English Project: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, By: Heidi W. Durrow

the-girl-who-fell-from-the-sky coverA few years ago, I read Heidi Durrow‘s The Girl Who Fell From the Sky and loved it, told everyone I knew to read it (and I hope they did). Today Mixed American Life shared a cool video summary of the book. 🙂

Check it out…

English Project: The Girl Who Fell From The Sky, By: Heidi W. Durrow.

Discover Spark: A Creative Anthology

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 4.11.22 PMSpark: A Creative Anthology is a quarterly literary anthology that I found out about via Kickstarter. They’re currently accepting submissions for Volume One, which I am going to order. 🙂 If you write flash fiction, short stories, poetry or creative nonfiction, then you should check them out. They’re also looking for photography and artwork for their front covers.

And…Spark’s got a writing contest. Write a story (fiction or creative non-fiction) or poem based around the word “spark”. Submissions will be accepted from 1 January to 1 March 2013 and first prize is $500 USD, a year’s subscription to Poets & Writers Magazine, a year’s subscription to Duotrope and a lifetime premium membership to Scribophile.

Interested? Find out more here.

A belated post about Mo Yan…

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2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature, Mo Yan

Last Thursday, we book nerds waited–ripe with anticipation–for the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Literature. Everyone had their own ideas of who was worthy. Even people who don’t usually give a fig about books wanted to have their say. On the subway I overheard several Swedes griping how unfair it was that Astrid Lindgren or Bob Dylan never received the prize. On TV, talking heads blathered on about how this was the year Joyce Carol Oates would receive it. Haruki Murakami‘s name came up several times. Heck, even I was convinced that Murakami was a shoe-in. I figured the Svenska Akademien would never give the prize to my personal favorite (Milan Kundera). I think Horace Engdahl and company have blacklisted him (and Joyce Carol Oates for that matter).

No one mentioned Mo Yan.

So when the announcement was made, I readily admit I was one of those people who said, “Mo who?” I Googled him. I looked him up on Wikipedia to get an idea of just who he was and what he’d written. I can safely say that I have never read any of his books but I’ve seen a movie based on one of them (Red Sorghum, which also marked the film debut of my favorite Chinese actresses, Gong Li).

Something I find interesting with Mo Yan’s receiving the prize is that so many people feel embarrassed about not knowing who he is or what he’s written. Somehow, they don’t seem to grasp the idea that one of the reasons the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded to a writer is to bring attention to work that may have gone unnoticed. And really, there are so many writers and books out there that no one can claim to have read every single work ever written. That’s one of the joys of books–for every tome you read, there are even more just waiting for you to discover them.

So my plan is explore Mo Yan’s literary works. I’ve decided to order three of his books and spend part of this chilly autumn and winter reading them. The three titles I’ll be reading are The Republic of Wine, Big Breasts and Wide Hips and Shifu: You’ll Do Anything for a Laugh. I hope the English Bookshop in Gamla Stan will be able to help me with my order.

And so a personal message to Mo Yan: my heartfelt congratulations to you on being awarded the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature. I have never read your work but I plan to make up for it.

What will you be reading this autumn, and who did you think was going to receive this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature?

Coming soon: a print version of The Melanie Chronicles

The Melanie Chronicles--coming soon as a trade paperback.

It’s true! I’ve had quite a few people asking when they can order a print version of The Melanie Chronicles since they don’t have e-readers. With that in mind, I looked around for a good print-on-demand service and decided to go with CreateSpace. I received a proof a few days ago–it needed some tweaks. I devoted all of last night to making necessary changes and adjusting the formatting, then I sent the updated document to CreateSpace. Now I am just waiting for them to get back to me following their review.

So what’s next? Well, there will be two more volumes of The Melanie Chronicles–one with stories of her relationship with Damian, the other focusing on her affair with Alex the Swedish actor. I think all the covers will feature the same cover illustration–just with a different background color. Maybe I’ll even publish the novel I wrote about Melanie and John. We’ll see. 🙂

The print version of The Melanie Chronicles will be available via amazon.com, my CreateSpace estore and via this lovely blog. I’ll keep you updated on the final publication date.

Give Books as Gifts for Christmas – Part One

I am one of those people who always appreciate receiving books as gifts. I am also picky when it comes to what books I want. I think most book lovers are the same. We love it when people think enough of us to give us books; we don’t really like it when people don’t actually know what type of books we like and give us something we would never read in a million years. An old boyfriend once asked me , “Would you like some books for Christmas?” I said yes and, when he asked if I could tell him what I hadn’t already read but wanted to read, I wrote down a list of titles for him. I thought this was a good start. Unfortunately, on the day after Christmas when we finally had time to meet, I unwrappped the box and found he’d bought Tom Clancy and Jackie Collins books for me when I’d wished for titles by Milan Kundera, Toni Morrison and Jay McInerney. Luckily there was a gift receipt so I could take all the books back and exchange them for books I really wanted to read. Hollywood Wives and the Hunt for Red October weren’t really very high on my list of must-read books. Nor was anything by H.P. Lovecraft.

