Tag Archives: the hummingbird review

More Reads in the Sun: A Mid-Summer’s Reading List

Now that you’ve already marched through your first round of vacations, visitors, backyard or beach barbecues, and stack of summer reads, it’s time to replenish. Which brings us to the Word Journeys Mid-Summer Reads list. It is the first of a quarterly series where we’ll present recommendations in the middle of each season.

I would like to share some books from my writing friends, all of which are excellent summer reads.  They are available on Amazon.com in print and Kindle, and can be yours in a matter of moments (thank you, Whispernet!). Beware: these particular works feed reading addictions! All are gems in a crowded summer reading field.

As an added favor, in the spirit of summertime, if you buy and like the book, would you be willing to drop a quick review on Amazon.com and/or Goodreads? You only need to write 25 words – and the authors will appreciate you more than you can possibly know.

So stoke up the BBQ, open whatever goodies and libations you have in the cooler, grab your board or fins, set out with your canoe or kayak, or lay down a towel, and take in one of these nine books, recapped below:

Losing My Religion, by Jide Familoni

Intimacy Issues, by Claudia Whitsitt

The Hot Mess, by Gayle Carline

The Fashionista Murders, by William Thompson Ong

Madness and Murder, by Jenny Hilborne

Fobbit, by David Abrams

Wilder’s Woman, by Laura Taylor

The Hummingbird Review, Charles Redner, publisher

Ridin’ Around, Elaine Fields

51OWOAxPA8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Losing My Religion, by Jide Familoni: Femi Fatoyinbo leaves his native Yoruban culture and tradition in Nigeria to become a doctor in the American South. There, he tries to immerse in a culture radically different than what he knows, dealing with racial issues, relationships, and numerous adventures – some funny, some not at all. This poignant novel captures how a person can change and grow in unexpected ways when presented with an entirely new environment, but also be able to retain his core tradition.  Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5, Goodreads – 4.75

Intimacy Issuesby Claudia Whitsitt: Sometimes, you want to just ask protagonist 51OJ9sPrCdL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Samantha Stitsill, “Do you plunge into sticky situations for the thrill of it?” This inquisitive mother of five with a sharp sense of humor is a hoot – and quite the amateur sleuth. In Intimacy Issues, Samantha releases she can’t move on after her dog, friend, and possibly husband are killed. So she tracks the killer down, going from the Midwest to Japan, and dealing with new questions as she always does:  with a mixture of moxie, reckless abandon, humor, and revelation. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5, Goodreads – 4.5

51HFN4G3ehL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_ The Hot Mess: A Peri Minneopa Mystery by Gayle Carline: The author returns to her feisty favorite private investigator to find the real killer in a fatal house arson fire in which the owner, Benny Needles, is the prime suspect. Benny turns to his old friend, Peri, for help, but probably wishes he didn’t. During her investigation, Peri digs up long-held family secrets that create a dangerous turn – and spike the thrill meter in this thoroughly enjoyable book, the third to feature Peri. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5, Goodreads – 4.55

The Fashionista Murders, by William Thompson Ong: Since we’re on a Mid-Summer 41z1MhGnReL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_heroine/protagonist roll, here’s another: Kate Conway, the journalist-turned-amateur detective who makes her third appearance in The Fashionista Murders. This time, Kate gets caught in a dangerous web after the queen of fashion media, Paisley LaForge, is murdered to set off a serial killing spree. We race from the runways of Paris to New York in a taut, well-detailed thriller as Kate, her photographer friend Cam, and her father, retired detective Paul Conway, work to track down the killer before he takes his next victim – Kate. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5

 51dVdC6FtWL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Madness and Murder, by Jenny Hilborne: What can mystery readers not like about a book that combines murder, mayhem, a madman, a woman trying to start a new life, and enough plot twists to strangle a pretzel? Here we go again. Homicide detective Mac Jackson questions his methods when he uses “bait” to track a sadistic serial killer. The bait, Jessica Croft, moves away from a shameful past to begin a new life — only to find herself the target of both Jackson and the killer. Desperate, she tries to lure the killer, which leads to … you’ll have to get the book to find out. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 4.8, Goodreads – 4.45

Fobbit, by David Abrams: Earlier this summer, we interviewed David Abrams in this blog, 51S4MUUXEQL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_and for good reason: Fobbit has quickly asserted itself as one of the best war novels ever written. It’s hilarious and tragic, cynical and fierce, troubling and redeeming. Starting with an Army public affairs specialist’s tour in Forward Operating Base, Baghdad, Fobbit showcases the stated necessity, and ultimate folly, of war from a half dozen character perspectives. I’m not a war novel reader, but I couldn’t put this book down. It received accolades from more than 300 media reviewers for a reason. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 4.3, Goodreads – 3.5

51QoQvHDExL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Wilder’s Woman, by Laura Taylor: This switch from war novels to romance seems rather abrupt, but Laura Taylor belongs on any list of great storytellers, regardless of genre. She’s been on a bestselling tear with her romance novels the past two years, and Wilder’s Woman again showcases the reason. The way she depicts the betrayal and separation of Tasha and Craig Wilder, and their painful attempts to reconcile, speak deeply to the motives of the human heart, and how interconnected every moment can be. The story is powerful, sensual, written beautifully, and a reminder of the complexity of the heart. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5, Goodreads – 4.57

The Hummingbird Review, published by Charles Redner: Every Mid-Summer reading list 51wibrs-s8L._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_deserves an anthology, for those who like books broken into shorter pieces. At the risk of appearing biased (which I am), The Hummingbird Review is well worth checking out. The collection of essays, poems, stories and interviews from writers known and unknown has gained a strong reputation in literary circles. For the Spring-Summer issue, Hollywood was the theme, former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins the interview subject, Michael Blake and Martin Espada two of the featured poets, former Rod Stewart lead guitarist Stevie Salas and X vocalist/bass player John Doe the featured lyricists … and there’s even an excerpt of a screenplay by David Milton. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5, Goodreads – 5

41IMAM3yCuL._SY300_Ridin’ Around, by Elaine Fields Smith: No summer reading list is truly complete without a summer cruising tale. Ridin’ Around is the story of four college frat sisters and their summer of cruising the streets in Texas, looking for parties, guys, and the next fun thing to do. It may feel like an updated American Graffiti, or a somewhat more toned down Dazed & Confused, but this story is unique in the way the author presents the characters’ lives and how they find further bonding and purpose through both entertaining and somewhat frightening situations. Average Reviewer Ratings (out of 5 stars): Amazon – 5, Goodreads – 4.71

Advertisements

3 Comments

Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, Digital Publishing, E-books, Featured Websites, Fiction, Hybrid Authors, literature, Marketing, Mysteries, poetry, Promotion, Promotions, Reading, Writing

The Man Who Made Poetry Cool Again: A Few Words with Billy Collins

How many of us remember learning poetry in high school? Quick: name one poem that you studied.

Now that I have stumped most everyone, I confess: I was lucky to have two teachers who loved the lyrical word. One (Tom Robertson), freed a bunch of freshmen from their cluelessness by bringing in rock music lyrics and records, and going over them for a month, before returning us to our regularly scheduled program: the dead poets collecting dust in our literature textbooks. It worked. The other (Dr. Bev Bosak), gave me the job of co-editing the Carlsbad High School literary journal, Spindrift. I’ve been writing poetry since, along with newspaper, magazine and web journalism, fiction and non-fiction books, along with a lot of editing and ghostwriting.

Former Poet Laureate of the US and bestselling poet Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

Former Poet Laureate of the US and bestselling poet Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

Most of us weren’t so lucky. We caught up on sleep or gossip, got our weekend party schedule together, or played folded paper football or, as the century turned, with our cellphones while our teachers tried to analyze and interpret the poems of long-dead poets who, as Billy Collins says, “lived on a different verbal planet.”

Then Collins, the nation’s most popular and one of its most beloved poets, came along to make poetry cool. Cool for who? Us? Our parents? Librarians? The neighborhood bookworms?

No: for high school students nationwide. Seriously. When he was the Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001-2003, Collins developed the Poetry 180 program, which changed the face of how teachers taught poetry and students learned it. All of a sudden, kids not only read works from poets who were still alive – but, in some cases, just a little bit older than themselves.

“After becoming Poet Laureate, I immediately thought of what an awful time I had in high school,” Collins recalled during an exclusive interview for The Hummingbird Review I conducted earlier in the week, while he was in San Diego for a reading at Point Loma Nazarene University. “If you wanted to get beaten up in the parking lot, announcing you’re a poet would be a shortcut to that. Also in high school, the poems that were taught were hundreds of years old. I wanted to present poetry that would be cool, because being cool is the objective of high school – and it continues to this day.”

51qp-0dSdlL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Experience it they did. The Poetry 180 program was the biggest thing to happen to contemporary poetry entering American schools since the Beat Generation. Featuring very contemporary poets of all ages  like Jane Kenyon (“The Blue Bowl”), Ron Koertge (“Do You Have Any Advice For Those Of Us Just Starting Out”), Laurel Blossom (“Radio”), Geraldine Connolly (“The Summer I Was Sixteen”), and Daisy Fried (“She Didn’t Mean To Do It”), the two print anthologies have sold a quarter-million copies. The website that started it all (http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/) has received millions of visits. Not only did reading poetry become cool for students, but so did writing it. Last time I visited my Twitter feed, I was following more than 1,000 literary and poetry journals, most started in the last five years, and most run by young adults. I would bet nearly all of them have benefitted from Poetry 180.

