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1. BWFBC: Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt/Carol (1952)

Welcome to July’s Bestselling Women’s Fiction Book Club in which we discuss Patricia Highsmith’s The Price of Salt/Carol. It’s original title was The Price of Salt and that’s what some editions in the US still call it. In Australia and the UK it’s called Carol. That’s how I think of it because that’s the edition I first read and fell in love with in my early twenties.

This is the first book we’ve discussed that one of us knows really well. I’m a huge Highsmith fan. Have read everything she’s published as well as all the biographies and memoirs of her I can find. So this discussion is a little different from the previous ones.

Because the book was originally published as a hardcover but did not take off until the paperback edition came out1 I thought it would be fun for you to see the different covers. Quite the difference, eh? From what I’ve been able to figure out it was that second version that sold the most copies. At least one of the dates in the image bleow is wrong. The hardcover version of Price of Salt was first published in 1952, not 1951.



Note: in the discussion below my information about the original publication of the book and how many copies it sold comes from Patricia Highsmith’s 1989 afterword which is now included in most reprints of the book. She says almost a million copies. As you can see some of the paperback covers above claim only half a million.

One last thing: apparently Todd Haynes is currently directing Cate Blanchett in a movie version to be called Carol. Yes, I’m excited.

For the discussion on Twitter we’ll be using the hashtag #BWFBC. You can also join the conversation in the comments below.

If you haven’t read Price of Salt/Carol yet there are many spoilers below.

And here at last is our take on this bloody brilliant book:

JL: This is my third or fourth read so I’d really like to hear your take on it first. Very curious to know what you thought.

KE: I’m about a third through.

I think it is quite well written. And I’m really impressed by how she captures Therese’s stunned attraction. Also, something about Highsmith’s point of view is so interesting to me and I’m not sure I can put my finger on it. Maybe because the situation doesn’t feel as desperate as some of the other books where we can tell from the subject matter and the tone that a dire fate awaits the women characters. This isn’t precisely a comedy, but it is a book in which there is a fragile sense that a woman can contribute to her own destiny? That she has a hope of happiness and success of a kind? Does that make sense?

I’m enjoying it. The initial phone call exchange where Carol rings up and realizes who it is who called her is brilliant.

JL: Yes to all of that. Except that I think Highsmith is a genius and her writing perfect.

The pov is deeply strange. It verges on omniscient.

The description of Therese’s desire, love, obsession is remarkable. Every time I read it I’m absolutely desperate for them to kiss already. WHY AREN’T YOU BOTH KISSING ALREADY?! And I do mean kissing. They barely so much as hold hands for most of the book. Sexual tension = this book.

I can’t help thinking how disappointed the 1950s straight men who read lesbian pulps for the titilation must’ve been with this book and how beyond delighted the lesbians must have been to discover it. No wonder it was an underground hit.

Have you finished yet? Didn’t want to write more of my thought until you’ve finished.

I will say this one thing since it’s clear that Richard is like this early on. I’m struck by how in every single novel we’ve looked at there’s a guy who will not take no for an answer and who pathologises the woman for her refusal to marry him/be with him.

KE: Yes. Richard doesn’t seem bad at first but then it turns out he’s awful. Dannie is better because of he isn’t bothered (seemingly) by the revelation that Therese has had an affair with Carol, and because he genuinely does seem like a person who will not demand.

The man who won’t take no for an answer is a familiar and comfortable trope, still present today in guises that make such a man seem worthy and attractive, but in all these novels the writers simply skewer that notion.

JL: It’s lovely to see that revulsion at that guy is not a recent development. He’s been loathed for much longer than either of us has been alive. And yay for that! Now if only we could get him to go away forever.

I just reread Malinda Lo’s review of the book. I was really struck by how weird I found it that she saw it as a love at first sight novel. I didn’t read it that way at all. I mean Carol doesn’t even realise that it was Therese at first she thought it was some guy who served her that day. Carol pretty clearly isn’t immediately attracted to Therese it’s more of a slow burn. The falling in love is even a slower burn. I feel like Carole doesn’t even take Therese seriously until she realises that she’s a set designer.

Therese is very much attracted straight away. But that’s not love at first sight that’s lust at first sight which I’ve never found hard to buy at all.

Your thoughts?

KE: I absolutely read it as Therese falling in love at first sight. Carol feels the attraction but, I think, is mature and experienced enough to be amused by it because she knows what it is.

But I simply can’t agree that it is lust at first sight.

JL: Wow. I think I have a totally different understanding of what love at first sight as a narrative device is compared to you and Malinda. Because I really disagree. I’ve always seen it at as something that happens to both in the pairing—a la Twilight or Tristan and Isolde. They might struggle against it but they both feel it. A narrative in which only one person is into the other is not a love at first sight narrative.

Carol definitely does not feel it. She doesn’t even remember who Therese is at first and if Therese hadn’t contacted her Carol would never have thought of her again.

Therese feels an attraction—I think it’s lust—that she doesn’t quite make sense of until she sees Carol a few more times. But, yeah, I think her immediate attraction to Carol is physical. And that she lets herself understand it as something more romantic because she doesn’t quite have the means to understand being attracted to a woman. It’s part of what she tries to talk to idiot Richard about when she asks him if he’s ever been attracted to a man. So, yeah, I definitely feel the attraction is instant but the love comes later.

I don’t read Therese as truly being in love with Carol or even truly understanding Carol until the very end of the novel when she’s wowed by Carol’s bravery in deciding to be with Therese even though it means she’s going to lose her daughter.

One of the many things I adore about this novel is that it shows the reader Therese and Carol getting to know each other fairly slowly and falling in love fairly slowly. Therese learns that Carol is not, in fact, who she thought she was.

KE: Therese is so sure of herself and how these feelings permeate her. I think it’s beautifully written in capturing the sense of floating and surety. Besides the really good writing I think what I love most about this book is that Therese never questions herself, never hates herself for having what most people at that time (and too many even now) considered “unnatural” feelings. The power of the emotion that hits her is so strong that she simply accepts it in a way that might typically be written in a heterosexual romance of the time (and still today). There’s no agonizing forr her, it’s Cupid’s arrow straight between the eyes. I love that. Although over the course of the novel Therese slowly comes to realize what it means for her and Carol in terms of society’s disapprobation and the real threat it poses to both of them for different reasons.

JL: Here we can agree. (Though I think Cupid fires lust darts, not love.) I adored Therese’s surety about her own desires too. And it’s a huge part of why it sold almost a million copies in paperback and caused so many lesbians and gay men to write to Highsmith about the novel. Here was a story where a woman falls in love with another woman without believing that she’s deranged or infantile or any of the things that awful Richard acuses her of being. Here’s a story in which the lovers get to be together at the end.

