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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…

9780452298767H

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!)

This morning my daughter called out to me from the kitchen: “Josie* says she just heard your name on the radio.”

[*daughter’s BFF. not her real name.]

“Huh, what?” said I. “Why?”

A few minutes later she got the report back from her friend: “Your book was a finalist for the Best Books of Indiana or something.”

So I googled it, and indeed my book WAS a finalist for the Best Books of Indiana! The best book was a murder mystery, but my almost-best book was in really good company with fellow-finalist, Michael Martone.

Parker cvr frnt

The almost-best book of Indiana.

Hey, how do I look? And by “I,” I mean the BLOG with its fancy new makeover!

I really liked the old look, so I’ve kept the basic color scheme, but I was ready for a change and wanted something a bit easier on the eyes – a wider text block and more flexibility with headers and colors so I can continue to play around. I was going to do this change later, but I’ve got some blog news and thought it would be perfect to launch things with a new look. So…

Announcing: I’m pleased to announce a new partnership with Talking Writing magazine. The How to Become a Writer Series here at PhD in Creative Writing will now include interviews with Talking Writing’s featured writers. These interviews will be co-published by Talking Writing.

The first author I’ll be interviewing is Mark Brazaitis. In preparation for the interview, here is your homework:

Read Mark Brazaitis’s awesome story, “Cancer Is a Killer, and So Am I” at Talking Writing. When you are finished, meditate on its humor and profundity, fantasize about doing away with your nemesis, ponder your own humanity and mortality, and wait patiently for his interview, which will appear in this Sunday’s installment of the How To Become a Writer series.

Here’s how it begins:

I am dying. I am not dying courageously. Or gracefully. Or with good humor. My dying will not be emulated by other dying people or become the subject of a best-selling book. My dying will not move millions.

I am dying pathetically, painfully, bitterly.

I am dying in my daughter’s basement in her house in Sherman, Ohio, in a single bed against the west window, through which I can see the sun set behind a loose line of red maple trees. Behind the maple trees is the house of a man I have despised most of my life. It is the ultimate insult to see him working in his yard: mowing grass, pruning bushes, chopping wood. Sometimes he works with his shirt off, his torso bronzed. He is my age. He will probably outlive me by twenty-five years.

[Read the rest at Talking Writing.]

I’ve got this thing I’m working on – a collage, biography, homage; a correction, dedication, amalgamation.

It’s about her:

©2011 Kelcey Parker, Božena Němcová. Acrylic/Collage.

Božena Němcová.

You’ve probably never heard of her. I hadn’t either – until I went to Prague.

She was a woman and a writer. And she is on the 500 crown note of Czech currency. (A woman! A writer!)

That image was the inspiration for my painting:

(A woman in America would probably have to invent the moon and the stars before she’d get put on a dollar bill, but that’s another sad story.)

She spent much of her 19th-century life promoting Czech nationalism, traveling the Czech and Slovak Republics (aka Bohemia and Moravia) and recording the folk tales of the people – in their own languages. She was fighting against German – though, oh how she loved German Romanticism – both the language and culture that threatened her native lands. Ironically, her last name (the one she got from her husband, who hated her as much as he loved her) means GERMAN.

So she’s a fairy tale writer and story writer. Her Babička was one of the most famous Czech books ever. Babička means grandmother, and the book, based on her own grandmother, celebrates rural Czech life. Here’s a copy I bought at a used book store in Prague this summer:

You can see how warm and homey the images are. You just want to sit on Granny’s lap and hear another story. Or toss some yarn to the kitties. But Granny’s stories and not all happy stories. (There’s poor Viktorka…seduced by a soldier…drowned her baby…killed by lightning…)

And there’s more to Božena Němcová than you find when you start looking around, like I did. What I found was that all the sources said how bitter she was.

For good reason: she had a miserable marriage and more miserable affairs. She had four children whom she struggled to afford, and one of them died at age 14. She wrote and wrote and got paid almost nothing. Her husband said she’d amount to nothing. And she died in her 40s, probably of cancer, definitely in poverty. Then her body was carried through the streets of Prague in a huge procession and she was buried at the Vyšehrad Cemetery in the company of folks like Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Karel Čapek, and Alphonse Mucha.

But! Then I started reading her letters and fairy tales, and this woman was so much more than bitter. So I started arranging all those words – hers, theirs – to see what new story might emerge.

Part of my progress is posted here at Shadowbox Magazine. (Scroll over the CAR, which will say FOLIO. Click. Read. Scroll down.)

I got an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission to keep on keeping on. Which is good because I’ve got more to do: more paintings, more images, and some letters of my own addressed to B. About being a woman/writer/mother/desirer.

