I first met Michele Filgate when she was the events coordinator at the wonderful RiverRun Books in Portsmouth, NH. She is now the events coordinator for the equally awesome McNally Jackson. In addition to her career in indie bookselling, Michele is an accomplished critic—she contributes regularly to Bookslut and The Minneapolis Star Tribune—and was an early champion of Tinkers, Paul Harding’s Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel. Read on to hear Michele talk about the evolving role of the author reading, how independent bookstores set themselves apart, the joys of the personalized hand-sell, and why the world needs a Star Trek-style bookstore transporter.
Initially, I think, the new writer figures they are committing to an Emily Dickinson life: isolated and lonely, accompanied only by a pen and paper. The life of a writer, however, has to be populated by others. It took me a long time to realize this. After college, I wrote two novels and sent out countless short stories. In retrospect, the novels were awful, and both the way I organized sending out stories and the way I measured their responses were light years away from what I should have been doing. (Example: someone at Zoetrope sent me a hand-written—and very positive—rejection letter for the very first story I sent out, and I threw it in the trash, whereas now I would rent out a room to throw an elaborate celebration.) As time went on, things didn’t progress, and I’d reached a plateau where I didn’t know how to get better on my own. It dawned on me that I needed some other voices, and I attended Bread Loaf in 2004 with that in mind.
This Is Not Your City
Sarabande Books, June 2011
This post was written by Hannah Gersen.
There are no small epiphanies in Caitlin Horrocks’s short stories, only huge, life-changing decisions. In her debut collection, This Is Not Your City, her protagonists commit crimes, seduce strangers, and, in the disquieting title story, cover up an accidental death. (She also has a story in last week’s New Yorker — Ed.)
1. Do you live in/near Boston?
2. If yes, do you like this guy:
3. If yes, do you also love Ploughshares and want to support us and what we do?
If you answered yes to all of these questions (or at least two of them), you might be interested in attending our 40th anniversary fundraiser hosted by Denis Leary. Read all about it below, where I’ve copied our official press release for the event. So far, the event has been mentioned in The Boston Globe, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Herald, and various other blogs and listings.
All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit our writers’ fund, which is used to pay our authors. Tickets are $250 each. Guests will rub elbows with our celebrity readers during our VIP cocktail reception, sit in our VIP seating area during the literary performance, and also walk away with a Ploughshares tote bag, our latest issue of Ploughshares guest-edited by Alice Hoffman before it even hits newsstands, plus receive a one-year subscription to the journal. All that, and our guests get to pat themselves on the back for helping us support our writers. You can purchase your tickets online here.
(Pssst: If you really can’t afford to pay the ticket price, but still want the VIP treatment, there is a chance to win two tickets, right here on the blog.)
Monday, November 14, 2011
5:30 – VIP Cocktail Reception
6:30 – Literary Performances
Where: The Paramount Theatre
559 Washington St. Boston MA 02111
Ploughshares, one of America’s leading literary magazines and a beloved Boston treasure, is celebrating its 40th anniversary. To commemorate this inspiring achievement, Ploughshares is throwing a star-studded gala hosted by Denis Leary (star and co-creator of Rescue Me, acclaimed comedian, and Emerson College alumnus), featuring a rare showcase of the magazine’s greatest hits – and some surprise gems – from the Ploughshares archives.
For the 40th anniversary celebration, nationally renowned authors, actors, sports legends, and television personalities will read their favorite selections from the Ploughshares vault. Some of the notable readers include: Alice Hoffman (author of Practical Magic, Oprah Book Selection Here on Earth); Dennis Lehane (author of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island); Cam Neely (Hockey Hall of Famer and current president of the Boston Bruins); Andre Dubus III (author of National Book Award finalist, House of Sand and Fog and Townie, a Salon.com “Mandatory Read”); Sue Miller (bestselling author of The Good Mother, Inventing the Abbotts, and Oprah Book Club selection While I was Gone); Wally Lamb (author of She’s Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True, both Oprah Book Club selections); and Ming Tsai (James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef, Emmy Award-winning host of East Meets West, and restaurateur). Emerson College President Dr. M. Lee Pelton will also read his selection from the “best of” Ploughshares.
Emerson College, home to Ploughshares, is presenting the anniversary celebration at the college’s newly renovated Paramount Theater, which has been dramatically restored to its historic luster.
The Ploughshares 40th anniversary celebration will culminate in the inaugural presentation of Ploughshares’ Lifetime Achievement Award and Literary Distinction Award. The Literary Distinction Award will be given posthumously to Robert Parker, the dean of American crime fiction – best remembered for his gritty Spenser series – who revitalized and reinvented the genre. His wife, Joan Parker, will deliver a reading and receive the Literary Distinction Award on Robert’s behalf.
The gala will be a unique chance for supporters of the arts to mingle with Boston luminaries and share a special evening with today’s top literary talent.
