Sunday, April 23, 2017

Poem in my Post: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Poem in my Post: Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye

Today was a beautiful Sunday and I spent the morning with my friend, Linda, sharing our poetry.  Then I went for a long walk along Harriet Island and went to a planning meeting for my Grenada trip in July.  It was such a great day and I tried to soak up as much sun as possible since we won't see the sun in St. Paul for another 10 days (says the long term forecast).

Today I am sharing one of my favorite poems by one of the poets I admire most in the world.  I just love this poem and keep coming to it for words of wisdom and for the reminder of how important kindness truly is.  Kindness was written after Naomi and her husband were robbed on their honeymoon.  Watch the video at the end where Naomi talks in depth about what inspired the poem.  Enjoy!!




Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

From Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry Giveaway

A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre Giveaway

Kyle "Guante" Tran Myhre is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of April and he is giving away one book to a Booksnob follower that lives in the United States.  This collection of spoken word poetry, essays, and song lyrics is sure to blow your socks off.  I'm so excited for you to read this amazing book.  Enter below and share and tell your friends all about it.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist, and educator based in Minneapolis, MN. His work has appeared everywhere from the United Nations to Welcome to Night Vale, to Upworthy and beyond, and he currently makes a living traveling to colleges, conferences, and high schools, using spoken word as a jumping-off point for dialogue around identity, power, agency, and activism.  One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this collection brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work.

Giveaway Rules:
Please fill out the form
Must be a resident of the U.S.
Contest ends May 18th at midnight
Good Luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway




Monday, April 17, 2017

Poem in my Post: Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts by Alice Walker

Poem in my Post:  Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts by Alice Walker

Hope everyone one had a great Easter.  My daughter went to the prom on Saturday and we had our Easter celebration on Sunday and so I feel like I didn't get any rest all weekend.

I have been busy writing #30poemsin30days and it is hard.  Writing is hard and doubt sets in which causes you to think you're not good enough so I'm trying to quell the negative demons on my shoulder.

The poem in my post today is by Alice Walker.  I love her and this poem is awesome.  I can really relate because I've had my heart eaten before. I love how visual this poem is and I wish I could write a poem as amazing as this.  If you've never read it before, enjoy!


Never offer your heart to someone who eats hearts by Alice Walker

Never offer your heart
to someone who eats hearts
who finds heartmeat
delicious
but not rare
who sucks the juices
drop by drop
and bloody-chinned
grins
like a God.

Never offer your heart
to a heart gravy lover.
Your stewed, overseasoned
heart consumed
he will sop up your grief
with bread
and send it shuttling
from side to side
in his mouth
like bubblegum.

If you find yourself
in love
with a person
who eats hearts
these things
you must do:

Freeze your heart
immediately.
Let him—next time
he examines your chest—
find your heart cold
flinty and unappetizing.

Refrain from kissing
lest he in revenge
dampen the spark
in your soul.

Now,
sail away to Africa
where holy women
await you
on the shore—
long having practiced the art
of replacing hearts
with God
and Song.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Announcing the April Author in the Spotlight!

Announcing the April Author in the Spotlight.

Happy National Poetry Month!  I think this is my favorite month of the whole year.  This year I am featuring a poem and a poet every Sunday.  I am also writing a poem every day of this month, so the hope is that I will write 30 poems in 30 days.

I'm also excited to announce that the author I am featuring on BookSnob this month is an awesome poet and he's well known in Minneapolis spoken word circles.  His name is Guante. I have heard his poetry for a long time and have admired him from afar and now he has compiled his poetry and essays in his first book called,  A Love Song, A Death Rattle, A Battle Cry by Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre.  So I am thrilled to be featuring him on Booksnob this month.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Kyle “Guante” Tran Myhre is an MC, two-time National Poetry Slam champion, activist and educator based in Minneapolis, MN. His work has appeared everywhere from the United Nations, to Welcome to Night Vale, to Upworthy and beyond, and he currently makes a living traveling to colleges, conferences, and high schools, using spoken word as a jumping-off point for dialogue around identity, power, agency, and activism.  One part mixtape, one part disorientation guide, and one part career retrospective, this collection brings together spoken word poems, song lyrics, and essays from the past decade of Guante’s work.

This month and into May, you can expect a book review, a giveaway of Guante's book, and an author interview.

Check out Guante's website to learn more about him and his book at  www.guante.info
You can also find him on Twitter: @elguante.

