Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 2, 2020


Overlook Press: Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi

Grand Central Publishing: What's Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Columbia Global Reports: The Socialist Awakening: What's Different Now about the Left by John B Judis

Mira Books: Her Dark Lies by J T Ellison

Shadow Mountain: Ming's Christmas Wishes by Susan L Gong, illustrated by Masahiro Tateishi

Quotation of the Day

'America's Booksellers Can Play a Huge Role'

"Booksellers should aim to educate their readers, their neighbors, the members of their community. This is absolutely the most important action that any bookseller can take when it comes to today's monopolies.... In many ways, the independent bookseller in America today is at the forefront of this struggle. It is an issue you understand as well as anyone, from having to fight day after day with one of the great predators of all time, Amazon. It is an issue you understand from your own experiences having to deal with the disruptions of Covid-19, which, were made far worse by monopolization. Just as in the days of the Revolution, or before the Civil War, or during the Civil Rights movement, or the anti-war movements of the 1960s and more recently, America's booksellers can play a huge role not just in helping to alert people to the danger, but in connecting them to the solutions.... In short, booksellers, simply by doing what they do best, will help to protect one of the fundamental institutions of democracy, which is the book industry itself."

--Barry Lynn, author and executive director of the Open Markets Institute, in a Bookselling This Week q&a about his new book, Liberty from All Masters (St. Martin's)

Britannica Books: Britannica All New Kids' Encyclopedia: What We Know & What We Don't by Britannica Group, edited by Christopher Lloyd


News

L.A.'s Pop-Hop Has New Owners

The Pop-Hop in Los Angeles, Calif., has reopened under new ownership, Bookselling This Week reported. Rosario Calatayud-Serna, Jonathan Hinton, Kenzo Martinez and Adriana Yugovich purchased the Pop-Hop earlier this year, after the store's previous owner put it up for sale due to the pandemic.

The store officially reopened on July 24. The new owners have joined the ABA, opened a Bookshop.org account and plan to "transform the bookstore's role in the community." While selling books will remain a major focus of the store, Calatayud-Serna told BTW, the new owners also want to create "a community arts and education/activism space," which was the primary draw of buying the store. They may also shift to a nonprofit status at some point.

Calatayud-Serna reported that customers have been happy to see the store reopen, but the new owners are still facing challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic. The biggest struggle has been replenishing their new book inventory before the holidays, though they have replenished their used stock. All of the store's workers, she noted, are volunteers.

"The community has been welcoming and supportive," said Calatayud-Serna. "Our group is enthusiastic, helpful and supportive of one another, which has also been a blessing."


GLOW: Flatiron Press: Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean


Books on Main in Hopkinsville, Ky., Closing

Books on Main in Hopkinsville, Ky., will close permanently at the end of next week, the Kentucky New Era reported. The decision comes after owners Pam and Wayne Goolsby, both retired school librarians, have been unable to reopen the store since closing down because of the pandemic in March.

Pam Goolsby explained to KNE that she and her husband both got new jobs, and while her mother used to work at the store regularly, she is 85 years old and at risk. The store is hosting a going out of business sale, which will run this weekend and next weekend.

The owners opened the store in September 2005. At the time they were indeed located on Main Street and were in partnership with a coffee shop. They remained in partnership until 2013, when the bookstore moved to a new location off of Main Street after their landlord decided to go in a different direction with the property. They decided to keep the name because of the loyal following they'd built.

"We enjoyed delivering and getting to know the people," Wayne Goolsby said. Over the years, he continued, they made "so many great friends who have been good customers to us."


BINC: Help a Bookseller, Save a Bookstore - Give to BINC


Shelf Awareness Pre-Order E-Blast Palooza; Latest E-Blast Delivered

Our recently launched Pre-Order E-Blast has been generating a lot of buzz and new pre-order book sales for indie booksellers, and it's quickly become our fastest-growing program for indie bookstores. It's a once-monthly e-mail that features eight upcoming titles selected by Shelf Awareness editors and a sponsored title. Customers can buy these books via pre-order buttons that lead directly to your bookstore's purchase page for the title. One of the best things about it: you can change our title selection to better reflect your customers. (Because who knows your customers better than you?) The program is free and supported by publisher advertising.

