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  • Caroline Leavitt interviews Harriet Levin Millan

  • NEW YORK TIMES AND USA TODAY BESTSELLING NOVELIST, SCREENWRITER, EDITOR, NAMER, CRITIC, MOVIE ADDICT AND CHOCOHOLIC, Caroline Leavitt, blogs… 

    TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2016

    Harriet Levin Millan talks about her profound novel-based-on-a-true-story, How Fast Can You Run, about a South Sudan refuge searching for the mother he was separated from when he was five.

    “The best war novel told from a young boy’s perspective since Jerzy Kozinski’s The Painted Bird.”

    —Nyoul Lueth Tong, author of There is a Country: New Writing from the New Country of South Sudan

    Prepare to be amazed. When One Book, One Philadelphia asked author and Drexel University professor Harriet Levin Millan to choose ten of her undergraduate creative writing students to interview ten South Sudanese refugees for a special One Book writing project, she met Michael Majok Kuch, who became the subject of her novel. . Kuch survived the torching of his village in South Sudan, and was separated from his mother when he was only five. His quest to be reunited with her, and the plight of the refuge is both profound and moving. Thank you so much Harriet, for being here.

    I always say every book starts with a yearning. What was yours?

    My yearning was for Michael Majok Kuch, the S. Sudanese national, I based my novel on, to see his mother. They had been separated since Michael was five-years-old and their village was attacked in the middle of the night and they got separated. So by the time I met him, when he was a senior in college, he hadn’t seen her for nearly 22 years. [more…]

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  • Author Prudy Taylor Board says writing in different genres is easy…but do your homework first

  • By Mary Yuhas

    Prudy Taylor Board is a project editor with Taylor and Francis Publishing, a leading publisher of technical, academic and scientific nonfiction headquartered in Boca Raton.

    Prudy and skeleton

    Currently, she leads two critique groups in Palm Beach County and is the immediate past president of the Writers Network of South Florida. She has had 22 books (15 regional histories in Florida and South Carolina and 5 novels) and more than a thousand articles published in regional and national magazines. She was a staff writer for the News Press, public information officer for the sheriff’s department; assignment editor and reporter for CBS and NBC TV affiliates on the other coast, and managing editor of two regional magazines — Lee Living and Home & Condo. She also edited The Fiction Writer, a magazine for writers distributed nationally. In Palm Beach County, before moving to Taylor and Francis, she was Managing Editor of Dartnell Corporation’s sales publications and personally edited Sell!ng™ and Sales & Marketing Executive Report for which she won a national award as most improved from the Newsletters and Electronic Publishers Association.

    Prudy writes about what she knows. For her horror novels, written as Prudence Foster, she has studied the occult for years, traveled to Haiti where she attended a voodoo ceremony in the woods outside Cape Haitien, attended a séance at a cenote where virgins were sacrificed centuries ago outside Chichen Itza, Mexico, and in Cartagena, Colombia, she had a Tarot card reading and befriended a 90-year old medium. Her mysteries, in particular the Recipes for Murder series, are based on her experiences as a television assignment editor/reporter and daily newspaper reporter covering the courts and police beats. (more…)

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  • Hashtags every writer needs to know

  • How do you find readers on Twitter? People who read Twitter like a newspaper find the threads they’re interested in by searching on topics preceded by hashtags. That’s why writers need to ‘file’ their tweets by adding hashtags to their messages. Otherwise, writers risk tweeting into the abyss.

    Here are hundreds of hashtags that will fly your tweets beyond your followers to everyone reading about your topic on Twitter:

    Authors

    #1K1H (write one thousand words in one hour)

    #AmWriting

    #AmEditing

    #AmRevising

    #Author

    #Authors

    #AuthorLife (more…)

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  • Author Interview: William P. Wood

  •  by Mary Yuhas

    William P. Wood on turning books into movies, catching lightning in a bottle, and working with his father

    bill wood public radioWilliam P. Wood is the author of nine novels and one nonfiction book. His work in the District Attorney’s Office inspired him to pen an array of acclaimed legal thrillers.

    Many of his books have been translated into multiple languages and optioned for motion pictures, two of which were produced. Wood’s latest release is, Sudden Impact. He currently lives in Sacramento, California, where he is working on his next novel.

    LitVote: Do you write about the cases that most disturbed you?

    Bill: I don’t. People, situations, strange facts mix together and the combination turns into a story. The characters, their hopes and fears and ambitions and escapades are what matter.

    LitVote: Your book, Rampage, was optioned and made into a film. Court of Honor was made into a TV movie, Broken Trust on TNT.  Can you explain the process once a producer expresses interest in adapting a book into a film?

    Bill: I was lucky. Both of those books became movies quickly. Other books were optioned, had screenplays written, and shopped around and nothing happened. Turning books into movies, especially today, is like catching lightning in a bottle. The basic straightline process, which rarely happens, is that the book is optioned, a screenwriter and or talent, like actors, like the idea, and folks come up with the money to film. But it is an eccentric process.

    LitVote: Were you happy with the adaptations?

    Bill: Very much so. Rampage had one of the world’s most talented and visionary directors, William Friedkin turn it into a striking film. He was incredibly gracious and generous throughout the shooting, editing and later events associated with Rampage. The cast was superb too, starting with Michael Biehn. Likewise, Broken Trust was a terrific film. Joan Didion and her husband John Gregory Dunne are not only superb writers but extraordinary screenwriters, which is very different process. Tom Selleck turned in a profound, layered performance in the lead with Marsha Mason and Elizabeth McGovern giving the whole enterprise depth, suspense, and drama.

    LiteVote: How long does it take you to write a book?

    Bill: Pick any time. I’ve written novels in forty-five days and my one nonfiction book, The Bone Garden about female serial killer Dorothea Puente took nearly four years. On average a novel, from first to last draft, takes about eight months.

    LitVote: You also were a co-writer for several episodes of the CBS-TV series “Kaz” starring Ron Liebman (a former car thief-turned-criminal attorney Martin “Kaz” Kazinsky.) What was that like?

    Bill: Wonderful. Frustrating. Fun. One episode starred the great late character actor Eugene Roche as a judge going crazy during a trial. He was astonishing. But as the series went on, there were more people trying to shoehorn ideas into scripts and things got very cumbersome. My late father, Preston Wood, and I wrote three episodes together, based on my experiences as a deputy DA like my novels, and working him was one of the proudest and most satisfying experiences of my life. He wrote for almost every major TV show, “Adam-12”, “Addams Family”, “Emergency!”, “Bonanza” for example.

    LitVote: What is the single most important thing an author can do to improve his or her writing?

    Bill: Read a lot. First last and always. Rewrite. Okay, that’s two things.

    LitVote: Any tips for first-time writers?

    Bill: Write because you enjoy it. Write because you have something to say. Don’t worry about anything else.

    LiteVote: What’s next for you?

    Bill: A movie version of my latest novel, Sudden Impact, I hope. And finishing a new novel.

                                                                             ***

    _______________

    Author Mary Yuhas, is the author of the upcoming memoir, QUIT AND BE QUIET, about growing up with a severely mentally ill mother, featured tree times on Scribd.

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  • Environment, Ethics, and ‘Endgame?’ — How do we approach Cli-fi writing?

  • by Charles Degelman

    As writers hell-bent on creating a new and vital fiction genre, cli-fi (climate fiction), we’re probably aware how research via scientific thinking and and information can support and enrich our fictional world-building. But how what about the scope, scale, approach and desired outcomes of cli-fi creation? 

    Sea level, Nat'l Geo

    Do we reflect our faith in the ingenuity and good intentions of homo sapiens? Do we point the finger at ourselves as Walt Kelly (Pogo) did on the first Earth Day (1970) —”We have met the enemy,” he wrote, “and they are us”? Or do we accept the inevitable and write to the prospects and percentages of planetary collapse?

    What is eco-etiquette and how does it apply to or optimism, or pessimism, objectivity, ethical responsibilities and creativity as cli-fi writers? — all questions worth considering as fiction writers and all questions raised by scientists and scholars of our planet’s trajectory past, present, and future.

    Many of us have discussed public response to dystopian, disaster-oriented cli-fi in terms of its potential to desensitize, guilt-trip, or fulfill self-destructive fantasies. Okay. But what are non-fiction climatologists and environmental prospectors thinking? And can they give us any helpful clues as to how to approach our work as novelists?

    The essay, “Endgame?” just appeared in “The Nation,” the United States’ oldest running (and most consistently progressive) periodical. “Endgame?”, written by an urban affairs activist named Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, is actually a survey of current non-fiction writing and thinking on climate change and the ongoing speculation about potential climate disaster.

    “Endgame?” asks many of the questions we do about the impact of our writing, various stances that enviro thinkers are taking, and introduces us to six books written across the spectrum of current thinking about… yes, the endgame — what leads up to it, what happens after. Rather than delve into the specifics of the six books, I urge you to read this informative and relevant multi-review of the way people are thinking about and writing on global warming.

    ___________

    Charles Degelman is the award-winning author of A Bowl Full of Nails

     

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  • Excerpt of the Novel: Dark Lady of Hollywood

  •  
     

    by Diane Haithman

    pic of Diane

     
     
     

    Chapter 1

     

    Since nor the exterior nor th’ inward man

    Resembles that it was.

    — King Claudius, Hamlet

     
     

     

    “See, here’s the thing, Kenny . . .”

    I’d forgotten how my immediate supervisor, Danny Gordon, never really shook hands. He’d just put his in yours and leave it there, like a small, limp package waiting for UPS. We’d been holding hands like this ever since he walked into my office to welcome me back. Sweet.

    “The thing?”

    “The . . . thing.” Dan nodded then fell silent. I decided it was up to me to end the non-handshake and gentlly disengaged myself from it. Dan still said nothing. The pause was clammier than his hand. “Say whatever the fuck it is you have to say, Dan,” I suggested pleasantly.

    Danny winced; he tended to take profanity very personally. His small brown eyes had been fixed on the floor. Now, as he looked up, they darted every which way behind the narrow glasses — furtive weasel eyes trying to escape from his desperately hip green rectangular frames, from his head, from my office. From me. (more…)

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  • What a Glorious Day

  • by Keith Raffel
    Sometimes good things do happen to us writers. In September an editor from Amazon Publishing got in touch. She wanted to buy rights to A Fine and Dangerous Season, the Cuban Missile Crisis thriller I’d published as an ebook on my own last year.
    Amazingly, six weeks later — today! — the book is out in a re-edited version with a new cover in both ebook and trade paper editions.
    Here in Palo Alto, it’s bright and sunny and in the high 60s.
    What a glorious day!
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  • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

  • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

    My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

    Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

    The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

    Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

    There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

    An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

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  • The Business of Mass Incarceration

  • Chris Hedges holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. His recent book is Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. He is the author of the bestsellers American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, and Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle and was a National Book Critics Circle finalist for his book War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning.

     By Chris Hedges

    This article first appeared in TruthDig

    Debbie Bourne, 45, was at her apartment in the Liberty Village housing projects in Plainfield, N.J., on the afternoon of April 30 when police banged on the door and pushed their way inside.

    CHedges

    The officers ordered her, her daughter, 14, and her son, 22, who suffers from autism, to sit down and not move and then began ransacking the home. Bourne’s husband, from whom she was estranged and who was in the process of moving out, was the target of the police, who suspected him of dealing cocaine. As it turned out, the raid would cast a deep shadow over the lives of three innocents—Bourne and her children.

    * * *
    The murder of a teenage boy by an armed vigilante, George Zimmerman, is only one crime set within a legal and penal system that has criminalized poverty. Poor people, especially those of color, are worth nothing to corporations and private contractors if they are on the street. In jails and prisons, however, they each can generate corporate revenues of $30,000 to $40,000 a year. This use of the bodies of the poor to make money for corporations fuels the system of neoslavery that defines our prison system…[more]

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  • Spotlight on the Alternative Justice System

  • There is a higher probability of doing time in the ‘land of the free’ than in any other country.

    On its way to becoming a prison state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, the U.S. seized the center stage again when it provoked the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay.

     

    Wall Street Journal reporter and author Jess Bravin (HC ’87) highlights some of the differences between U.S. prisons and Guantanamo and discusses where to try suspected terrorists in this exclusive author interview.

     

    Jess: There’s one tremendous difference. In U.S. prisons, people are there because they have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to a term of years or life. At Guantanamo, as we know, almost no one there has actually been convicted of anything. They’re being held preventatively.

    LitVote: Can you tell me how many are in there for no reason at all?

    Jess: Sure. Well, right now there are about 166 men still held at Guantanamo Bay. Congress has imposed a lot of restrictions preventing the president from transferring people out of Guantanamo, and the United States is having difficulty finding places to send them since it won’t accept them on its own soil, so it has to try to negotiate or persuade or pay other countries to take them. Most of the prisoners cleared for release are from Yemen, and U.S. authorities believe the environment in Yemen is too unstable and risky for these men. Other detainees, such as the Uighur Muslims from China, are at risk of persecution if repatriated to their home countries. And the US Congress has imposed restrictions on the president’s ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo.

    LitVote: How come they’re all men? US prisons are 92 percent men and 8 percent women.

    Jess: … there don’t seem to be a lot of women who were involved in very high levels or involved in organizing terrorist acts or taking up arms who were fingered in this way.

    LitVote: What about the people in the orange suits with the bags over their heads?

    Jess: I did see in January of 2002 a military transport plane that was offloaded with detainees coming off, and they had those famous orange jumpsuits, and they were handcuffed and they had on blackout goggles and earmuffs and facemasks and gloves, basically to deprive them of most of their senses. I did not see any abuse, and my visits there have been many, but my visits at Guantanamo have all been under military escort, so I can’t see anything that they don’t choose to let me see when I’m there.

    LitVote: When do you expect it to be shut down entirely?

    Jess: Well, I have no information on that. The president said he was going to do it when he ran for office the first time in 2008. They recently reassigned the State Department official whose job was finding new homes for the detainees. I suppose the questions is whether President Obama wants to leave off in four years having accomplished that campaign promise from 2008 or having it be one of the things that is a mark on his report card as incomplete. (more…)

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Interview with Harriet Levin Millan, author of HOW FAST CAN YOU RUN


HLM2

            michael-300x225

 

by Maribel Garcia 

Interviews, Reviews, Book Club Babble

 

In her debut novel, How Fast Can You Run, poet Harriet Levin Millan (The Christmas Show, Girl in Cap and Gown) gives an insightful and carefully crafted account of just one of the many consequences of the second Sudanese Civil War and refugee life in America.

