Thursday, October 30, 2008

Work in Progress: Exercises

Last Sunday, I taught a workshop at the Writer’s Center that focused on writing exercises. As with the recent collage workshop I conducted, I was fortunate enough to get an excellent group of students who tackled every challenge I threw their way with good humor and skill. I followed along with some of the exercises as I could, and got some useful insights into the characters I’m hoping to write about in my new historical novel.

I found some of the exercises in a new book that I highly recommend: Naming the World and Other Exercises for the Creative Writer, edited by Bret Anthony Johnston. (Thanks, Rachel, for suggesting it to me!) The book offers a wide range of creative and provocative exercises that transcend the “busywork” aspect that some writing exercises can suffer from.

There was an adaptation from the book in the recent issue of Poets & Writers. Since I couldn’t find the article itself online, I thought I’d pass along two of the exercises I found especially useful in this class:

1. The first one relates to character development, and I adapted it from Lee Martin’s chapter, “Subversive Details and Characterization.” Think about a character that you’re working with, and make a list of “props” that are associated with the character—i.e. things they touch, carry, hold, own. I suggest mentally committing to a long list—say, 25 things or so—because if what happened to me is representative, it was the early things that were the most obvious (i.e. my historical young lady had gloves and a snowy white handkerchief…duh). It wasn’t until I moved through the obvious choices that I discovered the more interesting things she might have: a book of poetry with a newspaper clipping used as a bookmark. Well, that’s getting somewhere! Newspaper clipping about what?

Once you have your list, review it and then think of one prop this same character has that doesn’t seem to fit into this list. Then start thinking about (and/or writing) the story of how the character ended up with that item. (In the book, the exercise continues, but this is where we stopped.)

I asked the people in the class to share out loud one item of the “regular list” and then the misfit item, and it was remarkable how just hearing these two items suggested the quick outlines of a pleasantly complicated character and, most definitely, a possible conflict that could successfully be developed into a story or essay.

2. The second exercise that I thought was especially effective was the last one, which we did after having spent 4 ½ hours working together and getting to know one another. I found this tucked away in the “daily warm-ups” in the back of the book, but honestly, I thought it was more transformative and powerful than a warm-up. After talking a bit about being brave in our work, and how readers are touched by stories/essays that have a strong emotional truth at their core, I told the class that we would not be sharing out loud any of the results of the following exercise (that was important): this was a private exercise, just for them. Then I asked them to write a list of the stories from their own lives that they would write if they were guaranteed that certain people would never read those stories.

Honestly, before I even finished talking, people had their pens scratching away on paper; it was like a floodgate had been released.

What I found interesting about my own list is that there were some huge, scary topics that I probably would be loathe to address even with a thousand veils of fiction obscuring them. But also on my list—and I wrote down everything that occurred to me, moving quickly without pausing to reflect—also on my list were a number of smaller incidents that seem horrifyingly embarrassing or shocking to me, but which would make a good story or essay, and which probably wouldn’t be a big deal to write about. I mean, am I really afraid to write about that thing that happened in 11th grade sociology class? Other incidents I could see myself addressing fictionally.

So, my follow-up suggestion to the class—and, of course, to myself—was to save this list and someday—maybe not tomorrow, maybe not until you’re 90 years old—but someday, write about some of these topics. If it was a relief simply to see the words privately on this piece of paper, what might it be like to see these things transformed into art and set free into the world?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

An All-Too-Real Sad Story

The Fat Cyclist is one of my favorite blogs, despite the fact that I have no interest in cycling (beyond watching the Tour de France, and the drug problems are pushing me past that). But for years, I’ve been avidly reading his posts because he was so funny and such a terrific writer.

Then “Fatty” (as he calls himself) started writing more and more—and more intimately—about his young wife’s struggle with cancer and how he and his family are coping with the ups and downs of that battle. It’s remarkable how you can read something on a computer and become so caught up in someone else’s life to the point of sobbing and grabbing for the Kleenex.

Now, he’s had to make the difficult decision to put his wife in hospice care. For people who think the internet turns us into isolated, unfeeling robots, check out the nearly 500 beautiful comments of well wishes that prove you CAN find community in cyberspace. But have the tissues nearby.

"Power, Politics and the Prism of Literature"

This event sounds fascinating, with excellent writers/speakers:

November 3, 2008 at 6 p.m.
Power, Politics and the Prism of Literature
A reading/discussion of the role of literature and in particular the political novel.

Azar Nafisi (Reading Lolita in Tehran)
Marie Arana (Cellophane)
Joanne Leedom-Ackerman (The Dark Path to the River and No Marble Angels)

Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
Kenney Auditorium, 1740 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC

ISO Poems on Collecting

I wish I collected something interesting enough for a poem, but "Ode to Clutter" doesn't sound promising:

Call for Submissions for New Poetry Anthology on Collecting

Muse with us about the why and how of what we collect. Proposed anthology looking for poems that draw us out of the expected and into the anthropology of collecting: Take us from the universe of small things to universal themes. Dazzle us!

bottle of dress buttons
santos or bultos
spongeware bowls
basket of mushrooms
heirloom seeds
microscopes and maps
dreams & stars
pioneer diaries

Please send up to 3 poems, each no longer than 32 lines, with a 3-5 line bio and SASE, to A. Watson, P.O. Box 370627, Denver, CO 80237.

Deadline: March 31, 2009. More information here.

Writer's Center Class Schedule Available

The Writer’s Center announces that its schedule of winter workshops has been posted:

The Writer's Center is pleased to announce that the winter workshop schedule is now available online at The easiest method of locating a workshop is to use our drop-down menu to find a specific genre or workshop instructor.

In order to ensure a seat in the workshop[s] you're interested in, we encourage early registration. You can register online, in person, or over the telephone (301) 654.8664.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Scary Obsession with Food

I was once told that I have a “scary obsession with food.” Maybe so…but I loved reading here about poet Sandra Beasley’s recent eating (and literary) adventures in New York City. I'll be in New York in a few weeks and hope to check out some of her recommendations. (Sandra wrote for the blog here about her experience this summer at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference.)

Brave New World, Part II

For those of you who are less resistant to change than I am, Publishers Marketplace reports that Oprah loved the Kindle. And when Oprah loves something, she wants us all to have it. If you’ve been thinking about giving the Kindle a try, here’s a link for $50 off the purchase price; the offer is good through November 1, 2008. (To be fair, the people who I know who have a Kindle have given it pretty good reviews.)

Baltimore Writers' Conference with Keynote Speaker Larry Doyle

Mark your calendars for this popular event:

17th Annual Baltimore Writers' Conference
Saturday, November 8
Towson University's University Union
Registration opens at 8:30am. Keynote address at 9:00am.

Larry Doyle

Larry Doyle is the author of the novel I Love You, Beth Cooper, soon to be released as a film directed by Chris Columbus and starring Hayden Panettiere as Beth. He was a writer and producer for "The Simpsons" for four years and now writes for The New Yorker magazine. He recently won the Thurber Prize for American Humor.

Session topics include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, magazine and journals, agents and publishers, and blogging. Sign up the day of the conference for quick critiques to improve your stories, essays, and poems.

For more information or to register, go to

Registration includes continental breakfast, lunch, and reception. (Student registration rate available with valid school ID!)

Don't miss the area's premier day-long opportunity for literary artists to improve their craft, learn about the business, and network with industry professionals and other writers!

For more information, contact Geoffrey Becker at or 410.704.5196.

Campus map: HERE

Baltimore Writers' Conference is sponsored by:
Towson University
Johns Hopkins University
CityLit Project
with Special Thanks to the Maryland Writers' Association, Baltimore Chapter

Monday, October 27, 2008

"Literature": No Place for "Quotation Marks"

Lionel Shriver, one of my favorite novelists, wrote here in the Wall Street Journal about the alarming and increasing lack of quotation marks in literary fiction:

“Perhaps no single emblem better epitomizes the perversity of my colleagues than the lowly quotation mark. Some rogue must have issued a memo, "Psst! Cool writers don't use quotes in dialogue anymore" to authors as disparate as Junot Díaz, James Frey, Evan S. Connell, J.M. Coetzee, Ward Just, Kent Haruf, Nadine Gordimer, José Saramago, Dale Peck, James Salter, Louis Begley and William Vollmann. To the degree that this device contributes to the broader popular perception that "literature" is pretentious, faddish, vague, eventless, effortful, and suffocatingly interior, quotation marks may not be quite as tiny as they appear on the page.

“By putting the onus on the reader to determine which lines are spoken and which not, the quoteless fad feeds the widespread conviction that popular fiction is fun while literature is arduous. Surely what should distinguish literature isn't that it's hard but that it's good. The text should be as easy to process as possible, saving the readers' effort for exercising imagination and keeping track of the plot.”

I agree. As Martha would say, “Punctuation is a GOOD THING.”

"Reading Faulkner at 17, You Forsee Your Reckoning"

Okay, I never read Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, whether as an adult or at seventeen. But this amazing poem on Slate, “Reading Faulkner at 17, You Forsee Your Reckoning,” by Catherine Pierce makes me wish I had torn myself away from whatever I was reading at 17 (probably Gone With the Wind yet again) and given Faulkner a whirl.

Brave New World at the New Yorker

The New Yorker will be issuing a digital edition of its magazine every Monday. According to the ad I read in my good old-fashioned print copy, subscribers of this edition will get “every page exactly as it appears in print, plus access to the complete New Yorker archives.” No information on the cost, though the first four issues are free. Here’s where to sign up, if you’re interested. (My impression is that if you’re already a subscriber, you’ll be able to add on the digital version, but don’t quote me.)

I like the convenience of lugging around the paper version on the Metro, on the couch, and so on…but I hate that I don’t get it until Thursday, which never gives me enough time to pull it together to enter the last page cartoon contest.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Work in Progress: Collage, II

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.
~~Albert Einstein

Last week I conducted a workshop at the Writer’s Center based on the principles of word collage. I was a bit apprehensive—it’s an experimental approach to writing; very open and loose; trying to remove barriers between right and wrong, good and bad; and so I think the process requires a certain open-mindedness and trust to have a successful experience. Because I’ve used these collage techniques before, I know that my faith will be rewarded in a surprising, interesting way. But here were 15 strangers who might not have the same faith. What if they’re not interested in writing about candy corn (our first assignment)?

But they were.

I’ve written about the class before right here, including a step-by-step description of how we proceed, so I won’t go into that again. But it’s worth reminding myself that what I enjoy about this class is the reminder that the path to creativity is not always (ever?) smooth and straight. There are times for tight control (revision) and times to let go, as nerve-wracking as that may be. (One of my challenges as I work with the class is to remember that I’m in charge, and not to let myself get carried away if part of the exercise is working especially well for me…or if I strike a deep memory that makes me want to cry!)
It’s hard to trust that this meandering path will arrive somewhere—but it will. It may not be the destination you expected—or wanted—or even recognize as a destination, but it will be somewhere you could not have reached by any other way. And it will be meaningful in some way. I often forget that this wandering is a crucial part of the process: I get too caught up in thinking that sitting at the computer is the best or only way to get work done.

By the end of our evening, people had come up with amazing insights, complicated observations, challenging memories, and lots and lots of beautiful words. I love the end of the class, when everyone compiles their hodge-podge, mass of writing into a magical, deeply personal collage that has the impact and power of the most evocative piece of abstract art. It’s a remarkable feeling to hear such personal writing without knowing exactly what it may mean…I imagine it’s like Hemingway’s iceberg principle, that only one-tenth is visible, with nine-tenths lurking underneath…packing enough power to sink the Titanic.

Glen Finland*, one of the participants, was kind enough to share her lovely piece, and I think that by reading it, you’ll have a better sense of what can be accomplished in this process:

The Secret Life of D.R.

Behind his thick glasses, D.R. was the kind of slow reader who searched for meaning in the silence between words. The measured progress of non-events in his life had turned him into a frustrated and gloomy man who took the time to whiten his teeth, but couldn’t slow the forward march of his own baldness.

Yet here in the darkness of his basement, with the movie projector ticking audibly beside his right ear, he had discovered a way to come alive. Veiled in the blue light that accented the puffiness of his eyes, D.R. sat mesmerized by the old black and white movies that played out the life he was meant to have. Mouthing every line before Cagney or Borgnine could spit them out, D.R. was no longer the forgotten little mouse whose son had taken to calling him by his first name. Here he was the tough guy who ordered goombahs around and said things like, “Listen, Wise Guy” and “Beat it, Sister.”

That was until… she showed up again. The dame, the sweater girl on the drugstore stool, twirling her way back into his head.


And here is my own piece:

Whatever There Was

We weren’t the type of kids who lost mittens—in fact, we didn’t lose much of anything. Once we had something, we held onto it.

The loaf of bread wrapped in paper wrapped in Saran wrap placed in a plastic bread bag.

I bet she never even ate peanut butter.

What else am I trying to fill that won’t be filled?

That snow fort was so perfect.


I hope to offer this class again at some point in the future. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

*About: Glen Finland writes fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of a novel, The Sweetgrass Code, and a collection of short stories, The Inside of An Egg. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, American Magazine, Revolution, A Cup of Comfort, and the East Coast Women’s Anthology. She is the recipient of the Southeastern Writers Association Best Fiction award and the Leroy Spruill Fiction award. She is listed as a Noted Writer from the 2005 and 2006 Boston Fiction Festivals. Glen teaches college writing at American University in Washington, DC, and has been a Fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and Casa Libre en la Solana in Arizona

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Write Flash Fiction

You can pick up some great tips on how to write flash fiction by reading this post by a student in C.M. Mayo’s recent "Flash Fiction Workshop" at the Writer’s Center. She offers this class on a fairly regular basis, so if you like what you read here, keep an eye out on the Writer’s Center site and sign up for the full treatment.

I thought this was a great way of looking at revision:

“6. Edit by asking the question "Why do I want to stop reading?" Keep reading until you have an answer. When you know WHY you want to stop reading, you have an editing task at hand.”

Books & Brew Event Open to All

Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) is a national book-based networking group open to men and women; I belong to the Washington Chapter, and I’m coordinating a casual happy hour-ish get-together for members and non-members to discuss books and book-ish topics and whatever. You’re welcome to attend, but you need to RSVP to me. Here are the details:

Books & Brew
Sponsored by WNBA, DC Chapter

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
6:00 p.m.
400 Eighth Street NW, DC
Penn Quarter
Metro: Red & Yellow lines

Unwind from your day with fellow WNBA members and friends during this lively happy hour gathering and discussion of books (& etcetera). What have you read that you love? What do you recommend for book groups? What best-seller has left you cold? Which classic would you take to that proverbial desert island? Enquiring minds want to know!

Teaism offers a lovely assortment of teas, specialty cocktails and beer, sandwiches, Asian specialties, and desserts, so come hungry or come to eat lightly. (Sign me up for a ginger margarita and a salty oat cookie, for sure!)

There’s no cost—beyond your own food/beverages—but you must RSVP. Please respond to Leslie Pietrzyk at by Thursday, November 13. Questions/more information:

Please bring along a copy of a book you love—a recent find, or an old favorite…the book you think everyone in the world should read!

Write in Iowa!

I couldn’t find the details on the website, but because this is such a unqiue opportunity—and because I grew up only a 15-minute drive from the Herbert Hoover birthplace—and because just about every school class I was in had some sort of field trip here—I thought I’d pass along this announcement. There’s a phone contact for more information, or perhaps you’re more clever than I am and can navigate the web site:

WEST BRANCH, IOWA— Herbert Hoover National Historic Site seeks writers, composers, and visual and performing artists for the park’s 2009 Artist-in-Residence program. The Artist-in-Residence program is open to all professional American artists whose work can be inspired by the history and beauty of Herbert Hoover National Historic Site. The park offers two residencies each of two to four weeks from May through September. For more information about the Artist-in-Residence Program and how to apply, contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 or visit the park’s website:
The 2008 Artist-in-Residence program featured photographer Linda Staats and radio dramatist Will Anderson. Each artist donated artwork created during their residencies this summer. Ms. Staats’ photograph “First Light on the Prairie” is on display at the Visitor Center along with works from pastArtists-in-Residence. Dr. Anderson’s radio drama script “The Son of West Branch, America’s Great Humanitarian” is available on the park’s website: The script is in the public domain and may be used for production. Please contact Adam Prato at (319) 643-7855 if you are interested in producing it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Charles Baxter on "The Nixon-in-China Principle"

I’ve been catching up on some reading, trying to work my way through some of the literary journals that have stacked up, and I came across an excellent interview with Charles Baxter* in the Spring (yes, it’s quite a stack!) 2008 issue of The Missouri Review.

Here are some excerpts:

“Also, I’ve had a lot of interest lately in how to stage a scene. Let’s say you have a character say to another character, ‘I love you.’ It’s a boring line. The real question is—where is that person standing in relation to the other person? Is he looking away? Directly into the eyes of the other person? What is the inflection? Antonya Nelson has this lecture about the truck at the dump. It’s one kind of scene if a guy says to a woman ‘I love you’ on the sofa in his living room. If your character’s in his truck at the dump with his girlfriend and they’re looking out at the dump, and the rats are scurrying across the garbage gatherings and he says to her, ‘I love you,’ that’s a really different scene. For one thing, she can’t get out of the truck. It’s the Nixon-in-China principle. Get your characters into places they never thought they’d be. Suddenly the scenes get a lot more interesting.”

And this:

“Nobody cares, in fiction, what a character thinks until a character acts on those ideas. You can think anything you want to and it won’t matter until your ideas begin to have certain dramatic consequences. I’m always telling my students that if they’ve got a character thinking, and the character isn’t acting on these thoughts, then it doesn’t matter what the ideas are, and it doesn’t matter where they’re appropriated from. What’s interesting for a writer of fiction is what actions follow. You get a certain idea, you kill a landlady if you’re Raskolnikov.”

*On his site, Charles Baxter includes an excerpt from an unpublished novel written in 1977! Brave man….

Blogging vs. Traditional Writing: Can't We All Be Friends?

