Friday, January 14, 2011

BookTalk: A Community Reads Charming Billy

Those of you who are members of The Writer's Center or who've read our most recent Workshop & Event Guide know that local author Alice McDermott’s National Book Award-winning novel Charming Billy (1998) is the first selection for BookTalk: A Community Reads. A new program at The Writer’s Center—one for which we've received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts—BookTalk brings readers and writers together in conversation on a single book. Our hope is that by reading a single book we'll be able to enjoy the experience of a book club--including breaking down how the book was written. How can you participate in BookTalk?

How you can participate in BookTalk:
  • Go to and “join” the BookTalk discussion forum (it’s like signing up for a workshop, except it’s free). The Writer's Center's Kyle Semmel will moderate the discussion. But it's not a workshop per se: It's a discussion. That means it'll be an open forum for the discussion of ideas about the book. Themes. Characterization. Structure. All topics are open for discussion. Register for the discussion here.
  • At the time of registration, purchase the book using your 30% off twc member discount (or for those of you who use electronic readers, download the book at your site of choice).
  • Beginning the first week of February, Kyle will post questions about the book online and at our Facebook fan page and our Twitter feed.
  • Listen to TWC’s Charming Billy podcast in February. That show will feature Alice McDermott in conversation with literary agent and workshop leader Shannon O'Neill.
  • Meet the author and her “stage adapter,” Round House Theatre's Artistic Director Blake Robison, at The Writer’s Center on February 20 for the culminating BookTalk event beginning on February 20. You can register for this free event here.
In addition, you can attend the stage adaptation of Charming Billy at Round House Theatre all through February. (BUT PLEASE NOTE: In order to attend the stage version of the Round House play you will have to purchase tickets at Round House's Web site. There is no discount for TWC members or BookTalk participants. The stage production runs from February 2-20.) On February 20, you can join the post-play panel discussion of Charming Billy at Round House Theatre.*

About Charming Billy:
Alice McDermott’s 1998 National Book Award-winning novel portrays the tragic life of Billy Lynch, an Irish American who comes of age in New York City during the latter part of the twentieth century. It opens at his funeral where several of his friends and relatives gather to recall Billy’s life within his tight-knit Irish Catholic, Queens community. As they come to offer support to his long-suffering widow Maeve, they celebrate his poetic, gentle soul and mourn his descent into the alcoholism that eventually killed him.
Alice McDermott was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1953. Her first novel, A Bigamists’ Daughter, was published to wide acclaim in 1982. That Night (1987), her second novel, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In his cover review for The New York Times Book Review, David Leavitt called That Night “an original, a work that revels in a rich, discursive prose style that belongs entirely to Alice McDermott.” A film version of That Night was produced by Warner Bros. and released in the spring of 1992. At Weddings and Wakes (1992), her third novel, became a New York Times bestseller. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times praised McDermott’s “rich, supple prose” and Bruce Bawer called At Weddings and Wakes “a haunting and masterly work of literary art” in his review for The Wall Street Journal.
* Tickets for the performance of Charming Billy must be purchased through the Round House Theatre box office at 240-644-1100 or

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