Weather Report, August 19

Image result for Nature + photos + free

Our currently featured books, “What It Might Be Like to Hope,” by Dorene O’Brien, “Helltown Chronicles,” by Philip J. Temples and “Welcome Diversions,” by Carol Wierzbicki, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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“UPCOMING ON SNOWLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 20-26

“EARTH JOY WRITING,” BY CASSIE PREMO STEELE

Cassie writes: “Nature carries both individual memory and collective history, and Earth Joy Writing allows readers to connect with both. So I started writing the book for students and then realized we are all students when it comes to nature. And I’ve used the exercises myself to deepen my own creative writing.

“Achieving, succeeding, and winning—in this world that we are Earth Joy Writing—will mean something very different than it has for most of us, for most of our lives. It will mean giving up old notions of doing and fighting and competing and striving and climbing. It will mean learning new ways of being in order to survive.”

“BESOTTED,” BY MELISSA DUCLOS.

Besotted is the ballad of Sasha and Liz, American expats in Shanghai. Both have moved abroad to escape—Sasha from her father’s disapproval, Liz from the predictability of her hometown. When they move in together, Sasha falls in love, but the sudden attention from a charming architect threatens the relationship. Meanwhile, Liz struggles to be both a good girlfriend to Sasha and a good friend to Sam, her Shanghainese language partner who needs more from her than grammar lessons.

“IMMORTAL SOFT SPOKEN,” BY ROBERT VIVIAN.

IMMORTAL SOFT-SPOKEN is a collection of short prose poems that resonate well beyond the page. In this ecstatic and beautiful book of dervish essays, Robert Vivian uses style, imagination, and stunning feeling to give voice to the small moments of wonder so often overlooked. This book is a tender and joyful reminder of our shared humanity.

What It Might Feel Like to Hope

This week’s other featured books, “Helltown Chronicles,” by Philip J. Temples and “Welcome Distractions,” by Carol Wierzbicki, can be found by scrolling down below this post, or by clicking the author’s name on our Authors page.

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THE BOOK: What It Might Feel Like to Hope

PUBLISHED IN: February 2019

THE AUTHOR: Dorene O’Brien

THE EDITOR: Danilo Thomas

THE PUBLISHER: Baobab Press

SUMMARY: What It Might Feel Like to Hope, the second full-length collection from award-winning author Dorene O’Brien, is a masterful and eclectic mix of stories that consider the infinitely powerful, and equally naïve and damning force that is human hope. A couple tries to come to terms with one another as they travel west in the uncomfortable twilight of their youth; a mortician and an idealistic novelist spar about the true nature of death; an aspiring author hopes to impress Tom Hanks with zombies; a tarot reader deals out the future of Detroit. Highlighting her diverse talents, O’Brien offers a panoply of characters and settings that dwell beyond the borders of certainty, in a place where all that has been left to them is an inkling of possibility upon which they must place all their hopes. These stories offer a variety of tones, forms, and themes in which O’Brien displays an amazing range and control of her craft, all while exploring the essential nature of humanity with nuance, empathy, and at times a touch of skepticism.

THE BACK STORY: The stories were written over the course of 20 years, the earliest while I was still in college and the most recent within the past year. What I noticed is that the global tone of the work grew more optimistic as I aged, that despite these cruel times I was finding—or perhaps creating—the hope I so desperately need.

WHY THIS TITLE: Like many of us, the characters in the collection are often confronted with hard circumstances—crumbling relationships, incurable illnesses, demanding parents—but they never stop working toward positive outcomes, toward something better.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: The characters and their conflicts are contemporary and relevant. Award-winning authors have commented on the book’s relatability. Kelly Fordon has said that my characters “are hilarious and real and bumble through life making the same mistakes as the rest of us,” and Lolita Hernandez has said that “these stories remind me of what it means to be human.” I’ve also tempered the bleakness and gravity with humor not only to keep readers tuned in to a tough message but to keep them entertained. The collection also won a gold medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards for Short Fiction (IPPY), so the writing has been deemed top notch in a literary contest.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“The stories in Dorene O’Brien’s What It Might Feel Like to Hope are heartbreaking, funny, thoughtful and keenly attuned to the frailties of humans and their often ineffectual attempts to connect with each other. A couple dukes it out on a road trip, a pair of quiet neighbors reject and then find each other thanks to a pet lizard, superstar Tom Hanks faces off against the zombies, and a mortician offers sage advice to a famous novelist who ought to know better. Deliciously all over the place, yet tight and cohesive, once these stories drop their truth bombs, you’re left both dazed and sated by their richness.” — Michael Zadoorian, author of The Leisure Seeker and Beautiful Music

