Remembering Ellis Avery

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(Ellis Avery at the 2013 Ohioana Book Festival, photo credit Elizabeth Nihiser)

March is Women’s History Month, and today happens to be International Women’s Day. So it seems fitting to pay tribute to one extraordinary woman and writer, Ellis Avery. Sadly, Ellis passed away on February 15, at the young age of 46. In 2002, Ellis received the Ohioana Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant for a writer age 30 or younger who has not yet published a book. Five years later, she won the Ohioana Book Award in fiction for her debut novel, “The Teahouse Fire.” Ellis and Anthony Doerr are, to date, the only writers to have received both the Marvin Grant and an Ohioana Book Award. Among her other honors, Ellis was also the only author to have won two Lamba Literary Awards. Ohioana Director David Weaver spoke to Ellis in the fall of 2017, interviewing as part of a series of conversations with past Marvin Grant winners. The interview appears here for the first time.

How did winning the Marvin Grant impact you: your life, your career, your writing?

As it happens, I got the phone call about the Marvin Grant just after I had decided to splurge on a two-week writing class in Assisi, Italy, with literary hero Maxine Hong Kingston, in order to begin what would become my first published novel, THE TEAHOUSE FIRE.  The class seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I had just that morning bitten the bullet, charged it on my credit card, and decided to worry about paying for it later.  This was a “Leap, and the net will appear” decision for me: that very day, I received a call from Linda Hengst telling me that I had won the Walter Rumsey Marvin grant!

Do you recall how you felt when you learned you had won the grant? Were you able to attend the award ceremony and, if so, what was it like?  

I was floored and delighted when I received the call. Not only did the grant solve the immediate financial problem of how to pay for the class with Maxine Hong Kingston, it represented some of the first serious professional validation I had ever received.  Specifically, it made me take the opportunity to study with Hong Kingston more seriously, and it spurred me both to work all the harder on the novel I began in her class: the financial gamble that the class represented wasn’t just between me and my credit card; it was one that a whole community much larger than myself had chosen to take with me, and I owed it to them, as well as to myself, to take myself seriously.

The award ceremony was such a happy occasion! My partner came with me from New York, and my mother, now deceased, flew up from Florida to celebrate with us.  It was an honor to be welcomed into the community of Ohio writers in this manner, and, in an unexpected piece of good fortune, I got to reconnect at the ceremony with my beloved elementary school librarian from Columbus School for Girls, Marilyn Parker.  

What advice do you give young writers when they’re trying to break in? Are prizes such as the Marvin Grant helpful in giving a writer’s career a boost?

I encourage young writers trying to break in to be patient and persistent.  It’s really difficult to publish a first novel.  Subscribe to Poets and Writers and apply for everything you can: prizes like the Marvin Grant can offer financial support, a chance to be exposed to a new and perhaps life-changingly influential audience base, and most significantly, a huge psychological boost: that outside confirmation can help you shift from feeling like a grandiose nobody with a laptop to a true-blue capital-W Writer.  Two more pieces of advice: First, bump it with a trumpet.  The publishing world seeks quality work, but subject matter matters enormously, too.  I could have written a different first novel just as good as The Teahouse Fire but if it hadn’t been about Japan— if the publishing world hadn’t been persuaded that, because of its subject matter, it might be the next Memoirs of a Geisha— it could just as easily have died on the vine.  Second, if you have a project that keeps garnering the same feedback over and over— good, but not great, close, but no cigar—it may be a sign that it’s time to exercise the painful courage it takes to put that project in a drawer, start over, and write another, better book.  

Ohioana is proud of you as not only a Marvin Grant winner but an Ohioana Book Award winner. What does it mean to you to be claimed as “an Ohio writer”?

I’m so grateful for the support that the Ohioana Library has shown me over the years, both as a Marvin grantee and as an Ohioana Book Award winner.  As for being claimed as an “Ohio writer,” although I left Ohio at age eleven, I have fond memories of Columbus School for Girls and of my childhood neighborhood of German Village. Moreover, it’s an honor to imagine my novels on the same shelf as books by Toni Morrison, Sherwood Anderson, Jacqueline Woodson, etc.  But does that give me a sense of what “being an Ohioan” might mean?  I’m not sure.  I’ve resonated with elements of German Village everywhere I’ve lived—red brick and sycamores, 1880s architecture, the low-tech small-scale pleasures of walking and cycling and being known in one’s local haunts, of exchanging smiles with strangers on the street— but it seems solipsistic to imagine that  all Ohio writers have been stamped in the same way: there are as many Ohios as there are Ohioans.

