Sunday, April 28, 2013

You are now entering The Twilight Zone: Anne Serling talks about her remarkable memoir of her dad, Rod, why a Martian can say things a Democrat or a Republican cannot, and so much more

Of course, I love The Twilight Zone. Of course, I had a crush on Rod Serling. When the memoir As I knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling, arrived, I blazed through it, and then I tracked down Anne. She's funny, feisty, smart, and her book is wonderful. I'm honored to host her here.

What surprised you about writing this book? 

That I was finally able to complete it. Seriously, I have been writing this book for two decades. In its original form it was titled “IN HIS ABSENCE.” I couldn’t finish it. I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t navigate my way out of my grief.

What did you learn about your father that you didn't know before?

I always knew my dad was haunted and traumatized by the war. He had the physical reminder- a bad knee from getting hit by shrapnel and his knee would often go out on him and spontaneously bleed; I knew he had nightmares because in the morning he would tell me he dreamt the Japanese were coming at him, but I don’t think I realized the scope of horror that he (or any vet) deals with and is then consumed by for the rest of their lives. When I read the letters to and from my dad and his parents while he was still in training camp- what I found heartbreaking is that they sounded like letters you would write or hear from a child away at summer camp--“Mom sent the brownies you asked for; the SEES candy, everyone misses you,” etc. When I was writing the war chapters, my own son was 18 and so it punctuated just how young and innocent my dad and these kids were when they are shipped off to these horrific and unimaginable wars. 
I also learned of the vast amount of writing my father did; what he accomplished in only fifty years of life. I once heard him described as a comet.

Part of why I revere Rod Serling is there is such a deep moral sense in his work--and I loved that he turned to sci fi because "a Martian can say things a Republican or Democrat cannot." 

He had been censored for so long—and I think the final straw was when he tried to tell the story about Emitt Till- the young African American boy murdered by three white men who were later exonerated. He tried to tell that story in three different scripts. The final one was titled “A Town Has Turned To Dust.” He would later say, “In the end, my script had turned to dust.” 

Can you talk about what you call his "accidental fame?" 

The first season of “The Twilight Zone” he was never on camera; it was just his voice but by the second season he was on camera and so he became a recognizable writer though my dad was never intended to be the host. That happened quite by accident. The studio originally wanted Orson Welles but apparently that was financially impossible for the studio. Westbrook Van Voorhis did the initial hosting but they didn’t feel he was right. My dad volunteered and although that suggestion was apparently not met with wide enthusiasm—it apparently worked out!

Was he nervous when he first did the Twilight Zone intro? Did he expect he would become such an icon? And how did that change your life at the time?

The director Bill D’ella (Boston Legal, Monday Mornings) who was a student of my dad’s recently told me that my father told him the reason he kept that stiff upper lip was because he was nervous being on camera.

And No, he never expected to become an icon. He was once quoted that although he felt his writing was “momentarily adequate,” he did not believe it “would stand the test of time.” No one, Caroline, would be more shocked than my dad to know how wrong he was. I wish he knew.

I don’t really know how “Twilight Zone” changed our lives​. I was four when it began. We had already moved to California before that when live television became history and “writers moved west.”  And my best friend’s dad was also a writer so our lives were similar in that respect.

Can you talk a bit about the scary Twilight Zone episodes and how hard it was to connect those with the loving Dad you knew?

The first TZ I saw was the one with the monster on the wing. The one staring William Shatner—“Nightmare at 10,000 feet.” I watched it with my dad and I was TERRIFIED. The fact that he didn’t write that episode was of no consolation- it was still my dad that appeared before and after. But he was nothing NOTHING like that person you hear and see so…I got over it. It was, though, quite some time before I watched “The Twilight Zone” again!

I loved the passages where your father is struggling ("my diet consisted chiefly of black coffee and fingernails" ). Were there any of his writing techniques or tricks that you yourself now use? 

I always read aloud what I’ve written when I think I’ve gotten it to an ok place. I recently learned my dad did that too--even before he used a Dictaphone-- and I was thrilled when I heard that because it brought me closer to him in another unexpected way.

Do you ever feel as though he's channeling through you?

