Archive for Authors
From riots and imprisoned journalists to dictators and free elections, Julie Fisher’s scope manages to make sense of what at first appears to be sheer madness globally – a march toward democracy. As Peaks Island Press published in July, the struggles in Turkey, Egypt, and other countries that have inflamed international news have also spotlighted the most recent book published by Peaks Island scholar and author Julie Fisher. Fisher’s hot-off-the-press Importing Democracy: The Role of NGOs in South Africa, Tajikistan, and Argentina (Kettering Foundation Press, 2013) illuminates the nature of struggles for democracy internationally with a clarity that should make Americans sit up and take notice. While much U.S. foreign policy tries to export democracy militarily or by fostering free elections, Fisher advocates for a fuller understanding of what’s required for democracy to “stick,” one that would support countries engaged in democratization.
Now it’s your opportunity to hear her speak and ask the questions that trouble you every time you read the newspaper. The Friends of the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library are hosting Julie on Tuesday, November 19th at 7:00 PM in the Peaks Island Community Room.
All across the island, residents are chopping and splitting wood or carrying it inside to stoke their stove again the November chill. And with crime fiction author James Hayman living among us, the chills are bound to keep coming. The last time I wrote about fellow island author, Jim, he had banded together with many others to raise funds to help Longfellow Books recover from storm damage of the blizzard, Nemo. Since that time, Hayman has been busy penning (or should I say keyboarding?), the third in his series of McCabe/Savage thrillers, “Darkness First.”
Islanders conduct a lot of business on our shared ferry ride, and that’s where I caught up with Jim to ask him about “Darkness First.” I was curious to know more about why Harper Collins has released it first as an e-book, rather than the traditional release as an expensive hardcover. The first “imprint” sells for the introductory price of only $2.99. Jim explained, “When Penguin U.K. offered an e-promotion on my second book, The Chill of Night, they sold some 10,000 downloads in a day. That helped me realize that e-books have more than 50% of the genre fiction market and that I should consider going that route.”
True confessions here. I don’t read e-books. You can call me a luddite, but it wouldn’t be true. I’m an aggressive and avid technology consumer, but that inclination has not invaded my nightly escape to bed where I like to hold a book and turn pages when I read voraciously. I’m sorry. I just haven’t gone there yet. I’m sure it will happen.
For those of you who do read novels digitally, you can download Darkness First to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or any other e-book source. You can even read the first chapter for free at Amazon or at Jim’s website. The reviewers are saying that this is his best one yet. For insight into Jim’s process of writing a thriller series, don’t miss Bob Keyes’ interview with Hayman, splashed across the front page of today’s Portland Press Herald Audience section.
Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole: Josephine Diebitsch Peary and the Making of National History
November 3, 2013 at 11:23 am · Filed under Authors, On Writing, Peaks Island Press and tagged: Arctic exploration, Bowdoin College, how to write a book, Inuit, Josephine Peary, literary tourism, Maine Women Writers Collection, non-fiction, Patricia Erikson, Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, women's history
After crossing Casco Bay by ferry, packages are delivered to islanders by the taxi driver. This week, I found a package on my doorstep and hurried it inside, just as a rainstorm hit the island. I was thrilled to find that it contained a copy of the newly-published book “North by Degree: New Perspectives on Arctic Exploration” (Lightning Rod Press, American Philosophical Society) that includes my article “Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole: Josephine Diebitsch Peary and the Making of National History.”
Since 2007, Peaks Island Press has offered its readers a glimpse of the daily lives, inspirations, and publications of the many authors who call Peaks Island home. Once in a great while, I turn the spotlight on myself and share something about my own writing process or publications. “Homemaking, Snowbabies, and the Search for the North Pole” started with a conference presentation that I gave at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 2008 where an amazing assemblage of speakers gathered to bring new perspective to the history of Arctic exploration. The timing was very meaningful as 2008 was the centennial of Robert E. Peary’s 1908-09 North Pole Expedition and it was also the fourth International Polar Year. I was honored to be invited to share my research: an account of Robert Peary’s quest for the North Pole through the eyes of his wife, Josephine. Here’s an excerpt from the article to give you a sense for the story:
“The notoriously deadly and tragic outcomes of many prior Arctic expeditions had made the idea of taking a woman, more specifically a white woman, to the Arctic seem ridiculous to the American public in the 1890s. In 1891, three years after their marriage, Josephine embarked on her first of several Arctic expeditions with Robert Peary. She did this despite public criticism that the expedition was too dangerous for her and in spite of the male expedition members who resented her presence and what they called her “scandalously short” traveling costume. (Erikson, p. 266).
I don’t believe my research travels ever involved a scandalously short traveling costume, but I did a fair amount of retracing Josephine’s footsteps before I wrote about her. That journey included interviewing Peary family members, visiting the Peary cottage at Eagle Island, diving into the archives at the Maine Women Writers Collection (UNE), at Bowdoin College, and at Dartmouth College, and traveling to Qaanaaq, Greenland to gather oral history from Inuit peoples whose ancestors played crucial roles in the Peary expeditions. I’ll share more about these adventures for those of you who love research, non-fiction, and travel.
