Local Author Spotlight

Our community is home to a large number of outstanding authors. To celebrate them, we will offer – every two months – an introduction to a different children's or adult author who resides in one of the four towns in our school district and who has published a new book within the past year. The selection shall be made by a vote of our librarians. Happy reading!

Authors previously spotlighted in this series include: Bruce Watson, Aaron Becker, Charles Mann, Holly Black, Lewis Mainzer, Nicole Blum & Catherine Newman, Michael Ponsor, David Hyde Costello, William Taubman, Rich Michelson, Madeleine Blais, and Cammie McGovern
See More Books by Local Authors!
May – June 2019

Joanne Creighton

Interview



How does living in the Amherst area affect your writing?

I lived 15 years in South Hadley followed by 8 in Amherst: After my long stint as president of Mount Holyoke College, I served as a Five College Professor and taught successively at UMass, Amherst College, and Hampshire College. And then in retirement, I was active in the Five College Learning in Retirement Program which often uses the five campuses as venues. In a real sense, then, I feel myself to be a citizen of the Five Colleges which give such a distinctive cultural flavor to the Valley.
Joanne Creighton
What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?

When I was president, I loved to circumvent the lakes on the campus of Mount Holyoke with my husband and dog each morning. When we moved to Amherst, the serene rail trail (at Station Road) became our favorite early morning haunt.

Do you have a favorite book that is set in or is about the Pioneer Valley or New England?

While she writes about more than her time at Smith and residence in the community, Jill Ker Conway and her beautifully written and trenchant, three-volume memoir was an inspiration to me.

Do you have a special library memory or story?

Since there was no nearby library in the small village in Northern Wisconsin where I grew up, I found the periodic visits of the bookmobile tremendously exciting. I loved looking at the panoply of books and loading up with my share.

What was your favorite book growing up?

I think that would have to be Black Beauty. My sister and I also had complete sets of the Bobbsey Twins and Cherry Ames which we read and reread when we ran out of bookmobile books.

What was the last book you enjoyed reading?

I was very taken and impressed with Tara Westover’s Educated, a vivid and almost unbelievable memoir of a girl who overcame incredible odds, raised, as she was, in a repressive, claustrophobic Mormon family, ruled over with an iron hand by a mentally unstable father. Somehow she survives and prevails over horrors and real dangers and, she, who never even went to school as a child, teaches herself and goes on to have a distinguished academic record. Her memoir makes all others, including mine, very tame indeed.

Recent Book by Joanne

  (see all her books)

Joanne's Favorite Books

  (with her comments)

I credit Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady with turning me into an English major when I was a sophomore in college, and I’ve continued to love it ever since for its artistry and its compelling portrait of Isabel Archer. The multi-layered, multi-generational examination of “what happened?” to cause Thomas Sutpen’s demise in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! bowled me over and inspired my life-long fascination with Faulkner’s craftsmanship, the focus of my dissertation and first book. I admire a great American novel, Beloved, by Toni Morrison, which matches Faulkner’s work in its emotional resonance and complexity. I love Margaret Drabble’s early work, especially The Waterfall, for its honest and probing exploration of women’s identity and sexuality. I’ve spent many years and hours reading and writing two books about the works of Joyce Carol Oates whose genius and importance are often underestimated. Favorite work of hers? Perhaps it is the short story “Where are you going? Where have you been?” for its quintessential Oatesian character, an adolescent girl on the brink of experience torn between the comforts and claustrophobia of home and the lure and dangers of sexuality, experience, and evil.

March – April 2019

Bruce Watson



NOTE: Bruce was the recipient of the Special Centennial Award at the 2019 Samuel Minot Jones Awards!

Interview



How does living in the Amherst area affect your writing?

After I had written four unpublished novels, Amherst revived my writing when I moved here in 1988. First, we lived in a little room near the university, within walking distance of the many bookstores downtown back then. Next, my future wife saw that the Amherst Bulletin was seeking columnists. I sent in a column and was soon hired to do a weekly. A UMass class on freelance writing taught me to write a query and pitch ideas and I was soon writing for Smithsonian. I suppose being near Emily D had something to do with it, too.
Local Author Spotlight - Bruce Watson - Photo Credit - Greenfield Recorder
What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?

You’ll think I’m “just saying this” but the Jones Library is my local literary Mecca. When I became a freelancer, I worked most days in the Jones. I still go once a week and write downstairs, surrounded by all those books.

Do you have a favorite book that is set in or is about the Pioneer Valley or New England?

Walden. ‘Nuff said.

What was the last book you enjoyed reading?

I am usually listening to one book on my phone (while walking) and reading one or two in print. At the moment, I have hit the Daily Double. I’m listening to Their Eyes Were Watching God, as read (performed really) by Ruby Dee. Simply an amazing book with a stunning performance. And I’m reading A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul, which is a grim but masterfully told tale of a poverty-stricken life in Trinidad.

What was your favorite book growing up?

The first and only book I could not put down was The Phantom Tollbooth. I’m still amazed to have come to Amherst and met its author, longtime resident Norton Juster.

Do you have a website for your books which you would like us to share?

The books' website is brucewatsonwriter.com but I put far more energy and writing into theattic.space, which is my weekly magazine of short articles (100+ and counting) in hopes of finding “a kinder, cooler America.”

Recent Books by Bruce

  (see all his books)

Bruce's Favorite Books

  (with his comments)

"The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky — because it explores the human psyche — good and evil — better than any other book

White Noise by Don DeLillo — because it nailed the inanity of American pop culture

The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac — because On the Road is mostly a soap opera. THIS is what it’s like to be young, free, and on the road

These Truths: A History of the United States (or just about anything) by Jill Lepore. Because she’s the fairest, the most inquisitive, and the most readable historian working today.

The King Years by Taylor Branch — this is an abridgment of Branch’s three-volume MLK bio which gives vivid descriptions of the key moments from the Civil Rights Movement."

January – February 2019

Aaron Becker



Interview



What is your favorite local place to go for inspiration, relaxation, or peace and quiet? Why?

The Montague Bookmill is my go-to escape. No matter the season, it’s always inspiring and the burger at the Alvah Stone is hard to beat.

Why did you write your new book?

A Stone for Sascha was written after my family and I came back from living in Granada, Spain, for the year. I was trying to get a handle on civilizations, time, culture — all that good stuff, and somehow came into this tale of a girl and her dog. There’s also a stone in it. Promise.

Learn more about Aaron Becker and his books at www.storybreathing.com.
Aaron Becker

Recent Books by Aaron

  (see all his books)

Aaron's Favorite Books

  (with his comments)

I’ve recently become a big fan of all things Adam Gidwitz, especially his Inquisitor’s Tale. He has a gift for narrative voice and crafting surprising and entertaining children’s literature.

Anything illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Her Jane, the Fox, and Me is a masterpiece of visual storytelling, and her picture book Virginia Wolf (by Kyo Maclear) is a favorite in our house too.

Lenore Look’s Alvin Ho series is hysterical but smart without the dumbed-down humor of so many of the more popular chapter books out there today. Great for 1st-3rd graders (and their parents).

The illustrator of Alvin Ho, LeUyen Pham, is also famous for illustrating Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black series. That’s a great one too, but for something for a bit older audience (4th-7th graders), Shannon’s new Real Friends (also illustrated by Pham) is hard to beat.