Blair Now Accepting Electronic Submissions | A Guest Blog Post by Steve Kirk, Editor-in-Chief at Blair

blair8Please answer the following question by selecting one of the choices below.

At John F. Blair, the staff feels strongly that:

  1. Eight-track still delivers the best sound
  2. Original Recipe beats Extra Crispy and (God forbid) Grilled
  3. Andy Griffith was the epitome of enlightened Southern manhood
  4. Book publishers should continue to accept snail-mail submissions
  5. All of the above

The answer is 5, of course. We raise our lighters to Lynyrd Skynyrd, bow to the genius of the 11 Herbs and Spices, and stake our spiritual claim in Sheriff Taylor’s Mayberry, not Boss Hogg’s HazzardCounty. But more to the point, we welcome queries and manuscript samples by regular mail.

That being said though, we also realize it’s time to dip our collective toe in the new millennium by accepting electronic submissions, both fiction and nonfiction. We’ve set up an e-mail address——for that purpose. See Blair’s Manuscript Guidelines and Prospective Authors pages for details.


The Book That Smacked Me Upside the Head | A Guest Blog Post by Steve Kirk, Editor-in-Chief at Blair

Herman Hesse and Steve

January Term junior year, I believe it was. Modern German Literature in Translation.

I was a painfully slow reader back then. Knowing I’d never get through nine novels in one month, I perused the campus bookstore before Christmas break for the most magnum opus on the class list. And there I met my fate—Herman Hesse’s masterwork, Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game.

Herman Hesse and Knife

It’s a futuristic novel in which an order of monastic intellectuals perfects a game that synthesizes all forms of abstract knowledge. It’s also one of the foremost unreadable “great” novels in all of literature—or, in my own translation, 520 pages of soul-crushing misery.

I read the whole ponderous thing. Knowing my father would mock me for studying over holiday break, I holed up in my room, where Magister Ludi and I no doubt cut a lonely but comic figure, should anyone have been watching.

Of course, where misguided efforts go, irony follows. On the first day of class, the professor—nice guy, bushy beard, clinically bad breath—announced that he’d assigned too much reading and was dropping a novel from the list. I hardly need to say which one.

I have my copy of Magister Ludi still, on much the same urge that drives strange men to save their kidney stones in jars. But the experience taught me much. It taught me the perils of being a too-sincere student. It taught me that my fondness for reading could weather a hard kick to the groin. And it stuck a fork in my budding literary pretensions and sent me looking for books I could dance to.

Look for another installment of The Book That Smacked Me Upside the Head next week!


Why we’re excited about our fall titles (and why you should be, too!)

Some of our fall titles have been getting some press in the aftermath of Book Expo America, so we thought we’d share a preview of what’s to come. We’re excited to bring these books to you this autumn, and here’s why, in our own words:

The Politics of Barbecue
A novel by Blake Fontenay
September 2012

From editor Steve Kirk: Seriocomic. There’s a word that hasn’t come to mind in a while–probably because quality novels in the mold of Fontenay’s Politics of Barbecue are few and far between. A serial arsonist wants to burn down Memphis. An up-and-coming “producer” would turn it into the porno capital of the East. A beef mogul would steal one of its best assets–a new barbecue museum–for his own hometown. The mayor doesn’t care what happens as long as graft flows into the pockets of his quilt-patched overalls. All of this leaves a pair of Wiffle ball-playing slackers as the last best hope for saving a city that’s equal parts eyesore and landmark. Joining forces with a more-than-she-seems starlet and a crossbow-toting billionaire bum, they set Memphis on its first baby steps toward renewal.

With all that going on, it’s no wonder that Library Journal included The Politics of Barbecue in their Editor’s Picks from Book Expo America 2012.

Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice
Woody Durham with Adam Lucas
September 2012

From Debbie Hampton, design and production director: Leave it to sentimental me to get all teary while reading Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice—a voice inked to my idyllic youth in a family of Tar Heel fans. As a 15-year-old, I had a Carolina-blue room with one wall dedicated to the Tar Heel player I had a crush on—with his pictures and a big ol’ 13, his number.  When not actually in Chapel Hill at the games, my family and I were glued to the TV. It was yours truly jumping and screaming among the men in the family, who would sit there stoically, trying to hear. Men—how can they just sit there?

Reading Woody Durham: A Tar Heel Voice brought back all of those memories. Immediately, I recalled the sound of Woody’s voice doing the play-by-play (of course, the men in my family never heard it). It sent me straight to YouTube to recount some of those heart-pounding moments set to the tune of Woody’s voice. Even though I later married an N.C. State grad and “converted,” I could still recall the names of the faces in the photos of players from the ’60s and ’70s. Yes, I’m giving away my age. There will be many Tar Heel fans reminiscing with this book, which for me was a scrapbook of fond memories and sounds.

Losing My Sister
A memoir by Judy Goldman
October 2012

From Brooke Csuka, publicist: I have two and a half sisters. No, really. I have an older half-sister from my father’s first marriage, and he ended up with three girls once he married my mother.  Ballet practice, Disney princesses, dress-up shoes–then teenage jealousy, competition–you name it, we shared it. So when it comes to sisters, you can call me an expert.

I think that’s why Judy Goldman’s Losing My Sister speaks to me the way it does. Beyond being a beautifully written memoir that flows like poetry–the author is a poet, after all–it’s just so true.  Along with the joy, the humor, and the fun of sisterhood comes the agony of loss and heartache of illness, and Goldman captures it beautifully as she and her sister, Brenda, deal with the deaths of their parents to Alzheimer’s and cancer and then Brenda’s own sickness. Even Publishers Weekly agrees: “Goldman beautifully renders the complexity of sibling relationships with candidness, tenderness, and sorrow…[her] book speaks to the human ability to forgive and attain a measure of peace amid loss.” As Jenny Lawson says, this book “made me hug my family a little bit closer.”

So You Think You Know Antietam? The Stories Behind America’s Bloodiest Day
James and Suzanne Gindlesperger
September 2012

From Katie Saintsing, editorial assistant: When I was a kid, my parents took my brothers and me to Boston; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia: places rich with American history. A book like So You Think You Know Antietam? would have been an excellent resource to have on these family vacations. James and Suzanne Gindlesperger have told the story of the battle of Antietam in an interesting and accessible way, and with its color photos, maps, and GPS coordinates, the book makes a great companion on trips to the battlefield. So You Think You Know Antietam? guides readers to each of the battlefield’s monuments and explains who the markers are for, but it also illuminates the most engaging details of the battle: Readers will find out who the “Red Legged Devils,” the “Black Devils,” and the “Jackass Battery,” were, what a “witness tree” is, and who the youngest casualty from either army was. I found the story about Colonel John B. Gordon to be one of the most interesting. Gordon was wounded five times and fell forward with his face pressed into his hat, which rapidly filled with blood. It was a hole shot through the hat that saved him from drowning in his own blood, and Gordon went on to become governor of Georgia.

On a recent trip up through Virginia, my mother took every sign for a Civil War site (and there are a lot of those on the highway in Virginia) as an opportunity to say how much she’d like to go on a tour of all the Civil War battlefields. I think So You Think You Know Antietam? (as well as the authors’ earlier book, So You Think You Know Gettysburg?) might be just the thing to help her to start planning her trip.

Chefs of the Mountains: Restaurants and Recipes from Western North Carolina
John E. Batchelor
October 2012

From Margaret Couch, accounts payable: I’ve always wanted to revisit the mountains of North Carolina for a vacation. My husband and I are celebrating a significant wedding anniversary this year, and since we actually honeymooned in the mountains, we thought it was the perfect opportunity for another visit. Commemorating special occasions always requires food, so naturally I looked at Chefs of the Mountains by John Batchelor as a good resource for restaurants while vacationing. There are so many restaurants with fascinating stories about the chefs that it will be difficult to narrow it down to just one. But since the restaurants are organized by locale, I just need to decide what town to visit. There are lots of restaurants in Blowing Rock and some of them have hotels or inns attached—same with Asheville. There are also featured chefs and restaurants in Boone, Valle Crucis, Banner Elk, Linville, Spruce Pine, and Hot Springs. I guess it won’t matter which place we plan to visit because there will definitely be a great restaurant wherever we choose to go. Now I just need to make a decision!

Check back later this summer–we’ll start previewing titles from our distributed presses.