Celebrate National Library Week with these Words of Advance Praise for FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY

 

Today I’m celebrating National Library Week by sharing advance praise from eleven authors for my short story collection, FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY, coming in August from Koehler Books. I finished drafting the collection about this time last year and did a post about it to celebrate this national day to recognize the importance of libraries. I hope these blurbs will wet your appetite for the book, and at the same time remind you to give some love to your local libraries, join a Friends of the Library group, or start one! I am so grateful to these amazing, busy, successful authors who took time out from working on their own books to read and blurb this book! This year’s theme for National Library Week is “Libraries make Strong Communities.” That’s exactly what this book is about. Can’t wait to share it with you!

Friends of the Library is the book I have long hoped that someone would write—a beautifully wrought hymn of praise to readers and book-lovers in the most sacred of places, the libraries where we find both. Rich in character, keen insight and local color, this heartwarming collection celebrates the surprising power of story to bring us together.—Cassandra King, author of the best-selling novels The Sunday Wife and The Same Sweet Girls and the upcoming memoir Tell Me a Stor

Susan Cushman’s new book Friends of the Library ties the geography of community to the geography of the human heart and adds destiny’s arrow, leading to a renewed romance, a published manuscript, hearts and diseases healed, and a home for the homeless. I loved the sense of community reflected in the stories, the deep love for literature, and the compassion of the characters as they championed all that was good in the world down to the tiniest crumb of kindness. When I finished the book I immediately joined Friends of the Library in my own city.—River Jordan, Clearstory Radio host and author of Praying for Strangers and Confessions of a Christian Mystic (coming in April 2019) 

A love letter to big lives found in small southern towns, Friends of the Library reminds us of the affecting, empowering ways libraries serve as safe havens for the stories and storytellers in our communities. Susan Cushman deftly braids together a tapestry of connected lives on the cusp of discovery and change. . . . May all who enter these pages leave as friends.—Jonathan Haupt, executive director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center and coeditor with Nicole Seitz of Our Prince of Scribes: Writers Remember Pat Conroy

Susan Cushman’s latest book is clever and pioneering. She creates a collection of fiction stories that unmask real-world problems through an author’s visit to Friends of the Library meetings, and then becomes a pivotal force in helping the characters resolve crises—cancer, homelessness, domestic violence, and much more. Another work by Susan Cushman I couldn’t put down.—Niles Reddick, Pulitzer Prize, PEN-Faulkner, and Pushcart Prize nominee

Readers already know Susan Cushman as a talented novelist and nonfiction author.  This time she uses short stories to take us on a fictional tour of Mississippi, giving us a delightful peek inside the “Friends” library groups of ten real cities and towns.  Anyone who knows the South and its quirky residents will love this entertaining and insightful collection of stories.—John Floyd, Edgar Award nominee, three-time Derringer Award winner, and 2018 Edward D. Hoch Memorial Golden Derringer Award winner, a lifetime achievement award. 

Susan Cushman has crafted a set of delightful short stories that will make everyone want to be an author visiting Friends of the Library groups like her main character Adele Covington, who finds herself involved in difficult problems in the lives of those coming to hear her talks. Adoption, domestic violence, homelessness, and other hard issues are addressed and resolved as Adele comes to care for those she meets along the way. I hope that as Susan continues to publish, she adds to these stories, creating an ongoing series. Ellen Morris Prewitt—editor of Writing Our Way Home: A Group Journey Out of Homelessness.

Susan Cushman takes us on an emotional journey, down Mississippi’s back roads and up its express lanes, to libraries and the readers who love them, who revel in the camaraderie found in books. This book is a love letter to librarians, readers, and the characters who speak to them. Cushman’s fiction is the catalyst that draws from them their individual, unique, and poignant stories.—Suzanne Hudson, author of All the Way to Memphis (short stories)

Friends of the Library depicts a delightful author as she introduces her novel at library events and then adds more to the equation by illustrating how, when it comes to authors and readers, the gift of the relationship is mutually beneficial.—Claire Fullerton, author of Mourning Dove, Dancing to an Irish Reel and A Portal in Time

Friends of the Library is a love letter to southern readers and writers that also manages to tackle serious social issues. In a world of Twitter and twaddle, Susan Cushman gives us a timely reminder of the simple pleasures of your local library. Find this book and check it out!—Jim Dees, author of The Statue and the Fury, and host of the Thacker Mountain Radio Show

Susan Cushman gives readers the grand tour of Mississippi, introducing us to recognizable characters and covering every topic from alcoholism to faith, domestic violence to Southern cooking. This book could only have been written by someone who loves our great state and who longs to celebrate both the writers and readers who call it home.—Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Into the Free

Who says happy endings no longer exist? Susan Cushman’s Friends of the Library doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of the world and the missteps we often take on our journeys through it, but redemption is always within reach. These stories provide hope in what can often seem like a hopeless world. Adele Covington, who stands at the center of each story, is an angel, and the people in the small towns of Mississippi won’t soon forget her, nor will those who read this book.—Lee Martin, author of The Mutual UFO Network

Warming Up to Adele (and short story collections)

a297b454e38ab19556dd1bbfaf6eeeceIf you read my blog regularly, you know that I have published four books, with four different publishers—two university presses and two small indie presses. And I’ve been published in three genres: memoir, novel, and essay anthology (as editor and contributor). You might not know that I haven’t always like short stories. But that has changed recently. Maybe because of my friends who have published some really good collections, like those by John Floyd, Niles Reddick, Lee Martin, Jennifer Horne, and Suzanne Hudson. (I blogged about John, Jennifer and Suzanne’s collections here.) Oh and M. O. “Neal” Walsh’s first book was a linked short story collection, The Prospect of Magic.

You also know that I had a negative experience working with a New York literary agent on my novel CHERRY BOMB, and eventually parted ways with her. And yet I find myself hoping for a different experience “next time,” and so I’ve just spent several months querying agents for my linked short story collection FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY. Here’s an update on the journey.

Of the forty agents I’ve queried since May (remember that I queried over 100 for CHERRY BOMB?) here are my responses so far:

17 rejections, but several were personal and very nice. My favorite one said this:

I think you’re a great writer and this is a great concept. I had a hard time warming up to Adele.  I think her voice is getting lost in the stories she’s reflecting on here – I think this collection would be more powerful if we had more of a sense of who your narrator is.

Friends of the Library cover“Adele” is the fictional author (based on me) who visits ten Friends of the Library groups in small towns in Mississippi, speaking about her novel and her memoir. In each town, she gets involved in the very complex lives of some of the people there (all fictional people and situations) who are dealing with things like Alzheimer’s, cancer, domestic abuse, eating disorders, adoption, sexual abuse, kidnapping, and racial issues. She doesn’t have the same level of involvement in all of the stories, and maybe that’s what this agent is referring to. Maybe she needs to be more involved, so that her interactions change her and affect her life more.

What’s interesting about this agent’s comments is that I was just visiting with a couple of author friends this weekend about this collection, and one of them mentioned the idea of making the author/narrator into a protagonist for a novel, by connecting the stories. I’m not sure how to do that, since the characters in each story don’t really have anything to do with the characters in the other stories. I really like the book the way it’s structured, but I do plan to go back through it and see if I can figure out why this agent had a hard time “warming up to Adele.” I want my readers to love her, but especially to love the characters she meets in each of the small towns in Mississippi. And to embrace those towns and their history, their architecture, their music and art and culture.

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short-stories-writers-digestMeanwhile… (you know something’s coming when you see my ellipses, right?) I decided to go ahead and query three university presses for the collection. They each have the full manuscript, but I haven’t heard back from any of them yet. Only two more of the 40 agents I queried asked to read the manuscript, and I haven’t heard back from them yet (it’s been two months) so my gut feeling is that if one of the university presses is interested in the book, I will go with them. I really like working with academic presses, but I was hoping for a larger reach. Maybe that will happen if I ever get that next novel written. I’m actually considering expanding one of these short stories into a novel. I won’t tell you which one yet.

