Los Angeles Independent PublishingKate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.
Los Angeles Independent PublishingKate Gale, offers poetry readings, poetry contests, book awards, and more.
Omaha Public Library recently announced that Karen Gettert Shoemaker's new novel The Meaning of Names is the 2014 Omaha Reads Selection!
Each year, Omaha Public Library encourages the community to join together in reading one book as part of the Omaha Reads campaign. This year, the centennnial of the First World War, they have chosen Karen's book based on its powerful examination of the sacrifice and violence for which the war is remembered.
Karen will speak at the German-American Society, 3717 S. 120th St., on Wednesday, September 3, 6:30-8 p.m. in the South Hall. She will discuss her book, and copies will be available for purchase and signing following a Q&A session. This free event is open to the public. More information is available here.
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With just a few writers to go, our sneak peek at Red Hen’s fall titles continues with London-based author, America Hart, whose upcoming novel, into the silence: the fishing story is available September 23rd. In the interview below, America discusses her take on genre and punctuation, as well as her inspirations, both literary and musical. Keep reading for her thoughts on what makes a book memorable and more!
1. Did you learn anything new or surprising, or adopt new interests while working on into the silence: the fishing story?
I became interested in women composers and women musicians generally. I didn’t plan to write a novel about a girl who becomes a music composer, but early in the novel Natalia is walking home from school carrying a violin. And when I wrote that, I realized she would be a music composer.
As a pianist, I already had quite a lot of knowledge about music. Or so I thought. But as I wrote the novel it became more and more apparent to me how male dominated the field of music composition and production actually is.
I became especially interested in finding out more about women musicians and composers, from Nina Simone to Clara Schumann to Germaine Tailleferre. And I also became interested in artists like Camille Claudel, Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Vanessa Woolf, and other women sculptors and painters. I read biographies, articles – whatever I could get my hands on – and one artist often led me to another. So I was on sort of a trail of discovery the whole time I was working on the novel.
2. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, which artists or what kind?
I know it is a cliché, but I’ll say it: I write in cafes and always have. My initial drafts I write by hand. And I prefer cafes that play music that I like, as I tend to become absorbed in the music and that seems to inspire my writing. I’ve just completed a two-volume novel that is a slave history/narrative, Waiting in the Rain: The Blood Notebook. And when I started drafting it, I happened to be in a café where they played Nina Simone just about every day, and they always played “Strange Fruit.” The music of Nina Simone played into the story itself; the lyrics and melancholy of the song are incorporated into my novel.
When I wrote into the silence, I was listening to music all the time, and as I became interested in more composers, I listened to more music. Some of the music I listened to most often: John Coltrane, Nat King Cole, Samuel Barber, Nina Simone, Chopin’s ballades and etudes for piano, and all manner of reggae and hip-hop. Often I just listened to radio. So my interests in music have always been very eclectic – and are always expanding. In other words: I always listen to music while I write!
3. What was your favorite thing about writing this book?
I actually really love to write, and I think for the most part I was happy just about any time I sat down to write or revise this novel.
4. Can you imagine exploring the content of into the silence in any other genre?
I think it’s safe to say that I probably missed the whole “genre” boat, and have just blended genres generally when I write. In fact, I think I blend music, poetry, and fiction in this novel. I had two ideas when I was writing into the silence: One was to write something like a snowflake, to create a story that was as beautiful and complex in its own way. And the other was to write a novel like music, maybe a fugue … or something like John Coltrane’s rendition of My Favorite Things. I’m fascinated with the repetition of themes in music, and especially with music that has a simple motif that is repeated over and over again, and made more complex or changed as the music goes along. Also I’m interested in African drumming, for the same reason.
5. Favorite and/or least favorite punctuation marks
I generally take a lot of liberties with punctuation, as readers can see with into the silence. I started writing the novel with no idea that it would be a novel – I hadn’t planned anything. I just began writing and assumed it was a short story, but then the next day I came back to it again. And the next day. And the next. When I’d written a substantial portion of the novel and went back to revise it, I remember thinking I should “fix” things, that it needed to be straightened up a bit.
And then it became apparent to me that the story has its own sort of logic or pattern. The shifts in time, the use of dashes as a way to connect ideas (rather than using as we say in the UK “the full stop” to separate ideas), and the general abuse of punctuation weren’t consciously planned. And there’s no use of capital letters at all. Not that I have anything against the capital letter.
