Shari is reading the brilliant and intense Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.
"The Dipper" is our monthly newsletter, where we highlight readings, events, calls for submission, and other literary-related news for the coming month. If you have news or events to share, let us know!
Want to hear some gorgeous music, listen to two fabulous authors read, take part in a conversation about the writing process, and stuff your face with homemade biscuits? Well then, look no further than our own Writers’ Process Night happening this Saturday, November 3 at Open Door in White River Junction, Vermont.
Join us, Laura Jean Binkley, Camille Guthrie, and Peter Orner, and a mountain of biscuits made by Literary North’s favorite baker and all-around fan, Dr. Hermann Puterschein. Scurry over to the Event page now and claim your seat at the biscuit bar! See you on Saturday!
Slow Club Book Club members, have you started reading our final book of 2018 yet? If not, please don’t worry; you’re in fantastic company! At least one of your SCBC hosts hasn’t started either. And guess what? That’s just fine. October always seems to be a month when everything hits the fan at once. Between finally waking up from the summer drowsies and suddenly realizing that the end of the year crazies are nigh, this time of year is often overstuffed with deadlines, new projects, school meetings, and making appointments to get winter tires put on. Never fear… Sara Maitland’s A Book of Silence will wait patiently for you to dip in as you have time, maybe while waiting for those tires to be changed.
It always feels a bit awkward to promote one’s own stuff, but if you can’t do it in your own newsletter, where can you? So this is just to say… Rebecca has written a science book about rivers for kids aged 7 to 10, and it's coming out later this month! Rivers and Streams! is part of a set of four “Explore Waterways” books published by the excellent Nomad Press in White River Junction, Vermont. It’s packed with really fun illustrations by the very talented Tom Casteel, and it includes 25 river-related activities. If you have a young person in your life who’s into science—or even one who isn’t yet into science—check out the set, or the many other wonderful non-fiction books for kids that Nomad publishes.
November’s Shooting Stars
A cool literary find from each of us to help light up your month!
Tommy Orange’s review of Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah in The New York Times was fantastic. Here’s a snippet:
“Now more than ever I believe fiction can change minds, build empathy by asking readers to walk in others’ shoes, and thereby contribute to real change. In “Friday Black,” Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah has written a powerful and important and strange and beautiful collection of stories meant to be read right now, at the end of this year, as we inch ever closer to what feels like an inevitable phenomenal catastrophe or some other kind of radical change, for better or for worse. And when you can’t believe what’s happening in reality, there is no better time to suspend your disbelief and read and trust in a work of fiction—in what it can do.”
I’m in a bit of a glum mood, what with the current dreary weather and the state of the world and all, so Emily Dickinson’s Patreon page in The New Yorker is giving me a welcome lift as I put the finishing touches on this newsletter. I’ll be scraping my shekels together to afford patronage at $100 a month (“I will tell you which parts of the Bible would be made better with bees. Plus all previous rewards.”) How about you? —Rebecca
On Friday, November 2, at 7:30 pm, GunSense Vermont, the Unitarian Church of Montpelier, and Bear Pond Books present “Bullets Into Bells: Poets and Citizens Respond to Gun Violence.” This event features Major Jackson, Matthew Olzmann, and Kerrin McCadden and takes place at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier, Vermont.
You have plenty of opportunities to catch cartoonist Ed Koren in November. He’ll be at The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont, on Saturday, November 3, at 6:00 pm; at Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, November 15, at 7:00 pm; at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont, on Friday, November 23, at 12:00 pm for a book signing; and at the Norman Williams Public Library in Woodstock, Vermont, on Tuesday, November 27, at 6:00 pm.
On Sunday, November 4, at 3:00 pm, poet Sue Ellen Thompson is giving a lecture on “Marriage, Metaphor, & Mortality: The Poetry of Jane Kenyon” at BigTown Gallery in Rochester, Vermont. The lecture explores Kenyon’s lifelong struggle with depression and her marriage to fellow poet Donald Hall.
Also on Sunday, November 4, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, will be dedicating the Colony’s Library to James Baldwin, who was a resident at the Colony three times in the 1950s to work on his books. The outdoor ceremony at 11:00 am will be followed by light refreshments.
Eugene Lim will be reading as part of the Cleopatra Mathis Poetry & Prose Reading Series at Dartmouth College’s Sanborn Library, in Hanover, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, November 6, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm.
