Poet Natasha Trethewey, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her collection Native Guard, has sold a poetry collection* to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Titled Thrall, it will be published in fall of 2012.
Trethewey taught at Auburn University while I was at school there, and though I never took a class with her (my decision to concentrate in tech writing was partly a nod to my lack of creative writing ability) I attended one of her readings when her first collection, Domestic Work, was published in 1999. It drew such acclaim that the young assistant professor became one of the English department's most prominent faculty members, and Emory stole her away just a few years later with the offer of the Phillis Wheatley Distinguished Chair in Poetry.
Trethewey's background has profoundly influenced her poems, many of which, like "Flounder," are very personal. She was born in Mississippi in 1966 to a black mother and a white father. Their marriage was illegal in the state at the time. Though they divorced while Trethewey was still young—she moved with her mother to Atlanta—the poet spent childhood summers on the Gulf Coast.
*The original deal announced the sale of a novel, but Thrall is another poetry collection. The post has been corrected.
Is there something about the last name "Patterson" that gives you automatic thriller writer credentials? Maybe. According to audio columnist Sukey Howard, Richard North Patterson's courtroom scenes, "with their edgy retorts and rebuttals, showcase the immediacy and emotional force of a good audio performance." His latest book, In the Name of Honor, is her top audio pick for this month.
Read the full review here. Have you heard any good audiobooks lately?
What book blog posts caught your attention this week? My picks:
Twitter's #dearpublisher hashtag takes off
Posted by The Guardian's Books Blog
Most of you avid tweeters probably already know by now that a #dearpublisher thread took off on Twitter early in the week—readers, book bloggers, authors and publishers engaged in an online conversation about what's great—and what needs to change—within the industry. The Guardian's books blog describes this trend and samples a few publisher responses, such as: "Reading the #dearpublisher chat – keep them coming, people, we're listening!" from @PanMacmillanAus.
Did you participate in the thread? Do you think that publishers will take note of your suggestions? Is Twitter an appropriate forum for this type of conversation?
Spotlight on Bookstores: *Hub City Books* in Spartanburg, South Carolina
Posted by She is Too Fond of Books
This specific post is about Hub City Books in South Carolina, although I really want to draw your attention to the entire "Spotlight on Bookstores" series on She is Too Fond of Books, which highlights bookstores from around the country. I've spent time in California, Arkansas and New Mexico this summer, and in each destination I've made a beeline to the nearest bookshop—even if you're looking for a mainstream paperback that you could get at home, no indie bookstore has quite the same flavor, and it's fun to see the variety. (I recently peeked into a used bookstore in Albuquerque and there were no shelves . . . only stacks of books, as far as the eye could see! In San Francisco there was a bookstore that also sold beautiful bookshelves made from unfinished wood, with tons of varnish to choose from.)
Have you been to any of the bookstores in the "Spotlight" series? Want to give a shout-out to your favorite bookstore? Have at it in the comments section.
Some of you expressed strong opinions (mostly negative) when we posted about Katherine Heigl getting tapped to play Stephanie Plum in the film adaptation of Janet Evanovich's One for the Money. So we thought you'd be interested in this picture of Heigl on set, which we found via Jezebel.com.
What do you think? Anyone still pining for Sandra Bullock? Variety says that Sherri Shepard will play Lula, a choice we can definitely get behind.
Janet E. is also in the news these days for other reasons: She's currently renegotiating her contract with publisher St. Martin's Press. Reportedly Evanovich, who is represented by her son Peter, wants around $50 million for her next four "Plum" books, and St. Martin's is apparently not ready to pony up quite that much (the last four books in the series cost them about $40 million). Evanovich isn't saying much about the "private" details of the negotiation, but industry pros are wondering if she might take her fan base and self publish if she can't find a publisher ready to pay the asking price.
In today's mail, BookPage received a beautiful 25th anniversary edition of Tomie dePaola's Mother Goose, published by Penguin Young Readers. When my daughter was a baby (she'll turn 25 this fall), this wonderful volume of dePaola's cheery artwork and classic Mother Goose rhymes was a family favorite, and our well-worn first edition still rests on a bedroom bookshelf. Looking at the 25th anniversary edition, I realized that some new mother, just starting a library of books for her baby, would love to have it. And that got me thinking: if I was putting together a collection of books for a newborn, which ones would I choose? What books should be on every baby's bookshelf?
Here's what I came up with — a personal Top 10 List of "Best Books for Baby," ranging from classics to some newer books:
If you were going to a baby shower (with a book theme) what book would you take? Keep in mind that I'm asking about picture books you would give to a new baby. Requirements are: wonderful artwork and very few words on a page.
What books would be on your "Best for Baby" list?
Nonfiction editor Kate Pritchard interviewed John Green and David Levithan in April about their delightful teen novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson. In the Q&A, Levithan mentioned that he has "a book about adults" coming out next year: The Lover's Dictionary. (Besides working as an editor at Scholastic, Levithan has written many other YA novels, including Boy Meets Boy and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. The Lover's Dictionary is his first book written for an adult audience.)
In April, the only information we had about The Lover's Dictionary was a brief description in Publisher's Marketplace—the novel is "an alphabetically episodic narrative that traces the ups and downs of an urban romance."
Today, I was excited to see more info in the Farrar, Straus and Giroux winter 2011 catalog:
How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves?
The Lover's Dictionary drops on January 18, 2011 (just in time for Valentine's Day!). Are you intrigued?
Nashville author Bente Gallagher has written three books in a "Do-It-Yourself" cozy mystery series for Berkley under the name Jennie Bentley. This month, she hits bookstore shelves for the first time under her own name with A Cutthroat Business, a book set in Music City that stars Southern Belle realtor Savannah Martin.
So-and-so in this case is your character. Your main one, assuming you have one. Not everyone does. Some people write ensemble books, with whole casts of characters, all in the third person. Others, like me, spend all our time in one character’s head, and write as if we are that character. Given that, it’s not surprising that people wonder how much I have in common with my characters.
Yes, characters, because now I have two series going simultaneously, and two characters in whose heads I spend most of my time. There’s the Do-It-Yourself home renovation mysteries I write for Berkley Prime Crime, under the pseudonym Jennie Bentley, and the brand new A Cutthroat Business, first in the Savannah Martin Southern real estate series, written as myself.
And to answer the question: I’m a little like both of them, but not too much like either. They’re not that much like each other, if it comes to that. Oh sure, they’ve both got their insecurities and their little neurotic quirks—as does their creator—but they’re two very different people from two totally different backgrounds, and if they have traits in common, they’ve gotten them from different experiences.
Avery Baker, the protagonist in the Do-It-Yourself series, is a New Yorker born and bred. A sassy city girl and hip textile designer, she’s used to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, so she feels very much like a fish out of water when she moves to tiny Waterfield on the craggy coast of Maine to renovate houses with her new boyfriend, hunky handyman Derek Ellis.
Savannah Martin, on the other hand, the main character in A Cutthroat Business, is a gentle-bred Southern Belle from a small town in Middle Tennessee. She’s sweet and ladylike, quite traditional, not to mention hyper-aware of having to say and do the right thing at all times.
All her life, Savannah has done what was expected of her, from going to finishing school in Charleston and coming out at the Christmas cotillion, to attending the university where her mother and father went and marrying the man her mother approves. Through it all, she fully expects that by doing everything right, life in turn will be perfect.
That is, until she learns that her perfect husband is no such thing, but instead is lying, cheating scum. At which point Savannah divorces his posterior and strikes out on her own for the first time ever. Instead of scurrying home to her family’s antebellum mansion in tiny—and fictitious—Sweetwater, to lick her wounds and wait for her mother to arrange another marriage with another suitable Southern gentleman, she stays in Nashville and begins to carve out a life for herself. For the first time, there’s no one looking over her shoulder and no one passing judgment on her actions. She gets a real estate license—in spite of her mother’s assertion that real estate is a cutthroat business, unfit for a lady—and starts to develop the kind of life she, Savannah, wants.
Into this mix falls the dead body of a competing realtor—chubby throat cut from ear to ear—as well as the last man on earth Margaret Anne Martin, Savannah’s sainted mother, would want her daughter to get involved with. Rafe Collier is the black sheep of Sweetwater, the boy Savannah’s mother, and every other mother in town, warned their teenage daughters about. Six feet three inches of testosterone and trouble, with a murky past and an uncertain future—not to mention a Harley-Davidson and enough sex-appeal for two men—he’s not the kind of guy a sweet Southern girl should want to tangle with, in any sense of the word.
Of course he’s also damn near irresistible.
So now Savannah has to figure out who killed real estate queen Brenda Puckett, and avoid getting killed—or kissed—by Rafe, all while trying to make a success of her new career before the money in her savings account runs out and she has to go back to selling make-up at the mall. And oh yeah, she has to do it while keeping the whole thing from her family, who would have collective fits if they knew what was going on...
So that’s Savannah. As for me, the author? Well, I’m neither a Southern Belle nor a hip New Yorker, although I’ve lived in both places. I’m not sassy and I’m not blonde, and I haven’t been single for quite a few years. I’ve never had a cheating boyfriend or husband, and I’ve never tangled with anyone I shouldn’t, in any sense of the word. I’ve also never stumbled over dead bodies or buried treasure or anything else that I write about. But that’s the beauty of writing, isn’t it? And of reading, for that matter. You get to be whoever you want for a while, whether you have anything in common with that character or not. And that’s a beautiful thing.
A Cutthroat Business went on sale June 29. Find out more about Bente Gallagher and her alter ego, Jennie Bentley, on their website.
