Monday, October 31, 2011

Baltimore's Poe House in Danger of Closing

Edgar Allan Poe creeps me out. I have one of his books in my library and just looking at the cover is spooky. He's really the perfect writing to be reading for Halloween.

What's scary (because it's real) is that Poe's residence in Baltimore is in grave danger of closing due to lack of funding. He lived in the house from 1835 to 1837 and faces funding cuts from the city, an awkward location and not enough visitors to keep the place running.

The New York Times spelled out the problems in this article from August, as well as mentioned how other historical sites honoring Poe are fairing.

One thing I learned from this article that I'd never put together before: Baltimore's NFL team, the Ravens, are a nod to the author.

Friday, October 28, 2011

25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read

The Georgia Center for the Book has on its website a list of 25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read. How many have you read?

Young Adults (grades 7+)

Jodi Lynn Anderson

I Am Rembrandt's Daughter
Lynn Cullen

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy, Book 1)
James Dashner

Blood Brothers
S.A. Harazin

Terra Elan McVoy

First Shot
Walter Sorrells

Middle Readers (Grades 4-8)

Freedom Train
Evelyn Coleman

A Yellow Watermelon
Ted Dunagan

The Tree That Owns Itself: And Other Adventure Tales from Out of the Past
Gail Karwoski and Loretta Johnson Hammer

Shelia Moses

Yankee Girl
Mary Ann Rodman

Alexander the Great Rocks the World (Darby Creek Publishing)
Vicky Alvear Schecter

Honey Bea
Kim L. Siegelson

A Taste of Blackberries
Doris Buchanan Smith

Any Which Wall
Laurel Snyder

Each Little Bird That Sings
Deborah Wiles

Graphic Novel (Grades 4+)

Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer
Andy Runton

Early Readers (Grades K-3)

Mittens (My First I Can Read)
Lola Schaefer

Picture Books (Pre-K+)

Little Duck (My Sparkling Springtime Friends)
Liz Conrad

14 Cows for America
Carmen Deedy (author) and Thomas Gonzalez (illustrator)

Soap, Soap, Soap / Jabon, Jabon, Jabon
Elizabeth O. Dulemba

The Origami Master
Nathaniel Lachenmeyer

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Eric Litwin (author), James Dean (illustrator)

The Monster Who Did My Math
Danny Schnitzlein (author), Bill Mayer (illustrator)

This Is the Dream
Diane A. Shore and Jessica Alexander

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Phantom Tollbooth

I mentioned in my post on the Decatur Book Festival that I'd be participating in Decatur's On the Same Page program by reading The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster this fall. I have recently finished it and quite enjoyed it. I was amazed at how much of it I remembered from having my third grade teacher read it aloud. It's a wonderful, imaginative, funny book and if you haven't read it, consider doing so.

The On the Same Page program is in full swing. In fact, tonight is the showing of the 1970 movie version of The Phantom Tollbooth at Decatur High School at 7 pm. Little Shop of Stories' adult book club will gather for discussion of the book on Monday, November 7 at 7 pm. Little Shop of Stories will hold a discussion, debate and spelling bee on Thursday, November 17 at 7 pm. To culminate the whole event, author Norton Juster himself will visit in a reading and signing event held at Agnes Scott College's Presser Hall. This will be Friday, December 9 at 7 pm. I'm really hoping to go to that.

I won't make it to the movie tonight but I went looking for it on Netflix. They don't carry it but the Fulton County Library System does, so I've requested it and I'm waiting.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Chapter - First Paragraph

Every Tuesday, Bibliophile by the Sea participates in First Chapter - First Paragraph: Tuesday Intros, and today I am too.

I choose my current read, A Separate Country: A Story of Redemption in the Aftermath of the Civil Warby Robert Hicks:

"I woke sick to the sound of an envelope slid under my door. Outside the cotton presses clunked and smoked, the roustabouts shouted oaths at the screwmen, the river slipped past silent and heavy with mud and men and their craft. I listened for the footsteps of the messenger but heard none. They'd begun to burn the sugar down by the molasses sheds, where the Creoles I'd bested at faro the night before would now be standing overseeing the sugar niggers, nursing their own illnesses of indulgence, and finding themselves unable to do anything but mutter oui, oui and call for more coffee. San Domingue rum is a hell of a thing, I should say, Oh Lord, my head. I wondered if M., lying next to me, could hear the bones in my head creaking when I breathed. The sound in my head was loud, like the sound of two ships scraping by each other at the quay. It must have made the sound. Or maybe that squeaking was me. Quite possible."

To participate in First Chapter ~ First Paragraph, visit Diane's blog at Bibliophile By the Sea.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Love to Write Day

I Love to Write Day, in its 10th year, is coming up soon on Tuesday, November 15. Founded in 2002 by author John Riddle, the event is centered around the fact that anyone can, and should, write. Riddle's website outlines writing events around the country held that day in 2010 and suggested writing activities for November 15. For Riddle, the important thing is not what you write but just that one is writing.

I'm encouraging everyone to participate as well. I'll likely be writing something for work that day, but I'll probably also put up a blog post and maybe send out a note to a friend. Why not consider sending a card to an old friend? Journaling about your childhood? Starting to write the book you've got in your head? Picking up where you left off with a writing project?

Pretty much anything you write on November 15 counts for I Love to Write Day. If you do plan to participate, Riddle likes to keep count, so email him and let him know you're writing.

If you're planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month, also in November, then you should definitely sign up for I Love to Write Day because you'll be writing anyway! The rules for this are also simple. If you participate, on November 1 you'll start writing your 50,000-word novel. You have to finish by November 30 and upload it to the website to get your certificate of completion. The thought with this program is that it's not quite so scary if other people are doing the same, and the NaNoWriMo website acts as a forum for bringing this community of writers together. I just did the math. If you write five pages a day, you'll have your 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Now start writing!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Mostly because of my line of work but partly because the publishing world is changing, I keep hearing a lot about authors who decide to self-publish. The Decatur Book Festival was full of these folks and I'm reading more and more books that have been published this way. For those who have expertise or a good story to share and who don't want to go through the traditional channels to get their book published, it can be a great option. A recent article in USA Today caught my attention about an author who first went the self-publishing route and then got her book picked up my Amazon in their new program called AmazonEncore, which publishes new and little-known authors via paperbacks, audio and e-books. So, if you've thought of writing a book, you should. There are plenty of resources out there for those wanting to go the self-publishing route. Forget about facing rejection from major publishers just to get your work out there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Author Readings by Faulkner and O'Connor

I love going to hear authors read from their books. I've recently found audio online of two of my favorite (deceased) authors reading from their works. Hear Flannery O'Connor read from "A Good Man is Hard to Find" (my favorite!) at Vanderbilt University in 1959. William Faulkner was writer-in-residence at the University of Virginia in 1957-58 and a website has a host of audio files from his classes, talks, speeches and readings. I particularly like hearing him read from The Sound and the Fury.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Last night my book club had the event we've been looking forward to for months: Booktoberfest. We ate bratwurst, German potato salad, schnitzel and German chocolate cake, all washed down with root beer. We discussed a book that all of us quite enjoyed: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. If you haven't yet read this book, consider doing so. If you're particularly into World War II-era stories, you'll probably like this. After really enjoying The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Postmistress earlier this year, I was already in the mood, though The Book Thief is, I think, considerably darker.

My thoughts:

  • I enjoyed reading a story about what was going on with regular families on a regular street in a regular neighborhood in Germany during World War II. I've done so much reading of similar stories with characters (fictional and nonfictional) from Allied countries that it was a nice change to read about what was happening on German soil. The only other book I've read about Germany from that time period that I can remember is The Good German and it took place just after the war in Potsdam with plenty of Allied soldiers present. 
  • I was struck by Hans Hubermann, foster father to the main character, Liesel Meminger. Hans has a heart of gold and hasn't become hardened to the harsh world around him as everyone else has. His ability to see past all the things that divide us as people and see people as what they truly are is a gift, especially considering the time in which he lived. Thanks to Hans, I will probably think of him for the rest of my life each time I see or hear an accordion.
  • In places, The Book Thief is extremely difficult to read because of all the injustices the characters are subjected to. Though I've done lots of World War II reading, this really gave me a new perspective of the awfulness and inhumanity of that time. 
Have you read this book? What did you think about it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: Oh Mexico! Love and Adventure in Mexico City

Oh Mexico!: Love and Adventure in Mexico City by Lucy Neville

Published by: Nicholas Brealey Publishing

Published on: August 16, 2011

Page Count: 328

Genre: Travel Memoir, Autobiography

My Reading Format: Advanced reading copy in Adobe Digital Editions from Netgalley

Available Formats: Kindle and paperback

My Review:

Lucy Neville’s travel memoir, Oh Mexico!: Love and Adventure in Mexico City, starts out in a predictable way. This recent college graduate isn’t ready for the corporate world, so she decides to embark upon a journey far away from her home in Australia. In Mexico City, she decides, she can better her Spanish language skills, embrace and immerse herself in a different culture, and have a host of new experiences. For one year she decides to live in crime-ridden but culturally rich Mexico City, and she is determined to succeed there. Along the way she encounters quirky characters who are both escaping their lives in other countries and are Mexican natives. She learns how difficult it is to survive and thrive in a place where corruption is rampant and rules and laws are merely suggestions. She finds herself part of a culture where women tend to be hard workers while their men often do as little work as possible. She learns what is important to Mexican life: food, family and celebrations (even if many of them seem to make light of death).

For me this book was a nice break from travel memoirs that take place in Europe. Yes, I enjoy those books immensely, but it was nice to read a first-hand experience of a country I’ve never visited, not even in the areas that cater to North American tourists, and a country that only makes American news when there is something to report on border patrol issues or drug cartels. I’m not sure it made me immediately want to book a trip to check out Mexico City for myself, but it did give me a great admiration for the author and others who embark upon similar adventures.

