Celebrating Women’s History Month with Red Hen Press!

It’s March! Happy Women’s History Month! We at Red Hen want to use this month as an opportunity to share interviews with our award-winning authors who identify with womanhood.

As with Black History Month, we want to particularly highlight our women authors and also acknowledge the work done by BIPOC women, specifically trans women of color, in shaping women’s history. Along these lines, we will be sharing women-run bookstore/other literary recommendations!

Scroll down to read more!

Lara Ehrlich, author of ANIMAL WIFE, 3/31/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

Although publishing a book has always been my ultimate goal, completing and selling a manuscript seemed utterly mysterious and out of reach until I attended my first writing conference. I arrived with 20 pages of a novel and zero knowledge of the publishing industry, open to learning everything I could.

I was nowhere near ready to query agents yet, but I took advantage of a pitch session with a powerful woman agent who encouraged me to stick with my novel, gave me some pointers on the query letter I’d drafted, and invited me to send her the book when I was ready. That one actionable goal—send this woman my book—helped me begin to demystify the publishing process and break it down into other actionable steps that seemed attainable when tackled one at a time.

During that same conference, I clicked with two other women writers who were working on their first novels, and we formed a critique group. We continued to meet for years, supporting one another through drafting and revising our work, querying agents, and eventual publication. That is what I needed to be able to take my writing seriously not just as a craft, but as a career.

So, my advice boils down to three things: learn the business, form supportive literary friendships with like-minded women, and network with women writers, agents, editors, and publishers you genuinely admire. 

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

Animal Wife originated with the titular story in the collection, about a girl who undertakes a quest for the mother who abandoned her. I started this story as a novel and after writing hundreds of pages, realized it was actually meant to be a short story! This is where I rediscovered my love of writing short stories, how time and emotion can be compressed into a tight space that exerts pressure on every sentence. I love the intensity of short stories, and how they can sustain an off-kilter voice or a wild conceit that might sag in a longer piece.

The next few stories are also about girls and young women, tapping into the urgency and uneasiness of puberty. As I began writing toward a collection, the stories began to change, to move away from girls and toward mothers. During this time, I was questioning whether I wanted to have a family. I was terrified of the self-abdication that I believed motherhood necessitated. I was going to create Important Work, and I couldn’t afford the distraction. I believed that the right way to be a mother was to devote all of myself to my child, while the right way to be a writer was to toil in isolation, unfettered by the needs of others.

I wrote the majority of the stories in Animal Wife while agonizing over this decision, then while pregnant, so those stories are often worst-case scenarios, nightmares, terrors about motherhood. I wrote the last few stories during those first few months of motherhood that I can barely remember because they were so intensely exhausting. Writing has become not only a calling and a career, but my way of keeping hold of myself and avoiding the self-abdication I’d so feared.

Throughout Animal Wife, readers will be able to see my preoccupations and priorities shifting—and with them, my voice. Now, I could no longer write the stories that open this collection.

My novel-in-progress is a more in-depth exploration of these themes, framed by a loose retelling of “The Little Mermaid.” At its heart, the book is about the dark underbelly of fantasy, the need for escape and transformation, which in the end is disappointing—and often destructive. A fun note: As part of my research, I attended the Sirens of the Deep Mermaid Camp at Weeki Wachee State Park in Weeki Wachee, Florida, where women have performed as mermaids since 1947. During the two-day camp, my fellow campers and I were trained by mermaids—called Legendary Sirens—who had performed at Weeki Wachee in its golden age. My essay about Siren Camp was published in Lit Hub.

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that you think deserves more praise?

The book that immediately came to mind is Nothing by Janne Teller. It’s garnered tons of praise in Teller’s home country, Denmark, and throughout Europe, but I’ve never met another person in the US who has read this book. (Atheneum Books for Young Readers published a translation by Martin Aitken in 2010.) This book is startling in its sparsity, its fable-like narrative, and its matter-of-fact violence that challenges readers to question the value of the tangible and intangible things we hold most dear.

Here’s the jacket copy:

When Pierre-Anthon realizes there is no meaning to life, the seventh-grader leaves his classroom, climbs a tree, and stays there. His classmates cannot make him come down, not even by pelting him with rocks. So to prove to Pierre-Anthon that life has meaning, the children decide to give up things of importance. The pile starts with the superficial—a fishing rod, a new pair of shoes. But as the sacrifices become more extreme, the students grow increasingly desperate to get Pierre-Anthon down, to justify their belief in meaning.

