Category — News
It was a wonderful class … and of course a class is made great by having incredible students! Thanks to all the artists (painters, photographers, writers, and so many more), I too learned a lot about living a creative life. Click here to read Kara’s post and to get some tips about bringing more creativity into your own everyday life.
June 29, 2014 Comments Off
I look forward to seeing many of you at the AWP Conference & Bookfair — February 27 to March 1.
I’ll be hanging out at our booth for Ashland Creek Press, EcoLit Books, and Literary Provisions. Please join us (we’ll be in booth #1207 in the North Hall) to check out new books and fun stuff for writers.
And don’t miss these other events before, during, and after the conference …
Wednesday, February 26
I’ll be one of the readers at the fabulous AWP Festival of Language at the Rock Bottom Brewery (1333 5th Avenue, just a couple blocks from the conference center), along with dozens of other authors. I’ll be reading sometime between 5 and 6:30 p.m., and the literary festivities will go on until 10 p.m.
Thursday, February 27
Julian Hoffman, contributor to Among Animals and author of The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for creative nonfiction, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. (ACP booth #1207)
Jean Ryan, author of the “captivating” (Publishers Weekly) short story collection Survival Skills and contributor to Among Animals, will be signing books at the booth from 1 to 2 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
Friday, February 28
Mindy Mejia, author of the “beautiful” (Twin Cities Pioneer Press) novel The Dragon Keeper will be signing books from 9 to 11 a.m. (ACP booth #1207)
JoeAnn Hart, author of the eco-novel Float (“a stellar model of eco-literature”—Cape Ann Beacon) will be signing books from 4 to 5 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)
And at 4:30 p.m., I’ll be leading a panel on Book Marketing — From Finding Your Muse to Finding Your Readers: Book promotion in the twenty-first century, with Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Janna Cawrse Esarey, and Susan Rich. Panelists from a variety of genres—poetry, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir—will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning from writer to published book author. Through specific experiences and using real-world examples, panelists will offer tips for finding one’s natural niche and audience, and how to reach out to readers authentically and generously. Topics include book promotion through conferences, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and salons. (Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6)
Saturday, March 1
On Saturday, the Bookfair will be free and open to the public!
At 12 noon, join John Yunker for a panel on The Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire, with authors JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake, and Gretchen Primack. From mountaintop removal to ocean plastic to endangered species, ecological issues are increasingly on writers’ minds. Authors on this panel discuss how their ecologically themed fiction and poetry engages readers in powerful ways that nonfiction can’t. Panelists discuss writing in these emerging sub-genres as well as their readers’ responses and offer tips for writing about the environment in ways that are galvanizing and instructive without sacrificing creativity to polemics. (Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor)
Sunday, March 2
I’m thrilled to be doing a post-conference reading with the amazing Gretchen Primack on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library in downtown Portland. We’ll be reading eco-fiction (me) and eco-poetry (Gretchen), and we look forward to a lively discussion afterward about the environment and animal protection in the context of fiction and poetry. This event is free, and all are welcome; click here for complete details.
February 21, 2014 Comments Off
I’m thankful to Vickie Aldous at Ashland Daily Tidings for her wonderful column on Everyday Book Marketing — check it out for info about the book, as well as insights from L.J. Sellers, Jenna Blum, and Zoe Ghahremani.
September 24, 2013 Comments Off
There are a few great opportunities for fiction writers coming up, so I wanted to mention a few upcoming awards and deadlines…
The submission deadline for the 2013-14 Bear Deluxe Magazine Doug Fir Fiction Award is September 3!
The Bear Deluxe Magazine welcomes submissions of previously unpublished short stories up to 5,000 words, relating to a sense of place or the natural world, interpreted as broadly or narrowly as the author defines.
Entry Fee: $15
Word limit: 5,000
Grand Prize: $1,000, writer’s residency at Sitka Center for Art & Ecology, national publication, and manuscript review
Finalists: Manuscript review, recognition, publication consideration
Click here for more information and complete details.
The Press 53 Award for Short Fiction opens September 1!
The Press 53 Award for Short Fiction will be awarded annually to an outstanding, unpublished collection of short stories. This contest is open to any writer, regardless of his or her publication history, provided the manuscript is written in English and the author lives in the United States. The winner of this contest will receive publication, a $1,000 cash advance, travel expenses and lodging for a special reading and book signing party at Press 53 headquarters at the Community Arts Café in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina, attendance to the 2014 Press 53/Prime Number Magazine Gathering of Writers, and ten copies of the book. Click here for full details.
Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet seeks submissions until December 31!
Editor Cliff Garstang seeks submissions for a new anthology titled Everywhere Stories: Short Fiction from a Small Planet, to be published by Press 53 in Fall 2014. This is an anthology of short fiction (short stories of any length, including short shorts and flash) set around the globe, including the United States. Click here for full details and how to submit.
September 1, 2013 Comments Off
When Forgetting English was published back in 2009, I was overwhelmed with all the book promotion I had ahead of me. And one thing I learned quickly was that I could promote my book around the clock, and it still wouldn’t be enough. Because there’s always more that can be done, how does an author decide where to start and — just as important — where and when to end?
The bad and good news is that there is no end to book promotion, but you can find a balance. This is one of the reasons I wrote Everyday Book Marketing. And I am absolutely thrilled to be part of Adventure by the Book‘s new Author Academy, which launches in September and offers incredible opportunities for authors to prioritize, strategize, and make the most of their budgets, even if time and/or dollars may be hard to find.
The inaugural workshops for the Author Academy will take place on Sunday, September 29, in San Diego. The day will be divided into two parts, starting with a general overview of Everyday Book Marketing that covers essential book promotion basics (from 10 to 11:30 a.m.), followed by an interactive workshop (from noon to 2:30) that builds upon the morning session and in which, using a checklist, you will create your own customized marketing plan. Click here for more details and for registration details.
I’m particularly excited about teaming up with Susan McBeth of Adventures by the Book, whose Author Academy series will continue with monthly interactive workshops covering everything from how to take the best author photo possible to how to shine at your book events.
Visit Adventures by the Book for more info — we hope to see you in September!
August 12, 2013 Comments Off
Thanks to all of you who entered the Forgetting English giveaway (and also to those Kindle readers who enjoyed Forgetting English at only 99 cents) in honor of Short Story Month.
To enter the giveaway, readers contacted me with their favorite travel destinations — and I absolutely loved reading about your favorite places (many of which, like Maui and Tokyo) appear in Forgetting English and are favorites of mine as well).
On June 1, I randomly chose a winner: Julia Cousineau, who has graciously given me permission to share with all of you what she shared with me. Julia’s favorite travel memory was a ten-day stay in Tokyo during the early 1907s, when she was a flight attendant for Flying Tiger Airline; on this particular trip, she injured her knee and had a long stay in Japan, which inspired this poem:
The pickles were purple
the puppies were plump
the frog legs were stir fried
the peanut sauce spicy
the produce perfectly strange
murky air, gray pallor
sharp smells I know
a market place in Tokyo
Am I ready for this
Thanks to Julia for letting me share her memory and poem … and thanks again to all who entered the giveaway.
Here’s to every month being Short Story Month!
June 3, 2013 Comments Off
As many of you know, May is Short Story Month!
To celebrate, the Kindle edition of Forgetting English will be only 99 cents for the entire month of May.
I’m also offering a giveaway of the print edition of Forgetting English, a beautiful, expanded edition from Press 53. To be entered to win a copy, simply contact me with your favorite travel destination (whether it’s someplace you’ve been or someplace you’ve always wanted to go), and I’ll enter you in the giveaway. A winner will be chosen in early June. (Please note that I can’t ship overseas, so the giveaway is limited to U.S. readers.)
For all of you who enjoy reading individual short stories, a few stories from Forgetting English are always available on e-readers. On the Kindle, you’ll find Never Turn Your Back on the Ocean, The Ecstatic Cry, Translation Memory, and Beyond the Kopjes.
A few other celebrations are taking place for Short Story Month …
Visit the Short Story Month website for stories, news, and resources.
Jean Ryan’s new collection, Survival Skills (which Publishers Weekly calls “captivating”), is hot off the presses from Ashland Creek Press — click here to get yourself a copy. And if you have an e-reader, enter to win a free Survival Skills e-book on the Booklover Book Reviews blog.
Happy Short Story Month — and happy reading!
May 4, 2013 1 Comment
I’m delighted to be a guest on Clifford Garstang’s blog today, posting about writing when you’re not actually writing.
