Thursday, July 18, 2019

Book Beginning: Set in Darkness by Ian Rankin

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



Darkness was falling as Rebus accepted the yellow hardhat from his guide.

-- Set in Darkness by Ian Rankin. This is the 11th in Rankin's Inspector John Rebus series, set in Edinburgh. This time, dead bodies keep showing up at the building site of the new Scottish Parliament.

Rebus is one of my favorite series. Any other fans?



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56

"You always overdo things!" his mother snapped at him. To which he said nothing, just stared into his pudding bowl, glancing up eventually to wink at Lorna.

From minute 56 in the audiobook.




Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Author Interview: Dede Montgomery


Dede Montgomery's deep roots in the Pacific Northwest inspire her writing, first in her 2017 memoir, My Music Man, and now in her debut novel, Beyond the Ripples.


Dede recently talked with Rose City Reader about her new book, community, and what comes next:


How would you describe your new book, Beyond the Ripples?

Ultimately, this book explores the connections formed between people. I believe that the universe works in a way that offers us multitudes of opportunities to connect and experience others, especially when we pay attention. Beyond the Ripples is also about the power of friendship, and the regrets and choices dotting family relationships. It is about secrets and how we all are given opportunities to forgive, learn, love, and move on. My own childhood act of writing a note, putting it in a bottle, and launching it into the Willamette River gave me the initial inspiration for the beginning of the novel. While an older man living downriver did answer my letter, this novel allowed me to imagine what else could come from something as simple as answering a letter from someone you don’t know.

What is your professional or personal background and how did it lead to you writing fiction?

I come from generations of writers, including my grandfather (history-filled books like The White Headed Eagle), my great-great-grandfather J.K. Gill (of J.K. Gill Company) and my dad, a journalist. I have always loved to write, and while my writing skills have been important to support my work in my technical career, it hasn’t been my main thing. When I was young I did want to write a book, but college, graduate school, and my career took me in another direction, although I have always actively journaled.

Five years ago, when my dad died, I began writing my memoir (My Music Man, BInk Publishing, 2017). Prior to writing this memoir, I would not have imagined that I had a novel “inside” me. Yet, writing memoir, while staying as true to facts as my memories allowed, helped me understand how I could now use my own creativity to develop a new and fictional story. It has been a beautiful, fulfilling process for me, and the best thing I could have done during my mid-life journey.

There is a theme of human connectedness that runs through the story in Beyond the Ripples. How does that theme manifest itself in your new book and are there other themes you tried to bring out?

Not only does this theme manifest itself in how the characters meet and relate to each other, but since writing this I consistently notice connections, or opportunities for connecting with others, that I am not sure I would have paid attention to before. By reaching out and talking or asking or noticing, I have connected with people who have added great richness to my life, and sometimes make remarkable serendipitous discoveries (for example, striking a conversation on the bus with a man who worked for my grandfather and with my dad long ago.) There are so many lonely people in our society today – and many of us frequently feel isolated at times. By opening ourselves up more we can add to a richness in life.

Other themes in Beyond the Ripples explore secrets and forgiveness, relationships between mothers and daughters, and daughter and fathers, and my belief that it is never too late to work toward a better place with someone.

Did you know right away, or have an idea, how you were going to end the story? Or did it come to you as you were in the process of writing?

I wrote the first two chapters of the book without really knowing what would happen. I knew how it had to start. After finishing those early draft chapters, I scribbled some notes to myself about the things I knew would have to happen to keep the story moving, but without a lot of detail. The details came as I wrote. It was a very organic process and one of the most exciting and engaging experiences I have ever had.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I learned, or perhaps better recognized, how intrigued I am with people. The way my characters feel, and trying to show that, is an important part of my writing craft. Throughout the writing of this book I would observe people around me and think to myself – “that’s just like Amelia,” or some sort thing related to my characters as they do live in my head. I was most surprised at how this book (as with my memoir) simply jumped out of me. I absolutely could not force myself not to write. Sometimes I wonder if having a day job made it almost easier to avoid “writer’s block” because I had so much in me that when I finally got that time early morning or late night or weekends I barely had enough time to get it down. Many times I would stop during my bike or bus commute to work, pull out my phone, and dictate a sentence or paragraph so it would still be there later. The other thing I only now have learned is to spend more time on selecting character names in future writing. I very much relied on instinct for my chosen character names, and think I would have benefited from giving more thought to those decisions.

Were books an important part of your household when you were growing up? What sorts of books did you have in the house?

