Bookwoman Logo
ContentsVol 78  Number 4
Summer 2015
Like us on Facebook  Follow us on Twitter  View our profile on LinkedIn  
WNBA Awards Season. . . Pannell Awards. . .Third Annual Writing Contest . . . 2015 WNBA Award. . .
PresidentPresident's Letter

Dear WNBA members,


This is such a great time of year to watch our newsfeeds and see accolades spreading far and wide, e.g., WNBA's Pannell Awards presented at Book Expo America, May 29, (see pictures below) and the 2015 WNBA Award, which was presented to Amy King, June 6, at WNBA's national meeting in New Orleans.  

WNBA Award Chair, NC Weil (DC) & Amy King 
(Photo by Ann Benoit

We also find out the winners of the Boston chapter's Dorothy O'Connor Award, New Orleans's Pinckley Prize, and the WNBA Writing Contest. Congratulations to all our winners! We are so proud to be able to reward excellent work in many different areas of the book world.


And this is also a time to remind our members who are writers, to keep submitting. Women writers in particular often don't resubmit articles or stories, even when explicitly asked to do so. Clients I've worked with have given up on finding an agent after fewer than twenty rejections. This isn't just my opinion, it's been discussed here and here and here.


Last week, I was explaining to my intern why a client is hoping for personalized rejections. We discussed why those are good: we can take advice and constructive criticism from them, edit, and improve the submission for the next agent. In the midst of this conversation, I received a phone call. The HR rep stated, "We are going with an internal hire." Now, in real time, without preparation, I had to model for this impressionable 21-year-old, the right way to handle rejection. I said, "Thank you. I appreciate you letting me know." And, "Yes, of course they can keep my application on file." Then I hung up, and my intern and I moved on, spending the rest of the day figuring out how to improve my website's content to attract more clients.  


I hope the lesson she learned is that regardless of preparation, qualifications, and earnest desire, rejection is rarely personal; accept it, take any lessons you can, and move on to the next opportunity. You can't reject yourself on their behalf or you'll never get anywhere. You have to give people a chance to reject you, or you'll definitely never get the job, win the award, or get published. Hearing "no thanks," however it is communicated, is nonetheless one of the literary world's biggest teachers and motivators.


So while I congratulate all our winners, I would like to applaud them not just for winning, but for trying; for submitting, for taking a risk, for being open to criticism and rejection. That takes guts, but that's what it takes to get anywhere. I challenge our members to step up to the plate. Next year we should have twice as many entries in our writing contest, and three times as many nominated bookstores for the Pannell Awards. Judging this many entries will be a problem we'd love to tackle.  


So women (and men!), shake it up, put something out there, submit and join the conversation. You just might find an acceptance, or a rejection. Either way you win.  




Carin Siegfried (Charlotte)

WNBA National President 

GGR Logo
In this issue . . .

President's Letter 

Pannell Awards presented at Book Expo America 2015 

WNBA's 2015 Writing Contest Winners Announced 

Chapter News
* Boston
* Charlotte
* Washington, DC
* Detroit
* Los Angeles
* Nashville
* New Orleans
* New York City
* San Francisco
* Seattle
* South Florida 

Meet a Member 
Fatima Shaik(NYC) talks about her new book and her activity with the PEN organization. 

UN Corner
Compiled and edited by Jill A. Tardiff (NYC)

From the editors
Exciting changes are coming to The Bookwoman

WNBA's Executive Officers
Carin Siegfried (Charlotte)
VP/President Elect
Jane Kinney-Denning (NYC)

Shannon Janeczek (Detroit)

Gloria Toler (Nashville) 

Past President
Valerie Tomaselli (NYC)  

For further information on the national board, chapter, presidents, committee chairs, please go to the WNBA website.
Sustaining Members
Pannell2015WNBA Pannell Awards at Book Expo America 2015
The presentation of this year's Pannell Awards took place May 29, at Book Expo 2015 in New York.

Anderson's Bookshop of Naperville, Illinois won in the General Bookstore category, and Once Upon a Time Bookstore took the prize in the Children's Bookstore category.

Along with WNBA, Penguin Young Readers Group co-sponsors the Pannell Awards, which recognizes bookstores that enhance their communities by bringing exceptional creativity to foster a love of reading. Given annually at BookExpo America's Children's Book and Author Breakfast, the winning stores each receive a check for $1,000 and a piece of original art from a children's book illustrator.

From left to right: Cheryl Willis Hudson (juror), Sally M. Kim (co-chair), Kris Vreeland and Maureen Palacios (Once Upon a
Time Bookstore, winner in children's specialty bookstore category), Susan Knopf (co-chair), Josalyn Moran (juror).
Not shown: Becky Anderson (Photo courtesy of Cheryl Willis Hudson.)

For more about this year's Pannell Awards, please see our website. 

Contest2015 WNBA Writing Contest Winners

The contest began August 15, 2014 and ended January 15, 2015


Poetry: Diana Whitney for "Curiosity"

Fiction: Allison Har-zvi for "If You're Ready"

Creative Non-Fiction/Memoir: Diane Kraynak for "Science Project"


A complete list of winners and runners-up is available on our website.


Contest Anthology out this week! 

Chapter News


New Board of WNBA-Boston  

& The Dorothy O'Connor Award 2015 


Co-Presidents: Amaryah Orenstein, Nancy Rubin Stuart

Vice President: Jan Krause Greene

Membership Chair: Katherine Flynn

Treasurer: Morgan Hillman

Corresponding Secretary: Chris Melchior

Recording Secretary: Leslie Nyman

Members-at-Large: Nicole Angeloro, Lisa Braxton, Maryellen Clement, Maria Marrero, Deborah Milstein, Mary Wasmuth

Executive Assistant: Ann-Kathrin Michaelis


We'd like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who served before us--especially to treasurer Katherine Dibble, membership chair Dawn Rennert

and literary calendar editor Karen Roach, who served years beyond their terms expired.


Alysia Abbott
We¹d also like to congratulate Alysia Abbott, recipient of the 2015 Dorothy O'Connor Award for her article, "Jenny McCarthy Is a Scourge of the Autism Community, not a Crusader." This award honors a Boston-area woman who publishes an article of community interest in the spirit of the late Dorothy O'Connor, a schoolteacher and staffer at The Melrose Mirror, an electronic newspaper founded by a group of senior citizens.
Alysia's piece was published in Dame Magazine on January 8, 2014. Alysia's articles have appeared in the nation's leading publications and she is also the author of Fairyland, A Memoir of My Father. Thanks to WNBA member Daphne Kalotay for nominating Alysia and bringing this important work to our attention. (PDF of press release here.) 


The Boston chapters of the WNBA and the National Writers Union held their annual "Meet the Agent" event on May 13, at the Boston Public Library. Literary agents were Katherine Flynn (Kneerim, Williams & Bloom) and Amaryah Orenstein (GO Literary).  


Member News 


Margot Livesey and Patricia Park discussed Park's new novel, Re Jane, at the Harvard Book Store, on May 11.  


Anjali Mitter Duva signed copies of her  book, Faint Promise of Rain, at the Boston Public Library--South End branch, on May 12.   


Report by Nancy Rubin Stuart

Back to top 

 DCWashington, DC


WNBA-DC Celebrates National Poetry Month

By Carolinda Hales


For National Poetry Month, longtime WNBA-DC members, Ellen Compton and Roberta Beary, discussed haiku--its traditions, focuses, and rules of format--and read some of their own. Both are honor-winning poets; Roberta is an editor of Modern Haiku and founding associate of The Haiku Foundation, while Ellen has co-edited four haiku anthologies and helped found and lead Washington's 20-year-old Towpath Haiku Society.


Ellen explained haiku is written differently outside Japan--the traditional three-line 5/7/5 syllables is not consistently used in English-speaking countries due to syllable length and rhythm. Matsuo Basho, famed 17th-century poet, described haiku as "a one-breath poem." To achieve this, 2 beats/3 /2 (12 syllables) works well in English. Traditional haiku focuses on nature, shows doesn't tell, and uses no polemics.  


Ellen read from her book Gathering Dust, newly released by Snapshot Press:

                        "tomato summer -

                        the sun on my tongue"

which made everyone smile.


Roberta described two variations: haibun, a prose poem combining prose and haiku, and renku, 36 haiku sequences composed by multiple authors. Her book The Unworn Necklace, a William Carlos Williams Finalist by the Poetry Society of America in 2008 (the first book of haiku so honored), is now in paper and in its fourth printing.


In his introduction to Haiku in English: The First Hundred Years, poet Billy Collins quotes haiku devotee Jack Kerouac with regard to "found haiku": Kerouac thought one could find haiku in many other forms of writing, exclaiming that, for example, there are "a million haiku in the Great Emily Dickinson!"


(Excerpted from a longer article slated to appear in WNBA-DC's next Signature.)


Report by N.C. Weil 



RX for Reading Detroit


April was a busy month for WNBA Detroit, with a visit to the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle, followed by dinner at the Detroit Yacht Club. Our docent gave a fascinating talk about everything from the geology of the Great Lakes to the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Two weeks later we convened at the Scarab Club to hear Angela Flournoy read from her debut novel, The Turner House, featuring a 13-child clan growing up in Detroit. A private artist's club organized in 1907, the Scarab Club is one of Michigan's finest venues for art, music and literature.


We are pleased to announce our latest literacy donation of $500 to one of Detroit's newest programs for children, RX for Reading Detroit, organized in 2014 by University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) English professor, Mary-Catherine Harrison. "Raising Readers, One Book at a Time"; this group is distributing new and gently-used books throughout Detroit to health clinics, schools, homeless shelters and Head Start Programs.


Children who visit one of these locations are allowed to choose a book to take home and keep, or return on their next visit to exchange for a different title. During the 2014-2015 academic year, RX for Reading distributed more than 7,500 books, in partnership with the national literacy non-profit, First Book, which has distributed more than 120 million books to U.S. and Canadian families. In addition to raising funds for new books, UDM students are partnering with kids to model their love of reading.   


Member News


Margaret Auer, Detroit treasurer and past national president, has been elected to the board of directors of the Michigan Academic Library Association (MIALA). She has also announced her intention to retire later this year from her post as Dean of University Libraries and Instructional Technology at the University of Detroit Mercy. A national search for her replacement is underway.


Tanya Davidson, awards chair, and husband Russell, Detroit's webmaster, welcomed baby Sylvia Evelyn Agnes, little sister to Hannah Winifred Katherine, age four. Congratulations to the entire family and a special salute to our newest little Bookwoman!


Report by Willetta Heising 

SF2San Francisco


Poetry at Copperfield's Books
& Pitch-O-Rama 2015

Networking is one of the chief benefits of membership in our chapter. The month of April provided a good example: A terrific poetry event at Copperfield's Books in Santa Rosa was set up by two members, one a poet and one a bookseller, who met at the WNBA exhibit table at San Francisco Writers Conference in February.  


This was a win-win situation for both since Joan Gelfand invited a fellow poet and WNBA member, Mary Mackey, who invited her associate, Indigo Moor. Joan further reached out to a local poet laureate, Terry Ehret. Collaborative planning and promotion made this a hit. Thanks to Joan Gelfand and Vicki DeArmon, Marketing Director for Copperfield's Books (seven stores in the North Bay), for a fabulous literary event during National Poetry Month!

  Left to right: Vicki DeArmon, Mary Mackey, Indigo Moor, Kate Farrell, Terry Ehret, and Joan Gelfand.


Our 12th Annual Pitch-O-Rama: Meet the Agents and Editors achieved a new scale of success, since it was held in the vast auditorium of the historic Women's Building in San Francisco. This much larger space allowed for easy mingling and pitching so that everyone could be heard-above the clamor. We also utilized the balcony for pre-pitch coaching sessions. Many agents and editors requested first pages and proposals. We were pleased to partner once again with the Women's Building staff who promoted it on their website and attracted some community members to the event. Location can be everything; we positioned the event in the heart of the Mission District, an area quickly becoming the hip literary center of San Francisco.


Left to right: Amy Cloughley, literary agent,
Kimberley Cameron, and attendees.


 Member News


Meg Waite Clayton's fifth novel, The Race for Paris, will be released by HarperCollins on August 11. Meg will be doing events throughout California. Please come say hi!


Martha Conway's novel

Thieving Forestrecently won the North American Book Award for Best Historical Fiction; Martha is also an instructor for Stanford's Online Writer's Studio.


