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Mary Sharratt, Guest Host January 10, 2013

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in historical fiction, literary fiction, religion and mysticism.
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Mary Sharratt in #litchatOn Friday, January 11, 2012, author Mary Sharratt joins us in #litchat to discuss her new novel, Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen. With stunning prose dripping with scholarly insight, Sharratt introduces to contemporary readers the heartrending and still inspiring story of a 12th century Benedictine abbess, prophet and polymath given to the Church at the age of eight to serve as handmaiden to Jutta, a fanatical young noblewoman in spiritual seclusion at a German monastery. Given to visions from an early age, Hildegard became renowned throughout the region for prophecies and mystical experiences. Walled away from the world for 30 years with Jutta and her covy of handmaidens, after Jutta’s death, Hildegard breaks free of the cocoon of seclusion to become the most important advocate of women the Church has yet to see.

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Following her release from the anchorage at Disibodenburg, Hildegard composed a body of sacred music that is still performed and enjoyed today. Her nine books on subjects as diverse as theology, natural science, medicine, and human sexuality put many of her male contemporaries to shame. She founded two convents and became an outspoken critic of political and ecclesiastical corruption. Controversial and confrontational, her excommunication from the Church lead her closer to God.

Combining fiction, history, and Hildegardian philosophy, Illuminations presents an arresting portrait of a woman of faith and power—a visionary in every sense of the word.

Mary Sharratt is an American writer who lives with her Belgian husband in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England, the setting for her acclaimed 2010 novel,Daughters of the Witching Hill, which recasts the Pendle Witches of 1612 in their historical context as cunning folk and healers. Previously she lived for 12 years in Germany. This, along with her interest in sacred music and herbal medicine, inspired her to write  Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen.

Winner of the 2005 WILLA Literary Award and a Minnesota Book Award Finalist, Mary has also written the acclaimed novels Summit Avenue (Coffee House 2000),The Real Minerva (Houghton Mifflin 2004), The Vanishing Point (Houghton Mifflin 2006), and co-edited the subversive fiction anthology Bitch Lit (Crocus Books 2006), which celebrates female anti-heroes—strong women who break all the rules. Her short fiction has been published in Twin Cities Noir (Akashic Books 2006).

Follow Mary Sharratt on Twitter: MarySharratt.

View the Illuminations book trailer: Illuminations.

Mary writes regular articles for Historical Novels Review and Solander on the theme of writing women back into history. When she isn’t writing, she’s usually riding her spirited Welsh mare through the Lancashire countryside.

The Power of Place November 15, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in commercial fiction, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, religion and mysticism, weekly topics.
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Ilie Ruby
(Photo: Steve Lifshatz)

When discussing fiction, we talk often of protagonists–their physical attributes, personality development, emotional growth, personal motivation and the like. In many novels, the setting is so integral to the story, it becomes a character as vivid as the humans who inhabit the place. The Power of Place is this topic of the week for November 15-19 in #litchat.

On Friday, November 19, author Ilie Ruby joins #litchat as guest host. Ruby’s debut novel, The Language of Trees, is a mesmerizing work of mystery steeped in Native Indian lore and spiritualism. Through the disappearance of a local woman and the link it has to the drowning of a boy in Canandaigua Lake a decade ago, a powerful story of hope and forgiveness emerges. It’s not a love story, yet the relationship between Grant Shongo, who returns broken from divorce to the lakeside house of his childhood, and his first love Ecco O’Connell, ties them together and to the place. As memorable as the characters themselves, is the place called Canadaigua Lake. Spirits old and new roam the area with ancient memories and modern motivations. Humans and animals, spirits and setting bind together in this book of hope, forgiveness, respect and love.

Ilie Ruby grew up in Rochester, New York and spent her childhood summers on Canandaigua Lake, the setting for her debut novel, The Language of Trees. She is the winner of the Edwin L. Moses Award for Fiction, chosen by T.C. Boyle; a Kerr Foundation Fiction Scholarship; and the Phi Kappa Phi Award for Creative Achievement in Fiction. Ruby is also a recipient of the Wesleyan Writer’s Conference Davidoff Scholarship in Nonfiction and the Kemp Award for Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship. She has worked on PBS archaeology documentaries in Central America, taught 5th grade in Los Angeles on the heels of the Rodney King riots of 1992, and written two children’s books, Making Gold and The Last Boat. In 1995, she graduated from the Masters of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where she was fiction editor of The Southern California Anthology.

Follow Ilie Ruby on Twitter at @IlieRuby.

