Friday Links: Writing Stories from the Trenches

TGIF! We’re kicking off the Memorial Day weekend here, and that can mean travel, backyard cookouts, baseball games, beach time, or just a great excuse to hop in a hammock for some serious reading time. It also means I’ve got a bunch of work to finish up today so I can head out and actually do some of the above. So I’ll just leave this week’s Friday Links here for your entertainment, and wish you all a wonderful weekend, whether you’re celebrating the holiday or not. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Books to Breeze Through this Summer – A rather eclectic collection from The New York Times.

Get That Life: How I Became a Writer, Historian, and Activist – Great interview with Rebecca Solnit where she discusses the trajectory of her writing career.

The Literary World Says Goodbye to Denis Johnson – Short obit including social media clips expressing sadness at Johnson’s sudden death.

From Dark to Dark: Yes, Women Have Always Written Space Opera – Author Judith Tarr on women’s role in the subgenre.

Improve Your Writing: Become a Demanding Self-Editor – Some wonderful advice for any writer, regardless of genre, publishing goals, etc.

Story Structure: The Magic Bullet that Almost Killed Me – Author Matthew Quick shares his plot-point life lessons.

A Crash Course in YA Taught Me How to Write – Author Katherine Heiny talks about how she learned about plot and the discipline required to finish a book.

Friday Links: Looking Back to Write Your Way Forward

Another Friday has crept up on us. It’s been a pretty intense week, filled with political strife and a few bombshells here in the U.S. I, for one, am looking forward to the weekend and stepping away from all forms of media for a bit, even though I know that might lead to a more startling Monday when I tune back in. But for my own sanity, I know I need to take a breather. And so I plan to do some personal reading, go for a run or two, and tomorrow I get to hang out with a client who is down with her family from Northern California for a few of days.

This week’s links are a kind of eclectic bunch, though I feel like some personal nostalgia inadvertently made itself known. I don’t plan these things; it’s just the sorts of links I happened to stumble upon. Nostalgia can be a good writing tool, as long as you don’t allow it to overtake your ability to be critical of your ideas. Regardless, I hope you find something intriguing in this lot and that you’re inspired to take a bit of time to yourself over the weekend to read a great book and/or work on your current writing project. Enjoy, and happy writing!

The True Story Behind Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and Her Mixed-Up Files – An interesting look at what was one of my favorite books growing up, and how it came to be.

A 17th-Century Alleged Witch Inspired Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – A look into some of Atwood’s thought process on her famous novel.

On the Horror of Getting It Wrong in Print – One writer shares her reactions to learning her errors have gone to press.

More Thoughts about World Building and Food – Lincoln Michel goes deeper into his thoughts on the notion of world building, with a link to his earlier piece included.

The Political Murakami on Life in a Dark Time – How Murakami views the worlld post-9/11, and how that dark viewpoint influences his writing.

6 Tiny Letters for Readers and Writers – I’m a fan of the Tiny Letters – those subscriptions on a theme (or not) that show up randomly when their author decides to share some thoughts – and this round up offers a few intriguing ones.

5 Things to Include on Your Author Website if You’re Not Yet Published – Handy tips for populating that blank author site.

Friday Links: Write What You Want to Know

Happy Friday, all! I hope everyone’s had a wonderful week and is ready to kick off a creative weekend, because I’m here to talk to you about research and inspiration. The old adage “Write what you know” has long been criticized as being too limiting, and in a sense it is. If writers only took on topics familiar to them, we would soon find ourselves with a rather narrow field of stories. So I propose a small tweak: Write What You Want to Know.

Writing is about inspiration, imagination, and research. Whether you need to fill in a few facts or thoroughly immerse yourself in an entirely new industry or location, you’re going to need to put in some time to make sure your story is accurate and believable. Even fantasy writers, who may seem to have permission to invent entire worlds purely out of their heads, are subject to the rigors of research, because those fantasy worlds come across much more believable if they have their roots in at least a small measure of reality.

So today’s links offer up a wealth of inspiration and topics that I hope will spark your interest, whether with a topic to research or some writerly advice that sends you off in a fresh direction. Open your eyes wide and let yourself absorb some amazing new things this weekend. Check out the links, but then go to the library and explore a section you haven’t read from or hit a local museum or art exhibit. Find a cultural celebration within driving distance and go try some interesting new-to-you foods and listen to music. And no, this isn’t an invitation to appropriate someone else’s culture; but open yourself up to all the different facets of our world and see what ideas you cultivate. At the very least, the people you write about will feel more real.

Photographs Document Early Chinese Immigration – An interesting collection from the Library of Congress.

Why I Founded an Interdisciplinary Retreat for Artists and Writers – A great argument for cross-pollination of creative ideas.

Discovering Literature: Shakespeare and the Renaissance Writers – A useful resource for historical projects.

Jeff VanderMeer & Cory Doctorow Discuss the Future of Sci-Fi & the World – A great conversation between two smart, interesting writers who contribute greatly to the current sff landscape.

Stephanie Powell Watts on Writing Hard Times in Small Towns – This perspective might be especially interesting for anyone from a densely populated area.

The Masks We Wear: The Millions Interviews Edan Lepucki – A discussion of Lepucki’s new book and character identity.

Women Were Pirates, Too – While the men got most of the press (for good or ill), there were a number of female pirates sailing the seas as well.

25 of Your Favorite Nonfiction Books about Women’s History – An intriguing list. No descriptions included, but many of the titles will draw you in even so.

Maurice Sendak on Art and Art-Making – Five years after his death, the author/illustrator’s words of wisdom still offer up some great advice.

Why I Read: Ursula K. LeGuin – HarperCollins pulled together a collection of authors’ responses to the simple question of why they read, and LeGuin’s answer feels like it works very well with the theme of today’s links.

Friday Link: A Mish-Mash of Writing Inspiration

Happy Friday, everyone! I’m currently winging my way to Seattle for a conference, but as always, I’ve made sure to leave you with this week’s assortment of links for your enjoyment. It’s something of a hodgepodge — pretty much how things go when I’m on one of these conference runs — but I still think there’s some great stuff for everyone. Enjoy, and happy writing!

Five Writing Retreats to Attend This Summer – Interested in doing a retreat? Think it’s too late? Here are a few places with late deadlines or rolling admissions that might fit the bill.

Colson Whitehead Leads the Arthur C. Clarke Award Shortlist – An interesting profile, plus the rest of the list so you can catch up on your reading.

As Jane Austen a “Secret Radical”? – A peek at the new, somewhat controversial book offering a fresh (mostly) take on the author.

Why Doesn’t Ancient Literature Talk About Feelings? – A look at changes in our expectations of what we read.

How the Federal Government Saved Literature in Tennessee – Why the NEH and NEA are important.

Warner Bros. Is Seeking New Writers – Worth checking out if screenwriting is  your thing.

9 Signs You May Have Over-Edited Your Work – It’s possible to overdo it.

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.