A Crooked Tree is a sonorous ode to youth with all its innocence, angst, disillusionment, and unfiltered honesty. Author Una Mannion tells a coming-of-age story in its full expression as told by clear-eyed, 15-year-old Libby Gallagher, the third of five siblings born to a family most would call dysfunctional, yet with Mannion’s deft handling, we experience the family as normal; we accept as plausible the frame of reference in this heart-tugging cause and effect story.
It is the early 1980s. The five Gallagher siblings, whose ages span a decade, jostle, and spar with each other in the back seat, while their distracted mother is behind the wheel, on the eve of summer vacation. It is coming dusk as they drive home to bucolic Pennsylvania’s Valley Forge Mountain, and divorced mother, Faye, has had enough. Twelve-year-old Ellen tests Faye’s last nerve by giving her lip, and in a stunning fit of pique, Faye stops the car and demands that Ellen get out. Libby recounts what becomes the pivotal, repercussive scene, “We were still five or six miles from home. I hadn’t said anything to make my mother stop. We careened down the road, went through the covered bridge, past farmland, and fences. Beside us, the shadows of dogwoods blurred in the dark as my mother kept driving.”
Una Mannion’s debut novel A Crooked Tree will be published by Faber and Faber in the UK and Ireland and by Harper Collins in the US in 2021. It will also be published in Germany with Steidl publishing house and in Italy by Astoria.
Una has won numerous prizes for her short fiction and poetry including The Hennessy New Irish Writing Poetry Award, The Cúirt International Short Fiction Award, Doolin short story prize, Ambit fiction award, Allingham short fiction prize among others.
Her work has been published in numerous journals such as Crannóg, The Lonely Crowd, Bare Fiction, Ambit and her stories have been included in recent collections: Galway Stories: 2020 edited by Lisa Frank and Alan McMonagle (April 2020) and The Art of the Glimpse: 100 Irish Short Stories edited by Sinéad Gleeson, (autumn 2020).
Along with writers Louise Kennedy and Eoin McNamee, Una edits The Cormorant, a broadsheet of poetry and prose. She curates The Word, a monthly author series hosted by Sligo Central Library and the BA Writing + Literature at IT Sligo.
Una is represented by Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White
The Pat Conroy Literary Center is near and dear to my heart, as I had the immense pleasure of meeting Pat Conroy in person at his 70th birthday party in Beaufort, South Carolina. Pat Conroy, my favorite novelist of all times (The Prince of Tides, Beach Music, The Great Santini and others) was everything you’d want him to be in person, and more–magnanimous, big hearted, self deprecating, and above all, sincere. That October, 2016 weekend I spent in his presence with hundreds of his literary fans who came from all over the world to celebrate him as an author and, more importantly, as a person remains one for the archives of my life’s standout moments, and I, along with legions of others, mourned the loss of this literary giant who died the following March. The Pat Conroy Literary Center was created in homage to Pat Conroy, Beaufort, South Carolina’s favorite son, and I was thrilled to come upon the article below just this morning. It showcases the Pat Conroy Literary Center and a bright, young woman named Holland Perryman, who’s making significant strides with the center in such a manner that it bodes well for the future on multiple levels!
A Great Love of Language, the Arts, and Living Life
story by KAREN SNYDER photos by SUSAN DELOACH
It goes without saying that Beaufort’s much beloved literary legend, Pat Conroy, will forever represent all that is good about life in Beaufort and the Lowcountry. Well, much like Conroy, who made an indelible impression upon his peers and teachers at Beaufort High, there’s another local high school student doing much the same — meet Holland Perryman.
This vibrant 16-year-old Beaufort High School (BHS) student in many ways represents the finest qualities that Pat Conroy nurtured in others, especially young writers. It seems more than fitting then that Holland serves as the Pat Conroy Literary Center’s first official intern.
Holland joined the Center in the Spring 2019, after already being the recipient of the creative writing award for a competition inspired by the Center’s March Forth partnership with BHS. Later that summer, Holland was selected to attend the SC Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities for their two-week Creative Writing Academy. And in 2020, she was named a finalist in the inaugural Ann Head Literary Prize for Short Story competition, established in honor of Conroy’s first creative writing teacher at BHS.
