December 27, 2010
Caroline Leavitt’s new novel, Pictures of You, explores the aftermath of a terrible accident in which a woman named April is killed. As her young son Sam and husband Charlie try to pick up the pieces of their lives, the photographer, Isabelle, who was accidentally responsible for April’s death is drawn to them. And as Isabelle and Sam get to know each other, he turns to photography as a way to process his grief.
We asked Leavitt what her favorite photograph is, and to tell us a little bit about it. Below is the story she shared with us – and what a story. Thanks, Caroline!
For most of my life, my mother told me there were no photographs of her as a child. One of eight kids, born to Russian immigrant parents, she never would say anything about her childhood except that it had been ordinary. But ten years ago, when her sister died, this incredible photograph was discovered in a basement. Taken by a studio photographer, it shows my mother’s whole family, and right there, in the right hand corner, with dirty knee socks falling down, in a rumpled dress, a tentative expression on her face, is my mother at eleven.
I love this photo, and not just because it’s so fabulously old-fashioned, with the bobbed haircuts and the knickers on my uncle. I love it because of that haunting young girl, unhappily pushed off outside the boundaries of family, almost like an afterthought. When my mother saw the photo, it unlocked something in her, and all that night, she told my sister and me stories about her past. How unloved she always felt. How unwanted. How she hated that hand-me-down velvet dress. But then she talked about how she had gone on to get married and have a career, how she had had my sister and me shockingly late, which was unthinkable for women back then. That photograph makes me see my mother differently. It makes me want to hug that young girl and tell her everything’s going to work out, and it makes me love and admire my mother for whom she is today. It’s a piece of her past, but to me, it shines in her present. – Caroline Leavitt
November 15, 2010
WORD is pleased to welcome Jo Karaplis, author of Fractured: Happily Never After?. In her book, she ponders the questions: What would happen if Snow White were around today? Would Cinderella still need a fairy godmother? Would the Little Mermaid show up on YouTube? She agreed to answer a burning question of ours…
Leave a comment with your own thoughts for a chance to win a signed copy! Contest runs Monday, November 30, til 7 p.m.
WORD: Which fairytale characters would fare best in today’s world?
JO KARAPLIS: If the heroines from popular fairytales were suddenly dumped into today’s world, I think they’d have a pretty tough time. Cinderella would be called a gold-digger, and the prince would probably make her sign a pre-nup. (The odds that she’d end up with a prince in the first place are pretty slim, of course.) Beauty would be pressing assault charges against the Beast (and she’d probably be suing her father, too, for selling her!). And poor Sleeping Beauty: left in a coma, she’d probably end up in a nursing home somewhere. Snow White would be busy cleaning up after a house full of messy fraternity brothers, waiting for her prince to come yet dating jerks in the meantime.
However, I have a lot of faith in Rapunzel. She was locked up by a bitter old woman, but she managed to plan and execute a successful escape. In today’s world, she’d probably have been kidnapped as a child and kept in captivity for years, only to finally escape and then write a bestselling memoir about her experiences. After all that time spent growing out her hair, I’d also love to see what she’d end up doing with it: hack it all off into a funky bob? Keep it long and wear a different elaborate style every day? After the success of her memoir, I bet she’d go to university and become a criminal justice lawyer or a political activist or something. Or maybe she’d study fashion and become a designer. One thing’s for sure: she wouldn’t let her past hardships define her, and she’d achieve whatever goals she set for herself. She’d be a fun woman to hang out with: the kind that always has a good book to recommend, and will kick you in the butt if you need a little motivation. If she wrote a blog, it would be outspoken and hilarious.
Jo is on a blog tour! You can catch her at the following locations:
Steph Su Reads
November 14, 2010
Highlights from the past week:
- The fabulous ladies of Passion (Rachel Kramer Bussel, Monica Day, Emerald, and George Storey) along with historical romance author Sarah MacLean, kept the crowd laughing (and rapt) during their reading this past Thursday. I also had the best cupcake of my life, in celebration of Rachel’s birthday, thanks to the Kumquat Cupcakery.
- Local illustrator Lucy Ruth Cummins and author Shrill Travesty (The Taking Tree) proved to both be entertaining and talented. Mr. Travesty regaled us with some (unrepeatable) stories from the underbelly of the children’s book industry (NO SERIOUSLY), and Lucy did a speed drawing from crowd suggestions that is now proudly hanging on the wall of our basement.
