Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Innovation in Journalism





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Stephen King on Writing

"It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around." - Stephen King, from "On Writing"



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How To Make Money From Your Blog





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Navigating Through the Publishing World: An 8-Step Program


Navigating Through the Publishing World: An 8-Step Program
By Brenna Lyons

How do you accomplish writing successes? I think all successes come down to a few simple things, and they overlap with writing tips somewhat.

1) Write well. I don't just mean edit well; I don't just mean know your grammar, punctuation and such, though all of that is important. I mean write an engaging story, a strong story, something that compels the reader to keep reading. I mean show, don't tell. I mean engage the senses and draw the reader fully into the world and characters. I mean, make it as three-dimensional as you can, THEN GO FURTHER and capture the reader. Make the reader think and even more important than that... Make the reader feel and care! That is the mark of an excellent fiction book! If the reader doesn't care what happens next, you aren't there yet. And, if you have to ask me if it's there, it's not there.

2) Submit well. I've been through this, so you know how seriously I take submissions. They should be clean. They should be in the format asked for by the agent or publisher and include only what they ask for...no more, no less. They should be powerful. You should know your work inside and out and be able to SHOW (not tell...show) someone why it's special, different and essential. Copycats lead to diminishing returns. In addition, you should choose your publishers well. Research them, ask around, weigh the risks, and invest well in your career as an author. This is a career, and it requires no less care than any other lifelong career track. Know what the terms mean and use them correctly. Know the questions to ask and don't rush the process of choosing a publisher and submitting properly.

3) Never give up! Stephen King threw his first book in the trash...the first few chapters of Carrie. His wife pulled them out and demanded he write more. When he argued that he didn't know anything about teenage girls, she told him to write. She'd tell him what a teenage girl would do. Frank Baum had more than 100 rejections on Oz before he got the first book published. He never stopped trying. The only difference between published and unpublished is not giving up. Well, there's a little more to it, and you can see that in this post. But, there is the ONE undeniable fact. If you give up, you will never be published. How could you?

4) Play well with the editors. It's your book. That is undeniable. But the editors are there to do a couple of things. They are there to help you make the book cleaner, more compact, and more powerful...a stronger presentation. They are also there to protect you and the publisher from things like infringement cases. I am not saying that an editor is always right. I've proven a few of them wrong. I am saying that there are some things they cannot bend on...and there are others they can. Dealing with an editor is a fine line, but there is room for negotiation. What you think the editor is saying isn't always what he/she is saying. Sometimes, you have to hash it out and see what the bottom-line problem is. Then, perhaps, your answer for addressing it might be completely different than the editor's idea but just as workable and acceptable to the editor and publisher. There are few times when you cannot work with an editor, so you shouldn't rush to call in a higher power. Most editors do have your best interests at heart, and as my first editor told me: “Editing isn't dismembering your baby; it's polishing a gem.” (Suzanne James) Sometimes, that means cutting off the rough edges before you bring in the polishing cloth.

5) Market well. No matter where you are, New York or small press, you have to be able to market yourself and your book. Never forget that the creative side of writing is really a small portion of the whole. You can't publish and sit back to let the royalty checks roll in. It doesn't work that way. If you want to sell, promote! There are a ton of resources out there. I post them often. I'll post them again, if someone wants them. Research and use them. Remember that everything you do should be part of an interconnected web, and all marketing is cumulative. Whenever possible, avoid segregating your promotion attempts. Make them work together.

6) Enter contests well. This is another thing I've written articles on, and my success in contests seems to indicate that I have this one down. You have to know your work inside and out. You have to consider the guidelines for individual contests as carefully as you consider the guidelines for publishers; remember that the one making the rules has the final say. You have to apply them, taking your audience into consideration. You have to choose your contests wisely. You have to use your finals and wins to further your promotion.

7) Remain professional when dealing with the professionals. I can't stress this enough. I've seen publishers talk. Belonging to a couple of pro lists, I've seen publishers warn other publishers about the nutcases out there submitting. NEVER burn your bridges completely. A rejection is an opinion, a simple opinion that the book isn't right for a given line. Nothing more—that is, unless the editor is rude and makes it more. Even then, authors talk too. You can let other authors know your bad experience without branding yourself in the publisher's eyes. When you're rejected, thank them and move on. When they give criticism, consider it carefully and go with your gut. If you hear the same thing many times, consider it carefully again. What you should never do is get rude and snippy with an editor. They share this. While an editor is unlikely to remember your name a week later if they have rejected you, hence the reason you remind them they asked for more from you, they WILL remember a hothead, and they will pass it on.

8) Keep writing. Few publishers want a one-hit wonder. That is the best way to build an audience, get attention and sell...having a lot to offer.

Brenna Lyons is an award-winning bestselling author in the field of indie press spec fic dark romance, erotica, journalism and poetry. In the last six years, she's been a finalist for seven EPPIES, three PEARLS, two CAPAS, and a DREAM REALM AWARD, as well as the recipient of Spinetinglers' (UK) Book of the Year for 2007.




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Mike's Private Coaching Lessons


Mike's Private Coaching Lessons

Need a writing coach to pump you up and get your creative juices flowing? Need a writing mentor who doesn’t speak from theory but decades of experience in the center of the publishing arena, someone who has appeared in hundreds of major newspapers around the country and countless national magazines? Let me help you reach your writing dreams!

• Make your writing powerfully come to life
• Build the A, B, and C’s of a professional writing career
• Learn the secrets of full-time freelancing
• Talk to editors and come away with work
• Network your way through the publishing game
• Reach publishing powerbrokers
• Negotiate like a pro for high-dollar assignments
• Deal effectively with rejection, blocks, fear, procrastination, and other obstacles

And much, much more!
Write me at: mgeffy@gmail.com
15-minute phone sessions for $30, a half-hour for $50.

About me:

Michael P. Geffner has been a writer/journalist for over 30 years. He's appeared in hundreds of publications, including The New York Times, USA Today, Details, The Sporting News, Men's Health, Cigar Aficionado, The Village Voice, FHM, Texas Monthly, and Los Angeles Magazine. He has won two Associated Press Sports Editors awards, been awarded first place for magazine profile writing in 2000 by the Society of Professional Journalists (NJ), voted Best Sportswriter in New York City in 1990 by New York Press, and acknowledged for excellence seven times by the annual anthology, The Best American Sports Writing.






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Monday, June 29, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson










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The Write Stuff

The Write Stuff
By Jon Meacham
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Jul 13, 2009

Holden Caulfield had it right. The test of a great book, he said in The Catcher in the Rye, was whether, once you finished it, you wished the author were a great friend you could call up at home. I remembered Caulfield's insight when we convened a roundtable of writers to come to NEWSWEEK. The conversation was honest, and a persistent theme emerged: that for all the frustrations of writing, the uncertain future of publishing, and the terror of rejection by readers and critics, our authors couldn't imagine doing anything else. Ever.


Because they are all inveterate (and deft) storytellers, even when they're just talking shop. Elizabeth Strout revealed that she hides pages of her manuscripts in her home so she can come across them by surprise—and thus see them with a fresh eye. Susan Orlean said the first book she bought on Kindle was by…Susan Orlean. Robert Caro reminded us how he was told, repeatedly, that a book on Robert Moses wouldn't sell. (It did, and it won a Pulitzer.) Want to know more? Read on. And yes, we think you'll want to call everyone up.

