Showing posts with label Carol Smallwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carol Smallwood. Show all posts

Friday, June 19, 2020

Poet Carol Smallwood Interviews Author of Peeping Sunrise


Title: Toward a Peeping Sunrise
Author: Carole Mertz
Paperback: 17 pages
Prolific Press, 2019
ISBN 9781632751898
$7.95
Purchase Prolific Press
                                                                                                                                                                          Interview by Carol Smallwood

Carole Mertz, author, poet, and editor, has had works published in literary journals, U.S., Canada, Great Britain, and Africa. An Oberlin College graduate, she’s Book Review Editor for Dreamers Creative Writing;reader of prose and poetry for Mom Egg Review; member Prize Nomination Committee for Ekphrastic Review; advance reader WNBA 2018 Poetry Contest. Kendra Boileau, Penn State University Press noted: “Mertz is a master of poetic form, imagery, sonority, and wit.”

Smallwood: Your poems show a knowing of the darkness but also of the sunrises while “…searching for a distant view of everything.” The poems encompass childhood, courtship, marriage, maturity, and the reader is advised to “hang on to your memories.” How did you decide the chapbook’s title?

Mertz: Thank you for searching out my themes and encapsulating them so well. I suppose I wanted a title that would show a kind of awakening. For Toward a Peeping Sunrise I borrowed a line from one of the poems. 

Smallwood: You’ve said your chapbook follows an arc. What do you mean by that?

Mertz: I suppose there’s an arc to the thematic subdivisions, simply beginning, middle, end. But what I mean has more to do with the tempo of the poems. Progressing from one to the next with a rising tempo, as in “Dolly’s Broke” moving faster and louder into the implied dangers in “Ballast.” These urgencies settle down in the two final poems toward a quiet diminution, as if equivalent to a musical crescendo and decrescendo.

Smallwood: What have you learned from creating this chapbook?

Mertz: Selecting from fewer number of poems made it easier for me to arrange them around given themes. (When I worked with larger selections, I found I was unable to organize the greater number of poems coherently because too much of my work was as yet eclectic and impossible to group.) I also learned lessons after the chapbook’s publication—that you’re never prepared enough for the PR work that must follow. Writing is only the beginning; marketing and continued networking are additional responsibilities. These inevitably intrude on the writing time. Learning to balance these activities is always a challenge.

Smallwood: When did you begin writing poetry? Was it the first genre you used?

Mertz: I began writing poetry about twelve years ago, though I was then taking a course in writing short stories. A first poem about a snowstorm was accepted by a small digest. The success of it and seeing my name in print got me hooked on poetry, though I hope vanity was not the only motivator at the time. Soon a mystery won second place at the Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. But doing poetry became and remained the dominant genre for me.

My very first serious work, however, was writing nonfiction. After a week-long course at Concordia Publishing House, my writing, and that of my husband, was accepted for publication by CPH. During this shared project, we each wrote on 15 separate themes. I must admit, I enjoyed the subtle competitive element that entered in— I wanted to write as well as my husband.

Smallwood: Why did you choose the particular publisher for your chapbook?

Mertz: When Prolific Press chose my manuscript, I was approaching one of my decade years. Their acceptance came as a nice birthday present. The owner of the press promised a deliberate schedule that he followed throughout, meeting every one of his projected deadlines. Working with Prolific Press for a first volume was a pleasant way to learn the steps needed in matters of cover design, collection of blurbs, and decisions about layout. A former writing school instructor had persistently advised students to self-publish and I had planned to do that. But everything requires time and know-how. Working with Prolific Press was a non-stressful alternative.

Smallwood: What are some magazines/anthologies where your essays, stories, poetry, appear?

Mertz: Going back a few years, I’ve had work in Arc, Copperfield Review, CutBank, Conium Review, and World Literature Today. More recently I’ve published a series of reviews at Mom Egg ReviewEclectica, and Dreamers Creative Writing, with poetry at Indiana Voice JournalThe Write Place at the Write Time (recently discontinued), EclecticaThe Ekphrastic Review, and elsewhere. I was pleased to have a poem included in Journal VII, the 2019 anthology issued by the Society of Classical Poets, an online poetry site I regard as one of the finest. 

Smallwood: Why is that site of interest to you?

Mertz: The Society of Classical Poets furthers the writing of poetry in classical forms. I regard the preservation of these techniques as important as, for example, the retaining of classical forms in music. One cannot perform an Aaron Copland, for example, before one has studied a Beethoven Sonata or perhaps a Debussy Prelude. I don’t mean to preach, but I believe unless we preserve the old forms, we lose a great deal. A number of fine poets today are writing sonnets of equal caliber to Keats or Shakespeare, though written in contemporary language. The Society promotes these modern-day writers. The Society also values the concept of beauty which seems so lacking in much contemporary work I read.

Smallwood: Where are your most recent publications?

