This week at The Quivering Pen book blog: An interview with Gretel Ehrlich, Cheetah's obituary, Friday Freebie giveaway, and more.

The Quivering Pen
a blog about books

The Solace of Open Spaces by Gretel Ehrlich

Interview with Gretel Ehrlich
Advice to writers: "Read a lot. Take notes. And wander around with a sense of curiosity and discovery and humor. See what happens to you. Don’t start out with an idea that is really firm then try to stick things in. Start in a more raw place and see what kind of letters fall on your skin and go from there."
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Me Cheeta

A Chimp Off the Old Block
If you're anything like me, you were stunned when you heard the news that Cheetah the Chimp had died. Stunned not by the fact that the star of the Tarzan movies was gone from us forever or that the silver screen was a little less gilded by his absence, but by the fact that he was even alive at all. After all, the Hollywood ape was 80 years old when he passed on to that great tire swing in the sky--which is like 214 in human years.
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Leora Skolkin-Smith

My First Time
Novelist Leora Skolkin-Smith writes: "Miss Gibson, my seventh-grade English teacher, was a young New England woman with a ruddy, but beautiful, face. She looked like a downhill skier and was from New Hampshire. She always reminded me of snow and the dark of winter."
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Reflections West

The Bears We Never See
My wife has never been disemboweled by a bear. But there was a time when, in the wild spaces of her imagination, she felt a set of three-inch razor-sharp claws start at her navel and work their way up. And the teeth. Oh yes, the teeth, the thick saliva, the hot bear breath and the eggshell-crunch of her skull. This is what we remember from that summer vacation to Glacier National Park.
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Spring by David Szalay

Friday Freebie
This week's book giveaway is Spring by David Szalay, freshly published by the never-disappointing Graywolf Press. The novel is a literary reworking of Dick Francis, complete with a bulimic jockey, a shady trainer who sleeps with his stable girl and a tipster who’s arrested for stalking a stranger who catches his eye in a supermarket. 
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A Fezziwig Christmas
"In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches.  In came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile.  In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable.  In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke."
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Jenna Blum

Soup and Salad
This week's book news features: Lev Grossman on writer envy, Jenna Blum on appropriate Skyping (see above), Lydia Netzer on wrestling demons, Sabina Murray on the much-maligned short story, Benjamin Hale on post-publication blues, and more...
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Congratulations on making it through another Quivering Pen update!  By now, you're probably sick of being on holiday vacay and can't wait to get back to work or school.  Right?  Or maybe you're like me: counting the remaining hours of vacation like you were watching a Doomsday Clock.  And maybe, like me, you've ramped up your reading to a furious pace, trying to finish 1Q84 before the calendar turns to a new year.  Whatever your holiday mood, I hope you're loving life as much as I am.  This has been a particularly happy year for yours truly: my novel sold after working on it for six years, I built a new deck on the back of my house, and I got to spend another 12 months with my best friend by my side (i.e., my wife).  Oh, and I read a lot of good books.  Really, really good books.  Looking ahead to 2012, I see another bumper crop of good literature.  If only I had more vacation time to read it all!  One more thing: thanks again for your support over this past year.  The Quivering Pen would be nothing without you.  Okay, it would be me...but I'd be talking to an empty room.  And now I'll sign off with that lame joke you'll hear from every co-worker at the office today as you leave for the weekend: "See you next year!"  Ha-ha-ha- cough cough
Your Pen Pal,

David Abrams
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