Baltimore Writers Club

A dozen literary events to attend at Brilliant Baltimore

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Image via the Baltimore Book Festival’s Facebook page.

The Baltimore Book Festival returns two months later than usual, now merged with Light City into a 10-day event called Brilliant Baltimore. Most of the book festival events take place over the first weekend, Friday, Nov. 1 to Sunday, Nov. 3, with a few evening events through Wednesday. 

The location has changed–take a look at the map on the website before heading over. Almost all of the staged events and the book sales are in the Columbus Center, the big glass building on Pier 5. The CityLit stage is in the Pier 5 Hotel, and the exhibitors are still at tables encircling the harbor. The Children’s stage and the Comic Pavilion are over there too, in their traditional spots. 

Q&A with Rachel Monroe, former editor of Baltimore Fishbowl and author of ‘Savage Appetites’

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“Savage Appetites” is a book about women who love crime, or at least stories about crime, and author Rachel Monroe is one of them. “I was a teenager storming with hormones when I pulled Helter Skelter off my parents’ shelf,” she writes. “When I learned that the Columbine killers’ journals were online, I read those, too.”

Monroe’s debut work of narrative nonfiction opens at Opryland in Nashville, where she’s attending CrimeCon, a fan gathering hosted by the “all crime, all the time” cable network, Oxygen. The conference is attended almost exclusively by women, the main consumers of the true-crime genre. She stands in front of a Wall of Motives, where attendees have stuck post-its with their reasons for being there–“justice and rage,” “morbid curiosity and sisterhood,” “cupcakes and patriarchy battling,” “fear and revenge”–and thinks about her own.

Q&A: Judith Krummeck, local author of ‘Old New Worlds’

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Judith Krummeck’s new book, “Old New Worlds” (Green Writers Press, 360 pp., $24.95), occupies a unique spot on the spectrum of creative non-fiction. Half the book is actually historical fiction about her great-great-grandmother, Sarah Barker, who immigrated with her missionary husband, George, from England to the wilds of South Africa in the early nineteenth century. The other half is a memoir about the author’s own immigration from South Africa to the U.S., and her quest for the facts of Sarah’s life on which she based her imaginative story.

Q&A with Tyler Mendelsohn, local author of memoir, “Laurel”

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What you’ll notice first about non-binary Baltimore writer Tyler Mendelsohn is what they notice. Their writing has an innocence, a freshness to it–as if they’ve landed from another planet and are taking notes. Their eye lingers on things we take for granted, like the way words sound like other words, the literal meaning of clichés, the psychological acuteness of the syntax of their three-year-old niece. They love to trace the connections formed by coincidence, or what we earthlings call coincidence, as when they read two books and in both there is a pet named Karenin, or how the number 8 is the symbol for infinity and turns up in infinite contexts.

Q&A with environmental journalist Tom Pelton, on the health of the Chesapeake and his book ‘The Chesapeake in Focus’

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Even if the story about the person who fell off a party boat into the Inner Harbor and died the next day is an urban legend, we all know the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble. I just googled: the last three headlines in the Baltimore Sun on the topic have been “Chesapeake Bay’s weakened federal partner takes another hit,” “Chesapeake Bay’s grade drops to a D+ in 2018 report card,” and ” ‘Code red’ for the Chesapeake Bay.”

Whether you’re a nature lover, an oyster and crab maven, a sailor, or just a citizen of this region, it’s a good time to take look at Tom Pelton’s 2018 book, “The Chesapeake in Focus” (Johns Hopkins University Press), a sweeping narrative that leverages the author’s decades of environmental reporting to create a multi-faceted portrait. Pelton’s combination of nature and travel writing, personality profiles, political analysis, and scientific storytelling will be familiar to listeners of his public radio program, “The Environment in Focus.”

Q&A with local writer Elizabeth Spires on her poetry collection, ‘A Memory of the Future’

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In the present climate of pervasive news alerts and social media, many of us have grown weary of the noise. The din of so many emphatic voices drowns out our own thoughts. Just finding space and calm in which to reflect is a challenge. Thankfully, the poems in Elizabeth Spires’ new collection, “A Memory of the Future,” help to create just such a space.

Q&A with local writer Michael Downs, author of ‘The Strange and True Tale of Horace Wells, Surgeon Dentist’

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Horace Wells, Surgeon Dentist by Michael DOwnsBefore there was virtual reality, there was historical fiction. As lovers of this genre know, its best representatives offer an experience akin to time travel, making the cultural ambiance and physical details of another era almost magically vivid and immersive. One certainly feels this with the work of Michael Downs. He is a native of Hartford, Connecticut, born in 1964, but in each of his works set in that city, he leaves the convincing impression that he might have lived there in other periods, other lives.

Q&A with Baltimore writer Sujata Massey on her latest mystery novel, ‘The Widows of Malabar Hill’

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Mystery of 1920s Bombay: The Widows of Malabar Hill

I’m a terrible sleuth. I was once pranked by someone hiding all of my belongings in a different dorm room and it took me 10 years to figure out that the person who told me about it was the culprit. This is why I read mystery novels. I need to have faith that someone out there can solve these brain teasers, be it Hercule Poirot, Sam Spade or the protagonist in Sujata Massey’s latest novel, The Widows of Malabar Hill, Perveen Mistry. They and the writers behind them affirm that we’re not all clueless.

Long-time Baltimore resident and Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars graduate Massey sets her lush new mystery in Bombay in the 1920s. It follows Mistry as she moves from the office of her father, a Parsi lawyer, to her adventures. Following an inspection of a client’s will, she discovers irregularities with how the client’s three widows—all of whom live in purdah, or seclusion—have signed away their respective inheritances to charity.

Q&A with local author Jane Delury about her new novel ‘The Balcony’

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“In June of 1992, I left Boston for France with everything in front of me.” So begins the first story in The Balcony, debut fiction from Jane Delury, a professor in the MFA program at the University of Baltimore.

Q&A with Baltimore cartoonist turned literati, Tim Kreider

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In Baltimore, Tim Kreider is known primarily for two things: his comic strip in the City Paper, The Pain: When Will It End?, which ran for fifteen years, and an essay called “My Own Private Baltimore” that he published in The New York Times. For the former, he is beloved. For the latter, the reaction was more complicated. (Sample sentence: “Ernest Hemingway famously described Paris as a moveable feast; Baltimore is more like a permanent hangover. Once you have lived there, you will never be entirely sober again.”)

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