Mertz: In addition to Toward a Peeping Sunrise, recent reviews appeared in Main Street Rag, Into the Void, and Dreamers Creative Writing. I like the method of publication at Dreamers. First a 300-word review is published in the print edition. This is followed by a 700- to 1000-word review printed online. I like the process of writing on the same material in both the shorter and longer form. The long form first, and then condensed. But sometimes the process is reversed.

Smallwood: What poetry writing challenges have you won?

I was happy to win several poetry challenges issued by the Wilda Morris blogspot. Morris’s imaginative orinots differ each month. They taught me new ways of approaching poetry. One could write about colors, or about “memories of my father”, or use of numbers in poems—simple approaches, but they always taught me to innovate and also introduced me to classical poets and contemporary poets I hadn’t yet known. 

Smallwood: What’s your association with the Mozart Academy in Salzburg, Austria?

Mertz: My studies at the Academy gave me a year of learning not only in music performance (I’m a professional pianist and organist), but also in European history, the fine arts, and the German language. Seeing major artworks face-to-face in the museums of Paris, Vienna, Florence, and Rome created impressions during my early student days that have remained throughout my life.

Smallwood: You write with ease poems based on a picture. How do you select the pictures and what’s the name of this poetry form?

Mertz: In my family, two sisters are visual artists. Not a painter, myself, it became very satisfying to write my own impressions of paintings in poetic form, though initially I knew nothing about ekphrasis, which is an artist’s interpretation of another artist’s work. During 2019, I suddenly encountered all these wonderful works at The Ekphrastic Review, both the writers’ and the painters’, and began submitting my own poetry there. Lorette C. Luzajicowner of the review, makes it all very inviting. She simply requests poems (preferably unrhymed) or nonfiction pieces based on what you see or feel when viewing a work. “Have fun while you write,” she says. At her site, you can select a visual of your own choice or respond to one of her bimonthly ekphrastic challenges. These have ranged from works by Rothko to Joan Miro to Franz Kline. I’m musing here, but I suppose one could also write ekphrasis based on aural works, as well, or based on architectural constructions. Camille Paglia, for example, wrote an astonishing ekphrastic essay on the altar and the Pope’s Chair at the Vatican. Similarly, passages within a novel I’m reading (Josephine Wilson’s Extinctions) are written as ekphrasis on Marcel Breuer’s Wassily Chair, photos of which are included in the novel.

Smallwood: In the first poem in Toward a Peeping Sunrise, a chapbook divided into three sections, “Singularity” appears in the title—a word often used in physics. How did you come to select it? 

Mertz: I hadn’t thought of “singularity” as a physics term. I merely wanted a word to indicate something unique, something happening only once. If I may add something about that poem, “Seeing to the Singularity…” it’s almost shocking to me that I should have published a poem of self-affirmation. 

Smallwood: Why does that surprise you?

Mertz: In my old Pennsylvania Dutch upbringing, there was always the underlying tenet, spoken or unspoken, that one should avoid bragging in all its forms. This comes from the religious restrictions I experienced at the time. 

Smallwood: What are some of the topics you cover in your essays?

Mertz: I like to offer tips I think might be of use to beginning writers. I’ve written about how to establish good relations with editors of literary journals, the importance of MOOC learning, meeting writing deadlines, how a bird can teach you about persistence, about the selection of nominees for the Pushcart and other prizes, etc. But writing reviews is an entirely different matter.

Smallwood: Please explain MOOC learning:

Mertz: Many MOOCs are offered online free of charge. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. A participant simply logs into the website to sign up. Through interactive participation the writer MOOCs put writers in contact with numerous other writers across the globe.

Smallwood: Please tell us what you mean about a bird’s persistence:

Mertz: I wrote an essay that drew the parallel between the patience required of the writer and the persistence of the robin, sitting on the nest until her fledglings are hatched. The writer must use the same persistence as the bird, remaining at the desk until the work is completed. The bird sits long hours, she doesn’t run off for a “snack” until the male robin appears to take her place on the nest. Our writing requires similar care and devotion. 

Smallwood: What appeals to you about writing reviews?

Mertz: Each volume taken up is like receiving an entire new personality into my life. I’ve reviewed collections by Mary Jo Bang, Layli LongSoldier, Judith Swann, and Dovali Islam, for example. Each artist has her unique view, style, and content. It’s like entering a new country, each time. I don’t critique until I feel I’ve become thoroughly immersed in the given work, and personality, to the extent possible. Reading contemporary artists is what makes this business of writing such an adventure.

Smallwood: You look squarely at time and the importance of memories in free verse and formal. Your poem “Waking” is in a form reminiscent of Emily Dickinson. The poem looks at space, time, and “tiny tufts of pure thought.” Who are your favorite poets?

Mertz: Dickinson is certainly a favorite. But there are so many. Among the classics, Keats in particular. Then Whitman and Frost. Of late, Stafford, W.S. Merwin and Bishop. I’ve loved Wallace Stevens who always gets at things “not quite sayable,” to quote Carol Frost. And then contemporaries such as Gluck, Harjo, and so many others.

Smallwood: What are you reading now?

Mertz: My latest are Joan Gelfand’s You Can Be a Winning Writer (I hope its wonderful title rubs off on me!) and Clive James’s Poetry Notebook in which he offered reflections on the intensity of language.

Smallwood: Are you working on another chapbook or poetry collection? 

Mertz: It’s my intention. As I write more, it’s fun to consider how certain themes might combine into a cohesive whole. April Ossmann, author of Event Boundaries, a poetry collection, offers strategies in the ordering of poems in a collection. These useful tips appeared in The Practicing Poet, Diane Lockward, Editor.


HOW TO REACH THE INTERVIEWEE 

Readers can view Mertz's profile writer at Poets & Writers. Her website, as yet under construction, is www.carolemertz.com

 MORE ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Carol Smallwood, Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, is a literary reader, judge, and interviewer; her last poetry collection is Chronicles in Passing.

Poet Carol Smallwood Interviews Author of Peeping Sunrise


MORE ABOUT BLOGGER AND WAYS TO GET THE MOST FROM THIS BLOG


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everithing from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.



Note: Participating authors and their publishers may request the social sharing image by Carolyn Wilhelm at no charge.  Please contact the designer at:  cwilhelm (at) thewiseowlfactory (dot) com. Provide the name of the book being reviewed and--if an image or headshot of the author --isn't already part of the badge, include it as an attachment. Wilhelm will send you the badge to use in your own Internet marketing. Give Wilhelm the link to this post, too!
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Saturday, April 18, 2020

Poet Carol Smallwood Interviews Theresa Rodriguez




Shanti Arts LLC
ISBN: 978-1-951651-22-0 (print; softcover; perfect bound)
Released March 2020; $8.95; 48 pages
Order at Amazon
Author: Theresa Rodriguez
Author's Website: www.bardsinger.com

Interview by Carol Smallwood


Longer Thoughts is the third book of poetry by Theresa Rodriguez, a retired classical singer and voice teacher who holds a Bachelor of Arts in vocal music performance from Skidmore College and a Master of Music with distinction in voice pedagogy and performance from Westminster Choir College. A native Manhattanite, she now lives outside of Philadelphia. With deep emotion, Longer Thoughts presents poems on such topics as: love, beauty, mortality, aging, and theological questioning. "In fo "In fourteen lines, her sonnets in particular are able to communicate what takes essayists and writers thousands of wordsines, her sonnets in particular are able to 

 Smallwood: Why did you call your new collection Longer Thoughts? 


As opposed to my previous collection of sonnets, Longer Thoughts contains many longer poems in a variety of forms as well as free verse. It is a small collection but diverse in its range of subjects.


Smallwood: When did you begin writing poetry? Do you do other kinds of writing also?

I am sure I began writing poetry in earnest when I was about ten and by high school had some poems published in my school's literary magazine. In addition to poetry, I have written articles for Classical Singer Magazine on a myriad of topics of interest to classical singers. When I was a young mother I wrote a book entitled Diaper Changes: The Complete Diapering Book and Resource Guide and had articles about cloth diapering published by various parenting magazines. My book When Adoption Fails explores my life story as an adoptee in a dysfunctional adoptive situation. In Warning Signs of Abuse: Get Out Early and Stay Free Forever I provide encouragement and instruction to women in abusive relationships. I am sure I have a few more books inside of me yet to come! I have also begun writing book reviews as well.

  
Smallwood: What are the classical poetry forms that appear in Longer Thoughts and what did Evan Mantyk of the Society of Classical Poets comment about your sonnets? 

In Longer Thoughts I have included the villanelle, rondeau, triolet, ode and sonnet forms, in addition to free verse. Of my sonnets Mr. Mantyk has said, “In fourteen lines, her sonnets in particular are able to communicate what takes essayists and writers thousands of words.” I have endeavored to branch out to other forms while maintaining my inclination towards the sonnet. I have also begun writing in the Petrarchan, rather than mainly Shakespearean, sonnet form and have some examples of this in Longer Thoughts.


Smallwood: How do you use symbolism and imagery in Longer Thoughts?

There are three poems in particular that use symbolism and imagery in Longer Thoughts. In the poignant free verse “China Crystal Fairy” I describe a “delicate fairy creature” which symbolizes a particularly fragile relationship that I had broken apart though my own clumsiness. In another free verse entitled “Full Circle” I use the imagery of a tree and the fullness of its life cycle to symbolize the aging process. In the sonnet “The Rise of Fall” I also reflect on the aging process by comparing its phases to the four seasons.


Smallwood: What are some magazines your poetry has appeared?

My poetry has appeared in the Midwest Poetry Review, the Journal of Religion and Intellectual Life, an Anabaptist publication entitled Leaf MagazineThe Road Not Taken: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by WomenSpindrift, the Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship, and the Society of Classical Poets.



