Ed Meek, Anne Ipsen, Robert McKean, Beth Castrodale

A young bartender in the North End finds himself complicit in the breakdown of his housemate’s relationship with his girlfriend; a married, middle-aged professor of composition abjectly crumbles under the stress of his affair with a beautiful student.  In his debut fiction collection, poet Ed Meek vividly reimagines a gritty, freewheeling 1970s Boston whose cynical, impulsive  inhabitants--torn between the longing for human connection and the fear of domesticity--negotiate the blurry boundaries of personal responsibility. With these deceptively mundane accounts of ordinary lives in transition, Meek paints a humane, subtle portrait of ordinary people grasping at explanations for the things they do.

Ed Meek is the author of three books of poetry and a collection of short stories coming out soon. He also writes articles, reviews and commentary. His work has appeared in many magazines, journals and newspapers including The Paris Review, The North American Review, Cream City Review, The Boston Review, The Sun, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald.  He taught composition, creative writing and literature at Austin Prep School. At Curry College he directed the First Year Seminar Program and taught in the English Department. He is a Writing Coach for College Solutions. He lives in Somerville with his wife Elizabeth.

Anne Ipsen is a writer, speaker, and environmentalist. She is the author of two memoirs and four historical novels. More recently, Anne’s interests have turned to the environment and the looming climate change disasters. Accordingly, her current novel, Green Valley, takes place in the near future and describes a rural community that models a resilient way of life as New England leads the Carbon Revolution. Together with the historical “Concord” sequence, this twenty-first century cli-fi novel is a multi-generational trilogy of a Massachusetts family.

Before leaving academia in order to write full-time, Dr. Ipsen was Professor of Public Health at the University of Minnesota. She and her husband now live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They have three children and five grandchildren.

The setting for McKean’s fiction is in and around Ganaego, Pennsylvania, a steel-mill company town in Western Pennsylvania. Over the decades that his fiction spans, the characters, who appear and reappear from story to story, form a diverse ethnic, racial, and generational stew of lives and passions. The themes of McKean’s work embrace the existential quarrels we all have with life: coming to a realization of ourselves as unique beings, negotiating our passage with others, accepting responsibility, dealing with failure, disappointment, and bereavement, and striving for happiness and wisdom. He is currently working on a historical novel of the Little Steel Strike, May 1937.

Robert McKean’s novel, The Catalog of Crooked Thoughts, was awarded first prize in Methodist University’s Longleaf Press Novel Contest and was published January 2017. A Pushcart Nominee, McKean has had work published in numerous journals, such as The Kenyon Review, The Chicago Review, Dublin Quarterly, Armchair/Shotgun, The MacGuffin, 34th Parallel, Crack the Spine, Border Crossing, Kindred (forthcoming), The Flexible Persona (forthcoming), and elsewhere. He has been awarded a Massachusetts Artist’s Grant for his fiction. His collection of stories was a Finalist in the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. Another novel of his was a Semi-Finalist in the Peter Taylor Prize for the Novel.

In February of 1931, Marion Hatley steps off a train and into the small town of Cooper’s Ford, hoping she’s left her big-city problems behind. She plans to trade the bustling hubbub of a Pittsburgh lingerie shop for the orderly life of a village schoolteacher. More significantly, she believes she’ll be trading her reputation-tainting affair with a married man for the dutiful quiet of tending to her sick aunt. Underpinning her hopes for Cooper’s Ford is Marion’s dream of bringing the daily, private trials of all corset-wearing women—especially working women—to an end, and a beautiful one at that.

Instead, she confronts new challenges: a mysteriously troubled student; frustrations in attempts to create a truly comfortable corset; and, most daunting, her ailing aunt. Once a virtual stranger to Marion, her aunt holds the key to old secrets whose revelation could change the way Marion sees her family and herself.

As her problems from Pittsburgh threaten to resurface in Cooper’s Ford, Marion finds herself racing against time to learn the truth behind these secrets and to get to the bottom of her student’s troubles. Meanwhile, Marion forms a bond with a local war veteran. But her past, and his, may be too much to sustain a second chance at happiness.

Beth Castrodale started out as a newspaper reporter and editor, then transitioned to book publishing, serving for many years as an editor for an academic press. She has completed three novels: Marion Hatley, a finalist for a 2014 Nilsen Prize for a First Novel from Southeast Missouri State University Press; Gold River; and In This Ground, an excerpt of which was a shortlist finalist for a 2014 William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Award. Beth recommends literary fiction on her website SmallPressPicks.com, and she has published stories in Printer’s Devil Review, The Writing Disorder, Marathon Literary Review, and Mulberry Fork Review. She lives in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.

Event date: 
Monday, June 19, 2017 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Porter Square Books
25 White St.
Cambridge, MA 02140