Friday Links: Writers (and Readers) to Light Your Seat on Fire

TGIF! Though to be honest, it hardly feels like Friday to me, since I was traveling the early part of the week. Short weeks have the distinct disadvantage of providing you with a full five days of work (and often more) and the need to squeeze it into a shorter time span. So this is going to be something of an abreviated post, but I hope it gives you all some food for thought and maybe fires up your creative instincts. Just a small reminder: we’re heading into the last days of the month, so this weekend is a great time to think of what your goals were and wrap things up before kicking off May with a nice clean slate.

As mentioned above, it’s been a busy week, so my links list is on the short side. But bigger isn’t always better, and I hope the ideas and individuals on the other end of these links make you excited to go write and get your stories into the world. Enjoy!

Meet Lisa Lucas, the Ultimate Cheerleader for Literature – A lovely interview with the executive director of the National Book Foundation.

Why You Love the Smell of Old Books – On our sense of smell and its link to meaning and memories.

Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists 3 – Every ten years, Granta magazine makes a list of the most promising young novelists under 40. Here’s this year’s list, with links to some of their work (some locked to subscribers, others open).

10 More of the Best Young American Novelists – Because every list can be improved upon.

Opportunities for Writers: May and June, 2017 – A round up of places to submit your work, etc., with deadlines in the next two months.

Friday Links: Literary Inspiration for All Genres

Happy Friday! This week just flew by and I’m afraid I am a tad light on the links selection today as a result. But I do have a number of good ones so I hope they will suffice to offer up some encouragement and inspiration to you all. Never can tell what will set your imagination twitching.

This weekend is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which I am sad not to be attending this year. I love this event and try to go whenever I can, but I’m out of the office the beginning of next week for the Futurescapes Workshop (which I’m very excited about), so I’m taking the weekend to get some things done beforehand. If you’re in the LA area, I highly recommend you swing by the USC campus to check out the book festival. It’s always a fabulous event.

With that, I’m going to move on to this week’s links. You’ll note a bit of an old school, literary bend this week, but I firmly believe that all good writing advice and all good reading applies to any type of writing efforts. Quality work is quality work, and you can always learn from it. I hope you find these interesting, and that whatever your plans for the weekend, you get in some good reading and/or writing time. Enjoy!

Ten Breathtaking Nature Poems – A little poetry in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Time I Spent the Night in Hamlet’s Castle – Author M.L. Rio shares how she won a contest, went to Denmark, and partied like it was 1599.

Charles Bock Recommends… – Tips on how to get back into the writing flow when you sit down at your desk each day.

The Notorious Legends and Dubious Stories of 10 Literary Deaths – Fanciful and odd aspects of the deaths of these famous writers.

David Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing – Working on a play? Interested in adding dramatic tension to your work? Sign up for Mamet’s online master class.

Secrets of the Slush: An Interview with Editor and Author, Michael Nye – Some advice on how to get your writing to stand apart from the masses.

 

Friday Links for the Holiday Weekend

No great words of wisdom this week. For those who celebrate, we’re at the end of Holy Week, today being Good Friday and Sunday being Easter. So here is a nice assortment of links for anyone who feels like checking them out. Whatever your beliefs, I wish you a wonderful weekend and a bit of whatever makes you smile, whether that’s writing time, a good book, family celebrations, or a bit of everything. Enjoy!

A Brief Literary History of Robots – Mostly because I couldn’t resist the first image, but also for the fun reading list.

George Saunders: What Writers Really Do When They Write – One writer’s take on process.

Don’t Be a Dick: Colum McCann’s Advice for Young Writers – Some great tips, delivered with humor.

Julie Ann Walker: “I’m a Feminist and I Write Romance” – A smart look at why these two things are not mutually exclusive.

NPR on Tumblr – Some great vintage images shared in honor of National Library Week.

Salinger’s Nightmare – An unemployed actor’s attempt to acquire permission to adapt The Catcher in the Rye.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Greatest Writing Advice – Tips that still shine, ten years after the author’s death.

