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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Writers, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 359
1. Creating mini-units of study in writing workshop: writing to bear witness.

In my sixth grade class, we cycle through a set of genres every Writing Workshop year: personal narrative, memoir, feature article, poetry, profiles, and persuasive letters and research based essays.  Taken together, these… Continue reading

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2. Writing honestly from your true passions

The myth that publishers have stacks of manuscripts  and that writers have to line up in a long queue was deflated by Jennifer Bacia during her talk at the Gold Coast Writers Association meeting . ‘Actually, that is not the case’ she stated. According to Jennifer, publishers are always looking for something that will make […]

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3. Writing opp. Texas Mexican-American studies. Stop Keystone. Denver event.

Writer Submissions open

BorderSenses Literary and Arts Journal seeks to provide a venue for emerging and established writers/artists from the U.S.-Mexico border area and beyond to share their words and images.

We seek poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and book reviews in both Spanish and English from every corner of the world. We also cherish a diversity of visual artists. Translations can be accepted provided the original author has consented to publication rights and to reprinting.

The open submission period for volume 20 is:  March 5th to June 30th, 2014. Check our submission guidelines.

Mexican American Studies for Texas Children & Schools
Day of Action - Monday, April 7, 2014

1) E-mail all of the Texas State Board of Education at sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us and in the body of the e-mail put: To All Texas State Board of Education members (insures all 15 board members receive it) and simply tell  them you support the implementation of Mexican American Studies in Texas schools, and that this is important for the success of all Texas children and the State of Texas. 

2) Sign the petition for Mexican American Studies.

3) You can also call Texas State Board of Education representatives and tell them you support Mexican American Studies in Texas schools.
(SBOE members, districts they represent and contact numbers)
Martha M. Dominguez - D, El Paso 915-373-3563  sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Ruben Cortez, Jr - D, Brownsville (956) 639-9171  sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Marisa B. Perez - D, San Antonio (210) 317-4651  sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Lawrence A. Allen, Jr. - D, Fresno (713) 203-1355  sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Ken Mercer - R, San Antonio (512) 463-9007             sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Donna Bahorich - R, Houston (832) 303-9091            sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
David Bradley - R, Beaumont (409) 835-3808             sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Barbara Cargill - R, The Woodlands (512) 463-9007 sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Thomas Ratliff - R, Mount Pleasant (903) 717-1190  thomas@thomasratliff.com
Tom Maynard - R, Florence (512) 763-2801               sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Patricia Hardy - R, Ft Worth (817) 598-2968               sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Geraldine Miller - R, Dallas (972) 419-4000             qtince@aol.com
Mavis B. Knight - D, Dallas (214) 333-9575     sboesupport@tea.state.tx.us
Sue Melton-Malone - R, Waco (254) 749-041            smelton51@gmail.com
Marty Rowley - R, Amarillo (806) 373-6278                 martyforeducation@gmail.com

We ask all of colleagues and friends from across the state and the nation to E-mail and call into the Texas State Board of Education this coming Monday, April 7, "Day of Action," and to spread the word on this initiative. This is in preparation for the SBOE meeting on April 8-9 in Austin where a vote is anticipated. There will also be a march and press conference from Cesar Chavez Blvd. to the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday, April 8 beginning at 9am. 

If you want to testify at the April 8-9 SBOE meeting in Austin, you may register on the website or by fax between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. this coming Monday; or, in person or by telephone with the appropriate agency office. You can also register for this.

See additional information from our friends at Librotraficante and MASTexas. Gracias for your support and action on Monday. 

Juan Tejeda
Chair/National Assoc. for Chicana & Chicano Studies Tejas Foco Committee on MAS Pre-K-12           

Recognition for a Chicana advocate

Next Saturday you can throw some chanclas around to the sound of some of the best Tex-Mex in Denver, and join in celebrating the good works of Flo Hernandez, chingona advocate of bilingual radio in the Southwest. 

Go to KUVO.org or RickGarciaBand.com for tickets and more info.

Stopping XL Pipeline
From 350.org comes this:

We’ve gone to DC to stand against the Keystone XL pipeline before -- but never like this. In the last week in April, a powerful alliance of ranchers, farmers and tribal communities will converge in Washington for a demonstration called “Reject & Protect,” and it’s shaping up to be the most beautiful demonstration against Keystone XL yet. We have the ingredients we need to make this action unignorable — what we need is your help to bring it all together. Can you pitch in to make a BIG impression on the President and help stop this pipeline once and for all?

It’s going to be a sight to behold. There will be dozens of riders on horseback. And Native Americans raising 30 tipis ready to go up on the National Mall. There will be demonstrations and ceremonies to tell President Obama that the risk to our land, water and climate from Keystone XL is too great to allow. And all of this will be led by an unprecedented alliance that won't back down.

The goal is to be the talk of the town during the crucial last week of April when President Obama will be making up his mind about the pipeline. This is our exclamation point on two years of powerful action against Keystone XL.

It’s a bold vision, and we don’t have much time to pull it off. If it’s going to work, it’ll take all of us. So please pitch in whatever you can, and let’s make this happen together.
P.S. If you can join the big “Reject and Protect” rally in DC on Sat., April 26th (date changed from April 27th due to permitting issues) please sign up to stay in the loop.


Es todo, hoy,

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4. Do You Want Writers (Including Me) To Show Our Work?

I read this really intriguing book last night and this morning: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon.

Here’s his premise: Artists would do well to talk about their work as they work. It helps get their audience more involved and is basically just a friendly thing to do. Which sounds right to me–especially the second part.

I’d be interested in hearing your opinions on this: Do you want to look behind the curtain of a writer’s process? Some of the time, at least? Or would you rather just see the finished product and never really know how a book and all its characters and plot came to be?

