Suzanne Strempek Shea
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Past Updates

One day soon, I will wander down to my mailbox to find that my very cool postman, Kevin Kumpulanian, has left a long-awaited piece of mail: an actual copy of my new book, "This Is Paradise: An Irish Mother's Grief, an African Village's Plight and the Medical Clinic That Brought Fresh Hope to Both."
A year ago, I finished writing "This is Paradise" the story of Irishwoman Mags Riordan and the medical clinic she founded in the Malawian village where her son died in 1999. I spend 3 ½ years working on this book, on three continents, and I'm thrilled to announce that it will be published in April.
I never liked playing tag. I am not a fast runner so I often was the one being told “You’re it!” And, as not a fast runner, whenever I was “it,” I took me ages to finally get my hand on somebody and be free of the stress of the whole thing.

Do you do the resolution thing?

Annually, my list includes the all-capped MAKE BETTER USE OF TIME.

Maybe leaving out the "my" was a start – I scrawled the line all the more quickly by skipping a word - but I also already knew the time was my own. How much I have, though, is the big mystery, as it is for all of us. I tend to hope for the most time possible, but also try to live like I don't have a lot left. Cancer was a great kick in the rear, as were the too-soon deaths of several souls dear to me. What do I want to do with the time I have on this planet?

The world changes every day. But in my corner of it, there have been great changes since I last posted. A pair of tornadoes tore through 19 Western Massachusetts communities on June 1, leaving a 39-mile path of destruction.
I hope this finds you reading something wonderful. Listening counts, too, and I've just had the great pleasure of listening to the CD of Barack Obama's first book, the 2004 "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance." This transfixing and so-honestly told story of family, race and identity delves into our president's early years, and if you do listen on CD, you'll hear him to a do as stellar job relating his story as he did writing it. Put this book next on your list.
Hi Everyone and Happy New Year! I hope it’ll be filled with many great things for you. The past year indeed held its share for me, and once again I thank so many fabulous and kind readers for their support and interest. Without you, I wouldn’t get to do this for a living. And I’m very happy to be living. This summer I marked the tenth anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis, a wakeup call that continues to tap me on the shoulder and remind me how lucky I am. As an old t-shirt of mine proclaims, I’m “Just glad to be here.”
I hope this finds everyone well and reading something fantastic. I have a stack of new titles awaiting me, several of those collected in July at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA residency. I was so thrilled to pick up books by grads, and those included "Blood Strangers: A Memoir" by Katherine A. Bricetti ; the novel "Sticklebacks and Snowglobes" by Bunny Goodjohn; and the poetry collection "Suspended Animation" by Florine Melnyk. All three were in Maine for an alumni reading, and it was fantastic to see them again.

It was at a reading that I fell in love with Nuala NiChonchuir's work. This was in Howth, Co. Dublin, where in May I was part of the most recent of Ted and Annie Deppe's wonderful annual Curlew Conferences for writers and poets. Nuala is a dazzling young writer whose novel "You" will become attached to your hand for the duration of the reading. It's no pun that you absolutely cannot put this book down once you begin, even for the briefest sneeze or reaching for another sweet potato potato chip. Told in second person yet not gimmicky in the least - rather it includes one of the most real narrators, a child's voice and point of view that should be in a textbook - it's my new book to gush about to anyone who will listen. Nuala herself is pretty cool, too, and you can learn more about her at her website and you can learn more about a lot of things writerly at her blog.

I'm also very excited about the recent release of "Foster" by Claire Keegan, another Irish writer and another of my most favorite fiction goddesses. At 96 pages, this is an extended version of the story by the same name that ran in February in The New Yorker. Those lucky enough to be at the Curlew Conference in Howth attended both a master class by Claire, and heard her read this full version of the story. Eileen Battersby of The Irish Times recently wrote "The feel for the form of the Wicklow-born writer Claire Keegan is as unwavering as if she had first begun to sing opera in the mountains without ever having a music lesson. Her subversive stories are written with the sureness of touch possessed by only the most natural of musicians. The influences of her masters, William Trevor, John McGahern and, most intriguingly, Michael McLaverty, are evident, yet her stately, rhythmic prose, and its physicality, detached tone and assurance, are all her own."

