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Layers of Lies February 28, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, women's fiction.
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Topic of the Week: March 1-5, 2010

Randy Susan Meyers

One of the earliest ethical imperatives we learn is “don’t lie.” Euphemisms like “bending the truth” suggest an end justifies the means philosophy that is prevalent–even celebrated–from the highest political offices to the lowest levels of life. Phrases like “liars never prosper” and “one lie leads to another” become nothing but platitudes once the first layer of lie is laid in a bending of truth. What are lies and how do authors use them when creating captivating characters in compelling situations?

Guest host on Friday, March 5  is Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Murder’s Daughters. Meyers spins a tale of obsession, family violence and lies that follow two sisters through years of heartbreak and denial, leading to a climax that forces the lies to the surface. More than just a story of deception within the family and the lies that grow as the years go by, The Murder’s Daughters explores how two people witnessing the same event respond and are affected so differently.

Meyers spent eight years as assistant director of Common Purpose, a batterer intervention program where she worked with both batterers and domestic violence victims. Previously, she was director for the Mission Hill Community Centers where she worked with at-risk youth. She is the co-author of the nonfiction book Couples with Children. Her short fiction has been published in Perigee, Fog City Review, and Grub Street Free Press. She currently teaches fiction-writing seminars at the Grub Street Writers’ Center in Boston, Massachusetts.

Follow Meyers on Twitter at @randysusanmeyer

Moderator during this week’s chat is Darrelyn Saloom (@ficwriter). Darrelyn is co-writing a memoir with and about Deirdre Gogarty, the 1997 WIBF Champion from Ireland. She also guest blogs for Writer’s Digest editor Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) and is a frequent contributor to #LitChat.


Chick Lit is Alive and Well February 21, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in chick lit, weekly topics.
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Topic of the Week: February 22-26, 2010

Jill Amy RosenblattRecent releases by pop authors Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic) and the writing team of Emma McLaughlin/Nicola Kraus (Nanny Diaries), as well as dozens of other books with sassy heroines in wild situations, indicate that chick lit is certainly not a dying breed of novel. The term “chick lit” may be considered passé in some circles, yet devoted chick lit readers love the term and can’t get enough of these saucy stories. Join us this week in LitChat as we discuss this often misunderstood genre.

Guest host on Friday is Jill Amy Rosenblatt, author of two chick lit novels, Project Jennifer (August 2008) and For Better or Worse (August 2009). For Better or Worse drafts the life of three women through madcap adventures in business, romance and marriage.

Rosenblatt lives on Long Island. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Writing and Literature from Burlington College in Vermont.

Moderating this week’s chat is Mariana Blaser. Follow her on Twitter at @mariblaser

Follow Rosenblatt at @JillARosenblatt

The Legacy of African-American Writers February 15, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, bestsellers, fiction, multi-cultural fiction, weekly topics, women's fiction.
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February 15-19, 2010

Guest post written by Virginia DeBerry, moderator of LitChat’s African-American Writers week.

Virginia DeBerry

What is African American Literature? Books written by blacks? Books written about blacks? Both? Several years ago publishers concluded that “African American Lit” was a genre, one encompassing all books written by black authors.

The first novel Donna Grant and I wrote two decades ago, Exposures, was published under the pseudonym Marie Joyce, and it had no black characters—zip, zero. The book was about a young Swedish-American heiress pursuing a career as a fashion photographer; our photo was on the back so it was no secret we were black—but what category should the novel go in?

Novels like The Help and The Secret Life of Bees, written by white authors, are largely about black characters and these books are marketed to and read by both blacks and whites, while most of us African American writers struggle to get our work to “crossover” and reach a wider audience. Other than works considered literary fiction, our novels are marketed to and read by people who look like our characters, like us. We know we have white readers because many identify themselves that way in their letters and email. But for the most part, our work rarely crosses the invisible, artificial barrier that keeps our stories separate. Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie spoke eloquently about this kind of literary divide in The Danger of a Single Story at a recent TED.com conference.

Connie Briscoe joins the conversation on Friday as guest host with Virginia DeBerry as moderator. Briscoe is a NY Times bestselling author of eight novels, including SISTERS & HUSBANDS, the recently released follow-up to her 1996 debut novel, SISTERS AND LOVERS. Read more about Briscoe at http://aalbc.com/authors/connie.htm.

Most of the African American writers I know personally are women—and we write contemporary women’s fiction with characters who happen to be black. Ours are stories of struggle and triumph, loss, coping, love, life, lessons learned and not learned—subjects that affect all women. But we are labeled, marginalized by the market, before our books even make it to the shelf of your local bookstore or library. Together we have sold millions of books, but most white readers of women’s fiction have never heard of Connie Briscoe, Donna Hill, Bernice McFadden, Carleen Brice or DeBerry & Grant even though we read Jodi Piccoult, Anne Tyler, Amy Tan, Elizabeth Berg, Adrianna Trigiani and Jennifer Weiner—you get the picture.

Though I must admit to being thrilled in discovering a recent article on Savannahnow.com comparing our last novel, What Doesn’t Kill You (along with half dozen or so other women’s fiction authors) to the work of Anita Shreve. On the flip side, a few weeks ago Chicklit Club listed their Ultimate 100 reads. One novel out of one hundred was by a black writer—Terry McMillan‘s Waiting to Exhale—which was published back in 1992.

