Marissa Bell Toffoli

Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Interview With Writer Antoine Laurain

In author interview, books, fiction, journalism, writing on October 3, 2013 at 8:22 am
Antoine Laurain. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2013).

Antoine Laurain. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2013).

An introduction to Antoine Laurain, author of the novel The President’s Hat (Gallic, 2013; originally Le Chapeau de Mitterrand). A fifth-generation Parisian, Laurain is a journalist, screenwriter, director, antiques collector, and novelist. His previous books include Ailleurs si j’y suis, Fume et tue, and Carrefour des Nostalgies. Talking with Laurain after he arrived in the US to begin his book tour, there was an air of excitement to the uncommonly sunny San Francisco day. A certain light shown through his personality befitting of the afternoon and the thoughtful playfulness behind The President’s Hat. There was already a hint of the surreal in the atmosphere before Laurain shared a story about the cover for the French edition of the book. After, there was nothing to do but marvel at how fiction and reality mingle in unexpected ways:  Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview With Writer Deanne Stillman

In author interview, books, essays, fiction, journalism, nonfiction, writing on August 16, 2013 at 11:58 am
Deanne Stillman

Deanne Stillman. Photo courtesy of the author.

An introduction to Deanne Stillman, author of Desert Reckoning: A Town Sheriff, A Mojave Hermit, and the Biggest Manhunt in Modern California History. Her previous books include Mustang and Twentynine Palms. Stillman is a member of the core faculty at the UC Riverside-Palm Desert Low Residency MFA Creative Writing Program. When asked how she balances content with form, Stillman shared, “Place drives everything; in my stories, the desert or the land shapes the story and the characters, and often is a character itself.”

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Interview With Writer Bruce Littlefield

In books, humor, journalism, memoir, nonfiction, writing on July 10, 2013 at 11:47 am
Bruce Littlefield (and Westminster). Photo courtesy of the author (and dog).

Bruce Littlefield (and Westminster). Photo courtesy of the author (and dog).

An introduction to Bruce Littlefield, author of Moving In: Tales of an Unlicensed Marriage, which chronicles the first year of home ownership with his partner of 20 years, Scott Stewart. Littlefield’s other books include Airstream LivingGarage Sale America, Merry Christmas AmericaThe Bedtime Book for Dogs and the best-selling My Two Moms (written with civil rights advocate Zach Wahls), and Use What You’ve Got (written with ABC Shark Tank star Barbara Corcoran). Originally from South Carolina, Bruce has designed and owned two award-winning restaurants, and Edgewater Farm, his 1940’s Catskills farmhouse, which he renovated and decorated himself, has been featured in numerous publications. Bruce’s number one tip for a happy life is, “Laugh. A lot!”

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Interview With Writer Peter Mehlman

In books, essays, film, humor, journalism, nonfiction, TV, writing on April 17, 2013 at 1:56 pm
Peter Mehlman. Photo courtesy of the author.

Peter Mehlman. Photo courtesy of the author.

An introduction to Peter Mehlman, author of Mandela Was Late: Odd things & essays from the Seinfeld writer who coined yada, yada, and made spongeworthy a compliment (The Sager Group, 2013). Mehlman is a multiple Primetime Emmy Award nominee, known for his work on the sitcom Seinfeld. He has won acclaim for his NPR commentaries and hilarious and poignant op-eds and personal essays in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Huffington Post, and Esquire. Host of the Webby-nominated YouTube series Narrow World of Sports, Mehlman grew up in Queens, New York, graduated from the University of Maryland, and now lives in Los Angeles. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview With Writer & Photographer Tom Carter

In art, essays, journalism, nonfiction, photography, travel, writing on December 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm
Tom Carter

Tom Carter. Photo courtesy of the author.

