Friday, December 30, 2011

What were your favorite books of 2011?

Sometimes, my favorite books are the ones I never would have chosen myself. Take Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure.”

When my book club picked the novel last year, I gritted my teeth and began reading out of duty, not desire. But I ended up loving Hardy’s indictment of Victorian society and his colorful, flawed characters, especially Arabella Donn, a tarty barmaid who would fit in perfectly on several current reality TV series.

So, my humble advice: Try some books in this new year that aren’t your typical picks. To get you started, I’m listing a few books I particularly enjoyed in 2011:

“Zeitoun,” by Dave Eggers. In this nonfiction work, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-American and father of four, chooses to ride out Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to protect his house and business. Equipped with a canoe, he paddles flooded streets, rescuing people and feeding stranded pets – until he’s mistaken for a terrorist and imprisoned.

This spectacular piece of reporting makes our government look pretty awful. The New York Times has predicted that in 50 years, “when people want to know what happened to this once-great city during a shameful episode of our history, they will still be talking about a family named Zeitoun.”

“Bossypants,” by Tina Fey. A memoir by one of America’s finest comedians, complete with dorky childhood photos. Plus, you get Fey’s “A Mother’s Prayer for Her Daughter,” already an Internet classic. It begins: “First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither the Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.”

“Black Swan Green,” by David Mitchell. Known best for experimental novels like “Cloud Atlas,” Mitchell offers a semiautobiographical coming-of-age story in this rich, poignant novel. Thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, who lives in England in the early 1980s, must endure an adolescence made particularly miserable by his stammer, which, he says, “makes me shrivel up like a plastic wrapper in a fire.”

“When Parents Text,” by Sophia Fraioli and Lauren Kaelin. This collection of texts sent by parents to their teenaged and young-adult children is sometimes touching, always hilarious.Two examples:

Mom: My fingers are saying words. This is amazing.
Dad: You could poop in your pants in the yankee candle store and no one would know.

On that intriguing thought, I’ll end. Happy New Year, and happy reading.

What was your favorite read of 2011, and why? Leave a comment here and let me know.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Union County author writes an e-book cliffhanger

Serial novels made Charles Dickens a star. When his first one, “The Pickwick Papers,” was published over 20 months in 1836-37, readers clamored for each installment.

Now, Union County author S.L. Schmitz is hoping the serial novel might be her literary ticket to success, too.

Schmitz is among a growing number of authors publishing novels in installments as electronic books.

Her book, “Mina’s Daughter: The Harker Chronicles,” continues the Dracula story, as Katherine “Katie” Wilhelmina Harker searches for answers about her mysterious past.

It’s among more than 30 serial e-books published recently by Pennsylvania-based Trestle Press.

Sales of several of those, including “Amish Knitting Circle” by Karen Anna Vogel, are soaring. “Amish Knitting Circle” was one of six Trestle Press series that recently made Kindle’s Top 15 for fiction and short stories.

Serial novels aren’t as high-profile today as they were in Dickens’ time, but they’ve never died. Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City” was serialized in The San Francisco Chronicle in the 1970s. Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfire of the Vanities” ran in 27 parts in Rolling Stone in the 1980s.

Now, the rise of electronic books has created a convenient platform for the serial novel. Unlike traditional books, e-books can be written to any length, including just a few thousand words.

Through Trestle Press, Schmitz aims to publish an installment of two to three chapters of “Mina’s Daughter” each month. Each sells for 99 cents. She’s planning 10 to 13 parts in all.

Schmitz, a middle-school teacher who lives in Indian Trail, also publishes traditionally. Dark Continents Publishing is releasing her dark fantasy, “Let It Bleed,” in January.

She sees serial e-novels as “one way for authors to get control of pricing back.” A reader who buys every installment of “Mina’s Daughter,” for instance, will pay a total of $10 to $13, substantially more than the few dollars readers pay for most e-books by emerging authors.

Schmitz’s next installment of “Mina’s Daughter” is set to be published electronically any day now. It’s available through Amazon and

As it concludes, Katie realizes she is changing into a vampire. She’s boarding a train to Amsterdam, hoping to track down a professor who can help her halt the transformation.

What happens next? I’m afraid, dear reader, I can’t tell you. You’ll just have to wait for the next installment.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Charlotte author's novel up for national award

A big congratulations to Charlotte's Jenny Hubbard, who's one of five authors in the running for the William C. Morris Award. The annual award is given by the Young Adult Library Services Association for outstanding young-adult novel by a first-time author.

Hubbard's "Paper Covers Rock" (Delacorte; $16.99) is set in a boys' boarding school, where 16-year-old Alex is devastated when he fails to save a drowning friend.

Hubbard taught English before she quit to write full time. This first effort is drawing comparisons to John Knowles' "A Separate Peace." Pat Conroy calls it "one of the best young adult books I've read in years."

The winner of the Morris Award will be announced Jan. 23.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Johnny Cash book features Charlotte photographer's photos

In the summer of 2003, Charlotte photographer Daniel Coston photographed two Johnny Cash shows in Virginia. They turned out to be the country music icon's final public appearances before his death in September 2003.

Now, four of Coston's photographs are featured in "House of Cash: The Legacies of My Father, Johnny Cash" (Inside Editions; $39.95), by Cash's son, John Carter Cash. Among the four is the one at right, a photo of father and son.

"John Carter has said that he is very thankful that I was there, and got the photos that I did. Which honestly means the world to me," Coston told me in an email. "I shot those shows not caring what the outcome would be, but because I wanted to document what felt like an amazing series of events in the lives of the Cash and Carter families. As well as my own, as it turned out."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vonnegut biographer in Charlotte next week

Charles J. Shields will sign copies of his new Kurt Vonnegut biography, "And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life," at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Named a New York Times' Notable Book of the Year, Shield's biography portrays Vonnegut ("Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat's Cradle") as an unhappy man trapped in a bad marriage. Vonnegut had been cooperating with the biography when he died in 2007 at age 84.

Shields, who lives in Virginia, is also author of "Mockingbird," a biography of Harper Lee.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New Miss Dimple mystery from Fort Mill author

In "Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause," a new cozy mystery by Fort Mill author Mignon Ballard, we find first-grade teacher Miss Dimple Kilpatrick once again turning amateur sleuth in her small town of Elderberry, Ga. Set in 1943, this is Ballard's second Miss Dimple mystery, following last year's "Miss Dimple Disappears."