Since we're (sadly) not seeing you all at the regional shows, we're gathering together virtually to show off all that this new product can do. We'll do a live demo, have testimonials from current partner stores, and give keen insights to all we've learned so far. Join us for our Pre-OrderPalooza on Wednesday, October 14, at 11 a.m. Pacific time to find out all about this free, monthly, highly customizable e-blast that will have your customers learning that you can pre-order with the best of them! Open to all indie booksellers, registration required

Yesterday, Shelf Awareness sent September's Pre-Order E-Blast to more than half a million of the country's best book readers. The mailing went to 538,323 customers of 113 participating independent bookstores. For a sample of yesterday's Pre-Order E-Blast, see this one from Nowhere Bookshop, San Antonio, Texas.

The Pre-Order E-Blasts are sent the last Wednesday of each month; the next will go out on Wednesday, October 28. Stores interested in learning more can visit our program registration page or contact our partner program team via e-mail. And don't miss the Pre-OrderPalooza!

Those who receive the pre-order e-blast directly from us with buy links that go to Bookshop, please know that all proceeds from this are donated to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) to help booksellers in need.


University of California Press: Beethoven, a Life (1st ed.) by Jan Caeyers, translated by Brent Annable


PNBA: Annual Meeting & Family Dinner

At its annual meeting on Wednesday, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association reflected on the "anomaly" of 2020, as president Tina Ontiveras of Klindt's Booksellers & Stationers, The Dalles, Ore., put it. With the Covid-19 pandemic, PNBA has bolstered outreach to and programming for members and non-members, contributed more money to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, and is just concluding a virtual fall conference that drew a range of interest.

In addition, as Ontiveras recounted, before the pandemic hit, the board had begun working on revising PNBA's mission and ends documents. The documents were supposed to be revised annually but this hadn't happened in a decade, so "it was an incredible amount of work the board had to do." The board has a draft and should vote on it in the next week. The new mission and ends statements will then help executive director Brian Juenemann when he puts together a strategic plan next year.

PNBA staff, board members and ABA CEO Allison Hill

Between responding to the pandemic, personally calling and e-mailing all members and working on the documents, the board has been busier than ever anticipated, and Ontiveras thanked all the board members profusely.

Juenemann said that PNBA expects losses in the coming year but that it had learned from the Great Recession "how fast fortunes slip" and had set aside money over the years since then.

In his treasurer's report, Larry West, the association's executive assistant and bookkeeper, said PNBA is in a sound position financially and ready for "whatever the rest of the year brings." He won't know for sure until November, but "this year we're going to lose a bunch of money."

During five or six "good, profit-making years," West emphasized that the board and staff of PNBA had been conservative and put money away for a rainy day, and "2020 is it." As a result, PNBA can continue doing "trade shows, catalogues and programs for the membership."

Starting with the pandemic, PNBA offered membership to all booksellers and librarians in its databases, anyone who participated in PNBA shows or other activities or even contacted the association for information. Juenemann said that "we knew how many people were longing for information and connection, and our hope was to help in the now and to expand the awareness and appreciation of what PNBA has to offer for the future."

With the 2021 membership drive, PNBA will offer a discount to new and lapsed members, and all 2020 members will have memberships renewed at no cost.

PNBA is also going to offer a "Covid Response Amalgam Grant" to members, providing a "modest" reimbursement at the end of the year for a variety of responses to the pandemic, including reimbursement for masks, sanitizers, face guards, signage, floor decals and online marketing plans.

Two board seats will become open this year as Ontiveras ends her term and vice-president Laura DeLaney of Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho, leaves. Nominations for new board members will be made soon. --John Mutter

---

Clockwise from top left: Danielle Kartes, Garth Stein, Grace Rajendran, Rosanne Parry, Martha Brockebrough, Matthew Southworth

The first day of the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association virtual fall show (September 29-October 2) closed with "A Family Dinner," featuring cookbook author Danielle Kartes (Rustic Joyful Food: Meant to Share, Sourcebooks) leading a group of authors in a cooking-at-home/book-talking session as they prepared her recipe for Pistachio Crusted Chicken Cutlets with Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad. Author/chefs were Garth Stein and Matthew Southworth, author and artist of the graphic novel The Cloven: Book One (Fantagraphics); Rosanne Parry, A Whale of the Wild (Greenwillow/HarperCollins); and Martha Brockenbrough, This Old Dog (illus. by Gabriel Alborozo; Levine Querido).

Grace Rajendran, event host for Seattle's University Book Store, welcomed everyone and acknowledged the hardships their region has faced this year, especially the pandemic and the Pacific Northwest wildfires. She emphasized the evening would be "super casual" and encouraged discussion in the chat.

The screen rotated from Kartes's kitchen (especially at key points in the recipe) through the kitchens of all the authors (Southworth stepped outside midway through). When Kartes demonstrated a step requiring a food processor, James Crossley from Madison Books in Seattle said in the chat box, "Wait, I need a food processor? So much for this mortar and pestle." Annie Carl joined the program from her bookstore, Neverending Bookshop, Edmonds, Wash., where she was snacking on leftovers. "They always taste better the second day when they've spent a night or two marinating in the fridge," Carl wrote in the chat. It was a feast of books, sustenance of mind and body. --Jennifer M. Brown


University of California Press: The Mwindo Epic from the Banyanga (1st ed.) edited by Daniel Biebuyck and Kahombo C Mateene


B&N to Run Western Kentucky University's Bookstore

Barnes & Noble College has signed a 10-year deal with Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green to privatize the previously independently-run bookstore. The College Heights Herald reported that in March, WKU "made the recommendation to the Board of Regents that Barnes & Noble take over the operation of the bookstore." The change was approved at the board's May meeting and took effect July 1.

According to Jennifer Tougas, WKU's interim assistant v-p of business services, the deal includes an annual $15,000 scholarship, a one-time gift of $350,000 and $1 million in guaranteed revenue for the first year. Tougas added that the partnership will focus on delivering students lower-cost options for textbooks, wider electronic book access and more streamlined textbook integration with professors. "One thing Barnes & Noble brings to the table is purchasing power."


Notes

#BannedBooksWeek Update: 'A Key Victory for Free Expression'

Banned Books Week is being celebrated through October 3, with the theme "Censorship Is a Dead End." On social media, independent booksellers are highlighting their efforts to bring attention to the cause: 

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, San Francisco, Calif.: "Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of the Banned Books display at City Lights Bookstore in the late '50s, photo by Harry Redl. The Howl Trial of 1957 was a key victory for free expression."

Books and Books, with stores in Southern Florida and the Cayman Islands: "NotBannedatBooksandBooks!! Some of our author friends shared the banned or challenged title that has impacted them! Swipe through to read their thoughts, then pick up your banned book online or in-store."

Darvill's Bookstore, Eastsound, Wash.: "Celebrating Banned Book week at Darvill's Bookstore! Live dangerously--read a banned book!"

Bards Alley Bookshop, Vienna, Va.: "Why would anyone try to get a book banned? The answers... well, they probably won't surprise you. Not only does banning books for any of these reasons fly in the face of free speech, it limits the ability to educate and empathize."

Rediscovered Books, Boise, Idaho: "At Rediscovered Books, the freedom to read is integral. Welcome to #bannedbooksweek 2020!"

Union Ave Books, Knoxville, Tenn.: " 'Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight.'--Stephen Chbosky. These books aren't banned in our hearts. They are celebrated and amplified for showing every facet this world has to offer."

Books With A Past, Glenwood, Md.: "Did you know that every single book in this picture has been banned or challenged somewhere in the United States? We tend to think of classics when we think of banned books, but you might be surprised by how many recent books make the list. This Banned Books Week, we challenge you to pick up a banned book, and see what you think."

The Phoenix Bookstore, Laredo, Tex.: "Banned books week is here and below you will find the top 100 banned and/or challenged books in the past 10 years. Which one have you read?"

Trident Booksellers and Café, Boulder, Colo.: "Happy Banned Book Week and Spooky Season! The kind of holidays we like to celebrate."