Plus, Janne Teller is exceptionally cool: She was educated as a macroeconomist and worked for the United Nations and the European Union in resolving conflicts and humanitarian issues around the world, especially in Africa. 

Martha K. Davis, author of SCISSORS, PAPER, STONE, 3/29/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

When I first began publishing stories in literary magazines, I noticed that the journals based at universities, where groups of students vote on the content, never chose my work. I became much more discriminating about the places where I submitted, researching the type of work they published as well as the ratio of men to women working there. Although as many men have published my work as women have, the masthead of the journals have been at least equally weighted between the sexes. Besides, I wouldn’t want to be published by a lit mag that didn’t have parity.   

I can’t speak to breaking into the publishing industry, as my experience was more than thirty years ago at a small women’s press that is still going strong today–Aunt Lute Books in San Francisco. I began as an intern. I believe starting at entry level as an editorial assistant is still standard in the industry.

In the end, “breaking into” a writing career depends on what your definition of success is. For me, perseverance has been the key to opening up publication. A thick skin for rejection, dedication to sending the work out again, and often simple luck.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

What most inspires my writing is the incredible quality and broad range of other writers’ work available to me as a reader. Having a high bar to reach for is the most motivating factor. Whenever I read a book and wonder, “How did she do that?” I feel challenged to accomplish something of my own that’s equally complex, ambitious, and generous. Authors who do this for me include Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, Virginia Woolf, Octavia Butler, Ursula Le Guin, Mary Gaitskill, and Joan Silber. 

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that deserves more praise?

Overall, literature by women outside the U.S. tends to be under-appreciated, particularly literature in translation. I recommend Grieving by Cristina Rivera Garza, The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, and The Door by Magda Szabo. 

Felicia Zamora, author of BODY OF RENDER, 3/25/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

Lean into yourself. Don’t compromise your identity as a woman/woman of color and all your intersectional identities in your imagination, wonders and your art. Being women is what makes our experiences what they are, and this, this is tremendously valuable in the publishing world and in creating real change in society. Bring the grotesque, the Kitsch, the raunchy, the absurd, the emotional, the raucous, the unspeakable, the full gamut of human complexity—trust the world you build on the page—it is necessary. Believe in your art first. From here, our voices become a collective to tear the patriarch down, to build an industry where we don’t just thrive, but lead.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

Claudia Rankine’s work does some serious heavy lifting in both expression and form. Her art is a game changer when it comes to working toward social change through art. The genre bending in her writing, combined with an accessibility of language necessary for such complex topics of racism and whiteness in this country, core me. Recently, I’ve also had my socks knocked off by Zadie Smith’s Intimations and Heid Erdrich’s Little Big Bully. Joy Harjo is why I became a poet, after reading She Had Some Horses, decades ago. Her book was the first time I saw a woman of color be a powerhouse in poetry, the first time I saw myself in poetry. 

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that deserves more praise?

Diana Marie Delgado’s book Tracing the Horse is alive with world after intricate world in these pages full of imagination, grief, pop iconography, familial ache, transformation, and the devil—my god, who could forget the devil in this book. In Delgado’s poem “Twelve Trees,” she writes “In Mexico, the Devil is handsome…He rakes leaves and fixes umbrellas, / occasionally throws back his head and sings.” To me, this book deserves pure celebration.

Brittany Ackerman, author of THE PERPETUAL MOTION MACHINE, 3/22/2021

Are there any new/upcoming women authors whose work you are following?

Maria Adelmann, Kathryn Scanlan, Melissa Broder (she’s not up and coming, she’s already HERE, but her latest book Milkfed is a treasure!)

Is there a certain area or genre in the literary community that you think needs more women representation, or would like to see more women thrive in?

I’d love to see more work by female Jewish writers that follows the exploration of faith and culture. 

How does women’s history figure into your own work, if at all?

As a Jewish woman, I’m interested in creating work that has Judaism and jewish identity as its backbone and writing stories that aim to represent the modern day reform traditions of my people.

Landon Houle, author of LIVING THINGS, 3/15/2021

What advice would you give to aspiring women writers and publishing industry professionals who hope to “break into” and succeed in an industry historically dominated by men?

Advocate for your own work, and protect the time you put into your writing, reading, and editing. Know your voice is important and worthwhile, and your contribution matters. Champion other women writers the way you want to be championed.

Who or what inspires your work as a writer?

I’m always inspired by the way that people tell stories, how they talk about their every days and what takes them out of the ordinary. I’ll never get tired of listening and trying to capture something of what I hear on the page.

Is there an underrated book written by a woman that deserves more praise?

There are so many! I think more people should read More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson. That book will break your heart and make you laugh at the same time, and I think that’s what we’re all after as readers and writers.

Sisters Uptown Bookstore and Cultural Center, 3/11/2021

Photo Credit to pw.org

Sisters Uptwon Bookstore and Cultural Center is owned by Janifer P. Wilson and Kori N. Wilson in Washington Heights, NY. They’ve been established for 21 years, where they bring “an educational, emotional, spiritual and loving environment for our diverse community where all are welcomed.”

Some of their bestsellers include The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism by Robin DiAngelo. Staff picks include Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison with mentionable titles such as Dominica by Angie Cruz.

Follow them on Facebook and show them your support!

Reema Rajbanshi, author of SUGAR, SMOKE, SONG, 3/8/2021

Are there any new/upcoming women authors whose work you are following?

I read across genres all the time, so at the moment, I’m moving through The Dark Fantastic by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, just finished The Body Papers by Grace Talusan, and am re-teaching Tentacle by Rita Indiana. I appreciate the quality of courage and bold imagination (for alternative worlds) in each of these works.

Is there a certain area or genre in the literary community that you think needs more women representation, or would like to see more women thrive in?

Narrative theory. I’m thinking of Toni Morrison and Hélène Cixous and Gloria Anzaldúa, who knew that the creative and critical shaped each other. Anti-intellectualism is especially harsh for women, yet women of color have often been doing theory through their aesthetics and community-making around questions of what might be beautiful, might bring solace, might ring truer. Generally, representations of women will never be central or more complex until theory shifts, because story also depicts and reproduces ideas. 

How does women’s history figure into your own work, if at all?

My creative work returns a lot to how girls and women experience desire, violence, and labor. I won’t make a universal statement but in many societies, all three arenas have exerted great pressure over girls learning to be im/proper and de/valued women. (You only have to look at events tied to wage inequality or #MeToo.) But the linked stories in my book are also curious about how girls and women respond—through emotions like rage, humor, and sympathy—the ways in which they survive and/or transform (which are not always the same thing) that may be censored. And because I’m focusing on girls and women of color, I’m also thinking about multiple obligations that are juggled, personal and intergenerational histories that get hidden. That’s the draw of experimental aesthetics: I’m trying to find language for characters and shapes for stories for which the tried-and-true techniques may not be enough or right.   

Chelsea Catherine, author of SUMMER OF THE CICADAS, 3/1/2021

Chelsea is nonbinary but identifies with womanhood in some ways.

Are there any new/upcoming women authors whose work you are following?

What constitutes a new/upcoming writer? T Kira Madden is a writer who I like to watch. I think her amazing memoir is being turned into a movie, which I will be first in line to see. I also generally keep an eye out for new work by Carmen Maria Machado and Jaquira Diaz. All of these women are established, in my opinion, but I am eager to read more from them.

Is there a certain area or genre in the literary community that you think needs more women representation, or would like to see more women thrive in?

The literary community needs more lesbian writers. I read somewhere that lesbian writers make up only 2% of those published in the literary community. Gay men are at 4% and bisexual/pansexual writers are at 10%. Lesbian writers have a lot of great things to say – think about Audre Lorde. I would love to see more lesbian writers highlighted and more lesbian-centric books published.

 How does women’s history figure into your own work, if at all?

If not for the black and brown women who fought for LGBTQ rights during the Stonewall Riots, I would not be able to live openly as a lesbian. I benefit every day from the sacrifices they made, and it is always in the back of my head when I am writing. 

Commemorating Black History Month at Red Hen Press!

Happy Black History Month from Red Hen Press! We want to celebrate and amplify the work of Black authors. We commit ourselves to uplifting Black voices, an ongoing process that is not limited to a singular month.

Our plan is to feature our Black authors’ responses to questions about the role of literature in the context of Black history, as well as share their many literary achievements through book excerpts and other author features. We will also highlight Black-owned, indie bookstores and businesses throughout this month!

Scroll down to learn more!

The History and Future of Black Literature: A Black History Month Event, 2/24/21

It’s been a pleasure highlighting these Black voices and businesses this month, and we look forward to continuing to do so every month moving forward! Don’t forget to join us for this incredible event!

Tune in for a Black History Month event featuring Red Hen authors with forthcoming books, Khalisa Rae and Dexter L. Booth, at 3:00 pm PT, February 25th! You can access the event here!

This reading and conversation focuses on the history and future of Black literature, especially in the context of the effect Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman is having on poetry and visibility in this country. This event will highlight our partnership with the Peauxdunque Writer’s Alliance and our new Ann Petry Award, which awards book publication, a $3000 award, and a four-week residency at The Community Library’s Ernest and Mary Hemingway House in Ketchum, Idaho for a Black prose writer.

You can also watch the reading and conversation below!

Excerpt- Camille Dungy, author of WHAT TO EAT, WHAT TO DRINK, AND WHAT TO LEAVE FOR POISON, 2/22/2021

What to Eat, and What to Drink, and What to Leave for Poison

I.
Only now, in spring, can the place be named:
tulip poplar, daffodil, crab apple,
dogwood, budding pink-green, white-green, yellow
on my knowing. All winter I was lost.
Fall, I found myself here, with no texture
my fingers know. Then, worse, the white longing
that downed us deep three months. No flower heat.
That was winter. But now, in spring, the buds
flock our trees. Ten million exquisite buds,
tiny and loud, flaring their petalled wings,
bellowing from ashen branches vibrant
keys, the chords of spring’s triumph: fisted heart,
dogwood; grail, poplar; wine spray, crab apple.
The song is drink, is color. Come. Now. Taste.

Douglas Manuel, author of TESTIFY, 2/17/2021

How has BLM affected the literary / publishing communities this past year? Have you seen significant changes, and if not, what is there still left to be done?

I think BLM has affected literary/publishing communities a great deal. Because of the attention the movement has garnered, more and more people are learning the nomenclature of the movement, publishing voices from more diverse communities, and attempting to be more equitably minded when it comes to editors, publishers, readers, marketing, and almost all factors in publishing. Of course, we still have so very much work to do, but I can feel the thawing of some of the problematic workings and machinations that were plaguing the literary and publishing world when it comes to the color line.  

Are there any new / upcoming authors whose work you are following?

Like some many others, I’ve found myself really enraptured with Tommye Blount’s Fantasia for the Man in Blue.  “Arcane Torso on Grindr” blows my mind every time I revisit it, and I have been teaching it often. I love teaching that poem alongside Rilke’s “Archaic Torso of Apollo” and Justin Phillip Reed’s “I Have Wasted My Life.” Intertextuality say what! So dope!

Who is one role model that you admire?

My older cousin, Derek, has always been a real inspiration to me. He’s part best homie, part big brother, and part father figure. He’s always been someone who has shown me how to be a strong and responsible Black man.

Excerpt – ABRACADABRA, SUNSHINE, Dexter L. Booth, 2/11/2021

Catch a sneak peek of ABRACADABRA, SUNSHINE, out June, 1st, 2021:

How We Make Art

I spent the morning painting
cardboard trees. Jagged spears
that did not lay well
under the mouth of scissors.

I mangled the beer box

until there was only a forest of rockets
and bombs displaying alcohol
labels under thin films of acrylic.

The horizon is sharp and angled
now. I’ve planted corrugated pine in the living room.

At sunset they look like searchlight cones,
mini drag beams from an army of UFO abductions,
tepees made of flayed alien skin, anything

but your eyes

                returning to point and say what you see is
growing dull now that you’ve been
probed and abandoned
            in the dark woodlands of memory.

Abracadabra, Sunshine

Imagine
the children who are little and far enough away
they measure their lives by the gallons
of dirty water they bring home,
checking their height yearly
against the hulls of abandoned tanks
to understand that

even the native body is foreign,
even the peaceful mind at war.

I am attempting
to form an argument—

Cafe con Libros – Brooklyn, NY 2/10/2021

Photo source: https://www.pw.org/reading_venues/cafe_con_libros

This week we are featuring Cafe con Libros, the ideal place to grab a book AND a cup of coffee! In addition to offering a wide selection of books, Cafe con Libros provides an uplifting, intersectional feminist space for the community.

You can order a book from them today and support a bookstore run by women of color!

Donna Hemans, author of TEA BY THE SEA, 2/8/2021

Is there anything specific you do to celebrate this month?

Black history and culture are so ingrained in who I am that I don’t relegate my celebration to a single month. I live Black History Month every day, and so I don’t do anything special or significant—I carry on as I do every other day of the year. 

What is one book about Black history or that incorporates Black history that you think everyone should read?

There are so many, and on any given day my answer will be different. But I’m reading Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King now, and I highly recommend it for the beauty of the language, the way it incorporates the 1935 invasion of Ethiopia, portrays an Ethiopian girl in the midst of a war and the role women played in the war. And it reminds us of the lingering effect of imperialism and colonialism on black history and culture. 

To what extent do you consider writing as a social practice that can enact tangible change?

Following the racial justice protests last summer, sales of books that probed related issues skyrocketed, and in many pockets across America people began looking more closely at steps they can take to make meaningful change. We’re still a long way away from seeing all of those tangible, meaningful changes—especially in the corporate world—but writing and stories are an important part of that process. 

Excerpt – GHOST IN A BLACK GIRL’S THROAT, Khalisa Rae 2/4/2021

Catch a sneak-peak of GHOST IN A BLACKGIRL’S THROAT, out April 13th, 2021:

Mahalia Sings to Freedom

“still a reason to shoot

then investigate, still
a reason to attach false
crimes to my name. Always
a barely human body. 

How I arrived here
will be a mystery”

Ghost in a Black Girl’s Throat

“You will be
the bended knee in their American
Dream, and they will stitch your mouth

the color of patriarchy, call it black girl magic when you rip
the seams. Southern Belle is just another way to say:
stayed in her place on the right side of the pedestal.” 

Old Capitol Books – Monterey, CA 2/3/2021

Photo source: https://www.oldmonterey.org/news/2020/04/save-old-capitol-books

Happy Black History Month! Red Hen is featuring Black-owned indie bookstores throughout this month to celebrate! First up, Old Capitol Books in Monterey, California!

Want to learn more about Black history? We bet you can find plenty of resources at Old Capitol Books. They have the largest selection of books in these areas: feminism, LGBTQ+ topics, ethnic studies, and Black history! The shop also serves as a community space, hosting art and literature related events.

Order a book care package from them today, and support a Black-owned business while learning about important topics! it’s a win-win!

Allison Joseph, author of CONFESSIONS OF A BAREFACED WOMAN and LEXICON, 2/1/2021

How has BLM affected the literary / publishing communities this past year? Have you seen significant changes, and if not, what is there still left to be done?

How has BLM affected the literary community? I’m not really sure, because I think the question has it backward. There’s always been black and brown people writing poetry, telling stories, making songs. Black Lives Matter existed as a philosophy long before the “BLM movement” as we know it today. One only need look to writers such as Claude McKay, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Etheridge Knight, and so many others to know that writers have always felt that Black Lives Matter.  As for significant changes, I’m not sure what you mean. Institutional change takes decades and BLM has only been in force a few short years. 

Are there any new / upcoming authors whose work you are following?

As for emerging black writers, I love the work of Tiana Clark. There’s just so much beauty and honesty in her poetry. As for established poets, the success of Honoree Fanonne Jeffers thrills me. Natasha Trethewey continues to be great. 

Who is one role model that you admire?

I have long admired Gwendolyn Brooks, Nina Simone, Anna Deveare Smith, and a slew of music figures from the blues and folk traditions: Bessie Smith, Odetta, Joan Armatrading, etc. A lot of black women artists persist in making beauty in a world that scarcely values them. I draw courage and inspiration from such figures.

You’ve heard of Elf on a Shelf, now get ready for… Hen with a Pen: an author series!

We at Red Hen know that times are times are tough this holiday season. We realize that independent booksellers have been hit especially hard, which is why we want to spread some holiday cheer!

Every week leading up to the end of December, we’ll be posting independent bookstore recommendations, holiday traditions, and notes about why it’s important to shop indie from our lovely participating Red Hen authors!

So grab some hot cocoa, a fuzzy blanket, and cozy up by the fire, as you take a scroll below:

Lara Ehrlich author of ANIMAL WIFE, 12/21/2020

Lara Ehrlich. Photo copyright Janice Checchio. 2019. www.janicechecchio.com

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?

Introducing my family’s holiday traditions to my daughter, now 4, and starting new traditions together that will be woven into the fabric of her childhood, and that she’ll pass along to her own family someday.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence. The titular book in the series takes place during Christmas, with a heavy snowfall and a haunting holiday party. The whole series is magical in a nostalgic way that’s difficult to define. I’ve read the whole series more times than I can count.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

My hometown bookstore, Bank Square Books, is among the most beautiful bookstores I’ve visited, with exceptional events, a broad collection of books, and a hot staff (my husband works there now). Indie bookstores are a crucial part of the literary ecosystem and partner with publishers and authors in a way that mega stores don’t. Shop indie to keep this ecosystem alive!

Chelsea Catherine author of SUMMER OF THE CICADAS, 12/17/2020

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I love having time off. I also love how quiet the holiday season feels. Up north, there’s usually snow, which mutes everything, so it really is quieter. Here, it’s nice to have downtime and relax.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

The Hunger Games. I reread it almost every year around this time. It’s a great reminder to be wary of greed, gluttony, and capitalism and to focus on what really matters (standing up for what you believe in, love, and family).

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

My favorite indie bookstore is Tombolo Books here in St. Petersburg, FL. A close runner-up is Bear Pond Books, which was my childhood bookstore in Vermont. I think it’s so important to shop locally because indie bookstores are really the heart and soul of the literary community. They will do just about anything to support literature and authors.

Melanie Conroy-Goldman author of THE LIKELY WORLD, 12/14/2020

What’s your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I tell people I’m 90% Jewish and 10% Christmas. I’m a nut for winter holidays, especially the singing. I prefer the songs you can belt, from “Oh Hanukkah” to “Jingle Bell Rock”. I love latkes and stockings, and I like it best when Hannukah comes early in the calendar, so I can party all month long.


What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

I have memorized, and made my children memorize “A Visit From St. Nick” “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and my literary fave winter poem is Tracy K. Smith’s “A Hunger So Honed” (it has deer, and heartbreak. Very Christmasy.) Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle is great for a winter re-read.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

I shop and love Buffalo Street Books, which is community-owned and in my hometown of Ithaca. Indie book selections are coated by humans, not algorithms and marketing. If you want to read something that startles you, takes your breath away, you’ll find it in an Indie store.

Jennifer Risher author of WE NEED TO TALK, 12/10/2020

Kelly Vorves Photography

What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

My holiday season favorites are the smell of the Christmas tree, the taste of chocolate and peppermint, the sound of Christmas carols and the warm feeling of having family around me.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

When our daughters were little, we read a lot of Christmas books. One of
our favorites was The Snowman by Raymond Briggs.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

I’ve been happy to support our local bookstores, especially during COVID. Bookstores are such a wonderful 3rd place for browsing, exploring, and
discovering new books. I’d like to give a shout out to the three wonderful indie bookstores that hosted me in discussing my book, “We Need to Talk: A Memoir About Wealth” —

1) Sausalito Books by the Bay in Sausalito, CA,
2) Island Books in Mercer Island, WA, and
3) Napa Bookmine in Napa, CA.

Amy Shearn author of UNSEEN CITY, 12/7/2020

What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I’m into the ambient sensory details of the holiday season — Christmas music and holiday-spice flavor profiles and twinkly lights everywhere. I’m Jewish and don’t really celebrate Christmas, so I get to sort of siphon the fun parts of the holiday season out of the air, without having any of the holiday-related stress people seem to have. And my kids love both Hanukkah and Christmas, so it’s always a fun time of year because of their excitement and just pure kid-joy.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

I love Jeanette Winterson’s “Christmas Days.” It’s a great throwback to when Christmas was a little spooky and Christmas stories were about ghosts and things. This time of year always feels a little otherworldly to me — maybe because it’s so dark, and because we’re thinking so much about one year ending and the next beginning.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

We’re lucky to have tons of great indie bookstores here in Brooklyn! The ones I shop at the most often are Terrace Books and Powerhouse on 8th, since they are closest to where I live, but I also love Books Are Magic, Greenlight, Community… we’re so spoiled here, it’s wonderful. I hope everyone can keep their doors open throughout the pandemic, because indie bookstores are my favorite places, and truly give the literary community a home. I love being able to talk to a bookstore employee who knows what they’re talking about and get great recommendations for what to read — there’s nothing like the well-curated shelves of a lovingly run indie bookshop!

Sebastian Matthews author of BEYOND REPAIR, 12/3/2020:

What is your favorite thing about the holiday season?

I love all the good food, getting to hang with friends and family (even over Zoom!). Feeling free to hang out all day cooking and listening to music (not holiday music!). The walks in the end of fall weather.

What is one book that you come back to read during this time of year?

That’s a good question. I am not sure that I have one. I probably should. I’ll work on it! Ask me next year.

What is your favorite independent bookstore and why is it especially important to shop indie?

Malaprops Bookstore & Café. It’s here in Asheville, NC. Quint-essential indie bookstore. Now more than ever it’s important to shop with/through indie bookstores—local or otherwise. The pandemic is making an already challenging situation worse. We need to combine our love for books with a desire to help our small, literary-minded businesses thrive.