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Twelve accomplished women greeted me. Outside a blazing hillside of maple trees signaled the kind of New England autumns that colored my youth. A chance meeting with a Syracuse artist in Florida last winter had brought me north for a five day whirl of book events with my third novel Catcher, Caught. Le Moyne’s Education Department Dr. Gilmore arranged a SRO audience of students, faculty and local secondary school teachers. I talked about Salinger and how Catcher, Caught celebrates that classic in a re-telling of sorts, adapting Holden’s “cynical, slangy, vernacular voice.” Bethany Schill, administrator for one division of Nottingham High and a LeMoyne Education grad, coordinated my leading a writing workshop with the 10th graders who are reading Catcher, Caught. Like the prep school classes I’ve visited recently in Virginia, the kids wrote and shared their own “rants.” We talked about unreliable narrators, the importance of using your senses, and the power of first lines, first paragraphs. Beyond those exciting interactions and the first evening’s book club welcome, Soule Librarian Gary Jones and his enthusiastic assistant librarian led an evening book club discussion on Catcher, Caught which included the surprise visitor, Jim Snipes from Orange, Virginia and his new wife Pat long-time Syracuse teacher. My visit ended with the Downtown Writing Center and a group of serious aspiring writers and students in Director Phil Memmer’s two year certificate program. Their thought-provoking questions stirred my creative juices, and I’m sitting at the airport, eager to get back to my laptop and my fictional worlds. Tuesday, once I’m back in front of my river windows, Syracuse readers will be listening to Dennis Lahane talk about his mysteries, part of the Rosamund Gifford Fdtn Author Series, one of the best in the country. Thank you, Syracuse, for your support of authors and reading.
Syracuse, here we come, on October 25th. Thanks to local resident artist Donna Stoner, Syracuse, NY is welcoming Catcher, Caught next week all over town. After Donna’s book club, I speak to faculty and grad students in the education department at LeMoyne College (Wed. Oct.26th at 5:30 pm), lead a book discussion on Catcher, Caught at the Soule Library (Wed. Oct. 26th at 7 pm), and read and discuss fiction in the 21st century at the Downtown Writing Center (YMCA) on Friday Oct. 28th at 7 pm. Local arts writer Laura T. Ryan’s feature on Catcher, Caught and my visit will appear on Sunday October 23rd. Watch here for the link.
Incredible opportunities in YA and Adult Fiction for Teens is the topic on Sunday Sept 18, opening day of the annual book festival FALL for the BOOK in Northern V irginia. Our host is the bookstore ONE MORE PAGE, 2200 N. Westmoreland Street #101, Arlington, VA. The panel includes the spectrum of hot topics: coming of age, teenage angst, paranormal, and teen romance. The bookstore invitation included the quip in deference to Catcher, Caught: “Hello there, Holden Caulfield.”
After the YA panel, catch a bite to eat, and swing over to George Mason University to hear best selling author Mary Karr receive her award. The festival website : http://www.fallforthebook.org/events/calendar.php CHECK OUT ALL THE FABULOUS AUTHORS and EVENTS for the week ending with STEPHEN KING on Friday night. Most events are free, but not King.
“Forty-two percent of college graduates will never read another book, cover to cover, once they walk across the stage and pick up their diploma.” Quoted from The Write Stuff about Iowa Writing Workshop. Does it reflect more on the kinds of students that are graduating from certain colleges? I hope. Still, pretty sad when the vicarious living found in books is free and mind-bending, life-altering, and far more worthwhile than a typical American movie theatre experience or evening with video games. HELP.
What a whirlwind. I met Walter Dean Myers and his son Christopher, talked about their new book We Are America. Myers is coming to the Northern Neck on August 1 to talk about his 76 books. Joining me for a teen writing contest and workshop are local authors Rena Shipp and Dorothy Holmes, hoping to inspire more young writers with Myers’ award-winning books.
My publisher is expanding with mystery/thriller imprint and a New York team. Some of us who signed with AmazonEncore early in 2010 have second books out, some third. Francine Prose left her Tennessee stories for Paris Noire. Karen McQuestion rounded us all up for breakfast after the fabulous rooftop reception on Monday night. Steffan Piper and Maria Murnane, early AE cybercolleagues, and I caught up on writing news. Maria’s The MisAdventures of Waverly Bryson is in 3500 CVS stores. Hoorah for AE.
Good news on home front: I’ve been invited to speak at Fall for the Book, the Fairfax Book Festival, on September 18. And my editor, bless his soul, arranged for the big black car in NYC, so I felt like I had really arrived. Lots of buzz about Catcher, Caught with school librarians, and at the Children’s Book Breakfast where AE gave away hundreds of copies to booksellers and librarians who had ‘heard of the book.’ Ink 48 Hotel took great care of us, from fancy hors d’ouevres to leopard terry robes. I scarfed up a copy of Alice Hoffman’s new book and Paul Farmer’s advance review copy on Haiti. Walked those New York streets, danced in the aisles at the musical Chicago and sat in Times Square and absorbed the kaleidoscope of signs and people. Fun (and exhausting).
Authors under contract are always writing, ‘the next work,’ due at their publishers. We suffer from the weight of self-doubt that this one won’t be as good as the last or the agent won’t know where to place it or it’s not the ‘right’ next book for your career. But despite all this anxiety, I sent it off yesterday and will await the verdict from my agent in New York City. Already working on the next one, and it’s funny and light, for all my readers who say I always write dark stories: injured babies, abandoned sons, regretful fathers, and dying teenagers. For those of you who are looking for something lighter from me RIGHT NOW, try the Blue Ridge Anthology, and my essay: “The Alphabet and Other Myths of Childhood,” available at the Cedar Creek Books website And for those of you who are looking for a speedy romance or thriller, try Olivia Stowe’s ebooks, written by a Virginia friend and one of the best editors in the business.
Tomorrow I will be swooning with excitement. I start at the opening ceremony, hear Hawes Spencer announce this year’s fiction contest winners (with a friend in the list), the young writers’ letters to their favorite authors, and then on to panels and readings. Major Pettigrew author is in town, and Kathleen Stockett is speaking during my panel at Northridge with Blue Ridge Writers’ new projects (post-Anthology). Thursday EBook best seller Caroline Leavitt and I share the stage with two other writers and moderator/writer whiz Rachel Unfeker from Writer House at the New Dominion Bookshop at noon. I’m going to hear new poets and novelists who write about novelists and my old friend Marc Leepson and Rick Britton. I’m going to have a Downtown Grill dinner with the Heathsville Books Alive friends. I’m going to greet writers at the OMNI at the VWC table and the Writer House table. I’m going to buy books and talk books and lug them around close to my heart. HOORAH.
I happened across an issue of The Atlantic (October 2010) and read with great interest their critique of Franzen’s writing. Neither book is recommended and the staff reviewer asserts that Franzen’s writing is juvenile and indicative of stories in which nothing happens because the author insists that everyday is enough to make a book ‘real.’ I’m relieved to discover I’m not the only one who finds his characters unlikeable and and shallow. I’ve been wondering why the ‘establishment’ reviewers continue to praise his work when, compared to writers like Stegner and Wolff and Proulx, Franzen diminishes the human experience by trivializing it, and in turn diminishes the power of story-telling. Digging into human connections that motivate people to work through their problems and to search for real solutions are the stuff of lasting and memorable literature. I knew I liked The Atlantic. Bravo for honesty in the face of the emperor’s new clothes.
Staff wriiter Mary Ann Yin posted her interview of me about Catcher, Caught on the anniversary of Salinger’s death, Jan. 27. Two weeks earlier the review appeared. Here’s the link to the interview.