“Dorene O’Brien’s stories operate on a different plane and dimension of realism—flesh and blood yet dipped in a neon wash. At once a scientist of sensory details and a heartfelt observer of the intricacies of the human psyche, O’Brien’s prose possesses a particular cinema that will not just stay in your mind but your gut as well.” — Porochista Khakpour, author of Sons and Other Flammable Objects and Sick

“What gives these fine stories real heft is their authenticity, which O’Brien achieves through masterful use of voice, dialogue, and accurate detail. You trust her storytelling utterly.” — José Skinner, author of The Tombstone Race

“Entering closely and powerfully into the varied lives of her characters, O’Brien shows an uncommon sympathy to the struggling, the beleaguered, even the obtuse and the angry. In doing so, she brings us to the humor, tenderness and, yes, hope.” — Sarah Shoemaker, author of Mr. Rochester

“A panoply of humanity—characters who are hilarious and real and bumble through life making the same mistakes as the rest of us.” — Kelly Fordon, author of Garden for the Blind

“These stories remind me of what it means to be human and the myriad ways we work out its complexities.” — Loita Hernandez, author of Autopsy of an Engine

“Like all superb constructions, Dorene O’Brien’s magical, new collection of short fiction, What It Might Feel Like to Hope, quickly transports readers beyond the bones of its structure—the deftly-crafted plots, striking characterizations and clever, lyrical prose—to places of genuine wonder. It’s not surprising, then, that O’Brien’s characters similarly strive to transcend the defining characteristics of their lives. From the Detroit psychic who takes it upon herself to fix her failing city in the most brutal of ways, to a blocked writer constructing, and as quickly deconstructing, her zombie story, the protagonists in O’Brien’s collection are constantly tinkering with the building-blocks of their own, and other people’s, realities. Take Ben, a crystallographer from “A Turn of the Wind.” Though he knows “the internal structure of a crystal is a testament to orderly repetition,” still, “every crystal maintains a slight error in its pattern.” And so, when he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, Ben begins building weathervanes instead, and dating Opal, a waitress at his local diner. In this way, these terrific stories not only create order from the turmoil of human existence, they present us lucky readers with the unexpected and the marvelous: the hand-crafted chair that raises more memories than a daughter can bear; two modern “witches” and their healing herb garden; a brand new paradigm, or, as Daly tells us in “Pocket Philosophers,” “We are going to find a better way to make a fuss.” — Laura Bernstein-Machlay, author of Travelers

“O’Brien’s collection of stories takes us on a wild ride from a seemingly mundane, side-splittingly funny story about romantic missed opportunities to the depth of sorrow in a story about a mortician’s belated realization about the cost of loss; from the realistic depiction of the love between a bereft brother and sister to a roller-coaster parody of postmodern story writing via zombies. She slyly moves us through tales that begin with three drunken bricklaying louts and end with the characters revealing themselves as men of brain and soul; stories that show us women mourning separately or mourning together as they heal themselves and others. What It Might Feel like to Hope is not a series of stories, but rather an intricately woven pattern that brings characters from the margins into their own plots and conversely uses protagonists of some stories as marginal characters of others, making the reader shudder with recognition of lives crossing and merging with one another. The final story of the collection closes the circle beautifully, making us feel that out of the most circumscribed conditions hope can rise.” — Anca Vlasopolos, author of Cartographies of Scale (and Wing)

“Dorene O’Brien’s second collection of short stories takes readers on a wondrous journey that is at times laugh-out-loud humorous, at times heartbreaking, but always compelling and magnificent in its authenticity. Through vivid and engaging prose, O’Brien portrays characters and worlds that are starkly different from one another: a health-conscious widow continually bails out her drunken next-door neighbor from jail while defying the peering eyes of their neighbors; a young couple on the brink of breaking up takes a road trip; a research scientist slipping into dementia discovers a whole different realm; zombies spring to life on the pages of a screenplay meant for Tom Hanks. Each story is a delight, filled with keen insight. But just as the title of Dorene O’Brien’s collection “What It Might Feel Like to Hope,” portends, the thread of hope — in all its desperate and wonderful glory — weaves its magic throughout this gem.” — Ksenia Rychtycka, author of Crossing the Border

“The stories in What It Might Feel Like to Hope are crystalline portraits of characters bold and brave enough to hang on to their idealism through every thwarted dream. O’Brien links her stories not with the traditional steel of recurring characters or connected plotlines, but with the silken thread of shared desires, destinies, and the refusal to relinquish either to the quotidian challenges of circumstance. From a grieving woman who finds her freedom in repeatedly bailing her neighbor from jail to an herbalist whose cures for her community help her heal from her own loss, the characters in this beautiful collection, who once knew what hope felt like, never give up searching for what it might feel like to win hope back.” — Laura Hulthen Thomas, author of States of Motion

AUTHOR PROFILE: Dorene O’Brien is a Detroit-based writer and teacher whose stories have won the Red Rock Review Mark Twain Award for Short Fiction, the Chicago Tribune Nelson Algren Award, the New Millennium Writings Fiction Prize, and the Wind Fiction Prize. Her story, “#12 Dagwood on Rye,” was chosen by writer and fiction judge Jim Crace from among 4,000 entries as first-place winner of the international Bridport Prize. She has earned fellowships from the NEA, the Vermont Studio Center, and the Pfeiffer-Hemingway Educational Center. Her stories have been nominated for two Pushcart prizes, have been published in special Kindle editions and have appeared in The Best of Carve Magazine. Her work also appears in Madison Review, Short Story Review, The Republic of Letters, Southern Humanities Review, Detroit Noir, Montreal Review, Passages North, Baltimore Review, Cimarron Review, and others. Voices of the Lost and Found, her first fiction collection, was a finalist for the Drake Emerging Writer Award and won the USA Best Book Award for Short Fiction. Her fiction chapbook, Ovenbirds and Other Stories, won the Wordrunner Chapbook Prize. Her second full-length collection, What It Might Feel Like to Hope, was first runner-up in the Mary Roberts Rinehart Fiction Prize and won the gold medal for short fiction in the Independent Publishers Book Awards in 2019.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: I love the short story form and wonder why, during an age when our time is at a premium because there are so many “distractions” competing for it, story collections are not more popular. When I was a younger and more impatient writer the short story was something I could “finish” and feel that sense of accomplishment before moving on to the next one to feel it once more. Now I am interested in the form as a challenge in brevity, which demands authors create entire worlds and character histories in a very small space. We must use just the right words while also withholding just the right information so that readers are seduced into colluding with us to make meaning. If the “white space” is as charged with clues as the words printed on the page, the story will emerge in a way that is more gratifying to readers, who have used their insights and perceptions to help craft the tale. There is simply no room in stories for devices used frequently in novels, such as lengthy digressions, false leads, casts of thousands

SAMPLE CHAPTER:

https://baltimorereview.org/index.php/fall_2017/contributor/dorene-obrien#Eight%20Blind%20Dates%20Later

LOCAL OUTLETS: Literati, Nicola’s, Pages, Crazy Wisdom, Common Language, Schuler’s Books.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781936097210 https://www.sundancebookstore.com/book/9781936097210 https://www.amazon.com/What-Might-Feel-Like-Hope/dp/1936097214

PRICE: $16.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: https://www.doreneobrien.com/contact/

Helltown Chronicles

Helltown Chronicles by [Temples, Phillip E.]THE BOOK: Helltown Chronicles

PUBLISHED IN: April, 2017

THE AUTHOR: Phillip E. Temples

THE EDITOR: Robin Stratton

THE PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing

SUMMARY: Newspaper reporters Jerry Wolanski, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Susan Wong, of Toronto, Ontario, are both sent to Akron, Ohio by their respective editors, tasked with writing “fluff” Halloween pieces about Helltown. They happen to meet under bizarre circumstances in a cemetery, and decide to join forces. Soon they find themselves experiencing first-hand Helltown’s reputation for horror, intrigue, and the supernatural.

