Book Festivals and the Pulpwood Queens

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I’m gearing up for an exciting book tour for Cherry Bomb, with thirteen events now scheduled in six states, and more in the making. Several festivals and conventions are on the list, including a few I’d like to mention here today.

At the Mississippi Book Festival, August 19 in Jackson, Mississippi, I’ll be on a fiction panel for Cherry Bomb, and also moderating a panel for women authors. “Her Story,” the panel I’m moderating at 12 p.m., features the following panelists:

Mary Ann Connell, An Unforesen Life: A Memoir

Jessica B. Harris, My Soul Looks Back

Suzanne Marrs, Meanwhile There Are Letters: The Correspondence of Eudora Welty and Ross Macdonald

Norma Watkins, That Woman From Mississippi

At 4 p.m. I’ll be on a panel, “Voices of Home,” moderated by Tracy Carr, director of the Mississippi Center for the Book, for a discussion of Mississippi writing from four current Mississippi writers:

Tracy Carr, Mississippi Center for the Book Director and the Library Services Director at the Mississippi Library Commission, MODERATOR

Julie Cantrell, Perennials

Susan Cushman, Cherry Bomb

John Floyd, Dreamland

Johnnie Bernhard, A Good Girl

I’m already friends with Julie Cantrell and John Floyd, and I’m looking forward to meeting Johnnie Bernhard and Tracy Carr. Book festivals are such a great opportunity to get to know others in the literary world!

 

In September I’ll be on a panel for A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be, at the Decatur Book Festival. The schedule isn’t set yet… stay tuned!

October 13-15 is the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, where I’ll be on a panel for Cherry Bomb. Again, the schedule isn’t published yet, but you know I’ll keep you in the loop!

CL.PulpwoodQueenLogoAnd my latest news (drum roll, please) is that both Cherry Bomb and A Second Blooming have been chosen as book selections for the Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs (over 700 clubs internationally)! A Second Blooming is the pick for February, 2018, and Cherry Bomb is a bonus book for March of 2018. I’ll be traveling to Nacogdoches, Texas for their annual Girlfriend Weekend, January 11-15, 2018. Several hundred Pulpwood Queens Book Club members will be there, along with several dozen authors. This amazing book club and annual event are organized by Kathy L. Murphy, author of The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life.

It’s (almost) HERE!

Yesterday my publisher, Joe Lee (Dogwood Press, Brandon, Mississippi) sent me this picture. HOT OFF THE PRESS and coming to a bookstore near you SOON!

CB copies

 

Next Friday, July 14, we’ll be delivering copies of Cherry Bomb to Burke’s Books in Memphis, and shortly thereafter they will be available at Lemuria in Jackson, Mississippi, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, and TurnRow in Greenwood, Mississippi.

If you don’t live near one of these wonderful independent bookstores, please ask your local shop to order Cherry Bomb for you. It will also be available soon from Amazon.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS for events in five states starting with the launch at Lemuria in Jackson, Mississippi on August 8! Click on the EVENTS button at the top of my web site for all dates and locations through December.

 

First up:

 

August 8 – 5 p.m. – Lemuria/Jackson, Mississippi

August 19 – 4 p.m. – Mississippi Book Festival/Jackson, Mississippi (Festival runs all day. My fiction panel is at 4 p.m. in State Capitol Room A.)

August 26 – 12 p.m. – TurnRow Books/Greenwood, Mississippi

September 7 – 5:30 p.m. – Burke’s Books/Memphis, Tennessee

 

Did I mention I’m a little bit excited? I can’t wait to hold a copy of Cherry Bomb in my hands and smell the ink!

Four Book Deals in One Year: A Journey in Independent Publishing

Just a quick note to say I’m excited to have a short piece in the July/August issue of Southern Writers’s Magazine:

“Four Book Deals in One Year: A Journey in Independent Publishing”

4 Book Deals teaser

Click here to subscribe and read the full article.

I’m still doing lots of reading, watching movies, and searching for what the muse has in store for me next… please stay tuned!
And thanks always for reading!

SWMag sm ad

 

 

 

Take Care

clift cover v6b- approved cover.inddSome time last year Elayne Clift invited me to contribute an essay to an anthology she was putting together. It was going to be about women caregivers. Ironically, I was already working on my book, Tangles and Plaques: A Mother and Daughter Face Alzheimer’s. I thought about contributing an excerpt, but I chose something different. I sent her a shorter version of an essay I had published in the Saint Katherine Review (Volume I, Number 2, 2012) about my last days with two people I loved dearly, both dying from cancer. “Watching” now appears as one of twenty-six essays in the collection, Take Care: Tales, Tips, and Love From Women Caregivers, edited by Clift. I’m so pleased to see this essay get new life in this book, and hopefully find many new readers. It’s a story that’s very close to my heart, and as I read it again now—nine years after I wrote it and five years after it was first published—memories of those precious but difficult days with my father, and then with a dear friend, as they were dying, seem as vivid as if they were happening today.

Clift is the perfect editor for this collection, as she learned early in her life what it meant to be a caregiver, as she explains in the preface to Take Care:

My own experience with caregiving began at an early age. My parents had married late, and while my two siblings and I were still young, both our father and mother suffered from chronic and often debilitating conditions: asthma and depression respectively. By the time I was in high school and my older sister had married, I had taken on may of the demanding tasks of caregiving, including carrying out the responsibilities that keep a home going and take care of (and worrying about) my younger brother. After our father’s death, looking out for my mother’s best interests and ensuring her care became paramount tasks that went on for many years until she died at the age of 86.

Clift did all of this while being married, raising two children, completing a graduate degree and doing volunteer work with underprivileged women. A Vermont Humanities Council Scholar, she is an award-winning writer, journalist and workshop leader, a book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and a regular columnist for the Keene Sentinel and the Brattleboro Commons. Her work has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among other publications.

I wasn’t familiar with the other contributors but as I read their bios and essays, I quickly realized what good company I am in. I’m honored to be part of this collection. I especially love Patti See’s “Joyful Mystery.” Her blog, “Our Long Goodbye: One Family’s Experiences with Alzheimer’s,” has been read in over 90 countries. Helen Dening gives us five helpful tips for communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s in her essay, “Lessons from My Mother: Communicating with Someone You Love Who has Alzheimer’s Disease.” Deborah Marshall, an art therapist who works with grieving hospice families, contributes three wonderful poems. Karen Clark, who received her MFA at the City College of New York once owned a bookshop in New York and now edits, proofreads, is a contributing editor for two anthologies and is at work on a novel. Her essay, “Roar Above the Hum,” made me laugh out loud and clap my hands, as she tells the story of accompanying “Corine” to dialysis and hearing her stories of her life as a civil rights activist in the sixties, founding a school in Africa, and eventually becoming the principal of a failing Harlem school and turning it into a showpiece. I could go on and on, but I hope you will get this book and read these inspirational stories for yourself!

You can purchase Take Care HERE, or on Amazon.

Indexing

IndexesI’m working on my fourth book, another anthology I’m editing: Southern Writers on Writing. The manuscript has been through the peer review process and I’ve responded to their reports. While waiting on the galleys, I’m working on something I’ve never done before. The University Press of Mississippi requires an INDEX for all of their books. You can pay someone else to do this for you, but I decided to tackle it myself. Not just to save money, but to gain the experience. And to search through the book in a different way, looking for important references that readers might look for.

First I asked the good people at the Press for guidance, and they directed me to the Chicago Manual of Style’s Chapter on Indexes. I had recently purchased the Sixteenth Edition of the manual, not realizing that I could access it online. I actually like having a hard copy of it to reference from time to time.
Next, I looked at two other books published by U Press of Mississippi in the past year or two, to get a feel for the types of people, places, and other terms that the authors included in their indexes. Then I started a Word document, with a new paragraph for each letter of the alphabet. Like this:

A
B
C

Etc.

Index Delta RainbowNext I started going through the manuscript, page by page, and selecting words that I felt were significant enough to be included in the index, and placing them under the correct letter, noting that names are listed like this: last name (comma) first name.

It’s actually kind of fun, seeing all the references to important people, places, and things in southern literature, and just in the lives of the authors who contributed the 26 essays that make up the anthology.

Once it’s complete, I’ll wait until I get the galleys to fill in the page numbers. Hopefully that will be easy enough, doing a search for each word. Although this author says he’ll never do it again, although he saved several hundred dollars by not hiring a professional indexer. (My friend who published last year with U Press of Mississippi tells me she had no problem doing her own index.)

This may not sound very creative, but in a way it is, and it’s not a bad way to spend Memorial Day when you don’t have (a) a swimming pool or (b) travel plans. When I need a break from the manuscript and from sitting at my computer, I’m cleaning out my closet. Again, not much fun but one of those tasks that feels great when you’re done. Kind of like creating an index, right?

 

Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Advance Praise for Cherry Bomb!

I’m pinching myself so I’ll know this is real. These six AMAZING literary rock stars have written blurbs for my novel, Cherry Bomb, which releases in August. This has been a six year (plus) project, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Or more pleased with Joe Lee at Dogwood Press for being such a great publisher. Thanks so much to these very busy, successful authors whom I’m honored to call my friends. I can’t believe they said things like, “deft narrative control,” “rising star in southern literary circles,” “beautifully written, thoughtfully conceived,” and “rendered with passion, acumen and concision.” Cherry Bomb launches on August 8 (just three months away!) at Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi (my home town). Here they are!!!

Cassandra King

Cassandra King

“In CHERRY BOMB, a troubled young artist finds a way to heal a horrific past in the intriguing world of street art, graffiti, iconography, and abstract expressionism. With deft narrative control, Susan Cushman weaves an unforgettable story of triumph and redemption that will linger long after the final page is turned. An impressive debut by a rising star in southern literary circles!”

Cassandra King, author of The Sunday Wife

Joshilyn Jackson

Joshilyn Jackson

Using the life of real abstract expressionist artist Elaine de Kooning as a jumping off point, CHERRY BOMB fearlessly explores the intersection between art and spirituality, creating it as a palpable place where healing can occur. This is a bold, frank book, and Susan Cushman is a brave and talented writer.

             —Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of gods in Alabama and The Almost Sisters

Harrison Scott Key

Harrison Scott Key

“Any book that opens with a young woman painting graffiti across the steeple-ridden town of Macon, Georgia, is my kind of story. Cushman depicts the South as it is, not the sentimental claptrap some people want it to be. No cliches to be found here, just God and art and beauty and pain—just like sitting in church.”

Harrison Scott Key, author of The World’s Largest Man

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly

“How does Susan Cushman do it?  Out of the most unlikely materials—a teenage graffiti artist, an abstract expressionist painting teacher running from her past, and a reclusive nun who paints icons—she weaves an intricate tale that teases us with surprising connections.  This generous first novel is a tale of family and resilience and the healing power of art.  Beautifully written, thoughtfully conceived, CHERRY BOMB surprises and redeems.”

Beth Ann Fennelly, Poet Laureate of Mississippi

Julie Cantrell

Julie Cantrell

“By mixing the work of historical creatives with the risqué endeavors of a modern graffiti artist, Cushman takes a unique approach to examining the experiences of a young girl who turns to art while finding her way in life.”

Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of Perennials

 

Corey Mesler

Corey Mesler

“Susan Cushman, in her marvelous first novel, tells the touching, parallel stories of two female artists, one famous, one not. The intersection of their lives, rendered with passion, acumen and concision, will entertain and enlighten you. The story moves as quickly as running paint, and, in the accumulation of detail, becomes a canny meditation on art and individuality, on spirituality and hope. Its indelible characters, especially its young graffiti artist, will take up residence inside you alongside Scout Finch and Frankie Addams.”

            —Corey Mesler, author of Memphis Movie and Robert Walker

Southern Writers On Writing: Peer Review

peer-reviewIt’s so much fun editing an anthology. I had a great time last year editing A Second Blooming: Becoming the Women We Are Meant to Be (Mercer University Press). And now I’m in the throes of editing Southern Writers On Writing (University Press of Mississippi, 2018) and the fun never ends! Especially when working with another wonderful university press. So here’s where we are:

A few months ago I invited the contributors and received 26 wonderful essays and a foreword. I worked with each author on edits, grouped the essays into sections by themes, found quotes to head up each section, wrote an introduction, acknowledgements, and table of contents, and sent the manuscript off to the press in March.

