Carol Kammen

Carol Kammen is the Tompkins County Historian. She is the author of Glorious to View, Part & Apart, and First Person Cornell, and she’s written essays for The Ithaca Journal since 1978. She has also taught at Ithaca High School, TC3, and Cornell University.

Carol Kammen (Jason Koski Cornell University Photography)

  1. What made you want to publish in the anthology?  

Jack Hopper, one of the editors, asked me if I would write something for the anthology.

  1. What made you want to submit this piece in particular?

I have thought a great deal about this area and about regionalism and about the arbitrary lines on the land that often turn out to be actual demarcations. I don’t mean rivers, which are physical boundaries, but rather how entering New York from Ohio we really do enter a different space, or going from New York into Pennsylvania, the land and the signs, the culture seen, the architecture is different. As it is different from what is now called Leatherstocking country over near Lake Otsego  and here: different origins, different spacing on the land. I like the distinctiveness of place.

  1. You’ve created the “One Day in Ithaca” write-in event, which you ran in 1988 and again in 2013. How much do you feel that Ithaca has changed in those 25 years?

We all can see the changes. Some are very positive, some not so much so. For many years, Ithacans talked about how to span the Inlet and now, after years of discussions, some disputes, many permissions and funding sought and gained, we have bridges that make the crossing easy. The area used to be called The Octopus, a word not much heard anymore. There are many changes but what the two studies showed, from 1988 and 2013 is that many people love this area and even if they leave they find a way to return; then there are many of us who come and do not leave.

  1. What made you want to study the history of Tompkins County? Are there any central issues your research focuses on?

I have always been interested in discovering the people left out of history, so I have studied women of the past, people who come from various ethnicities and how those ethnic ties are kept going and what remains, the history of African Americans. This is not to discount the standard figures in history, the healthy, wealthy and wise, but to see who else is in the picture.

  1. When did you start writing? What were your first writings like?

I have been writing essays for the Ithaca Journal since 1977.

  1. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to walk and to take drives through the area.

  1. How can readers learn more about you? Do you have any social media accounts?

No media accounts, except for the Historian’s Page on the Tompkins County Website.

Many thanks!

Buffalo Street Books Reading

Hello everyone,

We had our second and final reading on 11/15 at Buffalo Street Books. We were once again amazed at how much of the community came out to celebrate this collection of good writing, and we appreciate your support greatly. Another 10 authors read, but Rhian Ellis introduced the event this time as well.

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If you can’t tell, her socks are printed with cats wearing glasses. I think that they’re adorable.

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Our first author up was Carol Kammen, who wrote the introduction in the anthology. She is the Tompkins County Historian.

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Brad Edmondson read second, and to learn more about him, you should check out the interview I did with him!

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Alison Lurie was our third author to read. She’s won a Pulitzer Prize for her novel Foreign Affairs, and she’s lived near Cayuga Lake for over fifty years.

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James McConkey is a professor emeritus at Cornell, and he has lived in the Ithaca area since 1956!

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David Warren has lived in the Ithaca area since he was six. He’s published three novels, all of which take place in upstate New York.

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Our sixth author was Kathryn Howd Machan, who read from her short story in the anthology. She’s a professor at Ithaca College.

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Mingfong Ho received a Caldecott Honor, and ALA Best Book for Young Adults, and the South-East Asian Write award. After studying Mandarin in Taiwan, she attended Cornell University, and she has lived in Ithaca ever since.

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Fred Wilcox is a former Ithaca College professor, and he’s written six books. He’s edited two more.

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Gerard Cox read from his extremely moving memoir in the anthology, “A Certain Slant of Light.” Although he was a college professor, and he was an administrator at Cornell, he is now happily retired.

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Finally, Ira Rabois read. He taught middle and high school students at the Lehman Alternative Community School and he is also the head instructor at Washin-Ryu’s Karate-Do.

In total, it was a great event, and as always, we’re exceedingly grateful for the support the community is showing us.

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From the left: Edward Hower, Peter Fortunato, Jack Hopper, Taylor Steinberg (me), and Rhian Ellis

Katharyn Howd Machan

Katharyn Howd Machan is a professor of writing at Ithaca College. She’s published 32 collections and has had poems appear in textbooks, anthologies, and magazines, and in 2002, she was Tompkins County’s first poet laureate. She also has an alter ego as Zajal the belly dancer, and she likes to combine poetry with dance.

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1. What made you want to publish in the anthology?

I have faith in the editors and the press!

2. What made you want to submit this piece in particular?

It is the strongest short story I have written. I am primarily a poet.

3. Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

Yes: the narrator. The depiction of place and family draws directly from a summer evening in my life.

4. On your faculty page, it says that your specialty is poetry. Are writing poetry and fiction different for you?

In my forty years of teaching I have learned to write the first drafts of poems in “stolen moments.” For fiction I need rarely obtained stretches of time.

5. When did you start writing? What were your first writings like?

Poetry has been my core since 1967. In high school and college and in both stints of my graduate work I also wrote fiction (no student papers=the requisite stretches of time). First writings? Even as a teen I drew upon fairy tales—and, of course, let’s not forget the now-dismissable hundreds and hundreds of poems about love.

6. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I balance my life (literally) with belly dancing, which has been a big part of my life since 1979. Walking to enjoy nature is also very important. I used to take photos all the time until digital cameras eradicated my enjoyment in doing so. Enjoying home with my spouse Eric Machan Howd is core to my happiness.

7. How can readers learn more about you? Do you have any social media accounts?

The phrase “social media account” makes me gag forlornly. I don’t even have a web page beyond the one created by the Department of Writing at Ithaca College. Egad: phone? (607-274-3325). Or letter? (P.O. Box 456, Ithaca, NY  14851-0456). Or the ubiquitous and overwhelming email: machan@ithaca.edu.

Wonderful, thanks Katharyn!