Thank you, Ellis.

In 2007, the year she won the Ohioana Book Award, Ellis sent Ohioana a lovely note and a check for $1,000 – the same amount as she had received five years earlier for the Marvin Grant. She joked that it might not be something she could do every year, but she wanted us to know how much Ohioana’s support meant to her. A wonderful gesture that perfectly summed up Ellis. We’ll always remember her beautiful spirit and writing, through which her legacy will live on.

Read more about Ellis here: https://www.lambdaliterary.org/features/news/02/16/ellis-avery/?fbclid=IwAR1B05NeibOI8zon1w_UwsXnpVSTxge3hkOYnKtYs1_dIlvdN3l5S69XaRI

Celebrating a Forgotten Author for Black History Month

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A near capacity crowd was on hand February 20 as Ohioana presented, “From Prison to Prominence: The Life and Literary Work of Chester Himes” at the Martin Luther King, Jr. branch of Columbus Metropolitan Library. Author Yolonda Tonette Sanders, the creator of the “Protective Detective” mystery series, conceived the program, in which she “interviewed” Chester Himes, portrayed by Columbus actor Tony Roseboro. Questions from the audience, clips from the 1970 film version of Himes’ novel “Cotton Comes to Harlem,” and Ohioana Director David Weaver turning the tables on Sanders and interviewing her rounded out the evening.

The trailblazing Himes went from being an inmate at the Ohio Penitentiary to an influential writer and creator of the black detective genre. Himes is one of those authors who, after being largely forgotten over the years, is gaining new recognition and respect for his work.

The program was presented by Ohioana not only for Black History Month, but as part of the I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100 celebration.

To read more about Himes, check out this great article from the February 14 issue of Columbus Alive:

https://www.columbusalive.com/entertainment/20190213/community-feature-ohioana-library-celebrates-unsung-harlem-renaissance-writer

Happy Holidays from Ohioana

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With 2018 winding down, it’s time to look back on the past year and all that has been accomplished. For Ohioana, 2018 was filled with many memorable and record breaking events. Read about them below, and check out our photo gallery of Ohioana’s 2018 In Review!

Winter
• Governor John Kasich named 2012 Ohioana Poetry Book Award winner Dave Lucas of Cleveland as Ohio’s second Poet Laureate.
• The Ohioana Quarterly began its seventh decade of publication, with our winter cover story about the historic Paul Laurence Dunbar House in Dayton, the sixth in our series of “Ohio’s Literary Landmarks.” The issue also featured a look at Ohio poets and poetry.
• Morgan Peters, previously our Mount Intern and part-time Program Assistant, became Ohioana’s full-time Program Coordinator, bringing Ohioana’s staff to four people for the first time since 2013.
• The official poster of the 2018 Ohioana Book Festival poster was unveiled, designed by Cincinnati artist and illustrator Christina Wald.
• Elizabeth (Libby) Vasey, a recent Bachelor of Music graduate of The Ohio State University, joined Ohioana as our 2018 Ruth Weimer Mount Intern.

Spring
• Ohioana and the State Library of Ohio jointly presented an event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of National Library Week and the kickoff the 2018 Ohioana Book Festival. The highlight of the event was the announcement of the 2019-20 Choose to Read Ohio list of twenty books. Nearly a dozen current and past CTRO authors attended, along with State Representatives Laura Lanese and Jay Lawrence.
• For the second consecutive year, the nationally-distributed comic strip Crankshaft, written by Tom Batiuk and illustrated by Chuck Ayers, featured characters at the Ohioana Book Festival for an entire week.
• The 12th annual Ohioana Book Festival was presented at the Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square on April 14. More than 120 Ohio authors participated, and our bookseller, The Book Loft of German Village, set a new festival sales record. Outreach and media activities helped the 2018 festival reach more than 50,000 people statewide.
• Thirty finalists were announced for the 2018 Ohioana Book Awards. The third annual Readers’ Choice Award was launched, inviting members and the general public to choose their favorite book among the finalists.
• Ohioana announced that the Columbus Metropolitan Library will be the new host venue for the Ohioana Book Festival, starting in 2019.

