Some nice things have happened lately. I’m just home from a completely relaxing, completely unplugged, vacation during which I read books for pleasure (!) and had time to take stock on projects I’ve been working on. Back in May, The Moth celebrated the year with their annual Moth Ball which was their most successful fundraiser to date. The event was especially nice because it featured two writers I did publicity for when I worked in-house, who have also become my good friends. Nathan Englander, a prince among men, presented Zadie Smith with the Moth Award. In his remarks, he talked about how years ago I came tearing down the hall at Random House to give him a galley of a novel, saying “You have to read this.” The novel was White Teeth and it was so great to hear Nathan talk about not only how blown away he was by Zadie’s debut novel (as were we all), but how she became one of his best friends. Zadie accepted The Moth Award with one of the most jaw-droppingly brilliant and, honestly, love-filled speeches I’ve heard. She talked about the role of storytelling in her life and coming back to appreciate stories since she’s been reading to her young children: “For the first time since childhood I am back in the realm of stories and storybooks — three stories read out loud to a four year old, every night, on pain of death — and this practice has reawakened in me something I thought I’d misplaced a long time ago, on book tour, perhaps, or in the back row of a university lecture hall. This feeling of narrative possibility and wonder — this idea that every person is a world. How could I have forgotten that?”
She also gave a shout out to me, which I freely admit, made my heart swell. You can read her remarks here.
Also in May, just before BEA (the book industry’s annual trade show) got under way, some stunningly good publishing industry news (that I’d been sitting on for months!) was announced: the creation of The Kirkus Prize. I’m thrilled to be doing publicity for Kirkus on this project. Ron Charles at The Washington Post covered the story: here. Kirkus, the nation’s leading prepublication journal of book reviews, has created three new literary awards of $50,000 each. The Kirkus Prize, for fiction, non-fiction and young readers’ literature, will be one of the largest annual cash awards for writers in the world. All books that receive a starred review in Kirkus are automatically nominated for the prize. We’ll announce a short list of 6 finalists in each category on September 30th. And the three winners will be announced on October 23rd. Watch this space!
And in continuing good news, I’m currently working with the scorchingly talented Meghan Daum who has a new collection of essays coming from FSG on Nov. 18: The Unspeakable. Meghan has a weekly column in the LA Times and is the author of three previous books – one of which, My Misspent Youth, has achieved near cult status. This new collection is summed up perfectly by Geoff Dyer who says, “The Unspeakable is a fantastic collection of essays: funny, clever and moving (often at the same time), never more universal than in its most personal moments (in other words, throughout), and written with enviable subtlety, precision and spring.”
And by Leslie Jamison, “The Unspeakable speaks with wit and warmth and artful candor, the fruits of an exuberant and consistently surprising intelligence. These are essays that dig under the surface of what we might expect to feel in order to discover what we actually feel instead. I was utterly captivated by Daum’s sensitive fidelity to the complexity of lived experience.”
I can’t wait for this collection to be unleashed upon the world in November. (If you’re media and want a review copy, let me know.) All of the essays here are new and The New Yorker will excerpt one of them in September — Preorder it from one of the links here.
The news of Craig Ferguson stepping down from hosting The Late Late Show is a loss for many reasons, and not only because his interviews are consistently so smart and funny. He is the only network television host to regularly book authors onto his show. Esquire Magazine talked to me and got quotes from authors, including my client Salman Rushdie, about why we’ll all miss Craig Ferguson. Esquire says, rightly, “Few modern media personalities short of Oprah have done more to promote reading and literature.”
You can read the Esquire article here.
Cara Hoffman (my client!) whose new novel Be Safe I Love You is just published, wrote a searing New York Times OpEd that ran last week. In it, she calls for another point of view in war literature: the voice of the female soldier and veteran.
You can read it here.
There are over 150 comments on NYTimes.com to the piece and many more on social media (it was wonderful to see the outpouring on twitter, even the great Martina Navratilova tweeted about it). The vast majority of comments are positive, but I am thunderstruck by the few people who weighed in that there are plenty of stories about women soldiers in war literature. I have to wonder what they are talking about. It’s true that there are memoirs and excellent non-fiction books, but among the thousands and thousands of stories by and about male soldiers – from Homer’s The Odyssey to Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried to Ben Fountain’s wonderful Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk – I was aware of exactly one novel about a female soldier’s war experience (Helen Benedict’s Sand Queen) and one short story before Cara’s new novel Be Safe I Love You was published.
This lack of representation in literature matters: If you want to understand a culture, you look at the stories its people tell. As Cara says in her OpEd:
“I can’t help but think women soldiers would be afforded the respect they deserve if their experiences were reflected in literature, film and art, if people could see their struggles, their resilience, their grief represented.
