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.
Although autumn doesn’t officially start until September 22nd, it certainly already feels as if the seasons have changed. The chilly, rainy weather of this past week might bring to mind thoughts of changing leaves, pumpkin pie and shorter days. Here at Ohioana, it also reminds us of the myriad of literary events that happen around the state during the autumn. Whether you’re looking to hear your favorite author speak about their work, get a book signed, or buy something new to read, there should be something to satisfy you in the coming months. Check out our list below for some literary events around Ohio this fall that you shouldn’t miss.
Cleveland Public Poetry: Featuring Maxwell Shell
When: September 15th, 12:00pm-1:00pm
Where: Literature Department, Main Library, 325 Superior Ave., 2nd FL
What: “Ohio Center for the Book and Cleveland Public Library invite you to celebrate the changing of the season amidst the readings of written and spoken-word poetry, with our special guest reader poet MaxWell Shell. After a brief Q&A, the mic will open for others to read an original or favorite work. Free refreshments and snacks provided. Door prizes, too!”
What: “In partnership with Columbus City Schools, Gramercy Books welcomes award-winning author and journalist, Wil Haygood, to Columbus East High School for his national book tour launch of Tigerland:1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing. Haygood will share the story of Columbus’ own East High School Tigers, who won baseball and basketball state championships in the midst of the racial turbulence and segregation of the late 1960s, and how they inspired a community.”
Admission: Free, but tickets must be reserved through Eventbrite
Where: Schottenstein Theatre at Bexley High School
326 South Cassingham Road
Bexley , OH 43229
What: “Join us in welcoming Columbus’ own, Wil Haygood, for a special afternoon featuring his new book, Tigerland:1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing, an emotional, inspiring story of two teams from a poor, black, segregated high school in Columbus, who, in the midst of the racial turbulence of 1968/1969, win the Ohio state baseball and basketball championships in the same year. This program, to include an author talk, reading and book signing, is presented in partnership with Bexley Public Library.”
What: “Wil Haygood, Pulitzer-nominated journalist and New York Times best-selling author of The Butler and Showdown will be discussing his new book, Tigerland: 1968-1969: A City Divided, a Nation Torn Apart, and a Magical Season of Healing. Tigerland tells the story of Columbus’ East High School Tigers, baseball and basketball teams from a poor, black, segregated high school that each won two Ohio state championships in the same year, uniting a racially-charged community in the aftermath of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. Haygood is praised for connecting the civil rights movement and its iconic heroes with current events and enduring struggles. Above all, he brings the powerful perspective that this is the history of all Americans, shaping our national identity and common values. Haygood will be interviewed by his friend, Michael Carter, chief diversity officer at Sinclair Community College. Copies of Tigerland, in addition to other titles by Haygood, will be available for purchase. A book signing will follow the presentation.”
What: “This year’s festival will feature accomplished visiting writers, a book fair, a caucus for literary arts nonprofits, panels on many aspects of the literary arts, craft talks, workshops and readings in fiction, nonfiction and poetry.”
When: September 27th-30th, check website for times
Where: Varying locations, check website for more information
What: “CXC is a free, citywide arts festival hosted every year by people and places with a passion for cartoon arts. CXC connects the global family of cartoon storytellers, comic makers, and animators with the people who love and are inspired by their art. Together, they celebrate the stories that can only be told in visual media that are as diverse as the people who imagined them.”
What: “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 76 years has been honored. Tickets for the Awards go on sale on September 15th.”
What: “The premiere event is the Books by the Banks Cincinnati Regional Book Festival held annually in downtown Cincinnati. The day-long festival, which is free and open to the public, features national, regional, and local authors and illustrators; book signings; panel discussions; and activities for the entire family to enjoy.”
What: The Pickerington Teen Book Fest is free and open to the public! Add this event now to your calendars, and get ready to spend one incredible day with twelve incredible authors of teen and young adult fiction!
Today is Day One of National Novel Writing Month, the writing sensation that’s been sweeping the nation every November since 1999. So let’s all party like it’s 1999, fuel up on the java, and get some writing done!
In 2016, 384,126 participants, including 71,229 students and educators in the Young Writers Program, started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
There are six official events here in Central Ohio today to help get things started including virtual write-alongs and coffee shop meetings. Then there are mentoring and encouragement sessions, and places and spaces to just hang out and work. If you sign up, go to the “Regions” tab on the drop down menu to find both new friends and great locations. Glorisky! There’s over 7,000 people in Columbus, more than 5,000 in Cleveland, and over 400 in Black Swamp (I want to go THERE and write, don’t you?)
It’s easy to join as well as free — although like all good and worthwhile things, a donation is much appreciated to pay for outreach and engagement.
There are two great opportunities for area writers coming up this month, and there’s still time to register!
The Thurber House, where laughter, learning, and literature meet, begins its adult two-session writing workshops on September 11 with Revise Like a Rock Star. Deadline for registrations is soon: September 4.
SICCO (Sisters in Crime Columbus Ohio), the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, an international organization promoting women in crime writing, is hosting a day-long forensics writing workshop on Sept. 23. The event is at the lodge at Blacklick Woods Metro Park.
Ohio author Andrew Welsh-Huggins is the keynote speaker along with a U.S. marshal, a state crime investigator and a Columbus police detective. Registration is $60, which includes breakfast, lunch and a reception at day’s end. Buy tickets here.
We asked Amy Gustine, one of our Ohioana Award Fiction finalists, to provide some insight about her work. Amy, thanks so much for taking the time to do this. We appreciate your work and your support of Ohioana!
Ohioana: What inspired you to write your stories? Amy Gustine: The collection is made up of stories written over the course of ten years, so each one has its own origin story. In general, though, I’m intrigued by the unanswered questions and the peripheral people in news stories—the things happening behind the scenes. The title story, for example, started with wondering about the experience of being married to someone like Christopher Hitchens, a very vocal, public atheist intensely critical of religion. As the story developed, obviously it wasn’t Christopher Hitchens’ actual spouse I was interested in, but rather the person I imagined in Molly, whose ambivalence sometimes clashes with her husband Simon’s unyielding certainty. I’m generally interested in morality—its source, its internal conflicts—and so that also was a natural fit for this story. The character of Adoo in the story was inspired by an article I happen to read about an uncontacted tribe of people infected by the common cold in Peru. Except for a small number of children, the tribe perished, and the children had to be placed in adoptive homes in the U.S. and Canada. As so often happens in my work, many seemingly disparate incidents or people I read or hear about come together like puzzle pieces to create something new.
Ohioana: How does a sense of place inform your work? If that place happens to be Ohio, would love your thoughts on that. Amy Gustine: I grew up in Toledo, Ohio in a small family of introverted homebodies and I don’t have any aunts, uncles or first cousins. For me, then, place has always started at home, and setting and society were for a long time overshadowed in my imagination by intimate relationships. I’ve worked consciously to step out of the house, to look up and down the street and across town imaginatively, but even that process started with my family. My grandparents were working people. During the Depression one of grandfather’s picked up bricks for a dollar a day and was involved with the early union movement in Toledo. One of my grandmother’s was the first woman to work at a large chemical lab in town. This type of family experience fed an interest in local history, which led to stories on things like the famous 1934 Auto-Lite strike here in Toledo, a defining moment in the development of labor protections. One of my great aunts was a scab in that strike, and the rift it caused never completely healed. So relationships are always the starting point in my work, and setting follows from them. Beginning with the characters is the only way I’m able to enter the work emotionally, to attach myself enough to walk the long fictional road, but I have found that I’ve grown more sensitized over the years to the way that place creates character, the way the physical and social landscape shapes us. That’s where setting becomes interesting to me—where it impacts character.
Ohioana: Can you tell us about your writing process? AmyGustine: People talk about being a planner or a “pantser.” In other words, you either figure the plot and characters out ahead of time, or you start writing and see where it goes, flying by the seat of your pants. E.L. Doctorow famously split the difference, saying that writing was like driving at night in fog: you can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way. I’d say my process is closest to Doctorow’s, but more serpentine and loopy. I’m driving at night, in the dark, consulting a map I drew that is in fact just the roughest sketch of what I assume the landscape and roads look like. I discover the flaws in the map as I write, the forks in the road, the detours and potholes. I spy interesting stops and surprise exits, too, then I realize I forgot something at one of those stops and have to double back. In other words, I plan, then I write, then I re-plan, then I write some more, and on and on as I narrow down the project. I’m always too ambitious to begin with, and inevitably have to be content with the destination I achieve rather than the one I hoped to reach.
Ohioana: What would you like to tell us about the publishing process? AmyGustine: My publishing experience with Sarabande Books was uniformly wonderful. The managing editor at the time, Kirby Gann, made significant editorial suggestions about one of the eleven stories in the collection, and his comments proved very astute. The revisions made it a much better work. Each of the other stories was thoroughly, carefully line-edited, which I really appreciated. When the book came out I felt confident that it truly was the best it could be. I learned some things about promoting a book by working with Sarabande’s publicist, the fantastic Ariel Lewiton, but I would certainly be keen to know more. It’s kind of an opaque process for a writer outside the central literary world of New York City.
Ohioana: What would you tell anyone who wants to write a novel or story collection? AmyGustine: Read novels and stories you like two and three times. Read them first for fun, then again to spot what I call “the strings”—like a puppet in a theatre. There are so many choices when you construct something out of nothing. Point of view. Order of scenes. Which scenes to relate in detail, which to summarize. What part of the characters’ past to relate. What tone to use. How to divide up the text into chunks—sections, chapters, parts. How to label those parts, or whether to label them at all. The choices are so staggering, and each work so magically unique in its success, that the aspiring writer has a tremendous uphill learning curve. They’ll have to grab on and start learning in earnest. Part of this will be giving up a great deal of the innocent, easy pleasure of letting a great author chauffer you around town without paying attention to the route.
