Quantcast

Due Today: D.C., Va., Md. High School Poems for Gaithersburg Book Festival Annual Poetry Contest

 

Today, Feb. 20, 2020, is the deadline for high school students in the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., area to submit their poems for consideration in the Gaithersburg Book Festival poetry contest.

Qualifications

  • Author must be a high school student (public, private or homeschooled, grades 9-12, in the 2019-20 school year) at time of entry.
  • Author must live in Maryland, Virginia or Washington, D.C.
  • Only one submission per author.
  • The entry cannot have been published elsewhere. It must be an original and sole work of the author.

For more information about the contest, go here.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

Source: Publisher
Hardcover, 400 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a roller coaster of emotions, but provides a fictionalized look at the journey migrants endure to escape the horrors of their homes and the people that seek to murder, rape, conscript, or abuse them. Many migration stories speak to the economic conditions of the homeland or the volatile political world, but few take us into the emotional world of the migrants’ journey to the United States.

Lydia and Luca emerge from the most tragic day of their lives running for safety. Safety is not their home or another relative’s home in Mexico, but across the border into the United States where the cartel Los Jardineros cannot reach. These are the faces of migrants. Not drug dealers, not rapists, and not criminals, but honest people forced to flee their home because suddenly the cartel is at their door thirsting for blood.

Lydia and Sebastian would have been considered to be well off compared to others in Acapulco. She owned a bookstore, and her husband was a journalist. Although many of his articles were published anonymously, anonymity only works so far when your writing about the cartel Los Jardineros. Their son, Luca, is a typical 8-year-old who loves to play, but he’s also very smart about geography. But their relatively quiet life is obliterated in one moment.

In heart-stopping detail, Cummins endears Lydia and Luca to her audience. They are real people, fleeing real dangers. They just want to live beyond today. As citizens of the United States, it is hard for us to imagine leaving all we know behind and living elsewhere because we have no choice. This is precisely why these fictional migrants are so important. They provide us a window into the many individual stories and experiences of migrants who cross the U.S. border, and what we see will not only shock us awake, but force us to revisit our prejudices and malformed notions about immigrants and why they are in the United States instead of changing things in their own countries.

“In the road ahead, two young men, two teenage boys really, tote AR-15s. Perhaps it’s precisely because that make of gun isn’t quite as prolific or as sexy as the ubiquitous AK-47 here that Lydia finds it all the more terrifying. Ridiculous, she knows. One gun will make you as dead as another. But there’s something so utilitarian about the sleek, black AR-15, like it can’t be bothered to put on a show.” (pg. 82 ARC)

There is a deep sense of powerlessness but also a determination to retrieve some power over their own lives. As Lydia and Luca cross paths with other migrants, the picture becomes more detailed, more graphic, more upending. Even Lydia must come to terms with her own perceptions and pities she had for migrants…those views she had before she was forced to become a migrant herself. Her life as a bookstore owner, reader, middle-income mother blinded her in many ways to what was right in front of her until it is already too late. Much of her blindness is due to her inability to resist the charm of an educated reader, someone who clearly sees in her prey to be captured. The decisions she makes from the moment of tragedy until the end of the novel are governed by a her new perspective. Never take a mother’s love for granted; it is a powerful force.

Migrants from Mexico and Central America struggle to make it to the United States, many atop La Bestia. They face starvation, dehydration, robbery, rape, murder, human trafficking and so much more, as the cartels continue to carve up these countries and sell their people to the highest bidder. IS America the sanctuary that many migrants believe it to be? No. But Cummins highlights those moments too in the stories Lydia is told from migrants returning home and those returning to the United States even though they were kicked out. With American dirt in the title, readers must reconsider what “American” means. Not all of the dirt/borders are considered American in the United States, yet residents of North and South America are all American.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is the “IT” book for 2020 and without question all of the hype and praise is well deserved. This book has so many layers and would be a fantastic pick for book clubs everywhere. It is life changing; it is a book to open the eyes of the “America” we want to be to the eyes of the America we are. We are all American, regardless of the country in which we live or which country we came from.

RATING: Cinquain

***If you are in the Gaithersburg, Md., area, please join us for our first book club. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was selected as the first book for Gaithersburg Reads, a community book club read.

***Our big, giant book discussion event with Jeanine Cummins will be on March 31st, 7pm, at Gaithersburg High School Performing Arts Center.

 

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Jeanine Cummins is the author of four books: the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven, and the novels The Outside BoyThe Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Mailbox Monday #533

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, which I purchased at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness.

Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.

In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.

Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, which I purchased at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

A piercingly raw debut story collection from a young writer with an explosive voice; a treacherously surreal, and, at times, heartbreakingly satirical look at what it’s like to be young and black in America.

From the start of this extraordinary debut, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s writing will grab you, haunt you, enrage and invigorate you. By placing ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, Adjei-Brenyah reveals the violence, injustice, and painful absurdities that black men and women contend with every day in this country.

These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In “The Finkelstein Five,” Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In “Zimmer Land,” we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And “Friday Black” and “How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King” show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.

Entirely fresh in its style and perspective, and sure to appeal to fans of Colson Whitehead, Marlon James, and George Saunders, Friday Black confronts readers with a complicated, insistent, wrenching chorus of emotions, the final note of which, remarkably, is hope.

Other Voices, Other Lives by Grace Cavalieri, which I purchased at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.

Other Voices, Other Lives is a selection of poems, plays, and interviews drawn from over 40 years of work by one of America’s most beloved and influential women of letters. Grace Cavalieri writes of women’s lives, loves, and work in a multitude of voices. The book also includes interview excerpts from her public radio series, The Poet & the Poem. Her incisive interviews with Robert Pinsky, Lucille Clifton, and Josephine Jacobsen offer profound insights into the writing life.

This series is devoted to career-spanning collections from writers who meet the following three criteria: The majority of their books have been published by independent presses; they are active in more than one literary genre; and they are consistent and influential champions of the work of other writers, whether through publishing, reviewing, teaching, mentoring, or some combination of these. Modeled after the “readers” popular in academia in the mid-20th centuries, our Legacy Series allows readers to trace the arc of a significant writer’s literary development in a single, representative volume.

Green Card & Other Essays by Áine Greaney for review.

In Green Card and Other Essays, Áine Greaney invites her readers to follow her three-decades’ long journey from Irish citizen and resident to new immigrant and green card holder to dual citizenship that now includes naturalized U.S. citizenship. These first-person essays offer an intimate perspective on the challenges—fear, displacement, assimilation and dueling identities—faced by many immigrants from all countries. They explore what inspires us to commit to a new country—and what holds us back. As a collection, Green Card exemplifies the power of storytelling to build bridges of understanding and a deeper joy in our shared humanity.

What did you receive?

DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry and More

This National Poetry Month, I was finally able to make it to the local reading at the Gaithersburg Public Library for the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg monthly poetry reading and open mic. It was amazing to hear Lalita Noronha, Marianne Szlyk, and Henry Crawford live. All three were fantastic, with Szlyk reading a poem about Worcester, Mass., which is near where I lived as a child. Crawford has a riotous presence at the mic and captivated much of the audience. Noronha was engaging as well, though I was a bit late to the reading and did not hear all of her poems (which made me a bit upset).

Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman also came to speak about the Gaithersburg Book Festival, which many of you already know is one of my favorites. It happens every May, and it is free and family friendly. Kids activities, writing workshops, books, authors, and tons more. Ashman spoke about some of his favorite books and authors featured this year, as well as the National Poetry Month proclamation received by DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg founder Lucinda Marshall.

During the full open mic set, I was able to read one of my poems in the Love_Is_Love: An Anthology for LGBTQIA+ Teens. Check that out below:

Lastly, the DiVerse Poetry Gaithersburg event will be moving in the fall to the Quince Orchard Library. Readings will resume in September. Here’s the schedule, but keep in touch with schedules, etc. at the website:

  • September 8
  • October 13
  • November 10
  • December 8

Hope to see you there or at the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 18, 2019.

