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Fifth Avenue Press celebrates the release of 9 new books on November 10

Fri, 11/01/2019 - 4:00pm by christopherporter

Fifth Avenue Press logos and November 2019 authors

The Ann Arbor District Library's Fifth Avenue Press celebrates the release of its latest batch of books with a release reception at the downtown branch on Sunday, November 10, at 1 pm.

AADL cardholders can download PDF copies of the books here; print copies for most titles will be on sale at the reception.

To read interviews with the other authors, click on the book titles below:

➥ The Elements: A Love Letter to All Things Everywhere written and illustrated by Hannah Burr
➥ Intersections by Shanelle Boluyt
➥ All That We Encounter by Bethany Grey
➥ Shape Notes by Judy Patterson Wenzel
➥ Fantastic Planet: Modern Crab Adventures written and illustrated by Douglas Bosley
Over in Motown by Debbie Taylor, with illustrations by Keisha Morris
The Dragon Library by James Barbatano, with illustrations by Douglas Bosley
➥ Breaking Through by Johnny Thompson
➥ The Planet We Live On by Shanda Trent

The Elements: A Love Letter to All Things Everywhere by Hannah Burr

The Elements: A Love Letter to All Things Everywhere written and illustrated by Hannah Burr

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Elements: A Love Letter to All Things Everywhere is an art book, a reference book, and a contemplative tool. It contains over 200 drawings, half of which map out where each element is found in objects. It also presents lists for each element of the objects in which each element is present from internal organs to the space station, and words that describe how it acts and what it's like, as well as what star process it's born in. A whole family can explore this book together, or one person can use to reconnect, learn some practical information, or shift perspective.

I made this book for everybody to meet themselves in every thing. I made it as a love letter to all things arising and passing away, under pressure and being released from gravity, melting, exploding, evaporating, cooling, mixing in your lungs and meeting your eye. I wanted you to know that you’ll never be alone or separate; and that strangely, you are both in good company and in an intimate relationship with all things: your body, others, nature, food, industry, the atmosphere, the ground you stand on and the space we’re floating in right now. And at the same time, I want you to know that you are not a thing at all. This is how it struck me when I began this exploration and it’s how I hope this project, this book, may strike you.

Q: What inspired the book?
A: In 2012, I went to the Southwest, discovered rocks, minerals, and geology. This led to molecular and atomic structure, and the gorgeous photographs of pure elements you can find easily online. I was surprised that so many elements were so tangible and visible -- versus some initials on a chart -- and I wanted to learn more about their qualities and personalities. I found that as I explored, I was wading through technical jargon helpful to a chemist, but irrelevant to me as just a person. I began collecting the nuggets of information I valued: the nouns, adjectives, and verbs of each element, really for my own reference. Seven years later, this book came into being. 

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: The research satisfied a deep curiosity and allowed me to focus in narrowly and repetitively in a way that I enjoy. I also rely heavily on gathering others and getting their feedback and responses, which is always both fruitful and seems to inspire and connect everyone involved. It's a way I share my creative process and make sure that what I'm making actually connects for others. The hardest parts were when the feedback I got was to go back to the drawing board when I thought I was close to done, Also very challenging was the painstaking work of digitally editing every image, laying the whole 428-page monster out, and when I made a change, to make it to every single page, that was a lot of staring at a screen. It, however, is really satisfying to see the final product in print, and I am grateful that I took as much time and care as I did to get say, the directory and the index to correlate properly and thoroughly.  

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: This was not a heavy writing book, so I'd say no. However, I have plenty of creative rituals. Journaling and cleaning my studio to start my workday for example. Lists -- yes, I love them as you can see from the book -- and I also love working in multiples: on lots of drawings at once, on lots of similar but slightly different things at once. This project let me do that on many many levels, at many different stages of the book. Also, walks to clear my head. 

Q: People who like your book will also like ... 
A: Dear Data by Stefanie Posavec and Giorgia Lupi. PIG 05049 by Christien Meinderstma. A Wonderful Life With the Elements by Bunpei Yorifuji. The Elements by Theodore Gray.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth AvenuePress?
A: It's a great team and a wonderful opportunity so jump on it if you can! Share your project with others in advance, so you have a relationship with the project that isn't just in your head, and to capture the language and new insights into what you're creating. This can help you present it effectively and in all stages of marketing. Also, take good care of yourself while working on such a project! It's never worth compromising your health or your relationships to meet a deadline. I was grateful that the team helped me see the importance of more time to get it right versus getting it out earlier but less polished. We did the latter and it was well worth the extra time and care. My book was a little unusual as a graphically heavy art book, so if you do have a book like mine, it's always good to ask all the questions you have to start, to know what you'll need to take care of yourself versus what the library team can provide.

 

Intersections by Shanelle Boluyt

Intersections by Shanelle Boluyt

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: When a car accident kills Chloe, a vibrant and beautiful teen with everything to live for, the lives of her family, friends, and even those who barely knew her are irreversibly changed. As the people connected with Chloe wrestle with her death and the role they may have played in the accident, their lives become increasingly intertwined. While they grapple with guilt, loss, forgiveness, and redemption, hard truths surface, relationships fracture, and friends are found in the unlikeliest of places. Told from nine different perspectives, Intersections portrays a gripping moment at the crossroads of the struggle to find the light or surrender to the shadows.

Q: What inspired the book?
A: I've had these characters, or variations of them, kicking around in my head for years. For a long time they were just living their lives, having amusing or heartbreaking or frustrating conversations ... basically, a never-ending story I could play with whenever I was bored. I had never really thought I could turn them into a novel ... the world was so large. But one day the nugget of a short story tugged at me -- just one important moment out of Cassie's life -- and I wrote it. I thought maybe that would be it. But then they all lined up and it became clear I could make this a novel of interconnected voices and stories, each one building off the last. It was very exciting to be able to take this world, or a small piece of it, and turn it into something tangible.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: I find writing to be a discovery process. I usually have a grand sense of where I am going, but while I am writing, my characters reveal themselves and take the story in unexpected directions. I love being surprised by my characters; I love learning more about them.

For me, the most difficult part of the process is self-discipline. It's very easy to come up with reasons not to write. It's even easier to come up with reasons not to revise. Revision has always seemed simultaneously terrifying and boring. Revising this novel was actually much easier than I expected. Outside of grammatical fixes, most of the revision process was an opportunity to spend more time with the characters, try a few experiments, and continue to create and change this world. I never expected to lose track of time and just feel fully immersed in the revision process, but that's exactly what happened some of the time.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: Sit down and write.

OK, to be more precise: Tell myself I have to write tomorrow. Look for a reason not to write. Remind myself that there is a deadline -- even if it's invented -- and I have to write something otherwise I will never write anything because there will always be some excuse. Sometimes find a creative way to procrastinate without admitting failure, then repeat this ritual the next week, but with more urgency. Remind myself before I fall asleep. Wake up thinking about it. Hopefully with a character whispering in my ear. Walk my son to school; return home to a quiet house. Take out my laptop and write a page or two to orient myself and my reader, which more than likely will get thrown away. Hopefully, get into the heart of the story, into the parts the characters were whispering to me. Lose myself in the world of the story; ride the flow of words. Feel amazing.

Lose track of time and show up late to whatever I'm supposed to do next. Then procrastinate writing the next chapter because I just don't want to sit down and write.

Q: People who like your book will also like ... 
A: John Green (Looking for AlaskaThe Fault in Our StarsTurtles All the Way Down), Carolyn Mackler (The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round ThingsThe Universe Is Expanding and So Am ITangled), Chris Crutcher (Chinese HandcuffsIronmanDeadline), Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (When We Were WorthyThe Things We Wish Were TrueOnly Ever Her).

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth AvenuePress?
A: Join a Writers' group and get used to hearing feedback and revising. Learn when to compromise and when to find creative ways to satisfy your critics without sacrificing what you love about your book. Learn when to ignore feedback (hint: it is less often than you'd like). Pay attention to how your fellow authors solve problems. Learn the rules before you (very purposefully) break them. When you think you're ready, don't procrastinate -- submit!

 

All That We Encounter by Bethany Grey

All That We Encounter by Bethany Grey

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: At 88, Olivia is a feisty, perfectly content poster child for fearless independence. She lives on her own terms until a fiery accident threatens her way of life. She reluctantly agrees to move in with relatives, but just as she settles into a new norm, a mystical jewelry box from her past resurfaces. Olivia and two estranged, unassuming young lovers are thrust into a surreal adventure through time.

Together, the trio of time travelers accepts a mystical stranger's invitation to search for the peace Olivia's always wanted. But to find it they must unravel the clues hidden in visits to some of the most painful moments of their lives. Each encounter brings this motley crew closer to a spellbinding, life-changing secret.

All That We Encounter is an unforgettable journey that challenges readers to question what it means to have it all and whether our lives are ruled by fate or choice.

Q: What inspired the book?
A: Initially, the story was inspired by my grandmother. She was a strong, stubborn, fiercely loving woman who endured a lot of hardship. Though she started as the basis for Olivia, as I began to write I drew upon other experiences, both my own and of those told to me by other people I love. Ultimately, my goal became for All That We Encounter to be a tale of hope that brings to light the importance of human connectivity. 

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult? 
A: The most enjoyable part was working with my editors. Though grueling work, we could see the story improve with each round of edits and fine-tuning. Collaborating with the team of Fifth Avenue Press brought a new level of excitement to crafting this story. The most difficult part was the solitude of writing. Many winters were spent in coffee shops, simply to get out of the house. 

Q: Do you have any writing rituals? 
A: No particular ritual, but I write best in the morning after walking my dog. I use the walks both for silent meditation and to listen to podcasts, which often give me plot ideas. While writing this novel I found the greenhouse at Argus Farm Stop to be inspiring and spent many evenings there chugging coffee.

Q: People who like your book will also like ... 
A: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce, or The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth AvenuePress?
A: First, build the courage to submit something. If they don't accept your manuscript, eat a slice of humble pie, get to work, then try again. A willingness to grow, combined with persistence, is the only thing that's ever worked for me. And attend the Writing Workshops. They are free and provide ample opportunity to connect with other writers.

 

Shape Notes by Judy Patterson Wenzel

Shape Notes by Judy Patterson Wenzel

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Shape Notes, taken from the singing done in early 19th century, organizes poems around four main themes and shapes: a square for social justice called Flags, a diamond for places called Compass Points, a triangle for family called Kin, and a circle for community called Around Town.

Q: What inspired the book?
A: I chose the title because so many poems are musical and because I like to play with shapes on the page. Some poems “drop down on the page” with little effort, while I have to chase others and work a long time before they feel complete. I write poems to figure out what matters in my life and how to deal with the joys and sorrows of the people I love, excitement about places I am privileged to visit, and how to make sense with what is happening around my community, my country, and the world. As I say in my other book, Light from the Cage: 25 Years in a Prison Classroom, also published by Fifth Avenue Press, my students in prison not only loved listening to, reading, and writing poetry, but they really needed poetry to make sense of their lives. They helped me to love it, too.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: When a poem has taken shape, what I love most are the last tweaks to make it “sing.” I find it difficult to throw poems away when they just won't work.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: I have a sort of system or set of rituals. I work with paper on clipboards first, get it on the computer when it's really rough, walk around with it and revise and revise. I always read poems aloud to make sure they sound the way I want them to. I try to show them to other people, and if they're going to be published, editors are essential!

Q: People who like your book will also like ... 
A: Good poets are everywhere. I love starting my day with Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac and Tracy K. Smith's Slowdown, both online. She is our current poet laureate, and both of them choose powerful, interesting poems.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: If you are excited about what you're writing and think it would be good to share it, send a proposal to Fifth Avenue Press! I've found the editors and graphic artists to be immensely valuable and have loved working with them. I cannot say enough good things about the entire team!

 

Fantastic Planet: Modern Crab Adventures by Douglas Bosley

Fantastic Planet: Modern Crab Adventures written and illustrated by Douglas Bosley

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Fantastic Planet is an interstellar adventure story with little sprinklings of science along the way. Crab is a kind-hearted exobiologist investigating an unexplored planet full of quirky plants and animals. But when things don’t go as planned, will crabby ingenuity be enough to get this explorer back home?

Q: What inspired the book?
A: Crab is a character that came from doodles and short comics I drew to try and cheer up my spouse when she was feeling down. Those drawings were light-hearted and often autobiographical, but soon the characters I created took on a life of their own. Fantastic Planet grew from one-a-day drawings I made during a period last year when I just moved and didn’t have as much to time for creating more complex artworks. At some point, Crab wound up in a spaceship and each day I just asked myself, "What happens next?" The answers to that question took expression from my love of nature and sense of wonder at the world and how it operates. 

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: The editing process was quite enjoyable to me. Having an extra set of eyes for critique is invaluable. I feel lucky to have worked with Christopher Porter, who had clear suggestions and could look at the arc of the narrative and see places where there was more story to tell. Editing is also the difficult part since it requires going back and revising things that were often taken to a high level of finish; I often struggled to maintain cohesion and consistency across the older and newer images.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: If I am not doing something creative every day I start to get grumpy. I have a sketchbook that I keep handy to fill with ideas as they come. I try to get into the studio and draw as much as I am able, and I usually warm up with a quick game of chess and then some sketching.

