NBCC Board Election Deadline January 4th

by Admin | Jan-03-2018

 The National Book Critics Circle is holding an election to fill 8 board seats that will open in March of 2018. Directors serve 3-year terms and participate throughout the year in a number of ways: discussing the books that are under consideration for our annual awards and helping to run our all-volunteer organization. The following candidates are standing for election. The deadline for voting is tomorrow, January 4. Voting members will receive SurveyMonkey ballots via email. If you haven't received your ballot, contact tomnbeer@aol.com

 

KAREN SCHECHNER
I count on the NBCC awards program every year to see deserving books get their props, like Anthony Marra’s A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, and Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. 

I’m the vice president of Indie at Kirkus Reviews. Before Kirkus, I was the senior editor at the American Booksellers Association for a decade and worked closely with independent booksellers. I also volunteer as a senior editor for the Lambda Literary Association. I’ve been a books journalist for 20-plus years, focusing primarily on reviews, author interviews, independent bookselling, queer lit, and self-publishing. I’ve always loved championing debut works, especially from LGBTQ writers.

I hope to serve the NBCC by helping to organize more events. I recently co-hosted a mixer with the NBCC and the Lambda Literary Foundation. We met at Folksbier, a microbrewery in Brooklyn, and talked about Hilton Als, theater, sci-fi fiction, trans writers, writers of color, etc. I’d also like to talk with NBCC members about how to cover some of the excellent self-pubbed books being written today. 

My writing has appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, McSweeney’s, Out magazine, Kirkus Reviews, Time Out New York, the Village Voice, etc. I’ve taught writing at the University of New Mexico and the State University of New York at Purchase and have served on various panels at BookExpo America, the Miami Book Fair, the Self-Pubbed Book Expo, and the Taos Writers Conference. I’ve been a member of the NBCC for years and have long wanted to become more involved in the organization. I’m also a member of the New York Mycological Society. 

ADRIANA DELGADO
With the following candidate statement, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Adriana Delgado, I am a journalist and a writer, currently working as an editorial assistant for the Palm Beach Daily News and I am also a freelance writer for The Palm Beach Post, two of the leading newspapers in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Additionally, and for the last three years, I have been a book critic/reviewer and interviewer for Blogcritics.org, Library Journal and The Washington Independent Review of Books. Among the notable writers I have interviewed are Jay McInerney, Val McDermid, Beatriz Williams and Caroline Leavitt.

My approach when writing a book review is simple: I want the potential reader to know what worked about a book and what didn’t, the highlights and the low points, whether characters are complex, fickle and keep me on my toes or if they are in contrast, simple and undeveloped. Is the plot intricate and thoroughly developed or was it lacking? These are some of the questions I try to answer when reading any book.

I truly think the NBCC does incredible work by detailing not only the work of writers, but also by compiling news that occur in the publishing industry that are of interest to anyone working closely with the world of books, including readers. In a time where many claim that books are dead and reading is something of the past, the NBCC proves these statements wrong by showing just how much work is done in publishing and how books and writers continue to flourish despite the obstacles that technologies has often presented.

My goal in putting my name forward as a potential member of the board, is to work closely with the NBCC in continuing the task of highlighting the work of writers and to maintain an open dialogue about the present and future of reading, criticism and literature in an ever-changing world that continuously presents new challenges. Needless to say, that I would be honored to contribute to the NBCC in writing articles, book reviews, interviews and feature articles as well.

GENE SEYMOUR
I am announcing my candidacy for the National Book Critics Circle board. 

I spent a 30-year career in daily newspapering which had me do almost everything from rewriting court stories to knocking on bereaved families’ doors, from reviewing movies and music to listening to film directors explain themselves as though they were intoxicated drivers caught speeding.

I have now committed most of my post-newspapering time to writing book reviews  for such publications as BookForum, USAToday, Newsday, The Nation, Washington Post and Kirkus Reviews. I served with Claire Messud and Annie Philbrick as fiction judges in the 2016 Kirkus Prize competition. (We picked C.E. Morgan’s The Sport of Kings, I remain proud to say.)  

Once in one of several job interviews I endured while doing hard time in journalism’s vineyards, I remember being asked whether I preferred writing about television or movies since I had by that time achieved some level of recognition doing both. I replied, as I would today, that I preferred books to either of them simply because I like books better than movies. I like books better than television. “I like books better than people,” I would add for comic effect, though there have been times when I wonder if I’d been as flippant about the matter as I pretended.

Seriously: John Leonard, who was one of my earliest idols in the trade and for whom I had the honor of writing reviews when he and his wife Sue co-edited the “back-of-the-book” section of The Nation, showed me by example how, when writing about books, it was possible to write about everything else. I still believe that. And though it may be in part because of my recent sustained exposure to books that I have come to believe that, right now, this minute, the novels and nonfiction that’s been coming out lately is more vital, more in tune with both the present and the future than most of the movies I’ve seen and even some of the much ballyhooed TV series now available through such water-based systems as streams and clouds.

ROD DAVIS
No revelation of the current political crisis has been more unnerving than the willful disregard for truth and knowledge and its effect on the democratic process. If cold assessment of the relevancy of writing and critical thinking in this environment is not at the forefront of any literary worker’s thoughts, an awakening is in order.

 As an NBCC Board member, I would advocate immediate engagement with this cultural tyranny. If we as critics, as intellectuals, as artists are to have any meaningful role, it is to fight back. Writers must investigate, enlighten, and inspire. Critics must seek out, examine, and protect.

 And critics have another mission. It is imperative that we spend much more time reviewing the distorted and false texts shaping public discourse. These kinds of books, however distasteful and head-slapping to read, need to be disputed at the outset, before they become gospel (e.g. Ayn Rand) to those seeking alleged justification for terror and destruction of society. There is ample evidence in history to show what happens when intellectual ground is lost to fascists and hate-mongers. I would propose a special NBCC awards category for reviews of books of hate and disinformation.

 I am an author myself. My critically acclaimed books include American Voudou, Corina’s Way (PEN/Southwest fiction award), and South, America. I have been a journalist at the AP, Rocky Mountain News, San Antonio Express-News and elsewhere, including TV. I am former editor of The Texas Observer and have been on staff or written for several other national and and regional magazines. I taught writing and rhetoric for nine years at SMU and UT-Austin, and worked at the Southern Poverty Law Center. I currently review mostly for The Texas Observer, Lone Star Literary Life, and The Southern Literary Review. I am a member of the Texas Institute of Letters. 

JONATHAN FARMER
The National Book Critics Circle is at once a home for much of what is extraordinary in our literary culture and an organization with the power to deepen it. As a board member, I hope to support all that the NBCC already does, help develop meaningful opportunities for a more diverse group of great critics, and expand the organization's reach by hosting regional events in central North Carolina, where I live.

After four years as principal poetry critic for Slate.com, I now serve as critic at large for The Kenyon Review, and I have written criticism for LitHub, Los Angeles Review of Books, and The Millions, among others. I’m also the editor in chief and poetry editor of At Length magazine and a full-time middle and high school English teacher.

As a critic, editor, and teacher, I get to think about writing from a variety of angles, and with very different audiences in mind. I believe that the point is not to serve books but to serve the ends that can make a book worth more than the time we give to it; to serve readers and potential readers, and to help more writers, with varied experiences, imaginations, and identities, speak and be heard.

I want to advocate for critics as literary artists capable of giving pleasure, enlarging the imagination, and amplifying voices other than our own, even as we we speak of and through our varied selves. I think the NBCC can create opportunities for a more diverse community of professional critics. I want to support its work toward that end and hope to join the board of the NBCC in order to help it foster a rich and varied literary conversation.

MICHELE FILGATE
I’m currently on the board of the National Book Critics Circle, but my term is up and I’d love to be reelected. For the first two years, I served as the VP/Awards and helped organize the awards ceremony and the reception. For the past year, I’ve served as VP/Events. Over the last three years, I have enjoyed working with my fellow esteemed critics to bring more attention to both criticism and the books we give awards to. I’ve volunteered in the NBCC booth during several AWP conferences, encouraged younger critics to become members, and helped curate, run, and promote events. I'm also working with Kate Tuttle and Jane Ciabattari on a new partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library, where we will host some events in 2018. This past June, I moderated a NBCC panel at the Center for Fiction called Beyond the Buzz: Finding Hidden Gems, from Small Press Books to Translations and More. I also taught an online workshop on building a freelance career for our Emerging Critics. 

My book reviews, author interviews, and/or profiles have been featured in The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, O the Oprah Magazine, The Barnes & Noble Review, The Boston Globe, The Star Tribune, Newsday, Tin House, Poets & Writers, Kirkus, The Paris Review Daily, The Brooklyn Quarterly, Men’s Journal, The Daily Beast, and many other publications. I’m a contributing editor at Literary Hub and run a conversation-based series in Brooklyn focused on women writers called Red Ink. I also teach writing classes for Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop and Catapult.

I’d love to continue my work on the board. As one of the youngest critics, I see it as my mission to make sure that criticism remains just as relevant as it always has been, and to encourage emerging writers to participate in the organization. Thanks for considering me. 
 
KATHERINE A. POWERS
I am a free-lance reviewer living near Amherst, Mass and have been on the Board for one term and am running for a second. I write a book-review column for the Barnes and Noble Review and on audio books for the Washington Post.  I also contribute reviews intermittently to the Boston Globe, Newsday, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times. I was awarded the NBCC’s 2013 Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing, an honor that still thrills me. I edited a collection of my father's letters, Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J. F. Powers, 1942 -1963, which was published in 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux—a circumstance that gave me a good (and not so good) taste of being at the receiving end of book reviews. 

I believe people will always read books and that book reviews written with intelligence, style, and economy play an important role in furthering this ancient pursuit. This year I chaired the committee which selects the recipient of the Balakian Citation and have been impressed and cheered by the high standard and engaging style of so many of the submissions. I also served on the committees which award the prizes in Autobiography and Biography. I believe my strength lies in this work. Beyond that, if elected to another term, I would like to find a way of letting NBCC members know there are fellow members in their vicinity, a directory of sorts. Book reviewing is an isolating business and if we knew of members nearby, we might be meeting for “Feasts of Reason and Flows of Soul,” to quote the immortal P. G. Wodehouse. Thank you for reading this. I would be honored to receive your vote.  

 DAVID VARNO
I have been involved with the NBCC for almost ten years. Before I became a member, I was recruited to help with the effort to migrate the website from the old Blogger platform, and soon began to get to know members from all over the country as I attended NBCC events. It has been a tremendous honor to work so closely with the NBCC, from working behind the scenes at the awards events to preparing the organization’s first successful application for funding from the NEA, as well as resolving membership issues.  

I have seen first-hand the vital role that criticism continues to play in our culture, and the impact that the NBCC makes to sustain and cultivate it for the future. My involvement has helped me grow as a critic and writer, and in the current political climate, I have found myself thinking and feeling with greater depth. My values and concerns are finding expression in the reviews I’ve published, such as the outsized role that conservative religious beliefs play in our culture, the legacy of cultural imperialism in Latin America, and the different ways male and female writers are impacted by parenthood. My focus is on literature in translation, and I am the former Dispatches Editor for Words Without Borders, where I wrote a weekly column and helped new writers break into reviewing. 

I continue to review regularly for Words Without Borders and the Brooklyn Rail, and have also published in BOMB, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Electric Literature, Paste, Tin House, and elsewhere.  Currently I am a web editor for Publishers Weekly. If elected, I would bring together my knowledge of the NBCC’s history with my current perspective on digital technology to propose new programs and features that would seek to benefit the NBCC’s members and strengthen our readership.

HEATHER SCOTT PARTINGTON
Why aren’t they live-tweeting this thing? That’s what I wondered as I stared at Twitter in Sacramento during last year’s NBCC Awards. Much of the amazing work done by the NBCC goes under the radar because the NBCC’s presence on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram could be improved. There’s also untapped potential for member networking in those forums. Each of those platforms has a unique audience, and within each audience are readers: readers we can reach. If elected to serve on the NBCC Board, I will help bridge the gap between print and online media and social media. To link nontraditional readers of newspapers and literary websites with the events of the NBCC, and the reviews that NBCC members write.

I’ve been a member of the NBCC for three years, and a critic for about four. I recognize that this isn’t long—in fact, I am currently serving as one of the NBCC emerging critics fellows—but as a graduate of UCR Palm Desert’s MFA program, and a 16-year public high school English teacher, I’ve lived my life in books. In the last four years, I’ve published criticism in print and online in places like The New York Times, The LA Times, and the LA Review of Books. I've also been a regular contributor at Goodreads Voice, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Las Vegas Weekly, and Kirkus. It would be an honor to serve on an NBCC awards committee and to help promote the amazing work of the organization.

During my year as an emerging critic I’ve contributed to the NBCC Online Committee. Specifically, I’ve made it my mission to bolster the Facebook postings of our members’ work. If elected, I’d love to continue and expand this effort by extending it out to other platforms. 

Thank you for your consideration.

ADAM MORGAN
Hello everyone! Since you're probably in a hurry, here's a bulleted list about me, Adam Morgan:
• New dad
• Editor-in-chief of the Chicago Review of Books
• Adorable
• Weekly culture columnist at Chicago magazine
• Mildly phobic of deep water
• Monthly book critic at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune
• Christmas movie connoisseur
• Reviews and features in The Guardian, The Denver Post, Literary Hub, Poets & Writers, Electric Literature, Bookpage, and elsewhere.
• Is this working?
• NBCC voting member for the last 4 years
• Am I coming across as accomplished and relatable?
• One of NewCity's "50 People Who Really Book In Chicago"

The NBCC means a lot to me because literary criticism can be a lonely world, thanks to the need to avoid conflicts of interest. That said, I'm running because I believe the NBCC could be more transparent and visible in the digital litera-sphere — like the NBF has done in the past few years — and I believe I can help get us there.

In addition to my literary background, from 9-to-5 I'm a digital marketing manager, so increasing an organization's visibility and reputation is my wheelhouse.
Thanks for your consideration!

COLETTE BANCROFT
As the book editor of the Tampa Bay Times, the largest newspaper in the South and one of the few to still support regular books coverage, I review more than 100 books a year, interview authors and cover the publishing industry. In 2016, my book reviews and columns received awards from National Headliner and the Society for Features Journalism. 

For ten years, I have overseen the newspaper's annual Festival of Reading, which presents about 50 national and regional authors to the Tampa Bay area community. As part of that process, I interact with people from many segments of the book world—authors, publishers, booksellers, readers and other critics—and gain insight from all of them. 

I have served on the National Book Critics Circle board before and know the need to take seriously the work involved, particularly the reading load for the organization's book awards. I also know how exciting and rewarding that work can be.  

Just as exciting is the NBCC's dynamic effort to support and mentor a new generation of book critics. The landscape of book criticism has changed enormously over the last couple of decades and continues to evolve, and the NBCC board is one of the forces helping to shape that change. I hope to be part of it by returning to the board. Thank you for your consideration.

CHARLES FINCH
To briefly introduce myself: I’m a freelance critic, who writes frequently for publications including the New York Times, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, and the Washington Post. I was fortunate enough to be nominee for the NBCC’s Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing in 2014. I’m also a novelist and occasional essayist.

It would be a huge privilege to serve on the board of the NBCC, and I would throw myself into the job with enthusiasm and energy. I would, of course, pitch in however I could practically (I recently helped organize a best-of-2017 NBCC event at the Book Cellar in my hometown of Chicago).

More importantly, I think the Critics Circle’s great significance to the literary community has been how presciently its members have been able to identify and support new, underappreciated, and marginal voices through its awards. My main priority as a board member would be to continue and perhaps even strengthen that tradition of pluralism across lines of class, race, sex, and religion—something that seems especially important right now.

I love this organization, and if given the chance I would love to help it grow and thrive. Thank you so much for your consideration!

SHANI GILCHRIST
For the past few years I've dedicated much of my writing to investigating America's deficiencies in civil discourse and self-awareness relating to our racial history—or, as I like to say it, looking into why Americans find "diversity" such a scary word. Currently, I write a column for ROAR, where I explore the spectrum of gray that expands from the intersection of race and gender. I’ve also worked as a columnist for Charleston City Paper that explored the tensions between nuance, community expectations, race, and privilege. I’m an alum of the VQR Conference, and my essays and criticism have appeared in Longreads, Catapult, Literary Hub, The Daily Beast, and The Toast. Recently, my work was cited in the State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County, South Carolina 2000-2015 report. 

Through my exploration of the concepts and constructs of resistance to inclusion, I’ve found that my reading life is often divided in two—one half is thankful beyond measure for the insight, knowledge, and growth books have provided since I was a child. The other feels rather ill-at-ease or abandoned by the shortage of truly diverse lives—even scenes!—portrayed in American fiction and nonfiction. While both halves act as major drivers for my writing, the second one is more apt to be suspicious of a grand declaration of diversity and therefore, at times, suspicious of even my own writing. This isn’t just because there aren’t enough agents and editors of color in publishing. It’s because of the psychological darkness a writer experiences when there are so few indicators in society as a whole of their work getting into the mind of the reader. It’s the uncertainty of whether we’re actually developing worthy ideas or just winging it for little more than a pat on the head while our words recede from memory. This is why the discussion and criticism of books written by authors of all backgrounds needs to come from critics and writers of just as many backgrounds. A diversity of intellectual experience will keep writers curious and engaged, keeping the writing community robust and innovative. A diversity of intellectual commentary will challenge readers to recognize the validity of lives lived unlike their own… something that gets right to the heart of America’s fraught state of being in 2017.

To be able to help create more of these vital conversations occur through the National Book Critics’ Circle board would be an honor and a privilege not taken lightly, and I hope to be considered a strong candidate.

STEPH OPITZ LANFORD
I’m here to submit my name for consideration for the National Book Critics Circle board. I have admired the NBCC’s commitment to keeping the art of criticism and celebration of reading alive and would love to serve the community in a more official capacity.

I was the books reviewer for Marie Claire magazine the last 6 years, August was my final issue. My reviews have also been published in Garden & Gun, Departures, Kirkus, and elsewhere. I am a resident judge for Book of the Month club and was a judge for the latest round of titles for the NEA Big Read, as well as the 2017 Best Translated Book Awards.

Currently, The Loft Literary Center has hired me to launch and direct an annual book festival in Minneapolis. In the past, I have curated literary events and festivals around the country—as the literary director of the Texas Book Festival, the fiction co-chair of the Brooklyn Book Festival, on the programs team for the PEN World Voices Festival, among others. 

These roles require me to read widely and on rigorous timelines. As a curator and reviewer, I’ve made it a priority to select books that are diverse in all ways, from writers to content, and publisher. To read both lesser known authors whose work I feel deserves and will capture an audience as well as those with an established following. I’ve had the great fortune to have lived and worked in the literary communities of Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Austin, and Minneapolis. I feel I have a strong sense of what’s going on in publishing nationally and have a deep commitment to serving the various literary communities in the country. I would love to bring my experience and enthusiasm to the NBCC board.

MEGAN LABRISE
Megan Labrise, feature writer, Kirkus Reviews. 125+ author interviews in 2017. Podcast co-host (Fully Booked with Kirkus Reviews) and columnist (“Field Notes”). 2015 Kirkus Prize for Fiction judge with Colson Whitehead and bookseller Nicole Magistro (winner: Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life). Native New Yorker living in Portland, Oregon. Team player.

PARUL KAPUR HINZEN
Globalization is not only an economic phenomenon but a cultural one I’ve had a ringside seat to as an Indian-American woman who immigrated here as a child, then spent some of her adult years living in Asia, Europe and South America. In this dark era of nationalism, I would love to help the NBCC expand its reach and integrate many voices in the conversation about books and society. I bring a perspective on diversity in the US, as well as an international perspective as a journalist who has worked in India, France and Germany, that I hope would enrich the work of the NBCC as I seek my first term on the Board. 

In over twenty years since I received an MFA from Columbia University, I’ve written a couple of hundred book reviews, articles and literary features, highlighting foreign authors, immigrant voices and writers of color. My work has appeared in The New Yorker, The American Book Review, Esquire, GQ, Conde Nast Traveler, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Guernica, The Rumpus and Slate. As a freelancer living in Frankfurt and Paris, I wrote about the arts and social issues for The Wall Street Journal Europe and New York Newsday.  Later, I founded the Books page at ArtsATL, Atlanta’s leading online arts review, where I headed literary coverage for four years before moving to Connecticut. 

An NBCC member since 2010, I would love to create programs that bridge literature with political and social issues, bringing in experts from other fields or visiting foreign writers. Literary criticism is an essential element of our national intellectual life and I would assist the NBCC in its efforts to expand its base by reaching out to minority arts and cultural organizations. 

Outreach to teen readers is another area I’d love to work on. By establishing an initiative that brings book critics to high school groups and literature classes, NBCC could offer members a crucial way to engage in discourse about criticism with youth in their communities. Several school librarians I spoke to informally received the idea enthusiastically. My experience leading school initiatives in Atlanta includes creating cultural events for children and programs for parents, such as a popular speaker series on social justice issues. The challenge of creating new platforms inspires me personally and is vital to our mission to cultivate book culture.

It would be an honor to work with Board members to develop new initiatives and programs to broaden NBCC’s constituency. I enjoy the company of other book lovers and hope you’ll give me the chance to join the Board in championing our common literary culture.

JACOB M. APPEL
What if some unheralded author penned the most transformative book of the twenty-first century—and nobody noticed?  With the increasing consolidation of the publishing industry and the ongoing dominance of corporate media conglomerates, this fear may well become reality.  As a longtime book reviewer who publishes primarily in literary journals (eg. Ploughshares, Georgia Review, Los Angeles Review, etc.) and small magazines (Rain Taxi, Boston Book Review, Education Update, etc.), and an advocate for independent publishers, I believe it is crucial that the NBCC engaged with and promote the amazing literary work that is occurring beyond the boundaries of the economic and geographic centers of traditional, large-scale publishing. 

Small and mid-size independent presses offer opportunities for many writers who have historically been excluded from so-called “mainstream” publishing—not just writers from mistreated racial, ethnic and sexual minorities, but often authors belong to excluded groups who lack a collective consciousness of such exclusion.  Many of the aspiring, first-time novelists in the adult writing courses I regularly teach are women over sixty, a class of authors who often struggle to draw meaningful attention from “Big Five” publishers.  Others are individuals with serious physical illnesses or histories of incarceration—groups largely invisible to major publishing houses.  Independent presses offer vehicles for these individuals to share their stories.  By paying attention to the work of smaller houses, reviewers can make sure these stories received their due. 

As an NBCC Board Member, my hope would be to serve as a voice advocating for the countless brilliant books and authors who too often drift below the radar screen of contemporary culture.   Mainstream publishing continues to grow more exclusive; these smaller publishing houses, often labors of love, and their frequently overlooked authors, remain crucial to our literary future.

VICTORIA CHANG
My name is Victoria Chang and I’m a poet and writer living in Los Angeles. I would like to serve on the NBCC Board in the poetry genre. Before I had published my first book of poems, I edited an anthology titled Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation (University of Illinois Press). That started my life-long interest in reading widely, writing critically, and serving the poetry community. Since then, I have published four books of poetry, of which the latest is Barbie Chang, published by Copper Canyon Press. The Boss, my prior book, won the PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Other books are Salvinia Molesta and Circle. I was also awarded a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship. My poems have been published in places such as Best American Poetry, Poetry, American Poetry Review, Paris Review, Kenyon Review, Tinhouse, The Nation, New Republic, and many other places. Beyond my own writing, I love writing book reviews as well as conducting interviews of fellow writers. This year, I’ve written reviews of books by Chen Chen and Gabrielle Calvocoressi. I’ve conducted interviews with Susan Stewart, Brian Teare, and am doing an interview now with Alex Lemon. For me, reviews and interviews are not only ways to think more deeply about poetry, but to also introduce readers to different writers. I also serve as a senior poetry editor at Tupelo Quarterly and as a contributing editor at Copper Nickel. These are all forms of service to our community and are ways for me to read more widely and to introduce readers to new writers. I think my background and experiences could add a unique perspective to the NBCC Board and I would be honored to serve on the Board.

KERRI ARSENAULT
Dear NBCC colleagues,

Please accept this as my statement of interest for the NBCC Board.

I currently serve on the NBCC Board and during my tenure, supported various committees (social media, fundraising, and events). But my term is up this year and I’m hoping you’ll have me back. 

For those who don’t know me, I write a column for Lithub about the publishing industry and other literary matters (including interviews with authors and industry experts); serve as Book Editor for Jewels of the North Atlantic & Arctic; and my work has also been published in Freeman’s, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Brooklyn Rail, Kirkus, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune, among other publications. I’m also working on a nonfiction book about environmental injustice in Maine and am teaching writing courses here and there. I’ve long been a passionate book critic; an advocate of excellence in writing and writers; a thoughtful mentor to others; a respected and energetic citizen among my peers; and am well-versed and deeply read in nonfiction and fiction. 

Besides my experience as a critic, I would also bring to the Board a desire to not just expand our membership, but build better relationships with existing members. I’ve got loads of experience as an event and project manager and would love to execute some ideas our Board has been discussing: from helping organize small NBCC events outside of NYC to having members participate more actively by contributing to our webpage…or by attending online seminars (I taught a seminar on “how to interview” to our Emerging Critics, and I’d love to see this kind of thing offered to the entire membership). I’ve got loads of other ideas, too!

In addition, as a former web designer and graphic designer, I could bring vision and skills in updating our web page, a project our current Board is working on. I think a clear, useful site is the key to collaborating with our membership and honoring the literary community we serve. A better site could also be used to coax possible donors to be more generous in their giving, which would allow the NBCC to do more for its members and more for literature (websites, events, seminars, and so on).

And lastly, I believe in our mission: to honor outstanding writing and foster a national conversation about reading, criticism, and literature and I’d like that conversation to be as inclusive as possible. 

I’m eager to get to work!

ELIZABETH TAYLOR
The National Books Critics Circle has come a long way since its beginnings in the Algonquin Hotel, but its mission in this noisy world is more essential than ever.

From my outpost as Co-Editor of The National Book Review and Literary Editor at Large of the Chicago Tribune, I’m deeply committed to inspiring and elevating conversation about books and ideas. 

The NBCC stands out as an independent organization devoted to excellence.  Serious, active critical thought is required to ensure that our conversations are expansive and that we champion the most important, original and ambitious work. With our world in transition, the NBCC must consider the implications of these shifts for books, criticism, awards and readers. Through the books we honor with our prizes, and through the Nona Balakian and Ivan Sandrof winners we select, we set a standard for literature that inspires, provokes and endures.

As a past NBCC President, I’m fully aware that A Board member's responsibility extends far beyond the careful deliberation and wise selection of winners, and includes shouldering the burden for some of the less-glamorous parts of our volunteer organization.  The non-profit status that so many of us worked to secure, presents opportunities for us to think strategically about our purpose and ambition as we approach the 50th anniversary of our founding. 

I’m particularly interested in engaging current members in meaningful ways and expanding and diversifying membership. The launch of the Emerging Critics Fellowship has been among the most inspiring experiences in my NBCC service. Awed by the interest in this initiative, it was affirming to read so much high-quality work by many critics early in their careers. We need to extend and enlarge beyond this effort so that we can support and cultivate a generation beyond this inaugural program.

As an editor, writer, teacher and, most important, a reader, the community of the NBCC has enriched me in significant and enduring ways. It would be an honor to be elected to the Board.

GREGG BARRIOS
Thank you for the privilege of serving on the NBCC board for the past six years. In that time, I worked to fund the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. As book reviewers, we are often paid very little to do what we do so well. I am proud to have endowed the citation for the past five years ongoing with a $1000 cash prize. 

I continue to work to spotlight regional literature, independent publishers as well as works by women, LGBT writers and people of color. NBCC encourages open submissions. It is important that we encourage promising writers and smaller presses to submit their best works. Together we can help make it an even playing field. 

The concerns and demographics of us folks toiling in the heartlands are uniquely different from those north of the Hudson. The readership and populace of my community is Latino. Reaching my readers is challenging and rewarding. I organized successful Good Reads events that attracted A-list writers and SRO audiences. Providing workshops and seminars that focus on underrepresented reading communities are a vital part of our mission.

I was book editor of the San Antonio Express-News and literary editor of the WSJ’s Spanish language daily Rumbo. My reviews and literary interviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, CSPAN-Book TV, The New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Texas Observer, El País, and Salon. I am a contributing writer-critic for the San Antonio Current and The Los Angeles Review of Books. I am also a published poet and playwright. I am currently a 2017 Harvard NEH Fellow. 

I submit my name to serve on the NBCC board for a new term. I sincerely ask for your consideration. Mil gracias.

KATE TUTTLE
I’m asking for your vote to return to the NBCC board for my second full term.

After serving on the board for the past four years (my first term, plus one year as a replacement member), I have been honored to act as the NBCC president for the past year. As president, I’ve worked to maintain the NBCC’s tradition of independence and integrity, as well as shepherd new initiatives proposed by both general members and my board colleagues.

I remain an active book reviewer, with a weekly column in the Boston Globe as well as regular reviews, essays, and profiles in other publications, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Newsday. My reading is broad, but as a critic I now focus almost exclusively on nonfiction – in particular, I read a lot of narrative journalism, non-academic histories, and memoirs and essays. I also write about parenting, politics, race, and gender for Dame Magazine. Like nearly everyone else trying to make a life and a living as a critic these days, I worry about our national and global politics, the perilous economy for publishing and journalism, the fate of books in a world already glutted with information.

I believe my experience and sensibility make me a useful member of the NBCC board. Somewhat more selfishly, I also relish the opportunity to remain deeply involved in a community of people doing what I do. As we all know, it can be a fairly solitary task (these days I mostly work from home, with only my dog for company), and while I enjoy the quiet I’m also very happy to work on a team, collaborating and sharing ideas, and most of all continuing to champion the work of critics, writers, and readers. 

SARAH MANYIKA
I recently joined the NBCC and would welcome the opportunity to be more involved as its mission is close to my heart. I've spent much of the past two decades involved in a number of organizations where I support and encourage writers from around the world. These organizations include the writing residency, Hedgebrook, and the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco where I sit on the Boards. I'm always keen to engage more actively in conversations about the role of literature within society and to help facilitate greater access to those who have historically been under represented—especially women and persons of color. I am also very interested in thinking about how best to harness technology for sharing stories in the 21st century. I'm a novelist, short story writer, essayist and the Books Editor at ozy.com. I was hired by Ozy to set up the brand new Ozy Books platform. I come from a cross cultural background and bring an international perspective to all my work. I grew up in Nigeria and Kenya and have lived in Zimbabwe, England, France and America.

ISMAIL MUHAMMAD
This year, I’ve had the honor of being a National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critic. As such, I’ve benefited from NBCC members’ willingness to share knowledge, opportunities, and mentorship. This organization’s dedication to a culture of open inquiry and drive to groom a new generation of critics has left an indelible impression on me. If I earn your support for a position on the board of directors, I will use my tenure to help extend the NBCC’s current efforts to cultivate young critics beyond the Emerging Critics fellowship. 

As a graduate student instructor in the English Department at U.C. Berkeley, I’m in a unique position to support these efforts. I teach and mentor undergraduate English majors who are hungry to pursue careers as writers and critics. When they discover that I freelance as a book reviewer and cultural critic, they ask me for advice on how to contact editors, write pitches, and get published. I’m sympathetic to them: as a young critic, I know how opaque our profession can be to aspiring writers. It can feel impossible to find the entrance into what, from the outside, seems like an exclusive coterie. 

The NBCC can demystify our profession and capitalize on the great interest young people have in criticism. I want to serve as a bridge between the NBCC and young writers by implementing initiatives to cultivate critics among college students. Holding panels in conjunction with English departments, student newspapers, and college literary journals, NBCC members can bring their expertise to a wider circle. If I earn your support, I will spearhead efforts to make our profession more accessible to the U.C. system’s racially and economically diverse students, and my efforts in California can be a pilot program that we can one day export to campuses around the nation.

CHANDA PRESCOD-WEINSTEIN
The winter Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes was released in Canada, I was in the middle of my first year as a PhD student at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. It was Hill’s book — not some generic guide on how to be a success in science — that helped me navigate the difficult position I found myself in as the Institute’s first Black graduate student (and one of very few women). Eventually the novel won several awards, started a needed national conversation about Canadian racism and history, and was made into a mini-series. But before all of that, it changed my self-image as a Black American immigrant in Canada.

As a professional scientist and Editor in Chief of an online literary publication, The Offing, I know the power of creative writing and believe literary criticism is an essential complement to it. Accessible textual analysis helps readers connect storytelling with larger political and social currents. In the reviews I have written for Physics World and B*tch Media about popular science and fiction about academia, my standpoint has always been to contextualize the book with needed social commentary. Books portray the issues that matter to us, but it is literary criticism that helps us interpret these narratives in context.

NBCC plays a needed role by advocating for and giving voice to the people who take up the important task of guiding the public discourse about books. My interest in joining its Board of Directors is driven by a deep respect for the political promise of literature, even in the worst of times. In light of  this political moment, the time is now to promote writing by and for those at the margins, whether it is poetry or non-fiction that looks at how science works.

LAUREN LEBLANC
I would like to join the NBCC board because I view book criticism as a means to educate and empower others. My essays, reviews, and author interviews have appeared in Lenny Letter, Bomb magazine, Bookslut, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Times-Picayune, and Guernica magazine. A voracious reader, of late, I’ve been particularly drawn to narratives that confront climate change and geographic displacement as well as fiction by women, specifically women of color.

In 1999, I began writing for Susan Larson at New Orleans’ The Times-Picayune where I continued to contribute until I began working for Carol Brown Janeway at Alfred A. Knopf in 2005. That job provided a total immersion into both fiction and nonfiction; I familiarized myself with Eastern European literature in translation and contemporary American fiction along with works devoted to geographic exploration, foreign affairs, art history, and psychology. In 2008, I became a senior editor at Atlas & Co, working with James Atlas. There I acquired and edited nonfiction titles such as Dominique Browning’s Slow Love, Nina Godiwalla’s Suits: A Woman on Wall Street, and Jackie Kay’s Red Dust Road.

In 2014, I joined Guernica magazine as a senior nonfiction editor, publishing authors such as Elizabeth Rush (whose book Rising: The Unsettling of the American Shore will be published in 2018 by Milkweed Books) and Nishta Mehra (whose book Making Space: On Parenthood, Family, and (Not) Passing will be published in 2019 by Picador). After four years at Penguin Random House digital, I left in 2015 to become an independent development editor and writer, focusing on nonfiction, fiction, and middle grade manuscripts.
As a board member, I would be a strong advocate for diversity in the book industry—spotlighting and celebrating books that champion women, people of color, the LGBT community, and displaced people.
 





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