Smallwood: Please tell readers about your activities with the Society of Classical Poets:


My work began appearing with the Society of Classical Poets in 2014. In June of 2019 I and three other poets—James Sale, James B. Nicola, and Mark Stone—participated in a poetry reading at Bryant Park in New York City where we each read from American poets including Poe's “The Raven” and then read selections of our own work. This year I am one of four featured poets who will be reading at the 2020 Society of Classical Poets Symposium. My background as a classical singer has given me the ability to render my spoken poetry in an interesting and engaging way without being overly dramatic.



Smallwood: One of your poems is about keeping a journal. When did you begin writing one and how does it help:

My first poems began appearing as diary entries in junior high school. As I mention in the sonnet “My Journal,” the place where I write is “a sanctuary, hallowed space.” It is where I work out the rough drafts of my work, prune and hew and adjust and temper what I have done, as I craft it into art. I am not a very fluid writer and there are lots of marginalia and scribbled out lines and words in my journals. What I usually do these days, is get the poem written to a basic condition, then type it up on my computer, edit it and prune it some more, and then again, and again, as many times as necessary, and then transcribe it back into my journal, so that I have both the rough material and finished product in the same place. It helps to have a journal because it is my workshop, my studio, where I can work hard and get dirty and then preserve a polished work at the end of my endeavors.



Smallwood: Do you have ideas for your next book?

I am currently working with Shanti Arts to publish Sonnets in an enlarged second edition. Since the first edition in 2019 I have begun writing in the Petrarchan sonnet form and these as well as other new poems will be a valuable addition to my current sonnet collection.


MORE ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER



Carol Smallwood, MLS, MA, Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, is a literary reader, judge, interviewer; her 13th collection is Thread, Form, and Other Enclosures (Main Street Rag, 2020)




MORE ABOUT THE  BLOGGER AND WAYS TO GET THE MOST FROM THIS BLOG

 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everithing from Amazon vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.




Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Poet Reviewing Poet: Theresa Rodriguez Intrigues with Take on Chronicles in Passing

Author: Carol Smallwood 
Title: Chronicles in Passing
Publisher: Poetic Matrix Press, P.O. Box 1051, Lake Isabella, CA, 93240, 2019. 
102 pp. $17.00.
Available on Amazon

Reviewed by Theresa Rodriguez

The thing that struck me most strongly upon reading Carol Smallwood's Chronicles in Passing is the complete command of classical forms: the Rondeau, the Cinquain, the Pantoum, the Triolet, the Vianelle, and the Sestina. Smallwood displays fine technical mastery while uniquely using classical forms to frame her focus on the mundane and commonplace. Her writing flows with ease within the structure and rhyming of the classical forms. One can clearly see, as Smallwood mentions in her Introduction, that she “finds writing in formal style enjoyable” by “giving readers something extra,” “like presenting a box wrapped in a special paper with a bow.”

What I could also appreciate is that she does not limit herself only to formal or classical verse but recognizes that “there are times... when words in free verse are better in conveying the intended message,” in her endeavor to “try what fits.” I was glad to see free verse that did “fit” the intended topics very well.

Smallwood does indeed write about the mundane and commonplace, but her treatment of these topics is anything but mundane and commonplace. She manages to deftly take the mundane and transform it into the sublime. She gives weight and dignity to topics of life that might normally be overlooked. Blue jeans, the supermarket, clothes on a clothesline, a car wash, store flyers, homemade quilts and clothing, ballroom dancing, grocery shopping, going to a restaurant, dirt roads, spools of thread, clothing fashion, and the color pink-- none of these topics escapes Smallwood's decisive treatment. It causes one to be mindful of some of the ordinary things of life, things that can be shaped into works of great beauty, especially by the mind and pen of a skilled poet. It has given me an appreciation of our common world in a way I had not had before reading this volume. It has taught me to seek out the simple things and find the poetry in them. Smallwood most definitely has done this, in great measure!

I also enjoyed her sense of imagery and description which can be found throughout the volume. For instance, in one of my favorites “A Hardcover Book,” Smallwood talks about being perceived as some kind of anachronism by carrying around a hardcover book as opposed to “a small electronic tool,” as “quite the dinosaur, out of touch and even speckled with mold” (8). In her free verse “The Place of the Cure of the Soul,” Smallwood describes “something about the feel of books, the crackle of newspapers, smell of magazines and in owning them” (14). In her Vianelle “Counting Backwards,” she shares how

“...the chatter near Christmas Day
was irritating, but told it was just feminine hormone delay
and before long it would be better so wisely didn't reply when addressed” (17).

In “The Hovering,” deities are “defined in other cultures as weavers of destiny upon a tapestry loom” (19). In her Sestina “A Regular” we are given a lovely image of salt on a tray: 

“... I noticed its salt sprinkles made a vast night sky full of wonder
and understand why our ancestors made stories of constellations” (26).

