Posts Tagged ‘Pushcart Prize’

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This week we feature “3 Questions” with Joanne Serling, author of Good Neighbors, about whom Kirkus Reviews says  – “[Serling] writes with verve and frequent insight”. In Good Neighbors, her debut novel, Ms. Sterling  focuses on the lives of four young families in an idyllic suburb whose lives, views, and morality are challenged by one family’s upheaval.

Ms. Serling’s fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in New Ohio Review and North American Review. She is a graduate of Cornell University and studied and taught fiction at The Writers Studio in New York City. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children and is at work on her second book.


Ms. Serling will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 14thThis event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited. Please call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save a seat and/or secure your autographed copy of Good Neighbors.


1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?

Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell had a huge influence on me as a writer. It’s an indelible portrait of a housewife navigating the changing American landscape between the first and second world wars. Besides loving the depth and simplicity of the writing, I was amazed at the similarities between the domestic world of Mrs. Bridge and modern American motherhood. I thought, “Ah ha! I want to write about this!” and I pretty much ran to my local library and started what I hoped would be a contemporary version of the book. Needless to say, I got stuck around chapter four. I failed to grasp how nuanced and sharply observed Connell’s masterpiece is, and didn’t yet have my own Mrs. Bridge. But I held on to the idea of short, episodic chapters about domestic life and came back to that form when I landed on the idea for Good Neighbors..

I had a similarly charged reaction when I read That Night by Alice McDermott. Never before had I never read an author who unfolded a single event so masterfully, turning ordinary life into something dramatic and powerful in the process. I ordered all of McDermott’s books after that and just devoured them, underlining passages and trying to figure out her secret. The ‘secret’ is that she’s an incredibly gifted writer, but that exercise grounded me in the idea that everyday life can be made extraordinary with enough love and connection to the material.

Lastly, I have to mention Edith Wharton, particularly Age of Innocence, which I read in college, long before I thought I could dare to become a writer. Wharton’s book electrified me — I couldn’t believe that social class, much less romance, could be the stuff of literature– and that story planted the seed that money and class were worthy of exploration. Wharton is one of my favorite writers and like Mc Dermott, once I discovered her, I read all of her work.

But I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Kate Walbert’s Our Kind in this list. Her wonderful stories about a certain generation of upper middle class women, told in the first person plural, were like a gateway drug for me. For many years and many drafts, I used a similar narrative style to help tell the story of Good Neighbors. Eventually, I switched the narrative to first person and relegated the large “we” narrator to the prologue and epilogue, but Walbert’s book was a huge inspiration.


2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

I greatly admire Adam Haslett and would love the chance to tell him in person how much his books have meant to me.

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

I actually bought a larger bedside table recently, because I had too many books and magazines to fit on the one I owned. But of course, the new table is just as crowded and there are still piles on the floor. All of this to say I’m a peripatetic reader who moves from short stories to novels to essays pretty regularly. In one pile is my stack of New Yorkers, Tin Houseand Paris Review issues that I continually dip into when I have just a few minutes and want some nourishment.

Closest to my bed is my pile of current reads, which at the moment includes The Bitch is Back, a stunning collection of essays about women’s lives, and several new novels that I’m dying to start: An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Mira T. Lee’s Everything Here is Beautiful, and Rachel Lyon’s Self Portrait with Boy.

NOTE: As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing and the living of life, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore or bookstore related venues. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to both attend these special author events and read their books.


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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, we’ve paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”.  In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore.  Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the week leading up to their engagement.  Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events.

For the 2014-15 season of author events, we have developed brand new questions. We hope you enjoy this new season of queries and each author’s unique insights.  We are starting with an experiment — featuring two authors at once. In this case Ann Hood and SS Taylor who are both visiting the Norwich Bookstore in September. (Since we developed more than three questions, they each received a different selection of three to answer.)

Ann Hood is the author of six novels including The Obituary Writer and The Knitting Circle. A native of Rhode Island, she travelled the world as a flight attendant before turning to writing. She has won two Pushcart Prizes, two Best American Food Writing Awards, Best American Spiritual Writing and Travel Writing Awards, and a Boston Public Library Literary Light Award.  We have had the pleasure of dining with her (and hearing her speak) and can also personally attest that she is a superb and entertaining person.

Ms. Hood will appear at the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, September 10 to discuss her latest book The Italian Wife and her writing life. Reservations are recommended. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to reserve your seat.

1. What was the last book that kept you up all night reading?

I am addicted to the Commissario Ricciardi detective series by the Italian Writer Maurizio de Giovanni. They all keep me up reading! Ricciardi is a homicide detective in 1930s Naples who hears  the last words of dead people. I just got the latest one, By My Hand, and anticipate sleepless nights ahead.
2. If you could give your own book award to an outstanding title you read last year, what would it be?
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. A big hearted, fat book that I loved sinking into. The setting of World War ll Europe is intimately portrayed, and the way the two characters lives interweave and converge is brilliant.
3. What three authors would you invite to a dinner party?
I like wild dinner parties, so I would probably invite Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, serve lots of booze, and jump into a fountain at the end. Oh! That’s only two. I guess Dorothy Parker would make things interesting.

And now our second author – SS Taylor, whose Expeditioner Series is perfectly illustrated by Katherine Roy. S.S. Taylor has been fascinated by maps ever since the age of ten, when she discovered an error on a map of her neighborhood and wondered if it was really a mistake. She has a strong interest in books of all kinds, expeditions, old libraries, mysterious situations, long-hidden secrets, missing explorers, and traveling to known and unknown places. SS Taylor lives in Vermont; and we at the Book Jam are superbly lucky to call her a friend.

SS Taylor will appear in at the Norwich Bookstore from 1 to 3 pm on Saturday, September 13th to celebrate the publication of the second novel in her Expeditioners series The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair. While the book is geared to middle grade readers, all ages will enjoy the Expeditioners, and all are welcome during this special event.  Because this event is part of the Bookstore’s Second Saturday series, reservations are not required, but an RSVP is appreciated. When you call (802) 649-1114 to RSVP, you may also pre-order your signed copy of SS Taylor’s works

1. What was the last book that kept you up all night reading?

I just finished Ben Macintyre‘s A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby and the Great Betrayal and couldn’t put it down. It covers the beginnings of the British and American spy agencies during World War II and then the intricate web of lies told by Soviet double agents like Philby during the Cold War. Macintyre looks at Philby’s betrayal through the lens of his long friendships with other British spies, which gives this true story the depth and level of character exploration of a great Le Carre novel. I also really liked Macintyre’s Double Cross about the turned spies (eccentric characters all) who helped convince Hitler that D-Day was going to happen in Calais rather than Normandy, thus giving the Allies crucial extra time.
2. What book did you last give as a gift and why?
I recently bought a copy of David Weisner‘s Flotsam for my nephew. It’s an amazing wordless picture book about a boy who finds a mysterious camera on a beach and gets the film developed. My kids have loved it (though I had to explain “film” to them!) I think my nephew will too.
3. What three books would you re-read if you had the time to do so?
Hmmm. I love re-reading favorite books, so I haven’t exactly been holding myself back! But if I had a week with nothing to do but read, I might do an E.M. Forster marathon — Howards’s End, Room with a View, and Passage to India in one go!

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