Category — News
On this summer Monday, I’m delighted to be featured on Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s amazing Writerhead blog as part of her Mojo Monday series. (Visit Kristin’s blog every Monday, where she offers “a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.”
Today on Mojo Monday, I write about how to be an everyday writer (i.e., how to find time to be a writer every day even if you’re not able to sit down to write every day) and offer three tips with matching prompts – so there’s no excuse not start this week off in a writerly mode.
Thanks to Kristin for hosting me today — and happy writing!
June 11, 2012 No Comments
I’m happy and grateful to be featured on the StyleSubstanceSoul blog today with “5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity.”
If you’re not familiar with StyleSubstanceSoul, visit today and sign up to receive their e-news, which delivers inspiration, book and film reviews, interviews, and amazing giveaways to your in-box every week. This wonderful site was founded by three best friends (and mothers of daughters) who believe that “female energy has the power to change the world.” They are all about living a life of positive action and compassion — what’s not to love about that?
A million thanks to StyleSubstanceSoul for featuring 5 Ways to Make Time for Creativity (and be sure to click through to a couple of the links, where you’ll find books by a couple of my favorite poets). Hope this all leads you to a weekend of inspiration, good reading, and good writing!
June 8, 2012 No Comments
Today I’m delighted to be one of the featured Writers on Writing over at the fabulous Passages North blog. This literary magazine, sponsored by Northern Michigan University, has published fiction (including one of my own stories a few years back), creative nonfiction, and poetry since 1979, and its blog is a treasure for readers and writers alike. Check it out for news on the magazine, submission advice, deadlines, and especially the wealth of information from Writers on Writing.
Thanks to Passages North for the opportunity to share my thoughts on being an everyday writer in a busy world!
May 31, 2012 2 Comments
I’m very happy today to be featured on the blog of the amazing Jane Friedman, who has posted an excerpt from Everyday Writing, including 10 writing prompts that can be done in 5 minutes or fewer (a.k.a. “Quickies”). A million thanks to Jane for posting this — I hope writers find it helpful and inspiring. The idea behind Everyday Writing is to be a writer every day, even if you don’t have much writing time every day — and these short prompts are meant to offer a way to stay connected to your creativity and your writing.
And, speaking of creativity and writing, Brenda Miller‘s wonderful new book, The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (co-authored with Holly Hughes) is for all writers who wish to create physical and mental space for writing. Its abundance of advice for writers includes tips for how to heighten awareness and take risks in your writing, as well as how to write in a community. Best of all, for today only, Brenda’s publisher is offering 20 percent off the book! And be sure to check out Brenda’s blog, The Spa of the Mind, for tips and thoughts on finding respite in a busy world.
May 29, 2012 No Comments
One of the many things I love about Forgetting English‘s publisher, Press 53, is its yearly Memorial Day tradition: For every book you purchase from the Press 53 website from Memorial Day until Flag Day (June 14), Press 53 will send, at no additional cost to you, a book to an active-duty overseas soldier or to a recovering soldier in a military hospital. What better way to celebrate mark Memorial Day?
Buy a book for yourself or a fellow reader, and Press 53 will take care of the rest. And, in celebration of National Short Story Month, why not try a new collection?
Forgetting English isn’t the only Spokane Prize winner among Press 53 titles — Becky Hagenston’s Strange Weather is also a recipient of the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction (and it’s an amazing collection…I highly recommend it).
And here are a few recent Press 53 award-winning story collections:
Anne Leigh Parrish’s short story collection All the Roads That Lead From Home won an Independent Publishers Book Award Silver Medal for Best Short Story Collection.
Marjorie Hudson’s short story collection Accidental Birds of the Carolinas won a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention.
Michael Kardos’s short story collection One Last Good Time won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Fiction.
May 28, 2012 No Comments
It was a couple of years ago that I first saw an Espresso Book Machine (EBM) at work, at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington. It was impressive to see an entire book printed and bound in less than ten minutes — and even more impressive than the technology is the print-on-demand aspect itself: Books are made to order, which means no print overruns, which means no waste, which means more trees get to live.
Formerly used mainly for self-publishing, the EBMs are showing signs of going more mainstream. HarperCollins recently announced that it plans to make about 5,000 trade paperback backlist available for printing via EBM — and On Demand Books (the company behind the EBM) has also just announced that it plans to register with Google so that all EBM titles will become available through the Google Books website.
I caught a firsthand glimpse of the mainstreaming of the EBM on my recent book tour, when Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, printed up copies of Forgetting English rather than ordering the books and having them shipped. A couple of readers got to see their books being printed, which was fun — and the quality was amazing. The book cover was matte rather than glossy, and the pages were thick, the print crisp, and the binding strong. And I got a kick out of seeing a new and different version of Forgetting English, made to order.
