Thursday, March 19, 2009

DAY FIVE: Victoria Zackheim

It’s Day Five of this guest blog and I’m going to propose a wide variety of books, several of them not available for months. Why would I do this? Because these writers have established themselves as authors to read in university courses, book groups, etc. and their works are well worth the wait.

Before I give you this list, however, I’d like to say a few more words about the anthology, based primarily on questions I’m asked at workshops, readings, and lectures. First and foremost: How do I come up with ideas? With the first anthology, it was something as simple as driving my car and listening to the radio. I heard someone say “the other woman,” and something popped into my mind. Would authors be willing to reveal their personal lives in an anthology about deception and betrayal? The response was overwhelming, email messages running from “Sweet revenge!” to “How could I not?” When Jane Smiley and I were guests on View From the Bay (ABC, 3PM), the host, Janelle Wang, asked me that question. Before I could answer, Jane laughed and said, “We were waiting for her to call!” So if you’re thinking of putting together an anthology, share your idea with a few writer friends and booklovers and see what they think. If they start jumping up and down, you might have a great idea!

Another question I’m asked is: What if the editor doesn’t like the essay? I haven’t had this experience yet, which I’m relieved and happy to say. But if that problem did come up, I’d go back to the writer and suggest that changes be made.

The other question I’m always asked is this: What do you love most about the anthology? That’s easy: it’s the sense of community that grows around the book. For both anthologies, readings became like a family event. We rarely had fewer than 7 or 8 authors show up. At the bookstore launch of The Other Woman in New York, there were 14 authors who came to read…some of them flying in from the west coast, one author arriving from Toronto. Every event was a happening, to be sure, and great friendships were made.

Now, here are some books you might want to read.

Manuscript Makeover, by Elizabeth Lyon (Perigee Trade Paperback). 368 pages of the guidance and instruction you need to create stories that will stand out from the competition and attract the eyes of agents and editors. This is only one of many writing books from Lyon. The consummate editor and instructor, her books on writing fiction and non-fiction, on selling novels and writing proposals, have become the guides for an entire generation of writers.

There are always authors whose new books you anticipate with joy. Here are three gifted writers with books coming out this winter…and later.
True Confections by Katharine Weber, (Shaye Areheart Books, October). This might seem to be a novel about a chocolate candy company in crisis but, like all of Weber’s novels, the layers of social and personal concerns run very deep. She explores the volatile topics of race, the dilemmas of a family business struggling with intergenerational conflict. Click on the title and look at the delicious cover! I always look forward to Weber’s next novel…she tells a terrific story and her writing is lovely. If you want more, I suggest The Music Lesson. Her novels are regularly listed among the New York Times Book Review Notable Books and have earned Weber numerous book awards.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Deborah Grabien. (St. Martin’s Minotaur). This is the second book in the excellent JP Kinkaid Chronicles. (The first, Rock and Roll Never Forgets got superb reviews.) When The Bombardiers' abrasive new front man is murdered, Blacklight guitarist and session man JP Kinkaid calls out the Bay Area music community and homicide lieutenant Patrick Ormand to get to the bottom of it. There are writers who churn out novels and it’s difficult to distinguish one book from the next. With Grabien, however, one of the most prolific writers on the scene today, her novels never suffer. Each one holds up in terms of story, style, character development. She’s a marvel, truly!

Breathe, by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin Books, Spring 2010). Leavitt fans are eagerly awaiting this new novel, her ninth. The story of three lives intersecting after a mysterious car crash on a deserted, foggy road. A photographer fleeing her philandering husband and consumed with guilt; an asthmatic boy with a terrible secret; and a husband who realizes he never really knew his wife. Leavitt is one of those authors who never lets you down. She takes that little nut of an idea and builds an entire world around it, creating characters that drive the plot to what is always a satisfying and sometimes unexpected denouement. Some authors create a plot and try to fit their characters into the story. With Leavitt, it’s seamless: well crafted and always worth the read. While you’re waiting for the new novel, I highly recommend Girls in Trouble, a Booksense 76 selection.

I encourage all of you to post comments about your favorite books. I’m always looking for a new author or title―it’s an exciting discovery for everyone―so don’t hold back!

1 comment:

  1. curtseys madly in all directions

    Thank you, ma'am. High praise, and some nice company, too! And we've just found out that one of those local guitar monsters is not only going to let us film the trailer in his studio, he's going to play some guitar for the trailer soundtrack, as well.