Books were very important to my family, going back many generations. I have a chapter in My Music Man called “Books.” I have been very fortunate to have grown up with access to libraries and shelves of books in our homes. Some of our books, especially those of my dad’s, addressed Pacific Northwest history. We certainly had the classics. Many of our books had been in family for awhile. Toward the end of my dad’s life, one of my favorite things was to pick up the books he had ordered from the library and then guess on a couple of other titles for him.

As a kid, I read most anything and everything, except I never tried a single Nancy Drew mystery, and I rarely read science fiction. When I was eleven or so, I ran out of reading material once and took The Catcher in the Rye off the shelf. I didn’t fully understand it, but I read it cover to cover. I drowned out the noise and commotion of four brothers, my parent’s early marital challenges, and growing up without neighbors my age or gender, by keeping my nose in a book. I loved the Little House and Box Car Children series, some of the traditional classics, but spent a lot of my pre-teen and teen years trying to read every fictional book I could find about people experiencing injustice. The library was one of my most favorite places, and most of the books I read in childhood were from school or public libraries. It always felt like a very big deal when the Scholastic Monthly book lists came out, and I got to order a book or two.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

It’s a bit embarrassing, but I’m not always great about remembering the titles and authors of all of the books I have read. Years ago, I started a paper list (before computer-based tracking or platforms like GoodReads) but it started to feel cumbersome and exhausting. A few times I’ve started a book only to realize I had already read it! My lifetime favorite authors are Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Munro, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Lisa See…..this gets hard, as there are so many! I like authors who make you work a bit and would like to think that influences my writing as well. I definitely enjoy character-driven books more than plot driven, and pretty certain that is the way I write.

What are you reading now?

I recently finished The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers, and felt it was one of the best books I had read in a long while. He was a new author for me, so just the other day I began Powers’ Generosity: An Enhancement. I also have begun Leadership: In Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, but take breaks for other reads.

You have a terrific website and blog and are also on Facebook and Twitter. From an author's perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book?

I began my blog/website almost three years ago when I signed the contract for My Music Man. I felt the writing practice would be good for me and I knew it was important to somehow attract some “interest” in me or my writing. I found how freeing it was, since I lead up a professional blog within my workplace at OHSU, which I enjoy, but must stay focused on its relationship to our work mission. Since beginning my personal blog (Musings on Life in Oregon) I have enjoyed blogging 2-3 times per month and never seem to run out of ideas for content. Unfortunately, I think it’s keeping me from moving very fast or far on my third project/book.

In today’s world, social media can feel like a curse in that it sucks time, and is also so easy to compare yourself with others who may be finding more “success” than you, or at least look like it. I’d much rather have a face-to-face conversation with someone, or spend that time reading. Yet, with the dizzying number of books out there an author has to use SM to try to get noticed, especially if you either have a small press and/or no agent. It’s mostly free and some of the other promotion alternatives can cost more than your book sales might bring in. Did I say I am thankful for a day job that I love most of the time?

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

I’ve finished the last of my scheduled readings until next March, although I hope to schedule some more. I have a book group or two to meet with which I really enjoy, and will also be at several upcoming book events and art festivals. You can learn more about the specifics of my events on the events page of my website. I would love to meet with book groups that have read Beyond the Ripples, as I am finding that to a most satisfying part of this experience.

What’s next? What are you working on now?

This is a great question I keep asking myself! I have started a bit of work on two very different projects, and find myself waiting for that tiny voice in my head to help me decide which should be next. The first is a sequel to Beyond the Ripples. The second is a reworking of my blog content and poetry into an e-book. Stay tuned!


THANKS, DEDE!

BEYOND THE RIPPLES IS AVAILABLE ONLINE, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOK SELLER TO ORDER IT!


Friday, July 12, 2019

Book Beginning: The Adventures of Sally by P. G. Wodehouse

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

Oops! I completely forgot to post yesterday! I had friends coming to my house last evening, so I ran out of the office to prep some snacks and forgot all about my Book Beginnings hosting obligations. Sorry!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



Sally looked contentedly down the long table. She felt happy at last.

-- The Adventures of Sally by P. G. Wodehouse.




Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING





TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56

From all over the beach dogs of every size, breed, and colour were racing to the scene: and while some of these merely remained in the ringside seats and barked, a considerable proportion immediately started fighting one another on general principles, well content to be in action without bothering about first causes. The terrier had got the poodle by the left hind-leg and was restating his war-aims.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: Lila by Marilynne Robinson



He said, "so, then, you've decided to stay."

"I never did plan on leaving."
-- Lila by Marilynne Robinson. Lila is one of the three books in Robinson's Gilead trilogy, along with Home (winner of the Orange Prize, now Baileys Prize) and Gilead (winner of the Pulitzer Prize).


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Mailbox Monday: The Old Filth Trilogy by Jane Gorman

What books came into your house last week?

I got the first book of Jane Gorman's Old Filth Trilogy a while back, at a friends of the library shop. But it took me a while to find the matching Europa Editions and finally got them on Book Depository. I love a matching set!

Old Filth is the nickname of the main character. Filth stands for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong.


Old Filth

The Man in the Wooden Hat

Last Friends





Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Mailbox Monday is graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Author Interview: Lisa Kusel



Living in Bali did not turn out to be the tropical paradise Lisa Kusel thought it would when she and her husband first decided to move there with their toddler daughter. Her new memoir Rash is a frank and funny account of what can happen when you and your dreams go south.


Lisa recently talked with Rose City Reader about Bali, memoir writing, and her new book, Rash:

How did you come to write your recent memoir Rash about moving your family from California to Bali?

Truly, this book was a long time in coming. A week after we returned to the States from Bali, I met my agent for lunch in New York City. I asked him to advise me how to make the novel I’d been working on better. He suggested I put it aside and instead write “the Bali book.” He’d read my email dispatches, he said, and thought my experiences would make for a fantastic, relatable book. Since I’d always been a fiction writer, I fought him on it. I had no interest in writing a memoir. I mean, who wants to talk about themselves for 300 pages? (Given the abundance of memoirs out there, I suppose lots of people do—although I, for one, did not wish to.)

I never forgot his entreaty, though; even as I worked on my next novel, his words continued to shadow me. Two years after that lunch date, I gathered up all my emails, papers, photographs and mementos from our time in Bali, checked into an empty B&B in northern Vermont, and spent three weeks writing the first draft. (When a snowstorm sealed me in, I came close to channeling Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.”) Four more drafts and a new agent later, Rash found a publisher who fell in love with it.

You don’t sugarcoat the experiences you had while living abroad. Did you have any qualms about sharing so much?

That is a definitive YES! Qualms, reservations, and queasiness to boot. Over-sharing is not in my nature, but honesty is. I knew if I wanted this book to be good, I would need to be completely forthcoming and authentic. I remember nervously pacing the house while my husband read the first draft. Given that Victor is a preternaturally private person I was uber worried he’d be angry at me for broadcasting our intimacies. After he pointed out a few factual inaccuracies, his response was something along the lines of, “You left out a lot and it was much worse than you depicted. Go write it again.”

I almost hate to ask, but can you give us a hint about what the title means without ruining the story?

That’s a great question. It’s funny, but my agent wanted to title it Bitch Mom in Bali: Confessions of a Desperate Woman in Paradise. Gosh, but I hated that. I was bitchy, but certainly not a bitch. I chose “Rash” because I love a double entendre. It was a rash decision to pack up and move to the other side of the planet mere weeks after I discovered Green School’s existence. The other use of rash—the literal usage—speaks to my constant fears about our daughter’s safety. Mosquito-borne dengue fever is rampant in Southeast Asia. And, for children, it is often lethal. One of the first signs of infections is a flat red rash. Given that our bamboo hut was completely open-aired, it was impossible to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes, no matter how much bug spray I slathered on Loy. I was forever checking the poor kid for rashes.

For all you guys went through, your book is quite funny. How did your sense of humor affect your time in Bali or your book writing?

It’s an odd thing to write memoir. Some of the more surreal or scary experiences I encountered—like the monkey attack or the ant invasion—weren’t funny while they were happening, yet when I wrote about them, I was able to laugh at myself. I’ve often described the book to people as “I Love Lucy Goes to Bali” because I really am a bit of a nutcase. I always mean well, but my tendency to act before thinking got me into some pretty crazy situations.

Are there other expatriate memoirs that you love or inspired you to write your own?

No other book inspired me more or gave me the courage to write my own story than The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific by J. Maarten Troost. Here is the Amazon blurb:
… Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is “La Macarena.”
If you were to substitute “Bali” for “Tarawa,” “mosquitos” for “bacteria,” “rogue monkeys” for “toxic fish,” and “gamelan” for “La Macarena,” you’d essentially be describing my book. I read Troost’s book years before I knew Bali existed and I loved it. When I read it again—post-Bali—I knew I had to share my story too.

Naturally, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, especially since lots of people and reviewers have referred to Rash as the anti-Eat, Pray, Love. I really enjoyed it, even though our experiences in Bali were polar opposites.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

Ack! I can’t possibly answer this. I never play favorites. Okay, here are three dead and four living authors I greatly admire.

  • Dead: Nora Ephron, Ray Bradbury, Evelyn Waugh
  • Living: Ian McKewan, Jumpha Lahiri, Julian Barnes, Stephen King

I respect the heck out of these writers. They excel at their craft and know how to tell a good story. All good writing inspires me to be a better writer, whether it be a book, an essay in a magazine, or a blog post.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

The word eclectic could never suffice to describe the ever-growing pile on my night table. Honestly, no genre takes precedence. I’m usually reading two books (one non-fiction and one novel) at a time and, because I travel a lot, I always have an audiobook downloaded.

