Thursday, May 31, 2012

Charlotte libraries to be closed Monday

All Charlotte-Mecklenburg libraries will be closed Monday, June 4, while the system relocates its library servers.

During the move, Saturday, June 2, through Monday, June 4, many library services, including email, the phone system and many online services, will be unavailable.

No overdue fines will be charged during this period and book drops will remain open. The library system plans to return to business as usual at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 5.

The library system will also switch to summer hours on Sunday, June 3. That means all libraries will be closed on Sundays until Sept. 9.

On a happier note: North County Regional Library in Huntersville is scheduled to finish renovations and reopen June 9.

More information is here.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Charlotte book news: This week's roundup

Some 1,400 sci-fi and fantasy fans are expected at this year's ConCarolinas, running Friday, June 1, to Sunday, June 3, at the Charlotte Hilton University Place. Attendees include Nebula Award winner Jack McDevitt ("Seeker"), along with lots of other writers. Check out details here.

"It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine's Path to Peace" is now out in paperback. Its author, Charlotte's Rye Barcott, will read and sign books 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.As a UNC Chapel Hill student, Barcott spent a summer in Kibera, a mega-slum in Nairobi, Kenya. That experience led him to create a nonprofit called Carolina for Kibera. In this memoir, he tells how he launched and continued to lead the organization while serving as a Marine.

Lawrence Lohr will read from and sign copies of "And Then They Stood: Old Textile Mills of the Carolina Piedmont" at 7 p.m. Monday, June 4 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road. Lohr's book combines photos with essays on the Southern textile industry.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How many bookstores are left in Charlotte?

This is a trick question. It depends how you define bookstore.

This Friday, June 1, will be the last business day for the nearly 20-year-old BookMark, an independent bookstore in uptown Charlotte's Founder's Hall. Its demise leaves Park Road Books as Charlotte's only independent bookstore. There's also Main Street Books in Davidson.

But bookstores come in a variety of packages. Define the term broadly, and you'll find the Charlotte area still offers many places that sell the printed word.

Mecklenburg County has six full-service chain bookstores -- two Books-A-Million locations, in Cotswold Mall and on Steele Creek Road in Southwest Charlotte, and four Barnes & Noble locations, Sharon Road, The Arboretum, Carolina Place Mall and Birkdale Village.

If you're looking for children's books, you'll find a terrific selection at Black Forest Books & Toys on Seventh Street.

And that's not all. We've got a number of used bookstores, including The Last Word in University City, The Book Rack on Johnston Road and Julia's Cafe & Books, at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore on Wendover Road.

We've also got several Christian stores with good-sized book sections, including Cokesbury Bookstore on Tyvola Road and LifeWay stores in University City and Pineville. And if you want cookbooks, Johnson & Wales University's student bookstore has a nice selection.

What am I missing? If you know of other good bookstores in the Charlotte area, post them here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Charlotte author's 'Eliza' poems hit the stage

Charlotte poet Dede Wilson's "Eliza: The New Orleans Years," is about to take the stage as a one-woman show.

"Eliza" opens at 2:30 p.m. May 27 and will run Sundays through June 17 at Carolinas Actors Studio Theatre, 2424 N. Davidson St. Tickets are $15.

The performance, starring Pamela Freedy, is adapted from Wilson's 2010 book of poetry, which is based on actual events.

Eliza was Wilson's great- great-grandmother, and her life with husband Caleb has long been a subject of fascination in Wilson's family. The story was that Caleb had married Eliza after killing her first husband in a duel.

Wilson used her late mother's research and her own to write Eliza's story for family members. After she finished, she did more research for this fictional version.

"Eliza" is the tale of a young London woman who sails in 1837 with her mother and siblings to New Orleans. In route, she marries the ship's captain. But once on land, she meets Caleb.

Rich and precise, Wilson's blank-verse poems speed the story along. By the end of the book, it's 1862. New Orleans has fallen to Union troops, and Eliza's marriage is disintegrating.

Read more here:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Authors in Charlotte this week

Jon Odell will read from his novel, "The Healing," 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, at Red and 28th, 2424 N. Davidson St. Set in antebellum Mississippi, "The Healing" is a rite-of-passage novel that's being compared favorably to "The Help."

