Monday, November 23, 2015

UPM’s BOOKFRIENDS to Celebrate 30th Anniversary with New Orleans-themed party at Hal and Mal’s

On Wednesday from 6-9 p.m., the University Press of Mississippi will be holding its annual BOOKFRIENDS fall membership party at Hal and Mal’s. This year’s party will mark the 30th anniversary of BOOKFRIENDS support of Mississippi’s only nonprofit publisher.

The party will have a decidedly New Orleans theme, featuring music by the Southern Komfort Brass Band and celebrate the recent publication of two books—Talking New Orleans Music: Crescent City Musicians Talk about Their Lives, Their Music, and Their City by Burt Feintuch with photographs by Gary Samson and Getting Off at Elysian Fields: Obituaries from the New Orleans ‘Times-Picayune" by John Pope.

A short program will feature John Pope speaking about his career an obituary writer in New Orleans. Pope is a masterful storyteller who has written obituaries of the leaders and artists who shaped the city. In his book are extensive profiles of some of the most important people in the city, including the philanthropist Edith Stern, the supermarket pioneer John Schwegmann, the flamboyant fried-chicken magnate Al Copeland, and Dr. Alton Ochsner, who founded the New Orleans-based medical colossus bearing his name.
John Pope

Pope tells of these and many other fascinating lives in one of the country’s most jubilant and complex cities. Taken together, Getting Off at Elysian Fields paints a picture of the times, highlighting several key milestones of the twentieth century.

His stories are not limited to New Orleans residents. In fact, Pope considers Eudora Welty’s obituary among his favorites that he’s written. “With the Welty obit,” he explains, “I had the time and space to do a pretty thorough analysis of the woman and her literature.”

UPM Director Leila Salisbury, “In the year of the Press’s 45th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of BOOKFRIENDS, we’re incredibly grateful to the authors, community partners, and avid readers who have supported us and who continue to encourage our work. Our regional focus is such a special part of our mission, and celebrating the Mississippi-Louisiana connection as we did for our first BOOKFRIENDS party seems just right. We’re fortunate to be connected to such rich artistic and historical cultures, and the Press is always working to document and celebrate them.”

 “For thirty years, BOOKFRIENDS has been such a sustaining and powerful literary force in the state,” said assistant director and marketing director of University Press of Mississippi Steve Yates. “They lift up authors, and the whole work of University Press.”

This event is open to the public. Annual memberships are $50 and persons under 35 may purchase a membership for $35 and is payable at the event. Donations and ticket purchases may be also made in advance via the Paypal link below:

Levels of Membership

Monday, November 16, 2015

Praise for Wednesdays in Mississippi

At this year’s meeting of the Southern Historical Association, the Southern Association for Women Historians announced that Debbie Z Harwell, author of Wednesdays in Mississippi: Proper Ladies Working for Radical Change, Freedom Summer 1964 was awarded the Julia Cherry Spruill Prize.

The Spruill Prize is awarded annually for the best published book in southern women’s history.Wednesdays in Mississippi tells the story of the only civil rights program created for women by women as part of a national organization.

Wednesdays in Mississippi offers a new paradigm through which to study civil rights activism, challenging the stereotype of Freedom Summer activists as young student radicals and demonstrating the effectiveness of the quiet approach taken by proper ladies.

Harwell also delves into the motivations for women’s civil rights activism and explores influence of churches and religious leaders attempting to both uphold and tear down segregation in Mississippi. Lastly, the book confirms that the National Council of Negro Women actively worked for integration and black voting rights while addressing education, poverty, hunger, housing, and employment as civil rights issues.

DEBBIE Z. HARWELL teaches in the Honors College at the University of Houston and serves as the managing editor of Houston History. Her work has appeared in the Journal of Southern History.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

UPM Author Holds Book Signing at Funeral Home

The following is a guest post from UPM author John Pope. Last month Pope, author of Getting Off at Elysian Fields: Obituaries from the New Orleans "Times-Picayune," held two book signings in nontraditional, if not unusual, locations—funeral homes. Below he talks about the experience.

In the musical “Gypsy,” three veterans of the bump-and-grind trade give sage advice to Gypsy Rose Lee before her first sashay down a burlesque-house runway when they sing “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

Finding a way to attract attention is also vital for promoting a book because you have to make your volume stand out amid the onslaught of books of all sizes, shapes and genres.

I made the right start with the type of book I had written. Getting Off at Elysian Fields is an anthology of 34 years of obituaries and funeral stories I composed for The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.

Then I went a step further: I held two signings at funeral homes.

That’s not as macabre as it may seem. For starters, the folks who run each mortuary – people who have been sources for my obits for years – asked me to hold an event there, and they said it could happen only on days when neither funeral home had scheduled a service.

That stipulation made sense. Even though I’m eager to promote my book whenever and wherever possible, I’ll concede that it would be insensitive and downright tacky to hawk it to weeping mourners.

At each funeral home – one in suburban Metairie, the other in New Orleans’ Mid-City neighborhood – the event was held in the main parlor, where mourners enter before they head off to a chapel. Each parlor was conservatively appointed, with plenty of comfortable chairs and no displays of such funerary trappings as caskets or cremation urns.

Perhaps because each site is a place where people gather for one of life’s more solemn rituals, it took a while before people felt comfortable speaking in anything but hushed tones.Once people made that adjustment, everything went splendidly, and the signings were no different from events in bookstores and libraries where I have touted my book. People asked questions, and they laughed at my jokes. (I liked that.)

At Jacob Schoen & Son Funeral Home, I signed 28 books on Nov. 1, and people just kept coming in.

In addition to Schoen’s location – on Canal Street, New Orleans’ principal thoroughfare – that signing was on Nov. 1, All Saints’ Day, when tradition-minded New Orleanians are thinking about their dead relatives and friends. They use the day to clean graves, bring flowers and visit with people at nearby tombs who have come to do exactly the same thing. It’s a very New Orleans custom.

Besides being All Saints’ Day, that day was a great Saints day. People felt good because New Orleans’ professional-football team had beaten the New York Giants in a 52-49 nail-biter of a game. (In fact, the signing had been rescheduled so it wouldn’t conflict with the game – a smart move.) I like to think that the victory made people want to buy books.

There was this bit of fortuitous lagniappe, which is a term we New Orleanians use to describe something extra at no extra cost. One of the people on duty at Schoen was Dom Carra Grieshaber Jr., whose father – a man known as “the marrying judge” because he loved to unite people in matrimony – is in my book. At the end of the event, he gave me a big hug.

. . .

John Pope has written obituaries throughout his forty-four-year career in journalism and was a member of the New Orleans Times-Picayune team that won two Pulitzer Prizes, a National Headliner Award, and a George Polk Award for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Surprise: You’re now the book editor at a major newspaper!

Today marks the beginning of University Press Week and UPM is very excited to once again participate in the AAUP blog tour. The theme for today's posts is Surprise (which also matches the online gallery theme) and gives us a chance to talk about a venture that not only surprised us, but is also something we're very proud of. 

The following post from Steve Yates, UPM's Marketing Director, writes about the surprising results of a collaboration between our university press, an independent bookstore, and a daily newspaper. 

If you’ve visited a newspaper’s newsroom lately, there’s no escaping the devastation. Empty chairs, spotless, cleared desks, naked cables sprouting where monitors used to hum and keyboards once clacked—that march down rows of hollowed out cubicles feels funereal.

This is acutely haunting to me. All my nightmares have come true! At seventeen-years-old I was hired by the Springfield, Missouri, News-Leader (the largest newspaper in the Ozarks) as a sports writer and agate clerk, a part-time job that was nearly always full time except in summer.

When I came to Jackson to work at University Press of Mississippi in 1998, the only way to see my wife while we were both awake was to moonlight. I worked as a part-time copy editor while she designed and edited the business section at the Jackson, Mississippi, Clarion-Ledger.
My wife, Tammy Gebhart Yates, worked first at the News-Leader, and then at a succession of newspapers, the last a fifteen-year stint at the Clarion-Ledger. She survived several layoffs—one in which she was terminated then rehired the same morning—before being permanently let go in August 2013.

So I have mixed feelings about this surprise. Doing something for free that other, more qualified journalists once did for a living sometimes just doesn’t feel right. But then, really, before the Mississippi Books page came about at the Clarion-Ledger, nothing remotely like it had existed in the seventeen years I have been a subscriber.

Just before the Great Recession, one of our key bookselling partners, John Evans at Lemuria Books in Jackson, hatched an idea. Since I was in email contact frequently with all our Mississippi independent booksellers (and we have a lot of them) why not ask them to report a top ten bestsellers list each week? Call it, “The Mississippi Bestsellers List.” UPM could crunch the numbers and serve as the (mostly) dispassionate judge.

I was doubtful that a Gannett newspaper would go for it. And, sure enough, they didn’t back then.

Along came the Great Recession, and it seemed everybody (including my wife) was let go. In the turmoil, the newspaper’s then features editor Annie Oeth approached Evans for a meeting about something. But Evans began talking about creating The Mississippi Bestsellers List. When Oeth said yes to that, Evans said, well, okay, what about reviews by Mississippi writers writing about new books by Mississippians or about Mississippi? She said yes again.

Evans kept the good suggestions rolling, and by January of 2014, UPM publicist Clint Kimberling and I found ourselves part of a team editing and providing two full pages (and often more) of original, local content each Sunday on the Mississippi Books page, which appears both in print and online. Sunday circulation at the Clarion-Ledger, the state’s largest newspaper, considered by the capital and much of the state to be the paper of record, tops 107,000.

When working on this project, I spend most of my time recruiting writers and matching them to ideal books. I lean on the team a lot for great suggestions, too. Kimberling writes articles, reviews, and crunches the sales numbers and streamlines the events calendar.

Liz Button’s April 2015 article about the project in Bookselling This Week describes our operation most succinctly. 

“Along with the bestseller lists, reviews, and interviews, the Clarion-Ledger’s two- to three-page Books feature… also includes exclusive columns from indie booksellers: Lisa Newman at Lemuria writes a weekly ‘First Editions’ column on rare and collectible books and fine bindings , and Clara Martin, also of Lemuria, writes her own weekly column about children’s and young adult books.  
Every week, [editors lay] everything out to create an attractive spread, which includes periodic pieces by local freelance writer Jana Hoops, who interviews many of the big-name authors who come through Mississippi bookstores on tour. ” 
Now former Clarion-Ledger reporter Jim “Pathfinder” Ewing regularly adds reviews and articles as well. 

The project crosses a non-profit scholarly press with an independent for-profit bookstore and an affiliate of a gigantic, publicly held media conglomerate. Yet I find myself amazed and uplifted week after week. At the table when we gather, we are ego-less. We all want great content and a better book culture in Mississippi—nothing less, and nothing more.

Here are some examples of the voices we have brought to Mississippi book lovers lately.
From the chaos of a newspaper’s transformations, Kimberling and I now find ourselves part of a team running a book page every Sunday, a good in the world that did not previously exist. Once (and more properly) an agate clerk, I now find myself promoted to some weird kind of editor. No one is more shocked than I. 


* * *
As part of the AAUP Week’s blog tour, read more surprises today from our colleagues at other university presses.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

2015 Louisiana Book Festival

The 2015 Louisiana Book Festival was held last weekend in Baton Rouge. Despite torrential rainfall the 12th annual event went off as planned and was attended by an estimated 30,00 people -- an all-time high. The festival also included a whole host of UPM authors. And if you weren't lucky enough to see these authors in person, don't worry because we've got you covered. Below are videos of all the UPM authors who participated at LBF.

Ellen McHale is the author of Stable Views: Stories and Voices from the Thoroughbred Racetrack

John Pope is the author of Getting Off At Elysian Fields: Obituaries from the New Orleans "Times-Picayune."

Anna Servaes is the author of Franco-American Identity, Community, And La Guiannée

Bert Feintuch and Gary Samson are the author and photographer of Talking New Orleans Music: Crescent City Musicians Talk about Their Lives, Their Music, and Their City

Ed King and Trent Watts are the authors of Ed King'sMississippi: Behind the Scenes of Freedom Summer

Sara Le Menestrel is the author of NegotiatingDifference in French Louisiana Music: Categories, Stereotypes, andIdentifications

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

John Hailman Returns to Lemuria

John Hailman will be talking about and signing copies of his new book -- Return to Guntown: Classic Trials of the Outlaws and Rogues of Faulkner Country tonight at Lemuria Books in Jackson starting at 5:00 p.m.

A federal prosecutor in Mississippi for over thirty years, John Hailman routinely worked with federal agents, lawyers, judges, and criminals of every type imaginable. Encouraged by the acclaim for his first book, From Midnight to Guntown, he has opened even more of the astonishing cases within the over thirty-five boxes full of trial stories he carried into retirement. And these are the stories he’s gathered in this new volume. Hailman has shared these anecdotes with friends, colleagues, and students for years, as well as telling them at informal gatherings of civic clubs and book clubs.

Hailman recall the colorful exploits of eccentric modern criminals from William Faulkner’s Mississippi, where savvy victims often outwit their criminal perpetrators. Characters range from rich but incompetent drug lords and nationwide gun-runners to bumbling Dixie Mafia kidnappers. Hailman divides his anecdotes into captivating sections such as “Guns, Bombs, and Moonshine Whiskey,” “Drug Kingpins Have Troubles Too,” “Crime Victims Fight Back,” and “Mere Theft.” The book ends with a section titled Fancy Frauds in which ingenious con men (and women) offer hilarious but surprisingly sophisticated “special deals” on tax-free gold mines in Mexico and bargain (but bogus) Viagra.

A lively, humorous, beautifully-written memoir featuring the colorful exploits of eccentric modern criminals from William Faulkner’s Mississippi where savvy victims most often outwit their criminal predators. Return to Guntown is intended to entertain and enlighten, these stories will delight any fan of the true crime genre and anyone who appreciates good writing and the skill of a master storyteller.

. . .
John Hailman is a retired federal prosecutor at the US attorney's office in
Oxford, Mississippi, and was an inaugural Overby Fellow in Journalism and adjunct professor of law at the University of Mississippi. He is the author of Thomas Jefferson on Wine; From Midnight to Guntown: True Crime Stories from a Federal Prosecutor in Mississippi; and The Search for Good Wine: From the Founding Fathers to the Modern Table, all published by UPM.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Stable Views: Voices and Stories from the Thoroughbred Racetrack

The Breeder’s Cup races start later today and continues tomorrow. And while the focus of the spectators will be on jockeys, horses and their owners, a new book reminds us that many behind-the-scenes workers form the backbone of the horse racing industry.

Stable Views: Voices and Stories from the Thoroughbred Racetrack by Ellen McHale is an inside look at the thoroughbred racing industry through the words and perspectives of those who labor within its stables. The racetrack is a multicultural, occupational world that relies upon apprenticeship and mentoring. McHale offers readers an insightful examination into the behind-the-scenes traditions, customs, and occupational drama that lies away from the public view of racing.

Based upon more than fourteen years of field research, McHale has travelled throughout the Eastern Seaboard and Kentucky to gather oral narratives from those most intimately involved with racing: the stable workers, exercise riders, and horse trainers who form the backbone of this industry.

McHale includes interviews from bug boys, hot-walkers, exercise riders, judges, and grooms who work at iconic race tracks such as Saratoga, Belmont, Tampa Bay Downs, and the Evangeline Training Center in South Louisiana.

Stable Views balances the passion for horses and horse racing that so many workers clearly articulate, with the hard, punishing work that the industry has come to demand of them. Many workers speak to the history of horse racing and the changes that they have experienced through their long careers. Included in the book are discussions about luck, the occupational language of the racetrack, race and gender, and recent changes in the industry, all in the words and voices of the stable workers.

Stable Views also features 43 beautiful color photos of horses, tracks, and workers taken by McHale.

. . .

ELLEN E. MCHALE is a folklorist and the executive director of the New York Folklore Society. A native New Yorker, her work as a folklorist has included documentary projects and field research throughout the upstate New York region. She is the coeditor of New York State Folklife Reader: Diverse Voices from University Press of Mississippi.


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