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Exploring Love July 23, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, literary fiction, science fiction, weekly topics.
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MediaMonday for July 23, 2012: Are the Rules of Engagement for Serious Novels Changing? Source media by Warren Adler for Huffington Post, July 18, 2012.

Love is a universal emotion. Some say it is what separates humans from lower life forms. Often misunderstood and misused, love has fueled storytellers, poets, playwrights and novelists for as long as humans have used words. How does love differ from devotion, admiration, attraction and lust? Can humans truly love entities that have no flesh and blood? We’ll discuss these questions and others this Wednesday in #litchat. Wrapping up this discussion on Friday is guest host Lydia Netzer, author of Shine, Shine, Shine.

Shine, Shine, Shine is a love story and so much more. It’s a study on how we judge people consciously and unconsciously, and how some people cover their differences, some people exploit them, and why it’s so easy to do this. It’s a journey into space, into populating the moon with robots designed to build perfect human colonies. It’s an odyssey of flashbacks from the jungles of Burma, to the heartland of America, through the robotic voice of the POV character, Sunny.

Sunny, however, isn’t a robot. She’s a normal woman in every way, except she was born without body hair. Her mother guides her into celebrating her difference by refusing to let her wear wigs to cover her bald head. Add to this mix her future husband, an awkward boy named Maxon, who we come to understand is a savant genius somewhere on the autism spectrum. It’s no surprise when their child, Bubber, is diagnosed on the autism spectrum.

When Maxon takes a job designing robots for NASA’s upcoming colonization of the moon, the couple moves to suburban Virginia, where Sunny begins wearing wigs, false eyelashes and eyebrows to fit in with the other SUV-driving mothers. Sunny and Maxon’s odd courtship and married life takes up much of the backstory, while the immediate action of the story begins as Sunny’s wig is thrown off her head when she has a minor car accident while her husband is on a rocketship heading for the moon, her mother is dying in hospice, and she is eight months pregnant. When Maxon’s rocketship is struck by a meteor and the mission is doomed, readers watch Sunny snapping and stretching with superhuman strength and resolve. Shine, Shine, Shine peels away the hearts and flowers of romance to explore the nature of love in its myriad types and shapes.

Lydia Netzer was born in Detroit and educated in the Midwest. She lives in Virginia with her two home-schooled children and mathmaking husband. When she isn’t teaching, blogging, or drafting her second novel, she writes songs and plays guitar in a rock band.

Follow Lydia Netzer on Twitter: @lostcheerio


Literary Mysteries May 21, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction, mystery.
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Media Monday for May 21, 2012: Esquire to Publish Books Devoted to Men’s Fiction. Esquire’s new series of “Fiction for Men,” intends to define and push the term into the literary lexicon.

Emily St. John Mandel in LitChat

Emily St. John Mandel (Photo: Dese’Rae L. Stage)

Literary mysteries take readers beyond the who-did-it and into the psychological playground of murder and mayhem. This Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss how literary mysteries differ from mainstream or genre mysteries and why they are often misunderstood. On Friday, Emily St. John Mandel joins us to discuss her new literary mystery, The Lola Quartet.

The Lola Quartet takes readers through the lives of several individuals tied together through their high school association as a popular jazz ensemble called the Lola Quartet. Skipping about through the ten years since the members played their last gig together, several of the characters enter the story with solos that segue into a story of ambition, desperation and murder. Gavin, who returns disgraced from his job as a journalist in NYC to the Florida suburb where he once played trumpet for the quartet, sets the tone of the novel when he begins a search for his high school girlfriend who may be the mother of a child conceived those ten years ago. Each of the former quartet members play a crucial part in the score of this brilliant literary masterpiece.

Emily St. John Mandel was born on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied dance at The School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York. Her previous novels are Last Night in Montreal (a June 2009 Indie Next pick and a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s 2009 Book of the Year) and The Singer’s Gun (winner of an Indie Bookseller’s Choice Award, #1 Indie Next pick for May 2010, long-listed for both The Morning News’ 2011 Tournament of Books and the 2011 Spinetingler Awards.) She is a staff writer for The Millions. She has an essay in the recent anthology The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of the Book (Soft Skull, 2011), and her short fiction will appear in Venice Noir, an anthology forthcoming from Akashic Books in 2012. She is married and lives in Brooklyn.

