MFA graduate living her dream | Local

McNeese State University graduate Jenn Alandy Trahan has been awarded the prestigious Jones Lectureship in Fiction at Stanford University. “I’ll be teaching at my dream institution, surrounded by dream colleagues and I’ll have the much-need time to finish my first book as a Stanford faculty member,” said Trahan, a 2015 graduate of McNeese’s Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and Master of Arts in english literature programs.


“It’s a dream of mine to teach at the collegiate level…I aspire to be part of a group that honors the power of shared learning and thrives on bringing different people together in pursuit of a common goal.” 


“My own college years at the University of California Irvine were some of my most difficult years because I was paying my own way through school, working 20-30 hours a week and juggling a full course load,” said Trahan. However, her professors “all played a role in changing the course of my life and I want to pay forward the generosity and kindness that my own college teachers extended me.” 


Trahan was initially attracted to McNeese’s program because of the full-funding available to its MFA students and because of its close proximity to the New Orleans Saints. Recounting the Saint’s Super Bowl XLIV win, she said, “I remember watching YouTube videos of fans in bars cheering on Tracy Porter’s interception…and I thought, ‘Wow, I need to be a part of that culture.’ ”


During her time at McNeese Trahan “had the opportunity to teach 10 course over six semesters” while earning her degrees which served as a catalyst for her career ambitions. “I think all of this in the trenches experience serves as excellent preparation for a teaching career. In fact, I was at McNeese when I realized that I wanted to teach at the collegiate level for the rest of my life.  If I never had the opportunity to teach at McNeese, I wouldn’t have realized this.”


She encouraged aspiring writers to pursue an MFA because it will “give you two to three years of protected time to read, write, grow and hopefully, teach.”  In choosing the right program she urged writers to apply to fully-funded programs like McNeese’s and to “really think about what kind of place will inspire them and their work.”


“Being in Louisiana truly inspired my work…I came into my own as a writer in Lake Charles, Louisiana…If you can go write for two to three years in a place where no one cares that you write or thinks its cool, like Lake Charles, then you’ve got the skin to write. When you strip everything away, writing is ultimately a solitary, lonely endeavor…Which is why you need the right place around you.”


Excerpts from Trahan’s upcoming novel will be published in September’s issue of Harper’s Magazine available on newsstands in mid-August.

Fate doesn’t give up easily | Arts & Leisure

Maria Duffy.


Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott

Maria Duffy’s fiction is making the move to America. The Dubliner has become used to reviews that describe her work as, for example, “fresh, zany and, at times, laugh out loud funny” (Irish Examiner). Here, she’s being praised for a “touch of mystery and some beautifully rendered explorations of human connection” (Publishers Weekly) in her debut on this side of the Atlantic, “A Love Like This.”

Duffy said it’s a book “about destiny and fate.”

She explained: “William and Donna are born on the same day in the same Dublin maternity hospital but their lives are very different. Will grows up in an affluent suburb with rich parents but struggles to balance what he wants with what will keep his overbearing mother happy. Donna is raised in poverty by her older sister and often wonders what life would be like without her troubled mother around. Over the years, William and Donna almost meet many times but it seems fate is trying to keep them apart. But it’s only when tragedy strikes for each of them and they head off to explore the world, that they finally meet 10,000 miles from home.”

The author added: “Their connection is very special but unfortunately the timing is wrong and they’re left with the memories of the brief time they had together and the dream of what might have been. But fate doesn’t give up that easily and maybe there’s still a chance for the two of them to find each other again.”

Maria Duffy

Date of birth: 14 April 1969

Place of birth: Dublin.

Spouse: Paddy

Children: 4 children – Eoin, 21, Roisin, 20, Enya, 16, and Conor, 14.

Residence: Lucan, Dublin.

Published works: “Any Dream Will Do,” “The Terrace,” “The Letter,” “One Wish,” “A Love Like This,” “Falling Softly” and “In Search of Us.” All commercial fiction and all published in Ireland, the UK and the Commonwealth. Some have been translated to German, Portuguese, French, Turkish and Italian.


What is your writing routine? Are there ideal conditions?