 

I’ve not been very bloggy lately. I’m ashamed to have missed Short Story Month in May. I had such high hopes of blogging about all my favorite short stories, of linking to other terrific short story blogs, of praising the fair form!

But busy prevails.

One thing I’ve been doing is teaching a summer study abroad class that leaves for Prague and Berlin on Monday. More on that in reports from the field next week…

Another thing I’ve been doing is reading book manuscripts for two different presses. One for a contest in poetry, another for open submissions in prose. And I find that what I am looking for most of all is a writer who has a sense of humor, who is having fun. My colleague articulated this one day as we sat reading through poetry manuscripts – this need for humor – and it has stuck with me as one of the main criteria I look for.

Let me be clear: I’m not talking funny ha-ha. I’m not talking LOL funny. I’m talking playful – with content or language or form. I mean the author is having fun with her art.

I’m also not talking about tricks. “No tricks,” says Raymond Carver. No gimmicks. Go ahead and show off if you’ve got it – like Frank Lloyd Wright does with his Fallingwater cantilevers or his spiraled Guggenheim museum – but don’t be a show off. (Okay, yes, Wright was a bit of a show off, a dandy, but he earned it.)

I’m definitely not talking about jokes. My favorite moments are when I read a sentence and I don’t know it’s funny, but then its humor starts to glimmer like a rising sun behind the words, and by the time I get to the end of the sentence or paragraph, dawn has arisen; it’s a beautiful day.

"what a morning — fresh as if issued to children on a beach"

Let me give a couple quick examples of famous first lines (and first lines are important) that are not necessarily funny on the surface but that reveal the author’s sense of humor:

Mrs. Dalloway said she would be the flowers herself.

– Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

This is revealed as funny when we realize that Mrs. Dalloway has servants to do such jobs for her, and that she volunteers to do this task “herself” because she knows the servants are busy, and, hey, it’s a beautiful day in London!

Call me Ishmael.

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

As if to say: Ishmael may or may not be my name, but you can call me that.

There was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke . . . Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.

– James Joyce, “Sisters,” Dubliners

The humor of the first line, and it IS funny, is revealed through the rest of the paragraph. The narrator is naive, earnest, but the narrative is not earnest. And the narrative (the author) is having fun with this character’s personal drama over the word “paralysis.” There’s the funny comparison to other dreadful words. And his conflicting desires: Oh how the word fills him with fear! Oh how he longs to be nearer to it!

You are probably thinking that I have no idea what I’m talking about because these are very unfunny opening lines and I clearly don’t know what is funny. But  hopefully you can see that I’m making a distinction, that I’m definitely not talking funny ha-ha, though I can love writing that is successfully funny (in which case I am usually also looking for an undercurrent of seriousness). But the less successful manuscripts I’ve been reading tend toward the uber-earnest – toward dramatic nature metaphors or melodramatic climaxes – and I’m all like, Lighten up!

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In other news, there’s an interview with me and my editor extraordinaire, Shannon Cain (who won the 2011 Drue Heinz in Short Fiction!), that just posted on the Kore Press blog, Persephone speaks. (Many thanks to Erinn Kelley for asking great questions!)

And my book For Sale By Owner is on the long list for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.

Frabjous days

May 12, 2011 — 3 Comments

2011 Next Generation

Indie Book Award

Short Fiction Winner


(calloo! callay!)

AND, my publisher Kore Press is one of four organizations in the country (selected out of 120) to be honored by the National Book Foundation with a 2011 Innovations in Reading Prize! The National Book Foundation awards prizes to individuals and institutions that have developed innovative means of creating and sustaining a lifelong love of reading.

Kore Press
Tucson, AZ
www.korepress.org

For eighteen years, Kore Press has been defined by innovation. Whether it’s publishing the highest quality women’s literature, educating youth, or doing creative community programming, they have been on the edge of using literature to advance progressive social change. As a community of literary activists, Kore is dedicated to engaging the public through several visionary, creative writing projects. The “Grrls Literary Activism Workshop” is an after-school creative-writing-as-activism program that engages youth with America’s long, literary history of passionate writing intended for communal, public circulation in the world rather than in the private form of a book (using t-shirts, video PSAs, readings, podcasts, poems wrapped around tampons and loaded into a repurposed tampon machine that travels to public restrooms). “Bounce Back” uses literature in surprising ways to raise awareness and create safety for queer students, teachers, and staff on high school and university campuses (using a 40-foot banner, a blog, a newspaper ad, posters in elevators, coffee cup sleeves, repurposed political yard signs). And with “Coming in Hot,” Kore created, produced, and toured a play based on a collection of poetry and memoir by women in the US military as a means to both expand audiences into traditionally non-literary populations (military, veterans, teens) and to create a vehicle for dialogue.

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Days don’t get much more frabjous than this.