Friday, June 27, 2014

If You're Craving the Ocean, These New Novels Offer Coastal Settings

Stuck inland this month and pining for water? Here's a stack of new fiction -- each one set so close to the ocean you can hear the waves crashing.

"It Comes in Waves" (Penguin, $15 original paperback) is the fourth novel of Charlotte's Erika
Marks. The novel concerns Claire, whose fiance left her for her best friend Jill. Now it's 18 years
later, Jill is a widow and raising a teenage son on Folly Beach, S.C., which is where ESPN happens to send Claire to  make a documentary about surfing. After a chance meeting, the two women open the old gritty bag of guilt, blame and, perhaps, forgiveness. If you want to attend the launch party at Fountainhead Books in Hendersonville on Tuesday, July 1, at 7 p.m., you can pre-buy a copy of the novel from Fountainhead for two tickets (828-697-1870).

Sullivans Island, S.C. native and bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank (who appears to have signed books everywhere in the Southeast but Charlotte) gives us three generations of Low Country women in "The Hurricane Sisters" (Morrow, $26.99), a novel of buried secrets, sexual electricity, domestic disturbance and teenage angst.  Real-life touchstones: Langdon's and Basil's on Mt. Pleasant, Donleavy's Pub on Sullivans and Martha Lou's in Charleston ("one of those places you only know if you were from Charleston or a local took you there.") Frank is also the author of "Sullivan's Island," "Porch Lights," "Pawley's Island" and "The Last Original Wife."

HarperCollins acquired the novel, "The Story of Land and Sea" ($26.99), in a ten-house, seven-bidder auction. Known in the trade as a "big buzz book," this debut novel is by Katy Simpson Smith, a Jackson, Miss., native, who earned her PhD in history at UNC Chapel Hill. Set in 1793 in Beaufort, the novel tells the story of a father desperate to save his 10-year-old daughter Tabitha from a yellow fever epidemic. Entwined is the long-ago story of Tabitha's mother as a child and her uneasy friendship with a young slave girl named Moll. "The Story," already hailed as a "striking achievement" by "an extraordinary writer," is due in August.

From the author of the prize-winning short story collection, "How to Escape from a Leper Colony," Tiphanie Yanique's first novel, "Land of Love and Drowning" (Riverhead Books, $27.95) is set on her native St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. The novel chronicles three generations of the Bradshaw family through the 20th Century. According to Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., the novel weaves stories of "magic and lust" (read also incest), "unknown connections," "hidden mysteries," "family legacies," and "an island undergoing historical changes." Publisher's Weekly says: "Yanique offers an affecting narrative of the Virgin Islands that pulses with life, vitality and a haunting evocation of place."

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yes, newcomers, Charlotte existed before the American Revolution

Charlotte and the American RevolutionIf you're new to Charlotte and unaware that this town existed before the Revolutionary War, you need to read Richard Plumer's "Charlotte and the American Revolution: Reverend Alexander Craighead, the Mecklenburg Declaration & and Fight for Independence" (The History Press, $21.99 paper). You'll learn that a bloody battle, in which the Mecklenburg militia defeated the British troops, took place in 1780 at the intersection of Tryon and Trade. You'll learn how the fiery Presbyterian minister Alexander Craighead incited the people of the backcountry to stand up for their rights against the British crown. You'll learn that although the county had less than three percent of the colony's population, its Patriots accounted for more than a quarter of North Carolina's Revolutionary troops.
Plumer is full of information, and he'll be signing books and talking about Charlotte's role in the war on the following dates:

On Thursday, from 6-7:30 p.m. at Rural Hill, 4431 Neck Rd., Huntersville
On Saturday, at 3 p.m. at Barnes & Noble at Carolina Place, 11055 Carolina Place Parkway, Pineville
On Saturday, July 12 at 1 p.m. at Charlotte Museum of History, 3500 Shamrock Dr.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Recognition, Prize Money and More for Area Writers

Susan Ludvigson
Jennifer Hubbard

Susan Ludvigson, professor emerita at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, is this year's winner of the prestigious James Dickey Award from Five Points magazine in Atlanta. Her winning poems,"Divigations," "Mythologies" and "Sharing the Territory," will be published in the fall issue of Five Points and are included in her new manuscript, as yet untitled. The award carries a $1,000 prize. Ludvigson has nine poetry collections from Louisiana State University Press and has received many honors over the years, including Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, as well as fellowships from the NEA and the North Carolina Arts Council. She is the widow of fiction writer Scott Ely, who also taught for many years at Winthrop.

Kathryn Schwille's short-short story, "FM104," which appeared in Issue 20 of the literary journal Memorious, has won a spot on the 2014 Wigleaf Top Very Short Fiction List (under 1,000 words), selected from about 200 nominations of stories that appeared online last year. The judge says Schwille's story "...speaks in a hybrid language of beautiful lunacy and keen prophecy." Schwille's fiction has appeared previously in such literary  journals as Crazyhorse, West Branch and Sycamore Review. She is a recipient of a 2014 North Carolina Arts Council Fellowship. "FM04" is the opening to her manuscript of short stories, "24 Seconds," set against the backdrop the Columbia shuttle disaster in East Texas. Schwille lives in Charlotte and earned her MFA at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa.

The young adult novel, "And We Stay" (Random House), by former Charlotte Country Day English teacher Jennifer Hubbard, now of Salisbury, is on the summer reading list for students at Woodberry Forest boarding school in Madison County, Va. Also on the list -- students can select three and no fair listening to audio books -- John Green's "The Fault in Our Stars," Nick Hornby's "Slam," and Pat Conroy's "My Losing Season." Hubbard's novel, set on the campus of a girls' Massachusetts boarding school, is "quite a page-turner," says the blurb. "Part mystery, part bildungsroman, this intelligent novel brings us into contact with a complex, conflicted heroine who doesn't care much about following the rules." Hubbard is a former English teacher at Woodberry Forest and is 100 pages into her third novel for young adults, modeled on five girls she taught at Country Day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Apply Now for Table Rock Writers Workshop in Little Switzerland

Charlotte novelist Judy Goldman, author of the memoir "Losing My Sister," will lead the memoir session at the Table Rock Writers Workshop Sept. 8-12 at the Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland.
Sessions will also be available in writing fiction, poetry and children's listerature.
Goldman says about her workshop: "We'll discuss coming up with that seductive first sentence or paragraph, finding your way into your voice, setting scenes as though you're writing fiction, using dialogue, turning the people in your life into characters the reader cares about. I'll encourage you to have a naive faith in yourself, a sense of optimism about your work so that you can keep going even when you feel you're about to step off a cliff."
Apply now through Aug. 15.
To register by phone: Cindy Campbell at 919-923-8857

Monday, June 16, 2014

U.S. Poet Laureate Charles Wright: 'Nothing Prepares the Brain'

I have a document in my home computer that I've named "Brilliant Lines." These are lines of poetry
I've typed in from favorite collections on my shelves. When Davidson graduate Charles Wright
was named U.S. Poet Laureate last week, I opened that file and was not surprised to see
that almost half the "brilliant lines" are from his collections.
Wright majored in history at Davidson, and he's told interviewers over the years
that he wanted to write fiction in college -- his mother had dated one of William Faulkner's
brothers -- but Wright discovered he was likely the only Southerner who couldn't tell a story.
When Wright was in Italy, he happened on "The Selected Poems of Ezra Pound," and,
as he once told the Paris Review, "I discovered a form that seemed suited to my mental
and emotional inclinations—the lyric poem, a form, or subgenre, I guess, that didn’t depend
on a narrative structure, but on an imagistic one, an associational one. 'Gists
and piths,' as they say, instead of the intricacy of narrative a line."
Here are some lines of Wright's from my "Brilliant Lines" file: 
Nothing prepares the brain 
        for the heavy changes in the heart. 
Nothing prepares the soul for metaphor’s sleight-of-hand.
Nothing prepares the left hand -- luminous twin -- for the sins
    of the right. 
Nothing prepares the absence of pain for the presence of pain. 
Nothing prepares what is for what’s not. 
“Night Rider,” from the collection, “A Short History of the Shadow" 

Friday, June 13, 2014

If You Love Poetry and Hate Self-Indulgence

Here's a fresh-voiced Canadian poet I happened on while reading a blog by memoirist and poet Richie Hoffman. Hoffman is reading Robert Bringhurst's "Selected Poems," from Copper Canyon and says he is "in thrall to this body of work: serious and playful, political and spiritual, formal, lyrical, learned and sublime.