Odyssey Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y.: "It's #bannedbooksweek. Our bookseller, Casey, put together a display of some of the most banned books for our Books In Conversation area, and she had some poignant thoughts on what this week means, especially right now: What would democracy be without intellectual freedom? The right to be an informed citizen necessitates the right to read, access information, discuss new and different ideas and form our own opinions. Books spur our imagination and conceptions of possible realities. They confront and challenge assumptions. They embrace and comfort us when we may feel alone. To quote the American Library Association, 'Freedom itself is a dangerous way of life, but it is ours.' "


Fla.'s Tombolo Books Wins Best of the Bay Best Bookstore Award

Tombolo co-owners Candice Anderson (l.) and Alsace Walentine

Congratulations to Tombolo Books, St. Petersburg, Fla., which has won Creative Loafing's Best of the Bay award for Best Bookstore, voted on by Tampa Bay readers.

"We are honored to be a part of this wonderful community, and we look forward to being the go-to bookstore in town for many years to come," the store said.

Tombolo Books operated as a pop-up bookstore in St. Petersburg for two years before finding its "forever home" in December 2019 in the Grand Central District of downtown St. Pete, the store noted. Throughout the Covid-19 health crisis, Tombolo Books has been operating in the ways that felt safest, while also serving the community in the fullest way possible. This has meant that the shop has gone through many adaptations, from online-order fulfillment center to (currently) a by-appointment shopping safe haven.


Sidewalk Chalkboards: Greenlight Bookstore

"Greenlight booksellers coming at you with some cute chalkboard art and big news: we're expanding our hours!" Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., posted on Facebook. "As of October, both Greenlight stores will be open for browsing and curbside pickup Tuesday-Sunday, 12PM-6 PM, and for curbside pickup only Monday, 12PM-6 PM. We can't wait to see more of your (masked) faces around the bookstores--and just in time for the holiday season! (ICYMI #OctoberisthenewDecember--right @americanbooksellers?)."


Bookshop Windows: High Five Books

Posted on Facebook by High Five Books, Florence, Mass.: "To say we and @artalwaysflorence are excited about our new painted windows would be the understatement of the century. JUST LOOK AT THEM! What a job @hiredhandsigns did! Jess is an absolute *master* at her craft. And she couldn't have been any lovelier or full of ideas. We're brainstorming more spots for her to paint! Come see the new windows on the StoryWalk in downtown Florence that starts (here!) today!"


'Local Bookstores Are like Churches for Readers'

Observing that "local bookstores are like churches for readers," offering "salvation, quiet and mystery, with so many possible worlds to explore," Style Weekly spoke with Richmond, Va., booksellers Kelly Justice, owner of Fountain Bookstore, and Ward Tefft, owner of Chop Suey Books, "about what's been lost and gained during this unprecedented time." Among our favorite observations:

Do you see a return to normal or are you expecting permanent changes?
Justice: I feel so fortunate that I was able to bring back most of my staff with the PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] loans, but now that's run out and we have to find a way to increase business immediately to survive. I also feel fortunate for so many reasons as others have lost their businesses, their health, their loved ones and their lives. We are really very, very lucky and our customers have been so supportive, but they have their own worries now.

Tefft: We are getting a lot of love through social media, virtual shopping, snail mail postcards and letters, and event food and drink gifts. But not having the chance to have longer meaningful conversations with our customers is taking its toll. If we are ever able to fully open again, that will of course change, so we live in a constant state of hope.

With the existence of Amazon, a recent national recession and now the pandemic, how have brick-and-mortar stores survived?
Justice: People like shopping for books. And, as far as the recession goes, while not recession-proof, books are not like cars or vacations or expensive technology. People tend to give up big ticket items in a recession, but many still consider a book to be a reasonably priced, meaningful gift. Part of that meaning is derived from where you buy it and what that choice means. If you choose to buy it from Amazon because it's cheaper, you're also choosing to support that business model. People who choose to buy from their local independent bookstore are making a choice that expresses their values and they understand that that price difference is paying for something that means something to them. They are supporting people they know and an experience they enjoy. I understand that deeply and I want to do a better job every day to be worthy of that loyalty. I never take it for granted.

Tefft: Amazon has always been and will always be a threat to small businesses across the board. But Richmond does love its independent, locally owned businesses, and we have been humbled and amazed at the amount of support that we have been given.



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jill Heinerth on Fresh Air

Today:
Fresh Air: Jill Heinerth, author of Into the Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver (Ecco, $17.99, 9780062691552).



TV: Savvy

Marsai Martin, who plays Diane Johnson in the hit ABC comedy Black-ish, has teamed with Walden Media to adapt Ingrid Law's 2008 children's fantasy novel Savvy as a TV series. Deadline reported that Martin's Genius Entertainment, which has a first-look film deal with Universal Pictures, is developing the adaptation with The Chronicles of Narnia producer Walden Media.

"Although this story is laced with supernatural characteristics, at its core it's the story of a young girl trying to unlock her potential, something that we can all relate to, with or without superpowers," said Martin.

Walden CEO Frank Smith added: "This novel has resonated with children for over a decade, and we're honored to have the opportunity to partner with Marsai Martin, one of the youngest producers in Hollywood, to bring this story to a new generation. Savvy is an exciting read, and will be equally as thrilling when brought to life on screen."


Movies: Firestarter

Zac Efron (Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile) will star in a new adaptation of Stephen King's 1980 novel Firestarter from Universal and Blumhouse, Entertainment Weekly reported. Scott Teems (Halloween Kills) is writing the script, with Keith Thomas (The Vigil) set to direct. Akiva Goldsman will produce alongside Blumhouse founder Jason Blum.

Previously adapted for the big screen in 1984, the remake "continues the flood of recent and upcoming King adaptations, from CBS All Access' The Stand miniseries to a feature film version of the author's short story Mr. Harrigan's Phone," EW noted.


Books & Authors

Awards: New American Voices Winner

The Son of Good Fortune by Lysley Tenorio is the winner of the $5,000 2020 Institute for Immigration Research New American Voices Award, which recognizes "recently published works that illuminate the complexity of the human experience as told by immigrants, whose work is historically underrepresented in writing and publishing."

Finalists who receive $1,000 each are Ishmael Beah for Little Family and Vanessa Hua for Deceit and Other Possibilities.


Reading with... Emily Gray Tedrowe

photo: Marion Ettlinger

Emily Gray Tedrowe, who lives in Chicago, is the author of the novels Blue Stars and Commuters. Her novel The Talented Miss Farwell was recently published by Morrow. She earned a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in English literature from New York University. She has received an Illinois Arts Council award as well as fellowships from the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Sewanee Writers Conference. A frequent book reviewer for USA Today and other publications, Tedrowe also writes essays, interviews and short stories.

On your nightstand now:

I'm about to start N.K. Jemisin's The City We Became, and I can't wait to dive into this hugely loved magical sci-fi novel about New York City, where I was born. I'm also reading--and thoroughly enjoying--Scott Spencer's new novel An Ocean Without a Shore. I'm a Spencer fan from way back and am happy whenever he has a new book out.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Any one of the delightful Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Montgomery, a classic series about a young writer's coming of age in turn-of-the-century Minnesota. I checked these out so many times from my childhood library that my library card number was stamped over and over on the slip attached to the back page.

Your top five authors:

Alice Munro, whose stories and novel Lives of Girls and Women are at the very center of my reading heart. Toni Morrison: Beloved was one of the first literary novels I chose to read on my own, and it changed a lot for me; I've been slowly working my way through her collection of essays The Source of Self-Regard, with all gratitude for what she gave us. Louise Erdrich: I've been stumping for Erdrich to get the Nobel for several years now--she's an American literary treasure. Carol Shields, whose charming and gutting novels (and stories) are a touchstone for me. Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan Quartet was perhaps the single greatest reading experience of my life.

Book you've faked reading:

Honestly, I don't think I ever have. I've surely faked knowledge (or tried to) in many other arenas, but when it comes to reading, I'm perfectly comfortable with what I have and haven't.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Patrimony, Philip Roth's tender clear-eyed memoir of his father's life, illness and death. There is a scene where he recounts cleaning his father after a bathroom accident that is one of the most loving, humane and beautifully direct passages I've ever read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Problems, a short story collection by John Updike. As a child, I was obsessed with this book on my parents' shelf because of its cover image of a geometry math question and accompanying text: "During the night, A, though sleeping with B, dreams of C. C stands at the furthest extremity or (if the image is considered two-dimensionally) the apogee of a curved driveway, perhaps a dream-refraction of the driveway of the house that had once been their shared home...." As an adult, when I found an early edition of this book, I bought it right away, still entranced by the design.

Book you hid from your parents:

When I was about 12, I fell hard (though briefly) for the novels of Jean Auel. I was fine with my parents seeing me read The Clan of the Cave Bear. But the next several in the series? Yeah, I kept those copies under the bed… when I wasn't reading all about Ayla and her discovery of "The Pleasures."

Book that changed your life:

My copy of Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems, given to me by my mother when I was a girl. Even at a young age when I didn't understand much of what was in the poems, I knew somehow that they were important to me, and that reading and literature in general would be a big part of my life. On several pages, you can find my childish handwriting with notes and questions, underlined words, and lots of !!! and *** where I highly approved of what Dickinson was up to.

Favorite line from a book:

How can anyone not adore the last sentence of George Eliot's Middlemarch? It's a beautiful tribute to Dorothea Brooke, and to the power of quiet lives, and to the moral value of literature itself. "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Susan Choi's Trust Exercise, which I finished in a state of awe, and then immediately turned back to page one to read again.

Your most recent book-adjacent purchase:

I'm glad you asked! This week I proudly snapped on a new phone case featuring a logo and design from the Chicago Public Library. I'm a heavy user at our local branch, and was delighted when I discovered it's possible to buy CPL merch to help support my favorite city institution. My teenagers think I'm a complete dork.


Book Review

Review: Fortune Favors the Dead

Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood (Doubleday, $26.95 hardcover, 336p., 9780385546553, October 27, 2020)

Willowjean Parker (who goes by Will) ran away from home at 15 to join the circus. She's working on the side, a security job at a construction site--the kind of job women get to do now that "the men who'd usually have taken them were overseas hoping for a shot at Hitler"--when she first meets Lillian Pentecost, the famous lady detective. A few clever deductions and a little knife-throwing skill later, and she finds herself in Ms. Pentecost's employ, apprentice to the aging lady detective. Stephen Spotswood's first novel, Fortune Favors the Dead, sparkles with the wit and personality of this bold, unconventional heroine. Will may revere her boss, but readers know that it's the intrepid younger woman who stars.

In Will's delightful first-person telling, peppered with vernacular asides, the two women initially clash in a violent midnight action sequence worthy of the kind of pulp novel Will so loves. She now relates this and other stories from a distance of some years, confiding in her readers the difficulties of choosing what to include. The major case she highlights is that of the Collins family: the patriarch dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, matriarch bludgeoned with a crystal ball following a séance--in a locked room--leaving twins Randolph and Rebecca to tease and manipulate their hired detectives, Ms. Pentecost and Will. The twins' godfather is now acting CEO of Collins Steelworks; his loyalties are unclear. And the medium and "spiritual advisor" whose crystal ball became a murder weapon is another wild card: she seems to have unusual power to intimidate Ms. Pentecost, which unnerves Will entirely.

This mystery plot has all the twists and surprises a fan of the genre could ask for, but it is Will's distinctive, captivating voice and background--from difficult childhood to the circus to lady detective--that is Spotswood's real triumph. Fortune Favors the Dead resets classic noir elements (smoky nightclubs, femmes fatale, unexplained midnight gunshots) in 1940s New York City as experienced by women who like women and men who like men, as Will discreetly frequents a slightly different kind of nightclub, and no one is precisely who they seem. Ms. Pentecost's expertise and no-nonsense attitude are appealing and entertaining, but gutsy Will, with her snappy, slangy narrative style, ultimately wins readers' hearts and carries the day. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: This classic noir-style mystery recast with humor, female leads and superb style is both satisfying and great fun.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: NVNR--' Mentors & Mentees in Writing'

It's a pleasure and a privilege to get to see new work, to work with young people, to think that you are part of a chain and that you're helping someone that's going to continue, to go on beyond you.

