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Showing posts from June, 2014

Dreaming of Athens: The Greek Novel Revisited

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Yesterday, my agent sent me notes on my Greek novel--a list of things that are working well and other things that could be working better.  There's rewriting to be done--one key character in particular isn't quite coming across the way I meant him to--but the good news is that my agent thinks the novel's already in pretty good shape.  



While I've waited for the notes, I've kept busy by doing some preliminary work on two other projects, both too tentative to say much about.  One of them is collaborative, so its fate is largely out of my hands.  The other's a solo effort, but a bit scarily different from anything I've done before. 



Both projects are so new that even as I've been typing away at them I've wondered whether they will ever amount to anything, whether my summer might be better spent lazing at the beach or chasing rock stars from venue to venue.  Maybe neither project will add up to anything but a summer's worth of lost hours.

But I felt th…

Ain't Nothing But A House Party: Jesse Malin Live at Drew's

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There's this guy named Drew Eckmann who lives on a lake in New Jersey and throws amazing rock and roll house parties.  The New Yorker has taken note of his series:

As has FUSE t.v.:

One of Drew's favorite acts is Jesse Malin; in fact, on a recent summer night Jesse narrowly beat out Graham Parker as the act who has played in Drew's concert series the second most often.  (Number one is the great Willie Nile.)  Andre and I were at the recent Jesse Malin show, because where else would we be?  
Jesse's set was full of new songs from his soon-to-be-released album, with a few old favorites sprinkled in.

Though Jesse always puts on a great show, there's something wonderfully intimate about a venue that just happens to be someone's living room.  The guests bring pot luck dishes, everyone gathers on the porch or in Drew's cozy house, and when the show begins, we're all a part of it.
The sound quality chez Drew's is amazing--clear and crisp but, somehow, not…

Roadtrip: A Weekend in Seneca Falls

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In recent years it's become a tradition: one summer weekend I meet up with my dear college friends Dorothee, Bethany, and Sharon.  So far we've picked a different spot for each reunion and, admittedly, we've let a few years lapse since the last get together.  This time around, we chose a cabin in Seneca Falls, New York, complete with Adirondack chairs looking out over Lake Cayuga.


You know the kind of friends you can lose sight of for years at a time, and yet when you see them again it's like no time at all has passed since you were dancing to the Police and the B-52s in the upstairs lounge at Eaton House?


On Saturday morning, after a leisurely breakfast on the deck, we hopped into Sharon's convertible, popped in a CD of '80s New Wave music and drove to nearby Ithaca.  (The tunes were supplied by Sharon's husband Tommy.  The two of them co-own Get Down Tonight Entertainment, recently voted best of New Hampshire by Bride Magazine.)


Our goal was to wander around…

Feedback and Fellowship: A Visit with Lynn Levin, Poet

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Every writer needs other writers, to commune with, to commiserate with, to read her work and provide feedback.  One of my trusted writer friends is poet and translator Lynn Levin, whose work I've known and admired for years.  We live on opposite sides of Philadelphia, but every once in a while I hop on the regional rail:


and meet up with Lynn in Center City for lunch and poetry.

Lynn's got a new book out, her translations of the Peruvian poet Odi Gonzales, about which Chad Sweeney has written, "Woven of Spanish Catholic and indigenous Quechua colors, these pages shimmer like angels in an Andean Eden."

As for Lynn's own poems, they too shimmer.  Here's one that I love for its own sake, and also because I saw it in an earlier draft at one of our poetry lunches a few years back:

Cicadas
Odd to see a live one up close instead of a crispy ghost clinging to a tree or to hear one so silent.
On the herringbone pattern of our patio the cicada lay onyx and ornate l…

Looking Forward to Nightsun: An Interview

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This summer (July 24-27) I'll be teaching a young adult fiction workshop at the 2014 Nightsun Writers Conference in Frostburg, Maryland.  In anticipation of that gathering, the Conference's blog will be posting interviews with the faculty members--Bruce Weigl (poetry), Marion Winik (nonfiction), Clint McCown (fiction), and Brenda Clough (science fiction, fantasy, and horror).   The registration deadline is July 18, and there's still room to sign up and join us.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share my interview here with you.  

How has working with young adults as a college professor affected your writing of young adult literature?

One thing I love about my job is how it keeps me in touch with young adults.  I teach a class on the Young Adult novel in which half of what we do is read books together.  I learn a lot about the YA audience by seeing how my students react to books like Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, David Levithan's Every Day, John Green's The Fault…

Just Like Starting Over: A Visit to NYC

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On the day of my studio visit with Jesse Malin, I made sure to get into New York City super early--and not just so I could avoid rush hour traffic.  I had to do a little preliminary research for a project so tentative that I don't dare reveal even the tiniest details about it.

My quest brought me first to the lower East Side and Strand Bookstore, where I browsed at length.  Then I wandered over to the Union Square Greenmarket, swooned over the produce, and annoyed pedestrians when I stopped to photograph it.

Next stop was the Upper West Side by way of Grand Central Station:


My destination?  Lincoln Center, and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.


After that it was time to hurry back down to Flux Studios for the tour.  But on my way there I had to make a quick pit stop for the best bialys on the Lower East Side:


Of course once the research is done, the hard part begins: putting words down on paper.  That part starts tomorrow.  Wish me luck.



June Odds and Ends: Bedside Books and Microtrends

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The nice folks at We Wanted To Be Writers invited me to write a guest post about my bedside books.  Check out the archives to find out what all your favorite writers are reading.

Also, I'm thrilled that Love, Lucy got a mention in this fun list of Young Adult Microtrends, up at one of my favorite blogs, Stacked.



Listening In: My Studio Visit with Jesse Malin

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To thank the fans who contributed to his Pledgemusic campaign and who have been faithfully awaiting his next album, Jesse Malin held a contest.  First prize: a studio visit.

I entered the contest, and, to my amazement, I won.  If you've read any of my other posts about Jesse, you might have noticed that I'm kind of a major fan.  So this was a huge deal.  Wednesday morning--very early so there was no chance I'd get stuck in traffic and miss my visit--I made my way to the Lower East Side, and, much later, all aflutter, rang the doorbell of Flux Studios.


Jesse greeted me and gave me a quick tour of the studio.  Then we sat down in the mixing room with multi-talented musician Derek Cruz and engineer Brian Thorn.  The three of them were fine-tuning a song called "Stay Clean," listening to several different versions, trying to settle on a favorite.  Did it sound better with the background vocals punched up?  Should the vocals be warmer or cooler?  At one point Jesse even…

The Santorini Mules and Temporary Respite from Wanderlust

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Possible treatments for wanderlust:

1.  Shop at ethnic grocery stores.  Stock up on exotic ingredients you have no idea how to cook, just because reading the labels is so much fun. 

 2.  Watch old episodes of Rick Steves' Europe and Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations while trying not to weep with envy.  

3.  Live vicariously through the travels of your Facebook friends.  Drool over their photographs.  

Jennifer Lynn Terrigno Shepherd, coordinator of this year's Saint Joseph's University study tour to Greece, has given me permission to share her recent pictures from Santorini. 

One of the many things Santorini is known for (besides extreme gorgeousness) is its method of transporting visitors from its cities down the steep cliffside trails to the sea:




On my last trip to Santorini, I took about a thousand pictures of the island's famous mules, hoping I'd get at least one perfect one.  Then--as I may have mentioned here before--I lost my memory card.  

So I'm grate…

Stormy days: a LOVE, LUCY Update

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A while back, I posted with joy that my new novel Love, Lucy was up for pre-order at Amazon.  Alas, that's no longer true, thanks to an ongoing dispute between Amazon and my publisher, Hachette.

These are stormy days for authors and publishers.  On the edge of the dark clouds, however, there might be one of these:


If readers aren't able to pre-order or buy certain books by Hachette authors, maybe they'll turn to Indie bookstores, or other online booksellers. Increased competition, and an awareness of alternatives to Amazon has to be good for consumers, no?

And though I've been despairing on Lucy's behalf, I have a little happy news to share on that (storm)front: Anyone who is hoping to pre-order it is now able to do so at Barnes and Noble.


The Last Laugh: Bruce Springsteen and Joe Grushecky in Pittsburgh

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For almost two weeks now, I've been meaning to write about my latest concert experience--two nights of Joe Grushecky and the Iron City Houserockers with special guest Bruce Springsteen.  The shows were excellent--does Bruce ever give less than 200%?  And the setting was thrillingly intimate--"a lovely little jewel box of a venue" as promised by my friend Diane, who had seen Bruce and Joe at Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall before.  It was Diane who talked me into this outing, who scored us excellent tickets, and whose company made the long trip to and from Pittsburgh go by in a flash.

After the shows, I struggled to find a way to write about the experience.  First I thought I should discuss how different the Soldiers and Sailors shows were in feel from E Street Band shows; I could focus on the acoustic mini-sets he played at the start and finish of both shows, and how, in this setting, Springsteen the storyteller really came out to play.  

Or maybe I sho…