Beginning With Cannonballs

Beginning with Cannonballs: A Novel by [Jill McCroskey Coupe]This week’s other featured books, “The Miracle on 98th Street,” by Natasha Nesic, “Happy Like This,” by Ashley Wurzbacher and “The Hidden Machinery,” by Margot Livesey, 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: Beginning with Cannonballs: A Novel.
 
PUBLISHED IN: 2020.
 
THE AUTHOR: Jill McCroskey Coupe.
 
THE EDITOR: Annie Tucker.
 
THE PUBLISHER: She Writes Press.
 

SUMMARY: In the 1940s, in segregated Knoxville, Tennessee, Gail (white) and Hanna (black) shared a crib in Gail’s house, where Hanna’s mother, Sophie, was the live-in maid. When the girls were four, Sophie taught them to swim, and soon they were gleefully doing cannonballs off the diving board, playing a game they’d invented based on their favorite Billie Holiday song.

By the time they are both in college, however, the two friends have lost touch with each other. A reunion in Washington, DC, sought by Gail but resented by Hanna, sets the tone for their relationship from then on. Marriage, children, and a tragic death further strain the increasingly fragile bond. How much longer can the friendship last?

THE BACK STORY: My MFA thesis, decades ago, was a novella about an interracial friendship. It wasn’t very good. I put it aside but never completely gave up on the idea. About eight years ago, I decided to try again. Beginning with Cannonballs is a completely different story, with brand new characters. The scene in the empty swimming pool, though, had its origins in my thesis from long ago.

Jill McCroskey CoupeWHY THIS TITLE?: The novel begins with Hanna and Gail cannonballing into a swimming pool. One afternoon, I was brainstorming titles by email with my son. Immediately after I hit send to suggest Starting with Cannonballs, I emailed him to say forget that one, it’s a terrible idea. No, Mom, I really like it, was his reply. So I made the title a bit more alliterative, and here we are!

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Most books about interracial friendship have been written for children. This one is for an older audience.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

Coupe employs short sentences that pack a punch . . . in the tradition of Southern writers like Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee . . . She lays bare each character’s truths, allowing the reader to piece them together. . . The novel is a testament to the importance of connection and empathy, and feels both timely and timeless in today’s fraught social climate.” —Jessica Crandall, in Necessary Fiction.

This lyric novel is a gorgeous mosaic, fragmented in a way that lets the reader into the gaps in order to complete the meaning, to connect the narrative dots. Beginning with Cannonballs reminds me of an Alice Munro story, one that looks at people’s lives over decades, like catching them in snapshots . . .Jill McCroskey Coupe is one savvy, irresistible, and fearless writer.” — John Dufresne, author of “I Don’t like Where This Is Going.”

Beginning with Cannonballs spans fifty years in a poignant yet difficult friendship. Through each episode, each explosive cannonball, the novel takes an unstinting and courageous look at how societal forces can seek to destroy the truth that lies beneath the surface of our skin: that we are all sisters and brothers at heart. —J.E. Irvin, author of The Dark End of the Rainbow and The Strange Disappearance of Rose Stone.

Jill McCroskey Coupe’s compelling story of an unlikely friendship in the segregated South is unforgettable. Hanna and Gail’s struggle to defy the odds of racism and social status is truly one of hope. Such lovely and deft writing from a masterful storyteller. A must read.” – Kim Bradley, short story writer and Assistant Professor of English, Flagler College.

 
AUTHOR PROFILE: Like my characters, Gail and Hanna, I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. A former librarian at Johns Hopkins University, I have an MFA in Fiction from Warren Wilson College, in the heart of the Blue Ridge. The Southern Appalachians will always feel like home to me, but so does Baltimore, where I’ve lived for more than thirty years. My first novel, True Stories at the Smoky View, won a gold medal in Regional Fiction (South) from the Independent Publisher Book Awards. And yes, I’m working on another novel. Please stay tuned.
 
AUTHOR COMMENTS: As I was writing Beginning with Cannonballs, I received feedback from several different fiction workshops. Race was a sensitive issue back when I wrote my MFA thesis, and it still is. There is a debate about whether or not a white person should attempt to write from a black person’s perspective. My novel includes chapters from four points of view: those of the two friends, as well as those of their mothers. I decided to risk this approach because it seemed to me the best way to tell this rather complicated story.
 
SAMPLE CHAPTER: To read a sample chapter on Amazon, please click here: https://amzn.to/2WudWHe.
The novel is also available on bookshop.org, which benefits independent bookstores.
 
LOCAL OUTLETS: The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, MD, theivybookshop.com.
PRICE: $16.95.
 
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: There’s a wealth of information on my website jillmcoupe.com. Please do stop by for a visit.

The Miracle on 98th Street

Tea in the ancient world: Natasha Nesic, Snooty Tea Blog author ...THE BOOK: The Miracle on 98th Street.

PUBLISHED IN: 2018, republished in 2020.

THE AUTHOR: Natasha Nesic

THE EDITOR: James Victorine.

THE PUBLISHER: Amazon.com.

SUMMARY: There is a small woman named Michal Imber in a top-floor apartment, just off 98th Street. She is blonde, boisterous, and bless her, she has a knack for turning Millennials into humans again.

In 2015, Michal takes in a silly Westchester dancer. Or rather, once-dancer. Having thrown away her ballet shoes years ago, this kid needs a place to stay over the course of an unintended gap year while she keeps trudging through the fitness industry–oh yes, barbells and all!–trying to make a living for herself. Michal asks no rent, only respect, as her “guest” goes through all the existential punching bags necessary to find herself in Manhattan.

