Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Link Corral: DIY Ebooks ~ In the Editor's Mind ~ Ben Marcus on Flashbacks & Setting

Thinking about putting your book into e-format?  Writer C.M. Mayo has some good advice for you on Madam Mayo:

"In sum, I have been getting an all new appreciation for the multifaceted and time-consuming work publishers do. What I want to do is, um, write.

"But here's the elephant: sometimes, for some books, a traditional publisher is not the answer. And nor are brick-and-mortar bookstores…. There are several works I want to publish but that I know are not commercial, so in attempting to place them with an agent or directly with a publisher, I would be wasting my time and theirs. But I believe in these works; I know they have readers, relatively few as they may be.”


What goes on in those teeny-tiny minds of theirs?  Of course I’m talking about literary journal editors.  Why do they choose one manuscript over another (i.e. mine)?  The Kenyon Review pulls back the curtain on the process in this fascinating piece by G.C Waldrep about selecting Katy Didden’s poem “The Soldier on Routine”:

“When I first read “The Soldier on Routine” I was feeling deluged with mediocre poems about the war—in Iraq, in Afghanistan, any war, all war.  I had all but given up on finding poems that spoke to the experience—to the communal violence of our moment—in a way that enlarged both that violence and that moment without quite expending with the human.

“This poem had me from its opening lines and, through its mastery of craft, left me feeling harrowed, tortured, in spite of (even more because of) its stately, magisterial bodying-forth.”


I was intrigued enough by Ben Marcus’s “What Have You Done” in the recent New Yorker to look up an interview with him on the magazine’s site, and I thought this comment on the always tricky “flashback issue” was helpful:

“I’ve noticed how flashbacks (childhood causes, memories, back story, etc.) can take the sting out of a story, trading drama for information, mystery for facts. And sometimes when I read, flashbacks, no matter how fascinating, slow me down. … For now, when I disrupt the present of the story and give a flashback, it’s not only like I’ve defanged the story, but I’ve extracted all of its teeth and deflated its whole face as well, so what’s left is a rumpled mess.”

And this, about setting:

“I first used Ohio as a setting because I hadn’t been there and knew almost nothing about it. It seemed like a perfectly plausible place to live, and it kept me from relying too much on autobiographical details, which would, I was sure, lure me into terrible spasms of sentimentality. I felt that I needed to avoid this at all costs, so I leaned on places totally removed from my experience. I prefer using personal experience that is emotional—feelings I’ve had, feelings I’m afraid of having—rather than experience that is specific to geography.”

Read more of the interview:
http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2011/08/this-week-in-fiction-ben-marcus-1.html#ixzz1UXQKVrxi  (The story itself is available for subscribers only.)


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