Hmm. I always hope so. When he first died, I would say things like “If you can hear me, make that leaf move, or that bird fly now…” But I don’t know Caroline—he’s always in my mind and my heart and I would love to think we’ll be together again someday but I don’t believe that…and that makes me sad. There was a time though; when I was writing the book, and going through a tough time emotionally I found a letter from him. (I had saved all the rest) but this one I found unexpectedly- buried with some other papers. And there was, I guess, that moment where I thought it was meant to be discovered when it was…a gift from the heavens…Also, when I recently did the audio recording of my book and I was sitting alone in this little, dark room under these microphones and I could hear only my voice and I thought of all the times he did recordings…just like that and I felt so close to him, so reconnected.

I wanted to ask about the incredible "Fifth Dimension" program, which draws on the moral parables of the Twilight Zone to teach fifth graders about intolerance and more. Can you talk about that please?

This is such a fabulous program and the teachers are excellent. The kids watch TZ episodes and learn about prejudice, scape goating, mob mentality etc. One of the teachers told the story that after she showed the class “The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street” she asked them, “Who are the real monsters?” And the entire class stood up.

What's obsessing you now?

Hmm. Everything?  The horror we humans are capable of…Gun control; That I want my kids to be happy and my granddaughter (who will start Kindergarten next year) to never be bullied—or any child bullied for that matter. I also worry about the people I love getting sick; My next book—a novel called AFTERSHOCKS that I just completed the first draft of; I worry that I love my “granddog”  (He was my daughter’s dog but she couldn’t keep him—if she reads this she will say, “But Mom I DID want him back” anyway- that I love him too much and already imagine (and mourn) a life without him.

Thank you Caroline! For everything! Now when are we having that drink?

Jeweler Jeffrey DeLude talks about Banksy, modern art, truth and beauty and love, and so much more

I first met Jeffrey DeLude at the Annapolis Book festival. The amazing literary agent/flower designer Laura Strachan made the introduction and we were soon all talking about Banksy, art, books, and jewelry (he owns  Niland & Company Jewelers). I jumped on him and told him he had to come on the blog, and here he is! Thank you so much, Jeffrey!

So, how did you become a jeweler? Do you have a philosophy about the pieces you make, and if so, what is it?

 I think I may have been a sculptor and Jeweler all my life. My mother was a art teacher and as children, my brother and I were constantly involved in art projects. My father was a naval officer and we moved a lot. Every new house brought blank walls that my mother encouraged us to fill. Some where along the line, paintings became mosaics, mosaics became collages, collages became multimedia wall hangings and after a while things didn't always fit on the wall. My first free standing sculptures were executed as representational bronzes, I still love the medium, its warmth and versatility is very pleasing. If your ever able to sit I would love to do a bronze of you.

My focus for the last 5 years has been on abstract pieces, primarily executed in stainless steel. My art is a part of my internal dialog. It is the continuation of a conversation sometimes with people long departed, sometimes in the moment, arguments, commentary, love letters, they are all there. To me art is communication. . As is the case with many artist my most difficult times are my most productive. The creation of art is cathartic, calming, helps me regain balance and find my center. Art, good art, is expression that people as a group can share in, and that helps them find a vocabulary to explain elements of the human condition. 

You create exquisite custom jewelry. Do you ever think a person or choosing or wanting the wrong design? How is the whole process of creating for someone accomplished?

Jewelry is a form of wearable sculpture. People use it to punctuate important times of their life. We are all aware of the tradition of engagement rings but people employ the creation of jewelery as the physical manifestation of life events that most people do not realize. Jewelry is frequently commissioned as a push gift, a milestone for the birth of a child, anniversary's, christening, bat mitzvahs of course, but also when people finish chemo or have a bypass. People have jewelry made when, parents or children pass away, We make a fair amount of jewelry to celebrate divorces and retirements. Jewelry is art that we wear to express the emotion of virtually any important life event.

The process is simple, people usually come in with a story, my dog died, he was wonderful. Can you make his tag something I could wear day to day. Or I have stones my husband and I picked up in South America on our anniversary trip. I sketch ideas based on things they say, continuously refining the idea by asking questions, white gold, yellow gold, platinum, diamonds, no diamonds scale, I work to put their words into a picture. After the idea is agreed on and a deposit is put down, I create a wax model, sometimes by hand sometimes using CAD and a 3-d printer or milling machine. The model is then cast, using the lost wax process in the agreed upon material. After a considerable amount of finishing and polishing any stones that are needed to be set are set and the piece then goes through final polish.  for the most part people make excellent choices, but as with any collaboration there are times I don't agree with their choices. I do my best to guide them. On rare occasions I turn down projects that I don't believe will have a good outcome.   

