Catching Up with GB18 Authors

Here at Greensboro Bound, we take pleasure in bringing you, not only authors you’ve read and loved, but writers you will love WHEN you read. Sometimes, we showcase emerging or underrepresented authors because we want to encourage a sense of adventure and an ever-expanding literary landscape.

We like to celebrate the success of our Festival authors and cheer as their books make their way into the wider world reaching broader audiences, sometimes changing shape to become songs, movies, or television shows.

In the week before we announce our 2019 line-up, we thought we’d share a partial list of some of the successes of 2018 Greensboro Bound authors over the last year.

Nikki Giovanni has not slowed down, even at 76. Read this interview with her from earlier this year in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Eddie Huffman, author of John Prine: In Spite of Himself, is working on a new book about Doc Watson.

Emilia Philips’ new collection, Hemlock, was recently published by Diode Editions.

Jim Minick has an essay titled How to Make Cornbread, or Thoughts on Being an Appalachian from Pennsylvania Who Calls Virginia Home but Now Lives in Georgia in Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy from West Virginia University Press.

Wayne Johns released his debut collection of poetry, Antipsalms, from Unicorn Press.

Hal Crowther’s Freedom Fighters and Hell Raisers was published by Blair. You can read the Publishers Weekly interview with Hal here.

Jessica Jacobs‘ collection, Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going, was published by Four Way Books.

To Those Who Were Our First Gods, by Nickole Brown, was a Rattle Chapbook Series Selection.

Ashley Lumpkin published I Hate You All Equally: A Collection of Conversations and the Bull City Slam Team was a semifinalist at the National Poetry Slam.

Steve Mitchell has been book-busking in small towns with guitarist Ben Singer and recording Cloud Diary with live music. Cloud Diary was shortlisted for the Sir Walter Raleigh Award.

Beth Macy previewed Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America at last year’s festival before it was published. Her book has gone on to be a New York Times Bestseller, The New York Times Top 5 Books of the Year, on the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post Best Books of the Year lists, and it’s been optioned for film.

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, one of our UNDOCUPoets, published a new collection, Dulce, with Northwestern University Press and has recently completed his memoir, Children of the Land

Stacy McAnulty’s SUN! One in a Billion was named a Junior Library Guild Selection.

Dan Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing became a New York Times and Washington Post bestseller.

Carmen Maria Machado’s work was featured in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018, Best American Essay 2018, and Best American Short Story 2018. Her debut memoir, In the Dream House, will be published by Graywolf in October. Her short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties was optioned for television by FX.

 

Naima Coster talks with Greensboro Bound

Interview by Gale Greenlee

Naima Coster is no stranger to Greensboro Bound. Back in July, she was featured as one of six authors in our first official event, Women’s Work: Writers on Truth, Beauty, Creativity. Since then, she’s been juggling stops from New York to San Francisco to promote her debut novel, Halsey Street (Little A, 2018). Set primarily in the gentrifying world of Bed-Stuy, the novel introduces us to Penelope Grand, a millennial art-school dropout who returns home to care for her aging father, Ralph. His now-defunct record store was a cornerstone of the community before sushi bars and coffee shops dotted the local landscape. We also meet Mirella, Penelope’s estranged mother, who attempts to reconnect from her home in the Dominican Republic. The story, like Coster, moves. I caught up with her on one of her off days from Wake Forest University, where she teaches writing. The Brooklyn-born Durham transplant (and winner of the 2017 Cosmonauts Avenue nonfiction prize judged by the Bad Feminist herself, Roxane Gay) talked about her work, about being black and Latina, and about living on your own terms.

GG: Naima, there’s a lot going on here: music, art, booze, mother-daughter issues, father-daughter issues, race and class. It’s smoldering. How do you describe Halsey Street? What is the story about, at its core, for you?

NC: At its core, Halsey Street is about place and how it shapes us, familial obligation and the way it is carried by women. Above all, it’s about being stuck — in memory, fearfulness, loneliness, in between worlds — and figuring out how to get unstuck and live.

GG: I’m always curious where stories start. Where’d the idea for Halsey Street come from? What was the genesis?

NC: Halsey Street was from many seeds: an essay I wrote for the New York Times about gentrifying Fort Greene, called Remembering When Brooklyn Was Mine, a curiosity about a daughter character who resists her homecoming, and the streets of Bed-Stuy that I loved and where I briefly lived.

