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February 2007

Back to School (aka the "Sex Devil" Challenge - with Chocolate)

On Jan. 31st, I began my semester-long gig at Goucher College as the Kratz writer-in-residence. It's my fourth opportunity -- the word is chosen carefully -- to teach creative writing at Goucher and it follows on the heels of another amazing opportunity, the 3rd annual Writers in Paradise Conference at Eckerd College.

I was invited to join the faculty at the Eckerd program last year. I'm pretty sure this was in error, that I received an invitation intended for Elinor Lipman, or perhaps even Dr. Laura, but so it goes. Now that I've wormed my way into this conference, which is otherwise staffed with outstanding writers with MFAs and Ph.d's, they're stuck with me.

Why do you teach, I'm sometimes asked. I was asked it just last week at Eckerd, but perhaps I misunderstood the question, perhaps it was: Why do you think you can teach? At any rate, I don't do it out of financial necessity, although I am always mindful that I might need a fulltime gig one day. I teach because I get so much out of it. If the students derive half as much joy and inspiration from the class as I do, then they're getting more their money's worth. During the week at Eckerd, my brain, like the Grinch's heart, seemed to increase threefold. I wouldn't have been surprised to find a wet spot on the back of my skull and realize it was my brain, seeping out of a now too-small head. (We talked a lot about zombies that week and it clearly began to affect me.)

On the penultimate day of the conference -- see, I was getting so smart that words like "penultimate" came naturally to me -- fellow faculty member Tom Franklin handed me a book, The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure, and asked me to read the first story, "Sex Devil," which is only three pages. I did -- then promptly read it again, and then again. By the time I returned to the bed-and-breakfast where the faculty was housed, I was pressing the book on everyone, begging them to read the story. I haven't seen a paperback move from hand to hand like that since The Godfather made the rounds in Mr. Treff's homeroom, circa 1972. By the end of the evening, we were all quoting lines from the story and, I confess, we even drunk-dialed the author, Jack Pendarvis, leaving a message on his answering machine.

To me, the adventure of "Sex Devil" crystallized everything that I love about writing conferences -- generosity (Tom's), enthusiasm (everyone's), the giddiness that comes from the opportunity to think and talk about writing (and zombies) for a week. Loaded down with books written by my faculty colleagues, I discovered at the Tampa International Airport that my luggage was six pounds overweight. Best twenty-five dollars I ever spent. So in the spirit of Eckerd College's 3rd annual Writers in Paradise Conference, please take the "Sex Devil" challenge and read the story that delighted us so. Click here, but don't click on the links within the story until you've read it at least once. Now you are getting the picture baby.



Lagniappe (including chocolate)

What the Dead KnowWhat the Dead Know will be published March 13th, and I'll post the tour details here soon. Cities include Baltimore (duh), Washington D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Charlottesville, Cleveland, Columbus, Ann Arbor, Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, among others. I'll also be at the Harrogate Festival in England this summer. The book has received starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Kirkus said, "Lippman... crafts a tale that resonates long after the last page is turned," while PW decreed that "Lippman, author of the Tess Monaghan mystery series (No Good Deeds, etc.), shows she's as good as Peter Abrahams and other A-list thriller writers with this outstanding stand-alone... superb."

I'm also pleased to announce that Tess Monaghan's biography is now available from the Mysterious Bookshop, in limited hardcover and paperback editions. Otto Penzler is giving several writers -- Anne Perry, Robert Parker, Michael Connelly, Tony Hillerman, Lee Child, Walter Mosley and Robert Crais among them -- a chance to write short histories of their series characters, and the Tess volume is actually the second one in the series. It is written as if Tess were being profiled by a Beacon-Light reporter named "Laura Lippman." The journalist is good, if a little glib, and she never does discover in what year Tess was born. Once these are gone, however, they're gone forever; there will be no reprints. Contact the Mysterious Bookshop for more info.

Finally, the promised chocolate. Join Health Care for the Homeless -- and me, as I'm one of the honorary chairs -- for the 16th Annual Chocolate Affair on February 8, from 6:00PM to 9:30PM at M&T; Bank Stadium. Full details can be found here, but it's chocolate plus a good cause. How much more do you need to know?



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