The Miracle on 98th Street by [Natasha Nesic]Part memoir, part shadowboxing, The Miracle on 98th Street is a fast-moving meditation through love, luck, and spirituality–an ode to one of the impossible spirits of the Upper West Side.

THE BACK STORY: This novel was originally an MFA thesis for Sarah Lawrence College, and pairs well with coffee.

WHY THIS TITLE: The title is a good one to come back to after you’ve read it the first time. It was originally a nod to “The Miracle on 34th Street,” but there are so many miracles that went into its creation: the miracle of Michal existing; the miracle of finding a place to stay in Manhattan; the miracle of finding yourself in front of a heavy bag; the miracle of finishing this book in the middle of a double metatarsal fracture; and of course the miracle that it still means something, years after it was published.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: There’s a little something in it for everyone. If you enjoy watching people at the gym for the abstract anthropology, or if you wonder why the age of twentysomething can be so frustrating, or maybe you like the idea of lyricism in martial arts and weightlifting. (And of course, if you’ve ever had a Michal in their life, reminding you to put on a sweater and close the window before you leave.)

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“In a strong and delightful debut work, Natasha Nesic captures the restlessness of a young writer seeking her place in the world. This journey begins with the offer of a friend’s Upper West Side apartment, enrollment in a graduate writing program, and introduction to the mysterious Michal, a 70ish neighbor and former ballerina who lets the author briefly stay with her on two occasions. Nesic’s first-person voice is irresistible, laced with “dangit”s, and an endearing self-effacement that nails 20-something angst. The narrator’s entry into Michal’s art-laden sanctuary with its photos of the former Martha Graham dancer, inspires complex questions around art, dance, and beauty. This more ethereal plane contrasts with Nesic’s role as a fitness trainer, seamlessly integrating asides on strengthening muscles, and humorous confrontations from her kickboxing bag, a merciless sage nicknamed Baggins. Like Marcel Proust or Josep Pla, Nesic looks for the story to write — only to discover she is living it. I look forward to more well-crafted work from this talented writer.” — Ann Cefola, author and poet.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Natasha  Nesic is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in intellectual, creative, and forward-thinking fitness. With her background in dance, powerlifting, movement training, and martial arts, she helps individuals transform themselves beyond a kinesthetic experience, and enjoy the process to reach the next level of health and wellness. She practices in New York City, and offers online classes worldwide.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: In all honesty, the real miracle is how this book came to be in the first place. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support that’s gone into its existence, and the support it continues to receive, even years after its fledgling publication.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). Sample on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Miracle-98th-Street-Natasha-Nesic-ebook/dp/B07CRSG1F9/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&qid=1589806439&refinements=p_27%3ANatasha+Nesic&s=digital-text&sr=1-1&text=Natasha+Nesic.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Online only.

PRICE: $14.99 paperback; $5.99 Kindle ($0.00 on Kindle Unlimited).

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: nesic.natasha@gmail.comworklife-fitness.com

Happy Like This

Happy Like This (Iowa Short Fiction Award) by [Ashley Wurzbacher]

THE BOOK: Happy Like This.

PUBLISHED IN: 2019.

THE AUTHOR: Ashley Wurzbacher.

THE PUBLISHER: University of Iowa Press (Iowa Short Fiction Award Series).

SUMMARY: The characters in Happy Like This are smart girls and professional women—social scientists, linguists, speech therapists, plant physiologists, dancers—who search for happiness in roles and relationships that are often unscripted or unconventional. In the midst of their ambivalence about marriage, monogamy, and motherhood and their struggles to accept and love their bodies, they look to other women for solidarity, stability, and validation. Sometimes they find it; sometimes they don’t. Spanning a wide range of distinct perspectives, voices, styles, and settings, the ten shimmering stories in Happy Like This offer deeply felt, often humorous meditations on the complexity of choice and the ambiguity of happiness deliberately shape my work into a cohesive collection with those concerns at heart.

THE BACK STORY: I worked on this collection gradually over a period of ten years. I didn’t start out with a clear “idea”; initially, I didn’t even see the individual stories I was writing as part of a book. Over the years, though, I began to notice how many of my stories had to do with girls and women who feel deeply ambivalent about the societal and familial roles into which they’ve been cast, who are looking for ways to live genuinely and happily in a world that’s always trying to shove them into various boxes, and who bond in meaningful and unexpected ways with other women. Once I became conscious of the way I kept returning to the same core set of concerns, I was able to deliberately shape my work into a cohesive collection with those concerns at its heart.

 

Ashley WurzbacherWHY THIS TITLE?: I’ll quote what I said in an interview I did with Vulture last fall: “Many of my characters feel uncertain what they’re ‘supposed’ to be doing with themselves and their lives; they feel burdened by the weight of their choices, and their uncertainty drives them toward other women who seem to have figured things out and found some form of happiness. They fall in a kind of love with each other. They try to understand and respect both other women’s choices and their own, and sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail in that effort. Perhaps what matters is that they bother to make the effort at all.” (Read more at https://www.vulture.com/2019/09/news-2019-national-book-foundation-5-under-35.html)
 
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? You’ll enjoy this book if you love short stories and complicated women with interesting, sometimes unsettling thoughts and feelings.
 
REVIEW COMMENTS:

Wurzbacher…deploys her encyclopedic command of various ideas, regions, professions and lexicons with the authority of seasoned masters like Adam Johnson. This is a writer at the top of her game; but hopefully she’s only just getting started. –The New York Times.