Here is one of my favorite poems, written and performed by Guante.
"Ten Responses to the Phrase 'Man Up'"
Watch.







Monday, April 10, 2017

Poem in my Post - Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy by Thomas Lux

Poem in my Post - Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy by Thomas Lux.

Every Sunday (oops, today is Monday) in April for National Poetry Month, I am sharing a poem in my post with readers.  I have been busy grading papers as the 3rd quarter ended and have also been busy writing a poem every day of the month and so now I have 10 new poems to work with.  I have been trying to study new poets and continue to immerse myself in poetry and poetry prompts.

I chose Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy because when I was in Peru in the Amazon rainforest, two years ago, I saw several pink-toed tarantulas and I loved them. Plus, Lux is a new poet for me and this poem is awesome and it makes me happy.  I hope it makes you happy as well.


Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy by Thomas Lux

For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown—but
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,
a reward for not loving

the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,
rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,
as individuals, would not turn up

again someday
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even—
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams—
they may tell the others

in a sign language
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s

that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.


Thomas Lux, “Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy” from New and Selected Poems: 1975-1995. Copyright © 1997 by Thomas Lux. U

Visit this link for a biography of Lux and at the very bottom are several links to 5 of his poems.
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/thomas-lux

To ensure happiness, read a poem every day!



Monday, April 3, 2017

Gap Life by John Coy Giveaway

Gap Life by John Coy Giveaway

Hello fellow booksnobs.  Today is your lucky day.  You have a chance to win the newest Young Adult novel by John Coy called Gap Life.  I just finished reading it and loved it and I know you will too.  John, along with his publisher, MacMillian is giving away 2 copies to readers in the United States and Canada.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
Cray got into the same college his father attended and is expected to go. And to go pre-med. And to get started right away. His parents are paying the tuition. It should be an easy decision.
But it's not.
All Cray knows is that what's expected of him doesn't feel right. The pressure to make a decision—from his family, his friends—is huge. Until he meets Rayne, a girl who is taking a gap year, and who helps him find his first real job, at a home of four adults with developmental disabilities. What he learns about himself and others will turn out to be more than any university could teach him—and twice as difficult.

Giveaway Rules:
Fill out the form
U.S. and Canada residents only
Enter by May 1st at midnight

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Sunday, April 2, 2017

Poem in my Post: Utopia by Wislawa Szymborska

Poem in my Post: Utopia by Wislawa Szymborska

Happy National Poetry Month.  Every year in April on Sundays, I put a poem in my post.  This year I also plan to write 30 poems in 30 days. Did you know I am a poet?  I read a poem every morning to start my day and one at night before I fall asleep.  The poems invade my dreams, brighten my day and the result is wonderful.  I challenge you to try it.  Read 2 poems a day and write one everyday during the month of April.

Today, I am highlighting a Polish poet. I'm also Polish and when I read some of Szymborska's poetry, I was wow'ed and couldn't stop thinking about some of them.  Wislawa Szymborska won the Nobel Prize in 1996.  She died in 2012 at age 88 and Map is a collection of her last poems.   So today, I bring you Utopia.


Utopia

Island where all becomes clear.

Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immemorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple,
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

 By Wislawa Szymborska
From "A large number", 1976
Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh
Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh

In case you want to read more amazing poetry, below is a link to 5 of Syzborska's poems from the Nobel library.  These poems will really give you cause to pause and think.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1996/szymborska-poetry.html


Monday, March 27, 2017

Their Greatest Gift Giveaway

Their Greatest Gift Giveaway

Author, John Coy and Photographer, Wing Young Huie are the March Authors in the spotlight here on Booksnob are giving away one copy of their beautiful children's book to a Booksnob follower who lives in the U.S.

This is a lovely book and chronicles the experience of immigrants.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Simple text and thought-provoking photographs offer an utterly distinctive look at immigration to the United States thorough the eyes of children from many different backgrounds.



Giveaway Rules:
Fill out the form
U.S. residents only
Enter by April 23rd at midnight
Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Inhabited Giveaway Winners!

Inhabited Giveaway Winners!

Charlie Quimby was the Minnesota Author in the spotlight in the month of January and is giving away, along with his publisher, three copies of his latest book, Inhabited.  And the lucky winners are...

Carl from Arizona
Meghan from Colorado
Robert from Radiosun.

