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

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:

Nov. 15:
Steph Su Reads

Nov. 16:
Word of Mouse Book Reviews
Bella’s Bookshelves

Nov. 17
The Reading Girl
Between the Pages

Nov. 18
Page Turners
Tahleen’s Mixed-Up Files

Nov. 19
YA Addict
YA Book Shelf

Lauren Grodstein’s second novel takes the family drama and turns it up a notch:

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sheba author photo 1Our next YA Not? event is this Thursday night (July 31, 7:30 pm) with Sheba Karim, the author of Skunk Girl, which has been praised as a welcome addition to teen collections, providing a rare exploration of Muslim culture. Sheba will read from the book, and participate in a Q&A with Abeer Hoque.

The YA NOT? series seeks to bring YA writers, editors, librarians, teachers, and other not-so-young adults who love teen fiction all together to talk about fantastic YA books, why we love them, and how we can spread them as far as possible. (Teens welcome too, of course!)

Here’s our short interview with Sheba:

1) Do you have a favorite WORD?

I like the Urdu word “baghawat,” which means rebellion.  I use the word “just” all the time in my writing so there’s something about it I must really like.

2) What WORDS do you live by?

Eat, drink, be merry, and do some good along the way.

3) What was the last book you read?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

4) Any idea what you’ll read next?

Either a historical fiction novel set in India or Twilight.

5) What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

A biography of Prophet Muhammad written by Karen Armstrong

skunk6) Can you name one author or book that was influential in writing Skunk Girl?

Judy Blume, definitely.  My book could have just as easily been called Are You There, God?  It’s Me, Nina.

7) What are you working on now – anything you can tell share about your next project(s)?

I’m working on a historical fiction novel set in 13th century Delhi.

8) Do you have a favorite spot in Greenpoint (or Brooklyn) that you’d like to share with us?

Watching summer concerts at the bandshell in Prospect Park.

Learn more about Sheba and the book at her website.

(Photo credit: Anjali Bhargava)

DaveReidy_photographerJohnKuttenbergWe’re celebrating mid-season for the WORD basketball league this Sunday with a special brunch and event at the store. Basketball, Brunch and Books will feature Dave Reidy, author of the new short story collection Captive Audience. Dave will read his short story “Postgame”, about the retirement and fast-following fatherhood of a scrappy NBA guard. We’ll start the event at about 12:15 or so, after the WORD basketball teams finish up their Sunday morning games. Come by American Playground between 10:30 – noon to watch the players in action. Then join us across the street at the store for breakfast goodies and the reading. (Yes, there will be Peter Pan Donuts!) Here’s The WORD Interview Dave recently did with us:

1) Do you have a favorite WORD?

The fact that this question sent me scurrying to my inbox to scan the subject lines of old Word of the Day e-mails leads me to answer, no. No I don’t.

2) What WORDS do you live by?

“Rejection is the default state.” I don’t think that any of us should be surprised if a person doesn’t like our work. Why should she? Even if she thinks it’s good writing, she might not like it. Keeping this reality in mind helps me to see kind words from a person who likes my work for what they are: evidence of a small miracle.

3) What was the last book you read?

I am in the midst of reading The Magus by John Fowles. I have read 370 pages of it and have 286 to go. I’m in. I’m enjoying it. I’m seeing it through to the end.

4) Any idea what you’ll read next?

I’ve got my next two books all lined up. First, The Third Man by Graham Greene, a slim novel to follow up the monster Magus. Then I’ll devour the rest of And Here’s The Kicker, a nonfiction book I read in part in manuscript form. The book is a collection of interviews with the greatest comedy writers of our time, skillfully rendered by my friend Mike Sacks.

5) What is the last book you bought someone as a gift? (If you bought it at an indie store, let us know which one!)