KE: So, yes, put me firmly in the love at first sight camp.

Carol’s is a slower burn but I read that in part as caution and, as you say, in part that at first she seems to find Therese more amusing (and maybe a little flattering) than anything.

(Very true about Cupid. My bad.)

JL: If she’s a slow burner than how on earth is it love at first sight?! That makes no sense! I read it as Carol being depressed. Her ex is awful, she’s just broken up with her best friend, her daughter’s with her awful ex, she has a housekeeper she doesn’t trust, she has no job to distract her. So, yes, as you say she’s enjoying the flattery of Therese’s crush on her but doesn’t take it seriously beyond that. She’s certainly not imagining them living together. Pretty much until they go on the road trip Carol tries to encourage Therese to stick with her odious boyfriend.

KE: The set design does change Carol’s view of her. I wonder if you have any thoughts in how Carol reacts (with the negative criticism)? It could be seen as a compliment (I’m being honest) or as a little more passive aggressive. Or some other option. It’s interesting though.

JL: For me that’s the first moment Carol starts to really see Therese and not just the flattery of this pretty young thing having a crush on her.

I read her criticism as part of Carol’s general discomfort. Carol’s up against so much that she’s not talking about. Two break ups in a row. She’s constantly kind of on edge and irritable and I see the picking at Therese’s designs as another part of that. She spends a lot of time trying to push Therese away. And there’s a lot of weirdness around her break up with Abby and Abby’s interaction with Therese. I also think she’s a bit freaked out by her growing feelings for Therese and the ramifications for Carol. She is, as you say, much more aware of the consequences of being a lesbian in the 1950s in the USA than Therese is.

I’m coming out of YA where there’s a metric tonne of love at first sight in the sense I mean it. In the fairy tale sense. And YA is where Malinda is from as well which is how I read her as responding to the book: “Oh, God, not that awful trope again.” Whereas I think this novel is SO not that trope.

However, I still don’t see Therese as instantly in love. Intrigued and crushing, yes. Full of desire, yes. In love? No. I also see a very slight amount of omniscience in the narrator. Through those eyes I feel like the novel is very lightly mocking—mocking is too strong a word—Therese’s growing obsession with Carol. But there’s a definite feel of someone much older telling the tale of this nineteen year old’s first real experience with love.

KE: If you are defining “love at first sight” as necessarily mutual, then no it isn’t. But I’ve never defined it as having to be mutual.

In Carol’s case, she even says toward the end that she went over to Therese in the department store because she was the least busy, and not wearing a smock.

JL: I don’t think either of them really start to fall all the way in love with each other until the road trip when they get to know each other and discover they have great chemistry in bed.

KE: Nah. I just disagree. Therese is in love from the get-go, although I should specify that I think of it as infatuation-love rather than love-love, if that makes sense. But it is not just lust. The emotion made Therese stronger and more sure of herself. Lust (to my mind) doesn’t create the same grounding.

JL: It’s lust with romantic longings. That ain’t what I call love. I do not call infatuation love. I call love what you’re calling love-love. So I think we’re agreeing but we have definitional disagreements. Frankly I don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in lust at first sight, infatuation at first sight, but not love. Love takes time. You can’t love someone if you don’t know them.

KE: I should note that I myself am skeptical about the idea of love at first sight. On a personal note I actually have a statement about “love at first sight” in my forthcoming YA fantasy novel, in which a father tells his daughter about the first time he saw her mother. He emphatically does not believe in “love at first sight” and then describes what pretty much what in any book would be “love at first sight.”

I should also note that from my own experience I know that “instant attraction” (sometimes sexual but often a more intangible quality that is an instinctive “connection” between two people) does exist but I have experienced it with both men and women. It always startles me when I instantly like and feel drawn to someone (even as I know I don’t really know them, but something sparks that connection and I am sure I have no idea what it is).

JL: Yes to all of that.

KE: I’m enjoying your analysis of Carol. I think in this case that is a perspective that can’t be gained from a single reading of the novel but only from a re-read.

JL: It is true *cough* that this is at least my fourth read of this novel. It fascinated me because it is so not like Highsmith’s other books yet at the same I can see so many places where it could take a turn into Highsmith territory. Like when awful ex, Harge, shows up, there’s a moment where either Therese or Carol could plausibly have killed him. The fact that Carol brings a gun on the road trip and it never goes off! If this were a regular Highsmith Carol could have wound up killing that detective.

KE: Yes, I recognized the business with the gun and felt it was, perhaps, a tip of the hat to her thrillers? I was pretty sure it would not go off because the tone of the story wasn’t right for it, but it was a reminder that the entire narrative could have taken a far darker turn.

JL: Oh, I like that interpretation. Hadn’t occurred to me. It’s just the sort of thing Highsmith would do too.

KE: What’s interesting is that I think the story may have been far more important to readers because it did not take that dark turn.

JL: Absolutely!

KE: The ending is brilliant and adorable, and the cinematic romantic in me is just beaming because it is so sweet and yet somehow Highsmith pulls it off without making it saccharine; she makes you want it.

JL: The first time I read it I cried. Sobbed my heart out with joy. Not just because it’s a (relatively) happy ending but because they’re both now in a place and the novel takes place over at least a year and a half where they’re right for each other, mature enough for each other, and brave enough for each other. *sniff*

KE: I must say that I did feel a pinch of anger at Therese for that business of “she choose Rindy over me” because I’m a mother and so I entirely empathize with Carol’s situation. Having said that, Highsmith has carefully set up that Therese has no reason to understand “motherly love” as she never got any and, in fact, was herself discarded when her mother chose her second husband over Therese. So it makes psychological sense.

JL: Oh, sure. I also think it’s meant to be a bit appalling. Even without her awful background Therese is still very young. It’s a very young person’s selfish thought.

KE: So while Therese’s story ends well, Carol’s remains filled with a combination of triumph and heartbreak, very bittersweet. In my fanfic, Rindy will start writing secret letters to her mother and then, as 16, will start seeing her mother secretly and, at 18, tell her father where to go.

JL: That’s hilarious. I was going to tell you that I imagine Rindy constantly running away from her dad until he finally gives in and lets her go live with Carol and Therese. He won’t mind because he’s found himself another trophy wife and had more children. And Rindy’s proven herself to be too much trouble.

But, yes, my heart breaks for Carol.

One of the lovely things at the end of the book is that we finally get to see Carol without all those weights on her. She knows, at last, where she stands with her ex, she’s lost custody of her daughter. She doesn’t have to hide. She doesn’t have to pretend anymore. That brittleness about her is gone.

KE: The only thing that mitigates my annoyance with the plot device of Carol having to lose her child in order to be “free” (very dicey plot device, that one) is that I know that legally it would and could have happened in that way. But in this particular case the plot line of a mother losing her child always comes across to me as traumatic.

JL: It happened to a close family friend in the 1970s. Lesbian mothers didn’t start winning custody battles til later in that decade. At least not in Australia and I bet it was just as bad in the US. So I never thought of that as a plot device but rather as absolutely what would have happened. Because that’s what did happen. Sometimes still does happen.

I also think is clear Carol doesn’t see losing Rindy as making her free. She’s clearly heartbroken. But in the choice between denying who she is to people who hate her and won’t to keep her from her daughter and will use any excuse to do so she chooses love with Therese.

KE: I’ve thought a bit more about this and I realize that in fact Carol doesn’t read to me as heartbroken and in fact her relationship with Rindy never felt true to me; it is the one thing in the book that doesn’t ring true to me. It feels obligatory but not emotionally authentic. So it isn’t the plot device that didn’t work for me — the legal aspect — it’s that I never quite believed in the mother/daughter relationship as depicted between them so that it came across as a plot device rather than something I truly cared about because I never (as a reader) invested in the Carol/Rindy relationship. All the other relationships felt true to me, even the minor ones like Mrs Robichek.

JL: Again I disagree. One of the things I’ve noticed on rereads is that Therese is not a reliable narrator though she absolutely strives to be one (which is a key distinction between kinds of unreliable narrators). but everything about Carol is filtered through her gaze. Therese does not give a shit about Rindy. She doesn’t much ask about Rindy except in a pro forma way. So Carol doesn’t much talk about Rindy with Therese. Yet even so she’s there haunting the entire book and a huge part of Carol’s grief and brittleness. When letters arrive Carol always reads Rindy’s first. And Therese is puzzled by that. To me that was a huge tell that Therese just doesn’t get Carol’s love for her daughter.

KE: If that is the case, and I think you make a compelling argument about something that might not be as obvious EXCEPT on a re-read, then there’s a second layer to all this in that Therese essentially acts as did the second husband for whom her mother discarded her. It would be interesting to think about how and what it means that, as an abandoned child, she can’t (yet) empathize with a girl about to be separated from her mother.

I wanted to make a brief mention of how brilliantly Highsmith uses excerpts from letters. She’s such a skilled writer, and it’s interesting to see how the narrative voice differs from the voices displayed in the letters (naturally, but it’s not easy to do).

JL: As I have now mentioned multiple times I am a huge fan. Can I admit now that you’re initial comment that Highsmith writes “quite well” had me fuming? Yay, that you saw the light. :-)

KE: Justine, “quite well” is a huge compliment from me. I don’t gush much. If I say, “that was a good book” it is strong praise.

JL: Weirdo.

KE: Probably!

There is a period of several chapters where Therese does a cascade of “growing up” that turns her into a person of budding maturity and—quite the most interesting to me—a woman with determined goals and a sense of herself. She is a woman who will succeed and also be true to herself (in many different facets of her life). Wow. What a fabulous emotion to leave the reader with.

JL: Yes to all of this. I too think that was beautifully done, which I guess is pretty obvious given how many times I’ve read it.

KE: I would like to hear more about the context of this book’s bestsellerdom because I confess it surprised me that a book with this content would have been a bestseller in 1952. I’m not surprised people wrote to Highsmith. Again, I can’t express enough how unusual it is EVEN TODAY but especially then to read a lovely story like this in which her sexual coming out (if I may use that term) is depicted so positively, and sexily. And without any need to ever have Therese question, doubt, dislike, or try to “change” herself.

JL: It may not be technically a bestseller. But it did sell close to a million copies and it was one of the bestselling lesbian pulp paperbacks of the 1950s. It did not do well in its original printing in hardcover though it got some nice reviews including from the NYT. But it’s real impact was in paperback.

Those lesbian pulps were mainly aimed at titilating straight male readers but many lesbians also read them and I’m pretty sure this novel would have stood out like a sore thumb. It became a novel that was passed around by lesbians and by which they could recognise each other. Marijane Meaker (M. E. Kerr) was one of Highsmith’s lovers and talks about the book’s impact in her 2003 memoir about her relationship with Highsmith:

Pat was revered [in the lesbian community] for her pseudonymous novel, The Price of Salt, which had been published in 1952 by Coward McCann. It was for many years the only lesbian novel, in either hard or soft cover, with a happy ending.

It stood on every lesbian bookshelf along with classics like The Well of Loneliness; We, Too, Are Drifting; Diana; and Olivia.

KE: The book dragged for me a little in the middle, mostly because I was waiting for dragons or ninjas to appear and they never did. But the ending is really masterfully written.

JL: You do realise that there will be no dragons or ninjas in any of the books we’re looking at, right?

KE: WHAT?!?!?

So glad you had us read this one! I’d never even heard of it. But then again, because of the lack of dragons and ninjas and sword fighting, I tend not to have heard of a lot of mainstream fiction.

  1. Pun intentional.

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2. Hope: Holly Schindler

A tiny ray of hope appears inside me, the same way a little stream of light pours from the hallway through my bedroom door's keyhole at night.

- from the novel The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky by Holly Schindler

For similar ponderings, please check out Definitions of Hope, a series of hopeful musings from various authors and other artists.

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3. Junior Fiction book with bully theme


On the Edge by Linley Jones, produced by AM Publishing New Zealand

To order copies of this junior novel email the author at lesjones@xtra.co.nz. It’s indie published, and on first look I was impressed by the production and the quality control that’s gone into it. The cover picture is eye-catching with its bright colours, clean lines,  and New Zealand flavour. The editing, proofreading and design layout have been done to a professional level by Adrienne Morris. The author has had two previous books published (one was Making Waves, published by Scholastic NZ) and it was useful to see these listed on the back of the title page. It’s a fast-moving adventure story for intermediate-aged readers, and there’s a lot going on. Bullying, coping with physical fear, family problems, cultural differences, environmental issues, and crime involving the smuggling of rare orchids ... twelve-year old Brady has much to overcome. The plot races to an exciting climax where Brady has to face his fears and rescue the boy who was bullying him. It’s a hearty read, particularly for boys who like a bit of a challenge.

ISBN 978 0 9922628 3 9 $20 Pb

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

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4. Learning from the French and Indian War

I'm writing a historical novel, so I've been spending a lot of time in the 18th century. Learning as I write is one of my great pleasures. I didn't know that nails were so valuable they were often used as currency. Or that corn was first cultivated by the Native Americans. Their annual Green Corn Festival probably took place right about now.