Image result for Phil Temples + author + photosAlong the way, Jerry and Susan meet up with a pair up of unlikely allies: Astarte, a New Age bookstore proprietor who practices witchcraft, and her ex-husband, Frank, a retired police detective turned private eye. With Astarte and Frank’s assistance, the reporters chronicle Helltown’s sagas and–in the process–must destroy a malevolent force that they’ve unwittingly unleashed before it destroys them.

THE BACK STORY: Fact: In the 1970s, the town of Boston Mills, Ohio was turned into a ghost town practically overnight when the U.S. Department of Interior seized lands and condemned homes and properties in order to expand the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In the years since, a multitude of mysterious tales and ghost stories have sprung forth concerning the macabre remains, known to the locals as “Helltown.”

 

WHY THIS TITLE: While the novel contains many of the actual “fakelore” stories about the true-life ghost town, Boston Mills, Ohio (a.k.a. Helltown), I’ve woven them into my fictional plot with my protagonists. Hence the title, Helltown Chronicles.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It’s a good, scary read. It’s fast-paced, and features a young protagonist, Jerry, who has a steamy relationship with an older “Mrs. Robinson” lover, Astarte.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Fans of the macabre are sure to relish Phil Temples’ darkly exquisite Helltown Chronicles, where investigative mystery and weird wonderment merge. There’s something for every horror fan here, in a decades-hopping stretch that includes a mad mortician, an eerie inn, mutant terrors and occult occurrences that would make Lovecraft cringe. Temples’ crisp, no-nonsense style grips one by the throat and keeps one yearning for more, with characters both disturbing and identifiable. Helltown is the sort of unconventional place that demands exploration. Michael Housel, Flask of Eyes

 

Phillip Temples’ Helltown Chronicles offers a page-turning tale of horror and the occult. The author combines what has come to be called “fakelore” from the real-life ghost town of Boston Mills, Ohio, with his unique brand of storytelling. The plot is centered among two young protagonists, Jerry and Susan, who are aided in their adventures by Astarte—a new age witchcraft practicing bookstore proprietor—and Frank—an ex-cop-turned-detective. Together, the four must confront a malevolant force before it destroys them. This is another fine piece of entertainment from the vivid imagination of an ace raconteur. –Michael C. KeithSlow Transit and Perspective Drifts Like a Log on a River

AUTHOR PROFILE: Phil Temples was born and raised in Bloomington, Indiana, but he’s lived and played in greater Boston, Massachusetts for nearly four decades.

Phil Temples began writing flash fiction and short stories in the 1990s for his own amusement. He’s had over 140 titles appear online and in print. His first novel, The Winship Affair, was published in 2014 by Blue Mustang Press.  In 2017, Big Table Publishing Company accepted two additional works for publication: a short story anthology, Machine Feelings, and the paranormal horror-mystery, Helltown Chronicles.  Phil’s first novella, Albey Damned, was published by Wapshott Press in late 2017.  The second in the Carrie Bloomfield Novel seriesThe Allston Variant,  debuted in April, 2019 from Moonshine Cove Publishing. Moonshine Cove will produce his third Carrie Bloomfield installment, Uncontacted Frontier, in April, 2020.

Phil Temples’ professional career spans the fields of software engineering and computer systems administration in the .com, .org, and .edu sectors. For the past 16 years, he’s worked as a computer systems administrator at a Boston-area university.

In addition to his day job and writing activities, Phil is a ham radio aficionado, and a singer in a garage band.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link):  http://temples.com/helltown-chronicles/#Sample_chapter

LOCAL OUTLETS: New England Mobile Book Fair, 241 Needham Street, Newton Upper Falls, MA 02464

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.

PRICE: $15.00 paperback, $8.00 Kindle

CONTACT THE AUTHORphil@temples.com

https://temples.com

Welcome Distractions

THE BOOK: Welcome Distractions: Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Carol Wierzbicki

THE PUBLISHER: Autonomedia

SUMMARY: Wierzbicki successfully challenges the notion of what poetry is as she generously takes us to its core/essence. In this three-part collection, whether they are socio-politically charged poems, odes to the borough she lives in, poems written for her parents & her friends or for music she loves, the brilliant accuracy of her viewpoint, where she stands, & the direct humane manner in which she uses language is her strength & grace. There are plenty of anti-establishment writers who present themselves as wild rebels raging outside the system, or who tell tales about marginalized characters. Wierzbicki’s work offers a more bitter and more accurate takedown of many of the mainstream’s hollow idols and ideas. The deft conclusion of her ruminations is a sense of earned sadness about the tiny shifts people make to preserve a single shred of dignity in the corporate landscape. Wierzbicki constantly puts her finger on the workings of societal insanities so institutionally ingrained they cannot be questioned. The experience of reading this book is crucial for our times.

