Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Reading: Bonnie Jo Campbell & Moby Dick

Last night I finished American Salvage, Bonnie Jo Campbell’s collection of stories, and it was amazing. One of the few collections that I read in entirety, in order, and in spite of myself: I’d only planned to read one or two stories now just to get the flavor. Set in working class Michigan, these stories are about people skulking along the fringes of society—which doesn’t diminish their stories or make their lives less worthy of exploration. Meth addicts (and the people who love them), survivalists, salvage yard workers, silent children, the PhD in agriculture who knows she can improve her husband’s family farm…all are treated with compassion and humanity and dark, emotional honesty.

Here’s the opening paragraph of “Bringing Belle Home”:

“A man who trusted himself to own a gun could walk into the place and shoot these guys, one after another, watch the glass fly: Jack Daniels, Jim Beam, Yukon Jack, Johnny Walker Red. The bartender pocketed a dollar-fifty tip and smiled. Thomssen grinned and saluted, but he felt the grin pull tight across his face like a scar, and he might have been saluting the liquor army. He could resist coming here most days of the week, and he rarely came when his son was visiting, but on nights like tonight when he dropped Billy off at his ex-wife’s, when he couldn’t face his own empty house, he allowed himself a few hours. He was tall enough to see everyone in the place, and he told himself he was glad Belle wasn’t there to complicate things.”

Here’s an excerpt from a starred review in Booklist:
“Campbell’s busted-broke, damaged, and discarded people are rich in longing, valor, forgiveness and love, and readers themselves will feel salvaged and transformed by the gutsy book’s fierce compassion.”

As you may recall, this was the small press book (originally published by Wayne State University Press) that was seemingly plucked from nowhere and announced as a finalist for the National Book Award in 2009. I had to look up which book actually won the award—(Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin, which is I guess a fine book—but I can imagine that in the stacks of books under consideration that the overwhelmed judges were trying to hone down to five, American Salvage had to be un-ignorable and unforgettable; surely this one leapt to the top of the pile and absolutely could not be dislodged.

This one is going straight to my “favorite books shelf.” Buy this book!

Scroll down to the May 3 entry of this blog for an amusing (and helpful) list of writing advice Bonnie Jo Campbell has given writing students over the years.


And now that I’ve finished American Salvage, I’m free to embark upon my big summer reading goal: Moby Dick. I’m on page 52—only 450 more to go!—and so far I’m loving it.

I’ve even laughed out loud a few times, which I wouldn’t have expected—though it’s hard not to when we’re told of the “savage” Queequeg: “His greatest admirer could not have cordially justified his bringing his harpoon into breakfast [at the inn] with him, and using it there without ceremony, reaching over the table with it, to the imminent jeopardy of many heads, and grappling the beefsteaks towards him. But that was certainly very coolly done by him, and everyone knows that in most people’s estimation, to do anything coolly is to do it genteelly.”

Disclosure per the FTC overlords: American Salvage was a birthday gift, and I bought Moby Dick at a used bookstore, confident I wasn't cheating Herman Melville's family out of any royalties.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Split This Rock Poetry Contest

Here’s an announcement from DC’s Split This Rock poetry festival (again, a lot of lead time, so no excuses for missing this deadline!):

Split This Rock 2011
Fourth Annual Adult Poetry Contest

Benefits Split This Rock Poetry Festival - Washington, DC

$1,000 awarded for poems of provocation and witness
Jan Beatty, Judge

Submission Guidelines:

--Send up to 3 unpublished poems, no more than 6 pages total, in any style, in the spirit of Split This Rock (see below).

--Postmark Deadline: November 1, 2010

--Include one cover page containing your name, address, phone number, email, and the titles of your poems. (This is the only part of the submission that should contain your name.)

--Enclose a check or money order for $25 (made out to "Split This Rock") to:
Split This Rock Poetry Contest
1112 16th Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036

--Simultaneous submissions OK, but please notify us immediately if the poem is accepted elsewhere. For more information,


First place $500; 2nd and 3rd place, $250 each. Winners will receive free festival registration, and the 1st-place winner will be invited to read the winning poem at Split This Rock Poetry Festival, 2012.

Winning poems will be published on

Reading fee of $25 supports Split This Rock Poetry Festival.

Submissions should be in the spirit of Split This Rock: socially engaged poems, poems that reach beyond the self to connect with the larger community or world; poems of provocation and witness. This theme can be interpreted broadly and may include but is not limited to work addressing politics, economics, government, war, leadership; issues of identity (gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability, body image, immigration, heritage, etc.); community, civic engagement, education, activism; and poems about history, Americana, cultural icons.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Recommended Reading: Susan Coll's Beach Week

My writing group has been especially productive, and I’m happy to bring to your attention the hilarious new book by Susan Coll: Beach Week, which deserves to shoot to the top of your summer reading list. Susan swooped through our group, bringing in chapters that made me laugh out loud, then totally rewriting them, turning them sharper and making me laugh even harder. It was a joy to watch this book unfold and to watch these D.C. suburban parents get skewered.

Here’s the book description from Susan’s website:

"Ah, “beach week”: a time-honored tradition in which the D.C. suburbs’ latest herd of high school grads flocks to Chelsea Beach for seven whole days of debauched celebration. In this dark comedy, ten teenage girls plan an unhinged blowout the likes of which their young lives have never seen. They smuggle vodka in water bottles and horde prescription drugs by the dozen. Meanwhile, their misguided, affluent parents are too busy worrying about legal liabilities to fret over some missing pills or random hookups.

"Susan Coll satirizes a new teenage rite of passage, in the process dismantling the lives of families in transition. Beach Week is a hilarious, well-observed look at the end of childhood and the human need to commemorate it—expensively."

She has a number of readings at the beach (lucky duck!) and an upcoming reading in DC, where I will be, sitting in the front row, laughing:
Thursday, July 8, 7 p.m.
Politics and Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC
Details here (scroll down).

Here’s a funny piece Susan wrote about her fear of Facebook.

And here’s Susan’s blog about…parking! (Yes, also funny!)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Until Next Week...

I declare today a birthday holiday from blogging…and now, let the wild rumpus start!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three Things: Bret Easton Ellis Reading, Plot & Structure, Silence & Writing

I picked up this link off Facebook; it’s a great, basic explanation of structure for novels and stories:


“I. The Central Conflict

Every story is a battle.

(P)________must have (G)_______

(A)________must have (G)_______

The story is launched when the protagonist pushes to achieve her goal.
The story is shaped when the antagonist pushes to achieve his goal.
The back-and-forth cause-and-effect pushing and blocking of goals is the fuel for the story.
For the story to have a tight structure and focused central conflict, the actions of both the protagonist and antagonist must directly block their opponents’ pursuit of their goals.”


Another pick-up from Facebook (I promise I’ve been working, honest!): this excellent article in The New Republic about the need for silence while writing, not sound-wise, but time-wise:

“Writing, before it is anything else, is a way of clarifying one’s thoughts. This is obviously true of forms such as the diary, which are inherently solitary. But even those of us who write for publication can conclude, once we have clarified certain thoughts, that these thoughts are not especially valuable, or are not entirely convincing, or perhaps are simply not thoughts we want to share with others, at least not now. For many of us who love the act of writing—even when we are writing against a deadline with an editor waiting for the copy—there is something monastic about the process, a confrontation with one’s thoughts that has a value apart from the proximity or even perhaps the desirability of any other reader.”


I went to the Bret Easton Ellis reading on Monday night and am glad I did. Packed house, and after a horrifying introduction (the woman started out by bragging about how her women’s studies class included Ellis’s name on a list of “people who should be removed from the culture”…it got better, and I’m sure I’m just too old and not hipster enough to “get it” but I thought the intro was off-putting and tacky). Ellis read a very short section from Imperial Bedrooms and took questions from an audience who was quite knowledgeable about his work.

A few interesting points (paraphrased; I didn’t take notes):

--American Pscyho came from Ellis’s own feelings of alienation and isolation and disappointment in the world. He called it (and the others) a “personal book.”

