Friday, June 14, 2013

What's on Your Bookshelf? Pt. 3

This week's "What's on Your Bookshelf?" asks Megan, the Press's summer intern, about her summer to-read list.

I recently finished this book about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard, and it was one of the most beautiful and bittersweet things I’ve read. I hadn’t read a complete Neil Gaiman book before, but the love he receives on the Internet and his last American signing tour going on right now both urged me to try something of his. Now I can say with confidence that I love his writing and have already bought my ticket to hear him speak in Dallas at the end of June.

My senior thesis advisor recommended this nonfiction book to me. It’s a book for writers with tips for style and voice as well as forming good habits to tap into creativity. I haven’t read much of it yet, but I’m using it to get pumped for writing my senior thesis over the summer. A lot of writers recommend reading it because it’s for writers by a writer who has struggled, too.

I saw this at Barnes & Noble and bought it on a whim. It’s a mix of historical fiction and mystery in which the main character, Maggie Hope, is the newest secretary to recently elected Winston Churchill just as World War II is getting underway. She got the job because her predecessor had been murdered, so who knows what might happen. I’d been in the mood for something historical, and my favorite decades to read from are the first half of the twentieth century. Add in an intelligent, spunky, feminist protagonist, and I’m good to go.

I’m a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series and have been slowly jumping through it for years. Next up for me is this book, which follows the Ankh-Morpork Nightwatch, the city’s police department in a lot of ways. It combines two of my favorite genres: fantasy and mystery. Although it’s easy to dismiss these books as regular trade fantasy, any of Terry Pratchett’s books hint at a deeper truth of human nature that does make you think. It’s just wrapped in a hilarious, easy-to-swallow fantasy adventure.

A lot of my friends kept telling me that I’d missed out on Tamora Pierce during puberty. It’s a little late now, but I’ve borrowed all of the Tortall books en masse. The next one is the first in the Protector of the Small series. Every girl should read these books, and so should everybody, because young adult fiction isn’t just for young adults. A sign on the Kent District Library once said, “It’s okay to read [young adult fiction] even if you are no longer, by any stretch of the imagination, young. In fact, you’ll find they often have provocative themes and complex characters that are the equal of most of the books you’ll find on the ‘adult’ fiction shelves these days.” That’s definitely true for this series. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's on Your Bookshelf? Pt. 2

This week's "What's on Your Bookshelf?" asks Rileigh, the Press's Associate Editor, about her summer to-read list.

Hell's Half Acre by Richard Selcer
While working on our upcoming book about the early years of TCU football, I learned more about how Fort Worth and TCU’s early histories are very much intertwined. Part of the reason the Clarks originally left Fort Worth to build their school elsewhere had to do with the many saloons and gambling houses popping up all around site they had picked out. Last year TCU students petitioned for the newly renovated Amon G. Carter Stadium to be nicknamed “Hell’s Half Acre,” because it sounds intimidating and is a huge part of Fort Worth’s history. I agree, however, with Chancellor Boschini that in light of what Hell’s Half Acre truly was, I think we can probably do better than that for our university. I’ll be reading and reviewing Selcer’s book later this summer. 

Son by Lois Lowry
Most of us have read The Giver (and if not, you should!), but I didn’t learn until much later that Lowry also wrote more books that followed it. I’ve read Gathering Blue and Messenger, and am excited to finish the series with her new and final book, Son. Each of Lowry’s books, written in simple and pure language, causes me to really stop and think about our society—what we value, and what we should value.

Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore
My high school Spanish teacher read this book to us in class if we finished our lessons early and had time before the bell rang. (Subtle, Mrs. Kovacs! Keeping us quiet by reading us a story.) I don’t remember anything about it except her family knew Ron Hall. Because it’s a true story, set in Fort Worth, and has become a national bestseller, I’d like to read it for myself. I checked it out from the library and both of my parents read it before I had a chance to, and of course they want to discuss it, so now I am obligated to read it!

The Hidden Hand: Or, Capitola the Madcap by E.D.E.N. Southworth
Becca told me to read this book! When she said it was one she read for a womens’ studies course, I was skeptical… You really want me to read a book you had to dissect and write pages and pages of literary criticism about? But she says it’s fun. And I trust her, so read it I will…eventually.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
It seems like everyone has read this book! I’ve read the first page and loved how the husband can recognize his wife by the back of her head. There’s raw emotion there that’s so difficult to capture in print sometimes. But then I just got busy and didn’t keep going. I’ve heard really awesome things about it from bookish friends, and I love mysteries. What’s summer without reading a few books you’re bound to love?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What's on Your Bookshelf? Pt.1

This week's "What's on Your Bookshelf?" asks Becca, the Press's Marketing Coordinator, about her summer to-read list.

