Saturday, October 28, 2006

Keeping the plane in the air

Keeping the plane in the air

It’s Saturday night, not a day I expected much of in a way, knowing Joel would be flying, and he’s on the final leg of the journey, having made it from SF to Philly and now en route to Providence where Victoria will pick him up at the airport. We went up Rt. 17 to CampMor where we got the Nordic Walking Sticks for me, Lekis, and I tried them out, and they work just like cross country ski poles, but I didn’t really do much cardio-vascularly, I don’t think. I have to work on that. Also, it hurt my right bicep, oddly. But I was swinging along there in the yellow trees and wind with my chin up. Very nice. We shopped quite a while longer– Andy can shop forever– long and interesting conversations with an entertaining senior salesperson there who does nordic walking AND skate-skiing and helped Andy try on nordic ski boots, and then another sales person came over to hear what the first was saying, and the second guy was into Telemark skiing (that’s the back country skiing with the funny kneeling turns). Meanwhile, I bought some gloves for biking and a pale blue windbreaker (one of the neat-o ones with a hidden hood that packs in its own pocket) plus a really cheap winter head band. Then we went to the Kmart up there where I found some cheap ankle weights, so I’m all ready to roll with exercising the Knee and my cross-training, as in biking nordic walking maybe eventually running again.
So I suppose it would be a nice day, with time at home to draft a recommendation for a former student and to bake a beautiful little blue hubbard (only 5 pounds instead of 15) from the store– sadly I can’t grow winter squash anymore. I just don’t seem to have the sun. So I pureed that with a spot of margarine, fried some pork chops, zapped broccoli, and already had some home made applesauce in the refrigerator.
But I’m busy trying to keep Joel’s plane in the sky with my powerful brain.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006



My good news! The latest issue of APPALACHIAN HERITAGE magazine has honored me by making me their featured author for the fall issue. There is a story and an essay by me; a biographical essay by the doyenne of West Virginia literature, Phyllis Wilson Moore; a reappraisal of my 1981 novel HIGHER GROUND by Keith Maillard, the author of GLORIA and many other highly praised novels; and a personal essay about how we grew up by my oldest friend, West Virginia University President David C. Hardesty.

And! If you’re in you’re in Kentucky on November 10th, there will be a reading of all the featured APPALACHIAN HERITAGE authors from this year: Crystal Wilkinson, Jeff Mann, and me. More information at

--Meredith Sue Willis


Cat Pleska and I are waiting for your thoughts on the state of getting published at the end of 2006. To read her notes, click on .
To reply, email me at .


Shelley Ettinger has some comments on literary blogs: “They’re a mixed bag. Some--maybe most--are silly and sophomoric and a waste of time. Some I find do have more substance. Some are basically rehashes of news stories and links to literary coverage in newspapers and magazines, some are more interesting and original. I check a few of them most days if I get a chance. Your tastes might differ from mine but you'll find your favorites after sampling them
if you feel like it. The one I like best is Maud Newton's. You'll see that on her blog's homepage you can click on "Links" on the left. That'll bring you to a list of blogs and other literary websites, and from there you can surf around and find what you like. Also, every Monday afternoon she posts a listing of selected literary events for the week in NYC; it's called ‘The Smart Set’ and it's compiled by Lauren Cerand. Lauren Cerand is a literary publicist. I have the impression she's young and energetic, with a feminist slant, and effective, too, judging by some of her work. One of her clients is Tayari Jones, a gifted young writer who's published two novels and who credits Lauren Cerand with getting her noticed. Tayari Jones spoke at the writers' conference I went to in August, and she with Jayne Ann Phillips is on the founding fiction faculty for the new MFA
program at Rutgers-Newark. And Tayari has a blog too. Here are the links, to Maud Newton,

Maud Newton:
Lauren Cerand:
Tayari Jones:

Also, here's one for Media Bistro/Galleycat, which has a lot about the publishing industry every day: .”


More Poetry Presented by ken Champion and Julie Jeana
Upstairs at Stoney Street Café– Borough Market 1 minute from London Bridge Underground
(Borough High St. west exit) next to Market Porter pub – 7.45pm Thursday 2 November
open mic. + Philip Wilson Poet Translator GOTH METAL LOVER, Author of BLESSED AND UNBROKEN BY THE FALL . Admission free – drinks included! Food available before and afterwards Contact: .


