The Book That Smacked Me Upside the Head | A Blog Post by Trisina Dickerson, Publicist at Blair

This is me:

Me and Not Me

Since joining Blair last fall as the Sales & Marketing Intern, I’ve graduated to Publicist. This is me publicizing:


Yes, I have two TARDISes at work, and though it may not look like it from this picture, I do in fact have two arms.

I hope you all have enjoyed The Book that Smacked Me Upside the Head seriesEveryone at Blair has been a great sport, and I’m so grateful to work with such easily suggestible people. And because they’ve been so honest about discussing their life-changing books, I think I should repay them by ‘fessing up to my own. So here it goes:

World, I’m a voyeur.

Ok, that sounds bad. Let me clarify. Not this kind of voyeur:

funny gifs

More like this kind of voyeur:

funny gifs

One of the first books I remember finding and buying on my own, a truly independent adventure, was Sharon Olds’s The Unswept Room. I was in junior high and was both shocked and enthralled by the intimate details she included in her poetry. I couldn’t believe she walked around in the world without a permanent blush! (For those who aren’t poetry nerds, Sharon Olds could be classified as a present day confessional poet in the vein of Sylvia Plath.) Bottom line, I was hooked. I wanted to know everything about everyone’s personal lives (including my writing professors who became completely different people in their books and the perfect source of gossip with my other writing friends).Olds and Didion

Eventually, I expanded my voyeurism from poetry to creative non-fiction, where I found another book that changed my life–The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. In this book, she recounts the year following the death of her husband and revisits the event again and again, sometimes with clinical distance and at other times with emotional desperation. She ties in their daughter’s illness, who at the time of John’s death was in a hospital, unconscious and suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. But the book becomes more than a portrait of Didion’s marriage or a cry for answers. She reflects on what it means to age, exploring how John’s presence changed the way she saw herself: “Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age.” In addition to coming to terms with his death, she must also reconcile herself as an older woman, not a girl in her twenties. And she finds herself with “magical thinking.” She writes, “We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.”

I admit that it’s pretty dark to spend your nights and weekends reading about death and grief, but reading books like Didion’s helps me to understand myself and the human condition. It brings home poignant thoughts like “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.” It’s admirable for an author to write this honestly; doing so makes reading an intimate experience, a chance for the reader to peer into the lives and thoughts of others. But to me, this very voyeurism is the reason why books are important. It makes us see the world and ourselves in a new way. Being #booksmacked shapes us.


This blog took a pretty hard right turn into seriousville so happy booksmacking!



Blair Staffers Take Boston (and Freeze in the Process)

Last Wednesday, Steve and I left cozy North Carolina for Boston. “What’s in Boston?” you may ask. WELL, aside from Harvard Square, eclectic restaurants, and blizzards, Boston was the spot for this year’s annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference. Blair and numerous other publishers set up shop at the Hynes Convention Center to schmooze writers from all over the world. Blair had a prime spot at the convention, and we displayed our books proudly:

Blair Table

Blair books, WHAT! WHAT!!!

And we had plenty of authors at our booth, including Steve Almond, author of God Bless Americawho stopped by to say hello.

Steve Almond at the Booth

Clearly, something very interesting is happening behind me.

Though the Hynes Convention Center has an adjoining Sheraton hotel, Steve and I weren’t able to reserve rooms there because the hotel sold out within the first few days of conference registration! Crazy, right?! Instead, we stayed at the Doubletree hotel just off the JFK/UMass T-stop (I sound so Bostonian!), which gave us a chance to ride the subway every day and really experience the city.

Boston Subway

Random subway-ites

Steve on the Subway

Steve taking the train seriously

It also gave us the chance to experience some good, ol’ Northeastern snow.

Boston in Snowfall Compilation

Boston = some snow + very wet feet

The highlights of our trip included eating at the Dumpling Café in Chinatown:

Dumpling Cafe in Chinatown

Attending the awesome panels AWP offered this year:

In a Panel at AWP

Visiting the Harvard Book Store in Harvard Square:

Harvard Bookstore Compilation

Yes, I totally am the lame nerd who bought a Harvard T-shirt despite never attending the school or having any affiliation with the university AT ALL.

Introducing Steve to shawarma:


I can’t even look at this picture without wanting to book a plane ticket back to shawarma heaven. Nom Nom.

And making time for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston:

Domed Ceilings at MFA

A domed ceiling at the MFA in Boston

The museum had works by amazing artists including Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh.

MFA Compilation 2

But Steve said his favorite was the one below “because [he’s] a simple man”:

Crystal Jars at MFA

Whereas I liked this man’s sassy pants:

Sassy Pants at MFA

Look at him! Too sassy for his pants!

But my favorite was the postcard exhibit:

Publishing Postcard compilation

Wait a second! That bottom one on the right … is that? Couldn’t be. But I think … OMG, it is!

Look closely:

Blair Staff Recovering Books at MFA

It’s the Blair staffers re-covering books at the last staff meeting!

Both Steve and I agree, though, the BIGGEST highlight of our trip was seeing all of our friends.

Friends of Blair Compilation

Thanks to all the folks at Lookout BooksHub City PressSweet: A Literary Confection, and Press 53 for making Boston one of the best Blair trips ever!