“It actually works, much to my surprise,” Collins said. “All these teachers said, ‘It changed how I teach. It changed my students’ whole idea of what poetry was. They like it.’ They ask, ‘Where’s the poem for the day?’ They remind the teacher, ‘Give us one of those poems.’”

Collections such as Picnic, Lightning, Sailing Around the Room, The Trouble With Poetry and Ballistics make Collins the most-read poet today. He’s transcended the niche of hard-core poetry readers, in largecollins2 part thanks to three events: appearances on NPR and A Prairie Home Companion, followed by his appointment as the Poet Laureate of the United States.

“That was kind of a booster rocket on this whole thing,” he says.” All these things oddly fell into place. Believe me, world poetry domination was not my objective here!”

Collins’ humorous take on the world – including himself – has added to the persona of Poetry 180. Not only does he give poetry a sense of present-day coolness, but he’s also one of those very cool people you love to hang around with as they pass through their 70s, dispensing wisdom and great humor, often in the same sentence. His poems convey the same feeling, finding extraordinary perceptions in ordinary moments, yet coming across with a simplicity that draws people in for what has become an enduring relationship with his words.

Which is exactly why he created Poetry 180 – to keep kids coming back for more, for the rest of their lives.

(You can read a full-length interview and profile on Billy Collins in The Hummingbird Review, which will be on sale in April.)

collins-plnu

1 Comment

Filed under Adult Literacy, Books, Education, Featured Websites, Interviews, poetry, Reading, Teen Literacy, workshops, Writing, Writing Education, Young Writers

Feasting on Words: Billy Collins, Southern California Writers Conference, and New Books in the Making

A few odds and ends while feeling very inspired and energized by the past ten days, which have included a wonderful Southern California Writers Conference, starting to put together what will be a smashing Spring 2013 issue of The Hummingbird Review, watching editing clients get one deal and opportunity after another, and Tuesday night’s superb event with Billy Collins, the former Poet Laureate of the United States…

The Billy Collins program at Point Loma Nazarene University was truly special. Billy has drawn hundreds of thousands of otherwise non-poetry fans into the world of poetry through his easily accessible, humorous, poignant and endearing takes on life’s otherwise ordinary moments. On Tuesday night before a standing room-only crowd of more than 400 at Crill Hall, he read 17 poems spanning his career (10 collections, plus several anthologies), including a couple from his latest, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems 2003-2013, which will be released October 22. He also sat with PLNU journalism faculty member and Writer’s Symposium coordinator Dean Nelson, himself the author of a dozen books, for an excellent hour-long discussion.

One of Billy’s many funny lines? Check out this succinct take on science fiction: “There are only two directions for all of science fiction: We’re going there, or they’re coming here.” Priceless.

Discussing poetry with former Poet Laureate of the U.S. Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

Discussing poetry with former Poet Laureate of the U.S. Billy Collins (photo by Martha Halda)

A couple hours earlier, I interviewed Billy at his bayside Shelter Island hotel for The Hummingbird Review. It was fun, lively, full of wisdom and humor – typical of Billy’s take on the world. We had a wonderful discussion about his poetics and vast contributions, a part of which I will share in this blog on Friday. For the rest, you’ll have to pick up The Hummingbird Review.

A really funny moment popped up during the interview. When my sweetheart, A Taste of Eternity author Martha Halda, and I told Billy how Carlsbad High School teacher Tom Robertson turned us onto poetry in our freshman English class, Billy looked at Martha and quipped, “So you were one of those mean girls!” He was referencing the fact that he (like me) was painfully shy in high school, and not on the radar screen of the school’s most beautiful girls. We informed him that Martha was one of the nicest (and best looking, and still is) CHS beauties, to which he replied, “So you were the nice one!” Gotta love this man.

• • •

I’m still pouring through notes from the Southern California Writer’s Conference, so I want to share a few comments that famed science fiction writer David Brin made that are great takeaways for writers and readers alike (with very special thanks to Alicia Bien for emailing her notes as well):

On the bad guys we all love to hate (or maybe root for) in novels: “Give the villain great dialogue so they are tempted. Make your villains so powerful that the U.S. government can’t beat them.”

Bestselling science fiction author David Brin (photo by Gayle Carline)

Bestselling science fiction author David Brin (photo by Gayle Carline)

On the purpose of writing: “Convey your sense of joy on the page. Control your ego, but believe you can write material that people want to read. Remember: writing is the only true form of magic.”

How to write a first page that hooks readers: “The first page must sing. Copy the first page of writers you respect, see how they move the story, and find that within your own voice, your own story.

