Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

October Author in the Spotlight Wrap-Up + Giveaway

Kmart Shoes Giveaway ends at Midnight tonight!

The last day of October is always a treat and full of indulging in chocolate candy. I've just returned from taking my kids trick or treating and now they are sorting through their candy stash.  So as we celebrate Halloween, let's also celebrate Lance Ward, the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight this month.

Today is the last day to enter to win the graphic novel Kmart Shoes.  Click here to enter:  Kmart Shoes Giveaway

Please check out my book review of Kmart Shoes.  This is an autobiographical graphic novel of Lance's life.  Lance draws and tells the true story of his life growing up disillusioned and disheartened.  Lance is a survivor of a tragic childhood and his book is a triumph of his will to endure and survive.

Kmart Shoes Book Review

Check out the author interview with Lance Ward.  Find out the back story behind Kmart Shoes and information about Lance's drawing life.  You will also find some new cartoonists to check out.  Lance will make you smile.  I think it is one of the best author interviews on Booksnob!  You seriously need to read it.

Lance Ward Author Interview 

Check out Lance's guest post.  He decides to share a happy memory of his childhood.  Going to the drive-in movie theater with his mom and sister and making a big bowl of popcorn.  Enjoy.

Lance Ward Guest Post

As October ends, I would like to thank Lance Ward for being the October Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob.  He is an excellent artist and writer and I am looking forward to reading more of his life story in future publications.  Please visit Lance at his website and check out his new book Kmart Shoes.  Go to: 

This link will take you to the official website of 7th Avenue Productions.

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!

Happy Halloween!  Today is Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day here on Booksnob. This is my second time participating in the Foodie Pen Pals event and today I get to show you what I got in the mail.  I love food!  Doesn't everyone?

Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean blog has been running this event for over a year now.  If you want to sign up you must do so before November 4th, go to The Lean Green Bean.

I sent my food package to Catherine in Virginia and I received my package from Melissa from Illinois.

Her blog is Running with Needles, at

My month of October was a bit stressful, with two deaths in the family and a full observation by the principal which was super time consuming.  The foodie package from Melissa arrived on a relaxing day off.  My daughter helped me open it and it was full of yummy snacks.

Here is the lovely note Melissa sent stating that she got most of my food from the local grocery store.  I love trying local food!  The Pumpkin bread was the best and I keep checking grocery stores around here for a similar loaf and I can't find any.  I might have to buy a mix and make my own.

Melissa included a bag of treats for my dog and he loves them.  I give him one a day.  I also got some delicious salsa and the funny thing is, I sent my foodie pen pal Catherine, salsa too.

I love these snacks and of course immediately devoured them.  I'm so glad I got the dark chocolate almonds (my absolute favorite) because my husband and kids don't like dark chocolate and I got to eat them all by myself!

Thanks Melissa!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kmart Shoes by Lance Ward

Kmart Shoes by Lance Ward

Lance Ward grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in small town Minnesota.  Being poor didn't matter until the day his parents split up and his dad moved away.  That is when Lance and his sister Wendy began to feel poor.  They grew up eating cabbage soup and sardine sandwiches, wearing second hand clothes and dime store shoes.  Lance endured teasing and his mother's abusive boyfriend as his life began to spiral out of control.

Lance and his father had a tense relationship.  Lance was artistic, not athletic and didn't live up to his father's expectations.  Dad didn't want him anymore and his mother treated Lance as a guest in their home as he was forced to sleep on the couch and abandon his bedroom space.  Yet Lance had a gift, he could draw.  Drawing was Lance's way to escape and this gave him hope.

Lance draws and tells the true story of his life growing up disillusioned and disheartened.  Kmart Shoes is a gritty graphic novel that throws out punches as Lance struggles to survive and find love.  Some people are lucky to grow up and have everything they want but not Lance.  Lance is a survivor of a tragic childhood and his book is a triumph of his will to endure and survive.

