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Guest Post: Poetry Begins with a Look Inside by Emma Eden Ramos

Emma Eden Ramos — the author of Still, At Your Door: A Fictional Memoir, The Realm of the Lost, and Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems — contacted me long before the start of National Poetry Month and asked me if I was organizing another blog tour.  I have been such a basket case about blog stuff and trying to keep on top of everyone and everything, but her reminder put me into full gear.  I want to thank her for that.

Please give her a warm welcome as she talks with members of her Alma Mater, Marymount Manhattan College.

“Studying poetry,” Cameron Kelsall explains, “expands and, in some cases, explodes your understanding of language.” Kelsall graduated from Marymount Manhattan College in 2010 with a major in English and a minor in creative writing. Kelsall went on to pursue an MFA in poetry, and now has his work published in a number of well-known periodicals such as The Eunoia Review, Octave Magazine, Drunken Boat and Foothill: A Journal of Poetry.

MMCMarymount Manhattan College—or MMC, as it’s affectionately called—has become a haven for aspiring poets who, like Cameron Kelsall, find their voices as undergraduates, then go on to thrive in the literary community. With guidance from Dr. Jerry Williams, Pushcart nominee and editor of It’s Not You, It’s Me: The Poetry of Breakup, students explore the craft of writing and, in many instances, gain insight into their own personal experiences. As Sally Stroud, a junior who minors in creative writing, writes, “I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person. Poetry forces you to look inside yourself. You might not like what you see, but in the end, a beautiful piece can be crafted.” Some undergraduate institutions offer creative writing as a major. While students at MMC cannot major in creative writing, they have the option, along with declaring the discipline as a minor, of writing and/or editing for The Marymount Manhattan Review.

MMCReviewAs NewPages.com points out on its page dedicated to undergraduate writing programs across America, Marymount Manhattan College has a campus literary magazine called The Marymount Manhattan Review. The review includes poems, short stories and short nonfiction pieces written by Marymount students. Below is a poem selected from last year’s issue of The Marymount Manhattan Review. This year’s issue will be released in early May.

Drawl
By Leisa Loan

The Southern Illinois state line made me feel
like I lived three separate lives,
all on separate lawns
as I drove to see Superman and return his library books.

The look on his face could shut the roads down,
empty like an impatient morning before a parade.
I’d put my house right on a flatbed,

Metropolis seems made for settling down,
buying groceries, and chaining up a swing over fried grass.
Let tourists pay money for magnets and museums while I live on water
and the comfort of hula hoops in the garage.

One life saw me poor and aware of it,
wanting to buy something nice for a summer birthday
everything around us colored gold and worth nothing
crop corn you can’t swallow.

But the other lives see envy from the tops of water towers,
watching sunsets like you’d never see anywhere else
thinking—the city is evil, stay here a while, forever.
Busy blood of a confused Yankee finally sitting down
and desperately thinking of space
and where to put a porch swing
in the middle of Manhattan.

*Leisa Loan is from Boston. She is a senior at Marymount Manhattan College. She will be attending graduate school for her MFA in poetry this fall.

Thanks, Emma.  This was a great look at a college that some may never have looked at before, and I think its good to know that there are more creative writing programs available than just the ones at the big schools.

Savvy’s Best of 2014 List

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I cannot believe how quickly 2014 has flown by, and I also cannot believe I read more than 150 books this year. 2015 will be a year of changes for me, as I pull back from reviewing and reading so many books here on Savvy Verse & Wit as I start my own business, Poetic Book Tours.

I did want to share with my readers here the best books of 2014, in case you missed the day-by-day announcements on the Facebook page.

  1. Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James (my review)
  2. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming (my review)
  3. Lust by Diana Raab, read by Kate Udall (my review)
  4. Any Anxious Body by Chrissy Kolaya (my review)
  5. Going Over by Beth Kephart (my review)
  6. The Descent by Alma Katsu (my review)
  7. Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos (my review)
  8. A Long Time Gone by Karen White (my review)
  9. The Vintner’s Daughter by Kristen Harnisch (my review)
  10. Children’s Activity Atlas from Sterling Publishing (my review)
  11. Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion (my review)
  12. Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert (my review)

What books have made your end of the year favorites??

Giveaway: Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading the latest work from Emma Eden Ramos, Still, At Your Door, which I reviewed in February.  It is not only a story about a young girl, Sabrina Gibbons, who wants a normal family life, but also a young lady looking for herself among the wreckage of her family and in the world around her.  A Streetcar Named Desire plays a strong role in the story, but it is by no means a retelling — it becomes a way for the author to parallel Tennessee Williams‘ work. Bri’s mother is like Blanche the main character in the play, clinging to her youth as much as she can, even as it slips away.  But this is Bri’s story.

I really enjoyed this ambitious work that explores not only coming of age in a broken home, but also bipolar disorder and its effect on the family.  For more on Ramos’ psychology angle and thoughts on her writing, check out my interview with her.

