The Art of Stories: A Conversation with Steve Almond

by Christine Sneed

Steve Almond is one of the few writers whose books I await with genuine impatience, and his newest was no exception. I read Truth Is the Arrow, Mercy Is the Bow: A DIY Manual for the Construction of Stories (Zando; $18) in a few fervid sittings, underlining passage after passage, Almond’s characteristic wisdom and wry sense of humor wholly present in each of the book’s four sections. Truth Is the Arrow is an addictive blend of fiction-writing craft essays, writing prompts, and poignant reflections on the challenges and felicities of making a life as a writer. Almond is also the […]

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The dead: On writing a thriller set in the rock world

by Christine Sneed

I met Sarah Tomlinson last year in Los Angeles at a book event for a mutual friend. It was an unseasonably cool night, but spirits were high—our friend’s book was doing well, and it was almost summer. After the reading, Sarah and I had a long, discursive conversation about film, TV shows, and books. During our chat, I learned that after working as a music critic in Boston, Sarah had moved to Southern California in the mid-aughts and transitioned to ghostwriting. She has published more than twenty books as a ghostwriter, and has also written a memoir, Good Girl (2015), […]

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5 Questions for Broadway Books

by ZYZZYVA

As one of the largest—if not the largest—independent bookstores around, Powell’s Books in Portland is rightfully celebrated widely. But there are, of course, other bookstores in that city, many in neighborhoods beyond downtown. Broadway Books is one such shop. Founded in 1992, the store is named after the vibrant street that cuts through Northeast Portland. We spoke with Kim Bissell, Broadway’s co-owner, about her bookstore. ZYZZYVA: What’s a little-known fact about your store?  KIM BISSELL: We were lucky enough to host former first lady Michelle Obama. She met with a local book group, and their heartfelt discussion about her memoir and “becoming” the women we all respect […]

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5 QUESTIONS FOR CHEVALIER’S BOOKS

by ZYZZYVA

Larchmont Village, a historic and pedestrian-friendly neighborhood south of Hollywood, owes much of its appeal to Chevalier’s Books—the oldest independent bookstore in Los Angeles. Founded in 1940 by native Angeleno Joe Chevalier, the store has had many illustrious customers over the years, including author Aldous Huxley and singer Nat King Cole. Even the billionaire recluse Howard Hughes once visited. “May I help you?” Chevalier is said to have asked Hughes, who was perusing the nonfiction section. “Nope,” replied the irascible mogul, who headed out the door and never came back. We spoke with Miles Parnegg, Chevalier’s store manager. ZYZZYVA: What’s […]

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Eye on AI: A Q&A with Nina Schuyler

by Laura Cogan

In her suspenseful and thought-provoking new novel, Afterword, Nina Schuyler’s characters struggle to know themselves even as they push technology to the edge of human understanding. A brilliant mathematician, Virginia Samson has spent her life painstakingly re-creating her great love, Haru, in the form of an AI. Into this advanced technology she’s built Haru’s voice, memories, and intellectual curiosity. But while she had hoped to spend the rest of her days companionably discussing math with Haru, their interactions soon force Virginia to confront how much she has never understood about Haru, and about herself. Schuyler, who lives in the Bay […]

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The malleability of memory: A conversation with Mary Otis

by Laura Cogan

In her debut novel, Burst, Mary Otis traces the tumultuous lives and conflicted bond of a mother and daughter navigating the world without a robust community or safety net: they are “alone but together.” Charlotte’s eccentric, sometimes erratic behavior both enchants and repels her daughter, Viva, who seeks structure and security through a single-minded dedication to her passion for dance. But this mother-daughter duo is more alike—and more connected—than they can sometimes understand, and Otis locates the poignancy of their parallel lives with insight and compassion. Moving seamlessly between perspectives and over years, Burst elegantly examines the complexity of this […]

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5 Questions for Napa Bookmine

by ZYZZYVA

Napa Bookmine has had a good first decade. The store opened in 2013 on Pearl Street, and this summer it moved to a larger downtown location on 2nd Street. It’s also added two other locations, one in Napa’s popular Oxbow Public Market in 2007, and the other in St. Helena. A popular destination for locals, the bookstore also draws tourists visiting Napa County, offering coffee and tea to visitors who might need a pick-me-up between wine tastings. We spoke with Napa Bookmine bookseller Lee Spangler about the 2nd Street store. ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading? […]

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5 Questions for Kepler’s Books

by ZYZZYVA

The Bay Area is blessed to have scores of independent bookstores. One of its leading lights is Kepler’s. The Menlo Park store opened in 1955, two years after City Lights. Like that celebrated San Francisco store, Kepler’s began by selling paperbacks—books that everyone could afford. Its founder, the peace activist Roy Kepler, also ensured that the store would be a cultural center of the community, hosting numerous events that included appearances by the Grateful Dead and Joan Baez. These days, Kepler’s is a community-financed bookstore that’s paired with Kepler’s Literary Foundation, a nonprofit organization that programs events. Now in its […]

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‘The epic nature of our own stories’: A conversation with Héctor Tobar

by John McMurtrie

Héctor Tobar has explored Latin American history and the Latino experience in numerous award-winning best-selling works, ranging from novels (The Last Great Road Bum, The Barbarian Nurseries, and The Tattooed Soldier) to nonfiction books (Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free and Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States). Tobar has also published fiction and nonfiction in Zyzzyva. In his latest book, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino,” Tobar delves with great candor […]

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5 Questions for the Writer’s Block

by ZYZZYVA

Not everyone visiting Las Vegas is obligated to go gambling. There are, in fact, other ways to spend one’s time—such as browsing in the Writer’s Block, a refined and whimsical downtown bookstore. The Writer’s Block, started in 2014, has been at its current 6th Street address since 2019. It houses more than 20,000 books—and hundreds of artificial birds that are up for “adoption.” We spoke with Drew Cohen, who owns the store with his husband, Scott Seeley. Seeley is the former head of 826NYC, the creative writing nonprofit founded by Dave Eggers, and he drew on his experience there to […]

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5 Questions for Mrs. Dalloway’s

by ZYZZYVA

“Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” Inspired by the first line of Virginia Woolf’s 1925 novel, Mrs. Dalloway’s sells not only a wide range of books but also gardening merchandise and plants. This is fitting for a bookstore that’s nestled in the leafy surroundings of Berkeley’s Elmwood District. Founded in 2004 by Marion Abbott and Ann Leyhe, the store has been owned by Eric and Jessica Green since 2021. We spoke with Carolyn Hutton, a longtime bookseller at Mrs. Dalloway’s. ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading? CAROLYN HUTTON: We often see kids hunkered […]

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5 Questions for Bookshop Santa Cruz

by ZYZZYVA

Bookshop Santa Cruz has deep roots in its earthy California seaside community. The downtown store opened in 1966, and was later bought by the Coonerty family, who are celebrating their fiftieth year of ownership. We spoke with Casey Coonerty Protti, who currently runs the bookshop and has fond memories of playing in the store as a child. ZYZZYVA: What’s the coziest spot in your store for reading? CASEY PROTTI: When booksellers say that they are the community’s living room, it conjures up the dream of curling up with a great book, a comfy blanket, and a cup of tea in […]

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