Loganberry Books on Larchmere has always been one of my favorite bookstores. The space is beautiful, it's locally-owned, and it's big enough that you can get lost in it. (Be careful. You might find yourself coming out an hour later with eight books in hand -- not that that's a bad thing.)
I'm holding my book launch party there on Friday, January 11th from 630-8:30 pm. Please join me. There will be wine, some snacks and good conversation. I'll be reading with poets Jim Garrett and Diane Vogel Ferri, who also have new books out from Finishing Line Press.
In Jim's new chapbook The Sound of Water, he "returns to his summers as a boy on the beaches of the Jersey shore," as George Bilgere writes in his blurb of the book. "You can taste the salt water in these poems and hear the waves and seagulls and the ancient laughter of his family on the beach."
Diane's new chapbook The Volume of Our Incongruity draws from personal experiences over a lifetime. "These are poems for our times, stirring a compelling swirl where the past intersects with the present, where hope for the future can spring from a single sonogram," writes Gail Bellamy.
I had time, albeit not as much as I wanted, to dig into some reading, watching and listening along with seeing friends and family and stuffing myself with turkey over Thanksgiving break. Here are some recommendations:
I got to meet one of my writing heroes, Susan Orlean, on Saturday at Cleveland Public Library. She did a Q&A with a group of Lit Cleveland members and other writers who had attended a morning workshop on How to Create Creative Nonfiction. One of the things she talked about was how to organize your writing: "You can be the most beautiful writer in the world, but if you can't organize well, it won't work," she said. Orlean writes ideas down on note cards and then moves them around in order to visualize how they'll be presented within the book. While writing The Library Book, which has four separate story lines, she began telling people about the book and listening to herself as she did it. "I talked about the stories out loud a lot to begin feeling out the organization," she told us. She also suggested studying other books you admire and love: "Look at other books as structural models. Learn from them."
When I was editor of Fresh Water Cleveland from 2014-2015, I worked closely with Nikki Delamotte on several stories. She was a rising talent then, of course, and everyone knew it. She readily agreed to serve on Literary Cleveland's board in 2016, and then jumped off when she landed her job at Cleveland.com later that year. A lot of us at Fresh Water cheered because we knew she'd bring a smart, youthful energy to the job and that she'd write about cool stuff happening in the city, which is sorely needed.
Nikki's tragic death earlier this week, which left many of us stunned and sad, made me want to pay small tribute by reading my favorite Fresh Water stories by her. I love these pieces on historic buildings being renovated in Cleveland, young hispanic business owners breaking out of the box, and people changing the conversation about Cleveland. (And man, it reinforces how kind she was that she took on these lengthy, sprawling stories at all -- any one of these business owners or individuals being profiled could have been a great story on its own.)
To donate to Nikki Delamotte's memorial fund to help her grieving partner and mother, check out the GoFundMe site.
Story Club Cleveland asked me to be a featured performer on Wednesday night at their west side show at Forest City Brewery. I'm glad I said yes (and hopefully they are too). I told a story about raising my daughter in the era of Trump, while others told stories about moving to Cleveland, traveling and running marathons. The other featured storyteller was Liz Ferro, who told her own powerful story of surviving foster care and sexual abuse and how it led to her amazing work with girls through her nonprofit organization Girls with Sole.
One of the things that struck me about the evening was how well-versed the crowd clearly was in the form, and how kind they were to each performer. The individuals who took the open mic slots had some ideas of what they wanted to talk about, but they were not reading from a script or their notes, and that made it all the more fun and interesting. I guess in our digital age, people feel the desire to gather over a glass of beer and tell stories to each other. Aw. Plus the beer is good and the venue is fantastic.