Did you miss C.H. Armstrong’s official launch party earlier this week? No worries — Rochester Public Library has you covered!
Join us THIS SATURDAY, January 23rd, at 3PM in the auditorium to meet Rochester author, C.H. Armstrong. She’ll do a short presentation and reading from her new novel, The Edge of Nowhere, and will sign copies of her book (copies will be available for purchase).
For more information on C.H. Armstrong and her novel, follow this link.
In the meantime, check out the Official Video Trailer for The Edge of Nowhere, and read a synopsis.
The Edge of Nowhere
Inspired by Actual Events
The year is 1992 and Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene—reviled matriarch of a sprawling family—is dying.
After surviving the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, Victoria refuses to leave this earth before revealing the secrets she’s carried for decades.
Once the child of a loving family during peaceful times, a shocking death shattered her life. Victoria came face to face with the harshness of the world. As the warm days of childhood receded to distant memory, Victoria learns to survive.
No matter what it takes.
To keep her family alive in an Oklahoma blighted by dust storms and poverty, Victoria makes choices—harsh ones, desperate ones. Ones that eventually made her into the woman her grandchildren fear and whisper about. Ones that kept them all alive. Hers is a tale of tragedy, love, murder, and above all, the conviction to never stop fighting.
Prize winning author Louise Erdrich has been awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The award recognizes writers with “unique, enduring voices” whose work deals with the American experience. Past winners include John Grisham, Toni Morrison, EL Doctorow. Erdrich is the author of 14 novels, numerous volumes of poetry, nonfiction and childrens books including Love Medicine, The Round House and Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country. She is also the owner of magical independent bookstore, Birchbark Books and Native Arts in Minneapolis, Minn. Erdrich is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, said “I don’t write from a compulsion to provide for the reader a Native American, Great Plains, or for that matter German-American experience,” she said. “I write narratives that compel me, using language that reverberates for me.”
She will receive this award at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., on September 5. This festival was started in 2001, and from 30,000 people it has grown to over 200,000 featuring authors, illustrators, and poets. Librarians from across the country are invited each year to represent their states at the Festival. The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and commercial sponsors such as Target and AT&T have provided funding (2012).
Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said that Erdrich “has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has. Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dream world of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day.”
In recent email interview, Ms. Erdrich, who has won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, said such recognition felt like “an out of body experience.” “It seems that these awards are given to a writer entirely different from the person I am — ordinary and firmly fixed,” she wrote. “Given the life I lead, it is surprising these books got written. Maybe I owe it all to my first job — hoeing sugar beets. I stare at lines of words all day and chop out the ones that suck life from the rest of the sentence. Eventually all those rows add up.”
The National Education Association is building a nation of readers through its signature program, NEA’s Read Across America. Now in its 18th year, this year-round program focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships, and reading resources.
“You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.”
Read Across America Day honours Dr Suess, the popular children’s book author (Theodor Geisel, 1904). Seuss’s first book was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937) followed by a series of popular books for teens. Then an educational specialist asked him if he would write a book to help children learn how to read. From a list of 300 words that most first-graders know, Seuss had to write the book using only those words. As he looked over the list, two words jumped out at him: “cat” and “hat.” The rest is history! It took nine months to write The Cat in the Hat (1957); 1,702 words, but it has only 220 different words. Parents and teachers immediately used it to teach children to read. A classic, it remains a popular best seller. A few years later, Seuss’s publisher bet him $50 that he could not write a book using only 50 different words. Seuss produced Green Eggs and Ham (1960), using 49 one syllable words plus “anywhere.”
It is the 25th anniversary of the publication of Oh The Places You’ll Go! And that is the theme this year. It’s fun to remember the places he took me.
Go to the NEA.org website for updates and stories from the road of today’s events
by Catherine H. Armstrong
Yesterday our blog featured a book review of the debut novel by Tina Seskis, One Step Too Far – a gripping story about one woman’s loss and her journey toward redemption. As a reader (and maybe even more as a mother), I loved the story so much that I contacted the author and asked for a Q&A interview for this blog. She graciously accepted and I’ve had more fun these last few days with the back and forth e-mails with this amazing author.
