Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America announce 2015 Nebula Awards

SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) is a professional organization for authors of science fiction, fantasy and related genres. Established in 1965, it has over 1800 members. Each year the organization presents its Nebula Awards for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

The winners this year are:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Joseph Ellis’ ‘The Quartet’ challenges assumptions about our founding fathers

Historian Joseph J. Ellis begins his latest book, The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1788, by taking Abraham Lincoln to task. In his Gettysburg Address, Lincoln intoned, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this Continent a new Nation,” to which Ellis says, “Nuh-uh. Did not” (or words to that

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fall writers’ conferences in very different locations

NYCThe Slice Literary Writers’ Fifth Annual Conference will take place September 12-13 at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn, New York. The Conference was established by editors Maria Gagliano and Celia Johnson who are also the powers behind Slice Literary Magazine.

The conference, they say, “walks writers through the professional publishing process, from the writer’s desk to the bookstore shelf. Panels, craft workshops, and one-on-one agent meetings offer writers an insider view of the industry that is rarely seen by those outside of book publishing.”

Panels include A Day in the Life, in which agents from major firms discuss their methods for finding a publisher for a client’s project;

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Amherst Poetry Festival: Call for Proposals

The Third Annual Amherst Poetry Festival, co-sponsored by the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Amherst Business Improvement District, “takes poetry off the shelf and puts it into the streets, parks, shops, and

Friday, June 26, 2015

July 2015’s five most anticipated books

Harper Lee’s novel (written in the 1950’s, before To Kill a Mockingbird and only recently “discovered” by her attorney) will be released on July 14 with TWO MILLION copies in the first printing.

Scout Finch, now an adult and living in New York, returns to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father, Atticus, 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. Many of the same characters appear in both novels. According to the publisher, Scout “is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ann Packer’s ‘The Children’s Crusade’ is a fast read that is not without its charms

Photo by Lisa Noble

Itwas pure coincidence that I read Ann Packer’s The Children’s Crusade in the same week that I read A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (reviewed in this blog on 6/22). The similarities are striking although, in my view, Tyler’s is the better book.

In each novel, a man falls in love with a piece of property and lives on it the rest of his life. In Blue Thread, Junior, a contractor, builds his dream house for clients and then engineers their moving out and selling it to him. In The Children’s Crusade, Bill Blair, a Navy physician, manages to get a weekend pass and, north of San Francisco, finds a beautiful piece of land which he buys “on a whim,” and on which he later builds a house. In both novels, the house looms large in the family’s history and in the memories of the children raised in it.

There’s more. In both novels, there is the irresponsible, difficult child who, as an adult, returns home to wreak more havoc. In Blue Thread, it

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It’s Raining Laureates! Juan Felipe Herrera, Jacqueline Woodson and Chris Riddell chosen

Juan Felipe Herrera has been selected by the Library of Congress as the next Poet Laureate of the United States. Herrera, the son of migrant farmworkers, served as poet laureate of California from 2012 to 2014. He was educated at UCLA and Stanford and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Herrera has published more than a dozen collections of poetry, including 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border:

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ali Smith wins the 2015 Women's Prize for Fiction with ‘How to be Both’

British novelist Ali Smith has been awarded the 2015 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction for How to Be Both. (See review on this blog on 6/1/15).

Launched in 1996, the Prize is awarded annually and celebrates “excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.” The winner receives £30,000 (about $46,000) and a limited edition bronze known as a ‘Bessie,’ created by the artist Grizel Niven. Both are anonymously endowed.

Shami Chakrabarti, Chair of Judges, said of Smith’s novel: “Ancient and modern meet and

Monday, June 22, 2015

Anne Tyler looks at family myths in her 20th novel ‘A Spool of Blue Thread’

Photo by Michael Lionstar

The good news is that Anne Tyler’s 20th novel, A Spool of Blue Thread, is a wonderful book. The bad news is that she has said that it will be her last novel. Hers is a voice I have read and loved for fifty years and I am inexpressibly sad that there may not be more to come.

A Spool of Blue Thread is the story of three generations of a Baltimore family.

[It] is a thoughtful and intriguing study of the role of memory in creating and destroying the stories we tell

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Austin Poetry Slam Team wins the 2015 SoFried poetry festival; Bull City a close second!

By LeJuane (El’Ja) Bowens
Guest Contributor

Itall starts with a mission: Poets in their local poetry scene compete for a chance to make a team and represent it in the country’s biggest regional poetry slam in the country: The Southern Fried Poetry Festival. While it has always changed locations within the 23 years of its existence, there is one thing that you can count on: this is not just a poetry competition, it’s a family reunion.

I was lucky enough to attend the slam this year for the sixth time and this was my second year competing on the Bull City Slam Team out of Durham, NC. As the returning champions, we knew that this would be a

Friday, June 12, 2015

Antonio Ruiz-Camacho’s ‘Barefoot Dogs’ explores the emotional consequences of violence

Barefoot Dogs, the debut collection of eight stories by Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, examines the effect of the drug wars in Mexico from a less than usual approach. As David Garza wrote in a Kirkus Review interview (3/9/15):

In the minds of many, there is a universal immigrant story: that of a disenfranchised laborer who risks life and limb in search of work in the U.S. In his debut collection of stories, Barefoot Dogs, Antonio Ruiz-Camacho, a Mexican immigrant himself, explores an entirely different type of immigrant class: the wealthy and the elite who are forced into exile by the threat of death and violence.

