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What Is America to Me?
The New York Times, 23 July 2017

In 2015, just as refugees were pouring out of Syria and pictures of terrified children filled every newscast and front page in the world, a small notice appeared in my church bulletin: “Are you looking for a way to help our city’s newest refugees?” It was a call for volunteers to assist in an English-language classroom at a local public school. (more….)

Holy, Holy, Holy
River Teeth, 17 July 2017

On the morning after my mother’s sudden death, before I was up, someone brought a basket of muffins, good coffee beans, and a bottle of cream—real cream, unwhipped—left them at the back door, and tiptoed away. I couldn’t eat. The smell of coffee turned my stomach, but my head was pounding from all the what ifs playing across it all night long, and I thought perhaps the cream would make a cup of coffee count as breakfast if I could keep it down. (more…)

Springtime’s Not-So-Peaceable Kingdom
The New York Times, 4 June 2017

In spring, I search for nests. I part the branches of shrubs and low-limbed trees, peering into their depths for a clump of sticks and string and shredded plastic — the messy structure of a mockingbird’s nest. I squat and look upward for a cardinal’s tidy brown bowl. I stand even with the end of my house and look from the side into the ivy climbing the bricks, searching for a tiny avian hammock tucked into the leaves by house finches. I check the fern hanging under the eaves for the vortex tunnel built by a Carolina wren. (more…)

Last Breath
The New York Times, 26 February 2017

Weeks ago, when they first appeared in the neighborhood, I assumed they were starlings. A flock of starlings is the bane of the bird feeder — a vast, clamoring mob of unmusical birds soiling the windshields and lawn furniture, muscling one another aside so violently that no other birds dare draw near the suet. But this flock stayed high in the treetops, far from my feeders, too far away to recognize. Then a cold snap kept all the puddles frozen for days, and every bird in the ZIP code showed up at my heated birdbath to drink. (more….)

John Lewis: ‘Read Everything. Be Kind. Be Bold.’
By Margaret Renkl
Literary Hub, 28 November 2016

On November 16, John Lewis—along with his collaborators, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell—won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature with March: Book Three, the third installment of a memoir rendered as an extended-length comic book. But long before he accepted that honor, Lewis had already been named the 2016 recipient of the Nashville Public Library Literary Award, a prize that last week brought him back to Nashville, where he first began his long career as a civil-rights activist.


Proximity, 13 September 2016

It’s October, when your birthday always seems to fall on the most splendid day of the year. Even if it’s a work day, you must find some time to set aside your small whirring machines and your contentions. Maybe there is a creek that all summer has been still and dry and now is wet and tumbling with tiny twigs and leaves and sweetgum balls. Maybe there is a field gone golden with weeds, with finches perched in the seedcrowns. Maybe there is an old train track that hosts no trains but lays out a whole parade route of purple thistles, or a dirt road where the close pines have set down a thick carpet for your hurting feet. (more….)

Mary Laura Philpott: Mrs. Philpott’s Penguins, 26 May 2015

Mary Laura Philpott is neither a novelist nor a journalist, but she makes her living as a writer anyway. In fact, studying Philpott’s work could serve as a kind of crash course in turning a gift for words into a career: she’s been an op-ed columnist (for The New York Times no less), a ghostwriter (she’s not saying for whom), an editor (she runs Musing, the online journal at Parnassus Books in Nashville), an essayist (most recently for Proximity), a blogger (at I Miss You When I Blink), even a poet of humorous legal verse and a member of Us Weekly’s fashion police. And next week Philpott will add author to her list of writerly titles—on June 2, Penguins With People Problems officially hits stores.

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Jess Walter: Resisting the Noise, 1 May 2013

Jess Walter is more than a novelist, more than a poet, more than a journalist: he’s that old-fashioned kind of author who can fairly call himself, simply, a writer. Walter writes novels, short stories, poems, journalism (for the likes of Harper’s and Esquire), narrative nonfiction, and screenplays (next up: the film version of his newest novel, Beautiful Ruins). Even as a novelist, Walter is not a hedgehog but a fox, moving agilely between genres, subjects, and literary styles, always with his finger on the pulse of the world: