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Reading at Grape Choice with Jack McCarthy

On Saturday –November 10, I’ll be reading at  WINE AND POETRY AT GRAPE CHOICE –KIRKLAND with Jack McCarthy!
Wine Tastings and Specials
Reserve the date–you won’t want to miss this!!!

Jack McCarthy,
Karen Finneyfrock

Mary Crane
ROX  aka  Stephen Roxborough

Featuring  spotlight readings from:
R.R. Seitz, David D. Horowitz and your host
Christopher J. Jarmick

We had an incredible reading at Grape Choice
in September in association with NorthWest
Bookfest, an enthusiastic standing room only
crowd –many who had not been to a poetry
reading in several years (if at all) attended.
The Jack McCarthy magic happened along
with several other readers including Greg Bee,
Redmond Poet Laureate Jeannine Hall Gailey,
and others.   Grape Choice Owner Penny
Sweet loved hosting the event and
immediately wanted to do another…
SO. . .   November 10th!!!

The Grape Choice (on the Kirkland
Waterfront) Adress:  9 Lakeshore Plaza, (aka 
9 Lake Street) Kirkland, WA 98033

Kevin Emerson, Karen, Sean Beaudoin, Lish McBride, photo credit: Amy Benson

Thanks to everyone who came out to CHEAP COFFEE & YOUNG ADULT FICTION last week!

Don’t forget that Sean Beaudoin’s new novel The Infects will be sold at his book release party, Thursday, October 4 at Elliott Bay Book Company.

Also celebrating a book release this week is spoken word superstar, Rose McAleese, who book was blurbed by both Karen Finneyfrock and Tom Robbins. Rose later made my 20-something dream come true by sending me a thank you gift: one sock whose pair is now owned by Tom Robbins.
More information about both events at Elliott Bay website. SUPPORT LOCAL BOOK STORES!



Why YA?

In preparation for Cheap Coffee & Young Adult Fiction at Richard Hugo House, RHH asked me to write a blog post on the subject, “Why Young Adult?” Here’s my post.


Why Young Adult? 

Here’s the title of an article that caught my eye recently from Publisher’s Weekly, New Study: 55% of YA Books Bought by Adults.

Naturally, some of those sales account for adults buying books for teens, but less than you might think. The piece caught my eye because it seemed to confirm what I was hearing from adults all over the place. “I love young adult,” they confess to me in hushed tones after I tell them about my YA novel coming out in February, “it’s basically all I read.”

Oh, they’re reading Twilight, you might think, or Hunger Games, and they are. But, they’re also reading John Green, Sherman Alexie and Daniel Handler and they’re looking for more recommendations, for better ones.

So here is my unscientific, biased and blunt understanding of why so many adults and teens are reading young adult fiction.

1.)  The thrill of a market that is booming. I went to a lecture by YA author Brent Hartinger (The Geography Club) years ago. He informed us that the YA market was “wide open,” and editors were ready for experimental story structure, unexpected characters and challenging narratives. “Write a novel backwards, write it in verse,” I remember him saying. It’s exciting to be a reader in a new frontier genre where you feel like anything goes with one major exception. The reader should walk away from the book feeling like she, “Got it.” “I didn’t really get that book,” is something you rarely hear from a YA reader.

2.) Story. Sure, lots of books for adults also lean heavily on narrative. Most of the books winking at you through the glass a the airport bookstore are story-driven, page turners. But you can pretty much count on a YA novel to make you want to keep reading. YA authors rarely get away with indulgences in observation, meandering story lines or unsatisfying endings. Not that I’m criticizing the experimentation or the language-driven landscape of adult, literary fiction, but not all readers are looking for that. It’s okay to yearn for a compelling story, well told.

3.) Nostalgia. This is a personal answer. I will give my heart to a book that makes reading feel the way it felt when I was 14, when I could climb into a book and stay for a whole afternoon. My kingdom for a book that can do that.

