12 Winters Blog

Readings for Men of Winter scheduled, and some new titles

Posted in March 2011 by Ted Morrissey on March 13, 2011

I’ve been actively trying to schedule some readings for Men of Winter, and I have two local dates set: One will be Wednesday, April 20, at Sherman Public Library, my “home away from home.” I’ll be reading along with my University of Illinois at Springfield colleague Lisa Higgs, whose collection of sonnets, Lodestar, has recently been released by Finishing Line Press. Lisa and I are working on setting up additional dual dates, but my other scheduled reading will be solo at Benedictine University at Springfield Thursday, May 26. The dates are listed on my Readings page at tedmorrissey.com. I read the first chapter of Men of Winter in Louisville last month, at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900; and I plan to read the first chapter at Sherman Public Library. However, I’ll do a different selection at BUS in May.

Not to dissuade any readers from coming to the Sherman Library event, but there is a video available of my reading chapter 1 at both Vimeo and YouTube (a slightly abridged version).

On the writing front, I was interviewed by The Fourth River, which (if I understand correctly) will run online this summer some time. The interviewer, Beth Gilstrap, talked with me about both Men of Winter and Weeping with an Ancient God, my novella that is slated for publication, along with a collection of short stories, next spring by Punkin House. Beth was a capable interviewer, asking intelligent and interesting questions (I only hope I responded in kind).

Meanwhile, I continue to work on the Authoress, the project name for my novel in progress. I’ve really been enjoying the writing process. I recently reached a climactic section that I’ve been working toward for 200 pages or thereabouts, and as such I’ve started getting up earlier just to leave myself a little extra time in the morning to write; if I get up at about 5:15, I can carve out 40 to 45 minutes to write, Monday through Friday. Generally, then, three or four evenings a week I can type up my handwritten pages produced in the mornings. It’s hardly a lightning-fast process, but with about two years’ work on the manuscript, I’m at the 375-page mark.

Having finished and truly enjoyed Anna Karenina, I dove right into War and Peace a couple of weeks ago. It’s taken me a little longer to develop an affinity for the text than it did for Anna Karenina, which happened from the first page, but I’m about 130 pages into War and Peace and am beginning to feel connected to the characters and the storyline. I think two features delayed my emotional attachment to the novel: one, Tolstoy introduces a plethora of characters in the opening chapters, and it was difficult for me to keep them all straight; also, he uses a lot of French in these same chapters, which is footnoted, but I found it cumbersome to keep glancing down to the bottom of the page, then back to my place in the text — as often Tolstoy has his characters speaking French, but the exposition between bits of dialogue is of course in English (Russian), or the characters shift back and forth between French and English/Russian, sometimes within the same sentence; so one must keeping jumping back and forth between the text of the novel and the translators’ footnotes. There is some French in Anna Karenina, of course, but it’s not so extensive, and not ladled on so thickly in the opening pages when one is trying to get one’s bearings. The French has slowed to a trickle in the last few chapters I’ve read of War and Peace, and that has helped me to embrace the novel more … affectionately.

I’ve decided that one of the things I should do with this blog is highlight some recent works of fiction and poetry that are available. One of my favorite pastimes when on campus at UIS is to go to Brookens Library and browse through the newly arrived books, many from small-press and university publishers. One book of poetry that I’ve found very engaging is Seven Poets, Four Days, One Book, which is the product of a group experiment in poetic composition. Another notable title is Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing: Stories, by Lydia Peelle. I’d also like to recommend two books from Coffee House Press: Extraordinary Renditions, a collection of three novellas, by Andrew Ervin; and Horse, Flower, Bird, an odd but engaging collection of very brief, fairy-tale-esque stories, by Kate Bernheimer (art byRikki Ducornet).

tedmorrissey.com

Men of Winter

Pathfinding: a blog devoted to helping new writers find outlets for their work

Writer Meagan Cass in town, and some War and Peace

Posted in February 2011 by Ted Morrissey on February 13, 2011

This past week I was delighted to be among a group who took writer Meagan Cass to dinner at Bella Milano in Springfield, Illinois. The table arrangement did not facilitate my being able to talk much writerly shop with Meagan, but she was warm and witty, all the things a young visiting writer is supposed to be, and we all stayed long after the meal was concluded to continue to talk, in fact about three hours all together — so clearly no one was in a rush to leave her company. Earlier in the day, at a presentation I was unable to attend, she spoke of contemporary narrative’s forebears, like myth and fairytale, and how they can inspire and inform technique today. I was able to touch upon her topic at dinner, and she mentioned that her story “The Candy House of Roscoe, New York” (published in Carve Magazine) makes use of fairytale tropes in particular. I brought up her “Candy House” story as I had read it earlier in the day and enjoyed it very much. One of Meagan’s stories that I enjoyed even more is “My Highest Recommendation” (published in Minnetonka Review). The story is funny and touching and intriguing — all the things a great short story ought to be, which is no doubt why it won the journal’s 2007 Editor’s Prize.