For me, if someone like JK Rowling wanted to tell me every week what she did to write that current volume of Harry Potter, I’d be ALL OVER IT. But she’s JK Rowling. There might be other writers whose process wouldn’t thrill me at all. Hard to say.

It’s also hard for me to say whether any of you would be interested in hearing about that process from me. My creative mind sucks up all sorts of influences from all over the place, including a lot of non-fiction sources that I enjoy bringing to new readers via my fiction. Would you be interested in seeing that trail of breadcrumbs from initial idea, through research and writing, to final production? Or would you, honestly, not?

I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this! Thanks!

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5. Writing Software for Writers

Guest Post by Anne Duguid Tree Sheets Despite the title, this month's free software choices are not simply for writers. But they are worth mentioning because they can potentially save money and time. I admit being prone to play with new gadgets and ideas. My time savers can soon become time wasters, if I'm not careful. So when I read the recent reviews for Tree Sheets--another planning/ list

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6. Lucius Shepard: Art Out of Fantasy and Pain

photo by Ellen Datlow, 21 Nov 2007
I hate that this sentence must now be in the past tense: Lucius Shepard was one of the great American writers.

It's hard to find words, even though I've had 24 hours to search.

In a review of The Dragon Griaule, I invoked Conrad and melodrama, and quoted Eric Bentley on both. Here's part of that quote again, because it gets at exactly what Lucius Shepard's stories mean to me, and why they mean so much:
Only under the influence of a narrow and philistine Naturalism can we ask why an artist shows life at a remove and in some established genre. The transposition of an inner struggle to a duel between persons does not even need a convention to carry it: such changes are made nightly by everyone in his dreams. If one can make of one's tussels with suicidal wishes a drama of love and honor, one has given to private and chaotic material a public and recognizable form. One has made art out of fantasy and pain.
And now a sentence from the introduction to the final collection of stories published during Lucius Shepard's lifetime, Five Autobiographies and a Fiction, after a description of a harrowing childhood and adolescence:
For the next twenty years I traveled aimlessly, engaged in bar fights, street fights, insulated myself from the possibility of self-examination with drugs, played in a number of rock bands, married twice without giving the matter much thought, dabbled in low-level criminality, drug-dealing, burglary, etc., and escewed anything that smacked remotely of the cerebral.
Luckily, he found his way out of at least some of that darkness, those difficult decades. He attended the Clarion writers' workshop and a few years later his stories began to appear in magazines and anthologies, and his first novel, Green Eyes, was published as part of the resurrected Ace Specials line that also brought out Neuromancer and Kim Stanley Robinson's first novel, The Wild Shore, among others.

I could try to be objective here and talk about the specific qualities of Lucius Shepard's writing that set him apart from most of his peers for me — the long, languorous sentences, of course; the precision of the imagery; the complexity of form; the rich social world implied from the texts; the fascination with the perils of machismo; the great variety of types of stories unified not by genre but by vision and even, to use a rather antiquated term, moral conviction; the sheer imaginative force the best of the work displays.

Maybe another time. It feels too cold and academic. Too un-Lucius. He hated analysis that got away from the practical. His entertainingly curmudgeonly movie reviews were always based in a very personal voice, producing the sense of somebody talking to you from his own experience, hoping maybe that his experience could connect with, enlighten, enliven, enrage your own. I'm not (yet) interested in being entertainingly curmudgeonly, but I can't speak of Lucius Shepard right now without speaking about what, and how, his work meant to me.

(A momentary, weird personal aside: The indefatigable researchers at the Science Fiction Encylopedia are confident that Lucius Shepard was born in 1943, not 1947 as he often claimed. If so, that means he was one day younger than my father.)

I started reading Lucius's stories when I started reading science fiction. My mother's boss subscribed to Asimov's and loaned me a few issues. That first batch included the April 1986 issue. The cover story was "R&R".

cover illustration by J.K. Potter
I don't think I read all of "R&R" then — I was too young, it was too dense — but I gave it a good shot. I was, after all, just getting over my infatuation with G.I. Joe and Rambo, and so J.K. Potter's cover and interior illustrations for the story grabbed my interest immediately. (That cover is seared into my brain.) I did start reading Shepard pretty soon, though, because once I was a confirmed sci-fi nerd, my parents let me join the Science Fiction Book Club, and one of the first books I got was Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction: 3rd Annual Collection, which included two Lucius Shepard stories, "The Jaguar Hunter" (the first story in the book) and "A Spanish Lesson". I wanted to know what "good" science fiction was, and the presence of two stories meant this was a major writer, so I studied those stories intensively. I don't remember what I made of them. I think I thought they were slow, but there was something alluring in them, something that wouldn't let go of me (and that never let go of me).

A few years later, I got a paperback copy of The Jaguar Hunter, which collected most of the best of those early stories (the paperback omitted "R&R", which had been incorporated into Life During Wartime, a book I picked up, but to this day have never completely read because some genius at Bantam Spectra decided the whole nearly-500-page book ought to be in san serif font. It's ghastly!). By that time I was in my mid-teens, had become a better reader, and followed Shepard's career closely. "The Man Who Painted the Dragon Griaule" and "The Scalehunter's Beautiful Daughter" were particular favorites from the early years, but many of the novellas of the 1990s also wowed me and wooed me, bringing me back to science fiction magazines even when I had claimed to move on to better things. The stories were vivid and gnarled, unpredictable, sometimes vexing in their ambiguities, their complex dance with the conventions of narrative form. They clung and haunted. "Skull City", "Barnacle Bill the Spacer", "Beast of the Heartland", "Radiant Green Star" — I still have the magazines and still remember where I was sitting when I read each story.

It was in the new century, though, that Lucius Shepard got really, really good. His work deepened, darkened, thickened. In addition to The Dragon Griaule and Five Autobiographies and a Fiction, read Viator. Read A Handbook for American Prayer. Read Floater. Read Eternity and Other Stories, which includes "Only Partly Here", still one of the most powerful stories I've ever read about 9/11. (If you need a primer, Subterranean Press is offering the e-book of The Best of Lucius Shepard for $2.99 at the moment.)

I got to know Lucius a little bit in his last years, mostly via Facebook, oddly enough — it proved to be a pretty good forum for him. I first met him in 2007 when we were the two readers at the KGB Fantastic Fiction series for that November. It felt bizarre to be reading on the same bill as Lucius. I think I was there because there wasn't really anybody else around who was willing to do a reading a couple days before Thanksgiving. Or something. I don't know. I certainly didn't deserve to be on a bill with Lucius Shepard! (Even I just wanted me to hurry up and finish my reading so Lucius could begin!) I was terribly intimidated and terrified of him, even though he was gracious and friendly. But he was Lucius Shepard — one of the greats! I wish I'd had more guts that night, wish I'd chatted with him more, wish I'd gotten him to sign a book. But I was too nervous. We talked a bit at dinner afterward, and then later on we corresponded some. Just as I felt like I was getting to know him, he began to have his most serious health problems, including a stroke. I had plenty of faith that he'd pull out of it, that he'd write again. He had to. How could the world not have the force of his words?

I keep thinking back to a moment of childhood: visiting the Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston in the late '80s and paging through the Arkham House hardcover of The Jaguar Hunter, which I couldn't afford to buy. $21.95 was a fortune to me then. I looked at the book and looked at it and looked at it. But that's not why I keep thinking about it. What I keep thinking about is this: A year or two ago, I got a pristine copy of that book for pennies. A price I could have afforded even when I was a kid. A first edition, first printing of a brilliant book that ought to be a collector's item selling for a hundred times what I paid for it. I was happy to get a gift for my inner child, but also deeply angry that I could afford it — that it's not as valuable and scarce as it deserves to be just reminds me of how little valued Lucius's work is in comparison to its quality.

He should have been a literary star. He should have been recognized as one of the great writers of his generation. Because he was. Sure, sometimes his need for money caused him to sell work that wasn't entirely great, but he should be judged by his best, which is as good as the work of nearly any of his contemporaries (not just in the science fiction field; his work is richer, more powerful, more vivid, more weird, and more meaningful than that of all but a couple of his contemporaries in SF, but it also makes most of the fiction written in any genre or non-genre look unambitious, minor) — and there's a lot of best. (And even the less-than-best is usually quite wonderful for a few pages at least.) His work probably doesn't have the qualities of bestsellerdom, but it should have been — should be — recognized more fully, appreciated more deeply. He won nearly every award in the SF field at least once, but I don't think it was enough, because he deserved a pile of the damn things. He deserved other awards, too, not just genre ones. But even within the genre that he ended up (imprisoned?) in, he wasn't as well known as he should have been, nor was his accomplishment recognized as fully as it deserved. The same could be said for plenty of people, yes, but I've felt for a long time that it's especially unjust in Lucius's case, because the work is so varied, so powerful, so special.

So here we are, then, in a world without Lucius. We've got the words, though, the pages and the books — and we ought to do something with them — we ought to seek them out and get more of them back into print, we ought to harangue critics to write about Lucius's work with the depth and seriousness it deserves — and, too, we ought to sing songs in his honor and spend a bit too much time in a bar now and then, we ought to howl at the moon, we ought to seek out some good movies, we ought to scowl at liars while recognizing what liars we are, we ought to stand up for the weak, we ought not ever get too settled in ourselves, we ought to write long sentences, we ought to be gracious, we ought to be angry, we ought to fight against borders and pigeonholes and easy expectations, we ought to stand brave against the violence at the heart of our selves, we ought to dream and laugh and spare some time for people different from us, we ought to seek to be more and better, to escape old pasts and old resentments and, most of all, old failures — because we're what's left, and we're still here, and the words still live.
We had reached a spot overlooking a strip of white beach guarded at both ends by enormous boulders. The blue sea stretched tranquil and vast to the horizon, and the cloudless sky, a lighter blue, empty of birds, echoed that tranquility. Nothing seemed to move, yet I felt a vibration in the earth and air that signaled the movement of all things, the flux of atoms and the drift of unknown spheres. An emotion swelled in my breast, nourished by that fundamental vista, and I felt, as I had not in years, capable of belief, of hope, of seeing beyond myself. Jane linked her arm through mine and rested her head against my shoulder, and whispered something that the wind bore away. And for that moment, for those minutes atop the hill, we were as happy as the unhappiness of the world permits.

—"Rose Street Attractors", the final story in Five Autobiographies and a Fiction by Lucius Shepard

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7. I should get an award or something

Not sure why scientists are so ga-ga over figuring out what black holes really are. I’ve already done that. And I know how they are formed. Revisions = black holes Revisions are formed when first drafts become second drafts, third drafts, fourth drafts, etc. An endless loop of deletions and additions that suck the writer…

5 Comments on I should get an award or something, last added: 3/20/2014
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8. Flash Fiction Contest with Prizes and Critiques!

You don't even have to be female to enter the WOW! Spring 2014 Flash Fiction Contest sponsored by WOW! Women on Writing--you just have to write your best 750 words or less and pay a ten dollar entry fee (additional ten dollars for critique).

I've entered several of their contests, placed and not placed, and I highly recommend not only the contest, but the website itself. When I started writing seriously in 2007, I discovered Wow! Women on Writing,and I felt I'd found friends, people to whom I could learn from and whose words encouraged me.

If you've never visited their site, you've got a lot of good stuff waiting for you. Check out current articles and contests, and don't forget to pore through the archives. This is the kind of website that makes you feel as though you are in the company of friends.

Good luck, and have a great day!

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9. Clyde Phillips to Aspiring Screenwriters: ‘Don’t fall in love with your first script too much’

MediabistroTV recently talked to Clyde Phillips, bestselling crime novelist and current showrunner for Nurse Jackie. He shares some advice for aspiring writers, and tells why novel writing is not that different from TV writing:

New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.

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10. 10 Crazy Things People Say to Writers

What crazy things do people say when they learn you are a writer?

  1. Oh, I have a story that you could write. Sit down and I’ll tell you about it.
  2. Oh, are they real books or just books for kids?
  3. Um, that’s nice. Is the spelling hard?
  4. I wrote a poem, and I think it would make a good picture book, but I can’t find a good illustrator.
  5. I don’t like to read.
  6. To the writer of a picture book: The art really makes this story come alive.
  7. I only go to the bookstore for the coffee.
  8. Why don’t you write something like Harry Potter? (Um, yeah. Start at the top of my profession, why don’t I?)
  9. Are you rich?
  10. How much did you have to pay to get the books printed?

Going CRAZY about all the CRAZY things said to writers.

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11. Guess

I added the quote for a hint and replaced the name with "he" Guess who this is in the comments.

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12. Writing Is…

Writing is…

…the one thing you’re good at.

…the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

…just a career.

…the one thing that keeps you going.

…the daily grind.

…the next stolen moment.

…a windowless room papered with rejections.

…an endless horizon, no points of reference in sight.

…an easy escape.

…the hardest taskmaster.

…a high school party–the kegger with cool kids–where you don’t belong.

…a circle you pull others into, your arms outstretched.

…the safest place.

…dangerous ground.

…an affectation, pretentious rambling.

…bare-boned truth, exposed and sharp. 

…nothing to speak of.

…everything all the time.

…the secret you never tell.

…80,000 pieces of you, strung out and shouting, 250 declarations per page.






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13. Membership Organizations Can be Useful But Be Aware

This week’s marketing tip is more of a warning. If you're on the internet, especially if you do article marketing to generate visibility, you will become . .  visible. While this is a good thing, it may also bring you to the attention of some who are looking to make money off of you.

I’ve come across two professional groups, specifically for women, that play on your ego to get you to buy a membership into their organization.

The most recent is the International Women’s Leadership Association. They sent me an email stating that I was honored among women in education. This is part of the email:

“On behalf of The International Women’s Leadership Association (TheIWLA), it is my distinct pleasure to notify you that, in consideration of your contribution to family, career, and community, you have been selected as a woman of outstanding leadership in Education.”

At the end it noted to register, and since I wasn't sure what it was about I registered. There was absolutely no mention of a fee.

A couple of days later, I got a call from my ‘personal liaison’ to the group. She fluffed my ego, but having experience with another group with this marketing technique, I very nicely explained that I was hit by Hurricane Sandy and am still rebuilding.

This didn’t faze her – she continued her promo. I again nicely interrupted her and explained that if there was a membership fee involved I wasn’t at all interested.

She continued, saying that’s okay, at the end of her information I could choose what I wanted to do. And, again she continued.

So, again I interrupted and explained that I was still rebuilding from Sandy and wasn’t in a position to spend money. Again she went on.

Finally, still being polite, I said the conversation was a waste of both our time and that there was no point to it.

She finally got that I wasn’t buying and asked if she could contact me at a future date.

It was a hard sell call and she just didn’t want to take no for an answer.

Anyway, the point is to be aware of who’s contacting you and for what purpose. While it’s ego boosting to have an organization tell you you’re great and worthy of being a member, take a step back and question their motive, especially if they contact you cold..

While some organizations, if you can afford it, are worthwhile for the connections and networking, some aren’t.

And, if you get a ‘hard sell’ call, ask yourself why they’re so pushy.

Stay safe!


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14. Better Google Searches for Writers

Hands down, the Internet beats the old days when writers had to go to the library to research a topic. Now anyone can retrieve information with a few computer clicks. I frequently use Google in my searches and have discovered the following ways to improve results:

  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card with the words you’re searching. For example, if you wanted to search for me on the Web but couldn’t remember my last name but knew I was a children’s author, you could type Ronica * children’s author and related sites would pop up, providing my last name.
  • Use the minus sign before words you want to exclude from the search. Using a similar example, if you searched solely on my first name, Ronica, and a bunch of “Ronica Smith” sites showed up, you could eliminate Ronica Smith from your search by typing Ronica -Smith.
  • Put quotation marks around a word or two (such as “Ronica Stromberg”) to pull up sites only with the word (or words) as quoted.
  • To find the word you’re searching for on a Web site that came up, hit Control-F (Command-F on a Mac) and enter the word you’re searching for again. This will highlight the word you’re searching for. I’ve found this useful when a Web site has page after page of text but no clear indication where the word or phrase I’m searching for may be.
  • To restrict search results to a specific URL, add site: in front of the URL. For example, dognapper site:nytimes.com would pull articles printed about dognappers at The New York Times domain.
  • To find sites similar to one you’re using, type related: before the URL of the site (as in related:nytimes.com).
  • Use two periods between numeric ranges to find information about a range. For example, if you wanted to find information about gasoline prices between 1970 and 1980, you could type gasoline prices 1970 . . 1980. Writers of historical novels may find this particularly useful for research.
  • To use Google as a dictionary and look up the definition of a word, type define: immediately followed by the word.
  • To find the current weather in a town (in case you are about to set off on a book talk or other trip), type weather in followed by the town’s name.
  • To convert currency or measurements, use search formats such as 50 pesos in US dollars or 100 kilometers in miles.
  • To find the title of a song that lyrics come from, type some of the more distinct lyrics followed by :lyric. For example, when I type want to be a paperback writer:lyric, several sites appear, letting me know this line of lyrics comes from the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” song.
  • To get alerted about breaking news on a topic, go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the topic and your e-mail address. Google will then e-mail you the next time news on the topic appears on the Internet. I know a lot of authors type their name or key words from their works into this site to track online publicity and, also, to check whether their writing is being plagiarized.

