Word Play, November 2019

News on writing, books, + the world of publishing

Text by Diane Slocum

You probably wouldn’t be eating turkey if you were a guest for dinner in any of these picture books, but there is a feast of turkey stories for children.  Wendi Silvano (along with illustrator Lee Harper) has a series of turkey books, “Turkey Trick or Treat,” “Turkey Claus,” “Turkey Trouble” and her latest, “Turkey’s Eggcellent Easter.” Adam Wallace has a “How to Catch” seasonal series, which includes “How to Catch a Turkey” (illustrated by Andy Elkerton). “Gobble Gobble Mr. Wobble” by Becky Cummings, illustrated by Zuzana Svobodova, tells about the turkey who thought that he would be a dinner guest.

Not to forget the stuffing, Riddleland has “The Try Not to Laugh Challenge: Joke Book for Kids and Family: Thanksgiving — Turkey Stuffing Edition: A Fun and Interactive Joke Book for Boys and Girls.”

To get down to dessert with real food, there is “Sister Pie” by Lisa Ludwinski, with fall-themed recipes for buttermilk pumpkin streusel pie, sweet potato coconut pie and almost any other pies that you could think of and many that you couldn’t. How about some strawberry pistachio crumble pie or sweet corn nectarine streusel pie? Not only are there mouth-watering recipes and photos, but there is the inspiring and fun story of Ludwinski’s Detroit bakery, Sister Pie.


Manuel Munoz was born and raised in Dinuba and is an associate professor and director of the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson. “Zigzagger,” his first collection of stories, is set mostly in the Central Valley. His characters struggle against their surroundings but hold onto hope. His second collection is “The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue.” In these stories of diverse characters in a Central Valley Mexican American community, their paths cross in ways that show how the community supports, yet can be unforgiving. He is also featured in “Glimmer Train Stories, #33.”

“What You See in the Dark” is his first novel. It tells a sinister story of murder in 1950s’ Bakersfield while a famous director and actress are scouting and filming locations for a movie about murder at a roadside motel. The scenes revolve mostly around three women: the actress, who is filled with self-doubt; the victim, a young Mexican girl who is a dreamer and envied by the town, and an older single mother, who is disappointed in how her life has turned out. 


The Writer online offers suggestions by novelist Yi Shun Lai on how to round out your characters so that they aren’t static, simplistic or stereotypes. Her suggestions include: Don’t define them by singular characteristics, realize that they might have contradictory traits,

ask your characters questions and don’t try to make them go against their nature. Lai’s novel is “Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu.“  Details: writermag.com/improve-your-writing/fiction/boring-characters/


The Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway will be held Jan. 11-20, 2020, at the Seaview Hotel, Atlantic City, N.J. Special guests will be Yusef Komunyakaa and Denise Duhamel, who will lead special feedback sessions of advanced poetry writing. Other workshops cover novels, nonfiction and memoirs. Michelle Cameron and Roberta Clipper are among the prose writers leading workshops. Registration is open to everyone, but workshops fill quickly. Tuition of $525 includes a 15-hour workshop, Friday reception, Saturday and Sunday lunch, and activities. Early bird discount before Nov. 20.


The Iowa Review accepts submissions for its awards during January. Up to 10 pages of poetry or 25 pages of fiction and creative nonfiction may be submitted through submittable.com. Entries must be unpublished. Details: iowareview.org/rules.

The Ohio State University Press magazine, The Journal, will accept book-length manuscripts of short prose for its Non/Fiction Prize from Feb. 1 to March 1. The winner will receive a standard publication contract for the Mad Creek Books Imprint plus a $1,500 advance. Details: ohiostatepress.org/books/series/OSUShortFiction.htm.


“Once, at Thanksgiving, a neighbor wandered in while my cousin Lisa worked on a turkey, shearing meat off its frame and sliding the steaming slices onto a big flowered plate. ‘Hey, that’s the man’s job,’ she yelped, in between slurps of her Big Gulp. No one even paused to acknowledge the comment; everyone just laughed and laughed.” –  Jenna Wortham (1981- ).