Monday, April 20, 2015

Boise Author Anthony Doerr Lands Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Posted By on Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 1:48 PM

Anthony Doerr's novel, All the Light We Cannot See, has won critical and popular acclaim. The New York Times called it one of the 10 best books of 2014, and it spent the better part of a year on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award.

Now, it has landed its author the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Pulitzer prizes have been awarded to works of fiction since 1947, and its winners have included Cormac McCarthy, John Updike and Saul Bellow. They come with a $10,000 award. This year's jury, consisting of Chicago Tribune literary editor Elizabeth Taylor, author and NPR book commentator Alan Cheuse and Southern Methodist University Professor of English David Haynes, selected All the Light We Cannot See over Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford, The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami and Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates. 

Doerr was a "BW Citizen" in 2011, when he was in the running for the Sunday Times Prize for his short story "The Deep." Shortly after the interview, he was declared the winner, being chosen from about 2,000 entries for the $48,000 prize. 
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Friday, March 27, 2015

Treefort 2015: Storyfort Author Liza Long Talks Childrens' Mental Health and the Prison System

Posted By on Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 2:14 PM

Liza Long reads from her new book, Price of Silence. - FARZAN FARAMARZI
  • Farzan Faramarzi
  • Liza Long reads from her new book, Price of Silence.

Treefort Music Fest literary offshoot Storyfort opened strong March 27 with a reading by Idaho author and blogger Liza Long from her book, Price of Silence: A Mom's Perspective of Mental Illness, which was released in August 2014. 

Following the reading, Long discussed what she described as the "school to prison pipeline," a systemic bias within the education system that funnels children with mental illnesses into the criminal justice system.

"Jail is not the kind of help people like [Long's son] 'Michael' need," she said.

Part of that system, she told the audience, was poverty, which can be a barrier to receiving proper mental health care. In the United States, 15.6 percent of residents live under the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

"The elephant in the room is poverty. What we really need to blame is poverty," she said.

Long famously blogged about being the parent of a mentally ill child in her essay, "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," in which she commiserated with the parents of mentally ill people who had committed violent crimes and discussed the travails of raising her son "Michael," whom she said had threatened to kill her then kill himself. For the purposes of the essay, Long changed the name of her son, but in a Washington Post story, she was accused of "oversharenting"—a parent revealing too much about her children online. She responded to that criticism by telling the audience that some good came from her narratives about raising a mentally ill child when she was approached by a national pediatric mental health expert.

"The consequences of telling my story was, a doctor connected with me and said, 'We can totally treat your kid,'" Long said.

  • Farzan Faramarzi

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Harper Lee to Release 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sequel This Summer

Posted By on Tue, Feb 3, 2015 at 10:52 AM

  • Harper Lee, circa 1950s
The elusive Harper Lee, who wrote To Kill a Mockingbird more than a half-century ago and has been reluctant to publish a follow-up, confirmed today that a novel that she completed in the 1950's and put aside will be published later this year.

The publisher Harper (not to be confused with the author) announced that it would print 2,000,000 copies beginning this July of Go Set a Watchman, which it said was essentially a sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird, portraying Scout, the lead character of Mockingbird, as a grown woman. Go Set a Watchman is set in Maycomb, Ala., during the 1950s, approximately 20 years after the main events of To Kill a Mockingbird.

"Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus," said the publisher's announcement. "She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood."

In a statement released by her publisher, Lee said, "After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years."

Lee said it was her original editor, intrigued by Scout's flashbacks in To Kill a Mockingbird, who encouraged her to write the second novel from the point of view of Scout as an older woman.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Salman Rushdie Lectures on Literature and Politics

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 12:08 PM

The Morrison Center was packed to the gills on the evening of Nov. 20 from a surge of people who had braved the winter cold to see Sir Salman Rushdie speak as part of Boise State University's Distinguished Lecture Series.

Rushdie is perhaps best known for his controversial 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses, which cast ripples across the Muslim world and precipitated the Ayatollah Khomeini, then the Supreme Religious Leader of Iran, placing a bounty on Rushdie's head. Rushdie subsequently went into hiding—a period of his life that forms the basis of his 2012 book, Joseph Anton: A Memoir.

In his lecture titled "Literature and Politics in the Modern World," Rushdie obliquely referred to his days in hiding, preferring to discuss literature's relationship to politics as a function of historical, cultural and technological forces. As newspapers struggle to keep pace with the internet, he said, content that casts a critical eye on those in power begins to become more scarce.

"The more ways there are of bringing the news, the less news is brought," Rushdie told the crowd.

While journalism fights for purchase in 21st century media, however, Rushdie argued that the novel has retained its power as a medium because novelists are able to probe the truth without being beholden to facts. Novels like Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and many others explore individual characters in their natural social, political and economic habitats.

"What the novel can bring us is the lived experience of the new," Rushdie said.

The "experience of the new," as Rushdie knows firsthand, can bring storytellers into conflict with political power but as Rushdie pointed out, he has survived many of the people who, on the publication of his novel, sought to see him dead. 

"We live in an age in which writers are physically in more danger than they've ever been," he said, adding that while artists sometimes need protection from the world, "art can take care of itself." 

Censorship and taboo have played a large part in Rushdie's life, but he said he's optimistic for the future of literature. He advised the audience to "read for love."

"I think we need to cultivate the love of books rather than the study of books," he said.

It was only in the question-and-answer portion of the evening that he spoke most specifically about his experience with Islam. Much of his life after the publication of The Satanic Verses was spent in hiding. Some of the time he was under armed guard, and the situation contributed to the failure of his marriage to American novelist Marianne Wiggins in 1993. Bookstores that carried the book were bombed, several of its translators were murdered—the comet tail of death and destruction caused by outrage over The Satanic Verses goes on and on. When someone asked about his opinion of Islam, Rushdie said he "isn't the person to ask" about defending it. Rather, his remarks on his relationship with Islam drew out nuances that have contributed to tensions between the Middle East and the West, and their relationship to literature. He gave an example of two boys raised in the same province of India.

"What's the difference between the boy who picks up a gun and joins the Jihad, and the other, who does something—anything—else with his life? Character," Rushdie said. The trend of violence that stems from from religious intolerance to the rise of the Islamic State, however, is cause for concern.

"Something ugly has been born within Islam," he said. "Inside Islam something very bad is happening."
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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Naked You, Naked Me Fiction Contest Shakes Up Hyde Park Books

Posted By on Sun, Oct 26, 2014 at 1:08 PM

  • Harrison Berry
  • Bill Dentzer
A San Francisco transplant wowed visitors to the fiction contest Naked You, Naked Me, Oct. 25 at Hyde Park Books, with his story about a 12-year-old boy overcoming adolescent shame.

Bill Dentzer came to Boise from California a few months ago in search of "better people and better surf," but found a literary scene that has been appreciative of his talents. Standing before an audience of about 20, he wove a tale about a pubescent boy shamed by his parents as they showed off photos from an old family vacation. 

"I'm 12 going on negative eleventy-billion," the boy recounts.

The story won Dentzer a $50 gift certificate to The Modern Hotel and Bar.

Stories submitted to Naked You, Naked Me were 500 or fewer words long, touching on either the themes or title of Christian Winn's short story collection, Naked Me. Though 20 entries were received, five stories won prizes ranging from a $25 gift card to Hyde Park Books to Dentzer's tab at The Modern.

During the event, which started at 7 p.m., attendees mingled between the readings of four winning short stories while being served wine, beer and pizza. Many had come from Winn's workshops and classes, but others gathered out of curiosity and appreciation for his work.

Other authors who read short works included Jordan Orborne and Greg Heinzman, as well as Yash Seyedbagheri, who read his short story, "Naked on the Edge" from his cellphone. Described by Winn as "someone who loves, more than anything, The Big Lebowski," he's one of Winn's writing group students.

"It's like a cross between Hemingway and Jerry Springer," Seyedbagheri said of the workshop.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

First Annual Death Rattle Brings Idaho Writers to the Mic

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 2:25 PM

J. Reuben Appelman reads from his book, Making Make Loneliness, at the first-ever Death Rattle Writer's Festival. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • J. Reuben Appelman reads from his book, Making Make Loneliness, at the first-ever Death Rattle Writer's Festival.

Over two nights—Oct. 9 and 10—the inaugural Death Rattle Writer's Festival features more than 40 writers, professional and not, in downtown Nampa. Organizer and Nampa local Diana Forgione has spent the last eight months pulling together writers from all over the Treasure Valley to come read  short excerpts of their work, including Alan Heathcock, Diane Raptosh, Christian Winn and J. Reuben Appelman.

The festival kicked off at the Flying M Coffeegarage last night, with a mix of well-known local authors and open-mic participants reading both poetry and short stories. More than 30 people attended.

The emotions of each reading ranged from dark snapshots of scenes, characters and lives like the line from J. Reuben Appelman's Christian Winn's reading: "He drew blood for you, Molly, because he couldn't imagine his life without you," to more upbeat poems like one brave open-mic reader comparing how we deal with things to an oyster turning sand to pearl: "What could we do with what gets under our skin?"
"This is fantastic, the first annual Death Rattle," Christian Winn said as he took the stage to read from Naked Me, his new collection of short stories. "The beauty of this literary stuff kind of spreading out is just, it's really rewarding and cool to see."

The event kicked off in the Flying M Coffeegarage in Nampa. - JESSICA MURRI
  • Jessica Murri
  • The event kicked off in the Flying M Coffeegarage in Nampa.
Forgione put the readings together after moving to Nampa from Los Angeles about a year ago. She was drawn to the "lifestyle."

"Everybody here is a writer, everybody here has beautiful work," she said. "There’s something about Nampa and living here that drives people here to become artists and writers ... Boise's great but Nampa has its own heart for something, and I think that's writing."

Tonight's line-up takes place at The Yesteryear Shoppe and includes Tim Davis, Daphne Stanford, Ben Fischer, Adrian Kien, Samantha Silva, Marguerite Lawrence, Theron Gregory, Conor Harris and Jerrell Sanders.

After an intermission, the show moves to Pete's Tavern with participants reading "strictly explicit work," according to Forgione. Readers include Erica Crockett, Alexander Yann, Hector Diaz, Jess Johnson, Dig Reeder, Theron Gregory, Conor Harris, Rex Arnold and Amanda Ricachica.

Next year, Forgione hopes to incorporate one-act plays as well. And she definitely plans to keep the festival in Nampa. She also plans to keep the name, explaining why she chose to call it Death Rattle.

"The death rattle is a medical term for when you die and you regurgitate that moment of death and you growl, so it’s the death rattle," Forgione said. "Your throat would literally rattle up this reverberation. The written word is a reverberation of our soul."

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writers Hear a Death Rattle in Nampa, Nov. 9-10

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 1:08 PM

Today at 5:30 p.m., the inaugural Death Rattle Writer's Festival jumps off the page. Organizers describe the festival as "a push for artistic community and cultural self-definition in the Treasure Valley," and with it, hope to "encourage literary ambitions, opportunities and freedom."

This celebration of the literary includes readings from the likes of J. Reuben AppelmanAlan Heathcock, poet Diane Raptosh, Samantha SilvaChristian Winn and more, as well as open mics, an incredible opportunity for writers to be in front of an audience and share their work with like-minded people.

The full schedule follows:

Oct. 9, Flying M Coffeegarage
5:30 p.m.: Open mic sign ups
6 p.m.: Readings by Amanda Ricachica, Annah Scuri, Lexi Scuri, Griffin Birdsong, Emi Bergquist, Dig Reeder, Stan Reeder, J. Reuben Appelman, Christian Winn
7:30 p.m. Intermission and transition to Track 13 at 13 12th Ave. S.
8:15 p.m. Readings from Megan Williams, Jess Johnson, Matt Hoffman, Diane Raptosh, Amanda Ricachica, Diana Forgione, Alan Heathcock, Erica Crockett, Theron Gregory, Meghan Cahill

Oct. 10, The Yesteryear Shoppe
5:30 p.m.: Open mic signups
6 p.m.: Readings by Tim Davis, Daphne Stanford, Ben Fischer, Adrian Kien, Samantha Silva, Marguerite Lawrence, Theron Gregory, Conor Harris, Jerrell Sanders

Intermission and move to Pete’s Tavern
8:15 p.m.: Readings by Erica Crockett, Diana Forgione, Alexander Yann, Hector Diaz, Jess Johnson, Dig Reeder, Theron Gregory, Conor Harris, Rex Arnold, Amanda Ricachica.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

Need Something To Do Friday?

Posted By on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 4:46 PM

Reading is fun. It enriches the mind and livens the soul. Sometimes we read and wonder about the person who wrote the words we consume. And sometimes, you get to have beer with those people. 

Head over to Payette Brewing Co. and have a cold one while you mingle with fellow literature lovers and Christian Winn, author of Naked Me, a short story collection published by Dock Street Press. If you leave thirsty or without a book in hand, it's your fault. 

7 p.m. FREE. Payette Brewing Co., 111 W. 33rd St., Garden City, 208-344-0011, 
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Friday, July 18, 2014

Mr. Cope’s Cave: Oh, and Did I Mention I Wrote a Book? It’s Called …

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 10:13 AM

If you read the column I wrote for Boise Weekly that came out this past Wednesday, you will remember it consisted almost entirely of me trying to convince my readers to buy a novel I wrote—Artists Save the Galaxy!. Essentially, it was nothing but a 1,000-word plug of that book (Artists Save the Galaxy!), and in the last few lines, I promised that it was to be the one and only time I would use my column space for such a self-serving purpose as hawking something I wrote—i.e., Artists Save the Galaxy!—completely independent of my work for BW.

I intend to keep that promise. It may be an old-fashioned notion, but I feel newspaper print should be reserved for lofty and noble uses such as relevant news, cogent analysis and, of course, the funnies. If a tree must die, it should not be to the end of some guy with a column incessantly trying to sell a book —e.g., Artists Save the Galaxy!—that has absolutely nothing to do with his normal subject matter.

However, I made no such promise regarding this endless space I have been given in the World Wide Virtual Cloud Internet Blog Web HTTPS Site Thingie. As I have said from the start of Mr. Cope’s Cave, my senses tell me that if I am speaking to any constituency at all here, it could not possibly be anything beyond a handful of asocial misfits who waste their precious lives staring at a computer screen, reading things like Mr. Cope’s Cave.

So what would it matter if I spent the rest of my blogging career, however long that may last, telling about what a wonderful tale I have told in Artists Save the Galaxy!, and how happy and enriched your lives would be were you to purchase it—perhaps several dozen copies of it, even, to use as Xmas presents and graduation gifts for years to come—and how in many ways, it is the greatest story ever told?

Hah! Just screwing with you. I’m willing to admit it’s not the greatest story ever told—probably—and I’m sure you’re not an asocial misfit. And even if you are, I absolutely would not take advantage of your condition by yapping on and on about how great a book Artists Save the Galaxy! is and how you really, really need to buy it—it being Artists Save the Galaxy!.

Still, I don’t see the harm in using Mr. Cope’s Cave for at least one little plug (for Artists Save the Galaxy!), and I will even throw in a brief synopsis of the plot (of Artists Save the Galaxy!), something that the regular newsprint-reading people didn’t get Wednesday.

It is called Artists Save the Galaxy!, this novel I wrote, and it is the story of an aging writer—gee, I wonder where I got the idea?—who is abducted from his home one night by shape-shifting aliens. After the initial shock, he is to learn that he and 143 other humans—artists, all—have been whisked away to become soldiers in a campaign to rid the galaxy of a most hideous threat to all living things, everywhere.

As the humans are being prepared to battle this mysterious and lethal nemesis, they come to respect, admire and even grow emotionally involved with the creatures who have abducted them. (In fact, at one time I was considering titling this novel Artists Save the Galaxy!: A Love Story.)

Now, possibly you’re thinking, Yeah, all well and good. But I don’t read science fiction.

Ah, but you see, as a rule, I don’t write science fiction. I write humor, for what it's worth, and it so happens I believe that genre fiction—be it sci-fi or romance or crime or whatever—offers a fertile bed for humor to blossom, whether it be within the outlines of the plotting itself, or from outside, as an overview of the stylistic conventions of the genre as a whole.

Of course, I’m far from being the first writer to think of this. As just one example, Kurt Vonnegut was doing it decades ago, realizing it was the element of humor that could most effectively coat fiction—even fantastic fiction—with a patina of reality. Nothing gives a made-up character more flesh-and-blood than a sense of humor. (It was Mr. Vonnegut’s death seven years ago that prompted me dip my quill into that rich metaphorical reservoir of which he will forever be the master, and I dedicate the book to him.)

Oh, and in the event you have forgotten what book I have dedicated to Kurt Vonnegut, it is Artists Save the Galaxy!. Within it’s beautiful cover—done with loving attention to detail by the exquisite talent of Mike Flinn, Boise’s own surrealist savant and, to my great pleasure, my friend—you will find the names of Leonard Bernstein, Helen Mirren, Vice President Al Gore, Captain Horatio Hornblower… and many more. I won’t tell you what they’re doing there. But for the price of three extra-fruity caffeine fixes at any Starbucks, you can read for yourself.

And here’s where you can go to buy it: Artists Save the Galaxy!

Thus ends my plug. If I have bored you, be assured the novel (Artists Save the Galaxy!) is written with a great deal more excitement than this blog. And if you like what you’ve read in this blog, you ain’t seen nothing yet!… not until you’ve read Artists Save the Galaxy!.
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Need Something To Do Thursday?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 17, 2014 at 2:15 PM

"What do you like to read?" Ah yes, the classic question and conversation starter. We've all been there—some good-looking person asks and you can tell by the look on their face when you hesitate to come up with something that they're disappointed. So maybe you should start reading. But, you don't have a lot of spare time. Start with short stories—really short stories. Even tiny stories. 

Jason Sinclair Long, author of Tiny Giants: 101 Stories Under 101 Words, will read from said book and sign copies as well. If an autographed copy of the latest work of literature you've finished doesn't impress your newfound party acquaintance, nothing will. 

6 p.m. FREE. Rediscovered Books, 180 N. Eighth St., Boise, 208-376-4229,
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