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.


Fireside Chat with Borges in this week’s episode of The Drunken Odyssey podcast

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This week I’m packing up my fall wardrobe as I get ready to head north for the Burlington Book Festival and the official kick-off of the Juventud book tour (remember, you can still donate at Vanessa’s National Book Tour and help offset expenses – thank you!) What makes great listening while packing? Why, none other than The Drunken Odyssey podcast about the literary life. In this week’s episode, host John King and I discuss This Craft of Verse, the wonderful collection of lectures by Jorge Luis Borges. You may tune-in to our rather meta fireside chat-about-a-fireside-chat here: Vanessa Blakeslee discusses This Craft of Verse by Borges. Enjoy!

Money…and A Room of One’s Own, my latest craft discussion with John King over at The Drunken Odyssey

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What kind of writer would you be if you had an income of $75,000 a year — the equivalent in today’s dollars of Woolf’s infamous “500 pounds”? How is Woolf’s collection of essays more relevant than ever to literary writers — male and female — today? Tune in to the latest episode for our lively, impassioned discussion: A Discussion of A Room of One’s Own with John King and Vanessa Blakeslee.

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!

In our latest podcast-odyssey, John King and I explore “On the Sublime” by Longinus

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What would our joint-study of ancient “writers on writing” be without a thorough examination of this work? On the Sublime may not be touted in writing classrooms as often as Aristotle’s Poetics, but the treatise still offers salient wisdom on what makes great literature resonate. In this latest episode of our up-close series on craft texts, John King and I discuss the relevance of On the Sublime to working writers today, in the context of contemporary works by Saul Bellow, Jack Kerouac, Toni Morrison, Rick Moody, Hunter S. Thompson, and others. Although Longinus’s prose is often dry, legalistic, and meandering (and my contribution peppered with a few sleep-deprived gaffes, which hopefully adds to the entertainment value) our examination ultimately proved meaningful and lively. You may listen to the full episode here:


This week at The Drunken Odyssey with John King: Chekhov’s watermelon, Wes Anderson, and “How Fiction Works” by James Wood

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John King and I discuss and digress upon the above topics, as well as Henry James, the flaneur, Twin Peaks, and more in the latest episode of The Drunken Odyssey podcast. How do these far-flung topics tie back to our craft text, How Fiction Works by esteemed critic James Wood, you may ask? You’ll just have to tune in and find out.  Merely click the link below ~ thanks for listening!



A Craft Discussion on Aristotle’s Poetics at The Drunken Odyssey Podcast

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This month kicks off a series of conversations I’ll be having with John King, host of The Drunken Odyssey literary podcast, on craft books and how they relate to writing today. We’ll be exploring texts from ancient to modern, beginning with this week’s discussion of Aristotle’s Poetics; next up is Douglas Glover’s Attack of the Copula Spiders. You can listen to the inaugural episode here: