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February 2007

Amy Wallen

by Susan Henderson on February 28, 2007

This week: AmyWallen at Trader Joe’s

It’s crazy how many big-time writers I know. Unfair, really. A person shouldn’t be allowed to know as many successful writers as I do. Especially if that person is, himself, an unsuccessful writer who has been slogging at the craft for a decade and a half, and who loathes himself for using words like “the craft.” And especially if that person has had to make certain compromises along the way, and he took a job at a pest control company where he has been forced to pen junk mail slogans like “Ants In Your Plants?” and “Bugs In Your Rugs?”

My pal Stephen Dobyns has written, like, five thousand books that are now part of many MFA curriculums. Bestselling amigo Josh Kilmer-Purcell is finishing up a big screenplay for Hollywood. But of all the writers in my circle who’ve hit it big, Amy Wallen is the one I know best, and her debut novel MOONPIES AND MOVIE STARS just reached number ten on last week’s Los Angeles Times bestseller list.

The writer Gore Vidal once said, “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.” Who in the world would say such a horrible thing out loud?

Besides, Amy and I have been comrades in the writing trenches for twelve years. We hang out together, and swap crude e-mails and insulting jabs. I don’t even call her by her real name. To me, she’s been “Amos” for as long as I can remember. I think that this bothers her. And I think that’s why I do it.

She dishes it out, too. I recently learned how to operate the cutting-edge technology known as MySpace. Amy is my only MySpace friend, and hers is my only comment: “Did you get a face lift? Your jowls don’t show in this photo.”

One night she coaxed each person in our writing group to bring in a piece that imitated my sparse, more “butch” style of prose. That was something. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen a room full of writers howling as they fight for their turn to read aloud and make a mockery of your craft.

To balance her chronic wickedness, Amy does a lot of volunteer work. One day a week she reads books to elementary school children in the tough part of town. To raise money for the non-profit San Diego Writers, Ink, she hosts a popular open-mic event called First Friday, where each month writers can bring three minutes of prose and try it out in front of a big audience (Each of these 3-minute stories are just a click away, free and in .mp3 form, at www.FirstFridayProse.com). She also leads a read & critique group, hosts a weekly drop-in writing practice group, and teaches a creative writing course at the University of California at San Diego.

And then there’s another thing that she does to feel better about herself. She buys her groceries at Trader Joe’s. Do you have these in your part of the world? If not, check again tomorrow. The stores are spreading as fast as Starbucks and bird flu combined. Trader Joe’s is a Southern California chain that delivers organic-grain/holistic-produce/pesticide-free-yogurt/farm-fresh-hummus to hip, urban dwellers who receive large advances for first novels. Here are some things they don’t offer: Twinkies. Lucky Charms. Doritos. Peter Pan Chunky Peanut Butter. Pop Tarts.

Amy tells me on the phone that she has to make a run to Trader Joe’s today. She needs “emergency guacamole.”

We decide to meet in the parking lot of the store in Hillcrest. When she sees me, though, she suddenly remembers that the trunk of her VW bug doesn’t have room for groceries today. It’s laden with shiny copies of MOONPIES AND MOVIE STARS.

“The book tour”¦” she groans, as if to say, ’aren’t book tours a bitch?’ and I’m forced to wonder for a second if I’ve ever really liked her at all.

I’m supposed to interview her while she shops, inside the store. I have brought my recording gear.

“I should probably ask for permission,” I say. Amy agrees, and I go into the store, where I’m directed to a manager who, after hearing my request, looks at me as if I’ve asked to spray paint my gang affiliation across the gluten-free, buckwheat-flour bread rack.

This is another thing I forgot to mention about Trader Joe’s. Even though most of them are just wedged into strip malls, everybody acts like the stores are hallowed ground. The customers radiate an eerie, euphoric devotion that’s rarely seen outside, say, a Navajo sweat lodge. They’re evangelical, and they’re always saying things like, “Have you tried the new Wasabi Tamari Almonds yet?”

I’m not real surprised when the Trader Joe’s manager tells me that I can’t record inside the store, and I curse myself for going against my credo that it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. Amy suggests that we drive down the hill to another Trader Joe’s and “go clandestine.” Four minutes later, we’re at the next one. I strap the recorder over my shoulder and then cover myself with a big, heavy jacket that’s been sitting in the back of my truck for months. I bury the foot-long microphone in my inside pocket and loop the cable so I can tuck it into my waistband.

