Sunday, October 31, 2010

Preorder Sententia 2!

You can do that here.

The issue includes my story "The Big Empty," which begins like so:

"We took the kid. And I know how bad that sounds, really, I do, but believe me: He was sitting by himself at the gas station, out in the back, by the bathrooms and dumpsters and greasy cardboard boxes, and when Jim came out of the men’s room, all sweaty, looking like he might hurl (he didn’t), and we started heading back to the car, there he was—this kid, by himself, sitting with his knees tucked up tight against his chest and his head leaning sideways, cheek resting on his knees like he was trying to fall asleep and dream his way out where he was. I remember thinking: Am I seeing what I’m seeing? There was no one there with him. No sign of parents or brothers or sisters or anybody. He was alone, forgotten, and seemed like he was used to it."

And here's a list of all the contributors:

Gregory Sherl, Peter Schwartz, Brad Green, Pacze Moj, Samantha Ducas, Howard C. Mueller IV, Ali Abdolrezaei, b.l. pawelek, Shaindel Beers, Neila Mezynski, Amanda Deo, Nathan Graziano, Jessica Anya Blau, Ethel Rohan, Josh Goller, Janey Smith, Meg Tuite, Timmy Waldron, Michael Pollock, Claire Foster, Nate House, Scott McClanahan, Ken Sparling, Robert Lopez, Christian TeBordo, Roxane Gay, and Barry Graham.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Passionate Amateur

"There is such a thing as a passionate amateur. By strict definition I am a professional novelist. But I don’t ever feel like a professional when I sit down to do the work. I feel, with each book, like I’ve never written a book before and I have to figure it out… It never seems to get easy.”

Jonathan Franzen, in an interview with the Guardian

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Writing Advice from a Five Year Old: Put the Best Story First

So I've been revising my short story collection. Again. Putting in newer stories. Taking out other stories. Tinkering (improving, I hope) stories that have already been published. Catching typos and repetitions and writerly tics.

This is the sixth official revision. At least there are six versions of the Word doc that contains the manuscript. The truer number is probably more like 20-25. Something like that.

And this time I did a little something different.

I wrote out all the story titles on 3 x 5 index cards. Then I spread the cards out on the floor. Arranged. Rearranged.

This really helped me "see" the collection as a whole (vs. scrolling through the Word doc).

At one point, my five-year-old son Ethan came into the room.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "I'm trying to see which order I want to put the stories in my book. To see which one should go first and then second and then third and on and on. Does that make sense?"


"What do you think?" I asked.

He looked down at all the index cards, all the individual stories that hopefully come together as something more, something greater.

"You should put the best story first," he said.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bits and Pieces

  • Tuesday's Literary Death Match in San Diego was a blast. I bow to Jim Ruland's greatness. And Todd Zuniga is one of three people in the universe who can get away with wearing a white suit. You can see some photos here.
  • Best novel first lines? Here's a list of 100. What's missing? DeLillo's Underworld: "He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful."
  • Salinger bio due in January. Galleycat has the scoop: "[It] provides a tremendous amount of new information, shedding light for the first time on many unknown events in Salinger's life: his wartime romance; the inspiration behind The Catcher in the Rye; the impact of his experience fighting in the D-Day landings; the true story behind Franny and Zooey; full details on his romance with Oona O'Neill (later Mrs. Charlie Chaplin); his office intrigues with famous New Yorker editors and writers; his friendship with Ernest Hemingway; surprising evidence that he intended to continue publishing after his last story appeared in l965, and much more."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Philip Roth on Getting Started

"I don't know very much," [Roth] says about how he begins a novel. "I write my way into my knowledge. Then, if I'm lucky, I get a break. That's why it's so important to get started. Because however awful starting is — and it is absolutely awful — when you get into it, when you've got 10 pages, which may take two weeks, then you can begin to build."

Philip Roth, from a recent L.A. Times interview.

I really like that "I write my way into my knowledge" line.

But with a novel, that can be a scary approach (maybe not so scary if you're Philip Roth).

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Fierce Pleasure

"[Fiction] doesn't have to do anything. It just has to be there for the fierce pleasure we take in doing it, and the different kind of pleasure that's taken in reading something that's durable and made to last, as well as beautiful in and of itself. Something that throws off these sparks—a persistent and steady glow, however dim."

Raymond Carver, from a 1983 Paris Review interview (quoted in "A Day in the Life of Hannah Tinti," which is definitely worth a read).