These Poems, She Said

These poems, these poems,
these poems, she said, are poems
with no love in them. These are the poems of a man
who would leave his wife and child because
they made noise in his study. These are the poems
of a man who would murder his mother to claim
the inheritance. These are the poems of a man
like Plato, she said, meaning something I did not
comprehend but which nevertheless
offended me. These are the poems of a man
who would rather sleep with himself than with women,
she said. These are the poems of a man
with eyes like a drawknife, with hands like a pickpocket’s
hands, woven of water and logic
and hunger, with no strand of love in them. These
poems are as heartless as birdsong, as unmeant
as elm leaves, which if they love love only
the wide blue sky and the air and the idea
of elm leaves. Self-love is an ending, she said,
and not a beginning. Love means love
of the thing sung, not of the song or the singing.
These poems, she said….
                                       You are, he said,
                That is not love, she said rightly.

Bringhurst has published over a dozen collections of poetry, including "The Beauty of the Weapons: Selected Poems 1972-1982" and "Selected Poems.
In an interview with "Intelligent Life," Bringhurst spoke about his poetry’s interest in philosophical questions rather than personal exploration:
“I am not my favorite subject. The earth is a lot bigger and more interesting than I am. I also have a strong desire, as I was saying, not to be trapped in my own time. The poetry of the present, when it isn’t playing language games, is routinely full of self-display and personal confession—or to put it more kindly, it is full of self-exploration. In classical Greece or Tang Dynasty China or Renaissance Italy, and in the great oral cultures that were native to North America, there was very little art of that kind. Artists in those times and places were interested in human relations too, and had serious questions to ask themselves—but most of the time they found it more fruitful and more powerful not to deal with the self directly.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ruth Moose Gives Two Readings Saturday: Charlotte and Cornelius

Ruth Moose

Oh, winning is such sweet revenge, especially when you hear a story like former Charlottean Ruth Moose's. Moose wrote the first draft of  a mystery novel, "Doing It at the Dixie Dew," 25 years ago on a Kaypro computer in a house she and her late husband built deep in the woods of  the Uwharrie
Mountains. Each summer, free from her job as a reference librarian at Pfeiffer College in Meisenheimer, she tinkered with the manuscript, then submitted it to the first Malice Domestic Competition. She didn't win, but she was named a finalist, and an editor there suggested revisions.
But Moose was too busy, and she shoved the manuscript into a drawer.
Meanwhile, she won a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and went on to publish three collections of short stories and six of poetry.
Years later, retired from 15 years of teaching creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill, she tackled the novel again and submitted it once more to the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition. Bingo. This time she won.
Over the years, Moose had been bringing  the manuscript to the monthly sessions of a writers' group that met at the old Poplar Street Books in Charlotte's Fourth Ward. In her acknowledgments at the back of "Dixie Dew," she doesn't forget that group: "This is not to thank the members of my long-ago Charlotte writers' group who disliked this manuscript from word one."
"Doing It at the Dixie Dew" is a cozy mystery set in the fictional town of Littleboro, N.C., where Beth McKenzie attempts to turn an old Southern mansion into a bed-and-breakfast. Her first guest is murdered, and three days later a young priest is found strangled in his chapel.
She'll read from her novel at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at the Cornelius Public Library, 21105 Catawba Avenue, Cornelius, and again at 2 p.m. Saturday at Park Road Books, Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte.
Moose will also appear on D.G. Martin's "Book Watch" at noon on UNC-TV on June 15.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Champagne Reception for Webb Hubbell and 'When Men Betray'

