Dating back to April 23, 1995, this celebration was started by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to promote reading, publishing, and copyright. April 23 is the anniversary of the deaths of William Shakespeare, Miguel de Cervantes, and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega.
Each year since 2001, UNESCO chooses a city to act as the World Book Capital. This city then plans events and programs over the next year to promote and foster reading. The World Book Capital for 2018 is Athens, Greece, with the 2019 title going to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
World Book Day is observed in more than 100 countries, so how does the world celebrate?
In Spain, the king and queen present the Cervantes Prize in Alcalá de Henares, the birthplace of the famous writer. About twenty miles away in Madrid, Cervantes’ Don Quixote is read non-stop for 48 hours.
The United Kingdom celebrated World Book Day this year on March 1, with children dressing up as their favorite characters and attending school and community events. Book tokens worth £1 are handed out to children, who then use them to buy books or exchange them for specific World Book Day books.
In other countries, World Book Day is celebrated with special book discounts, costumes, and lots and lots of social media posts about gorgeous libraries.
Here are some ideas for how you can celebrate:
Create a literary scavenger hunt with friends.
Read an entire book today.
Visit your local bookstore and/or library.
Organize your bookshelf.
Dress up as your favorite literary character.
Attend a reading—or host your own.
Download Amazon’s nine free World Book Day Kindle books.
Donate your old books to pass on the gift of reading.
Start a book club or book swap.
Use your favorite quote as a writing prompt.
Here at New Rivers Press, we’re celebrating by continuing our work of giving a platform to new and emerging voices. How are you celebrating? Let us know in the comments below!
Poetry, is a highly underappreciated type of literature, often overlooked by readers. April, however, is the perfect time to push your literary boundaries and branch out into the expansive world of poetry. National poetry month began back in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. Teachers, librarians, poets, publishers, and others involved in literature met at a conference to discuss how to raise more awareness of poetry. After the success of other movements upon the creation of a national holiday, national poetry month was born. Whether you are interested in just reading poetry or creating stanzas of your own, poetry is finally receiving the appreciation it deserves.
If you are interested in writing poetry of your own here are some beginner’s tips:
Try reading a variety of poetry.
Designate a special notebook to write your poetry.
Expand your vocabulary.
Stay away from clichés.
Use the internet! Find some interesting poetry prompts.
Don’t strive for perfection. Every poem will not be perfect!
If you are interested in reading more poetry, I complied a diverse selection of poetry that might become your new favorite.
Milk and Honey, Rupi Kaur
A Light in the Attic, Shel Silverstein
A Boy’s Will, Robert Frost
The Black Unicorn: Poems, Audre Lorde
The Collected Poems, Sylvia Plath
Written by Lauren Phillips
Originally Posted April 10, 2018
It is always necessary to celebrate women and their accomplishments especially during the month of March. Women’s history month celebrates the integral contributions by women to better the world. One such woman who has proven words and words alone can make an impact on the world is Margaret Atwood. She has shown time and again how influential her writing is. The Handmaid’s Tale, published in 1985, continues to be one of her most popular novels, and for good reason; it still has people talking about it today.
Margaret Atwood was born in 1939 and has since written more than 40 books of poetry, fiction, and essays. She has said that she never intended to be a feminist writer, but soon began to change her writing based on the evolving world around her. Many of her novels and poems involve female characters who are suffering in some way. Atwood has said, “My women suffer because most of the women I talk to seem to have suffered” (“Margaret Atwood”). This encapsulates The Handmaid’s Tale. The female characters are all struggling, both internally and externally.
For anyone who hasn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale, it follows a young woman named Offred. Her name is formed from a man’s first name, Fred, and the prefix “of” meaning “belonging to.” In Offred’s case, she belongs to the Commander and his wife. Together they make up one of the many households in Gilead, a theocratic republic in what used to be the United States.
Offred is a Handmaid and must provide a baby for the Commander and his wife, who is infertile. This is the sole purpose of the Handmaids. If Offred does not provide a baby she will be given to a different household or sent to the colonies. The colonies are areas of North America that have been contaminated by radioactive waste and pollution. Anyone in the Republic of Gilead who has broken a law or proven themselves useless to the reproductive cause is sent to the colonies to clean the area up as retribution for their crimes.
The world in which The Handmaid’s Tale takes place is one in which almost all women are infertile. The “lucky” ones who are fertile are essentially kidnapped, enrolled in a school to learn obedience, and forcibly placed into households to provide children. The Handmaids are given no other objective and have almost no rights as human beings. They are only allowed to leave the house for scheduled appointments or to fetch supplies, and they must never go alone. They cannot wear anything other than red dresses and white bonnets. They cannot speak out of turn, or disrespect their household in any way. The Handmaids are considered property more so than human beings.
So why is this book about a society built on seventeenth-century Puritan roots still relevant today? So much of The Handmaid’s Tale is controversial, and controversy gets people talking. Much of what happens to the Handmaids in the book is cruel and unspeakable. For instance, while in the Handmaids’ school, Moira, Offred’s best friend from before Gilead, pretends to be ill. She is brought to the hospital and when it is found out she is faking, her feet are maimed using steel cables. Only the feet and hands were injured because they were not essential to reproduction. However, the women prove time and again how strong willed, intelligent, and determined they are to fight past each obstacle thrown their way. As a result, The Handmaid’s Tale is considered a feminist novel by many.
When asked whether the book was written to be a feminist novel Atwood replied, “If you mean a novel in which women are human beings—with all the variety of character and behavior that implies—and are also interesting and important, and what happens to them is crucial to the theme, structure, and plot of the book, then yes.” It is no wonder that in today’s society where the feminist movement is growing exponentially every day that books this continue to be used as resources and loved by many.
In addition to the book remaining popular to readers, it was adapted as a series on Hulu in April 2017. Of course with almost any book turned into movie/television there will be changes. The changes made for the series are substantial enough to be noticed, but nothing changes the meaning or plot of the book.
Since the book was written over thirty years ago, Bruce Miller, the producer of the series, made certain alterations in order to update aspects of the book. In the time before Gilead, the characters use smartphones and laptops, which did not exist when the book was written. The cast is also much more diverse than what appears in the book. This was an important change for Miller. In an interview with Time Magazine he recalled, “That was a very big discussion with Margaret about what the difference between reading the words, ‘There are no people of color in this world’ and seeing an all-white world on your television, which has a very different impact…” (Dockterman). The third big change is Offred’s character. She is more rebellious than in the book. This change was made in order to make her character more relatable and interesting to watch. Even with these changes, the series stays true to the novel and is worth watching.
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale has quickly become a favorite book of many. The characters are relatable and the plot is harrowing, but what keeps people coming back is the fear it instills. It even appears some believe a world like Gilead is plausible in the near future. In fact, Atwood is often asked if the novel is a prediction to which she responded, “Let’s say it’s an anti-prediction: if this future can be described in detail, maybe it won’t happen.” Women from all over the United States have taken this to heart and are using the book as a way to protest women’s issues. One occurrence took place in Texas on March 20th, 2017. Women dressed in red robes and white bonnets entered a courtroom to protest an anti-abortion law being considered by the state senate. The law would make it illegal to obtain an abortion in the second trimester and would allow doctors to lie to women considering an abortion. The clothing the women wore gave them a way to protest peacefully while proving a point.
Hopefully Gilead never becomes a reality and Margaret Atwood’s beloved novel remains on the fiction shelves at the local library. Only time will tell, but in the meantime read, revisit, or watch The Handmaid’s Tale. For anyone who has already read or watched The Handmaid’s Tale do you consider it a feminist novel? What do you like or not like about it? Do you think a world like Gilead is possible? Are there any other books by Margaret Atwood you enjoy? Let’s keep the conversation going because after all controversy gets people talking.
Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. Anchor Books, 1998.
Canfield, David. “Activists Dressed as Characters From The Handmaid’s Tale to Protest Texas’ Anti-Abortion Measures.” Slate. The Slate Group, 2017. <view online here>
Dockterman, Eliana. “The Differences Between The Handmaid’s Tale Show and Book, Explained.” Time. Time Inc., 2017. <view online here>
Much to my pleasure and joy, a short nonfiction piece titled “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” made it through the final cut and landed in the interns’ laps this semester. Beautifully written, it explores the author’s growing relationship with scent and perfumes. The piece had been one of the manuscripts I screened last semester, and it drew me in with its first line: “In a dark time, I am in love with something frivolous.” Hook, line, and sinker.
It’s a strange thing, the effects a story can have on you once you devote so much time to it. I come together with fellow interns weekly to discuss the intricacies of this collection of notes, (much like the notes of perfume, quick and fleeting but often lingering.) I comb over the author’s words in my own time, bundled up in bed with the manuscript balancing on my knees, and I leave each encounter with her writing in a trance of sorts, feeling light like the wisps of scent the author has put so much time into describing, looking at the world, for at least a few minutes afterward, not with my eyes but with my nose.
Before starting edits on this manuscript, I had never concerned myself too much with the world of perfume. I only owned four different bottles of perfume, purely because they were released by Taylor Swift, my purchase of them having nothing to do with the smell of the liquids at all. But now, whenever I find myself at Target or TJ Maxx, I pick up the strips of paper and spray them with the different bottles of perfume. I try to pick up the different notes of scents coming from the perfume—grapefruit lingering in one titled “air,” notes of jasmine in the bottle designed in the shape of a woman’s handbag.
Even away from the confines of perfume, I greet new classmates and subtly smell the air around them, familiarizing myself with their preferred detergent. I arrive home and am momentarily stunned by the scent of apples overcoming the room, my sister working her way to homemade applesauce. I wear a man’s coat and inhale the faint scent of mahogany and cigarette smoke. Smells that define a person or place or thing, all suddenly at my attention, and all because of an essay in notes.
While the release date of “throughsmoke: an essay in notes” is yet to be announced, I encourage you to keep your eye out for it. It’ll be worth the wait, and your sense of smell will never be the same.
Written by Ashley Thorpe
Originally posted March 22, 2018
Images via pexels.com
That’s a wrap for the 2018 Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference! The colossal convention took place this past week, March 8th through the 10th, in Tampa Bay, Florida. New Rivers Press took this opportunity to get out of the cold winter of Minnesota and bask in the sun, warm weather, and hordes of books at the AWP Bookfair.
Once again, New Rivers Press had the pleasure of hosting a table at the AWP Bookfair, but this year brought the addition of a few new faces. Interns Anna, Cameron, Laura, and Mikaila had the opportunity to travel to Tampa and represent the press by selling books, taking part in panels, and shamelessly sporting their NRP printer’s devil T-Shirts.
New Rivers Press is always looking for ways to improve and expand its audience, so each intern chose at least one panel to attend and report on. A few of the topics included podcasting, marketing, crowdfunding, community building in small towns and mid-sized cities, and maximizing online sales. Everyone looks forward to reporting back to the press and incorporating this acquired knowledge into press operations.
Following the three-day thrill of the conference, the staff and interns are recovering from sleep deprivation, jet lag, and the shock of returning to sub-sixty weather.