Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Celebrate Women's History Month!

March is Women’s History Month, so now through March 31, these five titles are on sale. If you purchase all five, we’ll send you a tote bag and a sixth book on women for free!

Edited by Earl G. Ingersoll
Paper, $15.00
"I think the worst thing that can happen to a poet is to be self-conscious, to think, 'I'm writing a poem' the moment that you're writing a poem."

Susan E. Kirtley
Paper, $15.00
A critical biography of one of the pioneers of alternative weekly comic strips

Martha Wyatt-Rossignol
Cloth, $25.00
A first-person account from a black Mississippian navigating the tumultuous civil rights era and its aftermath

Steve Taravella
Paper, $15.00
The full story of one of Hollywood's most accomplished character actresses

Elise Varner Winter
Edited by JoAnne Prichard Morris
Cloth, $15.00
The firsthand account of a governor's wife who transformed her position from Mansion hostess to a more meaningful role in state government

Buy all five to receive a tote bag AND a sixth book free!!!!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Creole Cobwebs:The Story behind Flight Risk

Once a week I grab a broom and climb on a chair to sweep away the cobwebs clinging to my sixteen-foot ceilings. I’ve seldom spotted any actual spiders yet have never seen so many cobwebs. And like my memories, I can’t keep up with them. Unbidden shadow shows from other times and places fill my mind with a gauzy light, taking over whole corners of consciousness just like the relentless spiders at work above. If anybody had predicted years ago, while I was drifting from one end of the earth to the other, that one day in my sixties I’d be living alone in the French Quarter, brushing away cobwebs and writing a memoir titled Flight Risk, I would only have had one thing to say.
                 Why, of course.  
                 Like many Southerners, I relate to people by telling them stories, and often the ones I come back to are my own. We are the stories of our lives, and storytelling is how we integrate our personalities into an autonomous “I,” the past into the present. Our selective memories edit us into being with the blue pencil of passing time. Once we lose that narrative thread, we’re no longer ourselves, as Alzheimer’s teaches us. The storytelling instinct is more than entertainment or self-aggrandizement; it wells up from an atavistic place connected to self-preservation and tribal identity. The tipsy after-dinner anecdote is a distant echo of the griot or shaman or bard sitting around the fire.
                As I stare up at the ceiling scanning the batwings of cobwebs, I wonder what I’ve been running from most of my life. For several years, of course, I was racing away from a backward Southern past. Flight Risk begins with the saga of how I escaped from the gothic mental hospital to which my parents committed me when I was nineteen, and then continues with a hair-raising flight a decade later from a Guatemalan jail, and several years after that, how I snuck out of China, abandoning my life there along with many of my collectivist ideals. These stories foreshadow a more recent one, how I escaped from the biblical floods in a stolen school bus three days after Katrina hit New Orleans.
                Hanging in my living room under the cobwebs are newly framed family documents rescued from a musty shoebox, where they were stored for a hundred-and-fifty years. New Orleans Creoles never threw anything away, particularly papers pertaining to their origins.  Perhaps my spiders are direct descendents of my family’s, French Quarter incarnations of Clotho, the spinner among the Three Fates who has woven the web of my past.
                Yet occasionally I need to brush down the cobwebs so that they don’t take over my present life. Writing and publishing this book has been a way to do that. I hope that I’ve also captured the history of my times and of the places where I’ve lived, as any memoir should. In French, histoire means both an individual’s story and also our collective one: history. One thing is clear: my personal histoires would be blown away like the dust from slave bricks unless I make them part of history by getting this book into your hands.   

Below is a list of titles that Nolan says have inspired his writing.

Flannery O’Connor, The Complete Stories
T.C. Boyle, Stories, Vols. I and II
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: all short stories and novels

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass 
Pablo Neruda, Residence on Earth and Isla Negra: A Notebook 
Federico Garcia Lorca, Selected Poems

Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem
Richard Rodriguez, Hunger of Memory

Praise for Flight Risk

 Flight Risk graces New Orleans with one of its most enduring literary portraits. There’s suspense and beauty on every page.” –Andrei Codrescu

“... vivid, entertaining, and utterly memorable, one of the most enjoyable reads that has come my way for a very long time.” –Alexander McCall Smith

“James Nolan … sure can tell a story and build it up to a climax.” –Lawrence Ferlinghetti

“A knockout! Boomer memoirists will read James Nolan and weep with envy ... He writes like magic.” –Jed Horne

“A wryly eloquent memoir of world travel and the joys, and difficulties, of returning home.” –Kirkus Reviews

Flight Risk: Memoirs of a New Orleans Bad Boy is available online from University Press of Mississippi or at your favorite local bookstore. Purchase your copy today.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Ten Marketing Tips for Authors --- an Undercover Agent's Hit List

When Charlie Spillers started campaigning for his book, Confessions of an Undercover Agent: Adventures, Close Calls, and the Toll of a Double Life, we knew immediately we had a remarkable author on our hands. He learned like lightning, was a self-starter, kept us informed, and kept on conquering. We thought it would be a help to all first-time authors for Charlie to write about what he learned.

10 Marketing Tips for Authors

            Marketing a book is not about the book—it’s about people: potential readers, bookstore owners and managers, members of civic organizations, and the media.

            During the past nine months I have done more than seventy book events in three states, and many newspaper, radio and TV interviews. Those didn’t occur on their own.

            Marketing a book is the personal responsibility of an author. Although the publisher may have a marketing and publicity department, they are busy with other books and authors and can’t concentrate solely on your book. Only you can do that. Your primary tools are personal appearances at book signings, and doing media interviews. 

            The publisher and bookstores will arrange some book talks and signings. You should consider that the minimum and seek opportunities to arrange additional events that will increase the popularity of your book and generate sales. For me and my book, that meant doing these things.

            1. Bookstores. Identify other bookstores and contact them to arrange book events. For example, my publisher had never scheduled events for one small bookstore in a small town. I contacted the store and about fifty people attended the book talk and signing. That led to an invitation to do a book talk to a large senior citizens group. When store owners and managers become aware of your offers to do book signings they will place book orders. Those book sales likely would have been missed had you not pursued them.

            2. Support bookstores by signing stock. I regularly check with bookstores and sign their stock. And before going on a trip I’ll check with the bookstores along the route and offer to stop by and sign stock. While on vacation in Florida I contacted bookstores and offered to sign stock.  That prompted two stores to order book shipments. Autographed books help sales and bookstores appreciate that kind of author support.

            3. Arrange talks to groups and civic clubs. I spent many hours researching civic clubs around the state and in adjoining states.  Most clubs, especially Rotary Clubs, are always looking for speakers. I usually email the president or other officer and offer to speak. I include a brief bio, an image of the book cover and an author photo. I also mention any personal connection to the town, such as having lived there while growing up. If any stories in the book pertain to the area, I’ll point that out.

            4. Reach out to the media for coverage of events. When a signing is scheduled for a book store, I’ll ask the owner if he or she has media contacts that will publicize the event. I also offer to do interviews with newspapers, radio stations and TV stations. I research radio, TV and newspapers in the area and sometimes make direct contact, usually by email. As a result of those efforts I’ve done many media interviews that would not have otherwise occurred.

            5. Arrange book talks at libraries. Most have monthly books and lunch programs. I send an email offering to do a book talk. Libraries usually allow the author or a bookstore to sell books at the event. Even though I may have books I usually try to arrange bookstores to cover the library events. That has two advantages—more sales for the stores and the stores can handle credit card purchases. Libraries usually publicize the event through their Facebook page and with an article in the local newspaper.

            6.  Generate turnout for events. Get out word about book signings through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, radio, newspaper, TV and emails to friends and contacts. Prior to a book event I will email and text friends, acquaintances and contacts in the area to let them know I will be doing a book talk. Instead of sending group messages, I message each individual. Facebook has been my biggest platform in getting word out about events, and fortunately many friends share the announcements on their FB page.

            7. Share information about the popularity of the book. I did this when my book became the #1 New Release on Amazon, when it was repeatedly on the weekly top 10 bestselling list or was recognized in some other way. Even small recognition helps. When I stop by Barnes & Nobles stores to sign stock the staff always mentions that the book is selling well. I sometimes mention that on FB. When readers know the book is popular, that news confirms their opinion of it and their desire to buy it.