Summer
• Celeste Ng, Brian Alexander, Deanne Stillman, Ruth Awad, Sally Derby, and Tamara Bundy were announced as the juried winners of the 2018 Ohioana Book Awards. Tamara also was announced as the winner of the third Ohioana Readers’ Choice Award.
• Christopher Alexander Gellert of Cleveland was announced as the 2018 recipient of the Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, awarded to an Ohio writer age 30 or younger who has not published a book.
• The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theater Research Institute at The Ohio State University, named in honor of the renowned and threetime Ohioana Award-winning playwrights, was profiled in the summer Ohioana Quarterly as our seventh “Ohio Literary Landmark.”
• Ohioana joined with more than twenty other organizations as a program partner for “I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100,” a centennial celebration of the historic literary and art movement.
• Governor Kasich appointed Brian M. Perera of Upper Arlington and re-appointed Carol Garner of Mount Vernon as members of the Ohioana Board of Trustees.

Autumn
• Ohioana Director David Weaver joined Two Dollar Radio HQ owner Erik Obenauf to talk about Columbus books and authors for WOSU’s “Columbus Neighborhoods,” hosted by Charlene Brown.
• The 77th annual Ohioana Awards were presented before a sellout crowd in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium on October 18. All the book award winners were present, while Marvin Grant winner Christopher Alexander Gellert appeared on video. Special guests included Ohio Poet Laureate Dave Lucas. The awards were streamed live by The Ohio Channel and can be viewed on their website: https:// www.ohiochannel.org/video/ohioanaawards-2018
• Ohioana held its 89th annual meeting at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Ellen McDevitt-Stredney was elected as a new trustee, joining re-elected board members Gillian Berchowitz, Louise Musser, John
Sullivan, and Jacquelyn Vaughan. Daniel Shuey, John Sullivan, Bryan Loar, and Jay Yurkiw were elected as officers for 2019-21.
• The fall issue of the Ohioana Quarterly profiled the 2018 Ohioana Book Award winners and featured a story by Marvin Grant recipient Christopher Alexander Gellert. There was also a two-part feature on the “I, Too, Sing America: The Harlem Renaissance at 100” project, including an interview with Larry James and Ohioana Award-winning author Wil Haygood, and a profile of two Ohio authors who were part of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes and Chester Himes, featuring rare items from the Ohioana Collection.
• Ohioana announced that children’s picture book illustrator Tim Bowers of Mount Vernon will design the official poster for the 2019 Ohioana Book Festival.

We are confident that 2019, Ohioana’s 90th anniversary, will be just as good. Happy holidays, and see you next year!

Poetry reviews

posted in: authors, Poetry, Reviews, Writing | 0

We can all use a little more poetry in our lives … maybe a LOT more poetry.

And since we want everyone who reads the Ohioana Quarterly to become familiar with our Ohio poets, we want more poetry reviews.

We’ve been thinking about how to get more of those reviews into the OQ, so we’re taking a moment here in the Ohioana blog to provide a few resources to writers who maybe already review as well those who want to. These are interesting articles as well, and provide good insights.

From Publisher’s Weekly: “What Poetry Reviews are for (and up Against)” by Craig Teicher. From the article: ” ‘The purpose of poetry reviewing is to keep the art of poetry alive,’ says Kevin Prufer, an editor, poet, and prolific reviewer for various literary magazines.”

From Writer’s Digest: “Reviewing Poetry Books: Why Does It Matter?” By Robert Lee Brewer. From the article, an interview with Jeannine Hall Gaily: “If you want to learn how to review a book, read the reviews in some of the literary magazines you already enjoy, but also pick up The New York Times Review of Books, The Women’s Review of Books, Poetry Flash, The Review Review, and The American Book Review.”

From the Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine: “100 Years of Poetry: Re-Reading Reviews” by Joel Brouwer. From the article: “What should a book review do? Analyze, empathize? Compare, contrast? Historicize, contextualize? Defend, demolish? When I started reviewing poetry, I had no idea. I flailed away blindly at each assignment until, somehow, I knocked it out.”

There’s plenty of good ideas here for poets who would like to see their books reviewed as well as hone the craft of writing poetry. By spending time evaluating the work of others, you get a lesson on improving your own work. You also support other poets by giving their work thoughtful consideration.

 

#GivingTuesday

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Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday, an inspiring day of generosity across the globe. We hope you’ll support your favorite nonprofit organizations, including the Ohioana Library Association.

Celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2019, Ohioana connects thousands of readers with Ohio writers through programs including the Ohioana Book Festival, the Ohioana Awards, and the Ohioana Quarterly, and promotes our state as one of America’s great literary centers.

For #GivingTuesday, we are partnering once again with The Columbus Foundation to help you give AND receive! On #GivingTuesday, when you give to Ohioana and one or more other nonprofits through the Foundation’s Giving Store, you’ll receive a $20 Charitable Gift Card as part of the “Give Two on #GivingTuesday” promotion. Redeemable at any of the 1,000+ nonprofits in The Giving Store, these gift cards make excellent presents or stocking stuffers, and are a wonderful way to keep the good going this holiday season.

