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Author’s Corner

We treat the recent works of local authors from independent publishers like national bestsellers by spotlighting them across all our programming and through community collaborations.

Our Spotlighted

June Author

Danielle Ariano

Author of The Requirement of Grief

Danielle's Bio

Danielle Ariano was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, but became a Baltimorean when she moved to the city for college. She was charmed by Baltimore’s quirky, artsy vibe.

Ariano’s forthcoming memoir, The Requirement of Grief, is a meditation on the complexities of the sister bond and the grief that comes when that bond is broken by a sibling’s suicide.  

Ariano received her MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Baltimore. As part of her thesis, she wrote, designed and published her first book, Getting Over the Rainbow, a memoir recounting her humorous and sometimes painful experiences coming out as a lesbian.

Ariano’s work has been published in Salon, Huff Post, Baltimore City Paper, Baltimore Fishbowl, North Dakota Quarterly, Cobalt Review, and Welter. She is a former columnist for Baltimore Gay Life, and she has been featured on WYPR’s radio show, The Signal.

When she is not writing, Ariano works as a cabinetmaker. She has great reverence for the hallowed, dusty smell of a woodshop. She finds it thrilling to see a thing take shape from scratch. She loves trees and all the beautiful patterns that can result in woodgrain from stress, insect damage, or even the loss of a limb. She believes that people are very similar to trees in this respect. She lives in Lutherville, Maryland with her wife, son, and dog.

Synopsis

“I have failed to die thirteen times,” my older sister Alexis Ariano wrote in one of her last journals. Her suicide attempts spanned nearly three decades and had come to be something of an expected crisis in my family. What was not expected was that she’d succeed, but in May of 2016, she did. 

I learned of her death via a phone call from my father. He and my mother found Alexis’ body after returning home from a trip they’d taken to celebrate 46 years of marriage. Within the hour, I was in my car with my wife, Lindsay Nicoll driving from Maryland, to my parents’ home in Pennsylvania, where Alexis had been living for the previous two years due to her chronic and ever more debilitating mental illnesses. The next few days were busy with numerous appointments: meetings with an arrogant priest, a compassionate undertaker, and an elfish man with a magnificent comb over who sold cemetery plots for a living. By Friday, four days after my parents had found Alexis’ body, her cremains were buried. 

What came next was my reckoning with grief as I wrestled with how to grieve the loss of a sister who had long ago become a stranger to me; a sister with whom I had a relationship that was sometimes ghastly and damaging and other times beautiful and sustaining. 

Long lost memories of Alexis flooded my brain after her death, and for the first time many years, I yearned for the sister I once knew, while still trying to remember the sister that she had become—terrified that if I forgot the bad parts of her, I would never forgive myself for all the ways I failed to love her. Alongside my own grief, I had a worrisome front row seat to my parents’ anguish, which seemed every day to be carrying them on separate tracks to distant, remote locations: a father ready to purge his daughter’s belongings and a mother desperate to hold on to everything and unable to accept the reality of Alexis’ suicide. 

Just as I was getting my footing under the weight of my grief, my world was changed once again five months later when Lindsay got pregnant with our first child. A flood of joyous emotions to swept over me, but they did nothing to alleviate my grief. Indeed, even when I held my son in my arms for the very first time, I was stunned to realize that, even then, the grief did not leave my body. As years passed and my life began, in the recalcitrant way that life always does, to continue on—tentatively and guiltily at first and then willingly, I was forced to understand that my body not only could contain both of these overpowering emotions at once, but indeed it must.

Excerpt

My father meets us at the door. Seeing his pained expression cuts through the hazy, dreamlike aura I’ve been enveloped in since getting the call. It’s as if a magician has pulled a blanket off of an enormous ball of sorrow inside of me and set it rolling down a steep hill. It gathers momentum and then there is no stopping it. When my father and I hug, we begin to weep violently, our bodies shaking. We hold each other in a fierce embrace until it feels as if the sorrow has reached the bottom and the frenzied energy comes to a gradual stop. 

My father turns to Lindsay. “Thank you for coming,” he says as he leans in and hugs her. 

“I’m so sorry,” she says into his shoulder. 

