Monday, December 31, 2012
Many of us are in the looking back/thinking ahead mode, it seems, as I've already received several newsletters today from fellow writers and publishers on that theme.
I've been a subscriber to Erika Dreifus's monthly Practicing Writer newsletter for at least five years now, and I am honored that she featured me as a guest writer in today's newsletter, with an adapted version of my *I Did It List* post. If you are not yet a subscriber to her excellent newsletter, here's a link to the online version. Read - and sign up!
My own newsletter went out a few days ago, and likewise, you can find it online if you are not already a subscriber (and if you want to subscribe, just click on the link at bottom).
See you next year!
Friday, December 21, 2012
> Vaughn Roycroft on "Surviving the Full Force of a Manuscript Critique" at Christi Craig's blog.
> Lee Gutkind at the New York Times Draft blog, on "Three R's of Narrative Nonfiction."
> Jenny Rough contemplates writers, perseverance, struggle and faith.
> California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera , with a Poem for Newtown, "Little Ones We Carry You" (and several response poems), at the University of California/Riverside news site.
> Meghan Ward on "20 Great Places to Publish Personal Essays."
> BookPatrol with a great graphic and the good news that America's largest libraries are growing.
> Annie Evett on why it's a good idea to keep calm and just keep submitting. I like her math.
> I knew I wanted one for myself, but I'm not completely sure for whom I bought four more copies today of Anne Lamott's slim new book, Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers. Like this interviewer, I'm attracted I guess to the idea of an irreverent approach to the simplicity, and power, of praying as a personal, possibly idiosyncratic act.
> Reminder: Don't let your writing year end without creating at least a few entries -- on paper, in your head -- for your personal 2012 * I Did It List* (which I explain in the post immediately prior to this one).
> Finally, for some levity, a compilation of poorly worded, proofread-by-dummies, hilarious or embarrassing real headlines over at Freakonomics.
Have a great weekend, and good wishes for those celebrating holidays.
Monday, December 17, 2012
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Thursday, December 6, 2012
At the time, I would not have been able to afford her services; in fact at the time, I wasn't even actively looking for help with that particular writing project. But when I saw the listing, I put in a bid and was so glad I did.
That's why I decided to join with Publishing Gives Back, a grassroots auction effort, set up by BookEnds, a New Jersey literary agency. They've corralled more than three dozen agents, publishing house editors, freelance editors, and others to offer services to the highest bidder, to raise funds that will help restore the state after Hurricane Sandy's damage.
Most of the offerings -- full and partial critiques of query letters, synopses, chapters, and manuscripts -- are for works of fiction, in many different genres. But mine is for the nonfiction writer: a critique of a query letter, synopsis and the first 25 pages of a nonfiction manuscript, and an in-person coffee date (if the winning bidder is local; otherwise it's a phone call).
Traffic is picking up on the site, but there are plenty of services that are still relative "steals". Beyond the manuscript critiques, on the block are a consultation on cover design, editorial phone consults, and in-person meetings at upcoming writing conferences.
Would love it if you'd pass this along - to anyone, but especially to other Garden State writers!
Update: The auction is now closed 12/11). Thanks to those who bid on all the items. Looking forward to working with the writer who won my offering.
Friday, November 30, 2012
> Flavorwire has chosen "New York's Most Important 100 Living Writers," and you'll have to click through 100 times to get to number one (someone I adore). I noticed immediately that at least half a dozen on the list live in New Jersey (we Jersey literary folk know this stuff!) -- and to be fair, the article intro does say, "we’ve chosen writers and journalists in the NYC area." Still, why do they have to be listed as "New York writers"?
> Scholars & Rogues offers a list of online resources for creative writers -- literary journal lists and databases, submission and tracking tools -- including a few I had not known about.
> In case you were busy this week, you know, writing...and missed the controversy that immediately erupted over Simon & Shuster entering the self-publishing market (via Archway Publishing), Porter Anderson has carefully summarized the issues.
> What do you do while your agent sends your completed book manuscript around to publishers? First, you try not to think about it, which is not so easy, according to Natalia Sylvester; and then, when the rejections creep in, you learn something.
> Think you're having a rotten writing/submitting/rejection kind of day? Check out the Face Lift/Guess the Plot posts, like this one, over at Evil Editor, where we're given a list of possible (usually preposterous) plots and then the real synopsis for one of them, which Evil Editor then slashes -- while offering solid advice.
