Manhattanville Reid Castle In the Spring

A Book Launch with Manhattanville College Professor Joanna Clapps Herman
Monday, 17 March 2014 13:14

Joanna Clapps HermanJoanna Clapps Herman, professor of Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Manhattanville College, has published a new collection of short stories, “No Longer and Not Yet.”

The new collection, an assortment of stories set on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has been recognized for its intricacies and elegance since its release in January. Myra Goldberg, professor of writing at Sarah Lawrence College, called the collection “beautifully connected stories” that are both “exquisite and transparent”.

“The book coming out is a bittersweet moment, but proud of what this book has become,” said Herman. “I feel that it really does represent a certain aspect of the Upper West Side, I mean God it’s so well known, it’s the setting of television shows and movies and yet, I feel the one thing those narratives do not capture is the small town feel. If you live there long enough you know everybody and everybody knows you, and these connections grow and that’s what the book captures. ”

Herman has been a resident of the neighborhood for much of her adult life and the stories represent the people she and her late husband Bill, whom the collection is dedicated to along with her son, saw each day. A Professor of Literature, Herman’s husband was her writing partner and died as the collection was sent for publication, not being able to see the final version of the book based on their life together.

“No Longer and Not Yet” is an absorbing collection of stories focused on weaving the characters together by ribbons of connection. The doorman, the homeless woman from the park, the ghost of Hannah Ardent, and a lone hawk in the city are some of the characters represented within the twenty-five interwoven stories.

For the collection Herman pulled information from her daily life to strike that first idea. Many of the stories began from little invaluable notes she wrote down through the years filled with the nuances of life. For Herman, one of the most important skills for a writer to master is the ability to expand a snippet of reality into a completely different story.

“Keeping that line between reality and imagination is vital,” Herman punctuates with a snap of her fingers. “When you’re writing you don’t want fact after fact, you need images and fantasy, always pulling material from the world around you.”A map of where

Yet, an author can never know how much material they will need. In fact, many stories for the collection Herman began over a decade ago, got very close to publishing, and then put them away. Then a couple of years ago she began re-writing, cleaning up stories, and adding new interstices to strengthen the connection between pieces. She color coded characters, covered her desk and office in printed pages, and broke her stories into sentence fragments to merely re-build them once again.

“When you are that deep in the work it is a complete joy, there are many phases of writing that twenty years ago I wouldn’t have felt capable of”, said Herman, “But now, I know how to climb that mountain.”

Herman has previously published her memoir, “The Anarchist Bastard” and two anthologies, “Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana” and “Our Roots Are Deep with Passion.”  In addition to teaching at Manhattanville she is also a fellow at the Writers’ Institute at the CUNY Graduate Center.

There will be a book launch on Monday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. in the East Library, Reid Hall featuring Herman reading excerpts from the collection at 7 p.m. For more information on her or “No Longer and Not Yet” visit her website.