Local Authors Take The Stage

October 11, 2011

Last night we ushered in four new local authors as part of our quarterly Local Author Showcase, the fourth one we’ve held in 2011. These quarterly events give us the opportunity to turn the spotlight on Utah writers with first books or new books and to recognize their talent and hard work. The authors each took a turn introducing themselves and their work, and then read a passage or two from their books.

Contemporary, literary and fantasy fiction author Michelle Davidson Argyle read from her suspense novel, Monarch. Michelle graduated from Utah Valley University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing in 2002 and has served as the editor-in-chief of Utah Valley University’s literary magazine and has won awards for her short stories. There was even a “monarch” in attendance! Check out the slideshow below. You can find out more at her WEBSITE.

Next up was Jessica McQuinn, who read from and discussed her second published book, Indivisible, a realistic, and romantic look at the hardships and troubles Charlie and Gideon, a Navy SEAL, face when he is deployed. McQuinn is a great writer, and the scenes are heart-warming and heart-breaking at the same time. And you should visit her WEBSITE!

We also welcomed poet Melissa Menatti, whose work, Welcome to My Soul, is thoughtful and creative, its very construction, as loose-leaf pages bound in a soft suede wrap, inform the readers experience. Menatti is an author, photographer and voice artist. You can find out more at her WEBSITE.

Dorothy J. Varney struck gold when she uncovered a bit of her family history that had all the makings for a intriguing story. Told in three volumes, California Gold: Benjamin, Ben, and Franklin, Varney traces one family through three generations starting with the fast-moving pace of the Gold Rush. Historical fiction rich with detail, Varney’s books are available at The King’s English.

In fact, all of these local author’s books now have a place on our shelves. Come in and discover a local author today.

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Reading What’s Banned

September 24, 2011

Editor’s note: As part of our recognition and celebration of Banned Books Week, September 24 – October 1, we present a guest post by author Dorothee Kocks. Kocks will appear at The King’s English, Saturday, October 1 at 4 p.m. Visit the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression website HERE and check out the Virtual Read-Out dedicated Youtube channel HERE.

By Dorothee E. Kocks

My novel, The Glass Harmonica, features an early 19th century bookseller who sells obscene books, and this surprised me. I come from a liberal family but a sexually modest one. What was I doing with a character who roamed the early American countryside, hawking risqué literature from the back of his carriage, including what would become the most banned book in U.S. history, Fanny Hill, Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure?

It’s a question particularly poignant this week, as librarians and booksellers celebrate Banned Books Week. A “virtual read-out” pushes the boundaries on YouTube of what is considered appropriate reading.

I got my answer from a reader recently. She wrote that the experience of immodesty, that brazen state of a woman’s rebellion against the prescribed life, was lost to her. But last year, “for the briefest few hours,” she got it back. When she did, she wrote, “I dazzled and was electrified. And then I was shamed, and shattered, and shuffled out of the room.”

There is something good about trying out what we’re told is wrong. Something brave. At the time of my book, the generation following the Revolution, people were figuring out what freedom meant. And one thing it meant was reading what your betters commanded that you avoid.

Henry Garland, a rebel son of Puritans, sells the top two bestsellers from his carriage: The Bible, and Noah Webster’s The Book of Spelling, a dry-sounding title that was a how-to manual for teaching yourself to read. The next hot-selling book seems to have
been a tie.

The Coquette, sometimes called the first American novel, told the story of a woman torn between an upright but boring preacher and a handsome Southern rake. She ends up pregnant, shunned, but sympathetically so – and the book swiftly is banned from the new public libraries.

Aristotle’s Masterpiece, despite the lofty title, concealed a ‘granny book’ or midwife’s manual –with illustrations, and explicit instructions on how to make a woman ready to conceive.

And then there was Fanny Hill. Now a classic of erotic literature, it follows an orphaned girl into the English urban sex trade – where she has a lot of fun. It could be called that generation’s The Joy of Sex.

Not all of these books were formally banned because the government hadn’t yet taken on that role – but they were certainly forbidden. From the pulpits, in the self-censorship of the newspapers which advertised Fanny Hill obliquely as “Memoirs of –”, people got the message: Don’t go there.

So they went. What is it about the forbidden that actually can drive us to be better people, even better citizens? Sometimes the content itself is liberating. But even more, it’s the experience of navigating that border territory where right and wrong are unclear. There, you find out what you yourself feel is right. Our forebears overthrew monarchies. They did not live as they were told to do. They invented a better way. And sometimes the first step is to do what is banned. Forbidden.

Freedom requires moral courage. And moral courage often arises out of the ashes of moral failure – out of shuffling shamefacedly out of the room, as happens to my characters. You have to be lost to be found.

Dorothee E. Kocks, PhD, is the author of BewareTheTimidLife.com and The Glass Harmonica, A Sensualist’s Tale (Rosa Mira Books, 2011). She welcomes invitations to book clubs via Skype (or via other technological wonders of our age).

Garth Stein!

September 16, 2011

We were treated to an extraordinary evening with Garth Stein on Wednesday, September 14. The author of The New York Times bestseller, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Garth Stein was kind, funny and generous. Speaking to a standing-room only crowd of 150, he read the opening paragraphs of his beloved book, and then went on to discuss his muse (his wife, and she is not a muse in the way you might think), his inspiration for the book (reincarnation and a Billy Collins poem, “The Revenant”), the wild parrots of Seward Park, WA, and his “intimate” tour of the Ferrari factory R&D department. He was disarming, engaging, and utterly likeable.

He also spoke about the need for bookstores and libraries to create a healthy and vibrant community, some of which I captured on video:

The truly crowning achievement of the evening was our partnership with No More Homeless Pets in Utah. Jaimi Haig, the Marketing Specialist at NMHPU, set up a table with literature and a donation jar. Garth Stein offered to MATCH any funds that were raised that evening. Jaimi collected $1,000 in donations, thus raising $2,000 for the organization which is “working to end the euthanasia of homeless pets in Utah and to promote humane alternatives for feral cats.

Things you THOUGHT you knew about Everett Ruess

July 19, 2011

1. His remains were found in 2009 on Comb Ridge, near the town of Bluff, Utah.

This turned out to be not true. Subsequent, and accurate, DNA tests showed the remains did not belong to Ruess.

2. His last name is pronounced [rooz].

The correct pronunciation is the two syllable [roo-es].

3. Jon Krakauer re-discovered, more currently, the mystery of Everett Ruess while researching his book, Into the Wild.

Actually, it was David Roberts, author of Finding Everett Ruess, who told Jon Krakauer, his friend and climbing buddy, about the number of similarities between Ruess and the subject of Krakauer’s bestselling Into the Wild, Chris McCandless. Karkauer’s first response was, “Who?”

4. There isn’t anything new to add to the story of Everett Ruess, his wanderings, or his disappearance.

Doug Fabrizio had that same notion when Roberts’ was a guest on KUER’s RadioWest, and he found out there was a WHOLE lot more to the story, including many, many pages of as-of-yet unpublished journal entries and writings by Ruess himself.

5. Everett Ruess was a content hermit of sorts. “I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time.”

In fact, as many of Ruess’ newly published writings convey, Everett was lonely and sorely in want of a companion, someone who could share his love for the deep peace of the wilderness. Someone other than a burro.

6. David Roberts has just written about Everett Ruess and NOTHING ELSE.

Wrong again. Roberts, an author and mountaineer, has written more than 20 books on mountaineering, adventure, and history, including No Shortcuts to the Top, K2, and The Will to Climb, which he co-wrote with Ed Viesturs and a memoir On a Ridge Between Life and Death.  He has written for National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and Smithsonian.


Listen to KUER’s RadioWest: 7/13/11: Finding Everett Ruess (July 12, 2011) CLICK HERE

David Roberts’ will read from and sign his highly anticipated new novel, Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer, Thursday July 21, 7 p.m.

Virgil White Buffalo is back…

July 6, 2011

review by Anne Holman

Hell Is Empty, by Craig Johnson

Virgil White Buffalo is back and not a moment too soon. Sheriff Walt Longmire has fallen into the seventh circle of hell trying to catch a murderous outlaw in this latest adventure with the citizens, bad and good, of Absaroka County, Wyoming. Spring is slow coming to their part of the state and when a routine convict transfer goes terribly awry, Walt chases the felons into the heart of the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area trying to stop innocent lives from being lost. The giant Crow Indian, Virgil, literally becomes Walt’s guide through the underworld although instead of Dante’s Inferno, it is a chilling backdrop of snow and icy rain where the reader feels every freezing step as it takes place. This is Johnson at his best; as you journey through the novel, you’ll have difficulty distinguishing real from unreal until the end comes crashing down around your eyes. –  Viking, $25.95

Editor’s note: Join us this Thursday, July 7th at 7 p.m. when Craig Johnson will entertain us on the patio on with some wise-cracking and book-signing.

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TKE Takes 5 with Rae Meadows

July 1, 2011

by Lynn Kilpatrick

Rae Meadows is the author of Mothers and Daughters, published this May by Henry Holt. She has written two previous novels, No One Tells Everything (2008) and Calling Out (2006). I had the privilege of getting to know Rae when we were both students at the University of Utah, studying creative writing and getting together occasionally to whack around a tennis ball. After I read Mothers and Daughters this spring, I had some questions for Rae. She took time out of her busy schedule touring to promote her book, and as the mother of two daughters herself, to answer some of my questions.

The King’s English (Lynn Kilpatrick): One of the first things I noticed as I was reading Mothers and Daughters was the relationship between your book, Virginia Woolf, and Michael Cunningham’s The Hours. I really liked the way you used the three-part/three-character structure, and, like The Hours, there were direct references to Woolf. How would you characterize your book’s relationship to these other works?