Since 1971, when the magazine was dreamed up by two young writers in a Cambridge pub, the Plough and Stars, Ploughshares has become the preeminent source for significant contemporary American prose and poetry. Ploughshares consistently serves as the launching pad for the nation’s most respected and enduring voices: writers such as Thomas Lux, Edward P. Jones, Mona Simpson, Tim O’Brien, Robert Pinsky, and Jayne Anne Phillips had their first or early work published in Ploughshares. Guest editors of the magazine have been the recipients of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, National Book Awards, MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, and numerous other honors.
Please visit www.pshares.org/40yearsevent for more ticket prices and additional event information.
Based at Emerson College, Ploughshares publishes three issues a year, April, August, and December. Regularly ranked among the top five literary journals in the country, previous guest editors of Ploughshares have been recipients of Nobel and Pulitzer prizes, National Book Awards, and numerous other honors. The event is open to the public with RSVP and tickets required.
The Language of Flowers
Ballantine Books, August 2011
336 pages (includes appended floriographic dictionary)
Victoria Jones, the troubled heroine of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel, has just been emancipated from California’s foster care system, after a childhood surrounded by “too many children and too many bottles of beer.”
On Saturday October 15, 2011, Copley Square in Boston was crawling with book lovers at the third annual Boston Book Festival. Ploughshares has been a participant for three years as well, and every year we look forward to meeting local readers and writers and introducing them to our literary journal. (You can read about last year here.)
Below, our booth. We were sandwiched between the Post Road/Redivider booth and the Emerson College office of Professional Studies booth.
Below: Abby Travis, editorial assistant, with Jessie Arnold, editorial intern, pose with our 40th anniversary poster outside the booth.
Below: Akshay Ahuja, production manager, ready and waiting for new visitors.
We sold some fabulous back issue packages, updated writers on submission policies, introduced new readers to the guest editor policy, and let literary Bostonians know about our 40th anniversary fundraiser that’s coming up on November 14th.
If you haven’t heard about the event yet, here’s a quick summary: Denis Leary will be hosting literary readings to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Special guests will include Andre Dubus III (author of Townies), Alice Hoffman (most recently, author of The Dovekeepers), Wally Lamb (author of She’s Come Undone), Dennis Lehane (author of Mystic River), Sue Miller (author of The Good Mother), Cam Neely (of Boston Bruins face), Joan Parker (wife of the late Robert Parker, mystery novelist), Lee Pelton (Emerson College’s new president), and Ming Tsai (restauranteur, chef, and host of East Meets West).
For tickets to the event, and more information, please visit PSHARES.ORG/40YEARS EVENT All proceeds from the fundraiser will benefit our writer’s fund.
New Directions was founded in 1936, when James Laughlin issued the first of the New Directions anthologies, which introduced readers to the early work of William Saroyan, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Delmore Schwartz, Dylan Thomas, John Hawkes, Denise Levertov, James Agee, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among others. New Directions recently celebrated 75 years, and I have long admired their commitment to publishing incredible work, including one of the strongest literature in translation lists around. Anne Carson’s Nox, also a terrific innovation in design; Victor Pelevin’s Omon Ra; and Clarice Lispector’s Near to the Wild Heart are just a few of the New Directions books that have preferred spots on my bookshelves. When I’m not sure what I want to read next, I go to New Directions with the confidence that I’ll come across something really good. Tom Roberge, the Publicity and Marketing Director at New Directions, was nice enough to chat about the secret to ND’s longevity, what’s in the pipeline, and featherweight paper.
In this week’s reviews on the blog, Claire Blechman calls Ned Zeman’s new book, Rules of the Tunnel, “a very L.A. memoir.” (“In the Manhattan version,” she adds, “we’d be spending lots of quality time in the patient-writer’s head.”)
Julia Lichtblau seems to be getting at the same issue, sort of, in her review of Evan Hughes’s recent Literary Brooklyn, when she wonders what makes a piece of literature definitely of Brooklyn. “Is Mississippi-born Richard Wright a Brooklyn writer?” she asks. “Or Native Son, which he wrote there but set in Chicago, a Brooklyn book?”
I’m going to be talking to a few authors whose first books I admired and see what they’re working on in terms of a second book. One of the things that interests me here is how writers move from a shorter form to a longer one. Talking about the process while in the process is something I don’t see a lot, and I’m sure some writers would hesitate to do it. I have, however, found some brave souls willing to discuss their work, past and present.
Literary Brooklyn, The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life
Henry Holt and Company, August 2011
This post was written by Julia Lichtblau.
Pick a published writer these days, and odds are strong their bio mentions Brooklyn. Historically, too, there’s a long list of major American writers who’ve hailed from Brooklyn or done significant work there, and in Literary Brooklyn, The Writers of Brooklyn and the Story of American City Life, a “hybrid” of biography, literary analysis, and urban history, Evan Hughes explores this Brooklyn literary phenomenon.