Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov 26-Dec 2, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 26-December 2, 2018: 

Special Events:
14th Annual Signatures Author Series, The Woodlands, November 30

4th Literacy in the Bag Kick Off, Houston, December 1

8th Annual Writergrrls Book Fest: A Tribute to Debra Winegarten, Austin, December 2

Ongoing Exhibits:
Monday, November 26:
Texas Star Trading Co, Gary McCaleb will sign copies of his new book, Treasured Places: Celebrating the Richness of America's Cities and Towns, 4PM

BookPeople, H.W. BRANDS speaking & signing Heir of the Founders: The Epic Rivalry of Henry Clay, John Calhoun and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants, 7PM
Amegy Bank Tower, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston hosts Ben Rhodes, author of The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House, 6:30PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Stephen Gonzalez discussing and signing Getcha Grub On, 5PM

Tuesday, November 27:

Central Library, YMCA Camp Moody presents Melanie Choukas-Bradley, award-winning nature book author and Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide, discussing and signing The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect With Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life, 6:30PM
The Mix, PuroSlam, 9:30PM

Trinity U, Maverick Lecture: Mark Shields, 7:30PM

Wednesday, November 28:

Congregation Shearith Israel, Marilyn Rothstein reading and signing Husbands and Other Sharp Objects, 7PM

Half Price Books Mothership, Super Bowl champion Malcolm Mitchell will discuss and sign copies of his children’s book, The Magician’s Hat, 7PM 
Texas Capitol Rotunda, Andrew Sansom, Rusty Yates, and David K. Langford signing Seasons at Selah: The Legacy of Bamberger Ranch Preserve, 1:30PM

UT, Michener Center for Writers presents a reading with Yiyun Li, 7PM

YMCA Camp Moody, NATURE BATHING HIKE with Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide and author of The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect With Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life, 10AM [RSVP]

Burrowing Owl Books, High Plains Project hosts a Poetry Circle, 7PM

Friday, November 30:

Murder By the Book, Mike Lupica will sign and discuss Robert B. Parker's Blood Feud, 6:30PM

San Antonio
Trinity U, Words Matter: Canine Cosmonaut: The True Story of the First Animal to Orbit Earth with author Kurt Caswell, 6:30PM

Saturday, December 1:

Malvern Books, Austin launch of Isabella Ides’ White Monkey Chronicles, 7PM

St. Edward's U, Writers' League of Texas workshop: "Publishing 101: What Authors Need to Know about the Publishing Business" with Leila Sales, 10AM

Camp Moody, FAMILY CELEBRATION OF NATURE AND FOREST BATHING HIKE with Melanie Choukas-Bradley, Certified Nature and Forest Therapy Guide and author of The Joy of Forest Bathing: Reconnect With Wild Places & Rejuvenate Your Life, 9AM

Cedar Hill
B&N, The Ultimate Tortilla Press Cookbook: 125 Recipes for All Kinds of Make-Your-Own Tortillas--and for Burritos, Enchiladas, Tacos, and More book signing with Dotty Griffith, 11AM

Corpus Christi
Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi Literary Reading Series presents Jeffrey Eugenides, 7PM



Half Price Books - North Oaks, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

Sunday, December 2:
Malvern Books, The Lion & The Pirate Unplugged inclusive open mic, 1PM


Half Price Books, Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

The Drawing Board, Writing Workshops Dallas seminar: Surprising Beginnings, Startling Endings  with Amy Bernhard, 3PM

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Review: THE TRAVELING FEAST by Rick Bass

I reviewed The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes (Little, Brown and Company) by Texas native Rick Bass for Lone Star Literary Life. "The Traveling Feast is part memoir, part lessons in craft, part naturalist activism, part cookbook, part travelogue, part recommended-reading list, and wholly a feast of language. As we prepare for our feasts this week, Bass’s new collection is art to be thankful for."

Rick Bass
The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes
Hardcover, 978-0-3163-8123-9 (also available as an ebook and an audiobook), 288 pgs., $28.00
June 5, 2018

A soul-examining pilgrimage of the search for lessons in moving gracefully, maybe even joyfully, from middle-age into later years, The Traveling Feast: On the Road and at the Table with My Heroes is the new collection of essays from Rick Bass that will make you hungry for all things that nourish. The Traveling Feast is part memoir, part lessons in craft, part naturalist activism, part cookbook, part travelogue, part recommended-reading list, and wholly a feast of language. As we prepare for our feasts this week, Bass’s new collection is art to be thankful for.

Bass, born and raised in Texas, began his career as a petroleum geologist in Mississippi, spending his lunch hours and spare time writing and haunting the state’s famous bookstores. The author of thirty books, Bass won the Story Prize for his collection For a Little While and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for his memoir Why I Came West. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Esquire, and The Paris Review (his first acceptance!), among many other publications, has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories, won multiple O. Henry Awards and Pushcart Prizes, as well as NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. Bass left Mississippi for Montana’s remote Yaak Valley where he has lived for thirty years and where he is a founding board member of the Yaak Valley Forest Council.

The essays included in The Traveling Feast, with sixteen chapters each devoted to an individual writer, including Peter Matthiessen (RIP), Amy Hempel, Denis Johnson (RIP), and Terry Tempest Williams, who has been an inspiration and mentor to Bass in his work and how to live a meaningful life. Chapter titles include “Russell Chatham, the Painter, Recently Hospitalized, Emerges from Seven-Figure Debt and Alcoholism, Ready to Paint,” “Lorrie Moore, Fairy Godmother: The Road to the Corn Palace; or, the Trail of Ears,” and “Joyce Carol Oates, Badass.”

The Traveling Feast is suffused with the author’s self-deprecating, wry wit, such as the time Bass attempted to become Eudora Welty’s yardman just so he could breathe the same air. Sometimes it’s laugh-aloud hilarious, as when the frozen elk Bass was smuggling into Heathrow began to thaw and left a trail of blood down the concourse.

There are no ten-dollar words in this collection but the prose is not simple; it simply rings true in a stripped-down aesthetic that reminds me of Raymond Carver, who is a presence in these pages. Simultaneously, The Traveling Feast is profoundly personal, Bass’s feelings raw and on the surface, working through the possibilities for the remainder of his years after a devastating divorce (“There can be something even more sorrowful than ghosts, which is the separation of the living.”) has left him mired in doubt and melancholia, casting about for comfort and catalyst.

This is where Bass’s heroes come in. In a quest for sustenance and restoration, he decided to take a break from writing to travel the country (and in a couple of cases, Europe) to visit writers who shaped him and his work. Bass took along a select few of his most promising workshop students and together they created wonderful meals (soup of fresh-dug parsnips with tarragon, butter, garlic, and vermouth; balsamic-and-fig glaze for the quail; jalapeño potato gratin with sweet potatoes, cream, garlic, and sage; ginger chocolate cake with buttermilk, applesauce, vanilla, and cinnamon) for his heroes, forging human connections through the timeless ritual of breaking bread together. Bass seeks wisdom from those writers who were “around at my beginning” and needs reassurance and inspiration from “the sight, the proof, that in the greats this fire is never extinguished.”

Bass is painfully honest about himself, writing that “shy men [and] women cannot live among people, nor should they try.” This is where the remoteness of Montana wilderness enters the picture. 
“When you are shy like this,” he continues, “you want to come closer but cannot bear to bring yourself in. When you are a million miles out … you’re free to just stand there and watch, and things that are ordinary to everyone else seem to your shy mind … beautiful. You feel like falling over on your back, upturned, like a turtle.”
Is there a better simile than that turtle? I think not.

Bass can make you blissfully drunk on language, contemplating how twenty-six letters can be arranged in such a way that both inspires and humbles, leaving you staring at the wall or into the middle distance, turning a phrase over and over again like a river rock to discover each contour while knowing with utter certainty that you’re going to overlook something in haste for the next treasure.
“Because I knew Denis [Johnson] to be a genius with his sentences and perceptions, I imagined he might not be wise that way with the rest of his life and with the allocations of his heart. But as with the best of meals, were fed what we needed, and strengthened.”
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov 19-25, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 19-25, 2018: 

Ongoing Exhibits:
Blue Willow Bookshop, Jarrett Krosoczka will discuss and sign HEY KIDDO, his graphic novel for young adults, 7PM

Murder By the Book, Brandon Sanderson will sign and discuss Skyward, 6:30PM

Richardson Public Library, Writers Guild of Texas workshop: "Memoir Publishing" with Alice Parker, 7PM

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Pete Gershon discussing and signing Collision: The Contemporary Art Scene in Houston, 1972-1985, 5PM

Tuesday, November 20:
The Mix, PuroSlam presents PuroBattle: Vets vs Rookies, 9:30PM

Wednesday, November 21:
Write About Now, Wansgiving Potluck & Poetry Open Mic, 7:30PM

Thursday, November 22:

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Friday, November 23:
Heroes Lounge, Dallas Poetry Slam presents Black Friday Sale, 8PM

