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The "All But True" series of fiction readings is now being curated and hosted by the Working Writers Group, the collection of slightly demented folk who form our editorial board.
Begun in 2011 at Musehouse in northwest Philly, "All But True" has presented many well-known Philadelphia-area authors, such as Robin Black, Ken Kalfus, Beth Kephart, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Liz Moore, Daniel Torday, and Lisa Zeidner -- and a few writers from out of town as well.
Since Musehouse closed earlier this year, the series has moved to Mighty Writers West, the West Philly branch of a citywide organization dedicated to encouraging children and teens to write. "All But True" is also linking up with the "Second Fridays on Lancaster" series of cultural events, which includes jazz, film, and art openings along the Lancaster Avenue corridor.
WWG members will select the readers and host the events. Here are the first two in the new season:
Friday, October 14, 7:00 p.m.: novels about siblings in crisis: Featuring Stephanie Feldman, author of The Angel of Losses, and Tom Mendicino, author of The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter.
Friday, November 11, 7:00 p.m., a program of "speculative fiction": Featuring Lawrence M. Schoen, author of several novels, most recently Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard, and Fran Wilde, whose novel Cloudbound, second in her Bone Universe series, will be hot off the presses.
At each event the authors will read from their works, discuss them with the audience, and stay around to autograph copies afterward. Complimentary refreshments will be provided. The series is free and open to all.
The address of Mighty Writers West is 3861 Lancaster Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104. In other words, it's right there:
Vibrant Margins, a new subscription service for readers interested in novels from independent presses, has just announced its inaugural season, Spring 2017. Our own Mr. Boardwalk is the June selection, of which we're very proud, but the list has an even more interesting characteristic. Of the six monthly choices, for January through June, three are from Philadelphia publishers. And we're not stretching the geography either: all are located near the city center, less than three miles from one another.
So, this year, Philly has given us great independently published fiction. New York, the supposed literary center of the country if not the universe, has given us two presidential candidates.
The question, then: Which city had the better year? Which would you personally rather have, the fiction or the reality?
Just sayin'. No disrespect, NYC.
Multitalented Miriam Seidel—member of the New Door Books editorial board, novelist, librettist, and cover designer for our books—has posted an insightful essay about what makes A Wrinkle in Time so appealing to generation after generation of young readers. Check it out here: http://miriamseidel.com/2016/05/16/a-wrinkle-in-time/
WWG member Larry Loebell has just won third place in the annual competition for the Marguerite McGlinn National Prize for Fiction for his story "49 Seconds in the Box." "There isn't a wasted word here," said the judge, celebrated novelist and short story writer Bonnie Jo Campbell.
Congratulations to Larry! Click on the photo or on the link above for the full announcement.
The online Philly Voice has just published a good article by Jake Blumgart about the indie press scene in Philadelphia. Though it has room to mention just a handful of our local presses, it gives a sense of the variety of offerings and explores some of the reasons local publishers are booming. Check it out by clicking here or on the photo. That's a great photo collage too, isn't it?
In his charming blog "Off the Leash," Ken Dowell has posted a review of our title The Shame of What We Are by Sam Gridley. He describes the novel as a child's eye view of the weirdness of the 1950s and early 1960s, including mothers smoking while cooking dinner and postwar fathers being "pissed off at everything." The book's characters and period details ring true to him, even the scene in which the family drives cross-country with a baby sitting on her mother's lap in the front seat (no seat belts, of course).
I’m reminded also of the movie Boyhood, a coming of age tale covering roughly the same time of life albeit a half century later. . . .
The post also includes a couple of the book's illustrations. Many thanks to Mr. Dowell, whose blog is always worth reading.
Now that tax season is over, for most of us, we can turn our attention to National Poetry Month, and in particular, Philly Poetry Day on Saturday, April 18. There’s so much going on—“Poetry everywhere!” is the slogan—that it’s impossible to list everything, but The Philly Poetry Day Facebook page has a long series of posts about events in various parts of the city. Thanks to the indefatigable Leonard Gontarek for his organizational efforts.
Here is one event we particularly recommend: Lisa Sewell and Nzadi Keita in a Musehouse-sponsored reading at the Chestnut Hill Gallery, 8117 Germantown Avenue, 215-248-2549. Sewell has published three full-length collections (if we’re counting right) plus a chapbook; she's been honored with the Tenth Gate and Keystone awards, an NEA fellowship, and a Leeway Foundation grant. Her new collection is called Impossible Object. Keita’s new book, Brief Evidence of Heaven: Poems from the Life of Anna Murray Douglass, is based on the story of Frederick Douglass’s wife, an independent woman and abolitionist in her own right. The free program starts at 7:00.
And coming up a week later, on Saturday, April 25, Philadelphia Stories is sponsoring a LitLife Poetry Festival. The registration fee entitles you to master classes, discussions, readings, and a Literary Death Match. We don’t know what the last of these entails, but we’re sure that survivors win a glass of wine or a Philly soft pretzel, something like that.
Indie presses like ours depend a lot on indie booksellers, the neighborhood shops that once seemed on the verge of extinction but now are rebounding. Lately we've heard several good reports on that front. One example is a story on Michigan Radio; here's an excerpt:
With competition from Amazon and e-readers, big box bookstores have been hit hard. Borders closed in 2011 and Barnes & Noble has been forced to close hundreds of stores.
Click here for the full story, including an audio interview with Janet Jones of Source Booksellers in Detroit.
And here's a shout-out to Labyrinth Books in Princeton, NJ, an indie store that next week will host one of our favorite writers, Mark Lyons, whose recent story collection, Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines, was published by another indie press, Wild River Books.
It's all connected.
"Brief Eulogies is a roadmap to the soul. Each story is a resting place, or descanso, for the characters and their hardships."
That's from the latest review of Mark Lyons's Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines, an extraordinary collection of stories that we've mentioned before on this site. The review appears in The Philadelphia Review of Books, which is becoming known (like Cleaver Magazine) for its insightful takes on new literature. Click here or on the image above to see the full piece.
The reviewer, Michael Antoinetti, is especially impressed by the story "He Do Want to Fly," which presents seven points of view, six of them from patients in a dead-end long-term-care hospital and one from the "cath man" who attends them. Antoinetti remarks, "That Lyons would put himself through the torture of conjuring up this many voices in a short story is a testament to his skill and/or insanity as a writer."
Writing short stories is itself an insanity, so why not go for broke?
The review ends by suggesting that the book is "best paired with" a raccoon burger and Southern Comfort. You'll have to read the story called "Arnold's Roadside Cafe" to find out why.