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Author Spotlight: William Loizeaux

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Book: The Tumble Inn

 

William Loizeaux is writer-in-residence in the Department of English at Boston University. In addition to essays and stories, Loizeaux has published two novels for children and two memoirs. His memoir Anna: A Daughter’s Life was a New York Times Notable Book.

 

 

How did you come up with the idea for The Tumble Inn?

Probably like most people, I’ve often wondered about an alternate way of being. What if I radically changed my life, did something entirely different? The Tumble Inn, which begins with a couple abruptly leaving their usual circumstances in suburban New Jersey to become innkeepers in the Adirondacks, enabled me to engage in that fantasy—and without leaving my comfortable study.

What inspired you to choose the Adirondacks as your primary setting?

For many years, my wife and I have left our urban, academic lives every summer to vacation at an old inn on a lake in the Adirondacks. My wife’s family has long been associated with the inn. That’s where we were married—on the knoll overlooking the lake. That’s where our first daughter was conceived—in a tent on rooty ground beside the lake. That’s where we returned to stand on that knoll in the days after she died. And that’s where we brought our second daughter a few months after she was born, where we spent a large part of her childhood summers, where we hiked with her, where she learned to swim, and where she got her first job—at the inn. The inn, the lake, and especially the low, rounded mountains around it, are for me an emotional setting. I can’t look at that landscape without some tangle of feelings. And feeling, ultimately, is what drives the writing for me.

Are experiences in The Tumble Inn based on your own life or someone you know?

Both. A number of the events are imaginative extrapolations from things that have happened to me or to people that I know. For example, one central event of the novel sprang from my memories, thoughts, and feelings surrounding the tragic, accidental death some years ago of one of the innkeepers with whom my wife and I were acquainted.

What authors and books have influenced your writing?

I began by writing short stories, so authors like Chekov (Anton Chekov’s Stories), Bernard Malamud (The Complete Stories), Eudora Welty (The Collected Stories), and Tillie Olsen (Tell Me a Riddle) were helpful in showing me the shapes of narrative, how to write dialogue, the power of suggestion and concision. Later I gravitated toward fiction writers like Peter Taylor (The Old Forest), Andre Dubus (Selected Stories), and Richard Ford (Rock Springs), whose retrospective narrators often both tell a good story and think about it. Later yet, I became interested in literary nonfiction: E. B. White’s wit and humor (Essays of E.B. White), the pure lyricism of Annie Dillard (Teaching a Stone to Talk), and the attitude or voice that comes through Joan Didion’s prose (Slouching Towards Bethlehem). While his life was altogether different from mine, James Baldwin’s intelligence and passion also set the bar for me. Few writers that I’ve read get feeling into words quite as powerfully as he does. I read “Notes of a Native Son” at least a couple of times a year.

When and why did you decide to become a writer?

Though I didn’t altogether know it at the time, my interest in creative writing was born in a Herman Melville college seminar led by the fiction writer Frederick Busch. He read, and encouraged his students to read, like writers—so we heard the words and felt their poetry and power almost physically, it seemed.   Moreover, in his comments on my submitted essays—essays that I have to this day—he said that I could write, which was incredibly heady to hear. Then a few years later when I was in graduate school, studying to be a literary scholar, I found that I was more interested in trying to write fiction than write about it—this, of course, without knowing a thing about how difficult it would be. That I discovered a year later, when I’d left graduate school, and began painting houses in the afternoons, while devoting my mornings to writing stories, which at first were terribly bad but eventually got somewhat better. I wouldn’t say that I ever “decided” to be a writer as much as I gropingly became one.

 

What is your writing process like?

It’s hard. I try to be disciplined. I try, but don’t always, show up for work each day to do my hours at my desk.   I’m a slow writer. I struggle—even with straightforward assignments like this! Things seldom come right the first time, or the second or third. Discovery usually arrives, if it does, incrementally through the process of writing, rethinking, and revising, rather than beforehand. That’s why I have to show up and do my hours. That’s why I have to leave time between revisions, and let a few trusted writer friends, along with my wife, read drafts and offer suggestions along the way. In thinking about subject matter, character, and situation, I try to find some emotional vein, something that I feel strongly about, and then plug into it and follow where it takes me. Later I cut, add, rewrite, shape, and sometimes reconceive. The “process” is always different for each project in either my fiction or nonfiction. I’m afraid there is no blueprint, except to show up, find the vein, and remain open to the unexpected.

 

What did you enjoy most about writing The Tumble Inn?

When I hit that vein, it is wonderful while it lasts, and usually in The Tumble Inn it came when I was writing a moment, a particular scene, when I was fully inhabiting or feeling with the narrator and main character. There were a number of such moments in The Tumble Inn that, though they may not have come the first or second time, I knew, when they did come, that I had nailed them. The moment had come alive.

 

What was the hardest part about writing The Tumble Inn?

The passages between those fully imagined moments were the hardest to write—the connective tissue.   One chapter in particular, which moves through many years of the main character-narrator’s life, I must have rewritten six or seven times, each time trying to make the narrative feel less like authorial summary and more like my particular narrator remembering and summarizing—and touching down briefly in particular moments—in his own unique voice.

 

What are you working on now?

I write and have published long- and short-form nonfiction, as well adult short stories and children’s fiction. This variety of genres, with their different constraints, challenges, and opportunities, seems to suit me—and I hope keeps my work from going stale. At the moment, I have a children’s novel on my desk, another one of those projects that requires more rethinking, cutting, adding, shaping…

 

We Are Iraqis: Winner of the 2014 Arab American Non-Fiction Book Award!

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The Arab American National Museum has selected We Are Iraqis: Aesthetics and Politics in a Time of War as the Winner in the Non-Fiction category for the 2014 Arab American Book Award! Congratulations to the co-editors, Nadje Al-Ali and Deborah Al-Najjar, and to the contributors!

In We Are Iraqis, Al-Ali and Al-Najjar showcase written and visual contributions by Iraqi artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, photographers, and activists. Contributors explore the way Iraqis retain, subvert, and produce art and activism as ways of coping with despair and resisting chaos and destruction. The first anthology of its kind, We Are Iraqis brings into focus the multitude of ethnicities, religions, and experiences that are all part of Iraq.

We Are Iraqis will be honored at a reception on Saturday, September 20, 2014, during the Radius of Arab American Writers Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

 

50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer

This summer is the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a time when nearly one thousand student volunteers traveled to the Mississippi Delta to assist black citizens in the South in registering to vote. Two white students and one black student were slain in the struggle, many were beaten and hundreds arrested, and churches and homes were burned to the ground by the opponents of equality. Yet the example of Freedom Summer— whites united with heroic black Mississippians to challenge apartheid—resonated across the nation.

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No one experienced Freedom Summer quite like illustrator and journalist Tracy Sugarman. He interviewed the activists, along with local civil rights leaders and black and white residents not directly involved in the movement and drew the people and events that made the summer one of the most heroic chapters in America’s long march toward racial justice.

In We Had Sneakers, They Had Guns: The Kids Who Fought for Civil Rights in Mississippi, Sugarman chronicles the sacrifices, tragedies, and triumphs of that unprecedented moment in our nation’s history. Blending oral history with memoir, Sugarman draws the reader into the lives of his subjects, showing the passion and naiveté of the volunteers, the bravery of the civil rights leaders, and the candid, sometimes troubling reactions of the black and white Delta residents. Sugarman’s unique reportorial art, in word and image, makes this book a vital record of our nation’s past.

In Celebration of Pride Month

June is Pride Month! To celebrate, here are some titles we recommend:

gay-good-240Pride Month is observed in June in remembrance of the 1969 Stonewall riots, but contrary to popular notions, today’s LGBT movement did not begin with the Stonewall riots. Long before Stonewall, there was Franklin Kameny (1925–2011), one of the most significant figures in the gay rights movement. In Gay is Good: The Life and Letters of Gay Rights Pioneer Franklin Kameny, editor Michael G. Long collects Kameny’s historically rich letters from 1958 to 1975, a critical period in Kameny’s life during which he evolved from a victim of the law to a vocal opponent of the law, to the voice of the law itself. Gay Is Good, which will make its debut in November 2014, pays tribute to an advocate whose tireless efforts created a massive shift in social attitudes and practices, leading the way toward equality for the LGBT community.