Masks & Mirages May 7, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction.
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Media Monday for May 7, 2012: By the Book: Neil Gaiman: By the Book, New York Times, May 3, 2012.

Author Anna Jean Mayhew, guest host of #litchat on May 11, 2012.

Author Anna Jean Mayhew, guest host of #litchat on May 11, 2012.

Some people look back at the 1950s as that idyllic mid-century time when America was at the apex of glory. These are mostly those who didn’t live through them, or at least didn’t have to endure the harsh laws that maintained the mirage. If you lived in the South during the first half of the 20th century you saw a different image of America. Within that image of prosperity and freedom lurked a set of laws contrived to enforce the “separate but equal” ideology that conjured the illusion. On Wednesday, May 9, we’ll discuss how Masks & Mirages have been used in fiction, then on Friday, Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of August, joins us to further this discussion.

In The Dry Grass of August, Mayhew introduces us to the Watt family of Charlotte, North Carolina. They look like the all-American family climbing the financial and social ladder during the booming post-war economy of the early 1950s.  They have a spacious home in a desirable neighborhood of Charlotte, they belong to a country club, their Donna Reed-like mother stays home managing the colored maid, while the father runs his business and rakes in money enough to support the illusion of the American dream. Things go south for the Watts family during a road trip to Florida when their colored maid, Mary, falls victim to the racism that cruised the streets of redneck towns in the 1950s.

Like in many novels, the maid is drawn as the heart of the family, having practically raised all four children while the mother was off playing bridge or having pedicures. Told through the eyes of 14-year-old Jubie, or June as she’s called when she’s in trouble, the story peels the veneer back on the “happy days” of the 1950s South, with the Jim Crow laws connived to keep African-Americans from true integration into the “separate but equal” society. Jubie’s at the perfect age to tell this story which glimmers of first crushes, conflict with parental ideals, and indiscreet relationships in both business and personal life. The Dry Grass of August is one of those novels that blurs the lines between genres. Is it YA fiction. Yes. Is it women’s fiction. Definitely. Is it literary fiction? Absolutely.

Anna Jean (A. J.) Mayhew’s first novel, The Dry Grass of August, won the 2011 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, and is a finalist for the 2012 Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance. A Blackstone Audio book came out in December, and the French translation was published in April. The book will also be translated into Italian and Norwegian for release in 2013. In February, A. J. was a featured speaker at Southern Voices in Birmingham, AL, along with novelist Scott Turow. Last September, she dined with Governor Beverly Perdue at a gathering to honor North Carolina authors, and is now working on her next novel, Tomorrow’s Bread.

View the video trailer of The Dry Grass of August.

Follow Anna Jean Mayhew on Twitter: ajmwrites.

Mental Disorders in Fiction April 30, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction.

There will be no Media Monday discussion today as #litchat takes a holiday. Media Monday will resume next Monday.

Andrea Kayne KaufmanOne of the tenets of writing strong fictional characters is putting them through trials and tribulations that lead to a satisfying climax. Readers thrive on the torture, seduction, tragedies and other character arcs that stoke the fires of fiction. Within a large portion of popular plot complications, the conflicts come from without—an accident, a crime inflicted upon the character, a two-timing spouse. Other plots are fueled by a character’s inner struggles to overcome a debilitating  mental challenge. On Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss mental disorders in fiction, then on Friday we’ll chat with Andrea Kayne Kaufman, author of Oxford Messed Up.

Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder vies for center stage in Kaufman’s debut, Oxford Messed Up. When Rhodes Scholar Gloria Zimmerman heads to Oxford University with her OCD nemesis nagging within, she begins a journey that both educates and rehabilitates. A germophobe goaded by Oliver, the persona of her OCD, Gloria’s Oxford fantasy is disrupted when she’s forced to share a bathroom with Henry, a rebellious young man damaged by family tragedy and nearly ruined by his own rebellious choices. A mutual obsession with the music of Van Morrison bring the two together, despite inner sabotage and self-loathing. Kaufman creates a fulcrum of change with Gloria’s study of feminist poets and her fascination with Sylvia Plath in particular, paired with Henry’s encouragement of Gloria’s participation in an unofficial program of cognitive behavior therapy. As each of these troubled young people exorcise the demons of their disorders, they find strength, hope and acceptance within themselves, and each other.

