a weblog for readers and writers

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Two Talented Gather Writers Break Through!

Last night, Gather announced that Simon & Schuster offered not one but TWO book contracts to finalists in the Gather First Chapters Writing Competition.

Terry Shaw’s novel, The Way Life Should Be, was selected as the grand prize winner. He was rewarded with a $5,000 prize from Gather, a $5,000 advance from Simon & Schuster, and a book contract.

Geoffrey Edwards was also given an advance and a book contract for his novel Fire Bell in the Night.

More than just cash and a book contract, Terry and Geoffrey will receive a promotional push by Borders, one of the world’s leading book retailers. The promotional assistance they receive is above and beyond what most first-novelists can expect.

The contest was a tremendous success. Nearly 2,800 novels were entered. The biggest cut came when the top twenty were announced. The subsequent cuts were smaller, but no less significant.

I'm honored to have been a part of the contest and to have been read alongside these fine entries as a fellow semi-finalist.

Look for Terry and Geoffrey’s novels in Borders book stores and at Gather later this year.

And sincere congratulations to both of them -- and to everyone who participated and helped to make the contest a positive, worthwhile, and successful contest for everyone involved.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Fiction Featured in The Baltimore Review

The latest issue of The Baltimore Review is available at bookstores, libraries, and online. Inside you’ll find my story, “Out for a Walk.”

The Baltimore Review, like many literary journals, is very selective; the editors receive more than 10,000 submissions a year. It is published twice a year and the editors only select about ten works of short fiction for publication each year.

Interested in getting a copy of the latest issue? There are several ways you can do so.

1) The best way is to subscribe! Go to their website at http://www.baltimorereview.org. A one-year subscription (two issues) is $15. Tell them you’d like to begin with the current issue with my story in it.

2) Order a copy of the current issue from the website. Sample copies are $10.

3) Ask your local bookstore or library whether they carry The Baltimore Review.

4) Get an autographed copy directly from me. I’ll send it to you for the cover price of $8 and cover the postage myself, since I want to share my work. Just email me at edgewriter@gmail.com. You can either send me a check or use PayPal.

5) If you’re nearby, I’d be happy to let you borrow a copy.

I’m thrilled to have made it into the pages of The Baltimore Review and hope you’ll be able to enjoy it — not just my story, but all of the fine work published inside.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

The Thirty Years War in the Stars

Can you believe that Star Wars is 30 years old today? The original movie blasted into theaters on May 25, 1977 — three decades ago.

And it seems like just a couple years ago Luke and Leia were only a babies. (Oh, that’s right, they were.)

To commemorate the 30th anniversary, today is officially “Star Wars Day” in Los Angeles, California.

And, to celebrate Star Wars’s birthday as well as the increase in postal rates, the United States Postal Service has issued commemorative, 41 cent postage stamps with Star Wars artwork. You can see them — and order them — here.


As some of you may have already noticed, many of our nation’s mailboxes have been replaced with R2 units. Four hundred mailboxes across the country have been replaced with R2-D2 replicas.

“R2-D2 is the feisty little droid who embodies the trust and dependability for which the Postal Service is so renowned,” the Post Office said. It's unclear whether they were complimenting the droid, the mailbox, themselves, or those feisty little mail carriers. Regardless, you can trust the little droid pictured at the link below with your most sensitive mail.


Here’s George Lucas talking about 30 years of Star Wars as hoards line up today for a special screening of the original classic.


And finally, for the curious, here’s a little about George Lucas’s next project: Singing in Rain: The Special Edition.


I’d link to Bill Murray’s lounge act, “Nothing But Star Wars,” but can’t seem to find it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In Print or Online?

It’s a topic that comes up often in corporate, business, government and PR communications: should we do online publications, print publications, or both?

But what about literature?

The panel discussion with literary magazine editors at a writers’ conference in Bethesda, Maryland a few weeks back was an interesting one. We weren’t talking about internal newsletters or reports to stockholders and taxpayers. The same question — print or online — was being posed to the literary world.

Is it better to publish your work in a print magazine or an online literary journal?

The answer? No consensus. The fact is, both types of publications offer benefits and downfalls. Print does some things the Internet cannot, and the other way around. (That’s why so many corporations, government agencies, and organizations opt to synergize both print and online — not duplicating material, but using the strengths of each to benefit the other.)

I’ll admit that I’ve always been partial to good, old-fashioned print literary journals and magazines that I can hold in my hand, show to a friend, put on my bookshelf.

But, as some editors pointed out, an online journal can be emailed to your friends and colleagues, linked to on your blog, shared with the world. Everyone you know can get a copy without the hassle of postage.

Another thing to consider is exposure. It’s an honorable thing to get a story or poem published in a literary journal. But consider that many respectable literary journals have circulations beneath 1,000 subscribers. They’re being passed around and, in some cases, are being used as screeners by agents and publishers looking for new talent. But are the numbers as high as the online counterparts?

Not according to some of the online literary journal editors. Consider that even a small online poetry journal like No Tell Motel gets 400-600 hits a day. Or StorySouth gets about 1,000 a day. Blackbird gets 750,000 readers each year. Coloquio, which is serializing a story from TRACKS, my novel in stories, gets 7 million hits a year.

That’s a lot of readers.

Then there are the journals that have a leg on both sides of the fence. Ballyhoo Stories, for example, has a print journal and an online journal. JMWW is quarterly online and offers an annual print journal.

I’ve often had mixed feelings about online publications. Although I write for them and get paid by them, I sometimes felt that it was somehow less legitimate than getting published in print. But after the literary magazine conference, after seeing the numbers and realizing that the online journals are just as selective as the print counterparts, that the quality of the writing is just as high,I think I’ve come to a conclusion.

It’s not one or the other, but both. Print and online publications are equally as valuable in today’s publishing environment, and each serves a purpose.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Prepping for Prague

In a few weeks, I’ll be spending a week in the “golden city.” This will be my first visit to Prague, my first trip to the Czech Republic. So I’m now in preparation mode.

The usual locations are certainly on the list: the astronomical clock, the castle, old town square, Charles Bridge, the churches and palaces.

The non-touristy spots are in focus too: neighborhood pubs and restaurants, local markets, off-the-beaten-path villages, towns and cities outside Prague.

A travel story or two will come of this. Also, I plan to set portions of a future novel in Prague and former Czechoslovakia.

If I had a few months to spare, I’d love to stay longer and immerse myself in the culture. But since I only have a week, I’ll want to get a feel not just for the tourist attractions, but for the culture beneath the attractions.

Have you been to Prague? If so, do you have any travel tips or little-known, must-see sights to share? Send them to me at edgewriter@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

TRACKS PodCast Available on NPR Website

Last Friday, I read from TRACKS, my novel in stories, on National Public Radio. The reading, which aired on WYPR’s The Signal, was broadcast at noon and again at 7 p.m. on May 11.

Whether you missed the broadcasts or you’d like to experience it again, a PodCast of “The Stein” is now available on WYPR’s website. Just visit the site at www.wypr.org.

Scroll down and you’ll see the “JukeBox” icon that reads “On-demand audio, PodCasts and more.” Hit the JukeBox.

My story, “A Good Beer Needs a Good Stein,” is the first item on the right, next to the icon for The Signal. “The Stein” is an abridged version of “A Good Beer Needs a Good Stein” from TRACKS, a novel in stories.

WYPR describes the story as “a tale about marriage, growing old, and some lessons to be learned on the subject of give-and-take.”

The reading was enjoyed by about 20,000 regular listeners. Why not join them? This pod’s for you!

Here’s a direct link to the PodCast for easy listening.



Monday, May 14, 2007

Mayor Makes CityLit Proclamation

The CityLit Festival IV this past Saturday at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Maryland was a lot of fun.

I spent a good amount of my time on the floor of the literary marketplace where about 75 exhibitors represented literary organizations, book publishers, literary magazines, and books. What’s nice is that there was a mix of familiar faces and new people as well.

Mayor Sheila Dixon declared it “CityLit Jewels Day” in Baltimore at the start of the festival. And it was a jewel of a day.

Visit the CityLit Project’s homepage at www.citylitproject.org.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fiction on NPR Today

Just a last-minute reminder that today I’ll be joining NPR’s Aaron Henkin on The Signal.

Tune in to Baltimore’s NPR station -- WYPR, 88.1 FM -- today. I’ll be reading an excerpt from TRACKS, my novel in stories, on The Signal.

The reading will air at noon and again at 7 p.m. today, May 11, 2007.

To learn more -- about The Signal and my reading -- visit The Signal’s website.


Listen to the broadcase here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Baltimore CityLit Festival IV

This Saturday, May 12 is the fourth annual CityLit Festival in Baltimore, Maryland.

The CityLit Project and the Enoch Pratt Free Library team up once again to present a day-long celebration of literature for the whole family.

Sheila Dixon, Mayor of Baltimore, and Dr. Carla Hayden, Executive Director of the Pratt Library, will kick off the festival at 10:30 a.m. by proclaiming it “CityLit Jewels Day” in Baltimore. Then they will introduce author Connie Briscoe and photographer Michael Cunningham, who will share stories and images from their book Jewels: 50 Phenomenal Black Women Over 50.

“CityLit Festival is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Dr. Hayden. “The entire library is buzzing with literally something for everyone, from kids to adults, poets to Pulitzer Prize winners.”

Come and meet local writers, poets, magazine editors, book publishers, and other literary types at this year’s day-long event. While you’re there, bring along a few pages of your own writing for a quick critique by Write Here Write Now’s Christine Stewart.

And be sure to thank Gregg Wilhelm of the CityLit Project for getting the party started!

To learn more, visit the CityLit page.


See you there!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Letting Characters Decide

Last month at Loyola College, I had the pleasure of seeing bestselling author Alice McDermott in person for the fourth time. The last time we met and talked about our fiction was at November’s National Book Festival.

At the Loyola event, McDermott read from her latest novel, After This, and spoke to an audience of fans, readers, and writers about her work and the craft of writing.

She explained that although she writes fiction, she writes from experience. “Writers like to say that they write from their imagination because that sounds harder,” she said. She’s not literally writing about herself or her family, but she is writing from her experience, observations, and the world she knows. “Our thoughts come from our experience. The way we use words is part of our experience.”

McDermott said that she never writes from an outline or with a set destination in mind. She writes from the hearts and minds of her characters and allows them and their relationships to evolve and drive the story. “If I’m not surprised by what my characters are doing, I stop writing.”

An emotive writer approaches writing like a reader, wanting to be surprised. McDermott’s characters make choices based on who they are; the choices are not made by her as the author. She compares this method to the great clockmaker theory: the author creates the world, but once it’s set in motion, it has to follow the established rules.

“When writing fiction, you’re constantly eliminating choices. As soon as you’ve written that first sentence, you’ve eliminated a million choices. Each sentence eliminates more.”

Alice McDermott has won the National Book Award and has been nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. Her characters seem to be making good choices for her.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Literary Magazine Editor Inside Secret

This weekend I attended the Conversations and Connections Conference at The Writers’ Center in Bethesda, Maryland -- the nation’s oldest literary center of its kind.

It was a great conference, packed with more than thirty editors from literary magazines and journals.

Some of the secrets revealed were common sense, others just good refreshers. Read several issues of the publication before submitting, follow submission guidelines, make sure the work you’re submitting is its polished best.

But here’s something that may be new to many writers: most initial decisions are made in the first couple paragraphs.

Many writers know Noah Lukeman’s book The First Five Pages, which explains that the majority of book manuscripts are rejected within the first five pages. It’s important to grab a reader and keep them reading.

So it makes sense that most short story submission are rejected within a couple paragraphs -- a half a page or less.

As you prepare your submissions for literary magazines and journals, ask yourself this: are you hooking the editor within the first two paragraphs?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Lit Mag Editors and NPR Fiction Reading

My National Public Radio reading has been rescheduled for NEXT Friday, May 11. For those planning to tune in, I’ll be reading an abridged excerpt from TRACKS, my novel in stories, on local Baltimore NPR station WYPR, 88.1 FM. My ten-minute segment will air at noon and again at 7 p.m. on The Signal.

Tomorrow’s Conversations and Connections Conference remains on schedule. More than 40 panelists and speakers will be on hand to talk with writers about getting work published in literary magazines. Many of them are the editors of the magazines themselves.

Magazines represented at the conference include The Baltimore Review, The Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, The American Poet, 42Opus, Blackbird, Barrelhouse, Phoebe, Poets & Writers Magazine, Ballyhoo Stories, Painted Bride Quarterly, Smartish Place, JMWW, The Potomac Review, and Columbia.

To learn more about tomorrow’s conference at The Writers’ Center in Bethesda, Maryland, visit the conference site.


For more on my fiction reading on WYPR next Friday, visit the station’s website.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Connect with Literary Magazine Editors

Are you a fiction writer looking to publish in a literary magazine or journal? Have you maxed out your collection of rejection letters and want to move up to an acceptance or two?

Who better to bring you up to speed with tips of the trade than the editors of the literary magazines themselves?

This Saturday, May 5, writers in the Baltimore-DC area have the opportunity to meet more than 30 editors from a mix of today’s most respected and cutting-edge literary magazines. Learn to master the submissions game directly from them -- the people who make the decisions day in and day out -- how to get your work accepted.

Editors from The Baltimore Review, Gettysburg Review, Gargoyle, Painted Bride Quarterly, Potomac Review, Smartish Place, StoryQuarterly, The Urbanite, Ballyhoo Stories, Barrelhouse, JMWW, and American Poet will all be present.

The Conversations and Connections Conference -- practical advice on getting published -- begins at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday and ends at 6:45 p.m. with a literary happy hour. You can register at the door, or go to their website to do so online at the conference website link below.

Registration is only $35, and that includes a one-year subscription to the literary journal of your choice.

Hope to see you at the conference!