• If I were a self-published author, I would check out the Self Publishing Online Conference, May 13-15, where all the basic sessions are free on the web, including a full day (Friday) devoted to marketing and publicity. In fact, even if I were a traditionally-published author (or soon to be one), I might drop in on Friday anyway, since publishing house PR budgets have been drastically slashed, and much of a book's success today depends on what authors can do independently to market their books and themselves.
• Anna Quindlen – essayist, Pulitzer Prize winner in the commentary division, former New York Times' Hers and Life in the 30s columnist and OpEd writer, and most recently, regular Newsweek columnist – was one of the reasons I first became interested in writing personal nonfiction. So I was understandably dismayed when she gave up her Newsweek column last week, citing a need to move aside for a younger generation of journalists.
Quindlen is only 56, and I for one, don't see her as anywhere near ready for retirement. Yes, she'll continue to write novels (she has several best-sellers on the shelf already), and undoubtedly she'll turn up on another major media venue before too long. I only wish she hadn't mentioned the age issue. Or maybe I am, as it puts a spotlight on the ageism issue in journalism and literary matters. And maybe her departure is not as voluntary as it first seemed, as this piece suggests, noting that the magazine is moving in a new (read: younger demographic) direction.
As for me, I'm solidly with Joanne123, a commenter at Newsweek who wrote: "Something is deeply wrong when the voices of one class of people must be silenced in order to make room for another." And I agree with AnnSent, who said, "Move on -- to greener pastures -- if you wish. Quit because the magazine makeover doesn't fit with your philosophy or goals. Quit because you're tired of bad news and brutal deadlines. Or brutal news and bad deadlines. Or the relentlessness of both. Or quit because you can. Because you want to write another novel. But not because you were eight years old when JFK was inaugurated."
• Novelists and short story writers in the Manhattan vicinity might want to consider the one-day 2009 Center for Fiction Writers Conference at the Mercantile Library on June 27. For the relatively low fee, you also get a space for one-month at the Center’s Writers’ Studio on East 47th Street.
• Writing about family is tricky; very often it's both the wheat and the chaff for the nonfiction writer attempting to craft interesting memoir and moving personal essays. It is for me. My memoir-in-progress, and most of my personal essays, would fall apart without the on-page characters to whom I am related off-the-page. They did not ask to be there, and yet as part of my life, they are part of my story, although my story of course is never their story.
One of my pieces, titled "Tip Not Included" (second place in the essay category of the Charles Simic Graduate Student Writing Contest a year or so ago), appears in the current edition of the journal Barnstorm. It's mostly about my father, and while he cannot let me know what he thinks, in my story, he approves.
Have a great weekend.