Florida LitLife – July Edition

Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins, left. pictured here with Frank Ocean, will be adapting a James Baldwin classic.
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Each month, we round up the most important local and Florida-related literary news, and a few highlights from around the country and world. Here’s your July helping.

Barry Jenkins will reportedly follow up Moonlight with a James Baldwin film adaptation. Without a doubt the highest-profile Florida-made film in recent memory, Moonlight has elevated Miami director Barry Jenkins to national heavyweight status. For his next project, he’ll be adapting James Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk. Even more exciting for some, though, will be the Guardian’s revelation that Jenkins is also at work on an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s surreal parable The Underground Railroad.

LitSpace Spotlights its Teachers. Keep St. Pete Lit’s weekly roster of low-cost writing courses is one of the best resources for writers in Pinellas (though I’m admittedly biased – I serve on KSPL’s board). The organization has started helping prospective students choose between the many offerings by publishing brief profiles of their teachers, including poet Eleanor Eichenbaum.

Brit Chism recently celebrated the release of his book Mnemosyne’s Daughters, published through local imprint Breaking Rules Publishing. The book focuses on the challenges facing women in contemporary society, and Chism is a longtime LitSpace student, whom we recently spoke to as part of our Pride coverage.

Local Read: Growing Up Floridian, by Michael Taylor. Creative Loafing recently highlighted this 2016 book by a local author, who grew up in Indiantown, Fla., and also chronicles his years in Pinellas. It’s available via Amazon here, or at the Gulfport Historical Society.

Tampa Review Short Story Contest has announced its Dec. 31 deadline. The University of Tampa’s literary journal has a national profile, but the more local submissions they get for their annual contest, the more likely they are to give someone you know their due. Spread the word — this is a valuable opportunity for talented writers.

National and World Highlights:

Chinese poet, critic, and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Liu Xiabo died in China on July 13. Liu famously participated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, and he died in Chinese state custody. His death has been taken by some as a sign of China’s continued recalcitrance on human rights issues.

In sardonically related Chinese literary news, a collection of Mao Zedong’s literary notes, made while under tutelage in the Chinese classics, were sold at Sotheby’s this month for $910,000.

On a more upbeat note for most, far-right firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos is battling reports that his debut book, after being dropped by Simon and Schuster in February, has sold a mere 20,000 copies. He has called the reports “fake news.”

Finally, the Voynich Manuscript is regarded as one of the greatest literary mysteries of all time. Hand-illuminated in the 15th century, the book is written in a code that has proven uncrackable for more than a century. Now, a scholar claims that the author was an Italian Jew, based on clues in the book’s illustrations. However, the book’s code and contents remain a mystery.

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