Honey and Blue: which is honey and which is blue?

Honey and Blue

I smell of cologne
Can he smell my mistake?
My heart screams for more
But my head’s to blame

-Stranger In Your Arms by Honey and Blue

Honey and Blue, made up of Stephanie Amber and Adam Darling, is a rising local band. I talked with them earlier this year about their music, their songwriting, and how their background consciously (and unconsciously) influences them. Check out their YouTube channel and catch them in town at Natalie’s Coal Fired Grill.

 

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Laura Lippman: writing about her hometown with fact and fiction

Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is the author of six New York Times bestselling novels and an award-winning short story anthology, and the creator of the Private Investigator Tess Monaghan series. Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, before turning to novel writing full time. Her most recent book is Wilde Lake, released on May 3, 2016. She will a featured author at the Thurber House on May 4.

Listen in for our discussion of Wilde Lake, how Laura writes about her hometown, and what it’s like to have a novel adapted for a movie.

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Jill Bialosky: The Players in our lives

Jill Bialosky

-Andy Ross

Home-runs and stadium chants do not typically fill the pages of a poetry collection, but then again, Jill Bialosky is not your typical poet. The Ohio native’s latest collection, The Players, uses the baseball diamond as a landscape for thoughts on motherhood, gender roles, and the legacies of family. Jill Bialosky will be a featured guest at the Ohioana Book Festival on Saturday April 23rd. Check out the full interview for information about The Players, the Ohioana Book Festival, and more.

The Players, released in early 2015, is Bialosky’s fourth poetry collection. The first section, “Manhood,” finds itself in the middle of a baseball field. Chanting fans and baseball jargon frame the narrative of family relationships. The title itself is a bit of a play on words; it refers to the players on a team, as well as the central characters of a family dynamic.

“The Players is very much about the legacy of generations. It explores the nature of attachment within these generations,” Bialosky said. “I also see it very much of a story on motherhood. So the players are really the players in our lives.”

Bialosky saw the impact of the sport on her family firsthand. Her son played baseball competitively throughout his childhood and was recruited to play at the college level. A self-described “baseball mother,” Bialosky saw the sport as much more than a game.

“I really came to appreciate the game in a way I had never appreciated before,” Bialosky said. “The skill, concentration, and commitment involved is, in some ways, very similar to the art of writing poetry.”

And while much of the collection uses baseball to carry its message, the collection does have three distinct movements: “Manhood,” “Interlude,” and “The Players.” The middle section, “Interlude,” forgoes the focus on direct family relationships in favor of one of Bialosky’s more personal passions: literature.

“There are three poems in that section and they really deal with my love of literature,” Bialosky continued. “I was using that interlude as a way of writing about how the characters in novels can become players in our own lives.”

Also released in 2015 is The Prize, the most recent of three novels by Bialosky. Set in the bustling New York City arts scene, it intersects passion with commerce.

“In The Players, I use the baseball diamond as a way of reflecting on relationships,” Bialosky said. “In The Prize, I’ve chosen the fascinating world of how art is made and sold.”

Catch Jill Bialosky at Ohioana Book Festival on Saturday, April 23rd, where you can talk to her about her four poetry collections, three novels, and a memoir: History of a Suicide.

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John Scalzi: how to stay employed as a writer

John Scalzi

-Andy Ross

Writer John Scalzi is an Ohio resident and the author of several award-winning science fiction novels. He also runs a popular blog, Whatever. Scalzi was the recipient of the 2016 Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio. Scalzi will be at the Ohioana Book Festival on Saturday April 23rd. Listen to my conversation with John Scalzi for his thoughts on genres old and new.

Scalzi stays busy with writing and his newest contract reflects that. “I recently signed a multi-book deal with Tor Books, which on one hand is very nice because it’s 13 books over ten years so I know what I’m going to be doing for the next decade,” Scalzi continued, “but the other side of that is it’s 13 books over ten years and that’s a lot of writing.”

One of his upcoming projects falls under the Young Adult banner, a new genre for the writer. “One of the things I really believe is true for writers is that you should always be trying new things and you should always be pushing yourself,” Scalzi said.

Though writing is a craft, Scalzi emphasizes the need for a business mentality when pursuing a career as a writer. He likens the career to running a small business. This played an especially crucial role when first delving into Young Adult fiction. He did ample research on the specifics of the younger audience. “Part of running a small business is making sure you understand the landscape of the business that you’re doing: where the market is now, where the market is going, what has worked, and what hasn’t worked,” Scalzi said.

Scalzi may be new to Young Adult fiction, but his other writing has garnered significant praise. His novel, Redshirts, won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2013. Scalzi was also the recipient of the 2016 Governor’s Award for the Arts in Ohio.

““I really wasn’t expecting anything for two reasons: (1) if you look historically at the people who have won the Governor’s Award in the Arts haven’t been writers by and large and, of course, (2)  I am a genre writer,” Scalzi said.

Here he is mainly referring to the difficulty of genre writers, such as those who write science fiction, mystery, or romance, for breaking through and gaining mainstream critical praise. Scalzi’s work was, of course, able to break those barriers.

John Scalzi will be a featured guest at the Ohioana Book Festival on Saturday, April 23rd at the Columbus Sheraton Hotel.

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Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman: creators of Persia Blues

PersiaBlues2-Andy Ross

This past December, local graphic artists Dara Naraghi and Brent Bowman released Persia Blues Volume 2: Love and War on independent publisher NBM. The story interweaves ancient Persian mythology with the story of young Minoo Shirazi coming to The Ohio State University for graduate school. I spoke with Naraghi and Bowman for Craft on WCBE.

Andy Ross: Tell me a little about your collaborative process. How did you two initially become connected?

Dara Naraghi: We both were in a group called Panel. It’s kind of a loose collective of writers and artists. That’s where we originally met over ten years ago. Everybody [in Panel] had their own projects that they worked on, but we would also collaborate with each other and publish little comic anthologies twice a year. For the most part, every member of the group had worked with somebody else, except for the two of us. We never really did anything together. I knew his artwork, so when I came up with the idea for the book I thought of him.

AR: You talked about Panel. Do you think Columbus is conducive to graphic novelists and comic book artists?

Brent Bowman: Definitely. Columbus has a great arts scene in general, but there’s a really big comics community here.

AR: Dara, you’ve said that Persia Blues is your most personal work yet. Are there any elements that were drawn directly from your own experiences?

DN: I wouldn’t say directly, but a lot of them are composites of either my experiences with my parents, my cousins, or friends that I know. A lot of the themes are things that either I’ve experienced personally or just in general. It’s a common experience for Iranian Americans.

AR: How fully realized was your idea for the whole trilogy going into that first book and has it changed at all since that time?

DN: It definitely has changed.

BB: The middle part is always the hardest. You’ve got the beginning and the end, but you have to get there somehow and still make it interesting.

AR: Any word on Volume 3 yet?

DN: The idea is to finish it this year. It will probably go on sale in early 2017.

Persia Blues Volume 2: Love and War is now available in bookstores or online at www.persiablues.com. Listen to the full interview on WCBE (90.3) Wednesday, March 16th at 8pm.

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Tracy Chevalier: at the edge of the orchard and history

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It’s not often that trees, orchards, and apples find themselves at the center of a conflict, but that is exactly the case with Tracy Chevalier’s newest novel, At the Edge of the Orchard. The book follows the saga of the Goodenough family in 19th century America from a northwest Ohio orchard to Gold Rush Era California. Chevalier will read and discuss her novel at the Thurber House on Monday, March 21st.

Chevalier regularly places historical figures into her fiction pieces, believing that it adds a new and believable element to her stories. “I like to have them in the book because it provides a kind of verisimilitude to everything around them,” Chevalier said during our discussion. At the Edge of the Orchard includes characters inspired by real people like Johnny Appleseed and William Lobb.

Appleseed, escaping from children’s songs, is more of an actual human being instead of a mythical character. Chevalier keeps his strange clothing and vegetarianism, but her Appleseed is a sharp businessman. Similarly with Lobb, an English naturalist and botanist, who spent time in California in the 19th century and collected and sent saplings to an English nursery that focused on exotic plants and trees.

“He anchors the California section because he really did exist,” Chevalier said of Lobb, “There are a lot of things about him and what he did that I could really draw upon and weave into the more fictional elements of the story and give them some veracity and authority.”

Just as historical figures can add weight to a story, Chevalier believes in truly knowing her settings. In writing the book, Chevalier traveled to Calaveras Grove in California to put herself in the same landscape the Goodenough family would have experienced. Calaveras Grove is the home of giant sequoias, the incredibly wide trees whose 30-foot diameter trunks are famously hollowed out to allow cars to pass underneath. Chevalier found herself marveled at the smaller, more intimate details that could only be picked up on if actually present in the grove. From observing the ways people looked at the trees to the decades-old piles of pine needles, Chevalier captured the essence of what it’s like to experience a location in person.

“I like to actually be [at my settings],” Chevalier continued, “It’s the difference between seeing a painting online and actually being in the room with it.”

Tracy Chevalier is the author of eight novels, including Girl With a Pearl Earring, which was an international bestseller and adapted into a major motion picture. Her newest novel, At the Edge of the Orchard, is now available in bookstores.

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David Myles: a man out of time

DavidMylesFor Canadian singer-songwriter David Myles, time is always of the essence. The musician’s songs transcend decades, genres, and influences. Known as an “acoustic guitar crooner,” Myles does not let any label restrict him, as he explained in his Craft interview.

Growing up on a healthy dose of Chet Baker, Paul Simon, and Willie Nelson, Myles found inspiration everywhere. Though he played trumpet through his adolescence, he found his love for singing in an unexpected place: a Chet Baker cassette tape. He got his hands on acoustic guitar, learned some three chord songs, and began looking at music in a more serious light. Speaking about his vast influences, Myles said of his music, “It’s really kind of a mix. Now I found myself between all those things.”

One of his best folk known songs, “When It Comes My Turn,” was nominated for a heap of awards. The track is one of his earliest written tunes and was recently re-recorded in Canada for his newest compilation, So Far. According to Myles, the track had very humble beginnings. “I wrote it on a bus,” Myles continued, “in my quarter-life crisis.” Myles wrote the song as he was finishing up college, feeling on the brink of a new chapter in life. Though it was intended to resonate with younger people, Myles has found that it holds a special place for those closer to his parents’ age, or on the verge of a different life chapter: retirement. “It’s been interesting to see what you think the meaning of the song is going to be when you put it out, but it changes over time,” Myles explained.

Though he is best known for his folk music, Myles is not afraid of stepping well outside of the genre. In 2008, he collaborated with Canadian rapper Classified to create “Inner Ninja.” The song, fusing folk-fueled hooks with hip-hop flow, went quadruple platinum in Canada and has become a live staple for Myles on tour. “For any songwriter at any time to have a hit is a very exciting thing,” Myles explained. “It’s a different feeling. You can feel it percolating.”

The Guardian touted David Myles as “one of Atlantic Canada’s most highly regarded singer-songwriters.” His music has won several accolades, including the coveted Juno award given to top Canadian music. Myles will be at the Six String Concert series on March 4th.

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Tim Dorsey and the coconut cowboy

Tim Dorsey - color Coconut Cowboy is the 19th installment of New York Times Bestseller Tim Dorsey’s serial killer series, but don’t let that genre label fool you. Dorsey’s lethal central character, Serge A. Storms, prefers to be called a “sequential killer.” Where serial killers are “sick and compulsive,” sequential killers, like Serge, never intended to kill anybody, but is nearly forced to do so as “jerks cross his path.” According to Dorsey, “[Serge] doesn’t phone it in” when committing his murders, but rather acts as a “MacGyver of death. He’s able to pull together various things that are at hand,” Dorsey says.

CoconutCowboyHC

“[Storms' murders are] some Rube Goldberg contraption that’s fitting, either for the crime or [it] has something to do with Florida or the location,” Dorsey explains. The geographic setting of the novels, always in Florida, provides natural inspiration for Dorsey. He often finds himself attracted to Internet headlines of bizarre crimes in the region. “You keep thinking it can’t get weirder,” Dorsey says, “but it continues to get stranger and with greater frequency.” His latest favorite story features a disgruntled fast food customer tossing an alligator through the drive-thru window at a Wendy’s restaurant.

Dorsey, an adamant believer in extensive book tours, enjoys taking in the specifics of small towns he discovers in his travels. These hidden treasures often make it into the book, like when Serge and a friend take a detour in Greenville to visit Ray Charles’ childhood home and a statue in the town square. “In addition to [Serge] being intelligent,” Dorsey explains, “he is encyclopedic about Florida and has this childhood enthusiasm [about the state]” For Dorsey, the immense number of strange locations in the state serve as the perfect backdrop for his absurd stories.

Though his books consistently sell, Dorsey has branched out his brand into other fields, including hot sauce. During a book fair, Dorsey made promotional t-shirts with fake hot sauce bottles printed on the back. After several fans asked how to purchase the hot sauce, Dorsey decided to make the spicy condiment a reality. The hot sauce, each bottle individually signed by Dorsey himself, is now available in three flavors. He also has merchandised hats, t-shirts, and a flask. And as Dorsey astutely points out, “Faulkner didn’t have this.”

Tim Dorsey will be at the Bexley Library on March 1st promoting Coconut Cowboy, which is now available at bookstores nationwide.

-Andy Ross

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Fergus Bordewich: Congress is historically contentious

Press photo of the Author Fergus M Bordewich

Press photo of the Author Fergus M Bordewich

Career politicians, backroom deals, and Congressional contention are not exclusive to today’s political landscape. As author and historian Fergus M. Bordewich would be quick to point out, “the great American tradition of political trench warfare” was just as prevalent early years of the United States. Bordewich’s new book, The First Congress: How James Madison, George Washington, and a Group of Extraordinary Men Invented the Government, discusses, well, exactly what the title suggests as it takes a gritty look at the founding fathers.

While writing Washington, a book about the creation of Washington D.C., Bordewick found himself fascinated by the first Congress – the uncertainty, contention, and immense productivity. As Bordewich remarks, “[the founding fathers in Congress] were working in the dark. Very few people had confidence that this new government created by the government would work.” The book details the country’s formative years truly as “an experiment,” with President Washington and Congress simultaneously figuring out their respective roles.

Listen in to hear Bordewich disclose the little-known controversies of a brand new government and draw parallels to today’s tumultuous climate. Bordewich is the author of seven non-fiction books and has contributed to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and more. He will be in town at the Thurber House February 22nd.

-Andy Ross

 

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The Steel Wheels: leaving home is never easy

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For Trent Wagler and The Steel Wheels, “Winter is Coming” and it doesn’t have anything to do with Game of Thrones. The band’s most recent album, Leave Some Things Behind, was released in April of 2015 and focuses on the classical idea of an odyssey. Regularly leaving and returning home as a touring band typically does, the band found themselves constantly in transit. They left friends and family back home while they went on cross-country adventures, soaking in innumerable experiences. Feeling almost like in-orbit astronauts looking back at their far-away blue marble, they captured the conflicting feeling of simultaneous departure and arrival over the course of an album.

Listen to our interview and then catch them in town on Friday, February 12 with Six String Concerts.

The band’s own curated Red Wing Roots Music Festival marks its fourth anniversary this year, boasting a lineup with bigger names like Shovels & Rope. After travelling as a touring band for years, the band wanted to bring some of those experiences home to their own community. The festival takes place July 8th-10th, 2016 in the National Chimneys Park in Mt. Solon, VA. More information about the festival can be found at their website.

-Andy Ross

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