Steven Spielberg isn’t the only guy interested in exploring the multiplicity of Abraham Lincoln’s life and death. In 2004, after President Reagan’s death, writer Kurt Kennedy became curious about one of the United States’ most despised and beloved presidents – Abraham Lincoln. He started by devouring research on Civil War embalming techniques and Lincoln’s funeral train. Laying Lincoln Down tells the story of Lincoln’s funeral train from the unexpected perspective of Lincoln’s embalmer, Henry P. Cattell, who was one of more than 300 people to accompany “The Lincoln Special” on the entire 1,654 mile funeral procession route which retraced Mr. Lincoln’s cross-country journey as president-elect in 1861. And since there is always more than one way to tell a great story, Kennedy has also created a graphic novel version of Laying Lincoln Down with artist Dan Bauer. Kennedy sat down with HYPERTEXT’s Emily Roth to discuss the research, writing and art of this incredible and complicated project.
Prior to Dwarf: A Memoir, the only book I ever bothered to read (and finish) about “little people” was The Hobbit. Unlike The Hobbit, Dwarf is not epic medieval fantasy, nor is it about hobbits or “actual” dwarves, neither of which exist I think. For the sake of political correctness, it’s rather a biography of a “little person”: one in whom we observe the sort of dwarfism—more or less obvious signs of slowed, stunted, or otherwise abnormal growth—that can result from any one of 200 to 300 or more distinct medical conditions.
To put politically incorrectly, I’ve read a book about a “midget.”
Co-written by People.com editor and author Rennie Dyball, Dwarf is the autobiography of Tiffanie DiDonato, who at birth was diagnosed with diastrophic dysplasia. For readers unsure of what that is exactly, DiDonato goes through the trouble to “save you the trip to Wikipedia”, explaining it as “a very rare type of dwarfism that results in short stature, joint deformities, and very short arms and legs.”
“From birth to the age of twelve,” she writes, “my arms were so short that I couldn’t reach my own ears, or other parts of my body for that matter.”
Starting at the age of 12, Tiffanie underwent a series of then-controversial bone-lengthening procedures, which essentially involved breaking/sawing the bones in her arms and legs into segments, using external metal pins and braces to align them, and regularly separating the bones a millimeter at a time (by turning a screw)so that the bones regenerate in the negative space between them and fill in the gaps—effectively lengthening the limbs. (more…)
While writing his second novel, Cheeseland, Randy Richardson used fiction as a vehicle to mold ghosts from his own past, transform them into art and examine how a single event can reverberate over time. Cheeseland tells the story of two boys who, after a mutual friend’s suicide, skip their high school graduation, take a road trip to Wisconsin and attempt to rebuild their devastated friendship. Richardson sat down with HYPERTEXT to discuss the journey of writing and publishing this novel — as well as how art can become activism.
Cheeseland is available for purchase in e-book form, and paperbacks are available for purchase through Eckhartz Press. And check this out: one dollar from every soft-cover book sale will go to the non-profit suicide prevention initiative Elyssa’s Mission.
HT: How did you find Echartz Press?
Randy Richardson: I’m not so sure that it wasn’t a case of Eckhartz finding me more than me finding them. Eckhartz is a small independent publisher that Rick Kaempfer and David Stern launched in Chicago about a year ago. I’d known Rick beforehand. We’d both contributed to the Cubbie Blues anthology and we shared many common friends, interests and experiences, not the least of which was that we were both long-suffering, die-hard Cubs fans. Rick is also a member of the Chicago Writers Association, a group to which I serve as president. He attended one of our events and tapped me on the shoulder. He had heard through the grapevine that I was shopping a manuscript, and asked me how that was going. Well, I told him it wasn’t going all that well, and he then asked me if he could take a look at it. I of course said yes, and a couple months later he asked me if he could publish it. From the day Rick asked to see my manuscript until the day Cheeseland was released was about six months. It all happened very fast, which is not the norm in the publishing world. (more…)
While censors and book-banners continue to suffer from arrested development, young adult fiction keeps evolving. After all, young adult fiction tackles the same themes as so-called ‘adult’ fiction — questions of sexuality, depression, love, peer pressure, illness, divorce, violence, drug/alcohol abuse, bullying — while keeping a young audience in mind. A number of beloved books, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein are just a few of the most frequently banned young adult books.
DD: Is censorship still hard to deal with when writing young adult fiction? Judy Blume broke some barriers. Does censorship still exist? (more…)
By Emily Roth
Combining the twin passions of most writers – drinking and listening to great writing – seemed like a no-brainer. So in spring 2005, Julia Borchers (and a few buddies) founded Reading Under the Influence. Since then RUI, as it is better known, has been serving up great stories and drinks the first Wednesday of every month at the classic north side pub Sheffield’s. Julia, who is also a Chicago writer and teacher, sat down with HYPERTEXT to talk about the technicalities of the series as well as its implications for Chicago and literature as a whole. (more…)
Christine Sneed has put in her 10,000 hours and then some, Mr. Gladwell. I first heard Christine read last winter on a frigid, snowy night at a Come Home Chicago event at the Underground Wonder Bar. Tell you the truth, I went to hear one of my favorite writers, Stuart Dybek, but walked out of there with a new favorite.
