As mentioned in a previous post, I’m swapping blog posts today with Katy Manck of BooksYALove. I provided her with a writeup of the new young adult novel Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy. Please visit Katy’s beautiful blog, read the guest post and let me know what you think in the Comments section.
As part of my participation in the 2013 WordCount Blogathon, I’m “swapping” posts today with the doyenne of another website for book lovers. Katy Manck of BooksYALove is a retired academic / corporate / school librarian who finds joy in recommending young adult books beyond the bestsellers on her BooksYALove blog. She is treasurer of the International Association of School Librarianship and publicity chair for IASL’s free online international GiggleIT Project for student writers.
Below is Katy’s guest post about Jump Into the Sky by Shelley Pearsall.
Being left behind ain’t easy, leaving everything familiar behind ain’t easy… for this young black teen during World War II, there’s not a lot of easy at all.
We first meet Levi Battle in his Chicago neighborhood, where he lives in a tiny apartment with his aunt while his father is away at war, teaching black paratroopers how to Jump Into the Sky.
Levi’s jazz-singer mother left them when he was just a toddler; his father left for the Army a couple of years ago, but no one in the neighborhood really believes that he’s an officer in the Army-Air Corps.
Suddenly his aunt decides it’s time for the thirteen-year-old to go live with his father and sends him off with a sack of fried chicken and a one-way ticket to (Lord, help us) Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Yes, Levi is leaving the less-restrictive industrial north of 1945 – where Negros can own businesses and have jobs with almost-decent pay – for the Jim Crow South that his family fled 2 generations ago – where a colored man’s dime won’t buy a tin dipper of water if the white storekeeper says no.
This great young adult novel explores finding your place in the world, trying to make a difference in the face of prejudice and suspicion, working to become a family again after too much leaving and separation.
Read my full recommendation of Shelley Pearsall’s Jump Into the Sky here and journey with Levi to find the “Triple Nickles” of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion as they fight for the right to defend their country.
Be sure to visit the Triple Nickles’ website for more about this historic paratrooper battalion, and look for Tanya Stone’s new nonfiction book about the 555th Courage Has No Color when you visit your local library or independent bookstore to get Jump Into the Sky in hardcover, paperback or audiobook.
Have things gotten any easier for young people today, with all the leaving and being left?
Katy Manck, MLS
Recommending young adult books beyond bestsellers http://BooksYALove.com
Follow Katy on Twitter: @BooksYALove
As part of the 2013 WordCount Blogathon challenge, I have an assigned/suggested topic for today’s (11th hour) blog post. I want to share the five apps that I use on a daily basis.
A little backstory…
A couple of years ago, I bought the first generation iPad. This purchase was the first step into an eventual and total PC to Mac conversion. In addition to my iPad, I cannot live without my iPhone 4S and my MacBook Pro. As a matter of fact, I left my power cord at a client’s office and had to use a PC yesterday. It…………was………..so…………slowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww.
The main requirement for my technology is that it keeps me untethered, yet connected, without demanding a lot of maintenance. If I want or need to work in Tennessee or Tunisia, I have that freedom. The Apple products give me the platform, and the following apps build on that infrastructure.
1. iCloud synchronizes my contacts, calendar and photos. If I add a contact on my iPhone, within minutes–sometimes literally within seconds–that contact is also available on my iPad and my MacBook. That’s the beauty of the iOS–no duplication of efforts and a backup in the cloud in case any of my devices disappear or die on me.
2. I was using Evernote long before I made the switch to Apple products. This is my go-to research tool. I love clipping and organizing articles and URLs with the web clipper app for Safari. There’s even a desktop version and iPhone and iPad apps. Again, no matter what device I’m using, I can access Evernote.
4. I deleted my Instagram account when they announced new terms of service. However, Instagram backed down a bit from their proposed changes and starting building in some cool functionality. I like that I can automatically share my photos with my Facebook, Twitter or other social network accounts that I select. I’m still playing with this one.
