New York City isn’t the only haven for first-class literary talent. The list of famous writers from Pennsylvania ranges from literary to popular and includes John Updike, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and Dean Koontz, among others. Today, the Delaware Valley boasts a vibrant community of writers and poets, literary magazines (such as Philadelphia Stories), societies, reading series, and aspiring literary stars.
I’m one of them and am in great company.
Earlier this year, I asked some members of a Philadelphia Writers Facebook group to send me newly published books to review. I was immediately flooded with responses and have spent the last few months reading some (although admittedly I haven’t had time for all, with my own debut novel in the works) of the books I received.
Here are a few writers I’d recommend that you add to your summer reading list:
Kathryn Craft: Former modern dancer, choreographer, and dance critic Kathryn Craft published The Art of Falling earlier this year. Her debut novel is as much the story of dancer Penny Sparrow’s psychical rehabilitation as it is her physical one. Penny’s raison d’être is to express and personify her emotions with her body—to dance out the movements of her mind; a true artist, she is a master of the motion-emotion relationship. And Craft’s novel fully realizes Penny’s volatile inner psyche, traverses the dancer’s experiences after a debilitating accident, and examines the journey of her recovery. The novel explores Penny’s fall as a mild version of body horror that may cause readers to shudder, if nothing else, in sympathy for her. As Penny’s world crashes down, this novel might also break your heart. But Craft sews it back together again.
Cassandra Krivy Hirsch: Cassandra Krivy Hirsh, a Canadian now residing in Philadelphia, recently published Under the Linden Tree, her debut novel. In Under the Linden Tree, old letters and a journal tell Marianne Parson’s story. Living in Rockport, Massachusetts in the 1850’s, Marianne is a lovely, dutiful wife and mother in a well-mannered, affluent household. Her life—mothering Henry and managing domestic duties—is greatly set off course when she learns that James, her husband, has died at sea. As a young widow, she’s forced to deal with a new set of circumstances that include her meddling mother, snobbish social connections, potential suitors, and a broken heart. This beautiful, well-paced work of romantic historical fiction is perfect for an immersive beach read or your book club selection.
The Main Line Writers Group: The Main Line Writers Group recently published Unclaimed Baggage—a collection of twenty-one stories written by the group’s members. Inside, you’ll find tales of bravery and horror, loss and reconciliation, ghosts and demons, racial violence and death. The book has something for everyone—poetry, historical fiction, mystery, and humor—all exploring the theme of baggage. Stories that stayed with me after I put the book down include (but, of course, aren’t limited to): Tony Conway’s “Incident at Duffy’s Cut,” Judy Chow’s “Don’t Rain on My Birthday,” and Lorinda Lende’s “Two Vegetarians Try Falconry.” The nineteen writers published in Unclaimed Baggage offer a richness and diversity to this collection. Take this book on your summer vacation, and you’ll be thrilled that you did.
The Main Line Writers Group offers writers of all backgrounds a place to perfect their craft and form a support resource of friends with common interests. The group offers educational presentations across all genres of writing, constructive critique sessions, and live writing sessions. The group meets in King of Prussia on the third Wednesday of the month at Michael's Deli.
"The Main Line Writing Group is an awesomely talented group of writers spanning every genre, which is indicative of the area,” said Gary Zenker, the group’s leader. “Unclaimed Baggage came out of the fact that these writers have amazing stories to tell. Plus, we’ve created a new audience for local writers."
Gary Zenker is also the author of Says Seth, a book co-written with his son.