Smelcer, Ahtna Heritage, and Kiska

smelcerJohn Smelcer, author of the YA novels Lone Wolves, Stealing Indians, and Kiska – coming this fall, has been active in researching his past for a long time. Late last year, Smelcer started a YouTube channel dedicated to spreading the knowledge of his people – the Ahtna tribe of Alaska. In his videos, Smelcer teaches his audience how to speak their language and more about their culture. The author and historian is dedicated to not letting this and other cultures that we should cherish fall by the wayside as we modernize.

Earlier this year, Smelcer wrote an article for NPR’s Code Switch in which he details yet another unfortunate part of American history. During World War 2 when the government had their own internment camps on American soil to address what was largely being marketed as “the Asian threat” after Pearl Harbor, we not only imprisoned Asian immigrants and Asian-Americans but also members of the Ahtna tribe. In Kiska, he addresses this very topic when the U.S. Army arrives to evacuate Kiska’s entire village to an internment camp almost 2,000 miles away to be forgotten because they “look like Japs.”

Smelcer’s building concern for the endangered language of his kiskaancestors and the unfortunate general decline of appreciation of the Native Americans before us, drive his research and will to share that knowledge with his readers. Pick up one of his books today for an incredible window into Native American history and the stake we all should have in retaining and celebrating that history.

Literary Jazz: The Smooth Beats of Mick Carlon

CarlonFrom his inspirational TEDx talk on Louis Armstrong’s “ripple effect” to his semi-historical children’s literature titles, Mick Carlon is making his own waves for jazz’s literary voice today.

Riding on Duke’s Train (2011) told the story of Danny after sneaking onto Duke Ellington’s train in 1939, and through the nine-year-old’s eyes, we see the world of Jazz music at the time unfold and we meet a slew of personalities playing the scene along the way. Jack Bradley said of Riding: “When this marvelously evocative novel finds a home in the school curriculum, kids across America will be downloading Duke.”

Shortly after, Carlon turned his attention to the latter career of Jazz legend Louis Armstrong, when his main character, twelve-year-old Fred, accompanies Louis to Nashville in Travels with Louis (2012). Brian Morton said of Travels that “Carlon is driven by a love divided evenly between the subject (jazz) and the act of writing itself.”

In late 2015, Carlon took his wealth of Jazz knowledge and Girl Singerhis love of sharing it one step farther, challenging himself to write to an adult audience with Girl Singer. Singer is the story of Avery, an eighteen-year-old aspiring to be a singer and to be discovered. She’s recommended to Count Basie and thrown into the jazz life, landing in Greenwich Village after a handful of hit records and dealing with a new guest in her life. Reviews sang of Carlon’s unique ability to embody place, his seemingly endless knowledge of Jazz history, and his inescapably sympathetic blending of the multicultural narratives that bled through both the music and cities he explored.

Mick Carlon’s novels are now in the curriculum of over 50 schools across the country and he continues to share his love of Jazz as a teacher in the public school system himself. You can catch him at the 17th Annual Satchmo Summerfest in New Orleans from August 4-6 speaking on “A Glorious Collaboration: Louis Armstrong and the Mills Brothers” or his articles in the archive of the Jazz Times. Pick up one of his books to swing to this summer. 

May Fiction Contest & Judge

Just under three weeks left in our fiction contest as we are open for entries through May 1st. Have a novel, novella, or short story collection you’d like us to consider? Submit now! We’re accepting all entries through our Submittable page and the entry fee is $33. For guidelines, FAQs and awards visit our contest page.

Our 2017 finalist judge is Jeffrey Renard Allen, author of the novels Rails Under My Back and the recent Song of the Shank among other award-winning works. Rails won the Chicago Tribune‘s Heartland Prize for Fiction in 2000. His work has appeared in Tin House, Poets & Writers, The New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, Other Voices, Ploughshares, Triquarterly, and elsewhere.

Allen was born and raised in Chicago, received his Ph.D. in English & Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and has taught at both Columbia University and recently the New School. He’s traveled and taught abroad at many conferences, festivals and workshops, including Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, the Kwani? LitFest in Kenya, the American Writers Festival in Singapore, and served as the Program Director for Literature for the Jahazi Literature and Jazz Festival in Zanzibar, East Africa.

Furthermore, Allen is currently working on a travelogue detailing his time throughout Africa that will explore race, identity, family, religion, music and culture.

Photo credit: Mark Hillringhouse

N. West Moss is “Uniquely Illuminating”

SubwayStopsBryantParkOn her blog, N. West Moss writes that she’s “new-ish to the world of publishing and professional writing,” but her work feels far from amateur. She says “she’s always seeking out authors to hear about their processes, what they’re facing, what they read, and how they get their work done,” and I think we’re all participants in that, having fallen in love with the literary scene. Moss’ work has appeared in The New York Times, The Saturday Evening Post, The Blotter and elsewhere.

Her fiction collection The Subway Stops at Bryant Park will be released on May 16 and has been reviewed by Kirkus, praising “Moss’ ability to probe the rich, complicated depths of those the city views as ordinary – its doormen, library workers, waitresses, and bench-sitters – and capture the profound currents of emotion found in the everyday animates this collection and makes it uniquely illuminating. Definitely worth reading.”

For a sample of what the collection has to offer, read
“Dad Died” over n west mossat Lunch Ticket or “The Absence of Sound” at Neworld Review.

Follow N. West Moss on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Catch her upcoming literary events on Thursday, May 11th at 7:00 pm at the Desmond-Fish Library in Garrison, NY or on Tuesday, May 16th at 7:00 pm at Book Culture in New York, NY.