“You look very natural,” Amy says. “They’ll probably call the bomb squad.”

I decide I should push a cart in front of me. Amy’s shopping list is deceptively simple, and within thirty seconds she has already scratched off Trader Joe’s brand Applewood-Smoked Niman Ranch Bacon.

Also in the same refrigerator section is the ready-made Trader Jose’s Avocado’s Number Guacamole, “with 5+ avocados.” Ready-made guacamole offends me on about five-plus levels, but Amy tosses a package in her cart. It turns out that tonight is Taco Tuesday, a monthly dinner event with some of her writer friends. An event that I am just now hearing about for the first time ever. But before I can express my feelings about this, a Trader Joe’s employee gets in front of my face.

“How you doin’, buddy? What’s goin’ on?” The words are friendly, but the voice is not.

I’m suddenly feeling like a coke mule about to get my passport stamped at Miami International. I stammer that I’m interviewing Amy because she’s a big-time author, and I want to show the stuff she likes to buy, and I stammer and I stammer and I stammer. It makes the guy uncomfortable and, in the end, he just allows me to continue.

(Click here to listen to the 90-second “Emergency Guacamole/Here Comes the Fuzz” segment.)

We’ve now been inside the store for three minutes.

“They’re like the Gestapo,” I say.

“They have the best cheese in the world,” Amy says, oblivious to the fascism. I realize now that she’s deep into this cult. She won’t even see the Kool-Aid coming. She places a wedge of Dubliner Irish Cheese in the cart, followed, a moment later, by a single Trader Joe’s Bean & Cheese Burrito.

We cross to the juice aisle and Amy grabs a jug of something called Dynamo+Calcium. She tries to remember if she used up the last of her Mango Anti-Oxidant Juice.

(Click here to listen to the 75-second “What Flavor Is Dynamo?” segment.)

We circle around an end-cap of hormone-free, free-range chicken eggs and start down the cracker aisle.

“This is a main staple for me,” she says. Everyday at lunch, it turns out, Amy eats chicken salad on crackers.

I ask her when the whole OCD Chicken Salad thing began.

“My mother always had tuna salad,” she says, “and so I always had tuna salad my whole life, and then the tuna started making my hair fall out, because of the mercury.”

(Click here to listen to the 2-minute “OCD Chicken Salad” segment.)

We pass the booze aisle without even slowing. In the next aisle are cleaning supplies.

“Are you familiar with the Castile Soap?” Amy says. She holds up a bottle that looks like the jewelry cleaning solution my grandmother kept under the sink. Amy reads a list of uses from the back of the bottle, the last line of which states, “Enjoy only two cosmetics: enough sleep and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to clean body, mind, soul, spirit — instantly uniting all as one.”

(Click here to listen to the 60-second “Castile Soap” segment.)

In the dairy section, Amy knocks two more items off her list: Trader Joe’s Lowfat Vanilla Soy Milk and Trader Joe’s Nonfat Vanilla Yogurt. These, she says, are building blocks for her greatest indulgence. She’s almost giddy now. At the end of the dairy fridge is a wall of hundreds of cereal boxes, not one of which I’ve ever seen before. No Lucky Charms. No Cap’n Crunch. Not even the fruit-based, healthy stuff, like Apple Jacks or Froot Loops. Trader Joe’s sells cereals called Organic Flax Plus, Wheatabix, Hemp Plus Granola ”“ and Amy’s favorites: Maple Pecan Granola and something called Just the Clusters Ginger, Almond, and Cashew Granola. She grabs two huge boxes of each.

“This one I eat in the morning with soy milk,” she says, shaking the maple one. “And this one I eat with yogurt when I’m watching The Daily Show.”

(Click here to listen to the 2-minute“The Holy Grail of Cereals” segment.)

Soon, all that’s left is the produce section. The vegetables look fresh, but the signs say that everything is organic, and pesticide-free. I know that I’m probably biased by the job at the exterminating company, but when I learn that something is organic, I expect it to rot quickly. When something is pesticide-free, I expect it to be full of bugs. I mention this to Amy. Her response borders on Zen.

“Life is like a bag of spinach,” she says. “Sometimes you get a nice salad with a raspberry vinaigrette, and sometimes you die of E. coli.”

When she’s with important people, Amy will do things like wear sequins, and wash her hair.