A professor and attorney who earned a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College, a master’s degree in Education from Harvard University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Andrea Kayne Kaufman now serves as Chair of the Department of Leadership, Language and Curriculum at DePaul University College of Education. In her personal and professional life, Kaufman has been involved with issues relating to special needs, in particular Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Kaufman is currently working on her next novel, Parent Over Shoulder. In this poignant love story, Andrea brings her education background, sensitivity, insight and articulate writing style to another “hell” found in many school communities—cyber-bullying.

Watch the video trailer of Oxford Messed Up.

Follow Andrea Kayne Kaufman on Twitter: @AndreaKayneKauf.

Utopia Lost April 2, 2012

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, literary fiction, weekly topics.
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Lauren Groff (photo by Sarah McKune)

Lauren Groff (photo by Sarah McKune)

Like genius and madness, utopias and dystopias are two sides of the same coin. Utopias, those harmonious communities of equality, idealism, and euphoria, exist only as long as human ego and greed are sublimated. Dystopias are what happens when human ego and greed rise to the surface. As far back as 360 B.C. Plato argued in his Republic that just men could create ideal societies; centuries later in Paradise Lost, Milton blamed the destruction of utopia on a tempter, while H.G. Wells published several novels featuring utopian societies. On Wednesday in #litchat we’ll discuss utopian literature, then on Friday, Lauren Groff joins us as guest host to discuss her novel, Arcadia.

Arcadia is a novel of heartbreaking brilliance. Groff’s enchanting characters reach through the pages to grip your heart, pumping it with each beat of their own, with each enlightened conversation, with each act of selflessness, cowardice, or pride. Set in the wilds of upstate New York, Arcadia is the commune of a visionary musician known as Handy. It’s the dawn of the Age of Aquarius, when idealistic young people took refuge from the establishment in music, drugs, and free-thinking. Told through the eye and understanding of Bit, the first baby born within the tribe of hippies who would three years later found the commune, the voice reads as if disembodied from the idyllic happening that was Arcadia. While Arcadia reshapes the nature around them, it reshapes the nature within the people as well. As if on the puff of a magic dragon, Arcadia sweeps through the last quarter of the 20th century, as young idealists put their faith in a flawed messiah, whose own family doubts his potency. The great commune flourishes for several years, but when it crumbles, as all utopias are wont to do, the reverberations spread deep and wide. After the fall, Bit, his parents, and the Arcadians jaded by flaccid leadership, find the outside world a harsh mistress. Yet, the story doesn’t end there. Bit takes us into his adult life, where Arcadia continues to inform his decisions, his quests, even his own child. Arcadia brilliantly explores a multitude of themes—individuality, home, nostalgia, love, animal rights, expression, freedom, sexuality, innocence, and more—without judgment, sentimentality, or stagnation.

Lauren Groff was born in 1978 in Cooperstown, N.Y. She graduated from Amherst College and has an MFA in fiction from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her short stories have appeared in a number of journals, including the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly,  Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, One Story, and Subtropics, and in the anthologies Best American Short Stories 2007 and Best American Short Stories 2010Pushcart Prize XXXII, and Best New American Voices 2008.  Lauren’s first novel, The Monsters of Templeton, published in February 2008, was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection and bestseller and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for New Writers. Her second book, Delicate Edible Birds, is a collection of stories.

Follow Lauren Groff on Twitter: @legroff.

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.

Saints Alive December 12, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in historical fiction, Latino literature, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction.
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Luis Alberto Urrea

Some characters are simply to good to be true. The Pollyannas of literature. Melanie Wilkes. Pip. Forrest Gump. Sweet, kind, generous. We think of these characters as literary saints. They believe in the inherent goodness of people and can’t understand why others don’t. There’s another kind of literary saint, the ones with flaws. Ivanhoe, Atticus Finch, Jo March. There are the saints whose deep convictions are met with adversity and yet the remain true to their calling. These and others of similar cut are the literary saints we’ll be discussing this week in #litchat.

Joining us on Friday, December 16th, for his second visit to #litchat , is Luis Alberto Urrea, whose sequel to his award-winning novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter was published this month. Queen of America follows Teresita, the young Mexican woman called the Saint of Cabora, whose ability to heal the sick spread throughout Mexico near the turn of the 20th century and whose passion for freedom inspired the native peoples of Mexico to fight against the corrupt government. Queen of America opens where the The Hummingbird’s Daughter ends. Teresita and her father have fled Mexico with government assassins on their tail. It doesn’t take long for word to spread to the sick, wounded, and hopeless around their new situation in Arizona that Teresita, the Saint of Cabora, has not lost her gifts.

Urrea writes with Dickensian humor and a scope for history like Tolstoy, bringing the late 1800s to life from the border towns of the Southwest and the Indian uprisings on both sides of the border; to a San Francisco still rushed with gold, and into the parlors of New York society. Everywhere she goes, Teresita is followed by pilgrims seeking her touch, a phenomenon that both nourishes and depletes her. Among the powerful threads running throughout Queen of America is Teresita’s conflicted passion for romance and beauty against her calling as a healer. These flaws bring pain as Urrea takes readers through Teresita’s brief marriage to a violent psychopath and her later association with people bent on exploiting her gifts. Urrea paints all of this with the brush of a poet, combining the facts of Teresita’s life with the essence of her life’s work.

Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother, Urrea has published extensively in all the major genres. The critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 13 books, Urrea has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. The Devil’s Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize.

Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Follow Luis Alberto Urrea on Twitter: @urrealism.

Three’s A Crowd October 31, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in literary fiction, women's fiction.
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Gwendolen GrossIt begins in grade school, the adage “two’s company, three’s a crowd.” The refrain follows through adolescent rivalry for best friends, into the dating arenas of high school and college, and even into the competitive cubicles and offices of the professional world. It’s a common and fertile theme for artistic exploration, the canon of literature abounding with examples. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss books which feature themes leading to “three’s a crowd.”

This Friday’s guest host in #litchat, Gwendolen Gross, has explored this theme from a fresh and intriguing angle. Her latest novel, The Orphan Sister, is the story of triplet daughters born to a mercurial father and Stepford-like mother. Two of the twins are identical, leaving the odd one out to narrate what it’s like being the third wheel in a perfectly balanced family of pairs. The identicals, Olivia and Odette, given the O names after their polished and perfect mother Octavia, share the secret language of twins and are such mirror images they each follow their father into medicine, one becomes an ob-gyn, the other a pediatrician. They marry at the right time, to the right men, become pregnant within weeks of each other, and give birth to perfect babies. Clementine, the singleton within the triplets, shares a low-voltage intuition with her womb-mates, yet is conflicted with cravings for the intimacy of twinness and the individuality of marching to her own tune.

When the triplets’ father goes missing, leaving only the number of a lawyer behind, the story reveals another thread of odd-man out that threatens to unravel the tight-knit family. Layered between the triplet’s ongoing anxiety over their father’s disappearance, is Clementine’s internal struggle with self-confidence, rivalry with her sisters, hunger for approval from her father, the death of her first true love and why she has problems with love and commitment.

Gwendolen Gross grew up in Newton, Mass. She graduated from Oberlin College, where she studied science writing and voice performance. She spent a semester in Australia with a field studies program, studying spectacled fruit bats in the rainforest remnants of Northern Queensland. After college, she moved to San Francisco, then San Diego, and worked in publishing, as well as performing with the San Diego Opera Chorus. Through the San Diego Writing Center, she was selected for the PEN West Emerging Writers Program.  Gross received an M.F.A. in fiction and poetry from Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems have been published in dozens of literary magazines, and won the 1999 Adrienne Lee Award.

Her first novel, Field Guide, was issued by Henry Holt in April 2001 (Harvest paperback 2002), and her second, Getting Out, in spring 2002. These two women’s adventure fiction novels received critical acclaim. She then shifted her focus to the dramas of motherhood. with her third novel, The Other Mother (Random House, 2007).

An award-winning writing instructor, Gross has led workshops at Sarah Lawrence College and the UCLA Extension online. Gross has worked as a snake and kinkajou demonstrator, naturalist, opera singer, editor, and mom. She lives in northern New Jersey with her family.

