During my third year in Syracuse University’s M.F.A. Program, I taught a class for undergraduates called “Living Writers.”  The course is quite unique, in that it’s designed entirely around Syracuse’s esteemed Raymond Carver Reading Series; students in the course read work by each visiting author, participate in a Q & A with that writer, and then attend their reading.  It’s a popular course at S.U., with several sections offered every semester.

When my novel was published last summer, I was fortunate to receive an invitation to read in the Raymond Carver Reading Series; I returned to campus yesterday to speak to students in the afternoon and then read from my work.  This was a very special event for me – having seen some of my favorite writers read in the Gifford Auditorium in Huntington Beard Crouse Hall, I was honored to stand at the podium and talk about my work.

The event also gave me the chance to convey my gratitude to the faculty of the M.F.A. Program.  My three years in Syracuse were some of the best of my life – I studied with some amazing writers and made some great friends.  It was here, too, that I began writing my novel, an early version of which I submitted as my thesis.  I’m indebted to the faculty at Syracuse for all of their support – both while I was a student, and in the years since.

Andrey Kurkov

Friday night’s reading in Waltham afforded me the opportunity to meet, and read with, one of the most popular and bestselling authors in Ukrainian history. Andrey Kurkov is the author of eighteen novels, three of which – Death and the Penguin, Penguin Lost and The Case of the General’s Thumb – have recently been published as part of Melville House’s International Crime Series. Andrey and I met at Back Pages Books in Waltham in order to read from, and talk about, our work.

I especially enjoyed our conversation after the readings, during which we discussed our decisions to write about Volkswagens and penguins (versus other cars/animals), surrealism, and issues of craft. At one point I read Andrey my favorite excerpt from Death and the Penguin, for example, and he drew connections between the sentiment of that excerpt and the politics and culture of Russia and the Ukraine.

I was thankful to have a chance to chat with him – and thankful, too, to all of those who attended despite the inclement weather!

“I am not going to pretend that I understood all of the words in this book,” writes Umapagan Ampikaipakan in Malaysia’s New Straits Times. “Yes, they are of the English language. Yes, I use many of the very same words in everyday conversation. And yet, the way Boucher strings them together, with all the flair of a mad surrealist, left me lost and delirious and looking for melting clocks and wet cats flying through the air. The way Boucher mixes metaphors, the way he layers non sequitur over non sequitur, his casual relationship with denotation and definition, with structure and style, displays a mastery of the English language that is incomparable.” Please click here to read the full review.

Lisa and I have just returned from Chester, Vermont, where I was fortunate enough to take part in the New Voices 2012 literary festival this past weekend.  Organized by Misty Valley Books‘ co-owners Lynne and Bill Reed, the festival invites five writers at the start of their writing careers to Chester for a series of events.

The fun began on Friday night with dinner at Lynne and Bill’s apartment (located above the bookstore) with members of the community and the other four New Voices: Betty Shotton (Liftoff Leadership), Katharine Britton (Her Sister’s Shadow), Naomi Benaron (Running The Rift) and Paul Grossman (The Sleepwalkers).  Then we all adjourned to our rooms at the Fullerton Inn, located right next door.

The next morning, we ate breakfast at the Inn and caravanned to the Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center for a few hours of cross-country skiing.  After lunch by the fire in the lodge, we drove back to Chester and made our way to the Vermont Institute of Contemporary Arts for a book reading and signing.  VTICA is a stunning space, with canvases on every wall and natural light pouring in through skylights, and the Center was filled to capacity for the event.  Each writer was introduced by a member of the community, and the five readings were followed by a group Q & A.

The day concluded with a wine-and-cheese reception at the Fullerton Inn, and dinner in the dining room – during which I struck up a conversation with two couples from Amherst, Massachusetts!

Before leaving Chester yesterday morning, I stopped by Misty Valley Books to thank Lynne and Bill for orchestrating such a delightful weekend, and for offering so much support to newly-published writers.

 

In the mid-2000s, when I lived up the street from Porter Square Books, I’d visit the store at least once a week.  I’d spend the bulk of my time at the display shelf in the fiction section, where I discovered a lot of great books I wouldn’t know about otherwise.

It was great, therefore, to return to the store for my reading last night and see my book displayed prominently on that very shelf.  I was delighted with the turnout for the event, and happy to meet some of the up-and-coming writers in attendance after the Q & A.  Thanks so much to Nathan Hasson and everyone at Porter Square Books for hosting this event.

It was a treat to take a walk this morning, buy a copy of The Boston Globe, and see a profile on me and my work in the West section – thanks to Nancy Shohet West for including me in her article on writers living in the Boston suburbs.

Happy New Year! 2012 is off to a good start: the new issue of The Believer is out, and it includes my review of Ethel Rohan’s short story collection Cut Through the Bone. You can order a copy of the issue here, or read an excerpt from my review here.

Every day this month, I’ve been zooming over to The Millions to check in on their “Year in Reading” feature, which invites writers and artists to reflect on books they’ve read in 2011.  The list of contributors is amazing and eclectic – Ben Marcus, Jennifer Egan, former Guns n’ Roses’ bass player Duff McKagan and Charles Baxter, just to name a few.

I was delighted to be invited to contribute, and to see my post appear on the site a few days ago.  Also, thanks so much to Emily St. John Mandel, who reviewed HTKYVA this summer, for listing my novel as one of the best books she read this year.


Thanks to Ryan Rafferty for such a flattering review of my novel on The Lit Pub.  Mr. Rafferty calls HTKYVA “an essential manual for the romanticist in everyone.”  Please click here to read the review.

Lucia Silva, the book buyer at Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California, has chosen How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive as one of 2011’s freshest reads on NPR Books – she calls the novel “a heart-rich and mind-flexing journey that will satisfy readers looking for something truly new in fiction.”

The full recommendation, along with the complete list of booksellers’ picks for 2011 and the audio segment on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” is available here.