Willard Cook reports that “after a year of absence ep;phany lives to see another day. There is much to be appreciated in this issue. In her story ‘The Artists’ Caroline Huber explores the agony of being distracted when one is trying to create. Lewis Schrager’s ‘The Rivers of Analaroa’ is a heartbreaking tale of love against the backdrop of a medical clinic in Madagascar and John Mulderig’s ‘We Can Be Like They Are’ captures a youthful friendship with precision and élan. Elizabeth Bales Frank rails against material attachment in her essay ‘Against Bric-a-Brac.’ Tracy DeBrincat’s ‘Cletus Love Donatella’ asks what love is, and Charles Hassell’s ‘Monkey Eat Fiction’ is improvisational jazz. In Margeret Ingraham’s ‘Sleeping with Sorrow’ notice how the hydrangeas change from blue to rust. Dan Stryk’s poem ‘Meditation on the Nature of ‘Epiphany’ makes us wonder what art is and finally Kay Kenny’s images give voice to hidden passion.”

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Books for Readers # 88

Meredith Sue Willis's

Books for Readers

BOOKS FOR READERS is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by Meredith Sue Willis, copyright Meredith Sue Willis 2006. To have this Newsletter sent to you by e-mail, send a blank email to To unsubscribe, send a blank email to Readerbooks-unsubscribe Write to Meredith Sue Willis at Unless you specifically request otherwise, your responses or selections from them may be included in future Newsletters.

For a list of back issues, click here

Books for Readers #88

October 19 2006

Special book on Teachers and 9/11/01

Sandra Cisneros

I finally read CARAMELO by Sandra Cisneros, and I really enjoyed it. I had been looking forward to reading this book ever since Shelley Ettinger recommended it enthusiastically in Issue 40 of this newsletter, in March of 2003. That’s how long it takes me now to get to things on my reading list! I read all the time– student work, some of it inspiring, periodicals online and in hard copy, and books for review. But the delightful following of whim and attraction happens less often. Indeed, one of the reasons I started this newsletter was to organize my reading.

But, I did read Cisneros’s no-longer-new book, and I enjoyed and admired it from the very first page. Oddly though, considering how I liked it, I didn’t gobble the book. I would read a little, then lay it aside for a few days. This was partly, of course, because of busy days teaching and doing community action. Also, I had a hardcover edition that was too heavy to carry in my briefcase on days I trundle myself all over New York to teach. But there was more to how I laid it aside: Cisneros is a poet and short story writer, and this book is constructed of marvelous, highly polished, short pieces, each with its own title. You have the sense that you are reading– especially in the first half– a collection of wonderful linked stories. I would finish one, feel satisfied, and put the book down. Later, I would happily come back, but in the first half of the book I didn’t find the strong momentum to go forward that I usually feel in my very favorite books.

But this changed in the second half of the book. The intertwining of pieces becomes stronger as you get to know the family, as you take repeated trips to Chicago, Mexico City, and San Antonio. The narrator’s smart ass voice itself begins to carry you to the next section, and you feel an increasing sense of insight into an in-between-culture: a Mexican father, a Chicana mother, a family that uses English mostly, but amply larded with Spanish and sometimes more Spanish than English. Somewhere in the middle, I began to read longer passages. I think maybe it was when Awful Grandmother began to be more than a colorful if irritating family phenomenon. Awful Grandmother, Soledad, turns out to have her own sad stories, and engages in an active after-life with her granddaughter, narrator, Celaya/Lala. There is an interesting love triangle, too, among Soledad, her son Inocencio, and Lala. There are many other characters, too, of course, a whole passel of brothers I never quite separated one from the other; a strong, often angry mother; aunts, cousins, boyfriends, girlfriends– many, many people and many sights and smells and foods. There are also sustained images, especially the caramelo itself, which is both candy and things the color of candy and, especially, a particularly treasured type of rebozo shawl.

The book has some quirky structural touches that I generally liked: footnotes about historical events and celebrities of movies and Mexican telenovelas, and a long list at the end of people who helped Cisneros, and people who died during the ten years she was writing the book. There is even one more story after the last story. I joined her in not wanting the book to end, and it sits in my memory now as a large, incredibly colorful structure that I hope to visit again.

