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For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Chris Fanning
Director of Communications
585-473-2590 ext 104
Rochester NY: Last Friday, March 30, Writers & Books wrapped up the eighteenth year of their annual community reading program, Rochester Reads. This year the organization hosted author Reyna Grande (author of the award-winning memoir The Distance Between Us) to Rochester for a three-day residency. Grande held readings of new work and led topical discussions at various libraries (Central, Penfield, Palmyra, Wood, Greece), college campuses (MCC, FLCC, RIT), high schools (SOTA), and a senior living center (Valley Manor). This year more than 1400 people attended these readings, a significant increase of almost 500 people over last year.
In her memoir, Reyna Grande shares the complex experiences of her life, from her childhood in Mexico, through her illegal immigration to the US in pursuit of a better life, to her success as a student and author. This inspirational coming-of-age story follows Reyna and her family as they cross the border and navigate the complexities of living as undocumented immigrants – with Reyna ultimately being the first in her family to earn a college degree.
Karen vanMeenan, coordinator of community reading programs at Writers & Books, spoke about the impact of picking Grande’s book:
“When I first read The Distance Between Us I, of course, recognized its value as a moving coming-of-age story and a beautifully crafted narrative. As I thought more about the recent conversations and the reignited controversies dividing people across our country, I knew this book was important—that if we selected it for Rochester Reads, it could spark crucial dialogue and bring people together. I knew it was the right book at the right time. And the response was indeed extraordinary. We had record crowds at every venue with audiences interested in the author’s experience, her family story, and the implications of continuing policies and rhetoric regarding undocumented people in this country. Reyna Grande captivated our audiences with her engaging presentations and presence, openly sharing her story and inspiring others to do so.”
Writers & Books is Rochester’s nationally renowned non-profit literary center located at 740 University Avenue, in the heart of Rochester’s Neighborhood of the Arts. In 2001, Writers & Books initiated the Rochester Reads program. The program seeks to encourage people to connect to others in our community through reading and discussion, and through the shared experience of literature. Each year Writers & Books selects one book for our community to explore together, leading to a residency by the author.
When my two children were small I felt an almost vibrational urgency to write about my experience as a mom. My life had changed in a way that was difficult to wrap my head around, and I needed a creative outlet. In addition, I felt like my kids’ goofy little lives and antics were worth preserving both for me and for them. But my background was in archaeology and sitting down to write about my feelings seemed beyond my skill set.
Then I came across the “Ben and Birdy” blog written by well-known parent-writer Catherine Newman. She wrote about her life as a mother with refreshing humor, sensitivity and honesty. Day after day I read her posts and thought, “I could do this.”
So I did.
My first blog (long erased from the internet!) was a place where I could share it all without filter. I made connections with other parenting bloggers, and soon we had a community that stretched around the world. The support they offered gave me the confidence to continue writing about my children and motherhood. Today I have several published pieces that first originated on that old blog. I’ve written about my life as a mom for the local paper and performed an essay about my daughter for the 2017 Rochester Listen To your Mother show.
What I’ve learned over the years is that I am not alone. So many parents have this same inner voice urging them to write about their parenting experience, yet they don’t feel confident in their own writing or wonder about how to get started.
If you’d like to join my 4 session class about parent-writing please contact Writers & Books to reserve your spot. No writing experience is necessary at all. We’ll read creative works by current parent-writers and discuss how to craft stories about our own parenting experiences in a comfortable, private, and fun setting.
Christine Green is a freelance writer in Brockport, NY and writes a Literary Arts column for Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle. Green hosts a monthly literary reading, “Words on the Verge,” at A Different Path Gallery. She grew up in San Jose, CA and holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree in historical archaeology from the College of William and Mary. She is also a 2016 Pink Door Literary Fellow.
Learn more about her upcoming working, Writing About Parenthood, by clicking here.
Who knew getting a book contract would be so easy?
After wrapping up the proposal for my planned book about the 1993 robbery of a Brink’s depot in Rochester, I sent it off to the agent, Rob Wilson, who’d agreed to represent me and the project. Within days, we had a bite from a small publisher, which is where I expected the book to land, if it landed anywhere.
The staff at the publishing house had a few questions, but were generally supportive. After one discussion at a weekly meeting, they sent these notes to Rob:
“Pub board went reasonably well. There was a belief that this had the potential to be a break-out regional true crime paperback and Gary’s credentials and connection to the story were well-received. There was some concern that those who have been following the case – potential buyers – would have read everything on it.”
We went back and forth to resolve some of the lingering concerns, and the deal was ready to be signed.
But that moment did not come. Instead, the day before we expected the book to be accepted, a larger publisher purchased the smaller publisher, a few people lost their jobs (including those interested in my book), and I was back to square one.
And then the real wait began. And this time it was not a matter of days. The days became weeks, the weeks became months, and the months became more than a year, as publisher after publisher took a pass.
I could have scrapped the idea, and moved on. Instead, I used those days, weeks, and months to continue to research the robbery and its aftermath, chasing down sources whom I’d been unable to previously find, securing records from as far away as Northern Ireland, constantly fine-tuning the proposal as Rob contacted prospective buyers.
Finally, in 2015, the University Press of New England took an interest In the project, and we signed a contract. Two years later, my book, with the somewhat unwieldy title of Seven Million: A Cop, A Priest, A Soldier for the IRA, and the Still Unsolved Rochester Brink’s Heist, found its way to the market.
I’m still new to this book-writing stuff, and do hope to do more in the future. But my first excursion into the publishing world did teach me a lesson: Be patient, and, while being patient, be productive.
Gary Craig is a reporter on the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s Watchdog team, focusing on public safety and criminal justice. He has followed and written about the Brink’s depot heist for over twenty years. He has won numerous state and national journalism awards.
Learn more about Gary’s upcoming workshop, Nonfiction Book Proposals by clicking here.