Carol WierzbickiWHY THIS TITLE? I sought to demystify poetry for the general readership. I like the immediacy of William Carlos Williams, and the imagist poets. Why deliberately obfuscate when you can make a direct connection to your reader?

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: People who don’t think of themselves as “readers of poetry” have instantly taken to this book. I’ve received much positive feedback from buyers.

REVIEW COMMENTS: 3 positive online reviews:

https://www.tribes.org/web/2018/7/16/review-of-c-welcome-distractions-accessible-poems-for-time-strapped-humans: “Carol Wierzbicki’s Welcome Distractions: Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans is a terrific book of poems of/for our time. A book, dare I say it, of terrific female-take poems of and for our time, that will last, that should be required reading for all. And fun. And you will gasp: Yes! she nailed it.”

https://northofoxford.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/welcome-distractions-accessible-poems-for-time-strapped-humans-by-carol-wierzbicki: “In these unadorned beautifully written poems Wierzbicki writes of poets, politics, her beloved Brooklyn and much more… If you are a lover of poetry, of realism, of intense rhythmic poetry you should pick up a copy.”

http://galatearesurrects2018.blogspot.com/2018/07/welcome-distractions-by-carol-wierzbicki.html: “The irreverence of these poems in the first section especially are best read aloud to yourself in front of a mirror so you can see and not just feel what’s it’s like to be cut down to size.”

AUTHOR PROFILE: Carol Wierzbicki is a poet, editor and reviewer. Her publication credits include Long Shot, Public Illumination, Evergreen Review, Big Bridge, Many Mountains Moving, The Otter, and A Gathering of the Tribes. Her book reviews have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail and American Book Review. She has run poetry readings in New York City, and is co-editor of the Unbearables “Worst Book” and “Sex” anthologies. Her poetry books are Top Teen Greatest Hits (Poets Wear Prada, 2009 and 2017) and Welcome Distractions: Accessible Poems for Time-Strapped Humans (Autonomedia, 2018). She is writing a series of books for children.

SAMPLE:  

Champion Cat Breeder

So you’re big in the poetry world.
Who cares?
It’s like being a champion cat breeder
You move in weird, fussy
little circles
where egos erupt like
cat-spit.
Big in the poetry world—
What does that mean?
Do people flock to your side,
hang on your every word?
Well, they’re just other poets, aren’t they—
they already know what you’re going to say
being part of your incestuous
cat-fanciers circle
and they make sure to stroke you
admiringly
as you proudly display the
nose, tail and coat
of your poem,
and laugh at your
lame jokes so you’ll publish
their stuff in your
cat-fanciers magazine.
Over the years
the other cat fanciers in your circle
have developed nervous tics:
their ears twitch or
they’re always cleaning
some imaginary schmutz
off their whiskers.
If refreshments are offered
they pounce.
Later, they exchange
carefully-worded critiques
between preenings
and gingerly pick their way
among the knots of obscure people
they’ve resolved to avoid
on their way to kitchen
or litter box.

LOCAL OUTLETS: https://www.amazon.com/Welcome-Distractions-Accessible-Time-Strapped-Humans/dp/1570273367/

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Copies available upon request from the author.

PRICE: $15

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: carol.wierzbicki@gmail.com

Weather Report, August 12

Our currently featured books, “Known by Salt,” by Tina Mozelle Braziel, and “A Way Out of Nowhere,” by Nancy Gerber, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or click the author’s name on our Authors page.

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UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, AUGUST 13-19 

“HELLTOWN CHRONICLES,” BY PHIL TEMPLES.

Writes Phil: “In the 1970s, the town of Boston Mills, Ohio was turned into a ghost town practically overnight when the U.S. Department of Interior seized lands and condemned homes and properties in order to expand the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. In the years since, a multitude of mysterious tales and ghost stories have sprung forth concerning the macabre remains, known to the locals as ‘Helltown.’