We should talk about her novel, but we don’t. Don’t get me wrong ”“ MOONPIES AND MOVIE STARS is great. Too great. It’s funny. It’s sad. It’s had a bajillion stellar reviews, including one in the LA Times that said, in part, that Amy’s heartfelt narrative has “an important place in contemporary writing”¦ Eschewing detachment and irony”¦ Wallen scoots under our rib cage, right where the deepest hurts of the human condition lie. The best humor, after all, has it’s roots in pain.” She’s been invited to sit on a panel about humor writing at the upcoming Los Angeles Times Book Festival. Amy has an amazing website at www.AmyWallen.com. She is likeable. She’s funny. She’s pretty.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Why do I have to have friends that make me feel bad about myself?

(SUSAN – THIS IS WHERE I PLAN TO MAGICALLY TIE IT ALL TOGETHER AND MAKE IT SEEM LIKE THE STORY IS REALLY ABOUT AMY, AND PEOPLE WILL FORGET HOW SELF-CENTERED I AM… THX”¦ James Spring, of www.JamesRSpring.com)

(Click here for a 90-second bonus track called “Amy’s 1st Short Story story,” recorded inside my truck.)

Click here for Ten Questions with Amy Wallen.

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AMY WALLEN‘s favorites: The number 10, the letter A, the color teal, chicken salad, the XKE Jaguar, the song You Are My Sunshine, Catcher in the Rye, the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe and of Mary Gordon, the mimosa tree, dogs. She prefers plastic to paper bags.

JAMES R. SPRING is a writer, sort of, living in Southern California. When he’s not killing bugs or trying to sell manuscripts that he has worked his whole life to create, he does stories for THIS AMERICAN LIFE and other NPR outlets.

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Question of the Week: Friends' Success

by Susan Henderson on February 26, 2007

You and your group of writer friends have been struggling in the business for years – workshopping each others’ stories, crying together through all of the rejections. Now, finally, your friend gets that break that seemed like it would never come! And you feel . . . . ?

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My pal James Spring has the enviable job of working regularly with Ira Glass for This American Life. But his real desire is to find a publisher for his book.

Wednesday, James will take you organic grocery shopping with author, Amy Wallen, his friend whose debut novel has just made the bestseller list. And he’ll address the issue of watching friends get where you want to be. See you then!

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P.S. Ira Glass is #1 on LitPark’s wishlist. Number one.

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Weekly Wrap: How We Make Use of Conferences

by Susan Henderson on February 23, 2007

Thank you to Enrico Casarosa for what came in the mail. Gorgeous! I’ll share soon when things aren’t so crazy. And Lance, we’re all thinking about you in Rock Creek.

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Okay. The Question of the Week concerned the AWP conference. AWP stands for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, and each year they have a conference in a different city, where writers and editors and publishers congregate. Not the big guns – not Random House and The New Yorker and those types – but the medium to small guys, like Ploughshares, Tin House, Other Press, and so on. And what do they do when they congregate and how useful is all of this? Well, it depends. What I can do is share my experience of attending the AWP conference in Vancouver, and maybe that will shed a little light.

When I went to AWP two years ago, I was the managing editor of a little literary magazine called Night Train. We paid some reasonable fee to have a table at this conference, and the senior and founding editor, Rusty Barnes, went, as well. If you’ve ever run a small literary magazine, you know that there is always the issue of a miniscule budget. So with Night Train covering the expense of two tickets to Canada, two hotel rooms, and the cost of getting several boxes of the magazine there, as well, we did not want to waste our chance to make something of this trip. What did we want to accomplish? Basically, we wanted more people to know of our magazine, and we hoped they’d find that it was better than the others. And maybe, rather than meeting more people who wanted to submit their stories and add to our workload, we’d actually meet people who wanted to subscribe or even help fund the magazine.

Now imagine a long and hopeful plane ride in which small-time editors feel important and feel as though their time in Canada will lead to a new level of glory in the business. Also, imagine that they have brought along two things they do not get paid to do – one, to write the novel that is never good enough to send out, and two, to read about 70 stories that have been submitted to the magazine that week for potential publication, though all of them will get rejection letters.

When I arrived in Canada, and waited in a customs line filled with hundreds of editors, I experienced what would be the beginning of my understanding that I am not really the introvert I always thought I was. In fact, I found that I was a closeted extrovert. And worse, later, when I told this to Mr. Henderson, I discovered that I was maybe the only one who ever believed I was shy.

Let the networking begin! In line, I chatted up editors, talked about Night Train, exchanged cards, and found that every editor there believed they were publishing “the best and edgiest fiction of our times.” We all looked slightly shocked and annoyed with each other when we said the names of our literary publications and heard each other say, “Hmm, I don’t know that one.” This theme is going to become increasingly important (and depressing) as my story of AWP continues

On to the conference. Now my focus, clearly, was on the bookfair portion of the conference, but when you sign in, you’re given a press-pass looking name tag and a catalogue of the most ridiculous number of overlapping panels. They had everything from panels of debut novelists talking about what they learned to readings by people I considered literary gods to absolutely trivial stuff that reminded me of joke Ph.D. dissertation topics. I moved right along to the bookfair.

Imagine a giant room, the size of a ballroom, and now make a mouse maze within that room, using folding tables, and on each table are books containing “the best, edgiest fiction of our times.” Say there are thirty rows and in each row there are 20 folding tables touching, and the tables that don’t fit into the ballroom are lining the hallway. Okay, and now I sit at table 400-something while editors and conference goers wind their way through the mouse maze. Here we go!

Rusty preferred to sit at the table and talk geeky deep-sixed literature with those who stopped to say hello, and I ventured out, visiting every single table to get the pulse of each editor and magazine. From a writer’s perspective, that was probably the most useful thing I did in Vancouver because right away you learn which magazines are arrogant and clique-y, which are run by stodgy or just-this-side-of-the-mental-institution editors, and which ones are compatible with your own style. Once I went to every table, I found myself making frequent return-trips to Agni, Post Road, Bloom, Ninth Letter, and CLMP because, frankly, some people are way more fun to hang out with than others.

The idea of standing out became secondary to enjoying time with people who share your passions. The other thing was to get the best swag without looking greedy. “Swag,” for those of you who’ve never gotten any, means the free things (rulers, clocks, t-shirts) given to you with hopes that you’ll remember a particular publication. My kids, for example, got One Story tattoos from the Vancouver AWP. That is swag.

I roomed with my good friend, Gail Siegel, and staying up talking and eating and being overwhelmed together was really the best of the trip. Because, by day two of the conference, I definitely began to experience this “We’re all going to die” feeling. And by that, I mean the overwhelming sense that everyone is a writer and no one is a reader, that our dreams of making a profit were stupid because we couldn’t even give the magazines away. And who reads these little publications? And what of the poor fools who are there to hand-sell their genius novels and will be lucky to sell five?

It was really really depressing, because as each person left the conference, you started to see piles of brand new books (the books we’d all given away in hopes of our publications and our writers being discovered) lying all around the trash bins in the lobby. People were dumping books on the way to the airport – and I’d do the same – and it felt bad in ways that were deep and lasting.

Also lasting were friendships, of course, but it’s a mixed bag, and it puts a visual on the uphill journey of the writer. Maybe for some of you, it’s better not to have that visual weighing down your hope and confidence, which are the things we absolutely must hold on to in order to keep going.

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Thanks to this week’s guest, Jeff Lependorf, who is the perfect blend of hopeful and practical in the world of indie publishing. And thank you to those who answered the Question of the Week: Gail Siegel, Robin Slick, Juliet, Carolyn Burns Bass, mikel k poet, Kim Chinquee, Lori Oliva, Terry, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Marcy, Daryl, Alexander Chee, bruce hoppe, and J.D. Smith.

Finally, if you’re going to AWP and you take some good pictures, I’m happy to post them.

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Jeffrey Lependorf

by Susan Henderson on February 21, 2007

I probably throw around the name of today’s guest more than any other. I’m thinking of starting my own indie publishing house. Who should I talk to about this? Jeff Lependorf. Is there a way to tell the legitimate small presses from the scams? Yes. Ask Jeff Lependorf. Is publishing poetry a futile effort? No. Ask Jeff Lependorf. We can’t seem to keep our literary magazine afloat. Lependorf. Quick!

Jeffrey Lependorf is the executive director of the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) as well as the executive director of Small Press Distribution (SPD). And I don’t know of a more knowledgeable advocate for literary and non-profit publishers. If you’re going to the AWP conference in Atlanta next week, be sure to say hello to Jeff. Or you can say hello right here, right now!

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An assortment of literary magazines.

