September 2011

Best 50 seconds on the internet about writing poems: Todd Colby on Poetry

Black harbor is featuring a lovely short film about Luca DiPierro’s work. There’s also a great interview with Luca on the Black Harbor website.

Random / 10 Comments
September 28th, 2011 / 12:00 pm

Silence & Communication

A month or so ago, I was asked to write a response to the work of John Cage. And then, 21 other authors and I stood in a big circle around a crowd and read our responses. I thought I’d share mine with you.



Imagine a long line of people, and a very important person—possibly with his wife, possibly with his security, possibly he is a she. The very important person is walking down the long line of people shaking hand after hand. Three quarters of the way down this line of people, the very important person comes upon a man in an overcoat and top hat. When the very important person sticks out his or her hand, the man in the overcoat and top hat does not in return stick out his own hand, but instead lifts his leg and deposits it in the hand of the very important person. READ MORE >

Craft Notes / 26 Comments
September 27th, 2011 / 8:33 pm

Chicks Dig Pink, Frilly Things and (Domestic) Porn

When you write a book with the title It’s A Man’s World, with the tagline “but it takes a woman to run it,”  you have to have some sense that your book is going to be marketed in a certain way. I haven’t read the book in question, but the title certainly gives an impression. Maybe it’s just me but when I see that title, I think “chick lit.” I also enjoy “chick lit,” so that label is not a bad thing. That book’s author, Polly Courtney, recently had a very public reaction to how her book was being marketed as “chick-lit,” announcing she was leaving her publisher, Harper Collins, so her writing wouldn’t be pigeonholed. As writers, we often have to worry about whether or not our work will be pigeonholed based on some aspect of our identity. No one wants their creativity limited or misrepresented; pushing back against rigid, often unfair categories is a natural response for a creative person.

In her explanation for why she was leaving her publisher, Courtney distinguishes between women’s fiction, which she writes, and “chick lit,” which she very much does not. I gather that women’s fiction is serious while “chick lit” is not. She writes, “Don’t get me wrong; chick-lit is a worthy sub-genre and there is absolutely a place for it on the shelves.  Some publishers, mine included, are very successful at marketing this genre to women. The problem comes when non-chick lit content is shoe-horned into a frilly “chick-lit” package. Everyone is then disappointed: the author, for seeing his or her work portrayed as such; the readers, for finding there is too much substance in the plot; and the passers-by, who might actually have enjoyed the contents but dismissed the book on the grounds of its frivolous cover.”

Depending on the content of the book in question, Courtney is correct in noting that disappointment is possible for everyone involved in the consumption of a book. At the same time, isn’t a cover is just a cover?  Eventually, the writing speaks for itself and either readers will like the work or they won’t. Readers are fairly sophisticated these days, aren’t they? I would like to believe readers will, more often than not, have a good sense of what a book is or isn’t about no matter what is emblazoned across the cover. Unfortunately, such does not seem to be the case and certain books are burdened by covers that alienate certain audiences.


Behind the Scenes / 53 Comments
September 27th, 2011 / 7:11 pm

Anybody who’s remotely interested in the art of/work of writing should pick up the current issue of The Paris Review and flip to Dennis Cooper’s interview. It is pure inspiration.

Teaching Writing One Skill at a Time


The first principle of a creative writing class should be: you cannot teach everything in one semester, yet the workshop teaching method is based on the mistaken idea that you can.

 Much of the research into how people learn suggests that we improve fastest when we can focus on one skill at a time, like a violinist working on one piece of a solo over and over. Students learn quickest when they are offered challenges suitable for their skill level, receive feedback on their performance, and then repeat the task, incorporating the teacher’s advice. These challenges should be both very specific and easily repeatable, like having a golfing coach adjust your stance after every swing. It is harder to improve only by playing many rounds of golf, because the feedback is too varied, too enormous.


Craft Notes / 16 Comments
September 27th, 2011 / 1:00 pm

I asked a bunch of writers to write down everything they remember about Pindeldyboz magazine w/o research

Pindeldyboz the web presence published a story by me titled “Susan” and then rejected something else using a terse tone in the rejection email and specifically mentioned that I had used a certain word too many times or something. I think the editor was a person named Whitney. I felt at the time that Pindeldyboz had high street cred. I think at one point I made a list of goals to achieve and one of them was to be published by Pindeldyboz. Around that time I also had feelings of confusion about their name. I never saw the print mag because they had stopped doing the print version by the time I was aware of it. Mostly I remember it thinking it had a street cred higher than internet literary magazines that were likely to publish whatever by me, and the name “Whitney,” and the story “Susan,” and the harsh rejection letter.
– Brandon Scott Gorrell


Literary Magazine Club / 34 Comments
September 27th, 2011 / 11:54 am

Woody Allen on Writing

I’d rather struggle with films than struggle with other things.

I love rain!

I hate special effects!

When you come in close, you can see the bacteria and what happens between man and his fellow man.

Art in general is full of people who just talk, talk, talk.

I am two with nature.

When a film is finished I look at it and I’m disappointed and I dislike it very much.

I don’t see my films again.

I work every day.

I don’t mind if she throws up on me.

Tradition is the illusion of permanence.

I try to make the characters always contradicting themselves.

To me the most tragic, the most sad quality is if a person has profound feelings about life, about existence and religion and love and the more deep aspects of life, and that person is not gifted enough to be able to express it.

Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.

I’ve never been an intellectual but I have this look.

I really haven’t lived up to the luck I’ve had.

I think being funny is not anyone’s first choice.

I feel that I have influenced nobody.

I never liked clowns.

Random / 7 Comments
September 27th, 2011 / 10:57 am


This New and Poisonous Air by Adam McOmber

This New and Poisonous Air

by Adam McOmber

BOA Editions, 2011

180 pages / $14  Buy from BOA Editions







Imagine, behind glass or roped off from strangers, a representative sample of your wardrobe, adorning a dummy or hung flat and mummified; perhaps beside it, a selection of your tools—laptop, remote, cell phone; your furniture—the bed you sleep in, the chair you sometimes recline in, the coffee table your ankles once rested on. Your imprint is bound to be very slight on this exhibit: only the “historically significant” have been presented. Truly everyday objects will have been left out (by their very nature, anathema to preservation, longevity). And the tags that explain the place of these things in your life have no connection to how you think of them. Can the weight of habit be calculated in a few lines of type? You must imagine, too, people visiting this exhibit, looking closely before passing on to others, filling in their understanding of you as though you had been an empty vessel, a concept without any clear illustration; not a person at all. Are you there, at the center of the echoes of all those shuffling feet?


1 Comment
September 26th, 2011 / 12:51 pm

Reading Comics: Greg Hunter on the new Daredevil

Welcome to the first installment of my new series: Reading Comics. I’m excited to report that I’ve got a bunch of great contributors lined up, and am myself working on a few entries. If you haven’t contacted me yet, but would like to participate, email me and let me know! Without further ado….here’s Greg Hunter…

Daredevil #4 (Story by Mark Waid, Art by Marcos Martin)

Shortly before the arrival of DC Comics’ New 52, DC’s competitor Marvel released the first issue of a new series starring its blind crimefighter Daredevil. In light of the timing, the new Daredevil serves as a parallel study in what makes a relaunch succeed or fail. And, if the first few issues are any indication, a master class.


Random / 10 Comments
September 26th, 2011 / 12:34 pm