I try to write when the children are at school and college as that’s when the house is quietest.  So I sit at my desk at around 9 a.m. and try to clear my mind of the hundreds of other things I need to do in the house. Working from home can be both a blessing and a curse.  I often find myself emptying the dishwasher and mopping the floor when I really should be writing.  But when a deadline looms, I can most often be found in my office at 2 a.m.  Writing during the night works best for me when I have a lot to do but in reality, I couldn’t do it every night.


What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The first thing I would say is to keep at it and believe in yourself. I had no confidence ten years ago. I was writing and keeping it all to myself because I didn’t think anybody would take me seriously.  I didn’t have a degree or had never worked in a library or in the book world so I thought my books wouldn’t even be considered. Now with seven successful books published I’ve finally rid myself of that “Impostor Syndrome”! Just write a bit every day and don’t worry about editing it or making it perfect. The most important thing is to get the words down – they can always be changed at a later stage.


Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.

“Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman; “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding; “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes.


What book are you currently reading?

“ The Trip of a Lifetime” by Monica McInerney.


Is there a book you wish you had written?

Yes. I wish I’d written “Me Before You” by Jojo Moyes. I pride myself on forming characters and as I’m a very visual person, I can picture every one of them in my head. When I read “Me Before You,” I connected with it and pictured the characters vividly.  I think it’s a beautiful, funny and heart-breaking story and one that stayed with me for a long time after.


Name a book that you were pleasantly surprised by.

“Girl on a Train” by Paula Hawkins.  I didn’t think it would be my sort of book and I sometimes hate reading books when there’s a lot of hype surrounding them and you almost know the whole story before you read it.  But I really enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down.


If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it would be Maeve Binchy.  She was a brilliant writer and a wonderful woman.  Her books are like a hug that I can pick up and re-read when I need cheering up.


What book changed your life?

If I can say my own book, it would definitely be “Any Dream Will Do.”  For so long, I’d harbored the dream of having a book published but never really thought it would happen.  And when I turned 40, I decided I was going to do all I could to have one published before I was 50.  When I got a book deal the following year and eventually saw “Any Dream Will Do” on the shelves in the shops, it was the most amazing thing ever. It gave me confidence and made me realise that dreams really can come true.


What is your favorite spot in Ireland?

A little gem of a beach called Silver Strand in Wicklow. There are over 100 steps to get down to it and it has golden sand and is sheltered in a cove.  I spent much of my childhood there and it holds a lot of special memories.


You’re Irish if…

“A nice cup of tea” is the solution to all the problems of the world.

Winds of Winter: ‘George RR Martin DONE and writing A Dream of Spring’ | Books | Entertainment

It sounds crazy, and the person who came up with this theory is well aware of that.

But what if Martin finished The Winds of Winter and is already working hard on A Dream of Spring?

As out there as it sounds do have some pretty good reasons to make such a seemingly outlandish claim.

First off they point out that in 2012 – six years ago – the author said he had already completed chapters of the sixth book in 2010.

Not only that, but that he hoped The Winds of Winter would be released in 2014 – yes that’s four years ago.

By early 2015, Martin was saying he reckoned it could be completed in just a few months.

Then later that year he was hopeful it would arrive in early 2016, but that year came and went.

And by January 2017 the author said he intended for the novel to arrive later in the year and now we’re looking at .

Surely there’s something fishy going on when you say you’re only a few months from finishing a book and that was almost five years ago?

The theorist reckons there’s a reason beyond waiting for HBO’s Game of Thrones TV show to end.

Instead they suggest he’s not releasing The Winds of Winter until he finishes A Dream of Spring – the series finale – “in case he runs into any logistical problem with the story.”

They added: “A Song of Ice and Fire boasts an incredible large universe, with so many characters and plots that it doesn’t seem possible to keep track of all of them.

“The closer he gets to the end, the fewer opportunities Martin will have to work his way out of any snags in the canon; less story time limits where he can go.

“Martin may be holding onto The Winds of Winter in case it needs some narrative tweaking based on a problem he hits toward the end of the Song of Ice and Fire epic.

“He obviously wants to nail the landing on the defining work of his career, and this could be the best way to ensure that happens.”

