Thursday, January 24, 2019

Texas Strong in 2018 NBCC Nominations


This week the National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) announced the finalists for their 2018 awards and Texas is all over this list, y'all.

First, congratulations to Houston's Arte Público Press on winning the Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award. Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest publisher of Hispanic literature in the United States. Founded 40 years ago by Dr. Nicolás Kanellos, and currently based in Houston, Texas, Arte Público publishes dozens of books by Latino writers each year in both English and Spanish, including titles under its children’s literature imprint, Piñata Books. In 1992, Arte Público began its Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, which seeks to recover and publish lost texts from Latino writers from colonial times to the mid-20th century. Arte Público was he original publisher of Sandra Cisneros’ legendary novel The House on Mango Street. Other authors published by Arte Público have included Helena María Viramontes, John Rechy, Ana Castillo and Luis Valdez. Arte Público’s determination to build bridges, not walls, has immeasurably enriched American literature and culture.

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century (Little, Brown) by Mark Lamster is nominated in the Biography category. Lamster is the architecture critic for the Dallas Morning News, a professor in the architecture school at the University of Texas at Arlington, and a 2017 Loeb Fellow of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

The Reckonings: Essays (Scribner) by Lacy M. Johnson is nominated in the Criticism category. Johnson is an assistant professor of English at Houston's Rice University. Johnson's memoir The Other Side (Tin House, 2014) was named a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Autobiography, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, an Edgar Award in Best Fact Crime, the CLMP Firecracker Award in Nonfiction; it was a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writer Selection for 2014, and was named one of the best books of 2014 by Kirkus, Library Journal, and the Houston Chronicle.

God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State (Knopf) by Austin's Lawrence Wright is nominated in the Nonfiction category. Wright is also a screenwriter, playwright, and staff writer for The New Yorker, and a fellow at the Center for Law and Security at the New York University School of Law. Wright won a Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, 2006).

Also nominated in Nonfiction is The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Riverhead Books) by Francisco Cantú. Cantú was an agent for the United States Border Patrol from 2008 to 2012, working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A former Fulbright fellow, he is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a 2017 Whiting Award, and a 2018 Art for Justice fellowship. The Line Becomes a River was also a finalist for the 2018 John Leonard Prize, awarded for a first book in any category.

Go here for the complete list of finalists.

Winners of the National Book Critics Circle awards will be announced on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium, 66 W. 12th St, New York, NY. A finalists’ reading will be held on March 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the same location. Both events are free and open to the public. The NBCC hosts a fundraising reception following the awards on March 14. The tickets, $50 for NBCC members when purchased in advance and $75 to the general public, benefit the NBCC, the awards, and the work that the NBCC does year round to promote books, critics, and writers nationwide.

The National Book Critics Circle is an American nonprofit organization with nearly 600 members. It is the professional association of American book review editors and critics, of which I am a member.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar January 21-27, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of January 21-27, 2019: 

Special Events:
14th Annual MLK Symposium, Dallas, January 21

Lampasas Book Festival, January 26

Round Rock Local Author Fair, January 26

Visiting Literary Scholar in Residence with Meir Shalev, Houston, January 27-30

Ongoing Exhibits:
Finding Sophie Blackall Exhibition, Abilene, October 11-February 1

30 Poems for the Tricentennial: A Poetic Legacy, San Antonio, December 3-April 25

Inside Books Archive Exhibit, Austin, January 15-February 22
Women of Flatbed: A Retrospective, Austin, January 17-April 28

Monday, January 21:

Spiderhouse Ballroom, Austin Poetry Slam 2019 Team Selection Slam, 4PM

Dallas
Interabang Books, Madhuri Vijay reading and signing THE FAR FIELD, 7PM

Fort Worth
Houston
Christ Church Cathedral, multi-media event to celebrate the launch of Chris Cander’s third novel, THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO: Instead of a traditional book reading, Cander has written a brief stage play that interprets three key scenes from the novel, which will be directed by local director Elizabeth Keel, and performed by renowned local actors Bonnie Langthorn, Ian Lewis, Robert Meek, Tasha Gorel, and Blake Jackson; Konner Scott, the musician who composed the original piece of music that appears at the end of the novel, will debut “Die Reise” as well as perform other pieces that appear in the novel; after the performance, Cander will appear in conversation with author and bookseller Mark Haber; there will also be a drawing to take home one of eight stunning 11x14 canvas prints of images that Cander took during her research trip to Death Valley National Park, 7PM