I love these dark, lyrical, sinewy stories about women’s relationships with their bodies and with each other. It’s the sort of theme that could feel irritably well-trod, but that’s not the case here at all; these stories surprised me at every turn. And the writing is so gorgeous!”– Carmen Maria Machado, judge, 2019 Iowa Short Fiction Award.

Happy Like This is an intelligent and moving glimpse into the lives of women searching for happiness. Each story pulses with electric writing, often humorous, but always full of authenticity and compassion. I can’t wait for people to read this book.” -Brandon Hobson, author, Where the Dead Sit Talking,

Wurzbacher’s incisive, polychromatic story collection centers on the dizzying complexities of female friendships: how they fray and mend over time and are often imbued with the intensity of love affairs.” –Oprah Magazine.

 
AUTHOR PROFILE: Originally from northwestern Pennsylvania, I currently live in Birmingham, Alabama and teach creative writing at the University of Montevallo. I’m a dog person.
 
SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can read one of the stories from the collection, “Fake Mermaid,” in the Kenyon Review Online at https://kenyonreview.org/kr-online-issue/2019-mayjune/selections/ashley-wurzbacher-342846/
 
 
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IThttps://bookshop.org/
 
PRICE: $17.00
 
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Visit Ashley’s website (with contact form): https://ashleywurzbacher.com/

The Hidden Machinery

Margot Livesey | Official Web Site | About Margot LiveseyTHE BOOK: The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing.
 
PUBLISHED IN: 2017.
 
THE AUTHOR:  Margot Livesey.
 
THE EDITOR: Tony Perez.
 
THE PUBLISHER: Tin House Press.  Tin House is a wonderful small press based in Portland, Oregon.  They publish fiction, poetry and non-fiction.  The press also runs an excellent summer writers’ conference.
 
SUMMARY: The Hidden Machinery explores the idea that the works of fiction we love are powered by a machinery which it is is the job of the writer to conceal and of the apprentice to apprehend.  Each of the ten essays is about some aspect of craft – writing the first novel, dialogue, creating characters who walk off the page, research, discovering our aesthetic.  In some, the craft issue – creating characters, writing better dialogue – is at the centre of the essay with examples coming from such writers as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Deborah Eisenberg.  In others, craft is examined through the lens of a particular author: 16 lessons we can learn from Shakespeare, how Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse can illuminate what we’re writing against, and what we’re writing towards.
 
The Hidden Machinery takes seriously E.M. Forster’s idea that study is only a serious form of gossip.  I am interested in how the life of the writer, personal and public, shapes the work and how, as writers, we can figure out what matters to us.
 
 
THE BACK STORY: The essays were written over the course of two decades.  Most of them began as talks at writers’ conferences or the MFA program for writers at Warren Wilson College.  Gradually I began to realise that they had a common theme.  The book also charts my own life as an auto-didact whose first stories were written between waitressing shifts.  I tried to write the book that would have helped me as a young writer and that would also keep me good company as an older writer.  While writing my most recent novel, The Boy in The Field, I tried hard to follow my own advice about characters and dialogue.
 
 
WHY THIS TITLE?: Answered above.
 
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT?  Having read many craft books that, despite being useful, left me feeling uninspired, I wanted to write one that took seriously the idea of the writer as a reader, and to treat craft at a deeper level.  As James Baldwin said in an interview, “When you’re writing, you’re trying to find out something which you don’t know.  The whole language of writing for me is finding out what you don’t want to know, what you don’t want to find out.  But something forces you to anyway.”  I hope that The Hidden Machinery helps writers to make that journey of unknowing and keeps them good company.
 
REVIEW COMMENTS: 
 

Novice novelists, accomplished authors, and rabid readers can all learn something from Livesey’s intense yet intimate exploration of the art and craft of creating and appreciating the written word.”— Booklist.

If good books allow us to choose the intellectual company we keep, there’s no better company – for a budding writer or an avid reader – than Livesey in these essays.” — The Christian Science Monitor.

 
AUTHOR PROFILE: I grew up in the unusual environment of a boys’ private school on the edge of the Scottish Highlands where my father taught mathematics.  I studied literature and philosophy at the University of York and the year after I graduated wrote a novel of remarkable badness.  I spent the rest of my twenties waitressing and teaching myself to write.  Eventually my stories began to be published in small magazines.  I have published a collection of stories and eight novels.  I now teach at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  My ninth novel, The Boy in The Field, will be published in August, 2020.
 
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Reading and writing are the opposite of escapism.  In these uncertain times we all need books that connect us with our deepest selves and with the larger world.
 
SAMPLE CHAPTER: See the Amazon page.
 
LOCAL OUTLETS:  I mostly live in Cambridge, MA and am lucky to have many wonderful independent bookshops.
 
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
 
PRICE: $15.95
 
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  www.margotlivesey.com  @margotlivesey

Weather Report, June 22

Little Girl Creates Bubbles Under Water In The Pool Stock Photo ...

(Photo from 123RF.com)

Our currently featured books, “The Distance Between Stars,” by Jeff Elzinga, “Daughters of Alzheimer’s,” by Persis Granger, “The Luckiest Scar on Earth,” by Ana Maria Spagna and “Dead Shark on the N Train,” by Susanah Case, 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 SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JUNE 23-29

BEGINNING WITH CANNONBALLS,” BY JILL McCROSKEY COUPE.

In the 1940s, in segregated Knoxville, Tennessee, Gail (white) and Hanna (black) shared a crib in Gail’s house, where Hanna’s mother, Sophie, was the live-in maid. When the girls were four, Sophie taught them to swim, and soon they were gleefully doing cannonballs off the diving board, playing a game they’d invented based on their favorite Billie Holiday song.

