An Interview with John Yunker, author of Where the Oceans Hide Their Dead

John Yunker is a writer of plays, short stories and novels focused on human/animal relationships. He is author of the novels The Tourist Trail and the sequel Where Oceans Hide Their Dead. He is also editor of the anthologies Writing for Animals and Among Animals.

His full-length play Meat the Parents was a finalist at the Centre Stage New Play Festival (South Carolina) and semi-finalist in the AACT new play contest. Species of Least Concern was a finalist in the 2016 Mountain Playhouse Comedy Festival. His short play, Little Red House, was published in the literary journal Mason’s Road, and produced by the Studio Players Theatre in Lexington, Kentucky.

His short stories have been published by literary journals such as Phoebe, Qu, Flyway, and Antennae.

Yunker is also the co-founder of Ashland Creek Press, a publisher devoted to environmental and animal rights literature. He also has a passion for languages and for helping organizations develop better multilingual websites. You can find more of his work at JohnYunker.com

Ed Battistella: I enjoyed Where the Oceans Hide Their Dead. What prompted you to revisit the characters from The Tourist Trail.

John Yunker: I had a sense while writing The Tourist Trail that there was a bigger story to be told. And I too wanted to know what happened to Robert when he stepped off the plane in Namibia.

EB: One of the things that impressed me was the characterization and dialogue. You seemed to do a lot with a small ensemble of well-developed characters. I’m wondering how your work as a playwright influences your characterizations and your novelistic writing generally.

JY: I find that a character is “working” when you can hear him or her in your head and you become, in effect, the stenographer. This applies to playwriting as well. Of course, the trouble with having these characters talking inside your head is that they don’t always keep their mouths shut, which is another reason why there is a book two.

EB: The structure of the book, following three characters in different situations, was an interesting choice but it also required a sharp eye for details. How did you research the many convincing details, about seal hunting, espionage, chicken farming and more?

JY: Great question. Research, research and more research. Which includes everything from Wikipedia to Google Maps to following specific animal activists and court cases, as well as scientific journals and random news articles. I’d say the first few years of this book were more research and reading than writing. I’ve studied a number of well-documented cases of the FBI and animal activists, as well as trials. And I’ve gotten to know a few of the people who were imprisoned along the way; a few are still in prison as I write this.

EB: Are animal right groups routinely targeted as terrorist or tracked by private security? Where the Oceans Hide Their Dead painted a complex, fraught picture of activism.

JY: The FBI has targeted animal rights groups for decades now, but the risks for activists have become acute over the past decade. In 2006, the government passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which effectively allowed the government to label anyone who simply disrupted the activities of a slaughterhouse or animal testing laboratory as a terrorist. In addition, many states now have “ag-gag” laws that have made it a crime to take photographs or videos within slaughterhouses or on ranches or farms – even if you’re taking a photograph from the side of the road. In addition to the FBI, corporations hire private firms to monitor and (in some cases) infiltrate these groups. And it’s not just animal rights but the health of the planet that is at stake. Being from St. Louis, I grew up not very far from Monsanto (which inspired a portion of the book). Most people don’t know that Monsanto once founded its own private town along the banks of the Mississippi specifically so it could avoid all regulation and freely do whatever it wanted with its chemical waste. The town is now called Sauget, and it includes a superfund site. But growing up there, I didn’t know any of this. I knew only that Monsanto was a very large company and that it had very tight security. I now know a great deal more about the company, as do a growing number of Americans.

EB: Have you got plans for a third book featuring Robert Porter and company?

JY: I do. Hopefully book three won’t take as long as book two, though I make no predictions.

EB: I was pleased to see Ashland and even SOU mentioned. Do you have connections with some of the other places you wrote about in the book?

JY: It’s difficult to keep my real life from seeping into my fictional life, so, yes, many of the locations are places I have a connection with. But not all. For instance, I’ve never been to Namibia and can only hope I did a decent job of portraying that region of the world; I hope to get there one day. Sadly, the seal slaughter along the shores of Namibia is all too true and still happening today. I did get to know, virtually, a man who rescued the stray seals who washed ashore in South Africa. The thing about people who devote their lives to rescuing animals – it can be such a heartbreaking and lonely life. This book, as well as the first, is my attempt to tell their stories.

EB: Thanks for talking with us!

JY: Thank you, Ed, for including me!

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An Interview with Abbigail N. Rosewood, author of If I Had Two Lives

Abbigail N. Rosewood was born in Vietnam, where she lived until the age of twelve. In 2012, she was the recipient of the Michael Baughman Fiction Award and the Outstanding Graduating Student in Creative Writing Award from Southern Oregon University. Her works have published in such literary journals as The Adirondack Review, Columbia Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern, and The Missing Slate.

Abbigail Rosewood has a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Columbia University and an excerpt from her first novel, If I Had Two Lives, was awarded First Place in the Writers’ Workshop of Asheville Literary Fiction contest. If I Had Two Lives was released by Europa Editions this April.

James Cañón, author of Tales from the Town of Widows, calls If I Had Two Lives “the perfect novel of dislocation.” Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Little Failure says it is “A harrowing, wondrously constructed story of childhood and a brilliant meditation on how life is lived today.”

Abbigail Rosewood currently lives and writes in New York. You can follow her at abbigailrosewood.com

Ed Battistella: Congratulations on the publication of If I Had Two Lives, which I really enjoyed. It’s a great read and a great accomplishment.

Abbigail N. Rosewood: Thank you for reading! It has been a pleasant surprise to receive so much support from friends and strangers, but it means a lot coming from you who taught me at SOU. I don’t know what it feels like for you reading your student’s work, but for me it is absolutely thrilling to be read by my professor—the ultimate A plus.

EB: It felt to me to be a novel about longing and wanting people to be what we needed them to be. Is that part of the immigrant experience do you think?

AR: Loneliness is a universal human condition and for those who migrate, it is both the prerequisite and outcome. It is impossible to be ripped off from your roots and not feel intensely isolated. Within an isolation chamber, memories resound much louder and manifest themselves again and again as the immigrant attempts to digest the pain of being psychically fractured—being between cultures, languages, memories, and between truths as well.

Yet I don’t think this is unique to the immigrant experience. All the time people gravitate towards familiarity, echoes of their childhood. Familiarity becomes a guiding post on who to love, what to eat, and unfairly who to hate and fear as well. In my novel, the narrator’s longing is so profound that she superimposes her memories onto people that are perhaps not genuinely anything like those from her childhood. Parts of her evolution is coming to the realization that she has failed to really see the person she claims to love for who they are.

EB: Can you tell us about the title? There is a nice reveal at the end but all through the book I was playing with different understandings of that. I wondered if you were intentionally giving the readers different ways to see that in some of the pairings of the characters.

AR: I’m curious to hear what you make of the title! I do hope for readers to get a multilayered understanding of the title. When someone says, “If I had two lives, I would…,” it sounds like the beginning of a wish, yet juggling two lives is a reality for many people. It is a gift to be both and neither, but it comes at an enormous cost.

Looking back, it is hard to pin point my intentions, but when writing I’m always asking questions. Narrative gives me the opportunity to create situations that are nuanced, emotionally and morally ambiguous, which can be demanding of readers. Art doesn’t offer neat conclusions: it can move, irritate, and even anger. It is my hope that readers can juggle the questions and hold all these contradictions in mind.

EB: If I Had Two Lives is story-driven, but from time to time you allow the protagonist some room to philosophize and reflect. What’s the key to adding that sort of depth without taking away from the narrative. Were you conscious of the moments when you had the main character meditate on life or did those moments just happen? Was she taking over?

AR: There are many successful literary works I admire that is only telling or showing. I try to balance both. In If I Had Two Lives, the protagonist’s way of expressing her feelings is often understated, which is essential to her character. Subtlety doesn’t work for everyone—I encountered a good amount of resistance from editors when my agent was trying to sell the book. Still, it is my firm belief that nothing can ever be subtle enough. Occasionally, however, it is useful to be exact, to give readers emotional anchors or affirmations of what they already know.