Tina’s book officially hit the bookshelves this past Monday and is currently on-order at the Rochester Public Library. It is also available at amazon.com in traditional and e-book formats. While you wait for your opportunity to get your hands on a copy of this wonderful story, I hope you enjoy this Q&A with the author, Tina Seskis.
Q: I read somewhere that you never intended to be a writer and have your work published. What changed for you and why did you take that first big leap?
A: During one of my many career breaks(!) I decided to take a couple of months out and have a go at everything I ever wanted to do (my husband is very long-suffering), so for fun I joined a writing group, acting classes (my drama teacher said I had no potential by the way), took up yoga and tennis again, joined a choir, you get the picture. But the two hours’ writing class was the absolute highlight of my week, although funnily enough I didn’t write at all outside of that. And then 3 years ago we were on holiday in Venice and out of nowhere I got the idea for One Step Too Far’s big “twist” and I thought, that would make a great novel, so when I got home I started writing it down on my laptop, in between working and being a mother.
Q: I understand that there is a backstory behind the writing of “One Step Too Far.” Can you tell us a little about it?
A: Around the same time I’d been getting worried about my mum, who had started having pains in her legs and inexplicably losing mobility (the doctors thought she had Vitamin D deficiency), and she was getting a bit depressed about it, so to give her something else to think about I’d send her chapters to read. So often I’d be writing in front of the telly and then propped up in bed at two in the morning so I’d have something to send her the next day. Sadly my mum died a few days after I finished the first draft, just two months later, of cancer as it turned out.
Q: How difficult was it for you to find someone willing to take a chance on you and see this book published? Did you find the process easy? Grueling? Exactly as you expected?
A: I didn’t get someone to take a chance. I sent the book out to agents in the days after my mum died (I had all this nervous energy before the funeral that I didn’t know what to do with) and the only response I got was a couple of standard rejection letters. Then I forgot about the book for a year, until a friend of mine recommended me to The Literary Consultancy, and I paid them to read my manuscript to tell me whether it was any good or not – because if it was rubbish I didn’t want to waste time trying to get it published, it would just have remained something private that I’d written for my mum. And TLC liked it so much they became the match-maker between myself and agents, and six or seven agents were personally offered it, one after the other, and in the meantime I wrote my second book – and then two and a half years later I still hadn’t got an agent for either book, let alone a publisher, and I looked at the publishing model and how much it had changed and decided I could do it myself. So in January of this year I set up my own publishing company and had just two goals – make the book as good as it could be, and get it out to as many people as possible online to try to drive word of mouth. And here it is now.
Q: Are any of the characters in One Step Too Far based upon people in your real life? If so, can you talk about that a little bit? Maybe give examples?
A: It sounds corny but Ben is based on my husband, he’s infuriatingly too good to be true too, and without giving too much away the very final ending is the one my mum wanted. Many of the characters are mixes of people I’ve come across, especially the housemates, the people from advertising and the father, and some of the scenarios really happened to me (think the parachuting scene and I’m ashamed to say the lemon tart, but in my defense I was very young). But no, no-one else is real. I’ve always been fascinated by people, and I ALWAYS read the newspaper articles entitled things like “My husband left me for a man who used to be a woman,” so I tried to make all the characters believable because they were based on truth (and without doubt truth is stranger than fiction).
Q: If you could go back and change any one thing about your novel, what would it be and why?
A: Well obviously my own personal circumstances, but regarding the novel I got so much brilliantly candid feedback over the years and I was still changing it right at final typesetting proof stage. A friend’s husband told me about a month ago he didn’t like the way Angel’s story ended, and I realized I didn’t either – so I changed it! A lot of reviewers online said one aspect of the ending was a bit callous and I agreed with them so I changed that a little too. And then lots of people said the end was rushed but I didn’t agree so I ignored that comment! I was also told that I HAD to have the novel copy-edited and I did try to get a couple of people to do it, but I didn’t like having my words messed with, so against all advice (and to save money!) I did all the copy-editing and proof-reading myself (I’d never thought of myself as a control freak before…). The only thing I’d forgotten about until too late is that I wrote a couple of chapters from Emily’s perspective once the mystery was revealed that I took out and I can’t even remember why now, so if there’s the chance to do a reprint I might look at putting those back in.
