Chris Colfer on His New Kids' Book, Gloria Estefan, and Rewriting History

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Brian Bowen Smith/FOX

Like many children, when Chris Colfer was a wee lad, he would doodle silly characters and write passages to his made up stories. As he grew up, he kept adding to those stories that once helped him get through adolescence. And now as an adult, he's able to share those same stories with the world.

"I promised myself that one day I would get it done, and thanks to Glee, the opportunity came and I jumped on it," Colfer told Cultist over the phone from New York City.

What he got done - aside from a successful run on Glee, winning a Golden Globe, writing a young adult novel (Struck by Lightning), writing a screenplay and producing his first major film - was finally getting around to bringing his fairy tale scribbles to fruition. The first installment in a now-growing series, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, was published in 2012, followed by The Enchantress Returns in 2013, and keeping the steady flow, The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning was just released this week.

See also: Borscht Corporation Remaking Scarface, 15 Seconds at a Time

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Miami Beach Writer Michael Grunwald: "We Don't Educate Our People and Our Politics Suck"

Categories: Books, Culture

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Photo courtesy of Michael Grunwald
It's the Fourth of July a time to think about the economic policy of the United States and our nation's position in the world. Or you could just get really drunk, eat a pack (or five) of hotdogs and watch fireworks blow up in the sky. Yeah, everybody is probably taking the latter option.

But the economy is still not great, and people are unsettled. Local and state political leaders continue to commit unforced errors that make our state look bipolar on the national stage. Supporters of President Barack Obama are frustrated that he can't pass popular measures like increasing the minimum wage and reforming the broken immigration system. Obama's opponents, in contrast, view him as a radical failure.

With this political reality, no wonder people just want to stare up into the sky cross-eyed with a copious amount of meat in their guts.

But one Miami-based journalist and author wants you to understand that things could be worse -- much worse. And maybe, that's something to celebrate.

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Five Books By New Times Authors Out This Summer

Categories: Books

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Gail Ghezzi
Former New Times editor and novelist Ben Greenman.
New Times writers: We investigate your city. We review your live shows. We select the cream of the crop in the annual Best of Miami issue. And yes, we write your snarky blog posts.

But you can't pigeonhole us, man. We're real people, with goals and dreams. And in between tracking down the source of A-Rod's 'roids and reading haters' Facebook comments to our stories, some of us get a little writing done on the side. And the really good writers actually get stuff published in honest-to-god books.

Robert Andrew Powell's Running Away, profiled in this week's issue, is one of several recent or upcoming books by New Times alumni. Here are several others.

See also: Author Robert Andrew Powell Endures a Marathon and Wrestles His Demons in a New Memoir

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Author Robert Andrew Powell Endures a Marathon and Wrestles His Demons in a New Memoir

Categories: Books

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If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall," the Russian writer Anton Chekhov supposedly once said, "in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off."

In Robert Andrew Powell's new memoir, Running Away, the walls aren't equipped with rifles but with inspirational quotes. Chirpy and upbeat, they are the aphorisms of American self-help culture. The slogans from athletic shoe advertisements. The stuff of grade-school cafeteria posters. "To change one's life: Start immediately," reads one plastered on Powell's apartment wall. "Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions."

These platitudes might lack firepower, but they are nonetheless persuasive. And when Powell's life falls apart, he turns to them for meaning. As the quotes instruct, he dramatically ditches his life in Miami and drives cross-country to the city's climatological and spiritual opposite: Boulder, Colorado. There he attempts to shed his South Florida sloth and recast himself as a disciplined runner, like his successful businessman father. He trains obsessively in a feverish attempt to duplicate his dad's feat of qualifying for the Boston Marathon within his first year of running. He loses weight, drops time, wins admirers.

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Maya Angelou, Author and Poet Who Chronicled Southern Racism, Dead at 86

Categories: Books

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Miami Book Fair International
Maya Angelou, speaking at the Miami Book Fair International in 1986.
Maya Angelou, the multitalented storyteller known for her autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86.

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Miami Is the Second Best Read City In the Country, Amazon Says

Categories: Books

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Alex Markow
Bookleggers and O, Miami: Just a few ways Miamians get lit.
So people in Miami are stupid, huh? Miamians aren't educated, eh? People in this city are barely literate, you say?

Sit down, haters. Amazon.com begs to differ.

The online retailer (which, old folks may remember, once primarily sold books) has ranked Miami at number two in its annual list of best-read cities.

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Knights Arts Challenge Finalist Amanda Keeley Plans to Stage Pop-up Bookstores

Categories: Art, Books, Culture

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Courtesy Amanda Keeley
Despite Miami's rapidly evolving art scene, most Miami locals can't afford to buy any of the abundant work on display. Knights Arts Challenge finalist Amanda Keeley says artist books are the best way to clear that hurdle. Keeley's project, EXILE Books, is a traveling pop-up store installation dedicated to selling, supporting, and promoting publications produced by artists.

"Artist's books are not a traditional catalogue about an artist's work; the book is conceived of as a work of art in and of itself," Keeley said via email. "Therefore, it allows the artwork to be mass distributed, be affordable, and accessible to a broad public. It gives the artist a strong voice, and it is this style of communication that I am drawn to."

See also: Knight Arts Challenge South Florida 2014 Finalists Announced

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Author Julia Cooke on Life in Cuba: "I Miss How Important Every Moment Was"

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Courtesy of Julia Cooke
Much of the American perspective regarding Cuba remains dated, rooted in the same political milestones taught in high school history classes. Words like "restriction," "trade," and "government" often dominate the dialogue despite the changes taking hold of the island. Author Julia Cooke hopes to shift the conversation, from Cuba's politics to its people. Her new book, The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba, chronicles the years she spent living in Havana and the ongoing societal shift she observed.

International journalist and Portland-native Cooke first traveled to Cuba as a college student in 2003. During her studies, she fell in love with the people of Havana, whose exuberance for life and diverse stories took her aback.

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Knights Arts Challenge Finalist O, Miami Hopes to Expand Publishing House

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P. Scott Cunningham
O, Miami is no stranger to the Knights Arts Challenge. In 2011, the non-profit organization was awarded funding to bring a month-long poetry festival to the Greater Miami area, and used unusual methods to ensure people encountered prose every day in April, from odes on public buses to artist Agustina Woodgate's "poetry bombs" sewn into thrift shop clothing tags. Now, as a 2014 finalist, O, Miami seeks funding to bring all the literary elements together in its own publishing house, Jai-Alai Books.

"We've been working on an idea for a press basically as long as O, Miami has existed, and before, when we were University of Wynwood exclusively," said founder and director P. Scott Cunningham via email. "It was always something I've personally wanted to do, and it finally felt like the right time to do it."

According to Cunningham, Miami is long overdue for a literary press. O, Miami's publishing house hopes to produce great books that are accessible to a general audience and that speak to Miami.

See also: Knight Arts Challenge South Florida 2014 Finalists Announced

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Drive-In Entrepreneur Josh Frank Wrote a Book About Porn with Pixies' Frontman Black Francis

Categories: Books, Literary

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Writer, director, and owner of Blue Starlite Drive-In Josh Frank.
Thank the gods for people like Josh Frank. Blue Starlite drive-in owner is one of those creative types constantly making cool shit for us schlubby consumers to sit back and enjoy.

Writer, director, and producer, Frank is the author of Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies and In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers. Additionally, Frank recently made his directorial debut for the Pixies' music video "Greens and Blues," released March 4. Frank's latest publication, The Good Inn, is a book and screenplay adaptation written in collaboration with Pixies' founder and frontman, Black Francis.

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