In 1988, Michael Majok Kuch was violently uprooted from the Dinka plains of Southern Sudan to the Kakuma refugee camp to Nairobi and eventually to Philadelphia.  Millan’s novel is inspired by Michael’s story. [more]

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In the Land of Eternal Spring Launch

By Alan Howard, Author of In the Land of Eternal Spring
My head is still spinning from the launch of In the Land of Eternal Spring in the Boston suburb of Newton on June 15 and then the following week, like a one-two punch, first to the head with some folks I hadn’t seen since grammar school and then to the outpouring of so many of my dearest friends for the reading in New York City where I lived for fifty years.
6_21_readingNearly 100 people in the course of a week, in Newton where I grew up and then in NYC with dozens of friends going back to the political battles of the Sixties and on through two Obama election campaigns and eight years of fighting the good fights.
Thanks to Mary Cotton and Jaime Clarke for the invite to the renowned Newtonville Books and to Kate Linker and Bernard Tschumi for hosting our NYC event as only they could have done it.
These events were like nothing I have ever experienced before (after all, In the Land of Eternal Spring is my debut novel). To feel directly the full force of so much energy, love and affection.
And the hardest questions!
 6.21.signing
Well, the NYC event did take place at the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, when our biological connection to the sun is charged to the maximum and we are pumped—historically one of the most sacred days of the year.
About that Bertolt Brecht inscription for In the Land of Eternal Spring
Ah, what an age it is
When to speak of trees is almost a crime
For it is a kind of silence about injustice!
–let me say there have been more than a few moments over the past seven months since our disastrous election when I have asked myself how I could have devoted so much time and energy writing this novel that takes place a half century ago in a small, poor and distant country.
It was only in conversation with these old friends and new readers that I began to understand the answer to that question. It is about that famous connection between the personal and the political and the force of our collective actions. It is about the beloved community that gave birth to the movement that still sustains us and that I feel fortunate to be part of and to have written a book that tries to give artistic form to a moment in that history.

 

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Appointment with ISIL by Joe Giordano (Book Spotlight, Author Interview & Giveaway!)

9781941861080-Perfect (1).indd

by Laura Fabiani, via Library of Clean Reads, on June 19, 2017 in 50 states of America Author Interview Giveaways Italy Book Tours Joe Giordano

After reading Joe Giordano’s first book, Birds of Passage, I was eager to read his latest release Appointment with ISIL. Although different from Birds of Passage, which was historical fiction, this latest work is a literary thriller. It contains the same bold intelligent writing, with mobsters jumping off the page at every turn. Check out my interview with the author and enter to win a copy of the book!

Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with ISIL: An Anthony Provati Thriller

Authors: Joe Giordano

Category: Adult Fiction, 299 pages

Genre: Literary Thriller

Publisher: Harvard Square Editions

Release date: June 2017

Format available for review: ebook (mobi, PDF and ePub)

Tour dates: June 19 to 30, 2017

Content Rating: PG (No f-words but there’s mild profanity, and mild religious expletives such as “damn”, “hell” and “Oh God!”, some depictions of violence or brief sexual content (kissing). No drug use or underage drinking.)

Book Description:

This time, Anthony’s libido threatens his life. He flirts with Russian mob boss, Gorgon Malakhov’s mistress. The Russian deals in death. ISIL, the Islamic State in the Levant, wants the product. Russian Intelligence supplies the means, and an art theft funds the scheme. ISIL’s targets are chilling. The chase across the Mediterranean is on. Can Anthony thwart ISIL? Will he survive?

Praise for Appointment with ISIL:

A roller-coaster ride to the finish, this book confirms Giordano as a writer to eagerly watch.”

Kirkus Reviews

A sexy, all-in-one-breath read, this is a story for those eager to strap on their boots and immerse themselves in a whirlwind adventure that will take them from espresso in New York with the Italian Mafia to walking the Old City of Jerusalem with the chief of Israel’s security service.”

The iRead Review

If you like gritty intriguing thrillers involving the FBI, Russian/Italian mobs or Islamic Terrorists you will absolutely love this book…. The characters, the plot and prose come together for an outstanding work of contemporary Americana. PRIMO highly recommends Appointment with ISIL.”

Primo Magazine

Buy the Book: 

Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

Interview with Joe Giordano:

LCR: Welcome to Library of Clean Reads, Joe. Can you describe your novel in 20 words or less?

JG: Anthony’s libido gets him into trouble with the Red Mob, ISIL, and Russian Intelligence, played out on an international stage.

LCR: Your last novel Birds of Passage was an historical coming of age romance. What made you want to write a literary thriller?

JG: Ben Fountain, author of the best-selling Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and a writing mentor of mine, told me that the literary thriller was the “holy grail.” I took on his challenge. The genesis of the novel was an Islamic History course I’d taken from the University of Texas in Austin, and a short story, “The Unkindest Cut,” published, by decomP Magazine.

LCR: You include an art theft in your story. Are you an art lover?

JG: On my travels, I enjoy visiting museums, and have taken numerous course in Art History from UT. I enjoy incorporating some of what I’ve seen and learned into my writing.

LCR: How has your own Italian heritage influenced your writing?

JG: The genesis of my first novel, Birds of Passage, an Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was a graduate course at UT on the Progressive Era, 1880 – 1930. I wanted to understand the environment that my family encountered when they arrived as immigrants from Naples, Italy. I’m old enough to have known Italian immigrants born in the nineteenth-century. The famed poet, Jorge Luis Borges asked, “What will the world lose when I die?” When my generation passes, the first-hand connection to the turn-of-the-twentieth-century Italian immigrants will be lost, their culture, their thinking, their experiences. Writing Birds of Passage allowed me to reconnect with my roots. In Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller, the protagonist is an Italian-American from New York, giving the novel an Italian flavor. By the way, in Manhattan’s Little Italy, on Mulberry Street, the connection with the past is maintained by Dr. Scelsa and The Italian American Museum. The Manhattan launch for Appointment with ISIL will hosted by the Museum on Friday, July 7th.

LCR: If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

JG: We tend to romanticize the past, especially in troubled times. Perhaps I’d be present at the Sermon on the Mount. Marching into Persepolis with Alexander would’ve been a blast. If I could pick a person to be, Augustus would be an interesting choice. A clever emperor, administering over a peaceful period, living large. Okay, his wife poisoned him, but only paradise is perfect.

LCR: Are you working on another novel or project? Can you tell us anything about it?

JG: My next novel will be another Anthony Provati thriller with the working title, Drone Strike, and will include some of characters introduced in Appointment with ISIL, but each novel can be read independently. Drone Strike includes a victim of “collateral damage.” Where can they turn for justice? Without a higher authority to arbitrate, is the desire for revenge understandable?

LCR: Any advice for writers and authors?

JG: Read a lot. Write a lot. Criticism and rejection come by the bucketful. Embrace them. Persistence is one of life’s least appreciated success factors.

LCR: Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us more about you and your writing.

Meet the Author:

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn. He and his wife, Jane, have lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands. They now live in Texas.

Joe’s stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including The Monarch Review, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in June 2017.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest

Harvard Square Editions has released Appointment with ISIL, An Anthony Provati Thriller. Read the first chapter below. The book is available on Amazon (link provided), Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Apple.

 

Chapter 1

When her son Billy was sent to Iraq, Angie Dekker purchased fifty-two pairs of athletic socks. She sent him one every week. Like an hourglass, the pile shrunk marking the year until her son returned home. Pair thirty-two was in her hand when the two marine officers appeared at her door. She heard, “Fallujah,” “Killed in action,” and “Deepest sympathies.” The funeral at Arlington National Cemetery was mostly a blur. She remembered Taps and the folded flag clutched to her breast.

At home, a female friend tried to console her. “You’re an attractive woman with plenty of life ahead of you.”

She might as well have spoken to a corpse. Angie’s depression was as deep as a canyon. When everyone left, Angie cried alone. She anguished over Billy’s last moments like a stuck record in her brain.

Angie’s grief evolved into a singular desire to see where Billy died. The U.S. State Department blocked her visa applications; Iraq was dangerous even before the Islamic State in the Levant, ISIL, ate its cities. Frustrated, Angie flew to Istanbul. She approached the hotel concierge for a guide recommendation. He called an ex-colonel in Turkish intelligence.

Erol Dogan had gray, cropped hair, and a mustache. He’d lost a son in a military helicopter accident. He was sympathetic to Angie, nonetheless he recoiled at the danger of her requested destination.

Dogan said, “Mrs. Dekker, may I call you Angie? Please accept my condolences for your loss. Going to Fallujah won’t accomplish anything.”

Angie’s eyes wandered to the horizon.

Dogan continued. “Why don’t you allow me to show you the real Istanbul? The Bosporus is beautiful, especially at night. I know an excellent seafood restaurant.”

“Erol Bey, you’re very gracious. I’ll go to dinner if you agree to take me to Fallujah.”

Dogan said, “I understand your need for closure, but there’s nothing for you there. Trust me.”

“I have money for expenses.” Angie reached for her purse.

Dogan raised his palm. “I don’t want payment. It’s a matter of safety.”

She took his hand in both of hers. “I beg you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’ll go on my own.”

“A woman shouldn’t travel alone. Men will take advantage.”

“Then guide me.”

Dogan said, “Give me the chance to dissuade you over dinner.”

Angie released Dogan’s hand. “I’m not hungry.”

“Please.”

Angie said, “Excuse me. I need to get ready. I’m starting out tomorrow.”

The next day, Angie was at the Istanbul Atatürk Airport waiting for the Turkish Air flight to Diyarbakir. A shadow fell across her.

Angie said, “You followed me.”

Dogan said, “Angie, please don’t leave Istanbul.”

“I’ve decided.”

Dogan crossed his arms. “Perhaps I’ll have you arrested and sent home.”

“That won’t stop me. I’ll fly to Amman and enter Iraq through Jordan.”

Dogan puffed out a breath. “You’re being stubborn.”

Her eyes held his. “I will go to Fallujah. Erol Bey, have you gotten over your son’s death?”

Dogan broke eye contact. “No.”

“Then you should understand. Will you help me?”

Dogan sighed. He sat next to her. “You can’t go alone.” He rubbed his forehead. “If I agree, you must follow my instructions.”

“Of course.”

“We must cover your blonde hair, or you’ll be recognized as foreign. We’ll buy you Arabic dress.”

Angie offered him money in a pink pouch.

He refused. “You’ll need that when we’re back in Istanbul. Insha’Allah.”

Angie gave him a tight smile.

Dogan made a couple of phone calls.

The two-hour flight was bumpy. Dogan had prearranged a taxi for the six-hour, two-hundred-mile trip to Silopi at the Iraqi border. Dogan cautioned Angie not to say, “Kurdistan,” as a Turkish inspector in fatigues reviewed her passport and kept a copy. Dogan showed the inspector his credentials, and the man saluted.

A huge yellow sun pictured in a red, white, and green Kurdish flag flew over the customs building when they crossed the Habur River into Iraq. Dogan negotiated a ten-day visa, lying about Angie’s purpose and paying the Iraqi stamp tax.

“The south is aboil,” the uniformed officer said.

Dogan grimaced. Angie smelled the sour sweat that rose on Dogan’s back. In Zahko, they procured another taxi, a gray Renault with the “e” lost from the Magane hatchback logo. Dogan told the driver that Erbil was their destination.

As the car passed brown hills with patches of green, Dogan turned to Angie. “Don’t be alarmed.” He showed her the luger pistol he’d carried in his shoulder bag.

Her eyes widened.

He said, “It’s necessary.”

He leaned forward and put the barrel of the gun to the Kurdish driver’s head.

The man’s cigarette dropped from his mouth. His hands flew off the wheel of the car. “I have no money.”

Dogan said, “Drive. South.”

“Where?”

“Fallujah. You’ll be well paid.”

Al-ama. Give the money to my widow.”

The taxi smelled of rose water and rattled like a box of wrenches on the three-hundred miles to Fallujah. They traveled at night. Angie dozed on and off. Dogan was alert. 

They arrived in Fallujah at dawn. The city looked like an ancient ruin with broken palm trees and spiked with mosques. Morning Prayer had begun. Atop a minaret boomed the melodic chant of the muezzin’s voice. “Allah Akbar…”

Dogan’s face glistened. He turned to Angie. “Fifteen minutes, then we go.”

The taxi driver’s head swiveled as he searched the street and nearby buildings. He left the engine running.

Angie wore a black niqāb and burga covering her from head to toe. She trembled as she opened the taxi door and stepped onto the dusty street. Billy died here, she thought, what a filthy desolate place, and tears welled.

The driver’s neck craned from the car window. “Let’s go.”

Dogan said, “Angie, we must leave.”

Angie sighed. She nodded and slipped back into the vehicle.

The taxi moved thirty yards. Two stolen U.S. military jeeps with camouflage paint appeared on either side of the street and sped toward the taxi, blocking its path back and front. A brace of dark-haired men in black flak jackets, gray pants, and boots carrying rifles with scopes and large magazines emerged from doorways on both sides of the street and surrounded the taxi.

Dogan’s fist slammed down. “Bok.”

Angie stiffened. Her stomach turned to acid. She put a hand to her mouth.

A tall, well-built man in a black skull-fitting takiyah and full beard strode to the car with rifle pointed. He said in Arabic, “Get out.”

The driver stepped into the street with hands raised. Two men grabbed him. He struggled, then burst into tears. Dogan grabbed the pistol. Angie touched his forearm. He nodded and left the gun when they stepped from the car.

The tall man turned to Dogan. “He’s a Kurd. You look to be a Turk.” His rifle pointed at Angie. “What nationality are you? Remove the veil.”

Angie didn’t understand.

The tall man’s voice rose. “Woman, remove the scarf.”

Dogan spoke English in a low voice. “He wants you to uncover your face.”

The tall man’s voice became excited. “English. Turk, what have you brought me?”

Angie peeled off her mask. She wanted to be defiant. She had the urge to urinate.

Dogan said in English, “She’s Swedish. A tourist. We meant no harm.”

The tall man stroked his beard. He spoke English with a British accent. “You didn’t pray. That was a mistake. Lying to me is another.”

The tall man turned to Angie. “I’m called Al-Nasir li-Din Allah. What’s your name and country?”

Angie glanced at Dogan. “My name is Angie Dekker. I’m Swedish.”

Al-Nasir tilted his head. He pressed the barrel of his rifle into Dogan’s chin. “Lie to me again and you’ll watch his head explode.”

Dogan said, “Don’t …”

Al-Nasir cracked Dogan’s skull with his rifle butt. He fell to the ground bleeding and unconscious.

Angie gasped. She bent to Dogan.

Al-Nasir said, “Tell me, woman. Now.”

Angie gulped. She didn’t look up. “I’m an American.”

Al-Nasir’s grin revealed white teeth. “And why have you come to Fallujah?”

Angie’s eyes rose. “My son was killed here. I wanted to see what he fought for.”

“Now that you’re here, what do you think?”

“He died for nothing.”

Al-Nasir roared in amusement. The men around him didn’t understand, but they smiled.

Angie said, “What will you do with me?”

Al-Nasir caressed his beard. “Something Shakespearean.”

The building where Angie was kept smelled like an outhouse pit. Bugs in her lumpy bed bit her left eye and it swelled. Fly bites itched and festered. Weeks past. She was grimy from unwashed sweat. Her hair was filthy and matted. An old woman, clothed in black, brought food and water and emptied her latrine bucket. Angie feared she’d be raped, but no man touched her. She worried about Dogan.

The old woman wouldn’t say what had become of him. She regretted involving the Kurdish driver. She had plenty of time to think.

When the old woman brought the orange tunic, Angie gulped. She didn’t want to die. She prayed for the first time since she was told of Billy’s death. The thought of an afterlife comforted her; she’d see Billy again. What if it all was a myth? There’d be nothing. They said that Billy died instantly, without pain, without contemplation of his fate. That was better, she thought.