Next the press sent the manuscript to “outside readers” for “peer review.” The readers they selected for this work were given specific questions to answer as they reviewed the manuscript. Here are some examples (with excerpts from the readers’ responses):

Does the manuscript make a significant contribution to this field of study and/or the general market for this type of book?

Yes, I believe the manuscript does make a significant contribution to the field of southern literature…. I think this book will appeal to academics, particularly those teaching creative writing, southern and contemporary literature, and it will also appeal to up-and-coming writers who are looking for experienced direction, inspiration, support, and a reason to believe in themselves and keep putting their own words and stories on paper!

Yes! Just what I was hoping for! Here’s another one:

Please evaluate the author’s style of writing and organization of material:

All the essays in this collection are strong and well-written and I enjoyed reading every one of them…. The styles vary, but I consider this variety a huge plus offering would-be writers an opportunity to experience different writing styles and voices, and hopefully find a voice, story, and approach to writing that speaks a little louder to the reader and his/her own unique experience.

Again, I am so happy with these readers’ responses! One reader made very specific suggestions as to the organization of the essays, and even did line editing throughout the entire manuscript, which I’m using now as I make revisions and corrections before returning the manuscript to the press for their editorial work to begin. Here’s another one:

To your knowledge, is the information in this proposal available in published form elsewhere?

I’m not aware of any such book. Some individual southern (and non-southern) authors have published books that talk about their own writing, but there’s not to my knowledge a collection of essays such as this. I find that pretty amazing!

I found it amazing, too, when I researched the topic before starting work on this book.  Another reader said,

… young writers are most interested in learning from writers who aren’t necessarily big names, but who are successful in publishing now… as opposed to writers like Faulkner, Welty, Tennessee Williams, etc. This book is a solid response to that need.

MS Logo 300There are a total of ten questions on the readers’ questionnaires, and I found most of their observations and suggestions extremely helpful. I’m even strongly considering changing the title from So Y’all Think You Can Write: Southern Writers on Writing, to simply Southern Writers on Writing. The original (longer) title was inspired by the TV show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” but not everyone will get that, and as one reader pointed out, some people might think it’s the writers in the book thumbing their noses at the readers, which isn’t the case at all! If you’re reading this and have a different idea for a title, please let me know!

Of course the proof of the pudding was that all readers strongly recommend that the book be published. I did a peer review for another university press a year or so ago, and was sad to have to say “no” to this question in response to the manuscript I reviewed, knowing that the author would be disappointed to be turned down by the press. But that’s what peer review is for.

So now you know more about what goes on “behind the scenes” when a university press publishes a book. The peer review process is an important step in protecting the integrity of the press, and in helping make the books they publish excellent. I’m so thankful to be on this journey! Stay tuned….

Q&A with Jackie Warren Tatum, author of Unspeakable Things, a Novel

Unspeakable Things coverI never read crime thrillers, although I do watch Law & Order SVU regularly. But when I met Jackie Warren Tatum at one of my book signings in Jackson, Mississippi, recently, I told her I had bought her debut novel Unspeakable Things, and it was next up in my reading queue. Although this isn’t a regular genre for me, I found it compelling. Dark. Graphic. Page-turning. Good character development. All the elements of a really good read. There are several good reviews (just Google it) online, so I decided to do a short Q&A with Jackie instead of posting another review. My questions—and Jackie’s answers—are aimed at information that both readers and writers will appreciate. I just turned 66, in the year my first novel (and two nonfiction books) are being published, so I am greatly impressed with Jackie’s first novel at age 74. Kudos to a fellow Mississippian, Jackie! And thanks for the interview.

P&P: I read that you did some writing for Jackson Free Press prior to writing Unspeakable Things, your debut novel. Have you always wanted to write a novel?

Photo by James Patterson Photography

Photo by James Patterson Photography

Jackie: I have always had an interest in expressing myself on paper. I remember writing poems in high school. Years ago, as a high school English and radio and television journalism teacher, words were a part of my life. Then, as a lawyer, I continued my relationship with words, both written and spoken. After I retired as a Special Assistant Attorney General, I took a writing course with the editor of the Jackson Free Press. That led to my freelancing and consciously considering myself a writer.

I don’t know that I have ALWAYS wanted to write a novel, but over the years, prior to Unspeakable Things, I had begun several that never grew legs.