The Son by Philipp Meyer
To be honest, I heard about this book through a feature in Texas Monthly. It sounded reminiscent of a few past books of TCU Press authors, and I hear it's been highly anticipated! Added bonus, I love seeing Texas through non-Texan eyes.

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss
The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my top three favorite novels (a highly competitive list, I assure you), so this book had me at the subtitle. I saw it listed among this year's Pulitzer Prize winners, so I thought, Hey, why not?

Paris: The Novel by Edward Rutherford
I was lucky enough to visit Paris as part of a study abroad trip the summer before I graduated from TCU, and I fell in love with it. (I was surprised; to be honest, I didn't expect to like it all that much.) I saw this novel on a random shelf in Barnes & Noble and jumped on it.

Persuasion by Jane Austen
My lovely colleague Rileigh urged me to read this one. Pride and Prejudice also holds a coveted place on my list of favorite novels (judge me, if you must), but I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read many of Austen's other novels.

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen Carter
I read a summary about this novel in Book Page, I think. Of course I had just seen Lincoln in theaters, so I was intrigued. I haven't started it yet, but I'm curious to see what Carter thinks could have happened had Lincoln survived.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Repeat-Intern’s Long Project: The Norton Trilogy

 Jack L. August Jr. has written two books that deal with water rights and the division of the Colorado River: Dividing Western Waters and Vision in the Desert. His latest book, The Norton Trilogy, due in July, focuses on something different. It begins in the late nineteenth century and follows three generations of John Ruddle Nortons of Arizona all the way to the present. This book follows the development of the Southwest region of the United States and the origins of Phoenix, Arizona, and the Salt River Valley, all centered on agriculture and business.

I was assigned to help with this project from the beginning of my internship here, and I have spent more time on this book than any other. I have completed the widest range of assignments for this book, and it has taught me the most about the lengthy process of making a manuscript into a book.

The editing process alone is extremely involved. This is the area which I have been assisting the TCU Press staff the most.

I admit that when I first saw the manuscript for The Norton Trilogy, it was daunting: 11 chapters, each 30-50 pages, plus an introduction and conclusion. Step one was to get familiar with the text. I spent a few weeks in September staring at a computer screen, reading the manuscript. It took a long time, but I was learning already. I soon became comfortable with the structure of the book and the narratives of the people in it. To top it off, I even learned a thing or two about dam construction and Arizona history.

To make the next step (developmental editing) easier, I then was tasked with creating a timeline of all the events in the book. From the birth of John Norton in 1854 to John Norton III’s most recent campaign in 2001, this book has a long chronology of events that literally span centuries.

Next I followed the Press editor, Kathy Walton, as she worked her magic. August’s words began to revive themselves from the first time I read it, and I was reminded of the great subject matter. From November through March, I worked on copyediting the prose to follow the rules of the Chicago Manual of Style. As an intern, it was my job to make sure that the style choices were being used in the text and to confirm spellings of names and places. The content was more solidly saved in my head.

February through April saw the collection and organization of images for the book. Because this is primarily a biography, it was interesting to put faces to the names. One photograph was chosen for the cover, and the rest needed a place within the text. By far my most hands-on experience at the Press has been to catalogue these pictures. The timeline made earlier gave me insight into the structure of the book, but now this knowledge is put to the test as I search for chapters and pages to match each photo.

The Norton Trilogy is a combination of regional history, the politics of agriculture, and legal issues about river water. This book mainly follows the Norton family, but also details the practices of ancient Native Americans’ canal systems, White House efforts to divide life-giving river water among several arid regions, and scenes of the recently formed settlement town of Phoenix. The wide array of subjects makes it an editorial challenge, but overall a highly interesting read.

We’re getting closer and closer to producing a completed, polished book. Once the manuscript is edited, the text will be transmitted to the designer, who will return page proofs for us to proofread before sending it to the printer. Soon it will be out of my hands entirely.

I can’t wait for that first shipment of printed books. I spent so much time on this project, I am going to hold the finished product in my hands and feel a strong sense of pride for my contributions. 

by Megan Doyle, intern

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

An Intern's Reflection

I've had a lot of valuable experiences as an intern here at TCU Press. The “insider’s look” behind the scenes of what goes into publication of a book is something I’ll cherish, even beyond my time at TCU. What’s more, the people at the Press have been nothing but friendly, contributing to a beneficial and synergistic work environment that made it less of a chore and more of a privilege to come in every Friday for eight hours.

Working as a copyeditor, PR man, catalog writer, blogger, reviewer, and formatter for e-books has shown me the diversity of a job in editing and publication, while simultaneously keeping me interested and engaged in my work each week. There’s always something different, always something more to do. I’m more of a writer, but helping out an author through editing has proven to be really rewarding.

The public relations aspect of it is also something I really like. Since I was little I've been more of a performer than the average Writing major, so I like knowing that what I've written will be read and appreciated. I've been able to synthesize my experiences in several courses, provide analytic and superficial readings to those who appreciate both, and find avenues to still express my creativity. The blog posts on two of the books I've read gave me a chance to flex my authorial muscles in a way that wasn't entirely fact-based, which may have been my favorite part of this entire internship.

Now that I know how much work goes into editing and publishing, as a future academic, I also know that the work I produce will go through this same process. I’m now aware of just how invested in an author and their work a publisher has to be for it to make it through the acquisitions stage alone. Consequently, that has led me to up my game as a researcher.

Beyond that, and generally becoming sycophantic to the people with whom I work (for which there are many reasons to do so, and none of them false), I can’t say much else except I've been honored to work here, I know my work has been appreciated and valued, and I hope that the Press continues this tradition long after I leave these hallowed gates.

by Luke Miller, intern

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Pools of Humanity, Oceans of Self

National Poetry Month is so critically important. More than anything, I write poetry to get others to step back from themselves and their slavery to their calendars; to allow them to look at something I’ve experienced and use the text as a mirror for their own emotion; to remind them, if only subtly, that we are all interconnected by the lives we touch and the things we do, or see, or instinctively know, or want to know. The way the sunset hits the mountain could be a dimly registering echo of home. The ostracism and angst felt by a first-time poet’s narration could recall similar instances of alienation for the reader. Even if it’s just an evocation of emotion rather than an explicitly stated situation, we dive into pools of humanity when we read poetry; we swim in oceans of self.

Finding meaning in the most vague, interpretation-laden texts is a pursuit that is not only noble, it is so accurately a mirror of the human condition that to deny its impact is to deny what makes the universality of poetry so universal. We, as people, are called to read between the lines of our friends’ conversations; to guess at what people are saying in the workplace through the linguistic obstacle courses of doublespeak and professionalism; to take to heart and drink in deep the lessons imparted to us by our family. Poetry takes all of that and removes the hyper-individualization through its existence as writing—but keeps the intimacy of a personalized experience through the act of reading it.

Poetry reminds us elegantly, in the most balletic and delicate way possible, as to why we are alive.

by Luke Miller, intern

Friday, April 5, 2013

Evolution of Poetics

Through my years at TCU I’ve become attracted to multiple forms of poetry. I began in my freshman year, with a look into the work of Charles A. Silvestri within the gorgeous choral music of modern composer Eric Whitacre. Especially of note is the widely-considered magnum opus of both, “Sleep,” which is currently in the process of publication as a children’s book (the satin-esque, downy beauty of the opening lines, “The evening hangs beneath the moon/ A silver thread on darkened dune/ With closing eyes and resting head/ I know that sleep is coming soon,” read with the knowledge that it’s in complete syllabic and metric synchrony with Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening always moves me).

Moving further in my studies I was attracted to the ultra-modern and the avant-garde. One medium that spoke to me (no pun intended) more than anything was that mainstay of coffeehouses and beatniks everywhere, spoken-word poetry. Andrea Gibson’s optimistic Birthday, exultant Say Yes, and devastating Blue Blanket collided with Alysia Harris’s continuation of the idea behind Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet 43, the masterful Death Poem. Courses I took with noted professors of poetry and literature at TCU kept me grasping at the modern and postmodern works of ee cummings (i thank you god for most this amazing day, anyone lived in a pretty how town), T.S. Eliot (The Waste Land, Preludes), and Tracy K. Smith (My God, It’s Full of Stars).

I actually want to pursue poetics as a personal academic mainstay in the near future. As a recently accepted Master’s candidate and a current enrollee in a beyond-fascinating Popular Culture course, I can think of nothing more satisfying as a future doctoral dissertation than going back to the beginning of my interest in poetry—song lyrics in rock music—and viewing them as analytic texts; seeing diction and rhyme’s continued power and tracking its impact on modern youth culture’s paradigms would be an incredibly satisfying (and compelling) thesis. Look at La Dispute’s lyrics to their vastly understated ode to adolescence, “Nine,” and tell me that’s not poetry. Tell me that won’t impact youth to live a little differently. Now tell me you wouldn’t read more about that.

Dr. David Colón, in his study of Latino/a-centric texts, avant-garde poetics, and modern literature, has produced a thrilling chronological anthology of Miguel González-Gerth’s work in Between Day and Night, complete with an enlightening introduction into Gerth’s life and times as a poet confronted with a talent in traditional rhyme scheme thrust into a world of increasing disregard for said rhymes. González-Gerth manages to take that world back, with simple-yet-powerful diction (as earlier in his Pregnant Girl with Dogs:  “Modestly carrying the secret of the universe/ She walks so casually, a triumph over curse”) and searing questions (as later in his Giovinezza: “Would you set me on fire/ Or would it be the same as when you waver,/ Knowing the inclination of my mind?”). The general reception to González-Gerth’s style in poetics is a haunting metaphor for the practice of poetry itself, a trend that is fast growing to an unacceptable mass.

by Luke Miller, intern

Between Day and Night: New and Selected Poems, 1946-2010 Miguel González-Gerth will be available this summer.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cultural Prescience: Television as Crystal Ball

Television, in the modern day and age, has become little more than a spectator sport. The lucky few chosen at random to participate, the countless masses laughing at their follies, and the producers heightening reality as far as possible—so much so as to make the real unreal—are all analogous to gladiatorial sports in ancient Rome. Reality TV and the paparazzi have made normal people into extraordinary brutes, cast into unbelievable situations and forced to react for the cameras. A simple look into the E! reality show “Bridalplasty” from a few years back puts our horrific cultural values on shocking display.

As an intern, one of my main duties at the TCU Press from day one has been proofreading Dan Jenkins’ and Bud Shrake’s Limo, a 1976 novel that predicts with incredible precision (and utter hilarity) the future state of television programming.

Through the eyes of Frank Mallory, a TV producer, the reader is taken through several satiric situations—including a mid-morning drag race—that only serve to highlight the eventual unreality of “Just Up The Street,” a three-hour prime-time program that exists solely at the whim of the Big Guy (read: executive/Frank’s boss). In contrasting Frank’s personal life with his professional struggles, Jenkins and Shrake place a lens firmly into the entertainment mores of the 21st century.

In reading this book, I was struck by the rich narrative, the (often hysterical) dialogue, and the believable characters’ interactions, culminating in a climax that I not only wanted to read, but had fun experiencing. Every misstep (or correct step) was a joy to see; Jenkins and Shrake truly come into their element. Though the book' s diction is a bit dated—“groovy” and “pad” are peppered through the work with surprising abandon—that aging just exacerbates how spot-on (and early) Jenkins and Shrake were in their prediction.  Overall, this is a book I’d definitely recommend, and I don’t recommend books lightly. Pick up a copy when you can.

by Luke Miller, intern

Monday, March 25, 2013

Piecing the Past Together

My knowledge of my family’s immigrant past is collection of fragments—a memory of my Nona Rosa’s wrinkled smile, a brief report I gave in elementary school, a faded photograph from Ellis Island. I know that my great-grandparents came to California from Northern Italy in the early twentieth century, but the details are blank.

As one of my intern duties at TCU Press, I have been assisting in editing The Harness Maker’s Dream, an ancestral narrative by author Nick Kotz.

In this book Kotz tells the story of his family’s patriarch, Nathan Kallison, on his mission to build a life in the United States after escaping from czarist Ukraine in 1890. Drawing from newspapers, interviews, official records, and a variety of other sources, Kotz pieces together a history that most members of his family had long since forgotten.  After a period of struggle and adjustment, Nathan works to become one of the most successful retailers and ranchers in San Antonio, Texas. Throughout his life, Nathan was respected for his character; his children, his business, and his status in the community reflect his unwavering integrity. The narrative records the life of a man whose efforts earned him “the American Dream.”

Kotz hopes this book will inspire its readers to study their own past, learning more about themselves and our nation in this process. Through his research, he discovered that “the most important history of our country is not found in the grand events of wars and presidencies, but rather in the everyday lives of our citizens—how they worked hard to support their families, how they coped with hardships, discrimination, and human tragedy, and how they contributed to their own communities and nation.” These people built the foundations for the thriving society we enjoy today, and their stories deserve to be told.

