Newburyport Literary Festival 2014 — wrap up

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Another year, another great Newburyport Literary Festival. I was thrilled to be a part of the festival again this year and to be able to share the day with readers and writers. It is, without a doubt, my favorite local event of the year and I am so proud that our town hosts it. And my great thanks to Vicki Hendrickson and Jennifer Entwistle for all that they do as co-directors of the festival. Amazing work, ladies!

Here’s a recap of all that I witnessed during the festival.

I was so happy to share the festival this year with my friends, Jennifer Pieroni and Pamela Erens. Pamela’s plane was delayed and so, unfortunately, she did not make it to the opening ceremony. Jennifer and I did, though, and it was great. The opening was a lively conversation between Andre Dubus III, this year’s festival honoree, and Ann Hood. Here I must admit that I have never read any of Hood’s work but I intend to now. She was such an engaging and charming speaker that I fell right in love with her. Their conversation was funny, informative, and full of heart. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the festival.

After the opening ceremony, we went to the Dinner with the Authors where we are able to connect with the fabulous Holly Robinson (who is so damn funny that she brings out my snort-laugh). Thankfully, Pamela was able to get on another flight and made it just in time to meet up with us at the dinner. I also was able to meet Jessica Keener and Caroline Leavitt, who were both so lovely and warm. All in all, a lovely night.

Saturday morning had me rushing out the door to get to the church on time. That is Old South Church in Newburyport where I was scheduled to introduce Wally Lamb. The night before I told my friends at dinner about my anxiety dream. I dreamt that I was at the church on time but I had forgotten my write up. I told a sour-faced group who were seated at the altar that I would be right back and I headed down the aisle. Unfortunately, I never made it down the aisle in the dream and never introduced Wally Lamb because I was too busy changing my clothes in front of everyone in the church. So my friend Holly triple-dog dared me to tell this dream in my introduction and it sounded like such a great idea after a glass of wine, but, alas in the light of the day, I decided not to. I did, however, tell the dream to the horrified pastor in my nervousness(sorry, Pastor Rob!).

Just before I was to introduce Wally Lamb, I noticed that Richard Russo was in the audience which made me FREAK OUT even more, but I managed to hold it together and give my introduction.

As for Wally Lamb, he could not have been nicer and kinder and his reading was excellent. He read an excerpt from We Are Water which made me cry. I think he must have known what wrecks he had turned the audience into because after his excerpt he read his account of signing at Costco.

After Wally Lamb, I raced over to The Book Rack to listen to Jennifer read from Danceland. Her reading was moving and excellent. So proud of my friend!

Meanwhile, my husband took our son to hear and learn from David Biedrzycki as he discussed The Art of Digital Book Illustration. They had a great time and learned a lot.

After Jennifer’s reading, we headed to Jabberwocky Bookshop to hear Caroline Leavitt read. My god, what a funny, warm, and engaging speaker and reader she is. If you have the chance to hear her read, do yourself a favor and hear her! She was fabulous. <–side note: Ann Hood sat next to us at this reading and by this point I was so in love with her that I had to physically hold myself back from telling her so!

After lunch came the 1PM panel I was moderating called, Finding the Story. On the panel were three excellent writers: Bret Anthony Johnston, Jessica Keener, and CB Anderson. What a great group the are. So generous with their insights into process and craft and all such talented writers. I was honored to share the stage with them and to have this conversation. We had an excellent audience with good questions and even ran out of time before we got to all of the questions. I actually loved moderating a panel which I’ve never done before. It was great fun.

After my panel, we headed back over to Jabberwocky Bookshop to hear Ann Hood speak and read. She was incredible. My girl crush went into overdrive listening to her entertain and amaze the crowd. I can’t wait to read every single one of her books. Team Ann Hood!

Sadly, I was not able to attend any of the 4PM events because by that point I was hobbling due to a poor shoe choice (note: wear comfortable shoes in your anxious, rickety-streeted town. You know better!) and so I had to go home and “rest” (i.e., go to the grocery store to make sure my neglected family didn’t starve) and change my shoes.

I met back up with Pamela and, after dinner, we headed to the Closing Ceremony. which was a wonderful discussion moderated by Lucy Kaylin, editor-in-chief of O Magazine. On the panel were: Richard Russo, Wally Lamb, Andre Dubus III, and Jenna Blum. They were all great speakers and so funny as they discussed their various Oprah experiences. Of the four, I have yet to read Blum’s work but I certainly will now as she seemed really intelligent and funny. All in all, a perfect ending to a great day.

