Blue Cactus Press Book Sale @ Cascadia Poetry Festival

Everyone loves a good book fair, right?

We’ll assume you enthusiastically shouted “right!” at your computer screen when you read that.

And because we completely agree with you, Blue Cactus Press is taking part in the 2017 Cascadia Poetry Festival Small Press Fair, happening Oct. 14 at Washington State History Museum.

Blue Cactus Press will have copies of our first title, Still Clutching Maps, for sale at our booth (which we’re sharing with the amazing local poet and author Leah Mueller), information on our vision and community involvement, and recorded poems for you to listen to and enjoy as your browse the book fair. Other regional presses participating in the small press fair include Cascadia College, Floating Bridge PressMoon Path PressPacifica Literary ReviewPageBoy MagazinePleasure Boat StudioReckoning Press,  Uttered ChaosWave Books and more.

The Small Press Fair is one of several components of the 2017 Cascadia Poetry Festival, which includes themed poetry readings by prominent authors of the Pacific Northwestm guided workshops and round table discussions from Oct. 12 – 15. We hope to see you there, whether you’re buying books or simply hoping to enjoy a poetry reading.

What: Blue Cactus Press Book Sale 

When: noon – 5 p.m. Saturday, October 14 

Where: Washington State History Museum
(1911 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma)

Local Book Review: Tupelo by Alec Clayton

Let me start by admitting that I don’t usually read books about the American South. I find them tedious and often, as dry as a sad packet of army-issued crackers. I’m not a big fan of authobiographical-ish tales of young men fumbling through their youth, either (get out of here, The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye, scat!). So, when I started reading Tupelo by Alec Clayton, I was less than thrilled to realize I was in for both.

But like a good friend and a fellow, local writer (one who doesn’t want to avoid eye contact with an author I see at least once a month and very much enjoy chatting with), I decided to read the first quarter of Tupelo before passing judgement on it or tossing it back on the bookshelf. Plus, Clayton is a damn good author and storyteller, so his book, Tupelo, deserves a fair shake, right?

The answer is yes. And I’ll fast forward a few days and a lot of cups of coffee here to a moment when I realized I was thoroughly enjoying Tupelo, despite my early misgivings. And no, it didn’t take the first quarter of the book to get me there, either. It simply took the realization that this story, the story of a young man and his family navigating through an evolving cultural landscape, is told with a hell of a lot more honesty than usual. Oh, and the overall quality of his storytelling was on point, too.

Set in a small Mississippi town struggling to adjust to change during the mid-twentieth century, Tupelo could have been a book about a young, white and male protagonist making all the right moves during his youth and eventually, bridging the cultural and political gap between whites and African American’s during the Civil Rights Movement. It could have been a hero’s journey full of moments where the protagonist did exactly the right thing at exactly the right time and played a pivotal role in changing the world around him. But it isn’t. It’s much more honest than that.

Clayton provides a truer picture of what it was like to grow up in the confusing and racially and politically charged times of the 1950’s and 60’s. His protagonist doesn’t make all the right moves, he isn’t always at the center of the action, and he doesn’t try to cover up the unpopular or insensitive views of the people in his life. Instead, Tupelo offers readers a realistic look at a family and community who aren’t only concerned with the civil rights movement, but are entrenched in their own ups and downs, budding and failing relationships and struggles to survive. It’s about the change, and lack thereof, that a young man, his family and his community are all facing in the midst of an evolving cultural landscape.

And to be perfectly honest, I think Clayton’s focus on representing his youth honestly and without unnecessary fanfare would have been lost on readers if Clayton wasn’t such a strong storyteller. Tupelo is full of sidebar adventures and peripheral characters that eventually circle back to the main plot-line, but the digressions don’t feel unnecessary because Clayton does an excellent job weaving them into the fabric of his larger story. Tupelo’s characters have a healthy dose of positive and negative personality traits, too, which keeps readers invested in the story even when it’s taken a detour. And true to his promise, Clayton ties up any loose ends before readers reach the end of their literary journey.

I was pleasantly surprised to realize how much I was enjoying Tupelo as I turned the last few pages of the book, despite being very sure I’d dislike it in the beginning. And for all you readers out there who’re like me, who might be thinking Tupelo isn’t your cup of tea because of its genre or content, I say give it a go. The honest narrative and strength of storytelling alone will be more than enough to to get you hooked, trust me. Tupelo is a good book, by a great storyteller. Don’t pass it up.

 

Christina Butcher at Deep Waters’ Monthly Reading & Open Mic

I know this is short notice, but if you’re free this Friday night please join me for an evening of poetry at Deep Waters‘ monthly gathering and open mic reading. I’m honored to be this month’s featured guest! Despite the nerve-wracking terror I feel before readings, I’m truly excited to share my work with the folks of Deep Waters. In addition to reading from my new poetry collection, Still Clutching Maps, I’ll also read newer works and chat about my inspiration for writing. I’ll have books available for sale at the event.

What: Deep Waters’ monthly reading & open mic, ft. Christina Butcher

When: September 15, 7 p.m 

Where: Steilacoom Public Library
(2950 Steilacoom Blvd, Steilacoom, WA)