JUVENTUD comes to Miami this week, I talk about shooting guns with WEIRD SISTER, & more

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Dispatch from Ocean Drive where despite being the warmest spot in the continental U.S. today, it’s still chilly. What’s a literary writer doing on Ocean Drive, you may ask? For the next few days, I’m the writer-in-residence at The Betsy Hotel, a program which has been underway since 2012 and which I first heard about, as with so many good things, word-of-mouth via the poet and memoirist Brian Turner. Tonight, I’ll be reading with the supremely talented Jaquira Diaz at Books & Books, Coral Gables, at 6:30 p.m., following the theme, “coming-of-age in literary fiction.” Jaquira has just been named the Kenyon Review Fellow in Prose for 2016-2017, so even more reason to come out and celebrate this much-deserved honor. Then back at the Betsy on Thursday, the hotel is hosting a breakfast salon (fancy! my first) where I’ll be discussing Juventud, the writing life, etc. At both events, books will be available for sale/signing. Visiting Miami feels especially right for this book, whose characters maintain a diverse array of South Florida ties; in many ways, through Juventud, I’m coming to feel more like this part of the state is my home, too–something I’ve never quite felt before.

A few more musings slipped out into the world of late: I spoke with the ladies at WEIRD SISTER about shooting guns in the context of Juventud, and published an essay on anxiety and creativity at Read Her Like an Open Book. But I’m most happy to report that Juventud is continue to earn praise as it finds its way into the world, the latest in this glowing review of JUVENTUD at New City.

For now, the sun is out. I’m off with my notebook for the beach.

 

 

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!

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!

JUVENTUD earns the spotlight at Washington Independent Review of Books ~ plus my “Table of Contents” menu at Real Pants

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Tremendously excited to see this thoughtful review of Juventud at the Washington Independent Review of Books. Reviewer Patricia Ann McNair says,

“Because Juventud is at its best a love story between Mercedes and Manuel, Blakeslee has to navigate the language of romance and sex as well as that of history and politics. When these things work together, the writing is at its most interesting: “We made love on the couch, where countless volunteers had bickered over ideas and spilled Cokes and cried for their captive relatives; the cushions stung my knees.”

There is another love story here, too, the one between Mercedes and her father, Diego, the most complex and compelling character in these pages. Diego’s love for his daughter both protects and damages her, despite his best intentions. This is the relationship that most matters in Mercedes’ story, the one that drives the novel forward. It is potentially the most rewarding, as well.”

In addition, I had a great fun inventing a Juventud-themed menu at Real Pants for their “Table of Contents” series.

Hard to believe, now that I’m back behind the register at Bookmark It in Orlando, that just a couple of weeks ago I was running from one Northern city in the height of autumnal bloom to another. If you haven’t made it yet to a launch event, you may get a glimpse here of my Sunday Salon NYC reading on Oct. 18th in the East Village (Jimmy’s 43). We sold out once again that night, a wonderful precedent that I very much hope will continue!

JUVENTUD playlist at Largehearted Boy, and the latest Q&A with Deborah Kalb

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I wrote about the music that inspired Juventud for Largehearted Boy (read the list and check out the songs here: Juventud playlist on Spotify). From classical guitar to Shakira’s pop hits, salsa to Mark Piszczek’s “Dangerous Times,” these are the tunes I turned to again and again.

Also this week, a conversation about Juventud with Deborah Kalb for her excellent blog, who interviewed me last year for Train Shots. Read our latest chat here: Book Q&A with Vanessa Blakeslee

Finally, today, at long last, I return to Florida for a (brief!) breather and then the first book launch events in my home state, beginning next week. I’ll be speaking to the GWA at UCF, 7:00 pm, HPA Room 126. Free and open to the public. The UCF Barnes & Noble will be there with books for sale, and of course, I’ll be signing afterward.

 

JUVENTUD Research Notes & Book Trailer up at Necessary Fiction

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Wonder what went into building the vivid world of turbulent 1990s Colombia in Juventud? Some of the primary footage I referenced while drafting the book also ended up in the official book trailer, released last month by the good folks at The Rumpus. You can read my notes and view the trailer today over at Necessary FictionJuventud Research Notes & Book Trailer

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