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Author Claire Vaye Watkins won the $20,000 Story Prize for Battleborn, a short story collection that spanned from the California gold rush to contemporary times.
The other finalists for the prize were Dan Chaon (for Stay Awake) and Junot Diaz (for This Is How You Lose Her). They each received $5,000. Here’s more from the release:
Ms. Watkins is the ninth-ever winner of The Story Prize and the first woman to win the prestigious book award since Mary Gordon took the top prize for The Stories of Mary Gordon in 2007. The first woman to take the top prize was Edwidge Danticat for The Dew Breaker in 2005.
Here’s more from the release: “Collections by two accomplished short story writers and an outstanding debut vie for the richest top prize of any annual U.S. book award for fiction…The Story Prize, an annual award for books of short fiction, is pleased to honor three outstanding short story collections chosen from among a record field of 98 books that 65 different publishers or imprints submitted in 2012.”
Here’s more about the awards, from the Foundation: “The recipients learned, through a phone call out of the blue from the Foundation, that they will each receive $500,000 in no-strings-attached support over the next five years. MacArthur Fellowships come without stipulations or reporting requirements and offer Fellows unprecedented freedom and opportunity to reflect, create, and explore. The unusual level of independence afforded to Fellows underscores the spirit of freedom intrinsic to creative endeavors. The work of MacArthur Fellows knows neither boundaries nor the constraints of age, place, and endeavor.”
Goodreads has opened up voting for the 2012 Goodreads Choice Awards, a contest in which readers can decide on the best books of the year. Books up for nomination include titles from Junot Díaz, Barbara Kingsolver, Damien Echols, Cheryl Strayed, Baratunde Thurston and many more.
The site, which now counts 12 million members, has nominated 15 books in each category and users are invited to vote on their favorites. The nominees are based on the number of ratings and average ratings on the site. Here is more from the Goodreads blog: “We analyzed statistics from the 170 million books added, rated, and reviewed on the site in 2012 and nominated books based on the number of ratings and average rating. A nomination is truly an honor because it comes straight from the readers!”
This opening round of voting lasts through November 12th. Readers will have two more chances to vote after this round.
The bookseller and community space in Washington Heights, New York City only has five days left to reach its goal of $60,000 on the fundraising site.
Here’s more from Diaz: “The pressure is immense. These folks have a lot on the line, they are almost all volunteers and they are doing this out of love. If we can get them the money by this Sunday, it will not only mean that they will get the money from the campaign, but there’s also a matching grant out there. That little money we are going to spend is going to be of enormous and endless benefit for a beloved community that doesn’t have enough art space, that doesn’t have enough literary space–without which, I don’t think we can be complete.”
"You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway." -Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize 2008, The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Essay for Oprah Magazine, October 13, 2009
"I don't have any sense other than that writing is extremely difficult for me. People are always asking, "Did it take you so long because writing a novel is really hard?" I'm like, dude, it took me seven years to write one story, one twenty page story. Really? I didn't realize that one was harder than the other, they all seem impossible to me. They both have me through the intestines on their horns, so it's that kind of weird thing like getting gut-shot by a pistol or a rifle. And the process, someone's like "Tell me, which one is worse?" And I'm like [screams]! That's the only way to answer it, I'm usually so busy screaming the fine nuances of loss." -excerpt from Bookslut interview with Junot Diaz, September 2007
Readercon 21 was, for me, exciting and stimulating, though this year in particular it felt like I only had a few minutes to talk with everybody I wanted to talk with. I think part of this is a result of my now living in New Hampshire rather than New Jersey, so I just don't see a lot of folks from the writing, publishing, and reading worlds much anymore.
Before I get into some thoughts on some panels and discussions, some pictures: Ellen Datlow's and Tempest Bradford's. Tempest asked everybody to make a sad face for her, not because Readercon was a sad con (just the opposite!), but because it's fun to have people make sad faces. The iconic picture from the weekend for me, though, is Ellen's photo of Liz Hand's back. I covet Liz's shirt.
And now for some only vaguely coherent thoughts on some of the panels...
I actually missed my own first panel, "Interstitial Then, Genre Now", with John Clute, Michael Dirda, Peter Dube, and Dora Goss, because the battery in my car died because of absent-mindedness on my part the night before. Luckily, I have a car battery charger, but charging took just long enough to make it so there was no physical way I could get to Burlington, MA in time for the panel. (Andrew Liptak wrote a recap for Tor.com.)
