Category: On Writing


Bookstore Geek: New International Bookshop in Melbourne

By Midge Raymond,

While wandering around Melbourne’s Carlton neighborhood, we were thrilled to stumble upon The New International Bookshop, which calls itself “Melbourne’s famous radical bookshop.” A cooperative founded in 1994, the bookshop continued the tradition of the communist International Bookshop; learn more about the history here.

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The bookshop, located in the Trades Hall union building, a wonderful selection of progressive books, and even has a section devoted to environmental books, which was wonderful to see. The bookshop carries new and classic left-wing titles on everything from socialism to anarchism to philosophy to feminism.

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The store also has a great selection of shirts, bumper stickers, and cards.

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There is also a large secondhand section in the store which features donated books and a cozy reading spot.

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Don’t miss this treasure next time you’re in Melbourne … it’s well worth a visit!



Cat Editors: Susan DeFreitas and Akira Kittysawa

By Midge Raymond,

Meet author Susan DeFreitas, who writes with her feline muse Akira Kittysawa.

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I’ve had many cat editors over the years, all of whom were kind enough to spare me the worst of their critiques. But perhaps I knew that, in order to get my first novel published, I was going to need a firmer editorial hand.

Enter Akira Kittysawa—a tiny, somewhat shy shelter cat who, within six months of being adopted, had grown into sturdy, assertive alpha feline who, despite having almost no voice, was adept at bending the two humans in the household to her will.

Named after the great movie director Akira Kurosawa, this cat pulled no punches on my novel. Unlike other cat editors, who would meow politely from the floor until invited to weigh in on the manuscript—and would graciously accept being ejected from the process when my editorial instincts ran counter to theirs—Akira (Kira for short) insisted on being intimately involved in the editing process every step of the way.

 

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Her feedback was integral to turning Hot Season from a collection of linked stories from my grad school days into a full-fledged novel, and her determination to remain firmly seated on my lap—no matter how awkward this made typing—really gave me so much insight into some of my own characters, many of whom are just bound and determined to do some really inadvisable things.

For instance, my character Katie? She’s a freshman in college who wants to be an activist, and she’s decided to blow up the construction equipment of a developer that’s set to destroy a local river.

Her roommate Jenna, in her second semester, is determined to do something just as dumb, though probably less dangerous, in cheating on her long-term boyfriend with the hot new guy at school (though she does have suspicions that this new guy might be an undercover agent).

And their third roommate, Rell, may be older and wiser in many ways, but she just can’t seem to keep from trying to keep these girls from doing these dumb things they want to do—which, you might argue, is pretty dumb in an of itself.

All of these characters aren’t trying to cause conflict—they’re just being who they are. Just like Kira isn’t trying to cause conflict when she gnaws on my computer cord (just like she wasn’t trying to cause conflict when she destroyed the last one). She’s just a person who really needs other people to pay attention to her. (Unless she’s never seen them before; in that case, they are completely and utterly terrifying.)

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My cat editor reminds me, at every turn, that people really can’t help being who they are—and the conflicts that result are, ultimately, what drive effective fiction.

She also reminds me that characters don’t really show us who they are until they are completely and utterly exasperated with each other.

Thanks, Kira!

 

An author, editor, and educator, Susan DeFreitas’s creative work has appeared in The Utne Reader, Story Magazine, Southwestern American Literature, and Weber—The Contemporary West, along with more than twenty other journals and anthologies. She is the author of the novel Hot Season (Harvard Square Editions, 2016) and a contributor at Litreactor.com. She holds an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Portland, Oregon, where she serves as a collaborative editor with Indigo Editing & Publications.

 



See you at Wordstock in Portland!

By Midge Raymond,

I’m so looking forward to this Saturday’s festivities at the Wordstock festival in Portland.

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You can see the incredible lineup of authors and presenters here — and in addition to panels, workshops, and readings, there will be so many fun events, like Friday night’s LitCrawl and pop-up readings at the Portland Art Museum.