Small Press Showcase October 24, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in classics, creative non-fiction, literary fiction, memoir, narrative nonfiction, poetry, small presses.
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It’s that time of year again. Once annually #litchat features a week of discussion led by publishers, editors and authors of independent presses. These are the rebels of publishing, the audacious leaders willing to produce books that the big houses won’t touch for a myriad of reasons. Independent, small presses often operate on a shoestring budget, with more vision than provision. What keeps independent presses rolling in this age of literary plenty? What types of manuscripts are they looking to publish? How do they position themselves between the big houses and the start-ups whose only authors are themselves? Will Amazon’s new publishing empire affect legitimate small presses? These questions and others will come up this week during Small Press Showcase.

Monday, October 24: Engine Books
Victoria Barrett, publisher/editor

Established in January of this year by Victoria Barrett, Engine Books is a boutique fiction press publishing novels, short story collections, collected novellas, and related volumes. Barrett is a writer, editor, and professor whose fiction has appeared in Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, You Must Be This Tall to Ride, and Confrontation. Her career as an editor began at Puerto del Solwhere editor Kevin McIlvoy called her “the most significant managing editor” in the journal’s history. Her work there trained her to read fiction submissions on their own terms, rather than see them through the lens of her own aesthetic preferences.

This work continues at Freight Stories, where she and co-editor Andrew Scott have published the work of finalists for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, bestsellers, and long-seasoned authors alongside emerging authors, some of whom saw in Freight Stories their first publication. The wide variety of styles and forms published in FS speak to Barrett’s enthusiasm for all kinds of fiction.

Engine Books seeks to publish four titles each year, ensuring full attention to the editing, production, and promotion of each title.

Follow Engine Books on Twitter: @enginebooks.

Wednesday, October 26: Press 53
Valerie Nieman, author
Kevin Watson, editor/publisher

Press 53 is an independent publisher of literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction that was founded in October 2005 by Kevin Morgan Watson, who serves as Fiction & Poetry Editor; Tom Lombardo is Poetry Series Editor (Tom Lombardo Poetry Selections); Robin Miura is Novel/Memoir Editor (Robin Miura Novel and Memoir Selections); and Sarah Elizabeth Younger, who serves as eBook editor.

Press 53 is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the Community Arts Cafe building at Fourth & Spruce. They publish full-length books by established writers. In addition to finding and showcasing new writers in our Press 53 Open Awards Anthology, and established writers in our short story and poetry collections, novels, and creative nonfiction books, we also have a fondness for bringing back great books that are out of print, which we re-issue under our Press 53 Classics imprint.

Follow Press 53 on Twitter: @Press53.

Kevin Morgan Watson is founder of Press 53 and serves as editor in chief with a special focus on short stories and poetry. As a publisher, he has worked with writers ranging from first-time published authors to winners of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize. As a writer, his short stories, poetry, and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including the 2002 TallGrass Writers Guild/Outrider Press anthology Take Two—They’re Small, where his short story “Sunny Side Up” won first prize. Kevin also serves as an advisor for student adaptation of short stories to screenplays with the screenwriting faculty at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking in Winston-Salem, NC.

Follow Kevin Watson on Twitter: @Press53.

Valerie Nieman, author of Blood Clay has also published a collection of short stories, Fidelities, from West Virginia University Press, and a poetry collection, Wake Wake Wake. She has received an NEA creative writing fellowship, two Elizabeth Simpson Smith prizes in fiction, and the Greg Grummer Prize in poetry. A native of Western New York State, she graduated from West Virginia University and the M.F.A. program at Queens University of Charlotte. She teaches writing at N.C. A&T State University and is the poetry editor for Prime Number Magazine.

Follow Valerie Nieman on Twitter: @ValNieman.

Friday, October 28: The Overlook Press
Frances Hill, author 

The Overlook Press is an independent general-interest publisher, founded in 1971. The publishing program consists of nearly 100 new books per year, evenly divided between hardcovers and trade paperbacks. The list is eclectic, but areas of strength include interesting fiction, history, biography, drama, and design.

