Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Friday, July 24, 2015

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers -- July 24, 2015 Edition

> Weary of those "writers under 30/40" lists? So was Claire Fuller, debut novelist at 48, who helped form Prime Writers.

> Poet Jessica Piazza vowed to only submit to paying markets in 2015. At the mid-point of the year, she tallied her dollars and reflected on the process.

> Is Joan Didion "the ultimate literary celebrity"? Laura Marsh, at The New Republic, thinks so, and makes the case for why and how.

> In two weeks, I'll give a presentation and be on a panel at HippoCamp2015, a Conference for Creative Nonfiction Writers (Lancaster, PA). There's still time to register, and using the code HippoFriend, you'll save $25. (Some less-than-full-conference registration options are also available upon request.) Not long ago, I interviewed conference organizer (founder/editor of Hippocampus Magazine) Donna Talarico.

> Cathy C. Hall shares some tips on getting the most from a short (in this case, three-day) writing retreat.

> At Creative Nonfiction, exploring the origins of the CNF term itself.

> The Millions takes a look at what's coming up in new nonfiction books for the balance of 2015.

> While I teach in an MFA program, I also think the degree is not for every writer; that not every good writer needs or wants one. In this account at The Millions, a non-MFA writer examines his reasons for skipping it (and the article is jammed with other interesting links, too.)

> Jessica Page Morrell discusses the need for messy emotions in writing.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Book List That's Constantly Changing, and Remains the Same

Over at Facebook, this pops up from time to time: The 10 Books That Changed Your Life. I'm often tagged to chime in, and have always conveniently "forgotten". For me that top 10 list changes year to year, sometimes month to month. What I think "changed my life" at 12 fell off the list by 20, what moved me enormously at 30 slid away when I tried to re-read it at 40. And so on. Plus – changed my life how? Which life? My reading life? My entire life? My life as a writer? 

Recently though I saw it worded slightly differently: The 10 books that have stayed with you. I interpret that as the ones I keep remembering, the ones I find myself opening at random and reading from the middle of for no reason at all, the ones that are perhaps more meaningful not because they are the finest literature ever produced, but because I read them at a time in my life when I was especially open to the story, or the writing, or both.

I've left off the true classics all writers admire and return to, and I'm probably forgetting some marvelous contemporary soon-to-be-classics, but I've limited my list to modern books I've read in the last 15 years or so—and the ones I can remember distinctly and with pleasure, and without walking over to my bookshelves. I've mixed the genres together. And I went way over 10. Hey, it's my list and I'll do what I want with it!

Living Out Loud – Anna Quindlen
The Invention of Solitude – Paul Auster
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
Mountain City – Gregory Martin
Blue Peninsula – Madge McKeithen
In Revere, In Those Days – Roland Merullo
Small Wonders – Barbara Kingsolver
The Opposite of Fate – Amy Tan
Sleepless Days – Sue Kushner Resnick
The History of Love – Nicole Krauss
Picturing the Wreck – Dani Shapiro
Expecting Adam – Martha Beck
The Dogs of Babel – Carolyn Parkhurst
Swimmer in the Secret Sea – William Kotzwinkle
Manhattan Memoir – Mary Cantwell
We Didn't Come Here for This – William B. Patrick
Making Toast – Roger Rosenblatt
A Slant of Sun – Beth Kephart
Here if You Need Me – Kate Braestrup
I Married You for Happiness – Lily Tuck
The Collected Poetry of Nikki Giovanni
Without a Map – Meredith Hall

Eclectic, yes? Sure. I'm also sure this is incomplete, which I'll realize and clap my forehead for, as soon as I get up from where I'm sitting in my bedroom composing this post, and wander into my office and scan my bookshelves. Or tomorrow, when I read a new book and then can't stop thinking about it for a week or month or year. Or maybe this evening when I plan to read Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, who passed away yesterday (and which I somehow never read).

Do you have a list like this? One that would make no sense to anyone but you? A list of books, which although they are excellent books – probably signals as much or more about you, and who you were when you first read it, and why you keep picking it up again --  than about the book itself? I'd love to hear (especially if we have a book in common)!

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons - The Lost Gallery

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers -- July 10, 2015 Edition

> Ever read pieces by different writers that share a specific theme/subject, and you wish you could ask both writers about them? Joe Bonomo noticed essays in two different journals that each pivot on a particularly disturbing summer, and so he invited Ann Hood and Marcia Aldrich to a joint interview.

> Interesting self-examination by an about-to-be-published memoirist, on what it means to write about others in creative nonfiction.

> Behind the shutdown: an interview with the founder of Scratch Magazine, a one-year old project to examine the relationship between writers and money, about why it is closing shop.

> In a series of audio interviews, Beyond the Blog talks to editors of popular websites and blogs (mostly those that pay), to reveal important tips about the kind of submissions they want. 

> If you've been seeing photos of people getting a semi-colon tattoo, and wondered if it was about being a writer (it's not, but there's a connection), here's the story.

> Perhaps you're already using (the free version of) Literistic to make sense of submissions calls and deadlines (in US, Canada, Great Britain), and if so, you'll be interested in this interview with the founders.  (via The Review Review)

> Freelance writers will be interested in these "10 Writing Tips From a Reader's Digest Editor,"  (which are not applicable only to RD), via Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen.

> Finally, these "Depressing Graphs for Writers," by Rebecca Makkai at the Ploughshares blog, are just what you need to complete a summer Friday (when you may already be tempted to quit working at noon or take the day off or pour the wine early...)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Essays We Must Write, Must Let Languish, Must Rewrite

By now, I haven't ridden horses on a regular basis for more than 20 years. But the 20 years before were spent riding every day, competing, and writing about horses. The people in that equestrian life were so important to me, then. Which is why, when one of my "horse friends" disappeared, the departure was deeply unsettling, haunting me for many years, for decades.

I first tried writing about that fracture nearly 10 years ago, then put away the crappy draft for a long time. At various times, I'd rework that draft, bury it, forget about it, start fresh, decide to skip it, pull it out, start all over, drop it again. All that time, there was a certain urgency missing. 

But something about the story clicked for me last fall so I revised and sent it out. One editor's personal rejection note helped me understand a flaw in the piece, so I took another whack at it. Then I asked a trusted writer friend to read it. Her single piece of very intelligent advice (about structure) nudged me toward the final revision.

This week, the lovely site, Full Grown People, published my essay. Here's a little excerpt from "Must Love Horses, Must Love Dogs":

"When I moved back and settled in an apartment near her house, I returned to our old stable and trainer, but Nancy never visited me there, though I spent chunks of days at the barn where she’d moved her horses.
One chilled spring night she and I met a plane at the nearest major airport, where a flight attendant passed us a sealed medical bucket, a tube of high-priced semen from a champion dressage horse inside. We drove an hour back to Nancy’s stable, freezing because we blasted the air conditioning to keep the sperm active, and when we arrived, I held her mare’s tail aside as Nancy inserted the baster-like syringe. Eleven months later, we slept on horse blankets tossed over hay bales, taking turns to check on that mare every twenty minutes, and I was the one who first spotted the steaming foal in the straw.
Perhaps experiences like this seduced me into thinking we might stay bound, for a long time, forever..."
You can read the full story here.  (And if you're so inclined, it would be wonderful if you could leave a comment and/or click on like over at the FGP page! Thanks.)

Image: Flickr/Creative Commons, AnemoneProjectors