Monday, April 21, 2008

The Tastemakers

I've got a short piece on page 9 of this month's ArtScene Iowa (pdf) about AKAR, an architecture and design studio here in Iowa City that holds regular ceramics shows. Every time I go to this place I end up spending 50 bucks or more. The Jani's really do have one of the coolest gigs around -- bringing tasteful modern design to the Midwest and selling some of the most useful toys I've played with. Our kitchen is currently home to two ridiculous and wonderful things bought at AKAR -- an artfully designed pie server and the squid masquerading as wire whisk. For Christmas, we bought five German-designed notebook satchels that fold out into green-friendly grogery bags on wheels. I can almost forgive one of their staff for talking to me like I was an idiot the first time I visited the store two years ago. Sanjay Jani, above, is one of the best talkers I've ever encountered.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Red Letter Day

Yesterday I defended my master's project AND got to attend the reading by Ann Patchett here in Iowa City. Elizabeth McCracken, a friend of the author and one of the workshop instructors here at Iowa introduced her -- by far the nicest, funniest, and most glowing introduction I've experienced at one of these events. McCracken is Patchett's first reader, meaning she gets to read what the author is writing as she is writing it. McCracken said: "If you come across an Ann Patchett at your time here at Iowa, hold tight to her."

Patchett read for about half an hour from her new novel Run, with a voice so clear, crisp and evocative that I wasn't surprised to learn that she was a state debate champion as a young woman.

Later I went up to have my copy of Truth & Beauty signed and outed myself as the writer of the column in PW that complained about how she wasn't coming to Iowa. Apparently, the last time she was scheduled to read at Prairie Lights, she threw up before the event and vowed never to set foot back on Iowa soil.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Coming Soon?: Literature-themed amusement park

One more reason to love Iowa City! A group of developers is working on a project to bring an amusement park-like "attractor" to Eastern Iowa. Tentatively called "Stories," the project is an adventure land for book lovers with a book museum, a book-on-demand machine, a book shop, and a 120-seat theater to screen videos on the power of story. Local writers have already started chiming in on the subject, making even better suggestions than the planning committee, including young adult writer Sarah Prineas, who suggested a cafe where they serve foods from favorite children's books. I'd take a dumpling from The Funny Little Woman by Arlene Mosel. No word on whether they can actually get those book lovers to leave their reading chairs to come to Iowa.

Monday, April 7, 2008

I've affected change!

Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit... but a month and a half ago I published a column in Publisher's Weekly that reflected on my obsession with book signings. My jumping off point was a conversation I had with Prairie Lights bookseller Paul Ingram that Ann Patchett wasn't coming to read there, but had sent a stack of signed copies of her new book Run. As of today, she's coming! But to the Pappajohn building. More space I guess. Also, they're still kind of mad at her at PL since she mentioned stealing books from them in her memoir Truth & Beauty. I have class that night, but I am so there. Doesn't Ms. Patchett look both beautiful and smug in this picture?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Writing Lives

So I've been finishing up my master's journalism project this week. It's a collection of four profiles -- of writers Robin Hemley, Mildred Armstrong Kalish, Brian Andreas, and Sarah Prineas -- set against an overarching trend piece about the state of books coverage in U.S. newspapers (it's abysmal, if you haven't guessed that already). I printed out some proofs today and am doing final editing. I got a little weepy today when I wrote the acknowledgments. So many people to thank! Most people thought I was crazy for going back to school in a field that is dying. Well, maybe not dying. Journalism is alive and kicking, it's just not paying very well. But I like to think that an enterprising spirit can lead you to water wherever you may land. I sold every single profile in my project--naysayers be damned!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Yep. Crazy-eyed middle-aged redhaid

This is how the illustrators at Publishers Weekly envisioned me in the illustration that accompanied my column. I can't fault them for getting me totally wrong, but Jonathan Safran Foer? He looks like he's been Rick-rolled! Awesome.