Meredith Sue Willis


Cat Pleska writes: “I recently attended a conference in Columbus where the presenters were all agents and editors, most from New York. In one session, an editor (with William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins), said that it was the chain bookstores that drove what got published in this country. I understood the editor to say that the publishers pay the chain stores to put their books on the front table near the door and if the books don't do well, they're off the table quickly and sent back to the publisher for a refund.

“What's your take on this, and specifically I mean that books are ‘account’ driven? Only those books that are almost guaranteed to sell well at a big chain store are considered for publication (obviously, other books are published that never appear on the front table). In a way, it sounded as if the publishers are shrugging to the wannabe authors and saying, ‘It's not our fault we can't publish your excellent book--it's the bean counters at the big chain stores.’

“University and small presses may be picking up the slack, but their finances are limited. Yet, I see the same books at independent bookstores that are in the chain stores (your point about non union supporting is well taken, but I'm not sure independents could afford to hire union employees).”

Cat poses these issues for us, and I would love to get responses. My peer writers’ group, for example, recently had an impassioned discussion about publishers who demand what amounts to a marketing plan from writers before they’ll even look at their work. It’s called a “platform,” meaning essentially something the book and writer can “run” on. Do you have experiences to share? Hope for the future??


Cat Pleska has a literary blog called Mouth of the Holler. One recent entry is about September 2006's lovely 25th Anniversary Appalachian Literary Festival at Emory & Henry College.


For a list of some of the many, many things happening in NYC, write to . Get on the mailing list, and find out more than you can possibly participate in!
Here’s one: A reading for the BELLEVUE LITERARY REVIEW: Sunday, October 29, 2006, 5:00 pm t the Bellevue Hospital Rotunda, 462 First Avenue at 27th Street, New York City. Free, with Wine and Cheese. For more information, write .
Bob Heman reports that Proteus Gowanus of Brooklyn is an amazing space on the edge of Park Slope (at Union and Nevins) that is a combination reading room/gallery and a year-long Library Exhibition. It's an amazing and unique space and worth a visit. Over 50 artist’s books displayed, from editioned pamphlets to unique sculptural book art. The location is Proteus Gowanus, 543 Union Street @ Nevins Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Get more information from or 718-243-1572.


George Byers has a new book out about his mother, a sharp eyed, observant woman who recalls the struggles and joys of growing up during the Depression and starting a family during World War II. Peggy Kerr grew up in a large family in Oblong, Illinois in a time when her father made shoes and her mother baked bread. Peggy remembers pantywaists and button hooks, the outhouse, the carriage, and the "hickory stick" at school. She also remembers child death and violence– a bootlegger shooting the sheriff at a best friend's home. Learn more at: .


Shelley Ettinger writes, “Hope you had a good summer and all's well. I kept meaning to send you a little summer reading report but never got a chance and by now, with all the literary novels and other serious stuff I read, the only book that I remember is the biography of Ava Gardner, which was a riproaring, page-turning blast!”


I hope soon to write about Maillard’s excellent tetralogy, “Difficulty at the Beginning,” but you can read about it now with Cheryl Harshman’s review at .


Phyllis Moore points out some works of Southern Culture that have a dead mule in them....


The Morgantown Writers Group (MWG) sponsored a two-hour poetry workshop on October 7 with poet and novelist Valerie Nieman. Nieman also gave a reading from FIDELITIES, her collection of 18 short stories, as well as from her newest publication, WAKE, WAKE, WAKE, a collection of poetry published by Press 53. Visit the website for information on fall readings and events. WAKE, WAKE, WAKE is available directly from the publisher at Press 53, P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130. Website is .


The people at Wind Publications announce Diane Lockward’s new collection WHAT FEEDS US. Thomas Lux says that "WHAT FEEDS US is sometimes humorous and sometimes heartbreaking. Diane Lockward's language is both plain-spoken and rich, lush. This is a wonderful book that might not nourish your body but certainly will nourish your heart."
WHAT FEEDS US (2006) Wind Publications, 85 pp, $15.00. This book may be obtained through your favorite local bookstore, from on-line vendors such as Amazon, from our friends at Spring Church Books, or from the publisher. See for further information.