I liked this Lucy, the narrator. I sometimes forgot that I was reading a book instead of hearing a friend recount her adventures abroad. For the first time in quite a while, I feel like I know Lucy and that she’s my friend. She’s relatable, spunky, and willing to keep trying until she finds a way that works. She’ll listen to your advice and she might follow it. Or she might find out for herself.

What I didn’t like about the book and fairly small compared to what I did. As Lucy struggles to decide between two men, her hot roommate Octavio and her kind-hearted boyfriend Ricardo, the decision in the book, whether it was in real life, was rushed. Lucy let us into her head, building up all the tension between her and Octavio right before he vanished from her life. Was it really like that? I suspect not since many people can’t just switch their emotions off that quickly and neatly. Then, as Mexico’s economy becomes greatly affected by the American one, Lucy and Ricardo decide to move back to Australia. Though the focus of the book was, obviously, life in Mexico City, I am so curious to know more about how things turned out once they got settled in Australia.

Lucy Neville, if Ricardo is a writer, please talk him into writing a companion book outlining his first year living with you in Australia. If he is not a writer, please consider how you could turn this new chapter in your life into a second book. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

My Take on Oxford, Mississippi

I recently had the pleasure of writing a feature on Oxford, Mississippi, for Julep Magazine. Oxford is one of the most charming places I've visited in the last couple of years, and I hope that one day I'll be able to go back and see it again. The reasons I like this place probably come as no surprise: good food, a focus on the arts and artists, lots of Southern history and literature, and just nice folks.

Read the story. You'll have to create a login to see it, or view it on Julep's blog here.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Reading and Reflections on 9/11

I was lucky that on September 11, 2001, I did not personally know anyone who was aboard a plane that crashed, inside the Pentagon or one of the World Trade Center towers in New York. So though the story of where I was and what I was doing when I heard the terrible news is personally important to me and the people I was with that day, but probably not to many others. Many people are like I am, and though we can all be thankful, we were still all affected nonetheless.

The tenth anniversary of that awful day that changed the world has come and gone and I've been thinking a lot about what that anniversary has meant, both to me and those directly impacted, and I've done some reading, of course, to aid me in that.

On September 11, 2011, I spent a couple pf continuous hours alone in my car and tuned in to my local NPR station to see how they were marking the day. I wasn't disappointed. In the time after 9/11/01, NPR dedicated a voice mail line to those who felt compelled to call and leave a message describing their reactions to and reflections upon that day. They were deeply personal even though many of these messages were no longer than a voice mail any of us might leave for someone or receive. I was moved and fascinated by how those with direct connections to these disasters could sum up their relationship to that day and how they were moving forward in such a concise yet eloquent way.

After listening to those voice mails being played back I soon read a book I'd been intending to read for quite some time: Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project, edited and introduced by Dave Isay. StoryCorps is an NPR effort where regular Americans can record their life's recollections, usually by answering questions from a friend or family member. At the end of the interview, they receive a CD recording of it and the other CD is sent to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. There are permanent or semi-permanent StoryCorp booths in New York City, Atlanta and San Francisco. A traveling recording studio in an Airstream trailer is currently taking reservations for stops in Denver and Los Angeles.

In Listening Is an Act of Love: A Celebration of American Life from the StoryCorps Project, Isay has compiled edited transcriptions of stories recorded in these booths. Some stories are funny and some are sad, but all are incredibly touching. The stories are grouped in the book according to theme, but the last section of the book, "Fire and Water," is comprised of recordings specifically on the topic of September 11, 2001, and they were captured in a permanent recording booth established at the World Trade Center site in 2005. These recordings are some of what has been placed at the Memorial Museum that has recently opened.

Also part of this section are stories from survivors of Hurricane Katrina. If the stories in this book don't draw all kinds of emotions out of you, you just simply aren't human. It is those personal stories from everyday people that has impacted me the most it turns out. I think those are the most important voices to be heard.


Another set of important voices I've just heard are in The Whole Fiasco, the book written by writing students at Atlanta's KIPP Strive Academy partnered with The Wren's Nest and numerous writing volunteers. I thoroughly enjoyed my second year working with a student to properly capture the voice of a family member and do it justice by writing it down. A few students from the program got the opportunity to record their family interviews through StoryCorps and have these interviews archived. This collection is full of stories from very talented fifth and sixth graders, and I'm convinced that these students are on their way to accomplishing great things.


A friend and fellow Atlanta-area freelancer, Photographer David Batley just had a show of his work to commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11. Batley happened to be visiting the World Trade Center to photograph it just one week before that day in 2001. He told me he spent 10 years trying to decide what to do with those photos. Then, 10 years later he revisited the spot and shot photos again. He compiled the two series in an exhibit called "Towering Views: Images Remembering the World Trade Center Ten Years After 9/11." It's at the Art Station at Big Shanty in Kennesaw through October 28 before it moves elsewhere. To find out more about Batley and his work, visit