Lance is a well known cartoonist and comedic artist.  The artwork in Kmart Shoes is done in black, white and muted gray.  His artwork is drawn with heart and humor and it might just make you cry.  Lance is able to tell his sad story with attitude and charisma.  He offers up lessons of hope as he lives the mantra, Don't ever give up.

As you read Kmart Shoes, look for the bearded guy in the corner.  That is where you will find Lance, playing with his kids, creating his art and enduring.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Diane Wilson visits South High

Diane Wilson visits South High

Diane Wilson's book, Spirit Car; Journey to a Dakota Past is the current Minneapolis One Read.  Minneapolis One Read promotes the entire city reading one book at the same time and discussing it together.  South High School in Minneapolis participates every year and this year the book is relevant to Minnesota history in that it tells the story of the mass hanging of Indians that occurred in Mankato, MN in 1862.  This year is the 150th anniversary of this devastating war called The Dakota Conflict or Little Crow's war.

On Thursday, October 25th, Diane Wilson visited our school to talk to students in the All Nations program as well as American History students and students in the Voices classes.  I was lucky enough to be in the audience.

Diane told the audience that her mother was Dakota (Native American) and her father was Scandinavian.  Her mother rarely told stories of her family but the one story she did tell was of her boarding school experience.  Diane wanted to learn more about her Dakota side of the family and so began by researching her family history tracing it back many generations.  She interviewed family members.  She did research and learned what happened to her people and why her mother didn't tell her story.  Diane Wilson is telling her mother's story and the history of her family in Spirit Car.

Diane spent time answering student questions and one student asked her about commodity food.  Diane answered by saying if you control someone's food, you can control the person.  If you know anything about commodity food it is full of starch, fat, salt and sugar.  This food is one of the reason's why Native Americans struggle with obesity and diabetes.  Diane has started a local farm and has camps for young people to learn sustainable farming and bring them back to their traditions

Diane spent time after her talk signing books and talking with students and staff.  Later in the day, she visited classrooms.  I can't wait to read Spirit Car and as we get closer to the 150th anniversary of the mass hanging of 38 Indians in Mankato, on December 26, 1862, it is important to take time to reflect and remember.  Spirit Car will help me remember.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lance Ward Author Interview + Giveaway

Lance Ward Author Interview + Giveaway

Lance Ward is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight here on Booksnob for the month of October.  Lance has written and drawn a visually awesome book about his life growing up in Forest Lake, MN.  Please take a minute to read this super, cool interview with a very interesting man.  Find out a little bit more about cartoonists, comics and Kmart Shoes.

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am 44 years old. My wife and I have been together for almost 16 years. I have three children. The oldest from a previous relationship, and my two youngest with my wife. I currently work as a national editorial cartoonist with Kevin Cannon at Crowded We live just south of St.Paul in a little town called St.Paul Park. I carved a hole in the bedrock over there and that's the cave where I spend most of my time.

2. Why did you decide to write Kmart Shoes?

 It just kind of happened. I had been doing auto-bio cartoons about my modern life, with a few stories of when I was younger. But my modern life can, at times, suck so bad, that I don't want to write about it. And it's not life changing disappointments, either. It's just the constant drudgery of the mundane. Laundry that never seems to get done, or the everyday piles of dirty dishes that exist in a fluid state on the counter in my kitchen. So instead of carving out my own eyes, I decided to dig deep into my bag of memories and pull out the shit. Because that's what people want to read. They want to read about someone else's shitty life so that maybe they don't feel so bad about their own lives. So I decided to write about the worst moments of my life, because I'd had quite a few. And it just snowballed from there.

