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.

 

 

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.

Be a part of the JUVENTUD national book tour over at Indiegogo

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In the spirit of all things “indie”–and experimentation–I’ve taken the leap and launched my first crowdfunding campaign for my debut novel, Juventud, to be released this September. You can read more about the book tour over at Indiegogo and why I’m asking for support here: Vanessa’s National Book Tour. In short, I’ve been invited to present at a number of big festivals including the Fall for the Book and Miami Book Fair International (with more wonderful invites coming in every day), but only a couple of them are offering to cover travel and accommodation. The Catch-22, of course, is that in order to accept and tour the book (which has been 7 years in the making and deserving of all that I can do to promote it), I’ve got to take a leave from my job at Bookmark It and will only have a slim paycheck this fall from the online class I’m teaching at UCF.

Crowdfunding seemingly has taken off in the fields of visual arts, filmmaking, and music, but from what I can observe, not so much in the literary world. I’m not sure why this is — that literature projects aren’t so performance-based may be a challenge, or that writers are wary of appealing to their circles for funding, when those circles will undoubtedly consist of other, similarly broke, friends and colleagues aiming to do the same thing. But just as no one likes to grovel, not taking advantage of crowdfunding tools in the Internet Age strikes me as foolish. I’m curious to see how this endeavor pans out almost as much as how the novel is received; I’m equally curious for the endeavor of my good friend, John King, who is currently running a simliar campaign for his podcast, The Drunken Odyssey (see The Drunken Odyssey Podcast Fundraiser).

I’m offering a colorful menu of perks for those who donate, including bookmark schwag, signed books, and more (your name in a short story! your name in a novel!). Even if you’re not inclined or in a position to donate, you can participate in the campaign — and be a part of the novel’s journey in reaching its audience — by simply sharing on social media. Because you never know who is out there who might want to pitch in.

Thanks so much for your support!

Catch Me If You Can: April 8th-11th, 2015 AWP Conference & Bookfair, Minneapolis, MN

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​April 8th-11th, 2015 AWP Conference & Bookfair, Minneapolis, MN, see below:
 
Thursday, April 9th, 10:30-noon, book signing at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing table (plus I will be hanging around until 2pm, available to talk about VCFA’s graduate programs);
2-3pm book signing at Harpur Palate
 
Friday, April 10th, 1:30-2:30pm, book signing at Green Mountains Review;
3-4:15pm panel “The Long and the Short of It: Five Debut Authors Divulge How They Got Their Short Fiction Collections Published, Buzzed, Reviewed, and Read”
 
Saturday, April 11th, noon-1:15pm panel reading,
“America by Train: Riding and Writing the Rails”
​followed by book signing at Curbside Splendor
 
You can also catch me from time to time at the Burrow Press table, where you can purchase Train Shots for the special conference deal of $10. I haven’t attended AWP since 2009, and so many dear friends are going. I can hardly wait!