You were really involved with the art scene, especially with Jeffrey Koons. Can you talk about how working with him made you reevaluate how you thought about what is art and what is not? And when you think something isn't art at all?

In the early 80s while I was still in school I worked at a foundry in Beacon NY called Tallix. With out knowing it I helped make works for some of the most successful contemporary artist of our time. Fank Stella, Jeffrey Koons and even a project for Willem De kooning. I wasn't there long, less than a year but the interaction helped shape my view of art. While Frank Stella was very involved with the production of his wall hangings using Styrofoam models and directing the placement of every steel or aluminum piece on a wall hanging, Jeffrey Koons showed up with a pink blowup beach bunny holding a green carrot and had no input what so ever with the exception of saying make it in stainless steel and presiding over the last thirty seconds of  polishing. De kooning was in his 90s and he and his wife were having works created from sketches he had done 25-30 years prior. Most artist would have the foundry do only the work that was not feasible to be done by a single artist. Their belief was that Art required sacrifice, like Micheal Angelo becoming almost deformed while working the marble of a statue into shape, many artist felt that it was their actual physical labor that imparted the qualities that made a work "ART". I came to believe that it wasn't how hard you worked, it was your ability to make a observation on the commonality of the human experience. Art is the ability to create or perhaps just present an item or image almost any thing tangible that will help bring to conciseness a feeling or idea in the mind of the viewer. When it comes to art if a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody there to hear it, than not only was there no noise, but with out someone there, the tree did not even fall, may not even exist. Some neuro-scientist believe that ideas can not exist without words to convoy them. Art is that which expands our vocabulary of ideas without words. 

 Why is Banksy so freaking great?

Banksy is freaking great! He is great because his art brings to consciousness issues of modern society, it gives us a rallying point. He literally draws a line that helps define right and wrong, but he does it in a playful way that says "come on you know what's right" it allows for different points of view. Everything about it, its presentation, execution, how he promotes himself all work together to achieve his end.

What's obsessing you now and why?

I think the things that I obsess about now are some of the things we are all dealing with, privacy or the lack there of, this kind of expansion of society into every nook and cranny of our lives. With our electronic tethers there is no Waldon pond anymore. There are very few places that one can get away to and recharge without the outside world spilling in. A friend of mine, a freelance writer, recently took a month off from all electronic interaction. I was jealous. Smart phones and computers make our lives easier in so many ways but the 24/7 contact can knock you back on your heals. I obsess about love and beauty and just what they are. The older I get the more surprised I am by the answers to those questions. My current works are combinations of stainless Steel and aluminum, some with glass that help explore and expand the conversation of just how love and beauty are related in our brave new interconnected electronic world. 

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

You didn't ask if I had read your books   

Niland & Company Jewelers
79 Maryland Avenue
Annapolis, Maryland

Brandon W. Jones talks about All Woman and Springtime, being a major success as a debut author, North Korea, men writing about women, obsessions and so much more

I do my best to read all the novels that my publisher Algonquin puts out, and for two weeks, I was so obsessed with Brandon W. Jones's All Woman and Springtime​, that I carried it with me everywhere. About human trafficking and North Korea, All Woman and Springtime's been lauded by Alice Walker, who called the book, "One of the most absorbing, chilling, beautifully written and important novels I've read in many years." I'm so thrilled, jazzed and honored to have Brandon here. (He's also hilarious.) Thank you, Brandon! 

You have the career writers dream of! Fresh out of the gate with a debut that lands at Algonquin and racks up the raves. So were there ever any moments of doubt?

I’m still a little in shock about the whole thing, really. In every way this has been a huge personal success, and I’m grateful.  There were, and continue to be, moments of doubt.  I wrote the novel during a difficult and tenuous time in my life, unemployed in the middle of a global financial meltdown, and undertaking a first novel through it was seemingly the most illogical choice; but I was driven.  As for being published, I was painfully aware of the odds.  So at times I wrote desperately, plagued by fear that my writing wasn’t good enough, and by a looming sense of possible, even likely failure.  The only people I told that I was writing a novel were my wife and two very close friends, who were my fearless champions,  and it wasn’t until I had a serious offer for publishing on the table that I told my parents and other acquaintances.  I had enough doubt of my own that I didn’t want to field anyone else’s—that could have been crushing.  Ultimately it was my belief that I was working on something truly worthwhile that kept me going through the doubt, and keeps me going today.

What sparked the idea for All Woman and Springtime? What surprised you during the writing? What was the researching like?

It started with a fascination with North Korea and wanting to educate myself about the politics of the region after it was branded a part of an “Axis of Evil.”  At some point I realized that what was missing from the dialogue about North Korea was the human side of it, as if the only reality in that country was the political one.  At the time there were no books like Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy and Blaine Harden’s Escape from Camp 14.  Writing the novel was partly about me processing everything I was learning about the weird and atrocious conditions in North Korea, and wanting to share my findings with a bigger audience.  

I was surprised often while writing the story, first by the reality of North Korea, then by my realization of just how huge the global industry of human trafficking is.  Then in the writing of it, my characters surprised me every day with their insights, the things they did and said.  It was especially surprising to look through the eyes of the perpetrators in the story to see how they justified their actions to themselves.  If people tend to place themselves in the hero role of their own personal stories, then what kind of mental gymnastics must human traffickers perform to maintain their self-as-hero mythology?  Asking those types of questions led to surprising answers.  

Research on North Korea proved difficult, being that it is the most secretive country on Earth, and I proceeded at first with little more than a library card, a Netflix subscription and an Internet connection.  I was able to talk with a couple of people with firsthand knowledge of North Korea, which proved helpful.  I even went to South Korean chat rooms on the Internet to try to engage Koreans in discussions on North Korea.  It turns out that people going to such chat rooms aren’t looking for heady political conversation, but I did find a few people willing to give me their opinions.  Even the most scholarly works on North Korea usually cop to some amount of conjecture.

This was your debut (and what a knockout!) Did you have worries and fears about it? Does it make writing your next novel more difficult or easier? And why?

I was a complete wreck for weeks before my novel released.  There is so much hope and anticipation wrapped up in publishing a book, as well as the culmination of years of hard work and a certain amount of baring of the soul.  It is a vulnerable place to be, and how a novel lands in the literary world—with a thud or a splash or with no sound at all—has ramifications, so the pressure is on.  And it is a unique kind of anxiety, because the work passes a point of no return.  You can’t take it back, and what was at one time completely in your control is now completely out of it.  There is nothing to do but sit back and gnaw on your fist while it makes its entrance, and hope for the best.   

In some ways, writing a first novel from obscurity, uncontracted and without any expectation from a publisher or an audience, felt freer than writing the second.  While writing the first book, its potential disappointments were solely my own.  With a second novel there is the fear of disappointing and being rejected by my editor, or the audience I’ve built with All Woman and Springtime.  There’s the question of whether or not the next novel will live up to the first.  It gets easy to second-guess myself by comparing what I’m writing now to what came before, or to that of my peers.  It’s also tempting to override my creative impulse by trying to make something that I think will fit as a following act to my debut rather than writing on the cutting edge of my inspiration.  A first novel is unfettered by all that.  That said, I have a clear sense of how I can improve as a writer because of the first novel, and this gives me something to aim for and makes me excited to write.  There is also comfort in knowing that at the end of writing the next one, there is a great publisher ready to give it serious consideration.  So it is both harder, and easier.  The trick is to focus only on the work and be true to that.  

What's your writing life (and regular life) like now?

I try to write every day.  Very early morning is always the best time for it, but I can’t always get myself out of bed for those quiet hours.  Any time of day will do, if I’m in the flow of a story.  I have a special chair for writing that I built myself, that hangs from the ceiling on a swivel and a spring.  I don’t write as well from a stationary chair, it turns out.  When I get stuck on my novel, I dive into short stories so I can experiment with different voices and styles, or sometimes just so I can have the sense of bringing something to completion—that feeling is maddeningly slow coming in novel length work.  Also, one of the great benefits of being a writer is that I can justify reading novels all day as part of staying current in the field.  If I can’t bring myself to write, I can usually bring myself to read, so I always feel like I am doing my “job.”  I’m not sure I have a regular life.  

What's obsessing you now and why?