First Wednesdays, a program of the Vermont Humanities Council, brings DeRay McKesson to Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont, on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:00 pm to talk about politics and activism.
Catherine Lacey is at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, on Wednesday, November 7, at 7:00 pm, reading from her new short story collection, Certain American States.
On Tuesday, November 13, poet Kevin Goodan reads from his new collection, Anaphora, at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, New Hampshire. The reading begins at 5:30 pm.
Jeremy Holt visits Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday, November 13, at 7:00 pm for his graphic novel, After Houdini.
Robin MacArthur will be at The Bennington Free Library in Bennington, Vermont, on Thursday, November 15, at 7:00 pm, in support of the paperback release of her fabulous novel, Heart Spring Mountain.
Poet Sidney Wade will be at the Fleming Museum of Art in Burlington, Vermont, for the Painted Word Poetry Series on Thursday, November 29, at 6:00 pm.
As part of the UNH Writers Series, Kim Adrian, author of the memoir The Twenty-Seventh Letter of the Alphabet, will be reading at the University of New Hampshire, in Durham, New Hampshire, on Thursday, November 29, at 5:00 pm.
Visit our calendar for detailed information about these events and more!
Worth a Drive
Edward Carey visits The Odyssey Bookshop in Hadley, Massachusetts, on Thursday, November 8, at 7:00 pm to read from his new novel, Little, about Madam Tussaud. The event is free but registration is requested.
Worth a Listen
Did you catch the recent conversation between Melanie Finn and Mitch Wertlieb on Vermont Public Radio about Melanie’s new novel, The Underneath? She’s a smart writer and a terrific reader, and her personality comes across beautifully in this brief but involving interview.
We're Looking Forward to These November Releases
Evening In Paradise, by Lucia Berlin (FSG, November 6)
Born to Be Posthumous, by Mark Dery (Little, Brown and Company, November 6)
The Children’s Bach, by Helen Garner (Text, November 6)
Northwood, by Maryse Meijer (Black Balloon, November 6)
Those Who Knew, by Idra Novey (Viking, November 6)
The Valley at the Centre of the World, by Mallachy Tallack (Canongate Books, November 6)
We Begin in Gladness, by Craig Morgan Teicher (Graywolf Press, November 6)
Hardly Children, by Laura Adamcyzk (FSG Originals, November 20)
Tell Them of Battles, Kings, and Elephants, by Mathias Enard, translated by Charlotte Mandell (New Directions, November 27)
Calls For Submission and Upcoming Deadlines
The AVA Gallery in Lebanon, New Hampshire is looking for its next batch of true-life storytellers for its December 13 Mudroom event. The theme is “Holiday Disasters.” Storytellers of all ages and from all towns in the Upper Valley and beyond are welcome to submit their stories for consideration by November 23. In your submission, include a brief summary of the story (no more than 300 words) and a short bio (no more than 150 words). For more information and to submit your story, please visit the AVA Gallery’s Mudroom page.
Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program in Dorset, Vermont, that fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas by providing an environment for artists across disciplines to live and work side by side. The three-week Artist Residency is open to artists in all creative fields, including but not limited to visual arts, writing, choreography, music composition and performance. Applications for 2019 residencies are open through December 16. The application fee is $32. For more information, please visit the Residency Applications page.
Bloodroot Literary Magazine is accepting submissions of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction for their 2019 Digital Edition through December 31. Submission guidelines are available on the Bloodroot website.
The Frost Place is accepting submissions for their annual Chapbook Competition. The competition is open to any poet writing in English. The submission fee is $28. Submissions will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Chapbook Competition page.
Applications are now open for the Dartmouth Poet in Residence program at The Frost Place. This is a six-to-eight-week residency in poet Robert Frost’s former farmhouse in Franconia, New Hampshire. The residency begins July 1 and ends August 15, and includes an award of $1,000 from The Frost Place and an award of $1,000 from Dartmouth College. The recipient will have an opportunity to give a series of public readings across the region, including at Dartmouth College and The Frost Place. Applications will be accepted through January 5, 2019. For more information, please visit the Residency page.
Every summer, the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, awards residency Fellowships to artists in seven disciplines, including literature. A Fellowship consists of exclusive use of a private studio, accommodations and three prepared meals a day for two weeks to two months. The deadline for the 2019 Summer MacDowell Literature Fellowship is January 15, 2019. The application fee is $30. For more information, please visit the Residency Application page.
Upcoming Workshops and Classes
Do you have an interview project in mind but don’t quite know where to begin or how to proceed? The Vermont Folklife Center is offering an “Oral History: An Introduction” workshop that can help you move your project forward. The workshop will be held on November 3, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Dorset Historical Society in Dorset, Vermont. Tuition is $95-$50. For more information and to register, please visit the Vermont Folklife Center Workshop page.
The pressure’s on if you’re participating in National Novel Writing Month, the creative writing project that challenges participants to write a 50,000 word manuscript in November. Take some of that pressure off with the free “NaNoWriMo Expressive Writing” workshop, lead by Joni B. Cole on November 5, at the Norwich Public Library in Norwich, Vermont, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. This workshop invites you to write from a prompt to develop a character….add a plot twist…or discover a scene that’s just been waiting to burst onto the page. For more information, please visit the Writer’s Center of WRJ Workshops page.
Looking for quality instruction, feedback, and inspiration in a beautiful Vermont setting? This half-day retreat on November 10, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, offers all that and more. You’ll have the opportunity to share pages of a new or revised work for personalized feedback, learn tips and techniques to get started and stay motivated, and reap the benefits of gathering within a supportive creative community. Both nervous beginners and seasoned authors are welcome. Tuition is $115 and must be paid in full prior to the retreat. For more information, or to register (required), please visit the Writer’s Center of WRJ Workshops page.
NaNoWriMo too easy? Become a Centurion by earning 100 poetry, essay, or short-story rejections in twelve months. Lead by R. W. W. Greene, this two-hour workshop hosted by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project will “take you through the steps of submitting your work, the mystery of rejectomancy, and the best methods of recuperation from a ‘thanks but no thanks.’” The workshop will be held on November 17, from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, at The Ford House on the campus of SNHU in Manchester, New Hampshire. $50 for NHWP members; $75 for non-members. For more information, please visit the NHWP Workshops page.
Storytelling is a powerful tool for the documentation of voices, memories, and histories. It can also be a catalyst for activism and social change. In this “Storytelling for Social Change” workshop—held on December 1, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Saint Albans Museum in Saint Albans, Vermont—we will explore the ethics and techniques of oral history, ethnography, and storytelling as activist research methodologies. Attendees will be invited to take a critical and analytical look at the history of documentary work, and will learn the basics of skills such as interviewing, story circle facilitation, and ethnographic observation. We will also cover the technical aspects of storytelling, providing an introduction to tools for minimal-resource and mobile audio recording. Tuition is $95-$50. For more information or to register, please visit the Vermont Folklife Center Workshop page.
The poems in Camille Guthrie’s Articulated Lair were written in response to the life and work of artist Louise Bourgeois (the book’s title comes from one of Bourgeois’ 1986 installation of the same name). The poems are sculptural themselves. They are concrete, with lines constructed of their own steel and marble, while also open to allow in light, reflecting the art, the artist, and the poet all at once. Simply beautiful.
Peter Orner’s Am I Alone Here? is a fantastic collection of essays about reading and writing and being human that will appeal to rabid readers or anyone who just loves great writing. His essays wheel from funny to tender and everything in between. We love this book!
The Burlington Book Festival lands in Burlington, Vermont, on October 12 to 14, with an amazing lineup including Mary Jo Bang, Dan Chiasson, Maria Hummel, Mark Leyner, Bethany Morrow, and Sharon Olds. This is the last in a series of four interviews in celebration of the Festival.
Bethany C. Morrow is the author of the debut novel, MEM, published by the wonderful small publisher, Unnamed Press. Publisher’s Weekly describes MEM as “ambitious and insightful, raising questions about memory, trauma, and humanity.” Morrow was an Indies Introduce Debut Author selected by the American Booksellers Association. Originally from California, she currently lives in upstate New York.
Thank you, Bethany!
Literary North: Tell us a little bit about your writing process.
Bethany Morrow: I think my writing process adapts to each individual project, but there are some places where I start. The transition from thinking about writing something (which is a step in the writing process) to literally writing about it requires, for me, a first line; an inciting incident, or reason the story is starting now; a character I know (or think I know for now); a sound (as in a song that matches the emotional tenor of the character or incident or); a climax.
