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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 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.
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.
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?"
I read that in one email. And then in another.
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.
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.