The National Pen Women have announced the 2014 winners of their Keats Soul Making Literary Awards.
In a marvelous testament to the company I keep <winkwink>, I need to extend congratulations to my client Samuel Autman and my friend/colleague Jen Palmares Meadows for their honorable mentions in three categories!
Samuel’s piece, “The Tongues of Angels,” is part of a creative non-fiction collection we worked on together, called Sanctified: A Memoir. Other stories from the collection have been published, including the one called “Genesis,” which is here, and one of my favorites. His agent is shopping it now, and we have high hopes! (Another story Samuel wrote was made into a short film called The Long Walk, and can be viewed here.)
She writes creative non-fiction, humor, religious essays, and is a real talented woman (with three kids under 7!).
These writers are working hard, and deserve every bit of recognition they get.
Congratulations Jen and Samuel! I’m proud to know you and not ashamed to brag about it.
Our three-year anniversary issue features stories by J.J. Anselmi, Jonny Blevins, Brigitte Bowers, Mary Collins, Lesley Howard, Cannon Roberts, Kate Washington, and Wendy Patrice Williams. Photo essay by Anna Ladd and visual art by Allen Forrest.
And you may realize that October is our anniversary month! Every year we do something special. This year, we are starting a new on-line reading series:
Look how great all the print issues look here on Magcloud.
Thanks for your support of this project.
Karen Brennan is the author of six books, most recently, poems, little dark (Four Way Books, 2014). A collection of fiction,Monsters, is forthcoming in 2016. A Professor Emerita from the University of Utah, she teaches at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She is also a contributor to Wreckage of Reason II. And she wrote this terrific little flash piece.
A good way to get to know writers sometimes is through the way the answer interview questions. Fiction writer (and a WoR II contributor) Melanie Page has been reviewing women prose writers on her site Grab the Lapels since the summer of 2013. In the interview she gave to HTML Giant last year she explains, “I started only choosing books by women after I reviewed a book that I thought was shallow and misogynistic (downright degrading, really) for one magazine. My review was so negative that the magazine shied away from publishing it, so I posted it on my Goodreads account and ventured out on my own.” Nowadays, she not only reviews, but also interviews authors. Check out these Q&A sessions withTsipi Keller and Laynie Browne.
Keep up with the Wreckage of Reason 2 blog tour here.
Wreckage of Reason 2 is an anthology of non-traditional stories by women writers. Many of us are unknown still; some of us well known in literary circles; one or two breaking away from the pack. Be on the cutting edge. Open your mind. Buy the book. An excellent choice for your Kindle.
Maud Newton, who I know originally from my work with Narrative Magazine, talks about Wreckage of Reason II in her last New York Times Magazine mini-column this weekend, out online today and in the print magazine this Sunday. In her column, titled,”And for the Rest of Us, There’s Twitter,” Newton writes:
In her latest story, “How to Shake Hands With a Murderer,” published in the anthology “Wreckage of Reason II,” Elizabeth Bachner turns to ancient myth for inspiration, charting a modern katabasis — a tale of descent into the underworld. Borrowing from “Leda and the Swan” and Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” she creates a lyrical narrative about lost love and the lengths to which the lonely will go to recapture the feeling. “Wreckage of Reason” is a collection of experimental writing…” You can read the rest here.
This week’s stop on The Blog Tour, features a fascinating interview with Laynie Browne and Julianna Baggott.
This Wreckage of Reason II blog tour has been a great way for me to learn about new presses, meet new communities of readers and writers, and of course, get to know amazing individuals. The tour continues to be documented on our Tumblr account.
Contributor Karen Lillis has a new chapbook published by NightBallet Press, an independent small press, interested in the musicality of language and the originality of expression in poetry, with a commitment to excellence. It looks like a terrific poetry press, and they have some great deals right now on multiple titles.
The latest stop on this week’s blog tour for the Wreckage is Donna Wyszomierski— and a story from her collection, Bad Mayonnaise. Here’s how it begins:
Read more of Wyszomierski’s piece here.
