Book of the Week #13

Sing and Other Stories by Dan Szczesny (NH: Hobblebush Books, 2015

"The stories in Sing catch you off guard again and again—Dan Szczesny is a virtuoso narrative shapeshifter, wily and daring. To paraphrase one of his own characters, he is at once astronaut, poet, theologian, philosopher, chemical engineer, and more. Here are stories that seem to cascade like gentle rain in one instant, then come swinging at the gut in the next. They are unstinting in their lyrical scrutiny of human frailty and longing."
—Tim Horvath, author of Understories

On Thursday, April 2, 2015 Gibson's Bookstore is hosting a book release party for Sing. Festivities begin a 7pm. 


Schools with LAL Semi-finalists

Letters About Literature received 776 letters from New Hampshire students for the 2015 competition. Of these, 68 letters have been selected as semi-finalists across the three competition levels. There were a few students who entered as individuals (not indicating a school) whose letters were selected as semi-finalists. The rest of the semi-finalists are students at these schools:

Atkinson Academy - Atkinson
Captain Samuel Douglass Academy - Brookline
Crossroads Academy - Lyme
Gilford High School - Gilford
Hampstead Middle School - Hampstead
Haverhill Cooperative Middle School - North Haverhill
Heron Pond Elementary School - Milford
Hollis Brookline Middle School - Hollis
Infant Jesus School - Nashua
Memorial School - Bedford
Milford Middle School - Milford
Moultonborough Central School - Moultonborough
Oyster River Middle School - Durham
Plainfield Elementary School - Meriden
Profile School - Bethlehem
Somersworth High School - Somersworth
St. Thomas Aquinas HS - Dover
Three Rivers School – Pembroke

Next week each student whose letter was selected as a semi-finalist will be receiving a packet notifying them of their selection. Most of the packets are being sent care of teachers whose names were on the entry coupons. Students who entered as individuals will get their packets at home.  
The packets include a release form that each student needs to have signed and returned before we can announce their names. As soon as the releases are returned to us we will post the list of semi-finalists. 


Book of the Week #12

Love Free or Die: Twenty-three Tales of Love from the Granite State, edited by Elaine Isaak (Concord, NH: Plaidswede Publishing, 2013)

This is the latest volume in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Series and it offers stories by 23 different Granite State writers (including Amy Ray).
"Welcome, dear reader, to the fourht volume of the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction Series, in which we're all about love. But this is not your mother's romance anthology. Yes, you'll find at least one bodice ripper, and a wide variety of first kisses, along with some sexy encounters and sordid affairs. However, you'll also find suspense and tragedy, married love and some unusual relationships that could only happen here, in the Granite State.
...Some of these authors will be familiar from other volumes in the New Hampshire Pulp Fiction series, while others appear here in print for the first time." -- from the Introduction by Elaine Isaak.


Q&A: Terry Farish

Terry Farish
(photo by
Ty Paterson)
There are a lot of wonderful writers living in our state. As the Director of the NH Center for the Book  I get the opportunity to talk to many of them. This interview series of Q&As with New Hampshire authors here on Book Notes lets me share that experience a bit with my blog readers. 

If someone hasn't read your work yet, where should they start?
I invite you to read The Good Braider.  It is a novel in verse for adults and young adults that follows the life of a young girl who escapes war in Sudan, flees with her mother to Cairo, and together they resettle in Portland, Maine. Writing The Good Braider became the focus of my life for many years as I listened to and recorded oral histories with refugees in Maine. The book guided my writing path and opened doors for me to continue telling the stories of new Americans and the extraordinary dance among cultures that newcomers - over generations - learn. And about long-time Americans who see U.S. culture ever changing. 

When did you first think of yourself as a writer?
I can't say when I became one.  It's just my life. My writing students and I have had conversations about whether they should choose to be a writer. Writers have a hunger to reveal, or be a witness to, or interpret life, and we just do it out of necessity. I have a room in the top of my house where I go before the sun's up on my lucky days.  And I immerse myself in the fictional world I'm working on.  Writing is a meditation.  The business of writing is something else and requires me to leave my upstairs room and be a sort of business person.

How did you end up living in NH?
I first came to New Hampshire when I married an air force officer with a fighter wing at Pease Air Force Base; my first job here was at the Rochester Public Library, an old Carnegie library where I worked with people who awed me and introduced me to NH, and I learned how to mend the bindings of old novels which I liked doing. 

Where do you like to write?
I can write absolutely anywhere. I love writing on airplanes and buses and trains and have sorted out difficult tangles in writing when I'm in motion. In fact a lot of my writing happens when I'm walking. I take scenes I'm working on into the woods with me and my dog, and I come home with dialogue and details I hadn’t known.  My favorite place to compose is my upstairs room in the early, early morning as the light comes.

How important is place in your writing?
My characters are shaped by place.  But I might change the word place to include culture because there are so many cultures in a place.  People are shaped by the cultures they call home, whether it be the culture of fishermen on the NH Seacoast or a community of women who braid hair while around them there is war.  They carry the places of their lives with them and the places become a part of who they are.   And sometimes people are shaped by the yearning for places they have left. One South Sudanese friend told me about her homesickness for a place at war. She said,  "Home is home. Of course I miss home." She missed the smell of the earth by the Nile.

What do you do when you aren't writing?
I'm also a yoga teacher in Portsmouth.  I'm very interested in yoga poses as a metaphor for states of mind we seek to cultivate in ourselves.  I find yoga to be a good practice linking the physical body with writing since ideas begin in the body.

What’s the best piece of advice (writing or otherwise) you were ever given?
What you need is already within you.

What books do you love and what about them speaks to you?
I love so many, many books and am seduced over and over again. This is the best book! No, this is the best book I have ever read!  I go back always to the nobility of the characters in The Old Man and the Sea.  Hemingway breaks my heart again and again when I return to the old man and the boy who wants to fish. I see the book as perfection of language and am drawn in my own work to the precision of Hemingway's words. Another master is Edwidge Danticat who shows us the hearts and hungers of the Haitian people with her exquisite voice.  I would almost use the word sacred when I read Danticat. I keep William Staffford's poems close by.
What are you working on now?
I am just finishing a book about a 17-year old girl, Sofie, who is the daughter of a NH fisherman and a Cambodian mother, called Either the Beginning or the End of the World.  It's a story of first love when she meets a soldier returned from Afghanistan. When she tries to understand his war trauma, for the first time in her life she begins to comprehend her mother who was a child survivor of the Pol Pot regime.  Her love for the soldier is the beginning of her grasp of her own identity as both a daughter of her father's New Hampshire Seacoast and of her mother's war.  The title is from a poem by Carolyn Forché "Ourselves or Nothing." The novel is set on the New Hampshire Seacoast and Carolrhoda Lab will publish it in fall, 2015.

You can learn more about Terry Farish and her work at http://terryfarish.com
and at  http://goodbraider.com.  Follow her on Twitter @TerryFarish


Ladybug Nominees 2015

The Ladybug Picture Book Award committee has chosen the nominees for the 2015 Ladybug Picture Book Award.

New Hampshire children, from preschool to third grade, will select the winning picture book when they vote in November 2015. The deadline for sending in vote tally sheets will be Friday, December 11, 2015 at 4:30pm. Voting materials will be posted on the Ladybug web page in July. Full catalog records for all of the nominated titles are available in the NHU-PAC

If you want to get ahead of the crowd you can go ahead and order your Ladybug Stickers anytime. 

The 2015 nominees for the Ladybug Picture Book Award are: