Jan Bowman

Entry # 198 – J. C. Elkin – on World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom.

J.C. (Jane Cynewski) Elkin 
World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom
February 1, 2014 – Book Launch
J. C. Elkin


About J.C. (Jane) Elkin


A graduate of Bates College and Southern Connecticut State University, Jane Elkin is the founder and facilitator of The Broadneck Writers’ Workshop, as well as a theater critic and essayist for the Bay Weekly. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction have appeared in such journals as Kansas City Voices, Empirical, Kestrel, Off the Coast, Ducts, and anthologies by the Harvard Bookstore and River Run Books. She is a Pushcart nominee and has won awards with the Maryland Writers’ Association, Poetry Matters, and the Poetry Society of New Hampshire. A self-proclaimed Renaissance Woman, she works as a language teacher, singer, and handwriting analyst.



Jan:    Tell me about this collection of poetry. What inspired you to write these?
J. C. Elkin:     World Class: Poems Inspired by the ESL Classroom is a collection of fifteen poems, mostly narratives in accentual verse, illustrating the struggles and triumphs of adult English language learners. It addresses not only their linguistic challenges and culture shock, but broader social issues, as well, such as poverty, spousal abuse, religious traditions, illegal immigration, lost opportunities, the role of women in other cultures, and the mental scars of war. Their stories are heart-breaking, uplifting, and tinged with unexpected humor. Through their eyes, I have come to see our world and their place in it in a new light, and I wanted to share my understanding with the rest of America.


Launch Date – Feb. 1, 2014

Jan:    What has amazed you about the process of writing and publishing?  

J. C. Elkin:    It all happened so fast! Once I wrote the first poem, which I had been stumbling over as a failed prose piece for over a year, the rest of the poems tumbled from me like ripe pears from a tree. The collection was complete in two months. Then I submitted it to one well-researched publisher and received my acceptance letter within six weeks.


Jan:    You teach ESL classes which for those who might not know, ESL stands for English as a Second Language, and you sing with The Renaissance Singers of Annapolis. How does singing and teaching influence your poetry?  

J. C. Elkin:    Great question! As a singer and language teacher, I am very attuned to the intonation and stress patterns of spoken language, and I incorporate these observations not only into my language lessons but also into my poetry, in both formal and unstructured works. I could no more turn off the innate rhythm inside me than I could stop breathing.


Jan:    Do you have any tips to share about how you’ve prepared for your book launch, signings and interviews?
J. C. Elkin:    Shameless self-promotion, as an acting friend of mine calls it, requires organization and chutzpah. I’m not especially nervy, but I believe in my book and enjoy talking about it. As a former librarian, I have the organization part down pat – 80 requests for literary journal reviews have so far yielded six positive responses. WRNR in West Virginia interviewed me last week, and I’m meeting with Lisa Morgan of WYPR’s The Signal this week. In addition to my book launch at The Annapolis Bookstore on February 7 at 7pm, I have readings scheduled at Zu Coffee in Annapolis on Feb. 28 at 6:30pm and at the Broadneck Public Library on April 29 at 7pm, and three private stores so far have agreed to carry my book. Alumni associations, civic organizations, schools and churches are all potential markets for this book, so I set aside a little time each day for promotional emailing. I see this as a long-term venture, not just a book release blitz.



Jan:    What do you think about entering work in poetry contests? Does it help or hinder the process for you? 
J. C. Elkin:    I enter a lot of inexpensive poetry contests and have been richly rewarded by the experience: 1st place from the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s quarterly contest and consecutive 2nd places from the Poetry Matters Celebration contest, an organization that subsequently invited me to be a judge and the keynote speaker for this year’s awards ceremony in Evans, Georgia. Last year, I also had two honorable mention poems in Third Wednesday Literary Journal, which was especially gratifying because in that same issue there were several non-winning poems by a critically acclaimed and best-selling novelist/poet. It made me realize that everyone has their shining accomplishments and that not even the masters consistently turn out masterpieces.


Jan:    What is the best advice about writing and publishing poetry that you’ve received and what advice have you chosen to ignore? 

J. C. Elkin:    The worst advice I ever received about publishing poetry, (advice I paid for), was to completely change the format of the poems in my chapbook. That editor has a bias against accentual verse and rhythm in general. Obviously, I ignored her in that regard, but I did heed her advice to incorporate more poetic techniques into the narratives.

The best advice I ever received was to just trust in my work and submit, submit, submit.


Jan:    Thanks for taking time for this interview and finally – how can readers get a copy of this collection or contact you at your website?

J. C. Elkin:    World Class is now available at www.apprenticehouse.com
Once it is released February 1stit will also be at The Annapolis Bookstore, the bookstores of Anne Arundel Community College, St. John’s College and Bates College, and through Amazon.com. Other vendors are yet to be determined.

Below are links for Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The publisher, www.ApprenticeHouse.com hasn’t yet posted it, I suppose because it isn’t technically available until Friday, January 31st. 

Visit Jane’s webpage at


About Jan Bowman
Winner of the 2011 Roanoke Review Fiction Award, Jan’s stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prizes, Best American Short Stories, and a Pen/O’Henry award.  Glimmer Train named a recent story as Honorable Mention in the November 2012 Short Story Awards for New Writers.
Coming Soon – Mermaids & Other Stories
A recent story was a finalist for the 2013 Broad River Review RASH Award for Fiction, another story was a 2013 finalist in the Phoebe Fiction Contest; another was a 2012 finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest.  Jan’s fiction has appeared in numerous publications including, Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, The Broadkill Review, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes and others.   She is working on two collections of short stories while shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection, Mermaids & Other Stories.  She has nonfiction publications in Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at: www.janbowmanwriter.com or  visit blog:  http://janbowmanwriter.blogspot.com
Facebook:  janbowman.77@facebook.com