Sybil Baker, author of Talismans, Launches her Blog Tour!

Monday, December 06, 2010
& Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you've been following The Muffin for a while, you probably remember Sybil Baker's first tour with WOW for The Life Plan. We had such a fantastic time that we were thrilled when Sybil decided to tour with us again for her latest book Talismans, a compelling collection of linked stories that's been described as a contemporary Heart of Darkness. I'm particularly excited about this tour because I love short story collections, and the idea of having linked short stories in one book is something I'm really interested in as an aspiring author.

Sybil Baker spent twelve years teaching in South Korea prior to accepting a position as an assistant professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga after earning her MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. During her extensive travels throughout Asia, she became increasingly interested in the allure and alienation of American travelers and expatriates, and this has heavily influenced her writing. She is the author of Talismans (C&R Press, 2010) and The Life Plan (Casperian Books, 2009). Her short stories and essays have appeared in Transnational Literature, Upstreet, The Writer's Chronicle, and elsewhere.

Learn more about Sybil by visiting her website, and her blog An Ex-patriate's Musings on Writing, Teaching, and Travel.

by Sybil Baker

Elise understands her father--a Vietnam vet who abandoned her when she was an infant--about as much as she does her church organist mother and the rest of their suburban Virginian town. When even that thin thread of connection is suddenly severed, Elise is flung across the world, to Southeast Asia. Tracing the steps her father took through the war, Elise searches for a connection--with his ghost, with other travelers, with the foreign culture and environment she experiences. In a series of linked short stories, Talismans follows Elise's journey to learn what she must hold onto, and what she must leave behind.

Genre: Literary Fiction, Short Story Collection
Trade Paperback: 181 pages
Publisher: C&R Press (December 2010)
ISBN: 1936196034

Talismans is available through C&R Press, SPD (Small Press Distribution), and forthcoming on Amazon.

Listen to an interview with Sybil about Talismans on Public Radio International WUTC.

Book Giveaway Comments Contest!

If you received our Events Newsletter, remember, we are holding a contest to win a copy of Sybil's book, Talismans, to those that comment. So, grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair, and enjoy the chat, and share your thoughts, questions or comments, at the end. We will randomly choose a winner from those who comment. Enjoy!

Interview by Jodi Webb

WOW: We're all familiar with a writer plotting out a novel. How does it work with a linked short story collection? Do you plot it out or write one short story and then realize you want to delve deeper into that story?

SYBIL: I expect that each linked collection is different. In my case I first wrote the story "Fur Elise" many years ago. A few years later I wrote two more stories ("That Girl" and "Grape Island") that take place in Korea. Only after writing those stories did I realize that they were all about the same character, but at different times in her life. I wanted to find out why (and how) Elise had moved from Virginia to Korea.

In that sense the stories evolved organically, and I wrote most of them to fill in gaps in Elise's story. Because the stories had to work as stand-alone pieces and as parts of a larger whole, I had to revise a lot to make sure that the collection worked on a micro and macro level.

WOW: I came into this interview thinking writing a short story collection would be easier than writing a novel. But now that I think about the work involved in making each story work alone and as part of a larger piece I've changed my mind. Concerning short stories and you prefer writing one over the other?

SYBIL: I love both, although lately I've been focused more on novel writing, and that's mainly because I have more ideas for novels than for short stories. I do have about ten stories that I've written and would like to write more that might be included in a short story collection at some point.

WOW: I've often read that short story collections are a "hard sell" so I wonder what made you choose the short story format for Talismans?

SYBIL: Short story collections are hard to sell although there are always exceptions (Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout are recent examples of collections that sold well). In my case, the stories were first, and only when I realized they also told a larger story did I consider linking them. I tried to focus on writing the collection and not what would happen afterward. Most of the stories have been published in literary magazines as individual pieces and I was happy to have that.

Some small and independent presses actually like to focus on publishing short stories instead of novels. I'm very happy that C&R Press decided to publish the collection—they've established themselves as a strong publisher of poetry and are expanding into publishing short story collections. Mine is the first but others will soon follow.

WOW: So you're blazing a trail for other authors! You've marketed both a novel and a short story collection. Is the marketing plan the same or are there things you have to do differently with each book? If you could give one piece of marketing advice to our readers what would it be?

SYBIL: Basically I'll be doing similar things with the novel (The Life Plan) as with Talismans—doing a WOW Blog tour, giving readings at book stores and universities, and staying up to date with my blog and Facebook. That said, The Life Plan is a comic novel, while Talismans is more serious and a bit darker, so I do have to keep that in mind when marketing the book. I do think readers of The Life Plan will enjoy Talismans as both have female protagonists who leave the States and travel to Asia.

The biggest piece of marketing advice is to remember that you sell books one at a time. I've been to readings where I've only sold two or three books but then those people liked the book and recommended it to others.

WOW: I think we'd all benefit from that positive slant on sales. Have you visited all the places mentioned in Talismans? Have you ever considered writing nonfiction pieces about the various places you've visited?

SYBIL: I have been to the places I write about: South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar. I used my experiences there as well as travel guides and travel blogs to create the stories.

I haven't seriously considered writing nonfiction pieces about those places—the places were interesting but (luckily) my life is pretty boring, so I wouldn't have much to write about that people couldn't get from a travel guide.

WOW: Somehow, when I picture your life "boring" isn't the first word that comes to mind. What places haven't you visited that are still on your "bucket list"?

SYBIL: Many—definitely India is one of the few Asian countries I never made it to that I'd really like to go to. My husband and I are planning on traveling through Central America this summer, and I'm really looking forward to that.

