Category Archives: From the Editors

Call for Submissions

The lovely Jill Talbot is currently accepting murdered darlings for a forthcoming project. As she writes on her site, she’s specifically looking for “those paragraphs that have been excised from published or forthcoming works (specifically essays, stories, memoirs, or novels) for a book-length project addressing fragmentation and omission via editing in writing.”

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Ultimate Writing Challenge: HAPPINESS

Is it possible to write a literary short story that doesn’t make people want to puke but also is an overtly happy story? I think this may actually be the ultimate writing challenge. Scoffers may scoff, but I’d like to see them scoff their way into a truly complex, badass story that is also hopeful and happy, and I don’t mean in a “but her arm amputation was obviously about the transformative powers of loss” literary bullshit way.

Try to pull it off. I dare you.
Better yet, tell me a story that does and, well, I’ll probably disagree. Continue reading

Revision congruent with who you are


I found a great little essay on revision over on Brevity’s Craft page. Jim Heynen, whose very short stories I teach and love, offers up two versions of Lincoln’s second inaugural address (the first version drafted by his Secretary of State William Seward), fascinating in and of themselves: Continue reading

Revising for Riches and Fame

Here’s the problem: you write something. You revise it. You think about it a lot. You send it to some journals and magazines. One of them accepts it (!). It is a good magazine (!). They will pay you lots of money (!).

But then:

Editors hack and change the form of it, thus destroying the point it was making, as the form was such an important aspect of the piece. Continue reading

Installment One: 20-minute writing to specific playlist

Every now and again, I make a little mix of music to write to for twenty minutes. Sometimes, much longer. Here’s the latest one I made and wrote to. Reasoning for arrangement:

#1 — Little Dragon’s track is at first funky, which makes me think for a second that writing is also funky and fun. This helps to get things going with little pressure. I might even nod my head to the beat while I type. But the funkiness doesn’t last, neither in every part of the song nor in my writing-mind. The song shifts into a dreamy elliptical soundsphere, which carries my mind away a bit like hypnosis or drugs and makes me think of weirder stuff, makes my mind wander a bit. So, this one gets the creativity flowing slightly. Then, it fades out, and all I hear is the tapping of keys for five seconds until Continue reading

Workshop with Fantasy Hair

So we’re workshopping in my class right now, and final drafts are due next week. I want to give my students something about revising, some handout or exercise or, I don’t know, an ancient spell? A picture of Donald Barthelme on which they may meditate and/or ask questions of? Some really awesome directive in a booming God voice like: GO AND BURN THIS DRAFT IN A FIELD AND THEN WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU SEE IN THE SMOKE.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What can I give them that is actually helpful rather than just inspirational and/or lame?

Pulling the Curtain

I’m working on a novoir — a novel/memoir — that’s about, well, my life. BUT! Much of this novoir focuses on writing, workshops, short stories, revising stories, telling the stories behind the stories, going to writing conferences, teaching writing, talking with writing professors, writing book reviews, and on and on. My life has involved a great deal of fiction. Which is weird, but it’s true. Here is a link to an excerpt from the book.

The excerpt talks about dealing with life through writing stories. Then it presents an entire short story that I wrote my final semester of grad school. Then it talks about why I wrote it; what I like about it; what I hate about it; why it works on a craft level; why I think it fails on other levels; and basically, I pull the curtain back on writing my short stories. Continue reading

The Necessity of Encouragement

Richard Gilbert at Narrative blogs about The Spirit of Revision:

I feel my role as teacher is to point out as well how “mechanical” problems get in the way. How ultimately every word choice, sentence structure, punctuation mark, line break, and paragraph return must extend and support theme. Often I correct as well as mark grammatical errors. At the conceptual level, however, Wallace believes that fixing things is a mistake: “muddled passages are usually growing edges,” and fixing them stops growth only the writer can make.
Check it out. Good stuff.

David Foster Wallace has made my students yawn, and I think it’s making me mad

“Forever Overhead” by David Foster Wallace made me fall out of my chair when I first read it. In my late teens and twenties, it was the story I’d photocopy and hand to friends, saying: read this because it’s awesome and because maybe you’ll think I am a cool guy for introducing you to the story. And this worked, more or less, throughout college. College, where I now teach writing.

I give out certain stories to class because they are great examples of particular craft elements. One craft element is DETAIL. Sensory details — use all the senses to plant your readers in moments and scenes. Good writing tips are usually obvious ones: don’t just describe what things LOOK like, describe the sounds all around your characters, give details on scent and touch and taste. It sounds obvious that we live with five senses, so should the characters. But students nod and say: “Oh yeah…” Continue reading