Sharing Memorable Summer Reads

Posted June 3rd, 2014 by Jen Bryant

I wish, like my recent biographical subject Peter Mark Roget, I had kept lists of my favorite books from summers past. Alas, I did not! However, here are several titles I remember reading—and loving—in the months of June, July and August. They represent a wide range of subjects and genres and were chosen with compete disregard for “intended age groups.” If you’ve also read any of these, or want to share your own recommendation for a great summer read, leave a comment below . . .

One Summer: America in 1927, by Bill Bryson (non-fiction). You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. The author’s factual accounts of Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone and others make this read like fine fiction. Despite the notable lack of women profiled here, this is an interesting read.

6_3stripMarcelo in the Real World, by Francisco X. Stork (novel). A beautifully written coming-of-age story about the summer that Marcelo, who has an autism-like impairment, works in a law office and learns about life, love, and change.

47, by Walter Mosley (novel, historical fantasy). 47 is a 14-year-old slave with a horrible master. His journey to freedom is tinged with magic, but Mosley’s realism is what shines here. You won’t easily forget the characters in this book—or the setting.

Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson (novelized non-fiction). Larson is a brilliant writer whose copious research buoys the narrative in this historical thriller set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair.

The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver (novel). In 1959, a southern Baptist preacher, his wife and daughters move to the Belgian Congo where the preacher attempts to evangelize the native families. Narrated alternatively by the women, it’s wise, intelligent, funny, tragic. . . . and masterfully written.

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett (novel). A group of international guests are taken hostage by a group of South American rebels. That’s a simple plot-summary, but the book is oh-so MUCH more than that! On both sides of the situation, each person is revealed, through Patchett’s brilliant writing, to be strikingly complex: hopeful, courageous, flawed, and afraid.

Dakota: A Spiritual Geography, by Kathleen Norris (non-fiction/ memoir). Norris’s sense of place and how it shapes its inhabitants is insightful and wise. Like her poetry, her prose style is elegant and straightforward, and her candid observations of human nature reveal equal parts vulnerability and strength.

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith, by Anne Lamott (non-fiction/memoir). She’s wise, she’s funny, and she’s oh-so-human. You can’t read anything Lamott writes without laughing and crying—often at the same time.

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Kick Back and Learn Something

Posted May 12th, 2014 by Jen Bryant

With all of the demands on individuals and families today, one way to squeeze in some quality time with everyone in your household is to find a book or a movie that you can enjoy together. (Not easy, I know!) However . . . here are a few suggestions to get you & your family reading/ viewing/ talking about the same subject, but with books and movies for multiple age groups. If you have others you’d like to add, please leave a comment!

The TrialSubject: Lindbergh Kidnapping Case; Charles Lindbergh
Books for adults:

  • The Lindbergh Case (by Jim Fisher)
  • Lindbergh (by A. Scott Berg)
  • New Jersey’s Lindbergh Kidnapping and Trial (by Falzini & Davidson)
  • The Airman and the Carpenter: The Lindbergh Kidnapping and the Framing of Richard Hauptman (by Ludovic Kennedy)

Books for kids:

  • The Trial (a novel in verse by Jen Bryant)
  • The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Trial (Headline Court Cases, by J. Monroe)
  • New Jersey’s Lindbergh Kidnapping and Trial (by Falzini & Davidson)                                       

Movies:

  • The Spirit of St. Louis (starring Jimmy Stewart)
  • Crime of the Century (starring Stephen Rea & Isabella Rossellini).

 
bk_ASOR120Subject: Horace Pippin, Painter; African American Soldiers in WWI
Books for teens/adults:

  • The Harlem Hellfighters (by Max Brooks & Canaan White)
  • A More Unbending Battle: The Harlem Hellfighter’s Struggle for Freedom in WWI and Equality at Home (by Peter N. Nelson)
  • I Tell My Heart (edit. by Judith E. Stein)

Books for kids:

  • A Splash of Red (by Bryant & Sweet)
  • Starting Home: The Story of Horace Pippin, Painter (by Mary Lyons)
  • Horace Pippin (by Mike Venezia)

Georgia_s_Bones
Subject: Georgia O’Keeffe, painter
Books for adults:

  • Georgia O’Keeffe: A Life (by Roxanna Robinson)
  • Georgia O’Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu (by Barbara B. Lyons & A. Lopez)

Books for kids:

  • Georgia’s Bones (Bryant & Anderson)
  • My Name is Georgia (Jeanette Winters)
  • Georgia O’Keeffe (Mike Venezia)
  • Through Georgia’s Eyes (Rodriguez & Paschkis)

Movies:

  • Georgia O’Keeffe (Joan Allen, Jeremy Irons)
  • Great Women Artists: Georgia O’Keefe (D. Mougenot, Director)

 And here are more.

Who did it? Who knows?

Posted September 17th, 2013 by Jen Bryant

Charles LindberghSeptember 14th marked the 60th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s published account of his historic flight. 

In my verse novel The Trial, the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month old son from the second floor bedroom of the aviator’s home in Hopewell, NJ, the subsequent police investigation, and the six-week criminal trial, are seen through eyes of a 12-year old protagonist. The novel remains a classroom favorite because of the still-unsolved nature of the case as well as the intimacy of the narration. One boy wrote to me and said: “Ms. Bryant, after reading your book, I don’t think Bruno Richard Hauptmann was the real kidnapper. There was no real proof that he was there that night at all. I think the jury just got tired of sitting still for so long and there was no one else to blame, so they said he was guilty.” 

The TrialSo—what do you think? Was Hauptmann the kidnapper?  If so, did he work alone? If not—was it an inside job? A funny family prank that went horribly wrong? A well-organized caper by a gang of professional criminals? 

There are many theories. There are few reliable clues. There are no eyewitnesses.

Here are some links where you can explore the life and work of Charles Lindbergh as well as to ponder what might have happened on that windy night in Hopewell, NJ, March 1, 1932. Tell us what you think!

RESOURCES

Wanted posterThe Lindbergh kidnapping, article on Wikipedia

Lindbergh Trial, special section from the Hunterdon County Democrat

New Jersey’s Lindbergh Kidnapping and Trial, a photographic history of “the case that never dies”

“Why the Delay?” Archival Ramblings, Mark W. Falzini, New Jersey State Police Museum

Charles Lindbergh, article on Wikipedia

The Spirit of St. Louis, Charles Lindbergh’s autobiography

The American Experience: Lindbergh, WGBH/PBS 

 Lindbergh case, the first ransom note

Winning isn’t everything, but it’s FUN!

Posted September 9th, 2013 by Jen Bryant

basket_2August contest winners were chosen from all of the book-lovers who “liked” my Facebook page, commented on or “liked” Fb posts or blog posts, signed up for my Flying Tidings newsletter, or otherwise interacted with these pages. Thanks to all who entered—and because we love people who love books, we’re sending signed book copies to a few runners-up, just as we did in our July contest.  If you see your name here, PLEASE email Jen at this address: jen@nulljenbryant.com and tell me the mailing address where you’d like to receive your prize, and also (if I don’t already have it) your preferred email address. If you’re a runner-up, let me know which of my books you’d like to have signed and sent to you. And if you DON’T see your name here,  keep checking back for new contests in the Fall . . . .

 Here are the August contest results:

  •  Pieces of Georgia basket: Amy Thomas
  •  The Fortune of Carmen Navarro basket: Christine Detrick
  •  Runners-up, signed book copy of your choice:  
    Karen Venuto, Sue Baldwin-Way, Linda Baie, Cathy Stout

 Thanks again to everyone who participated,

Jen 

Labor [only] of Love?

Posted September 2nd, 2013 by Jen Bryant

Glass artist at work.

Glass artist at work.

Making a decent living in the arts has always been a challenge. It takes a long time to find one’s voice, style, and rhythm, and during this time one has to eat!

To commemorate the commitment to LABOR on this Labor Day, here’s a list of writers and artists and a mixed-up list of the jobs they held  before–or while–they pursued their creative lives. The first TWO people to email me the correct match-ups will receive a signed JB book copy of their choosing. Good luck!  

Gretel Ehrlich

Langston Hughes

Georgia O’Keeffe

Philip Levine

Wm. Carlos Williams

Barbara Kingsolver

Robert Frost

Wallace Stevens

Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Maya Angelou

trauma therapist, counselor

director, producer, actress

lab technician, biology professor

farmer

advertising graphic designer

Wyoming sheep rancher

cook & seaman

pediatrician, obstetrician 

insurance executive  

industrial auto worker

9_2-double

 

Another Chance …

Posted August 15th, 2013 by Jen Bryant

to win!

Time to launch another giveaway. The details are on my contest page, but here’s a good look at the prizes. Good luck!

Pieces of Georgia basket: signed hardback copy of novel; leather writing journal & pens; colored pencil set w/ storage sac; sketch pad; lilac silk flowers; watercolor paints; poster.

Pieces of Georgia basket: signed hardback copy of novel; leather writing journal & pens; colored pencil set w/ storage sac; sketch pad; lilac silk flowers; watercolor paints; poster.

