On Target

Happy Halloween to all you ghosts, goblins and witches. I’m getting ready to leave for the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY this weekend. Hope everyone has a good one. Mine has already started out really well. I’m pleased to announce that Target has selected One for Sorrow to be one of their Breakout Books. It should be in stores as of yesterday.

Imagining a future

From CoolCleveland.com’s email list today, a video report from Hunter Morrison about Youngstown, the history of its loss of an economic way of life, the progression of its decline, and the strategies for imagining a future with a new identity that the thirty-something and lower crowd here have begun to bring to life in recent years.

Watch the video by clicking here.(Windowns Media Player)

Or watch it by clicking here (Quicktime). 

I think Hunter gives a good overview of the situation, past, present, and the direction of the future for Youngstown and rustbelt cities like it that suffered deathblows to their economic tax bases in the late 70s and 80s.  I do, however, disagree with his understanding of the psychology of the younger generation, in which he sees a group of young people who did not grow up seeing the ghosts of the city that had lived before them, and so we see this place as a place of potentiality.  I do agree with him that it is a place of potential, because potential comes from human imagination and the drive and energy and will to create, and so that can happen nearly anywhere if the people want it.  I do think, though, that my generation and the ones that came after me, born at the time when the mills were closing down, did grow up affected by all of this.  We don’t have the same attachment to the city that existed before the loss of the steel industry, true, but we grew up in a world that basically had a “Closing” sign on it, where everything was in a process of closing down.  Stores, amusement parks, schools, small businesses, various industries (car manufacturers as well as steel mills), parks, roads, homes, homes and more homes.  This closing down mentality has served to provide little hope for a future for many of the younger generation, who have grown up thinking this is how the world works:  it closes down around you.  So while Hunter is correct that there are new leaders and larger amounts of them coming out of the thirty-something and under generations that are here, I think he’s underestimating the effects of growing up in a region of America where everyone wonders what will close next, who will move next.  I think there are many young people who feel there is no hope here.  I think that slowly but surely more young people are realizing that the future of this place is in their hands, really, but there’s a lot of work left to do, and a lot of minds and attitudes that still must change en masse for that work to get done.

I also don’t think making more parks like Millcreek is the answer to revitalization.  I think it’s a quick fix for areas that need to be cleaned up, but not a long term solution for a town that needs economic expansion, and more than just in the tech industry, which is the new hope here lately.  I think a “tech belt” is great, but we need more than that.  Otherwise we end up building a very similar model to the one that failed thirty or forty years ago–a community with an economy that is reliant on one platform.  In the past it was steel.  In the future, without diversification of our economic platforms here, it could be technology.  But what you get when you focus all of your energies into growing one industry is that same worrisome community that only knows how to do one thing.  And when that industry leaves for cheaper labor in poorer countries, or finds some other way to make its own production more efficient, you are back to square one once again.  I’m happy the tech industry is growing here, but we need more than that to build a safer economy for our future here.  Diversify, diversify, diversify.

The blurb that came with the mailing of the video:

Hunter Morrison has served as planning director of the City of Cleveland, and his wife Jane Campbell served as Mayor of Cleveland. More recently, he’s been dealing with the aftermath of Black Monday exactly 30 years ago, when Youngstown Sheet & Tube suddenly closed, washing out not only the tax base in the Mahoning Valley, but also a way of life. But a new, younger generation of leaders weren’t even born when the steel mills closed, and they approach the future with a new sense of opportunity and possibility. Hunter helped sync a collaborative planning effort to update both the Youngstown State University and the city with the Youngstown 2010 Plan. He’s become known for the Shrinking Cities concept that relates to many cities in our region: 1) accept that you will be mid- or small-sized city 2) view opportunities in a regional context 3) address issues of quality life and place 4) take action, including recognizing the value of green space. Cool Cleveland’s Thomas Mulready reached him on the streets of Youngstown and they discussed the past, a smaller future, and how Thinkers & Drinkers in Y-town are creating a dialogue

The Orphan’s Tales

Fellow Ohioan and fellow exile from the land of the rising sun Catherynne Valente has released the concluding volume of her Orphan’s Tales today.  The first book was a really beautiful artifact, so I’m excited to see how Cat follows it up and brings the stories to a close.  One of the things I like about Cat’s work are the strange and complex structures she designs for her revisions of fairy tales and myths and legends.  She makes the stories new by giving them contemporary modern forms to inhabit.  I’m looking forward to seeing what sort of home she’s made for these final tales in the series.

Settling in

I am officially moved into the new house.  If you’re looking to update my address in your books, send me an email and I’ll get the new numbers to you.