Here is a site tries that tries to separate out the legitimate ones:


The Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry deadline is November 1 (postmark deadline). Send 3 to 5 poems (no more than 10 pages) with a $15 entry fee and a cover letter containing your contact information and the titles of your poems to the address listed below. Please make sure that your contact information does not appear anywhere on your poems. The editors will judge. The winning poet will receive $500, and his or her poem will appear in the Winter issue of Harpur Palate. All entries will be considered for publication, and your entry fee includes a 1-year subscription to Harpur Palate!
Harpur Palate will accept entries for our John Gardner Prize January 1 through March 31. Send an unpublished short story of up to 8,000 words with a $15 entry fee and a cover letter containing your contact information to the address below. Please make sure your contact information does not appear anywhere on your entry. The editors will judge. The winner will receive $500, and his or her story will appear in the summer issue of Harpur Palate. All entries will be considered for publication, and your entry fee includes a 1-year subscription to Harpur Palate!
Summer 2007 - 7.1 Themed Issue: The editors of HARPUR PALATE are pleased to announce that they will publish their first themed issue, summer 2007. They welcome submissions to this special issue on Food, Hunger, and Appetite, broadly interpreted: stories, essays, and poems relating to the theme. Please write "Special Issue" on your envelope, so it doesn't get mixed in with other submissions.

Genre editors now have new email addresses. As of October 2006, please contact our prose editors at and our poetry editors at The email for general inquiries is still The mailing address is Harpur Palate, English Department, Binghamton University, P.O. Box 6000, Binghamton, NY 13902 .


Shelley Ettinger sent information from the Poets & Writers' Speakeasy discussion board where some writers listed fiction markets by degree of impossibility of getting published in them. She points out that it is not comprehensive (and recommends the fuller list at but says she likes the way this one breaks it down.

Some Markets & Resources for Writers of Literary Short Fiction

I. Too competitive for words:
Atlantic Monthly ©. Michael Curtis, fic. ed.)
Harper’s (Ben Metcalf, literary ed.)
Esquire (Adrienne Miller, literary ed.)
The New Yorker (Deborah Treisman, fic. ed.)
Playboy (Christopher Napolitano)
II. Ultra Competitive:
Granta (Ian Jack, ed., London)
Glimmer Train,
The Oxford American (Southern writers/themes)
Paris Review (Brigid Hughes)
Ploughshares (guest editors)
The Sun (Sy Safransky, ed.
The Threepenny Review (Wendy Lesser, ed)
Tin House (Rob Spillman, ed.)
III. Very very competitive:
Antioch Review
Georgia Review
Gettysburg Review
Iowa Review
Kenyon Review (Nancy Zafris, fic. ed.)
Michigan Quarterly Review
Missouri Review (Speer Morgan, ed.)
New England Review
North American Review
Ontario Review
Prairie Schooner
Southern Review
Tri-Quarterly (Northwestern U)
Virginia Quarterly Review (Ted Genoways)
Zyzzyva (West Coast writers; Howard Junker, ed.)
IV. Darn Competitive
Alaska Quarterly Review
Another Chicago Magazine
Bellingham Review
Beloit Fiction Journal
Bellevue Literary Review
Black Warrior Review
Blue Mesa Review
Chicago Review
Boston Review
Carolina Quarterly
Cimarron Review
Colorado Review
Denver Quarterly
Fiction (Mark Mirsky, ed)
Fiction International
Five Points (Ga. SU)
Greensboro Review Gulf Coast Harvard Rev
Hayden’s Ferry
Indiana Review
The Journal
Land Grant College Review
Literal Latte
The Literary Review
Malahat Review
The Massachusetts Review
Mid-American Review
New Orleans Review
Open City
Puerto del Sol
Quarterly West Seattle Review
Sewanee Review
Stand Magazine
Swink (new, Leelila Strogov, ed.)
Western Humanities Review
Witness Yale Review
V. Still plenty competitive
American Literary Review
Crab Orchard Review
Crab Tree Review
Cream City Review
Crescent Review
Florida Review
Global City Review
Nebraska Review
New Letters
New Delta Review
Ninth Letter
North Dakota Quarterly
Notre Dame Review
Other Voices
Painted Bride Quarterly
Potomac Review
Small Spiral Notebook
South Carolina Review
South Dakota Review
Spinning Jenny
Southeast Review
Southwest Review
Sycamore Review
Tampa Review
Third Coast
West Branch
VI. Web magazines (many paper mags also publish larger web versions.):;;;;;;

Monday, October 16, 2006

Writing Less, Meaning-- what?

I've been thinking how I write less now and (IMHO) understand more and more deeply. And yet– then, all that writing. My real life was there. Much of my real self now is still in my head, in my creative work, but I've also got a lot of myself really in teaching and also friendships and other interactions with people. It's as if then (and the then I'm talking about is both my early adulthood and adolescence when I was writing and my childhood when I fantasized) I lived on sensation and imagination. The stories were good, but I feel, like all people in the second half of their lives I guess, that I have more to give now. And because I’m more engaged in the world, less and less time to do it.

October 14, 2006

After we got back from Washington, Joel went back to Providence, and our friends the Achiwas visited him there at Brown. Then they came back to New York and Andy and I met them for dinner at Petrossian in Manhattan, and they flew back the next day. Meanwhile, I started teaching a third class, and Andy keeps doing 18 hours of work a day, and I was in Philadelphia for the day today Saturday giving a writing workshop, and we have papers and meetings with the Coalition. I'm also going to Kentucky next month for a week-end, and it is shaping up to be a really busy fall, however you slice it!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Birthday In D.C.

October 8, 2006

We're just back from Washington D.C. where we celebrated Andy's birthday (Joel and Sarah and Sarah's room mate Lori made the cake) and also ate tapas and Dim Sum and enjoyed a gorgeous blue and gold Indian Summer day on the Washington Mall and saw the Portrait Gallery and some great dino bones and black and white photos and generally disported ourselves happily. Until I-95 showed its usual colors and ANdy and I got stopped in traffic. But home now, all better.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Parakeets and Politics

The latest parakeet photos-- for gluttons for avian imagery, click here.

Taxicab on Cuisinart Taxi Up Close and Out of Focus

October 4

I don't know much about Lou Dobbs, but isn't he a pretty mainstream kind of financial guy? Here's a recent column online in which he says-- like a red tinged pinko Commie!--that the rich are getting richer and the middle class are losing their shirts and medical insurance. Indeed, he uses the phrase "class warfare." What are we to think when mainstream financial commentators begin to describe the world in Marxist terms? Personally, I think they're beginning to get smart...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Express Train

Barrels through
Raising yellow-gray dust
That diffuses and obscures
The autumn light.
I am writing with a fountain pen
In a bound journal.
It might as well be 1938.
We are all innocent
Always of where
The next train
Will take us.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hamilton Stone Review # 10 is Now Up!

October 1, 2006

Final changes this morning to the tenth issue of the Hamilton Stone Review . This has actually been a good journey, figuring out how to do the web pages without exhausting myself totally, working with Halvard Johnson, our most excellent poetry editor, and Lynda Schor, the sharp writer of stories who works very hard being gatekeeper for the prose. Next year is the press’s tenth anniversary, if you count from my publishing of Trespassers. The coop formed a year or two later.

I watched Not As A Stranger last night. I read the book or maybe a Reader’s Digest condensed version was a kid, but I don’t think I ever saw the movie. The doctoring stuff was fascinating, and it was a kick to see Frank Sinatra as a sympathetic hard working if wise-cracking doc. Olivia De Havilland as a dowdy older nurse with a Swedish accent– well, it worked if you accepted the whole suspension of disbelief, the shiny smooth fifties style, dramatic black and white, Gloria Grahame being sultry with the crazy long upper lip. Robert Mitchum, of course, is still the sexiest male presence ever. It was on Channel 13 with no breaks, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, waiting for Andy to come back from doing chores at the lake in Massachusetts.

I’m looking at the next six weeks and thinking I am unlikely even to make it to Costco (I need some things we keep around the house like pine nuts to make pesto with the last of the basil), I’m so overbooked and busy. I spent all day yesterday on desk work, and today I have papers and recommendations. When I go away for a couple of days, it really takes me a week to catch up.

I seem to write so much less now and (IMHO) know so much more. So what does it mean that I wrote more then? Then it was all based on the sharp physical sensations of youth and the pretty clear observations, plus a big imagination. But it was as if I was so busy writing, I never really put my weight down in the world. And as if now I believe I have more to give because I’m much more engaged in the world, and I have less and less time to do it!