If All Arkansas Read the Same Book
Fort Smith author featured

Kristin Adams
Staff Writer

   Jennifer Paddock, a writer and Fort Smith native, will be visiting the UAM library on Sept. 20 to discuss her novel, "A Secret Word." Paddock will read excerpts from A Secret Word, talk about her life as a writer, and answer any questions from the audience.

Jennifer Paddock
   "A Secret Word" has been chosen as the featured book for the Center for the Book’s ongoing series of author programming held in libraries and bookstores throughout Arkansas.

   "'A Secret Word' is a remarkably subtle and nuanced coming of age novel which captures the dreamy rhythms of adolescence between staccato moments of crisis—as three perfectly ordinary and utterly memorable young southern women find themselves transported inexorably into the cosmopolitan landscape of womanhood," says "Bright Lights Big City" author Jay McInerney. "While many first novelists wave their arms and stamp their feet to get our attention, Jennifer Paddock seduces the reader with the narrative equivalent of a raised eyebrow or the almost imperceptible nod of the head. At the end the reader is inclined to ask of the writer as well as her characters—what’s next?"

   Paddock received her M.A. in creative writing from New York University, and her fiction has been published in Stories from the Blue Moon Café, The North American Review and Other Voices. She lives with her husband and fellow writer, Sidney Thompson in Fairhope, Ala.

   The book describes bonds between friends and family, and the growing up and growing apart that comes with age. It follows three young women from Fort Smith through their high school years and throughout their early thirties, when they finally go their separate ways in life.

   After sneaking off to Fort Smith’s Hardscrabble Country Club one day for lunch, the three friends observe a deadly car crash of their high school’s star running back. Because of this incident the three friends are forever bonded together, constantly coming in and out of each other’s lives. They depend on each other as they try to get through good-for-nothing jobs, low-life boyfriends, family, love and life in the big city.

   "A Secret Word is a rare gem of a book, distilled and heartbreaking, yet full of quiet grace that illuminates the page in extraordinary ways," "Willem’s Field" author Melinda Haynes says. "There is something about Paddock’s writing that defies conventional description. The closest word I can summon is 'magic.'"

   The Center for the Book’s statewide program, If All Arkansas Read the Same Book, was developed to encourage reading, discussions and adult programming in the state’s libraries. So far The Center for the Book has presented programming in 42 libraries and bookstores across the state.

   If All Arkansas Read the Same Book provided the catalyst for development of AETN public television’s program "On The Same Page" and KUAR Public Radio’s program, "Book Club of the Air." In addition, The Center for the Book received grant funding from the Arkansas Humanities Council and Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation in 2004 to present a program for area high school students at the Sufficient Grounds Coffeehouse in Little Rock in conjunction with Sandra Cisnero’s visit to Arkansas last spring.
More than 3,500 individuals have participated in book discussion programming in conjunction with If All Arkansas Read the Same Book.

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© The Voice, 2004
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