Ohioana: What are you currently working on? AmyGustine: I’m writing a novel about a real person—a politically and cultural important woman with a complex, controversial legacy. The novel spans a lot of time, involves a lot of hot-button issues, and features a lot of major historical events, so the road is long, curvy, bumpy, and I don’t have a great map. It feels less like driving and more like crawling on my knees.
Ohioana: Any inspirational quotes from other writers that you enjoy? AmyGustine: I got that last one from Vladimir Holan. “From the sketch to the work one travels on one’s knees.”
One of my favorites is Ernest Hemingway’s dictum: “The first draft of anything is shit.” That might sound depressing, but it’s just the opposite for me. The idea that I have to write something good today is paralyzing. It’s especially terrifying during the first draft of a long project. When I think of Hemingway’s words, I think okay, so I’m going to write a piece of shit today. Tomorrow I’ll worry about trying to polish a turd into a golden nugget. That gets SOMETHING on the page to work with, and something is always infinitely better than nothing.
A couple of other helpers I cling to include:
“When you get stuck, go back to the physical world.”
“Write simple sentences. Report. Don’t moralize. No pretensions.”
In recognition of the five finalists in fiction for the Ohioana Book Award, we’re featuring a question and answer with each author over the next few weeks.
This week’s post features Tiffany McDaniel. Tiffany is an Ohio native whose writing is inspired by the rolling hills and buckeye woods of the land she knows. A poet and artist, she is the winner of The Guardian’s 2016 “Not-the-Booker Prize” for her debut novel, The Summer that Melted Everything. The novel was also a Goodreads Choice Award double nominee in both fiction and debut categories, is a current nominee for the Lillian Smith Book Award, and has recently been announced as a finalist for the Ohioana Literary Award and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Star Award for Outstanding Debut.
Ohioana: What inspired you to write your novel?
Tiffany McDaniel: The Summer that Melted Everything started as a title. It was one of those hot Ohio summers that I felt like I was melting to a puddle on the green grass and dandelion ground. A little arranging of words and the title was born. I always say what inspires me are the characters. I’m inspired by their very presence, to do right by them and to write their truths to the best of my ability.
O:How does a sense of place inform your work? If that place happens to be Ohio, would love your thoughts on that.
TMcD: I have eight completed novels (yet to be published) and so far they’ve all taken place in Breathed, Ohio, a fictional town based on my childhood summers and school-year weekends I spent on the hilly acreage my father was left by his parents. The acreage is in the southeastern portion of Ohio, in the foothills of the Appalachians where the nights are mythical and starred while the hills sing you to sleep. It is a landscape that has shaped me as an author. I always say cut me open and fireflies will fly out of me in a moonshine madness.
O: Can you tell us about your writing process?
TMcD: I never outline. I think planning a story too much can domesticate it, and I like to preserve the story’s wild soul so it can beat on with the thunder. I like for the story to evolve with each new word and page that I write. It’s like turning on a faucet. Sometimes you only have a drop of water. Others times you have a flood. The thing about writing is that you just have to be present and ready with a big ol’ bowl to catch whatever comes out of that big ol’ faucet.
O: What would you like to tell us about the publishing process?
TMcD: While The Summer that Melted Everything is my first published novel, it’s actually my fifth or sixth novel written. I wrote my first novel when I was eighteen and wouldn’t get a publishing contract until I was twenty-nine for The Summer that Melted Everything. For me, it was a long eleven-year journey full of lots of rejection and perseverance. I was told my writing was too dark and too risky. For the most part, publishing has been an uphill battle, but the struggle has made me the author I am today. An author who knows the value of determination and the value of each and every reader.
O: What would you tell anyone who wants to write a novel?
TMcD: To never give up. Like I said, it took me eleven years to get a publisher. If you’re really serious about being a published author, be willing to put in the hard work and have plenty of patience should it come to that. The biggest thing is to never get discouraged. Don’t let rejection destroy you. Let it empower you.
O: What are you currently working on?
TMcD: I’ve returned to that very first novel I wrote when I was eighteen. It’s inspired by my mother’s coming-of-age in southern Ohio from the 1950s to the early 1970s. It feels like a good time to return to this story and to these characters.
O: Any inspirational quotes from other writers that you enjoy?
“Don’t talk about it; write.” Ray Bradbury, author of Dandelion Wine, one of my favorite books
“If you don’t like my peaches, don’t shake my tree.”-Shirley Jackson, author of We Have Always Lived in the Castle, another favorite book of mine.
My last quote isn’t from the author speaking outside of a work, but rather from a poet speaking within his work. From Ohio poet James Wright. From his poem, “To a Blossoming Pear Tree”:
“For if you could only listen,
I would tell you something,
It’s a beautiful quote because something human is the best thing we can hope to tell each other.