Mailbox Monday #384

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 Hermit by Thomas Rydahl, translated by K.E. Semmel, for review.

A car is found crashed on a beach in the Canary Island resort of Fuerteventura. In the trunk is a cardboard box containing the body of a small boy — no one knows his name, and there is no trace of a driver.

The last thing Fuerteventura needs is a murder. The island’s already got half-empty bars and windswept beaches, and the local police are under pressure to cut the investigation short.

But long-time islander Erhard, who sees more than most people, won’t let the investigation drop — and he has nothing to lose. He has severed ties with his wife and child in Denmark and has cut himself off from the modern world.

The question is: can an old man who knows nothing about mobile phones, the internet or social media possibly solve a murder in the modern world, especially one that stretches far beyond the sandy beaches of Fuerteventura?

Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede, which I purchased for book club.

Snow White and Rose Red live on the edge of the forest that conceals the elusive border of Faerie. They know enough about Faerie lands and mortal magic to be concerned when they find two human sorcerers setting spells near the border. And when the kindly, intelligent black bear wanders into their cottage some months later, they realize the connection between his plight and the sorcery they saw in the forest.

Amazon Kindle Freebies:

An American Airman in Paris by Beatriz Williams

Octavian Rofrano has never met the girl whose photograph was his constant companion through the long days and nights of the Great War. The promises he made to himself and that far-away image in the silence of his cockpit have never left him, but the anguish and loneliness of post-Armistice Paris has crept into his bones. One night, Octavian finally decides to lose himself in the sad beauty the City of Lights offers, but as reminders of that 11th day of November fill his mind, can he let go of past hopes or does the promise of salvation still have a hold on him?

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Elizabeth left her family’s home in Seattle fifteen years ago to pursue her lifelong dream—chefing her own restaurant in New York City. Jane stayed behind to raise a family. Estranged since their mother’s death many years ago, the circumstances of their lives are about to bring them together once again.

Known for her absolute command of her culinary domain, Elizabeth’s gifts in the kitchen have begun to elude her. And patrons and reviewers are noticing. In need of some rest and an opportunity to recover her passion for cooking, Elizabeth jumps at the excuse to rush to her sister’s bedside when Jane is diagnosed with cancer. After all, Elizabeth did the same for their mother. Perhaps this time, it will make a difference.

As Elizabeth pours her renewed energy into her sister’s care and into her burgeoning interest in Nick, Jane’s handsome coworker, her life begins to evolve from the singular pursuit of her own dream into the beautiful world of family, food, literature, and love that was shattered when she and Jane lost their mother. Will she stay and become Lizzy to her sister’s Jane—and Elizabeth to Nick’s Mr. Darcy—or will she return to the life she has worked so hard to create?

Yes, Mr. Darcy by J. Dawn King

Elizabeth Bennet’s girlish dreams of love and romance are shattered. Her father has decided she will be the one to secure her family’s future through a marriage of convenience to his heir. Disappointment and sadness weigh her soul when she travels with her aunt and uncle—a consolation before she submits to duty. When she sees the reflection of her heartbreak in the face of an unknown young lady, Elizabeth reaches out to the girl, extending a hopeful outlook she herself has been denied. Mr. Darcy regrets missing the opportunity to know the pretty stranger who helped his grieving, younger sister rise above her sadness. Hope keeps him seeking her face in every crowd. As time passes it seems the woman he admires might be an ephemeral dream born of his heart’s desire. Darcy finally finds her when he is forced to visit his friend, Mr. Bingley, but is she already taken? Can he restore hope to this woman he barely knows? Will she let him?

Lost to the Ocean by Melanie Schertz

Elizabeth Bennet and Georgiana Darcy were friends of long standing when they ventured a trip together to Ramsgate. While there, they are kidnapped by George Wickham, taken on a waiting ship which was to take them to Portugal. But these plans are waylaid by a storm which destroys the ship, leaving the young ladies on the shores of war torn France. While Georgiana’s brother rushes to find them, could there be someone still in England who was mysteriously behind Wickham’s behavior?

Mister Darcy’s Dogs by Barbara Silkstone

Doctor Lizzie Bennet, struggling against her conservative English countryside upbringing, determines to prove her worth as a dog psychologist. Nothing will deter her from her career until she meets the uppity and oh-so mysterious Londoner, Mister Darcy. His on-again, off-again flirtatious manner, and his pompous putdowns challenge Lizzie’s short temper. When Mister Darcy hires her to train his lovable basset hounds for an important foxhunt, Lizzie accepts the task despite knowing next to nothing about the sport and harboring an intense fear of horses.

Two of the villains Austen fans love to boo and hiss arrive to torment Lizzie: Caroline Bingley, in hot pursuit of Mister Darcy does all she can to discredit and humiliate Lizzie. Mister Darcy’s old nemesis, George Wickham, stalks the Bennet family.

My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White

After being dragged to the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice by her mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth’s life changes when Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy appears on the screen. Lizzie falls hard and makes a promise to herself that she will settle for nothing less than her own Mr. Darcy. This ill-advised pledge threatens to ruin any chance of finding true love. During the six intervening years, she has refused to give any interested suitors a chance. They weren’t Mr. Darcy enough.

Coerced by her roommate, Elizabeth agrees to give the next interested guy ten dates before she dumps him. That guy is Chad, a kind and thoughtful science teacher and swim coach. While she’s dating Chad, her dream comes true in the form of a wealthy bookstore owner named Matt Dawson, who looks and acts like her Mr. Darcy. Of course she has to follow her dream. But as Elizabeth simultaneously dates a regular guy and the dazzling Mr. Dawson, she’s forced to re-evaluate what it was she loved about Mr. Darcy in the first place.

Devour (book 1) by Shelly Crane

Clara has it all.

A wrestling-star boyfriend, she’s popular, tons of friends, all the right school activities, pretty much a perfect life…up until her parents died. Now she lives with the town pastor and his family, and though they take good care of her, she feels alone in a crowd of people.

But when a new guy comes to town, Clara is fascinated with him, no matter how much she tries to fight it, and her carefully constructed, perfect little world begins to crumble. And then things take a turn for the…unexplainable. Eli confesses to her that she gives him something he’s never had before, something he needs.

Everything is about to change for this normal, pretty, popular girl in a supernatural way.

Queen of Someday (book 1) by Sherry Ficklin

Before she can become the greatest empress in history, fifteen-year-old Sophie will have to survive her social-climbing mother’s quest to put her on the throne of Russia—at any cost.

Imperial Court holds dangers like nothing Sophie has ever faced before. In the heart of St. Petersburg, surviving means navigating the political, romantic, and religious demands of the bitter Empress Elizabeth and her handsome, but sadistic nephew, Peter. Determined to save her impoverished family—and herself—Sophie vows to do whatever is necessary to thrive in her new surroundings. But an attempt on her life and an unexpected attraction threatens to derail her plans.

Alone in a new and dangerous world, learning who to trust and who to charm may mean the difference between becoming queen and being sent home in shame to marry her lecherous uncle. With traitors and murderers lurking around every corner, her very life hangs in the balance. Betrothed to one man but falling in love with another, Sophie will need to decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice in order to become the empress she is destined to be.

Dark Desires (book 1) by Eve Silver

Betrayed by those she trusted, penniless and alone, Darcie Finch is forced to accept a position that no one else dares, as assistant to dangerously attractive Dr. Damien Cole. Ignoring the whispered warnings and rumours that he’s a man to fear, she takes her position at his eerie estate where she quickly discovers that nothing is at it seems, least of all her handsome and brooding employer. As Darcie struggles with her fierce attraction to Damien, she must also deal with the blood, the disappearances … and the murders.

With her options dwindling and time running out, Darcie must rely on her instincts as she confronts the man she is falling in love with. Is he an innocent and misunderstood man … or a remorseless killer who prowls the East End streets?

Snowy White World to Save by Stephanie Lisa Tara

Where has mother gone? Mothers don’t leave. Mothers stay, forever. Mothers are like redwood trees, those special forever trees that grow hundreds of feet high and live for thousands of years. Mothers read storybooks aloud. They know the power of a story. Power that can even make the wrong-beats of a child’s heart go away.

Maybe the monarch butterfly was right? Perhaps they should make the journey. The one that was too long, and too far, for a girl with a wrong-beating heart. Yet there was someone in the redwood forest that Eliza just knew could help. Not just any someone. Another mother. The first mother. The one, Eliza’s own mother had spoken of. Great Mother Redwood. The very first, the oldest and wisest redwood tree of them all. She, who started the forest thousands of years ago, might know where mother had gone. It seemed impossible. To find one who had never been seen, one who had only been spoken of? Yet. Mothers dont leave. They are like redwood trees. They stay, forever.

Eliza decided she must try. She would put one foot in front of the other, slowly. She would take small steps. She knew the butterfly would be patient alongside her. Down the path. To the forever trees.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 CDs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is the second book in the Department Q series — though you don’t have to read the previous one to follow along with this one — and Detective Carl Mørck is leading the new department with his assistant Assad in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This department’s focus is cold cases, reopening them to find new clues with fresh eyes, and what Mørck finds is a little more is disturbing.  Reviewing a case of murders from 1987 that involved a gang of young men and women, the detective, Assad, and his new assistant Rose Knudsen are forced to reassess their world view and the motivations of killers.

Adler-Olsen creates a set of murders that are not only over-the-top, but the perpetrators are as well.  Their hyped-up sense of pleasure from beatings, killings, and torture is reminiscent of the television show American Horror Story.  Some of these killers come from the upper echelons of society, and like those before them, they believe they are untouchable because of their place in society and what they have accomplished.  It’s clear that these accomplishments are not enough to sustain their attention or satisfaction; these are men and women who are dissatisfied with their success and are seduced by the dark side (pun intended).  Despite these absurdly crazy characters, and the absent one from the murderous gang who seems to stay enough on the radar to attract the attention of Detective Mørck but not her cohorts, the story has great tension and a layered revealing of events that keep readers hooked.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is a well paced thriller with bits of comedic banker between Mørck, Assad, and Rose that will leave readers wondering about what they missed in book one if they start here.  This seems like a series readers will get sucked into without really knowing how.  The unusual characters, the foreign setting for U.S. readers, and the noir quality of the situations will entice readers to enter Adler-Olsen’s world cautiously.

About the Author:

Author Jussi Adler-Olsen began in the 1990s to write novels after having followed a comprehensive career as publisher, editor, film composer for the Valhalla-cartoon and as bookseller.

He made his debut with the thriller “Alfabethuset” (1997), which reached bestseller status both in Denmark and internationally just like his subsequent novels “And She Thanked the Gods” (prev. “The Company Basher”) (2003) and “The Washington Decree” (2006). The first book on Department Q is “Kvinden I buret” (2007) and the second “Fasandræberne” (2008). The main detective is Deputy Superintendent Carl Morck from the Department Q and he is also the star of the third volume, “Flaskepost fra P” which was released in the fall of 2009 and secured Adler-Olsen ”Readers’ Book Award” from Berlingske Tidende-readers, the Harald Mogensen Prize as well as the Scandinavian Crime Society’s most prestigious price ”Glass Key”. The fourth volume in the Department Q series, “Journal 64” was published in 2010 and he was awarded the once-in-a-lifetime-prize of “The Golden Laurels” for this in 2011”. In December 2012 the fifth novel was published, “Marco Effekten”.

Photo Credit: Eric Druxman

About the Translator:

K. E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, Washington Post, World Literature Today, Southern Review, Subtropics, and elsewhere. His translations include books by Naja Marie Aidt, Karin Fossum, Erik Valeur, Jussi Adler Olsen, Simon Fruelund and, forthcoming in winter 2016, Jesper Bugge Kold. He is a recipient of numerous grants from the Danish Arts Foundation and is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow.

Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund, translated by K.E. Semmel

Source: K.E. Semmel, translator
Paperback, 110 pages
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Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund, translated by K.E. Semmel is a collection of short stories translated from Danish to English.  This slim collection is not only nuanced, but powerful in how it uses stripped down prose to examine complexities in human relationships.  From the brothers who clearly have become estranged and strive to rekindle their brotherhood to a young poet coming to terms with a professor who is not as he remembers, these short stories are subtle enough to get under the skin and powerful enough to make an impression on the psyche.  Fruelund’s stories are short but no less indelible than a well-written novel; and at no point in the English translation will readers feel that something isn’t right — in fact, these stories seem both distinctly Danish and English.

Many of these stories seem to touch upon what the cover suggests — spilt milk.  The idiom everyone knows is “There’s no point crying over spilt milk,” but how true is that saying…should we not cry over the adversity we face and simply move on or is it okay to dwell and cry over those events even if they cannot be changed.  For instance, in “What Is It?,” a father helps his son from a second marriage move out of his shared apartment and into another, thinking all the while about failed marriages — of which the father has had three — and how similar patterns can play out in the lives of loved ones.  What advice could he possibly offer his son; how do they relate knowing that the father left his mother for a third marriage; and how does the son move on from one relationship to the next without questioning it?  Although some of these questions may not be answered, Fruelund provides the reader with enough to chew on.

From ” Hair”:  “Frands stands and goes out to the yard.  Yellow apples lie in the grass.  He walks to the garage looking for something to sit on and finds an old recliner.  With some effort he hauls it outside.  He sits facing the house and takes a nip from the bottle.  He lets his eyes wander over the house’s whitewashed facade.  Even in the half-dark it seems stained and porous, and he can see spots where the plaster has been cracked by frost.  The real estate agent had talked for a long time about how charming the house was.  An artist villa, he’d called it.  With space for children.  It was exactly what they were looking for, Mette had said.” (page 40 ARC)

Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund, translated by K.E. Semmel, is about ordinary people facing some pretty typical situations, but what makes each one unique is the parts outside the stories that we cannot see and that are only hinted at.  Fruelund explores not only jealousy and infidelity, but also regret and many other complex emotions that each of experiences with not only family but wives, husbands, lovers, friends, and neighbors.

