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What’s Your One True Sentence? We want to know what has inspired you.

September 14, 2016 in American Authors, American literature, announcements, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Literary News, Literature, One True Sentence, Uncategorized

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” – Ernest Hemingway

We have just launched something special at Literary Traveler, and we can’t wait to share it with you. Literary Traveler’s “One True Sentence” will be a series of short video episodes that explore the meaning of words and the people who are inspired by their power. Literary Traveler will take viewers behind some of the greatest words in literature, bringing them alive through the people and places that hold them close.

One sentence is often all it takes to convey your truth. And each one of us has a sentence that we carry with us – whether it is a line from a novel, a verse of poetry, a song lyric, a personal mantra, words of wisdom from a loved one, or a simple string of words that bring you meaning. We take this “one true sentence” with us on our travels, drawing inspiration, motivation, and solace in times of trouble.

The first two episodes of this series feature contemporary authors sharing the sentences that inspire their life and work and how they came to find the meaning in their true sentences.

Nichole Bernier, author of The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D., shares a quote from Henry David Thoreau, and Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Comfort of Lies and The Murderer’s Daughters, finds reassurance in the words of Gustave Flaubert. For Bernier and Meyers, and all of us, a truly great sentence can not only inspire, but influence your life, change your course, and start you on your own unique journey.

Our goal with “One True Sentence” is to inspire — to harness the power of words in our lives, and examine how one short sentence can hold so much meaning.  And we want to hear from you.

If you have a sentence that holds special meaning for you, we would love for you to share it with us and tell us a little about how it has influenced your life, whether it has inspired you to take a leap of faith, provided strength during a difficult time, or otherwise inspires, motivates, or comforts. Please send us your short personal videos (Be as creative as you want, but no need to get fancy. A smartphone camera is all it takes.) You can e-mail us at submissions@literarytraveler.com or share your video on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #OneTrueSentence. Your video may even end up on LiteraryTraveler.com!

Thank You for your Continued Support!

June 14, 2013 in American literature, announcements, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Fiction, Kickstarter, Literary News, Television

We wanted to thank you for supporting Literary Traveler’s Kickstarter. Unfortunately we did not meet our short-term goal of raising $12,000.

But using Kickstarter as a way to launch our funding drive for the television series has been a success. Through the Kickstarter community, our campaign for the Literary Traveler television series has enabled us to reach out to funders, partners, and supporters and move our project forward towards our goal of a fully-funded series.

Kickstarter was phase one of our funding drive, and our fundraising efforts will continue over the summer as we continue to work with individual donors while we research and shoot additional locations for the pilot. For Literary Traveler it will be the “Summer of Gatsby,” as we continue to explore where Fitzgerald roamed and found inspiration for The Great Gatsby.

Here’s how you can help. Please continue to tell your friends about the project, submit your ideas for additional episodes and get involved! In order to hold on to our Kickstarter funds we need anyone who has already supported to re-donate here. If you didn’t donate to the Kickstarter, with the thought that you would give at the end, once we were close to our goal, we will be able to keep and use all funds donated directly through our website.

We’re asking you to stay with our fundraising effort for the long haul – If you subscribe to Literary Traveler or follow us on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll receive updates about the project. If you are just finding us now, please visit our website, check out our Kickstarter page, and take a look at our new fundraising page to see how you can donate to this exciting project.

As anyone who has taken on a project of this scope surely knows, it’s an exciting learning curve. What it boils down to is this: we have too many ideas to stop now.  There is plenty of great stuff on the brew – from exploring the origins of Gatsby this summer to the chance for readers to get personally involved with upcoming episodes.  Stay tuned for more!

We are so grateful for all your support!

Sincerely, Francis & the Literary Traveler Team

Book Bound! (Two Weeks Remaining!)

May 29, 2013 in American literature, announcements, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Kickstarter, Literary News

Derby Square Bookstore, Salem, MA

By Antoinette Weil and Amanda Festa

Books are not obsolete and reading isn’t dead.  It seems that everything is tech this and i-something or other and YouTube and Vine and Twitter. We love our social media connections as much as the next person, but we can’t lose touch with the tangible. People still read, people still love their favorite books from childhood and from adulthood, and people, although they may not have all the time in the world, still want to get that reading fix. We think that THIS is what sets us and our project apart. We are going back to books, back to great authors, taking the time for you to get to know these stories and places. Promoting reading, promoting travel, promoting exploration, the sharing of ideas. There are many, many people in today’s society who are tired of the constant surge of technology taking over everyday life. Sick of their beloved bookstores closing. We are doing this for them, for people like us who enjoy the story behind our beloved literature. We’re bringing books to life, and that’s something.

We have two weeks left to reach our funding goal on Kickstarter.  Please support our project and, in turn, our passion.  Every dollar helps us get closer to our goal, and every dollar shows that there are people out there who would like to see this project be made.  If you are a reader, if you enjoy the feeling of a creased and worn book in your hands or the smell of a library or independent bookstore, then this project is for you.  If you have the travel bug, and you treat it with long doses of wandering, whether it is done on the road or from the comfort of an armchair, then this project is for you.  SO take a look at our Kickstarter page, explore the posts written by contributors whose excitement and enthusiasm for this project is incredible, and if you enjoy what you see, please get involved, donate what you can, and spread the word to all kindred literary travelers.

Exploring the Origins of the Charleston

May 21, 2013 in American History, American literature, Classic Literature, Dance, Kickstarter, Literary News, Music

Frank Farnum coaching Pauline Starke in the Charleston for a film role.

My recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina was incredible.  I have wanted to visit the city for years and I was delighted to partake in historical tours, hearing tales of the American Revolution and the Civil War, leisurely strolls and an abundance of incredible food and drink. The week-long getaway was exactly what the doctor ordered to cure the stresses, anxieties, and routine of day-to-day life.

But despite the feeling of freedom and blissful contentment at having no responsibilities, I found myself falling victim to that same sneaky trap that so many American travelers fall into: I was preoccupied with work.

Now let me say, for the record, that I love working with Literary Traveler. It’s a great company with great people and often when I’m working there it doesn’t feel like work at all.  This preoccupation may have been due, in part, to the knowledge that our Kickstarter was going live while I was away. It was weighing on my mind that if we were successful in meeting our funding goal we would be shooting our TV pilot and, that if we weren’t, we would be back to square one. The pilot episode and the Kickstarter campaign were just too big to put out of my mind.

Now, Charleston is a city rich with history and old-world elegance. One of the most preserved cities in the U.S., it looks today much as it did one-hundred years ago (besides the paved streets, upscale shopping boutiques and foodie hotspots). Meandering past war monuments, hotels and houses dating back as far as the 1800s, it was easy to imagine a world long ago and far away. But my mind wasn’t on war and it wasn’t going back that far. What I kept finding myself thinking about was The Great Gatsby, Nick, Daisy and Jordan, and of the roaring twenties.

Specifically, what I was wondering was whether that flapper-essential dance, the Charleston, was in fact named for my destination city. After digging up a little research, I found that the light and carefree dance had some dark history behind it.

Yes, the dance is named after the coastal landmark city. To be more precise, it is named for the show tune it was first danced to, “The Charleston,” by James P. Johnson, which premiered in the 1923 Broadway show Runnin’ Wild. The show was one of the most popular of the decade and created widespread love of the Charleston dance by women around the country who wanted to kick up their heels, flap their arms and let loose.

But long before the glamorized show-dance ever made its Broadway debut, it was being performed, though in a far less choreographed fashion, by African and African-American slaves. The Charleston, you see, is said to be based on the “Juba” dance, which originated in West Africa and was brought to America during one of our most shameful times in history.

The city of Charleston was a hub in the slave trade, housing an abundance of plantations for which slave labor was used and Ryan’s Mart, one of the most well-known slave auction centers ever to exist. Enslaved Africans and African-Americans have passed a number of our cultural treasures along including gospel, blues, and jazz music and the dancing to go with them. The Juba, sometimes called the “Hambone” or “Pattin’ Juba,” was usually danced in groups and consisted of slapping, clapping, and stomping in rhythm while rotating in a counterclockwise circle. The slaves were not allowed to use drums or other rhythmic instruments for fear that they were communicating with each other through the music, so they made their own rhythm using their bodies. This may not sound like the Charleston you have seen, but much of what has become jazz and tap dance originated from these steps.

Similarly, the women of the 1920s were using dance to express ideals that had once been forbidden and taboo: freedom, fun, carelessness and independence. As a matter of fact, the Charleston was outlawed in many places during the 20s because it was seen as crude and scandalous. It is interesting to see how these two groups of people, the slaves in the direst of circumstances and American flappers, many of whom were privileged monetarily and lived seemingly happy and easy lives, do relate to one another. Their environments were so ostensibly different, and yet, the feeling of being stifled, caged, confined, existed inside them all.  The dances of the day, the Juba and the Charleston, helped each group to cope with their circumstances and feelings and enabled genuine creative expression.

I wonder if Daisy ever thought about this.

A New Take on Dramatic Adaptation: The Great Gatsby Opera

May 17, 2013 in Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Kickstarter, Literary News, Literature

Gone are the days when literature fans were ranting traditionalists, decrying other media besides quill and parchment.  These days we’re as much dependent on the screen to feed our reading habits as anyone else.

So how do we feel about an adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby, that makes the transition backward – to an older medium, from the page to the live action world of the stage? And how does a composer map out Gatsby’s world in the static setting of a theatre, without special effects, while mediating the characters’ sentences through the flowing notes of a score?

First performed in 1999, John Harbison was originally commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera to write an operatic adaptation of Fitzgerald’s literary masterpiece in 1997.  A daunting task, but Harbison was up for the challenge.  In tandem with the release of the latest film adaptation, Harbison’s opera recently came to Boston, with a performance by the orchestra and chorus of Emmanuel Music.

One of the first things Harbison did when writing his opera was to take note of when everything was happening in Gatsby. He had to build the novel’s timeline in order to deconstruct it, and this was more difficult than you’d imagine, because, as Nick Carraway himself puts it, Gatsby is basically the contracted story of “the events of three nights,” big, dramatic parties that got snagged away from the stream of ordinary happenings.

It’s one of those things peculiar to youth, to remember long stretches of time in terms of dramatic parties and social events, celebrations and disasters.  Gatsby, the opera, may have sacrificed the fluid, romantic garden and water scenes for a closed-in stage, but it had the advantage of opera’s gripping musical crescendos to represent the heightened emotional drama of these scenes.

And perhaps in some ways, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby adaptation is as much an opera as it is a movie. Luhrmann, like Harbison, has previously reworked a classic (Romeo and Juliet), and his movies have been heavily dependent on spectacle and song. Perhaps the only way you can approach the classics is with bravado – and the whole brass section of an orchestra.

Harbison, for his part, ignored advice heard at Princeton that “you don’t set Shakespeare,” and wrote an opera for A Winter’s Tale anyway.  He ignored the traditional path of getting someone else to write the libretto – Gatsby’s libretto is his own, based in large part on scenes from the book.

At the pre-concert talk with Emmanuel Music, Harbison explains that his librettist editors told him: “You blew The Plaza scene. It was a complete disaster. I’m going to have to rewrite it for you.”

The scene was not rewritten, and The Plaza scene was riveting.  Alex Richardson’s Tom lashed out at Myrtle for mentioning Daisy’s name and, while you knew it was coming, it was still a shock. The opera setting provided the fireworks to incite that shock  – Richardson’s Tom was a barrel-chested guy with a deep booming baritone, and his outbursts were underlined heavily by the restive, melodrama of the score.

“People who remember everything and remember nothing have the best time,” said Harbison, of his opera, at his pre-concert talk. Like memory, a classic like Gatsby becomes a container and receptacle for associations that are personal and subjective – so Harbison explains that scholars with an objective viewpoint, or people who know nothing about the book, enjoy the opera. “I went into this piece thinking this was this little novel that I slipped into my pocket”, said one of Harbison’s librettists, with mystification at the expandable nature of Gatsby. Likewise, with the character of Gatsby himself, who Harbison describes as “transparent and opaque at the same time,” a man who could make people feel important, while he himself disappeared.

I have to admit that it was tough going watching the mobile, youthful characters of the book confined to the stage. But the opera’s ingenious score and 1920s-style faux pop songs (written by Murray Horwitz) went a long way to producing the sense of atmosphere that pervades the book.

The Great Gatsby, it seems, has given the ‘green-light’ for many interpretations of its nature. You get the sense that the difficulty of setting it for opera encouraged Harbison rather than put him off. For new artists adapting this work, if you can’t change the past, then the message is, don’t look back!

Luckily, at Literary Traveler, it’s not our job to worry about changing Gatsby. We will be looking back though, as we research Gatsby’s origins for our upcoming pilot –  Stay tuned and be sure to check out our Kickstarter page for more on Gatsby and our exciting project.

Kickstarting your Wanderlust (27 Days Remaining!)

May 16, 2013 in American Authors, Classic Writers, Contemporary Literature, Kickstarter, Literary News, Travel

There are 27 days remaining for us to reach our Kickstarter goal.  We are excited by the process and all that is on the horizon for Literary Traveler.  We are really enthusiastic about this project and dedicated to making it happen, but we need your help. Check out our Kickstarter page and be sure to watch our video, featuring Literary Traveler’s own Francis McGovern, Antoinette Weil and myself.  We had a lot of fun shooting the video in Somerville, MA.  We filmed in our office, as well as at the Prohibition-style bar, Saloon, in nearby Davis Square.

For the video, we hoped to capture a day in the LT office, where we often have collaborative brainstorming sessions and discuss future projects.  You may not be able to tell what we are talking about during some of the shots, but we are deep in conversation about our vision for the pilot episode of our literary travel series. There is something about travel that meshes so well with literature and I can’t believe that there is not already a show like ours on mainstream television.

I have been a long-time fan of the Travel Channel. I will watch almost anything, from Samantha Brown to Ghost Adventures.  Whatever the hook, I enjoy travel shows because they take you on a journey to someplace you haven’t been, allow you to experience the sites, smells and tastes of a place very different from where you are.

Travel inspires, sparks new ideas, surrounds us in new experiences — literature does the same.  Literature can have such an amazing sense of place, with settings chosen purposefully by an author who found inspiration there.  How interesting is it to consider how location impacts writers, how their own personal journeys influence their work and, ultimately, how we can traverse the same journey on a unique trip of our own.

I’ve had the travel bug for as long as I can remember.  As a child, I never played house or planned fake weddings.  Instead,  I played travel agent.  I would fill out the postcard inserts from my parents’ travel magazines, check off all the boxes, and send away for travel brochures for everywhere in the continental United States.  My parents were often confused why they received multiple mailings for Mississippi river boat cruises, but I just smuggled them into my bedroom and hoarded them away in a desk drawer that almost didn’t close.

As an adult, I travel every chance I can and when I am not traveling I still enjoy watching travel shows on television, constantly planning dream adventures, most of which I will someday take.  In the meantime, I’ve been known to pass an afternoon living vicariously through the Travel Channel. But, as much as I enjoy watching Adam Richman go up against the world’s biggest burger, or watching historic haunted locations through night vision, I think there is a place for literary travelers in the genre as well.  There are so many amazing literary journeys to take and Literary Traveler has the passion, the drive and the wanderlust to be your guide.

Literary Traveler is LIVE on Kickstarter! (29 Days Remaining!)

May 14, 2013 in Fiction, Film, Kickstarter, Literary News, Special Events, Television, Travel to New York City

Dear Literary Travelers,

We are very excited to announce that we are officially LIVE on Kickstarter! Check out our Kickstarter page and be sure to watch our video for more information on this project.  It is sure to be an exciting month for us and we are so happy to have our loyal readers involved in the process.  We urge you to share the project with friends, family and anyone that you think might be interested in learning more about us!

