A Boss Blogs About Her Mate

beth wareham, co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books

I did something ridiculous; I published my husband. That’s him – a music critic at the New York Times – looking decidedly unlike any classical music critic I’ve ever seen. His book is entitled Something I Heard, and if you love music – and more importantly, GREAT writing – he’s your guy (along with The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, once a young critic under my husband’s tenure as chief critic.)

I’m no classical music fan. Hendrix is my go-to and I’ve been waiting for Cardi B all my life. But I’ve learned about classical music – oh, how I’ve learned – sitting in concert halls around the world with him, rushing up the aisle so he could get home to file his review. I know my Haydn and found out I’m an Alban Berg fan (who knew?)  I’ve been to Puccini’s house, saw Wagner operas in Berlin and know where Dvorak  wrote Rusalka. Weird, right?

But that’s not why I fell in with the dude. I fell in love with a writer and what he wrote and what he read. In his book Something I Heard, you’ll hear it, great writing like this:

Tango I

“The tango is sublimated warfare. It rarely smiles. Elegance, ritual and a deep dignity win out over darker impulses. In a single Argentine dance form the universal paradoxes of romance between two human beings seem to gather.”

That’s one hot paragraph and it’s what the guy does, boiling intense experience into a few tight sentences.  It’s the writing that he’s known for, but don’t ask me. Ask The New Yorker. They say, “no one today can match the limpid elegance and intellectual precision of his style, which recall the heyday of Virgil Thomson.”

Wow. That’s some praise. I do chase him about the house yelling, “what does Mr. Limpid say to that, huh?” But man, what praise. I agree with those rascals at The New Yorker. If you want to understand music more deeply or just want to roll around in great writing, this just may be your book. But what do I know, I’m just the wife.

To order Something I Heard, click on the title.

Formats: e-book, paperback, hardcover, audio book

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TIME FOR SUMMER

From Gabrielle Myers, celebrated chef, poet and author of HIVE MIND.

“In powerful lyric prose that sometimes can’t help give way to poetry…Gabrielle Myers sings her own, very personal love song to the soil under all of our feet. The voice in Hive-Mind is complicated, edgy, vulnerable and deeply in love with fig trees, cherry tomatoes, and the sound of crickets on a hundred and ten degree summer day.  In these dark, environmentally catastrophic times, we need books like this one to shake us out of our slumber, remind us where we came from, reconnect us to what we are.”

Pam Houston, Author Contents May Have Shifted

THE RECIPE

The late spring BBQ season comes with a rush as cherry trees flush with fruit and tall grasses tangle against our ankles. Rather than rely on additive and sugar-packed store bought BBQ sauces, follow this recipe to make your own savory sauce. Ridiculously easy to make, BBQ sauce should accentuate the fattiness of the falling off the bone rib meat. Instead of the odd and likely chemically processed liquid smoke, use naturally smoked paprika to give the sauce a smoky kick. The lycopene in the tomato paste and the Manganese and Magnesium rich molasses make this sauce leap with health benefits.

Rub for the ribs:
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
½ teaspoon black pepper
Salt, to taste

BBQ Sauce:
7 ounces organic San Marzano tomato paste
2 tablespoons organic blackstrap molasses
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons smoky paprika
½ teaspoon garlic paste (make fresh)
Salt, to taste

1. Put all the ingredients in a stainless steel bowl.
2. Mix the ingredients well.
3. After the ribs have cooked for 1.5 hours at 315 degrees Fahrenheit, lather the sauce on both sides of the ribs.
4. Turn the ribs about every 30-40 minutes as they cook for another hour or hour and half. Add more sauce to cover the ribs as necessary. Once they pull away from the bone, the ribs are done. If you like to grill, place the ribs on a low flame and gently grill them for about 10 minutes to finish cooking.

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#writering: Hey Harper Lee Estate, Why Care Now?

#writering is an occasional column by Beth Wareham, co-founder of Lisa Hagan Books.

 

I’m calling bullshit on the Harper Lee estate. I know some of the actors – and I choose that word carefully and correctly – and their greed at the end of Harper’s life took Atticus Finch away from us.

Let me explain. Harper Lee published one book in her lifetime – To Kill a Mockingbird. She did not publish – nor would publish – another book. She also never allowed another film version of the book because she loved the Gregory Peck one so much.  When she died, her estate whipped out To Set a Watchman, the prequel to Mockingbird, and Harper Collins raced to publish.  It was a multi-million dollar deal, big by publishing standards.

The problem? To Set a Watchman was about the racist, unconscious Atticus Finch. (And God knows, we have plenty of those characters, imagined and real.) When her editor at Harper Collins read it all those years ago, the editor said, “go back home and try again.” Brilliant words, it turned out. A wonderful couple in New York City paid Harper’s expenses for a year and she wrote her masterpiece. America now had Atticus and he is an important figure in all our imaginations, a morality that goes where we do.

So now, the estate is swooping in to control the Broadway play that Aaron Sorkin is mounting.  That’s all fine and good – it’s their property – but don’t come to the aid on Harper’s behalf. You already sold her and Atticus out for money, something she managed to avoid in her lifetime. The play was produced everywhere by school children because again, money wasn’t her thing.

Because Harper was a great artist – she took a huge societal cruelty and fought it with a story – and her “estate” is a bunch of moist-handed “businessmen,” I’m going to skip the Broadway play – if it happens. I skipped the second book and To Kill a Mockingbird is here on my beside, where it will stay.

How about this, everyone. Stop messing with To Kill a Mockingbird and let future generations discover To Kill a Mockingbird by reading it. Let the Atticus feng-sui cover them like warm caramel as they begin to feel their own moral center, a world based on fairness, kindness, and the idea we are all innocent until proven guilty.

More Atticus, I say. Less everything else.

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Write with the Body

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…excerpt from KEEP IT SHORT by Charles Euchner 

#SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

Reading is a sensual experience. So use the senses to connect with the reader’s physicality.

Consider the following questions:

You are in a store, checking out backpacks. You are looking for a leather one. How do you go about checking whether the item is made of leather or man-made materials?

You are riding in a cab. A nostalgic, sad song is playing, followed by one with an upbeat rhythm and a sexual pulse. How would the music affect your mood?

When you are in an art gallery, in what manner do you look at the paintings?

Do you enjoy petting furry animals (allergies aside)?

You are given a bouquet of flowers. Your first reaction would be…

You are a completely alone on a private island and there is a crystal-clear lake. It’s hot and you could use a swim. You …

You have set out to furnish your living room. What would best describe the type of furniture that you choose?

 

Whatever you write, think consciously about the physical words you use.

Sight: What do we see when we see? We see brightness, color, shapes, texture, and proportions. We see relation- ships between things.

Often, when I am working on research or a draft, I need to visualize what I’m thinking before I understand it. So I draw pictures—shapes showing relationships, levels of importance, movement, and more.

If you can get your reader to see your subject, you have won the battle. It’s as if you’re side by side, look- ing at a painting in a museum, like Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” See those lonely people in the diner? It’s late. Nothing’s happening outside. Everyone looks so alone. But the couple—they’re together, right? Are they on a date or just getting a smack after a long night at work. They don’t look intimate. The soda jerk is paying attention, though. What about that man at the end of the diner? He’s really alone. Once you start to see the pictures, you start to tell the story—and interpret what it means.

Also give your writing color. The colors’ many qualities—primary or secondary, dark or bright, simple or complex—contribute to a mood. In music, color describes a piece’s emotional feel. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony evokes darkness, while his Fourth evokes brightness.

Colors also conjure emotions. Red evokes power and sexuality, yellow intelligence and joy, blue tranquility.

 

How do you feel about things like the smell of a spring breeze, the air shortly after rain, a brisk winter wind, the ocean, or a sunny day?

How often do you engage in meditation or deep breathing exercises?

When walking down the beach, do you take off your shoes or sandals?

When you read a novel, do you picture the scenes in your head as you’re reading them?

These questions are part of a sensuality test that Psychology Today posts on its website. (Take it yourself at http://bit.do/sensualitytest.) The test helps you to under- stand just how physically you experience the world with your senses of sight, sound, touch, and smell.

My purpose here is to get you to write physically. Even when exploring dry and abstract topics, I want you to think sensually. When you do, you can connect with your reader—capture her attention, hold it, get it to consider your ideas wholeheartedly, and remember and reflect what you want to convey.

Language, I submit, is a physical experience. When you use language well, you can make your audience con- nect with the topic physically. A description of cold cre- ates a shiver; of music, a sense of rhythm and time’s pac- ing and feel; of texture, a tactile feeling of smoothness or roughness or slipperiness or more; of light or shapes, a sense of appearance.

 

Sound makes us pause, lean in, and listen. Sound makes us attentive. Think of the times in your life when you stopped doing something … because … you heard something. “What’s that?” you asked. You could not con- tinue until you learned something about the sound. You needed to find out whether it mattered.

The power of language is really the power of sound. Alliteration—the repetition of the same consonant sounds—somehow evokes meaning. S’s sometimes sound slithery, sometimes soft, and sometimes hissing. K’s sound hard and abrupt, almost like a collision or an attack. L’s sound lilting and lithesome, light and uplift- ing. P’s sounds somewhat silly, plopping and plunking and puffing along. We could go on.

Don’t think too hard. Just listen to the sounds you write and pay attention to how they make you feel. You’ll know when there’s a fit and when there’s not. Now look at these images: blue is patience but also coldness and depression, orange – courage and confidence, endurance and friendliness, and green money and nature.

From Keep it Short by Charles Euchner 

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2 Dishes, 1 Holiday Evening

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/Beth Wareham
@Giantsweettart
@shadowteams

This little table before the fire looks perfect for a one-two punch of French-inspired food and drink that is as easy as it is sophisticated and delicious. Buy a baguette to eat along with the soup. Here goes:

Leek and Potato Soup

4 Leeks, wash and clean well, slice thinly, the white part and a bit of green

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 sprigs thyme

1 bay leaf

Salt to taste

1 pound yellow potatoes, peeled, quartered and sliced thin

6 cups water

1/2 cup heavy cream

  1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed pot.
  2. Add the leeks and thyme, bay leaf and salt. Stir to mix.
  3. Add the potatoes and cook for 4 – 5 minutes, stirring often.
  4. Add the water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
  5. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Remove thyme and bay leaf and ladle into warm bowls. Garnish with a little more thyme or some crumbled bacon, if you’d like.

From Snapshots: Memories and Recipes by Sandra Martin (click on title to buy)

51lszmodbkl-_sx326_bo1204203200_  TO DRINK???????? Something French, of course!

FRENCH 75

A classic drink, this takes its name from the French 75mm artillery – since drinking it makes you feel you are in the line of fire. One might be enough.

  1. 1 oz gin
  2. .5 oz fresh lemon juice
  3. 2 oz Champagne or Prosecco

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the gin and lemon juice (some people like a dash of simple syrup as well, but we advise against this, since sparkling wine is sugary in itself). Shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, then strain into a coupe or a flute. Top the drink with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist. So very French. So very good.

From Drink Like a Grown-Up by The League of Extraordinary Drinkers (click on title to buy)

 

Drink Like a Grown Up Cover.indd

Write your own damn book.

 

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/beth wareham

Synchronicity is not my thing. It’s too subtle and I’m a two-by-four kinda gal. But strange signals are coming to me in such rapid succession, even my gray matter is a’swirl.

The year began with a fall out over a book I wrote and three scenes I included – with permission – that, upon reading – made the permission-giver feel funny.  I had already had a contract with a film producer who LOVED those scenes and there it was, my childhood friend had peed on my livelihood. Regrettable. The issues got sorted on…mainly by me working up something with equal humor – and I went on my way, swearing not to hang out with people who didn’t understand where creativity came from.

After passing through my childhood friend’s first bad reviews, I encountered a readership that was wildly curious about how much of the heroine was me and what did my husband think about all this?  He read it and helped with typos. If a man knows art and creativity, it’s him. He was happy his wife was busy and fulfilled. Besides, he’s got better things to do, what with his own books and all.

Years after that first book came out though, my husband my husband – a man of few words – yelled “THAT BOOK WAS ABOUT ME!” Someone else had brought it up at lunch and I had forgotten I had written it.

I began remembering other scenes of writer discomfort. A friend, after writing an amazing memoir of how her father created a baseball team instead of a family, met me for dinner pale-faced and announced “my mother is reading the final draft” as she pulled up her chair.  I remember her talking about what a tense week that was.

To add fuel to my fire, I hit Elena Ferrante’s second half of her final book in the Naples series and it was all about her neighborhood hating her writing about her neighborhood. The Solaras threatened her and she saw how gross the place really is. I thought “same old shit” as I read but don’t tell me! I’m not finished with these remarkable books yet.

Finally, on a much more serious note, another writer, now in her late 80s, called today requesting I remove two pages of text that disturbed a family member. I heard the pain in her voice and I knew exactly where it came from: the creator inside wants to protect what is so difficult to show to the world.

I told her what I tell all my writers: You’re not going to do it, are you?

To a person, they say no.

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TRADING WORDS FOR A GLOCK

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To order Jay’s book, click here

My co-author, Jason Davis, is – as he would be the first to admit – a work in progress. His body is covered with the scars of a street warrior, a gang banger, a King on the streets of Harlem. At one point, Jay was the OG (Old Gangster) running a sett (a gang unit) of more than 450 young men.