About the Author:

Since the publication of his first book in 1997, Simon Fruelund has been one of Denmark’s most delightfully entertaining writers. He possesses a rare gift for creative reinvention. From his early realist-inspired stories (“Tide,” “What is It?” and “Hair”) to his later “pointillist” work (“Man on the Bus,” “Civil Twilight”), Fruelund finds new ways to express and shape his ever-developing artistic vision. He is the author of five books, among them Mælk (1997) and Panamericana (2012). His work has been translated into Italian, Swedish, and English, and his short stories have appeared in a number of magazines across the U.S, including World Literature Today, Redivider, and Absinthe.  For nine years Fruelund worked as an editor at Denmark’s largest publishing house, Gyldendal, but is now writing full time.

About the Translator:

K.E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, the Washington Post, Aufgabe, The Brooklyn Review, The Bitter Oleander, and elsewhere. He is the Publications & Communications Manager of The Writer’s Center, an independent nonprofit literary organization based in Bethesda, MD that offers over 300 workshops in writing annually and hosts around 50 literary events a year. It was recently named by Poets & Writers Magazine as one of 8 “places to go nationwide for writing classes”. For his work translating Simon Fruelund’s fiction, he has received a translation grant from the Danish Arts Council.

This is my 75th book for the 2013 New Authors Challenge.

Mailbox Monday #226

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at A Girl and Her Books, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  June’s host is Dolce Bellezza.

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.  Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox from my mother.

Amanda Knox spent four years in a foreign prison for a crime she did not commit.

In the fall of 2007, the 20-year-old college coed left Seattle to study abroad in Italy, but her life was shattered when her roommate was murdered in their apartment.

After a controversial trial, Amanda was convicted and imprisoned. But in 2011, an appeals court overturned the decision and vacated the murder charge. Free at last, she returned home to the U.S., where she has remained silent, until now.

Filled with details first recorded in the journals Knox kept while in Italy, Waiting to Be Heard is a remarkable story of innocence, resilience, and courage, and of one young woman’s hard-fought battle to overcome injustice and win the freedom she deserved.

With intelligence, grace, and candor, Amanda Knox tells the full story of her harrowing ordeal in Italy—a labyrinthine nightmare of crime and punishment, innocence and vindication—and of the unwavering support of family and friends who tirelessly worked to help her win her freedom.

2.  Gracianna by Trini Amador for review with Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in August.

Gracianna is inspired by true events in the life of Trini Amador’s great-grandmother, Gracianna Lasaga. As an adult, Amador was haunted by the vivid memory of finding a loaded German Luger tucked away in a nightstand while wandering his great-grandmother’s home in Southern California. He was only four years old at the time, but the memory remained and he knew he had to explore the story behind the gun.

Decades later, Amador would delve into the remarkable odyssey of his Gracianna’s past, a road that led him to an incredible surprise. In Gracianna, Amador weaves fact and fiction to tell his great-grandmother’s story.

Gracianna bravely sets off to Paris in the early 1940s–on her way to America, she hopes–but is soon swept into the escalation of the war and the Nazi occupation of Paris. After chilling life-and-death struggles, she discovers that her missing sister has surfaced as a laborer in Auschwitz. When she finds an opportunity to fight back against the Nazis to try to free her sister, she takes it–even if it means using lethal force.

3.  Loteria by Mario Alberto Zambrano for review with TLC Book Tours in July.

With her older sister Estrella in the ICU and her father in jail, eleven-year-old Luz Castillo has been taken into the custody of the state. Alone in her room, she retreats behind a wall of silence, writing in her journal and shuffling through a deck of lotería cards. Each of the cards’ colorful images—mermaids, bottles, spiders, death, and stars—sparks a random memory.

Pieced together, these snapshots bring into focus the joy and pain of the young girl’s life, and the events that led to her present situation. But just as the story becomes clear, a breathtaking twist changes everything.

4.  City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan for review from the publisher.

The heartrending and inspiring sequel to Ellis Island, Kate Kerrigan’s City of Hope is an uplifting story of a woman truly ahead of her time

When her beloved husband suddenly dies, young Ellie Hogan decides to leave Ireland and return to New York, where she worked in the 1920s. She hopes that the city will distract her from her anguish. But the Great Depression has rendered the city unrecognizable. Gone are the magic and ambiance that once captured Ellie’s imagination.

Plunging headfirst into a new life, Ellie pours her passion and energy into running a refuge for the homeless. Her calling provides the love, support, and friendship she needs in order to overcome her grief—until, one day, someone Ellie never thought she’d see again steps through her door. It seems that even the vast Atlantic Ocean isn’t enough to keep the tragedies of the past from catching up with her.

5.  Milk and Other Stories by Simon Fruelund, translated by K.E. Semmel for review from the translator.

The 14 stories in this collection display the often quiet, inconspicuous way in which terrible truths and experiences are intimated: the death of a sailboarder makes a widower see deeper into love and loss; a young poet visits his former teacher only to discover he is literally not the person he used to be; a middle-aged man glimpses the terrible humdrum of his third marriage as his son embarks on a new chapter in his life. Conveyed without grandeur or pathos, the revelations in these minimalist stories demonstrate clearly and effectively Fruelund’s gift of subtlety and nuance; like scenes from life, characters’ dramas are played out in brief but brilliant flashes. Ranging across the wide arc of human experience, from the comic to the tragic, each piece explores the complex emotions of the human heart.

What did you receive?

AWP 2013 Boston

Although I’m still working on a poetry manuscript and it’s taking me longer than expected, I wanted to take the time to attend the big writer’s conference for two reasons:

  1. It was in Boston, which I miss
  2. I’ve never been to a conference of this size with so many writers and I wanted to see what other people were doing and how they coped with time management and other issues.

Registration opened on Wed., March 6, and I had planned to get my registration and spend the day with my hubby in Boston, while the little one was watched by her grandparents. While I did pick up my conference badge, etc. and we did get to have a lunch at an Irish pub, Sólás, that had phenomenal smoked Gouda and bacon fondue and some great chowda and soup!  Unfortunately, that’s when we got the call that the little one was running a fever and was not eating, etc.  Let’s just say that the plan to go out and about and take photos and just explore did not happen as I had expected and we headed home.  And this was a continued issue for me throughout the remainder of the week — worry over the kiddo and balancing that with the conference that I paid for, plus a lovely blizzard!

Thurs., March 7:

My first panel was “Revival of the Literary Salon with the Cambridge Writer’s Workshop” with Jessica Piazza (whom I’ve interviewed for 32 Poems), Rita Banerjee, Diana Norma Szokolyai, Samantha Milowsky, and Jade Sylvan), which was fun.  We learned about the creation of literary salons or writing groups that mix genres and music or more to experiment with form and just have fun.  It is less about critiquing work outright and more about learning and sharing with others.  A fun environment in which to share work that may be in draft form or that may be hard to finish for some reason, etc.  It can help provide feedback without being formal.  This panel ended with a writing exercise, similar to the game of Taboo, in which groups were randomly formed to write about an object in poetry from without using a certain list of words.  My group’s poem was not as good as the others in my self-critical opinion, but I confess, I’m not really a morning writer and this was the 9 a.m. panel.  I also felt for a long time like the most “normal” person in the room, and I’m far from normal.

I did end up missing 3 panels — “Keeping Track of Your Book,” “Sources of Inspiration” with Matthew Pearl and “The First Five Pages: Literary Agents and Editors Talk” — because I decided to meet with Sweta Srivastava Vikram at her publisher’s booth, Modern History Press, for a chat that turned into a 2 hour lunch!  Sweta is as lovely and honest in person as she is online, and I really love that about her.  You can check out an impromptu photo with one of her other poet friends, Rajiv Mohabir, here on Facebook.  We had such a great discussion of personalities online and offline and how disingenuous it seems when people have separate personas online and off, as well as a discussion about pulling back from friends in need because they seem to always be in need, etc.  Was a great discussion of chowda and lobster bisque!

The second panel I attended, “What a Novella Is,” was moderated by my friend K.E. Semmel, and touched upon the hardships of writing and defining a piece of work.  The panelists talked about how difficult it is to define novella beyond a simple word count, but most agreed that there is a single line of story but that it goes deeper than a short story would.  There were questions from the audience about Novella and it was discussed that writers need to take a hard look at their longer pieces to see if it is a novel in progress or a short story with too much excess before deciding its a novella.  There were some great novella recommendations from the panel, including one of my recent favorites — We the Animals by Justin Torres.  For a more in depth recap, please check out Melville House.  For this panel, I missed these panels “Lady Lazarus and Beyond: The Craft of Sylvia Plath,” “Writing the Great Hunger,” and “Literary Boston: A Living History” — I think it would be great to split panels up between friends and compare notes, since so many panels are at the same time in different rooms.

“The Chapbook as Gateway” panel with B.K. Fischer, Stephanie Lenox, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Susanna H. Case, and David Tucker was interesting and discussed how poets can use chapbooks as a limited edition to gain audiences and readers before a first book comes out, like a preview to greater work to come.  It was touted as a possible marketing tool at readings, with poets remarking on how many copies are available in the limited edition chapbooks and that only those readers acting quickly will have the gem.  It was interesting to note that some of the poets also have published other chapbooks even since their first book and that they find they like the form as a way to reach new readers at readings and to fill in the gaps between books.  Unfortunately,this panel was at the same time as “Does Place Still Matter,” a panel with Stewart O’Nan.

“Women Poets on Mentoring” with Allison Joseph, Rebecca Dunham, Brittany Cavallaro, Shara McCallum, and Tyler Mills was an excellent panel to end the day with and circled back to the earlier discussion Sweta and I had over lunch.  Each talked about their mentee-mentor relationship and the differences between it with their advisor-advisee relationship.  It was very engaging and it was clear that the relationships between these women were mutually beneficial.  However, there were questions from the audience about how to find mentors if you are not in a college or graduate program, and the women suggested writing programs at local centers, connecting with favorite authors through letters or email and even online, and just attending events, though they cautioned that pushing work and reviewing work early on in the relationship is not advised.  The panel also talked about how to balance the mentor-mentee relationship with other obligations, like jobs and family.

After this panel, I headed home and missed the keynote with Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney, even though I really wanted to attend.  There was a big time gap between the panel and the keynote and my daughter had a fever and was feeling poorly, so I headed home.

Friday, March 8‘s blizzard hit my parents area harder than Boston, so we received a lovely 22 inches of snow and getting to Boston was going to be difficult, so I chose to miss all the panels I had prioritized and wanted to see more than the others in the schedule (including Fred Marchant’s panel on his 20th anniversary of his first book, etc.) to care for my still sick daughter.  She slept a great many hours on my lap throughout the day.

Sat., March 9:

I chatted with Sweta when I arrived at the bookfair (which is an overwhelming 3+ rooms) and met a couple poet friends of her throughout our chats.  After out morning chat and a couple of stops around the bookfair, I headed to the “Lower Your Standards: WIlliam Stafford in the Workshop” panel with Fred Marchant, James Armstrong, Phillip Metres, Alissa Nutting, and Jeff Gundy.  Jeff Gundy and Alissa Nutting were hilarious, with one of them talking about their own first workshop experience and being half-naked in the bathroom crying even though they had no reason to pee.  It seemed that some of the panelists knew Stafford well when he was alive and they talked about his workshop philosophy and his hands off style of teaching, as well as his negativity toward grading and even praising students as too much guidance, etc.  It was a good panel about guiding writers in their process and remaining less focused on an outcome/finished product.  I did miss a panel with Yusef Komunyakaa for this panel about “Breaking the Jaws of Silence,”

“Bringing Poetry to the People” with Taylor Mali, Samantha Thornhill, Jon Sands, Roger Bonair-Agard, and Michael Salinger was a great panel about how to get poetry out to the community, but it also was more about providing those with stories to tell a way in which they can tell those stories that is accessible.  There were several programs that focused on needle-exchange programs and prisoners and how to get those people to write poetry as a way to cope, etc.  While inspiring, those are not things I could see myself doing, but I’d be interested in supporting those programs for sure because some of the poems these people shared from the participants were emotionally jarring and moving.  PopUpPoets showed a video of breaking down walls among commuters etc. as each poet boards a train, for instance, and stands up to begin reading poetry, and sits down before another stands up in a sort of round robin.  As someone who is incredibly nervous reading in public, this also is not for me, but I really love the idea of getting poetry greater exposure among the general public!

I checked out the rest of the bookfair and met up again with Sweta, who was my buddy this conference.  I felt like a zombie at this point and some of the people walking around the book fair seemed like zombies as well.

My final panel, “Master of None: Surviving and Thriving Without an MFA,” with Ru Freeman (loved Disobedient Girl), Rebecca Makkai, Samuel Park, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Ida Haffermer-Higgins, has given me hope that I won’t have to incur a lot of debt to get a book published or find an agent, if I get a novel done and need one.  Unless I’m interested in teaching or embarking on another profession, I have no need for an MFA unless like someone in the audience said, “I need a structured program to sit down an write.”  I love that the women on this panel are balancing family and other jobs, and though it is sad to see that they have to hold down other jobs to make ends meet and that they cannot simply write all day, Ru Freeman was witty with her quips.  She even pointed out that big publishers certainly make a ton off of the books they publish when Samuel Park said that the editors no longer edit but have other jobs and duties that they fulfill off the clock.  Freeman also said that she finds men tend to have more time to write than women who are juggling full-time jobs and family obligations, but some male audience members wonder if that’s true for all men.  I’m sure she didn’t mean all men and was just making an observation based on her experiences.

Like most other people, I left the conference after this panel, though I wanted to spend time with family and be with my sick girl, who was feeling better and seemed to be eating solid food again but was still out of sorts.