Four keys to getting published and drawing your readers:

1)   You need an ear

2)   Bring on the criticism because you can be even better – and you know it

3)   Hard work

4)   Luck

• • •

Have been having a blast editing and/or writing proposals for some truly wonderful books that have made their way onto my computer in the past several months. Will rattle off their titles and authors now, so that you will grab them and share the experience when they hit bookstores in the next 12 to 18 months (as I am fully confident they will):

• A Taste of Eternity, a memoir by Martha Halda

• Home Free Adventures, a travel narrative by Lynne Martin

• Island Fever, Mustang Fever and Storm Chasers, an adventure romance trilogy by Stephen B. Gladish

• Who Will Cry for Us? a memoir by Davion Famber

• The Columbian Prophecy, a novel by Gary B. Deason

• Changes in Longitude, a travel narrative/memoir by Larissa and Michael Milne

• Red Hand, a novel by Seamus Beirne

• Forgoing Stress, a prescriptive book by Leo Willcocks

Next week, I will talk more about a couple of books coming from yours truly, including my forthcoming novel, Voices. We’ll also hear from authors Larissa and Michael Milne, Martha Halda and Stephen B. Gladish. Stay tuned.

• • •

Speaking of March, two events are coming up in the next two months that I hope you will participate in, if you are suitably located geographically: the Tucson Festival of Books March 9-10 at the University of Arizona in Tucson; and the L.A. Times Festival of Books April 20-21 on the University of Southern California campus. Between the two, more than 100,000 people will be in attendance. These events are a paradise for readers, a chance to meet and talk with hundreds of authors and publishers in all genres. Check them out.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, Creativity, E-books, Editing, Featured Websites, Fiction, Internet, Interviews, Journalism, literature, Memoir, Online Media, poetry, Reading, Social Media, travelogue, writers conferences, Writing, Young Writers

Catching Up on Stories, Legacies, and Interviews

Catching up on a lot of good writing news while getting ready to head to San Diego for the Southern California Writers Conference – always a great weekend of fun, frivolity, and connection with other authors, editors, agents and publishers.

Last week, author Martha Halda and I were interviewed on Jennifer Hillman’s Abstract Illusions Radio TCW_r2_ecover-loresshow. Each of us talked with Jennifer for about an hour on this wonderful Internet radio show that merges creativity, expression and spiritual topics. I discussed my newest books, The Champion’s Way that I co-wrote with Dr. Steve Victorson, and my novel, Voices, that will be out later in 2013. I also talked about the writing process, and how vital it is to submit well-edited manuscripts, whether you have a publishing contract or are self-publishing. I will be addressing this topic directly at the Southern California Writers Conference.

"A Taste of Eternity" author Martha Halda

“A Taste of Eternity” author Martha Halda

Martha spoke about her memoir, A Taste of Eternity, concerning her near-death experiences and how she has repurposed her life to align more closely to what she experienced, and to share those  with others. She’s currently shopping the book to publishers, and is receiving a ton of comments and reaction to her work. Since I am helping her with the book and editing it, I’ll give you some inside information right now: It is a fabulous read, with a lot of content you haven’t seen in any other near-death memoirs. Let me put it this way: Any middle-aged woman who jumps off 50-foot cliffs into the chilly Himalayan snowmelt waters in the Ganges River to celebrate her birthday is going to be writing from a place of fearlessness. That’s what makes A Taste of Eternity so special.

I’ll be interviewed on all matters writing April 26 on The Write Now! cable television show in icon-spring2011Orange County, which is co-hosted by my partner in all things poetry, The Hummingbird Review publisher Charles Redner. Really looking forward to it. Speaking of The Hummingbird Review, we’re building the Spring 2013 issue right now, with a distinct theme: the relationship of Hollywood and literature. We have great essays and poems from some familiar names, as well as distinct new voices. Will share a preview on all the goodies very soon in this blog.

• • •

376462_204666292995418_1130802602_nNow to switch gears for some very cool music-related news: Stevie Salas, who grew up surfing in my hometown of Carlsbad, Calif. and is considered a guitar legend in most parts of the world, recently received one of the greatest honors you can imagine. He was named the contemporary music advisor to the Smithsonian Institution. To give you some perspective, the poetry consultant is Billy Collins, who formerly served as the Poet Laureate of the United States – a position appointed by the President.

Years ago, Stevie played with This Kids, a great North San Diego County cover band. Then he moved to LA and, after some tough times, he made it – big-time. About 20 years ago, he played guitar on major world tours by Rod Stewart and Mick Jagger, among others. He has since recorded more than 20 albums, sessioned on countless others, created the Rockstar Solos mobile app that is selling off the charts, and created and served as executive producer for Arbor Live, which airs in prime time every Friday night in Canada.

