I got off to a pretty fast start, reading Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston) and “Master Harold… and the boys (Athol Fugard) and re-reading A Separate Peace (John Knowles) by the end of June. Then I got stuck. With the move to Maine, there were days — long days — spent packing boxes and hustling up and down steps and in and out of closets and storage areas, and then the beginning of The Great Unpacking, which continues to the present day.

I have been struggling to get through Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld for at least a year, ever since borrowing it from my friend Suzanne. I spent the past two years teaching and living at The Hill School in Pottstown, and it seemed like a book I should read, especially as I myself was experiencing life at a boarding school for the first time. But it never really grabbed me – maybe because what I needed was an escape from boarding school stories at the time? In any event, I picked it up again a few days ago and I am now making some headway; perhaps I needed some distance from the life itself.

I am especially looking forward to reading So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures  by Maureen Corrigan. This has become one of my favorite books to teach; so much to talk about! I am going to start digging into my office and book boxes to try and locate it right now…

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted an update, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been sending out work and getting a few pieces picked up! My most recent publications include a review of Motherland by Maria Hummel at The Common online and a flash essay, “Detours,” at Literal-Latte.com.

I’ve got another longer essay in the editing stage with another journal, and I will be sure to post the link here and on the interwebs as soon as it’s available. Until then, please join me in thinking spring here in the northeast!

I am so excited to announce that the Legendary Locals of Pottstown is now available for pre-orders at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and Arcadia Books. It will be released Oct. 14, 2013.

Arcadia Publishing, the largest publisher of local history books in the country was great to work with. They came across my Positively Pottstown blog about a year ago and asked if I’d be interested in profiling “legendary locals,” broadly defined, and things just took off from there.

This was an incredibly cool project. The photographer, Ed Berger, and I met so many amazing Pottstown people, who I can’t thank enough for taking the time to share their stories. This is my first book, so I have to keep pinching myself to make sure this is really happening.

I will keep you updated as book signings/events are held this fall so that the community can hear some of the stories of the people in the book and to get the book into your hands.

This past Saturday I delivered a paper entitled, “Escape and Re-Invention: The Automobile in This Boy’s Life and Anywhere But Here” for a panel at the 2012 South Atlantic Modern Language Association conference in Durham, NC.

The panel theme was “Horseless Carriages and Hybrid Mustangs: Travel and the Automobile in Twentieth- and Twentieth-First-Century American Literature,” which was right up my alley, since I had focused on the automobile in American fiction and nonfiction for my graduate lecture at Bennington last January. I really enjoyed digging into Tobias Wolff’s memoir and Mona Simpson’s novel again and learned so much from the other panelists and the ensuing discussion.

My colleagues on the panel were Rebecca Godwin of Barton College and Jason Vredenburg of the University of Illinois. Rebecca’s paper was on “Pickups, Cadillacs, Mavericks, and Jeeps: Traveling the Mountain South in Robert Morgan’s Short Fiction.” It was a special treat to have  Robert  Morgan, who is on the faculty at Cornell, in the audience! Jason’s paper was on “The Early Automobile and the Transformation of Travel in Edith Wharton and Theodore Dreiser.” I appreciated the opportunity to learn from them and came way with several books I’d like to read to enhance my  understanding of this area of literature, which continually ties into my training as an urban planner.

Photo by Danielle Newton

The panel chair was Ben Lowery and the secretary was James Everett, both of the University of Mississippi. Of course, I think it was a great topic, with a lot of rich material to be mined, which also allowed for a lively discussion with audience members, including some of my Bennington classmates: Margaret Rich, Catherine Faurot and Danielle Newton. Catherine and Danielle’s paper, “All My Tears Be Washed Away: Revelations of Displacement in Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball,” was also part of another engaging panel/discussion. Thank you to everyone associated with the Horseless Carriage panel and to SAMLA for a very positive first experience presenting at an MLA conference!

I’m totally stoked to be on the program for the debut of the Bennington Writers Series. It’s happening Downstairs at the Cornelia Street Cafe in Manhattan on Wednesday, August 31 at 6 pm, hosted by the incomparable V. Hansmann. See details below and come on down… or up… or sideways to hear some good stuff.

6:00PM  BENNINGTON WRITERS SERIES

V. Hansmann, host

A.N. Devers;  Leslie Maslow;  Jeremy Oldfield;  Sue Repko

Featured reader will be A.N. Devers, and she is joined on stage by Leslie Maslow, Jan. ’13; Jeremy Oldfield, Jan. ’12; and Sue Repko, Jan. ’12, three current Bennington students.

This is the first program of what we hope will be an ongoing multi-genre series.