If all that were not enough, Jay is also a cutter. A psychological construct most associated with young white women, Jay took to slicing into his own body when the stress of his life overwhelmed him. Those scars criss cross his arms and legs over the deeper, more professionally inked and burned tattoos of the Bloods.

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Here is Jay’s story about trading in guns for words:

I became a Blood in October 16, 1996. 20 years later I currently remain a Blood, it’s for life for me.

The gang life: no one can truly prepare you for it. There are many ups and downs but most of all, there are the constant deaths.  I lost countless comrades and close friends because of the life. I have gotten my bottom lip bitten/severed off, stabbed in my ear drum and stabbed in my calf twice,protecting another member from getting killed. I have also gotten in trouble with the law several times and had to run as a fugitive from multiple states. I was on Delaware’s most wanted list for 4 and a half years.

I would not say  any major incident I  witnessed made we want to stop gang banging. When you’re in the life and you have a true love for the people you bond with and are struggling with, you become more and more  enraged when they are killed,hurt or put in prisons. It builds and builds, that hurt, but my self awareness did not come into play until I matured more as a man.

I learned that you can be within the system of any gang  and not partake in any criminal activity. I learned you can’t chose where or what you are born around, but when you carry yourself as a man first,not just a gang member, you are respected as a man. first. That is my world; yours is different but no less challenging for you.

I also challenged the love that other gang members said they had for me. If they did feel that way – truly – they would have my best interests at heart. The only members not tired of the killing are those that hadn’t banged for very long.

I know what it feels like to grow up confused and be taught a negative way of thinking early in life. And no matter what community you live in, it’s a crime to involve kids in anything that would potentially harm them in any way. That is not how you love someone. That goes for all kids:  white, black, green or purple.

They are innocent and deserve more than what I experienced.

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Jason Davis

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Jason Davis is the co-author of HAIR CLUB BURNING, an interracial comedy. To order, click on the book’s title.

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Sidransky, 85, reads from her masterwork, Reparations, begun in 1950

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/beth wareham

Author Ruth Sidransky reads from Reparations, her novel begun in 1950 when, as a young American Jew, she moved to Europe with her husband and began smuggling for the Jews who survived in sewers and the woods.

She makes a European “family” of Holocaust survivors who slowly reveal their stories of horror. And she comes to understand that the only answer to death is life.

Given recent events in Europe, Reparations as a story feels extremely close and relevant as does the heroine’s thoroughly modern choice: to create new life and raise her children in America, commuting back and forth helping build a new country called Israel.

Reparations is a voice coming at us from forty years ago, raw, fascinating, heartbreaking, and finally filled with the wonder of the resilience of human beings.

click on the cover to buy the book.<a href=”https://shadowteams.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/reparations32.jpg”>Reparations3

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PUBLISHER’S DREAMS: Finding a Jewel in the Box

Reparations3

Beth Wareham
www.shadowteams.com

Click on the cover to buy the ebook.

Anyone who has ever worked in publishing has a secret longing: To discover a manuscript, dusty, abandoned, forgotten, transformative, beautiful manuscript languishing in a drawer of an old roll top desk or crammed into a shoe box and pushed beneath a bed. We dream of the jewel in the box that only we can find and open. We dream of unleashing a work of genius on the world. It’s a weird fantasy, I’ll admit, but there you have it.

Gone with the Wind. Confederacy of Dunces. 2666, Emily Dickinson. A Death in the Family. The Diary of Anne Frank. Emily Dickinson poems spilling from tabletops and drawers. Everything Franz Kafka ever wrote – flashes of light winking out of the black rock of a deep mine.

My “jewel in the box” rush came with an email from a rock star author I used to publish. His mom had a novel. He didn’t know what shape it was in…it had been written long ago. Would I look?

Long ago was 1950, the beginning of the years author Ruth Sidransky spent in Vienna, smuggling for Jews who survived World War II hiding in the forest. The novel was huge, literally and figuratively, moving across three continents, a world war, genocide, occupation, a marriage, a love affair, God, torture, revenge, annihilation, religion, joy, belief, endless cruelty and death. We learn to love her new friends and as they become closer the cost of their survival is slowly revealed.

Part Sophie’s Choice, part Everything is Illuminated, Reparations is a monumental book that ends with the surprise choice of a thoroughly modern woman and the triumph of the Jewish people to survive and thrive after certain destruction.

Author Sidransky turned 86 this year; proving you just never know where the diamonds are hiding.

This is one of the third books she’ll publish in 2015.

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