            8. At book talks at clubs and libraries pass around a couple copies of the book. People will be more willing to stand in line after the talk to buy the book if they have had an opportunity to hold it and look through it. It requires a leap of faith to stand in line to buy it, especially when they haven’t even seen it.

            9. Make book events special. I want readers to feel like they have something special and therefore I take time to write meaningful inscriptions in books. Following book signings and talks I often post photos on social media and mention the names of some of the people who attended.

            10. Coordinate events and media with the publisher’s marketing and publicity departments.

            Finally, enjoy yourself at book events.  My greatest pleasure in being an author is being able to meet people, make new friends, and visit with old friends.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Excerpt: Direct Democracy: Collective Power, the Swarm, and the Literatures of the Americas

The recent film The Birth of a Nation is once again attracting attention to the story of Nat Turner and the 1831 rebellion against slavery in Southampton County, Virginia. The following is an excerpt from Scott Henkel’s forthcoming book, Direct Democracy: Collective Power, the Swarm, and the Literatures of the Americas, available this spring from UPM

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, southeast Virginia, like much of the region, experienced an economic depression that drove down the prices for cotton and other commodities, as well as the price for slaves. This region of Virginia trafficked enslaved people to much of the South, so when the depression slowed down this trafficking, the black population in the area rose. 

As census data shows, from 1800 to 1830, the white population in Southeast Virginia rose marginally, but the black population rose to a far more significant degree. The area’s population, therefore, was influenced by the movement and circulation of people, and also of ideas. Cedric Robinson writes that “in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Franco-Haitian slave owners fled to Louisiana, Virginia, and the Carolinas with as many slaves as they could transport, thereby also transporting the Haitian Revolution.” It was a dangerous mix: anxiety over the economy, a growing black population, and reports of slave rebellion throughout the South, the Caribbean, and Latin America combined to make the life of a slave, which was brutal to begin with, even worse. 

Nat Turner’s body bore the marks of what this life must have been: descriptions of him state that he had scars on one of his temples and the back of his neck, as well as a large knot on the bone above his right wrist, the result, most likely, of that bone breaking and then healing without having been set properly.

Such repression breeds resistance, and a growing black population in proximity to a population of whites growing increasingly frustrated yet comparatively smaller provides a good explanation of why such a rebellion occurred where and when it did. Turner and his peers must have noticed this shifting terrain, and sensed an opening. There may have also been a more immediate effect of the economic situation: indebted enslavers tended to talk about selling slaves, an act that always split families and laid bare the cruel characteristics of the slavocracy’s racial capitalism; predicting the impending sale may have prompted the plotters to carry out plans that had been long in the making.

One is tempted to speculate about what success may have meant in practical terms to Turner and his peers. The most likely goal seems to have been a life of marronage in the Dismal Swamp, about forty miles from Jerusalem, now Cortland, where the rebellion started. One could also take the so-called Confessions of Nat Turner literally on this point, and believe that the rebellion’s goal was to spread fear throughout the region. At minimum, it needs to be recognized that given the right set of circumstances, rebelling against an unjust system is itself an endeavor worth undertaking. 

This is not a blind lashing out, but rather merely to suggest that there are times when passive resistance becomes insufficient or intolerable and active resistance seems to be the only logical option, regardless of the consequences which may follow. In any case, the Southampton Rebellion is another piece of evidence to support C. L. R. James’ comment that enslaved people rebel because they want to be free, and that this is a fact that no ruling class wants to admit.  

It is reasonable to expect that the men and women who participated in the Southampton Rebellion had diverse ideas about what liberty meant to them, varying opinions of what the outcome of their rebellion might be, and various suggestions about the most effective tactics. Some may have fought out of rage, some to repay particular grievances, some because they thought the rebellion was a path to freedom for themselves or for their families.
Some participants may have acted out of an altruism that hoped that their rebellion would be a step towards universal emancipation. Yet the people who chose to participate found ways to cooperate even in the face of great difficulties, and they struck a blow that left a lasting mark on the slavocracy. They did not need to define liberty in exactly the same way; what they needed was to find ways to cooperate in order to make an effective challenge to the systematized injustices they faced. The participants in the Southampton Rebellion were successful in forging that cooperation, and that fact deserves recognition.

