Living (and Writing) in the Quarantine

Posted by Jocelyn on March 23rd, 2020

These are unprecedented times and as we wait, with bated breath, for a solution/remedy/anchor for this swirling storm we will continue to live our lives. Our lives, here at Kelley & Hall have always, and will always, revolve around the world of literature. We are going to use this space as an outlet for updates on how the Coronavirus is impacting the world of publishing and how writers can continue to move forward in an uncertain world.

To get started, here are a few gems we found over the weekend:

Sloane Crosley on writing about a pandemic on an emotional level – NYTimesBut like everyone else, writers feel the need to distill life as a means of surviving it.

National Book Critics Circle Announces Winners – Library Journal

What to Read During Quarantine. – The Strategist

Jami Attenberg on dysfunctional families, forgiveness, and women’s fiction. –The Guardian

Booker Prize 2019

Posted by Jocelyn on October 16th, 2019

The literary awards circuit took an unexpected turn on Monday when the judges for the Booker Prize made a revolutionary (and stubborn!) decision to award two novels with this honor. Margaret Atwood’s THE TESTAMENTS and Bernardine Evaristo’s GIRL, WOMAN, OTHER. This is not the first time the award has been split in two. According to the New York Times, in 1992 Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” shared it with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger,” but the prize’s organizers then changed the rules to only allow one winner to avoid undermining either book.” This year, after hours of deliberating and repeatedly being told they could only choose one winner, the judges threw caution to the wind and broke the rules…again.

If you’re looking for some award-worthy weekend reading, here is some information on these two riveting novels.

THE TESTAMENTS by Margaret Atwood is a #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER. It brings us back into the world Atwood introduced readers to in The Handmaid’s Tale, (winner of the Booker Prize in 1986). Now she brings the iconic story to a dramatic conclusion in this riveting sequel.

The hit Hulu adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale starring Elisabeth Moss won the 2018 Golden Globe for best television series and the 2017 Emmy for outstanding drama.

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

GIRL,WOMAN, OTHER by Bernardine Evaristo

“Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.”—Booker Prize citation

Evaristo is the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. Girl, Woman, Other is a magnificent portrayal of the intersections of identity and a moving and hopeful story of an interconnected group of Black British women. Girl, Woman, Other paints a vivid portrait of the state of post-Brexit Britain, as well as looking back to the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean.

The twelve central characters of this multi-voiced novel lead vastly different lives: Amma is a newly acclaimed playwright whose work often explores her Black lesbian identity; her old friend Shirley is a teacher, jaded after decades of work in London’s funding-deprived schools; Carole, one of Shirley’s former students, is a successful investment banker; Carole’s mother Bummi works as a cleaner and worries about her daughter’s lack of rootedness despite her obvious achievements. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, these unforgettable characters also intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.

Sparklingly witty and filled with emotion, centering voices we often see othered, and written in an innovative fast-moving form that borrows technique from poetry, Girl, Woman, Other is a polyphonic and richly textured social novel that shows a side of Britain we rarely see, one that reminds us of all that connects us to our neighbors, even in times when we are encouraged to be split apart.

So you be the judge. Read both books and decide for yourself if the judge’s tenacity and stubbornness was warranted. I think you will find yourself understanding why they broke the rules.

Motivating Marketplace

Posted by Jocelyn on July 24th, 2019

Here’s what we believe to be true, published writers and writers aspiring to be published will always find motivation and inspiration when they read about book deals being signed. It is a clear indication that the publishing industry is not dead and is, in fact, always looking for new material to share with the reading public. So keep those fingers typing, that pen scribbling and that word count rising. Who knows, you might be written up here one day and inspiring future writers.

Imbolo Mbue, bestselling author of Behald the Dreamers, the PEN/Faulkner award-winning novel and Oprah Book Club selection has sold her next book to Random House. How Beautiful We Were is “a story told through multiple perspectives about what happens when an African village decides to fight back against an American oil company that is destroying their land.” It is an understatement to say that Mbue is a “writer to watch,” Lit Hub even called Behold the Dreamers a perfect example of the Great American Novel.

Photo via Toronto Star

Debut author Ashley Audrain’s The Push, has left the publishing industry reeling.

Former Penguin Canada publicity director Ashley Audrain’s THE PUSH is pitched as a modern-day WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN for fans of Celeste Ng and THE PERFECT NANNY, about the making and breaking of a family, told through the eyes of a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for; in fact, it’s everything she always feared – via Publisher’s Marketplace.

Major auctions over the course of six days resulted in a pre-empt, two-book deal for publication with Pamela Dorman Books in early 2021 with nearly two dozen countries following suit.

“It’s the combination of that momentum, the few publishers that got in early having a lot of passion for it and also a major agent, Madeleine Milburn, who has an outstanding reputation and track record for discovering bold, new, almost certain to be bestselling talent,” explains Nicole Winstanley, publisher of Penguin Canada, which followed Penguin UK, as the first publishers to get on board with the manuscript.

“One of the international publishers, in his offer letter, referred to Ashley as ‘one of the biggest talents to have emerged in this century.’ I think that was the Dutch publisher and I think that gives you an idea of the sense of excitement around this,” said Winstanley.

This sale is creating buzz and excitement in the publishing industry because it is almost unheard of for an unpublished debut novel, sold outside of a book fair, during the quiet summer months to draw such attention.

The Rise of the Graphic Novel

Posted by Jocelyn on July 18th, 2019

Photo by Miika Laaksonen on Unsplash

Random House Graphic just announced a new imprint dedicated to publishing graphic novels for kids and teens that will launch in Spring 2020. This comes on the heels of HarperCollins announcing the launch of their graphic novel imprint, Harper Alley, in the fall of 2020. This reflects the rapidly growing popularity of the graphic novel format among young readers.

Many experts are crediting graphic novels with helping to foster a love of reading, as well as building an appreciation for the classics. The visual element attracts readers in a fundamental way and aids in helping understand texts perhaps previously overlooked by readers of all ages. The Mueller Report has even been given the graphic novel treatment.

With the rise in streaming platforms and the growth of book-to-film and television adaptations from beloved novels, more and more producers are looking towards graphic novels as inspiration for the big and small screen.

“Random House Graphic believes in the importance and power of comics storytelling, and the central place of visual literature in our world and culture today. The imprint’s mission is to transform the childhood reading experience by making high-quality graphic novels accessible to every type of reader.”

“Random House Graphic is dedicated to publishing the best in kids and YA graphic novels,” explains Gina Gagliano, Publishing Director of RH Graphic. “It’s an incredibly exciting time for the graphic novel medium—with more readers coming to these stories, and new groundbreaking books being published, the category is expanding by leaps and bounds. We can’t wait to share our contributions to it with readers, booksellers, comic book sellers, educators, librarians, and everyone who loves books and comics.”R

At Kelley & Hall, we are thrilled to be working with Andrew Trainor on his debut graphic novel, BLUEFALL,and experience the growth of this market firsthand.

Interview with Dave Carty, Author of LEAVES ON FROZEN GROUND

Posted by Jocelyn on July 18th, 2019

Tell us the story behind the story. How did LEAVES ON FROZEN GROUND come to be?

I’m not sure when I first got the idea for the story. But it presented itself to me as stories for four previous, and heretofore unpublished, novels often have: as a fully realized ending with a lot of white space in the preceding narrative. In other words, I knew how I wanted to end the book, but had no idea how I was going to get there. Writing the first draft, a course that took roughly 18 months, was essentially a process of discovering the story on a daily basis and putting it into words.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing LEAVES ON FROZEN GROUND?