April Poetry and Fiction Festival News

April is often the time when the Internet explodes with posts and articles celebrating poetry. This year is no different.

Even without April’s celebration, however, Split This Rock has been celebrating poetry and activism for 10 years. On this 10-year anniversary, some of the best poets will be flooding Washington, D.C.,  April 19-21: Elizabeth Acevedo, Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, Sherwin Bitsui, Kwame Dawes, Camille T. Dungy, Ilya Kaminsky, Sharon Olds, Sonia Sanchez, Solmaz Sharif, Terisa Siagatonu, Paul Tran, and Javier Zamora.

Even if you cannot afford to go to the panels, there are open to the public readings in the evenings —  1201 15th St., NW:

    • Thursday, April 19 | 7-8:30 PM
      Camille T. Dungy, Sharon Olds, Javier Zamora
    • Friday, April 20 | 7-8:30 PM
      Elizabeth Acevedo, Sherwin Bitsui, Kwame Dawes, Solmaz Sharif
    • Saturday, April 21 | 4:15-5:45 PM
      Kazim Ali, Ellen Bass, Terisa Siagatonu
    • Saturday, April 21 | 7:30-9 PM
      Ilya Kaminsky, Sonia Sanchez, Paul Tran

I’ve attended this festival several times, and it is always a life-changing experience.

Beyond April and into May, literary festivals continue. In Gaithersburg, Md., residents and authors will meet on the City Hall grounds on May 19, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

This is another go-to festival for me: Gaithersburg Book Festival

The authors I’m most looking forward to are: Kim Roberts and her Literary Guide to Washington, D.C., Gayle Forman and her latest I Have Lost My Way, Deborah Heiligman and her book Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers, Gareth Hinds and his illustrated book Poe, Alma Katsu and her latest The Hunger, and Kateema Lee, who read at the last DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading, with Almost Invisible.

I’ll be there on May 19, will you?

Also, in case you missed it, there was a wonderful piece in The New York Times about our U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith and her work to bring poetry to rural areas as a cure for our currently toxic culture.

In the piece, she said, “I want to just go to places where writers don’t usually go, where people like me don’t usually show up, and say: ‘Here are some poems. Do they speak to you? What do you hear in them?'”

It’s a wonderful piece and well worth the read.

4th DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading Recap

Unfortunately, I missed the 3rd reading due to other obligations.

However, this past weekend’s DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading and Open Mic at the Gaithersburg Public Library had a spectacular lineup with Marlena ChertockKateema LeeJoseph Ross, as well as special guest Gaithersburg Mayor Jud Ashman, who spoke about the upcoming Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 19.

Ross kicked off the reading with poems from his collection Ache, many of which are written in the voice of famous civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Nelson Mandela. The collection touches on a great need for empathy and highlights some of the most horrible events in recent history, particularly the murder of black young men. I did want to ask how much consideration he gave to the community he was writing about when writing in these voices, but I’m not one to start controversial arguments in public settings. I did enjoy what was read from the collection and thought it well done. One beautiful thing about poetry readings is you can directly buy books from the poets you hear — no waiting, no forgetting their names (I’m horrible at remembering names) after the reading when life gets in the way…

Marlena Chertock’s poems were definitely different in that they exposed pain and suffering with the help of science and space exploration. Her poems immediately reminded me of the science-based poems of Jeannine Hall Gailey and others. Chertock’s style carries a very personal voice, a perspective from a short woman with bones that are older than her chronological age. Crumb-sized: Poems was the collection she read from the most and her “Application to NASA” had me hooked. Even the cover suggests “space” or at least “planets.” (my review forthcoming)

Kateema Lee has a new collection of poems, Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer, coming from Finishing Line Press that I just pre-ordered on their website. Her poems from this collection really caught everyone’s attention, especially with her rhythmic lines and humor. She also read from Almost Invisible, her first collection, and these were more sobering poems about her relationship with her Vietnam War veteran father. I had hoped to speak with her about the collection and her father, as well as buy a copy but she disappeared before I got to it. It was simply a busy reading. I know that she and Chertock will be at the 2018 Split This Rock Poetry Festival April 19-21 in D.C., so perhaps I will run into her again.

