Just published: this essay in which I try to account for the strange hold Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park has on my psyche.
A humbling pleasure to be awarded a prize previously given to Ursula LeGuin, Ann Patchett, and Toni Morrison, among many accomplished others….
The paperback edition of LITTLE CENTURY was released yesterday, and I’m thrilled. Esther Chambers, Ferris Pickett, Marguerite Green and Noggin Koerner, now portable as all-get-out: http://www.powells.com/biblio/7-9781250033369-0. It seems to have been a good choice for book clubs, because we’ve had great talks when I’ve visited or skyped in. Pass along the link!
The Little Century paperback cover, designed by the talents at Picador Books, thrills me. It emphasizes different aspects of the book than the hardcover, which shows the big golden threatening desert of Central Oregon and a woman on horseback, small against it; this new cover puts the figure of Esther Chambers, the protagonist, front and center against a backdrop of Old West townscape. The figure of Esther is not complete, as Esther herself is not complete until the end of the novel, and the incomplete figure looks to be in motion, turning, or buffeted by wind. The saturated colors of her dress suggest not only her mourning status, but also her developing depth of character, and the relative elegance of her outfit reflects her more eastern, outsider status in the West. Yet on her hands she wears work gloves, men’s gloves, which seeds the idea that this young woman is turning her hand to unfamiliar work in the demanding, thorny environment of Century, Oregon. At first sight of the illustration, I thought, oh, no, she has man hands. But she does have work to do: physical, emotional, and moral. I’m no end tickled to have the book attired with such skill and care.
The 2013 Terroir Creative Writing festival is coming up: April 27th in lovely McMinnville, Oregon. I’ll be speaking on the topic of “Buried Treasure,” making reference not only to a galvanizing quotation by Ralph Waldo Emerson, but to the idea of terroir, which is the unique flavor of place, including that place’s geography and soils and weather, that influences a plant and its fruit and gives its wine or chocolate or tea or what-have-you the particularity of that specific hillside or field. Terroir means locale, nativity, philopatry: where home is, what draws us home, and what of home we carry with us as we travel and as we write.
I’m therefore delighted to be speaking about native soil on what is truly my native soil: the Willamette Valley of Oregon. I’ll be signing copies of Little Century, as well as seeking to rub shoulders with Monica Drake, Peter Ames Carlin, and other terrific writers. Also: if you’ve not had a chance to work with the gifted Linfield College poet and teacher Lex Runciman, now is your chance. Learn more about the festival, which is sponsored by the Arts Alliance of Yamhill County, and register for it here.
That March Madness you hear about in Boston this week is the annual conference of the Associate Writing Programs, the professional organization of imaginative writers and writing teachers, with 11,000 participants expected. I’ll be there hoovering up inspiration and also moderating a dy-no-mite panel discussion on historical fiction with fellow purveyors Emily Barton (The Testament of Yves Gundron and Brookland), Zachary Lazar (Sway and Evening’s Empire), and Peter Ho Davies (The Welsh Girl, and more Best American and O.Henry prizes for short fiction than you can shake a stick at). The panel takes place Friday morning at 9 am. Hope to cross paths with some readers and friends and reader-friends!
Signing copies of Little Century 12-4 pm, Sunday Nov. 18 at the Audubon Society’s Wild Arts Festival, at Montgomery Park in Portland. Can’t wait to meet a number of great Northwestern writers–Brian Doyle, Floyd Skloot, John Daniel, Paulann Peterson, and many others–at this festival focused on nature and the landscape of the northwest. My people!
Sign up for a chance to win a free autographed copy of LC at Free Book Friday Fiction. And Free Book Friday is fantastic–they give away books every week and draw attention to interesting recently published fiction, nonfiction, and young adult books. Check it out and participate!
Got the news recently that LC will be coming out under the Picador imprint in July 2013. I’ve seen the new cover and it’s ravishing, though I’ll miss that lovely desert, and the racing-cowgirl-in-a-mirror detail, from the hardcover. We all must shed our old selves to embrace the new. Anybody who’s thinking about making Little Century your community read: think July!