Meagan has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and a PhD from University of Louisville Lafayette, and she lives in California, where one of her interests, apparently, is the LA Feminist Book Club.

I finished reading Anna Karenina last weekend, and even though my life runneth over with great books I’m eager to read I had to run out and purchase War and Peace, as I’m still very much in a Tolstoy kind of mood. Our local Barnes & Noble had several versions available, and I took several minutes to look them over before deciding which I preferred. I’d read the Constance Garnett translation of Anna Karenina and obviously liked it a lot, and her version of War and Peace was available in a couple of different editions; but ultimately I decided on the newer Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation, published by Vintage Classics. So far I feel I chose wisely. I like the liveliness of the translation itself, and I appreciate many of the edition’s special features, like a list of principal characters, including their various nicknames and their relationships to one another — my only complaint is the book’s weight: holy cow, it’s softback, but it must weigh twelve pounds; it’s like holding a bowling ball while you read. I feel like I should wear steel-toed shoes while lugging it around just in case it slips from my grip.

On the writing front, I continue to work on my novel in progress, the Authoress, and I continue to like what’s happening on the page. I’ve still yet to set up a reading in association with the release of Men of Winter. I spoke to the owner of a coffeehouse in Galesburg, Illinois (Carl Sandburg’s and my hometown), and he sounded very enthusiastic about hosting a reading. In fact, I got off the phone thinking it was a done deal and it was just a matter of finding a date. He wanted me to email him further information, which I did immediately … it’s been going on two weeks and he hasn’t responded. Who knows? On a happier note, my publisher, Punkin House, has found a major distributor for its books, and I’m looking forward to finding out more details. In a couple of weeks I’ll be at the Louisville Conference on Literature and Culture Since 1900, where I will, among other things, read the first chapter of Men of Winter.

Also, an editor has expressed an interest in interviewing me with regards to my novella Weeping with an Ancient God, an excerpt of which was published in The Final Draft last fall under the title “Melvill in the Marquesas” (since archived at this blog); the interview is supposed to take place later this month or beginning of March, but we’ll have to see what happens there. I’m hoping to bring out the novella along with a collection of previously published stories later this year.

tedmorrissey.com

Men of Winter (purchase print paperback edition)

Pathfinding: a blog devoted to helping new writers find outlets for their work (my Punkin House author’s blog)

Thornhill, Hitchcock and more

Posted in December 2010, Uncategorized by Ted Morrissey on December 19, 2010

I had the treat of attending an acoustic performance of the local band Thornhill last evening at the Walnut Street Winery in Rochester, Illinois. In a word, they were terrific. They performed for over three hours, and I was there to enjoy every note. The band — consisting of sisters Tina and Lynna Thornhill (lead vocals, rhythm guitar; bass, vocals), Joel Zulauf (lead guitar, vocals), Patty Kniss (percussion), and Terri Patterson (backing harmonies) — did a variety of covers, from classics by artists like Carole King, Heart, the Carpenters, and Neil Young (to name a few), new artists, like Neko Case, plus several cuts from their debut CD, Center of Town. They also performed an a cappella version of “O Holy Night,” and had other local musicians join them on stage for inspired renditions of Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and KT Tunstall’s “Big Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” In addition to Thornhill’s excellent musicianship, their rapport with the audience, which included long-time Thornhill devotees and newcomers like me, was easy-going, lighthearted and often laugh-out-loud funny. Throw into the mix the winery’s unique and intimate setting, and all in all it was a memorable evening to be sure.

Music-lovers in central Illinois should keep an eye out for Thornhill appearances, and check the band’s dates page on its website.

While I’m posting, I want to give a nod to Dr. Tena Helton’s graduate English class at the University of Illinois at Springfield for their impressive project presentations based on the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The students used a variety of technology/media applications to explore various aspects of such Hitchcock classics as Rear Window and Psycho.

As I’ve discussed recently, my novel Men of Winter has now been released in three formats: print paperback, Kindle, and ebook. Over winter break I’ll be starting to organize readings and other promotional projects. The Comments page of my website has been … light on traffic since I started it, but hopefully now that people are reading Men of Winter some folks will use the Comments page to initiate a dialogue about the novel and, really, anything related to writing, publishing, etc. It would be great to have an interactive readership.

I’m a little more than a third through Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and still enjoying it very much, and I continue to work on the Authoress, my novel in progress, feeling that I’m nearly finished with a draft of chapter 20. It has been a busy week, with final exams, writing portfolios, and research papers to grade — plus my home laptop was out of commission for a few days due to a nasty virus — so my reading and writing suffered a bit; but I hope to more than make up for the lost time over break.

tedmorrissey.com

Punkin House Books