El Paso
Fahrenheit 180, Barbed Wire Open Mic Night, 8PM

Saturday, November 24:

Burrowing Owl Books, Jodi Thomas signing Mistletoe Miracles, 12PM
Half Price Books - Clear Lake, Local Author Saturdays: Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last
Sunday, November 25:
Half Price Books Mother Ship, Meet local Indie authors and pick up their latest release, while supplies last

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Jason Salas signing The Sugar Skull Ghost Thief, 12PM

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Review: THE DAISY CHILDREN by Sofia Grant

I reviewed The Daisy Children (William Morrow) by Sofia Grant (aka Sophie Littlefield) for Lone Star Literary Life. This first historical fiction from Grant/Littlefield "is a carefully and elegantly constructed exploration of a hundred years of dysfunctional family relationships, the nature of secrets, and the potential for healing."

Sofia Grant
The Daisy Children: A Novel
William Morrow
Trade paperback, 978-0-0626-9344-1 (also available as an e-book and an audio-book), 432 pgs., $15.99
August 2018

Katie Garret is having a bad week — she’s been fired from her marketing design position; she’s failed to get pregnant this month, too; and she just accepted delivery of her husband Liam’s new $240 trousers. Then her mother, Georgina (a real piece of work, this one), calls to tell her that Grandma Margaret has died and Katie is named in the will. Katie, newly unemployed and un-enamored with her husband, decides to make the trip from Boston to rural East Texas, a kind of vacation from her real life. “She’d have a baby when she was meant to,” Katie thinks. “She’d get to New London and discover she’d inherited a fortune, or a pittance; she’d go to Dallas and bond with her mother or argue with her. All of it would be fine.”

But even after the mugging and the appearance of astonishing cousin Scarlett and being mistaken for a vagrant and then a burglar and uncovering the clues that gradually reveal generations of family secrets that echo loudly into the present, Katie is worrying about the wrong things. “The thing she really ought to be worrying about,” Grant writes, “was that Texas would seep into her pores and take root.”

The Daisy Children: A Novel is new fiction from Sofia Grant, whom y’all probably know better as Sophie Littlefield, author of more than two dozen books in many genres including YA, apocalyptic fiction, thriller, domestic suspense, and women’s fiction, this last being assigned to The Daisy Children metadata. This is unfairly reductive; what it should say is a carefully and elegantly constructed exploration of a hundred years of dysfunctional family relationships, the nature of secrets, and the potential for healing.

When Littlefield became interested in writing historical fiction, she became Grant, deciding a name change made sense in this departure from her previous work. The Daisy Children is inspired by the 1937 New London, Texas, school explosion, about which Grant read a nonfiction account and was touched and intrigued by the story of those who survived it. She began wondering how the community might have changed and adapted in the years that followed.

The third-person narration moves back and forth in time in alternating chapters, a four-dimensional story in which you can feel the puzzle pieces locking firmly into place. Part contemporary fiction, part historical, The Daisy Children is fast and evenly paced; the clues are well placed; and the many plot twists, both large and small, propel the action effectively.

Contemporaneously with the explosion, East Texas experienced an oil boom in the twentieth century that, for a while anyway, transformed the economy and introduced new class dynamics, which play an important part in both the daily functioning of the households and in the larger questions of chance, fate, and worthiness when tragedy strikes.

Grant’s women characters are distinctive personalities with complicated emotional lives, complex back stories, and rich details that reveal their essence. For example, Scarlett has a tattoo of monkeys — plastic monkeys from the Barrel of Monkeys game — “linked by their tails, frolic[king] across her collar bones … disappearing into her tank top at the armholes.” This tattoo tells you much of what you need to know of the essence of Scarlett.

The flaws of The Daisy Children are small: the men are not as vital or complex as the women; the speed of development of a new love interest strikes me as a false note, seemingly out of character for the couple as individuals. In comparison to its entertaining charm and engaging, sleight-of-hand technique for introducing some of life’s biggest questions, these flaws are insignificant.

Grant’s vibrant style is often humorous, sometimes drolly amusing (bereavement “sounded old-fashioned, like pinafore”), sometimes tongue-in-cheek, sometimes the equivalent of slapstick, sometimes arch and biting. The perfect blending of all of these is the child Margaret, a combination of Nellie Oleson and Harriet the Spy.

The waste of years and human potential is heartbreaking — all the lost opportunities to atone for, to forgive, to gather and in so doing create strength not possible alone, to be a family. Katie confronts a turning point, the proverbial fork in the road — who are you now? Who are you going to be?

Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov 12-18, 2018

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 12-18, 2018: 

Special Events:
Brazos Bookstore, Barkley Thompson discussing and signing IN THE MIDST OF THE CITY, 7PM

Cullen Performance Hall, Inprint Margarett Root Brown Reading Series presents Jonathan Lethem (The Feral Detective) and Gary Shteyngart (Lake Success), 7:30PM

South Plains College Library, Jodi Thomas speaking and signing Mistletoe Miracles, 2PM and 6PM


Tuesday, November 13:

Cedar Park
Half Price Books, Sean Shapiro book signing 100 Things Stars Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, 7PM

Interabang Books, Juliana McCarthy THE STARS WITHIN YOU, 7PM

SMU - Fondren Library, Andrew Dowdy presents Wanderer on the American Frontier: The Travels of John Maley, 1803-1813, 5:30PM

El Paso
The Black Orchid Lounge, Barbed Wire Open Mic Night, 8PM


UTSA, Veterans' Voices in San Antonio, 5PM

Wednesday, November 14:
Austin Central Public Library, LIANE MORIARTY speaking & signing Nine Perfect Strangers, 7PM [ticketed event]

Malvern Books, Free Minds Presents an evening with the Fall 2018 Writing Workshop, 7PM

College Station
Half Price Books, former Dallas Cowboys beat writer and Dallas Morning News sportswriting staffer Marjorie Herrera Lewis will discuss and sign her debut historical novel, When the Men Were Gone, 7PM


Brazos Bookstore, Christopher Kimball discussing and signing MILK STREET: TUESDAY NIGHTS, 7PM

Junior League, World Affairs Council of Greater Houston hosts Michael Beschloss discussing and signing Presidents of War, 7PM

Katy Budget Books, Author Signing and Donation Drive with Ann Braden, 6:30PM

Write About Now, Poetry Slam featuring Masterpiece, 7:30PM

North Richland Hills
North Richland Hills Library, Behind the Book with author Susan Orlean, 1PM [ticketed reception 12PM]

Haggard Library, Susan Orlean discussing and signing The Library Book, 7PM [ticketed reception 6PM]

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Gretchen Rose reading and signing Dancing With the Devil, 5PM

Thursday, November 15:
San Marcos
St. Philip's College, Distinguished Speaker Series: David Wood, 5:30PM

Texas State, Wittliff Collections Reading Series featuring Marie Howe, 3:30PM
Friday, November 16:

Heroes Lounge, Gladiator Slam 2018, 8PM

UT Dallas, Reunion Volume 8 Launch Party, 6PM

The Wild Detectives, Maya Rao discussing and signing Great American Outpost, 7PM

B&N - Stonebriar, Flashback (B&N Exclusive Edition) book signing with Shannon Messenger, 7PM [wristbanded event]

Brazos Bookstore, poet Rachel Cobb reading from and signing MISTRAL, 6:30PM

Lawndale Art Center, Gulf Coast Reading Series featuring Hanif Abdurraqib, Cait Weiss Orcutt, Devereux Fortuna, and Matthew Krajniak, 7PM

River Oaks Bookstore, Alicia Gaspar de Alba reading and signing The Curse of the Gypsy: Ten Stories and a Novella, 6PM

Katherine Ann Porter Literary Center, KAP Reading Series featuring Marie Howe, 7:30PM

San Antonio
Viva Tacoland, A Night of Poetry from Finishing Line Press featuring Natalia Treviño, with Alexandra van de Kamp & Tyler Julian, 6:30PM

Saturday, November 17:
Front Street Books, Mystery author Reavis Wortham, 5PM
The Bearded Monk, American Literary Review reading, 3PM

El Paso
Memorial Park Library, Tumblewords Workshop: "Outside the Box Part 2" with Eternity Wauls, 12:45PM

Fort Worth
Monkey & Dog Books, Allison F. Speer book signing, 1PM

Box Garden at Legacy Hall, B&N - Stonebriar hosts performance and book signing with Why Don't We: In the Limelight, 11:30AM

Galveston Bookshop, Jo Adams McAuley signing Winds of Change, 12PM
B&N - River Oaks, Adriane Doherty reading and signing ABC Texas, 11AM
Malvern Books, Meet & Greet with LesFic authors Jaycie Morrison and Barbara Ann Wright, 1PM

Brazos Bookstore, Kayla Olson reading and signing THIS SPLINTERED SILENCE, 3PM

Houston Public Library, Join the National Book Foundation at the Houston Public Library as they launch a new campaign and celebration focused on the literary legacy and seminal works of James Baldwin, 2PM

XFINITY Fireplace at Memorial City Mall, The band Why Don’t We will play an acoustic set, then sign copies of their new book WHY DON’T WE: IN THE LIMELIGHT, 12:30PM [ticketed event]

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Rebecca Caprara signing The Magic of Melwick Orchard, 12PM

The Woodlands
B&N - Woodlands Mall, author signing: Winds of Change, 1PM

Monday, November 5, 2018

Monday Roundup: Texas Literary Calendar Nov 5-11

Bookish goings-on in Texas for the week of November 5-11, 2018: 

Special Events:

Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation presents Jungle Book Gala, Houston, Nov 9

A Forum Celebrating 200 Years of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Fort Worth, Nov 9

Ongoing Exhibits:
Brazos Bookstore, poet Randall Watson reading from and signing THE GEOMETRY OF WISHES, 7PM

Murder By the Book, James Anderson will sign and discuss the paperback release of Lullaby Road, 6:30PM

Tracy Gee Community Center, SCBWI monthly meeting: "There’s More To The Story" with illustrating and writing duo Megan and Jorge Lacera, 7PM

South Irving Library, Marissa Meyer reading and signing her new book, Archenemies, 7PM

San Antonio

Wednesday, November 7:
Brazos Bookstore, Amy Gentry discussing and signing TORI AMOS’ BOYS FOR PELE (33 1/3), 7PM

LSC - North Harris Campus, The Human Library serves as a platform to start casual and judge-free conversations between Human Books and Readers, 9AM

San Antonio
El Tropicano Hotel, Hugh Fitzsimons discussing A Rock Between Two Rivers, 11AM

The Twig Book Shop, Hugh Fitzsimons discussing and signing A Rock between Two Rivers: Fracturing a Texas Family Ranch, 5:30PM

The Woodlands
B&N - Woodlands Mall, Ted the Friendly Frog and the Tale of the Diamond reading and signing with Scott McCall, 6PM

Thursday, November 8:

San Antonio
The Twig Book Shop, Gemini Ink at The Twig: a reading with Lisha Garcia & Natasha Sajé, 6PM

Sugar Land
B&N - First Colony, Story time with local author Maria Ashworth, 10AM
Friday, November 9:
Malvern Books, an evening with acclaimed poets Diane Seuss and John Fry, 7PM

Manchaca Branch Library, In honor of Veteran's Day, Mary Cronk Farrell will present a free, multi-media program on her book Pure Grit: How American WWII Nurses Survived Battle and Prison Camp in the Pacific, 2:30PM

Interabang Books, Alex Temblador reading and signing SECRETS OF THE CASA ROSADA, 7PM

Mighty Fine Arts, Poets on X+ featuring Tejana Còsmica, 8PM

The Wild Detectives, Pulitzer Prize finalist and New York Times bestselling author Ben Montgomery discussing and signing The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search for Meaning in the Great Depression, 7:30PM

El Paso
Literarity Book Shop, a reading, conversation, and signing with New York poet/novelist Anna Moschovakis, 6PM

B&N - River Oaks, Kat Kronenberg signing Dream Big, 3PM

Houston Center for Photography, Mike Marvins discussing and signing The Texas Hill Country: A Photographic Adventure, 6PM

The Printing Museum, Artist Talk and Reception with Wandering Book Artists Donna & Peter Thomas, 6:30PM

Saturday, November 10:
Wild Magnolias, NeoSoul Poetry Slam featuring Deep, 6PM 
College Station
Half Price Books, local author Erica Duboiswill sell and sign her semi-autobiographical novel, The Glass Mask: Monsters Lurk Beneath, 11AM

Gemini Ink, Workshop: "Revision Strategies for Poets: Looking at Mode in Poems" with Natasha Sajé, 10AM

The Twig Book Shop, Gregory Fynch reading and signing Does a Frog Remember its Tail?: A Coming of Age Story, 1PM

South Padre Island
Paragraphs on Padre, Meet the Author Series: Rudy Garcia discussing and signing Life Renewed, 1PM

B&N - Baybrook, Gulf Poets Society meeting featuring Jasper Kerkau, 10:30AM

Sunday, November 11:

BookPeople, DAMIEN ECHOLS speaking and signing High Magick: A Guide to the Spiritual Practices That Saved My Life on Death Row (in conversation with Robert Lee), 5PM

BookWoman, Unsung: Book & CD Launch with Jan Seides, 6PM

Malvern Books, an afternoon with poets ire’ne lara silva, Natalia Treviño, and Leslie Contreras Schwartz, 1PM

Maverick Carter House, Voices de la Luna Celebrates poet Aline Carter, 3PM