The house was launched by owner Peter Mayer as a home for distinguished books that had been ”overlooked” by larger houses. At the time Mayer was at the helm of one of them, Avon, and would go on to a twenty-year tenure at Penguin, which he eventually headed as well. He joined with his father Alfred, a retired glove manufacturer, to nurture Overlook Press, supervising business from Manhattan in his off hours, while Fredy ran the upstate operation, picturesquely housed in an old apple shed on Overlook Mountain in Woodstock.

Another cherished mission is to revive and bring to new audiences classic books and authors. We are renowned for our stylish editions of the works of P.G. Wodehouse, as well as bringing back the beloved Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks. In addition, they have just completed new paperback editions of fiction by Joseph Roth, one of literature’s modern masters. In 2002 the Overlook Press acquired Ardis, the premier publisher of Russian literature in English. More recently the Overlook elephant has spread its wings across the Atlantic to take under new ownership the 106-year-old company Duckworth.

Follow the Overlook Press on Twitter: @overlookpress.

Author of Outlook Press’s recently published novel Deliverance from EvilFrances Hill was born in London in 1943 and went to Keele University, Staffordshire, where she obtained a BA Honours degree in English Literature and Philosophy. For many years she was the radio critic for the TES as well as a fiction reviewer and obituary writer for The Times and feature writer for many other publications including The Times Higher Education Supplement, The Guardian and The Spectator. Her first novel, Out of Bounds, was published by John Murray in 1985 and was followed by a second novel, A Fatal Delusion (John Murray), in 1989. In 1992 she began work on her acclaimed account of the Salem witch trials, A Delusion of Satan, which was published by Doubleday in New York in 1995 and Hamish Hamilton in London in 1996. A new edition with a new preface appeared in 2002. Her second book on the Salem witch trials, The Salem Witch Trials Reader, was published by da Capo in 2000 and her third book on the same subject, Hunting for Witches, A Visitor’s Guide to the Salem Witch Trials, was published by Commonwealth Editions in 2002. Such Men Are Dangerous, The Fanatics of 1692 and 2004 was published by Upper Access in March 2004. Frances Hill lives in London but visits the U.S. regularly, spending every summer in Connecticut.

Addiction in Fiction October 3, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, bestsellers, literary fiction.
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Addition is enslavement to something that exerts such power over a person, he/she loses the ability to resist. Alcohol and narcotics—whether legal or not—ensnare a person physiologically, yet addiction to habits, practices or even people can also smite a person to the point of despair, depression, death. This week in #litchat we’re discussing novels featuring the diverse forms of addition.

Joining us on Friday, October 7, is novelist Martha Southgate, whose fourth novel, The Taste of Salt, was released by Algonquin on September 13. Josie Henderson is an anomaly to everyone around her, even to herself.
From her earliest memories, Josie is drawn to the ocean and marine life. When she becomes a marine biologist, she’s among a small number of females in the profession. Add that she’s black, and the numbers descend to one. Through Josie’s eyes we meet her parents, her mother from the educated middle class, and her father, an autoworker who reads widely and tinkers at novel-writing. Alcohol rears its scaly head in the life of the father, whose novel-writing aspirations turn to vapor in the grip of the beast. A younger brother, Tick, endears and then tears the hearts out of each character as the novel progresses through the cycles of addiction. With visits back and forth in Josie’s past, we see her as the strong one determined to make her own way in a white, male-dominated profession, while addiction of another kind ripples the placid surface of the life she’s worked so hard to maintain.

Martha Southgate is the author of four novels. Her previous novel, Third Girl from the Left, won the Best Novel of the Year award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and was shortlisted for the PEN/Beyond Margins Award and the Hurston/Wright Legacy award. Her novel The Fall of Rome received the 2003 Alex Award from the American Library Association and was named one of the best novels of 2002 by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post. She is also the author of Another Way to Dance, which won the Coretta Scott King Genesis Award for Best First Novel. She received a 2002 New York Foundation for the Arts grant and has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Her July 2007 essay from the New York Times Book Review, “Writers Like Me” received considerable notice and appears in the anthology Best African-American Essays 2009. Previous non-fiction articles have appeared in The New York Times Magazine,OPremiere, and Essence.

Follow Martha Southgate on Twitter: @mesouthgate.