5 Questions for … Ray E. Boomhower

CBR_Logo2Today at Chicago Book Review, we continue our “5 Questions for …” series with our echat with Ray Boomhower, whose work has included biographies of such figures as Gus Grissom, Ernie Pyle, Lew Wallace, Juliet Strauss, and May Wright Sewall. The Indiana historian recently accepted the top prize in the biography/memoir category from Society of Midland Authors for his book John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog. We asked Ray what he’s working on, what he’s been reading lately, and what might be next for him.

boomhowerCBR: What new writing projects are you working on right now?
REB:
I am currently deep into writing a book for Indiana University Press on the World War II writing of Robert L. Sherrod, a war correspondent for Time and Life magazine. What Ernie Pyle did for his reporting for the average GI during the war, Sherrod did for the those who served with the U.S. Marine Corps, who suffered and persevered in the horrific engagements at Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. In his writing, Sherrod strove not to present complete stories, leaving that task to historians, but to write what he saw, heard, and felt during a battle, thereby reflecting the “mood of the men in battle” and how they appeared, talked, and fought. Washington Post reporter Richard Harwood observed upon Sherrod’s death in 1994 that as a war correspondent the man from Georgia produced “some of the most vivid accounts of men at war ever produced by an American journalist.”

Sherrod also produced two classic books on his wartime experiences—Tarawa: The Story of a Battle (1944) and On to Westward: War in the Central Pacific (1945). As Sherrod, a former Washington, DC, correspondent for Time, noted, “I can think of nothing less interesting than sitting out the war in Washington. There is too much history being written where men are dying.”

CBR: Who are some of your favorite writers?
REB:
My taste in authors and genres has changed over the years. Like many ex-reporters, I grew up reading the stories and novels of Ernest Hemingway, admiring his spare prose. Because I now write mainly biography and nonfiction, my preferred writers are those who also work or have worked in narrative, including John McPhee, Robert Caro, Barbara Tuchman, and William Manchester.

CBR: What are you reading right now?
REB:
Immersed as I am with my Sherrod book, I have little time at the moment to read about anything but what might help with that project, including several books on the history of the war in the Pacific, especially Peter Schrijvers’s incredible The GI War against Japan: American Soldiers in Asia and the Pacific During World War II—a must for any historian of the war. For inspiration when I find myself lagging, I have turned recently to Scott Donaldson’s The Impossible Craft: Literary Biography, comforting myself that at least I don’t have to contend with the problems he encountered in writing a biography of John Cheever.

CBR: Which books are on your to-read list?
REB:
Books coming my way as part of my Sherrod research include James L. Baughman’s Henry Luce and the Rise of the American News Media and the autobiography of writer and Fortune magazine editor Eric Hodgins. I also look forward to reading Robert Gottlieb’s Avid Reader: A Life, especially his relationships as the editor of a host of famous authors.

CBR: If you could write one book about any topic—fiction or nonfiction—what would that book be?
REB:
I have taken to heart David McCullough’s tip that biographers should select as their subjects people they are going to enjoy spending time with, as these projects can sometimes take years, or even decades, to complete. With that advice in mind, I gravitate toward people I have a shared experience with, either through an interest I have on a particular subject (World War II, for example) or a profession we might share (journalism). I would love to have the time to do a biography of Richard Rovere, the American political journalist and the writer for so many years of the “Letter from Washington” column for The New Yorker.

underdog boomhowerRay E. Boomhower is senior editor of the Indiana Historical Society’s quarterly popular history magazine, Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. Along with numerous articles for Traces, The Indiana Magazine of History, Outdoor Indiana, and other history periodicals, Boomhower is the author of several books, including John Bartlow Martin: A Voice for the Underdog (Indiana University Press, 2015), Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary (Indiana University Press, 2008), and Fighting for Equality: A Life of May Wright Sewall (IHS Press, 2007. In 2010, he was named as the winner of the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award in the regional category.

Learn more about author and historian Ray E. Boomhower at http://rayboomhower.blogspot.com/

—Kelli Christiansen

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5 Questions for … Twelve Winters Press

CBR_Logo2Here at Chicago Book Review, we’ve been picking the brains of local literati, asking authors, publishers, booksellers, and other literary types just a few questions about what they’re reading, writing, publishing, and selling. Just 5 quick questions. We launched this new feature with an echat with local fave, author Michele Weldon. Today we continue the series with our echat with Ted Morrissey, publisher at Twelve Winters Press. We asked Ted about Twelve Winters has published, is publishing, wants to publish … Read on!

5 Questions for … Twelve Winters Press

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Twelve Winters Press Publisher Ted Morrissey

CBR: What new releases are you most excited about right now?
TWP:
Because of the uniqueness of the focus, and the talent of the poets, we’re especially excited about the forthcoming release of The Necessary Poetics of Atheism: Essays and Poems by Martín Espada, Lauren Schmidt and J. D. Schraffenberger. We’ll also be releasing two debut novels by award-winning authors who have published numerous short stories: Cheap Amusements, a literary detective novel by Grant Tracey; and Little Mocos, a novel in stories by John Paul Jaramillo. We’re also looking forward to publishing the inaugural winner of the Vachel Lindsay Poetry Prize, Shoreless by Enid Shomer.

CBR: What are some forthcoming titles you really want readers to know about?
TWP:
We’re working with translators Stephen Haven and Li Yongyi to bring out a dual language anthology of Chinese poets (currently untitled). We’re also pleased to bring out Dean Dean Dean Dean, a collection of flash fiction by Jim O’Loughlin. Our children’s imprint, Shining Hall, will be continuing the Einstein the Science Dog series, written by Melissa Morrissey and illustrated by (Chicago native) Miles Wisniewski; while our adult imprint, Maidenhead Hall, will be adding another installment of the Esmée Anderson Experiences, by E. S. Holland.

CBR: Which titles have been bestsellers for you?
TWP:
By far our best seller of 2015 was the novella Road Trip by Boston-based author Lynette D’Amico. Other titles that did very well in 2015 were The Endless Unbegun by Rachel Jamison Webster (who teaches at Northwestern University), The Waxen Poor by J. D. Schraffenberger (a CBR Best Book of 2015 selection), and I Am Barbarella by Beth Gilstrap. In children’s literature, Melissa Morrissey’s Shawna’s Sparkle (illustrated by Felicia Olin) had a strong debut; and our adult title City of Broad Shoulders by E. S. Holland has been doing well internationally, especially in Brazil. It ‘s worth noting that we discovered E. S. Holland thanks to networking at the Chicago Book Expo in 2014.

CBR: How do you select which titles to publish?
TWP:
Our selection approach is very eclectic. We look for well-written work, oftentimes that defies easy labeling. Sometimes we’ll hear via the literary grapevines of great manuscripts that have been having trouble finding a home (e.g., The Endless Unbegun); sometimes we’ll contact authors whose work was recognized via a contest but did not win publication (Road Trip); and sometimes we’ll solicit manuscripts from authors after reading their work in literary journals (Final Stanzas by Grant Tracey). We don’t generally accept unsolicited manuscripts, but we’re proud to say we’re already a press that authors want to publish with, so more and more we’re having authors contact us because they admire our growing list and have a manuscript that defies facile pigeonholing, which disqualifies it with a lot of publishers. Not us.

CBR: If you could publish one book by any author, what new title would you like to see from that writer?
TWP:
We know that Lynette D’Amico (author of Road Trip) has been toiling away on a full-length novel for some time. Her sense of structure is so imaginative and risk-taking, and her language play so fierce and fearless—to say we’re anxious to see that finished manuscript is an impressive understatement. So far Lynette has been keeping that book quite close to the vest.

 

twelve-winters-smallTwelve Winters Press is a literary press founded in 2012 in the tradition of Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, and Charles Dickens. Twelve Winters Press’s offerings include [Ex]tinguished & [Ex]tinct:  An Anthology of Things That No Longer [Ex]ist, edited by John McCarthy; The Waxen Poor, a collection of poems by J. D. Schraffenberger; The Endless Unbegun, a daring mélange of poetry and prose by Rachel Jamison Webster; I Am Barbarella, the debut story collection by Beth Gilstrap; Road Trip, an ambitious and off-beat novella by Lynette D’Amico, and Final Stanzas, a short story collection by Grant Tracey.

—Kelli Christiansen

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Preview: 2016 Printers Row Lit Fest

CBR_Logo2It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
It’s the hap–happiest weekend of all!
There will be book stalls aplenty,
And authors and readings,
And signings galore!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year!*

 

This weekend is Printers Row Lit Fest, one of our favorite bookfairs and one of Chicago’s coolest events. Not that there isn’t enough going on in the city this weekend—it’s also the weekend for the Chicago Book & Paper Show, the Pilsen Food Truck Social, Chicago Blues Festival, Remix Chicago, Louis Vuitton America’s Cup, and all sorts of other fun stuff.

PRLF16Of course, being the bibliophiles that we are, Printers Row is where it’s at as far as we’re concerned. So, with that, we present today our annual preview of some of the cool goings-on at the festival, which is “the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 150,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.”

That sounds good to us!

Printers Row Lit Fest features hundreds of booksellers showcasing thousands of books, from used paperbacks to rare first editions to hot-off-the-press titles from local publishers such as Agate Publishing, Allium Press, and University of Chicago Press. Also present will be organizations such as Chicago Black Authors Network, Chicago Writers Association, and Society of Midland Authors.