> Finally, of all the items on a soon-to-be-published author's to-do list, tchotchkes. Karen Pullen mulls it over (and could use some ideas!).
Have a great weekend.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Like when it comes to timing our writing submissions.
Last week, two former writing students asked me about venues where they could submit holiday-themed essays. By now of course, the choices were daily or weekly newspapers (and their online versions), and websites. Monthly, or less frequent print publications, were out of the question.
One writer, whose piece revolved around an event unique to her area, decided to stay local and submit to regional newspapers and websites. The other, whose essay was wider in scope, brainstormed a list of web venues and major daily newspapers. Both resolved to start the submission thinking process sooner next year.
The ideal is to have plenty of time to submit the work to the top venues on our lists, which often means planning out and beginning submissions many months (sometimes a year) in advance.
Which brings to mind my own philosophy about when to write (not submit) the seasonal essay, and explains why -- four days after Thanksgiving -- I'm working today on a Thanksgiving essay, and why last week I was revising a piece about visiting a child's college in the Fall for Parents Weekend.
Do you write ahead like that? Storing up an inventory of pieces to submit at some future date when the timing or season is right? How does timing fit in with your writing or submission process?
Friday, November 23, 2012
> Have you explored the new website for Creative Nonfiction, the journal? This short piece, by a family physician and CNF writer, made some interesting parallels between those endeavors. (If you're a visual artist, editors are seeking illustrations for future issues.)
> If you were considering a subscription to Poets & Writers magazine (or if it's on your holiday wish list), now might be a good time. Their offices were flooded during superstorm Sandy, and part of the special $35 Friends rate will go towards restoration.
> Speaking of P&W, here is their list of 27 small presses worth following on Twitter.
> Narratively is a new site devoted to literary journalism about New York City, and according to MediaShift will offer original in-depth storytelling, as well as Q&A's with authors. This week's topic is "The Flipside of Food."
> A writer on Facebook noted he'd gotten an email rejection from a literary journal early on Thanksgiving morning. Gee, thanks! Well if he submits to this new online venue, at least he won't get one on...his birthday.
> Finally, according to young adult author Angela Scott, Editors Hate Everything. She's right!
Have a great weekend!
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Because when we talk about the storm and its challenges and aftermath, what we are really talking about is something else entirely. When we complain about being unprepared for how long power was off, the high cost of generators, the downside of TV/phone/internet bundling, we are talking about vulnerability, loss of control, the underbelly of modernity. When we cite crippled mass transit systems, we are talking about anxiety, isolation. The stories about discarding ruined food are stories about guilt and money; the stories about fighting with spouses over not having batteries or working flashlights are stories of blame.
The stories themselves are about more than, often something other than, their topline narratives. This is the goal of memoir, the personal essay, and nonfiction narratives: to illuminate what’s percolating under the surface, what drives the unfolding event, and what it tells us about ourselves.
This is why people read creative nonfiction in the first place.
The renowned spiritual thinker Henri Nouwen wrote, “That which is the most personal, is the most universal.” Readers must be able to find, in any nonfiction work about a personal experience, that which is universal – but the only way through to the universal is by way of the personal.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Cathy and I grew up in the same small northern New Jersey town (where I again live). We knew each other only slightly in grade school (through mutual friends), better in high school when we shared many classes, and then, for a few decades, fell out of each other's circle.
About five years ago, Cathy and I were brought back together via class reunions, mutual friends, and her desire to make writing an integral part of her life. Conversations and emails followed, and while we talked about writing classes, programs, and options she might pursue, her life was already brimming over with career, family, and dealing with multiple sclerosis.
Challenged by time and budget, she simply got busy, making her writing vision happen when ever and how ever she could. Today, Cathy writes for several health websites, in addition to frequently posting inspirational pieces at her blog. More, I'm certain, will happen in her writing life.
I'm really proud of her progress, and honored that Cathy credits me for helping her get on the writing path; but really, she did that herself -- because she wanted to. Cathy recently asked me to be her first guest blogger, and I'm so pleased. There's something lovely -- Cathy would likely say empowering! -- when strands once undone early in life, knit themselves back later on.
I hope you'll hop over to her blog to read my post, and some of Cathy's too.
Friday, November 16, 2012
> The National Book Awards have been decided. All the winners and nominees, with links to excerpts from each, are at GalleyCat.
