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Lydia Davis is a writer whose originality, influence, and wit are beyond compare. Best known for her masterful short stories and translations, Davis’s gifts extend equally to her nonfiction. In “Essays One” Davis has, for the first time, gathered a selection of essays, commentaries, and lectures composed over the past five decades.

Being able to hold one’s head high and call oneself a writer is the goal of many a passionate storyteller. But how does one get published? And what happens after that? Critical or sales success (or being published again) is far from a foregone conclusion.

Courtney Maum is the author of the novels “Costalegre,” “Touch,” and “I’m Having So Much Fun Here Without You.” She brings her personal experience and input and insight from many other accomplished writers to her new book, “Before and After The Book Deal;” an all-inclusive guide for writers about how to navigate and, importantly, survive the publishing world.

With chapters like “Getting and Right” and “Getting it Out There” and down-to-Earth sub-headings like “Can I stay in my corporate job without losing my creative edge?” and “My book sales are sluggish - should I crawl under a rock and die?,” Maum peels back the gauzy romantic curtain of a working author’s life - and replaces it with clarity and detailed advice.

“Before and After The Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book” was published by Catapult earlier this month, and Maum will be at Oblong Books and Music in Rhinebeck, New York on Thursday, January 23 at 6 p.m.

Harold Bloom in 1990
Jim Wilson / The New York Times

Harold Bloom, the eminent critic and Yale professor whose seminal “The Anxiety of Influence” and melancholy regard for literature’s old masters made him a popular author and standard-bearer of Western civilization amid modern trends, died Monday at age 89. Bloom’s wife, Jeanne, said that he had been in failing health, although he continued to write books and was teaching as recently as last week.

Bloom wrote more than 20 books and prided himself on making scholarly topics accessible to the general reader. But, he saw his career as a very simple and honorable one.

Professor Bloom was a frequent guest on this program. He would write me short complimentary notes asking if we could talk about his latest project or just about life in general. In truth, in a 45-minute conversation, I may only get 2-3 questions in. But, listening to him hold forth was always a pleasure.

Although he frequently bemoaned the decline of literary standards, he was as well placed as a contemporary critic could hope to be. He appeared on best-seller lists with such works as “The Western Canon” and “The Book of J,” and was a National Book Award finalist and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Harold Bloom spoke with us in 2015.

The 2nd Annual Albany Book Festival at the University at Albany will take place Saturday, September 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Events are free and open to the public and there will be books for sale.

The festival will include more than 100 authors and poets, including several nationally-known and best-selling writers, exhibits, writing workshops, and children's activities.

Casey Cep’s “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee,” looks at the dual mysteries of a notorious crime and a famous novelist’s attempt to write about it.

Cep brings the story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a portrait of Harper Lee and her struggle with fame.

It may be hard to believe, but this year marks the 10th annual Woodstock Bookfest and they will be busily igniting the conversation by bringing readers and writers together for a weekend of discussion and celebration.

Taking place from March 28–31, the festival hosts classes, panels, keynotes, Story Slams, parties and more, all in the unique surroundings of Woodstock.

Martha Frankel is the Executive Director of the Woodstock Bookfest and she joins us this morning along with award winning novelist, James Lasdun.

Gerard Stropnicky
Gordon Wendell

In our time, when 280-character insults and snarky memes pass for conversation, is Civic Empathy possible?

Writer, director, activist and instigator, USA Fellow Gerard Stropnicky offers a Field Report on community story applied to community healing and progress as part of Vassar College’s “Engaged Pluralism Initiative Semester of Storytelling.”

On March 27 at 6 p.m. Stropnicky will host the workshop, “Civic Empathy: A Field Report” in the Villard Room on the Vassar campus.

Director and actor Gerard Stropnicky is one of the founding members of the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, one of the oldest resident ensemble theaters in the U.S.

Esmeralda Santiago, a founding mother of Nuyorican literature, was part of the University at Albany’s: The Creative Life: Conversation Series in the Fall of last year.

The eldest in a family of 11 children, Santiago came to the States from Puerto Rico at the age of 13. After eight years of part-time study in community colleges, she transferred to Harvard where she graduated magna cum laude. Santiago’s bestselling 1993 memoir, "When I Was Puerto Rican," was named one of the “Best Memoirs of a Generation” by Oprah’s Book Club. Her second memoir, "Almost a Woman" was adapted for Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. Her epic 2011 novel, "Conquistadora," set in 19th century Puerto Rico, was hailed as a “triumph” in The Washington Post.

The Creative Life series is a major arts initiative of the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany Performing Arts Center and University Art Museum in conjunction with WAMC produced with major support from the University at Albany Foundation.

This conversation was recorded on November 8th, 2018 at the University at Albany Campus Center Ballroom.

Listener Essay - Taking Note

Jan 16, 2019
Bob Slack

Debbie Slack was honored to be a recipient of the 2018 Edwin Way Teale Artist in Residence at Trail Wood sponsored by the Connecticut Audubon Society.

Inspired by the residency, Debbie has been writing a series of essays which has expanded into a memoir titled "Trail Wood: A Love Story." Debbie is also focused on publishing her novel, "Margaret Mary and the Gutsy Girls." She is excited for their story to leave the comforts of home and venture out into the hearts of girls everywhere. Outside of writing, Debbie enjoys exploring nature with her husband, Bob, and their two Labradors.

~Taking Note~

This is the third time I visited Edwin Way Teale’s office at Trail Wood, in Hampton, Connecticut, however, it is the first time I arrived without my husband, Bob, and his camera. I am alone, prepared to work, to observe and take note. Previously I had arranged this appointment with Vern Pursley, the caretaker. His warm smile greets me and welcomes me into the home. Vern leaves the front door open and the breeze caresses the screen. Entering Edwin’s office, I gently set my backpack down and remove my paper and pens. Vern tells me to make myself at home and stepping away he says if I need anything to give him a shout. I can’t imagine shouting in this space. I can barely imagine sitting at Edwin’s desk and actually writing. The last time I stepped inside and sat down, I was in such a state that I trembled.

Ray Connolly has published a number of books, including "Being Elvis." He also directed the television documentary "James Dean: The First American Teenager" and worked with record producer Sir George Martin on the BBC television series "The Rhythm of Life." His new book is "Being John Lennon: A Restless Life."

"Being John Lennon" is not about the whitewashed Prince of Peace of Imagine legend, because that was only a small part of him. The John Lennon depicted in the book is a much more kaleidoscopic figure, sometimes almost a collision of different characters.

Esmeralda Santiago is a renowned writer of the Puerto Rican experience and a founding mother of Nuyorican literature.

Santiago’s bestselling 1993 memoir, "When I was Puerto Rican" was named one of the “Best Memoirs of a Generation” by Oprah’s Book Club. In 2018, it was one of five finalists for the “One Book, One New York” community-wide reading project. Her second memoir, "Almost a Woman" received the American Library Association’s Alex Award, and was adapted for Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. Her epic 2011 novel, "Conquistadora" received many praises in The Washington Post.

She will be in Albany, New York at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 8 at the University at Albany Campus Center Ballroom as part of The Creative Life Conversation Series.

The Creative Life series, a major arts initiative of the New York State Writers Institute, UAlbany Performing Arts Center and University Art Museum in conjunction with regional public radio station WAMC, brings leading figures from writing, music, dance, choreography, visual arts, architecture, theatre, and filmmaking to the University for conversation with Donahue about their creative inspiration, craft, and careers.

Wanda Sykes has been called “one of the funniest stand-up comics” by her peers and ranks among Entertainment Weekly’s 25 Funniest People in America. Her smart-witted stand up has sent her career in many different areas.

Her latest comedy tour is entitled, "Oh Well," which she will bring to the Ulster Performing Arts Center in Kingston, New York on Friday, October 26th at 7:30 PM.

In addition to her standup comedy, Sykes is a writer, producer and actor with projects including television's "Blackish," "Alpha House," "House of Lies," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "The Chris Rock Show” and most recently the reboot of “Roseanne.”

In her admired works of fiction, including the recent "The Book That Matters Most," best-selling author Ann Hood explores the transformative power of literature.

In her new book, "Morningstar," she reveals the personal story behind beloved novels in her life.

Rachel Kadish’s new novel The Weight of Ink is set in London. It is the interwoven tale of two women of remarkable intellect – one an emigrant from Amsterdam who is permitted to scribe for a blind rabbi, just before the plague hits the city; the other an ailing historian with a love of Jewish history.

Salman Rushdie
Wall Street Journal

The New York State Writers Institute and the UAlbany Speaker Series presents Salman Rushdie in an afternoon craft talk and evening presentation on Thursday, April 19.

Rushdie's new novel is The New York Times bestseller, "The Golden House," a parable of contemporary America set against the backdrop of current American culture and politics. We spoke with Rushdie on The Book Show when the book was published and this is an encore presentation of that interview.