Jon Meacham: Mr. Block, why do you do what you do?
LAWRENCE BLOCK: I don't know. I started when I was too young to know better, actually, and before very long was qualified for nothing else. I don't know that there's any better answer than that. I can't think of any way I'd prefer to have spent the past 50 years. I've reached a point now where I'm slowing down and thinking that there may not be more novels. It's been enough years and enough books so that anything I had to say to the world I've long since said and probably repeated myself enough times to be done with it. But it's interesting to contemplate not doing it anymore.

You say novels. Would there be something else?
BLOCK: Well, I'll probably write one way or another. The current book is a memoir, which I never thought I would do. I never felt temperamentally inclined to write anything about myself. And I suspect I'll still do short stories when something comes to me. But the heavy lifting of the novel I may not feel like doing.

ELIZABETH STROUT: It's just a compulsion. It's absolute madness in a way, I think. The few times that I contemplate not doing it, it's almost like there's a flavor that leaves ordinary life. But it's never lasted more than a couple days and probably only three times that I remember that I thought, I won't do this anymore.

Was one of the three times ever in the middle of writing?
STROUT: No, it was in the middle of not getting any responses from anybody in the entire publishing world.

SUSAN ORLEAN: I wish I could say something really original like I was planning to be a professional athlete and the opportunity to be a writer came up. It's all I have ever thought of doing. It was observing, telling stories, performing this magic trick of being the conduit for experiences for other people. It's interesting because there was a point when the idea of being somebody writing for print started to have the slight tinge of antiquarian charm.

It's turned into a full-blown rash. [laughter]
ROBERT CARO: You know, what I first liked about writing was finding out. My first story in sixth grade was "Hank the Moose," which was basically a biography of a moose. It was too long. It was in three volumes. [Laughter] I always wanted to find out, to explain, to find out how things work. One of the things about Hemingway was they asked him about his basic motivations and he said he wanted to find out how fly-fishing worked, how bull-fighting worked. I always felt I had that in myself.

KURT ANDERSEN: One thing I'll say about all these answers is there's too much pure pleasure. It sounds like it's just all fun. It's true, but I just want, for the record, to tell all of you who aren't writers who are out there reading this to know it's also...

STROUT: Hell.

ANDERSEN: Yeah.

ANNETTE GORDON-REED: I never felt that, though.

ANDERSEN: Really? It's always pleasurable?

GORDON-REED: Hell is endnotes. Endnotes in order are hell. But writing stuff doesn't feel like hell to me.

STROUT: It feels difficult to me a lot. Which doesn't mean I don't love it and I'm not pulled to it on a daily, nightly, insomniac basis. Your point about it being very hard work is a good one. It's tremendously hard work. Yes, I love arranging the words and having them fall on the ear the right way and you know you're not quite there and you're redoing it and redoing it and there's a wonderful thrill to it. But it is hard. It's a job of tremendous anxiety for me.

ORLEAN: There's also this new question, which is, will anyone buy this? Will someone pay for this? Will the magazine I'm working for go out of business? I don't know anyone no matter how successful they are—beside, you know, J. K. Rowling and what's-her-face who does the Twilight stuff—but I think the realities of the industry are present. I think you'd be foolish not to be at least aware of it. Maybe not suffering from it, but conscious of it.

BLOCK: I suppose you have to be, in the sense that you're professional. But I think the less attention I pay to what people want and the more attention I pay to just writing the book I want to write, the better I do. The enormous mistake a lot of young writers make is that they want to know what people want.

ANDERSEN: The problem is, any time you try to game it in that way and then it doesn't work, then you feel like a complete schmo.

BLOCK: Yes, absolutely.

ANDERSEN: You sold out and nobody's bought.

BLOCK: Absolutely. If you set out to please yourself, then maybe you will.

GORDON-REED: It's sort of a luxury, being an academic. Because I have tenure. I have a job unless something catastrophic happens.

ANDERSEN: The last luxurious job in America!

CARO: When young writers ask me if I think something will sell, what I want to say to them is you really shouldn't care about that because if you want to write any serious book you're going to be spending three or four years of your life. What are you spending those three or four years of your life on? If you feel you have something to say, then whether you're right or you're wrong, at least you feel like you're doing something that's contributing something. For seven years I heard people in publishing saying no one's going to buy a book on Robert Moses.

How often does everyone check their Amazon rankings?
BLOCK: NEVER!

STROUT: Never.

Do people do that?

ANDERSEN: UH, yeah! [Laughter]

How often do you check?
ANDERSEN: Well, it depends. When the book is new, I check it with some neurotic -frequency.

ORLEAN: The real question is, who reads their Amazon reviews?

STROUT: How could you do that? I would never…cto me that's like a pit of snakes. Every so often somebody will say to me, well, you should at least hear this…and I'm like, oh, okay. But I mean I just know myself, and I can't…And friends will call me and go, oh, did you know…c? And I'm just like, don't do it, don't open the door, it's awful.

ORLEAN: Now and again, someone says, did you see the review of your book…cand you know, they're all horrible and nasty, snarky. So you just have them write one that says, this is the single most important book in the English language, and it will push the next one down.

As you're writing, do you think about the audience? If you didn't, presumably you wouldn't be in this room—you'd just be writing for yourselves or for your soul.
ORLEAN: For me the idea of writing not for publication is a little like drinking alone. To me, drinking is sort of a social experience. [Writing] is like coming home from a great trip and sitting around a dinner table and saying, I've got to tell you about this.

STROUT: I think of it very much as a relationship. It has different stages when I'm first putting it down, but it's a relationship, and it's a very intimate relationship, which is what's sort of mysterious and wonderful about it. It's solitary—obviously we all know that we work alone—and yet there's this voice. You're trying to reach another person with this voice.

ANDERSEN: Elizabeth, you told me recently that you made Olive Kitteridge a series of stories rather than a novel about her because you thought the readers would get sick of the voice of that one character.

STROUT: That's because I believe the story of Olive Kitteridge is one that should be told, but I also believe you have to serve this in a way that, you know, people are going to be able to digest. It's a constant juggling of how can I tell something that I feel so intensely but that can be received with, not joy every minute or anything like that, but in a way that's truthful to you.

Do you find that the public ascribes to you wisdom about the world beyond what's normal?
CARO: I'm constantly being asked at dinner parties to explain something that's happened that day, and often I don't know what's happened that day. [Laughter]

GORDON-REED: I was down in Australia a month and a half ago. I went down to do a symposium about Jefferson; the University of Sydney was sponsoring this with Monticello. And it was all fine and good about the symposium, but they wanted me to do a public talk. And what they wanted me to talk about was Barack and Michelle Obama. [Laughter] And I'm like, I know who they are, they came to law school a few years after I graduated, but I've not met them. But because I'm black and American and they're Down Under …cI thought, OK, so I'll give this lecture. I'm down in Australia and nobody will ever see this. But I forgot about podcasts, which they put up. It's everywhere, you know? So yes, I get questions about tangential stuff all the time. Anything about race, obviously.

'What would Jefferson do about Iran?'
GORDON-REED: Yeah, exactly. The Barbary pirates. You know, what would Jefferson do about all kinds of things. I get asked that all the time. As if I would know.

As if he would know.
GORDON-REED: Exactly.

BLOCK: I think signings and appearances and all of that are sometimes a bad idea in that if I really like somebody's work a whole lot, I'm probably going to regret meeting them, which is very often the case.

STROUT: I've thought of that so many times.

GORDON-REED: But do you think people regret meeting you?

BLOCK: I think they must regret meeting me.