“While the novel contains many of the actual “fakelore” stories about the true-life ghost town, I’ve woven them into my fictional plot with my protagonists. Hence the title, ‘Helltown Chronicles.'”

“WHAT WOULD IT MIGHT FEEL LIKE TO HOPE,” BY DORENE O’BRIEN.

What It Might Feel Like to Hope, the second full-length collection from award-winning author Dorene O’Brien, is a masterful and eclectic mix of stories that consider the infinitely powerful, and equally naïve and damning force that is human hope. A couple tries to come to terms with one another as they travel west in the uncomfortable twilight of their youth; a mortician and an idealistic novelist spar about the true nature of death; an aspiring author hopes to impress Tom Hanks with zombies; a tarot reader deals out the future of Detroit. Highlighting her diverse talents, O’Brien offers a panoply of characters and settings that dwell beyond the borders of certainty, in a place where all that has been left to them is an inkling of possibility upon which they must place all their hopes. These stories offer a variety of tones, forms, and themes in which O’Brien displays an amazing range and control of her craft, all while exploring the essential nature of humanity with nuance, empathy, and at times a touch of skepticism.

“WELCOME DISTRACTIONS,” BY CAROL WIERZBICKI.

Wierzbicki successfully challenges the notion of what poetry is as she generously takes us to its core/essence. In this three-part collection, whether they are socio-politically charged poems, odes to the borough she lives in, poems written for her parents & her friends or for music she loves, the brilliant accuracy of her viewpoint, where she stands, & the direct humane manner in which she uses language is her strength & grace. There are plenty of anti-establishment writers who present themselves as wild rebels raging outside the system, or who tell tales about marginalized characters. Wierzbicki’s work offers a more bitter and more accurate takedown of many of the mainstream’s hollow idols and ideas. The deft conclusion of her ruminations is a sense of earned sadness about the tiny shifts people make to preserve a single shred of dignity in the corporate landscape. Wierzbicki constantly puts her finger on the workings of societal insanities so institutionally ingrained they cannot be questioned. The experience of reading this book is crucial for our times. [excerpts from back cover blurbs]

 

 

 

 

Known by Salt

This week’s other featured book, “A Way Out of Nowhere,” by Nancy Gerber, can be found by scrolling down below this post, along with the First Tuesday Replay. Or, just click the author’s name on our Authors page.

THE BOOK: Known by Salt.

PUBLISHED IN: 2019

THE AUTHOR: Tina Mozelle Braziel.

THE EDITOR: The Amazing Carol Lynne Knight.

THE PUBLISHER: Anhinga Press, a press dedicated to sharing poetry with a broad audience and to creating gorgeous books. SUMMARY: Known by Salt searches for home and identity in the trailer park where I grew up and in the glass cabin my husband and I are building by hand. While I’m aware that my homes and life fall short of social norms, I can’t help but ask, “How come?” when I’ve discovered grit and feminism in family stories, strip clubs, fast food joints, and building sites. My poems take shelter in the beauty found in dammed rivers, wooded hills, swerving snakes, and true love. The poems in Known by Salt examine class and gender, humankind and nature, and what it might take to mend those divisions and become whole.

THE BACK STORY: In 2014, my husband and I had been living (and writing) in our glass cabin as we built it for about six months. Cooking on a hotplate among tools, lizards, and doing without running water brought back some familiar feelings I had had while growing up: joy and a defensive pride. I wanted to describe the beauty I’ve found in homes (trailers and houses without plumbing) that are often the butt of jokes about the south and / or the working class. Building a home by hand also deepened my respect for the construction work my father, uncles, and grandfathers did. Around that time, my family revealed to me that my grandmother Mozelle had helped my grandfather build their brick house while they lived in it. My family then claimed as they had many times before, “We didn’t name you Mozelle for nothing.” Known by Salt came together as I focused on connecting poems about Mozelle, my working class childhood, and growing up on the Coosa River with poems about creating a home with my true love and our many encounters with toads, praying mantis, and deer. In writing the collection, I took a great deal of inspiration from poets who I admire and continue to study: Philip Levine, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Claudia Emerson, and Natasha Tretheway. The incomparable instruction I received at the University of Oregon from Danny Anderson, Geri Doran, and Garrett Hongo gave me with the skills necessary to write this book.

