Archives For my writing

The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová by Kelcey Parker Ervick
is one of the least bitter, most loving books I have read in a long time,
and it’s beautifully made.

– Kate Bernheimer
author of How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales

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Still Life with Books and Beer

 

Today is publication day for The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová! My journeys in the Czech Republic and Slovakia took me to this book, and this book has taken me on its own journey. It’s my first book-length work of nonfiction, and it includes a series of postcards I wrote to Němcová about my travels, my Czech language class, my Slovakian family, and, well, my failing marriage. I quote from my favorite Prague-based letter-writers: Franz Kafka’s Letters to Milena, Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, Bohumil Hrabal’s Letters to Dubenka, and Vaclav Havel’s Letters to Olga.

What I am probably most amazed about is that this book also includes collages and paintings I made, published in beautiful full color. The first two here are images from my travels to Česká Skalice, where Božena Němcová grew up. I was lost, and these were the not very helpful signs. The third image is of a photo on a bulletin board at Shakespeare and Sons in Prague that addresses anxieties one might feel about publishing a strange hybrid beast of a book such as mine.

But you can help make the book a bestseller! It is now available for purchase from Rose Metal Press, Small Press Distribution (SPD, where it is a Handpicked selection, 20% off in November), Amazon (ugh, this will update soon!), Amazon’s Kindle (live and ready!), etc. It costs $17.95, which is pretty amazing considering the color images.

If you read and like it, please consider posting a review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. If you’re even thinking of reading it, you can mark it as “want-to-read” on Goodreads. All this helps libraries and other potential readers know about the book, and make it an even-better-seller.

I want to end with a major thanks to Abby Beckel and Kathleen Rooney at Rose Metal Press. I’ll say more in a future post, but they did SO MUCH GOOD WORK  make this book the beautiful object that it is. And thanks to Heather Butterfield for her stunning design work.

First, I tried to get someone else to make my book trailer.

When that didn’t work, I got other people to HELP me make my book trailer. As I writer, I don’t often get to collaborate on creative projects, and it turned out to be a blast.

But you should watch it first:

Now that you have seen the trailer and know that The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová is about a Czech fairy tale writer, you will understand why it is important that I happened to be in Prague this summer taking students on a study abroad trip. I was accompanied by my gentleman friend, whom I dragged around the city with a camera, and he helped me film moving shots of still statues (check out the opening pan up), and still shots of moving statues (Kafka’s swiveling head at minute 1:05!). We got footage on trams and of trams, on bridges and of them. We got a lot of footage.

Next, I wrote a script. Then rewrote it a few more times.

In the meantime, I contacted the Indiana University South Bend Instructional Media team and asked, “Can somebody please help me make a book trailer?” And they were like, “Sure, we can do it.”

Joel laid the ground rules. Joe would record the voices. Sky went to work on sorting through the video footage.

But we still didn’t have any background music to set the tone.

One night my gentleman friend and I watched a weird German movie, The Strange Little Cat, and we loved the music. So I did what you do: I googled the band and emailed the record company asking permission to use the music in my trailer. No answer. I wrote again. This time I got a response from Kim at Monotreme Records: “Yes, that should work!”

A few more email exchanges, a small fee, and the next thing I knew I had the rights to that hauntingly awesome music that plays throughout: “Pulchritude” by Thee More Shallows.

Meanwhile, we recorded the voices, which include my daughter (the first and last voice), my gentleman friend, and me. Sky was making great progress on the video editing, and the next thing I knew it was almost done. We just needed some audio for the credits.

Luckily, back in Prague, when I filmed Božena’s grave at the National Cemetery, I recorded the church bells as they rang and rang throughout the cemetery.

Did you watch all the way to the end? The bells are so beautiful.


The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová is now available for pre-order at Rose Metal Press. Free shipping!


 

 

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It’s about time the U.S. is thinking of putting a woman on paper currency. Lots of countries, including the Czech Republic, are waaaay ahead of us.

Božena Nemcová – the subject of my next book – is on the Czech 500 Crown note (the rough equivalent of our $20 bill). I never know what’s more surprising: that they have a woman on their money – or that they have a writer. (Part of my love of the Czech Republic is its love for its writers. They have a National Cemetery devoted to writers and artists. They even voted one in as President. Ah, Vaclav Havel.)

In my essay, “In Search of Božena Nemcová,” published last year at The Common, I write about how I discovered Nemcová when I purchased a book of her fairy tales at the Prague Castle  – and then noticed the same name on my Czech currency.

Maybe as a result of this Women on 20s campaign, people will find out more about women such as the finalists: Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks and Wilma Mankiller.

Maybe one day we’ll even have a writer on our currency!

I was initially invited to participate in this Writing Process Blog Tour by the fabulous Rebecca Meacham, whose fiction I admired even before the publication of her debut and award-winning story collection, Let’s Do. She was ahead of me by a few years in my Ph.D. program and I always admired and looked up to her – despite the fact that I think she’s a foot shorter than I am. Check out her post from last week.

Then, when I was just about to send a message to My Go-To Guy – the dangerously charming and talented Joseph Bates, author of the story collection Tomorrowland – inviting him to participate, I received a text from him, and he was inviting me. Like at the exact same time! Since he was up first, we decided he could tag me, and I’d tag other writers. Check out his post here, and see below for the three awesome writers who agreed to do it next week.

So anyway. Here are the questions and here are my answers.

1) What are you working on?

My personal life, mostly. It’s been a year in which I’ve felt more like a character in a novel than creator of characters. And things are never easy for characters in novels. So many internal and external conflicts! So many unexpected plot twists and cliffhangers! Obstacles! Antagonists! Only now do I feel that things are settling down enough that I can be the kind of character I prefer: Mrs. Dalloway wandering the streets of London, pausing as Big Ben rings another hour (irrevocable) and pondering the messages of aeroplanes.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I am not very generically stable. Fortunately I’ve found a publisher – Rose Metal Press – whose mission is to mix-and-match genres. I sent them the manuscript for Liliane’s Balcony, calling it a “novella-in-flash.” I’d never heard of such a thing, but they were like, yeah, sure, we love novellas-in-flash. This fall they’re publishing a collection of five novellas-in-flash.

Rose Metal Press is also going to publish my next book, The Bitter Life of Božena Němcová, which I am calling a collage biography. It’s all found texts from books and letters and internet sites. It’s also got images – photos, collages. It may or may not also include postcards that I’ve been writing to Božena. Stuff about my aforementioned personal life.

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3) Why do you write what you do?

I go to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house on a chance trip to Ohiopyle, PA, I take a tour, I am overcome by the place, by its natural and architectural beauty, I think OMG I have to write a story set here, I listen to the tour guide who tells of the Kaufmann family who purchased the house, I remember being a kid in Pittsburgh and going to the Kaufmann department store, I think, “Same folks?” I go home and read up on the house and the Kaufmanns and I learn that the wife Liliane was beautiful and smart and tri-lingual and an art collector that her life ended in an overdose of pills in her bedroom at Fallingwater. I start writing.

Or. I go to Prague on a chance trip, I buy a book of Czech fairy tales for my daughter, I notice that there’s a picture of a woman (a woman!) on my Czech money and that her name matches the name on the fairy tale book, I do some research to learn more about her, I find conflicting info, poor translations, and outdated material, I find that someone has translated some of her letters and they are nothing like what I expected based on the research, and I take all my notes and quotes and arrange them until they tell some combination of her life and the impossibility of telling it.

4) How does your writing process work?

My favorite part is the research. I don’t think we talk enough about the importance of research, or the fun of it. You get to work on your writing project without actually writing, and research gets you excited and loaded with ideas so that you can’t help but write.

For Liliane’s Balcony, I volunteered as an Ask-Me Guide at Fallingwater, traveling to Ohiopyle, PA once a month and volunteering all weekend, talking to visitors and employees. I traveled to Cincinnati where I uncovered an archive of letters from Edgar Kaufmann to Liliane. I took photos of each letter, transcribed them at home, and incorporated excerpts into my book. I toured Wright’s other houses in Chicago. All of this informed and inspired my writing.

For my Božena Němcová project, I took a month-long Czech language class in Prague, visited her home town of České Skalice, and toured the extensive museum dedicated to her in the town. (I also got totally lost in this unpopulated village of non-English speakers.) I went to a used bookstore in Prague and bought old copies of her books to make collages. Most recently, I bought a 1968 Czech typewriter on eBay. All part of the writing process.

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A sketch I made of Bozena’s glasses, pen, notebook, and rosary displayed at her museum in Ceska Skalice.

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Here are the three writers who I have tagged for next week. And when I say ‘tag,’ I picture myself holding a magic wand that sparkles as I touch it to their shoulders.

Donna Miscolta is the author of the novel When the de la Cruz Family Danced. Her fiction has appeared in literary journals, and her story collection Natalie Wood’s Fake Puerto Rican Accent was selected by Peter Ho Davies as a finalist for the 2010 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. She has received over a dozen grants and fellowships and has been awarded artist residencies at Anderson Center for the Interdisciplinary Arts, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook, and Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. See her website and blog at www.donnamiscolta.com. [I also interviewed Donna for my How to Become a Writer series!]

David Dodd Lee is the author of eight full-length books of poems and a chapbook, including Downsides of Fish Culture (New Issues Press, 1997), Arrow Pointing North (Four Way Books, 2002), Abrupt Rural (New Issues Press, 2004), The Nervous Filaments (Four Way Books, 2010) Orphan, Indiana (University of Akron Press, 2010), Sky Booths in the Breath Somewhere, the Ashbery Erasure Poems (BlaxeVox, 2010), and The Coldest Winter On Earth (Marick Press, 2012). His newest book, Animalities, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in October, 2014. [He also makes gorgeous collages! Visit: http://seventeenfingeredpoetrybird.blogspot.com/]

Margaret Patton Chapman is the author of the novella-in-flash, Bell and Bargain, forthcoming in My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form (Rose Metal Press 2014). http://margaretpattonchapman.com/

Silence of the Blog

February 17, 2014 — 14 Comments

This week’s DP Challenge/Writing Prompt at WordPress is to write about SILENCE. One thing they suggest is “breaking the silence,” which I would like to do right now. My blog has been silent since November. I haven’t even posted any author interviews in my How to Become a Writer Series. So, imma try to get back in the swing. Starting with a new super-awesome interview that will post tomorrow. And who knows what I’ll post after that? Maybe I’ll write about all the places I’ve been traveling to give readings for my book (Chicago! Iowa City! Pittsburgh! DC! Baltimore! Milwaukee! Lubbock! [that’s TX, y’all]). Maybe I’ll write about my New Year’s non-resolution-phrase-of-the-year, which I’ve been meaning to write about since, you know, Jan 1. Or about all the books I’ve almost read.

Until then, I leave you with a strangely silent sight. Fallingwater – the setting of my new book Liliane’s Balcony – frozen. So much of the experience of Fallingwater is the constant sound of the water. And this polar vortex – or whatever the hell it is that is happening this winter – has also managed to silence the waterfall of Fallingwater.

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Thanks to my facebook friend Missy for the link, and to Fallingwater’s FB page for the image.

I received this email today. Yay! My book Liliane’s Balcony is now available in e-book and regular-book form. All the details are in the message below, including my crazy tour schedule that I have to juggle with my teaching schedule. (Are you in Iowa, Chicago, Baltimore, DC, or Pittsburgh? Can we meet for a drink?)

I love that Rose Metal Press chose to donate 5% of sales in the first two weeks to the preservation of Fallingwater.
Dear Friends, Subscribers, and Supporters of Rose Metal Press:
LAUNCH DAY FOR LILIANE’S BALCONY BY KELCEY PARKER
It’s here! Our fall release, Liliane’s Balcony: A Novella of Fallingwater by Kelcey Parker, is now available for order! Information and all details about the book can be found here. Preorders are on their way! We are so pleased to bring you this innovative novella-in-flash that, among other things, highlights the beauty and complexity of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Fallingwater and the family who built it.
In honor of the Fallingwater setting, between October 1 and October 15, we are donating 5% of all sales through our website to the preservation of Fallingwater. Order here to contribute to this unique American treasure.
Liliane’s Balcony is already garnering positive reviews and attention. Look for upcoming reviews in Booklist and Publisher’s Weekly as well as coverage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Rumpus. You can read a new excerpt of the book up on Talking Writing today!
Liliane’s Balcony is also available in e-book format for Kindle and Nook. Bookstore and library orders for print copies can be made through Small Press Distribution.
Caitlin Horrocks writes of the novella: “Liliane’s Balcony is as layered and audacious as the house at the center of the novella. Parker dances effortlessly between present and past, fact and fiction, nature and interior, lovers and out-of-lovers. The story that emerges is moving and precariously beautiful: a book that in lesser hands might have come toppling down. In Parker’s, it’s a triumph.” 
Liliane’s Balcony also features Fran Forman’s artwork on the cover and Heather Butterfield’s cover and book design.
Rose Metal Press Subscribers at the $100 level or more will be receiving their copies of Liliane’s Balcony the week of the launch. There’s still time to SUBSCRIBE to Rose Metal Press for 2013 and support our mission and the work we do while also receiving your copies of our books first. If you subscribe now, you’ll get a copy of our first two 2013 books, as well as Liliane’s Balcony.
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KELCEY PARKER ON TOUR WITH LILIANE’S BALCONY THIS FALL
Kelcey will be reading from Liliane’s Balcony at events around the Midwest and East Coast this fall. Be sure to come out to events near you to hear Kelcey read and get your copy of the book signed! Events are listed on our News page and also below:
Tuesday, October 15
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony at Prairie Lights at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicPrairie Lights
15 South Dubuque St.
Iowa City, Iowa
Wednesday, October 16
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony for the Local Author Night Series at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicThe Book Cellar
4736 North Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, Illinois
Friday, October 18
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony at the Black Squirrel at 7:00 pm. Event co-hosted by Rose Metal Press and Barrelhouse Books. With Dan Brady, Lee Klein, and Caryn Lazzuri
Free and open to the publicThe Black Squirrel
2427 18th St. NW
Washington, D.C.
Saturday, October 19
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony in the 510 Reading Series at 5:00 pm
Free and open to the public510 Reading Series
Minás Gallery
815 W. 36th St.
Baltimore, Maryland
Thursday, November 21
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony in The New Yinzer Reading Series at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicThe New Yinzer Reading Series
Modern Formations
4019 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Saturday, November 23
Kelcey Parker reading from Liliane’s Balcony at East End Book Exchange at 7:00 pm
Free and open to the publicEast End Book Exchange
4754 Liberty Ave.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

1. Let’s get straight to it. The number one highlight of the Southern Kentucky Book Fest was this:

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That’s right, I got to hang out with two of my favorite people and authors: Molly McCaffrey (left) and David Bell (right).

2. And I might have gotten to meet this guy:

(He’s standing next to the tall girl in red above. The tall girl makes everyone look shorter than they are. The tall girl apologizes to The Fonz.)

Seriously, Henry Winkler was super friendly and charming. He hugged my friend Molly and told her how much he loves her personality. We bonded over New York / New Jersey connections.

3. I met three overeducated country boys who brew some damn fine IPA over at Country Boy Brewing:

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(Seriously, these guys make great beer, and they majored in things like English and History. They have Master’s Degrees! Yes.)

4. I was assigned an awesome boothmate: Sharon Short

downloadSharon’s new book is My One Square Inch of Alaska, and I’m excited to read my new copy! She also agreed to participate in my interview series, so more about Sharon to come…

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5. Dinner and gossip with the amazing Eric Goodman and Lee Martin, authors of these awesome books that I just bought:

BONUS HIGHLIGHTS:

I sold some books! My attention has been on my forthcoming book, Liliane’s Balcony, due out in the fall, so it was great to talk to people about For Sale By Owner again.

As I drove home I passed a trucker who honked at me. This has not happened to me for years, so I looked in my rearview mirror and saw that he was holding up a sign in his front window that said, “M O M.” I thought, “Geez, how did you know? Is it that obvious?” But when I glanced back again, he had turned the sign over. It now said: “W O W.”
(Oh my!)