“The best thing that ever happened to my writing life was breaking my ankle,” Baltimore author Laura Bogart proclaimed in 2015. At the time of the accident, Bogart, now 37, was writing mainly nonfiction, and she’d already met with success as an essayist. Her personal reflections on a range of hot-button topics—sizeism and feminism, politics and pop culture—often went viral on Salon. (She’s now a featured writer at The Week and a contributing editor at DAME).
In 2015, popular Baltimore novelist Jessica Anya Blau (The Trouble With Lexie, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, etc.) decided to try her hand at something completely different — ghostwriting. After working behind-the-scenes on a few books, including a bestselling memoir of child abuse and dysfunction, she was offered the opportunity to collaborate on a very different project – the memoir of a sorority girl from the University of Southern California who ended up working for the CIA and the FBI. An ex-spy named Tracy Walder, then a high school teacher in Dallas, was ready to tell her story.
It’s hard to do much better in describing Malka Older’s unusual new collection, “…and Other Disasters,” published by Baltimore-based Mason Jar Press, than sci-fi king Bruce Sterling, who commented that Older is like “a psychoanalyst in a planetary refugee camp.”
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.
“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.
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.
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’
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.”
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’
Before 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.