Monthly Archives: May 2010

How to Say It, MQ News Roundup

Kayaking the Haw

-Mattaponi rhymes with “batted an eye.” I thought I should mention that since it isn’t apparent from the spelling. Did you know that the Mattaponi is one of the most pristine coastal rivers (some say it’s the most pristine) on the Eastern Seaboard?

-Mark Athitakis, who has said some nice things about Mattaponi Queen, mentioned “Jonas” in a post about contextualizing short stories within the whole collection. Also discussed: Raymond Carver, Wells Tower, Stephen O’Connor, and Ben Fountain.

-Foreword Magazine published a nice review of Mattaponi Queen.

-My Largehearted Boy book notes are live today. I made a Mattaponi Queen playlist featuring Patti LaBelle, Bob Dylan, Papoose and more.

-The annual Mattaponi Indian Reservation Powwow is coming up on Saturday, June 19. The site warns: “This is a family event; no drugs or alcohol, and no pets please.”

Have a great weekend!


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In Stores!

Mattaponi Queen is now in stores! I stopped by Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill today and took this picture:

Also, I found these today while jogging to the river:

There are eleven four-leafers and three five-leafers.


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For Example

I could send you this one, which I found this weekend along Old Greensboro Road, before I went kayaking on the Haw River. It’s a little busted up because I put it in the dry bag with my camera and forgot about it until the next morning.

I had mixed luck on my kayak trip–it stormed, but I saw a bald eagle toward the end. However, I offer it to you with the idea, expressed in one of my favorite Edward P. Jones stories, “Old Boys, Old Girls,” that a good-luck piece can be passed on to someone else, revived. In that story, Caesar, who is not insane but is “three doors from it,” is given a lucky rabbit’s foot by his Lorton cellmate, just before the cellmate is released. Jones explains the prison economy of lucky key chains and lucky dirty calendars:

It was the way among all those men that when a good-luck piece had run out of juice, it was given away with the hope that new ownership would renew its strength.

In general I love the vulnerability that superstition reveals. Think of Henry Dobbins, who wore his girlfriend’s hose around his neck in The Things They Carried.

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Something About Me

I am pretty good at finding four-leaf clovers. I think it’s a trait I inherited from my mom, who can find a whole bouquet of them in about ten minutes. Without looking very hard, I usually find one or two a week. If you email me your address, I’ll find one for you and mail it to you.*

If you’d rather find your own, here is what I recommend:

1. Look.

2. Look carefully.

3. Don’t give up–they’re there. Last June I was with some D.C. fifth graders at a rest stop in North Carolina, and while we waited I found two. One of my students, after watching me, crept along the grass until she found one of the largest, most perfect four-leaf clovers I’ve ever seen. She said she just believed she would find it, and she did.

4. Once you get some practice you’ll find them as you walk along, without really looking at all. You’ll also find some five- and six-leafers.

*if a lot of people email me, it could take a while. But it’s sort of a hobby, so I wouldn’t mind.


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Recommended Reading (or, Belle in ELLE)

I’m thrilled that Mattaponi Queen was chosen as a “Recommended Read” in June’s ELLE Magazine. I haven’t found a copy in stores yet, so in its place on my coffee table I have the J-Lo issue (February), which my mom enhanced by adding B’s to all the ELLE’s. (Also pictured: peonies from my friend Anna’s farm, a point my neighbor Gabriel found on his land, and my favorite vintage-fabric clutch, to go with the fashion theme.)

Click here to read more!

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Early Reviews


Loretta doesn't really care for books

Mattaponi Queen has received some very nice reviews from Kirkus and Booklist (though Booklist did refer to the middle peninsula as “that godforsaken place”). I haven’t decided how to integrate this content into the blog yet, but I did want to mention the review I received from NewPages, a guide to independent publishers, independent bookstores, and literary magazines (check out their blog for useful and interesting information about grants, contests, and literary goings-on). I think Keith Meatto’s review is very thoughtful and a good introduction for people who aren’t familiar with the stories. Here’s a sample:

Set near and on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in Virginia, the twelve tales mull the many manifestations of loneliness and the ache for companionship.

Nearly every story in Mattaponi Queen explores the effects of estrangement. Husbands and wives, parents and children stumble through their daily routines, haunted by people separated from them by distance, divorce, or death. Many characters have jobs – such as nurse, teacher and coach – that require them to care for others. Meanwhile, they undermine their own chances at happiness, whether it’s through drugs and alcohol or self-imposed seclusion.

The book begins slowly, with stories that are nearly vignettes. Gradually, a narrative accrues as Boggs sketches her native state from multiple points of view: male and female, young and old, black, white, and Indian. The tension comes to a head with “Homecoming,” about a boy who moves from Brooklyn to Virginia and his transformation from football star to drug dealer. At 40 pages, it’s the longest piece in the collection and, plot-wise, the most traditional. Regardless, the story hammers home the themes of the collection: the clashes between dreams and reality and the fault-lines of race and class in America. Above all, the story addresses the notion of what it means to belong to a community and call a place home. Mattaponi Queen is filled with homecomings and the celebrations are always bittersweet.

Read the full review here–the ending is especially nice.

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The CSA Theory of Bookstores

This is a just-picked purple kohlrabi plant from Duck Run Farm, a duck, chicken, and vegetable farm not far from us, in Pittsboro. We’ve joined Duck Run’s vegetable CSA and the kohlrabi came yesterday, along with pak choi, braising greens, and salad greens. I think this plant looks like an alien or a spaceship, and I’m excited to try it tonight in a salad. 

It seems like I know more and more farmers these days–flower farmers, duck farmers, goat cheese makers.  The people I know who aren’t farming are joining CSAs and shopping regularly at farmers’ markets–and they aren’t alone. The number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has tripled since 1994; it’s a fast-growing segment of the economy, partly because people appreciate that the money they spend with local farmers stays right in their community. Walkerton even has a farmers’ market now.

I seem to know fewer booksellers than farmers, but book-shopping is another great way to support your local economy. And independent bookstores give back in major ways. They give discounts through membership clubs, are glad to order anything they don’t have in stock, and hold readings and events that the chain booksellers might not. When I taught in Durham, The Regulator Bookshop opened their reading space for my fifth graders any time I asked, and Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill hosts free writing seminars on the weekends. Independent booksellers are also more likely to nudge you in the kohlrabi direction–surprising and fresh–rather than steering you to the literary potato chip aisle.

On my book tour, I’m going to visit a lot of independent bookstores, and I hope to post a little report here about each of them. Meanwhile, here are two websites for finding independent bookstores and farmers markets: Indiebound (for books) and Local Harvest (for food).

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