Accolades and accomplishments aside, for Holland, being a teen is really about “living and learning.” A reader and writer from an incredibly young age, Holland has a passion for language, whether written in print or spoken on stage. It is a part of her soul, she says.
“I’m so grateful for this internship,” says Holland, explaining she first was introduced to the world of publishing during a shadow-day assignment as an eighth-grader at Riverview Charter School. “I visited the Center and briefly met Executive Director Jonathan Haupt, but it wasn’t until I was a sophomore that I approached him about an internship. Mr. Haupt had mentored college students for years elsewhere, but the Conroy Center was still new, and they had never had an intern, so it was a clean slate of possibilities.”
“Holland is an inspiration. I learn as much from her as she does from me. She embraces life with genuine empathy, wondrous curiosity, and heartfelt gratitude for every opportunity to learn, to teach, or just to lighten the burden of another. Over the course of his storied life, Pat Conroy championed hundreds of writers, including me, entrusting each of us not only with the lessons he learned from his experiences and inherited from his pantheon of teachers, but also with the responsibility to teach those lessons to others in our own ways. It’s an honor and an absolute joy to now mentor Holland in that same spirit, and in full knowledge that one day she too will pass on what she’s learned.” -Jonathan Haupt, Executive Director, Pat Conroy Literary Center
Holland’s new role would become an expansive one. It would include everything from assisting with events and teaching workshops to TV news interviews to becoming a co-host and presenter at the 5th Annual Pat Conroy Literary Festival held virtually in November 2020. Just as Pat Conroy offered his mentorship and guidance to many burgeoning writers, Holland finds herself “inspired by all the wonderful and passionate people and writers” she’s met at the Center.
“Mr. Haupt has been the most wonderful mentor. I am constantly learning about the writing and publishing worlds. Sometimes it’s through intentional conversations and other times through workshops and author events I’ve attended.” Though she’s grateful for these learning opportunities, Holland admits, “I’ve come to find that there is so much to learn from every moment, and some of the most important lessons I’ve learned have been in casual conversations. He’s always teaching me something even when I don’t realize it!”
Much like any high schooler, Holland says she likes to “live in the moment and not dwell too much on the future.” Yet, exuding appreciation for the opportunities before her, she explains, “I try to focus on the present and what I can learn from the people around me. I find that when passionate people get together, amazing things can happen!”
That optimism has served her well as opportunities for Holland have continued to present themselves. She was a virtual camp counselor at the 2020 Camp Conroy, where she worked with kids from around the country. She was also the first writer to be featured twice as part of the “Lowcountry Poet’s Corner” segment of ETV’s Telly Award-winning series By the River.
Holland had her first book review published last summer in The Post and Courier, of the young adult (YA) Lowcountry adventure novel Spellbound Under the Spanish Moss (Lucid House, 2020) by Kevin and Connor Garrett. As part of the Bluffton Book Festival this fall, she and Haupt livestreamed their interview with the authors of this action-packed tale. According to Holland, she’s hoping to continue fine-tuning her “live interviewing” skills together with Haupt as part of a future endeavor featuring more authors. That opportunity may include interviewing Sara Shepard of Pretty Little Liars and debut YA novelist Kalynn Bayron, author of Cinderella Is Dead.
Holland and her older brother Walker moved with their parents to Beaufort in 2010. Holland says, like most Lowcountry kids, she’s grown up, climbing trees with feet covered in pluff mud. “My earliest memories of writing were sitting in the church pew listening to my dad’s sermons, taking notes, and writing about them.” Holland’s father is Reverend Dr. Patrick Perryman, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Beaufort. As a self-proclaimed book nerd, Holland says, “My parents always read to me,” also recalling that in her family, there has not only been a love of books, but music too.
