Literary Travel

Renaissance House: A Retreat for Writers and Artists

RENAISSANCE HOUSE RETREAT FOR WRITERS AND ARTISTS IN OAK BLUFFS RECEIVES A GRANT FROM SUSTAINABLE ARTS FOUNDATION AS IT ENTERS 20TH YEAR

Renaissance House: A Retreat for Writers and Artists has received a grant from The Sustainable Arts Foundation to fund a full scholarship to a resident and their child. The resident will be able to complete the program while the child goes to day camp or some other activity.

Applications are now being accepted for the 2019 season as well as for the scholarship.

“The retreat provides the time in which to create new works or finish existing ones. Renaissance House is one of the few retreats designed for issue-oriented writers, writers of color and writers of social justice,” explained Abigail McGrath, founder and director of Renaissance House, daughter of poet Helene Johnson and niece of Dorothy West. “The program is offered to artists who do not have the luxury of time.” Read More→


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Bluestockings — A Radical Bookstore Treasure in NYC’s Lower East Side

Do you remember feminist bookstores (for those of you old enough to remember, that is)? Oh, and do you remember independent bookstores in Manhattan? As of this writing, there are only 13 feminist bookstores in North America, down from about 120 in the mid-nineties. And there are only a handful of indie bookstores left in Manhattan, though mercifully, there are a bunch in Brooklyn and Queens (see this great listing).

One of Manhattan’s few independent bookstores (and only feminist bookstore) is one of my favorite places, Bluestockings, located in the lively Lower East Side.

It’s more than than a repository for feminist thought; their shelves are filled with a beautifully curated selection of more than 6,000 titles on queer and gender studies, resistance/liberation, capitalism, climate, race, and a selection of rad children’s books. Also on the shelves are zines, journals, and poetry collections. Read More→


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A Book Lover’s Reykjavik — Bookstores, Libraries, and Book Culture

Before my first visit to Iceland in the summer of 2018, when I spent the entire month of August at a writer/artist residency, I knew very little about the country generally and even less about Reykjavik specifically. And prior to my trip, I’d been so busy that I had no time to do much research. I relied on word of mouth from friends who had visited and took a leap of faith that it would be a good experience.

Of course, I had seen photos of the otherworldly landscapes, but I would have only the shortest time in which to explore them; my stay was mainly within the confines of Reykjavik. And that turned out to be absolutely beyond fine. In fact, for a nerd and bookworm like myself, it was blissful. Any time I had a chance, I would explore the myriad bookstores and libraries in Reykjavik, in addition to other aspects of its very rich book culture. Read More→


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A Pilgrimage to Harper Lee’s Monroeville, Alabama, “Maycomb” of To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960) by Harper Lee continues to be one of the most frequently taught novels in American high schools and is beloved by readers of all persuasions. The Pulitzer Prize-winning book has sold more than forty million copies and has been translated into some forty languages.

After a gap of fifty-six years, the 2016 publication of Go Set a Watchman set off a fervor of renewed interest in the famously private (though not, as myth would have it, reclusive) author.

No wonder, then, that Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, draws thousands of visitors each year who arrive to pay homage to her literary legacy. This small Southern town (population around 6,000) was the inspiration for Maycomb, where both books are set. The photo above right was snapped by Lee’s friend Michael Brown in 1957, the year she sold her manuscript, which had yet to be much edited. Read More→


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4 Book Towns in North America

Whether you call it a Boekenstad, Village du Livres, Bokby, or Bókabæirnir, from Canada to Korea, and from Iceland to Australia, a movement to create book towns is growing. In hamlets, villages and towns around the world, like-minded booksellers, calligraphers, bookbinders, curators, publishers, and architects are coming together to ensure a future for the printed book, defying the e-book onslaught, and providing a new future for fading communities.

This post is excerpted and adapted from Book Towns: Forty-Five Paradises of the Printed Word  by Alex Johnson (© 2018, Quarto Publishing, plc, by permission). It’s the first book to bring all of these towns together, offering a unique history of each one, and encouraging readers to seek them out.

By visiting these towns you’re not only helping to save the printed book; you’re helping to keep communities alive. Above right, Mysteries and More in Hobart, NY, guarded by shop cat Big Red. Read More→


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