4.) A break from the violence. This is an oversimplification. But I re-discovered YA during a time when I was grieving and every nerve in my body felt raw. I couldn’t bear to watch movies where anyone was murdered or assaulted or threatened or violently depressed. So, let’s just say I had a hard time finding entertainment beyond the Nickelodeon channel. Although YA books do sometimes feature violence or severe themes, like sexual abuse or suicide, the theme is generally presented with the gentle heart of the reader in mind, in a way that doesn’t traumatize or horrify. I’m sure you can think of several examples to challenge my claim, but my damaged self found refuge in reading YA when everything else seemed bent on wounding me further.

There is plenty more to discuss on the subject or even debate. For further reading, I like the New York Times debate, The Power of Young Adult Literature.

55% of YA Books are Bought by Adults?!

Cheap Coffee & Young Adult Fiction, September 27

I was thrilled this year to receive a City Artist Grant from The City of Seattle. For the final presentation of the chapters I was supported to write this summer…I will be reading from my second, not-yet-released novel, Starbird Murphy and the World Outside at Cheap Coffee & Young Adult Fiction on September 27, 7pm at Richard Hugo House.


And that’s not all. I somehow convinced three of Seattle’s hottest YA authors to read with me. The event is FREE, ALL AGES and promises to be amazing. Just check out the talent I have talked into reading…

Sean Beaudoin is the author of The Infects, a zombie novel released mere days ago and now shambling it’s way toward you. His other books include Fade to Blue, which is about a girl who gets run over by an ice cream truck, and You Killed Wesley Payne, which is fairly self-explanatory. He almost always ends his bio with a ironic comment.

Kevin Emerson is the author of the OLIVER NOCTURNE SERIES and CARLOS IS GONNA GET IT. His next novel, THE LOST CODE, the first book in the Atlanteans series, comes out in May 2012 with Katherine Tegen Books. His next middle grade novel, THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION, comes out in January 2013 with Walden Pond Press.  Kevin is also a musician. His current project is THE BOARD OF EDUCATION, where he writes imaginative, poppy songs about elementary school and life in the spirit of Schoolhouse Rock.

Lish McBride was raised by wolves in the Pacific Northwest. It rains a lot there, but she likes it anyway. She spent three years away while she got her MFA in fiction from the University of New Orleans, and she liked that too, although the hurricane did leave much of her stuff underwater. Her main goal in going to college was to become a writer so she could wear pajamas pretty much all the time. She enjoys reading, movies, comics, and preparing herself for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. Currently, Lish lives happily in Seattle where the weather never actually tries to kill you, with her family, two cats, and one very put-upon Chihuahua. She is slowly building her garden gnome army.

Karen at SAM Re-Mix

This Friday, June 1, I’ll be performing at Seattle Art Museum’s event called Re-Mix, a massive evening filled with performances including…THE STORY SLAM, curated by Christa Bell.

I’ve been writing a new series of stories for this event (we have approximately 5 minutes to tell each story) and I’m thrilled to work in this form. More information about the event:

Celebrate Ancestral Modern, Theaster Gates: The Listening Room, and SAM’s collection during a special evening of performances, talks, dancing and more at this late-night creative explosion.


  • DJ J-Justice (TRUST/City Soul/KBCS 91.3FM) spins global beats, hip hop, soul and more
  • Midday Veil’s hypnotic rock meditations and vibrant projections in South Hall at 9:00 pm & 10:45 pm
  • A site specific soundtrack of ambient sounds from SAM remixed live in the galleries by the Seattle Phonographers Union from 8:30-11:00 pm
  • Sonic Interpretations live cello performance by Paul Rucker in the galleries at 9:15 & 10:30 pm
  • A storytelling spoken word slam curated by writer Christa Bell at 8:45 pm, 9:30 pm & 10:15 pm
  • SAM Performs: Stairway to Vinyl Listening Party with DJ Riz, listening stations and hands-on activities. Guest performances at 8:30, 10:00, and 11:00 pm.
  • SAM Creates: Garage Sale. Artists Sol Hashemi and Elizabeth Abrahamson are having a Garage Sale! Peruse their collection of objects awaiting a new life.
  • Create shimmering body art with Janet Fagan and an impromptu sculpture garden with Romson Bustillo
  • My Favorite Things: Highly Opinionated Tours by artist and Stranger Genius nominee Amanda Manitach, visiting scholars Brenda Croft and Chris McAuliffe, photographer Matika Wilbur, artist John Feodorov, the Art Lending Library, artist Matika Wilbur, SAM Education & Community Engagement Committee members Ryan & Luanda Arai, and event designer Cori Ready!