Her first collection of short stories, Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry, won the 2009 Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction. It was also nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction, won the Ploughshares Zacharis Award and won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award.
By Diamond Dees
A few of Sheree L. Greer‘s latest obsessions include coconut water, talking to strangers, waiting for Dexter and holding her collection of short fiction, Once and Future Lovers, in her hands. In addition to being a dedicated and passionate teacher and writer, she’s also an amazing live-performance reader. Sheree recently sat down with HYPERTEXT and waxed elegant about a few aspects of her writing process. (more…)
HT: What’s your idea of a good Valentine’s Day?
GH: I don’t think you can print that.
HT: Are you a romantic? Not in the 18th century European sense. More like a modern-day romantic? (more…)
Life is messy, however you approach it. Anyone who says otherwise is either lying or on a Thorazine drip. Even our cat, Papa, can’t make it through a week without some kind of emotional blip that, more often than not, ends in inappropriate pooping. (more…)
In my first semester studying creative writing, the teacher of a Fiction Writers and Publishing class asked why each of us enrolled in his course.
“To make money,” I said.
A fellow grad student, ensconced in black and with a name like a fruit, sneered, “Why does it all have to be about money?”
It didn’t and it doesn’t, Fruit Girl, unless you want to earn a living at it. And I do.
From the onset, it seems, I knew it’d be tough living as a writer. Probably why I studied business and economics in my undergrad, even as I spent more time reading and writing than charting my supply and demand curves. (Incidentally, the supply curve [# of writers] is inelastic. That’s to say we’ll write without pay. This subverts the core of economic assumptions: writers do not behave in a rationale manner. See Figure 1.1 Copyright Peter Duffer, Image courtesy of Duffka School of Economics). (more…)
What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? “How old are you?” “What do you weigh?” “When you and your twin sister are alone with Mr. Hefner, do you have to pretend to be lesbians?” No, the worst question is “How do you juggle it all?”
I am often asked how I juggle it all. This can mean many things depending on who’s asking: How do I juggle being a writer and a mom, a teacher and a mom, a working mom, a mom? Submitting my writing, marketing my writing, performing my writing, writing? Teaching students, teaching teachers to teach students, learning from these teachers and students and writers and moms—‘cause, really: what the hell do I know? (more…)
Christine Rice: In the opening story, a baby falls out of a carnival ride. That’s about as horrible an event as I can imagine. Other than that, there are no car chases or exploding buildings or boy wizards in this book. Why not?
PM: Well, I tried to have an exploding building, but all I have are little houses in a small town and a couple of storefront businesses, and the ruckus would have been relatively small. And a car chase—considering the size of New Hope, the fictional Midwestern town in which The Temple of Air is set—would have been over in a paragraph, a sentence maybe. I still had a lot of pages to fill. And no boy wizard, you’re right, but a little magic hidden here and there. (more…)
J. Adams Oaks
There were muggings and auto accidents and venereal diseases. There were Christmas Eve shopping emergencies and cheating lovers and dead bodies. All challenges in a day’s work. I’d just completed my graduate work and immediately begun work for AXA Assistance, a French insurance company that included emergency travel assistance as an add-on. It was standard for most insurance companies outside of the States; you have a phone number on the back of a card that you call when you run into trouble while traveling. The office maintained over forty languages and had sister offices across the globe. It was heart-racingly exciting and stressful and exhausting, and while I worked there, I never wrote a single word. (more…)
Chelsea Laine Wells
How I Balance Writing Against My Busy Life
The fact that I remembered agreeing to write this essay a sheer week before the deadline with a bolt of panic like the one that comes when you wake up to broad daylight and realize you’ve overslept would perhaps begin to address the topic: how I balance writing with my busy daily life. The short answer is, I don’t. The long answer is, in and among my full time job, grad school through distance learning (sounds easier than in-person college, right? It so isn’t.), taking care of the house, taking care of the cats, most recently planning my wedding, moving into a smaller place so we can save for a house, and last but definitely not least, finding out a week before my wedding that we succeeded in getting me pregnant with our first child – writing, which is in fact the neglected but truest and longest love of my life, takes a backseat. More than a backseat. Lies in the trunk bound and gagged and barely clinging to life. (more…)
Chris Rice: We’re in a virtual paneled library (a la Beauty And The Beast/Disney version…don’t pretend you haven’t seen it). I’m sipping cognac. You’re smoking a pipe. We’re both wearing tweed.
Megan Stielstra: Got it. (more…)
Sometimes, the best way to get over writer’s block or get out of a writing slump is to change both your scenery and the project you’re working on.
In a “Break Out of the Rut” mood on this crisp fall day, I discard my morning plan of walking up to Diversey to work at one of the coffee shops up there, and instead, turn east toward the Caldwell Lily Pond, to find a flat rock to sit and write. The Lily Pond is only two blocks away, and I want a longer walk to stretch my back and legs before I settle down to write. (more…)