And in the New Books by a Dynamic-and-Couldn't-Be-Nicer Literary Power Couple category, there's the latest from Cat Bennett and Allan Hunter. Cat's "The Saturday Morning Drawing Club Manual" is about finding your true creative self through the practice of drawing, something I eager to explore. Allan's "Princes, Frogs and Ugly Sisters: The Healing Power of the Grimm Brothers' Tales" analyzes the Grimm tales' insights for living a better life. It just arrived in my mailbox this morning and is calling to me right now.

But first, I need to finish this...

I need to thank those who attended my recent rare summer events. I usually don't have a lot of readings during that season, but this year had a tumble in a row just after Stonecoast, including meeting some enthusiastic readers in Ocean Park, Maine; at All Saints Church in South Hadley, Mass.; the Emily Williston Library in Easthampton, Mass.; and at the Hampden County Correctional Center in Ludlow, Mass.

Upcoming events include a return to Easthampton on Sept. 29, to read at the Williston Northampton School (www.williston.com) as part of its Writer's Workshop series. This program, begun in 1998 by Elinor Lipman, Anita Shreve and Madeleine Blais, brings well-known and accomplished authors to campus, where they work with advanced writing students in a class setting. Learn more about the series at http://www.williston.com/Page.aspx?pid=486. The portion of my visit that will be open to the public is the 7 p.m. reading in the Reed Campus Center's Dodge Room.

I'll be teaching again at Bay Path College in Longmeadow, Mass. next spring, and as the college's writer-in-residence have been working on additional book-related events there.

David Anthony Durham will visit the campus at 7 p.m. Oct. 21. The internationally best-selling author of such diverse books as "Gabriel's Story," a historical novel featuring black homesteaders and cowboys, and "Acadia: The War with the Mein, a speculative novel set in an alternative world, will talk about his work, read, and sign copies the bookstore will be present to sell.

Bay Path's second Writers' Day will be held Saturday, Oct. 30. Our first, back in April, was an energizing and inspiring day of lectures on topics including research, writing a biography and starting a novel. It's a wonderful chance to connect with other writers, learn about craft and also get books signed by speakers. Spend the day soaking up expert advice on self-publishing, blogging, fantasy writing, screenwriting and interviewing.

The workshops will be led by two-time World Science Fiction Society's Hugo Award recipient James Patrick Kelly; screenwriter of the award-winning Film "Frida," Diane Lake; founder and publisher of www.fiftyshift.com and former Sunday Boston Globe columnist BJ Roche; Tom Shea, award-winning columnist for The Republican, and author of books both traditionally published and self-published, John Sheirer. For details on the speakers, as well as fees and how to register, contact Briana Sitler at bsitler@baypath.edu.

At Bay Path on Dec. 1 at 7 p.m., I'll be introducing Boston Globe columnist Jan Gardner as she speaks about books in general, and makes suggestions for holiday gift titles. Jan's "Shelf Life" column runs each Sunday in the Globe, and is a must-read for anyone who wants to keep in touch with the latest and best reads coming from or having something to do with our corner of the world.

I've been continuing to write for Obit magazine, with one of my most recent pieces on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Among Obit's readers is Claire Noland, Los Angeles Times' obituary editor. I was delighted to have another essay mentioned in a piece she wrote in the spring.

Yet another essay, this one on writing about setting, is included in the recently released book "Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today's Best Writers," which was edited by Sherry Ellis.

Now, I'm off to write. And then read. Join me in either or both.
It's sweltering here in Bondsville but it's been so cool to finish writing my sixth novel. I sent it to my agent on the first day of summer and that was a wonderful celebration.
Hello!

It's time to ponder your summer reading picks, and plenty of great ideas will be offered at the third annual "Are You a Bookie?" book club event June 13 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bay Path College, 588 Longmeadow St., Longmeadow, Mass.
Hello!

On April 1, I'll celebrate release of the paperback of "Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith." Join me that night at 7 at the West Springfield Public Library in West Springfield, Mass., for a reading and signing. I'm very grateful for the kindness of so many faithful readers, and so many new ones, for keeping me so busy since the book was published by Beacon back in March of last year.
...and that includes the season of fall. I was seven hours north over the weekend, on Maine’s gorgeous Deer Isle, for a weekend retreat run by the magnificent Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance (www.mainewriters.org), on the beautiful drive saw enough leaves starting to turn. I love this season and the whole back-to-school feeling it provides, spurring us to new starts of all kinds. For me, those have included research for a new book I hope to soon propose, and I’ve been doing all that while continuing to promote "Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith." I'm very grateful for the kindness of so many faithful readers, and so many new ones, for keeping me that busy since the book was published by Beacon back in March.
A big hello from Bondsville as I update the site with one hand and pack for Maine with the other. I'm heading off to teach at the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program and looking forward to seeing so many wonderful students and staffers there.
I visited Edwards Books yesterday and saw stacks of proof that "Sundays in America: A Yearlong Road Trip in Search of Christian Faith" is now in print. Janet Edwards has enthusiastically ordered something like 250 copies and I stood there thinking how it was just about two years ago that I started wondering what makes one Christian religion different from the next – and Tommy, as he often does, suggested "Write about it." The result is this book, my eighth, and my third of non-fiction.
Hello and greetings from New England, which is a big change from Florida, where I've spent the past three and a half months. I've just finished a semester as a visiting writer in the Creative Writing Department at the University of South Florida at Tampa (www.usf.edu). Big thanks again to Rita Ciresi (www.ritaciresi.com), director of USF's Creative Writing Program, who suggested me for the post, and USF English Department Chair Hunt Hawkins, who hired me, and to the wonderful students in my Fiction III and Fiction Writing classes.
Here's an early look at the cover of the book that'll be out in March from Beacon Press. I did the final edits at Beacon's Boston headquarters a few weeks ago and got a look at this final version of the cover that day. I also met with my new publicist, Gina Frey and she and I are beginning a calendar of readings and signings for the new book. Anyone who'd like to book a "Sundays in America" reading or signing at a bookstore, library, social club or book group is invited to contact me (sess7@comcast.net) or Gina (gfrey@beacon.org). I'll be traveling throughout the country to promote the book next spring and soon will be adding the first few dates to this site's events page.
Yes, I normally update my website more frequently than every six months! I apologize to those who've been checking, and I'm very happy to finally have the time to be posting some. Just yesterday I sent my editor the final chapters of a new book, "Sundays in America."
Greetings and wishes for peace this season, some of the type demonstrated here by sweet young Bisquick, our new pup, who came to live with us a month ago and is shown here meditating on Cape Cod last weekend during his first visit to the ocean.
Hello from New England, where I'm enjoying gorgeous fall scenery during a rare few days at home. Since April, I've been traveling each week to research a book on Protestant churches in America. Having been raised Catholic, I literally was told the ceiling would fall on me if I ever entered any other type of church. I'm both testing that theory and getting a great education about the rest of Christianity by attending Sunday services in churches from here to Hawaii.
Dear Readers:

Every author should have such an enthusiastic relative as I have in my sister-in-law Karen, who recently answered my long overdue "Hi, how are you" phone greeting with "Do you have a new book out yet?"

If you missed your chance to get there this year, make plans for next spring. Inspired by the beading main character in "Becoming Finola," Beadventure Travel has asked me to teach a memoir workshop in Ireland next spring. Here's the brochure, and our invitation to join us in April/May of 2007 for writing, beading and sightseeing!
"Too bad about Tatnuck."

I read that in one email. And then in another.

Hello Readers!

I write this on the official pub date for the new Harry Potter book, an exciting day in the world of books and bookstores. I'm teaching in the woods of Maine but several copies have made their way here and are being devoured already. I hope that whatever you're currently reading, you're enjoying it as much as these Harry readers are loving their books.

All that romance, mystery, drama, and other page-turning adventures from a year in a bookstore is now available in paperback. Beacon Press has created a slightly redesigned and slightly shining cover, and it still features the Van Gogh! If your usual book source doesn't have it yet, the paperback can be ordered by using the ISBN 0-8070-7259-1 The price is $14.
I'm not changing the photo this month, because the weather really hasn't changed much. Check back in June...

In the meantime, visit the "News" page on this site and enjoy the thorough and fascinating writing of Grazyna J. Kozaczka, an English professor at New York's Cazenovia College whose paper "The Invention of Ethnicity and Gender in Suzanne Strempek Shea's Fiction" is used with gratitude to both her and to The Polish Review (www.piasa.org/polishreview.html), which published this piece in its Vol. XLVIII, No. 3, 2003.