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.

 

 

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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!

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.

Smart takes on JUVENTUD in the latest reviews from The Rumpus and Ploughshares!

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Two extraordinarily thoughtful reviews of Juventud were published this weekend, each one honing in on the “youth” aspect of the book in unique ways. Here, from the Ploughshares review of Juventud: ‘In the beginning of the novel, Mercedes describes a young boy who has been displaced by the conflict. He holds a sign stating, “Ayuda. Somos desplazados.” Help. We are displaced. This moment serves two purposes: the boy’s sign reflects Mercedes’ emotional state during a time of violent sociopolitical upheaval, and also holds Mercedes—and Juventud’s readers—responsible for serving those ravaged by conflict.’

And I was elated to mull over the final paragraph of this review of Juventud at The Rumpus: “The novel’s title brings to mind Kenneth Lonergan’s seminal play This Is Our Youth. Though Lonergan’s teenage characters live and work and play on the Upper West Side of New York City, they suffer seemingly similar plights as Mercedes—particularly Warren, one of the nineteen-year-old soul-searching protagonists, whose dad engages in successful but murky business dealings. As Warren describes him: “But my father is not a criminal. He’s just in business with criminals.” Though we never meet Warren’s father, we learn about his fate, particularly at the end of play in Warren’s closing monologue: “but when he was at the height of his powers, he totally lost control of his own daughter, and she ended up getting beaten to death by some guy from the world next door to us.” Like Mercedes and many young people,  Warren’s sister was drawn to worlds unlike her own, and she becomes a sort of cautionary tale about the cost of rebellion. Mercedes, on the other hand, is a strong agent of her own fate, who leaves casualties in her wake. Blakeslee does not deliver a neat ending; instead, she provides a story worthy of deep philosophical discussion and debate.”

Seeing these latest reviews in dialogue with each other is affirming beyond measure, and writing a thoughtful critique takes diligence and effort. I’m grateful for both of these essays being out in the world, and to have Lonergan’s work brought to my attention. Juventud appears to be finding itself in fine company, indeed!