City of reading 

Writing, as any writer will tell you, is hard work. Writing books that other people actually publish is even harder. So the odds that a mother and daughter might both wind up making lives for themselves as writers are pretty long.

But that’s how life has turned out for Barbara Shoup and Kate Shoup. Both women work as writers, albeit in different parts of the ink-stained vineyard.

Barbara Shoup is an award-winning novelist whose books include Vermeer’s Daughter, Stranded in Harmony and Wish You Were Here. Her latest, out this month, is Everything You Want.

Daughter Kate works full-time as a freelance editor and author. Among her books are The Agassi Story, Not Your Mama’s Beading and Webster’s New World English Grammar Handbook. Kate also has a book out in May: Rubbish!: Reuse Your Refuse.

The Shoups talked with NUVO about their respective careers at the Broad Ripple home where Barbara lives — and where Kate grew up.

Barbara: I always say Kate is the writer who actually makes a living writing — and I think that’s just amazing. I’ve never been able to do that. I also think it’s amusing because if you’d asked Kate what she wanted to do in high school, she would have said, “I don’t want to be like my mom.”

Kate: What’s interesting is that I do a very different kind of writing from my mom. That’s why I’m able to earn a living at it, because I don’t think Mom really wants to write about Windows Vista. As much as I enjoy writing about some of the things I write about, like the book coming out, Rubbish, I don’t enjoy everything. Sometimes I feel like a real hack. But what I really like is the life it affords me. It’s not that I think I’m a consummate writer. I don’t consider myself an artist. Writing’s my job.

Barbara: The kind of writing I do is very much, in a way, like reading. You get into the story and you don’t really know where you’re going. You’re following the thread and trying to figure out what the story is. It just takes years instead of hours.

Kate: I’m so proud of my mom. I think it’s the coolest thing when her stuff comes out. When she won the PEN award a few years ago, my sister and I went to New York to watch her accept it — and there she was on stage with Philip Roth! I’ve always felt privileged because Mom’s let me look at her drafts. It’s been fascinating and instructive. I learned a lot from all that. I love what she’s done.

Barbara: I think it takes a terrific amount of discipline to do what Kate does. I have a lot of respect for the clarity of her writing. It’s clean and readable in the best sense. She has a strong voice and a great sense of humor.

Kate (on Rubbish): It’s a craft book and it’s about making beautiful things out of things that would normally be thrown away — found objects. Often publishers come to me with ideas for books, but I had the idea for this one, proposed it and they bought it. I’m also trying to tie in to the idea of being green in a way that doesn’t force people to think in terms of all or nothing. I wanted to explore a way of being green without having to buy a new car and never shaving your armpits again.

Barbara (on Everything You Want): This is a book about a family that is very much like my own family that wins $50 million playing lotto cash and things turn wacky. The funny thing is that the voice the story’s told in is Kate’s voice.


City of reading

Books read and recommended

NUVO asked some local book lovers to tell us about what they’re reading, and to turn us on to some good books. Here’s what they told us.

Mari Evans, poet and author

Of all the incredible material I’ve read in the last three or four months, the one that absolutely refuses to leave me is John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Some of us, unashamedly, accept the label “conspiracy theorist” — wear it, in fact, as a hairshirt. And this is the reason Perkins gets two thumbs up: He validates us. Hit Man is a jaw-dropping experience. One almost forgets to breathe. The sub-conscious keeps arguing, “This can’t be true.” We know our country is capable of the unconscionable — waterboarding, defoliation, etcetera — but you must kidding, not this! It’s there in black and white. Read it yourself. Then call a friend.

Then there is Zdena Berger’s Tell Me Another Morning, an autobiographical account of the ways young girls experienced “life” in several concentration camps in Germany during the 1940s. One is in an emotional vise during the time it takes to finish Morning. Don’t start it until you are ready to commit, because, however clichéd, you won’t be able to put it down.