Second Chances September 20, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in Christian fiction, faith, fiction, inspirational fiction, religion and mysticism, winners.
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Charlene Ann Baumbich

 

Starting over. Life is full of times when people leave behind one way of life to assume another. Whether a deliberate choice, an unconscious gravitation to what is needed/missing/wanting, or a life-altering event thrust upon a person without preference or desire, stories of second chances are excellent reading. This week in #litchat we’ll discuss books with themes of second chances.

Guest host on Friday, September 24, is Charlene Ann Baumbich. Divine Appointments, the second in her Snow Globe series, features a theme of second chances for more than one character in the novel.  In its July 26 review of Divine Appointments, Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “Josie Brooks [protagonist] is not interested in disruption. Everything in her life is organized, minimal, and efficient. A successful business consultant in Chicago with a type-A personality, she ruthlessly identifies and slashes any source of economic wastefulness with complete disregard for the employees themselves. Soon, everyone at Diamond Mutual calls her “The Dragon” as she orders the termination of decent, hardworking people for the sake of profit. Josie’s rigid life, however, mysteriously begins to unravel when a strangely alluring snow globe appears at her apartment. Soon afterward, Josie is forced to confront her own flaws and fears, beginning an emotional journey toward love, friendship, mourning, and new beginnings. A wide range of characters flesh out this latest installment of Baumbich’s (Stray Affections) Snow Globe series, most emerging impressively from the narrative. Particularly noteworthy is Baumbich’s ability to make Josie likable even at the height of her self-centeredness [LitChat emphasis]. Readers familiar with the first book in the series will note that the place, plot, and characters in the second book are all new, but having a second chance is still a central theme.”

Baumbich is an award-winning journalist who speaks and writes about the layers of life as she sees them, which is often slightly off center, mostly dead-on, and always through lenses of grace. Her highly successful Dearest Dorothy series of novels celebrate octogenarian spitfire Dorothy Jean Wetstra and the residents of small-town Bartonville. Her nonfiction titles range from Mama Said There’d Be Days Like This to Don’t Miss Your Kids!. Charlene speaks to the heart, the funny bone, and a broad age span. For more than a decade, Charlene has presented her most requested talk–“Don’t Miss Your Life!”–to audiences across the country and in Canada. Her creative pedal is to the floor, her energized words are ripe, her cranky gallbladder has been “left behind,” and her message is right on time.

 

Read chatscripts from this week’s discussions:

September 20 & 22, 2010:  Second Chances

September 24, 2010: author Charlene Ann Baumbich, topic Second Chances

Follow Charlene Ann Baumbich on Twitter: @TwinkleChar.

Mixed Relationships March 28, 2010

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in African-American literature, fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, religion and mysticism, weekly topics.
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Topic of the Week: March 29-April 2, 2010

Dolen Perkins-Valdez

Joining us on Friday, April 2, is Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Wench.

The deepest pock on the face of the United States is undoubtedly the era of slavery. One of the most important books of the year, Wench is a historically accurate look at the complex relationships born of slavery. Four slave women from plantations scattered around the South are taken by their masters to a hunting/fishing resort in the free North, given latitude to explore, to think and to scheme. Freedoms unimaginable back on the plantation.

You could call them mistresses, but that’s only a euphemism. The women featured in Wench, Lizzy, Reenie, Sweet and Mawu, are sex slaves to the southern masters they serve. Complicating the relationships are the feelings of love, hate and indifference these women have for their masters. The choices that seem so tempting—escape into the free north—become another form of bondage when they consider the children they’ve born of these sires. Relationships between the slave women one to another form a circle of understanding that leads to a bittersweet ending readers won’t easily forget.

Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Robert Olen Butler Prize Stories 2009, The Kenyon Review, PMS: PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, and Richard Wright Newsletter. Born and raised in Memphis, a graduate of Harvard, and a former University of California postdoctoral fellow, Perkins-Valdez teaches creative writing at the University of Puget Sound. She splits her time between Washington, DC and Seattle, Washington.  Wench is her first novel.

Follow Dolen Perkins-Valdez on Twitter at @Dolen.

Read chatscript from Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s visit in #litchat here.

Topic of the Week: Contemporary Inspirational Literature October 4, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in inspirational memoir, memoir, religion and mysticism.
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From Publishers Weekly
Ryan’s winsome memoir and writing debut traces her desperate search for a man—specifically a husband—and for a spirituality that works for her. En route, her heart is broken in every possible way: her college fiancé cheats on her; her first husband abuses her; and she dates a succession of alternately nice and creepy noncommittal guys. She attempts to talk herself out of her desire for marriage, hoping that crystals, feng shui and astrology will provide the guidance she needs to sort out the mess of her life. When she ends up unemployed and broke in Boston, she channel surfs across a Joyce Meyer program one afternoon and is shocked to hear that the Bible promises good things. She visits an evangelical church, joins a small group and ever so tentatively explores the idea of Jesus, eventually giving him her broken life and asking him to fix it. God promises her a husband and delivers (with a tinge of prosperity gospel that will appeal to Meyer fans), but not without cost. In spite of her desperation and a string of horrible choices, Ryan is eminently likable and vulnerable, and her sharp writing will appeal to faithful and irreverent readers alike. (Apr. 3

Contemporary Inspirational Literature

Trish Ryan

Trish Ryan

Inspirational literature is no longer confined to Sunday School readers or religious texts. Strolling through a bookstore you’ll see shelves dedicated to literature of many faiths, including fiction and memoir. Some authors reach beyond the confines of their personal religion with smart, humorous or controversial topics that appeal to people outside the religious platform. This week in LitChat we’ll discuss what makes good inspirational literature–whether Persian, Kabbala, Hindu, Buddhist or other mystical or new age topics.

Trish Ryan is one of those authors whose memoir may be Christian in conclusion, but speaks to people of many faiths. The story of her search for God and the perfect man, He Love Me, He Loves Me Not (Faith Works/Hatchette), has been lauded critics for its honest self-examination and witty commentary on her own life. Publishers Weekly said this about He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not:

HeLoveMe-RyanRyan’s winsome memoir and writing debut traces her desperate search for a man—specifically a husband—and for a spirituality that works for her. En route, her heart is broken in every possible way: her college fiancé cheats on her; her first husband abuses her; and she dates a succession of alternately nice and creepy noncommittal guys. She attempts to talk herself out of her desire for marriage, hoping that crystals, feng shui and astrology will provide the guidance she needs to sort out the mess of her life. When she ends up unemployed and broke in Boston, she channel surfs across a Joyce Meyer program one afternoon and is shocked to hear that the Bible promises good things. She visits an evangelical church, joins a small group and ever so tentatively explores the idea of Jesus, eventually giving him her broken life and asking him to fix it. God promises her a husband and delivers (with a tinge of prosperity gospel that will appeal to Meyer fans), but not without cost. In spite of her desperation and a string of horrible choices, Ryan is eminently likable and vulnerable, and her sharp writing will appeal to faithful and irreverent readers alike.

Trish lives in Ithaca, New York, with her husband Steve, and their genetically improbable mixed-breed dog. She just completed a follow-up to He Love Me, He Loves Me Not.

Follow Trish on Twitter at @Trishryan

Topic of the Week: Faith, Religion & Mysticism in Fiction July 13, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in faith, fiction, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, religion and mysticism.
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Carleen Brice

Carleen Brice

No matter our background or our personal beliefs, we are surrounded by people who talk to dead people, who see ghosts, who read auras, who pray, meditate and believe in something or someone beyond this world. This week in LitChat we’ll discuss books that are based in reality, but have significant mystical or religious threads.

Joining us on Friday is Carleen Brice, author of Orange Mint and Honey and the recently released Children of the Water. Both novels have characters that may or may not be speaking from the great beyond. Orange Mint and Honey includes what may be the ghost of Nina Simone or another character’s imagination. The late grandmother in Children of the Waters leaves a letter for her granddaughter to find after her death, and may or may not be leaving other clues as well. Also, her characters have novel spiritual practices, like Billie in Children of the Waters, who speaks with her ancestors and believes they speak back.

Brice-ChildrenoftheWatersCarleen’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey, was an Essence “Recommended Read” and a Target “Bookmarked Breakout Book.”  For this book, she won the 2009 First Novelist Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association and the 2008 Break Out Author Award at the African American Literary Awards Show.  Orange Mint and Honey was optioned by Lifetime Movie Network.

Her second novel, Children of the Waters (One World/Ballantine), a book about race, love and family, just came out at the end of June. Booklist Online called it “a compelling read, difficult to put down.” You can read an excerpt at her website www.carleenbrice.com.

She is at work on her third novel, Calling Every Good Wish Home, which, you guessed it, includes themes with mysticism and faith. And she maintains the blog “White Readers Meet Black Authors.”

We’re giving a way a signed copy of Carleen’s Orange Mint and Honey during Friday’s LitChat. We will blind draw a winner from names of everyone who participates–on topic–in LitChat during Carleen’s chat.

Follow Carleen at: @carleenbrice