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Writing The Best Story You Can- Host Marsha Casper Cook

Marsha Casper Cook

Marsha Casper Cook

Call in to speak with the host – (714) 242-5259

Please join Marsha Casper Cook on Thursday, October 3 at 4EST 3 CST 2MT 1PST when her guests will be Jack Remick and Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Please join Marsha Casper Cook, Michigan Avenue Media, on Wednesday, October 3 at 4 EST 3 CST 2MT 1PST when her guests will be Jack Remick and Eleanor Parker Sapia.

Eleanor is the author of the multi-award-winning historical novel, A DECENT WOMAN, published by Winter Goose Publishing. Her debut novel, set in turn of the century Ponce, Puerto Rico, garnered Second Place for Best Latino Focused Fiction Book, English, at the 2017 International Latino Book Award with Latino Literacy Now. The book was awarded an Honorable Mention for Best Historical Fiction, English, at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now. A Decent Woman was selected as a Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club in 2015, and Eleanor is featured in the anthology, Latina Authors and Their Muses, edited by Mayra Calvani.

Jack is a celebrated storyteller, a poet, short story writer, and novelist, the author of Gabriela and The Widow–Montaigne Medal Finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award competition. Gabriela and The Widow–BOTYA Finalist. Gabriela and The Widow: Wins “Best Women’s Fiction” Orangeberry Hall of Fame Virtual Expo Satori, Poems, from Coffeetown Press was released on May 1, 2014.

For more info on the shows http://www.michiganavenuemedia.com




2016 International Latino Book Awards Finalists

Book Award LOGO & Image rgbI offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the Finalists of the 2016 International Latino Book Awards, and my gratitude to Latino Literacy Now for their continued dedication to Latino literature and to the Latino community. I’m deeply honored ‘A Decent Woman’ was selected as a Finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English.

“The Int’l Latino Book Awards is a major reflection that the fastest growing group in the USA has truly arrived. The Awards are now the largest Latino cultural Awards in the USA and with the 257 finalists this year, it has honored the greatness of 2,171 authors and publishers over the past two decades. These books are a great reflection that books by and about Latinos are in high demand. In 2016 Latinos will purchase over $675 million in books in English and Spanish. The 2016 Finalists for the 18th Annual Int’l Latino Book Awards are another reflection of the growing quality of books by and about Latinos. In order to handle this large number of books, the Awards had nearly 200 judges. The judges glowed more than ever about the high quality of the entries and how many great books there were. The Awards celebrates books in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Finalists are from across the USA and from 17 countries.”

Click below for the complete list of Finalists.




Award winning novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s career paths as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.

Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the award winning anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani. Eleanor is a proud member of Las Comadres Para Las Americas, PEN America, The National Association of Professional Women, and the Historical Novel Society. She is a contributing writer at Organic Coffee, Haphazardly Literary Society.

When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. She adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is at work on her second novel, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ and thinking about the sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’ titled, ‘Mistress of Coffee’.



Author Interview with Jonathan Marcantoni

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It is my great pleasure to welcome author, Jonathan Marcantoni to The Writing Life. I followed Jonathan on Twitter where we discovered a mutual friend–author, Mayra Calvani. I’d read Mayra’s interview with Jonathan a while back; it is indeed a small world. I am excited to read his Latino Crime Noir novel, The Feast of San Sebastian.

Jonathan Marcantoni is co-founder of Aignos Publishing, and author of Communion (with Jean Blasiar), Traveler’s Rest, The Feast of San Sebastian, and the upcoming Kings of 7th Avenue. His works focus on the struggles of Puerto Ricans on and off of the island. He is also the founder of the YouNiversity Project which helps college students learn about the publishing industry and prepare them for careers as professional authors. He lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife and three daughters.

Welcome, Jonathan!

What is your book’s genre/category?

Latino Crime Noir

Please describe what the story/book is about.

The Feast of San Sebastian is about a middleman, Ilan, who arranges illicit deals for drugs, guns, prostitutes, and anything else his clients need. A former human trafficker, he has distanced himself from that life, but the deals he now makes still haunt his conscience since he knows that he is contributing to the destruction of the country he loves, Puerto Rico. To appease his demons, he turns to drinking and gambling, which land him in debt to San Juan’s biggest crime boss, Antonio. Antonio respects Ilan and approaches him with a chance to free himself without having to pay back another dime: by arranging the assassination of Aurelio Oviedo Narvaez, the corrupt Superintendent of Police. The plot will force Ilan to face his past as a smuggler and confront the contradictions and consequences of his actions, which are a microcosm of the moral and political dilemmas which face all Puerto Ricans.   

How did you come up with the title?

The climax of the book is set during the Calle San Sebastian street festival, which leads up to the religious festival which gives the book its title. I chose that title for the contrast of religious ideology and theory going up against the corrupt reality of everyday life. It emphasizes how far the people in the book have strayed from living honorably and humanely.

What is the reason you wrote this book?

To educate people on and off of the island of these issues that are so often swept under the rug or deferred to someone else to deal with. Many Puerto Ricans are not even aware that human trafficking is such a huge problem, since the victims are most often the poor from rural communities or foreigners. In the case of the book, the victims are Haitians, who are subjected to extreme prejudice on the island. Our modern mentality is to dehumanize in order to defer responsibility for injustice. It is much easier to say that an atrocity is someone else’s problem, but the world is so interconnected, now more than ever, that everyone is guilty to some degree. Human trafficking occurs because we want cheap products and cheap thrills like drugs and prostitution. General society makes human trafficking possible, without the demand there would be no need to exploit people in this manner. So we are all at fault, including myself.  

What is your favorite part of writing?

That moment when you finish a scene and know intrinsically that you hit it out of the park. It does not happen often, so when it does, you savor it.

What is the most challenging aspect of writing?

Working with an editor and performing self-editing. The whole editing process really is painstaking and rarely fun. When your edits are done and you are happy with the book, the suffering pays off, but the editing process, second only to the post-publishing process of marketing and fighting for readers in a sea of indifference (which I consider to be a part of being a writer, but not of writing itself), is the most humbling part of writing, and therefore the most challenging.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

That is too long a list to name everyone, but briefly, Toni Morrison, Hubert Selby Jr., Julio Cortázar, Juan José Saer, Fernando Pessoa, José Saramago, Naguib Mahfouz, Gabriel Garcia Márquez, Luis Rafael Sanchez, Miguel de Unamuno, Julia de Burgos, Luis Llorens Torres, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, and Pablo Neruda, to name but a few.

What authors or person(s) have influenced you?

My biggest influences have been Cortázar and Selby Jr. I borrow a lot from both of them, but Saer wrote my favorite book of all time, El Entenado, and his combination of poetry, horror, and philosophy is something I am moving toward. My newest works keep inching more and more toward allegory and spiritual meditation, not in a new agey way, but in a thoughtful way. My books so far have been very much about photo-realism, capturing life as it is. But now I am most interested in the transcendence of human nature and that internal struggle to be more than what society offers.

Favorite place to write?

I do not have the luxury to have a single place to do my creative work. I am a father and husband with a day job who also co-owns a publishing house, I am all over the place. So I write where I can, though I will say that music being present is a necessity, no matter where I am, even if it is just a tune in my head, music has to be present. 

Something personal about you people may be surprised to know? My day job is in the military, which is especially contradicting because I am a Puerto Rican independentista with an ideology similar to the macheteros, but you do what you have to do to make a living, I suppose. Even Albizu Campos served in the military, it is an honorable thing. I do not find it prevents me from believing in and supporting a free Puerto Rican nation. 

Any surprises or learning experiences with the publishing process?

Well, I have had the great opportunity of being an author, editor, editor in chief, and co-owner of a publishing house, so I have experienced publishing at every stage. I can say the biggest thing I have learned is to be patient and to be educated. The more you know about the process, the less of a headache it is. A lot of frustrations writers have come from a sense of entitlement that at times is essential, since you should not be a push over and having a sense of self-worth prevents a lot of people from taking advantage of you, but at other times gives both you and other writers a bad name. A writer must know when to be headstrong and when to be humble. Too many writers think because they do not get the world handed to them on a platter, especially the first time out, that publishers are evil or just want to hurt them and their work. There are legitimately bad publishers, but most of them are the biggest champions of literature and who love books in the sincerest, most profound way possible. But publishers have to always keep an eye on the business side of writing, as much as they want to be all about the art, they cannot do that and stay in business. Many writers resent the business side, but that is essential if you want this to be your profession.

Looking back, what did you do right that helped you with this book?

I guess I did not burn the wrong bridges. Had I, I do not think the book would have come out. I met the right people to support this kind of story and cultivated those relationships, and that is perhaps the biggest reason you are interviewing me right now. Had I been like I was at age 19, when I had my first paid writing gig, I doubt I could land a publisher. I had to humble myself and build friendships to have the opportunities afforded me today.

Any advice for writers looking to get published?

Get educated about the process so that your expectations are realistic. The more measured you can be about the process the better. Clear minds win good deals, and I do not mean that as solely financial. I mean working with the kind of people who fit you and your aesthetic. It may mean you are not making six figures as a writer, but a lot of writers who get the big bonuses end up with books being released that do not reflect their vision, where they had to make big sacrifices in the name of marketability. There is nothing wrong with being marketable, as long as you can live with the sacrifices. Even at a good company, cuts and changes will be made, but when you work with the right people, those changes will not only be less painful, you will find once you do them that you love them. But you need that team, I am a stickler for the team that a publisher gives a writer. That is why so many self-published books are awful, writers take the whole vision thing to an extreme that only feeds their ego. So find that community of people who force you to make the tough decisions because they are right for your story and right for you, and be willing to get your hands dirty promoting the hell out of the book that you and your publisher have put together, that is the only way people will take notice of you. 


YouNiversity Project and Facebook and Twitter.

Where can we find your book?

The Feast of San Sebastian is available in English at Amazon.com and in Spanish as an ebook at Casa del Libro. The book is also available for sale at La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York City and Twig Book Shop in San Antonio, TX.

What’s next for you?

I am currently, along with author Chris Campanioni, heading the YouNiversity Project. We have three amazing students, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood from Eastern Michigan University, and Julia Horniacek from Ramapo College, who are embarking on a year-long journey where we will assist them in writing a query letter, building up a web presence on social media, networking with other writers, publishers, agents, graphic artists, and radio personalities to learn about the interconnected world of publishing and entertainment, and workshopping their own writing so that by next year, they can begin seeking out publishers and/or agents.

I also have a new book coming out, Kings of 7th Avenue, which is a surrealistic drama set on the Tampa club scene that explores the effects of misogyny and abuse on individuals and society. I am also working on a Spanish novel for Araña Editorial.

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Thanks for a super interview, Jonathan! It was an honor to have you with us today.