Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Room with (an Edenic) View

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. ~e.e. cummings

The rain is a godsend--everything has greened up overnight. I'm sitting here at my laptop at the window, looking out onto the garden and it's buzzing with life.

Two hummingbirds are zipping around. A redbellied wookpecker--her head & belly are traffic-cone orange--is flying back and forth from the birdfeeder to the top of the telephone pole where three of her brood wait. She stuffs them with suet and sunflower seeds--flying back and forth, back and forth-- and they're beginning to follow her, and take her lead.

Heavenly fragrant Moonvine...isn't it beautiful? Wish it were a scratch n' sniff pic.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Fruits--and Veggies-- of My Labor... and the Reading Room

In gardens, beauty is a by-product. The main business is sex and death. ~Sam Llewelyn

Here's the sex part:
Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cukes, carrots, nasturtium, marigold. And I love the vibrant pallet-- sort of...moorish.

Here's the death part: The lone pumpkin I had was halfway there but the squirrels got it, and there's nothing but a pile of rinds and stems. Savage beauty sounds like a bodice ripper, but it's an apt description for my vegetable garden-- it manages to be both Darwinian and holy.

Makes one wonder if George Bernard Shaw was being ironic when he said:

The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. ~George Bernard Shaw, The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God, 1932

And now for something completely different:

Also a reminder of tonight's Reading Room, featuring Joshilyn Jackson and Katherine Min.
7 pm, The Handlebar, 304 East Stone Avenue, Greenville, SC 29601.
Today, 7:00pm
Age Policy
Published writers read from their works

The season begins with blockbusters. Joshilyn Jackson’s short fiction has been published in literary magazines and anthologies including TriQuarterly and Calyx, and her plays have been produced in Atlanta and Chicago. Her bestselling debut novel, gods in Alabama won SIBA's 2005 Novel of the Year Award and was a No. 1 BookSense pick. Between, Georgia was also a No. 1 BookSense pick, making her the first BookSense author to receive No. 1 status in consecutive years. Her third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, was published in March. Katherine Min’s short stories have been widely anthologized, most recently in The Pushcart Book of Stories: The Best Short Stories from a Quarter-Century of The Pushcart Prize. She received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her novel, Secondhand World, (Knopf, 2006) was a finalist for the PEN/Bingham Award. She teaches at the University of North Carolina at Asheville and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Links: Joshilyn Jackson, Katherine Min, Emrys Foundation

$2 for Emrys members, $4 for non-members

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Writing Room's New Schedule

The Writing Room's Fall 2008 schedule of workshops and seminars is up, and registration is running. Visit the website, for details. (Emrys, a nonprofit arts foundation, sponsors our classes.) Curious? Read our students' testimonials.

Also visit us on Facebook.

We're kicking things off with a seminar from fabulous, hilarious, bestselling novelist Joshilyn Jackson:

Marketing Yourself on the Web at ALL stages of your Writing Career

Joshilyn Jackson

Whether you have just begun to draft your first short story or are currently shopping your third completed manuscript, there are things you could be doing, right now, to build a reader base and create a web presence. As writers we like to think of ourselves as artists, but in the publishing world, we are expected more and more to act as our own publicists and be savvy businessfolk. The Internet has opened up the world to anyone with a modem, and it can be a powerful professional tool for writers at all stages of their career. While the main focus of this seminar is prepublication (especially preparing for submission before one's first book first sale), we will also spend a little time on the crucial period between sale and publication. This seminar is for fiction and non-fiction writers, focusing mainly on those interested in placing book length manuscripts.

Level: All levels, Beginner to Advanced
Saturday, August 24
5:00 pm
Location: Innovate Building Conference Room,
148 River Street, Greenville, SC
Fee: $50; $45 Emrys member

Joshilyn Jackson’s bestselling debut novel, gods in Alabama won the SIBA (Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance’s) 2005 Novel of the year Award and was a #1 BookSense pick. Her second novel, Between, Georgia was also a #1 BookSense pick, making Jackson the first author in BookSense history to receive #1 status in back to back years. Jackson read the audio version herself, winning a Listen Up award from Publisher's Weekly and making Audiofile's Best of 2006 list. Both books were chosen for the Books-A-Million Book Club. Her short fiction has been published in literary magazines and anthologies including TriQuarterly and Calyx, and her plays have been produced in Atlanta and Chicago. Joshilyn’s third novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, a national bestseller, was released in March of 2008. Visit and Joshilyn’s popular blog, Faster Than Kudzu, for more information.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Author Interview with Suzanne Kamata

This column appears in my Author to Author column in the Greenville Journal.

The author:
Suzanne Kamata
The books: Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press) and Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs (Beacon Press)
The event: Suzanne Kamata will be signing copies of her novel at The Open Book on Saturday, August 16th, 2:00pm. 110 South Pleasantburg Drive, Greenville, SC

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1988, Suzanne Kamata was eager to leave the country, to “experience a non-Western culture.” To git, as we say around these parts. She applied to the Peace Corps and was assigned to Cameroon, but, on a lark, decided to head to Japan after being offered a one-year assistant teaching position with Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET), a program her brother had read about in the newspaper. “I figure I'd spend a year in Japan and then go to Africa,” she said. “But one year in Japan didn't seem like enough - there was still so much to see and do and learn.” Kamata decided to renew her contract for one more year.

She’s been there ever since.

Two decades later, Kamata makes her home in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan with her husband, Yukiyoshi Kamata, and their nine-year-old twins. She teaches part-time and writes in her “pockets of free time” when her children are in school. A productive writer, Kamata’s work has appeared in over 100 publications. She is fiction editor at the online magazine Literary Mama and the author of the novel Losing Kei. She has edited two anthologies: The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan and the Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs.

“I think mothers all over the world have a hard time finding time to write,” she said. “Much to the dismay of the other mothers [at her daughter’s school], I would often sneak off to a cafe or to the school library for an hour or so to read and write. I wrote my novel and edited Love You to Pieces that way.”

Kamata’s twins were born prematurely, and her daughter has cerebral palsy and is deaf. “I realized, when she was diagnosed that I had no idea how to raise such a child. As a literary sort of person, I first went to books to try to figure out what was going to happen and to try to find solace.” The result is Love you to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, an anthology Kamata edited about raising children with special needs. The collection includes short stories, essays, and poems by renowned authors (such as Brett Lott) as well as emerging writers about families coping with autism, deafness, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome and more.

“The best novels, short stories, and memoirs can pull in the lives of their characters and provide a deeper understanding of others,” Kamata said, adding she hoped the book “will serve as a kind of support group in far-flung places…”

Raising children outside her native culture is “bittersweet,” Kamata said. “'I’m happy that my son is bilingual and that my children have been exposed to various cultures. And I'm glad that they have a close relationship with their Japanese relatives.” On the other hand, she misses sharing “simple things like running through the sprinkler in the middle of summer,” or going trick-or-treating. “But these conflicts give me something to explore in my writing,” she said. “ As a reader, I tend to be drawn to multicultural stories, though I also read a lot of fiction set in South Carolina, especially when I'm feeling nostalgic.”

Kamata’s novel Losing Kei, tells the story of a young South Carolina painter who, as an American expat, loses custody of her only son to her Japanese ex-husband and then resorts to desperate measures to get him back. “When I write nonfiction, I feel naked. When I write fiction, I feel like I'm wearing a dress --or maybe a flimsy negligee! But seriously, I like being able to move events around and make sense of them—something that happens more in fiction.” Losing Kei is Kamata’s first published novel—she’s written five—and said she’s excited about working with Leapfrog Press, publisher of Losing Kei, to plan a stateside booktour.

When Kamata arrives in South Carolina this month, she plans to visit family, catch up with friends, and sign copies of her novel.

And maybe run through the sprinkler.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I feel for this guy:

Plant Box Battle Could End Up In Court: Retiree Deems Decision By Homeowners Association Unfair

Video: Upstate Homeowner Fighting For Garden Box In Yard

HOA's--they have their place, I suppose. (But maybe they should concentrate on policing above-ground pools and satellite dishes.) It's a new earth, kids. And there's no better place to read about it that in Michael Pollan's excellent article in the NYT Magazine:
"the act I want to talk about is growing some — even just a little — of your own food. Rip out your lawn, if you have one, and if you don’t — if you live in a high-rise, or have a yard shrouded in shade — look into getting a plot in a community garden. Measured against the Problem We Face, planting a garden sounds pretty benign, I know, but in fact it’s one of the most powerful things an individual can do — to reduce your carbon footprint, sure, but more important, to reduce your sense of dependence and dividedness: to change the cheap-energy mind."
From my own front-yard veggie garden-- the pic of the week:

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