Lucinda Marshall, who has been the point person for these readings, solicited ideas from the audience about how to spread more poetry to the community. My daughter even filled out her notecard. You can find those ideas here.

Some of them are already being used in D.C., and it would be fantastic to see some of them used in Maryland’s Montgomery County.

For the special Mother’s Day poetry reading, check out the 2018 calendar of events. See you at the next reading.

Mailbox Monday #378

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

Two Cool Coyotes by Jillian Lund from the Gaithersburg Book Festival second-hand book sale.

Frank the coyote is sad when his friend Angelina moves away, but then he finds a new friend when Larry moves into the den next door.

Where’s Waldo? The Fantastic Journey by Martin Handford from the Gaithersburg Book Festival Politics & Prose tent.

Now in paperback for the first time!

The elusive little guy you loved as a kid has ventured into an affordable new format, ready to boggle a new generationl. Now he’s easier to carry around — but just as hard as ever to find!

The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton, which I purchased in the Politics & Prose tent at the Gaithersburg Book Festival.  I gave my mom the ARC to enjoy but wanted this one for my personal library and the autograph makes this 5-star read even more of a treasure.

Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have already had to endure enormous danger and frustrating obstacles—including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can do. Even so, Liv wants more.

Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she’s determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.

Ah-Choo! by Lana Wayne Koehler and Gloria G. Adams, illustrated by Ken Min for review from Sterling Children’s Books.

When hunting for his new best friend, a boy goes through an alphabetical menagerie of animals. From an antelope, to bobolink birds, to wolves and zebras—and of course, a cat and dog, too—he brings them all home. But each creature just makes his sister go AH-CHOO! Will he ever be able to have the perfect pet?

Watch the Birdie! by Nancy Cote from Sky Pony Press for review.

Mousey was watching a baby bird when it fell from its nest. The baby bird is okay, but she can’t fly yet! So how will she get back up the tree to safety? Mousey may be too small to get the baby bird back up by himself, but maybe he can find somebody else who can! Maybe a frog can jump high enough. Or maybe a bunny can hop far enough. Maybe a snail will be able to crawl his way up the tree . . .

Will Mousey be able to save the baby bird? Or will the hungry cat get in the way of Mousey’s valiant attempts? Sometimes it’s just the size of your heart that really counts.

How the Crayons Saved the Rainbow by Monica Sweeney, illustrated by Feronia Parker Thomas for review from Sky Pony Press.

The Sun and the Clouds are best friends. Together they keep the world warm, the gardens growing, and the sky full of beautiful rainbows. But one day they get into a fight and refuse to be in the sky together. And that means there are no longer any rainbows. Without rainbows, the colors start disappearing until Earth was left with no color … except for one little forgotten box of crayons in one little school desk.

Determined to save the rainbows and fix the Sun and Clouds’ friendship, the crayons draw rainbows all over town. Their attempts go unnoticed. Soon they realize that they’re going to have to do something big to get the attention of the former friends. So, the crayons create the biggest rainbow they can and hope it’s enough to bring color back to the world.

My Amazing Dad by Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Tom Jellett for review from Sky Pony Press.

This dad is not like other dads. He is not good at:

Mowing the lawn,
Getting his children to school on time,
Baking cakes,
Fixing a leaky faucet, or
Remembering bed time

But….

My Grandpa Is a Dinosaur by Richard Fairgray, illustrated by Terry Jones for review from Sky Pony Press.

