just ordered: the land of steady habits

debutnovelistI’m on the hunt like a shipwrecked sailor who just washed up on shore.  Where are all the funny books because I am dying of thirst?!

Luckily this morning while sipping coffee and mingling in my social networks I stumbled upon this author’s hilarious platform he and his publisher have trotted out to help sell his new book, The Land of Steady Habits.  The Tumblr site hitched up to Little, Brown’s flagship site is called “Ask the Debut Novelist,” and the blog reads like a Dear Sugar for writers.  You know, the struggling to publish write in with thoughtful industry questions, and he heaps gobs of witty advice back at them.  Well, he made me laugh.  He writes wicked good sentences, and I think this clever gimmick just made me order his book.  I can’t wait to read it.  Here’s the blurb from his website:

Coming of age can happen at the strangest times. For Anders Hill, long ensconced in “the land of steady habits”—the affluent hamlets of Connecticut that dot the commuter rail line—it’s finally time to reap the rewards of a sensible life. Into his sixties and newly retired, his grown sons’ college tuitions paid in full, Anders finds the contentment he’s been promised is still just out of reach. So he decides he’s had enough of steady habits: he leaves his wife, buys a condo, and waits for freedom to transform him.

But as the cheery charade of Christmas approaches, Anders starts to wonder if maybe parachuting from his life was not the most prudent choice. Stripped of the comforts of his previous identity, he turns up at a holiday party full of his ex-wife’s friends, and sets in motion a series of events by turns comic and catastrophic. Before the year has turned, he has to face the startling possibility that the very world he rejected may in fact be the only one he needs.

Charting the arc of a forty-year marriage this finely observed novel about a man deep in conflict with his community and his past brings into sharp relief the powers of memory, miscommunication, routine, and disappointment to shape and define a family’s mythology. The Land of Steady Habits introduces Ted Thompson as an auspicious talent with striking compassion for his characters and new insight into the American tradition of the suburban narrative.

David Daley of Salon says of the novel and its protagonist, Inside the ruined heart and soul of Anders Hill is a warning: even the life you think falls short of your dreams must not be taken for granted.

Ted Thompson is being compared to Cheever and Updike, and for more gracious blurbs and to order his book, click here.

POST SCRIPT: Ted Thompson follows me on twitter, and you should, too!  Scroll down for latest tweets and click button to access my profile.

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be inspired

What frees you is not words but rather someone’s presence — their actual being.  That is the scripture you must attend to.

~ Coleman Barks, 1 March 2014 AWP Seattle

Most of us who attend academic conferences usually hit up just enough panels to write a convincing report we can submit along with our airfare and hotel receipts and then spend the rest of our time whooping it up with our colleagues, yelping the finest restaurants, hobnobbing in swanky watering holes, wandering museums and strolling through street markets and local boutiques.  You know, present your paper and attend just enough of the conference to prove you actually went and deserve the $1000 check to cover your river boat cruise and bar tab.  Well I have to say, this is the first conference I’ve attended where I’ve done zero sightseeing.  No Space Needle.  No Pikes Place Market.  No Pioneer Square.  So much of nothing I couldn’t even tell you what all I missed out on because I never even looked at a guide book to know otherwise.  Not even one visit to a bookstore!  Instead, I went to, and get this people, twenty discussion panels.  Two Zero.  Twenty panels!!  That is on average about six one hour and fifteen minute panels per day.  Listening.  Sitting.  Listening some more.  But instead of panels comprised primarily of grad students padding their CVs or assistant profs on a steady march toward tenure — a droning drum beat of dry academic research followed by pedantic questions from the audience — each session at AWP featured professional writers, editors and publishers sharing practical advice and reading from their work.  It was a communion of kindred spirits, a celebration of the radiance and wonder of the written word.  As one of my favorite writers Brian Doyle said on Thursday, of why stories matter.  How we should catch and tell stories.  How, if we tell the right story at the right time, the universe will move an inch.  AWP: A creative hangover so vast and deep it will (hopefully) take me weeks to recover, but what an absolute joy.

The more awareness the more the soul . . .

. . . She has what soul loves to flow into.

She’s kind.  She weeps.

She makes quick personal decisions.

And she laughs so easily.

~ Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks and read at AWP Seattle March 1, 2014

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my #awp14 itinerary

AWP2014I’m about to head to my first AWP Conference and before I’ve even gotten on the plane, I can’t see straight.  The drum beat leading up to this conference of 15,000 writers, publishers, editors, teachers and so on began about a month ago, and between the tweets and emails and blog posts hawking this reading or that book signing, I am utterly overwhelmed.  Not only are there about four sessions on my itinerary for every hour in the day and a drool-inducing bookfair to wander around, but there are colleagues with dinner reservations and friends with access to VIP receptions and invitations to cocktail parties masquerading as poetry readings.  Calgon!!  A dear friend who has been going to this bookish party for ten years sent me an article she just wrote called “How to Make a Fool of Yourself at AWP,” and I am scared, people.  This is the same friend who used to leave strange boys sleeping on my couch in college, only instead of Grateful Deadheads or fraternity brothers, now they’re likely to be published poets or friends of Barack Obama (read her funny article).  Don’t get me wrong.  I am looking forward to the intellectual coma this is sure to put me in, but remember that I am essentially creeping out of the Mom Cave for the first time here so to speak.  I’m anxiously anticipating a pack of wolves with red markers in their hands.  Unabashed self-promoters with wet ink and a surly quip — you know, grad school posturing all over again, lord help me!  Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.  I probably do.  And gosh darn it, even if I don’t have a book out, I’m still a pretty good, um, blogger.  Oh, Lord help me.

:: I’ve selected a characteristically eclectic mix of offerings focused on blogging, publishing, star gazing, teaching and writing as spiritual practice.  For a sampling of the literary stardust I’ll be dancing in at AWP, check out some of the events I’ve got lined up: [Read more…]

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