Sue Pearson Answers Some Questions

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sue Pearson is an award winning Journalist who has released a novel based on the Nancy Hart Militia, a group of women who took up arms to defend their home in the possibility of an attack by the Union during the Civil War.  

She will be in the store tomorrow (1/ 25/ 2014) at 2pm.  Her book, "The Nancies," sells for $10.00 and is currently being carried by the store. 

Q: Where did you first encounter the story of LaGrange?

Sue: My sister, Margie, who lived in Atlanta, went to LaGrange on business. She knew our father's family came from LaGrange and she stopped in at the Troup County Archives there to do some genealogy research. That's when County Historian Clark Johnson told her that some of our relatives were members of a unique all-female militia during the Civil War. She wasn't sure which relatives or what the significance of this group might be, but since I was the journalist in the family, she turned the documentation over to me to look more deeply into this story. On the airplane returning to California from a visit with Margie in Atlanta, I poured over the documents she had given me. Suddenly, the story was revealed: my two great aunts were officers in a home guard formed to defend the homes and families of LaGrange should there be an enemy invasion. There were 46 women in the Nancy Hart Militia and they did indeed face the enemy in the last days of the war. It wasn't until several years later while doing more research at the Troup County Archives that we found a militia roster with the name of my great grandmother.  Addie Bull was just 14 years old when the war began but she signed up to be one of the militia women. 

Q: How long did you research this this topic before the novel spilled out?

Sue: I had known for many years that I wanted to try my hand at a novel. I just hadn't gotten the seed for a great story. But on that airplane somewhere between Atlanta and Sacramento I knew I had the greatest story of my many long years as a journalist. I couldn't wait to get online and begin the research. I spent a solid two years learning everything I could about the Nancies, as they called themselves. I traveled to LaGrange several times and met with historian Clark Johnson who was incredibly generous with his time. He unearthed every document in the precious archives that detailed the activities of the Nancies and revealed rich details about the women who formed this fighting unit. I studied the history of LaGrange, the Civil War and my own family history in Georgia. I traveled to Virginia to track an important battle many LaGrange men fought in during the Peninsula campaign including my great uncle. I studied Civil War battles in history books and in documents and displays at the Atlanta History Center. When I first started writing the novel my head was so filled with history it was hard not to put every detail I had learned into the story. So two years later with my first draft, I got some excellent but not easy to hear advice: less detailed history, more character, plot and story nuance. So I did a lot of wrenching editing. But then I fleshed out dramatic scenes and wove a thread of plot through them. In the end the novel is much more character driven. I wanted these women to come alive for the reader. They were incredibly brave but disappeared into their traditional roles as wives and mothers after the war ended. I thought it was time for them to come back and take a bow.

Q: Did you change any of the little bits of the history for the requirements of story?  Or were there any pieces of history that plot/character development required you to gloss over?

Sue: I stayed true to the factual details of the Civil War in describing real events and introducing real people. But when it served the story I placed some of my family members in situations that were purely of my imagination. For example, there was truly a warship Alabama and much controversy and intrigue about efforts to get the ship out of England and on its way to Confederate service in the war. My aunt Delia and her father were probably not involved in this international incident but it played well in the story to have them be part of the intrigue. In the beginning of my writing, the issue of slavery was like the elephant in the room. The Nancy Hart Militia had not formed to address the politics or the human rights issue of that time. They only wanted to save their homes and families if the fighting came close. I didn't know what to write about the slavery issue but I knew I couldn't ignore it. Those LaGrange relatives of mine owned slaves and ran plantations. I think I was able to portray the gritty realities of slavery, at the same time staying true to the real focus of this story which was the Nancy Hart Militia.

Q: Was there anything you encountered in your exploration of the subject that you could not include but wished you had?

Sue: Oh, how I wished I could have jammed the book full of all that fascinating history I learned! But alas, it would have slowed the reader down and likely caused death by boredom. 

Jeanine Stevens Q & A

Saturday, January 11, 2014

For those who missed today's Meet and Greet and even for the ones who had the chance to enjoy Jeanine's presentation, here are the questions I sent her and her answers.  It was really a great experience having her in the store today.

Q: How did you come to convey your creative mind in poetry over other forms of expression?

Jeanine: Long interested in many art forms, I tried batik, painting, drawing and collage. These required specialized materials and equipment. I like the simple requirements of poetry: paper, pencil or pen. My grammar school in Indianapolis was named after the Indiana state poet so I had an early introduction to rhyme. I’ve also done various kinds of writing from diaries at an early age, to M.A. and ED.D theses. Also, I was responsible for numerous reports, evaluations, curriculum development, affirmative action directories (working at the California Post-Secondary Education Commission and teaching at American River College) which required many, many pages. I like the brevity of poetry and the idea that one can pack layers of meaning into a few lines. I had a fairly permissive childhood with many opportunities to explore the inner city as well as woodlands and nature areas. Good libraries were close by and my home had encyclopedias and news magazines. Also an avid movie goer, I had an active imagination. I tend to be a visual person and can still recall many dramatic scenes from Saturday matinees, some of which have ended up in my poems.

Why did I start to write poetry? I think the inclination was there all along, and about 20 years ago I was in a bookstore and Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, was on an end-cap. That was my jumpstart into poetry. Much of my inspiration for my work comes from travel, life events and reading other poets. I continue with collage, some of which has illustrated my poems and book covers.

Q: How does your degree in anthropology guide or influence your poetry?

Jeanine: I’ve always been interested in other cultures and prehistory, so anthropology was a natural field of study for me. I was fortunate to have excellent professors in the Anthropology Department at California State University Sacramento, as well as those instructors in the English Department. At American River College I taught anthropology for many years: Cultural, Physical, and Prehistory, so anthropology has been a constant in my life. I think the influence on my poetry is immense. I’ve written poems about cave paintings in southern France (Combarelles Cave), Native Californian legends (Pogonip), Scottish mysticism (Bean Nighe), and archeological excavations (Sifting). I try to remember cultural relativity when I explore and write about situations different from my own. A recent trip to Turkey opened up more ideas for new work,“House of Candlelight,” based on a fresco found in a hidden cave in southern Turkey, and “A Dish of Figs in Thrace.” A chapbook, The Meaning of Monoliths, contains poems related to other cultures and their “monoliths.”

Q: In what way did the Creative Writing Program at Davis help grow your craft?

Jeanine: 1. A course on writing from photographs was instrumental in a number of poems
written over the past few years. All kinds of photos from National Geographic, newspapers,
Sierra Club Magazine, Archeology Magazine and others captured my imagination. Many of the
poems were written from photos of women from young Frida Kahlo to a girl escaping gunfire
in Liberia to others living on the streets.

2. The course, “Poetry and Translation” gave me inspiration for my second collection, Loving
Assemblage, which deals with French themes, French writers and artists. I used the model
of “variations” or “variations on a theme by” French authors I’ve long admired such as Paul
Verlaine, Apollinaire, and Simone de Bouvier. We also analyzed poems in depth, line by line
which is useful for revision.

3. In other courses I learned how to sequence a collection, create a broadside. Another challenged me to write in the style of Gertrude Stein.

Q: You celebrate art in your poetry, so I take it that the greats in all forms (literature to sculpture)
are muse for your poetry. Could you describe your process here? Is it a sudden jolt of inspiration
faced with great beauty? Or is a more obsessive niggling that make the art stick in your mind long after you’re in front of it?

Jeanine: The process I use for ekphrastic poems will vary depending on the piece of artwork. One of my favorite paintings is Le Pie (The Magpie), by Monet. Reprinted, you see a lot of blue and white but when I saw this in person I was astounded by brighter shades of yellow and also how large the painting was, almost life size. I could have stepped right over the rickety farm fence. I may also focus on single item such as the top hat worn by a Native American in a sketch from the 1800’s. The poems I’ve written from Chagall’s work (so full of life and energy) have more to do with action and activity, such as “Blue Circus” and “Joseph’s Dream.” Or I may try to visualize what just happened prior to the scene, or what may happen after.

In “Haida Moon Mask” I imagined what the intent of the wood carver might have been so
described the piece as a carving for his young son who was “startled by stars.”
My poem, “The Blue Nun” was written in response to a small wooden carving, also painted,
which I purchased at a roadside restaurant in Bakersfield. “Made in Russia” was stamped on the
bottom, so I imagined her apparel and her travels from there to here. “Sunday on the Banks of
the Marne” is from a black and white photo and the date, 1938, led me to construct a scenario
prior to World War 11. The time element was important here.

On occasion, I will sit down and begin to write immediately after being inspired by a work
of art. Often though, it will be an image I keep in mind and keep coming back to. Recently I
wrote a poem called “Breast Reliefs.” I’ve had this photograph of broken pieces of sculpture
for some years. I researched the site where these artifacts were found (Lake Constance), and
also the surrounding environment at the time and was able to write the poem from the sculptor’s

Q & A with Owen Sullivan, Author of "Liquid Gold"

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Owen Sullivan is one of two authors who will be in for the Meet and Greet this Saturday, at 2pm.  He is discussing and selling "Liquid Gold," the sequel to "The House's Money."  He writes mysteries focused on real estate and finance and in "Liquid Gold." 

Q:  How was the sequel different to write--harder or easier? 

Owen: The sequel was easier to write as I had a better understanding of how to write after writing the first novel and going through the editing and re-writing process. I had never written a novel before The House's Money, so everything was new and I didn't have an understanding of what it tales to write something that people might actually enjoy reading. After going through many re-writes I got a better handle on that.

Q: In what way has your work history inspired your writing?

Owen: My work history has been very instrumental in my writing. I am very comfortable talking about real estate and the inner workings of Wall Street and large deals. I tried not to get to into the weeds about high finance and real estate because I didn't want o bore the readers. But I also wanted the readers to come away with knowledge about the industry that they didn't have before they read my book.

Q: What is the most common question readers ask you?

Owen: The most common question I get asked is what inspired you to write The House's Money? My answer is Around 2008 when the real estate market was crashing I found myself trying to workout projects with banks and tried to do some short sales on a couple of my properties. I've been in this business fro 35 years and I couldn't believe how difficult it was to get anything done with banks or to even find someone who could answer a question. I figured if I'm having this much trouble and I'm in the business, what about the millions of people who aren't in the business and are struggling. There had to be a story there and I felt I could tell it.   

Q: What is the question readers never ask, but you really badly want them to--and what is the answer to that question?

Owen: I want my readers to ask after they've read the books; are there really people out there in the real estate industry like your characters? Those are people you love to hate. The answer to that question is absolutely yes! My characters are fictional of course, but they are a compilation of people I've know and dealt with in the industry over my career. 

A Q & A with Aaron Smith, Shanti Bloody Shanti author

Monday, October 7, 2013

This weekend, the Avid Reader at Tower will be hosting Aaron Smith, author of a travel memoir: Shanti Bloody Shanti

Aaron will be in 10/13/13 at 2pm to talk about his experiences and the book that evolved from them. 

For a taste of his style and personality,  I asked him a series of questions.

What was the most important experience you had in India?

I could wax lyrically about sunsets in Varanasi over the Ganges or sunrises over the Himalayas, or swimming the azure waters of the Andaman Islands, or riding rickshaws through the frenetic back streets of Calcutta - but I won't. 

As a 'travel writer', a moniker I use cautiously, I avoid prose that sentimentalizes the travel experience. It not only nauseates me as a reader, but it annoys me as a writer as its not what travelling is really like, especially in India. That is what I call 'Travel Wank'. No travel in India is often uncomfortably hot, cramped, often dirty, dysentery is common, as is being ripped off. 

So to answer the question the most important experience I had in India was the sum total of all my experiences there and the way it permeated my psyche. Unlike many other countries tourists visit (and I think we are all tourists and not 'travelers', no matter how intrepid), India is often the destination people visit who are 'seeking' something. I didn't know what I was seeking other than an antidote to the malaise of modernity, and what stayed with me was a permanent realignment of what I thought was important in life - that is to live in the now.

What was the most memorable conversation you had in India?

The most memorable conversation I had was actually on the plane flying from Melbourne to Mumbai with an older Indian woman. I had babbled a typical wishlist of what I wanted to do and hoped to achieve and she just smiled knowingly. She wobbled her head and replied, "Mother India is bottomless, you can go as deep as you like and there will always be more." 


 What informed your decision to travel to India initially?

Most people go to India to 'find themselves', I however went to lose myself. I needed to disappear off the grid. An affair with a cocaine dealer's mistress resulted on a contract being placed on my head - so I figured it was a good time to disappear in the sea of humanity that is India.

What would you say to a prospective traveler heading to India absolutely needs to do there?

Mother India is a love/hate relationship. At first you will hate it - the crowds, the sweltering heat, the touts, the Delhi Belly, the open sewers, the endless delays. Then after a time you will love it, after it has got under your skin and you find the rhythm and you have aligned with the pulse of a place that transcends space, time and even logic. 

What I would tell a prospective tourist heading to India is to try to forget their agenda and not to be in a hurry, just let India happen to them and give India time to happen. My plan has always been to have no plan, and I stick to that plan religiously.

The reason I said earlier I believe we are all tourists and not travelers is because unless you are an asylum seeker fleeing a war-torn country with nothing but the clothes on your back, or merchant in a caravan crossing maybe Central Asia or Africa, whose way of life relies on the act of migration, you are most likely not a traveler. A backpack, travel insurance, Thai fisherman pants, exotic beer T-shirts, trinkets and rhetoric makes you (and me) nothing more than a tourist. Travel is a luxury, a privilege for the comparatively wealthy (even if on a shoestring) and travelling in no way makes you superior to anybody else - food for thought before hitting the road. 

Could you describe the process of writing your book? 

A lot of crazy things happened to me in India, and the subsequent four years I spent on the road crossing Asia, Europe and Latin America. Telling my stories in bars and cafes, I was told time and time again I should write them down - so I did. At first on napkins, in notebooks and in Internet cafes as emails to myself. Then when I settled in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil I collated it all into a manuscript. 

The first draft was awful, torpid, full of self-indulgence and way too long. I sent it to some publishers, all of whom knocked it back. I then sought out professional feedback, which tore it shreds - the best thing that could ever happen to me. Re-write after re-write pared it down to a much tighter narrative which culled about 50 per cent of the text. 

In the three years it took to finally get published I continued to refine my writing, freelancing for whoever would take my work - at first writing gratis for travel blogs, then for paltry sums in some magazines. As my writing improved, so did my commissions. I then did an MA in Journalism and an internship with a prominent magazine. Today I am the editor of a regional newspaper that has me posted in one of the wildest and most remote places in the world - the Torres Strait, which is just south of Papua New Guinea. My second book, Chasing El Dorado. Into the wild and back, a South American adventure, recounts my three years living as an illegal immigrant in Brazil, studying the myriad of Indigenous cultures and being feathered and tarred by every brujo I could meet. It is due for release late 2014. 

Victoria Loustalot on "This is How You Say Goodbye"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

This weekend the Avid Reader at Tower will be hosting a locally-raised author, now living in New York City. She is kicking off her first book, a memoir recounting her growing up and the the loss of her father when she was a child.

Come join us at 3pm for food, drink, and to speak with this wonderfully talented author!

My Questions, Victoria's Answers

Andrea: What was your process writing this book?  The style right from the

start feels so natural and conversational. Did you have any diaries or
journals to draw on?

Victoria: The emotional resonance of the book was extremely important to me, and
I knew the only way to achieve that was to write my story the way I
would tell it to a close friend. I made a point to avoid lofty
language and did my best not to overwrite, because I find such writing
keeps the reader at a distance. I didn't want there to be any distance
between the reader and my story. There's enough distance in the world
already. I wanted readers to be right there on the page in the moment
with me every step of the way. The best memoirs are the ones that let
you in.

Andrea: What originally gave you the idea to contrast these two periods of your life?

Victoria: I wanted to show the reader where I ended up. Who I grew up to be. If
the book had only been about my childhood, half the story would have
been missing. It would have been less honest. I needed to be as hard
on myself (if not harder) as I was on everyone else in the book and
that meant writing about myself as both an innocent child and a not so
innocent adult.

I also wanted readers to understand my quest to find my dad, to
understand the burden I carried into adult and the longing I felt to
make sense of who this man had been as a whole human being, not just
as a father, not just as a dying man.

Andrea:What question would you love readers to ask you and what would your
response be?

Victoria: I'd love readers to ask why I wrote this book. And the answer is that
I believe the only way to heal, the only way to foster acceptance and
empathy and to eradicate shame is to share our stories. I want to live
an honest and open life without secrets, because all secrets are
poisonous. It breaks my heart how much my dad suffered because of
secrets. I want that kind of suffering to stop with his generation. It
won't happen to me. I won't let it happen to my future children.

Andrea: Have you been able to think of your next project yet, and if so,
what will it be?

Victoria: I have given lots of thought to my next book, and I'm researching a
few ideas right now, but one thing I've learned is that having a topic
or even a theme is not a story. It's just an idea. It's in the
researching of a topic that you find the narrative. I'm still in the
research stage, looking for the story I want to tell next, and until I
find it, I'd rather stay mum on the specifics. But wish me luck - I
need it!

Wishing you the best of luck Victoria! May we see plenty more titles with your name on them in our store!

Homework Assistance Volunteers Needed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

West Sacramento Library is seeking Volunteers!

Whether you or someone you know are seeking volunteer hours to polish a resume, class requirement, transfer to a university or admission to a graduate program--this is an excellent opportunity!

Helping kids with homework is a rewarding experience, even if you are interested in helping for the sake of the difference you will make in their lives, and you will be making a difference in their lives.

Or, perhaps you are a parent or grandparent of a little one who could benefit from some homework assistance.  Whatever the case may be, Avid Reader at Tower is glad to let you know of he program offered at the West Sacramento Library.

Tutoring will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm for children in the 3rd through 8th grades.  All assistance is free.

This service will be offered at the main branch location, the Arthur F. Turner Community Library in West Sacramento. For more information, call Librarian Ann Hamilton at 916-375-6469. To visit the library or find directions, they can be found online: here.

And from everyone at the Avid Reader at Tower--May the school year start off splendidly for you and your whole family!

Back for Their Last Visit!

Friday, July 26, 2013

These Three Authors  Will be here both days, so come and stop on in!

11am - 2 pm Sat and Sunday 7/27 and 7/28

Steve Unger 

Dancing in the Streets--
 Steve Unger mined his own journal for this book, and wound a murder mystery through the 60's memoir.  He pulls from his own experiences being a white minority in an historically black college in Alabama and joining a commune in California, and watching it fail around him.

Being an avid traveler, he also included scenes from New Orleans, Paris, the Bay Area, and Salvador, Brazil.

Come on in and talk to him about his book, and his life!

Sharon S. Darrow

...and the good lord remains anonymous

Back again with her memoir in case you missed her the first time,

Sharon will be selling, signing and discussing her memoir, which was mentioned in a post last week.  Go read about it here: 

Or go visit her website

And come on in with your questions! 

June Gillam:

House of Cuts

Last week, when June came in before, we discussed her collection of poems.  As promised, I would like to mention her thriller: House of Cuts. 

Hillary Broome has been looking for something interesting to write about and further her career as a reporter.  The dismembered managers of the local superstore turn up and give her just what she wanted, right?

 Her story gains national attention and threatens to expose a secret that could destroy her career. Meanwhile she catches the killer's notice and has to work with detective Eddie Kiffin before she's the next victim.


Blogger news


Most Reading

Blogger templates