Thursday, January 29, 2015

What Miranda July and Charlotte's Kathryn Schwille have in common

Miranda July

Question: What does award-winning Charlotte fiction writer Kathryn Schwille have in common with filmmaker and actor Miranda July, whose debut novel, "The First Bad Man," is being hailed as "so totally weird and wonderful" that it's like "watching an insane person dance"?

Schwille and July have been friends since high school?

No.

They were roommates at the Bread Loaf writers' colony?

No.

They both write about kinky sex?

Well, sort of.

The truth is, Miranda July graces the cover of a recent edition of Printer's Row Journal, in which Schwille's short story, "White Birch," appears. Printer's row is an experimental insert of The Chicago Tribune which goes only to premiere subscribers and which includes book reviews, long short stories and essays. Printer's Row, named for the area of Chicago where printers once had their shops, replaces the Tribune's former book pages.
In December, Schwille learned she was a finalist for this year's Pushcart Prizes, awarded to "important works published by small presses last year." The award was for her short-short story, "FM 104," which originally appeared in the literary journal Memorius. Other fiction has appeared in West Branch, River Styx, Sycamore Review and Crazyhorse. She was also a 2013 recipient of an artist's fellowship from the North Carolina Arts Council.




Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Leave it to Charlotte's Lee Ann Brown: A poem about poke sallet

Lee Ann Brown grew up in Charlotte. She is the founder of the award-winning, independent poetry press Tender Buttons and the author of several collections of poetry, including her most recent, "In the Laurels, Caught" (Fence Books, $15.95). She divides her time between New York City, where she teaches at St. John's University, and Marshall, N.C.

The following is from "In the Laurels, Caught."

POKE SALLET

is cooked not raw

              stay ahead
              of the red

Eat in spring
       cook when 6 inches or less

lymph cleanser

   2 boils

Do Not drink the potlikker

Eat the berry

1 on the 1st day
2 on the 2nd day
3 on the 3rd day

How far do you
spit out the poisonous seeds?

become a dynamic accumulator
bringing up minerals from below

Children in a school near here used poke ink
It was that with which they wrote

any daughter paints her arms

             the way to play the plants

   on paper the unfixed juice goes from bright magen-
ta to a dried blood color

the man who built our house
     first dreamed of a pokeberry sky

 but after a hot day of crushing berries
and smearing the boards, gave into Benjamin Moore

it's "hard to fix"

 that color more bright than cochineal

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Junot Diaz's ' Wondrous Life' tops list of 20 best novels in 21st century

One of my favorite writers, the Dominican-born Junot Diaz, topped the list of more than 150 novels of the 21st century named in a poll of leading critics by BBC Culture, the entertainment arm of the BBC's international website, which included choices from experts at the New York Times and Time magazine.
Diaz won for his Pulitzer-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007).


The winners:

1. Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007)
2. Edward P Jones, The Known World (2003)
3. Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall (2009)
4. Marilynne Robinson, Gilead (2004)
5. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections (2001)
6. Michael Chabon, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000)
7. Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad (2010)
8. Ben Fountain, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012)
9. Ian McEwan, Atonement (2001)
10. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006)
11. Zadie Smith, White Teeth (2000)
12. Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
13. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah (2013)
14. WG Sebald, Austerlitz (2001)
15. Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend (2012)
16. Alan Hollinghurst, The Line of Beauty (2008)
17. Cormac McCarthy, The Road (2010)
18. Zadie Smith, NW (2012)
19. Roberto Bolaño, 2666 (2009)
20. Shirley Hazzard, The Great Fire (2004)


Sunday, January 25, 2015

I'm in love with a man I never met: Amorak Huey and his liner notes

huey_spin_500 
For M, J, C, and S.

Track 1
There was that time we almost died, which is to say every day because that’s how life works, but in particular this is about the night we took the back way and then the dark shortcut around the back way, and the road went downhill and farther downhill and turned and turned and kept turning long past the point where turning made sense. How grateful we were to be so scared.

