Book Launch Provides Flying Start

28 October 2015

Just back from the book launch for my latest collection of short stories, Wrestling with Angels. Many thanks to the great folks at New Rivers Press (NRP)—especially Nayt Rundquist and Alan Davis—for being wonderful hosts this past week up in Fargo-Moorhead.

CLICK HERE TO BUY Wrestling with Angels

There were three writers involved. The others were Julie Gard, sharing her collection of prose poems (Home Studies), and Tracy Robert, author of the dual novellas Flash Cards and the Curse of Ambrosia. After a classic walleye dinner at Usher’s Place, overlooking the winding banks of the Red River of the North, we moved on to MSUM (Minnesota State University Moorhead), home of NRP, for a joint reading in the student union.

The following day, action shifted across the border to Fargo. As part of an NRP fundraiser, the three of us read again at The Spirit Room, a meditation center on the heart of Broadway in downtown Fargo. The setting was meditative indeed, with huge abstract canvases lining the walls and a low-rise stage providing a suitable setting for raised voices. Besides reading pieces from our books, we were also asked to share examples of what has inspired us to write. It was fascinating to discover what had influenced my fellow writers.

Myself, I started with a short excerpt from Jack Kerouac’s “The Railroad Earth,” which appeared in Lonesome Traveler. Aside from his themes, I love Kerouac’s exuberance of language and his ability to mythologize his own life. Then I read a slice of the opening to Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train. This was Greene’s first major success in Britain, and I’ve always been impressed with his craft (and ability to be at home, anywhere in the world). Greene is so effective in those first few pages, setting up any number of hints that pay off later in the book. I concluded with a bold approach: the voice of God speaking to Job, from Job 38 in the Old Testament. As I told the assembled throng, The Bible is where I go for wisdom, and for a heightened sense of language. The cadences, the phrasing, the subtleties—I’m more than happy to absorb those influences.

Finally, on Saturday, we participated in a panel discussion at the Fargo Public Library. The main focus was on NaNoWriMo (sp?), national novel writing month, though the flow of talk ranged far and wide. Fargo-Moorhead has a number of serious writers. It was fun to encounter some of them!

This is the first time I’ve done a joint launch, and it was really satisfying. Sharing the events with two other writers meant that there was always someone else going through the same surges of nerves and emotions, and it kept us locked into our roles as writers. For me, at least, my daily round rarely includes emphasizing the fact that I publish fiction. During our time in Fargo-Moorhead, that fact was front and center at all times.

Now if only everybody and their cousin will go out and BUY the book, we can repeat these celebrations in cities and towns across the country. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.

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