Celebrating the Launch of Kings Row by Jeffrey Voccola

Kings Row by Jeffrey Voccola

The inaugural winner of our Blue Mountain Novel Award, Kings Row by Jeffrey Voccola has been launched, published by our Hidden River Press imprint.

Description:
Joel Martin is a twenty-four year old construction worker who lives with his mother and struggles to provide for his four year old son. Longing to break free from the bleak confines of Langley, Pennsylvania, the dried-up industrial town where he has lived his entire life, he commits a series of burglaries with his brother, Derek, in the hope of finding more. Faced with legal troubles, problems with his ex, and the possibility of being separated from his son, Joel begins to unravel, and the unthinkable occurs when his life intersects with Christopher Roche, a freshman at Waylan University. Kings Row explores class disparities as they exist today and the tragic events that inevitably unfold when people are driven by anger and resentment. Rich in character and carefully observed, Kings Row is a gripping story of two Americas growing farther apart.

Praise For Kings Row

“In the utterly absorbing Kings Row, Jeffrey Voccola shows himself to be a master of the faultlines of class and of all the ways, large and small, in which people hurt each other. I couldn’t stop turning the pages of this suspenseful novel. Kings Row is a stellar debut.” –Margot Livesey, author of Mercury and The House on Fortune Street

“This beautifully-paced, eloquent and suspenseful novel is full of persuasive, sharply observed psychology, sociology, and topology, and an honest voicing of working class people, male and female….Voccola writes with dead-pan lyricism, an attentive ear, and generous heart.” –DeWitt Henry, author of Sweet Marjoram and co-founder of Ploughshares

“From its masterful opening chapter on, Kings Row captures the divides and resentments that have brought us to this moment in America. This novel is a deep study of people unsure of their positions in their personal lives and in the larger sphere of change. Voccola writes beautifully and compassionately, even about tragedy.” –Tim Parrish, author of Fear and What Follows: The Violent Education of a Christian Racist, A Memoir

Kings Row masterfully deconstructs a killing deeply emblematic of the class and race issues that plague our time. With lyrical, heart-piercing realism, Jeffrey Voccola evokes our deepest compassion for these ill-fated characters, showing us ourselves reflected in college students struggling to belong, in displaced working class communities. Provocative and suspenseful, Kings Row introduces an exciting new writer to watch.” –Wayne Harrison, author of The Spark and the Drive and Wrench and Other Stories

Kings Row can be purchased at
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Powell’s
BookShop.org

The Blue Mountain Award is offered yearly. The next cycle of submissions opens August 30, 2020 and deadlines March 31, 2020. Please see the guidelines.

Jeffrey is available for readings, conferences, interviews and other events. To discuss options, please contact us. More information about Jeffrey, and a link to a live reading from Kings Row can be found here.

THE SECRET MUSIC AT TORDESILLAS by Marjorie Sandor

The Secret Music at Tordesillas by Marjorie Sandor

We here at Hidden River are thrilled to announce the release of The Secret Music at Tordesillas, by Marjorie Sandor, which is the inaugural winner of our Tuscarora Award in Historical Fiction.

The novel is set in 16th Century Spain. It is April, 1555, and Juana I of Castile, the Spanish queen known as “la loca,” has died after forty-seven years in forced seclusion at Tordesillas. Her last musician, Juan de Granada, refuses to depart with the other servants, forcing two functionaries of the Holy Office of the Inquisition to interrogate him in the now-empty palace. But is it really empty? Or is there, as Holy Office suspects, a heretic hidden on the premises, a converso secretly practicing the forbidden rites of Judaism? Only Juan knows the answer, and his subversive tale is at once a ballad of lost love and a last gambit to save a life—and a rich cultural and spiritual tradition on the verge of erasure.

Sandor has created a story so alive, so filled with intrigue and passion, that the time of the Spanish Inquisition comes boldly to life. So often, the story is told from the perspective of those Christians. For them, the reclamation of territories from the Muslims, through the conquests of Ferdinand and Isabella, is understood as a triumph. But this was certainly not so for the practicing, pious Jews and Muslims who had thrived, co-existing peacefully, during the period of Islamic rule. For them, the time brought the terrors of the Spanish Inquisition. What was it like to be a Jew or a Muslim during such a time? Specifically, what was life like for a court musician, secretly faithful to his real religion, but forced to masquerade as a convert to Christianity?

The Secret Music at Tordesillas has received much well-deserved praise:

“Radiant, passionate, deeply intelligent and intensely moving, this brilliant novel brings alive a place and time surprisingly resonant with our own. Love and music burn like a laser through these glorious pages.”
–Andrea Barrett

“In The Secret Music of Tordesillas, the fabulously gifted Marjorie Sandor tells the absorbing story of a Jewish musician and his queen, both living precarious lives in the tumultuous world of the Spanish Inquisition. Sandor’s lustrous prose resonates like the music she so eloquently describes and her characters are exquisitely complicated. Reading these gorgeous pages, I felt that I too had taken up residence in some castle full of dark corners.”
–Margot Livesey

“An historical novel of striking imagination and lyricism, this sly tale of sixteenth-century Spain, with its secrets and masks involving the interrelationships of Catholics, Muslims and Jews, has an uncanny bearing on our own country’s diversity tensions. It is a pleasure to have another of Marjorie Sandor’s delicious fictions: she is writing at the top of her form.”
–Phillip Lopate

“I found Marjorie Sandor’s The Secret Music at Tordesillas irresistible, as appealing for its grand romantic adventure as it is for its clear-eyed exploration of culture, tradition, and identity. Its narrative–replete with hidden Jews, palace intrigue, a captive queen, a hopeless love–is rendered in a prose as intoxicating as the ancient music that informs it. This is history in the form of a haunting song.”
–Steve Stern

The novel is available at:
Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s

BookShop.org

Marjorie Sandor is the author of four books of fiction and non-fiction, including the memoir, The Late Interiors: A Life Under Construction, (2011) and the 2004 Winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Fiction, Portrait of my Mother, Who Posed Nude in Wartime: Stories. Her earlier book of personal essays, The Night Gardener: A Search for Home, won the 2000 Oregon Book Award for Literary Nonfiction. In February 2015, St. Martins Press published her anthology, The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows. She teaches creative writing at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

Her debut novel, The Secret Music at Tordesillas, is the inaugural winner of the Tuscarora Award for Historical Fiction, and is forthcoming from Hidden River Press in 2020.
Marjorie’s work has appeared in such magazines as The Georgia Review, AGNI, and TriQuarterly, as well as in Best American Short Stories 1985 and 1988, The Pushcart Prize XIII, Twenty Under Thirty, and The Best American Spiritual Writing 2000. Sandor’s characters—real and imagined–inhabit urban gardens and old houses. They linger on the ever-shifting threshold between home and wilderness, between youth and old age, and most of all between the human quest for adventure, and the desire for refuge. In her stories and essays, she explores family, community life, and the pull of art to expose our darkest and best-kept secrets, our restlessness and comical mistakes and deep regrets; our desire to create a domestic paradise against all odds.

Praise for Marjorie:

“Whether she is writing essays, as in the splendid The Night Gardener (1999), or fiction, Sandor’s prose is as tangy and luscious as just-plucked fruit.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Marjorie Sandor has all the skills of a masterful writer of stories, but her compassion and beguiling tone are all her own. Her distinctive style and rich understanding of people raise our hopes.”
—Guy Davenport

Marjorie is available for interviews, readings and other events. Please contact us for further information.

The Story of the String-Heel Incident of Angola Prison is Told Through Poetry in Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola’s History by Carol Tyx, Willow Run Poetry Book Award Winner

Carol Tyx
Winner of Willow Run
Poetry Book Award

We are pleased to introduce you to Carol Tyx, of Iowa City, Iowa, who is the inaugural winner of our Willow Run Poetry Book Award for her stunning collection, Remaking Achilles: Slicing Into Angola’s History. Tyx received the cash award of $1,000 and her manuscript has just been published on the Hidden River Press imprint of Hidden River Publishing.

Inspiration for Tyx’s work came from a gruesome historical event in 1951, when 37 inmates of Angola Prison in Louisiana slashed their own Achilles tendons in order to make public the brutal conditions at the prison. Interest in this event led Tyx to the prison itself, where she did extensive research and, with what began as a plan for one or two poems, found herself writing an entire book of poetry based on this incident. More information about Carol’s experience with this horrifying history can be read here.

Carol teaches writing and American literature at Mt. Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Her teaching interests include African American literature, U.S. Latino literature, creative writing, and service learning. Along with a colleague and many students, she facilitates a prison book club. Her poetry has most recently been published in Minerva Rising, Hunger Mountain, Big Muddy, Iowa City’s Poetry in Public, and Rising to the Rim, published by Brick Road Poetry Press.

Some early praise for Remaking Achilles:

Remaking Achilles brings alive the vivid realities of Angola’s history. I study Angola, …this collection paints the horrors and injustices of time past in a way that the simple facts never do. Carol Tyx has done a remarkable job of reminding us all of where we came from and why we do not want to return.” (Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, retired criminal justice professor and Angola historian)

“These sterling voices pretending to be persona poems are so well researched and authentically rendered that the painful and traumatic memories of Angola will continue to haunt readers long after the last pages are sliced open and left bleeding.” (Frank X Walker, author of The Unghosting of Medgar Evers)

“A compassionate and imaginative retelling of a harrowing period in American penal history. With each vivid and lyrical insight, Carol Tyx weaves a compelling poetic tale depicting the effects of institutional racism and cruelty, of unimaginable hardship, but also of the human impulse to resist and seek dignity. In the darkest hours, there are sparks of light.” (Andy Douglas, author of Redemption Songs: A Year in the Life of a Community Prison Choir)

Like the ghostly inmate who takes his place in the long line of U.S. prison atrocities, Carol Tyx claims her place in a long tradition of poets like Muriel Rukeyser (The Book of the Dead, 1938) and Carolyn Forché (The Angel of History, 1994), incorporating individual impersonations and historical documents into lines that incriminate us all. (Cecile Goding, The Iowa Summer Writing Festival)

Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola’s History is available at online bookstores, and can be ordered at your local brick and mortar store.

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Powell’s

BookShop.org

The Willow Run Poetry Book Award is offered yearly for a book-length collection of original poetry. The next submission deadline for the Willow Run Poetry Book Award is February 20, 2021. For more information, please see our guidelines.

Carol is available for readings, interviews and other activities. Please contact for further information.

IN PROGRESS by Catharine Leggett

 

Leggett good reads photo

We here at Hidden River Arts are thrilled to celebrate the year anniversary of the publication of IN PROGRESS by Catharine Leggett, which won our fifth annual Eludia Award.

Catharine’s short stories have appeared in the anthologies The Reading Place, Slow the Pace, Lose Yourself, The Empty Nest, Law & Disorder, Best New Writing 2014, as well as in the journals Room, Event, The New Quarterly, Canadian Author, and The Antigonish Review. Other stories have appeared online in paperbytes, Per Contra, and Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism, as well as on CBC Radio. The Eludia Award brings with it a $1,000 cash prize and publication on our Sowilo Press imprint.  Shortly after winning our award, Catharine learned that her novel, The Way to Go Home, was accepted for publication with Urban Farmhouse Press. This wonderful novel is also now out in the world. She lives in London, Ontario, Canada and taught creative writing in the continuing studies program for Western University.

The Emigrant and Other Stories, our sixth Eludia Award winner, by Justine Dymond, is scheduled for publication in late 2020/early 2021, having been delayed a bit due to COVID-19.

The Eludia Award is given yearly as a first-book award, for a book-length work of fiction (either a short story collection or a novel) by a woman writer, age 40 or above. It carries a cash award of $1,000 and publication by Sowilo Press, an imprint of Hidden River Publishing. The next cycle of submissions opens August 15, 2020 and closes March 15, 2021.

In Progress is available at

AbeBooks
, Powell’s, Barnes and Noble, Amazon, BookShop.org

Book clubs, reviewers and requests for interviews with Catharine?  Please contact us below:

Jeffrey Voccola Receives the Inaugural Blue Mountain Novel Award

Jeffrey Voccola
winner of The Blue Mountain Award for his novel KINGS ROW

Jeffrey Voccola, of Kutztown, Pennsylvania has won the inaugural Blue Mountain Novel Award for his novel, Kings Row. The award carries a $1,000 cash prize and publication with Hidden River Press, an imprint of Hidden River Publishing.

Jeffrey received an MFA from Emerson College. His fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Cabinet, Noctua Review, Cottonwood, Beacon Street Review, Folio, Whirligig. His essays have been published in Inside Sources, The Las Vegas Sun, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Jeffrey is currently Associate Professor of Fiction Writing and Director of the Writing Program at Kutztown University.

Kings Row is what Jeffrey calls a “literary mystery” about the murder of a university freshman in a post-industrial college town by one of the working class men of the community. Describing his novel, Jeffrey tells us, “Kings Row explores elements of racism and class-ism as they exist today, particularly in small communities…as rapid changes in demographics and social norms threaten their way of life. Kings Row is a tragic and heartbreaking story of two Americas growing farther apart. The book contains multiple points of view, including the victim, Christopher Roche, and the murder is mentioned in the first chapter. As a result, the reader is able to follow these two young men as their lives intersect. As a professor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, I have a deep understanding of the characters, setting, and premise of this novel. Although the book is a work of fiction, the central conflict is based on an actual event that took place in Kutztown only a few years ago.”

The manuscript captured the imagination of our staff at Hidden River for its deep understanding of a struggle taking place across the U.S. and in all areas where the shifts in economy have hollowed out formerly thriving manufacturing towns, ruining lives and families and fracturing communities. The violence that takes place in the novel is representative of the kind of rage that is boiling beneath the surface of our society, rage which is often taken out on the most vulnerable among us rather than on those truly guilty of destroying our once-thriving economy.

Exploring a heartbreaking subject with language both honest and transcendent, Kings Row carries the reader along, through its exploration of the inner lives of many characters, to create a tapestry of suffering truly illustrative of current day America.

Here is a clip of Jeffrey reading from a portion of the novel:

The Blue Mountain Novel Award is offered yearly by Hidden River Arts. The next submission cycle opens August 30, 2020 and deadlines March 31, 2021. For more information and guidelines, please see our blog page for The Blue Mountain Award.

You Are Invited to a Virtual Book Launch for REMAKING ACHILLES by Carol Tyx, Winner of our Willow Run Poetry Book Award

Remaking Achilles: Slicing in Angola’s History

ZOOM BOOK RELEASE
REMAKING ACHILLES:
SLICING INTO ANGOLA’S HISTORY

Carol Tyx announces the release of her new book Remaking Achilles: Slicing into Angola’s History.

She will read from the book in a zoom book launch Wednesday May 13 7-8 PM CST. Use the link at the end of this article to register for the event.

Inspiration for Tyx’s work came from a painful historical event in 1951, when 37 inmates of Angola Prison in Louisiana slashed their own Achilles tendons in order to make public the brutal conditions at the prison. Interest in this event led Tyx to the prison itself, where she did extensive research and, with what began as a plan for one or two poems, found herself writing an entire book of poetry based on this incident. Remaking Achilles received the Willow Run Poetry Book Award from Hidden River Press.

