[MiniReview] BEATING THE BOUNDS by Liz Ahl

Beating the BoundsBeating the Bounds by Liz Ahl

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Liz Ahl’s poetry is always beautifully crafted, but this collection in particular is a stunner. The strength of the collection lies in her ability to make even the most mundane aspects of New England life sparkle with a twist of humor or a quirky thought. I, like her, am from away. And I, like her, connect with the landscape and culture here in Northern New Hampshire. How perfect, then, to find a collection of poems explaining the “why” of my fascination with my new home.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Certainly a must-read for anyone who’s lived in or visited the White Mountains or Lakes Region.

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An Evening of NH Landscape Readings with Three Authors

Very excited to be reading in New Hampshire with my mentor and friend, William O’Daly. The Griffin Free Public Library is a cozy, historic venue with a lovely group of patrons. Hope to see you there!


on the work-for-hire publication of HOW TO WRITE AN EXCEPTIONAL THESIS OR DISSERTATION for Atlantic Publishing

My tome began three months before
the World Cup 2010.
I had twelve weeks to take their notes
and send a book back in.

Through migraines, travels, and lost sleep
these 67,000 words
turned into cash which I then used
as my earned payment towards

a laptop for The Fold. I thought,
With all Atlantic’s rush
my book should come right out this spring.

(This thought now makes me blush.)

Another World Cup came and went.
I moved cross-country too.
I gave up hope of holding it;
what else was I to do?

But yesterday, the red mail van
arrived with box first sent
to California, then sent here—
its corners awfully bent.

Yet safe and crisp inside the box:
six copies of my tome.
Four years, one month, eleven days…
My book is in my home!

©2014 JS Graustein
Meredith, New Hampshire USA

click for more info at Google Books

Review: A History of the New Hampshire Abenaki

A History of the New Hampshire Abenaki
A History of the New Hampshire Abenaki by Bruce D. Heald

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Dr. Heald’s book is on a topic that needs more attention than it gets. It is an overview of the first inhabitants of New Hampshire, introducing new inhabitants of the state to the history behind many of its place names. While transitions between topics is a bit rough at times, the bibliography was extensive enough to facilitate my further exploration of any topics that ended too abruptly. Dr. Heald tried to make the book an even-sided look at Abenaki history by interviewing tribal leaders and seeking out artifacts, attempting to balance out European written accounts; but due to the oral nature of historical Abenaki society, the majority of Dr. Heald’s historical source material was inevitably written by those of European descent and thus skewed the “Indian Warfare” and “Indian Legends and Folklore” chapters toward the white point of view. Nevertheless, this book was an enlightening read that introduced me to the first people and first language of my new home state.

PRODUCTION NOTE: While the cover is beautiful and the photos inside are really interesting, this book needs some SERIOUS proofreading and vetting.

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Subconscious Drive

As I wrapped up the final book project for Folded Word’s 2012 list, I realized that my subconscious might be driving our paperback acquisitions. The last word of Guy Cranswick’s Nine Avenues (to be released by New Year’s Eve) is home. As is the last word of Mel Bosworth’s Freight (2011). Add to that the prevalence of homesickness and the redefinition of home that takes place in Smitha Murthy and Dorothee Lang’s Worlds Apart (2012) along with the analysis of childhood environs in Jessie Carty’s Paper House (2010) and you have the concept of home being central to every non-anthology paperback that Folded Word has published to-date.

Now I am a scientist by training (MS Biology 1995), so I understand that correlation does NOT equal causation. My search, whether conscious or subconscious, is not the only reasonable explanation for the prevalence of home in my print selections. Alternatives might be:

  • Home is a central concept for most humans, therefore it plays a key role in most manuscripts.
  • Being a competent writer requires a degree of “square peggedness” because the societal tension created by not fitting in allows a person to more objectively observe the world and its inhabitants, thereby creating a yearning to find a place to fit in (i.e. social/emotional home). The resultant observations form the basis of the conflicts that make written work interesting.
  • The appearance of home in these books is mere coincidence. Random. A fractal-like artifact of our chaotic submissions queue.
  • These books haven’t actually been about home at all, I just projected that onto them. [Any thoughts, my long-suffering authors?]

I’m not sure how aggressively to explore this. It’s difficult to design any kind of scientific analysis since there can be a 2-3 year lag between the time a submission is accepted and the book actually makes it into print. But I think it would be really interesting if, after the relocation issue is settled and I’m home (where/whatever that ends up being), Folded never publishes a home-centric book again.

I would love to hear alternate theories or support/rebuttal of the theories above. I’d also love to know if you’ve recently read any books that deal with the concept of home, or even if you are writing one yourself. The comments section below is ready and waiting for your input:-)

kaleidescope view of FREIGHT’s final word

More than Words

“It’s just a conversation.” That’s what all the seasoned veterans told me prior to my first radio interview. And it might be true. But after it all played out, it was so much more than that.

reflection of room on window looking at bridge
view of/from our suite

First I had to overcome my anxiety enough to pitch a story to Jeffrey Callison of Insight on Capital Public Radio three weeks ago about the book I published, On a Narrow Windowsill: Fiction and Poetry Folded onto Twitter. Then I had to stay calm and problem solve when one of my co-interviewees had to bow out due to illness. I also had to weather my fears that the other co-interviewee would actually make it after her original flight was canceled in the Southwest maintenance crisis. By dinner time on Monday night, everything was worked out. Poet Ellaraine Lockie and I had checked into the Embassy Suites in Old Sacramento, my co-editor Rose Auslander was standing by to be a phone interviewee, and no one from the studio called to say “just kidding” or “need to reschedule.”

Bonus #1 = fears vanquished

Our hotel was amazing. A two room suite that looked out at Tower Bridge and the Sacramento River with walls so well insulated that we heard nothing–not even the elevators that were right across the hall. We ate at Joe’s Crab Shack, which was a crazy mix of good seafood, a gorgeous view of the river and bridge, dancing servers, and disco lights. Don’t believe me?

Bonus #2 = discovering new sights in Sacramento

Ellaraine and I talked and talked and talked. About poetry, art, travel, and our favorite animals (both plush and live). At one point I started to worry that I would lose my voice prior to the interview! It was so helpful to have an interview veteran with me in the hours leading up to the big event.

Bonus #3 = reconnecting with a fellow poet

plush frog on guest book
Junior signs Insight's guest book

We made it to the studio Tuesday morning, a full 30 minutes before we needed to be. When the assistant remarked on it, I told her we didn’t want to be late. That made her giggle a bit. Ellaraine and I got a little silly in the green room with all that spare time, including having our plush mascots sign the Insight guest book. The green room was actually beige, highly soundproofed, and full of chairs plus one suede couch. I noticed a signed poster of Ira Glass on the wall, but didn’t find any obvious celebrities in the guest book. Eventually we were joined in the green room by Will Travers of Born Free and a PR person from the local IMAX theatre which led to Will and Ellaraine swapping their Kenyan adventures. Fascinating.

Bonus #4 = new photos and more new photos

lighted on-the-air sign as seen from green room
the light's on and so are we

Finally it was our turn. We had exactly one minute to sit down, do a sound check, and be ready to go. Jeffrey is amazing to watch in action. He listened to the crew in the soundbooth giving him instructions, asked us questions, wrote himself notes, and organized his mind for our segment all at the same time. The microphone with its burgandy foam cover was nearly as big as my head. I could barely see Jeffrey over the top of it, even though I was sitting directly across the table from him. We knew that Rose was there on the phone, but we couldn’t hear what she was saying because we didn’t have earpieces. I knew from my stints doing sound at church that broadcasting her into the room would have made an echo on the air, but it was still a bit wild. Especially when she made both the host and the control booth laugh and I didn’t hear the joke. The interview took both an eternity and a split second. But I made it without laughing like a hyena or going blank. Want to hear it? (We’re the last of 4 segments.)

Bonus #5 = learning that I CAN do live interviews

I may have only driven a few miles on this trip, but the distance I traveled was huge in other ways. So I’ve included some quotes of the day below, as if this were a TravelBytes post.

Cheers! ~J

Quotes of the Day

Jeffrey Callison after Rose read her poem on air: That’s a little long for Twitter isn’t it?

Ian after we listened to the interview: I want that on my iPod. My friends will think I’m cool!