Friday Links: Intentional Writing in a Busy World

Happy Friday! This week, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about writing with intention. As much as I love the speed and convenience of the modern computer age, there are days I wish for a return to typewriters and handwritten letters, not because I’m any sort of luddite but because there’s a certain amount of thought that goes into putting down words when you cannot simply delete them with the stroke of a key. Engaging with paper, knowing you will need to physically recreate your work in order to change in, forces a level of planning ahead that I think has been lost.

There’s a sense of urgency in everything we do these days — not just writing. A need for constant connection, to be plugged in through smart phones and computers and streaming media and instant alerts. It makes it hard to argue that deliberation matters. That it’s important to take a moment to choose the right word or to consider the source of a piece of information or to make sure all the thoughts in your head have actually made it into your work. There’s a difference between a reader “knowing” what you meant, and you actually writing what you mean.

This week’s links are the usual blend of things reading and writing related, but I also think a few of them are thoughtful in a deeper way, and I hope they give you insight into your own writing process and maybe inspire you to consider your craft at a different level. Have a wonderful weekend, and happy writing!

Maggie Nelson Writes Books Like She’s Hosting a Party – A great interview with the author with a focus on her generous spirit.

The Language Wars – An insightful look at how words are being wielded in today’s world.

#ThanksForTyping: The Women Behind Famous Male Writers – A rather disturbing look at how many male writers were apparently above typing their own manuscripts.

The Inbox/Outbox Method: How I Whittled Down My TBR Pile – A really easy method for keeping your book-buying to a reasonable level while encouraging you to read those books you already own. Love this, and I’m giving it a try (seeing as how my book-buying bans always fail within weeks).

I or She: Rereading Hardwick, Adler, and Didion – Author Stephanie Danler talks about how rereading these strong women writers helped her fashion and stick to her beliefs regarding her own work and life.

Dani Shapiro: On Life, Marriage, and Creative Expression – A podcast featuring the author on her new memoir and her writing process.

Friday Links: Letting the World Influence Your Writing

TGIF! I hope you’re all in the process of checking in with your goals for the year, as I discussed yesterday. The new quarter kicks off tomorrow, so you’ve got a nice low-key weekend in order to ramp up for whatever you plan to tackle next. As for me, I’m excited to be attending BinderCon LA this weekend, where I’ll be taking pitches and attending some of the panels. Give a wave if you see me there!

Meanwhile, I’ve got a great assortment of links for you this week, and I’m just going to dive right in with those. Quite a few of them focus on ways to open up and let the world and its influences into your writing process. I hope they provide some inspiration. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

If Fiction Changes the World, It’s Going to Be YA – A look at how young adult fiction has been addressing politics, culture, and current events.

The Other Side of the Desk: What I Learned as a Writer Editing a Lit Mag – Some outside perspective on writing and submissions from someone straddling two worlds.

7 Tips for Donating Old Books without Being a Jerk – Some good advice for the next time you prune your shelves.

April 2017 Reader (and Volunteer) Sign-Ups! – Sign up now to participate in the next round of Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on April 29th.

Jami Attenberg: ‘I wanted to see if there were other happy endings for single women’ – The author talks about her new book and her wish to create a different type of independent heroine.

Ploughshares’ Emerging Writer’s Contest – Guidelines for entering the contest, which has a May 15, 2017 deadline.

Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories – For anyone in or soon to visit the LA area, this new exhibit on Butler and her legacy runs from April 8th to August 7th.

Instead of Writing, I Watched Trains – A writer shares how his form of procrastination actually helped him refill the well and get back to work.

2017 Writing Goals: First Quarter Check-In

 

With March winding down, it’s a great time to pull out your list of goals for 2017 and see how the reality measures up for this first quarter of the year. Checking in with yourself helps to keep you on track, to remind you of what you want to achieve, to see where your efforts might be falling flat, and also to determine if any part of your goal list needs to be altered. Like many plans, a list of goals works best if you consider it in real time, as a changeable document that can be edited according to how your life shifts, rather than as a rigid to-do list that is set in stone until December 31st.

Start off with just a brief overview of your goals and see where you stand.

  • Which goals have you been working toward as intended?
  • Which goals have you paid less attention to or maybe even not worked on at all?
  • Were there any short-term goals that you’d planned to finish by now that still need work?
  • Are you ahead of your intended progress in any areas?

Sometimes you also need to give yourself a bit of context while assessing your progress toward your goals. It’s possible you’ve fallen behind on one or more of the things you planned to work on this year, but don’t forget to think about why that might be. What’s been going on in your life these first three months of the year, and how has that affected your ability to focus on your goals? Has anything happened that required your attention and shifted your priorities? Time is limited, after all, so if new obligations crop up, you need to find the time to meet them somewhere.

Next, really assess where you want to go with your goals for the rest of the year.

  • Are any of your goals no longer valid? Things you no longer wish to pursue? Cross them off the list.
  • Do you need to restructure any of your larger goals into small, managable parts that you can tackle more easily going forward?
  • Are there any goals you’d like to add on to the list, either to replace things you’ve discarded or because you’ve achieved others?
  • Have you inadvertently set yourself goals that rely too heavily on others and not enough on your own initiative so that you don’t truly have control of the outcome?

That last point is an important thing to consider. The most practical goals rely on you and your efforts — you plan to write at least 5 days a week, you’re going to write and polish your query letter, you’re going to research three potential agents a week. Some goals, however, rely upon the reactions of others for you to achieve them, such as selling a book (an editor needs to make a viable offer), getting representation (an agent you wish to work with needs to sign you on), hitting a best-seller list (a sufficient number of people need to purchase your book). That’s not to say that you shouldn’t want to achieve those things and work toward them, but they aren’t the sort of goals where your efforts are the sole factor. While you know there are steps you can take toward achieving them — sending out query letters, writing the best book you possibly can — those steps by themselves are no guarantee of hitting the goal; a certain amount of luck and timing and the interests of others all come into play.

Regardless of what you discover when you check in with your goals, remember that this is a list you made, of things that you wish to achieve. Don’t beat yourself up over perceived failures or lack of progress. The idea isn’t to serve as your own personal drill sergeant, but rather to provide yourself with a nice roadmap that can help you figure out where you want to take your writing, your career, your life. You’re drawing the map, so feel free to widen the road where there’s a good view, add a couple of small side streets, create a nice open space to make a U-turn if you need to retrench. Then refill your travel mug, grab a snack, and head back out on the road. Happy writing, and enjoy the ride.

Friday Links: Inspiration to Keep Those Writing Goals on Track

TGIF! I’m actually conference-bound this weekend, so this is a down-and-dirty edition of Friday Links before I hit the road. This week my links are a little bit all over the place, but I have the required reading recommendations and some writing inspiration, so I hope everyone finds a couple of things that interest them or set their brain sparking.

Short as this is, I do want to remind you all that the end of March is coming up, and with it, the end of the first quarter of the year. You might want to take a peek back at the goals you set at the start of 2017 and see how things are going. I’ll be revisiting the subject later next week, but the weekend is an excellent time to get a head start.

On that note, I leave you with this week’s links and wish you a wonderful weekend. Happy writing!

On Persistence: The Lessons of a Middle-Aged Debut Novelist – Because not everyone is a prodigy, and it’s never to late to get started.

Fairy and Folk Tale Collections that Aren’t the Brothers Grimm – A nice assortment of alternate tales that give a broader look at the genre.

Study Identities and Social Issues with Iowa’s International Writing Program – Two new free writing courses offered by Iowa’s International Writing Program will start online in May.

Stump the Bookseller – A service that offers up the chance of locating the title of that long lost childhood favorite based on the scantest details.

71 Thousand Hi-Res Historical Maps Available for Free Download – A great archive for research, reference, or inspiration.

How to Write a Short Story and Improve Your Writing Skills – Reasons why trying your had at this short format might be beneficial, plus some excellent tips.

A Journey into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory – For the word-geeks in the audience, a mini tour behind the scenes of the dictionary publisher.

Conference and Course Update

Greetings, all! I know it’s been on the quiet side here, with the exception of Friday Links, and I’m attempting to pull myself out of my reading/editing cave to remedy that a bit. I’m kicking off with a few small announcements today. First, we’re heading into conference season, so I’ve updated my Conference and Travel page with my schedule for the next few months. You can check in there to see what conferences I will be participating in, as well as any I’m simply attending. Please feel free to say hello if you’re going to be at one of these! I love meeting you all.