At its heart, Remaking Achilles is about resisting injustice and how inmates, with the support of a larger community, pushed for prison reform. “With each vivid and lyrical insight, Carol Tyx weaves a compelling poetic tale depicting the effects of institutional racism and cruelty, of unimaginable hardship, but also of the human impulse to resist and seek dignity,” writes Andy Douglas, author of Redemption Songs: A Year in the Life of a Community Prison Choir.

Tyx’s involvement with prisons emerges from a book club she co-founded at the Anamosa State Penitentiary ten years ago. Getting to know the men in the book club challenged her stereotypes about people who are incarcerated and whetted her desire for criminal justice reforms. Tyx is part of a state-wide coalition, spear-headed by the ACLU, to restore voting rights to felons in Iowa.

Carol Tyx earned her PhD in English at the University of Iowa. A professor emeritus at Mt. Mercy University, Tyx is currently the artist-in-residence at Prairiewoods, an eco-spirituality center in Hiawatha. Her previous books include Rising to the Rim, published by Brick Road Poetry Press (2013), and The Fifty Poems, published by Raven Rocks Press (2003). She is available for readings, and review copies are available upon request.

TO ORDER: Signed copies are available from our wonderful local bookstore, Prairie Lights. At present Prairie Lights is closed to shoppers, but will deliver without charge in the Iowa City/Coralville area and will ship to further locations. To order a copy from Prairie Lights call 319-337-2681. You can also order the book directly from the author at caroltyx@gmail.com. Two dollars from every sale will be donated to Inside Out Reentry Community, a local returning citizens support organization. Carol’s book is also available at online booksellers, such as Barnes & Noble and Amazon — but we encourage our readers to make their purchases through BookShop.org, which is the platform for online booksales from independent bookstores. That link can be found here.

TO REGISTER FOR THE ZOOM LAUNCH: https://us02web.zoom.us/w/87267201305?tk=men1nhxj_kgqeZ5bsfMdJZls0PnrSLINwe_8qhTJ4qo.DQEAAAAUUYfRGRZSMFFJOFZCVlMzRzRNU3lNZkwwUG5BAA

Meet Angie Pelekidis, Author of Unlucky Mel, Winner of The Blue Mountain Novel Award

Angie Pelekidis

We are happy to introduce you all to Angie Pelekidis of Port Crane, New York, who is the winner of our Blue Mountain Novel Award for her wonderful novel, Unlucky Mel.
Angie introduced her novel to us by saying, “Unlucky Mel…is (a) comedy loosely based on Hamlet, but with a revenge plot of epic ineptness, (and) a comedic female protagonist….who’s struggling to balance her sense of family duty with her creative and professional ambitions.”

This caught our attention. A revenge plot, loosely based on Hamlet, with an epically inept female protagonist? What’s not to like?

Her synopsis took it further: “When Melody Hollings’s widowed father starts behaving strangely, she chalks this up to his trying to manipulate her into moving back into his hoarding house of horrors. She’s in her final year as a Ph.D. student, living with her boyfriend, and enjoying her independence from her needy father. But as Collin’s behavior becomes more bizarre, Mel learns he has dementia. Her only hope is to land an alumni fellowship after she graduates so she can stay local and care for him. For this to happen, she needs her friend and mentor, Ben, to edit her dissertation and reciprocate all the help she’s given him with his writing and life. Instead, he trashes her book and wins the fellowship for himself. Forced to move back in with Collin, she plots her revenge against Ben. But her vengeful acts escalate as they fail to make a dent in his blessed existence.”

The comedic escalation is deftly combined with the growing stress Mel feels while handling her father’s needs, teaching too many students, and feeling uncertainty over her own future.

A novel blending humor and pathos, Unlucky Mel promises to be a great addition to our growing list of titles. It also seems a pretty safe bet that Angie will fit right in with our growing family of unique and highly-talented writers.

Angie Pelekidis received a Ph.D in English/Creative Writing from Binghamton University in 2012, where she also earned an M.A. in the same field. Her dissertation, an unpublished short-story collection titled Patrimonium, won the Distinguished Dissertation Award for Creative Writing. Her writing has appeared in the Michigan Quarterly Review, Confrontation, North Dakota Quarterly, Masters Review, Bluestem, Eleven Eleven, and McSweeney’s. She won first prize in the New Ohio Review’s Fiction Contest, which was judged by Ann Beattie.

We want to congratulate Angie and welcome her to the Hidden River Arts family.

The Blue Mountain Novel Award is offered annually for an original, unpublished novel. The winner receives a $1,000 cash award and publication with Hidden River Publishing. The next cycle of submissions opens August 30, 2020 and deadlines March 31, 2021. Please see our guidelines for further information. A list of the semi-finalists and finalists of the Blue Mountain Award may be reviewed here. You may also be interested in a profile of our first Blue Mountain winner, Jeffrey Voccola, and his novel, Kings Row.

Please be sure to follow our blog for all updates of Hidden River activities.

HEATHEN HILL by Jason Forbach Reading September 9, 2019

HEATHEN HILL READING INVITE copy

 

Hidden River Arts is very pleased to announce that the winner of our most recent Playwrighting Award, Jason Forbach, will have his winning script, HEATHEN HILL, read at the Shetler Studios Bridge Theatre, 244 W. 54th Street, in New York, on Monday, September 9. 2019, at 1:30 pm.

Jason, currently in the cast of Phantom on Broadway, has been a Broadway actor for over 14 years.  HEATHEN HILL is Jason’s first play, which he describes: “Heathen Hill is an ensemble play set in the very near future in an ever expanding Alt-America. Six men in an internment camp for homosexuals turn toward creativity, art and truth as a way to survive. As the political environment of this country continually spirals toward hostility, the play examines the retaliative strength and liberation found through beauty and expression.”

The reading will be directed by Kevin Newbury, and will star Dan Amboyer, best known for his starring role as Prince William, Duke of Cambridge in the television movie “William & Catherine: A Royal Romance”.

Our other amazing cast members include Paul Schaefer, Kevin Ligon, Evander Duck, Jr., Daniel Ching, Alan Ariano, Jacob Keith Watson, Alan Wiggins and James Jackson.

After about fifteen years in Philadelphia, the Hidden River Arts Playwrighting Award has now moved New York, in a decision aimed at providing more benefit to our winning playwrights.

Broadway World wrote a wonderful article about this event, and about the play itself.

The Hidden River Arts Playwrighting Award is offered yearly for a previously unproduced full-length play. The winning script receives a $1,000 prize and a public script-in-hand reading. If you are interested in submitting, please consult our guidelines.

The next deadline for the award is June 30, 2020.

For further information about this event, or if you are interested in attending, please contact our Founding Director, Debra Leigh Scott, at hiddenriverarts@gmail.com at your earliest opportunity, since seating is limited.

Slouching Towards Publication

A guest blog by David Hallock Sanders, author of Busara Road

© 2018 David H. Wells

This is not a feel-good story. It’s too full of disaster, disease, and failure.
It’s not a sob story, either, even though it does include some sobbing.
It’s also not a how-to story, although it does have bullet points.
But then again, it ends on a happy note, so maybe it is feel-good after all.
And maybe that’s where I should start, with the ending:
This year my novel, Busara Road, got published.

That may sound like solidly feel-good news, except that it took me 20 years to get the book into print – years filled with grave setbacks, personal traumas, and drawers of failed drafts.

Let’s go back to the beginning. In 1999 I wrote my first draft of something that was not yet a novel, but was more like a short-story attempt that got way, way out of hand.

It was titled Return to Kwetu, and contained many of the same characters, settings, and themes that would one day become Busara Road. The core story, which has remained remarkably intact over the years, involved an American Quaker boy who gets transplanted to Kenya in the early sixties, just after Kenya’s long and bloody struggle for independence. The story followed this kid, Mark, as he comes of age in a nation that is coming of age itself.

That first story was a long, royal mess. Rambling, leaden, and confusing, it just kept growing longer and longer, until it was so unwieldy that I finally abandoned it.

Two years later, though, I excavated the original story and took another look. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe I was dealing with a novel here. I renamed it Kijiji Road, and began again.

I fleshed out some of the more compelling characters. I wrote new scenes that became new chapters. I ended up with several hundred pages of new text – some of it interesting, most of it not.

That attempt failed as well.

I started over. This time I reconceived the work as a magnum opus in three parts. The first section would be the boy’s childhood in Kenya. The second would be the span of his adulthood back in the United States. And the third section would be his return, in his aging years, to the village where he’d lived as a child.

By 2007 the manuscript, now titled Busara Road, had grown to over 800 pages, yet I was still stuck fumbling around in the character’s early life. I was finding the whole thing completely unmanageable. Another failed attempt.

Here I was, eight years in, and I still didn’t have a legitimate draft.

So I decided, once again, to start over. I set parts two and three aside to concentrate on the first section. I decided to focus on the plot, a sensible approach that I should have taken eight years earlier. I bought new software to help me create a master plotline, filled poster boards with scene-by-scene index cards, and charted each chapter in detail to track my through-lines, thematic developments, character motivations, etc., etc. I lugged boxes of notes and source materials with me to more than half a dozen writing residencies.

It was slow going. But by 2011, I finally had what felt like an actual, presentable draft.

And then disaster struck.

My computer suffered a catastrophic hard-drive crash. Even worse, I had not been backing up for years.

I lost everything.

A long road back

The wonderful writer Pico Ayer has written movingly about losing his home and all of its contents – including 15 years of notes and manuscripts – to a devastating fire. He ultimately described the experience as liberating, one that left him with a strange sense of freedom.

I don’t have Mr. Ayer’s Zen Buddhist composure.

When I lost my novel I nearly lost my mind. I literally curled in a ball on the floor, sobbing and moaning, “I fucked up! I fucked up!” My wife, grasping the seriousness of the situation, fed me shot after shot of whiskey.

From there I began a painful, lengthy period of reconstructive surgery. I dug through cardboard boxes for old printouts of early chapters. I thumbed through file cabinets for old notes and searched through old thumb drives for discarded text. I reassembled all of this material the best I could, and assessed what I had.

The whole thing was a mess. The novel’s narrative voice was all over the place. Scenes meandered. Characters behaved in inconsistent, unconvincing ways. Story arcs conflicted. Tenses battled – present in some sections, past in others.

And this wasn’t only the fault of the disjointed drafts. The entire novel suffered from these shortcomings. It just wasn’t working.

That stark realization, I now believe, was a gift. My version of Mr. Ayer’s liberation.
So I started over, once again, from the beginning. I re-plotted the book in detail, chapter by chapter. I re-defined character bios and thematic threads. I dispensed with the wandering prose that had diluted early drafts and focused on simply telling the story. I even re-wrote the whole novel as a screenplay, which taught me a lot about plotting and pacing and efficiency.

I signed up for a one-on-one novel intensive with Nancy Zafris, a marvelous writer and teacher who literally tore the manuscript into pieces and helped me reassemble it with a better, stronger structure.

It took me two years to complete a new draft. I submitted an excerpt to the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Prize for a novel-in-progress, and was shortlisted as a finalist.
I pitched the novel to agents at conferences – AWP in Seattle, PWO in Philadelphia, Grub Street in Boston. I got requests to see more of the manuscript, and sent it off with high hopes.

I sent the new manuscript to more editors and publishers. I pitched it to the agents of writers I knew. I pitched it to the agents of writers I didn’t know. I got more requests to see the complete manuscript.

I was certain that acceptance was near at hand.

But no.

“The writing is beautiful,” said one agent, “but I don’t know how to sell it.”

