Another reason to sit at your computer

Here comes a great idea from Simon & Schuster as reported by Alexandra Alter in the New York Times on January 11: “…a new website offering online courses from popular health, finance and self-help authors.”

The idea is that since book sales have dropped at S & S, why not squeeze more out of authors who have boffo fan bases and deeply important messages to convey? Like Dr. David B. Agus, who wrote The End of Illness and Tosha Silver, who offers spiritual advice in her book Outrageous Openness. Authors will set their own prices for the online courses, and if it all works out, S & S will release a dozen or more additional courses this year.

And eventually, Ms. Alter tells us, “the online courses, which are planned as stand-alone products rather than supplements to books, could include videos by entertainers and experts who have not yet published books.”

In other words, unless I misunderstand this completely, S & S is simply going into the online course business. Or heading in that direction, anyway. It’s easy to imagine an expert in, say, hair styling doing a video about hair styling. Or a gardener demonstrating something gardenish.

But what kind of course is an entertainer going to offer? Lessons in how to strut? How to be a diva? Tell a joke? Come to think of it, why would an entertainer offer a course through the Simon & Schuster website at all? Entertainers have their own websites. So do plenty of authors, but the authors probably need the S & S promotion a whole lot more than the entertainers do.

A couple of years ago the Times published a piece called “The Year of the MOOC,” a comprehensive look at Massive Open Online Courses. The writer of the article, Laura Pappano, said:

Traditional online courses charge tuition, carry credit and limit enrollment to a few dozen to ensure interaction with instructors. The MOOC, on the other hand, is usually free, credit-less and, well, massive.

Because anyone with an Internet connection can enroll, faculty can’t possibly respond to students individually. So the course design — how material is presented and the interactivity — counts for a lot. As do fellow students. Classmates may lean on one another in study groups organized in their towns, in online forums or, the prickly part, for grading work.

The evolving form knits together education, entertainment (think gaming) and social networking. Unlike its antecedent, open courseware — usually written materials or videotapes of lectures that make you feel as if you’re spying on a class from the back of the room — the MOOC is a full course made with you in mind.

It looks as if S & S is going to take the MOOC model, tinker with it a bit, glamorize it with celebs, and put it out there for consumers who aren’t interested in course credit, but want to have a little fun online and feel like part of a great big group of groupies.

So even more people will be glued to their computers for more hours per day taking courses on stuff they didn’t need in the first place, getting even less exercise, talking to each other even less (except online). And paying for it. Sounds like a plan.

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Books & Greetings, Northvale, NJ

Magic Tree Bookstore, Oak Park, IL

Once Upon a Storybook, Tustin, CA

 

The memoir-novel–or the novel-memoir?

What accounts for our current—or recurrent—fascination with memoir-novels? That’s the question posed in the NYT “Bookends” feature of December 23.

Two very good writers take it on: Leslie Jamison (of The Empathy Exams) and Daniel Mendelsohn (essayist, book reviewer, memoirist). Their points are interesting, Mendelsohn’s perhaps a little more than Jamison’s if you’re looking for an answer to the posed question, since he addresses the issue more directly.

Both Jamison and Mendelsohn write about the memoir-novel from the reader’s point of view. Jamison says, for instance, in an analysis of Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick, “We feel ourselves subject to the opaque terms of an authorial presence that refuses to neatly categorize its offering: We are, at once, deeply immersed in the Icy North, its extreme exposures, and deeply aware of the hands that built it for us.” Reader’s POV.

Mendelsohn writes, in dissecting the slippage between memoir and fiction, “What’s interesting is how many readers, judging by the online reviews, weren’t all that bothered by the literary frauds perpetrated by [James] Frey and others: They came for ‘redemption’ and they got it, even if it turned out to have been provided by fiction rather than fact.” Reader’s POV.

Either Mendelsohn or Jamison could easily have discussed the memoir-novel from the author’s point of view, but that was not the question with which they were charged. They did their jobs; now I’m thinking about my job, which happens to be writing a memoir-novel. Or—more accurately—a novel-memoir.

It is not splitting hairs to reverse the order of the terminology. At least, not in my own case.

