Literary Libations and Eats

As a kid reading some of my favorite books, I yearned not only the clothing or culture of the characters, but I also craved their food and drink. Who wouldn’t want to try Caroline Ingalls’ sourdough biscuits or a taste of her ginger water during chores on a hot summer day? And how about a […]

Fireworks and Breezeblocks: The Music of American Writing

In November of 2010, Katy Perry’s dance-pop anthem to confidence, “Firework,” debuted on the American charts. It peaked at number one on the Billboard Top 100, topped charts around the world, and was nominated for a Grammy. At the time, few would have guessed that the club song and its music video, which featured Perry […]

Why We Should All Read America is in the Heart

In the early 1930’s, a time of economic turmoil and inequality, and a period of deep national tensions and divisions, Carlos Bulosan immigrated to the United States from the Philippines to find work as a migrant laborer. He was far from the first from his country to do so; indeed, there had been Filipino American […]

Writing the American Immigrant Experience – Achy Obejas

In her story, “We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?” Achy Obejas presents a character much like herself relating events familiar to many people who emigrated to America under very difficult circumstances.  The year is 1963 and the narrator, whose story is rooted in the author’s own, has arrived […]

Get to Know Gertrude

Half a century before beat writer Jack Kerouac touted the appeal of freight hopping, Gertrude Chandler Warner dreamed up The Boxcar Children while sick at home with bronchitis. The American first-grade teacher wrote a book series about four orphaned siblings—Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny Alden—who made their home in an abandoned railroad car. Warner fed […]

Patti Smith: From Poet on the Fringe to Literary Legend

America’s Punk Priestess of Rock, poet & writer Patti Smith, has turned 70 years old. Her artistic and literary journey began in earnest 50 years ago, when in the summer of 1967, she left rural New Jersey with just enough money for a 1-way ticket to New York City. She brought in her small red […]

Created Places

Specific, physical locations are often an important part of a story. Through detailed depictions of physical places an author can help the reader build a mental picture of a world and add a crucial sense of reality to a story. However, writers have chosen a variety of ways to portray these locations. Some places, especially […]

How to Find (or Build) a Writing Community – Part One

This is the first in a three-part series on finding and building a writing community. This post will focus on online resources, both free and paid. The second post will discuss local resources, both free and paid, and the third will expand to include traveling to workshops, retreats, and conferences. Writing can be a very […]

Paul Beatty Wins Biggest British Prize for a Scorchingly American Novel

In Paul Beatty’s sizzling bestseller The Sellout, no one is spared. Over the course of his compact satirical novel, Beatty skewers everyone from the Los Angeles police force (fairly), to the cast of Little Rascals (of all things), to Dave Eggers (teased for his brand of do-gooder California condescension). Notable for its daring engagement with […]

Writing the American Immigrant Experience – Harry Mark Petrakis

Since the publication of his short story “Pericles on 31st Street” in the Atlantic Monthly in 1957,  Chicago-born novelist Harry Mark Petrakis has chronicled the experience of Greek Americans finding their place in an unfamiliar world.   His novels, including The Odyssey of Kostas Valakis, Nick the Greek, A Dream of Kings, and Ghost of the […]