I should note here that while it was raining and cold all day, people came out and enjoyed all of the free events. I am already excited for next year.

The very best part of the weekend, though, waking up this morning to my beautiful family who missed seeing me all day yesterday as much as I missed seeing them.


















Short Story Month Giveaway


I’m excited that May is short story month. In fact, I’m so excited that I’m going to give away a signed copy of my collection of short fiction, I AM HOLDING YOUR HAND.

Here’s what you have to do: in the comments to this post on my blog, list your favorite short story and tell me why it’s your favorite. I will keep the comments open all month long and choose a random winner at the end of the month (but that person must have followed the rules in order to win).

Check back here at the end of the month to see who won and please do spread the word. Thank you and Happy Short Story Month!

Enter for your chance to win a copy of I AM HOLDING YOUR HAND

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 I AM HOLDING YOUR HAND is forthcoming from [PANK] Books in January 2013.

Click here and enter for your chance to WIN one of two signed copies. And please spread the word!



Hard to Say, by Ethel Rohan


I do believe that Hard to Say, a painfully beautiful linked collection of stories by Ethel Rohan, will leave you as speechless as it did me. The book begins with a young woman whose own desire not to speak her family’s many secrets chokes her. It is not until she envisions herself speaking, through a dream of bloodletting, that her stories are set free.

Long kept hidden away in the narrator’s secret spaces, the stories burst onto the page with confessions of wrong doing–both that which is done to the narrator and that which she does out of necessity and survival and desire. Indeed, the book reminded me of the first time I went to confession. I remember being disappointed because the priest was not in a booth as I had anticipated. Instead, we sat in a small room together, nearly facing each other. I could not possibly tell him all of my sins face-to-face.  Instead, I told him those I thought he could most easily swallow. Had I been able to speak freely in a dark booth, away from his eyes, I might have told the truth as the narrator does in these stories.

While all of the stories moved me, the one that broke me was the final story, “Mammy,” which is peeled back to the first word and possibly the final word any human being thinks or says and that is a name for mother: Mammy, Maw, Ma, Mummy, Mommy, Mama, etc.  The narrator, leaving her ailing mother in Dublin as she flies back to the US, watches a documentary about girls’ circumcision in a Ugandan village. She is on the plane and her thoughts are, obviously, with her mother, as are mine while I read it. I have been on that plane, flying back and forth to and from my sick mother, wishing for relief from the anguish of it all. And then the final lines which pierced me deep in my heart and continue to:

Then, on the plane, from the TV, those girls’ cries from that hut in Uganda, calling their mothers, Mammy, Mammy, Mammy. Cries that stabbed me, that should have cracked the earth.

It’s a gorgeous book. Read it.

Best of the Web 2008 Contents Announced

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Best of the Web 2008 Contents Announced

Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web 2008 anthology hits stores next Tuesday and can be ordered online, or pre-ordered at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or by your favorite store today! Ryan Call recently reviewed the collection at, ending his review with:

“The book both recognizes a wide range of quality online writing, and gives its readers a comprehensive look at the field from which its contents come – two characteristics of a good anthology. As for the fate of the series, I do not doubt that it will continue to appear each year, given the tremendous success that Dzanc has had since its founding in 2006. Such a development could not have come at a better time for online literary publishing.”

We’re working on others, but there are two readings confirmed, Tuesday, July 15 at Pacific Standard in Brooklyn, and Thursday, July 17 at McNally Robinson in Manhattan.

In order to whet your appetites – here is the listing of contributors and their works – plus the anthology has introductions by both Series Editor, Nathan Leslie, and this year’s Guest Editor, Steve Almond, short interviews with four of the authors, and an appendix with editorial and submission information for over 300 online journals!