So that’s a sneak peek into this chapter of a writer’s life.

SWW at Pat Conroy event

Jonathan Haupt (back left) Director of the Pat Conroy Literary Center hosted this wonderful event with authors Nicole Seitz, Patti Callahan Henry (back row) and me and Cassandra King Conroy (front row) in Bluffton, South Carolina.

 

As much fun as I’m having touring for SOUTHERN WRITERS ON WRITING, it’s important to always be looking forward, working on the next project, or there won’t be a next book! This weekend I was in South Carolina for my 10th panel presentation for SOUTHERN WRITERS ON WRITING, this time with Cassandra King, Patti Callahan Henry, Nicole Seitz, and Harrison Scott Key. The event was in the Visiting Author Series sponsored by the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort. The turnout was great and I really enjoyed being with these amazing writers who generously contributed essays to the book and then traveled to Bluffton for the event. I’ve now moderated panels with 21 of the 26 contributing authors, and have four more events scheduled for this book (through January of 2019). So… come next February, I hope to have another book in the queue. And maybe I’ll have time to finally get that second novel under way.
Thanks always, for reading!

National Library Week and Take Action for Libraries Day!

Library-Week-This week marks the 60th year that America has celebrated NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK. Back in the 1950s, Americans (like ME!) were spending more time watching television than reading, so in 1958 the first National Library Week was observed with the theme “Wake Up and Read!”

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I’m sure I wasn’t aware of this observance, but I do remember the Bookmobile coming to our neighborhood in the summer, when I was reading the Nancy Drew books. (Yesterday was “National Bookmobile Day.”)

 TODAY is actually “Take Action for Libraries Day” and this year’s theme is “Libraries Lead.” It’s exciting to me that the Cossitt branch—which opened here in downtown Memphis in 1893— is undergoing a major renovation right now. This branch is only 5 minutes from my house, and yet I’ve never visited it. Mostly because I go to the main library, which is actually only about 15 minutes away.

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I am celebrating libraries all during the month of April, not just this week. I’m doing this in three ways:

Friends of the Library coverFirst of all, I  just finished drafting my short story collection, FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY, inspired by my visits to speak to library groups in eight small towns in Mississippi. These groups are alive and well and draw large numbers of serious readers. I have sent the manuscript to several author-friends who have published short story collections. While I’m waiting for their feedback, I’m writing a synopsis and a query letter template, and building a list of literary agents to query who are seeking short story collections. My list is up to 24 agents now, which is pretty good for such a specific market. Can’t wait to do revisions on the collection and start looking for representation! (The cover mock-up is just me playing around with a photo I took near the library in Aberdeen, Mississippi. The house in the background inspired one of the stories.)

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On April 28—just two weeks from this Saturday—I’ll be a participating author at  Bookstock 2018, which features several keynote speakers and over 40 local and regional authors. It’s a great time for families to bring their kids for kid-friendly activities, enjoy some local food trucks, listen to speakers, and pick up signed copies of books from local authors. Or just chat with us—can’t wait to meet you!

to-the-stars-through-difficultiesI’m reading a wonderful book about a brave group of women who are inspired by their foremothers—who built fifty-nine Carnegie libraries in Kansas a century ago—to forge ahead and create a cultural center on the Plains, in spite of widespread devastation from a recent tornado, opposition from their husbands, and attacks from the Religious Righteous. TO THE STARS THROUGH DIFFICULTIES is told through the fictional voices of Angelina Traci, and Gayle, but the story is full of important historical moments in library history. I met the author, Romalyn Tilghman, in January, where we were both presenters at the Pulpwood Queens annual Girlfriend Weekend. This is a Foreword Indies Finalist and a  MUST READ for anyone who loves libraries, and reading.

So… please support your local library this week, and always! And happy National Library week to librarians and library patrons everywhere!

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