GG: Can you talk about the role of race and class in the novel? Obviously, we’re dealing with gentrification, and young, white professionals and families moving into Bed-Stuy. How important are the changing racial, ethnic, and class demographics to the story and to your characters?

NC: Race and class are integral to the novel because they make up the fabric of the [characters’] lives. These elements affect how the characters see themselves, as well as the channels and barriers to connection between them. For me, race and class dynamics are part of the social reality of life in Brooklyn and, certainly, in the United States, and they’re also part of the most intimate realities of my characters who live in this context.

GG: In terms of characters, I love your rendering of Mirella. I was really rooting for Mirella and found her to be a sympathetic character.

NC: I’m fascinated by Mirella as somebody who wants to make amends but is still standing by her decisions and the decisions she made for her own well-being. I also think she’s interesting because her daughter, in many ways, is reproducing a lot of the toxic ideas we have about motherhood in our culture. Mirella did make some mistakes that I would not endorse, but Penelope gives her a particularly hard time. I think although Penelope sees Mirella chiefly as a bad mother, the reader gets to know her as a mother but also as a young girl, a little bit, and as a woman who had dreams and aspirations in her own right. Although I started the book with Penelope, Mirella was the greatest mystery for me and the most fun to try and crack into. She’s sort of [hmm…]  “monstrous” is a strong word. But to have the work of rendering her in more complicated terms than Penelope describes her was a good challenge for me as a writer.

GG: I’m wondering about your taking us to the Dominican Republic. You include some Spanish, noticeably not italicized, which I appreciated. Did you have any concern that readers might not be able to “go there” with you because of the language?

NC: It seemed important to include Spanish in this book, given who my characters are. It would feel untrue to their minds – because we are often in their minds – not to include Spanish. I was very deliberate in which words I thought had to be rendered in Spanish. And not italicizing them was also a way of showing that these words are not foreign to my characters. They wouldn’t appear in italics in their minds, and so they shouldn’t on the page. It’s a common practice. But I think it violates principles of point of view. That felt important to me. . . . I choose to trust my readers to engage in a way that’s active and requires some work from them. There are lots of things we don’t get as readers, even if it’s entirely in a language we speak — whether it’s unfamiliar vocabulary, an allusion that we don’t get or a sentence that we trip over. I think it’s a myth about reading that we get everything . . . and that the writer can somehow make a text intelligible to everyone. So I didn’t worry about it. . . . Readers will respond in a range of ways, and that’s beyond my control.

GG: How did you and your editor Morgan Parker (author of There are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce) come together? You don’t get to choose your editor, and most writers of color don’t often see another person of color in that position.

NC: Morgan courted me, which was really great. She had read some of my stuff online and knew that I had a book that I was going to try and sell soon.

GG: That’s exciting.

NC: It’s very exciting, and I felt grateful for that, that she was interested in the work and was very honest about saying that she would be a good advocate for me and that she would protect my book. I believed her, and it was true.  It was great because there was no messy politics and thinking about the market. I just didn’t have to deal with that . . .

GG: . . . with the business aspect? Because it is a business.

NC: Yeah. But it was about the book. There was no fussing over things that I thought had nothing to do with the richness or strength of the book as a narrative. We could focus on that instead of “Maybe Mirella should have a more exciting job . . . because her story won’t fulfill the voyeuristic desires that readers have” or “Who wants to read about cleaning houses?” There were none of those presumptions. We could just focus on what mattered, which was the characters and their relationships in Brooklyn. So I was very lucky to work with her, very lucky.

GG: Speaking of powerful women in the writing world . . . you’ve gotten some major press and some big names calling attention to your work: Jacqueline Woodson and Angie Cruz. And of course, we know about Roxane Gay and your winning the CA Nonfiction Prize. Are you basking in this? Or is this surreal? How does it feel to receive that kind of congratulatory love from women who are really doing it and are now ushering you into the fold?

NC: It’s a huge gift to me, and I experience it as acts of generosity from these women. I feel very grateful for that, and I want to learn from them in their generosity. . . . I really do think it was an act of kindness, and I have been moved by it . . . . But it’s also unreal.