WORII, published this spring by Spuyten Duyvil Press, is now available for Kindle, if you’re one of those e-reader types. Here is the Amazon description: In this follow up to the 2008 bestselling Wreckage of Reason: An Anthology of Experimental Prose by Contemporary Women Writers, 29 contributors use different styles and language genres, their tools at hand, to illustrate moments of conflict, amusement, bafflement and joy that make up a day, a year, an individual life or a collective history. Held up to the light or inspected under a microscope, set in locales real, virtual, mythic, and imaginary, characters bump into and move through events, leaving readers with the humorous, sad, sexy and playful ambiguities of what it means to be alive. This anthology provides a much needed venue to spotlight women writers engaged in serious creative writing projects chronicling and responding to our current culture.
In a March post, I announced the release of the new Spuyten Duyvil anthology, Wreckage of Reason II. Some of the writers who are included in this anthology are participating in a blog tour to get to know one another’s work better and also to spread the word about this collection of short pieces by contemporary women writers. I hope that the text and the accompanying interviews, discussions, commentaries, can be a valuable piece of what is going on right now in the world of writing and writers, used perhaps in classrooms and book discussions.
So I’ll be augmenting my otherwise sparse blog with posts by my WoRII colleagues. I believe my clients and friends will enjoy them as much as I do.Here are links to other contributions to this tour on their own sites:
Elizabeth Bachner: I’m obsessed with the idea of whether there are differences between a character and a person, an author and a self, and I love the brilliant and playful way your feminist deconstruction of A Streetcar Named Desire approaches these questions. What are your ways of thinking about autobiography versus fiction, “real” versus imaginary or invented? How do you use yourself in your work? How does your work change and shape your life?
Lillian Ann Slugocki: My life is like this scrapbook of stories, and people, and cities–and I look at it, dispassionately, as the raw material for my work. But having said that, there are many layers over and under the autobiography. I layer myth–my current obsessions are Leda, Orpheus, Eurydice and Leander–as well as narrative structure–e.g. a conflict and its resolution, as well as intertexuality. I use echoes of T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Angela Carter, plus all the lit crit I studied at New York University: Judith Butler, Thelma Shinn, Gayle Green, Mircea Eliade, Luce Irigaray, Julie Kristeva, and Audre Lord. The result is that the I, first person, in my work is me, but not me–an amplified version. Stronger, wiser, certainly more flawed, and certainly more interesting.
People who read my work are usually very quick to assume that it’s straight up autobiography, like when they read The Blue Hours, my novella about the sexual disintegration of a marriage. But real life can be very boring. I’m convinced that even memoirists are not unlike novelists–they use plot arcs, they deconstruct, compress, they add and subtract in similar ways–because it’s all in service of telling a story. And real life doesn’t contain those structural elements. There is an art to choosing where to begin a story, and where to end it, amongst all the hundreds of possibilities. The writer makes those choices, whether the genre is fiction or non-fiction. And I tend to write stories about the things that are of concern to me at any given moment. It could be identity, it could be sexuality or the female body, it could be history–and in writing them, I think I better understand the context of my own life.
Now that Amazon has acquired Goodreads, it has really thrown a monkey wrench into the cogs of my rating system.
I’ve always liked how when you hover over the stars on Goodreads, what pops up is a clearly defined rating system. So rather than just assigning an arbitrary number of stars, you can indicate:
3 stars: I liked it.
4 stars: I really liked it.
5 stars: It was amazing.
So for me, most books I read are a solid 3 stars. If I read a self-help book, unless it changes my life immediately, there is no way I’d ever say “It was amazing!” If I read an entertaining story that doesn’t alter the way I view the world, there is no way I’d ever say, “It was amazing!”
So what has 5 stars on my Goodreads list? The World According to Garp. To Kill a Mockingbird. Othello. These books that inspired me to be a writer, to be a teacher and share my love of literature with others. What else? More recently, works by Aimee Bender, Haruki Murakami, Peter Grandbois, and Etgar Keret have found their way into who I am as a person and as a writer and reader and consequently earned the “It was amazing!” rating.
I’ve always thought of Goodreads as my personal way of keeping track of the books I read and also an honest way for my clients to see my tastes. Not whether or not I thought the book would or should sell to a mainstream audience, but whether I honestly liked it. There is nothing wrong with a 3 star rating indicating “I liked it.” No writer should ever feel affronted by my liking his/her book.
So now, here comes Amazon. I’ve known for a long time that because of the algorithms that Amazon uses to promote or hide titles from their site, any rating less than a five star given there has major consequences for the visibility of an author’s work. “I like this,” on Amazon, therefore, translated to 5 stars for me. There was nothing on Amazon that created a uniform understanding of what any certain number of stars meant. The blatant commercialism of Amazon somehow made it okay for me to do this for a work that on Goodreads would receive my 3 star “I like this” rating. I’m sure some people might find my thinking here to be ethically faulty, but it’s the way my gears were working at the time I established this “system” for myself, several years ago.
I found out that this system might cause me problems when, after reviewing a professional colleague’s book on Amazon not too long ago (I liked it! It got a 5 star rating there), I assigned it 3 stars on Goodreads. Well, you know this writer contacted me and asked me to change it to 5 stars?! You know, I ignored her request. I also stopped indicating when I read my professional colleagues books on my Goodreads list (but I won’t go back and change old ones)! The commercialism of the Amazon rating system corrupted my personal system. And now, unless a book by a professional colleague rocks my world, I’m afraid I can’t even share the fact that I enjoyed it. And I likely won’t be posting any of my clients’ self-pubbed books there either. Even if I liked them.
I’m afraid this is even more serious now that Goodreads has been subsumed by Amazon.
I’ve been wanting to get that off my chest.
If you know of other relevant review sites, please share them with me.
Under the Gum Tree Issue 8 has been out for a while now. Do you have yours yet? Look at the gorgeous cover! And inside, it’s even better.
Subscribing is easy.
When small press publisher Spuyten Duyvil released the anthology Wreckage of Reason in 2008, the Ted Pelton, of The Brooklyn Rail wrote: “Were this book published by St. Martin’s or Norton, they would have slapped its contents on wider margins and packaged it for the college market at twice the cost. Except Norton or St. Martin’s would never publish this book—it’s too dangerous, wild, and singular. Wreckage of Reason gives us three dozen women authors beyond any easily marketable definition; by any description, it’s an anthology worthy of an audience and acclaim.”
What do you do if you are a writer who works “beyond any easily marketable definition?”
I just finished reading a New York Times Bestselling novel. It is written in alternating first and third person narration; the third person is from the limited point of view of an eleven year old French Jewish girl swept up in one of France’s great atrocities during the Nazi occupation. The first person narrator is an American ex-pat living in Paris in the modern day, a journalist assigned to research this round up of Jews for the 60th anniversary of the event. There is a mystery, a struggling marriage, the promise of newly budding love, with the backdrop of the holocaust. I read it in four hours. The subject matter indisputably compelling. This is highly marketable, and also highly formulaic. I won’t say the writer isn’t skilled, because she obviously grabs the writer with her descriptions and the way she establishes the scenes and evokes the reader’s emotions. So I’m not disrespecting this writer. I’m not disrespecting this genre. It has its place, a very important place, in the world of books and readers, and frankly keeps books in the public eye.
Can I point to moments of breathtaking language or astute observations of the human condition in the pages? I cannot. Is it great literature? Not by my definition. Sorry.
So when I work with a writer who wants to know how to make his book appeal to the market, whose prose is not only articulate but artistic, whose story has breadth as well as depth, whose story has many intertwining arcs, whose protagonist has many antagonists, and whose work may well refuse to fit on any of the major publishing houses book lists, a part of me grieves.
I believe that too many writers with great potential to affect readers with their prose are always looking for ways to sell their books. They water down their imagery–instead of dredging to get deeper into the real motivations of their characters, they are backfilling to make them accessible. They’ll dump an obscure barbaric British imperialist in favor of Adolph Hitler, and the reader, who might have actually learned something new or unexpected is cheated out of ever having that opportunity.
Valuable and relevant work is crafted every day. Small presses affirm this every day. While working with a small press might not be glamorous and might not give you an immediately recognizable name to drop at networking events, it is nonetheless crucial to maintaining the craft of writing (though you may both toil in poverty and obscurity).
So, what do you do if you are a writer who works “beyond any easily marketable definition?”
If you’re a writer with chops, a writer who crafts stories and who cares about the obscure and the meaningful, you might do well to ignore the call to achieve fame and fortune through writing. Write, damn it. Read small press books and write some more. Hone your craft to be the best it can be, not necessarily to fit the formula of the mainstream book publishers. And don’t consign yourself to the role of publisher, designer, marketer, and chief bottle washer if what you really are is a writer. We need writers. The world needs writers like it needs mothers, people devoted, truly dedicated to the task, despite the lack of acclaim. The future of the art and the world depend on them.