This little girl has been watching her grandpa for a very long time, and she is almost absolutely certain that he is a dinosaur. So why is it that nobody believes her? Why can’t anyone else see what she sees? He roars! (And no, it’s not just a snore.) He has green skin! (And no, he’s not from outer space.) He even has a tail! (And no, he’s not a horse!) Determined to get to the bottom of this mystery, the little girl goes straight to the source. It’s time to ask Grandpa once and for all: is he a dinosaur?

Darcy By Any Other Name by Laura Hile, which I won from Just Jane 1813.

At Netherfield, a glorious evening of music and dancing…

But out in the garden two men are arguing, while a ferocious rainstorm swirls round. And then the unthinkable happens: a lightning bolt from heaven strikes. In that instant everything changes.

Jane Austen’s heartthrob hero becomes the bumbling Reverend Collins.

Shorn of his fortune, his social standing, and his good looks, Mr. Darcy is trapped in Mr. Collins’ body. And Mr. Collins wakes up to discover that he is master of Pemberley. Could there be anything worse?

But the inner man is still Darcy. He is in love with Elizabeth Bennet. And now he is living in her house.

The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak, which came unexpectedly from Tandem Literary.

The rich and powerful Josephine Lazarow, matriarch of Fairham Island, is dead. The police say it’s suicide, but Keith, her estranged son, doesn’t believe it.

Keith bears scars—both physical and emotional—from his childhood, but he’s worked hard to overcome the past. After walking away from his mother and her controlling ways five years ago, he’s built a new life in LA. He’s also accumulated a fortune of his own. But as soon as he learns of his mother’s death, he returns to Fairham. He feels he owes it to his grandfather to put the family empire together again—and he’s determined to find his mother’s killer.

Problem is…coming home to Fairham puts him back in contact with Nancy Dellinger, the woman he hurt so badly when he left before. And digging that deep into his mother’s final days and hours entails a very real risk. 

What did you receive?

Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson

Source: Tupelo Press
Paperback, 114 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, is a collection of poems written in French and Creole that have been translated into English. Dracius’s poems are very musical, and that musicality is carried over from the French and Creole by Carlson’s English translations.  Looking at the poems sitting side-by-side, readers can see similar rhythmic patterns.  French and Creole are very similar languages, which probably makes translation a bit easier.

Carlson, who I had the privilege of introducing, was at the 2016 Gaithersburg Book Festival to talk about her work in translation.  She creates sound maps of the poems using her limited skills in French, and from these sound maps she seeks out the best English words to use for the translation, keeping with the subject matter and feel of each poem.  Listening to her speak about the translation process she uses was fascinating, and audience members were thrilled to learn more about it.

From "Pointe des Nègres" (pg. 13-17)

"... from my rod driven
deep in the depths of the sea,
Negroes in lots, in piles were born
over and over again,
cargoes of Negroes
for the auction block,
from my seed in the fizz
of the ocean's womb
when I raped, without shame,
the immense Caribbean expanse."

Dracius’ poems speak to the experience of Calazazas, people who are of mixed race and have read or blond hair.  Dracius, a Calazaza herself, is considered too light to fit in Martinique but in Paris, where she spends some of her time, she is considered too dark.  It is this displacement, a feeling of not fitting in that permeates each of her poems. Her poems also talk of history and mythology and relate those to the experience of displacement, living without a home or somewhere to fit in.

From "To Cendra's Ashes" (pg. 85-89)

Cendra, her name was Cendra.
When he had consumed her in fires of false criminal love, did he look at her face?
The only object of his thoughts was Cendra:
Reduce Cendra to ashes like one is reduced to a slave.