I’m obsessed with stories of trauma and healing.  I’m fascinated by people’s coping mechanisms and their tendencies for either creative self-destruction or creative self-reconstruction.  I’m also focused on challenging our culture’s collective beliefs about men’s incapacity to understand women.  I was shocked that what seemed to surprise readers most about All Woman and Springtime was how I wrote convincingly about and from the perspective of women—as if by living among and relating with women my whole life, as any man with a mother, sisters, female friends and/or lovers has, shouldn’t be expected to be able to realistically approximate a female experience.  I think we’re less shocked when women write well about men.  By assuming that men can’t understand women, we end up excusing, and even sanctioning their ignorance of women, and thereby excusing and sanctioning their actions against them.  Look at the Steubenville rape case in which a female news reporter so quickly turned to pity for the ruined career opportunities for the rapists while downplaying the trauma to the young woman who now has to heal from those boys’ “mistake.”  She seemed willing to excuse their behavior, even blaming it on alcohol, as if the consequence was somehow unfair, as if it were somehow not really their fault; after all, we know how men are, right?  Many young men grow up assuming they don’t have to understand women, and there is little social pressure for them to even try. I believe this is cultural learning, not an inherent flaw in men. Those young men in Steubenville raped because on some level they believed it was okay, and because nobody had persuasively encouraged them to see the world through a woman’s eyes.  If they had had a developed sense of empathy, there is no way they could have done what they did.  This line of thinking, the desire to inspire empathy, drives my writing impulse.  

Larry Rossman talks about The New York Yankees (then and Now). yankee legends, the Nike Fuel band and more!

OK, the truth is that Larry Rossman and his wife Amy are two of our greatest friends. Larry and his jewelry- designer-wife Amy have known my husband Jeff since they were all teenagers. But Larry's also an author and I'm honored to host him here on my blog today, to talk about his book The New York Yankees (Then and Now), which is not only fascinating, it's also a gorgeous, gorgeous book. Just take a look at the cover! Thanks so much, Larry!

Why the Yankees?

I've been following the Yankess since I was a kid. I always loved learning  about the players and the history of the team. Writing this book was the perfect opportunity to put all the information I had in my head about the Yankees to good use.

So, would you have written a book about the Mets? And does one have to be a Yankees fan to love your book?

I would absolutely have done it if it was the Mets.  I am a Yankee fan first but I am also a NY sports fan.
One does not  have to be a diehard fan to appreciate this book. It is an engrossing pictorial  depicting the history of Yankee baseball. The pictures are beautiful to look at and the stories are interesting for their sports as well as their historical and cultural content. Even Red Sox fans would like it.  

Let's be frank. What part did the Nike Fuel Band play in the writing?

The Nike Fuel Band kept me motivated.

Did anything drive you crazy about writing the book?

There was nothing I hated about this project. It was really a labor of love. Working on the book brought back memories of my youth in the 60's. Collecting baseball cards, watching games on the black & white TV, and seeing the GREEN  field for the very first time when my father took me to my first Yankee game. I loved going through the photos - old and new. Reliving the history of the players and the franchise was nostalgic. 

So what's next? 
 My options are open. I would love to do a "Where Are They Now" book about  the Yankees and a book on 1960's NY radio.

What's obsessing you now?

What don't I obsess over!!
My obsessions in no particular order are: 
1- Yankees- my favorite sports team since I was a kid.
2- Baseball- the most relaxing sport to watch. 
3- Tennis- love to play it.
4- Rock & Roll Music from the 60's- I am still living in the 60's.
5- Music-All Genres- It's always in my head.
6- Collecting Cd's- Can't  explain it. Just gotta have them.
7-  My dog Molly- for her unconditional love.
8- Nike Fuel Band- makes me feel like I accomplished something every day.
9- Health- Isn't everybody obsessed about it these days?
10- Wife & kids- of course.

What question should I have asked?

What Baseball Books Do I Recommend?

1- Ball Four- by Jim Bouton
2- Sandy Koufax- A Lefty's Legacy- by Jane Leavy
3- The Last Boy- Mickey Mantle & The End Of America's Childhood- Jane Leavy
4- The Bronx Zoo- The Astonishing Inside Story of the 1978 World Champion NY Yankees - by Sparky Lyle & Peter Golenbock
5- Dynasty- The NY Yankees 1949-1964- Peter Golenbock
6- The Glory Of Their Times- The Story Of The Early Days Of Baseball By The Men Who Played It- by Lawrence Ritter               

Did I Ever Meet Any Of the great Yankee Legends?:

I have met 4 of my top 5 fave Yankees-

1- Mickey Mantle- He signed a baseball. It was awesome meeting him.
2- Yogi Berra- He signed a baseball. He has the biggest hands i have ever seen. Nice guy
3- Phil Rizzutto- He signed a baseball. He had funny stories to tell. Nice guy
4- Whitey Ford-  He signed a baseball. Great sense of humor and loved talking about the game. 
Number 5 would be Roger Maris who I never met

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rebecca Dowling talks about why the Hockessin Book Shelf is so cool

I love indie bookstores, as everyone knows, and I especially love this one, the Hockessin Book Shelf. Even better, I'm going to be reading there June 19th! I love Rebecca Dowling and she was gracious enough to let me pepper her with questions. Thank you so, so much, Rebecca!

Your store seems to be and do so many great things! Tell us about it!:
The Hockessin Book Shelf is a New & Used bookstore in Hockessin, DE and like our state, the store is a small wonder.  We only have 826 sq. feet of inventory space!  So most of our activities & events are off site. We have become known for our community partnerships: story time at the creamery, book groups at the gourmet food shop & cafe's, cookbook book club at the Nature Society & "An Evening With The Author" at one of our historic buildings. For us the Shop Local movement is a way of life & our store's health is dependent on the health of our neighbors.  

Your store is also famous for being a browser's paradise--Can you tell what books belong with what customer?
Most of the time, we've been selling to some of our customers for years or since they were kids and because of the extended conversations that can only happen IN a store.  Just a few pointed questions and we are usually on our way to a perfect match :).  I have an amazing staff too.  They love books & are so well rounded in their reading habits, we have all the niches covered from genre to lit. to children's books.  And I do think that the small size of the store helps with this....................we only have to go a short distance to pull the perfect book off the shelves.

What three books are you pressing into everyone's hands and why?
What My Mother Gave Me - edited by Elizabeth Benedict.  It is the perfect Mother's Day gift!!!!  It not only features an essay by you Caroline but one by Elissa Schappell too. She grew up right here in Hockessin!

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters.  Just out in paperback & will be huge for book groups if I have anything to say about it.

A Land More Kind Then Home  by Wiley Cash because it is the Eat Drink Read book group pick for May.

Heartbroken by Lisa Unger. Great Thriller & it will be the perfect summer read.

And the children's book Tea Rex by Molly Idle, Spy Mice YR series by Heather Vogel Frederick (it's a take on James Bond with titles like "For Your Paws Only") & Julianne Baggot's new book "Fuse"

Oh wait, you only wanted 3.................hahahhaha...............

What's been your favorite author event and why?
That's such a hard question because they have all been amazing and each author has left their own mark on "An Evening With The Author".  I do have to mention that this series of events would not even exist if it wasn't for the amazing Lisa Unger who knocked on the store's door early one morning while I was vacuuming.  She was visiting family in the area and wanted to say Hi to the local independent book store!!!  And from there an a event was born.  The historic building that we hold the event in was at one point the town's library and Elissa Schappell use to check books out from it.  After Marisa de los Santos, a favorite of area book groups, she suggested that I contact Julianna Baggott. Julianna's evening was special for me because my niece read "Pure" & loved it so I now have a picture of my 13 yr. niece meeting her first Author in person!  Oh, and Julianna's kindergarten teacher came to her event! Rachel Simon fit us in between all of her events and I was able to hook her up with friends who work for the Special Olympics & Sandra Beasley read some of her poetry for us when she was our featured author for her memoir "Don't Kill The Birthday Girl". They've all been fabulous!

How do you see the future of bookstores?
It is definitely an interesting time to own an independent bookstore but I'm pretty optimistic.  For a time stores were all reducing their size and adjusting to the new reality of e-reading but I've found that most stores have found a happy medium that meets all their readers needs.  We could use more space!!!   Book stores have always been hubs for community interaction & I do not see that changing.  One of the really exciting things that has been happening in the last few years is the increase of events of all types that ultimately bring authors & readers together.  Events are becoming cornerstones of our business and the communities in which we live and work really do appreciate that.

Enjoy reading,
Hockessin Bookshelf

Heather Barbieri, author of the Cottage at Glass Beach, talks about writing through loss

Heather Barbieri is the author of Snow in July (Soho) and The Lace Makers of Glenmara (Harper). Her new novel, The Cottage at Glass Beach, is racking up the raves with praise like this: " Wonderful, subtle, transporting story," Booklist (starred review).  "In the enchanting world of Maine's Burke's Island, fanciful stories--of captured selkies becoming dutiful wives and tears cried in the sea beckoning lovers to shore--are gracefully woven into modern reality." Publisher's Weekly.

