Mark Saunders, author of Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak, a humorous memoir about dropping out and moving to San Miguel de Allende, presented a humor workshop for writers, titled “Oedipus and Hamlet Walk into a Bar,” at the popular San Miguel Writers Conference in February. He was joined by keynote speakers/writers Cheryl Strayed (Wild) and Luis Alberto Urrea, pictured at left.
“If you do not know the writer Luis Alberto Urrea,” Saunders declares in a recent Fuze blog post, “I urge you to check him out. He gave the best keynote address I’ve ever watched or listened to. He didn’t just knock it out of the park; he knocked it out of several parks. With great animation, he told funny and intimate stories about his parents, his loving but idiosyncratic aunts, and what it was like growing up first in Tijuana and then later in San Diego. Some of these family members and stories ended up in his novels. You mi
ght want to start with his novel Into the Beautiful North, which was selected as the Big Read book here in San Miguel this year. Coincidentally, the National Endowment for the Arts in the USA picked it as one of their Big Read books, as well (ahem, we picked it first).”
In addition to Saunders’ blog post, he also included gorgeous pictures of the conference, all taken by professional photographer Charlotte Bell. To view more conference photos, especially of the Mexican Fiesta, pictured above, which Saunders calls, “the best party, bar none and hands down, I’ve ever attended,” go to www.charlottebell.com.
If you want a free pdf copy of Mark Saunders’ workshop workbook, please email him at:firstname.lastname@example.org
Monthly Archives: March 2013
According to the ARD, a German television network, Amazon is scrambling to do damage control after one of their security contractors, HESS (the name of Hitler’s deputy), was accused of harassing immigrant workers, and wearing uniforms designed by a Berlin brand linked to neo-Nazis. It’s unclear if Amazon knew about the company’s tendencies, but this is not the only mark on their reputation in Germany. Some of the company’s abuses–paying lower wages than advertised on job applications–have attracted the attention of the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, who is opening an investigation and threatening to revoke Amazon contractor licenses.
The accusations expand beyond HESS and unfair wages. According to The Independent, the intimidation by security personnel reaches the unimaginable at Amazon’s seven logistics centers in Germany, including “threats of random staff searches, constant pressure to perform better and firing of workers who complained… employees’ rooms being searched, and staff being frisked at breakfast and constantly watched.”
One publisher, Christopher Schroer, has gone so far as to write an “adieu letter” to the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, in which he complains about Amazon’s exorbitant cut of each sale–50%–as well as the company’s tricks to avoid taxes, and hiring of outsourced staffers who have little rights and protections. As for Amazon’s treatment of temporary, immigrant workers, Schroer says, “these people, your employees, your ‘human capital,’ you treat just as unfairly as you already have treated us.” In conclusion, Schroer writes, “You are, you never were and you never will be a company that treats people like people, publishers like partners and customers like kings. You are not a company that is committed to the cultural treasure of the book. You are not a company that has social and ethical principles.”
Unfortunately, the problem is not just in Germany. In recent years, stories have spreadabout Amazon warehouses in the U.S. with no air conditioning in brutal heat, as well as the practice of hiring temporary workers to keep wages low and prevent unionizing.
Why does Amazon continue to gain momentum? In Germany, speculators claim there are no other options. In the United States, some feel the same, claiming that other online book sellers aren’t as cheap or organized.
Fuze poses these question to us all: knowing what is behind these cut-rate prices, is it worth the Amazon Prime free shipping, or other perks? When will there be no other choice but Amazon?
The Next Big Thing is a sort of combination of chain letter and a “tag-you’re-it” interview game for writers. Molly Tinsley, author of Entering the Blue Stone, was tagged by Sarah Pleydell (see February 12th blog) to interview herself about her most recent book with the following 9 designated questions, post it somewhere on the internet as soon as possible, and then tag five writers for the next week to do the same. Molly’s answers are below.
What is the title/working title of the book?
The title is Entering the Blue Stone.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
In my parents’ final years, my siblings and I had to move them out of their home into an independent living apartment in a continuing care facility, then to the assisted living wing, and finally to the nursing home on the bottom floor. A pretty common experience nowadays, but it feels extraordinary when it happens to you, a cross between a comedy of errors, a crusade for humane treatment, and, of course, a prolonged funeral. In order to maintain my sanity, I transcribed events almost as they were happening, including conversations verbatim. No matter how overwhelming the chaos and the loss, I would tell myself, in the end I will have something saved, which I can write about. Out of this effort to contain the experience, I wound up with a cautionary tale, a sort of how-not-to. But it also led me to insights that have enriched my life ever since.
What genre does your book fall under?
Entering the Blue Stone is a literary memoir.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
My father, the General, would be played by James Stewart; my mother, by Ava Gardner. If I could bring these actors of an older generation back to life, they would embody perfectly my parents, who were newly-weds during World War II. I wouldn’t mind being played by one of my favorites, Emma Thompson, and Sigourney Weaver could be my sister. My brother Chris is a dead ringer for Tom Selleck, so why not?
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Balancing comedy and heartbreak, Molly Best Tinsley tells the story of her military parents’ final battle and her own attempt to protect the quality of their lives from the harsh practices of a continuing care facility.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
It took about a year—which is fast for me—but I was working from notes that I’d taken conscientiously throughout the experience.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to document my parents’ end-of-life challenges in an honest, compassionate account that would recreate them on the page and also allow readers to avoid some of the mistakes my siblings and I made in caring for them. I particularly hoped to demystify Alzheimer’s disease: it does eventually destroy cognitive function, but it does not strip its sufferers of their humanity.
I’m a story-teller, not a psychologist, or physician, and I believe that a boots-on-the-ground, anecdotal approach communicates information more powerfully than an abstract power point presentation. Stories lodge in the memory; they bring our fellow human beings to life in a nuanced, three-dimensional world. They remind us that we are never in this struggle alone.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Besides exploring end-of-life issues, Entering the Blue Stone is both a love story and a portrait of a military family. Diametrically different in temperament, my parents forged a powerful bond in the process of unmaking then remaking their home every couple years, on air bases across the country and around the world. Neither had strong friendships with other adults, and perpetually on the move, we hardly ever saw members of our extended family. As Entering the Blue Stone shows, the family created its own microcosm. Meanwhile, there was the constant pressure on all of us to present a flawless front. For if an officer can’t control his own family, how is he effectively going to lead his troops? Thus life became a performance—we acted out the drama of the perfect family. When Parkinson’s disease then Alzheimer’s struck my parents, it’s an understatement to say that no one had any idea what to do.
Was your book self-published or represented by an agency?
Entering the Blue Stone was published by a small, independent press located in Ashland, Oregon, Fuze Publishing.