Being an English major combines many of the things in life that I enjoy deep down to my core: I love reading, which is nice because most of my assignments are lengthy portions of text. I love writing, both creatively and academically, so hunkering down to bang out an eight-page paper, if I have enough time, is not a burden, but an adventure. I love learning, so researching for papers and assignments is my favorite part. And because I love learning, I love workshops. Well, I’ve grown to love them, as mentioned in my previous blog post. I realize constructive criticism will only improve my writing, and therefore I welcome it with ready ears.
There are a few aspects of working towards an English degree that aren’t as wonderful (how heavy my backpack can be on any given day is one of them), but there is a single factor that stands out as the worst part.
Oh, so you want to be a teacher?
Yesterday I got a letter from AWP attempting to win me back as a Writer’s Chronicle subscriber (I have no excuse except that I forgot to renew). Inside the envelope was a solicitation letter. And this bookmark:
My first thought upon reading this bookmark was: Right on Joan! Potential bottomless pit of potential humiliation! Amen! My second thought was: wait a minute –that quote is from the interview I did with Joan Wickersham, which was published in the September 2013 issue of The Writer’s Chronicle! Cool. And my third thought was: How ironic that Joan once wrote a column for The Boston Globe about receiving too much unwanted “swag” in the mail and now her quote had been transformed into said “swag.”
Marianne Leone’s essay “The Official Story” is a Featured Nonfiction piece in the fall issue. She is an actress, screenwriter, and essayist. Her essays and op-ed pieces have appeared in the Boston Globe, The Bark magazine, and WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog. She had a recurring role on HBO’s The Sopranos and has appeared in films by John Sayles, Martin Scorsese, Nancy Savoca, Michael Corrente, Larry David, and the Farrelly Brothers. She is married to the actor Chris Cooper. Her memoir, Jesse:A Mother’s Story (Simon & Schuster) is a chronicle of the remarkable life and untimely death of her child who died suddenly at age seventeen. His life is celebrated through the Jesse Cooper Give Back to Society Scholarship, the Jesse Advocacy Fund at the Federation for Children with Special Needs, and the Jesse Ho, an outrigger named for him at AccesSportAmerica, a charity supported by the Jesse Cooper Foundation.
The Writers’ Workshop is one of the most important lessons in writing. Workshops are designed to offer writers an array of critiques in order to improve a specific piece. Most college programs, to some extent, incorporate a workshop aspect.
As I mentioned in my first blog post, when I initially walked into a class called Prose Writing, I thought I had accidentally interrupted a business meeting. Seeing the tables in a circle, I stood stunned, wondering if I’d misread the room number. Nope.
This was Prose Writing.
I recently read that Judith Kitchen passed away from cancer. I didn’t know Judith personally; we’d never even met. I discovered her via the flash nonfiction anthologies she created and edited, with the aptly named titles: In Short, In Brief and Short Takes.
I fell hard for the flash nonfiction form when my friend Janet introduced me to the series. I read all three books, highlighting phrases and passages. This was sometime in 2006 I believe, shortly after I graduated from the MFA program at Lesley University, and right around the time I had my first child. (Trust me: flash is the form to read when you’ve got an infant).
I remember laughing at pieces like Brady Udall’s “One Liar’s Beginnings,” and gasping at the end of Harriet Doerr’s “Low Tide at Four.” The brilliant essay “The Mother,” by Ann Panning hit home in a big way, at just the right time.
Once upon a time, when I was a young twenty-something server at a restaurant just outside of Boston, my manager called me into his office.
“Amy,” he said solemnly. “I need to tell you something. You’re not the stronger waiter.”
“Um, I’m not a waiter,” I corrected him. “I’m a waitress.”
Looking back, however, if we were to interpret my manager’s remark literally, the guy was spot on.
I’m a horrible wait-er. The worst.
This is a difficult attribute to have as a writer, not to mention a neurotic writer with shaky self-esteem, whose world pretty much revolves around receiving that email announcing “About your Submission.”
I was driving to work a few weeks ago, listening closely to a news report about the survivalist Eric Frein, who had just murdered a Pennsylvania State Trooper and managed to evade capture by hiding out in the dense forests of the Pocono Mountains. Although hundreds of people were engaged in a desperate and dramatic search for the killer, he had thus far evaded capture.
I listened closely to the report. I grew up in Philadelphia and the Poconos almost rivaled the Jersey shore for vacation fun—summer camp, ski trips, hiking, camping, and later, gambling casinos. When I was older, I became more and more fascinated by the old mining towns and patches, the abandoned anthracite coal breakers, the eternally burning mine and town of Centralia, the gold-domed churches of immigrants from Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia.
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I have a theory about all of those happy writers sitting in coffee shops. All of those happy writers sitting in coffee shops are only happy because they’re doing it wrong.
I observed these happy writers often from a long Starbucks line at 8:00am through my yawning eyes, and I never once thought I could get to that point of being a happy writer. I was a freshman at a private college with a major in Sociology and a Business Management minor, and a plan to work with nonprofit companies after graduation. After my first year, I realized I only chose this career path because in high school I tried to rack up as many volunteer opportunities as possible to boost my resume and college applications, and the college major just followed suit. I wasn’t totally in love with my program, but I didn’t know what else to do. I stunk at math, hated science with my whole heart, couldn’t speak other languages, and didn’t have enough time to read (or so I thought). What I could do, however, was write essays.
As the new Managing Editor for Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, I’m thrilled to be running the SolLit Blog. Each week my aim is to inform, engage and inspire you with good reads about writing craft, writing process, trends in writing and/or literature, author interviews, and perhaps the occasional mini-rant.
You can bet our blog won’t be afraid of a little healthy (non-violent) debate, or making some noise when necessary either. Solstice is deeply committed to supporting writers on the margins and staying atop troubling trends related to diversity in the lit world. At the same time, we want to identify and celebrate any positive changes/success stories we hear about too!
Eugenio Volpe’s first eBook, The Message, is a potent view of Afghanistan soldier Adam Zane’s internal unraveling. Returning home to what he sees as the nothingness of Hartford, CT, Zane divides his time between shooting hoops at the local basketball court and camouflaging the self-loathing that now occupies his inner landscape. If someone would shut down the winning streak of hometown traitor and pro basketball superstar Elijah Adams, aka The Message . . . If Zane can find the real trigger of his mounting anxiety and imagined physical descent . . . If his alcoholic mother can stay away from meth and her meth-head boyfriend . . . If he can find the Persian words to label ordinary things with exotic new names . . . If the ifs would stand at ease long enough for him to see what it means to be a man, Zane might find reprieve from the rapidly expanding emptiness. The Message is a pin-pulled grenade clutched in the hands of readers.
Sorry that I am just getting to Jonathan Franzen’s “What’s Wrong with the Modern World” essay now. It was published almost a month ago in The Guardian. Bloggers from Slate, The Daily Beast, New Yorker, and New Republic have already blasted it for Franzen’s trademark arrogance. My posting late on a trending topic is inexcusable. It defeats the whole purpose of blogging. It defeats the whole purpose of the Internet. Taking a month to read, digest, and respond to something is reserved for four-color, glossy print. 4G LTE technology is for instantaneous shit-talk, so here I go… (more…)
Announcing our annual LIT CONTEST. $1,000 FICTION PRIZE. Final judge: TBA. The $500 STEPHEN DUNN PRIZE in Poetry. And the $500 NONFICTION PRIZE, donated by Michael Steinberg. Final Judge: Randall Kenan. Also our new $500 E-BOOK PRIZE. Reading fee: $18.00. (For e-book $28.00.) (more…)
George Saunders newest short story collection The Tenth of December has been released just in time for the third season continuation of The Walking Dead which airs February 10th on AMC. The show is a morality tale set during a zombie apocalypse. Currently it’s the most literary drama on American television (and that ain’t the third Glenlivet talking). It out-dramatizes and out-thinks both Mad Men and Homeland. Like many British shows (MI-5), The Walking Dead is not afraid to kill off main characters. There’s more at philosophical stake. More hermeneutic and proairetic coding (if you’re into that kind of thing). But what’s this all got to do with Saunders? Zombies. That’s what. Saunders is the best zombie author who’s ever lived or maybe lived. Forget the resurrection tales of John the Apostle and Luke the Evangelist. To hell with Mary Shelley. Nobody brings the dead back to life like George Saunders. (more…)
Hello, this is Lee Hope, editor-in-chief of Solstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, an online magazine with a mission: to promote diversity of all types in the literary arts and in photography. With our newly designed Fall/Winter 2012 issue, we are beginning a new series of informal, provocative, and sporadically amusing, Audio Author Chats. We’ll begin now, with the well-known writer Roland Merullo, author of 15 books of fiction and nonfiction and whose most recent novel is Lunch with Buddha. (more…)
“The writer is the person who stands outside society, independent of affiliation and independent of influence. The writer is the man or woman who automatically takes a stance against his or her government…American writers ought to stand and live in the margins, and be more dangerous. Writers in repressive societies are considered dangerous. That’s why so many of them are in jail.”
To celebrate the launch of the new Solstice website and winter issue, I thought I’d revisit the idea of literary diversity and writers on the margins. Past issues have included work by an Iraqi war vet, a former migrant worker, and released death row inmate Damian Echols who was part of the West Memphis Three triple homicide case featured in the Academy Award-nominated HBO documentary series Paradise Lost. This issue includes photography of death row inmates by Lou Jones, a story of a woman in prison, and an essay about parole, among other pieces. As Solstice makes good on its mission of promoting “underserved writers…from writing groups for those on probation or parole, or from writing groups in prisons, in shelters, in rehab programs, in veteran centers, in churches or in libraries,” the importance of such literature becomes all the more apparent. Seemingly democratized, mass-produced technology and pop culture has ensured that the majority of us pretty much share the exact same life experiences, give or take, comme ci, comme ça. (more…)
Poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti recently declined a Hungarian literary prize worth $64,000, citing the right-wing authoritarian policies of that country’s government as his reasoning. In June 2011, the conservative Fidesz party passed a number of authoritarian and nationalistic laws in parliament protecting their majority-holding status. The unpopular laws also expanded the voting system in a way that favors the Fidesz party. They also reduced speaking time in parliament to fifteen minutes for all minority parties. Police broke up civil protests of the laws and former socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany was detained. This summer, the government also passed laws limiting the freedoms of the country’s media. I am sure the Fidesz party is guilty of other relatively evil doings but that’s all the research I felt like conducting for the sake of this blog article. (more…)
Too many book reviews these days read like marketing testimonials. They’re too kind. They’re too fluffy. Most reviewers play nice because most are friends with the author and/or they are authors themselves and fear that their negativity might someday come around to bite their own book in the ass. It doesn’t take much Googling to find out which authors take turns promoting each others’ books. Sometimes you only have to trace it back to an MFA program or writing conference. This type of nepotism is understandable, but personally I would find it easier to accept if the reviewer owned their relationship to the author and perhaps added a personal anecdote to the review. Perhaps then I’d find some value in it.
“I could be wrong, but I believe Diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”
What the hell is diversity?
So says Ron Burgundy in the comedy classic Anchorman. The film brilliantly satirizes the rampant workplace sexism of the 1970s as network executives threaten Burgundy’s chauvinistic dominance at Channel 4 by hiring a female co-anchor. Seemingly, his definition of diversity is hilariously inaccurate. In fact, Burgundy is wildly misinformed throughout the film much like the Gladney family in Don DeLillo’s White Noise. But this isn’t an article about upper-middle class comfort/privilege allowing its members (specifically male) to be woefully wrong about most things with no real consequences. It’s an article about diversity. (more…)
We’re delighted to initiate our new blog on writing and literature and our culture!