Once I have those things I write a first chapter, which tends to be establishing, so it's not very long. Like introducing yourself before you start blabbering on to someone who doesn't want to know you, lol. And then I see what I've learned from that introduction, and go back to thinking. Once I know the next few steps, I start writing toward the end of the first act, at which point I stop again and go back to thinking because things organically develop and I want to write the story not the story that first appeared in my head if it isn't true anymore. The process goes a bit like that through the climax, until I know how it ends.
LN: What influences have helped shape you into the writer you are today?
BM: A reader might be a better person to answer that. I can only say what meant a lot to me as a young reader/writer: Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and everything by Toni Morrison (especially up through Love, since that's when I was rabidly reading and rereading her, including essays and interviews).
LN: What was the kernel of the idea for your novel, MEM? What inspired you and influenced your writing as you worked toward its completion?
BM: The kernel of the idea was making cloning more interesting than I find it in real life, lol. And then determining that the most interesting person in that world would be such a clone, but one that doesn't match her intended purpose, and because there's an expectation on her to prove her humanness, she has such a shallow pool of "respectable" identity expression while others who are never questioned are free to be inhuman.
LN: What brings you joy?
BM: My son, of course, before everything. The right words. A sound too perfect to be translated into words. A shared happiness.
LN: What was the most memorable thing you read in the past month?
BM: I started reading What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, and from the first page, the gasp I made at the end of the first story, it's just intoxicating.
Micah Perks is a Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she co-directs the Creative Writing program. She’s written four books, her most recent being a collection of linked short stories entitled, True Love and Other Miraculous Dreams of Escape. Her work has been published in Tin House, Zyzzyva, The Massachusetts Review, and many other places. We were delighted to have the opportunity to interview Micah as her new book was about to be released. Thank you, Micah!
You can see Micah at Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, New Hampshire, on Saturday, October 13 at 7:00 pm. Micah will also be in conversation with Peter Orner at The Norwich Bookstore on Wednesday, October 17, at 7:00 pm.
Literary North: Tell us a bit about putting together your new collection of linked short stories, True Love and Other Miraculous Dreams of Escape. What threads were you following throughout this collection?
Micah Perks: These are stories I originally wrote over a period of fifteen years. When I went to put them together, I realized there were characters who were similar to each other—like a bald Latin American guy with great teeth who was sometimes an Argentinian scientist and sometimes a Chilean professor and sometimes a human rights activist. (My husband is a bald Chilean guy with great teeth.) I realized they were basically the same guy, so I started there, making them the same guy, and everything lead from there—if he's the same guy, then his children are the same people, his storyline needs an arc, and after six months, I had a linked collection. All the stories are about the longing to forge close connections and the longing to escape. This is something I've been writing about all my life. I think it's a very American dilemma—from the very beginning we have wanted to create a shining city on a hill and as soon as we created communities there were people who wanted to light out for the territory ahead of the rest. We've imagined utopia in an ideal community and also utopia in an escape from those communities.
LN: What influences have shaped you into the writer you are today?
MP: Growing up on a commune in the Adirondack wilderness. My escape artist father and my ever loving mom. And I've always loved reading. I read a lot. The books that made me a writer were C. S. Lewis' Narnia series and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. One about finding the perfect world, the other about escaping stifling domesticity.
LN: You've written essays, memoir, and fiction. How does the genre you're working in affect your writing process?
MP: If I'm writing memoir, it's because I want to focus on issues of truth and memory. I always contact the people I'm writing about and ask for their point of view. Often I write their point of view into the memoir. My fiction is usually a blending of historical research, experience, and imagination.
LN: What brings you joy?
MP: Great question! Kayaking. Biking. Nature. Reading and writing. My students. My children. Eating delicious things. Lying at night talking face to face with my husband, laughing over cocktails with my friends. Any combination of these things. I biked from Berlin to Copenhagen in June with my daughter after she graduated from college. That trip included the biking, the laughing, my daughter, the nature, even sometimes a cocktail. It was very joyful.
LN: What was the most memorable thing you've read in the past month?
MP: Another great question. I'm reading Valeria Luiselli's Faces in the Crowd right now. I LOVE the way she moves between past, present, and a fictional time/place. Brilliant. And the dialogue of the young boy is really funny. I love funny kids. I love books that make me laugh, feel sad, think. This book does all three.