So to help you avoid making the same mistake, let’s take a look at some books your book lovers might like. I know I am already drooling over a few of these titles. They may end up being my Christmas presents to myself…

If you have any thriller lovers on your list, then Robert Harris’ latest offering, the Fear Index, should tickle their fancy. This time Harris focuses on an artificial intelligence that tracks human emotions, which enables it to predict movements in financial markets, and what happens when its creator, the ultra-rich. Dr Alex Hoffmann discovers someone has breached the security of his home and finds himself in a nightmare of paranoia and violence. I don’t know about you, but I am all ready hooked. I think I may have to treat myself to that one…:)

For the teenagers (and adults) on your list who prefer their Kindle to “normal” books, check out Forget the Past and Reclaim the Present, Books 1 & 2 of Claude Nougat‘s Fear the Past trilogy. Both books have the perfect blend of the paranormal, time travel, romance and historical fiction to hook readers from the first page. So what’s it about, you ask? At 17, our protagonist, Tony, is a gifted video game creator suffering from burnout. He goes to Sicily (his deceased father’s home) to recover and to rediscover his roots. One day, he finds himself drawn to an abandoned palazzo and is drawn into a strange world where the ghosts of his ancestors await Judgment Day. He also falls in love–with the ghost of the Duchess of Floridia. But can this love transcend time…? Well, you’ll have to read it to find out. 🙂 I’ve read book one and loved it. Going to order book 2 ASAP!

For the food lover on your list, I recommend the Food52 Cookbook. I am a big fan of Food52’s blog and I had to order this cookbook for myself. I am still trying to figure out which recipes I’m going to try but they all sound so scrumptious that I may find myself cooking a lot during the holidays. If you’ve never heard of Food52 or its blog, go there now and discover why it’s one of the best food blogs around.

Want to really splurge on your favorite Norman Mailer or  Marilyn Monroe fan? Then chuck down £650 (yes, that’s the correct amount) on Marilyn Monroe by Norman Mailer and Bert Stern. Taschen has combined Norman Mailer’s original text from his 1973 biography of Monroe with Bert Stern’s gorgeous photographs. You might remember a few years ago he recreated these very images with Lindsay Lohan but nothing beats the beauty and intimacy of the original sessions. I doubt I will ever chuck down so much money on a book but maybe one of you will and I can live vicariously through you.

That’s it for now but I’ll be back later this week with more gift ideas for the rest of the book lovers on your list…

My Autumn-Winter 2011 reading list…

Photo: Rymdborje

It’s officially autumn in Stockholm, Sweden though it feels more like winter. In northern Sweden, they’ve already had their first snowfall. I don’t even want to think about snow yet so I figured instead it was time to let you know what I want to read as I prepare to cocoon for the winter… There are a lot of good books out (or soon to be released), making it difficult to pick only a few…

I spent part of Monday evening trawling online bookstores looking for intriguing titles. Here are five books I think I will read as winter chill and darkness settles upon Stockholm:

I love a good ghost story and Justin Cronin’s review Chris Bohjalian’s The Night Strangers (on Amazon.com) intrigued me. Set in rural New Hampshire, the novel tells the story of Chip Linton, a pilot suffering from survivor’s guilt, and what happens when he and his family move into a rambling Victorian house in northern New Hampshire. One day they discover a door bolted with 39 locks…why 39 locks? And does it have anything to do with the 39 people who died in the plane crash Chip survived? This could be the perfect creepy story to get me in the mood for Halloween.

I am a sucker for books set in my hometown of Philadelphia and books with recipes incorporated in the plot. Angelina’s Bachelors by Brian O’Reilly (with recipes by his wife, Virginia O’Reilly) satisfies both of my guilty pleasures! The novel is set in South Philly and is described as a Capraesque (even better! I love Frank Capra!) story about a young widow who, following the sudden death of her husband, finds herself cooking for seven unlikely bachelors. According to many reviewers, O’Reilly really captures the vibe of South Philly. I wonder which version of South Philly we get… well, I will just have to order this book and discover it for myself. I have fond memories of times spent in South Philly with my high school and college friends.

Now granted the Silver Spoon is not a book one reads… it’s more a book for drooling. It is the bible of Italian food. Tord and I already have a copy of this amazing cookbook but this new edition has photographs–something our edition doesn’t have–and I do love a bit of food pornography. I can’t help it…especially not when Italian food is involved. So this one is on my list even though what I will probably do is mark recipes and coo at Tord until he fixes them for me, which is one of his favorite things to do at the weekend. And if you want to learn to make proper risotto or cacciatore, then you need this cookbook. And if you don’t want to learn how to cook but you like looking at pretty pictures of yummy food…then you should definitely buy this edition of the Silver Spoon.

