Book bundles available at the book fair



Who doesn’t like a deal? This weekend only at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair (Saturday, May 23, 2015, 2-5 p.m., Rhode Center for The Arts), you can purchase copies of my books for special book fair price: four books for $16. Limited quantities are available. So come early. See you there.

“We need poets… to fill in the gaps…”


Haitian author Dimitry Elias Léger, in a recent interview, said “We need poets, music, literature to fill in the gaps between news reports,…”

With that in mind, the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is next weekend, Saturday, May 23, 2015 at Rhode Center for The Arts (514 56th St, Kenosha, WI 53140). The book fair begins at 2 p.m. and concludes at 5 p.m. So you have plenty of time to do your morning errands or yard work,  join me and fellow authors and then spend the rest of the day enjoying Kenosha’s lovely lakefront area with an armful of books by local authors.

Copies of my books will be available for sale (and I will personally sign your copies) and I am scheduled to read at the event. Look forward to meeting you at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair nest weekend!

Best reads of 2014 (or what I found in my notebook)

BestReads2014_DSCN2263When I read and write, I connect dots. Maybe you do too. Earlier this month, I noticed — and commented on — a Facebook post that linked to an article on how writing thoughts, ideas and quotes into notebooks makes one smarter. That article reminded me of how commonplace books house many notes and quotes from books read. [Link to article on commonplace books] The art of notations in commonplace books has been a practice of mine for decades. Whether it makes me smarter is yet to be evident.

Connecting some dots. Last week I came across a tweet that read:

“Ranking artists and making lists is a dead culture’s version intellectualism.”

Considering this originated on twitter, I am inclined to disregard it. Yet, oddly, it resonates with me on some levels. Maybe it is because of the blogs I follow that list and present authors’s reading statistics (examples here and here).

Connecting dots. Over a year ago, sitting in front of the large windows of the Pack Library, I pondered the best of lists of 2013. My response is documented in this post. In brief, I listed my best books I read during the year — that were not printed in 2013.

Should I do a list for this year, 2014? The Seattle Times published their 2014 list. The Economist presented their austere list of best reads of 2014. Of course, the New York Times presented there top books of the year as well as a number of other publishers and blogs that try to capitalize on the posting their lists in time for holiday purchasing.  

For 2014, allow me to open up the pages of my commonplace book — a thick red daily reminder journal used for both a calendar of events and appointments and day book — and share with you some of the notes and quotes found therein. Starting in March there is an entry on the following book:

Nobel Lecture: Czeslaw Milosz by Czeslaw Milosz

Found a hardcover, bilingual edition at the public library. That edition appears to be out of print based on internet searches. (If you find a first edition, hardcover edition please let me know.) Here are a line I wrote in my commonplace book/day journal:

“Two attributes of the poet, avidity of the eye and desire to describe that which he sees.”

And this one:

“In the minds of modern illiterates, however, who know how to read and write and even teach in schools and at universities, history is present but blurred, in a state of strange confusion. Moliére becomes a contemporary of Napoleon.”

Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture by Seamus Heaney

“Ahistorical, pre-sexual, in suspension between the archaic and the modern, we were as susceptible and impressionable as the drinking water that stood in a bucket in our scullery: every time a passing train made the earth shake, the surface of the water used to ripple delicately, concentrically, and in utter silence.”

This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley

“The first thing you have to know about writing is that it is something you must do every day — every morning or every evening, whatever time it is that you have.”


“The process… is… a journey by boat…. If you get distracted or allow yourself to drift, you will never make it to the destination…. The journey is your narrative.”

A Region Not Home: Reflections from Exile by James Alan McPherson

From the opening paragraph, this book drew me in:

“In 1974,… I lived in San Francisco, California. My public reason for leaving the East and going there was that my wife had been admitted to the San Francisco Medical Center School of Nursing, but my private reason for going was that San Francisco would be a very good place for working and walking.”

What other reason is there to move, right? Here is another selection:

“Friendships grounded in mutual alienation and self-consciously geared to the perception of others are seldom truly tested. They lack an organic relationship to a common landscape, a common or ‘normal’ basis for the evolution of trust and mutual interest.”

More along the theme as well as reference to Ralph Ellison:

“It was Aristotle who thought the most deeply about friendship as a moral virtue. He [referring to Ralph Ellison] distinguished between friendships grounded in pleasure and utility, which friendships last as long as pleasure and usefulness last. These two grounds of friendship are common. For Aristotle, the best of all grounds for friendship was what he termed ‘perfected friendship.’ This degree of friendship obtains when one person wants for the other what is good for him simply because it is good for him. He believed that only people with comparable virtues could sustain this kind of friendship. Aristotle did not mean equality of virtue; he meant proportionate virtue. He meant that each is prepared to render to the other what the other deserved.”

Somewhere More Holy: Stories from a Bewildered Father, Stumbling Husband, Reluctant Handyman, and Prodigal Son by Tony Woodlief

There are so many selections written in my journal that I turned it into a book review and later featured it in a podcast. Listen to it here.

One for the Rose by Philip Levine

This is another jewel found in the public library. Again, it appears out of print according to online retailers and first editions seem to be rare. (Contact me if you find a first printing of this one.) Here are two excerpts of poems from this collection of poems:

“I was born in Lucerne
I faced the longest night
of my life with tight fists and closed eyes
beside a woman of independence and courage
Who sang the peasant songs of her region.”


“and I could sit for a moment
remembering what it was
to rise slowly to a world
that seemed at peace on the long
Sunday mornings of lonely first manhood
when I knew nothing
except there was no work that day”

Scrambled Eggs & Whiskey: Poems, 1991-1995 by Hayden Carruth

This book drew a lot of ink into my daily journal. Here are two samples I wrote during the summer:

“and I still cannot believe you wouldn’t
give me a job when I needed one so badly”


“Old men converse across the abyss of time
on a hot evening in elusive light—”

Okay, one more…

“Somehow his eyes get lost
in the words and the snow”

Pigafetta Is My Wife by Joe Hall

This is a book I struggled with. A lot. Eventually it won me over and — ahem — became my wife. You will have to read it to understand the allusion. Here is a couple lines to entice you:

“I need to stop imagining that
some straight lines connect us”

Finding the Islands by W. S. Merwin

At some point in autumn, I realized I had written down some many lines from this book I practically transcribed the book into my journal. One day, during the noon meal I quoted a few lines from the book. Everyone at the table went silent. Here is an excerpt that still haunts me:

“How time disappears
while we live under
the big tree”

The Name and Nature of Poetry: and Other Selected Prose by A. E. Housman

What can I say about this book? Well, read some of the things I copied into a commonplace book:

“We should beware of treating the word poetry as chemists have treated the word salt…. If we apply the word poetry to an object which does not resemble, either in form or content, anything which has heretofore been so called, not only are we maltreating and corrupting language, but we may be guilty of disrespect and blasphemy.”


“Man had ceased to live from the depths of his nature; he occupied himself for choice with thoughts which do not range beyond the sphere of the understanding; he lighted the candles and drew down the blind to shut out that patroness of poets, the moon.”

There are more notes and books referenced in my commonplace book/day journal that are not included. May this inspire you to connect dots, make notes and start a commonplace book of your own.

Which book best represents you this year?

Hemingway - bookIf a book could represent your year, this year, what would it be?

Every year, like Christmas, booklists appear like neatly wrapped gifts in heritage and new media outlets. They announce the top ten books published during the calendar year. You are familiar with the practice. A year ago I was employed at an international publishing house and had learned that the one of the best things to happen to a book title is to be on one of those lists.

Last year, during a particularly awful time, I was sitting at the Pack Library in downtown Asheville, North Carolina. It was a December afternoon and I was working on a book design project. And I was thinking about work and life and money and decisions that required answers — and I had just finished reading For Whom the Bell Tolls. Why haven’t I read this book sooner? I asked myself.

In a dismal mood, I wrote a blog post about the best books I should have read before 2013. Later, I thought of the books that stayed with me that year. Like friends. And wrote another blog post featuring the best books I read during during that year.

Today, I am sitting in another library hundreds and hundreds of miles from that place a year ago — both physically and metaphorically. Which books have befriended me this year? How about you? If you could sum up your year as a book, which book — or books — might it be?

Photos from last weekend’s Racine and Kenosha Authors Book Fair


Kelsey Harris reading her poem “Pinkest Thoughts.”



Dan Nielsen reading is (in)famous five-liners.


Nick Demske reading from his celebrated book Nick Demske.


Marcia Eanes reading from Passion’s Zest.



Kelsey Hoff reading from her recently published Sad Girls Poems.


Banned Book Week

Something is missing. If you haven’t already noticed, Banned Book Week 2014 is celebrated September 21 to September 27.

Powell’s Books presented a catalog of banned books to purchase. CNN reported the top 10 books banned in 2013. The Huffington Post features a great infographic on banned books in America.

But one book, banned in 52 countries, is not listed in the Banned Book Week stories. Banned from Banned Book Week?

Books arrived – just in time for the book fair


Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is tomorrow night and three of my books just arrived from the press.

More information about the book fair is available on the event Facebook page: Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair.

This event is free to the public and light refreshments will be available. Here are the poets and writers who will be presenting their books to the public:

  • Dave Gourdoux: poetry
  • Justin Grimbol: bizarro fiction & poetry (Bonkness)
  • Rev. William Grimbol
  • Samira Gdisis
  • Peg Rousar-Thompson (Left of the Lake)
  • Jim Janus: poetry
  • Kate Shanahan: YA/juvenile fiction & poetry
  • Mark Giese: humor
  • Sheree Homer: nonfiction/musical biography
  • Cheryl Geroux: nonfiction
  • Matthew Mulder: poetry & prose

Also, representatives of Left of the Lake and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine will be in attendance.

The books fair features readings by Marcie Eanes, Dan Nielsen, Jean Preston, Kelsey Hoff, Nick Demske and Kelsey Harris.

Support local authors – Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair


The Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is this Saturday from 6-9 p.m. Here is a link the event’s Facebook page: Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair.

Last night I received the official author list. Here are the poets and writers who will be presenting their books to the public:

  • Dave Gourdoux: poetry
  • Justin Grimbol: bizarro fiction & poetry (Bonkness)
  • Rev. William Grimbol
  • Samira Gdisis
  • Peg Rousar-Thompson (Left of the Lake)
  • Jim Janus: poetry
  • Kate Shanahan: YA/juvenile fiction & poetry
  • Mark Giese: humor
  • Sheree Homer: nonfiction/musical biography
  • Cheryl Geroux: nonfiction
  • Matthew Mulder: poetry & prose

Also, representatives of Left of the Lake and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine will be in attendance.

The books fair features readings by Marcie Eanes, Dan Nielsen, Jean Preston, Kelsey Hoff, Nick Demske and Kelsey Harris.

Racine and Kenosha Authors Book Fair


Rumor has it that I am one of the many authors at this event.

Here are details of the event from the Racine and Kenosha Authors Book Fair Facebook page:

September 20 from 6 to 9 pm, authors from all over Racine and Kenosha will converge at the Racine Arts Council. Six featured poets and authors will give readings (Kenosha Poet Laureate Jean Preston, Kelsey Marie Harris, Dan Nielsen, Nick Demske, Marcie Eanes, and Kelsey Hoff), and many more will be present to sign their books and meet with readers. This event is also the official release of Sad Girl Poems, a chapbook self-published by Kelsey Hoff. Light refreshments will be served.

The Racine and Kenosha area is a thriving arts community, with a surprising number of authors and literary publications in residence. This event will represent the diversity of that community, with up-and-coming writers side by side with well-established ones in multiple genres including poetry, fiction, young adult, and nonfiction. Representatives from Left of the Lake and Straylight Literary Arts Magazine will be present with copies of their publications available.

Thanks for supporting the e-book – When the lights go out

When The Lights Go Out book cover

Thanks to all of you who downloaded a copy of my digital chapbook for When the Lights Go Out!

With your support, the Kindle Edition went from being ranked somewhere around 1.6 million-and-something to breaking into the top 11,000 e-book titles downloaded.

For those who prefer a physical signed souvenir—print copies will debut this month at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair.

Thanks for your support!