Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Monday, November 24, 2014

Books and Culture review, Glimmerglass

Chapter header,
Clive Hicks-Jenkins
I'm grateful to editor John Wilson for his lovely review of Glimmerglass--I hope that some day we meet and I get to thank him in person for his long interest in my books. I am grateful to him.

From the intro: Some years ago, I described the novelist and poet Marly Youmans as "the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers." That's still true today (so I think), and if you haven't tried Youmans yet, her new novel, Glimmerglass, is a very good place to start. 
Near the close: The artist's calling, "to see and to record all life that filled this world—all, all [Welty quote]," is just what Cynthia accepts, and just what Marly Youmans fulfills in this wonderful novel.

Praise for all: One last note. We hear a lot about bad news in the world of publishing. And there is a lot of bad news to report. But let me register that this particular book is not only beautifully written but also beautifully made. The illustrations, by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, are superb. The typography, the entire design of the book: all bespeak care and skill that rhyme with Youmans' art and the story she tells. Blessings to Mercer University Press.
Read the entire review HERE

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Peeping Thomasina

Seen online--fun recent quotes from artists about Glimmerglass and more...
  • Jackie Morris Jolly good. Mine is the same and I NEED all of your books by Marly Youmans
    3 hrs · Unlike · 1
  • Clive Hicks-Jenkins Marly Youmans is a wonderful writer, and so with or without artwork by me, she deserves being on your shelves. I loved working on 'Glimmerglass', and I think that her epic poem with Phoenicia Publishing, 'Thaliad', is a masterpiece. When I printed out the manuscript prior to starting my work, I thought it looked daunting, though thereafter I read it in a single sitting. And then I read it again, and again, and again. There are passages in it that bring me up short every time. Utterly ravishing.
    3 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 2
The thread is here.

* * *

Tilly, belonging to artist and writer and editor
Terri Windling-Gayton, with Glimmerglass
in over-the-sea Chagford.
Jackie also re-posted Clive's catalogue of recent quotes on Glimmerglass:
Clive Hicks-Jenkins

Three quotes that have made me very happy this week:

"This is one of the most beautiful books, inside and out, I've read."
novelist Scott Thompson

"Prettiest cover of 2014."
singer/songwriter Steve Slagg

"One of the great covers and designs in the history of American publishing."
writer Philip Lee Williams  
Jackie's re-post and comments are here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

More thoughts on the LeGuin NBA Speech, etc.

"Here, every story, in its own way
and from its own universe, told in its
own mode, explains that there is no
better spirit in all of American letters
than that of Ursula LeGuin." -Slate
Especially for Midori Snyder Crankypants!

It tends to be hard to accept people condemning capitalism roundly when capitalism has been so very good to them personally. There's a having-your-cool-cake-and-liberally-eating-it-too vibe that is difficult to ignore. How, exactly, do we critique capitalism without throwing the essential baby out with the dirty bathwater? Perhaps the speech will lead to a more particular examination of the state of publishing. Who are these people who treat books like soap? Are there houses that publish only crappy books? Are there no alternatives? Is every list with a Grover the Farting Kangaroo or Inside Celebrity X inhabited only by such books? What's the state of things at individual houses? What's the proportion of dross to gold? Is it really so much worse than in the past? I don't know, but I remember a course in which I read nineteenth-century bestsellers as I great eye-opener. I like Ursula LeGuin and respect her body of work, but that's still a stumbling block. We're writers; we should be able to do a better job of excising the gangrened flesh and leaving the body to survive.

It's always worth saying that the only genre that matters is the one called good books. LeGuin stands up against the domination of "the Realists" in prizes and publications. It's a fine thing to remind us that what is important is not genre but making a strong work out of words, and though I tend not to set one group against another (and not to divide by genre), it's certainly true that what we call irrealism has been the stepchild in tatters to its so-called literary sibling, geared in prize bling. Although it is certainly true that the sf/f/h world has its own clubbiness and prizes...