STROUT: I know they do. The very first time when Amy and Isabelle was published I went for an interview with somebody and she said to me, you're not at all what I expected. And I was furious.

BLOCK: A fault of yours, clearly.

STROUT: You know, I'd put on a skirt and a matching top. It was very disconcerting. So I thought, well I should just stay home.

Do you all read your stuff out loud as you're going along?
BLOCK: No, I don't. I've heard that recommended and I've heard some people do that, but I think I hear it internally as I write it so I don't feel the need.

STROUT: I do sections at different points. Sound is very important to me, and also I have noticed that reading aloud is physically very exhausting, so I've learned that if I find that tiredness in myself, there's probably a sogginess in the prose.

ANDERSEN: I read dialogue aloud a lot. I wasn't aware that I was doing it until my children told me. [Laughter]

ORLEAN: I always do. I read everything and use it as a way of editing. In fact, when I do readings I find myself editing on the fly and thinking, ugh.

ANDERSEN: The other thing like this that I find interesting—and I guess it's a subtler thing—but the difference between reading what you've written on the screen and reading it printed out on paper. I find entirely new things that are wrong and that I need to change once I've printed it.

Why?
ANDERSEN: I don't know. It's a little bit, I guess, that your mind is focused, you're taking it more seriously on a certain level. It's not as though the hours I spent writing it on the screen were not. It's just like looking at it from a different angle.

STROUT: I will leave pages around the apartment to come upon by surprise. Like, what does this look like if I'm putting my earrings in and it's on the bureau and I have to turn. What does it look like if I come upon it? I've done that for years.

Is Bob the only person who uses a typewriter?
STROUT: I write by hand.

CARO: I write by hand for first drafts, and then I work using a typewriter.

STROUT: What kind of typewriter?

CARO: Smith Corona Electric 210, which they stopped making about 25 years ago, so you have to have this supply of typewriters cause if a key breaks you have to cannibalize another typewriter.

ORLEAN: I remember there was a -typewriter-repair shop on Amsterdam and 79th. It just kept getting smaller and smaller and then it turned into a luggage shop.

STROUT: And those people were so lovely. I mean, not the people in that particular shop, but -typewriter--repair people. You had this relationship with them, because they were saving you.

ANDERSEN: Speaking of antiquarian tinge! I can't even write letters at this point. I can't write anything longer than three sentences by hand. I was so happy to give up the typewriter.

CARO: The whole world today believes that speed is a good. But maybe writing is something in which slowing yourself down isn't bad. The reason I write my first drafts in longhand is that when I went to Princeton and I took creative-writing courses, my professor was this teacher named R. P. Blackmur, who was a great critic. So you had to hand in a short story every two weeks, and I could always do it starting at midnight the night before. I got pretty good marks, and I thought I was really fooling him. Then my senior year, in what I remember was one of my last sessions with him, he looked me in the eye, handed me my story, and said, "Mr. Caro, you're never going to be what you want to be unless you learn to stop thinking with your fingers." And I understood exactly. When I wrote my first book, I remembered what Blackmur said, and I said to myself, I must slow myself down. And the way I did was to write in longhand.

ANDERSEN: To me it's not about speed at all. The hours per page at this table is probably the same. But to me it's having a way to have the speed of the process more conformed to what I perceive to be the speed of my brain, and essentially to be able to do 50 drafts of a paragraph or a sentence in 20 minutes rather than what feels like writing the Declaration of Independence if I were writing it by hand.

BLOCK: When I was first starting out, there were things with the typewriter, a certain tyranny. I remember one time I was -writing—I was working at a very low level, let it be said—and I had done what I thought was a 20-page chapter that day. The pages were numbered from page 21 to page 40. I was reading it through and discovered I had left out page 39. I had written page 38 and the next page continued in the middle of a sentence and it was page 40. I didn't want to retype and renumber and everything, so I wrote page 39 to fit. [Laughter]

To what extent is the rise of E-readers going to change what you do, and how do you think the paying-the-rent part of the business is going to develop?
ANDERSEN: [To Gordon-Reed] You have tenure—you don't need to talk about this. [Laughter]

ORLEAN: I don't understand the great fear of e-readers. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think you can look at iPods and music and, you know, it was a shift to a different form that I actually think encourages people buying more music, because you don't have to build yet another shelf in your house to have those CDs.

ANDERSEN: Also it will no longer enable people to have books on their shelves as signifiers of how smart they are. There's no reason to download a book unless you intend to read it. There's no need to show off.

BLOCK: I don't think anybody really expects e-books to supplant printed books, because I don't think that they're ever going to be that much more enjoyable a way to read a book. It was different with downloads and iPods; that's a better way to hear music than a CD is. I think that what e-books will do is enable people to carry a few hundred books with them on a trip rather than struggling with a suitcase to take five along. But I don't think it will be the same transformative thing that audible downloads have been.

ORLEAN: I'm not totally sure. Somebody made this analogy, which I think is extreme, but when cars were developed, people began keeping horses for pets, or if they were really beautiful, they had a beautiful horse for the sake of having a beautiful horse, but they drove a car. I think you're going to continue buying very visual books, or you may give them as gifts.

ANDERSEN: There's something slightly sad and elegiac about the idea of books disappearing, which I agree that they will, or losing the experience that I have walking into your house and immediately seeing the jacket of my book on your bookshelf.

ORLEAN: Placed precisely for your -enjoyment.

ANDERSEN: Well, no doubt. I thought of the horse-and-car thing, I think it's a slower thing. I think it's actually sailing ships to steam. Once steamships existed, it took a century for sails to get cleared out. And what did sailboats become in the last 50, 80, 100 years? Quaint, beautiful artifacts that the rich can still indulge in.

ORLEAN: I'm much more willing to buy a novel electronically by someone I don't know. Because if halfway through I think, I don't really like this, I can just stop. I can't throw books out, even if I think they're crummy. I feel like I've got to give it to the library, I've got to loan it to somebody, or I keep it on my shelf. It's like a plant.

BLOCK: I can throw them out. [Laughter] Sometimes with great enthusiasm.

So who here reads E-books?
ORLEAN: I just finished reading Madame Bovary on my iPhone, for what it's worth.

That's a good first line for a story.

STROUT: So what was it like to read on your iPhone?

Did you curl up with it?
STROUT: Did you notice she killed herself and all that kind of stuff? [Laughter]

ORLEAN: The book is the book, and the story is the story. But it has certain advantages. You can make the font bigger. You can turn it sideways if you want to read it like that. It was actually probably better than reading it in a cheap paperback.

STROUT: Right, because you would have had to have a light..

ORLEAN: And you'd have crummy paper.

BLOCK: And this is Flaubert, who famously said I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon taking it out. [Laughter]

CARO: Just so I know that I've said it, I want to say here that I think, no matter what form books take, I think the basic purpose of writing, serious writing, the kind of writing we all do, is going to be the same: to examine the great questions. I don't think that's going to change at all.

ORLEAN: And it never has.




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The Write Stuff

The Write Stuff
By Jon Meacham
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Jul 13, 2009

Holden Caulfield had it right. The test of a great book, he said in The Catcher in the Rye, was whether, once you finished it, you wished the author were a great friend you could call up at home. I remembered Caulfield's insight when we convened a roundtable of writers to come to NEWSWEEK. The conversation was honest, and a persistent theme emerged: that for all the frustrations of writing, the uncertain future of publishing, and the terror of rejection by readers and critics, our authors couldn't imagine doing anything else. Ever.


Because they are all inveterate (and deft) storytellers, even when they're just talking shop. Elizabeth Strout revealed that she hides pages of her manuscripts in her home so she can come across them by surprise—and thus see them with a fresh eye. Susan Orlean said the first book she bought on Kindle was by…Susan Orlean. Robert Caro reminded us how he was told, repeatedly, that a book on Robert Moses wouldn't sell. (It did, and it won a Pulitzer.) Want to know more? Read on. And yes, we think you'll want to call everyone up.

Jon Meacham: Mr. Block, why do you do what you do?
LAWRENCE BLOCK: I don't know. I started when I was too young to know better, actually, and before very long was qualified for nothing else. I don't know that there's any better answer than that. I can't think of any way I'd prefer to have spent the past 50 years. I've reached a point now where I'm slowing down and thinking that there may not be more novels. It's been enough years and enough books so that anything I had to say to the world I've long since said and probably repeated myself enough times to be done with it. But it's interesting to contemplate not doing it anymore.

You say novels. Would there be something else?
BLOCK: Well, I'll probably write one way or another. The current book is a memoir, which I never thought I would do. I never felt temperamentally inclined to write anything about myself. And I suspect I'll still do short stories when something comes to me. But the heavy lifting of the novel I may not feel like doing.

ELIZABETH STROUT: It's just a compulsion. It's absolute madness in a way, I think. The few times that I contemplate not doing it, it's almost like there's a flavor that leaves ordinary life. But it's never lasted more than a couple days and probably only three times that I remember that I thought, I won't do this anymore.

Was one of the three times ever in the middle of writing?
STROUT: No, it was in the middle of not getting any responses from anybody in the entire publishing world.

SUSAN ORLEAN: I wish I could say something really original like I was planning to be a professional athlete and the opportunity to be a writer came up. It's all I have ever thought of doing. It was observing, telling stories, performing this magic trick of being the conduit for experiences for other people. It's interesting because there was a point when the idea of being somebody writing for print started to have the slight tinge of antiquarian charm.

It's turned into a full-blown rash. [laughter]
ROBERT CARO: You know, what I first liked about writing was finding out. My first story in sixth grade was "Hank the Moose," which was basically a biography of a moose. It was too long. It was in three volumes. [Laughter] I always wanted to find out, to explain, to find out how things work. One of the things about Hemingway was they asked him about his basic motivations and he said he wanted to find out how fly-fishing worked, how bull-fighting worked. I always felt I had that in myself.

KURT ANDERSEN: One thing I'll say about all these answers is there's too much pure pleasure. It sounds like it's just all fun. It's true, but I just want, for the record, to tell all of you who aren't writers who are out there reading this to know it's also...

STROUT: Hell.

ANDERSEN: Yeah.

ANNETTE GORDON-REED: I never felt that, though.

ANDERSEN: Really? It's always pleasurable?

GORDON-REED: Hell is endnotes. Endnotes in order are hell. But writing stuff doesn't feel like hell to me.

STROUT: It feels difficult to me a lot. Which doesn't mean I don't love it and I'm not pulled to it on a daily, nightly, insomniac basis. Your point about it being very hard work is a good one. It's tremendously hard work. Yes, I love arranging the words and having them fall on the ear the right way and you know you're not quite there and you're redoing it and redoing it and there's a wonderful thrill to it. But it is hard. It's a job of tremendous anxiety for me.

ORLEAN: There's also this new question, which is, will anyone buy this? Will someone pay for this? Will the magazine I'm working for go out of business? I don't know anyone no matter how successful they are—beside, you know, J. K. Rowling and what's-her-face who does the Twilight stuff—but I think the realities of the industry are present. I think you'd be foolish not to be at least aware of it. Maybe not suffering from it, but conscious of it.

BLOCK: I suppose you have to be, in the sense that you're professional. But I think the less attention I pay to what people want and the more attention I pay to just writing the book I want to write, the better I do. The enormous mistake a lot of young writers make is that they want to know what people want.

ANDERSEN: The problem is, any time you try to game it in that way and then it doesn't work, then you feel like a complete schmo.

BLOCK: Yes, absolutely.

ANDERSEN: You sold out and nobody's bought.

BLOCK: Absolutely. If you set out to please yourself, then maybe you will.

GORDON-REED: It's sort of a luxury, being an academic. Because I have tenure. I have a job unless something catastrophic happens.

ANDERSEN: The last luxurious job in America!

CARO: When young writers ask me if I think something will sell, what I want to say to them is you really shouldn't care about that because if you want to write any serious book you're going to be spending three or four years of your life. What are you spending those three or four years of your life on? If you feel you have something to say, then whether you're right or you're wrong, at least you feel like you're doing something that's contributing something. For seven years I heard people in publishing saying no one's going to buy a book on Robert Moses.

How often does everyone check their Amazon rankings?
BLOCK: NEVER!

STROUT: Never.

Do people do that?

ANDERSEN: UH, yeah! [Laughter]

How often do you check?
ANDERSEN: Well, it depends. When the book is new, I check it with some neurotic -frequency.

ORLEAN: The real question is, who reads their Amazon reviews?

STROUT: How could you do that? I would never…cto me that's like a pit of snakes. Every so often somebody will say to me, well, you should at least hear this…and I'm like, oh, okay. But I mean I just know myself, and I can't…And friends will call me and go, oh, did you know…c? And I'm just like, don't do it, don't open the door, it's awful.

ORLEAN: Now and again, someone says, did you see the review of your book…cand you know, they're all horrible and nasty, snarky. So you just have them write one that says, this is the single most important book in the English language, and it will push the next one down.

As you're writing, do you think about the audience? If you didn't, presumably you wouldn't be in this room—you'd just be writing for yourselves or for your soul.
ORLEAN: For me the idea of writing not for publication is a little like drinking alone. To me, drinking is sort of a social experience. [Writing] is like coming home from a great trip and sitting around a dinner table and saying, I've got to tell you about this.

STROUT: I think of it very much as a relationship. It has different stages when I'm first putting it down, but it's a relationship, and it's a very intimate relationship, which is what's sort of mysterious and wonderful about it. It's solitary—obviously we all know that we work alone—and yet there's this voice. You're trying to reach another person with this voice.

ANDERSEN: Elizabeth, you told me recently that you made Olive Kitteridge a series of stories rather than a novel about her because you thought the readers would get sick of the voice of that one character.

STROUT: That's because I believe the story of Olive Kitteridge is one that should be told, but I also believe you have to serve this in a way that, you know, people are going to be able to digest. It's a constant juggling of how can I tell something that I feel so intensely but that can be received with, not joy every minute or anything like that, but in a way that's truthful to you.

Do you find that the public ascribes to you wisdom about the world beyond what's normal?
CARO: I'm constantly being asked at dinner parties to explain something that's happened that day, and often I don't know what's happened that day. [Laughter]

GORDON-REED: I was down in Australia a month and a half ago. I went down to do a symposium about Jefferson; the University of Sydney was sponsoring this with Monticello. And it was all fine and good about the symposium, but they wanted me to do a public talk. And what they wanted me to talk about was Barack and Michelle Obama. [Laughter] And I'm like, I know who they are, they came to law school a few years after I graduated, but I've not met them. But because I'm black and American and they're Down Under …cI thought, OK, so I'll give this lecture. I'm down in Australia and nobody will ever see this. But I forgot about podcasts, which they put up. It's everywhere, you know? So yes, I get questions about tangential stuff all the time. Anything about race, obviously.

'What would Jefferson do about Iran?'
GORDON-REED: Yeah, exactly. The Barbary pirates. You know, what would Jefferson do about all kinds of things. I get asked that all the time. As if I would know.

As if he would know.
GORDON-REED: Exactly.

BLOCK: I think signings and appearances and all of that are sometimes a bad idea in that if I really like somebody's work a whole lot, I'm probably going to regret meeting them, which is very often the case.

STROUT: I've thought of that so many times.

GORDON-REED: But do you think people regret meeting you?

BLOCK: I think they must regret meeting me.

STROUT: I know they do. The very first time when Amy and Isabelle was published I went for an interview with somebody and she said to me, you're not at all what I expected. And I was furious.

BLOCK: A fault of yours, clearly.

STROUT: You know, I'd put on a skirt and a matching top. It was very disconcerting. So I thought, well I should just stay home.

Do you all read your stuff out loud as you're going along?
BLOCK: No, I don't. I've heard that recommended and I've heard some people do that, but I think I hear it internally as I write it so I don't feel the need.

STROUT: I do sections at different points. Sound is very important to me, and also I have noticed that reading aloud is physically very exhausting, so I've learned that if I find that tiredness in myself, there's probably a sogginess in the prose.

ANDERSEN: I read dialogue aloud a lot. I wasn't aware that I was doing it until my children told me. [Laughter]

ORLEAN: I always do. I read everything and use it as a way of editing. In fact, when I do readings I find myself editing on the fly and thinking, ugh.

ANDERSEN: The other thing like this that I find interesting—and I guess it's a subtler thing—but the difference between reading what you've written on the screen and reading it printed out on paper. I find entirely new things that are wrong and that I need to change once I've printed it.

Why?
ANDERSEN: I don't know. It's a little bit, I guess, that your mind is focused, you're taking it more seriously on a certain level. It's not as though the hours I spent writing it on the screen were not. It's just like looking at it from a different angle.

STROUT: I will leave pages around the apartment to come upon by surprise. Like, what does this look like if I'm putting my earrings in and it's on the bureau and I have to turn. What does it look like if I come upon it? I've done that for years.

Is Bob the only person who uses a typewriter?
STROUT: I write by hand.

CARO: I write by hand for first drafts, and then I work using a typewriter.

STROUT: What kind of typewriter?

CARO: Smith Corona Electric 210, which they stopped making about 25 years ago, so you have to have this supply of typewriters cause if a key breaks you have to cannibalize another typewriter.

ORLEAN: I remember there was a -typewriter-repair shop on Amsterdam and 79th. It just kept getting smaller and smaller and then it turned into a luggage shop.

STROUT: And those people were so lovely. I mean, not the people in that particular shop, but -typewriter--repair people. You had this relationship with them, because they were saving you.

ANDERSEN: Speaking of antiquarian tinge! I can't even write letters at this point. I can't write anything longer than three sentences by hand. I was so happy to give up the typewriter.

CARO: The whole world today believes that speed is a good. But maybe writing is something in which slowing yourself down isn't bad. The reason I write my first drafts in longhand is that when I went to Princeton and I took creative-writing courses, my professor was this teacher named R. P. Blackmur, who was a great critic. So you had to hand in a short story every two weeks, and I could always do it starting at midnight the night before. I got pretty good marks, and I thought I was really fooling him. Then my senior year, in what I remember was one of my last sessions with him, he looked me in the eye, handed me my story, and said, "Mr. Caro, you're never going to be what you want to be unless you learn to stop thinking with your fingers." And I understood exactly. When I wrote my first book, I remembered what Blackmur said, and I said to myself, I must slow myself down. And the way I did was to write in longhand.

ANDERSEN: To me it's not about speed at all. The hours per page at this table is probably the same. But to me it's having a way to have the speed of the process more conformed to what I perceive to be the speed of my brain, and essentially to be able to do 50 drafts of a paragraph or a sentence in 20 minutes rather than what feels like writing the Declaration of Independence if I were writing it by hand.

BLOCK: When I was first starting out, there were things with the typewriter, a certain tyranny. I remember one time I was -writing—I was working at a very low level, let it be said—and I had done what I thought was a 20-page chapter that day. The pages were numbered from page 21 to page 40. I was reading it through and discovered I had left out page 39. I had written page 38 and the next page continued in the middle of a sentence and it was page 40. I didn't want to retype and renumber and everything, so I wrote page 39 to fit. [Laughter]

To what extent is the rise of E-readers going to change what you do, and how do you think the paying-the-rent part of the business is going to develop?
ANDERSEN: [To Gordon-Reed] You have tenure—you don't need to talk about this. [Laughter]

ORLEAN: I don't understand the great fear of e-readers. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think you can look at iPods and music and, you know, it was a shift to a different form that I actually think encourages people buying more music, because you don't have to build yet another shelf in your house to have those CDs.

ANDERSEN: Also it will no longer enable people to have books on their shelves as signifiers of how smart they are. There's no reason to download a book unless you intend to read it. There's no need to show off.

BLOCK: I don't think anybody really expects e-books to supplant printed books, because I don't think that they're ever going to be that much more enjoyable a way to read a book. It was different with downloads and iPods; that's a better way to hear music than a CD is. I think that what e-books will do is enable people to carry a few hundred books with them on a trip rather than struggling with a suitcase to take five along. But I don't think it will be the same transformative thing that audible downloads have been.

ORLEAN: I'm not totally sure. Somebody made this analogy, which I think is extreme, but when cars were developed, people began keeping horses for pets, or if they were really beautiful, they had a beautiful horse for the sake of having a beautiful horse, but they drove a car. I think you're going to continue buying very visual books, or you may give them as gifts.

ANDERSEN: There's something slightly sad and elegiac about the idea of books disappearing, which I agree that they will, or losing the experience that I have walking into your house and immediately seeing the jacket of my book on your bookshelf.

ORLEAN: Placed precisely for your -enjoyment.

ANDERSEN: Well, no doubt. I thought of the horse-and-car thing, I think it's a slower thing. I think it's actually sailing ships to steam. Once steamships existed, it took a century for sails to get cleared out. And what did sailboats become in the last 50, 80, 100 years? Quaint, beautiful artifacts that the rich can still indulge in.

ORLEAN: I'm much more willing to buy a novel electronically by someone I don't know. Because if halfway through I think, I don't really like this, I can just stop. I can't throw books out, even if I think they're crummy. I feel like I've got to give it to the library, I've got to loan it to somebody, or I keep it on my shelf. It's like a plant.

BLOCK: I can throw them out. [Laughter] Sometimes with great enthusiasm.

So who here reads E-books?
ORLEAN: I just finished reading Madame Bovary on my iPhone, for what it's worth.

That's a good first line for a story.

STROUT: So what was it like to read on your iPhone?

Did you curl up with it?
STROUT: Did you notice she killed herself and all that kind of stuff? [Laughter]

ORLEAN: The book is the book, and the story is the story. But it has certain advantages. You can make the font bigger. You can turn it sideways if you want to read it like that. It was actually probably better than reading it in a cheap paperback.

STROUT: Right, because you would have had to have a light..

ORLEAN: And you'd have crummy paper.

BLOCK: And this is Flaubert, who famously said I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon taking it out. [Laughter]

CARO: Just so I know that I've said it, I want to say here that I think, no matter what form books take, I think the basic purpose of writing, serious writing, the kind of writing we all do, is going to be the same: to examine the great questions. I don't think that's going to change at all.

ORLEAN: And it never has.




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The Write Stuff

The Write Stuff
By Jon Meacham
NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Jul 13, 2009

Holden Caulfield had it right. The test of a great book, he said in The Catcher in the Rye, was whether, once you finished it, you wished the author were a great friend you could call up at home. I remembered Caulfield's insight when we convened a roundtable of writers to come to NEWSWEEK. The conversation was honest, and a persistent theme emerged: that for all the frustrations of writing, the uncertain future of publishing, and the terror of rejection by readers and critics, our authors couldn't imagine doing anything else. Ever.


Because they are all inveterate (and deft) storytellers, even when they're just talking shop. Elizabeth Strout revealed that she hides pages of her manuscripts in her home so she can come across them by surprise—and thus see them with a fresh eye. Susan Orlean said the first book she bought on Kindle was by…Susan Orlean. Robert Caro reminded us how he was told, repeatedly, that a book on Robert Moses wouldn't sell. (It did, and it won a Pulitzer.) Want to know more? Read on. And yes, we think you'll want to call everyone up.

Jon Meacham: Mr. Block, why do you do what you do?
LAWRENCE BLOCK: I don't know. I started when I was too young to know better, actually, and before very long was qualified for nothing else. I don't know that there's any better answer than that. I can't think of any way I'd prefer to have spent the past 50 years. I've reached a point now where I'm slowing down and thinking that there may not be more novels. It's been enough years and enough books so that anything I had to say to the world I've long since said and probably repeated myself enough times to be done with it. But it's interesting to contemplate not doing it anymore.

You say novels. Would there be something else?
BLOCK: Well, I'll probably write one way or another. The current book is a memoir, which I never thought I would do. I never felt temperamentally inclined to write anything about myself. And I suspect I'll still do short stories when something comes to me. But the heavy lifting of the novel I may not feel like doing.

ELIZABETH STROUT: It's just a compulsion. It's absolute madness in a way, I think. The few times that I contemplate not doing it, it's almost like there's a flavor that leaves ordinary life. But it's never lasted more than a couple days and probably only three times that I remember that I thought, I won't do this anymore.

Was one of the three times ever in the middle of writing?
STROUT: No, it was in the middle of not getting any responses from anybody in the entire publishing world.

SUSAN ORLEAN: I wish I could say something really original like I was planning to be a professional athlete and the opportunity to be a writer came up. It's all I have ever thought of doing. It was observing, telling stories, performing this magic trick of being the conduit for experiences for other people. It's interesting because there was a point when the idea of being somebody writing for print started to have the slight tinge of antiquarian charm.

It's turned into a full-blown rash. [laughter]
ROBERT CARO: You know, what I first liked about writing was finding out. My first story in sixth grade was "Hank the Moose," which was basically a biography of a moose. It was too long. It was in three volumes. [Laughter] I always wanted to find out, to explain, to find out how things work. One of the things about Hemingway was they asked him about his basic motivations and he said he wanted to find out how fly-fishing worked, how bull-fighting worked. I always felt I had that in myself.

KURT ANDERSEN: One thing I'll say about all these answers is there's too much pure pleasure. It sounds like it's just all fun. It's true, but I just want, for the record, to tell all of you who aren't writers who are out there reading this to know it's also...

STROUT: Hell.

ANDERSEN: Yeah.

ANNETTE GORDON-REED: I never felt that, though.

ANDERSEN: Really? It's always pleasurable?

GORDON-REED: Hell is endnotes. Endnotes in order are hell. But writing stuff doesn't feel like hell to me.

STROUT: It feels difficult to me a lot. Which doesn't mean I don't love it and I'm not pulled to it on a daily, nightly, insomniac basis. Your point about it being very hard work is a good one. It's tremendously hard work. Yes, I love arranging the words and having them fall on the ear the right way and you know you're not quite there and you're redoing it and redoing it and there's a wonderful thrill to it. But it is hard. It's a job of tremendous anxiety for me.

ORLEAN: There's also this new question, which is, will anyone buy this? Will someone pay for this? Will the magazine I'm working for go out of business? I don't know anyone no matter how successful they are—beside, you know, J. K. Rowling and what's-her-face who does the Twilight stuff—but I think the realities of the industry are present. I think you'd be foolish not to be at least aware of it. Maybe not suffering from it, but conscious of it.

BLOCK: I suppose you have to be, in the sense that you're professional. But I think the less attention I pay to what people want and the more attention I pay to just writing the book I want to write, the better I do. The enormous mistake a lot of young writers make is that they want to know what people want.

ANDERSEN: The problem is, any time you try to game it in that way and then it doesn't work, then you feel like a complete schmo.

BLOCK: Yes, absolutely.

ANDERSEN: You sold out and nobody's bought.

BLOCK: Absolutely. If you set out to please yourself, then maybe you will.

GORDON-REED: It's sort of a luxury, being an academic. Because I have tenure. I have a job unless something catastrophic happens.

ANDERSEN: The last luxurious job in America!

CARO: When young writers ask me if I think something will sell, what I want to say to them is you really shouldn't care about that because if you want to write any serious book you're going to be spending three or four years of your life. What are you spending those three or four years of your life on? If you feel you have something to say, then whether you're right or you're wrong, at least you feel like you're doing something that's contributing something. For seven years I heard people in publishing saying no one's going to buy a book on Robert Moses.

How often does everyone check their Amazon rankings?
BLOCK: NEVER!

STROUT: Never.

Do people do that?

ANDERSEN: UH, yeah! [Laughter]

How often do you check?
ANDERSEN: Well, it depends. When the book is new, I check it with some neurotic -frequency.

ORLEAN: The real question is, who reads their Amazon reviews?

STROUT: How could you do that? I would never…cto me that's like a pit of snakes. Every so often somebody will say to me, well, you should at least hear this…and I'm like, oh, okay. But I mean I just know myself, and I can't…And friends will call me and go, oh, did you know…c? And I'm just like, don't do it, don't open the door, it's awful.

ORLEAN: Now and again, someone says, did you see the review of your book…cand you know, they're all horrible and nasty, snarky. So you just have them write one that says, this is the single most important book in the English language, and it will push the next one down.

As you're writing, do you think about the audience? If you didn't, presumably you wouldn't be in this room—you'd just be writing for yourselves or for your soul.
ORLEAN: For me the idea of writing not for publication is a little like drinking alone. To me, drinking is sort of a social experience. [Writing] is like coming home from a great trip and sitting around a dinner table and saying, I've got to tell you about this.

STROUT: I think of it very much as a relationship. It has different stages when I'm first putting it down, but it's a relationship, and it's a very intimate relationship, which is what's sort of mysterious and wonderful about it. It's solitary—obviously we all know that we work alone—and yet there's this voice. You're trying to reach another person with this voice.

ANDERSEN: Elizabeth, you told me recently that you made Olive Kitteridge a series of stories rather than a novel about her because you thought the readers would get sick of the voice of that one character.

STROUT: That's because I believe the story of Olive Kitteridge is one that should be told, but I also believe you have to serve this in a way that, you know, people are going to be able to digest. It's a constant juggling of how can I tell something that I feel so intensely but that can be received with, not joy every minute or anything like that, but in a way that's truthful to you.

Do you find that the public ascribes to you wisdom about the world beyond what's normal?
CARO: I'm constantly being asked at dinner parties to explain something that's happened that day, and often I don't know what's happened that day. [Laughter]

GORDON-REED: I was down in Australia a month and a half ago. I went down to do a symposium about Jefferson; the University of Sydney was sponsoring this with Monticello. And it was all fine and good about the symposium, but they wanted me to do a public talk. And what they wanted me to talk about was Barack and Michelle Obama. [Laughter] And I'm like, I know who they are, they came to law school a few years after I graduated, but I've not met them. But because I'm black and American and they're Down Under …cI thought, OK, so I'll give this lecture. I'm down in Australia and nobody will ever see this. But I forgot about podcasts, which they put up. It's everywhere, you know? So yes, I get questions about tangential stuff all the time. Anything about race, obviously.

'What would Jefferson do about Iran?'
GORDON-REED: Yeah, exactly. The Barbary pirates. You know, what would Jefferson do about all kinds of things. I get asked that all the time. As if I would know.

As if he would know.
GORDON-REED: Exactly.

BLOCK: I think signings and appearances and all of that are sometimes a bad idea in that if I really like somebody's work a whole lot, I'm probably going to regret meeting them, which is very often the case.

STROUT: I've thought of that so many times.

GORDON-REED: But do you think people regret meeting you?

BLOCK: I think they must regret meeting me.

STROUT: I know they do. The very first time when Amy and Isabelle was published I went for an interview with somebody and she said to me, you're not at all what I expected. And I was furious.

BLOCK: A fault of yours, clearly.

STROUT: You know, I'd put on a skirt and a matching top. It was very disconcerting. So I thought, well I should just stay home.

Do you all read your stuff out loud as you're going along?
BLOCK: No, I don't. I've heard that recommended and I've heard some people do that, but I think I hear it internally as I write it so I don't feel the need.

STROUT: I do sections at different points. Sound is very important to me, and also I have noticed that reading aloud is physically very exhausting, so I've learned that if I find that tiredness in myself, there's probably a sogginess in the prose.

ANDERSEN: I read dialogue aloud a lot. I wasn't aware that I was doing it until my children told me. [Laughter]

ORLEAN: I always do. I read everything and use it as a way of editing. In fact, when I do readings I find myself editing on the fly and thinking, ugh.

ANDERSEN: The other thing like this that I find interesting—and I guess it's a subtler thing—but the difference between reading what you've written on the screen and reading it printed out on paper. I find entirely new things that are wrong and that I need to change once I've printed it.

Why?
ANDERSEN: I don't know. It's a little bit, I guess, that your mind is focused, you're taking it more seriously on a certain level. It's not as though the hours I spent writing it on the screen were not. It's just like looking at it from a different angle.

STROUT: I will leave pages around the apartment to come upon by surprise. Like, what does this look like if I'm putting my earrings in and it's on the bureau and I have to turn. What does it look like if I come upon it? I've done that for years.

Is Bob the only person who uses a typewriter?
STROUT: I write by hand.

CARO: I write by hand for first drafts, and then I work using a typewriter.

STROUT: What kind of typewriter?

CARO: Smith Corona Electric 210, which they stopped making about 25 years ago, so you have to have this supply of typewriters cause if a key breaks you have to cannibalize another typewriter.

ORLEAN: I remember there was a -typewriter-repair shop on Amsterdam and 79th. It just kept getting smaller and smaller and then it turned into a luggage shop.

STROUT: And those people were so lovely. I mean, not the people in that particular shop, but -typewriter--repair people. You had this relationship with them, because they were saving you.

ANDERSEN: Speaking of antiquarian tinge! I can't even write letters at this point. I can't write anything longer than three sentences by hand. I was so happy to give up the typewriter.

CARO: The whole world today believes that speed is a good. But maybe writing is something in which slowing yourself down isn't bad. The reason I write my first drafts in longhand is that when I went to Princeton and I took creative-writing courses, my professor was this teacher named R. P. Blackmur, who was a great critic. So you had to hand in a short story every two weeks, and I could always do it starting at midnight the night before. I got pretty good marks, and I thought I was really fooling him. Then my senior year, in what I remember was one of my last sessions with him, he looked me in the eye, handed me my story, and said, "Mr. Caro, you're never going to be what you want to be unless you learn to stop thinking with your fingers." And I understood exactly. When I wrote my first book, I remembered what Blackmur said, and I said to myself, I must slow myself down. And the way I did was to write in longhand.

ANDERSEN: To me it's not about speed at all. The hours per page at this table is probably the same. But to me it's having a way to have the speed of the process more conformed to what I perceive to be the speed of my brain, and essentially to be able to do 50 drafts of a paragraph or a sentence in 20 minutes rather than what feels like writing the Declaration of Independence if I were writing it by hand.

BLOCK: When I was first starting out, there were things with the typewriter, a certain tyranny. I remember one time I was -writing—I was working at a very low level, let it be said—and I had done what I thought was a 20-page chapter that day. The pages were numbered from page 21 to page 40. I was reading it through and discovered I had left out page 39. I had written page 38 and the next page continued in the middle of a sentence and it was page 40. I didn't want to retype and renumber and everything, so I wrote page 39 to fit. [Laughter]

To what extent is the rise of E-readers going to change what you do, and how do you think the paying-the-rent part of the business is going to develop?
ANDERSEN: [To Gordon-Reed] You have tenure—you don't need to talk about this. [Laughter]

ORLEAN: I don't understand the great fear of e-readers. Maybe I'm missing something, but I think you can look at iPods and music and, you know, it was a shift to a different form that I actually think encourages people buying more music, because you don't have to build yet another shelf in your house to have those CDs.

ANDERSEN: Also it will no longer enable people to have books on their shelves as signifiers of how smart they are. There's no reason to download a book unless you intend to read it. There's no need to show off.

BLOCK: I don't think anybody really expects e-books to supplant printed books, because I don't think that they're ever going to be that much more enjoyable a way to read a book. It was different with downloads and iPods; that's a better way to hear music than a CD is. I think that what e-books will do is enable people to carry a few hundred books with them on a trip rather than struggling with a suitcase to take five along. But I don't think it will be the same transformative thing that audible downloads have been.

ORLEAN: I'm not totally sure. Somebody made this analogy, which I think is extreme, but when cars were developed, people began keeping horses for pets, or if they were really beautiful, they had a beautiful horse for the sake of having a beautiful horse, but they drove a car. I think you're going to continue buying very visual books, or you may give them as gifts.

ANDERSEN: There's something slightly sad and elegiac about the idea of books disappearing, which I agree that they will, or losing the experience that I have walking into your house and immediately seeing the jacket of my book on your bookshelf.

ORLEAN: Placed precisely for your -enjoyment.

ANDERSEN: Well, no doubt. I thought of the horse-and-car thing, I think it's a slower thing. I think it's actually sailing ships to steam. Once steamships existed, it took a century for sails to get cleared out. And what did sailboats become in the last 50, 80, 100 years? Quaint, beautiful artifacts that the rich can still indulge in.

ORLEAN: I'm much more willing to buy a novel electronically by someone I don't know. Because if halfway through I think, I don't really like this, I can just stop. I can't throw books out, even if I think they're crummy. I feel like I've got to give it to the library, I've got to loan it to somebody, or I keep it on my shelf. It's like a plant.

BLOCK: I can throw them out. [Laughter] Sometimes with great enthusiasm.

So who here reads E-books?
ORLEAN: I just finished reading Madame Bovary on my iPhone, for what it's worth.

That's a good first line for a story.

STROUT: So what was it like to read on your iPhone?

Did you curl up with it?
STROUT: Did you notice she killed herself and all that kind of stuff? [Laughter]

ORLEAN: The book is the book, and the story is the story. But it has certain advantages. You can make the font bigger. You can turn it sideways if you want to read it like that. It was actually probably better than reading it in a cheap paperback.

STROUT: Right, because you would have had to have a light..

ORLEAN: And you'd have crummy paper.

BLOCK: And this is Flaubert, who famously said I spent the morning putting in a comma and the afternoon taking it out. [Laughter]

CARO: Just so I know that I've said it, I want to say here that I think, no matter what form books take, I think the basic purpose of writing, serious writing, the kind of writing we all do, is going to be the same: to examine the great questions. I don't think that's going to change at all.

ORLEAN: And it never has.




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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Poet "i" Interview









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Michael Jackson - I'll Be There





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The Kalb Report, Down to the Wire: Journalism in Crisis







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How It Makes Sense

How It Makes Sense
By Ann Bogle

As you develop as a writer, and when I use the word “writer” I might also mean “poet,” “playwright,” “short story writer,” “novelist,” “essayist,” or “journalist,” you will feel required to position yourself regarding logic:

Do your writings make sense to you and other people? Are you fulfilling or defying convention? Are you adhering to rules in genre or breaking rank? What should a stanza or paragraph contain, how should it be arranged, what should it look like on the page, and sound like to the ear? Do you observe correct syntax, usage, and mechanics or break sentences and paragraphs into less expected units of thought and speech? Do you work more with the reader’s sensibilities or your own? Are you writing in a tradition, a school? Are you writing based on reading—as if in conversation with other writers–knowing the field and the range—or expressing yourself without weight or benefit of history?

If you write conventionally, who is your audience? How does that audience react to abstract writing? How do you react to it? If you write more abstractly—after all, all language is abstract—who is the audience? Is your writing rhythmic? How is meaning transmitted in your work? In the letter-writing exercise, two cut-up versions and one careful revision create conflations and multiple readings of one text that you produced. Do you enjoy the unintended meanings of the cut-ups or feel that they distort in an undesirable way? Is your goal to write what you know correctly or to write what you don’t know abstractly? When would you rather make conventional sense and when would you rather be musical—as if music doesn’t make “sense”—or poetic or abstract?

These are some of the questions.

Newsletter contributor Ann Bogle has published short stories, prose, and poetry in many literary journals in print and online. For a listing of her publications and a sampling of her writing visit Ana Verse at:

http://annbogle.blogspot.com
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Friday, June 26, 2009

Def Jam Poetry - Perre Shelton "Dandelion"





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Paul Carr - Twitter and Journalism





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Affirmations to Write By

I know from experience how to pace myself as a writer, taking breaks when needed.

I know where I’m most comfortable writing and I work in those places.

I read great authors to learn art and craft.

I support my assertions with details, facts, and examples.

I feel so free when I write that my spirit soars.



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Book Writing Basics : How to Become a Freelance Writer





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Join Writers Helping Writers on Facebook!



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Spotlight Interview from the Archive: Elfrieda Abbe/Part 4


Elfrieda Abbe, Publisher/Editor/Writer

Elfrieda M. Abbe served as Editor-in-Chief of The Writer magazine for six years before being promoted to Publisher of both The Writer and Bead & Button, the world's leading magazine for the beading hobby.

Abbe began her career as a freelance writer, working for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Daily News, the Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Magazine and an assortment of business and trade journals. She later wrote features for Milwaukee Magazine and became the Editor of the award-winning Arts & Entertainment section for the Milwaukee Sentinel (now known as the Journal-Sentinel)

After working as a publications editor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she assumed the top editorial position at The Writer in 2000 and won four Folio Magazine Editorial Excellence Awards during her tenure.

Here is the fourth and final part of my exclusive newsletter interview with Ms. Abbe:

Mike: What are the traits of writers you love to work with?

Abbe: I love writers who have a strong area of expertise. But in general, writers who get their stories in on deadline and make them the best they can. Clean copy, well written, and delivered in a timely fashion is the best thing in the world for an editor.

Mike: What in your opinion is the ideal writer-editor relationship?

Abbe: A friendly collaboration. Don’t think of Them versus Us. Think of We. Because we both have similar goals. Plus, since this is a competitive business and editors only going back again and again to very few writers, I think it’s important for you to develop good relationships with editors. The better the relationship, the more your odds go up of getting more and more work.

Mike: Revision is such a touchy topic for a lot of writers. Some are very sensitive to every little change and take the whole process personally. What insight can you provide to writers on the revision process that could make it go down easier?

Abbe: The thing is, almost all editors have been writers at one point, or they may still be writing, so we know the other side. But editing is a necessary aspect of the publishing business and writers should understand that. They should also know that editors are merely doing a job.

As soon as I receive a story, I’ll usually do a quick top reading, just to see if it’s going to need anything, either in a minor or major way.

Sometimes the story needs more research or more interviewing. Sometimes it’s all there, but it’s not organized right. Or sometimes, believe it or not, the lead is at the end.

Whatever it is, I’ll get back to the writer as quick as I can and let him or her know what needs to be done, if anything. I try to be as specific as possible about what I want. I feel the better direction you give to the writer, the better it is for everybody in the end.

Writers should know that most times they’re going to be asked to revise something. It’s pretty common. And they shouldn’t get upset about that. The funny thing is, some of the biggest writers we’ve had write for us have had no complaints about revision at all.

What the writer needs to always understand is, editors truly are on their side. They want you to look good. They have a real stake in your success, because if you look good the magazine looks good and all editors want the magazine to look good. We’re not here to be obstructions to great stories.

Mike: Any final words of wisdom?

Abbe: Remember that a writing career, for the most part, isn’t very glamorous. There are a lot of nuts and bolts that go into this business.

Also, when you’re selling a story, don’t think of it as just one story but a building block in your career.

And, finally, learn things that will sustain you day to day, whether it’s something emotionally, financially, or any other way.

Please visit The Writer at:

http://www.writermag.com/wrt/
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http://thewritermagazine.com
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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Hanging out in Lake Placid with my friend Jim Tolkan

Jim has been inviting me up to Lake Placid for years. I finally said yes. So glad I did. We're having a blast. He's one of my closest friends and just so happens to be the actor who played Mr. Strickland in Back to the Future (“McFly, you’re a slacker.”) and Commander Stinger in Top Gun (“Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash.”).











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On Vacation in Lake Placid




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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Singer/Songwriter Carole King Talks about Writing





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Poetry Quotes of the Day


"When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and
diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses."
President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"You don't go after poetry, you take what comes. Maybe the gods do it through me, but I certainly do a hell of a lot of the work."
Phyllis Gotlieb

"A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself."
E.M. Forster

"Science sees signs; Poetry the thing signified."
Augustus Hare

"The future of poetry is immense, because in poetry, where it is worthy of its high destinies, our race, as time goes on, will find an ever surer and surer stay ... More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us."
Matthew Arnold

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie -
True Poems flee."
Emily Dickinson

"Poetry is the imaginative expression of strong feeling usually rythmical...The spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in traquility."
William Wordsworth

"I have been eating poetry."
Mark Strand

"Poetry is the opening and closing of a door, leaving those who look through to guess about what is seen during a moment."
Carl Sandburg

"By making us stop for a moment, poetry gives us an opportunity to think about ourselves as human beings on this planet and what we mean to each other."
Rita Dove






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