In “There Were Only,” she describes “gentle rain reinforcing the nose as the most elemental of the senses” and poignantly thinks of “computers blinking in the empty library like solitary lighthouses” (32).

My favorite, however, is the vianelle “Our Unconscious Censor,”where the subject of writing down dreams upon waking produces some excellent imagery, where one  can “train” to write down dreams as soon as you wake:

“and confront the subterranean fear as if a waiting rattlesnake
coiled in a yawning cavern that's deeper, more terrifying than any hell”

and

“so get rid of the hoary, deep oozing fear making your tremble, shake:
but your built-in censor is a trench against shattering bombshells--”

Finally, she asks:

“Is one a coward not to go ahead and capture dreams, face at daybreak
once and for all-- end the fear-- what could be that awful to dispel?
One can train to write down dreams just as soon as you wake
yet is it best to let your built-in censor block when so much is at stake?” (70)

I also found her many of her choices of rhymes to be ingenious: I have never seen rhymes for “necessary,” “customary,” “shade vary,” “monetary,” “them airy,” and “arbitrary” in one poem before, but this is the quality of inventiveness we find in the Vianelle “An American Icon,” a poem about blue jeans (51). I was equally impressed with the rhyming of “myth” and “Monolith”  in her Pantoum “The Pleiades” (16), and “diverged,” “surged,” “purged,” “converged,” “urged,” and “submerged” in her Vianelle “Two Roads” (68).

In reading her work in this volume I only occasionally see her inner life-- and the moments here and there are intriguing, and make me want her to reveal more. In “The New Galaxy,” she describes a date with “Mitchell,” where an evening at the opera reveals understated but deep feeling:

“...I remembered smiling at the attendant when he
asked 'Did you and your wife enjoy the performance'
because it meant we looked like we belonged together”

She goes on to share how she clutched the program of Aida, “proof that the night was real” and how

“...When Mitchell walked me to my

car in the darkness, his coat blew against me,
a benediction I knew had to be lasting. Would I ever 
know the new galaxy the student had said with such
excitement had just been discovered?” (33)

I like this aspect of her writing, and wish there was more of it: tenderly rendered and touching. We do find more of this revelatory aspect in “A Matter of Nightmares,” where descriptions of  Bob's nightmares are “terrible” and Alison's brother 

“who'd returned from Nam:
unexpected sounds sent him diving under
any cover; certain smells made him shake,
his arms were infected trying to get rid of
“crawly leeches.”

She then describes Lily has having 
“post-traumatic stress disorder first called 
shell shock: that what went on behind white
picket fences was war.” (50)

I do like her understated treatment of the emotionally profound. I only wish there were more moments like this, as they intrigue and attract me. What more does this poet have inside, waiting to be revealed?

Carol Smallwood is to be praised for her skill, perspective, and philosophy over a wide poetic range. Hers is a unique set of senses, capturing sights, sounds, moments, and observations of the everyday world in such a manner that causes the reader to see what is all around him in a fresh, new way.

 MORE ABOUT THE REVIEWER

--Theresa Rodriguez is the author of Jesus and Eros: Sonnets, Poems and Songs (Bardsinger Books, 2015), Sonnets(Bardsinger Books, 2019) and Longer Thoughts (Shanti Arts, 2020).

Poet Reviewing Poet: Theresa Rodriguez Intrigues with Take on Chronicles in Passing


MORE ABOUT THE BLOGGER, THIS BLOG, AND ITS BENEFITS FOR WRITERS

 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Of particular interest to readers of this blog is her most recent How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically (http://bit.ly/GreatBkReviews ) that covers 325 jam-packed pages covering everything from Amazon Vine to writing reviews for profit and promotion. Reviewers will have a special interest in the chapter on how to make reviewing pay, either as way to market their own books or as a career path--ethically!

This blog is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.



Note: Participating authors and their publishers may request the social sharing image by Carolyn Wilhelm at no charge.  Please contact the designer at:  cwilhelm (at) thewiseowlfactory (dot) com. Provide the name of the book being reviewed and--if an image or headshot of the author --isn't already part of the badge, include it as an attachment. Wilhelm will send you the badge to use in your own Internet marketing. Give Wilhelm the link to this post, too.