I asked Heather if she'd consider writing something for the blog, and here it is, below.

Thank you so much, Heather. I'm honored to host you here.

Writing through Loss
            I’d just submitted an outline and sample chapters for my third novel, The Cottage at Glass Beach, to my agent when the news came. In a surreal twist of fate, my previously healthy, active mother, the woman who was frequently asked what products she used to keep her skin so beautiful (she could have done ads for Oil of Olay), had been flown from our hometown to the emergency room in Seattle. Our house quickly became base camp for me, my sisters, and shell-shocked father, as we drove back and forth from the hospital overlooking Puget Sound. It took a day or two before the doctors realized she had one of the worst conditions possible, cerebral amyloidosis, from which there was no recovery. (C. a. is a little known member of the Alzheimer’s family of illnesses; there’s no treatment, no cure.) She never regained consciousness and died within a few days, better for her, given the prognosis, hard for us, as it is for so many who find themselves suddenly bereft.
            Two weeks later, I was struggling to get my bearings in both an emotional and literary sense. Despite what had happened, there was a book to be written.  As had been occurring frequently since my mother’s death, a blue jay perched in the rhododendron bush across from my office window, trilling in what might have been interpreted as encouragement and staring me in the eye. You can do this, it seemed to say. In the weeks that followed, whenever I was feeling uncertain it, or one of its brethren, would appear to cheer me up at just the right time. (One of the birds had alighted on the dining room windowsill when we were telling my dad that Mom had passed away, tapping on the glass to get our attention.) Blue had been her favorite color, and the birds became her emissaries, signs and wonders, in a time of need.
            Each of us mourns differently. For me, what initially seemed like a daunting challenge of writing a novel in a few short months, became an outlet to process and express a profound loss and in doing so, discovering the transformation, the sadness and gifts that can come from such tragedies.  The subconscious, so essential to the creative process, is no stranger to grief.
            And so I wrote, five days a week, writing the story I’d told her about that December—she’d always been my sounding board, sharing ideas and reading recommendations. The story she knew, but changed too, focusing on a woman’s journey to find her way in the wake of a devastating betrayal, protect her young daughters, and solve the disappearance of her mother when she was a child.  The book, this book, I would dedicate to my mother’s memory, lost and found.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Yep, A. S. King won the Los Angeles Book Prize for Ask The Passengers, and she's also hip, cool, generous, and the reason why she hasn't let it all go to her head is because she's a Pisces

I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to be doing this interview. I think I first met A. S. King at a Backspace conference and we just hit it off. I'm rabid about her work, too, and every time I run into her, the world just seems brighter. In fact, a month ago, I was in the ladies room at the Tucson Book Festival for a 1000-person dinner and I hear "CAROLINE LEAVITT!" and there she was. Just read her responses here and you'll immediately fall in love with her, too.

And as for her latest, Ask The Passengers, take a look at this list of honors: 2012 Los Angeles Book Prize winner, 2013 Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices pick, A 2012 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, A 2013 Capitol Choices book, An ALA GLBTRT Rainbow List Top Ten pick, A Kirkus Best Book of 2012, A School Library Journal Best Book of 2012, A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2012, A Library Journal Best Books 2012: Young Adult Literature for Adults book, Six starred trade reviews, A Fall 2012 Junior Library Guild Selection, A Fall 2012 Indie Next List Pick, A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, 2014 Rhode Island Teen Book Award nominee, a Carolyn Field Award nominee. About a young girl who sends her love to the only people who might want it--passengers in a plane, Ask the Passengers shifts the way you see the world. Which, of course, is what the best books always do. 

Thank you so much, and a big hug from me, Amy.

Your work is "intense," "compelling," and it's won just about every honor and prize I can think of. Ask The Passengers has a knockout, eerie premise: a troubled girl caught in a smalltown, sends her love to the passengers in the planes above, hoping they'll appreciate it. Where did the idea for this spark?

I’ve been sending love to random passengers in airplanes since I was a little girl. I can’t remember how young I started—maybe six or seven. I don’t know why I started except I might have been bored in my back yard surrounded by a huge cornfield with little to do but use my imagination. I still do it when I see an airplane. Every time. I still imagine that it’s helping someone. Every time. 