In May, I was shopping with my fiancee at Quimby’s in Chicago, a great indie bookstore. A book called The 9-inch Diet caught her eye and I picked it up for her. It’s a very well designed book that tells the story of how American portion sizes–and waistlines–have grown with the size of our plates. In 1970, the average American dinner plate was nine inches in diameter. Today, it is twelve inches. Authors (and ad men) Alex Bogusky and Chuck Porter make a pretty compelling case that plate size has everything to do with obesity in these United States. Read the rest of this entry »

MARTINDThis Thursday, July 9th, we’ll host an Indie Press Night with Seven Stories Press. Greenpoint resident Douglas A. Martin will read from his brand new novel, Once You Go Back, about the children of a transplanted working-class family dealing with violence, their own budding sexuality, and the strain of a home breaking apart. He’ll be joined by Lee Stringer, author of Sleepaway School, and the event will be moderated by Phong Bui from The Brooklyn Rail. Additional information about the event can be found on our events page and on Seven Stories website. Here’s Martin’s short Q&A with WORD:

1) Do you have a favorite WORD?
Probably it’s burr, aesthetically, though I also like lure and thrush quite a bit for reasons more aural.

2) What WORDS do you live by?
Most practically: those of my students.

3) What was the last book you read?
I’m always in the midst of two or three things, usually starting another before finishing something up. Sarah Manguso’s The Two Kinds of Decay was the last I saw to the end.

4) Any idea what you’ll read next?
I’ll probably finally wrap up Reading Boyishly by Carol Mavor, which I’ve been pecking at for over a year, or complete Cesar Aira’s Ghost.  Rebecca Brown’s American Romances will be the next thing I start.

5) What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

I think it’s a gift for the author to buy their book when you go to a reading, so Life As We Show It, edited by Masha Tupitsyn and Brian Pera.  That was at Housing Works, Soho.

onceyougoback6) Can you name one author or book that was influential in writing Once You Go Back?

Sleep Has His House by Anna Kavan was the model for my earliest draft.

7) What are you working on now – anything you can tell share about your next project(s)?

I’m beginning the process of trying to publish my dissertation, on the writings of Kathy Acker.  In July and August, while school is still out, I hope to finish up a manuscript of a book I’ve been struggling with the voice and ethics of on and off for about eight years now I guess.

8) Do you have a favorite spot in the neighborhood that you can tell us about?

I’ve lived in Greenpoint for nearing a year.  It’s the first time I’ve ever shared a place with a partner. Paloma was a favorite restaurant, until the fire. We’re hoping it will be able to reopen.

janceeOur latest WORD Interview is with Jancee Dunn, whose new book Why Is My Mother Getting a Tattoo? And Other Questions I Wish I Never Had to Ask hits bookshelves this week! We’ll be hosting a launch party with Jancee this Tuesday night, June 23 at 7:30 pm. Jancee will read from her new book and then have a short Q&A with her editor Jill Schwartzmann, followed by a booksigning. We’ll have wine and fake tattoos too! On to the interview:

1) Do you have a favorite WORD?

‘Treat.’ Who would say no to ‘would you like a treat?’ Or maybe ‘toppings.’

2) What WORDS do you live by?

The late philanthropist and What’s My Line contestant Kitty Carlisle Hart used to look in the mirror every day and say ‘I forgive you.’ Which is sort of campy but also great.

3) What was the last book you read?

Angelica by Arthur Phillips

4) Any idea what you’ll read next?

Good Morning, Midnight by Jean Rhys

5) What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

Just yesterday I sent The Bat-Poet, by Randall Jarrell, to my sister.
newtattoocover
6) What are you working on now – anything you can tell share about your next project(s)?

Ha. Right now it’s all about the book. That way I can avoid thinking about what the next book should be.

7) Do you have a favorite spot in Greenpoint that you can tell us about?

Basia’s for the soup.

troubleOk folks, here’s the WORD from us today: We are having an awesome event this Thursday night – you should come. Seriously. No excuses.