Webb Hubbell
You're invited, Thursday, 5-7 p.m., to a champagne reception at Elder Art Gallery, 1520 S. Tryon, to celebrate Webb Hubbell and his new novel, "When Men Betray."
Observer reporter Jim Morrill wrote about Hubbell last week. Here's what he said:
"Two decades ago the headlines weren’t kind to Webb Hubbell.
'Clintons’ pal Hubbell is indicted.'
'Hubbell Begins Prison Sentence.'
It was in the ’90s that Hubbell found himself swept up in the scandals and endless investigations known as Whitewater. It was a hard fall for the one-time Arkansas whiz kid, top Justice Department official and longtime friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Notoriety took its toll. But the headlines faded.
For nearly four years now, Hubbell and his wife, Suzy, have lived on a quiet street in Dilworth, planting roots and rebuilding their lives outside the glare of public attention.
Last week Hubbell, 65, re-emerged with the publication of his first novel, a legal thriller about friendships and loyalties set in Little Rock, with cameos by Davidson College and Charlotte’s Mimosa Grill.
The author and his book already have drawn national attention. The Washington Post ran a story. C-SPAN televised his weekend appearance at a North Little Rock library.
It’s the latest chapter in a life which itself has unfolded as a kind of thriller.
Like Jack Patterson, his protagonist in 'When Men Betray,' Hubbell’s is a story of friendship and power with plot twists, legal turns and even a brush with death."
So come hear Hubbell read and have him autograph a copy of the novel.

Read more here:

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maya Angelou in 1993 Remembers the Mother Who Was 'Too Mean to Lie'

Maya Angelou was 64 years old when I drove to Winston-Salem in December, 1993, to sit with her at her kitchen table and talk with her about her life for a book I was compiling about Southern writers. Sunshine spilled into every corner of the house on Valley Drive, gilding the bouquet of fresh flowers in the living room and burnishing the African masks on the wall.
The conversation covered art, marriage, motherhood and the hotel room where Angelou said she went each morning at 5 to write.
I told Angelou I was surprised she wrote so sweetly and admiringly about the mother who abandoned her during her childhood. Here's what she said:

"You see, I have a theory that there is a parent who can be a great parent of small people, of infants and toddlers. They're the cutest little things, and doodley-doodle. ...But as soon as that person gets to be about twelve or thirteen, they don't know what to do with them. So they say, 'Shut up! Sit down! ... Get out! You want to go to Europe? Here, go!'
"Then there are parents who are great parents of young adults. My mom was in the latter group. I am so grateful that I got sent (early) to my grandmother, who just flooded me with love and lessons. But my ma, once I was able to talk to her, and she saw that I had some sense, and that I was going to be a good woman... .
"We'd walk out and down the San Francisco hills, and she had... Do you remember silver fox furs? Where the mouths of one reach over the tail of the other? She had that, and she had diamonds and makeup. She was a little woman. And we got to the corner, and she said, 'Baby, you know, I think you're the greatest woman I've ever known.'
"I looked down at this pretty little woman with her diamonds and her furs, and she said, 'You're very  intelligent. And you're very kind. And those two virtues don't always go together. Give me a kiss.'
"So I gave her a kiss on the lips. She walked across the street that way and got into her beige and brown Pontiac. And I went across the street that way, and got onto the Number 22 streetcar. And I remember it as if it was today. I remember the sun on the streetcar. I remember where I sat. I remember everything. And I thought, 'Suppose she's right? Suppose I really am somebody. Just suppose... She's very intelligent, my mother, and she's too mean to lie.' "

Monday, June 2, 2014

Charlotte Native Healy Wins R.F. Kennedy Award for 'The Great Dissent'

Thomas Healy
Thomas Healy
If Ethel Kennedy's name pops up on caller i.d., you don't hesitate.

Neither did Charlotte native Thomas Healy last month when Kennedy called to tell him he would be receiving the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award on a Thursday and the Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award on a Tuesday, both ceremonies taking place in late May in Washington, D.C.

Healy's award-winning book is "The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind -- and Changed the History of Free Speech in America" (Henry Holt, $28). Celebrated criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz, reviewing the book in the New York Times last year, said, "Thomas Healy's informative and readable account of how and why Holmes changed his mind deserves an honored place in the intellectual history of the Supreme Court."

The book was also selected as a New York Times Book Review editor’s choice and named one of the fifteen best non-fiction books of 2013 by the Christian Science Monitor.

Healy, a UNC Chapel Hill journalism graduate, is a law professor at Seton Hall Law School in Newark, N.J.