Rae Meadows: I was definitely inspired and influenced by The Hours, particularly Cunningham’s use of a three-part structure with characters who don’t overlap in real time. I liked how this functioned to collapse time and memory. I was also appreciative of the book’s spareness and quiet drama. I was a little worried about directly referencing Virginia Woolf (Is it allowed? Is it like sampling in a song? Is it frowned upon?) but it seemed right for the character of Iris. I really did set out to write a novel about women and I kept coming back to To the Lighthouse.

TKE: Can you talk about your decision to write the book from three different points of view? This seemed like a departure from your other books, which each focus on one main character.

RM: Admittedly part of this decision came from becoming a mother and having to figure out some way to approach a novel in short bursts of time. For me it seemed more manageable to break it down into multiple points of view. I actually wrote each of the character’s sections separately because I couldn’t yet conceive of the whole. As you know, the entirety of a novel is such a scary behemoth to consider.

TKE: How did your book become a best seller in the Netherlands?

RM: Your guess is as good as mine! It’s such a funny thing. I liked the cover—they used a vintage photograph of a woman holding a little girl’s hand, seen from behind. There is something subtly ominous about it, which appealed to me, at least. (Or maybe the Dutch just have good taste?)

TKE: How do you finish a draft? Many writers begin projects, but have a hard time getting to the end of a finished draft and then there’s revision! How do you do it?

RM: I have no idea how to write a novel! I’m looking into the abyss these days, unable to get started on something new. For Mothers and Daughters, I slogged out two pages a day until a messy first draft was completed, and I tried not to think too far down the road. I have to commit to those kind of modest but unwavering goals for myself or I’d never write at all.

TKE: What kind of historical research did you do for Mothers and Daughters?

RM: I loved researching for this book. It kind of felt like cheating. I read books about the orphan trains, both first-hand accounts of riders and histories of social welfare, which gave me more context. For turn-of-the-century New York City flavor, I found my best tools to be period accounts of church women who would go into poor neighborhoods and report what they had seen. And there are some incredible things you can find online, of course, particularly photographs, which kick-started scenes for me. For my next novel, I’m doing historical research again—this time on the Dust Bowl—and it’s a great way to procrastinate. Sure I’ll get writing, I just have to read one more book first…

You can keep up with Rae, and see pictures of the Dutch posters for Mothers and Daughters on her blog.

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers 2011 – Trudy Harris

May 31, 2011

In the lead up to WIYRC, we thought it would be fun to introduce you to some of the faculty and staff who will make up this year’s gathering. If you haven’t signed up yet, it’s not too late. This is an amazing opportunity to meet authors, agents, editors, and publishers and gain invaluable feedback about your own writing. We hope you’ll join us this summer!

We’ll start with Trudy Harris, interviewed by Cherylynne W. Bago.

Cherylynne W. Bago: We keep hearing that the picture book market is still soft, yet your sales have remained solid.  Any secrets?

Trudy Harris: I think manuscripts sell best if they fill a market need. Every author should ask, “Why would someone buy my book?” If you can answer that question, you probably have a winner.

CWB: You have a day job as a kindergarten teacher, how do you feel that has affected your writing?

TH: There is a saying, “Read the kind of books you want to write.” I love the fact that I get to read picture books to children every day. Teaching kindergarten has helped me know what children enjoy and what teachers want.

CWB: Your son is the illustrator of your book, 20 Hungry Piggies. How did you manage to convince your publisher to allow that?

TH: I was speaking at a conference that my editor also happened to be attending. At lunch, I mentioned that my son would soon be graduating in illustration from Art Center College of Design. My editor shocked me by saying, ” You should do a book together.”

But, as it turned out, getting to work with my son Andrew, was not quite that easy. I wrote a manuscript and submitted it along with three of Andrew’s finished sample illustrations. Later, I learned that my manuscript had been accepted.

“What about Andrew as an illustrator?” I asked.

“Oh,” my editor said, “the art director makes that decision; and he’s out of town.”

Andrew and I waited with our fingers crossed for three more weeks before we learned that he was chosen to illustrate 20 Hungry Piggies. (My fingers are still sore.). Since that time, we have also been able to do Tally Cat Keeps Track together.

CWB: Up Bear Down Bear has very few words, yet is incredibly appealing. How did you conceptualize it?

TH: Up Bear Down Bear is a true story from my childhood. I wanted to tell this story in a simple style so that very young children could understand it and then learn to “read” four words. (Yes, it only has four words in it.)

CWB: Many of your books seem to focus on one specific teaching concept. How do you decide which concept to focus on in each book?

TH: I look for needs in my own classroom and talk to other teachers about what kinds of books they would use. Sometimes my editor also gives me ideas. If you don’t have these resources and want to write a picture book with an educational element, you may consider checking your state’s online curriculum standards. Curriculum standards can be a great springboard for ideas.

CWB: You’ve been published with national publishers. What made your pitch so successful?

TH: Each of my publishers specializes in a different type of picture book. I think that targeting my manuscripts has been an important key.

CWB: There are great activities to accompany your books on your website. How do you come up with these activities? How helpful have they been with driving traffic to your website?

TH: I try to create fun hands-on activities to support the concepts that are presented in my books. I believe any additional website helps are valuable.