Book It: Four hotels where American dreams do come true

From Disney drenched magic to the rugged Californian coast, welcome the to the land where dreams actually do come true…


The Four Seasons Resort, Orlando

Best for… family luxury

The low-down: There is no better way to experience Orlando than from this sprawling resort within the Disney park. With a lazy river, three swimming pools, waterslides and a brilliantly-equipped kids’ hangout, it’s the perfect post-park retreat. Little ones can splash about in the fabulous paddling pool fountains, while big kids swish down slides and even bigger ones unwind on sun loungers. Cold flannel? Tropical fruit? Delectable cocktail? It’s all coming your way. Disney movies are also played on the huge poolside screen while the audience bob about in the water or kick back under an umbrella.

If it’s serenity you’re after, the adult-only pool might be more your vibe — and of course the magnificent spa. There’s a sprinkling of Disney magic on-site too, with regular visits from Mickey and co at breakfast and views of the nightly fireworks, best enjoyed from your own balcony (if it’s in the right direction) or the fabulous top-floor restaurant, Capa. With an open kitchen serving Spanish-inspired dishes and dramatic interiors, it’s a special night out. In the lobby, Lickety Split serves deli food in quick, slick style while Revello pairs Italian fare with a buzzy vibe. As the resort is officially part of the Disney World complex, guests also have access to the parks in ‘magic hours’ — before the gates open to the public.

Metro Detroit mom turns dream of becoming children’s book author into reality

(WXYZ) – Shannon Gross says she always dreamed of becoming a children’s book author, but never pursued it until a few years ago. She’s a wife and a mother of two who works as a client support manager for a communications company, but she can now add “author” to her list of titles. It all started with a bedtime story she told her 4 year-old son.

Shannon says, “I was telling my son stories at night because I didn’t want to turn the light on. I wanted him to sleep. He said, ‘Mom, would you tell me a story?’ I said, ‘What do you want to hear about?’ He said, ‘mom, would you tell me about a panda and his momma?’ I said, ‘sure!'”

She made up a story and told it often. She says she’d always wanted to be a children’s book writer.

Shannon says, “I was like, I should actually do this, put pen to paper and see what happens!”

Two years ago, Shannon started the self-publishing process for her story “Parker Panda.” She describes the character as a curious little cub who tests his boundaries. Now, ‘Parker Panda Makes His Lunch’ is a book!

Shannon says the book shows what families deal with every day when it comes to food allergies and aversions. She knows about it because her son has a peanut allergy, but she says the book also addresses character values like friendship and love.

The book is $11.99 and you can find it online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Shannon says her son, now 7, loves the book and both of her boys are looking forward to her next story. She says she’s working on the next Parker Panda story and hopes to have it out next year.

She’s also hoping her own story can inspire someone else.

“Just follow your dreams. Find your gifts and talents. Do what you need to do to get it done. You can make the impossible happen.

Dream coming true for 12-year-old poet; budding young Bucks County writer to publish first book of poems | News

UPPER MAKEFIELD >> A 12-year-old poet from Upper Makefield will be publishing her first book of poetry this fall thanks to an outpouring of support on her IndieGoGo crowdfunding page.

Matilda Bray, who just completed the sixth grade at Sol Feinstone Elementary School, said she’s humbled by the response she has received from family, friends and strangers whose donations will make her new book possible.

In just one and a half days she had met and exceeded her initial goal of $1500 – enough to publish 500 books.

“Wow,” she said of the outpouring and support that has come her way. “I was very surprised. “I never dreamed of going this far. Thanks to everyone who are making this possible.”

She also met and exceeded her stretch goal of $2,500 with the money raised above and beyond $1500 being donated to the Children’s Literacy Project of Philadelphia.

“We’re trying to generate as much for the CLP folks as possible,” said her father, Chris, describing the organization as “an A-plus rated, award-winning charity.”

Entitled “Under the Moon as My Sun,” her chapbook – scheduled for publication in September – will include 35 original poems on diverse topics ranging from the Holocaust to lighthearted verses about nature and baking blueberry pies.