GG: You’ve been traveling a lot since the book came out, and you’re going to be part of Greensboro Bound. I’m curious about one of the panels. All of the writers on that panel identify in some way as Latinx. I’m curious about that connection for you. How do you feel about Latinx identity and misrecognition?

NC: It [misrecognition] has been a feature of my life for a long time. It still never feels good, but it’s something I’m quite accustomed to. I think it has made me appreciate being understood–on the terms that I want to be–that much more. I’ve been really grateful that there have been a lot of folk in the black reader and black publishing community that have welcomed me and celebrated the novel with open arms. I think sometimes people think “Afro-Latina, what does that mean? Does that mean bi-racial, half of this and half of this?” My whole ancestry is in the Caribbean. My family’s from the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Curaçao. I often feel that people who misidentify me, or attempt to identify me before I identify, don’t know the story of the Caribbean.

GG: There are so many references to music in Halsey Street. Are there songs that make you think of Brooklyn or the Caribbean, or that remind you of home?

NC: I have to say Naima by John Coltrane because I’m named after it. . . . When I think about Brooklyn, I always think about Mos Def. So Mathematics is a song I love. . . . It has this line: “Blacker than midnight on Broadway and Myrtle.” There’s an intersection in the book where they’re at Broadway and Myrtle . . . a major intersection. And then there’s a Dominican bachata that I always associate with my grandmother. It’s called Regresa Amor [by Raulin Rodriguez]. My grandmother used to sing it at family parties.

GG: I know this is your first novel, but it’s not your first work of fiction. If you had to pinpoint what makes Halsey Street a “Naima Coster” work, what would you say?

NC: I’d say, sensory immersion and place. Sensitivity to the inner lives of characters and the emotions that are deeply felt and often go unsaid. . . .

GG: That’s why I said “smoldering” earlier.

NC: I like that. And attention to memory, the bringing together of past and present in the same book, the same chapter and sometimes the same paragraph.

GG: What are you reading now?

NC: I’m reading Never Let Me Go [by Kazuo Ishiguro]. I understand how he got the Nobel. It’s really beautiful. I’ve also been reading The Lost Child by Caryl Phillips, which reimagines Wuthering Heights with Heathcliff as a young black boy in London. It’s a mosaic that captures different characters in different time periods. It’s about migration, race, and England, and family dynamics — a lot of the things I love, and I deeply admire Caryl Phillips. He’s brilliant.

GG: One last thing, and it’s super silly. I heard you watch Jane the Virgin. Who’s your favorite character?

NC: I love the relationships between the women. That’s the reason I watch. But I love Xiomara . . . this woman whose own mother’s disappointments have been heaped on top of her, but she’s still committed to being free and living her own way.

GG: I’m seeing an interest here – between the show and your novel – in free women.

NC: And in living on your own terms. I think about my own story as a child who became a scholarship kid at a prep school. I was thinking so much about how to earn my belonging through behavior and excellence. And it took me a long time to see how racist that is.

GG: . . . the whole politics of respectability.

NC: (Nods) So I look at Ximora, with her short shorts and her singing career, and I admire her.

 

Gale Greenlee is a Greensboro native and a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at UNC-Chapel Hill. Her work explores the connection between black and Latina girlhoods, geography and social justice in kids/YA lit. When she’s not writing, she binge watches Jane the Virgin.

 

 

Author Dan Pink is Greensboro Bound

Author Daniel Pink is Greensboro Bound

Daniel Pink is the New York Times best-selling author of sic books, including Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us and To Sell is Human. His newest, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, was on the New York Times Bestseller List within a week of its release.

Pink was host and co-executive producer of Crowd Control, a television series about human behavior on the National Geographic Channel. He also appears on NPR’s Hidden Brain and the PBS NewsHour. He’s a contributing editor at Fast Company and Wired and a business columnist for The Sunday Telegraph.

Thinkers 50 (link) has named him one of the top 15 business thinkers in the world. Pink’s TED talk (link) on motivation is one of the 10 most-watched TED talks of all time, with over 19 million views.

Daniel Pink writes at the cutting edge of science and business, delving deep into research and mining data for insights on how human feel, think, and interact with each other. In When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, Daniel Pink explores and explains a wealth of research and studies into the ‘when’ of things. “We simply don’t take issues of when as seriously as we take questions of what,” he writes. He’s here to correct that.

For instance, exercise is best done in the morning if we want to lose weight and boost our mood for the day, Pink says, but those who want to perform at their physical peak, should put it off until the afternoon. (A disproportionate number of Olympic records are set in the afternoon, for instance.)

When is the best time to have surgery, to get married? How does our mood effect our decision making and how does that mood ebb and flow throughout the day? And, when is the best time for important conversations with employees or investors? This book provides data, case studies, and personal observation to explore how we can make the ‘when of our lives work to our advantage. There’s more in The Washington Post.

“Perhaps we find it simply too hard to believe that our thoughts and actions are really so vulnerable to the time of day. Mercifully, Mr. Pink delivers the bad news about our time-based weaknesses with some good news about how to compensate for them,” Emily Bobrow writes in The Wall Street Journal.

Daniel Pink will speak at 7pm on Friday, May 18 as part of the Greensboro Bound Book Festival.

 

 

 

 

Shetterly Packs the House

By Glenn Perkins

Greensboro loves Margot Lee Shetterly. When she appeared at Scuppernong Books this past winter, a line of folks snaked around the block, eager to have their books signed. The Hidden Figures author came back to town in May to deliver UNCG’s commencement address. And this past Thursday,  she was here again, speaking to hundreds at Guilford Technical Community College in the morning, then packing Dana Auditorium at Guilford College that same evening.

The evening program, the main event for Greensboro Public Library’s 2017 One City One Book initiative, featured a conversation between Shetterly and Greensboro author and educator Lea Williams. Shetterly spoke eloquently about her inspirations for writing the book, her research process, and some of the women whose scientific contributions are revealed in Hidden Figures. Asked if she has been surprised at the book’s success, Shetterly replied that it must have been the “right story for the right time.”

The “right stories for the right time” might make a good motto for Greensboro Bound, too, as we work to bring writers from across the country to share their words with our community.

The right stories might be tales of struggles against injustice, of technological innovation, of pieces of history we’ve not yet heard. They might take the form of children’s stories, poems, novels, biographies or journalistic exposés.

The wonderful turnout on Thursday and the continued enthusiasm about Shetterly’s visits shows that Greensboro is eager to hear important stories, to listen to their authors, and to participate in events about books. Come May 2018, we look forward to filling rooms with people keen to hear more great authors and more great stories.

Why Festivals Matter

by Brian Lampkin

I spent Saturday night out in the streets. The 2017 National Folk Festival filled downtown Greensboro with thousands of humans, and these thousands of humans seemed to be in various states of ecstasy. I suppose drugs may have been involved, but I suspect that this communal ecstasy had more to do with something less tangible.

A festival creates a community; or, a festival depends upon a community. It’s a chicken/egg thing, but you can’t have one without the other. A festival creates its own energy. That energy can go in many different directions–crowds are unpredictable and the unleashed energy of the mob (e.g., Charlottesville’s unhinged collection of white supremacists) is an omnipresent possibility–but the undeniable joy and camaraderie wafting through the air of the Folk Festival kept the darker forces deeply buried. This was downtown Greensboro alive with music and dancing and food and friendship.

Imagine the Tuvan Throat Singers in concert at LeBauer Park without the Folk Festival. Instead of a standing-room only crowd of 1,000 or more, you might have had a smattering of devotees and a few adventurers in musical diversity, perhaps 50 people in all. But a festival creates its own energy, and suddenly the Tuvan Throat Singers are adored by a uniquely attentive mass of festival-goers thrilled by the succession of pleasing sounds emanating from somewhere deep within the vocal cavities of three men previously unknown to nearly everyone in the audience.

The Greensboro Bound Literary Festival will also create its own energy. It will capture the literary dynamism already present in the Gate City and explode it into a weekend of writers meeting readers, writers meeting other writers, ideas meeting counterpoints, and downtown Greensboro once again meeting its city. Cities themselves are experiments in community, and a well-run adventurous festival can be an example of why cities are thrilling, meaningful, necessary.

It was an uncommon feeling on the streets of Greensboro Saturday night. Music was certainly at the center of it all, as literature will be for our festival, but something else happens in the crowd of an arts festival that changes a city, at least temporarily. We were transformed into a community. We need these periodic transformations, and let’s hope that we can make Greensboro Bound into another moment when Greensboro looks and feels different than it did the day before.

