Thursday, October 30, 2014

Interview with author E. B. Moore about her new novel: An Unseemly Wife

Author E.B. Moore

 Interview by Endicott student Ellen Pulitzer

E.B. Moore’s first novel “An Unseemly Wife” is a harrowing tale, based on the lives of the author’s great grandmother and her family. It is a novel that began its life as a chapbook of poems entitled New Eden, A Legacy (Finishing Line Press ‘09). It is a story passed down from mother to daughter, of an Amish housewife and mother – Ruth – whose way of life is suddenly uprooted by the western expansion in the United States. In 1867, going against doctrine, Ruth’s husband decides to move the family from their quiet farm in search of free land in Idaho. A pregnant and overdue Ruth must pack up with their four children and follow her husband on a journey that forces her to make some serious sacrifices.

E.B. Moore was kind enough to take the time to do an email interview with me, in which we talked about her process in developing this book through Grub Street’s Novel Incubator Program.  She fleshed  this story out first through poems, which she later turned into pages of an inspiring journey.


EP: The title of your new book An Unseemly Wife  is an interesting one. How was it chosen? 
EBM: The title came from collaboration with my agent, Alice Tasman. Originally the title had been A Wager of Bones, but she felt, at a glance this didn’t tell enough about the book. The novel follows Ruth as she resists obedience to her husband’s decrees, a very unseemly way to behave in their 19th century Amish fold. As the story begins, he bundles her and their four children (she is pregnant and overdue with their fifth) into a covered wagon, and against their faith, joins the dreaded English heading for free land in Idaho. On the trek, they face Indian attacks, a deadly pestilence, and prejudice leading to betrayal that left them alone on the trail-side fighting for their lives. Through it all her resistance takes many forms and brings her to question more than her husband. 
EP: I'm of the understanding that this book is based on your great grandmother's life experiences. What compelled you to write this book? 
EBM: My mother was fascinated by the story and told it often. She wanted to write it herself as a warning to my girls and me to trust in ourselves, but a brain tumor erased her memory before she could do no more than jot a cryptic list of incidents. So, even though I was a metal sculptor at the time, I gave it a try. My rendition started as a chapbook of poems called New Eden, A Legacy (Finishing Line Press ‘09). People who read the poems kept asking for details. The idea of a full narrative horrified me: too long, I’d get lost, besides, I didn’t know the details. But I joined Jenna Blum’s Grub Street novel class and in a matter of weeks became addicted to writing fiction. After more and more classes including Grub Street’s year long Novel Incubator, I finished the book. 
EP: What do you hope the reader will take away from her story? 
EBM: As it is with any art form, interpretation is in the eye of the beholder,
so I expect each reader will take something different from Ruth’s story. I’ll be interested to know what those interpretations are. 
EP: Is the character Ruth Holtz fictional, or was that the name of your great grandmother? 
EBM: Since this is a novel, I changed the names to protect the innocent along with the guilty. 
EP: I'm aware that your mother gave you the gift of the oral family history. Has your great grandmother's story affected your life in any profound way? 
EBM: Yes, it has. When I was a kid, “Ruth’s” strength inspired me as much as it did my mother and served as a bond between us. Mother had a scale model of the Conestoga wagon built and placed on her mantle as a constant reminder to be strong. After she lost her memory, she’d look at the wagon (then placed on my mantle, since she lived for ten years with my kids and me) and every day she’d say, “Tell me the wagon.” The kids would run from the room, hands over their ears. “No, no, not the wagon of death again.”
For the last six years, I’ve immersed myself in writing Ruth’s experience. This attempt to bring her to life has brought me to a generous new community and turned me into an author with a second book slated to come out from NAL/Penguin in the near future. 
EP: Can you tell me a little bit about your writing process? What was it like working in the Novel Incubator program? 
EBM: For me, writing is an everyday event, or I get crabby. If the words don’t flow, I read snippets of favorite books like March by Geraldine Brooks, or Grapes of Wrath. Many others overflow the bookshelves and stack tables and chairs around my loft. Reading all kinds of books helps every aspect of writing. This is why I’m part of several book clubs and writing groups. 
I took part in Grub Street’s Novel Incubator Program during its first experimental year when Michelle Hoover and Lisa Borders taught as a team. They led ten students through a yearlong program equivalent to an MFA. Each student came to the class with a completed novel, and for the first ten weeks we read and analyzed each one. As the year continued, we broke the novels down into chapters, scenes, and finally sentences. I have never worked so hard or been so excited about any schooling, up at four in the morning, canceling vacations, living, eating, and breathing the novels. Everyone in the group worked to help everyone else succeed, holding all feet to the fire in the most supportive way possible. Being a part of Grub Street classes has introduced me to an amazing community of writers that I treasure.
EP: Can you tell me a little about Ruth’s cultural background? Why was this journey so monumental for her? 
EBM: One of the basic tenets of the Amish faith, as outlined in the Ordnung, (The Ordnung is a set of rules for Amish, Old Order Mennonite and Conservative Mennonite living) is leading a Plain life (no frills, no frippery) and staying separate from the world at large. Ruth’s husband, Aaron, put her in an impossible situation. She had to choose between obeying him, which was her duty as a wife, or obeying the Ordnung. No matter what she chose, she’d be in the wrong, so she did her unseemly best to keep him from leaving the Fold. 
Though Aaron said he wouldn’t break from their faith, Ruth failed to dissuade him and they joined a wagon train in Pittsburgh. For the sake of their souls, they tried to keep distant from the others, but for survival they had to depend on the group. In the process Ruth came to realize people weren’t always what they appeared, and trusting the wrong person could prove more dangerous than an Indian attack. 