The idea for the book was suggested by Matilda’s two mentors – 2010 Bucks County Poet Laureate Lorraine Henrie Lins and founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tekpoet Joanne Leva – who have been advising and encouraging the budding young writer for the past few years.

Matilda met the two at an event at the Michener Museum about five or six years in which poets were challenged to write pieces about selected pieces of art.

“A couple hours later she’s got these two great poems and they were just fawning all over her,” said Matilda’s dad.

About a year later, they ran into Joanne again at a poetry reading in New Hope. That’s where Joanne suggested the idea of being Matilda’s mentor and helping to expand her horizons.

“Before you know it they were meeting together at the Doylestown Library once or twice a month to mentor her along,” said Chris.

During their mentoring sessions, the poets have worked with Matilda on different types of poetry, like limericks. They also helped her condense her body of work into some cohesion for the book.

For nearly seven years, she has been writing poems and short stories.

“When I write, I feel concealed from the rest of the world. When I write, the words flow … every word has a significant meaning. I write not only about beauty and nature but also about great sadness and cruelty,” she writes on her IndieGoGo page.

“I love going outside and observing nature and wildlife, but it always touches me to hear about all the horrible and sad events going on in the world, though I seem to live in a bubble where nothing bad happens,” she writes.

“Poetry also gives me a calmness where I can be anyone or anything. That is one of the great joys of writing and one aspect that keeps me coming back,” she says.

She draws her inspiration from many sources, including people she knows, events in her life (ie. the passing of her grandmother), famous figures, such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the survivors of the Holocaust, and random people – “sometimes I like putting myself in their shoes.”

She counts Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost, American poet Maya Angelou, Irish poet Seamus Heaney and Edgar Allan Poe among her favorites.

Matilda penned her first poems, “Everlasting,” inspired by Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting,” and “On Being Kind,” which was published in the school newspaper, when she was around five or six years old.

Her body of poetry, now numbering in the hundreds, has earned her second place at the Main Street Voices Poetry Contest and runner-up (by one point) at the 100 Thousand Poets for Change Poetry Slam, hosted by Montgomery County Poet Laureate, David Escobar-Martin.

She also competed against 21 area poets at the Flash Poetry Festival at the New Hope Arts Center for the coveted Flash Poetry Prize and she has read hecr poetry at Farley’s Bookshop in New Hope during National Poetry Month. She also has been published in the Schuylkill Valley Journal and the River Poets Journal.

When her book comes out, Matilda said she will be reading selections at ltocal bookstores, including Farley’s in New Hope and the Doylestown Bookshop. She has also accepted an invitation to read at a New York City school.

And she’s already looking to the future publication of another chapbook along with a book of short stories.

This summer, Matilda, her sister, and their parents, Chris and Tracy Bray will be moving to Solebury Township. That means Matilda will be attending a new school come September.

Matilda said it’s sad to say goodbye to her former school where she said teachers have encouraged her along the way.

“Ms. Sabol helped me publish my first poem,” she said. And gifted support teacher Nancy Stout “inspires me to keep moving on.”

With that thought in mind, she’s looking forward to her new school – the New Hope-Solebury Middle School – and the publication of her book of poetry in September.

For more information and to pre-order a copy of Matilda’s chapbook, CLICK HERE and help make Matilda’s dream a reality.

New Milford’s Bad Dream adds to growing brewing scene

The Danbury area’s burgeoning micro-brewing scene has added another destination, and it happens to be the first in New Milford.

Bad Dream Brewing has opened at 116 Danbury Road in the Fairfield Plaza, which also includes Staples and T.J. Maxx. Bad Dream is a small-batch brewery — utilizing a three-barrel system that makes up to 93 gallons per batch — with a surprisingly spacious taproom that belies its 1,600 square feet.

The four owners, all in their late 20s or early 30s, share a passion for beer and books. They used to coordinate a popular book club and started serving their home-brewed beer to guests. That eventually led to the idea of opening a brewery and, after more than two years of planning, the idea has become a reality.

“It’s nice to see it all come together,” co-owner Brian Benzinger said Thursday evening as a good crowd of patrons sampled the four beer varieties on tap. “We’re independent and self-funded and we have a lot invested in this. It’s personal for us.”