WHY THIS TITLE?: Known by Salt is also the title of a poem about how my family’s need and desire for salt comes from the construction work we did. The title itself was inspired by a hymn I grew up singing at church, “We Are One in the Spirit.” Part of the chorus is a repeated line “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” That line kept playing in my head and caused me to imagine that the people I come from would be known by salt. I had hoped that the title might remind some readers of that song so that they might equate salt with love.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?

Here are three reasons:

1) It will make you feel better about life. At least that is what my fellow poet and dear friend Laura Secord said about it. Her endorsement rings out so bright and clear, I can’t help but repeat it.

2) Many of the poems about construction or nature veer into love poems.

3) You’ll enjoy meeting Mozelle. She’s cool and feisty.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Covering the wide expanse of Alabama’s waterways and terrain, Braziel draws her reader from dirt to a trailer’s cool underbelly to the studs of a home built by her hands. In doing this, she capitalizes on the way home can be both a place one is fastened to and simultaneously rebuilding.” — Cassie Mannes Murray, Raleigh Review

“This collection is a stunning portrait of the American South. But more than that, Known by Salt is a generous glimpse into how place, memory, inheritance, and joy work together to make a home. It is both a realization and a reassurance that home, and even homeland, are always changing.” — –Alycia Pirmohamed, The Scores.

“With a grace that honors her roots, yet soars beyond, Tina Mozelle Braziel has written a singularly beautiful, intelligent, and accessible collection of poems in Known by Salt …. While many poets use everyday images, hers resonate with a wholesome crispness that refreshes, like the simplicity of William Carlos Williams’ ‘plums that were in the ice box.’ Yet Braziel’s images—like Williams’—speak volumes about human experience and evoke themes of loss, growth, bravery, and transcendence.” — Claire Matturro, First Draft

“…the poems in Known by Salt thrum inside me with a pulsing sense of truth that make them seem as if I have lived every single one of the stories conveyed. And this truth is, despite the sometimes difficult nature of it, intensely beautiful. Compellingly beautiful. This is the kind of truth that, like the salt that becomes one of the motifs in the book, not only flavors things, but is as necessary an element in our lives as blood, as breath.” — Lana K. Austin, Alabama Writers’ Conclave

AUTHOR PROFILE: Tina Mozelle Braziel and her novelist husband, James Braziel, are building a glass cabin by hand on Hydrangea Ridge because they want the financial freedom to write. They have found that it also inspires their work. The Braziels were thrilled to be notified that Tina won the 2017 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry for Known by Salt while they were serving as artists in residence at Hot Springs National Park. Since that time, Tina has been organizing a book tour and/or touring with the support of an Alabama State Council of the Arts Literary fellowship. She often appears with her friend and fellow poet, Ashley M. Jones, under the name the Dark // Salt Sister Tour. (Please look for them and/or invite them to your local reading series). In 2019, she was awarded an Eco Poetry Fellowship from the Magic City Poetry Festival and the Cahaba River Society. She is now writing poetry and creative writing curriculum that encourages a deeper relationship with the Cahaba, one of the most biodiverse rivers on earth. Each summer, she directs the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her poems have also appeared in her chapbook, Rooted by Thirst (Porkbelly Press), The Cincinnati Review, Southern Humanities Review, Tampa Review, and other journals. She earned an MFA in Poetry at the University of Oregon.

Link to Rooted by Thirst at Porkbelly: https://porkbellypress.com/poetry/rooted

AUTHOR COMMENTS:  As a nation of immigrants and displaced people, much of American history and culture focuses on finding and creating a place for one’s self and family. One of the first material markers of the American Dream is ownership of one’s home. Many people I’ve encountered have told me that building a house has been or is a goal of theirs. Known by Salt gets at what that literally feels like. It also speaks to our universal desire to belong while talking back to the demeaning ways some people use class and gender to make us feel like we don’t.

SAMPLE POEM:

Work Shirt

It is sky: fading denim,

a ravel of clouds along cuff and collar,

each pearl snap another rising moon.

And that sky is my father: he laid steel in it,

claiming high territories for bridges

and pent-house suites, traversing thin I-beams

with nothing steadying him but the pale blue.

My father handed that down to me.

Yes, it’s huge and soft-worn like suede.