Virtually every obstacle I encountered outside the actual writing was difficult, discouraging, and endlessly frustrating. After I completed the first draft, I submitted it to my agent at the time, who read it and rejected it. I had set the original book during the 1930’s depression, and she suggested, with good reason, that books set during the depression had about run their course in American literature. Since my agent had always given me good advice, I decided to rewrite the book per her suggestions: moving the setting to a more current period, and making slight changes in the characters’ makeups. The result took another 18 months or so, and what I thought would be minor tweaking evolved into an entirely new novel. No matter; I submitted the new book to my agent and she rejected it again. At that point I decided that, despite my sincere respect for her opinion, I would try to find a publisher on my own. After months of trying and dozens of rejections, the book finally landed on Michael Mirolla’s desk at Guernica Editions in Toronto, Canada, who to may utter astonishment liked it enough to take it on.   

What is the message you want readers to take away from your book?

I’m not a believer in “message” books, so there are no subliminal messages in this one beyond what readers might like to infer on their own. But I believe it is possible to rise above adversity and I believe in the triumph of the human spirit. I would be greatly flattered if even a few of my readers took those sentiments away from this book.

Describe your background. Did your background play a part in your book?

Yes and no. I spent 30 years writing for magazines, largely, although not entirely, in the so-called hook and bullet press. When I started writing fiction about 25 years ago, the last thing I wanted to do was write hook and bullet novels. But I’ve spent my life outdoors – in the woods, the prairies, the mountains — and have lived with animals all my life: bird dogs, cats, and peripherally, horses. In my late teens and twenties, I worked a numbing succession of low-paying jobs before I became a fulltime writer. All those experiences undoubtedly figured into the tone and setting of this book.

Describe your writing schedule. Do you outline? Any habits? 

I am very disciplined, which I have had frequently pointed out to me, not exclusively in tones of awestruck admiration, by those among my friends who know me best. I awaken early – depending upon the season, between five and six-thirty in the morning, then spend an hour or so drinking coffee, studying notes I’ve written to myself on index cards, watching the sun come up, and finally, meditating. Then I have a quick breakfast and write until noon. In the afternoon, I catch up on whatever else I’ve scheduled for the day. As for outlining, no. Been there and done that. Once I’ve scribbled out a brief storyline for a book, I sketch out a few high points in the narrative and then get after it, figuring out the thrust of the next chapter after I’ve written the last.

What books are on your nightstand? What are you currently reading?

I had to check. Here’s an abbreviated list: Man’s Search For Meaning by Victor E. Frankl; The Book Of Hours by Ranier Maria Rilke, and The Prosody Handbook, A Guide To Poetic Form, by Robert Beum and Karl Shapiro. There are others. This list might seem to imply that I’m an avid reader of poetry, but I am not. I would like to become an avid reader of poetry and am taking small steps in that direction. Mostly I read good novels recommended by friends and non-fiction books on a variety of subjects.

Which authors do you admire?

John Steinbeck, first and foremost. I have long thought that the Grapes of Wrath is a singular example of the Great American Novel. There were so many great writers from that era, Hemingway and Faulkner and Herman Wouk among them, but Steinway seemed the writer who, to me, wrote most often from a very deep place. Contemporary writers I’ve read and tremendously admire are Kent Haruf, Cormac McCarthy, TC Boyle, Jim Harrison, Michael Ondaatje, Ann Patchett, Annie Proulx…to name just a few of the great writers I’ve read in the last ten years or so.  

What have you learned from this experience?

That craftsmanship and beautiful writing and clever word play are all fine and good, but great stories are finer and gooder. So there.  

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unimagined in common hours.” That’s Thoreau, from Walden. I can’t improve on it.    

What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?

Marry rich. Saves about 30 years of writing for magazines.

What are you working on now?

I’m halfway through a novel set in the Shields River valley, which is about an hour’s drive east of my home in southwestern Montana. It’s been tremendously enjoyable so far – I can’t wait to get to work each morning.