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During the academic year, much of my reading is also rooted in the classroom, from essays by the likes of Nicholas Kristof to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. I love introducing it to students, winning them over to Shakespeare. Its focus on the murder of Blacks by police was handled with an unflinching truth and sense of fairness that impressed. Thomas spotlighted our national shame, avoiding heavy-handedness, while leaving me with a very heavy heart.

We have much work to do. Each reminds me that by being bold, authentic, and unafraid to tackle dark topics--abuse, mental illness, racism--tempered with humor, we provide a space for readers to meet individuals who share their struggles, and to develop empathy for others' unique burdens. Donoghue's writing mined beauty and power from a situation that could have remained merely horrific.

McEwan's book, with its Hamlet allusion and pre-natal narrator, reminded me anything is possible in crafting written worlds. As a poet, I treasure poetry collections for their lessons on image and economy of words. My fiction benefits from the distillation of language I've learned reading and writing poems. I'm currently loving a limited edition chapbook, Dinner Parites , by my dear friend and mentor, Edwina Trentham. Her collection, Stumbling Into the Light , from Antrim House, never ceases to move me, inspiring my own writing. I'm a believer in the importance of every word, whether I'm writing a sestina or a novel.

The works and writers I've mentioned are ones I return to often in search of that vein-deep connection we only find through words in white space. They never disappoint.

Notes on reading, writing, books & publishing

Visit Steven Parlato's website. Monday, February 19, Jennifer Brown. She lives in the Kansas City, Missouri, area with her husband and children. Brown's latest novel is Break Us. Brown's reply: Right now I am reading a crazy amount of YA and middle grade books, and they have all been really great. But there is one that stands out as the book that had me completely engrossed and will stay with me forever: Allegedly by Tiffany D. This means she must not only go up against the court of public opinion and the reluctant and sometimes biased justice system itself—but more frighteningly—the powerful force that is her very religious mother.

The voices in this book are so astonishingly real, I felt at times as if I was standing right there in the group home with these girls. Jackson pulls no punches, never shying away from the truth, and giving each character their own very individual, brutally honest voice.

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It reminded me of Orange is the New Black , only with higher stakes and more empathy. I love gritty stories that make me think, and I gravitate toward books that have me questioning my own insulated suburban paradigms. Decisions, truth and lies, race, compassion…goodness, this book has it all! Incidentally, I listened to the audio version of this book, and Bahni Turpin did an amazing job bringing just the right voice to these characters. If you have the inclination to listen, you should totally do so.

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This is Tiffany D. Visit Jennifer Brown's website. Sunday, February 18, Joanne Serling. She lives outside of New York with her husband and children. It started with Boys of my Youth by Jo Ann Beard, a series of interconnected essays that read like short stories. Each one blew me away with their emotional depth and beauty. And they were funny! I then dipped into Love and Trouble: a Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer, which really got me thinking about how closely our sexual selves are tied to our identity. Dederer is a courageous, honest and also, a very funny writer. Visit Joanne Serling's website.

Saturday, February 17, Tom Sweterlitsch.

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  8. Tom Sweterlitsch was born in Iowa and grew up in Ohio. His first novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow was published in Before becoming a writer, he worked for the Carnegie Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped for twelve years. Sweterlitsch's new novel is The Gone World. He lives in Pittsburgh with his wife and daughter. There is a central mystery but also stories-within-stories as the various conference attendees give their presentations. I highly recommend reading his books.

    Visit Tom Sweterlitsch's website. Friday, February 16, Susan Meissner. Susan Meissner is a multi-published author, speaker and writing workshop leader with a background in community journalism. Her latest novel is As Bright as Heaven. Recently I asked Meissner about what she was reading. Her reply: One of the delights of having fellow authors for friends is getting to read their newest books early. Anderson spent her lifetime claiming she had survived the brutal execution of the rest of her family. Lawhon has constructed a cleverly engaging look at both Anastasia Romanov of history and the woman who claimed until her dying day to be the sole surviving daughter of the last tsar of Russia.

    It is a non-linear tale, in that part of the story moves forward and part moves backward, but I loved how the story played out that way.

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    It was a very unique architecture that was probably not easy to pull off, but Lawhon is a master storyteller and she totally made it work. It is a dual time periods tale about a contemporary American woman of Cuban descent who travels to Havana to fulfill the wish of a beloved grandmother who asked that her ashes be taken back home to Cuba. And the cover is absolutely beautiful. But Penny is such a great writer and the stories can and do standalone. My most recent read was The Long Way Home, which is number ten.

    I am now listening to number two, A Fatal Grace. The cast of recurring characters in these Inspector Gamache books feel like family to me now and the setting, a fictional town called Three Pines in the rural environs of Montreal, Quebec, is a place I wish so very much I could visit. Like all murder mysteries there is always a dead body or two, and the whodunit is a key element of all of them, but along with those genre-specific staples there is always enjoyable, engaging, and insightful storytelling.

    Visit Susan Meissner's website. Thursday, February 15, R. Stearns wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. She went on to annoy all of her teachers by reading books while they lectured.

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    7. Eventually she read and wrote enough to earn a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Central Florida. She is hoping for an honorary doctorate. When not writing or working, R. Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references internet memes in meatspace. Stearns' debut novel is Barbary Station. Its original appeal was "Lovecraftian story written by a queer woman," which I always hope will result in a story that gets away from Lovecraft's well-known sexism and racism. Winter Tide plainly addresses those issues, and more.

      Stories from the Flannery O'Connor Award: A 30th Anniversary Anthology: The Early Years

      It doesn't shy away from a single difficult topic, including how racial minorities and gay folks were treated in the U. Did I mention it's a period piece? It's a period piece. Winter Tide is wonderfully quotable. I have been reading lines aloud to my friends and relations. For example: "Even the most ill-formed words, set to paper, are a great blessing.

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      Some of the text is especially Lovecraftian, but most of the time Winter Tide reads better and has more depth of feeling than anything he ever wrote and I would know, because I've read everything he wrote. So, yes, this is a delightful novel.

      I recommend it to anybody who likes weird fiction, and to all Lovecraft fans, and to people who wish that the America of the Cold War Era had been more magical. Visit R. Stearns's website and Twitter perch. Wednesday, February 14, Lisa Black. Her books have been translated into six languages, one reached the New York Times bestsellers list and one has been optioned for film and a possible TV series.