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Special Guest Host: Adam Mansbach December 8, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Books Are Great Gifts, non-fiction.
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We’re thrilled to have Adam Mansbach join us in the #litchat virtual salon on Friday, December 9, 4-5 p.m. ET, to complete this week’s topical discussion of gift and holiday books. Mansbach’s most recent book, Go the F**k to Sleep, is a #1 New York Times bestseller, and one of the most talked-about books of the decade.  A viral sensation that shot to #1 on Amazon.com months before the book was even available, it has been published in more than thirty languages, and is forthcoming as a feature film from Fox 2000.

Mansbach’s last novel, The End of the Jews, won the 2008 California Book Award and was long-listed for the IMPAC-Dublin Prize.  His previous novel, Angry Black White Boy, was a San Francisco ChronicleBest Book of 2005; it is taught at more than eighty universities and has been adapted into a prize-winning stage play.

He is also the author of the novel Shackling Water, the poetry collection genius b-boy cynics getting weeded in the garden of delights, and A Fictional History of the United States With Huge Chunks Missing, an anthology of original short stories which he co-edited with T Cooper.

An inaugural recipient of the Ford Foundation’s Future Aesthetics Artist Grant, Mansbach is the 2009-2011 New Voices Professor of Fiction at Rutgers University. The founding editor of the pioneering 1990s hip hop journal Elementary, his fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review,New York Times Sunday MagazineEsquireGQThe Times of LondonThe BelieverN+1The Los Angeles Times, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

Mansbach’s forthcoming projects include a graphic novel, Nature of the Beast, and two novels, Rage is Back (Viking, 2013) and The Dead Run (Morrow, 2013). He lives in Berkeley, California, and is a frequent lecturer on college campuses across the country.

Follow Adam Mansbach on Twitter: @adammansbach

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Legends to Life September 26, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in animals, biography, narrative nonfiction, non-fiction.
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Susan Orlean

What do Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Mahatma Gandhi, Joe DiMaggio and Rin Tin Tin have in common? Each of these legendary figures has a new biography published in 2011. Humans are curious creatures. We want to know about the world around us and that world is populated with characters of glamorous intrigue, humanitarian insight, physical prowess, and doggone greatness. Biographies crack the curtains and allow us to peer into the world of fascinating people and legendary characters. This week in #litchat we’re discussing Legends to Life.

On Friday, September 30, #litchat welcomes Susan Orlean, the award-winning author of numerous nonfiction narratives, including The Orchid Thief, the book that inspired Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s brilliant film, Adaptation. Her most recent book, Rin Tin Tin, is a biography of the legendary canine who captured hearts around the world during the early years of film and held them through the emergence of television, and beyond.

Orlean’s personal fascination with Rin Tin Tin began began with the forbidden, a plastic figurine of Rin Tin Tin shelved in her grandfather’s office. An animal lover and pop culture flâneur, Orlean digs into the legend behind the dog to discover that Rin Tin Tin is more than just a legend, he’s immortal. Kind of. The original Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd puppy found by American soldier Lee Duncan in a bomb-blasted kennel in France died at the age of 13 years. Through Orlean’s meticulous research and savvy observation, we meet an extraordinary dog and his best friend, the man who could never let Rin Tin Tin die. Fused into the story of the man and the dog is the fascinating history of film and television, the development of modern pet culture, the near obsessive devotion to keeping the legend and the bloodline of Rin Tin Tin alive and the legal wrangling tied into it all. Rin Tin Tin is not a book about a dog, but an epic tale about foundlings and heroes of different shapes and sizes.

Susan Orlean has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, and has contributed articles to Vogue, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and Outside. Originally from Cleveland, she graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and lives with her family and animals in upstate New York as well as Los Angeles.

Follow Susan Orlean on Twitter: @SusanOrlean.

All Around Writers August 22, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, creative non-fiction, non-fiction, weekly topics, winners.
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Elizabeth Letts

In the baseball world, an athlete who competently plays any position is called a utility player. In the blue-collar world, an individual skilled in many crafts is called a Jack of all trades. There is no iconic term for a writer who successfully publishes books in several genres. Paul Theroux is renowned for both fiction and travel memoirs. The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis have entertained children for decades, yet Lewis was also a prolific writer of adult fiction and Christian apologetics. Carl Hiaasen began as a journalist, then turned to humorous crime fiction, middle grade children’s books, and even nonfiction. Abraham Verghese, author of the recent bestseller, Cutting For Stone, published two critically acclaimed memoirs before turning to fiction. This week in #litchat we’re discussing all around writers, those authors whose books are shelved in multiple sections of the bookstore.

Guest host on Friday, August 26, is Elizabeth Letts, author of The Eighty Dollar Champion. Subtitled Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, The Eighty Dollar Champion is the story of a horse with a big heart and the Dutch immigrant who saved him from the slaughterhouse. As a talented young equestrian in Holland prior to World War II, Harry de Leyer dreamed of riding for Holland in the Olympics. When the Nazis occupied his small village in Holland, Harry went from jumping horses for prizes to smuggling food in a brewer’s cart between Nazi checkpoints. Following the war, Harry and his bride left their families and war ravaged village for America to begin a new life. Like many immigrants, life was rocky in the new country, but Harry rediscovered his wings when caring for other people’s horses.

When he is hired as the riding master for an exclusive girls’ boarding school on Long Island, Harry’s fate mingles with a neglected plowhorse headed for the slaughter house. What Harry saw in the horse his children named Snowman was anything but champion, but after several fluke examples of the horse’s amazing jumping ability, Harry risks his reputation and financial stability to train the plowhorse to jump fences in a show arena as well as he does paddock fences on a farm. After a season of winning against big name horses with royal pedigrees, Harry does the unthinkable. He enters Snowman, the flea-bitten gray plowhorse, in the Super Bowl of horse shows, the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden. Before the eyes of the world’s upper crust of society, Snowman’s win of the Triple Crown — the American Horse Shows Association Horse of the Year, Professional Horseman’s Association Champion and National Horse Show Champion, proved to Harry and the world, that champions are more than just breeding, bearing, and beauty. The Eighty Dollar Champion is a double dose of inspiration, a two-in-one story of pursuing dreams, taking risks, and overcoming obstacles.

Elizabeth Letts is the award-winning author of two novels, Quality of Care and Family Planning, and one children’s book, The Butter Man. Quality of Care was a Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Books-A-Million Book Club selection. An equestrian from childhood, Letts represented California as a junior equestrian, and was runner-up in the California Horse and Rider of the Year competition. She currently lives with her husband and four children in Baltimore, Maryland.

Follow Elizabeth Letts on Twitter: @ElizabethLetts.

Pseudonyms July 25, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in chick lit, multi-cultural fiction, mystery, non-fiction.
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Samuel Clemons had Mark Twain. Charles Dodson had Lewis Carroll. The Bronte sisters had the Bells. Pseudonymns. For reasons public and private, long-speculated and tossed glibly in gossip, these and thousands of other authors through the years chose to publish their writing under different names. The reasons they chose pen names are many, varied from author to author and era to era. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss authors writing under pseudonyms.

We have a treat in store this week with two guest hosts. On Wednesday, July 27, Carmela Ciuraru joins us to discuss her new book, Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms. Friday, July 29, a mystery novelist will share why she chose to publish her debut novel, A Good Excuse to Be Bad, under the pen name Miranda Parker.

Carmela Ciuraru, Nom De Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms

Nom De Plume is an engaging glimpse into the lives of 18 literary icons who published under pen names. Rather than try to psychoanalyze why these complex individuals chose pen names, Ciuraru draws from scholarly sources, first-person anecdotes, diaries, and public record to contrast the authors with their alter egos. Ciuraru asserts that the choice of pen name and how the author employs—or lives within—the pseudonym reveals as much about the person as the words he/she writes. The secrets alluded to in the book’s subtitle aren’t new author scandals, conspiracies or mysteries, but overlooked details that distinguish the character of the author from the alias. Nom De Plume unites rigorous research with witty and playful prose, resulting in a book writers will be putting on their holiday gift lists for years to come.

Carmela Ciuraru does not write under a pseudonym. In addition to Nom De Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms, Ciuraru’s anthologies include First Loves: Poets Introduce the Essential Poems That Captivated and Inspired Them (Scribner) and Solitude Poems (Alfred A. Knopf/Everyman’s Library). A graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, she is a member of the National Book Critics Circle and PEN American Center. She has written for the  New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, and other publications. She is a 2011 Fellow in Nonfiction from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).

Follow Carmela Ciuraru on Twitter: @CarmelaTheTwit.

Miranda Parker, A Good Excuse To Be Bad

Miranda Parker may or may not reveal her real name during her visit to #litchat. She will, however, share why she chose to write under a pen name. Her debut novel, A Good Excuse To Be Bad, is the first in a series featuring drop-dead gorgeous bounty hunter Evangeline Crawford. When her brother-in-law, the high-profile pastor of an Atlanta megachurch, is murdered and her twin sister arrested for the crime, Evangeline uses her brains and her beauty to reveal the killer. Evangeline, nicknamed “Angel,” flirts and flaunts while on the job, but off duty, the girl walks a mean straight and narrow.

After graduating from Agnes Scott College, the author known as Miranda Parker began working as a features editor for various magazines and spent many years as a publicist for national recording artists, actors, ministers, and authors. However, writing fun, fiesty, redemptive bad girl gone good stories is her passion. She resides with her family in Georgia near a horse ranch and her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. On a perfect day she can be found curled up with a good book or in a movie theater with a bucket of popcorn.

Follow Miranda Parker on Twitter: @MirandaParker2.

Protagonists Of Our Own Lives June 27, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in non-fiction.
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Erin Blakemore

In #litchat discussions about why people read fiction we’ve found a large group of people who claim that fiction is an escape from their real lives. They enjoy living vicariously through the characters, citing how they prefer characters who do things they dream about, but would never dare or have the opportunity to do, be or achieve in real life. Other fiction aficionados read to explore diverse cultures, bygone eras, and scintillating scenarios. No matter the reason for their fiction addition, most readers place compelling characters at the top of what makes a novel succeed. The best literary characters unfold from the pages of novels into the mindstream of public perception like icons of universal understanding, household names in the pantheon of celebrity. We quote them, we emulate them, we revere them, we discuss them as if they were real people. And yet, they are the creations of authors. Characters that sprang to life in the mind of a person with a story to tell. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss how literary characters propel ideas, shape culture and inspire people to become active protagonists in their own lives.

Joining us as guest host on Friday, July 1st is Erin Blakemore, author of The Heroine’s Bookshelf. An exploration of classic heroines and their equally admirable authors, The Heroine’s Bookshelf uses these characters to help people tap into their inner strengths and live life with intelligence and grace. Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with  intelligent,  feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. Like today’s women, they placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. In this witty, informative, and  inspiring read, their stories offer much-needed literary intervention to modern readers. While the book may use female characters as examples, there is much for readers of both sexes to appreciate.

Award-winning author Blakemore learned to drool over Darcy and cry over Little Women in suburban San Diego, Calif.These days, her inner heroine loves roller derby, running her own business, and hiking in her adopted hometown of Boulder, Colo..  Erin’s debut book, The Heroine’s Bookshelf, was published by HarperCollins in October.  Learn more about the book at The Heroine’s Bookshelf.

Follow Erin Blakemore on Twitter at @heroinebook.

The Writer’s Life November 29, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Books Are Great Gifts, non-fiction, weekly topics.
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Bill Peschel

Are writers born or made? What characteristics, choices and compulsions combine to create a writer? No matter the genre; whether published or unpublished; fiction or non-fiction; poetry, essay, short story, or journalism, a writer is a writer when they write.

This week in #litchat we’re discussing “The Writer’s Life.” Well talk about why we write and our hopes for the words that we pour onto the page. We’ll discuss productive writing habits, breaking through writer’s block, understanding constructive criticism vs personal opinion, and other topics relevant to successful and satisfactory literary accomplishment.

To help us unmask the writing mystique is Bill Peschel, author of Writers Gone Wild, The Feuds, Frolics, and Follies of Literatures’s Great Adventurers, Drunkards, Lovers, Iconoclasts, and Misanthropes. A perfect gift for the writer in your life, Writers Gone Wild, includes dozens of hilarious and heartbreaking stories of writers behaving badly. If you think James Frey pulled a good one on the literary community with his fake memoir, consider Upton Sinclair’s planted obituary for the faked suicide of Arthur Stirling, the fictional protagonist in his novel The Journal of Arthur Stirling. This 257-page book includes dozens of hilarious and heartbreaking tattles and tales, along with a bibliography and an index.

Bill Peschel was born in 1960 in Ohio, and grew up there and in North Carolina. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.A. in journalism. At The Avalon Hill Game Company in Baltimore, he published a magazine for fantasy role-players and developed computer games. He spent several years as a shipping clerk, bread truck driver, paste-up artist and unsuccessful novelist before returning to journalism as a book reviewer, copy editor and page designer. Currently living in Hershey, Pa., and working for The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, “Writers Gone Wild” (Perigee Books, 2010) is his first book.

Follow Bill Peschel on Twitter at @Bill_Peschel.

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

Topic of the Week: The Fine Line Between Fact and Fiction July 27, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in creative non-fiction, memoir, non-fiction, travel essays.
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No matter what publishing pundits say, memoirs and creative non-fiction are still selling. You’d think that after James Frey’s memoir, A Million Little Pieces, was exposed as brilliant fiction in memoir covers, publishing professionals would be more scrupulous in signing and publishing memoirs. Not so. Along came Misha Defonseca’s, Misha: A Memoire of the Holocaust Years, followed by Love and Consequences by Margaret B. Jones, both of which have been outed as fakes. Perhaps the most heartbreaking memoir fraud of late was Angel at the Fence by Herman Rosenblat, the Halocaust love story everyone wanted to believe about the girl who threw apples over the concentration camp fence and later married the author.

Gary Buslik with his favorite Tweeter

Gary Buslik with his favorite Tweeter

Gary Buslik says he doesn’t have the faintest idea how to make an honest living. He wrote for travel magazines for a while, and when he discovered that by tossing around insincere promises, he could get hotels and restaurants to give him free rooms, meals, and drinks to write something nice about them, and, what’s more, the IRS would let him deduct lots of goofy expenses by declaring himself a freelance writer, he was able to forge a virtually useless profession into a rewarding lifestyle.

These days Gary writes novels, short stories, and essays and, in case the government should ask any questions, teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago—which isn’t quite an honest living, but you work with what you have.

A Rotten Person CoverHis work has appeared in many literary and commercial magazines and anthologies and has been nominated several times for Pushcart Prizes. His novel The Missionary’s Position is a favorite of the Caribbean tourist crowd, and his latest book, A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean (Travelers’ Tales 2008), won Benjamin Franklin and Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Awards for travel writing.

Gary windsurfs and plays softball. He wants his gravestone to read, HERE LIES GARY BUSLIK. NOW, THANK GOD, HE NEVER HAS TO PLAY GOLF.

Follow Gary at @rottenperson.