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new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Bookstore writers in residence, winner of poetry chapbook contest

Writers-in-residence program at Porter

Porter Square Books has launched a writers-in-residence program for authors and aspiring authors of adult and children’s books. The nine-month program, which will run from February to October 2019, will offer two writers — one in each field — use of the store’s offices on nights and weekends for workspace, 40 percent staff discount on purchases, access to galleys sent by publishers, and the chance to write staff picks.

The writers will be required to do three pieces for the store blog, participate in events with at least three authors, perform a “welcome reading” at the start of the residency, and help with activities for Independent Bookstore Day. “We want to direct access [to the program] to those least likely to have it, and most likely to get the most out of it,” says part-owner and marketing director Josh Cook.


Cook says his bookselling career helped him get his first novel, “An Exaggerated Murder’’ (Melville House), published. “Bookselling gives a connection to publishing” away from the more traditional route of the MFA, he says. It lends insight into how the industry works, helps writers remain current with what’s being published, and provides connections. Applications are due by Aug. 31 and require a short essay on why you want to be a writer-in-residence, a work sample, and a resume. Winners will be announced Oct. 30. For more information and to apply, visit portersquarebooks.com.

Poetry collection honored by Slate Roof Press

Catherine Stearns’s new poetry collection, “Then & Again,’’ recently won the Northfield, Mass.-based Slate Roof Press chapbook contest. Stearns, who lives in south Natick and is writer-in-residence at Roxbury Latin School in Boston, writes with an understated elegance. Her lines mix the accumulation of the everyday — “beans, new potatoes, thyme,” a green canoe on the river, concrete where geodes get cracked — with higher states, the glowing flares of memory, and all kinds of passage. There is good nature here: a tree is “bearded with a cloud of honeybees”; and all the hard k’s in “with a flick/of her wrist, she broke/the chicken’s neck” speak to the sound of exactly what’s happening. The collection traffics in the mysteries, the questions that rise and can only get answered with approximations, intuitions, shadows: “Why else remember what we do,/ Why else love what we love?”


Beach settings

Two new young-adult novels take place on the Cape and the Islands. In “Wildball’’ (Black Rose) Boston University grad Brian Engles tells the story of an elite collegiate shortstop reeling after the death of his bullying, abusive high school coach. Set in a fictionalized version of Falmouth, the sharp and fast-moving book grapples with how hard it can be to speak up. In Peter Hufstader’s “The Riddle of the Graveyard’’ (Hedge Fence), Great Whale Island is a stand-in for Martha’s Vineyard, where Hufstader spent his summers sailing in the middle of the last century, which is the time in which his adventure story is set. Four kids — the Cooper twins and their best friends — find a clue to a notorious island burglary and set off in search of treasure, braving dangerous waters and a criminal gang, with pluck and know-how.

Coming out

“If You Leave Me’’ by Crystal Hana Kim (Morrow)

“Bury It’’ by Sam Sax (Wesleyan)

“The Tears of the Black Man’’ by Alain Mabanckou, translated from the French by Dominic Thomas (Indiana University)


Pick of the week

Scott Stearns at the Book Nook in Ludlow, Vt., recommends “Gun Machine’’ by Warren Ellis (Mulholland): “Warren Ellis brings his visual storytelling skills honed from his comic and graphic-novel work, his obsessions with present and future technology, and his flair for fast paced dialogue to a novel that is part modern police procedural, part CSI drama, part serial killer monologue, and part techno thriller.”

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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.