The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing is a game of tag among literary folk. Poet Derek Walcott said in a 1997 lecture, “All art has to do with light.” And that’s what each of us, in this game of tag, is doing: Shedding light on literary works we love.

If you’re lucky, someone loves your book and tags you to “PLAY.” Playing means you love the art of the novel, the poem, or know the best reader of both.

February+March+2013+coverI was tagged by Margaret Brown, who is the editor of Shelf Unbound, a free online magazine that focuses on indie culture. In addition to turning readers on to great books that might otherwise go unnoticed, Shelf Unbound also features gorgeous art and photo spreads as well as interviews with artists, writers and artisans. I’m a huge fan of what Margaret is doing with the magazine, and I highly recommend that everyone check it out and subscribe!

The authors I’m tagging are:

PrintShaun Haurin, whose debut collection of short stories, Public Displays of Affectation, offers a subtle and emotionally complex examination of the ties that bind. For the most part, the characters in this collection are looking for love — romantic and otherwise — which is fitting, given the setting: all of the stories take place in and around Philadelphia, widely known as the City of Brotherly Love. With a keen eye for the telling detail and a well-tuned ear for dialogue, Haurin explores the myriad shades of gray that shroud adulthood and haunt the contemporary heart, thus rendering Public Displays of Affectation a compelling and emotionally intelligent collection.

back_in_the_game-rev-255x375Charles Holdefer, whose novel Back in the Game follows former AAA and European League baseball player Stanley Mercer as he struggles to make a life for himself as a schoolteacher in the small town of Legion, Iowa. That Stanley has never graduated from college is the least of his worries as he falls for a married woman who also happens to be the mother of one of his worst students. Holdefer’s novel explores the changing face of Middle America in a moving and nuanced way. Quirky as they are heartbreaking, Holdefer’s characters come across as nothing less than fully human in this loving study of the relationship between people and the places we call home.

PrintKasia James, whose The Artemis Effect, offers a compelling tale of humanity’s quest for survival in the face of a mysterious natural disaster. Evocative of Karen Thompson Walker’s The Age of Miracles, The Artemis Effect offers a remarkably hopeful, inventive, and even intimate tale of survival and the indomitable nature of the human spirit. We are, by nature, a species of survivors, James reminds us on every page– just so long as we remember that we need to work together. To put it another way, The Artemis Effect is a tale of the apocalypse as seen through the eyes of a hopeful romantic, an enjoyable and poignant page-turner.

belski-book-cover-brownLauren Belski, whose collection of short stories, Whatever Used to Grow Around Here, lovingly charts the unmapped and ever-shifting borderland between adolescence and adulthood in contemporary America. For the most part, her characters are twenty-somethings who long not so much for the innocence of youth but a sense of hope and optimism lost after repeated brushes with the daunting ambiguities and contradictions that constitute the so-called “real-world.” The key to being an adult, it turns out, is to keep on faking it until the act comes naturally, to make mistakes, to get it all wrong yet still have the confidence that one day you’ll get it all right.

And here are my answers to the Ten Questions that are part of this literary game of tag (Writers I’ve tagged will adjust their q.s as needed so that this all makes sense—or so we hope):

What is the title of your book? The Grievers

Where did the idea for the book come from? My efforts at coping with the death of a friend.

 What genre does your book fall under? Dark humor.

 Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? When Charley Schwartz learns that an old high school pal has committed suicide, he agrees to help his alma mater organize a memorial service to honor his friend’s memory.

Who published your book? The Permanent Press

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? About a year, I think.

 What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? Choke by Chuck Palahniuk and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? The narrator spends most of the novel dressed as a giant dollar sign. And there’s a red balloon on the cover.