5. I cannot live without Hootsuite. I use it mainly for Twitter because I monitor multiple accounts and follow different columns of information (Hootsuite calls these “streams”). I’ve done a lot of work organizing followers with Twitter lists and Hootsuite allows you to convert those lists into streams. You can do the same with search terms or hashtags (#s). I wish Hootsuite was as useful for Facebook and LinkedIn. I like that I can post to those accounts from Hootsuite, but I’ve not found it useful for monitoring other accounts. Oh, and I almost left out my favorite tool: the scheduler. I can create a number of 140-character messages, then schedule them to go out at specific dates and times. This goes a long way to automating the social media process, at least when you’re in broadcast mode.
Those are my five favorite apps. What are yours?
Today was publication day for one of my clients. I’ll share more about that in a future post, but for now, I am pretty tuckered. As I shared with some of my online book pals the other day, I find myself in the enviable position of having day after day filled with book-related work, events and writing. But lately, I have become outnumbered and almost overwhelmed…by books.
I fled the room formerly known as my home office a few months ago when I could no longer stand to be surrounded by the overflowing bookshelves and piles of books on the furniture and in the floor. I work mostly at the dining room table now–so I can spread out and enjoy a big open workspace. But even this space has been compromised. The books, they multiply like rabbits.
And here’s the thing: I find myself with less and less time to read. I asked a few of my book blogging colleagues, “How many books do you read in a week?” Most of the bloggers who responded said they read about 2-4 books a week. I met a book reviewer for a major metro newspaper who has to read three books a week and review them. I am a s-l-o-w reader, which compounds the problem. Right now, I have multiple books going at once and awaiting my full attention. I just have to carve out the time.
How about you? How many books do you read in the average week, month or year?
It was my great pleasure to attend the 2013 South Carolina Book Festival a couple of weekends ago. My husband Zach and I drove up early Saturday and stayed until the janitorial staff powered through the hallways of the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center on their riding vacuum cleaners Sunday evening. I was hardly an objective visitor to the SC Book Festival, considering that I’ve attended each and every AJC Decatur Book Festival in my hometown and serve as a member of the programming team for this year’s DBF. However, the SC Book Festival was really well done. Practically each and every author and exhibitor that I spoke to praised this year’s event and attributed the festival’s success to Paula Watkins, director of the South Carolina Book Festival and assistant director of Humanities Council SC. This is Watkins’ last year as festival director because she is moving out of state.
The big news swirling at this year’s SC Book Festival was that bestselling South Carolina author Pat Conroy had accepted a position as editor-at-large of a new fiction imprint at University of South Carolina (USC) Press. They announced before Conroy’s first appearance on a USC panel that the city of Columbia had declared that Saturday “Pat Conroy Day” in honor of his new role at USC Press. Conroy made several appearances on the SC Book Festival schedule and the signing line wrapped around the convention center.
Fellow book publicist and friend, Kathie Bennett of the Magic Time Literary Agency, invited me to speak for a few minutes at the end of her presentation on Sunday. Kathie was leading a 90-minute workshop in the final time slot of the final day of the festival, so I wasn’t optimistic that I’d see more than my spouse in the room. Imagine my surprise when Kathie and I were greeted with a standing room only crowd, with a few people lingering in the doorway. Kathie gave an extremely valuable presentation on the various steps an author must take when planning and executing a book marketing and publicity plan. I addressed some of the ways that social media and online marketing have changed how authors connect with their different audiences. We ran out of handouts and business cards as many people stayed long after the allotted time to ask questions. I really enjoyed it!
Below are some other photos from my great weekend at this year’s SC Book Festival.
At Southern Spines, we promote not just authors of published books or poetry. We also cherish and celebrate the songwriter–the individual who marries words and music together in a way that makes the phrases linger in our memory just a bit longer than if we had scanned them on the page. Atlanta is home to a number of fantastic live music venues. But to really worship at the altar of live music, you must plan a pilgrimage to the Red Clay Theatre–about 25 miles north of Atlanta in Duluth, Georgia–home of Eddie Owen Presents.
Founder Eddie Owen likes to say, “Life is in the song.” For more than twenty years, Owen has been connecting emerging songwriters with their fans, first at Trackside Tavern and then at Eddie’s Attic, the listening room he created in Decatur, Georgia. Many mainstream musical artists, including John Mayer, the Indigo Girls and Sugarland, got their start on an Eddie Owen stage. Owen left the Attic in 2012.
Owen’s platform for identifying and promoting worthy songwriters is part of the draw: everyone wants to be there to witness the next big act before they graduate to the arena circuit. It’s a small part of the reason that my husband and I were in the audience last night for the Songwriters Open Mic Shootout. The bi-annual Shootout is an all night event that pits the winners of six months’ worth of weekly open mic nights against each other for a chance to win a title and precious recording studio time. Twenty-two contestants performed at the beginning of last night’s competition. A panel of music industry judges decided who progressed from round to round based on criteria like songwriting skills, vocal talent and stage presence.
This weekend, Eddie Owen Presents launched a new online live stream of its Friday and Saturday night shows. Thanks to the new Eddie Owen Presents Open Mic Project, viewers with an Internet connection are now able to watch performances live at omplive.com. As a result, a few of last night’s contestants waved or said “hi” to their friends and family who were watching online.
The other reason we were in the audience is because we were rooting for Amy Andrews and The Skipperdees. Alas, they did not make it to the final round. Eliot Bronson was the last songwriter playing. Honestly, I would have paid to see any of the 22 contestants we saw last night. Those who stayed to the end were treated to more than 70 performances from some extremely talented musicians. We left around 10:45, when the final eight were playing to become the final four. Like I said, it’s an all night event.
Maybe you’ll discover the next big singer-songwriter at the Open Mic Night tomorrow–and every Monday night–at Eddie Owen Presents at the Red Clay Theater? To learn more about Eddie Owen Presents, follow them on Twitter @EOPresents or like them on Facebook.
As a way to reinvigorate and reenergize our efforts here at Southern Spines, I am participating in the 2013 WordCount Blogathon. Freelance journalist Michelle Rafter created the Blogathon six years ago and has grown the event every year. I first accepted the challenge of writing a blog post every day for an entire month two years ago when I was writing for another blog, which is now defunct. What I discovered is that the WordCount Blogathon provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with bloggers from different parts of the country who write about a variety of subjects outside my usual areas of interest. When I participated before, I read and commented on others’ blog posts, shared links and promoted others’ efforts on Twitter and most importantly, wrote a blog post every single day for a month. As I tell my clients who are using blogging to connect with their target readers, consistency is the key to any great blog. And I usually follow up with another trite saying, “Do as I say and not as I do.”
Luckily, these last few months have been filled to overflowing with incredible book events. I never take for granted just how rich the arts and literary communities are in Atlanta. I’ve met some of the finest people–readers, writers, booksellers, publicists and others–in the publishing industry. And yes, I’ve been reading some really wonderful books! I’ve got interviews, photos and giveaways galore, so I hope you’ll check in here every day in June. If you’re new to Southern Spines, please leave a comment and introduce yourself below. Or tweet me up on Twitter; I’m @alisonlaw.
Each of us is born with an inherent desire to belong–to some place or to someone. Human beings define themselves by what or whom they call “home.” In Orphan Train, author Christina Baker Kline turns this desire on its head and explores what happens when her two narrators have the place and people that they belong to torn from them. Vivian Daly is in her later years when she agrees to let foster teen Molly Ayer perform community service hours at her house. As the two unpack boxes of Vivian’s possessions, they realize that they have both lost the families and homeplaces that they were born into, and if Vivian can confront her past, she might show Molly a way to survive her loss and establish “home” on her own terms.
The book’s title refers to a little-known chapter of American history. Between 1854 and 1929, “orphan trains” carried abandoned children from East Coast cities to Midwest farmlands, where families often adopted the children to perform hard labor. This is the story of Vivian who lost her entire family shortly after they immigrated to New York from Ireland before the Great Depression. Her only touchstone is a Claddagh necklace given to her by her grandmother before Vivian and her immediate family left Ireland.
A necklace is all that Molly has left of her father and her Native American heritage. After losing her dad to a car accident and her mother to drugs, Molly wears the charm necklace that her dad gave her as a way of remembering who she is. Despite the fact that Molly has been shuffled from one foster home to another. Christine Baker Kline writes about the two necklaces and what they meant to Vivian and Molly in the guest post “A Tale of Two Necklaces” on the She Reads website. Orphan Train is the May She Reads Selection. My fellow bloggers in the She Reads network have written some beautiful posts about the novel. You can learn more from them here: “May She Reads Selection Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.”