EB: I enjoyed the writing and pace, and these was one matter of craft I especially wanted to ask you about: in the first part of the book you make a point of not using names—there is “the little girl,” “my mother,” and “my soldier,” and even the protagonist is nameless throughout. Can you talk about the namelessness?

AR: As soon as something is named it loses ambiguity, which to me is a great loss. It feels honest that my central characters should not be easily pinned down or defined, especially the protagonist because she suffers profoundly from the psychic ruptures of being in-between. I myself have a complicated relationship with names. I would love to live namelessly or go by a name that is cleansed of all assumptions like iLP78&R, but it is simply impractical. I suppose this might be one difference between life and fiction, the novel can afford some impracticalities in service of a higher truth.

EB: Was one of the lives easier to tell than the other? I liked the way you brought the lives together at the end.

AR: Thank you. It is hard to give any life the intricacies that it deserves. In that sense I am aware that like most novels, this one too is a failure. I started writing it when I was twenty-five, finished it at twenty-six, and published it at twenty-nine. A month before publication, I had one last chance to edit minor details. Because it has been a few year since I read it, I had enough distance to see how flawed it was, how full of naiveties. At some point, in order to publish, all writers have to contend with this reality—their ego—the arrogant idea that a work could be perfected. I think, art, if it were to really live, it must do so with errors, loose ends.

EB: What was the process of writing the novel like for you? Did much change from the earliest versions?

AR: It was the absolute best part of the whole thing. There is nothing more sublime than to surrender to the work to be congruent with aesthetic values, which I’m afraid to say, I put above all others. There are eight “drafts,” of the novel, although the original writing from the first draft has not changed, only shifted. Moments are expanded so that the work grows in volume. The novel happens to be my chosen medium so there are certain requirements to fulfill, one of which is length, but the emotional core can be expressed with a song, a brushstroke, a knife fight. I have great respect for poets for this reason, their ability to move worlds with a few syllables.

EB: Perhaps this is an unfair question but how much of the story is autobiographical? Or is the novel all fiction?

AR: A visual artist I know incorporates in her mixed-media paintings objects from her personal life like a piece of her son’s blanket from when he was a baby. My work is autobiographical in the sense that it is blanketed with emotional truths and emblemed with personal “objects”. My writing will always be honest in this way and autobiographical even if I were writing about dragons.

EB: What other current writing projects have you got happening?

AR: I have a second novel, which is still looking for a home.

EB: Thanks for talking with us. Good luck with If I Had Two Lives.

AR: Thank you so much, Ed, for the enlightening questions.

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An Interview with poet and translator Martha Darr

Martha Darr at the Panama Canal

Martha Darr is a poet and literary translator with advanced degrees in the Humanities. Her educational focus on African Diaspora Studies garnered funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Fulbright Hays faculty grants. She has taught courses in Oral Literature, Language and Identity, and African/Latin American Studies. Some of her work has appeared in FIYAH, Exterminating Angel Press, Journal of American Folklore, and the bilingual anthology Knocking On The Door of The White House: Latina and Latino Poets in Washington, D.C.

Ed Battistella: Tell our readers a little bit about your work as a translator and poet?

Martha Darr: I am a poet and a literary translator- Spanish to English currently – I may try my hand at working with another language in the near future.

My own writing thus far has been described as “speculative” (fantasy, sci-fi ). One review I read recently said a poem of mine was “the best piece in the collection –dark strange … stayed with me for days” I floated around the house a bit after that. Appreciation is fuel, keeps me going.

EB: What does it mean to you to be a poet? Why do you think poetry matters?

MD: With a poem you can express feelings economically, concisely in a way that moves readers, helps them think beyond the everyday. It is a wonderful and challenging practice.

It has been noted that in a dictatorship, intellectuals and artists are especially among the targeted. A regime is aware of this ability to arouse strong feelings in others, which is considered dangerous. Poets have certainly been among the victims. There is real power in the skillful use of the pen.

EB: You are also a linguist, so how has that affected your ideas about poetry?

MD: Examining the structure of languages unlike my own has been helpful. You are provided with other ways to view communication and a larger set of inventory to play with when appropriate.

EB: When did you first begin writing? Have you always been a writer?

MD: I began writing creatively years ago when I was young: jingles, poems, lyrics to religious hymn, even a very short (flash) story written in a creole for a class assignment, but gave this all up when I entered college. I then tried to write “serious, scholarly” work but never felt at home, found it tedious, labored. In a desperate move to get back to creative literary writing, I kicked myself out of academia years later, praying I would not fall into a black hole of oblivion.

EB: How do you write? What is your writing life like?

MD: A large part of the process for me is simply generating ideas, letting the messiness appear then getting out of my own way to allow the real stuff to surface.

I try to focus on writing daily, usually in the a.m., but avoid stressing about the time element–I wish I could say I put in X solid hours, every day, but the truth is that I am simply happy to have tamed the resistance bug and done some writing on a regular basis. This can take anywhere from an hour and half to four hours a day.

EB: Who are your poetic influences? Or your writing influences generally?

MD: I now realize it is a gift to have been raised reading the Bible from an early age. The Book of Psalms, for example, is full of beauty and meaning. A background in fantasy and oral tradition have also been very helpful.

EB: What are you working on currently?

MD: I am continuing to submit individual pieces and pulling a group of poems together for a manuscript I hope to complete by fall. My challenge will be to arrange them within a unified theme. So many ideas, so little time.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

MD: El gusto es todo mío–My pleasure.

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An Interview with Tim Applegate

Tim Applegate is the author of three poetry collections–At the End of Day (Traprock Books), Drydock (Blue Cubicle Press), and Blueprints (Turnstone Books of Oregon).

Born in Georgia and raised in Indiana, ​ Tim has lived in Boston, Sarasota, Florida, and for the last twenty-four years on two acres in the foothills of the coastal range of western Oregon where he owned and operated a commercial contracting business specializing in furniture and wood restoration for the hotel and cruise ship industries.

He is the author of the novels Fever Tree (Amberjack Publishing) and the recently released Flamingo Lane (Amberjack Publishing).

You can visit his website at timapplegate.net.

Ed Battistella: Tell us about your recently released novel Flamingo Lane and your series The Yucatan Quartet.

Tim Applegate: In my new novel Flamingo Lane, to pay off an exorbitant gambling debt to the ruthless Mexican drug lord Pablo Mestival, an expat named Chance agrees to locate – and possibly eliminate – Mestival’s former lover Faye Lindstrom, who has fled Mexico and returned to her hometown. Like the other books in the Yucatan Quartet, Flamingo Lane is a standalone novel that explores the classic noir themes of greed, betrayal, and revenge.

EB: You are a writer of Southern noir? How is Southern noir different from other noir styles?

TA: Southern noir novels, exemplified by writers like Ron Rash in North Carolina and Tom Franklin in Mississippi, are often set in rural or small-town locales, and tend to feature poor or working-class characters. That said, the major elements of traditional noir – a money trail, a femme (or in many cases these days) a male fatale, a dupe – remain firmly in place.

EB: When did you first begin writing? Have you always been a writer?

TA: I began writing poetry and short fiction in high school and never really stopped. It’s been a long and sometimes difficult journey, but I can’t imagine what else I would have done with my time.

EB: What is your writing day like?

TA: I’m usually planted in front of my keyboard by 7 a.m. And I generally write/edit/revise for the next three or four hours. Of course when you’re working on a novel the story stays with you 24 hours a day, so sometimes in the afternoons I go back to the keyboard to add notes, ideas, descriptions. It’s a bit obsessive really, but there are far worse obsessions than writing books about crimes. Like committing those crimes!

EB: It’s poetry month and you have also published several collections on poetry. What does poetry mean to you?