The Espresso Book Machine at Northshire is located in a little nook near the front of the store, close to the cash registers. Northshire also has its own imprint, Shires Press, which offers a variety of packages for authors who want to self-publish their books — a very smart idea and likely one of the many reasons this bookstore is celebrating its 35th birthday and going strong.
And Northshire is far from the only indie bookstore to have an EBM: Check out this list of EBM locations, which comprises indie bookstores, university bookstores, and libraries all over the world, including in the U.S., Canada, Japan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, China, the Philippines, Australia, and England. If there’s an EBM located anywhere near you, I recommend checking it out (and printing up a book!); it’s a fascinating machine that may very well play a very large role in the way publishing looks in the future.
October 5, 2011 No Comments
Tree House Books in Ashland, Oregon, is one of the town’s many treasures. I first visited this sweet little children’s bookstore last year, around the holidays, while shopping for the little readers in my life. And I’m glad I did — it’s one of the most charming bookstores I’ve ever seen, and it’s fun to wander around inside even if you are a grown-up. There really is something for everyone here.
Tree House Books has been on the Plaza in Ashland since 1978 but has relatively new owners who curate a hand-picked selection of books for infants to young adults, as well as a small selection of their favorite books for grown-ups as well. The space is welcoming and inviting, and in addition to books there’s a wonderful selection of gifts, toys, and seasonal items that makes it worthwhile to stop in for a look whenever you’re walking by.
Tree House also has a book club for kids age 11 and older (if there’s anything better than a book club, it’s a book club for young readers) as well as many other events, including local author appearances. And be sure to check out Tree House’s October calendar, coming soon, for upcoming Halloweeny events.
September 27, 2011 No Comments
Years ago, before my book was published, I remember reading an article by a very successful author who was complaining about doing book tours. And I remember thinking, How can any author fortunate enough to have a book published and a tour scheduled complain about the privilege not only of having a book out in the world but of being able to meet her readers?
Now, after having just completed a ten-day whirlwind tour of my own, I can empathize a little more — it really is quite exhausting — but I most definitely cannot complain.
For one, I feel so fortunate to have teamed up with my friend and fellow writer Wendy Call, whose amazing book No Word for Welcome (University of Nebraska Press) was published two months after my book, Forgetting English, was reissued by Press 53. Though my book is fiction and hers narrative nonfiction, our books touch on similar themes — the global economy, home and travel, border crossings both literal and figurative — and we put together a series of workshops, seminars, and joint readings that made for a very busy ten days.
We did eight events in four states, traveling through Hurricane Irene-damaged areas that sent us on all sorts of detours, which were so very minor compared to what most residents were going through. It was amazing to see how these communities we visited bonded together; the photo below is from Woodstock’s Shiretown Books:
Wendy and I gathered a whole series of lessons from this tour, and if I had to sum them up as one, it would be: Be prepared. For anything.
We had water shortages, a car break-in, oddly timed meals (our first meal at 4 p.m. one day, dinner at 11 p.m. on another), and a lot of detour stress. Yet the less-than-fun aspects were offset by being hosted by fantastic indie bookstores and generously taken in by amazing friends. We met with inspiring students and writers, and, no matter how long the day, we always managed to have a glass of wine and at least a few hours’ sleep at the end of it.
I’ve learned that book events are one thing, whereas an extended book tour is another thing entirely. Book touring is for writers who are flexible above all else – you never know what you’ll encounter when you show up for an event. You need to be prepared for detours, of course, and for events that need to start late or end early. Be prepared for crowds larger than you’d expected, or smaller than you’d hoped. Be prepared for more questions than you have time for, or for no questions at all.
But most of all, be prepared to have a lot of fun. I reminded myself, even in the challenging moments, that we were out there talking about our books, which is something many writers don’t have the opportunity to do.
So if you’re a writer considering a tour, remember that, despite the inevitable challenges, when you do a book tour you’re not only meeting your readers but supporting indie booksellers, community centers, and other venues important to the literary world. And if you’re a reader, go to your nearest bookstore on an event day and see what it’s all about.
September 22, 2011 3 Comments
Today I’m thrilled to be featured on Kristin Bair O’Keefe’s Writerhead, a fabulous blog in which she interviews writers about the state of “writerhead” and what it means to them and their process. I loved answering her thought-provoking questions … not to mention reading writerhead stories about all the other wonderful writers she has featured.
Stop by Kristin’s blog and check out not only Writerhead but all her fabulous tips, links, and writing news … you’ll love it.
July 6, 2011 No Comments
Today I am honored to have a guest post on the fabulous Diary of an Eccentric book blog, in which I talk about my writing space (as you’ll see in the photo, it’s not always entirely my own). And, better yet, we’re offering a free copy of Forgetting English!
And while you’re visiting, see Anna’s lovely review of Forgetting English.
Hope you’ll join us!
June 23, 2011 No Comments
Many thanks to Randy Susan Meyers for hosting me at the fabulous Beyond the Margins blog today, where the topic is Learning to Disconnect, and how we writers need to find that challenging balance of writing and promoting our work.
Join me at Beyond the Margins today, where you’ll learn a few tips for how you can best achieve that delicate balance.
May 3, 2011 No Comments
Welcome to Short Story Month!
UPDATE, 6/1: Congratulations to the winners — Tommy, Ed, and Susan — who now have some amazing summer reading material on the way. And thanks to all of you who participated in the giveaway and for all that you do to keep short stories alive and well!
This year, I am happy to be joining other bloggers in the annual Fiction Writers Review Collection Giveaway Project, a community effort by lit bloggers to raise attention for short story collections. FWR Contributing Editor Erika Dreifus suggested FWR as a home for this project last year and will not only be participating on her own blog, but will also be helping FWR run the project. And those of you who are fiction bloggers yourselves, click here for information on how you can participate as well.
The only difficult part about this for me has been choosing a collection to give away…but I’ve finally narrowed it down. To three.
First, I’m happy to be giving away Erika‘s own collection, Quiet Americans, out this year and well worth the long wait! I first met Erika in a bookstore outside Boston, where we did a reading together as finalists for a short story award. So I’ve enjoyed her work for many years and was thrilled to have a whole collection of her haunting and thought-provoking stories to curl up with this winter. From a high-ranking Nazi’s wife and a Jewish doctor in prewar Berlin to a refugee returning to Europe as terrorists massacre Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, the characters and conflicts that emerge in Quiet Americans reframe familiar questions about what is right and wrong, remembered and repressed, resolved and unending.
I’m also happy to be giving away Becky Hagenston‘s collection Strange Weather, which received the 2009 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction and was published by the fabulous Press 53. As with Erika, I’d already been acquainted with Becky’s work and with some of these stories through the many literary magazines they’ve appeared in, and I loved having the chance to overdose on them with this collection, which is nearly impossible to put down. From the visceral tension in the mother-daughter relationship in “Trafalgar” to the wonderfully witty ghost story “Anthony,” these stories offer us a delightful mix of magic and reality, while never losing their grip on the truths that draw us to stories in the first place.
And finally, I’m delighted to offer the wonderful collection The Bigness of the World by Lori Ostlund, now out in paperback. Winner of the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, this beautiful book introduces us to characters venturing out into a world in hopes of escaping their troubles, only to find that life remains as complicated as it was before they left. You may have already read “All Boy” in Best American Short Stories 2010 (two additional stories from the collection, “Bed Death” and “Talking Fowl with My Father,” are on the list of Other Distinguished Stories) — and if you’ve already read Lori’s work, you’ll only want to read more.
To be entered to win, leave a comment on this post any time from now to midnight (Pacific time!) on Tuesday, May 31, 2011, at which time I’ll use a random number generator to select three lucky winners.
Happy Short Story Month! Go forth, read stories, and celebrate.
May 1, 2011 29 Comments
Given the way our culture celebrates youth (including writers), I really enjoyed this post by Randy Susan Meyers in the Huffington Post: a list of 41 writers whose debut novels were published after they turned 40 (among them: Meyers’ own book, The Murderer’s Daughters, as well as National Book Award winner Julia Glass and Pulitzer winners Paul Harding, Edward P. Jones, and Elizabeth Strout).
Many authors, both emerging and established, are choosing to self-publish these days, and those of you who are emerging D.I.Y. authors will want to check out this post by Alan Rinzler on literary agents taking on self-published writers to see what agents are saying, both pro and con. Of course, many self-published authors (like John Yunker, author of the The Tourist Trail) already have agents; they just weren’t able to find publishers. For those of you in that category, also be sure to see Rinzler’s list of top genres for multi-book deals in 2010, along with his tips on how to “make publishers drool.” And then there are those self-published authors who are already successful and decide to go solo; this article highlights a couple of these writers.
For those of you who love short stories (and who doesn’t?!), check out Storyville, an iPhone/iPad app that brings stories directly to your device. It’s $4.99 for six months’ worth of stories — one each week. And even better news for short story (and literary novel) readers: Andrew’s Book Club is back! And there’s already a new pick for the new year.
Maybe it’s our diminishing attention spans, but stories seem to be getting shorter and shorter and shorter. Along with flash fiction, micro fiction, and prose poems, we now have “hint fiction” (check out this NPR story for samples).
As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, The Paris Review has made its interviews available online — an amazing series of author interviews all the way back to the 1950s.
If you draw inspiration from seeing where writers work, in the U.S. there are 73 writers’ houses open to the public, including Norman Mailer’s and Edith Wharton’s.
And did you know that for 90 percent of what we communicate, we use only about 7,000 words? We’re losing words from the English language every day, and Oxford University Press hopes to save them with Save the Words, where you can visit with long-lost words and offer up your own words for safekeeping.
January 9, 2011 1 Comment
Ever wondered about the subtle differences in accents between an Australian and a New Zealander? Or how to tell by accent whether someone is from Florence or from Sicily? Check out the Speech Accent Archive, which exhibits a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph, and you can listen to a recording and/or view the phonetic spellings.
And speaking of subtle differences, characterization is all about getting the details right. Does your character say soda, Coke, or pop? Check out this map to see in which regions of the U.S. which terms are used.
If you don’t already have enough ideas for how to procrastinate, check out this short animated film on procrastination by Johnny Kelly. It’s funny as well as spot-on.
This neat little program from Pilot will turn your own handwriting into a font, so you can type “handwritten” letters.
And finally, check out Underwood: Stories in Sound, founded by writer Nathan Dunne, who turned his love for short stories and vinyl records into a twice-yearly publication produced as a vinyl LP featuring two writers.
November 15, 2010 No Comments
Normally when I go jogging, which I sort of hate, I’m tuned in to an iPod or something else that takes my mind off the fact that I’m bored, out of shape, getting older, and would rather be doing just about anything else. And even though I still refuse to go to a gym, I recognized myself immediately in this New York Times story about people who multitask at the gym to avoid having to think about exercising.
But a few weeks ago, I began to feel differently about distractions. It happened when I started jogging on a trail on which distracting myself didn’t seem like the best idea — the trail is fairly desolate, leads to the middle of nowhere, and has been the scene of at least one recent and very bad crime that I’m aware of. I also wanted to keep my ears open to hear the amazing creatures living along the trail — not only the ones I want to see (hawks, jackrabbits, roadrunners, golden eagles, egrets) but especially the ones I want to avoid (rattlesnakes, bobcats, coyotes). And I knew I couldn’t hope to glimpse (or outrun) any of these animals if I was plugged into an iPod.
And somehow, with nothing to distract me but the sagebrush and the sky and the heat, I actually enjoyed that first jog. Thinking it had to have been a fluke, I went out again, iPodless, and enjoyed it even more. And, just like that, now I actually look forward to heading for the trail instead of finding excuses not to.
I think this NYT story spells out exactly why: instead of a chore, it had become my downtime. As the article notes, “when people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas.” In other words, I had a problem, and the first step was admitting it: I was addicted to busyness. And I’m far from alone.
In case you’re wondering whether you’re not getting enough mental downtime, here’s one of those “do I have a problem?” quizzes for you:
- Do you check your smartphone for email/voicemail/Facebook/etc. before you get out of bed?
- Do you email/play games/text/tweet/etc. when in line at the post office/bank/wherever?
- Do you do a million things at the gym/while exercising to take your mind off the fact that you’re exercising?
- Do you often feel overwhelmed, time-strapped, snarky?
- When you sit down to write, do you feel… A) inspired and focused; B) scattered and stressed?
If you’ve answered “yes” to the first four and chose “B” for the last one, you’ve got a problem. (For the record, so do I.) But there is hope for us. All we need to do is unplug a little bit.
So I’m taking a few baby steps in that direction. I’ve begun daily meditation. (The “daily” part lasted only a week, but remember: recovery is a process.) And I’ve all but abandoned my iPod. I’ve made an effort to cut back on the multitasking; whether it’s talking on the phone or checking email, I do one thing at a time, and one thing only. And ever since, I’ve had more writing epiphanies, more useful ideas, better creative energy, and more focus. While we busy people always think we can’t afford not to do a lot of things at once, remember what Marc Berman, a University of Michigan neuroscientist, said in the Times article about multitasking: “People think they’re refreshing themselves, but they’re fatiguing themselves.”
I took this photo one morning after meditation, and I look at it often. It reminds me that slowing down in life doesn’t mean that I’ll fall behind but that, in the end, I’ll come out ahead.
September 7, 2010 No Comments