PAPER/PLATES Blog: An Interview With Me, Nicole

Paper/PlatesAmina Elahi over at PAPER/PLATES Blog invited me to do her At The Table With interview feature, and of course I jumped at the opportunity. I love her blog and her posts (and her contributor’s) on literature and food, specifically recipes. She is tempting me big time to drag out Literary Feasts. I have been longingly dog-earing food passages again! [Tweet “I chatted about my favorite books and wish to have lunch with Erin Blakemore, among other things. Head over and check it out”]. MAKE SURE you visit the rest of the blog. You’ll come back to thank me, so I’ll be here…waiting for that to happen. Enjoy! 🙂

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Book Selfie: The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn

I’m Natalie, a new contributor to Linus’s Blanket(and also Nicole’s cousin), blogging about teen reads.It’s been four hours into the Readathon and I’ve basically been reading for four hours. Minus the in between breakfast, booktube video(which will be posted soon enough), and a selfie. Now you may ask, “what does a selfie have to do with the Readathon?” Well it counts if it’s with a book you’re reading in the Readathon. Especially if it’s your kick starter book.

The Intern’s Handbook is about this organization that recruits people they feel don’t have any emotion towards the human race. Namely, orphans. I mean, if you pair that personality with being an assassin, you’re going to get death, death, and more death. I wouldn’t necessarily say this book is about assassins. Well not the movie kind anyway. When I think of assassins I think about ninjas; the assassins in this book dress normal, look normal, and pose as interns. Then when they get emotionally close enough to their target they finish the real task. It’s a good book but kind of a morbid way to start the Readathon. Buuuuut, a selfie can surely remove all the sociopathicness.

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~Natalie

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Readathon April 2014: Here We Go & Wrap-Up

I went back and checked my posts to see when was the last time that I fully participated in a Readathon and I came up with 2009! That sounds so wrong, but alas is probably right. It’s hard to get that weekend that is completely clear. Especially on a Saturday. But I have always loved my experiences reading in the Readathon, and when the date was announced and I saw that it had not been filled yet, I immediately put it on my calendar, in pen. I am so happy to be here this morning.

I talked my family into participating with me. So my mom, aunt, cousin and I are assembled this morning to read books, eat snacks and have a good old-fashioned slumber party. It is going to be so. much. fun. My cousin and I are also cheerleaders go Teams Hughes and Wordsworth!

The Bought Pile

 Books

I have stacks of books all over the place, so it has been SO HARD to decide what to read! What else is new, right? The one pictured above are a few of the ones I have bought over the last couple of months. That also doesn’t include the small pile I bought this morning.  I have a stack of good books that for one reason or another I haven’t been able to finish, so maybe a few of those today as well.

And now for the hour zero survey.

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

I am reading with my family in New York City.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I was really looking forward to reading Solsbury Hill by Susan Wyler but I couldn’t find a copy! But also looking forward to getting into Hyde by Daniel Levine.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

My wasabi peas are love. I started on them last night.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I think I haven’t done a Readathon in something like 4 years. Unbelievable.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

It’s been awhile, so I am making everything up as I go along!

Updated to include Natalie’s Wrap-Up (Below).

Those of you that checked in and saw my book selfie post know that I participated in the Readathon. I didn’t update anymore after that post which was around eleven o’clock p.m. But I will say that I only finished one book, which was Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, I wish I had finished it sooner. The main character was so dramatic, and not in a mellow way, but she means well.  I really wanted to finish way more books, also. That’s what happens when you do the Readathon with family. You “read”, talk, and eat. Then when it’s over you look at your finished book pile and there’s only one book there. One book. I blame it on me attempting to read an 800 page book, ahem A Game of Thrones. I was so caught up on when Ned Stark said “winter is coming” for the first time I couldn’t move on. Can I blame it on that? I will.

So the whole point of the Readathon is to stay awake 24 hours, reading. I started at 8:00, exactly, and ended at 1:00. I cannot believe I actually went to sleep at 1:00. I blame it on Edgar Allen Poe in the dark. See, none of this is my fault. There’s always something that prevented me from doing something. See? But, really. 1:00. I’m a night owl. Night owls don’t simply go to sleep at 1:00. We prefer, like, 3:00. When I started the Readathon I was just like “I’m going to be the last one awake” and all this other trash talk. If you do the Readathon with people, it will become a “who stays up the longest” contest. Trust me. Even though, to an extent, I was the last one awake. Everyone else decided to take “naps”, and I was just up, by myself, alone. Then everyone woke up around 12:00 and we listened to Edgar in the dark, which made me fall asleep. You know, since listening to him in the dark was my idea I guess you could say I made myself fall asleep. But we aren’t going to say that.