Scott Henkel is assistant professor of English and African American and Diaspora Studies at the University of Wyoming, specializing in the literature of labor and slavery, democratic political movements, critical theory, free speech and censorship, and complex systems. His research has appeared in the journals Walt Whitman Quarterly Review and Workplace: a Journal of American Labor as well as the edited volumes Problems of Democracy: Language and Speaking and The Grapes of Wrath: A Reconsideration.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

UPM Gift Guide

Having trouble deciding what to get your loved ones for the holidays? Books make great gifts. 

Here are some suggestions on what to get  buy your…

…uncle who says they don’t make movies like they used to:

Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph

The colorful, compulsive, secretive history of famous and infamous film fiends. 

...grandmother who loves to paint outdoors:
Expressions of Place
John R. Kemp

Contemporary artists revealing the state’s urban landscapes, southwestern swamps, central prairies, verdant forests, and northern fields.

…your brother who is passionate about social justice:

R. Kim Rushing

Powerful first-hand witness to the prison experience in Mississippi’s sprawling penitentiary farm. 

…your neighbor who wants to save the trees: 

The Land of Rowan Oak
Ed Croom

Ideal for your neighbor who wants to save the trees, this is an extraordinary photographic documentary of the wild and cultivated plants and landscape of Faulkner’s inspirational writing sanctuary. 

…your roommate who is always pitching his latest business venture:

Lucky Dogs
Jerry E. Strahan

An insider's account of the iconic hotdog cart business and its role in the French Quarter and the world.

…your nephew who goes to every Marvel midnight screening:

The Comic Book Film Adaptation
Liam Burke

The first study of how the comic book moved to the center of Hollywood film production in the twenty-first century

…your best friend who spends her weekends grading: 

Michael Copperman

A mesmerizing account of the realities of working with Teach For America in one of the country’s poorest and most challenged regions. 

…your grandfather who loves to read historical fiction: 

Pelican Road
Howard Bahr

A riveting tale of a lost way of life along a great southern railroad.

...your sister who wants to be a writer

Things like the Truth
Ellen Gilchrist

A vibrant, passionate engagement with the transcendent joys of family and aging. 

…your father-in-law who fancies himself an expert on film noir:

Dan Duryea
Mike Peros

A biography of a devoted family man best known for his roles as abusive villains.

...your coworker who loves old Hollywood: 

A Girl's Got To Breathe
Donald Spoto

Get them the first  biography of this Oscar-winning actress.

…your dad who secretly wants to be a special agent:

Confessions of an Undercover Agent
Charlie Spillers

A true story of an ex-Marine who fought crime as an undercover cop, a narcotics agent, and finally a federal prosecutor. 

…your cousin who thinks she’s the funny one in your family:

Madeline Kahn
William V. Madison

The first biography of the great comedic actress and star of stage and screen.

your boyfriend who never says no to an outdoor adventure:

Shane K. Bernard

 An extraordinary engagement with the colorful history of a storied inland waterway

your mom who experienced school integration: 

My Triumph over Prejudice
Martha Wyatt-Rossignol

 The moving story of a black Mississippian navigated a tumultuous childhood, married a white civil rights worker, and rallied to transform her life

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Staff Spotlight: Valerie Jones

It’s University Press Week for AAUP members like UPM. And once again, we’re participating in the UPWeek Blog Tour.

The theme for this year’s University Press Week is “Celebrate Community,” which is meant to include not only academic or campus communities, but also communities of readers across North America, to the very geographically-based communities in which university presses are based.

With that in mind, we’ve decided to spotlight the community involvement of UPM project editor Valerie Jones. Below read about her extensive volunteer work as a spay/neuter advocate in the Jackson community.

Find more great staff spotlight reads today from our partner presses: Seminary Co-Op Bookstores, Wayne State University Press, University of Washington Press, University of Wisconsin Press, Johns Hopkins University Press, University of Chicago Press, and Purdue University Press,   

Editing books is my day job, but most weeks I also moonlight as a cat trapper, aka a TNR practitioner. Trap-neuter-return involves catching feral/community cats, transporting them to a spay/neuter clinic, keeping them for recovery after surgery, and then returning them to their original colony (or socializing and adopting them out in the case of young kittens).

Valerie Jones
I embarked upon this second vocation reluctantly, as I dislike creating stress for any animal, and feral cats are more than a little grumpy when they realize they are confined to a trap. But by reminding myself that spay and neuter is crucial for feline welfare, both to reduce the overpopulation of street cats in general and to improve the lives of individual cats (and, not insignificantly, the lives of their caretakers), I overcame my qualms and threw myself into developing my trapping techniques.

My mission is to see as many Jackson-area cats as possible get fixed, and I estimate that over the past eight or nine years I’ve helped with the trap-neuter-return of close to a thousand cats, preventing countless litters.

The Big Fix Clinic, operated by the nonprofit Mississippi Spay and Neuter, is an essential partner in this work, and I am sincerely grateful for their excellent services. I support them by volunteering at outreach events to help educate the community about the importance of spay/neuter for cats and dogs. Mississippi, like many other states, has disturbingly high kill rates in animal shelters due to cat and dog overpopulation, and the Big Fix Clinic addresses this by providing affordable surgery.

Similar to when working with authors and their manuscripts, I call upon a combination of patience, precision, a helpful spirit, an eagle eye, and a “cat whisperer” intuition to communicate with a distinctive, sometimes temperamental, breed, so that the process goes as smoothly as possible. Well, that may be stretching the comparison, but only a little!

I have gotten other UPM staff involved in my cat rescue too—recently our order supervisor adopted an adorable orange and white kitten (“Tiger”) that I caught in a restaurant parking lot. I’ve climbed into porch rafters, descended into a storm drain, crawled under cars and through bushes, and driven dozens of miles on winding country roads to rescue kittens in danger, and it makes my efforts totally worthwhile to see them adopted into purrfect loving homes! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Rest in Peace, Gordon Martin

Last week, UPM was saddened to learn of the passing of author Judge Gordon Martin. He was 82. We had the great pleasure of working with Judge Martin on his book Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote.

Count Them One by One is a comprehensive account of the groundbreaking case written United States v. Theron Lynd. Lynd, the first case brought to trial in Mississippi by the Justice Department, taking on a seemingly omnipotent registrar’s denial of the right to vote to African Americans, laid the foundation and framework for the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

In 1962 Martin was a young lawyer with Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and traveled to Mississippi for to help prepare Lynd. His role was to find new witnesses and talk with those we had already identified whose testimony would demonstrate the systemic discrimination against the county’s black citizens.

It was no simple matter. “The real heroes of this story,” Martin writes, “are the African American citizens who all risked their jobs, their health, even their lives, to attempt to register to vote, and then to testify in federal court about their rejection as voters for no reason other than the color of their skin.”

He writes in his preface:
They are not household names, not even Vernon Dahmer, who was murdered because of his pursuit of the cause of voting rights. But they had stayed vividly in my memory during the intervening years…There would have been no Lynd case without their courage, without their tenacity in going back over and over again to attempt to register to vote. Without them and without their counterparts in some other Deep South counties and parishes, the Justice Department could not have acted. There would have been no Voting Rights Act, and there would have been no Obama presidency.

Decades later, Martin returned to Mississippi to find these brave men and women he had never forgotten. He interviewed the still-living witnesses, their children, and friends. On publishing the book Martin said, "It's satisfying  knowing that courageous local African Americans who sought to vote will be recognized for the first time. I talked, for example, to the grandson of one of our witnesses who was three when his grandfather died. He had no idea his grandfather was a hero."

Returning to Boston after his work in Mississippi, Martin was an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, founding partner of the law firm Martin, Morse, Wylie and Kaplan, and a dedicated participant in Democratic politics. From 1983 to 2004 he served as an associate justice of the Massachusetts Trial Court. He was a visiting professor at several law schools and longtime adjunct professor at New England Law Boston. He was also active in national juvenile justice groups and in Democratic politics

It seems apropos to post this remembrance of Martin on Election Day because Martin worked so hard and risked so much to enfranchise African Americans in Mississippi. 

In 2011 Martin was interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America where he spoke with the same passion for voting rights that he displayed in 1962.


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