> The upside of being stuck in traffic: catching an NPR interview with Barbara Kingsolver talking about her newest novel, Flight Behavior - which by the way, has the glorious opening line: "A certain feeling comes from throwing your good life away and it is one part rapture."
> Now that the Silver Linings Playbook is in movie theaters, I'm reminded that Matthew Quick, author of the original novel, wrote a guest post for this blog back in 2008, about meeting readers during the early leg of his debut book tour.
> In a Bookslut interview, Dinty W. Moore, author of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction: Advice and Essential Exercises from Respected Writers, Editors, and Teacher, has this to say: "...I'm almost always scrapping my beginning and ending somewhere in revision, because it is somewhere in revision that I begin to realize what it is I am trying to say in an essay, and thus for me to nail it, to get it as nearly-perfect as can be, I have to start somewhere new, and often end somewhere other than where I thought I was going."
> I was introduced to the Reddit feature AMA (Ask Me Anything) months ago by my teenage son. The idea is, an expert of some sort, or at least someone others want to ask questions of, agrees to answer any inquiries readers toss at them for a specified period. Last week, there was an AMA with Jane Friedman, former publisher of Writers Digest and current web editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review.
> If you are one of my New Jersey contacts, you know I can't stop talking about my upcoming teaching assignments at The Writers Circle. Yesterday I wrote about TWC's director, novelist Judith Lindbergh, and her turn as expert commentator on the History Channel documentary series Mankind. Such fun to know such interesting people.
Have a great weekend!
Monday, November 12, 2012
Friday, November 9, 2012
> The 2013 Pushcart ranking of literary magazines has been released, and Clifford Garstang has posted the lists along with brief commentary about the nonfiction, fiction, and poetry honorees.
> Laura Brown constantly pulls together links to dozens of writing-related material at Creative Writing Inspiration.
> Looking for an online tracking system to keep tabs on progress toward your goals? Lifehacker lists five interesting options.
> I may be late to the party, but I just discovered The Mayborn and can't stop reading; I suspect most creative nonfiction writers will want to dive in too.
> Some literary journals are not charging small reading fees, typically in the $2-$4 range. Justified? Jessica Bell says no.
> From a writing instructor, some common writer fears, and how to conquer them (or help someone else).
> What should journalism education look like in the (not-so-distant) future? Jeff Jarvis weighs in.
> And finally -- Yes, old books really do have a specific smell; here's why and what it is, scientifically.
Have a great weekend!
Monday, November 5, 2012
For me (and many others) in New Jersey this week, three words have been key: continue, adapt, laugh.
In the 7 days before power returned to my street this afternoon, we have dealt with: cold; dark; spoiled food; a leaking refrigerator; no power at my husband's warehouse; and worry about how my son's flooded school will manage to re-open.
Today, I thought about the list of helpful words for any crisis situation, which I once posted here. I don't recall where I first saw the original list of 17 words, but I've been carrying it in my wallet for years, and added rest and ask myself a few years ago. Now, it's up to:
Have you any words to add?
Friday, November 2, 2012
My Friday link round-up gets its name from the way I sometimes feed my family on a Friday night, using as many leftovers as possible. I have been doing a version of that frequently since our power quit on Monday. Living in New Jersey is challenging this week but fortunately we had no property damage and family members are all okay.
Packing coolers with ice and thawed food, cooking and eating by flashlight, piling on warm clothing, and long gas lines are nothing compared to the devastation to our south, now a Jersey Shore no one would recognize. Right now I'm camped out at my mother-in-law's dining room table, where there's heat, lights, and a neighbor's wifi signal. Hoping my East Coast readers are faring well.
And so, the links...
> What happens to your submission once it reaches the editorial offices of a literary journal? If The Missouri Review's process is any indication, it does NOT fall into a big black hole, as writers sometimes suspect.
> Jody Hedlund has some tips for Using the 5 Senses to Make Our Stories Jump Off the Page.
> Nick Flynn, poet and author of the memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (now a film titled "Being Flynn"), answers Laurie Hertzel's 10 questions about writing.
> Over at Jane Friedman's blog, guest poster Gabriela Pereira has a three step plan (that includes rolling actual dice!) for "Using Prompts to Write Better & Get Published."
> I haven't poked around there that much yet, but Storylane looks like a promising new social-media-type way to find interesting essays and other nonfiction to read. Based on the people behind it, TechCrunch thinks the sharing platform and options could spell success.
> Two things I love: Ben Yagoda and the em dash.
> Finally, what a way to go. Flavorwire's slide show of "Famous Last Words: 15 Authors’ Epitaphs."
Have a great weekend!
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
I wrote, in part, about the last time there was a hurricane in New Jersey, and we were on vacation in California, and how this time, he's not here either:
In one way, my son is missing it all again—he’s 220 miles to the west. Then again, he’s in the center of everything, watching events unfold on the 45 monitor wall in the Weather Room of his university’s meteorology department, where everyone from the lowliest freshman to graduate students and the department’s top professors are huddled.
“Stay safe,” I begged him. “Don’t wait too long to get back to your dorm.”
He reminded me first that. as “someone who has watched the Weather Channel every day since the age of two,” he knew all about storm safety and, more important, the windows of that particular room were constructed to withstand a category F5 tornado.
Besides, they were ordering in pizza and chances were good they’d all spend the night there, storm tracking, making predictions. Classes are cancelled, after all.
Here’s where it gets particularly difficult to be the mother of a college student, something I’m just learning. What advice to pour into our cell phone texts and Facebook chats, what to keep to myself, how to bridge the distance between worried Mom and trusting parent, adviser and cheerleader.
You can read the entire essay here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
> A mentor once told me my work wouldn't really sing until I was uncomfortable with what I was putting on the page. I thought this may only be so for nonfiction writers, but in this interview at Fiction Writers Review, Steve Almond notes: "Literary writers, no matter how refined, are always seeking to express unbearable feelings. At least the ones I’m interested in. And that means exposing those feelings to the world, whether in fictional disguise or not. My work only got interesting when I started exposing myself on the page, dealing in radical truths."
> When is a writer writing? Answer: Always. In this post at The Writers Circle, Jennifer Walkup explains how and why she is writing while not writing.
> So proud! A student in a recent Writing the Personal Essay class, Robin Sloane Seibert, worked on a piece about slowing down in her piano practicing, and it was later published on a lovely site about adult piano passions.
> Sean Bishop on the good, bad and meh about constant, high-volume poetry submissions: "Even a poverty-stricken twenty-something can submit to eighty journals at once when he or she doesn’t have to pay the printing and postage for that submission, or put in the envelope-licking time and endure the requisite oral papercuts. Submissions and rejections can now be almost instantaneous, and if it’s free to submit to eighty journals then why the hell not, right? Right." Read the whole article at the Virginia Quarterly Review blog. (via @ErikaDreifus)
> Friend, mentor, wonderful writer/poet/activist Leslea Newman, describes her 11 year effort to write her just-released book, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Sheppard. Be sure to read or scroll to the end to watch the book trailer too.
> Finally, just for fun: "Is it Shakespeare or is it...Hip Hop?" Take the quiz at Sporcle. (hat tip: New Guard Review)
Have a great weekend!
Thursday, October 18, 2012
This falls into the last category.
As I wrote the other day over on Baristanet, "Do you have a bunch of those books (collecting dust?) in your house – you know the ones that tell us the 1000 or 100 things we must do, eat, see, try, visit or experience before we die? Do you get frustrated that most of them are written with the assumption that everyone also has buckets of money earmarked for such excursions?
That’s why I was intrigued to stumble across a different sort of bucket list the other day, on the Forbes website, which anyone can add adopt without breaking the bank. Writer/illustrator Jessica Hagy lists “40 Things to Say Before You Die." They’re short and direct, and combined with the simple intersecting circle diagrams that will remind you of elementary school Venn diagrams, I predict you’ll find yourself scrolling through slowly, thinking and nodding. The best part of course is that nothing on this list will cost you a dime. But you may find yourself a bit richer."
Hope you'll click over to Forbes and read the list.
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Guest Blogger Rosalind Brenner on Finding Inspiration by Dusting Off Your Old Journals (and how an assignment can’t hurt either!)
Notes from Lisa: We will be sending a complimentary signed copy of Omega's Garden to one blog reader who leaves a comment below (chosen at random). Might be interesting to talk in comments about how old notebooks inspire your writing. For your chance at the free book, please comment by midnight (EST) on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
You can see Rosalind's artwork combined with poetry, in "Shadows” at Ashawagh Hall in East Hampton, Oct. 25 - 28,