I’ll be on the panel The World Changed: Disasters Natural and Man-made, with Sunil Yapa and Alexis Smith, moderated by Zach Dundas, at 10 a.m. at The Old Church, and I can’t wait to chat about these amazing authors about their books.

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I’m also looking forward to my pop-up reading at the museum at 12:30…and to catching so many of the other events of the weekend. Check out the full Wordstock schedule here, and I look forward to seeing you there!



Post-reading cocktails with Admiral Byrd, part 2

By Midge Raymond,

Though the book tour began in June, Admiral Byrd and I are still busy with events (and post-event festivities). We had an especially fun book-launch party in Ashland…

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…at the lovely Liquid Assets Wine Bar.

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Then it was on to Southern California for a few more weeks of events…

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..all over San Diego County.

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And then, onward to the Bay Area…

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…where post-Litquake festivities included mimosas and green tea.

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I’m looking forward to a few more events — including a reading at Sunriver Books & Music on October 22, Portland’s Wordstock literary festival, and Friday Words & Wine in Ashland. Click here for details!

 



Post-reading cocktails with Admiral Byrd, part 1

By Midge Raymond,

One of the best parts of this summer’s My Last Continent book tour was catching up with friends along the way. Admiral Byrd, of course, made an appearance at every event…and at every post-event cocktail gathering as well. Here we are in Boston…

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and in New York…

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and Portland, Oregon…

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and in Seattle.

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I’m fortunate to have such good friends in so many fun cities…great thanks to all for their hospitality and for making the book tour so festive!

 



Bookstore Geek: Shakespeare & Co.

By Midge Raymond,

It has been a long time since I’ve been in New York, and I loved making the new discovery of Shakespeare & Co. on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

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I had a reading and signing for My Last Continent here, with a little time to browse the store before the event. There is a lovely cafe in the front, leading the way to the books, and Françoise Brodsky, my lovely host and the bookstore’s director of community, introduced me to the store’s Espresso Book Machine, which is used to print out mainstream backlist titles, print-on-demand books from small presses, and also self-published books. Learn more here.

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Downstairs is a large, inviting room for events, where Admiral Byrd posed with copies of the novel.

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Located on Lexington between 68th and 69th, this is a wonderful bookstore for with all you need: food, caffeine, books, and even books on demand. I look forward to returning and hope it’s not decades before I’m back in New York again!



Cat Editors: J. Bowers and Bama & Roland

By Midge Raymond,

Author J. Bowers, whose story “Shooting a Mule” appears in the new Among Animals anthology from Ashland Creek Press, writes with two cat editors.

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The first is “my” cat, Bama, a gregarious half-Siamese who was named by my husband after a character in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series, though people who don’t know me well often assume that I must have some secret, inexplicable love for college football. Bama’s editing style is very paws-off. He’ll go under the desk and lace around my legs making this breathy purr, like a creepy phone caller. Really, he’s only after my swivel chair. It’s his favorite napping spot, and the office is off-limits to cats except when someone’s in here, so it’s a rare treat for him to spend some time “writing.”

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Bama’s mackerel tabby brother, Roland (also named for a Dark Tower character), is helplessly devoted to my husband. But since I tend to write while he’s at work, Ro settles for hanging out with me. I write with a pillow in my lap to cushion my wrists, but he thinks it’s for cushioning him. He will yell at me until I let him jump up, then swat my hands if he thinks I’m doing too much typing and not enough scritching.

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J. Bowers‘s fiction has appeared in The Indiana Review, StoryQuarterly, Redivider, The Portland Review, and other journals, and she is a contributor to Among Animals 2: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction. She is an assistant professor of English at Maryville University in St. Louis, MO. Visit her online at www.jbowers.org.



Cat Editors: Anne Elliott and Angus, Ava & Antonio

By Midge Raymond,

Author Anne Elliott, whose story “Strays” appears in the new Among Animals anthology from Ashland Creek Press, writes with three cats — six if you include the inspiration she has received from ferals in a colony in her Brooklyn neighborhood.

Angus is perhaps her best known cat; he has appeared on icanhas.cheezburger.com and has published a blog post. Of his editorial skills, Anne says:

Angus is the most senior of the three and wears many hats. He came from the rough streets of Brooklyn, where he was the feral cat that got picked on.  We discovered he liked laps very much, not to mention dogs, other cats, strangers, yarn — there is just about nothing this cat does not like. He had a crushed pelvis when we brought him in, which we did not figure out for at least a year, he was so good at hiding this old injury. But now he is healed, and his self-appointed job is to heal others and keep them company.  As for my writing, his job is keeping the other pets from bothering me by bothering them.  He is more of an editor-in-chief, managing office politics and getting involved where needed.

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Ava is the middle one and also came from our backyard feral colony. She was a pregnant kitten when we brought her in.  Now she acts as a consultant in my writing program, helping by offering me yoga instruction. I don’t always keep up with her fitness program, but I do find that a little physical exertion helps me to keep my writing flowing.

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Antonio is a real hands-on junior editor. It’s hard not to get distracted by his blue eyes and constant drooling when he sits on my lap to provide live critique while I compose. Once he settles down and stops chasing the cursor, work gets done. On the plus side, his comments are always supportive.  Occasionally he turns on the computer in my absence and types in edits on his own. He also acts as a teddy bear/dream consultant when I take a nap break.

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I would be remiss not to include some of my favorite outdoor cats, part of our Brooklyn colony, and all bear the ear-tip mark. As editors, they remind me to be grateful and to let my mind run wild.

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Anne Elliott is the author of The Beginning of the End of the Beginning, released by Ploughshares Solos in 2014. Her stories have also appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Witness, Hobart, Bellevue Literary Review, Fugue, r.kv.r.y, and others. Her story “Strays” appears in Among Animals 2: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction.



Book tour Australia

By Midge Raymond,

I was absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to go to Australia to promote My Last Continent … it was a whirlwind trip of work and play, with plenty of both. (And with Admiral Byrd along, I’m thinking he needs his own credit card to earn some airline miles.)

We began in Adelaide, where I did an interview with Cath Kenneally of Arts Breakfast on Radio Adelaide the morning after arriving in the country. You can listen to the interview here (I was a teeny bit jet-lagged; it took me a couple of seconds to realize we were on the air…).

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Post-interview was a great day for wandering around town. Adelaide is a beautiful city, a university town with two gorgeous museums near the University of Adelaide. We saw this bust of Antarctica explorer Sir Douglas Mawson, as well as an exhibit about his adventures in the South Australian Museum.

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The next day, John and I taught a marketing workshop at the SA Writers Centre, an all-day affair with writers from myriad genres. Adelaide has a great many pubs and restaurants, so that was a perfect way to end the day.

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Onward to Melbourne, where John, Admiral Byrd, and I spent several days enjoying the city, signing books, and meeting fabulous people, including my wonderful publishing team at Text Publishing and the lovely and talented writers Graeme Simsion and Anne Buist.

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Graeme’s new novel, The Best of Adam Sharp, has just launched in Australia, and Anne’s second psychological thriller, Dangerous to Know, was released earlier this year. Anne and Graeme are currently writing a novel together: Left Right, a romantic comedy set on the Camino de Santiago, is forthcoming from Text Publishing in 2017.

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While in Melbourne, I visited many fabulous bookstores (there will be many Bookstore Geek posts forthcoming!) and especially enjoyed seeing the majestic State Library of Victoria.

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Then it was onward to Brisbane for the Brisbane Writers Festival, where I had the chance to chat with Lionel Shriver at the opening reception just before she launched us into the festival with a presentation that turned out to be the talk of not only the festival but the literary world. (You can read Shriver’s full speech here. She also wrote an op-ed for the New York Times.)

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The festival was nonstop busy for most of us writers, but it was wonderful to get to meet and talk with so many at various events, as well as in the green room, which featured a fabulous spread of books. (My luggage was significantly heavier on the way home.)

