Sunday, December 14, 2014

This River is Loved



This River: An Epic Love Poem was released December 1, and we celebrated with a book launch at my Hoganvillaea Farm on Sunday afternoon, December 7.  I want to say that This River is a visionary poem, and that I was fortunate for it to be chosen by a visionary editor, antoinette nora claypoole of Wild Embers Press of New Mexico and Oregon for their new Watersongs imprint back in August 2014.  Antoinette nora’s vision for the design of the book and its presentation was strong, and sometimes my vision of the book and hers clashed, but the resulting actual book is richer for her work, both in its imagery and its design, which are well-integrated with the flow of the poem.  We were also fortunate to gain permission from his wife Yevstolia for using Sergei Rumyantsev's study of the Volga River, which is normally on my wall in my computer corner.

When I described it as also a river poem, because I wrote the poem over time while sitting beside the Haw River above Saxapahaw and used the river and its life for imagery, antoinette nora said: “I know you like focusing on the environmental/river aspect of your story, but do you realize how the LOVE of another is what carries it?  It is Love which makes the river flow.  Without your love of Mikhail, there would be no river at all.  It is like that for all of us on this planet.  Without love, nature dies.”

Something else is happening deep inside me, so profound that I only begin to grasp it.  Because this long poem, in which I describe openly my love, felt taboo, I was afraid of people’s responses–generally–but, instead of being disapproved of for publishing it, I am being praised for the beauty of the poem and the beauty of the book design.

Two recent responses that said so much to made me feel very rewarded for trusting my words of love on the waters of the world:

“Thanks for sending me a copy of “This River.”  It’s a beautiful-looking book, first.  Then I read the introduction and was intrigued and moved, so I immediately and unexpectedly--since I was at work with mound of work stuff to address–started reading the poem.  I had to stop eventually, but I got a solid ways in and will return to it tonight.”
 ***
“I keep reading a couple of sections a night asking my disbelieving self if the next part will really be as great at the last.  Each time it is. This is a wonderful and amazing piece of work.  It is soul work and soul guidance.  I hope others realize how great it is.”

This River had been rejected by publishers many times, and yet antoinette nora accepted it at once when she received my query, and she soon revealed her love and enthusiasm, rare among editors, in my experience, even when they choose to publish your book. Then my women friends astonished me by their enthusiasm–the ones I asked for blurbs, Jaki Shelton Green, Joanie McLean, and Foster Robertson Foreman, and Sharon Ewing and Susan Broili, who agreed to review it.  You’ll find the blurbs in my blogs Oct 11 & 16, Nov. 23, and here’s Sharon’s review from the Dec-Jan issue of Chatham County Line:

***
Review of This River: An Epic Love Poem, by Judy Hogan, Wild Embers Press, Watersongs Imprint, 120 pp., $14.

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.”  Muriel Rukeyser.

This quote was used as a T-shirt logo for the 1991 Women’s Narrative Conference, “Tell Me a Story That’s True,” held at NCCU. In the Preface to This River: An Epic Love Poem, Judy Hogan confesses her earlier reticence not in writing about taboo subjects but in publishing that writing. With the publication of this poem, she dares to share her experiences twenty years ago of acknowledging, accepting, and living with her unconsummated love for a married man and of her certainty that this love was returned. Living into this state was nurtured by her growing understanding of the Russian concept of soul, ДУША (dusha.) She also writes: “The love we felt and expressed covertly in letters was never consummated, but it became the fire that fueled our work together. We trusted each other. We argued and we adapted to each other’s cultures as necessary . . . Perhaps it was the largest passion of my life, after my desire to write. It is the time, however to share this whole story.”

This River is a series of thirty meditations written over a year and a half following the poet’s return from her first visit to Russia, a visit of only five days, but days that changed her life. The meditations, evoked by regular visits to the Haw River near the poet’s home in North Carolina, are the way she both nurtures and comes to terms with her life-changing meeting with her soul-mate and fellow writer, Mikhail, in the crumbling world of the Russian people as the USSR disintegrates. A life-long journal writer and close observer of nature, Hogan draws meaning and conveys it to the reader through metaphors that flow seamlessly from those observations. In a post-everything world, she is an unapologetic romantic: the natural world is alive with meaning for her, personification rises effortlessly, and she uses it unashamedly. Her opening line mentions a “resurrection fern . . . alive and well-watered” and we are launched. There will be death, but there will also be life. Immersion in the natural world both guides and consoles the poet. 