Instead of doing a general search of the whole Internet, I may have only a specific area I want to search. The following are my favorites.

blogs     http://www.google.com/blogsearch

books     http://books.google.com/

finance     http://www.google.com/finance  This search of the latest financial news may be of particular interest to business and financial writers.

images     http://images.google.com  This site can be misleading. When I searched on “F. Scott Fitzgerald,” the name of one of my favorite authors, photos of him–and a bunch of other people–cropped up. Had I not already known what F. Scott Fitzgerald looked like, the site wouldn’t have helped much.

news     http://news.google.com/

patents     http://www.google.com/?tbm=pts

videos     http://www.google.com/videohp

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15. AWP 2013

I traveled down to Boston for the AWP Conference, the first time I'd been to AWP in 5 years. It's always a busy, frenetic, overwhelming, and generally wonderful experience, made all the more wonderful this time by the presence of quite a few friends I only occasionally get to see in person these days. On Thursday, I moderated a discussion between Samuel R. Delany and Kit Reed that was one of the featured events of the conference, and on Friday and Saturday I worked the morning shift at the Rain Taxi Review of Books table, something I enjoyed very much because it meant I got to stand in one spot and talk to lots of people instead of having to move all around to talk to lots of people (which is what I spent most of the rest of the conference doing). It was a great delight to catch up with folks like Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan of Omnidawn, Dustin Kurz of Melville House, Gavin Grant and Kelly Link of Small Beer Press, Hannah Tinti of One Story, Lawrence Schimel of Midsummer Night's Press, Parker Smathers and Stephanie Elliott of Wesleyan University Press, various folks from Unstuck, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting (sorry! you are so closely woven into my life that I take you for granted!). (Also, everyone who worked the Coffee House Press booth, because each time I walked by, I couldn't help saying, "I love your books!") I had a great conversation with someone at the Copper Canyon Press table about how they handle poetry lineation in ebooks by offering a sample line from which to calibrate, kind of like color bars on a tv. This allows the reader the flexibility to read the lines as the writer intended them, or to not. It also gave me a great excuse to buy an ebook (Laura Kasischke's Space, In Chains).

I went to panels and discussions and readings. Highlights were the joint reading/discussion by Dana Spiotta and Don DeLillo, moderated by Nan Graham, publisher and senior VP of Scribner. It was a highlight mostly because I haven't yet read anything by Spiotta, so it was a nice introduction to her, and because I've often wondered what DeLillo is like in person. He seemed pleasant enough, not particularly uncomfortable on stage, and in discussion his comments were often accompanied by a marvelously dry wit. I'm not a DeLillo fanboy — I like Underworld very much, but haven't ever warmed to the other books of his that I've read or sampled, and I positively hated White Noise. But hey, it's Don DeLillo. And it was an especially DeLilloesque moment because there were lots of warnings about taking pictures, making recordings, etc. We must abjure the age of digito-mechanical reproduction. (It was okay, they said, to use Twitter, though!) Meanwhile, because the event was in a giant auditorium, there was a massive screen up above that broadcast faces to us all. It was difficult not to look at the screen rather than the actual people.

Another great event in the same giant auditorium (indeed, immediately following the Spiotta/DeLillo event) was supposed to be a reading/discussion between Jeanette Winterson and Alison Bechdel, but Bechdel was trapped by snowfall in Cleveland, so it was Winterson alone. And if anybody can hold the attention of a giant auditorium full of writers, it's Jeanette Winterson. But still, I thought the pairing of Winterson and Bechdel was genius, and I desperately looked forward to seeing their interaction. Nonetheless, Winterson was awesome (for a somewhat similar version of the performance she gave us, see this video of her at the Sydney Opera House). I'm not quite in agreement with her Modernist self-help shtick, but I could watch her for hours, because she's a marvelous performer and a great reader of her own work. And I'm looking forward to reading Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal very much, because I'm a total sucker for her writing — reading Art & Lies at 20 was a revelatory experience, and I went on to devour just about everything else she wrote.

But the best event I saw at AWP may have been the discussion of the VIDA Count with various writers and editors. In fact, I have so many thoughts about it that I'm going to make it a separate post. [Which is now available here.]

Of course, I bought some books. Quite a few poetry books, in fact, because I've had a lack of poetry in life over the last few years, and it's a genre I love.

It was especially fun to see my friend and colleague Ivy Page sell out of her hot-off-the-press first poetry collection, Any Other Branch. And Lesley Wheeler very kindly gave me a copy of her new book from Aqueduct, The Receptionist and Other Tales, because Lawrence Schimel said nice things about me (haha! I fooled him!).

Overall, and as always, the greatest joy of AWP was getting time with great people. Eric Lorberer, Rudi Dornemann, Meghan McCarron, Jen Volant, Richard Larson, Nick Mamatas, and so many others (Laird Hunt! Who I don't think I'd seen since my first AWP back in 2006!). I came home exhausted and with a cold, but it was completely worth it.

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16. Achebe

Chinua Achebe, 1930-2013

It's going to take me a while to have anything coherent to say about Chinua Achebe now that he has died. Not just because he was a great writer — and he was a great writer, as Aaron Bady says, "full stop". But because, right now at least, I can't think of a more deeply influential writer in our era. Not just for Things Fall Apart, though that book certainly did a lot. But for so much else — his work as an editor for the African Writers Series, his essays on Conrad, his championing of Amos Tutuola after Tutuola's work had gone out of fashion, etc. etc. (If you ever needed evidence of the irrelevance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the fact that Achebe never won it is Exhibit A.)