Benzinger owns the brewery with Max Retter, Michelle Retter and Emily Leone. Benzinger and Max Retter are friends from their days at New Fairfield High School. All four owners live locally. All four have specialties that benefit the business, Benzinger said. Their backgrounds include chemistry, legal, electro-mechanics and computer programming.

The name Bad Dream Brewing comes from the impact of the horror-genre books they have read with the club. They plan to rekindle the book club and operate it out of the brewery starting soon.

The owners also take creative liberties when naming their brews. The four they are serving now are Variety of Spiders, Hop Wallace, Detached Headspace and Motivational Poster.

“Because when you drink beer you feel like you can do anything,” Benzinger said of the name Motivational Poster, a blonde ale. “We try to have fun with the names. We just throw things around and see what sticks.”

Within the last year, the Danbury area has seen its number of breweries grow from zero to five. Redding Beer Co. in Georgetown and Nod Hill Brewery in Ridgefield opened last year, while Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewing in Bethel and Charter Oak Brewing in Danbury opened this year. Bad Dream Brewing held its soft opening last weekend.

Housatonic River Brewing is scheduled to open later this summer in New Milford on Kent Road along the banks of the Housatonic. Also, Reverie Brewing will open soon in Newtown on Church Hill Road.

“I think it’s great,” Benzinger said of the growing number of breweries. “All the brewers are really nice and inviting and offer to help. It’s a different industry. It’s like we are all on the same team.”

The owners do not harbor dreams of expanding quickly and becoming giants in the beer industry. They do not distribute their brews, although they have permits to do so and keep open that possibility, and their beer is only available at the Bad Dream taproom. They will soon offer growlers to take home.

“I like being small now,” Michelle Retter said. “I feel like we are the neighborhood brewery.”

Food is not served in the taproom, but customers may bring their own food or order from Vroom Service, which delivers meals from local restaurants. Snacks are available and made by The First Bite catering business in Brookfield. Bad Dream also serves wine from Sherman’s White Silo Farm and Winery. Spent grains from the brewing process are picked up by a local farmer to be fed to livestock.

“We want to support local businesses and focus on what we do best, which is beer,” Benzinger said. “People can enjoy food from the town’s amazing restaurants.”

The Bad Dream Brewing taproom is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. The brewery may be reached at (860) 717-4546.

The writer may be reached at [email protected]; 203-731-3338

Working Together Without Falling Apart, reviewed – Irish Tech News

By @SimonCocking, review of Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart, by Shane Snow. Available to buy here

The best teams are more than the sum of their parts, but why does collaboration so often fail to fulfill this promise? In Dream Teams, Snow takes us on an adventure through history, neuroscience, psychology, and business, exploring what separates groups that simply get by together from those that get better together.

You’ll learn:
  *  How ragtag teams–from soccer clubs to startups to gangs of pirates–beat the odds throughout history.
  *  Why DaimlerChrysler flopped while the Wu-Tang Clan succeeded, and the surprising factor behind most failed mergers, marriages, and partnerships.
  *  What the Wright Brothers’ daily arguments can teach us about group problem solving.
  *  Pioneering women in law enforcement, unlikely civil rights collaborators, and underdog armies that did the incredible together.
  *  The team players behind great social movements in history, and the science of becoming open-minded.

This was a fun read. Interesting, insightful, and looking to pull in relevant examples from diverse and unusual sources. Snow is also willing to dig deeper into the topic and look at examples, and then counter-intuitive ones too in his quest for more nuanced and thoughtful insights and takeaways. Having reviewed a lot of leadership books recently, this book was a breath of fresh air. It’s always a good sign when your teenager starts reading the book over your shoulder and then borrows it to read it. The World of Warcraft and Star Trek examples never hurt, but overall the author has worked hard to ensure that it makes for a provocative and useful read.