In the meantime, if you’d like to read some of my writing about the Peary family, you can check out the following that are available online:
- Josephine Diebitsch Peary (journal Arctic, March 2009)
- An Arctic Betsy Ross (Heritage in Maine 2010)
- Snow Queen: A Woman in Full (Portland Magazine 2009)
- Meet the Other Pearys (Portland Magazine, Winter 2011)
- From Maine to the Arctic 2011 (Heritage in Maine 2011)
- North Pole Flag (Heritage in Maine 2009)
- Josephine Peary in the Centennial Commemoration Year (Heritage in Maine 2009)
- ‘Find a Way or Make One’ Camp (Heritage in Maine 2009)
November 3, 2013 at 6:48 am · Filed under Authors, On Writing and tagged: Catherynne Valente, fiction, how to write a book, Longfellow Books, Maine, Peaks Island, The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two, YA fiction
Peaks Island author Catherynne Valente has just published “The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two,” her third in a five-part YA fantasy series that has placed her on the New York Times bestseller list.
A reviewer for Booklist said, “As usual, Valente enlightens readers with pearly gleams of wisdom about honesty, identity, free will, and growing up. September often worries who she should be and what path she should follow, but the lovely truth, tenderly told, is that it’s all up to her. Thanks to a dramatic cliff-hanger ending, there is sure to be more empowerment and whimsy to come. Grades 5-8. –Sarah Hunter” and Times Magazine called it, ““One of the most extraordinary works of fantasy, for adults or children, published so far this century.”—Time magazine, on the Fairyland series.”
or watch a trailer about the series
Guest post by Annie O’Brien (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A Path of Stars – A Celebration of Cambodians in Maine
Thursday, August 8 - 10:30 a.m.-12:00 noon – Portland Public Library
I’ll be sharing my most recent book, A Path of Stars (ages 7 and up), and engaging young readers in activities to learn about Cambodia including drawing the lotus, writing in Khmer, and sharing Cambodian food. Hopefully, the event will also include a performance by some members of the Portland Cambodian Dance Troupe.
Thanks to a generous donation from Joe and Debbie Bornstein, every child who attends will receive a free copy of A Path of Stars.
And I’m told that the Bornsteins plan to help promote the event with the Time & Temperature Building sign; that week, instead of “CALL — JOE,” it will say “PATH — STAR”!
Here’s more info on “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland”:
In the midst of a national conversation about immigration and assimilation, Portland is debating, not policy, but which book to read first. “I’m Your Neighbor, Portland” is a year-long, city-wide read and series of public events at the Portland Public Library designed to promote a sense of community among the city’s diverse communities. The city-wide read features nine books whose immigrant and refugee subjects made Maine their home in the last several decades and in doing so transformed Portland into a vibrantly multiracial and multicultural city.
July 23, 2013 at 11:05 am · Filed under Authors, Events and tagged: author, books, fiction, how to write a book, Maine, Scott Nash, The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate, things to do in Maine, YA fiction
Scott Nash is preparing for the next book event with his usual genius. Nash’s rendition of a Blue Willow transferware plate – with his protagonist of The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate at the center – took my breath away. The daughter of an antiques fanatic, I grew up surrounded by things like Blue Willow plates, pewter tankards, and spinning wheels. The detailed setting and character of these plates, inspired by 18th century Chinese ceramics, is a perfect choice for getting us to think about ships, pirates, and South China, Maine, of course!
The South China Public Library, the oldest continuously operating library in Maine, is hosting this author-illustrator whose interactive talks are always a big hit. Here are the details:
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
South China Public Library, South China, Maine
July 15, 2013 at 11:07 pm · Filed under Authors, Events and tagged: author, book, how to write a book, Maine, non-fiction, sailing, The Complete Guide to Sailing & Seamanship, things to do in Maine, Twain Braden, writer, writing
A few months ago, Peaks Island Press caught up with Twain Braden to talk about his newest publication, The Complete Guide to Sailing & Seamanship. Now that we’ve had what may be the hottest day of summer and this finely-illustrated and -narrated book has hit the docks, it’s time to turn out to hear Braden and illustrator, Sam Manning, speak at Longfellow Books on Monument Square this Wednesday, July 17, at 7 p.m.
If your barbecue schedule conflicts with the event this week, then don’t despair, Braden will also speak at the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library next week, Monday, July 22, at 7 p.m. This talk will entail more of a hands-on discussion of navigation techniques. Feel free to bring charts and navigational tools if you’re interested in learning coastal piloting skills.
July 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm · Filed under Authors, Events and tagged: author, book, fiction, Ghost in Hannah's Parlor, how to write a book, Laima Vince, literary tourism, Maine, middle reader, Peaks Island, things to do in Maine, writer
Laima Vince’s passion for Peaks Island led her to write “The Ghost in Hannah’s Parlor.” This middle reader novel starts one night in November on Captain’s Island when a nine-year-old named Hannah goes downstairs for a glass of water. The adventure begins when Hannah meets the ghost of Hilda De Witt Rose, a turn-of-the-century opera star who lives in a rose in Hannah’s parlor wallpaper along with an entire ghost cast of the opera Carmen.
Now you can discover Vince’s inspiration for this children’s book by walking with her tomorrow — to Snake Alley and to where the famous Gem once stood — Friday, July 11th, starting from the Peaks Island branch of the Portland Public Library at 12:30 pm.
Struggles in Turkey, Egypt, and other countries have inflamed international news recently and, in the process, spotlighted the most recent book published by Peaks Island scholar and author Julie Fisher. Fisher’s hot-off-the-press Importing Democracy: The Role of NGOs in South Africa, Tajikistan, and Argentina (Kettering Foundation Press, 2013) illuminates the nature of struggles for democracy internationally with a clarity that should make Americans sit up and take notice. While much U.S. foreign policy tries to export democracy militarily or by fostering free elections, Fisher advocates for a fuller understanding of what’s required for democracy to “stick,” one that would support countries engaged in democratization.
My visit with Fisher at her island home coincided with one of her many radio interviews, some given in studios and others by phone. Since our interview followed on the heels of the ouster of Egypt’s President Morsi, Egypt started our conversation.
“Democracy is a ‘puzzle’ whose various pieces must find their place. Egypt is the number one story in the news right now. In order to get the democratization process going anywhere, you need a whole triangle of processes; Egypt demonstrates that election is only one piece of the democratization puzzle,” Fisher said.
What are the elements of the triangle of democratization? It goes something like this:
1) Loyal Opposition (the opposition to policies of a ruling regime without overthrow); and
2) Popular Support (as seen in protests demanding accountability of government); and
3) Civil Society (the whole collection of organizations that are non governmental, such as churches, non-profits, and community organizations).
Fisher explains that most countries achieve political participation and protests, but not loyal opposition. Or, their civil society is too weak to carry forward the work of protests because she said, “People tire of being in the streets. They need the non-profit organizations to continue the change.” Importing Democracy outlines several case studies of what Fisher calls “democratization NGOs”, or the “spear carriers” that help strengthen democratization processes. These case studies are based upon her own research.
Fisher’s new book is garnering attention locally and internationally. Keith Shortall of Maine Things Considered invited her to speak with him about the ideals of U.S. democracy in honor of Independence Day; this interview joined that of many other radio stations from California to Colorado and Minnesota to Florida. Fisher was also invited to speak at the The Anne Frank Center USA in New York City and at the Library of Congress.
If you would like to meet Julie or see her book, you can catch her this week at the Color and Pages of Peaks event on July 12-13 or you can attend her Brown Bag Lecture and book signing at the Portland Public Library on September 27th at noon.
Peaks Island Press doesn’t review books written by fellow islanders because the pretentiousness of that offends me. Instead, I like to feature the authors themselves and their writing process, sometimes even my own writer’s journey. What inspires us to write? How does writing fit into – or spill out of – our lives? So, although this entry may look like a book review, it’s not really. I have just finished reading a book, pressing it against my chest and holding it there as though its wisdom would slip between my ribs. It left me struggling to take my next breath and inspired me to pick up a pen.
You know those e-profiles on Facebook and Linked In, the ones that ask you to list your favorites of this, favorites of that – music, movies, and so on? My finger always taps at the blank prompt for “favorite books.” Favorite is a demanding adjective, one that I only deploy when that something makes me gush. The Help (Kathryn Stockett), Water for Elephants (Sara Gruen) and Chocolat (Joanne Harris) have achieved favorite status for me because they transported me to extraordinary, authentic emotional landscapes. Now that I’ve turned its last page and intend to read it again right away, I list The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey as one of my rare “favorites.”
Ivey is neither Mainer nor islander, but rather an Alaskan writer; however, the ragged, furred-and-clawed setting that she conjures should feel familiar to those of us who maneuver deep snows, burning cold, chronically-shrinking woodpiles, and the pursuit of wringing our blink-like summer of all that it promises. The Snow Child offers a brave, lancing portrait of love and pain and empathy. An aged couple homesteading in Alaska realize that their anguished loneliness may have breathed life into a simple snowman – a snowgirl, really; they then wrestle with fear, chase their hope, and tentatively learn to embrace a more expansive understanding of family and life itself.
Like most people, I have lost loved ones – some unborn and unnamed, others present, yet bent and vacant with illness. Like the main characters of The Snow Child, Jack and Mabel, I dread the fierce love that can make the simple passage of a child out the door turn into an unexpected moment of raw and crippling fear too big to comprehend. But it isn’t the book, it’s Eowyn Ivey, who inspires me as a writer; she beckons her readers into the bitter, toothed Alaskan wilderness to witness the beauty in the sheen of a swan’s feathers and she holds our hand as she shows us the courage it takes to live a fairy tale life whose ending is already known. Reading The Snow Child made it difficult for me to pull in my next breath; it is that moment, that moment of breathless wonder and desperation in life that leaves me no choice but to write.
If you’re intrigued by this book, I point you to the video trailer and an interview with Eowyn Ivey below.