The Writer’s Handful with Patricia Skalka

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Putting together your summer reading list? Looking for a smart, tough mystery to add to it? Check out the fist in the Dave Cubiak Mystery Series, DEATH STALKS DOOR COUNTY, the debut novel by Chicago author PATRICIA SKALKA. Publishers Weekly calls this book “A tight, lyrical first novel.” High praise indeed!

Here’s the thing, though, the book has already gone into its second printing (released just weeks ago!) and if you are looking for it in Chicago bookstores, you may find that it is already sold out in many places. Hang tight, though, and place your order; more are on the way! And for those of you who live in the Chicago area, you can hear Patricia read from the book at the fabulous Tuesday Funk Reading Series at Hopleaf on Clark in Andersonville (June 3), or head out to Winnetka to The Bookstall on June 12. To hold you over for a bit before then, here’s Patricia answering a couple of questions for us.

Welcome Patricia!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

I try to write every day, but today I did not. Death Stalks Door County, my debut mystery novel, was recently published and I was awash in promotional details. From there I met with my critique group and then spent the rest of the afternoon answering emails. My thoughts on writing and reading, however, can be found in a guest blog post that went online recently at Buried Under Books.Skalka-Death-Stalks

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I started at about age 7, writing stories at the kitchen table — feet dangling above the floor, printing my tales on coarse lined paper that I’d staple together into “books.”

What are you reading right now?

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose, an absolute gem both in terms of story and writing.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

My father once told me that anything worth having was worth sacrificing for. He wasn’t talking about writing but the advice certainly applies to anyone contemplating a career as a writer.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

I’d have to say “cat” because I’ve done many different kinds of writing and so, like a cat, have found it necessary to be flexible and at home just about anywhere. At any rate, my cat usually dangles her tail over the keyboard as I write, and I have no doubt that she is sprinkling essence of cat into the work.

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Death Stalks Door County marks the fiction debut of award-winning, Chicago writer Patricia Skalka. A lifelong reader and writer, she turned to fiction following a successful career in nonfiction. Her many credits include: Staff Writer for Reader’s Digest, magazine editor, freelancer, ghost writer, writing instructor and book reviewer. (bio from author’s website www.PatriciaSkalka.com)

→Thanks, Patricia, for the chat, and continued good luck with your debut and the series. See you at Hopleaf. And thanks, everyone, as always, for reading. -PMc←

The Writer’s Handful with Eric Charles May

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to.

Happy Monday and Writer’s Handful, all! I don’t know when I have been happier to bring a debut novelist to your attention. Many of you already know ERIC CHARLES MAY and his kickass new novel, BEDROCK FAITH (Akashic Books.) And if you do, you know, too, that there is hardly a nicer or more industrious writer guy around, and that this new book of his is garnering all sorts of acclaim. O Magazine, Ebony, Booklist, Publishers Weekly and a bunch of other folks in the literary know are singing their praises to Bedrock Faith. Dennis Lehane (Dennis Lehane? The Dennis Lehane? Mystic River, Shutter Island Dennis Lehane? Yes, that Dennis Lehane) called the book “A wonderful urban novel full of vitality and pathos and grit. I dug the ever-living hell out of it.” Wow.

Eric and I have been colleagues for many years at Columbia College Chicago as well as Stonecoast Writers Conference and Solstice Writers Conference (back in the day.) Do I have stories I could tell you! But I know it is not my stories you come to this series to find. So I am going to let Eric speak for himself (in a previously captured conversation.) And in case you haven’t yet heard enough from him (and I guarantee, you won’t have) by the end of this brief chat, you can tune in to Chicago’s NPR station, WBEZ (91.5 FM) to hear some more Eric Charles May. Bedrock Faith has been chosen as BEZ’s Afternoon Shift Book of the Month for April. And if you are reading this today, Monday, April 14, 2014, you can even hear it live this afternoon. (Otherwise, it can be heard re-broadcast on-line.)

All right. Enough from me.

Welcome Eric!

Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?

Haven’t written yet today but I plan to later. I’ve been up to my eyeballs with preparations for my book launch party, travels to support the book, interviews, and last but not least, the preparations for and the teaching of my classes. When I get back to my neighborhood this evening I’ll sit down in a coffee shop or at a restaurant bar and write in my journal. I’ve been doing extensive journal writing the last two months on a novel-in-progress that’s two-thirds done. I’ve worked out a slew of plot problems with the journaling.BedrockFaith2-533x800

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

I was maybe seven years old. It was the story of my mother and father, my imagined scenario of how they met and their ages: My dad 22, my mom 21. Actually, my mom was a couple of years older than my dad, a fact that I did not find out until many years later.

What are you reading right now?

In one of my classes I assigned Sister Carrie, which I have read twice before but not for a number of years, so I’m reading it again and thoroughly enjoying Theodore Dreiser. I assigned Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy for another class, which I also haven’t read in a while. I’m giving it another go as well.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

“Never have sex with anyone who’s crazier than you.” (The “you” in this case being me of course.) I haven’t always followed those cautionary words, but it was very good advice.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

A walrus. It’s not particularly pretty, but under the right circumstances it can maneuver through waters quite gracefully.

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ERIC CHARLES MAY is an associate professor in the Fiction Writing Program at Columbia College Chicago. A Chicago native and former reporter for the Washington Post, his fiction has appeared in the magazines Fish StoriesF, and Criminal Class. In addition to his Postreporting, his nonfiction has appeared in Sport Literate, the Chicago Tribune, and the personal essay anthology Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying DuckBedrock Faith is his first novel.

→Thanks, dear friend Eric Charles May, for the chat. Happy novel release, happy book club day, and happy belated birthday. Maintain. And thanks to everyone, as always, for reading. – PMc←