Dear Cynthia Bond, Thanks for Writing Ruby

RubyOBC_ppbk

Dear Ms. Bond,

Oprah was right. What a beautiful book. I’m so sorry that you and any of the girls/ children you worked with had to go through anything half as haunting as the stuff you explored. How do you come back from that? One foot in front of the other? Do you teach writing as therapy? I’d like to do that. Recently I’ve been writing for intentional healing. I don’t really know what I’m doing but It feels like I’m unearthing memories I’ve been holding in my body and setting them free. I’m really just winging it.

But back to your book:

Two things about your writing blew my mind. I’ve heard of this phenomenon, setting as character, and every time I’ve thought, what the he!! are they talking about? But after I read Ruby, I get it. Amazing. The trees and gardens and dirt are their own supporting acts. And I was fascinated and struck to find out about the ‘haints.’

I read in an interview somewhere that you have worked with children who are victims of abuse. You know, more of my girlfriends than less were sexually abused when they were little. It’s nauseating and heartbreaking and it’s such a tough topic to put in conversation. Thank you for doing that. At worst, you shined a light into a corner that’s really hard to look in.

At best, maybe you’ll raise some awareness which will save some little girls a lot of pain.

I don’t know what else to say—Oh,

The second thing you did that amazed me: back story. You threaded back story like a master. I’m thinking of the scene outside of the bar with Ephram’s friends. In several places in the text, I could only write ‘wow.’ Breathtaking. I still don’t know how you did that, I’m going to have to study it (but I had to pass on the book to my friend Vicki who is also a fan of Super Soul Sunday).

Thank you for writing Ruby. I’m looking forward to reading the other two books in the series.

Dear Everyone Else: Buy this book. http://cynthiabond.com/

Your friend,

Whitney

Advertisements

Read this Book: I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Dear Jandy Nelson,

So I was at the bookstore trying to find poetry books for one of my classes when I saw this book propped up on a display labeled ‘teens.’ Now, I don’t usually read hardbacks, I don’t usually buy books off of displays, and I don’t usually read books for ‘teens.’

Wow, am I so glad I did. How did you do that? This book is amazing! I thought for sure I was going to think it was too little kiddish or too outlandish but man, I couldn’t stop wondering about this family and their art and, are you a visual artist yourself? Are you a twin? I wish I could pick a favorite character, but I loved Noah and Jude equally and I wanted them to win. The stories were realistic and mature, their relationships…what a brilliant journey for the whole crew…wow!

I’d mostly like to say thank you and right on for the magic you just planted in my heart. My favorite passage, the most amazing thing in your book for me (among many, many, brilliant scenes), came on the bottom of page 271, with the colors. May the spectrum and the color wheel continue to flourish in your writing.

I thought I should tell you that after I finished I’ll Give You The Sun, I had the urge to go back to the beginning and start it all over again, like playing a song on repeat. Maybe I will. I’m looking forward to reading The Sky is Everywhere. Keep up the good work!

Dear Everyone Else, buy this book: ill-give-you-the-sun-coverhttp://jandynelson.com

Respectfully,

Whitney

An Interview with Crystal Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson is an author, teacher, brick and mortar bookstore owner, and the editor of Mythium: A Journal of Contemporary Literature.  She grew up in Indian Creek, Kentucky, on a farm in Appalachia and is noted as a founding member of the “Affrilachian Poets.”  Her resume touts two short story collections published by Toby Press, and numerous other short stories and poems.  I recently had a chance to ask Ms. Wilkinson about her writing process and her work.

WB:  I read your short story collections: Blackberries Blackberries and Water Street.  I’m enchanted by your grasp on setting and characterization.  In Water Street, you write from several points of view from young to old, male to female.  What is the process like for you to find and stay true to each character’s voice?

CW:  I would like to be able to say it’s a matter of craft and of course it is to some extent but to an even greater extent it has to do with the process of actually developing my characters and actually hearing them aurally and letting them tell their story to me as I’m writing. This initial voice is always a first person narrator and then from there I add craft. So on some level it has to do with working around a germ of an idea until my imagination realizes an actual person and I hear their voice from that point craft then takes over.

WB:  How do you begin a short story?  Do you start with a character in mind, an image, or a situation you want to explore?

CW:  Each story has its own way of presenting itself. Sometimes it comes from a line in a journal. Sometimes a character emerges right away. Sometimes I am sparked by some other impulse. I often speak of the stories I write in terms of haunts. My mind is always in overdrive with ideas for stories and poems. In some benign way I live in creative mania. Hundreds of story ideas come to me constantly but it is only those ideas that I’m “haunted” by that rise to the surface more than once that I actively pursue. Sometimes a story comes knocking on the door of my brain for years. I tend to ignore the hardest ones and they are often persistent.

WB:  You write, teach, own a brick and mortar bookstore, co-edit a journal, and have family…how do you keep it all balanced?  Do you have a solid routine?  What’s a typical day like for you?

CW:  I wish there was some magical trick to it all. I don’t have a solid routine, I feel that if I did I would be much more prolific and have a stack of books under my belt. I find that I go for long periods without writing while I juggle and juggle but just because I don’t put things down on paper every day that doesn’t mean that I’m not writing. I’ve learned to save things, to make notes, to let ideas churn and then when I can squeeze in a writing date then I often pull all-nighters or make writing dates with myself and write for long stretches. I will say that there is also another technique that I habit that I try to keep going in that I feel that 3 a.m. is my purest writing time. I try to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to write. Some mornings grading papers takes up my writing time, but that is something that I am constantly fighting with. As far as Wild Fig Books is concerned, my fiancé is the in-store presence though I try to give him a break when I can.

WB:  From what I understand you’ve taught at the high school level and the college level.  What’s your favorite age to teach, and your favorite course, and why?

CW:  I actually haven’t taught high school except for about a five-year summer stint at The Governor School for the Arts. I loved working with high school juniors and seniors. As an Appalachian, I was especially thrilled to work with young people from the mountains in their formative years as blossoming writers. But I guess my favorite age to teach is on the college level. There is a certain satisfaction in teaching undergraduates and watching them grow and expand their understanding of craft and the technical aspects of writing along with nurturing their habits and processes as writers. I also enjoy teaching graduate students because these are usually students who have already ascertained a high level of writing experience.

WB:  Are you working on anything new (a teaching project or a writing project) that you are excited about and you would like to discuss?

CW:  What’s on my mind as a teacher of literature is that I will be teaching a course in the Spring on the literature of African Americans in the Appalachian region. Being from Appalachia is a source of pride for me as an African American woman and I feel really grateful for the opportunity to teach this class. As far as writing projects go I am always working on several projects at once—two novel ideas, a book of poetry about my grandfather and a nonfiction book with my mother at its core.

Many thanks to Ms. Wilkinson, for taking time to talk with me.  For more information on Crystal and her work, visit http://crystal-wilkinson.blogspot.com/.

Read this Book: Traveling Light by Katrina Kittle

ImageI am always anxious starting a new fiction book.  It feels like arriving at a crowded dinner party where you only know the host, or going to a bar with a big group of acquaintances.  You’re just not sure if you’re going to like everybody, if you’re going to have fun, or if you’re going to have to make an excuse to leave early.  The characters in Traveling Light welcomed me fast, and I fell in love with their authenticity right away.

Kittle opens up a topic that America tries to keep closing.  She portrays both sides of the moral debate, her characters multifaceted and opinionated.  Set in the great state of Ohio, with Midwestern views and stereotypes, love between family members, between partners, and between people who don’t agree with each other, keeps the pages turning.

Anyone who is homophobic should read this book.  Anyone who is against gay marriage should read this book.  Anyone who knows that the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality should read this book. Anyone who has gay friends, gay family members, gay co-workers, or anyone who has cared for someone else–everyone should read this book.

A Book About Fathers and Sons

This memoir is a story of struggle, of pain and healing, from an everyday absence of father to fighting to become a man, and waking to resolve with determination.  Dubus III describes his life as a child of four, poor in the Northeast.

 

This is a man’s love story–learning to love himself, to stand up for injustice, and to ultimately love his less than perfect American family.  Anybody who grew up inside divorce and dysfunction will appreciate the honesty of Dubus III’s journey.

Image