Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Split Oak Press

Split Oak Press, new in Ithaca, NY, is looking for poetry manuscripts. See the Split Oak Press website here. Thanks to Anthony Di Renzo for the tip.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fill a Notebook in a Day

Get a one-subject notebook. Clear a day so it’s nice and quiet. Then write in the notebook all day. Draft like crazy. Try to fill the notebook in just one day. Write what you want without censoring. This ain’t for publication. See what you come up with.

I finally got around to doing this favorite exercise (in a Hello Kitty notebook). It always unearths what I’m really interested in writing about, which gets buried under “should” and “ought to,” red herrings, and imagined obligations. A friend says: “You have the problems that you want to have.” When I think of writing as a problem, I have made my own problem, haven’t I?

I invented this exercise in creative profligacy when I was 12 and a notebook cost me most of a week’s allowance. I imagined growing up and the joy of being able to buy and fill all the notebooks I wanted.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Real Simple Scam

Don't enter that Real Simple contest -- alas, here is the fine print, under Section 5, sent to me by Linda O'Connell -- you'd be giving your work away:

"In addition, by entering, Entrant grants to Sponsor a nonexclusive, worldwide, royalty-free license to edit, publish, promote, and republish at any time in the future and otherwise use Entrant’s submitted essay, along with Entrant’s name, likeness, biographical information, and any other information provided by Entrant, in any and all media for possible editorial, promotional, or advertising purposes, without further permission, notice, or compensation (except where prohibited by law)."

I am removing the "Real Simple" blog entry and retracting my encouragement for you to enter.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Frank McCourt

Twenty years ago, memoirists had to pretend they were fiction writers. And today fiction writers have to pretend they are memoirists! Readers loved the late Frank McCourt's memoir, Angela's Ashes (1996), and writers must give him his props for helping, with that book, to spark the U.S.'s Creative Nonfiction Revolution. That book generated thousands of memoirs, courses in memoirs, workshops on memoirs, interest in memoirs, and programs in creative nonfiction, all since the middle 1990s. "I want to write something like Angela's Ashes." You can! And probably publish it, because Frank McCourt did.

Other bestselling memoirs too get credit for the memoir phenomenon, most frequently Mary Karr's The Liars Club, Tobias Wolff's This Boy's Life, and Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior. Earlier memoirs requiring our props and re-reads are I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1970), Memories of a Catholic Girlhood (1957), Black Boy (1945), and My Brilliant Career (1901).

Nonfiction writers: Aren't you glad you live now?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The No-Contest Contest

Finally -- the "no-contest contest." Send poetry or personal essays with $15 "reading fee" and receive a critique from "S.," who offers editing services and a subscription-only e-newsletter. Yes, everybody who enters the non-contest gets a critique. Here's how it works, genuine quotations:

"Step 1 - You submit an entry and S. responds.
Step 2 - You can either keep your entry as is for the contest or revise it and resubmit for consideration in the contest before the contest deadline, August 31st. "

You now demand to know the details and the prizes. Forthwith:

"Deadline: August 31, 2009
Submit: Up to six double-spaced pages of prose or three poems. S. will respond to your work within two weeks of receiving it. [Apparently S. is not very busy.]
Entry Fee: Entry fee for subscribers is $15 and for non-subscribers it is $45 and includes a year’s subscription ($30 value) to [newsletter].

"The contest finalists will be judged by a guest editor to be announced in September and winners will be notified and published in [newsletter] (we require one time only rights) in the later fall. Winners receive a half-hour consult with S. about their writing and/or publishing questions."

This is the first "contest" I have seen OPENLY established and run by an individual for their own personal monetary profit. Others like it can't be far behind...it's one way for a writer to try to make a living.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Pay the Writer -- What For?

Organization wants to set up literary contest. Doesn't know how. E-mails me. Can I tell them: how to set it up? Who the judges should be? What they should be paid? Should the contest be in poetry, fiction, drama, and creative nonfiction categories, or is all four too much? What prizes should be given? Should they be monetary? How do we winnow the entries? Advertise the contest? What should be its rules and guidelines? What's a realistic timeline for submissions? Should there be an awards ceremony?

I replied (and so should you): I will be glad to consult on this matter at my usual fee.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Prize: $2500 and Publication in Esquire

Short Story Contest
A prize of $2,500 and publication in Esquire will be given for a short story with the title “Twenty-Ten,” “An Insurrection,” or “Never, Ever Bring This Up Again.” The fiction editors will judge. Using the electronic submission system, submit a story of up to 4,000 words by August 1. There is no entry fee. Visit the Web site for complete guidelines.
Esquire, Short Story Contest, Hearst Communications, 300 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019. Camille Perri,
Fiction Editor.


Newsweek: Interview with Kay Ryan

Tip: Check out the "What to Read Now" July 13 issue of Newsweek, including an interview with Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, ("the Quiet Poet Laureate") who didn't think she could be a poet because she couldn't cut a "dramatic swath" like Anne Sexton and Robert Lowell, with their mental health issues. Good read...

Friday, July 3, 2009

More Girls Than Guys

More women than men:
-take creative-writing courses and workshops.
-belong to writing groups or circles.
-belong to writers' organizations or guilds.
-enter writing contests.
-go to writers' colonies.
-serve as volunteers for writers' organizations.
-win low-level writing prizes and awards.
-teach and tutor English composition.
-buy books.
-become part-time writers for some publication.
-spend time on list-servs, bulletin boards, and blogs.

More men than women:
-publish books.
-give readings.
-head literary magazines.
-head literary organizations.
-become writers-in-residence or professors of writing.
-become full-time writers for some publication.
-have agents.
-win prestigious prizes and fellowships.
-win Pulitzer prizes.
-are well-paid for their writing.

Both men and women:
-talk a lot about the books, especially the novels and memoirs, that they're going to write.
-self-publish at about the same levels.

Just noticing.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How to Kill Your Readers

Start with any of these to kill any reader's interest in your memoir:
  • "My father..."
  • "My mother..."
  • "As a child, I..."
  • "During my childhood..."
  • "During my senior year in high school..."
  • "I finally made the painful decision to..."
  • "When Mother couldn't take care of herself any longer..."
  • "A recurring dream I have is..."
  • "My sister [brother] has always been..."
  • "I have always wondered about my..."
It doesn't matter how beautifully written and moving it is or how hard you worked on it: If your memoir doesn't open with something more inclusive than yourself and your family -- readers won't read it.