a weblog for readers and writers

Thursday, April 28, 2011

National Poetry Month Poet of the Day

Laura Shovan is not only Maryland’s “poet in the schools,” but also the editor of the poetry anthology Life in Me like Grass On Fire and Little Patuxent Review. She also keeps a blog about writing, teaching and parenting called Author Amok.

For National Poetry Month, She has been featuring a Poet of the Day each day. And today’s poet is … yours truly!

Laura featured my poem, “Submission to a Student Journal (from a writer who’s burning out).” She writes about her thoughts on the poem and what it means, offers a writing exercise based on the poem, and writes a little about me and my writing.

It seems appropriate that this poem—an older writer speaking to a younger one—be published during the week of my 40th birthday. And believe it or not, this is the second item I’ve had published since turning 40 on Monday! The decade is off to a good start.

Pay a visit to Author Amok.


Go directly to her feature on my work here.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Readers of the Lost ARCs

The ARCs are in!

If you’re in the writing or publishing industry, you probably know what an ARC is. An Advance Reading Copy is a big part of publishing a book.

The Advance Reading Copies, or ARCs, for Tracks, my novel in stories, are here! I’m even sharing a few photos to prove it!

It’s a good feeling for a debut author — to actually hold your advance reading copy in your hand.

ARCs are also known as “uncorrected proofs.” They serve several purposes. ARCs are used by the publisher, author, editor, and proofreading staff to look for errors one last time before the final print. Arcs are sent to other authors in hopes of getting endorsements, quotes, or “blurbs.” They’re sent to key book stores and book buyers in hopes that they’ll be ordered and featured on the shelves of the brick & mortar shops. And they’re sent to reviewers in the hope that they will be reviewed. With so many books being published and only a small fraction of them actually scoring reviews, it can be a challenge to get a reviewer to take note. (Even better than getting any review is getting a good one—but just getting one is sometimes good enough.)

Tracks ARCs aren’t only in my hands. Lucky for me, Atticus has been great at getting ARCs into the right hands. One hundred or so ARCs were priority mailed to prominent authors, reviewers, and independent book stores nationwide (and even some international).

Fingers crossed that some of them will be as thrilled to receive their copies as I was to receive mine.

Learn more about Tracks at www.TracksNovel.com.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Celebrate National Poetry Month this Monday

Looking for a way to celebrate National Poetry Month? This Monday evening is your opportunity!

Join local poets who have been published in the new anthology, Life in Me Like Grass on Fire: Love Poems.

Readers include: Nicole Schultheis, Eric D. Goodman, Jane Elkin, Lalita Noronha, Ann Bracken, Regina Sokas, Fernando Quijano III, Janice Lynch Schuster, Christophe Casamassima, Judith Goedke, Brian Smith, and Tapendu Basu.

The event takes place at the Towson Library on Monday, April 25 at 6:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and copies of the anthology will be available for purchase. The readings will be just enough to whet your appetite.

Learn more about the Towson Library and how to get there at this link:

Read more about Life in Me Like Grass on Fire here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Harlin and Prewitt, at the Bar on the Train

As many authors will tell you, sometimes a character is just asking to be treated badly. Hurt. Or even killed.

Recently I had this discussion with acclaimed author Rebecca Barry. Rebecca is the author of Later, at the Bar—a collection of linked stories selected as a New York Times Notable Book and praised everywhere from People to Vanity Fair. Reviewers from Bookslut to Chicago Sun Times praised Later, at the Bar.

I mentioned to Rebecca that I really liked one of her recurring characters, Harlin. Things don’t go well for Harlin, but as you read, you understand that it’s the only way they can go for a person like him. Sometimes your characters demand a particular treatment—be it love, loss, death, or redemption.

Readers sometimes imagine that authors are engineers when in reality it is oftentimes our characters who are in control of what happens.

After reading Tracks, Rebecca said, “I felt the same way about Prewitt as you did about Harlin.” But no matter how you feel about a character, what must be, must be. “Sometimes it's just what the book demands.”

See what the New York Times had to say about Rebecca’s novel in stories.


Find out what happens to Harlin in Later, at the Bar.


Find out what happens to Prewitt in Tracks.


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Friday, April 15, 2011

Fitting Font Found

Tracks makes the top ten list!

No, not in the New York Times or Amazon or Barnes & Noble—remember, it hasn’t even been released yet. But the font used to typeset Tracks has been selected by the publisher (Atticus Books) and the book designer (Jamie Keenan) with a little input from me. And the font chosen is one of the top ten typefaces for modern book design.

And the font we found that fits is … FF Scala.

Although FF Scala is one of the first typeface designs to come with both serif and sans serif companions, it is a relatively new font – created in 1990 by Dutch typeface designer Martin Majoor. It’s one of the first fonts designed with digital medium in mind.

You can see why it’s such a popular design for books, magazines, even museum catalogs. It’s attractive and easy to read. Classic and modern. The perfect font for a novel in stories set on a modern day train—contemporary sensibilities in a nostalgic setting.

See the font and learn more about it at The Font Feed. It’s number three on the top ten list. While on the site, hover over the header to watch a parade of fonts!


Read more about FF Scala at Wikipedia.


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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

John Irving Chosen by Stories

According to novelist John Irving, a writer does not have the luxury of deciding on a story; the story chooses the writer.

"I've always felt my subject chooses me. Even if I don't like the subject, don't like what I'm writing about."

A few years ago I met John Irving at the National Book Festival. At that time, he offered his novel Until I Find You as a perfect example of story taking over.

"This novel, I didn't like writing. It was painful." But as Irving has said before, you don't put a story aside just because it makes you feel uncomfortable — a writer does not get to choose his obsessions. A story seeks out a writer, gets under his skin and insists on being written. "The subject chooses you."

Irving admits that the writer is not off the hook. Novels don't write themselves. "I choose the tone, the names, the language, the structure — but not the subject or the story. The story chooses the writer; the writer chooses the structure."

Have you been chosen by any interesting stories lately?

Learn more about Irving at the link below. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Irving

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Join Eric on Facebook

Sometimes it seems as though I’m living multiple lives—blogs, Gather, columns, facebook, public relations writing, fiction writing, the lit scene, family life … so here’s an attempt to splice a couple of them together.

You read my blog, but did you know I was on Facebook?

In addition to posting everything published here, I also share Facebook-exclusive items on the world’s most popular social networking site.

So come on over and “friend” me on Facebook! Look for Eric D. Goodman, or simply hit this link:

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Friday, April 08, 2011

Dylan Interviews Debut Novelists

Dylan Landis, author of Normal People Don’t Live Like This, is one of the panelists on (and the organizer of) a panel discussion at the upcoming Conversations & Connections Conference in DC: Debut Authors and How They Got There.

The panel is being moderated by
Leslie Pietrzyk, author of Pears on a Willow Tree. Panelists in addition to Dylan Landis include Robin Black (If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This), Janice Shapiro (Bummer), and yours truly (Tracks).

The discussion is all about people who have a first book coming out, or just had one, and how they got from slamming their head against the wall to first book out.

Recently, Dylan interviewed her fellow panelists, myself included, for the Conversations and Connections website. See her article at the link for a preview of our panel discussion. The event takes place on April 16.

You can also find out more about the conference and register at the same link.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

CityLit Fest 8 is Sure to be Great

Mark your calendar for April 16—that’s the date for the 8th annual CityLit Festival. Once again the CityLit Project partners with Enoch Pratt Free Library to present the annual CityLit Festival, Baltimore's day-long celebration of literature. Don't miss what Baltimore magazine has called "a can't miss event on the city's cultural scene."

Tracks will chug its way into the festival. Look for the Tracks table, where you’ll be able to pick up some Tracks swag—a card, postcard, press kit, press release, or maybe even a train pencil or bumper sticker.

Headliners of this year’s CityLit Festival include Danielle Evans, Andrei Codrescu, and Jaimy Gordon. Also there will be Jessica Anya Blau, Ron Tanner, Elissa Weissman, Susi Wyss, and a Maryland Writers Association presentation of the new anthology Life in Me Like Grass on Fire.

This busy festival features several concurrent programs and a bustling Literary Marketplace that showcases Baltimore’s rich literary community.

The event takes place at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in downtown Baltimore, 400 Cathedral Street, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Learn more at http://www.citylitproject.org/.

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Monday, April 04, 2011

Help Me Pick My Pic

The time has come to select an author photo for Tracks. I’d like to ask your help in picking the best picture.

Jamie Keenan created such a great cover (front and back) that Atticus suggested using the photo inside. My author’s picture will be included on the “About the Author” page at the back of the book.

Recently I had my photo shoot at Penn Station in Baltimore (which is where Tracks begins). Of the pictures taken, we’ve narrowed it down to the top six. You can find them as part of this post or below this post.

Leave a comment and let me know which one you think would look best in print (keeping in mind it would be rendered in black & white).

On second thought, please comment and let me know your number one and number two choices. (I have a feeling I know which one most of you will pick first.)

This gives a whole new meaning to model railroad.

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Tracks Photo Shoot at Penn Station

Friday, April 01, 2011

Beware Those April Atlanta Nights

For April Fool’s Day, here’s the story about how a group of writers turned the tables and made a fool out of an unscrupulous publisher.

A.C. Crispin is the author of 24 novels, some of them bestsellers. She is well known as the author of the V novelization and her backstory novels for such popular characters as Han Solo, Spock’s father, and her upcoming Pirates of the Caribbean prequel.

Crispin spoke to the Baltimore chapter of the Maryland Writers Association this past week—not about her own work, but about how new writers should do their homework and protect themselves from scams. In addition to being the go-to person for backstory, she is known for her author advocacy with Writer Beware, which tracks and exposes scams and frauds in the publishing industry. She shared a story which writers who have been around may know: the story of the worst novel ever written—and accepted for publication.

Atlanta Nights was written by 20 individual authors with the intention of writing a terrible novel. The idea was to submit it and expose PublishAmerica, a company that claims to be a “traditional publisher.” Critics have long claimed the company actually a vanity press making its money by selling overpriced books to the authors.

Atlanta Nights is so awful it’s funny: chapters rewritten by different authors from the same segment of the outline (13 and 15), a missing chapter (21), two chapters that are word-for-word identical to each other (4 and 17), two different chapters with the same chapter number (12 and 12), and a chapter randomly generated by a computer (34). Characters change gender and race; they die and reappear without explanation. Spelling and grammar are nonstandard and the formatting is inconsistent. The initials of characters spell out "PublishAmerica is a vanity press.”

Consider this fine passage from Atlanta Nights, authored by the computer program:

He knows something, thought of something, myself. She put in the sweltering Atlanta heat, Callie interjected. "It’s hair into a hot tip on the kids?" Fine, Sir. "Going to the geezer, who sees us!" growled Isaacs.

Or this gem:

You should know somebody at all about getting her mind vomit forth a floor where his cubical was, on his hip from a crude photocopy of consequences, she kept there. She still had heard right. Penny, said he had it come to its tight skirt. Did Callie Like a peach juice? It’s important. They needed a hot tip and didn’t know. You should have figured out like this.

The passages written by people were delightfully bad, too:

“As you know, Nurse Eastman, the government spooks controlling this hospital will not permit me to give this patient the care I think he needs.” “Yes, doctor.” The voice was breathy, sweet, so sweet and sexy. “We will therefore just monitor his sign’s. Serious trauma like this patient suffered requires extra care, but the rich patsies controlling the hospital will make certain I cannot try any of my new treatments on him.”

Not to mention the chapter-end cliffhangers:

"Going down," Isadore Trent chuckled as he pressed the down button, and laughing at his own joke. Had he but known what was to come he would have been laughing out of the other side of his mouth.

They submitted it under the pen name "Travis Tea" and received this response: “I am happy to inform you that PublishAmerica has decided to give "Atlanta Nights" the chance it deserves.”

The point? Authors who have gotten rejection after rejection letter (which includes almost all authors in the beginning) so covet that elusive publishing contract/lotto ticket that they’re often willing to sign the first contract that comes down the pike. But when a company instantly tells you they want to give your book the chance it deserves and then wants to charge you money, run. At the very least, authors should protect themselves by doing their research (even if only a Google search) before signing with any agent or publisher … and never pay money up front.

Don’t let a scammer use your eagerness to make an April fool out of you.

Learn more about A.C. Crispin and her talk at Channel 37. While you’re there, check out some of the serialized stories by authors Paul Lagasse and Gary Lester. http://channel-37.net/?p=640

Visit Writer Beware to get a list of the 20 worst publishers and agents (who aren’t really true publishers or agents since they make their money by charging authors, not selling books). http://www.sfwa.org/for-authors/writer-beware/

Learn more about Atlanta Nights by Travis Tea at the website. http://www.travistea.com/

You can even read the entire novel … or just laugh at the first chapter or so. Check out the first reference listed at the Atlanta Nights Wikipedia entry. (Or buy it.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_Nights

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