The central image of the poem is a river, but it is in many ways two rivers: the Haw River near the poet’s home in North Carolina and the Volga River that runs past the beloved’s home in Russia. Separated by thousands of miles, the rivers are joined by their eventual emptying into the ocean. Distance is overcome by metaphor. The river carries mud, but that mud nourishes the life along its banks, and when light strikes it, the river is golden. As the poet struggles to acknowledge and then accept a love outside her previous boundaries, the green of August yields to the ripe reds and yellows of autumn; but months later a no-show at the airport brings the outer world of physical realities crashing into her inner life – the poet’s understanding must grow, time and space take on new dimensions, work must fill the physical void.  Shared work and love stretch into a broad horizon, darkness of winter descends, but the poet sees the red glow in the darkening winter sky and holds on to her belief in the mutuality of love. 

The reader can revel in the rich imagery and language of this poem that reveals a complex inner life and know that the poet has faced herself honestly and overcome her earlier reticence. Her willingness to share that inner struggle with a personally taboo subject invites honesty from the reader and other writers. This poem ends, but the poem of her life will spill forth as long as this poet can put pen to paper.

The cover of This River, from an oil painting, “A Study of Volga River, Kostroma, Russia,” by Sergei Rumyantsev, a Kostroma painter and friend of the author, invites the reader to enter visually the world the poet presents through words. ”Heart Leaves,” an ink drawing by Mikhail Bazankov, who was  a trained artist before he was a writer, hovers above each meditation and draws the reader through the emotional course of the poem. Wild Embers Press has added another rich book to its Watersongs imprint.

This River: An Epic Love Poem will be available in December at Paperbacks Plus (Siler City), The Joyful Jewel and Circle City Books (Pittsboro). Judy will sign at Paperbacks Plus January 10, Saturday, 11-1 PM. She will read with Jaki S. Green at the Chatham Community Library March 11, 7 PM. 
  
***
Susan Broili promises her review for January, closer to the time of the Durham readings (Regulator Bookshop, Jan 21, 7 PM, and South Regional Library, Jan 28, 7 PM).

As Diane Winger wrote to me, a new book is a kind of birth.  This one had its birth pangs, but was well-worth them.  I realize I am now freed of certain deeply placed fears that some of my strongest feelings were unacceptable.  That self-doubt, which I hadn’t fully admitted to myself is now dissolving.  People’s responses have done that, and it’s still happening. I put part of poem three into my holiday letter, and it is stirring more than my holiday letter poems usually do.


Doug working on my computer.

For the launch a week ago, December 7, here at my home on my little Hoganvillaea Farm, Doug Williams came early to work on a computer transition he’s doing for me–a big gift.  Ted Bodenheimer, who took photos for two books I published under the Carolina Wren aegis back in the late 80s, A Living Culture in Durham, and Watering the Roots in a Democracy: A Manual on Combining Literature and Writing in the Public Library, agreed to take photos so these are his.

Left to right:  Judy, Doug, Carol, Billie, Ted.
***
Billie Hinton, a writer who lives a couple of miles away, came bearing flyers for our “No Coal Ash” fight and brought a delicious sweet potato curry, which we all enjoyed.  Carol Hay, who helps me so much by going over my mystery novels as a copy editor with her second pair of eyes to alert me to inconsistences and places that need work, came to pick up her pre-sale copy.  Later Billie’s husband Matthew, dropped by.

Left to right:  Judy, Carol, Matthew, Billie
***
We covered a wide range of topics: modern doctors and hospital experiences, staying healthy, horses (Billie and Carol are horse-lovers), the Middle East (Ted gave us an in-depth history); and my life for the last sixteen years living in an African American neighborhood and being supported in multiple ways by their kindness and protectiveness, known as “Miss Judy,” and sometimes greeted in the post office by folks I’ve never met, yet who already trust me.  Since I arrived in this little community, built around three rivers which converge here: the Haw, the Deep, into which the Rocky flows, to make the Cape Fear, which flows down to the coast at Wilmington, Moncure has suffered terrible pollution and has fought off a low-level nuclear dump, the transporting of irradiated nuclear fuel rods shipped by rail through our village, three landfills, terrible air pollution from eight factories, and now we fight both the fracking focused on our near Lee County neighbor, and two large coal ash dumps to be located within a few miles of us with an estimated 20 million tons of coal ash to be carried here by truck and train.

We ate, laughed, and I signed books.  Except for Matthew, the others had all taken classes with me and one who gave me a blurb had, too.  They are all good writers in their own right and very independent-minded truth-tellers.  It’s my privilege to be praised by truth-tellers.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Judy Hogan.  judyhogan@mindspring.com  http://judyhogan.home.mindspring.com
www.wildembers.com  http://watersongsbooks.blogspot.com 
Buy Link:   www.createspace.com/5021680

Sunday, December 7, 2014

No coal ash in our community


Truck transporting coal ash.  