Talk to me about the current state of publishing, as you see it. First with mainstream press and then with small, independent press.

Lots of ways to answer this question! All of publishing finds itself in something of a crisis: will most people chose to read a book or watch a DVD? The National Endowment for the Arts‘ “Reading at Risk” study indicates that literary reading is on the decline, particularly among younger readers. From the perspective of committed readers, more than 700,000 books appeared last year; even if we do already love to read and buy books, how do we sort through all of that? The publishing of a book…bringing a work from a writer to a reader…requires many steps through a labyrinth of entities well beyond the actual publisher, including distributors, wholesalers, booksellers, and a variety of marketing means and media that let readers know about a book. Readers are out there, and many of them want to read better books, but how do we reach those readers? All publishers face this same dilemma. Because most books find their way to readers through a single, giant marketplace, literary books face considerable challenges in competing for attention, and whether a press be large or small, commercial or non-profit, most of the books they produce will only have a chance of reaching readers if they do enter this highly competitive marketplace and make themselves known.

Because there are so many books, and because there are so many other things competing for the attention of potential readers, in some ways smaller presses may be better positioned these days to reach their potential readers and, within their own scale, to fare better in the marketplace. From a financial perspective, because there is less financial risk in publishing smaller print runs and marketing budgets tend to be smaller, smaller publishers can sometimes fare better in a competitive marketplace than their larger, commercial counterparts. Here’s why: books from the largest publishers generally exist unto themselves; a book sells because of the interest in that book, not because a particular house publishes it. With a small press, however, each publisher represents a particular, focused sensibility (it’s easy to talk about a “Copper Canyon” book or an “Ugly Duckling” book or a “Soft Skull” book), and readers in the know recognize that those “brands” mean something well beyond the size of a budget. Also, because the audiences for things like poetry, experimental fiction, works in translation, etc….the kinds of books most likely to be published by small publishers…often know each other (be it through reading/writing groups, blogs or online communities, MFA programs, etc.), “viral” or word-of-mouth marketing can be quite effective as these readers may be more likely to seek out the particular books and publishers that specifically serve their needs. One a small press identifies and reaches its community, that’s a community likely to remain loyal. And of course, a book that doesn’t fair well represents less of a financial loss. Small Press Distribution had a fantastic year, experiencing an impressive increase in book orders, and this reflects a healthy marketplace for small publishers, even given the many hurdles that must be traversed along the way.

2007 Small Press Month Poster

Define small press. What kind of budget and distribution are we talking about?

I prefer to “officially” use the term “independent literary publisher.” Some are very tiny, with budgets well under $10,000, who may produce only a title or two a year, and some have budgets well over a million dollars with catalogues boasting more than 75 titles a year. The great majority fall into the former category. What makes them unique is that they are mission-driven to publish literature (poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction), as opposed to bottom line-driven, and obviously they are not part of a larger conglomerate.

In what ways can CLMP and SPD help small press publications?

Both organizations help small publishers through the business of publishing. CLMP provides technical assistance and advocates on behalf of small publishers. Technical assistance can come in the form of one-on-one help, through workshops, publications, re-grants, or through a variety of activities that allow our community to use each other as resources. We help with things like non-profit or small business management, distribution, marketing, and fundraising. We advocate on behalf of the field to potential funders, and other sectors of the publishing ecosystem, and hold a number of public events, such as small press and literary magazine fairs, to raise the profile of independent literary publishers to readers. Small Press Distribution similarly serves independent literary publishers, primarily as the last remaining non-profit distributor of small press books. It’s through SPD that many of the books produced by our community physically find their way into readers hands. SPD also advocates on behalf of publishers through public programs and provides them with technical assistance to better maneuver the marketplace.

Houston, TX Literary Magazine and Small Press Fair (a sampling, before the buyers arrived)

You’ve talked before about the difference between printing a book or magazine and publishing one. What are the common mistakes folks make in thinking they’ve published something when they’ve merely printed it?

Simply put (perhaps this should be printed on my shirt by now”¦), as far as we’re concerned, until a book reaches a readers’ hands, it hasn’t really been published. “To Publish” means “to make public,” so that incorporates the full gamut of activities from editing to printing to marketing to distributing to bookselling, etc. Many publishers and writers make the mistake of thinking that the mere existence of a book constitutes publishing. It doesn’t! Potential readers are unlikely to buy a book if they’ve never heard of it or can’t find it in a bookstore (or online, etc.). Again, books exist in a sea of possibilities, and part of the publishing process is narrowing those possibilities for a particular reader. Not putting an emphasis on marketing is one common mistake (a similar misconception is that marketing requires a large budget), another is not paying attention to good design and layout (to many readers a book can really only be as good as its cover), and another is for the writer to not be actively involved in the process of getting a book out there.

If someone wants to start a literary magazine, what advice would you give them? And how about if someone wants to start a new indie publishing house? (Maybe “house” is a silly word to use.)

A good place to start would be to visit www.clmp.org, where there’s a treasure trove of basic information (such as a monograph called “How To Start a Magazine”). We’ve been helping small publishers through start up phases since 1967, so there are a multitude of wheels that don’t need re-inventing. Secondly, be clear on a focused mission. A common mistake is to simply want to publish good stuff; it’s much better to narrow that focus and be clear about exactly who your potential readers will likely be. You’ll get more attention and have a greater impact. Also, talk to as many other small publishers as you can. We’re a helpful and generous community, so take advantage of that…those of us who care about literature are all in this together. Finally, start modestly and then grow. Cash flow can be a major issue for start-ups (and in fact for publishers at any stage)…plan ahead and don’t over-project potential income; there may not be any for a while. Try to gather support and identify your audience first.

Flyer for panel discussion and poetry karaoke event as part of Hudson, NY Literary Magazine and Small Press Fair.

Thoughts on self-publishing and print-on-demand?

Self-publishing if done well can be terrific, but unfortunately it generally exists, as described above, more as mere printing. If you are an ace guerilla marketer, go for it, but if not, you’re probably far better off putting in the work to be published by an experienced press. They will have a catalogue, the work will be more likely to be reviewed, and most writers benefit from a professional editor, among the many things that a real publisher provides. Print-on-demand (POD), which is simply a way to print, gets better and better; in fact, to most eyes, when done well, it will be fairly indistinguishable from traditional offset printing. For many small publishers, particularly poetry publishers, POD provides a cost-effective means toward real publishing.

What plans do you have for AWP?

There are more independent literary publishers at AWP than at any other one place in the entire year. CLMP has a full roster of roundtables, panels, and workshops planned for independent literary publishers, including how to market experimental titles and how to develop a business plan. SPD will also be there representing hundred of publishers who can’t be there in person. I think the best aspect of the conference is a chance to meet each other and experience in person the wonderful scope of our community.

What are some ways publishers, editors and writers can take advantage of AWP?

The best thing to do is make sure that you meet each other…there’s no substitute for spending time with colleagues.

2006 Small Press Month poster

What are you reading these days?

I’m just finishing a book from Graywolf Press called The Translation of Dr. Apelles: A Love Story, by David Treuer, which I absolutely love; it somehow manages to be a good old-fashioned read and groundbreaking at the same time. I also just read The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography from Mode A/This Press, a collection of writings by San Francisco language poets that makes for a wonderful read through an important poetry movement by some unique voices that were a part of it. My favorite book of last year was one from Archipelago Press, called Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury, a stunningly beautiful novel in translation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and a love letter to the art of storytelling.

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On another topic, those of you regulars who know and love the giant-hearted Lance Reynald, would you leave him a note to remind him how adored he is around here? Lance’s dad just died, and he has some business to sort out. Some of us come into the world with a host of supportive family members and others rely on the family they adopt along the way. Don’t underestimate how important you are to him.

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Question of the Week: AWP

by Susan Henderson on February 19, 2007

What do you know about the annual AWP conference? Have you gone in the past? Are you going this year?

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Wednesday, we’re hanging with Jeff Lependorf before he leaves for AWP. In my opinion, there is no greater champion of literature and indie presses. So, if you are a poet, a short story writer, a reader or an editor of a literary magazine, an author or a publisher of a small press, this is the most knowledgeable and influential person you can possibly know. He’s a good egg, and I hope you’ll be back to join the conversation.

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One last thing. Back in September, when I started LitPark, I kind of tricked my amazing O. Henry Award winning webmaster, Terry Bain, into giving the first interview. But it wasn’t really an interview. It was more of a public pestering, and I’ve decided to add a proper interview to his link. So click here and read the new (and also the old, if you want to) and remember to thank Terry for doing all the hard, technical work of keeping LitPark running.

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