Q: As a reader, there were so many twists and turns to the book that literally made my jaw drop open while reading. I’m wondering whether – as the writer – did you “know” those twists and turns were going to happen (i.e. did you have an outline that you were following) or did they just sort of develop and take you, as the writer, by surprise as well?
A: I knew the big twist, but how I was going to get there I didn’t really know, I just got the ideas as I wrote them, which made some of the chapter endings a bit of a surprise to me too. And what with the pace I was writing at I didn’t have too much time for plot development. A few months ago I read Stephen King’s quite brilliant book On Writing and it seems like that’s how he does it too, so that made me feel a bit better.
Q: Can you tell us a little about “how” you write. That is to say, do you have specific habits that you follow when you’re writing?
A: One Step Too Far I literally wrote anywhere and everywhere. If I didn’t have my laptop with me and found myself waiting for a bus or in the hospital I’d just start writing long-hand to carry on the story. If I was writing watching the telly I’d often find something someone said would go into the book. I’d write whilst hanging out with my friends in the garden with our children. I don’t have a desk – just a shelf with our Mac on where I do all my “work,” but I never use that to write. These days I write on an ipad with a wireless keyboard, as it turns on instantly and the story is always where I just left it, and I can follow the sunshine (when we get it!) around the house and sit where I fancy, often with my dog curled up next to me.
Q: Are there any books or authors in your own life who have influenced your writing? If so, in what way(s)?
A: I was obsessed with Agatha Christie as a child and she’s probably my biggest influence in terms of how I write, as I love twists – I read that she never knew who the murderer was until the end and I thought no wonder I could never guess. When I was younger I also devoured the likes of Jilly Cooper and Harold Robbins for the brilliance of their page-turning ability. But throughout my life I have always loved books that are really well-written – Salman Rushdie is probably my favourite modern author for his genius with words. And I’m embarrassed to say that lately I’ve hardly read at all.
Q: Besides the love of a story well-told, is there anything you’d like your readers to take away from this book? Any deep message or theme that you hope will resonate with them?
A: I think the novel is ultimately a story about love and redemption. I’d just like people to be a bit kinder to each other, and understand that everyone has their problems and insecurities, and be more forgiving of them. As I’m finding out, people can be very quick to judge!
Q: Do you have any future projects in the works and, if so, can you tell us a little about them?
A: I’ve already written my second novel, A Serpentine Affair, which I’m enormously fond of, and which I will be dedicating to my six best friends from University in the hope that they won’t hate me forever!! I got stuck on my third novel (working title Collision, as it’s the coming together of the story of a character from each of the first two novels) in November, and after a bit of a miserable Christmas on 2nd January I decided to give writing a break and have a go at getting One Step Too Far out there, as otherwise our finances dictated I’d have had to go and get another job in marketing…
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with reader? Anything specific you’d like them to know about you, your writing, this book, etc?
A: I can’t think of anything else for now! Thank you for being the hosts of my first ever Q and A, and to Cathie for her feedback and support in the process.
From the Friends of the Rochester Public Library – and myself, personally – we send our deepest appreciation to Tina Seskis for her time. We wish her great success on this new novel and I am personally looking forward to reading much more from her in the future! ~ CHA
What are you reading now?
Kingdom of Summer by Gillian Bradshaw – part of a trilogy about Sir Gawain of the Arthurian Legends (the first book is the Hawk of May and the last is In Winter’s Shadow). Bradshaw won awards for her first novel (Hawk of May), and I so loved it, I immediately found the second in the Library. I had always believed Gawain (or Gwalchunai, his real name) to be Welsh, but come to find he was from the Orkneys, Scotland. He earns Arthur’s trust and friendship in the first novel and defends the kingdom while trying to unite Britain, with the usual characters: Arthur, Lancelot, Merlin, Morgawse etc. This is a brilliant retelling of the Arthur legend, that will appeal to all ages. She wrote this trilogy in the 1980s, but they are being reissued in trade paper. I have discovered a new author and can’t believe the diversity of her writing.
