as a Merchant Ivory Film in 1998; Celeste Ascending (2001); and Speak Now (2004). She is the author of numerous book reviews and articles, which have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Paris Review, the Washington Post, Confrontation Magazine, and others. She is the editor of the anthology Long Island Noir (2012). Her latest novel, The Anger Meridian, was published in July 2015. Kaylie has been teaching for more than 25 years, including at Southampton College’s MFA Program in Writing, and in the low residency MFA Program in Professional Writing at Wilkes University. She co-chairs the James Jones First Novel Fellowship, which awards $10,000 yearly to an unpublished first novel. Her latest endeavor is her imprint with Akashic Books, Kaylie Jones Books, a writer’s collective in which the authors play a fundamental part in their own publishing process.

Goodbye, Vintage Theater

Unfortunately, another all-ages art venue in Scranton is closing its doors. The Vintage Theater will officially close at the end of this month. A goodbye bash will be held on August 30 at 6 p.m. As a board member, I can’t even begin to express my disappointment and sorrow to see yet another venue close in the community. I can’t even begin to describe the importance of venues like The Vintage to communities like Scranton. When I was in high school, I found solace at another all-ages venue, Cafe Del Soul, which closed its doors during my senior year. It was there that I discovered the punk rock community, activism, poetry, and the broader art community. I am sure that The Vintage provided that for a lot of people in the greater Scranton/Wilkes-Barre community, and I can only hope another venue will open soon.

As a writer, The Vintage has been incredibly important to me. I had the book launch for Front Man there in the fall of 2010 and more recently, I had the release party for All That Remains there last fall. Conor and Theresa, the venue owners, were always there for the art community, and when New Visions Studio and Gallery closed last year, they were gracious enough to allow Jason Lucarelli and I to move the Writers’ Showcase there. We had two readings there, one last March and one in July. Both were well-attended, and all of the writers, especially the ones that came from our of town, had positive things to say about the venue and the greater Scranton community. Furthermore, the venue hosted a local writing group there each Saturday and had a monthly open mic for writers. All of this comes on top of the countless art, music, and theater events the venue had over the years.

If you’re in the area, or even if you moved out of the area, come say goodbye to the venue on August 30 at 6 p.m. and thank Conor and Theresa in person for the positive impact they had on the community.

About That Study

While I was away on vacation last week, a lot of my local friends spread this article via social media by The Citizens’ Voice.

The article pertains to a study done by economists at Harvard University and the University of British Columbia Canada. The study found that the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metro area is the unhappiest region in the U.S. Here is what the article states:

Economists with Harvard University and the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, looked at telephone polls from 2005 to 2009 organized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among a slew of health and lifestyle questions was, “How satisfied are you with your life?”

At least 300,000 people in the U.S. answered that question each year. The study’s authors picked 177 metro areas that garnered at least 200 respondents each year. Even controlling for age, race, gender and other demographic factors, Northeastern Pennsylvanians were most likely in the country to tell pollsters their lives are unsatisfying.

Everyone knows the rust belt regions lack jobs, and that’s nothing new. Yet, as my friend Charlotte Lewis pointed out in the article, this area has a fairly strong artistic community. For the last three years, I’ve hosted a reading series and brought in writers from around the northeast region and from as far away as Chicago, and all of them were impressed by the city and the reading series. Furthermore, there are countless other literary events in the area, including open mics at The Vintage, open mics at Embassy Vinyl, locally produced plays, not to mention the visiting authors that the local colleges host. In addition, there’s a strong First Friday art walk in downtown Scranton and now a Third Friday art walk in Wilkes-Barre that is only growing. There’s a local music scene, and there’s easy access to NYC via bus. Philly is just a two hour car ride, while Boston and DC are only a few hours away, too. So, I’m unsure why people complain about the area so much. It’s certainly not lacking in terms of things to do or its access to other cities. The economy is troubled, yes, but that is nothing knew in the rust belt region of the U.S.

If people feel unhappy, then why don’t they do something about it? I have countless friends that have started wonderful artistic events in this area, but what about those that just complain about everything? If they’re fed up with the politics, then why not run for city council, county office, or school board? If they think there’s nothing to do, then why don’t they start something?

I’m glad that some of the quotes in the article praised what there is to do here and the growing artistic community. I feel fortunate to live in a place that has reading series, art walks, theater, several colleges, and short car rides to major East Coast cities.