P&P: Did you draw from your experiences as an attorney in writing the story for the novel, and in developing the characters? If not, where did your ideas come from?

Jackie: Unspeakable Things is pure fiction. I am 74 years old and I have had a variety of life experiences, including widowhood and divorce and being the first female member of the Tippah County MS Bar in1980 and conducting a rural law practice there. Once I began Unspeakable Things, the characters found me. They often decided in which direction we would go and they dragged me along behind them, at times, kicking and screaming.

P&P: Why did you choose to self publish? Did you try traditional publishing first–i.e. querying agents and/or independent presses? Were you pleased with the process? What was good or bad about it?

Jackie: I researched for a year before selecting how to publish. There are really three ways to publish, as I understand it: 1. self publish by literally doing all the work yourself or contracting out the respective tasks, e.g., the art work/graphics/cover design/layout/etc. or 2. traditional publishing or 3. using some form of a self publishing service company. I was too inexperienced for 1., too old for 2. I chose 3. and shopped, in part, based on my research, and, in part, based on my scrutinizing the contract terms and conditions with the publishers.

P&P: I know that you lost your husband when you were only 25 years old. How much did that loss inform the relationship between Renee and Samone in the book? Was writing the book cathartic in any way?

Jackie: Unspeakable Things is pure fiction, but I could write with complete integrity about loss, having experienced the death of my high school sweetheart husband, suddenly, at such a young age. I dipped into the deep reservoir of experience and emotions inside me. Writing Unspeakable Things was a healing experience. 

P&P: Any plans for writing another novel?

Jackie: I have begun another novel. I am also getting encouragement to write a sequel to Unspeakable Things. The Lord willing, I will keep writing.

DeSoto Magazine and Southern Writers: Two Upcoming Articles

In the midst of a busy and wonderful book tour, I’ve been invited to contribute articles to two wonderful magazines.

April17FC-4small-460x610“Tangles and Plaques” will appear in the May issue of DeSoto Magazine. Just in time for Mother’s Day, my short piece will be part Polaroid, part cautionary tale, about the changing relationship between my mother and me during the last eight years of her life. She died on May 22, 2016 of Alzheimer’s Disease. I’m so thankful to my friend Karen Ott Mayer, DeSoto’s editor, for this opportunity. You can subscribe to the magazine, read it online, or pick up a copy at many places in Mississippi and surrounding areas, like Memphis.

A second article, “Four Book Deals in One Year: A Journey in Independent Publishing” will appear in the September issue of Southern Writers: The Author’s Magazine. I discovered the magazine when my friend (and fellow Dogwood Press author) John Floyd was featured in an interview in their January/February 2017 issue.

six-covers-w-shadow-jan-2017_1_origAnother short piece (750 words), this one details my journey through writing and finding publishers for four books within one year. (Three are being published in 2017 and one in 2018.) I share my struggles querying literary agents and finally working with one for many months before parting ways due to our different visions for the book. There’s lots of “how to” in this short piece, including researching and querying academic and independent presses, working with editors on revisions, marketing, and more. Again, many thanks to Susan Reichert, editor-in-chief of Southern Writers, for this opportunity. A great magazine for writers and readers alike, you can subscribe to the print, online, and digital formats here.

So, it’s Holy Friday and I’ve already been to three services during Holy Week at St. John Orthodox Church here in Memphis. I’ll be at two more today, two tomorrow, and one on Sunday. It’s a beautiful marathon, where we walk through Christ’s passion, and celebrate His resurrection. Thanks, always, for reading. Have a beautiful Pascha/Easter weekend (I’m so glad the East and West are celebrating on the same date this year) and I’ll be back on Monday.

Wealth, Health, and Wisdom

Still on the road a lot, and now it’s Holy Week, and I’m trying to balance busiest time ever for work with church services and finding some time for silence. I was traveling again today and didn’t have time to blog, so I’ll just share some more good news:

I’ve been invited to speak at the Dyersburg State Community College’s Third Annual Women’s Conference. The conference theme is “Cultivate Your Path to Wealth, Health, and Wisdom.” I don’t know if I’m supposed to be the “wisdom” part or what, but I’ll be speaking on  my later-life journey as an author. I’m excited for the opportunity.

I’ll try to write a real blog post on Wednesday!

Dyersburg poster

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