Next up, I’m pleased to announce that I once more will be teaching my webinar through Writer’s DigestConquer the Dreaded Synopsis: Construct the Ultimate Sales Tool. The course takes place online on June 1st, 2017, at 1pm ET. Please note that if you register ahead, you will receive an email after the live course with a link to a complete replay for your reference, and information on how to submit your synopsis to me for critique. So even if the time is not convenient for you, you might still consider signing up. I have plenty of students who register and take the class after the fact as best suits their schedule and submit their work for critique.

Friday Links: St. Paddy’s Day edition

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all who celebrate, and a very happy Friday, as well. I’ve had a busy week, filled with lots of work and technological challenges, including a weird power outage and a day of spotty internet. You forget sometimes how much we rely on modern conveniences… at least until they go wonky on you. But sometimes the reminder can also be a nudge in a different direction, showing us how much we can accomplish if we unplug a bit and focus on the heart of what we’re trying to accomplish. For those of you wedded to your devices, maybe try taking a notebook and a pen and heading out to get some writing done. And leave the tech at home.

Now to Friday Links! I’ve a nice assortment this week, including a bit of Irish-themed reading for anyone looking for a little something beyond a beer and corned beef to mark the day. Enjoy, and happy writing!

12 Irish-Americans to Read on St. Patrick’s Day – Get a feel for the old country or an Irish take on the new one.

Roxane Gay, Aimee Bender and More on Assault and Harrassment in the Literary World – 11 women writers speak out in conjunction with a recent Tin House essay.

Isaac Asimov Wrote Almost 500 Books in His Lifetime–These Are the Six Ways He Did It – Some great advice on getting the work done, even if you don’t aspire to that level of productivity.

How Working at a Bookstore Changed My Writing Career – Author Jami Attenberg on her time working at Word in Brooklyn, NY.

Why ‘The Outsiders’ Lives On: A Teenage Novel Turns 50 – A look at the perennial top seller and reader favorite.

100 Must-Read Books about the History of Medicine – A really interesting roundup, particularly for anyone doing research or looking for some inspiration.

Friday Links: Pop Culture and the Writer

TGIF! There seems to be a confluence of significant pop culture landmarks today. First, of course, we have the anniversary of Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, which premiered on the WB 20 years ago today. There are a ton of great articles and reminiscences floating around — far more than I could have included here — but I did find a particularly writer-specific one to share in today’s links. But do poke around and see what else is out there if Buffy is your kind of gal.

For those of you in a Marvel state of mind, today is the 100th birthday of Sergeant James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, faithful sidekick of Captain America, most recently personified by actor Sebastian Stan. There are a lot of birthday wishes for Bucky appearing on Twitter and Tumblr. He looks damn good for 100.

Finally, for the Harry Potter set, today is Remus Lupin’s birthday as well. I believe per the books he would be somewhere in his late 40s. I’ve seen a few posts celebrating Lupin, also. You really have to love fandoms.

So what does my little outburst of geekdom have to do with writing or publishing? There’s a lot to be said for creating characters that encourage this sort of knowledge and acknowledgement, even celebration. What makes them so beloved? Why do readers and viewers feel so connected to them? How did they become so real? Take a look at the source material for any of the above, or for your own favorite successful works, and figure out what really makes those characters tick.

On that note, I offer up a little more pop culture love, plus a nice assortment of other writerly links to help kick off your weekend. Enjoy, and happy writing!

10 Famous Writers on Loving Buffy the Vampire Slayer – A good group of authors offering up a variety of reasons why they love the show.

7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Writing Files – Sometimes it’s procrastination, but sometimes it’s just plain necessary. Some helpful advice on getting organized.

How to Develop Relationships with Other Writers – Some excellent tips for finding your writing tribe.

Margaret Atwood on What “The Handmaid’s Tale” Means in the Age of Trump – The author looks at her own work in regards to the current political climate.

Writing Contests in 2017 – A searchable database compiled by the folks at Reedsy. With thanks to Arielle Contreras for the link.

10 Essential Books to Read from Iran – A nice list to help anyone looking to diversify that TBR stack.