Friday, February 27, 2009
Thursday, February 26, 2009
The library chucked its subscriptions because it knows no one reads these things, except maybe for Poetry and Creative Nonfiction, and those just as bellwethers. Last time I read through the latest issues of literary journals at the library – noting on index cards their names and contents, and what percentage was fiction, what percentage nonfiction, etc. (so I can discuss them in classes) -- in THREE litmags I found poems about Persephone. Whoa. To be fair, about 10 to 20 percent of the published material took my breath. But on the same round I noted two essays, in separate journals, beginning with the words “My father,” and acres of bad fiction – full of neon signs, breasts, tragic foreigners, and petty quarrels.
Some journals make impressive publishing credits if you want to rub shoulders with laureates and academics – who won’t actually read what you published. So beyond impressing each other with our publication credits, what are these journals for? I had never seriously questioned their value. Do they serve as some sort of – standard? For us? Me? Time for self-examination. And figuring out that if they're not important anymore, what is?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
-This is freaking amazing.
-I just won't tell the class that no experienced writer would ever even TRY to write four essays (or a portfolio of poems) in 16 weeks.
-Man, the difference between the first draft and the third, like night and day!
-You're showing your depths and I really like that.
-I bow to your greater experience.
-I'm really sorry that you had to suffer _________. But it may help to write about it.
-I know of something you've just got to read!
-I know where this might be published!
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Today's great poet:
- Is a good friend to other writers, famous or not.
- Doesn't kill himself/herself if NYC publishers or lion litmags aren't into his/her innovations.
- Keeps learning and eagerly shares what he/she knows.
- Acts locally.
- Consciously contributes to the greater good.
- Keeps writing while being chided for being one of JUST TOO MANY POETS.
- Studies in a writing program if he/she wants to, and doesn't worry whether there are JUST TOO MANY WRITING PROGRAMS.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
I've been involved in SWI for 13 years now, either as a workshop instructor (poetry; creative nonfiction) or guest speaker. The Institute changes people radically. Lackadaisical writers become committed writers; pre-professionals solidify their skills and learn about markets; timid writers gain confidence; procrastinators get kick-started; lonely post-MFAs enjoy workshop feedback again; people make friends; editors give priceless information on publishing. It's a volcanic and exhausting two weeks -- but hardly anyone has ever dropped out. If it sounds as if you need this, I recommend that you apply.
Saher Alam will lead the Literary Fiction workshop. Other instructors this year: Kathleen Finneran for creative nonfiction/memoir; Suzann Ledbetter for popular and genre fiction; Kerri Webster for poetry; and Richard Newman for the Young Writers Institute -- which is for high-school juniors and seniors who write poetry or creative prose. The Institute can be taken on a non-credit basis or for 3 college credits.
Here's the website with details: ucollege.wustl.edu/SWI. Tell 'em I sent ya. I also have insider information if you want it.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Monday, February 9, 2009
Let's examine this question. Self-publishing doesn't "create writers." Self-publishing requires a text already written. Self-publishing creates authors -- writers who have their names on books. Self-publishing generates authorship.
The word "readers" in "more writers than readers" really means "readers who purchase books." There are plenty of readers. They're all reading stuff on the Internet, or at the library, or magazines, or books by their friends or faves. The real worry is, "Can publishers sell enough books to make profits?"
The question then becomes: Does the existence of more self-published authors generate less money for publishers and their authors -- less money than formerly?
Well, the vast majority of authors -- the unknowns, the rookies, the "mid-list" --could hardly make less money. But self-publishing could possibly generate more for them.
For publishers - well, you had your chance. When writers sent you these same manuscripts, you wouldn't even look at them. So they turned themselves into authors without you. They're happy. They sell their own books at least as well as you would have sold them; maybe better.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Because the future for the nonfiction freelancer is tech. Writers hoping to make money must present editors not only with text but with a package including supplementary digital photographs, video, and recordings (podcasts), all of professional quality. Those are for the online version of the publication. The writer buys this digital equipment & must learn to use it, preferably at a community college. There you can learn techno-speak cheaply and there are labs for editing your digital stuff.
So said veteran journalist Harry Jackson Jr. to the St. Louis Writers Guild yesterday. His talk was fascinating, informative, and discouraging -- JUST LIKE ANY TALK about surviving as a writer. Jackson has survived 40 years in daily journalism by keeping up with technology, working his tail off, and by loving what he does. "If you don't love it," he said, "stay away."
Furthermore: Get a Mac, because it's better for multimedia. Have a specialty such as -- Mr. Jackson's example: "monitoring pharmaceutical companies." And keep up with all the news in this field, research it constantly (do more than google), and treat freelancing as your full-time job.
I attended "The Future for the Nonfiction Freelancer: The Yellow Pad and Pen Won't Cut It
Anymore," because I wanted to get my head out of the sand. Well, I put it right back in, and man, is that ever a comfort to me. The only thing I liked hearing was that good writing/good storytelling will trump technology any day.
Monday, February 2, 2009
The social responsibility of the artist is reuniting people with their reality. – I Ching
When I stop working the rest of the day is posthumous. I’m only really alive when I’m writing. –
But isn’t creating a poem / skinning a pelt? – Vladimir Mayakovsky
All critics are infantile before the texts. – Catharine R. Stimpson
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything You gave me.” – Erma Bombeck
One has to commit a painting the way one commits a crime. – Degas
Thanks to impermanence, everything is possible. – Thich Nhat Hanh
When the right words hit, I own the previously unknown, repossess the past, and my heart rings like a bell. – Mary Ann deGrandpre Kelly