There are writers who quite deliberately translate memoir into thinly-veiled fiction, and there are legitimate, even good, reasons for doing this: taking a small step back from reality may allow more clarity of thinking; it may also give the writer the freedom to adjust history a bit, for whatever personal requirement—reconciliation, perhaps, or even fear of lawsuits.

The difference between a memoir-novel and a novel-memoir is this: in a novel-memoir, the claims of novelistic thinking come first. A novel-memoir, no matter how closely it is or isn’t based on a “true” story, must work first as a novel. If you have a “true” story to tell in fiction and you cling to the “truth” instead of thinking like a novelist, you may find yourself sacrificing good writing to the demands of your own psychological needs.

Too rigorous? Then don’t write a novel-memoir; write, instead, a memoir-novel, in which you will more easily be able to justify clinging to what (you think) actually happened. You will more easily allow yourself to maintain loyalty to the “truth,” rather than loyalty to good writing. You will not think first like a novelist; you’ll think first like a memoirist.

Of course, if you do that you may risk losing narrative steam, arc, good dialogue, action, depth, breadth, and a dozen other novelistic options. On the other hand, you may feel better about the story you’re telling; you may feel you’re conveying the “truth” with more integrity.

But the novelist’s responsibility is to the novel.

On a small scale, this injunction to think like a novelist brings us back to that annoying “kill off your darlings” concept. Annoying because the phrase is used both to intimidate and chasten writers, when all it really means is that a writer does well to consider the design of her entire novel rather than become attached to small baubles that shine for only a moment and do not add to its overall quality. If the “darling” works, fine; if not, let it go.

So on a larger scale, if a memoiristic point enhances your novel, fine. If not, let it go.

This is what I think each day when I work on my novel: What actually happened was traumatic enough for one person to live through, and writing about it has not so much helped me as given me permission to stay with it and relive it as much as I need to. But when that phase is over, then novel-making must begin in earnest. I must take myself in hand and rethink all the parts that wallow in memoir and undermine the novel.

Writing a novel is a matter of artistry, not therapy. The creation of a novel-memoir may have to pass through a stage in which the therapeutic outweighs the artistry; it may, in the end, coincidentally, be therapeutic. Yet (with rare exceptions) a good novel-memoir transcends that private state of self-healing and expands enough to include the reader.

Questioning is the primary lesson I’ve learned—am still learning—while trying to nail this novel-memoir. That was not how I started out: I started out by spilling my guts onto the pages. When I’d had enough of that, I tried—am still trying—to be my own reader for as long as it takes to get to a complete first draft. It’s edifying. And it’s not even that difficult.

Disconnect just enough to read the pages as if you were someone else. Not a hostile someone else, not your partner or your mother, not the New York Times reviewer, not a reader who’d never in a million years buy your book or take your book out of the library. Think of a reader much like yourself, with the same expectations of fiction that you have, and read through her eyes. Let yourself know when your novel-memoir has turned in on itself and become, mistakenly, memoir-novel. Then fix it.

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI

The Novel Neighbor, Webster Groves, MO

Orca Books, Olympia, WA

 

When writers flail

If you are required (or if you require yourself) to produce pieces of writing on a regular basis, flailing is unavoidable. The definition of “flail” is visually delightful: to wave or swing or cause to wave or swing wildly. lindy-e1378959751286Lindyhoppers and jitterbuggers come to mind instantly, their hands waving and flapping, the girls’ skirts swinging out, the couples dancing wildly.

Unfortunately, that picture leaves out the other part of the definition of “flail”: to flounder, struggle uselessly, thrash, writhe. Uh-oh. Now we’re getting closer to the writer’s truth.

This flailing issue presented itself when I was flailing around, trying to think of what to write for TBUHB for a December 22 post that very few people would be likely to read. Does anyone want to read blog posts when there are only three days until Christmas? This is discouraging to a blog-writer.

On the other hand, if people prefer to shop and bake cookies instead of reading a blog post, then it’s only fair for me to be allowed to flail as much as I want. Freedom to flail, without fear of flailure!

Anyway, flailing came up because my thought about what to write today was a bounce off a really wonderful article in the November 4, 2014 New York Times, called “As a Writer, What Influences You Other Than Books?” Okay, I lied: it’s a half-wonderful article.

The piece is one of the regular NYT series called “Bookends,” in which two writers answer the same question, each in his or her own particular way. In this case, Thomas Mallon aces it with this answer: “I keep photos around me while I write the way other authors keep music in the background, as a kind of atmospheric stimulation.”

