Win a book gift card from Bottlecap Press

Bottlecap Press, the publisher of my book “On that one-way trip to Mars,” is holding a gift card giveaway!

For a chance to win a $100 gift card, tweet a picture of your favorite Bottlecap poem by March 31 — and be sure to tag them at @BottlecapPress.

You could tweet one of mine or plenty of other great Bottlecap poets for a chance to win!

My book is on sale for the holiday weekend

Bottlecapsule 2015-2016 Anthology
Bottlecapsule 2015-2016 Anthology

Bottlecap Press, the publisher of my book “On that one-way trip to Mars,” has a 2015-2016 anthology available for a limited time only (through Monday)!

The anthology features new and old work from several Bottlecap Press authors, plus letters from all of us to the readers. It’s a great way to sample tons of Bottlecap Press authors at once!

I’m honored to be included with these great writers. Make sure to get your copy this weekend before this amazing anthology goes away.

Bottlecap Press is also having a holiday sale through Monday. All books are 20% offincluding mine for $9.60! Books make a great gift, so consider buying some for the readers in your life.

First ever DC Art Book Fair 📚 🎨

Hannah and I tabled at the first ever DC Art Book Fair in November.
Hannah and I tabled at the first ever D.C. Art Book Fair in November.

Last weekend, my sister Hannah and I tabled at the first ever D.C. Art Book Fair at Lab 1270 in Washington, D.C. We were so grateful and excited to be a part of the first fair!

The other tablers were diverse and talented. They sold handmade art, books, comics, feminist zines, poetry, posters of reimagined cartoon characters from the Rugrats and Hey Arnold, pins, patches, and more. Each table was unique and one tabler (Lenora Yerkes) even set up a lounge space to read, chat, or browse her art.

Hannah sold quite a few journals and a large-format handcut brain (pictured above with a red background). I also sold a few copies of “On that one-way trip to Mars.”

If you couldn’t make it out to the fair, you can view and purchase Hannah’s work on Etsy. She also commissions pieces for any style, color, and size you want. You can always purchase my book here.

Hannah Renae photo Etsy shop
Hannah sells handcut journals and books on her Etsy shop.

About 1,000 people showed up for the fair, which was way larger than any crowd I was imagining! It was amazing to see people in D.C. gathering for such an eclectic mix of books and art — it definitely seemed more like something you would find in New York, Philly, or Baltimore. But this happened in D.C. — and everyone attending seemed to wander, linger, and enjoy.

I can’t wait for the next D.C. Art Book Fair!

Book Blastoff Party! 🚀

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My book launch party is this Friday, July 15, at Walls of Books in Washington, D.C.

If you’re in the D.C. area, be sure to come out for a night of reading and space exploration. I’m celebrating my first collection of poetry, On that one-way trip to Mars from Bottlecap Press!

There will be drinks, snacks, and readings from several local writers! And the book will be available for purchase or you can always buy it online.

In addition to hearing poems from my new book, we’re being graced with several amazing local writers! I’m so excited to be reading with them.

  • Tara Campbell is a Washington, D.C.-based writer of crossover sci-fi. With a B.A. in English and an M.A. in German Language and Literature, she has a demonstrated aversion to money and power. Previous publication credits include stories in Barrelhouse, Punchnel’s, Toasted Cake Podcast, Luna Station Quarterly, SciFi Romance Quarterly, Masters Review and Queen Mob’s Teahouse.
  • Meg Eden’s work has been published in various magazines, including Rattle, Drunken Boat, Poet Lore, and Gargoyle. She teaches at the University of Maryland. She has four poetry chapbooks, and her novel Post-High School Reality Quest is forthcoming from California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Lit.
  • Grace Pasco is an Asian-American spoken-word poet from Silver Spring, Md. She writes poetry to translate emotions, package experiences, and … to play! You can reach her at gspasco@gmail.com. Her work has been published with Inkstain Press, The Passed Note, Lost Tower Publications, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Algebra of Owls, and The Opus Journal. Find her on Instagram at thisgirlgrace.
  • Virgil Saunders is a Maryland native with a mind for investigating language, literature, and how both influence and express culture. Though an obsessive writer since childhood, she found her creative home at the University of Maryland’s Jiménez-Porter Writers’ House. There, she started The Writer’s Bloc, a publication dedicated to local arts and literature. Virgil has been published in The Voices Project, BLACKBERRY: a magazine, with pending publication coming in Loud Zoo.