All in all, I did enjoy the Readathon. Most of my favorite parts included the mini challenges, the trash talking, and the update videos. I’m actually going to say, even though I like reading, I didn’t expect to enjoy reading for 24 hours. I knew there would be 20 minute breaks here and there, and snacks, but it still didn’t change the fact that, for the majority of that time, I would have to read. But hey, I did it(most of it anyway, until Edgar put me in a comatose) and I’m looking forward to doing it again in October. Hopefully, I can stay awake then.

 Macondo Swash Caps Regular

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Out of Twenty: A.C. Gaughen, Author of Lady Thief, Answers Ten Questions

AC Gaughen , author of Scarlet and Lady Thief

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. A.C. Gaughen is the author of  Lady Thief, a novel about a female thief hiding her identity in Robin Hood’s band of thieves.  Here is what A.C. had to say about reading, writing, and whether she and Scarlet can ever be best buds.

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and ACwhat kind of books you like to write?

My name is Annie Gaughen, and in a post-apocalyptic situation I would MOST LIKELY be one of the first casualties.  I say this because I have very few redeeming physical abilities—I have zero reflexes (you know when the doctor taps your knee and your knee is meant to jerk—mine doesn’t.  It doesn’t even twitch).  The only situation in which I will survive is if I’m given the chance to team up with someone brawny and physically capable to whom I can be the brains of the equation.  Or, possibly, if I’m given access to baking items and I will earn my keep with delicious baked goods.

Clearly, this explanation shows why I shouldn’t write dystopian.  Instead, I’ve written historical fiction (Scarlet and Lady Thief), I’ve been working on a contemporary, and I have a fantasy heart-project that’s on the back burner while I’m in grad school and working with a non-profit in Boston.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

I think I have two responses to that.  My process when I’m writing successfully usually involves the nearest Panera (it’s become something of a good-luck-writing-paradise) and copious amounts of either diet Coke or tea (and they have free refills on BOTH!).  I can plug in my computer and bang out upwards of 5k words over about 6-8 hours; I like working like that, with singular focus and attention.  I can’t always do that, but when I can, it’s good.

My second answer has more to do with what I do when my writing stalls.  I try to walk away in a conscious way—I know that my work isn’t going to get any further/better inside the four walls of wherever I am, so I try to leave, see people, watch movies, read books—but do it with intention.  If my friend is telling me a story that is making me laugh or beg her what happened next, I try to figure out what’s making me so interested, how that might be lacking in my book.  A writer is someone on whom nothing is wasted!

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

That historically/economically/nationally speaking (from the perspective of several modern academics), Prince John was actually a remarkably efficient and successful ruler.  Yeah, that’s not going in there.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

Soo…I label all the books I’m working on by the name of the protagonist.  I call them that and refer to them as such.  So when I first started shopping Scarlet, it just turned out that my working title was actually kind of appropriate and clever, and no one ever talked about changing it.

Lady Thief went through many thought bubble changes though!  I initially suggested that title for Book Three and my editor suggested it worked better for

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen book coverdiscovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

YES!  Tuck Everlasting.  I HATED that book—not because it isn’t excellent, but because I was heartbroken by the ending.  I decided then and there that I had to rewrite it.  And so it began…

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

I can’t say with certainty that anything ever needs to be scrapped—just shelved.  But I have about 100 notebooks holed up somewhere in my mothers house, and about 20 more on my computer, that all represent a story in some stage or another.  I have about five that I have currently open in Scrivener.

Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?

Eleanor of Aquitaine.  She is just the coolest—one of the most fascinating, admirable women in English history and writing her—and researching more about her life—was a total joy.  She so effortlessly epitomizes the complications of power, femininity, and the difficulty of loving more than one thing at once.

Is Scarlet someone you can see yourself being friends with? How do you think she would feel about you and your lifestyle?

GOD NO.  Scarlet would hate me.  I would tell her exactly what I think of her life choices and she would not want to hear that, and as her friend I would struggle (as I do as her writer!) with remembering that I need to let her make her own mistakes.  It can be painful to watch, but it’s how we get through the conflict and how we become the girl at the end of the story.  Arguably, the girl with the happy ending.

However, I like to think that we would have a grudging respect for each other.  And that I could recruit her to teach a knife skills class for my non-profit.

What is your favorite of the two books you have written on Scarlet? Is there anything about the first novel that you would have changed?

I’m really proud of Lady Thief.  And while I couldn’t say I like one BETTER, I think I’m definitely more proud of the work I put into (and the struggle, heartache, infinite wordsmithing) Lady Thief.

I would possibly have reconsidered Scar’s name!  It was pointed out to me afterwards that in all the research I did, all the endless tracking word etymology, the one word I never thought to check was scarlet.  Turns out using it to describe a color is not historically accurate for the time period.

Ok, I may not have chosen differently—but I would definitely have liked to know that going in!

Would you have liked to live in the middle ages? What would you have wanted your position or role to be in society?

NO NO NO NO.  NO NO.  It was an incredibly brutal time, ESPECIALLY for a girl.  Ok, maybe that would be my condition—if I could be a dude, I would live in the middle ages.  Or a pope!  I’d take a pope.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

About A.C. Gauhen: She’s been madly in love with writing since she was in kindergarten. Some of her earliest memories revolve around books and writing, like reading in front of the class, and reading with her mother. She wrote all through middle school and starting submitting novels when she was thirteen.

St Andrews, Scotland, is where she went to college then she got into grad school, wrote like a fiend, and when she graduated, spent three miserable years as a freelance writer while working on several different novels.  She wrote them, prepped them, submitted them, and kept on working, because as far as she can tell, the actual writing is the only thing that she can control, and it’s the part that really makes her happy.

She also has two dogs,  because every writer should have dogs.

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The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

Publisher’s Description:

Nan keeps her secrets deep, not knowing how the truth would reveal a magic all its own.  Bay Singer has bigger secrets than most. She doesn’t know about them, though. Her mother, Nan, has made sure of that. But one phone call from the sheriff makes Nan realize that the past is catching up. Nan decides that she has to make things right, and invites over the two estranged friends who know the truth. Ruthie and Mavis arrive in a whirlwind of painful memories, offering Nan little hope of protecting Bay. But even the most ruined garden is resilient, and their curious reunion has powerful effects that none of them could imagine, least of all 

MemoryGarden_image_AppleBlossomBay.

Reading Mary Rickert’s The Memory Garden is a lovely and rewarding experience. I adore books containing atmosphere and am equally fond of reading about witches. Rickert combines both with a heartwarming and engaging tale about great love, big secrets, relationships, and coming of age – not only for a young generation, but also for the one beginning the process of reflecting and coming to terms with what will likely be their final years. The Memory Garden is filled with lush writing, unforgettable characters, and manages to  immerse readers in the politics of a small town of an earlier time, and in friendships whose strength transcends a painful past.

Another fascinating aspect of reading about witches is how they draw on elements of the natural world in their preparations for cures, charms and enchantments. Rickert adds to the richness of The Memory Garden by prefacing each chapter with an ingredient – fruit, vegetable, herb – and its uses and meaning. I am able to share the APPLE BLOSSOM card with you today. Another clear endorsement of the apple of day philosophy.

 

For more thoughts on this book, and to see the rest of the lovely cards, visit: Royal Reviews /Book Bag Lady / Lesa’s Book Critiques / The Bibliotaphe Closet / Bookalicious Babe / Mirabile DictuStory Matters

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

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Mary McNear on Going to the Lakehouse

Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNear book cover

Up at Butternut Lake by Mary McNearOne of the staples of fictional plots goes like this – something happens (usually life-changing), and then a person (usually a woman) needs to remake their life, often by returning home. Stories like this are surely so popular if only because they bring comfort through familiarity and hope that in a similar situation you have a place and network of friends where you can easily return, be accepted and nurtured through your difficult time. You will probably also find love, because in fiction, if you’re running off somewhere to regroup, it’s a given that your love life has either imploded or was sad and non-existent to begin with.  

I love it when these novels take place on an island, a lake or someplace exotic. I mean, if your life has been blown to hell, you might as well find yourself in a beautiful cabin by the lake. Mary McNear’s new series exploring life in the Midwest lake town of Butternut begins with Up At Butternut Lake, which  follows the story of a young mom and widow (whose husband has died in Afghanistan) who moves back to her family’s cabin beside the lake to make a fresh start for herself and her son Jess. Here is what Mary had to say about the pleasures of returning to the lake.

Although I have lived in San Francisco for almost twenty years and went to college and graduate Mary McNear author of the Butternut Lake seriesschool on the east coast, I was born on the near north side of Chicago, just a couple of blocks from Lake Michigan.  I grew up in Chicago and spent many summers and vacations visiting my grandparents in Racine, Wisconsin, and each summer we visited the lake house my great grandfather built on a lake in northwestern Wisconsin, about an hour south of Lake Superior.

Long after we left the Midwest, in the late 1970s, we continued to visit the lake house in Wisconsin each summer. Now, I bring my own children there in July and August and we do many of the same things that my sisters and I did when we were kids. We putter around in old motorboats, paddle creaky canoes to coves and beaches, shop at the local gift shops and have breakfast at the local diner. We still gather in the evening on the deck and watch the sun set out over the lake.

My life in San Francisco is filled with the hubbub of daily life: getting my children off to school, working on my books, and meeting friends. Interestingly, I know a lot of transplanted Midwesterners like myself who live in San Francisco, and, like me,  many  of them have memories of summers on a lake.

Sometimes I suspect my friends and I share the same fantasy of spending more than just the summer on a lake; after all, what could be a better place to run away to, to rebuild, to rediscover or maybe even to reinvent oneself than on a lake?

Maybe it’s not surprising then that when I decided to write a novel about a woman whose husband had been killed in Afghanistan, and her five year old son, I knew there was only one place for them to start over again, and that was at their family’s fishing cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota. Their lake, Butternut Lake, is fictional, but it is very much inspired by my own memories of the lake I still visit every summer.

About: Mary McNear is a writer living in San Francisco with her husband, two teenage children, and a miniscule white dog named Macaroon. She bases her novels on a lifetime of summers spent in a small town on a lake in the Northern Midwest. Butternut Summerthe second in the series, is scheduled for release in August 2014.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

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Jessica Levine, Rachel Zoe, and Susan Rieger|Reading Round Up

One of the key things about having less time for one of my great loves (reading!) is that I am much more ruthless about reading what I find to be really enjoyable and/or rewarding. Gone is the time when I can meander through a book with vague feelings of boredom and/or annoyance with a plot. These days if I pick a book up and don’t feel a compelling desire to come back to it, I don’t. The last few weeks have offered up an eclectic mix of reads, but for the most part, I have been happy with my choices.

Jessica Levine, Rachel Zoe & Susan Rieger

The Geometry of Love by Jessica Levine:  Yesterday, I posted my interview with Jessica Levine, and I was fascinated with her discussion of the psychological nature of her books, women having male muses, and the different types or literature and reading that have spurred the creation of her characters and novels.

I have high praise for The Geometry of Love. The novel’s protagonist, Julia, is in a safe, though creatively stifling relationship with her college sweetheart when she has a chance run-in with their old roommate, Michael (a creative soul mate with whom she once shared a steamy kiss). While both men offer an essential element to Julia’s well-being, her attempts to resurrect their damaged relationships, establish agency in her creative life, and determine her path in life, unfolds in surprising ways and brings all involved all but to the brink of ruin. Levine’s characters are thoughtfully rendered and contain a level of nuance that holds the reader hostage in their messy lives. Julia in particular reminded me of that friend whose life is a mess, and though you’ve heard way too much about her problems, too many times, there is something that keeps you from turning away.

Living in Style: Inspiration and Advice for Everyday Glamour by Rachel Zoe: I’m a pretty recent convert to The Zoe Report (Rachel Zoe’s daily beauty, style and fashion newsletter) but I do love a pretty dress, and her astute style curation caught my eye. Though a new devotee, I was fairly excited to find out that she has a new book out. Right off the bat I am favorably disposed to enjoy a coffee table book like Living in Style. There are beautiful photographs of style icons, sneak peeks behind the scenes – at fashion soirees, and practical suggestions for formulating a sense of style, work life maintenance routine and balance. The book is written in a conversational style, and Zoe shares tips from her beauty care routine, and stories about her early days and establishing her career. If you want a more substantive guide for for fashion, make up an style choices, I would subscribe to her newsletter as this is mostly breezy and fun.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger: Susan Rieger’s debut novel is instantly memorable to me, if only because I had so much fun  reading it. I loved escaping into Sophie Diehl’s world of long catch-up emails with her best friend, detailed and informative work briefs, and intriguingly accurate representations of divorce documents. The fact that Sophie is a criminal lawyer who has has no interest in dealing with people adds to the comic elements of the novel, which doesn’t lose its poignancy among the humor. Rieger artfully weaves Sophie’s troubled relationship history, tenuous parental bonds, and deep ambivalence about marriage in to the secondary story of divorce negotiations between a privileged heiress (the fabulously charming, intelligent and empathetic Mia Meiklejohn) and and her prominent physician husband. My only complaint is that it felt a tad long in spots, but having the option to skip around in the legal documents remedied any restlessness that I had.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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Out of Twenty: Jessica Levine, Author of The Geometry of Love, Answers Nine Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by handpicking which questions (and how many!) they want to answer. Jessica Levine is the author of  The Geometry of Love, a fantastic novel about one woman’s search for her identity as an artist, the relationships with the men in her life, and how they fuel and inhibit her passions in different ways.  Here is what Jessica had to say about reading, writing, and reversing the stereotypical gender roles of artistic muses. 

Jessica Levine, Author - The Geometry of Love
Photo Credit: Nan Phelps

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

Thanks for inviting me to do this interview. I’m writing in Berkeley, California, where I live with my husband and two teenage daughters. In my life I’ve been a jack-of-all-trades, working as an English teacher, a translator (from Italian and French into English), and currently a hypnotherapist. However, “writer” has always been my core identity. My fiction is psychological in nature, the product of my fascination with human contradictoriness and unpredictability. The plots I create grow out of inner conflicts that propel my characters in new directions.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you through the writing process?

I’m a morning writer. I jumpstart my brain with a lot of black tea and some dark chocolate. I really believe that the intense pleasure provided by chocolate stimulates the creative part of the brain! I get physically restless when I write, so I take frequent breaks to stretch and move. I usually stop at lunch time. If I have ideas later in the day, I jot them down in a black Moleskine notebook. I don’t need to “force myself” to work because writing actually makes my brain feel good, as though the sentences were giving the inside of my head a massage.

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What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors? Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I recently discovered Jim Harrison and am reading his Brown Dog, which collects several novellas about a half-Indian character by that name. The first tale in the book offers brilliant lessons about paragraph-making and plotting. My tastes are broad, ranging from Anita Shreve to Michael Chabon. When I read fiction that’s very different from what I write, I’m motivated to push myself in new directions and experiment. When I read works that are similar, I feel validated in my current path of inquiry.

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working on your own book(s)?

Sometimes I’m reading books connected to a writing project. Last year I read a lot of Italian history in preparation for a novel that will take place during the period of Italian independence and unification in the mid-nineteenth century. Sometimes I read books my daughters are reading for school. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed John Green’s Looking for Alaska and, more recently, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Excellent writing of all kinds inspires me.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I remember first wanting to be a writer at the age of six. Probably I got the idea from my parents, who were both frustrated artists. They were also avid readers and always pulling classics off the shelves of our home library for me to read. E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Hardy became reliable friends. I also had the enrichment of attending a French school in New York, which led to my discovering the masterworks of Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, and Zola in the original. Much of what I read was beyond my level of maturity, but literature provided me with an escape during a difficult adolescence, transporting me to other times and places.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

Usually I have a current project, a project that is firmly next in line, and a couple of book ideas that I’m playing with. The Geometry of Love features a protagonist named Julia and her two female cousins, and is the first of a planned trilogy of novels, one about each of these three women. I’m currently working on the manuscript of the second book in the series and taking mental notes for a story about the third cousin. If a project refuses to take shape, it usually metamorphoses into something else, so I rarely scrap a work, you might say I recycle it instead.

Who was your favorite character to write, and why did you have an affinity for that character in particular?

I had a blast creating Michael, Julia’s object of desire in The Geometry of Love.  I wanted to play with reversing a couple of stereotypes about men and women, the first being that women are usually muses for male artists, and the second that women are usually more emotional. In this dyad, Michael, a composer, functions as Julia’s muse because his emotional range is so broad. He can be very light-hearted but he also has a dark, depressive side. His capacity for deep feeling and his ability to express those feelings musically validate Julia’s own creative quest as a poet. In creating this character I gave birth to a psychological entity that could function as an inner muse for my own writing.

Where do you most love to write? Are there places where it comes to you easier than others?

I’m fortunate enough to have a very quiet and comfortable home office where I love to work. Outside my window is a maple tree and a patch of bamboo; in the distance, San Francisco and the reflective surface of the Bay. I have my favorite books on hand if I need inspiration, I have my journals and notebooks, my desk is set up ergonomically, there’s tea upstairs. If I take a break and go for a walk in the neighborhood, I sometimes see hawks flying overhead or deer. The conditions for writing are perfect¾at least when my kids are in school. I don’t get much done in the summer.

What’s next?

My novel about Julia’s cousin Anna, provisionally titled The Dream of Another Life, is another love story that switches back and forth between present time in northern California and past events in Rome, Italy. Working on it has been a wonderful ride, as it has allowed me to relive a splendid time I spent living and working in Rome in my early twenties. Writing, I travel back in time to a city I remember as sensual and warm with its ochre buildings and fountain-filled courtyards … and then I look up and out my window at the Golden Gate Bridge. Life is good.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

About Jessica Levine: Jessica was born in New York City. She earned her M.A. at Teachers College, Columbia University, and her Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of California at Berkeley. She has worked as a writing instructor and a teacher of English as a second language. Additionally, she has translated several books about architecture and design from French and Italian into English. Most recently, she became certified as a hypnotherapist in 2005 and now has a therapy practice in Albany, California.

Since publishing Delicate Pursuit: Discretion in Henry James and Edith Wharton in 2002, Jessica has been devoting herself to creative writing, publishing stories, essays, and poetry. The themes she addresses in her work include the evanescence of intimacy, the nature of inspiration, parenthood, the language of the body, and loss. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two daughters, and cat, a.k.a. “the King.”

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Public Notes to Myself: A Mid April Reading List

Sometimes I need a written reminder for what it is I have committed to reading for the month, and this is one of those times. How is April getting away so quickly? It is the middle of April already, people! I have book club books to read and Bloggers Recommend Picks to pick. I have to get on it! Let’s take a peek at what I’ve got.

Frog Music, The Fever & AmericanahSo this month I have three book club picks in the works.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue –  I am late to the game with Donoghue, having missed the much acclaimed Room and her follow up of historically based short stories, Astray. Frog Music is promising to be a rich historical novel via 1876, the smallpox epidemic and an unsolved murder. All things that tickle my reading fancy. I’ll be starting on this (hopefully tonight!) to discuss the first few sections with my Twitter Book Club, The Hashtags, on Friday.

The Fever by Megan Abbot – If my Twitter book club is called The Hashtags, then my regular IRL book club should be called The Publicists, since its members comprise my favorite people scattered at Bloomsbury, Little Brown, Viking, Random House and Riverhead. This month we are reading Megan Abbott’s The Fever, and I have started it and I love it. I have no idea what the hell is going on, but I am totally intrigued. This is my third Abbott and she never fails to bring an almost uncomfortably realistic depth to the inner, troubled, lives of teen-aged girls.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – As if I didn’t have enough book clubs of my own, I am guesting at a friend’s book club this month. She has been trying to get me to join, and I have been resisting because, you know, all the things and all the books. However, this month they are reading Americanah, and I adored Half of A Yellow Sun. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to read and discuss it with a group. I also suspect that I will have hard time resisting going back, especially if they keep selecting books that are right up my alley.

A Life Apart and When the Cypress Whispers

My mother has had a lot more time to read this year, so we have been trying to read a book together each month. Way back when, at the beginning of the year, we started with Walter Walker’s Crime of Privilege, but neither of us could really get into. It was strangely light on details despite being a really long book. We went on to Defending Jacob, which we both really enjoyed, me more so than my mom –  she didn’t like the ending. Our favorite joint read has been Rhidian Brook’s The Aftermath.

Two books that we are reading together are:

A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow – I am looking forward reading Marlow’s latest novel about a navy man whose life is saved during the attacks on Pearl Harbor by a black sailor, who dies in his attempt. He develops a relationship with the sailor’s sister when he travels to visit her, in his own hometown of Boston, pay his respects. My mother has already read it and she thinks that is just fabulous. I read the first chapter and I can attest that it is captivating and has and immediacy that make you want to sink into the story. She made lots of notes during her reading, so I am really looking forward to see where the discussion goes.

When The Cypress Whispers by Yvette Manessis Corporon – Corporon’s novel falls into the “woman returns home to find herself” category. It’s a much used plot device, so while I usually enjoy these types of books, I tend to read them with great care in the choosing. I gravitate toward ones that have an element of surprise for me. In this novel, the heroine does her soul searching while on a rare trip home to visit relative in Greece. That heightened the appeal for me. I also love reading beautiful books – the cover and the luxury of deckle-edge pages is very enticing.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 BOOK CLUB   Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung

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