 

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro basket: signed hardback copy of the novel; poster; red silk roses; VFMA mug; deck of “Daring Ladies” cards; RED themed stationary; Flamenco music CD; copy of classic novella Carmen & other stories, by Prosper Merimee.

The Fortune of Carmen Navarro basket: signed hardback copy of the novel; poster; red silk roses; VFMA mug; deck of “Daring Ladies” cards; RED themed stationary; Flamenco music CD; copy of classic novella Carmen & other stories, by Prosper Merimee.

 

Travel Back in Time

Posted August 8th, 2013 by Jen Bryant

bk_kaleid_140Take a peek at the excellent “1968” exhibit now at The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Last Spring, I saw this same exhibit at the Heinz Museum in Pittsburgh and couldn’t believe how much of what was on display pairs perfectly with the events experienced by the three teen protagonists in my novel Kaleidoscope Eyes. If you have the chance to go and see this while it’s in Philly, send me a photo of your visit there and I’ll send you a signed copy of the novel. If you’re an educator, watch for where this exhibit travels next and take your students to see it as they read the novel.

 

68strip 

And the Winner Is…

Posted August 6th, 2013 by Jen Bryant

baskets

July Contest winners were chosen from all of the book-lovers who “liked” my Facebook page, commented on or “liked” Fb posts or blog posts, signed up for my Flying Tidings newsletter, or otherwise interacted with these pages. BIG thanks to all of you who entered—and because the response was so terrific, we decided to give away signed book copies to two runners-up. If you see your name here, PLEASE email Jen at this address: jen@nulljenbryant.com and tell me the mailing address where you’d like to receive your prize, and also (if I don’t already have it) your preferred email address. If you’re a runner-up, let me know which of my books you’d like to have signed and sent to you.

 Here are the results:

 A Splash of Red basket: Colleen Kosinski

Kaleidoscope Eyes basket: Constance Pappas

1st runner-up, signed book copy of your choice: Evie Hoober Hershey

2nd runner-up, signed book copy of your choice: Nancy Harvey

 Thanks to everyone for their participation. Stay tuned to FB & Blog pages for the August contest!

Jen 

Pippin’s Gravesite in Full View

Posted August 1st, 2013 by Jen Bryant

pencils & hen illus. copyright 2013 Mel

illus. copyright 2013 Melissa Sweet

Just when you think no one cares . . . you find out that they really DO! WCU librarian Christina McCawley attended the program I was a part of in February at the Chester County Historical Society. After I shared my slides and talked about doing research on Pippin’s life and work, we had a period of discussion, during which local artist Jay Fuhrman made an announcement about the overgrown state of Pippin’s grave site. He proposed that anyone having any interest or knowledge about local permissions, etc. might want to look into it to see if anything could be done to clear away the brush and debris. Ms. McCawley was obviously listening, and took it upon herself to pursue the funding and cleaning up of the area around Pippin’s grave. On behalf of everyone who loves Pippin’s work and has been inspired by his life, I’d like to say “THANK YOU, Christina McCawley!” Read all about it here!         

 

What Inspires You?

Posted July 25th, 2013 by Jen Bryant

7_25verticleI love the fact that the etymology of “inspire” is rooted in the body, that it’s a physical manifestation of the metaphysical. (After all, that’s what writers—and other artists—do, isn’t it? Make the invisible visible?) In that sense, the word translates as “giving breath to” or “inflaming.” Whenever I give a workshop or talk to aspiring writers, I emphasize the role that our bodies have in perception and memory. I urge them to set their stories in places they know well, using their stored perceptions of that place: what it looks like, sounds like, smells like, etc—in order to bring their scenes and characters to life.

The part of “inspire” that I object to is the implied assumption that the act of writing is somehow magical and immediate, that it comes from outside of the writer, and that certain people “have it” and others don’t. (Not true!) 7_25verticleBWhen I visit a school, talk to a book group, or do a library presentation, someone inevitably asks that question: “What inspires you to write your books?”—and I always struggle to answer it. On the one hand, I don’t want to shortchange the labor –the time, effort, false starts, rewrites and sheer perseverance—that it takes to bring every poem, story, essay or novel to fruition. On the other hand, I recognize that there are certain moments in the creative process where things “click”—where disparate ideas or images present themselves as useable material, and seem to do so without the writer’s conscious intervention.

But these are not “magic.” I prefer instead to view them as triggers or generators and I believe that, for me, my stories are most often triggered by place. Small towns, barnyards, artists’ homes and studios, museums and courtrooms, are examples of places that have spawned my novels, poems, and biographies. Other writers are not as inspired by place, but instead are triggered by dialogue, music, or personal experience.

How about you? What makes you want to write, paint, dance, compose, or sing?

7_25pig

 

 

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