There is unbound love, there is obsessive love, and there is profound loss in these pages, but Dracius handles these with care, shedding light on the darkness and the hope. Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, is puzzle of emotions that will churn in the seas of the reader’s mind, only providing glimpses of hope in a stormy expanse.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

Born in Martinique, a writer and professor of Classics graduate of the Sorbonne, Suzanne Dracius published in 1989 her first novel, L’autre qui danse, finalist for the Prix du Premier Roman (Seghers ; Editions du Rocher 2007. English translation by Nancy Carlson, Seagull, London, 2015). Her stories, which feature strong, rebellious women characters, have been published in her collection of stories, Rue Monte au Ciel, Coup de coeur FNAC (Desnel, 2003 ; English translation by James Davis Climb to the Sky, UVA Press, USA, 2012). In 2008, Dracius published Exquise déréliction métisse, collection of poems who won the Prix Fetkann (English translation by Nancy Carlson, Tupelo Press, USA, 2015 and Spanish translation by Verónica Martínez Lira, Espejo de Viento, Mexico, 2013). In 2010, Dracius won a Prix de la Société des Poètes Français (Prize of the Society of the French Poets) for its whole work. In 2014, she published Déictique féminitude insulaire, poems.

In 1995, Dracius stayed in the USA as a Visiting Professor, lecturing about her own books at the University of Georgia, and in 2006, at Ohio University. In 2009, Dracius is invited to a writer’s residency at Cove Park (Scotland). Dracius is FFRI (France-Florida Research Institute) Visiting Professor in February 2012.

About the Translator:

Nancy Naomi Carlson, Ph.D. has won grants from the NEA, Maryland Arts Council, and Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County.  Poet, translator, and associate editor for Tupelo Press, her work has appeared over 350 times, including Poetry and Prairie Schooner, and forthcoming in APR,  The Georgia Review, and FIELD.  She is the author of three collections of poetry and three translations, including The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper: Translations of Abdourahman Waberi (Seagull Books, distributed by U of Chicago Press).

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2016

gbfIt’s that time again for the Gaithersburg Book Festival.  I really love this festival because it’s very low key and includes activities for children of all ages.

Attendees can listen to authors speak about their books and topics, and they can get their books signed, among other things.

This year, I’ll be introducing two panels, and I’d love to see you there:

I’m also looking forward to these panels:

I hope to see you there.

Mailbox Monday #374

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog.

To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links.  Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Vicki, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what I received:

The Hundred Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey by Dawn Anahid MacKeen, a win from Reading Group Choices.

An epic tale of one man’s courage in the face of genocide and his granddaughter’s quest to tell his story

In the heart of the Ottoman Empire as World War I rages, Stepan Miskjian’s world becomes undone. He is separated from his family as they are swept up in the government’s mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps. Gradually realizing the unthinkable—that they are all being driven to their deaths—he fights, through starvation and thirst, not to lose hope. Just before killing squads slaughter his caravan during a forced desert march, Stepan manages to escape, making a perilous six-day trek to the Euphrates River carrying nothing more than two cups of water and one gold coin. In his desperate bid for survival, Stepan dons disguises, outmaneuvers gendarmes, and, when he least expects it, encounters the miraculous kindness of strangers.

The Hundred-Year Walk alternates between Stepan’s saga and another journey that takes place a century later, after his family discovers his long-lost journals. Reading this rare firsthand account, his granddaughter Dawn MacKeen finds herself first drawn into the colorful bazaars before the war and then into the horrors Stepan later endured. Inspired to retrace his steps, she sets out alone to Turkey and Syria, shadowing her resourceful, resilient grandfather across a landscape still rife with tension. With his journals guiding her, she grows ever closer to the man she barely knew as a child. Their shared story is a testament to family, to home, and to the power of the human spirit to transcend the barriers of religion, ethnicity, and even time itself.

Jefferson’s America by Julie M. Fenster for review from LibraryThing Early Reviewers.

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation.

Responsible for orchestrating the American push into the continent was President Thomas Jefferson. He most famously recruited Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who led the Corps of Discovery to the Pacific, but at the same time there were other teams who did the same work, in places where it was even more crucial. William Dunbar, George Hunter, Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and the dauntless Zebulon Pike—all were dispatched on urgent missions to map the frontier and keep up a steady correspondence with Washington about their findings.