The best writing I've seen so far on Achebe in the wake of his death comes from Keguro Macharia. You should read the whole, beautiful essay, but here is a taste:
His departure now – euphemism must be used, if only once – feels much like an encounter with his work: it was unexpected because it had been possible to believe that he was beyond mortality. Achebe simply was. He existed in the world and the world existed because he did. I could afford to take his existence for granted, could afford not to teach or discuss or write about his work, because he simply was. His being in the world made certain things unnecessary. Because he was. Certain figures inspire a kind of faith that they have transcended death, and their deaths hit all the harder – most recently for me, Adrienne Rich who, like Achebe, simply was. When they die – euphemisms can no longer work – we continue to call their names, hoping that they will return to us, that their ghosts will continue to energize the labor they started and sustained and that we now feel unable to continue. So it is that we continue to call for Audre Lorde. Believing, as we must, that she can still provide the right words, the necessary words, the transforming words.

Simon Gikandi has written that Chinua Achebe “invented” African literature. This is not a claim about who wrote first – other Africans wrote before Achebe. Nor is it a claim about the volume of his work – others have written more. It is a claim, I think, about Achebe as an institution builder, as one who made possible a certain kind of imagination and, in his role as editor with the African Writers Series, made possible many other imaginations for African literature. Perhaps the greatest compliment that can be given to a writer is this: that a particular book has been written. A particular imagination explored. A room populated. And multiple other rooms made possible.

Few contemporary Africans, if any, feel the need to write another Things Fall Apart. Indeed, by the mid-1960s, Things Fall Apart could not be written again. Achebe’s work had given African writers the permission to pursue their geo-histories, to take multiple paths, to pursue the mystical and the routine, the profane urban and the perverse rural, the unending past and the foreclosed future. Things Fall Apart had been written, and African writing pursued its multiple afters, with Achebe as inspiration, as guide, and as champion.

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17. The Snail Mail Author Project

Do you remember when you thought you might be able to fly,
if you just jumped high enough?
Do you remember when anything was possible?

On Monday, I helped at a young writer's conference.
I was surrounded with small writers
belly-full pleased with their writing,

oblivious to that dreaded taskmaster Revision,
unconcerned about snagging a publishing deal,
purely finding joy in their words.

All that youthful buoyancy
made me want to climb out of my writing slump
and grow some wings!

How do we as writers return
to that weightless pleasure in our words

without losing
the wisdom earned
from critiques and rejection slips,
writing groups and how-to books...

How do we find both our feet AND our wings?

As soon as we returned from our very long day,
the girls embarked on a writing project:
to send letters
to 100 authors and illustrators
of some of their favorite books.

Think we can do it?

If you're an author or illustrator friend and a crooked little envelope comes to you,

would you be kind and write back?


We have two hopeful writers, who think anything is possible. 

In Need of Some Snail Mail?

Leave us a comment, and we'll put you on our snail letter list - whether you're published or not.


Happy writing!


A Letter to Amy - Ezra Jack Keats
The Gardener, by Sarah Stewart, ill. by David Small
Toot and Puddle - Holly Hobbie
Click, Clack, Moo! Cows That Type - by Doreen Cronin, ill. by Betsy Lewin
Mailing May, by Michael O. Tunnell, ill. by Ted Rand

5 Comments on The Snail Mail Author Project, last added: 4/10/2013
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18. Most Everything Is Terrible

Most images grabbed off the internet are terrible.
A few days ago, I wrote a draft of this post that was a snarky attack on a badly thought-out essay by J. Robert Lennon at Salon. It would be nice if sites like Salon would expend more of their energies in bringing attention to some good writing that doesn't get noticed rather than running yet another quick-and-dirty "contrarian" takedown.

After writing the snarky draft, I realized my problem wasn't with Lennon or the essay per se. My problem was more with the people who seemed so desperately to want to like his essay.

Lennon sets himself up against some comments by Dan Chaon that have been bouncing around the internet for a while (for some unfathomable reason, that website doesn't clearly date its material). These comments by Chaon are intelligent and accurate. He says writers need to read widely and eclectically, and he even suggests some good things to read. Specific, helpful advice.

Lennon decides to contradict Chaon's advice. And that's where he goes off the rails, making vague accusations that something called "literary fiction" is "terrible" and "boring".

Here was my original first paragraph:
J. Robert Lennon proves himself to be the latest person who needs to have Sturgeon's Law tattooed on his arm so he can be reminded of it every day. Yes, Mr. Lennon, most contemporary literary fiction is terrible. Most everything is terrible.

Lennon provides little evidence and little analysis, just yammering for the knee-jerks in the peanut gallery. (For a vastly better discussion of "literary fiction", with evidence and analysis and all that jazz, listen to this podcast with Nick Mamatas. The set-up of "literary vs. genre fiction" is inane, but Nick actually knows what he's talking about, has read widely, is not a "SCI FI RULZ!" kind of guy, and in any case is mostly discussing one of the strongholds of adorable My Literature Is The One Ring cosplay, the AWP Conference.)

After writing on and on about Lennon's vapid essay, I realized I didn't care about what he had written, nor did I care if he'd made an idiot of himself in public. Go for it. We all do it now and then. God invented the internet so we'd all have an easier way to parade our stupidies for the world to see.

What really annoyed me, I realized, was seeing Lennon's piece linked to approvingly by people on Twitter and Facebook, those machines of social infestation. Clearly, it wasn't Lennon's argument that was appealing to people, because his argument is about as strong as homeopathic water. What appealed to people was, it seems, the impulse to clan identification that Michael Chabon described so well in his 2004 Locus interview:
It's quite obvious to me that so much of what goes on in the world of science fiction has analogies with a ghetto mentality, with a sense of clannishness and that ambivalence that you have: on the one hand wanting to keep outsiders out and identify all the insiders with a special language and jargon so you can tell at a glance who does and doesn't belong, and on the other hand hating that sense of confinement, wanting to move beyond the walls of the ghetto and find wider acceptance. It's a deep ambivalence. You want both at the same time: you feel confined, and you feel supported and protected.

People who spread around the most bombastic and attention-seeking sentence from Lennon's essay — "Let’s face it: Literary fiction is fucking boring." — likely did so for reasons of clannishness and ressentiment. In Lennon's construction of the sentence, there's the audience-flattering opening: Let's face it. Like the guy at the bar who says, "Let's face it, we all know the Yankees suck." (The difference here is that "the Yankees" is an identifiable thing.) Anyone passing this sentence around is excluded from its claims. Are you a self-published writer who identifies with genre fiction of some sort or another? Lennon's sentence, then, was built to make you feel good about yourself. Are you somebody who's been rejected by all the major university-sponsored lit mags? You are loving that sentence, because you know your own writing is just too interesting for the tweed-spattered boringheads who edit those publications. Anybody who nurses a grudge about their writing career, anybody who doesn't feel appreciated, anybody who thinks the institutional They is enforcing boredom so as to keep the individual, interesting You outside the gates raises a fist in solidarity with that sentence. Every unpublished, highly-rejected, destitute writer can love that sentence in just the same way that Stephen King can love that sentence. No matter what, it's not about you. You are not boring.

Except you probably are. To somebody, at least. Maybe to J. Robert Lennon. (Full confession: I thought Lennon's Castle was sometimes boring. Not as boring as lots of other books, but sometimes, yes, boring. To me.)

The problem is not that most x is boring. It is. Stories, books, poems, movies, food, appliances, bunny rabbits, sex, drugs, rocknroll. Fill in the x and the equation will always be true for somebody. (A person once even said to me, "Cocaine is boring." I have no experience with the drug myself, but while I'm sure many things could be said about cocaine, this statement surprised me.)

The problem is that saying, "Most x is boring" or "Most x is terrible" lets you off the hook. It's easy. It makes knees jerk and fists rise in the air. It creates a hierarchy in which you stand in the superior position. How's it feel up there at your exalted heights?

While saying, "X bores me," is an incontrovertible statement of personal experience and taste, making a universal ontological statement ("X is boring") is indefensible. You can say, "William Gaddis novels and Andrei Tarkovsky movies bore me," but once you say, "Gaddis novels and Tarkovsky movies are boring," you have entered dangerous territory in which you have set yourself up as superior not only to Gaddis and Tarkovsky, but to anyone interested in their work. You are saying, "If you enjoyed and appreciated x-that-bored-me, you are wrong."

Are you really that much of an egomaniac that your lack of engagement with something must become universal?

What Sturgeon's Law really gets at is not that most everything is terrible, but that most of us experience most everything as terrible. A person who likes everything is a person who likes nothing (and other banal and obvious statements). Our experiences in life condition us to appreciate some things and not appreciate others. Somebody who finds everything interesting is somebody who probably has trouble getting out of bed in the morning because the potential for absolute awesomeness is too overwhelming.

Even that, though, is not really what most bothered me about Lennon's essay and people's support for it. We all say stuff is boring all the time, it's a rhetorical claim rather than a statement of fact, whatever dude.

What really, truly, deeply bothered me is that Lennon's claims are so broadly dismissive when in reality there's all sorts of varied work being published that could be tagged "literary fiction".

If Lennon had said, "Most of the anthologies used in Introduction to Literature classes for undergraduates are created with a pretty conventional and quite narrow definition of 'literature'," he'd be on solid ground. If he said, "In my experience, lots of writing workshops define what is 'acceptable' for students to write in narrow, conventional ways," he'd also be on perfectly solid ground, just as he's on relatively solid ground in implying that the Best American Short Stories volumes are ruled by quite conventional and conservative standards, ones enforced by the publisher and series editor even, it seems, occasionally against the will of individual guest editors (the brand must be protected).

Anyone who uses the term "literary fiction" as anything other than an admittedly unsatisfactory placeholder for an undefinable something-or-other ought to feel some obligation to get specific. Do you mean Tin House and Conjunctions and Ninth Letter and Denver Quarterly? Do you mean books from Dalkey Archive and Dzanc and Coffee House and Melville House and Open Letter and...? Do you mean Pulitzer winners or Sukenick Award winners or Booker winners or PEN Faulkner winners or Nobel winners or Whiting Award winners or...?

What are you talking about when you talk about "literary fiction"?

Are you sure that your view of fiction isn't narrow, provincial, and more based on your own limited assumptions rather than any actual evidence? Are you primarily annoyed that you didn't get a good review in the New York Times and nobody has nominated you for a major award and your books are taught in college classes and you got dropped by your publisher and Dan Brown sells more books than you? Are you still angry about your 9th grade English teacher making you read The Scarlet Letter?

Instead of blathering on about how terrible literary fiction is, instead of sharing links to vapid essays about the evil conspiracy of boredom committed against you, instead of ra-ra-ing for your clan and salving the wounds of your ego with the balm of drivel — why don't you try 1.) reading more broadly, and 2.) pointing to interesting work that isn't getting noticed?

Most literary fiction is terrible.

Most fiction is terrible. Most nonfiction is terrible. Most blog posts are terrible.

Most everything is terrible.

Big deal. Get over it. Go read something that interests you, and if nothing interests you, then the problem is not with other people and other writers, but with you.

5 Comments on Most Everything Is Terrible, last added: 4/10/2013
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19. ReadWave Launch Widget for Author Promotion


ReadWave has just announced the launch of a new reading widget, that aims to revolutionize the way that stories are shared and authors promote themselves online. The widget allows bloggers and website owners to embed stories online in a compact form.

An example of the ReadWave Widget can be found at


The ReadWave widget is the first reading widget to allow readers to “follow” the writer. When a reader follows a writer they are added to the writer’s fanbase and can receive updates on all of the writer’s future stories. The widget is designed specifically to help writers build up a fanbase and grow their readership online. The widget is also the first to be directly integrated with Facebook, so that content is automatically shared via social media.