Track 2
The boys we were. The boys we would become. The boys who never existed. Someone is always going to be tallest, fastest, strongest, most handsome. Sometimes one person gets all the gifts. The day will be shaped by how the rest of us deal with such a discrepancy. Loyalty means holding hands even if you’re homophobic.

Track 3
There was that girl we each gave the keys to our mouth. Waited for her to choose. Back then we didn’t know the difference between want and other kinds of want.

Track 4
Our bodies crack open early. Our skin splits and lets in the lightning. One of us laid down a motorcycle to avoid killing a dog. Left a meaningful amount of flesh and blood on the asphalt, a beautiful and gory smear. A donation. The price of a forever scar.

Track 5
There was naturally the problem of music itself. Of choosing instruments and keeping time, and the way trees in the South take tentative root in the crumbling red clay. When you grow up in Alabama, you understand you are never alone. You understand the earth leaves a stain.

Track 6
There was that girl again. Every time she used one of our names was a kind of prayer, a kind of answer. I don’t mean to make desire sound more sacred than it is.

Track 7
All writing is done from memory. How much is lost between a thought and the recording of that thought? Between an experience and any pretense at understanding that experience. Between her lips and the lyrics that mention them. We were the kind of boys who drowned such questions in sweet tea and staying up all night.

Track 8
When a storm came from the south, it brought the gulf, the brack and bitter of saltwater, the scent of mystery. When it came from the west, it brought more wind than we could handle, all uproot and damage.

Track 9
There was a map of the city where we lived, its efficient New Deal homes and straight roads, all those mowed lawns and the churches that contained us. The highway a mile north. The rivers that carried us away. I thought I took the map when we parted, but I cannot find it.

Track 10
Imagine the disagreements. Some of us speak to speak, some to be heard. All of us know music is a substitute for sex but no one says so aloud. Is it still performance if there is no song and no audience? Is it possible to be keenly aware of the possibility of suffering if none of us has truly suffered?

Track 11
In any group of five or more, one of you is certain to believe wholly in the mind while another is all gut. The rest, rather than choosing sides, arrange themselves in reasonably orderly fashion along this spectrum. The most obvious error is thinking our patterns of behavior will evolve past this origin.

Track 12
Our problem was never a lack of self-awareness. It was awareness only of self. And each other. We were aware of each other. If you don’t realize how close to the edge we all are, all the time, every moment, close your eyes and see how long you can hold your breath.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Sunday celebration for Carolyn Noell's 'The Medicine Man's Daughter'

The Charlotte Writers Club will celebrate the publication of Carolyn Noell's memoir, "The Medicine Man's Daughter," with a reading at the Warehouse Performing Arts Center in Cornelius on Sunday.
This is a coming-of-age story of Dayou Tucker, a Liberian refugee who came to Charlotte to escape civil war.

Jan Blodgett, archivist for the Davidson College Library, says this about the memoir:

"This is a poignant and captivating story that reveals not just one woman's courage, but that of a whole community of friends and strangers whose lives are changed forever by knowing one another."

Noell is a retired teacher and counselor with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School system.  She and her husband Tom are involved with the Stephen's Ministries at Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Noell has also written a book of poetry, "Weathered Pine."

When: Sunday, Jan. 25, 2-4 p.m.
Where: The Warehouse Performing Arts Center, 9216-A Westmoreland Road, Cornelius.
Cost: Free and open to the public.


 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Enter the 2015 Doris Betts Fiction Prize contest and win $250

Doris Betts
I would consider it a supreme honor to win any contest with Doris Betts's name attached. Betts, a Statesville native, wrote novels and short stories that carved channels in the heart. She taught for years in the creative writing department at UNC Chapel Hill, and she inspired hundreds of students to become writers. If they didn't go on to write, they enjoyed a deeper appreciation for literature because of Betts, who died in 2012.

I urge you to find a copy of "The Ugliest Pilgrim," her stunningly wrenching 1973 short story about a young woman with a disfigured face who rides the bus from Spruce Pine to Tulsa in hopes a preacher will heal her. You'll find it in the collection, "Beasts of the Southern Wild," a 1974 finalist for the National Book Award.

