Not only am I a writer but I love writers. Love to be around them, pick their brains, read their work, read about how they work and learn their backstory.
Take this weekend for example. I had the good fortune of attending New Voices 2011 an annual compendium of up and coming authors hosted by Bill and Lynne Reed, proprietors of Misty Valley Books, an independent book store located in Chester VT. The annual event includes five “up and coming” authors reading from their first books. In its 17th year it boasts readings from the likes of Dennis Lehane (Mystic River), Arthur Golden (Memoirs of a Geisha) and Steve Almond (Candy Freak, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life).
This year’s cast of authors did not disappoint. Varying in genres and styles, each one shining a unique brand of illumination to the written word, each one presented such compelling excerpts and backstories from and about their narratives, my only regret is that they sold of Joydeep’s The Storyteller of Marrakesh before I had a chance to purchase it. I have already begun reading Jay Varner’s gripping memoir Nothing Left to Burn.
I did not attend the morning activities of this unique event which included a morning of cross-country skiing with the authors, followed by lunch. I did, however, attend the five readings by the authors followed by a reception in which attendees were given the opportunity to talk to the authors and have their books signed. The highlight of the day for me was attending a dinner with the authors at Chester’s Fullerton Inn. As luck would have it, I got to sit at a table with two of the authors, Jay Varner and Ben Farmer. Farmer’s debut novel, Evangeline, is a historical fiction based on Longfellow’s narrative poem of the same name. The list of authors who participated in New Voices include:
Jay Varner, Nothing Left to Burn
From Amazon Website:
Nothing Left to Burn is a remarkable memoir that looks into the life of a family that has spent years harboring secrets, both dark and volatile. It eloquently tells the story of a son’s relationship with his father, the fire chief and a local hero, and his grandfather, a serial arsonist.
When Jay Varner, fresh out of college, returns home to work for the local newspaper, he knows that he will have to deal with the memories of a childhood haunted by a grandfather who was both menacing and comical and by a father who died too young and who never managed to be the father Jay so desperately needed him to be. In digging into the past, he uncovers layers of secrets, lies, and half-truths. It is only when he finally has the truth in hand that he comes to an understanding of the forces that drove his father, and of the fires that for all his efforts his father could never extinguish.
About the Author
Jay Varner is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where he earned his MFA in creative nonfiction. He currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia. This is his first book.
Ben Farmer, Evangeline:A Novel
From Amazon’s website
A brilliant debut novel of an epic love story and harrowing journey from Nova Scotia to New Orleans in pre-Revolutionary America.
Inspired by Longfellow’s epic poem, Evangeline is a brilliant novel by Ben Farmer. As the British drive the French out of mid- eighteenth century Acadia (present day Nova Scotia), the beautiful seventeen- year-old Evangeline Bellefontaine is torn by British soldiers from her fiancé, Gabriel Lajeunesse, on the eve of their wedding. Heartbroken but determined, Evangeline-along with illegal trapper Bernard Arseneau and priest Felician Abadie-sets out on a ten-year journey to the French-Spanish colony of Louisiana to seek her long-lost love.
War and the collision of imperial interests are among the forces the characters confront throughout their expulsion from their homeland and their hard-won survival in exile. Evangeline’s epic quest to find Gabriel brings her and her companions across North America’s colonial wilderness, through the French and Indian War, and into New Orleans’ rebellion against Spanish rule. It is the strengths and failings of the individuals that drive this grand tale, leading them to bitter confrontations in their search for connection and struggle for survival in a world torn asunder.
The legend of Evangeline is still alive in Nova Scotia and Louisiana, where parks, songs, statues, trees, restaurants, and people bear her name.
About the Author
Ben Farmer lives in Maryland, where he was born and raised. He graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in history. He has worked as a teacher, an editor, and in a booking agency for musicians. Evangeline is his debut novel.
Dori Ostermiller, Outside the Ordinary World
“Beautifully written and quietly spellbinding, Ostermiller’s compelling debut novel is a story of love, regret and forgiveness that will linger with readers well after the final page is turned.” –Heather Gudenkauf, NYT Bestselling author of The Weight of Silence
“Reminiscent of Mona Simpson and Elizabeth Strout in the way Ostermiller expertly explores family dynamics… There’s absolutely nothing ordinary about this astonishingly moving and complex novel.” –Caroline Leavitt, The Boston Globe
“Outside the Ordinary World is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s got everything I love in a turn-off-the-iPhone, read-in-one-sitting book… A fascinating portrait.” –A. Manette Ansay, the Miami Herald
“A tightrope journey of childhood haunts… woven with crystalline perfection. This provocative novel lingers long after the last page…” –Jacqueline Sheehan, NY Times Bestselling Author of Lost & Found
“Outside the Ordinary World is both moving and thought-provoking–a perfect bookclub book! Ostermiller skillfully weaves past and present into one complex and haunting tapestry.” –Diane Chamberlain, author of The Lies We Told
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, The Storyteller of Marrakesh
Hassan, a storyteller in Marrakesh’s Djemaa al Fna, annually retells the story of a young foreign couple who appeared in the Djemaa, captured the attention of habitués, and then disappeared. Or did they? Regular listeners interject their own memories, and these conflict wildly. Some describe a luminously beautiful young woman in traditional Moroccan djellaba and headscarf, others remember her in jeans and t-shirt, garishly made up. Were they abducted by thugs? Signs and portents of danger on the fateful day are recounted: a red moon and a red lightning bolt. The book’s ultimate focus is on the love, beauty, and elusive nature of truth, but it also works as a broad, discursive, plausible, and often beguiling presentation of a contemporary Islamic culture little changed by centuries, geopolitics, globalization, or religious enmity. Roy-Battacharya’s descriptive powers are acute, and Marrakesh, the Djemaa, the Sahara, and the High Atlas Mountains are vividly rendered through all the senses. In a time when tensions between Islam and the West are fevered, The Storyteller of Marrakesh offers an agreeable change of pace. –Thomas Gaughan
Paul Doiron, The Poacher’s Son
From Publishers Weekly
Down East editor-in-chief Doiron takes a provocative look at the ties between fathers and sons, unconditional love, and Maine’s changing landscape in his outstanding debut. Game warden Mike Bowditch, who hasn’t heard from his dad, Jack Bowditch, in two years, wonders what the man wants from him after he comes home late one night and finds Jack has left a cryptic message on his answering machine. Mike later learns Jack is the prime suspect in the shooting murders of a cop and a timber company executive. Jack, a brutal alcoholic, makes his living poaching game, but Mike can’t believe Jack is a cold-blooded killer. Mike’s belief in his father puts his job at risk, alienates him from the police, and drives him further away from the woman he loves. Fans of C.J. Box and Nevada Barr will appreciate the vivid wilderness scenes. Equally a story of relationships and an outdoor adventure, this evocative thriller is sure to put Doiron on several 2010 must-read lists. 100,000 first printing; author tour. (Apr.)
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