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Neely Simpson
Lifelong bookworm. Lover of ghost stories and folklore who writes spooky fiction in her spare time. Is sometimes found rambling around old graveyards.

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P.D. James: An Unlikely Writer

By Neely Simpson. Aug 3, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Biographies, Mystery, Suspense & Crime

When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, I immediately wondered:
Did he fall — or was he pushed?
- P. D. James

It's hard to imagine a high school drop-out becoming one of the world's great novelists. In that regard, P.D. James seems an unlikely writer. However, the great P.D. James was a force to be reckoned with, both on and off the page. At the age of 16 she left school to help raise her two younger siblings, and she took a job to support her struggling family. She worked for the Red Cross during World War II and was also a National Health Service administrator. But, she spent the majority of her career with the Home Office of the British Civil Service in the Police and Criminal Law Department. She was the sole breadwinner for her two daughters and a husband who had to be institutionalized after World War II. Additionally, she was appointed as a life "peer" and named Baroness James of Holland Park. She served in the House of Lords as a Conservative and was a governor of the BBC. It boggles the mind that P.D. James found the time to write at all, let alone author 19 novels and 1 autobiography.

     
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Beatrix Potter: Rebel With a Cause

By Neely Simpson. Jul 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Illustrators, Children's Books, Biographies

Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries. But Peter, who was very naughty ran straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden, and squeezed under the gate!

Like the mischievous, furry, little protagonist who propelled her into a wildly successful publishing career about as fast as he was able to get himself into trouble in Mr. McGregor's garden, Beatrix Potter had a rebellious streak a mile wide. Although she has become a household name as the author of enchanting children's stories, both her stories and her vocation ran much deeper. A constant disappointment to her parents because of her independence and refusal to adhere to the precepts of a privileged woman of Victorian society, Potter's stories are filled with spirited critters who are constantly breaking the rules laid down for them. Had Potter been the proper Victorian daughter her parents craved, she would have focused all her energies on social standing and making an advantageous marriage. Rather, determined to do something with her life, she passionately and rebelliously poured herself into pursuits in science, publishing, and conservation.

     
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William Makepeace Thackeray's Imprudent Marriage

By Neely Simpson. Jul 18, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Literature, History

"If people only made prudent marriages, what a stop to population there would be!"
-
William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair

William Makepeace Thackeray, best known for novels like Vanity Fair and Catherine, did not make a prudent marriage. He seriously considered marrying for money, but when he met Isabella Shawe, he married for love. Although theirs can’t be considered a marriage that was full of happiness and good times, it certainly spurred him to prolific writing. For most of his career he had to "write for his life," as he called it, not only to support his family, but also to pay for the treatments and care required for his wife who fell into so deep a depression, she was often catatonic.

     
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Richard Russo: Defender of the Writing Life

Richard Russo believes in books — the people who write them, the people who publish them, and the people who get them into the hands of readers. As one of three Vice Presidents of the Author's Guild, along with Judy Blume and James Shapiro, he has put on the mantle of defender of what he calls, “the writing life.” As such, he says he wants to see all areas of the literary "ecosystem" flourish. To maintain the health of this ecosystem, he has taken an active role in promoting young writers, supporting libraries, and advocating for the diversity of the publishing industry.

     
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From Hester Prynne to Lily Potter: Five Famous Literary Mothers

By Neely Simpson. May 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, Literature

J.D. Salinger said, "Mothers are all slightly insane." Alice Walker complemented her mother with these words, "Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me." Maya Angelou wrote of her mother, "To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power."

From the slightly insane to the flawed to the near saintly, mothers have been a force of nature in both human history and in literature. In honor of Mother's Day, here are five literary mothers on which to ruminate this May.

     
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Kaye Gibbons: Reconciling Wounds Through Writing

By Neely Simpson. May 4, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature, Biographies

Kaye Gibbons's debut novel Ellen Foster (1987), which she wrote at the age of 26, opens with the sentence, "When I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy." In a letter to her readers Gibbons explains, "Since Ellen Foster is autobiographical, it shouldn't come as a shock that when I was little I would think of ways to kill my daddy. My mother...became too sad and died when I was almost ten..." Back to the book, the fictional character, 11-year-old Ellen Foster says a few lines later, "But I did not kill my daddy. He drank his own self to death a year after the County moved me out." This raw, honest tone penetrates Kaye Gibbons' works, making them poignant reads and lenses into the power of writing through and about pain.

     
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Annie Dillard and the Influence of Henry David Thoreau

By Neely Simpson. Apr 29, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Pulitzer Prize, American Literature, Biographies

"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see." -Henry David Thoreau

Contemporary writer Annie Dillard draws great inspiration from legendary author Henry David Thoreau. Her crowning work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, is often compared to Thoreau's Walden, for good reason. Here, we briefly explore Dillard's life and work to learn more about how she's both similiar to and different from Thoreau.

     
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Scott Turow: Novelist, Lawyer, and Rockstar

By Neely Simpson. Apr 10, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: American Literature

On his Twitter profile, Scott Turow relays that he's "Considered by many as the Father of the Modern Legal Thriller." Time magazine would concur. It featured him on its June 11, 1990 cover and called Turow the "Bard of the Litigious Age." The issue goes on to ask, "Is he a lawyer who writes novels or a novelist who is a lawyer?" Time answers its own question stating: "In practice, as he demonstrated in his best-selling Presumed Innocent, Turow is both; his fiction bridges the divide between the popular and the serious, and the subject that keeps his readers turning pages is deeper than satisfactory verdicts. The pertinent evidence involves the redemption of souls."

     
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Stars and Books: A List of Celebrity Book Collectors

By Neely Simpson. Apr 6, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Book Collecting

Books are a uniquely portable magic. ~Stephen King

Every book lover finds himself enchanted by the stories he reads. Through books, we are all irresistibly drawn into new and different worlds. Truly, the magic of the book doesn't differentiate, and even celebrities - with all of their glamour, wealth, and power - find themselves under the same spell as the rest of us. Here is a look at four celebrity book collectors and the books they love.

     
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Ian Fleming and the Thunderball Court Case

By Neely Simpson. Mar 28, 2015. 9:00 AM.

Topics: James Bond, Movie Tie-Ins

Ian Fleming began writing the ninth James Bond novel, Thunderball, in January of 1961 from his Jamaican home, Goldeneye Estate. His health was failing due to heart disease, and he was feeling burned out on Bond. So, for inspiration, he turned to a James Bond screenplay he'd worked on in 1958 in collaboration with Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ivar Bryce. When Thunderball was published in March of 1961, Fleming failed to credit his collaborators for the part they'd played in the creation of the novel and found himself at the center of a SMERSH-sized lawsuit for plagiarism.

     
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How can I identify a first edition? Where do I learn about caring for books? How should I start collecting? Hear from librarians about amazing collections, learn about historic bindings or printing techniques, get to know other collectors. Whether you are just starting or looking for expert advice, chances are, you'll find something of interest on blogis librorum.

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