Blair Staff Enjoys the BOOKMARKS Moveable Feast

Yesterday, Blair staff got together to celebrate Sunday literary-style! The BOOKMARKS’ Moveable Feast was held at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) and hosted 14 authors, including Blair’s own Judy Goldman, author of Losing My SisterIt was great catching up with our beloved author!

Moveable Feast Collage

Blair Staff at the BOOKMARKS Moveable Feast

While munching on delicious snacks, we also got to chat with several other authors who visited our table:

  • Penelope Niven, who promised a yet-to-be-determined prize to the first airline passenger she catches reading Thornton Wilder: A Life
  • Emily Colin, who showed us the awesome trailer for her new novel, The Memory Thief
  • Christopher Castellani, who gave us the inside scoop on how his new novel, All This Talk of Love, connects to his other books
  • Wiley Cash, who told us all about A Land More Kind Than Home and growing up in North Carolina (snake-handlers and all)
  • Holly Goddard Jones, whose new book, The Next Time You See Me, explores the disappearance of a woman before information moved at the speed of smartphones
  • Dana Sachs, whose grandmother became a model at 97 and was the inspiration for Sachs’s new novel, The Secret of the Nightingale Palace

AND we won prizes! While Heath Simpson and Shannon Pierce got to take home giveaway books, I’m lucky enough to be dating the winner of two Isabel Allende tickets!

All in all, a pretty great way to spend a Sunday. Thanks to BOOKMARKS, SECCA, and all the authors who made it such a great event!

To learn more about BOOKMARKS and their events, visit

Pear salad from Chefs of the Mountains

Before we get started, I want to take a moment to introduce myself. I’m the newest addition at John F. Blair, Publisher, and so thrilled to be involved with such a creative and talented team. Originally from Salt Lake City, Utah, I moved to Tampa, Florida, three years ago to study poetry as a graduate student. I then attended the Denver Publishing Institute where I met Carolyn Sakowski, President of John F. Blair. She has lots of Southern sass, and I instantly fell in love with the prospect of working for her. Now, as the new Sales and Marketing Intern, I’m learning a lot about the publishing industry and getting more familiar with our many great titles.

And as fall approaches (a season I haven’t experienced in a while), I’ve gotten really excited about John F. Blair’s new cookbook Chefs of the Mountains.

Because I’m new to North Carolina (only four weeks in) and have yet to explore the state’s great sights and sounds, Chefs of the Mountains is the perfect introduction. The book travels through North Carolina’s mountain towns, spotlighting great restaurants, chefs, and recipes. Whether a native or a newbie to North Carolina, readers can explore the best of the mountains right in their own kitchen. This weekend I experienced The Table at Crestwood in Boone, NC, through Chef Matthew Barlowe’s recipe for Port-Poached Pear Salad with Gorgonzola, Pecans, and Lemon Vinaigrette.


¼ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic, small dice
1 teaspoon shallots, small dice
1 teaspoon minced parsley
¾ cup canola oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a non-reactive bowl, mix lemon juice, garlic, shallots, and parsley together. While whisking mixture, slowly drizzle in canola oil until emulsified. Add salt and pepper. If prepared in advance, mixture may separate. If it does, just whisk until re-emulsified.

Salad dressing with ingredients

I’ve always been a big proponent of homemade salad dressing. The ingredients are few, the time minimal, but the payoff always big. Our local grocery store was out of shallots so I used green onions instead. Nonetheless, the lemon vinaigrette (seen on the right in a jar) had a great tangy flavor enhanced by garlic, parsley, and green onion.

Pear Salad

2 cups port wine
2 cups water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
2 pears, cored, peeled, and quartered

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and place on high heat until mixture comes to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook until pears become fork-tender. Remove from heat and chill pears in cooking liquid.

Ingredients for port-poached pears

Poaching the pears in port wine was my favorite part of the recipe; the scent of cinnamon port filled my house. Like making the salad dressing, the process was easy: quartering the pears, combining all the ingredients in a saucepan, and letting them simmer until the smell was irresistible.

Poaching pears

To Present

1 pound mesclun greens
4 tablespoons chopped pecans
4 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese crumbles

Toss greens in vinaigrette and place them on plates. Top each salad with 1 tablespoon each of pecans and Gorgonzola crumbles. Strain pears from cooking liquid and place to the side on plates.


Once the pears cooled, I tossed the salad in lemon vinaigrette, added gorgonzola and blackberries, and devoured. Since I’m not a huge fan of nuts, I left out the pecans and was happy to find the salad was amazing without. The pear’s sweetness perfectly combined with the dressing’s tartness. The verdict: an excellent dinner salad that can be made ahead of time and consumed for days. I will definitely return to this recipe often!

John Batchelor will be signing books at the Chefs of the Mountains launch event tomorrow evening.

Thursday, October 4 at 7 p.m.
with Chef Nate Curtis of Rowland’s at Westglow

Barnes & Noble
Friendly Shopping Center
3102 Northline Avenue
Greensboro, NC 24708
Phone: 336-854-4200

John Batchelor is holding several events across North Carolina with chefs highlighted in the book. For more information, please visit our events page.