--Lee Smith

In his introduction to the recent SIBA/NAIBA New Voices, New Rooms event "Mentors & Mentees in Writing," author and moderator Wiley Cash said the panelists "are all proud representatives of the regions they call home and they are also authors who are mentees and mentors, people who have benefitted and continue to benefit others in this great Southern literary tradition that has been created for us and which we are all--readers and authors and booksellers alike--dedicated to fostering and to keeping going."

Clockwise from top left: Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Wiley Cash, Silas House, Lee Smith, Heather Frese

The featured authors were mentor extraordinaire Lee Smith (Blue Marlin, Blair), Heather Frese (The Baddest Girl on the Planet, Blair), Silas House (Appalachian Trilogy, Blair) and Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle (Even as We Breathe, Fireside Industries/U. Press of Kentucky).

Smith recalled how fortunate she had been to attend Hollins College in Roanoke, Va., and connect with Louis D. Rubin, Jr.: "I was so lucky to be in his class from the time I was a freshman. We had graduate students in our classes.... This was a really serious course.... He was absolutely wonderful because he listened to us, and he read our work like it deserved to be taken seriously, and he took it so seriously. And we did too.... He was my model, and because he was so accessible to us, I think I have tried to be accessible to young writers I've been lucky enough to run into. And mainly to take them very seriously."

That legacy continues, as witnessed by testimonies from the other panel members. Cash observed that everything Smith had said about Rubin "many people would say about you. I certainly would. I feel like you've always been somebody who's been incredibly accessible to people who are influenced by you and trying to do the things that you are doing and have done so well."

House agreed, noting that Smith was mentoring him before he ever met her: "When I was in ninth grade, I read Black Mountain Breakdown, and it was the first time that I had ever seen my own people in a book. They were eating the kinds of food my family ate... the way they talked, everything. It was just that moment of the world shifting, to see your own people on the page and being treated seriously."

When House did finally meet Smith in person years later, she offered to read his manuscript and "gave me very generous and very honest feedback. That was about 22 years ago, and she has never stopped doing that since.... When people talk about mentors and things of that nature in the publishing world, a lot of times they think that means they make connections for you and things like that, which is sometimes true. But what has been the most important thing to me is just being validated, having somebody to cheer me on the way Lee has. You just can't ask for a better person to do that. And I'm certainly not alone in this. I feel like I sort of have classmates who were also mentored by Lee, and when we get together, we have this common bond and Lee is our literary mother."

The tradition has continued with Clapsaddle. She considers House, who was the editor of Even as We Breathe, among her key mentors. They first met when he was one of a group of visiting authors at a student writing workshop in the school where she taught. Subsequently, she "had the great fortune of attending Hindman Settlement School for the Appalachian Writers Workshop. Silas and I were able to talk more there.... I just felt wholly supported. To be able to sit down with Silas in a casual atmosphere and just talk about how we wanted to represent this region was really important to me. There's a lot of trepidation in terms of how I talk about my specific culture, from Cherokee, N.C. There's nobody else writing about it. How do I do that and still convey a narrative that matters? And Silas is a master of that, so I'm just so thankful that I can call him a friend."

Noting that "a mentor can be one even if you haven't had a long, sustained relationship with them," Frese said: "If Lee was Silas's literary mother, I feel like she's maybe my literary fairy godmother. I discovered her in 2003 with The Last Girls... and Lee's voice just kind of captured me." After reading the rest of Smith's books--including her favorite, Fair and Tender Ladies--Frese said that whenever she was asked whose lineage she saw herself writing in, she would say Lee Smith. "Then I heard her speak at my very first AWP... and she said something along the lines of, and I hope I'm getting this right, you can only write what you can write.... And it was just some kind of magical happening that I would submit my book to the Lee Smith Novel Prize and it would win."

There are many ways to pay it forward. As House observed: "That's the thing Lee always told me. I'd say I don't know how to thank you and she'd say you can thank me by helping some other writer along the way. I've always tried to do that."

--Robert Gray, editor

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