The Quickening-Midwest Connections

July 29, 2010

Hoover_Quickening final high res

Michelle Hoover

“Michelle Hoover’s fine debut novel recreates for us a way of life and a set of personalities that have vanished from our current scene, and she does so with a solidity of detail that will impress these people and these places forever on your memory.”
– Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love

“Hoover paints stormy scenes of individuals and communities at odds with one another and with their own dark histories in a vivid, pastoral panorama.  Ultimately, this is the story of survival—how life quickens and is borne on through turmoil, pain and perseverance… imbued throughout with a careful and evenly wrought lyricism.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Hoover drew on a 15-page recollection left by her great-grandmother for this novel set in rural Iowa early in the last century. . . . [and] succeeds in creating a sense of what life was like for women in that time and place.” —Booklist

Loosely based on her own family’s history, THE QUICKENING tells the fictional story of the bitter feud  that emerges between two Iowa farming families.  Years ago, Hoover discovered an old family document—the fifteen pages were poorly typed, with her great-grandmother’s name and date of birth, 1880, at the top.   Perhaps my life, it read, and that of my dear husband has meant little or nothing to anyone except to us and our immediate family.  Written during the last year of her great-grandmother’s life, it was a reflection on a long life of hardship and loss on the family’s Iowa farm, and covered more than seventy years.

In THE QUICKENING, hard-worn Enidina Current and passionate Mary Morrow live on neighboring farms in the flat, hard country of the upper Midwest. Drawn together out of loneliness, female companionship, and necessity, Enidina and Mary forge a profound bond soon challenged by a series of disquieting events. As conflict simmers between their two families and the Great Depression threatens their livelihoods, Mary struggles with her conscience over a secret she keeps from her abusive husband, and Enidina fights to hold her marriage, family, and farm together.  Told in their two voices in lyrical prose, within a landscape that binds and challenges them all, THE QUICKENING is a story of survival and hardship, violence and betrayal, and the discovery and loss of lifelong love.

ABOUT THE AUTHORMichelleHoover_color_credittk

Michelle Hoover was born in Ames, Iowa, and is descended from four generations of Iowa farmers.  She teaches writing at Boston University and Grub Street.  Her fiction has been published inConfrontationThe Massachusetts ReviewPrairie Schooner,StoryQuarterly, and Best New American Voices.  She is a finalist for New Letter’s Dorothy Churchill Cappon Essay Prize and has been a Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference scholar, the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence at Bucknell University, a MacDowell Fellow, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and in 2005 the winner of the PEN/New England Discovery Award for Fiction.  For more information visit

The Crying Tree-Midwest Connections

July 28, 2010

Crying Tree TP jacket 978-0-7679-3174-8

When THE CRYING TREE opens, Irene and Nate Stanley are living a quiet and contented life with their two children, Bliss and Shep, on their family farm in southern Illinois when Nate suddenly announces he’s been offered a job as a deputy sheriff in Oregon. Despite Irene’s misgivings, the family moves. Just as they are settling into their life in Oregon, the unthinkable happens: fifteen-year-old Shep is shot and killed during an apparent robbery in their home. The murderer, a young mechanic named Daniel Robbin, is caught and sentenced to death.

Shep’s murder sends the Stanley family into a tailspin, with each member attempting to cope with the tragedy in his or her own way. Irene’s approach is to live, week after week, waiting for Robbin’s execution and the justice she feels she and her family deserve. Those weeks turn into months and then years. Ultimately, faced with a growing sense that Robbin’s death will not stop her pain, Irene takes the extraordinary step of reaching out to her son’s killer. The two forge an unlikely connection that remains a secret from her family and friends.

Years later, Irene receives notice that Daniel Robbin has stopped his appeals and will be executed within a month. The announcement shakes the very core of the Stanley family. Irene, it turns out, isn’t the only family member with a secret. As the execution date nears, the Stanleys must face difficult truths and find a way to come to terms with the past.Naseem Rakha author photo


Naseem Rakha is an award-winning journalist whose stories have been heard on NPR. She grew up in Illinois and lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Every Natural Fact-Midwest Connections

July 27, 2010


EVERY NATURAL FACT: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting is a narrative of mother-and-son nature outings across the state of Wisconsin. In a style that blends the voices of Janisse Ray and Annie Dillard, a mother and son explore parallels in the world of people and nature. The interconnected chapters stand on their own and build upon each other. These explorations of natural history, flora and fauna, and parenting themes demonstrate that the mythic thread that winds through everything can still be found, even in a world of wounds. Amy Lou Jenkins’ award-winning writing is rich in sensory immediacy, characterization, natural history, and humor.


Amy Lou holds a MFA in Literature and Creative Writing from Bennington College and a BSN in Nursing and Professional Communication. She teaches as a university adjunct and at writing retreats, conferences and workshops. Her environmental and nature writing has been honored by The Florida Review Editors Award in Nonfiction, Literal Latte Essay Awards,Flint Hills Review Nonfiction Award, X.J. Kennedy Award for Nonfiction, and twice by the Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award. Her nonfiction has also won first place in the Jade Ring Award for Essay Writing, Wisconsin Regional Writing Award in Essay, Memoir, and Travel Writing. She is the recipient of a Mesa Refuge writing fellowship for environmental writing.

Her work has appeared in multiple magazines, newspapers, and anthologies including Wisconsin Academy ReviewFlint Hills ReviewMilwaukee Journal SentinelShepherds ExpressFlorida Review, Inkpot, Earth Island Journal, Grit,
Generations, Rosebud, Big Apple Parent, MetroParent, Washington Families, Chicken Soup, Cup of Comfort
books, Women on Writing, The Maternal Is Political, and the summer 2010 release Wild with Child. Jenkins writes a quarterly book review column for the Sierra Club’s Muir View and maintains a personal website at and awriting site She’s read her essays on Wisconsin and Alaska public radio and been a radio guest on dozens of shows.  She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and two spoiled dogs.

Silencing Sam-Midwest Connections

July 26, 2010

Silencing Sam Cover

In this latest sweeps month quest, TV reporter Riley Spartz must secretly investigate the murder of a newspaper columnist, whose sensationalist gossip items have given many targets — including Riley herself — good reason to want him silenced. As she digs deep to find the killer and clear her name, Riley’s nose for news leads her to a controversial wind farm where gigantic turbines meant to ease the energy crisis are being blown up. Is the bomber trying to keep America dependent on foreign oil? Or are eco-terrorists behind the explosions? Dying bats and a headless corpse also find their way to the top of the newscasts as Riley battles for ratings and tries to restore her reputation.

What does one dead gossip columnist have to do with wind turbines, dead bats, and a hot news story centered on a headless corpse?  Investigative TV reporter Riley Spartz is about to find out!

She keeps a sharp eye out for stories that will boost Channel 3’s faltering ratings as her—albeit long-distance—relationship with Homeland Security advisor Nick Garnett continues to develop. That is, until Sam Pierce, a local newspaper gossip writer and verbal terrorist, sets his sights on her.  The latest victim of his “Piercing Eyes” column, Riley confronts him and throws a drink in his face after he implies that she was unfaithful to her dead husband.  When Sam is found shot to death with the column about Riley stuffed in his mouth, she is immediately placed on the top of the list of “persons of interest” in the case.

Meanwhile, someone is blowing up wind turbines near her home town and she is plagued by a new hotshot colleague who scoops her on a story about a headless corpse discovered in a local park.  In the world of television ratings, dead bodies are better than toppled turbines, and Clay Burrel, the new reporter, is getting all the accolades.  Determined to show him up, Riley focuses on the wind farm story that has a surprising twist—the bodies of countless dead bats are littering the area.

As evidence mounts against Riley in the murder case, she must race against time to discover who framed her as well as find out who is behind the wind turbine bombings. In typical Riley fashion, her investigative intuition leads her to uncover one lead after another on all three stories—until she is finally catapulted into an explosive showdown not fit for television audiences.

Wildly entertaining and replete with sharply drawn characters from the world of television news, SILENCING SAM once again proves that Julie Kramer is a masterful storyteller who has joined the ranks of today’s top mystery and thriller writers.


Julie Kramer is a freelance producer for NBC’s Today show and formerly ran WCCO-TV’s nationally award-winning investigative unit in Minneapolis.  Her debut thriller, Stalking Susan, won the Minnesota Book Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery. It was also a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Shamus Awards.  Missing Mark, Kramer’s second novel featuring Riley Spartz, also received raves. She currently lives with her family in Minnesota.  To learn more about Julie Kramer and her work, visit her website at

“I wanted to write a topical thriller that incorporates some of the real life controversies in the news,” Kramer said. “Stories about Tiger Woods, John Edwards, and Michael Jackson have put the gossip versus news debate on the front lines of journalism. And I was also curious about all the wind farms going up across the Midwest and decided those environmental issues would make a fresh backdrop for my next book.”

An avid reader and a veteran news producer, Kramer tired of fictional TV reporters always being portrayed as obnoxious secondary characters in books, who could be killed off whenever the plot started dragging.  So she decided to do something about it. Her first novel, Stalking Susan, featured a TV reporter as the heroine.

”I wrote Stalking Susan because I’m a great fan of thrillers with strong female protagonists in interesting jobs,” Kramer said. “I thought why should prosecutors have Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper, medical examiners have Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta, and forensic anthropologists have Kathy Reichs’ Tempe Brennan, while we TV news types have no fictional heroine? So I made one up.”

And she succeeded fabulously!  TV reporter Riley Spartz, the star of Kramer’s debut novel, Stalking Susan, and its sequel, Missing Mark, is smart, funny, compulsively likable—and has readers clamoring for her next adventure.

Stalking Susan garnered high praise when it was published in 2008.  The Chicago Tribune called it a “dazzling debut” and Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review claiming that “readers will look forward to seeing a lot more of the appealing Riley.”   Even Kirkus Reviews was impressed, saying “Kramer writes with heart and pizzazz.  Her past as a TV producer lends authority to an entertaining story.”  Stalking Susan met with acclaim, winning the Minnesota Book Award and the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best First Mystery, as well as being a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark, the Anthony, the Barry, and the Shamus Awards.

Missing Mark, Kramer’s second novel starring the irrepressible Riley, was also well received.  People magazine called it “a crowd pleaser,” literary powerhouse Tami Hoag exclaimed, “A fast pace, a smart heroine, and fresh voice, Julie Kramer has what it takes to keep readers turning pages.”


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