By the time they are both in college, however, the two friends have lost touch with each other. A reunion in Washington, DC, sought by Gail but resented by Hanna, sets the tone for their relationship from then on. Marriage, children, and a tragic death further strain the increasingly fragile bond. How much longer can the friendship last?

HAPPY LIKE THIS,” BY ASHLEY WURZBACHER.

The characters in Happy Like This are smart girls and professional women—social scientists, linguists, speech therapists, plant physiologists, dancers—who search for happiness in roles and relationships that are often unscripted or unconventional. In the midst of their ambivalence about marriage, monogamy, and motherhood and their struggles to accept and love their bodies, they look to other women for solidarity, stability, and validation. Sometimes they find it; sometimes they don’t. Spanning a wide range of distinct perspectives, voices, styles, and settings, the ten shimmering stories in Happy Like This offer deeply felt, often humorous meditations on the complexity of choice and the ambiguity of happiness.

THE HIDDEN MACHINERY,” BY MARGOT LIVESEY.

The Hidden Machinery explores the idea that the works of fiction we love are powered by a machinery which it is ihe job of the writer to conceal and of the apprentice to apprehend.  Each of the ten essays is about some aspect of craft – writing the first novel, dialogue, creating characters who walk off the page, research, discovering our aesthetic.  In some, the craft issue – creating characters, writing better dialogue – is at the centre of the essay with examples coming from such writers as Toni Morrison, James Baldwin and Deborah Eisenberg.  In others, craft is examined through the lens of a particular author: 16 lessons we can learn from Shakespeare, how Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse can illuminate what we’re writing against, and what we’re writing towards.

THE MIRACLE ON 96th STREET,” BY NATASHA NESIC

There is a small woman named Michal Imber in a top-floor apartment, just off 98th Street. She is blonde, boisterous, and bless her, she has a knack for turning Millennials into humans again.

n 2015, Michal takes in a silly Westchester dancer. Or rather, once-dancer. Having thrown away her ballet shoes years ago, this kid needs a place to stay over the course of an unintended gap year while she keeps trudging through the fitness industry–oh yes, barbells and all!–trying to make a living for herself. Michal asks no rent, only respect, as her “guest” goes through all the existential punching bags necessary to find herself in Manhattan.

Part memoir, part shadowboxing, The Miracle on 98th Street is a fast-moving meditation through love, luck, and spirituality–an ode to one of the impossible spirits of the Upper West Side.

 

The Distance Between Stars

This week’s other featured books, “Shared Stories From Daughters of Alzheimer’s,” edited by Persis R. Granger, “The Luckiest Scar on Earth,” by Ana Maria Spagna and “Dead Shark on the N Train,” by Susana H. Case, 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: The Distance Between Stars.

PUBLISHED IN: June 2020.

THE AUTHOR: Jeff Elzinga.

THE EDITOR: Dawn Hogue.

THE PUBLISHER: Water’s Edge Press LLC.

SUMMARY: The Distance Between Stars is the story of two Americans divided by history and skin color. Joe Kellerman, white, is an accomplished diplomat who has spent his career solving difficult problems in sub-Saharan countries. Maurice Hightower, black, is a prize-winning but controversial journalist who has spent his life exposing injustice in the United States. During a fact-finding trip to an African country that is quickly sliding towards civil war, and where the U.S. government is accused of supporting the  ncreasingly violent opposition, Hightower travels alone into the bush and then disappears. The dangerous assignment of finding the missing man and bringing him to safety falls to Joe Kellerman. The story follows Kellerman’s hunt for a man he does not admire, traces Hightower’s pursuit of a truth that ever eludes him, and balances the costs each man must pay to find redemption for a life lived imperfectly. While the novel takes place in Africa, it is a uniquely American story.

Jeff ElzingaTHE BACK STORY: On one hand, it’s a compelling search for a missing person. It is also a story about duty, race, national identity, and the vanishing point where these elusive perspectives meet.

WHY THIS TITLE: “Stars” has a number of different meanings and references within the novel itself.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: It has neither a setting, subject matter, nor storyline found in most other novels being published today.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Jeff Elzinga has written a thoroughly authentic novel of Africa whose themes of race, privilege and what it means to be American ring true to anyone who has spent time on the continent. His characters, descriptions and scenes are so believable, and the
story so engaging, I felt like this book came directly from the newspaper front pages.
You won’t actually find Umbika on a real map of the continent, but I came away with the feeling that I had been there many times before.” — Keith Richburg, former Africa bureau chief, Washington Post, and author of OUT OF AMERICA.

“…an enthralling story that’s more exciting with each turn of the page. Set against a backdrop of Africa so authentic I could smell the omnipresent cooking fires and relive the joys, trials and tribulations of many years on that magical continent. The spot-on description of diplomatic service, and in particular the challenges of managing visiting VIPs, brought back night sweats I thought I’d left behind. An excellent and enjoyable read!” Ambassador Gregory W. Engle (Ret.)

“A finely-crafted, thoughtful, and timely novel. Authentic and compassionate in its story-telling, THE DISTANCE BETWEEN STARS marks Elzinga’s debut as writer to watch.”  –Nickolas Butler, author of SHOTGUN LOVESONGS and LITTLE FAITH.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Jeff Elzinga graduated from St. Olaf College and Columbia University. He has lived two rewarding careers. As a foreign service officer of the U.S. State Department, he served in Tunisia and Malawi. Then, for more than 20 years he was a college instructor, retiring in 2018 as Emeritus Professor of Writing at Lakeland University in Wisconsin. He is married and has three children. This is his first published novel.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: For those who want to go deeper into the themes of the book, there is a page of interview questions with me on my website and a page of questions for book clubs.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: See the Amazon page.

