Feel Like an Outsider? You Are Not Alone. R.L. Maizes’ characters try to overcome challenges in We Love Anderson Cooper.

Review and Q & A With R.L. Maizes

40236976.jpgMy Review:

I haven’t read a lot of short stories and when the publisher asked me to take a look at We Love Anderson Cooper I was happy to do so…the title made me smile and when the book arrived I was increasingly motivated by the great looking cover!

A teenage boy coming out publicly at his Bar Mitzvah, a cat playing favorites during the Christmas/Hanukah holiday season, the relief of a called off wedding, and the power of a couch…so wonderful getting to know the varied characters and becoming absorbed in their emotional journeys in such a short time.

I really loved all the stories and was thrilled to have the opportunity to chat with author R.L. Maizes about this new short story collection, her writing process and more.

Q & A with R.L. Maizes

Q:  From a reader’s point of view, each of your stories in this wonderful collection stand on its own and is unrelated, with different characters and situations.  Every main character seems to have a problem or obstacle they face and tackle during the short time we are with them and I became invested in each and every one!  Are any of these short stories in We Love Anderson Cooper linked or connected to each other in any way?

Thanks so much for the kind words about the collection. What connects the stories in We Love Anderson Cooper is that the main characters are outsiders. For example, in the story “Tattoo,” a tattoo artist is shunned because of his unusual appearance. In “Collections,” a woman is excluded from her wealthy partner’s upper crust world because of her race and class. In “No Shortage of Birds,” a young girl becomes alienated from her mother and her friends when her father dies. Being outsiders creates challenges for these characters that they try to overcome in the stories.

Q: Did you write each story with the others in mind?  Are there other stories that didn’t make the cut?  Did you always plan on putting these together in a collection?

I wrote the stories over a ten-year period. The pain we all feel at being excluded and our tremendous desire to belong was one of my preoccupations, but I wasn’t thinking of writing a collection during that entire time. Many stories I wrote didn’t make the cut. 

Q: How long did writing each story take?  Have any of them been published on their own prior to this book?

With the exception of one very short one, I spent more than a year writing and revising each of them. Some took many years. A number of the stories were published in magazines before being included in the book. One aired on National Public Radio. Another was dramatized in a production of Stories on Stage. 

Q: From a writing standpoint, how do you gage timing, know how much to reveal in such a short time and do you have to do any work developing the characters or the story arc before the story is written or does it just all come together as you write?

I’m what’s known as a pantser, which means I develop the stories as I write them (“fly by the seat of my pants”) rather than plotting them out beforehand. The stories end up needing more revision this way, but it’s the only way I know how to write. 

Figuring out when to reveal information is one of the great challenges of fiction writing, and each story has its own needs in that regard. In “Ghost Dogs,” for example, the last story in the collection, I intentionally hold back important information until the middle of the story. While in another story, I reveal the end of the story first, allowing the suspense to arise from how the ending comes about.   

Q: What is the editing process like for a short story – do you generally write too much and have to cut, or too little and have to expand?

Both! I have to write too much to discover what the story is really about. Once I know, I cut to the heart of the story. The challenge of the form is compression. At the same time, when I want to go deeper into a character or to slow down a scene for dramatic purposes, I expand parts of the story. 

Q: Would you ever consider expanding any of these stories into a book?

I’m writing a novel now called “Other People’s Pets.” The main character is an animal empath who drops out of veterinary school to become a burglar. Her father’s been arrested and she’s desperate to earn enough to pay his attorney’s fees. It has some similarities with the collection. The main character is an outsider and the book features animals. But it’s not an expansion of any of the stories. I don’t plan to expand any of the stories in the collection because each one feels complete to me as it is.  

Q: How do you get your ideas for your writing?

Stories are everywhere. A news report might trigger an idea for a story. Something that happened to an acquaintance might be the genesis of a story. I might observe something odd in my neighborhood. But the finished stories are always greatly changed from what initially sparked them. 

Q: Are you going on book tour?

It’s a little too soon to know. I’ll be reading at bookstores in Colorado where I live. But I’m not sure where else I’ll tour. 

Q: What are three books you recently read and would recommend?  

I loved Rebecca Makkai’s recent novel, The Great Believers, and her story collection, Music for Wartime. Mad Boy by Nick Arvin is a wonderful book, funny and tender. It’s currently a finalist for a Colorado Book Award. I’m a big fan of Steve Yarbrough’s novels because of the compassion he has for his characters. The Unmade World, which came out this past year, was fantastic. I thought Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend was great. Naturally because of the dog. But also because the structure of that book was marvelous. I guess that’s more than three.

Q: What is on your nightstand to read next?  

I’m looking forward to reading Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise and was lucky enough to pick up an advance reading copy at a conference I recently attended. I’m also about to begin Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s debut story collection, Sabrina & Corina. 

Thank  you to R.L. Maizes for answering some questions!  If you feel like an outsider, you are not alone.  Easy to read, engaging and thought provoking, every step of the way, I highly recommend pre-ordering a copy of  We Love Anderson Cooper today – book will be available in July.