Going analog after a digital summer

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After 10 weeks of staring at computer screens and code for eight to 15 hours a day during my News21 Fellowship, I decided to give my eyes a rest. I read several (paperback, bound, dust-scented) books while traveling in California and on planes. I sat for hours in coffee shops throughout the Bay Area reading, finishing books, starting another. Here’s a list of the books I completed this summer.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

This unrivaled novel is a must-read. Seriously, go out immediately and buy it if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading it. The novel focuses on two Jewish cousins in 1930s New York, and their struggle to become known in the burgeoning comic book business, amidst the growing threat and then reality of the Holocaust. In one novel, Chabon seems to incorporate a collection of poems, a play, two films and of course, several comic book series. His mastery of natural dialogue pushes the novel forward. Chabon writes some of the most convincing adult protagonists I grew to love throughout the story.

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Bradbury’s gift for science fiction is featured in this collection of interconnected tales. The book follows Earth’s colonization of Mars, from 2030 to 2057. Bradbury easily shifts from Martian to Earth Man points of views. He seems to gain strength when describing Mars’ and Earth’s futures through a  long span of time. The chronicles are hopeful, terrifying and full of grief and loss and wonder. Bradbury writes with such genuine fervor that I fully believed he was describing current and real Earth expeditions and Mars discoveries. I’m sad I was never able to meet Bradbury, but I breathe him to life by reading his words; words he clacked out on typewriters, words he thought and dreamt and debated. He’s alive with me while I read him.

Other Bradbury books I’m still working on this summer:
  • The Vintage Bradbury, I Sing the Body Electric and A Pleasure to Burn (If you can’t tell, he’s one of my favorites).

Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds

One of my first poet-loves, Sharon Olds’ strong details of her failing marriage are tragic and relatable.  Her “The Father” is one of my favorite poetry collections. Olds writes with the utmost grace, candor and honesty. She shares all—the deepest parts of her uncertainty, hurt, lust and life. In sharing this with us readers, Olds becomes one of the strongest poets.

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

One of the strangest books I’ve read, Cat’s Cradle is a classic Vonnegut read. While I can’t say that I understand it completely, the novel is a portrayal of the end of the world. His description of a religion called Bokononism is a superb analogy to real world religions. Vonnegut’s focus on the main character writing a book about the father of the atomic bomb is fascinating by itself, but he adds an additional apocalyptic storyline on top of that, for added amusement and bewilderment.

after the quake by Haruki Murakami

I have been meaning to read Haruki Murakami for a while. He writes with ease, but the depth of his images and characters is enough to fill the Grand Canyon. This collection of short stories surrounding the Kobe 1995 earthquake in Japan includes descriptions of real life, loss, emptiness, fear and surrealist experiences. Murakami is an essential read.

Grayson by Lynne Cox

This book was a short read and had some nice description of the ocean. But after the first few pages, it seemed to repeat the same descriptions, images and metaphors for the entirety of the book. I don’t discount the incredible swims Lynne Cox made, but this book is not one of the best I have read.

Collecting 2,000 books for children 8,210 miles away

Elon graduate joins Peace Corps, works with African Library Project

by Marlena Chertock, November 9, 2010

Elon alumna Erica Rossi entered the Peace Corps after graduation. She is stationed in Lesotho, located in Africa. Photo submitted.

A 2009 Elon graduate has a big goal. She looks to collect 2,000 books by Dec. 1 and send them to Lesotho, a country in Africa.

Erica Rossi is currently serving in the Peace Corps and is stationed in Lesotho. She lives in the same conditions as the people there: in a mud hut with no electricity or running water. She said she works closely with children there and noticed that the number of books is scarce.

“These books will probably be the only books they will touch in
their lifetimes that are not more than 20 years old,” Rossi said.
In September, Rossi talked about the project with an education class at Elon.

“She asked if anyone was interested in helping her out,” junior Whitney Lynde said. “It just kind of fell into our laps.”

Lynde, Kaylyn Smialek and Laura Parker, all education majors at Elon, are helping Rossi with the project. They are collecting books and money on campus and sending them to Rossi’s mom, Brenda Rossi. She will then send them to her daughter in Lesotho.

Lynde didn’t know Rossi before the project. She said she wanted to be involved in the project because she wants to go to Africa in the future.