A captivating segue: Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things. Exquisitely crafted, tantalizingly layered, the imagery wild, almost feverish — one can hardly keep one’s fingers from Roy’s elbow: “Come on, now — let us in! We’re trying to contain ourselves, but this level of suspense is unfair. After all, these are kids.” Small Things forces us through beautiful, painful, mysterious, confusing doors into facets of the human condition we’d just as soon not discover, nor rethink. It is tender, as well as brutal. Having walked its pages, however, we find ourselves almost obsequious for having had the privilege.

Finally, there is the absurdity of exporting democracy by force, which, of itself, is an oxymoron. Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City is a troublesome read. It raises more questions than it answers, as it provides access to the Washington mindset that presumes to send Americans, often without the requisite expertise, into occupied territory charged with the task of restructuring and reshaping indigenous ways of doing and being into a replication of American modes and practices. The assignment, which would seem doomed from the outset, leaves one naively wondering how so much can so thoughtlessly go wrong when American intellectual competence is far from being as limited and insensitive as our performance in Iraq suggests.

Ken Honeywell, partner, Well Done Marketing

I’ve read a pile of great books recently, including Dave Eggers’ What Is the What and Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children and Marisha Pessl’s amazing first novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics. I just finished David N. Meyer’s excellent new biography of Gram Parsons, Twenty Thousand Roads. Now I’m in the middle of Jeffery Eugenides’ Middlesex. I have Tree of Smoke, the new Denis Johnson novel, on my nightstand, but my wife Becky just read Middlesex, and she needs to talk about it. I’m only too happy to oblige.

But I’m most excited about having finished Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, an urban fantasy set in an alternate New York. It’s the story of Peter Lake, a time-traveling, Christ-like figure obsessed with justice; his nemesis Pearly Soames, leader of the Short Tails, the most notorious gang in turn-of-the-century Manhattan; the beautiful, consumptive Beverly Penn, love of Peter Lake’s life, whom he meets while burgling her house; and Athansor, the flying white horse … I’d never been able to get through it, but, this time, the magic took. Winter’s Tale is a handful — two hands full, actually — but it’s a magnificent, crazily inventive, deeply moving piece of magic realism. My advice is to begin now: it may take you a decade or more to finish, but it’s worth every false start.

David Hamilton, federal judge

Just finished FDR, a new biography of Roosevelt by Jean Edward Smith. It’s a detailed and fair portrait of the greatest president of the 20th century. We were lucky to have the right person in the right place at the right time.

I’m in the midst of Making Sense of Normandy by E. Carver McGriff, the retired minister of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church of Indianapolis. Dr. McGriff served as a young infantryman in Normandy. He has written the most frank and compassionate account of combat that I’ve ever read. He has wrestled candidly with the meaning and lack of meaning of these experiences for him and his fellow soldiers — how they have affected his Christian faith and have given him more appreciation for our human strengths and compassion for our flaws. Not enough veterans have written books like this, and I don’t expect to find a better one.

I’m also making my way slowly through the last Harry Potter book, but more out of a sense of duty than anything else. It’s not as much fun as the previous books, but I feel the need for closure!

Next up will be What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe, the newest volume in the Oxford History of the United States. It’s a history of the U.S. in the formative years from 1815 to 1848, and I’ll read it primarily on the strength of the prior volumes in the series, which also included James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom and David Kennedy’s Freedom from Fear.

On the fiction side, I have to mention The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte, a fun mystery-thriller about a Spanish art dealer and an early Renaissance painting that provides a clue to a mysterious death centuries ago. I’ve also loved Ian MacEwan’s powerful novel Saturday, which has the added attraction of providing a literary treatment of a squash match!

Katie Zarich, public relations manager, Indianapolis Museum of Art

Lately, I’ve been consumed by my law school textbooks. I’m taking election law this semester, which seems fitting since it’s a presidential election year. Between work and my classes, I have very little time to read for fun. But I don’t have the discipline to put down a good book when I should be reading for class.