As busy writers, we can’t always sit down in the chair for hours of writing time — and this post offers 5 ways to keep your projects moving forward during your everyday life, even when you don’t have a writing session in your schedule. Enjoy!
And while you’re visiting Cliff, check out the rest of his blog, Perpetual Folly, which includes a wealth of info for readers and writers alike, including his famous Pushcart Prize rankings. And don’t forget to check out his books as well!
January 23, 2013 Comments Off
I was delighted to be tagged by author JoeAnn Hart for The Next Best Thing project, in which writers answer the following questions about their latest projects, and then tag a few more writers who do the same, and so on. Such fun!
So, below you’ll find the questions JoeAnn answered about her forthcoming novel, FLOAT (look for it in February!), this time about my own current work-in-progress. And, you’ll soon hear from the fellow writers I’m tagging — Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Brenda Miller, Judy Reeves, and Susan Rich — who will answer the same questions about their own Next Best Things!
What is the working title of your book?
My Last Continent.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
A short story of mine, “The Ecstatic Cry,” originally published by Ontario Review and included in my collection, Forgetting English, is about a penguin researcher in Antarctica and about what happens when a wayward tourist interrupts her solitude and her work. She was such an interesting character to me that I wanted to give her another story. MY LAST CONTINENT puts her back in Antarctica, this time as a naturalist on board a small tourist expedition that encounters a disaster in the ice-choked waters off the peninsula.
What genre does your book fall under?
It’s literary fiction, though with Antarctica as its backdrop—and all the issues there, from dwindling penguin colonies to the effects of increasing tourism—it has a strong environmental component as well. So I’d also call it eco-fiction.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
George Clooney as Keller, George Clooney as Peter, and George Clooney as Nigel. Okay, seriously. George Clooney actually would be perfect as Keller, Deb’s on- and off-again soul mate. And I’d choose Laura Linney as Deb, the biologist. Diane Lane as Kate. Peter Sarsgaard as Kate’s husband, Peter. Daniel Day-Lewis as Nigel.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The story of two women—one a biologist who studies penguins in Antarctica, the other a social worker struggling with a dying marriage—who are brought together during a wildlife expedition that is derailed by a tragedy in the Southern Ocean.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About five months. Then I set it aside for eight years. But even as I’ve worked on other projects, the story and characters have stuck with me. Since picking it up again, I’ve been hard at work for the past six months and hope to finish this next draft within the next year.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Years after finishing my short story, I realized I couldn’t let go of this character, who is passionate about animals and the planet and very snarky when it comes to humankind. She does fall in love, though, and this changes everything—the realization that while on one hand she feels that people are destroying the planet, humans are also the only ones who can save the planet. She’s gotten to be too much at home in Antarctica, and it’s been fun to thaw her out a bit in this novel, to melt away some of her sharp edges.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It’s set in Antarctica, which is a truly otherworldly place as well as the only real frontier left on the planet. It involves a maritime disaster, which is something we all need to be aware of as tourism increases in these remote corners of the world, where rescues are very tricky. And, of course, there is a big, messy love triangle.
December 18, 2012 2 Comments
Brenda Miller is an award-winning author, a professor of English at Western Washington University, and the editor-in-chief of Bellingham Review. Her many books include Listening Against the Stone: Selected Essays; Blessing of the Animals; Season of the Body; and Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction. Most recently she co-authored, with Holly Hughes, The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World — and this is what I’m chatting about with Brenda today. This new book is a wonderful reminder to us writers that we need to create the time to write rather than wait for it — and its prompts show us how we can incorporate mindfulness into our writing practice in order to deepen and strengthen what we do.
Q: Brenda, I love that your book connects writing and mindfulness—and your own writing space is the same space you use for meditation. What are some of the ways in which being mindful in turn helps you with your writing?
A: I think it allows me to practice observation, even subliminally, so when it comes time to write, I have images/words/memories that can float more easily to the surface. It also teaches you patience and faith: I might be writing something that seems odd and random, but I’ve learned to just go with it and see where it leads. If I stay quiet, without too much judgment at the beginning, the writing can flourish without the intellectual/critical mind interfering too soon. If the writing ends up not leading anywhere, that’s okay, because I haven’t labored over it, beating it into submission. It’s all practice.