An introduction to travel writer and photographer Tom Carter, whose recent book CHINA: Portrait of a People is being hailed as the most comprehensive book of photography on modern China published by a single author. The book is organized by region with thoughtful descriptions for photos that offer a candid and moving glimpse of life in China. As Carter says in the introduction, “Where I have been, you will be; what I have seen, you will see.” Carter, who is originally from San Francisco, California, is now at work on a few books, including another photo book, INDIA: Portrait of a People. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview With Writer Bill Hutchinson

In books, journalism, memoir, writing on September 14, 2012 at 11:03 am
Bill Hutchinson

Bill Hutchinson. Photo by Lisa Amand.

An introduction to journalist Bill Hutchinson, the author of the memoir Sushi and Black-Eyed Peas (TheWriteDeal e-leaf, 2012). A senior writer for the New York Daily News, Hutchinson has also worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald, the Fresno Bee, the Contra Costa Sun and the Daily Ledger-Post Dispatch in the California Delta. Hutchinson grew up in Central California, the youngest son of an Okinawan mother and a Black, Irish Cherokee father. He began to write his memoir because “too many kinfolk were dying and taking great stories to their graves.” Read the rest of this entry »

Interview With Writer Jim Lynch

In books, fiction, journalism, writing on August 24, 2012 at 1:29 pm
Jim Lynch

Jim Lynch. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2012).

An introduction to Jim Lynch, author of Truth Like the Sun (Knopf, 2012), Border Songs, and The Highest Tide. Lynch’s history as a journalist shines through in his new novel, and in the delightful, conversational, and inquisitive way he manages to draw you out while you’re interviewing him. Lynch shared that his latest book “started with my desire to write a very urban novel . . . I also wanted to write a book about power and ambition, and journalists and politicians—all the gray morality involved in all that.” So yes, it would be easy to say this book is about politics, journalism, and cities, and leave it at that. What has stayed with me after reading it is that in its heart Truth Like the Sun is about people and growing up. Nobody’s perfect, and you can’t escape who you are; you can’t escape the past. Part of growing up, no matter how long it takes, is recognizing those things, and that goes for people and cities.  As Lynch explained, and his characters illustrate, it is not easy “to size people up and try to boil down their integrity into a nice, neat newspaper article.” There’s always more than one side to a story. Read the rest of this entry »

Interview With Writer Mehrdad Balali

In books, censorship, fiction, journalism, writing on December 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Mehrdad Balali

Mehrdad Balali. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2011).

An introduction to Mehrdad Balali, author of the debut novel Houri (The Permanent Press). Originally from Iran, Balali spent 17 years living in the US before returning to his homeland to work as a journalist in 1991. A decade later, Balali’s press pass was revoked and he was banned from working as a journalist in Iran. He continued to cover events in the Middle East for international news agencies, including writing about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and ultimately returned to the US in 2005 to write fiction.

In Houri, Balali relays a coming of age story about Shahed, an Iranian boy raised in poverty, who finds himself constantly torn between his devoted mother and his larger-than-life, exciting, but often thoughtless, father. Despite all odds, Shahed is able to move to the US for college, where he struggles to make his way as a young man. When Shahed returns to Iran for his father’s funeral, the story unfolds as Shahed confronts childhood memories and a drastically changed Iran. Stark scenes informed by the journalist’s experiences underpin Balali’s engaging and moving novel. Shahed’s tale is rooted in Iran’s history, full of life and heartache.

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Interview With Writer Sheida Mohamadi

In books, censorship, journalism, poetry, translation, writing on August 24, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Sheida Mohamadi

Sheida Mohamadi. Photo by Marissa Bell Toffoli (2011).

Editor’s Note
I publish these interviews to explore the different ways writing sculpts the lives of writers—young and old, emerging and established, writers in all genres and from around the world. Iranian journalist, poet, and novelist Sheida Mohamadi’s story is especially interesting to me as a case for how critical it is to find a way to fight for what matters to you. I admire what she has given in pursuit of her beliefs, and in hope of creating change in the world. Talking with Sheida reminded me how undeniably lucky I am to have been born in a place where freedom of expression is a mainstay of society, in an era when striving for equal rights does not necessitate risking the loss of my life, and I am not in danger of being exiled for my art. This interview is substantially longer than others because of my deep interest in understanding more about what it means to live as an artist under censorship. Read the rest of this entry »

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