My Saturday panel, "The Secret History of The Secret History of Science Fiction", with Kathryn Cramer, Alexander Jablokov, John Kessel, Jacob Weisman, and Gary K. Wolfe went pretty well, I thought, though as so often happens, it felt like it was just getting going when it was time to end. The panel allowed John to talk about the motivations for the book, some of what he thought it accomplished, etc. -- a lot of what he said parallels what he and Jim Kelly told me when I interviewed them about the anthology. Gary Wolfe offered probably the best line of the panel: "An anthology is, inevitably, a collection of the wrong stories." (This, of course, from the critic's point of view!)
I'm not very good at inserting myself into conversations, so I did a lot of observing during the panel, piping up only to offer a sort of counter viewpoint from Gary's -- where Gary was in some ways agreeing with Paul Witcover's assertion that writers like T.C. Boyle are just using science fiction as "a trip to the playground". I was hoping we'd be able to discuss this idea a bit more, but time didn't allow it. Had it, I suppose I would have tried to say that to me the resentment of writers not routinely identified with the marketing category of "science fiction" or the community of fans, writers, and publishers that congregates under the SF umbrella -- the resentment of these writers for using the props, tropes, and moves of SF is unappealing to me for a few reasons. It's a clubhouse mentality, one that lets folks inside the clubhouse determine what the secret password is and if anybody standing outside has the right pronunciation of that password. It is, in other words, a purity test: are the intentions in your soul the right ones, the approved ones? Had we had time, I would have tried to make some sort of connection between this attitude toward non-SF writers with an attitude I've seen within the field from people toward writers of a younger generation who haven't read, for instance, e
On Saturday, Joan Acocella (author of the vampire essay, “In the Blood”) moderated the Vampires Revival panel. On board to speak were philosophy professor Noel Carroll, horror novelist Stephen King, vampire film director Matt Reeves, and Twilight screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg. A video preview of the panel discussion is embedded above.
Several dozen King fans waited outside the venue only to be disappointed by King’s unwillingness to sign books. As he walked away with his arms in the air, he told the crowd: “I can’t sign guys, I got to get something to eat.” Alas, just because he’s a “king” doesn’t mean he isn’t human.
The Daily Beast asked some writers — Donna Tartt, Junot Díaz, Chris Adrian, Geoff Dyer, Karen Russell, Sherman Alexie, Siri Hustvedt, Darin Strauss, Téa Obreht, Kathryn Stockett, Alexandra Fuller, Anne Enright, Elisabeth Kostova, Alexander McCall Smith, and me — about our favorite summer books.
Mine is John Colapinto’s first (and, so far, only) novel, About the Author. What I said:
I read John Colapinto’s hilarious, propulsive, and gorgeously written About the Author in a single day almost exactly eight years ago, before the rise, demise, and resurrection of James Frey, when I knew next to nothing about publishing but had great expertise in planning to write and not writing. The novel’s narrator, Cal Cunningham, has also perfected this skill. A supposed wordsmith, he spends his days shelving books at a big midtown bookstore, nights going from bar to bar picking up girls and getting laid, and Sunday mornings filling his dull law student roommate in on his escapades. Our hero’s sense of superiority is shattered when he discovers that the roommate hasn’t been locked in his room typing tedious legal briefs but working on a novel, one that’s actually good, one that sounds suspiciously like Cunningham’s own life, so much so that when the roommate dies unexpectedly… Well, I’ve already said too much, but it’s a remarkable book, a confessional literary thriller that makes you care about its plagiarist narrator even as it reveals him to be a coward and a liar and satirizes the publishing and media world that exalts him.
The Asian American Writers Workshop is celebrating its 20th anniversary by hosting the third annual Page Turner literary festival. The all-day event will take place on Saturday, October 29th at Brooklyn’s powerHouse Arena. Follow this link to view the full schedule.
Here’s more from the release: “Multi-dimensional program includes: a staged reading directed by Ralph Peña; artist Wangechi Mutu (MOMA, Guggenheim) talking about immigration; an open mic featuring Jen Kwok (Date an Asian), Negin Farsad (Nerdcore Rising) and others; stories from twenty years of the Workshop; and hard-hitting conversations about Occupy Wall Street, Islam and the West, the rise of China and India, and the national crackdown on immigration.”
The festival will feature appearances by Junot Díaz, Amitav Ghosh, Jessica Hagedorn, Kimiko Hahn, Hari Kunzru, Jayne Anne Phillips, Suketu Mehta, Min Jin Lee, Mark Nowak, Amitava Kumar,Granta editor John Freeman, and Guernica editor Joel Whitney. Attendees will also get a chance to hear from two stand-up comedians, five National Book Award finalists and seven Guggenheim Fellows.
Orchards is Thompson’s debut novel for young adults and is written in verse. It tells the story of Kana Goldberg, a half-Jewish, half-Japanese American teenager who, after a classmate’s unexpected death, is sent to her family’s farm in Japan to reflect on her participation in the events that led up to the classmate’s suicide.
“The Many Forms of the Novel” in which she spoke about writing in verse and read an excerpt from Orchards; and
“The Stranger Experience” on writing away from home, cross-cultural experiences, and the multi-faceted immigration experience with Gemma Nemenzo and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz. The immigrant’s experience plays a vital role in Junot’s work and I have to share this amazing quote from him that I found on Tarie Sabido’s blog Asia in the Heart, World on the Mind:
“You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist? And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.” — Junot Diaz
After a five year wait, Junot Diaz will release his second collection of short stories on September 11, 2012. Riverhead will publish the book, This Is How You Lose Her.
Diaz (pictured, via Joey L.) hasn’t published a book since winning the Pulitzer Prize for The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in 2008. Diaz took ten years to publish that novel after his first collection of stories, Drown.
Here’s more from the release: “[The stories] capture the heat of new passion, the recklessness with which we betray what we most treasure, and the torture we go through – ‘the begging, the crawling over glass, the crying’ – to try to mend what we’ve broken beyond repair. They recall the echoes that intimacy leaves behind, even where we thought we did not care. They teach us the catechism of affections: that the faithlessness of the fathers is visited upon the children; that what we do unto our exes is inevitably done in turn unto us; and that loving thy neighbor as thyself is a commandment more safely honored on platonic than erotic terms. Most of all, these stories remind us that the habit of passion always triumphs over experience, and that ‘love, when it hits us for real, has a half-life of forever.’”
What book are you most excited about this year? Over at Library Journal, Barbara Hoffert has published her annual “BEA Galley & Signing Guide.” The handy resource will help you make sure you can find all the galley copies and authors you need at BookExpo America.
Check it out: “Because hunting through the aisles for the book or author you love can be a challenge, I’ve been tracking some of the show’s top titles, from large publishers and small, focusing on tote-away galleys from adult authors and key in-booth signings, always harder to pin down than signings in the Autographing Area. Plus, for the digitally inclined, I’ve embedded icons that will guide you straight to NetGalley—just another sign that those titles are hot.”
If you want to sample the books, Publishers Marketplace and NetGalley teamed up to create BEA Buzz Books, a digital collection of more than 30 samples of highly anticipated books–including excerpts from books by Junot Diaz, Barbara Kingsolver, Dennis Lehane and Neil Young. Follow this link to download the free consumer edition.
Hale is a meticulous writer, and her prose is full of lovely similes, gorgous descriptions, really creative character details(which is to say that she shows, rather than tells.. when it comes to internal landscapes)and a general fluency with language. She's a poetic writer. I even caught a little Emily Dickinson riff in there.
More importantly perhaps, Hale has a skill with creating worlds. Without ever sounding artifically olden-timey or high-falutin, she manages to evoke believable once-upon-a-timeness. This is something I envy her-- that she neither dips into the language of our world today, nor relies on grandiose speech.
In Princess Academy, I was blown away with Hale's imagination, with the element of "Quarry-speech (people can communicate through memory, and stone, but you'll have to read the book to really understand what that means) in particular. And though The Goose Girl shows a less innovative streak, I think that's mostly because she's set her book inside an old fairy tale, and (correctly I think) used the narrative scaffold to its fullest, leaving less room for wilder invention.
Both books do a really subtle job of integrating feminist (and also a bit of political) theory into the fairy tale universe, without ever being heavy handed, or pulling the reader out of the story/mythic realm. And this too is something I strive for myself, and struggle with-- how to NOT cave to the worst aspects of our canon/tradition, but to also preserve the "feel" of the fairy tale.
How to allow a princess her swoons and her crowns and her moments of weakness, and yet send a message to girls today that they DON'T need to wait for a prince.
Hale is really really good at walking this tightrope.
So all in all, I have to say that this woman just pretty much rocks the princess novel, hard. But there are two things I want to mention/ask about, in closing.
