Tag Archives: Festival of Faith & Writing

Sneak Peek at My Goodreads To-Read List

8 Aug


If you’ve been following along for a while now, you know I’ve been doing a blog series on Goodreads. Today I want to talk about one of my favorite Goodreads features.

I like that I can keep track of what I’ve read in the past (though I’m sure there are lots I’ve left off), but even better is that I can compile a list of books I want to read. So often I’ll hear about a good book and then forget about if I don’t get to the library or bookstore right away or if another book comes along that I want to read. A couple books on my to-read list right now are:

  • Brian Doyle’s Grace Notes. I heard him speak at the Festival of Faith & Writing in 2012 and loved his mix of humor, sentiment, and humanity.
  • Melinda MoustakisBear Down, Bear North: Alaska Stories. I came across her name when she was nominated in 2011 as a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 fiction writer. On the one hand, she’s a young, female, Greek American author so I feel a kindred spirit; on the other hand, she’s from Alaska, which seems more foreign than Greece to me, yet, given my interest in the Lapland, intriguing.
  • Michael SimsThe Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic. My love for literature bloomed when I read Charlotte’s Web, so when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. I just haven’t gotten to it yet….

As you can see, I have very eclectic taste.

I’ve found a few books on Goodreads that I’ve added to my list, but mainly the books on my to-read list have come from stories I’ve heard on NPR, mentions on lit blogs, and random encounters with the authors.

Have you ever found a great book on Goodreads? How do you usually find out about books? What should I add to my ever-growing list of to-read books?

Shameless plug alert: If you’re looking for a book to add to your to-read list, perhaps you want to add Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”


My Year in Review: 2012

4 Jan

What a full year 2012 was! Here’s a quick little recap:::


In January I announced that the rumors were true. But it took the full year for it to finally look like this.


In February I joined Pinterest to discover how it may help me as a writer and have been happily pinning ever since.


In March my personal essay was included in the book Creating Space.


In April I was one of the editors representing the Burnside Writers Collective at the Festival of Faith & Writing. It was so special to get to catch up with the other editors and writers, whom I just adore. I also had the opportunity to teach a writing workshop while I was there.



Image via On the Road with Bob Holman / Rattapallax

In April I also worked to create awareness about what we lose when we lose a language. My interview with poet Bob Holman appeared in BOMBlog.

In May I received my MFA in creative nonfiction from The New School. I had a fantastic thesis advisor and a beloved peer group, who challenged me to dig deeper in my memoir about growing up Greek American. After I read a snippet at our thesis reading, an instructor I’d never even had came up to tell me how much he liked my work!


Image via The Human Tower / Rattapallax

In June I witnessed the world record being broken for the tallest castell on a rooftop.


In July I heard Amber Tamblyn read for The Paris Review at the Strand. Afterwards we somehow ended up on the elevator together, and I didn’t say anything to her. I never know in those situations if it’s polite to say something like “nice reading” or if the person just wants her privacy. I know she’s involved in the Beat literature community, though, so I should’ve probably talked to her about that.


Image via The Millions

In August an article I wrote about a funny incident I had related to Jack Kerouac sparked a fiery debate and went viral, getting mentioned everywhere from The New Yorker to The Paris Review.


Photo via RA Araya

In September I had one of the most surreal moments of my life–reading with David Amram. I got to hear him perform again, this time as an enthralled audience member, in December.


Photo via RA Araya

That month I also read for poet Miguel Algarin‘s birthday bash.


I also road tripped through northern and central California, visiting Cannery Row, City Lights Bookshop, The Beat Museum, and attending my college friend’s wedding.


In October Hurricane Sandy hit New York, and I spent a lot of time in bed.


In November I failed miserably at NaNoWriMo, but I had a lot of fun creating this ever-evolving Pinterest board for the book I never wrote.

I also gave a reading that got upstaged by a wedding proposal.


In December there was a flurry of Jack Kerouac-related activities to promote the film adaptation of On the Road, and I got to see author Ann Charters and film director Walter Salles in person at IFC. I also got to take a writing class with screenwriter Jose Rivera at 3rd Ward.

I also went out to Lowell and got to meet Jack Kerouac’s friend and pallbearer Billy Koumantzelis.


What were the highlights of 2012 for you?

Church Hopping at the Festival of Faith & Writing: Calvin College Chapel

17 Apr

I’m getting excited for the Festival of Faith & Writing!!  I’m so looking forward to catching up with all my friends from the Burnside Writers Collective, some of whom I haven’t seen in years and others whom I’ve never met before.  We’ll have a booth so please do stop by and say hello!  I’m the visual arts editor for Burnside, and I’m always looking for new writers and cool artists whose work we can feature on the site.  If you’re interested, let’s chat at the Festival.

If you’re going — or just want to live vicariously through this blog — you might be interested in the Church Hopping column I wrote up after our last trip to the Festival.  Some of the panels and Q&As are held in the Pizza Hut Chapel, as Diane called it.



Burnside commentary:

Kim Gottschild:  “I liked the chapel’s architecture. What I found particularly interesting was the pergola type structure that lined the inside of the sanctuary like an overhang. Together with the beautiful view of the budding trees, it made me feel like I was sitting in a garden setting, the outside having been brought in. I also loved the light feel of the wooden interior. Overall, the interior atmosphere felt natural, light and airy, and I felt like I could breathe. And Mary Karr’s interview only enhanced that, as listening to her always gives me permission to be human.”

Penny Carothers: “I liked the chapel, too. I liked the inclusive feel, the feeling of being surrounded by others, not just staring at the dais. I also appreciated how the dais was almost in the center of the room. I liked how light it was.”

Cary Campbell Umhau:  “Well, I hate to be a naysayer but I found it cold. I wanted a cozy corner, not an exposed openness. I’m sure that says something antisocial and awful about me, but I wanted to flee!  I have to say I was swayed a little by Diane saying that it’s sometimes referred to as the Pizza Hut Chapel (Diane, am I misquoting you?).  Is it bizarre that I preferred the ‘Undercroft’ of cinderblock (and the bathrooms were nearby too; handy with all the coffee I was downing), and I loved hearing Lisa Samson down there.”

Diane Nienhuis:  “Cary, you quoted correctly!”


You can read the rest of Church Hopping: Calvin College Chapel here.