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Saturday, February 29, 2020

Poet Carol Smallwood Interviews Indie Friendly Review Pioneer


This interview may be a first for this #TheNewBookReview blog. I try to be choosy about what appears here beyond book reviews. I have long been an adversary of #bookbigoty and any other kind of bigotry so this blog features any submission as long as it is family friendly and has the permission of the original reviewer to reprint it. But "extra" material--that is anything beyond these reviews must help readers, publishers, reviewers, authors and anyone else associated with the publishing industry in a pertinent way.  And, yep! I get to choose. A disclaimer here: Jim Cox has reviewed most if not all of my books--my self-published ones as well as my traditionally published ones--and included them in his newsletter.  And I, because I see the value of what he does, highly recommend Midwest Book Review in several of my HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers.  The interviewer, Carol Smallwood, is also a valued contributor of reviews to this blog. So, have fun.  Print or save some of the valuable resource material you are about to find here! (-:
The Carol Smallwood Interview Of Jim Cox 

Jim Cox is the founder of the the highly popular and comprehensive Midwest Book Review. Since 1976 it has  hosted 9 monthly book review magazines such as the Reviewer’s Bookwatch and Internet Bookwatch which are written by volunteer reviewers while the other related magazines are by Midwest Book Review principals and associates.

Smallwood: How did you become the Editor-in-Chief of The Midwest Book Review physically located in Wisconsin?

Jim Cox: In the summer of 1976 I was sitting in a Wednesday night meeting of the Madison Science Fiction Club in a State Street restaurant. The purpose of our weekly get-togethers was to socialize with like minded folk for whom fantasy and science fiction were something more than just another hobby.

Into that night's gathering came a good friend of mine by the name of Hank Luttrell. Hank was a mail order book dealer specializing in comics, mysteries, and science fiction - and whose ambition was to create his own bookstore (which he subsequently did and it's still in business here in Madison, Wisconsin, as 20th Century Books).

Hank came in with a copy of an expensive coffee-table sized book called "The Toynbee-Ikeda Dialogue," It was a compilation of correspondences over the years between the late British historian Arnold J. Toynbee and the Japanese philosophy/educator Isadeu Ikeda.

Hank knew that I was a history buff and well versed in the writings of Toynbee. He said to me: "How would you like to have this book for free?" I said to him: "Whose kneecaps do you want me to break?"

It turned out that all I had to do was read the book and then on Saturday go down to a new radio station that had just opened up in Madison a few weeks earlier. It was WORT-FM,  a non-commercial, counter-culture, community supported radio station of the leftish persuasion.

I was to go on a talk show with a fellow named John Ohliger and take three minutes to tell him (and his audience) what I thought of the book - and then I could keep it for myself!

I said to Hank: "Hand me the book and tell me where this radio thing is located."

The following Saturday morning I went down to the ugliest one-story cinder block building I had ever seen. I was introduced to this older gent who was some kind of liberal University of Wisconsin college professor. After John Ohliger made his introductory remarks I commenced to tell him (and his audience) about Toynbee, Ikeda, and this book of theirs.

I was still going strong when John reached over and gently tapped me on the arm and said he had to wrap things up; his thirty minute program was over. While John was signing off I sat there mentally upbraiding myself for the motor-mouth I had been and prepared to apologize profusely for hogging his whole show.

John had a stack of books by his elbow. After we were off the air and before I could launch into my abject grovel, he pushed that stack of books across the table to me and asked if I could look through these books and come back next week.

Thus my career as a book reviewer was born!

Three months later I was hosting that show ("The Madison Review of Books") myself. A couple of months later I had expanded it to one hour (thirty minutes was just way to short!); and a few months after that I had added a second one-hour book show that specialized on science fiction ("The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Hour with James Andrew Cox" - I think I was born with an ego as big as that program title!).

John Ohliger was a professor in the field of Adult Education and Life Long Learning. He was also an ardent social activist. He had been one of the key people to establish WORT-FM as a commercial free "talk show" radio forum for public issues. He started up "The Madison Review Of Books" as one of his experiments in adult education. He wanted to see what would happen if you put brand new books in the hands of ordinary folk - cab drivers, housewives, students, social workers, janitors, etc. - and then gave them a forum from which they could express their opinions and critiques to the community at large.

Back in the 70s, book reviewing (as it had been for pretty much the previous century) was largely an elitist operation of the New York/East Coast literati. John Ohliger (populist and leftist agitator that he was) wanted to break that stranglehold and see what would happen.

So John Ohliger started up his little radio show, got 15 of the major publishers to send him some books, and sent folks like Hank Luttrell out into the Madison community to recruit folks like me into sharing our views of what we were reading and what was being published.

I, along with a half-dozen others, banded together with John Ohliger and operated that little book review. I hosted the radio show and did most of the grunt work of publisher notification, book solicitation, and assigned reviewer follow-ups.

Then two years later, John Ohliger was working with still another group of citizens who wanted to insure a public access channel in the newly arriving television cable company (if I remember rightly it was Viking Media) that was then wiring up Madison. John talked me into going with him to endless meetings in small non-air-conditioned rooms over that sidewalk egg-frying Wisconsin summer. In the end, we were charted by the City of Madison and contracted with the cable company as the Madison Community Access Center - Cable Channel 4. The first show we taped was with a heart specialist doctor. The second show we taped was the television version of our little radio book review show.

