HTMLGIANT / Catherine Lacey

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

Your Brooklyn Book Festival Dance Card

Every year I feel overwhelmed about what to see and hear at the Brooklyn Book Festival; When I finally do shuffle over to Borough Hall I  realize that the three most interesting things (upon first glance at the distractingly large itinerary) are happening at the same time, so I just turn around and shuffle home, vowing to do a better job next year. This year ‘next year’ finally happened and I curated this list with you all in mind. You’re welcome. See you Sunday.

10 AM: A panel about using time travel and non-linear narrative featuring Seth Fried, Samantha Hunt and others. Or, if you’re feeling able to handle deep, dark stuff this early in the morning, Granta is having a panel about writing after trauma, focusing on 9/11.

11 AM: The Good, The Bad and The Family, a panel moderated by Rob Spillman of Tin House. Or, Radical Fictions a panel and readings by David Goodwillie, Jennifer Gilmore, and Justin Taylor.

Noon: Something called Epic Confusion which features Nadia Kalman, Chuck Klosterman, Sam Lipsyte, and Tiphanie Yanique who will read and talk about this confusion.

1 PM:  Apocalypse Now, and Then What? featuring Tananarive Due, Patrick Somerville and Colson Whitehead. Moderated by Paul Morris, Bomb Magazine.

2 PM: Politics & Poetry: Timothy Donnelly, Nick Flynn, Thomas Sayers Ellis and Evie Shockley.

3 PM: Lifestyles of the Rich and Richer. Chris Lehmann (Rich People Things) and David Graeber (Debt: The First 5,000 Years) discuss the current state of our economy and where we’re headed.

4 PM:  Where are we? A bunch of critics talk about where we are any why we’re anxious. Or go have a drink somewhere.

5 PM: And because life is not fair, you’ll be forced to chose between three awesome-sounding events all happening at the same time in the same building.
-Amelia Gray & others reading for Short and Sweet (and Sour)
-A panel titled The Sacred and the Profane: A Modern Pilgrim’s Progress. Featuring Darcey Steinke and others.
-Unholy Paths to Redemption:  Jennifer Egan, James Hannaham and John Burnham Schwartz  look at the alternative routes their characters take to lose themselves—jeopardizing work, family, and love—to find themselves again.

(Or, if you walk outside this building, David Shrigley will be drawing on audience members)

Locations & full details after the jump…

READ MORE >

Events / 1 Comment
September 15th, 2011 / 12:52 pm

Would You Keep Writing If No One Was Ever Going To Read Your Work Ever Again?

Some thoughts on this question.

1. When posed to a musician friend of mine, he thinks for a while and looks serious and sad, like we’ve just seen a small animal die. Then he says, “I think I would still make music but it would sound much different.” Then he says, “Lets go get ice cream.”

2. We talk a lot about the work being the reward in itself and that’s true because I think having the time to write can feel sometimes really exciting, but it’s also really grim and lonely and makes me angry, morose, anxious, etc. And yet I keep doing it and I feel like my life depends on whether or not I get enough time to work in any given week.

3. One of the most awesome things ever is finding out that a story you published was read and enjoyed and understood by someone, but we don’t talk about the underside to this– that others may have read it and felt disconnected, isolated, ambivalent. I don’t think you can help but think about those people sometimes and feel sad about it.

4. The publishing high lasts about fourteen seconds for me. Then the anxiety about all the stuff I haven’t finished comes back.

5. For the five-ish hours I ideally get to spend writing, I get about twenty cumulative minutes of sincere satisfaction with a specific sentence, passage or phrase and the rest of the time is spent being mildly irritated that I can’t get that sincere satisfaction to stay.

6. Maybe people who make shit really just want to be alone and then for people to later come along and appreciate the product of their aloneness. Maybe this is a way to confirm that being human and necessarily isolated in your own body and mind is ok.

7. Everything I wrote from when I was a little kid (maybe 7) until I was about 20 was for myself. I didn’t want anyone to read it at all. It was its own reward. I wanted to become a psychologist and I never wanted to publish anything. Then I started wanting to publish stuff and then the writing became much more anxious and every paragraph seemed crucial to something.

8. I would keep writing if no one was ever going to read what I had written but I think I’d have to find some other outlet for myself– some creative endeavor or occupation that made me feel like I was reaching someone with something authentic. Writing would become a totally different habit, and I’d probably write less. I would need to read more, too.

Craft Notes / 35 Comments
August 8th, 2011 / 11:19 am

Stop Doing This

Stop titling your stories, “What We _____ About When We _____ About ______.”

Seriously, stop it.

This is the literary equivalent of putting a bird on it. (If you don’t get that reference, please stop what you’re doing and go catch up with this joke. Ok. Thanks. Hi.) Using the “What We ______ About When We ______ About ______” title is no longer even an homage to Carver’s story and story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. I don’t know what anyone is even trying to accomplish by re-using that title anymore. If I was still reading slush for a magazine I would automatically delete any entries with this kind of title. All a title like that says to me is this piece was written by a lazy pseudo-hipster.

Craft Notes & Mean / 47 Comments
July 28th, 2011 / 3:35 pm

My mom live-texted the James Frey Oprah Interview

5:01 PM: Oprah interviews James Frey again

5:20 PM:  James Frey is such a whiner!

5:23 PM: Although he’s got a little contrite going on now.

5:28 PM: Nope. Whining again.

5:35 PM: Uh oh. He has nothing good to say about memoirists.

5:36 PM: He’s whining again. What’s for supper?

5:58 PM: Oh my! She’s doing a part two of this interview tomorrow! Wow.