Members: $12.00
Adults: $25.00
Students: $20.00

Tickets may be purchased online, at the Ticketing Desk at any of SAM’s three sites or over the phone with a credit card by calling the Box Office at 206.654.3121.

Print-at-home ticket buyers: Enter at 1st Avenue and Union Street. Will Call ticket buyers and cash ticket sales: Enter at 1st Avenue and University Street (near Hammering Man).


Skagit River Poetry Festival

Next week I’ll be taking part in the seventh biennial Skagit River Poetry Festival featuring readings, conversations and workshops in La Conner, Washington. I couldn’t be more excited to be in a festival with poets like Carolyn Forche, Marie Howe and Tony Hoagland, but I’m also thrilled about the poets who I will hear for the first time.

2012 Write Bloody Contest Videos

Check out this sampling of videos by finalists for the 2012 Write Bloody Publishing Contest. Part of the manuscript contest this year was the requirement that poets create and post a video of one of their poems. When more and more readers are looking for poets on youtube, and in the age of book trailers, I love the idea of poets creating more innovative films. Here are three to check out. For more, just go to youtube and search for “Write Bloody Contest.”

Oh, and if you like the video, please click the “like” button. Enjoy.




Enjoy this detailed blow-by-blow reporting of the Seattle Poetry Slam’s Grand Slam, created by Seattle’s own Dane Kuttler. Although this post is concentrated on the competition, I would like to add an editorial note that our feature for the night, Airea “Dee” Matthews, did one of the finest features I’ve ever seen. She is a true master of the craft, both a spectacular writer and astounding performer. I expect to hear great, big things from Dee in the coming years, and can’t wait to watch the whole world discover her brilliance!

Hello slam fans! It’s been a long time (and a long time coming) but tonight, we bring you, without interruption:


Round 1:

Maya Hersh breaks open the double sacrifice with her stunning showstopper “Open Your Eyes.” This piece actually saw a Grand Slam stage last year, and it is an entirely appropriate sacrifice – it’s a triumphant piece about getting past the grime and drudge of working life and finding joy everywhere. It sounds like a benediction. The audience is quiet, receptive, a few people nodding, then breaks into cheers and strong applause. Maya takes a 21.6.

Jah Akbar “Jonathan Speaks to King David Before his Death” I have to brag, a little, because Jah wrote this poem specifically for an anthology I’m co-editing called In The Biblical Sense. It’s a poem of devotion, and love. I was the first one to wash your feet,” says Jonathan of his king, whom others are starting to call “Messiah.” Gorgeous. And Jah takes a 20.7

Rose McAleese brings plagiarism to the stage in style. Not that her work is someone else’s – NO – it’s a poem all about sampling, quoting, and pulling from other work for inspiration, done right or done wrong. Rose pulls the audience in deftly with speed and style and takes a 23.9

Evan Dunn begins quietly with a piece about external war and struggle being a real effort to deal with internal war and struggle. The audience is silent, hanging on to Evan’s rapid-fire whispers and gentle booms. “I am sorry,” he says “because I have misrepresented G-d.” Evan leaves the audience with a long moment of silence and receives a 22.9

Amber Flame strides to the stage in what Slammaster Arrindel notes is “one of the many pairs of combat boots on stage tonight” and whips out her classic “Sex Church Poem.” It’s an interesting conversation forming on stage – a church poem answering a G-d poem – but Amber’s invites raucous audience commentary, leaving them laughing and shrieking at each turn. Amber pulls a TIME PENALTY (you rat bastard! you’re ruining it for everyone!) for a 24.3.

