Monday, July 2, 2012

The State of the SBB

Welcome to anyone who's been nudged in this direction by the GetLit! blog's kind mention of the SBB. (I'm surprised, by the way, to have this bully pulpit described as "charming"; I would've thought "surly" more fitting.) I haven't updated this — or my personal blog, for that matter — in months on account of a number of factors, the most important being a perceived lack of interest on the part of readers.

Google's site stats showed maybe one visitor per day, and I could count the number of people who fed me info on a regular basis on a two-fingered hand. It got to the point where the thanklessness of the enterprise trumped the fun. And I got tired of promoting the writing of those indifferent to the SBB when I could have spent that time concentrating on my own.

The SBB isn't boarded and shuttered by any means, but it is in a state of repose for the time being, and it will remain that way until forces internal or external prompt me to reanimate it. In the meantime, thanks to those who thought the SBB worthy of the occasional check-in.

Friday, March 23, 2012

"Stationary" Indeed

Best off 2012The readers of Spokane have spoken — and they've voted Barnes & Noble and Hastings as the second- and third-place bookstores in The Inlander's Best of 2011-12 poll.

Shocker: Auntie's placed first. Again. (It sells "stationary," by the way.)

What about Monkeyboy, which has more charm than all three winners combined?

What about Tinman Too, which hosts regular workshops and readings for adults and children alike?

What about Book Traders (just a few doors down from Tinman, in fact), which is wall-to-wall-to-floor with books and will let you buy at a bulk discount?

And 2nd Look? And Cal's? And Browser's in N. Idaho? Or even Rae's (FFS, at least it's got a modicum of personality)?

I'll go out on a limb and say that the readers — a word used loosely — voted for the only three bookstores they could name.

Hopeless. Just hopeless.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spoke and Words, Poetry

The debut issue of the literary magazine Spoke has already attracted some attention — the Spovangelist mentioned it last week, for instance, and Get Lit! tweeted the news shortly thereafter — but no one's really discussed it, which, as it happens, is the issue that I raise in the debut issue of Spoke. It's in a Q&A that someone decided to title "Don't Call a Wilted Flower Dead."

SpokeI also used my allotted three minutes at the Spoke launch party last Saturday night to waffle on about the same issue, and I suppose I'll keep shouting into the vacuum until someone deigns to humor me with a response.

That Q&A is actually the least of your reasons to pick up issue no.1 of Spokane's newest literary journal, which is lovingly hand-assembled by editors Rebecca Chadwell and J.W. Trull. What's interesting about the pair — aside from their respective creative backgrounds, I mean — is that Chadwell loosely represents the EWU camp, Trull the Gonzaga camp. (Do they represent the city's first Montague/Capulet bridge, or are there other collaborative arts partnerships between the two local universities that I've missed?)

This "Place/Displaced"-themed issue also features poetry by Cara Lorello, Caleb Majeski, Tyson West, Tod Marshall, and Trull himself; visual art by Sharon Lee, Ara Lyman, Rick Walter, and Kiyomi Chadwell (who gets a unique pride of place with a pull-out poster at the back); and fiction (or hybrids thereof) by Sumiko Chadwell and J.P. Vallieres, one of the runners-up in the most recent Inlander short fiction contest who deserved to be more than a runner-up.

At the launch party, the prologue West provided before reading his "Floorshow" ("We always knew that Looie Davenport/ Was a little loco/ Serving waffles in a tent after the big fire in '89") provided some welcome historical background, and Trull's reading of his own "The Place of Shape" revealed a far different poem to the one on the printed page. Like the title of this post, it's something else when it's said aloud.

When you consider how anonymous Spoke was even up to the point of its premiere, it's remarkable that each one of the literary pieces (for now I'll leave the commentary on the artwork to the Spokane Visual Arts Blog) is as accomplished as it is. The magazine has already come a long way since I first scratched my head over their initial submissions call, and I hope it sustains its quality and momentum. The first issue looks great, feels great, reads great; and the same goes for their fledgling website.

You can pick up Spoke for $7 at Monkeyboy Books (see my gushing write-up about Monkeyboy here), Atticus, and maybe Auntie's, who, I'm told, want to support the local literary scene by taking a cut of each copy sold.

Submissions for issue no.2 are already open — and the rough categories include writing, visual art, and sound art. The theme is "Signal/Noise" and the deadline is May 1. Visit their submissions page for details.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

History Buffs' March Read Announced

The History Buffs Book Club still has one more meeting this month (on Tuesday, February 21 at the usual time from 10:30 to 11:30am), where they'll continue discussing Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.

Diary of a WWI PilotAs luck would have it, though, their selected book for March has already been decided. It's Diary of a WWI Pilot: Ambulances, Planes, Friends: Harvey Conover's Adventures in France, 1917-1918, edited and supplemented with personal and historical notes by Spokane resident Frances Conover Church. Harvey, her father, was a front-line ambulance driver who arrived in France before the US entered the First World War. Later he enlisted in the fledgling US Aero Service. He was trained in French flight schools and became a decorated combat pilot in the St. Mihiel and Verdun offensives.

The book was a finalist for the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Award in the autobiography/biography/memoirs category, and at under 300 pages, it will seem like a pamphlet compared to Team of Rivals.

The challenge might reside in actually finding the book. It's not available from Auntie's or 2nd Look, and proper is out of stock too (third-party used copies are available, however). Amazon-owned AbeBooks has about 7 copies for sale, and Alibris has 8 copies, many of which ship from WA or OR. Google Books only hosts a partial eBook preview.

Given that Church is local, it might be best to approach her niece, Sarah Conover, a local author herself, and ask her how to go about purchasing a copy directly. I should note that I tried to get in touch with her and arrange something but never received a reply.

By the way, here's some info about Conover, her work, her relation to Frances Conover Church, and some backstory to the diary, all featured in the Spokesman-Review fairly recently. The Spokesman also offers a chance to hear Church reading straight from Harvey Conover's original diary. Click here for an audio clip.

Keep in mind that the History Buffs Book Club meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month from 10:30 to 11:30am at Shadle Library [map]. That means next month's first meeting will take place on March 6.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sarah Jio Event Rescheduled for Mar 24

Sarah JioThe Sarah Jio reading and signing at Auntie's that got cancelled back in January on account of the snow has been rescheduled for March 24 at 2pm. So far, it's the only event that Auntie's has announced for March.

The official event page is here (where, even after the reprieve, "Gauguin" is still spelled incorrectly) along with links to two of Jio's novels: The Violets of March, her fiction debut, and The Bungalow, her latest novel.

My earlier write-up for this event with author background and additional info can be found here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Master Class on Plot: Last Call [EDIT: Class Full]

There's still one seat left [EDIT: the last seat was filled about forty-five minutes after this post went live] for the "Master Class on Plot" sponsored by the Inland Northwest Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators on Saturday, March 3 from 9:30am to 4:30pm in the Landau Room at the Lincoln Center [map].

Although the official deadline for registration was January 31, the sponsors are allowing have allowed the lucky participant to flout the rules and fill the remaining seat.

Cheryl KleinCheryl Klein, an executive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, will be hosting the event.

Klein has worked as an editor of children's and young adult books for more than a decade. In that time, she has served as the continuity editor for the American editions of the last two Harry Potter novels, and books that she has edited have won the William C. Morris YA Debut Award, the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, the ALSC Mildred L. Batchelder Award for translation, and a New York Times Best Illustrated Book citation.

During this master class — the press release calls it "INTENSIVE" (caps theirs), so I can only assume the participants will be working under duress — Klein will take participants through the essential components of a plot, "including a number of techniques authors employ to control pacing, tension, character development, and reader reaction." She will also address action and emotional development, and writers will learn techniques for evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their plots.

Some of Klein's previous talks are available on her website (linked above). She also has a personal blog called Brooklyn Arden, where she covers everything from previous SCBWI engagements to Q&As with editors and authors.

The cost of attending the master class is $135 for SCWBI members and $160 for non-members. To register, visit this page.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitworth Writing Rally (Pre-K to 6th Grade)

Whitworth University is hosting its annual writing rally early this year — March 17, to be exact.

Tony abbottThe Whitworth Writing Rally is for families with children who are attending preschool through the sixth grade. The event will start with a presentation by a well-known author (in this year's case, Tony Abbott; more on him below). Afterwards, participating families will have the opportunity to workshop with local teachers and Whitworth students to create an original illustrated book by hand or on a computer.

It's a great chance to hobnob with at least one star of the young adult genre, get professional guidance in developing reading and writing skills, and engage in what looks to be a fun family-oriented creative project.

The person who drew my attention to the WWR had this to say:
I took my son when he was 5 (he is now 8), and we met author David Shannon. He did a slideshow of his books, talked about writing and illustrating. Then they did break out groups by age, and he made a paper plate "book" that hooked together with brads. It was quite fun.

When it comes to featured authors, Tony Abbott is quite a pull. He's the author of an impressive number of books — The Secrets of Droon series, Firegirl, Kringle, and the Underworlds series, to name a few — and his name will have a certain amount of celebrity cachet among young readers.

The cost of the event is $18 per child, and it will take place in two sessions. The first session will start at 8:30am, and the second at 11am. Both will be held at Whitworth, although I'm not sure where on the campus exactly.

Click here to register, or click here to download the PDF brochure (which, I'm afraid, won't give you any more info than this blog post).

Questions? E-mail coordinator Kathryn Picanco at or call her on (509) 777-3459 for more information.