TA: That’s an interesting question. For me, writing poetry is a way to slow the world down and focus in on something specific, a canoe trip with one of my daughters or the funeral of a friend or a memory of how cornfields looked on summer mornings in Indiana when I was a boy. It’s a way to slow down, take a deep breath, and rediscover what counts.

EB: Who are some of your poetic influences?

TA: I could name a hundred influences. But to keep the list short: Frost, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. Robert Bly, Kenneth Rexroth, the Oregon poet Clem Starck. Issa, Basho, Charles Goodrich, Carolyn Forche…

EB: Can you tell us a little bit about the rest of The Yucatan Quartet?

TA: The Yucatan Quartet chronicles the lives of a group of expats who meet in a village in the Yucatan in the 1970s. Over the years, their lives continue to intersect because of certain unfortunate incidents that took place back in Mexico. Like all noir, the books go to some dark places. But there are glimmers of hope and redemption too, a faint light at the end of a long, scary tunnel.

EB: Good luck with you new book, Flamingo Lane. Thanks for talking with us.

TA: Thanks, Ed.

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The History of The Mid-Atlantic Accent and the Golden Age of Hollywood, a guest post by Riley Hamilton

Riley Hamilton is an English major and an Honors College student at Southern Oregon University.

Language is a cornerstone of culture. The language a group of people speaks is a way of expressing their cultural beliefs, customs, and values. Similarly, dialects and accents define culture as well. The way in which people speak is a method of unification and expression. Languages, dialects, and accents evolve and shift over time, revealing certain aspects of society. The varieties of speech favored by a society are reflective of social stratification and the standard for language, and these ideas can often be seen portrayed in media. The Mid-Atlantic accent, a non-rhotic style of speech found in New England and along the East Coast, has a rich history. After its rise in popularity after the elocution movement in the 18th century, it took to the big screen and ultimately became a defining factor of the film industry during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Analyzing the Mid-Atlantic accent and its history through the lens of the film industry reveals its role in reflecting the ever-changing class relations within society.

In November of 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in New England. These religious separatists fled England in order to practice their religion and worship God freely, and their arrival in New England can be regarded as the epicenter of what would become American English. As more and more Europeans began infiltrating America, the English language was being used and taught along over a thousand miles of the eastern coast by the end of the 17th century. Rather than adopting Native American languages, the English retained the “proper”, aristocratic speech influenced by the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare. There are fewer than a dozen borrowed Native American words found in the writings of the Founding Fathers. Though there was a mixing of dialects due to people immigrating from various European countries and British regions, the colonists were content to use English rather than learn the Native tongues. Historians speculate that Native languages were too difficult for the English, and that they simply preferred their own words. Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, North and South Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were all colonized and each given-other than Massachusetts and Connecticut - English names rather than Native American ones. English took the west by storm, and a myriad of dialects began developing in the various colonies. In 1664, the Dutch colony New Amsterdam was taken by the British and became New York (Bragg 147-153). And the British occupation of America’s east coast, especially New York, resulted in the development of the Mid-Atlantic accent that has characterized the region since.

The Mid-Atlantic accent, sometimes referred to as the Transatlantic accent, is a byproduct of the blending of American and British accents. More specifically, prestigious British speech influenced early American English, thus creating this hybrid of distinguished talk. In the Mid-Atlantic accent, vowels are more thoroughly expressed. For example, in the cot-caught and Don-dawn distinctions, each of the vowels are distinguished. In other American dialects, cot-caught and Don-dawn are merged with no audible distinction between words. Additionally, the Mid-Atlantic accent also makes a distinction between the words wine and whine. Whine, and other words beginning with wh are pronounced with a “hw” sound. The accent also retains the yod, which is the “ew” sound found in words such as news and music. The Mid-Atlantic accent’s use of these distinct pronunciations is reflective of its British roots. Another defining feature, and perhaps the most notable, of the Mid-Atlantic accent is its lack of rhoticity. Accents and dialects are considered rhotic when the letter r is pronounced at the end of words and before a consonant. Many British accents typically drop the pronunciation of r sounds at the end of words. For example, the word card often sounds like cahd when said with a British or New England accent. This non-rhotic speech shaped American English during the colonization of New England. Non-rhotic speech became “associated with upper-class whites” as speech standards of the British aristocracy bled into America (Wells 542). In contrast, rhotic speech was initially seen as characteristic of poverty and the lower-class. The high social standing associated with non-rhotic speech sparked a major emphasis on elocution in America.

In the 18th century, the United States experienced an elocution movement in which the rhetorical skills of pronunciation and articulation were heavily valued. An elocution movement had already been established in the United Kingdom, and the United States followed suit. Elocution was a core principle of classical Western rhetoric, and the desire to increase one’s elocutionary skills became increasingly popular. Elocution classes, which taught students how to properly speak, give oral presentations, and read aloud became customary. These lessons were modeled after the elocution standards found in the United Kingdom, which resulted in the Mid-Atlantic accent maintaining its status as proper speech. These elocution lessons were integrated into public school systems in hopes of teaching children to speak elegantly and properly (Moran 1994). Oratory abilities were thus associated with suitability, which further perpetuated the social stratification surrounding the Mid-Atlantic accent. During this time, many
books were published on the topic of elocution. An actor named Thomas Sheridan wrote Lectures on Elocution in 1762, and another actor named John Walker wrote Elements of Elocution in 1781. These works instructed readers how to use gestures, control their voices, and emphasize words. Society’s emphasis on elocution remained relevant through the mid 20th century, and began to play a major role in media.

The signature non-rhotic sound of the accent was very prominent in the arts and high caliber careers. This style of speech was used on the radio, by politicians and lawyers, and was heavily featured in the film industry. The Golden Age of Hollywood, which followed the silent film era, is notorious for its use of the Mid-Atlantic accent in films during the late 1920’s to 1960. Iconic actresses such as Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Vivien Leigh all mastered the accent for their films, and its unique British-esque sound became a defining feature of films made during this time. Golden Age actors and actresses were trained in the art of elocution and speech delivery. In 1942, vocal coach Edith Skinner wrote Speak with Distinction. Skinner was a consultant to actors, and she used her text and methods to train them in the Mid-Atlantic accent, which she referred to as “Good Speech.” Skinner’s coinage of the term Good Speech was very prescriptivist, and most modern linguists reject the idea that certain types of speech are better than others. Nevertheless, Skinner’s guide to the Mid-Atlantic accent became the standard for actors both on the screen and the stage. Speak with Distinction, a quite dense text, contains instructions for the proper pronunciation of thousands of words. Good Speech has a multitude of rules, the most recognizable being the dropping of the r at the end of words, the clear expression of all vowels, and the pronunciation of t in words such as water and night (Skinner 1942). The transition from silent film to sound film allowed for the new dimension “of speech to register more subtle differences in social class, ethnicity, and educational or geographical background” (Beach 2). The start of sound film coincided “almost exactly with the beginnings of the Great Depression,” and amidst the rising class struggle, social structure became a common theme in the expanding film industry. The Mid-Atlantic accent was used by actors to portray upper-class characters and societies. Over the decades, however, the association between non-rhotic speech and the upper-class has shifted.