When I sat down to write Ask the Passengers, I set out to write about love. I found myself asking How can I write about love in a setting full of small-minded hate? I remembered all those random people who I’d sent love to over the years and I knew I wanted to write about their journeys as receivers-of-love as well as my own, as the sender-of-love. 

The metaphor arose: If we love randomly and freely, it is a lot harder to hate people for who they love and it’s a lot harder to judge other people and be critical and small-minded. With that, the spark…sparked. 

So many of your books target people on the edge, or the disenfranchised--but to me, you make those people the ones who are NOT to be dismissed, the ones we NEED to know. How do you such alchemy?

You know, I think my characters are a lot more common in our world than people want to see. In fact, that’s the problem, isn’t it? We know the stats. We know 1 in three women are beaten or raped in her lifetime. We know that 1 in four people suffer from some sort of mental illness. We know about 1 in six children are sexually abused. Etc. Etc. We feel hugely uncomfortable talking about or tackling these issues. And yet not one of us is untouched in our family or friend circles by one of those stats. So, even though we do not talk about it, in reality, characters who are dealing with these very common issues are universal because we all have them…or we are them. 

In the case of Ask the Passengers, Astrid is simply falling in love with a girl. She is confused because society has given us so many labels and she feels uncomfortable affixing one to what she’s feeling. Labels are permanent and so…limiting. I don’t see life that way and neither does Astrid. This is why it was so helpful to bring Socrates into the story and have him question everything around him, as was his habit. In my mind, it’s a habit I wish more people would get into. So many people stick themselves in confining boxes and stay there for their very short lifetimes. It seems a waste not to grow throughout the entire journey. 

Tell us about your new book, Reality Boy? And about Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future?

Reality Boy is about Gerald Faust—a boy who was once a five-year-old reality TV “star”…if you call being a mess on TV stardom. Now that Gerald is a teenager, he’s suffered a lifetime of being recognized everywhere in his town, being teased and bullied by his teachers, peers, and even his family. He is beyond angry about everything that was once aired on TV…and especially the things that weren’t aired on TV. He’s very close to snapping. Until he meets the girl who works at register #1 while he works register #7 at the food stand at the local ice hockey arena. She’s the first person who treats him with any sort of respect and he’s not quite sure what to do with it. The book releases October 22, 2013 and ARCs are floating around now.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future is about…um…I’m revising it and it’s giving me an eye twitch at the moment, so let’s just use the PW announcement for that one…which reads: A graduating senior struggles with growing apart from her two best friends as all three of them begin having strange and powerful visions of divergent futures. That’s slated for fall 2014. 

I have to ask: you've won so many accolades, such praise, such prizes, and yet you remain the most down-to-earth, warm, generous author I know, which is probably why you are so beloved. How do you not let it all go to your head?

Thank you so much for saying this. You are very kind. I’m not sure how to answer. I mean…the publishing business won’t let it go to my head, really. I still drive a 1997 Dodge Neon with no air conditioning and I eat soup for dinner some nights. Accolades and awards don’t buy food. That’s part of it, I bet. Although, if I made money in this business, I’m not sure my head would inflate, either.

So…I’m guessing that I’m just like this. I’m the youngest of three daughters and a born mediator. I’m a Pisces. I love and hug freely. I still volunteer inside my community. I get to hang out with very level-headed teenagers in their schools a lot and they remind me to stay open-minded, non-judgmental and groovy. Life is short. Why would I want to go around with a big head, you know? 

What's your writing life like? How do you make time for all that you have to do?

Caroline, things are about to get crazy for me. For 20 years I’ve managed to write novels between jobs, little children, volunteer things and most recently, a lot of travel for school visits. I have no idea how I did that. But I’ve just landed a fantastic faculty position at a low-residency MFA program and that is about to change the whole game. 
The short answer to this question is: I work a lot. I don’t watch TV. 

What's obsessing you now?

I am in love with the book I am writing for 2015. In. Love. I can’t tell you what it’s about, really, but I am learning a lot about helicopters and reading a lot of contemporary surrealist fiction. 

What question didn't I ask that I should have?

Here are the answers: I like Jameson whiskey, my shoe size is 11, and I love roller skating with my kids more than anything in the whole world.