They would be made visible if we could read stories that would allow us to understand that women kill in combat and lose friends and long to see their children and partners at home. They would be given appropriate human compassion if we could feel their experiences viscerally as we do when reading novels like “All Quiet on the Western Front,” or seeing films like “The Hurt Locker.”
Society may come to understand war differently if people could see it through the eyes of women who’ve experienced both giving birth and taking life. People might learn something new about aggression and violence if we read not just about those fighting the enemy but about those who must also fight off assault from the soldiers they serve beside or report to.
Female veterans’ stories clearly have the power to change and enrich our understanding of war. But their unsung epics might also have the power to change our culture, our art, our nation and our lives.”
For more information, go to www.CaraHoffman.com
Simon Doonan will host and Zadie Smith will receive this year’s Moth Award, which honors the art of the raconteur and has been won in the past by, among others, Martin Scorsese, Salman Rushdie, Anna Deavere Smith & Spaulding Gray.
A silent auction will feature items including tea with Neil Gaiman, VIP tickets and a meet and greet with NPR’s Peter Sagal and the Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me staff; Dinner with The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik, Lunch with physicist Brian Greene including a one-on-one explanation of string theory, A tour of the Jim Beam Distillery with Jim Beam’s great grandson, and more!
Tickets and more information are available here. See you there!
There has been a whole ton of good news coming in for my clients lately:
Yiyun Li has a new novel, KINDER THAN SOLITUDE, coming out from Random House on Feb 25. There will be quite a lot of attention for her as we get closer to publication date, (you’ll see!), but for now, I’m so happy to see the book popping up on all of the Most Anticipated for 2014 lists. A great piece on Yiyun ran in Guernica this week, Justice in China: Emily Parker talks with Yiyun about self-censorship in China, the line between fact and fiction, and whether it’s possible to create good art under a repressive regime. If you haven’t read her already, I urge you to dive in to any of her books. Yiyun moved to the US from Beijing in 1996 to get her PhD in immunology at the University of Iowa and started taking writing classes at the local community college on the side. Now, two short story collections, two novels and a discarded career as an immunologist later: Yiyun Li is a MacArthur Genius award winner, one of The New Yorker‘s 20 Best Writers under 40, a Granta Best Young American Novelist, the winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, the Whiting Writers’ Award, and the Guardian First Book Award. KINDER THAN SOLITUDE, her first novel as a U.S. citizen, is about three friends whose lives are changed by a murder one of them may have committed. No kidding, Most Anticipated. No Kidding!
Kem Nunn’s new novel, his first in nine years, is CHANCE, a a gritty, twisted psychological thriller centered on a lonely, brilliant, forensic neuropsychologist in San Francisco, who has, I might add, catastrophic taste in women. Scribner will publish on Feb. 18. Los Angeles Magazine profiles Kem this month, Publishers Weekly gave the book a fabulous starred review, and the editors at Amazon chose CHANCE as one of the top ten books of February. Meanwhile, Kem has just gone back to work at his day job, writing the next season of the FX series, Sons of Anarchy. The San Francisco Chronicle bemoans the use of the Golden Gate Bridge on book jackets, but for this ex-San Franciscan, the cover of CHANCE just makes me swoon…
Cara Hoffman‘s second novel, BE SAFE I LOVE YOU, comes out from Simon and Schuster on April 1. Cara’s first book, SO MUCH PRETTY, received rave reviews across the board, including being named Best Suspense Novel of The Year by the New York Times in 2011. Critics are so looking forward to this new novel that we’ve completely run out of galleys and are reduced to sending bound manuscripts out now (BREs, if you’ve yet to receive an advance copy, let me know!) BE SAFE I LOVE YOU is the story of Sgt. Lauren Clay who returns home from a tour of duty in Iraq – it’s clear to her friends and family that something is wrong with Lauren, but they’re all just so happy to have her home. The advance reviews are stellar, but I like this quote from Adam Haslett: “BE SAFE I LOVE YOU isn’t just a beautiful and unsparing tale of a soldier’s return from the Iraq War, though it is certainly that. It is a reckoning with the moral disaster of that conflict, one that no amount of news and reporting can give us because it requires more than facts. It requires the kind of imaginative transformation Cara Hoffman has accomplished here, turning the story of one young woman’s journey from working poverty to war and home again into a song of lament for a country that has lost its way.”
This is the first novel I know of that is about a female veteran returning home and experiencing PTSD. Expect liberal use of the words “powerful,” “fearless” and “unflinching” in reviews of this extremely intelligent, beautifully written, literary page-turner. It took my breath away.