My overall impression of this conference was that there is a sense of information overload and that you have to prepare ahead of time.  Getting the registration done the day before the panels started, allowed me to plan my days for the most part, rather than wandering around aimlessly.  However, I still felt I missed too many goodies, and would rather do this again with a buddy, maybe 2017 with Anna in DC.  I did want to attend some after conference readings, but alas family life and snow got in the way.  I did like connecting with poets, etc., I know from online in person and having lunch and longer conversations.  That aspect was so much fun, and the panels were great, but packed too close together so you are either forced to eat in a panel after grabbing something quick or skipping food until dinner.  As Fred Marchant told me after his Stafford panel, it’s the nature of the conference to feel incredibly guilty about missing out on friends’ panels or readings and feeling overloaded and lost, but all of us know that we are supporting one another in spirit, and I think that’s something I’d definitely keep in mind for next time.

If you attended AWP 2013, I’d love to hear your thoughts and read about what panels you went to and what you learned.  Feel free to check out my tweets from the conference.

The Caller by Karin Fossum, translated by K.E. Semmel

The Caller by Karin Fossum, translated by K.E. Semmel from the Norwegian, is the eighth book in her Inspector Konrad Sejer series of books.  It is not only a mystery with a adrenaline rush, but also a psychological examination of the criminal and victims minds.  Rather than a mystery that needs to be unraveled, Fossum creates an unsettling atmosphere that keeps readers on the edge.  What will happen next, how will the criminal again strike fear into those around him — neighbors, family, strangers.

And yes, this is a book about fear — the fear of death — the fear of death when it calls.  Death is always unexpected when it arrives, but what if you are lulled into an artificial sense of security by your own contented perceptions of your home and neighborhood?  What if something occurs that simply disrupts your preconceived notions of security?  Fossum asks these questions with each new prank and situation, and she ramps up the anxiety with each page turned.  From the very first pages, readers become aware that the Norwegian landscape will darken and tranquility will become tentative.

“Poor little thing, she thought, and tore its thighs off.  She liked the cracking sound the cartilage made when tearing from the bone.  Light and tender, the meat let go easily, and she succumbed to the temptation to stick a piece in her mouth.  It’s good, she thought, it has just enough seasoning, and it’s lean too.  She filled the pie dish and sprinkled on Cheddar cheese.  The she checked the time.  She didn’t worry about Margrete.  If the child sneezed she would know it immediately.  If she coughed or hiccuped, or began to cry, she would know.  Because there was a bond between them, a bond as thick as a mooring line.  Even the slightest tug would reach her like a vibration.”  (page 2)

However, it is the undercurrent under the surface plot that ripples beneath, providing just enough suspicion to keep readers wondering who the true criminal is.  Readers get a sense of Inspector Konrad Sejer as an honest man whose seen it all, but continues to work for the police as a way to ensure justice.  But readers also get to know how much his life has changed over the years and where his strength comes from — his family and young nephew Matteus.  His health may be failing, but the case is always important, pulling him away from his own misery into that of the victims and even the possible perpetrator.

When death calls, even in its mistiest form, The Caller by Karin Fossum, translated by K.E. Semmel tackles the what ifs and the inevitability that comes with that visit, including the reassessment of behavior and routine, love, and perseverance.  The atmosphere of the novel is by turns complacent and topsy-turvy, and Fossum’s characters must navigate the new world into which they are thrust.

About the Author:

Karin Fossum is the author of the internationally successful Inspector Konrad Sejer crime series. Her recent honors include a Gumshoe Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for mystery/thriller. She lives in a small town in southeastern Norway.

About the Translator:

K.E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, the Washington Post, Aufgabe, The Brooklyn Review, The Bitter Oleander, and elsewhere. He has worked as the Publications & Communications Manager of The Writer’s Center, an independent nonprofit literary organization based in Bethesda, MD that offers over 300 workshops in writing annually and hosts around 50 literary events a year.  He is known for his work translating Simon Fruelund’s fiction, and he has received a translation grant from the Danish Arts Council.

This is my 71st book for the New Authors Reading Challenge in 2012.

Novel Places’ Translation Event Draws Crowd

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First, I wanted to reach out and thank those who came to the translation reading, including my wonderful book club.  Second, the day began with an incredible baking spree, so I’d like to thank Anna’s daughter for all of her expert assistance.  We spent a great deal of the morning mixing and mashing and baking Danish and Norwegian treats for the readers and the audience.  The recipes I chose were Danish Apple Cake, Danish Butter Cookies, and Norwegian Spice Cookies.  All of these recipes were easy to follow, so we made these easily with a few modifications, such as no cardamom (which is outrageous at $15+ at the supermarket) and no nuts.

We set up a circle of chairs for an intimate reading at Novel Places, put the goodies out at the front table, and waited.  Books were ready and soon too were the poet and the translators.  K.E. Semmel read first from The Caller by Karin Fossum (you may be able to get a translator signed copy if you contact the local bookstore), which he translated for the U.K. market originally before it was published here in the United States.  I think he read just enough to get everyone interested in the Norwegian author’s mystery novel, which he later said offers some of the most harrowing scenes a parent could read.  He also told the audience that he translated both The Caller and Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Absent One without any direct contact with the authors.  Given that he is well versed in Danish and Norwegian, he didn’t seem to have any problems.

