San Diego City College has issued a very nice press release about Until Our Last Breath and the Christopher Award. It’s been amazing to me how many people–faculty, staff and students–seem to be aware I have been honored in this way, and it’s been immensely gratifying to see how happy they are for me. It’s so wonderful to have the support of so many good people. Here it is:
SAN DIEGO CITY COLLEGE PROFESSOR LAUREL CORONA
WINS 2009 CHRISTOPHER AWARD
San Diego, CA (March 19, 2009)….San Diegans Laurel Corona and Michael Bart have won a 2009 Christopher Award for Until Our Last Breath: A Holocaust Story of Love and Partisan Resistance (St. Martin’s Press 2008). Since 1949, the Christopher Awards have been given for books, films, and television productions that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.”
The award honors Corona for her writing ability to “craft words and images into a clear, cohesive vision.” Bart is being honored for his years of research into his parents’ involvement with the Jewish resistance movement in Nazi-occupied Lithuania.
Corona is a professor of humanities at San Diego City College. She began her career as a published author in 1999 with a book on Kenya for Lucent Books. After writing 17 young adult titles for Lucent, she turned her attention to books for adults. Her most recent work is The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice (Hyperion/VOICE 2008).
Corona will travel to New York to receive her 2009 Christopher medallion on April 16 as part of the Diamond Gala celebrating the sixtieth year of the awards. One Book/One San Diego author Sonia Nazario was a recent winner for Enrique’s Journey.
Corona’s next book reading and book signing for The Four Seasons will be on Tuesday,
March 24, 2009 from 1:00 to 2:30 pm in D-121A/B at San Diego City College at 1313 Park Blvd. For more on the City College Spring Literary series: www.sdcitybookfair.com/2009springlit.pdf. For more on Laurel Corona: www.laurelcorona.com.
About San Diego City College
Founded in 1914, San Diego City College serves as the educational cornerstone of downtown San Diego. With more than 17,000 students, City College offers 240 Associate Degrees and Certificates and 1,500 day, evening and weekend classes, including programs in nursing and cosmetology. Home to KSDS Jazz 88.3 and the award-winning Knights, City College is part of the San Diego Community College District, comprised of City College, Mesa College, Miramar College, and Continuing Education. www.sdcity.edu
The Story Behind the Story
I recently wrote a guest column for San Diego Jewish World, about my experiences writing in partnership with Michael Bart. Click “Read More” for the link to “Award Winning Author Tells the Story Behind the Story” and you’ll find it right here.
THE FOUR SEASONS at San Diego City College on March 24
Many thanks to Virginia Escalante for her quick response to my need to reschedule my author appearance at San Diego City College, to enable me to go to New York to receive a Christopher Award for UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. Thanks also to the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, One Book/One San Diego, The San Diego International Book Fair, Jazz 88, and other sponsors for making the 2009 Spring Literary Series possible.
UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH Wins a Christopher Award
“Reading” THE FOUR SEASONS
Her face fell. Her eyesight isn’t what it used to be and she won’t be able to “read” my work except by listening, and she won’t be able to do that unless something happens that is entirely out of my hands. Perhaps one or both will end up as audiobooks, but I don’t know when.
My friend’s mother looks fabulous. I can’t believe she is 95. But there’s no point in pretending that the passage of time is immaterial. If she is to participate in my success the way we both would like, it needs to happen soon.
Just a few days after the party, my mood brightened considerably. The Kindle 2 (Amazon’s e-reader) had just come out with an experimental read-to-me feature. I listened to a couple of pages of THE FOUR SEASONS presented by a robot voice and was, by turns, pleased with how acceptable some of it sounded and cringing at how utterly awful it was in others. The voice wasn’t an interpretation by an actor or another skilled reader, but it was saying the words on the page nonetheless.
I got in touch with my friend right away. Did she know that any book that could be downloaded to the Kindle 2 could be read aloud? Not just THE FOUR SEASONS, but pretty much any book her mother might want to read? It felt as if the heavens were opening!
But where I had pictured blue sky, the heavens that opened did so only to pour down rain. The Authors Guild (of which I am a member) launched a strong campaign objecting to what they believed was copyright infringement. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me the Kindle application is more like asking someone to read something to you because the print is too small and you’ve misplaced your glasses. There’s no permanent copy, and the work is not being transformed into a distinct and tangible work in another medium. It’s just an alternative way of accessing a legitimately purchased e-text without using the eyes.
My guess is that the Author’s Guild is more concerned that a read-to-me feature could be improved upon to the point where it might actually rival the experience of an audiobook. This is a legitimate concern, and I’m glad they have it. But it’s my observation that generally people don’t own the same title in more than one medium, and if this is true, people would make the choice at the outset. A vision-impaired person would buy the audiobook. Others might buy either, depending on their preference, but they’re unlikely to buy both. The author gets one sale either way. For authors whose books aren’t available as audiobooks (most aren’t), the question I have is whether they would prefer non-reading consumers not to have access to their work at all. I suspect most will realize the read-to-me feature is likely to increase their sales because people who have difficulty reading will be a new source of customers.
Just a few days ago, Amazon announced that that authors with books on Kindle would be given the opportunity to opt in or out. Sounds as if they’re listening to authors, and that’s always good. I can’t wait to say yes to the robot voice. A beautiful and beloved friend is waiting.
Will the Woman in the Corset Please Get Off the Court?
Another ball hits the frame of my tennis racquet and careens off into a corner on my side of the court.
“Are you okay over there?” my opponent calls out.
My Years of Writing CopiouSSSSSly
I’m a writer, so I love words. I couldn’t help but notice, when I spoke on a panel at theWest Hollywood Book Fair last fall, that almost all the advice I had for the audience could be summarized in words that started with the letter “S.”
I worked with this a little more to come up with the theme for a speech I gave on Presidents Day Weekend at the Southern California Writers Conference. I called the talk “My Years of Writing CopiouSSSSSSly: How I Wrote 20.5 Books in 10 Years and Remained Relatively Normal (I Think),” and here are some of the things I said about what writers need to have, be, or do to keep producing.
Sitzfleisch—A Yiddish term for—well, you figure it out. It’s the ability to stay put in your chair for long periods of time without jumping up to see what’s in the fridge, or who’s sent you e-mail.
Structure—A calendar with specific goals and deadlines (self-imposed are fine), and a work schedule (including quitting time) are really essential to keep from working too much. That’s a bigger problem for me than working too little, but I think it would work equally well in the opposite situation.
Stamina —Staying fit is crucial. I do tend to slack off on this when I’m in the middle of writing a book, but I try not to regress too much, since it affects my overall health, and that governs everything else.
Sanitation—Get out of the jammies and into the shower. Wash your hair, brush your teeth, and don’t forget to floss. Serioussssly!
Stretch–I have a small deck off my study, and amazingly, even going outside for a minute or two to think through a phrasing or a plot detail can have amazing results.
Side interests—Sudoku? Step class? Shopping? Calling on different parts of your body and brain is restorative.
Sunscreen—Take time out, even if it’s just for an hour or two. Find a pool to jump in or a patch of grass to sit on. Think “vacuoussssss.” Try not to think about what you’re writing, but even if you do, it will still feel like a change of pace.
Skin—As in “Superthick.” Learn to laugh at your reviews. Reading them aloud in a whiny voice helps.
Self-Confidence—writing well is never easy, but you can do it. Remember, it’s just a draft until it’s published.
Spellbound—This is something you have to be. You have to find your subject enthralling. Your curiosity needs to be boundlesssss.
Seniority—Writing is one of those things where it helps to have some years under your belt. Tell yourself that all that wisdom is why you need a larger belt.
Say “When”—at some point you have to say “I’m finished with this.” When you’re agonizing over commas, that’s a good clue.
Supporters, Sidekicks, Soulmates—Self-explanatory! If you’re lucky, you have a supportive family and friends, like I do. Another source of support is a writing group. I don’t participate in these because I get too wrapped up in my own work to pay quality attention to anyone else’s (I have difficulty reading even published books when I am actively writing), but many people find sharing works in progress essential to their productivity.
I asked people in the audience if they had any other “S” words of advice, and I got three good ones:
Sleep–I can’t believe I didn’t think of this. Maybe it’s because a good night’s sleep is rare when I’m in the middle of a book, although I do find that very often I wake up ready to rip with a new idea I must have been processing during the night.
Sucks!–Give yourself permission to write badly when that’s the best you can do. Or jump forward and write something that isn’t going to happen for another twenty pages or so, and go back and fill in the rest later
Speak–though I tend not to talk about what I’m writing until I’ve finished the first draft, one person in the audience said that it helps him to tell his story out loud, since it often gives him insight into what to do next or how to make it better. He told me afterwards he used to do this on long car commutes with his friends, but eventually he found himself driving alone, so he changed his ways!
Fellow writers out there in the blogosphere–got more?
Sometimes a photo says it all. Here I am with my good friend Pamela Shekinah Perkins, who was writing her own book around the time I was debating whether to write UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. Both our books came out roughly the same time, hers from Wiley and Sons, entitled THE ART AND SCIENCE OF COMMUNICATION. She’s the one I acknowledged in the back of UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH as having “cajoled and challenged” me to take the leap as a writer that UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH required. She’s also the founder of the Human Communication Institute (www.hci-global.net) Think we’re glad to be friends? I am so proud of her.
A WORLD ENTIRE
I’m spending the weekend up in the San Bernardino mountains working with my son, Ivan Corona, co-founder of Singularity Pictures (http://singularitypictures.com) on a video about UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. That’s him, to the right, on location for another project. I have two equally strong professional identities, one as a writer and the other as an educator. I started teaching writing at the college level more than thirty years ago, and whatever I’m doing, I’m always tracking how it might be of use to students. I’m thinking now in terms of two contributions I can make through this video.
First, I learned a great deal about writing by taking on the multi-year task of writing UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH, which was, among other things, my first book for an adult audience, my first full-length book, and my first experience working with someone else on a project where I was the writer. With content as interesting as that in UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH, it’s easy to overlook the other story of any book, which is how it came into existence–how a writer decides to take on a project and the initial decisions that have to be made once that decision is reached. Voice, point of view, interwoven narratives, and the different and occasionally conflicting demands of storytelling and historical accuracy are all things I know a lot more about as a result of writing UNTIL OUR LAST BREATH. I would like to share my perspectives as its author with high school and college students taking composition classes, as well as book groups or other audiences interested in writers and the writing process in general.
Second, as a result of a number of recent mandates, a great deal of effort is going into improving classroom instruction about the Holocaust. My new video project, “A WORLD ENTIRE,” is intended also to work as part of this new curriculum by providing background information about the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, the Vilna ghetto, and Jewish resistance. Talking about my own experiences writing about the Holocaust may also help students open up about the subject themselves. To make this project maximally useful for teachers across the curriculum, the video will conclude with about a dozen topics for class discussion or writing assignments.
My plan is to provide this roughly 20-30 minute video free of charge to schools and other groups interested in using it for non-profit, educational purposes. Ivan and I are also working on a short introduction to the video, which will be posted on YouTube. We’re still several months away from completion, so I hope you will check back for updates.