Ballard will sign copies 7-8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 9, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road. She'll also sign copies 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Dec. 10,
at Crossings on Main, 102 Academy St. in Fort Mill, and 2-3:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, at the BooKnack, 742 Anderson Road in Rock Hill.

Publishers Weekly calls Ballard's second Miss Dimple mystery "full of Southern charm."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Darwen Arkwright': A new book for middle-grade readers

Before he published his newest fantasy, Charlotte’s A.J. Hartley sought the opinion of one critic in particular: His son.

As 9-year-old Sebastian read “Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact” (Razorbill; $16.99), his dad watched his reactions closely to see passages made him laugh, which parts he found scary.

Hartley, a UNC Charlotte Shakespeare professor, is the successful author of several adult thrillers and fantasies. This new novel is his first for middle-grade readers, so Sebastian provided a valuable target audience.

He gave his dad’s novel two thumbs up, by the way. That you might expect, but Kirkus Reviews was similarly impressed, calling the book “an page turner that manages to be by turns spooky, suspenseful and touching.”

Like Hartley, Darwen Arkwright hails from a small town in Lancashire, England. (“Darwen,” by the way, is a town in Lancashire. “Arkwright” is a common local name.)

At age 11, the boy is sent to live with an investment-banker aunt and attend a posh private school in Atlanta. There, already reeling from shock, he discovers a mirror that’s the porthole to a beautiful and dangerous world. Darwen, it turns out, is a mirroculist, a who can see into other worlds through mirrors.

Over the past month, Hartley has visited fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms around the Carolinas, reading from his novel and answering “sensible, smart questions” about where he gets ideas, how he deals with rejection and whether his book could become a movie.

He has also fielded a few questions that adults seldom ask, such as: How much money do you make?

It’s different than lecturing college students, but he’s enjoying it. “Nine is about my mental age,” Hartley says. “I spend a lot of time pretending to be a professor,” but writing about Darwen “gives me the opportunity to be the kid I never grew out of.”

Look for more Darwen adventures. Hartley’s publisher has already committed to at least two more novels. And look for Sebastian to continue as his dad’s first and most important reader.

A.J. Hartley will read from and sign copies of “Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact” 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8, at the Morrison Barnes and Noble, 420 Sharon Road, and 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 10, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Mudbound' author in Charlotte with her new novel, 'When She Woke'

Hillary Jordan's debut novel, "Mudbound" became a bestselling book club favorite when it was published in 2008. Now, Jordan returns with "When She Woke," a futuristic retelling of "The Scarlet Letter" that Publishers Weekly calls "an instant classic for the 21st century."

Jordan's book tour will bring her to Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 6. She'll read from her new novel, set in a dystopian future where convicted felons are no longer imprisoned. Instead, their skin color is altered to match the class of their crime. Jordan's main character, Hannah Payne, has been "chromed" red after being found guilty of murdering her unborn child.

"Christian fundamentalists may shun this novel," says Library Journal, "but book clubs will devour it, and savvy educators will pair it with Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter."

Monday, November 28, 2011

A new book from Charlotte's 'Southern Fried Preacher'

The Rev. Harold Bales has been entertaining readers with his newspaper columns for decades. Now, the retired Methodist minister has a new collection of columns, "Southern-Fried Preacher: Musings from a Made-in-America Minister."

Bales will sign copies of his book 4-6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at Rehobeth United Methodist Church in Terrell and 10:30-11:30 a.m. Dec. 9 at the North Mecklenburg Senior Center, 16601 Old Statesville Road, in Huntersville.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Warmth of Other Suns" author here next week

Inspired by her parents' own migration, Isabel Wilkerson spent 15 years writing "The Warmth of Other Suns." Her critically acclaimed history chronicles the decades-long migration of six million black Americans who fled the South in search of better lives.

Wilkerson will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, in the McGlohon Theatre at Spirit Square. Tickets are $12. They're available through or by calling 704-372-1000.

Her 2010 book, which won a National Book Critics Circle Award, follows three African-American families who left the South for new lives in the North and West.

She'll sign copies after her talk, which is presented by the Levine Museum of the New South, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and The Mint Museum.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wilmington author's 'Pulphead' wins raves

With the publication of “Pulphead,” his debut essay collection, Wilmington’s John Jeremiah Sullivan is being compared to a number of nonfiction icons, including Joan Didion and Hunter S. Thompson.

Sullivan is funnier than Didion, certainly saner than Thompson. But I get the references. Like Didion, he can deliver a piece that captures the spirit of the times. Like Thompson, he can be gonzo.

Publishers Weekly praises his book as “extraordinary prose that’s stuffed with offbeat insight.” The Los Angeles Times calls the work “thoughtful, electric and alive.” In short, he’s a guy worth reading.

Subjects in “Pulphead” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $16) include Tennessee’s prehistoric cave art, reggae legend Bunny Wailer and Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose.

The book also offers an inside look at Creation, a huge Christian rock festival. Initially, Sullivan had planned a festival road trip with a van of hard-core fans.

It seemed a fine idea, until he posted a chat room invitation and learned the fans he was soliciting were young – very young.

“I had just traipsed out onto the World Wide Web,” he writes, “and asked a bunch of twelve-year-old Christians if they wanted to come for a ride in my van.”

One girl who responded tried to set him straight: “I’m not saying you’re a creepy petifile, lol, but I just don’t think you’ll get too many people interested.”

One of my favorite stories in the book is “Peyton’s Place,” Sullivan’s tale of renting his family’s Wilmington house to the people filming “One Tree Hill.”

The family was paid to decamp occasionally to a hotel so the teen TV show could film in their home, which doubled as the home of Peyton. Peyton’s character, Sullivan writes, was “complicated, deeper than the other teens on One Tree, which in teen-show terms meant that she often wore flannel shirts.”

Sullivan, 37, grew up in Louisville, the son of an English teacher and a newspaper reporter who covered, among other things, horse racing in Kentucky. His first book was “Blood Horses: Notes of a Sportswriter’s Son.”

