On Writing, Reading, and Publishing Well:April Eberhardt Interviewed by Chris Jane

Read the interview here on Jane Friedman’s site. I’ve mentioned Jane Friedman before. Her site is like the Fort Knox of information for writers.  Gold standard, gold mine, gold star–okay, enough. Some days I think my blog should simply be: check out Jane Friedman, repeated two or three times a week.

So much to read on editing and writing and publishing, so little time . . . so I often miss things the first time around. Or read them and file them somewhere on my computer. (I am most definitely not of the clean desk, focused mind school of thought.) This interview is a few months old. Apologies if you’ve already seen it.

April Eberhardt is an agent in the Bay Area, who’s embraced the changing landscape of the publishing world. This interview presents a good overview of that world in general, and good women’s fiction in particular. I urge you to check out her site as well.

What I particularly want to call out and re-emphasize is her recommendation to writers to read. My first creative writing teacher in college made form, function, and imitation assignments: write a poem in the style of ee cummings, a Shakespearean sonnet, like that. That’s one way of learning to write by reading.  There are others.

For me reading and writing are like one compound activity. As I read I notice pacing, story arc, characterization techniques, choice of details–dozens of things I’m not even necessarily consciously aware of. It becomes something akin to muscle memory that I bring it to my own writing.

And when I teach or coach writers I almost always encourage them to read something that their work reminds me of in some way or for some specific purpose.

Read on and write on!


If a Writer Publishes a Book/Article/Poem in a Forest . . .

I found this post on a Facebook Page, Writers on Writing. Here’s the link: Jennifergaram keep on writing. I love this post. Keep on writing because it feels better than not writing (even if you’re rejected, even if hardly anyone reads your post or article or book). Because you have something to say. Because you want to tell a story.

Reach out and touch someone used to be a slogan–maybe for long distance telephone calls (back in the dark ages before cell phones) or maybe for a greeting card company. The thing is, when we write and submit for publication and even publish, we are reaching out. And as Garam writes, we never know when what we write will touch someone.

Metrics and money seem to me not to be good ways to measure our success as writers. Okay, I don’t mean to be disingenuous and I’m not a fresh-eyed young artist who thinks money isn’t important. Quite the opposite. Many years ago, when I was a new mother, with a full-time job, and trying to write and submit poetry and have a life, something had to go. It was poetry because poetry didn’t earn money to support my family, and it took away from the little free time I had to spend with my family. So money was my metric.

Now I’m looking for a different one. I don’t have one. I’m looking for one. And I’m looking to connect with my writing–to find out what I think about growing older, living in this increasingly complex world, tell a story to entertain myself.

Why do you write?


How to Write about Sex–Let Me Count the Ways

Okay, I’m not actually going to write about how to write about sex here. I’m not even sure I can put the word “sex” in a blog headline. If the blog police don’t blow the whistle my Catholic upbringing might. But, as Noy Holland points out, there are a lot of ways from the explicit to the barest innuendo, the down and dirty to the sublime, to write about sex.   See the article here.

I’ve read many, but not all, of the stories and novels Holland mentions in the article. And I recommend them to you. It’s been said many times and many ways: if you want to write fiction, if you want to write a particular kind of fiction, reading fiction–studying it–is one of the best things you can do. Besides writing. Dive in and try it!


Don’t Just Take My Word For It–Another Great Reading List


So I learned a few things when I stumbled across this list, I think posted by someone on Facebook, or maybe in one of the publishing newsletters I get, or maybe forwarded by a friend. I knew about BuzzFeed. Various quotes and quizzes pop up in my FB feed. But I had no idea there was something called BuzzFeed books. You can subscribe to it. Learned that! I haven’t yet subscribed, but maybe some of all of us will find out what it’s all about in the next few days. Here I thought Lincoln Thompson drew up this wonderful eclectic list of old and new books himself. I wanted to invite him to a dinner party with a bunch of bookish friends.

And wow! The other thing I learned–again–is that there are great old(er) books–call them classics out there to read or reread. And great new books. Books and authors I hadn’t ever heard of until I saw this list. When I’m next looking for something new and different to read I’m going to pull this list out and buy some books.

Discovering New Stories, New Writers, and a Computer Glitch or Two Too

Short story: Here’s a link to a great list of recommended reads: http://mic.com/articles/90453/14-brilliant-pieces-of-literature-you-can-read-in-the-time-it-takes-to-eat-lunch. I love collected lists that tout great reads. It’s like those little handwritten shelf notes written by thoughtful people who work in really good bookstores. Only it’s online. And the best part is you can click on the link and the little blue “here” and read them instantly or not.

Longer version: A while ago I signed up for an aggregator newsletter at a site called Stumble Upon. You can tell it what you’re interested in. Then, every once in a while something that leads you on a merry chase through the never, never land of reading interesting stuff instead of marching down your to-do list pops up in your email. So today a piece entitled “14 Brilliant Pieces of Literature You Can Read in the Time It Takes to Eat Lunch” showed up. I love some of these writers. I think Margaret Atwood’s short fiction is BRILLIANT, more brilliant than her novels really. And Lydia Davis and John Updike and Sandra Cisneros and Ray Bradbury. How often do those people show up in one place? And even though I’ve read some things by most of this gang of fourteen here was a list of stories I hadn’t read. And happy day, I could, or so I thought, have instant access to them.

I followed directions and clicked on the little blue “here” to read for free. And nothing happened. Then the smarmy Firefox (which I don’t ever use anymore, but some people do, apparently) showed up to say somebody’s Adobe Flash was outdated and the requested thing was being blocked. Okay.

So it’s from somewhere, this story. Stumble Upon found it, and they give credit where credit is due, mic.om.  I went there and you can too. (See link above.) The same lovely blue “here” was there. I clicked and was sent to–wait for it–Google Books, where I could buy Lydia Davis’s collected stories.

I may well buy Lydia Davis’s collected stories because decades ago in a class Bob Gluck, a brilliant writer and teacher who introduced me to so many writers I didn’t know, put a Lydia Davis story in his reader for a seminar on writing experimental short fiction. And I’d forgotten about her. I don’t remember the name of the story, but if I went into the closet that’s becoming my study and dug through a few boxes I could find it. Or I could order the collected short stories online or better yet see if my favorite bookstore has it in stock.

What I can’t do, with it or any of the other thirteen stories, is click the button and read it here now. So there are some glitches in our instant gratification culture. Maybe it’s because, although Stumble Upon found this article and put it in my inbox today, it was actually written in 2014, I think. And the woman who wrote it has a blog on WordPress, but she hasn’t written anything in it since 2013. Oh dear, I hope she’s okay!

But, I digress. . . What I wanted to say is here’s a great list of short stories I’m not familiar with by readers I love. And one of my great joys in life is being introduced to new writers or different things by writers I know. So I wanted to share this with you. And I am. You have the list. Maybe you’ll be able to click and read. And, if you do, please tell me how you did it.

This then is a book…

For many years a poster hung on my office wall, a quote attributed to Emily Dickinson. “This then is a book, and there are more of them.”  For me that pretty much summed it up–books, books to read, books to write, books to edit. A life of books. It’s what I dreamed of as a child, sitting in the apple tree with Tom Sawyer, or buried under the covers with Jane Eyre. I have been fortunate to have edited so many books I’ve lost count. To have read a great number of books. To have written a few. To have been present at the birth of many. The books in the header picture are from one of the bookshelves in my dining room. (I have them in pretty much every room in my house.) These are beloved, and some quite dogeared, poetry books.

girl reading

Photograph by Evelyn Brokering