Monday, April 27, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

The month winds down. Grant proposals in, students' dissertations read and passed, a pound of asparagus from the garden picked and roasted every day. The lilacs scent my garden, along with viburnum. The restlessness dissipates...

Three more poems to write. Hallaluah. This year, NaPoWriMo exhausted me. Too much going on, and (stupidly) I commenced running PURE through my Nudgers at the same time.

And my heart's in PURE, not the poems. So.

That said, I have a few poems with decent bones, words I can turn over when I'm more engaged. And the practice itself, the diligence of writing in response to a prompt is a phenomenal opportunity. Like this, in response to the prompt 'regret':

A Snowy Day Spent Otherwise

Your eyes scrunch from sun casting icicle
rainbows on blank pages, under eyelids,
rebuking you; a high-pitched whinny snakes
through walls, under skin despite the frantic

looping mantra… focus on the word, focus
on the... a pencil slams, clatters to
the floor, feet stomp down the hall
to parted curtains. The yard gleams

in treacherous beauty. A snowball shatters
glass; through melt smear a pink-cheeked child
slides down crystalline hills, whooping joy.
What is more important than the visceral

act of throwing limbs against slatted wood,
feeling air and icy shards smack against chin
and nose, your daughter, your only born,
pounce on you at ride’s end? Her face lights up –

she spies you at the darkened window. The muse
hisses in your ear; your eyes scrunch…

(I remember the day, a rare snow day; the kids off from school, the sun glittering on the icy hill, the kids laughing and I... chose to work. Me bad.)

==> CINDY PON's debut SILVER PHOENIX: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia hits the shelves TODAY! Young adult fantasy with an Asian flair - BUY IT!

==> If you're looking for reading inspiration, check out this new blog: FILL IN THE GAPS 100 PROJECT. Fifty of us - writers, readers, editors, all passionate about BOOKS - listed our top To Be Read lists, along with reviews. A special YAY! to Emily Cross for organizing what started as a comment thread over at EDITORIAL ASS.

==> Accepted into Lesley University Writing Workshop for late July in Cambridge, MA. Very excited - great faculty (including Julia Glass). Imagine - an entire week of writing, workshopping, and talking about writing. In my old stomping ground... yippee!

Keep on writing - and reading. Peace, Linda

Thursday, April 23, 2009

United Authors

Last year, at a health policy conference, I sketched out a similar paradigm for a brave new publishing world on a cocktail napkin with an economist friend. David Hewson may be on to something...

Now, just need the venture capital... Peace, Linda

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hint Fiction - up to the challenge?

For the micro-mini-flashers amongst you, check out this new fiction form...

Contest. 25 words or less. Due April 30, day after someone's birthday. Judged by Stewart O'Nan. Sounds like fun - wanna party?

Peace, Linda

Sunday, April 19, 2009

MUDBOUND, April's Debut Pick

Henry and I dug the hole seven feet deep. Any shallower and the corpse was liable to come rising up during the next big flood: Howdy boys! Remember me? The thought of it kept us digging even after the blisters on our palms had burst, re-formed and burst again. Every shovelful was an agony - the old man getting in his last licks. Still, I was glad of the pain. It shoved away thought and memory.

I didn't plan to review MUDBOUND (by Hillary Jordan; Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) this month. But when my intended selection tanked (couldn't read past the first two chapters) and I walked into CONSTELLATION BOOKS, the independent book store located in my wee town, the cover beckoned and the proprietor gave an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

I was not disappointed.

In MUDBOUND, the consequences of two of the greatest atrocities of modern 'civilization' - World War II and Jim Crow - are seamlessly served upon two families, one white and one black, farming in the Mississippi delta. Laura, the educated, almost-spinster follows her new husband Henry (and his crusty, bigoted 'Pappy') to farm cotton. Black sharecroppers work the farm, including Hap, a farmer and man of God in the black community, and his wife Florence, wise in the ways of birthing. But the two most compelling voices were the two sons returning from overseas: Jamie, the charismatic white bomber pilot, and Ronsel, the black tank sargeant who has tasted a bit of better freedom on his tour of service. Both return to a world little changed, even though both are irreversibly altered, suffering from what we now know as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and coping with their return home in very different ways. This story follows each character's path to redemption in the wake of overt racism and a war fought thousands of miles away.

The writing is very accessible, straightforward, and compelling. Hillary Jordan tells the story alternating all six voices in first person with each voice distinct. No mean feat. Having each voice tell his or her story made the book come alive, and without spoiling the ending, made the resolution of MUDBOUND all the more powerful. A heartrending tragedy not easily forgotten, MUDBOUND won the Bellwether Prize for Fiction, an honor sponsored by Barbara Kingsolver and bestowed on works of fiction that address issues of social justice.

About the Author: Hillary Jordan grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, and spent 15 years as an advertising copyrighter before obtaining her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. She lives in Tivoli, New York.

About the Publisher: ALGONQUIN BOOKS is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (my alma mater - go heels!) and publishes leading fiction and non-fiction books, many with a Southern focus. Some feel this is one press that flies under the radar; I agree. I've read several stupendous titles from the impressive portfolio of this can-do publisher, including Alison Bass' SIDE EFFECTS, a fabulous expose of antidepressant drug development, regulation, and marketing in the United States.

Happy reading... Peace, Linda

Friday, April 17, 2009

Dishing the Biz...

Another round of agents chit-chatting it up at P & W: Anna Stein, Jim Rutman, Maria Massie, and Peter Steinberg.

Fascinating. Confounding. Bad news/good news: the health of the industry sucks, and so do synopses.

Enjoy. I think...

BOOK REVIEW up over the weekend. April's book pick wasn't my intended, but it is a gorgeous, moving story about injustice and justice... been busy, busy, busy and the reading's suffered.

Peace, Linda

Friday, April 10, 2009


For some reason, windmills tinge my mood with melancholic nostalgia. Not sure why - I'm not Dutch - but seeing these strong yet graceful structures flail at the air reassures me. Perhaps it's that windmills turn something invisible - the air - and transforms it into power that intrigues me. We visited Williamsburg on the way home and this mill was my first glimpse of the village.

Spring break took us down to North Carolina to celebrate my father's 71st birthday. He still looked frail, though better than three months ago, his spindly arms listing at his side, the skin of his face drooping from the 7 weeks of radiation and chemo. But he stood there, stalwart, stubborn, pushing his breath over his candled cake.

A good trip.

The Reading... The Nudgers are full throttle again, running our novels through each other's discerning eyes and itchy red pens. So far I've read the first chapters of Among Us, a sci-fi story; Under the Devil's Club, a mystery; and Flashes from the Hot Zone, women's lit/comedy. All great stuff.

The Writing... Twelve pages away from finishing beta-reader revisions on Brighter than Bright; tomorrow, the book will rest before a final run-through for typos. I find myself emotional as I near the end, as if parting with a dear friend. The first chapter of PURE almost ready for posting to my Nudgers. And of course, a poem a day. Fell behind over vacation, but caught up late last night.

I leave you with inspiration found in the garden and in response to the prompt: a memory.

Mother Memory

Cutting rhubarb in the rain,
the mottled leaves
thick with mud and slugs,
I wonder if these five plants,
robust now, will stand
another season
in this shaded corner.

If not, next spring
my husband will surprise me,
bearing rhizomes, golden
gifts, then plant them
so my garden will be
as my mother’s, and her
mother’s, and, perhaps, all
our mothers’ before.

Later, like my mother,
I’ll slice the stalks
into chunks for pie.
Mine has strawberries,
though she says
‘ruins the rhubarb’,
so she’d make sauce
and eat from the pot,
still warm, spoon
clanking against the sides,
a sigh of a smile
trespassing her face.

In her eyes, my mixed fruit
splendor makes me a bit
of a rebel; she taught me well.
But tendering these stalks,
making the pie,
heralds me a holder
of apron strings,
honoring our history
unmarked with words
or trophies, and therefore,
all the more important.

I wonder how my daughter
will make her pie.

Peace, Linda

Friday, April 03, 2009


I've read - and written - quite a few poems these first 3 days of National Poetry Month, but the best thus far, this simple acrostic -

Under a Rainbow
Earthly beauty
Flying Rainbows
Loveable Cuddleable

~Lea, Age 6

The Reading... Two new books: The Soul Thief (Charles Baxter) and Apologize, Apologize (Elizabeth Kelly). Finishing up Chuck Bock's Beautiful Children. Still reeling from Hamilton's exquisite A Map of the World.

The Writing... Three poems (Money, City of Believe, The Problem with the Time Travel machine). Sixty pages from the end of beta-reader edits in the never-ending BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT. Working on PURE, getting ready to post the first 10k words with my writing group - nervous anticipation.

Outta here for a week visiting my family, so read hard, write harder. I leave you with an excerpt from City of Believe, in response to the prompt: outsider.

Here, in the City of Believe, everyone prays,
a fervor never noted in backwater Carolina
or stiff-backed Unitarian pews. Here, big black
women clamber on the metro clutching quilt
covered books close, apostalytic fingers
twitching to the glory of God,

amen child.

Two rows down yarmulked manchild, earlocks fuzzing
from wetfull morn, sways with prayer, holy
words dripping silent but heard, his mutter
murmur adding to an imam’s turban-tight
keening, sikh’s singing, Buddha’s koans… I break

through the throbbing throng, up stairs bloodstained,
carcassed with sweat and peanut shells, and blink; light
accosts a vision… Here, on the corner, the buttoned-
down, suited-up savior dude waves salvation tracts,
bullhorning oracles falling short of earbudded,
shelled-in selves, bobbing to suburban-fueled sturm.
Here, in the City of Believe, folks pray, earnest, more
fervid; my contempt for their desperate faith shorn
smooth, eclipsed only by my envy.

Peace, Linda