The story begins in the voice of a child, a girl who feels that she doesn’t have a voice, but who wants to compose music. The appearance of the writing itself I think gives an equalizing effect: The “small things” become as important as the “big things.” Sentences are often constructed in inverse order: “the ring on the hand of a woman …” instead of “a woman wearing a ring …” I remember thinking when I wrote the novel that I was doing a lot of things that we were taught in school not to do. But the “small things” are emphasized through the innovations in language, punctuation, use of lower case, and inversion of the order of words in sentences, and children and nature are given a voice.
6. Do you have a favorite place to go and work on your writing?
These days, I go to Notes Cafe on St. Martin’s Lane, Charring Cross, which is just by Charring Cross Station in central London. This is where all the theatres are, as well as Pineapple Dance Studios, Covent Garden … I love this area. It takes me about half an hour by train from my home, a straight shot, and is on my way to the university where I teach. So I can stop and work on my writing for a few hours before I go to teach. At Notes, I love the atmosphere, the music, the food and the coffee! As for revising, though, I can go anywhere: I read over my manuscripts on trains, boats, planes, at home in bed, in the park … wherever.
7. Please provide our blog readers with one summer reading recommendation.
While writing my new novel Waiting in the Rain: The Blood Notebook, I discovered Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women. It’s a novel that takes place on a plantation in Jamaica and tells the story of women slaves and the planters. In a very complex and interesting way.
A literary agent came as a guest speaker for my MA Creative Writing students and said she thought it a book everyone should read. A student had also recommended it, and although I was teaching horrific hours (long!) and was daunted by the length of the book, I was intrigued. So I started reading the book, and, as they say, I couldn’t put it down.
The voice is very compelling, the characters are complex, the writing style is interesting but accessible, and the plot moves in unexpected ways. The ending is something else! It’s very lyrical, and very moving. So many NY Times bestsellers are so predictable – I get them at airports and read them on my domestic flights – I enjoy them, but I can forget them as soon as I get off the plane. This book is one that is really unforgettable! I could recommend more books, but if I have to choose just one for the moment? This is it!
8. What’s the largest number of times you’ve re-read a single book? What was the book and why did it appeal to you?
To be honest with you, I’m a repeat reader of many books! Bessie Head’s A Question of Power is a book that I read probably seven or eight times when I was writing into the silence. Bessie Head was born in South Africa, a mixed race child when interracial relationships were illegal, and she lived in Botswana most of her adult life.
I actually had started into the silence, was probably in fact about half way through writing it, when I discovered A Question of Power at the bookstore. It sort of affirmed what I was doing – her story is very complicated and it is definitely non-linear! I was fascinated by how complex the writing is, and how unique. Bessie Head still is one of my favorite writers.
I’m also a repeat reader of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. And I first read Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea when I was nine or ten years old (my mother was in a book group, and I sometimes read what they read). The vocabulary of course is easy! But even at that age I could somehow understand the sadness of the story, and I remember being very moved. I think both Hemingway and Faulkner influenced my writing style from the time I was very young.
9. Is there a passage of into the silence you’re most excited for your audience to read? A passage you’re most nervous about your audience reading?
I hope that I’ll be surprised by what my readers like! I personally like some of the passages about mailboxes, and the delivery of mail. There’s nothing major that happens in these scenes, but to me they express a kind of nostalgia about the mail as it was delivered in the past, and the anticipation of receiving a letter. Also I like the introduction of the character America, and the repeated refrain: “America – where has she gone? Light a candle in the window for her.” Readers can make their own interpretations!
When I was reading the final draft before it went off to press, I noticed (again) some long, winding passages … sort of like the trails the characters take in the mountains. I hope the readers will stick with these passages, in the same way an audience sometimes will wait, anticipating a favorite passage of music in a long piece.
America Hart directs the MA Creative Writing Program at London Metropolitan University. Born and raised in Colorado, she lived in Boston and New York City before moving to London, where she lives with her partner, Seraphin. Her work has appeared in journals and publications such as Black Ice, Sniper Logic, Blackbox Manifold, Shearsman Magazine, Stride Magazine, and the Journal of African Cultural Studies. Her honors include a Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute Fellowship and the Jovanovich Award from the University of Colorado. She has received research grants to conduct fieldwork in Jamaica, Zimbabwe, and Ghana. into the silence: the fishing story is her first novel. It will be released September 23rd and is available now for pre-order from Red Hen Press.