WOW: I hope we'll be hearing about it in your future writings. Speaking of future writings, what's next for you?

SYBIL: I'm finishing revising a novel about two sisters—one an adopted Korean—that takes place primarily in present day Seoul. I spent six weeks in Seoul this summer researching the project. I'm really excited about it. I'm still a way from trying to find an agent or a publisher for it, but I'll be back for another WOW blog tour when the novel does come out.

WOW: I, for one, can't wait to read it!

Want to join Sybil Baker on her blog tour? Check out these dates and mark your calendar! You can also snag a copy of WOW's Events Calendar HERE.

Blog Tour Dates: Come and join the fun!

December 6, 2010 Monday
Sybil Baker will be chatting with WOW! Women On Writing at The Muffin. One lucky commenter will win a signed copy of Sybil's new book!

December 7, 2010 Tuesday
Interested in travel writing? Sybil shares her experience at Writing Come Hell or High Water.

December 8, 2010 Wednesday
On Colloquium, author Sybil Baker shares her experience writing a linked short story collection.

December 9, 2010 Thursday
Don't miss a guest post from author Sybil Baker and a chance to win her latest book Talismans!

December 10, 2010 Friday
Sybil has more information to share with us! Come on over to Anne-Marie Nichols' blog The Write Spot and read all about it!

December 13, 2010 Monday
Which do you like to read more: short stories or novels? Which do you like to write more? Sybil Baker, author of the novel The Life Plan and a linked short story collection Talismans, stops by with her opinion. She's also giving away a copy of Talismans!

December 14, 2010 Tuesday
Don't miss the chance to chat with author Sybil Baker today on Books, Books, The Magical Fruit. You also have the chance to win a gift for yourself or a loved one...Sybil's latest book Talismans!

December 15, 2010 Wednesday
Sybil Baker stops by with the long and short of fiction writing, as well as a copy of her latest book Talismans for a giveaway!

December 20, 2010 Monday
Don't miss a review of Sybil Baker's linked short story collection Talismans and a chance to win a copy!

December 21, 2010 Tuesday
Stop by Words by Webb when author Sybil Baker answers the 5Ws and has her latest book Talismans reviewed.

December 22, 2010 Wednesday
Sybil Baker, author of Talismans, stops by to share her secrets for promoting your book.

December 28, 2010 Tuesday
Learn about travel writing from Sybil Baker at Women Travel. In Sybil's latest book, Talismans, her main character travels the Far East searching for clues of her father.

December 29, 2010 Wednesday
Join the fun today! Stop by for an interview with Sybil and a chance to leave your questions and comments for her. Also, a lucky someone will win a signed copy of Sybil's book Talismans!

December 30, 2010 Thursday
Don't miss an audio interview with Sybil Baker and a chance to win a copy of her latest book Talismans!

January 4, 2011 Tuesday
Happy New Year! Stop by Misadventures with Andi and read a review of and enter to win Talismans by Sybil Baker.

January 5, 2011 Wednesday
Julie Lindsey interviews Sybil Baker, author of The Life Plan and her newly released short story collection Talismans. Stop by for fantastic writerly advice!

To view all of our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar HERE.

Get involved!

If you have a blog or website and would like to host Sybil Baker or schedule a tour of your own, please email Angela and Jodi at:

And be sure to comment on this post to enter in a drawing for a copy of Sybil Baker's linked short story collection Talismans! And check back in a couple of days in the comments section to see if you won!


cindyja said...

Thank you for the great interview. I love reading books that tell a story using a different type of format; diary entries, letters, etc. This book will be on my reading list.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to hearing some of the readings!

Anonymous said...

I'm developing a collection of linked stories so very intriguied by Talisman. Looking forward to reading and to other interviews on the blog tour.

Sybil said...

Thanks for your comments! I will try to check in today from time to time to answer any questions you might have.

Margo Dill said...

What are some different ways that authors can link short stories in a collection? Do they need to be in chronological order? Have the same main character? I'm sure there are different ways to approach this--just wondering your take on it, Sybil.


Sybil said...

Hi Margo,
There are many different ways to "link" a collection. Some stories just have characters living in the same town, and that is the only real link between them. Other collections follow several characters. Others like mine follow one character chronologically.

You do not have to arrange the stories in chronological order, and in fact for a long time I'd "book-ended" the collection with the two stories that take place in Korea, which occur later in Elise's life.
I think the term linked collection is a pretty loose term that allows experimentation and interpretation, so have fun with it.

Cher'ley said...

It would be so wonderful to be able to travel for research. I have been to the settings I've used in my novels, but they are all in the US.

Your collection sounds interesting.

Unknown said...

I've written some flash fiction based on my Peace Corps experience in Morocco and have ideas for several more stories, so I found your interview about Talismans encouraging. I love to read fictional accounts of other cultures or the immigrant experience in America (like Unaccustomed Earth :) Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

i would like to read this work!

tallcapp said...

I find that linked short stories read for me like a novel but provide the author with more varied start off points and points of views. It is easier to change the voice in which it is written in the short story kind. As the author mentions this was well done in Olive Kitteridge. This book sounds like one I would move to the top of my must reading pile. said...

Sounds very interesting to me, especially as an adoptive mom of two boys from another country and completly different culture.
diane Baum

WOW! said...

Thank you for your comments! We held a random drawing (using and the winner of the giveaway is... Diane52!

Congratulations, Diane, you won a copy of Sybil Baker's book Talismans. Please email with your mailing address. :)

Readers, be sure to check out the rest of the stops on this tour for more giveaways and fantastic writing advice from Sybil Baker. And happy holidays!

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