“I love it,” said another, “but just not enough.”

I continued to collect rejections. I felt lost.

And then I got cancer. Nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Over the next half-year, throughout chemotherapy so debilitating that many days I couldn’t sit upright for more than an hour at a time, I started re-writing the novel again. I cut scenes, added scenes, moved scenes. I changed the entire narrative voice from past to present tense. Decided I didn’t like it, and changed it all back. I continued to send the manuscript out, and the rejections continued to arrive in return.

But as the Buddha said, “Each day we are born again.” And one of those days finally brought acceptance.

This spring Busara Road was published by New Door Books. Hardcover. Paperback. E-book. Big release party. The works.

So there’s my happy ending.

And what did this whole saga teach me? Here is my promised set of bullet points, my three-p finale of lessons learned:

• Patience. Things simply take the time they take to get to where they need to be. Had any earlier draft of the novel appeared in print, I would have been disappointed in both myself and the work.

• Persistence. I was determined not to give up. I was stubborn about seeing each stage through to its completion, and when it didn’t lead me where I’d hoped it would, I’d find another way forward. And finally:

• Pain management: Sometimes, when anguish overwhelms, a shot of whiskey works wonders.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For more information about David Hallock Sanders, check out his website. For more information about his novel, Busara Road, check out information here.

Arts for Assets Sake

What’s Art Good For? Apparently, for collateral.

It is long known that the “art market” is filled with speculators and asset hounds who are hoovering up the “hot” artists not for aethestic purposes but as investment. The horror stories of what that has done to the art world abound. But I confess, I had to read Georgina Adam’s article, “In Debt We Trust” in The Art Newspaper several times before it began to sink in and I started to realize, with horror…..My God…..this is really happening.

Those same investors who have been turning the art world into a kind of Thunderdome are now part of an increasing trend: Art-secured lending. What does this mean? It means that the owners of art-as-asset are now borrowing against that art in yet another layer of frenzy – creating a bourgeoning market for lenders smokin’ hot to get in on the action.

Adam writes, “Warhol or a Wool hanging on your wall may give you great pleasure, but it used to be that art gave you no monetary return—unless you sold it….No longer. Today that work of art can remain on your wall and at the same time give you cash in hand, allowing you to buy more art, inject some money into your business, cover a guarantee at auction or pay off an urgent tax demand.”

If you have any doubt that this is becoming a huge market, “…according to a report published last year by Deloitte and ArtTactic, in 2017 the global total of loans outstanding against art was eye-popping: between $17bn and $20bn.”

Piles and stacks of money – coins and US dollars.

Evan Beard, who is a national art services executive at US Trust claims that “the market” of art-buyers are less likely to purchase art for aesthetic purposes, but as what he called a “strategic asset”.

Aside from the overwhelming nausea and disgust I feel toward the kind of people who treat the creative effort of the arts community as little more than a stock option, I have questions about what this means for the artist him/herself. It has long disgusted me that art is sold, resold, sold again, auctioned — and that the rising prices of any given piece of art do not benefit the creator of that work of art, but those who “own” it through purchase. It seems to me that some portion — if not the lion’s share — of the increasing value of a work of art should go to the artist or his/her estate. I know that this is distasteful to those who don’t want to monetize art at all — and I understand that completely. But my argument exists within the boundaries of a rapacious capitalist economy, fueled by greed, where it seems that the same, very few, elite at the top of the food chain are the ones who see ALL the increase. If we are forced, as artists, to live in this world, why shouldn’t there be new kinds of contracts upon the sale of a piece of work that withhold a certain portion of any financial increase for the artist alone?

Another question: If these purchasers and speculators of art can borrow against the value of their collection, can an ARTIST borrow against the value of his/her own unsold work? Or is such financialization reserved only for those 1%-ers who play in this game of capitalist roulette?

I’d love to hear from you about this. As visual artists, what do you feel about what has happened to the art market? As collectors, how do you feel about the direction that art-speculation is going?