Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Five Star Literary Review

Dear all,

Some great news here. Jo Page's story has been reviewed by the folks over at Five Star Literary Stories. TJ Forrester runs the site which in their words:

Five Star Literary Stories combines three integral facets of the writing life: publisher, story, and reviewer. Here's how the site works. I invite the editor of an online magazine to nominate a short story or flash fiction from his/her archives. The editor writes a blurb about his/her mag and a blurb about the nominated story. I provide the reviewer.

I selected Page's story to represent OS this quarter and am seriously impressed by the review by Donald Capone did of her story. He had this to say:
This story will stick with its readers for a long time. It will for me; I still wish she had kicked him where it counts and made a run for it, though.
I do too Don, I do too. Bravo Jo, you're turning heads. Here's a link to the review, check it out!

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Strategizing Writer

The current economic crisis has hit the publishing world hard. There are even murmurs about publishing companies hesitating to take on new writers until the economy improves. And for those lucky enough to find an agent and publisher in this uncertain milieu, there’s the unlucky prospect of smaller advances.

So, what’s a writer to do? Simply waiting for the economic crisis to blow over isn’t an option, but there are a few things that may be worth trying. First and foremost, you have to put yourself out there – be proactive at every step. By this I mean several different things.

  • Enroll in writing workshops and conferences (to the extent that you can afford them). If there are special events for writers where you live, attend them whenever possible. Volunteer to help the organizers. Print business cards for the occasion and hand them out when appropriate. And don’t be shy. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to strangers. When you’re competing with thousands of others in the same situation as you, you need to stand out. These are some of the easier ways to get people in the publishing industry to know who you are and – more importantly – give you a chance to win them over with your writing.
  • Expand your writing platform, venturing into genres such as travel and food writing, poetry, and even journalism. While it’s true that having loads of fiction publications will help you land an agent for your new novel, agents and publishers are keen to see whatever spells success. Clips from newspapers and magazines, for example, are proof not only that you can write, but also that you can identify a specific audience/demographic and write something they want to buy. It’s my opinion that too many fiction writers do too little genre crossing.
  • Network with as many serious writers as you can. Put yourself in a position to meet other people who are doing the same thing as you. Perhaps they’re struggling, or perhaps they’re basking in success. If they’re of the former group, which is exponentially larger than the latter group, there’s something comforting about knowing you’re not the only one struggling to get recognized. If they’re of the latter group, it’s likely that you’ll find something inspirational about their success, and perhaps receive a useful piece of advice – or, even better, a nod in the direction of their agent.
  • Volunteer with local publications. If you’re a fiction writer, then try to find a fiction journal to intern with. Even if all they’re willing to let you do at first is affix stamps to envelopes, do it. It’s a way in. After proving yourself to them, you may get a shot at something more interesting. And with that you may begin to develop relationships that prove valuable to your writing career.
  • Blog. That’s right, blogging can get you noticed. While I’m working to develop a writing blog of my own right now, I already have my own travel and food blog. I’ve actually met a number of talented, ambitious writers this way, and I’ve recently had a national magazine contact me about my writing. Your job as a blogger is to make sure your writing is good enough to attract visitors and then keep them coming back. Word of mouth is a powerful tool. So is the phenomenon of linking. And guess what else? Many successful writers have blogs. If they have a comment feature, don’t be afraid to leave the occasional positive (not fawning) remark. They may drop by your blog as a result of your comment, and any agent who happens to be lurking may spend some time on your site, too, poking around your writing – a one-on-one meeting in cyberspace between an agent and your fiction. Another bonus about blogging: you can start a blog for free.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of strategies to get ahead with your writing. With this in mind, I welcome readers’ thoughts on this challenge that many of us are facing in the current economic climate. If you have different suggestions, or wish to add to what I’ve said, feel free to share here. I think it could prove helpful to both new and seasoned writers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dzanc Best of the Web 2009

Our Stories is pleased to announce that Lindsay Merebaum's story "Cannibal Love" has been selected for the Dzanc Best of the Web 2009 anthology. In addition, her story has also been selected as a finalist in the Million Writers Award for 2009 along with "The Old Challah Radio" by Adam Shechter. For a full list of all the Best of the Web stories please check out the following link. This is the second year in a row that a story has been been selected from Our Stories for the Dzanc BotW anthology, in the 2008 anthology Cara Hoffman's story, "Waking" was selected for publication.

HTML Giant Takes up the Narrative Conversation

Dear All,

If you've been following us for the past couple of months you know I've been engaged in the Narrative Magazine discussion. Our friends over at HTML Giant has taken up the conversation and the discussion is very thought provoking and lively. They have already posted Narrative Magazines 990 forms from 2007. I am posting links to these same public forms as follows: 2005 | 2006 | 2007 the forms are in downloadable PDF formats. I urge you all go check it out the conversation at HTML Giant here.

Alexis Enrico Santí

Friday, May 1, 2009

In Praise of Reading Widely

Back when I was a grad student at the University of Arizona, one of my Creative Writing professors asked me what I liked to read. 

“I’ve always been a fan of Japanese fiction,” I told her, “and I like a number of other Asian writers, too.” At the time, I had just started reading Romesh Gunesekera, Arundhati Roy, and Michael Ondaatje, and had recently been impressed with Nguyen Thi Hiep, Duong Thu Huong, and Bao Ninh. I’d also read everything translated into English by Mishima, Kawabata, Oe, and Tanizaki, not to mention various works by dozens of other Japanese authors. The fact was, if I hadn’t applied to graduate programs in Creative Writing, I would have applied instead to programs in Japanese Literature.

When I shared with her my affinity for Japanese fiction, she shook her head and laughed at me. 

“A serious writer,” she said gravely, “reads real fiction. If I were you, I’d stick to American writers and hope something rubs off.” 

Of course, I had been reading plenty of them, too, and by that point in the term it was apparent that she really didn’t like me. I never did determine, however, if she was merely trying to put me down or if she really believed that nothing good could come of reading Asian fiction. 

Last year, when Horace Engdahl, an official of the Nobel Foundation, publicly dismissed American literature as being “too isolated, too insular,” and said that Americans “don’t really participate in the big dialogue of literature” and are therefore ignorant, I heard an echo of my professor, though it was Eurocentrism rather than Americentrism speaking this time. 

I’m not about to say that fiction from one part of the world has more merit than fiction from another part, and the Nobel Prize, though laudable for its intentions to reward outstanding work, seems rather subjective in the end. To me, it’s dangerous to condemn all writing (and those who read it) from a shore not one’s own. 

Just as it’s essential for writers to read widely between literary genres and periods, it’s no less important, in my opinion, to read widely across literary traditions. Not surprisingly, Japanese writers tend to have a different aesthetic than their counterparts in the West, and their focus – traditionally, anyway – on nature, understatement, the profundity of silence, and the perception of beauty in the possibility of things, offers much to learn from, and – dare I say it? – perhaps even incorporate, in some small way, in our own work. (Just think of the artist Hokusai’s influence on European Impressionists in the 19th century.) 

Atop my list of Japanese fiction are five novels in particular. Each is unique not only to Japanese fiction, but to fiction anywhere in the world. The first is Snow Country, by Yasunari Kawabata. The second is Confessions of a Mask, by Yukio Mishima. The third is Dark Night’s Passing, by Naoya Shiga. The fourth is The Makioka Sisters, by Junichiro Tanizaki. And the fifth is The Woman in the Dunes, by Kobo Abe. Rather than review or even describe any of these novels, I’ll leave it up to you to find these and, I hope, relish them for their fascinating novelistic qualities and their superiority as some of last century’s most engaging works.

For anyone interested, Junichiro Tanizaki also provides brilliant insight into Japanese aesthetics in his long essay, “In Praise of Shadows.”