Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Weird Al Yankovic's Back and He's Got Something for Us Word Nerds

Two of my Facebook friends posted this today. I loved it so much, I thought it needed to be shared. So, without further ado, may I present "Word Crimes," by Weird Al Yankovic.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What's on Your List?

Hello, dear readers.

Summertime and the reading is easy. Here are some pieces on my to-read list for the season.

The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

I absolutely loved Lawrenson's last book, The Lantern, and am really looking forward these three novellas that combine mystery, history, romance, and World War II. Here's one of the reviews.

The Sea Garden weaves a double spell: Lawrenson steeps her story of the invisible heroes of the French Resistance crossing borders-and here, crossing time-deep in the eerie beauty of the South of France. The result is a marvelous strange fruit: think Graham Greene with a dash of Poe.” (Sarah Blake, author of The Postmistress)

Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn is billed as Pride and Prejudice's Upstairs, Downstairs.

Reel me in, right? It's a refreshing take on Miss Austen's classic, which focuses on the servants, rather than the Bennet family. Can't wait!

“A triumph: a splendid tribute to Austen’s original but, more importantly, a joy in its own right…Like Austen, Baker has written an intoxicating love story but, also like Austen, the pleasure of her novel lies in its wit and fierce intelligence…Baker not only creates a richly imagined story of her own but recasts Austen’s novel in a startlingly fresh light…Inspired.” —The Guardian

One More Thing by B. J. Novak

I was a huge fan of The Office, particularly for it witty writing. B.J. Novak was responsible for most of my favorite episodes, so I was delighted when I received his book of short stories for Mother's Day.

“His more concise stories come across as brainy comedy bits, while his sustained tales covertly encompass deep emotional and psychological dimensions… Novak excels at topsy-turvy improvisations on a dizzying array of subjects, from Aesop’s fables to tabloid Elvis to our oracular enthrallment to the stock market…Novak’s ingeniously ambushing stories of longing, fear, pretension, and confusion reveal the quintessential absurdities and transcendent beauty of our catchas-catch-can lives.” —Booklist, starred review

So, Bibliophiles, how about you? What novels are on your bedside tables this season?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Six Great Summer Reads All in One Place

I was very happy to see my second novel, Until My Soul Gets It Right, appear in this lovely magazine along with five other best-selling women authors. Who knows? You just might find your next summer reading book inside. Click here to check it out.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Printers Row Lit Fest Sale 2014

Celebrate Literature No Matter Where You Live

You probably know that I'm going to be signing books at Chicago's Printers Row Lit Fest tomorrow from 10 AM to 2 PM, in the Chicago Writers' Association Tent. I'm pretty excited. So excited, in fact, that I wanted to share it.

I know you can't all be in Chicago with me that day, so I've decided to pass along the festival savings to everyone.

For one week, JUNE 7-14, A WHISPER TO A SCREAM and UNTIL MY SOUL GETS IT RIGHT will both be ON SALE for Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. Each will be just 99¢, down from the regular price of $5.99.

Just click on the links below anytime between June 7-14 to take advantage of the savings.

Please tell your friends. Thanks much!

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Smashwords (E-book)
Coupon Code: YU77N

Amazon (Kindle)

Barnes & Noble (Nook only)

Smashwords (E-book)
Coupon Code: WB25S

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Bibliophile's Guide to Chicagoland

My series, The Bibliophiles, takes place mostly in the Chicago suburbs, but in my latest book, Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two), Catherine Elbert decides she needs to escape her family’s Wisconsin farm for some greener pastures, farm pun intended. ((Groan.)) Anyhow, Catherine bounces from coast to coast in search of her true self, traveling from Portland, Maine clear across the continent to San Diego, California. Eventually, she ends up in Chicagoland, my home turf.

Chicago is a great literary city with a reputation for gritty, social realism both in its fiction as well as its poetry. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, a tale of what can happen when a country girl loses herself in the big city is set here, as well as James T. Farrell’s Studs Lonigan, which focuses on the lives of Irish-Americans during the Great Depression. Upton Sinclair’s famous The Jungle portrays life working in Chicago’s early meat-packing plants. A part of the old Union Stock Yard Gate is still standing today on Exchange Avenue and Peoria Street.

More recently, Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time-Travelers Wife takes place in Chicago, along with the non-fictional Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. Hard-boiled detective V.I. Warshawski lives here, as does her creator, Sara Paretsky. Presumed Innocent author Scott Turow also calls Chicago home.

Here are some of Chicago’s great literary sites.

Carl Sandburg House, 4646 N. Hermitage Avenue, Chicago. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Sandburg (1878-1967) is best known for the famous “Chicago” poem in which he describes “The City of the Big Shoulders.” Sandburg lived here when he wrote for The Chicago Daily News. He is also penned a six-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln, the last of which earned him the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1940.

Poet Carl Sandburg. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

Nelson Algren House, 1958 West Evergreen Street, Chicago. Algren (1909-1981) often wrote about the American Dream gone awry while he lived on the third floor of this building. Winner of three O. Henry Awards, both the International Writers Guild PEN and Chicago Tribune have fiction contests named after Algren. He won the National Book Award for his 1949 novel, The Man with the Golden Arm.

Nelson Algren. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

The University of Chicago, Hyde Park, on Chicago’s south side. Among its many illustrious alumni are Saul Bellow, author of Adventures of Augie March, and Studs Terkel, known for his personal stories of average people in Working and Division Street: America.

The University of Chicago. Photo courtesy of the Tailgater's Handbook.

The Newberry Library, 60 West Walton Street, Chicago. Chicago’s independent research library, it houses a collection of rare books, manuscripts, music and maps spanning six centuries, including letters from President John Adams and his family and manuscripts from Nelson Algren, Sara Paretsky and Ben Hecht.

The Newberry Library. Photo courtesy of www.

Gwendolyn Brooks Home, 4334 S. Champion, Chicago. The first African-American to win the Pulitzer Prize, Brooks is best known for her Selected Poems and A Street in Bronzeville, as well as many essays and reviews. She was Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968 and taught at many local colleges.

Gwendolyn Brooks. Photo courtesy of

Ernest Hemingway House and Museum, 200 N. Oak Park Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois. Out in the near-western suburbs stands the birthplace of Ernest Hemingway, the Nobel Prize-winning author of A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway spent his first twenty years in Oak Park and attended Oak Park-River Forest High School.

The Ernest Hemingway House. Photo courtesy of the Oak Park Journal.

Which Chicago literary site would you be most interested in visiting?

This post originally ran on Julie Lindsey's blog, Musings from the Slush Pile.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Largest Lit Event in the Midwest

JUNE 7 and 8

Join me at the Printers Row Lit Fest on Saturday, June 7. I'll be there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. signing books in the Chicago Writers' Association Tent. Exhibitors will include bookstores, publishers, performance groups, and authors of all sorts. J. Courtney Sullivan will be there, along with Colson Whitehead, Libby Fischer Hellmann, and Elizabeth Berg. Celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich and Bizarre Foods guy Andrew Zimmern are also scheduled to attend. James Patterson will receive the Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Award for his work funding college scholarships to pay for books and for hosting, a website that encourages children to become life-long readers.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happy 450th Birthday, William Shakespeare

Hello, dear readers.

I'm taking time out from Bibliophiles 3 to pay tribute to the great William Shakespeare today on this, the 450th anniversary of his birth, and, coincidentally, the 398th anniversary of his death as well. But, let's concentrate on the positive. Happy Birthday, Master Shakespeare!

The first time I encountered the Bard was in first grade. Finished with all of my required reading, my teacher sent me to the library to find something useful to do. There I watched a filmstrip, Shakespeare for Children: A Midsummer Night's Dream. Magical, the language danced in my ears and ignited my soul.

Many years later, my family and I were fortunate to see As You Like It, a delightful comedy set in the woods of Arden, performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. Witnessing Forbes Masson's "Jaques" deliver the famous "Seven Ages of Man" speech sitting not far from Shakespeare's house or the place of his grave is a moment I shall never forget.

As You Like It
By William Shakespeare

Act II, Scene VII


All the world's a stage, 
And all the men and women merely players: 
They have their exits and their entrances; 
And one man in his time plays many parts, 
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant, 
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms. 
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel 
And shining morning face, creeping like snail 
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, 
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad 
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier, 
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard, 
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, 
Seeking the bubble reputation 
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice, 
In fair round belly with good capon lined, 
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, 
Full of wise saws and modern instances; 
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts 
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon, 
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side, 
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide 
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice, 
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes 
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all, 
That ends this strange eventful history, 
Is second childishness and mere oblivion, 
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

As much as I enjoy the comedies, my favorite Shakespearean plays are the tragedies, with King Lear standing above the rest. Years ago, sometime in the late 1980s, I saw it done by Chicago Shakespeare Repertory in the tiny and extremely intimate old Ruth Page Theater before they became the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and moved out to Navy Pier. Pulled in by every scene, from "Pluck his eyes out!" to Lear's devastation, the play had so much meat to it, I could scarcely breathe. I had studied it in college several times, even wrote a small scene of my own set while Cordelia is packing to leave with France after her father banishes her, but nothing compared to watching it unfold before me. Pure genius.

Oh, the language! The insults! No one can throw a verbal dagger like the Bard. Once, I started playing around with some barbs of my own to free my writer's block. 

Insults Written in the Style of Shakespeare by Karen Wojcik Berner

Oh, foulest wretch
Crawling in filth
Thine underbelly coated with rot

Excrement is your brow
Worthless, corrupt, foul beast

Oh, wonton succubus
Whore of empires
Love of none.

Copyright © 2014 by Karen Wojcik Berner. All rights reserved.

Man, that felt good to get out. Try it sometime. I'm sure it will bring you great satisfaction.

On that note, I must get back to writing. 

Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a lovely day as we remember and celebrate a true master of language, plot, and wit — William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's grave, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.
(Photo by Karen Wojcik Berner)