Since 2004, he has lived in Wilmington. His wife, Mariana Johnson, is a UNC Wilmington film professor. They still live in Peyton’s house, but they stopped renting it out to “One Tree Hill.” It got too weird, he told me. Fans, however, continue to pay them visits.

GQ magazine recently published a version of his “One Tree Hill” story. Read it here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Charlotte native to read from "Growing Gills"

In "Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey," Charlotte native David Joy delves into his lifelong obsession with fish.

Joy, a columnist for the Crossroads Chronicle in Cashiers, will sign books and do a reading at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hot guys, ingested objects and other oddities

One of the best parts of my job is that publishing companies send me free books. Also fun is showing colleagues the really weird ones, the ones that make me think: Who's going to buy this? Why was it published? and This is stupid, but it'll probably sell.

It recently dawned on me that you, dear readers, would enjoy these titles, too. So, here's a first installment:

"Hot Guys and Baby Animals": A collection of photographs featuring handsome, shirtless men snuggling with cute animals.

"Stuck Up! 100 Objects Inserted and Ingested in Places They Shouldn't Be"
: Authored by three physicians, this book includes black-and-white photos of X-rays of objects -- a banana, Christmas lights, a screwdriver -- stuck inside various parts of humans and animals. It would be much more interesting if it explained how these events occurred.

"Jack and Jill Went Up to Kill: A Book of Zombie Nursery Rhymes": Zombies are all the rage, as you probably know. Last year, I got a copy of "The Zombie Night Before Christmas," so this one didn't even surprise me. The rhymes are also predictable: "There was an old Zombie woman who lived in a shoe. She ate so many children she was covered in goo."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Snow forecast Friday at Park Road Shopping Center

Jeff Kinney's newest "Wimpy Kid" installment, "Cabin Fever," out Tuesday, Nov. 15, has a winter setting. So when Kinney appears at Park Road Books for a book signing at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 18, he'll be accompanied by a truck that churns out snow.

You don't need to buy anything to play in the snow. But you do need to buy a copy of "Cabin Fever" (Amulet Books; $13.95) from Park Road Books to meet Kinney and get the book signed.

As long as a there's a child in line, Kinney will keep signing books. The signing starts at 4 p.m. on Nov. 18.

For more information, check out the Park Road Books website or call the store at 704-525-9239.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"God Bless America" author at UNC Charlotte

No, Steve Almond is not the guy who wrote the patriotic song. That was Irving Berlin.

But Almond, a prize-winning essayist and short story writer, has written "God Bless America" (Lookout Books; $17.95), a new story collection by the same name. Almond's publisher, Wilmington's Lookout Books, describes the collection as a meditation on the American Dream and its discontents.

Almond will read and sign books at 6:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Nov. 16, in room 200 of UNC Charlotte's Denny Building.

His previous books include the nonfiction "Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Charlotte's Julie Suk reads Sunday at Park Road Books

Charlotte poet Julie Suk's latest book, "Lie Down with Me," includes new poems along with selected works from four earlier collections.

"That's my whole life in that book, from my very earliest writings," says Suk, 87.

"Her poetry," says Michael Simms, her editor at Autumn House Press, "balances on that razor's edge between fulfillment and desire."

She'll give a reading at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Here's one of her new poems:


Splayed against the window,
its moth powder sifts
through the screen.

The eyespot on each wing
blind as I was toward those I loved --

meaning the ghosts who still
mill around in my dreams.

The dust of rue
must have been terrible
for my 103-year-old grandfather,
wives and friends he outlived
haranguing his sleep.

A lovesick boy once threw pebbles
at my bedroom window.

Huddled in a cocoon of sheets
I refused his pleas,

afraid he might break
through my green will, afraid
of loss even before I took flight.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Charlotte named one of America's best public libraries

After just missing the cut last year, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library has regained a spot on the Library Journal's list of America's best public libraries.

The library is among 262 U.S. public libraries -- and the only one in the Carolinas -- that the magazine designated this year as "America's Star Libraries." The ratings use data from four areas -- visits, circulation, program attendance and public Internet computer use.

One big caveat with these ratings, however: They're based on 2008-09 data. That's data gathered before Charlotte-Mecklenburg made huge budget cuts in 2010. Back then, libraries were open 1,521 hours per week, Charlotte-Mecklenburg library spokeswoman Cordelia Anderson tells me. Today, they're open only 824 hours a week.

"We are pleased with the designation," Anderson said in an email, "but we also acknowledge that it is a reflection of where we were three years ago."

This year, the Library Journal gave Charlotte three stars out of five. In 2008 and 2009, it earned five stars, the highest rating. But in 2010, it slipped off the list, just missing the three-star designation. The Library Journal describes its 262 star libraries as "delivering exceptional levels of service despite economic hardships." Learn more about the ratings here.

Friday, November 4, 2011

'What Writers Do': New anthology from Lenoir-Rhyne

They are a diverse bunch of writers, but Julia Alvarez, Billy Collins, Dori Sanders and the late John Updike have one thing in common: They have all paid visits to Hickory.

Since 1988, they have been among nearly 200 writers who’ve read and discussed their work at Lenoir-Rhyne University’s Visiting Writers Series. Now, this stellar series has produced an anthology, “What Writers Do,” to celebrate its achievement.

The book (Lorimer Press; $29.95) includes poems, fiction and nonfiction from 35 writers who have taken part in the annual literary series. Some selections, including memoir excerpts from Updike’s “Self-Consciousness” and the late Reynolds Price’s “A Whole New Life,” have been previously published.
But many poems and stories will be new to readers. Several nonfiction pieces also offer insight into the writing process itself.

In “Ghost, Come Back Again,” for instance, Joseph Bathanti describes how his first visit to Thomas Wolfe’s boyhood home in Asheville launched his writing life. In “Finding Louise,” Josephine Humphreys tells how a chance meeting with a Lumbee Inidian woman on a bus inspired her to write “Nowhere Else on Earth.”

Co-editors of this volume are Anthony Abbott, a poet and retired Davidson College English professor, and Rand Brandes, the Lenoir-Rhyne English professor who started and continues to direct the series.

The two split up the work of contacting authors and requesting submissions, and both ended up securing pieces with which they’re particularly pleased.