Holland’s mother, Sissy Perryman, introduced her to musical theater. “I was in second grade when I went to my first audition” at USCB Center for the Arts Beaufort Children’s Theater. Holland laughed, recalling her audition that included an impromptu rendition of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” with a lot of hip shaking and finger wagging. Since that time, Holland has been in 18 shows, most recently appearing in Little Women. Of all the roles she’s played over the years, she shared that the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz was her favorite.
Despite a remarkably busy schedule, Holland seems to have achieved a happy balance among her school, extracurricular, and work commitments. With a course-load of AP classes, Holland hopes to make the most of her high school academic experience. She is also a student leader, serving as the Student Body Vice President and playing Varsity Lacrosse. She is also a proud member of the Beaufort High “Voices” auditioned choir.
Outside school, you’ll find Holland enjoying time with her friends or working at The Kitchen selling gourmet home-cooked meals. She also loves to spend time with her church’s youth group that has a deep commitment to service to others. Holland says, “At the end of the day, I want to learn from those around me and be a part of the good in the world.”
It’s no wonder this driven and caring teen says the most impactful part of her internship experience “is witnessing the relationships within the literary community, both locally and beyond. I’ve learned how much good can be done when people lift up one other and take the time to listen to what each person has to say. It’s empowering to know that there is so much more to do in my own life and for others around me.”
Grateful for Haupt’s mentorship, Holland acknowledges, “He has taught me how to be engaged in every moment and conversation, both as a writer and as a person.”
Notwithstanding a global pandemic that no one predicted would have such far-reaching impact, Holland admits, “My world as a student looks a bit different now. I’m grateful that I’ve been surrounded by a loving family, supportive teachers and mentors, and amazing friends through all of it. If anything, this time has taught me not to rush through life, to be grounded, and live in the moment.”
It seems Holland’s writer’s voice has been found with such wise words to live by.
“The Fortunate Ones is a fathoms-deep exploration of love, loyalty, and the ties that bind, written masterfully from all angles. It’s a laser-sharp look at the underbelly of power and privilege’s repercussions as told through the power of story.”
A gorgeous, deep probing treatise on the myriad manifestations of love, envy, privilege, and longing, The Fortunate Ones by Ed Tarkington begins by holding a mirror to coming of age concerns in light of two young men from disparate backgrounds who overlap in a setting where all that glitters isn’t gold.
Ed Tarkington’s debut novel Only Love Can Break Your Heart was an ABA Indies Introduce selection, an Indie Next pick, a Book of the Month Club Main Selection, and a Southern Independent Booksellers Association bestseller. A regular contributor to Chapter16.org, his articles, essays, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications including the Nashville Scene, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Knoxville News-Sentinel, and Lit Hub. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Praise for The Fortunate Ones
“Ed Tarkington’s wonderful second novel, The Fortunate Ones, feels like a fresh and remarkably sure-footed take on The Great Gatsby, examining the complex costs of attempting to transcend or exchange your given class for a more gilded one…As a novelist, he is the real deal. I can’t wait to see this story reach a wide audience, and to see what he does next. ”
— Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin
“To the great literature of anointment, of the young person plucked from obscurity and given a place at the glittering table, we can now add Ed Tarkington’s lovely novel of a young man mystified by his good fortune until the reasons behind it are revealed and the cost is extracted. A beautiful read.“
— Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier
“Ed Tarkington perfectly captures the heady, conflicted emotions that come with proximity to privilege — both the irresistible longing and the heartbreaking disillusionment. I’m recommending The Fortunate Ones to every book club I know.”
— Mary Laura Philpott, author of I Miss You When I Blink
Happy Release day to author Michael Farris Smith! I enjoyed Nick immensely!
“The story of Nick is the story of one lost soul on automatic pilot written in four compelling parts that dovetail to weave a psychic template of a WWI survivor. Its impact is profound, its resonance subterranean.”
It will take hours to wipe the awestruck look off your face after reading the last line of the anxiously anticipated Nick by Michael Farris Smith, a writer with a wildly enthusiastic fan base that fancies itself insiders to Farris Smith’s gritty esotericism. You’re cool if you follow this Oxford, Mississippi author. You are in-crowd if you’re hip to this writer who seemed to inherit the tool kit of the great Southern writers before him. Referred to as MFS by those who take his work personally because his stories do the talking for a certain strata of a particular region, in some ways Farris Smith’s clear, direct, and economic voice is an acquired taste even as his career prospers. But the publication of Nick will change all that, and wider readership will understand the attraction of this fearless writer who transcends literary limits and boundaries and plays by his own rules.
Michael Farris Smith is the author of Blackwood, The Fighter, Desperation Road, Rivers, and The Hands of Strangers. His novels have appeared on Best of the Year lists with Esquire, Southern Living, Book Riot, and numerous others, and have been named Indie Next List, Barnes & Noble Discover, and Amazon Best of the Month selections. He has been a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, the Gold Dagger Award in the UK, and the Grand Prix des Lectrices in France. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi, with his wife and daughters.
When I sat down to give it a revision last year, the thing that really struck me and surprised me about it was how timely the novel felt. … I mean, it’s a country that was coming off World War I. It was a country in a great state of transition — which is what we are fully immersed in right now, the greedy and the rich getting richer. … [There are] characters in the novel who are coming off the war, who are very disillusioned with their own country. And it’s a country coming off a pandemic. I mean, I was just blown away like how strangely timely the novel feels now compared to, you know, 100 years ago. And if this novel would have been published in 2015, that would have all been lost. But here we are now.
I start every January 1st by walking with burning sage through every room in my house, doors open to let the new year in as I clear out the old with my sage. It seems especially poignant this morning because it is an extremely windy day. I live in what is primarily a glass house with sliding glass doors everywhere, which means this morning I have to be careful I don’t create a wind tunnel inside lest things within topple over!
I like the idea of action as ceremony when coupled with good intention. It has something to do with focusing one’s belief and walking around in its center. After all, we choose our attitude on any given day in any given moment. It’s not that the vagaries of life don’t come to us all, it’s about how we consider them.
I like the idea of a clean slate for all its possibilities. It gifts me with a heightened state of expectation, and when put together with good intentions, I can’t help but think something good will come of it.
People have used sage for its cleansing and medicinal properties since the beginning of time. Many believe the smoke purifies a space and clears out negative energy. Sage has a therapeutic aroma when burned, but the scent doesn’t linger if there’s ventilation. It’s a woodsy scent with a sweet high note to the white smoke, and if you prefer, you can chase it with incense.
Happy New Year everyone. May it be your best year yet!
Be willing to be a beginner every single morning. – Meister Eckhart
Today is release day for the greatly anticipated The Chanel Sisters by Judithe Little!
“A lovely, gorgeously set, romantic story sure to charm lovers of historical fiction with its joie de vivre and savoir faire.”
I had the pleasure of reviewing this gorgeous novel for the New York Journal of Books:
“In Judithe Little’s beguiling The Chanel Sisters, the road to personal fulfillment starts with a dream. Sisters Gabrielle, Julia-Berthe, and Antoinette have much to overcome. They are left to fend for themselves pre-pubescence, when their mother dies and their father, known widely as a rootless “seducteur,” deposits them at an Aubazine, France, orphanage with false promises but never looks back.”
THE CHANEL SISTERS: Picked by Good Morning America and Zibby Owens as “One of 13 books to cozy up to over the holidays.”
Judithe is the author of two novels, The Chanel Sisters, released December 29, 2020, and Wickwythe Hall, award-winning historical fiction set during World War II.
She grew up in Virginia and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. After studying at the Institute of European Studies and the Institut Catholique in Paris, France, and interning at the U.S. Department of State, she earned a law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law where she was on the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Law and a Dillard Fellow. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband and three children, where she is working on her third novel. When she’s not writing or practicing law, Judithe enjoys riding horses, reading, scouring the fields during Round Top Antiques Week, and volunteering.
