News on writing, books + the world of publishing

Although the Central Valley already has had many springlike days, the official first day of spring is March 20, a time to think of greenery and flowers.

“Spring Garden” (Pushkin Press, November 2017) by Tomoka Shibasaki (translated by Polly Barton) is book number one of the Pushkin Japanese Novella Series. It tells the story of Taro, who is living in an apartment that is soon to be torn down for gentrification of the neighborhood. He meets another tenant, Nishi, who is fascinated by a sky-blue house next door. This becomes a focus for what the future may hold for them.

“The Golden Age of Botanical Art” (Andre Deutsch, publishing April 3) by Martyn Rix, a botanist and editor of Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, describes the explorers and artists who recorded the plants they discovered in their expeditions.

“Hanging Kokedama: Creating Potless Plants for the Home” (Jacqui Small, March 15) by Coraleigh Parker shows how to grow ferns, succulents, herbs, orchids and small trees in a moss ball suspended on fishing lines. Parker is the founder of a New Zealand botanical design business with a fondness for living botanical artwork.


Chris Brewer reports that most of his printing projects have been on hold as he has been struggling to upgrade video displays at the Exeter Historical Museum. He has installed documents relating to Visalia’s Civil War Union Camp Babbitt and the county’s most famous outlaws, the Daltons as well as John Sontag and Chris Evans. But he worries about the history that is being lost to the public.

“We have some real hustlers out there with good stories and charisma, and people believe what they are being told so we are losing our history in yet another way,” he wrote. “It really bothers me to see these images and documents being snapped up and resold at paper shows and online, taking them away from the local area.”

As these artifacts are lost to the public, they are also lost to writers of historical fact and fiction who could use them as resources in their research.


It has been a year since Amy Krouse Rosenthal died of ovarian cancer. She was 51. Her creative spirit lives on in the more than 30 children’s books she authored. Some favorites are “Little Pea,” “Duck! Rabbit!,” “Wumbers” and “Spoon.” Her books are full of fun while they impart lessons such as spoons needn’t be envious of forks or what you see may depend on how you look at it. Rosenthal also wrote adult books such as “Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life,” which is filled with charming trivia worthy of a comedy routine. She began her career writing for National Public Radio.


Based on a random sample of 25 famous authors from Jane Austen to Edwidge Danticat, March is not the month to be born in if you want to become one of them (sorry – and, yes, it is a small sample – consider it a challenge). None of them was born in March. All the other months claim at least one of the authors. The best month – March babies just missed it – is February, with five of the 25 authors (20 percent). The February authors in the sample are Ayn Rand, Gillian Flynn, Amy Tan, John Steinbeck and Judy Blume.


The deadline for application to attend the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is April 2. The conference takes place July 29-Aug. 3. The participant spotlight is on Javier Zamora, who was an attendee in 2010 and recently published his first full-length collection. Workshops in fiction and poetry will be led by writers with a long list of publications and awards, such as Howard Norman and Carl Phillips. The fee of $1,025 includes most meals. Details at:


Black Lawrence Press holds two competitions each year for unpublished 16- to 36-page books of poems or short fiction. The spring entry period is from April 1 to May 31. Winners receive publication, $500 cash and 10 copies. Details at:


“Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!” (Tatanka Iyotanka aka Sitting Bull, 1831-1890)