Elizabeth Crane – Promise – failbetter
David Willems – A Girl Made of Glass – Hotel St. George Press
Melanie Carter – Fish Catcher – storySouth
George Saunders – Some Brief and Frightening Tips from George Saunders – Konundrum Engine Literary Review
Richard Jespers – Basketball is Not a Drug – Blackbird
Tess Taylor – Route 1 North, Woolich, Maine – Memorious
Ron Tanner – My Small Murders – Wheelhouse Magazine
Christopher Rizzo – Zone – H_NGM_N
Amy Minton – Overhanded – Hobart
J.W. Young – Pageant Queen – Apple Valley Review
Juan Jose Millas – Translated by Peter Robertson – To See Them Again – Mad Hatter’s Review
Anne Dyer Stuart – [envy is a nude door] – 2River Review
Jacques Rancourt – Fireflies – Rumble
Kris Broughton – The Black Fokls’ Guide to Survival – Eclectica Magazine
Stevie Davis – Corner Knows the Dust – Failbetter
Amy L. Sargent – Shotgun – Wheelhouse Magazine
Justin Taylor – The Jealousy of Angels – Del Sol Review
Carmen Gimenez Smith – So You Know Who We Are – diode
Seth Harwood – Tattooed People – Storyglossia
Arlene Ang – Ceremonial Spoon – Caffeine Destiny
Paul Yoon – Postcards from My Brother – Memorious
Abby Frucht – Blue Shirt – Brevity
Kim Whitehead – The Split – Terrain
Christina Kallery – Swan Falls in Love with Swan-Shaped Boat – Failbetter
Michael Bahler – The Stiff Jew – Swink
Jared Carter – Prophet Township – Valparaiso Poetry Review
Sarah Sweeney – Tell Me if You’re Lying – fringe
Cara Hoffman – Waking – Our Stories
Zachary Amendt – Casa de Serenidad – Underground Voices
David Bottoms – Thirst and the Writer’s Sense of Consequence – Kennesaw Review
Claudia Zuluaga – Okeechobee – Narrative Magazine
Maurice Manning – The Doctrine of an Axe – Cortland Review
Jenny Pritchett – Bugaboo – Fiction Attic
Thomas King – Household Poisons – Contrary
Nancy Cherry – Yearly Trek to Bear Valley – Green Hills Literary Lantern
LaTanya McQueen – The Women of My Father – BluePrintReview
Garth Risk Hallberg – The One That Got Away: Why James Wood is Wrong About Underworld (and Why Anyone Should Care) – The Quarterly Conversation
Edward Byrne – Island Fever – Apple Valley Review
Robin Behn – Childbirth in Alabama – Brevity
Edward Hirsch – The Minimalist Museum – Per Contra
Sandra Huber – Eels – Danforth Review
Anna Kushner – Olor a Cuba – ep:phany
Andrew Sorge – Bruxism – Menda City Review
Andrea Cohen – Still Life with Childhood – Memorious
Elaine Chiew – Huckleberry Thumb – Juked
Bill Mohr – Headway – Pemmican
Valerie Loveland – Anatomy Test, Eleventh Grade – wicked alice
Okey Ndibe – My Biafran Eyes – Guernica
Benjamin Buchholz – The Cabalfish – Storyglossia
Stefani Nellen – The Attraction of Asphalt – SmokeLong Quarterly
Bruce Fisher – Flat at Dawn and at Twilight – The King’s English
Leigh Anne Crouch – I am not a man; I am dynamite – Blackbird
Charlie Geoghegean-Clements – Woodbury Notes – Furnace Review
Frannie Lindsay – Walking an Old Woman Into the Sea – Valparaiso Poetry Review
R.T. Smith – What I Omitted from the Office Personnel Services Report – Per Contra
Myfanwy Collins – The Daughters – Monkeybicycle
Michael Wood – with introduction by Jonthan Ames – The Mystery of Henry’s Bicycle – Konundrum Engine Literary Review

Oh Baby, by Kim Chinquee

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Be prepared: Oh Baby, Kim Chinquee’s debut collection, will knock you on your ass.

It’s a book about love: mother for child; child for mother, for father; man for woman; woman for man and man and man. Love for running. Love for vodka.

It’s a book about women: a runner, an artist, a nurse, a mother, a girlfriend, a wife, a daughter, a friend. A drawer of blood.

A woman who lives in England, in the midwest, in some nameless place.

A woman.

But mostly, it’s a book about identity in which the author constantly scrutinizes these women to find out which one is the one. In “Purple” she asks: “Me, who was I?” and then never answers the question. And then in “Wig” she talks of buying a wig and says: “When I got back to the hotel, I put it on and thought I looked like Kim Chinquee.”

And this is what we’re all looking for: that time and place where we most feel like ourselves. When we are no longer pretending and donning our wigs. Do we ever find it?

Taken seperately, these stories will hurt you; taken together as one in this collection, they will clobber you and rob you of your breath.

Read it.