Here’s the scoop on what we’re calling our night of Sangria, Sorbet & TROUBLE!

Acclaimed author and WORD friend Kate Christensen will be here to read from her new novel TROUBLE, a vibrant story of female friendship and midlife sexual awakening that takes place in NYC and Mexico City — a great summer read! Bonus special guest, literary diva Maud Newton, will join Kate for a discussion about the book. And the very best part? You can listen to the reading and conversation while sipping sangria and sampling a variety of snacks from local vendors – salsa & chips, sangria sorbet and Mexican chocolate cookies. (Local businesses working with us include Dandelion Wine, The Brooklyn Salsa Company & Wine Cellar Sorbets; plus we’re making the cookies from a recipe in Sarah Magid’s new book Organic & Chic – that we had an event for last week)

You can RSVP for the event on our Facebook page.  Please do! We hope to see you this Thursday, June 18th – refreshments start at 7:30, reading & conversation begin at 8:00 with book signing to follow. It’s going to be fabulous, we hope you can join us.

KateChristensen

Until then, learn a bit more about Kate in this short WORD Interview we did with her. She shares info about her next novel, which just happens to take place in a building located right here in Greenpoint.

1) Do you have a favorite WORD?

An ever-shifting tide of them. This morning’s pet word is LAPIDARY.

2) What WORDS do you live by?

“Let nothing human be foreign to me.”

3) What was the last book you read?

I’m in the middle of G.K. Chesterton’s THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY.

4) Any idea what you’ll read next?

DON QUIXOTE

5) What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

I bought Julie Klam’s PLEASE EXCUSE MY DAUGHTER for my sister.

6) What are you working on now – anything you can tell share about your next project?

My next novel is called THE ASTRAL — yes, that Astral, the huge red ghetto castle on India Street. It’s about a 57-year-old male poet whose wife of 30 years has booted him out of their Astral apartment for writing love sonnets to imaginary women (she doesn’t buy the imaginary part). Their son is in a mind-control cult and is about to marry the female leader; Harry tries to rescue him in order to win his wife back, but of course nothing goes as planned…

7) We know you live in the neighborhood, do you have a favorite spot in Greenpoint that you can tell us about?

Besides WORD? I love McGolrick Park. It feels like a beautiful old Eastern European park tucked into North Brooklyn.

emily mandel author photo1

We’re very excited to be hosting the launch party for Emily St. John Mandel’s debut novel, Last Night in Montreal, a story of “…love, amnesia, compulsive travel, the depths and the limits of family bonds, and the nature of obsession.” Emily will be at the store tomorrow, Tuesday, June 2 at 7:30 pm for a reading and signing. We caught up with her for a quick Q&A before the event:

1) Do you have a favorite WORD?

I fall in love with words in serial fashion, but I think my latest favorite word is susurration. It’s one of those fantastic words that you just don’t get to use very often.

2) What WORDS do you live by?
There’s a line I like from Anne Michaels’ debut novel, Fugitive Pieces: “Find a way to make beauty necessary; find a way to make necessity beautiful.”

3) What was the last book you read?

Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames. (Purchased, incidentally, at WORD.)

4) Any idea what you’ll read next?

I think the next book I read will be Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn.  I loved The Fortress of Solitude, but aside from short stories in the New Yorker I haven’t read his other work.

5) What is the last book you bought someone as a gift?

Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan.

6) Where did you buy it?

At BookCourt, a lovely independent bookstore on Court Street in Carroll Gardens.

7) What are you working on now – anything you can tell share about your next project(s)?

I’m very happy to report that I recently sold my second novel to Unbridled Books — The Singer’s Gun will come out sometime in 2010. I’m working on one last round of revisions. I’ve also started writing the third novel, but only barely.

8) Do you have a favorite spot in Greenpoint?

Yes. WORD. And I swear I’m not just saying that because you’re hosting my book launch.

(We’re blushing…thanks Emily!)