It is a mythically beautiful Sunday evening in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, the sun reigns the sky for hours into the party on this tucked-away estate, inviting strangers to sip their cocktails outside on the patio. Guests eventually sift in through French doors, navy-wrappered books in hand, and wait for the hostess to take the stage at the front of the room.
Patti Callahan Henry inches through the crowd, seizing each friend or admirer that she meets in a bear hug. We are here to celebrate the launch of Patti’s new book, And Then I Found You, but we also know this is very much a family affair.
And Then I Found You is a novel inspired by the true story of Patti’s sister, Barbi, who gave a child up for adoption. Some 20 years went by with Barbi always wondering what had happened to the baby girl she’d named Janelle at the hospital. Then, one morning, Barbi and Patti both received friend requests from a beautiful young girl on Facebook who resembled Patti’s daughter. To read the best account of what happened after that, you’ll have to download the ebook Friend Request.
At the launch party for And Then I Found You, Patti and Barbi each share that they’ve been writing or journaling for years. ”Becoming” fictional characters and writing their stories is child’s play for Patti Callahan Henry, who’s been assuming the identities of her characters and writing fiction since she was six years old. Patti, a preacher’s daughter, jokes, “How do you think I got through two-hour sermons?”
However, when Patti attempted to write a nonfiction account of Barbi’s adoption and reunion story, the words would not come. In real life, Patti’s parents, sisters and their families were extremely supportive of her efforts to tell the story. But in the solitude of her writer’s workspace, Patti says the room grew loud and crowded with negative voices, and she succumbed to the fear of not getting it right.
At the same time that she was struggling to write the story, Patti was experiencing major life changes: she and her family were relocating to Alabama, and her first child was getting ready to leave for college. Patti says the only solution was writing a fictionalized account of her sister’s reunion story and incorporating the move and other life changes into the framework of her main character, Kate. The result is And Then I Found You.
At least two women in the audience at Patti’s book launch party ask questions about how to support their adopted children who may be searching for their birth parents. Patti says she consulted with an adoption specialist/psychologist when writing the novel. She asked him, “What’s the one thing that adopted kids want to know?” The consultant answered that adopted children want to know why they were put up for adoption, but more than that, they want to know their story. And like all great works of fiction, And Then I Found You is a great conversation starter based on soulful, real-life questions and every human being’s search for the answers–for their story.
Important to note: Patti Callahan Henry’s And Then I Found You is the April She Reads Book Club Selection. I was able to catch up with Kimberly Brock and meet She Reads founders, Marybeth Whalen and Ariel Lawhon. What a treat! And not only did I get one of those great big bear hugs from Patti, but I also secured a signed copy of the hardback for one lucky Southern Spines reader. Please comment below or post on the Southern Spines Facebook page to enter to win a copy of the book.
When I read an early review of the The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow that compared the book to John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, I was dubious. Owen Meany is one of the most memorable characters in fiction. However, after reading Rita Leganski’s debut novel, I understand the comparison; I think Owen and Bonaventure would have been great friends. So I was thrilled when Rita Leganski agreed to answer a few questions about the book for Southern Spines.
Unspeakable tragedy seals Bonaventure Arrow’s vocal chords when he is inside his mother’s womb, but at the same moment, the boy is gifted with exceptional hearing. Bonaventure can hear colors, flowers growing in the earth and inanimate objects calling to him from his mother’s closet. He can also hear the voice of his dead father, William. And the extraordinary things that Bonaventure hears help him piece together why his father was murdered by a man known only as The Wanderer.
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow takes place in the 1950s in the fictional parish of Bayou Cymbaline in Louisiana. But the book’s author, Rita Leganski, grew up in Wisconsin and lives outside of Chicago, where she teaches at DePaul University. Rita says she listened to the voices of her favorite Southern writers–including Carson McCullers, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams and Harper Lee–when writing the book, but she visited New Orleans to firm up her research. That research trip inspired my first question.