I am exhausted from ripping up carpet and moving heavy furniture and scrubbing tubs and sinks and all varieties of surfaces, but it is so fun too.  I’ve spent far too much time gleefully dropping clothes down the laundry shoot (I would have *loved* one of those as a kid–hell, I love it now) and am contemplating whether or not to remove the small eat-in area of the kitchen that has this wallpaper on it (just in that little corner, the rest is painted) of a Parisian streetscape with little cafes.  Ironically, I have a little cafe table and two chairs that are sitting beneath the Parisian streetscape, so that it looks like it’s a part of the scene.  This was not intended.  My first reaction to this wall paper was a frown and furrowed eyebrows.  But in the past few days, probably because of the silly cafe table and wrought iron chairs I have underneath the scene, it’s grown on me in an odd way.  This should not be such a difficult decision.


I’m getting ready to leave for World Fantasy Convention on Thursday.  Till then I’ve got to catch up with grading and working on my own writing and getting those hedges clipped in the front yard as well as the too many vines crawling up onto one corner of the garage.  Having a house is going to be a lot of work, but I thoroughly enjoy this sort of work, in fact have missed having it to do for the past twelve years or so of living in rented spaces.   It’s good to have a place to call my own again.

I have nothing much else to say but this.

Hope everyone else is enjoying autumn.

World Fantasy Convention

So there are apparently only two bus shuttles on Thursday going from the Albany airport to the World Fantasy convention, one at noon and one at six p.m. My flight comes in at 12:42, so apparently I am supposed to wait in the airport for five hours until the second bus arrives. So if there is anyone out there who is driving to World Fantasy Con, and could possibly swing by the Albany airport to pick up a hitchhiker, give me an email. I’d really appreciate a ride if someone is able to give one. Thanks.

Back in a moment

I am moving into the gingerbread house (witch not included) and don’t have internet hooked up again yet–soon, though, so if I’m behind in answering an e-mail, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. 

It is raining here, and fall leaves are sticking to my shoes.  I kind of like this, but I also hate being wet.


I was wondering if anyone out there has a copy of this past Sunday’s Washington Post Book World.  I searched high and low in my neighborhood to get a copy, but haven’t found anywhere that carries it around here.  The price one pays for living the remote wilds of Ohio.  I’m making a little scrapbook and would love to have a copy of the review of One for Sorrow if possible! 🙂

Alicia Delvaux

Alicia Delvaux is one of my favorite bloggers, ever.  She moved to Cleveland this year, but she still blogs for Valley24.com, a regional online hub for the Mahoning Valley, where I live.  She recently posted a really wonderful entry about the things that have been occurring here in Youngstown in the past few years, recounting her happiness for the new hope of revitalization for this, America’s poorest city after New Orleans, and also her worries.  There are lots of things to worry about, for sure.  But anyway, if you’re interested in where I come from, Alicia is a good representative of the sort of people you’ll find around here, that we’re hoping won’t have to move away for work as much as we’ve grown used to doing here–thoughtful and aware and a great writer as well.  Hopefully someday she’ll be able to come back to a great job that’ll let her be near her family and friends and the city she loves like she deserves.

An excerpt:

When I was fresh out of high school and finally allowed free reign to drive around Mahoning County and the surrounding areas, I started to actually notice the toppling houses and looming, dead-ish looking factories. Everything was rusty and gritty and brown and grey. Even the skies were laced with smoke like the ceilings and corners of walls in houses with old gas stoves and wood-burners. And perhaps in some ignorant way, blind to the poverty those poor streets represented, I thought it was beautiful. In the boarded up windows and cloudy, shattered glass I saw sorrow, but still promise, and potential.

Read the rest by clicking here. 

Washington Post Review

A really pleasant surprise this morning. Though I don’t think it will appear in print until tomorrow, One for Sorrow has been reviewed in The Washington Post. And reviewed well! An excerpt:

Traveling through this story with Adam is like a nightmare, but the kind that fascinates you so deeply that when you wake up, you grab the first person you see and tell him about it. The language is deceptively simple. Barzak writes about the supernatural with fearless originality. The ghost doesn’t appear to Adam as a specter glimpsed in a mirror or reflected in the bathtub water; instead, the dead boy, naked and wearing the grit of the grave between his teeth, climbs onto Adam’s back and rides him through the woods to the abandoned crime scene. Jamie can temporarily re-warm his dead flesh by choosing one of his memories and burning it from within, a page of his life lost forever. He begins with the memory of who murdered him.

The portrait of Adam’s family is also unexpected. What drives Adam crazy is not so much that his mother is bound to a wheelchair as that she becomes best friends with the drunk driver who caused her accident. And the love story is just as fresh. When Gracie introduces Adam to sex, he decides she smells like a sunflower, not the plant but the word “sunflower.”

One for Sorrow is ultimately a coming-of-age story, more melancholy than morbid and, by the end, profoundly hopeful. The writing is beautiful, honest and heartbreaking. Sometimes it takes a character infatuated with death to remind us why life matters.

Read the whole review by clicking here.