The 2015 Doris Betts Fiction Prize is now open for submissions. First place winner will receive $250.

GUIDELINES FOR THE 2015 DORIS BETTS FIiCTION PRIZE. Deadline: February 15:
  • The competition is open to any writer who is a legal resident of North Carolina or a member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network. North Carolina Literary Review subscribers with North Carolina connections (lives or has lived in NC) are also eligible.
  • The competition is for previously unpublished short stories up to 6,000 words. One entry per writer. No novel excerpts. Stories do NOT have to relate to NCLR’s annual special feature topic.
  • Submit previously unpublished stories online at https://nclr.submittable.com/submit. Submittable will collect your entry fee via credit card ($10 NCWN members or NCLR subscribers / $20 for non-members/non-subscribers).
  • To pay submission fees by check or money order, make payable to the North Carolina Writers Network and mail to: Ed Southern, PO Box 21591, Winston-Salem, NC 27120- 1591
  • Documents must be Microsoft Word or .rtf files. Author's name should not appear on manuscripts. Instead, include a separate cover sheet with name, address, phone number, e-mail address, word count, and manuscript title. (If submitting online, do not include a cover sheet with your document; Submittable will collect and record your name and contact information.) If you have any problems submitting electronically, email NCLR's Submission Manager.
The winner and finalists will be announced in April. The winning story and select finalists will be published in the next year’s issue of the North Carolina Literary Review.
Direct questions to Margaret Bauer, Editor of the North Carolina Literary Review, at BauerM@ecu.edu.
 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dementia sets in as 82-year-old Etta walks 2,000 miles to the ocean

https://artelesnetwork.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/hooperweb.jpg
Emma Hooper

One of the most charming debut novels of 2015 will surely be Emma Hooper's "Etta and Otto and Russell and James," out this week from Simon & Schuster. You've probably heard the story line by now.

Eighty-two-year-old Etta has never seen the ocean. So early one morning she takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 3,232 kilometers (about 2,000 miles) from her farm in rural Canada eastward to Halifax in Nova Scotia. She leaves husband Otto a note on the kitchen table: I will try to remember to come back. Otto understands. But with Etta gone, the memories come crowding in, and he struggles to keep them at bay.

Russell is the couple's friend and a one-time rival for Etta's love. In fact, he's spent his whole life loving Etta from afar, and he insists on finding her, wherever she’s gone.

As Etta walks farther toward the ocean, accompanied by a coyote named James, the lines among memory, illusion, and reality blur as dementia sets in. Rocking back and forth with the pull of the waves, Etta and Otto and Russell and James move from the present of a quiet Canadian farm to a dusty burnt past of hunger, war, passion, and hope; from trying to remember to trying to forget.

In interviews, Hooper, a musician in her mid-30s who lives in England, says the characters Etta and Otto are loosely based on the maternal grandparents she visited as a child on their small farm in Sasketchewan. Her grandmother, like Etta, taught in a tiny school, and her grandfather did come from a farm family of 15 children.

With starred reviews in both Kirkus and Library Journal and named as People Magazine's Book of the Week, critics are lauding this novel about leaving and being left, about the need to remember and the need to forget and about following your dreams, no matter your age.




Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf

What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf
What inspired Etta and Otto and Russell and James?
Emma Hooper: Well, the characters of Etta and Otto are loosely based on my maternal grandparents. My grandma did actually teach in a one-room schoolhouse in Saskatchewan, and my grandpa did grow up in a farm family of 15 kids (and his hair did all go white when he was overseas for the war). So, I suppose, a mixture of that and letting my slightly absurdist imagination take over from time to time. I like to play little “what if” games with myself. “What if fish skulls spoke? What language would it be in? What would they say? Why?” Or, “What if, instead of taking the fastest, easiest way to get somewhere, you took the slowest? Why?” I put that kind of thinking together with the characters who help direct it, and, ta-da, a sort of story appears.
- See more at: http://www.bookweb.org/news/indies-introduce-debut-author-qa-emma-hooper#sthash.QkgI5BMg.dpuf