Happy Fourth of July!

On this day 241 years ago, the United States of America declared its independence from the Crown of England with the signing of…well, the Declaration of Independence. As the years have passed, America has grown into a global power, and it has seen and experienced times of great prosperity as well as devastating lows. And today, we acknowledge and honor America’s history and look forward to a bright future.

While you’re grilling out and waiting for the fireworks to start, you can lay out in a lawn chair and enjoy some of these American classics and contemporary stories navigating the American identity.

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1776 by David McCullough

This one is for the history buffs. American writer and historian David McCullough tells the story of the American revolution, rooted heavily in extensive research in both American and British archives. While the details are based in academia, McCullough tells an immensely human story of the year 1776 on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

 

 

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The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

Anything by William Faulkner is considered an American classic, and while a lot of people have read the crazy antics in As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury is classic Faulkner as well. We follow the high-class Compson family and explore the themes of puritanical morals, greed, racism, and violence as they ruin the Compson clan. This novel navigates the intricacies of Southern morality and uses an experimental style that is uniquely Faulkner.

 

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 The Great Gatbsy is an American literary staple that nearly everyone has read at some point in their education. I know what you’re thinking, how can an ex-patriot write one of the most important American novels in history? The merit lies in the content. Gatsby is the most iconic and lasting portrait of the post-World War I era, the era of excess, loss, and the American Dream. It is a necessary and sobering reminder than even the “rags to riches” story is not the root of happiness.

 

 

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

This American novel has stood the test of time, garnering literary merit upon its release and maintaining it for centuries. Ernest Hemingway asserted that “all modern American literature stems from this one book,” and T.S. Eliot praises Huck as a permanent figure in fiction with characters like Don Quixote and Hamlet. This praise alone is reason enough to pick up this novel for the first or twentieth time. This boyhood trip down the Mississippi with adventure and unforgettable characters is sure to spark the curiosity of your inner child.

 

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On the Road by Jack Kerouac  

Ever wonder where the idealized American idea of traveling the entire country, untethered and completely free, came from? Look no further than the Beat Generation’s own Jack Kerouac.  Follow a story inspired by Kerouac’s cross-country hitchhiking adventures with Neal Cassady that established the freewheeling American youth that today’s popular culture emulates. Legendary musician Bob Dylan said the novel changed his life, as it changed everyone else’s. Embrace the first novel that answered the question, “Road trip?”

 

 

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Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte

 Four friends meet up in San Francisco after graduating from Stanford, each with their own life, stories, and crazy hidden anxieties. Imagine picking up the diaries of each of these characters: that’s the style you get with this novel. Intense inner monologues spare no details and border on the absurd. Dubbed the “first great millennial novel” by  , Private Citizens is edgy, satirical, absurd, inclusive, and surprisingly genuine. It’s a snapshot of millennial America.

 

 

So, while you’re getting some sun or staying cool inside, be sure to pick one of these titles up and celebrate America’s rich history!

James Baldwin: Author, Teacher, Truth Seeker

Born on August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York, James Baldwin grew up in one of the most famous cultural hubs in America at the time, known for the Harlem Renaissance. He developed a love for reading at a young age and carried that love into high school where he worked on the school’s magazine. His career started there when he began publishing poems, short stories, and plays in the magazine.

After working various odd jobs to support his family, Baldwin decided to seriously pursue his writing career and moved to Greenwich Village, a popular neighborhood for New York artists and writers. With hard work, dedication, and a fellowship with writer Richard Wright, he was able to cover his living expenses through the essays and short stories published in periodicals like The Nation. In his pieces, Baldwin discusses race and religion, and while he wrote well on these topics, Baldwin felt confined by the prejudices in America. He then accepted another fellowship, this time in Paris; this trans-Atlantic move is when Baldwin truly came into his own as a writer.

In Paris, Baldwin did not feel limited in the topics that he chose to pursue in his writing.  He explored his race, sexuality, and religion and used writing to navigate those murky waters. Many of these themes can be seen in both his novels and his short stories, where he fearlessly wrote about being black in America and how sexuality is not limited to the binary that society has made the norm. Some of his most famous short stories are “Sonny’s Blues,” “Going to Meet the Man,” and “The Man Child,” which can all be found in the collection titled Going to Meet the Man.

In his lifetime, James Baldwin had experienced ample violence and prejudice, but also freedom and fearlessness—all of which he channeled into his work. In his later years, Baldwin shared his experiences in the college classroom at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Hampshire College before passing away on December 1,1987. Baldwin never wanted to be a spokesperson for a cause, but a person who bears witness to truth, and he truly accomplishes this through his literary legacy.

