IN THE NEWS
January, 2018—S.E. Fleenor writes, "What is perhaps most stunning about Dempsey's novel is her ability to empathetically show two diametrically opposed sides ... Dempsey's book feels prescient in our current political climate, and one need look no further than the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that is currently being decided in the Supreme Court to see evidence of just how the 'it' Dempsey's book warns of begins."
December 28, 2017—"When writing a novel built around politically charged topics, great finesse is needed to avoid stereotypical treatments of potentially polarizing figures, as abusing stereotypes only diminishes the strength of characters and the sincerity of a narrative. Author Joan Dempsey's recent book, "This Is How It Begins," maintains that vitally delicate and nuanced approach, even as it tackles the very timely and contentious subject of religious freedom and its frequent contradiction with fundamental human rights."
December 11, 2017—"On a crisp, clear October morning, the three of us hustled down Vesey Street in Lower Manhattan, not wanting to be late for our meeting with Deborah Treisman, fiction editor at the New Yorker."
November 29, 2017—"The 2017 Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Award winner is a page turner of buried secrets, free speech, and religious bias focusing on Ludka, an 85-year-old artist whose grandson is one of many gay teachers fired in Massachusetts on a single day for their intolerance toward Christian students. Ludka’s past in WWII Poland, a lost painting, and a caring, conservative radio host are a winning combination. A perfect book club choice for these contentious times!"
November 26, 2017—Profile by Peter Bob Keyes. "After spending most of her days alone in the writing shed out back behind her house, Joan Dempsey finds it liberating to be on the road promoting her novel, This Is How It Begins.”
November 16, 2017—Conversation with Rhonda Rachael Mare Jantzen, an LGBTQ activist on the Central Oregon Coast. Her focus is on providing information, resources, and encouragement for the LGBTQ community and their supporters.
October 19, 2017—"In other hands, it is easy to imagine this story as an unwieldy Goldfinch-like brick of a novel. But Dempsey does not succumb to meandering prose or even particularly evocative imagery. The power of the story lies in its parable-like simplicity."
October 17, 2017—Conversation about issues of bigotry in the novel, with Kathy Johnson and the community of readers at Bear Pond Books.
October 13, 2017—Conversation about the writing life with James Blatch and Mark Dawson of the SPF Podcast.
October 10, 2017—"This is Fresh Air. I’m Terry Gross. My guest today is the acclaimed author, writing teacher and online entrepreneur whose debut novel, This Is How It Begins, is the best novel I’ve ever read in my entire life—
Stop it! That’s private!"
October 9, 2017—Guest Post on The Writer's Dig. Brian Klems introduces the post: "One of the most common challenges writers face in the character development process is conveying personalities (even those of side characters) in a naturally complex and believable way. Success in this aspect can mean the difference between a two-dimensional story and an immersive experience. But what’s the best way to get to know your characters intimately enough to bring them to life? Here, Joan Dempsey dives into the heart of a critical element that can help you flesh out—no pun intended—your characters and enrich your novel."
In Joan Dempsey’s debut, an art history professor faces secrets of past as a WWII resistance fighter
October 8, 2017—Review by Marae Hart. "'This Is How It Begins' is Joan Dempsey’s carefully detailed presentation of how quickly opposing views can escalate toward violence and how easily in a heated political environment a peaceful, well-established democracy can turn into an oppressive regime. Borrowing from the politics and experiences of Nazi-occupied Poland, the novel is a reminder and a warning of how closely the present is connected to the past, and therefore can be recreated in the future. Dempsey is an award-winning writer who lives in New Gloucester. In this, her debut novel, her talent is evident."
October 5, 2017—By Dawna Kemper for Fiction Writers Review. "Joan Dempsey’s debut novel This Is How It Begins (She Writes Press, 2017) is a powerful and moving exploration of a flashpoint in contemporary America: the organized efforts of the Christian right to advance 'religious freedom' laws in conflict with those who view such efforts as seeking to institutionalize bigotry. What’s striking about Joan’s handling of this volatile issue is her ability to depict the complexity of human nature on both sides, and how each camp feels fully invested and morally justified in their beliefs.
October 4, 2017—Interview by The Literate Quilter. "By sharing the story of Holocaust survivors whose gay grandchild loses his teaching position over his sexual orientation, Dempsey addresses relevant issues: How can conflicting belief systems learn to live together? What does it mean to be protected under the law?"
October 2, 2017—In episode #55 of The Writing Coach podcast with host Kevin T. Johns, writing instructor Joan Dempsey, who previously appeared in episode 38, returns to the show to discuss the launch of her debut novel, This Is How It Begins. The book is political literary fiction exploring the clash between religious freedom and gay rights, and it’s already getting rave reviews.
September 28, 2017—By Desireé Guerrero. "This Is How It Begins by Joan Dempsey is a thought-provoking and timely novel that connects the horrors of our political past to the current cultural climate, giving new relevance to the old adage, 'Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.'
September 20, 2017—In her "I'd Rather Be Reading" column, Amy Canfield writes, " 'This Is How It Begins,' new this month from Maine author Joan Dempsey, is nothing if not timely.
"It is also an enticing read, well written and researched and with mindfully drawn characters. The novel is an empathetic dive into discordant factions from two eras that impact one family: the Polish Resistance during the Holocaust and, in the current day, the Christian right vs. gays."
August 24, 2017—Review from Bill Bushnell. “'This Is How It Begins' is award-winning Maine author Joan Dempsey’s timely, suspenseful and powerful exploration of the very real conflict between religious freedom and civil rights. Dempsey is clearly a talented writer, unafraid to thoughtfully address controversial issues like sexual orientation and intolerance ... "
July 12, 2017—Interview at Pulse Blog by Kimberly Burnham, Poet & Brain Coach. "Kimberly Burnham: In your debut novel, THIS IS HOW IT BEGINS, you write with empathy about characters on both sides of the 'cultural divide'—those who support gay rights, and those who fear gay rights will infringe on religious freedom. Why so balanced?" ...
New York, NY—May 19, 2017—Poets & Writers announced today that fiction writer Joan Dempsey and poet Brian Evans-Jones are the winners of the 2017 Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. The prestigious award, which aims to provide promising writers a network for professional advancement, has helped to launch the careers of Sue Monk Kidd (The Invention of Wings, The Secret Life of Bees) ... and others. READ MORE ...