No writer plunged more wholeheartedly into the chaotic energies of the 1960s than Norman Mailer, as he fearlessly revolutionized literary norms and genres to capture the political, social, and sexual explosions of an unsettled era.

Library of America has released a new boxed set of Mailer's work from that decade. There are two novels, two booklength masterpieces of new journalism, and thirty-three essays.

J. Michael Lennon emeritus professor of English at Wilkes University, is Norman Mailer's editor and biographer, and president of the Mailer Society. His books include "Norman Mailer: A Double Life" and "Selected Letters of Norman Mailer."

Book Cover - My Adventures With God
Amazon

From legendary character actor Stephen Tobolowsky, who currently appears on "The Goldbergs" and HBO’s "Silicon Valley," and Norman Lear’s new "One Day at a Time," author of "The Dangerous Animals Club" and The Tobolowsky Files podcast; "My Adventures with God" is a funny, introspective collection about love, catastrophe, and triumph, all told through the lens of his evolving relationship with the mystery that is “God.”

As Tobolowsky explains, “It’s hard to believe in nothing. Even cats believe in suppertime. As much as we love certainty, we are often shaped by the invisible, the unexplainable—something we call faith. We are inclined to acknowledge the holy. Even if it is only a paper heart we find in an old suitcase.”

It has been one hundred years since Agatha Christie wrote her first novel and created the formidable Hercule Poirot. Award winning biographer, Laura Thompson now turns her sharp eye to Agatha Christie. Arguably the greatest crime writer in the world, Christie's books still sell over four million copies each year - more than thirty years after her death - and sales show no signs of slowing.

But who was the woman behind these mystifying, yet eternally pleasing, puzzlers? Thompson's book is "Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life."

It may be hard to believe, but this year - 2018 - marks the 9th annual Woodstock Bookfest. And they will be busily igniting the conversation by bringing readers and writers together for a weekend of discussion and celebration.

Taking place from March 22nd – 25th, they’ll host classes, panels, keynotes, Story Slams, parties and more, all in the unique surroundings of Woodstock.

Martha Frankel is the Executive Director of the Woodstock Bookfest.

Renée Shafransky is a writer and psychotherapist. Her articles and essays have appeared in various publications including the Village Voice, Condé Nast Traveler, and the Southampton Review. She has written screenplays for major motion picture studios and teleplays for HBO and PBS, working with renowned directors such as Harold Ramis. Previously married to actor and writer Spalding Gray, Ms. Shafransky produced the acclaimed film of his monologue, "Swimming to Cambodia," directed by Jonathan Demme.

She joins us to discuss her first novel, a mystery entitled "Tips for Living."

"Goddess of Anarchy" recounts the formidable life of the militant writer, orator, and agitator Lucy Parsons. Born to an enslaved woman in Virginia in 1851 and raised in Texas-where she met her husband, the Haymarket "martyr" Albert Parsons-Lucy was a fearless advocate of First Amendment rights, a champion of the working classes, and one of the most prominent figures of African descent of her era. And yet, her life was riddled with contradictions-she advocated violence without apology, concocted a Hispanic-Indian identity for herself, and ignored the plight of African Americans.

Jacqueline Jones holds the Ellen C. Temple Chair in Women's History and the Mastin Gentry White Professorship in Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Griffin Dunne
Chronogram Magazine

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold is a biographical documentary featuring the life of influential American writer, Joan Didion. Directed by Joan's nephew, Griffin Dunne, the film enlightens the viewer with an unprecedented, intimate perspective on Joan's life and career accomplishments.

The film features interviews from Joan herself, as well as close family and friends, interwoven with contextual archival footage/stills to visualize Joan's astute writing. Joan, famous for bringing order to disorder through her words, exposes, examines and divulges the most pivotal events in American history, making her one of the most recognizable and influential voices within the literary world. The story of this film not only considers Joan Didion the writer, but gives light to Joan Didion, the individual. 

The film will be screened at Upstate Films in Rhinebeck, NY on October 13th at 5:45pm as part of the Woodstock Film Festival with a Q & A to follow with Griffin Dunne. 

David Sedaris
Ingrid Christie

David Sedaris is the author of the books Let's Explore Diabetes with OwlsSquirrel Seeks ChipmunkWhen You Are Engulfed in FlamesDress Your Family in Corduroy and DenimMe Talk Pretty One DayHolidays on IceNaked, and Barrel Fever. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and BBC Radio 4.