Houston
Avant Garden, Write About Now Poetry Open Mic featuring T. Odis, 7:30PM

Brazos Bookstore, Roshani Chokshi reading and signing THE GILDED WOLVES (in conversation with Fort Worth author Rachel Caine), 7PM

First Methodist Houston, An Evening with Bob Goff, author of Love Does and Everybody Always, 7PM

Lubbock
The Twig Book Shop, Terry Watkins reading and signing Darling Girl, 5PM

Thursday, January 24:
Bryan
SEAD Gallery and Bookshop, Author Talk with Arnold LeUnes, 6PM

Dallas

Interabang Books, Chris Cander reading and signing THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO, 7PM

Oakland Park, World Affairs Council of DFW hosts Daniel Krauthammer discussing and signing Charles Krauthammer’s The Point of It All, 5:30PM

SMU, The William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies and The Friends of the SMU Libraries host Don Graham discussing and signing GIANT and the Making of a Legendary American Film, 5:30PM

Fort Worth
The Fort Worth Club, World Affairs Council of DFW hosts Daniel Krauthammer discussing and signing Charles Krauthammer’s The Point of It All, 11:30AM

Houston
Friday, January 25:
Dallas

Denton

El Paso
Gufo di Milano, The Barbed Wire Open Mic Series presents Beat Reading by Chuck Taylor & Friends, 7PM
Half Price Books - Clear Lake, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

Murder By the Book, Taylor Stevens discusses and signs Liars' Paradox, 4:30PM

Wortham Theater Center, The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show: four stories by author/illustrator Eric Carle: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, 10 Little Rubber Ducks, The Very Lonely Firefly, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar, 1PM and 4PM

Writespace, Workshop: "Tension: How to Build It, Keep It, and Increase It" with Stephanie Jaye Evans, 9:30AM

Lampasas
Lampasas Book Festival, Jodi Thomas gives the keynote, 11AM

Lubbock
B&N, The Bright Lights of Muleshoe book signing with Alice Liles, 2PM

San Antonio
B&N - San Pedro, Fit Men Cook: 100+ Meal Prep Recipes for Men and Women-Always #HealthyAF, Never Boring book signing with Kevin Curry, 1PM

Dead Tree Books, David Norman signing South of Hannah, 2PM

Southlake
B&N - Town Square, Marjorie Herrera Lewis signing When the Men Were Gone (joined by Emmy-winning documentarian and sports broadcaster Scott Murray), 1PM

Sunday, January 27:
Austin
BookPeople, KAT KRONENBERG speaking & signing Love Big, 2PM
Richardson
The Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "Project Management for Writers: Finish Your Book!" with Allie Pleiter, 3PM

San Marcos
Texas State, The Wittliff Collections presents: KEITH CARTER FIFTY YEARS Book Release & Exhibition Reception, 2PM

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Review: THE WEIGHT OF A PIANO by Chris Cander

I reviewed The Weight of a Piano: A Novel (Alfred A. Knopf) by Houston's Chris Cander for Lone Star Literary Life. "Cander’s The Weight of a Piano showcases her development as a powerful storyteller, reminding me of Accordion Crimes (Scribner, 1997) by the great Annie Proulx. Steadily, warily, the two halves of this story move toward each other, and what follows is a tale of the paradoxical power of art — the duality that transfigures, enslaving some and setting others free." 

LITERARY FICTION
Chris Cander
The Weight of a Piano: A Novel
Hardcover, 978-0-5256-5467-4 (also available as an e-book), 336 pgs., $26.95
January 22, 2019

Julius Blüthner, a German piano maker in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was a legend in his time. He would take the train from Leipzig to the mountains of Romania to personally choose the spruce trees which would become, after a process involving many steps and many years, a piano. One of the Blüthner factory’s rare instruments, which would “open up and gather into itself a unique history,” is a main character in Chris Cander’s latest novel, The Weight of a Piano.

The story begins with the birth of the piano and then leaps across time and space, first to Bakersfield, California, in 2012, where auto mechanic Clara Lundy is a twenty-six-year-old orphan, trying not to want anything because life has taught her that if she wants it too badly, she cannot keep it; then to Zagorsk, USSR, in 1962, where eight-year-old Ekaterina “Katya” Dmitrievna is kept awake at night by a piano-playing neighbor, an old German man who’d been blinded “by either shrapnel or guilt.”

Katya inherits an antique, shining ebony Blüthner upright piano from her neighbor; Clara’s father, he of the loud silences (“Hush, they said. I’m busy or Maybe later or I forgot.”), gifts her a Blüthner for her twelfth birthday. Katya’s piano is lost in the complicated immigration to America; Clara’s piano is a “paperweight, keeping what was left of her childhood memories from floating away.” Having never learned to play, and breaking her hand maneuvering the 564-pound paperweight up a flight of stairs during her latest move, Clara posts the Blüthner for sale. Needled by second and third thoughts, Clara tries to remove the sale notice but too late: a photographer in New York has bought it.

The Weight of a Piano is Chris Cander’s third novel. A work of literary fiction that spans decades and continents, Cander’s latest offering is an original, creative tackling of the essentially solitary human condition; the effort required of women to claim full personhood (I love you now change); and the frightening vulnerability necessary to connect with another, defiant in the face of the transitory nature of all things.

The story is told in three third-person accounts: that of Clara, Katya, and the piano. “I want to say that there’s a reason this piano exists in the world. This specific piano. That there’s something important about it, to the people who made it, to the people who played it and lost and found it and lost it again.”

Cander’s women are each quite different from one another. While I appreciated the younger Katya, bemused and curious to see what she’d do next, I grew impatient with Clara’s (altogether understandable) pre-emptive strikes (“self-sufficient and self-contained, reliable instead of reliant”) and skittishness, shying like a wild thing from perceived threats to her jealously guarded independence. The two women’s paths cross in myriad ways, diverging in apposition; as Katya ages, she seems to diminish; as Clara ages she becomes bolder, more decisive.

There are a handful of slips in The Weight of a Piano. “His eyes glazed with animal desire” is unworthy of Cander. Granted, sex is hard to write well and it’s where the clichés reliably appear—not surprising but a touch disappointing. And why print an entire letter in Cyrillic?

Imagery such as this makes up for the slips: “This amplified tension between [Clara’s] parents so dense and sticky, always came and went, and now it was there again, like a spider web that had been spun in the night.” The stark extremity of Death Valley serves as inspired metaphor, providing a backdrop supremely indifferent to the human dramas playing out — all sorts of things are dying out there.

The piano tries to please — it has abandonment issues, too. “Oh, how hard it had tried to produce the right sounds, grateful as it was to finally have been asked to once again.” The denouement unexpectedly features the Blüthner’s point of view — compelling and, oddly, more affecting than the people. “It felt as though it were twice its actual size, a burden to itself and others … 564 pounds plus the invisible emotional and musical heft.” The piano is burdened by the hopes, dreams, disappointments, and griefs of its humans. “That’s not music. Let me go.”

Cander’s The Weight of a Piano showcases her development as a powerful storyteller, reminding me of Accordion Crimes (Scribner, 1997) by the great Annie Proulx. Steadily, warily, the two halves of this story move toward each other, and what follows is a tale of the paradoxical power of art — the duality that transfigures, enslaving some and setting others free.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar January 14-20, 2019

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of January 14-20, 2019: 

Special Events:
"Say it Loud" The John Silverstein Collection of African American Social History Sale, Dallas, January 15

2019 Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend, Jefferson, January 17-19

Ongoing Exhibits:
Finding Sophie Blackall Exhibition, Abilene, October 11-February 1, 2019

30 Poems for the Tricentennial: A Poetic Legacy, San Antonio, December 3-April 25, 2019

Women of Flatbed: A Retrospective, Austin, January 17-April 28

Monday, January 14:

Houston
Murder By the Book, Lyndsay Faye will sign and discuss The Paragon Hotel, 6:30PM

Stude Concert Hall, Inprint's Margarett Root Brown Reading Series: Claudia Rankine will read from her work and actors from The Ensemble Theatre will perform an excerpt of her play, The White Card, followed by an interview conducted by Houston-based artist and community organizer/MacArthur Fellow/Project Row Houses founder Rick Lowe, plus a book sale and signing, 7:30PM

Tuesday, January 15:

Dallas
Fort Worth
The Dock Bookshop, Poetry and Open Mic, 8PM


Brazos Bookstore, William Dylan Powell & ER Bills discussing and signing 100 THINGS TO DO IN HOUSTON / TEXAS BEFORE YOU DIE, 7PM

Deep Vellum Books, All That Is Evident Is Suspect: Readings From The Oulipo with Daniel Levin Becker, in conversation with Deep Vellum founder and publisher, Will Evans, 7PM

Houston

San Antonio
B&N - La Cantera, Everyday Millionaires: How Ordinary People Built Extraordinary Wealth-and How You Can Too book signing with Chris Hogan, 6PM

The Twig Book Shop, Camaron Brooks discussing and signing Studio Baby, 5PM

Thursday, January 17:
Half Price Books Mother Ship, New York Times bestselling author Diane Sanfilippo will discuss and sign copies of her newest book, Keto Quick Start, 7PM

Interabang Books, Robert W. Turner II discussing and signing NOT FOR LONG: THE LIFE AND CAREER OF A NFL ATHLETE, 7PM

The Wild Detectives, Make Art with Purpose (MAP) and editor Janeil Engelstad launch a new zine, Let’s Talk, 7PM

Frisco
B&N - Stonebriar, Slayer (B&N Exclusive Edition) (Slayer Series #1) book signing with Kiersten White, 7PM



The Woodlands

Dallas
Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam, 7:30PM

Houston
Brazos Bookstore, Daniel Levin Becker discussing and signing ALL THAT IS EVIDENT IS SUSPECT, 7PM

Lawndale Art Center, Gulf Coast Reading Series featuring Josh Wheeler, Sonia Hamer, Nicholas Rattner, and Kristjan Meikop, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Nicholas Petrie will sign and discuss his new Peter Ash thriller, Tear It Down, 6:30PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Poetry at The Twig: Natalia Trevino and Steven Kellman, 5:30PM

The Woodlands
B&N - Woodlands Mall, Keto Quick Start book signing with Diane Sanfilippo, 7PM

Saturday, January 19:
ACC - Riverside, "The Craft + Business of Writing" with Writers' League of Texas, 2:15PM

B&N - Arboretum, E.B. Staples signing What Is the Truth?, 2PM
BookPeople, Austin SCBWI Monthly Meeting: Author Tara Dairman on Banishing Anxiety From The Writing Process: Teach yourself to write faster (or slower!), but with more joy, 10AM

BookPeople, Author Guest Story Time: Kenneth and Sarah Jane Wright present Too Much Today!, 10:30AM

St. Edward's University, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Whose Story Is It? Playing with Point of View" with Stephanie Noll, 10AM

Windsor Park Library, Austin Poetry Society meeting featuring Tony Burnett, 12PM

Dallas

B&N - River Oaks, Crystal Duffy signing Twin to Twin, 11:30AM
Lubbock
B&N, Summoned to Thirteenth Grave book signing with Darynda Jones, 2PM

Port Neches
Fleur Fine Books, Author Larry Farmer Meet & Greet, 3PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Dale Walsh signing Wesley's Adventures, 11AM
Weslaco
The Storybook Garden, Art & Story Workshop: Aztec Warrior with David Bowles, 12PM, followed  by an Author Meet & Greet, 2PM
Houston
Brazos Bookstore, Weasel reading and signing WE LIVE FOR HALF-MOONS, 5PM

Writespace, Workshop: "Copywriting 101: Supplement Your Income through Writing for Businesses" with Andreana Binder, 3PM

Richardson
The Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: "Survive Rejection & Forge a Path to Publication" with Blake Kimzey, 3PM

Eisemann Center for the Performing Arts, Theatreworks USA presents their newest musical revue of beloved contemporary children’s books, Dragons Love Tacos and Other Stories, 2:30PM

San Antonio
Landa Library, Meet the Author: Gil Dominguez, 3PM

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Interview: Matt Minor, author of THE WATER LORD


THE WATER LORD
by
MATT MINOR
Genre: Political Suspense
Publisher: Dead Tree Publishing
Publication Date: April 2, 2018
Number of Pages: 249 pages

SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY! 


A town has gone dry, and the general manager of a water district is found dead, presumably a suicide. His crazed widow is in denial and recklessly loose-lipped. Texas House District 100 is again in turmoil, and the interests of the landed class against urban sprawl are at odds.
Enter John David Dothan (The Representative). The world’s hippest legislator is back, but he is a changed man. Post-stroke Dothan dons an eccentric cane and is married to his former chief of staff, Tryphena Taylor. The two lovers reside peacefully tucked away in a country cottage with their rescued cat. But they are swimming against the tide.
Caught between the past and the future, the rural and the urban, the representative is trapped in a no-win situation both politically and emotionally. When a constituent brings to his attention a mysterious ‘retention pond’ things grow increasingly murky. The waters turn completely dark when Dothan learns his forbidden first love, former State Senator Rachael Logan has been hospitalized.
Armed with only his cane and sidekick, Mason Dixon (The District Manager), who serves as his new chief of staff, Dothan sets aside the ambiguities of politics and love in search of clarity and righteousness. But the cost of doing the right thing might not just be his young marriage … but Tryphena’s life.




PRAISE FOR THE WATER LORD:

"Great pacing and a well-written storyline. I look forward to reading more from Matt Minor!" - My Reading Addiction

"Matt Minor has great attention to detail and makes everything from the setting to the characters feel very real. It makes for a wonderfully written and very suspenseful novel." - Momma and Her Stories

"A well-crafted suspense! The plot kept me turning the pages and I finished this novel very fast. Matt Minor's voice is a breath of fresh air, smart, witty and full of twists... I will read more books by this author!" - Indie Express

"Matt Minor has created a novel in which the main character shows growth...I like flawed characters and if they can overcome things, it really speaks to me." - A Life Through Books





What did you enjoy most about writing The Water Lord?
Writing it. I love writing.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?
Working out the mystery details.

The Water Lord has a recurring character from The District Manager. Any unexpected hurdles in doing this?
It is the third book in what I term the ‘The House District 100 saga.’ I mean ‘saga’ somewhat sardonically. There were no hurdles. It just falls into place. It helps that I have much to draw on in both my personal and professional life.

Do you now or have you ever considered writing under a pen-name?
Haha … I should. I could lose my job doing what I do because it is so closely related to what I do (state legislature). People don’t take chances anymore with art. I do.

So… that begs the question: are any of your book’s characters based on real people?
That’s a secret, known only by me and the wild God of the world. 

How does The Water Lord relate to your faith, spiritual practice, or life path?
None. I throw characters into a Petri dish and they act according to their nature until they don’t. I am an observer.

Are there under-represented groups or ideas featured if your book?
The whole thing. I write Texas political fiction, with elements of mystery and suspense associated with that. I’m the only person doing what I do. 

Who would you cast to play your characters in a movie version of your book?
Not many actors today that could hang with my characters. I’d have to think about that.

Did you first experience rejections when submitting this manuscript for publication?
I never submitted this book for publication. I did, however, submit The Representative for publication, and interviewed with agents. I was told there was no market for what I am doing, that originality has no currency. I self-published because I was told by an agent I respect that because I was doing something out of the box, it was best to abscond with conformity and go it alone.

Do you have a mantra for writing and/or for life?
I’ll quote the poet Gary Snyder: I feel ancient, as though I had lived many lives. And may never now know if I am a fool…or have done what my karma demands.



Matt Minor presently serves as a chief of staff in the Texas House of Representatives. In the Texas House he has served under the Pensions Committee, Government Efficiency and Reform, Investments and Financial Services, Bond Indebtedness, and Way and Means. He has worked as a political campaign manager and is a public speaker. Matt has authored official state publications, oversees syndicated editorials, (both political and cultural) and is a speech writer and district radio legislative commentator. Prior to his life in state politics, Matt was a professional musician and entertainer. Matt’s hobbies are centered on the arts, including the craft of poetry, an interest that has brought academic recognition and numerous awards.

His first novel, The Representative, was an Amazon Political Fiction Bestseller the summer of 2015, and was accepted and archived into the Texas State Legislative Library. In April of 2016, The Representative won an IPPY Gold medal for Southern Fiction. In the summer of 2016 he released his second novel, The District Manager.

Matt Minor resides on his ranch property in Wharton County, Texas. He lives in Austin during legislative session. 

║ Website ║ Facebook ║ Goodreads ║ Twitter Blog ║ Amazon Author Page 
-------------------------------------
GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY! GIVEAWAY!
THREE WINNERS GET AN E-BOOK COPY!
JANUARY 8-17, 2019

(USA only)
VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:

1/8/19
Excerpt
1/8/19
BONUS Promo
1/9/19
Review
1/10/19
Author Interview
1/11/19
Review
1/12/19
Excerpt
1/13/19
Author Interview
1/14/19
Review
1/15/19
Series Spotlight
1/16/19
Review
1/17/19
Review


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