Please check back here for updates on the project.  Throughout the next month, this blog will be Kickstarter central — a place for us to share our progress, ideas, project news and information on the future of the Literary Traveler series.

We are offering some incredible rewards to backers, including Literary Traveler t-shirts and an original art print by our own contributor, Jessica Monk.  We are also offering advanced access to the finished episode, before it becomes available to the general public.  Also, if you have your own blog or social media account, we are offering backers a special opportunity to be featured on LiteraryTraveler.com.  Check out the Kickstarter page for more on these rewards and other amazing incentives.

 

Literary Traveler to Bring Writers’ Journeys to Television

May 4, 2013 in American Authors, American literature, announcements, Classic Literature, Classic Writers, Literary News, Travel, Travel to New York City


Literary Traveler is excited to announce that we are turning our much-loved website into a series for television. We are passionate about the stories we tell, of authors’ lives and the places that inspire them.

Literary Traveler, the series, will be a new thirty-minute program that follows in the footsteps of classic and modern writers, to explore the inspiring places connected to literature’s most popular and acclaimed works, and to make meaning of the lives, struggles and triumphs of famous authors.

These unique stories are presented by visiting places important to the writer, and by taking unique journeys related to that writer’s life, revealing their experiences and inspirations. Each episode will include interviews with experts, popular writers and academic scholars on the writers profiled. We’ll highlight what the journey and places meant for each writer and discuss how viewers can visit locations featured in the program. We’ll also stop to explore interesting places along the way, immersing ourselves in the culture of a particular time and place, as we traverse the challenges the writers faced on their varied paths to success.

Currently we are producing a pilot episode.  We will go in search of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. An iconic novel of the Jazz Age, with settings that range from Louisville, to Long Island, to NYC, we believe that Gatsby provides the perfect entry point for our literary series.

In order to get this venture off the ground, we are taking the project to Kickstarter and asking our fellow literary travelers to help us finance this project. We are excited to launch our Kickstarter project this May, coincidentally corresponding with Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s classic. We want to take a deeper look behind this work and others, and at the places and experiences that contribute to each author’s journey.

Stay tuned for more on our Kickstarter and Literary Traveler, the series. Please join our mailing list to stay apprised of updates. And, as always, thank you for your support!

 

Literary Traveler Spreading the Literary Love on World Book Night!

April 1, 2013 in Literary News, Literature

Hey there, Literary Travelers! Last year on our blog we told you about World Book Night – an amazing event kicking off its second year in the U.S.  Many of you may be familiar with the fabulous organization, which promotes the spreading of book love to light and non-readers far and wide. The basic premise is this: On April 23rd, tens of thousands of “givers” all over the country will be out in their individual communities giving away a combined total of 500,000 free copies of one of 32 titles, ranging from classic literature and biography to YA Fiction, to those who do not consider themselves typically avid readers. World Book Night is a non-profit organization and all of the books are donated, made possible by the generosity of supporters ranging from community volunteers to book publishers.

“Givers” are volunteers, picked to cover a wide range of geographic locations and a variety of community environments. This year 6,200 towns will be represented on World Book Night, up 400 from last year’s event! Givers run the gamut from teachers to authors… to Literary Travelers!

Yes, that’s right. This year, Literary Traveler feels incredibly fortunate to be World Book Night givers! We feel doubly lucky because we will be spreading the love for one of our favorite early twentieth-century authors, Willa Cather, by giving away copies of her celebrated 1918 novel, My Antonia.

We feel a particular affinity for Cather because of her inspiring connection to Place. Many of her novels paint a remarkably vivid picture of early pioneer life on the expanding frontier of the Great Plains. We also feel that Cather’s novel is incredibly accessible and a great way to begin a long lasting love affair with the classics.