3. Can you share with us your writing and drawing process while you created Kmart Shoes?

I developed this loose style for a particular comic character of mine, the "Tatertotdiaperman". I don't even use pencil or predraw at all. Just grab a sharpie pen and go for it. I found that this style worked well for auto-bio. For the honesty. If I sat there and plotted out the action and every frame, and chose the words just perfectly, it wouldn't be real. It would be my polished version of those terrible days. Those days weren't polished. There was no veneer on that shit. So I sit there, and I stare at the blank frames, thinking of that particular moment that I will put down. I try to time travel back into the emotions; back to the feelings of the places. Then I just go for it. I put it down, oblivious to the music in the room, ignoring the sounds of the modern Lance's life. I will draw until that moment has been written, all of it. Even if it means several pages at once. When I'm done, I sit back, and travel back to this Modern world, spent and fractured. After I've settle down, I'll go back and patiently watercolor the fresh pages.

4. How did you go about becoming a syndicated comic artist or cartoonist?

In 2004, I had a heart attack, died, and was brought back to life after witnessing the actual portal to the other side. It changed my life in more ways than one. Turns out I have heart disease. So I had some surgeries. And another heart attack. And more surgeries. It took a toll on my body. Not only has my heart been weakened, but the surgeries left me with nerve damage in my right leg. So I couldn't work in kitchens anymore, as I had been doing since 1997. After struggling with disability and depression for 5 years, I decided that now was the right time to pursue my dream of becoming a cartoonist. I never went to art school or college, but I figured my natural talent, if I worked at it, could take me somewhere. So I drew everyday. And then one day, I noticed that our local paper had lost their editorial cartoonist. I had nothing to lose, so I walked into the offices and told them that I'd like the job. They said "No, no, we can't pay anyone, the economy, blah blah blah, goodbye." As I was walking out, I opened my portfolio to a colorful picture and said "I'm good." He stopped escorting me out and said "Let me see that." Then he called the editor over. I told them my story, and they were so impressed, they wrote a front page article about me and gave me job. This paper was owned by a much larger corporation, who owned other papers around the state. So I they started to syndicate my comics! It was awesome getting paid twice, three times for the same cartoon! So I did that for two years, and began to get noticed by other cartoonists. Then I was contacted by Kevin Cannon to be one of his hand-picked cartoonists for his national editorial site, Crowded

5. Do you plan to write more graphic novels about your life? I

I have, actually. I have two sequels to "Kmart Shoes" already finished. The third one is proving challenging. And I actually should refer to them as 'chapters', as they are all part of the same story.

6. Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?

I do like to read, actually.I read everything I can get my hands on. All books influence me to some degree, good or bad. My favorite book or comic these days, is Aaron Poliwoda's "Low Blow" comic series. You can't find it online. You have to know Aaron, or be one of the lucky few who are able to see him at conventions working a little table. This guy writes about what it's like to have autism. He doesn't hold back.

7. Who are your favorite cartoonists?

Ryan Dow at is one of my favorites. Danny Hellman, Charles Burns, Dan Clowes, all the biggies. Kevin Cannon is not only my friend, but also a mentor to me. He is a cartoon machine. And of course, Aaron Poliwoda.

8. Share one or two important lessons or advice that you want people to understand from your difficult childhood and/or your book.

 Don't give up. Keep going. Life is fluid; it changes all the time. When I was a kid, I could blame my parents for things that happened to me. But at a certain point, the choices and decisions were all mine to make, and I had no one to blame but myself. Take accountability for your own actions, and you will find that you will quickly grow into your life.

9. Tell us in one sentence why we should read Kmart Shoes?

You should read it because I wrung all the shit and anxiety out of my head and agonizingly poured it into this book.

Thanks Lance!!
If you like to win a copy of his book Kmart Shoes please enter here:  Kmart Shoes Giveaway

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields

Become a witness to Daisy Goodwill's life as she travels through the important eras of her life cycle from birth, childhood, marriage, motherhood to illness and decline and finally death.  Daisy is born to a mother who dies within minutes of giving birth.  The death of her mother causes her to feel untethered her entire life because she has lost the endearing and everlasting love of a mother.  Daisy grows up and goes through the motions of life but is consciously aware that her life is missing something.

