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OUT TAKES ...bits and pieces of story, research, and process

Attention lovers of the podcast Serial!

Attention lovers of the hit podcast SERIAL!
I'm delighted that the Los Angeles Review of Books has just published my essay comparing Sarah Koenig's brainchild to Sebastian Junger's book A Death in Belmont.

Here's a bit:

“It’s really hard to account for your time,” Koenig observed, then proceeded to ask several seemingly random teenagers to remember what they’d done on a day six weeks earlier. None of them could.

Okay, so memory is unreliable. But … three million listeners were hooked on this show. Why?


For the rest of my wrestling match with this question, go to
https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/serial-urgency-death-belmont
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Thanksgiving Advice to my fellow writers

I’m thinking on this Thanksgiving Day that writing is like a complicated recipe.

First you need to gather the ingredients (ideas) and envision the final product; you have to have a general vision for the end result and know what it is you’re making. Then you combine the first batch of ingredients  Read More 
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A Room of Her Own interviews Aimee Liu

Sharing an interview that A Room of Her Own just did with me. http://aroomofherownfoundation.org/aimee-liu-orlando-short-fiction-judge/

“Our culture trains women to relinquish power over their own body image to others; too often women see themselves only as they think – or are told – others see them. If and when women can own their own sense of their bodies, including the pleasure and comfort and strength and wisdom that their bodies supply, then a positive relationship between body image and creativity can flourish.” Read More 
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WRITING NOW AND THEN

Waiting for the Call

A new old entry! Sweet memory. September 22, 1997. The interview in question is about Cloud Mountain, published the previous spring. The novel-in-waiting is Flash House, then in the earliest stages of gestation. Disaster will indeed strike in the course of writing this novel, and it won't see publication for another five long hard years. Sigh.

I'm expecting a call from a radio interviewer this morning, to discuss the novel I published last spring, publicized last summer, and have half forgotten in the wind-up for the new novel I'm trying to start writing. This is the twilight zone period in writing.  Read More 
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ORIGINAL SINNERS!

Several years ago I screwed up my courage and did something I'd imagined I could not do. I went to graduate school and earned an MFA in creative writing. I was over 50, and to my surprise, about a third of my class at Bennington also were mid-lifers. We had a lot of living under our collective belt and wanted to hone our writing to better give voice to our experience.

Many of us were already published authors. Since graduation, many of our other classmates have been published in literary journals, small press novels, and chapbooks. In this economy, it's been harder than ever for new authors to get picked up by major houses. But one of the lucky ones is my classmate John Coats.

I am delighted to tell you that John's first book ORIGINAL SINNERS has just been published by the Free Press imprint of Simon & Schuster. Read More 
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WHAT'S IN A TITLE?

NOW HERE'S A BITTERSWEET ENTRY FROM September 26, 1997, WHEN I WAS STILL A GOOD 3 YEARS FROM A SOLID FULL-LENGTH DRAFT OF MY THIRD NOVEL...WHICH WOULD BE TITLED "FLASH HOUSE" IN THE END -- BUT ONLY AT THE VERY END! WHAT MAKES THESE MUSINGS BITTERSWEET IS THAT I HAVE YET TO GET ANOTHER NOVEL TO LIFT-OFF -- SO I LOOK BACK WITH SOME NOSTALGIA TO THE QUEST FOR THIS NOVEL'S TITLE!

I need a title for my new book. In the usual, and probably ultimate, way of things I would find this title upon reflection and rereading of a finished manuscript.  Read More 
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Ghost World (By Anonymous)

I feel a bit transparent this Halloween. You see, for the past six months I’ve been a ghost. That means no habeus corpus, no credit, no identity. I’m so insubstantial I can’t tell you whether I’m writing a kiss-and-tell or a how-to or a what-if, or all of the above. I can’t name the author of the book I’m writing. I can’t even name myself! But worst of all, from my new vantage point I can see that today’s publishing business is riddled with spectral writers – some of whom don’t even know they’re ghosts.
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Accidental Art

WHEN I WROTE THIS MINI ESSAY 11 YEARS AGO, I'D NEVER HEARD OF THE TERM "FLOW" -- THAT MAGICAL STATE IN WHICH CREATIVITY THRIVES. BUT HERE ARE SOME PRETTY SPOT-ON DESCRIPTIONS OF FLOW...

Long ago and far away, when I used to paint, I found that my best paintings were blessed by accident. A line would wobble, I’d use the wrong color, I’d rub up against the canvas. The undercoat of gesso would go on rough, causing the colors that came on top of it to catch and build in unexpected textures. I would paint what I saw – the surface of an enamel sugar bowl – and discover myself in its reflection. Unhappiness, too, produced useful effects, and if not accidental, this certainly was unintended. Read More 
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WHY WRITE?

HERE'S ANOTHER CURRENT POST!
THE OTHER NIGHT I WAS HONORED TO RECEIVE THE ALGONQUIN WEST HOLLYWOOD LITERARY AWARD. I'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH YOU THE THOUGHTS THAT THIS AWARD PROMPTED IN ME...

It seems to me that literature is teetering on the brink of obsolescence. Youtube and twitter, and facebook, and 900 cable channels are only part of the problem. I am part of the problem, I think. I’m not doing nearly enough to defend good writing.

So I thought I’d take a few minutes to remind myself why quality writing still deserves defending.

To my mind, the most compelling virtue of literature is that, short of telepathy, it’s our only means of inhabiting someone else’s thoughts word for word.  Read More 
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If You Give a Friend a Sample

I WISH I COULD SAY MY BEHAVIOR AFTER SENDING OUT MY WRITING TODAY IS MORE MATURE OR ASSURED THAN IT WAS ON Thursday, July 25, 2002 WHEN THIS ENTRY WAS WRITTEN. ALAS, WITH SOME MORTIFICATION, I CONFESS THAT IT IS NOT.


Half a decade ago, when my bedtime reading was skewed to my young son’s, one of our favorite books led off with, "If you give a mouse a cookie... he will ask for a glass of milk," and followed through pages of acts and consequences to the inevitable conclusion, "if he asks for a glass of milk, he's going to want a cookie to go with it." I find myself adapting this classic as I await the reaction of a friend to a sample section of my new novel... Read More 
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