Presently, my NF read is A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield. As I am writing my first young adult novel, I’m reading my way through my teenage daughter’s bookshelves. I just started The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. And—because I cannot neglect my adult proclivities—The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. I recently finished listening to the eighteen-hour-long audio version of the brilliant A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I’m flying a lot in the coming weeks, and just downloaded The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer to help me through the long layovers in Atlanta.

You have a terrific website and are also active on twitter and Instagram. From an author's perspective, how important is social media to promote your book? 

My website is the clearinghouse for all things Lisa Kusel, not just promoting my book. It has links to all my published work, book reviews, and links to my other social media accounts. It’s also the place for me to occasionally blog about personal stuff—from recipes I’ve cooked to essays I choose not to submit to magazines.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?

  • Kill your darlings (Faulkner).
  • Something most always be at stake (literary agent Brian DeFiore).
  • Read. Read. Then read some more (6th grade writing teacher).
  • Just because you’ve thoroughly researched your subject matter doesn’t mean you need to share all of it with your readers (Stephen King).

What is the best thing about being a writer?

Without a doubt, it’s the friends I’ve made around the world. Something magical happens when you publish a book that speaks to personal struggles, no matter what the context. Strangers by the dozens have reached out to me since the book was published. They tell me they loved it. They related to it on so many levels (okay, so yeah, my agent was correct). From those initial emails or FB posts or Instagram messages, the conversations have continued—deeply personal exchanges that mean the world to me.

I am beyond grateful to be a part of the larger community of writers. I am the sort of author who writes to every single reviewer to thank them for reading my book—even if they didn’t like it. I write to bloggers and bookstagrammers; fellow authors and aspiring authors. I believe everyone has a story to tell and, if I can be of any help, I will.

What’s next? Are you working on your next book?

At the moment I’m writing a long essay about what it was like to travel through France and England with a small child while researching a WWII novel. (I’ll post that on my website soon). Two weeks ago I finished a complete rewrite of a novel I wrote a few years ago. It’s a genre-bending suspense story. While I wait to hear back from publishers, I’ll return to the young adult book I workshopped at the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. It received outstanding feedback from an editor at Knopf, and I’m excited to dive back into it.


THANKS LISA!

RASH IS AVAILABLE ON LINE OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOK SELLER TO ORDER IT. 




Thursday, July 4, 2019

Book Beginning & Friday 56: A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



Oh, no, no, no, thought Clara Morrow as she walked towards the closed doors.

-- A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny. This is the seventh book in Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series, set in Quebec and centered around the charming but deadly village of Three Pines. I love the series and have some catching up to do, since the 14th book just came out, Kingdom of the Blind.



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56

Peter lay in bed, clutching the edge of their double mattress. The bed was too small for them really, but a double had been all they could afford when they were first married, and Peter and Clara had grown used to having each other close.

I'm guestimating that this is about 56% of the way through the audiobook. I've read the first seven books of the series with my ears because Ralph Cosham has read all the audiobooks so far and does a great job.






Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody



Far out to sea, rakish sea lions converse
with St. Francis beneath the steely scrim
of Pacific fog. Their barking can be heard,
tenor notes against the baritone of foghorns.

-- Phoenix: Transformation Poems by Jessica Goody. I love this image because it reminds me of when I lived in San Francisco. I could hear the foghorns (and sometimes the sea lions) from where we lived in Cow Hollow.

Phoenix was recently on tour with Poetic Book Tours.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Mailbox Monday: Two Books by Elaine Dundy


Yes, I bought this book for the cover!

I've been seeing this NYRB Classics reissue of The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy, with it’s eye-catching cover, so I finally bought it and her other novel, The Old Man and Me.

The Dud Avocado was published in 1958 and is about the romantic and comic adventures of a young American woman in Paris. The Old Man and Me was published in 1964 and is about a slightly older American woman in London in the 1960s.

What books came into your house last week. And for those of us here in the US, what are your bookish plans for this Independence Day holiday week?



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Mailbox Monday is graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Beginning: Backwards in High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female by Tania Kindersley & Sarah Vine

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



There are twenty-one dictionary definitions for the word love. Every woman (or Everywoman, the heroine of this book) may come to a point in her middle life when she suspects she doesn’t understand the first thing about any of these.

