Monday, November 28, 2011

TCR Story of the Month for November: "The Time of Plenty" by Judith Slater

The Committee Room is pleased to inaugurate its Story of the Month series with Judith Slater's lively and wise "The Time of Plenty."  The story takes us back to small town America on Election Night 1960. Opposing social and political forces that would explode later in the decade were gathering strength, even in friendly middle class neighborhoods.  Seen through the eyes of a child, "The Time of Plenty" subtly depicts the adult characters' feelings of optimism in the midst of regret and of discontent while surrounded by comfort.  

Judith Slater's work has appeared in many publications including the Greensboro Review,  Redbook, Seventeen, Ascent, Story Quarterly, and A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers.  

"The Time of Plenty" was published in Carve Magazine (Spring 2011).

Slater's collection of short stories The Baby Can Sing, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize for short fiction, was published by Sarabande Books.

To read "The Time of Plenty" click here

TCR Chats with Judith Slater

Judith Slater
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I've been writing since I was a child -- the result, I think, of growing up as an only child.  I had to rely on reading and my own imagination for entertainment.  That more than anything else shaped me as a writer; I certainly wasn't encouraged to be a writer.  I come from a family of practical, hard-headed business people who were a bit suspicious of the creative arts. My parents wanted me to be a legal secretary so I'd have a secure job.

Q: Where and when did your first story appear?
A: My first published story was in Seventeen magazine, back when they published a story a month; that was a huge thrill, and the editor was wonderful, helping me shape what was certainly not a polished publishable story when it came across her desk.  I was in my twenties.  I'm still proud of that story, and grateful to that editor for taking a chance on me.

Q: What inspired "The Time of Plenty?"
A: I don't consider myself a political writer by any means, and "The Time of Plenty" is probably as close as I'll ever get.  Everyone, of course, is fascinated by the Kennedy mystique, and I wanted to find a way to approach it from a different angle -- small town politics set against the larger political culture of the time.  Also, when I was a child, my parents -- those practical, hard-headed business people -- had an unlikely friendship with the couple next door who were very much like the Matt and Irene in the story, social workers, liberal Democrats.  That's rare -- and even rarer now in these divisive times -- for people with such different beliefs and politics to be able to forge a friendship.

Q: Who are some of your favorite "classic" writers?
A: The writer who has most influenced me is John Cheever -- I suppose because he explores the culture of the 1950s, which is a subject I'm interested in, but also because he writes those beautiful, glorious sentences.  I have three copies of his collected stories -- the one with the red cover -- and reread them all the time.  He's influenced me as a writer since I was an undergraduate.

Q: Who are you favorite contemporary writers?
A: There are so many wonderful contemporary writers that it's hard to choose just a few.  I really love the work of Julie Orringer, a young writer whose story collection How to Breathe Underwater is just wonderful.   I love writers who are able to combine humor and sadness -- George Saunders, John McNally, and my late husband Gerry Shapiro, whose collections From Hunger and Bad Jews have the funniest, wisest stories I've ever read.  Tobias Wolff, Amy Bloom, Andrea Barrett, Richard Russo. That hardly begins to scratch the surface.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

TCR to Begin Story of the Month Series

The Committee Room is pleased and proud to announce its Story of the Month series.  The series will highlight some of the best short fiction available online. TCR's editorial staff carefully searches the web for engaging, intelligent new fiction.  Material is selected from stories published online within the previous twelve-month period. Story of the Month postings will offer a brief interview with the author and a link to the story as it appears in its original publication.

Look for November's Story of the Month coming soon.

There's lots of good stuff out there.  TCR is helping you find it.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Hemingway's Recommended Reading List

Hemingway reading , Finca Vigia, Cuba
Here is Hemingway's Recommended Reading List (in his own words, from By-Line: Ernest Hemingway).
  • War and Peace and Anna Karenina by Tolstoi
  • Midshipman EasyFrank Midmay and Peter Simple by Captain Marryat
  • Madame Bovary and L'Education Sentimentale by Flaubert
  • Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann
  • Joyce's Dubliners, Portrait of the Artist and Ulysses 
  • Tom Jones and Joseph Andrews by Fielding
  • Le Rouge et Le Noir and La Chartreuse de Parme by Stendhal
  • The Brothers Karamazov and any two other Dostoevskis
  • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Open Boat and The Blue Hotel by Stephen Crane
  • Hail and Farewell by George Moore
  • Yeats's Autobiographies
  • All the good De Maupassant
  • All the good Kipling
  • All of Turgenev
  • Far Away and Long Ago by W.H. Hudson
  • Henry James's short stories, especially "Madame de Mauves;" also The Turn of the ScrewThe Portrait of a LadyThe American

List courtesy of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park which maintains Hemingway's boyhood home and Hemingway museum in Oak Park. Illinois, just outside Chicago.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Hemingway Letters

 The first volume of Hemingway's letters (The Letters of Ernest Hemingway, Volume One, 1907-1922) was released recently (Fall 2011) by the Cambridge University Press.  The letters are said to be the only remaining Hemingway material heretofore unpublished.

Here's more information --
Also of interest --

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Margaret Atwood Addresses O'Reilly TOC Conference

Canadian novelist, poet, and essayist Margaret Atwood stands a good chance of someday joining the canon of the English literature greats. The always engaging Atwood gave this talk on writers and new media -- "The Publishing Pie: An Author's View" -- at the O'Reilly Tools of Change in Publishing conference earlier this year in New York City. It's well worth a look. And it's funny.

Additional Sources:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

One More Page Books, A Newly Opened Bookstore

One More Page Books
A rapidly changing bookselling and publishing environment and a slow economy did not deter Eileen McGervey from following her dream of owning and managing a bookstore.  In January 2011, McGervey's store, One More Page Books, opened in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC.  McGervey worked for more than two decades as a marketing consultant to high tech and telecom companies and had no experience in the bookselling business.  The Committee Room recently talked with McGervey.

Q: Why did you want to own and operate a book store?
A: I have always loved reading and to be around books.  My first job was shelving books on a bookmobile and I thought – what a great job to be surrounded by books every day.

Q: How much time passed from conception of the store to its opening?
A:  Almost 2 years (about 22 months)

Q: What was the biggest challenge in getting the store up and running?
A: Finding the right location and the permitting/inspections process.  The location the store is in now was the third place I had tried to secure.

Q: How did you choose your location and how much does location matter?
A: Location is critical.  You can have the best store, but if no one comes to the store, it’s meaningless.  One of my key criteria was that it needed to be in walking distance of neighborhoods, complexes.  If someone has to get in their car, they can go anywhere.  I wanted to be in an area where I am not the only business. Again, foot traffic is key.  And it couldn’t be crazy expensive because the margins are low in the bookstore business.  This was a challenge in the Arlington/Falls Church area.  Also, it’s very helpful to have a landlord who is willing to work with you.  We’re very happy with our location – we love the neighborhood and have a good relationship with our landlord.

Q: How big is the store and how much does size matter?
A: The store is just under 1,500 square feet.  Size matters in that while more revenue is generated in a larger store, expenses are also higher a square footage increases – more fixtures, higher rent and more inventory.  But you have to be big enough to cover your fixed expenses of rent and utilities.  It’s a challenge to find the “sweet spot.”

Interior, One More Page Books
Q: Have you received any financial backing from any government agency such as small business development assistance or cultural affairs support?
A: No financial backing other than myself and a few friends.  For a person starting a new business in field where they do not have previous experience, there is little financial support available.

Q: Who selects the titles that go on your shelves?
A: The staff and I, plus we work with publishers on upcoming titles as well as feedback from our customers. Several of our most popular books are ones were suggested by customers.

Q: What are the criteria for selection?  For example, do you stock bestsellers regardless of what you think of their quality?
A: We do not because traditional best sellers are not generally what our customers are looking for – they are often looking for different, indie books.

Q: Who are your customers?
A: Our customers are generally local to the area, many within walking distance of the store.  They are well educated, book lovers, inquisitive and interested in learning about new books.

Q: Why should someone shop at One More Page Books and not at the Barnes and Noble a short distance from your store?
A:  A couple of reasons.  Often when folks go to B&N, they are looking for a specific book. Many of our customers are not looking for a specific book, but to get a book that is new to them.  They browse the tables where we display new books, our favorites, recommendations from other customers.  I think they like that we have come to know many of them and them us and also that they frequently run into friends in the store.  They enjoy the community aspect of our events, like the wine and chocolate tastings, book discussion groups and author events.  A number of them have told us how important it is to them to support local business and independent books stores.  And from a practical aspect, since many of them walk to the store, they don’t have to battle the traffic. They can just stroll to the store, look at books and then get a snack or lunch at the cafe across the street.

Q: One More Page Books belongs to IndieBound, a subgroup of the American Booksellers Association.  What are the rules for belonging to Indie Bound and what benefits does IndieBound offer?
A: A store must be (or plan to be) a bricks and mortar store retail bookstore to be part of IndieBound. Indie Bound provides a community for indie bookstores and also uses the buying power of all the member stores to make arrangements with vendors on services/products stores need.

Q: Why should someone shop at your store and not just download a desired book to an e-reader?
A: A brief answer is that a number of our customers also download books to their e-readers - it’s not an either/or situation.  One of our biggest customer advocates is also a big Nook user.  People are looking for something new to them, which they wouldn’t know to download. Also, people tell us there are some books they like to read in print.

Q: One More Page Books sells wine and chocolate as well as books. Why is that?
A: Something fun and different.  It gives people multiple reasons to stop by and more things to buy while they are here.  We have a lot of fun talking about our wine and chocolate with our customers and really   enjoy that our tastings have become a popular event where our customers get to socialize with each and    with us. Besides, I love books, wine and chocolate, so who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by their favorite things.

Q: What do you think One More Page Books will be like ten years from now?
A:  To be honest, I haven’t thought about it.  Things change too quickly to predict the future very far out.

Q: What's your main piece of advice for those considering opening up a bookstore?
A: Do your homework.  Plan on it costing more money and taking longer than you expect.  Make sure there are compelling reasons for someone to come to you versus B&N or Amazon.  Enlist support from others.  That got me through some very difficult times.  I love the store and feel so fortunate to have so much support in making it happen.

Additional Reading:

Welcome to The Committee Room

Books in my B&B room in Cambridge
Photo by Chris Freeland via Flicker
Welcome to The Committee Room.  Our aim is to explore literary culture including writing, reading, bookselling, and publishing.We offer original TCR-produced  interviews and articles along with links to exceptional material found on other websites and blogs. We hope to make connections between the different facets of the literary world and make it easier for you to keep well-informed. Our name is taken from a story in James Joyce's Dubliners and emphasizes our purpose as a place of discussion.

- Mary Kalfatovic, editor