Books On the bedstand:
Semper Fidelis by Ruth Downie – I have been charmed by the Roman Medicus and read these as soon as they are published. This is another hilarious look at murder in Roman Britain, a bit further north of Londonium this time, but with an engaging cast of characters. You do need to read these in order, but what a treat.
How Literature saved my life by David Shields – perusing the library shelves this one just lept out at me!
Alys Clare – Out of the Dawn Light – she was touted as being the new Ellis Peters (Cadfael), which I return to and reread, as well as watch on PBS. I love this time period and the writing is fantastic: intricate plot, depth to all characters, well researched medieval history, skillfully written – in another series (Hawkenlye)!
The Book I am waiting for:
Proof of Guilt by Charles Todd. I adore both of their series – both Insp Ian Rutledge and Nurse Bess Crawford. I have not purchased this one because I am in the throes of moving and packing and can’t bear the thought of another book (weight and volume)
The Book I am talking about:
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – this was published last year but I can’t stop talking about this. I am writing a long review and ended up re-reading the entire book, enjoying it just as much the second time. This is a superb fantasy novel, not just for YA. I cannot wait for the sequel, for a series, for anything else she writes!
The previous book:
The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, Beekeeping for Beginners – Laurie R King. I introduced one of my bookclubs to the Mary Russell (Mrs Sherlock Holmes) series, and the writing of King. Yes, I have read almost every novel she has written. Full price on Kindle, hard copies when I can find them. This lead to several other books about Holmes and Doyle – surprised by how many writers belong to the Baker Street Irregulars!
Watching on the tele?
As I impatiently await the modern Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch (season 3), I have continued, in order, with re-watching the Big Bang Theory (and am also impatiently awaiting season 6 to be available on DVD). I love Sheldon. I can so relate to these guys.
Japandroids – Celebration Rock. Yeah, this surprised me too, almost as much as the Librarian who gave it to me. It was listed as one of the top five albums of 2012, so I had to try to listen to it. Of the five, only the Dylan will remain with me.
As an avid reader, I love to know what everyone else is reading. I’m always excited to hear about new authors or great books, so it’s not uncommon for me to interrupt a complete stranger’s reading moment to ask, “What are you reading?”
A while back, I asked a woman, “What are you reading?” The woman gave me a sheepish grin and responded, “Oh, just visiting old friends.” Probably prompted by my look of curiosity, the woman went on to explain that she breaks up her heavier reading by catching up on the books in a series by her favorite authors. The “old friends” she referred to were the repeat characters from the books in a series by her favorite authors.
I loved that explanation! I can’t even count on both hands how many “old friends” I have and need to catch up with. There’s Sookie Stackhouse…Stephanie Plum…Zoe Redbird from the House of Night series…the list goes on and on. And then over the last couple of weeks, I’ve added some new friends that will need to be revisited on a regular basis: The women of James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series.
I’d read a few of James Patterson’s books in the past, but I’d deliberately stayed away from the books in a series for the simple reason that I was afraid to get hooked on a new one. When I start a series, I can’t just stop after the first book. I have to keep reading until I’ve finished the series and am on pins and needles for the next book to be released. I suspected that if I started this series, I’d fall into a black hole of reading until the series was complete. I wasn’t sure I was ready to commit that much time. But I had the whole Women’s Murder Club series sitting in a box, compliments of my wonderful mother-in-law. The books were not only gathering dust, but taking up space; so I figured I should read them or give them away. I decided to read them and I’m so glad I did!
At the heart of the story is Homicide Sergeant Lindsey Boxer and her best friend, Medical Examiner Claire Washburn, both of the San Francisco Police Department. The two women have been friends for nearly a decade and are bonded by their unique status as being among the few women within a mostly all-boys’ club police department. Together with a female crime reporter from the local newspaper, and a female Assistant District Attorney, the women jokingly form the Women’s Murder Club and meet frequently at a local bar – designated as their “club house” – to give input on the crimes being investigated within the homicide department. But, though the club started out as a joke, their effectiveness in solving murders is no joking matter. With each member bringing her own unique investigative abilities to the group, the Women’s Murder Club bands together to solve some of the most heinous crimes to hit the streets of San Francisco.
Very quickly, these new friends became old friends. I couldn’t wait to read the next book to find out what happened next in the lives of the four women and those in their inner circle.
Probably one of the best aspects of these books is that they don’t have to be read in order. Patterson has a gift of bringing the readers up to date in the lives of the characters in such a way as to not only refresh the memory of the reader who’s waited a year for the next book in the series, but also to quickly bring new readers into the loop and not left scratching their heads and wondering what they missed. I wish more authors could do that!
Each book in the Women’s Murder Club series is a fairly quick read with short chapters, enabling a reader to pick up and read for short time spans and without stopping mid-chapter.
These books are available at the Rochester Public Library in both traditional and eBook format. The 12th book, 12th of Never, is due to be released in April.
Making new friends and revisiting old ones. As Martha Stewart might say, “It’s a good thing.”
By Helen McIver
After I reviewed Paula McLain’s new book The Paris Wife earlier this year, one of my book clubs decided to read her novel. I was volunteered to do the “Author Review” that normally accompanies a book we read. Having already delved back into Hemingway, I was more than ready. However I decided to add something extra: I contacted her and asked if she would answer a few questions about her reading habits. She decided which questions she had time to answer, and we ended up with a few more books to read!
Paula McLain was born in Fresno, CA in 1965. After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. Eventually, she discovered she could – and wanted to – write. She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and since then has been a resident at Yaddo and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of two collections of poetry, a much-praised memoir called Like Family, and one previous and well-received novel, A Ticket to Ride. Paula McLain lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her family. Visit her website, www.pariswife.com.
Helen McIver: Do you remember the last time you said to someone, “You really must read this book now?” and the book was? Are you part of a book club?
Paula McLain: I haven’t been in a book club for years and years, but when I speak with book clubs or go into local Indy book stores, I’ll always ask for glowing recommendations. Recently I found Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic that way, and also Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. Loved them both
Helen McIver: What is your favorite line from a book?
Paula McLain: From Willa Cather’s My Antonia: “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”
Helen McIver: A recent Book you bought just for the cover?
Paula McLain: Amor Towles’, Rules of Civility. Isn’t that a great looking cover?
Helen McIver: Have you heard any good books lately? Driving? In an airplane? Did you choose the reader of your book? Did you like the audio version of your book?
Paula McLain: I just listened (yesterday!) to Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which was terrific. I love him and also loved, lately, his On Chesil Beach, which I also got as a book on tape. In general, I love to be read to.
I had a lot of trouble with the casting for the audio for Paris Wife. None of the actors they liked sounded like Hadley to me, including the one who actually was chosen. Maybe no one would have pleased me, though, since I had a strong “Hadley” voice in my head for years, which I just wasn’t going to hear again out in the world, if you know what I mean.
Helen McIver: Do you have a genre to beach read?
Paula McLain: Lord, I wish I had time to read on the beach. Oh, and a beach to read on!
Helen McIver: Do you have a favorite literary adaptation on TV or film? Is there something coming out you can’t wait (Hemingway?!)
Paula McLain: There’s a great BBC production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that I HEART and have watched maybe fifty times….
Helen McIver: What book is on your nightstand?
Paula McLain: Rules of Civility.
Helen McIver: Paper or electronic? Do you take notes?
Paula McLain: Electronic, always. I take lots of notes, some of which I actually find again!
Helen McIver: Is music important to your writing? (Do you listen to music when you write? When you read? Do you incorporate songs into your work that have “hidden” meaning or help set the tone?)
Paula McLain: I have to listen to music, and keep my iPhone tuned to Pandora, on a sound dock for my whole working day. Usually something low-key and croon-y. I like whispery male singer-songerwriter types like Bon Iver……
Helen McIver: What were your most cherished books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero / heroine from one of those books?
Paula McLain: Charlotte’s Web, The Borrowers, tons of Roald Dahl.
Helen McIver: Is there one book you wish all children would read?
Paula McLain: Watership Down – those rabbits!
Helen McIver: Is there one book you would like adults to read?
Paula McLain: Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. A lot, there, about the act of storytelling. Why we tell stories and what they mean to our lives.
Helen McIver: Do you tend to keep books, lend them out or give them away?
Paula McLain: I horde them and lend the ones I feel evangelical about.
Helen McIver: Any guilty reading pleasures?
Paula McLain: People Magazine in airports! Ooh, and I love food magazines and cook books: essentially food porn!
Valerie is an award winning writer, most recently for Blood Clay (2012 Eric Hoffer Award winner for excellence in independent publishing; finalist for the 2012 John Gardner Prize in Fiction; short-listed for 2012 Montaigne Medal honoring thought-provoking books, and long-listed for the SIBA awards. She is a writer, poet, teacher and editor whose work emerges from her Appalachian roots. Her work has garnered critical praise and reader raves. Fidelities is a collection of short stories, Wake Wake Wake is a poetry collection. She is the poetry editor for Prime Number magazine.
Do you remember the last time you said to someone: you really must read this book now? and that book was? The Lord of Misrule, by Jaimy Gordon, whom I got to know many, many years ago when she visited the Kestrel conference in West Virginia. The book still resides beside my bed. But someday soon. Another was Hustle by Jason Skipper, a fellow Press 53 author. It was a great, gritty coming-of-age book.
Are you part of a book club? I am not a member of a book club, although I love visiting with them! It was very exciting to join your book club via Skype, and I later did a conference call with one in South Carolina. I’ve met with book clubs in office parks and libraries and in an elegant old home in Greensboro, where I tried my best to handle the delicate gold-rimmed china without incident.
What is your favorite line from a book? These are very difficult questions, you know!
‘As you love me, Buck, as you love me, was what he whispered.’ The Call of the Wild.
A recent book you bought just for the cover? I haven’t done that recently, though among my favorite covers on recent reads: a black-and-white photograph of a stunned and muddy boy on Miracle Boy by Pinckney Benedict, and the embossed dust jacket on Journal of a UFO Investigator by David Halperin – it looks and feels just like the heavy ball-point-pen doodles a high school student would carve into the cover of his notebook.
Have you heard any good books lately? Driving? in an airplane? Did you choose the reader of your book? Did you like the audio version of your book? (I assume you have an audio book here – I haven’t looked this us and depend on my library for most of the audio!) I haven’t listened to audio books, as I tend to be the one driving or walking, and I must pay attention or there will be disaster. I did not have an audio version for Blood Clay. It would be wonderful to have an audio version of my new novel, which has a first-person female narrator who is 16 years old. Maggie would have a strong, alto voice, not one that has been shaped to coaxing boys.
Do you have a genre to beach read? (we held a discussion on beach reads, and nearly everyone brought mysteries) I enjoy historical fiction and science fiction: both transport me to other places and times, nourishing my mind as the water and sun do my body. And I like to read books about the place itself, either history or natural history.
Do you have a favorite literary adaptation on TV or film? Is there something coming out you can’t wait to see? I like to read the book first, because if I see the film first, those images are so strong. I’ve been impressed again and again by Clint Eastwood’s adaptations. I’m excited about a movie version of The Martian Chronicles.
What book is on your nightstand? on your coffeetable? On my nightstand: House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III. Beside the nightstand, which is a tiny folding table: Waxwings by Daniel Nathan Terry, The Cove by Ron Rash, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Coal Black Horse by Robert Olmstead, Carry Each His Burden by James Goertel, The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French, Goliath by Susan Woodring. I’m woefully behind in my reading and just bought three more books yesterday. On the coffee table ? Sailing and Our State magazines, a hand-bound book of poems by Nhat Hanh with Zen paintings by Vo-Dinh, and Because the Cat Purrs: How We Relate to Other Species and Why It Mattersby Janet Lembke.