Raoul Tawadey, CEO of ReadWave commented, “The ReadWave widget doesn’t simply provide the technology for embedding stories online, it also provides a legal framework for re-posting other people’s content within the bounds of copyright law. Every day, millions of indie writers post up their creative writing for free on their personal websites with the aim of attracting as many readers as possible. Currently other website owners can’t repost those stories due to copyright law. Our widget eliminates this copyright problem, and enables anyone to post your story anywhere without limits, and it does so in a way that ensures the original writer is reaping the rewards.”

Existing widgets use a predefined page size, so when the widget is made smaller the text is made smaller. The ReadWave widget is the first reading widget where the width and height are fully customizable and the text automatically adjusts itself to fit the space available.

“The ReadWave widget is great news for website owners,” says ReadWave’s Chief Technology Officer, Simon Van Blerk. “Rather than linking to someone else’s website, the ReadWave widget allows you to keep traffic on your own website. This means website owners can retain visitors and keep them engaged for longer.”


Rob Tucker





About ReadWave

ReadWave is a community of readers and writers who love to discover and share new stories from contemporary writers. Readers can access thousands of stories and read them for free on mobile or desktop. Writers can use ReadWave to build up a fanbase and market their stories online. ReadWave puts writers in touch with the readers who are just right for them.

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20. Blog Hop! with Donna J. Shepherd

<!--[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]--> My friend, Diana Jenkins, invited me to participate in a “blog hop interview.” Diana sent interview questions to answer on my blog. I then tag writers who will answer questions on their blogs.    Diana posted her interview on her blog at DJ's Thoughts. If you get a minute, drop by to get to know Diana better and leave a comment letting her know you

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21. Gardens of Young Writers

Teaching writing is a lot like gardening. It requires constant attention.

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22. Notebook Routines

I think the thing that makes a writer is Habit. Yes, that’s habit with a capital H. (I go back and forth between whether it’s habit that makes a writer or belief that… Read More

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23. A New Way To Learn About Teaching Writing

It is the writer who might catch the imagination of young people, and plant a seed that will flower and come to fruition.
 - Isaac Asimov I began a writer’s group last year at… Read More

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24. Reading in your Genre

Maceration of the grapes

Maceration of the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes – source – Wikimedia Commons

Mondays on this blog will be given over to musings on being: a writer (for children), a voracious reader, an MFA student, an expat in New York, a nature advocate, part of the LGBTQ community, a lifelong wanderer, an obsessive observer of human nature, and one who jives to the java bean and the fermentation-flirtation of the Cabernet Sauvignon grape!

While I shall most definitely be writing a post on, ‘Why One Should Read Outside One’s Genre,’ today I espouse the importance as writers of reading the themes, content, forms and genre in which we have rooted our own manuscript. You need to know how your book compares with the competition, and how it is different. Reading your genre is about staying current as an author, just as a teacher or doctor might. Agents and publishers will expect this of you, and you should certainly know on which shelf in a (Indie) bookstore a reader should be able to find your book!

I like to not only read in my genre, but also books that have focused on some of the big themes and subject matter in my story; maybe betrayal, or teenage pregnancy, maybe set in other cultures, or in slang…. You might read to be inspired by form and style. Maybe you are seeking to write in a more literary style, then you could perhaps read Laurie Halse Anderson’s WINTER GIRLS. Since meeting and reading most of the works of author, Ellen Hopkins, I have been fascinated by the form of novels written in verse, and have been reading broadly in this form. I am thrilled that we have on the faculty of the Stony Brook MFA program, Patty McCormick, whose novel in verse, SOLD, has so much of what I want to explore in my own writing.

In which genre are you writing? And/or what theme(s) are you exploring, and what recommendation do you, therefore, have for us? Let me kick off, and let me say that while my novel is at present in prose, I am drawn to a more poetic vehicle for the story.

Genre: Contemporary YA fiction (edgy)                                                                                Form: narrative prose                                                                                                     Themes: Estrangement, abusive parental relationships and/or LGBTQ characters and bullying

My recommendations:

smokeSMOKE by NYT best selling author, Ellen Hopkins and published by Simon and Schuster. I was lucky to read an ARC of this novel in verse, which is released tomorrow, September, 10th 2013. I loved BURN and was not disappointed with this sequel. SMOKE addresses big themes – courage and survival, abuse, hypocrisy and silence in religious communities (LDS), gay bullying, neglect, love… the writing is quick and sparse and visually meaningful. All the characters are 3+ dimensional. If you have never read a novel in verse, I highly recommend any of Hopkin’s novels. SMOKE is also included in this recent list of Top Ten YA Releases in Sept 2013.

Okay, I have not yet read FREAKBOY, a YA novel in verse by Kristin Elizabeth Clark,freak which is going to be published on October 22nd, 2013, by Farrar, Strauss and Geroux, but I have discussed the book with the author and am a huge fan of her writing and very happy to see a book embracing these themes. I am convinced this will be a book with significant ripples in the YA book community. Just this week it received a starred review -“*”This gutsy, tripartite poem explores a wider variety of identities—cis-, trans-, genderqueer—than a simple transgender storyline, making it stand out. — Kirkus Review, starred review.

You can buy it now, here.

octOCTOBER MOURNING by Lesléa Newman, published by Candlewick, September 25th, 2012. “A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.”

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming gay bar by two young men pretending to be gay. Matthew was savagely beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die.  October Mourning, is  the author’s deep personal response to the events of that tragic day. It is a novel in verse, but quite different from the previous two as Newman creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to and the girlfriends of the murderers. This is a heartbreaking series of sixty-eight poems in several different poetic forms offering the reader an enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

Your turn! Please add your recommendations in the comments below.

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25. What’s in a Name?

Christy Weisiger believes in calling students "writers". Calling students writers gives students automatic entry into the classroom writing community. And that sometimes changes the way they will feel about writing for the rest of their lives.

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