An Unquenchable Thirst

Caption: 

Mary Johnson, a former nun in Mother Teresa's order, the Missionaries of Charity, talks about her new memoir, An Unquenchable Thirst: Following Mother Teresa in Search of Love, Service, and an Authentic Life (Spiegel & Grau). Watch the video then read Eryn Loeb's article about Johnson in the current issue of the magazine.

Rose Mary Salum's Cross-Cultural Whirl

Since 2007, P&W has supported literary events in Houston, Texas. Literal, Latin American Voices, an award-winning bilingual magazine, was among the first Houston organizations supported by P&W. We asked its founder and director, Rose Mary Salum, author of the short story collection Spaces in Between, to share her experience as a presenter of Latin American literature and art.

What was your most successful literary program?
One of the most successful programs we hosted this year was Poetics of Displacement: Latin American Émigré Writers and the Creative Imagination. When Gisela Heffes invited us to collaborate with Rice University on this series, we immediately agreed. The response was amazing, especially to Sergio Ramírez, who I introduced! People approached me to express their absolute satisfaction. 

What makes your programs unique?
We invite established authors from Latin America, who are perhaps not as well-known in the United States. Everyone is familiar with the boom authors—the García Marquezs and Vargas Llosas. Besides these magnificent authors, there is a vast array of writers who are innovative and at the vanguard of literature. We have always questioned the practice of promoting writers familiar to our audiences to minimize the risk of failure. Ultimately, the quality of work is what must win in the end. Having a magazine with these characteristics (bilingual with Latin American subject matter, but still international) puts us in the peculiar place of voicing a de-centered point of view that steers away from the dominant culture, and we want to keep going this way. The United States is becoming more and more aware of the vast repository of literature that exists “down there.”

How do you find and invite readers?
I carefully choose dates and venues to make it easy for people to visit. There’s a huge niche for Latin American writers and readers in the United States, but we are scattered. Houston is a gateway at the perfect geographical point of connection between a continent with two languages. The mission of Literal is to exploit this location and get these cultures closer to each other.

Has literary presenting informed your writing life?
Every time I research new authors and read their books, their work has such an impact on me that some of my guests become characters in my fiction.

What is the value of literary programs in your community?
We cannot ignore the globalized world where influences roam freely. A program about literature is all about exchanging ideas, perspectives, and culture. Having said that, the programs we organize are always centered on the idea of being a platform for dialog, even if we are not familiar with other cultures within our own borders. “There is a tendency to abstract and aestheticize the colossal displacement of peoples and their cultures generated by globalization,” explains Lorraina Pinnell. A publication like Literal has a special role in addressing, in concrete terms and forms, cross-cultural contacts whirling through Canada, the United States, and Latin America. For our part, we are dedicated to resisting this tendency to abstract an entire reality; the publication and, moreover, the events we organize present distinct regions of the Americas in their various and sometimes clashing embodiments.

Photo: P&W-supported writer Sergio Ramírez with Gisela Heffes of Rice University. Credit: Enrique Vazquez.

Support for Readings/Workshops events in Houston is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

National Book Awards Add Book App to Nominees

The National Book Awards, a literary institution for more than sixty years, broke through their traditional submission guidelines recently, accepting for the first time an exclusively electronic book as a nominee. According to National Book Foundation (NBF) executive director Harold Augenbraum, although the rules stipulate that eligible books must be printable on paper—and the app in question, designed for the iPad, contains features such as graphics and video—the foundation reviews its guidelines annually, and broadening them to include e-books may be a natural next step.

"I wonder whether the tablet reader will lend itself to a new phase in the type of literary abstraction," Augenbraum told book culture website inReads, noting that the nominated app "combines text, graphics, and video in a seamless story. That will have an effect on the way we read. There will be people who will only want to read text, or watch video, and then there will be combinations."

Among the other books nominated for this year's awards are 191 poetry collections, 311 novels, and 441 nonfiction books.

For more of Augenbraum's behind-the-scenes perspective on the National Book Awards, check out the full interview at inReads. And stay tuned this fall as the NBF whittles down its list of nominees; the finalists for the ten-thousand-dollar prizes will be announced on October 12.

SMITH Wants Your Boss, in Brief

Last month, we reported on SMITH magazine's six-word memoir contest Six Words About Work, which launched with the theme My Job (or, "Why I do what I do"). For the next eight days, the magazine is accepting entries on a new topic: bosses—and not just any bosses, but the best bosses ever.

Like inaugural contest winner Mindy Getch, whose My Job memoir, "Who doesn't love the payroll lady," rose above more than four thousand entries, the winner of the boss-themed contest will receive as a prize her choice of an iPad2 or a BlackBerry PlayBook. The prizes are cosponsored by the consulting firm Mercer.

Today's featured memoir comes from Elisa Shevitz: "The CEO knew every intern's name." Other entries, which appear on the SMITH website, include, "Peter Pan complex, together we regress," "Said, 'If he goes, I go,'" and "Verbal pugilist, he's still my dad."

On August 13 the contest will refresh with a new theme. Until then, boss-related entries can be published (with no fee) directly to the contest page.

Portland Book Festival

The 2022 Portland Book Festival, hosted by Literary Arts, was held November 5 at the Portland Art Museum, Portland’5 Centers for the Arts, and surrounding venues. A new addition to the festival, the Portland Book Festival Cover to Cover, was held from October 31 to November 6 in multiple locations throughout the Portland area, and included creative and collaborative literary events. The November 5 festival featured pop-up readings with local writers and author discussions, taking place across eight stages and with over seventy authors, as well as a book fair.

Type: 
FESTIVAL
Ignore Event Date Field?: 
yes
Event Date: 
December 4, 2022
Rolling Admissions: 
ignore
Application Deadline: 
December 4, 2022
Financial Aid?: 
no
Financial Aid Application Deadline: 
December 4, 2022
Free Admission: 
no
Contact Information: 

Portland Book Festival, Literary Arts, 925 SW Washington Street, Portland, OR 97205. (503) 227-2583. Amanda Bullock, Director of Public Programs.

Amanda Bullock
Director of Public Programs
Contact City: 
Portland
Contact State: 
OR
Country: 
US

Kingsolver Honored for Peace Work

The Dayton Literary Peace Prize committee announced today that its first Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award will be given to novelist and nonfiction writer Barbara Kingsolver. The ten-thousand-dollar prize, formerly known as the Lifetime Achievement Award but renamed to honor the late U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, celebrates an author for a body of work that promotes peace and understanding.

Kingsolver is the author of, most recently, The Lacuna (Harper, 2009), a novel examining the relationship between Mexico and the United States. Among her other works are the memoir Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (HarperCollins, 2007), coauthored with her husband and daughter, and the novels The Poisonwood Bible (HarperFlamingo, 1998) and The Bean Trees (Harper and Row, 1988).

The author will receive her award on November 13 at a ceremony in Dayton, Ohio, the site of the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords. The finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, given annually for a book of fiction and a book of nonfiction, will be revealed later this month, and the winners will be honored alongside Kingsolver.

In the video below, Kingsolver discusses nationhood, news and gossip, and schadenfreude in The Lacuna, which won the 2010 Orange Prize.

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