Joan Steidinger is a Finalist in Foreword Reviews' INDIEFAB Book of the Year Awards, Women's Studies Category for Sisterhood in Sports: How Female Athletes Collaborate and Compete.


Report by Kate Farrell

Back to top 



WNBA Sponsors PEN/Faulker Winner Author Event


On April 15 Seattle WNBA and Seattle's venerable writing venue, Hugo House, sponsored PEN/Faulkner winner Atticus Lish at the University Book Store. Lish was interviewed by literary critic and reporter, Paul Constant, and read from and discussed his novel, Preparation for the Next Life.


Left to right: Paul Constant, Atticus Lish, Linda Gray (Seattle),
Leslie Adams (Seattle)

The novel is a gritty, poignant love story between a young Chinese Muslim woman fearing deportation and an Iraq War veteran fresh out of the infantry. It is a brilliant narrative about dispossessed, struggling people in America who want to fit in and do well but who are facing near-impossible odds.


During the discussion, Constant pointed out that the novel has been described as "an indictment of the American dream" but Lish doesn't agree. He said that as he wrote, he was thinking specifically about the shift of authority that took place around Homeland Security following 9/11, about the effect on immigrants of detention and imprisonment, and about the lives of the soldiers who returned from the Iraq wars.


One of the many poignant comments Lish made about his story motivation was that his research led him to talk with many veterans of the Iraq wars, and he learned how dirty infantry life is, about the need to carry basic essentials in a heavy pack, about the lack of basic sanitation, and about the constant danger.


These conditions are essentially the conditions of homelessness. Lish remarked that it is probably not a coincidence that many currently homeless men were once soldiers.


Well worth a read!


Report by Linda Gray & Anne Pound 

SoFl South Florida
SOFL's Kick-Off Party!

WNBA-SOFL had an awesome "Kick-Off Charter Membership Party." The event took place at Murder on the Beach Bookstore, Delray Beach, April 30. 27 incredibly talented women joined that night, 15 more expected to hop on board!

Diane Callon, treasurer, with gourmet cupcakes.

Hospitality Chair Rosemary Hillery, and Treasurer Diane Callon, made the night memorable with their smiles and delicious food.

Put your sunscreen on, WNBA, SOFL is sizzling!

Michelle Putnik


Meet the Authors and Summer Reads 


In April, the chapter hosted a "Meet the Authors" event with Karen White, David Joy, Leigh Ann Henion, Susan M. Boyer, and Marianne Gingher in attendance. There were lots of laughs as the authors read from their books and shared some hilarious personal anecdotes.


Left to right: Lee Anne Henion, Marianne Gingher, David Joy, Susan M. Boyer and Karen White 
 (Photo credit: Emily Pearce)


On May 11th, chapter member and owner of Park Road Books, Sally Brewster, shared her top picks in new releases for the summer, including Kate Atkinson's A God in Ruins and local Charlotte author Renee Ahdieh's The Wrath and the Dawn.


Anne Weisgarber at Park Road Books
(Photo credit: Daniel Coston)


On June 2nd, we closed out the 2014-15 season with a visit from GGR author Anne Weisgarber, during which she filled us in on the fascinating historical facts behind her novel, The Promise.

Report by Tina Saidak
LA2Los Angeles


LA Times Festival of Books, Literary Tea  

& Reading to Kids 


The LA Times Festival of Books attracts about 150,000 people every year to the University of Southern California campus...and this year WNBA/LA was there! We used to have a booth years ago, but the price became prohibitive and so we limited ourselves to the smaller book fair in West Hollywood...until executive board member Ruth Garcia-Coralles put us in touch with her contact at the LA Times and...voila!  




We used the booth to publicize our chapter, and invited chapter members to share the space to publicize their books and activities. We had a great time, and we hope to have an even larger booth next year. 


Our April "Literary Tea" featured three extraordinary authors at chapter member Joan Jackson's home. Attendees were treated to readings and conversations with Meredith Maran, A Theory of Small Earthquakes; Dana Johnson, Elsewhere, CA; and Lisa Doctor, Accidental Poetry: Improve Your English Through Creative Writing.  


And finally, we are gearing up for a summer of children! Chapter members will be volunteering their time every Saturday all summer long to read to kids from the Hispanic community. This program is sponsored by Curacao, the large-format retail department store chain, and WNBA/LA will provide the readers for the second summer in a row.  