Monday, October 27, 2014

“The Biology of Luck” by Jacob M. Appel


“The Biology of Luck”
by Jacob M. Appel
Paperback: 220 pages
Publisher: Elephant Rock Productions
Review by Timothy Gager

Very interesting concept, if you enjoy a puzzle, a kind of thing inside a thing, creating an overall larger thing. A mirror held up facing another mirror. A book within a book. That was the strength and hook of "The Biology of Luck"; Jacob M. Appel's unfurling of the conceptual nature within his work.

Then you get the bad-ass characters. If you like real characters, in doubt of their existence, thus ending up in places they should and often should not be in, then this one is a winner. Appel writes with fine craft in this artful novel, which I feel is good---I enjoyed the writer's set up, but I also felt it just missed. I wanted to like the female protagonist, Starshine Hart more, wanted in my mind as a reader to be able to hang out with her, but somehow couldn't place myself there. Larry Bloom, a struggling writer, is also the writer creating the story within the novel's story. Larry, often placed in situations beyond his control (which, of course he's creating) as a floundering tour guide to Dutch tourists--I could relate to his weaknesses much better.

Many times, I felt Appel was hitting on cylinders that I knew he was swinging for but I didn't pick up on 100% of the time. Upon completion of "The Biology of Luck", I felt I wanted to audit a course taught by Mr. Appel to gain full appreciation of this text. I  mean this as a high compliment, as I wanted to dive into and fully appreciate, every nuance here, but as a reader, was left frustrated. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Winter in China: An American Life by Bert Stern


Winter in China by Bert Stern
Reviewed by Lawrence Kessenich

The biography of a well-known historical figure has its appeal — it gives us (we hope) insight into a person we’re more or less well acquainted with. Bert Stern, on the other hand, lifts a fascinating and barely known historical figure, Robert Winter, out of obscurity, illuminating the life and his times of a man who, without Stern’s diligence, few of us would ever even have known existed. And we’re all the richer for his effort.

Winter was born in Crawfordsville, a small town in Indiana, where, when he heard tales of relatives killing Indians, he found himself sympathizing with their Native American victims. This was a harbinger of Winter’s discomfort with his own culture, which ultimately led to him to forsake it altogether and live for most of the last 67 years of his life (he lived to be 100) in China, during the tumultuous last three-quarters of the 20th century. This period included the Japanese subjugation of China, World War II, the rise of ruthless dictator Chiang Ki-shek — supported, to Winter’s consternation, by the US —the Communist victory of Mao and the Cultural Revolution.

Educated at Wabash College in Crawfordsville (where author Stern later taught, himself), Winter went on to advanced studies in the US, Paris and Naples, eventually teaching college-level literature in Chicago. It was here he first met Chinese scholars and was fascinated and charmed by the Chinese culture they represented. They, in turn, appreciated his interest in their culture, which ultimately led to an invitation to teach at Tsinghua College in Peking. Winter was a professor in China for the rest of his life.

Stern uses his knowledge of Chinese culture (he taught for a year in Peking, himself) and his personal knowledge of Winter (he interviewed Winter several times — and was even at his 100th birthday party) to paint a vivid picture of a complex man in a complex time and place. The reader lives through a great deal with Winter over the course of this book, and I challenge any reader not to care about the man and his fate.

What Stern explores, with a fascination that the reader can’t help but share, is what led Winter to adopt China as his home, and to retain his allegiance to his adopted country through an almost unbelievable amount of deprivation and danger. He found ways to help his fellow Chinese — especially his beloved students, who often suffered most — oppose first the Japanese and then the brutal Chiang and his Guomindang party. Winter was always willing to suffer along with them and to use his privileged position as a foreigner to do dangerous things they could not do — even, for example, putting his own life on the line by intervening when he saw someone being brutalized on the street by soldiers.

What Winter attempted to do with his teaching — and his life — was to find the place where Eastern and Western cultures could meet and learn from each other. He taught Western literature and invited students to his home for evenings of listening to classical Western music — in fact, this last was another way he brought Western culture to China, by relating to his students in a personal manner, something Chinese professors rarely did. He also learned and grew from being exposed to the Chinese.

One thing that fascinated Winter about Chinese culture was the way a certain delicacy and profound sense of community was able to survive brutality — and there was plenty of that during Winter’s tenure in China: wholesale slaughter by soldiers, artillery and bombs during the Japanese invasion; casual rape by American soldiers as World War II wound down; murder of peaceful demonstrators by the Guomindang after the war; widespread death by starvation as the world war and then the civil war between the Communists and Guomindang destroyed the economy. Winter often went hungry himself for months at a time, when his meager means of support by the university and by the Rockefeller Foundation was reduced or delayed.

Through all this, Winter maintained his dignity, his honor and his commitment to his adopted people. It’s not overstating it to call this man a hero, though it was the modest kind of heroics that doesn’t often make it into the history books. Thanks to the diligent research and thoughtful interviews that Stern conducted in order to write this book, and thanks to his skill at translating that material into a vivid narrative, this modest hero now belongs to the ages.

Winter in China is available in hardcover, paperback or as an e-book at

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Contributors to Ibbetson Street 36 (Due out in Late November 2014)


X. J. Kennedy

Kirk Etherton

Lyn Lifshin

Wayne-Daniel Berard

Julia Carlson

Zvi A. Sesling

Susan Tepper

Geraldine Zetzel

Valerie Loveland

Elizabeth K. Doran

Harris Gardner

Michael Ansara

Robert K. Johnson

Alan Catlin

Alexander Levering Kern

Teisha Dawn Twomey

Denise Provost

Steven Sher

Diana Der-Hovanessian

Rhina P. Espaillat

Joan Dugas

Llyn Clague

Ruth Smullin

Marge Piercy

Charles Sabukewicz

Wendell Smith

Rene Schwiesow

Ellaraine Lockie

Victor Howes

Mary Buchinger

Barbara Boches

Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine

Lucy Holstedt

Lauren Davis

Andy Roberts

Lawrence Kessenich

Ruth Chad

Elisabeth Weiss

Karen Locascio

Krikor Der Hohannesian

Nina Rubinstein Alonso

Philip E. Burnham, Jr.

George Kalogeris

Michael Todd Steffan

Richard J. Fein

Keith Tornheim

Monday, October 20, 2014

City of Eternal Spring By: Afaa Michael Weaver

City of Eternal Spring
By: Afaa Michael Weaver
Review By, Paige Shippie

*************   Paige Shippie,one of our talented students at Endicott College, took on the challenging task to review poet Afaa Michael Weaver's new collection of poetry City of Eternal Spring. Weaver recently won the Kingsley Tufts Award in Poetry.


In “City of Eternal Spring,”  Afaa Michael Weaver is on a journey of not only self discovery, but uncovering the origins of everything that has presented itself in his existence. As the Chinese String Theory would have it, this journey is never ending because as long as something is in existence, then it has a certain pull on the world and destiny (no matter how minuscule).

Weaver charts out his discovery in his travels through Eastern culture and his struggle  with memories that haunt him from the past. He aims to reinvent himself, but it is a slow process that sometimes requires him to forget his past life and past ego all together.

The titles that Weaver uses are usually underplayed; they are at a surface level while beneath there is vast life and rich imagery and meaning to dig up in his ppoetry. Underneath, there is a vivid scene that makes one travel to different worlds and everywhere and every moment in between. Weaver at first takes a tactile and tangible stance with his words and then broadens it out to be more metaphorical and  legend-like. Weaver starts by capturing a picture, and then focusing with his creative lens  on the ideas he wants to bring to the focal point. Like a camera, he freely zooms in and out and to varying degrees of the macroscopic world.  In this method, he ties together the idea that everything is unified, whole and interconnected through themes that Weaver can only begin to describe through intense imagery.

Weaver's original imagery is also used to stitch the seams of his emotion together, and there is never a cliche in sight: “Where a blossom lifts its head and thrives where flowers die,”(3). Sometimes Weaver’s beautiful imagery is highlighted in a off key way that allows its original connotation to transform into something seen as sad or painful; beauty is a recurring theme throughout Weavers poetry that always seems to spring from pain.

Weaver is heartfelt, genuine, honest, and revealing with the moments of clarity that he has uncovered in his world of uncertainty. He is not afraid to open himself up and be vulnerable to potential heartache and ridicule if it means he will become stronger as a man and have a better grasp of his own identity and where he stands in the world. “Except what I know is me, a man who melts, falls apart to be repaired in broken spaces,” (5,6). One continuously stumbles upon feelings of tragedy and loss in Weaver’s prose, but at the same time, one can take away the wonder and bewilderment that he expresses about himself and his place in the world.

In Weaver’s ‘Chinese Theory of Strings’, he doesn’t hesitate to flip his perception of the world upside down and question everything. He skillfully plays on alliteration and onomatopoeia throughout the poem while inventing his own method for assessing what is alive, dead, being and what constitutes as our own identity:“but I must believe all sound is evidence of life.” (7)
“the way a mirror leads us to love the face it shows us/ as we are tempted by our eyes to become what we see,” (7). Mirrors show the limits of our physical embodiment or identity as humans; they show permanence and something that cannot be altered. Mirrors however can be deceptive, and Weaver attributes this deceptive quality to mirrors multiple times. “I am Chinese in the mirror,”(8). Reflections pose as a double entendre in their meaning.

To Weaver, mirrors merely reflect the outer appearance, the external self, the shell of a human being. In no way does it reflect one’s identity, ability, or true self that resides in the core of one’s being. Sometimes this core resides in the heart for Weaver, sometimes it’s in his head or stomach; on many occasions his soul is in his throat;“The way to a scream that jacks open my mouth but holds sound hostage,”(8). Here Weaver shows that he is trapped in his body within the bonds of humanity, seeking a greater purpose and an endless expanse of knowing.

Weaver continuously tests the limits and potential of his own human experience: “I have come here to be what I cannot be,” (8). Weaver will not be limited by what he judges from his own reflection because he is not on a journey where his physical identity matters, he is on a journey to discover his inner being, potential and how much he is willing to sacrifice for his soul. As Weaver has written,“a caterpillar dreams itself beautiful,” (10). Weaver believes he can become the being that he wants to be and abandon the hurt he has felt while in his prior identity.

