a weblog for readers and writers

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Practical Advice on Writing

Conversations and Connections is a DC writer's conference organized by Barrelhouse, the Baltimore Review, and the Potomac Review. Held on April 16, 2011, with Steve Almond as the keynote, Conversations and Connections features editors from a mix of established and cutting-edge literary magazines and small presses. Our panels and craft workshops are led by writers and editors from a wide variety of styles and genres, all speaking to issues that will help you take your writing to the next level. Topics this year include flash fiction, experimental fiction, writing ethnicity, social media for writers, the power of repetition, the poetic sentence, the one hour MFA, and many more. You won’t want to miss the panel discussion, Debut Writers and How They Got There featuring Dylan Landis, Eric D. Goodman, Janice Shapiro, Robin Black, and moderated by Leslie Pietrzyk. Learn how first time authors got from slamming their heads against the wall to getting a book published. Your registration fee of $65 includes the full day conference, a book of your choice, a year subscription to a participating literary magazine, and one ticket to "speed dating with editors," where you'll get immediate feedback on your work. This conference sells out every year, so reserve your spot at Conversations and Connections today: http://www.writersconnectconference.com/word

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Barrelhouse Likes Drinking

Need another reason to come to the Lit & Art event this Sunday? Readings from local authors, music and art from near and far, wine and refreshments, a benefit to help save the Poe House & Museum, getting together with some cool people … and of course our headliner, Jessica Anya Blau.

Jessica’s new novel, Drinking Closer to Home, has already garnered gleaming reviews nationwide. The latest comes from close to home. Barrelhouse Magazine endorses Drinking. (Don’t we all?)

This week, Barrelhouse published my review of Drinking Closer to Home. You can read it online at www.barrelhousemag.com/?p=579.

Read the review. Then come to Sunday’s Lit & Art at the Watermark, 100 S. Charles Street, Baltimore, right across from the Inner Harbor in the Bank of America Building, second floor. The event is from 2 to 5 p.m. this Sunday.

Rick Connor, Katherine Cottle, Holly Morse-Ellington, Guity Adjoodani, Manzar, and Red Tractor Factory fill out the event.

See you Sunday afternoon. In the meantime, read my review in Barrelhouse and get Drinking. It’s available in bookstores and at Amazon.

Barrelhouse Review of Drinking Closer to Home:


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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

March Madness Hits Lit and Art

Need to forget about your last-place finish in your office pool for the NCAA basketball tournament? The Watermark Gallery will hold its next Lit and Art event on Sunday, March 27, at 2 p.m.

This event will feature four local writers, including Jessica Anya Blau. She will read from her new novel, Drinking Closer to Home, which has been called, “a raging success” and “unrelentingly side-splittingly funny.” Her first novel, The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, was chosen by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the Best Books of 2008.

Prize-winning poet Katherine Cottle will read from her new memoir, Halfway: A Journal through Pregnancy. Rick Connor and Holly Morse-Ellington will make their much anticipated debuts.

To help celebrate Persian New Year, pianist Guity Adjoodani will play several selections from her CD. Red Tractor Factory, our crack house band, will also perform.

As you no doubt know, Baltimore City has cut funding for The Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, and plans to close it in 2012. To help raise money for the Poe House, the gallery’s resident artist Manzar Rassouli-Taylorr will sell a limited edition of her artwork.

Like previous events in this series, it’s free and open to the public. Complimentary wine and refreshments will be served. And in these lean times, free is good (free is good in boom times as well, but you get the point).

The Watermark Gallery is located in the Bank of America Center Skywalk Level, right across from the Inner Harbor, at 100 S. Charles Street, Baltimore, Maryland. The phone number is (410) 547-0452.

Learn more about the Watermark at its online gallery and the Lit & Art event at the link.


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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Irish-American Writing advice

What better day than St. Patrick’s Day for some writing advice from an Irish-American author?

We’ve all heard it: writing is rewriting. A first draft should never be considered complete. In order to be successful as a writer, it’s important not to fall in love with your own first draft.

Alice McDermott knows a thing or two about the various stages of a successful novel. Here’s her take.

“The first draft is spillage.” A writer should just let the words and story flow from you without regard to rules, structure, plot, character development, what makes sense, what doesn’t jive. Write the first draft from your heart, as it comes to you. Hey, it’s only a first draft.

“Then,” McDermott suggests, “write at least three drafts. In rewrites, spend the time, don’t try to save time. Hone the prose, shape it, redo it. Don’t just re-copy with minor edits—that’s the easy way out.”

With the soul of your first draft already on paper, the second, third, and any additional drafts should be where the true craftsmanship comes in. Sculpt your clay into something wonderful and unique, something others will want to read as well as yourself.

“A Novel should evolve from its own predictable themes,” McDermott suggests. And those themes will be present in your first draft.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Radio Reunion

One thing advance readers seem to like about Tracks is the balance of mood and character. One character innocent and lovable, another sleazy and loathable. One story light or funny, another heavy or sad.

Pull out your hankies. “Reunion” is one of the more melancholy ones.

An abridged reading of “Reunion” was recently featured on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR. Set to appropriately-themed music, the reading was broadcast on The Signal, a tour through Baltimore’s cultural landscape.

The podcast is available now. You can listen to the program at the following link. “Reunion” is about 40 minutes into the program.


Or, if you want to go directly to the “Reunion” reading, you can listen to it here.

Grab a few tissues and enjoy a radio reunion today.

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Friday, March 11, 2011

Finding the Font that Fits

As a writer, I may strike you as the kind of guy who thinks of fonts as key. On the contrary — although my head is usually full of words, the font they’re cast in seldom enters my mind at all.

That’s why it came as somewhat of a surprise when my publisher, Atticus Books, asked me if I had any preference regarding the font that Tracks would be typeset in.

How is it possible I’ve read these billions and billions of words and seldom given any thought to their font?

For my decades of writing, I've pretty much stuck to three fonts (or four if you include dot-matrix): Times New Roman, Ariel, and Courier (the last of which I haven't used in years and only then because it looked to me like typewriter print).

As it turns out, font happens to be something Atticus Books does think about. In fact, each of the book they’ve published, so far, has been cast in a different font. Now that’s something to get keyed-up about!

Over the past weeks I've spent some time reading about fonts, putting passages of Tracks into different fonts, and trying to figure out what fonts I like best.

It seems appropriate that a book be set in the a font that fits the mood of the story. Perhaps a story about an old newspaper man in an old-fashioned courier, or an absurdist comedy in comic sans, or a computers-take-over-the-world futuristic fantasy in a sans serif.

But in most cases, it’s a little difficult, finding the font that fits.

Regardless of what anyone likes, I think the number one factor is that it be easy to read. The best fonts don't call attention to themselves.

What’s your take on type? Do you have a favorite font?

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tracks Novel Website Launched

The release date for Tracks, a novel in stories, is still months away — June 30 to be precise. But you don’t have to wait to climb aboard.

You can visit the new website dedicated to Tracks: www.TracksNovel.com.

TracksNovel.com has a number of stations. You can:

· Listen to stories from Tracks, as featured on NPR;

· Read excerpts from Tracks;

· See the press release and other Tracks-related news;

· Find out what others are saying about Tracks;

· Get the schedule of Tracks readings, signings, and appearances;

· Visit the Lounge Car or Tracks Blog; even

· Watch a Tracks-related video.

What are you waiting for? Hop aboard the Tracks website now!


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Monday, March 07, 2011

Savvy Verse and Wit's Small Press Celebration

Savvy Verse and Wit is a blog dedicated to literary and poetic works, including critiques, reviews, editorial hints, and insights. Not to mention interviews.

With March, Savvy Verse and Wit kicks off its celebration of Indie and Small Press Month by publishing an interview with none other than Atticus Books, publisher of Tracks.

Atticus founding publisher Dan Cafaro talks about Atticus books, Independent Book Sellers That Rock Our World, Book Blogger Central, and about the books he has selected for publication, including Tracks, a novel in stories.

Take a look at the interview at the link. And celebrate indie and small presses!


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Friday, March 04, 2011

Pedestal Fetish

Have a fetish for good literary magazines? Then you may already be a regular reader of The Pedestal Magazine. If not, you should give it a read.

The Pedestal Magazine is available online, and it’s free. As an online magazine that actually pays for all its content, The Pedestal is a cut above some of the other online journals.

My story, “Fetishes,” was published in a recent issue of The Pedestal Magazine. The flash fiction appears in issue 59.

As guest fiction editor Charles Rammelkamp said in his introduction, it’s not easy to be put on this pedestal. “It goes without saying that the competition was stiff, with around five hundred submissions for only a few slots and so much good work; it was kind of like college applications at prestigious universities.”

Where’s the frat party?

Check out The Pedestal Magazine issue 59 online.

Or go directly to “Fetishes.”

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