The morning Angie was taken to the desert, something in the water tasted bitter. Angie became unsteady; her mind dreamy. The old woman helped her put on the orange tunic. The military jeep bumped along the sandy road, then swerved onto the dunes for about a mile. In her sleepy state, Angie saw a line of men, dressed completely in black, all but their brown eyes covered. The tallest man in the middle she guessed was Al-Nasir. Angie’s hands were bound. She was half-carried from the jeep across the sand to Al-Nasir by two men on either side of her. She thought, I must fight, run, scream, but her spacey head damped down action. They pushed her to kneel at Al-Nasir’s feet facing a camera on a tripod.

Al-Nasir spoke to the lens in Arabic. To Angie, it seemed a long speech. Dogan came into her mind. She said a silent prayer. Her vision blurred.

Al-Nasir’s last line was in English, “America, you can’t protect your women.”

Angie caught the glint of the steel knife in his hand.

Al-Nasir brought his lips close to her ear and said in a soft voice. “I’ll be quick.”

Angie gasped, and a black curtain fell.

 

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A  ‘Best of All Possible Worlds’?

I have, for some 2 decades now, inveighed  against EM (Eurocentric Modernism)  models of ‘society’ ( amongst other issues).
Let me repeat myself, here , for it simply  cannot stale by repetition.
I repudiate  virtually ALL  of its  variegated myths/idylls.
Let me list  but a  scant few…

We do not need  annual GDP growth.
We do not need mass production and distribution.
We do not need perpetual technical ‘progress’.
We do not need  a score or so years of   costly, credentialing,  ‘schooling’  robbing children/young adults of childhood , common sense, and innate shrewdness.
We do not  need an adversarial ‘democracy’, nor an adversarial legal /juridical system.
We do not need armies ,  navies,  and bases.
We do not need to toil, en masse, all our lives,  at meaningless jobs designed  by corporate agents under command of  remote Simon Legrees, only to be periodically ‘set free’ whenever it suits the latter.
We do not need  formal, empty, pledges of  a specious  ‘equality’.
We do not need  nations, and states,  and  other such dubious  lines in the sand, armed with decrees , fiats, and constitutions (drafted by  a few , privileged, of one generation, forever,  for others).
Nor ‘Parliaments’ that govern us on behalf of  distal power elites.
Nor ‘elections’  where we duly  ‘elect’ our oppressors.
We do not need global markets,  global trade, nor ‘competition’.
We do not need giant corporations running it all,  from  atop their ‘commanding heights’.
We do not need organized mass media filling our minds daily with dessicating  drivel.
We do not need  vast, organized ‘religions’  exploiting  fear , dread, and insecurity , with  vain promises of desserts  in the after-life. whilst propping up every iniquity of the status quo.

*

We do ‘need’ communal autonomy and self-management: albeit  within small gemeinschaft (face-to-face) communities , governed by  reciprocal, affective ties.
No: (and this is Imp to stress) this is NOT yet another new, arid,  manifesto of  ‘invention’ (like so much of EM sloganeering) .
It is  simply  Re-discovery of  extant antic norms, drawn from our real,  anthropic heritage.

What are these norms?
Here, but  a few.
Not competition,  but co-operation.
Not opulence, nor  power – but conviviality.
Not a material economy of  interests , but a moral economy of affections.
Not ‘civil society’ , but communal society.
Not  asocial ‘individualism’,  but ‘mutualism’ (to coin a term).
Not ‘majority rule’, but consensual orderings evolving over time.
Not nihilistic ‘freedoms’,  but positive enablements to better our conjoint welfare.
Not endlessly  ‘doing’, or ‘becoming’,   as some perpetual motion machine , but, more importantly,  in  ‘being’.
Not ’producing and consuming’ as though that exhausted  all of human potential,  but living, sharing, caring,  participating in the myriad qualities of  life  – at times,  by not producing and consuming.
Anthropic life, short as it is, is more  about qualities, than quantites.
That is  just how ‘we’ began our  long ‘history’ before sordid  empires (like EM, but  not limited to it) conquered and took over.

Such is our  ‘birth-right’,  a  parcel of our  essential species-being.
It is where we ‘belong’.
It is where we could  return, IF we are to be whole and sane again.
That bears repeating: we are NOT sane and whole in this  EM world of make-believe: a mere  five minutes of reflection on how we live our lives under its gathering panoply of constraints (which we foolishly venerate as the artefacts of ‘civilisation’)  would be sufficient to understand the inescapable madness of it.
Not to mention its callow brutishness.

So, no:  false salves won’t do – e.g., electing  a Bernie Sanders or a Jill Stein  (honorable as they might be) won’t cut it.
Not even as fantasy.
No, your life would be not a whit more meaningful if the two venerables , above,  were to be Co-Presidents for Life.
Global ‘free’  Markets, Universal Wage-Slavery, and  mindless production of disutilities to help swell  the coffers of even more billionaires – even with slightly higher minimum wages and health insurance –   would still give us a treadmill.
And,  take note: a treadmill is a treadmill is a treadmill.

In fact, let me bring my Argument  home , succinctly.
It wouldn’t work any better  if YOU – yes, you – were elected Prez.
You see:  it’s NOT the subjective qualities/graces of the individual (nor the  lofty slogans of the Party, or Platform),  running for Prez, or Prime Minister,  that matters –  in the slightest.
And it is quite astonishing how ALL  entities on  the EM political spectrum are even now, in these latter days,   seriously deluded in this regard (showing how successful is its   hegemony).
It is, au contraire,  the (inexorably ill-founded) SYSTEM  – that I term  EM –  as a whole  that is pernicious.

Worse, we didn’t  – contrary to legend –  buy it  all at some open , smiling, supermarket of ‘free choice’( that EM venerates as an idyll: in stark contrast to the contrary real-life observance of it): it was  violently thrust upon  a hapless ppopulace  by the masters of the economy and polity centuries ago in Europe –  and then propagated , fiercely, across the globe – by  brute force.
As it is, to this day.

9781941861110-Perfect CODA.indd[2016 © R.Kanth, author of Coda]

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IPPY Award Winners Susan DeFreitas and Harriet Levin Millan

Harriet and Susan

Susan DeFreitas and Harriet Levin Millan donned their medals May 30th, 2017 at the Independent Publishers (IPPY) award ceremony at Copacabana in New York. The sizzling Gold Medal Winner Hot Season is DeFreitas’ debut eco-novel. Millan’s true-fiction novel How Fast Can You Run portraying a migrant in Sudan won a bronze medal.

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Spotlight on Kyla Bennett at the Sharon Public Library

The Sharon Public Library interviews Kyla Bennett, author of No Worse Sin

1. As noted in your biography, you have a lot of experience in the fields of environmentalism and naturalism. What led you from that into writing? How has your knowledge of these topics influenced your writing?

            I have always loved writing fiction, and tried my hand at writing my first book when I was ten years old. As I began working in the environmental field, I realized how little people really knew about biology, the environment, and animals. I also knew the power of books—when my daughter and all her friends were obsessed with the latest vampire book du jour, I decided that it would be a good idea to try to combine a young adult romance with critical environmental issues to raise awareness about our planet. The work that I do today as my job as a scientist and environmental lawyer greatly influenced my novel No Worse Sin. People always advise to “write what you know,” and I did just that. Two of my legal cases involve pharmaceuticals in water and the critically endangered North American right whale, and both of these issues are highlighted in my plot.

 

2. Has your focus on environmental issues affected your book’s reception—in ways you anticipated, or in ways you did not?

            My focus on environmental issues has not affected its reception, but did cause one reader to tell me there was “too much science” in the book. However, others have told me that they loved the environmental slant, and it made them do more research into the things I wrote about. The environmental themes in my novel did help me get published, though. My publisher, Harvard Square Editions, focuses on publishing environmentally and socially conscious literary fiction, particularly things about climate change (i.e., cli-fi). I wish that more publishers focused on these genres, because we can change the world for the better by educating young people through literature.

 

3. You are a self-described “avid reader.” Which books have made your “Best 3 Books of All Time” list?

            It’s really hard for me to select my three favorite books because I have so many! One is easy—Watership Down by Richard Adams has to be my all-time favorite book. I read it as a child when it first came out, and numerous times since then. I recommend it to everyone, children and adults alike—it is timeless and ageless. I’d have to say that two of my other favorite books are The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas, and And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. But I have so many more! (I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I also adore any book by Louise Penny, Tana French, and Liane Moriarty, three wonderful female mystery writers from Canada, the UK, and Australia, respectively.)

 

4. Who or what do you rely on to give you good recommendations when you are looking for a new book or author to read?

            I rely on my friends, my mother, and my library to give me good book recommendations! My library has this cool app where you can type in the name of a book you loved, and it will give you suggestions of other books to read. I love it!

 

5. Is there a particular genre you enjoy reading (or writing)? Why is that?

            I adore mysteries, particularly British mysteries. I have a hard time reading non-fiction, probably because I get so much of that in my work. Mysteries are my go-to genre, and I can’t fall asleep at night unless I read at least a few pages. I think I enjoy mysteries so much because they really take me out of my present life and make me forget any personal struggles I am experiencing. They are all-consuming, and I find that relaxing. As far as writing, I love anything for and about young adults. I’m not sure why I’m drawn to young adult writing… maybe I want to try and change the world through the next generation.

 

6. There’s a recent trend, I think, in terms of YA novels being optioned for the big screen. Hypothetically speaking, if your book were adapted, what would your ideal casting list look like?

            I have actually spent time thinking about a cast for the movie version of No Worse Sin… and, I actually modeled the heroine, Laena, after my daughter (she is an actress). I think Leonardo DiCaprio would make a great father (Ben), and Julia Roberts or Jennifer Garner as the mother (Michelle). Cree is the big unknown… he would have to be a newcomer!

 

7. Are you working on any new novels or stories at the moment?

            I am working on two books concurrently: one is a sequel to No Worse Sin (I had always anticipated that it would be a trilogy); and the second is a book I can’t discuss because I will have to use a nom de plume. It will be a little explosive for some people, because it is based on experiences I have had and that my colleagues have had. I wish I could say more, but I’m actually in discussions with a lawyer about how far I can go with this book!

 

8. That sounds exciting! I won’t ask you to reveal more about this mysterious book, all things considered, but here’s a related question: Are there any local spots that particularly inspire you? Any that have made it into one of your works?

            There are two local spots that inspire me: Borderland State Park and the Hockomock Swamp. I have a half-written mystery that takes place in Borderland, and I have a book idea that takes place in the Hock. I love nature, and both of these fabulous places move me… I would love to share them with others.

 

6 Books That Will Change You

(according to Kyla Bennett)

All of these books either make the reader care more about animals, the environment, or the world in which we live, or they challenge the commercialism and standards that pervade our society today. I feel that literature has the power to change people, and I think each of these six books do that in one way or another.

 

Watership Down

by Richard Adams

The Dog Stars

by Peter Heller

The Story of

Edgar Sawtelle

by David Wroblewski

Nature Girl

by Carl Hiaasen

The Ethical Assassin

by David Liss

PopCo

by Scarlett Thomas

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Outtasite MOOC

On May 15, 2017, the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa will open Power of the Pen: Identities and Social Issues in Fiction and Nonfiction, a free massive open online course. This creative writing MOOC will focus on writing about identities, communities, and social issues in fiction and nonfiction. There is no cost to enroll; registration is completely free for all participants. No writing experience is required. This MOOC welcomes writers of all communities and identities.

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Post Mortem

By Rajani Kanth

love rent
like  a ravage
of war

admitted  no
outwarding
scar

heart
near strangled

spirit
entangled

riven,  I cross-ed
the bar

*

courting
gruff  ills

wooing grim
woes

under  a
nescient  star

Fate
or  the Will,  I
cannot much
say

nor how I
dissembled
thus far

*

give unto
love that
which is
love?

not enough! –
now there’s the
jar

one loves:
An-other consents
to be loved

ah, lovers
are Never
on par

*

that,  the bane
of  the passion
arcane

no truce –
even after
the war

lo,  after the
scarring

feathers
and tarring:

flares, invisible ,
from afar!

[© R.Kanth 2017]

Rajani Kanth is the author of Coda, a chronicle of the life, and afterlife, of the last human, in both flashback and future shock, after the apocalypse of the millennium, where timeless, misanthropic aggression, and blindness predictably destroy all life on Earth. Coda is a compelling philosophical, and quasi-theosophical, post-modernist narrative, that (re)solves eventually the Riddle of the Universe, from the unique vantage point of the last sentient being left alive to ponder the question of existence. It is the quest of a latter-day Siddhartha, albeit in the context of an apocalyptic  world  sundered by global  catastrophe.

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25 Oregon writers every Oregonian must read — assuming you like sex, strange obsessions and, yes, geek love

Via The Oregonian

Susan DeFreitas
The Michigan-raised, Arizona-educated writer and editor works in a variety of genres, from science fiction to poetry, though environmental themes tend to dominate. She is the author of the novel “Hot Season” and contributed to the Portland-centric story collection “City of Weird.” Her stories, she says, are “full of dreamers and makers and builders and wild children making forts in the woods.”
Andrea Lonas

Must-read book

Hot Season: Susan DeFreitas’ 2016 novel has been called “activist lit” and “ecolit,” and even though it takes place in the Southwest, it has a very Portland feel to it. “The book will bring you back to a time when you still thought you could save the world,” The Huffington Post writes. DeFreitas, in an interview for Fiction Writers Review, says the “main conflict at the heart of the book is one that you will find in many activist communities — perhaps part of what we’d call callout culture — when those newer to the cause who have a lot of fire, a lot of unrelenting, uncompromising black-and-white points of view, take issue with what they see as the backsliding of the older generation, of those who have been involved longer than they have.”

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#SJYALit May 4, 1970: The Day the Vietnam War Came Home, a guest post by Sabrina Fedel

Guest post for School Library Journal by author Sabrina Fedel

On May 4th, 1970, tragedy struck the campus of Kent State University when National Guard troops opened fire on unarmed student protestors. The Guard fired 67 rounds over thirteen seconds into a crowd of several thousand. M1 bullets struck trees, shattered windshields, and lodged in two separate dormitories where, moments before, students had been crowding windows to watch the protest. Four students lay dead and nine more were seriously injured, one of them paralyzed.

The nation was shocked, but also deeply divided over the Guard’s use of force. President Nixon said that night on television that he was sorry about the dead and injured students, but that “tragedy is invited when dissent turns to violence.” The National Student Association called for a nationwide strike to protest the “appalling use of force,” while news outlets interviewed average citizens who said things like “they should have shot them all.”

Kent, Ohio, was a typical college town in 1970. It had a robust bar reputation thanks to a vibrant music scene. There had been small protests in Kent, but the major clashes were happening at schools like UC Berkeley and Ohio University. No one predicted that the penultimate clash between citizen protestors and the Nixon Administration would occur in sleepy Kent.

On Thursday, April 30, 1970, President Nixon announced that American troops had invaded Cambodia to drive the North Vietnamese out of that country. Young people across the U.S. saw this as a blatant escalation in Vietnam and another broken promise to end the war.

On Friday afternoon, a group of about 500 students gathered near the Victory Bell on the KSU campus. Two graduate students who were Vietnam veterans burned their draft cards and buried a copy of the constitution because, they said, Nixon had killed it.

That night, students gathered downtown for their usual bar hopping. Some stopped cars to ask drivers what they thought of the invasion. A couple of trash can bonfires were lit. The police moved in and shut the bars down, pushing a large, drunk crowd into the street. A small riot ensued as beer bottles were thrown through store windows and at police cruisers. Police drove the crowd back to campus, but Main Street was a disaster.