Please stay tuned over the next couple months for more on Willa Cather and World Book Night 2013.  In the meantime, check out the Literary Traveler article, “Red Cloud, Nebraska: Willa Cather’s Lifelong Muse.”

Ann Patchett and the Battle for the Bookstores

December 13, 2012 in Bookstores, Contemporary Literature, culture boundaries, Economy, Literary News

As I was driving into work, I heard an unnerving story on the radio. It was about Amazon, the largest corporate book retailer in the world. I listened with trepid curiosity as a caller in support of the company’s expansion went head to head with an owner of a local bookstore. The callers made the age-old arguments that arise when technology challenges the continuance of tradition; one vigorously vying for the convenience of a digital future while the other nostalgically recalled the advantages of our papery past. The latter spoke with some desperation, as if this was her final stand, her last chance to tell her story. She spoke of things beyond the joy of feeling the weight of a book, the smell and feel of paper. ‘The culture is what we’re losing, bookstores have always been what bring readers together.’

I thought about that for a minute. She was absolutely right. Bookstores did bring readers together. Books were not the only casualties of Amazon’s flood into literature; there was a culture at stake. The heart-felt words of the distressed caller made me realize how I had always taken bookstores for granted. I began to mourn the loss of something I had hardly known, and I decided that it was time to visit one before it was too late.

Porter Square Books is one of the most well known independent bookstores in the Boston area, and this is where I began my search for the endangered book culture. The first thing I noticed was the dog bowl at the front door. I had read that dogs were welcome inside the store, and I wished I had brought mine along. Inside, the place was buzzing. Casually dressed employees sorted books and chatted with customers. There was a coffee bar in the corner, and the smell of fresh espresso underscored the vibrant pace of book browsing. Customers filtered into their sections of interest, which were each divided into coves of booked walls. The spaces were so small that people seemed to be bumping into each other all over the place.

Two woman in the Cooking section were discussing recipes they had both found in the same Japenese cook book. In the Travel section, a young man pointed to pictures in a book of ancient ruins and told his mother stories of his experiences abroad. In Classic Literature, an employee was describing Thoreau’s majestic sketches of a New England Fall to a man who seemed to be salivating for such a literary feast.

I wandered around haphazardly, eavesdropping and browsing the shelves. Though it wasn’t quite a library, everybody kept their voices down and smiled at each other, like they were all in on the secret. They seemed very much a small society of booklovers in their place of worship, and I felt like a welcome guest.

I bought a few moleskins and a map of the United States. It wasn’t much, but it felt good to make any contribution. On my way out, I noticed a calendar marked with events. Every week had three or four authors coming in to lead discussions and sign books. I scribbled down a few dates and names and told myself that next time I’d bring my dog.

Ann Patchett, author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder, has recently opened up her own bookstore and taken advantage of her publicity to uphold the cause. After losing an independent bookstore she had cherished since childhood, Patchett decided to take matters into her own hands and recreate a literary sanctum for her community in Nashville, TN. She recognizes that the value of a bookstore is embodied in the community it creates (and visa versa).

Patchett wrote an article for The Atlantic, in which she tells us just how badly bookstores have suffered, and why there is still hope for them. “Now that we could order a book at any hour without having to leave the screen in front of us, we realized what we had lost: the community center, the human interaction, the recommendation of a smart reader rather than a computer algorithm.”

I agreed heartily before, but did not understand her distress until, like the woman I heard on the radio, Patchett began to wax prophetic. “I promised whoever was listening that from those very ashes, the small independent bookstore would arise.”

My experience in Porter Square was brief, but it was enough to make me understand why bookstores might be worth fighting for. Patchett finishes the interview with a plea to the consumer, and a resounding cry for book people to unite and make their voices heard over the cranking of Amazon’s assembly lines. “Amazon doesn’t get to make all the decisions; the people can make them, by choosing how and where they spend their money. If what a bookstore offers matters to you, then shop at a bookstore. If you feel that the experience of reading a book is valuable, then read a book. This is how we change the world: We grab hold of it. We change ourselves.”

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