Category Archives: Authors

Erik Larson Lecture


Erik Larson

Last night my mom and I went to a “Literary Evening” at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh. It was the first of the 2012-13 Literary Evening Monday Night Lecture Series and the speaker was Erik Larson, one of my favorite authors. I absolutely loved his The Devil in the White City and enjoyed Thunderstruck, so I was so happy to get to see him speak. He was intelligent and funny. He talked about how he comes up with book ideas and his research process. He gave a bit of information for writers – read voraciously and promiscuously – and mentioned that two of his books are currently, hopefully, on the way to becoming movies.

This is the first of these Literary Evenings I’ve been to, and I have to admit I was suprised by how packed the hall was. It has a seating capacity of 1,950 and it was probably 95% filled. We were at the back of the second balcony, and all I had was my phone, so forgive the poor quality photo. The format for the evening was good. First he gave his lecture then it was opened to questions from the audience. After that, Larson was available in the foyer to sign books, but we left because the hour drive home on a school night  makes it a late evening. It was interesting to that at the begining of the Q and A portion, Larson asked the audience how many of us read solely on e-readers, solely traditional books, or a combination. I would say a large majority said they only read paperbacks or hardbacks, and very few, if any, said they only use e-readers.

Larson is currently promoting his new book, In the Garden of Beasts. I just started reading it, but here’s the blurb:

The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.

A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.

Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming–yet wholly sinister–Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.

The line-up for the remainder of the lecture series is a great list. If you’re near the Pittsburgh area, check out the schedule at the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures website.

O is for Ohioana

letter O

The Ohioana Book Festival is an event I look forward to every year. I have a blast, and my family kindly goes too, although I don’t think they are as excited about it as I am.

From the press release:

Live music, food carts, exhibits, fun-loving crowds and….books—lots and lots of books! The Ohioana Library’s goal, as it prepares to present the 6th annual Ohioana Book Festival, is creating a festival that brings readers, writers and books together for an inspiring, fun learning experience.

Activities during the May 12th festival will include more than 20 panel discussions on a varietyof topics. The 10 featured authors will appear in a track of five panels, including conversations about their own literary influences, the writing life and the creative process. Additional panel dialogue will explore children’s literature and poetry, along with several “behind-the-scenes” opportunities for new writers to find out more about how to get published. Author roundtables will be devoted to popular genres such as mystery, romance and science fiction.

The panels I’ve attended in the past have been insightful, inspiring, full of information. I’m already planning which ones to attend this year. I’m thinking Fiction by Women: A Writer’s Roundtable with Julie Drew, Mary Ellis, Sherri Hayes, Susan Gee Heino, Donna MacMeans. And definitely Literary Fiction: The Story Behind the Story with: Donald Ray Pollock and Robin Yocum. Maybe Novel Ideas with Karen Harper and Robin Yocum and How We Write What We Write with Tom Batiuk, Casey Daniels. Or maybe the one focussing on short stories. There are just too many choices, from panels focusing on genres, like fantasy and mystery, to the writing life, to non-fiction topics, like food.

And I have to admit that I’m a little excited that there will be food trucks there during the lunch break. Last year, for lunch David and I ate chips and pop out of the vending machines. The rest of our group went out to lunch, but it took them forever and I didn’t want to miss anything. And I’ve never eaten at/from a food truck before. We just don’t have them in our town.

Of course, we’ll also probably come back with a bag of books. With so many authors talking, signing, reading, it’s hard not to buy one or several.

For more information, visit their website or check out this year’s program. Maybe I’ll see you there.

N Is for Name


Image credit: Daisy Juarez

I like my name, in theory. Carol means “song of joy” and for someone who love playing the piano, it’s appropriate. My middle name, Sue, apparently came from Hebrew and means “lily.”

I took my husband’s last name when we got married and it actually has a rather interesting entry is Wikipedia. It’s a Welsh name, which I knew, and it does mean “son of Evan.” In Welsh however, it comes from the Ifan, a form of John. “The name does refer to Evan-S, meaning son of John; however, the historic context is that many Welsh were relative latecomers to Christianity, and around the 3rd century A.D. a huge evangelical conversion began. Converted followers took the name “Son of John (the Baptist)”, in reference to John the Baptist as the baptiser of Jesus Christ and a symbolic cornerstone of Christian conversion. It is possible that, later on, some took it as meaning the son of their own father called Evan (John), but the practice of religious forenames being converted into surnames by the addition of “s” or “son” (Jackson, Johnson etc.) does not account for the huge incidence of this name in south Wales.” Interesting, huh?

But, when I was orginally thinking of names, I was thinking about pen names. There have been plenty of times when I wish I had a different name. While I like mine, I wish I had one that was all mine, that I didn’t share. As it is, my mom’s name is Carol and my mother-in-law’s name is Susan, but she goes by Sue. It can get a little confusing. I imagine that if I did ever publish a book, I would use my real name, but I would definitely be tempted to pick one I always wanted.

Anyway, some famous pen names, and some I didn’t know:

Mark Twain – His actual name was Samuel Clemens, but I didn’t know Mark twain, meaning “Mark number two,” was a Mississippi River term: the second mark on the line that measured depth signified two fathoms, or twelve feet—safe depth for the steamboat.

Dr. Seuss- When Theodor Geisel was fired from his job as editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth’s Jack-O-Lantern magazine, he kept writing for the humor mag by signing his work under his middle name—Seuss. Years later, when his first book was published, he added the “Dr.” as a joke. His father always wanted him to pursue a medical career.

George Eliott – Mary Anne Evans was practical. She used a male pen name to ensure her works would be taken seriously, to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. An added benefit was that her pen name helped shield her private life from public scrutiny and to prevent scandals.

Gail Carriger- Tofa Borregaard received her undergraduate degree from Oberlin College, a masters of science in archaeological materials at England’s Nottingham University in 2000, and a master of arts in anthropology (with a focus on archaeology) at the University of California Santa Cruz in 2008.  She publishes her real name, and besides, she likes the idea of an alter ego. A note on her pen name: her grandfather came home from World War II on a train named Gail, and Carriger is the street where her favorite vineyard is located.

Avi – Edward Irving Wortis’ twin sister had called him Avi for as long as he could remember, so it was the natural choice when he decided to use a pen name.

Sapphire – Romana Lofton took the name “Sapphire” because of its one-time cultural association with the image of a “belligerent black woman,” and also because she said she could more easily picture that name on a book cover than her birth name.

Lemony Snicket- Daniel Handler is the author of several children’s books. He and his editor thought that A Series of Unfortunate Events should be published under the narrator’s name, rather than his.

Pablo Neruda – Ricardo Neftalí Reyes Basoalto’s poetry was published when he was thirteen. Ricardo’s father actively opposed his son’s interest in writing and literature, so Ricardo chose to use a pen name to mislead his father. Pablo was inspired by Paul Verlaine and Neruda for Jan Neruda, both writers. Eventually he legally changed is name.

Acton, Currer, and Ellis Bell – Anne, Charlotte and Emily Brontë first published as the Bell brothers, afraid that their work would be judged differently if people knew it was written by women. I didn’t realize that Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre were first published under pen names.

Ayn Rand – Alisa Zinov’yevna Rosenbaum’s pen name is definitely easier to pronounce. She chose the name. I can’t find any definite stories, but it’s possible that Rand is a Cyrillic contraction of her birth surname, and Ayn comes from either a Finnish name or from the Hebrew word עין (ayin, meaning “eye”).

Erin Hunter – Three women actually write the Warriors series: Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, and Victoria Holmes. One of them is Amber’s favorite, but I can’t remember which.

What would your pen name be?

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