SunJune Literary Collaborative is an independent literary organization dedicated to supporting and celebrating poetry. Based in Asheville, North Carolina, we seek to nourish our beloved local community by hosting in-person poetry readings and events. We also work with writers online and around the country, leading generative and craft-focused workshops, while occasionally providing one-on-one mentorship and editorial services.
From founders Nickole Brown and Jessica Jacobs:
SunJune arose from a desire to pay forward the countless kindnesses and generosities we’ve encountered since our first joint book tour in 2015, shortly after we were married. In Lucinda, our trusty Honda Element, we traveled from city to city giving readings, generously offered lodging and warm welcomes along the way by other writers and readers. From Massachusetts to California we were taken in by the poetry community and offered the kind of support that helped make the impossible happen: a life together, dedicated to poetry.
Now, we spend the majority of our time at home in Asheville but regularly travel, giving readings and teaching at conferences and residencies. Some of the venues where we’ve co-taught include the Writing Workshops in Greece, Poets House, Hugo House, the Poetry Society of North Carolina, the Palm Beach Poetry Festival, 24PearlStreet at The Fine Arts Works Center at Provincetown, and the Sanibel Island Writers Conference.
Drawing on this time together in the classroom with students of all ages and backgrounds, we’ve recently co-authored Write It!, a poetry notebook that consists of a hundred of our most effective poetry prompts to inspire. Due to be published in October 2020, we’ll be teaching a series of online generative workshops based on the prompts in this new book. In keeping with the spirit of SunJune, these sessions will be offered for free and geared towards a wide range of writers of different ages—one session for middle- and high- school students, the other for adult writers of all levels of experience.
Where does SunJune get its name?
The name SunJune comes from countless shared hikes, specifically when the air was rife with a smell we both recognized but could not identify. From Taos to Santa Cruz, from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, and in the mountains of Western North Carolina, we’ve breathed in the same scent, a smell golden and fresh, with an undertone of warm musk. For years, we searched to find a specific plant or tree that spiced the air in that way, but the only constant we identified was the smell was found only in sunny clearings, most often when light poured in through an open canopy. Eventually, preferring the mystery, we stopped searching for the source and created the word sunjune: a name for the smell, and also a name for so many beautiful things, the source of which cannot be explained.
And isn’t this what writers do—try to name the unnamable, to seek out language that newly calls forth the world? So SunJune became the name of our organization, a literary collaborative to encourage noticing such beauty and the endeavor to put it on the page.
What underscores your pedagogy and approach to teaching writing?
Our exercises cultivate a deep practice of awareness, encouraging writers to be noticers and witnesses, refusing to turn away from the things of the world even when they’re difficult to take in or so quotidian they’re easy to overlook. By awareness, we mean awareness as a form of devotion; as a raw, muscular kind of seeking; as an unflinching dedication to scrubbing away one’s preconceived notions of a thing in order to see it for what it really is; as a discipline—the core discipline—of writing.
We view the elements of craft—be it line breaks or syntax or diction—as important but as only one part of writing. Instead, our holistic approach equally emphasizes the life of the writer; for truly, we write who we are: to change our writing, we must change how we live our lives.
Our practices focus on helping writers come back to their senses, in every sense of that phrase. We work to move writing from an experience of the mind alone to one of the entire body—a practice that not only strengthens craft but helps a writer more fully connect to themselves and to others, the people and animals and natural world around them.
*The SunJune logo and banner were designed by Seth Pennington.