Design by Lookout intern Renée LaBonte
It’s been a big book awards week, no? Hearty congratulations to all the authors on the National Book Awards longlists, but especially to Lookout’s debut author Edith Pearlman, of whom we’re forever fans. (A toast to her editor and Lookout’s co-founder, Ben George, as well!) We’re also thrilled to see books by members of our hometown team selected–congrats are in order for Wilmingtonians Karen E. Bender and Michael White. And two Ecotone contributors to boot: Lauren Groff (whose beautiful story “Abundance” appears in our Ecotone anthology, Astoria to Zion) and Patrick Phillips. Hooray, all of you!
Our debut novelist, Matthew Neill Null (seen here signing a book for beloved author Pat Conroy) has been super busy this week touring all around North and South Carolina–supported by grant funding from South Arts–including visits to the Hawbridge school in Saxapahaw where he faced down 320 elementary and high school students, and the Weymouth Center in Southern Pines where he talked about writing historical fiction. Thanks so much to the bookstores that hosted and supported Matt this week, the best of the best around the Carolinas: Scuppernog, Malaprop’s, Flyleaf, the Country Bookshop, Fiction Addiction, Hub City, and Main Street Books. We’re so grateful to have fantastic and gracious stores to send our writers to.
We’re also thrilled that Kirkus Reviews included Honey from the Lion in Nine Books You Shouldn’t Overlook, and loved to hear Matt over the airwaves on The State of Things. He was a little hoarse, but understandably so after this crazy week.
Matt and staff from Lookout are headed this weekend to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in Raleigh, and can’t wait to meet and talk with owners from some of our favorite bookstores in the South. We hope, as ours will be, your weekends are filled with lots of books and scavenger hunts!
Ecotone’s tagline is “reimagining place,” and we love work that brings us to a specific location, real or imagined. In this new department, Save Your Place, we’ll highlight our favorite descriptions of place from work we’ve published at Ecotone and Lookout.
This is from Cynthia Huntington’s poem “Boletes in September” from Ecotone 15.
“Home is knowing how the land can feed you, he said. He had / known hunger. And now I wander, out the fire road giving way to sand / where the dunes open and trees part to sky.”
For Ecotone’s anniversary survey, in addition to asking about folks’ ecotones, we asked a seemingly more straightforward question: Where do you call home? Jackson Connor had this expansive answer: “United States, Oil City, PA; Venango County; Oil Region, Steel Belt, Snow Belt; ‘The Valley That Changed the World’; Appalachia, the hills, the woods, the heart of some part of the country; North of Pittsburgh; home, always already no matter what else, home.” Read on for his What’s Your Ecotone?, the second in our series.
In his book Petrolia: The Landscape of America’s First Oil Boom, Brian Black writes of what will always be my home like this: “A landscape is constructed of geology, hydrology, and biology; yet it also includes the creations of the humans or other beings that inhabit and change the environment,” and that’s nice, but every time I look at the unending swells of hills in my Northwest Pennsylvania, all I see are the backs of my Grandmother Ruby’s hands, her crocheting needles in her lap, as she dozes in front of the television. Her house is always warm and smells like onions cooking in butter.
Jackson Connor writes in Southeastern Ohio, smushed up between the westernmost hints of Appalachia and the rolling wide open of the Great Plains. He’s married with four kids. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Appalachian Heritage, North American Review, Cimarron Review, Sugar House Review, Passages North, and other places.
Many Ecotone contributors have been busy launching books this fall, and we love to see their names on best-of lists! Claire Vaye Watkins and Lauren Groff made Bustle’s list of most anticipated fall books, Lauren’s book was featured again on Electric Literature, and Luis Alberto Urrea’s new book got a nice review in High Country Times.
Contributor Toni Tipton-Martin’s fantastic new book, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks is the new selection for the Bitter Southerner’s Well Read Book Club. Toni has amassed an amazing collection of cookbooks by little-known African American cooks—one of which was featured in Ecotone’s sustenance issue—and her book explores what they have to say about our culture. Toni was also consulted in this NYT piece about food and race in the South.
In event news, Ecotone contributor Randall Keenan will discuss Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me at Durham’s The Regulator Bookshop next Tuesday, which is also the official launch for Lookout’s sixth title, Honey from the Lion by Matthew Neill Null! (But if you can’t wait until then to start reading, At Length magazine published this stunning excerpt from the novel.) Tonight at 7 p.m., Matt joins host Jenny Zhang and writers Leopoldine Core, Doreen St. Félix, Alice Kim, and Anna North for Alienation Produces Eccentrics or Revolutionaries at Housing Works Bookstore Café. You won’t want to miss his first official reading from Honey from the Lion. And on Sunday, he will launch the novel in his hometown of Provincetown at Tim’s Used Books. Next week, Matt kicks off his tour of the Carolinas, thanks in part to a grant from South Arts. He’ll be giving public readings and teaching historic fiction writing workshops along the way. Check out the events page on his website for dates, times, and details.
Our new series, Fact Check, is just what it sounds like: in it, Ecotone editors and staffers offer a glimpse into the world of the literary fact check. This first essay comes from managing editor Katie O’Reilly, who fact-checked Molly Antopol’s “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story,” which was reprinted in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2015.
Ever fantasized about building a time-travel machine and careening backward through history? If so I highly advise trying the poor (wo)man’s alternative: fact-checking a work of historical fiction. Triple that recommendation if you’re lucky enough to land a story assignment as rich, riveting, and significant as Molly Antopol’s “My Grandmother Tells Me This Story”—the Holocaust-era tale of escape that kicked off Ecotone 16, the Migration Issue.
The story, an excerpt from Antopol’s The UnAmericans, traces 13-year-old Raya, a Jew living in Belarus and working at a “uniform factory,” and her illicit escape from her Nazi-occupied native village. Her travels through a network of sewers, and her inadvertent arrival at the forested work-camp site of a faction of the subversive “Yiddish Underground,” is revealed by current-day Raya, a Brooklyn-based grandma. She tells her curious granddaughter, a contemporary twenty-something, all about helping the camp’s young anarchists to build weapons, sneaking into nearby villages to rob peasants, and scheming to dislodge rail lines serving German policemen—all to attack Nazi soldiers. Raya also relays the story of her migration to the United States. Following a violent coup, Raya and the leader of the forest revolutionaries, fifteen-year-old Leon Moskowitz, attempt to immigrate to Palestine. However, they miss the quota and are instead loaded onto a boat to the States, where they marry and have a family, and where Leon becomes a career delivery driver for a beer distributor.
Fiction can be a tricky nut to fact-check, as its very definition lends authors prerogative to write whatever they please. Editors are not (or should not be) in the business of cross-examining anyone’s imagination or psyche; however, especially when a story’s setting depends upon such a loaded, complex, and recent period of history as this one, our credibility is on the line.Continue Reading
We’re finishing up the first full week of school at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, the home of Lookout and Ecotone, and are gearing up for a semester of literary action! We’re just a little over a week away from the release of Lookout’s debut novel, and we’ve got news and events aplenty:
In celebration of Ecotone’s tenth anniversary, the first entry in a new series! Earlier this year we asked Ecotone readers and contributors to respond to a survey. One of the questions we asked was, What’s your ecotone? We wanted to know about the landscapes, bodies, cultures you inhabit—about your places of overlap and complication in the world. The answers we received surprised us, made us think, and made us look more closely at our own places. We published a few of them in our anniversary issue. In this new series, we’ll run additional selected responses from the survey and beyond. We’re lucky to begin with poet and former Ecotone managing editor Sally J. Johnson!
Here are just some of the ecotones I live in or that live in me:
1. I’m a Midwesterner living in the South; I say “y’all” now since I hear it so often but also because it’s more inclusive than my original “you guys.” I still say “pop,” even though most people around here would understand me better if I said “soda.” More than my home state and its glorious lakes, I miss how my family used to be all in one place. As my baby brother says, “We used to be so little.” I know he means young but he also means we were together then, taking up a smaller space than we do now, flung out across the country.Continue Reading