Mark Twain and his Short Stories: Classic American Literature

When one thinks of classic American literature, Mark Twain is one of the first names to come to mind. Samuel Longhorne Clemens, the man behind the pseudonym, was born on November 30, 1835 in Hannibal, Missouri. After applying for and receiving an apprenticeship with a local printing shop, Twain found a love for wit and sarcasm. The money he received from his apprenticeship was able to pay for family expenses, and he was able to save money to start writing and publishing humorous articles and witty newspaper sketches, which introduced him to the world of an author. With this experience and inspiration, he went on to avidly pursue a writing career. While most know him as the author of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Twain’s portfolio expands into short stories as well.

Twain’s short stories are wrought with wit and sarcasm. He really shows his expertise in being able to implement so much humor in a story only seven pages long. When an author is working within such a short page range, every word counts, and Twain fully understands this. Upon publication, his works and collections garnered international attention, and were even translated into different languages during his lifetime. In his stories like “Luck” and “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” Twain uses alliteration, repetition, and colloquial language to engage and entertain his readers. Plus, his stories all have value for both entertainment and academic purposes. There is always something new to be found his stories every time they are reread.

While Twain was a well-versed humorist, he was also able to create more serious pieces like “The War Prayer,” a scathing critique of war and its religious elements. Written closer to the end of his life, it remained unpublished until after Twain passed away due to his family’s fear that it would appear sacrilegious. Twain is quoted saying, “I have told the truth in that, and only dead men can tell the truth in this world. It can be published after I am dead.” And “The War Prayer” was finally published in 1923, thirteen years after his death.

Mark Twain is a wonderfully hilarious author with a lot of imagination and relatable content. He is a master wordsmith whose works will be read for generations to come. He will forever be remembered as one of the most iconic American authors and constantly reminds us to never take ourselves too seriously, but also to think before we speak.

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.” – Mark Twain

 

Rounding the Corner: A Reflection

Reflection blogs are difficult. In my introduction blog, I remember struggling to explain why I even want to go into publishing, and quite frankly, it hasn’t gotten much easier to explain. I have fallen in love with the process of refining a work to its best form, and the Press has played a large role in that. The time I’ve spent here has been a whirlwind of learning, experience, and research (like tons of research). While it has only been a few months, it feels so much longer with the experience and knowledge that I’ve gained. I began interning at the Press in January, and my time here has been not only truly transformative but also grounding.

The last time I thought about my career in publishing, I was concerned with the writing aspect, and I honestly believed that it was the most important piece. And don’t get me wrong, it definitely is, but there are so many moving pieces at a press or publishing house that I never really realized until I was in the thick of it. Writing is the element that intertwines all of these moving pieces and makes them work.

On my first day, my supervisor deemed this experience a “trial by fire,” and she wasn’t joking. After that first day of account setup and introduction materials, I hit the ground running. I’ve done countless blogs to write, hours of line edits, and even more hours of marketing research.

This industry is so much more complicated than just writing a book and simply publishing it. There is so much research that goes into just accepting a book to be edited and even then, depending on the willingness of author and the editor, the book isn’t guaranteed to make it to publication. It is very much a give-and-take relationship. And I have been fortunate enough to witness this kind of teamwork while watching my superiors work with our authors to make the best book possible

So, I believe thanks are in order. I would like to thank the University of North Georgia Press for taking a chance on me and were willing to help me learn and grow. My passion for books and writing have done nothing but grow while I’ve been here, and I have really developed a new appreciation for the publishing process and the hard work that goes into it. I’m thankful for the invaluable experience that I’ve while working under this Press. I appreciate the atmosphere in which I was able to learn new skills and refine old ones, and my time here will always hold a special place in my heart. While I head out into the daunting adult world, I’m more confident than ever in my skills and abilities that have not only made me competitive but also a better writer and editor. So, one last time, thank you, UNG Press.

 

Poet Spotlight: Sarah Kay

We’ll be rounding out National Poetry Month with another amazing contemporary poet.

This week’s spotlight: Sarah Kay

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Sarah Kay is a renowned spoken-word poet from New York City. At the age of 28, Kay has a Master of Arts in teaching from Brown University and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Grinnell College.

She began her writing and performing career at the Bowery Poetry Club in the East Village at the age of 14 and joined their Slam Team in 2006. That year, she was the youngest person to compete in the National Poetry Slam in Austin, Texas. She’s gone on to perform at events and venues like Lincoln Center, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the United Nations. She was even a feature performer for the launch of the 2004 World Youth Report.

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She founded and currently directs Project VOICE, which is dedicated to educating and encouraging children in the arts and poetry. She’s given a TED talk and has two collections available, No Matter the Wreckage and B. No small feat for someone of her age.

Sarah Kay will undoubtedly be a voice to remember from our generation as she explores the beauty in life and finds light in the darkness with her poetry.

Here are some excerpts from Kay’s works to get you started:

“And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, ‘Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.'” 

“When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say ‘thank you,’ ’cause there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” 

“Let them see what a woman looks like. They may not have ever seen one before. If you grow up the type of woman men want to touch, you can let them touch you. Sometimes it’s not you they are reaching for. Sometimes it is a bottle. A door. A sandwich. A Pulitzer. Another woman. “

“Forgive yourself for the decisions you have made, the ones you can still call mistakes when you tuck them in at night.” 