***

We here in North Carolina, and specifically in Chatham and Lee counties, are being subjected to Duke Energy’s plan to dump millions of tons of coal ash waste in our communities, specifically in Brickhaven, near Moncure in Southeast Chatham and along Colon Road in northern Lee County.  We have organized and we plan to rouse public opinion against Duke Energy, our giant electric power company, the only one now in North Carolina, although they also have plants and coal ash problems in South Carolina and Florida.  

Our state legislature passed a coal ash clean-up law recently which allows Duke Energy to bypass any permissions from local municipalities, towns or counties.  They only have to obtain permits from our Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which under this present Republican-dominated state government has not been taking care of the citizens of the state and our environment but satisfying the polluting corporations.  Witness how they have let the Mining and Energy Commission (MEC) make fracking rules that fly in the face of any attempt to protect citizens from extremely harmful pollution.

Coal ash is also very harmful to human beings as it contains heavy metals and radioactive material, which fracking fluid has. Furthermore, moving coal ash several hundred miles presents additional threats of pollution, and storing it in landfills located in old clay pits from brick making and then lining them with plastic isn’t going to prevent the poisons from leaking and getting into ground water, surface water, and the air.  Sooner or later all landfills leak.  The ash should be turned into the solid salt stone and stored in huge concrete bunkers on site.  But the long and short of it is: We don’t want it in Chatham and Lee Counties.

Some of us are now working together to save our communities from this terrible strike against us.  Our strategy is to rouse public opinion.  What’s being done to us by an American public utilities company is worse than terrorism.  It is reminiscent of Nazi-ism, which also used large corporations to help them exterminate millions of Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.  Duke Energy’s actions suggest their mindset: Go after those who are different: the poor, the low income folks, the minorities, the gay.  Terrify them by polluting their environment and offering “jobs.”  Jobs that make you sick.  Jobs that are here today and gone tomorrow.  Separate those who might make allies of each other, reward the rich with more money and prosecute the poor if they object to being exterminated.  Use the “it won’t hurt me” psychology so that their neighbors will be afraid to get involved.  Twist the truth and make it slick.  Tell lies.  Corrupt the state government and run over the local governments to tie their hands since they’ve sworn allegiance to the state.  Violate the state constitution in the name of law. Our Goodliest Land is being poisoned, its citizens slowly but remorselessly sickened and killed off.

Plato said, “Truth is the best rhetoric.”  Citizens can afford to tell the truth.  Corporations can’t.  If Duke Energy couldn’t corrupt its employees to spew out their lies, if the public relations staff told the truth, we’d see a change.  Fear of job loss?  Of course.  What other weapon can be used to force basically honest people to tell lies, to soothe, instead of sounding a warning.  So we as citizens must be the truth speakers.  When the state is acting criminally, then the honest man or woman willingly risks imprisonment.  

All this torture and killing of Duke Energy’s customers for the sake of money! Whose money?  Our money.  Our rates are raised for corporate profits.  We pay and die.  A strange irony in a democracy.  Back in 1776 we promised ourselves that we would have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  That has been elusive for many American citizens over those centuries, and never so much as right now.  Somehow the polluting corporations gained control of the state government and feel free to dump their waste where we live and are now threatened with extermination.  If we don’t die of the heavy metals and radioactive material in coal ash and fracking fluid, our children and grandchildren will.

We can change this picture by speaking truth to power, as my dear friend Margie Ellison always said.  We can rouse public opinion. Our allies are each other.  We can refuse to be separated and disenfranchised.  North Carolina and our counties here in this goodliest land are where we live, work, and raise our children.  We will take center stage away from Duke Energy and its lies.  Truth wins ultimately.  Public opinion can bring a huge corporation to its knees.  They need our passivity and silence.  We will be activist and speak out through our words and our actions.  We will be Davids against the Duke Goliath.


Friday night in the Moncure Volunteer Fire Department’s meeting room I watched a transformation of a solemn, scared, angry crowd of thirty people become a community ready to give time and do work.  That’s the answer.  Helping and motivating each other. Hoping, trusting, and loving.  These are strategies Duke Energy never knew or has forgotten.


Mountains of Coal Ash

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Coal Ash Contamination in the Works



We do have 27 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, and one near us in Southeast Chatham is being channeled into the Cape Fear River above the Sanford water intake, below Moncure, and all of them are leaking.  But more

Coal Ash Contamination is in the Works

We here in central North Carolina learned about ten days ago that our state government, in its bill to “clean up” coal ash waste at sites around the state, is allowing Duke Energy, our only electric company, to dispose of their coal ash wherever they want as long as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources allows it.

