Lesbian Poet Julie Gard Opens Up About Same-Sex Parenting in New Book

Julie Gard reading from her new book Home Studies.

Julie Gard reading from her new book, Home Studies.

​What inspired you to write this collection of poems, and how did you prepare for it?
I was inspired to write this book by relentless curiosity about the world around me and a love of the prose poem form. Preparation consisted of many years of a regular writing practice. I have a fortune taped up in my study: “Little and often makes much.” I wrote this book bit by bit over many years of journaling, generating, shaping, and revising. Read more »

What if You Got Harper Lee to Come to Philly — But Couldn’t Tell Anyone About It?

Harper Lee with Paul Rosen (left) and the late Steve Gadon. Photo | Paul Crane

Harper Lee with Paul Rosen (left) and the late Steve Gadon. Photo | Paul Crane

Harper Lee was known as a recluse. The author of To Kill a Mockingbird — Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, classroom staple, the best courtroom drama of all time — was overwhelmed by the success of her first novel. She politely refused all interview requests.

But she made at least two visits to Philadelphia in her lifetime, and perhaps the most unlikely one was in 2005. It all started with Jennifer Reynolds, a Philly-area public relations pro.

That year, Reynolds was given a mission by her employer. The law firm of Spector Gadon & Rosen, P.C., had created an arts-focused foundation a few years earlier, and was looking for a way to get some attention for it. But not just that: Reynolds said the firm had tasked her to “come up with something different, that nobody’s ever done before.”

She thought about it. And then she came across a story about Atticus Finch as one of the most-admired characters in American literature. A few years earlier, he’d been named the greatest hero in American cinematic history. “I said, ‘He’s a lawyer, but he’s not reviled. Lawyers can be heroic!’” Reynolds recalls. “We should give an award for positive depictions of attorneys in the arts.”

And so the Spector Gadon & Rosen Foundation invented the ATTY Award, which would be given to positive depictions of attorneys in media. The first recipient of an award would have to be Harper Lee. Reynolds wrote her a letter. Read more »

See the Cover of Bruce Springteen’s Autobiography, Out in September

springsteen-book

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography will spring from cages out on Highway 9 and onto bookshelves this September. Springsteen announced the book, titled Born to Run, on his website today. He’d been working on it since 2009, after playing the Super Bowl halftime show.

The announcement quoted the book in its announcement: “Writing about yourself is a funny business. But in a project like this, the writer has made one promise, to show the reader his mind. In these pages, I’ve tried to do this.” Read more »

Buzz Bissinger to Collaborate With Caitlyn Jenner on Memoir

buzz bissinger caitlyn jenner

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Buzz Bissinger will be collaborating with Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner on her new memoir, The New York Times reports.

Bissinger, whose book about high-school football in small-town Texas, Friday Night Lights, became a successful TV series and who chronicled the challenges Mayor Ed Rendell faced trying to reverse the downward spiral of city government in A Prayer for the City, also wrote the Vanity Fair cover story in which Jenner came out as female and described her struggles with gender identity. Read more »

Philly Bookstores Share Their Favorite Books of 2015

The holidays means a lot more time indoors with family, friends or a good read. If you’re like most, chances are you haven’t gotten as much page-turning done as you would have liked in the daily hustle and bustle of 2015. For the readers who are looking for a new favorite to cozy up with during the holidays, we asked a handful of Philly’s top bookstores about their favorite must-reads of this year.



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18 New and Juicy Music Memoirs You Need to Read

No, Rihanna and Kendrick Lamar haven’t written their memoirs yet, but just wait a few years. Seems like every musician is sitting down these days at his or her computer to type out their stories. (Though in 2013, it was reported that Adele rejected a seven-figure book deal with Harper Collins because she thought she was too young at age 24. Yup.) But even iconoclastic Grace Jones, who famously declared she’d never write up her life story, published hers in September. The title? I’ll Never Write My Memoirs. Ha!

We’ve compiled a list of 18 juicy rock-and-roll memoirs published this year. Get your friends and family members what they really want: a book full of drama, bad choices, tattoos, alcohol, sex, celebrities, crazy fans, artistic genius, redemption and hard-earned wisdom.



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I See “The World” Differently Than Ta-Nehisi Coates

Coates | Nina Subin, Penguin Random House

Coates | Nina Subin, Penguin Random House

I missed out on the hottest ticket in town when Ta-Nehisi Coates was in Philly in October for a talk at the Free Library based on his bestselling, National Book Award-nominated tome, Between the World and Me. (There is a streaming finalists reading tonight at 7; the awards will be announced tomorrow.)

Chances are, though, that if you are an avid consumer of ideas, you’re talking about him anyway, even if you missed the talk, haven’t read the book or one of its many excerpts, or missed his chat with Terry Gross on WHYY’s Fresh Air.

That’s because Coates has undeniably struck a national nerve at just the right moment. As the drumbeat of stories in which cops kill black men (and they are mostly men) with questionable use of force continues, along comes Coates to tell us this sort of thing is encoded in our nation’s DNA.

Like James Baldwin before him, Coates has cast himself as our racial Cassandra, reminding us that the debt for slavery remains unpaid and condemning society for failing to recognize this. And like Baldwin before him, Coates has decided that it’s best to reflect on his native land’s transgressions from afar — Paris, to which numerous African-Americans fed up with the United States have retreated.  Read more »

Excerpt: A Sneak Peek at Thom Nickels’ Literary Philadelphia

excerpt-literary-philadelphia-thom-nickels

Since Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin put type to printing press, Philadelphia has been a haven and an inspiration for writers. Local essayist Agnes Repplier once shared a glass of whiskey with Walt Whitman who frequently strolled Market Street. Gothic writers like Edgar Allen Poe and George Lippard plumbed the city’s dark streets for material. In the twentieth century, Northern Liberties native John McIntyre found a backdrop for his gritty noir in the working class neighborhoods while novelist Pearl S. Buck discovered a creative sanctuary in Center City.  From Quaker novelist Charles Brockden Brown to 1973 U.S. Poet Laureate Daniel Hoffman, author Thom Nickels explores Philadelphia’s literary landscape.

Read more »

SEPTA Spokeswoman Jerri Williams Plots New Career: Crime Novelist

Jerri Williams | Twitter

Jerri Williams | Twitter

Jerri Williams enjoyed writing her first novel. But what she didn’t like about it was what it cost her.

“This first book, I really gave up my social life,” Williams says. “My brain was a little bit too fried to write in the evening, but every weekend, that’s what I did. I didn’t go anywhere, didn’t do anything. I just got up and started writing.”

Eventually, Williams finished her first novel, a crime thriller set in Philadelphia. And now that she’s found an agent who is attempting to sell the book, she’s leaving her job as as spokeswoman for SEPTA later this month. After she retires on November 25th, she’ll begin writing her second novel: This time, on weekdays.

Williams stresses she isn’t taking a big risk with this career change. “When I’m typing my second book, I will be sitting on a cushion of a federal law enforcement pension and a house with no mortgage,” she says.

Crime fiction makes sense for Williams: Before she came to SEPTA as director of media relations, she had a long career with the FBI. Her last six years were in media relations, but before that she was a fraud investigator in the Philadelphia area. She was on the team that took down the infamous Foundation for New Era Philanthropy ponzi scheme. Read more »

Hunter S. Thompson’s Former Assistant Tells Wild Stories in New Book

Photo of Hunter S. Thompson from Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Hunter S. Thompson from Wikimedia Commons

The contrast is difficult to get my brain around. I’m talking with the well-mannered and apparently highly responsible Cheryl Della Pietra, who at 46, is a mom, wife, writer, copy editor at Us Weekly, Penn grad, and (full disclosure) former Philadelphia magazine intern. She’s so nice. But the stories she’s telling me are so naughty. It’s hard to believe that this novelist is the same woman who made a drug buy for cultural icon and creator of “gonzo” immersive journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, her boss for five months back in 1992. Della Pietra also romanced a Hollywood A-list actor, shot pistols with Thompson while high, consumed staggering amounts of cocaine, shrooms, and other illicit drugs, not to mention drinking enough alcohol to drown a sailor.

Gonzo Girl (Simon and Schuster/Touchstone) opens with a tense scene during her actual weekend “try-out” when she visited Thompson at his ranch outside Aspen, Colorado. You know you’re in for a delectably bad-behaviored tale with phrases such as: “The tray of coke never really settles on the table. It just keeps getting passed around like it’s crowdsurfing at a Hole concert,” and “Despite the substances and the guns, I’ve never felt unsafe. Until this moment.”

But yes, it’s all there in the Connecticut-based author’s first novel, which chronicles the adventures of her first literary job out of college. She’ll be reading from it at St. Joseph’s University on October 27th at 6:30 pm, and Barnes & Noble, Rittenhouse Square on October 29th at 7 pm.

Read more »

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