Rereading the Work of Shirley Jackson

I have a lot of literary kindred spirits, most of them women. They are authors who are not necessarily similar to me in writing style or subject matter, but for whom I feel a kind of emotional connection. These are women writers whom I wish I could have over for coffee, to pick their brains, […]

The Relevant Novel

So-called Great American Novels examine the American identity, refusing to merely entertain. Yet notably few top bestsellers’ lists. They are a small sliver of an already pressed industry fighting with TV, the Internet, movies, and our smartphones for attention and relevancy. How can the next great novel be relevant in modern America when it’s competing […]

Against the Odds: Three American Novels of Survival

As I was cleaning out my bookshelves recently, I happened to find three books that I had not read in years. They are: The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. All three novels feature characters younger than the age […]

Totality

Totality is rare these days. A constantly on-the-go society has little time for completion. Even our thoughts and interactions are limited to 140 characters, not quite enough for a thought to fully develop. Hashtags. Text lingo. Sentence fragments. The closest thing approaching totality I’ve done recently is binge-watch an entire season of Silicon Valley in […]

Author and Naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter, a Kindred Spirit

Last summer I visited the Cabin at Wildflower Woods, the former home of one of America’s most popular early-twentieth century authors, Gene Stratton-Porter. Now a state historic site, the craftsman-style cottage overlooks Sylvan Lake near Rome City, Indiana. Nestled amid maples and oaks, and surrounded by a garden bejeweled in the spring with a grand […]

Why We Should All Read The Squatter and the Don

Classic American literature can sometimes feel as distant in time as it does in style from our 21st century moment. But just as our histories continue to echo into our present, so too do classic texts have a great deal to do with society and culture today. Indeed, many such texts offer vital lessons for […]

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

This is the second in a three-part series on finding and building a writing community. The first post focused on online resources, both free and paid. This post will discuss local resources, both free and paid, and the third will expand to include traveling to workshops, retreats, and conferences. There are certain places that writers […]

American Authors as Activists

The controversial and historic election of reality star and billionaire businessman Donald Trump to the American presidency has inspired an ongoing wave of activism and resistance throughout the country, on everything from immigration and the environment to women’s rights and higher education. In response, readers are gobbling up relevant former bestsellers such as George Orwell’s […]

Tom Wolfe and the Power of Language

This past December, during the frenzied buildup to Christmas, I was shopping for gifts for my brother when I decided to duck into a bookstore and look around there. He likes a good thought-provoking book and I like hearing about what he learns through them, so I figured this would be a good place to […]

Genres…and More

So many choices, where to begin? For years, newspapers have been dividing bestsellers into Fiction and Non-fiction. Yet if one digs deeper into these two genres, a stream of sub-genres emerges. FICTION: Fantasy explores alternate worlds, timelines, and universes, often taking individuals from reality into an entirely imagined realm. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings may […]