The Stone Diaries is a fictional autobiography of Daisy Goodwill.  Daisy represents every woman as they travel through the inevitable periods of life.  Beautifully and creatively written, Daisy's story is told by people who knew her.

Can you ever really know someone?
Do you know yourself completely?

By the time we get to the end of our long life we have changed and lived multiple lives.  Five years or an important event becomes a mere hiccup in our lives.  We change, we grow, we move, we love, we hate and we die.  Life goes on with or without us.

Shields has created an original novel in style and subject.  Told from multiple perspectives and writing styles, each period in Daisy's life is interesting and important to understanding the whole person. The Stone Diaries won the Pulitzer Prize in 1995 and it is deserving.  The ending of the book is poignant and sad, like the ending of a life.  The Stone Diaries is a clear cut example of fiction mirroring life and a monument to self.

At the beginning of the book Carol Shields includes a poem from "The Grandmother's Cycle by Judith Dowing, Converse Quarterly, Autumn.  I want to include it here because it sums up the book nicely and it is beautiful.

nothing she did
or said

was quite
what she meant

but still her life
could be called a monument

shaped in a slant 
of available light

and set to the movement
of possible music

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lance Ward Guest Post + Giveaway

Lance Ward Guest Post and a Giveaway!

Lance Ward is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight this month on Booksnob.  Lance has written an autobiographical graphic novel about his dysfunctional life growing up.  Lance's book Kmart Shoes is a no holds barred, adult look back into a unpleasant childhood and it is riveting.  Please join me in welcoming Lance Ward.

Lance Ward Guest Post
hate "Kmart Shoes". I wrote it so I could purge myself of the demons that had been haunting me for years. It didn't work. What it did was force me to truly confront the feelings and anxieties that have driven me mad at certain points in my life. So instead of opening up with my feelings and stating some bullshit about how I've grown and this has been a life changing blah blah blah, I'm going to talk about some of the good memories.
     There was a drive-in theatre in the town of Wyoming, just three miles north of Forest Lake. It was called The Hub, but to me and my sister, it was Disneyland. It was always packed with people back in 1978, people from my neighborhood, people just like me. Folks who wanted a night out on the cheap; a night free of pretention. That night, for us, started in our little kitchen, when my Mom would start the popcorn. She would cook it the old-fashioned way, on the stovetop with oil. She would take our old stew pot, and transform it from the holder of stewed meats, and into the magical container from which salty, buttery goodness would spring. And only one batch would not do for the drive-in! Oh no! She would make at least two delicious batches, carefully pouring each one into an open, brown grocery bag. And we weren't allowed to touch it until the first movie started. That was the rule. So we would sit in the kitchen, smelling our future, salivating at the prospect of eating it while we watched grease spots slowly form on the bottom of the bag. And this would be the last thing she would do before we left. When the last batch was lovingly drenched in butter and just slightly over-salted, my Mother would cinch the bag up tight, and we would go, quick as we could, the few miles up highway 61 to that appropriately named automotive cinema.
As we would approach the entrance at dusk, the looming screen seemed other-worldy. Like a monolithic gift from Hollywood so far away. Hollywood wasn't a real place to me. Like New York or Los Angeles, these places existed only on television and in the movies, side-by-side with my fictional heores Han Solo and The Hulk. But here was the drive-in! A giant screen dropped in the middle of nowhere to bring us not one but three(!) movies for the low, low price of that's my Mom's department! I didn't care about price! I was too mesmerized by the long line of cars waiting to get in, and even more suprised by the amount of cars already inside! The whole town must've showed up! I always saw kids I knew. They had a playground on the side, and let' face it. Little kids don't have the patience for films like "The Eiger Sanction" or "The Verdict". Hell, I barely had the patience for the first half of "Close Encounters" when I was ten. But the drive-in wasn't about the movies or the popcorn. It was about letting go of reality; letting go of life. For those short few hours, we could forget about our lives, our real lives, and be a part of something social with no pretense. We were all there together, to do the same thing, in the safety of the dark, in the comfort of our own vehicles. We were all the same in the dark, with the glow of the screen the only thing to light up the joy in our faces.
 Thanks Lance.  
If you would like to win a copy of Kmart Shoes please click here:  Kmart Shoes Giveaway

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Elizabeth travels with her father from Boston to Aleppo, Syria to help the Armenians who are being forcibly removed from their homeland in Turkey during World War I, by bringing aid and medical supplies.  She has attended college, taken a basic nursing course and has a narrow grasp of the language.  Elizabeth quickly loses her naivete when a group of starved, naked women and children refugees are herded into the public square like animals.  Where are the men, She asks?  They have been slaughtered or became soldiers for the opposition.

In Aleppo, Elizabeth meets people who will change the outcome of her life.  She meets Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter.  He leaves Syria to join the British front, in the hope of destroying the Turks, and they fall in love as they send letters to each other.

Fast forward two generations and the story incorporates, Laura, Elizabeth and Armen's granddaughter as she learns the truth about her grandparents and the effects of the Armenian genocide that continue to haunt her.  Laura becomes the writer of her grandparents story.

The Sandcastle Girls is historical fiction that places "The Slaughter you know next to nothing about", (pg. 13) the Armenian genocide, as the terrifying back-drop. "The centennial of the Armenian genocide is nearing.  April 24, 2015, marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the round-up of the Armenian intellectuals, professionals, editors, and religious leaders in Constantinople, most of whom eventually were executed.  Is was, arguably, the start of the most nightmarish eight years in Armenian history-though the very worst would occur in the subsequent eighteen months, culminating with the 1916 massacres at Ras-el-Ain and Der-el-zor."(pg. 261)

The Germans were allies with Turkey during World War I.  The parallels of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide are significant.  It strikes me that the Germans learned a lot of their horrific practices from the Turks and perpetuated them on the Jews, like the Turks did on the Christians.

Bohjalian has written a book that is difficult to read at times as he doesn't hold back the horror of genocide during World War I.  His book is a necessary introduction to "The Slaughter you know next to nothing about."  His characters are human, flawed, and believable.  The book is timely as the hundred year anniversary approaches but also because of the political unrest and problems gripping the people of Syria right now.  As massacres happen today in Syria by the government, in exactly the same place of one hundred years ago, it brings about an eerie sad feeling for the people in this desert nation steeped in a history of tragedy.

The Sandcastle Girls is a difficult, important book that must be read.  Why must we read books that challenge us?  Books that challenge us, widen our perceptions, make us aware of injustices that still exist in the world, demand that we teach or tell someone what we learned and perpetuate the change we hope to see in the world.  If we deny ourselves the experience of reading books that are difficult we lose a sense of what is real.  So don't shy away from The Sandcastle Girls, it may be the one book that rocks your world and this is one history lesson you want to stay awake for.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Twin Cities Book Festival 2012

Twin Cities Book Festival 2012

The Twin Cities Book Festival was held last Saturday and it was spectacular.  I stayed all day!  The first thing I did was walk around and talk to publishers, colleges, authors, poets and tons of literary folk.  I ran into some old friends and made some new ones.  There was a used book sale, good food and a children's corner.  If you love books, this was the place to be this weekend.

At 12:30, I went to the young adult panel of authors.  Molly Beth Griffin, Silhouette of a Sparrow,introduced four women authors who are making waves in the paranormal fiction category.  I snapped their picture before the women spoke.  From Left to right is Amanda Hocking,Wake (Watersong Novels),Anna Waggener Grim, Bree Despain,The Savage Grace: A Dark Divine Noveland Anne Greenwood Brown,Lies Beneath.  Each of the authors read from their books and Bree told a great story of how she became a writer.  After the panel, the women met fans and signed books.  I am looking forward to reading all of their books.

