I acknowledge that I’ve been away from this blog for close to six months.
I acknowledge that’s rather irresponsible for leaving you readers behind. (I also acknowledge how guilty I feel about this).
I acknowledge this is not the first or second of these posts that I’ve made.
I acknowledge that I took time away from this blog because I was pursuing side gigs that would allow me to review and write about books professionally (I’m now a fiction book reviewer for Kirkus! And I’m currently an intern at The Millions!).
I acknowledge that I’ve missed the blog. A lot.
So, with this acknowledgement page, I’m saying that I’m re-re-re-launching this blog. I’m not quite sure what that will look like — but it will likely be short reviews of what I’ve read and releases I’m excited for. Maybe I’ll let a month pass between posts; maybe I won’t — I hope to be more consistent.
One thing I can tell you is that I’ve been reading a lot, and I hope to share more on that very, very soon.
Earlier this month, I saw Eventbrite was having a book and literary conference campaign and I knew I had to participate! Many book and literary conferences use this site to register their event, so it’s a great resource to find one you want to attend!
Now, I’m the type of person who loves literary panels. I could spend the rest of my life listening to people talk about books and writing and everything else that comes with the territory. Despite being someone who loves to go to author panels, I don’t go
to nearly enough and I had never really thought about who I would want at my dream panel. It was a fun thought exercise!
With that being said, I present you with my dream literary panel!
Who would be on your panel? Your favorite authors? Characters?
I felt like I had to make a choice: authors or characters. I decided on authors because if I chose characters I know I would invite way too many Harry Potter characters. I would grill them endlessly about the quiet moments in Hogwarts, or their favorite subject in school, or how they felt fighting in the war, or what they’ve done since “He Who Must Not Be Named” was defeated.
So to spare you all my extreme nerdom, I have decided to go with my favorite authors. In no particular order, I would invite the following writers to my panel: Roxane Gay, Cheryl Strayed, Margaret Atwood, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jennifer Egan, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Shakespeare.
Now I’m aware my panel is pretty big but I could not cut anyone. Each of these authors have a unique voice and perspective, not just on life but writing and books in general. Roxane Gay is a powerhouse of a writer: whip smart, endlessly empathetic, and grossly talented. Cheryl Strayed lays bare all the best and worst parts of herself, and we love her for it (her incredible advice doesn’t hurt either). Margaret Atwood is a pillar in the literary community and her voice transcends genres. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of the most beautiful – and demanding – writers working today. Jennifer Egan wrote my favorite book of all time and the short story that inspired my future tattoo. J.K. Rowling has reached a level of success that most writers can never even dream of. Stephen King is arguably the most prolific writers of all time (plus: On Writing is an incredible book about writing). Shakespeare is the father of just about every plot line you can conjure up.
Who would moderate?
Isaac Fitzgerald and Hermione Granger.
Okay, I know I said I would not have any characters on my panel but who has read more books than Hermione Granger? (Now that I think about it probably Matilda, but she’s a child and would likely not be the best moderator.) Hermione would be a thoughtful, kind moderator who would also not be afraid to push back and ask tough questions.
If you love books or have even dipped a toe in the literary community, you know Isaac Fitzgerald. He’s worked at The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, and is the current editor of BuzzFeed Books. He’s also an author himself. Not only is he a great interviewer (if you have not watched him in action, I suggest you do), but he truly loves books and talking about them. It’s always fun when the panel moderators are bibliophiles themselves– it makes the whole experience feel more special!
Where would it take place?
Stephen A. Schwarzman Library (aka the New York Public Library). One, it’s a famous landmark (not just in the literary community). Two, it’s absolutely stunning. Three, the sheer amount of books. Four, the lions. Five, it is my dream venue for just about anything. I mean, seriously, check it out.
What questions would you ask?
I tend to like both large, philosophical questions about writing and the artistic process, but I also love quirky, off-beat questions so my dream panel would likely have both. Here are just some I’d love to hear the answers to:
1. What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever started a book/story/piece?
2. What is on your nightstand right now?
3. What book do you love that people would not expect?
4. What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What’s your
favorite piece of advice to give?
5. What has been the biggest challenge of being a working author?
6. Who would you most want to review your work? Do you read every review you
7. If you could change one thing about publishing, what would you change?
8. Shakespeare, how do you feel about the internet?
(That last question is a joke but seriously how cool would it be for Shakespeare to weigh in on the merits/demerits of the world wide web. Unless, of course, he loses his mind upon seeing it but that’s a whole other issue.)
Many of the authors I’ve chosen are eloquent and tend to have wonderful, thought-provoking answers so I’m sure my moderators would have great follow-up questions. It’s hard to have a bad discussion when you’ve got a great group assembled in a beautiful place. Aside from Shakespeare and Hermione, this panel could be possible (though not probable due to genre differences) but a girl can certainly dream.
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What do you think of my dream literary panel? Who would you have on your dream literary panel? What would you want your guests to talk about? Feel free to let your mind run free – the possibilities are endless!
(NOTE: an earlier version of this post included Junot Diaz. Based on the recent allegations made against him I have decided to remove him from my dream literary panel).
My column Required Reading will uncover works – in both print and online – that I think should be required reading (or at least deserving of more attention).
I apologize for my absence. The summer has been so incredibly busy and I’ve barely had any time to sit down at my computer, never mind with this blog. I’ve been reading a lot (10 books since the start of summer) and hoarding articles I haven’t been able to read yet. In the meantime, I did find a few pieces that I thought are worth your time so here’s this week’s “Required Reading.”
I didn’t need a private desk and the talismanic power of special objects surrounding me. All I needed was a warm cardigan (summer temperatures can be freezing) and the ability to ignore certain trivial rules (no drinking in the reading room; I’m very discreet with my coffee), and I had everything I needed to work effectively.
If you are a writer, you have at one time or another asked the question: “how does one become a successful writer?” Is it a desk or a space or a special notebook? This wonderful personal essay from The Millions answers that question. It’s exactly the simple answer you expect it to be.
So when sun set on the heralded third day, she let the spell break. Not just the one that gave Ariel legs and Ursula a slender waistline, but also the one that everyone had been drifting under. She cackled and showed a boat full of aristocrats what they’d been missing. Her body split through her wedding gown, unmoored; a dam that could no longer contain the river of her.
Wow. Wow, wow, wow. This essay could not be more gorgeous, spanning, or thought provoking if it tried. It’s truly an incredible piece of work about size, power, and being a woman who wields both.
Here she is, learning norms, feeling her way through fear, wondering if she’s next. She’s six, you know. Her school supply list still calls for blunt-tip scissors. I heard the terrorists hid weapons in bushes.
Taylor Harris wrote one of the most beautiful, heart wrenching, and necessary pieces after the horrific events that unfolded in Charlottesville two weeks ago. It’s about racism, America, innocence, family, and the intersection of hate and love. It is an essay that does not demand, but evokes, empathy with every single line. I’ve recommended it countless times already and will continue to do so.
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What is “Required Reading” for you? What should I absolutely read and why? Leave it in the comments and I’ll read it as soon as I can!