On Saturday morning, rumors flew as people gathered to clean up downtown. Many residents believed that outside communist agitators, the kind they had been hearing about for months in the news, were waiting to descend on Kent to poison the water and plant bombs. These fears were not totally without foundation. The country had suffered a series of domestic terrorism attacks that leant an air of possibility to these fears. Kent’s mayor wasn’t taking chances. He requested National Guard support from Governor Jim Rhodes.

Governor Rhodes was in a tight senate race with a member of the popular Taft family and eager to establish his reputation as a “law and order” official. By late afternoon, National Guard troops had moved into Kent.

The students were ordered to stay on campus that night. This led to an impromptu protest and the burning of the ROTC building on campus. Bayoneted Guardsmen clashed with students as they struggled to regain order and lock up the dorms for the night.

By Sunday, the campus was calm again. Students mingled in the warm weather checking out the damage to the ROTC building and even taking photo ops with the Guardsmen. But there was growing unrest at the idea of being treated like naughty children. The students wanted the Guard to leave. They wanted the curfew lifted and their rights to move freely restored.
Their anger was becoming as much about authoritarian rule as it was about Vietnam.

On Monday, May 4th, students gathered to protest. The crowd of several hundred quickly swelled as kids walked through the commons on their way to noon classes. Many stopped to watch the guard march around and demand the students disperse. A small number of protesters heckled the guard or threw rocks. Chants of “One, Two, Three, Four, We Don’t Want Your Fucking War,” and “Pigs Off Campus,” echoed over the hillside. The Guard responded with tear gas, but the day was windy and it had little effect. The Guard, apparently in a show of force, marched down the hill to a practice field and became trapped between a fence and the protestors. “We have you surrounded,” they announced and a roar of laughter erupted.

The Guardsmen huddled on the field before walking back up the hill toward Taylor Hall. Many students thought the protest was over and began to head to class. When the Guard reached the top of the hill, however, they turned in one motion and began firing into the crowd. Not a single student was close enough to be a danger to the Guardsmen.

The Vietnam War, with all its ugliness and social injustice, had come home. Despite massive inquiries in the ensuing decade, no definitive evidence has surfaced to explain the Guard’s attack. Several Guardsmen claimed they feared for their lives, but no Guardsman involved has ever been able to explain why they believed that. An FBI investigation found the force used was “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.” Slowly, the massacre at Kent became the final straw in America’s tolerance for the war, leaving us with a legacy of questions, but also a clear sense of the unacceptable use of deadly force to counter unarmed civil protest.

_______

Sabrina Fedel’s debut Young Adult novel, Leaving Kent State, was recently released from Harvard Square Editions. Her YA short story, ‘Honor’s Justice’, was nominated for a 2017 Pushcart Prize, as well as a 2016 storySouth Million Writers Award and a Sundress Publications Best of the Net ’16 award. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. You can find Sabrina at her website, www.sabrinafedel.com, or on twitter (@writeawhile) or Instagram.

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Interview with Author of Gold Medalist HOT SEASON

Susan DeFreitas just won an Independent Publishers (IPPY) Gold medal for her eco-novel HOT SEASON

Author Interview: Susan DeFreitas

(via Rose City Reader)

Susan DeFreitas was born in Michigan, lived in Arizona, then moved to Portland, where she now writes realistic fiction and sci-fi. Her debut novel, Hot Season, has generated plenty of high praise in book circles. She’s one to keep an eye on!

Susan recently answered questions for Rose City Reader. You can also listen to a long interview of Susan on Between the Covers.

How did you come to write Hot Season?

I wrote the stories that would become the chapters of this novel during the course of my MFA at Pacific University. I had just moved to Portland from Prescott, Arizona, where I had lived for the past fourteen years, and I suppose these stories were portraits of people and places and experiences from that time in my life I wanted both to pay homage to and make sense of.

What is your professional background? How did it lead you to writing fiction?

I began writing fiction as soon as I was old enough to read it. My first stories were mysteries—by the time I was in junior high, it was fantasy and science fiction. But I had an English teacher who insisted I write realist fiction in his class. I thought it was snobbish at the time, and I still do, but it did lead to me to attending a boarding school, in my senior year of high school, for the arts.

I took a break in my study of creative writing between undergrad and graduate school—during which wrote for magazines, directed an arts nonprofit, and wrote marketing copy—but I was always working on a novel. In my early thirties, I decided to go back to school for fiction.

What is the significance of the title? Does it have a personal meaning for you besides its connection to the story?

Hot season in central AZ is not quite summer. It comes on with a vengeance around the end of April and tends to hit its apex right around the Fourth of July. That’s when the monsoons begin, and the rain cuts down on both the danger of wildfire and the heat.

But in those parched two months leading up to the monsoons, there’s a hallucinatory quality to the heat, as well as a real sense of danger. I found it an apt metaphor for the paranoia around government surveillance in this novel, as well as the sparks of attraction that fly between its characters. Hot season is also the time of year when much of the novel is set.

How closely does the plot of Hot Season hew to the real events that inspired the story?

The outlaw activist around whom much of the plot revolves is based on a real person, Bill Rogers, who was part of a group of radical activists based out of Eugene, Oregon, in the nineties, which was responsible for some of the largest acts of so-called terrorism in US history, totaling $45 million in damages. Like the character Dyson in the book, Bill was a graduate of Prescott College, my alma mater, and he, like Dyson, did establish an activist center that was raided by the FBI.

There are also some characters and circumstances based on the time when I owned a house in the barrio of Prescott and rented rooms to college students, all of them younger women. But that’s where the similarities end; in many ways, the book is an imagined version of their lives, as I graduated college in 2000, before the era when the novel is set.

Did you know right away, or have an idea, how you were going to end the story? Or did it come to you as you were in the process of writing?

Because these chapters started off as short stories, my process with this novel was a little different than is typical. The story that would become the title chapter—the final chapter of the book—was probably the third or fourth piece I wrote in grad school, in my first semester. I had the feel of it, the swing and sound of it, the aesthetic and the images, before I really had any idea what the story was about.

To get that—i.e., who these characters were, what they were doing together, and what these events were, in fact, the resolution of—I had to go back and discover the bones of the book, the plot. I had to develop the arcs and the through lines, the threads of connection that would converge there. But did I always know that piece was the ending? Absolutely.

Hot Season has been compared to another college novel, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. The eco-sabotage storyline is reminiscent of Jim Harrison’s A Good Day to Die. How do you feel about these kinds of literary comparisons?

Donna Tartt is brilliant, so any comparison to her is welcome. =) And I do think the comparison to The Secret History holds, in that college is a time, I believe, when we’re both really smart and really dumb—a time when a philosophy or idea or commitment can get ahold of you in a way that may define, for better or worse, the rest of your life.

I’m also happy you brought up Jim Harrison, as I am a native of the Great Lakes State. But in contrast to A Good Day to Die—and that other rollicking, wisecracking classic of eco-sabotage, The Monkey Wrench Gang—this is a novel first and foremost about women, young women in particular. As such, it’s not so much about high-stakes heroics as it is about the being willing to dedicate your life and career, early on, to incremental changes in culture and society that you may not even live to see. That, to me is real courage, and it’s completely unglamorous. Megan Burbank noted in her review of the book in the Portland Mercury, that Hot Season “depict[s] social agitation as, really, what it is: a gradual, infuriating, complex effort performed by smart, dedicated, flawed humans to varying degrees of commitment and success.” I really consider that the essence of what I’m getting at here.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I learned how to build a novel out of linked stories. Not just linked stories billed as a novel (increasingly fashionable these days) but a novel with real arcs, real stakes, and resolutions. For me as a writer, that often means looking at the end of the story and determining what needs to be set up in the beginning.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve been given as an author?

Alberto Luis Urrea: “Nil carborundum illegitimi—don’t let the bastards wear you down.” =)

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

As an author, I’m influenced by all sorts of authors, and my favorites include Ursula K. Le Guin, Denis Johnson, and Lydia Millet. But this particular book was most directly influenced by Ed Abbey and John Nichols, as well as the punk writer Aaron Cometbus.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

I write both realist fiction and speculative fiction, so my tastes are all over the map. But right now I’m really enjoying the work of an author who’s new to me, Laura Pritchett—her latest novel, The Blue Hour, set in small-town Colorado, is just a dream. I’m also enjoying revisiting the weirdness of Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link.

You have a terrific website and Facebook page and are also on Twitter. From an author’s perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book?

I’m a big fan of Jane Friedman, so I knew, long before I signed the contract for my first book, that I needed to own the domain associated with my name. I also used to work as a journalist and blogger, so I know how important it is to ensure that all the info these time-strapped folks need to cover us can easily be found in one place. That’s why I have all of my press materials—as well as links to all of my reviews and interviews—online at susandefreitas.com.

As for my Facebook and Twitter pages, I consider them not just a place to share my own news and views but links to articles of interest and to the work of other authors I love. That kind of literary citizenship interests me more than “look at me!” all the time (though I do think there’s a thrill for readers in sharing the writer’s journey). As for how important social media is—how else would anyone know about me or what I’m doing? Unless they happened to find me in person? In this day and age, social media is the marketplace of ideas, the big town square where we gather to discuss the issues of the day. Though it has its vagaries, I can’t imagine not wanting to be part of that discussion.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

Yes! In fact, I have a bit of a Northwest mini-tour set up for April, both as an author and an editor. Here are my upcoming dates (click links for details):

4-8-17:  Panel Appearance and Editing Consultations at IBPA’s Publishing University (Portland, OR)
4-11-17:  Author Appearance at Broadway Books (Portland, OR)
4-17-17:  Group reading for the City of Weird anthology at Post 134 (Portland, OR)
4-18-17:  Author Appearance at Annie Bloom’s (Portland, OR)
4-20-17:  Group Reading at Another Read Through (Portland, OR)

Upcoming events can be found on the home page of my website.

What’s next? Are you working on your next book?

Right now, I’m working on a series of speculative short stories with a strong sense of place in the three states I’ve called home—Michigan, Arizona, and Oregon—called Dream Studies, a project that’s being supported by my Patreon subscribers. I’m also preparing to dig back into the next novel in the series that begins with Hot Season, which is called World’s Smallest Parade.

 
THANKS, SUSAN!
 
HOT SEASON IS AVAILABLE ON LINE,
OR ASK YOU LOCAL BOOKSELLER TO ORDER IT!
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The Vale of Cashmere

by Sean Elder

green forest

This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others.

 

Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

“You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

“Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

“It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

“Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.”

Sometimes that really made Floyd angry. “Is that right? Every bad thing? I made happen every bad thing that came into my life, Marcy?” He would tower over her, breathing heavily, staring at the top of her lacquered hair until she was silent.

She looked closely at the big digits on the clock by the bed. It was almost 8:30 and she still had not done her makeup. From the drawer in the nightstand on her side of the bed she looked for her own pill organizer and then realized she had already taken it out. She put it under the light, right beside that picture of her two boys, smiling in the lap of a black Santa, and looked at Wednesday. There were still pills in the morning box but the evening box was empty. Maybe she took the evening pills by mistake. Not that it mattered ‘cause they were basically the same. Or maybe she hadn’t filled the PM part.

Looking at the rainbow colored compartments (Wednesday was green, Thursday red) she thought of Wilson, who had the hardest time with his R’s when he was little – “Weeding Wainbow,” he would say about his favorite show, and his brother would laugh at him. She felt overcome for a moment and then heard her husband’s keys in the door.

She took the morning pills, four altogether, as Floyd shouted at her from the kitchen.

“Do you know how much they wanted for a half-gallon of milk?” She imagined his face as he said the price and the way he would look at her afterwards. He might be looking that way right now, even though she wasn’t there.

“Cost of everything is going up,” she yelled back. Then she stood and headed for the bathroom. “I got to get a move on.”

“Ain’t you even going to drink your milk?” She heard him swear as she closed the bathroom door.

The bus driver turned out to be some white guy who’d been sleeping in the back while people waited outside. The whole bus was talking about it, even after they got out of the Holland Tunnel and were getting on the turnpike, people tisking and hmm-hmming until Floyd wanted to yell, “Who told you to stand out there in the first place? It’s not even cold.” But he kept quiet and sat by a window, alone thank you very much, though Tommy insisted on sitting right in front of him, while Marcy huddled on the other side with a bunch of ladies. They outnumbered the men five to one anyway; he let Tommy represent, going back and forth across the aisle like some congressman making a deal. Each time he went over to the ladies he would say something so low that Floyd couldn’t hear and they would all laugh and holler.

“I think it’s about time for some music,” Tommy said after one of his sorties. He had a gym bag with him that also said Mets on it, and from it he pulled a boom box that he tried to balance on the seatback in front of him. He pushed play and Johnnie Taylor started in on “Who’s Making Love” and the ladies all laughed, even though the sound was kind of wobbly. From the front of the bus the driver said something, they could see him looking at them in the rear view mirror, but no one tried to hear him. In fact Tommy stood up, with the boom box on his shoulder, and started to shake it in the aisle, which made the driver get on the mike.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” He had some kind of accent, Russian or something, but no one really paid him any mind.

The hits kept coming; it must have been some kind of collection since Floyd never heard a deejay. Tommy jammed the boom box between the headrest and the window so it wouldn’t fall down and turned around to look at Floyd, but not before looking at the driver, who had his eyes on the road again.

“How ‘bout a little taste?” Tommy said, taking a half-pint in a brown bag from the pocket of his jacket.

“Too early for me,” Floyd said, looking out the window. To him it always looked like New Jersey was halfway through being torn down.

Across the aisle Marcy was in the middle of a conversation with the other ladies but she didn’t feel quite right. It started as soon as she left the building; she had picked out a brooch to go with her blue blouse, a little gold tree with red apples on it, but she had left it sitting in front of the mirror. Now she felt naked, all that blue stretching out below her chin like an empty ocean almost and she felt like she was being pulled back from drowning each time one of them stopped talking. That meant somebody was supposed to say something, you were supposed to jump in like it was a game of double-Dutch.

“What I value most is the privacy,” Marcy said, but no one answered. She had a feeling she had said that before. The topic was assisted living and how to know when you needed it.

“Until you wake up privately dead,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. Marcy didn’t remember meeting her before, a friend of Helen’s was how she was introduced, but she didn’t like her now. She had these gray and white streaks in her hair, extensions by the look of it, but it reminded Marcy of mud. Besides she was probably the youngest woman of the bunch, what was she talking about dying for?

“My boy checks in on us every night,” said Marcy and immediately wondered why she had. It wasn’t true. Most times she had to call Eric and he never sounded too happy to hear from her. He did come to visit though, once a month at least. They saw less of him after his divorce, though you’d think it would be the other way around.

“Where are we?” she said suddenly, looking out the window. Everything looked the same.

“You keep asking that,” the lady in the Kente cloth said, or maybe she said. Marcy wasn’t looking at her and the music Tommy was playing made her feel lost.

“Sending this one out for all you ladies,” said Tommy, like he was some deejay, and they all laughed but Marcy didn’t think it was funny. It was that song about sitting on a park bench that always made her sad. “I see her face everywhere I go/on the street and even at the picture show/have you seen her?”

There was a hospital up there high on a hill and for a second she felt that the bus was going to take off and fly straight up to its doors. She closed her eyes and felt herself rise.

They parked in the lot of the Showboat casino. Though they could have gone anywhere they wanted, the thirty odd passengers that disembarked made for the Showboat as if summoned, shuffling and limping toward the entrance in a broken conga line.

“No one says we got to go to this casino,” Floyd said to the crowd of ladies leading the way.

“The Showboat has a Mardi Gras theme,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. She turned around to give Floyd the fisheye, pulling down her glasses as she did. “Besides, we got coupons for the Showboat.”

He fell in line sullenly beside Tommy who offered him another drink. Floyd took a swallow this time without pulling down the brown paper to see what it was. It tasted like mouthwash.

“Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

“Little peppermint schnapps.” Tommy tried to slap Floyd on the back but the big man danced away, handing the bottle back as he moved.

“What she mean by a ‘Mardi Gras theme,’ anyway?” Floyd said.

Tommy shrugged. “As long as they got free drinks and blackjack I don’t much care.”

Seagulls screamed overhead. Floyd saw his reflection scowling in the window of a parked Humvee. He went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras when he was in the Navy, how many years ago? He got lost and someone stole his wallet. A man dressed as a woman tried to put beads around his neck, he remembered. You could have your Mardi Gras.

Marcy was among the first of the women to enter the casino and the air conditioning hit her like a cold wave. “Good thing I remembered my shawl!” she said but no one answered. The music and the sound of the slot machines, dinging and ringing with sirens going off every five minutes as if some crime was being committed, swallowed her voice.

Marcy had thought to bring rolls of quarters and silver dollars. While the other ladies were getting change she was already pouring her silver into a red plastic cup provided to her by a girl in the shortest skirt she had ever seen.

“You must be freezing!” Marcy said but the girl didn’t seem to hear her. Maybe she just got tired of people trying to talk to her.

The slots area had thousands of machines and at noon it was already half filled, mostly old timers like her and Floyd. He and Tommy had set off in the other direction like there was a sign saying ‘Men, That Way.’ The carpets were in a pattern of red and orange and gold that reminded her of a kaleidoscope and the ceiling was made up to look like stained glass, though she knew real stained glass when she saw it and this wasn’t it. She felt like if she didn’t sit down she might just fall into the colors. She sat down at a quarter machine and began feeding it. She didn’t know where the other ladies had gone and looking over her shoulder left her none the wiser.

“Y’all gonna have to find me,” she said and as if summoned a different lady in a short skirt appeared.

“How you doing today?” she said. She had a tray filled with drinks and a notepad tucked into her belt. “Can I get you something to drink?”

“Well I suppose you can!” Marcy turned in her chair to show her appreciation. “My name’s Marcy by the way, I come here from Brooklyn with a bunch of folks from my church group.”

“Now isn’t that nice? My name’s Kim Sue. What can I get you?”

Marcy smiled and opened her mouth. But she could not think of the names of any drinks, not just the fancy ones but any drink. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back underneath her blouse.

“It’s funny,” she said, embarrassed. “My mind’s just a blank today.”

“Sure, no problem!” Kim Sue smiled back at her like one of those Chinese dolls, her name right there on her badge. “We have beer and wine and soda and mixed drinks.” She kept smiling at Marcy and continued. “I could make you a nice white wine spritzer, if you like.”

“Oh, that sounds nice,” said Marcy, and it did sound nice, like a sprinkler in the summer time, the kind the boys used to play in. Kim Sue left and Marcy returned to the machine. Cherries and plums rolled past, never stopping at the same time.

Eric used to chase Wilson through the sprinklers in the park and sometimes when Marcy wasn’t looking he would hold his little brother down and try to pull off his shorts in front of all the other children. She would get so mad at him, always teasing like that, knowing it would make Wilson cry and come looking for her, but she had a job then, looking after a little white boy named Oskar whose parents lived in Park Slope and worked all the time. Oskar’a parents didn’t mind too much when she brought her boys with her when she took him to the park. “As long as you remember,” the father said, “that Oskar is your first priority.”

Well of course he is, mister doctor man! Why would my own flesh and blood come before your little prince? Good gracious, the things that man would say. If the wife heard him she would weigh in and try to soften the blow. “What my husband means is that we don’t want you to get too distracted. Three children is a handful.”

Now that was the kind of thing only a white person would say. Where she came from three children was just getting started, even if she was done after Wilson, something her own mother could never understand.

“Oh, don’t worry, ma’am,” Marcy would say. “I won’t ever let Oskar out of my sight.”

All these people thinking someone was going to steal their child then, like the whole country had gone crazy. Soon they’d be putting their pictures on milk cartons and billboards and on TV during the news – “Have you seen Brandon?” Usually white kids. If a black kid went missing generally people know who took him.

“Here you go, ma’am.”

Kim Sue was back with her drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a straw that went in curlicues, like a roller coaster, like this was for a child. She started fishing in her coin cup.

“Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

Like I didn’t know that. She pulled out a Susan B. Anthony and put it on her tray. “That’s for you,” she said.

“Very nice of you, ma’am. And if you need anything else you just let me know.”

She turned to leave and Marcy was afraid to see her go. “Kim Sue, it’s like your momma gave you two names.”

“Kim is my family name. Family name comes first in Korean.”

“Is that right?” said Marcy. “Well I think family should come first, don’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Marcy thought that was something else she should write in her book but realized that she hadn’t brought it with her, and then forgot what she had said. “But they probably don’t spell it like that in Korea, do they? The Sue, I mean.”

“No, ma’am, we have a different alphabet.”

“Now isn’t that something?”

She was balancing a tray full of drinks while she talked to Marcy so she let her go, disappearing into the big Tiffany lamp around them. A band was playing Dixieland and Marcy strained her eyes to see them. The music seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

“Let me tell you another,” she said, sipping on her drink. The lady at the machine next to her looked at Marcy and then moved away, taking her quarters with her. She watched as the drink spun up the straw when she sucked. Here we go loop de loop.

Sometimes Eric would help her push the stroller as they went around the park, and Wilson would run so far ahead she would shout after him. “Don’t go where I can’t see you!” she’d holler, and Oskar, too big to be pushed around in a stroller, would try and stand up and yell after her. “Go where I can’t see you!”

Wilson would hide like that at home as well; hide so good she couldn’t find him sometimes. They were living in Prospect-Lefferts, more house than they needed but you could afford those big limestone buildings then even on a Con Ed salary and Wilson would go into different rooms and be so quiet that she would get hysterical, be practically beside herself by the time her husband got home. Then they would hear him laughing. “Got you!” he would say and emerge from the cupboard or from behind the sideboard and Floyd would get so mad. That one time he came out of her closet wearing her bra and Floyd just about went crazy; took off his belt and chased him.

She put in a coin and pulled the lever: a watermelon; a bell; the number seven in gold.

“What numbers are you playing today?”

She turned her head but nobody was there. Who had spoken? Just turning her head made the colors around her move and when she looked at the floor she saw the pattern there was moving too. It was like a flying carpet, the Vale of Cashmere –

The Vale of Cashmere! That was the name of that strange corner of the park where she took the boys now and then. They were getting older; other boys took the place of Oskar, and Eric got too big to want to be with them. But Wilson kept her company as she made the rounds, bought them ice cream and wiped their sticky hands. People used to call it The Swamp and there was a muddy pond okay and some hanging trees.

“How come you don’t play with boys your own age?” one of the kids had asked him once.

“I just like to help my momma,” he’d said.

He was the one who found out the real name of The Swamp, checked an old book out of the library and showed her on the map. There was a poem that went with it and Wilson stood up by the pond and put one finger in the air as he read: “Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/With its roses the brightest the earth ever gave?”

Another babysitter saw them by the pond once and came over to warn them. “You shouldn’t be down in there,” she said, afraid to come too close with her stroller in front of her. “They say men get together down there.”

And after that Marcy noticed them, lurking about, standing in the trees. Once when she came down with Wilson and a stroller two men ran out, going in different directions.

She didn’t think about it again for years, until Wilson was grown and still living at home, and he came back one night that first time with his face all bloody, drunk or high on something and smiled at her, blood on his teeth.

“Hey, Momma, I been to the Vale of Cashmere!”

That’s when Floyd said no more.

“What numbers are you playing today?”

She turned and the colors whooshed like a scarf being wrapped around her head. She saw her this time, a little woman, no bigger than a dragonfly like the ones the boys chased in the park, Wilson would put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, while Eric tried to cover it up with his hand so they would smother.

“I’m looking for three sevens,” Marcy said to the dragonfly woman. “Are there some other numbers to play?”

“That is the question, isn’t it?” said the faerie. “Are there other numbers to play?”

And then she flew away, just like a little hummingbird, and Marcy got up to follow her, passing into the pattern of colors and leaving her cup of coins behind.

Floyd went through all his money the first hour. Not all his money but all the money he’d meant to spend, the money he put in his shirt pocket, seemed to fly off the table. Dealer beat him every time: if Floyd had 18, the dealer had 19; if Floyd sat on a 19, the dealer hit him with two bricks.

“I guess this lady feels like she has to show us what a blackjack looks like,” said Tommy, when the dealer drew her third in ten minutes. She apologized to them both, even though they didn’t tip her, and Tommy’s luck was better than hers: He doubled down twice and made a hundred bucks in the blink of an eye. All Floyd could do, once he had spent the money he had earmarked for this outing, was sit there and simmer in his resentment while Tommy’s chip pile grew.

That was when Helen, the lady in the purple pantsuit, came and asked if he knew where Marcy was.

“I thought she was with you,” said Floyd. It came out like an accusation.

“Well, we agreed to meet for lunch at three,” she said, “but then nobody could find Marcy. We figured maybe you two went off together.”

And that’s how well you know us, Floyd thought. “Maybe she just went off to another casino by herself,” he said. Even though he was losing, and wasn’t even playing at the time, he didn’t want to have to leave his spot and go look for his wife. “There’s no law says we got to stay here.”

“Blackjack,” said the dealer, flipping another ace.

But after a minute he did get up to look, as he knew he would, leaving Tommy, who still had a hot hand and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

“Did you try the ladies room?” he asked Helen.

“That was one of the first places we looked. They have sofas in there, you know.” She paused. “Do you think we should call security?”

The suggestion made his blood pressure rise. “No, I don’t think we should call security. Christ sake, grown woman goes off for a few minutes and you want to call the cavalry?”

“Does she have a cell phone?”

“Our son gave her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it.” This was literally half true: Eric had given them each one last Christmas, and neither of them could figure out how to use it. By the time Floyd got the hang of it he realized that the only person he would call was his wife, which was kind of stupid since he saw her all the time anyway.

They looked all the places that they had already looked and the lady in the Kente cloth joined them, acting more concerned that Floyd felt. “We need a system,” she said, as they circled the room for the second time. The place was more crowded than ever and Floyd could hardly hear what she was saying. “How about I go stake out the buffet and you stay here?” she suggested to Helen.

“How ‘bout I go stake out the buffet?” Helen said. “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

Floyd said they could both go feed themselves and take their time doing it; Marcy would turn up. He stood like a sentinel beneath the bells and sirens of the Mardi Gras slots, scowling most of the time. He hated slot machines; there was no sport in it, as he often told his wife. Blackjack at least you were playing the odds. Slots to him was just dumb luck, like a rabbit betting it wouldn’t get run over when it ran across the road. Twice he thought he saw his wife, and each time he took pleasure in anticipating just how much grief he was going to give her. But each time he was wrong.

By four o’clock they were back together, Tommy too, and they began to set out in search parties. They were a small group: most of the travelers didn’t want to leave their stations, since the bus was scheduled to leave at six and this whole business had already cut into their time as it was. The lady in the Kente cloth, who finally introduced herself as Niobe, took charge. She contacted the hotel security, who seemed to have some experience with old folks wandering off, and as the witching hour neared, and the day-trippers started heading back toward the bus, she went out and argued with the bus driver, who was pretty adamant about leaving on time.

“You can’t just go off and leave an old lady alone,” she scolded him. The engine was already running, gently shaking the bus, while the AC gusted out the door in heavy welcoming breaths.

“I won’t be leaving her alone,” the driver said. “I will be leaving you to find her.”

He agreed to wait as they made one last search. A handful of them fanned out, going to neighboring casinos and restaurants, off the boardwalk and into the side streets. Floyd couldn’t help but think that Marcy was messing with him the whole time, and when he saw the impatient faces of the other folks on the bus – they’d lost their money and had their fill, they just wanted to go home – he couldn’t help but side with them.

Most of the people he saw as he wandered were wearing shorts and T-shirts. Used to be people would get dressed up to go someplace. And when did everybody get so fat? Walking down the boardwalk, bag of French fries in your hand, what did you expect? The new motto for the city was “Always Turned On,” which he found kind of creepy. There was nothing that he saw that turned him on.

Doors were open, air conditioning blasting out, cooling nothing. Floyd took to popping into places and doing a quick look around, not even asking half the time if they’d seen anyone who looked like his wife. One, they couldn’t hear you with all that noise and two, half of them couldn’t speak English.

“You seen an old black lady?” he shouted at one girl scooping ice cream. Her nails were so long he figured they might end up in somebody’s cone. “Blue shirt, about this high?” She stared at him like he was the one with the language problem.

He kept walking. Going in and out of the summer sun was making him dizzy, to say nothing of thirsty. He wished for the first time that Tommy was with him. That man would always stop for a drink. He saw people in those rolling chairs, being pushed by young people, girls sometimes. And you wonder why you so fat?

Down at one end of the boardwalk he found what looked like a real bar. The crowd had trickled off as the sun sank lower in the sky. Go on, get out of here. A lot of good you been. Floyd ducked inside and felt the rivers of sweat roll out from under his hat and chill on his face and neck. His glasses steamed as he took a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He perched on the stool and looked up at the game on TV. The waitress brought him his drink and man did that taste good. No skimping on the gin, either. He forgot to ask her about Marcy. His wallet was bothering him, he felt like he was balancing on it. When she asked him if he wanted to start a tab he simply nodded.

“You got a phone?” She pointed to an old-fashioned booth in the back, kind Superman used to change in. The place was filling up, young couples waiting for dinner. Went back to the hotel to put your dress shorts on? Once inside the paneled wood booth he forgot who he was going to call. Eric, right. He searched the scraps of paper in his wallet for the number he never had cause to memorize and let it ring, go to voicemail, and then dialed again.

“Hello?”

“This ain’t no telemarketer.”

“Hey, Pop.” He did not sound happy to hear from him and Floyd had already put enough change in the machine so he cut straight to the point.

“We in Atlantic City and your mother’s gone missing.” He backtracked from there, explaining the whole afternoon in greater detail than Eric needed, but never did his son sound any more excited than Floyd felt. He asked the obvious questions – had they called the police? Who else was looking?

“Did she have her cell phone?” he asked, pointedly.

“That’s why I was calling,” Floyd said. “I figured maybe she’d called you.”

Eric was silent, and Floyd knew that he knew he was lying. He imagined him at home, still in his work clothes, the sound on the TV muted, his eyes on the game. From his perch in the booth Floyd could see the TV over the bar. Jeter was trying to steal.

“I’m sure she’ll turn up, Pop. I mean, where’s she gonna go?”

“I know that.”

“You got your cell phone with you? So I can call you if she does?”

Floyd muttered something and got off the phone. That boy would go to his grave asking about those damn phones. He should just wrap them up and give them back to him for Christmas. Turn ‘em into salt-and-pepper shakers.

