Archive for Literary Nonfiction

Pennsylvania Reading….

To celebrate the record low temperatures in my part of the world (can one really celebrate that?), I have been catching up on some of my reading about books from my homestate.  Take a look at my Book Picks for reviews on Cinderland by Amy Jo Burns and Dry Bones in the Valley by Tom Bouman.

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Welcome, 2015!

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2015! Are you making your resolutions yet? If one of your goals for the New Year is to read more, then try some of these books. I have compiled three lists of great reads from 2014. Authors include Elizabeth Blackwell, Natalie Harnett, Emily St. John Mandel, Roxane Gay, Beth Peyton, and Nicole Walker. Poets includes collections by Rochelle Hurt, John Repp, and January Gill O’Neil. The complete lists are listed here.  Happy Reading!

Summer Reading List

Are you looking for some great summer reads? I have posted my summer reading list — take a look! There’s a wide variety, and I am sure there is something for everyone!

Read This Book: Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman

Eighty DaysJournalist Nellie Bly has always been a personal heroine of mine — from way back when I was in elementary school and I discovered a storybook about her race to travel around the world in less than 80 days. (This was when I was very young. Since I had barely traveled out of my home county — going around the world sounded like a sweet deal.)

Since that time, I have made it an effort to study the life of Nellie Bly — she could be considered a muckraker although most of her important journalism was completed way before the term “muckraker” was coined. One of her best pieces was “Ten Days in a Mad House” where she faked insantiy to do undercover work at the Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum.

Unfortunately, most of the work I have found about Bly has been a bit dry and academic — but I just finished Eighty Days: Nellie Bly’s and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman and I have to say that this is one of the best books I have read this past year.  Goodman details Bly’s life (she’s from a small town in Western Pennsylvania) and her struggles as a woman journalist in a time period when women only wrote marriage advice columns and housekeeping tips.  Most of the book, however, traces Bly’s trip around the world — an event that was arranged by a newspaper when Nellie herself told her editor that she wanted to beat the record set by the fictional character, Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in Eighty Days.

I knew a little about Bly’s trip — however, what I didn’t know was that another newspaper sent another woman to beat Nellie Bly.  Her name? Elizabeth Bisland — and outside of working for women’s rights, she had little in common with Nellie Bly.  Goodman also traces Bisland’s trip, emphasizing the fact that Bly would have actually beat Bly — if poor weather had not slowed her journey.

Goodman’s account of the two journeys is intriguing and insightful. Nellie Bly would go down in history, and I’m glad to read a thoughtful account of her life and this particular journey.  On the other hand, it seems that Elizabeth Bisland’s name would seemingly vanish from history — so I am glad that Goodman found Bisland’s records, so that I could learn about this intriguing woman.

Roosting

I’m letting my work come home to roost.  This past weekend, I sent out my last submission for 2013.  I have learned long ago that December is not a time to go on any kind of submission spree.  So, I let my work come home to rest — roosting much like the blackbirds that crowd the telephone lines outside of my house, their black feathers stark against a world of white.  It seems that editors are clearing off their desks and cleaning out their inboxes in time for the holiday season.  In the last five days, I have received three rejections.

This past year has been a weird writing year for me. Confession: I have not written a brand new poem since June. I have revised and revised and submitted and submitted, but no brand new poems have emerged from my notebooks.

Instead, I have turned to pieces of literary nonfiction. Since this summer, I have finished five essays, submitting them to various markets.  Much like my beginnings in the poetry world, I have received rejections.  That does not discourage me.  In fact, while I have been rejected, I have also received many remarks from editors who have encouraged me to revise and try again! I am entering into a new phrase of writing, and I am excited about this adventure.

This does not mean I have left the world of poetry behind. Indeed, I am working on my Best Collection posts (Look for my lists at the end of December) of what I have read this year.  And, of course, I have not given up on organizing my full length collection.  To be honest, I think this break from writing poetry will serve me well.