Weaver amplifies the ways of Taoism in his poetry that result from his heavy exposure to Eastern Culture. He believes that being lost can lead to true discovery: “A place where rain is breath, and summer mist, the gas that lets you dream of being lost.”  Taoism is also characterized by a positive, active attitude toward the occult and the metaphysical (theories on the nature of reality). Weaver has set up for himself a lifetime search for true meaning and purpose and will not only enlighten his soul, but will touch others with his words through his journey. 

                                                 ABOUT REVIEWER PAIGE SHIPPIE

 I am currently enrolled in the Honors Society and by May 2016, I will graduate from Endicott College with a Bachelor of Arts in English, Creative Writing concentration, and Studio Art Minor. As an artist, my interests span subject matter and I employ various uses of media. As a singer and performance artist, I enjoy being a member of ECHO, or (Endicott College Harmonic Overtones), as well as having a presence in Endicott’s Jazz Band (as a vocalist). As a writer, I compose lyrics for Jazz Band and submit poetry for publication in Endicott's Literary Review Magazine. Since the summer of 2013 I've been working on a sci-fi novel called, The Doppelganger Effect. As a studio artist, I sculpt with copper wire and clay, paint in acrylic, illustrate in pencil, pen, and charcoal and am open to working with just about anything I can get my hands on.

At Masconomet Regional High School, I was a Poetry Out Loud State Finalist and Semi-Finalist, a Movie Festival Screenwriter and Director, a Boston Globe Show Gold Key and Honorable Mention Recipient (in Art), and an actress playing a few lead roles in the Movie Festival.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

My Experience At Bunker Hill Community College by Alexandria Paul

 ...... For the past five years I have taught a College Writing Seminar at Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. Bunker Hill serves an inner-city, and multiethnic  population. Many of the students are older than traditional college students; many of the students are working full and part time jobs, and many will go on to four year institutions to continue their education. The college even offers midnight classes to accommodate the needs of this student population, and provides technical, nursing, and traditional liberal arts courses. Here is an essay from one of my students describing her first weeks in college.  ---Doug Holder

My Experience At Bunker Hill Community College
By Alexandria Paul

It has been two weeks since classes started and I already love college. Just the idea of finally being independent with no one on my back about my studies excites me when I wake up every morning. Unfortunately, high school for me was like being at the bottom of a swimming pool with my ankle tied to a plug in the drain. It was  hard to undo that hold authority had over me while I was just trying to gasp for independence. It’s a big shift going from a public high school where there are disciplinarians roaming the halls, awaiting for a student to step out of class to question and chastise, versus college where the staff there treats you as the adult you present yourself to be.

 On the first day of classes I was excited. “Finally, I can really focus and fully immerse myself into everything it takes to become a great chef,” I thought to myself as I stepped out of the revolving doors of Bunker Hill. In that single moment I felt the happiest, because no one could touch me. But it wasn’t just the fact that I just gained the independence. Prior to school starting I made a very big life changing decision. In the last weeks of summer, while getting things ready for school, I thought  about what I really wanted to do with my life. I went through a mental game of tug of war trying to determine what I really wanted my future to be. 

I had already chosen my classes for psychology, set up my schedule and had everything set when it dawned on me. “You’ve loved cooking since you were a little girl. You are passionate about it and there are so many career opportunities in the food industry," I told myself. Taking a deep breath I sat down and questioned myself  about taking on multiple client’s problems in my role as a counselor.  I thought,  "Is this something I’m passionate about?"  For a long time I was stuck  between wanting to be a chef and wanting to be a therapist. It took me about a week to weigh out the pros and cons of both careers and come up with a solution. 

 I had an epiphany during that week and decided to go on ahead and change my major from Psychology to Culinary Arts. And so far it was one of the best decisions I could have made in my life. My first day in the kitchen was nerve racking. My chef, Chef Kelley, gave me a task and right on the spot I forgot what he told me to do. I just walked to a part of the kitchen where he couldn’t see me and helped out my colleagues with their tasks. I also forgot my notebook in the dining room twice, each time just standing there while he was talking and others were writing down his every word. It was like my confidence was dwindling away as I kept messing up. 