Stevie Salas exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution

Stevie Salas exhibit in the Smithsonian Institution

I don’t know of many musicians with bigger contact lists, either. Stevie keeps talking about his “six degrees of separation” from every noteworthy musician of the last 30 years, but when he starts talking about it, you realize there are really only one or two degrees.

We’ll have another announcement concerning Stevie very soon. It’s going to be a good one, and it has to do with a book!

• • •

Cover Placed_Proofing6The technology/innovation/creative business magazine that I edit, The Legacy Series Magazine, made a huge splash at Macworld/iWorld in San Francisco last weekend. In addition to thousands of magazines being given away, the magazine booth was among the most crowded at the massive show.

What a labor of love, this magazine: to talk with the top innovators, movers and shakers on a variety of very current topics. Among many other topics, we focus a lot on social media and publishing, as well as the devices, apps and other technology that support it. One of my personal thrills was to interview former high school classmate David Warthen, who co-founded the AskJeeves search engine (which later became Ask.com) that revolutionized search.

But the best news of all concerns the magazine’s expansion. In 2013, The Legacy Series Magazine is moving to a quarterly digital format, with the final issue of the year, a larger-sized issue, releasing on newsstands nationally as a print magazine as well. Will keep you posted.

• • •

"Home Free Adventures" author Lynne Martin and her husband, novelist Tim Martin

“Home Free Adventures” author Lynne Martin and her husband, novelist Tim Martin

Finally, a very happy bon voyage to Lynne and Tim Martin as they sail on the Atlantic this week to begin Year 3 of their Home Free experience. During their three-month interlude in California, Lynne sold her travel narrative, Home Free Adventures, to Sourcebooks. She’s about halfway through the draft manuscript now. As her editor, I can assure you that this fun-filled book is loaded with incredible insight that takes more than simply being a tourist to acquire. The hook is that Lynne and Tim live in each area they stop (Buenos Aires, Paris, Istanbul, Italy, Ireland, etc.) for one to three months at a time, becoming residents, not tourists. The book zips along with plenty of spice, compliments of Lynne’s keen sense of humor, love of people, and love of food.

There is a backstory to this book. Five months ago, the idea didn’t even exist. A meeting in a Paris cafe with a Wall Street Journal contributor started an amazing ball rolling. Whereas some of us might have said, “Someone else probably already thought of this,” Lynne jumped on it and went from zero book writing experience to a deal — quickly. Goes to show what happens when you believe in your ideas so fully that you pour yourself into them. And then, put together an outline that can connect with large numbers of readers (and acquisition editors), and share a compelling story with plenty of personality and good information, to which readers can relate.

That will be the common mantra next week at the Southern California Writers Conference. Which is a good place to sign off, for now …

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Platform, Books, Creativity, Editing, Education, Featured Websites, Fiction, Film, Innovation, Internet, Journalism, literature, Music, Online Media, poetry, Reading, Social Media, Technology, travelogue, Uncategorized, writers conferences, Writing, Writing Education

The Depths of Writing: A Conference Preview

In the ten years I’ve been teaching and presenting at writer’s conferences, a few features have always separated the best writers conference from the also-rans for me:

1) The hopes and enthusiasm of participants, who are looking for vital guidance and information to fulfill the life dreams and aspirations of publishing their books and stories;

2) The giving nature of presenters, who dig into their personal wells of hard-earned wisdom and trade secrets — sometimes, including material that gives them their competitive advantage in business — to empower and enrich the participants, to make the journey to the bookshelves perhaps a little easier than their own;

3) The sheer variety of the workshops, critique sessions, keynotes and presentations;

4) The amazing speed at which the publishing world turns, and changes; and

5) The quality and ability of participating agents, editors and publishers to do three things with authors: a) Be honest without being rude — or vague; b) Come to conferences looking for hot new voices (because you’ll find them); and c) Give quality advice and treat every writer with the respect they deserve for having the guts and dedication to write a book — NOT an easy thing to do.

Over the years, one of the best and most admired conferences for delivering on all of these areas is the Southern California Writers Conference, which takes place this weekend at Crowne Plaza Hotel in San Diego. From directors Michael Steven Gregory and Wes Albers to their staff and cast of presenters (authors, editors, agents, publishers, script agents and more), the SCWC team puts away their egos for three days and gives it up for the participants. Big-time. In a tireless way that motivates everyone who attends for weeks and months afterwards. And I mean tireless — sometimes, the late-night rogue read & critique sessions last until daybreak. Then, by 8 a.m., the next morning’s sessions are underway.

In the past year, the SCWC has become the launching pad for each semi-annual issue of the literary anthology I edit, The Hummingbird Review. We’re launching the third issue this weekend, and as publisher Charlie Redner wrote in a nice little fallout insert, “Remove socks before reading as they will be knocked off without notice.” Wait until you see this issue — from the great Gary Snyder and Michael Blake to some of the finest poets in California and the nation, we’ve got a spectacular collection of prose and poetry. Better yet, don’t wait — go to amazon.com, openbookspress.com or thehummingbirdreview.com right now and order a copy. (I might add, we’ve published several poets and authors whom we discovered at the SCWC — Jacob Pruett, Claudia Whitsitt, Marla Sink Druzgal, Alwyn Pinnow, E. Scott Menter and Jesse Lomeli among them)

For my part, I love to arrive at conferences with different twists on writing, marketing, editing or promoting. Seems like the schedule has caught up with me this time, but what a weekend celebration of the written word it’s going to be for everyone who participates in the workshops that I’m leading. Here, I’ll borrow an idea from fellow presenter/author/blogger Marla Miller and preview my presentations:

Healing: In Your Own Words: This is my favorite workshop to present, because there is no more purposeful, honest or spiritual form of writing than finding and expressing the words to help trigger healing within yourself, a friend or family member, a client/patient, or the reading audience at large. Cathartic moments always happen in this workshop, and the level of openness among participants is truly inspiring.

Multi-Genre Writing: Since my teen years, I’ve written in several different genres — poetry, journalism, fiction, lyric/songwriting, journaling, narrative non-fiction, essays and memoir. In recent years, I’ve put several of them together in the same works, a particularly enriching technique for readers. And one that’s more and more popular in both the print and online worlds. So in this workshop, we’re going to practice writing in genres other than our native form, and then blending the material into one piece. I’m getting ready to write a book on this with literary agent/author Verna Dreisbach, so this will be a very lively workshop. Get ready to have your writing muscles stretched — and your narrative reach increased.

The Celebrated Image: Creating and Polishing Poems: Now we get down to my deepest love, poetry. This is the first of four sessions in PoetryCram 2011, a daylong workshop for participants who want to write new poems or put their poems into publishable chapbook form. I’ll be joined by Hummingbird Review publisher Charlie Redner, poetry teacher and poet Ed Decker, and online publishing expert Lin Robinson. In the opening workshop, we’re going to turn images into poems, expand and polish those poems, and make those tough decisions on structural form, and decide on an order for an eventual collection or chapbook. The inner and outer world is the sandbox, the words and experiences are the toys, and we’re going to play!

In addition, I will be meeting one-on-one with several authors to discuss their works-in-progress, and possibly putting something together last-minute to help authors build their all-important promotional platforms. Not sure yet. But stay tuned. One of the other great things about SCWC is that you have to keep checking the website during the week leading to the conference — and then check the board once you arrive. There are always changes … a true reflection of the fluid writer’s mind.

I’ll blog from the conference, and also share more on the various topics in the coming weeks. If you’re a writer in Southern California and not doing anything this weekend, come on down for either the full conference (Friday night through Sunday night) or the weekend sessions. You don’t have to sign up for workshops in advance (except for the PoetryCram and NovelCram) … just walk in, open up your pad, journal, iPad or laptop, and prepare to fully expand your horizons as a writer — and learn what it takes to get published.

Leave a comment

Filed under Adult Literacy, Author Platform, Books, E-books, Editing, Featured Websites, Journaling, literature, Marketing, Memoir, Millennium Media Masters, poetry, Promotions, Reading, workshops, writers conferences, Writing, Young Writers

Picking Favorite Authors — One Writer’s List

We’re rolling into the busy winter-spring writer’s conference season now, so thought I’d spend the next several blogs sharing materials that, hopefully, will stir the literary blood of writers, readers and editors alike. I’ve got a number of big events coming up, most prominently the Southern California Writers Conference in San Diego Feb. 18-20, the Tucson Festival of Books March 11-13 and the Hummingbird Review Poetry Revue in Vista, CA March 20, so I’ll definitely be in the sharing mood for the next six weeks.

So we’ll start by putting the head on the chopping block and seeing what happens — a list of my 50 favorite authors (plus 10 VERY honorable mentions). Here’s the caveat on this list: It only includes people who wrote extensively in the 20th or early 21st centuries. So some other all-time favorites, like Catullus, Archimedes, Sappho, Goethe, the Shelleys (Percy and Mary), Keats, Blake, Tennyson, Thoreau, Emerson, the Rossettis (Dante and Christina), St. Francis, Petrarch, Chaucer and others, won’t be on this list.

Since I write and read in multiple genres, “writer” to me breaks out as novelists, memoirists, essayists, journalists, poets, short story writers, non-fiction authors and even songwriters with particularly poetic styles.