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After three events onsite at the magnificent State Library of Queensland, my last event in Brisbane was BWF in the ‘Burbs, a conversation about My Last Continent at the Garden City Library about twenty minutes outside the city.

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Finally, it was onward to Sydney, where John, Sascha Morrell, and I presented a seminar on Writing About Animals at the University of Sydney.

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It was the perfect place to soft-launch Among Animals 2, and best of all we got to meet Sascha, AA2 contributor and university professor, who read from her haunting story “Roo,” which appears in the anthology. Learn more about Among Animals 2 here at Ashland Creek Press.

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And of course, the trip wasn’t all work … John and I got a chance to explore a bit of all four cities and loved them all, for their wildlife, botanical gardens, museums, and incredible beauty. We also ate twice our weight in delicious vegan food (not to mention Australian wines and beer). I’m already looking forward our return …

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Join me in Australia!

By Midge Raymond,

I’m delighted to be heading to Australia this week, where I’ll be doing a series of events around the country.

On September 4 in Adelaide, I’ll be teaching a workshop with John Yunker on book marketing. The workshop includes a copy of Everyday Book Marketing, and all participants will leave the workshop with a customized marketing plan, as well as with ideas for creative book promotions, from book trailers to special events, and for affordable and effective promotional items.

From September 7 to 11, I’ll be joining other artists at the wonderful Brisbane Writers Festival, where I’ll be doing several events, including a master class and a conversation with Joy Lawn about My Last Continent. Learn more here.

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Finally, join me, John Yunker, and Sascha Morrell on September 13 at the University of Sydney for Writing About Animals, a seminar that examines the role literature and language plays in reimagining our relationship with animals. Combined with readings, this seminar will offer insights into the ways in which twenty-first century animal literature can enlighten as well as entertain.

Click here for more info. Admiral Byrd will, of course, be joining me for all events.

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Women in Antarctica

By Midge Raymond,

It was such a pleasure to have the privilege of presenting My Last Continent at the Women’s Museum of California as part of its Second Sunday Author Series: Women’s Voices, Women’s Stories program. Although the narrator of My Last Continent is a female penguin researcher, women are relatively new to Antarctica — the first woman to set foot on the continent didn’t do so in 1935.

Still, women are a big part of Antarctic history; they made it possible for the explorers, all men, to be away for years at a time. (Check out the book Polar Wives for a fascinating look at the lives of the women behind the polar explorers.)

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It took a long time for women to become part of Antarctic research and exploration in their own right. The first woman to land on Antarctica, mentioned above, was the wife of a whaling captain. The first women to winter on the continent, in 1947, were the wives of expedition members. And even the first woman to work for the U.S. Antarctic Program, during the 1969-70 season, was there with her husband.

Yet by 1974, the U.S. base McMurdo Station welcomed the first female chief scientist, and now one-third of the scientists and support staff at McMurdo are women. We still have a long way to go, but it’s great to see this trend.

And this year has seen an increasing spotlight on women working in Antarctica. And, as part of an initiative to bring women scientists together, a women-only expedition to Antarctica will depart for the continent this December. In addition to science, tourism brings many women scientists, researchers, and naturalists to Antarctica as well.

For some fantastic reading about women in Antarctica, check out the short story “Sur” by Ursula K. LeGuin…one of my favorite short stories ever, and a brilliant glimpse, albeit fictional, into women’s lives in the Antarctic.

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Bookstore Geek: Papercuts J.P.

By Midge Raymond,

I was delighted to celebrate My Last Continent‘s book launch in my former hometown of Boston, where I was able to do a brief “Facebook Live” reading from Antarctic explorer Admiral Richard Byrd’s former home on Beacon Hill before an event at one of Boston’s most wonderful treasures, Papercuts J.P.

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Kate and Katie (Kate Layte, owner and manager, and Katie Eelman, media and events coordinator) are such wonderful hosts; this event (and most events here at Papercuts J.P.) are more like parties than book readings. The store is cozy, and Kate and Katie often match up writers for a more in-depth exploration of books, theme, and genre.