I still remember that first television production. I hosted. We had one black/white television camera. We had one chair. We also had one guest. I introduced the book review program. Then a huge poster board sign was held by hand directly in front of the camera lens. I jumped up out of the one chair we had. Our guest sat down in it. Then I proceeded to interview him while standing next to the camera. When we were ready to wrap, the poster board sign went back up in front of the camera lens. The guest got up. I sat down. The poster board sign was whipped away. And I said farewell to the viewing audience.

The whole affair was the very definition of amateur - but we were all thrilled to enter this new medium of public access television and spread the word about books.

That show became "Bookwatch" and ran from 1978 to 2003 with me as its host. Our crew were always volunteers who donated their time for a sheer love of the cause. And the studio quality of our productions would match and occasionally surpass what PBS was doing.

Because of health problems slowing me down I finally had to retire after almost three decades from the television part of our Midwest Book Review operation in January 2003. But the show didn't disappear from the air for another 8 months or so. My producer/director had such a large backlog of old shows that he ran them in our regular Wednesday night time slot on WYOU-TV (which emerged in the early 1980s out of that original MCAC group) until finally the archives were exhausted.

In 1980 my job as a Developmental Disabilities Coordinator (a glorified kind of school social worker) for the Broadhead School District was terminated through lack of funding. Ronald Reagan had been elected president and one of the things he did in collusion with a conservative congress was to gut the money devoted to special education. Another program funding that was gutted had to do with Federal money for public library systems.

As a social worker I saw the writing on the wall for social services spending for the next few years. So I took my 30 hour a week "hobby" as a book reviewer and turned it into a full time profession. John Ohliger and I parted company over that. He was an altruist and a social reformer who felt that his little experiment should remain as band of local Madison community part-timers who were in it for the honor of it all. I wanted to go national, launch a library newsletter, expand out onto the internet, and be able to support myself.

I was primarily responsible for the necessary grunt work (read office work) that kept the wheels turning and the pump priming. Three weeks after I left his little book review operation it collapsed because no one wanted to take over the hard work of writing letters, sending out tear sheets, following-up review assignments, emptying the trash, manning the phone, etc.

It was sort of like the story of Henny Penny who easily found all manner of animal friends to eat her bread - but none to help her plant it, weed it, harvest the grain, prepare the dough, or even bake the loaf.

Everyone like the idea of free books (you got to keep the book you reviewed) but nobody wanted to do the day-to-day grind that insured there would be free books to hand out for review.

I borrowed $1000 from my father-in-law to buy letterhead stationary, a computer, and some postage - and never looked back.

Over the years John and I would come across one another. Madison is that kind of community. He was constantly involved in one or another group, issue, cause, or experiment. He hung out with the likes of Noam Chomsky and was always up for this or that demonstration or movement for social justice.

I always acknowledged my debt to John as my mentor and the man who made my subsequent career as a book reviewer and as the editor-in-chief of a multi-media book review operation possible.

The late John Ohliger (he died some years ago at the age of 77) was a dramatic and lasting influence on my life and career as a book reviewer and on the Midwest Book Review.

Smallwood: It was good to see that self-published authors are not turned away and you give priority consideration to small presses as well as the academic and that it is possible to have a book reviewed. There are so many resources on your web under Writing and Publishing. Also Reader Resources! Also a search option and site map for The Midwest Book Review. How do you keep up with all of these?

Jim Cox: What you see now on the Midwest Book Review is the cumulative work of more than 40 years. At the current age of 76 I work in my little office 3 to 4 hours a day, seven days a week. When I get an idea or write something that I think would be of value to authors, publishers, librarians, book publicists, and/or the general reading public I pass it along to my daughter (who is the web master and Managing Editor of our book review operation) to get it up on our web site. The same applies to discoveries I make out on the web, as well as items of interest and relevance that other people bring to my attention. So our web site is a constantly expanding repository of useful information and resources specific to the writing, publishing, and marketing of books.

Smallwood: Besides helping publishers and writers, please tell readers about how you make your reviews available to U.S. and Canadian libraries?

Jim Cox: We have two monthly contracts with companies that maintain book review databases for libraries and library systems.

One of them is the Gale Cengage Learning's 'Book Review Index'. Here are some links that describe and explain what that is:

The other one is CLCD Enterprise and has a book review database exclusive to children's books preschool through young adult, fiction and non-fiction. Here is a link to them:

In addition, we have library mailing lists for hundreds of community, academic, government, and corporate libraries for our monthly book review publications including the one specifically called "Library Bookwatch".

Smallwood: What seems the most heavily used links of all your resources offered on your web or the topics you get the most questions?

Jim Cox: The three most clicked on sections of our rather massive web site are:

Advice for Writers and Publishers (an archive of my 'how to' articles) found at:

Other Reviewers (a database I created of freelance book reviewers, book review publications, book review web sites and blogs) is at:

Jim Cox Report (my monthly column of advice, commentary, tips, tricks and techniques for marketing books) is at:

As for topics, I get asked about pretty much everything and anything that has to the publishing and marketing of books.