But a fair question deserves a fair answer. These writers have greatly touched my heart and mind and inspired my work, regardless of genre. In all cases, I’ve read many, most or all of their books. They are not necessarily in order — that would be too difficult — although I’d say the top 30 are pretty accurate:

1. Gary Snyder — Poet, Essayist, Translator (Turtle Island, A Place in Space, Practice of the Wild)

2. Paramhansa Yogananda — Spiritual Memoir, Poet (Autobiography of a Yogi is a classic, but his Whispers from Eternity is a poetic gift from heaven)

3. Anne Rice — Novelist (The Vampire Chronicles)

4. Tom Wolfe — Literary Journalist, Novelist (The Right Stuff, Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test)

5. Anais Nin — Diarist, Essayist, Novelist (Delta of Venus, Diaries of Anais Nin)

6. Jim Harrison — Novelist, Memoirist (Legends of the Fall, Call of the North)

7. T.C. Boyle — Novelist, Short Fiction (Drop City)

8. Jack Kerouac — Novelist, Poet, Memoirist (The Dharma Bums, On The Road)

9. Jeanette Winterson — Novelist (Written on the Body)

10. Joyce Carol Oates — Novelist, Short Fiction, Journalist (Blonde)

11. Henry Miller — Novelist, Essayist, Short Fiction, Memoirist (Tropic of Cancer)

12. Annie Dillard — Memoirist, Essayist, Novelist (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

13. John Gardner — Novelist, Short Fiction, Educator (The Sunlight Dialogues)

14. Don Eulert — Poet, Scholar, Translator (Field: A Haiku Circle)

15. Joy Harjo — Poet, Musician, Memoirist (How We Became Human)

16. Tim Winton — Novelist, Short Fiction (Breath)

17. Hunter S. Thompson — Literary Journalist (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)

18. Luis Alberto Urrea — Memoirist, Journalist, Novelist (The Hummingbird’s Daughter)

19. J. Donald Walters (Swami Kriyananda) — Spiritual and Topical Non-Fiction, Musician, Memoirist (The Path)

20. Jane Smiley — Novelist, Journalist (A Thousand Acres)

21. Tom Robbins — Novelist, Humorist (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)

22. Michael McClure — Poet, Essayist (Of Indigo and Saffron: New and Selected Poems)

23. Joan Didion — Memoirist, Journalist, Essayist (White Album)

24. Diane Ackerman — Non-Fiction (A History of the Senses)

25. Elmore Leonard — Novelist, Screenwriter (Get Shorty)

26. Michael Blake — Novelist, Memoirist (Dances with Wolves)

27. Jimmy Santiago Baca — Poet, Essayist, Memoirist (Healing Earthquakes, A Place to Stand)

28. Anne Lamott — Novelist, Memoirist (Lessons on Faith, Bird by Bird)

29. Ernest Hemingway — Novelist, Journalist (For Whom the Bell Tolls)

30. Ray Bradbury — Sci-Fi Novelist, Short Fiction (I Sing the Body Electric)

31. John Barth — Novelist (Giles Goat-Boy, The Sot Weed Factor)

32. Isabel Allende — Novelist (House of the Spirits)

33. Natalie Goldberg — Novelist, Memoirist, Education (Writing Down the Bones)

34. Taylor Mali — Poet, Educator, Spoken-Word Artist (What Learning Leaves)

35. Mary Stewart — Novelist (The Crystal Cave)

36. Laurel Corona — Novelist, Children’s Non-Fiction (The Four Seasons)

37. Jim Morrison — Poet, Musician (Lords and the New Creatures)

38. Ernest Gaines — Novelist, Essayist (A Lesson Before Dying)

39. Cameron Crowe — Journalist, Screenwriter (Rolling Stone, Jerry Maguire)

40. William Least Heat Moon — Travel Memoirist (Blue Highways)

41. Jack London — Novelist, Journalist (Call of the Wild)

42. Kurt Vonnegut — Novelist, Satirist (Cat’s Cradle)

43. Laura Hillenbrand — Topical Non-Fiction (Seabiscuit)

44. John Steinbeck — Novelist, Short Fiction (Grapes of Wrath, Travels with Charlie)

45. Robinson Jeffers — Poet, Essayist (Women at Point Sur, Thurso’s Landing)

46. Sarabeth Purcell — Novelist (Love is the Drug)

47. Wendell Berry — Poet, Essayist, Novelist, Short Fiction, Educator (Leavings, the Unsettling of America)

48. Muriel Rukeyser — Poet, Essayist, Activist (The Life of Poetry)

49. Anne Tyler — Novelist (Breathing Lessons)

50. Liu T’ieh Yun — Novelist (The Travels of Lao Ts’an)

 