After helping The Moth with publicity for their first ever book – which hey! hit the New York Times Bestseller List a couple months ago – I’m going to help the organization with publicity too. First thing I’m looking forward to is The Moth MainStage at Cooper Union in NYC next Monday, February 10. This event will be hosted by Jessi Klein and feature stories from NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me Host Peter Sagal, the founder of the Big Apple Circus Paul Binder, and other phenomenal people (see more below). Tickets will go quickly – get em here.
The Moth presents:
Flirting with Disaster: Stories of Narrow Escapes
Join The Moth for stories from the razor’s edge. Close calls and death-defying heroics. Taunting fate, laughing in the face of danger, or walking haplessly into the lion’s den.
Monday, February 10th
Nicole C. Kear
Directors: Meg Bowles, Catherine Burns, Maggie Cino and Jenifer Hixson
Producer: Caleigh Waldman
Assistant Producer: Jenelle Pifer
Executive Producers: Sarah Haberman and Sarah Austin Jenness
At The Great Hall of Cooper Union
7 East 7th Street
6:30pm Doors open
7:30pm Stories begin
$30 tickets available
To reserve a table please call The Moth office at 212-742-0551
Tables for four are $250 for non-Moth members and $200 for members of the Satin level and above.
Jessi Klein is a writer-performer who is currently the head writer and an executive producer of Inside Amy Schumer on Comedy Central. She’s had her own half-hour stand up special and has appeared on Best Week Ever, The Today Show, and CNN. She is also a regular panelist on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. She’s working on her first book.
Paul Binder—street juggler, talent booker for Merv Griffin, floor manager for Julia Child, Sesame Street regular, and founder of the Big Apple Circus—has lived and worked with the finest circus artists from around the globe. Born and raised in Brooklyn, Paul trained with the San Francisco Mime Troupe before travelling across Europe as a street juggler. He returned to New York with the dream to create a theatrically excellent, yet artistically intimate American circus, and in 1977, the Big Apple Circus was born. In July of 2009, Paul “stepped out of the ring,” but he continues to work with the Big Apple Circus as a senior adviser. The New York Landmarks Conservancy has designated him a “Living Landmark.” For more information, visit PaulBinderCircus.com.
Shannon Cason is a writer and storyteller. He is Chicago’s first Moth GrandSLAM Champion and has hosted The Moth’s wild and crazy Tour de Fat shows. Shannon also hosts his own storytelling podcast called Homemade Stories, where he shares interesting stories from his life and some of his fiction too. He is originally from Detroit, married, and is the father of two beautiful girls. Please find more about his upcoming projects at shannoncason.com.
Tara Clancy is a writer, fifth-generation native New Yorker and licensed city tour guide. Her writing has appeared inThe Paris Review, The New York Times Magazine and The Rumpus. She is also a Moth GrandSLAM winner. Originally from Queens, Tara now lives in Manhattan with her wife and two sons. She is currently working on a memoir. More info at www.taraclancy.com
Nicole C. Kear is the author of the forthcoming memoir Now I See You, to be published by St. Martin’s Press in June. She contributes essays and articles on parenthood to Parents, American Baby, Babble and Salon, among others, and chronicles her continuing mid-adventures in Mommydom on her blog, A Mom Amok. A native of New York, she received a BA from Yale, a MA from Columbia, and a red nose from the San Francisco School of Circus Arts. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, three children and a morbidly obese goldfish.
Peter Sagal is the host of the NPR news quiz Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and is also a playwright, author (The Book of Vice: Naughty Things and How To Do Them) and a regular columnist for Runner’s World. He has run 11 marathons, including the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Critically acclaimed as one of America’s most talented and versatile performers today, and fresh off a five week tour of Africa as a cultural ambassador on behalf of the United States Department of State, Violin/Vox/Freestyle Composition artist Mazz Swift has engaged audiences all over the world with the signature weaving of song, melody and improvisation that she calls MazzMuse. She is a singer, composer and Juilliard-trained violinist who has, over the years, performed and recorded with a diverse accumulation of artists including Whitney Houston, Perry Farrell, Dee Snider, James “Blood” Ulmer, Vernon Reid, Valerie, June, DJ Logic, William Parker, Butch Morris, Jason Lindner, Kanye West, Common and Jay-Z. Mazz is currently recording two CDs: MazzMuse: The Band (produced by Vernon Reid of Living Colour) and Solo MazzMuse (produced by Suphala, electronica sensation and tabla student of Zakir Hussein). Please visit www.MazzMuse.com for more information on Mazz’s releases as well as show updates.
I’m so happy to report that my BFF Jane Brown, VP/Accounts Director at D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, is the editor of a just released, stunning book of photographs by Enrico Natali: Detroit 1968. For the past few years, Jane’s been near breathlessness talking about visiting Natali at his home in Ojai and finding his treasure trove of photographs of Detroit. And now, looking at this book, I understand her enthusiasm. These photos speak volumes, not just about a powerful city before its fall, but looking at them now with hindsight, about complacency and contemporary life in every American city. In his introduction, Mark Binelli writes “Detroit 1968 resounds as sharply as Moscow 1918, Berlin 1990, or Baghdad 2004 – the year Everything Changed.” Huge congratulations to Jane for publishing these extraordinary photos so we can take another look.
Enrico Natali’s Detroit 1968 is an extraordinary body of photographic work that was originally published in 1972 (under the title New American People). Throughout this pivotal moment, Enrico Natali emphatically documented Detroit, its people and their environments, and their lives and conditions in his compelling photographs.
Forty-one years later, Natali’s photographs of Detroit still resonate with hope and emotion, and indeed have taken on an added pathos. These pictures capture the relative calm before the storm: people attending art exhibitions, sporting events, a high school prom; families posing together for portraits; secretaries smoking their afternoon cigarettes; children, parents and grandparents, workers of every stripe—machinists, waitresses, beauticians—plying their trades with what might be described in retrospect as innocence. The spirits of these nameless faces, young and old, are the ghosts that haunt what is now—very literally—this bankrupt metropolis.
I’m proud of my friend Jynne Dilling Martin who leaves this week to be the 2013 Artist in Residence in Antarctica. ANTARCTICA! Jynne and I worked together as publicists at Random House and she’s now doing great things as the Publicity Director of Riverhead Books. Besides being one of publishing’s best publicists, she’s a poet, a yoga teacher, a tree planter, a not-irritating cat lover, a champion vacation-taker, and, more than anything, a fearless and wonderful human being. I’m embarrassed to say I once suggested Paris as a good vacation spot to my globe-trotting friend. She went, she came back and said it was kind of boring but the bread was great.
You go, girl. Stay warm.
You can follow news of Jynne’s trip on her tumblr page, here.
There is generally never a time I don’t want to be in Paris, but my friend Caro Llewellyn and the former NYPL President Paul LeClerc are making it especially difficult to not be there this year on September 20th – 24th. They’ve organized the first Festival des Écrivains du Monde with over 30 writers speaking in Paris and Lyon – You can see information here.
Salman Rushdie at the Louvre, Edmund White at Maison de la Poésie, Coffee with Catherine Millet in the garden at the Musée Eugène Delacroix, Marie Darrieussecq in conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Richard Ford, Michael Ondaatje, Deborah Eisenberg, and much more – I want to go to every event.
It is patently impossible to attend an evening of storytelling with The Moth and walk away unchanged. Nathan Englander wrote a love letter to The Moth in The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog that I’ve recently gone back and re-read – it’s here. Nathan sums up The Moth experience perfectly. You go, you get hooked – whether you’re in the audience or a storyteller. Nathan says The Moth is “basically the storytelling version of the high-diving board…I’ve spent hours and hours with the Moth, listening to stories, retelling them to anyone who will listen, taking them apart in my head. I’ve been writing stories for most of my life, and there’s something about the Moth that serves me, personally, and serves my work. Each time I listen to a story told aloud, and feel that direct connection with the teller, I am reminded of what a story, well told, can do.”
The Moth has their first book coming out September 3 – THE MOTH: 50 True Stories – and I am over the moon to be helping them with publicity. The book collects 50 great Moth stories from well-known writers such as Sebastian Junger, Andrew Solomon, and the aforementioned genius, Nathan Englander, to an astronaut floating in space realizing he’s not alone, to the White House Press Secretary who overslept and missed his flight on Air Force One, to a man who broke his wife out of hospice to give her one last ride on his Harley.
You can read a couple sample stories by Ed Gavagan and Janna Levin at the fabulous new website for the book: here. And if you’re new to The Moth and do nothing besides read these two sample stories – I know it like it’s already done! – you will be hooked on The Moth too.
Pre-order The Moth book here.
Peter Orner has a brilliant piece on The Millions: Under All This Noise: On Reclusion, Writing, and Social Media that I think is valuable for any writer, (or for any reader for that matter). We talk so much (so much! too much!) these days about social media – twitter, Facebook, tumblr – but less and less about what is actually in a book. A writer tells Peter that if he doesn’t personally reach out to readers via social media, “he is DOA.” Peter finds this alarming for many reasons and writes, “For me, the whole point of fiction has always been to forget about me.”
It seems we are talking more about who a writer is, than what a writer writes. Do we really need to know a writer to appreciate his or her writing?
You can read Peter’s essay here. It was posted a couple weeks ago, and I still find myself thinking about it every day.