- Last night, Greenpoint rooftop farmer Annie Novak interviewed author Katherine Leiner (Growing Roots) on the new faces of food activism. It was a great discussion about where our food comes from, who grows it, what we should be thinking about when we buy it, what we can do to keep our food supply sustainable and healthy, and so on. We highly recommend stopping by Eagle Street Rooftop Farm to get great food (and/or get your hands dirty); if you see Annie, tell her we say hi!
We’ve got more event awesome coming up; check out our event calendar for the full details. See you there!
November 2, 2010
A skilled internist with a thriving practice in suburban New Jersey, Pete Dizinoff has a devoted wife, an impressive house, and a son, Alec, on whom he’s pinned all his hopes. But he never counted on the wild card: Laura, his best friend’s daughter—ten years older than Alec, irresistibly beautiful, with a past so shocking that it’s never spoken of…
Bouncing between the mundane and the creepifying, and blurring the lines between them, this novel is surprising and engaging, and we’re thrilled to offer you a behind-the-scenes look at A Friend of the Family.
October 28, 2010
In the late 1880s, Frank Lenz of Pittsburgh, a renowned high-wheel racer and long-distance tourist, dreamed of cycling around the world. He finally got his chance by recasting himself as a champion of the downsized “safety-bicycle” with inflatable tires, the forerunner of the modern road bike that was about to become wildly popular. In the spring of 1892 he quit his accounting job and gamely set out west to cover twenty thousand miles over three continents as a correspondent for Outing magazine. Two years later, after having survived countless near disasters and unimaginable hardships, he approached Europe for the final leg. He never made it. His mysterious disappearance in eastern Turkey sparked an international outcry and compelled Outing to send William Sachtleben, another larger-than-life cyclist, on Lenz’s trail.
David Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist and chronicler of Lenz and Sachtleben’s amazing story, dishes with us on the writing process, bicycling then and now, and more.
October 15, 2010
Every now and then a completely unexpected book grabs (and holds) your attention. Kim Dana Kupperman’s I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is that book. A collection of essays that, together, make up something akin to a memoir, Kupperman hits notes that are almost obligatory in the genre: crazy mother, a difficult childhood, travels far and near, torrid affairs, strange jobs. But in her hands and through her eyes, these oft-told stories become fresh and gripping. We’re thrilled to be able to introduce you to her in the below interview — and thanks, Kim!
May 3, 2010
We are so excited about tomorrow night’s launch party for Emily St. John Mandel’s new book, her second novel – THE SINGER’S GUN. Emily’s first novel, LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL is now out in paperback and we have copies of both books for sale.
Here’s what our manager Stephanie had to say about the new book: “Mandel’s new novel, like LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL, is practically bashful about how clever and well-constructed it is. So let me tell you. It has a subtle grace, marvelous characters, and places that are just as alive as the people. And like MONTREAL, there are many scenes and images from it that are still with me. I think I will never pass an glass-windowed office building without thinking about this book.”
I came upon Greenpoint by accident, at the beginning of 2003. I’d just come down from Montreal with two or three suitcases, not much money, no job, and no social security number—I was prone to impractical international migrations in my early twenties—and my sublet was only for two weeks. I needed an apartment.
On my third or fourth night in the city, I was talking to the waitresses at a certain Irish bar near the river—I knew most of them from the five months I’d lived in Manhattan during the previous year—on the theory that waitresses, perhaps especially waitresses who also happen to be illegal aliens, generally have need of cheap real estate and might have some tips on cheap-yet-not-unbelievably-dangerous neighborhoods. They suggested Williamsburg.
The next day I took the L Train to Brooklyn and wandered the unfamiliar stretch of Bedford Avenue in the February sunlight, looking for roommate-wanted flyers. I called the cheapest one, which turned out to not be in Williamsburg at all, but on a quiet corner in the northernmost part of Greenpoint. I moved in a week later. I could see Queens from my bedroom window.
I lived in Greenpoint for ten months, with a series of roommates and then with my boyfriend. I was working on my first novel—Last Night in Montreal was started in Canada, but Greenpoint was where I began working more seriously on completing a first draft. I liked the isolation of Greenpoint, the way the Manhattan skyline is visible at the end of certain streets. Years after moving away from the neighborhood, I find I’m back there all the time—I live in Park Slope now, but I visit WORD more often than any other bookstore.
Pretty fantastic, huh? Come meet Emily and hear her read from her wonderful new novel. There will be passports for all guests, and if you visit the right country…you might just win a prize. We’ll have wine and cupcakes too, hope you can join us to celebrate with this fine author and friend of WORD. (Facebook RSVP)
January 6, 2010
Thanks so much to everyone who came out last night! Pictures to come on our Flickr shortly. For now, just imagine our basement full of beautiful people laughing and smiling.
Without further ado, our four winning six-word writing memoir entries:
“Landlady still refuses prose for rent.” — Mikki Halpin
“Erotica: What’s another word for ‘penis?’” — Grace Bello
“Procrastinating on novel? Start a blog!” — Jake Roren
“Write without inhibition, edit rigorously, repeat.” — Erin McInnis
Is one of those entries yours? If so, email email@example.com toot sweet to claim your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered!
October 19, 2009
A funny thing happened when we put this book on the counter.
“Hahaha,” a customer would say, looking at the cover. “Hahahaha, it’s true! Hitchhikers are obsolete. Oh yeah, same thing with lickable stamps. Ha! Yeah, I haven’t gotten lost since I got my iPhone. And also…”
And then, always the same fateful pause.
“Wait!” the same customer would say, voice turning from amused to saddened. “Cursive writing is not obsolete! I still write in cursive everyday! None of my friends do, but…”
This happened so many times that we lost count. Except insert writing letters, film, smoking, bald spots, books, arcades, and hyphenated last names for cursive writing in that last bit. The book is hilarious! And then, suddenly, not so funny. People feel compelled to defend their favorite obsolete things!
(In particular, we’ve noticed an astonishing number of customers who, under their breath, notify us that phone sex is most certainly NOT obsolete, thank you very much, and in fact it was alive and well in their apartment just two weeks previous. Which, wow, alrighty!)
Anyway, this has been so much fun for us that we decided to make an event out of it. A debating event! You’ll have the chance to defend your rapidly-obsolescing item in front of a crowd, and maybe even save it from extinction.
You can speak out in defense of:
–keeping plans (and making dates)
–dying of old age
Or any of the other items in the encyclopedia! Just drop by the store to look through, RSVP on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to save your spot (and your item). You can also get inspiration from the tumblr page for the book. See you there…unless maybe really fun book events are already obsolete?
October 16, 2009
Last night, we hosted author Rebecca Stead and her editor, Wendy Lamb for the latest installment in our YA NOT? series (a literary salon for not-so-young adults). They have the sort of editor-author relationship that makes us feel good about being in the book industry. This business is all about relationships, in many ways—our relationship with our customers, an author’s relationship with hir readers, and so on—but it all starts with the author and the editor. As they discussed quite a bit last night, every editor approaches each author a bit differently. And the approach that Wendy and Rebecca have taken together is, much like Rebecca’s books, magical and impressive.
Some highlights from their conversation last night:
—Rebecca talked about this TED talk with author Elizabeth Gilbert about inspiration, and mentioned an ancient idea that inspiration is a matter of “catching the serpent.” You have to reach up to grab it, and if you get its tail, you can reel it back in and make something with it, but if you miss it, it’s gone forever.
—Wendy, on how authors are like dogs: “Some authors are work dogs. They just keep working and working and working on a book until you just want to take it away from them before they mess it up. And other authors are like companion dogs. They need you to sit next to them and call them to see how they’re doing.” And Rebecca? Well, Wendy said she’s a lovely combination of the two.
—Rebecca, on why she writes for kids: “I love that children are still at a point where they are thinking about the big questions of life and trying to figure things out. They’re not jaded yet. I don’t think it would be possible for me to write for a jaded reader. I guess I can write for kids and adults having a mid-life crisis: people who are open to thinking about big ideas and wondering about life.”
—The best mail Rebecca has gotten in response to her latest book, When You Reach Me, is regarding a small idea in the book that she didn’t think most people would notice. She discusses the idea of a veil, that we all walk around with this invisible veil in front of our faces and go about our day, but every once in awhile it lifts up, and suddenly we can see the bigger picture, see the connections, and feel some peace about the way things are. ”A surprising number of kids are writing to me to tell me how much they identify with that idea. Which I think is very encouraging!”
Those are just a few snippets from last night’s conversation, which we loved almost (almost!) as much as we adore When You Reach Me and First Light. What about other folks who came out in the blustery rain? What was your favorite part?