Sunday, January 7, 2024

New Year, New List

Finally, FINALLY … the first real snowfall of winter is blanketing the northeast and I don’t know about where you live but here in Maine we are collectively 1. Pulling out the nordic skis for the first real run of the season and 2. Settling in with some good books. I’m unabashedly one of those nerds who thinks “Read any good books lately?” is actually a terrific conversation opener, so … here we go. A few of my latest reads/reading/to be read obsessions.

Tracy Kidder (Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Mountains Beyond Mountains”) has done it again with “Rough Sleepers: Dr. Jim, O’Connell’s Urgent Mission to Bring Healing to Homeless People.” It’s hard to know where to begin here. First of all, it’s classic Kidder, so well-written and beautifully researched, a compelling, important story. But given our national, growing crisis with homelessness: an urgent story. And at the heart of the story: an amazing man, Dr. Jim O’Connell. 

I first heard of Jim O’Connell when my daughter, who was living in Boston and volunteering at Boston Health Care for the Homeless, the organization which O’Connell helped found, handed me his book called “Stories From the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor.” A Harvard-trained physician who turned down a prestigious cancer research fellowship and instead devoted himself to working with Boston’s homeless population, O’Connell has profoundly influenced the way the medical community sees, hears, and treats the chronically unhoused. A clearly brilliant yet strikingly modest man, O’Connell brings to life in “Shadows” patient after patient who has endured/survived/suffered the streets, and helps us understand and better empathize with their plight. Kidder expands on this in “Rough Sleepers,” and introduces us in even greater detail to the marvelous, miraculous team O’Connell has amassed over the years. Needless to say: this one’s a Must Read.

I wouldn’t have picked up Eleanor Catton’s “Birnum Wood” if my book group hadn’t chosen it for this month. And I’m glad they did. And glad I read it. That said, as I was wading through some VERY wordy passages (think: the emperor in the movie Amadeus, telling Mozart his music has “too many notes”) I couldn’t help wondering HOW is she going to resolve all this?? And without giving away anything I’ll tell you: As they deserve. Every one of them. Everyone gets what he/she deserves. And if you’re willing to wade (one wonders why we need to know every single damn thing in Tony’s backpack) you’ll find yourself turning pages very quickly.

Catton won the Booker Prize for her novel “The Luminaries,” so trust that we’re in capable hands in “Birnum Wood.” Which yes, is named for the line in Macbeth, but in this case is the name of a guerrilla gardening collective that plants crops where no one will notice. The group has taken an interest in an abandoned farm, owned by a recently knighted pest control magnate, who is negotiating selling the farm to an American billionaire who claims he wants to build an end-times bunker on the property. Which is a lie. The billionaire is illegally mining rare-earth elements from an adjacent national park. And has to figure out what to do about the Birnum Wood hippies who have stumbled into his path.

“Birnum Wood” contains many moments when the characters are engaged in topical, relevant conversations about the state of our world today, and for that I give Catton a helluva lot of credit. It was an interesting way to bring all that to life. Plus, the plot twists are quite good. That said: this is a long book and life is short, you know? Read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Demon Copperhead” or Percival Everett’s “Trees” before diving into this.

Have you ever been to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in Boston? Most of my friends LOVE it. Love love love it. I find it stresses me out. It’s … cluttered. So packed with so much. I can’t take it all in and can’t make sense of it. My daughter, who is more artistically bent than I, and actually studied art collection curation in college, visited the museum and concluded that Gardner was “an art hoarder.”

So, it’s been quite illuminating for me to read Emily Franklin’s new book, “The Lioness of Boston,” which is a historical fiction retelling of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s life. I’m reading the novel alongside “Mrs. Jack,” which is her official biography, written by Louise Hall Tharp and for sale in the museum gift shop, as well as “Sargent’s Women,” which profiles four women (including Gardner) who were painted by the famous portraitist John Singer Sargent. 

And while I STILL think the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum is a mess of a collection, I now so deeply appreciate WHY she left it as she did, who she was, and what she overcame. She was a smart, spunky, resilient woman who lived in an era of incredible repression for women, and in spite of her wealth and privilege had much to overcome personally. Fans of the museum — and the inimitable Mrs. Jack — will deeply appreciate this book. Non-fans will learn much.

Finally, in my to-be-read stack is “The Corpse Bloom, a new novel by Maine author, Bryan Wiggins.Written in consultation with neurosurgeon Dr. Lee Thibodeau, this book has been described by Kirkus Reviews as “a taut, nuanced medical thriller.”

Basic plot: a kidney transplant by a preeminent Boston doctor goes bad. Doc takes a leave of absence and accepts a job at a remote transplant clinic in Mexico. After a few months transplanting kidneys from unknown origins into wealthy patients, the Doc realizes his employer isn’t who he thought he was … and his only way out and back home is muy risky.

My first medical thriller was “Coma” (published in 1977!) and I’ve loved the genre ever since, so I’m super excited about Bryan’s new book. It’s next up for me after “Lioness.”

Okay 2024, we’re off! What are you reading? 

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Thank you, Ashley Bryan

Artist/Author Ashley Bryan died on Friday, February 4, 2022. He was 98. 

I’m one of the lucky people who had the privilege of meeting Mr. Bryan in person. That was in 2016 in Augusta, Maine at the Reading Roundup Conference where he received the Lupine Award for his picture book, Freedom Over Me. Frail in body (he was pushed to the stage in a wheelchair) but still so exuberant in spirit, he had everyone in that audience of 300+ on their feet, clapping and cheering as he received his award with a call-and-response prose poem from the podium. 

He was absolutely one of those rare humans you’d describe as “incandescent.” He was lit from within, and in that crowded, overwhelming space I couldn’t help marveling at how he brought light to each room he entered and kind attention to each individual he encountered. It’s reported that visitors to his Maine home/studio on Little Cranberry Island were greeted with hugs and gummy bears … and as the recipient of one of those hugs, I can say: they were pretty amazing.

I can think of no better way to honor this special human than to focus on his work, and I hope in the weeks and months ahead fresh attention will be drawn to his many, many books. He signed my copy of Freedom Over Me that day I met him, so I’ll share a bit about that one.

Inspired by a document Bryan acquired years ago — an estate appraisement dating back to 1828, in which eleven slaves are listed for sale with the cows, hogs and cotton — the book brings to life not only who those eleven might have been, but their dreams for themselves. It’s a gorgeous, fabulous leap of empathy and imagination, and — dare I say it? — so, so important. Especially given the paucity of the “record.” We know nothing as a fact about these souls, save for their estimated age, the name they were assigned by their enslavers, and the price they fetched.

There’s a horror in that paucity, and in that specificity. It calls to mind the records the Nazi’s kept at concentration camps. It reminds me of my visit, years ago, to the Famine Museum in Strokestown, Ireland, where all that remains of the thousands of evicted tenants who worked the land of the Strokestown Park House are their names and ages, listed on the passenger rosters of “coffin ships” bound for the U.S. and Canada. 

In a column published only last week, the writer Jamelle Bowie explores this conundrum: in recent decades, vast amounts of data about the slave trade has been curated and made available online. The SlaveVoyages website is an incredible resource, making the sorts of paper scraps Ashley Bryan acquired and saved and considered available to the world. But to what end? As Bowie writes: 

“How exactly do we relate to data that allows someone — anyone — to identify a specific enslaved person? How do we wield these powerful tools for quantitative analysis without abstracting the human reality away from the story? And what does it mean to study something as wicked and monstrous as the slave trade using some of the tools of the trade itself?”

It takes someone with as big a heart and as compassionate a vision as Ashley Bryan to prevent the sort of distancing and abstraction Bowie warns us about. It takes art, to turn an appraisement document into a celebration of lost souls. It takes triumphant books like Freedom Over Me.

Ashley Bryan saw the world in all its brokenness and still found room for hope. He showed all of us who hope to create, how to gather the shattered bits of life into something beautiful. 

A page from Freedom Over Me

Ashley Bryan delivering his remarks ...

... to a standing ovation!

Left to right: Maria Padian, Ryan Higgins, Melissa Sweet, Ashley Bryan
at Reading Roundup 2016

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Snowstorm Stack

Another big snowstorm is headed our way! 

The good news: great skiing and snowshoeing ahead.

Bad news: dangerous traveling and possible outages loom. We had to cancel plans to visit friends/The Daughter in Vermont’s Upper Valley because of the weather. So what to do? Especially since I finished knitting The Hat during last weekend’s blizzard. Guess it's time to read! And wow, have I got some recommendations. 

First up:

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan is without question the best thing I’ve read in years. I’m embarrassed to confess it’s the first book of Keegan’s I’ve picked up, and now I’ve gone and ordered EVERYTHING else she’s published. Set in a small Irish town in 1985, it is narrated from the point of view of Bill Furlong, who is a father, coal merchant, and Catholic, and makes a startling discovery while delivering fuel to the local convent during the Christmas season. 

To adequately describe what this story is “about” would be impossible, because it is “about” so, so much. Fear. Courage. Resilience. Complicity. In one gorgeously crafted sentence after another, Keegan creates scenes and moments which offer glimpses into the very real, beating human hearts of her characters, in particular this one “ordinary” man. Confronted with an extraordinary, shocking situation, his perspective on his community, his relationships, and the circumstances of his entire life shift, freeing him to act … or not … in ways he never could have imagined before.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich is fiction inspired not only by actual events but also by her grandfather, Patrick Gourneau, on whom one of the main characters, Thomas Wazhashk, is based. Thomas is a Chippewa council member and the night watchman at a factory in rural North Dakota. A quiet man devoted to his family, Thomas finds himself prompted to take action — and travel farther than he ever dreamed — in order to stave off the disastrous consequences of proposed actions against the Indian nations by the U. S. Government.

The facts: in 1953, Senator Arthur V. Watkins of Utah introduced into the United States Congress a bill to abolish the treaties which had been made with American Indian nations. Had this bill passed, it would have resulted in the eventual termination of all tribes, including the one which Erdrich’s family belongs: the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. 

Erdrich does a terrific job bringing to life the land and community her grandfather inhabited, and helping us see — and feel — what was almost lost during this fraught period of history. 

Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca just won a Newbury Honor! And to think: I was only just sitting near her at the Bath Book Bash! Sigh. But seriously: big congrats to Rajani and her excellent book, which I am reading right now with my tutee, Monique, who recently came to the U.S. from the Democratic Republic of Congo with her family. Although Monique is African, not Indian like the protagonist in Rajani’s book, we’ve found much within these pages about the “new arrival” experience for Monique to relate to.

Told in prose-poem form, this middle grade book is narrated by Reha, an Indian girl who came to the U.S. with her parents. Reha does a beautiful job describing the challenges of growing up in America while also honoring the traditions and culture of her family. It’s hard, and to make matters harder: Reha’s mother becomes seriously ill, forcing Reha and her father to take stock of what really matters and how to move forward when you think your whole world is crumbling.

I’m about halfway through Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days, a collection of essays she penned during the pandemic, and I’m reading slowly because I don’t want it to end! From her three fathers (yes, three!) to her thoughts on knitting, Snoopy as a literary influence, and her friendship with Tom Hanks’s assistant, Snooki (a friendship which sparked the title essay) this collection is delight after delight. I have a few other books I’m SUPPOSED to finish fairly soon, but I may just hunker down with this collection during the weekend’s storm.

Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am by Julia Cooke is on my supposed-to-read-for-book-group list and you know? It’s great. Telescoping in on that halcyon period when air travel was supposed to be glamorous (1966-1975), Cooke introduces us to the stewardesses who were part of an elite group of young women carefully selected by the airline.

Thousands applied and the requirements were strict: you needed a college education and fluency in two languages. You had to be 26 or younger at the time of hire; between 5’3” and 5’9”, and weigh between 105 and 140 pounds. Moreover, you needed the savvy and sophistication of a Foreign Service officer, not to mention the courage of an American GI, as Pan Am enlisted many of its flight attendants to aid in the evacuation of Saigon and Operation Babylift, during which two thousand children were flown from Vietnam to the United States.

This entertaining, informative book is giving me a fresh perspective and new respect for the women who chose to “Fly the World” with Pan Am. 

Here's The Hat knit during the last storm.
Okay, that’s all for now. What’s on your stack? Got any suggestions for the next storm?

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

What Was I Thinking??

Oh, wait. I wasn’t. 

For some reason I went wild in the final months of 2021 and bought every book I wanted, without hesitation. This stack represents what’s closest to the alarm clock on my bedside table, which means what I’m most likely to crack open at night. It doesn’t include the Recently Read (James McBride’s “Deacon King Kong”) or the Audio Books I’ve listened to while exercising (Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “State of Terror” and David Sedaris’s “A Carnival of Snackery”) or the three other stacks of Intended Reads taking up the rest of the table. 

It’s a fairly capacious beside table. Any more capacious and it’d be a book shelf. And I won’t tell you how many unread books are on my bookshelves … 

What’s WRONG with me?? I’m so greedy, SO greedy when it comes to books! And then, I spread myself too thin, trying to read them all at once. It’s like a box of mixed chocolates, where you take a bite of one, then return it to the box (for later) while you move on to the next.

True fact: you never go back to that half-bit chocolate. And you wind up with a ruined box of once perfectly good candy. 

Books are too precious to waste. 

So I’m making a resolution. Putting it here in a blog post, for goodness sake, just to make it REAL. Getting it on the record. Making myself accountable, if you will:

From this day forward, I will finish all books I begin and I will do my very best to not read more than three at a time. 

Yes: three at a time. That’s because I’m in two separate book groups, plus I need to have a new Young Adult read going at all times, plus there are all the OTHER books I want to read, so … three is an absolute bare bones minimum.

Right now I’m ripping through “Lost Children Archive” by Valeria Luiselli because one of my groups meets next week to discuss it and I’ve got miles to go. I’m also halfway through Lily King’s new short story collection “Five Tuesdays in Winter” and I’m doing this really horrible thing (I’m sorry, Lily!) where I’m also reading George Saunder’s “A Swim in a Pond in the Rain” which is essentially a masterclass on the short story, using Chekov and other Russian Greats as texts-in-point. I’m kinda then examining how Lily pulls it off … 

Which trust me, she does! I know: friends don’t let friends compare each other’s work to Chekov. God knows my books couldn’t hold up to the comparison. But I’m working on my own short stories now and “learning” from the best. Which includes Lily King. 

Okay, it’s 7 degrees outside right now so I’m off to throw another log on the fire. And READ.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Summer Reads

I know … probably makes more sense to roll out all these suggestions on Memorial Day Weekend, ushering in a fab summer of reading right at Summer’s Starting Block. Alas, I was too busy reading to make time for recommending. (I was also wrestling with the camera on my iPhone, but that’s a post for another day … ) So, to quote my dear Agent, Edite Kroll: Onward!

First up: Finding Freedom by Maine author/chef/creator of The Lost Kitchen restaurant, Erin French. I remember when her cookbook, The Lost Kitchen, came out, I was struck by the wonderful writing in it. You don’t expect that in a cookbook! At least, I don’t. But each recipe is accompanied by a little anecdote/description that brings the food to life and makes you not only want to taste it but to share it with others. French has that ability to engage you in whatever she’s describing and doing.

Finding Freedom is her memoir, and it achieves all that the form requires. It has a clear voice, evokes real people and places, engages us at the heart level, and by the end has us cheering for its author. It’s a moving, marvelous, honest depiction of struggle, resilience, and personal triumph. More than once I found myself in tears reading this book. You won’t be sorry you spent your summer reading hours with this one!

At Longfellow Books, Portland
Next up on my Maine Writers list: Paul Doiron has a new one! Sorry to keep repeating myself, but “This might be his best yet!”  I keep saying that, but really, this time it’s true. Dead by Dawn is the 12th (!) in the Mike Bowditch detective series and in this one Mike has to escape all sorts of (very) grisly attacks on his person. First up  — and this is one of my personal Fear Factors — Mike has to figure out how to escape when his car is forced off the road, crashes into an icy river and begins to sink. Things go downhill from there for poor Mike as he figures out how to survive and also discerns who wants him dead.

Personal note: I picked up my copy at Longfellow Books in Portland where Paul was signing copies and chatting about all things writerly and Maine with one of our other Author Greats, Monica Wood. 

The Stack
Two more Maine books to add to your summer reading list: Landslide by Susan Conley and Mill Town by Kerri Arsenault. Conley’s novel is a gorgeously written story about a Maine fishing family on the brink after the father in the family suffers an accident at sea. It’s a beautiful meditation on family and marriage, raising boys and — naturally — Maine. It’s my favorite yet of Conley’s books, I highly recommend it.

Mill Town, I’ll confess, is still on The Stack, but everyone in my book group says it’s a good read and the reviews are terrific. It’s Arsenault’s personal account of Mexico, Maine, where three generations of her family lived and worked within and in the shadow of the paper mill that provided employment there. While the mill provided opportunity for Mexico’s inhabitants, it was also responsible for the destruction of the environment and ultimately earned the area the nickname “Cancer Alley.”

Perhaps my most compelling read of the summer is Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe. This is the story of the Sackler family, the founders of Purdue Pharma and creators of … yup: OxyContin. If you want to get your outrage on and finally understand how so many people have become hooked on this powerful opioid, read this. 

Keefe, as you’ll recall from a previous Summer Reads blog post, is also the author of Say Nothing, and as he did in that book, writes a gripping page-turner which almost reads like detective fiction. He does a wonderful job of doing a deep dive into the characters he’s researching, helping us understand who they really were and how that explains what they did.

I’m a huge historical fiction fan, so Chris Bohjalian’s The Hour of the Witch has been one of my favorite reads this summer. Set in Boston, 1668, it’s the story about a woman who dares assert herself and file for divorce against an abusive husband. As you might imagine, she’s ultimately accused of being a witch. Bohjalian weaves a great tale, keeps us turning pages fast, amazes us with his research and ability to evoke the people and customs and beliefs of the day, and satisfies us with a terrific ending.

I’ve also been making my way through The Invisible Life of Addie Larue by V.E. Schwab. Honestly? I’m not convinced I like it, but I’m really interested in seeing how this author resolves it. The premise: it’s 1714, in a small village in France, and a young woman makes a Faustian bargain with a stranger — in exchange for eternal life, she has to give up being remembered by anyone. She is completely alone and untethered, for hundreds of years — until one day she wanders into a bookstore and meets someone who can remember her. And everything changes for her … again.

I’m about a third of the way through this, and intrigued, but also … beginning to tire of how many times Addie will wake up in the bed of some guy who can’t remember how she got there. It was entertaining the first time, but 300 years of sex regret gets old. Anyway … MANY people are telling me they like this book, and I’m sure I’ll finish it … Cool premise, right?

FINALLY, it wouldn’t be Teens, Writing and Randomness if I didn’t toss out a few teen suggestions, right? Hard to even know where to start, but I’ll suggest one YA (Young Adult) and one MG (Middle Grade), both from authors who appeared with me on a recent panel in St. Louis.

First off: Julie Buxbaum’s
Admission is a fun page-turner for the summer. Ripped from the headlines of the recent college admissions scandal which embroiled stars like Lori Loughlin, this story is told from the point-of-view of a privileged Los Angeles teen who may — or may not — know what her parents are doing to get her into college. It begs the question, right? How did these kids NOT know?? Buxbaum does a great job getting into the head of a teen, and coming up with a very compelling and realistic story line.

Nicole Melleby’s latest middle grade novel, How to Become a Planet, stars 13-year old Pluto Timoney, who has always loved space and always loved summer. However, this summer is different, because Pluto’s depression feels like a black hole sitting on her chest. A wonderful, redemptive and REAL story about a resilient girl working to find her way back to herself.

And FINALLY finally: some nice news. My latest, How to Build a Heart, was a finalist for the 2021 Maine Literary Awards (always nice to have a sticker on your book!) and is currently in the running for the Kentucky Bluegrass Book Award, so Hello, Kentucky Readers! I hope you enjoy getting to know Izzy and her crew of characters.

Happy Reading, all! What’s on YOUR Summer Shelf?


Thursday, June 4, 2020

What to Read. Now.

A few of the faves from my shelves! 
I consider questions to be good things. I see questioning as a sign of humility and a desire to understand. When I was a reporter I always ended interviews the same way: “Is there something I failed to ask you? What else do I need to know?”

So the fatigue expressed by Black people … especially students of color attending predominately white schools … who say they are SICK of explaining racism to Whites who ask, left me stranded. As a professional question asker, I wondered: what do I do now? 

How do I learn/change/grow if my very questions cause offense?

Luckily, my husband and I have trusted Black friends who didn’t mind setting us straight when we broached this with them.

“Read,” they told us. “It’s all been said. It’s all been explained. Over and over and over. It’s right there. Read.”

As a reader/writer/visiting-author-educator, turning to books comes naturally, and sharing good reads is ... well, almost a bit of a fault. I'm always thrusting a volume or two at someone. So this blog post is devoted to a few resources out there, a few books I’ve loved/learned from, and suggestions from others. 

Dr. Nell Irvin Painter's The History of White People explores the concept of "whiteness" through history and examines how being "white" is a social construct that changes over time. Check out her website to see the full list of her books and articles, plus links to interviews. Her latest book, Old in Art School, is a wonderful memoir about her decision, after a distinguished career as a history professor/scholar, to lean into her love of painting and get her MFA at the Rhode Island School of Design.

My book group read Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me and James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time together. It was pretty devastating to read these profound accounts side-by-side and see how much hasn't changed.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo will challenge you. Make you mad, make you defensive. Which is the point. I, for one, struggle to square DiAngelo's assertion that white liberals who think they aren't racist are somehow a more egregious group than the Sheriff Joe Arpaios and Earl Lees of this world. But hey: that's just my fragility. At any rate, this book changed the way I think, helped me reevaluate my words and actions and motivated me to set a higher bar for myself. Instead of smugly thinking "I'm not like those lynching sheriffs!" I'm trying to be on my guard for "Karen"-like or Amy Cooper-like biases within myself.

The Fire is Upon Us by Nicholas Buccola brings to life the famous debate about race in America at the Cambridge Union between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr.  I've linked to the review here: says it all, this is a fascinating read.

2019 and 2020 releases!

Covid-19 wiped out half my book tour for How to Build a Heart, which meant I missed appearing on a panel in March at the Virginia Festival of the Book with poet/YA novelist Morgan Parker. I still managed to read her star-reviewed Who Put This Song On? and her National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poetry collection Magical Negro. Expect to be startled: both are amazing. Also cancelled at the Festival was Jaquira Díaz who has just published a memoir, Ordinary Girls, about growing up in housing projects in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach. Visit the Virginia Humanities Council Shelf Life page to hear their interview with Jaquira and other authors who were scheduled to appear this year.

Resources and More Reading

From the Library of Congress Books and Beyond program, October 2015, Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely discuss their book, All American Boys.  Not only is this story about police violence and systemic racism a must-read for all young adults right now, but Jason and Brendan are must-see presenters! They relate wonderfully to young people, and even if your school can't afford to bring them in "live," you can share this terrific video with your students.

The Beacon Press, founded in Boston in 1854, is an independent publisher of serious non-fiction. Their books promote values of free speech and thought; diversity; religious pluralism; anti-racism and diversity. Go to their website and be AMAZED at the wonders you'll find there!

The Brown Bookshelf is a fabulous source for books for children and students. Designed to promote awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers, it's a great place to find wonderful blog posts as well as titles ranging from picture books to young adult novels.

Educator Lesley Roessing has written a terrific book for teachers called Talking Texts, which includes lists, topics and How-tos. Check out her Facebook page for her latest excellent suggestions. She's put together a wonderful YA list for novels that deal with "Society. Social Justice and Moral Dilemmas."

Stone Bookworms: An Anti-Racist Reading List This blogpost from Stone Bookworms has a bunch of great titles and reviews, but also additional resource links.

"The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates. "The" article from The Atlantic.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. The movie was very good; the book is life changing. It's a must-read, about the work of the courageous civil rights lawyer who founded the Equal Justice Initiative.

Honestly? I'm realizing this list is potentially endless. So, I'll end the blog the way I end my interviews: What have I missed? Tell me what I don't know. Comment away.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Pandemic Dayze

I’m struggling to find Silver Linings right now, even though I’m well aware that we’re the lucky ones. No one in our family is sick. We have a paycheck coming in. We have a safe home where we can sequester ourselves.

Still, I’ve been working overtime to beat back feelings of sadness … and yes, worry, because this is my JOB … over the demise of my book launch for How to Build a Heart. It takes so long to write a book, and the early months of sales are so, so important getting the story out there. We had a few weeks of events before the whole thing stuttered to a halt, and I really don’t know what that means for this title. Sigh.

So, among the Silver Linings I’m trying to focus on (which include Zoom Happy Hours with friends around the country; ample time to write and garden; low gas prices … not that we’re going anywhere ...) are the creative ways the internet is filling the void.

No, I don’t mean binge watching movies on Netflix, although YES that is happening.

I mean live streaming book talks and author events and online classes.

The Tumwater High School Digital Book Club
This past week I met with a high school book group 3000 miles away in Tumwater, Washington, and laughed with them and talked to them about How to Build a Heart. This Friday I’ll zoom into a class with students from the College of the Atlantic.

And on Tuesday, April 21st, at noon EST I’ll be kicking off Shelf Life, a twice weekly livestream on Zoom and Facebook, with authors, book talks and all sorts of interesting, bookish “stuff.” I’m a little nervous about the technology (if my audio dies, I’m sunk) but otherwise I’m sure the 40 minutes will fly. And it’s a very cool, low impact way to connect with readers from around the country.

You can join us on the Virginia Festival of the Book Facebook page, or register to “Zoom in” here

The thing to focus on during these Pandemic Dayze: #SilverLinings