 

This post concludes National Poetry Month poet spotlights! Be sure to let us know who some your favorite poets are in the comments or on Twitter!

Happy 453rd Birthday, Mr. William Shakespeare!

If you’ve ever been in an English classroom, you’ve most likely read a play or two by the one and only William Shakespeare. You probably know that he also wrote a series of sonnets that are still used today to woo literary hearts. What you may not be aware of is the mystery that surrounds him that clings like a mist.

Some speculate that Shakespeare was multiple people using a common pseudonym, and some even doubt his existence all together, though this has been disproven, it gives him a myth-like quality. So, on his birthday, April 23, we’ll give you the straight facts about this famous playwright and his contributions to the literary world and the English language as a whole.

Even Shakespeare’s birthday isn’t concrete. Birth records didn’t exist in the late 1500s, but the records of the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, England show the baptism of a William Shakespeare on April 26, 1564. Historians assumed his birthday would have been three days previous, as was the societal custom. His father was a successful merchant, his mother was local landed heiress, and he had five siblings, but that’s about all we know about his childhood.

Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582 and had three children: daughter Susanna, and twins Hamnet and Judith. After the twins’ birth, all records of Shakespeare were lost until the 1590s. There is much speculation about what Shakespeare did during this time—some say he went into hiding for poaching game from the local landlord while others believe he was an assistant schoolmaster in Lancashire. We may never know for sure.

Later, evidence appeared of Shakespeare working as an actor and playwright in London in 1592. He was a partner in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company, and garnered the attention of many nobles, including the Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley. In the seven years that follow, fifteen of Shakespeare’s thirty-seven plays were published, and he and his partners built their own theatre, called The Globe, on the south bank of the Thames River.

As for his works, you’re probably pretty familiar with his tragedies like Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, but Shakespeare had a wonderful sense of humor which can be found in his comedies, including A Midsummer’s Night Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, and my personal favorite, The Taming of the Shrew. These story lines are still used as inspiration in modern storylines in movies and books. Shakespeare also has an impressive collection of poetry, mainly sonnets, that tell a story when read all together. Not to mention that he invented more than 1700 of our most common words in English today by simply changing nouns into verbs, verbs into adjectives, and adding prefixes and suffixes to change the root word. Some of these words include hobnob, discontent, circumstantial, flawed, radiance, moonbeam, and obsequiously.

To this day, scholars argue over William Shakespeare’s true identity. The Shakespeare Oxford Society even asserts that English aristocrat Edward de Vere was the true author of these plays, claiming the William Shakespeare from the church records was not educated enough to produce such revolutionary and timeless pieces. This opinion, however, is the in the minority.

Regardless of identity and history, William Shakespeare wrote plays that truly transcend time. By focusing on the matters and follies of the heart and human experience, he created an arsenal of literary genius that will be sure to entertain literary minds for generations to come.

Poet Spotlight: Neil Hilborn

And we’re back for another poet spotlight, and this time we’re appreciating some contemporary poets.

This week’s spotlight: Neil Hilborn 

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Neil Hilborn is an American poet known for his accomplishments in slam poetry.  While attending Macalester College, he was a member of the 2011 Macalester Poetry Slam team, which ranked first at the 2011 College National Poetry Slam event. He later joined the Minneapolis adult National Poetry Slam team, which placed 5th out of 80 teams from across the country. In August of 2013, Hilborn’s poem “OCD” went viral, receiving nearly 13 million views (and counting). Since then, Hilborn has performed at a number of colleges, including the University of North Georgia, and participated in workshops to teach a new generation of poets.

His collection of poems, Our Numbered Days, launched in 2015 and sold over 250,000 copies, making it an Amazon bestseller. The official description reads, “Utilmately, Hilborn is a poet of the people: his work is accessible, honest, and entertaining – a revitalizing entry in contemporary poetry.” His subject matter is real and relevant, and his self-

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deprecating humor creates a powerful sense of vulnerability and understanding. If you’re looking for a contemporary change of pace, be sure to read Hilborn’s work.

Never read any of pieces by this contemporary poet? Here are some excerpts from his collection, Our Numbered Days, to peak your interest:

“I’m so lucky that right now, I’m not describing Joey’s funeral. I’m so lucky we all lived through who we were to become who we are.” 

“When you’re dumb enough for long enough, you’re gonna meet someone too smart to love you, and they’re gonna love you anyway, and it’s gonna go so poorly.” 

“I think that the genes for being an artist and mentally ill aren’t just related, they’re the same gene, but try telling that to a bill collector.” 

“It’s unfortunate that your offspring make people wish for a dystopian future in which euthanasia is a universally beloved form of birth control, but when elderly women literally everywhere are better parents than you, perhaps it’s time to hand up the baby-making spurs.” 

Who are some your favorite contemporary poets? Be sure to check back in next week for our next poet spotlight!