#6WordsMiami Challenges Miami Authors to Write Their Shortest Story Ever

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Ivan Delvasto
The scene at Miami Book Fair International.
Can you write a complete story in just six words? The Miami Book Fair International has put out a unique challenge called #6WordsMiami. If you can master the challenge, your story could be an official selection at the fair this November.

The contest reflects Miami's literary creativity, said Lissette Mendez, the program's director at the Center for Literature and Theatre at Miami Dade College.

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NoViolet Bulawayo on We Need New Names and Michael Jackson's Popularity in Zimbabwe

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photo by Smeeta Mahanti
NoViolet Bulawayo: has a perfectly good name, thank you very much
In NoViolet Bulawayo's debut novel We Need New Names -- a finalist for this year's Man Booker Prize -- teenager Darling moves from Zimbabwe to Michigan, where she is struck by a rather large difference between Americans and the people back home.

In Zimbabwe, Darling thinks, fatness "did not interfere with the body; a neck was still a neck, a stomach a stomach, an arm an arm, a buttock a buttock. But this American fatness takes it to a whole 'nother level: the body is turned into something else -- the neck becomes a thigh, the stomach becomes an anthill, an arm a thing, a buttock a I don't even know what."

In fiction about Africa by non-Africans, it is jarringly common for the entire continent to be exoticized into a morass of clichés, a single place in need of saving and understanding by the West. But Bulawayo, who also moved from Zimbabwe to America (and who will be reading at this weekend's Miami Book Fair International), inverts this trope to put her outsider's eye on the grotesqueries of Western living.

"It's always been a personal interest of mine," Bulawayo says of the way the West appears to peoples living outside it. "As somebody who came from another culture, moved here and had to learn all the codes of behavior, I particularly wanted to flip the script."

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Soman Chainani on The School for Good and Evil, the Dangers of Disney, and South Florida Kids

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Soman Chainani.
Growing up on Key Biscayne, author Soman Chainani was surrounded by lots of good children and lots of evil children. He was able to combine his observations on their behaviors with his imagination to write the New York Times bestselling young adult novel, The School for Good and Evil. This fantasy features Sophie, a good girl who is accidentally placed in the school of evil among witches and ogres, while bad girl Agatha is enrolled in the school of good with princes and fair maidens. The illiterate will be happy to know the book is being adapted into a movie for Universal Pictures.

Chainani,who will be making a homecoming Saturday, November 23, at the Miami Book Fair, spoke with New Times from his home base of New York to discuss how the disparate influences of South Florida and Disney movies collided into The School for Good and Evil.

See also: Miami Book Fair International 2013: The Ten Best Events

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Illegal Drugs Aren't as Dangerous as You Think, Says Neuroscientist Carl Hart

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Eileen Barroso
Carl Hart.
Drugs -- the illegal kind -- really get a bad rap. They ruin lives, we're told. Devastate communities. Drive people mad.

In some cases that's true.

What we're not told, however, is that the overwhelming majority of those who use drugs, even regularly, including hard drugs, emerge from their merrymaking just fine.

In other words, the narrow focus society and media place on the negative side effects of drugs is arguably unwarranted. And according to Columbia psychology professor Carl Hart, by failing to take equally into account the average user's positive experience, it's also bad science.

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Miami Book Fair Authors James McBride, George Packer Win 2013 National Book Award

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National Book Award winner and Miami Book Fair International author James McBride.
If we didn't know better, we'd think the organizers of the Miami Book Fair had consulted a psychic before planning this year's week-long festival of author appearances.

The fair, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, got a pretty sweet gift from the National Book Foundation this week: a pair of National Book Awards for George Packer and James McBride, both of whom are scheduled to speak at the fair this weekend.

See also: Miami Book Fair International 2013: The Ten Best Events

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For David Foster Wallace, Florida Was A Supposedly Fun Place He'd Only Visit Once

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DT Max will discuss David Foster Wallace on Saturday at the Miami Book Fair International.
D.T. Max almost approached David Foster Wallace at a book release party, but ended up getting cold feet. It was only after writing an entire book about the famed recluse that Max could be sure he made the right choice in holding back. Two things became abundantly clear during his research: DFW didn't exactly relish interaction with strangers, and other writers made him feel competitive and defensive.

The notoriously private author was even closed off from friends and family. That's why Every Love Story is a Ghost Story (Penguin) became a collaborative endeavor between Max and those who also yearned to understand the literary icon in the wake of his 2008 suicide. People wanted to share what they knew about David's inner life beyond the hints they garnered from an oeuvre of incredibly personal novels, short stories and essays.


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Evelyn McDonnell on Writing the Story of the Runaways

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Tim Maxeiner
"I really feel like I did some of my best work while at the Miami Herald," Evelyn McDonnell admits. The writer spent eight years there as the pop music critic. But she was familiar with Miami even before moving here. She'd attended years of Winter Music Conference (which she calls "pretty much Miami at its finest") while living and working in New York for New Times sister paper, the Village Voice. Now, as an assistant professor of Journalism and New Media at Loyola Marymount University, she's looking forward to returning to this strange Southern city to read from and discuss her newest book, Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways.

Along with Lynn Goldsmith, David N. Meyer, and Mark Kurlansky, McDonnell will appear on a music-focused panel at the Miami Book Fair International. Queens of Noise, she says, "is a story about young women, it's a coming of age story, and it's a story about Southern California. It's got these great characters who also happen to be rock stars." She adds that it is both "a cautionary and inspiring tale."

If you think you're an expert on the Runaways because you caught the movie, know now that you aren't. This book brings the background to the forefront and reveals the complete story of this all female rock band. We spoke with the author about which Runaway was the most difficult to speak with (spoiler alert: none sound like a piece of cake), Motley Crue's The Dirt, and her finest Miami memory.

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Miami Book Fair International 2013: Congressman John Lewis, Comic Book Hero

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Ned Ahrens
John Lewis in 2010.
March: Book One isn't just a graphic novel. It's an autobiography, a coming-of-age story, and a call to action all rolled up into one. The book's co-author, Georgia Congressman John Lewis, uses the graphic novel to reflect on how his childhood experiences set him on the path of non-violence and civil activism.

The graphic novel will be one of the books highlighted at this year's Miami Book Fair International. As great as learning about Lewis' life through sequential art is, it certainly doesn't compare to hearing about Lewis' life from the congressman himself.

Believe it or not, Lewis' focus on equality stemmed from an unlikely source--raising chickens.

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Miami Book Fair: Poet and Publisher Jonathan Galassi on Coming Out as Gay in His New Book

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photo by Nancy Crampton
Like most poets, Jonathan Galassi is also the president of one of the world's most renowned publishing houses and is the foremost translator of Nobel Prize-winning Italian poet Eugenio Montale. He probably also has a cat.

Galassi runs Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which has Montale and 21 other Nobel laureates on its roster, as well as a phalanx of acclaimed authors -- Jamaica Kincaid, George Packer, Sam Lipsyte and August Kleinzahler among them -- who will be at this year's Miami Book Fair International. Galassi will be there, too, but as a Knopf author with his latest volume of poetry, Left-Handed.

"The book is about change, about stripping off layers and getting to reality," Galassi says. He readily volunteers the nature of this change: after two decades of marriage, Galassi divorced and came out as gay.

See also: Miami Book Fair International 2013: The Ten Best Events

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Cristina García Dethrones Castro in King of Cuba with Farts and Impotence

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photo by Isabelle Selby
Cristina Garcia: proven to give dictators indigestion.
The first appearance of El Comandante, the ersatz Fidel Castro in Cristina García's King of Cuba, finds the enfeebled dictator confined to lead his revolution from his bed.

"The tyrant shifted onto his left arm, aiming his scrawny buttocks at the Straits of Florida, and released a sputtering, malodorous stream of flatus," she writes. "'Take that, you fat-livered idiots,' he muttered, slumping against his padded headboard."

What follows is a series of drastically increasing humiliations that García afflicts upon her fictitious dictator, of which impotence and assassination attempts are among the most mild.

"I'm not good at controlling myself, so I let quite a bit rip," Garcia laughs. It's the sort of novel whose author an egotistical autocrat might not readily welcome back into his country.

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