Greg Bee “To the Wolf in Tolerant Clothing” – “I would’ve prayed to be normal if I’d known what to pray for.” I love this poem, this defiant poem about terror, this utter claim of a childhood spent in the closet. “I flame with the fire that forged me.” Greg delivers like a good preacher – you find yourself nodding and saying YES – to the tune of a 23.6.

Roma Raye storms to the mic with “Electricity,” about loving trumpet. Gotta admit this, slam fans – I am an absolute sucker for poems about music. “I learned the shape of my mouth with her,” says Roma of her first horn. As a kid who fell in love with a trombonist in high school, the poem strikes a delightful smile from me. Roma departs with thunderous applause ringing in her ears to the tune of (score missing)

Mary Lambert’s “Tell the Truth” is an arresting piece; it flops back and forth between three voices: a liar, the voice of truth and the voice of the enforcer – the one who demands the truth. It’s also about getting blackout drunk as a way of remembering repressed trauma, but that sounds too much like a psych textbook to describe the experience of emotional whiplash that comes with this poem. 23.7 for Mary.

Ela Barton brings the voice of bitterness, longing and defiance with “Trailer in Aspen,” a piece about class, and how it divides relationships. It sits uncomfortably with some of the audience, who squirm in their seats, but the others are heralding it as an anthem for the working class. I love it. Ela is focused, tight, and self-assured. 23 even.

Sara Brickman strides to her last-slot spot in (it must be acknowledged) a firecracker of a dress. She brings “Things I learned while Trying To Write A Poem About Joy.” It’s a joy fountain of the kind Brickman excels at – an off-balance, self-conscious dance that’s irresistibly inviting. She begs you to join her, and you want to go. 24.2

Round 2:

Sara – brings it back with “Hollow,” another piece I’ve never heard (have I mentioned yet how much I love it when people do new work in important slams?) It’s bullying turned poetry – the best of its kind. 24.1 secures her spot in the final round, and on the Seattle Slam team!

Ela brings up “Trauma Trigger,” about country music triggering her history of abuse. It’s hard to describe the experience of poems like this; the only thing to do is bear witness, to thank the artist for bringing it forward. 24.6

Mary brings her ode to domesticity, a poem I hold dear because it addresses something I’ve struggled with recently – it’s totally okay to be happy building Ikea furniture and snuggling in one’s pajamas on a hot Saturday night. 23.8

Roma swings out a recursive piece that uses repetition to convey the experience of mental illness. She’s working very hard on stage. I see several dropped jaws in the audience! 23.7 She ties Sara Brickman for the second spot on the slam team!

Greg – brings his “Gift to the World” – a primer on flirting. Delightful, beautiful, and has the sense of a victory lap. Push, Greg! Push! It should be noted that this poem introduced the phrase “bump-bump sexy” into my lexicon, and for this, Greg should be at least knighted, if not crowned.

Amber pushes out a dark anthem to beauty. I honestly can’t tell if it’s triumphant or tragic. (I am losing battery power on the laptop, so the reviews get sparse from here!) 23.9 secures her spot on the team!!

Evan does “body turned business,” a piece about Christ. 22.5

Rose – pulls out Bobby Sands for a spot-winning 24.5

I wish to make this abundantly exuberantly clear, so I will say it loudly:



Round 3:

Sara Brickman spits a letter to the high school girl who moved back in with her high school teacher. And the judges discover that 8s are an okay score: 24.6

Amber Flame – “I want to tell you what happened in the aftermath” Also a 24.6.

Roma Raye “I am a revolutionary” – anthemic, defiant. 24.2

Rose McAleese closes the night with Lady Macbeth and clinches a well-deserved win with the highest score of the night – a whopping 25.6

Congratulations, team! You did it!