Common good books had a local lit lounge where readers could sit down and visit with writers about their books and even get their book signed.  I met a bunch of authors this way.  This is who I met and the book they wrote.  I am going to read all of these books sometime next year!
Lara Avery Anything But Ordinary
John Brandon A Million Heavens (McSweeney's Rectangulars)
Julie Schumacher The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls
Mary Losure The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World
Matt Batt Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House into Our Home Sweet Home
Doug Mack Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide
Jeffrey Pilcher Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food
Richard and Kate Russo  Interventions
Cheryl Strayed  Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Oprah's Book Club 2.0)

This is a picture of Richard Russo and I.  His daughter Kate Russo took it.

I also met Michael A. Wade, My Power, My Pleasure, My Pain, My Life in Poetryan African American poet whose book looks really good.

At 3:30 I went to the World Fiction showcase.  This showcase highlighted the new work of these four talented and interesting authors.

Tamara Faith Borger, Lie With Me. If you like the Shades of Grey trilogy, you will like her work.

Eduardo Halfon- Polish BoxerEduardo Halfon writes in Spanish but thinks in English.  This is his first book out of 8 to be translated into English.

James Kilgore Prudence Couldn't Swim (Switchblade)was a political activist and fugitive hiding from the law for 27 years.  When he was in prison he wrote 3 books and this is one of them.

Jennifer Miller The Year of the GadflyJennifer has the most enthusiastic and bubbly personality.  It took her 7 years to write this book.  Sometimes she sets up her novelade stand and sells her books at a table on the street.  Here she talks to readers and gives them a cookie if they purchase a book.  She sells out everyday.
These are the four books I brought home from the book festival to review in the near future.   Thanks to the authors and publishers!
As you can tell, I had a great day at the Twin Cities Book Festival and am looking forward to a great year of year ahead and next year's festival.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild.  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed's life was turned upside down with the death of her mother at a young age.  Her mother was the glue that held her family together and without her, Cheryl's family fell apart and scattered.  Cheryl was 22 and devastated.  Cheryl eventually destroyed her marriage by being reckless and conflicting hurt because she was hurting.  Four years after her mother's death she was alone, dejected, reckless and searching for a way to repair her broken life.

One day at an REI store in Minneapolis, Cheryl saw a book titled The Pacific Crest Trail, Volume 1: California.  On impulse she bought the book and made the life changing decision to backpack and hike the Pacific Crest Trail from California through Oregon.  This was a brave decision considering she had never backpacked a long distance before and she planned to do it alone.  She needed to change herself at the deepest level of her core and Cheryl knew this experience would help her piece her life back together.

Wild is a memoir that spoke to me on a deep level.  As a backpacker and hiker myself I related to the trials and tribulations of the trail.  Sore and blistered feet, a pack to heavy to carry, full of the things you think you will need.  Dry packaged food and the search for the water, the fear of bears, silence and wondering if your following the right trail.  The beauty of the wilderness, the extreme temperatures, reading in your tent and the satisfaction of conquering the trail against the physical odds.  Strayed captures it all in the pages of Wild.

Strayed takes readers on a tour of her life as she bares her soul.  Wild brought me to tears twice and had me laughing out loud.  Cheryl is a brave woman as she conquers the little traveled Pacific Crest Trail and the mountains and valleys of her life.  The trail is a metaphor for life and I think that is why I love backpacking so much and Strayed's book, Wild.  Everything you do, you need to take it one step at a time.

I was able to meet Cheryl Strayed yesterday at the Twin Cities Book Festival.  We talked about the challenges of backpacking and hiking at an older age.  Thanks goodness we can travel through the experience of reading books.

Travel with Cheryl on the trail and experience adventure, joy, laughter, fear, sadness, peace and life on the Wild side.