SS: When you visited the South to research the book, what surprised you about the place that served as the setting for your novel? Was there anything your writer’s imagination didn’t prepare you for when you visited the real place?
RL: I was pleasantly surprised to find that you can walk or take the streetcar almost anywhere in New Orleans. Everything was on a smaller scale than I’d expected, and that was a good thing; strolling around let me absorb the beauty of brick buildings and filigreed balconies and window shutters that were centuries old. The St. Charles streetcar was a particular joy—like taking a seat in the past. Honestly, I could’ve ridden that lovely old streetcar all day, gazing at those beautiful homes and giant live oaks.
I’ve characterized New Orleans as a society lady with a hole in her stocking. It’s the best way I can think of to describe a place where refinement and revelry enjoy each other’s company. Quiet dignity is that city’s heartbeat, but joyful noise is its lifeblood. I was unprepared for the extent to which that is true.
SS: How did you research and learn so much about voodoo, hoodoo and root work?
RL: Even though The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is fiction, I wanted to be correct in my writing, and that meant months of research. Thanks to the wonder of the internet, I was able to access an incredible amount of information without ever leaving my house. I was then able to make requests from library collections all over Illinois.
I usually started with a Google search and would then comb through links and bibliographies for further source and resource materials.
Examples of the topics I searched were: Marie Leveau, the 19th century voodoo queen, homeopathic medicine, and Ancient herbal remedies and abortifacients (which led to Pliny the Elder, Discurides and his De Materia Medica Libri Quinque, and the Académie Impéiale de Médicine).
Works of folklorist Harry Middleton Hyatt’s are archived and can be procured online. His “Hoodoo – Conjuration – Witchcraft – Rootwork” (HCWR) is a collection of folklore from a number of states, including Louisiana. It contains interviews with professional root doctors, as well as conjure and hoodoo practitioners. It’s amazing!
SS: The novel offers different takes on organized religion, magic and life after death. How did your own personal beliefs about life, the afterlife and spirituality influence your writing?
RL: People tend to have strong feelings about those things. My personal belief is that this life does lead to an afterlife, which influenced the way I portrayed William’s situation. Letice personifies the stock I hold in the power of faith and prayer. She also helped me showcase the beauty and meaning of sacraments and ritual. Trinidad offered a different path to understanding by letting me acknowledge the miraculous tendencies in Nature, yet reverencing its source. I don’t think it’s unusual for people to experience a loss of belief, especially during times of suffering. Even Mother Teresa wrote about going through a trial of faith and a “dark night of the soul.” I tried to convey the pain of that in Dancy.
In The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, I tried to remove “organized” from religion by letting diverse characters show the effects of spirituality. My aim was to convey that no single group has exclusive ownership of goodness. In this story, Trinidad Prefontaine and her altar became my vehicle for integrating the spirituality of Catholicism with the naturalistic beliefs of hoodoo. Trinidad is drawn to the Virgin Mary, while at the same time holding onto her belief in the supernatural healing powers found in Nature. Here’s how I say it in the book:
She laid the note and the prisms on her homemade altar amidst those symbols and souvenirs of her deity’s Spirit—the Blessed Mother who loved every single child; the sea glass, like pieces of broken lives made lustrous and baptized by the ocean’s healing waters; the feathers of a bird that can fly precious little yet proclaims the new hope of every day’s dawn, and those odd little bits of nature’s bounty. From her pocket she pulled a holy card, one given to her in the orphanage by Sister Sulpice. The card was soft as a piece of old leather, made so by the oils in the skin of Trinidad’s hands. The front bore a picture of Francis of Assisi and printed on the back were the words to his Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
Trinidad lives gently. Like Letice, she is a woman of strong convictions. She simply casts her net wider in order to bring close “those things she found spiritual.”
To learn more about The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, the She Reads Book Club selection for March, visit the She Reads website. The website features online discussions and several posts written by Rita Leganski, including a beautiful post about her decision to go back to school after raising a family. You should also like Rita on Facebook: facebook.com/RitaLeganskiAuthor and follow her on Twitter @ritaleganski.