When he got back to his seat at the bar Jeter got picked off and he ordered another drink. Now they could send the search party out for him. The tumblers were tall and when he turned in his seat he found he had company. Big old white dude with long hair and a pointed beard. He was sipping a Budweiser longneck and looking at the screen. His arms were covered in tattoos; dragons, snakes and skulls disappeared into his shirtsleeves.

“Fuckin’ Yankees,” he said and turned to look at Floyd. “Nice hat.”

Floyd turned to face his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “You wouldn’t believe how long I had this hat,” he said.

“There isn’t much I wouldn’t believe,” the man said.

They got to talking. Turned out he worked in a tattoo parlor on the boardwalk, which explained all the ink. Half way through his second drink and Floyd was feeling generous in his opinions.

“Back in the day,” he said, “man had a tattoo it meant he’d been someplace. In the service, in the joint, you know.”

“I hear you,” the man said. “These days it just means you been to the mall.” He drained his beer and held up the empty. “Buy you a drink?”

“Let me buy you a drink,” said Floyd, and pulled out the fat wallet that had been giving him such a pain and laid it on the counter. Soon he had the pictures out and was showing him snaps of Eric, bragging on his job even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he did. Then one of the whole family, when everyone was young.

“Where’s your other boy?” the stranger asked.

Floyd made a face like he was sucking on a lime. “Wilson got killed in a hold-up ten years ago,” he said.

“Oh, man, I am sorry. They catch the guy who did it?”

“No, it was in Prospect Park one night. Lot of crime in there.”

“That’s why I could never live in the city,” the man said, which struck Tommy as funny. Most people would be scared of him, even in Brooklyn.

“So what happens when folks get old?” said Floyd, changing the subject. “Maybe they don’t want all those tattoos any more.”

“Shit, you don’t have to wait ‘til your old to regret something stupid you did.” The man laughed and Floyd got a glimmer of a gold tooth in his head. “People come in all the time wanting to have tattoos taken off, usually the name of some girl that don’t love them anymore.”

“Can you do it?”

“Sure,” the man said. “Hurts like hell and costs twice as much. But we can do it. Easier just to change it, though.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well, there was this one girl who loved a guy named Chris and had it tattooed on her ass. Until she found Jesus and then we just added a ‘T’.”

He didn’t smile at first and it took Floyd a minute to figure it was a joke. He smiled first. “Hey, I got one,” he said. The stranger’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. “There was this guy who loved this old girl so much he had her name tattooed on his Johnson.”

“Now that’s gotta hurt!”

“Hell, yeah.” Floyd wiped his mouth. “Then they broke up, you know, and soon he started missing her real bad. So he went all over looking for her, from Wisconsin all the way down to Jamaica. Then he’s in the bathroom one day and he looks over and he sees this other guy’s dick.” He stopped for a minute. The stranger kept staring at him. “Now I can’t remember that girl’s name.”

“Is it important?”

“Yeah, it’s the whole punch line.”

“Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

He felt flushed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. There he stared straight ahead at the wall and read all the graffiti as if looking for a message. And by the time he got back to the bar he was not surprised to see the stranger was gone and with him his wallet though all Floyd could feel was a keen sense of disappointment: He remembered the end of the joke now. He had remembered that old girl’s name.

______________________

‘Vale of Cashmere’ was first published by Harvard Square Editions in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others. Sean Elder’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Salon, Slate, Vogue, Elle, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Details and many other publications. The essay he contributed to the collection of men’s writings The Bastard On the Couch (Morrow, 2004) was reprinted on three continents; his essay on ecstasy, included in the collection of drug writings entitled White Rabbit (Chronicle Books, 1995) was called “seminal” by Granta; and a piece he wrote about being a stay-at-home dad for Oprah was included in her best of O collection, Live Your Best Life (Oxmoor, 2005). He has co-authored several books, including Websites That Work with designer Roger Black (Adobe Press, 1997) and Mission Al Jazeera with former Marine captain Josh Rushing (Palgrave, 2007). He also works as a book doctor and helped edit the forthcoming Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa (Hyperion, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter.

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Stu Krieger Wins the Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting

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The 2017 Riverside International Film Festival is presenting Stu Krieger with its Lifetime Achievement Award in Screenwriting at their opening night gala on April 21, 2017

 

“I’m incredibly honored and flattered by this unexpected recognition from the RIFF,” says Stu Krieger.

Stu Krieger is a professor of screen and television writing in the University of California Riverside’s Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production and in the Creative Writing for the Performing Arts MFA Program at UCR. Each fall, he also teaches the Producing the Screenplay class at USC’s Peter Stark MFA Producing Program.

“As someone who spent the majority of my career in family oriented film and television, it’s especially rewarding that the award ceremony on April 21 will feature clips of my work along with comments from current UC Riverside students talking about what my film and TV projects have meant to them over the years.”

Krieger co-wrote the Emmy award winning mini-series A Year in the Life and was nominated for a Humanitas Prize for co-writing the Disney Channel original movie, Going to the Mat.

Among his more than 25 produced credits, Krieger wrote the animated classic The Land Before Time for producers Steven Spielberg & George Lucas

He also wrote ten original movies for the Disney Channel, including Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century and its two sequels, Tru Confessions, Smart House, Phantom of the Megaplex, and Cow Belles.

He has been a story editor and writer on Spielberg’s Amazing Stories and the supervising producer on the ABC Television series Jack’s Place. He served as the head writer and story editor of the animated preschool series Toot & Puddle on Nickelodeon in 2008-2009.

His first full-length play, Chasing Smoke, debuted in a staged reading at Garry Marshall’s Falcon Theatre in Burbank in July 2014. His short film script Bad Timing was produced by the UCR Department of Theatre, Film & Digital Production in March, 2016.

TOC_Cover - SMALL He is an Executive Producer of The Binding, a 2016 feature film written and directed by his son, Gus Krieger and also served as an Executive Producer of My Name is Myeisha, Gus’s second feature film which Gus co-wrote with UCR TFDP Professor Rickerby Hinds. Myeisha was shot entirely on location in Riverside in October 2016.

Stu Krieger’s first novel, That One Cigarette, a story of ordinary people making extraordinary ripples in the ocean of life, will be published by Harvard Square Editions in the fall of 2017.

Watch his TEDx Talk, “Choose Joy.”

(Via Riverside International Film Festival)

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Free eBook: Migrant Novel HOW FAST CAN YOU RUN


Join “The Smart Set Read” book discussion on Goodreads, and get your free copy of How Fast Can You Run, as a download on Amazon.com from April 3-7

 

INDIE Finalist — Winners to be announced in June!
A #1 Amazon bestseller in biographical fiction

Included in Reader’s Digest’s Best Books That Inspire You to Travel

A migrant novel based on the true story

of Lost Boy of Sudan Michael Majok Kuch

 

“The best war novel told from a young boy’s perspective since Jerzy Kozinski’s The Painted Bird.”

—Nyoul Lueth Tong, author of There is a Country:
New Writing from the New Country of South Sudan

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Author Abda Khan Honored for Her Work

Abda Khan

Abda Khan, Author of STAINED

The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation named lawyer and author Abda with a ‘True Honour Award’ Honouree for her work on women’s rights. Harvard Square Editions published Abda’s debut novel Stained, which has won acclaim for its depiction of a young woman struggling for her right to an education and to consent in all its forms.

Diana Nammi (left), the founder of IKWRO with Abda Khan (right)

Diana Nammi (left), the founder of IKWRO with Abda Khan (right)

Following the publication Stained, Abda has done much to raise awareness about the help that is available for victims and Survivors of “honour” based violence in media interviews, book launches, literary festivals, schools, universities and charity functions in Birmingham, Leicester, Yorkshire and New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Abda also writes short stories and guest writes for several publications, raising the profile of “honour” crimes. Her short story ‘The Lonely Path’ and poem ‘Forced’ were published by sister-hood.com and have been featured by AHA Foundation.

Abda volunteers for Birmingham & Solihull Women’s Aid and in particular helps “honour” related and forced marriage cases.
 
 

“Khan has written a contemporary Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a heart-wrenching and engrossing tale that challenges the definition of morality through the story of a wronged young woman fighting to come to terms with harsh realities and finding empowerment along the way.”

           —Booklist

 


Stained, by Abda Khan
Release date: October 3, 2016
Genre: Crime, Romance, Thriller
Paperback: $22.95
Ebook: $9.99
ISBN: 978-1941861325

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READING, WRITING, CHANTING: My experience at the 2017 AWP Conference

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BY HARRIET LEVIN MILLAN

I was elated. By an act of fate, I was scheduled to talk in Washington, DC. I’d been attending the conference for over 20 years, but this would be the first time that the conference would be located in the eye of an American political storm of this magnitude. Participants from all 50 states would find themselves in Washington during Trump’s first 100 days…[more from the Smart Set]

 

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Are small publishers doing all the hard work for the big ones?

Extracted from The Guardian, UK

by Ilana Masad

These days, it is minimally staffed and funded firms who invest in new authors. The giants avoid such risk, only picking the writers once their names are made

Independent publishers have existed since the 19th century; it wasn’t until the 20th and the 21st that we saw the industry dominated by a few corporations. “The Big Four” publishers – Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette and HarperCollins – have grown big by buying up small publishers. Hogarth, for example, was founded by Leonard and Virginia Woolf in 1917; now it is an imprint at the Crown Publishing Group, which is in turn a part of Penguin Random House – which itself used to be Penguin and Random House before their merger in 2013. Phew.

Some success stories have already been written about, both on the Guardian and elsewhere. His Bloody Project, published by Contraband – a imprint of Saraband, which is run by two people – was nominated for the Man Booker prize, for example, and Transoceanic Lights by S Li was published on a shoestring budget by Harvard Square Editions and named as one of the National Book Foundation’s Five Under 35.  (…more)

 

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Harvard Square Editions Author S.Li Receives National Book Foundation Award

Debut author S.Li received his National Book Foundation ‘5 Under 35 Award’ at the Ace Hotel in Manhattan on November 14th–a wonderful night for S.Li and Harvard Square Editions.

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S.Li’s debut novel Transoceanic Lights, Harvard Square Editions, 2015, chronicles the hardships of a Chinese family after immigrating to the US. China-born author S.Li, graduated from Harvard College and took up creative writing as a hobby when he was in medical school. Now he has a dual career, as a neurologist and as an award-winning author.

“A tender and persuasive portrait of Chinese-American immigration in the post-Mao era.” —Pleiades Book Review

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HSE authors from left: Abda Khan, S.LI, Harriet Levin Millan

Transoceanic Lights was selected by an author who won the award last year, Karen Bender (below, right, with Harriet Levin Millan, left, author of How Fast Can You Run, Harvard Square Editions, 2016). Next year, S.Li will select a ‘5 Under 35 Award’ winner.

 

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“For me it was especially wonderful because I got to meet other HSE authors!”says HSE author Harriet Levin Millan, pictured left. “What a treat to actually meet them.” With Harriet pictured below, are New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature winner Kelvin Christopher James (People and Peppers, Harvard Square Editions, 2015), center, and debut author Abda Khan (Stained, Harvard Square Editions, 2016), right.

 

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The HSE authors and the other ‘5 Uner 35’ winners will also attend the 67th annual National Book Awards, hosted by Larry Wilmore, live on FacebookTwitter, and at nationalbook.org, are November 16th, 2016 at New York’s Cipriani (below, left).
 

 

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5 Under 35 Award winners, photo via Publishing Trendsetter

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

[…more]

 

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Available at booksellers everywhere

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NPR Podcast with author Harriet Levin Millan

How Fast Can You Run author Harriet Levin Millan and Michael Majok Kuch, the S. Sudanese national on whom her novel is based, talk to NPR about Harriet’s debut novel, scorpions and migration
 
 

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HOW FAST CAN YOU RUN’s Unusual Launch

by Harriet Levin Millan

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It wasn’t an ordinary book launch. The real life characters I fictionalized in my novel based on the life of Michael Majok Kuch, How Fast Can You Run (Harvard Square Editions, October 28 2016) were in attendance.

I got the chills just looking around the room and seeing them. They included my protagonist, South Sudanese national, Michael Majok Kuch, his American parents, two of his former employers and several other friends and S. Sudanese immigrants. However, in order to write a compelling work of fiction, I needed to invent them as characters with different physical features, names and personalities than they had in real life. All good fiction is expressive of an imaginary realm of being, and that’s the great paradox. The more invention a writer can imbue into a scene, the more truth it holds.

The launch was held in Drexel University’s Pearlstein Gallery, 3401 Filbert Street, Philadelphia, PA concurrent with the gorgeous textile exhibit “Warp and Weft” by PEW Fellowship winner, Caroline Lathan-Stiefel. HavingHow Fast Can You Run’s real life protagonist and his friends in the room, helped the audience to experience how special it was for me to have worked with Michael. For three years we sat side by side on his couch while the afternoon light turned to dusk and I tape recorded his experiences. Afterward, I would go home, write a scene, come back the following week, show it to Michael to be certain that I did not make any historical errors, and if I did, revise it. I became a witness to Mike’s life. I learned how the UN dropped food bags from airplanes too close to the people running toward the food, which landed on several refugees and killed them. Or how boys in Kakuma Refugee Camp constructed soccer balls out of bloody surgical gloves wrapped in twine and covered in torn socks. These are details that no history book contains.  

Drexel’s Africana Studies Director, Alden Young moderated the panel that both Michael and I participated in. When Dr. Young asked how the book came into being, I described the snowy January day that One Book, One Philadelphia’s director called me on the phone and invited me to choose ten of my undergraduate creative writing students to interview ten Sudanese refugees for a One Book writing project. These interviews were serialized in Philadelphia’s City Paper. Among the students who conducted the interviews was Deborah Yarchun now a rising playwright living in New York City.  Michael was the first person we interviewed.  Soon after, Michael, still a college student, asked me to write a book about his life. The moment I met him, I was overwhelmed by his brilliance and his buoyant spirit, which enabled him to overcome the trauma of fleeing his village in South Sudan at the age of five and live in various refugee camps for the next ten years before receiving political asylum to the US. So when he proposed that I write a book about his experiences, I jumped at the chance. Myself, a grandchild of refugees, I recognized the importance of telling Michael’s story so that it would not be forgotten the way my family’s history has been wiped out.

When Dr. Young asked how the book’s title got chosen, I explained that the reason Mike and I decided to title the book, How Fast Can You Run, was because we wanted people to stop seeing refugees as other and that we wanted people to understand that the unspeakable could occur at any moment to any one of us. At that point, Kuch explained how the book’s title particularly resonates with him.  

“Being a refugee,” he said, “means having to always catch up.” Besides its references to fleeing, he described how the title portrays his feeling, once he came to the US in 2000 of trying to keep pace with the people around him and having to work extra hard to stay ahead.

Michael, who now works as a Research and Policy Advisor in the Office of the President in Juba, South Sudan, will be appearing with me on our book tour. We will be speaking at several other universities, schools, Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum, synagogues, book clubs and other organizations. Once Michael returns to South Sudan, Charter for Compassion will be sponsoring a Global Read via phone conference on Feb. 22, 2017 with the two of us. Besides the Drexel Panel, we will participate in a panel moderated by Dr. Derrick Kayango, CEO of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta on November 17th at the Book Festival of the MJCCA.