After reading The Harness Maker’s Dream, I am encouraged to dig into my own past. My grandfather is now the only living child of his immigrant parents—the last guide into a vast landscape of invaluable memories.  I intend to ask him all that I can about our history while I still have the chance. Who knows? Maybe it will lead to my own book one day. 

by Leah Fiorini, intern

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Hurricanes and Their Destruction

If you’ve ever been in a hurricane, you know how scary that experience can be. As a former resident of Louisiana, I also know how regular and sometimes harmless hurricanes can appear. I have vivid memories of friends praying for what we called a “hurrication,” a free vacation from school because of a category 1 or 2 hurricane that might knock out a power line or two. These were always the best vacations; however, sometimes these hurrications weren’t worth the damage.
I remember when my father had to stay in Lake Charles- my hometown- because my grandparents refused to leave their home during a particularly bad storm – Hurricane Ike. Even when the governor issues a mandatory evacuation, some people refuse to leave their homes. This made me particularly nervous, because though Ike hadn’t caused much wind damage, water from the lake and the surrounding rivers was beginning to rise. My grandparents’ home remained untouched, fortunately, but others weren’t so lucky.
My own family only lost one or two shingles from our roof, and despite the fact that we lived so close to the water, our house had received no water damage. But the home of a friend of mine, who lived three minutes down the road from us, had six feet of water damage. This was the second time their home had been flooded. Luckily this time they had flood insurance. Her family lived in her aunt’s pool house for about a year while they filed paperwork, gutted the home, and rebuilt the first story.
These are only a few stories that I have in my bank of memories concerning hurricanes. Because of this, it was only too real when I read Thomas Zigal’s new novel Many Rivers to Cross, a fictional narrative about the happenings in New Orleans after the levees broke during Hurricane Katrina. Based on extensive research, Zigal’s new novel explores the horrors of a drowning city as told through one family’s struggle for survival. Teeming with suspense, loss, and hope, Zigal’s story is one that will captivate readers with its genuine scenes of struggle balanced by Zigal’s lively sense of humor. 

by Hannah Hughes, intern

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Glory Hallelujah Jubilee

If you missed author Jim Lee's interview about A Texas Jubilee last week, here is a clip of him reading an excerpt from one of the stories - "A Glory Hallelujah Jubilee."

And for those following us on Twitter or Facebook, here's a hint: Wish Jim a happy birthday!

A Texas Jubilee: Thirteen Stories from the Lone Star State, Jim's collection of short stories about small-town life in Texas, is now available!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Small-Town Life in A Texas Jubilee

If you know Jim Lee, if you’ve seen the way his eyes twinkle as he speaks, you know to expect the punch line at the end of his every sentence. You’re already smiling in anticipation because though you know the joke’s coming, there’s no telling what he’ll say—you just know it’ll be hilarious.

The same can be expected from Jim’s latest collection of short stories, A Texas Jubilee. Set in the fictional northeast Texas town of Bodark Springs, Lee introduces us to characters we all have met somewhere before—the grumpy old war veterans, the nagging women, the troubled young men. In the style of Sherwood Anderson, author of Winesburg, Ohio, all these small-town characters’ lives are deeply (and at times, annoyingly) intertwined.

“It’s the Law” is my favorite story in the collection. To avoid giving too much away, I’ll just say that this is a story of revenge and patience—lots of patience. Lee’s characters grate on each other’s nerves and you can’t help but sympathize with them. The stories about these folks had me laughing from cover to cover.

To experience Jim’s quick wit and endless stories just like these, join us on Thursday night, February 7 at 7:00 p.m. at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni Center at TCU for Jeff Guinn’s “An Evening with James Ward Lee.” Books will be available for purchase (at a discount!) and signing. 

We hope we see you there!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hello, world!

Hello, publishing world!

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Rebecca Allen (but I'll be honest, most people only know me by Becca), and I'm the new Marketing Coordinator here at the Press. 

I may sound like a bit of a groupie, and that’s probably because I am a bit of a groupie for both TCU Press and the publishing industry as a whole. I am so excited to be here. I began dreaming about working in publishing some time in high school, and after interning at TCU Press as an undergraduate, I knew I wanted to stay there. My dream came true! A week after walking across the stage in TCU’s Daniel Meyer Coliseum, I received a job offer as Marketing Coordinator. And here I am.

I wasted no time, as my colleagues can attest, moving in and getting comfortable. TCU Press is where I want to be, and I plan on staying here as long as they’ll have me. Although I haven’t been at the Press long, it’s impossible to work here and not sense a season of opportunity and growth.  As a fresh-off-the-presses graduate, it’s exciting to be a part of such an organization.

Staff meetings are times of collaboration in addition to logistical planning. Novel ideas for projects and outreach alike are presented and debated. We may be small, but we’re tight-knit! The various stages of the publication process are not distinctly segregated from one another. Instead, we all work together, at every stage of the process, to develop and produce and showcase quality literature – what a wonderful environment and purpose!

In the coming months, I look forward to getting to know more and more of those connected with TCU Press, whether authors, designers, partners or readers. We care about each and every one of you, and we want to become more in-tune with you. Feel free to find and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Pinterest!