--He doesn’t show his work to anyone—anyone!—before sending it his agent. He noted that his editor was the main person who made suggestions/comments on the work. I was shocked. I can’t imagine what it would be like not to have early readers to bounce ideas off and to see what is/isn’t working (thank you, writing group!).

--Major influences: Hemingway, Didion, Carver.

--He doesn’t wear the designer clothes that his characters wear (I knew you were wondering).

There was a tremendous line for signing, and even so, Ellis personalized books and took a moment to chat, so lots of points for being gracious. And something must have worked, because I came home and read the book immediately.

Even so, after finishing it, I’m not sure what to say. It was both tedious (passive people who don’t communicate can be frustrating!) and yet compelling (short, quickly paced, with deep paranoia and a definite narrative pull). The female characters were shallow and ludicrously undeveloped (but, I guess, so were the male characters). The violence was horrific. The ending was wretched and hopeless and upsetting (though not surprising). Noir to the nth power. And yet: something about this dark, disturbing book is sticking with me. Is our culture really as bad as this? I hope not…but I’m not convinced that Clay’s heart of darkness comes from thin air.

More about Imperial Bedrooms—including an excerpt—here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jenny McKean Moore Free Community Workshop: Creative Nonfiction

NOTE:  If you're looking for information on the Fall 2011 workshop, go here:

I don’t know why the George Washington University can’t put this information on a WEB SITE like everyone else…but here it is, information about the next Jenny McKean Moore Free Community Workshop, typed by my own fingers. I participated in this program way back when and highly recommend the experience. Deadline for applications is August 30, but since when is planning ahead a bad idea?

Jenny McKean Moore Free Community Workshop
Fall 2010—Creative Nonfiction: Biography and Autobiography
The George Washington University

Tuesdays, 7—9 PM
September 14—December 7, 2010

Led by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Come and take part in a semester-long workshop in creative non-fiction—the art of using the strategies of fiction to tell true stories about history, place, and biography. To apply, you do NOT need academic qualifications or publications. The class will be a craft-based workshop that focuses on different approaches to writing biography and autobiography, and it will combine readings, writing exercises, and peer-review of the writing of participants. There are no fees to participate in the class, but you will be responsible for the costs of some photocopies. Students at Consortium schools (including GWU) are not eligible. The Workshop is not open to those who have participated in more than one Jenny McKean Moore Free Community Workshop.

To apply, please submit a letter of interest and a 5-10 page sample of your writing. Make sure you include your name, address, home and work telephone numbers, and email address. If you wish to have your sample returned, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Applications must be received at the following address by close of business on Monday, August 30, 2010.
JMM Creative Nonfiction Workshop
Department of English
The George Washington University
801 22nd Street, NW (Suite 760)
Washington, DC 20052

Tilar J. Mazzeo, an associate professor at Colby College, is the Jenny McKean Moore Writer in Washington for 1010-2011. She is the author of the New York Times bestselling biography The Widow Clicquot and The Secret of Chanel No. 5.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bret Easton Ellis Reading Tonight

I may haul myself off to Politics & Prose to listen to Bret Easton Ellis read from his new novel, Imperial Bedrooms, the sequel to Less Than Zero.

Reading details are here.

Or, maybe this book description from the Politics & Prose website gives us the general gist of how those characters turned out: In this sequel to Less Than Zero, Ellis explores the lives of Clay, now a screenwriter; Trent, a producer, married to Clay’s old girlfriend; and Rip, who runs an escort service. All are hurtling out of control in the fast lane of Los Angeles, with its deals, drugs, and sex.

I guess I wasn’t assuming they’d all live happily ever after, but this sounds pretty bleak!

Official website—including an excerpt—is here.

I can’t quite decide if I should go or not; will this reading be worth braving rush hour traffic for?—

Pro: (from an interview with New York Magazine)
When he was outlining Imperial Bedrooms, Ellis was reading Raymond Chandler. “I was thinking about the Hollywood novel, and the Hollywood myth of exploitation. People using each other.” As he sees it, the issue with Clay “has to do with narcissism. I was very interested in the question of what happens when a narcissist hits the wall? And what happens when all the tricks he’d been using, or all the things that were fulfilling, were feeding his narcissism, weren’t working?”

Con: (from the same interview)
Ellis has always been seduced by money and fame, and that hasn’t changed. “Maybe it’s a weird strain of anti-intellectualism,” he says, but if given a choice he’d rather “hang out with Rob Pattinson than Richard Ford.”

Pro: I can get my hardcover of Less Than Zero signed.

Con: It's not a first edition.

Pro: I can weasel out of cooking dinner for Steve...decided. See you there.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Report from South Carolina

The MFA residency at Converse College already seems like a million years ago, even though while I was there I pretty much forgot everything about my regular life back here (grocery shopping? what’s that?). Here are a few highlights from my 10 days in Spartanburg, SC:

--The crop of new fiction students. Of course the old crop was pretty darn fine, but it was wonderful to have some new faces and get to see their work. They were all energetic and eager to learn; several of them were brave enough to read at the student reading, doing our genre proud! Our class developed a good vibe, perhaps because we spent the first three days on craft discussions rather than jumping straight into the critiques (“Hi, nice to meet you—now let me tell you everything that’s wrong with your story.”). It was fun to teach with Marlin Barton, too, whose Alabama accent made every comment about writing seem as though it were coming straight from Faulkner. The best class is the one in which I come away inspired, and this was definitely one of those.

--Claudia Emerson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who was our keynote reader/speaker. Her opening night reading was moving and beautiful and evocative and sad…and to top it off, she and her husband sang a funny, sharp ballad at the end of the reading, proving that poetry literally does equal music. I bought her book Late Wife, and read half of it during our “rest day.” Intense and amazing: poems about a painful marriage and subsequent divorce and poems about the death of her second husband’s first wife (before she knew him).

--Fried oysters. You knew it wouldn’t take long before some food showed up, right? This trip was a little less food-intensive than some, but I do have to make a special plea that if you’re in Greenville, SC, the fried oysters at High Cotton are AMAZING. Even my non-oyster-loving friend writer Susan Tekulve was convinced…I had ordered the appetizer saying, “We can share,” secretly pleased when she said she didn’t much like oysters and would maybe try one…and then after she tried her “one,” we truly did “share.” But that actually made me happy, too, watching someone discover the joy of oysters…probably almost as happy as if I’d eaten the whole plate myself. [Note: There’s a branch of this restaurant in Charleston, SC, too.]

--Fat Tire beer. I don’t typically care about beer, but the crowd was ordering beer, and so I glommed on. This beer from Colorado is worth remembering. (If only I’d known about it way back when at AWP in Denver!)

--Poet Sarah Kennedy’s reading. Sarah is on the Converse College faculty and I have heard her read several times and have been totally impressed. For this reading, though, Sarah read from her earlier books, Consider the Lilies and Double Exposure, incredibly dark and sharp poems about family estrangement that made me want to sob and leave the room and yet also not miss one word. I bought both of these books immediately—honestly, right out of her very hand, with the torn scraps of paper bookmarkers still in them—and read the first half of Consider the Lilies on the “rest day.” Wow.

--Am I allowed to say my own reading? I say that because I got to read with the inspiring Dan Wakefield (whose memoir New York in the Fifties is awesome), and it was a treat to hear a section of his new memoir and a humbling honor for me to listen to him announce to everyone that my craft lecture had inspired his work-in-progress in a specific and dramatic way. Afterwards, a group of us sat around late into the night and swapped those kinds of stories about other writers and ourselves that you would never dare put into writing on a public blog. An amazing night, plus I liked the dress I wore, too!

--The farmer’s market in Durham, NC. I stayed overnight there to visit my sister, and she took me to the Saturday market, where I drooled over beautiful beets and leeks (not even the glamour vegetables, and they were amazing!) and blackberries about the size of golf balls, sold by the bucketful.

Honestly, this is only a teeny-tiny taste of the whole marvelous and overwhelmingly intense experience—as they say, wish you were there!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Sane Response to "20 Under 40"

Because I was away, I’m only just now getting around to reading the “20 Under 40” issue of The New Yorker (so far, ZZ Packer’s is the most compelling story, though I’m suspecting it may be part of a longer work).

Beyond the work, though, are the feelings such lists dredge up, and here, Steve Almond captures it all:

“It is perfectly natural – perhaps inevitable – to dream of being “discovered” and rocketed to the top of the Bestseller list. As Americans, we’ve been trained to dream in this way.

“But the real life of a writer resides in showing up at the keyboard every day, with the necessary patience and mercy, and making the best decisions you can on behalf of your people. It’s a slow process. It often feels hopeless, more like an affliction than an art form.

“Most of us will have to find our readers one by one, in other words, and against considerable resistance. If anything qualifies us as heroic, it’s that private perpetual struggle.

“Put down the magazine, soldier. Forget about the other guy. Remember who you are.”

If you’re feeling, let’s say, “disgruntled” (nice word!), do yourself a favor and read the whole piece in the Rumpus.

The Post Gets It Right

The Washington Post weighs in on Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Nobodies Album, featured yesterday on the blog:

“A number of ambitious and winning novels have been written about novelists themselves, from Margaret Atwood's "The Blind Assassin" to Ian McEwan's "Atonement" and Carol Shields's "Unless." Add to the list now D.C. author Carolyn Parkhurst's "The Nobodies Album." Not just a book about a novelist in action, it's also a meditation on writing itself and on the curious intersections between the imagined world and the real one.

“…the book succeeds in probing nuanced issues of guilt and innocence through an intricate collage of memories and musings, with excerpts from Octavia's novels and passages from Milo's lyrics. Milo's band is Pareidolia, defined here as "the human tendency to find meaning where there is none," but Octavia is more optimistic about purpose and meaning and about answering some emotionally richer questions. How should you raise a child? How do you deal with grief? What if you make a mistake? Or many? Is redemption elusive?

“Those are some real mysteries, well worth grappling with.”

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Carolyn Parkhurst: The Nobodies Album

I promise that I’ll write up a report on the trip to South Carolina in a day or two, but today I wanted to alert everyone to a fabulous new, must-read book: Carolyn Parkhurst’s The Nobodies Album. The official publication date is today, but the buzz has already started with a review in the New York Times, and a review is set for tomorrow’s Washington Post.

Carolyn is in my writing group, so perhaps I’m biased, but this book is funny and inventive and utterly compelling. Our discussions of each chapter as it showed up in the group always ended with someone saying to her, “Wow, I don’t know how you’re going to pull this one off.” I’m happy to report she did, writing about a writer rewriting the ends of her novels…and if that’s not enough, wrapping all that around a murder mystery.

Here’s the description from Carolyn’s website, so you’ll see why we were all in awe:

“Bestselling novelist Octavia Frost has just completed her latest book — a revolutionary novel in which she has rewritten the last chapters of all her previous books, removing clues about her personal life concealed within, especially a horrific tragedy that befell her family years ago.

“On her way to deliver the manuscript to her editor, Octavia reads a news crawl in Times Square and learns that her rock-star son, Milo, has been arrested for murder. Though she and Milo have not spoken years — in an estrangement stemming from that tragic day — she drops everything to go to him.

"The last chapters of Octavia's novel are layered throughout The Nobodies Album — the scattered puzzle pieces to her and Milo's dark and troubled past. Did she drive her son to murder? Did Milo murder anyone at all? And what exactly happened all those years ago? As the novel builds to a stunning conclusion, Octavia must consider how this story will end.”

(You can read an excerpt here.)

And one of the fun things about a writer writing about a writer is all the inside knowledge brought into the book. Carolyn put together a wickedly funny “website” for “author” Octavia Frost, the protagonist of The Nobodies Album. Here’s an excerpt from Octavia’s “blog”:

“Recently, I have been advised by a number of well-meaning and media-savvy associates that it might be in my interest to begin writing a blog. They seem to be under the impression that my reluctance is the result of age-related stodginess and technophobia, and that if they can just show me how simple it is, I'll become an enthusiastic adopter. (Look, Grandma! The picture-box has the same programs you listen to on the radio, but now you can see the characters!) They talk about “immediacy” and “fresh content” and “repeated site visits.” They describe readers hungry for “a glimpse into my mind.”

In fact, therein lies the problem. If you've read any of my books—which I would never assume you have, though I can't imagine what you'd be doing here otherwise—then you've already gotten a glimpse into my mind. And what you've gotten is the good glimpse. You know that old line about starting with a block of marble and carving away anything that doesn't look like an elephant? There's a reason sculptors don't save the discarded rubble and put it on display. …

So. Here, for the first and last time, is a sampling of the entries I'm not going to write and you, therefore, don't have to read: …

My musings about “the value of literature,” spurred by an email I received in which a potential reader asked whether my latest novel is “worth” the $23.95 it costs to procure it, or whether she should wait for the paperback. (Interestingly, she didn't seem worried that it wouldn't be worth the $13.50.) Some ironic comments (in which I'm not quite able to hide my bitterness) about the fact that any one of my books can be purchased online for a penny, plus shipping.

Carolyn will be reading TONIGHT at the Borders on Route 7 in lovely suburban Virginia, and on July 11 at Politics and Prose in DC as well as a number of other cities. More details can be found here.

What more can I say, except this: you must read this book!

Disclosure per the FTC Overlords: This is pure enthusiasm for a great book, nothing free involved, unless you count the pieces of paper on which Carolyn’s manuscript draft chapters were printed which arrived in the mail at my house, until midway through the writing process of this book, the writing group decided to email the ms. instead, at which time I paid for the paper myself.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Alice McDermott

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15sh.

I think I read this in an interview in the AWP magazine years ago. I find it oddly comforting.

“I write the first half of a novel without knowing what I’m doing. I write the second half knowing exactly what I’m doing and that I’m totally wrong in doing it.”
~~Alice McDermott

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Rilke

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

This one works whether you’re a beginning writer or have been at it a while. It may be my most favorite writing quotation ever.

“There is no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing. Being an artist means not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer. It does come…patience is everything.” ~~Rilke

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writing Wisdom: More John Gardner

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

More John Gardner…they’ll have to pry his writing books out of my cold, dead hands, I love them so!

“Really good fiction has a staying power that comes from its ability to jar, turn on, move the whole intellectual and emotional history of the reader. If the reader is a house, the really good book is a jubilant party that spreads through every room of it, or else a fire.” ~~John Gardner

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Carolyn Forche

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

I have no idea where I read this, but it’s very smart.

“Quit worrying about whether or not it’s good and worry about whether or not it’s true.”
~~Carolyn Forche

Monday, June 7, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Diane Ackerman

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

I think I read this in Glimmer Train…back when I was younger!

“A writer’s life is only ever acceptance or rejection, surfeit or famine, and nothing in between. That’s an emotionally draining way to live. As a result, it isn’t necessary to discourage young writers. Life will do that soon enough. There are yards of writers under the age of thirty, but not many who stay the course. The ones who do aren’t necessarily the most gifted, but those who can focus well, discipline themselves, persevere through hard times, and spring back after rejections that would cripple others.” ~~Diane Ackerman

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Ernest Gaines

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

Ernest Gaines led my workshop one of the years I was at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and I wrote this down in my notebook and underlined it about a million times:

“Write with fire and edit with ice.” ~~Ernest Gaines

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Writing Wisdom: Einstein

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

I can’t remember where I found this one, but I love the feeling that science also relies on creativity:

“The intellect has little to do with the road to discovery.” --Albert Einstein

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shrimp and Grits!

Just a quick—but important—note: the Weathervane in Chapel Hill, NC, has amazing shrimp and grits and also a very nice, light summery aperitif made with sauvignon blanc, club soda, and elderflower liqueur.

Writing Wisdom: John Gardner, Writing Teacher God

I’m off in beautiful Spartanburg, SC, teaching in the Converse College Low-Residency MFA Program, so I’m posting some of my favorite quotations about writing. I’ll be back to blogging around June 15ish.

I think I find a reason to quote this in every single workshop I teach:

“…in fiction every element has effect on every other, so that to change a character’s name from Jane to Cynthia is to make the fictional ground shudder under her feet.” ~~John Gardner


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