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Ploughshares‘ Literary Boroughs series took on my home!!! And covered pretty much everything, as far as I can tell.


Jess Walter talks about Beautiful Ruins. As much as he can.

On your site, you do haiku reviews of books. Give me a haiku review of “Beautiful Ruins”.

Even in haiku
it’s probably bad form to
review your own book


Four self-published authors of e-books ended up on the New York Times e-book bestseller list this week!


The Fiction Writers Review has an interview with Stephanie Powell Watts, author of We Are Taking Only What We Need:

[When visiting Graceland] I expected to scoff and laugh at Elvis’s bad taste and silly choices, but I have to say I felt close to Elvis as a person in a way I never expected. I found myself wondering about the beautiful young man with sudden and incredible fame shopping to please himself, to impress and comfort his mother, looking for the things a young man would choose: cheetah prints, wild colors, the shiny and trendy, large animal-shaped objects. All of it touched me. I suddenly saw Elvis as a person.

and an interview with Alix Ohlin, author of Inside, who makes me feel a lot better by saying this:

I rarely write during a heavy teaching semester, unless it’s a fairly short, contained piece like a review. I just don’t have the creative energy to do both, though I certainly admire people who do. But that’s not to say that teaching doesn’t feed my work, because it does (and I’m not just saying that). It engages the critical side of my mind, which is significant, and it keeps me from being lazy, because I have to keep up with whatever my students are reading and I want to be a model of rigorous reading for them. And it also—this is not to be underestimated—gives me a sense of community and stability and faith. I have a lot of self-doubt when it comes to my own writing, and my feelings about it go up and down. But teaching is something whose value I believe in always. The nurturing of student work, the sharing of enthusiasm about other people’s books, participating in a larger conversation about literature—I always think that’s worthwhile. It keeps me on an even keel while my feelings about my own projects are all over the place. It’s ballast.


A few thoughts and possibilities to consider when writing an opening line to hook the reader.

Here are some ideas on how to help get you to a good first line.

  • Have a clear understanding of your story, a clear beginning middle and a clear end.
  • Write other sections of the story so that you become clear about your pacing, intent or the fleshing out of characters.
  • Write a first sentence that says everything you want to say. I mean EVERYTHING. Let it get as long, fat, bulky and long-winded as you need. Put the sentence away for a week. Come back to it and edit that sentence into seven words. You will run into problems doing this. Press on trying. After getting to the seven-word sentence, you may not like what you’ve said, but you will be one step closer to what you mean.
  • Keep trying.


“Human affairs are not serious, but they have to be taken seriously.”

Iris Murdoch’s words of wisdom.


Leigh Stein on how to read in public so that people won’t hate you. Don’t have a reading coming up? Read it anyway to hear about the worst reading ever. I laughed out loud.

… she’d read a poem, and then end it by telling us, “I don’t have an ending for that yet.” This went on for about 10 minutes. Then, she told us she would be bringing her young daughter up on stage to do “live paintings” to accompany her poetry. They set up watercolors on the floor. She told anecdotes. The daughter painted, but only after she’d concocted the “perfect” black. We were shown these paintings. By now, it had been maybe 20 minutes. We were tired. We were bored. Just when I thought I literally couldn’t take it anymore without walking out, the poet asked us, “Do you mind if I sing?”


A truly inspiring tale of self-publishing from author Theresa Ragan.

For 19 years I couldn’t sell a book, but suddenly I was getting offers for my Lizzy Gardner series. I felt like an overnight success. On March 27, 2012, I signed my very first publishing agreement with Thomas & Mercer, an Amazon imprint. I negotiated my own contract and I loved every minute of it. In a little over a year, I sold 300,000 e-books.

But temper that now with Guy Kawasaki’s “Plan C” and where self-publishing figures in.


Writing advice from the man himself, Douglas Coupland, and while a lot of it is stuff we’ve heard 100 times before, some of it is good to hear even if we’ve heard it before. And, as a teacher, I am particularly fond of this bit:

  • A good teacher is someone who taught you what to love. A bad teacher is someone who taught you what to hate. Use your judgment.


Eight Formatting Tips and Tricks


An interview with Lidia Yuknavitch, author of Dora: A Headcase.

Certainly I’m participating in an already established and awesome tradition, but it’s a tradition that sort of shoots up and through the mainstream in short bursts and pulses and then gets diluted. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson shot up and then got sucked back down underground under more entertaining and less radical versions of body and self – poetry and prose that posited bodies in more perfect union with good citizenship. William Burroughs and Kathy Acker screamed a body electric and then got sutured shut by best-selling smarmy good feeling couch novels where you don’t have to think or feel anything. Marguerite Duras got ghettoized into “that French stuff,” and Dennis Cooper gets misplaced inside an aging history of punk and perversion…Or all of it gets collected into something called “transgressive” and thus loses any chance it ever had of just telling the truth:  The body is a metaphor for experience.

Not gonna lie. Lidia Yuknavitch is kind of a badass.


5 Tips for Making a Living as a Writer

1) Know how much your writing is worth (but be willing to write for way less).

Truer words were never… blogged.