You can give directly to Ohioana by clicking on this link: https://columbusfoundation.org/the-giving-store/nonprofit-directory-listing/OhioanaLibraryAssociation/454

Please join us for another exciting annual day of giving.

Thank you in advance for your generosity . . . and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

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…and Ohioana is feeling thankful!

2018 has been a banner year for the Ohioana Library Association. To our supporters, partners, patrons, friends, volunteers, board, staff, and fans, we cannot thank you enough for continuing to support Ohioana year after year.

As we head into Ohioana’s 90th Anniversary year, we hope to continue to bring together Ohio readers and writers with the Ohioana Quarterly, events such as the Ohioana Book Festival in April, and much more. Watch this space for many exciting announcements to come in 2019!

Happy Thanksgiving from Ohioana and Cleveland native Dav Pilkey, author of the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, read on YouTube by KK!

 

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Here in Ohio, we enjoy all things spooky. Did you know that Ohio is the state with the most annual haunted house attractions, with 111 in total? It seems that we love being scared, and that goes for our literature as well. If you’re looking for a good book to scare you on Halloween night, look no further. Below is a list of Ohio authors that specialize in stories about the dark and creepy to satisfy your need for thrills and scares.

Photo courtesy of Scholastic

  1. R. L. Stine

Few scary series are more iconic (or more chilling) than R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps. With over 230 books geared at grades 3-7, the Goosebumps series has something to scare everyone. Stine explores tales about everything from ghosts and werewolves to swamp monsters and mummies, and the books have even been adapted into a movie series.

 

Watch below to see R. L. Stine himself discussing the legacy of Goosebumps.

2. Harlan Ellison

Harlan Ellison was a master of sci-fi and speculative fiction, sometimes crossing into horror as well. He is the author of more than 1,700 stories, film and TV scripts, and our library specialist recommends that you start with the short story “I Have No Mouth but I Must Scream”.

3. James A. Willis 

If you’re looking for strange and spooky stories based on Ohio fact, James Willis probably has a book for you! He is the author of The Big Book of Ohio Ghost Stories and Ohio’s Historic Haunts: Investigating the Paranormal in the Buckeye State, among others. History and the paranormal mingle in Willis’s work, and are sure to prove fascinating to anyone familiar with some of Ohio’s notorious haunts.

4. Chris Woodyard

Since 1991, Chris Woodyard has been scaring residents of the Buckeye State with frightening stories that hit close to home. Make sure to explore her website, hauntedohiobooks.com, for tips on where to find ghosts in Ohio, how to write ghost stories of your own, and more.

5. Gary Braunbeck

Gary A. Braunbeck is a prolific author who writes mysteries, thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mainstream literature. He is the author of 19 books and his fiction has received several awards, including the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction in 2003 for “Duty” and in 2005 for “We Now Pause for Station Identification”; his collection Destinations Unknown won a Stoker in 2006. His novella “Kiss of the Mudman” received the International Horror Guild Award for Long Fiction in 2005.

6. Lucy Snyder

Lucy A. Snyder is a five-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author, which should clue you in that she knows her stuff when it comes to scary stories! She wrote the novels SpellbentShotgun Sorceress, and Switchblade Goddess, and the collections While the Black Stars BurnSoft ApocalypsesOrchid CarousalsSparks and Shadows and Chimeric Machines. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Apex MagazineNightmare MagazinePseudopodStrange HorizonsWeird TalesScary Out ThereSeize the Night, and Best Horror of the Year.

7. Tim Waggoner

Shirley Jackson Award finalist Tim Waggoner has published over thirty novels and three short story collections of dark fiction. Most recently published is The Mouth of the Dark, the story of Jayce and his 20-year-old daughter, Emory, who is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, and — worst of all — a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man. But no matter what Shadow throws at him, Jayce won’t stop. He’ll do whatever it takes to find his daughter, even if it means becoming a worse monster than the things that are trying to stop him.

8. Laura Bickle 

Laura Bickle specializes in dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs. She writes for adults and young adults, and her work has been included in the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer Project 2013 reading list and the State Library of Ohio’s Choose to Read Ohio reading list for 2015-2016.

9. Josef Matulich

These aren’t your typical horror stories! Josef Matulich is a master of both laughs and scares, combing humor with horror. Some of his titles include The Ren Faire at the End of the World and 44 Lies by 22 Liars.

10. Dayna Ingram

Dayna Ingram writes science fiction horror for young adults. Of her latest book, Kirkus reviews writes, “”Ingram gives a nightmarish twist to the familiar YA formula of teenagers facing martyrdom by an oppressive society…. An absorbing and poignant YA dystopian fantasy with a convincing heroine.”

The 2019 Ohioana Book Festival application deadline is coming up!

Are you an author who was born in Ohio or has lived in Ohio for five or more years? Have you published a book in the last year? Then fill out an application to attend the 2019 Ohioana Book Festival – and hurry, the deadline is coming up on November 15th!

The Ohioana Book Festival is the perfect place to interact with readers and other Ohio writers!

The Ohioana Book Festival is an annual celebration of literature, featuring all authors with Ohio connections. Authors of all genres for all age levels are welcome, from picture books to nonfiction. The 2019 Festival happens to be a very special occasion, as we will be holding it for the first time at the main branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in Downtown Columbus. Our new space will allow us to be bigger and better than ever!

At the Festival, you’ll be able to sell your new book, as well as up to four older titles if you’d like to. You will be able to interact with readers, as well as other Ohio authors. In addition, you may be able to tap into your expertise by participating in a panel or children’s room program.

The 2019 Ohioana Book Festival is taking place on April 27th, 2019 from 10am-4:30pm. You can find out more about applying on our application page or if you think you’re ready to apply, go ahead and download and fill out the application here. We hope to see you at the Festival!

Clifford is a big fan of the Ohioana Book Festival!

The 77th Annual Ohioana Awards

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It’s nearly here! Tomorrow night is the 77th Annual Ohioana Award ceremony, to be held at the Ohio Statehouse. This year’s crop of winners joins a prestigious club that includes such notable authors as Mary Doria Russell, Wil Haygood, Paula McClain, Toni Morrison, and Anthony Doerr.

The Ohioana Book Awards are the second oldest, and among the most prestigious, state literary prizes in the nation. Nearly every notable Ohio writer of the past 77 years has been honored.

The first Ohioana Book Award, presented in 1942, was given in the category of nonfiction to James Reston’s Prelude to Victory.

Awards for juvenile literature and fiction were first presented in 1943, followed in 1944 by poetry and book about Ohio/an Ohioan, and in 2014, middle grade/young adult literature. To these juried awards, we added a Readers’ Choice Award in 2016, allowing readers to choose their favorite book from among the finalists selected by judges.

 

The 2018 honorees are:

Fiction: Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
Nonfiction: Deanne Stillman, Blood Brothers
Poetry: Ruth Awad, Set to Music a Wildfire
About Ohio or an Ohioan: Brian Alexander, Glass House
Middle Grade / Young Adult: Tamara Bundy, Walking with Miss Millie
Juvenile Literature: Sally Derby, A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices
Reader’s Choice: Tamara Bundy, Walking with Miss Millie

 

Additionally, at the Ohioana Award ceremony, we also present the Walter Rumsey Marvin Grant, which is awarded annually to a writer under the age of 30 who has not yet published a book. This year’s winner is Christopher Alexander Gellert. He joins the likes of Jeannie Vanasco, Ellis Avery, Anthony Doerr, Shari Goldhagen, Bernard Farai Matambo, Sarah Menkedick, and many more writers who have gone on to publish award-winning books.

 

Congratulations to all of our winners! For more information about them, see the Fall issue of the Ohioana Quarterly. To learn more about previous winners of the Ohioana Awards, click here, and to watch previous ceremonies click here.

Follow Ohioana on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for live updates during the event, and tune in to the Ohio Channel to watch the whole ceremony live!

Reviewers Wanted!

posted in: reading, Reviews, Writing | 0

Hansen writing ball, 1965. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Have you ever wanted to tell everyone about a book that you really, really like? Maybe the book hasn’t gotten enough attention. Maybe the book’s Ohio connection isn’t very well known and you’d like to fix that.

Now’s your chance to spread the word: become a reviewer for the Ohioana Quarterly and let the world know about great books!

The OQ has been around since 1958, and was created to promote Ohio authors and books. Today, the publication is found in homes and libraries across the state. Each issue has unique features and interviews, a list of books received, literary goings-on around the state, and reviews of new books received by the library.

We are always on the lookout for thoughtful reviews to support our authors, and we pay in love as well as in a book and a contributor’s copy.

Would you like to help? You can learn more about writing reviews here.

You’re also always welcome to write to the editor, who can be reached at editor@Ohioana.org.

Thank you, as ever, for your support!

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