Friday, September 13, 2013

Deliberately diminished

A while ago I wrote about a friend/ fellow author who felt that a reviewer had intentionally made her seem less than she is by omitting her most significant academic accomplishments in his review and highlighting an achievement which was minor by comparison.

 I thought of my friend the other day in connection with Mudwoman, a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, published last year.  Mudwoman is terrifying, gripping, and insightful re. the conflicts suffered by women who try to excel  and make the most of their talents and abilities.  Later I used a search engine to find out what's new with Ms. Oates, whose work I have admired for many years. (See my blog last year about A Widow's Story.)

My search took me to an interview with Oates published in The Guardian. (See  The interviewer asked her what was the worst thing anyone had ever said about her. Oates spoke of the occasion when a play she'd written was produced in New York City. A newspaper in Detroit, where she was then living, ran the headline, "Detroit housewife writes play".  Oates was a university professor at the time. Then, later, when she won a book award, a well-known magazine headlined its article about her:  "Shy faculty wife...." Oates' husband was indeed chair of an English department at the time, but she was a mature writer and had been a professor for ten years.

It doesn't seem to matter how well-known and accomplished you are as a writer; you'll sooner or later encounter a reviewer who will deliberately diminish your achievements and categorize you in some way that makes you less than what you really are.  Should my friend have confronted the reviewer who made her seem less than she is?  I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, I'm going to reread Mudwoman, and I urge you to do so too. It's excellent.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Canadian Materials reviewed The Songcatcher and Me

Darleen Golke reviewed The Songcatcher and Me in the September 6th 2013 edition of the online magazine, Canadian Materials and rated the book "Highly Recommended."  Golke said, in part:

"Latta skilfully captures life in rural Ontario in the 1950s and provides insights into daily life and the importance of the corner [sic] store and its offerings to the community. The visits to nearby Juniper Township where Alice interviews elderly Mr. Vaughan and records  his song contributions is well-detailed, as is a community dance... Sheila, a nicely realized blend of optimism and trepidation about her future, emerges as a likeable teen trying to understand her role in the family and her world.... The introduction of Alice Common, a "modern" young woman for the 1950s who has a career, is happily married but childless by choice, and interacts intelligently with fellow academics opens new vistas for Sheila. Written for young adults, The Songcatcher and Me reminds adult readers of the emotional roller coaster teenagers ride...

You can access the entire review at

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

sequel to "The Songcatcher and Me"

When a friend of mine was in hospital, I gave her a copy of my new novel, The Songcatcher and Me (Ottawa, Baico, 2013, $20 ISBN 978-1-927482-36-3) She shared it with her fellow patients, and told me that everyone  liked it, including the folk song lyrics.  This and other positive reaction inspired me to continue the story of Sheila, her grandmother, her boyfriend, and the songcatcher, Alice, so during the hot days this past summer I took refuge in the basement and started work on a sequel to The Songcatcher and Me. In this sequel, Sheila will be older, seventeen going on eighteen, and in her final year of high school, facing decisions and the fears of a fledgling about to take wing. I have a general idea of the plot but I've only just begun.

The sequel will not involve as much about folk song collecting as did The Songcatcher and Me, but the plot requires one lyric in the style of an old-time sentimental ballad, so I have written the following poem for use in the sequel:

A mother on her sickbed lay;
She knew her day was nearly done.
A ship was due to sail away
and carry off her only son.

"I wish for you a warmer clime,
a haven from the stormy blast,
and roses in the winter time
and may your first love be your last.

"I pray that you will live and thrive
and any sorrow soon will mend,
abundant honey from each hive,
a pot of gold at rainbow's end."

"Oh, Mother, dear, we both well know
there's no such thing as rainbow gold,
or roses in the winter snow
or hearts still whole when we are old.

"But you have taught me to rejoice
and do my best, enjoy each day,
and memories of your loving voice
will stay with me and guide my way."

(c) Ruth Latta, 2013