Non-rhotic speech is characteristic of the famous New York City accent, but the dropping of the r that defined upper-class New Yorkers for decades has lost its high standing. Over the course of the 21st century, American English has begun to favor “rhoticity in all positions, gradually displacing the New York City pronunciations” (Mather 2). While non-rhotic speech used to be indicative of the upper-class, rhoticity is now the preferred manner of professional speech. Linguists have tracked the societal shift regarding rhoticity, and in 1962 linguist William Labov conducted his New York department store study, in which he investigated whether or not New Yorkers pronounce their r’s depends on what social class environment the speakers are in. He analyzed the language of the employees in three different department stores: Saks (upper middle class), Macy’s (lower-middle class), and S. Klein (working class). Labov found the employees “from Saks used rhotic r most, showing that the overt prestige form in New York City favored rhoticity. Those from Klein’s used it least, likely because they identified more with their working-class clientele, and because it reflected their own frequency of use in their local communities,” and employees from Macy’s used a constricted form of r (Mather 2). Labov concluded that “the pronunciation of r increased both socially and stylistically toward greater rhoticity…and the more careful the speech, the more likely the r was to be pronounced” (Mather 2). This study has been recreated twice in New York City, and the results have been consistent. Rhoticity has usurped the long, prestigious reign of non-rhoticity. The non-rhotic New York City accent is still depicted in film and television, but it’s portrayal has shifted. For example, characters such as New York City lawyers are often presented with formal, rhotic speech, whereas New York City police officers are typically portrayed with a non-rhotic accent. Lawyers are shown using a more “proper and professional” sort of speech, and the police officers represent the everyday New York City speech they hear and use in the streets. The Mid-Atlantic accent, particularly its use in media, has had a long history reflective of constantly evolving class relations.

The English language has experienced many modification as it has developed in America over the centuries. A multitude of accents can be heard throughout the country, some of the most notable hailing from New England. The Mid-Atlantic accent has defined the region for decades, and representations of it are often used as a stereotype for New Yorkers and Bostonians. Before the Mid-Atlantic accent evolved to what it is today, it was a reflection of the upper-class, wealth, and intelligence. The elocution movement transformed the accent into a desirable achievement; the golden standard for proper speech and delivery. The Golden Age of Hollywood perpetuated the accent’s association with high social standing, but in the last century its prestige has all but disappeared. Though the implications of the Mid-Atlantic accent have shifted, its relevance and usage has not. The accent is still alive and well in New England, and will continue to evolve as it has been since the 15th century.

Works Cited

Beach, Christopher. Class, Language, and American Film Comedy. Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Bragg, Melvyn. The Adventure of English: the Biography of a Language. Sceptre, 2016. Mather, Patrick-Andre. “The Social Stratification of /r/ in New York City.” Journal of English
Linguistics, 40(4): 338-356, 2012, pp. 1-19.

Modiano, Marko. “The Americanization of Euro-English.” World Englishes, vol. 15, no. 2, 1996, pp. 207–215.

Moran, Michael G. Eighteenth-Century British and American Rhetorics and Rhetoricians: Critical Studies and Sources. Greenwood Press, 1994.

Skinner, Edith, et al. Speak with Distinction: the Classic Skinner Method to Speech on the Stage.Applause Theatre Book Publishers, 1990.

Wells, J.C. Accents of English: Volume 3: Beyond the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, 1982.

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An Interview with Young Adult and Romance Blogger Shelee Juarez

A 2019 graduate of Southern Oregon University, Shelee Juarez is a Young Adult and Romance book blogger. You can follow her blog and Facebook pages at Book Reader Chronicles and on Instagram & twitter at @brcbookblog

Ed Battistella: Tell our readers a little about your blog Book Reader Chronicles?

Shelee Juarez: My blog features book reviews and cover reveals for books in both the Romance and Young Adult genres, and will hopefully soon include a master list of books I recommend in every genre—that last part is a goal of mine now that I’ll be done with school shortly and can devote more time to creating that aspect on my website. I generally only feature positive reviews on my public forum—anything with a star rating of 3.5 and above—and books that I can positively recommend to my followers. My reviewing style is more of a ‘deep-diver’ as I like to flesh out my thoughts in more of a professional capacity than one more focused on my feelings. I like to delve into the characters, the writing, the relationships, and the overall arc of the plot before I touch on my feelings. And, of course, I try very hard to keep all of mine spoiler-free.

EB: You’ve been blogging since 2014. How did you get started?

SJ: It was happenstance, really. The owner of the blog put out a post on Facebook around end of Summer in 2014 asking if anyone was interested in blogging. When I reached out to the her, she told me she was interested in selling her entire website, social media channels, and books to get out of the blogging industry to pursue a new career in the publishing industry. It happened to be around the same time I had quit work to go back to college, so my husband and I decided to take the leap—both financially and creatively—to buy her out. I had always wanted to get into blogging prior to that, but was overwhelmed with the entire idea of starting everything from scratch, so thankfully I had the great benefit of gaining an already established fanbase and product. But it was a crash course of teaching myself how to use WordPress, to learn coding, and my reviewing process in the month she worked with me before leaving completely.

EB: Book Reader Chronicles specializes in Romance and Young Adult genres. What does that include?

SJ: I read sort of all over the place in those two genres as each have many subgenres. In Romance I read anything from romantic suspense to historical romance to new adult to contemporary and fantasy. With Young Adult I read anywhere from fantasy to sci-fi to contemporary books. If it has good writing and plot, I don’t much care where it falls under, but those two genres are where I read from ninety-five percent of the time. I love a good love story and both tend to always have one somewhere in it.

EB: Do romance and YA share some things in common in your view?

SJ: Absolutely. The only real difference between the two is the age of the characters and the overall heat of the romance. But the characters generally have the same wants and needs, just at different points in their lives. And some YA is quite explicit, it’s just author and publisher preference.

EB: How many books do you read or review in a month?

SJ: Depending on my workload outside of reading, I generally read around ten to fifteen books a month. Most of those are to be published that same month or early in the next, but sometimes I’m able to get ahead of my schedule and read a book that isn’t out for a few months. It’s often that I am reading a book two weeks ahead of its release, though I wish I wasn’t that close to publication so I could drum up interest for the title sooner. Without school taking up so much time, I’m hoping to get ahead and stay there.

EB: How do you manage to fit in all the reading? I know you’ve got a busy life.

SJ: It’s been a delicate and stressful process to find a balance between classes, schoolwork, reading, reviewing, promoting, and being a mother and homeowner, but I’ve managed to find some harmony in it—some months being harder than others. I know that I have put a lot of unnecessary stress on myself over the past four and a half years because I couldn’t make myself turn down any book I was interested in, and that left me overbooked on that side while also having a full-time schedule’s worth of schoolwork on the other. There were plenty of days I was up late doing one or the other. One element of my life that became easier was when my son started kindergarten in 2016 and freed up a lot of my time. Depending on my class schedule, I’d take him to school and then read a bit. Then I’d find spaces to read before my husband brought him home on his way home from work, and then staying up late to read before bed. Being a night owl helped keep that going for as long as it did, but it was always an internal battle of being responsible in choosing which actually needed done first—and not choosing the book simply because I wanted to read it. And, yeah, deciding how much sleep I wanted that night to function for the next day. When I first started blogging I was reading and reviewing 200 books a year, but as schoolwork became more involved I’ve gone down to around 130-150, which is still more than most people.

EB: How do you decide what to review?

SJ: Over the years I’ve gotten really picky with what books I request or have sent to me for review. I used to be able to read a book’s synopsis and know that I’ll enjoy it, but with the market in the indie romance industry being oversaturated with writers, I’m less able to predict if I’ll actually like the writing of the author or their storytelling. That’s not an attack to that market at all, but with so many writers all vying to stay relevant, you find a lot of books written too quickly and the quality suffers because of it. Now I try to stick with what my gut says when reading the synopsis—it’s still wrong sometimes—and try to stay with authors who I’ve read and loved before. Almost all of what I review on the YA side is traditionally published, so I have a better chance at reading a well-written, well-edited book since they’ve gone through the rigorous process of a publisher buying and working on them, but there are still duds. In either genre it’s all about the synopsis pulling at me as well as the cover—you can tell a lot about a book with those two things.

EB: What do you look for in a book?

SJ: I look for elements that haven’t been done before, or fascinating decisions the main character must make. I look for different dynamics in couple relationships that present a particular problem I either haven’t read before or is part of a trope I love. I’m a cover snob, too, so sometimes I won’t even look at the synopsis of a book if the cover doesn’t grab me. I basically need to feel that excitement in my chest when I read a synopsis to want anything to do with it because it’s a lot of hours to invest in that author’s imagination.