Alethea Kontis will read from her latest teen book, "Enchanted," 7 p.m. Thursday, May 24, at Barnes & Noble in Pineville, 11055 Carolina Place Blvd. Kontis and Sherrilyn Kenyon are co-authors of "The Dark-Hunter Companion."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Leonard Pitts, Jr. coming to Charlotte

Novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. will give a reading and sign copies of his new novel, "Freeman," 2 p.m. Sunday, June 3, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

"Freeman," the follow-up to Pitt's "Before I Forget," is set is the post-Civil War South and follows three characters as they make their way in the post-slavery world.

Pitts, a columnist for the Miami Herald, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Charlotte's Amy Clipston to sign new novel at LifeWay stores

Charlotte author Amy Clipston will sign copies of "Reckless Heart," her first young adult novel in her Kauffman Amish Bakery series, on Thursday and Friday, May 18 and 19, in Charlotte.

Clipston will be signing books at 5 p.m. May 18 at the LifeWay store at 10412 Centrum Parkway in Pineville. At 1 p.m. on May 19, she'll be at the LifeWay at 8821 J.W. Clay Blvd.

The novels in Clipston's Kauffman Amish Bakery series, set in Lancaster County, Pa., have regularly won places on Christian fiction bestseller lists. "Reckless Love," is the series' first novel aimed at young-adult readers.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lots of Carolinas titles up for SIBA awards

Carolinas authors and publishing houses are well represented among finalists for this year's Southern Independent Book Awards, given by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

In the fiction category alone, there's Anna Jean Mayhew's "The Dry Grass of August." She grew up in Charlotte. Also on the list are Davidson College graduate John Hart's "Iron House" and Charles Frazier's "Nightwoods." Frazier lives near Raleigh.

Two Charlotte authors are also finalists in the young adult category: Carrie Ryan for "The Dark and Hollow Places" and A.J. Hartley for "Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact."

Nonfiction nominees include Robert Morgan's "Lions of the West" and Celia Rivenbark's "You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl." Morgan, who teaches at Cornell University, grew up in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Rivenbark lives in Wilmington.

Morgan' "Terroir" is also a nominee in the poetry category. So is Ron Rash's "Waking." Rash, who grew up in Boiling Springs, teaches at Western Carolina University.

Check out the whole list here. Winners will be announced on July 4 -- Independence Day. (Also, Independents' Day. Get it?)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Charlotte author writes "The Boy Who Stole the Leopard's Spots"

Tamar Myers must be one of Charlotte's hardest-working -- and successful -- writers.

Over 15 years, she churned out more than 35 books as part of two comedic mystery series, one featuring a Mennonite innkeeper, the other an antiques dealer. More than 2 million copies have sold.

That's pretty impressive. But here's what makes me really happy for Myers: In 2009, she published "The Witch Doctor's Wife," a book that drew on her experiences growing up in the Congo, the daughter of missionaries.

She'd written it years earlier, and publishers had repeatedly rejected it. The content, they said, was too exotic.

When it was finally published, it got a starred Publishers Weekly review. Since then, she's continued the series. "The Headhunter's Daughter" was published last year.

And now comes the third book in the series: "The Boy Who Stole the Leopard's Spots" (William Morrow; $14.99.) Set in the Belgian Congo of 1958, it, too, is winning warm reviews. "Edge-ofyour-seat tragicomedy," Booklist says.

Myers will read and sign copies of her book 7 p.m. May 24 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Memoir offers a bright side to Alzheimer's Disease

I once covered aging for this newspaper, so I've seen my share of poignant stories about people with Alzheimer's Disease. I've written a few myself, and I lived through one, with my mom as main character.

What I haven't seen is a book like Robert Leleux's "The Living End: A Memoir of Forgetting and Forgiving."

In his new memoir, Leleux ("Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy") finds that the dementia that plagues his beloved grandmother, pictured here with him, has one positive side. It causes her to forget that she's been estranged from her daughter -- his mother -- for decades.

As her memory faded, so did grudges and hurt feelings. She forgot to be angry. And when she was reunited with her daughter, their relationship gained a new life.

Leleux will be in Charlotte for a reading and book signing, 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 16, at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Uptown's BookMark bookstore to close

Weakened by a bad economy and a changing book industry, The BookMark, one of Charlotte's two remaining independent bookstores, is closing. Its last day will be June 1.

David and Kathy Friese opened The Bookmark in 1992 to cater to hundreds of uptown workers, especially Bank of America employees, who pass its Founder's Hall location each weekday.

In recent years, the store has suffered because of bank layoffs and construction that diverted foot traffic. But the growing popularity of electronic books, Friese said Tuesday, has probably dealt the most serious blow to sales. Online book sales also have cut into The BookMark's business.

"Our sales are off half of what they used to be" in 2000, he says. "We've made a lot of friends and sold a lot of books. We're just not selling enough anymore."

The store's entire inventory is now 40 percent off. When it closes, Park Road Books will be Charlotte's sole independent bookstore.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Want to get published? Check out Two Editors and a Comma

Writing a book isn't easy. Finding an agent or publisher can be even harder.

Now, two Charlotte women with extensive publishing backgrounds are offering workshops to teach writers how to get the attention of agents and editors.

Carin Siegfried and Betsy Thorpe have both worked for New York publishing houses, including St. Martin's Press and Random House. Thorpe also partnered with Charlotte's Charla Muller on "365 Nights," Muller's memoir about the unusual gift she gave her husband for his 40th birthday -- sex every day for a year. The book captured international attention.

Siegfried and Thorpe call their new endeavor Two Editors and a Comma. Don't you love the name? They'll hold their first workshop, "Getting Your Foot in the Door: New York Editors Tell All on How to Get a Publishing Deal," from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, May 12.

Topics they'll cover include writing a query letter and author bio, developing a marketing plan and researching and landing an agent. They'll also provide individual critiques of participant's first 500 words. Cost is $250.

Advance registration is required. For more information and location: or 704 608-6559.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Small press scores big with 'The Iguana Tree'

Think of the book publishing world, and most of us picture New York, not the Carolinas.

But recently, I’ve encountered several big publishing successes from small Carolinas presses.

The latest: “The Iguana Tree” ($24.95), the newest novel from Spartanburg’s Hub City Press, which earned a coveted starred review from Publishers Weekly. It is written by Michel Stone of Spartanburg. She'll sign copies at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5 at Park Road Books, 4139 Park Road.

Publisher Weekly lauds this story of illegal border crossings for exploring a serious political and humanitarian issue without becoming heavy handed. It’s “well written, expertly paced, and timely,” PW says.

Last year, UNC Wilmington’s Lookout Books had an even bigger success with Edith Pearlman’s “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories.” It went on to win fantastic reviews and prizes, including the New York Book Critics Circle Award.

And in March, Marjorie Hudson’s “Accidental Birds of the Carolinas,” a short-story collection, won a Pen/Hemingway honorable mention, an award given for a distinguished first book of fiction. Hudson lives in Chatham County. The book was published by Winston-Salem’s Press 53.

I see a trend. So does Jeffrey Lependorf, executive director of the New York-based Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.

He points out that the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went to Paul Harding’s “Tinkers,” published by tiny Bellevue Literary Press. And the 2010 National Book Award winner, Jaimy Gordon’s “Lord of Misrule,” was published by McPherson & Co.

While the recent recession forced cutbacks and layoffs at the nation’s biggest publishing houses, small presses, already lean, weren’t affected as drastically, Lependorf says.

These small publishers, he believes, are gaining credibility among authors who once considered them a last resort. More writers are figuring out, he says, “it’s not all about a giant advance.”

What can be even more valuable is a publisher committed to marketing a book. When small press editors publish a book, it’s often because they love it.

At Press 53, that commitment has stoked sales growth of more than 20 percent a year since its 2005 opening, founder Kevin Morgan Watson says.

Hub City Press Executive Director Betsy Teter says what separates her press from the giants is that it will “beat the pavement” to market anything it publishes.

“I see our job,” she says, “as finding the gems and giving them a higher platform.”