Thursday, November 15, 2018

Next Year's Words in New Paltz, New York


   Last night, November 14, 2018, I was part of a reading series in New Paltz, New York, called Next Year's Words.  It is curated by poet Susan Chute, who prepares excellent, entertaining introductions for her writers.  Three people read, and people who sign up for the open mic are interspersed with the scheduled readers.  It's an excellent format, and it was a lovely, warm atmosphere--including an intermission with homemade snacks! I was honored to share the stage with poets David Appelbaum and Anne Richey. Earlier this year, my friend West Virginia poet laureate Marc Harshman read on the same stage.
   Also part of the fun was visiting my old friend Ingrid Hughes, author of Losing Aaron: A Memoir.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Reading Wednesday November 14 in New Paltz!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

 Reading at  Next Year's Words: A New Paltz Reading Forum, Jewish Congregation of New Paltz Community Center, 30 North Chestnut St. (on Route 32) from 7:30 pm to 9:30 pm. New Paltz, New York. See flyer here.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

New Issue of Books for Readers #199

Take a look at 

Books for Readers #199

Reviews by Ed Davis & Phyllis Moore; reviews of books by Richard Powers, Rachel Kushner, Craig Johnson, Elizabeth Strout, Thomas Mann, Eliot Parker and many more!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Workshop on Making Your Novel the Best It Can Be...

... at the West Virginia Book Festival.  I had at least 40 people (I'm the yellow and black bumble-bee person in the front).  Talked about, and did exercises for, jump-starting your novel (or other prose narrative like memoir); getting a grip on the shape of the "loose, large, baggy monster"  (Henry James); and then various types of revision specific to novels; and finally  structural revision.  Attendees were eager to share and laugh, and I had a great time.

Afterward, I hung out in the "Marketplace" with all the book sellers and presses and had lovely reunions with George Brosi of Appalachian Mountain Books as well as Carter Seaton and Eliot Parker, and Derek Krissoff, the director of my publisher WVU Press as well as Susanna Holstein AKA storyteller Granny Sue and many more.  Really a pleasure to see old and new friends.  In the evening, I went over to Taylor Books to hear WV Poet Laureate Marc Harshman read, and there saw Anna Smucker and Valerie Nieman and Nancy Adams.  Such fun!  
     And, for random occurrences of special weirdness: in the coffee shop at Taylor Books along with customers and a a pack of neatly suited Special Service Operatives, was Ivanka Trump.  What was she doing there?  Well, according to the Charleston Gazette article linked above, she was been driven home from pushing deregulation in Kentucky (which has lost a ton of coal mining jobs since her dad became president) and thought it was too rainy to go on, so stopped at Taylor Books for coffee, music, and to buy a children's book for her little ones.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

In Charleston WV for the West Virginia Book Festival!


A long drive to Charleston, West Virginia, today, but I was listening to lectures about the Italian Renaissance and looking out at lovely low-key-color, rusty tipped deciduous trees with flashes of orange maples and yellow oaks.  Here's a view from Sideling Hill in Maryland on Route 68:

I'm staying in an airbnb in an old hill neighborhood in Charleston with lots of lovely stately houses and charming cottages.  Everything is on a slope with tall trees and flowers and ivy and, oh yes, political election signs!   See the backyard (and a corner of the gazebo with a hot tub) where I'm staying:

The Book Festival with my workshop starts tomorrow. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Words Bookstore, Maplewood NJ 10-16-18

  I had a wonderful experience last night (10-16-18) at Words bookstore in Maplewood, NJ.  Carrie  Harmon and the rest of the staff there run a terrific series of programs, bringing in writers from northern New Jersey but also from nearby New York City. 
    For me, it was all about friends!! Linda Cameron and Lisa and Zia, Irene Dunsavage and dear  former neighbor Mary Sciaino-- writer friends and Ethical Culture friends-- a gentleman who studied novel writing with me at NYU in the early 1990's.  It was a solid crowd of around twenty people with lots of good questions and comments.  I read for twenty minutes and then we had discussion for half an hour.  It was a privilege to have so many good people take such a big chunk of their Tuesday evening to come out and be with me. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Book Tour Continues: Montclair New Jersey

    The book tour continues:  On Saturday I was in Rockville Centre, New York, at Turn of the Corkscrew bookstore, and tonight, Thursday October 11, 2018, I was in Montclair, New Jersey at the redoubtable and inimitable Write Group that has its 30 or more sessions a month at the Montclair Library.
    Montclair is not a  small town, but it is definitely a town rather than a city, and I doubt there is any other community in the country with a more dedicated and active community of writers.  Did you note that I said above 30 or more sessions for support and learning a month?  These are critique groups and talks and workshops and sessions for group writing to prompts-- they are really amazing, with a large and enthusiastic membership, organized by many, but especially Carl Selinger, who emails out their schedule and is the liaison to the library.
    I've visited them before, but this was an especially dedicated group, many of them already published, and we talked mostly about structuring our books
    I did something new, which is always good, (and was suggested by Helen Lippman, the event organizer who asked for information about my journey as a writer, and about the journey to publication of the new book).
     So I brought in a sheet of excerpts of critiques of the book after its first couple of drafts:  one from the first reader of the whole manuscript  (a member of my writers' group) and then two of the university press readers.  I talked about how I responded to the critiques, and how they led me to make major and fruitful changes to the book.  Very collegial and satisfying evening.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Shepherdstown and the Four Seasons Bookstore