"The Adoption of Mary Jemison" by Robert Griffing

My book is based on the life of Mary Jemison who lived in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War. In those days, the British government, the French government, and certain Iroquois tribes all had claim to the same part of North America. So did German, Scotch, Dutch, and Irish immigrants, like Mary's family. When settlers crowded their hunting grounds, the Iroquois tried to scare them away by terrorizing them.

When Mary was thirteen, the Jemison family was captured by six Shawnee warriors and four Frenchmen. Most of the Jemisons were killed, but Mary was given to two Seneca women whose brother had been killed in George Washington's first battle in Pennsylvania. The Seneca women could have chosen vengeance by killing Mary however they pleased. Or they could have adopted her to take the place of the brother they lost. Mary was fortunate. Her new sisters treated her with such kindness, Mary chose to remain among the Seneca until she died at age 90.

Such adoptions seem unfathomable. How could anyone welcome their enemy into their family? Wouldn't it be dangerous? Perhaps. But if we can't adopt our enemies, maybe we can at least try to adopt a new point of view.

How can we do that? How can we ever understand each other when we take refuge behind our walls, whether real or metaphoric?

We can begin by reading about other people's lives. 


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5. SEA Write Award shortlist

       The 2014 SEA Write Award is for short-stories (prized genres are rotated, year by year), and they've announced the Thai shortlist: as Kaona Pongpipat reports in the Bangkok Post, SEA Write short stories selected.
       Recall that at Asymptote Mui Poopoksakul recently surveyed (a sliver) of the Thai short story scene -- and one of the discussed titles is Uthis Haemamool's shortlisted one, its title translated as 'Base, Basic' by Poopoksakul, and 'Commonly Vicious' by the Bangkok Post.
       Of course, whether any of this makes it into English is ... well, more a closed than open question ..... Read the rest of this post

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6. Strike Three review: 5 stars

Review by Michael McManus - 5 star



Reviewed By Michael McManus for Readers’ Favorite

In her novel, Strike Three, Joy V. Smith introduces us to the aftermath of World War III, a short battle that claimed the lives of the majority of the Earth’s population. The survivors of the war that turned the planet brown, those who went underground well prepared, and those who survived in spite of poor planning, returned to find the world outside their caves, fallout shelters, missile silos and communication bunkers completely barren. Nothing had survived a “hot virus” that had been unleashed onto the world by an unknown enemy. Some places were obliterated by nuclear bombs, but the most severe devastation took place in the plant and animal worlds. Even the insects perished. Sheridan and Lea Zane emerged into the new world ready to organize a recovery of the planet, or at least their corner of it. They had plants and wildlife enough for their own survival, but they reached out to other survivors as they returned to the surface and began to reestablish their homes and farms. Soon, the development of a trade route brought hope to the many settlements that formed; hope that the nation and, indeed, the planet could be saved.

This story grabbed me from the start and would not let go. I read it in three sittings. Along with the plot moving at lightning speed, the characters are real and interesting in the way they react to the situation they have inherited. For the science freak, there is enough detail about the devastation and recovery to keep you going. There is also adventure, a bit of action and even politics. I happily recommend this book to a general audience.

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7. Inside Someone's Head

We never know what’s brewing
Inside someone else’s head,
For from skeins of thoughts we might be privy
To a single thread.

I assumed we learned to hide our feelings
As we grew in age,
But our blocking instincts must kick in
At quite an early stage.

When you hang out with a baby,
It’s surprising to discern
That what’s going on within his mind
You have no way to learn.

So communication’s glitches
Are apparent from the start,
But we’re closer to enlightenment
When we’re in someone’s heart.

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8. How I Found My Literary Agent: Cassandra Dunn

“How I Got My Agent” is a recurring feature on the Guide to Literary Agents Blog, with this installment featuring Cassandra Dunn, author of THE ART OF ADAPTING. These columns are great ways for you to learn how to find a literary agent. Some tales are of long roads and many setbacks, while others are of good luck and quick signings. If you have a literary agent and would be interested in writing a short guest column for this GLA blog, e-mail me at literaryagent@fwmedia.com and we’ll talk specifics.

GIVEAWAY: Cassandra is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

cassandra-dunn-author-writer         the-art-of-adapting-novel-cover

Cassandra Dunn is the author of THE ART OF ADAPTING (Touchstone/Simon
& Schuster, July 2014). Kirkus Reviews said of the novel, “Dunn’s debut novel
treats readers to a family in transition. . . . A neatly wrapped, happily-ever-after
tale of a broken family that survives and thrives.” Dunn received her MFA in
creative writing from Mills College. She was a semifinalist for the Amazon
Breakthrough Novel Award and a finalist for Glimmer Train’s Short Story
Award for New Writers. She’s published 12 short stories. She is represented
by Harvey Klinger. Her website is cassandradunn.com, and you can
connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

 
I HAVE A MANUSCRIPT WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Like most aspiring authors, I had no idea what I was doing when I started seeking out an agent. I had a completed manuscript, and I was proud to have a finished novel. Was it ready to go out into the world? Not even close. But I didn’t know that at the time.

I finished my MFA program with a memoir that I soon abandoned, got married, had kids, got lost on my writing path, and eventually found my way back to writing, this time focusing on fiction. I wrote some short stories, and managed to get a few published. I chose an unpublished story that had been selected as a Glimmer Train finalist and kept adding to it until I had a novel. A terrible, unbalanced, meandering novel full of rookie mistakes, but a novel just the same. I was hooked. And I knew that I could do better.

I wrote a second novel, a little deeper than the first, full of bigger tragedy and greater risk, and I entered it in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. It survived round after round of cuts, eventually making it to the semifinals. I gave it a brief (too brief) revision based on some of the reviews it had received and on feedback from an online novel workshop. Then I assembled a list of new agents who were actively list-building, and started sending it out. I got enough requests to see more of the novel to know that my query letter was decent, but each agent ultimately passed. I was about 60 failed queries in when I decided to shelve that novel and focus on the next one, which was coming along quickly.

(Can writers query multiple agents at the same agency?)

THE END OF ONE NOVEL, THE BEGINNING OF ANOTHER

That novel, The Art of Adapting, came from my heart — the scenes and characters waking me in the morning, my fingers and wrists cramping each afternoon from not being able to type fast enough to keep up with my thoughts. It was personal, inspired by my uncle, and it mattered to me more than anything else I’d written. I finished a draft in three months and sent it to two trusted friends for feedback. As I waited to hear back from them, I worked on more short stories, publishing a handful of them. I wanted agents to see that I was serious about writing, publishing, pushing myself.

I revised The Art of Adapting with the notes from my beta readers, and started compiling a list of agents. This time, I decided not to start with junior agents. I aimed for my dream agents right off the bat, because, why not? I was methodical. I researched, looking for agents who wanted women’s fiction, who had positive feedback from other queriers, who had recent sales and impressive author lists. I made a list of 25 agents, knowing I might need more than 50 eventually, and broke them into groups of 5. Each Monday, I was going to query 5 agents, taking the time to craft a personal letter for each of them. I was not going to check my email every 30 seconds to see if any of them had responded. I was going pass the time working on short stories and attending writing conferences to make connections and conquer my shy nature. But then the unthinkable happened. One of the agents in my very first query group responded right away. Harvey Klinger asked for the first chapters. Then the whole book. And then he offered to represent me.

(Learn why “Keep Moving Forward” may be the best advice for writers everywhere.)

BUT IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE

The book wasn’t ready to go out to publishers. It was still chock full of rookie mistakes that made me cringe (show, don’t tell!). Over the next few months Harvey helped me revise the entire manuscript chapter by chapter. He’s a tough but encouraging critic, and his guidance was one of the best gifts I’ve ever had as a writer. I felt like that revision phase was a test of our relationship, to make sure we were a good fit. For me to see if he really got the heart of my story, and for him to see that I could take criticism and was determined to do the work necessary on a project.

And that’s my best advice for aspiring authors. Be determined to do the work. Not just the fun part of writing that first draft, but the long, heart-wrenching editing passes where you kill your darlings, the awkward networking, the bio-building of getting your name out there in some capacity. And when your work is as ready as you can make it, aim high. And show don’t tell.

GIVEAWAY: Cassandra is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 


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9. Sleepy Sunday Post

I question the words we would choose to say to our loved ones, if we knew they were our last?

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10. WD Poetic Form Challenge: Golden Shovel Winner

Thank you for all the golden shovels this summer! With more than 700 comments, I felt like I had to “dig out” of a pile of golden shovel amazing-ness. This form seemed to really appeal to everyone, and I can see why, because it’s kind of like a poetic puzzle.

My initial short list included 21 poems, but I’m always stuck having to pick one winner. This time around, the winner is Margie Fuston for her poem “When the Moon Fell,” which uses the opening line of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven.”

Here’s the winning Golden Shovel:

When the Moon Fell, by Margie Fuston

–after Edgar Allan Poe

The moon dropped from the clouds once.
I found her behind my house, lying upon
a patch of dried-up needs. She wore a
frown. I thought she always smiled at midnight,
but up close she looked dull and dreary.
We sat in the dirt in solidarity for a while.
I asked if she ever wished on stars, and I
sighed when she told me no. Together we pondered
what made the air and the clouds too weak
to hold us up. Eventually, we tired and
I tried to lift her back, but I found myself too weary.

*****

2015 Poet's Market

2015 Poet’s Market

Pre-order the Latest Poet’s Market!

The 2015 Poet’s Market is now available for pre-order at a discounted price. Get the most up-to-date information for publishing your poetry, including listings for book and chapbook publishers, magazines and journals, contests and awards, and more!

Plus, this edition includes information on poetic forms, poet interviews, articles on the craft and business of poetry, and so much more!

Click to continue.

******

Here is the Top 10 list:

  1. “When the Moon Fell,” by Margie Fuston
  2. “Composer,” by William Preston
  3. “A Man With Secrets,” by Daniel Roessler
  4. “Not Everyone Appreciates My Lit Humor,” by Linda Hofke
  5. “Passing,” by James Von Hendy
  6. “Habeas Corpus,” by Daniel Ari
  7. “Things I’ve learned along the wrong path,” by J. Lynn Sheridan
  8. “The Hunt,” by Shethra Jones-Hoopes
  9. “None of These Say What Needs to Be Said,” by Gabrielle Freeman
  10. “Very Funny,” by Naomi Poe

Congratulations to Margie and everyone in the Top 10! And thank you to everyone who took the time to participate and comment on each others’ poems.

The next WD Poetic Form Challenge is likely to go live in the next few days. Meanwhile, click here to check out all 700+ comments for the Golden Shovel challenge.

*****

roberttwitterimageRobert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He loves reading poetry, writing poetry, and studying poetry–but he especially loves sharing poetry and is happy that Poetic Asides is a place that accommodates just that.

Robert is married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who helps him keep track of their five little poets (four boys and one princess). Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.

*****

Check out other poetic posts:

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11. All the Birds, Singing

Evie’s Wyld’s brooding novel, All the Birds, Singing is hard to let go of. A damp menace clings to the story from the very first line and draws the reader in as the main character Jake Whyte attempts to discover who or what is mutilating her sheep. At the same time we are sucked backwards to the Australian outback, to uncover Jake’s past and understand why she is living on an isolated British island – her only companion: a dog named Dog.

All the birds singingWyld’s book recently won the Miles Franklin award, beating Tim Winton’s Eyrie, Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and others, with its evocative prose. “Spare, but pitch perfect,” was how the judging panel described Wyld’s writing – “visceral and powerfully measured in tone.” But it’s the structure of All the Birds, Singing that also has me intrigued.

Wyld uses alternating chapters to move the story forwards on the windswept farm and backwards through the outback. The tense of the writing also alternates, with Wyld using the present tense for the flashbacks and the past tense for the rest of the story. The book leaves great gaps in the narrative, but compels the reader to find the source of Jake’s damaged emotional and physical state as well as the identity of the sheep killer.

Wyld apparently had intended to keep the narrative simple when she started this story, but found barriers were thrown up by her choice of writing in first person. She had to find a way to solve them. After writing 50,000 words she decided that reversing the chronology of Jake’s past was a better was of telling the story.

“I was quite reluctant to do it,” she says in an interview with the BBC. “It ended up being a maths problem. I had to make endless charts and work out where I was. I did confuse myself a lot, writing it.”

Wyld builds tension with the flashbacks that take us deeper into Jake’s past, and ultimately to the decision that changed everything. We are fed uncensored snapshots of an ugly side of Australia – in outback towns, on a fly-blown sheep property and above a greasy take-away shop, meeting a cast of troubled characters along the way. These scenes are contrasted with the boggy sheep farm where Jake has gone to escape her past. But even here she’s haunted by some kind of beast.

A maths problem has never been so darkly engaging.

Feel free to visit my website or you can follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

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12. First Look: Cartoon Network’s ‘Over the Garden Wall’ Mini-Series

Last week at San Diego Comic-Con, Cartoon Network offered the first look at "Over the Garden Wall," a ten-episode fantasy mini-series that will debut this fall.

