Archive for the “Local Writers” Category

April 10th-13th is  the 14th annual  Boston National Poetry Month Festival, hosted primarily by the Boston Public Library in partnership with Tapestry of Voices and the Kaji Aso Studio.

The Festival begins on Thursday evening, April 10th, with a program of Poetry, Music & Dance at Old South Church, produced by Berklee College of Music professor, Lucy Holstedt.  Friday, April 11, National Book Award winner David Ferry is just one of 15 prominent “Keynote Poets” reading in the Commonwealth Salon room.  Saturday and Sunday, 60 established and emerging poets read in Rabb Lecture Hall: they range from Boston Poet Laureate Sam Cornish and State Rep. Denise Provost to gifted students from Boston Latin High School and Boston Arts Academy as well as a Harvard University student.

The entire Festival is Free, and includes two Open Mics, plus a workshop with noted poet Tom Daley.  For specifics on times, locations, and more, click here.


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ostranderWe all know Somerville’s a great town that faces a lot of issues, particularly gentrification and the conflicting desires of different communities with different histories. Earlier in the month Tufts professor Susan Ostrander (left) gave a talk based on her research for her book Citizenship and Governance in  a Changing City: Somerville, Massachusetts.  She talked to Somervillians of various ethnicities, occupations and ages. And she found that whatever people’s differences, most of us want the some thing: to preserve Somerville’s unique character, to keep it from becoming a suburb, to keep it diverse, and to make it a city where people of varying incomes can afford to live. She also discussed the difficulties facing newcomers seeking full participation in every aspect of city life.

Don’t worry if you missed her talk. You can watch it here. Or even better, read her book.


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TwentiethWatertown author Jan David Blais will be appearing at the central branch of the Somerville Public Library (79 Highland Ave.) this Thursday (May 23) from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss his tome “Twentieth Century Limited.” Lovers of historical fiction,  war novels, journalism, and politics, take note! And, if all this wasn’t enough, it’s a bit of a mystery as well… follow main character Paul Bernard during his time fighting in the Vietnam War, his work as a reporter, and his criticism of  George W. Bush.


An excerpt from the book:

“Paul Bernard reporting from lower Manhattan, September 11, 2001.

In my earpiece information was straggling in. There was talk of hijackings, a terrorist attack. I thought again of bin Laden, of our missed opportunities. A few minutes later, a plane reported crashed into the Pentagon, fires raging. What other scenes of devastation, I wondered. No mention, but buildings all over are being evacuated. The White House, U.N. headquarters, Sears Tower. U.S. airspace is shut down. Has anyone claimed responsibility? What’s happening with our air defense? Where is George Bush and what is he doing?

At 9:59 the screams begin. “The building’s coming down!” “THE BUILDING’S COMING DOWN!!”

Slowly, from the top, the South Tower starts to settle on itself, falling… falling… a grinding, screeching cry, the great building in its death throes. I glance at Charlie. His eyes fill with tears but still he mans his camera. An enormous cloud of dust and debris rushes forward, obscuring the lower stories of the doomed building, then settles, flooding across the plaza, into the street, up, down, across Church Street… ten, fifteen stories high! A maniacal blizzard, thousands of papers borne aloft, tens of thousands. “As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,” I murmur, beside myself with horror.”

Check out the first book (yes, there’s two) through the SPL catalog here. And join Blais for a talk and book signing. There will be light refreshments.

Contact Eileen Fontenot at for more information.



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Join fellow writers at the central branch of the Somerville Public Library (79 Highland Ave.) for this free, four-week, memoir-writing workshop with Medford-based writer and storyteller Judah Leblang. Judah is the author of Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey from Cleveland to Boston and Beyond. He is also a columnist for Bay Windows newspaper and a radio commentator. This workshop has been funded by the Friends of the Somerville Public Library.

In this course, participants will:

· Discuss the process of writing memoirs and what makes a good story
· Look at examples of short memoir vignettes and discuss what makes them effective
· Refine our pieces in a workshop format and receive supportive/constructive feedback
· Participate in an optional group reading at the library

The dates for the workshop are: Three Thursdays: March 14, 21, and 28, 6:30 to 8:45 p.m. and one Saturday: April 6, 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (This will be the reading for students who choose to participate.)

Please be aware that these are NOT drop-in workshops. To participate, you must register with Judah for the whole course. Enrollment is limited to 15 people. There are already people registered, so act now! You can register by e-mailing Judah at or calling him at 617-466-9637. See also for more information about Judah and his work.


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Last week marked the conclusion of our teen creative writing program. The feedback and enthusiasm from everyone has been impressive.

Ethan Gilsdorf led a month-long series of workshops. Participants were given various prompts and exercises. Some of the prompts were silly and random. The classes went so well that Ethan extended it for two more sessions. It was great to see all the writing; people were really engrossed in what they were doing.

This was a teen driven program. They initiated this. Each week brought a different group of people to the table. In all, a total of fourteen people attended.

Part of the success was due to the fact that we were able to collaborate with two local high schools; Somerville High School and Prospect Hill Academy. Both schools were happy to be a part of this and encouraged students to attend. Ethan created something magical the students responded to. That, combined with outreach, was one of biggest reasons this was so successful! We will definitely do this again!

Many thanks go to the Friends of the Library for sponsoring this program.


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The Director’s Author Series continues with two events this week.

On Wednesday, November 7:00th at 7:00 p.m., join us at the Central Library as we welcome author and investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan who will discuss her latest mystery thriller, The Other Woman.

A former US Senate staffer and political campaign aide, Hank Phillippi Ryan is the investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate, and has won twenty-seven Emmys and ten Edward R. Murrow awards. A bestselling author of four mystery novels, Ryan has won the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She’s on the national board of directors of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.

Book Description: Jane Ryland was a rising star in television news…until she refused to reveal a source and lost everything. Now a disgraced newspaper reporter, Jane isn’t content to work on her assigned puff pieces, and finds herself tracking down a candidate’s secret mistress just days before a pivotal Senate election.

Detective Jake Brogan is investigating a possible serial killer. Twice, bodies of unidentified women have been found by a bridge, and Jake is plagued by a media swarm beginning to buzz about a “bridge killer” hunting the young women of Boston. As the body count rises and election looms closer, it becomes clear to Jane and Jake that their cases are connected…and that they may be facing a ruthless killer who will stop at nothing to silence a scandal.

Dirty politics, dirty tricks, and a barrage of final twists, The Other Woman is the first in an explosive new series by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Seduction, betrayal, and murder – it’ll take a lot more than votes to win this election.

Then on Thursday, November 8th at 7:00 p.m., the West Branch will host an evening with Clea Simon, author of the Theda Krakow, Dulcie Schwartz, and Pru Marlowe mysteries. Clea has also written three nonfiction books and her essays and short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies as well as The New York Times, The Boston Phoenix, and such magazines as American Prospect, Ms., and She lives in a 100-year-old house in Somerville with her husband, Jon S. Garelick (also a writer), and their cat, Musetta.

Book Description: Clea’s latest mystery is Cats Can’t Shoot. When Pru Marlowe gets the report of a cat shooting, she’s horrified. Animal cruelty is the one thing this tough-girl behaviorist won’t abide. When she gets to the scene, though, and finds a man dead – and his white Persian only slightly singed, she knows something else is afoot. Could the pampered pet have set off the rare dueling pistol? Or is the Persian being set up as a cat’s paw in a deadly game? That’s what Pru and her tabby sidekick Wallis must find out in Cats Can’t Shoot.

We hope that you’ll be able to join us for one or both of these Meet, Mingle, Read events!


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Come to the East Branch Library on Thursday, October 18th at 7:00 p.m. and meet one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Halloween, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne. Lesley will share her knowledge of Halloween in a talk and slide show. She will also be signing copies of her new book, Halloween Nation.

On a mission to define the modern Halloween, Lesley delves into the world of enthusiasts, fanatics, and subcultures including Goth, metal, and zombie. In a series of investigative interviews, people from all walks of life reveal their devotion to this fall celebration as Bannatyne crafts a portrait of a wildly popular and surprisingly meaningful twenty-first-century Halloween.

A leading authority on Halloween, Lesley Pratt Bannatyne contributed the Halloween article found in World Book Encyclopedia and is Halloween advisor to the Vampire Empire. She has shared her knowledge of the holiday on television specials for Nickelodeon and the History Channel. Bannatyne is also the author of A Halloween How-To: Costumes, Parties, Decorations, and Destinations; A Halloween Reader: Poems, Stories, and Plays from Halloween Past; Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History; and Witches’ Night Before Halloween, all available from Pelican. She is a Somerville resident.

“After reading this book, I’ve added about thirty things to this year’s ‘Halloween to-do list’! Halloween Nation is the perfect source for hundreds of different ways to celebrate our favorite holiday!”
-Richard Christy, writer/producer, The Howard Stern Show, SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio

“A sophisticated yet playful celebration of all things macabre, morbid, and marvelous . . . Bannatyne makes a great case for celebrating Halloween everyday, all year long. . . . It’s an energetic, thorough, and breathless salute to everyone’s favorite horror holiday.”
-Chris Alexander, editor in chief, Fangoria magazine


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Join the Friends of the Somerville Public Library for our upcoming Annual Meeting at the Central Library on Monday, June 11th at 7:00 p.m.!

The entertainment at this year’s meeting will be a “Somerville Story Hour” of original fiction and personal memoirs, hosted by Judah Leblang, author of the entertaining memoir, Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey from Cleveland to Boston and Beyond

Joining Judah will be some talented local writers who will read from their own work. This program reunites some of the members of Judah’s memoir writing course, offered at the West Branch Library in 2009, who provided a memorable evening of stories for the public at the close of the course. We expect this evening of stories to be equally captivating.

The meeting will also include a brief business meeting where we read our financials and conduct other business, as legally required of all 503c organizations. Light refreshments – generously donated by Petsi Pies will be served.

Also, Judah will be back at the Central Library with local musician Yani Batteau for “An Evening of Words and Music,” on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. More about this later!


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Summer is right around the corner! Whether fireside, beachside, poolside, or cityside, kids will have some idle time to cozy up with a good book. Please join us for a discussion about good books to share with your kids this summer. Tammy McKanan, Somerville resident and homeschooling parent; Ann Downer, Somerville resident, author of Hatching Magic and Elephant Talk: the Surprising Science of Elephant Communication; Cindy Ritter, reviewer from The Horn Book; Ellen Jacobs, SPL librarian and parent; and Cathy Piantigini, SPL librarian and supervisor of service to children, will offer recommendations ranging from hard to track down but worth it, to tried and true classics and new releases. Resources where you can find other recommendations, and approaches to discovering books with your children will be discussed. Feel free to add your own suggestions to the mix! The focus will be on reading material recommended for kids ages of 8 to 12. Light refreshments will be provided, as well as some free goodies from Candlewick Press.


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Friend of the Library and guest blogger, Sarah Wolf, attended last night’s program and had this to share. A big thank you to Sarah for writing this, and to Patricia for speaking at the Somerville Public Library!

Meet, Mingle, Read (May 31, 2012)

“I hope the book serves as a reminder not just to Alex as she grows,
but to all of us, that if you want to do something big, something daring
and grand and huge, then don’t automatically shrug and assume you’re
too young, too old, too weak, too busy, too poor, too frazzled, or too small.
Learn, persevere, sweat. Take the time to figure out how to do it correctly,
then go to it with a giant spirit of adventure and enjoy the climb.”

Patricia Ellis Herr, Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure

On Thursday, May 31, 2012, Somerville writer Patricia Ellis Herr spent the evening sharing anecdotes and life lessons she learned while she and her five-year-old (at the time) daughter Alex took on the challenge of summiting the forty-eight peaks known collectively as the New Hampshire Four-thousand Footers (or 4ks). Starting out, this mother/daughter duo knew very little about what taking on this kind of challenge entailed but together, they quickly learned what the physical, material, and mental requirements were and proved that things like age, size, and gender don’t stand in the way of achieving a goal.

In attendance were Herr’s two young daughters Alex and Sage who have both successfully climbed all forty-eight peaks. The book focuses mostly on Alex’s quest for this goal but at the time of the book’s writing, Sage, who is two years younger, had not yet decided if she was going to follow in her sister’s footsteps. Since the book’s publication, Sage has “joined the club” and the family continues to set new hiking goals for themselves.

Herr is clearly very proud of her children and supports their inclination to think big and play hard. “I don’t understand parents that don’t let their kids get dirty,” she says. “It’s not a real hike unless there’s mud or blood.” Herr wants her daughters to get out there and find their passion. In their case, it’s hiking.

Herr spoke about hurdles along the way, namely unpredictable weather, the occasional wild animal, and nay-sayers who criticized five-year-old Alex’s ability to take on such a challenge both because of her age and her gender. Of all the potential set-backs, the idea that a stranger could dictate what Alex could or could not do based on surface factors got under the skin of both mother and daughter. A strong recurring theme in the memoir, Herr spoke about this with a great deal of incredulity. After all, Alex (and later Sage) proved more than capable of summiting those “grown up” peaks.

Up: A Mother and Daughter’s Peakbagging Adventure is a memoir about rising to the challenge – it’s about setting a goal and achieving it with gusto, something Patricia, Alex, and Sage Herr have all done in spades.


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