But they weren’t always well-matched—with each other and certainly not with a Spanish army of a thousand soldiers or more. These tensions threatened to undermine Jefferson’s goals for the nascent country, leaving the United States in danger of losing its foothold in the West. Deeply researched and inspiringly told, Jefferson’s America rediscovers the robust and often harrowing action from these seminal expeditions and illuminates the president’s vision for a continental America.

Calazaza’s Delicious Dereliction by Suzanne Dracius, translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson from Tupelo Press in preparation for the Gaithersburg Book Festival on May 21.  BE There!

Poetry. Caribbean Studies. Translated from the French and Creole by Nancy Naomi Carlson. In her polyphonic poems, Suzanne Dracius creates protagonists usually calazazas, light-skinned mulatto women with red or blond hair who fight like Amazons against racial and gender discrimination. Dracius’ voice is leaping and exalted, often sexually charged, and infused with allusions to Greek and Roman mythology. Nancy Naomi Carlson has translated Dracius’s Exquise dereliction metisse, poems written in French yet including some Creole versions, and with Creole expressions sprinkled throughout. In French, this book was awarded the prestigious Prix Fetkann, whose judges cited the poet’s richness of language, with varied linguistic registers.”

What did you receive?

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2015

Every year in May I look forward to attending the local book festival of local artists, poets, and authors sharing their words and ideas with us.  Each year, there are writing workshops and activities for whole families, including young kids.  Click the image for this year’s schedule.

During the 2013 festival, I had the honor of introducing three poets — Eric Pankey, Sally Keith, and Sarah Arvio — which went well despite the rain when fellow book clubbers came to hear them read and me introduce them.  It was all very informal for Poetry in the Afternoon.

This year, I have the great honor of moderating a panel for two wonderful historical fiction authors — Sarah McCoy and Erika Robuck!  I cannot wait to introduce them to readers and then ask them questions!

If you’re going to be in town and want an easy way to navigate the festival and its panels, there’s an app for that — and it’s free — for Android and Apple phones!  I’ve been playing around with it and marking my favorite panels that I want to see.

Where: 

Gaithersburg City Hall
31 S. Summit Avenue
Gaithersburg, MD 20877

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Gaithersburg Book Festival

The Gaithersburg Book Festival is a family-oriented event, with a number of activities for kids of most ages.  From making crafts to enjoying story time with Dr. Seuss, kids were running around and laughing.

The layout of the tents is circuitous, but at least there were enough trees to provide shade.  A number of tents housed sponsors of the event, and some of them had nothing to do with books or reading.  However, this shows that support for reading is still out there among companies.  Members of First Book, the Writers Center (Hi, Kyle!), local authors, local publishers (Hi, Dan of Atticus Books), and more were on hand to discuss their various programs and books.

There were demonstrations, music, and readings, plus workshops.  Unfortunately, I was a bit distracted looking for a bathroom with a changing table for about 15 minutes as the information booth volunteers weren’t that helpful.  We ended up in city hall using a desk — a bit inconvenient.  We did get a chance to check out the book buying tent by Barnes & Noble and the Friends of the Library used book sale, which was mostly kids books — books geared for those reading on their own.  I did learn a little bit about the Reading Tree — Books for Charity and their drive to collect books and recycle them back into the school system and among disadvantaged/needy families in the local area.  What a great cause, and it keeps those used books out of landfills.

One of the most entertaining events in the kids tent was the Unicycle/Recycle lady.  I’ve included a picture of her, but you can check out more photos of her, here (you’ll also see some photos of us and Wiggles).  She had a dog/sidekick named Enzo, which I wondered if he was named after Garth Stein’s Enzo.  They fight against litterbugs together, and the dog does tricks…though not always when he’s supposed to.  It was certainly entertaining, but she was getting shooed off the stage because her program ran over.  We thought she needed an assistant to set up her juggling stuff and various unicycles for her, since that took the longest.

Overall, the event was a small family event that allows kids and parents some time outside on a nice sunny day.  Kids learn new things and enjoy crafts, while parents get to listen to their favorite local and not-so-local authors.