Bloomers At Large / Features / Fiction / Nonfiction

Bloomers At-Large: Catching Up

By Vicraj Gill

For this month’s links roundup, we’re catching up with some of the authors we’ve previously profiled here at Bloom, like Donald Ray Pollock and Spencer Reece, and introducing a few new ones on our radar.

the-scott-prize.logo_We’re kicking it off with some great news from one of our own. Our hearty congratulations to Bloom contributor Jane Hammons—her excellent short-story collection, A Place Called Beautiful, has been shortlisted for the 2013 Scott Prize for Short Stories! The Scott Prize, begun in 2010 by Salt Publishing, is notable for being the only international prize dedicated to debut short-story collections. Check out this great profile that the folks at Salt ran of Jane last month, complete with an interview and an excerpt from Beautiful. And keep an eye out—the winner will be announced in April.

You may remember the features we ran last year on poet and Episcopal priest Spencer Reece, who’s currently doing humanitarian work at Honduran orphanage Our Little Roses. (If none of this sounds familiar, refresh your memory with the piece Reece wrote for Bloom, “My Dream,” as well as our original spotlight on him as part of the Post-40 Bloomers series at The Millions.) A teaser trailer for the film documenting Reece’s journey, Our Little Roses, is now up on YouTube—check it out here. And be sure to visit the blog that the film crew’s been keeping for more updates on their progress, as well as ways to get involved.

Another notable poet and Bloomer is former Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue. Astrue, discussing his recent resignation from his post at the Social Security Administration, explained to NPR’s Michel Martin that he and award-winning poet and translator A.M. Juster are the same person. (And close examination will reveal that the pseudonym is in fact an anagram for Astrue’s actual name.) “I didn’t want to be a novelty act,” he explained. “I wanted to sort of stand, particularly in the literary world, on my own merits.” Astrue juggled his poetic aspirations with fatherhood and various jobs at the upper echelons of government. Asked how he managed it all, he replied that it’s about “finding the wasted time”—carving out quiet spaces for literary work in the midst of all the rest.

Some insights also come from Donald Ray Pollock, first published at 54 and one of our first featured authors here at Bloom. In a recent interview with HTMLGiant’s Grant Maierhofer, he discussed how his career might have been different if he’d started writing and publishing as a younger man—“I’m sure if I had, say, quit drinking and started writing when I was in my twenties as opposed to mid-forties, my fiction would have been different… But in what ways, I have no idea.” Pollock also talks about his writing schedule, his views on the publishing industry, and the best books he’s read lately.
Another Bloomer we tracked down this month is a fictional one—Selma Schumann, 42-year-old opera singer and protagonist of Willa Cather’s short story “A Singer’s Romance.” The story was read by Marian Seldes as part of WNYC’s Selected Shorts podcast series back in February. Published in 1900, it marks one of Cather’s first forays into fiction. (A text version is also available at the Willa Cather Archive if you’d like to follow along.) The story depicts poignantly both the tragedy and triumph of becoming “a woman of a certain age.”

And we end the roundup with a different kind of catching up. At the New York Times, James Atlas explores a recent trend among aging baby boomers—“extreme adult education,” in which folks like Richard Hyland make up for the educational opportunities they feel they missed the first time around. Hyland had been an undergraduate at Harvard during the Vietnam War, and he’d long felt that the political furor had kept him from taking full advantage of his time as an undergraduate. Years later, while a professor at Rutgers, he decided to track down his old professors and class reading lists and do it all over. Now, he hopes to write a book about the experience. “The boy who wanted that education so badly couldn’t get it, so I had to leave him behind,” he tells Atlas. “The person getting an education now is that boy. I’ve waited 40 years. I remember saying to him when I left, ‘You stay here. I’ll come back for you.’”

Bloom Post End

Homepage photo by H.H. Morris, courtesy of Library of Congress Prints & Photographs
Photo of Willa Cather from “The Pageant of America” Collection, courtesy of NYPL Digital Gallery

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