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At this event, I joined novelist Mark Beauregard (The Whale: A love story) and Rachel Richardson (Hundred-Year Wave) for readings and a discussion of love, the high seas, research, writing, and so much more.

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And perhaps most celebratory of all, on the day of our event, copies of The Papercuts Anthology: What Happened Here, Volume 1 arrived. This terrific anthology features work by writers who visited the store during Papercuts’ first year, including Abigail Thomas, Edan Lepucki, Randy Susan Meyers, Chris Hedges, and many more.

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It’s obvious from the nature of our High Seas event and the beautifully edited and designed anthology that both Kate and Katie have a passion for books and a talent for curating them. And, much to my delight, they enjoyed My Last Continent, which later made their list of bestsellers.

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The next time you’re in Boston, don’t miss “this tiny Boston icon,” as The Guardian calls it. In the meantime, follow Papercuts J.P.  on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.



Writers: How to find more time to write

By Midge Raymond,

I recently came across this NYT article about tracking one’s time, and it’s genius for all of us writers out there who never feel as though we have enough time to write.

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As I read this Q&A about how author and time management expert Laura Vanderkam tracked her time (down to the half-hour), I was inspired to find more time in my own schedule — for writing. Her point is not to obsessively track every single moment of every day (“If I ran on the treadmill for 27 minutes and spent three going upstairs and getting water, I’m calling that 30 minutes of exercise,” Vanderkam says) but to figure out how your life sketches out on a daily basis and whether you are happy with how you’re spending your time.

We all have things we know we could skip doing in order to write, and this article (and the simple spreadsheet that Vanderkam used to track her time) came across my screen at just the right time. I’m just past the My Last Continent book launch but still have months of events to go — and one thing I’m wondering is whether I can start tipping the scales from promotion to new writing. I’m still writing articles and doing interviews and spending much more time on social media than I’m used to…but taking a close look at my schedule, hour by hour, has shown me that I can gain writing time without losing promotion time.

What I’m into right now is “found time,” which I see as similar to the artwork based on found objects — with art, it’s turning discarded or lost things into works of art; with time, it’s turning little moments into treasures by making the most of them. To offer one example: Currently, the moments after which my cat wakes me for no apparent reason at 3 a.m. have become the most creative moments of my day. I have a notebook by the bed, and in the past couple of weeks I’ve been working (in this notebook, in the middle of the night) on a new short story and a new novel. Next, of course, I need to set aside some time to flesh out all these ideas — but thanks to making the most of this found time, I’m inspired to do just that. And the more we become everyday writers, the more time we’ll end up making in our schedules to follow up on the ideas discovered in these seemingly idle moments.

One thing we all have to remember as writers is that downtime is a good thing. As Vanderkam says in the article, “There’s nothing wrong with sitting on the porch drinking a glass of wine and staring at the trees.” This is especially true for writers, for whom staring into the distance (and drinking wine) can lead to our most productive work. We need time to think before we make time to type or scrawl.

Most of all, what are you doing instead of writing that doesn’t feel right to you? As Vanderkam points out, this time-tracking exercise should be for the person doing it, not for anyone else. So give it a try and see what might open up your writing life a bit. The most important question this exercise will answer for you is amazingly simple: “Are you happy, or not?”



Catch up on My Last Continent’s UK blog tour…

By Midge Raymond,

I am delighted that My Last Continent has just launched in the United Kingdom, and while it would’ve been fantastic to do an in-person tour of the UK, I loved doing this week-long blog tour, which was the next best thing…and tons of fun.

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I got to chat about My Last Continent, Antarctica, penguins, and so much more — and I got some terrific questions and enthusiastic reviews.

A million thanks to all of the fabulous bloggers who made this possible — and check out the tour stops via the links below…

July 21Annabel’s House of Books

July 22The WormHole

July 23Sincerely Book Angels

July 24Chick Lit Pad

July 25Jaffa Reads Too

July 26The Writing Garnet

July 27A Day Dreamer’s Thoughts

July 28 – Pub day! Featuring posts at Foyle’s and Female First … and a pick as July Debut of the Month!

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