In Memoriam: Norm Davis

—by Nick DiChario, former fiction editor of HazMat Review and former director of Adult Education and Programming at W&B

Writers & Books and the Rochester writing community suffered a great loss on Friday, September 13, when Norman Lorain Davis died in his hometown of Wellsville, New York, at the age of 85. Norm was a mainstay of the Rochester poetry scene, making it his mission to promote local poets, writers, musicians, and artists. He curated W&B’s own Wide Open Mic for more than thirty years and supported many literary events in and around Rochester, including readings and performances at the Greenhouse Café, Java Joe’s, Jazzberry’s, and Daily Perks, among others. He was a brilliant teacher and staunch advocate for W&B, and he loved to help people of all ages and backgrounds discover their voices, express their unique worldviews, and celebrate their talents.


In addition, during his lengthy career as an educational psychologist, Norm helped hundreds of highly creative, at-risk youth find purpose and direction—and many of those young people stayed in touch with him throughout the years.

A gifted writer in his own right, Norm often read publicly from his volume of poetry Rome Gothic, a book that is still cherished among the Rochester literati nearly twenty years after its original publication in 1991.

In 1996, Norm realized a lifelong dream by founding and becoming editor and publisher of his own magazine, HazMat Review, and used this forum for ten years to print socially and politically hazardous material featuring mainly local authors.

Well known for his skills as a conversationalist, Norm was intensely curious about every individual he met. He looked at human interaction as a challenge and opportunity to help us think critically, look deeper into ourselves, or simply laugh harder at the ironies and absurdities of life. He considered poetry a living thing that carried its own meanings, messages, and social implications far beyond the author’s vision. Most importantly, he believed that words could heal, and he never missed a chance to convince others of this truth.


Norm was profoundly antiwar, a recurring theme in much of his writing, and he often struggled with his role in what he called “the industrial war machine.” In addition to being a Korean War veteran, he served as a special weapons technician in the mid-1950s, responsible for loading and arming thermonuclear bombs. He returned to Korea after the war where he learned the Korean language, taught school, met and married his sweetheart, and eventually came home to America, much to our advantage. Along with countless friends, he leaves behind two sons, Foster and Walter; his daughter Lorraine; and his granddaughter Hana.


On a personal note, Norm was one of my oldest and dearest friends. He was among the first people I met at W&B (at an open mic) when I was a young man in my twenties. I remember thinking “Who is this strange guy in the black leather vest, wrinkled T-shirt, and frayed flat cap, wearing dirty glasses and carrying an armload of books?” Imagine my surprise when I saw he was running the show. I learned later that his wife, who could never quite master the English language, regularly accused him of dressing like a “bill-hilly.” He found this so funny that I think it shaped his wardrobe for the remainder of his days.


I was fortunate to see Norm a week before he died. While his health had been failing for some time, he was alert and in good humor that afternoon, and we sat outside on the porch with a group of friends reminiscing about the old days at W&B, our HazMat editorial meetings at Salena’s Mexican restaurant, and the quirky characters of the early open mic scene. I loved him dearly, and I’ll remember him always.

Of course, now that Norm is gone, we can only thank him for his service and commitment to the arts in Rochester. To say that he was a special person who will be greatly missed is a vast understatement, but it must be said nonetheless. Soon W&B will announce a celebration of Norm’s life and work. In the meantime, let us all remember him for the way he enriched our lives, for the gentle spirit, kind soul, and inspiration he was to so many.

The Ladder Literary Conference Returns June 8, 2019

Are you ready to take your writing to the next level? Are you in need of some fresh ideas? Are you hoping to learn more about the many facets of publishing? Are you looking for an agent? Then join Writers & Books on June 8, 2019, for The Ladder, a one-day literary conference in Rochester, New York.

Whether you are in the earlier stages of your writing journey or ready to share your work with the world, the Ladder Literary Conference is sure to inspire and energize you.

Go here for all the information!

Conan Doyle for the Defense with Margalit Fox

April 29 @ 7:00 pm8:30 pm

$6

For all the scores of biographies of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective in the world, there is no American book that tells this story—in which Conan Doyle serves as detective on an actual murder case. In CONAN DOYLE FOR THE DEFENSE: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer (A Random House Hardcover, on-sale June 26), Margalit Fox takes us step by step inside Conan Doyle’s investigative process, and illuminates a murder mystery that is also a morality play for our time—a story of ethnic, religious and anti-immigrant bias.

In 1908, a wealthy woman was brutally murdered in her Glasgow home. The police found a convenient but innocent suspect in Oscar Slater—an immigrant Jewish cardsharp—who was tried, convicted, and consigned to life at hard labor in a brutal Scottish prison. Conan Doyle, already world famous as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, was outraged by this injustice and became obsessed with the case. Using the methods of his most famous character, he scoured trial transcripts, newspaper accounts and eyewitness statements, meticulously noting myriad holes, inconsistencies and outright fabrications by police and prosecutors. Finally, in 1927, his work won Slater’s freedom.

About the Author:
A retired senior writer at The New York Times, MARGALIT FOX is considered one the foremost explanatory writers and literary stylists in American journalism. As a longtime member of the newspaper’s celebrated Obituary News Department, she has written the front-page public sendoffs of some of the leading cultural figures of our age. (Conan Doyle for the Defense is in many ways a fond belated obituary—for the long-overlooked Oscar Slater, an immigrant Everyman treated inexcusably by history.) Fox’s previous book, The Riddle of the Labyrinth, won the William Saroyan Prize for International Writing. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, the writer and critic George Robinson.

Poetry, Potluck, and Pinot Returns for 6th Year

Presenting the perennial & popular poetry picnic! A marathon celebration of National Poetry Month, each hour will feature four poets reading their original work. Please join us with a dish or a bottle to pass.

Saturday, April 27, 2:00pm – 6:00pm

Readers will include:

Patricia Roth Schwartz
Joel Lesses
Reilly Hirst
Celeste Schantz
Charlie Cote
Jonathan Everitt
Meagan Downing
Sarah Collins
Lindsay Herko
Karen Faris

and more!