Member News


Lisa-Catherine Cohen with actor/author/storyteller, Annie Korzen, co-facilitated their second--now annual--seminar for Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) in March, coaching writers to read their work more compellingly. She co-produces and hosts "The Writer's Voice" for WNBA/LA coming this June!

Conny Hutchinson's Foothold in the Mountain will be  showcased at the Beverly Hills Library this summer with a lecture and audience participation. Judith Palarz, noted book club facilitator, will lead an exploration of Hutchinson's intentions in an entertaining and informative manner.

Jovita Jenkins, presented a seminar "Building Strategic Relationships for Career Success" at the Ready to Lead Women's Conference on May 15. Jovita has a long history as a corporate leader and educator, and is the author of Get Out of Your Own Way.

Farzana Marie hosted Afghan poet Somaia Ramish for  a spring book tour of just-released Load Poems Like Guns: Women's Poetry from Herat, Afghanistan. Readings included the Tucson Festival of Books, as well as campuses, homes, and bookstores in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Marian Silverman offered a 90-minute lecture "Taking the Risk of Writing Memoir" at Rancho Park Library on March 28 to a full house. She read excerpts from her published collection.


Report by Ruth Light 



History of the Civil Rights Movement in Nashville

Dwight Lewis, former Tennessean columnist, spoke at our February meeting on the Civil Rights movement in Nashville during the 1950s and 60s.
Dwight Lewis and Gail Vinett (Nashville)

In addition to an interesting discussion of what was happening in Nashville, he arranged for Fred Gray, prominent attorney during the Civil Rights movement, to speak to us via phone from his home in Alabama.

Mr. Lewis also shared some book suggestions for anyone wanting to explore further: Parting the Waters and Pillar of Fire, by Taylor Branch; Freedom Riders, by Raymond Arsenault; Bus Ride to Justice, by Fred Gray; The Children, by David Halberstam; Robert Churchwell: Writing News, Making History--A Savannah Green Story, by Gloria Respress-Churchwell and Michael McBride; and Walking With the Wind, by John Lewis and Michael D'Orso.

Member News

Pat Ballard's latest book, Adam & Evelyn, has been  released by Pearlsong Press.


Mary Mills Barrow's Small Moments is a finalist in the Young Adult category of the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Midwest Book Awards. The competition is sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association and judged by experts from all aspects of the book world.


Shana Thornton has published Poke Sallet Queen & the Family Medicine Wheel. The novel offers a look into the superstitions and changes of a Middle Tennessee family from the 1920s to the twenty-first century.  


Amy Lyles Wilson will teach a workshop entitled "The Language of Loss: Putting Grief into Words," at the Chautauqua Institution this summer.


Report by Amy Lyles Wilson

Back to top 

NOLANew Orleans

WNBA-NOLA on Facebook


The Millage Election, The Pinckley Prizes  

& Little Free Library!


It's been a good spring for the New Orleans chapter. In February, we met at the New Orleans Museum of Art Library, with special guest, New Orleans Public Library director Charles Brown, to give us some

background information about the May 2 millage election. Charles explained the library's long history of underfunding, the high stakes for the millage election, and answered questions. (The millage won by a 50% margin.)


Our big event in March was the presentation of the second Pinckley Prizes for Crime Fiction during the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. Nevada Barr received the Prize for Distinguished Body of Work, and Adrianne Harun received the Prize for Debut novel for her book, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain. The event was held March 26 in the historic Beauregard-Keyes House in the French Quarter, home of one of New Orleans's best-known women writers, Francis Parkinson-Keyes. The prizes honor founding member Diana Pinckley, longtime mystery columnist for The Times-Picayune.


In April, chapter member Steve Beisner presented a program on the new software options for writers, and we all left the meeting inspired to go buy thumb drives and back up regularly! In May, our special guest was Todd Bol, co-founder of Little Free Libraries, who was in town with Margret Aldrich, author of The Little Free Library Book. Member Linda Prout, ambassador for Little Free Libraries hosted a potluck dinner for Little Free Library stewards and users.

Finally, we hosted WNBA's annual meeting here in New Orleans. Photos and information on the national Facebook page.

Member News


Moira Crone's Ice Garden won a gold medal for Southeast-Best Regional Fiction in the Independent Publishers Regional and E-book Awards.  


Laura Kelley's The Irish in New Orleans won a bronze in Regional Nonfiction.



Laura Lane McNeal's novel Dollbaby is a finalist for the SIBA Book Awards, to be announced July 4.  



Report by Ann Benoit 

NYC2New York City 


The Intersection of Literary and Commercial Fiction,  How to Sell Your Book and Our Annual Meeting on a Tribeca Rooftop!  


Like bees to honey, writers swarmed the Lilian Vernon Creative Writers House to attend a panel on "Exploring the Intersection of Literary and Commercial Fiction" held on March 27.


Cosponsored by the WNBA-NYC and NYU's Creative Writing Program, the panelists shared their honest opinions and offered the audience great advice about the publishing industry. Moderated by NYC's Harriet Shenkman, panelists included: Amy Einhorn, Flatiron Books; Seth Fishman, Gernert Company; Melissa Flashman, Trident Media Group; Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor.  


"You Wrote It, Now You Have to SELL It! Sales, Marketing & Publicity in Today's Publishing Climate" took place on April 23rd at Wix Lounge, where authors learned how to market and sell their work. But most importantly, it helped authors understand how they can effectively help sell their book. Panelists included: Penny Anna Makras, HarperCollins; Michelle Blankenship, Blankenship Public Relations; Lori Shurtz, Penguin Random House Publisher Services; Darcie Rowan, Darcie Rowan PR and Social Media, moderated by NYC's Melissa Rosati.


On April 8th, "Women Executives in Publishing," was a joint venture with the AAP's Young to Publishing Group. A big thank you to Annie Stone, and to Becca Worthington at the AAP.


Lastly, we held our annual meeting and networking party at a fabulous rooftop location in Tribeca. It was a beautiful evening and a great opportunity to reflect on all of our accomplishments of the last year--13 events!. We voted in Annie Stone to the executive board as the VP/Programming, Andrea Baron as treasurer and Melissa Rosati as VP/Communications.

Member News

Andrea Baron has started a new business, Shearwater Indexing. She and partner Bob Schwarz have over 40 years of combined publishing experience, writing back-of-book indexes for general and scholarly works. For more information, contact Andrea at:

Bracha Nechama Bomze had her book launch for Love Justiceon Saturday, April 18, at Book Culture, NYC.
Celine Keating's new novel Play for Me was released by She Writes Press in April. Celine's book launch was held on May 1st at Book Culture, NYC.  @celinekeating

Melissa A. Rosati launched her new publishing imprint Red Lotus Studio Press. The first two titles are by Susan M. Tiberghien. Footsteps: In Love with a Frenchman and Side by Side: Writing Your Love Story. Both released in print and e-book formats.

Fatima Shaik moderated "Stories that Traveled" a PEN World Voices Festival at Nuyrican Cafe in NYC, May 6. Fatima also has a new collection of short stories, What Went Missing and What Got Found available August 29. See member interview with Fatima below.  

Laura Silver appeared on Slate's The Gist podcast: We Dish on the Knish. (Knish clip starts at 10:35 into the episode). Laura's book Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food is published by Brandeis Press.   @knishme

Marlene Veloso was featured in Rutgers Today for her work as a fiction writer and literacy advocate. @MarleneVeloso

 Report by Jane Denning & Melissa Rosati 

TWSMeet a Member
Rhona Whitty interviews Fatima Shaik (NYC)
Rhona Whitty

Fatima Shaik is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Media Culture at Saint Peter's University in Jersey City, NJ. She is a board member of the PEN American Center as co-chair of Children's and Young Adult Books Committee. She is an author, most recently, of a collection of short stories called What Went Missing and What Got Found (Xavier Review Press) set in her native New Orleans (available for pre-order on Amazon. The book is a lyrical, sympathetic look at the kind of people often overlooked in literary fiction. Quirky characters abound in a collection of stories that you will read nowhere else. Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and deeply moving, all are brought vividly to life, as is the great city of New Orleans. (You can read an excerpt here.) 


Rhona: Hi Fatima, thank you so much for doing this interview. You've already had a busy year and it's only June, but let's start with your new book of short stories. (Which I've read twice and absolutely loved!) What inspired them? And please tell us why the setting is so important.