EB: What sort of authors are easiest to work with. I’m asking for a friend.

SJ: (laughs) Ones who truly appreciate everyone in the book industry—from us bloggers to the paying readers and all of those paid to promote or create the book in some way. If an author truly appreciates those who buy or promote their work, they’re good people. Those that do will appreciate the time you’ve spent reading and reviewing by commenting on your review or sharing it to their followers—all of which make my day every time it happens, even years into it.

EB: I notice there are some pretty specific blog polices too. What do those involve?

SJ: Most of my policies are pretty standard in that there may be sensitive content within my posts, not to reproduce any of my reviews unless express consent and credit is given, that giveaway winners are given a specific amount of time to respond before a new winner is chosen, and, because I prefer an open policy, that any purchase on a link on my website to a title on Amazon will earn me a very small percentage from Amazon as an affiliate of theirs. Much of this is to protect me as a business, but thankfully I haven’t run across an issue where I needed to refer to one of them.

EB: What do you enjoy most about book blogging?

SJ: The books are what I enjoy the most. I enjoy the storytelling, the transportive world-building, and the love stories they create—either with friendship, family, or a romantic partner. None of the effort of spending hours to read a book, hours to write one review, the time spent promoting it in the blackhole that is social media now, or the effort spent reaching out to publicists—sometimes having to prove your worth as deserving of an early copy—would be anywhere near worth it if my passion wasn’t in books themselves. I originally fell back into reading in 2012 as a form of escapism with my PTSD and panic disorder, but they quickly became more than a lifeline and are now my way of life. It’s why I always carry my kindle or a physical book with me. Also knowing I’m helping an author succeed, in some small way, makes my heart happy.

EB: Will you be reading more now that you’ve finished your college experience?

SJ: I truly hope so. Once the constant of “I have schoolwork to do” falls away, I’m really hoping it’ll level out to the same number of books read as before now that all of my free time can be spent with just books. But working full time presents its own challenges and I’m hoping to be able to find a balance with that quickly because I have many books to read.

EB: Thanks for talking with us. Good luck with your work.

SJ: Thank you so much!

Posted in Ideas and Opinions, Interviews | Comments Off on An Interview with Young Adult and Romance Blogger Shelee Juarez

An Interview with Joe Biel, author of A People’s Guide to Publishing

Joe Biel is a self-made autistic publisher and filmmaker who draws origins, inspiration, and methods from punk rock. He is the founder/manager of Microcosm Publishing and co-founder of the Portland Zine Symposium. He has been featured in Time Magazine, Publisher’s Weekly, Art of Autism, Utne Reader, Oregonian, Broken Pencil, Punk Planet, Bulletproof Radio, Spectator (Japan), G33K (Korea), and Maximum Rocknroll. He is the author of A People’s Guide to Publishing: Building a Successful, Sustainable, Meaningful Book Business, Good Trouble: Building a Successful Life & Business on the Spectrum, Manspressions: Decoding Men’s Behavior, Make a Zine, The CIA Makes Science Fiction Unexciting, Proud to be Retarded, Bicycle Culture Rising, and more.

He is the director of five feature films and hundreds of short films, including Aftermass: Bicycling in a Post-Critical Mass Portland, $100 & A T-Shirt, and the Groundswell film series.

The Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy described Biel as “not trained in pedagogy.” He lives in Portland, Oregon and his work can be found at joebiel.net.

Ed Battistella:
What is A People’s Guide to Publishing?

Joe Biel: After twenty years of publishing, I met Sidnee Grubb, who is one of the smartest and most promising young people that I’ve ever met. In fact, she’s two months younger than Microcosm! She completed an internship here and asked what to read to further her publishing education. I thought long and hard about this and ultimately felt like all of the books were outdated, too academic/jargonified, or promising to teach how to get rich quick on Amazon. It made me really sad to think that if I was getting started today—despite millions of books in print—there wasn’t a single definitive book written about publishing written in plain language. So I wrote one for Sidnee because I saw so much promise in her.

EB: What prompted you to write the book?  There is plenty of nitty-gritty detail—about covers and book design, margins and printers, sales, contracts, fulfillment and more.  But you also talk about having a mission and a vision. How important is that?

JB: Around the same time that I met Sidnee, I had just read Publishing for Profit, which is truly an excellent book. Unfortunately, if I hadn’t been publishing for 20 years, there is no way that I could have made sense of what the author is saying in it. It’s very complicated. I wanted to make publishing sound as simple as possible. Publishing is very contextual and there are many moving parts but very little changes quickly and I feel like there is still great opportunity—more than ever—for new small presses to thrive and carve out their own microcosms. And I think you’re astute to notice that mission and vision is why small presses and midlists are growing and thriving now while the market share of the majors is shrinking. There is a strange aversion to having politics in publishing as the rest of the world is increasingly politicized. I think this is a tremendous misstep.

EB: You mention something called “long-tail development”.  What is that?

JB: After overprinting, the number two mistake that I see in publishing is creating a book that will appear outdated in a few months or a year. Most book sales resemble a half sine wave and the greatest sales are in the first three months with sales hovering around zero after a year. Small presses shouldn’t be publishing current events books like Fire and Fury. We need to be focusing on evergreen books that will be just as relevant in two years, five years, and two decades. Another trick here is to publish books that you can introduce to multiple markets, from trade to gift to special sales to mass market to international to digital. If you follow my advice and ensure that there is sufficient interest and lack of competition, it’s very easy to launch a series of long-tail titles that sell each other.

EB: You also discuss the future of publishing.  How do you see that? What’s the role of small independent publishers?

JB: This is about the cheeriest news that I found in all of my research: the future of publishing belongs to the small press. If you pick a niche that isn’t occupied following my formulas, there is tremendous room to grow and own that platform. From all of the data it appears that the role of major houses will increasingly become solely about buying rights for books that are already successful and outside of the bounds of a midlist or small press. Increasingly, the role of the small press is to take chances, do interesting things, create trends, and change the world.

EB: You’ve been in publishing now for almost twenty-five years.  What’s your favorite thing about the business? Your least favorite thing?

JB: I still really enjoy group development sessions and editorial meetings. I involve the whole staff, including the warehouse and the warehouse workers always have the best editorial, marketing, and development ideas. I do find the increasing volume of paperwork and corporatization as well as the resulting demands of the industry to be tedious, pointless, and migraine inducing. When I was a kid I hated corporations because I was a punk rocker and that was en vogue. Now I have substance and specifics that I can point to explain how those has effectively crippled the industry across Sidnee’s lifetime.

EB: If you were to give new publishers one word of advice, what would it be?

JB: Develop.

EB: Thanks for talking with us. I’m looking forward to using the book with students!

JB: Wonderful! Thanks so much for believing in this book! We had to delay publication three times because I kept missing my deadlines. I was too busy publishing!

Posted in History of Publishing Observations, Ideas and Opinions, Interviews | Comments Off on An Interview with Joe Biel, author of A People’s Guide to Publishing

Women in Writing and the Literary Arts Gap, a guest post by Kelley Lusk

Kelley Lusk is a McNair Scholar majoring in English with a minor in vocal music at SOU. Kelley anticipates graduating magna cum laude in June 2019 with plans to teach English as a foreign language abroad.


Women in Writing and the Literary Arts Gap

The experiences of women, historically, have always been shaped by their gender along with the intersections of their class and race. By the 19th century, the concept of reform for white women became a salient topic in everyday urban life and journalism. Due to the shifts in views during this time, women began to take on larger roles in society outside the sphere of the home and project their voices through their writing. Throughout the progression of women’s writing from the 19th century to the present-day 21st century, women writers have always been subject to unethical and oppressive male critiques and a disproportionate lack of representation compared to their male counterparts. Since the 19th century, women writers have gained more respect and recognition, however, they are still subject to male criticism and gender inequality within the industry.

When considering women’s rights movements, it’s important to review the first female social reform that took place near the end of the 19th century. According to Sally Ledger, in “The New Women: Fiction and Feminism at the Fin De Siecle” the concept of the New Woman is a term that emerged during the turn of the century, and refers to an independent woman seeking radical change and pushing the limits set by the male-dominated society. More specifically, a woman with multiple identities, “She was variously, a feminist activist, a social reformer, a popular novelist, a suffragette playwright, a woman poet; she was often a discursive response to the activities of the late nineteenth-century women’s movement” (Ledger 1). The New Woman writers used their voices to incite changes in the unjust position of white women in society. Even though this first wave of feminist activism began as an abolitionist movement driven by the black women’s collective feminist consciousness – the New Women writers agenda excluded black women. The movement concluded with the suffragists’ successful passing of the Nineteenth Amendment; this amendment won white women the right to vote.

An example of a 19th century New Woman, is Fanny Fern, an American novelist and columnist who confronted issues of women’s rights and male domination by using humor. Fanny Fern was the pseudonym for Sara Willis, but also the name that she began to go by in everyday life. In her work Critics and Male Criticism on Ladies Books, she satirically criticises male authors and their the unjust and damaging criticism towards women authors (Lauter 2468). Eventually, gaining the respect of the male critic, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who in 1830 stated in his work Mrs. Hutchinson, “The hastiest glance may show, how much of the texture and body of the cisatlantic literature is the work of those slender fingers, from which only a light and fanciful embroidery has heretofore been required, ” hence arguing that for women writers, there had been no change in their status and writing since the 17th century (Howell 23). While Fanny Fern was one of the most powerful female writers of the time addressing gender inequality issues, it was largely only accessible for the white middle class woman.

In 1861, Harriet Jacobs published Incidents of the Life of a Slave Girl, under the pseudonym of Linda Brent. This work addresses her experiences of sexual exploitation, mistreatment from slave owners, family relations, and her journey to freedom for herself and her children. The pseudonym was used in order to appeal to the white audience, and to hide her identity. Keeping her identity hidden was necessary due to the fact that she was subject not only to male criticism, but criticism from the entire white population. As Howell explains, “For most women writers at the time, the mere act of ‘picking up a pen’ held a great significance, but Jacobs challenged what was feared in order to reveal the corruption…” (24). For all women writers during this time, including Fanny Fern and Harriet Jacobs, the use of a pseudonym was common practice, but while they used feminine pen names for different reasons, other women authors felt obligated to use masculine pseudonyms in order to gain recognition. For instance, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Woman, was published under the ambiguous pen name A. M. Barnard in order to be taken seriously. Mary Ann Evans published her work Silly Novels by Lady Novelists, under the pseudonym George Eliot in order to distance herself from her critiques that call out fellow women writers for their formulaic romance novels.

By the 20th century, Karen Oosterhous a publisher at Firebrand Books explained the real reason that keeps women from expanding outside those expected genres, such as romance, “…the old cliche goes that women write romance novels and books about cooking and men write spy thrillers, and if women want to succeed at least financially, they often are forced to stick to that field” (Foster 30). The lack of representation of women in any other field except romance and cooking made it difficult for women to break out of of those genres. Oosterhous also explained that reviewers only want  to review books that they believe are of interest to their readers. This is problematic because not only are a majority of reviewers male, which automatically creates a bias, but reviewers also tend to “shy away from books that may be controversial or that relate to only a segment of the population. I think that books like that, books about feminist or the gay experience, have something for everyone, but many reviewers don’t think so” (Foster 54). These magalized stories, such as the gay experience or stories of different cultures and people of color, haven’t been taking seriously by the majority audience, which only leads to further marginalization. This, in part, could be helped by the reviewers expanding beyond the norm. Reviews are very essential for books and authors, especially ones being published by smaller presses (Foster 33). Today, the amount of competition out there is intense, and simply having a quote from a major reviewer, like the New York Times, can set a book apart from all the others.  

However, it is also important to acknowledge that during the 20th century some of the greatest advancements in the feminist movement were made because of women authors like, Simone de Beauvoir, Sylvia Plath, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde and Virginia Woolf, just to name a few. In “Publishing the Patriarchy: Reviewers in the White, Western Tradition Still Exclude and Trivialize Women Writers,” Chloe Foster explains that “In 1929, Virginia Woolf, the emblematic face of the female literary triumph, set out to unearth the reasons why her generation and the women before her, did not practice the craft of writing” (Foster 30). What she along with many other feminist have concluded is that “…women were prohibited from entering traditional male institutions and were regulated to childbearing and rearing, and because of this, women could not penetrate the elite world of the male literary property” (30). Because women were only represented as, and taught to be, domestic, they weren’t allowed any room to believe they could be capable of more. Further, not having anyone like yourself represented in a field that you are interested in, leads one to believe that someone like yourself is not fit for that position.

By the end of the 20th century, 1998, the groundbreaking article, “Scent of a Woman’s Ink: Are Women Writers Really Inferior?” by Francine Prose, exposed the gender disparities in journalism and explained the harm that male critics have had on women writers. For instance, Norman Mailer in 1959, on his “expansive confession of gynobibliophia: ‘…I can only say that the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hay, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, fridged, outer-Baroque, Maquille in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn’”(62). This attempt, and attempts like Norman Mailer’s, sought to place women outside the literary field altogether. It is still not a wonder why writers like George Eliot, George Sand and the Brontes felt the need to hide behind their male pseudonyms. Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist, who in 1930 was subject to criticism by the male critic, Ludwig Lewisohn who stated, “‘wars and revolutions, cataclysm and catastrophes of man and nature leave her hopelessly a lady’” (Foster 32). Regardless of Lewisohn’s criticism of her “triviality”, Wharton remains one of the great 20th century American writers. Prose explains that women writers used the domestic scene to symbolize larger issues, and that male reviews simply could not get past the literal interpretations (Prose 63). In the early 1970’s the feminist authors, “Susan Brownmiller and Nora Ephron held the first organized protest against the representation of women authors in the New York Times Book Review. The two made an appeal to editor Max Frenkel, but nothing came of it” (Gender Disparity and Book Reviews 1). Prose revealed that by 1997, the disparity and representation for women still was a problem in the New York Review of Books. That year they were recorded printing only ten books of fiction by women, and twenty five books of fiction by men (Prose 62).

 By the beginning of the 21st century, 30 years after the first protest organized by Brownmiller and Euphon took place, more results of the New York Times Book Review were exposed by Paula J. Caplan and Mary Ann Palko; between 2002-2003, they found that “out of 807 books reviewed, only 227, or 28%, were authored by women. Of the 775 reviews only 265, or 35%, were by women reviewers” (16). Following these results, in 2009 the VIDA: Women in Literary Arts was launched in the UK and in 2010 was launched in the United States. VIDA is a literary research organization whose mission is to “increase critical attention to contemporary women’s writing as well as further transparency around gender inequality issues in contemporary literary culture” (Gender Disparity and Book Reviews 1). Since their initiative, in 2010 proved men take up most the space in literature, gender parity has become more and more possible with each passing year. In the most recent VIDA count in 2017, Amy King and Sarah Clark, the board of directors, found that of the 15 main publications in the VIDA count, only 2 publishers published 50% or more women writers than their male counterparts. Five others represented between 40-49.9% and the undeniable majority, 8 of the 15 failed to publish even 40% by women writers (King and Clark 1).