I loved Martha Southgate‘s Third Girl From the Left so I was very happy when I heard she had a new novel coming out. Her new book is called The Taste of Salt and tells the story of two generations of an African-American family and how a legacy of addiction affects them. At the centre of the story is Josie, who has chosen to exile herself from her family and finds an escape from it with her profession as a marine biologist. When her mother asks her to come home and pick up her brother from his second stint in rehab, Josie must come to terms with her past and with complexities of her family. I have the feeling this will be one of those books that makes me cry so I will have to prepare myself (and Tord) for bouts of weepiness.

Finally, there’s Ellen Sussman’s French Lessons. I first heard about this book back in July. A clerk at Waterstones in Harrods told me about it but they didn’t have it in stock. I thought about ordering it when I returned to Stockholm but it kept slipping my mind. Now I’ve written it on my list so I have to buy it!

French Lessons is a novel about three Americans and the experiences they have in Paris via their French tutor. It’s also about language, love and how lives intersect in the most unexpected of ways. I was intrigued (still am!) so I think this could be my sit-in-cafés-dreaming-of-a-weekend-trip book for the winter.

So now that you know what I’ll be reading, why don’t you tell me what you’ll be reading this autumn-winter… Drop me a line! Let’s compare notes!

And don’t forget: you can follow my blog if you enjoy reading it. Just click on the “Follow” tab in the lower-right corner of your screen and enter your details. You’ll be notified whenever I update kimtalksbooks–which will be fairly often during the month of November since I’ll be keeping you abreast of my Nanowrimo progress and posting the very rough drafts of my Nano chapters.

 

 

 

 

 

Just a quickie about One Story…

A few years ago I became an avid reader of an online magazine called One Story, which is dedicated to the art of the short story. Each issue focuses on only one story, hence the name of the magazine. In July, I decided to become a subscriber to the print version of the magazine. If you love short fiction, then please support One Story. In this day and age when it’s becoming harder and harder to find print magazines featuring short fiction we should do what we can to support a magazine that puts one writer and his/her story in focus.

And for those of you who are Kindle junkies, you can subscribe One Story via the Amazon Kindle Store.

What I bought in London…

Normally when I am in London I go to Waterstone’s near Piccadilly Circus and spend way too much money. However, when I was in London last week, I spent most of my time in South Kensington and didn’t really feel like battling the other tourists and the Tube and the humidity. Yes, it was humid and warm though a tad bit rainy on occasion. And heat, humidity and the Tube are not a great combination. Last summer, when I was in London for the weekend, it was around 30C (86F) and taking the Tube was awful in the heat. So I walked everywhere this time and ended up at Harrod’s, where there is a Waterstone’s on the third floor. It’s not as massive as the one at Piccadilly but it has a good selection so I bought four books while I was there. And what did I buy…?

"My Last Duchess" by Daisy Goodwin

My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin. The US version of this book is called The American Heiress. I’ve already started reading this one, which tells the story of an American heiress named Cora Cash (whose life is loosely based on that of Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress of her time and who ventured to the UK and married  the land-rich but cash-poor Duke of Malrborough) whose socially ambitious mother is determined to find a titled husband for her. Within the first week of arriving in England, Cora meets and becomes engaged to Ivo, the Duke of Wareham.

There’s also a very interesting subplot with Bertha, Cora’s black maid, and the duke’s valet, Jim. Here we get to see how Bertha experiences culture clash, racism and a sense of liberation. Cora, on the other hand, feels more and more stifled by the title she now bears and there are a lot of things she still doesn’t know about the man she married… It’s a page turner.

Cover of "Vaclav & Lena" by Haley Tanner

Vaclav and Lena by Haley Tanner. Vaclav and Lena meet as children in an ESL class in Brooklyn. Vaclav dreams of becoming a magician while Lena takes comfort in Vaclav’s adoration of her and in his family who welcome her.

Then one day Lena disappears and Vaclav tries to figure out what may have happened to her and why she left him. For the next seven years, he says goodnight to her and wonders if she is somewhere doing the same. On the eve of Lena’s 17th birthday, he finds out the truth.

I haven’t started reading this one yet but I opened it to a random page before buying it and was hooked.

 

"The People Next Door" by Christopher Ransom

The People Next Door by Christopher Ransom. This one was sort of an impulse buy. It sounds like a horror novel about what happens when Mick and Amy Nash’s new neighbors–who seem perfectly normal at first glance–turn out to be not at all what they pretend to be. Mick finds out there is something very wrong with the neighbors and is determined to find out the truth.

