by JZ Bingham, VP Acquisitions, Balcony 7

As an acquisitions editor, I can’t help but read between the lines of an author’s work to find out what he or she is truly made of—what inspires them, what motivates them, their respect for readers and the art of storytelling. It takes but a few pages, maybe a chapter, before this is revealed to me. The clues lie in form, substance, word choice, and restraint (or the lack thereof). There’s certainly an art to it, and the best storytellers have a God-given gift.

Two of my favorite storytellers that have this gift are authors whom I have the pleasure of knowing, in person. I’ve read their works (and edit Mahon’s for Balcony 7), and decided to introduce the two, knowing their love of storytelling and their backgrounds could become the foundation for a wonderful literary discussion at Vroman’s. They both loved the idea—and our event is in a few weeks, so allow me to introduce you:

Patricia Mahon, an Irish/American dual citizen with an educational pedigree that spans Oxford and Trinity College (also an avid student of Yeats and a teaching fellow), has a treasure trove of work for which she’s already received accolades (poetry, several musicals, and over 20 original songs) and from which she’s now making her literary fiction debut. Mahon’s Age of Distraction series of contemporary novellas are being released bi-annually, beginning with The Island (Balcony 7, April 2016), The Vineyard (B7, Sept. 2016), and The Abbey (B7, Spring 2017, based on the three-act play The Abbey Yard, which ran for six weeks at The Odyssey Theatre in Los Angeles in 2000).

Anne Perry, who hails from England, wrote her first novel in 1979, The Cater Street Hangman (St. Martins Press), a mid-19th century Victorian crime drama introducing Thomas Pitt, who would become the central character in 30 additional novels in the Pitt series. The other famous character in a Perry series, set in the late 19th century, is William Monk, who made his debut in 1990’s The Face of a Stranger (Fawcett), and continues into book 21, published last year. When we include Perry’s World War I series (five novels) and her Christmas novellas (the 14th to be published later this year), over 70 books and almost 27 million sold have made Anne Perry a household name in literary fiction and a New York Times Bestselling Author.

Now, imagine a languid sunny day in West Hollywood, ensconced within a fashionable bistro, the soft rays warming crisp white tablecloths while Trish and Anne engage with introductory chit chat, order coffee, crepes and ice cream, and I finally melt into the background to watch a literary back-and-forth between the two writers that was formidable to observe, and flowed as naturally as the blood in their veins. I realized I’d made a perfect match, and the Anglo/Irish Lit Chat will make readers feel the same way I did in that bistro—confident in knowing literary fiction is in good hands.

Trish grew up with oral storytelling, as is the Irish way, and many of her stories bring back decades of lore mixed with contemporary angles that capture the perils of technology sapping our creative energy with its distractive elements of connectivity, and its truncated shorthand that seemingly drives a stake right into the heart of poetry and prose. In fact, Trish has so many familial stories and character studies that her novellas (averaging about 200 pages each), have been called “stories within stories,” and rightfully so. Her love of classics laces every work with literary excerpts that inspire her—and propel her protagonists as they navigate the ebb and flow of each plot, led throughout the world by their global writing app.

At a café just off Sunset, Trish felt herself in the presence of fiction royalty as Anne sipped basil-infused water and she gulped American coffee. Ironically, Anne has become a fan of Trish’s work and their common love of Anglo/Irish classics begins as a literary tag-team: As Anne recounts some of Trish’s excerpts from The Island, she then launches into the development of her first fantasy novel, Tathea (Deseret, 1999), really a religious allegory about a grieving Empress given the chance to seek truth and wisdom. It’s always fascinating to hear an author speak to her inspiration, and with Anne’s long string of success, a first-hand account of how a writer known for crime dramas becomes inspired to write a hefty (504 pages) fantasy is, in itself, novel. And I’ll never forget listening to Anne segue from Wordsworth’s excerpt in Trish’s novel into her own favorite work of Yeats, what she called the best description of love she’d ever read, reciting the whole of it in her soft English lilt, and eliciting goose bumps on my arms.

The origins of both Trish and Anne’s inspiration are firmly rooted in Anglo/Irish literature and poetry. On the evening of our lit chat, scheduled at Vroman’s July 13th, lovers of literary fiction will hear what famous and not-so-famous names from centuries past and not-so-past continue to drive the pen to paper of a new generation of torch-bearers; how the literary form may be stretched and massaged, but never disrespected and overlooked; and importantly, how the success of a novel should never be inspired by commercialism (mirroring fads and contrivances), for commercial success will follow masterful storytelling—an organic process that begins in the gut, speaks from the heart, and bares its soul to the reader like an offering of timeless truths, with a healthy dose of respect for humanity.


Please mark your calendars to join us on July 13 for this great Lit Chat!! 

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by Allison K. Hill (Vroman’s President & CEO) 
This article was originally posted on Los Angeles Daily News


Summertime, and the readin’ is easy. My summer 2016 reading list is comprised of some of my favorite books from the past year, now out in paperback just in time for your beach or backyard pleasure, and some new hardcover fiction that’s worth the overweight baggage fees. Think of them as mini-vacations. You deserve it.

KITCHENS OF THE GREAT MIDWEST

By J. Ryan Stradal

This series of charming chapters surrounding fictional food prodigy Eva Thorvald make up one of my favorite debuts. It’s perfect for foodies and those who love well-crafted stories. (June 7, paperback)

 

MOVIE STAR BY LIZZIE PEPPER: A NOVEL

By Hilary Liftin

Celebrity ghostwriter and L.A. author Liftin’s fictionalized account of imaginary celebrities who closely resemble Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise is better than tabloid gossip and deliciously decadent. (June 7, paperback)

THE CARTEL

By Don Winslow

Winslow’s drug war version of “The Godfather” may not be the easy, breezy summer read I promised, but Winslow is a SoCal treasure, and his newest book will captivate you. It’s a page-turner and a magnum opus. (out now, paperback)


BARBARIAN DAYS: A SURFING LIFE

By William Finnegan

In his beautiful, Pulitzer Prize-winning autobiography, Finnegan is your tour guide to beautiful beaches, the ’60s and his love affair with surfing. (out now, paperback)

 

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS

By David McCullough

My dad hasn’t stopped talking about this book. Recommended for history buffs who probably already know the talented McCullough’s gift for history and storytelling but who most likely don’t know the incredibly, fascinating details he reveals in this exciting read. (out now, paperback)

THE CROSSING

By Michael Connelly

If you’ve read Connelly before, then I’m preaching to the choir. If you haven’t, here’s a summer project for you — Connelly has over two dozen novels to his credit. Your prize for reading them all will be this book: the coming together, from two different series, of Connelly’s best characters: Detective Harry Bosch and “Lincoln Lawyer” Mickey Haller. (out now, paperback)

THE NEST

By Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

A rich, wonderful debut novel about four siblings in a dysfunctional New York family and their shared inheritance. Enjoyed for its heart as much as for its hilarity, it’s at once dark and poignant, light and entertaining. (out now, hardcover)

THE GENTLEMAN: A NOVEL

By Forrest Leo

This wild thing of a debut has been compared to P.G. Wodehouse and Monty Python, but Leo’s voice is very much his own in this story of a poet whose writer’s block drives him to inadvertently sell his wife to the devil, then frantically attempt to get her back. (Aug. 16, hardcover)

THE PORTABLE VEBLEN

By Elizabeth McKenzie

Quirky, charming, clever and set in Palo Alto, this is the humorous story of Veblen, her fiancé Paul, and … a charismatic squirrel. But Stanford M.A. and creative writing teacher McKenzie has produced a one-of-a-kind morality tale that takes on profound subjects both timely and timeless. (out now, hardcover)

THE DUDE AND THE ZEN MASTER

By Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman

And lastly, the book that I’m reading right now by Academy-Award winning actor and L.A. native Jeff Bridges and his teacher, the renowned American Zen Buddhist roshi, Bernie Glassman. This book’s been out a few years, but it’s a special one worth mentioning. A great introduction to Buddhism and mindfulness. A treat for fans of “The Big Lebowski.” An utterly entertaining conversation between two very interesting and insightful men. And ultimately a book about friendship and the goodness of life, which is what summer should be about. That, and catching up on your reading.

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Vroman’s Little Free Library is here!

A few years ago I ran across an article about Little Free Libraries and was absolutely charmed.  How fun, to keep a tiny wooden building, not much bigger than a mailbox, in front of your house or business or in a nearby park, stocked with books that passersby are free to borrow and enjoy!  I immediately started plotting where I would put mine and which books I would fill it with.