WHERE TO BUY IT: watersedgepress.com, Ingram, IndieBound, Bookshop, Amazon.

PRICE: $20.00.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: jeffelzinga.com

Shared Stories From Daughters of Alzheimers

Shared Stories from Daughters of Alzheimer's: Writing a Path to Peace by [Kathleen Adams, Persis R. Granger]THE BOOK: Shared Stories from Daughters of Alzheimer’s: Writing a Path to Peace.

PUBLISHED IN: 2002, 2004.

THE AUTHOR: The book is an anthology with chapters by 10 authors, plus foreword and introduction by other writers.

THE EDITOR: Persis R. Granger.

THE PUBLISHER: iUniverse Star.

SUMMARY: Shared Stories from Daughters of Alzheimer’s: Writing a Path to Peace Nonfiction. An anthology of accounts by women detailing their personal living with and coming to terms emotionally with a parent’s descent into Alzheimer’s. The book has been informally dubbed “a support group in print” for family members coping with Alzheimer’s. It allows them to compare and contrast their own experiences with those of the co-authors, understanding how normal the range of emotions is, and to be reassured that they can cope.

Persis Granger

THE BACK STORY: In the 1990s my stepmom developed Alzheimer’s disease, and I found myself agonizing over every decision that had to be made, thinking I had solutions to problems, but each time Alzheimer’s “outgrew” the problem, creating new issues to resolve. The stress and guilt it engendered led me to ask, “Does every family coping with a parent’s Alzheimer’s feel as crazy as I do?” To find out, I reached out to thirteen women— some known to me, some recommended by others—and asked them if they’d like to write a chapter about their experience. All but three immediately agreed. In a sad postscript, two of the writers, both with a strong family history of Alzheimer’s, have since died of the disease.

WHY THIS TITLE?: The first part of the title lets prospective readers know that the book was written by women who have “been there and done that”. I was in frequent communication with these writers and they shared drafts of their chapters with me. When all final drafts came in, each writer indicated that the process of
putting their thoughts and feelings on paper had been very therapeutic to them, a benefit I wanted to share with the subtitle, “Writing a Path to Peace”. It was because of this feedback that I read several works about therapeutic journaling and incorporated optional writing exercises into the work.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This book functions for many as a self-help book. Although it doesn’t give detailed advice about what to do and how to do it, it does acquaint readers with many of the behaviors of dementia patients, and the range of emotions experienced by family members, along with some ideas for coping. Each chapter invites the reader to journal about some aspect of their own experiences.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“I know your book and each individual’s story offers the needed encouragement for those enduring the devastating effects of living with Alzheimer’s disease.” — Maria Shriver, Former First Lady, State of California, herself a “daughter of Alzheimer’s.”

“An enthralling, ambitious and much-needed effort…most definitely the sort of work on Alzheimer’s that needs to get public notice.” — Karla Morales, People’s Medical Society.

“Beautifully told stories…. Facing an uncertain future with a parent suffering from dementia, it gives me strength and hope to hear these stories from women who have been on the same journey. I highly recommend this collection.” — C. D. Selleck.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Writer Persis Granger attended The College of Wooster and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, receiving her Bachelor of Arts at the latter. She later earned a Master of Science in Teaching at SUNY Plattsburgh. She and her husband, Richard, moved in 1970 to the southern Adirondacks of New York, and stumbled into
subsistence farming, remodeling old homes, building log cabins from their own logs and filling freezers and canning jars with homegrown food for the family. Over the years they fell in love with the region, its people and history – all of which
provide the backdrop for her two works of YA historical fiction, “Adirondack Gold” and “Adirondack Gold II: A Summer of Strangers.”

Since 2007 Granger has hosted week-long writing retreats for women, with workshops and consultations with author/editor Adrian Fogelin on St. George Island, FL, in the month of January. Contact: http://www.PersisGranger.com,
emailing PersisGranger@aol.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Writing this book was educational for me—and not just in the ways one might think. Yes, I learned a lot about Alzheimer’s and book-writing and publishing, but I also learned so much about the goodness of people and the many similarities we have in coping with grief, as well as the many latent strengths and abilities we have that can be tapped when we need them most. I also learned of the comfort to be derived by opening ourselves to others to share out stories.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can cut and paste on the template or refer readers to your Amazon page.

LOCAL OUTLETS: I always have a stash. Drop me an email.

WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, iUniverse.com.

PRICE: 15.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: Always glad to communicate with readers or other writers. Email is easy: PersisGranger@aol.com or find me on Facebook at Persis Granger, Author and Retreat Organizer or Perky Granger, or Fiction Among Friends (group).

The Luckiest Scar on Earth

THE BOOK: The Luckiest Scar on Earth

PUBLISHED IN: 2017

THE AUTHOR: Ana Maria Spagna.

THE EDITOR: Anne Terashima.

THE PUBLISHER: Torrey House Press is an independent non-profit publisher with an environmental focus based in Utah. Their distinct mission is “To identify exceptional writers, nurture their work, and engage the widest possible audience; to publish diverse voices with transformative stories that illuminate important facets of the American West and our ever-changing planet; to develop literary resources for the conservation movement, educating and entertaining readers, inspiring action.”

In practice, founders Mark Bailey and Kirsten Johanna Allen work tirelessly to create a nurturing literary community around the West that is, honestly, more like a family.

Ana Maria SpagnaSUMMARY:  Charlotte Potts never wanted to leave Colorado. But when her mother loses her job under mysterious circumstances, they move to a remote corner of the Pacific Northwest where Charlotte is reunited with her father, Larry, a former logger with a lucky scar. They’re getting along surprisingly well, snowboarding together as Charlotte trains for the national championships until Larry signs a petition to stop a proposed condominium development and loses his job at Timberbowl, the local ski area, which causes Charlotte to lose her place on the team. While Charlotte tries to find another way to compete, Larry persuades her to go snowboarding in the backcountry where adventure turns to tragedy and Charlotte has to take charge. Eventually, she and her friend, Rose Gutierrez, and a handsome apple grafter wade into freezing water to try to make a difference. THE LUCKIEST SCAR ON EARTH combines the thrill of winter sports with a tender family story while exploring the difficult choices people make to protect the places and people they love.

THE BACK STORY: I started writing a short story about Charlotte Potts more than 20 years ago because I loved the backcountry in winter and wanted to spend time there in writing. Over time I realized Charlotte was 14, not 24 … and I also began to recognize other similarities between her and me, some of which were unsettling.

Here’s why: While I was writing “The Luckiest Scar” on earth for “fun” I was also writing a more serious book, a memoir/history about my father who died when I was 11. He and I had been very close, and he had also been a political activist, just like Charlotte’s dad, Larry. Only after I had finished writing both books did I realize how similar they are. I don’t want to give away too much here, but the truth is The Luckiest Scar on Earth allowed me to work through my past with fiction in ways I couldn’t in nonfiction. You can read more on this process (spoilers and all) in my guest blog at the website of the late great writer Michael Steinberg here.

WHY THIS TITLE? Charlotte’s father, Larry, is a former logger who has a scar running down his forehead and the bridge of his nose from a chainsaw accident. Because it didn’t kill him, and because the injury allowed him to meet Charlotte’s mom and have her as a daughter, he often calls it “the luckiest scar on earth.” As the book goes on, other characters discover their own lucky scars. In the end, Charlotte does, too.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? This story will appeal to readers of all ages who love mountains, people who love skiing and snowboarding, people who care about the environment, people who always keep New Years resolutions and those who break them, daughters who have struggled with their fathers—and vice versa—and anyone who has had to overcome adversity.

REVIEW COMMENTS:

“Spagna writes passionately about the West, creates a strong and athletic heroine, and addresses many realistic issues teens confront.” –PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“The Luckiest Scar on Earth is a thoughtful novel that centers around the maturation of both a girl and her family, and which intimates that sometimes the most difficult periods can also be the most beautiful.”—FOREWORD REVIEWS

“We’re right there with Charlotte as she navigates avalanche–prone backcountry, races in snowboarding competitions, and searches for endangered salmon. Packed with profound questions and gems of wisdom, this story will stay with me for a long time to come.” —LAURA RESAU, author of Red Glass and The Queen of Water

“The Luckiest Scar on Earth is a gorgeous exploration of falling in love in unexpected ways—with a new place, with a new parent, and with a new ethic. This novel is a coming–of–age in the truest and fullest sense.” —LAURA PRITCHETT, author of Red Lightning

AUTHOR PROFILE  I live and write in Stehekin, Washington, a remote community in the North Cascades accessible only by boat or trail. But don’t worry! I haven’t always lived such an insular life. Born in Bogotá, Colombia, and raised in Riverside, California, sixty miles east of Los Angeles, I was a book-loving kid who liked sports but knew nothing about the outdoors. I never camped until, as a teenager, traveled to Oregon and — well, there’s no other way to say it — fell in love. After college, I settled in to working on backcountry trail crews for the National Park Service in summer and writing in winter, experiences I’ve written about in my essay collections Potluck, Now Go Home, and most recently Uplake.

After fifteen years on the trail—and once satellite internet reached our remote valley—I turned to teaching, both in person and online. I’ve been lucky enough to teach at Whitman College, the

University of Montana, and St. Lawrence University (all great ski towns incidentally) as well in MFA programs at Antioch University, Los Angeles and Western Colorado University. My stories and essays about nature, family, civil rights, and life in a small community have appeared in dozens of magazines. You can learn more at http://www.anamariaspagna.com.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: On one level, the book is about the sheer joy of the mountains in winter, but in a deeper sense it’s about the inevitability of change and the need for resiliency. More than anything, I hope The Luckiest Scar on Earth will help readers of all ages think about the places and people they love most in the world and what it means to be there for them no matter what.

SAMPLE CHAPTER: Find a .pdf attached

LOCAL OUTLETS:

A Book for All Seasons in Leavenworth Washington

Trails End Books in Winthrop, Washington

Riverwalk Books in Chelan, Washington

Elliott Bay Books in Seattle, Washington

Aunties Bookstore in Spokane, Washington

Fact & Fiction Books in Missoula, Montana

Back of Beyond Books in Moab, Utah

The King’s English in Salt Lake City, Utah.

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: TorreyHouse.org Bookshop.org;  Powells.com.

PRICE: 14.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

@amspagna Twitter

@anamariaspagna Facebook http://www.anamariaspagna.com

Dead Shark on the N Train

 

THE BOOK: Dead Shark on the N Train.

PUBLISHED IN: 2020.

THE AUTHOR: Susana H. Case.

SUMMARY:  I often write about love, gender, objectification, and violence. There are three sections to the book. The first section is organized around the idea of the stereotype of the living doll, and rebellion against that concept. The middle section, an ekphrastic section, is inspired by the life and the nutshell studies, crime model constructions, of Frances Glessner Lee, “mother of modern forensics,” and includes some black and white images of her works that are in the public domain. There is even a cocktail recipe in the section. The third section, which includes the title poem, focuses more fully on the negative effects of objectified existence.

 
About Susana H. CaseTHE BACK STORY:  This is my seventh full-length poetry book and I have also written a number of chapbooks. My interests continue in this collection. An interest of mine I haven’t yet mentioned is historically-inspired poetry and the middle section of this book is based upon a mid-twentieth-century woman, as mentioned above. It’s been three years since my last poetry book, Drugstore Blue, though in between I published a coffee table book of erasure poems and a chapbook, so I’d have to say three years possibly, or, on the other hand, it took my entire life to write this.
 
WHY THIS TITLE?: The title is from a poem in the collection. The poem was inspired by an actual event, someone bringing a shark onto the New York City metro. There are many unusual things that have happened in the New York City subway system and this was one of them.
 

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? Poetry in its essence has a niche audience. The poems in this collection are narrative, partly ekphrastic, sometimes funny, but, in looking at the ways in which violence and injustice are rooted in our lives, very very serious.

REVIEWS:

From Karen Alenier, Scene 4:

https://www.scene4.com/0620/karrenalenier0620.html

(Other reviews are in the works, but not yet published so I included the blurbs here):

“Susana H. Case is a poet at the peak of her craft. Her previous books and chapbooks have each depicted with skill her artistic obsessions—ruthlessness of time, the juxtaposition between one’s public persona and the self, injustices of society, and all the small or enormous acts of violence towards women and girls—with intelligence, empathy, and unsentimental precision. The poems in this collection sing even louder with these truths.

In the second poem of the book, she writes, ‘I know/ that to be my own salvation,/ I have to get down from the mountain/ before dark. Dead Shark on the N Train takes us from Queens to destinations beyond, as she contemplates Marilyn Monroe, Maria Callas, school shootings, an estranged friend dying of cancer, and the unforgettable crime scene dioramas of Glessner Lee. What results is a fugue of contemporary American chaos in all its beauty and brutality. I learn a lot from reading Case’s poetry. Above all, Dead Shark implores us to each be our own salvation.”—Jennifer Franklin, author of No Small Gift (Four Way Books)

In this sassy, gorgeous book, Susana H. Case takes us on one helluva ride with a dead shark as fellow passenger, brought in from the beach and left on the floor of the N Train, its jaw decorated with a Metro Card, a cigarette and a can of Red Bull. The shark is just one of the stars of Case’s seventh volume of poems. Consider, as well, “Radiance,” a scorcher of a poem about a breast: “Lie with me, lie to me,/ until your tongue burns.”

If you haven’t met up with Case’s work, it’s time you did. Detective, adventurer, world traveler, professor, connoisseur of cities, of love and mystery: there is poetry here you’ve never encountered before. In one section, Case raids the minute details of crime-scene dioramas created midcentury by the late Frances Glessner Lee. In Case’s lyrics, they are studies in mayhem, murder, and blood. Who would have guessed that these two artists would give us such a long distance, magical, and utterly original collaboration?—David Tucker, author of Late for Work (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

Susana H. Case is turning into a seasoned private eye, observing lives as she leaves Queens to live across the river, but within eyeshot of her roots and the lessons of adolescence. She travels to distant geographies—the Indian subcontinent, South America, Europe—returning to paint indelible, sardonic portraits of humans and their foibles. She writes with a realist painter’s attention to gesture and tic. The truths Case reveals about bondage and freedom are as compelling as the sight of a dead shark riding the N train.

A victory of sorts, the dead shark. The poet is writing her most energetic, and clearly sketched, poems in this, her strongest volume to date.—Indran Amirthanayagam, author of Coconuts on Mars (Paperwall).

 
 
AUTHOR PROFILE: Susana H. Case lives in the middle of New York City with her artist husband and works as a university professor and campus program coordinator at the New York Institute of Technology’s New York City campus. She travels widely, which is evident in the varied settings of her poems, though the poems are never merely about the settings, but inspired by geography to link to larger issues of the ways in which we struggle with how to live. She teaches about gender and that interest flows through her poetry as well. Dead Shark on the N Train is her seventh poetry book. Her poetry career got its start when she won the Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Competition in 2002 for her collection, “The Scottish Café, a series of poems centered around mathematics in prewar Poland, which was later republished in a dual Polish-English version by the University of Opole Press. Right now, of course, she is sheltering at home.
 
AUTHOR COMMENTS: I write for my own entertainment, but I hope also to entertain others and to provide a means to facilitate a reader’s thinking. These poems are accessible, not overly theoretical or academic. For those interested in the ways women navigate the world, I hope there is something here for that reader. If you are interested in a virtual visit to your bookclub, blog visit, interview, reading series, or other event, please contact me via the information in “Contact the Author” below.
 
SAMPLE CHAPTER: You can cut and paste on the template or refer readers to your Amazon page. My Amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=susana+h+case&ref=nb_sb_noss_2     A sample from the book with video can be found here: https://donyorty.com/blog/2020/05/14/susana-h-case-reads-dead-shark-n-train/
 
WHERE TO BUY IT: Amazon, Barnes & noble, etc. Available from Amazon, Broadstone Books (BroadstoneBooks.com), Small Press Distribution (https://www.spdbooks.org/Products/9781937968663/dead-shark-on-the-n-train.aspx).
 
PRICE: The best price is $16.95 direct from the publisher, $22.50 retail.
 
CONTACT THE AUTHOR:  There is a Contact form on my website: https://susanahcase.com  On Facebook: susana.case  On twitter (though I don’t use it as much as Facebook): @susana_h_case.

Weather Report, June 15

The world's population expands in sub-Saharan Africa - CSMonitor.com

(Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo from the Christian Science Monitor).

Our currently featured books, “The Tourist Trail,” by John Yunker, “Among the Maasai,” by Juliet Cutler,  “Mostly White,” by Alison Hart and “Requiem for a Robot Dog,” by Lauren Scharhag, can be viewed by scrolling down below this post. Or, click the author’s name on our Authors page.

——————————————————————-

It has always been my contention that every author is capable of producing a book that no one else in the world could write, or has ever written.

That’s because each individual draws from a unique combination of knowledge, genetics  and experiences — where they grew up, who their parents are, what they were taught in school, where they’ve worked, where they’ve lived, who they’ve loved, what movies they’ve seen, what books they’ve read, what music they’ve listened to .., on and on. Not even identical twins have exactly the same profile.

All too often, though, life gets in the way of serious writing. There just isn’t time for it. Yet  it can be argued that this is a plus for later creativity — if all someone did all their adult life was sit in a room and type on a computer, they would have a shallow well of experiences to tap into.

The problem for people like Jeff Elzinga, whose novel “The Distance Between Stars” is being featured on Snowflakes in a Blizzard this week, is that they come late to the party as authors.  They’ve been too busy living. That’s a double whammy, as far as many publishers and agents are concerned, because someone like Jeff is a) an unknown author and b) offering work that doesn’t fit neatly into any “genre.” In their eyes, this would make him a tough sell to the general reading public.

As part of the baby boomer generation, I know that there is a sizable “second career” group who have retired and now have the time to write that book they’ve been thinking about for 20 years. As someone who tries to provide publicity for writers, I’m proud to help, albeit in a small way.

Incidentally, I’m going to continue posting four books instead of three for the next couple of weeks. I still prefer three, but right now I have a backlog of authors.

UPCOMING ON SNOWFLAKES IN A BLIZZARD, JUNE 16-22.

“THE DISTANCE BETWEEN STARS,” BY JEFF ELZINGA.

The Distance Between Stars is the story of two Americans divided by history and skin color. Joe Kellerman, white, is an accomplished diplomat who has spent his career solving difficult problems in sub-Saharan countries. Maurice Hightower, black, is a prize-winning but controversial journalist who has spent his life exposing injustice in the United States. During a fact-finding trip to an African country that is quickly sliding towards civil war, and where the U.S. government is accused of supporting the  increasingly violent opposition, Hightower travels alone into the bush and then disappears. The dangerous assignment of finding the missing man and bringing him to safety falls to Joe Kellerman. The story follows Kellerman’s hunt for a man he does not admire, traces Hightower’s pursuit of a truth that ever eludes him, and balances the costs each man must pay to find redemption for a life lived imperfectly. While the novel takes place in Africa, it is a uniquely American story.

“SHARED STORIES FROM DAUGHTERS OF ALZHEIMERS,” BY PERSIS GRANGER.

Writes Persis (better known as “Perky”): “In the 1990s my stepmom developed Alzheimer’s disease, and I found myself agonizing over every decision that had to be made, thinking I had solutions to problems, but each time Alzheimer’s “outgrew” the problem, creating new issues to resolve. The stress and guilt it engendered led me to ask, “Does every family coping with a parent’s Alzheimer’s feel as crazy as I do?” To find out, I reached out to thirteen women— some known to me, some recommended by others—and asked them if they’d like to write a chapter about their experience. All but three immediately agreed. In a sad postscript, two of the writers, both with a strong family history of Alzheimer’s, have since died of the disease.”

“THE LUCKIEST SCAR ON EARTH,” BY ANA MARIA SPAGNA

Charlotte Potts never wanted to leave Colorado. But when her mother loses her job under mysterious circumstances, they move to a remote corner of the Pacific Northwest where Charlotte is reunited with her father, Larry, a former logger with a lucky scar. They’re getting along surprisingly well, snowboarding together as Charlotte trains for the national championships until Larry signs a petition to stop a proposed condominium development and loses his job at Timberbowl, the local ski area, which causes Charlotte to lose her place on the team. While Charlotte tries to find another way to compete, Larry persuades her to go snowboarding in the backcountry where adventure turns to tragedy and Charlotte has to take charge. Eventually, she and her friend, Rose Gutierrez, and a handsome apple grafter wade into freezing water to try to make a difference. THE LUCKIEST SCAR ON EARTH combines the thrill of winter sports with a tender family story while exploring the difficult choices people make to protect the places and people they love.

“DEAD SHARK ON THE N TRAIN,” BY SUSANA H. CASE.

Writes Susana: I often write about love, gender, objectification, and violence. There are three sections to the book. The first section is organized around the idea of the stereotype of the living doll, and rebellion against that concept. The middle section, an ekphrastic section, is inspired by the life and the nutshell studies, crime model constructions, of Frances Glessner Lee, “mother of modern forensics,” and includes some black and white images of her works that are in the public domain. There is even a cocktail recipe in the section. The third section, which includes the title poem, focuses more fully on the negative effects of objectified existence.

“The title is from a poem in the collection. The poem was inspired by an actual event, someone bringing a shark onto the New York City metro. There are many unusual things that have happened in the New York City subway system and this was one of them.”