Erin's Summer Reading List

Our friend Erin --who's moving to Jayhawk Country this fall -- is back with a list of great summer reads for y'all. Most of these are new to me, but I can tell you she's spot-on with her review of the Kingsolver novel, which I read a while back.  As always, you can keep up with Erin's sassy mix of religion, politics, parenting, and other things you shouldn't discuss at the dinner table on her blog, Irreverin, and on her Facebook page. -- HCW

I just read a book called The Orchardist that Amazon reader reviews assured me was wonderful!

It wasn’t. Actually…it was really wonderful until the last and then the ending just…wasn’t. To me, a story needs a good, round ending to make it worth the journey. When it doesn’t end right, I want those two weeks of my life back. Not to mention the $9.99 I paid for the download. (I’m looking at you, Gone Girl! Worst. Episode. Ever).

That said, here’s some other stuff that I’ve read lately and/or am reading this summer. With high hopes for better endings, here goes:

Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver. Sure, it gets a little preachy about climate change. And ok, there’s this section about 3 quarters of the way through that REALLY drags. But I still found it worth the read. If nothing else, cause it was like a trip home to Appalachia. And much cheaper than a plane ticket.

The Round House, Louise Erdrich. Full disclosure, I didn’t love the ending of this one either. But, the rest of it was SO dang good, it was still worth the trip. Just be prepared to wish there were a few more pages. And, if you like it, go back and read The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. (Yes, that’s really what it’s called.) It’s about the same reservation community, about two generations earlier. Not much direct cross-over, but some of the same names and places are mentioned. Also, it’s just a fabulous story. Woman disguises herself as a dead priest and proceeds to perform mass on the res for 50 years, without anyone knowing she’s not a dude? Awesome.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess!) Fair warning: do not read this with other people in the room. You will embarrass yourself by laughing out loud. I literally—literally—hurt myself one night, because my family was all sleeping and I didn’t want to wake them with my hysterics. I like, tore something in my throat. It hurt so good…

For something TOTALLY different: The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Petersen. In the midst of sharing sad news with one church and celebrating with another—all while planning a cross-country move with two young children—it’s a blessed reminder that I’m on a spiritual journey here. And, that the world’s definitions of ‘pastor’ are not the boss of me. Good stuff.

My husband downloaded Ready Player One (Ernest Cline) and then stole my kindle for a week. Since it’s basically the first book he’s read since the last Harry Potter, I figure it must be pretty great. Sounds like the Hunger Games, but for dudes and techies. I’m neither, but imma read it anyway.

My friend Stephanie said I had to drop whatever else I might be reading and start The Fault in Our Stars (John Green). I read the first few pages last night, and am already in love with the heroine, Hazel. I’m pretty sure she’s going to die, but hey—I’m into books with crummy endings, right?

And besides—death does not always make a bad end. Sometimes, dying is much better than just wandering away…

Happy page-turning, folks. Let me know if there’s something I’m not reading, but should be!

Books In Progress Conference

A couple of weeks ago, I finally utilized a gem in Lexington, The Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning. As someone who has a goal to write a book but no idea if I'm on the right path, I thought the Books-in-Progress Conference sounded perfect.

The conference featured sessions for writers of all types: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, YA, and more. Bestselling author and Kentucky-native Barbara Kingsolver led the keynote session where she answered a variety of questions from the group about her inspiration, research, writing, and editing process. Literary agents Sorche Fairbank and Janet Reid were on hand to have individual sessions with authors, and also to speak about the querying process.

The sessions were fantastic and I left not only with inspiration to write, but also feeling that you don't have to be a literary whiz in order to call yourself a writer. 

The Carnegie Center offers classes both online and off throughout the year, and also provides writing mentors for consultation. If you have any interest in writing, check them out as we continue to hold Kentucky as the literary arts capital of Mid-America. (Here's a great article from Business Lexington about local authors)

Learn more about the Carnegie Center on their website. To read about more of HerKentucky's favorite Kentucky-writers, check out this post. 

Kentucky Writers' Day

In honor of  Kentucky Writers' Day, the HerKentucky team put together a few thoughts about our favorite Kentucky writers. 
Wendell Berry. Image via Garden and Gun
I love Bobbie Ann Mason for her storytelling. I love Barbara Kingsolver for the rich imagery in so many of her books. Prodigal Summer is one of my all-time favorite books, but The Poisonwood Bible was the one that really drew me in to her canon. I also love Wendell Berry for both his fiction and his activism. I respect that he fights for what he believes in. (Most of which I also happen to believe in, so that helps!)

Also, as a reader and unashamed lover of romance novels, I have to give a shout out to Jude Deveraux who is hugely successful in her field and is from Fairdale. She's been on the New York Times  Best-Seller list with 36 different books. Last summer, I set out to read every one of her books that follow the Montgomery/Taggert families and loved it!

Oh, I forgot to add an up-and-comer in young adult fiction named Tammy Blackwell. She has a trilogy of YA paranormal fiction that features a great strong female character. She's a librarian in Marshall County.

I know other states might have more Presidents or celebrities but I have to say that Kentucky has done a fantastic job of producing writers. When I get comfortable calling myself a writer, then I'll be so honored to be included in this group. Here are my top five:
bell hooks. Image via Berea College.

1. Wendell Berry Others have captured his genius much better than I can. All I can say is if I ever met him I'm pretty sure I would go full-scale Wayne's World "I'm not worthy!"
2. Barbara Kingsolver I was a vegetarian for five years. Then I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm not a vegetarian anymore. I'd say that about sums it up.
3. Bobbie Ann Mason From just down the road, her memoir Clear Springs made me feel at home when I was anything but.
4. Molly Harper She's from Paducah (and in my book club!). Molly Harper writes about vampires...and librarians. Need I say more?
5. bell hooks Feminism is for Everybody should be handed out to every college freshman in the nation.
Hunter S. Thompson, by Annie Leibovitz

Hunter S. Thompson, Louisville native, for introducing us to Gonzo journalism with his 1970 essay "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved", and for the fact that his ashes were fired into the sky by a cannon (arranged by another Kentuckian, Johnny Depp) because "he loved explosions".

I have to agree with Cristina; Dr. Thompson's piece about the Derby is on my short list for the greatest configuration of words ever set to paper.   As I've said before, I find his sports writing to be the greatest and most underreported of his works.

The works of Verna Mae Slone and Paul Brett Johnson are sentimental favorites for me, because both authors were my distant cousins on my father's side. 

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to interview a Western Kentucky-born writer named Holly Goddard Jones.  She was charming and down-to-earth, and her short stories captured rural Kentucky life without pathos or exploitation (a rare gift in a young author.)  Holly hasn't quite made my "favorite Kentucky writers" list yet, but I certainly think she's one to watch...

Who are your favorite Kentucky Writers?

Sarah's 20 Things

  1. Patti's Boat Sinker Pie 
  2. The Judds
  3. Wide open Western Kentucky sky
  4. The Kentucky Derby
  5. Kentucky Lake
  6. Leigh's Barbecue
  7. Old Morrison
  8. bell hooks
  9. Bluegrass music
  10. Abraham Lincoln
  11. Transylvania University
  12. Kern's Kitchen Derby Pie...and the fact that they serve it in the cafeteria at Transy.
  13. Loretta Lynn 
  14. Blue Moon of sung by just about anyone.
  15. Barbara Kingsolver
  16. The Appalachian Mountains
  17. Wendell Berry
  18. Paducah
  19. Grater's ice cream
  20. Kentuckians
~ Sarah Stewart Holland