At the end of the day my chef ordered me and my classmates to clean the whole entire kitchen. We all went to work scrubbing the tiles of  the greasy kitchen floor.  We shined anything that was steel in the kitchen. And almost everything in that kitchen is made of steel.  I was extremely upset about how my first day played out. But I had to take a moment to think and remember why I choose this major and how much dedication would have to be put into this kind of career. I got it together and kept going. Even though my first time in the kitchen wasn’t what I had expected it to be I was happy that I made it past my first day.

The Friday of my first week I attended my College Writing Seminar for the first time. I really enjoyed it and the classmates that I met.  I felt like it’s a good group of people to be surrounded by. I can already tell that the class would have really good and interesting debates and discussions since everyone’s inputs and opinions are different. In the beginning of class my professor, Professor Holder, asked us a question about the Market Basket incident and if we sided with the workers or the management team.  I hadn't heard  about the dilemma that the Somerville  and  the greater community were having. But after I asked Professor Holder to give me the background info I was then able to choose a side (the workers) and joined the discussion.

In high school I was a part of the debate team and participated in numerous competitions. So whenever we have a debate or a Socratic seminar it was exciting for me to be able to share my thoughts and input on different topics. After my first English class I felt like maybe my high school did prepare me for college. I kind of had a secret fear for a while that I wasn’t going to make it in college. I felt like everything my high school taught me was so easy and the fact that graduates came back and told us that they weren’t prepared scared me even more. But it wasn’t until after surviving my first week that I knew I could mentally and physically handle everything college has to offer me, hard work included.

The weeks following things gradually got better. I got more control over my knife, started studying my knife cuts, and working on my English assignments every chance I got. Bunker Hill is just my starting point. I plan to transfer to a four year college–preferably Johnson and Wales- and get my Bachelor’s Degree in Culinary Arts. Nevertheless, I’m glad that I picked Bunker Hill as my base because my experience so far has been great ever since I made the decision to change my major. 

Paul has been writing since  she was very young. On Saturday afternoons during her free time she would sit on the computer at home and write novels (Science Fiction, Non-fiction, fiction). If she wasn't on the computer she was writing  in a notebook. Reading has always been one of her hobbies. Paul loves to read for fun but hated being forced to read. It was something about reading and writing that  has always sparked her interests.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Carolee Carmello The Boston Concert The FUDGE Theatre Company

Carolee Carmello
The Boston Concert
The FUDGE Theatre Company
in association with Matt Phillips
The Mosesian Theatre
at The Arsenal Center For The Arts
Watertown, MA

Review by Zvi A. Sesling

There are few female singers who have earned the title of “Songstress”with their wonderful voices, Broadway performances and solo performances. The new addition to the list is Carolee Carmello.

Ms. Carmello is currently performing as Madame du Maurier in Finding Neverland at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. She brought her outstanding voice, relaxed attitude and humor to the Mosesian Theatre at the Arsenal Center For The Arts singing seventeen songs from Broadway plays including Les Miserables, Follies, Call Me Madam, Funny Girl and Mama Mia. It was a compelling concert. Between some of the songs she told personal stories, some humorous, one touching about performing after the 9/11 terrorist attacks with only 100 people in a 1,500 seat theatre, realizing, as the Broadway mantra states: The show must go on.

Listening to her sing it is easy to understand why she has numerous award nominations including the Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and an Obie Award. Her talent has been seen in Europe, in America and in New York at Lincoln Center, Town Hall and Carnegie Hall. In addition she has frequently appeared in many television shows.

In a touching and emotional moment Ms. Carmello brought her father on stage for a duet.
She was most ably accompanied at the piano by Music Director Phil Reno. Ms. Carmello easily conquered a cheering audience and with justification, she is a talent who that needs to be both seen and heard and if you do not catch her in Finding Neverland at the ART, perhaps FUDGE Theatre Company and Matt Phillipps will convince her to return in concert again.

Zvi A. Sesling
Reviewer, Boston Small Press and Poetry Scene
Author, King of the Jungle and Author, Across Stones of Bad Dreams
Editor, Muddy River Poetry Review
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 7
Editor, Bagel Bards Anthology 8
Publisher, Muddy River Books