I’m delighted to partner with Bookshop West Portal and curate their first-ever national book subscription service. I’ll choose six new Irish books of fiction or nonfiction over 12 rolling months and write a letter to go with each title, sharing why I picked it and how I hope the read will also captivate subscribers.
Feel free to let me know about forthcoming titles by Irish and Irish diaspora writers, especially underrepresented voices (LGBTQ+, women, refugees, immigrants, working class, Pavee, writers of color, writers with disabilities/chronic illness). In addition to my picks, my letter and Bookshop West Portal’s website will include recommendations for those titles that make my subscription shortlist.
It was wonderful to participate in the 8th annual Bay Area Book Festival, which was back in person this year, and to see thousands of people show up so enthusiastically for the arts, and in particular books and writing. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss home, exile, belonging, and living and writing from the fractured spaces during my second panel on ‘Short Stories: In Search of Belonging.’
A craft question from a member of the audience asked how to depict not belonging in story: As with everything else in fiction, it’s down to the personal, sensory, precise, and specific details. Ultimately, I think Colin Barrett and I agreed that home is a state of being. Similarly, I think we reached consensus that in determining what a story has to be to be of value, the writer satisfies that answer for themselves with each piece of writing, and the reader in turn satisfies that answer for themselves. It also seems I will never be allowed forget that I told the Westmeath Independent’s editor Tadhg Carey that I was a “queen of uncomfortable stories.” Thanks again to our moderator Jane Ciabattari for her unfailing excellence.
My deep thanks also to Molly Giles, Sarah Moss and Leslie Kirk Campbell for the brilliance they brought to the panel I moderated on ‘Keep Calm and Go Quietly Mad’. The consensus here was resoundingly that the cultural treatment of ‘madness’ is often biased and careless, and has to be placed within its social and political context (who among us hasn’t unraveled to various degrees, and the extreme pressures keep climbing). Unraveling, breaking down to build back up, can also be necessary and useful. We were unanimous that keeping calm is often the worst response. Instead resist, and agitate. We were less uniform in our thoughts on whether magic, higher powers, or divine inspiration are possible.
I remain wholly impressed by the feat that is organizing and fulfilling a festival of this size and caliber. To Cherilyn Parsons, Norah Piehl, and their team, and to the enormous village of volunteers, congratulations and bravo. Now take a well-earned rest.
I shrieked. I danced. I gave deep thanks. Thrilled to see my short story collection flashed on national TV. It’s way more thrilling to see what two brilliant minds and beautiful spirits can accomplish together. I highly recommend this 7 minute segment that aired on PBS NewsHour Friday night and featured the extraordinary Wendy MacNaughton, Caroline Paul, and Draw Together Studio.
Please join us on Monday, January 24 at 5pm Pacific for an update on the Writers Grotto new San Francisco location, Fellowship Program, and Membership details.
It’s also a PARTY. I’m excited to share (virtual) space with my fellow Writers Grotto 2021 authors. Please join us. It has proved especially difficult to launch a book during a pandemic and we welcome some cheer, and cheering!
Sitting with Matt Borondy’s excellent questions for Identity Theory Magazine, I realized the personal toll of these past two years is worse than I thought, even though, comparative to those with tangible losses, I’m having a privileged pandemic experience. The interview, in which I discuss writing, living, and struggling, is receiving a lovely response from readers and I’m heartened, and grateful.
I had no idea this existed and I am silly happy with ‘superb’ being my new favorite word. Thank you so much Goodreads! And congrats to everyone else listed here, including the wonderful Caitlin Horrocks, Te-Ping Chen, R.O. Kwon and Garth Greenwell (editors), Brenda Peynado, and Haruki Murakami. The collection I’m excited to get to next is LOVE LIKE THAT by Emma Duffy-Comparone.
I narrate my story “The Other Side of the World” on The San Franciscan Magazine. It’s about the pandemic, single motherhood, and a renegade sperm bank son. Take a listen (or read) here. The story originally appeared in The San Franciscan Issue 4 (May, 2021) and I highly recommend the entire read, which is rich with excellent journalism, essays, fiction, poetry, and artwork.
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“This magnificent new novel, a fictionalized vision of the life of Thomas Mann, opens in a provincial German city at the turn of the twentieth century, where Mann grows up with a conservative father, bound by propriety, and a Brazilian mother, alluring and unpredictable. Young Mann hides his artistic aspirations from his father and his homosexual desires from everyone. He is infatuated with one of the richest, most cultured Jewish families in Munich, and marries the daughter Katia. They have six children. On a holiday in Italy, he longs for a boy he sees on a beach and writes the story Death in Venice. He is the most successful novelist of his time, winner of the Nobel Prize in literature, a public man whose private life remains secret. He is expected to lead the condemnation of Hitler, whom he underestimates. His oldest daughter and son, leaders of Bohemianism and of the anti-Nazi movement, share lovers. He flees Germany for Switzerland, France and, ultimately, America, living first in Princeton and then in Los Angeles.In a stunning marriage of research and imagination, Tóibín explores the heart and mind of a writer whose gift is unparalleled and whose life is driven by a need to belong and the anguish of illicit desire. The Magician is an intimate, astonishingly complex portrait of Mann, his magnificent and complex wife Katia, and the times in which they lived–the first world war, the rise of Hitler, World War II, the Cold War, and exile. This is a man and a family fiercely engaged by the world, profoundly flawed, and unforgettable.”
Many thanks to the @writerscenter for hosting this wonderful conversation with Jeannine Ouellette, author of the searing, critically-acclaimed debut memoir The Part That Burns. We talked about sacred storytelling, instinctual choices and stories, literature’s moral task, and the essential challenge of writing the body. I hope you enjoy.