High praise for The Chanel Sisters:
“Admirable…Consistently fascinating. Little’s story of two indomitable women offers an eye-opening account of the unsung Antoinette and her pivotal role in her famed sister’s success. Fashion aficionados in particular will appreciate this take on the life of a legend.”
I’m on a walking path that trails along the cliffs of Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu, California. It’s 67 degrees at 8:30 AM, and all is quiet. It seems I’m the only one who has thought to get out this early, and I like it. I have the area to myself, and although I have Groove Music and earphones, I have forfeited that in favor of listening to the rhythm of the waves. There’s something timeless about this area, something constant and steady, and looking to the great beyond, I see the curvature of the earth from America’s last edge before Hawaii.
I am always torn between wanting to stay in the moment to keep it for myself, and capturing it with my camera. I’ve lived in this area for twenty years, yet I’m endlessly awestruck by the uniqueness of each wave. They are ceaseless and arrive with their individual story; each wave a life-force with its own beginning, middle, and end that completes its destination then draws back intuitively to make space for another. The waves draw back to their source to become one with their origin; each wave is itself, yet it’s part of the ocean and I stand and think of unity and wonder where rebirth begins.
I wish this photograph gave an accurate scale of the expanse. Before me and behind me is much the same as you see here. Around the cliff at the right is a long stretch of sand similar to all others in this part of the California coastline. The tide determines how far I can walk; there have been times when I could walk for hours, and times when the tide was too high to walk around the bend.
This photograph is taken from an elevated view along the trail’s decline that ends at the beach. The rock you see at the left is the favorite perch of sea birds that cluster together, spreading their wings in impressive numbers, no matter the time of day. It is their resting point, their sanctuary, and they occupy this rock in harmony. It’s an interesting observation: I’ve seen seabirds on this rock innumerable times, and the thing that strikes me is I’ve never seen them less than accommodating for each other.
A closer view of that rock. If you look closely, you can see the seabirds.
I often take my camera, aim the lens and wait for the perfect moment, which I think is the time immediately before the wave folds and stretches for the sand. I don’t always capture it, but this next photograph comes close:
This photograph is telling of how one wave can break with multiple timing. Always, my aspiration is to find the middle of the dance.
I like this endless view because it gives me proper perspective… on a lot of things, actually, all having to do with time and tide and my place in eternity.
It has been my great honor and joy to align with author and book-blogger, Sally Cronin, who lives in County Wexford, Ireland and spearheads the wildly popular WordPress blog, Smorgasbord. If you’re unfamiliar with Smorgasbord, don’t miss out. Look into it here!
Blog magazine for lovers of health, food, books, music, humour and life in general
Recently, Sally released an E-Book that I want to tell you about:
Book Description: Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a collection of short stories with scattered poetry, reflecting the complexities of life, love and loss.
The stories in the collection dip into the lives of men and women who are faced with an ‘event’ that is challenging and in some cases life changing.
Even something as straightforward as grocery shopping online can be frustrating, and a DNA test produces surprise results, the past reaches out to embrace the present, and a gardening assistant is an unlikely grief counsellor. Romance is not always for the faint-hearted and you are never too old for love. Random acts of kindness have far reaching consequences and some people discover they are on a lucky streak. There are those watching over us who wish us well, and those in our lives who wish us harm.
I enjoyed this e-book immensely and left this review on Goodreads, Amazon, and Book Bub!
Author Sally Cronin wields heartwarming magic in this delightful collection of short stories, each written with a keen eye focused on the nuances of human nature. Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries: Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet is a series of lovely vignettes written with a clean hand as Cronin builds her common man, everyday stories. It’s the little things in life that matter, and Cronin depicts such topics as random acts of kindness, unforeseen good fortune, falling into and out of love, and the magic of animals in such an optimistic way that the reader is morally encouraged and given great hope. Each story lulls the reader with neat, simplistic beauty even as it takes an unexpected turn. In Cronin’s The Scratch Card, Elsie Thompson wins twenty pounds on a scratch card, which she puts to use in such a way that events are set in motion and change a young man’s life. In Friday Night, a young woman is taken for granted by her clueless boyfriend, until a stranger whispers a line that puts her life on another course, and in the satisfying The Gaffer, a duplicitous wife-abuser gets creative comeuppance. Interspersed throughout this e-book are poems and photographs that poignantly highlight the collective spirit of the book. The characters persevere, help each other, and come to their senses in a manner suggestive of hard-won insight, and written with all the impact of a parable. A pleasurable, enchanting read with a heart of gold, Sally Cronin’s latest release is nothing short of a charming assembly of uplifting stories.