Following a short reading from Semmel (A BIG THANK YOU to Semmel for the video, since my idiot camera died), the floor opened up to Carsten René Nielsen, the Danish poet of House Inspections, and his translator David Keplinger, a poet and director of the American University MFA in Creative Writing program.  Nielsen would read the poem in its original Danish form and then Keplinger would then read the translation.  They read about six poems from House Inspections and one or two poems from a previous collection.

Following each reading, the translators were asked questions about their process and experiences, as well as about what makes a good translation. Keplinger and Nielsen work collaboratively on the poems, with Nielsen sending English literal translations to Keplinger, who does not speak Danish, to fiddle with to make the content, music, and essence of the poem shine through in the English version in the best way possible. Keplinger said that he offers Nielsen a few different options when translating the poems, allowing Nielsen to pick the one he likes best. In terms of “Wistfulness,” Keplinger and Nielsen said it took them a while to capture the meaning of the Danish word properly.  Keplinger said it is just one of the poems in the collection that he can read over and over and never be tired of it.  (Photo at the right:  Danish poet Carsten René Nielsen speaks with audience member Susi Wyss, author of A Civilized World)

It was great to mingle with fellow translation enthusiasts, eat some goodies, buy some books, get some autographs, and chat.  It seemed like the audience, which was mostly my own book club (thanks guys and gals), had a good time and learned some interesting things about translation.  What surprised me the most was that it seemed as though the poetry books may have outsold the fiction thrillers!

Washington D.C. Gets Literary This Weekend

September is a big literary month here in the Washington, D.C., especially with the largest reading events of the year — The National Book Festival, the Virginia Festival of the Book, and the Baltimore Book Festival.

Even before these big festivals get kicked off, starting with The National Book Festival this weekend, Novel Places in Maryland is celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Hobbit.  Tonight at 6 p.m. readers will descend on the bookstore in Clarksburg to celebrate the book and the Tolkien legacy.  With moss hanging from the rafters of the upstairs bookstore in Clarksburg’s historic district, patrons are encouraged to dress up as their favorite characters from the books and take in the atmosphere as they walk through Bilbo Baggins’ door into the shire.  There’s even a prize for best costume.

Bookstore owner Patrick Darby says of The Hobbit, “It was the late 70’s when I picked up the The Hobbit, which is about the time Dungeons & Dragons rose to fame. It shaped my ‘personality’ when I role-played different characters and creatures. Even though The Hobbit is written as a children’s book, the descriptions of scenery and character interaction is brilliantly detailed. Its somewhat simplistic plot, where it was just an adventure with no reason for starting the quest, made a good primer to the intrigue of the ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.”  To learn more about the celebrations of Tolkien’s 75-year-old book, go here.

Also this weekend is the two-day book extravaganza that promotes reading not only among adults but kids as well.  The National Book Festival is in its 12th year.  I can hardly believe it’s been that long since the first one.  This year, I won’t be attending the first day of the festival, Saturday, Sept. 22, because my book club meets for our discussion of The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield at Novel Places.  But I do plan to attend some poetry readings, meet Charlaine Harris of Sookie Stackhouse fame, and generally relax with books around on Sunday, Sept. 23, the second day of the festival.  Please check out the rest of the goings on at the festival this year, plus the new online interactive media the festival is using this year.  So even if you don’t live in the D.C. area and cannot make the trip for your favorite authors, you can still hear them speak through the Library of Congress Website.

In addition to our book club meeting at the store, we’ll be attending a reading and discussion from two great translators, one of whom I consider a friend, and a poet whose work was translated.  If you are in the Clarksburg, Md., area, please stop by Novel Places to interact with Danish Poet Carsten Rene Nielsen and his translator David Keplinger as they talk about their work on House Inspections.

My friend, K.E. Semmel also will be on hand to talk about his two translations that came out in August, which I’m sure you’ve heard me go on and on about.  Hopefully, he can forgive me for not reading The Caller by Karin Fossum and The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen ahead of the event.  They are on the to-read list and I had hoped to be finished with the book club pick sooner, but life gets in the way as worries about my dad and his surgery occupied my mind to distraction.

You probably thought I was done, but we also have two more festivals to look forward to next weekend:  The Baltimore Book Festival, which always showcases some great local authors and businesses and Virginia Festival of the Book, which I have yet to attend but receives rave reviews ever year.  Both of those festivals are the weekend of Sept. 28.  I’ll let you know more about those next week.

What bookish plans do you have for the weekend?