Wicked Wednesday–Thankful for Books

Thankful for Our Readers:  The Wickeds’ November giveaway continues. For a chance to win A Christmas Peril, by our own J. A. Hennrikus, leave a comment below.

One of the things all who read this blog have in common is a love of reading and books. Books can be friends when we’re lonely. They can open up a wider world for us when we are stuck in one place. They can sooth and distract us during times of stress. They can stimulate our minds, open our imaginations and make us think about people and places in new ways.

Wickeds, tell us a story about a time a book was particularly meaningful to you.

Liz: When I was in grad school, I read Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys. It’s a book about a family that imploded after something happened to one of the children. It was one of her best books, and one of the best books I ever read – one of the few that I would re-read. It’s so raw and emotional and is such a great window into the way family tragedies happen and how things affect people. Makes me cry every time.

poisonwoodEdith: When I lived in Burkina Faso for a year in 1998-99, it was difficult time for me personally on all kinds of fronts. My sister sent me The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The book is set in tropical central Africa and I was in the arid west, but the writing, the storytelling, the depth of characters – Kingsolver let me lose myself entirely to the story, for which I was grateful. She writes so thoroughly in four different characters’ voices, the reader knows instantly in whose voice a particular chapter is, and I learned from that. Thank you, Ms. Kingsolver.

Sherry: When I was going through a rough period in my life I came across Indemnity Only by Sara Paretsky. It is the first in her amazing V. I. Warshawski series. V.I. is a strong, independent woman who also has a vulnerable side. I thought if she can be strong and independent so can I. Fortunately, I didn’t come across any dead bodies, no one beat me up, and no one set me up. But V. I. helped give me the courage to face life full on. A couple of years ago, I met Sara at Malice Domestic and got to thank her in person.

Jessie: This is such a great question! I’m not quite sure how anyone survives life without books. Certainly how one would survive childhood! When I was six my appendix ruptured in the situation ended up being very complicated. The surgeon was not certain I was going to survive the ordeal. While I was in the hospital recovering my mother read to me every night from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. I thought it was so delightfully funny that I couldn’t help but laugh which unfortunately tore at my surgical staples.  The book was so wonderful that having them replaced was worth the pain. I think knowing the world was full of as much magic as books provided gave me a great deal of incentive to  make a full recovery.

Julie: I love this question. During the summer of 1990 I was running the box office for the Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment exhibition at the ICA. On my commutes, I read The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy. I would also read it during breaks in the box office. Soon other folks were reading it as well, and I had to leave it there once I was done so that everyone could keep reading. I remember my sister (hello nepotism) wouldn’t leave until she finished it, so she sat on the floor of the box office sobbing. I loved Pat Conroy’s writing. He painted water colors of emotion with words. Just an amazing book, and memory.

Barb: These stories are terrific and you’ve called out some wonderful books, too. I remember vividly turning the last page of Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry and sobbing and sobbing because the book was over, because I couldn’t live in that world anymore, and because I could never again read that story for the first time.

Readers: For a chance to win A Christmas Peril, tell us about a time in your life when a book was particularly meaningful or just say hello!

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Wicked Wednesday: Marching in Parades

Edith here, with the second of five Wednesdays in March. Today let’s talk about our youthful experiences marching in parades. Were you in marching band in high school, either with an instrument or as part of the pep squad? How about with your Scout troop or sports team? If you never marched in a parade, did you sit on the curb and watch? Do you like to take in the Macy’s or Rose Parades on television as an adult? Dish! Bonus points for a picture or two of you marching.

Liz: I’ve never been a big parade marcher. The one and only time I did – under duress – was when I worked for a chamber of commerce and we had to march in some holiday parade in the freezing cold. Luckily my coworker brought us shots of brandy… That said, I did love watching Mardi Gras parades when I used to visit New Orleans often. I’d much rather watch than participate!

Edith: I marched in my town’s Camellia Parade from my Brownie years through junior high in Girl Scouts, and then in my high school’s drill team.

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I loved putting on the uniform and lining up. (Can you spot me in the front row? Third from right…) As an adult, despite being a pacifist Quaker, I still love watching small town parades with bands marching with military precision, goofy Little League teams in their uniforms, and decorated floats. At Bouchercon in New Orleans last October I had a ball walking in the Second Line parade down a wide boulevard despite the rain – and the the music was definitely not militaristic. I even got a photo with Sara Paretsky at the end!

Jessie: My village holds a Fourth of July parade every year that marches right past my house. It is a small parade with a very short route. In fact, the route is so short the marchers go around twice! Charming!

Barb: The most recent parade I went to was for the opening of the Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s Flag Football Association Tournament. (Wow, that’s a mouthful.) Our friend, author Lucy Burdette was a speaker, along with distance swimmer Diana Nyad. When it came time for the parade, Diana got to ride in the convertible, but Lucy marched behind a sign that said, “Lucy Burdette, Famous Author,” which we, her entourage, found hilarious for some reason. But Lucy was ever the good sport.

Sherry: I love the picture of Lucy! The only time I’ve been in a parade was during college. My sorority made a float with a fraternity. It was a big purple (school color) camera made out of tissue paper stuck in chicken wire. If anyone ever asks you to do that run! A friend and I rode on the float pushing down a button pretending we were taking pictures. It was fun. I have always loved marching bands.

Readers: How do you feel about parades? Love watching them or hate they way they clog up your town’s streets? Have you marched in a parade as an adult or a child? Tell us your story!

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Influences

By Sherry Harris

IMG_3578As I was trying to think of a topic to write about my eyes landed on two books in our family room The Riverside Shakespeare and British Literature Volume B — not that I think my writing is anywhere close  or influential as Shakespeare, Keats or Barrett-Browning. Both books are from my college days but I still pull them out to read. It made me reflect on other influences that have shaped my reading and writing life.

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It started with fairy tales and went on through the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew. I devoted a whole blog post to my favorite childhood author, Maud Hart Lovelace. When I was young I wanted to be Pippi Longstockings — strong, brave and adventurous — and maybe a dose of Pippi creeps into my protagonist Sarah Winston.

 

IMG_3585I was lucky to grow up in a houseful of readers and books. Our bookshelves were full of everything from the classics to current literature. Also I had wonderful teachers like my third grade teacher, Mrs. Kibby, who noticed I was falling behind in my reading skills and worked with me and my family. I think she instilled my deep love of reading. My senior year of high school I was editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook and wrote a lot of the copy. Mr. Stedwell, the young journalism teacher, was patient and managed us, but he didn’t micro-manage us. I probably learned more through that experience than almost any other in high school.

IMG_3671In college I took as many lit classes as I could — thirty hours — a lot considering the college I attended didn’t have a literature major. But I loved every minute of them. A whole class on Mark Twain — the first time I read Tom Sawyer was when we were visiting family friends in Hannibal, Missouri. We visited the fence, island, and cave Twain wrote about. I did an independent study on women authors — Willa Cather, Flannery O’Connor, Edith Wharton and so many more. And of course my class on Shakespeare — one of my proudest college moments was getting an A on my paper about Queen Gertrude.

My outside reading consisted of Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart among others. Then I discovered Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, and Sara Paretsky. I’ve been lucky enough to meet all three of them. I know reading them has influenced my writing and reaffirmed my love for mysteries.

Readers: who are your writing and reading influences?

Malice Memories

Last weekend, 5/6 of the Wickeds and all three of our accomplices were in Bethesda, Maryland at Malice Domestic, a fan conference that celebrates the cozy and traditional mystery novel. It is wicked and Wicked friendly. Lots of other writers, and lots and lots of readers.

We will probably touch on Malice a couple of times this month, but let’s start the conversation here: what new experience did you have this year at Malice? How did it go?

Edith: Two big new experiences. A – I was nominated for an Agatha Award for my short IMG_1746story, “Just Desserts for Johnny.” I didn’t win, but it was an honor and a thrill to be part of the illustrious group of nominees. B – I got to meet Sara Paretsky and tell her she was one of the reasons I started writing IMG_1755mysteries in the first place! She came and sat right next to me during the opening ceremonies. She’s a delightful, vigorous, articulate, progressive woman and one of my favorite authors. So pleased to have met her in person.

Liz: What a great time! This was my second year, and aside from getting to chat with some of my favorite readers and writers, a couple of things stand out: One, I was asked to jump in on an animal-related panel where they were missing a writer, and it was great fun. Two, I got to finally meet and chat with Dorothy Cannell – and I absolutely adore her! I want to go have tea with her now. Think she’ll invite me?

Jessie: I think the new thing for me this year was how not new it all felt. This is the fourth time I’ve attended and I was so pleased to look around and to see so many familiar faces. It felt like a reunion of sorts. Considering how much time is spent in solitude writing, it felt so lovely to thoroughly enjoy visiting with those kindred spirits I only get to see once a year and adding some new friends to the mix. I can’t wait until next year!

Sherry: As I started thinking over the weekend at Malice I realized I could write a whole blog on the topic. I finally met all the authors nominated for the Agatha Best First Novel panel. What a great group of women and authors, (find out more about them here) — being on a panel with them was a hoot. The picture below is my view from the panel.

IMG_3308IMG_3374Then I met Sara Paretsky and told her how her books helped me through a difficult period in my life. I almost cried and Sara said she almost did too. Getting the certificate for the Best First at the opening ceremonies was unforgettable.

And nothing beats meeting readers, authors, old friends, and spending time with the Wickeds!

IMG_3325Julie: Well, new for me was moderating a panel. (Thanks Sherry for the photo!) It was a crafty cozy panel, and I loved the homework. Wonderful panelists, and a special hat tip to Molly MacRae who asked me what was next for me. Besides being kind, she is a riot. I also went to the Berkley/Obsidian dinner, and when I introduced myself and said my book was coming out in October, folks clapped. Thrilling. It wasn’t new to have my friends nominated for Agathas, but it was thrilling nonetheless. Great weekend!

Readers, who else was at Malice? What stood out this weekend? And who’s planning on coming next year for the first time?

Key West Literary Seminar–Week One

by Barbara Ross

Still in Key West, eking out the last of the warmth before packing up to take the l-o-o-ong trek home on Friday.

While here in Key West, I had the chance to attend both sessions of the Key West Literary Seminar. The seminar occurs annually in January and examines literature and writing from a different perspective every year. (In fact, author Lucy Burdette had a lot of fun with the seminar in the second book in her Key West Food Critic Mystery series, An Appetite for Murder. All characters are fictional, of course!)

This year the topic was The Dark Side–Crime Writing. Here are some of the provocative/interesting things the authors said in Week One of the seminar.

Sara Paretsky Joyce Carol Oates Scott Turow Gillian Flynn Alexander McCall Smith Attica Locke Carl Hiassen Les Standiford Stephen L. Carter Megan Abbott Laura Lippman Gillian FlynnDiscuss.

Note: If you want to see quotes from the first week of the Key West Literary Seminar, including authors Lee Child, Tess Gerritsen, Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly and many others, see my post today on the Maine Crime Writers blog.