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James Liddy, author of I Only Know That I Love Strength in My Friends and Greatness, cannot conventionally be categorized, and occasionally he confounds even his own fans. One of Ireland’s foremost poets, he is unabashedly gay and unabashedly Catholic. Liddy’s poetic form is dictated solely by the organic flow of his consciousness, weaving images of religion and sexuality into a drama of beauty, love, and ritual. In this collection, his outsider poetic stance is in no small way connected with his vision of himself as a sexual outlaw. His is a challenging voice in a country where the weight of poetic tradition is heavier than most.

 

honeysuckle-190If you wish to know more about James Liddy, you will surely appreciate Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice: A Tribute to James Liddy, edited by Michael S. Begnal. This volume gathers together forty poets, novelists, visual artists, and scholars paying tribute to a poet whose work continues to intrigue and inspire readers on both sides of the Atlantic. For readers unfamiliar with Liddy, it is a unique introduction. For the devotee of Liddy, this book is an indispensable addition to his work and a treasured anthology.

 

 

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Who Will Die Last: Stories of Life in Israel by David Ehrlich, hilarious and sad at the same time, is an original and moving work of fiction. Ehrlich’s themes relate to gay life in Israel, the pull of loneliness, and the power of community. Ever deeply humane, the author takes his characters on a tantalizing journey through their souls. His understated style transforms even a heartbreaking plot into an uplifting and funny story. Rather than a single translator, this collection employs a variety of translators, reflecting in many ways the luminous diversity of voices in the stories.

Celebrate the NBA Finals with these Basketball Titles!

It’s NBA Finals time, and the San Antonio Spurs currently have a 2-1 edge over the Miami Heat, but there are still at least two more games to be played. We can’t predict the winning team, but we can recommend a couple of our basketball-related titles!

 

moonfixer240Moonfixer: The Basketball Journey of Earl Lloyd by Earl Lloyd and Sean Kirst provides a first-person account of Earl Lloyd, the first African American to play in a NBA game. Nicknamed “Moonfixer” in college, Lloyd led West Virginia State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships and was named All-American twice. One of three African Americans to enter the NBA at that time, Lloyd played for the Washington Capitals, Syracuse Nationals, and Detroit Pistons before he retired in 1961. Throughout his career, he quietly endured the overwhelming slights and exclusions that went with being black in America. Yet he has also lived to see basketball—a demonstration of art, power, and pride—become the black national pastime and to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. In a series of extraordinary conversations with Sean Kirst, Lloyd reveals his fierce determination to succeed, his frustration with the plight of many young black men, and his sincere desire for the nation to achieve true equality among its citizens.

 

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Also keep an eye out for Dolph Schayes and the Rise of Professional Basketball by Dolph Grundman, which will come out this fall! Grundman presents readers with a portrait, the first of its kind, of Dolph Schayes—the star of the Syracuse Nationals basketball team during the 1950s and 1960s. Schayes may not have one of the most recognizable names in basketball history, but his accomplishments are staggering. He was named one of the fifty greatest players of all time by the NBA, and he held six NBA records, including one for career scoring, at his retirement. Grundman chronicles Schayes’s life from his early days as the child of Jewish Romanian immigrants, through his illustrious basketball career, first at New York University, then as part of the Syracuse Nationals. In writing about Schayes’s career, Grundman also reflects on many of the revolutionary changes that were happening in the professional basketball world, changes that affected not only Schayes and his contemporaries but also the essence of the sport.

Books for Dad!

Looking for a great Father’s Day gift? Whether he’s into fiction, sports, history, poetry, comics, travel, or even cats, SU Press offers a variety of titles that Dad will enjoy:

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Dads who are into running and sports history will love Charles B. Kastner’s The 1929 Bunion Derby: Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace across America. Detailing the second and last of two trans-America footraces held in the late 1920s, this book is the Editor’s Choice for Spring 2014. Kastner’s engrossing account, often told from the perspective of the participants, evokes the remarkable physical challenge the runners experienced and clearly bolsters the argument that the last Bunion Derby was the greatest long-distance footrace of all time.

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Dads who are baseball and sports history fans are well aware of Jackie Robinson’s athletic legacy, but they may not realize that Robinson was also a writer. Edited by Michael G. Long, Beyond Home Plate: Jackie Robinson on Life after Baseball is an anthology of Jackie Robinson’s columns in the New York Post and the New York Amsterdam News that offers fresh insight into the Hall of Famer’s life and work following his historic years on the baseball diamond.

 

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The literature-loving father will quickly become immersed in Over the Line by David Lloyd. When fifteen-year-old Justin Lyle steps “over the line” one afternoon, attempting to help the drug-addled girlfriend of an unstable bully, he triggers a series of increasingly perilous encounters. In Over the Line, Lloyd brings to life the trials of a small, Upstate New York town, creating a story that is as real as it is fictional.

 

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Allegiance and Betrayal: Stories will delight family-oriented fiction fans. Peter Makuck’s stories are set in cars, on top of a water tower, in a bar, on a fishing boat, at a family farm, and at a swimming pool. Humorous and tender, this collection offers rich portraits of individuals struggling to overcome failed dreams and searching for an answer to the question of what truly matters.

 

 

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For the father who is interested in history, politics, and Irish history, we have the story of James K. McGuire, a self-educated, charismatic, gifted leader who overcame personal tragedy in childhood and was elected the youngest mayor of a major city in America at age twenty-six. In James K. McGuire: Boy Mayor and Irish Nationalist, Joseph E. Fahey provides a portrait of a complex man who earned a place on the national political stage and battled for the causes in which he deeply believed.

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For the dad who believes cats are truly man’s best friend, we have The Photographed Cat: Picturing Human–Feline Ties, 1890–1940by Arnold Arluke and Lauren Rolfe. With more than 130 illustrations, this volume examines the cultural implications of feline companions while also celebrating the intimacy and joys of pets and family photographs. Entertaining, smart, and filled with a collector’s trove of wonderful images, The Photographed Cat pays homage to the surprising range of relationships we have with cats and offers thoughtful consideration of the ways in which we represent them.

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George Lockwood’s Peanuts, Pogo, and Hobbes: A Newspaper Editor’s Journey Through the World of Comics uses the story of one man’s obsession with comic book heroes to give voice to a larger narrative about comic strips, their creators, the newspaper industry, and the era of American history that encompassed them all. Dads who are comic fans will love the fascinating anecdotes in this memoir.

 

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Unknown Museums of Upstate New York: A Guide to 50 Treasures is a unique guide for the dad who wants to do some weekend traveling. Even those familiar with the upstate area will likely have never visited and perhaps never heard of some of the treasures this guide unearths, such as the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum, the Kazoo Museum, and the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage and Museum. Author Chuck D’Imperio tells each museum’s story, in light of its cultural and historical relevance, and he provides a wealth of information about the museums as places of interest to visit, not just to read about.

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The Jewish Journal thinks Dinner with Stalin and Other Stories “makes a perfect Father’s Day gift,” and we agree! The collection features 14 short stories written by David Shrayer-Petrov and edited by his son, Maxim D. Shrayer. By depicting Soviet Jews who grapple with issues of identity, acculturation, and assimilation, Shrayer-Petrov explores aspects of antisemitism and persecution, problems of mixed marriages, dilemmas of conversion, and the survival of Jewish memory. You can read the Jewish Journal’s full review of Dinner with Stalin here.

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And the Time Is: Poems, 1958-2013 by Samuel Hazo is a fantastic book for poetry lovers. With works that are arranged loosely under the themes of love, family, and aging, this volume affirms Hazo’s status as one of the most compelling and enduring poets of his generation.

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Two Days Until Race Day

The Belmont Stakes is coming up this weekend, and we’re all wondering the same thing. Will California Chrome win the Triple Crown? If California Chrome succeeds, he will be the first horse since 1978 and the 12th in American thoroughbred racing history to win the coveted honor. Many fans know the history of the successful, as well as the failed, attempts at the Triple Crown. But what about the history of the sport as a whole? Where and how did American thoroughbred racing begin?

ImageWe know you wish you could fast-forward to know whether California Chrome will pull off the win. But while you wait, become acquainted with the roots of horse racing in New York with The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime: Horse Racing, Politics, and Organized Crime in New York, 1865-1913 by Steven A. Reiss.

Reiss explores the beginnings of horse racing through a detailed look into New York’s role as the sport’s capital in the early years of the industry. Examining the connections between horse racing, politics, organized crime, and gambling, Reiss offers a comprehensive account of one of America’s earliest major sports.

Whether or not California Chrome creates history at Belmont, The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime will give you a new appreciation for thoroughbred racing.

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