The case studies are good, it is an ongoing and near eternal challenge to work out how to build good teams. The whole discussion around diversity causing greater conflict but ultimately better results illustrates that it is not an easy path to follow. However if it was easy to build great teams then everyone would be doing it. It still remains important to be human, empathetic and able to relate to others. Not necessarily to be best friends with your work colleagues, or to even want to be so, but to be willing to go in and fight for their corner. The Rusian ice hockey players were a recurring case study through the book, and yielded lots of interesting, and often counter intuitive successess. A good book to read, for many of the family (as the teenager removes it again to read).

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

The Dream Pillow | WPEC

A new children’s book to help young people think of their dreams. (WPEC)

Any parent knows getting your children to go to bed can be a nightmare.

But not anymore, thanks to the “Dream Pillow.”

Anchor Suzanne Boyd and Jenna Miller wrote the book, inspired by her daughter Harper.

There will be a book signing at Learning Express in Boca Raton. It runs from 3 to 5 p.m.

‘Pipe dream’ to publication | Local News Stories

MDP columnist and author re-releases first novel

•First book was about her 3 pregnancies

•Righter’s columns to be in own compilation

•MDP publisher: Righter has ‘unique sense of humor’

Montrose resident Twyla Righter always thought being a published author was “a crazy pipe dream” as writing one seemed to be quite the undertaking.

It wasn’t completely mental as she published her first book, “About that Pregnancy Glow,” in 2014. The novel was recently re-published and came out Tuesday through her new publisher, City Lights, out of Las Vegas.

The re-release comes as part of another book deal which includes a second book by Righter. The latter book will include her columns and articles written for the Montrose Daily Press and the MDP’s monthly section Valley Health. The untitled book will come out later this year, according to Righter.

The republished “About that Pregnancy Glow,” however, can now be found on Righter said she hopes in the future, hard copies of this book can be bought in local bookstores.

Righter said her first novel was about how “miserable and awful” pregnancy can be. She said the inspiration came from humorous experiences during her three times expectanting and how friends would say she would have a glow, but instead, she found herself constantly sick.

“I just had really, really awful pregnancies,” Righter said. “There are not a lot of books about how yucky it is.”

Daily Press Publisher Tonya Maddox said she’s happy for Righter, whose bi-weekly columns are filled with comedy.

“She’s not your ordinary columnist,” Maddox said. “She’s a strong cup of coffee at times with a unique sense of humor. What I enjoy about her columns is you never know what you’re going to get. I’m always surprised and entertained. I’ve felt like I’ve learned something or seen a different view after reading her column.”

But, there’s one constant in all of them: Montrose. Righter said she makes a point of featuring where she lives and that she is thrilled others will hear about the area through her work.

“They are local,” Righter said. “I write about Montrose, Chipeta, local businesses where I was shopping for Christmas and where my kids play sports. These local references are going to sell in a book that’s going to be sold nationally.”

Maddox said Righter’s columns have been strongly received.

“One of the things in my position is I get feedback on everything that’s in our paper and Twyla has a following,” Maddox said. “And I think her following is going to be quite excited about her columns being condensed into one book. I’m excited for her, for Montrose and for her followers that they will be able to refer back to some of their favorite columns.”

Righter was hesitant about sharing her columns book at a national level — she said she worried about the details readers would learn about her life and those of her children.

“There was a part of me that thought about if I should tone (down) some of the Montrose stuff,” Righter said. “… But at the end of the day I don’t think it’s going to hit the New York Times Bestseller list, so hopefully, the people have the self-control to (not) be wackadoos.”

Righter, who attends national writing seminars and conferences, said she’s been amazed by how easy releasing one’s own book can be. Previously, editors were the “gatekeepers” for authors to release their work. But thanks to the internet, putting out a piece of literature is less daunting, Righter noted.

“The publisher I’m working with and most of the publishers there were buying books that have been self-published and done OK,” Righter said. “… They’re not interested in launching new authors. They’re looking for people who took the time to self-publish and then their own book did well.”

She added that in talking to her own publisher, she learned many well-known books and movies started out as a blog. Righter indicated she hopes her compilation will help put Montrose into the national consciousness.

“I think the book will sell in different parts of the country which should be interesting to see,” Righter said.

Andrew Kiser is the Montrose Daily Press’ sports/business writer. Follow him on Twitter @andrew_kpress.