My VERY Honorable Mentions:

Lawrence Ferlinghetti — Poet, Essayist (Coney Island of the Mind)

Erica Jong — Memoirist, Novelist (Fear of Flying)

Maya Angelou — Poet, Essayist (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings)

J.R.R. Tolkien — Novelist, Essayist (Lord of the Rings)

Sandra Cisneros — Novelist, Short Fiction (The House on Mango Street)

Bob Shacochis — Literary Journalist, Novelist (Swimming in the Volcano)

Carson McCullers — Novelist (The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter, Ballad of the Sad Cafe)

William Faulkner — Novelist, Essayist (A Rose for Emily)

Christina Baldwin — Topical Non-Fiction (Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our Lives)

May Sarton — Poet, Novelist, Memorist (Journal of a Solitude)

Since this blog was always meant to be an open forum, would love to see some of your lists as well — or how you would modify this one.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Adult Literacy, Books, E-books, Featured Websites, Journalism, literature, Memoir, poetry, Reading, Teen Literacy, travelogue, Writing, Young Writers

From “Morning Tea with Gary Snyder”

While inhaling the brisk, pine-sharpened air of the surrounding Animin Forest along the San Juan Ridge, high above the South Yuba River, I consider the facets of Gary Snyder: poetics, ecology, Native American myth and literature, the value of work, the greatest defender of the Sierra Nevada since John Muir, his translation and knowledge of Japanese and Chinese poetry. The San Francisco Beat movement. The latter ignited on an October night in 1955 when Gary joined Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Kenneth Rexroth, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia and their non-reading guest, Jack Kerouac, at the “remarkable collection of angels,” the Six Gallery Reading. Ginsberg debuted and immortalized “Howl.” Snyder, then 25, read his first poem publicly, “A Berry Feast,” now a classic. The Six Gallery remains the seminal poetry event in recent U.S. history — and for which, amazingly, no photograph or tape recording exists. Why? No one thought it was a big deal. They didn’t see what was coming. Except for the lookout, the erstwhile Cascade Mountain ranger and U.C. Berkeley graduate student, Snyder. “I think it will be a poetical bombshell,” he told Whalen. In a journal, he wrote, “Poetry will get a kick in the arse around this town.”

All of them became famous.

A few nights before, while having dinner, Gary and I talked about Kerouac. After the Six Gallery reading, and before heading to Japan for 12 years of study, Snyder took Kerouac up North Arete, a.k.a. the Sierra Matterhorn, a difficult six-hour climb just west of California’s Mt. Whitney. The two held a common devotion for Buddhism, but were otherwise as different as the West and East coasts from which they came. Not to mention that Kerouac wrote prose that sometimes rambled like an endless river (one particular sentence in his benzedrine-fueled novel, The Subterraneans, stretched more than 1,200 words). Conversely, Snyder lives and breathes punctuality, his work crisp and clear as cold, pine-scented air. In 1959, their Sierra Matterhorn climb appeared in Kerouac’s great novel, The Dharma Bums — along with a wise, resourceful protagonist virtually every reader before and since wanted to know like a next-door neighbor: Japhy Ryder.

Gary Snyder.

“That was interesting to see how he wrote about our trip, the things we did together,” Gary said. “He had a tough time getting up the Matterhorn, but he did it.”

“What’s it like becoming the protagonist of a novel?”

Gary looked at me, eyes sharpening to the point he was about to make. His next bite of food clung to his fork like a spacewalker. “I was the model for a fictional character. I’m no more Japhy Ryder than the next guy. He used a lot of what we did, and I liked the way he wrote the book very much — I think it’s Kerouac’s finest novel — but Japhy is fictional and I’m right here. I was just a model.”

An intriguing comment I read about Kerouac’s work came to mind, something relevant in this era of memoirs, exposes, autobiographical novels, what’s true in novels and what’s fictitious in so-called memoirs. “Do you think that if Kerouac were alive today, his thirteen novels — On The Road, Dharma Bums, Big Sur, Tales of Duluoz and the others — would be considered memoirs?” I asked.

Gary thought about it for a moment, leaving the food marooned. He shook the fork slightly. “That’s a very good question. But…no. He fictionalized quite a bit, changed some names, changed the sequence of events, made a couple of things up; it’s not true memoir. You could call it autobiographical fiction. But why not just call it fiction and enjoy it?”

Out rolled the raucous laugh, the fun-lover’s laugh, his eyes jovial as leprechauns — the side of Gary Snyder we all seem to forget while he’s reading his works and discoursing on everything from the dearth of deep thought in everyday life to instilling more arts into public education to conserving his beloved Sierra Nevada.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Featured Websites, Journaling, literature, poetry, Reading, travelogue, Writing