In 2015 the radical/liberal feminist “‘…Carol Anne Douglas, suggested that women’s books do not receive much attention because they focus on ‘soft subjects’ that men are not interested in’” (Gender Disparity and Book Reviews 1). This essentialist remark had many people questioning what is considered a “soft sobject?” Romance, nostalgia, sex, motherhood? To trivialize these topics as “soft” simply indicates that they are not understood. Women today are grappling with being put into a separate category all together with the arising “women’s literature” or “women’s fiction” genre. This issue comes up throughout many industries, for instance in athletics, women are often referred to as “women athletes” before simply an “athlete.” “The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women” in the New York Times, Meg Wolitzer addresses the instability and the controversiality of the “women’s fiction” genre and the rise of the “American Women Novelist” category. While searching online in Amazon, Wolitzer first came across the “Women’s Fiction” category that listed authors like Jane Austen, Toni Morrison and Louisa May Alcott, and notes that the occasional man like, Tom Perrotta who was listed, solely because he writes about relationships (Woltzer). Woltzer further explains that “…lumping together of disparate writers by gender or perceived female subject matter separates the women from the men. And it subtly keeps female writers from finding a coed audience, not to mention from entering the larger, more influential playing field” (Woltzer). Labeling topics like, relationships, as “women’s fiction” furthers a binary and insinuates that relationships or other related topics perceived as feminine, should have nothing to do with men. When considering the category “American Novelist” which only lists male authors, there is a subcategory labeled “American Women Novelist,” this subcategory was created by librarians. It is librarians job to categories in order make searching as easy as possible. However, moving women to a subcategory only isolates women novelist from the larger category and “others” women novelists altogether (Woltzer), as well as disregards any other gender from the larger category. Woltzer explains the “The Second Shelf” as the process of women authors being categorized as second best, while “The Third Shelf” affects people who are marginalized even more, such as women of color and people who identify as non-binary (Woltzer).

The development of the modern novel used to be largely viewed as a male occupation. Today, we see many more women addressing topics on nationalism, politics, war, and immigration than ever before. The author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for instance has become an intersectional feminist icon who in The Thing Around Your Neck (2009), writes about the relationships between men and women, parents and children, in Africa and the United States. In the current political climate “amid the #MeToo era, we must ask if abuse and bigotry are anything but the norm in the world of American arts and letters” (King and Clark 1). The 19th, 20th and 21st centuries have had similar concerns regarding male criticism and gender inequality within the publishing and reviewing industry, and while these concerns are being taken more seriously and gender parity is becoming more possible. The rise of media has created different issues of concern for the present-day women writers. These present-day issues have arised due to deep history of popular beliefs about women, who historically, were forced into those categories to begin with. In order to move forward we need to, like Foster states, “Rather than trying to prove that women are equal, we should just assume it” (34).

Works cited

Caplan, Paula J., and Mary Ann Palko. “The ‘Times Is Not A-Changin'”: Your Impression of the ‘New York Times’ and Other Prestigious Book Review Publications (Present Company Excluded) Is Correct: The Women Are Missing.” The Women’s Review of Books, vol. 22, no. 2, 2004, pp. 16–17.

Foster, Chloe. “Publishing the Patriarchy: Reviewers in the White, Western Tradition Still Exclude and Trivialize Women Writers.” Off Our Backs, vol. 37, no. 1, 2007, pp. 30–34.

“Gender Disparity and Book Reviews: the VIDA Count” Jstor Daily, 2015, https://daily.jstor.org/gender-disparity-book-reviews-vida-count/

Howell, Samantha. “The Evolution of Female Writers: An Exploration of Their Concerns from the 19th Century to Today” University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Vol. 13, 2015, pp. 23-26.

Lauter, Paul. “Fanny Fern, Immanuel Hawthorne.” Heath Anthology of American Literature: Volume a and Volume b, 7th ed. vol. B, no. l, 2013.

King, Amy and Clark, Sarah. “The 2017 VIDA Count” VIDA Women in Literary Arts, 2018.

Leger, Sally. The New Women: Fiction and Feminism at the fin de siecle. Manchester University Press, 1997.

Taylor, Ula. “The Historical Evolution of Black Feminist Theory and Praxis.” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 29, no. 2, 1998, pp. 234–253.

Woltzer, Meg. “The Second Shelf: On the Rule of Literary Fiction for Men and Women.” The New York Times Sunday Book Review, New York, 2012.

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An Interview with Christina Ward, author of American Advertising Cookbooks

Christina Ward is an award-winning writer and editor. She is a featured contributor to Serious Eats, Edible Milwaukee, The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, Remedy Quarterly, and Runcible Spoon magazines. She makes regular guest food expert on television and public radio and in 2017 published Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation and Dehydration with Process Media, Inc.
Her second book, American Advertising Cookbooks: How Corporations Taught Us To Love, Spam, Bananas, and Jell-O was released in January of 2019.

Ed Battistella: Congratulations on American Advertising Cookbooks, which I am really enjoying. How did you get interested in the history of promotional cookbooks?

Christina Ward: I’m the Master Food Preserver for my county; which means that I’m charged by the State to teach the most up to date scientifically proven methods of food preservation. I’m also a book collector with a love of history. All my interests began to converge during the research of my first book, Preservation-The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration.

My research into the history of preserving food leads me to the very interesting (to me at least—and now I hope readers!) place in American history where technology, food, immigration, and marketing all came together to create and define American cuisine. Promotional cookbooks represent the culmination of all those influences in a neat, garishly printed booklet.

EB: I was also fascinated by the role of home economics. What’s the story there? How did education and domestic science affect taste-making?

CW: The birth of Home Economics was a tangent of the Suffragette movement of the late 1800s that was, interestingly, heavily influenced by a very conservative cultural Protestantism. The women who advocated for equality made the case that the “domestic sciences” were of the same value as chemistry or biology. In an age where there was just the barest of understanding of food science and where women were barred from studying in universities, domestic science became a way for women to become both educated and independent.

Because the curricula were developed by a small group of foremothers who agreed on techniques and recipes for the most nutritional cooking, a sameness was spread across the country. At the same time, printing technologies advanced to allow for cheap and accessible books. Any home economist worth her salt and with a smidge of regional fame soon wrote a cookbook. This too helped spread recipes and ideas about what a “proper” cook should be doing in the kitchen.

EB: A lot of the food you mention I recalled from my youth, but I totally missed ham banana rolls. Can you explain the rise of bananas.

CW: Bananas tell a great story. They’re a relatively “new” food and wholly brought to consciousness by advertising. All food processing companies in the 1930s hired the newly minted domestic scientists to concoct recipes featuring their products. United Fruit just did it very very well. Ham banana rolls were introduced in 1941 (I think!) and featured a couple of food trends of the time. Firstly, white sauces!

In the first part of the 20th Century, starvation or at least the fear of it was very real. Food supplies were dependent on mostly local purveyors while the financial collapse of the 1930s meant people actually starved. Paramount to food educators was increasing the total caloric intake of workers. (How different we are today!) The solution to boosting the Kcal of any and every dish is slathering it with a flour-based cream sauce or better yet, cream and cheese sauce! Sliced ham was a cheap protein and bananas were the star of the recipe, and voila! Ham banana rolls. The actual recipe has its roots in Pacific island cooking where pork served with plantains is found.

It also pays to remember that just because these recipes appeared in an advertising cookbook, doesn’t mean that they tasted good or people adopted them! For every successful Green Bean Casserole (invented by Campbell’s Soups) there is a stinker of a recipe; those are the ones that tend to bring us a laugh.

EB: Is there a particular food that in your mind typifies the role of advertising and advertising psychology in developing our tastes. Do you have a favorite example?

CW: Orange juice! It’s about 100 years from its introduction to the national markets via advertising and how many generations consider it a morning staple. Why? Sunkist, a company that began as a consortium of Florida orange growers, worked very hard to create advertising that touted the health benefits of drinking the juice of oranges. Why not eat the whole orange? Because it was cheaper to extract the juice and can it than the cost of shipping fresh oranges.

EB: Why are we so easily manipulated by advertising, do you think?

CW: Advertisers were the first to adopt and adapt the new-fangled psychological theories of the early 1900s—the ideas of subconscious and motivation—that could not just make a product stand out but create actual demand. There is something about the human psyche that wants to want. Advertisers play upon that aspirational need.

EB: I was struck by the wonderful images in the book. Where did you find them all?

CW: So many cookbooks! I’m a collector, and I was lucky enough to inherit my mother-in-law’s pristine collection of advertising cookbooks. She didn’t keep them as a collection per se, but as a Depression-era housewife hung on and used those cookbooks throughout her life. I’m even luckier in that she kept them in meticulous condition. These are, with a few exceptions, printed on flimsy paper with cheap inks and processing. They were intended to be used and not really kept for over 70 years.

Those formed the bulk of the images in the book. I have a few friends who share my fervor for advertising cookbooks who lent some gems for scanning.

EB: You have a collection of cookbooks. Can you tell us about that?

CW: Cookbook collectors are sub-species of bibliomaniacs! I collect them first and foremost because I love them. But deeper than that, cookbooks are history. The story of what we eat and why is fascinating and informed by so many different events; cookbooks reflect an ideal self, that one cook’s vision of a perfect America in each and every volume.

EB: What was the most surprising thing you learned about food and marketing?

CW: The most surprising thing would be how short our cultural memory is. Recipes that many folks think were invented by grandma came from an advertising cookbook. Interestingly, recipes in and of themselves cannot be legally copyrighted, so publishers tended to pass along and tweak a core group of recipes. If you look at the bulk of the cooking from the 1930s to the 1970s, before Julia Child brought French techniques back to American kitchens, there is a sameness in most of the dishes. That sameness comes from the standardization of processed ingredients.

EB: Where can readers get ahold of your book?

CW: Publisher Process Media is an independent publisher with international distribution, which means that every indie bookseller in the US and Canada can get it for you. Larger shops like Barnes & Noble and of course, Amazon, both stock the book.

EB: You’ve also written about canning, fermentation, and dehydration in your 2017 book Preservation. Any future food-related projects on your plate?

CW: I still teach classes! It’s fun to lead a group of people in community food preservation projects. I get a great deal of pleasure from seeing people ‘get’ it and then take those new found skills home. As to writing, I’ve got a few new projects, but I’ll hold off talking about them until they’re closer to completion; I’m a bit superstitious that way.

EB: Thanks for talking with us.

CW: Thank you for the opportunity to share my crazy obsession!

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An Interview with Sam Anderson, author of Boom Town

Photo: © Jeff Bark

Sam Anderson is a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine.

An award-winning journalist, he has been a book critic for New York Magazine and a regular contributor to Slate. He lives in New York.

Boom Town, published in 2018 by Penguin Random House, is his debut novel.

Ed Battistella: I really enjoyed Boom Town. You’re an Oregonian, originally, so what prompted you to write a book about Oklahoma City?

Sam Anderson: Thanks! You’re right — people often assume only an Oklahoman would write a book about Oklahoma, but I had zero connection to the place. I grew up in Oregon (born in Eugene, college in Ashland) and also Northern California; since then I’ve lived in Louisiana and New York. My interest in Oklahoma didn’t start until 2012, when the New York Times Magazine, where I’m a staff writer, sent me to OKC to write an article about its new basketball team, the Thunder. The team had just made the NBA Finals on the strength of its three very young superstars: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. So I went out to write about the relationship between this small city and its big-time sports team.

I’ve been waiting my whole magazine career for a subject to force me to write a book about it — and to my surprise, Oklahoma City turned out to be it. The place swept me away. There was this mixture of epic history and huge personalities and a unique landscape. I spent as much time as I could there, and everywhere I looked the connections and themes and material deepened. It became a magical project that consumed my whole life.

EB: After reading the book, Oklahoma City seems like an old friend to me, though I’ve never been there. Was part of your goal to make the city a character itself?

SA: I’m glad to hear it. Yes, the goal was to tell the whole story of this city, from the moment of its founding to today. Historically speaking, it’s a ridiculously young city — it was founded in 1889 — so I felt like I could get my arms around that whole history. By the end of it, the reader should know the place inside and out — not just the big flashy news events (the 1995 bombing, the rise of the OKC Thunder) but the low times and the boring times. This gives context to what those big flashy news events actually *mean* to the city.

EB: You’ve worked most of your career as an essayist and cultural critic. What was the experience like of doing a non-fiction book?

SA: It was exhilarating but also very, very hard. As I said before, I’ve been waiting for many years for a book project to come along and sweep me away. All of my writing heroes (John McPhee, Annie Dillard, Janet Malcolm, Joan Didion, et al.) have written great nonfiction books. So I knew I’d tackle one eventually. But it was a slog. I took an 8-month leave from my job at the Times Magazine to try and bang it out — those were very long, strange days: I’d wake up at 5 in the morning and go to my office and write for 8 or 10 or 12 hours. After all those months, I had some of the core parts of the book written — but there were still many years to go. My original deadline was one year. In the end, it took me more than five. There was a lot of agony. But I was lucky to work with a great, great editor at Crown, Kevin Doughten, and the project became a deep collaboration with him. And I’m really proud of the finished product.

EB: Basketball and the Oklahoma City Thunder play a part in the recent history of the city—you call it a purloined team. Reading the book, I had the feeling that your book was organized a bit like a basketball game—that you were passing the ball along among interesting topics and characters—Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Gary England, Wayne Coyne, and others. Was that in your mind as a structural device?

SA: That’s fascinating. No! I didn’t think about passing a basketball around as a structural device. But that is pretty accurate. The structure was really hard to work out and developed through trial and error over years of writing. I tried to impose various structures (for a short crazy time I thought about organizing it based on the underground architecture of a prairie dog colony) but in the end decided that the book should find its own shape, exactly like OKC did in 1889 — which is to say, it should be a ridiculous pile of chaos that eventually, against the odds, found equilibrium. Which I think is an accurate description of the book.

EB: One of the themes of the book seemed to me to be the idea of process—in characters like Sam Presti and Angelo Scott. You seem to be portraying Oklahoma City as the tension between orderly process and booming exuberance.

SA: Yep, you got it. From the moment of its conception, the place has been on the brink of spiraling out of control. And there have been these key figures who have stepped in, at crucial moments, as master organizers and held everything together. Presti with basketball, Angelo Scott as a settler who kept the place from exploding into civil war, Clara Luper as a Civil Rights hero who integrated downtown. My goal was always to find those master organizers and show them battling the chaos of their moment. Then of course the city would produce some other kind of chaos that had to be overcome, and someone else would have to step in to deal with it.

EB: Can you tell us about the title? The book seems to resonate with booms, literal and metaphoric.

SA: Yes — the place started as a literal “boom town,” a patch of prairie suddenly overrun with people looking to make a fortune. Since then it has bounced up and down on the boom and bust economy of the energy industry. It gets rich overnight, then poor overnight. So the notion of a “boom” runs through the history of the place, literally and metaphorically, in important ways and trivial ways. Russell Westbrook, the basketball star, used to scream “BOOM!” every time he made a three-pointer. And that’s all before we get to the defining trauma of OKC: the 1995 bombing of the federal building in the middle of downtown, an explosion that killed 168 people and scarred just about everyone in the city for generations.

EB: What surprised you the most in doing the research?

SA: There is a section of the book called “Operation Bongo” that contains the most surprising research discovery I’ve ever made, or (I’m convinced) ever will make. I won’t spoil it here, but it’s a bizarre connection between Seattle and Oklahoma City from the 1960s — it seems to foreshadow OKC taking Seattle’s basketball team 40 years later. It’s like a Borges story. My jaw dropped. I couldn’t have invented it if I tried.

EB: Any plans to take on another city?

SA: Nope. I’m happy having done this one city. Now I’m back to writing magazine articles, waiting for the spirit to move me for my next book project. If it’s another city, I guess I’ll have to write about another city.

EB: Thanks for talking with us. I really loved the book.

SA: Thanks so much!

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