Brandes points to “Beacons at Bealtaine,” a poem by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. It has appeared on a website, but has never been collected in a book.

Abbott is proud to have Lee Smith’s “Goodbye to the Sunset Man,” an essay recounting the mental illness and death of her son. “It’s an astonishing piece,” he says.

The volume includes lots of engaging author photos by Hickory photographer David Crosby, plus some photos of contributing writers’ desks and workspaces.

Lenoir-Rhyne has hosted more than 150 authors who aren’t in this book, and that number grows each year. Already, Brandes is working on the next anthology.

The college is launching the book 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at Hickory's Barnes & Noble, 2405 Highway 70 Southeast. Nearly a dozen contributing writers will attend.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

'Ballad of Tom Dooley' author at Winthrop University

Sharyn McCrumb discusses her latest novel, "The Ballad of Tom Dooley," at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 3, in the Tuttle Dining Room of McBryde Hall at Winthrop University.

The talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by The Friends of the Dacus Library.

McCrumb's latest novel weaves together research and fiction to put a new twist on the story of North Carolina's infamous Tom Dooley, made famous by The Kingston Trio hit "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley."

Want to know more? Check out my recent story on McCrumb and her new book.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Davidson author's process is messy, but it works

Davidson's Garret Freymann-Weyr, author of five young adult novels and "French Ducks in Venice," a forthcoming children's picture book, explains to me that her writing process is messy. Really, really messy.

She tells me that she wrote one entire book from the wrong character's point of view. So then she rewrote it. She notes that her first drafts aren't the best. "You can't see how much you suck," she says, "until it's on the page."

And she says her first picture book, "French Ducks in Venice," to be published Dec. 13, contains content that might be inappropriate for children. This content includes unmarried parents -- though they are duck parents. Even worse, her two main characters, ducks Georges and Cecile, make prejudiced comments about mallards.

But in Freymann-Weyr's case, a messy process and inappropriate content beget highly praised books. Her young adult novel "My Heartbeat" was a 2003 Printz Honor Book. And "French Ducks in Venice" (Candlewick: $16.99), just earned a coveted starred review from Publishers Weekly.

In the story, Polina Panova, a dressmaker in Venice, Calif., has been dumped by her filmmaker boyfriend. Her friends Georges and Cecile, ducks who live in the canal behind her house, are indignant.

Freymann-Weyr's storytelling gifts "are unmistakable," PW declares.

Freymann-Weyr grew up in New York and graduated from UNC Chapel Hill. She'll discuss her writing at a free talk, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 8, in the 900 Room of Davidson College's Alvarez College Union. She plans to read from her novel "Stay With Me," she says, "and talk a little bit about how sloppy my process is."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Readers: Can you solve an apostrophe mystery?

Apostrophe errors drive me crazy. So I was shocked on a recent visit to London's Park Lane Hotel when I noticed the sign above. How did this posh hotel, I wondered, make such a big, honking grammatical error?
Then, later the same day, I saw another major apostrophe omission on a building: "Duke of Yorks Headquarters."
Was this a cultural difference -- like the way the British spell colour or recognise?
I asked a British friend. No luck. He uses apostrophes the same way I do.
Next, I Googled.
Along with discovering several British restaurants called Apostrophe, I found a Website for the UK-based Apostrophe Protection Society, evidence that some of our friends across the pond feel strongly about apostrophes. And I learned from a 2009 story that Birmingham, England's second largest city, had stopped using the apostrophe in city signs to avoid dealing with the things.
But I still don't have an answer about the signs I saw in London. Anyone have a clue about this? Anyone?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Buy a bag of books at Habitat used book sale

Julia's Cafe & Books, 1133 N.Wendover Road, holds a Book Tent Sale 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 21 and 22. For $25, you can get as many used books as you can stuff into one of Julia's tote bags, which is provided with purchase.

Julia's, as you may know, is part of Habit for Humanity Charlotte, so proceeds go to a good cause -- providing families with affordable housing. It's selling more than 7,000 books of just about every genre, including many for children and young readers.

On Saturday, in addition to the sale, Julia's holds a fall festival, which means popcorn, apple cider and family-friendly activities.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Wilmington publisher scores a National Book Award finalist

Back in January, The New York Times Book Review raved about "Binocular Vision," the very first book published by UNC Wilmington's Lookout Books. The glowing review of Edith Pearlman's story collection appeared on the section's front page.

That was pretty amazing. A small, independent press landing a front-page New York Times review with its very first offering was akin to "a rookie stepping up to the plate for the very first time and hitting a grand slam," Lookout Editorial Director Ben George said at the time.

Guess what? The rookie has hit another home run. "Binocular Vision" is now a finalist for the National Book Award. The winner will be announced Nov. 16.

The folks at Lookout are thrilled, as you can imagine. And they should be. Pearlman, 74, has been writing award-winning stories for years, but she wasn't widely known. With hard work and smart marketing, Lookout Books introduced her to a much wider audience of readers.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pulitzer winner Elizabeth Strout at Queens Thursday

There's been a last-minute substitution: This morning, I posted a blog about Queens University's Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.

The program is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a free reading featuring alumna and faculty on Thursday, Oct. 20. Jonathan Dee, whose novel, "The Privileges," was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, was to be among the attendees.

Queens folks have just told me that Dee can't make it. But here's the good news: Elizabeth Strout is coming in his place. Strout won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for "Olive Kitteridge."

Everything else remains the same. The reading begins at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in Sykes Auditorium. Other faculty readers include poet and nonfiction writer Rebecca McClanahan, author of "The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings," and poet Morri Creech, author of "Field Knowledge."

The reading also features the work of three MFA graduates: Jessica Handler, author of the memoir "Invisible Sisters"; Susan Meyers, author of the poetry collection "Keep and Give Away"; and Susan Woodring, whose novel, "Goliath," will be published in 2012.

The reading, which is free and open to the public, serves as the opening event for the first annual Queens Writing Symposium, which continues through Friday, Oct. 21. It includes a panel on publishing and master classes taught by MFA faculty and that offer writers the chance to revise their manuscripts for publication. A morning session and luncheon is $99. The master classes are an additional $149. Here's a full schedule.

Queens MFA Program celebrates with reading

Queens University's Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a free reading featuring alumna and faculty, including Jonathan Dee, whose novel, "The Privileges," was a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

The reading begins at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in Sykes Auditorium. Other faculty readers include poet and nonfiction writer Rebecca McClanahan, author of "The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings," and poet Morri Creech, author of "Field Knowledge."

The reading also features the work of three MFA graduates: Jessica Handler, author of the memoir "Invisible Sisters"; Susan Meyers, author of the poetry collection "Keep and Give Away"; and Susan Woodring, whose novel, "Goliath," will be published in 2012.

The reading, which is free and open to the public, serves as the opening event for the first annual Queens Writing Symposium, which continues through Friday, Oct. 21. It includes a panel on publishing and master classes taught by MFA faculty and that offer writers the chance to revise their manuscripts for publication. A morning session and luncheon is $99. The master classes are an additional $149. Here's a full schedule.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Want to be an author? Check out "Your Path to Publication"

Dozens of guides on the market are designed to teach you to write.

But what happens after you've written? How do you get an agent? How do you make connections? And -- the big question -- how do you get published?

Charlotte's Kim Wright answers those questions and more in her lively new book, "Your Path to Publication: A Guide to Navigating the World of Publishing" (Press 53; $15.95).

Wright, author of the 2010 novel "Love in Mid Air," tackled this subject to fill what she saw as a market void.

Lots of books offer writing instruction. Few give the inside scoop on publication. "It was a book that would have been helpful to me five years ago," she told me.

Along with lots of nuts-and-bolts advice, she also imparts wisdom acquired the hard way: "If everyone's flattering you and calling you literary," she counsels, "all that means is that they are not going to give you any money."

About writing conferences, she says: "There's always some self-impressed New Yorker with a name like Adrienne who's the last person in America who still smokes and who keeps running out at every break to talk on her phone, presumably to Kate Medina and Salman Rushdie and people way more important than you. But then the day comes when her work is up for critique and it turns out there's just one little crack in her armor -- the girl can't write for s---."

Wright dishes advice about contracts, publicists and editors with humor, but she doesn't pull punches. If you can't get an agent to represent you, she warns,"odds are no editor will ever see, much less purchase, your manuscript."

And in today's publishing world, she says, you must promote yourself -- on Facebook, on Twitter, through blogs. Would reclusive J.D. Salinger get published today? Wright thinks not. "I don't think the writer who just writes will exist," she says.

Though her first novel was published by Grand Central, a large press, she went with the small Press 53 in Winston-Salem for this book. One important reason: Press 53 prints on demand. That means it prints copies as they're sold. So Wright can update her book every six months if she needs to.

"I wanted to not have 1,000 books out there when the market's changing," she says. And the market, especially self-publishing, is changing fast.

Wright's book includes a chapter on the subject -- "The Brave New World of Self-Publishing." Like much advice in her book, it's based on experience. Wright is now writing a paranormal romance with a friend. They plan to self-publish the work as an e-book.

“Your Path to Publication” is available through and

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Poems -- and a CD -- from Davidson's Anthony Abbott

You've got two chances in coming days to hear Davidson poet Anthony Abbott read from his new book of poems, "If Words Could Save Us" (Lorimer Press, $16.95.)

He'll be at Davidson College's Katherine and Tom Belk Visual Arts Center at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16. His reading will include music and a projection of images.
He'll also appear 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

This latest collection from Abbott, a retired Davidson College English professor, includes a CD featuring Abbott reading 21 poems from the book.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Awards for three N.C. writers

Three N.C. writers have been honored recently for their work:

Durham poet Melanie Drane (pictured right) has won 2011 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer's Award. The $25,000 award is one of six given each year to women writers who demonstrate excellence and promise in the early stages of their careers.

Drane, a full-time caregiver for her sister, is working on a manuscript of poems titled "The Language Orchard." The poems explore the experience of her sister's severe aphasia after a recent stroke.

Charlotte's Dannye Romine Powell recently received the N.C. English Teacher Association's Ragan-Rubin Award, given each year to a writer who has produced work of literary merit. Powell, a poet and Charlotte Observer reporter, has published three poetry collections and "Parting the Curtains," a collections of interviews with Southern writers.

Children's author Gloria Houston, who lives in western North Carolina, has won her third AAUW of North Carolina Award for Juvenile Literature for her latest picture book, "Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile." North Carolina's American Association of University Women chapter previously honored her for "Littlejim's Dreams" and "Bright Freedom's Song." Houston's best known work is "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Just in time for Halloween: 'Haunted Watauga County'

Looking for some spooky stories? Winston-Salem author Tim Bullard's new book, "Haunted Watauga County, North Carolina," includes tales of a spirit who leaves the scent of pipe tobacco, a hanged Tory captain who rides his steed along Riddle's Knob and a haunted spring near the Watauga River.

Bullard will give a reading from the collection 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 16, at Charlotte's Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" author -- and snow -- coming to Charlotte

Several things are cool about "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" author Jeff Kinney's visit to Charlotte's Park Road Books on Nov. 18.

Snow, for instance. Kinney's newest "Wimpy Kid" installment, "Cabin Fever," to be published Nov. 15, has a winter setting. So Kinney's appearance will include a truck that churns out snow. "Yes, you read that right: there will be snow all over the place," Park Road Books co-owner Frazer Dobson writes in an email.

Also cool is that as long as a there's a child in line, Kinney will keep signing books. There are restrictions from the publisher, however. You must have a ticket to meet the author. One ticket is good for one family. You get it by purchasing a copy of "Cabin Fever" from Park Road Books.

The signing starts at 4 p.m. on Nov. 18. The store, in Park Road Shopping Center, is now taking reservations. To get on the list, call the store at 704-525-9239.

Park Road Books co-owner Sally Brewster also told me something about Kinney I didn't know. Even though he's sold millions of "Wimpy Kid" books, he works as a full-time design director of an Internet publishing company. So he takes vacation to do book signings.

Nicholas Sparks in Charlotte Thursday

Bestselling author Nicholas Sparks ("The Notebook," "Nights in Rodanthe") signs copies of his new novel, "The Best of Me," at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, at Barnes & Noble in The Arboretum, 3327 Pineville-Matthews Road.

The latest novel from the master of the heart-tugging love story, "The Best of Me" is the tale of two former high-school sweethearts from the opposite sides of the tracks.

Sparks, by the way, is a Tar Heel. He lives in New Bern with his family.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Venerable Charlotte Writers' Club launches new season

"In those first days it was surprising to me that so many Charlotte men and women really were skillful writers. They had needed just the spur and the confidence which this club was able to give them."

--Adelia Kimball, in a 1928 Charlotte Observer story on the Charlotte Writers’ Club

In 1922, Kimball, a recent transplant from Massachusetts, organized a local writers’ club in Charlotte.

Nearly 90 years later, the Charlotte Writers’ Club, one of the city’s oldest clubs, remains an important resource for aspiring and established authors. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the club kicks off a new season with a discussion of current publishing trends, including on-demand and e-publishing. If Kimball could only attend, she’d be amazed.

Still, much about the Charlotte Writers’ Club remains the same. With about 260 members, it continues to organize critique groups, where writers gather to read and review each others’ work. It also offers reasonably priced or free writing workshops.

Monthly meetings feature speakers, including authors, professors, literary agents and publishers, who discuss writing and literature from a range of perspectives.

Members include poets and novelists, memoirists, screenwriters, journalists. Some have published extensively. Some have never published. Most pursue their creative writing along with their day jobs.
Sherry Nadworny, for instance, works in public relations, but also writes fiction. She’d moved to Charlotte from Boston last year, sad to leave her writing group there.

Then she discovered the club and joined a critique group. “I found them to be incredibly welcoming, talented people,” she says. “It’s nice to have a group to help you get better. Everyone needs an editor.”
And maybe it’s just the gentility of the South, she says, but even when her critique members don’t like something about her work, “They say it in a lovely way.”

Want to know more?

The Charlotte Writers’ Club meets monthly September through May at Providence United Methodist Church, 2810 Providence Road.

Kevin Watson, founder of Winston-Salem’s Press 53, will discuss independent publishing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 20.

‘The Tarball Chronicles’
In "The Tarball Chronicles” (Milkweed Editions; $24), UNC Wilmington’s David Gessner takes a journey “into the heart of the Gulf oil spill.” Publishers Weekly calls the work a “brilliant, thoughtful book.” It’s out on Sept. 19.

UNC Charlotte hosts award-winning journalist

Journalist and author Cynthia Barnett speaks at UNC Charlotte at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 21, on her new book, "Blue Revolution: Unmaking America's Water Crisis."

In the book, Barnett calls for a national water ethic. She uses the Catawba River to illustrate the key role water plays in America's energy supply.

Barnett's talk is scheduled for room 128 of the College of Health and Human Services. She'll sign books afterward.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Good food, good books: It's Bibliofeast

Good food, good books, good discussions.

That's the essence of Charlotte's Bibliofeast, a literary moveable feast featuring eight authors who chat with guests as they enjoy dinner.

Bibliofeast was a sold-out hit when the Charlotte chapter of the Women's National Book Association launched the event last year.

This year, the group has booked a larger venue -- Maggiano's Little Italy Restaurant at SouthPark -- and plans to feature eight authors for the Oct. 10 evening. Authors will visit with diners, discussing their books, throughout the evening.

Authors so far confirmed are: Ellen Baker ("I Gave My Heart to Know This"); Ann Hite ("Ghost on Black Mountain"); Heather Newton ("Under the Mercy Trees"); Michael Parker ("The Watery Part of the World"); Drew Perry ("This Is Just Exactly Like You"); and JohnMilliken Thompson ("The Reservoir".)

The event runs from 6:30-9 p.m. Tickets are $45 for member, $50 for nonmembers. They're available at Park Road Books and at the WNBA website.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"The Perfect Storm" author at Davidson College

Author and war correspondent Sebastian Junger speaks on "Twenty Years of Reporting from Around the World" 7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at Davidson College's Duke Family Performance Hall.

Junger's "The Perfect Storm" recounts the 1991 story of the Andrea Gail, a swordfishing boat caught in a storm off the Massachusetts coast. The book,a bestseller,was made into a 2000 movie.

Junger has also reported on war in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. His wrote about his experience in Afghanistan in the book "WAR." His work has been published in The New York Times, Vanity Fair and Harper's.

The Davidson event is free, but tickets are required. For details: 704-894-2135.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Carolina Mountains Literary Fest starts Thursday

Charlotte's literary festival, the Novello Festival of Reading, is, unfortunately, no more. But if you're looking for a literary fix this week, head to the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in Burnsville, less than three hours away.

Ron Rash ("Serena") and Audrey Niffenegger ("The Time Traveler's Wife") are featured authors at the sixth annual festival. The three-day event begins Thursday evening, Sept. 8, with a free screening of the documentary, "The Day Carl Sandburg Died."

Some 30 authors are scheduled to participate in readings, workshops and book signings on Friday, Sept. 9, and Saturday, Sept. 10. Most are free. Check out the full schedule here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"A Hobo Odyssey" at Park Road Books

S.C. writer Larry Nichols will read and sign copies of "A Hobo Odyssey" 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Set during the Depression, Nichols' novel follows two young men who take up the hobo life, riding trains in search of adventure. Nichols, who grew up in Cramerton and now lives in Taylors, S.C., is also author of "Memories of Cramerton: A Cotton Mill Town."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Three readers win "Flash and Bones"

A third copy of Kathy Reichs' "Flash and Bones" arrived at the newspaper this week, so I've chosen three winners:

  • Doug Price, who wanted to win a copy for his wife. You're a good husband, Doug.
  • Jennifer Edwards, who's re-reading "206 Bones" right now.
  • Stephanie Simpson, who says she's a big fan of the "Bones" television show but has never read the novels.

Folks, email me your mailing addresses, and I'll get the books out to you. And thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Longer Charlotte library hours start next week

After Labor Day, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library is expanding hours at six regional libraries and reinstating Sunday hours at the Main Library and ImaginOn.

