Chicken Scratch

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.

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.

Red Hen Recommends: Authors Edition!

Support independent bookstores, and check out our Red Hen Recommends: Author Edition collection on by clicking the image above!

Red Hen Recommends, Author Edition: Mask. Social distance. No party.

Yu-Han Chao, author of Sex & Taipei City

Dear Readers,

I’m a Red Hen author and a hospital nurse who also does some contact tracing for public health. I won’t pretend to be an expert or try to tell you what to do with your life, but if you care about the future of the human race, please help us.

Yes, you–Dear Reader–can personally save the world.

All you have to do is stay at home as much as possible, wear a mask when you leave your home, maintain a 6 feet distance from other people if you can, and not host or attend that upcoming 4th of July block party in your neighborhood.

I would rather not see you and your loved ones in a rubber-banded stack of “4th of July party outbreak” positive case files and have to call all of you about isolation or quarantine, and worry when someone cannot answer the phone because they are already in a hospital. I would love to support you in the hospital if you need medical attention for any number of health matters (please do come in if you need help), but would rather not see you or any of your loved ones come in with difficulty breathing and end up having to be transferred to the ICU and placed on a breathing machine, especially if it is preventable. And it is preventable. Not 100% preventable, but preventable in the way that if you skip that party or wear a mask consistently, you might save someone’s grandma or baby or mother, father, sister, or cousin, through the butterfly effect. We could discuss the R number or exponential algorithms on a graph, but I think most of us understand the subtlety of the butterfly effect better. One small action by you can change the fate of the universe.

You can do this. You can change the world. Mask. Social distance. No party.

Feel free to check out my story collection, too, which has nothing to do with health topics or the rona. Your act of purchasing any Red Hen book will have the butterfly effect of supporting Red Hen’s amazing staff and diverse authors, and hopefully help us all stay in print for another year (and what a year it has been)!


Yu-Han Chao

Author of Sex & Taipei City

June 26

Matty Layne Glasgow, author of deciduous qween

I spent the first weekend of February driving through the Midwest for a couple of readings with one of my mentors, Deb Marquart, and her two floppy-eared pups. At our last stop in Madison, Deb bestowed upon me Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Donna Haraway’s most recent book on reconfiguring our relationship with the Earth and all its inhabitants. In short, Haraway abandons the hip, human-centric term of our era—the Anthropocene—for a vision grounded in multiplicity known as the Chthulucene. A process integral to the Chthulucene is sym-poiesis, or making-with, because, as Haraway explains, “Nothing makes itself.”

Perhaps nothing renders the interconnectivity of our world and our time, of the Chthulucene itself, in starker relief than a pandemic—both in how a virus spreads and what we lose when we isolate ourselves physically from one another and the outside world. The current pandemic is certainly among the many crises we face in our epoch, in addition to multispecies extinctions, genocides, and exterminations, which Haraway describes as urgencies. She prefers the term urgency to emergency because it avoids the implication of apocalypse and all its mythologies. Still, we live in an epoch of urgency, and these crises alter the way we experience time itself.

Since reading Miller Oberman’s The Unstill Ones last fall—an exquisite poetry collection that explores queer temporality and translation—I’ve grown increasingly interested in and fascinated by the queering of time and space. Perhaps this interest in alternative understandings and experiences of time and space is what makes Haraway’s work so fascinating for me these days. Haraway writes “Urgencies have other temporalities, and these times are ours. These are the times we must think; these are the times of urgencies that need stories.” For Haraway, these are stories of trees and symbioses, of diners and restaurateurs alike. For today, I’ll add poems and poets to the list, too.

I feel the urgency of our epoch in so much fine queer poetry today. In recent months I’ve turned to poets who inspire me through their rendering of queer temporalities, environments, and histories. Their respective collections embrace racial justice, queer ecology, multiplicity, desire, and an interconnectivity inherent to making-with:

Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Jake Skeets

The Tradition by Jericho Brown

Red Channel in the Rupture by Amber Flora Thomas

Next up on my reading list are Roy Guzmán’s debut Catrachos and Eduardo Corral’s forthcoming Guillotine.