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13. Soaring Eagles

 

Cindy Lord met me on the porch of my campground office at 5am last Friday morning.  After I made a pot of coffee and filled my stainless steel cup with the hot, dark liquid I craved at that time of day, we trekked to the lake to put our kayaks in the lake.

We were in time to witness the dancing mist on the water and the rising sun over the trees.

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I looked for muskrats, herons and wood ducks.  But as is often the case with Cindy and I, it was a loon we saw first.  I can’t remember the last time we were together and we didn’t see one.

A second loon flew overhead a few moments later. We watched as they two of them  greeted each other for a few minutes before swimming off down the lake.

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Cindy and I traveled the same path as the pair, talking, sharing author-ly stories and just plain catching up on life.

Until we were rendered speechless by the sight of an adult eagle in the distance.

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At first, he appeared to be sitting in peace.  But the caw of a crow told a different story.

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It didn’t take long to see the eagle was being harassed.  The crow called and buzzed him until eventually, the poor eagle took flight to escape.

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He landed in another tree, closer to us.  The crow wasn’t giving up that easily though.

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A second crow joined the first.  The eagle looked out over the lake regally, appearing to ignore them as best as he could .

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But even the mighty eagle can only take so much.  The crow buzzed the eagle one too many times . . .

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until the eagle spread his wings and fell off the branch,

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It was the most beautiful thing to see . . .

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his wings filling with air and the eagle lifting up to the sky . . .

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soaring . . .

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down along the lake toward the campground.

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Cindy and I looked at each other and grinned, before picking up our paddles to follow its path.

 

 

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14. The Empathy Exams

What a marvelous book is The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. A collection of essays published by the local Graywolf Press, it actually spent time a little time on the bestseller lists. Now having read it I understand why. It is a beautiful and thoughtful book that examines empathy from a variety of angles and in some surprising places.

The first essay, “The Empathy Exams,” sets the tone. Jamison is working as an actor, playing patient for medical students who are being scored on not only how well they diagnose and treat a problem but on how well they treat the patient. Do they show empathy?

empathy isn’t just measured by checklist item 31 — voiced empathy for my situation/problem — but by every item that gauges how thoroughly me experience has been imagined. Empathy isn’t just remembering to say that must really be hard — it’s figuring out how to bring difficulty into the light so it can be seen at all. Empathy isn’t just listening, it’s asking the questions whose answers need to be listened to. Empathy requires inquiry as much as imagination. Empathy requires knowing you know nothing. Empathy means acknowledging a horizon of context that extends perpetually beyond what you can see.

Between her experience as an actor for med student exams, Jamison weaves a story of her own medical problems, when she had an abortion and then heart surgery not long after. She has difficulty getting what she needs, getting any sense of empathy or caring from her own doctors; they don’t want to deal with her guilt or her tears and are dismissive of her fear. As a result, she demands so much from her boyfriend that he can’t deliver what she wants either:

I needed something from the world I didn’t know how to ask for. I needed people — Dave, a doctor, anyone — to deliver my feelings back to me in a form that was legible. Which is a superlative kind of empathy to seek, or to supply: an empathy that rearticulates more clearly what it is shown.

In the essay “Devil’s Bait” she attends a Morgellons Disease conference in Austin, Texas. People with this disease, seventy percent of whom are women, believe they have crawling, biting things under their skin as well as fibers growing through their skin. They end up picking at the “fibers” and scratching and itching themselves so much they cause very real sores that are sometimes so bad they become disfiguring. It is a delusional disease currently not recognized my the medical community. When treatment is given, it is generally an antipsychotic drug which many of the patients end up not taking because they reject their doctor’s diagnosis of delusional parasitosis. The question then becomes, one of “what kinds of reality are considered prerequisites for compassion”? Jamison wonders

is it wrong to call it empathy when you trust the fact of suffering but not the source? How do I inhabit someone’s pain without inhabiting their particular understanding of that pain?

She finds herself wishing she could

invent a verb tense full of open spaces — a tense that didn’t pretend to understand the precise mechanisms of which it spoke; a tense that could admit its own limits.

Jamison’s wide-ranging essays take us from a writer’s conference in Tijuana, Mexico, to Nicaragua when she was teaching kids and got punched in the face while walking down the street. The man took her wallet and broke her nose. We visit the silver mines of Potosí in Bolivia where the miners are doomed to be dead by the age of forty either from a mine accident or silicosis. It is big business for tourists to go to the mines and go down into them to see the miners are work. You are to bring gifts for the miners: sodas, sticks of dynamite, small bags of cocoa leaves. The gifts help you feel better when you get to leave and breathe fresh air again, knowing the men you just met will be underground for another five hours or more.

She goes on a guided tour of South Central Los Angeles and Watts. Run by former gang members the tour fee goes to help pay for the conflict mediation work they are also doing. As they drive around on an air conditioned bus, protected from the outside and being regaled with stories of gang violence, one of the guides talks of Rodney King and his beating by police. Jamison was only nine at the time and she remembers thinking that the police only would have hit him if he had done something wrong. The truth is far more difficult than that of course. So what good is taking such a tour?

The great shame of your privilege is a hot blush the whole time. The truth of this place is infinite and irreducible, and self-reflexive anguish might feel like the only thing you can offer in return. It might be hard to hear anything above the clattering machinery of your guilt. Try to listen anyway.

There is a wonderful essay on sentimentality and melodrama that tries to pinpoint just why we despise it so much yet desire it at the same time. And another in which she writes about three men who were wrongfully convicted as teens for murder and spent eighteen years in jail.

The book’s concluding essay, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain” made me want to cry and cheer at the same time. Cry because a 2001 study revealed that women are less likely than men to be given pain medication. Instead, women are given sedatives. The essay discusses through literature and culture and personal experience the ways in which female pain is fetishized or dismissed. These days women are “post-wounded.” Instead of becoming an angel in our suffering we are supposed to pretend we aren’t suffering at all. But, Jamison asks,

How do we represent female pain without producing a culture in which this pain has been fetishized to the point of fantasy or imperative? Fetishize: to be excessively or irrationally devoted to. Here is the danger of our wounded womanhood: that its invocation will corroborate a pain cult that keeps legitimating, almost legislating, more of itself.

Jamison doesn’t come to any definite conclusion on how female pain might be represented, but she is certain that is should never be dismissed even at the risk of its being fetishized:

The wounded woman gets called a stereotype and sometimes she is. But sometimes she’s just true. I think the possibility of fetishizing pain is no reason to stop representing it. Pain that gets performed is still pain. Pain turned trite is still pain. I think the charges of cliché and performance offer our closed hearts too many alibis, and I want our hearts to be open. I just wrote that. I want our hearts to be open. I mean it.

Empathy of course is the solution. An open heart allows one to be empathetic to the suffering of others whether their pain comes from a delusional disease or a source that cannot be pinned down, or from getting punched in the nose. As she says in an early essay in the book, empathy isn’t just something that happens to us it is also something we choose:

to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It’s made of exertion, the dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it’s asked for, but this doesn’t make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we’ve committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I am deep in my own

A beautiful book guaranteed to make you think. I highly recommend it.


Filed under: Books, Essays, Nonfiction, Reviews

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15. The Giant Squid, its first photographer & a writer's obsession


Preparing the Ghost by Matthew Gavin Frank is without a doubt one of the more unusual books I have read in a long time. Described as "an essay concerning the giant squid and it's first photographer" it is, in my mind, first and foremost a writer's book. (Not that the natural history isn't fascinating.) It's about a writer (Frank) obsessed with a Victorian era naturalist and photographer (Harvey Moses) who was obsessed with the Giant Squid which he famously photographed in Newfoundland in 1874. There is also much here about humanity's obsession with the Giant Squid and the vast amount of mythology, literature and more that has developed around this still mysterious creature.

One of the most successful aspects of Preparing the Ghost is Frank's authorial voice--he is a key component to this surprisingly personal story and as much as it is about the life of a man in Newfoundland from more than a century ago, it is also, deeply, about Matthew Gavin Frank. On more than one occasion he veers into his own past trying to mine it perhaps for reasons why he has succumbed to this obsession. Standing in front of Moses's home, (privately owned) knocking on the door yet again and hoping for a glimpse of the bathroom where the squid was draped and photographed, Frank can't explain why he is very desperate to get inside. He keeps knocking, he keeps returning, he keeps hoping for a glimpse of where history was made and he knows enough to know that this stubborn persistence is part of the story he is telling and, written well, it is as compelling as every other aspect of the tale.

Preparing the Ghost reminded me a bit of Geoff Dyer's Out of Sheer Rage: Wrestling with D.H. Lawrence. Very famously, that book is about not writing a book about D.H. Lawrence and in some significant ways Preparing the Ghost is about not writing a book about the Giant Squid. Just as Dyer does write somewhat about Lawrence, so does Frank write about the squid. But there is also much more here about Newfoundland and houses and marriage and family and leaving home and traveling far and fishing and telling stories and lying while taking stories, (like confusion over who the fishermen were who caught the squid), and, of course, it is about how something like a squid could spawn stories that grew into myths and even now, has sparked a book about all of that.

I enjoyed the hell out of this book due in no small matter, I'm sure, to the fact that I've long been fascinated by the Giant Squid. I loved how Frank wrote around and about his subject and thoroughly enjoyed his appreciation of history. It's an odd little book in some respects--the narrative truly jumps all over the place--but Dyer's book is odd as well and what lifts both of these titles is the enormous curiosity and smarts of the authors. They are candid about their obsessions and frustrations and persevered to create something unique to literature. I learned a lot about the Giant Squid while reading Preparing the Ghost but even more so, I learned about writing. Highly recommended.

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16. KidLitCon 2014 Still Wants YOU!

Have you registered yet? No? Then go! I just did, and I couldn't be more excited about how plans are shaping up--we have a fantastic team of organizers who are setting up the program of events, including a couple of meet-and-greet opportunities for... Read the rest of this post

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17. Photos now, commentary later

I’m wiped out. :)

sdccsign

malificent

artistdoesntbite
Chris Gugliotti of Thicklebit fame

jocktrio
Lunch with Jock

harleys

meanboys
Zander and Scott pretending they have a mean bone in their bodies

bravesmile
Entertaining ourselves with selfies while waiting for Stampylongnose to come onstage

stampysmiles
The girls’ turn

meandhuck
Couldn’t leave this guy out

wavingatstampy
He’s finally here!

lastlunch
Whew, time to relax

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18. Why research when you can do?

machine gun

I’m on a board for people whose write about murder and theft, poisons and fires. In addition to writers, there are a lot of professionals on the board - people who are or have been cops, paramedics, FBI agents, firefighters, PIs, and more.

A writer recently posted a question about what kind of gun her character should get.  She said she knew nothing about guns, and she wanted to know what her equally ignorant character would experience if she went to a gun shop and asked for help.


At which point I (and several other writers) chimed in. Why not just go into a gun store and explain what she was working on and ask their advice?  This was one real-life situation (unlike questions about, say, the best undetectable poison) where it would be easy to experience it.

And experience will give a writer so MUCH more than reading about it ever would.  She’ll be able to describe the shop without trying to google images of “gun shop.”  She’ll know the heft of a gun, and the feeling of the grip, learn it’s surprisingly heavy even though parts of it appear to be made out of plastic.  There may be smells and even tastes she would not expect.  Since her character and the writer herself are both coming from the same place (not knowing much about guns) she’ll be able to ask the questions her character would and hear the answers her character would as well.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 3.50.05 PMI have found that almost everyone likes to talk about themselves and what they do to an interested person.  I have interviewed teens, death investigators, DNA experts, and curators.  In some cases, I have gone in cold (as I would in the gun situation above).  In others, I have done the professional the courtesy of learning as much as I could before I went to them.  With Dr. Dan Crane, the DNA expert, for example, it would be a waste of his precious time to sit down and say, “What’s DNA?”  Instead I learned a lot on my own and asked about Y-STR and familial DNA testing.

When I was working on the end to The Body in the Woods, I knew it took place in Forest Park.  And I knew my bad character would be armed, and my good characters wouldn’t be.  They needed something they could use as a weapon.  But what?  I took the same walk they would have to get into the park, past nice homes, and I photographed everything I thought they might consider for use as a weapon. Real life thought of many more alternatives that I did.



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19. Photobooth Program

Planning programs that will appeal to 12-14 year olds is really, really hard for me.  This is the age where kids start to get busy, where they start having to balance school and extracurriculars with other things: like library time.  If I’m being totally honest, this is where I start losing them.