Something worn to bed and out at bars.

But now that I’m framing the windows of my home,

it suits me as if it were my own blue skin.

LOCAL OUTLETS: anhingapress.org/poetry/known-by-salt-by-tina-mozelle-braziel

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/known-by-salt-tina-mozelle-braziel/1130019053;jsessionid=079099C734EF38BE04C62A36DD77CE2E.prodny_store01-atgap11?ean=9781934695609&st=PLA&sid=BNB_New%20Core%20Shopping%20Top%20Margin%20.

EANs&2sid=Google_c&sourceId=PLAGoNA.

PRICE: $20.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Website: tinamozellebraziel.com

Facebook: Tina Mozelle Braziel

Twitter: @tinamozell

A Way Out of Nowhere

A Way Out of Nowhere by [Gerber, Nancy]

THE BOOK: A Way Out of Nowhere: Stories

PUBLISHED IN: 2018

THE AUTHOR: Nancy Gerber

THE EDITOR: Robin Stratton

PUBLISHER: Big Table Publishing

SUMMARY: A collection of nine stories exploring the rites of passage of being female:  a college student coping with date rape, a young woman discovering her sexuality, a new mother grappling with postpartum depression, an unhappy teenager developing a surprising friendship with an elderly woman patient in a nursing home.  The protagonists oscillate between isolation and connection as they struggle to find meaning in environments that are often hostile or dangerous.

THE BACK STORY:  Various ideas for short stories had been swimming around in my mind for the past few years.  I’d always seen myself as a nonfiction writer, having previously published a memoir about my father and his catastrophic stroke.  I wasn’t sure if I could write fiction.  Ultimately I decided to follow Raymond Carver’s advice:  write one sentence, then write the next.  It sounds simple, but of course it’s not easy to do.  Nevertheless, by the time I’d written the first two or three pages of that first story, I began to see the arc of the narrative, to better understand the characters and what I hoped to convey.  Then there’s the next step: revise, revise, revise.  Ultimately I was drawn into the process of exploring various aspects of women’s experience, continuing with more stories until I had enough for this book.

Nancy GerberWHY THIS TITLE:  The title refers to a quote by one of the characters in the first story, “A Way Out of Nowhere,” for which the collection is named.  The character, a Viet Nam veteran who has returned to college and suffers from PTSD, says, “I feel like I’m nowhere and there’s no way out.”  I wanted to write about the way fictional characters navigate difficult circumstances.  Did they create their current situation, or did it choose them?  How do they respond to  challenges they were not anticipating?  Do they find a way out of their difficulties, and if so, how?

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT:   I’m especially drawn to stories that represent characters’ complex interiority and internal conflict.  Someone who likes that kind of writing will enjoy my book.  I include a blurb from the back cover:  “These characters come to life and become a community of young people trying to figure out how to listen to themselves and who to approach or avoid.  The surprises they find are moving and provocative.  A deep and satisfying book.” — Frances Bartkowski, An Afterlife; Former Chair, Department of English, Rutgers University-Newark.

REVIEW COMMENTS:  “Nancy Gerber writes with authority, both with regard to her subject matter and with reference to her writing skill.  These stories are commendable for their revelations and are well worth reading.”

— Carole Mertz, Mom Egg Review

AUTHOR PROFILE:  I started to write essays and creative nonfiction in my late 30’s, though I began my writing career at the auspicious age of seven, when my second grade teacher told me to write stories and read them aloud to the class as a way to channel  my disruptive energy.  By the time I got to high school, I lost confidence in my ability to write.  I pursued a Ph.D. in English because reading was always as important to me as writing, and in graduate school I read, a lot.  But scholarly writing did not satisfy my wish to explore creative forms, and then my father became very ill.  Suddenly I had a subject and the desire to give it form and shape.  The memoir about my father was my first non-academic book.   More information about me and the books I’ve written is available on my website: nancygerber.net.

SAMPLE CHAPTER:  (Amazon link)

https://www.amazon.com/Way-Out-Nowhere-Nancy-Gerber/dp/1945917377/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=A+Way+Out+of+Nowhere&qid=1564688744&s=gateway&sr=8-1

WHERE TO BUY IT:  Amazon, Big Table website

PRICE:  $15.00 paperback

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  nancygerber79@gmail.com