Here’s the synopsis of the novel:

Sabrina “Bri” Gibbons has only a few short minutes to pack her things and help her sisters pack theirs before running with their mother to the bus that will whisk them away from Butler, Pennsylvania, an abusive relationship, and a secret that none of them wish to acknowledge. She was not prepared, though, for her mother to drop them on the streets of New York with the promise that she would be right back. Haunted by the sight of her mother running back to the cab, Bri, with Missy and Grace in tow, settles in with their grandparents. Thoughts of her present and her future collide with memories of her past, her dead father, and her mother’s bizarre episodes. She watches her sisters struggle with school and acceptance, all the while knowing the lack of any sense of security will make it impossible for them to carry on as ‘normal’ children. She finally lets her guard down enough to allow someone else in and sees a faint glimmer that her dreams might be attainable. Disaster strikes again, this time targeting her sister. Is it possible for Bri to find that balance between her dreams and her family’s realities?

She’s received great reviews from the likes of the San Francisco Book Review.  “While there at first seems to be a deficiency in description and character and world development, surprisingly, Still At Your Door becomes one of those unique stories where less is more. This quick read flows smoothly from beginning to end, and is filled with glimpses of how life ought to be, but how for three young girls it greatly missed the mark. It provides readers with a deeper understanding of the physical and emotional effects of mental illness on the family as a whole and the need for broader awareness to allow children to maintain their childhood in innocence. This beautifully written book is one I would recommend for readers of any age,” Kim Heimbuch said in the review.

Her publisher also has nominated Emma Eden Ramos for The Next Generation Indie Award and A NIEA Award.

For those of you who are in the United States, I’m offering 1 copy of Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos to a lucky reader who comments before Oct. 31, 2014. 

Emma Eden Ramos Interviews Poet Brooke Elise Axtell

Emma Eden Ramos is a poet, middle-grade, and young adult novelist, and I’ve featured her a few times on the blog.  We’re Internet buddies who have a “poking” war from time to time, and we talk poetry and books all the time.  Check out my reviews of Still, At Your Door, The Realm of the Lost, and Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems.  Check out the interviews, and her guest interview.

BRK2Emma will be interviewing poet Brooke Elise Axtell, and we’ll share one of her poems.  Please give them a warm welcome.

be careful with a woman like me 
by Brooke Elise Axtell

be careful with a woman like me
who lives like a drunkard 
for the grey honey of the sea
who sends her singing voice to distant coves
like a hurricane trapped in a green bottle just to see 
if shrouds can be ripped & the dead raised.

be careful with a woman like me
who sharpens her heart like an ivory dagger
& howls her monsoon music to the moon
who wraps her secrets in silver cloths
to hide beneath deck & makes no promises
who is a cloud no hammer can nail to the bed
who will keep you restless & well fed on blackberries.

be careful with a woman like me
who dances in with a brass band
then slips away like a line in the sand
when the slightest wind moves.
it is not that i can't be true.
it is not that you are a red lacquered door
to open & quickly pass through.

but what appears to be 
a delicate locket hanging
from a gold chain at my neck
holds a private tempest & the shipwreck
of every storm-torn night my skin eats.

be careful of a woman like me.
i am true the way rain is true.
i am pure & vanishing. 
when the thirst of brittle leaves is quenched
when the land is a screaming emerald
it is clear. i am no longer here.

i am as restless as a sloop at bay, 
swaying with the seducing wave & her dark granite gaze.

i secretly flunked the school of manners
though i held my spoon at such a graceful angle.
i disguised my dissent behind the careful lifting 
of the teacup & memorized the map of their make believe.

i breathed heavy in the bed of my enemy
so i could overturn the twist of the sordid fist. 
i oiled the gears of my mind like a pleasing machine.
you should be careful with a woman like me.

all the while i trained in guerilla warfare 
chewed rabbit stew, sank my teeth 
into the neck of a god who does not topple 
at the earthquake of the shrine.

i crossed seven purple mountains on my knees.
i sucked on stones until they turned to bread.
i gave my heart to a hungry harlot to eat for breakfast

& you will find only the grey honey of the sea 
rocking, rocking 
in a woman like me.

Emma: The ability to write isn’t always all inclusive. Someone who composes beautiful prose may find that they’re completely hopeless when it comes to writing verse. You, however, are an award winning poet and short story writer. What, for you, is the link that makes both mediums accessible?

Brooke: I start with an initial instinct, a visceral energy that inevitably gives way to a particular form. When I begin writing I know that there is an underlying architecture that will reveal itself, but the line between verse and story in not absolute. Hybrid forms fascinate me. The intersection of text, song, performance and story yields such a rich alchemy. Lately, I’ve been intrigued by journalism as a site of beautiful protest.When you watch the boundaries between genres breed and dissolve, you begin to feel that every form is open to you.

Emma: You are also a very well-established singer/songwriter. You’ve worked with artists such as Terry Bozzio (of Missing Persons and Frank Zappa), Charlie Sexton (guitarist for Bob Dylan), Mitch Watkins (guitarist for Leonard Cohen), and a number of other great musicians. How do you find the collaborative process?