The great powers of modern civilization--the power of the media, the power of big corporations, and so on--are always going to tilt in directions that distress us for the simple fact that they are the powers. Make it, "The Powers." They will always have to suffer correction. Always. This doesn't mean that we must entirely eradicate them. Yes, the big New York publishers have been purchased (almost all of them) and are now part of conglomerates. They suffer greater pressure to produce a larger profit margin, when really about a 3% margin is good for publishing. Yes, we live with that. But we have choices. With New York, we choose to have a certain kind of reach in terms of marketing. Of course, often that reach is not exerted on behalf of a book, so it's a bit of a crap shoot... but the publisher has name recognition and relationships with stores and libraries. We also have the choice (which some of us have taken) of moving from the Big 5 (formerly Big 6) to alternatives of some sort--I love the freedom I have had with Phoenicia (Montreal), Stanza (UK), and Mercer (US) to help make decisions and collaborate with an artist. (My problem is, of course, how to have the same sort of marketing a big house like Farrar, Straus can and sometimes does offer. I haven't worked the kinks out there. I'm still trying things.... The other thing I miss about FSG is Elaine Chubb, the world's most persnickety copy editor. But she retired. No one can replace her.) Others make other choices and go with micro-presses or self-publishing. All of that is, indeed, freedom. Like most freedoms, it comes at a price.

Small Beer Press
Yes, there's a mort of things worthy of criticism in the world of publishing. In Shakespeare's time, there were other problems with publishing (or with the schemes of sticky-fingered printers, as it was then.) Writers complained then, now, and every time in between. The arts are always in trouble, and great artists often go unrecognized while lesser lights are worshipped and rewarded. None of that is new. For the most part, we can only do what our times let us do, whether we live centuries ago in courtly circles and circulate work privately or later on reside precariously on Grub Street or write today on a computer and submit our work in a mere instant. But it's strange to think that our era is unusually bad overall because our era offers writers more options than ever. Whether we like them all is another thing, and certainly there's huge controversy over self-publishing, the proliferation of online 'zines and MFA programs, and much more. But there's life in ferment, and ferment is certainly what we have.

In every century, there have been times when world's end seemed near. LeGuin looks at the future through a dystopian lens: "Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies..." Oh, I'm as quick as anyone to let my imagination show me what shadows loom over us and have complete sympathy with such a remark. Solar flares! People on the other side of the world who want to chop off all of our heads! Putin with no shirt on horseback, aiming to be a centaur! Teens who can't put away their dratted iPhones! But these voices of people who "see alternatives" are already with us. We may choose to ignore them. Most of us may never be given a chance to read them. But there are plenty of voices that speak with truth and joy, that hold up what's lasting and see technology only as a useful tool. They are with us. Find them. I love Jeff Sypeck's suggestion in the comments (prior post)about what the powerful, lauded, rewarded Ursula LeGuin could do to help books:
She's right that "we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art." Such people and publishers exist, but you know who's uniquely suited to make them known to the world? Ursula Le Guin! One word from her in the press could sell 20,000 copies of Thaliad. She could start a Facebook page and devote it to nothing but endorsing, and encouraging discussion of, books from smaller presses, or linking to eloquent blogs, or maybe even putting in a good word for the cream of the self-published crop. She could even put conditions on interviewers: Sure, I'll answer a bunch of predictable, fawning questions from the Salon books editor, but only if we can talk about this great little novel I discovered, because not nearly enough people are reading it...
Sienna Latham, New Zealand grad student and Southwesterner
studying alchemy in early modern England and founder
of Hindsight, with cat and Glimmerglass.
What would the American scene look like if all famous-in-our-time writers took their power seriously and used it to support and reveal good but relatively invisible writers? Lovely little bubble of a dream, Jeff!

p. s. Ursula LeGuin is my mother's age--my mother the former librarian, the weaver, the gardener, the volunteer. I love seeing active older women who have something to say  and do. What a great example for those of us coming along in their wake...


I had a jolly time at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga yesterday evening and managed to thread the labyrinth of little snowy roads home by midnight. Thanks to the lovely people who turned out despite the cold, and who had wonderful questions... And thanks to Rachel Person, who organizes events for Northshire. I first met her at the NBA Awards when her husband, Steve Sheinkin, was on the finalist slate for the YPL (what a fun judging time I had that year--such a great panel of people who were thoughtful and of a similar cast of mind.)


I'll be signing Glimmerglass at the Fenimore Art Museum on the 28th, along with 11 other writers. 11:00-2:00 p.m. I think they'll have some of my other in-print books, including Thaliad and A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage. More on that one later...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Updatery and good words


In a few hours, I'll be off to Saratoga, New York, where I'll read from Glimmerglass tonight at the Northshire Bookstore on Broadway. I've never read there before, and it's a weeknight, so I'm crossing fingers and toes in hopes of seeing a reasonable number of human beings in chairs at 7:00 p.m.

My Tuesday event at the Delhi Women's Club went off wonderfully--I loved talking to a big group of women! I ought to do groups of that sort more often. They're lively and smart, and a lot of them are readers.

LeGuin on words and freedom

Back from a Saratoga reading and after a good night's sleep, I  have some more settled thoughts here.

Here's a quote from Ursula LeGuin's speech at the National Book Awards. You can read the whole thing here

I agree with her about much, though I think these problems are not new, and that we have some of the writers she calls for--they are simply less visible than they might have been in a different age. And some of her points are the reason that we should not simply accept a publisher's koolaid that tells us which books are the best books...

Plenty of books remain relatively invisible, never nominated for the major awards (that costs a small publisher a good bit of money), never pushed as lead book by a publisher, seldom read, staying alive by word of mouth. Yet we have small presses and new alternatives, and that's good. In fact, a lot is good.

Please leave your thoughts, as I am dithering mightily on what I think about what she has to say! She does divorce freedom from capitalism, and that's a very big deal.
I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship.

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write.

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

late-November events, upstate New York

The butter cream book.
Cake for a double launch reading
with Luisa Igloria in Norfolk, Virginia.
September 2014, Café Stella
Reading in Delhi
Chat, dinner, talk/reading... 
Tuesday, 5:30 p.m.
November 18
Delhi Women's Club
Delhi, New York

Gossip is that there are 42 reservations so far--should be fun!

Reading in Saratoga 
Thursday, 7 p.m.
November 20
Northshire Bookstore
424 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, New York

Book Signing Event With Twelve Regional Authors at The Fenimore Art Museum 
On Friday, November 28

COOPERSTOWN, NY (11/13/2014) —The Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown offers holiday shoppers an opportunity to acquire signed editions of many of the area's most popular books by twelve regional authors. The event will take place on Friday, November 28 from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. and feature genres such as historical fiction, childrens books, heirloom cookbooks, memoirs, locally inspired fiction, and more. Authors include The Beekman Boys (11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. only), Paul Kuhn (a.k.a. Saint Nicholas), Marly Youmans, Cindy Falk, Richard Duncan, Bob and Trish Kane, Calvin Boal, Chuck D'Imperio, Jim Atwell, and Anna Membrino. The Fenimore Art Museum Shop will also have pre-signed books by other authors on-hand (see website for complete list). There is no charge for entry into the book signing event.The day will also feature character tours of the current Fenimore exhibition Dorothea Lange's America, led by Dorothea Lange herself - actually one of the museum's talented and entertaining Templeton Players. Tours will take place on Friday and Saturday at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm with a cost of $2.00 plus regular museum admission.For more information, visit


For more information or images, please contact:
Todd Kenyon, Public Relations
New York State Historical Association
Fenimore Art Museum/The Farmers’ Museum
Phone: (607) 547­1472 / E­mail:

About Fenimore Art Museum
The Fenimore Art Museum, located on the shores of Otsego Lake ­­ James Fenimore Cooper’s “Glimmerglass Lake” ­­ in historic Cooperstown, New York, features a wide­-ranging collection ofAmerican art including: folk art; important American 18th­ and 19th­century landscape, genre, and portrait paintings; an extensive collection of domestic artifacts; more than 125,000 historical photographs representing the technical developments made in photography and providing extensive visual documentation of the region’s unique history; and the renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art comprising more than 800 art objects representative of a broad geographic range of North American Indian cultures, from the Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Great Lakes, and Prairie regions. Founded in 1945, the Fenimore Art Museum is NYSHA’s showcase museum.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Caleb Seeling reviews Glimmerglass

from Notes from the Publishing Underground
(November 12, Conundrum Press newsletter.)
"In 2011, Conundrum press was acquired by Samizdat Group, LLC, owned by Caleb Seeling... Conundrum Press is a stand-alone, traditional model literary press. Future plans include a Rocky Mountain Poetry Series, the details of which are forthcoming, and a philanthropic plan to support literary endeavors from sales of our books."

Fiction Review by Caleb J Seeling

Glimmerglass: A Novel
By Marly Youmans

Marly Youmans is one of those rare literary figures who excels at both poetry and prose, each informing the other. Her latest novel, Glimmerglass, is a beautiful and skillfully told modern-day fairy tale. Cynthia Sorrel is a failed artist trying to rediscover herself and her place in the world, and we are drawn with her into the scenic, slightly mysterious New England hamlet of Cooper Patent. The residents of Cooper Patent seem as serene and peaceful as the lake, Glimmerglass, beside which the village is nestled. There are of course secrets and jealousies lurking just below the surface, but Youmans lulls the reader into a dreamlike state until, as in all good fairy tales, she sinks the reader into the dark waters where reality is blurred and bent like a half-submerged stick. It is here that the reader begins to feel more than know the meaning of what happens to Cynthia. A gorgeous book that is quick to read and meaty enough to digest slowly, Glimmerglass is a wonderful novel with which to curl up next to a fire and spend chilly nights.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Review plus post, the Star (NC)

Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins for Glimmerglass.
A novel turn, rich and strange 

Review, Ben Steelman, StarNews 
(Wilmington, North Carolina) 
9 November 2014
3-page review begins here

Clip: "Fantasy and myth mix with classic whodunit in “Glimmerglass,” the latest novel from poet and South Carolina native Marly Youmans. This is only detective fiction, though, in the sense that “Hamlet” is a play about a kid who can't get along with his stepfather. Youmans takes a couple of overworked genres and makes them undergo a sea change into something rich and strange."

Photo by Paul Digby, July 2014
This one was taken in Ohio right after I taught
at the Antioch Writing Workshops.
The lady behind "Glimmerglass" 

Background post
by Ben Steelman, 
Bookmarks blog
at StarNews Online 
9 November 2014.
Read it here.

Favorite clips:

...Youmans writes one of the best writers's blogs in the ether...

Youmans’ poetry collections include “Thaliad,” “The Throne of Psyche” and “Claire.” I have been meaning to write for years about “The Foliate Head,” her 2012 poem cycle about the Green Man, published in Britain by Stanza Press, which must rank as one of the most beautiful books of the 21st century. Notable are the illustrations and illuminations by the Welsh artist Clive Hicks Jenkins. Jenkins also did the artwork for “Glimmerglass.” *

*Glimmerglass, Thaliad, and The Foliate Head all contain exterior and extensive interior artwork by Clive, and his art is also on the cover of The Throne of Psyche and Val/Orson. The design work on The Foliate Head is by Andrew Wakelin, wonderful UK designer.

Thank you, Mr. Steelman!

* * *

crew list here
There's a typo in the blog post that I find amusing. My father was a sharecropper's kid and teenage tail gunner on the WWII Incendiary Blonde who, thanks to the G. I. bill, later became a professor of analytical chemistry. (His teen train escapades, his farm home, and his father's love for one of his mixed race brothers influenced the creation of Pip in A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage.) As a professor, he couldn't help butting heads with administrators and often said, "The lightweights float right to the top." And so I found it comical that he appears as a college president rather than professor... He also liked to quote Lewis Carroll's "I'm mad. You're mad. We're all mad." That one is a little more generous, as it puts us all in the same zany boat!

If you click on the picture, you'll see my handsome young father standing at far right. Hubert Lafay Youmans of Lexsy, Georgia... Hu. His hand looks a little odd--swollen from a fistfight in town the night before.