On Saturday afternoon I read at Book People, a charming new and used bookshop in Richmond’s West End that was founded in 1980. I met some great people, including teachers, librarians, and Walkertonians, and at the end of the reading I met Gus, my mom’s new dog. They’re both kind of hammy:
Kristi, a blogger I met at the reading, posted this lovely review today on River City Fiction. It’s a great site connecting fiction writers, readers, libraries, and independent bookstores in Richmond, Virginia. Click here to check it out.
Loretta likes the car, as long as it isn't moving
I’ll be at Book People in Richmond tomorrow (August 28) from 4-6 PM. I’m reading at 5 and otherwise hanging out, browsing, and signing books.
Then on September 11 I’ll tell a true story–live, without notes!–at the Monti in Carrboro, NC. Click here for more details! I plan to practice my story on the car ride to Richmond.
One of the best things about Bread Loaf, for me, was rooming with Millicent A. A. Graham, a wonderful lyric poet from Jamaica. Here we are, sitting outside on campus:
I don’t know how they knew to pair us, but we both felt lucky, even though our room was sort of small and directly above the kitchen (all the better to eavesdrop on the waiters’ Madonna routine).
Millicent read from her extraordinary book of poetry, The Damp in Things, one afternoon in the Little Theater. Everyone was blown away by her incredible images and language. I think you should watch the book trailer! Then you will want to buy the book.
While I was away at Bread Loaf, Mattaponi Queen was featured or reviewed in some really great places. Check it out:
Popmatters called MQ “strikingly poised.”
The Los Angeles Times picked MQ for their “Discoveries” section, and Susan Salter Reynolds wrote, “Reading these stories is satisfying, like going to a concert in which the musicians, you can just tell, have given everything for the moment: your unforgettable evening.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune says MQ is “so good you’ll be hooked.”
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: ”Written with grace, realism and humor, the interconnected tales of ‘Mattaponi Queen’ amplify the sense of place that’s intrinsic to Southern fiction.”
The Charlotte Observer calls MQ “regional fiction with serious bite.” I was really pleased that Bruce Allen paid special attention to “Shelter,” one of my favorite stories in the collection.
And finally, The Daily Beast‘s books editor, Lucas Wittmann, wrote a profile of yours truly for their “Writers to Watch” series.
Sorry for all these braggy links! Tomorrow I’ll try to show you a lovely book trailer for a terrific collection of poetry.
Before the readings in the Little Theater at Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, there are no introductions. It’s a convention I love, because it leaves more time to listen to the many poems, essays, stories and lectures we’re treated to every day. When it’s time to begin, the lights dim and then brighten, and everyone claps and the reader approaches the podium–a scary and wonderful moment if you’re the reader, as I was on Saturday afternoon with my friends Kim and Nick. The glass-paned doors on either side of the theater stand open so if you’re late or the seats are full you can stand there and listen. The doors also let in the cool Vermont air and certain animals. On the first night of the conference, during Michael Collier’s welcome, there were fireflies above our heads; yesterday, during my friend Millicent’s reading, there was a chipmunk scurrying under the curtain.
The readings and talks will be available for downloading after the conference; I’ll post links to my favorites. Some have been just astonishing. I’m sorry I haven’t written–it’s really busy here–but here are some photos I’ve taken:
In the Little Theater
The Inn, where I'm staying
Sometimes you have to take a walk
Tomorrow I leave for Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont. I’m so excited to meet the other writers who will be there, and I hope to have a chance to take pictures and post about my experiences. I wanted to post something more substantial today, but it took me such a long time to pack, and then there was the matter of a snake on my porch.
In the meantime, here are some links:
John H. Harris published a marvelous review of Mattaponi Queen in the Southside Sentinel.
I answered questions about childhood heroes, favorite books and movies, and revealed Loretta’s pepper jelly recipe in the Newtonville Books Blog.
My mom and dad adopted this adorable dog this weekend. More cute photos of Gus to follow…
If you have a book club, class, or book group and would like me to visit, please contact me! If you’re driving distance from Chatham County, North Carolina, I can come in person; if not, we could always have a discussion over Skype (you know, like Oprah).
Yesterday, for example, I drove to Charlotte, North Carolina to meet some avid readers gathered by my new friend, Suzanne, a fellow teacher, devoted mother and grandmother, and passionate reader. I talked about the origins of Mattaponi Queen, the people of Walkerton and my family, how the cover came to be, and my writing process, among other things (I even admitted, after being asked about my graduating class at King William High, to being “a little bit kicked out” of that school). I had so much fun talking to the women there that I forgot to take pictures until the end.
Here I am with Suzanne, who put together a marvelous event and even took me out for a lovely dinner afterwards:
Thank you, Suzanne, and ladies of Charlotte!
Book storage is an issue in my house
I’ve just joined Goodreads–”Facebook for readers,” according to my friend Marisa–and have been steadily adding books I’ve read and books I want to read to my virtual bookshelf. Apparently I’m an easy grader. My average score (given to the books on my self) is 4.8–virtually an A+.
Well, I already knew this about myself–in the classroom, too, I tend to give out more A’s than other teachers. I’ve even worked at a school that doesn’t have grades at all, which is my preference. But that doesn’t mean I’m an easy teacher. I expect (and my students usually deliver) high-quality work.
As a reader, I also have really high expectations, and I tend to buy and read books I know I’ll love (see book storage issue pictured above). I have some favorite authors, but I also like finding out about new authors through award nominations and reviews (this is how I discovered Bonnie Jo Campbell and Paul Harding) as well as journals and anthologies. I also like reading excerpts of books before they’re released, and my favorite reading experience is finally getting a copy of a book I’ve been waiting on for a long time (currently, that book is My Hollywood by Mona Simpson–I heard her read a chapter, later published as “Coins” in Harper’s, at UC Irvine in 2001; the novel will be released today).
Hopefully Goodreads will introduce me to more books and writers and provide an easy way to keep track of what I plan to read. If you join or are already a member, the Graywolf discussion group, moderated by Marisa, is full of smart readers, and many of the Wolves have author pages. It’s also fun to click around on the author pages of writers you like to see what people are reading (if they’ve added books; some only add a few–or just their own!). An author I really admire gave four stars, for example, to Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. Tough grader.
Click here for my author page, where you can see what I’m reading and what I’ve put on my shelf.
Last week, I wrote about character inspiration on The Story Prize Blog. This post was sort of personal and took me a long time to write, relatively speaking. The other nominees for The Story Prize (short story writers are nominated by their publishers) have had a lot of interesting things to say about process, favorite collections, and what inspires them.
Vicky Dickson wrote a lovely piece about Mattaponi Queen and me in The Carrboro Citizen. I was pleased that she mentioned my love for the Haw (pictured above).
Beyond the Blurb published a really thoughtful review of Mattaponi Queen today.
These frozen banana bites are easy to make and delicious.