“My schedule was a little busy to travel and study abroad,” she said. “But I heard (Rossi) and I immediately wanted to figure out a way to go there. I wanted to help out with books.”

Lynde said they are trying to have an event on campus to collect books.

“The entrance fee would be a children’s book,” she said. “We’re trying to get that together. We’re just kind of reaching out wherever we can. Right now, Elon students don’t have books lying around their dorm.”

But they do at home, or so Lynde says. If Lynde asks students to bring books home after Thanksgiving break, she said she thinks they’ll come back with more.

“I have books lying around at home,” she said.

Rossi said Lesotho is admittedly a “non-reading culture” and English is the second language to Sesotho. Many students and teachers have a difficult time learning, reading, speaking and teaching English, she said.

“Despite the difficulties, two of the elementary schools I work with expressed an interest in encouraging a culture of reading by setting up classroom libraries,” Rossi said.

The libraries are being created through an organization called African Library Project, which Rossi had to apply to.

“After being approved to be a part of the program, I, my family, friends and (the students at Elon) have to collect $1,000 and 2,000 new or mildly-used children’s books,” she said.

The books are scheduled to be shipped to Rossi in May. Once the books arrive, Rossi said she and Lesotho students and teachers will catalog the books, create classroom libraries and hold a series of workshops instructing teachers and students how to effectively use the library in their classrooms. She said they hope to have the library opened in July.

This library project is a secondary endeavor for Rossi.

“My primary work assignment with the Peace Corps is to teach at the only teaching college in the country — Lesotho College of Education,” she said. “But Peace Corps volunteers are encouraged to take on secondary projects.”

Rossi said going on the South African study abroad trip during her junior year influenced her to join the Peace Corps.

“I saw how few resources were available in the schools,” she said. “I decided I wanted to go back to sub-Saharan Africa to teach and help the education system in any way I could.”

Rossi’s parents were in the military and she said that while she didn’t want to follow that track, she was interested in international development work.

“I did want to test myself and serve my country in a way I was more comfortable with,” she said.

Rossi began applying to the Peace Corps at the beginning of her senior year. She received her placement after graduation and left in November. Her service will end in January 2012.

Elon professors have helped Rossi along the way. English Professor Prudence Layne has agreed to collect $500 and 1,000 books for one of the libraries, Rossi said. Education professors Knight-McKenna and Stephen Byrd have collected books and gathered support by allowing Rossi to speak to their classes.

Rossi called Lynde, Smialek and Parker her female power-houses.

“They are incredible women who are taking time out of their busy schedules to help children who otherwise might not have the opportunity to learn to read English,” she said.

Lynde said they are not picky about the quality of books they receive.

“We just want a lot of books,” she said. “We’re hoping to get multicultural books, books about health. (The children) are capable of reading more picture books than chapter books.”

Lynde is working on a trip to Lesotho for the summer. She said it is still in the planning stages.

“Hopefully (Smialek) and I can go there this summer and visit (Rossi),” Lynde said.

Lynde said she thought it was interesting how Rossi could help the teachers in Lesotho, and give them different strategies and resources.

“I thought maybe I could do that,” she said.

She said they plan on going for three or four weeks to teach a unit on health.

“AIDS is a really big problem there,” she said. “Maybe we could do a health unit for kids, have some focus for when we’re there. We’re not sure what it’s going to be yet.”

Lynde said she and the other Elon students involved are trying to set up a book drop box in Mooney.

“Education majors love books, so maybe they would take them,” she worried. “But I’ll pick up books from anywhere.”

These books may end up being the only ones the children and community members in Lesotho have access to within many miles, Rossi said.

Types of books needed for the library:

• Baby books
• Children’s picture books
• Children’s fiction and non-fiction
• Early readers
• BIG books
• Teacher books for school libraries
• Children’s dictionaries/picture dictionaries
• Encyclopedias less than 15 years old
• Children’s Encyclopedias/Picture Encyclopedias
• Children’s thesauruses
• Paperback textbooks in math, English, geography, health and science at appropriate level (kindergarten to 6th grade)
• Books with universal themes (friendships, animals, love)
• Children’s health books
• Up-to-date atlases
• Books about Africa or African Americans
• Brain teasers, flash cards, educational games and puzzles
• “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle
-e-mail Whitney Lynde at wlynde@elon.edu to donate books or money