Since being green is quite popular these days, and since I’ve been interested in the permanence of the stuff left over by humanity, the last book I read for pleasure was The World Without Us by Alan Weisman. I’ll never look at plastic grocery bags the same way again.

Next up in the queue, I plan to read Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace … One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. My friend George Srour has been building schools in Africa after founding Building Tomorrow, and I’d love it if he’d write his own book about his experiences sometime soon.

I soon hope to read Ask the Pilot by Patrick Smith because I don’t particularly like to fly, and I’ve heard the book is reassuring. Plus, I’ve heard Smith’s writing is outstanding. I was visiting my college roommate once, and her dad, who is an amateur pilot, was shocked that I didn’t want to take a tour of Tulsa in his little airplane. Flying for me is tolerable, not fun.

Rhet Lickliter, artist

I just finished A Witch’s Dictionary by Sarah Kennedy, Elixir Press 2007. This is a staggering collection of poems focused on the historical theme of witches, witch hunts, trials, torture and death.

Comparisons are made with deftness and accuracy to our current war on terror. Kennedy has it all working for her — accurate history, well developed form, masterful control of language. These poems are powerful and arresting as Kennedy wisely avoids opinions and generalizations. Her ability to join beautiful language with horrific history and imagery reminds me of watching a mushroom cloud in slow motion set to a pastoral sound track and realizing suddenly I’m observing total destruction. Maybe that’s not a very good analogy. Anyway, read these poems.

Shauta Marsh, Big Car Gallery

I grew up cutting my wisdom teeth on Stephen King, poetry by Charles Bukowski and graphic novels put out by Fantagraphics like Black Hole by Charles Burns. Let’s just say I have a love for the awkward. For those reasons I always have a graphic novel, a poetry book and a novel going.

Currently, the graphic novel is the dark and violent Chance In Hell by Gilbert Hernandez, about an orphan girl who grows up at a Mexican city dump.

I found out about the novel I’m reading in The Believer — a magazine that always has good book suggestions. It reviewed Mike Segretto’s The Bride of Trash, a dark comedy about an old man named Wizzer who runs a junk shop. After discovering the decapitated body of a beautiful woman in his front yard, he takes the body inside, puts a mannequin head on her and, well, starts a relationship. Don’t worry: They become friends first. It’s all consensual. I swear, it’s not as bad as it sounds. A hilarious book.

I carry poetry in my purse for any kind of waiting I might have to do. Now it’s Pain Fantasy by Chicago poet and Martinsville native Jason Bredle. I’ll leave you with an excerpt from his poem “The Idiot’s Guide to Faking Your Own Death and Moving to Mexico”:

Every few seconds I check the Bible / to see what Jesus is saying about me. The answer / is always nothing. Sometimes / he’s condemning me to eternal damnation, / but usually nothing. Tonight I’m alone, / wearing my sex shorts …

Tim Harmon, neighborhood activist

I love books! I love to see, feel, smell and, of course, read books. I even went so far as to publish a few myself. My love started over 40 years ago with Vonnegut and Brautigan. I then found Bukowski, simply amazing. I was hooked forever. As the years went on I read more and more, expanding my world beyond my wildest dreams. It’s hard to say, but I suppose John Steinbeck’s East Of Eden is my all time favorite book. I love Indiana’s own Haven Kimmel and her memories of Zippy. Last book I read was Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovski, a wonderful story of the German occupation of Paris during World War II. I believe the author died in Auschwitz, and that the manuscript was only recently found and translated. I hope I’m not wrong about that. I’m currently reading Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. I bought it at Menard’s Home Improvement Center on the Southside of town. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better home improvement than books. More and more books!

Juana Watson, senior advisor for Latino and immigrant affairs, Office of Gov. Mitch Daniels

I was born in a village situated high in the Sierra Madre


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