It’s a great weekend to explore Chicago’s book scene and to discover new authors and new books. Scores of events featuring a number of authors will be taking place in a variety of locations. Here are some highlights:

SATURDAY, JUNE 11

How to Represent the Contemporary War Experience
10–10:45 a.m.
Hotel Blake, Burnham Room
Former Chicago Tribune foreign correspondent Kim Barker will be in conversation with former United States Marine Maximilian Uriarte and Colin McMahon, Associate Editor at the Chicago Tribune.

castillo black doveAna Castillo in Conversation with Dahleen Glanton
10–10:45 a.m.
Grace Place, 2nd Floor
Ana Castillo will discuss her memoir Black Dove with Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton.

Meet the Authors—Society of Midland Authors
10 a.m.–noon
Tent Space U
James Finn Garner (Honk, Honk, My Darling), Joseph Peterson (Twilight of the Idiots), and Timothy Chapman (Bright and Yellow, Hard and Cold) will sign copies of their books.

Welcome to the Neighborhood
10:30–11:30 a.m.
South Loop Stage
Nestor Gomez, Ben Tanzer, Britt Julious, Clarence Browley, Zoe Zolbrod, Rachel Hyman, and Paul Dailing will “spin stories and tell tales about Chicago neighborhoods from Bronzeville and Humboldt Park to Austin and Uptown.”

Long Story Short
12:15–1 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Authors Bonnie Joe Campbell, Amina Gautier, and Christine Sneed in conversation.

Truth & Consequences
1:15–2 p.m.
Grace Place, 2nd Floor
Tracy Barone, Lauren Fox, Andy Mozina, and Frank Tempone in conversation.

Sense & Sensibility
1:45–2:30 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Burnham Room
Chris Abani, Daniel Raeburn, Paul Lisicky, and Donna Seaman in conversation about the challenges, provocations, and allure of memoir.

826chi826CHI Present: The Monster Gasped, OMG!
2–3 p.m.
South Loop Stage
A collection of zany, adventurous monster tales—penned by 4th and 5th graders from Brentano Math & Science Academy, read by students and emceed by Joe Meno.

Mystery Writers of America “Flash Fiction” Contest
3–4 p.m.
Center Stage
Sara Paretsky, Lori Rader-Day, and Heather Ash will award top prizes to the best story of 500 words or less based on a prompt given by Mystery Writers of America; writers will  perform their stories in front a supportive audience of fellow writers and mystery fans.

Sense of Place
3:30–4:15 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Shedd Room
Joe Meno, Abby Geni, Larry Watson, and Mark Guarino in conversation.

University of Chicago Writer’s Studio Showcase
4:30–6 p.m.
Center Stage
Hear the work of 2016 Writer’s Studio Student Prize winner Christopher Flynn and honorable mentions Gwenda Blair and Eirill Falck as well as Writer’s Studio instructors Eileen Favorite, Dina Elenbogen and Natalie Tilghman.

SUNDAY, JUNE 12

Near South Planning Board’s Young Authors Award Ceremony
10–11 a.m.
South Loop Stage
Special Award Ceremony presented by Near South Planning Board to CPS students who have been named winners of an area-wide “young authors” writing competition.

History Matters
10:30–11:15 a.m.
Hotel Blake, Burnham Room
Stephen Coss, Derek Beck, Patrick McGilligan, and Gary Johnson in conversation.

Writing Workshop: Putting History Into Mystery
10:30–11:30 a.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Local author Susanna Calkins leads a workshop on researching and writing historical fiction.

Chicago Poetry Out Loud Champions
11:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
South Loop Stage
The Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts partner with U.S. state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation.

Pushing Boundaries
11:45 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Pamela Erens, Danielle Dutton, and Rebbecca Makkai in conversation.

Life Stories
12:15–1 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Shedd Room
Garrard Conley, Elisha Cooper, Zoe Zolbrod, and Tony Romano in conversation.

Excerpts from Rutherford’s Travels
1–1:45 p.m.
South Loop Stage
Charles Johnson and Tsehave Hebert in conversation about the spellbinding tale based on the beloved book Middle Passage, the play is told through Rutherford Calhoun’s 1830s log entries.

Young Adult Fiction
2-2:45 p.m.
South Loop Stage
Erica O’Rourke, Eileen Cook, E. Katherine Kottaras, Denise Grover Swank, and Nara Schoenberg in conversation about their YA titles.

Memoir: Struggle & Strength
3:30–4:15 p.m.
Hotel Blake, Dearborn Room
Joan Barnes, Michele Weldon, and Barbara Mahany in conversation.

This is but a mere sample of the many events going on in and around Dearborn and Polk. Many events during Printers Row Lit Fest are free; some require tickets. You can follow what’s happening on social media, at @PrintersRowFest and #PRLF16 on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram.

This is a great weekend for books. We’ll see you out there …

There’s so much more to a book than just the reading.
—Maurice Sendak

—Kelli Christiansen

*with apologies to songwriters Edward Pola and George Wyle

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