Q: People who like your book will also like ... 
A: John Agee, Life on Mars.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: I wish I had submitted a little bit sooner. The work I submitted was mostly finished, but it grew tremendously during the editing process.  If I had started those reviews and revisions before putting on a high polish, the product as a whole could have been stronger.

 

Over in Motown by Debbie Taylor, with illustrations by Keisha Morris

Over in Motown by Debbie Taylor, with illustrations by Keisha Morris

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: This counting book features studio singers, dancers, and choir members as well as guitarists, pianists and drummers making the music of Motown. These and others, including the automakers and record-pressers who put the "Mo" in "Motown," reflect the energy and influence of Detroit, a distinctive, historic, music-producing city. A timeline of Motown highlights is included.

Q: What inspired the book? 
A: The text for Over in Motown was inspired by the music of Motown. Decades ago, my sister Denise and I sang and danced to the music of The Temptations and Jackson 5 and pretended to be members of The Supremes. We loved the ballads as well as the bouncier tunes. I used the structure of Over in the Meadow, a counting rhyme written by Katherine Floyd Dana, an author who used a pen name: Olive A. Wadsworth. That poem was among my childhood favorites and I had used the format for a piece years ago. I began jotting down words and phrases in an art journal during one of my many journeys by train. The long "o" in "over" and in "Motown" seemed to complement each other. After about a half-hour of murmuring "Over in Motown," to myself stanzas started to flow. I am not sure what my fellow Amtrak passengers thought.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: The most enjoyable part was generating stanza after stanza. At one point my notebook held so many stanzas and versions of stanzas that I resorted to using colored pencils and then index cards to keep track. Revising is a critical part of my process. I relished finding the best word for the line and the right line for the stanza. It's a bit like creating a puzzle and then unearthing the puzzle pieces and finally finding the exact spot for that piece.   

The most difficult part was selecting the stanzas to include in the book. Deciding which Detroit features or Motown musical influences to include was a challenge. For example, a stanza about the machines and coordinated movements of the workers in automobile plants certainly should be included, but there were other stanza possibilities as well. Fortunately, the inclusion of a timeline and author's note provided a way to share additional information.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: I typically compose in longhand out of habit. I enjoy the physical connection I feel with the page and my pen. My writing seems to flow in the early morning. I write in a journal almost every day and sometimes a story idea or character leaps onto the page. When that happens, I might transfer that idea to another notebook or journal.

When I am writing a story that requires significant research, I engage in the research weeks or even months after the initial burst of energy and writing. I attended the "Motown Records: Made in Detroit Symposium" in 2017, read books and articles, visited the Motown Museum in Detroit, listened to music, scoured maps of Detroit and so on. During the final stages, Professor Addell Austin-Anderson, the coordinator of that symposium, helped develop the timeline. The research yielded information about the businesses in Detroit that actually made the vinyl records. So, of course, I had to include a stanza about them.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...
A: If readers like counting books, there are dozens of fine books using the same structure. My favorites include: Over in the Meadow by Ezra Jack Keats and Over in the Ocean and Over in the Forest by Marianne Berkes 

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: Submit polished work. Stay open to revision. There is such value in exposing your work to fresh eyes and receiving feedback. It's important to consider your vision for the book, but trust the good intentions as well as the expertise of the editors and art director. Allow yourself to enjoy the experience.   

 

The Dragon Library by James Barbatano, with illustrations by Douglas Bosley

The Dragon Library by James Barbatano, with illustrations by Douglas Bosley

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: The Dragon Library is a children’s fantasy story about the importance to f reading and how different races can co-exist together.

Q: What inspired the book? 
A: Nothing really inspires the book. I simply felt like writing something out of pure boredom.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: My favorite part about writing the book was developing original characters because I have a fascination with mythical creatures. But the most challenging thing, I think, is trying to think of the right words.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: One of my key rituals for writing is to always start with an idea and just tinker around with it for a while.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...
A: I highly recommend the works of Kate DiCamillo and Kelly DiPucchio because their stories are fun and creative for young audiences.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: If I had to give any advice to any budding authors, I would have to say, “Always keep a notebook and pen with you at all times.” You’ll never know when an idea will pop into your head. I always recommend you start with an outline because it helps you organize the story and characters.