Brooke: It is an incredible honor to collaborate with such powerful musicians. I grew up dancing with a professional ballet company, so I approach the songwriting process as both a poet and a dancer. Music connects language and movement in a way that is completely transformative for me.

Emma: Which do you prefer, collaborating with other artists on a project or creating on your own?

Brooke: I appreciate both modalities. I crave solitude and connection. I am most alive as an artist when I create space for each side of the process. Collaboration challenges me to expand and grow. Solitude renews me and helps me reconnect with my courage. In a media-saturated climate I am vulnerable to distraction. I need to set aside moments to honor the interior life as well as cultivate authentic community.

Emma: Some time back, you won first place in the Young Texas Writer’s Awards for your short story “Maya’s Mirror.” Have you been writing since you were a young girl?

Brooke: Yes. As soon as I could write I started inventing stories about aliens, ghosts and unknown planets. I also wrote mystical poems about nature with themes of isolation. In retrospect, I see that I was working with creative codes to process the trauma I experienced.

Emma: Are there a few poets, fiction writers or lyricists who have deeply influenced you?

Brooke: I am nourished by many sources. As far as poets, I am reading the work of Akilah Oliver, Alice Notley, Bhanu Kapil and countless others. As far as songwriting, I am drawn to the work of Tori Amos, Bjork, Ani Di Franco, PJ Harvey, Billy Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. Fierce, imaginative women who tap into multiple states of consciousness. I am also grateful for the rich legacy of feminist writer/activists such as Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich.

Emma: What would you say is your greatest inspiration?

Brooke: Mending the aftershocks of violence, honoring the body, healing ruptures through creative alchemy, a fierce hunger for social justice, my love of women, blues and jazz.

Emma: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Brooke: Set aside time to write consistently. It has to become your way of life. This is a core decision, a sacred space you create, a ritual. You write because it is who you are and silence feels like a form of erasure.

I keep a hand-written journal to collect all the fragments: streams of consciousness, postcards of films, research, drawings, poetry. Recently, I found a gorgeous photograph of an anatomical heart and taped it inside. It is important to have private places as a writer, where there is no pressure to perform.

Immerse yourself in writers who speak to you. Join some form of creative community with writers who are more experienced than you. Ultimately, trust the value of you own voice, honor your instincts and stay open to wise counsel.

If you do not connect to someone else’s work they may not be an ideal mentor for you. Teachers and professors can be helpful, but take a look at their body of work before you invest too much in their critiques.

Going to open mics and public readings is a powerful way to come into your voice. For my poetry collections, I engage with performance as part of the editing process. I listen to what resonates and what feels like excess. It brings me back to the original energy of a piece.

Keep writing and refining your process. You deserve to be heard.

Thanks to both Emma and Brooke for this great interview today, as we wind down the April National Poetry Month celebration.

Description from GoodReads:

Brooke Axtell’s mesmerizing poetry explores the thirst for solace in desolate spaces. It is a thirst for cleansing, healing and rejuvenation. In her third collection of poems, she plunges the body of pain, the “remembering body,” into the renewing element of water. With fierce elegance, she reveals the core thirst of life: to experience all as sacred. Her gift of striking imagery and stunning, musical language has the power to haunt and heal. She transmutes pain into incantation. This is the alchemy of the artist.Just as Kore of Greek myth was forced into the underworld and initiated into a cycle of ascension, Axtell investigates a realm of ruin and rises to share a new vision of life. Her poems confront the ravages of violence with the relentless hope of the creative process. She explores the archetype of the wild woman, the sacred marriage of the soul, the cost of injustice, the modern sex industry, the Divine Feminine and the gift of intimacy that honors the emergence of the true untamed nature. Here is the map of one woman’s spiritual journey. You will find solace in these waters, “the healing waterfall behind the ancient wall.”

For today’s 2014 National Poetry Month: Reach for the Horizon tour stop, click the image below:

Interview With Emma Eden Ramos

As I say on the back of Emma Eden Ramos’ Still, At Your Door: A Fictional Memoir:

Still, At Your Door: A Fictional Memoir is a powerhouse of emotion from the moment you begin.  Sabrina Gibbons’ story is upended from the moment her mother drags them out of their abusive home in Butler, Penn, and drops them off with their grandparents in the Big Apple.  Like New York City, this novella precariously teeters between nightmares and dreams, exploring mutual dependence where one wrong step over the threshold can lead to disaster.”

Today, Emma has agreed to answer a few questions about her latest work.  Please give her a warm welcome, and check out my review.

1. You now have 2 full length young readers works completed and published. What inspires you to write for that audience? Is there a message you are looking to get across?

Adolescence, while it only takes up a short chapter in our lives, is a time many of us look back on with relief. “Thank God that’s over,” we say. It’s easy to leave those eight years behind and pretend they are that section in a book we’d rather not underline and revisit. In divorcing ourselves from our own painful experiences, however, we can do a great injustice to young adults who want understanding and reassurance. Yes, being a teenager can feel torturous. Yes, it seems to go on for eternity. No, it doesn’t actually last forever. It’s been ten years since I was sixteen. I attempted suicide twice, engaged in dangerous and impulsive behaviors, and assumed my daily unhappiness would never dissipate. When I look back, I wish there’d been someone there to tell me my life would get better.