My final event of the week before heading home was  a reading and discussion at Four Seasons Books in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, where I'd never been before! What a lovely town, and a bookstore just chock full of old and new books.  The new owner is Kendra Goldsborough, who was so welcoming, and a full participant in the small group of old and new friends.  We had a great discussion that included politics and religion and Appalachian culture and literature.  And after that, it was up I-81 and back to the Northeast, full of images and voices, looking forward to going back in October for the West Virginia Book Festival--so good to have been home for a whole week.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

My Day in Clarksburg....

... was a huge treat.  The Clarksburg Harrison Library had done a thorough publicity job with notices in the papers, cards stuck in borrowed books, announcements online and more, and I was delighted with almost 30 people for my open workshop, and then a smaller but highly receptive group of old friends and new who came for the reading and refreshments  (Thank you friends of the library!)
    And by the way, this was all on a WVU game day-- and Mountaineer football games are always a statewide event (WVU won 35 to 6, for the record.)
    I was introduced by Library Manager Julia Todd who pulled it all together, and before I started the workshop, the mayor of Clarksburg, Catherine Goings (see right) came up and gave me a certificate from the city of Clarksburg!  And then I got one from the governor of West Virginia.  Pretty neat.
     The workshop was lots of fun with a wonderful variety of people--professors and high school age students and seniors, published writers and beginners, everyone eager to write, most willing to share, their thoughts if not their writing.
     Dear Anna Smucker (see me and her at left) came to the reading, and Steve and Beth Goff.  He's the former WV Writers president. And for the whole day, instigator and informal publicist, money collector for my sales  (she brought cash for change) and doyenne of West Virginia literature, the inimitable Phyllis Moore was there.  Her license is "BKWORM," and she knows everything about writers and books in West Virginia.
     When the library event was over, and the library closed, Phyllis drove me on her new Literary Tour of Clarksburg.  Phyllis with her husband Jim for technical support gives frequent power point lectures to schools and senior centers etc. on various aspects of West Virginia literature:  immigrant writers, African-American writers, Civil War writers, and much more.  She's a published poet and essayist and really such a good friend to me and other writers.  After the tour, we visited her home, aka private library, where I met the famous cat Pearl S. Buck, and then, to top off a wonderful day, she took me to Minards Spaghetti Inn  for dinner.
      This is the first Italian restaurant I ever went to--it was a big deal for my family to go out at all and to go to Minard's for spaghetti and meatballs (and salad and Italian bread!) was the height of culinary delight.  It's still a fine restaurant, recommended to all of you when you go to Clarksburg, West Virginia, where I was born, and where today I felt like I was truly coming home.

Writing Workshops and Sauerkraut

The workshop last evening at the Barnes and Noble in  Morgantown was small but intense and lively.
Then, at the very end, in came my new friend photographer-journalist and author Nancy Abrams!
I was thrilled to meet her-- I had blurbed her book The Climb from Salt Lick for WVU Press, and it
is really worth reading.
  The  B and N, there at Towne Center, was another lovely public place, spacious, cool, quiet, with
a big coffee shop, and, like the libraries I've been visiting, it seems to be a destination for a lot of
people who love books and serenity.  They set us up right in front, near the cafeteria, with room
for maybe 8 people, and I had 4, all serious writers from Morgantown and Bruceton Mills.

In the afternoon, I had seen our great family friend, Charlie Cowger who had been storing
a lot of boxes of my mother’s memorabilia.  Charlie just finished making his yearly
sauerkraut that he loves and gives away for Christmas presents.

All this, after visiting students in the morning at Lincoln High School, who were receptive
and very interesting.  Thanks to Mrs. Payton and Mrs. Ferris (an old friend of my mother’s
from East Shinnston!) as well as Mrs. DeMarco the librarian (who was a Romeo, her dad 's
cousins to my dad's Romeos) and Ms. Osborne   
  Off to Clarksburg today--this book touring is really, really fun and really really exhausting!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Thursday of my tour was all about New Friends and my Oldest

I had a leisurely morning with time to take a good walk and also finally to see one of the coal trains go by below the deck of the little house I'm staying in:

I spent the afternoon at Lowe Library in Shinnston, another library that provides a wide variety of services to all kinds of people.  People dropped by to meet the author  (me) and shared information about their writing and I tried to give some tips.  One man introduced me to another Fan Fiction world that I hadn't heard of:  Furry Fandom. 
      Then I had dinner with my oldest friend: David Hardesty, law professor at WVU and former president of the University, as well as former state treasurer.  But for me, he's above all the oldest friend I have:  as babies we took baths together, and his mother, a nurse, was at my birth.  I got to meet his daughter and two grandchildren  (his wife Susan was babysitting and didn't come to dinner with us).  We went to the lovely Morgantown  Wine Bar at Vintner Valley and talked and talked.  He has a terrific nuanced understanding of West Virginia and West Virginia politics which I wish all my friends in the Northeast could hear him talk about.

Parkersburg and Shinnston!

Yesterday I  visited my family house in Shinnston and then over to see my mother’s adopted grandchildren, Jenn and Buddy Taylor....

....and then drove over to Parkersburg for a visit to the remodelled Parkersburg Wood County library.-- what a beautiful community center with several spaces for puppet shows and creative play for children and lots of computers--and plenty of books!

This was one of those reading/author visit events that was small but very warm--thanks to Jeanne Michie at the library, and to Madeline Murphy, the reporter from the News and Sentinel who was also among those in attendance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Three West Virginia Cities and a College President Who Leads by Serving......

I was in Charleston, WV yesterday, Monday 9-17-18, getting interviewed by Cat Pleska for local public television.  She's a friend, and we met first at the delightful Capitol Market with an outdoor farmers' market and indoor upscale coffee shops, fish restaurant, butcher, bakeries, WV crafts, etc.  Very nice place, and our personal catch up and visit got me very loose for the formal interview, which went very well.
    In the evening I read with Ginny Savage Ayers at Writers Can Read at Empire Books in Huntington, and had dinner first with Reading series curators Eliot Parker and Carter Seaton along with people including Llewellyn and John McKernan, Cat Pleska, and Eddy Pendarvis  (hidden by moi in the photo).  She invited me to stay in her home overnight, and I got up at the crack of dawn and drove back up the road.
      And today it was two classes at Fairmont State University: thank you professors George and Myers for inviting me in!  Both groups of students were curious and insightful about what they had read of my work, and liked hearing the author's voice present the work.  They also willingly wrote exercises for me, and except for being wiped out after the long drive, I was just happy as a clam.
     In the evening I read at the Folklife Center with Rick Campbell and there were a ton of friends there, including Professor Jack Wills and Jack Hussey as well as Donna Long, editor of Kestrel magazine, and Dr. Angela Scher, head of the English department.  A former online student of mine, Sarah Blizzard Robinson was there too, as well as a number of students, some I met earlier in the day.
    It was a solid event, with the readings and then question and answer.
     Several people over these two days have complimented me as a teacher, which was gratifying.
     There was also the issue of the President of FSU.
      As I arrived, I was struggling in the parking lot with my bags and a box of books to sell.  A pleasant lady with long gray hair ad a nice purple blazer waved as if she knew me, and came toward me and said firmly, "I'll take that," and insisted on carrying the box, even though her shoes were higher that mine--elegant little black pointed heels, and I was wearing sandals, albeit patent leather sandals.  Anyhow, she said she worked there, and by the time we got in the elevator, she confessed she's the new president of  FSU, Dr. Mirta Martin.  I call that a service leader.
    These things strike me as very West Virginian: the president showing up and sitting through the reading as well as carrying my book box; the open mic after the readers in Huntington, and how he ages of readers ranged from late seventies to high school students.  The neighborhood where my airbnb is:  beautiful brand new colonials with wrap around porches, next to a trailer park with trailers in a variety of stages of freshness and deterioration.  West Virginians tend to live together. 

    Oh, and the graveyard up the street really does have my cousin's wife's family in it!  Oh, this reminds me of all the good things about my home state!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

In my neat river view airbnb in Fairmont!

Great to be back in West Virginia!  I can't believe it's been two years....Cute airbnb in Fairmont, on the river-- it's a hot Sunday afternoon, so I've seen jet skis and a small party boat go by, and I've only been here half an hour!  

Friday, September 14, 2018

Getting ready for my trip!

We have a block party tomorrow, so I'm making potato salad, WV style, but without eggs.  Between potatoes, I'm trying to figure out what to wear with tropical storm rains from Florence on Monday and hot weather during the week.  I've picked the pieces from Their Houses to read--that was easy compared to picking clothes to wear!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

MSW on the Gary Bowden Show, 103.3 WAJR-FM!

I was just interviewed on the Gary Bowden radio show out of Clarksburg, West Virginia (weekday mornings at 9, 103.3 WAJR-FM).

Gary had done his homework and knew who I was and where I was from, and we talked about how I try to explain things about West Virginia to folks in the Northeast, and occasionally vice versa.   He was interested in the Appalachian Literary Renaissance and my visits to Shinnston and Clarksburg.

His programs have a lot of information and people with interesting local news and issues.  This was a great kick-off to my first week of book promotion!

P.S. When I said Gary had "done his homework," I was thinking of a time years back when I was on a t.v. show with my first novel, and the host said, as the break was ending and I was sitting down at the broadcast desk, "So what are you here for?  Oh, the blue book. I remember. It's on the desk here somewhere..."