Congratulations Winners!!
I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

Here is an excerpt from my book review:

Inhabited is a book that looks at the spaces in our lives that we inhabit.  We each have a space we call home, it could be you live in a big house, or a apartment or in a tent by a winding river. Each of us needs shelter and dignity.

Quimby is a beautiful writer. His words evoke a beautiful landscape of poetic prose.  Inhabited is a book to savor, to read slowly and enjoy the language.

You can find Charlie on his website:  http://greatdivide.typepad.com/charlie_quimby/

Have a great day!




Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Inhabited by Charlie Quimby

Inhabited by Charlie Quimby

Inhabited is a book that looks at the spaces in our lives that we inhabit.  We each have a space we call home, it could be you live in a big house, or a apartment or in a tent by a winding river. Each of us needs shelter and dignity.

Inhabited tells the intersecting stories of a Colorado real estate agent who has many personal struggles living in Grand Valley and the homeless population. She must deal with the grief on the death of her sister and marriage and the homeless population who clash with the community as they look for a place to call their own. Inhabited is very well researched and the issues surrounding the homeless will educate the reader.  I learned so much.

Quimby is a beautiful writer. His words evoke a beautiful landscape of poetic prose.  Inhabited is a book to savor, to read slowly and enjoy the language.

Go beyond the book with these links:

An Interview with Charlie Quimby:  http://www.rubiconline.com/qa-book-fest-author-charlie-quimby-talks-about-newest-book-monument-road/

Book Review by the Star Tribune in Mpls.:  http://www.startribune.com/reviews-inhabited-by-charlie-quimby-and-a-house-without-windows-by-nadia-hashimi/396353461/

Kirkus review:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/charlie-quimby/inhabited-quimbly/

National Alliance to End Homelessness:  http://www.endhomelessness.org/

Avenues for Youth:  I teach in Mpls and have students who are homeless and this organization helps homeless teens in my area.  6000 homeless every night.  http://avenuesforyouth.org/
INHABITED, a novel by Charlie Quimby from Torrey House Press on Vimeo.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Interview with Su Smallen + Giveaways

Interview with Su Smallen + Giveaways

Su Smallen is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of February and I had a chance to interview her about her two amazing books of poetry.  Read on to learn more about Su, her writing practice and her books of poetry.

Hello Su,

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I’m named after the flower rudbeckia, in the sunflower family, which my parents call brown-eyed susan. I would love to live in a yellow house and grow a garden of sunflowers.

2. What is the inspiration behind Kinds of Snow?

We experienced several years with little snow in Minnesota, relative to previous decades, and I missed it. I wrote to imaginatively call forth snow, and while doing so, snow called forth me.

3. What is the inspiration behind You This Close?

I was awarded a residency with the Science Museum of Minnesota’s St. Croix Watershed Research Station, which included the opportunity to learn from the scientists there about the river and its watershed. This gave me images and language for writing poems to a beloved I have not yet met.

4. Why did you become an author of poetry?

I come from quiet people who pay attention to small things. I am attuned to language, space, and light.

5. Where do you find your inspiration?

Nature, poetry, visual art, performance art, and the necessity of connection.

6. Do you read?  What books or author/poets inspire you?

Yes and never enough. I have studied Virginia Woolf half my life, she constantly evolved herself. Woolf saw through things; she focused the inner life within the outer life.

7. You’ve written and published several books of poetry.  Tell us a little bit about your other books.

Buddha, Proof was first published as an artist book, hand-stitched with original art by broadcraft press. The book became a Minnesota Book Award Finalist and quickly sold out of two printings; it was then picked up by a small press for traditional, perfect-bound publication of a new edition that includes more poems. Buddha, Proof is a seriously light-hearted portrayal of Buddha in the United States.

Wild Hush was also published as a hand-bound book with original art by Susan Solomon. It is about many kinds of silence.

Weight of Light is my first book, and I am excited to tell you that it has been picked up by a new publisher after being out of print for ten years. I don’t have a publication date for it yet, but perhaps late 2018.

8. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write?  Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job? What is one of your daily writing rituals or habits?

Yes, my day job as a science editor is impossible, and work days are too long and draining. During the week, I jot things down when they occur to me. Sometimes these are cryptic notes like "red-handled can opener" that I hope will be enough to remind me later what I was thinking. Also during the week I write for 20-30 minutes twice per day: when I wake and before sleep. Then, during the weekend, I set aside quite a bit of Sunday for writing, using my week's reading and writing notes.

