JUVENTUD: Final Media Roundup of 2015

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As 2015 winds to a close and debut novels are drowned out in the literary-list madness of December, I thought I’d list the most recent accolades for Juventud here lest you think launch season is ending on a whimper and not a bang. Once again, the novel earns the spotlight at The Quivering Pen blog, where David Abrams has included it in his A Year of Reading Best Book Covers, along with works by Laura van den Berg, Lydia Davis, Lauren Groff, Rick Moody, Ann Tyler, Salmon Rushdie, and my favorite by Joe Meno.

In the book critic realm, several more thoughtful and praise-filled reviews have appeared. I am especially appreciative for this review of Juventud by Donna Miele for the Atticus Review. Miele says, “In the details of Mercedes’s family and social life Blakeslee offers an understanding of relationship and setting—or relationship as setting—that allows Juventud to transcend the trappings of both romance and thriller, though the story flirts with both genres. This is a novel that should generate a lot of discussion and response by future authors, to be pored over and remembered.” Book blogger Stefani Cox loved the novel and had much to say about it on her blog, including a shout-out to Curbside Splendor for publishing a diverse array of authors.

Last but not least, if you’re behind on your podcast listening and plan to spend your New Year’s Day pitching clutter instead of nursing a hangover, you may want to check out my story of how I came to Florida, performed at THE SWAMP at this year’s Miami Book Fair, and recorded by John King for The Drunken Odyssey podcast Episode 183 (which also features a terrific interview with Mary Karr). And finally, one of my favorite conversations about Juventud was with Sarah Werner for The Write Now podcast.  Why not listen in as you clean out those old files and chase away the New Year’s Eve fuzz with a shot or two of espresso? I can’t think of a more pleasant way to ring in 2016.

My essay on DIY book trailers at The Quivering Pen, JUVENTUD reviewed in the latest Rain Taxi, & other good news!

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“Writers on writing” has long been a common spin-off of the creative writing vocation, the category now expanded to, or usurped by, “writers on publicity.” Writers guest-blogging about their book tours, their social media campaigns (“on blogging”), their wardrobes and workout regimens. As an emerging writer I find it pretty impossible to buck against this trend; I suppose one could, but you find it is hard enough to drum up attention for a several-hundred-page literary work by an unknown (new) author. The best strategy I’ve found is to pick and choose what and how I want to write about publicity, and to think hard about what information I can provide to fellow burgeoning writers that might really prove useful.

So here are my two latest micro-essays of sorts, that hopefully do more than add to the infinite void of promo-chatter: my contribution to the “Writers Recommend” series at Poets & Writers on the benefits of bellydance, and another for the “My First Time” series at The Quivering Pen blog on how to create your own amazing book trailer.

December brings list season, of course, and it warmed my heart to see Juventud included on this one from Flavorwire, on “15 Books You Might Have Missed this Year.” This week also brought the happy news that critic John Domini has reviewed the novel for the Winter 2016 issue of Rain Taxi Review of Books, a fine publication available in print only. Tremendously exciting!

And finally, the good fellows over at Burrow Press finally have the podcast recording of my interview about Juventud with Functionally Literate radio up on Soundcloud. I had a great time in the WPRK studio talking about the novel with co-hosts Jared Silvia and Ryan Rivas, although be forewarned that we delve into a tangential conversation on first person narration mid-way through. Enjoy the listen. More soon!

Multimedia madness! JUVENTUD at WESH 2 News, The Quivering Pen, The Weekly Reader, & more.

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Author David Abrams is featuring Juventud today at The Quivering Pen blog, and has this to say about the trailer: “Driven by the flamenco guitar chords of Isaac Albeniz’ ‘Asturias’ and edited by Shawn McKee, this is one of the best book trailers I’ve seen all year: thrilling, mysterious, and, yes, it steers me straight for the book.”  If you’re not familiar with The Quivering Pen, you should be: Abrams provides a smart and generous spotlight for authors and their new books, giveaways, and more (hint: this might not be the last Juventud-related feature at The Quivering Pen).

The Juventud book trailer spotlight arrives on the heels of yesterday’s multimedia excitement; YELP Orlando chose the novel to air at WESH 2 News “Shop Local” Holiday Guide. The Bookmark It “Locally Grown Words” book fair is happening on Sunday, December 13th in the courtyard of the East End Market. I’ll be there to sign copies of Train Shots at the Burrow Press booth, and of course, Juventud!

But the Juventud multimedia madness doesn’t end there. Recently, I had a wonderful conversation about with Vermont College MFA in Writing alum and Vermonter, Shelagh Shapiro, for the latest episode of the radio show/podcast, Write the Book, also featuring Lorin Stein of The Paris Review. This was one of the best interviews yet. Also available is my interview about Juventud for KMSU Mankato’s literary show, The Weekly Reader. Always great to feel the MN love! Both are now available for streaming, and make for merry listening while you bake holiday treats or deck your halls.

As you can tell, keeping up with a novel launch in the Internet Age is a breathless endeavor (and a part-time job in itself). Hope you might enjoy these multimedia “extras” about the book as much as the story itself. Which reminds me, if you’d like a signed copy of Juventud, you may order through Bookmark It’s online store.  Thank you, and happy holidays!

The Jewish Book Council loves JUVENTUD ~ and other great reviews!