Q: Yes, practice—that is another key component in your book; in fact, Chapter Six is devoted to the idea of writing as practice, as with a musical instrument. You mention in this chapter that you sometimes do a writing practice with friends. How is this different from writing alone? And do you have any tips (such as using a timer, as your group does) for writers who get together with others for their writing practice?
A: Writing with others provides a certain kind of focus and momentum that I find is not possible when writing alone. Since we are writing in a timed fashion (with a timer) there’s also an intensity about it. When I’m writing alone, it’s a bit more leisurely, and I’m gathering my thoughts and written fragments together to form a bigger picture. It’s more of a “mulling,” a stroll, while the writing together is more like aerobics! If you write with the same group for any length of time, you may also find yourself subtly working off each other’s imagery and energy; oftentimes people will end up having the same imagery as if they were telepathic.
I think it’s important to have a certain level of commitment from the group; while it’s okay to be flexible of course, it’s best to have the same time/day that everyone agrees on for a certain length of time. Then you’re not always trying to figure out schedules and it becomes a habit.
Q: I agree that getting into the habit of writing is one of the best ways to get into and remain in that creative space. In your book, you write, “As a young writer, I don’t think I ever really understood that you need to prepare for writing…I’ve come to see that I need to be warmed up.” In one chapter you mention the importance of observation, and how a woman who prunes the roses in the park near your house always makes you eager to write — I love that! For me, too, paying close attention to the world around me always sparks my creativity. Have you ever experienced a loss of connection to your writer/creative self, and if so, how did you reconnect? Do you have any advice for writers seeking to find better access to creativity in their everyday lives?
A: That’s a timely question, Midge, as I’m experiencing that right now! It usually happens when I’ve finished one project (in this case, a book of linked short-short essays) and don’t really have another one in the works. I get very, very nervous during these fallow times, and the intellectual mind feeds that anxiety, giving me messages of despair: “Okay, that’s it, you’ve written everything you’re ever going to write.” So, at some point, with the help of my therapist (a saint!) and my writing friends, I remember that this voice is not the true voice. I continue with the weekly writing practice, even if nothing I write feels “good.” I read poetry. I take a lot of walks. I type up words from the writing practice just to see if anything might spark something new. I find a writing contest deadline to motivate me. But the main thing is having a sense of humor about the whole thing, not being so heavy about it. I slap that critical voice on the shoulder and say, “Cheer up, old chap!”
Q: This is all such great advice … I often finish a project and lose my connection to writing, and then it only becomes harder to reconnect. I like the idea of continuing to write, but I especially like the idea of taking walks, which is not “writing” but an activity that opens up the mind, which in turn leads to writing. Your book includes chapters on travel and encounters with the wild — how does connecting with other places and with nature affect your own work?
A: I recently returned from a trip to northern California, a landscape that is quite special to me. I lived there in my early twenties, at a hot springs resort, and as I walked down the road from that resort, I found myself talking to the trees. Really talking to the trees! I know this sounds crazy, but there’s a point on that road that shifts from mellow oaks and dry grass to old redwoods. You feel like you’re crossing a threshold into a deeper place. It’s very, very quiet–and timeless. And I truly felt like those trees remembered that younger self I’d so firmly packed away. They were asking me to remember her, to accept her, to welcome all her good qualities into my life now.
That’s a long (and maybe pointless) story, but in regards to your question: that experience in nature allowed me a moment to feel something unexpected, and to have the space to really feel it: to let it settle and expand. This would not have happened in my quotidian life, where I live more on the surface, where the familiarity of the day-to-day landscape can dull my perception. I haven’t yet translated this experience into writing, but it’s certainly a seed that is germinating.
Q: It’s so true that stepping outside one’s everyday life can be so enriching; we notice things so much more. Your chapter “Emptiness” reminds me of how I need to get away from the clutter of my desk in order to think more clearly. Do you have any advice for writers who tend to avoid the emptiness and the quiet that is both necessary as well as a little intimidating?
A: I’d say it’s important to know that you don’t necessarily need A LOT of it; just a small respite can do. Even 30 minutes off of email/Internet at a particular time every day. Or a ten-minute intentional breather outside where you practice, simply observing without doing anything. And also to enlist allies: make a contract with a friend and hold each other to it!
Q: Last but not least, one of the many things I love about your book is hearing both your voice and that of your co-author, Holly Hughes. Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to collaborate?