When they separate, I study him. Aside from his red eyes, he doesn’t look different. If I met him on the street, I’d never guess that he’d just lost his daughter. His dark, earth-colored shirt is tucked into his pants. He wears Nikes. Nikes. I’m not sure what I’d expected, but not sneakers. Not the kind of shoe that you wear to exercise. 

“What did the note say?” I ask. I’ve decided that there’s no sense in putting it off. 

“It just said that she loved us and to tell you she loved you.” 

I squint, trying to decide whether or not I believe my father. Would he lie to me if it said something horrible? Would he lie to protect me? 

“I want to see it.”

“The police took it.”

Blurbs

The Requirement of Grief left me floored—and I will be forever transformed. Pain is universal, and Ariano’s prose perfectly articulates the rollercoaster of emotions we confront in the grieving process, showing us that we are not alone. I highly recommend that you not only read this book but use it as a tool to give yourself grace and to understand that healing takes time.”

-D Watkins, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Cook Up and Black Boy Smile 

 

“In The Requirement of Grief, Ariano employs exquisite language to create a beautifully rendered account of her beloved sister’s suicide and her own hard-won healing. Encompassing all facets of survivorship, The Requirement of Grief explores a tragedy that touches many yet is rarely looked at with such clarity and honesty. Ariano’s deft use of language and fast-paced structure create a story that will leave family members with hope.”

-Susan Kushner Resnick, author of Goodbye Wife & Daughters and You Saved Me, Too

Our Spotlighted

May Author

Amanda Shaw

Author of It Will Have Been So Beautiful

Amanda's Bio

Amanda set out into the world with a vague idea of what was ahead. At each juncture, the desire to write returned. After two decades of teaching, she got her Master’s degree in Poetry from the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson. Amanda is the book review editor for Lily Poetry Review, a member of the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, and a frequent contributor to Warren Wilson’s DC alumni community. Her debut poetry collection, It Will Have Been So Beautiful, will be published in March by Lily Poetry Review Books.

Synopsis

With urgency and compassion, humor and wonder, Amanda Shaw’s debut poetry collection, “It Will Have Been So Beautiful” examines the many dimensions of what it means to call anything “home,” including the earth as we know it. In a manner reminiscent of Eugène Atget, who wrote “will disappear” on his photographs of turn-of-the-century Paris, Shaw captures the unique melancholy of living in a time of unknowable change. At times playful and ironic, the poems celebrate language’s sonic capacities, probing art’s potential to move us from mourning to joy.

Excerpt

Far from New Hampshire 

 

As children we must have often walked 

along the low stone walls

on the way to Mrs. Foote’s orchard, and yes, 

 

I see my brother

seared by light in a field of weeds 

contemplating a perfect buttercup 

 

and in my hand a milkweed pod,

seed-floss tinged with green and clinging— 

 

my brother who though a gentle boy 

terrorized the kitten we got as consolation 

after the divorce 

 

picking her up again and again 

until she hid for days

and I was furious. 

 

He kept saying he was trying not to 

but couldn’t help it

and I knew it, 

 

he had a little too much love in him

and the count of who he had to give it to 

was down; but see 

 

I’d suffered the same 

diminution

and just because he was smaller 

 

I had to learn to let the kitten go 

so he could learn to move on.

 

 

Blurbs

“It Will Have Been So Beautiful, Amanda Shaw’s wonderful debut, is as interested in language itself as what language can make. Energetic, deploying a rich vernacular and music, her collection sings, even, or perhaps especially, in the midst of the most challenge or difficulty. “This shouldn’t be beautiful,” she writes, but to the contrary, it is.” 

– Nathan McClain, author of Previously Owned

 

“It takes a special talent to write “big” poems—sprawling, associative, dotted with historic and cultural reference—that are simultaneously intimate, vulnerable, and funny. Amanda Shaw walks that tightrope, understanding “The world created / to comprehend itself / is weedy.” Yet It Will Have Been So Beautiful is also an embodiment of our shared desire to know and be known, and filled with stubborn joys.”

–  Sandra Beasley, author of Made to Explode: Poems

 

 

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