What actually comprises diversity in publishing and marketing is a conversation African American authors have been having quietly, among ourselves, for many years. This fall, Bernice McFadden’s piece on Galley Cat Seg-Book-Gation, my written in frustration Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey about the plight of mid-list black authors, the one year anniversary of Carleen Brice‘s blog Welcome White Folks, Rebecca TheBookLadysBlog on An Invitation to Dialogue on Diversity in Media after the Salon.com article about the “whitewashing” of yet another book cover, and young book bloggers like Reading in Color have shed more light on this issue—but not nearly enough. A look at the Publishers’ Weekly cover for their New Books and Trends in African American Publishing issue and the furor it sparked, speaks to the power and influence of perception.

When I first hosted LitChat in March of last year, the topic we selected was Beyond Black and White–Writing in Color. Because I had become somewhat of a LitChat regular at that point and had been a vocal part of many discussions, I was surprised to discover that during that week, attendance dropped significantly and the make up of the chatters changed dramatically—by race. Who knows who’s “lurking” in the chatroom, but usually there are only a handful of black participants who make themselves known. I never mind my minority status, never think it matters, there are very few men in attendance as well. Besides—we who are LitChat regulars are present because we share an interest in books, writing and writers. Right?

That week, however, chats were largely populated by black chatters (many not seen since); there were only a handful of non-African Americans present and accounted for. While our discussions were lively and evocative, we were once again having a conversation among ourselves, about a topic we know all too well—we were preaching to the choir. The following week LitChat returned to its regular demographics—without fanfare or comment. Did the regular LitChat folks think the subject didn’t apply them and their reading habits? Did the blacks who did drop in feel welcome because of the topic but unwelcome/uncomfortable at other times? Is race and racism still on the taboo topic list? Was everybody just busy?

Next week on LitChat let’s discuss possible reasons for this puzzling literary dichotomy, explore African American writers (note I didn’t say “literature”) more fully and see where the conversation takes us.

Virginia DeBerry is the online persona and tweeting half of the writing team of DeBerry & Grant, author of seven novels. Their latest novel, Uptown, will be published by Touchstone/Simon&Schuster in March.

All About Romance February 7, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in romance.
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February 8-11, 2010

As the cash registers of the world ring up love in the form of candy, flowers and wine this week, we’re hoping to ring up some book sales. Love figures into many genres, but when love takes center stage in a novel, it’s billed as romance. On Monday and Wednesday this week in #litchat we’re talking about love and relationships and why romance outsells other genres across the boards.

To help us celebrate love and romance, we’re bringing in award-winning romance author Lori Foster as guest host on Friday.

Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has routinely had six to ten releases a year and has become a Waldenbooks, Borders, USA Today, Publisher’s Weekly and New York Times bestselling author. Lori has published through a variety of houses, including Kensington, St. Martins, Harlequin, Silhouette, Samhain. She is currently with Berkley/Jove.

Lori believes it’s important to back to the community as much as possible, and for that reason she ran special contests in conjunction with a publisher, facilitating many first sales for new authors. She routinely organizes events among authors and readers to gather donations for various organizations.

Along with her good friend, Dianne Castell, Lori hosts a very special annual Reader & Author event in West Chester Ohio. Proceeds from the event go to benefit worthy causes, including the Hamilton County YWCA Battered Women’s Shelter, the Animal Adoption Foundation, and The Conductive Learning Center for children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy.

In 2007, Lori put together “The Write Ingredients” a cookbook of recipes donated by popular authors. Proceeds from the cookbook go toward Lori’s ongoing “Troop project” of collecting and mailing fun, and sometimes necessary items to our troops.

In 2008, Lori coordinated eleven other authors of her choosing, and through Berkley, arranged for the publication of a special anthology of novellas about empowering women. Proceeds from the anthology will go to the Battered women’s shelter.

In 2009, another anthology with Lori and a new set of authors, will be published with proceeds to benefit The Animal Adoption Foundation.

Follow Lori Foster on Twitter at @lorilfoster.

Shh! That’s Taboo! February 1, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in non-fiction.
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Topic of the Week: February 2-5, 2010

Each generation has its taboo topics. Film and television have broken much of the visual boundaries, yet literature was peeling away at the social mores and proprieties long before radio waves and moving pictures. This week in LitChat we’re talking about topics we’re not supposed to talk about. Are there any left?

How about menstruation, that mysterious bodily function that unites women rich and poor around the globe? Our guest host this week is Elissa Stein, co-author with Susan Kim, of Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation.

Flow: the Cultural Story of Menstruation tells you where it’s at about menstruation: what it is, what we’ve been told and how we’ve been sold, and what we should definitely know. It’s the most natural of cycles with the most unnatural of histories.

It’s a funny, fascinating, and occasionally scary story of big business, advertising, feminism, gender roles, medicine, religion, world culture, and above all, good manners . . . in which every single female, young or old, will recognize her story.

Take a moment to view these hilarious teasers on Flow’s YouTube channel.

Elissa Stein is the author of 10 books. In addition to Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation, her most current publishing projects include NYC adventures with kids, interactive thank you notes, and labor support for parents-to-be, along with visual histories of iconic pop culture—two of which were featured in Entertainment Weekly’s Must Have list. In addition to writing, she runs her own graphic design business. To balance the above, she practices yoga, knits with enthusiasm, and shops for vintage coats on ebay. She lives in New York City with her husband Jon and their two children.

Follow Elissa Stein on twitter: @elissastein