A: It was wonderful; we each brought different perspectives to the topics and so our voices complemented one another. We wrote the book as letters to one another, so it was always easy to simply sit down and write “Dear Holly,” which would be like a mindfulness bell, putting me immediately in a writing frame of mind. We enjoyed the letters so much that we kept the first draft of the full book in letter form, but got the feedback that it wouldn’t work in the long term for the reader. The hard part was shaping the book out of the letters, but keeping that same sense of intimate communication. Letters are a wonderful practice, and I recommend it wholeheartedly as a way to infuse your writing with joy.
November 29, 2012 Comments Off
I’m giving away a copy of Everyday Writing on Goodreads — sign up to win anytime from now until October 10!
September 28, 2012 Comments Off
These 10 prompts, all designed with summer in mind, can be done in five minutes or fewer (though they can also see you through an entire weekend of writing if you let the prompts take you wherever they want to go…) And, for all you fiction writers out there, keep in mind that you can do these exercises from the point of view of your characters (these offer a great way to find your way out of a scene or to combat summer-induced writer’s block).
Wishing you a happy weekend of writing!
July 27, 2012 Comments Off
Thanks so much to Susan Rich for hosting me this week at The Alchemist’s Kitchen blog, where I offer 3 tips and prompts for how to find room to write during the summer months with all its temptations.
It’s very easy to be lazy in the summertime, especially when it comes to getting any serious writing done — but actually, the fact that we’re outdoors more than usual actually opens up opportunities: Even if we’re not sitting inside typing, being out in the world can feed our writing, simply by offering up so many different sensory experiences. If we look, listen, and think like writers, we can do more than we imagined possible in the relaxing days of summer.
Hope you enjoy the tips and prompts — and have a great week of writing!
July 25, 2012 2 Comments
It would be impossible to sum up the amazing first week of this year’s Port Townsend Writers’ Conference, which was, as always, an inspiration. Not only is Port Townsend a gorgeous setting in which to immerse oneself in All Things Writing, the writers it brings together creates such an incredible energy.
In addition to teaching five afternoon workshops on topics from scene to character to dialogue — and the writers who join me in these classes always have something to teach me — I had the opportunity to learn from the craft lectures of such writers as poet Ashley Capps (on empathy in writing) and fiction writer Jennine Capó Crucet (on humor), as well as to enjoy their evening readings and many others, among them Judith Kitchen, Dinah Linney, Sam Ligon, Diane Roberts, Erin Belieu, and Chris Crutcher. It truly feels impossible to sum up the wealth of good writing and conversation of the week, but author Donna Miscolta does a great job over on her blog.
I also fit in a little writing time, which is so much easier to do here than in my regularly scheduled life. For one, the setting is so peaceful; looking out over the water or watching deer walk past relaxes the brain in a way that just doesn’t happen when I’m trying to fit writing in amid all my other work.
The other brilliant thing about being at Fort Worden is that Internet access is available in only a couple of spots — which means that unless you go to these specific places, you’re disconnected. I had many conversations with writers about how well our writing went when we didn’t have web access; we all experienced big breakthroughs in our projects thanks to having time and space uninterrupted by email, news, and social media.
Now that I’m back, I’ve created a few new rules for myself in order to keep my writing momentum going. I have set myself new, limited social media hours, even for work-related posts and tweets (one thing I learned from being mostly offline for a week is that taking some time off isn’t going to make you disappear as a person, an author, or a business), and I’ve created specific writing goals for myself as well. I’ve also realized that being accountable is part of the deal: If you have to answer to someone about why you haven’t met your deadline, or why you got online during your offline writing time, it makes you think twice about procrastinating. So I’ve got weekly check-ins all lined up.
All these little rules may sound over-the-top — but as most of us know, it’s all too easy to get distracted and to let the writing slip. So here’s my tip for you: As the summer continues, start defining some guidelines and goals, and find yourself a writing buddy to keep each other on track. And, if you can, find a conference or retreat that will help remind you that your writing is vital and important.
July 18, 2012 4 Comments
Most authors have busy schedules — these days, who doesn’t? — and yet it is possible to keep writing, even if you aren’t able to sit down in the chair. These 5 tips will help you see the ways in which you can think like a writer, which is the next best thing to putting words on the page.
July 3, 2012 2 Comments