The demand for YA fiction is enormous. Authors like Jacqueline Woodson, Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins have helped teens make sense of their experiences and, most importantly, validate their feelings. I’d like to follow in the footsteps of these writers. I want to write stories that resonate with young readers. I want to let teens know that they are resilient and there is hope.

2. Sabrina’s life is far from the nuclear family most people envision. Was there a particular real life experience or inspiration for her and her situation?

The idea for Still, At Your Door: A Fictional Memoir came to me after an unpleasant conversation I had with someone I am happy to say no longer has a leading role in my life. “People like you,” she said, “should never have children.” The comment lingered with me for a few days. I’d recently read Linda Gray Sexton’s memoir titled Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back to My Mother, Anne Sexton, so exploring the mother-daughter relationship was something I already wanted to do. While reading Searching for Mercy Street, I found myself identifying with both Linda Gray and Anne Sexton. Linda Gray was the first daughter of a woman who suffered from a debilitating mental illness.

She, like many children of a parent who has a psychiatric disorder, was forced to grow up quickly and learn to fend for herself. While I empathized with Linda Gray’s struggle, I caught myself wondering if I would be the kind of mother Anne Sexton was. Would the stresses of motherhood be too difficult for me, too?

One evening I was brushing my teeth and, as I caught my reflection in the mirror, I asked myself (these are the exact words), “who is the mother I don’t want to be?” Sheila, Sabrina’s mother, was the answer to my question. That was the first line on the blueprint for Still, At Your Door.

3. You’ve studied psychology and that comes through in the Still, At Your Door. What particular behavioral conditions and knowledge did you use and why?

Sheila, Sabrina’s mother, suffers from Bipolar disorder. While she is an eccentric person between episodes, Sheila, when she cycles, is at the mercy of her illness. Bipolar disorder, like other psychiatric illnesses, varies in severity from person to person. Sheila is on the higher end of the spectrum.

There are psychiatric disorders that seem to be associated with creativity. Many famous artists, while they went undiagnosed because psychiatry was in its early stages of development, showed signs of particular disorders. Virginia Woolf, for example, seemed to be Bipolar. Like many sufferers, Woolf experienced severe depression, hypomania and mania. The hypomanic phase is the phase in which people tend to feel most creative. In Sheila’s case, it is in the hypomanic phase of her cycle that she is the fun-loving, creative woman her children adore. Sheila will learn all the lines to a play in just one evening, take her children on exciting outings and still have energy to entertain a crowded restaurant with Marlene Dietrich impressions. When she is experiencing depression or full-blown mania, however, Sheila is frightening and even dangerous.

I have been interested in mental illness and its effects on creativity for some time now. Two disorders that seem to be linked directly to creativity, Bipolar disorder and Borderline personality disorder, are especially interesting to me. I am not, however, merely curious in clinical sense. For me, it’s personal. That’s another story, though.

4. How would you describe your writing process?

I tend to begin plotting a story a month or so in advance. I do most of my plotting in my head because I have a habit of losing things. I once wrote out an idea for a piece on a pamphlet I received from the Hare Krishnas in Union Square Park.

I, at some point between discussing Krishna consciousness with a lovely woman named Gopi and riding the subway, lost the outline. I’m not sure which I missed more, the pamphlet or the story idea.

It generally takes me nine months to write a book. There have been times when I’ve started a story, abandoned it, then revisited it later on. Still, At Your Door was one of those stories.

5. What projects do you have coming up next?

I’m in the process of writing another YA book. Please stay tuned!

Thanks, Emma, for taking the time to chat with us!

Still, At Your Door by Emma Eden Ramos

Source: Emma Eden Ramos, the author
Paperback, 135 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Still, At Your Door: A Fictional Memoir by Emma Eden Ramos is a powerhouse of emotion from the moment you begin. Sabrina Gibbons’ story is upended from the moment her mother drags them out of their abusive home in Butler, Penn, and drops them off with their grandparents in the Big Apple. Sabrina Gibbons’ past is just behind the scenes waiting to sweep you away as ‘Bri’ opens her journal, her memories, and her heart. She’s beginning a journey that’s much different from the one she’s been on with her mother, a journey full of promise and healing.

“There’s a hole in my shoe. I realize, curling my toes to hold in the tension, that my sand colored sock pokes through the top of my left sneaker. Perhaps the Wellness Center has extra shoes. They may be interested to know that I have a hole in my shoe. Sure, it isn’t a big hole but it may grow. If I continue to wiggle my toes, the hole could take over my entire shoe.” (page 27 ARC)

‘Bri’ is hopeful that her mother will return for her and her sisters — Missy and Grace — and that their lives as normal girls will end as quickly as it began. She’s the tempering force among her siblings, while Missy is as passionate and volatile as their mother, but Grace is just a typical youngster caught between her older sisters and things she doesn’t understand about her family dynamics. In addition to their new living situation, Bri and her sisters also must contend with being the new girls in school and all the peer pressure that comes with that. After being “homeschooled” by their mother and shuffled from town to town, they face even more pressure to conform than they expect.