So this summer, my amazing staff came up with an incredible program that all of my teens loved–especially that middle school demographic: an in-library photo booth.  If your tweens and teens are anything like mine, they’re glued to their smartphones with Instagram and Snapchat constantly open.  This program just gave them an opportunity to have some fun with their photos. We asked them to tag their pictures with the hashtag we usually use for our library stuff, and then let them loose on these fun props:

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It could not have been more fun! It was so simple–we made the props from paper and lollipop sticks, which you can get at any craft store. We didn’t have time to make a booth, so we just put up a crepe paper background. We printed out clip art, used scrapbook paper, and there were even some superhero masks that everyone loved. It was a hit beyond anything we could have imagined, and we’ll definitely be doing this one again (we laminated the props for easy reuse).  The kids loved not only the fact that it was fun, but also the freedom that they had to personalize it and own their pictures the way they wanted to. I’ve been having a lot of success in programs for tweens that aren’t overscheduled, that allow them to enjoy some of the freedom that’s starting to come with their age.

Have you tried anything similar at your library?

*
Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

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20. A BIRD ON WATER STREET has won another award!

The e-version of ABOWS is the eLit 2014 Gold Medal Winner in the Environment/Ecology/Nature category!!! How awesome is THAT!? YAYYYY!

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21. Put Out the Welcome Mat

by Sally Matheny
    
Put Out the Welcome Mat
One arm of our sofa is flat and dingy-looking because it’s our kids’ favorite spot to dangle. While the laminate hardwood floors don’t show spots like the former carpet did, we have yet to see it shine as it did in the store display. In addition, a mysterious stain still clings to the ceiling.

     I think about these things when there is a possibility of guests. I would love to put out the welcome mat; it’s just that it’s clabbered with dog hair.


     Aside from the home appearance factor, showing hospitality takes time and effort. Sometimes, we determine the work is worthy because it’s for the family and friends we love. But what about strangers?  In this day and age, is it necessary to welcome strangers into our home? 

     According to God’s Holy Word, the answer is yes. 

“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.  If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.” 
1 Peter 4:7-11 (NIV)

     To “love one another deeply” is a sacrificial love. It will cost us something. And we are to host with grace, not grumbles.

     We need not install a revolving door in our homes or post a blinking neon sign out front stating our home is open 24/7. The Bible says to be alert and sober-minded so that we can pray.

     Seeking God’s will and trusting Him to provide must be our first priority. What will God provide?

“Whatever gift you have received to serve others”
     We recently met an innkeeper who uses his forte to attend to others. Whitestone Inn is a AAA, four-diamond resort. Innkeeper, Paul Cowell and his wife enjoy providing a luxurious stay for their customers—especially those who are full-time pastors and missionaries, who receive fifty-percent off the normal rate. They also run promotions for cancer patients and those serving in the military. Cowell demonstrates his love for Christ in other ways. He asks all his guests to join him as he prays over each evening meal. Wholesome books line the shelves of the inn’s library. Marriage enrichment guides and a special hiking trail are provided for couples who wish to participate.
     The Cowells are using the gifts they have received to serve others.  

Whitestone Inn in Kingston, Tennessee

    
“God’s grace in various forms”
     Janet Albury’s husband and teenage daughter died in an airplane crash. In the process of grieving, she met a missionary family whose daughter also died in the same accident. God’s grace sustained these families and it gave Janet a vision for service. She built a house for missionaries and pastors, to get away with their families, for rest and rejuvenation.
     In addition to staying in this beautiful place (C. Grace at Work), free of charge, the guests are also welcomed on the first night’s stay with a delicious, home cooked meal. 
     Janet Albury exemplifies God’s grace.

“Strength for the task”
     Physical limitations and fear are some of the greatest obstacles to opening our homes. This is where prayer and faith play out.
     A family in South Africa took in a man recently paroled from prison. Despite his years of incarceration on a murder charge, this family has made their home a welcoming haven for him. This demonstration of God’s love made a huge impact on him and broke ground for a new life.
     God gave this family courage and strength for the task.

“In all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ”
     You may not be an innkeeper or have the ability to build a special place of retreat. God may not be calling you to host former inmates in your home. However, be careful of disregarding your call to hospitality.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” 
Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)

     I’d rather the angels not see the stains in my home, but somehow I don’t think they’d even notice. Besides, hospitality is not really about the location as much as it is the act of kindness.
     
     There are as many different ways to show hospitality as there are dust bunnies in my house.

There are many ways to show hospitality.
     Want some ideas? Check out a blog post by Aleisha Caldwell that features 40+ ideas for practicing hospitality at Feathers In Our Nest.
             
     Also, your family may want to consider hosting Christian travelers for one night. For more information go to http://acandleinthewindow.com/.

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13 (NIV)

     Hospitality presents us with opportunities to show God’s love. Give your best. Be intentional. Be creative. Look past the stains in your home, the stains of your past sins, and the stains in other people’s lives. Pray, and be ready to put out the welcome mat—pet hair and all.

     
     Share with us! Tell a time when someone's hospitality made a difference in your life.


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22. Monday charcoal quickies


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23. Samples: Cutesy Animals

Something on the drawing board. It’s fun to take a pic and distort it!

h5-leaping-2geth1 fl1

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24. Nazi(-era) Krimis

       A pretty good idea for an anthology: Nazi-era crime fiction -- Krimis, as they're called in German. A French anthology, presented and translated by Vincent Platini, came out a few months ago: Krimi. Une anthologie du récit policier sous le Troisième Reich; see the Anacharsis publicity page, or get your copy at Amazon.fr.
       There are also (French) interviews with Platini at BibliObs -- where he notes there were no grand Nazi-heroes in these works: "Il n'y a pas eu de Supernazi" -- and Le Figaro. And John J. Gaynard's Books weblog has a(n English) overview, which helpfully lists the anthologized pieces.
       Like Soviet crime fiction, Nazi-era (1933-1945) stuff is woefully overlooked; an English-language anthology would surely be of some inetrest, no ?

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25. Maybe Too Much Going On?

I like books that stay on task, as I always put it. It may be that as a reader I get distracted if there are too many different things going on. I found the cookery part of Getting the Girl, A Guide to Private Investigation, Surveillance, and Cookery by Susan Juby distracting.

Sherman Mack is a wonderful character, like a younger, less raunchy, undamaged Seth from Home to Woefield. The mystery he's investigating, who singles out girls to be turned on by the general population, is a serious one, if maybe a little over the top. Sherm's interest in cooking ties in to the mystery by the end, but it seems unconnected until then. Same with his out-there Mom and the neighbor guy who serves as a father figure for Sherm.

Juby does a couple of interesting things here. First, she does a neat twist on the cliched mean girls stereotype. She also has created a world in which every popular kid in school, whether they earned their popularity with their looks, their athletic prowess, or something else, isn't hateful. They certainly aren't heroic or particularly positive in their behavior, but, again, they aren't the evil stereotype we're used to seeing.

I have another one of Juby's books here that I hope to get to in the next few weeks. 


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