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Last week the Juventud fall book tour wrapped up at the Savannah Seersucker Reading Series, Miami Book Fair (which I’ve described to more than one friend as “Disney World for lit lovers”) and D.C.’s Kramerbooks, all events fully attended and followed by astute Q &As. Those who know me also know that I love speaking on panels and “in conversation” with other writers. Somehow, when I share the stage with fellow writers, the pressure is off and I can relax and focus more, and speak from the mind and heart about the novel. November was no exception, and I am so pleased that the fall tour ended on a high note. If you missed my take on Miami, you can read this lively, pre-book fair round-up by Ryan Rivas for Lit Hub.

Savannah’s local paper featured a nice write-up of the Seersucker reading series’s “Curbside Splendor episode,” which you may check out.

Meanwhile, though I may have lagged behind in blog-posting, the warm welcome of the novel into the world has not. The Jewish Book Council gave the novel a glowing review, saying, “Blakeslee’s poetic language and exquisite descriptive detail give Juventud a canvas on which to portray what it is like to grow up with daily peril and family secrets. Where is trust? The book provides a realistic history of the drug wars beyond headlines as it transports the reader to Colombia’s streets, cities, and farms. The characters’ intriguing discussions about social justice, good and evil, activism, love, forgiveness, and hope serve to strengthen and enhance the story’s essence.”

Book lovers at popular blog sites have had some nice things to say, too: “I found Juventud both enlightening and disturbing,” says reviewer Larry of It’s Either Sadness or Euphoria. “Blakeslee really captured Mercedes’ voice so well, and I felt she gave the character complexity so she was so much more than a pampered teenager who suddenly found a conscience. I also found that she had a deft hand when it came to evoking the dichotomy of Colombia’s beauty and the extreme poverty and violence affecting the country.”

Last but not least, the Orlando Weekly suggests Juventud for their holiday “shop local” guide. The Weekly has been unflagging in their support for the novel, for which I’m ever grateful.

Interviews at Fiction Writers Review and the Orlando Weekly, plus letter to my adolescent self at DEAR TEEN ME

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Gearing up for the hometown launch of Juventud tomorrow evening at 6-9pm at the East End Market, and crossing fingers here that we’ve got enough copies of the novel for the crowd that will be descending after this locally-focused author spotlight in the current issue of the Orlando Weekly. I’ll be spending this evening baking Colombian sugar cookies for tomorrow night’s festivities, and perhaps a few other surprises.

More great press this week, including a conversation I had recently with Barrett Bowlin about Juventud at Fiction Writers Review. “Train Shots,” the story, was published under his editorship of Harpur Palate and you can imagine his excitement in following the collection’s success, especially the news that it has been optioned for film.

An especially enjoyable piece to write was the letter to my adolescent self, featured this week at DEAR TEEN ME. I tackled a subject I’ve been itching to write about for a while — how the AIDS scare paralyzed my generation — although I never would have guessed my essay would emerge in the shape of a letter…to myself. Hope you enjoy the read.

Lastly, thanks to Ryan Rivas and LitHub for including me in 30 Questions for 30 Writers at the Miami Book Fair, which is in just a couple of weeks. MBFI is one of my favorite literary events in the Sunshine State, and it will be a dream come true to present Juventud to the audience there on Saturday, Nov. 21st.

Now, off to bake!

An excerpt of JUVENTUD at Joyland, and the latest Interview at the Masters Review!

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Wondering what I’ve been reading at all these far-flung tour stops? Joyland literary magazine featured an exclusive excerpt from Juventud this week, which happens to be the scene I find myself reading the most often. It’s definitely one of my favorites in the novel, one that seems to spur thoughtful Q&A as it did last night with the attentive crowd who came out for my author talk at the West Hartford library. Students, library regulars, VCFA and Bread Loaf alums filled the house, and it was truly a joy to catch up at long last with friends old and new.

Also this week, my latest interview on Juventud is featured at the Masters Reviewhttps://mastersreview.com/interview-vanessa-blakeslee-on-her-debut-novel-juventud/. Hope you enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m off to catch a bus and then Amtrak, for tonight’s reading at the Dire Literary Series in Boston.

Happy pub date to JUVENTUD, and high praise from Publisher’s Weekly!

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Publisher’s Weekly loves Juventud! Here’s what they have to say: “What begins as running away from tragedy and betrayal turns into seeking out the reconciliation of one’s past. This tale of self-discovery and intense first love is spiced with bursts of action and curious twists. It will engage readers who have a soft spot for entertaining storytelling and a familiarity with Colombian social history.”

After a month on the road of speaking to audiences and signing copies, today’s *official* pub date feels somewhat surreal. For a taste of what it’s like to be “in conversation with” the novel, check out this wonderful interview from earlier this month with my longtime friend, fiction writer Robin Rozanski, who teaches at The Loft, for their blog: The Loft Interview with Vanessa Blakeslee. Robin and I have been fast friends since I first walked into Pat Rushin’s contemporary fiction class back in August 2002, and enjoyed a wonderful sojourn in the Czech Republic back in 2005 as participants in the Prague Summer Program.

Tonight, if you’re in the Orlando area, I’ll be presenting Juventud and talking about the novel drafting process as a guest of the UCF MFA program’s GWA series. The campus bookstore will have copies for sale/signing. The event is free and open to the public.

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