Top 6 Reasons You Should Volunteer for Greensboro Bound

 

History will happen next May when authors and poets (and who knows what else) converge downtown to celebrate writing and all things related. This kind of history needs to be a people’s history.

We need you to make it happen.

Greensboro Bound will host its first volunteer meeting at 7 pm on September 13th at Scuppernong Books. This initial gathering is a meet-n-greet to hear about where we are in the festival’s progress and how you can contribute to the cause. To learn more, click here. To go ahead and sign up, click here!

Greensboro Bound needs volunteers before, during, and after the festival. We need people to be room attendants, to escort authors, help set-up and break down event spaces before and after. We need help with smaller events between now and the festival. We need volunteers at Greensboro Bound informational tables during First Fridays. We need an array of talents and resources!

We need anybody who will look great in a Greensboro Bound t-shirt, and that is everybody.

Still not convinced you belong? Let me give you a few more reasons:

1. Nothing quite like this has ever happened in Greensboro. You can brag to everybody that you’re part of it.

Imagine a Greensboro Bound logo on her hat. See? THIS COULD BE YOU.

2. You know you’ve always wanted to spend a weekend with a bunch of writers.

3. A literary festival can’t happen without cool people, and volunteers are the coolest people.

4. People who read books are interesting. This is a great way to meet the most interesting people in the world.

5. North Carolina is the Writingest State, but Greensboro is probably the most writingest city in N.C. You can’t throw a rock down Elm Street without hitting a writer. That’s something worth celebrating!

6. Greensboro Bound is a celebration of people and ideas, and one we hope will bring book lovers in from the region. North Carolina is an amazing place for writers and for people who love reading. Even John Green fans know this to be true. Show some love for this state and for your city: volunteer to be the heartbeat of Greensboro Bound.

 

One City, One Book 2017

By Gale Greenlee

Here at Greensboro Bound, we’re not just building a festival, we’re building community. And when something awesome involving books is happening in Greensboro, we want to share that news.

Every two years, the Greensboro Public Library brings people together with its community-wide reading initiative known as One City, One Book (OCOB). The premise is simple: the Library chooses a book and challenges as many residents as possible to read and talk about it. For more than two months, people gather in schools and libraries, in parks and homes, and on the streets. And on Saturday, August 26, we hope the streets will be buzzing as the Library launches its 8th OCOB with a celebratory block party.

For the first time in OCOB’s history, the Greensboro community helped choose the book. After a selection committee whittled down the options, hundreds of community members weighed in and voted. The winner? Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race. The book schools us on the invaluable contributions black female mathematicians made to NASA’s space program, all while living in the midst of Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Cold War.

Maybe you already know about these awe-inspiring women called “human computers.” The book made the New York Times bestseller list, after all. Maybe you’ve seen the Oscar-nominated movie starring Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, and Taraji P. Henson – who, for the record, entered college as an engineering major at N.C. A&T (Aggie Pride!). Or maybe you’ve heard about Greensboro’s many connections to Hidden Figures; the real-life daughter of Henson’s character calls the Gate City her home, and many of NASA’s early female recruits came from what’s now UNCG. Whatever the case, here’s your chance to read the book, see the blockbuster film at LeBauer Park, and participate in important conversations about civil rights, racial and gender justice, and persistent inequities in STEM fields, our nation, and our community.

Book discussions (a.k.a. real talk about real issues) ground the project. But in true OCOB fashion, the line-up also includes family-friendly, fun events and programs that move beyond the book. There will be rocket launches and drone demos, vintage fashion shows, live radio broadcasts, and old school Sci-Fi films. You can try your hand at some kitchen chemistry or explore coding. Meet some of Greensboro’s own “hidden figures,” like members of local immigrant and refugee communities, or women entrepreneurs working in holistic therapy, yoga, and personal care. Learn about “hidden epidemics” like domestic violence or “hidden issues” like those affecting individuals with disabilities.

OCOB is about a book, but it’s about much more. So read the book and join the conversation. Be a part of the community.

For a complete calendar of One City, One Book programs, including Margot Lee Shetterly’s September 28 visit, click here.