“The difference with the new wave of immigrants is the violence,” Ruiz-

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Planning on becoming a famous writer??
Best keep track of your letters

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Six of Harper Lee’s letters, written to a friend between 1956 and 1961, are being auctioned by Christie’s on Friday, June 12, apparently without objection from the famously private elderly writer. They are expected to be sold for at least $250,000.

All such auctions do not proceed without objection. One of the more interesting legal tussles of the day concerns the “lost” letter Neal Cassady wrote to Jack Kerouac back in 1950. It was scheduled to be auctioned in

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

NC’s Karen E. Bender on shortlist for prestigious Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award

On June 4, the Munster Literature Centre announced the shortlist for the £25,000 ($38,174) Frank O’Connor Prize, “the single most lucrative prize for a collection of short stories.” The prize, named for the writer described by W.B. Yeats as the Irish Chekhov, receives support from the Cork City (Ireland) Council and University College, Cork.

Six authors made the 2015 shortlist: three Americans, a Chilean, a New Zealander and a Welsh writer. The winner will be announced in early

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Pat Shipman Reading Tonight!

Author Pat Shipman will discuss her latest book, The Invaders: How Humans and Their Dogs Drove Neanderthals to Extinction, TONIGHT, June 9 at 7 p.m. at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill.

Shipman is a retired Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at Pennsylvania State University, the author of numerous books, and a terrific speaker. She’s able to clearly explain complicated theories to non-scientific folks

Monday, June 8, 2015

‘Everything I Never Told You’ named Amazon’s #1 Best Book of the Year

Celeste Ng’s debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, begins:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

It is May 3, 1977 and Lydia is the favorite child of James and Marilyn Lee. She has her mother’s deep blue eyes and her father’s black hair.

James is Chinese-American, the son of a private school janitor and the lunch lady at the same school. He has a PhD in American Studies from Harvard and had hoped to be asked to stay on to teach there. Instead, he is told that he is not a good “fit” for Harvard and, instead, has to settle for a job at a small college in a small town in Ohio where he now has tenure. He has never felt that he “belonged,” has

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Phil Klay’s brutal and piercing ‘Redeployment’ wins this year's Chautauqua Prize

How many awards can one grim but brilliant debut novel win?

Phil Klay’s Redeployment (reviewed in this blog on April 2), has already (quite deservedly) won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction and the John Leonard First Book Prize. It’s been selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, and The Washington Post Book World. Klay was also a National Book Foundation

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Artist in Residency summer workshops program now open in enchanting San Miguel de Allende

William González photo

The inaugural “San Miguel Literary Sala Artists in Residency” program will take place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from June 27 to August 2, 2015. It is being organized by the folks behind the annual San Miguel Writers’ Conference and registration is now open.

Three artists will spend a month in San Miguel. They will be working on

Friday, June 5, 2015

Kent Haruf’s ‘Our Souls at Night’ is a tender, bittersweet story of happiness found late in life

Photo by Michael Lionstar

Our Souls at Night begins:

And then there was the day when Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters. It was an evening in May just before full dark.

Addie is a widow; Louis is a widower. They are both in their seventies and have lived in the same neighborhood in small town Holt, Colorado for decades. Addie has come to ask a question:

I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me.

What? How do you mean?

I mean we’re both alone. We’ve been by ourselves for too

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Birthday, Pippi!!

This year is the 70th anniversary of the publication of the first book in Astrid Lindgren’s much loved Pippi Longstocking series. The Swedish Institute is planning a year-long celebration and is encouraging Pippi fans all over the world to organize their own Pippi events. (presentingsweden.si.se)

The daughter of a buccaneer captain, Pippi (who was named by Lindgren’s then nine year old daughter) has four “best friends:” her
horse, her monkey, and Tommy and Annika, neighborhood children.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

‘The Jesus Cow’ Fizzles

I wanted to like Michael Perry’s debut novel, The Jesus Cow. I really did. I ordered it the minute I heard it was being released.

I could clearly imagine the acquisition meeting at the publishing house: “Hey, this guy’s got all those best-selling memoirs under his belt – funny as hell – a YA book, and a nationally syndicated radio program. Three live humor albums – loved Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow, didn’t you? – big online presence. It’s a no-brainer! What could possibly go wrong?”

What went wrong is that the book is terribly uneven. The prologue, chapters 1-3 and 20-23 are very funny and their pace is lively. The rest of the 31 chapters and the

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

You’ll have to wait 100 years to read these books

onceptual artist Katie Paterson announced the Oslo Future Library Project on her website (katiepaterson.org). She wrote:

“A forest in Norway is growing. In 100 years it will become an anthology of books.

A forest has been planted in Norway, which will supply paper for a special anthology of books to be printed in one

Monday, June 1, 2015

‘How to be Both’ by Ali Smith: Mindbending and Unforgettable

Photo by Antonio Olmos

The game starts before you read the first word of the book. How to be Both is made up of two sections, each labeled “Part I.” One of the sections centers on the 15th century painter, Francesco del Cossa; the other takes place in 2013 and its protagonist is Georgia, a teenaged English girl mourning the loss of her mother.

Half of all the printed copies of the book have the del Cossa part first; the other half have the George (as Georgia is called throughout) part first. Both have the same cover. It’s the luck of the draw as to which you read but the one that you read also changes your experience of the book.

My edition had the del Cossa section first and I found it to be the