Amye Archer Takes Charge

Amye Archer Takes Charge

Local author releases Fat Girl, Skinny

An old piece of advice for writers sounds both obvious and trite: ‘write what you know.’

Sometimes, that basic mantra is simpler to repeat than follow. Amye Archer, author of the memoir Fat Girl, Skinny, spent nearly six years bringing her work about struggles with marriage, weight loss and self-discovery to the public. On Sunday, March 6, Archer celebrates a book launch party at Bar Hill, 1431 Ash St., in Scranton beginning at 4 p.m.

Archer said the book reflects themes that many people might recognize.

“It was difficult, because it was memoir and very, very personal,” Archer said. “I felt like my story had to be told because it’s the story of so many women in my position. It’s universal; it’s not just about weight, even though it’s called Fat Girl, Skinny. It follows the progression of my weight loss, it’s about self-esteem, it’s about being stuck in a place that you don’t want to be in. Whether that place is fat or a bad marriage, or a dead-end job — it’s just about being stuck and how we crawl our way out of that. I felt like people could relate to it.”

While working in grad school at the Wilkes University Creative Writing MFA program, Archer struggled to produce a memoir that was topical and relevant.

“I had written a whole other book about my first marriage,” Archer said. “The last two chapters were about the divorce and my beginning to lose weight and find myself. I worked with [Riding in Cars with Boys author] Beverly Donofrio and she read the first draft of the book. She said, ‘Your whole story is these last two chapters.’ So we cut off the first part of the book, and we started from there and that became Fat Girl, Skinny.”

With a finished product in hand, however, the path to publication was just beginning.

“I was with an agent and I had a good bite from a pretty big publisher,” Archer said. “They wanted to see it as fiction, so I was fictionalizing it and then they passed on it. The book’s strength is that it’s honest, it’s a memoir. It didn’t work as fiction, so I said to myself ‘I have to be true to this book.’ I got out of that and I went with an independent press and made it a memoir and published it how I wanted to. It’s been a long five years to get this book out and have it how I wanted it to be.”

Although Archer’s memoir hits home on a personal level of a woman struggling with weight loss, she says she found the subject connected with different readers on multiple levels.

“I’m pretty excited, I’ve gotten a ton of positive feedback from readers and that’s what’s important to me,” Archer said. “You know what’s interesting, one of the first people who read it was a man. And I wasn’t sure that it would translate well across the sexes, but he really, really loved it. I think it could apply to everyone regardless of your life situation. I think as humans, we just know what it’s like to be stuck somewhere. I don’t think that’s gender-specific.”

Sunday’s book release will feature Archer presenting excerpts from Fat Girl, Skinny as well as two special guests to help celebrate the book’s themes and creation.

“I chose Rachael Hughes, who was in the MFA program with me,” said Archer. “She’s going to read from her brilliant memoir, which hasn’t been published yet. A former student of mine, Tiffany Hadley, who was out of one of the first creative writing classes I ever taught, is going to read as well. I chose those two women specifically because they represent the two sides of me: the student and the teacher. Rachel was a fellow student with me, and Tiffany was in one of the first classes I ever taught. I’m very excited to have them.”

Archer says the process of writing and publishing Fat Girl, Skinny was challenging and personally fulfilling in different ways.

“Living the book helped me build the confidence to write the book,” Archer said. “It went hand in hand together, I have a lot of confidence in this book. I know it’s good, I have faith in it. I believe that it will either rise or fall on its own. Any writer has to have faith in their project. If I were to give any writer advice, I would say keep writing for yourself and not for an editor, not for the idea of being published. You have to trust that the art will be good enough to stand on its own, and that’s for any medium, really.”

Although she said it’s a relief to be done with the publication of her debut, the real rewards are only just beginning.

“Writing this was so personal,” Archer said. “A lot of people who have read it so far ask me how I could put this out there. My stock answer to that is very true, and I want to get this across: I wrote this for the 21 year old version of me. The one who was heavy and didn’t think she had any options and that her life was going nowhere. I wish somebody had said to me, ‘You deserve better.’ I hope that’s what this book says to young people in that position. Or older people — that’s the one thing I want to get across. We deserve a lot better than we think we do.”

Writing Histories

Writing Histories

Katherine Boo will speak about Behind the Beautiful Forevers and sign copies of the book on Saturday, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. at The Gathering at Keystone College.

The Gathering Literary Conference Returns to Keystone

Opening Thursday, July 16, at Keystone College in LaPlume, this year’s The Gathering literary conference stems from the theme “The Story: exploring personal encounters with history.”

“We will transcend cultural boundaries and consider social justice issues through the arts, literature, and sciences,” promotion for the event reads. “Featured artists, performers, poets, and authors were invited because their work focuses on the profoundly personal impact of events in the global arena.”

Before marrying a native of India in 2001 and finding her curious mind wandering there for long spells at a time while her husband worked, journalist Katharine Boo covered poverty for the Washington Post. She won a Pulitizer Prize for Public Serivce in 2000 but rather than move up the ladder to more prestigious subjects (e.g. politicians and those who lobby them), she stayed in the streets, writing about people trying to rise out of shelters or move out of bad neighbors and Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Her book Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Live, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is non-fiction that reads like a novel. Winner of the National Book Award in 2012, it enlightens first-world readers to the unbelievable conditions in Annawadi, a Mumbai slum, by slipping facts and research into the stories of a few of its 3,000 residents.

The writer spent three years with her subjects learning about them not only from interviews but by observing their behavior over time. Of particular interest to her was identifying “the infrastructure of opportunity” in the society and by what means people might rise out of poverty as well as the parallels of the inequality in these slums with that in other cities around the world.

“Some people consider such juxtapositions of wealth and poverty a moral problem. What fascinates me is why they’re not more of a practical one. After all, there are more poor people than rich people in the world’s Mumbais,” Boo wrote in the book’s afterword.

from Beyond the Beautiful Forevers:

…Maybe because of the boiling April sun (Abdul) thought about water and ice. Water and ice were made of the same thing. He thought most people were made of the same thing, too. He himself was probably little different, constitutionally, from the cynical, corrupt people around him — the police officers and the special executive officer and the morgue doctor who fixed Kalu’s death. If he had to sort all humanity by its material essence he thought he would probably end up with a single gigantic pile. But here was the interesting thing: ice was distinct from, and in his view better than, what it was made of. He wanted to be better than what he was made of. In Mumbai’s dirty water, he wanted to be ice. He wanted to have ideals. For self-interested reasons, one of the ideals he most wanted to have was a belief in the possibility of justice. It wasn’t easy to believe just now.

Also featured on the schedule of presenters are poet Denver Butson and civil rights activist Anita Hill, a professor of law, public policy, and women’s studies at Heller Graduate School of Policy and Management, Brandeis University. Hill is the author of Speaking Truth to Power and Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race, and Finding Home and is widely remembered for her testimony in the 1991 Supreme Court nomination hearings for Clarence Thomas.

The Gathering events also include films, storytelling, book signings, workshops, conversations, poetry readings, nature walks and yoga, receptions, meals and more. Fees for individual events are $10-15 or $25 for three. Full conference attendance packages range from $300-530 and have been available on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit thegatheringatkeystone.org for more information or call 570-561-5962.

Not a fan of capital letters, Denver Butson is the author of three books of poetry including illegible address. He will lead a poetry master class on Friday, July 17, at 3 p.m. On Saturday, July 18, at 1:30 p.m. he will present a poetry reading titled “the world cannot bear the weightlessness of sparrows” followed by a book signing. Select poems are available online via the Coal Hill Review and other publications.

Not a fan of capital letters, Denver Butson is the author of three books of poetry including illegible address. He will lead a poetry master class on Friday, July 17, at 3 p.m. On Saturday, July 18, at 1:30 p.m. he will present a poetry reading titled “the world cannot bear the weightlessness of sparrows” followed by a book signing. Select poems are available online via the Coal Hill Review and other publications.

Fear and Faith

Fear and Faith

Supernatural, Spiritual Book Headed to the Big Screen

Many people associate the word supernatural with ghosts and demons, but it applies to any forces beyond understanding. John J. Zelenski believes there’s a lot that falls within that definition. In fact, his motto is “not everything in this world can be explained,” and that sentiment is echoed by a character in his books and soon-to-be film adaptation.

Zelenski is the author of paranormal thriller Walker’s Vale, and prequel The Journal of Ezekiel Walker released March 17. The Scranton man is currently working on the third and final installment in the timeline.

While the series deals with the eerie, creepy side of paranormal events, it also tackles the powers of faith and fate.

“To me, supernatural can be a person driving down the street has that near-accident by inches, then they think back to maybe they got held up in line and if they had been there just a couple of minutes earlier it would be different. They have angels watching over them,” Zelenski said.

Walker’s Vale is Zelenski’s first published book. The novel follows a family that just moved into a home in a small town called Walker’s Vale, Pennsylvania. They start noticing strange occurrences, and come across a creepy creature who is a living symbol that all is not as it seems.

“I think the message is sometimes you can’t judge appearances, good guys don’t always wear white,” Zelenski said.

The horror fiction ultimately brings you on a journey to redemption, as you follow the main character, James Cooper, through his doubts and struggles to return to religion. Zelenski said he wanted to make the story relatable to anyone, regardless of belief or background.

“Whether you’re a Christian or faith-based Catholic, whatever you call yourself, you’re going to have doubts,” Zelenski said. “Did we really come from this supernatural being that’s watching out for us? Then why do all these bad things happen? I think it’s something you have to be honest and real and ask yourself.”
Walker’s Vale is now in the process of being made into a movie by Allegentsia Productions in Hollywood. The project all started when movie-maker Jon Robert Hall — also known for his acting appearances in the show Glee as a beatbox warbler, as well as other shows and movies — and his wife Sharelle met Zelenski online, and told him they were looking for ideas for their first major movie.

“They really, really like the story, they think it’ll make a good faith-based, supernatural, paranormal movie,” Zelenski said.

Author John J. Zelenski

Author John J. Zelenski

The movie is in the pre-production phase, with shooting slated to start sometime this year and possibly in Pennsylvania. The release could be as soon as next year. Zelenski said it will be a relatable movie that’s unique because of its subtle religious meaning and horror background.

“What we’re trying to do is make a Christian film without all the clichés and the beating someone over the head with religious themes,” Zelenski said.

The plot of Walker’s Vale is inspired by true events in Zelenski’s own life. Just like in the book, Zelenski’s family moved to a house in Pennsylvania and experienced unusual events, like mysterious footsteps.

“There were some strange things happening, there would be like boxes falling over, a weird smell of coffee when nobody drank coffee in our house … We just felt like there was some kind of evil spirit in that house,” Zelenski said.

The family asked a minister to bless the house, and the strange happenings stopped. But the memories live on with Zelenski, and they left him with the impression that there’s more to life than what meets the eye.

“Even at that young age I knew there was something else besides the things that we see. I think there’s an unseen world that’s out there,” Zelenski said.

The history isn’t the only thing Zelenski has in common with his characters. He says he relates with the father protagonist, James Cooper.

“At heart he means well, but sometime he’s just a little too headstrong, and maybe that’s a little bit of me coming out,” Zelenski said. “But he’s a good man and whether he realizes or not, he’s trying to rediscover his faith that he had when he was a kid.”

Selenski says self-expression is one of his favorite aspects of writing.

“I think it’s great to able to express some of the deepest, darkest things, even if I put that into a character, it’s still a part of me coming out so it’s very personal for me.”

His love for writing dates back to high school. The art had always been a hobby, but in recent years Zelenski started to pursue writing professionally. Now, the father of two works at Penn Foster by day and writes by night, but hopes to someday be a full-time author.

Ultimately, he hopes to touch more lives and help more people discover, or rediscover, their faith — whether it’s in God, or some other supernatural entity.
“I’d like people to come up to me and say, ‘Hey, aren’t you the guy who wrote that book that became a movie? It really in some way touched me or made me feel what I was looking for.’ I think that would be the best thing anyone could say.”

Zelenski will be a part of a book signing on May 2, in the Library Express at The Mall at Steamtown starting at 2 p.m. He expects his third series installment to be released in 1 to 2 years, and is also working on a separate, supernatural lover story dealing in the unseen world.

Bookmarks: Jazz Hands

Bookmarks: Jazz Hands

Last year, author Eleanor Gwyn-Jones debuted her novel, Theatricks, about a girl from England who falls in love with a man from Pennsylvania. The book ended on a suspenseful moment, so it’s only fair that this year brings us Gwyn-Jones’s follow-up, Jazz Hands (Book Two of the Brit out of Water series.)
 

Jazz Hands


By Eleanor Gwyn-Jones
Dec. 2014, Omnific Publishing, 254 pgs
 
Tell me a bit about the process of writing this book.
Well when I was received the information about writing the second book, I was just about to go on a cruise to Bermuda with my friend, Matt, and so I ended up spending the entire week sailing at sea with ideas traveling and bubbling around by brain. Matt was just a great sounding board, because the whole time I was asking, “What do you think about that and what do you think about this?” and that really helped, just being away. I find going away to be incredibly helpful in my writing. I don’t have to talk to or worry about other people as much and I can just concentrate on my work. I think it allows me to quiet myself a little and tune into me, and the way that I write I need to tune in to the character. You know, I don’t come from a writing background, I come from a theatrical background, so I almost have to method write, like “What we should do here and how would she act if this happened?” I throw obstacles at her and wonder ‘What would Enna do?’ And then I try to listen to her voice and write, and that’s the work of my process, and going on vacation helps me work that way. I don’t get into the typical writers’ process in that I don’t really get writers’ block — I get more into the editors’ process and if anything I get editor’s block (laughs) like, ‘What should I change what should I take away?’
 
What was it like writing about Scranton in your book? Were you hesitant in any aspects, in terms of how local readers (and of course I understand that your readership extends far beyond just Lackawanna Valley) would read your interpretation of their hometown?
You know, that really didn’t dawn on me because I live here, and I choose to live here, and it’s my hometown now, too. I thought far more about the community because the community is so strong in Scranton and supportive and I really appreciate that. I thought more about what I think about the buildings and the businesses and the things that I like. You know, Jazz Hands picks right up where Theatricks left off: she’s abandoned in Scranton. She is left alone at the Radisson, so I thought, ‘What would I say about this place if it were still a bit new to me?’ I almost get to live vicariously [through Enna] to see what she would think about seeing these places for the first time. So included some of my favorites, Carl Von Luger’s and Northern Light (Espresso Bar), and put her in those real places. I know people really like to name-place and identify, and not just with the characters, but with the places, too. So of course I’m going to set the story in places I know, in real life businesses and buildings that she comments on. It wasn’t something I held back on. And the book doesn’t just stay in Scranton, I sent Enna to Brooklyn, where I spent some time as well, and I did the same thing with Brooklyn. It was lovely to go back there.
 
So your first book, Theatricks, really left readers on a cliff, in terms of what might happen next. Without including any spoilers, of course, can you tell us what readers can expect from Jazz Hands?
Well, you know we meet Enna at the beginning of this novel and she’s pretty low. Everything that happened in her life before sort of defines her, the theater, her American un-fiance, Cole, and she’s really fallen out of love with the theater. She’s coming from a world where she was left to decide what was truth and what wasn’t real. There was so much pressure there, in her old world, and she’s growing away from it, figuring herself out, so I got her started into doing yoga, something she was reluctant about at first but ended up really helping her. You know, in theater, you’re doing it for other people. In yoga, it’s an audience of one. There are no mirrors on the wall; you’re just doing it for you. In Enna’s previous life, she wasn’t being aware, she was being swept along in the hub-bub, so this was a great device to let her tune in to herself, to find out who she truly is, what she really wants. So Jazz Hands takes on this process of trying to find herself, without being cheesy (laughs), with sweat and tears, until she knows what she really wants and can follow her heart. During this time when she’s in Brooklyn, too, she’s two hours away from Cole, and we get to see them both changing and growing, and not necessarily in the same direction. So I will say that where Theatricks left the readers on a cliff, Jazz Hands is about a mile from the cliff’s edge – it’s not quite inland and settled, but you’re not completely hanging there, either (laughs).

Bookmarks: Oct. 30, 2014

Bookmarks: Oct. 30, 2014

Scranton native Amye Baresse Archer has been on the writing scene in a variety of capacities: Scranton StorySlam winner (the very first!), Prose in Pubs host, blogger, adjunct English instructor, and now, University of Scranton Writing Center coordinator. Her book of poetry, entitled Bangs, has just been released by Big Table Publishing. Amye writes the sort of poems that make you laugh through your tears. She’s honest, she hits hard, and she doesn’t back down from anything confrontational or uncomfortable. In other words, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of Amye’s kitchen, folks.
 

A bang-less Amye Archer

A bang-less Amye Archer

Let’s start with the most urgent of questions: are those actually your bangs on the cover of Bangs?
Of course! Although, I had nothing on my sister whose bangs were envied by many.
 
I know you’ve been working on a memoir as well. What was it like, as a writer, to transition from one genre to another? Or did you sort of toggle back and forth?
It’s actually worked really well. I’m allowed to expand upon certain moments in the memoir, give them a context I cannot afford in the economy of words that is poetry. However, I’m allowed to freeze time and tease out the beauty of a moment by moving it into a poem. That being said, it’s pretty easy for me to change genres because I tend to write in the same voice for everything. It’s my voice, I am all of my characters. I guess you can say I am the Liam Neesen of writers.

 
Tell us something about the writing of this book that may surprise your readers.
I went into Bangs with the idea that I would spend 50 poems in a small time frame, 1988-1992 or so. As I wrote, however, I realized that almost every event in my life — good or bad- could be traced back to ideas or choices made during that time. It amazes me how strong the echo of adolescence can be.
 
With a job, building a house with your husband and raising twins, what is your writing process like? Do you ever sleep?
I actually write in seasons, not hours. So, I might write like crazy for ten weeks and then nothing for ten weeks. It’s a bipolar process, but I fit it in when I can. Also, it’s weird but I cannot write to music, despite music being one of my major influences. I need dead silence.
 
Where can we get our hands on the book?
You can buy the book from me directly by visiting my website, amyearcher.com
 
Who would you name as your authorial inspirations?
I have so many. I would say that Abigail Thomas and Joan Didion are my biggest influences in terms of memoir. I’ve also been influenced by a lot of musicians. John Lennon has been a huge influence in my life from about the age of 10 until now. I’m also a huge fan of Julia Alvarez. And I can’t forget Eugene O’Neill. My inspirations are all over the place.
 
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: Oct. 16, 2014

Bookmarks: Oct. 16, 2014

I’ll save you my really deep metaphor about how autumn brings in the harvest and how that harvest relates to the publishing industry and just tell you this, dear readers: there’s a veritable cornucopia of good new books this season. Here is just a small taste:

EC16BOOK_1_WEB

Stone Mattress: Nine Tales

By Margaret Atwood
Nan A. Talese, September 2014, 288 pgs
Atwood (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin) is on top of her writing game and this new short story collection will prove that to any naysayers. The stories as a whole are dark, funny, etched with social commentary and threaded through with feminism. The title story includes a self-prophesizing husband-killer named Verna who decides to take a cruise. On the trip, a former boyfriend who had wronged her appears. When I say “wronged her,” I mean truly betrayed her, by way of getting her pregnant and then humiliating her. We’re meant to feel Verna’s pain here, if not her proposed solution: the point is not so much to fear Verna as to wonder what keeps us on this side of that faint line. Verna’s murder weapon of choice is an ancient rock that’s on the boat as part of a scientific presentation. The rock, called a stromatolite, loosely translates to “stone mattress,” due to its layering of soft algae becoming rock over time. If we think of this as a metaphor for our Verna, someone who has been made hard over the years, it becomes easy to understand why a writer like Atwood has remained relevant for more than four decades.

The Bone Clocks: A Novel

By David Mitchell
Random House, September 2014, 640 pgs
David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet) brings us more of what he does so well: a genre-blending, mind-altering swirl of beautiful prose and rich character that never seems to take itself too seriously, even when dealing with serious subject matter. At the heart of the novel is the main character, Holly Sykes who we see through from teenage to her autumn years. Every tale is told from someone’s perspective who is involved with Holly, whether it’s her college-aged predatory boyfriend who breaks her heart, to two embattled groups of (wait for it) immortals, known as “atemporals,” who focus on living forever.
One group, the Horologists, focus on immortality through reincarnation. But the dastardly Anchorites sacrifice children to fuel their longevity. The book travels from 1980s England to the future where the whole world is on the brink of ecological collapse. Add to this the meta elements of writing (Holly grows up to be a successful writer; one chapter revolves around an author who can’t forgive a scathing review) and we start to get an idea of what (maybe, possibly) Mitchell was reaching for. He is simultaneously holding up a mirror to our current age while speculating about what the future could bring. Are we plummeting ahead with no plans to save ourselves? Does documenting the trajectory toward collapse make it any more meaningful? And what good is living forever going to be if there’s no world in which to exist? Or are well just bone clocks, worm food and does any of it matter?

Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: Oct. 2, 2014

Bookmarks: Oct. 2, 2014

Autumn is upon us, folks, which means that many of us are gobbling up or slurping down anything with the word “pumpkin” attached to it. We’re getting our sweaters and scarves out of storage, we’re booking it back to school, we’re planning Halloween parties (group costumes, am I right?), and we’re battening down for the cold weather on the horizon. It’s always been an interesting paradox for me, dear readers, that what may truly be the busiest time of year for many is also the most contemplative. Look at how many poems have been written about this time of year. Open up any book of Romantic poems and you’ll find the pages overflowing with praise for the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (thanks, Keats). I know I write more in the fall than any other time of year. I could dive really deep with you and say that it probably has to do with the simultaneous appreciation of death and beauty, but there are writers who can do a much better job of that than I. So with that in mind, I’m focusing on two poetry collections today, one new and one from last year, but both of which I’ve been reading and both of which I recommend.
 

Rachel McKibbens

Rachel McKibbens

Into the Dark & Emptying Field
by Rachel McKibbens
Small Doggies Press, 2013
70 pgs
 
Like tonguing the raw gum of a newly-pulled tooth or poking the dot of a still-fresh bruise, McKibben’s poems will surprise you with their sudden violence. What will surprise you further is how you keep coming back to it. This author is known as a slam poet, and it suits her: these verses punch the reader, and not with a loud, overbearing, or brash presence, but rather with a quiet, precise jab into just the right nook. These are poems for abuse-survivors, for people with pasts, for those among us with stories we don’t always want to tell. When you finish the book, it will feel like the haunting ache of a phantom limb. But, as McKibbens advises, “When grief takes hold, you monster through it.”
 
Layout 1
Prelude to Bruise
by Saeed Jones
Coffee House Press, 2014
99 pgs
 
Saeed Jones has managed to make this basic white girl from the northeast step inside the skin of a homosexual, African-American southern boy and feel the tension and beauty that lives within. He will share his influences from Nina Simone to Patricia Smith to Langston Hughes to Billie Holliday. Jones has read mountains of great poetry and it shows through in this shining collection. Some of the poems read as brutally autobiographical, others are so visceral and physical they can be about anyone, and in fact when you’re reading it, you feel it is about you, which is exactly what a good poet should achieve: a place on the page to inhabit within the writer’s voice. Jones has done this, and well. An excerpt from Postapocalyptic Heartbeat:
Saeed Jones

Saeed Jones


After ruin,/ after shards of glass like misplaced stars,/ after dredge,/ after the black bite of frost: you are the after,/ you are the first hour in a life without clocks; the name of whatever/ falls from the clouds now is you (it is not rain),/ a song in a dead language, an unlit earth, a coast broken-/ how was I to know every word was your name?

 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com

Bookmarks: Sept. 18, 2014

Bookmarks: Sept. 18, 2014

Ben Franklin For Beginners is a Middle-Grade/Young Adult biography told in a graphic novel format, meant to be read and digested for people of all ages. Former Montrose resident and current art school professor Tim Ogline authored and illustrated this latest in the “For Beginners” series. We sat down with him to discuss the work.
 
Why Benjamin Franklin? You state in the preface that at the time of printing, there were 3,463 English-language books that include Franklin as a catalogued keyword. What inspired you to write the 3,464th?
The notion of writing a Benjamin Franklin book actually arose from a confluence of coincidence. I happened to be driving by the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia in the spring of 2003 and I heard a story on NPR about the upcoming tercentenary of Benjamin Franklin’s birth just three years away in 2006, and it hit me: I wanted to do an alphabet picture book about Ben Franklin. This led me to begin work on B. Franklin A to Z, which is still currently under development; but yet it was actually my third Ben Franklin book project (Ben Franklin For Beginners) that was published first. 
 
How long did the research for this book take? What sort of resources did you allocate?
I’ve steadily amassed scores of books since the 90s and have done a great amount of reading on Benjamin Franklin and the American Revolution as I’ve always had a great interest in that period, but my research for these specific book projects began in earnest in 2003. I’ve also spent a great deal of time researching tremendous online resources such as Leo Lemay’s documentary history and “The Papers of Benjamin Franklin” (sponsored by the American Philosophical Society and Yale University) among others, as well as digging deep into out-of-print books presented by Google Books. 
Additionally — being local to Philadelphia (which is, of course, Benjamin Franklin’s hometown) — I have had access to historic places and museums such as the Benjamin Franklin Museum at Franklin Court, the Franklin Institute and the Independence National Park. I’ve spent a great deal of time looking at exhibitions and artifacts that document Franklin’s life.
 

Author & illustrator Tim Ogline

Author & illustrator Tim Ogline

The “For Beginners” series holds a really interesting premise, in that using graphic design and a more narrative storytelling arch can help present nonfiction material to a broader audience. Did you set out to write and illustrate a graphic novel?
I’ve had a fondness for “For Beginners” that goes back to 1985 when I was a junior at Montrose High School. I remember loving their Freud For Beginners book. I met Dawn Reshen-Doty, the publisher of “For Beginners” at a trade show and talked about how much I enjoyed Freud. We had a conversation about their line and I mentioned that they should consider including more American History titles … and my enthusiasm for Benjamin Franklin became quite apparent. She asked me what I was currently working on and after I had mentioned my alphabet book and the historical fiction graphic novel projects, she encouraged me to pitch them a Benjamin Franklin book for their imprint. After the show I produced a sample chapter with text and illustrations, and a few months later we had a signed contract to produce Ben Franklin For Beginners.
Ben Franklin For Beginners is a Middle Grade/Young Adult oriented biography (but is all-ages friendly) of Ben Franklin that discusses his life in topic oriented, richly illustrated chapters that detail Franklin’s achievements in numerous arenas. I think what sets this book apart stems from its presentation … which is where the role of design and storytelling comes in. I constantly tell my students at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art as well as at the Moore College of Art & Design that everything we do in design — whether we’re producing a book, designing a logo or building a website — is about organizing information and telling a story. It’s all about making subject matter accessible. 
 
What’s your favorite bit of Franklin trivia?
My single-favorite piece bit of Franklin trivia stems from the efforts to form the State of Franklin. For a brief period from 1784 to 1790, the State of Franklin (originally Frankland for the “Land of the Free”) was formed from eight counties attempting to secede from western North Carolina and had petitioned the Continental Congress to join the Union as a sovereign state. The State of Franklin’s efforts to join the Union failed to gain the two-thirds majority vote in the Continental Congress as required by the Articles of Confederation. The territory ultimately joined with Tennessee in 1790.
What was interesting is that the State of Franklin had initially drafted a constitution that barred preachers and lawyers among others from holding elective office. Can you imagine it? A government run by common sense.
 
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send email to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: The Empathy Exams

Bookmarks: The Empathy Exams

The Empathy Exams
By Leslie Jamison
Graywolf Press
April, 2014, 256 pgs
 
Leslie Jamison’s first book of essays covers a wide range of topics: real and imagined diseases, poverty tourism, medical actors, poetry, assault, ultra-marathons and much, much more. What unites these subject matters into a cohesive, intelligent and deeply exploratory narrative is the issue of empathy for other human beings, or rather, what we mean when we say to another, “I feel your pain.”
 
EC28BOOK_3_WEBThe first and last articles book-end the endeavor by personalizing Jamison’s query into the human heart. Mind you, Jamison’s feelings are never too far out of frame throughout the entire narrative (something I’m sure critics have noted), but in the titular first essay, Jamison introduces us to her moral nebulousness. She recounts her job as a medical actor, paid to fake pain to medical students who are in turn faking doctoral care and, of course, empathy. The “patients” grade the students on the perceived level of kindness the “doctors” have shown them. She points out MRI studies in which testers are shown images of people in pain and the experiment found that the same parts of the testers’ brains lit up as if they were actually feeling another person’s pain. It’s a perfect metaphor for Jamison’s personal battle with her own feelings: what does it really mean to feel for someone else and how can we best utilize this instinct for betterment?
 
Jamison is a writer who feels things deeply and has been hurt in her personal life. But due to what she thinks the general public thinks of young women’s troubles, she postulates that many women of her generation have developed a voice she labels “post-wounded,” meaning that sincerity and sentimentality have been displaced (necessarily) by irony, sarcasm and an unwillingness to delve into honest and intimate feelings. She mentions the television show Girls, where two female friends attack each other by accusing, “You’re like a big, ugly wound!” while the other screams back, “No! You are the wound!” It’s become a cliché to express our ugly feelings, it seems.
 
In her final article (an absolute gem that deserves multiple rereadings on my part), she delves into what she calls “The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” citing such blood-letting female artists as Anne Carson, Sylvia Plath, Tori Amos, Ani Difranco and others of the same ilk. Why do these artists elicit such strong responses from their fans? She also exams the phenomenon of young girls who cut themselves — and just as importantly, those who dismiss that action as simply a cry for attention. “People say cutters are just doing it for the attention, but why does ‘just’ apply? A cry for attention is positioned as the ultimate crime, clutching or trivial — as if ‘attention’ were inherently a selfish thing to want. But isn’t wanting attention one of the most fundamental traits of being human — and isn’t granting it one of the most important gifts we can ever give?”
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: The Color Master

Bookmarks: The Color Master

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The Color Master by Aimee Bender

April 2014, Anchor
240 pgs

 
What is the role of the fairy tale in literature? Is it to teach children morality lessons? Do they exist merely to entertain? Can they exist as allegory to reflect and comment on society? Are they supposed to scare the hell out of us? If you’ve ever read the original European fairy tales from Grimm and company, you’ve certainly found the kind that can scare you. In fact, there is a whole school of literary criticism/psychoanalysis that claims that children need to read about the monsters in fairy tales to better understand their own dark feelings, or more poetically, the monster inside of them. I think a good fairy tale can accomplish most things I just mentioned.
 

Author Aimee Bender

Author Aimee Bender

In Aimee Bender’s newest collection of short stories, she has reinvented the fairy tale in the form of post-modern magical realism (For adults, mind you. Definitely not safe for the wee ones.) The Color Master contains fifteen very short stories of murder, magic, and monstrosity that blends tools of several masters of the trade: in these stories you will find Italo Calvino’s imaginative ideas, Joyce Carol Oates’s dark dark wit, Angela Carter’s female-centric view of the traditional fairy tale, Lorrie Moore’s upside down and backwards way of looking at the modern story, a bit of Margaret Atwood’s adept handling of bizarre sex, and just a tinge of (Jorge Luis) Borges’s magic stirred in for good measure.
 
The collection begins with one of the most loaded symbols in storytelling history: the apple. In “Appleless,” a wheat-haired girl does not like the taste of apples. “She didn’t even like to look at them. They’re all too mealy, she said. Or else too cheeky, too bloomed.” The narrator of the story is so baffled by her odd taste that he/she decides, along with the rest of the population in this magic world, to only eat apples, forever. But that doesn’t solve the problem. And they attack the girl. What are we to glean from this story? The implications weave and fold and spread for days after reading.
 
In another story, a perfectly normal human woman is married to an ogre who accidentally eats one of their children in a sort of ogre-ish panic attack. Going back to that aforementioned theory of children and monsters, the same critics also postulated that children’s most innate fear is that of being consumed; hence Hansel and Gretel and the like. In Bender’s version, we have the human perspective on this fantastical situation. It’s magnificent.
 
In the titular story, fans of Bender will recognize her use of synesthesia as a storytelling mechanism. In her novel, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, a character tastes the chef’s feelings in every bite of food prepared for her. In “The Color Master,” a seamstress weaves emotions into her colors.
 
In one of the least fantastical but most conversation-worthy stories, “The Red Ribbon,” a woman decides she can no longer feel sexual attraction to her husband unless he pays her for her sex. She tells him, “I need a specific amount each time or I feel I will melt into nothingness.”
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: Friendship by Emily Gould

Bookmarks: Friendship by Emily Gould

Friendship by Emily Gould

Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux
July, 2014, 272 pgs
 
It is almost impossible to discuss Emily Gould’s debut novel without discussing her biography or the controversy surrounding both her and the novel’s critical reception. Gould made a name for herself a few years ago as the editor of the gossip website Gawker, where she called out celebrities on their actions while writing very vividly about her personal life. Gould practically began the national conversation about the act of “oversharing,” which happens when people give away their most intimate thoughts and anecdotes in a public manner. The term has already made its way into the dictionary, with Webster’s New World choosing “overshare” as the Word of the Year in 2008. Oversharing cost Gould her professional respect and she quit the job shortly after she started.
 
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I tell you this, dear reader, because Amy, the heroine of the novel, is a flailing writer in her early 30s (same age as Gould), living in New York City (where Gould lives) and is recovering her life after leaving her job as the editor of a website which focused on “mocking New York City’s rich, powerful, corrupt, ridiculous elite.” (Ahem.) Amy’s best friend, Bev, is another early 30s woman struggling to make her way in the city, though less successfully so as she bounces from job to job, roommate to roommate and ends up getting pregnant on a first date she only accepted to get the free meal. Bev’s ultimate decision to carry the child to term is discussed in a modern, unflinching way that I think many young women will appreciate.
 
Many are comparing the voice of the novel, unflatteringly so, to the writing on HBO’s Girls, saying Friendship is a less raw, less real version of the young, white, creative city girl struggling to find flight in the prime of her life. Many are calling it “chick lit,” a term this reviewer finds slightly misogynistic and generalizing. As a consumer who has watched the series Girls and read this book, I think the comparison is really just another way to level off the young female experience, putting all the complicated, artistic young women into the same indy letter-pressed Anthropologie box, tied up with a nice Sephora ribbon.
 
Part of this flack is due to some reviewers finding the plot in Friendship rather trite. Two girls in the city, an unwanted pregnancy, moving home to suburban childhood homes to recover, failed relationships with men … done already, say the critics. To which I have to ask, does every plot have to involve death and mystery, or the mechanics of magical realism, or the threat of apocalypse to make it tick? What about an originally wry, self-deprecating, intelligent, modern voice which tells the story of two women sharing an experience that countless other women (and yes, men too, of course) have shared? It’s true that the audience may be narrowed here, certainly, but as a part of that targeted audience, I defend the book’s existence, its writing and its meaning and I would encourage you, readers, to see past the hype, read past the stereotypes and derision and make up your minds for yourselves.
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in electric city and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: Gathering on the Edge

Bookmarks: Gathering on the Edge

Columnist Andrea McGuigan previews The Gathering 2014. The annual literary conference is scheduled to take place at Keystone College in La Plume July 17-20. For more information or to register, visit thegatheringatkeystone.org or contact Charlotte Ravaioli (570, 945-8510 or charlotte.ravaioli@keystone.edu.
 
The best writing happens when we have something at stake: something to lose, something worth keeping and something to sacrifice to make progress possible. At The Gathering at Keystone College, now in its eighth year, the organizers kept this idea in mind when they created the theme, “On Edge.” The featured panelists and writers for this year’s festival all know writing from the margins: a civil rights poet, a political journalist, writers on the Middle East conflict and a fiction writer who handles familial conflict. All of them challenge the status quo. All of them are ready to push forward. I think of the Fool in the classic Tarot deck, a clownish man following his dog toward the precipice of a cliff. The Fool is an important card with a largely-writ lesson, meant to remind us that sometimes taking a leap into the unknown is the only way to effect real change.
 

