Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Big Read

Early last week I got an email from the assistant director of the Phoenix West Valley Arts Council asking me if I'd be interested in participating in the 2nd Big Read in September and October. This is a program funded by the National Endowment for the Arts.  The program chooses a classic book - last year it was To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - and brings in several writers to do lectures around town, at libraries and bookstores.  Last year, she tells me, they held over 60 events throughout the metro area, which if you will remember, Dear Reader, is pretty big.  (There are only some five and a half million people in Arizona, but three and a half million of them live in the Phoenix area.)

This year, the selected book is The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett.  The Arts Council is bringing in Hammett's biographer, Richard Layman, as well as authors Bruce Hale, William Kent Krueger, and my friend Jon Talton, to present programs.  

Ms. Bernadette Mills, the aforementioned assistant director, informs me that they are looking for someone local that specializes in mystery/crime fiction, and Jon Talton recommended that they contact me to see if I would be interested.  Which I would, thank you very much, Jon.

My participation has not been finalized yet, so I don't know exactly what will occur, but I expect a busy couple of months.  Which brings me to my point.  I find that I am being asked to speak a lot more in the last year or so, for which I am very grateful.  But the more time I spend promoting, the less time I spend writing. Talks, workshops, and programs take hours of prep time that have to come from somewhere, and your choices, as Charles pointed out in yesterday's post, are : a) your job, b) your family, c) your social life, d) your sleep.  An awful number of authors choose d), which may be why so many are pale, hollow-eyed creatures who hallucinate a lot.  Of course, maybe it's good for the writing to disengage the rational mind and simply babble on, rather like I'm doing right now.  You be the judge, Dear Reader.

Back to the matter at hand, if you would like to learn more about NEA's Big Read program, and perhaps consider instituting one in your community, the web site is  I'll let you know what happens on this end.


Charles benoit said...

I was involved in the Big Read here in Rochester last year when we read the Maltese Falcon. There was a lot to do, many tie-ins with the George Eastman House (so lots of films) and area authors taught relevant classes. I taught a course on mystery writing and had a great time do it. For you own research, I strongly recommend Hammett's Moral Vision by George Thompson. He at the kickoff event and if he's anywhere near where you are, don't miss him. Also, check out Discovering the Maltese Falcon and Same Spade by Richard Layman (editor). Great chapter topics and really, not many ways to improve this compendium.

Donis Casey said...

Thank you, Charles!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Donis. That sounds like quite an honor, and quite a bit of work. You'll do great. Just stock your cupboards with plenty of strong coffee!