They don’t have to get permission from counties, cities, or any local jurisdictions.  So Duke Energy is planning to ship, by rail and truck, 12 million tons of extremely toxic coal ash from a Charlotte generating plant to sites where clay was once dug for brick-making in Southeast Chatham (Brickhaven) and Lee County (near Sanford).

Fortunately one of our environmental organizations, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, has issued a report on why we shouldn’t be dumping or even moving coal ash.  You may contact BREDL@skybest.com  Or check out their website: www.BREDL.org.  They can send you the report as a PDF.  This report was issued March 24, 2014.  BREDL points out that the only safe way to deal with this waste with its heavy metals (chromium, iron, lead, manganese, silver, sulfate, among others) and its radioactivity is to covert it to salt stone and store it on the site where it was generated in concrete bunkers.  Additionally they point out:

If the ash is moved to an off-site facility which accepts waste from other places Duke’s liability for this highly toxic waste stream will be diluted.

Most commercial landfills already operating in NC and new proposed landfill sites are in primarily African American neighborhoods.  Who will be the recipients of this toxic waste?

Landfills leak.  The Federal Register reported in 1988, p. 33345: “First, even the best liner and leachate collection systems will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration.” 

Coal ash belongs to Duke Energy today, tomorrow, and forever. Duke shouldn’t be able to pass that liability onto our communities.

***

I’ve been making up other words for Duke Energy, our big electric company which lies to us and wants to dump hazardous waste where we live: Dump Exterminate, and for our state environmental safety agency, DENR, which no longer protects us, our environment, or our natural resources: Department of Energy with No Restrictions.

***

Here’s the letter I sent to Governor McCrory today.  He’s all for how callously our state treats its citizens and has close connections with Duke Energy, so-called.

***
Dear Governor McCrory:

I wonder how future generations will look back on your governorship.  Do you think about it?  I think you will be remembered for setting North Carolina back fifty years, for enabling more pollution than ever before between fracking and having coal ash shipped around the state instead of following the safest way, of converting it to salt stone and storing in on the site where it was generated in large concrete bunkers so that it can’t pollute water, air, or  land.  You will be remembered for bringing back large-scale discrimination against African Americans in the arenas of voting, health care, and unemployment.  You were determined that North Carolina would have fracking which is notoriously unsafe for human beings.  You were all for the corporations and the rich people and forgot 99% of your citizens in order to give corporations free rein to pollute and the 1% of our wealthiest citizens the most tax breaks.  

You set off a huge Morale Monday series of protests, but you couldn’t be bothered to concern yourself with why teachers, people on unemployment, and people trying to take care of the environment here in North Carolina should be concerned.  It’s a puzzle to me why you were elected and why so many of your Republican allies were also given so much power by voters who are bound to suffer, as well as their children, for decades.  It’s not too late to think seriously of how you want to be remembered.  

I write as a concerned citizen of Southeast Chatham about Duke Energy’s plan to dump coal ash waste from their Charlotte area plant into the old clay pits near brick factories in Brickhaven and near Sanford.  Already we learned last spring that all the coal ash ponds in North Carolina are leaking, but the N.C. Legislature did not put pressure on the company to clean it up quickly nor did they require them to pay for the clean-up.  Instead their customers all over North Carolina will be paying.  In fact, the legislature, with your agreement, set it up so the local jurisdictions could be ignored and the public not informed of their plans to bring this extremely toxic waste into Chatham and Lee Counties.  

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has published a report on why coal ash waste should not be transported or put into any kind of landfill.  This waste from coal-burning is extremely toxic, with heavy metals and radioactive material.  The safest method is to convert it to salt stone and store it in large concrete bunkers on the site where it was generated.  Duke Energy should be responsible for disposing of it in the safest way.  All landfills leak eventually, which has been documented over and over.  This ash needs to be isolated from surface water, groundwater, and airborne dispersion.  You, as the leader of our state government, now permit the dumping of waste like this without asking permission from the local jurisdictions.  The corporations can go straight to the Dept of Environment and Natural Resources, lately not very reliable (e.g., they didn’t stop the fracking, which is also dangerous to the environment and to our health), and skip any public, county, or town input.  

In short Duke Energy has a “get out of jail free” card to pollute the Cape Fear River as much as they want and endanger the lives of our Chatham and Lee County families.  Southeast Chatham gets its water from Sanford.  Apparently, Duke Energy is eager to demonstrate that they are not the good neighbors they’d like us to believe they are.  If they claim this process is safe, you will know they’re lying.  Again.  You, as well as the state legislature and DENR seem eager to demonstrate that you care nothing for people who live near where extremely hazardous waste is stored or might be generated from coal ash dumping or fracking.

Judy Hogan  judyhogan@mindspring.com

Sunday, November 23, 2014

This River Will Be Out early December 2014


This River will be out soon!  Printing and shipping is in process, and I expect books by early December.  If you have pre-ordered, you'll have your books well before the December holidays.

***

Readings and Events so far:

January 10, 2015,  Saturday–11-1 PM.Book signing at Paperbacks Plus, Siler City, Pat Dawson.

January 21, 7 PM (Wed), Reading at Regulator Bookshop (Durham) with Jaki S. Green, recently inducted into the North Carolina Literary Hall of Fame.

January 23, 6 PM (Fri), Conversation with Jackie Helvey on the Wacqueline Stern show, WCOM, Carrboro-Chapel Hill Community radio.  A link will be available afterwards from Judy.

January 27, 7 PM, (Tues), Reading at South Regional Library (Durham)

March 11, Wed. 7 PM Chatham Community Library, Pittsboro, with Jaki S. Green. 

March 24, Tues, Goldsboro.  Reading and Publishing Workshop. Details to be announced.

April 9, Thurs, 7 PM.  Reading at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, with a second poet.  Open poetry reading follows.

***

This River and other recent Hogan titles (Beaver Soul, Farm Fresh and Fatal, and Killer Frost) are available at The Joyful Jewel (Pittsboro), Circle City Books (Pittsboro), Paperbacks Plus (Siler City), as well as at all the venues for the reading of This River.

***
This River:  An Epic Love Poem, is also available from the publisher www.wildembers.com and 


***

Someone recently sent me this wonderful quote from Ursula LeGuin:  This River fulfills this goal from my perspective.  Judy Hogan

***

Ursula Le Guin, accepting the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters last night at the national book awards....

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et9Nf-rsALk

 “I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”



Sunday, November 16, 2014

The World is Mud and Light


My surprising tiger lilies or naked ladies rising up in September.

***
A THREAD OF LIGHT XI. October 13, 2013

For Sharon Ewing

I wanted immunity.  “Not if you want
to sing words that call old turtles up
onto a log to stretch their necks out.
Not if you want to wake up throaty peepers,
set them shrilling in their muddy nests.
Not if you would learn to soothe the ache
in branches still alive, which ice has
cruelly snapped and left for dead.  You
could not comfort these if you warded off
the mud that plunges you toward grief
and leaves the taste of ashes on your
tongue.  “Remember: the world is
nothing else.  Just mud and light. –Beaver Soul 6.

Living takes more work now.  Coasting,
which I knew didn’t work, is out of
the question.  There will be creaks
in my knees, cramping in my feet, 
more effort needed to keep my balance–
annoying, but nothing drastic.  My
heart, lungs, digestion, mind work
fine.  Some normal forgetfulness,
but I compensate, check for typos,
wait for words to rise from the
mysterious depths where they’ve
lodged themselves.  A larger helping
of courage is required, and I can’t 
get enough love.  My wisdom was in
those words: "Ask everything; expect
nothing.”  I may wish but must
remember how little I control.  Yet
people reach out, remind me that
I still spin light, reassure me that
some days we simply walk the path 
we chose.  Rewards find us if we 
pay attention.  The eager interest
of a listener after I’ve read words 
about love; a friend who took the
time to study my poems carefully
and articulate her finds.  She calls 
me a “maker” of my poems’ world, 
and says “our world is richer for the
making.”  I may fear rejection and
sometimes find it part of my daily 
bread, but such gifts do come, yes,
out of the blue, adding worth to the 
daily work of summoning all my
courage and common sense, 
bringing fresh solace 

to my hungry soul.

***
Beaver Soul is still available from me for $13 with tax, or $16 with postage, and from www.finishinglinepress.com

December 1, 2014, This River: An Epic Love Poem will be available for $14 from me, $15 with tax and $18 if postage or from www.WildEmbers.com 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Maya Corrigan: Review and Interview


Maya Corrigan's Debut Mystery Novel, first in her series

***

By Cook or By Crook: A Five-Ingredient Mystery.  Maya Corrigan. KensingtonBooks.com  New York, N.Y. ISBN: 13: 978-61773-138-9. $7.99 mass market paper.  310 pages.  E-book: eISBN: 13: 978-61773-139-6.

Val Deniston has left her career as a cookbook publicist for a New York publisher and moved to the small town of Bayport on the Chesapeake Bay.  She is living in the old Victorian family home with her grandfather and running the Cool Down Café at the local fitness club.  Still haunting her is the car accident in which she may have been responsible for her former boss’s injury, if only she could remember what exactly had happened.

Val’s best friend and cousin Monique is very angry at Nadia Westrin who’d had an affair with Monique’s husband Maverick. Then Nadia asks Val to give her a ride home after a tennis game.  Val isn’t keen on this, but she does it.  They discover an old wooden tennis racket turned into a torch and burning in Nadia’s front flower garden.  Nadia is sure that Monique did it, but she doesn’t want to call the police.  

