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5 Questions for … Kathleen Rooney

CBR_Logo2Our 5 Questions for … series continues today with an echat with local author Kathleen Rooney, whose novel O, Democracy! was one of CBR’s Best Books of 2014. Her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2017. In addition to her work as a writer, Kathleen is the founding editor of local house Rose Metal Press. Founded in 2006, Rose Metal Press, Inc. is an independent, not-for-profit publisher of hybrid genres specializing in the publication of short short, flash, and micro-fiction; prose poetry; novels-in-verse or book-length linked narrative poems; and other literary works that move beyond the traditional genres of poetry, fiction, and essay to find new forms of expression. We asked Kathleen what she’s working on, what she’s been reading lately, and what’s coming up next for her.

o democracy rooney coverCBR: What new writing projects are you working on right now?
KR: Presently, I’m working with my co-editor, Eric Plattner, to put the finishing touches on René Magritte: Selected Writings, the first-ever English edition of the Belgian Surrealist painter’s extensive writings, forthcoming later this summer from Alma Books in the UK and in September of this year from University of Minnesota Press. I’m also working on wrapping up my second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press.

CBR: Who are some of your favorite writers?
KR: A couple of new (to me) writers whose books I read recently and can’t stop thinking about are Don Mee Choi, whose Hardly War is a hybrid and brilliant memoir in poems/poetic memoir with photographs, and Shannon Burns, whose debut poetry collection, Oosh Boosh, made me laugh out loud and also cry.

CBR: What are you reading right now?
KR: My spouse, Martin Seay, and I are in a book club, and that book club is really supportive of both of us as writers, so we’re currently reading his debut novel, The Mirror Thief (Melville House, 2016), as our current pick. I’ve read it before in manuscript form, but it’s fun to read it now that it’s an actual close-to-600-page book.

CBR: Which books are on your to-read list?
KR: I can’t wait to read Mickey by Chelsea Martin, forthcoming from local Chicago publisher Curbside Splendor, and Listen to Me by Hannah Pittard, forthcoming in July.

CBR: If you could write one book about any topic—fiction or nonfiction—what would that book be?
Pigeons—and I’m actually working on a novel now that is partly in the first-person perspective of a pigeon.

magKathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of René Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation, the Poetry Foundation website, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay. Her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January 2017.You can learn more about Kathleen and her work at http://kathleenrooney.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


Twelve Winters Press Publisher Ted Morrissey

CBR: What new releases are you most excited about right now?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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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Mornings and Mindfulness

CBR_Logo2The Morning Hour
by Richard Quinney

Born in 1934 in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, Richard Quinney has been a Sociology professor, photographer, Delegate of Crime Prevention for the Eisenhower Foundation, husband, father, Buddhist meditation practitioner, and author of more than a dozen books about Sociology, nature, and photography. Perhaps it is no wonder, then, that his latest work, The Morning Hour, which comprises a series of reflections on his personal life, covers such a wide range of topics.

the morning hour quinneyIn the preface to his book, Quinney reveals the origin of its title. Every day for decades, the morning hours have been his time “for contemplation and of the writing a few words to the day.” He fills his journals with thoughts about things he finds most interesting and dear: family, work, the beauty of the natural world, what it means to die. Now in his eighties, Quinney has completed more than fifty years’ worth of journal entries. The Morning Hour contains a selection of these writings, organized thematically, each one no more than a couple pages long. Despite their brevity, the reflections are impressively erudite, evidence of a curious mind that has devoured a lifetime’s worth of literature, from Homer’s epics to The Great Gatsby to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. From these books he’s derived questions—and a few answers—about what it means to live mindfully and with intention.

His reflections are perhaps most insightful when he connects his existential musings to smaller, more personal moments. In one particularly moving passage, Quinney describes his experience of standing in front of Georges-Pierre Seurat’s painting Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte at the Art Institute of Chicago, squinting so “the dots of paint make new colors.” His mind drifts to thoughts of his daughter, who lives in Paris, and what it means to be her father and a grandfather to her children. The passage is both touching and provocative, a lovely reminder that great art is more than the sum of its formal aesthetics: When considered thoughtfully, it can evoke some of life’s most important insights.


Author Richard Quinney

The book also shares the author’s insights into death. When he was a child, writes Quinney, his religious mother made him recite the Lord’s Prayer every evening before bed, the last two lines, he reminds us, centered on dying: “If I should die before I wake/I pray the Lord my soul to take.” For most of his adult life, Quinney did not recite the prayer. But now in old age, he finds himself thinking of it often. As depressing as this preoccupation with dying may sound, Quinney’s view of death, we learn, is informed by The Diamond Sutra and other Buddhist writings, which describe the process of dying not as an end to life but as the ongoing, natural state of all living things. Here he illustrates the Buddhist concept of death by comparing it to the act of looking at photographs:

There is a difference between the portrait of the ancestor living at the instant of the photograph and my viewing of the portrait after the ancestor has passed away. […] And there is the realization that there is a fine line, and only a fine line, between those who once lived and those of us who live today. The separation between the living and the dead vanishes readily with time. The vastness of our time of being unborn makes our living, our existing, but a drop of dew, a flash of lightning, and a dream. Unborn is our primary natural state.

The book’s frequent focus on death does not detract from its uplifting messages about living well. When considering life beyond family, the book brims with images of blooming gardens, birds in flight, and majestic mammals, which together form a vital and animated view of the natural world. The juxtaposition of bountiful life with death is striking but important, it seems, to Quinney’s overarching philosophy. By insisting that life and death are worth pondering in equal measure, Quinney creates a vision of existence that enlightens and comforts—impermanence, he seems to say, is a part of being human, and in our impermanence, we become both precious and beautiful.

Three-Star Review

April 2016, Borderland Books/University of Wisconsin Press
Nonfiction/Mindfulness & Meditation
$24, hardcover, 176 pages
ISBN: 978-0-9965052-1-5

—Reviewed by Amy Brady

Learn more about the book.


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