Fatima Shaik 

Fatima: It's a backdrop that I know very well and my favorite writers had settings that were special to them like Baldwin's Harlem or Marquez' Macondo. I didn't have to invent New Orleans, just amplify parts of it. I can add New Orleans is the setting for most of the stories in this collection--also NY--but as you will see in the future, the book will branch out from the city just as people flow in and out of the city. In coming books, France, Mexico and Haiti.


Rhona: As I said in the introduction, this collection centers on the lives of common people, and it's a philosophical look at their lives. You write lovingly about all of the characters, even those who aren't likeable. What is it that compelled you to tell their stories?


Fatima: I always wanted to write with empathy about the people I recognized by considering their inner workings. They are too often stereotyped in literature and ignored in real life--for example, the women who turn down the beds in the tourist hotels. Who thinks about their families? Their dreams? Their love lives?


Also, Chimmanda Adichie at the 2015 PEN World Voices Festival said that readers need a range of stories with all kinds of people, and all characters do not need to be "likeable." She explained that from a broader perspective it's another way of stereotyping literature. Just as we ask girls to be "good" we ask women writers for "likeable" characters. Maybe I can try to write a little differently.


Rhona: I'm curious as to why you chose to publish with Xavier Review Press. Did your agent at Curtis Brown circulate the stories to mainstream publishers?


Fatima: I sent the book to only two publishers and I chose Xavier because of the speed of publication. I wanted the book out by the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.  


Rhona: Were there any downsides to choosing a university press? What about marketing the book? Publicity?


Fatima: In the United States, there may be a tendency to show less attention to a university book because the expectation is that the audience is smaller. That's a market-based view of publishing. I've surmised from my teaching media for the past two decades that trade books and university books may sell comparably in some areas like short stories and poetry. A small, university press may have no marketing "team" but as a result writers have more creative leeway. At least in my case. And there is always the enduring hope that readers will come to good writing.


Rhona: You are an active member in the PEN American Center as co-chair of the Children and Young Adult Books Committee. Tell us a little about this year's World Voices Festival and your involvement in it.


Fatima: This year I moderated a panel called "Stories That Traveled" for the festival. I was lucky enough to talk to a storyteller (Baba Wagué Diakité) from Mali, a former state poet Laureate and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (Marilyn Nelson) and a Nigerian-American speculative fiction writer (Nnedi Okorafor). What a conversation! We talked about the ways stories traveled from traditional African morality tales to African-American literature to the fantasy in contemporary writing.


Rhona: Why is it important to you to be involved in organizations like PEN? Are you a member of any other groups like that?


Fatima: We're interested in the ability of writers to work freely without censorship and in readers' access to diverse, truthful literature. Right now, I'm pretty booked with my involvement in them, and in writing and work. But I was a member of Third World Writers about 30 years ago, and active in the National Association of Black Journalists. I'm still a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, and of course WNBA. And I don't consider myself a "joiner." I just feel that a person should speak out, get involved and move things forward in positive ways.


Rhona: As far as the media is concerned, it seems as if New Orleans is back on its feet now. Is this what you see when you travel back there?


Fatima: Is New Orleans back, hmmm. Let's just say it was never flat on its feet; it was always tottering a bit like the deck of a boat, and that's the way we liked it. Seriously though, the architecture and structure--the material world of New Orleans--is well under repair. In general, people are no longer wandering. It is related to economics. If a person was well-off before, she is probably fine now. She had insurance and access. She probably owned her home. If a person was poor, she is probably still mightily struggling. But the beauty of New Orleans for everyone was the network of friends and family that helped with emotional, moral and financial support. That network is full of holes. So no matter how beautifully reconstructed a person's house may be, there are always many empty seats at the dinner table now. It will be like that for a generation.


Rhona: What can the rest of the country, WNBA-ers in particular, do to help?


Fatima: The best ways to help are to fill the seats. Don't just send money to New Orleans, go there and talk to people. Eat at the restaurants. Laugh out loud with the residents. Support the writing festivals and buy from the bookstores (yes, online is OK). I'll be at the Louisiana Book Festival in October. You can also help the libraries. The PEN Children and Young Adults Book Committee has been sending authors to the Martin Luther King Jr. School for Science and Technology in the Lower 9th Ward since 2006.


