“Feeling the love” — field notes from my first three readings

Dale outside Boswell's w big book coverI’m just cooling down from a heady week of book launch readings, my first opportunity to meet new and interested readers. Each event had its own special vibe and each presented an opportunity for me to understand more about what readers hunger for:  a community, real or virtual, where they can discuss ideas, books, writing.

At Boswell’s in Milwaukee the crowd was pensive and curious, attentive to the two debut authors, Andrea Lochen and me. Dale and DanielThe owner Daniel Goldin stood at the ready, his infectious enthusiasm for all things literary infusing the air. One of the first questions asked in the Q & A, a question asked at each of my readings, was about finding an agent and getting published. I suspect folks assume I have a magic bullet answer, but alas, we all know finding the right agent is like finding the right partner in life — only in this case,  the agent falls in love with your work and not you!

Dale reading in Madison crThe Madison book launch at A Room of One’s Own — and the party following — were spectacular. I was blown away by the sheer number of people who showed up, maybe over 120, the room filled to standing room only. Oh what a night! Joy and celebration! And so much love in the room! I channeled Eunice, Mern, and company, their voices coming right through me. But it was really a call and response, the audience silently shouting right back to me their “right ons” and “amens.” Dale signing Kushner Madreading1  #25 LR photo by Kalleen MortensenSo powerful, that wave of love that flows between us and others. Great questions here too: how did the story begin? And of course, how do you find an agent? A brief but interesting discussion on my character’s unusual names and why names are important for what they reveal. Someone asked about research. I told them I hope to be on an AWP panel in 2014 about how writers often have to figure out how to balance hardcore research with imagination.

My third reading was at The Book Stall in Illinois. What a wonder that bookstore is! Everyone will miss the retiring owner and founder, the amazing Roberta Rubin, but I’m sure the store will thrive under its new owner, Stephanie Hochschild.  Dale and Roberta RubinI felt warmly welcomed by the BStall staff, The Conditions of Love proudly on display. Lots of old friends in the audience; some drove almost two hours to get there. This is what touches me . . . the goodness of friendship . . . the desire we have to celebrate each other’s good fortune and the willingness of others to join in. I was definitely feeling the love! In the Q & A, someone asked me about moving from poetry to fiction, and I realize now how much I have to say on this subject. I think I’m not alone in changing genres. An essay is forming in my head!

Now off to NY, more readings, a book group, a special party and who knows what else. Please stand by. Notes from the field will continue

“Stunningly self-assured” says Bookreporter!

Josh Mallory’s long, lovingly detailed, and quite positive review on Bookreporter really knocked me out. It’s quite a thrill to see the story and my characters get this reaction. Here’s some of what Josh wrote:

With her debut novel, THE CONDITIONS OF LOVE, poet Dale M. Kushner has created a layered examination of love in all its forms and how it impacts and shapes one girl in the late 1950s and early 1960s from childhood to maturity.. . .

This is a book that begs to be read slowly. Kushner’s history with poetry serves her well. Her prose causes the reader to slow down and relish the words. She utilizes the five senses throughout the book, which gives the reader a sense of real intimacy with Eunice. She beautifully recounts the physical act of Eunice’s neighbor, Mr. Tabachnik, putting on an opera record, and then she tops it by describing the powerful music washing over a young Eunice.

THE CONDITIONS OF LOVE is an engaging story written in a lyrical style. It’s a stunningly self-assured novel for a debut, and it leaves the reader hoping that Kushner will write a second.

You can read the full review here.

Jeanne Kolker interviews me for the Wisconsin State Journal

On Sunday the Wisconsin State Journal published Jeanne Kolker’s interview with me about The Conditions of Love. Jeanne asked such thoughtful questions. It’s funny. Every time I talk with someone about the book, a differently phrased question seems to open up a new path into the story. I’m thinking of Jeanne’s last question:

SJ: What sort of themes do you think people will pull out of this book?

DK: I guess it’s a bit of a Rorshach, it means something different to every person. The reader co-creates the book in her head. Everyone is interested in love. The novel covers the difficulties of the love with families, it covers friendship, it covers erotic love and devotion. I can’t imagine what life hasn’t been touched by these themes.

You can read the full interview here.

Debbie Haupt interviews me for The Reading Frenzy

I never anticipated how answering questions about The Conditions of Love would send me down paths I hadn’t explored before. Debbie Haupt’s thoughtful and provocative questions in the interview we did for The Reading Frenzy summoned responses that surprised even me. We talked about mentors, Jung, and the difference between poetry and fiction, among other things. Here’s an excerpt:

DH: The Conditions of Love is your debut novel yet you’ve written in other mediums like poetry and short stories.
Would you say that it was a natural progression for you to become a novelist, or was there a particular event or catalyst that led you down this road?
DK: Moving from poetry to fiction might be a natural progression but I’m not sure. For me it was more like moving from a hammock under the stars to a house with a kitchen and bath! By that I mean the inception of poetry seems to require a dreamlike solitude, an emphasis on contemplation but also a wide-focus, associative mind. Poetry is less time-bound than fiction and relies on the sensuous and metaphoric qualities of language and on image. To tell a story, I needed a different kind of language. I needed to work in time and place using the devices of fiction. But I wouldn’t trade the hammock for the house or visa versa.
No single event sent me from one genre to another. I’m still a polymorphous writer!
You can read the full interview here.

“Engrossing to the end,” says AP. And this is just the beginning! Publication day is here!

Here it is publication day and I’m delighted to be able to share with you the splendid review Kendall Weaver wrote for The  Associated Press.

Kushner’s scenes, like her characters, are expertly sketched, vivid and memorable. . . . Engrossing to the end, this is a fine first novel.

Because it’s syndicated, this review has already been picked up by The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, The Miami Herald, and many other newspapers and websites around the country. What a great thing to happen on publication day!

You can read the whole review here.

“From poet to big-time novelist”– interview in Isthmus

I had a wonderful time chatting over coffee with Becky Holmes a week or so ago about The Conditions of Love and my creative process. Isthmus published her piece about our chat last Thursday. I especially like how she found aspects of the story magical: :

The Conditions of Love has a magical quality. Kushner describes it as a fable. Yet this coming-of-age story about a teen girl, Eunice, and her search for love doesn’t seem like a fable at first. There are no anthropomorphic animals, no obvious moral lessons. But a careful reading reveals how Kushner uses elements of fable and myth to cast a spell on her readers, taking them to a place that both is and is not the rural Midwest of the 1950s. , , ,

You can read the entire interview here. But please consider what I say about Facebook already outdated. I can prove it: come like my Facebook Fan Page!