-- Backwards in High Heels: The Impossible Art of Being Female by British writers Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine. I found this fun, pretty book of girlfriendly wisdom at the Boise friends of the library bookstore yesterday. I forgot to pack my book when I left for a work trip, but luckily this favorite book haunt of mine was open late.



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56


This girlfriend, shrink, mother, sister, and guide to life all rolled into one is filled to the brim with smart and witty observations on life as a woman, beautifully illustrated throughout. In fifteen chapters, you’ll find clever banter on politics; romantic love; love lost and mourned; shopping for shoes; shopping for comfort; working-motherhood; money, and spending it; and the secrets of childbirth, among many other topics common to females of all ages.

From the back cover, not page 56, because I'm posting this from the mediation I'm in Boise for. I left the book in my hotel room and had to find something to post here from the amazon "look inside" material. Oh well! Backwards and in high heals, right?

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall



So I told Pol I must work alone. The only way was the quick way and I didn’t want it cluttered up with a motley crew of cover men who’d trip me and get killed in the process.

-- The Quiller Memorandum by Adam Hall (called The Berlin Memorandum in the UK). This Cold War thriller won the Edgar Award for best mystery novel of the year in 1966.

The Quiller Memorandum was the first of 19 books in the Quiller series, written by British author Elleston Trevor under the pen name Adam Hall. Trevor also wrote books and screenplays under his own name and nine other pen names.



Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Author Interview: Karen Stefano



Karen Stefano is a lawyer and author. Her new memoir, What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath, examines the lasting effects of trauma. Stefano was assaulted in college, went on to become a criminal defense attorney, and 30 years later was hit with anxiety and PTSD that she talks about in her book.


Karen recently talked with Rose City Reader about her new book and the importance of talking about sexual assault.

How did you come to write What a Body Remembers?

Before writing my story, before my telling, I first spent two years doubting. Sure, this assault and its aftermath felt interesting to me, but did it matter to others? Who was I to presume anyone else in the world would care? As I eventually shared with more and more women what this might-be-book was about, I can’t count how many said, “Yeah, something like that happened to me too.” And they shared their own story and that simple act of sharing unburdened them somewhat—at least that’s what I like to believe. This was before the #MeToo movement and I began to wonder, could my story be emblematic of something bigger? I finally realized I had to write this book because it’s important to speak out, to let others know they’re not alone, to let everyone know there are many ways to heal.

Your memoir is intensely personal – did you have any qualms about sharing so much?

As my publisher and I wrapped up the final editorial process I was struck with a moment of panic: Did I really want this out in the world? Did I really want the whole world to see the ugliest, most humiliating parts of me and my life? But by sharing our stories we render ourselves vulnerable, and I believe there’s a lot of personal power in that kind of vulnerability.

Although you were the victim of sexual assault in college, you went on to become a criminal defense attorney, defending people accused of very violent crimes. Did you question the paradox of being a crime victim and a criminal defender?

This is something I address directly in the book, within the full context of all of my life experiences, and when you read my story the rationale for this paradox becomes clear. It was an unexpected path and one I wouldn’t change. I will never apologize for spending eight years of my legal career defending the rights of the poorest, most damaged, most under-privileged in our society—and those were 99% of my clients.

And frankly, it’s a large part of what makes my story so interesting. The victim who goes on to become a prosecutor—that’s expected—that’s not interesting. The victim who suffers a brutal assault, who works in law enforcement, who goes on to defend persons accused of crimes, who is good at it, who sees the humanity even in her clients who have committed atrocious violent acts, who finds her own voice in doing this work—that’s a journey worth reading about. And as readers will learn from the book, I have seen the criminal justice system from virtually every aspect imaginable: law enforcement employee, extern for a federal judge, law clerk for the prosecution, criminal defense lawyer –and once, nearly as a defendant. Fortunately a badass criminal defense attorney came to my rescue after the police violated my constitutional rights. —But wait. I’m giving too much away.

Did you consider turning your own experience into fiction and writing the book as a novel?

No, it never entered my mind, actually. I felt the true story stood on its own, with all of its twists and turns and paradoxes and its raw honest examination of we humans and all our flaws and contradictions. I hope that readers agree!

Who is your intended audience and what do you hope your readers will gain from your book?

Anyone who has been the victim of a sexual assault or has known someone who has been assaulted. Anyone who has a fascination with “true crime” or our criminal justice system, anyone interested in the paradoxes of our lives. As I stated above, I want readers to know there are many ways to heal from trauma, that it’s not always a straightforward trajectory, but rather a two steps forward, four steps back process for most of us. And I want them to know that’s okay. And I want them to know they’re not alone.

Can you recommend any other memoirs that deal with sexual assault and recovery from trauma?

I absolutely loved Alice Sebold’s memoir, Lucky. And, while it’s not a memoir, I believe everyone on the planet should read the Stanford Rape Victim’s letter to her assailant, Brock Turner. It’s so raw and honest and well written and I personally identified with it because, like her, as a nineteen-year-old victim of sexual assault, one of the most bewildering experiences was the crash course I received on our criminal justice system. Like her, the whole experience could have been so much less terrifying and traumatizing if someone would have simply taken the time to explain to me what the hell was going on.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

Well of course, the biggest surprise was what I learned about my assailant 30-years post assault. I won’t give any spoilers to the book, but that was nothing less than life altering.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I read everything. Literary journals, newspapers, poetry, essays, memoir, short fiction, and novels. And I’m usually reading four or so books at a time, picking up whatever suits my mood at the moment. Right now I’m reading Sue William Silverman’s stunning new poetry collection entitled If the Girl Never Learns. The girl in these poems is damaged, she’s a survivor, and she’s an absolute badass. I’m about to finish Yiyun Li’s novel Where Reasons End, which has taken me awhile because it’s so intense (though beautiful) that I’ve had to digest it in smaller chunks. Read it and you’ll see what I mean. And now I’ve just started the novel Self-Portrait With Boy by Rachel Lyon with whom I had the pleasure of reading at the Sunday Salon NYC this past May.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

Tons! The early reception for this book (it only officially released June 11) has been so heartwarming and I am so grateful to everyone who is helping this book find its way out into the world. I’ll be doing readings in various cities including Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Denver, and Minneapolis. I’ll also be on several podcasts and radio shows and will be doing several written interviews in various literary journals and book blogs like Rose City Reader. The best place to keep tabs on what I’m doing in terms of promotion is my web site, or by following me on Twitter (handle is @kstefano1), or the hash tag on Twitter: #WhatABodyRemembers. I’m also on Facebook and am always grateful to hear from readers.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?

Back in 2008 I was at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers workshop and I found myself talking to one of my literary idols, the writer Janet Fitch (whose White Oleander I have read at LEAST a dozen times). I was whining about something and she rolled her eyes (she is known as a tough teacher) and told me. “Just write.” And as simple (and perhaps dismissive) as that directive was, it has stayed with me, and when I am having trouble writing I almost hear her voice in my mind. I am also a huge fan of the Anne Lamott mantra favoring “shitty first drafts.” I simply try to get words down on the page. Then I go back and edit, edit, edit, generating literally hundreds of drafts—be it a chapter, an essay, or a short story. I suspect it’s extremely inefficient but it’s the only way I know how to write.

Any tips or hints for authors considering writing a memoir?

An important thing to understand is that writing about events from your own life isn’t easier than writing fiction—it’s harder. You are faced with the challenge of transforming your trauma into art. You’re giving voice to personal terror, perhaps describing a time of life where you had no words to articulate what you were experiencing—but you’re forcing yourself to find those words now. You are stirring up personal demons but in doing so, you’re forced to hold yourself accountable, to confront the ugliest places inside yourself, then wrestle that self onto the page. You have to do research, have to endure the loneliness and self-isolation of writing, have to pay attention to craft. You’re putting your own life into scene, with a plot, pacing, dialogue, and beats of movement inside that dialogue. Most importantly, you have to be brutally honest and that honesty requires digging deep inside your own humanity, your own frailty, your own flaws. These confrontations require an obscene amount of courage.

What’s next? What are you working on now?

I’m currently at work on my next book, a novel this time—the novel I back-burnered in 2013 to start What A Body Remembers. My rationale at the time: I’m only writing about things that actually happened, so it’ll be effortless! This book will practically write itself! Memoirists have it so easy compared to fiction writers! I’ll be finished in four months! Ha. Talk about self-delusion! In addition, I will continue sharing my stories in the form of essays and short fiction. As I said above, by sharing our stories we render ourselves vulnerable, and I believe there’s a lot of personal power in that kind of vulnerability.

THANKS, KAREN!

WHAT A BODY REMEMBERS IS AVAILABLE ONLINE, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOK SELLER TO ORDER IT. 


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Book Beginning & Friday 56: Lonesome Dove

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake -- not a very big one.

-- Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. That;s one of my favorite opening sentences! This Pulitzer Prize winner has been on my TBR shelf for too long. I am excited to finally read it.



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING





TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56

"I don't think you could hit that bucket if you was sitting on it," Augustus said. "I've seen you shoot."

Page 56 barely makes a dent in this 945-page book!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book Beginnings: The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



Miss Fitzgerald hurried out of the Hotel into the road. Here she stood still, looking purposelessly up and down in the blinding sunshine and picking at the fingers of her gloves.

The Hotel by Elizabeth Bowen. I'm reading Bowen's first novel (1927) in San Remo, Italy because it is set in San Remo, Italy. That doesn't happen very often! My sister and I are on a trip with our parents to celebrate their 80th birthdays.




Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56
"One does miss one's tea out here," said Joan. "The tea-gardens are so breaking; we can't afford to go there, and the patisserie place is stuffy and full of Italians and one does get sick of pigging it up in one's room with a spirit lamp."



Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath



Sometimes fear is justified and perhaps the worst part of victimhood is the self-blame, the refusal to trust yourself, of adding the weight of shame to the burden. To be given the knowledge that I can trust my own instincts and feelings because those instincts and feelings are spot on, is a gift.

What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath by Karen Stefano. After she was assaulted at age 19, Karen Stefano finished college and became a criminal defense attorney. But more than 30 years after the attack, the experience she had tried to forget came crashing back as anxiety and PTSD.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Book Beginning: ParentShift: Ten Universal Truths That Will Change the Way You Raise Your Kids by Linda and Ty Hatfield & Wendy Thomas Russell

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



In the early years of the twentieth century, an Austrian doctor and psychotherapist named Alfred Adler hypothesized that personality disorders, criminal behavior, high divorce rates, and other types of adult suffering could be traced directly back to childhood experiences.

ParentShift: Ten Universal Truths That Will Change the Way You Raise Your Kids by Linda and Ty Hatfield and Wendy Thomas Russell.

This is an interesting new book and I am just getting into it. I have grandchildren, not kids of my own, so my interactions with little kids are limited, but I am learning a lot.



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING





TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56

"I can't let you draw on the walls of the house, but here's a huge box. Let's make it a playhouse, and you can do whatever you want to THOSE walls!"



Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: Beyond the Ripples by Dede Montgomery



But at this moment, she knew, she had to follow her memories on a journey back in time to the exciting days when she planned the bottle's voyage. Back then, she had even gone to the library to download a map of the river; examining every crook in it, anticipating the turns her bottle might make.

Beyond the Ripples by Dede Montgomery. Beyond the Ripples is a story of small town secrets, life choices, and family dramas that pulls you along from the first page.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Mailbox Monday: Brown Paper Press

Two new books from Brown Paper Press showed up for me last week. What books came into your house?



Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure by Sandra A. Miller. This doesn't release until September, but I am so excited about my review copy! Miller's memoir is ostensibly about her search for buried gold coins in New York City, and really about her treasure hunt for meaning in mid-life. It's available for pre-order.



ParentShift: Ten Universal Truths That Will Change the Way You Raise Your Kids by Linda and Ty Hatfield and Wendy Thomas Russell. I'm curious about this one because it sounds interesting and not the way my friends and I were raised. We came more from the "because I'm your mother and I said so" school of child rearing. I don't have kids, but I have little grandkids. I hope to learn something.



Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday, a weekly "show & tell" blog event where participants share the books they acquired the week before. Visit the Mailbox Monday website to find links to all the participants' posts and read more about Books that Caught our Eye.

Mailbox Monday is graciously hosted by Leslie of Under My Apple Tree, Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit, and Martha of Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Book Beginning: What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath

BOOK BEGINNINGS ON FRIDAYS
THANKS FOR JOINING ME ON FRIDAYS FOR BOOK BEGINNING FUN!

MY BOOK BEGINNING



The courtroom holds a palpable edge, even before the judge takes the bench and trial begins.

What a Body Remembers: A Memoir of Sexual Assault and Its Aftermath by Karen Stefano. Karen Stefano's new memoir is the riveting story of her own attack as a 19-year-old college student and her latent PTSD over 30 years later.

As a lawyer who represents sexual abuse and assault survivors, I am fascinated by her story because she went on to become a criminal defense attorney, often defending men accused of crimes as horrible as the one committed against her.



Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

EARLY BIRDS & SLOWPOKES: This weekly post goes up Thursday evening for those who like to get their posts up and linked early on. But feel free to add a link all week.

SOCIAL MEDIA: If you are on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media, please post using the hash tag #BookBeginnings. I try to follow all Book Beginnings participants on whatever interweb sites you are on, so please let me know if I have missed any and I will catch up.

YOUR BOOK BEGINNING




TIE IN: The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.


MY FRIDAY 56

I speak the words that mark my own self-betrayal. "I'm fine," I say.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Author Interview: Mitchell L. Stevens



My policy of reading books my friends write means that every few years I read a book about education policy by my high school buddy, Mitchell Stevens,who is now a professor at Stanford University. I read and learn about subjects I never thought about before. His book about college admissions was fascinating. And his first book, one about homeschooling, was also really interesting.

Mitchell’s latest book, Seeing the World: How US Universities Make Knowledge in a Global Era, looks at how US universities face the need for a global perspective in the study of economics, political science, and sociology.


Mitchell recently talked with Rose City Reader about his new book and the whole idea of "area studies" for those of us unfamiliar with the term.

Can you explain, for non-academics, what your book Seeing the World is about?

It’s an investigation of how universities organize research and teaching about the world beyond US borders. Universities have a big management problem: their ambition is to shepherd the “universe” of knowledge but of course there is no one or best way to do that. So they are constantly tinkering with how to carve up the world into chunks of curriculum and scholarship. What do you do with Africa? Do have a department of Africa? A program on African studies? Do you carve up the study of Africa by topic (history, economics)? Or region? Pre-colonial and postcolonial? Again, there’s no right way to do this, but intellectual styles, priorities and politics change over time. So too do the patrons of universities. Patrons are a big, influential deal.

What does “area studies” mean?

Speaking of patronage, area studies are a product of the Cold War, when many agencies of the US federal government as well as major philanthropies were eager to develop what the government called “strategically useful” knowledge about regions of the world that were especially important for US geopolitical interest: the USSR and Eastern Europe; China; Latin America; Africa. With this financial support universities created programs in “area” studies, each focused on a different region of the world. Many of these programs are still funded through Title VI of the Higher Education Act – the omnibus funding legislation of the US Congress.

Who is the audience for your book? Who do you hope will read it?

Our first intended readers are academics who do area studies and the academic administrators who manage these programs. Virtually every university of ambition is trying to be “global” – but how to do that? And how is it to be done in light of this Cold War legacy that carved the world up geographically? Do those regions still make intellectual sense? If not, what should replace them?

But we also wrote the book to be accessible to anyone interested in higher education. The people we spoke with – 73 seasoned academics – are very articulate and candid. We quote them at length throughout the book’s modest length.

What will readers learn from your book?

They will learn about just how competitive and status-conscious the US academic world is. And how deeply invested academics are in their own scholarship and prestige. And how articulate and often funny academics can be. And how different social scientists (economics, political science, sociology) are from humanists like historians and literary scholars.

What is your professional background? How did it lead to writing a book on global perspectives in university education?

I’m a sociologist. I study the organization of universities and how their leaders get what they need – money, authority – from governments and how they compete with one another for students, faculty, and prestige. It began with my prior book, Creating a Class (Harvard, 2007), which is about selective admissions. Universities are absolutely fascinating to me. They reward and exhaust whatever critical attention you give them.

Please tell us a little about your co-authors. How did the three of you come to collaborate on this project?

One of those great serendipities. Cynthia Miller-Idriss studies German nationalism; we had offices next door to each other when we were both at New York University. She got tapped by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) to develop this project with Seteney Shami, who is an anthropologist of the Caucasus and overseas the Asia portfolio for SSRC. That organization was instrumental in inventing area studies in the 1960s. Cynthia and Seteney were kind enough to let me join the project in light of my knowledge of US higher education. And here we are.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I learned that how academics carve up problems really, really matters for the kind of knowledge you get. For example, if you put all of the people who study China via Mandarin language and culture in a different academic unit from the people who study China via statistics, you’re going to get very segregated knowledge and risk reciprocal incomprehension among the different kinds of experts. Unfortunate and inefficient, but universities do it all the time.

What do you like to read? What books are on your nightstand right now?

I’m reading Anthony Jack’s ethnography of low-income kids at elite schools, The Privileged Poor (Harvard, 2019). Also Buying Gay (Columbia, 2019), a fascinating social history of the physique mail-order industry in the 1950s and 60s and its remarkably germinal place in the history of lesbian/gay rights, by my friend David Johnson. Also Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia by Christina Thompson (Harper/Collins 2019)

What’s next? What are you working on now?

I’m trying to figure out how and why the US federal and state governments built the largest and arguably most productive higher education system the world has ever seen in the brief period between 1945 and 1980. It’s a much harder puzzle to work out than I had imagined – Seeing the World got it started.


THANKS MITCHELL!

SEEING THE WORLD IS AVAILABLE ONLINE, OR ASK YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER TO ORDER IT.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Teaser Tuesday: Mortality with Pronoun Shifts: Poems



The Muddy Fork of the Sandy River
is cloudy green-brown with fine silt
a glacier scraped off the mountain.
Where the log bridge washed out
and the trail ends in water,
you cannot tell how deep it goes
or where the footing lies if there is footing.

-- from "Crossing the Muddy" in Mortality with Pronoun Shifts: Poems by Don Colburn, which won the 2018 Cathy Smith Bowers Chapbook Contest.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by The Purple Booker, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.

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