Florida LitLife | April
Writing in Florida is, as the kids say, tearing it up: I don’t think I’ve ever written one of these columns where there was more going on. The 2017 SunLit Festival has probably just wound down as you’re reading this – and yet somehow there’s barely time to prepare for the next wave of big books and big events.
Oh, and writers – be sure to scroll down for a new section highlighting career-building events and opportunities for you.
New and Upcoming Releases
Sara Gerard: Sunshine State – Out now, this is THE book to read for Florida residents this Spring. It’s beautifully written and full of insight into Pinellas county, where Gerard grew up. Here’s our review, our interview with Gerard, and a review at Bomb Magazine, the prestigious New York art publication where Gerard is a former staffer.
Kit Reed, Mormana: Kit Reed was a reporter for the St. Pete Times back in the 1950s, and wrote about Florida intermittently as she set about establishing herself as one of the more lauded writers of speculative fiction around. Reed’s next book (at the sprightly young age of 84) has been compared to the creepy brilliance of Shirley Jackson, spanning the gap between horror, surrealism, and highbrow literature. Her latest, set in Jacksonville, is due out from Tor/MacMillan on March 30, and we’ll have a review here soon.
Jeff Vandermeer, Borne: There’s no Florida author who has had a more breathtakingly unexpected career arc than Vandermeer. From early works about mushroom men and horrific genetic engineering, his 2015 Southern Reach books vaulted him to national prominence, and Natalie Portman is set to star in an upcoming adaptation. Borne is another gripping and grim futuristic adventure that returns to Vandermeer’s Florida-inspired obsession with nature and biology. Out April 24.
Saw Palm, USF’s literary review, has just published its Spring 2017 issue, featuring work from Jane Glasser, Fred Dale, and Patricia Belote. You can purchase the issue here, though they don’t seem to offer any online excerpts, which is a shame.
News for Writers
April 30 is the deadline for entry into the Royal Palm Literary Awards, from the Florida Writer’s Association. For those serious about their writing careers, literary awards like this are an important stepping stone to wider recognition. And because the RPLAs offer dozens of different categories, entrants have a good shot at being recognized in their subfield. Find entry information here.
Also from the FWA: registration is now open for the 16 Annual Florida Writers Conference, to be held in October in Altamonte Springs. Writer’s conferences are an excellent way to network both with other writers and, often, with agents – and this is one of the biggest in Florida. There’s a slight discount for registering before July 31.
The Safety Harbor-based Odet literary journal is seeking submissions from Florida resident writers. The annual collection offers great terms for submissions – there’s no fee, and submissions will be entered into a parallel contest with a cash prize. Odet is edited by Laura Kepner, author of A Brief History of Safety Harbor, who’s doing a lot of laudable work to promote literature in the area.
National and World News
Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad has been awarded the Pullitzer Prize for best novel, with the nonfiction prize going to Matthew Desmond’s Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Prizes for biography, poetry, and reporting were also awarded, with a full list available here.
The Man Booker International Prize Shortlist was recently announced, and includes Norwegian Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen and Israeli Amos Oz’s Judas.
And if we may make a literary endorsement: S-Town, a new nonfiction-novel-podcast from This American Life and Serial, is as good or better than any book on tape. It tells the dark, gripping, true-life story of a small southern town and a local eccentric who is much more than he appears. You can download the whole thing for free here, or through any podcast app.