Flash forward.  I still don’t have my own library, but last week, Vroman’s installed its own Little Free Library outside our front door near Jones Coffee’s Next Chapter!  I had the honor of placing our first selection of books inside – a few kids’ titles, some thrillers, and a variety of nonfiction books.  We’ll be checking daily to make sure it’s clean and well-stocked.  And we had our first patron when Liam, the son of our CFO, found something inside that he’d like to read.

We hope you’ll stop by and visit.  “Take a book, return a book,” as the Little Free Library organization likes to say.  If you’d like to learn more about how Little Free Libraries work, or if you’re interested in creating your own, visit littlefreelibrary.org for more information.


This blog was written by Vroman’s Merchandising Manager, Anne.
She can be seen making pretty signs for both Vroman’s locations or loading books into
the Little Free Library.

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Penguin Kids Sneak Peek for Fall 2016!

by Jessica on June 6, 2016

Check out this super cute and fun Sneak Peek video put out by our friends at Penguin.
These are the Six you can’t miss for this fall!

YouTube Preview Image

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Student, Hannah nominated Mrs. Kylie Ko of Mark Keppel School in Glendale

My teacher, Mrs. Kylie Ko is my favorite teacher. This is because she makes our learning fun, and she goes beyond her duty to explain everything to us. She makes our learning fun by making musical and music videos about what we learn. Also, if we need help she will explain it to us.

I am in the dual language program and Mrs. Ko is my korean teacher.
We have made musicals about ecosystems and the pioneers and the Gold Rush. We all get our own part in a group. We have also made music video’s about California’s geography and are making one about earth’s formations. First, My class help make the musical and when we finish with writing it we film our different parts. After we are done with the filming, she edits and makes it look really interesting and realistic. Then, she posts the trailer on our homework website so we can look at it. Then at something special like a party or event she will show us the whole thing and how it came out. We have to make our own costumes that she checks and says if we can use it or not.

She will also make stuff we learn into songs. Every week we learn a new song that she teaches us. Mrs. Ko has taught us many things, most of them fun activities. We learn about wise sayings from Korea and familiar idioms. We also do regular everyday stuff like math, science, and social studies. I look forward to starting a new day everyday in her classroom.

Mrs. Ko is also a good teacher because she helps us with our work and does not make us do everything ourselves. She has us take notes so we can study at the end of the week for a test unlike some teachers that make you just stick it in your brain and try to remember it. We use the definitions and make them into like a chant when we are speaking. She also makes movements to go with the definition. Like, if we are learning perimeter she will make a movement like going around a square because a perimeter is the outside measurements of shapes.

Mrs. Ko is leaving this Thursday Mar. 10 because she is having a baby and won’t be back till May. My class will miss her very much. She was a great teacher and will remain with us in our hearts and minds.

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Tina Renzullo nominated Regina Major of Altadena Elementary school. 

Regina Major has been working at Altadena Elementary as a Kindergarten teacher for nine years and has been with Pasadena Unified School District for 18 years. She began at Cleveland Elementary as a Pre-K teacher and moved up to a Kindergarten teacher in the fall of 2000. Her background is in Child Development and she has been working with young children for 34 years; her previous experience was with Pre-Schools.

Regina works with a population of students who have economic realities which put them at risk for low school achievement. The reason I am nominating Regina for your award is that she refuses to allow children’s challenges to determine their futures. She differentiates lessons to give all students access to the curriculum and scaffolds their growth with specific skills development. Regina does this through engaging themes and enriching experiences but the key is her expert knowledge of how her students learn best. Families rely on her to provide a strong start for their children and, together with families, Regina does exactly that. Year after year, child by child. Her students leave their year with her seeing themselves as scientists, mathematicians, inventors, artists, writers, explorers… contributing members of our community. Ask anyone in the Altadena School community about Regina and they’ll share with you multiple anecdotes about how she has positively affected their lives.

Regina has been a member of the Altadena/Pasadena community all of her life;
She received her education at Edison-Kindergarten and 1st grade, Pasadena Christian-2nd grade to 8th grade, Marshall Fundamental-High School, (Her first teaching experience was through the PUSD ROP Program at All Saints Children’s Center.) PCC-AA in General Studies, Cal State Northridge-BA in Child Development, Point Loma University-Teaching Credential/MA in Teaching Learning and Technology, and UCLA Extension-technology course in 2005. She was a part of TAH (Teach American History-Cohort 3). She was one of the teachers from Altadena Elementary involved in CRW (Curriculum Revision Workshop). Currently she serves on the Altadena Inclusion planning team.
Outside of her professional obligations, she is involved with enhancing our community. Regina is a 7 year member of the Tournament of Roses, a youth community tutor with various organizations, and an active member of her church, where she works with the youth choir and Lead Young Adults.
Regina exemplifies what strong commitment to community looks like and we all benefit from her dedication. It would be really lovely to honor her with your award.

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Student/Friend, Lisa Jonsson nominated Rosalyn M. Wortham
of Los Angeles Adventist Academy

Teachers have the opportunity to make such an impact on a student’s life. How many people can say that they have a friendship with their high school literature teacher?  Even more surprising; how many people can say they have this friendship over 30 years later?   It is my honor and privilege to nominate

Mrs. Rosalyn M. Wortham, whom over 30 years ago, was my high school literature teacher and continues her 40 year teaching span. As a student in high school, I had to work hard to obtain good grades.  Mrs. Wortham (or Roslie as I now lovingly refer to her), never stopped believing in me or my abilities.  She often recounted the story of the  “Tortoise and the Hair”.  Roslie always said it wasn’t about who finished first more than it was about who finished the race. Her assignments were rigorous yet inspiring: a treasure hunt at the library, an indentured servant journal replete with daily entries and an antiquated look, interpreting Shakespeare, writing poetry, and reading my all time favorite, Agatha Christie. After high school, I went on to complete my graduate degree and mentioned Roslie in the dedication of my published thesis.  Roslie’s support played a large part in my achievements.  As a Marriage and Family Therapist today, I have a good understanding about what helps people to thrive in this world – a mentor and a cheerleader. Roslie definitely was that for me. Roslie has always availed herself to her students and continues teaching at LA Adventist Academy where she works with many underprivileged children.  There, she continues to provide assignments that remain interesting, precipitate creativity, and continue a quest for the love of learning.  Some of her students see her as a “tough, no-nonsense” teacher to be highly revered.  While she is all of those things, she is also an incredibly caring, dedicated, cheerleader for all of her students. Today, after over 40 years of teaching, she continues to make an impact on her student’s lives.

I continue my friendship with a woman who never gave up on her students and pushed the limits to make them better people. Together, we attend concerts, memorable celebrations, literary events, and even have time for a cup of tea to discuss “who did it” before the end of our mystery novels. I can’t think of anyone more deserving and appropriate than my high school literature teacher Rosalyn M. Wortham for Vroman’s Teacher of the Year. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than seeing her honored for all of the selfless work that she does.

I sign off with a poem, which I believe describes it perfectly:

From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive:

They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;

They are the books, the arts, the academes,

That show, contain, and nourish all the world.

William Shakespeare

 

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Parent, Lydia Spurgeon nominated Ms. Banuelos of
Jackson Magnet STEM Dual Language Academy in Altadena. 

My Family and I enthusiastically, wholeheartedly, and respectfully nominate our daughter’s teacher, Mrs. Sandra Bañuelos, as the Vroman’s Bookstore 2015-2016 Teacher of the Year.

Ms. Bañuelos is a First Grade, Dual Spanish Language Immersion Program teacher at Jackson Magnet STEM Dual Language Academy in Altadena, part of the Pasadena Unified School District.

Although I read, write, and speak Spanish fluently, our daughter grew up speaking only English at home and at school. Once I learned about the dual language immersion programs that PUSD offers, I jumped immediately at the opportunity to apply for her to transfer to one of these schools. Fortunately, she was able to begin the summer before First grade. Unfortunately, that put her an academic year behind her peers in Spanish language skills.

Ms. Bañuelos has been her teacher since last Summer when she didn’t understand any Spanish at all, and from day one has balanced being kind, encouraging, and helpful to her with being structured, patient, and steadfast in her instructions and activities. She has been instrumental in our daughter’s level of success and growth at such a quick rate after starting with such a disadvantage. She told us about how she can identify with her on a personal level because she had the same experience growing up, not knowing any English when she began school. And she also understands the value of being bilingual and the opportunities that come with it.

One of our best and proudest memories of this school year was a quick video that she took of our daughter leading the class in their daily morning class opening – in Spanish! To see the teacher beaming and so happy that she was able to do it on her own was so heartwarming and rewarding.

Ms. Bañuelos has also inspired me again to pick up books in Spanish and to read them with, and have my daughter read them to me. In particular, just this week, we have enjoyed, “La oruga muy hambrienta” and “La mariquita malhumorada!”

Although I know our daughter will not have her as a teacher next year, we unequivocally understand that Ms. Bañuelos has made a grand difference in our lives and has been an excellent example of what persistence, perseverance, and diligence in learning language can do for a little one’s life – and for us as parents as well.

¡BRAVA para Maestra Bañuelos, y muchísimas gracias por todo!

 

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Colleague, Matthew Woodin nominated David Silah of Arcadia High School

I would like to nominate my Colleague, David Silah, Math teacher at Arcadia High School for Teacher of the Year consideration.

The teaching of mathematics to high school students in today’s Facebook, Youtube culture of me-first instant gratification is Herculean at best. However, David Silah has been making math meaningful to students for decades at Arcadia High School as well as his students in LAUSD prior. His Thoreau-like approach to learning enables him to share difficult formulas and broaden student understanding by demonstrating Math’s applications to logic, reason and, more importantly, life.

While many teachers have begun relying more on technology to “hold student attention” Dave has shunned it in favor of embracing his more than 40 feet of board space, which allows him to meticulously demonstrate work, answer student questions and reveal Math’s metaphors. From the beginning of each class period to the end, he is thoughtfully demonstrating not only his passion for math but ensuring students leave his room with a clear understanding of the material.

I have now been a colleague of David’s for 9 years and while he teaches Math and I English, we still have found time to collaborate and discuss our love of reading. David is a proponent of Dickinson’s poetry and a former John Muir Trail hiker who embodies an Abbey-like knowledge of our local mountains and beyond. Furthermore, he and I have shared many students and, without fail, they can not help but express their gratitude to “Mr Silah” for making Math a class a place of knowledge, discussion and passion.

 

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Parent, Catherine Caldwell-Harris, nominated Mrs. Strehl
of McKinley School in Pasadena. 

I first realized Mrs. Strehl was special because of the immediate strong response of my son.  I then paid attention to what she was doing in the classroom.

An example of Mrs. Strehl’s energy is  how she makes wonderful use of parent volunteers to reduce the time she spends as a single adult in front of 25 children. She took the time to create an email list, and recruited a parent volunteer to be the room parent (in charge of emails).

We all know that “centers” are terrific tools for learning, but you’d need teachers’ aids for these.  Mrs. Strehl uses one parent-volunteer per day  to create centers. She really implements “developmentally appropriate” practices.

Recently Mrs. Strehl arranged to incubate 14 chick eggs in class. When one was born, it became the class pet. Each weekend, parents sign up to take the chick home.  We got to have the chick at our home this last weekend — what a learning experience!

Here are some anecdotes about my son’s response.

The second day of school when picking up Elias from the after school program we saw Mrs. Strehl crossing the street to the parking lot. Elias saw her, and he insisted that I let him run over to her to give her a hug. Very cute.

In early September our family began discussing a weekend beach trip, which Elias dearly wanted.

Mommy:  “Let’s leave Friday morning to make the most of the weekend;
the children can miss one day of school.

Elias:  “No.  We can go Friday after school.
I don’t want to miss school. 
Mrs. Strehl said don’t miss school.

Wow.

Elias frequently says he wants to share this or that accomplishment or found object or drawing with Mrs. Strehl. I sometimes invoke Mrs. Strehl when I want Elias to inwardly channel the voice of a respected authority. An example of this is when Elias found a $20 bill in our house and began arguing about why he should be allowed to keep it even while his parents wanted the bill safely back in an adult wallet.

Elias:  “I want to take it to school for my sharing day.”

Mommy: “Why don’t we first ask Mrs. Strehl if that would be an acceptable sharing object.
[Elias quickly dropped that particular line of attack.]

Another example.

Elias riffed: “I wish I was Grand Dad!

Mommy [taking up the game]: “I wish I were Mrs. Strehl.

Elias: “Then you would have to work all day.
She even works in the 
afterschool program now.

[Makes me wonder – how does he know?  I infer he pays close attention to things she says.]

In sum:  I am so happy that Mrs. Strehl is Elias’ teacher.  She is helping to make a curious and intellectually-oriented  little boy a fan of school.

 

 

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