 

Breaking Through by Johnny Thompson

Breaking Through by Johnny Thompson

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book.
A: Sam James hasn’t had, or looked for, a long-term relationship since high school. She’s as independent, sarcastic, and Teflon-coated as they come. She likes to love ‘em and leave ‘em and that’s always been just fine. But when Ember, her best friend from college, points this out during a camping trip before Ember’s wedding, Sam is jolted back to memories of her adolescence, when she felt like something was wrong with her. Like she was broken.

After Ember’s wedding day ends with unintentional, disastrous consequences, Sam is forced to reevaluate her choices and the self-protecting walls she has spent her entire life building up. The results of disassembling them, of looking inward and reaching outward, reverberates through her relationships with friends and family, alike. Sam’s journey leads down a dark, all too real path into the murky weeds of memory and self-doubt, where secrets lie buried and the truth is unclear. When she finally breaks through her walls and her past, she is forced to confront her most painful memories -- memories that could tear her family apart.

Q: What inspired the book? 
A: All of my writing is inspired by what I see around me. I collect people's stories and value getting to see what lies beneath a person's public facade. When I start a story, it generally comes from a nugget of truth-from my own life, friends' lives or a story I hear in the media -- and then grows into something new. I was compelled to write this book after hearing versions of this story told time and again, both by those close to me and strangers alike.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: This book started as a NaNoWriMo project. I love the challenge of writing 50,000 words in just a month and I have the best writing group to keep me motivated. The biggest challenge this year was editing. What took me one month to write, took an entire year to revise.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: Every year, in November, I fly to South Dakota for a writing marathon with my writing group. We write and eat and laugh and have a great time. During that weekend we get way ahead of our writing goals, which takes off some of the pressure around Thanksgiving.

Q: People who like your book will also like ...
A: This is a tough question! I don't want to compare myself to any of the writers I look up to. But two of my favorite authors are Sarah Pekkenen and Jennifer Weiner ... so it's likely I've picked up on some of their writing styles.

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth Avenue Press?
A: Just do it! Take that work that you've poured yourself into, reread it several times, make it the best you can and then submit it.

 

The Planet We Live On by Shanda Trent

The Planet We Live On by Shanda Trent

Q: Give us a short synopsis of the book. 
A: Learn about the web of life in a playful, lyrical way. Understand the role of air, water, sun and soil along with herbivores, carnivores & even scavengers. Where do we fit in?

Q: What inspired the book?
A: I had a summer job working at the Kalamazoo Nature Center. As we tromped around the 600 acres studying nature up close, I tried to find a way to teach young children about the web of life. None of the books I found did the trick. Not then, nor during many years of teaching. Most books were didactic and took a purely scientific approach. I wanted a book to celebrate the wonder of the Earth, along with the science. At an AADL storytime many years back, I listened to the familiar story The House That Jack Built. A-ha! I would use this as a pattern to explain the web of life. 

Q: What was the most enjoyable part of writing your book and what was the most difficult?
A: I love the writing process. When I get an idea, my mind and spirit just fly. As I edit to get the rhyme AND content just right, I am in my lane. The place I struggled was the end. My initial ending bordered on finger-wagging. And indeed, our planet is wagging its fingers at us. Now more than ever, we need to kick into action and do our part to improve the health of the planet. But I also recognize the controversy over climate change. I wanted this book to speak to everyone. Even if you don't believe in climate change, you can still recycle. I don't want to alienate potential buyers. Every child has an open mind and open heart. That's who my audience is. I'm relying on the adults in their lives to buy the book. In the end, I think I found an effective compromise. Laura Raynor of AADL, on the Fifth Avenue Press team, had the idea for the at the end of the book, perfect to accompany the final message.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals?
A: I need peace, quiet, paper, lots of sharp pencils, a thesaurus and a rhyming dictionary. It can even be too distracting to have my dog around when I write. 

Q: People who like your book will also like ... 
A: Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain by Verna Aardema, Cactus Hotel by Brenda Z. Guiberson, Have You Seen Birds? by Barbara Reid

Q: What advice would you give other authors who would like to submit their works to Fifth AvenuePress?
A: Polish your work and give it a shot. Fifth Avenue Press has a great team to work with, and if you have a quality story, there's a good chance your work will be chosen.


Fifth Avenue Press celebrates the release of nine new books with a reception on Sunday, November 10, 1-3 pm, at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown location, 343 South Fifth Ave. Join us to hear readings, meet the authors, buy their books, get them signed, and enjoy light refreshments. Visit aadl.org for more info.

Related:
➥ Interviews with May 2019 Fifth Avenue Press authors
➥ Interviews with November 2018 Fifth Avenue Press authors
Interviews with November 2017 Fifth Avenue Press authors