9. Usually poetry is autobiographical and personal. Is it hard to share your personal memories and experiences with the world? Why do you do it?

By the time a poem is published, it has "grown up"; I have revised it, sought and considered feedback, tested its reception during poetry readings.  Along the way, the poem becomes its own being, separate from me. I write them to wonder, to connect, and to give.

10. In one sentence, tell readers why they should read Kinds of Snow.

Snow, because it conceals and reveals, can help you make your way, “from point A to point A.”

11. In one sentence, tell readers why they should read You This Close.

If you seek your soulmate, if you know your soulmate, or if your soul loves a river, these poems will resonate with you.

Thanks Su!

If you want to win a copy of Su's books enter here:

Kinds of Snow Giveaway
You This Close Giveaway





Saturday, March 4, 2017

Announcing March Author in the Spotlight

Announcing March Author in the Spotlight

Happy March!!
May the March winds be always at your back.

February went by fast. My daughter was confirmed in 60 degree weather in February!  It was a beautiful day and I am ready for Spring.  I helped write a Arts Learning Grant and put in a lot of hours writing it.  I read a little but only 2 books. My teaching schedule is so busy and my son is getting ready to finish his senior year and register for college.  My favorite part of everyday continues to be reading a good book with my dog by my side.

This month I am featuring Minnesota author, John Coy.  John is the author of many young adult books and children's books.  The books I will be reviewing this month are Gap Life and Their Great Gift:
Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land with Photographer Wing Young Huie.  John is busy traveling in Africa now, visiting schools in Uganda, Zambia and South Africa.  I'm so jealous.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
                                                       
                                                         Gap Life:
Cray got into the same college his father attended and is expected to go. And to go pre-med. And to get started right away. His parents are paying the tuition. It should be an easy decision.
But it's not.

All Cray knows is that what's expected of him doesn't feel right. The pressure to make a decision—from his family, his friends—is huge. Until he meets Rayne, a girl who is taking a gap year, and who helps him find his first real job, at a home of four adults with developmental disabilities. What he learns about himself and others will turn out to be more than any university could teach him—and twice as difficult.

Their Great Gift:
Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land

Simple text and thought-provoking photographs offer an utterly distinctive look at immigration to the United States thorough the eyes of children from many different backgrounds.





This month you can expect a book review, a giveaway, an author interview and maybe a guest post if we are lucky.

May the sun shine warm upon your face and may you read many great books in March.
Happy Reading!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Su Smallen Guest Post + Giveaways


Su Smallen Guest Post + Giveaways

Su Smallen is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of February and she has written her first blog guest post and it is wonderful.  READ ON!


Writing to Get a Grip
by Su Smallen

Recently, I visited the Rural America Writers Center in Plainview, Minnesota, and was asked, do I imagine an audience when I write. On the formal level, I do, but without knowing who my audience will really be. On the mysterious level—why I turn and return to writing rather than cooking or sculpting—I write to a better self, the one I wish to call forward, know better, be with more often. The self that knows how this will all turn out.

Maybe that’s why it is difficult to write now. I confessed to the Rural America Writers that I have not been able to write anything coherent since the election. Sometimes I avoid the page entirely. I am scared for the self that knows the future—she is much more than my future self, or yours, this self that knows the future of the earth and her every being. I am not convinced that any of my words can save the planet. They are not political reasoning, not rule of law; they do not step down an economy of oil, cocaine, and human trafficking.

Poetry steps into an economy of notice and empathy. Maybe “an economy” is not the right fit with poetry, although the word does have in its roots “stewardship of the dwelling.” Poetry’s economy is a system that runs largely unseen and outside of the political environment, like so much else, like the cycles of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, like the cycles of kindness and civility. Against the annihilation of such “unseen,” my words are microscopic, meaning minuscule, and also microscopic, meaning magnifying enough to be seen.

What should be seen? Who? We are too many people; we can’t agree, can’t collectively prioritize—no one wants to be left for later. What if there is no later? Our dissonance is jamming clarity. I feel this inhibiting tension inside and out. It feels like receiving all 44,000 radio stations without a selecting tuner.

But writing microscopically, on a private scale, builds for my receiver a tuner. Word by word the tuner tunes as I trust the paper and the ink, as I trust the shapes we have agreed to for letters that make comprehensible code, scalable code. What can a particular moment hold? Or three breaths? Think what four letters can hold: hood, rain, wren, ruin, fuse, port, soil, grip.

