Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Charlotte Book Fair offers authors, storytellers, food

Ever since budget cuts killed the Charlotte-Mecklenburg library's Novello Festival of Reading in 2010, the Queen City has seemed to me woefully short on literary celebrations.

So I'm happy to report that a group of book lovers is launching the Charlotte Book Fair next Saturday, Oct. 6, at 400 S. Summit Ave. That's in Charlotte's Wesley Heights neighborhood. The festival, which will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., will feature authors, storytellers, workshops, performances and food vendors.

Guests will include Charlotte's Cheris Hodges, who has written 13 romance novels, and Janice Curtis Greene, a nationally-known storyteller.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Judy Goldman's new memoir: 'Losing My Sister'

Judy Goldman often instructs her students: Write about what keeps you up at night.

In “Losing My Sister,” her new memoir, Goldman heeds her own advice as she recalls her intense, loving and sometimes difficult relationship with her late sister, Brenda Meltsner.

Readers know Goldman, 70, as a Charlotte writing teacher, poet and author of two novels, “Early Leaving” and “The Slow Way Back.”

She described her newest work to me as “a small story filled with small events.” Her narrative is, in fact, full of life’s minutiae – childhood play, family dinners, hurt feelings.

And yet, the sum of these small parts gives readers something profound – a look at the hidden dynamics that compel a family’s members to play assigned roles.

In Goldman’s family, sisters were supposed to be close. “Jews don’t have coats of arms,” she writes, “but if my family did, it would say, Sisters Matter. Adoring your sister is as common a trait in our family as red hair or bowed legs might be in somebody else’s.”

But she and Brenda, though inseparable, are raised to be different. Judy is sweet, like her mother. Brenda, three years older, is strong, like her father.

As years pass, the sisters marry, raise children, bury their parents. They have rifts and overcome them. But when Judy writes her second novel, Brenda, who is battling cancer, offers more criticism than support. They stay divided for 18 months before reconciling.

Days after they patch things up, Brenda learns her cancer is back. By her birthday in December 2005, the family knows she doesn’t have long to live. At a birthday dinner, Judy reads a series of vignettes from their childhood.

“As I read, Brenda laughs, shakes her head – Yes I remember that – finishes off some of the anecdotes with details only she can add,” Goldman writes.

Brenda died the next month, January 2006. So she never saw her little sister’s memoir. If she could read it, Goldman predicts she would find parts that would make her smile. But there are parts, too, with which she would take issue.

Goldman says she worked hard to tell the truth. Even so, the act of remembering “is inevitably an act of revision.”

“What I would hope is that she would know how deeply I loved her, and how much I miss her,” Goldman says. “And how this book is just Judy coping with the grief of missing her.”

Goldman will read and sign books, 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at the Mint Museum, 2730 Randolph Road.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Self-publishing versus traditional: What's best for you?

Some days on the book beat, I feel like I'm the only person not publishing a book. New technologies -- print on demand and e-books -- have made it easy and often inexpensive to publish. So lots of folks are doing it. And then they send a copy to me.

Much of the self-published stuff is still not so great, but that's changing, as more established authors choose to self-publish.

Want to learn more about it? On Sept. 15, Two Editors and a Comma will hold a workshop examining the pros and cons of publishing yourself or going the traditional route.

Two Editors and a Comma is Betsy Thorpe and Carin Siegfried, former editors with Random House and St. Martin's Press.Their instruction will cover marketing your book, finding an agent and launching your book. They'll also provide individual critiques of your first 500 words.

Cost is $250. Enrollment is limited to 15. It's 1-5 p.m. Sept. 15 at 7308 Quail Meadow Lane. More information: 704-608-6559.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Nothing like a backyard barbecue -- with Jon Stewart

We caught up with "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart Monday at an afternoon barbecue in Myers Park, where he was mingling at a fundraiser for veterans and wounded warriors.

The cause is one of Stewart's favorites. It's also a favorite of party co-host and Charlotte author Paula Broadwell (shown with Stewart and with local veterans). (Check the end of this post for a list of veterans' resources that Broadwell recommends.)

About 200 attended the event, held at the home of Shannon Lalor and Sami Aasar. Broadwell, author of "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus," met Stewart in January during a "Daily Show" appearance to promote her book.

That day, she and Stewart engaged in a push-up competition to raise money for wounded veterans. Broadwell, a West Point graduate and counterterrorism expert, bested Stewart easily. Recalling the contest Monday, Stewart said: "I'm never doing that again in my life."

With Stewart in town to film "The Daily Show" at ImaginOn during the Democratic National Convention, Broadwell decided to throw the last-minute party.

Stewart, wearing khakis, a black T-shirt and at least a day's beard growth, said he was enjoying the sunshine after spending a week taping shows in Tampa during the Republican National Convention. "I haven't been outside for a week," he said "I feel like a mole person."

He spent much of the party posing for photos, chatting with guests and drawing laughs with one-liners. When a little girl clad in a bathing suit and swim flippers approached him, he quipped: "Oh my God! It's a web-footed person!"

Has he gathered any good material on Charlotte for his show yet? He's working on it, he told me. "We're trying to figure out why, no matter what you're eating, they put it on a biscuit."

Here's a list of local resources for veterans that Broadwell highlighted Monday: