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Study Hall: Literary Lectures for Thoughtful Readers
Apr29

Study Hall: Literary Lectures for Thoughtful Readers

Later in Life: Women Aging into AbundanceDATE: Tuesday, June 2, 2020TIME: 7pm – 8:30pmNote: This class will meet virtually via Zoom. As several new books reinforce, women become more authentic as they age. There is less concern about saying or doing the right thing, and women feel freer to do and think as they please. As Mary Pipher says in Women Rowing North, “If we can keep our wits about us, think clearly, and manage our emotions skillfully, we will experience a joyous time of our lives.” In this talk we will explore the positive side of growing older and into our power by taking a close look at new books the explore the topic of women aging in the past, present, and future, including: In Our Prime by Susan J. Douglas Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher No Stopping Us Now by Gail Collins REGISTRATION COST: $40To sign up, click HERE.Note: cost does not include books. Books are available at a discount with class registration; please inquire to lynn@lynnrosen.com THE STUDY HALL LECTURE SERIES Open Book Productions launched this new series of literary lectures in early 2020. Each lecture, given by Lynn Rosen, addresses a different writer, theme, or group of books. Past topics included: Louisa May Alcott, Philadelphia Writers, Self-Help books, and the Literary Canon. These standalone talks don’t require preparation or reading ahead of time. They simply require you to come with an expectation of learning something about the particular writer or topic of the month. You’ll be able to ask questions, participate in discussion, and talk with other like-minded passionate readers. ABOUT LYNN: Lynn Rosen runs Open Book Productions, an extensive program of classes, workshops, and events for readers, writers and thinkers. Lynn is a long-time book publishing industry professional with many years of experience as an editor, literary agent, teacher, and author. For the past five years, she has been co-owner of Open Book Bookstore. She has served as Editorial Director of Book Business magazine, and Director of Graduate Publishing Programs at Rosemont College. Prior to that, she was Editorial Director at Peter Pauper Press, a Senior Editor at Running Press and, earlier in her career, an Editor in the Trade Division of Ballantine Books (Penguin Random House). In 1991, Lynn launched Leap First, an independent literary agency, which she ran until 1999. She is the author of Elements of the Table: A Simple Guide for Hosts and Guests (Clarkson Potter). Lynn graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with an Honors degree in English, and holds a Masters in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University. She teaches writing and publishing classes at Open Book, and has been a...

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Professor Martha Ackmann on the life and work of poet Emily Dickinson
Apr20

Professor Martha Ackmann on the life and work of poet Emily Dickinson

DATE: May 6thTIME: 7PMFree event via Zoom: RSVP required. To RSVP email: lynn@lynnrosen.com We are thrilled to have Professor Martha Ackmann join us virtually to talk about her brand new book, These Fevered Days: Ten Pivotal Moments in the Making of Emily Dickinson.  The New York Times chose the book as one of their top picks of the week of April 16th, saying that Ackmann evokes Dickinson’s life with “a storyteller’s flair” and that she has deep knowledge of the poet’s life and work, giving us a book that is: “thoroughly researched, and yet, with Ackmann’s evergetic storytelling, alive.” This event will take place via Zoom. Lynn Rosen will interview the author and attendees can ask questions via chat. It’s a free event, but registration is required so we can send you the Zoom link. Please RSVP to lynn@lynnrosen.com Here is a rave from KIrkus Reviews: The subject of many biographies, critical studies, and a one-woman show, as well as the protagonist of several novels, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) has remained an enigmatic figure: a shy wraith, dressed in white, refusing to allow publication of her poems—nearly 2,000, discovered after her death. Guggenheim fellow Ackmann, who has taught a Dickinson seminar at Mount Holyoke College, persuasively counters that view with a fresh approach to Dickinson’s life and work. Focusing on 10 turning points, she creates in each chapter “a snapshot” of that moment “with the past in dissolve like a multiple exposure.” Drawing largely on Dickinson’s poems and letters, the author portrays the young Emily, surrounded by family, corresponding with friends, growing into self-awareness of her creativity. “She wanted to understand the particles of moments that others could not see or grasped with a faith she found too easy,” writes Ackmann. When she was pressed about her religious conviction, Dickinson admitted doubt: “I both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an Hour.” Her poetry, though, probed the ineffable, aiming for “evanescence like the brilliance of lightning, the flash of truth, or a transport so swift it felt like flight.” By the time Dickinson boldly sent four poems to Atlantic editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson, she was composing nearly a verse a day: “My business is to sing,” she announced. . . .Radiant prose, palpable descriptions, and deep empathy for the poet’s sensibility make this biography...

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American Dirt
Apr09

American Dirt

The novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins was the topic of the first meeting of the new Open Book Productions Virtual Book Discussion Class. This is a book for which there are two main topics to discuss: the book itself, and the public response that the book has received. First the book. In the dramatic opening scene, which takes place at a home in Acapulco, Lydia and her eight-year-old son Luca are the sole survivors of a brutal massacre. After this horrific event, fearing for their lives, they must escape.  The rest of book follows them on the challenging and often frightening journey which they must take to flee first Acapulco, and then Mexico. They ultimately wind up riding “La Bestia,” the freight trains which many refugees ride on top of to escape to “el norte.” Have you seen these trains? If not, I encourage you to Google pictures of the hordes of people fleeing hardship by hitching rides on top of trains. You will find them to be very disturbing photos. Back to the book itself… did the group like it? Some yes, some no. Some found it to be a very well-told, compelling, page-turning story. Others found flaws in the characterization of the son (too smart and articulate for an eight-year-old), or other aspects of the storytelling. Overall, we thought, for those who are not aware of what is happening in Mexico and other countries to these refugees, that the book was a good starting place to becoming aware of the problem, something that will lead them to investigate other books, and sources of information. And there, as they say, is the rub. The controversy around this book has to do with the reaction from Mexican writers and other writers of color saying: why is this white woman telling our story, and getting paid megabucks by the publisher to do so?  They also picked up on several missteps by the publisher in their initial promotion of the book: a letter that says that the author said “…migrants were being portrayed at the Mexican border as a ‘faceless brown mass'” and that she wanted to “give these people a face”; a launch party where photos were leaked of the centerpieces that mimicked the book’s cover design, complete with barbed wire. We were fortunate to have a Mexican writer join our conversation at this point. Carlos José Pérez Sámano is a Mexican literary fiction and non-fiction author, and teacher of Creative Writing Workshops in Mexico, U.S.A., Kenya, and Cuba. The book was picked by several major outlets as a featured book of the month, including by Barnes & Noble...

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The Yellow Wallpaper
Apr06

The Yellow Wallpaper

It was during my feminist awakening/introduction in college that I first read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s famous short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” and I have been rereading it ever since. The wallpaper may be faded and torn, bu the impact of this story never dims. Charlotte Perkins Gilman lived from 1860, born just on the cusp of the Civil War, through 1935. During her time, she became a well-known writer and speaker, and she is an influential feminist foremother. Her book Women and Economics makes points about the worth of women’s work in the home that were echoed decades later by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (the famous “problem that has no name”) and which still resonate today. Gilman swore never to marry, seeing marriage as an institution that in those days did not offer women the chance to also pursue work. Despite this pledge, she did, however, marry, at a young age, bore a daughter, suffered from postpartum depression, and later, scandalously, divorced her first husband. She then moved with her daughter to California, began her career in ernest, managed to fix up her ex-husband with a friend of hers, and later, deciding they would be the more stable parents and, also radically, that a father deserved to be with his child as well as a mother, sent her then nine-year-old daughter to live with her father. “The Yellow Wallpaper,” was inspired by Gilman’s own postpartum experience, as well as the time she spent being treated by S. Weir Mitchell, a noted doctor based in Philadelphia famous for creating what he called “the rest cure” for women: no activity, no work–nothing to trouble their little heads… We met virtually last week for the Open Book Lunch ‘n’ Learn short story class to discuss this story and, as I said above, found its power undiminished 130 years after it was first published. We plan to offer a repeat of this class as well as classes about other famous feminist literature: Kate Chopin, Edith Wharton, Virginia Woolf, and more. Email me (lynn@lynnrosen.com) for more...

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Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Apr05

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

A woman in my writers group had a line in her submission last week that we all enjoyed. In her book, a group of young men are going somewhere where they will be seeing a woman that one of them has met recently and is really interested in. The one friend says “He likes her,” and the other says “Yeah,” and the first one, to emphasize what he means, says “No, he likes her likes her.” I was amused to see this line come up again In Lily King’s new novel Writers & Lovers. “You two really hit it off.”“She likes you.”“We’ve known each other a long time.”“She likes you likes you.”p.236 I read a lot of books. Sometimes I don’t like them and sometimes I do like them. And sometimes I read a book that I am just so happy to be reading, and the time that I am engaged with this book is a period of such great pleasure, that I’m sad when the book comes to an end. I’m sure you’ve had that experience. That’s how I feel about Lily King’s new book. And that made me realize that the best way to describe how I feel about this book is this: I don’t just like it.  I like it like it. Ok, now, about the book… This is a story about a 31 year old woman who is struggling to write a book. I do tend to be a fan of books about writers trying to write books. This book now definitely goes on my short list of favorite novels about the writing process, along with The Friend by Sigrid Nunez and Graham Swift’s Mothering Sunday. Casey, the protagonist of Lovers & Writers, is reeling from the recent and unexpected death of her mother, and she is very lonely. She’s working as a waitress and struggling to pay off student loans and trying to recover from the heartbreak of several failed relationships. And for the past six years, through graduate school and even a prestigious writers residency, she has been struggling to finish her novel. We follow Casey through the trials of her work life, her love life, and her writing life, and it’s just a great, well-told story, in addition to being full of insight about the lives of writers and the writing process. Brava, Lily...

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