Behold: the delightful Sally Cronin!
Here’s a little something about Sally you’ll want to know! She writes:
“I have been a storyteller most of my life (my mother called them fibs!). Poetry, song lyrics and short stories were left behind when work and life intruded, but that all changed in 1996.
My first book Size Matters was a health and weight loss book based on my own experiences of losing 70kilo. I have written another twelve books since then on health and also fiction including three collections of short stories. My latest collection is Life’s Rich Tapestry : Woven in Words.. verse, micro fiction and short stories.
I am an indie author and proud to be one. My greatest pleasure comes from those readers who enjoy my take on health, characters and twisted endings… and of course come back for more.
As a writer I know how important it is to have help in marketing books.. as important as my own promotion is, I believe it is important to support others. I offer a number of FREE promotional opportunities on my blog and linked to my social media. If you are an author who would like to be promoted to a new audience of dedicated readers, please contact me via my blog. All it will cost you is a few minutes of your time. Look forward to hearing from you.”
I read and enjoyed Sally Cronin’s book, Tales from the Irish Garden!
My Review of Tales from an Irish Garden:
I was attracted to this book because of its title. Show me a title concerning Ireland, and you’ve got my attention! I had seen good reviews of this book and, as are legions of others, have been a devoted fan of author Sally Cronin’s blog Smorgasbord on WordPress for years. And so it was that I bought Tales From the Irish Garden, not fully knowing what to expect. To say I was roped in from the onset puts it mildly! I was immediately bowled over by the minute details in this highly creative story, one part fantasy, one part fairy story and all parts sheer, delightful suspension of belief. Only, and here’s the kicker, as I read this engaging story, lured along by its romantic, magical undercurrents, I began to intuit the deeply human parables! Sally Cronin is a writer gifted with insight, humor, whimsy, and unparalleled story pacing abilities. Tales From the Irish Garden invites the reader to enter a plausible, magical realm so real as to make the reader want to stay there
I also read and enjoyed Life’s Rich Tapestry:
My Review of Life’s Rich Tapestry!
We come to know a person’s mind through the words they speak; their personality through what they create, and their heart through what they write. Put this all together and you’ve been gifted a glimpse into an artist’s soul. This is how Life’s Rich Tapestry Woven in Words impressed me. Author Sally Cronin’s precious gem of a book is nothing short of fluid insight into all that it means to be human in a round-robin way as to address the entire sphere in bits and pieces that leave a lasting impression. These are musings delivered artfully, the perfect melding of heart, mind, and soul. In sharing her personal views, the author invites us to examine our own impressions of the day-today by shining light on life’s rich nuance. There is something profound in these meditative pages, something joyous and real that takes nothing for granted by sheer virtue of the fact that Sally Cronin has called them by name. In addressing the natural world, celebrating pets, seasons of the year, and random thoughts, Cronin speaks to the reader conversationally in such a manner that told me I’d revisit the pages. Her flash fiction, speculative fiction, and short stories are vignettes to savor—all told, this book is a work of art at its finest. All praise to author Sally Cronin, who has earned a constant and significant place in the blogging world by selflessly serving as the fulcrum of focus for so very many. That she has stepped forth by assembling and publishing this collection of letters has gifted us all with the awe-striking opportunity to see a writer’s career shine at its brightest.
Many of us who follow Sally on Smorgasbord are familiar with the storied life of her collie, Sam, of whom Sally wrote ANOTHER book!
Another of Sally Cronin’s 10 published books!
Sally has a grand total of 10 published books, which you can learn about on Goodreads: