Bingo Barge Murder Launched in Minneapolis

Since her submission to Midnight Ink in the fall of 2009, Minnesota resident Jessie Chandler has been preparing for this moment–the publication release of her mystery debut, Bingo Barge Murder. She and I met several years ago in a class taught by teacher extraordinaire, Ellen Hart. I knew Jessie was having fun writing and I knew the writing was good–her caper is about Shay O’Hanlon, owner of a quirky-cool coffee shop whose longtime friend becomes a murder suspect and she must find the real murderer without help from the cops. In February 2010, Jessie signed a three-book contract with Midnight Ink, setting in motion a healthy but rigorous writing schedule for the next two books.

So what kind of support did Midnight Ink provide for her book launch?   It was worked out between Midnight Ink and Once Upon a Crime bookstore to have her launch party there. Recent winner of the Raven Award at the Edgars this year, the Minneapolis bookstore is where many local authors launch their mysteries. Midnight Ink also sent release info to about 200 outlets and sent galleys to Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, and Library Journal. They did some advertising in the Star and Trib, the Pioneer Press, and on their web site. They also set up signings at True Colors bookstore and Valley Booksellers in Stillwater. And what kind of marketing and spreading-the-word is Jessie doing for herself?  She says she’s going to mail post cards to as many mystery and lgbt bookstores as she can find and try to get events set up at some B&Ns for the fall.

In a recent article published by the Twin Cities chapter of Sisters in Crime where Jessie is Vice-President, Jessie said, “It was such an amazing feeling seeing my dream materialize, and my book in the hands of people who were not my family or friends.”

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Take a Poem to Lunch Day

This month is National Poetry Month. I’ve been perusing Magers and Quinn, dragging volumes home, memorizing sonnets, and trying to write my own stuff.  Today I decided it was Take a Poem to Lunch Day, and chose this one:

Instrument of Choice

By Robert Phillips

She was a girl
no one ever chose
for teams or clubs,
dances or dates,

so she chose the instrument
no one else wanted:
the tuba. Big as herself,
heavy as her heart,

its golden tubes
and coils encircled her
like a lover’s embrace.
Its body pressed on hers.

Into its mouthpiece she blew
life, its deep-throated
oompahs, oompahs sounding,
almost, like mating cries.

The goal was to not only introduce the poem to my co-workers at lunch time, but also entice them to put down their Jimmy Johns and memorize the beautiful thing with me. From the looks I got, you’d think I’d asked them to meet me at some truck stop for a filthy weekend. How about in high school? I ask. Didn’t you have to recite poetry in high school? Shakespeare? The Canterbury Tales? Yes, exactly, Victor answers. And it was torture.  Benita, still in college, outright refuses. She has a test on Friday. She doesn’t want to confuse the Latin names of muscles with oompahs. What’s the point? Adam wants to know. The point, I say, the point is that something marvelous happens. The poem begins to have more meaning. You feel it from inside you and it feels good. It feels sublime.  The way singing a song by heart feels better than sight-reading it. They agree in the end, not for my sake but because they want to finish their sandwiches, to each take a section, four lines. Boom. It’s done. For the rest of the day, we whisper pieces of the poem as we pass each other in the hall. We smile and we grin and by the end of the day, we each know the entire poem by heart. Sublime indeed.