Nice. Clear. A cogent explanation of how the photos work for him.

James Parker, however, answered the question like this: “From my fellow bakers, I learned about industry and cohesion and the moral obligation to be cheerful.”

Obscure. Obtuse. Moral obligation to be cheerful?

So okay, he’s opting for puckish in his answer to the basic question. He also states that his “greatest nonliterary influences have been drummers, comedians and bakers.” The rest of his text is—I think—supposed to be amusing and clever, whimsical and offbeat, a pyrotechnic display of references and allusions. Which reads a lot like flailing.

One of the outstanding characteristics of flailing (in writing) is confusion. Another is deflection. A third is showing off. All of these conspire to distract the reader from noticing that not much is being said. It amounts to the writer’s version of sleight of hand. As I read and reread the Parker half of the piece, I understood less and less of what he was writing about.

And as I read and reread Parker’s flailing, I cared less and less about whatever point he was trying to make. If there was a point about what influences him, it got lost among the jazzy phrases; it hared off in odd directions, one after another. It made me think of being cornered at a party by a stoned kid who was absolutely sure he was making scintillating sense and, worse, that his captive audience gave a damn.

And yet his wind-up brought me back to my holiday-season-induced flailing with a thump. Here he is still dithering on about the lessons learned in the bakery where he once worked:

If you’re depressed, maimed, crocked in some way, fair enough—let us know. But if not, then in the name of humanity stop moaning. Keep a lightness about you, a readiness. Preserve the digestions of your co-workers; spare them your mutterings and vibings. It’s highly nonliterary, but there we are: be nice.

I like that. It’s good advice, even if it has nothing to do with the original question. It’s a tough time of year: BE NICE.

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Alley Cat Books, San Francisco, CA

Titcomb’s Bookshop, East Sandwich, MA

The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop, Fort Atkinson, WI

 

Writers & habits

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There’s a wonderfully interesting article by Rachel Toor in The Chronicle of Higher Education, called “The Habits of Highly Productive Writers.” The subhead is this: “There are no tricks to make writing easier, just practices you can develop to get it done.”

Ms. Toor discusses twelve habits, and you’ll want to read what she says about them; this post will make a lot more sense to you if you do. She asserts that highly productive writers…

  • reject the notion of “writer’s block” the way others shun gluten
  • don’t overtalk their projects
  • believe in themselves and their work
  • know that a lot of important stuff happens when they’re not “working”
  • are passionate about their projects
  • know what they’re good at
  • read a lot, and widely
  • know how to finish a draft
  • work on more than one thing at once
  • leave off at a point where it will be easy to start again
  • don’t let themselves off the hook
  • know there are no shortcuts, magic bullets, special exercises, or incantations

There are two tricky issues about this piece. The first is that we don’t really know what Ms. Toor means by “highly productive.” Quantity? Quality? Both? I’d be happier if I knew how she defines the term. I know some writers whom I’d consider highly productive, but they don’t think they’re productive enough. “Highly productive” is a highly subjective assessment.

The second tricky bit is that if you’re a reasonably productive writer (by your own standards) you already know and practice (or know and differ with) these habits, so in a way the article is irrelevant to you. If you’re not a productive writer (by your own standards), it may be relevant but you’re likely to be hiding under the bed sobbing by the time you finish reading the piece.

Actually, there’s a third issue: Is this article about highly productive writers or highly productive academic writers? Since Toor is writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education but uses examples from both worlds—academic and nonacademic—I’m a little confused. Again, “highly productive” could mean two very different things, according to what you’re writing and who it’s for.

It’s the nature of articles like this that they reiterate what we already know (if we fit the profile) or tell us what we might want to know (if we aspire to the profile). When the points are as nicely set out as they are in this article, it’s also a pleasure to see one’s life (or aspirations) described so cogently.

Still, I have a few quibbles with a few of the specifics. For instance: Highly productive writers work on more than one thing at once. Not necessarily. Many h.p. writers can’t spread their thinking over two projects at once; they give all their attention to one project and bash away at it until it’s finished. It’s like being a serial monogamist.

Another instance: Highly productive writers read a lot, and widely. Maybe they all should, but not all of them do. Mystery writers sometimes fall into that narrow-reading category, devouring books in their genre and ignoring almost everything else. A lot of productive fiction writers don’t read nonfiction, and vice versa. Plenty of productive writers have so much going on in their own heads that they can’t stuff anything else in there and hardly read at all.

And then there’s Toor’s remark in the Highly productive writers don’t let themselves off the hook section: “When they start to have feelings of self-doubt—I can’t do this, it’s too hard, I’ll never write another good sentence—they tell themselves to stop feeling sorry for themselves and just do the work.”

Where did that notion come from? I guess there are a few h.p. writers who say that to themselves—there must be. It’s true that h.p. writers ultimately don’t let themselves off the hook, but in the timespan between the self-doubt and the return to work there’s frequently a lot of panic, depression, anxiety, wailing, phone calls, shrink visits, temper tantrums, and worse.

I love that Rachel Toor took on this juicy topic, and it was great fun to read and think about her conclusions. But the problem I always have with definitive statements is that I worry about the exceptions to the definitions. Definitions of normative behavior scare me, especially where writers and all other artists are concerned.

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

BookWoman, Austin, TX

Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

Iconoclast Books, Ketchum, ID

 

marketplace report

The article linked here is exactly what I was writing about on November 17 (after that epiphany on the crosstown bus), in a post called “Returning to center.”

The Publishers Weekly piece is “The Rise of the Seven-Figure Advance.” Subhead: “Major deals become the ‘new normal,’ thanks to steeper competition for fewer high-profile projects.”

It’s a good job of reporting, and no fault of the reporter (Rachel Deahl) that the information is simultaneously all true and all nonsense. The article addresses why publishers are throwing huge amounts of money around right now; when the same publishers decide it was a mistake to hand out seven-figure advances, they’ll tell a different story. Wait, watch, and see.

 

 

 

Welcome to Purgatory Pie Press

Once upon a time you could only have a sweater if someone knitted it for you. Then machines replaced hand-knitting, and everyone could have sweaters. For a while, handmade sweaters were scorned because they weren’t made by those amazing new-fangled machines. But the wheel turns, and soon enough hand-knit sweaters regained value because they were made by hand.

By the same token, the more technologically sophisticated our machinemade or digitized books become, the more cachet and artistic value attaches to handset type and handmade books. The output of small letterpress print shops can have delicious appeal—in the use of beautiful old wood and metal typefaces, gorgeous papers, real ink, and unique design.Screen Shot 2014-11-18 at 4.31.27 PM The work can be rich in personality, a revelation of artistic vision as compelling as any painting or sculpture. Letterpress printing has traveled a twisty road: once commonplace, then ignored, and now exceptional.

Two (historically) old friends of mine are purveyors of the exceptional in letterpress printing: Esther K. Smith and Dikko Faust, owners of the Purgatory Pie Press in New York City. Dikko&EstherDikko is the typographer and inky-fingered printer; Esther is the designer, and also the author of How to Make Books, Magic Books & Paper Toys, and a significant contributor to The Little Book of Bookmaking.  HANDMADEBOOK flyerIn a long collaboration—married!—they’ve made everything from wedding invitations to accordion-fold books, postcards, toys, and all sorts of magical printed pieces both two- and three-dimensional.press-nice-view

Purgatory Pie Press is so versatile that it would be easy to write about (and show) a dozen kinds of PPP work and still have dozens more to go. Instead, Esther suggested a focus on the datebooks that she and Dikko have been creating since 1980 (for the year 1981). “Keeping a datebook becomes an autobiography,” Esther points out, which has to sound completely right to writers.

I still own the PPP datebook I bought for the year 1983, shown at right: I used it as a studio notebook, keeping track  of the paintings, prints, and artist’s books I was making back then when I was still a visual artist and not yet a writer. IMG_0837It’s pocket-sized, so I always had it with me when I went to my studio, and I mixed the informational with the personal.

Here’s a typical entry, for IMG_0838June 4, 1983: Arrived with pigeon shit in my hair. Thanks, NY. Bumped into Ann [Banks] and Peter [Petre] in the market. They came up for a few minutes. Then I puttered, thinking about the next collage I’ll make.