Supposedly, The People Next Door is “…the most terrifying, unforgettable novel you’ll read all year”. I’ve read some reviews online that say otherwise. However, I will give it a try. I haven’t read a horror novel in a while. I’ll let you know if I was terrified by it or if it was indeed unforgettable.

 

"A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan

And finally, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. I think everyone has already heard quite a lot about A Visit from the Goon Squad–it having won the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as being adapted by HBO for a TV series.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is essentially a novel-in-stories, i.e. a collection of stories that are connected and can either be read like a novel or as stories in their own right. I am looking forward to diving into this book so I may do that as soon as I finish reading My Last Duchess.

Of course, I now have A Storm of Swords and A Feast of Crows (books 3 & 4 in the Song of Ice and Fire series, a.k.a Game of Thrones series) by George R.R. Martin so I may be tempted to start with them instead. I didn’t buy these two in London–I’d already ordered them a few days before I left Stockholm. Well, I think I have enough books to keep me busy for a while. 🙂

Getting to know Heidi Durrow…

Photo: Timothi Jane Graham

 

Last summer, I stumbled upon a review of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky in Elle. I was getting ready to place my usual order for summer reads and the review really caught my eye. I immediately added the title to my order and am I glad that I did. As fate would have it, Heidi Durrow, the author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky agreed to an email interview. Here’s what Heidi shared with me…

Do you have a favorite place where you write? Describe it for us.

I write at my desk.  I write in my favorite chair. I write at the kitchen table.  I write on the plane.  I write in my hotel room. I write in airport lounges.  My favorite place to write is where the writing is working.  It can be anywhere, and anytime it feels like the words are flowing.

What sort of reception did The Girl Who Fell From the Sky receive in Denmark?

The reception in Denmark has been wonderful.  I think there’s excitement for it in part because Denmark doesn’t often figure in American books.  But also, I think that readers are enjoying the book because of the story – the country in the last many years has started to look at its multicultural state—past and present.  It’s very exciting.

How would you describe your writing process? Are you very structured or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I  wish I could say that I have a structured way of writing.  I just don’t.  At best, I’d call my writing process as organic. I never know what the story will bring until I start writing.  I am constantly surprising myself which I think is good because I think that means the reader will always be surprised too.

What compels you to write?

I can’t not write.  I make sense out of emotions and memories through writing.  Writing makes me happy.  Okay, it tortures me as well, but ultimately, when the essay, chapter, or book is done, there is no greater happiness for me.

In February, you were part of the “Three Books…” series on NPR and suggested three books to dispel the current idea that Nordic literature is a dark, crime-ridden landscape. Why do you think so much contemporary Nordic literature is focused on crime fiction?

It’s funny you ask that.  I think it’s more a function of what American publishers are willing to translate.  I know at least in Danish contemporary letters there is a lot of variation in styles and genres.  And then there’s the publishing habit of doing what worked before – Stieg Larsson sells so publishers hope they can find the new Stieg Larrson.

Have you begun working on your next novel? Could you share with us a sneak peek of its plot?

I’m hard at work on the new project.  It’s a novel set in the late 1800s in Paris and London.  The main character is inspired by a real woman named Miss Lala who was half black and half white born in the 1850s in Poland.  She became a very famous circus performer and bodybuilder—so famous that Edgar Degas did a portrait of her.  The book is my imagined biography of her life since there is not much known about her.

Which books are on your must-read list this year?

I’ve been reading a lot for the new book – models of historical novels as well as non-fiction books on evolution, Darwin, the circus, and the Impressionists.  My must-read books are always in service of the new project.

What are you reading at the moment?

Mostly I’m reading for the new book project.  And I’m reading books to review – I review occasionally for NPR now which has been fun.

You mentioned on your website that you spent summers in your mother’s hometown in Denmark. Do you speak and write Danish? Would you consider writing a novel in Danish?

I do speak Danish, but there is no way I could actually write a book in Danish.  I’m a terrible speller in Danish!  But I would like to try my hand at translating a Danish book at some point.  That would be fun.

What advice would you give to novice writers working on their first short stories or novels?

I think it’s important to remember that as an artist you don’t have much control over whether you get published or not.  But you can give yourself as many opportunities to get published as possible.  I had a rule for myself that for every rejection for a story I got, I had to send out the story to two more journals that very day.  I spent a lot of money in postage and I got a lot of rejections this way, but I also got closer to the acceptance that way.  Most importantly, remember that the number of rejections don’t matter (I racked up almost 4 dozen from publishers for The Girl Who Fell From the Sky) – all you need is one gatekeeper, your job is to find that gatekeeper

Find out more  about Heidi Durrow here and check out her Mixed Chicks Chat podcast here.