Word Play, October 2019

News on writing, books, + the world of publishing

Text by Diane Slocum

October is the month designated for a lot of different causes — from ADHD to lupus to bullying prevention. It is also the heritage month for many different nationalities.

One book that combines bullying with Polish American heritage is “The Hundred Dresses” (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014) by Eleanor Estes with illustrator Louis Slobodkin. Wanda Patronski is mercilessly teased by her classmates because she wears the same faded blue dress to school every day. She claims to have 100 beautiful dresses in her closet, but that lie only makes the torment worse. One classmate, Maddie, dislikes the ridicule, but says nothing, until it is too late.

For German American Heritage Month, consider “The Prison Called Hohenasperg” (Universal Publishers, 1999) by Arthur  D. Jacobs. The internment of German Americans during World War II was    little known by the public, but it was a personal experience for the Jacobs family. Arthur, author of the book, was a 10-year-old boy in 1943 when the FBI began invading his home based on anonymous tips. By the time he was 12, he had been deported and locked in a German prison with Nazi officers.


Tanya Nichols and Bill McEwen launched their first co-authored book, “Stinger,” on Sept. 18 at the Good Company Players 2nd Space Theater in Fresno. Besides introducing the authors and their book, the event was a fundraiser for the Friends of the Fresno County Public Library.

“Stinger” gets its title from the sting operation the characters engage in and the fact that bees play a prominent role in the story, which is set in the  Fresno area. The plot involves a member of a farm family who is seeking revenge against the corporate ag industry.

This is Nichols’ third novel, and she calls it “a very fun story.” She teaches writing and literature at Fresno State. Award-winning journalist McEwen wrote for the Fresno Bee for 37 years and is news director/columnist for GV Wire. His book, “It’s a Dry Heat,” is a collection of his columns in the Bee. “Stinger” is published by West of the West Books.


The theme for this year’s Banned Books Week was “Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark: Leave the Light On!” The five most frequently challenged books reported by the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom were “George” by Alex Gino; “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller; the “Captain Underpants” series written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey; “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, and “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier. The most common reasons that the top books were challenged, banned and/or burned were LGBTQIA+ content, profanity and sexual references.


The Original Writer’s Edge Blog offers “frank and solid advice on matters of literary and commercial writing,” according to its masthead at writersedgeinfo.blogspot.com. One issue offers advice from Ken Atchity on how to turn a novel into film. Nish Amarnath describes why the “5 Worst Tips on How to Find a Literary Agent” are wrong. She also discusses “Finding Success as a Novelist — a Bestselling Author’s Realistic Five-Step Guide towards Nailing that Book Deal.”


The Madison Review’s Phyllis Smart-Young Prize in poetry and the Chris O’Malley prize in fiction are accepting submissions through May 1, 2020. Short story maximum is 30 pages. Poetry submissions require three poems with a maximum of 15 pages. Awards are $1,000 and publication. Fee: $2. Details at: madisonreview.submittable.com/submit


Three World Fantasy Conventions are scheduled. The first is in Salt Lake City Oct. 29–Nov. 1 at the Little American Hotel. The second is in Los Angeles from Oct. 31-Nov. 3 at the L.A. Airport Marriott. The third will be in Montreal, Canada from Nov. 4–7 at the Hotel Montreal Bonaventure. The banquet is the highlight of the convention and features a lifetime achievement award and various art and liter-ature awards. Lifetime achievement awards will go to Hayao Miyazaki and Jack Zipes. Details at: worldfantasy.org.


“We need to help students and parents cherish and preserve the ethnic and cultural diversity that nourishes and strengthens this community—and this nation.” – Cesar Chavez (1927—1993)