Wishing y’all a queerly joyous Pride. Stay with the trouble. Make kin. And remember, the first Pride was a protest. If we can imagine a system that is not grounded in white supremacy and toxic masculinity, we can make it—together.

June 19 – Juneteenth

Douglas Manuel, author of Testify

As we wait for justice for Rayshard Brooks, as we wait for justice for Tony McDade, as we wait for justice for George Floyd, as we wait for justice for Breonna Taylor, as we wait for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, as we wait for justice for all those slain since 1619, (The list is a long scroll that I’d like to unfurl across the country from sea to shining sea.) as we wait for more funding for BIPOC communities instead of more funding for the police departments, as we wait for white folks to recognize our humanity or at least not kill us so casually with hands in their pockets or by shooting us in the back, I am thinking about all those slaves in Texas working the land, longing for freedom, and only thinking it would come in an afterlife. So much of our history here in this country is about waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. But that’s not the whole story. We’ve been resisting. We’ve been revolting. We’ve been raging. We’ve been yelling. We’ve been demanding. We’ve been punching power with the truth. We’ve been marching. We’ve been in these streets since Crispus Attucks. We have survived.

So this Juneteenth, as I wear red, eat barbecue, watermelon, and red velvet cake, and sip my red pop, I will revisit Ralph Ellison’s novel and know that we will never have to wait for some white man to tell us that we’re free again. This Juneteenth, I will remember those slaves who were working, not waiting, and do some work myself to ensure that we not only survive but also thrive. And I kindly demand that you do the same.

Continue reading “Red Hen Recommends: Authors Edition!”

Black Lives Matter

Dear Friends,

We at Red Hen are outraged at the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many Black Americans before them senselessly killed at the hands of law enforcement officers paid to protect and serve.

The untreated symptoms of systemic racism are an embarrassment to a country that prides itself on principles of freedom and equality. To ensure lasting change, we must examine our own biases, face the ugly truths of racial injustice, and actively change the world in which we live in, be it through donations to anti-racist organizations, calling your local politicians, or voting with your ballots and wallets.

We have thought carefully about how to occupy space on social media to support the cause during this time. With the exception of two publication announcements, this week we will exclusively celebrate and amplify the incredible work of Black authors and poets.

As James Baldwin said in No Name in the Street, “Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected—those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most!—and listens to their testimony.”

In solidarity, the staff of Red Hen Press wish all our friends love, peace, justice, and a country in which racial injustice is no longer tolerated.

We see you. We hear you. We are with you.

Kate Gale and Mark E. Cull
Co-founders of Red Hen Press

COVID-19 Operations Update

Dear Friends,

We hope this finds you and yours healthy and safe.

Red Hen Press remains, as ever, dedicated to helping our communities, local and global, through the power of literature. We have been monitoring the situation and made the decision last week to pause our internship program and have staff members work remotely as part of our response to the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, all workshops, readings, and events that were scheduled by Red Hen through the end of April are being shifted to virtual platforms or postponed. We will continue to follow any guidelines, recommendations, or mandates as set forth by the CDC and our local, state, and federal governments so we can do our part to help flatten the curve and lessen the spread of the virus.

Though we may be working from our own individual Hen Houses right now, the Red Hen Press team continues, tirelessly, to bring untold, moving, and necessary stories to you. We will weather this storm together and are coming up with new and innovative ways to bring our authors to you. We’re also keeping an eye on the amazing opportunities and supportive communities that have come together during our time of social distancing to ensure that though we are physically apart, we are never far from each others’ hearts.

As we hatch our plans, stay tuned for virtual reading announcements and book sales while we continue our work of providing literature and events to the community:

Check out our Red Hen Recommends blog for updates, virtual events, and recommendations on books and activities while you practice your social distancing. We’ll update this every other day with new recs, tips, and sales!

Continue reading “COVID-19 Operations Update”
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