Victor Navasky

Victor Navasky

Victor Navasky has been an editor and publisher for The Nation, an editor for The New York Times Magazine, a professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and is the author of books such as Kennedy Justice, Naming Names (which won the National Book Award) and most recently, The Art of Controversy.
 
Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez

Sonia Sanchez is a poet, playwright and social activist whose awards could fill this entire column. Her work blends a mix of African-American issues, women’s issues and social justice, all polished off with her distinctive, powerful voice. The author of 16 books, her poetry collection Homegirls and Handgrenades won the National Book Award. You would do well to look up her performance on Season One of the now-defunct Def Poetry Jam.
 
Jacqueline Mitchard

Jacqueline Mitchard

Jacqueline Mitchard is the New York Times -bestselling author of over 20 books. She also has the distinct honor of being Oprah’s very first Book Club selection for her novel, The Deep End of the Ocean. Mitchard is the editor-in-chief of the new Young Adult imprint Merit Press and her essays have been widely anthologized.
 
Sandy Tolan

Sandy Tolan

Sandy Tolan has written for more than 40 years and as co-founder of Homeland productions, has produced hundreds of documentaries and features for public radio. His book, The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East, came from the enormous popularity of the Fresh Air segment he produced for NPR.
 
The three day festival features workshops in essay, earth science, visual art, fiction, memoir, yoga, poetry, digital art, dance and percussion and each lesson plan invokes the over-arching theme of “On Edge.” There will also be a discussion between Sonia Sanchez and social commentator Constance Garcia-Barrio entitled “Sisters Rap.” There will also be a panel discussion “Searching for Common Ground in the Middle East” featuring David Coppola, president of Keystone College and director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Understanding at Sacred Heart University; Eugene Korn, who is the American Director for the Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation in Israel and Senior Research Fellow at Beit Morasha of Jerusalem’s Institute for Religion and Society; Ibtisam Barakat, award-winning author of Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood; and Sandy Tolan (see above).
 

 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.

Bookmarks: Barbara Taylor

Bookmarks: Barbara Taylor

Columnist Andrea McGuigan speaks with local school teacher Barbara Taylor about her first book, Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night, published via Kaylie Jones Books, an imprint of Akashic Books.
 

Author Barbara Taylor

Author Barbara Taylor

Can you talk about the evolution of writing the book and then its publication?
I started writing Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night in January of 2007, as a graduate student in the Wilkes Creative Writing MFA program and completed the first draft in June of 2008. After that, I revised for another six months. My agent sent that second draft out to at least twenty publishers. The feedback was great, but ultimately, no one picked up the book. At that point, I put the novel in a drawer and started writing the next book in what I intend to be a trilogy. Shortly after completing a draft of book two, Kaylie Jones, my mentor from Wilkes, came up with a brilliant idea for restructuring the first novel. I spent another nine months revising. In the meantime, Kaylie started her own imprint, Kaylie Jones Books, with Akashic Books and I’m proud to say I’m the second book in her print series.
 
Can you tell us about the plot, which includes some local history?
My novel is about eight-year-old Violet who’s blamed for the death of her nine-year-old sister, Daisy. It opens on September 4, 1913, two months after the Fourth of July tragedy and takes place in Scranton during the time of coal mining, vaudeville and evangelism. Owen, the girls’ father, “turns to drink” and abandons his family. Their mother Grace falls victim to the seductive powers of Grief, an imagined figure who has seduced her off-and-on since childhood. Violet forms an unlikely friendship with Stanley Adamski, a motherless outcast who works in the mines as a breaker boy. During an unexpected blizzard, Grace goes into premature labor at home and is forced to rely on Violet, while Owen is “off being saved” at a Billy Sunday Revival.
 
I understand you were working with some autobiographical material here.
Since the novel is a period piece, I blended real life incidents with fiction. For example, the death of Daisy is based on a family tragedy. My grandmother’s oldest sister, Pearl, was burned in a sparkler accident on July 4, 1918, the same day as her baptism. According to the story, she sang hymns for three days while she lay dying. That story always haunted me and it seemed a natural place to turn for the novel. Also, my grandmother used to tell me that she was born during the “Billy Sunday Snowstorm” in March of 1914, where more than 2,400 people were stranded overnight with the charismatic preacher. To this day, people in Scranton claim to know someone who was saved that night. I love how the story has taken on a legendary quality and I knew I wanted to include it in my novel. When I started writing the novel, my grandmother’s sister, Louise, was the only sibling still living. I thought I owed it to her to ask her permission to use the story. When she gave me her blessing, I started to write.
 
Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the book or any upcoming events tied to its publication?
I was floored when my publisher informed me that Publishers Weekly named Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night as a “Top Summer Read” for 2014. The article generated a great deal of interest in the book. As far as events are concerned, I’m excited to launch the book at the Lackawanna Historical Society’s Catlin House on July 16 at 7 p.m. The staff is wonderful and the venue is beautiful. What a great way to kick off the book tour!
 
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.
 

Bookmarks: June 5, 2014

Bookmarks: June 5, 2014

Columnist Andrea McGuigan reviews two new releases.

Confessions of the World’s Best Father
by Dave Engledow
Gotham May 2014; 176 pgs

Just in time for Father’s Day (the publishers knew what they were doing with this project) may I present you first-time father David Engledow and his good-sport of a daughter, Alice Bee. When Engledow and his wife Jen found out they were becoming parents, Engledow knew he couldn’t become one of those people who posed sappy, clichéd photos of his child all over Facebook. So he dug into his Photojournalist’s tool bag, strapped on his darkly satirical sense of humor and made a book of professionally-done, hilariously inappropriate photos of Alice Bee and Daddy’s adventures. The picture that begat the project features a bedraggled Engledow, holding Alice Bee sideways like a football, while squirting her baby bottle (full of breast milk) into his morning coffee. The look on his face is perfect: tired, cranky and deadpan. That he caught Alice Bee watching the milk go into his coffee mug is perfection. Other scenarios in the book include making pancakes in bed, or one where Alice gleefully wields a pizza cutter while Engledow’s finger gushes blood. The photos will make you laugh but you’ll also see the love that the author feels for his daughter. The humor may be black but if anything it shows us the insecurity that a new father might feel, especially when, like Engledow, his military wife is away for an entire year, leaving him to make the big decisions and photo-document the proof. This is a well-done project worth the cost of the book.
 

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Further Joy by John Brandon
McSweeney’s, June 3, 2014; 208 pages.

This collection of eleven stories by novelist John Brandon (A Million Heavens, 2012, Citrus County, 2010) will appeal to fans of Denis Johnson, Lorrie Moore, Charles Portis and other darkly witty American writers. The stories are populated with people from diverse backgrounds — men of the cloth, gamblers, psychics — and all seem to be testing their own boundaries, seeing what it means to push themselves into new possibilities of existence. A woman in one story, “The Picnickers,” goes to visit an old girlfriend in Chicago and instead ends up having a semi-date with her friend’s teenage son. Because it’s good storytelling, our protagonist is sympathetic, because she’s searching for herself.
“For years she’d been trying to get herself to watch more TV, but none of it seemed intended for her. She wasn’t a target audience, she supposed — there wasn’t a spinster-in-training-of-above-average-intelligence demographic.”
In a more surreal story, “The Differing Views,” a heartbroken man comes home to a vision (or is it?) of seven human brains on his spare bedroom’s floor. In “The Midnight Gales” a religious cult is formed around the weather: storms rip through a small town, prying the roofs off of homes and randomly sweeping away its residents. Rather than study the weather, the people form a religion and that provides them with all the information they care to know. Again, it’s handled deftly by the author. Brandon isn’t afraid to experiment, both with what his characters are capable of or the way he guides those characters through language. The prose is original and illuminating, adding a voice to modern literature that will be welcomed by many.
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Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com

Bookmarks: Jeanann Verlee

Bookmarks: Jeanann Verlee

New York City-based poet Jeanann Verlee will perform as the special guest of Breaking Ground Poets at TwentyFiveEight Studios in Scranton on Saturday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.
 

Bookmarks

 
Jeanann Verlee’s poetry will make you feel something. Whether she’s digging into her past to present you with the archaeological finds of her painful and storied adolescence, or mining adulthood for those gems of reflection and realization, Verlee knows which relics to bring to the surface for examination. Here: the first broken heart, dressed in a pink Mohawk. Here: twenty years later and the heart wears more tattoos now. She will guide you along this tour, from small town to big city, from brash teen to humbled adult and even if you don’t share her experiences (and I venture to guess most of us don’t), you will be stunned and dazzled by her performer’s ability to draw you in and make you care, and really listen.
 
EC01BOOK_3_WEBVerlee has represented New York City six times at the National Poetry Slam under two of the most highly-regarded poetry performance series in the nation: Urbana Poetry Slam and The louderARTS Project. Verlee was the highest-scoring individual poet at the 2008 National Poetry Slam Finals, was the 2009 NYC-Urbana iWPS Champion, and represented NYC-louderARTS at the 2010 Women of the World Poetry Slam. She is director of the Urbana Poetry Slam reading series in New York City, and serves as writing and performance coach for this three-time NPS Championship venue. She has performed and facilitated workshops at schools, theatres, bookstores, dive bars and poetry venues across North America. Her publication credits include The New York Quarterly, Rattle, failbetter, kill author, and PANK. Her work is included in the poetry anthologies Not A Muse: The Inner Lives of Women and His Rib: Poems Stories and Essays by Her. Verlee’s first full-length book of poems, Racing Hummingbirds, earned the Independent Publisher Book Award Silver Medal in Poetry. Verlee won the Sandy Crimmins National Prize for Poetry and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart. She is a poetry editor for Union Station Magazine and the Poets Portrait Project Anthology.
 
Verlee brings her entirely unique voice to the stage of TwentyFiveEight Studios this Saturday at 6 p.m. and Tunkhannock’s youth-oriented poetry club, Breaking Ground Poets, will play host for the evening. The Breaking Ground Poets worked with Verlee last year to help prepare them for the nation’s largest youth poetry event, Brave New Voices. Verlee came in and coached the students on their writing and their performance, and I got to partake as host to the workshop. Verlee wears that label of “slam poet,” so I remember feeling curious as to how she would coach the students. I thought, “How does New York City slam poetry work together with Tunkhannock High School performance poetry? Where do those voices intersect?” and Jeanann did not disappoint, working with the students to find their authentic voices and best selves. I remember her one bit of advice, both for poetry and the prose of everyday life. Helping a student through a volatile, loud piece, Verlee offered, “Read me that poem again but say it to me in a whisper. Sometimes our anger is more powerful when we get quiet with it.”
 
Bookmarks appears bi-monthly in ec and dc. Send your literary news to: mcguigan.andrea@gmail.com.
 

The Telling

She is a tornado.
He is a man. He is solid and humble.
She tells the story three times, convinced
he does not understand. He is trying.
The story is about an elephant and a mermaid.
No, the story is about a millipede in a thicket of roses,
a prized buckskin horse and fifty lashes.
She is talking gibberish. He is trying to understand but she
is thunderbolt. Her tongue, a spear.
The dog is hiding in the back corner of a dark room.
The man wants to sit with the dog. She is melting.
Her face pools in her lap. Freckles pile at her feet.
There is nothing in the room that has not been hurled.
She is science like this. An atom, separating.
Finally, the story comes, like flood. Its mud seeps in from under the doorjambs, rising. They are standing ankle deep in water and sludge. He understands now.
He is a spiced wound. He wants firearms. Hit-men. A brutal justice.
All the while, the window is sitting with its mouth open,
spilling their hot storm into the courtyard,
where the neighbors have come to their sills, elbows propped, hungry
like vultures.

— Jeanann Verlee, from Racing Hummingbirds (“The Telling” is available via Kindle sample at amazon.com.)

 

New York City-based poet Jeanann Verlee will perform as the special guest of Breaking Ground Poets at Twenty-Five Eight Studios in Scranton on Saturday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.

New York City-based poet Jeanann Verlee will perform as the special guest of Breaking Ground Poets at Twenty-Five Eight Studios in Scranton on Saturday at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10.