As Bri tries to live a normal childhood, keep her grades up, and deal with the teens at her school who see her and her sisters as an outsider, she’s also secretly hoping for her mother to come back to bring them home. As their lives become more settled and Bri begins to find herself at ease, events conspire to push her and her family over the brink.

When the school opts for A Streetcar Named Desire as the play they will put on, Bri impulsively decides that she must try out for the role of Blanche, the role she saw her mother play years ago. A role that took on a life of its own, but despite her plans, life has its own ideas. Like New York City, Still, At Your Door precariously teeters between nightmares and dreams, exploring mutual dependence where one wrong step over the threshold can lead to disaster.

Check out the book trailer:

EmmaEdenRamos
About the Author:

Emma Eden Ramos is a writer and student from New York City. Her middle grade novella, The Realm of the Lost, was recently published by MuseItUp Publishing. Her short stories have appeared in Stories for Children Magazine, The Storyteller Tymes, BlazeVOX Journal, and other journals. Ramos’ novelette, Where the Children Play, is included in Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT Teens, edited by Eric Nguyen. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems (Heavy Hands Ink, 2011), Ramos’ first poetry chapbook, was shortlisted for the 2011 Independent Literary Award in Poetry. Emma studies psychology at Marymount Manhattan College. When she isn’t writing or studying, Emma can usually be found drinking green tea and reading on her kindle. Please read an excerpt.

Mailbox Monday #246

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  November’s host is I Totally Paused!.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received:

1.  Brady Needs a Nightlight by Brian Barlics, illustrated by Gregory Burgess Jones for review.

This book is a Mom’s Choice Award Recipient.  Is your child afraid of the dark? Are you having trouble with bedtime? You are not alone! Even those least likely to have a fear of the dark may have a story to share. In this book you will meet Brady, a bat who oddly has a terrible fear of the dark. This poses quite a dilemma for a creature that sleeps in a dark cave and comes out to play at night. Learn how Brady discovers a creative way to solve this problem…with a little help from some special, glowing friends.

2.  A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith for review.

The United States Congress in 1929 passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons’ graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. In this emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel, April Smith breathes life into a unique moment in American history, imagining the experience of five of these women.

They are strangers at the start, but their lives will become inextricably intertwined, altered in indelible ways. These very different Gold Star Mothers travel to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to say final good-byes to their sons and come together along the way to face the unexpected: a death, a scandal, and a secret revealed.

3.  Still, at Your Door: A Fictional Memoir by Emma Eden Ramos for review.

Sabrina “Bri” Gibbons has only a few short minutes to pack her things and help her sisters pack theirs before running with their mother to the bus that will whisk them away from Butler, Pennsylvania, an abusive relationship, and a secret that none of them wishes to acknowledge. She was not prepared, though, for her mother to drop them on the streets of New York with the promise that she would be right back. Haunted by the sight of her mother running back to the cab, Bri, with Missy and Grace in tow, settles in with their grandparents. Thoughts of her present and her future collide with memories of her past, her dead father, and her mother’s bizarre episodes. She watches her sisters struggle with school and acceptance, all the while knowing the lack of any sense of security will make it impossible for them to carry on as ‘normal’ children. She finally lets her guard down enough to allow someone else in and sees a faint glimmer that her dreams might be attainable. Disaster strikes again, this time targeting her sister. Is it possible for Bri to find that balance between her dreams and her family’s realities?

4.  Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich for review.

Holly Brennan used food to comfort herself through her husband’s illness and death. Now she’s alone at age thirty-two. And she weighs more than she ever has. When fate throws her in the path of Logan Montgomery, personal trainer to pro athletes, and he offers to train her, Holly concludes it must be a sign. Much as she dreads the thought of working out, Holly knows she needs to put on her big girl panties and see if she can sweat out some of her grief.

Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly to most intense and steamy workouts. But can Holly and Logan go the distance as a couple now that she’s met her goals—and other men are noticing?

5.  Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson for review.

Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, pursue a career, and marry for love. But in 1914, the stifling restrictions of aristocratic British society and her mother’s rigid expectations forbid Lilly from following her heart. When war breaks out, the spirited young woman seizes her chance for independence. Defying her parents, she moves to London and eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the newly formed Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps—an exciting and treacherous job that takes her close to the Western Front.

Assigned to a field hospital in France, Lilly is reunited with Robert Fraser, her dear brother Edward’s best friend. The handsome Scottish surgeon has always encouraged Lilly’s dreams. She doesn’t care that Robbie grew up in poverty—she yearns for their friendly affection to become something more. Lilly is the most beautiful—and forbidden—woman Robbie has ever known. Fearful for her life, he’s determined to keep her safe, even if it means breaking her heart.

6.  The Scribe by Antonio Garrido, translated by Simon Bruni, which came unexpectedly.

The year is 799, and King Charlemagne awaits coronation as the Holy Roman emperor. But in the town of Würzburg, the young, willful Theresa dreams only of following in the footsteps of her scholarly father—a quiet man who taught her the forbidden pleasures of reading and writing. Though it was unthinkable for a medieval woman to pursue a career as a craftsperson, headstrong Theresa convinces the parchment-makers’ guild to test her. If she passes, it means access to her beloved manuscripts and nothing less than true independence. But as she treats the skins before an audience of jeering workmen, unimaginable tragedy strikes—tearing apart Theresa’s family and setting in motion a cascade of mysteries that Theresa must solve if she hopes to stay alive and save her family. 

What did you receive?

Winners of The Realm of The Lost

The 2 winners of the ecopies of The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos are:

Anna of Diary of an Eccentric

and

Julie of Booking Mama

Congrats to you both!  I hope you enjoy meeting Mikey and all the rest.

Giveaway: The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos

The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos, a middle-grade fantasy novella about a 13-year-old girl, opens up a new world to readers, but also gives them pause about how they act and react in their own real lives, especially when angry or disappointed.  Ramos has an uncanny talent for creating a feisty young woman who is growing up and finding it hard to balance the changes that happen in her family life.

I reviewed Ramos’ novella in October 2012, and really enjoyed it, hoping the author would write more about these realms and the people Kat meets.  You can check out my review.

Today, I’ve got a treat for you, dear readers, a character interview and excerpt from Ramos’ novella, plus a giveaway of 2 e-copies; without further ado, please check out the interview and excerpt and enter the giveaway:

The Interview:

Today I am joined by The Realm of the Lost’s eight-year-old Mikey. Hey, Mikey, How’ve you been?

Pretty swell, I think.

You think?

Well, you know. I just…I still get into trouble sometimes.

Still? I know that was a big issue for you in the past.

Yea, I know. I guess I talk too much.

Let’s say you sometimes speak out of turn. Have you been in any trouble lately?

No, but I will be.

Really?

I shouldn’t even be talking to you. You know that!

Okay. We’ll make this quick then. I’m just checking in.

Alright. I just hope no one around here finds out.

In The Realm of the Lost, you are one of Kat’s guides, her realm brother. What was that like? A lot of responsibility, I bet.

Oh, yea! Realm brothers and sisters are very important. And I’m an old-timer, you know. Sure, I’m only eight, but I’ve been here a long time! I know this place better than anyone.

I don’t know if I’d go that far.

I would. I know this realm better than you do!

Mikey!

Sorry.

Can you briefly explain what a realm brother is?

Sure. Realm brothers and sisters are like regular brothers and sisters, only they’re not related to you. They were never part of your family on earth. In fact, you probably didn’t even know them when you were alive!

So when Kat came to The Realm of the Lost, did you immediately like having her as your realm sister?

No. Well, I did until she got bossy. Then I didn’t like her for a short time. But I got used to her.

When people read Kat’s story, they may have some questions about your past.

Why?

Because it’s interesting! You’re interesting. Still, The Realm of the Lost is mainly Kat’s story.

Does that mean she’ll get all the attention?

Well, yea. As I said, it’s her story. She tells the story.

Can I tell a story, too?

Maybe, if you want to. It’s a lot of work to tell a whole story.

I don’t think it’s that hard at all. I tell lots of stories.

Okay. We’ll have to talk about that a little later. Before I let you go, is there anything you’d like to tell those who will be reading The Ream of the Lost?

Yes. Tell them that I tell stories too! But not now. Darkness is on its way. I have to go!

Bye, Mikey. And thanks for chatting.

Goodbye. Don’t forget to tell them. I’ll see you all soon.

Yes, you sure will.

Emma Eden Ramos

Excerpt:

It was warm when I came to, and I felt no pain. Standing with ease, I bent over and inspected my pant-legs, searching for some remnant of dirt or ice. Nothing. Could this be a dream?

Then I noticed a bright orange ray reflecting off my necklace. The glare almost blinded me. I surveyed my surroundings.

Positioned atop solid dirt ground, I gasped in awe. Pine trees stood skyscraper high, haloed by dusty golden light. The sound of chirping birds echoed all around, and I spotted, to my left, what looked like a duck, but with a sharper and more pronounced beak. Bending down to inspect the creature as it waddled past, I heard a small voice from behind me.

“If you’re a poacher, you belong in the under realm.”

“What?” I asked, turning to face a boy who couldn’t be more than eight. He wore navy blue shorts that folded at the tips of his scrawny knees. His white-collared shirt, grey vest and checkered cap reminded me of something out of an old movie. I couldn’t help smiling as he stood, arms crossed, with an air of authority.

“If you’re a poacher, you are in the wrong realm,” the boy said.

“I’m not a poacher. I’ve been in an accident and–wrong realm?”

The boy sighed, twiddling his thumbs in a way that made me think of my brother.

“Okay,” he continued, after an awkward pause. “Well, first, do you know where you are?”

“Like I said, I was in an accident. I guess I passed out. I don’t–I’m not sure if my mother knows–”

“Oh. No. She wouldn’t know a thing like this.”

“A thing like what?” I demanded, stomping my foot.

“That you’ve come to the Realm of the Lost.”

Chapter two: First Journey

I opened my mouth to respond, to tell the odd boy I wasn’t in the mood for fantasy and games but I was cut off by a more grown-up sounding female voice. “Mikey! Mikey, how many times has Miss A told you? You’re not to explain anything to the newcomers!”

“She asked,” Mikey protested, fidgeting with his hands. “I can’t help if people ask me. And you can’t blame me this time because I was the first one here.”

“Shush!” the voice snapped, its owner walking out from behind one of the tall trees. She was in her mid-teens and had beautiful olive skin. Her thick black hair fell past her waist, and I immediately felt captivated by her deep-set brown eyes. “You can be such a pest.” She glared at Mikey. “And she didn’t ask. I know that be–”

“Excuse me,” I interrupted. “My mother is home with my brother. I should be with my sister Ellie. We were supposed to walk to school together, but we had a fight and Ellie–“

I have 2 e-copies of the novella up for grabs. For those interested, leave a comment here asking Mikey a question. Deadline to enter is Feb. 10, 2013, at 12 PM EST.

Interview with Emma Eden Ramos

Emma Eden Ramos is a relatively new-to-me voice in poetry and short fiction, but she’s got such a unique perspective on her stories that make it fresh and memorable.  Her poetry, particularly in Three Women that I reviewed last year, offers well drawn voices and perspectives, and her poems are memorable in the images that they create.  It is no wonder that she brings these same talents to her fiction, including the recently published The Realm of the Lost, which I reviewed earlier this week.

Today, she’s agreed to answer a few questions about her middle-grade fantasy novella, The Realm of the Lost.

1.  The Realm of the Lost is a novella for middle grade readers, and you’ve published poetry in a collection, Three Women.  How was the writing process different for these two genres?  Did one take longer than the other? Was there more editing involved with the novella versus the poetry collection, etc.?

Because Three Women: A Poetic Triptych is prose-like and tells a story, I approached it and The Realm of the Lost in much the same way. When I began writing Three Woman, however, I gave myself permission to be reckless and experimental. While the idea for The Realm of the Lost cycled through my head for about a year before I was able to go anywhere with it, Three Women took two months from start to finish.

Initially, with Three Women, I found myself saying, “This could be a giant failure, but so what? Why not try it out? Be messy!” That frame of mind turned out to be crucial because, while it shifted once I got deep into the writing, it gave me the starting point I needed. I consider myself more prose-writer than poet, so I was reserved about letting go and playing with The Realm of the Lost. Once I allowed myself room to be adventurous (and perhaps even silly at times), The Realm of the Lost began to take shape.

The Realm of the Lost certainly required more editing than Three Women. Whether that has more to do with genre or length (The Realm of the Lost being four times as long as Three Women), I don’t know. I do know that, in both cases, giving myself ample space to experiment helped the story morph into something tangible and, hopefully, soulful.

2.  Mikey, the eight-year-old boy in Realm of the Lost, is exuberant and often acts without thinking, like most little brothers.  Do you have any siblings?  If not, where did the inspiration for Mikey come from? And are their plans to write his own story?

While I do have a younger sibling (a sister), she wasn’t the inspiration for Mikey. Let’s just say that she isn’t the one known for being “overly exuberant” and acting thoughtlessly.

When I first met Mikey, I thought of him as a cross between Dickey from Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the little brother from the 1944 film National Velvet, whose signature line, “I was sick all night!” seemed to fit in with Mikey’s usual impishness.

There will be another Realm story. I can’t say for sure if it will center around Mikey. He is, nevertheless, bound to make an appearance.

3.  Rosario is a mysterious character, but she sort of takes on a big sisterly role with Kat, which is a bit of a role reversal for the protagonist.  Was this intentional and what do you think this relationship teaches Kat about her own life?

While Kat sees herself as “the patient one, the one who takes care of everyone,” she has a tendency to be quick-tempered and judgmental. As is true of many first children, Kat views her younger siblings–her sister Ellie in particular–as a burden. She is too preoccupied with being the bossy grown-up to give herself space to be a kid. When Rosario steps in and not only chastises Kat for being unkind to Mikey but takes on the role of Big Sister, Kat begins to have experiences that allow her to identify with the people she has been so quick to snub.

4.  Tell us a little bit about your process in finding a publisher for your poetry and short stories.  Do you have an organized method? How do you find the right publishers or do you have a network of writers that offer their advice?

Finding the right publisher for one’s work can be a bit like finding the right college. There is an enormous amount of research involved. With Three Women, I was asked by the editor to write a poetry chapbook, so I didn’t end up doing the research that is typically required. With The Realm of the Lost, I kept an eye out for different publishers the moment I had the idea. Stories for Children Magazine, a journal for children’s literature that published one of my stories, had a monthly newsletter that included publishing houses accepting middle grade and juvenile fiction. MuseItUp Publishing was on that list.

There are some fantastic resources out there for writers. Many genre-specific journals have a newsletter or an affiliations page on their website. It is always a good idea to search through names and visit different publishing houses’ websites. I have a list on my computer that I revisit regularly.

5.  Will your next project be middle grade readers, poetry, or something else?  Care to share some tidbits or a title to whet readers’ appetites?

My next book will be for middle grade readers. If I had a title, I’d happily share it. That is still in the works. This book, however, will be a full-length novel. I love novellas and read them regularly, and I plan to continue writing them. But yes, a novel is on its way, so please stay tuned.

Thanks, Emma, for sharing your thoughts with us about your novella, your characters, and the writing and publishing process.

About the Author:

Emma Eden Ramos is a writer and student from New York City. Her short stories have appeared in Stories for Children Magazine, The Storyteller Tymes, BlazeVOX Journal, and others. Emma’s novelette, Where the Children Play, is included in Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT Teens, edited by Eric Nguyen. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems (Heavy Hands Ink, 2011), Ramos’ first poetry chapbook, was shortlisted for the 2011 Independent Literary Award in Poetry. Emma studies psychology at Marymount Manhattan College.

The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos

The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos is a middle-grade fantasy novel about a 13-year-old girl, named Kat Gallagher, who is feisty and responsible.  She’s got younger siblings, Ellie and Colm, and a home life that is not what it once was, but she takes it on her own shoulders to care for her little brother whose sick a lot of the time.  Her and Ellie, on the other hand, act as sisters should, especially sisters who share a room.  They bicker over space, and one day on the way to school, all of the tension boils over on the streets of New York City.

An accident changes everything for Kat, and she finds herself in a place that is disconcerting to say the least.  Here, she meets Rosario and Mikey, her brother and sister in the realm, and she must contend with Miss A, her realm mother.  Between the Tallyman, the mysterious forests, and the creepy dark mists that come out at night with Apate, Kat must navigate a strange and frightening world.  What makes this world believable is Ramos’ ability to ground her characters in a place and time, despite their strange surroundings.

“Before she died, Grandma Rose gave me a sterling silver necklace bearing the Celtic triskele.  ‘This,’ she explained, pointing to each swirl that extended from the symbol’s triangular middle, ‘will bring you knowledge, power, and, someday, a safe passage.'” (from ebook, location 27)

Grandma Rose is like Kat, a feisty Irish woman who immigrated to the United States, and she is reminiscent of the grandmothers who tell tall tales from the past and generally dote on their grandchildren.  Unfortunately, we don’t see much of this relationship, but a glimpse is enough to get the gist that she’s an important part of Kat’s upbringing.  The relationship between Ellie and Kat is clear, though the relationship with their mother is a little less developed.  However, Ramos offers the right balance of plot and description to see where Kat is and when, allowing the suspense and tension to build to the twist.

The four realms and what they signify are interesting, and could bring additional inspiration for a series of novellas, if Ramos is so inclined — the possibilities are endless.  But what is truly engaging is the parallels between The Realm of the Lost and Kat’s real life, only in the lost realm, Kat is forced to take on the role of younger sibling.  The Realm of the Lost by Emma Eden Ramos is an adventure that teachers Kat that there are more important things than just whether you have your own room.

***I wanted this to be longer!***

About the Author:

Emma Eden Ramos is a writer and student from New York City. Her short stories have appeared in Stories for Children Magazine, The Storyteller Tymes, BlazeVOX Journal, and others. Emma’s novelette, Where the Children Play, is included in Resilience: Stories, Poems, Essays, Words for LGBT Teens, edited by Eric Nguyen. Three Women: A Poetic Triptych and Selected Poems (Heavy Hands Ink, 2011), Ramos’ first poetry chapbook, was shortlisted for the 2011 Independent Literary Award in Poetry. Emma studies psychology at Marymount Manhattan College.  Please visit her Website.

This is my 5th book for the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge.

National Poetry Month Winners….

Click for all the posts from the 2012 tour, including those from Savvy Verse & Wit

Even though National Poetry Month is over and the blog tour has ended, I’ve still got a couple poetry items to wrap up.

First, thanks to everyone who participated this year, and I hope to see you all again in 2013. I’d like to recruit more poets, academics, and poetry readers to provide guest posts to other tour stops and to offer up their own blog stops on the tour. So if you’re interested, feel free to email me at any time.

We had some great guest posts and reviews, and you can visit any of the posts or tour stops by clicking on the tour button.  All of the links have been added to the Mr. Linky.  If I missed a post from you, please feel free to add it.

Second, I want to congratulate the winners of the National Poetry Month Blog Tour giveaway.

Congrats to Liviania from In Bed With Books and Lilian of Circus Toybox

Congrats to Jill from Rhapsody in Books

Congrats to Lilian from Circus Toybox

Congrats to the five winners of the Trembling Pillow Press Journals: Elizabeth, Gerry, and Parrish Lantern.

Congrats to the nine winners of Real Courage by Michael Meyerhofer: Leslie from Under My Apple Tree, Anna from Diary of an Eccentric, Kathy of Bermudaonion, Diane, and Chris.

There are some winners I still have not received an address from, please send it along so I can mail out your prizes.