 Praise for How Fast Can You Run:

“Generosity and justice prevail in the storytelling . . . an unforgettable individual portrait of all-too-impersonal war. ”

The Rumpus

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Meet the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35

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Excerpted from the LA Times, September 29, 2016

The National Book Foundation, which presents the National Book Awards, launched its 5 Under 35 program in 2006 to highlight the work of young literary talents; this year each writer gets a $1,000 cash prize and will be invited to participate in public readings.

Many past 5 Under 35 honorees have gone on to further acclaim. Nam Le’s short story collection “The Boat” won the international Dylan Thomas Prize; Tea Obreht’s novel “The Tiger’s Wife” took the Orange Prize for fiction; and two honorees, Dinaw Mengestu and Karen Russell, were each later awarded MacArthur Fellowships….9781941861301-JacketGray.indd

One of those writers this year is S. Li, who took up creative writing as a hobby when he was in medical school. The 31-year-old neurologist’s debut novel, “Transoceanic Lights,” was published by Harvard Square Editions, a small independent press.

“I had sent the book to the National Book Foundation for consideration for the National Book Awards, fully knowing that my chances were zero,” Li said from his home in Burlington, Mass. When he received the email informing him he’d been chosen as an honoree, “I thought it was a scam. And then I realized it wasn’t. I had no idea this was even in the cards.”

Li’s novel, about a Chinese immigrant family, is based on his own childhood. He was 5 years old when his family moved from Guangzhou, China, to Boston.

img-41“I was sort of teaching myself the craft of writing,” Li said of his years writing fiction while also learning medicine. “And so it just made natural sense to go with material that comes easiest to you, and that’s your childhood.”

Li is one of two immigrants honored in this year’s program. Yaa Gyasi, author of the critically acclaimed novel “Homegoing,” was born in Ghana and moved with her family to the United States when she was 2. [more]

 

 

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IS THERE LOGIC IN LOVE AND LIFE?

LLL-Perfect4.inddSPOTLIGHT ON UDAY MUKERJI, AUTHOR OF LOVE, LIFE, AND LOGIC; COMING TO A BOOKSTORE NEAR YOU ON NOV 29

Set in Exotic India, Singapore, and in Central Europe, Love, Life, and Logic captures the individual struggle of a young man against the seemingly unnamed, unknown, anonymous power of the universe. In a shocking revelation of his innermost thoughts, the book depicts a painful account of his emotional turmoil arising out of his own confusions and dilemmas, and his personal developments through all that.

Rohan grows up in a middle class family in a small town in Goa, India. He asks himself many life questions like we all do every day. Is our life and death an end in itself, or do they have a much deeper implication in a gigantic universal process? Is each human life also someway connected to the chain of events unfolding every day in front of our eyes? We all have different thumbprints; but why? Are we all a part of big numbers game, or does each one of us really matter? Chased by these and many such questions, Rohan leaves his lucrative job and his family in search of the truth. The journey gets complicated when he meets Adeline, a 23-year old vivacious girl in Vienna. Love, again? That brings him back to question his failed marriage. Is marriage an end of the road for love? Do all marriages come with an expiration date?

It’s the search and the road leading to his final realization that makes this book insightful and thought-provoking.

(Via Dehaggerty)

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THE ENVIRONMENT NEEDS MORE QUALITY FICTION

By Randal Eldon Greene

We read fiction to escape from reality, right? So why would one want to write about such a controversial, hot-button topic as the environment in their fiction?

 

Fiction can explore many things—many topics, issues, and instances of life. A novel like Frazen’s The

Corrections explores middle-class lives in the midst of a changing economy; Truong’s The Book of Salt explores Vietnamese identity and diaspora; DeLillo’s White Noise explores the quotidian ephemeral of distraction and white noise of daily life.

 

With so many potential topics to write about, why am I advocating one above the others?

 

Well—it’s important. In fact, it may be the most important issue of our time.

The environmental health of our planet both transcends and unites humanity together. That’s right, we’re all in this together and it’s bigger than us.

 

But why fiction?

 

Fiction is a forming and shaping of mindstuff through the sieve of imagination. Mindstuff, as I term it, is the material we use when we write fiction. Our stories aren’t creatio ex nihilo, but from something.

 

Certainly the environment, conservation, global warming, and green energy are topics which—even if we

were to actively try ignoring them—come up again and again. Environmental news is all around us. To think about the world today means thinking about the environment. Ergo, to write about the world today means writing about climate change.

 

Not that there aren’t other worthy topics. There are. And those should be explored too. But it could be argued that it is only climate change and the environment that are universal to all peoples of all nations.

 

Fiction also gives us a story. It allows us to explore the themes of human impact and human reaction to a damaged ecosystem. Stories can move us. Stories can tell deeper truths about humanity and its relationship with the Earth—the adage fiction tells truth with lies applies here. And, done well, it can tell truth in a deep and insightful way without climbing up on the proverbial soapbox.

 

That’s why we need fiction that talks about climate change. That’s why we need fiction to explore the complicated history of humanity and environment. That’s why we need fiction to imagine a future for us. We need these stories to compel us to look around at our world now and help us realize our own part in the reality that drives the story.

 

Yes, we need fiction—books, short stories, tales—to run imaginatively with the issues of our day. Because fiction can effect change, can help us look closely at the complicated issues of our day, and help integrate these topics into the social mindset without the divisiveness that even the best journalism and news headlines inevitably and instantly generate.

 

This isn’t to say that journalism and non-fiction about environmental issues aren’t important—they are. They are, in fact, the stuff we wrench from reality to make our fiction. Non-fiction is the number one source of our eco-topical mindstuff. We need that research to fuel our fiction as much as we need it for our activism: statistics, photographs, interviews. Fiction, using all of these, works in tandem with activism. Fiction adds to the equation its ability to touch a deeper psychological part of our brains. Make these concerns come through with the books and stories we write and we will help reach more people with a love for the Earth and a worry for what is happening to the Earth.

That’s why I wrote Descriptions of Heaven; rather, I let my concerns about the environment express itself

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in my book. Yes—it’s a book about a linguist, a lake monster, and the looming shadow of death. But it’s also about the Earth and ecological catastrophe. How far can we go before there’s no going back? And what if we do go too far—what do we, as humans, believe will follow when all is ruined? Can we really give up and let it get to this point? These are the questions my novel poses. But these aren’t the only questions or only environmental topics that can be explored. There’s so much more yet to be written.

 

We need more quality fiction about the environment. The environment needs more quality fiction. We the writers need to let our worries, our anger, and our love for the Earth find its way into our words.

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Nature’s Confession Receives Hon. Mention at NY Book Festival

The epic tale of two teens in a fight to save a warming planet, the universe . . . and their love, received an Honorable Mention at the 2015 New York Book Festival. The panel of judges determined the winners based on the story-telling ability of the author and the potential of the work to win wider recognition.

Via The Guardian:

Nature’s Confession by JL Morin: The eco-novel is wonderful and reminds me of classic science fiction I watched or read as a kid. It was a genre that fascinated me then, and this book has joined that memory. The novel is epic in that it doesn’t just tell a story (which it does do too), but it puts our very survival into question while romping through the universe or discovering new quantum physics that are both scientific and spiritual in nature. In the meantime, universal symbols are unearthed, codes are investigated, fat corporations are dominating, a romance is blossoming, computers come alive, and native tribes and Nature on another planet bring our own treasured past into the future.”

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Charles Degelman’s A BOWL FULL OF NAILS wins a bronze medal

 

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A bowl full of bronze nails for Charles Degelman: his new novel won a bronze medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. The “IPPYs” are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent and university titles published each year.

Shedding Skin: A Writing Professor Bares His Alter Ego

Charles Degelman teaches dramatic and narrative writing at California State University, but he’s spent most of his life outside academia. As a student at Harvard, Degelman and many of his peers became aware that America’s universities had become land-grabbing, ivory-towered, defense-research factories while outside their ivy-covered walls, there was a war to stop.

In this brief interview — produced and directed by Daly, a student in the university’s Television, Film and Media Studies program — Degelman drops his role as writing teacher to speak about coming of age in the 1960s and his participation in the resistance movements artistic collectives and communes, and the counterculture that arose— in the words of Bertolt Brecht — from those who practice their art “under the regime of bourgeois liberty.”

Charles stepped away from academia, determined to change the world through theater, music, and fiction. “It was a tough job,” he laughingly recalls, “but somebody had to do it.” He left campus life to pursue an anti-career as political activist, actor, musician, writer, carpenter, gypsy trucker, and utopian anarchist.

Years later, Degelman returned to university life, hoping to pass on what he had learned about resistance and the power of art as a tool for social change. In every class, a handful of students took notice and began to ask questions that lay beyond the purview of diction, grammar, and syntax. Cal State University’s Mathew Daly was one of those curious students.

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billmckibben 2 days agoSerious climate justice horror, as heat hits 109 F inside un-airconditioned St. Louis prison. Unimaginable. https://t.co/BNJi4zzSLa

Erika Raskin

  • The Disorganized Novelist’s Guide to Outlines
    The Disorganized Novelist’s Guide to Outlines By Erika Raskin Jun 16, 2017 This essay originally appeared on Publisher’s Weekly Outlining a novel in the traditional sense is impossible for someone whose car looks like a crime scene and whose kitchen cabinets are home to unnatural hook-ups between pots, pans, and Tupperware. For more go to: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by- The post The Disorganized Novelist’s Guide to Outlines appeared first on erika raskin.
  • Literary Launch Party: LIVING TREASURES

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    December 6, 2014 – Yang Huang launched her novel Living Treasures, a passionate quest for romance and justice, at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, CA, and will be reading at the San Francisco Public Library today. Having lived under the one-child policy in China, she imparts profound and moving wisdom.

    To make a real change, even a small one, you cannot expect it to be passed down from the government, but rather, it needs to start with you and your actions.

     

    An excerpt of Yang Huang’s talk:

    I have a day job, working as a computer engineer at UC Berkeley. As a writer I have a rather optimistic worldview. I like to tackle big social problems in my fiction, put my characters under the test, let them suffer, and in their darkest and most despairing hours, let them use their ingenuity (much like an engineer), and find some sort of relief or solution, not a cure-all, but a way out, so that they can move forward to rebuild their lives.

    Before I talk about my book, I want to tell you the inspirations for my story.

    First, it was the panda. [Hold up the panda picture.] Who could resist a face like this? But do you know its secrets? Panda is bear, with the digestive system of a carnivore, thus derives little energy and protein from consuming bamboo, which is 99% of its diet. Pandas in the wild occasionally eat birds, mice, or fish if they can catch them.

    To make up for the inefficient digestion, a panda needs to consume 20 to 40 pounds of bamboo every day. This affects its behavior. A panda must spend 10 to 16 hours a day foraging and eating. The rest of its time is spent mostly sleeping and resting.
    Bamboo species flower periodically, every 30 – 120 years or so. All plants in a particular species mass flower worldwide over a several-year period. Flowering produces seeds, and bamboos die after flowering. The seeds will give rise to a new generation of bamboos, but it can take years to replenish the food supply for pandas.

    When I was in middle school, we donated money to rescue the pandas from starvation, as bamboos mass flowered over large areas of the Min Mountains. It was one of the few fund raising events I ever had in China. The plight of cuddly pandas touched many young hearts. We wrote letters, essays, drew pictures, and told stories about these national treasures.

    My book begins with a mother panda eating a chicken, so that she could survive the winter and nurse her cub.

    Here we see the resilience of panda, and the girl who witnesses it.

    My second inspiration is the student movement of 1989.

    My heroine, Miss Gu Bao, her name sounding like “national treasure” in Chinese, grows up in the 80s.

    It was a hopeful time, a liberal time. After the dark ages of brutal prosecution and censorship in the Cultural Revolution, many western thoughts were introduced and flourished in China. For the young people, it was sexy to be in a debate salon and wrangle over ideological issues. Before long, people began to demand human rights, freedom, and democracy.

    [Holds up Qin’s picture]. This is Qin, my better half, during the heyday of the 1989 student movement. I didn’t have a picture, because people were still afraid of retaliation. Students began their protests at night, wearing facial masks to avoid being recognized or photographed. This might be mid-May, when the movement had gained so much support throughout China. It was “safe” to be seen as a “patriotic youth” rather than condemned as “a traitor conspiring to overthrow the government.”

    Soon the situation escalated. The Tiananmen Square massacre came as a complete shock. To this day, we don’t know how many were killed on the dawn of June 4th. The official story was that no one died in the square. The propaganda machine in China wiped out every evidence of the demonstrations and subsequent crackdown.

    My poor parents were grateful that I wasn’t in the Square that night. They told me to never speak of it. What good does it do, for the dead and living? My classmate, a hunger striker, dropped out of the university afterwards. I never heard from him again. Dr. Liu Xiaobo, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, is still imprisoned for speaking up about the Tiananmen Square massacre.

    The student movement in 1989 was a defining moment of my generation. We experienced the hope, joy, and heartbreak of losing a historical opportunity. I reflected on the tragedy for more than twenty years. I would write a story about the students’ fight but with a more meaningful arc. There were many things leading up to the massacre and following after that, but that night, inevitably the focus of my story is just a starting point, a central metaphor for Bao’s tragedy. I didn’t want it to end on Tiananmen Square. It needed to be in rural China, where a lot of the injustice happened.

    My third inspiration is the one-child policy.

    May I see a show of hands? It doesn’t matter where you were born. [pause] Would those of you not firstborns please raise your hands? [Yang counts] That’s about a half of the people in this room. You wouldn’t have been born in China after 1976, if your parents hadn’t fought hard to save your lives.

    Here is a little bit of history. In the 1950s, Chairman Mao, with a typical peasant mentality, banned family planning and encouraged women to have as many children as possible. The population grew from 540 million in 1949 to 969 million in 1979, nearly 80% of population increase within three decades. In the seventies the government tried to solve the population crisis by enforcing strict controls to slow down the birth rate. Aside from some minority groups, every couple could only have one child.

    The problem is: local governments all had their own rules and regulations to enforce the policy. Some people lost their jobs after having a second child. Others were fined. Like many policies in China, there was abuse of power and corruption was rampant. In some villages, one-child policy worker team hired thugs to threaten and beat up people, force collect the fines, and even kidnap the women and their relatives. Some women had their full-term babies aborted. (If the drugs couldn’t kill, a nurse injected medicine on the baby’s temple when the mother was pushing.) Some women died from the brutal procedures, while others were forced into sterilization.

    My fourth inspiration is a blind lawyer, Mr. Chen Guangchen.

    While revising Living Treasures, I learned about Mr. Chen, a civil rights activist who worked on human rights issues in rural China. Blind from an early age and self-taught in the law, Chen is a “barefoot lawyer” who advocates for women’s rights, land rights, and the welfare of the poor. That was the career path that I planned for Bao, that she would mature into a grassroots activist.

    To make a real change, even a small one, you cannot expect it to be passed down from the government, but rather, it needs to start with you and your actions. The victory isn’t achieved by the talks on Tiananmen Square but in every action you do, every person you help, and every sacrifice you make for the common good.

    The students in 1989 appealed to the ruling class to change the corrupt system. It ended in the massacre. That’s no reason to give up. What if we don’t fight, but live our lives to the fullest?

    Every person thinks s/he is free, despite what the government tells them, and live their lives like free people, take charge of their social responsibilities, and reach out to the less fortunate.

    I know Bao could do this, because Mr. Chen did it with some success. In 2005, Chen organized a landmark class action lawsuit against authorities in Shandong province, for the excessive enforcement of the one-child policy. What an amazing achievement for a courageous blind lawyer!

    In Living Treasures, village woman Mrs. Orchid already has a daughter. The one-child policy worker team forced her to have two abortions. When she gets pregnant again, she hides in a cave. There she meets Bao, who ended her pregnancy in order to continue her career as a law student. Bao is not impressed with Orchid at first, but she learns to admire Orchid’s strength and resolve to have her child. She ends up risking her own life to protect Orchid.

    The ensuing violence is a metaphor for the Tiananmen Square massacre. But Bao is more fortunate than the students on the Square. With the help of her soldier boyfriend, she is able to rise from her tragedy and becomes a human rights activist. Her journey will not be easy, and she will suffer a great deal for her choice, but she has taken an important first step, not only for herself, but for 1.35 billion Chinese people who don’t have the political power.

    You may ask why I wrote the story of a Chinese woman in English. There were several reasons. When I was a teenager, I was enthralled by the French writers, novels by Victor Hugo, Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas. Those stories from the faraway land seemed more realistic, vivid, and inspirational than the Chinese novels about the suffering in the Cultural Revolution. When I managed (believe me, it was hard) to put down the book and walked to the school, I no longer saw the tractors and oxcarts, motorcycles and bicycles in bright daylight but felt as if I were running down the dimly lit alleyways in Paris during the French Revolution.

    Then I was able to rise above the peer pressure, that I wasn’t pretty, intelligent, or popular at a prestigious high school. I was a captivated reader. The story of French people translated into Chinese was devoid of clichés yet colored by passion. I grew up and named my first child Victor, after my idol Victor Hugo.

    My 2nd reason was the censorship. My book would be banned, before it was even written in Chinese. I kept a blog in mainland China and learned many tricks to circumvent the internet censorship, [for example, using homophones to describe the taboo subjects]. Even worse is the self-censorship. A famous writer once said, “If you want to write honestly, you should write like an orphan.” I didn’t like being an orphan, so I’d say, “If you want to write honestly, write in a foreign language that your parents cannot understand.”

    I came to the U.S. at the age of nineteen, graduated from college at twenty-one, and became a computer engineer. At twenty-three, I had a midlife crisis. I went back to school, while working full time, and studied literature and writing. It was very hard work. From day one I knew I would support my writing life by working as an engineer. What got me through two decades of apprenticeship was not the prospect of being published, though it was nice that I finally got published, but the firm belief that I was doing something worthwhile. Having a job is to earn my keep from the society, but writing is to give back to the community my soul, my struggle, and my faith in humanity and future.

    Here is my 3rd reason to write in English: to communicate with people different from me—to educate them, entertain them, and affirm the values that we all hold dear: truth, love, courage, and selflessness.

    In a small way I was emulating the masters: Victor Hugo, Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas. Likewise, I wanted to tell stories of the faraway land that make people forget the trouble in their own lives, just for an instant, look up and see a bigger world full of people, who look like strangers, as you look more closely, you’ll find they are just like you, with the same longings, fears, and ambitions. Their children and your children will inherit the same world after you are gone.

    I got a lot of friendly advice over the years. They told me: You’re the first generation immigrant, and you’re a woman. You have to work and raise a family. You don’t have the luxury of chasing a dream. Wait until you are retired, your children in college, and then take your time to write. I didn’t take the sensible advice. Life is short. I’d rather multitask and fail, than wait and discover that my time has run out. If my life were a baseball game, I want to strike out swinging rather than strike out looking.

    I never argued with the wise people who warned me that I might fail. I had nothing to prove. Just do it.

    Writing is a lonely task. I found support in my friends and family. Just do it.

    1507476_1502346173373527_5548949826474802213_o

    It didn’t matter if I failed or succeeded. I am only limited by my timidity, my prejudice, and my own imagination.

    I told myself: Just do it. Keep doing it. And do more of it. Predictably, the wise people left me alone.

    I got a BA, an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. My life got more hectic after I graduated, but I kept on writing. I had children, and they slowed me down. I used to write a book in a year and half, but Living Treasures took me five years to write and five more years to get it published. If I were a hare before, now I am a turtle. I plug away patiently and take in beautiful sceneries on my journey. As I grow older, I have less time to write. I focus on the essentials, the emotions, and no longer cringe to cut my favorite passages in order to advance the story.

    I learned much from watching my heroine develop and mature in the course of a novel. A young woman who wants to become a lawyer, Bao has so much to lose at the beginning: her virginity, her baby, and her career. When she’s confronted with evil, her conscience wakens. She takes a stand for what she believes in and risks everything in her life.

    Do we have the courage to fight for our true believes? If we look deep inside, we’ll find a hero or heroine buried under the layers of politeness, the mundane, and the compromises.

    If we are true to ourselves, that hero or heroine will awaken, summon their courage, elicit help, and open doors to new careers, new relationships, and creativities. Life is not merely a thing to be tolerated but celebrated. We become free even as we are trapped inside this transient shell, this small building, and this unjust world.

    Thank you.

    If you like, I’ll read a scene from my book . . .

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  • Shape Shifting Santa

  • by Dr. Susan Patrice/Kasuku Magic  

    A theory cleverly uncommon
    Portrays Santa as a Shaman

    A revitalizing view, and also uplifting
    Was his practice of spiritual gifting

    Heaven and earth his chosen domains
    Traveling by sleigh tethered by reins

    Guiding flying reindeer
    One, not eight did first appear

    Climbing and Soaring in a star filled sky
    Gracefully that team would fly

    Gently onto the roof top they would glide
    Santa then stepping inside

    Pulling from his bag messages spirits wished to share
    Letting humans know they did care

    Offering hope and cheer
    For a more prosperous celebration the following year

    With encouragement to enjoy each moment of this day
    Honoring spirit memories on display

    The past, present, and future in a magical suspension
    Imbued with a visit from a timeless dimension

    Happy Holidays to everyone

    written by Dr. Susan Patrice/Kasuku Magic
    who recently died of cancer.

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  • Publisher Guidelines

  • Publisher Harvard Square Editions is looking for literary fiction of environmental or social significance.

    Its mission is to publish fiction that transcends national boundaries, especially manuscripts that are international, political, literary, sci-fi, fantasy, utopia and distopia. Send submissions of aesthetic value and constructive social or political content, especially manuscripts related to climate change, deforestation, and conservation.

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  • What’s On Your Bookshelf?

  • Wilson & Coughlon

    Elliot A. Wilson ’15 and Sarah E. Coughlon ’15 pose with their book collections. They are good friends but like to get competitive about their reading choices. Photo by Theresa Tharakan

    By ANNIE C. HARVIEUX, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

    Although many Harvard students find themselves too busy to read for leisure, an affirming amount of the student population collects books and reads for fun, amassing some pretty exemplary bookshelves in the process.

    Competitive Reading

    “We should probably tell her about competitive reading,” Coughlon says to Wilson. It turns out the pair’s massive collection isn’t just a hobby—it’s a full-fledged rivalry. Both friends use the website Goodreads to track what they’ve read. Wilson explains, “I’d started in high school, and was mean to Sarah freshman year about her reading habits, and it just so happened that Goodreads instituted a Challenge Yourself book-reading competition, and so we ended up not only challenging ourselves, but each other. We both read 100 or more books [that] year.” [more via The Harvard Crimson]

     

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  • Writing Jobs

  • The Sun is hiring

    They’re searching for an Associate Publisher to direct business operations, finance, and personnel. They also have openings for a Manuscript Editor and an Editorial Assistant.

    All three positions are full-time and based in our Chapel Hill, North Carolina, office.

    Click the job titles below for details. (No e-mails, phone calls, faxes, or surprise visits, please.)

    Associate Publisher
    Manuscript Editor
    Editorial Assistant

    More information is available at:
    http://thesunmagazine.org/about/announcements/2014/59

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  • The superstar assigns rights to his song catalog to his own NPG Music Publishing

  • prince

    Courtesy NPG Music Publishing

    Fresh from releasing “FALLINLOVE2NITE,” his latest single on Epic Records, Prince has announced that he is assigning the rights to his catalog to NPG Music Publishing, which means he will be doing it himself with the help of “some of the best talent in the industry,” according to the release.

    Prince’s last publishing deal was with Universal Music, before leaving the company several years ago. He had been inked to Kobalt Music for a label services deal but chose to release his latest single through L.A. Reid’s Epic label.

    The Grammy-winning multiplatinum icon’s songs, which he considers “fit 4 eternal publication,” includes such hits as “Kiss,” “When Doves Cry,” “Little Red Corvette,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” “U Got the Look,” “Purple Rain” and “Diamonds and Pearls,” most of which he played at a mammoth four-hour-plus show at the Palladium in Hollywood last month. NPG Music Publishing marks the first time Prince’s publishing has been independently controlled and administered in more than 20 years.

    (via Hollywood Reporter)

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  • FacedIn?

  • LinkedIn just became more like Facebook. Now everyone can write and post articles on LinkedIn, not just well-known business names. The new strategy follows LinkedIn’s disclosure that page views slipped for the second consecutive quarter.

    Now that LinkedIn ‘Influencers’ includes all willing and able writers, the company will use algorithms to distribute the most popular articles.

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  • For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

  • This article first appeared in the New York Times

    Say you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.

    That is the conclusion of a study published Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

    literature-articleInline

    Photo: Casey Kelbaugh
    Emanuele Castano, left, and David Comer Kidd, researchers in the New School for Social Research’s psychology department.

     

    “This is why I love science,” Louise Erdrich, whose novel “The Round House” was used in one of the experiments, wrote in an e-mail. The researchers, she said, “found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction.”

    “Thank God the research didn’t find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries,” she added.

    The 5-Minute Empathy Workout

    Curious to see how you do on a test of emotional perception?

    The researchers say the reason is that literary fiction often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity.

    The researchers, social psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City, recruited their subjects through that über-purveyor of reading material, Amazon.com. To find a broader pool of participants than the usual college students, they used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service, where people sign up to earn money for completing small jobs.

    People ranging in age from 18 to 75 were recruited for each of five experiments. They were paid $2 or $3 each to read for a few minutes. Some were given excerpts from award-winning literary fiction (Don DeLillo, Wendell Berry). Others were given best sellers like Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” a Rosamunde Pilcher romance or a Robert Heinlein science fiction tale…[more]

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  • The Bubble Has Burst

  • bubble-flowerThis poem by Sarah Strange first appeared at Poet in the Woods

     
     

    The recession hits us long and hard
    Jobs lost, our spending power is halved
    Utilities that we need and use
    Skyrocket – we’ve all got the blues!
     
    Some social services close their doors
    And luck runs out for local stores
    We grow our veggies, make and mend
    And where possible – don’t spend.
     
    The hunt for jobs is fierce and long
    And to succeed you must be strong
    The level of skills is very high
    Just the cream of the crop gets by.
     
    So, many strike out on their own,
    With business cards and mobile ‘phone
    After wading through a paper trail
    Of tax forms, VAT,  junk mail.

    It isn’t like it used to be
    You can’t retire at fifty-three
    And enjoy two holidays a year;
    The good times simply are not there.

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  • A Moral Atmosphere: Hypocrisy redefined for the age of warming

  • By Bill McKibben (HC ’82)

    This article first appeared in Orion Magazine.

     

    THE LIST OF REASONS for not acting on climate change is long and ever-shifting. First it was “there’s no problem”; then it was “the problem’s so large there’s no hope.” There’s “China burns stuff too,” and “it would hurt the economy,” and, of course, “it would hurt the economy.” The excuses are getting tired, though. Post Sandy (which hurt the economy to the tune of $100 billion) and the drought ($150 billion), 74 percent of Americans have decided they’re very concerned about climate change and want something to happen… (more)
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  • Cambridge divest from fossil fuel

  • We call on the City of Cambridge Retirement System to immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuelcompanies, and to divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years (more)

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Around Harvard

  • Eclipse (or Death: in keywords)

  • pumpkin

    by Rajani Kanth, author of Coda

     

    Vampires
    Draw deep:

    Medusa braces
    Sirens weep

    Birds cry out
    Serpents leap

    stale stupor
    drunken  thirst:

    scars incarnadine,
    unholy, burst

    primal longings
    pagan art

    darkling drops,
    draining  heart

    knows it best
    when swift to die:

    Slippage, breakage
    muffled cry

    myriad  lesions
    arride the  grief:

    no apostasy
    can snag the thief

    fond, forlorn
    thief of time

    foiled dreamings
    failed design

    the corpus dies
    sine die

    convulsed  pains
    screaming cry

    fighting breath
    To no avail:

    shatt’ring mirrors
    Senses fail –

    eyes aglaze,
    a world recedes

    falt’ring mind
    fain  impedes:

    in   the vortex
    tempests blow

    Creation’s plans
    belated show

    too late, a vagrant
    soul abates:

    at  the gates,
    who would  not wait:
     
    *

    lo , we depart
    as separates,

    we who art
    but One:

    We who art
    Unentities

    Under a goblin
    Sun
     
    *

    spirit  , a  guest
    waylaid ,  traduced

    in foul arrest
    bereft,   bemused

    in fever, fret
    severe,  ill used

    love gushes back
    to fill  the  void

    tender tasks
    forever alloyed

    time eternal
    angels tread

    in light, devoid
    quite,  of dread

    pyre of roses
    a lover’s bed

    painted black
    a rose bruises red

    like love, arises
    to be bled

    low , far horizons
    bend

    harbingers
    the coming end
     
    *

    within a dream
    the dreamer wakes

    within the world
    a world forsakes

    within forfeits
    what’s  brittle,  breaks

    *

    In its aureole
    the ultima thule

    no parole
    for prince, or fool

    O fearsome that last
    vestibule

    then it falls
    a storm at sea

    quaking mansions
    shuddering lea

    silence shrouds
    a final entropy

    flown is ether
    fled is breath

    o sad as cypress
    is a dotard’s d____

     

    [© 2016 R.Kanth, author of Coda]

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Brain Pickings

  • Let your LitVote be heard!

  • Vote for your favorite books by giving them some stars: just click on the book cover and scroll down to the “Write A Customer Review” button at the bottom of the book’s Amazon page to improve their ranking.

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by Ben Mattlin (HC ’84)

  • CONVERSATIONS ABOUT INTER-ABLED ROMANCE, part 5...
    Like all romantic entanglements, the reasons for their tensions—tensions, which eventually led the invisible rubber band between them to snap—weren't quite clear.  Or maybe they were entirely too clear.  Telling me about it, Shane struggled for the right words, but his meaning rang with the clarity of breaking glass. "For a while, she was planning on moving up here to be with me, to be able to help out with all my [...]

by Teresa Hsiao (HC ’07)

Sheila Connolly (GSA ’79) – Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen

Tweets

TylerJamesComicTyler James
@TylerJamesComic:
All of a sudden, though, you start stacking ComixTribe, Image, Boom, Action Lab, Valiant, etc... books against Big Two books...
26 months ago
RachelisAliencecil
@RachelisAlien:
we smell like coffee and old libraries filled with new books waiting to be read
26 months ago
aidanr1022Aidan Ryan
@aidanr1022:
When Dad has to hit the books in the middle of the day so he can support the fam @emrson11webster http://t.co/igjSlYR8cB
26 months ago
__regaladojessica
@__regalado:
forgot my books ?
26 months ago