For example, just yesterday I got a phone call (asking me what she could do) from an author who used a POD (publish on demand) company who was apparently in continuous violation with respect to their contract.

The day before that I got a phone call asking about copyright law.

It's a rare week that goes by when someone doesn't email me or phone me with a question about some aspect of getting published or getting their books noticed in the highly competitive book business.

Smallwood: What resources do you have for the General Reading Public? Those interested in Children’s Books?

For the general reading public we archive all nine of our monthly book review publications on our website. Additionally, each of them can be directly subscribed to for free just by sending me an email asking to be signed up for one or more of them.

With specific reference to children's books, one of our nine monthly book review publications is the "Children's Bookwatch" for kids books, preschool through young adult, fiction and non-fiction. Here's a direct link to where they are archived on our web site:

Smallwood: Midwest Book Review has no advertising, banners. How does it manage? When I have submitted reviews, I’m informed when they are posted which is a great courtesy. Thank you for all you have done for writers! Do you have something new in the works for your amazing website?

Jim Cox: We are primarily funded by two annual foundation grants for the purpose of promoting literacy, library usage, and small press publishing. That's why we accept no advertising or charge for the reviews of published (hardcover or paperback) books.

It's common place for us to receive more good books than we have the reviewer resources to handle them all. So for any book that passes our initial screening but ultimately fails to achieve a review assignment simply because of 'too many books, not enough reviewers' we have a kind of safety net option so that the book can at least be drawn to the attention of librarians, booksellers, and the general reading public subscribers. If that author or publisher has a review from anyone else, and if they obtain that reviewer's permission for us to do, so we will run that review in their behalf and under the reviewer's byline in our monthly book review publication "Reviewer's Bookwatch". There is no charge for this service.

We do have a $50 Reader Fee option for authors or publishers who want a review of a digital (Kindle) book, or a not yet published manuscript, galley, uncorrected proof, pdf file, or ARC (advanced reading copy). But under this option it should be noted that the reader fee goes directly to the authorized and assigned reviewer - not to the Midwest Book Review. What I get out of it for being the 'middle man' in getting the author and reviewer together is that if the author approves of the review then I get to run it in our own monthly book review publications.

As the editor-in-chief of a book review operation the very beginning of this little enterprise, I hit upon two strategies that have proven immensely successful over the decades.

The first was to give priority consideration to self-published and small press published authors because they were a part of the publishing industry that was deliberately neglected by the major book review publications back then – and to a large extent, even now.

The second was to always provide that author or publisher with a copy of the review and a cover letter informing them of all the places we had published or posted our review of their book - back then (and often still now) a practice not routinely done by the Publishers Weekly, library journals, or New York Times Review of Books of today.

So to leave your readers one last thought about the role and mission of the "Midwest Book Review" and its editor-in-chief: Our purpose and goal is to help writers to write better, publishers to publish more profitably, librarians to make more informed considerations for what they should add to their collections, and to bring to the attention of the general reading public worthwhile books that they might otherwise never know about.
Poet Carol Smallwood Interviews Indie Friendly Review Pioneer

 MORE ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Carol Smallwood, based in Michigan, is a prolific poet who also does freelance interviews . This one was originally published by The Bookends Review, an independent arts journal,  in November, 2019. Smallwood's recent book is Patterns: Moments in Time (WordTech Communications, 2019).

MORE ABOUT THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

In addition to running a juggernaut online book review site with resource pages galore, Jim cox also puts out a newsletter that primarily features his own reviews of books related to writing careers, everything from editing to publishing to marketing. He says, "All of the previous issues of the "Jim Cox Report" are archived on the Midwest Book Review website at www.midwestbookreview.com/bookbiz/jimcox.htm. If you'd like to receive the "Jim Cox Report" directly (and for free), just send me an email asking to be signed up for it." You can reach him with your review queries (or requests for his newsletter) at mwbookrevw@aol.com. Other contact information is Jim Cox, Midwest Book Review, 278 Orchard Dr., Oregon, WI, 53575.  Several of his reviews have been featured on this blog, usually submitted by grateful independent authors (see the badge at the left or use the search function on the home page of this blog). 

MORE ABOUT THIS BLOG 

 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-
winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. Authors, readers, publishers, and reviewers may republish their favorite reviews of books they want to share with others. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read and love. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page and in a tab at the top of this blog's home page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites so it may be used a resource for most anyone in the publishing industry. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. #TheFrugalbookPromoter, #CarolynHowardJohnson, #TheNewBookReview, #TheFrugalEditor, #SharingwithWriters, #reading #BookReviews #GreatBkReviews #BookMarketing

Special thank yous to Carolyn Wilhelm for the badges she makes for participants in this review blog. Tweet with her @wiseowlfactory and find many of her free teacher's aids to promote literacy at Pinterest.