A. N. Devers work has appeared or is forthcoming in Bust magazine, the Brooklyn Rail, The Paris Review Daily, The Southampton Review, The Rumpus, TimeOut NY, Tin House, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The Washington Post. She is on the editorial board at Pen America: A Journal for Writers & Readers. She received her MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and is the editor of writershouses.com, a website for literary pilgrims everywhere.

$ 7 includes a drink

Feels like I’ve been walking in the desert a long time. Although I’m blogging all the time and churning out writing that at least some people are reading, it felt like I hadn’t snagged a literary credit in quite some time. I’m happy to report some good news!

I’d actually learned of this first tidbit when I was at my first residency at Bennington, when another student & accomplished writer, Jamie-Lee Josselyn, told me she’d seen my six-word memoir in “It All changed In An Instant,” More Six-Word Memoirs. Only I’d never heard from the editors or gotten my free copy! So, I finally ordered a couple copies and am now officially announcing this achievement in the blogosphere. I’ll even tell you what the six words are!

“Pottstown. Princeton. Forever straddling two worlds.”

I submitted this online several years ago, long before I became totally immersed in my hometown’s revitalization, but it still holds true. I think it will hold true until I take my last breath. There you have it. On page 120.

In other news… a flash memoir, “How to wave like a queen,” is now up at Swink Magazine. This piece was inspired by a Dinah Lenney workshop at Bennington this past June, when I evidently had my homecoming queen past on the brain. I had blogged about it, too, in Reminiscences of a Queen. I’m very excited to have my work in Swink, which I have admired for years (and submitted to, unsuccessfully. There’s a lesson there for all of us.)

Finally, an essay submitted a while ago will be appearing in the anthology, TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood. My piece is called “Observations from the Planet SAHM.” (SAHM stands for Stay-At-Home Mother.) I’m not sure about the publication date. The publisher is Coffeetown Press; there doesn’t seem to be info on their website yet. I’ll keep you posted. Again, this is another cool place to be. The line-up of women writers is impressive, and I’m just glad to be in their company.

That’s it for now!

I’m in my second of four terms in The Bennington Writing Seminars (nonfiction track), and below is a list of what I’ve read so far and plan to read through December.

The reading list is devised by the student and the mentor for any given term. I was thrilled when my mentor, Susan Cheever, and I sat down in June in the living room of my dorm at Bennington, and she started reeling off questions, “Have you read this? Have you read that? I can’t force you to read anything, but if you’re getting a master’s degree, you really should know these books.” It was kind of embarrassing, because I was usually answering, “no.” Although I took a bunch of lit classes as an undergraduate, my major was psychology. Then, a few years later, I went on to grad school in urban planning, and for a long time, I only read public policy books. Imagine a life without novels and memoirs 😦 but that’s how it was.

The result of this conversation was an amazing list of classics and some newer books. I can also swap out for something new that comes along at any time, which is how I ended up reading Sophia, the biography of Tolstoy’s wife, which has only been out for a few months. I was going to read a biography of Tolstoy, but then I was like: let’s hear about the wife who nurtured him through his great works and then was totally dissed by his followers and him at the end of his life. Let’s hear her side of the story!

So, here you go!

June/July 2010

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (Pevear & Volokhonsky edition)

Sophia Tolstoy, a biography – Alexandra Popoff

August

In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

Capote: A Biography – Gerald Clarke

Shot in the Heart – Mikal Gilmore

The Executioner’s Song – Norman Mailer

[I don’t recommend reading all these in the same month. Really depressing insights into family dysfunction and how NOT to raise your sons.]

September

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte [a romance! shake off those murderers! hooray!]

The Wide Sargasso Sea – Jean Rhys

Charlotte Bronte biography – Lyndall Gordon

Jean Rhys Interview – Paris Review

Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

October [some of these will be re-reads from a long-ago college course]

Emerson Essays

First We Read, Then We Write – Robert Richardson on Emerson

Walden – Henry David Thoreau

The Scarlet Letter & other stories – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Hawthorne: A Life – Brenda Wineapple

November

The Invention of Solitude – Paul Auster

Self-Consciousness – John Updike

The Control of Nature – John McPhee

Waterfront – Phillip Lopate

December -?

Middlemarch – George Eliot

The Pine Barrens – John McPhee

Ward 6 and Other Stories – Anton Chekhov

Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey – Janet Malcolm

The Journalist & the Murderer – Janet Malcolm

Tolstoy – Henri Troyat [the bio. I temporarily ditched in favor of Sophia above]

Moving back into the present day… I’d like to read Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom and Dave Cullen’s Columbine, the latter of which is sitting on the floor right next to me as I type this…