A Book Review by Jay Lemming
The New York City of Atticus Lish’s Preparation for the Next Life is an environment of broken things, of abandoned objects and people that once had presence and purpose but from which all meaning has since fled. Lish’s world is a landscape of sordid alleys, distant night-time shouts, burnt-out car skeletons, weed-choked lots of broken pavement, chain-linked fences sprinkled with glass, blue-lit bars, underpasses, trestles, electricity towers, industrial fields, expressways, cracked cement stanchions with exposed rebar, gutted buildings, warehouses, profane, talented graffiti, and late-night, slow-moving cop cars with lights on but sirens off, prowling for anything they care to ensnare at a given moment.
Guest Blog Post by Laura Rock
Picture the archetypal yoga instructor: serene; uncompetitive; wearing lululemon; erect posture. In short, the anti-writer. If this were a classroom exercise on character development, that’s how we’d describe her, at least initially, before moving beyond archetypes and maybe changing her gender. And our nascent “writer?” Cranky; score-keeping; unshowered; wearing sweatpants from high school, threadbare at the butt; hunched.
But this isn’t a writing exercise, so let’s relax, all together—you, me and every other slope-shouldered scribbler staring at the screen. Return to the breath. Inhale and hold for a count of eight…eight reasons a yoga practice will enhance your writing practice.
For those who are working on a manuscript to send out to literary agencies, and those sitting with a completed work, wondering “What now?”—here are some tips about seeking representation. But first, something to note as you embark on the journey: Agents love great work, they love working with authors to see a manuscript through to publication, and they are rooting for you to succeed. They are not mean on principle. They are not rejection-happy. They’re generally nice people, and when you’re lucky enough to find the right agent, rest assured that they will do everything they can to promote your work and encourage you in your writing goals. With that, here are some do’s and don’ts:
1. Be specific. Send your work to a person, not a Whom. Within an agency, there are multiple agents who represent different stuff. Be intentional! Decide which agent you want to contact, and then address your query to them.
2. Research the agency and the agent you are querying. If you have written a script for a marvelous werewolf erotica film, but the agent you’ve contacted only represents picture books, you will be rejected. I promise, you will. Usually an agent’s preferences will be listed on their agency website or personal blog. Do your homework, and you’ll find that agent who lives for werewolf erotica.
3. Edit. Work and re-work your query letter, and read through your manuscript for the 101st time. Most agencies will request a small portion of your book along with your query, so make it as coherent and grammar-tastic as possible.
Writing centers unaffiliated with academia are popping up all over the country. Many of these centers model themselves after the long-standing successes of Boston’s Grub Street, The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Philadelphia’s Kelly Writers House, and The Center for Fiction in New York City. Typically, writing centers offer quality craft classes taught by established writers and seasoned professors, a writing series featuring a mix of readings given by well-known and emerging writers, and a variety of manuscript services, enrichment opportunities such as writing retreats, access to reference libraries, and more. Recently at the 2013 AWP conference in Boston and at the Bread Loaf Writing Conference 2013 in Ripton, Vermont, special panels were presented to people either involved in the management of a writing center or interested in starting a writing center in their city. Both presentations were so well attended that people were forced to listen from the hallway.
We now approach the dread month.
November can be a distressing time of year for writers like me – those afflicted by Cement Finger, Obsessive Revision Disorder, Chronic Googliosis, and other like conditions. For November, of course, serves as the main stage for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. As you may have guessed, NaNoWriMo is an annual, globally recognized event that challenges participants to complete 50,000 words of a novel in the span of only four weeks.
Many who undertake the NaNoWriMo challenge falter or quit their projects entirely before December 1st rolls around. Even among those who meet the 50,000 word quota, most fall short of any appreciable degree of readership or financial remuneration. Yet the very idea that each November for the past twelve years thousands of individuals across the planet have managed to place digital pen to digital paper 50,000 times in 30 days seems, to the slowest of writers, a crime of cosmic inequity.
For years, whenever I tried to start a writing group, it would evaporate after one meeting. Was it my writing? My personality? My bizarre insistence that all members have monosyllabic names?
In 2011, at the conclusion of a ten-week fiction workshop, I overheard some classmates discussing the possibility of starting a group. I am proud to say that this group is still going strong today thanks to a few guidelines.
One of the double-edged advantages of the internet is the surplus of information and advice offered up for free. While this can be of great help in fixing something as simple as a headache, free advice can often prove harmful when it comes to the creative process. There are plenty of “rules” that writers should avoid or ignore when they begin to groom their game.
With the rise of self-publishing, articles on ‘the imperatives of writing’ are everywhere. Although well-intentioned, many of the blanket generalizations offered in these pieces may derail an inexperienced writer if taken too seriously. Writing is too subjective, too nuanced to be governed by broad-stroke rules of thumb.