Random / 13 Comments
May 17th, 2011 / 2:51 pm

Mailer’s Apartment

Norman Mailer’s apartment is for sale and I will confess that I just drooled a little while looking at these photos. Anyone have 2.5 Million?

Author News / 8 Comments
May 4th, 2011 / 1:50 am

Buy a book; help Japan.

I was thinking yesterday about the parallels between the literary world and the culinary world while my domestic goddess sister and her chef boyfriend spoke to each other about various chefs (the brilliant ones and the megalomaniacs) and restaurants (from gastronomic pilgrimage sites to pretentious failures). The uneasy union between these two disparate worlds? The cookbook.

So, if you are the home-cook variety of lit geek, consider adding one more book to your collection: This all-star collection of recipes from giants of the culinary world– all the proceeds from the sale of this e-book (yeah, I said it) will go to the recovery in Japan.( I can’t think of a better excuse to buy an ebook.)

Of course, you’re not going to find any mass market recipes in there– no sir. These recipes are from chefs who’ve earned things  equivalent to the Pulitzer. If you’ve ever wanted to brush up your knife skills or broaden your kitchen repertoire past your mom’s lasagna, now is the time. Braised black cod and wakame  soup awaits you.

Random / 33 Comments
April 14th, 2011 / 9:52 am

Hot, Young Poets!

I find it sometimes necessary, when recommending a poet’s work to a non-poetry reader to say, “I don’t read poetry, but…” and then plug whomever it may be.  This is a half-true statement. I don’t read much poetry. I read a little and the little that I read (Berryman, Lasky, Flynn, Nelson) I absolutely love. But poetry, as a whole, seems to exist for poets. It’s something that poets read either in the hopes of being better poets or because they have a nice time reading it. I don’t know anyone who reads poetry who doesn’t also write it.  True, there are exceptions. A lot of fiction and non-fiction writers read a little poetry (like myself) but for the most part, poetry is consumed by poets.

Which leads me to wonder: Do any poets read Oprah Magazine? And do any poets wear very simple, straightforward $341 shirts? Does this seem like an irrelevant question? And how could it not?

Oprah Magazine just published a fashion shoot in which young female poets are dressed up in very nice clothes. To make it obvious that they were poets, their words were scattered artfully around the image. Supposedly, this is part of Oprah’s “National Poetry Month” Issue, the Oprah empire’s attempt to get your mom to read some poetry, which I feel is a worthy, albeit fraught, endeavor. If every non-poetry reader (or non-poet) found at least one poet whose voice they liked, and if we all bought a book by that poet, I feel the effect could be tremendously positive. But is that what is really going on here?

Here we see full-color spreads of the young, female poets, their words lying disjointed around them. Some of these poets have not yet even published a collection, or if they do, they’re not mentioned in the little blurbs accompanying the shots. One is Anna Moschovakis, an editor at Ugly Duckling. One is modeling a style deemed ‘Perfectly Punk,’ and looking up at a line of (her own?) poetry that references a studded belt.

And it’s just a little depressing, somehow. Is fashion really a good way to sell poetry, to get the O-reading masses to read some poems? Or is this, as I suspect, just fashion for fashion’s sake, and the poetesses is just the unlikely vehicle for the clothing the needs advertising?

I really do want your mom to read poetry. I want your dad to read it to. But really, I will settle for them reading a book of any kind. Sadly, I think this fashion shoot  is going to sell a lot more $995 jackets designed by ‘Haute Hippie.’ (I am depressed that I now know a clothing designer named ‘Haute Hippie’ even exists.)

Random & Web Hype / 44 Comments
March 28th, 2011 / 4:20 pm

Fear and Bravery of Pseudonyms

At the AWP bookfair, Michael Kimball showed me a copy of this pretty little book, Normally Special, by a writer called xTx. I asked Michael something like, “what’s the deal with the name?”  He said she was a writer who publishes stuff under her real name, but also uses this pseudonym when she writes stuff she doesn’t want her family to read or kids to read. I asked Michael if anyone knew who the writer was and he said maybe Roxane Gay, since she had published the book, but maybe nobody else knew. “I don’t think I’d want to read any of that other stuff anyway,” he said.

Tiny back story: When I was twelve or thirteen I learned how to code HTML so I could build websites. It was 1999 and compared to now, the internet was pretty barren place. I built  a website for my church’s Youth Group because I was really into that kind of thing, a fan site for Sheryl Crow because I was really into her first two albums, and I published my own stories on a Geocities page because I wanted someone to read things I’d written, just so long as I didn’t have to answer to it.

Another story: A few years ago, a mentor of mine from New Orleans came to visit New York and we had coffee. He was the one who got me to move to New York in the first place, the one who told me to go to grad school, the one who made me excited about creative nonfiction. He published a very autobiographical novel about his childhood in Louisiana and told me his mother had a hard time with the way the mother character was represented in the book. Over our coffee, he asked me what I was working on and I said, somewhat embarrassed, that I was working on a memoir. He asked me if my family knew and I said not really and he said, “Don’t talk to them about it until it’s done. They’ll change your memories, they’ll change your story without even trying.” (A loose quote, of course, but you get the picture.) Most importantly, he told me, You can’t write a good story if you’re worried about what someone is going to think about it, if you’re worried about hurting someone’s feelings. READ MORE >

Craft Notes / 120 Comments
March 17th, 2011 / 1:57 pm

Need a job or a date? Finally all your reading pays off! On the east coast, Melville House is hiring on their editorial team and on the west, the San Francisco Public Library is hosting speed dating events. A Library in Chattanooga, TN is also hosting literary dating events, but bless your heart if you live there. Let us know how beers with the Bukowski fan goes…

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