Paper or electronic? Do you take notes? I have a few e-books on my phone but do not have a dedicated e-reader. I still prefer paper, because I like the feel and smell and heft of a book in hand.
Do you read plays or poetry for pleasure? I read a lot of poetry as poetry editor for Prime Number magazine, so I am always seeing new work. That’s exciting. I also read poetry every day, through daily e-poetry services and by visiting magazine websites, or just picking up one of the many books of poetry I have around my home and office.
Have you memorized any poems? I may have the world’s worst memory. The poem that comes most fully to mind is Acquainted with the Night by Robert Frost, one of his elegant dark poems.
Is music important to your writing? (do you listen to music when you write? when you read? do you incorporate songs into your work that have ‘hidden’ meaning? or help set the tone?) I don’t listen to music while I write or read. I think I may have some brain disorder, because I really don’t multitask well. If I have music on, I get caught up in the music and can’t write. I already noted that I don’t listen to audio books because I would be a hazard to myself and others. The only book where music has been important was Survivors, where the main character writes songs and rewrites the words to popular tunes.
What were your most cherished books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero / heroine from one of those books? Black Beauty, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Huck Finn, Tales from Shakespeare, Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, stories by Poe and Jack London, A Girl of the Limberlost. A book called Ocelot that I chose as my reward for working in the elementary school library. I read a lot of natural history and science, Silent Spring, and then became caught up in Lord of the Ringsand science fiction: Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula LeGuin.
Favorite characters? I always treasured girls and women who refused to play by the rules of gender, often somewhat secondary characters. Eowyn LOTR, for example, who is strong and devoted and passionate and brave.
Is there one book you wish all children would read? Whatever book they choose, as long as they read!
Is there one book you would like adults to read? Perhaps the same answer…as I teach college now, I see with depressing regularity that students do not read, and that includes creative writing students. When I am trying to illustrate a point about plot or character, I generally use examples from films and television shows as they have become the canon of our time.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be? Past presidents? I’d hope that every president has a well-worn and much-annotated volume of the Riverside Shakespeare, like the one on my shelf. All the lessons are there: pride, compassion, ambition, folly, self-sacrifice, arrogance, love, honor, deceit, bravery.
And The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. DON’T PANIC!
If you could meet any writer dead or alive, who would it be? what would you want to know? (ok, you can make it two or a dinner table!) I sure would have loved an evening with Ray Bradbury, recently departed. His vibrant, graceful stories expanded my universe. Among the living, Margaret Atwood. I have loved her work: A Handmaid’s Tale, her short story The Bog Man to a poem about eating lima beans with her fingers!
Is there one book you wish someone else would write? Whatever book is the one that demands to be written, and that the writer creates without regard to what the market says.
Do you tend to keep books, lend them out or give them away? I tend to keep books. I seldom will sell a book, though I give books to students when I think they should have them. I say that I am ‘lending’ them but seldom get them back. I hope that Rumi and the Breece Pancake stories and others have remained important in the lives of those students.
Do you have a favourite question that you are often asked about your writing? a favourite question that was only asked once. I do like your question about recommended reading for the president. I’m generally asked about what I read as a child, and sometimes I expand on that quite a bit. I grew up in the country and read what was at hand, a bookcase full of old books that included classic poetry, the complete Mark Twain (and I’ve read every word, sometimes many times over), and the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. I still have both full sets, carried from place to place in New York State, West Virginia, and North Carolina. I suppose that if I ever do move onto a boat in my old age, those volumes will have to find a home ashore.
Any guilty reading pleasures? I will read nearly anything. I can read a guidebook to birds or insects or rocks or whatever until it comes apart.
Thanks Helen for these wonderful questions, and the opportunity to be part of your blog and library presence. My next novel is all but done. I am finishing the last chapter, and then will do a read-through and mark it up for revision. The working title Backwater, which is not good at all, but I hope to find a title somewhere in the text. Then it’s off to find an agent and publisher. Press 53, a wonderful small press that published Blood Clay and my poetry collection, Wake Wake Wake, has decided to focus on short story and poetry collections only.