Faye Rapoport DesPres

Joy Castro

Joy Castro’s NEARER HOME gets Pre-Pub Review in Publisher’s Weekly


Just a quick note this morning. Many of you know that Joy Castro, author of THE TRUTH BOOK, HELL OR HIGH WATER, and ISLAND OF BONES, was a faculty member during my tenure at the Solstice MFA Creative Writing program. Joy no longer teaches at the program and I graduated in 2010, but Joy was — and remains — one of the writers and teachers who influenced me most as a writer. I am honored that Joy has also become a friend, and to this day she is one of my favorite essay, memoir, and fiction authors.

Last year Joy’s debut crime thriller, HELL OR HIGH WATER, arrived to much acclaim and positive reader response. On July 16 the sequel, NEARER HOME, will be published. I always pre-order Joy’s books so that I’ll have them in my hands (or on my Kindle) the moment they’re available.

Here’s a link to the pre-pub review in Publisher’s Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-250-00458-1

Congratulations, Joy.…

Writing news and notes


It’s been hot, hot, hot in the Boston area this week, and thunderstorms are scheduled to roll through at any moment. I hope they will take some of the humidity with them when they go. In the meantime, I wanted to check in to share some writing news and notes from friends, colleagues, and acquaintances.

If you haven’t figured out yet that I am a huge fan of Joy Castro and her writing, you probably haven’t been following my blog. But the truth is ever since I was lucky enough to work with Joy during my MFA experience, I have admired her not only as a writer but as a human being. And there is something satisfying — or perhaps vindicating? — about seeing someone who works so hard and who is so uniquely talented overcome major obstacles and achieve the success she so richly deserves. I just finished reading Joy’s new crime thriller, Hell or High Water, and I wasn’t disappointed. Whenever I read Joy’s work I feel like I’m attending my own personal master class in the craft.

But the news item is this, from Publisher’s Marketplace Deal News:

“Joy Castro’s HELL OR HIGH WATER, where a journalist takes it upon herself to investigate the 800+ sex offenders still missing three years after Katrina, optioned to producers Jane Startz of Jane Startz Productions and Aida Bernal of Spellbound Entertainment who have teamed up with sisters and producing partners, Zoe and Cisely Saldana from Saldana Productions, by Holly Frederick at Curtis Brown.”

Congratulations, Joy.

Friend and fellow Solstice MFA graduate Cindy Zelman also had some good news to report this week. Cobalt Review will publish Cindy’s essay, “Stuck in the Middle,” in their October print edition. The essay also is one of three finalists for the Cobalt Writing Prize. And as if that weren’t enough, a post from Cindy’s blog titled “What’s in a Butch’s Purse?” appeared on the new website Lesbian.com and was picked up by the Huffington Post. Cindy’s work is so honest and funny — she always blows me away with her courage and openness.

A book party celebrating the release of Clifford Garstang’s new book, What the Zhang Boys Know, is being held on August 22 at the Darjeeling Cafe in Staunton, Virginia. More information is available on Facebook here. Congratulations, Cliff!

Issue #23 of Prime Number Magazine is now online. This journal is always packed with interesting, absorbing work.

And finally, I’ll end with a couple of notes about my own work. Sugar Mule’s August issue, titled Women Writing Nature, is now online and features one of my short essays, “Morning and Night,” along with a lovely short essay by fellow MFA graduate Faye Snider titled “Predators.” And I was deeply honored when Robert Clark Young, the Creative Nonfiction editor of Connotation Press: An Online Artifact selected my essay “No One Watches the Old Lady Dance” as one of that publication’s best creative nonfiction pieces of the year (alongside nine other essays, including “A Smirnoff and Coke” by none other than Cindy Zelman!). These editor’s choice selections are printed in the August Retrospective Issue. Thank you so much, Robert Clark Young (and if you haven’t checked out his work, you must — I started with One Writer’s Big Innings.)

OK, I don’t want to inundate you — and that thunder is getting closer. Have a great week.…

Book News and Notes


Today is the long-awaited launch date of Hell or High Water, the new crime thriller by my former teacher (and good friend) Joy Castro. I’m waiting for UPS to deliver my copy; until then I’ve been enjoying the short fiction in Steven Huff’s A Pig in Paris.

In other book news, Clifford Garstang’s new book, What the Zhang Boys Know hits bookstores in October. Here’s the book description from Amazon:

“What the Zhang Boys Know has a dozen chapters, each one a vivid short story in itself. Garstang makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The lives of the inhabitants of a condominium in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown are told separately and as part of a web of entanglements. The entrances and exits are handled with the deftness of a French comedy, but the empathy of the author brings all the characters achingly alive. What the Zhang Boys Know is a wonderful and haunting book.” – John Casey, author of Compass Rose and Spartina, winner of the National Book Award

Sounds great, and I look forward to reading it. Cliff is one of the editors of Prime Number Magazine.

Finally, a shout out to blogger extraordinaire Cindy Zelman, who recently got one of those “good rejections” from a very well-known literary journal. The editor took the time to let Cindy know that the staff had really enjoyed her essay, “Stuck in the Middle,” even though it didn’t meet their needs at this time. The editor also said she hopes to read more of Cindy’s work in the future (as do all of her loyal readers).

That’s just the kind of thing any writer wants to hear. To paraphrase: “They like you, they really like you!” Congrats, Cindy!…

A wonderful reading at Pine Manor College


Last night I attended a reading featuring Michael Steinberg (whose birthday it is today — happy birthday, Mike!), Joy Castro , and Mitali Perkins. The reading was part of the summer reading series taking place at Pine Manor College during the Solstice MFA Program’s summer residency.

If you know me personally, you know that I don’t attend many readings. Of course, readings are an important aspect of any writer’s repertoire (for marketing purposes and simply to share work with a wider audience). But I tend to support my colleagues by purchasing their books and promoting their work in other ways. I have always had a relatively short attention span; I’m a restless person. So sitting through lengthy readings tends to be difficult for me.

I am so glad I attended last night’s reading, however. Each reader was so different and powerful in his or her own way. Mike read an essay-in-progress that described how being asked to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in a college baseball game helped him move through some of the physical and emotional challenges of middle age. Mitali read a gripping chapter from one of her young adult novels, Bamboo People, during which a young boy in Burma is rounded up to be a child soldier. And Joy read some beautiful, lyrical background and descriptions from her new novel, Hell or High Water, and a beautifully-crafted essay about long-term married life that simply brought me to tears because of its truth and beauty. The piece is from her upcoming collection, Island of Bones.

The whole evening was a reminder of how different, yet equally interesting and absorbing, writing from different writers can be. We heard creative nonfiction, young adult fiction, and fiction/crime thriller writing and each sampling held our attention in its own unique way.

Dennis Lehane reads at Pine Manor tonight. For a full schedule of the readings going on there this week, visit this link.…

Reviews are bustin’ out all over


Meg Kearney’s new Young Adult book, The Girl in the Mirror: A Novel in Poems and Journal Entries has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly! See the wonderful review here. Meg is the director of the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing, my alma mater.

Joy Castro, one of my faculty mentors at the program, also had a new book reviewed in Publishers Weekly. Island of Bones, her essay collection, is reviewed in glowing terms here. Joy no longer teaches at Solstice, but she will participate in a reading at the summer residency on July 8. The full list of readers is available online here.

I’ve read previous books from both of these authors (and friends), and they were stunningly good. I couldn’t recommend their work more highly. Congratulations, Meg and Joy!

One other quick note — friend and poet Karin Gottshall recently published her poem “Once” in Blackbird. It’s a lovely read; I so admire Karin’s work. Enjoy.…