Reading New Boy? Check out the soundtrack.

New Boy, the soundtrack: Let Roberta Flack, The Jackson Five and Three Dog Night transport you to 1974. Tracy Chevalier, author of nine brilliant novels, has created a soulful playlist to accompany New Boy, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello.

Check out other playlists, including one for Chevalier’s novel At the end of the Orchard.

Must-read books (from the TED Blog)

TED2017 begins on Monday in Vancouver, Canada, and will explore the theme “The Future You.” If the future you is anything like the future us, you are likely curled up in a big cushy chair right now, devouring the contents of a book that flips your thinking. Below, some reading suggestions from the speaker program. Read, enjoy and…

via 12 books to browse ahead of TED2017 — TED Blog

Tracy Chevalier, Shakespeare and the merits of historical fiction

Last summer, my partner and I travelled to England (sans enfants) for a whirlwind 10th anniversary getaway in London and Oxford.

After we flung open the windows of our 16th-century B&B on Holywell Street in Oxford, my love embarked on an ambitious tour of the learned city’s many fine museums while I walked up St. Giles Street, past the Eagle & Child Pub, where Tolkein and Lewis and the other Inklings gathered on Thursday nights, to the Andrew Wiles Building, site of the 2016 Historical Novels Society (HNS) conference.

I had registered for the conference in hopes of gaining insight into the genre. I had only recently acknowledged that the novel I am (still) writing about a magico-religious midwife and healer coming of age during the Holodomor (a famine orchestrated by Stalin) was indeed historical fiction. And, among other issues, I was wrestling with questions like “How does one balance historical accuracy with literary merit?”

One of the main attractions, for me, was a keynote address by Tracy Chevalier, the author of nine brilliant novels, including the blockbuster hit Girl With a Pearl Earring, which sold more than five million copies, was translated into 39 languages, and was made into a movie starring Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson.

Chevalier, like me, never set out to write historical fiction. In her talk, however, she shared some of the reasons why she was (and is) drawn to write about the past. Writing about history, for example, allows the writer to be somewhat detached, more objective. It also provides an escape from day-to-day reality, something that Chevalier says is appreciated as much by writers as it is by readers. Finally, there is this:

“Interest in the past makes us better people, more three dimensional. It makes us bigger than ourselves; it makes our writing like that, too.”

Chevalier’s latest release, which was the subject of her presentation in Oxford last summer, takes place in a more recent past than her other books. And it takes place in familiar environs. When she was invited by Hogarth Press to retell one of the Bard’s stories for its Shakespeare Project, she looked to her own past, and recast Othello as a diplomat’s son trying to adapt to life at a new school  in Washington, DC, where the London-based Chevalier was born and raised.

Here’s what Hogarth Press has to say about New Boy:

The tragedy of Othello is transposed to a 1970s suburban Washington schoolyard, where kids fall in and out of love with each other before lunchtime, and practice a casual racism picked up from their parents and teachers. Peeking over the shoulders of four 11 year olds – Osei, Dee, Ian, and his reluctant ‘girlfriend’ Mimi – Tracy Chevalier’s powerful drama of friends torn apart by jealousy, bullying and betrayal will leave you reeling.

Set in 1974, the novel highlights the instability of the time, a time marked by the Vietnam War, Watergate and the Black Power Movement. With its searing indictment of racism and its preoccupation with how society treats those who are “other”, New Boy does what historical fiction often does so well: it dramatizes the past to highlight real life dramas unfolding here and now.



For those who have been rejected

The writer’s life is full of rejection, and rejection hurts. Even when you court it. Today, after logging the 10th rejection letter of 2017, I am taking comfort in the words of Saul Bellow.

“I discovered that rejections are not altogether a bad thing. They teach a writer to rely on his [sic] own judgment, and to say in his heart of hearts, ‘ To hell with you.'”

Just in time for Valentine’s Day

Who says Canadians aren’t romantic? CBC Radio has released Northern Love, an epic list of Canadian love songs that will prove those naysayers wrong. From mainstream classics sung by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Sarah McLachlan and Leonard Cohen to alt rock hits penned by superstars like Ron Sexsmith, Daniel Lanois and The Weakerthans, this playlist covers the full spectrum of romance. From sweet, sticky pop tunes to dark gothic narratives.

It’s “better than chocolate.” (Hat tip to Ms. McLachlan.)

Rejection check-in

This year I am hoping to cash in on rejections. In fact, I am hoping to end the year with 100 big ones. As of January 31st, I’d accumulated three emails saying “thanks, try again later.” Now the pressure is on. I have just 11 months to rack up 97 more. That’s 8.82 per month. I’d better get busy.

Not sure why I’m so eager to get knocked down? Visit 100 Rejections to find out.

Rejection & revelation: Must-read essay on Brevity blog

By L. Roger Owens

John, author of the Bible’s book of Revelation—his apocalypse occurred on the island of Patmos. Mine began in a shopping plaza parking lot two days before Christmas. I’d just dropped my wife off at the grocery store to buy the final foodstuffs for Christmas Eve dinner, along with everyone else, judging […]

via Rejection Apocalypse — BREVITY’s Nonfiction Blog

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