Kindle sale: 99 cents for Stories of the Brazilian Backlands

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A Hero for the People, by Arthur Powers

A Hero for the People, by Arthur Powers

I’m in the midst of reading A Hero for the People: Stories of the Brazilian Backlands

Arthur spent much of his adult life in Brazil, where he and his wife worked with the Franciscan Friars in the Amazon, doing pastoral work and organizing subsistence farmers and rural workers’ unions in a region of violent land conflicts. His short stories quickly ground you in the Brazilian landscape and culture. I am put in mind of Isak Dinesen’s stories in a way (though admittedly it has been many years since I read them). There’s a simplicity and clarity in Arthur’s writing that I find appealing.

A Hero for the People is published by Press 53, an indie press in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Check them out; they do nice work. (And if you’re a writer, it looks like they have a call for short fiction right now.)

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Last Southern Recitations Workshop for Fall

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Raleigh Review‘s Southern Recitations workshop and reading series is almost half over! The final workshop for this fall is with Zelda Lockhart November 8-9, 2014. I’m really looking forward to this one as it is a generative workshop, i.e., a lot of writing time. How ’bout you? Need some good, productive, creative-writing time? Sounds like this one will be good for poetry, fiction or memoir! (I’m going for poetry myself.) Incidentally, I recently read Zelda’s novel Fifth Born and found it very compelling.

SouthernRecitationsLogo2_resizedMining the Mirror: Turning Emotional Landmines into Good Literature

November 8-9, 2014 | 10am-4pm Sat & 10am-2pm Sun | 410 N. Boylan Ave., Raleigh | $250, Early bird price $187 through October 25, 2014 | Lunch included both days

Zelda Lockhart

Zelda Lockhart

Writers of all kinds use their personal experience as a starting point for their work, but they often neglect, avoid, or simply don’t realize the deep, rich potential that is there. The Mirror Exercise is designed to help writers use the complex layers of their relationships to bring depth to literary plot. This and others of Lockhart’s writing exercises within The Soul of the Full-Length Manuscript reveal the ways in which our personal plots parallel and are the artistic building blocks for literary plot.

Participants will create a whole short piece of fiction, memoir or small collection of poems within this two-day workshop. Whether you are experienced or novice, this workshop will offer you a way to instill emotional depth into your writing. Register now.

Zelda Lockhart is Director of LaVenson Press Studios, and author of novels Fifth Born, Cold Running Creek and Fifth Born II: The Hundredth Turtle. She was awarded a Barnes & Noble Discovery Award and was a finalist for a Hurston Wright Award and a Lambda Literary Award. Lockhart served as the 2010 Piedmont Laureate for Literature.

Here’s hope for all the aspiring novelists out there

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The Art of Racing in the Rain: A Novel

I just read (well, skimmed) The Art of Racing in the Rain.

It’s for a new book club I’m visiting next week, so I wanted to like it. I really really wanted to like it so I could participate enthusiastically (!) in the discussion, but I knew I was in trouble by page 7.

Wow. Can you say “trite,” “unoriginal,” and “one-dimensional”?

No character development. Shoot—no characters! Only stereotypes!

Completely predictable, not to mention unbelievable, plot. The whole thing reads like a bad Lifetime movie (apologies, Lifetime).

I struggle to see how nearly 2000 ratings on Amazon come up with 4.5 stars. That’s either a comment on the sophistication of the reading public, the success of Garth Stein’s marketing machine, or a whole lot of hope given to those of us still honing our craft.

Publishers, you can do better than this!

RIP Ray Bradbury

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Did anyone else’s heart sink when they saw that Ray Bradbury had died?

I grew up on science fiction—that projection of current science into a possible future and the exploration of the impact it could have on human society. The genre as a whole strongly influenced my thinking, and probably contributed to my being a strategist and a writer. Ray Bradbury in particular left a mark with his vivid short stories from The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.

Two stories from The Illustrated Man, with its undulating tattoos shaping disturbing tales, lodged in my brain. In “The Veldt,” Peter and Wendy have become so attached to their technology (in the form a nursery prophetic of the Star Trek holodeck) that when their parents try to take it away, the children murder them via the lions in the African veldt they’ve created. Parallels, anyone?

And in “Kaleidoscope,” after a space ship explodes, the crew find themselves floating in space—away from each other. Their communications last a short time, and in that span their various reactions are explored. Imagine the inevitable end—imagine speeding through space, running out of air with no one to save you. Imagine how that would feel. Bradbury did, and let us feel it too. THAT is a horror story.

Ray Bradbury is one of those giants upon whose shoulders many other writers and thinkers have stood. I think it’s time to pull out my old, beat-up copies of his work and remind myself just how giant he was.

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A lovely tribute from Peter Sagal at NPR.