Sunday, January 25, 2009

The 'new' publishing order

What's a pre-pubbed author to do? The news is all doom and gloom, what with imploding imprints, editors on the dole, and acquisitions at the big houses at a standstill. And as with all economucs, there is trickle down; author LARRY McMURTRY bemoans the lack of foot traffic, particularly youngish foot traffic, in his Florida bookshop. (But it IS Florida, the state graced with the highest mean age and the lowest educational ranking...)

But perhaps there is hope... TIME and the NYT weigh in, telling the tale of Lisa Genova and other self-pubbers who make it out of their veritable slush and onto the NYT Bestseller List. The odds are slim - pegged at 2 out of 1000 - but undubitably fatter than getting an agent's interest (let's NOT get into the odds of placing said agented manuscript with a publisher).

And check out GAWKER'S irreverent view.

All hail iUniverse?

Not my route...

Peace, Linda

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Voices, Past and Present

I'm about 70,000 words into PURE, my novel about scientific fraud and love running amok in academia, and realizing the difficulty of reining in my impetuous and bull-headed characters.

Yeah, I'm running with six characters. Six voices competing for airtime in my sloggy brain. To get their stories, I have to write six novellas, then condense, cutting and pasting and rewriting into a sensical story line. This stupidly ambitious book raises myriad challenges: Who to write today? Did I already write this scene in B's story? Should P narrate this scene, or should K?

But the greatest struggle is deciding each character's voice and tense. I've written my two main characters in both first present AND past, using past tense to orient the reader to scenes which are, in essence, flashbacks. Julia Glass used this technique to great effect in THREE JUNES. (I'm stealing from her.)

Two other voices also are in first present, largely because they 'talk' through diaries and letters. A fifth voice is told in third past, and the final character, an emotional vacuum, narrates in second voice (a challenge).

But maybe I'll do a total rewrite in close third; it allows head-hopping as well as the ability to peel back and view at a macro-level.

Choices, choices, so many choices, and lucky for me I am (still) writing at a tortoise pace, deliberately and purposefully with joy. Or some similar optimistic emotion.

How do you decide what voice and tense to write?

READING... Just finished A SEAHORSE YEAR by Stacy D'Erasmo, a tale about the unravelling of a modern family when their 16-year old son Christopher goes psychotic and missing. Dense, richly detailed, the book at times overreaches: gay mom dealing with unfaithful partner, gay dad falling in love, past childhood abuse and other baggage, professional frustrations, infidelity, menopause. I kept asking myself: what is this story REALLY about? The book soars when focused on Christopher and his relationship with Tamara, his complicit friend and lover; D'Erasmo writes his voice and experience with searing beauty. Told in close third, the book becomes un-put-downable halfway through.

LISTENING TO... Beyonce's SINGLE LADIES. What a super message - put a ring on it, guys. See the video - the dancing is amazing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Slow words

The winter and the thin economy put me to mind of slow food. My dinners these days are based on tough cuts of meat braised for hours with cheap root vegetables: carrots, potatoes, parsnips, beets. Simple, inexpensive deliciousness in no hurry to go anywhere.

That's my writing these days: unhurried and deliberate. What a relief. Last year pulsed, a frantic race: a rush to finish BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, a rush to market, a rush to get noticed. Even NaNoWriMo (which was a crazed blast). But this manic focus on getting attention sort of ruined the writing. The process of writing.

Now, I can write. There is NO market. Sure, I'll keep seeking representation (though at a leisurely pace), but there's no hurry: the agents have no idea where to submit mansucripts. Editors laid off, imprints merged and even dissolved, houses putting the kabosh on new acqisitions... eh. Who needs that migraine?

So, I write. Every day. Novels and essays and poems and shorts. Especially the latter, which have a chance in hell of seeing the light of day.

The joy is back. I remember WHY I write. This all makes me very happy. Really.

Slow writing... Peace, Linda

PS. One reason why the whole process is so damn slow. Via twitter via Neil Gaiman via MacMillan ==> THE TYPEWRITER

PPS. Cool. This is my 100th post.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Metaphors and More

First, the more: Courtesy of AUTHOR ONLINE, five fabulous interviews of authors, including Wally Lamb (THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED), Jonathan Evison (ALL ABOUT LULU), and Stephanie Kallos (SING THEM HOME).

Lamb's advice to writers might surprise you: don't preconceive your audience, just write the story you were meant to write.

And the metaphor: a quirky little site involving literary metaphors about the mind. A fascinating stroll through centuries of creative conceptions of thought...

This morning, the smattering of a poem, longing...

Night. Cold as ash, cold as ocean deep, come
collect me: cells, bone, teeth.

Peace, Linda

Friday, January 16, 2009


Overheard: My 6 year old daughter while watching a show about the Universe:

"Daddy, I want to stay away from those black holes."

"Why is that, honey?"

"My legs will stretch too far and I'll have to buy new pants."

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hey You! Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is... HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE

Every month, around hump-day, I'll feature a recent read - a novel or memoir - that somehow moved me to tears or joy or frustration. Of course, my featured pick will relate to the meanderings of the head, the heart and their intersection.

In addition, I will apply one final, important criterion: this book will be a debut work, preferably published by a small press.

Why these constraints? Because new writers are the first to be neglected in the new economy. Because small presses are folding - or on the brink. Because new authors and small publishing firms take inordinate risks without the resources or attention.

I walk my talk - I will BUY my books, and buy them from an INDEPENDENT BOOK-SELLER. I challenge you to do the same - support the little guys.

January's pick up is the first book read in 2009: HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE by Michael Greenberg. Published by Other Press. Let's get to it, shall we?

Enjoy. Peace, Linda

NB: And if you know of other offerings which fit my bill, please - make a recommendation.

"I feel like I'm traveling and traveling with no where to go back to."

HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE is the true tale of a father's experience watching his 15-year old daughter suffer a psychotic break. A taut, spare tale told over the time frame of a single, sweltering summer in New York City, this unflinching memoir gives an honest portrait of bipolar disorder from the inside and out. Greenberg adeptly balances his daughter Sally's descent into madness and her treatment travails with his own horror as a parent realizing his child is deathly ill.

As a mental health researcher, the story rings true. The author did his research on the condition and doesn't lead the reader down faulty paths. (You cannot imagine how many times I find - in edited books from the big houses - grossly erroneous medication descriptions and spellings).

As a parent, I appreciate Greenberg's honesty. So many stories - true and otherwise - about mental illness sugarcoat the condition. Indeed, bipolar disease is the disease du jour in many social circles, a popular excuse used by celebrities and non-celebs alike to excuse bad behavior. Conversely, the author avoids demonizing the disease, another frequent failing of like-minded novels and memoirs.

As a writer, well... wow. Greenberg brings his small cast of characters to life: the bohemian ex-wife crafting cakes in Vermont, a landlord with literary aspirations, the author's brother struggling with his own mental maladies, the unorthodox shrink, the young shoteh whose manic visions confound his Hasidic family. And then there's Sally, the winsome teen who inhales Shakespeare, churning out her own poetry, convinced genius is childhood, a genius lost as we age. But central to the story is Michael Greenberg himself, a generous narrator who pours his hurt and bafflement and frustration on the page like Chinese tea leaves muddled in a saucer.

Greenberg's prose sings throughout, in ways large and small. In the opening:

It's something of a sacrilege nowadays to speak of insanity as anything but the chemical brain disease that on one level it is. But there were moments with my daughter when I had the distressed sense of being in the presence of a rare force of nature, such as a great blizzard or flood: destructive, but in its way astounding too.

HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE is an important book, one to place on the bookshelf alongside Jamison's AN UNQUIET MIND and Kaysen's GIRL, INTERRUPTED. It provides a sensitive detailing of the horrors and gifts of manic-depression.

Read it.


About the author: MICHAEL GREENBERG is a columnist for the Times Literary supplement (London), where his wide-ranging essays have appeared since 2003. His fiction, criticism, and travel pieces have been published in O, The Oprah Magazine, Bomb, The Village Voice, and the Boston Review. He lives in New York. This is his first book.

About the press: OTHER PRESS "attracts authors who are guided by a passion to discover the limits of knowledge and imagination. We publish novels, short stories, poetry, and essays from America and around the world that represent literature at its best. Our nonfiction books--should they be history, current events, popular culture or memoir--explore how psychic, cultural, historical, and literary shifts inform our vision of the world and of each other."

I like OP's catalogue - ballsy, important, lush offerings, fic and nonfic alike.

More Reviews:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hard, hot numbers...

More Americans reading LITERATURE!


Two points make a trend, and I'll take every speck o' good news I can.

Peace, Linda

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Down with the economy, up with literature!

Or some optimists believe.

As Geoff Dyer says, "Anyone who has an eye on the market is not a writer but a whore." READ IT HERE

So write what you want to write, dollars be damned.

Peace, Linda

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Monday, January 05, 2009

Manic Monday Musings

Manic because it's the first day back and my multi-media inboxes stacked high. Finally wading out...

Writing moms, tell the truth - weren't you slightly euphoric watching the kids get on the bus today? Come on, don't lie... it's hard work doing all that family togetherness for two straight weeks... so hard, I'm taking the last three days of THIS week off to recover.

THE WRITING... On January 2, BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT turned 3. A toddler with, hopefully, a more sophisticated vocabulary. I celebrated by reading the first completed draft, finished June 15, 2006 and clocking in @ 183k words. A hefty tome, laden with adverbs and backstory and telling and... she reads much better now. Funny, though... many of my key scenes begin and end almost verbatim. There is something about that first draft establishing voice and narrative...

Wrote two flashes for the 6S Volume II Print Anthology. No tawdry sex and drugs this time, just a couple of dark imaginings relating to being a mother and daughter both. These pieces kind of wrung me out. PURE lies fallow for now...

THE READING... Indulgences galore. One reason I'm not writing is because in four days I devoured PHARMAKON, HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE, and THE KITE FLYER. Pharmakon rang out the year, while Hurry Down toasted the new one in. I'm often leery of books that everyone else raves about, so had put off The Kite Flyer. It kept me up for two nights straight past midnight, sobbing into the sofa pillow. More on these later...

THE BLOG... I'm getting tired of these posts, need to perk it up - ideas? I'm thinking more book reviews, interviews with writers and scientists, and changing to a fuschia background (not!). Bring it on, folks...

LISTENING TO... Spiralling from Keane's PERFECT SYMMETRY. On my new iTouch. Nice.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, January 01, 2009

To Look for Joy...

This I resolve in 2009.

Joy can be small and hidden, not always grandiose and pompous. Joy sneaks in on ocean swells, on breaths of air, on thunderclouds.

Seeking joy is no passive endeavor; the journey involves both indulgence and discipline. I am more comfortable with the latter, so this year I will gift myself with the rarest of resources: time, self-kindness, and permission to say no to time- and energy- drainers.

My writing goals are minimal:

--Write every day.
--Read every day.
--Continually market what I have written.
--Seek representation.
--Continue to enjoy the process.
--Build community.
--Give my brutal kindness to my writing group.

Find joy where you can, and hold on tight... Peace, Linda