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

R.L. Maizes’s short story collection, WE LOVE ANDERSON COOPER, will be published by Celadon Books (Macmillan) in July 2019, with a novel to follow. The stories have aired on National Public Radio and have appeared in Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading. Maizes’s essays have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and elsewhere.

Born and raised in Queens, New York, Maizes currently lives in Boulder, CO, with her husband, Steve, and her muses: Arie, a cat who was dropped in the animal shelter’s night box like an overdue library book, and Rosie, a dog who spent her first year homeless in South Dakota and thinks Colorado is downright balmy.

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DNA testing is a hot topic today…find out how it went for author Dani Shapiro in her new memoir: Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love…with new video interview!

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New Video Interview from CBS This Morning

My Review:

Do you really know the story of your life?  Author Dani Shapiro thought she did; the daughter of a Jewish mother and an Orthodox Jewish father, Dani grew up surrounded by, and enmeshed in Judaism, Hebrew, traditions and rituals.  She had a deep love and admiration for her ancestors who came before her and she drew strength from just knowing about them.  In Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love, Dani shares with us her shocking personal discovery and the emotional rollercoaster that ensued as she searches for answers to family secrets and struggles to come to terms with who she really is.

In her early 50s, after her parents had passed away, on a whim, Dani did something so many people are doing these days – she sent in her DNA to be analyzed.  She was blindsided by the shocking results and then began a search for unknown relatives to ultimately discover herself.  Shaken to the core with endless questions, Dani was immersed in uncertainty of her identity, where she came from, and who she really is.  Was everything she thought about all her so called blood relatives who came before her a lie?  Who is her family…her son’s family…who does she belong to?

Finding long lost relatives can be a source of great happiness and fulfillment, and equally brings up so many questions and so much pain.  It is a complex concurrence of emotions and if you are going to take the chance and send in your DNA for testing, emotional preparedness for the onslaught is a good idea.

While reading this incredible memoir I was swept away on the emotional journey with Dani Shapiro as she masterfully tells her unique story.  Don’t miss it!

A quick search on the internet brings up many news articles and videos on the topic – here is one… VIDEO.

Goodreads Summary

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About the Author:

Dani Shapiro is the bestselling author of the memoirs Hourglass, Still Writing, Devotion, and Slow Motion, and five novels including Black & White and Family History. She lives with her family in LItchfield County, Connecticut. Her latest memoir, Inheritance, was published by Knopf in January, 2019.

Bonding over Books with Sarah Jessica Parker

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This past summer I was fortunate enough to run into Sarah Jessica Parker, actress extraordinaire, accomplished producer, designer, and mom, currently partnering with the American Library Association to launch Book Club Central.  We spent quite a while discussing her first book club choice, No One Is Coming to Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, as we’ll as many other books.  Below is my article originally posted on booktrib.com.

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Authors are supportive to each other and many enjoy engaging with their readers. Book groups connect people to each other allowing them to discuss the stories authors write, current events and personal life. Books can bring people together from all over the world, highlighting issues, relationships and perspectives, binding us to each other. This appreciation of literature and the excitement over reading is what created an opportunity for me to spend some time bonding with Sarah Jessica Parker.
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Nasty Women Project: Voices from the Resistance Edited by Erin Passons

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As seen on Goodreads:

American Women. Their Stories. Their Resistance.

The despot is perched in his tower, threatening democracy with every tweet. Vultures of big business occupy his cabinet seats, while empty-headed puppets tie the Senate to a string. With a wave of a pen, they set our rights on fire.

Welcome to the new America.

And who are we? We are the women of the marginalized majority. We come from every corner of America. We are the outraged mothers. We are the unprotected daughters. We are the uninsured sick, the gay and the blamed, the cast-off patrons of the lesser paid, and the survivors of trauma taught to feel ashamed.

We are every woman you have ever met, and every woman you haven’t. Our stories are of struggle, but also of strength; of fear, but also of courage. We know despair, but we never lose hope. We are extraordinary women living in extraordinary times.

We are The Nasty Women Project.

100% proceeds from our book sales are donated to Planned Parenthood.

My Comments:

Nasty Women Project is compilation of essays written by regular, everyday women from almost every state in the US.  In an effort to be educated on the plight of women of all races, colors, creeds and sexual orientations, Erin Passons, the editor, called for submissions hoping “the darkness inspired by Trump will only bring forth more light”.  When it became a possibility that The GOP would have the opportunity to defund Planned Parenthood the idea was born: she would gather the written words of women across the country and publish them to sell, donating all the proceeds to Planned Parenthood.

Telling their stories of election night, prejudice and life experiences provides women in the United States of America the opportunity to make sense out of their fears and hopes, and reading them provides a sense of camaraderie and courage.  These powerful, well written essays show struggles and fear along with new-found strength and focus.

Elizabeth Martin of Ohio says “Since Trump’s win, we have begun to organize.  We sign petitions.  We call politicians.  We march.  We fight.  I have thousands of life preservers surrounding me, and I no longer have the fear of drowning.”

As Jennifer Tyree from Arizona says, “We must rally.  Now is the time to make history.”

Take the time to hear what the women of the United States have to say and purchase your copy of Nasty Women Project HERE.  All proceeds are donated to Planned Parenthood.