The gallery of photos below shows a sampling of the datebooks Esther and Dikko have made over the years. Below the gallery are links to their website and to other articles about PPP.

special thanks to Marna Chester for letting me use her photo (above) of the actual purgatory pie press.

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

City Lights Booksellers, San Francisco, CA

Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Lexington, KY

 

Andre Dubus III, travelin’ man

I do not review books on this blog; book reviewing is a special skill I don’t have. But I do often express preferences, confess infatuations, cheerlead for my favorites.

Dirty Love, by Andre Dubus III is an astonishing book in every way, not least for its form: separate but slightly interwoven long stories (as opposed to short stories) that focus on different characters but allow peripherally reappearing characters. It’s rich, very rich—and dirty in the best way.

This description doesn’t begin to capture the quality of the book, which is why I disclaim book-reviewer mentality. I can’t explain this book, but the writing is extraordinary and I was transfixed.

So, curious about the writer and not yet having read his memoir Townie, I poked around to find out a bit about him beyond the obvious. Read Wiki for the obvious, though you won’t learn much. You do learn that he has a wife and three children.

And then I went to his website and discovered the meaning of “traveling man.” I nearly fell off my desk chair. According to his “Tour Dates” page, the man has been and will be on the road in 2014 for fifty-nine events, some of them gobbling up more than one day. And there’s travel time between dates, because he hopscotches the country (and sometimes the globe) without cease.

Take June, for instance, in sequence: Toronto, Massachusetts, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Maine. Awesome.

How about April: Massachusetts, Florida, Italy, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, and Vermont.

And this is a guy who says, “Whenever I’ve gone without writing two or three days at the most I feel far away from my center almost on a spiritual level and I have to get to the desk.” So with all that traveling, when and how does he get to a desk and summon enough mental wherewithal to write?

But clearly he does find it, and I would be riveted to hear how he does it. One can’t help but be knocked over by the sheer energy of the man. One little weekend trip to Richmond, another week-long trip to Oregon, and I’m ready to tear out my hair. I want to know what his secret is. No, I really mean it. How does he do it? I want what he’s got.

In an interview he gave in 2010, Dubus said, “I really feel that if I hadn’t started writing I would not have outgrown my rage. But I’ll tell you this—I’ve always loved human beings, working out and taking care of my body while helping others to do the same. So I think I might have become a family doctor in some small town. At least that’s my hope.”

I don’t think a small town could have contained his energy.

←↑↓→←↑↓→←↑↓→←↑↓→←↑↓→←↑↓→

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Horton’s Books & Gifts, Carrollton, GA

Edgartown Books, Edgartown, MA

Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, CO

Oh, that New York Times. How hard it must be to fill those pages every day. But some days we get lucky and the editors push themselves onto new turf. As yesterday in the T Magazine, in a piece called “Old Books, New Thoughts.”

The article comprises seven writers reconsidering their earlier work, and this sentence alone—from Philip Roth, on the topic of Portnoy’s Complaint—made me grateful I’d stumbled on the piece.

While the protagonist may be straining to escape his moral conscience, I was attempting to break free from a literary conscience that had been constructed by my reading, my schooling and my fastidiousness — from a habitual sense of prose decorum.

 

The facts about platform

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What exactly is platform? It’s a slippery publishing concept. You’ve probably had an earful of the standard industry thinking on the subject, but it turns out that there’s more (or less, actually) to platform than we thought.

According to publishing pundit Jane Friedman, a writer with platform is “someone with visibility and authority who has proven reach to a target audience.” (And just to be clear: platform applies mostly, but not exclusively, to nonfiction writers.)

Friedman’s article “A Definition of Author Platform” explains the conventional thinking on the topic, and it’s depressing enough to push you in the direction of the nearest bar or a change of career. For instance, her “Side Note” says this:

Some people have an easier time building platform than others. If you hold a highly recognized position (powerful network and influence), if you know key influencers (friends in high places), if you are associated with powerful communities, if you have prestigious degrees or posts, or if you otherwise have public-facing work—yes, you play the field at an advantage.

And one of her explanatory bullet points is this:

  • Proven reach. It’s not enough to SAY you have visibility. You have to show where you make an impact and give proof of engagement. This could be quantitative evidence (e.g., size of your e-mail newsletter list, website traffic, blog comments) or qualitative evidence (high-profile reviews, testimonials from A-listers in your genre).

As you will see if you read the rest of the article, the expectations entertained by editors and agents are, for most of us, unrealistic in the extreme—no matter how much we want to break out of relative obscurity, no matter how much we long to please our publishers (or prospective publishers).

Writers have been plagued by this irrationality—the unrealistic demand for unreachable platform—from the day some p.r. person invented the notion. And social media have been cornerstones in the platform-building mythology. But here comes an important news flash from brand strategist Stephanie Bane, in a very good piece called “‘Platforms’ Are Overrated,” on a very good site called Creative Nonfiction: True stories, well told. 

The surprising subhead (better sit down…) is “Maybe you shouldn’t worry so much about building a presence on social media.”

What?

“Any author starting out today,” Bane writes, “is likely to hear the same advice from agents, publishers, and even well-meaning writer friends. That advice? Build your ‘platform.'” And then Bane proceeds to point out the Platform Emperor’s nakedness in great detail, starting with this:

Conventional wisdom in the publishing industry suggests that a robust online presence, maintained by an author, will compensate for a non-existent marketing budget and that some uncoachable mix of wit and digital luck can propel an author from obscurity to fame. The reality is that successful online marketing, just like successful offline marketing, is driven by money. A social media presence with no cash behind it doesn’t do much for the average author when it comes to selling books, and squandering precious hours on building a platform that few people will ever see—hours that could otherwise be spent writing—is a mistake that can hurt your productivity and, therefore, your career.

But she doesn’t just leave it there: Bane presents cogent arguments, with statistical support, for the pointlessness of most efforts to create (unfunded) platform via social media. She takes apart and debunks the assumptions that pass for facts among publishers. For example, she posits a situation in which you’ve managed to acquire 1000 fans for your author page on Facebook, by spending some money to enlist more than your personal friends. After that, this:

What does this do for sales when you’re finally ready to release your book? There’s limited public data on return-on-investment on Facebook, but we can use old-school direct marketing numbers as a proxy. As a rule of thumb, a good response rate on direct marketing efforts is 1 percent. If you reach all one thousand fans of your author page no fewer than three times with an announcement of your book release, and include a link to Amazon, you could reasonably expect ten of them to buy your book. That’s right: ten. But we know that only 6 percent of your fans will see each post to begin with; so, to ensure that your fans even know about your book release, you will have to promote yourself to them relentlessly. Mercilessly. To the point that they begin to unfriend you, or at least hide your feed.

Bane also takes on the value (or not) of blogging, Twitter, and your personal (rather than author) page on Facebook. I find myself wanting to quote the entire article, because not one word of it is uninteresting. And that includes some good advice from Amazon. Despite my issues with the gorilla, in this particular case Amazon acquits itself well: it tells authors to skip the social media and write more.

Which is Ms. Bane’s point:

Multiple agents might respond to your query letter in part because you’ve got such an outstanding social media platform, but they won’t end up representing you if your book is mediocre as a result of your having spent hours building a presence on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook instead of writing.

When you have to make a choice about how to spend your writing time, choose your book first. Every. Single. Time. To approach your writing career any other way is a mistake.

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THANK YOUI learned about the “Creative Nonfiction” site from a Facebook post put up by artist Lorie Novak; I’m very grateful to her for sharing the link to Ms. Bane’s important article.

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FYI / Independent Bookstores from Coast to Coast

Book Court, Brooklyn, NY

Heirloom Bookshop, Charleston, SC

Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA

 

 

 

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Today is my mother’s 92nd birthday; our family has a flock of girl-birthdays in October, which is one reason I’m going to Oregon in about forty-eight hours—to be with the other birthday celebrants.

Reading yesterday’s NYT obituary of David Greenglass made my mother’s birthday the most…poignant. Not because she and Greenglass are the same age (which they are), but because she had to endure the witch-hunt politics of the 1940s and 1950s, for which David Greenglass gets some credit.

This isn’t at all logical: With Ruth Greenglass, the Rosenbergs, and now David Greenglass gone, I have the urge to dust off my hands and say, Well, that’s finally over. Not logical. Read all about David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs in the Times obit.

And if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, read the many comments that accompany the obit. TBUHB is a blog about writing and reading: read the writing—the comments—to get insight into both sides of the story.

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