Few cultural workers are as heroic as independent booksellers. Mary Beth Nebel, who runs I Know You Like a Book in Peoria Heights, talks about the pleasures and adventures of running a bookstore in the 21st century.
Brian Katcher came all the way from his home in Missouri, where he's a school librarian, and he talked with me about his YA novels while he was in Peoria promoting his books. His first book, Playing with Matches made the American Library Association list of best books for Young Adults in 2009, and it won the 2010-2011 North Carolina Young Adult Book Award. His second novel, Almost Perfect, also made it to the ALA list of best books for Young Adults when it came out in 2010 and it won the 2011 Stonewall Children and Young Adult literature award because, not only is it a very good book, but it's one of the few novles for Young Adults that addresses transgender issues. And his latest book Everyone Dies in the End, Brian's venture in horror writing, is too new to rack up its own list of awards yet. Wow. Quite a career already, and it just started a few years ago.
Steve Halle is involved in so many literary projects that we didn't have time to talk about them all. He's the Director of the Publications Unit at Illinois State University, but on the side he edits the on-line lit mag Seven Corners, runs co•im•press (literary micropress), organizes the Re:Verse poetry reading series in Bloomington-Normal, and writes his own darn good poetry. We sat in the Hansen Student Center at Illinois Wesleyan University while they were setting up for a poetry reading that evening--so that's the clattering you may hear in the background.
Samuel Wildenradt visited our show on a trip home home to Peoria from England, where he lives on a commune. He talks about some and reads some of the poetry from his two books,The Fervent Crab and Self-Portrait. His work is lyrical, confessional, and original.
Quiet intensity: that's how George Tanner writes and how you will hear his poetry in our conversation. He reads a few poems from his collection The Scent of Wood Smoke. It's beautiful.
Literary scholar Ethan Hedman talks about his fascination with two major writers, 19th century Russian Fyodor Dostoevsky and 20th century American John Steinbeck. He especially talks about how he found himself in a fierce intellectual quarrel with Dostoevsky.
David Seaman talked about his gritty writing: his poems and short stories that illuminate the lives of otherwise overlooked people. The people toward the bottom of society--they are the ones whose lives have everything at stake.
Peoria song-writer Jessamyn Luong talked about her songs, and (a first for this show!) sang one of them for us. She also discussed the background for the song in the final illness of her late husband, artist Vinh Luong. She also talked about the EP she's putting together on which that song will appear and her memoir Every Church in Town.
At The Blend coffee shop in Washington, Illinois, Rachel Burns and David Blumenshine (two of the most daring and innovative poets I know) talked about their magazine Similar: Peaks. The writing in that on-line magazine consistently dazzles, as do the remarkable graphics (designed by Rachel). At the time we talked, they were preparing for their first print issue and the beginning of their chapbook series. Do check it all out at similarpeakspoetry.com.
I would love to hear Holms Troelstrup shout out her fierce poetry in front of a live audience some day. But the wildness of especially her prose/poetry hybrids comes through even in our civilized little radio studio.