Archive for March, 2008

Anna Olswanger Speaks on Children’s Book Trends with Women’s National Book Association

Monday, March 31st, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Anna Olswanger, author of Shlemiel Crooks, spoke as part of a panel discussion on February 21 with the Women’s National Book Association, New York Chapter.

In a discussion titled Into the Future: Trends in Children’s Publishing, the panelists–including librarians, editors, and others–considered not only the current trends in children’s books, but also how those trends can be good or bad for the industry. Anna, who also works as an agent for Liza Dawson Associates, noted that she often eschews trends in favor of good writing. She worried that a trend toward emphasizing a book’s visual impact over the words on the page may cause children to be less engaged overall with the books they read.

A full report of the panel was provided by Kate Lindsay in the WNBA newsletter. Learn more about the WNBA at their website,

Shlemiel Crooks is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer. Shlemiel Crooks is a Koret International Jewish Book Award Finalist and a Sydney Taylor Honor Book.

Obama Philadelphia speech offered as free ebook

Thursday, March 20th, 2008 by Randall Williams

Senator Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday in Philadelphia has been widely quoted and discussed. Historian John Hope Franklin called it one of the most candid and significant public statements on race in American political history. NewSouth Books—which publishes widely on civil rights and racial and political issues—agrees and has formatted Obama’s complete text (which was released to the news media) into an easy to download and print ebook package. It is available for free download here.

Rheta Grimsley Johnson Featured in Montgomery Advertiser

Monday, March 17th, 2008 by Mary Katherine

NewSouth Books author Rheta Grimsley Johnson has been profiled in the Montgomery Advertiser for her new book Poor Man’s Provence. In the article by Robyn Litchfield, Johnson describes her love for Cajun country, particularly Henderson, Louisiana, the inspiration for the essays in her book. She says, “I’m uneasy about pretending to understand a culture that is not my own. I’ll qualify it by saying that I’m not an authority … This is just a love story, my love affair with this place, a work-a-day town where they still make their living in the swamp.” From the article:

Several years ago, Williams and NewSouth publisher Suzanne La Rosa approached Johnson about writing a book.

“Luckily for us, she had these Louisiana stories rattling around in her subconscious, so our expression of interest was an opportunity for her to put them on paper and expand and shape them into a book,” he said.

Reflecting on the essays in “Poor Man’s Provence,” Williams said his favorite passages involve the neighborhood urchins Johnson adopted and describes so movingly in “The Tool Shed Reading Club.”

“If you can get to the end of that chapter with a dry eye, I don’t want to meet you,” he said.

These neighborhood children, Johnelle and Jeanette Latiolais and others have become very important to Johnson and her husband through the years. Henderson has charmed its way into their lives. One of their favorite spots is the bait shop, of all places, where you’ll find a bunch of old men sitting around talking about the fish that got away.

The neatest thing about it, though, is that these old men speak in French. Such scenes are just too much for a self-described Francophile to resist.

Johnson has also come to appreciate the music and the food — particularly shrimp etouffée and her best friend’s homemade smothered turtle. (She swears it’s delicious!)

“They literally don’t waste anything,” Johnson said. “And they could take old shoe leather and make it taste good.”

That’s just one of the things Johnson has learned since discovering the place.

As she writes, “I’m happier — better, if you will — for having found Henderson.”

Read the full article from the Montgomery Advertiser

Poor Man’s Provence is available from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.

Author Gerald Duff Sends Notes from On the Brink Conference

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008 by Brian Seidman

Thoughts from our author Gerald Duff on a recent conference:

I’m just back from the On the Brink conference at Jacksonville State University in Alabama, a wonderful experience. This year’s theme statement was “Maybe I can explain your devil to you,” a quotation from Flannery O’Connor. I was there with several other writers, including Carolyn Jourdan, Wayne Caldwell and Ravi Howard.

After I had done my reading from my collection of short stories, Fire Ants, a question came from a member of the audience. “What is a signifier of Southern literature?” she asked. “What marks a work of literature as Southern?”

I answered by saying that among other things, a work of Southern literature typically deals with what characters express through silence, misinformation, subterfuge, and subtext. My growing up in the South, in East Texas in particular, taught me that when someone makes a statement or asserts a judgment that I had to be careful. What is said on the surface is seldom all that is meant. When something is not spoken of, when silence reigns, that does not mean communication is not taking place. When someone, particularly one of my female relatives, said for example, “I just saw Lucille and she seemed not as spry as usual. Bless her heart,” my relative didn’t mean she was sorry Lucille was ailing. She was glad.

When a thing is said, the saying of it means it ain’t necessarily so. When a subject is avoided, it isn’t because it’s unimportant. It’s crucial. When someone tells you that all is well, we’re talking deathbed status for the subject in question.

Carolyn Jourdan, author of the wonderfully funny and wonderfully Southern memoir Heart in the Right Place, emailed me the day after the conference to say “Your analysis of what is the hallmark or signifier of Southern literature knocked my socks off. Silence … misinformation … subterfuge … and subtext … Man, a world of hurt is contained in that. What a great and healing insight your summation brings to the life of anyone raised in the South.”

I appreciated what Carolyn said, I’m honored to have her say it, and I’m not speaking subtextually when I say that! Thanks, Carolyn. I mean it!

Gerald Duff’s Fire Ants is available directly from NewSouth Books,, or your favorite local or online book retailer.