Grip holds in its etymology “handful, sheaf.” Sheaves of paper. “Get a grip,” Deborah Keenan says
when writers stall.

I forgot how Carolyn Bizien, one of the Rural America Writers, phrased her question with exacting beauty. Do your poems hold your past for you, do they help you now, was that the gist of her question? It led to my confessing a recent rough spell, during which my poems kept a grip on me, gave my words back when I needed them, with accumulated meaning. Which is how all poems work, when they work. Poems work similarly to your patient spouse who suggests and hints and states outright a hundred times until one day you say, I have an idea, and it was hers all along.

Does poetry still matter in these times? The Rural Arts Writers assured me it is, by their words and their presence. Each writer that night had come for miles—30, 50, 60 miles—to pay attention. Their receptiveness, each attendant a tuner, assured me. As I have been writing this small essay, my breath has deepened and steadied. Unhelpful thoughts moved aside. The secret 3am bird sang and fell silent. There is more room in the room.

Thanks Su!

If you would like to win a copy of one of Su's wonderful poetry books please enter here:
Kinds of Snow Giveaway
You This Close Giveaway





Tuesday, February 21, 2017

You This Close Giveaway

You This Close Giveaway

Su Smallen is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of February and she is giving away 5 copies of her beautiful book of poems to lucky Booksnob followers.  Su writes beautifully and you will love, You This Close.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Poetry. llustrations by Jessica Zeglin. YOU THIS CLOSE is a rippling work encompassing love and water, longing and the natural world. Su Smallen wrote these poems during a residency with the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, where she learned about aquifers and diatoms from the scientists there, kindred in their curiosity about the elegant ways nature works. With imagery from the river and its creatures, the poems of YOU THIS CLOSE are linked together with the last line of one becoming the first line of the next, making a structure that matches a kind of diatom chain. The poems are also about hope for love, addressing a beloved not yet met.

Giveaway Rules:
Fill out the Form
Must be a Booksnob follower
Open Internationally
Ends March 21st at midnight
Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, February 13, 2017

Charlie Quimby Author Interview + Giveaway

Charlie Quimby Author Interview + Giveaway

Charlie is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of January and he has graciously agreed to answer some questions about this writing life and career, his favorite books and authors and so much more.  I hope you read on to discover more about this interesting author and his books Inhabited and Monument Road.

Hi Charlie,

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Western Colorado and got away as soon as I could because I didn’t see a future for myself there as a writer. I went to Carleton College and have lived in Minnesota since, always making my living from writing, with a few odd jobs thrown in during those early days of selling book, music and theater reviews for $25 apiece.

Since then, I’ve had a historical play commissioned, worked in corporate communications, founded (and retired from) a marketing communications agency, taught information design, written about community planning, transportation, education and tax policy, helped nonprofits raise capital, kept a blog going for a dozen years and published two novels.

For the last decade, I’ve gone back to writing full-time versus running a business. This allows me the freedom to still live in Minnesota but spend the winters (and the disappointing part of spring) in Colorado.

Maybe best of all, I’m still married to the woman I first met at Carleton back in 1968.

2. What is the inspiration behind Inhabited?

For eight years I’ve volunteered for organizations that serve homeless people in Minneapolis and Grand Junction. Being granted access to the lives of the very poor in America inspired me to share what I’ve learned—not just about the conditions of homelessness but about the ways the rest of us
accept, explain or ignore severe poverty and dysfunction in our country.

Also, the culture, landscape and struggles of the hometown I fled are essential to the stories I tell. As a relatively isolated western community with an ambition to do more than tumble through boom-and-bust cycles, Grand Junction shrinks down to size the challenges facing many American cities.

The types of conflicts that arise in the novel are real everywhere. But writing about them in the country where I grew up takes me to my “bone place”—where emotion and sense of time are deep and palpable.

3. Tell us about your first book, Monument Road. How do Inhabited and Monument Road connect?

Both books are set in the Grand Valley and both concern how people survive grievous loss and its accompanying regret.

Monument Road focuses on a seventy-something rancher who has spent the year after his wife’s death preparing to fulfill a promise to her—and to end his life at the same time. Leonard Self is a decent but taciturn type who appreciates too late how much of the world he had walled off with his rectitude. His story intertwines with two young people who died along the road he will travel on his final day. One, a foster boy who once lived with Leonard and his wife. Another, a high school girl named Helen whose passionate nature took her too close to the edge.

Memories and encounters on his drive seem like obstacles but they may also be signs redemption waits at the end of the road.

Inhabited continues a theme that runs through Monument Road—how being at home involves feeling comfortable in a place, a set of a relationships and in one’s own skin. It also picks up a loose thread related to Helen’s death in Monument Road.
Inhabited is primarily the story of Meg, Helen’s sister. A successful realtor, Meg's involved with good causes, including serving on the town’s homeless coalition and bringing a promising development to town, and she helps homebuyers find the “lifestyle of their dreams.” But she carries an unresolved guilt that keeps her from fully being herself and from being intimately known by others.
And then she encounters a homeless man named Isaac, whose decency shines through his life's disrepair and whose desire for order could unmask Meg’s carefully constructed image.

4. Usually an author includes some of their life experiences in their books. Did you do that?  Do you have anything in common with your characters?

It’s inevitable that something of a writer’s nature ends up in the blender. For example, in both books characters arrive at perilous heights, which reflects my real-life experience of being drawn and repelled by such places.

I write about the country where I grew up but it’s more as an observer than as a participant. My father took his life in 1984, a period when the community hit bottom economically. Every suicide reflects, in a sense, the sufferer’s distorted view of oneself and poses a mystery that can never be solved. There’s nothing like my father’s death in my novels, but I’m sure my deeper themes flow in part from his life.

I hate characters who are the author in costume. In the few instances where I tried that, I either stopped writing or shrank the guy and moved him away from the center of the story. I already knew him and he wasn’t able to surprise me.

Unfamiliar characters and situations force me to go somewhere new or fearsome, to employ empathy more than memory. That’s what I find stimulating as a writer and as a reader. So I’ve written about an agnostic rancher and his very Christian wife, adventurous high school girls, homeless people with mental illness, a man in denial that he’s a serial killer, an enterprising nun, an alcoholic who finds his center late in life, a semi-redneck businessman, etc.

5. What are some of the issues in Inhabited that are integral to your story?

Your question makes me want to get on my soapbox, something I tried hard avoid in the book itself. I’ll just say the story’s focus on homelessness and economic development invites people of good will to ask themselves some fundamental questions about self-interest versus the interests of others.

For example, last night a book club reader identified a key question in the story: whether it’s possible to distinguish the “undeserving” homeless in order to help only the “deserving.”

Are economic outcomes the proper measure of mankind? Is wealth truly virtue’s reward, and if so, what does that say about the poor? Should we leave society’s toughest problems up to the market since diverse communities can’t seem to agree on solutions?

We tend to judge other human beings based largely upon how alike they are to us. That’s the core issue in Inhabited and at the center of our national discourse.

6. Do you like to read?  What are some of your favorite books and authors?

Reading is an essential part of the writing life. I tend to look for a book that is right for me at a particular moment, rather than pursue greats or favorites, because what concerns and influences me changes.

Life is short and even Pantheons go out of date. For example, writers as different as Edmund Wilson, Harry Crews, Wright Morris and Margaret Atwood once inspired me to acquire all their works. I still haven’t read all of them.

Not to totally dodge the question, here are some of my all-time favorite reading experiences. All of George Orwell, including the four-volume Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters. Loren Eiseley, an anthropologist and natural science writer, especially The Immense Journey and The Night Country. Wallace Stegner for his writing about the culture, history and environment of the west. And Joe Sacco for his use of the graphic novel form to give an intimate focus to the big subject of war.

7. What is one book that you think should be part of the school curriculum or a part of the great books canon?

1984 should be taught forever. Unlike many books in the canon, people will read it anyway.

8. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write?  Do you write full-time or do you also have a “day” job?

I have always written full-time, though only in the last seven years as a writer of fiction. I am very fortunate to have reached a point in life where my livelihood does not depend on being a novelist.

My first move each day is to fill my coffee cup and sit down to work on something—a novel-in-progress, a blog post, a letter to the editor. I don’t set goals or deadlines, such as words per day or number of hours. If I hit my desk and don’t write anything, that’s very unusual, but I don’t beat myself up over it because I’ll be back at it tomorrow.

9. Have you begun working on a new book?  Can you tell us about it?

I’m in the early stages of working on a third novel that is also set in Western Colorado. The story centers on a very wealthy patriarch who has made his fortune by exploiting the earth and is now building a trophy retreat in the mountains that he hopes will cement his legacy. I expect a lot will go wrong with his plan.

10. In one sentence tell readers why they should read Inhabited.

Inhabited will open your eyes to strangers, tune your ear to their voices, and perhaps change your mind about the boundaries of kinship and the meaning of home.

Thanks Charlie!!

If you would like to win a copy of Charlie's book Inhabited please enter here:  Inhabited Giveaway



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Kinds of Snow Giveaway

Kinds of Snow Giveaway

Su Smallen is the Minnesota Author in the spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of February and she and her publisher, Green Writers Press are generously giving away 15 copies to international followers.  This is an excellent book of poetry and Su was long-longlisted for the Minnesota Book Award this year.
The cover is stunning.  If you are not into poetry, give it a try. Read a poem a day and it will change your life.

Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Nature provides the lexicon ofde Kooning Snow. The poems indeKooningSnow negotiate many kinds of loss, metaphorically represented as kinds of snow. Classifications of snow, such as prisms, cups, columns, dendrites, and scrolls, mark places among the poems as when, in a weaving, the warp becomes visible. The title poem frames presence, meaning, memory, and erasure. Several of the poems are contained in panels like Rauschenberg sWhite Paintings. As the poem Glacier reflects, the arc of the book is lyrical rather than narrative, from point A to point A, no point at all. The poem The Last of placed second for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award judged by Dorianne Laux. Three of the poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize; ten have been anthologized.

Giveaway Rules:
Must be a follower of this blog
Open Internationally
Ends March 12th at Midnight
Good Luck

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Charlie Quimby Guest Post + Giveaway

Charlie Quimby Guest Post + Giveaway

Charlie is the Minnesota Author of the month for January and he has written a guest post about homelessness.  He volunteers at a family shelter and his latest book, Inhabited, does a great job covering many of the issues surrounding homelessness.  Read on to learn more.


Since 2009 I’ve been a volunteer with organizations serving people who are unsheltered or in danger of slipping back into homelessness. In the process, I’ve met hundreds of homeless adults and children in two states.

My blog reports stories and observations from this involvement, but it’s limited in scope. To explore homelessness in a larger social context, inside minds and away from the shelters, I turned to fiction.

My novel Inhabited follows two characters whose lives become disrupted by a developer’s proposal to transform a boom-and-bust Colorado town. The plans to reclaim a forsaken riverfront dislodge a homeless camp, sending an unstable man in search of shelter and unsettling an upscale realtor’s seemingly perfect life. The book asks readers to consider the border between doing the right thing for yourself or for others.

Since Inhabited came out last fall, some readers have told me: “I’m not sure I want to read that much about homelessness.”

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

The term “homelessness” pushes a shopping cart full of stereotypes. The insistent panhandler. The pathetic
bag lady. The unclean dumpster diver. The vocal paranoid.

This visible presence of the poor in our communities challenges our assumptions about society’s safety net and our own compassion and generosity.

We tend to look away from such figures on the street, and in popular entertainment, view them through the comforting filter of stereotypes, where they deliver comedy, menace or pathos in walk-on roles. They appear as anonymous victims of serial killers and wilding teens. They share scraps with pigeons and sleep in cardboard squalor. They are scary and dangerous or noble and wise. They are fallen angels or agents of redemption.

Rarely are they presented as fully realized human beings, so these stereotypes reinforce our distanced perceptions.

We know that reading literature encourages empathy. Fiction grants a safe entre to the perceptions and experiences of others and helps us appreciate people very different from ourselves.

A novel doesn’t have to be “about homelessness” to illuminate some of its many dimensions. Consider the rebels and wanderers in Huckleberry Finn, On the Road, Train Dreams, American Rust and The Unnamed. Their protagonists seek independence, fun, meaning, justice and healing—all essential pursuits of the uprooted in America.

In dystopian novels, entire populations are upended by catastrophe. Wiping out the old rules and systems dampens personal culpability for being down-and-out and casts light on the importance of society. Characters in The Road, Station Eleven and The Dog Stars must toil individually, question morality and try to reestablish community. These are also very real struggles of homeless individuals.

It can be revealing to see how people who share a place experience it very differently. A key reality of homeless life is the sense of exclusion from the mainstream, of being simultaneously untouchable, unworthy and dangerous. In Inhabited, they are compared to the invasive tamarisk that has overgrown the riverbank.

A venerable strain of American literature shows readers the economic, social, family and personal dimensions of poverty’s shadow world. Think of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, William Kennedy’s Ironweed, Colum McCann’s This Side of Brightness, Russell Banks’ The Lost Memory of Skin, Peter Hoffmeister’s Graphic the Valley, Jess Walter’s We Live in Water and Smith Henderson’s Fourth of July Creek.

Non-fiction offers other, safe ways into places we might fear. Big city shelters (Jonathan Kozol’s Rachel and Her Children and Nick Flynn’s Another Bullshit Night in Suck City); fragile families (the Jeannette Walls memoir The Glass Castle); mental illness on Skid Row (Steve Lopez’s The Soloist); and the conscious rejection of material culture (Mark Sundeen’s The Man Who Quit Money).

Exposure to such lives has made me less judgmental and more attuned to my privilege. Most acutely, I’m aware that what we define as a struggle between right and wrong most often plays out in choices between self and others.


Thanks Charlie!
You can visit Charlie's blog at http://greatdivide.typepad.com/

Enter to win a copy of Charlie's book, Inhabited here:  Inhabited Giveaway


Friday, February 3, 2017

Announcing the February Author in the Spotlight.

Announcing the February Author in the Spotlight.

Oh Yeah!  Happy February.
The groundhog is in the house,
love is in the air and
there are a lot of really good
books out there.

Bam. I made a short poem rhyme.  Can you tell I'm feeling silly?

Let me add that this month, on Sunday, Feb 5th, marks my blogging anniversary and I have been blogging for a full 7 years.  Crazy!!

Plus I have been featuring amazing Minnesota Authors on Booksnob for 6 and a half years now, that is like 12 authors a month for over 6 years which equals= a LOT of authors.  And there are so many MN authors I love and met through writing this blog and so many authors from Minnesota that I haven't read yet.

This month's author is Su Smallen.  She is an amazing poet with two new books out by two different presses and you are going to love them.

Here are the synopsis from Goodreads:

Kinds of Snow

Nature provides the lexicon of de Kooning Snow. The poems inde Kooning Snow negotiate many kinds of loss, metaphorically represented as kinds of snow. Classifications of snow, such as prisms, cups, columns, dendrites, and scrolls, mark places among the poems as when, in a weaving, the warp becomes visible. The title poem frames presence, meaning, memory, and erasure. Several of the poems are contained in panels like Rauschenberg sWhite Paintings. As the poem Glacier reflects, the arc of the book is lyrical rather than narrative, from point A to point A, no point at all. The poem The Last of placed second for the Joy Harjo Poetry Award judged by Dorianne Laux. Three of the poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize; ten have been anthologized.

You This Close

Poetry. illustrations by Jessica Zeglin. YOU THIS CLOSE is a rippling work encompassing love and water, longing and the natural world. Su Smallen wrote these poems during a residency with the St. Croix Watershed Research Station, where she learned about aquifers and diatoms from the scientists there, kindred in their curiosity about the elegant ways nature works. With imagery from the river and its creatures, the poems of YOU THIS CLOSE are linked together with the last line of one becoming the first line of the next, making a structure that matches a kind of diatom chain. The poems are also about hope for love, addressing a beloved not yet met.


This month you can expect a book review, a giveaway, an author interview and hopefully a guest post.

You can find Su Smallen on her website at https://susmallen.com/

Happy Reading!!



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Inhabited by Charlie Quimby Giveaway

Inhabited by Charles Quimby Giveaway

Charles Quimby is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of January and he, along with his publisher, Torrey House Press, are giving away 3 copies of his newest book, Inhabited. Booksnob readers who live in the U.S. and Canada are eligible to win. I just got my copy in the mail and can't wait to read it.


Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:

Meg Mogrin sells pricey houses, belongs to the mayor's inner circle, and knows more than she's letting on about her sister's death. Isaac Samson lives in a tent and believes Thomas Edison invented the Reagan presidency. When their town attracts a game-changing development, Isaac is displaced by the town's crackdown on vagrancy. As Isaac struggles to regain stability, Meg contends with conflicting roles of assisting the developer while serving on the homeless coalition. Isaac's quest to return a lost artifact soon intrudes into Meg's tidy world, digging up a part of her past she'd rather remained buried. Inhabited, a sister novel to Charlie Quimby's acclaimed Monument Road, returns to the Grand Valley of western Colorado to explore the dimensions of loss, the boundaries of compassion, and the endurance of love.

Rules:
Fill out the form
U.S./Canada residents only
Enter by Feb 14th at midnight
Good Luck!


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