Who knows what the future of blogging is and how the rise of blogs will impact traditional writing…I guess these are “exciting” times. Here’s a wonderful essay by Andrew Sullivan from The Atlantic that passionately advocates the beauty and purpose of each form and suggest that the world is—and will continue to be—large enough for both:

“If all this sounds postmodern, that’s because it is. And blogging suffers from the same flaws as postmodernism: a failure to provide stable truth or a permanent perspective. A traditional writer is valued by readers precisely because they trust him to have thought long and hard about a subject, given it time to evolve in his head, and composed a piece of writing that is worth their time to read at length and to ponder. Bloggers don’t do this and cannot do this—and that limits them far more than it does traditional long-form writing.

“A blogger will air a variety of thoughts or facts on any subject in no particular order other than that dictated by the passing of time. A writer will instead use time, synthesizing these thoughts, ordering them, weighing which points count more than others, seeing how his views evolved in the writing process itself, and responding to an editor’s perusal of a draft or two. The result is almost always more measured, more satisfying, and more enduring than a blizzard of posts. The triumphalist notion that blogging should somehow replace traditional writing is as foolish as it is pernicious. In some ways, blogging’s gifts to our discourse make the skills of a good traditional writer much more valuable, not less. The torrent of blogospheric insights, ideas, and arguments places a greater premium on the person who can finally make sense of it all, turning it into something more solid, and lasting, and rewarding.”

(Thanks to GalleyCat for this link.)

Top Writing Contest for College & Grad Students

Now accepting entries…this may be the premiere writing contest for college (undergrad and grad) students:

The Atlantic Monthly invites submissions of poetry, fiction, and personal or journalistic essays for its 2008 Student Writing Contest.

Poetry, fiction, and personal or journalistic essays.

First $1,000 Second: $500 Third: $250 and one-year subscriptions to The Atlantic Monthly for seven runners-up in each category.

ENTRANTS must be full-time undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled in an accredited degree-granting U.S. institution. Submissions should be original, unpublished work (they may have appeared in student periodicals) demonstrating superior quality of expression and craftsmanship.

SUBMISSIONS should not exceed three poems or 7,500 words of prose. No entrant may send more than one submission per category, and entries must be postmarked by December 1, 2008.

MANUSCRIPTS should be typewritten (one side only, please) double-spaced, and accompanied by a cover sheet with the following information: title, category, word count, author's name, address, phone number, e-mail address (if available), and academic institution. Of this information, only the title should appear on the manuscript itself.

PLEASE PROVIDE a stamped, self-addressed postcard for acknowledgement of receipt. We cannot provide information on the status of a manuscript until winners are announced, in the May 2009 issue. Winners will receive notification in March 2009.

Student Writing Contest
The Atlantic Monthly
The Watergate
600 New Hampshire Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037

Monday, October 20, 2008

Books Are about Readers

The November/December issue of Poets & Writers magazine has a great interview with Algonquin editor Chuck Adams (along with many projects in a long career at Simon & Schuster, he acquired for Algonquin the best-selling Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen). You can read the whole interview (plus some that isn’t in the print magazine) here. For now, here are some comments I found especially helpful:

Let's talk about agents. There are a lot of them, and I'm curious about the factors that you would look at if you were a writer, knowing what you know, and had your pick of a few.
I would want them to ask certain questions. "Who do you think the audience for my book will be?" "How do you think my career should progress?" I think writers should be asking about career, not just about selling this particular book. "What do you think I should be working on now to follow-up this book?" I would want a very careful reading of the book in order to make sure that they did read it and really understood it and weren't just hyping me up. I would do as much research as I could. I'd want to know who their other clients are and how their careers are advancing. I'd want to talk to some of their authors, if possible. I'd look at how well the books that this agent has sold are being published.

You want an agent who is both incredibly easy to get along with and incredibly determined to get the best they can for their authors. The best agents are the ones who keep after me and don't leave me alone. You know, "What are you doing? What's going to happen next?" They want to keep on top of things. The ones I'm leery of are the ones I hear from only once or twice a year. Marly Rusoff, for example, is a great agent. She works so hard for her writers. Well, she was an editor, too. I think some of the best agents used to be editors—because they know the business. And so many editors are now agents, of course, because you can make more money.

What are you looking for in a piece of writing?
The first thing is the voice. If it's got a strong voice, I'm going to keep reading. And if a story sneaks in there, I'm going to keep reading. To me, those are the two most important things. I want a voice and I want to be hooked into a story. I believe very strongly that books are not about writers, and they're definitely not about editors—they're about readers. You've got to grab the reader right away with your voice and with the story you're telling. You can't just write down words that sound pretty. It's all about the reader. You've got to bring the reader into it right away. If the writing is poetic and so forth, that's nice. I'm reading something right now that has an amazing voice, and I'm only fifty-six pages into it, but I'm already getting a little tired because it's so nice, if you know what I mean. It's so pretty. It's like every page is a bon bon, and I want a little break somewhere. It's become self-conscious, in a way. I want the author to surprise me and excite me, and so far he hasn't. He's just made me think, "Oh, that's nice." I even called somebody and read them half a page because I thought it was so nice. I don't know. I'll give it another fifty pages and see.

Take Charge of Your Computer

I suppose people who are good with computers already know this stuff and that people like me who are only marginal with computers will read this list and say, “Wow, sounds cool,” and then throw up their hands in despair. Nevertheless, I thought this article in Slate magazine offered some excellent ideas about how best to equip a computer in these modern times. Now, all I need to do is make friends with one of those good-with-computers people who will take pity on me and get my computer revved up.

Maybe I’m out of it (uh, what’s Skype?), and everyone is using this already, but just as example, this sounds pretty amazing:

GrandCentral. This service gives you a single phone number that connects all your phones. When someone calls your GrandCentral number, all your phones (home, work, cell, Skype, etc.) ring—or, depending on rules you can set for the caller or the time of day, a certain subset of the phones ring. It's a great way to manage your voice mail, too—you can have different greetings for different calls, and you can access all your messages through a simple Web interface. The one downside: GrandCentral was purchased by Google in 2007, and it's now limiting the number of new registrations.”

Anyway, here’s the complete article, “The 18 Things You Need for Your Computer,” by Farhad Manjoo.

Which MFA Program Is Right for You?

Interested in applying to an MFA program and feeling overwhelmed by the ten trillion options out there? The MFA Webblog offers a system to help you select the programs that are right for you in this post.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Work in Progress: What to Do When There Is None

No work. No progress. Or, perhaps even worse: lots of work to do, but no enthusiasm to progress on it. How to cope? Perhaps it’s just the post-vacation blues, but I’ve been finding it hard to feel motivated lately. It doesn’t help to tell myself that everyone goes through these patches, that no time is wasted because I’m “thinking” or “collecting material,” that things will be better if I can only “relax.” (Funny how when I pass along this advice to others it all makes perfect sense…but to have to listen to it myself isn’t at all helpful. Note to self: Stop saying this to other people!?)

I knew things were verging on dire when yesterday this is what I used for motivation: I told myself that I would have to spend the evening in immense self-loathing unless I worked on my new novel. Given the choice between the carrot and the stick for self-motivation, I seem to choose the stick every time, which probably says something, though I’m not sure I want to know what exactly that “something” might be.

So, I grudgingly opened up the file for Chapter Two of the new novel, which I hadn’t looked at since early September. Read over the 6 pages I’d written—didn’t love it, but didn’t overly hate it—and just started trying to work. A mountain of laundry was a welcome distraction (the “bing” of a finished load in the basement sent me off my chair like a shot), but even with that chore, I still had to spend a certain amount of time just sitting here in front of the computer, coming up with something. “It doesn’t have to be good,” I reminded myself. (Not to worry…it wasn’t.)

And yet. I did make progress. I wrote more pages. I figured out some new aspects to my characters. I discovered a surprising direction that I hadn’t anticipated. When I stopped for the day (clock-watching all the way), I was at a point where I knew that something interesting would have to happen next, and my exact thought was, “I’ll think of what that is tonight and then I’ll write it tomorrow.”

Write it tomorrow. The stick worked. And I think the trick was that I never told myself that I had to write well…I just had to write. Once I sat down (in fear, yes, but I sat down)—once I sat down, the work came.

Consequently, I was able to spend my evening NOT in self-loathing, enjoying the finale of "Project Runway. " (What presidential debate?) And I was struck by something that happened as the three finalists stood before the judges. As they’d been asked several times in the past—and surely as the finalists must have suspected they’d be asked yet again—the question came: Why should you win Project Runway? (I’m paraphrasing.)

It seems a simple question, and one that anyone should be at least semi-prepared to answer in such a high-stakes situation. And yet two of the women merely blundered on with vague reasons such as “this is my dream” and “this is what I want more than anything.” Only one woman had a half-coherent answer that sold herself as confident and added important information about her collection. Guess who won?

And maybe that was coincidence (I did think her collection was the most visionary and intriguing), but I found myself jumping to my own question: Why do I write? Yes, “writing novels is my dream,” and yes, “writing is what I want more than anything.” But that’s everyone’s answer. Why do I write? Why do I write? Why do I write?

Certainly not for the opportunity to threaten myself with self-loathing. So why?

I think it’s important to periodically remind ourselves of that core question, because that, more than fear of self-loathing, more than hope for fame and fortune, is what keeps us at the desk. So I’ll be pondering that personal question for a few days.

And, in the magic that is coincidence—or the greater magic of the universe providing what one needs—I received via email a newsletter from a small press (Kore Press) this morning that contains a link to an essay that beautifully and perfectly explores this question: Why do I write?

Here’s an excerpt from Kim Eisele’s piece, but please go read the whole thing here. Try the carrot today, not the stick:

“Some days the thought of going to my desk gives me a stomachache. I’ll wish instead that I worked for an insurance broker in some cramped, carpeted office. At least then I’d know what to do. Because sometimes I arrive at my desk and sit there in the doldrums, nowhere to go and no way to get there. If I scream for help, my voice comes out tiny and insignificant; no one at all hears it. When this happens, I can stay away for a few days, a few weeks, months even. Thinking of my work makes my stomach tighten, my heart rate accelerate. Nothing moves. I sigh a lot.

“But then I’ll see something—the edge of light behind a cactus, a grapefruit on a park bench, a forgotten dog on a chain. Or I’ll hear something—the bees in the pepper tree, the slap of rain on the desert pavement, a news story about yet another Mexican migrant dead of overexposure. And a split-second of breeze will blow over me. It will nudge me closer to the horrific or the beautiful and remind me that there are things that must be said. I will recall the elegant swoop and curve of the letters, the gentle rock of sentences in a paragraph. The images and the sounds and their urgency will lift me up and carry me back to my desk.”

And, if you can stand it, there’s another tiny happy ending here: I really did figure out what happens next in my novel, and I’ll be working on Chapter Two in just a few minutes.

Celebrate National Reading Group Month!

Nationally, Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) is the proud sponsor of National Reading Group Month (October). Join the Washington Chapter of WNBA as they celebrate reading groups with this special panel event:

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
7 to 9 PM
Charles Sumner School
1201 17th St., NW
Washington, DC.

Panelists include:
-- Shireen Dodson, author of The Mother-Daughter Book Club: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh and Learn through their Love of Reading;
--Mark La Framboise, book club guru of Politics & Prose;
--Lorine Pergament, book club aficionado;
--Emily Sachs, whose masters thesis was Beyond Oprah: An In-Depth Look at American Book Clubs.

Whether you're looking for a reading group to join, hoping to energize one you're in, or thinking about forming one, this evening should offer inspiration.

FREE for WNBA members, $10 to the public

More info:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Miss Snark Is Back!

I’m a little late to the game, but the beloved Miss Snark, the anonymous agent blogger who educated and entertained so many writers with her on-target advice, delivered with a whopping dose of laugh-out-loud snark, is back! She’s blogging here as herself, literary agent Janet Reid, and, even more delightfully, here, as the Query Shark. Writers are invited to send along their query letter and Janet offers helpful comments along with her reaction to the query: most of what I read yesterday got the dreaded response of “form rejection” so clearly we can all learn from her advice.

Thanks to Hildie Block and Carolyn Parkhurst for passing along this welcome news!

"Flex Your Creative Muscles" Workshop

I spent yesterday getting ready for my upcoming Writer’s Center classes, and though the “Set Yourself Free through Collage” class is full, there are a few spaces left in the “Flex Your Creative Muscles 1-Day Workshop.” Now that things are planned out, I can say with great assurance and immense confidence that this class will be lots of fun and should result in a boatload of inspiration for all participants.

Following are the full description and the registration link:

Flex Your Creative Muscles! A One-Day Workshop

Spend the afternoon doing a series of intensive, guided exercises designed to shake up your brain and get your creative subconscious working for you. You can come with a project already in mind and focus your work toward a deeper understanding of that—or you can come as a blank slate (that will quickly fill up!). Fiction writers and memoirists of all levels are welcome. Please bring lots of paper and pen/pencil or a computer with a fully charged battery. Note: This class will not repeat any of the instructor’s previous exercises, so feel free to attend even if you’ve taken one of her classes before!

Sunday, October 26, 2008
12:30 PM to 5:30 PM

Registration and more information are found here. Or you can email me personally if you have any questions.

Le Dream Job?

You can read here about my delightful (and difficult) experiences last year in Paris (a wonderful trip, though I confess that the only restaurants that ever made me break down and cry with frustration were located in this city; and I couldn’t stand being lost all the time…in the endless rain), so I know I couldn’t possibly run anything French-related. But this has got to be a fabulous opportunity for SOMEONE…maybe you!

Wanted: Resident Director for VCCA (Virginia Center for the Creative Arts) Program in France

The VCCA is seeking a Fellow to manage the VCCA’s Moulin a Nef Studio Center in Auvillar, France, working an average of 25 hours a week in exchange for housing and a small stipend from April through October 2009. Fluency in French is required. Please send a resume and letter of interest to Executive Director Suny Monk by December 1, 2008.

Check the web site for details and more information.

Also, if you’d like to write in France but not necessarily run a program, please note that the VCCA offers fellowship opportunities in France and a number of other countries.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Web Site S.O.S.

If you’re thinking about getting yourself a web site (or if yours is in desperate need of updating/freshening up, as mine is), you will want to check out this article from Writer’s Digest that helps sort out the decisions and steps to take to get your web presence up to speed. Remember, agents and editors will google you, so make sure there’s something professional for them to find, and not just cat photos and 5K race results. I especially liked that this article offered easy, do-it-yourself ideas and resources. You can spend a lot of money on a website, but you don’t have to.

Thanks to Cheryl Somers Aubin for sending along this link!


Maybe you saw or heard this poem already on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. I’ve been sorting through all my stacked up emails and just read it and thought it was so wonderful—and appropriate to the changing seasons—that I had to share it. Read it again, even if you’ve already read it once!

by Greg Watson

I told you once when we were young that
we would someday meet again.
Now, the years flown past, the letters
unwritten, I am not so certain.

It is autumn. There are toothaches hidden
in this wind, there are those determined
to bring forth winter at any cost.
I am resigned to dark blonde shadows

at stoplights, lost in the roadmaps of leaves
which point in every direction at once.
But I am wearing the shirt you stitched
two separate lifetimes ago. It is old

and falling to ash, yet every button blooms
the flowers of your design. I think of this
and I am happy, to have kissed
your mouth with the force of language,
to have spoken your name at all.

"Now" by Greg Watson from The Distance Between Two Hands. © March Street Press, 2008. (buy now)

Monday, October 13, 2008

The Wonderful World of Academia

If you’re presently in (or have ever been in) the market for an academic teaching job and have wondered what goes on behind the scenes in those search committees, check out this series in Rate Your Students. Start here, and scroll upwards (be sure not to miss this!). You’ll get the real, unvarnished truth, perhaps more than you can take:

“Hiring on "merits" is not as easy as it sounds. Certainly on the first go-around we look at basic qualifications: degree (and prestigious degrees are not always that important), field, publications, teaching experience. After that it honestly gets much more personal, because you need to match candidates to the people and situations that already exist in the department. I have one colleague who always wants to hire the Ivy league clone of himself; another that always wants an everyman to balance out Mr. Ivy. If you already have a bunch of very shy people in the dept, you may be drawn the outgoing candidate, or you might want Junior Me, the shy one. I've seen people really warm to a candidate because of non-qualifications: he plays the violin, she is a long-distance runner. There are also serious considerations. Will this candidate appeal to the students at OUR university? We have passed over Ivy leaguers because they couldn't relate to the students, not us. We also ask ourselves whether the person is likely to stay once we hire them. If we keep hiring people who use the job to build their resume and then take off for greener pastures, the Dean will get pissed. So it may appear that we are hiring a lesser candidate from the outside when we know that our own needs are better met.”

The Art of the Spoken Word

This is very cool--

Announcing the Audio Issue of Beltway Poetry Quarterly!

Beltway Poetry's first all-audio issue, co-edited by Kim Roberts and Katie Davis, is now available online. The issue includes collaborations between poets and musicians, recordings produced over layers of sound, and "naked" tracks of poets with distinctive voices that lend themselves particularly well to the audio format.

As Katie Davis says in her recorded introduction, these twenty recordings make a "Beltway Poetry Remix" notable for the "pauses, the way a vowel is pulled and repeated, demanding to be reconsidered."

Contributors, Volume 9, Number 4 (Fall 2008):
Karren L. Alenier * Holly Bass * Regie Cabico * Kenneth Carroll * Joel Dias-Porter * Thomas Sayers Ellis * Brian Gilmore * Michael Gushue * Bernie Jankowski * Rod Jellema * Fred Joiner * Reb Livingston * Greg McBride * May Miller * Miles David Moore * Yvette Neisser Moreno * Gaston Neal * Richard Peabody * Mark Tarallo * Hilary Tham

Audio production provided by Alison Gilbert, Grace Cavalieri, Flawn Williams, and others.

A treat for your ears…all found right here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Writer's Center Reading: Delmarva Review

Internet weirdness over here, so this may be all for today...and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that THIS gets posted after several attempts....

Anyway, this should be a good reading! You may remember Paula Whyman writing for the blog, most recently about her “book proposal” for The Life of the Unsuccessful Writer (here), and Sean Enright has shared his thoughts here about the “impossibility” of teaching poetry.

Here are the details:

Support a local literary journal! This Sunday, The Writer's Center hosts the Delmarva Review. There will be a reading of authors published in the first issue of the journal. Readers include Sean Enright, Barbara Esstman, Martin Galvin, and Paula Whyman.

Sunday, Oct. 12 at 2:00p.m.
The Writer’s Center
4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD 20815
301 654-8664
Register for the event here

Sean Enright's poems have appeared in Triquarterly, Threepenny Review, The Sewanee Review, The Kenyon Review, Verse, Tikkun, and other journals. He is the author of Goof and Other Stories, and has taught at the University of Maryland and The Writer's Center.

Barbara Esstman is co-editor of A More Perfect Union, and author of The Other Anna and Night Ride Home. Both novels were adapted for TV film by Hallmark Productions, and her short stories have been recognized by The Pushcart Prize and Redbook. She leads workshops at The Writer's Center.

Martin Galvin's poems have appeared in many publications, including Poetry, The New Republic, Atlantic Monthly, Poetry East, and in anthologies including Best American Poetry 1997, Poets Against the War, and DC Poets Against the War. He has published several books of poems, including Wild Card. He is the reviews editor of Poet Lore.

Paula Whyman is recipient of a 2008 Maryland State Arts Council grant, a fellowship from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Washington Writing Prize. Her work appears in Writes of Passage: Coming-of-Age Stories and Memoirs from the Hudson Review.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Mexico: Highly Recommended!

We’re back from Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and I've started the big dig of trying to get through all the things I put off doing to get ready to leave, compounded by all the things that accumulated while I was gone. But no complaints...vacation is a "good thing," as Martha would say.

Here’s a quick top 10 from a fabulous trip (in no particular order):

--Enchiladas at The Shed. These were so delicious that I broke one of the major rules I live my life by and we ate here TWICE on one trip.

--Margaritas at Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen. After exhaustive research, Maria’s won the Great Margarita Hunt…no surprise, since the restaurant features more than 100 different tequilas.

--Los Alamos, “the town that never was.” During the work on the Manhattan Project, babies who were born in Los Alamos were issued a birth certificate that stated their birthplace as “Box 1663, Santa Fe.” Very interesting history and a provocative, fairly balanced science museum. And the views driving to and from were outstanding (at least for me…Steve was busy trying to keep the car from going off the edge of the cliff).

--Cilantro rice at Café Pasqual’s. A simple dish, prepared perfectly…our whole lunch was excellent, but this was the recipe that seemed achievable. Oops—should also mention Steve’s mole, which was fabulous. And the blackberry pie. Darn it…we should have gone there a second time!

--Cooking class at the Santa Fe School of Cooking. The chef responsible for frying up the chile rellenos and rolling out the flour tortillas was poetry in motion. He made chile rellenos look do-able. I have the recipe (and bought a cookbook), so we’ll see….

--Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Despite some issues with rain—and the natural horror Steve and I feel at the prospect of being crammed into a fairgrounds with 100,000 other people—we had a great time admiring hot air balloons fired up and glowing at night. The next morning, as we packed to head to the airport, hundreds of balloons rose up across the sky outside our hotel room window—one of them coming so close that we waved to the men in the gondola from our window!

--The “How the West Is One” exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum in Santa Fe, which traced the remarkable evolution of the New Mexico/Santa Fe art scene, with its myriad of influences. A tight, well-curated, and educational exhibit. The only disappointment was that the exhibit book only came in a 25-pound hardcover at the too-hefty-for-me price of $55.

--Galleries on Canyon Road. Steve went to a brewery tour while I toured dozens of beautiful art galleries and became dizzy with the creative energy I encountered. More on this later, but it was an exhilarating experience. (Steve enjoyed the tasting at the Santa Fe Brewing Company—and since he liked that he didn’t have to walk around all afternoon looking at art and I liked that I didn’t have to spend a beautiful day inside sipping beer that all tastes the same to me, it was a spectacular win-win for us!)

--Antique Native American artifacts. When I have an extra $125,000, I will be buying a Nez Pierce dress from the 1820s. Or maybe a Navajo blanket from the 1880s. It’s really hard to decide. In the meantime, THANK YOU, galleries like Sherwood’s, for having such beautiful work on display and for sharing your knowledge and passion with regular folks like us.

--And I have to conclude with food: it was ALL good. The most mediocre enchilada in New Mexico would be a winner compared to what passes for an enchilada here in the DC area. I can’t wait for all my chile sauce/chile powder/cookbooks to arrive via UPS. (That darn 50-pound limit for suitcases that airlines have so cruelly imposed….)

It’s a shame that I can’t mention the rattlesnake museum, the Palace of the Governors, the night we ate chips and three salsas for dinner, the petroglyphs, the Mexican mocha at the Plaza Café, our historic walking tour of Santa Fe, the sweet woman we met at the religious artifacts store who gave us husband/wife religious medals, the views from the Sandia Peak tramway (but NOT the 1 ½ hour wait to board going up AND down), the Gondola Club …….

But in the end, there’s no place like home. Ha, ha. I’d go back in a millisecond!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Editorial Advice Available at the Fitzgerald Conference

According to this announcement, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference is making a few changes this year:

Professional Literary Advice from Top Editors and Consultants

Many writers-from the aspiring to the established-already know about the impressive highlights of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Conference coming up this October 25 in Rockville, Md. Registrants will have the opportunity to learn from such pros as Elmore "Dutch" Leonard, Susan Cheever, George Pelecanos, Laura Lippman, and many others. Writers can participate in workshops with subjects ranging from novel structure to the relationship between authors and publishers.

For the first time, the Fitzgerald Conference offers writers the opportunity of a one-on-one meeting with a literary magazine editor or literary consultant Amy Holman. This is an opportunity for aspiring authors to sit face-to-face for 20 minutes discussing your manuscript in a scheduled appointment.

How it works:
* once you've registered for the conference, you can sign up for an appointment with the consultant of your choice for only $30. Contact the conference via or 240-567-4100 to schedule and to pay and to submit your mss.
* you'll have the opportunity to submit your manuscript (Fiction 12-15 pages; Poetry 5-7 pages) - the deadline is Saturday, October 11.
* during the conference, you'll sit down with the literary consultant and discuss your work.

Participating editors include ...
* Mark Drew of The Gettysburg Review
* Gregory Donovan of Blackbird
* Patricia Schultheis of Narrative.
* Mary Flinn of Blackbird
* Amy Holman, literary consultant

Registration and more information is here or call (301) 309-9461. These consultations are first come, first scheduled. First register for the conference, then your manuscript must be received by October 11 (Fiction 12-15 pages, Poetry 5-7 pages).

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Surefire Formula for Guaranteed Success in Your Writing

I’ve been reading Good-bye to All That, which is a classic memoir about World War I, written by British poet/novelist/translator Robert Graves. The book was written in 1929, in a big rush—only 11 weeks—and was successful enough that Graves was able to focus on writing for the rest of his life (he was the author of more than 120 books--!!).

Historian Paul Fussell wrote the introduction to my edition and included this amusing piece that Graves wrote about the writing of his book; Graves really, really, really, REALLY wanted it to be a successful and popular book, and here’s how he went about achieving that goal:

“I…deliberately mixed in all the ingredients that I know are mixed into other popular books. For instance, while I was writing, I reminded myself that people like reading about food and drink, so I searched my memory for the meals that have had significance in my life and put them down. And they like reading about murders, so I was careful not to leave out any of the six or seven that I could tell about. Ghosts, of course. There must, in every book of this sort, be at least one ghost story with a possible explanation, and one without any explanation, except that it was a ghost. I put in three or four ghosts that I remembered.

“And kings…People also like reading about other people’s mothers…And they like hearing about T.E. Lawrence, because he is supposed to be a mystery man…And of course the Prince of Wales.

“People like reading about poets. I put in a lot of poets…Then, of course, Prime Ministers…A little foreign travel is usually needed’ I hadn’t done much of this, but I made the most of what I had. Sport is essential…Other subjects of interest that could not be neglected were school episodes, love affairs (regular and irregular), wounds, weddings, religious doubts, methods of bringing up children, sever illnesses, suicides. But the best bet of all is battles, and I had been in two quite good ones….

“So it was easy to write a book that would interest everybody….”

There you have it, the secret of your success! I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, but a couple days after reading this, I found myself pondering whether I could squeeze a ghost into my historical novel.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Work in Progress: Are You Searching for Perfection?

Hey—how’s your writing going? Is your latest story/novel/essay/poem/memoir perfect? Mine neither. Ugh.

Getting discouraged? Would you like ONE perfect thing in your life? Yeah, me too.

Is perfect pound cake one of your lifetime goals? Yes! Yes! Me too!

I may not be able to make your writing perfect, but I can show you the pathway to perfect pound cake…and be assured, that this pound cake bears absolutely NO resemblance to that dry, bland, plastic-wrapped crud from the grocery store bakery. Simply follow this recipe exactly and you will have one area of perfection in your life!

This recipe is from an amazingly precise—and demanding—but worthwhile—cookbook called The Best Recipe by the editors of COOK’S ILLUSTRATED magazine. On the cover: “Would you make 38 versions of crème caramel to find the absolute best version? We did. Here are 700 exhaustively tested recipes plus no-nonsense kitchen tests and tastings.” The recipes can be intense, but none has ever failed me. Here’s the edition I use, from 1999, and here’s the new edition, updated in 2004. Highly recommended.

Anyway, this cake is pretty easy as long as you have a mixer—just do exactly what the recipe says:

½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 large eggs, plus 3 large yolks, room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons water
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups plain cake flour

1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 ½ loaf pan (7 ½ cup capacity)* with vegetable shortening or spray. Line bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper by placing two pieces of paper, one lengthwise and one crosswise, into pan.

2. Beat butter in bowl of electric mixer set at medium-high speed until smooth and shiny, about 15 seconds. With machine still on, take about 30 seconds to sprinkle in sugar. Beat mixture until light, fluffy, and almost white, 4 to 5 minutes, stopping mixer once or twice to scrape down sides of bowl.

3. Mix eggs, yolks, vanilla, and water in a 2-cup glass measure with a pour spout. With mixer set at medium-high speed, add egg mixture to butter/sugar mixture in a very slow, thin stream. Finally, beat in salt.

4. Remove bowl from mixer stand. Turn ½ cup of flour into sieve or shaker; sprinkle it over the batter. Fold gently with rubber spatula, scraping up from bottom of the bowl, until flour is incorporated. Repeat twice more, adding flour in ½ cup increments.

5. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with a spatula or wooden spoon. Bake until cake needle or tester inserted into crack running along top comes out clean, 70 to 80 minutes. Let cake rest in pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto wire rack. Place second wire rack on cake bottom, then turn cake top side up.** Cool to room temperature, remove and discard parchment, wrap cake in plastic, then foil. Store cake at room temperature.

The recipe also notes that you can double it and bake the cake in a large, nonstick bundt pan (14 cup) for the same amount of time. Also, “though best when freshly baked, the cake will keep reasonably well for four to five days.” If you can keep it around your house that long!

*basic loaf pan

**I usually leave some overhang on the parchment and use that to pull the cake straight out of the pan.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tiny Masters: An Approach to Personal Essays

Brevity Magazine has published this interesting craft essay by Sherry Simpson about writing personal essays:

“The notion of tiny masters comes from author and New Yorker writer Susan Orlean, who once explained that she’s most interested in writing about people who are masters of their “tiny domains.” (She meant orchid thieves, 10-year-old boys, female bullfighters, Maui surfer girls, and The Shaggs, among others.) Adapting her approach to personal essays can help writers discover a rich subject near at hand – something they already know a lot about, something that interests them. It helps shift the focus from writing exclusively about the self to writing about knowledge, ideas and processes. As writers explore their mastery on the page, they instinctively begin playing with structure and making connections they never knew existed. Meaning begins emerging naturally from their drafts, pointing the way to future revisions.”

College Essay Contest

Not sure if this company is going to sign you up for something or what, but for a chance at $5K in scholarship money, it seems worth taking some time to investigate:

"Education Matters" $5K Scholarship

In the second half of 2008, is offering the "Education Matters" $5K Scholarship. One scholarship recipient will be chosen to receive a $5,000 scholarship. Applicants must:
Be thirteen (13) years of age or older at the time of application

Be legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia

Be currently enrolled (or enroll no later than the fall of 2014) in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher education

Complete an online scholarship search profile at

Submit an online short written response (250 words or less) for the question: "What would you say to someone who thinks education doesn't matter, or that college is a waste of time and money?"

Deadline: October 31, 2008
More details here and here.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.