The beloved author and humorist will be at Tanglewood on Sunday, August 20 at 8p.m. 

His new book is Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002).


  This Thursday at 4 p.m., The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts presents Women Writing Through Loss: Connecting Through Calamity featuring Dr. Lucy Kalanithi, Rebecca Soffer, and Emily Rapp Black as they read from their work and discuss the power of connection as friends, as writers, as mothers, and as women who forged powerful friendships after experiencing great personal loss, and writing their way out of it.

 

Rebecca Soffer joined us to tell us more.

Arthur Yorinks has written and directed for opera, theater, dance, film, and radio and is the author of over thirty-five acclaimed and award-winning books, including Hey, Al, a children's book, which earned the Caldecott Medal in 1987.

His latest book is: Making Scents. It is a graphic novel, written by Yorinks and illustrated by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline. Mickey isn't quite like his brothers and sisters. They're all stronger, faster, and have a much better sense of smell. That's because his "brothers and sisters" are dogs--bloodhounds, to be exact. Mickey's mom and dad are crazy about canines.

Their dogs are the loves of their lives and their livelihood. So, naturally, they're raising their son as if he was a dog, and Mickey wants nothing more than to make his parents proud.

Through his forty years of picture-book making, he has teamed up with many famed illustrators including Maurice Sendak, William Steig, Mort Drucker and David Small.  

Arthur Yorinks has an event at Battenkill Books in Cambridge, NY on Thursday, July 20th at 7 pm.

Josh Radnor
Cary Mosier / Vassar College's Flickr

The star of How I Met Your Mother, Josh Radnor, is premiering his new play, Sacred Valley at New York Stage and Film and Vassar College's Powerhouse Theater in Poughkeepsie from June 29th to July 9th.

Sacred Valley is about Narby and Natalie, two lifelong friends. Their friendship becomes tested when Narby takes Natalie’s husband Brian out for his first mushroom trip. The next day, a confused Brian leaves Natalie, an enraged Natalie blames Narby, and three people are forced to ask themselves the deepest questions about love, friendship, and growing up.

Aside from playing Ted on How I Met Your Mother, Radnor has written and directed two films, Happythankyoumoreplease, and Liberal Arts

David Salle is an internationally renowned painter whose work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Tate Museum and National Galarie of Berlin, among many others.   He also has a long-standing involvement with performance working extensively over the last 25 years with choreographer Karole Armitage, creating sets and costumes for many of her ballets and operas.  Salle is also a prolific writer on art. His new book is How To See.

On Wednesday, March 23, he will be featured in the New York Writers Institute The Creative Life Series in conversation with Joe Donahue, live in the Recital Hall at UAlbany at 7pm. 

Willard Spiegelman is the Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. From 1984 until 2016, he was also the editor in chief of Southwest Review. He has written many books and essays about English and American poetry. For more than a quarter century he has been a regular contributor to the Leisure & Arts pages of The Wall Street Journal.

Drawing on more than six decades' worth of lessons from his storied career as a writer and professor, Willard Spiegelman reflects with candid humor and sophistication on growing old.Senior Moments is a series of discrete essays that, when taken together, constitute the life of a man who, despite Western cultural notions of aging as something to be denied, overcome, and resisted, has continued to relish the simplest of pleasures: reading, looking at art, talking, and indulging in occasional fits of nostalgia while also welcoming what inevitably lies ahead.

Fannie Flagg is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and A Redbird Christmas.

Her latest novel, The Whole Town’s Talking, tells the story of Lordor Nordstrom, his Swedish mail-order bride and their neighbors and descendants as they live, love, die and carry on in mysterious and surprising ways.

A Bronx Tale: The Musical begins previews on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre tomorrow night. The new musical features a book by Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri, music by Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Alan Menken, and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Oscar and Tony Award nominee Glenn Slater. The show is co-directed by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, with choreography by Tony nominee Sergio Trujillo.

Based on the one-man show written and performed by Chazz Palminteri that inspired the now classic film, this streetwise musical will takes the audience to the stoops of the Bronx in the 1960s—where a young man is caught between the father he loves and the mob boss he’d love to be. Featuring an original doo-wop score, this is a tale about respect, loyalty, love, and above all else: family.

The musical premiered at the Tony Award-winning Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ to critical and popular acclaim earlier this year and officially opens on Broadway on December 1st.

Alan Menken joins us.

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