Summer is in full swing, and this means my CSA share is full of delicious tomatoes. So I'm especially happy to share this recipe from Mario Batali's Molto Gusto, one of our favorite July cookbooks. It's full of "go-to recipes for creating your own incredibly inviting “pro-planet” meals," says cooking columnist Sybil Pratt. Try for yourself!
10 ounces fresh mozzarella
1 ½ pounds assorted ripe tomatoes (choose a combination of colors, types, and size), such as Brandywine, purple Cherokee, cherry, pear, peach, and/or Green Zebra)
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch basil (Genovese, lemon, Thai, or fino verde), leaves removed, or about 1 cup mixed fresh basil leaves
Maldon or other flaky sea salt
If using cherry or grape tomatoes, cut them half; reserve the juices. Core the remaining tomatoes and slice them, reserving the juices. Arrange the tomatoes on the cheese.
Whisk the vinegar, reserved tomato juices, any liquid from the mozzarella, and the olive oil together in a small bowl.
Tear the basil leaves over the salad. Pour the vinaigrette over it, sprinkle with salt, and serve.
As a Francophile who welcomes any excuse for a summertime celebration, le quatorze juillet is one of my favorite holidays. To commemorate the French fete nationale, pour a kir or other apèro and sit down with one of these reading selections.
The grand finale of the fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower on July 14, 2009.
France in fiction
Anyone with an interest in French literature shouldn't miss Suite Francaise, or any of the rediscovered works of Irène Némirovsky, a Franco-Russian novelist who chronicled WWII in her books as the country crumbled around her.
There's a lot of Marie Antoinette fiction out there, but Sena Jeter Naslund's moving portrait of the misunderstood queen, Abundance, belongs at the top of the list.
And who could forget Peter Mayle, whose Year in Provence sparked the "expat memoir" craze of the turn of the millenium? He's now moved on to novels like A Good Year, which became a movie starring Russell Crowe.
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French lives and history
French cuisine is (deservedly) world-famous, and French chef Jacques Pépin is one of its best-known faces. In his memoir, The Apprentice, Pépin discusses the influences on his cooking style.
Few write as lovingly about the joys of French food and culture as Julia Child, and her posthumous memoir, My Life in France, is excellent reading. Her great-nephew, Alex Prud'homme, talked to BookPage in 2006 about the book.
Mirelle Guiliano caused a sensation with French Women Don't Get Fat—in a BookPage interview about her follow up, French Women for All Seasons, she shares more secrets for staying slim.
Books about the ups and downs of expat living in France abound, but anyone who's ever tried to master the language should not miss David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. For a more traditional take, Catherine Sanderson's Petite Anglaise is a charming look at an Englishwoman's transition to French culture.
And don't miss the works of Graham Robb, an Englishman who brings the culture and history of France to life in his well-researched and readable books. I'm in the middle of Parisians right now and loving it.
Do you have a favorite book with a French angle?
Zombies vs. Unicorns, edited by Holly Black & Justine Larbalestier
Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster, Sept. 21, 2010
Each story in Zombies vs. Unicorns is about either zombies or unicorns, although Garth Nix's story "The Highest Justice" blurs the boundaries a bit with a unicorn who can bring the dead briefly back to shambling life. Other contributors include Cassandra Clare, Naomi Novik, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot and Libba Bray, whose "Prom Night" is a standout. By turns gory, sensual, funny and somber, these stories may surprise, disgust or delight you, but they'll surely change the way you think about zombies and unicorns. And vampires? Who needs vampires?
Here's an excerpt from "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Alaya Dawn Johnson, an impressive story by an author who was new to me:
Think of it like the best macaroni and cheese you've ever had. No neon yellow Velveeta and bread crumbs. I'm talking gourmet cheddar, the expensive stuff from Vermont that crackles as it melts into that crust on top. Imagine if right before you were about to tear into it, the mac and cheese starts talking to you? And it's really cool. It likes Joy Division more than New Order, and owns every Sonic Youth album, and saw you in the audience at the latest Arctic Monkeys concert, though you were too stoned to notice anything but the clearly sub-par cheesy mac you'd brought with you.
There's a bad drawing beneath the words, nothing like the blurry photos on the news, or the pictures you've seen of the corpses. The unicorn on the sign looks like one from the old fairy books, white, rearing, its mane flying out behind it in artful spirals. Just like a fairy tale, except for the fangs and the blood red eyes.
..."Maybe [it's] a fake one," says Katey, clinging to her boyfriend, Noah. "They have this patented process where they graft the horns of a baby goat together, and it grows up with one horn. Like a bonsai tree. We learned about it in Bio class."
I shudder and move away from the tent. Before unicorns came back, people used to do that and pretend it was this gentle, magical creature. No one realized the old stories were lies.