An old high school boyfriend of Val’s, Luke Forsa, turns up at the fire and wants to date her again.  Then Nadia offers to help Val get a big catering contract, but she needs the proposal details soon.  When Val shows up with the catering proposal, she finds Nadia dead in her kitchen with a wooden tennis racket whittled to make a sharp point and stuck in her throat.

The police come and Val is interrogated by an unsympathetic sheriff’s deputy.  The police chief, however, is an old friend of Val’s grandfather, doesn’t see her as a murderer, and even shares some info with her, but Val worries that Monique will be arrested and decides to do some investigating of her own.

Meantime Granddad has decided he wants to learn to cook, and Val comes home to find his rum cake burning away in the smoke -filled kitchen at the oven temperature of 525 degrees, and cake batter all over the room.  Considering the trouble he has caused and the mess he has created, Val is incredibly patient.  She offers to teach him to cook, even though he stubbornly insists that he won’t cook more than five ingredients in a recipe.

Gunnar Swenson is a new man in town, who had been Val’s doubles partner in a recent tennis game, and calls to set up a date with her.  Granddad is suspicious of Gunnar, and sometimes Val also wonders if she can trust Gunnar, since he’s always going off to answer his cell phone.

As if Val didn’t have enough worries, a car runs her off the road at night, and she becomes aware that someone is following her.

The plot in this cooking cozy moves swiftly and has lots of twists and turns, but I enjoyed most the interactions between Val and Grandad. Their conflict brings out their characters.  She is very open and tender with him, despite how he infuriates her.  He gives her love and support even while driving her nuts.  He continues to make havoc with her planned cookbook recipe cards, but she’s so worried about Monique and the two men pursuing her affections and someone else following her that she can’t keep up with where Granddad’s cooking enthusiasm is leading.


Three are eight five-ingredient, easy-to-prepare recipes at the end of the book that look delicious.

***

Maya Corrigan Interview 

1.  When did you begin writing?  Why?

I completed my first novel when I was thirteen, pecking it out on a manual typewriter. As I finished each chapter, I gave it to my best friend and watched her read it. It thrilled me to see her smile and laugh. Knowing I'd created a story that entertained someone made me want to be a writer. I spent a lot of my professional life writing nonfiction, both academic papers and technical manuals—not the most entertaining fare, but that’s what people paid me to write. Now I’m delighted to be writing fiction again and hoping that my books are as entertaining as what I wrote when I was thirteen. 

2.  When and why did you begin writing mysteries?

I’ve been a mystery reader for many years. My fourth grade teacher gave me her Nancy Drew collection. My mother brought home stacks of detective books from the library. I’ve read all the classic mystery authors—Christie, Sayers, Marsh, Tey, Hammett, Chandler. By writing a mystery, I was following the advice most aspiring fiction authors hear—write what you know. I’ve been honing my skills as a mystery writer over the last two decades and, like most people who are publishing their first book, I have manuscripts in my drawer that should never see the light of day and in which I made all the mistakes fledgling fiction writers make.

3.  Are you writing a series or a stand-alone?  Explain your basic idea for your series.

BY COOK OR BY CROOK is the first in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series. Set in a historic Chesapeake Bay town, the series features a café manager and former cookbook publicist who solves murders with help from her foodie friends and grumpy grandfather. The books include five-ingredient recipes.  

4.  Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.

An early version of BY COOK OR BY CROOK, under a different title, was a finalist in the Malice Domestic Contest for debut mystery writers. I’d queried agents about the book before the judge chose it for the finals, but by the time I found out the results of the contest, I was at work on another mystery and reluctant to take the time to query. As I was finishing that second book, I heard through Sisters in Crime about an agent willing to represent a cozy mystery series based on a proposal. I reworked the earlier book to highlight its cozy elements, wrote a synopsis for two more books in the series, and sent in the proposal. The agent took on the series and sold it to Kensington. 

5.  Why did you choose to write about the topic, community, issues you chose?

Food plays a role in whatever I write even if the subject has nothing to do with cooking. For example, I’ve described a room as painted in lemon chiffon with woodwork dark as chocolate mousse. When I feel like eating, which is most of the time, even the walls remind me of food. A few years ago, I found my niche writing a short story, “Delicious Death,” in which cooking, eating, and conversation about food are the key ingredients in a suspicious death. The story is on my website. My culinary mystery series grew out of that story although the characters in the story don’t appear in the series . . . at least not yet. Maybe I’ll bring one or two of them back in a later book.

6.  How have you found it to be published?  Share that experience.

It’s all been an adventure. The intricacies of getting a book from manuscript into print has amazed me—so many steps in the process, so much needing to be done far in advance of publication. For example, as I’m writing this, I haven’t yet turned in the manuscript for the second book in the series. That book, complete with its cover image, is already up on Amazon and available for pre-order. Obviously, deadline pressure is a key feature of publishing a series.   

7.  Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share?

“Cozy mystery readers will the love the puzzle and the enjoyable look into this small tourist town by the sea.” —Nancy Coco, author of To Fudge or Not to Fudge.

“Maya Corrigan's concept of Five Ingredients, Five Suspects, Five Clues fits this scrumptious culinary mystery like a glove.” —Barbara Ross, author of the Agatha-nominated Clammed Up.

8.  What other books have you published and where, when?

This is my first book. Under my full name of Mary Ann Corrigan, I’ve published stories in anthologies: Chesapeake Crimes 3 (2008), Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin’ (2010), and A Shaker of Margaritas: A Bad Hair Day (2012). 

9.  Do you have a work in progress now?  Is it part of a series?

I’m finishing up the manuscript for SCAM CHOWDER, the second book in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series, scheduled for publication on June 30, 2015. Val’s grandfather, now known as the Codger Cook, has a larger role in this book than in the first one. In fact, I’m afraid he might take over the series. I’m going to have to watch him very carefully as I plot the third book.  

10.  If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful?  How?

I’ve made many writer friends through Sisters in Crime, taken courses sponsored by the Guppies that helped me develop my craft, and kept up with what’s happening in the mystery world by reading the groups’ mailings lists. The members of SinC and Guppies are welcoming to newcomers and generous with their advice. I would not have received a publishing contract if it weren’t for Guppies who shared their own road to publication with other mystery writers.

11. What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic?

Malice Domestic brings together a community of people who love mysteries as I do. I enjoy meeting writers and readers informally. Attending panels gives me a chance to hear what the authors have just published and plan to write next, so I know what to put on my reading list. For the last five or so years, I’ve moderated panels at Malice, which gave me the opportunity to become better acquainted with several cozy authors.  

12. What else would like to say about your books, the next one in your series?

The next book, SCAM CHOWDER, takes up a crime that I’ve seen first hand, and I’m sure many other people in my baby-boomer cohort have also witnessed—fraud against senior citizens. Swindlers preying on older people often operate with impunity. The crime is rampant and under-reported. Like other crimes that the police and the district attorney don’t have the resources to solve and prosecute, this one can lead to murder.

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BIO


Maya Corrigan lives near Washington, D.C., within easy driving distance of Maryland's Eastern Shore, the setting for her Five-Ingredient Mystery series. She has taught courses in writing, detective fiction, and American literature at Georgetown University and NOVA community college. A winner of the 2013 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in unpublished Mystery and Suspense, she has short stories and essays on drama published under her full name of Mary Ann Corrigan. Her website, mayacorrigan.com, features trivia and quizzes on mysteries.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Selections: John Howard Griffin's Prison of Culture


My night-blooming cereus in late August 2014.

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Prison of Culture: Beyond Black Like Me.  John Howard Griffin.  Edited by Roberto Bonazzi. Wings Press, San Antonio, 2011.  ISBN: 978-0-916727-82-6. $16.95, paper.  Still available.

A friend of mine, Roberto Bonazzi, sent me this book not long ago, and I’ve been browsing in it.  Some years ago I read Griffin’s book Black Like Me, the story of how he dyed his skin with black walnut juice and set out in the South in the late 1950s to see what racism felt like as a black man.  A mind-awakening book.  Still available.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.

It strikes me now that, even though John Howard Griffin, the author of Black Like Me, died in 1980, the way he describes the racist prison that many, maybe most, Americans were still in, is still true. A lot has changed since the era of Martin Luther King, Jr. And Malcolm X, the passage of the Civil Rights Act, but still white and black Americans very rarely communicate.  

All my life, since age seven at least, I have tried to stand on the black-white line and erase as much of it as I could, to move out of race to human.  We are all human.  Why is that so hard to see? Why, in the North Carolina of 2014 does our state government try to suppress the black vote and take other insidious measures to bring back racist thinking and behavior?  Our President is a black man, but that has not changed this “prison of culture.”   His election may even have triggered these new and awful reactions which led to so many backwards thinking politicians getting elected in recent years here in North Carolina and elsewhere.

It did me good to browse in this book, so I wanted to share some of Griffin’s experiences and thinking. The book has nine essays on racism and five on spirituality.  Here are some excerpts which I myself want to remember:

In his remembrance of Griffin, in 1980, the year Griffin died, Studs Terkel wrote:

When he transformed himself in Black Like Me, he was responding to the challenge: To wake up some morning in the oppressed’s skin. To think human rather than white.  To feel human.
... During my last visit, he lay on his dying bed.  He despaired of the mindless official optimism and the unofficial cynicism and yet he clung to the slender reed of hope.  “Life is a risk,” Griffin told me during our last visit.  “And what a horror if you don’t face those risks.  If you don’t, you end up being utterly paralyzed.  You don’t ever do anything.” Page ix.

At the beginning of the book, Griffin’s words:

Take the teaching of logic out of a civilization and reason is reduced to the squalor of prejudice.  All of the classic fallacies of logic then become a sort of weird virtue and man seeks by loudness, fear and violence to win causes that could not be won by rational persuasion.”  1960. p. x.

From "Privacy of Conscience," p. 3

I think we have to struggle to grant every man the maximum amount of freedom and so I loathe every kind of totalitarianism.  I don’t care where it comes from.  I loathe anything that impugns a man’s right to fulfill himself. ... We have to work to assure every man the maximum right to function as fully and freely as possible. There is no such thing as an inherent right to impugn someone else’s right, and it is an utter distortion to claim the freedom to deny someone else’s freedom.  We must see that all men truly have equal rights and then just leave everybody alone.  This trying to gobble everyone up, to make him conform to our individual or group prejudices, our religious or philosophical convictions–and seeking to suppress him if he doesn’t–is the deepest cultural neurosis I know....  Any man–the moment he impugns my rights or your rights–must be battled, because he is involved in a terrible thing; he is involved in the destruction of the common good.  P. 3.

Page 5:  When racism begins, the first thing that goes out the window is respect for due process of law.

From “The Intrinsic Other,” p. 9: ... It is a common anthropological truism that the “prisoners” of any given culture tend to regard those of almost any other culture, no matter how authentic that culture, as merely underdeveloped versions of their own, imprisoning culture.

“Profile of a Racist,” p. 13.  I have encountered two types of racists.  The one who has no respect for one whom Jean Lacroix called the Other–in other words, for any form of human life other than his own.  This type of racist allows his lack of respect to form the permissive basis for cruelty, sadism, violence and murder.  He feels he has the right to indulge those subhuman lusts.... The other kind of racist abhors, or claims to, the orgiastic cruelties, but has no respect for life, for the living and breathing and suffering of the Other.  He denounces the lynching but clings hard to the very ideology that makes lynching permissive and even inevitable.  He weaves the lynch rope that he himself would not use.  He is the fine gentleman who speaks fine words: “We have to take these things slowly.  You can’t legislate morality.  It may take a few more generations.  You can’t cram justice down people’s throats.”

In “American Racism in the 60s”:

As Father August Thompson, a member of the Black Priests Caucus, remarked when he was chided by white religious colleagues for “stepping out of line” by telling the truth too bluntly: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will catch it from all sides.”  P. 58.

Very often I will be warmly received by large audiences in the North, but invariably some well-meaning white person comes up after a lecture, offers thanks for clarifying the principles which we call American and then adds, “But of course we have a different situation here.”  We have become a nation of exceptions to the very principles which we applaud, that we claim to espouse.  It is not so much that we do not repudiate the pattern; it is that merely by acquiescing to it, we acquiesce to the racism that is ultimately as destructive of the consenting and dominating group as it is of the victim group.  It is this that black people see so clearly, and really cannot understand how we fail to see; namely the immense cost to the whole community when racists dominate it with fear and violence.  Inevitably, we have been led to the predictable condition of Mississippi, which has become a police state. P. 65. 1968.

From “A Time to Be Human”:

Today, in 1977, many believe that racism and prejudice are things of the past in this country, and that civil rights legislation and greater enlightenment have conquered discrimination.  It is true that things have changed in the past fifteen years.  Blacks and other minority people can eat and find accommodations and most can vote.  But it is also clear that racism and prejudice exist everywhere.  No country is spared. 
...  The deepest shock I experienced as a black man was the realization that everything is utterly different when one is a victim of racism.  To my mind this country is involved in a profound tragedy.  The problems of racism will never be solved until we can learn to communicate with one another.  Yet we have never listened to the words of minority spokesmen who have told us truths about ourselves and our country.  P.68.

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Here we are in 2014, in our new century, and we are still a divided society, tragically oblivious to the full meaning of our human nature, our community life, and the justice and liberty for all that most of us believe in.  Time to think and search our consciences about this.  Time to stop making people “other” and in effect dehumanizing them.  We can’t afford, as a human race on a planet troubled with more and more environmental and climate change hazards, not to love our fellow man and woman, all of them.  
Judy Hogan