1. What do people think of the recent trend in fairy-tale retelling? In general? I mean, this isn't new, really (fairy tales have ALWAYS been retold, rewritten. That's one of the things that makes them fairy tales). But it does seems there's a lot of it today. From people like Sarah Beth Durst, whose new book delves into the Rapunzel myth in a far less traditional manner, to the wildly succesful (and not so new) Ella Enchanted. What do people think of these books? I ask mainly because I've noticed recent press for a few new books like this that are coming down the pipe in the near future, and I'm intrigued at why this is happening right now. I wonder what you folks have to say about this trend...
and also... another question related to Hale...
2. What do people think of Hale as a YA writer? While her books are longish, and they do involve a few innocent kisses and embraces here and there, I don't really read them as YA. Is this classification simply an issue of length, and the fact that this sort of fairy-tale mode requires princes and princesses, and so bumps into issues of dating/courtship/betrothel? I've dealt with this myself a bit for an upcoming book), and fought with the question of how to turn a child princess into a marriageable woman in 200 pages... and I find it a little bewildering. Since fairy tales (not to mention Disney movies) are full of love/dating/kissing but are NOT YA. In Hale's writing, I'm inclined to say that the tweenage princesses are really NOT YA characters, but fence-straddlers (which I like) and successfully so. But I don't know, and I wonder... how have other people handled this issue as writers, and responded to it as readers?
Shannon Hale Week was a success. I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did. Many comments were made. I wish I had books to give all of you....but, alas, I only have three signed books.
And the winners are...(as chosen by my lil guy)... Bohae Sarah (from Iceland) Dasha-girl
If you are one of these lucky people, email me at emykate03 *AT* yahoo *COM*. I need your street address. I also need you tell me which book you want most. I have a hardcover of Book of a Thousand Days, and softcovers of The Goose Girl and Princess Academy. All three have been personalized by Ms. Hale.
Winners have a full week to email me. If any of the winners do not email me during that time, I will choose another winner to take their place.
If you didn't win, click on a bookcover to buy it on Amazon.
Remember, if you purchase books through DCR, a portion of the money comes back to us and helps fund giveaways. Thanks.
PS...I'm low on reviews again! If you have read a delicious book lately that is free of sex and profanity, please email me a review! Thanks.
I gave a lot of thought to my choice this year, mostly because this topic has been on my mind: I have a 12 year old who is venturing out into the world of adult books while still reading MG (fantasy) and YA fiction. William Boyd's Restless was one of her favorite books this year, and she also loved Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White. So while I wanted to nominate either one of those titles, a book I read recently kept whispering in my ear, "pick me."
It's not like Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has been ignored by critics and readers. I think it's been on every top-10 list this year. It's one of those books that was reviewed twice in the New York Times (once by Michiko Kakutani, and once by A.O. Scott). Diaz has been interviewed everywhere about his "work of startling originality and distinction," most recently by Edward Marriott in the Guardian.
I'm not going to review The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao here, because I agree with almost every word of Kakutani's review. What I am going to do is give you five reasons why I think every teen over the age of 15 should read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
1. I found Diaz's presentation first-generation U.S. citizens in the late 20th century more accurate than anything else I've read recently. Oscar and his coevals were born in the States, but can travel back to their parents' country--in this case, the Dominican Republic. They're ambivalent about the U.S., sometimes romanticize the land of their parents' birth, but are ultimately more comfortable in the States. Their identity is more complex than that of their parents. As Kakutani writes at the end of her review,
"This is, almost in spite of itself, a novel of assimilation, a fractured chronicle of the ambivalent, inexorable movement of the children of immigrants toward the American middle class, where the terrible, incredible stories of what parents and grandparents endured in the old country have become a genre in their own right."
Yes, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao does tell the tale of the first generation. But it also shows what's different for many immigrants and their children today--the fluidity between two cultures, two countries, and two languages. Even the parents in this story return to the Dominican Republic. They choose to stay in the United States, but still call one another Dominicans.*
2. Respect for "genre." Diaz's semi-heroic hero, Oscar, wants to be the Dominican (note how this designation relates to #1) Tolkien. He reads and writes Fantasy and SciFi. He grew up on comic books. The fantasy world is there for him when times are tough.
3. The young adult heroes of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao are intelligent, flawed, and ambitious. Oscar is a smart kid, his mother's golden boy. He follows his amazing older sister--Lola--to Rutgers and studies writing. The book's most frequent narrator--Yunior--is also a writer, Oscar's roommate, and a ladies' man. Oscar, Lola, and Yunior strive to overcome their flaws and make it in this world as adults. If this premise doesn't appeal to Young Adult readers, I don't know what else will.
4. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao has at its heart Oscar's attempt to score. (Hence, the arbitrary 15 and up age designation. Use your own judgment here.) Is this not a central theme of much of Young Adult literature? A coming-of-age story in its most literal sense.
5. The maturation of Oscar, Lola, and Yunior is grounded in the history of the Dominican Republic in the 20th century. They are part of a larger story--the "terrible, incredible stories of what parents and grandparents endured in the old country"--despite the fact they live in 21st- century New York and New Jersey. Diaz's contextualization of the personal in the historical and the political makes The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao a novel every teen should read.
------------------- *I do realize that not all first-generation Americans have the opportunity to travel back to the home country of their parents due to political, religious, or economic reasons. However, this global fluidity seems to be much more common than it was, say, in the World War II era.
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"Since college I started bringing that weird [immigrant] work ethic to writing. The two books I published are the only ones that worked. I've written like three other books, but they were really, really bad. I'm telling you, if any of you guys are wanna-be artists, I'm the perfect encouragement. You can't be fucking worse than me."
That's author Díaz talking about his roller-coaster career at the Google compound. Ten years ago, Díaz wrote a book of award-winning short stories called Drown, and then, after a long, tough time, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his second book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.
The New York Times has the whole fancy awards story, but day-dreaming about Pulitzers won't help fledgling writers. I think that Authors@Google clip is a million times more helpful as Diaz spends 50 minutes exploring his career and answering questions.
Around 16 minutes in he talks about writing even when it feels like everything you are writing is bad. Keep that clip near your desktop and read both of Diaz's excellent books. Everybody needs that kind of encouragement sometimes...
Ten years ago, Junot Díaz wrote a book of award-winning short stories called Drown, and then, after a long, tough time, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his very first novel. Until last week, I hadn't cracked Brief Wondrous Life--despite the fact I loved his first book of short stories.
Sitting on a tropical island last week, I couldn't stop reading this book. Read it now--it will leave you jumping up and down to finish your own work. He breaks every rule in the creative writing handbook, channeling comic books, history, Latino culture and science fiction through a first-person narrator struggling to write his own story.
Over at Omnivoracious, they have a summer reading list straight from Diaz himself, and a sneak peak at his new novel. Check it out:
"[L]uckily we have tens of thousands of cool writers to take the weight off. No matter who you're waiting for to publish I recommend a strong course of Samuel R. Delany (start with Dark Reflections and then graduate to his magnum opus Dhalgren) and my favorite crazy woman Natsuo Kirino (Grotesque)."
The winds that howled through yesterday's poem never did stop blowing. Even now, dawn, they're out there scuttling, overturning, knocking down the limbs of a favorite front-yard tree (I cradled its carnage yesterday, thought of the leaves that will now never green and singe, the birds that will not roost).
The weather made for mood. I couldn't put my head into the heat and dust of a cortijo outside Seville, because every time I began to dream sun, I'd hear a gutter banging. I sought to distract myself with client work, but the clients seemed to have been displaced by the wind. I moved onto another project, but was temporarily foiled by technical difficulties. I started to read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz's latest, and got caught up studying the sentence structures of the first purposely dense page, and that page was a wall, and I couldn't get past it. (Today I will.) And then I went to the dance studio to dance, and everyone, it seemed, had been affected by the wind. Everyone, and also the dancing.
Later I remembered what a friend had said, a few days before: "It's easier to be in a good mood than a bad one." Easier, I thought, and I tried the theory out—spent what was left of the day and night inside a swell of happy. After five minutes of trying I tried no more. Happiness breeds happiness. It breeds calm, inside of storm.
I had a really rough day (only worked 10 hours today) so I went to the bookstore to unwind. The bookstore is my next favorite place besides the library to gain focus and draw energy from the thousands of books.
I found a gem of a quotation in the November issue of O Magazine. It comes from writer Junot Diaz. In an article about creativity, he talked about how hard it was to write his second book. It took him 5 years before he decided to quit and live a “normal life” but his heart could not let go, so he came back to his book project. After 2 years he had a draft and then after 3 more years of revision, he finally finished his novel.
Not only did his story of perseverance strike me but also his definition of a writer:
“In my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.”
This is what I needed to hear after long stressful hours at the day job. I may not get to write as much these days—this is my reality. But I will never give up finishing my novel.