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Grit Lit and Growth January 23, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, grit lit, literary fiction, Uncategorized.
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Eleanor HendersonSome stories are just so raw and gritty they can’t be told without wincing in pain for the characters and with the author who surely bled tears while writing. These are stories and characters who linger like the scent of flowers after a funeral, neither unpleasant, nor comforting. Reflecting the times in which they occur, they are mirrors to some and to others they’re hideous portraits of life’s underbelly. This week in #litchat we’re discussing the raw and gritty literature that leads to growth and keeps you thinking.

Joining us on Friday, January 27, is Eleanor Henderson, author of Ten Thousand Saints (Ecco). Named among the Top Ten Books of 2011 by the New York Times, as well as a dozen other notable lists, Ten Thousand Saints is a solid literary debut from an author with a strong voice. There are so many themes worthy of discussion within Ten Thousand Saints, it’s hard to draw on one to the exclusion of others.

Set primarily in a fictional Vermont town and NYC’s lower east side during the mid-1980s, Henderson skillfully folds us into the lives of four teenagers escaping the dysfunctional homes of their 1960s generation hippie parents. The backbone of the story is Teddy, who early in the novel dies of an overdose, yet continues to prop up the story through the guilt each of his friends carry about the night of his death. In a milieu of drugs, sex and punk rock, we meet Jude, Teddy’s best friend; Eliza, the girl who had sex with Teddy the night he died and bears his child, and Johnny, Teddy’s older brother, a straight-edge adherent who marries Eliza in homage to Teddy. As Jude is drawn into the straight-edge punk lifestyle flourishing in the lower east side, Johnny’s  marriage to Eliza conflicts and counters everything they both believe. The specter of death hangs around the three characters, as AIDS raises from the unknown and into the bloodstream of America. Hope rests on Jude in the end, leaving the reader to speculate and wonder and imagine a dozen scenarios of closure.

Eleanor Henderson was born in Greece, grew up in Florida, and attended Middlebury College and the University of Virginia, where she received her MFA in 2005.  Her fiction has appeared in Agni, North American Review, Ninth Letter, Columbia, and Salon, among other publications.  Her story “The Farms” was nominated for a Pushcart and selected by Alice Sebold for The Best American Short Stories 2009. Her nonfiction has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, All Things Considered, Poets & Writers (where she was a contributing editor), and The Virginia Quarterly Review (where she was the chair of the fiction board)From 2006 to 2010 she taught at James Madison University in Virginia.  Now an assistant professor at Ithaca College, she lives in Ithaca, New York, with her husband, Aaron, and sons Nico and Henry.

View the video trailer for Ten Thousand Saints.

Follow Eleanor Henderson on Twitter: @eleanorofithaca.


Topic of the Week: Alternative Avenues in Publishing November 1, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in grit lit, self-published authors, self-publishing.

BooksAreGreatGiftsAs publishing continues to morph into an uncertain new model, many authors are taking their careers into their own hands through smart choices in self-publishing. Self-publishing is not to be confused with independent or small press publishers, POD printers, nor is it a true form of “indie” publishing. Self-publishing is when an author pays or shares in the costs for the printing, distribution and marketing of his or her book. A self-published author may use one of the established self-publishing houses (also known as vanity or subsidy publishers) or create a publishing corporation of his/her own.

Print on demand (POD) technology, along with the new wave of ebook formats, plus the marketing muscle of the internet, has simplified the self-publishing equation.

Many self-published books suffer from poor content editing, abysmal copy editing and proofreading, bad covers and interior design, and/or egotistical authors who believe their products to be the undiscovered work of this century’s Shakespeare. This may sound harsh, but those in the field–particularly book reviewers–know it’s true. It’s the proliferation of these self-published books that mire the field and leave reviewers and readers with bad impressions of self-publishing.

XFindingtheMoonInSugarLitChat-TheFirstExcellenceWe’re pleased to introduce two authors whose work is a pleasant exception to the negative expectations of self-published books. Each of these books could hold its own against others of like genre produced by any of the big, traditional publishers. They are well written and plotted, their covers are attractive, interior design is easy on the eyes, they are relatively free of typos and publishing style errors, but most of all they carry you along from opening to closing. Most interesting of all, both of these authors never pursued traditional publishing with these manuscripts, opting for self-publishing from the start of their projects.

Gint Aras

Gint Aras

November 4th will feature Gint Aras, author of Finding the Moon in Sugar. Gint chose to go directly to self-publishing as a means to circumvent big publishing and get his work before the eyes of readers in his own time. His novel, Finding the Moon in Sugar, is a gritty tale of post-teenage wanderings, those years in between closing the past and opening the future. Written in a voice raw from toxic love, readers can’t help but side with Andy, the hapless main character, as he stumbles through one adventure after another in the exotic streets of Vilnius, Lithuania.

Gint Aras (Karolis Gintaras Ukauskas) was born in Cicero, Ill. to immigrants displaced by World War II. He attended the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign and earned his MFA from Columbia University. To support his writing, he has worked as a hearse driver, fast food guy, hotel houseman, pasta cook, actor and delivery man. He currently teaches English and Humanities at Morton College and lives in Oak Park, Ill.


Donna Carrick

On Friday, November 6, guest host will be Donna Carrick, author of three novels, all of them self-published. Donna’s most recent novel,The First Excellence, follows Fa-ling, a young, adopted Canadian Chinese woman on a journey into the heart of mainland China where she was born. While traveling through Zhuang province with a group of Canadian couples adopting Chinese babies, Fa-ling encounters murder, kidnapping, political intrigue and organ theft.

Donna grew up in Canada’s military and now resides in Southern Ontario with her husband Alex and their three children.  Along with their beloved family pets, the Carricks spend most of their free time in Ontario’s north country.  The First Excellence draws on her experience in adopting a child from China.  Here other two novels are Gold And Fishes and The Noon God.

Follow Donna on Twitter at @Donna Carrick.

Follow Gint Aras on Twitter at @Gint_Aras.

Topic of the Week: Grit Lit October 25, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, grit lit, literary fiction.
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Monte Schulz

Monte Schulz

Literary fiction covers the gamut of human expression. Within its bounds you’ll find stories with subtle romance, intriguing mystery, smart suspense, savvy humor, fantastical escapes, futuristic forecasts, and time-past historicals. It’s not what the novel is about that labels it literary, but the whole storytelling package, from prose to plot. This week in LitChat we’re discussing edgy, gritty literary fiction. Think about ambiguous characters and dark or dangerous settings, then join us for open chat on Monday and Wednesday (October 26 & 28) for Grit Lit.

Read the chatscript from Monte Schulz’s guest host interview here.

On Friday, October 30, Monte Schulz joins us as guest host. His new novel, This Side of Jordan, inspired this week’s topic with its gritty, prohibition-era setting and trio of reprobates, rascals, and rejects. The novel grabs your sympathy for hapless farmboy, Alvin Pendergrast, but twists it into a knot of ambivalence as Alvin stumbles along a turbulent path with a sociopathic gangster and a beguiling dwarf—all of them refugees from social, cultural or physical bondage.

LitChat-ThisSideofJordanThis Side of Jordan is Monte Schulz’s second novel. His first, Down by the River, was published by Viking in 1991. Library Journal raved that Down by the River compared to Stand by Me and Twin Peaks, and seemed “ready-made for Hollywood.” Monte spent ten years writing Crossing Eden, from which This Side Of Jordan is drawn as the first of three interconnected novels; the second and third, Fields of Eden and The Big Town, will be published in 2010 and 2011.

Schulz received his M.A. in American Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He lives in Northern California. He is the son of Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts.

Monte tweets under the name: @ArthurBurtnett.

Moderator during Wednesday’s open 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.