Starting Tuesday, Sept. 6, regional libraries -- Beatties Ford Road, Independence, Morrison, North County, South County and University City -- will be open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The Main Library and ImaginOn will be open 1-6 p.m. Sundays starting Sept. 11. Here's a full schedule of library hours.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summer's last book giveaway: "Flash and Bones"

School is back in session, which means summer's ending. So, too, is my Summer Book Giveaway.

For the final giveaway, I've got two copies of "Flash and Bones," the newest thriller by Charlotte's Kathy Reichs.

In her newest novel, Reichs explores a subject in her own backyard -- NASCAR. Just as fans are pouring into Charlotte for Race Week, a worker discovers a body inside an asphalt-filled barrel in the landfill beside the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Soon, forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan is on the case.

Here's my recent story on Reichs' new book.

If you'd like to win a copy, leave a comment here. Give me some way to identify you, not just anonymous. I'll post the two winners on Wednesday, Aug. 31.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Charlotte Christian School teacher to read from new novel

Dean Hardy, chair of Charlotte Christian School's Bible Department, is also an author. "Magnus Kir," his middle-grade fantasy novel, takes place on a distant planet, where 12-year-old Zack has lived a contented life in a walled society called Magnus Kir -- until his hesitant escape.

Hardy, who lives in Matthews will give a reading at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Barnes & Noble at The Arboretum, 3327 Pineville-Matthews Road.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Two readers win "The Family Fang"

Congratulations, Basilkeeper and Trinitarian Mouse Fan. You've both won copies of Kevin Wilson's new comedic novel, "The Family Fang." Also, it sounds as if you have some good family stories of your own.

Email me your addresses, and I'll get the books in the mail to you. Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Win "The Family Fang," a portrait of a nice, dysfunctional family

You think your family's crazy? Wait until you meet Caleb and Camille Fang, a couple who propel parental dysfunction to a new level. In Kevin Wilson's new comic novel,"The Family Fang," we meet the Fangs, who use their two kids in performance art pieces reminiscent of "Punk'd" episodes.

The children grow up to be artists, too. Annie's an actress, Buster becomes a writer. But both their careers are imploding. Topless photos of Annie are all over the Internet. Buster suffers a serious injury when he's nailed in the face by a potato gun.

Wilson will give a reading 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

And I'm giving away two copies of his book. To win one, leave a comment here with some way to identify you, not just anonymous. You'll get extra points for sharing your own crazy family story. I'll post the winners Wednesday, Aug. 24.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl" at Park Road Books

Funny lady Celia Rivenbark will be reading from her new book, "You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl," 7 p.m. Monday at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.
Rivenbark, who grew up in Duplin County and lives in Wilmington, writes a syndicated humor column. She's been compared to Dave Barry and Erma Bombeck. Among the pieces in her newest collection: "Driving While Shaving," about the Florida woman who wrecked her car while grooming her bikini area.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Novello Festival of Reading? Not this year

Charlotte won't have a Novello Festival of Reading this fall.

That won't come as a huge surprise to anyone who's followed the Charlotte-Meckenburg Library's budget cuts in the past couple of years. Still, for book lovers who looked forward to Novello events each October, it's sad news.

Launched in 1991, the library-sponsored reading festival presented talks by dozens of great authors, including, in recent years, Khaled Hosseini ("The Kite Runner"), Christopher Buckley ("Losing Mum and Pup") and Scott Turow ("Presumed Innocent").

After budget cuts decimated the library's 2010 budget, a group of volunteers, led by UNC Charlotte's Mark West, kept the spirit of Novello alive last year with "A Tribute to Novello," featuring local authors who appeared free of charge.

This year, we'll have neither Novello nor the tribute to it. "I don't want to say it's dead, it's never going to come back," says Karen Beach, the library's community engagement director. But she doesn't know what the future holds.

UNCC's West, however, is organizing an alternative --the Uptown Fall Authors Series, which will feature authors speaking at several uptown Charlotte venues.

And if you've got your heart set on a literary festival, check out the Bookmarks Festival of Books in Winston-Salem on Sept. 10. Authors attending include Tom Perrotta ("Election"), Margaret Maron ("Bootlegger's Daughter") and Lisa See ("Snow Flower and the Secret Fan").

Also, Charlotte-area colleges and other institutions will present a number of authors, including Wes Moore ("The Other Wes Moore") at Lenoir-Rhyne University, poet Elizabeth Alexander at UNC Charlotte and Isabel Wilkerson ("The Warmth of Other Suns") at Spirit Square.

For a full listing, check out the Observer's Arts Season Preview, to be published Aug. 28.

Emily, you've won "Paper Covers Rock"

Emily, you've won this week's book giveaway. Email me your address, and I'll get "Paper Covers Rock" out to you. The young adult novel, written by Charlotte's Jenny Hubbard, is getting great reviews.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Punctuation geeks: A contest just for you

National Punctuation Day is Sept. 24, and the fine folks who invented it have announced a new contest to mark the occasion.

Here are the rules:

Write one paragraph, maximum of three sentences, using these 13 punctuation marks: apostrophe, brackets, colon, comma, dash, ellipsis, exclamation point, hyphen, parentheses, period, question mark, quotation mark, and semicolon.

Entries will be accepted at through Sept. 30. Jamming all that punctuation into three sentences sounds tough to me. You might want to start now.

Meanwhile, enjoy these punctuation-themed haikus from the winners of last year's contest.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Book giveaway: "Paper Covers Rock" by Charlotte's Jenny Hubbard

The reviews for Jenny Hubbard's debut young-adult novel, "Paper Covers Rock," have been stellar. Now, the Association of Booksellers for Children has chosen the novel as one of 10 books on its New Voices YA List.

"Paper Covers Rock" is set at a boy's boarding school. Sixteen-year-old Alex has just begun his junior year when tragedy strikes: He fails to save a friend from drowning in a river on campus.

Hubbard, who lives in Charlotte, taught English before she quit to write full time, and she's hearing from lots of adults who are enjoying her book. This first effort is drawing comparisons to John Knowles' "A Separate Peace." Pat Conroy calls it "one of the best young adult books I've read in years."

Hubbard, by the way, will be signing copies 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 21 at Park Road Books, 3139 Park Road.

Want to win a copy? Leave a comment here with some way to identify you, not just "anonymous." I'll post the winner's name on Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"Emperor of All Maladies": We've got a winner

Elliot Bencan has won Siddhartha Mukherjee's Pulitzer Prize-winning look at cancer. Bencan says he'll share the book with his son, a doctor.

Elliot, send me an email with your mailing address, and I'll get the book out to you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Two Charlotte writers win fellowships

Charlotte writers Morri Creech and Rebecca McClanahan are among 18 N.C. artists to receive $10,000 fellowships from the N.C. Arts Council.

Creech, a poet, is author of "Paper Cathedrals" and "Field Knowledge."

McClanahan, who writes poetry and prose, is author of "Deep Light: New and Selected Poems" and "The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings." She teaches in Queens University's MFA creative writing program.

The fellowships support creative development and the creation of new work.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Book Giveaway: Win "The Emperor of All Maladies"

Cases of cancer doubled globally between 1975 and 2000, and will double again by 2020, nearly tripling by 2030. In America, one in two men and one in three women will get cancer during their lifetime; one in four will die.

Those are some good reasons to read Siddhartha Mukherjee's Pulitzer Prize-winning history of cancer. Another reason: It's a beautifully written book.

It's now out in paperback, and I'm giving away a copy. Leave a comment here and tell me why you'd like to read it. Please give me some way to identify you, not just "anonymous." I'll post the winner on Wednesday, Aug. 10.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A summer reading list to inspire you

Looking for a good book to take on your last summer trip to the beach?

Charlotte- based Mothering Across Continents, a nonprofit dedicated to developing responsible citizen-leaders around the world, recommends a list of books focused on inspiring work that addresses global problems.

Among the selections: "It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace," by Charlotte's own Rye Barcott, a former Marine captain who co-founded Carolina for Kibera. The nonprofit works with residents of Kibera, Kenya's largest slum, to develop leaders and alleviate poverty.

Other books featured in the group's "I Care Book Fair" include Tracy Kidder's "Mountains Beyond Mountains" and Margaret Trost's "On That Day, Everybody Ate: One Woman's Story of Hope and Possibility in Haiti."

If you order a book through the group's web site, a portion of the money will go to support humanitarian projects in Third World countries.

We've got a winner for "Blood Clay"

Skkorman, you've won a copy of Valerie Nieman's "Blood Clay," a novel about a North Carolina community torn apart by tragedy.
Send me an email with your mailing address, and we'll get the book to you.

And don't forget: You can meet Nieman on Aug. 13. Nieman, who lives in Greensboro, will give a reading at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Check back here next week for my next giveaway. It's a good one -- a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Win a copy of Valerie Nieman's "Blood Clay"

In her latest novel, "Blood Clay," Valerie Nieman writes of a North Carolina community torn apart by tragedy. Trying to escape the wreckage of her divorce, Tracey Gaines has moved to rural Saul County, NC, and become a teacher at an alternative school. But then a tragic event -- and her testimony about it -- divide the community.

Nieman, who lives in Greensboro, will give a reading at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

And this week, I'm giving away an autographed copy of the book that author Ron Rash calls "profoundly moving and beautifully written." Leave a comment here, and I'll choose a winner on Wednesday. Be sure to give me some way to identify you -- not just "anonymous."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Black Forest Books & Toys is moving to Elizabeth

Black Forest Books & Toys, a fixture in Myers Park/Eastover since 1978, is moving to a new location in Elizabeth -- the purple house on 7th Street that was formerly La-Tea-Das. That's the house in the photo, with co-owners Pat Siegfried (left) and June Hargrove in the foreground.

The store had its final day in the Tudor house at 115 Cherokee Road on Saturday, July 23. It'll open at its new location, 1942 E. 7th St., the week Aug. 8. Look for the grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 1.

The new location more than doubles the retail space, allowing the store to offer many more activities, including story times and readings with children's authors, co-owner June Hargrove says.

Black Forest is among the nation's oldest children's bookstores still operating. It's sad leaving the old location, just off Providence Road, Hargrove says, but it'll be a lot easier now to direct customers to the store. Just look for the purple house.

Clyde Edgerton's "Night Train": We've got a winner

TMcB44, you've won Clyde Edgerton's new novel, "Night Train."
Why? Because you love Edgerton's work so much you read "The Bible Salesman" in your church book club.

"I served as moderator and emailed him to get some suggestions," TMcB44 told me. "He couldn't get over the fact a church book club was doing one of his books. Must have been a shock after his Campbell College (now University) days."

Please email me your name and address, and I'll get the book in the mail.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stephen "Steve-O" Glover signs books in Charlotte Saturday

The title of Stephen "steve-O" Glover's new book says it all: "Professional Idiot: A Memoir."

Glover, who starred on MTV's "Jackass" series, recounts his journey as a guy who rose to fame abusing drugs and alcohol and doing ill-advised stunts, including stapling his scrotum to his leg. He's now a sober, drug-free vegan.

In town on a stand-up comedy tour, he'll be at the Barnes & Noble at Morrison Place, 4020 Sharon Road, at noon Saturday, July 30.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Book giveaway: Clyde Edgerton's new novel, "Night Train"

Like many readers, I fell in love with Clyde Edgerton's writing in 1986 when I read his first novel, "Raney," the warm, funny story of a small-town Baptist woman who marries -- gasp -- an Episcopalian from Atlanta. Edgerton, North Carolina born and raised, now teaches at UNC Wilmington.

I'm happy to report that his newest work, "Night Train," is out today. Set in 1963, it features Dwayne Hallston, a 17-year-old white kid in Starke, North Carolina who has recently discovered James Brown.

In a starred review, Publishers Weekly calls it "The work of a generous, restrained writer whose skill and craft allows small scenes to tell a larger, more profound story."

Want to win a copy? Leave a comment here and tell me why. Leave some way for me to identify you -- not just "anonymous." I'll post the winner on Wednesday, July 27.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Carol N. Wong, you've won Baldacci's newest novel

The temperature's heading toward 100 today, and Carol N. Wong tells me she'd go for any book that has a picture of water and a beach on it.

Carol, I can't guarantee it'll cool you off, but I've got a copy of David Baldacci's "One Summer" for you. Email me your mailing address and I'll send it your way.

Check back on Monday, folks. I'll post another book giveaway.