Rhona: You'll spend the rest of the summer getting the word out about your book. What are your plans after that? Are you working on a new book?


Fatima: Always working on a new book. Occupational hazard.


Rhona: Thank you so much for speaking with us Fatima. Let's make a date for you to come back after your next book.


If you're interested in being interviewed for this column or would like to suggest a fellow WNBA-er, please get in touch with us at: 


Back to top  

UNCorner  UN Corner
The Women's National Book Association is a NGO associated with the 
United Nations Department of Public Information
Compiled and edited by Jill A. TardiffJill Tardiff
WNBA NGO Main Representative at the United Nations (UN) 
Department of Public Information (DPI)

Nepal Earthquake 2015 Update


UN Wire (8 May 2015)

UN official: Nepal relief funds need to be "ramped up"

Daily communiqués can be found at


Nepal earthquake highlights need for solar-energy solutions

From Greentech: How Solar Is Playing a Role in Nepal's Disaster Relief by Katherine Tweed (4 May 2015)


Nepal and its people will require care and attention for months to come. Please consider these and other groups soliciting donations: 


Be in the know with:



The United Nations Live & On-demand 24 Hour Live and Pre-recorded Programming

Meetings & Events; Media; News & Features; Topics & Issues

The UN Web TV Channel is available 24 hours a day with selected live programming of United Nations meetings and events as well as with pre-recorded video features and documentaries on various global issues.


3 March 2015

Ban Ki-moon, On the Occasion International Women's Day 2015


14 April 2015

UN chief appoints actor Daniel Craig as Global Mine Action Advocate


United Nations Department of Political Affairs

Weekly Summary of DPA Features - Politically Speaking is the online magazine of DPA.

Check out these stories at:



World Press Freedom Day 2015     

3 May 2015

Let Journalism Thrive! Towards Better Reporting, Gender Equality & Media Safety in the Digital Age


Co-hosted by UNESCO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Riga; Latvia (2-4 May 2015)  




UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize

Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish winner of UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize 2015


Department of Public Information Celebrates World Press Freedom Day at Weekly Briefing


World Press Freedom Day 2015 via UN News Centre

Related Stories


Youth Reps Second Meeting 


7 May 2015 FANCV participation at the Youth Reps Second Meeting.  Fancv Camino A la Verdad Video Conference UNHQ/Argentina: Maria De La Cruz De La Rubia and Andrea Borges Herrera. Former Chief DPI/NGO Section: Maria Luisa Chavez; Public Information Officer DPI/NGO: Hawa Taylor-Kamara Diallo; UN DPI/NGO Youth Representatives: Dena Mekawi (second from left) and Caitlin Morrow (fourth from left, center) and 2 others.  





Back to top 

Editors2From the Editors
We are planning some big changes to the newsletter next season and we will be sending out a call for submissions to The Whole Story, our popular column about the teams behind the books on the shelf, and a new column, Behind the Curtain, which will feature interviews with publishing industry insiders. We are bringing back the Meet a Member interviews, beginning with this issue, and we'll also be doing more book reviews.

So, if you are a WNBA member in good standing and have contributed to a new or upcoming book, or if you are a publishing professional and would like to share details of your work with your fellow members; if you would like to be interviewed or suggest a fellow WNBA-er, or if you're interested in writing book reviews, please get in touch with us at:

In the meantime, look out for the Contest Anthology, which will be out in a few days, and if you haven't read it already, do check out Jane Kinney-Denning's interview of Amy King, our 2015 WNBA Award winner.

We wish you a wonderful summer filled with good books and the time to enjoy them!

Rhona Whitty (NYC) -- Editor
Nicole Ayers (NC) -- Assistant editor
Tracy Sottosanti (NC) -- Assistant editor
Gloria Toler (Nashville) -- Copy editor   

Back to top 
CopyrightImportant Copyright Information for Contributors
We only accept articles written by the author or copyright holder. The Bookwoman, website, and other publications of the Women's National Book Association adhere to all local, national and international copyright laws. By submitting an article to us you are granting permission for its use on our website in our resource library (articles), in our member resources area and/or in our magazine and newsletters. Contributing authors retain all copyrights to their individual works.