There was a year during which I essentially told my brain that the way to become a writer was to get published by McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. During that year I wrote a loooooootttt of things that are totally unusable for any other place and which were trying to get the right tone for that site. In retrospect, I fully blame the editor for always sending me back kind and personalized rejections which encouraged me—or at least I thought they did—to try again. Eventually, I stopped writing Open Letters, Monologues and Lists, but I think I owe my decision to try writing more to that editor and his charming rejections.


Behind the Scenes / 11 Comments
May 5th, 2014 / 6:29 pm

Which would you rather do, write or eat potatoes? You must choose one.

John Sayles on Screenwriting vs. Fiction Writing

“A script is to a movie as a blueprint is to a building,” he said. “So many of the things that will later be major, visceral aspects of the storytelling — cinematography, music, sound effects, costume, performance, the rhythm of the editing — are only just indicated or assumed, and will be realized by a team of talented collaborators. The fiction writer has to serve all those functions alone, with his prose, selecting information so a handful of notes let readers hear the symphony. A screenwriter creates potential — a novelist has to fulfill it.” –from Up Front

Power Quote / 2 Comments
October 9th, 2011 / 2:55 pm

Peter Handke on American Writers

Generously translated and sent by Paul Buchholz.

ZEIT: Do you like American writers?
HANDKE: Not the recent ones.  I’m always thinking again: how wonderful literature would be without all these period-, family- and society-novels.  [Theodor] Fontane could maybe still do that, but today it’s a form of sagging culture.  I translated Walker Percy, The Last Gentlemen and The Moviegoer, that is a great author.  And I love Thomas Wolfe, his novel Look Homeward, Angel.  These books have something lyrical, that is absolutely a part of them.  With Jonathan Franzen for instance it doesn’t appear at all.  He follows a knitting pattern, a scheme.  Philip Roth is in the end only a master of ceremonies.  But reading is an adventure.  In a book, also in a society novel, its seeking movement has to be there in the language.  There is no epic literature without a lyrical element.  But that has completely disappeared from American literature.  There have to be outbreaks, a controlled letting-oneself-go, not this recipe-like writing.  Something has to emit from the author, whether that comes from his being lost or from his pain.  When, with an author, one only sees the making–to avoid the word Mache [style]–that’s not enough.
Craft Notes / 72 Comments
December 15th, 2010 / 2:51 pm

Shit I Don’t Like About Writers & Writing

– Hearing the words “writer,” “reading,” “poem,” “poet,” “the author of,” etc. more frequently than should any human regardless of his or her particular fondness, hobby, or paid work
– Ego, and reflection of ego onto others’ actions because the nature of ego is often that one can only see one’s self in another self
– The absence of self identity that seems to come along with so many of the more flagrant perpetrators of said ego, giving them even more excessive ability to flaunt said ego without losing any sleep
– Twitter and facebook feeds of writers who think about these “tools of social media” as personal sales pitches aimed at you, the “friend,” often unrelenting in their use of the terms of the 1st list item and w/o any form of layering of else that might lead you to believe they are an actual person
– “Tortured” updates on same social networks over how “crazy” today or tomorrow is going to be while editing or writing
– People who retweet Kanye West
– Kickstarter and other similar fundraising systems, which somehow have quickly become the means for acquisition of literary food stamps, even if a lot of people I like have used it to do some cool shit
– The simultaneous bent of many personalities or commentmakers to go on about how evil, ugly, mean, nasty, etc. in general negative or shitty a certain outlet is, matched with an equal to less bent of also complaining that things are “too positive” or “you forgot to include me” when said person or entity has made little to no effort to “get involved” on their own end
– How almost no writer ever has done a good job writing about what it is like to be obese
– How many writers are atheists and yet are proud of themselves as creators
– How the writers who are christian usually suck at writing
– How there are so many books now I can’t think
– How I’ve been reading so many of those books that I seriously am finally starting to get carpal tunnel from holding them up while on the stationary bike and from all this silly typing
– How I don’t quite have enough books now to build a new house out of them so I can sell the place I live in now and get out of this loft complex and live somewhere quieter
– When people don’t mention that their ‘is the author of’ refers to a chapbook, or call chapbooks books, or say chapbook out loud near me at all really
– When chapbooks cost $10 even though they might cost $2 to make most of the time
– People who “won’t read” chapbooks even tho some of them do some amazing shit a full book couldn’t really ever do
– Web magazines who have so little design skill that it actually hurts me more to not look at them than to look at them because I know the damage they are doing to all aura and yet people still submit to them and bitch about their slow response times
– Print magazines that look like they were designed in 1991 by someone who had bad taste even then
– Anyone who bitches about response times ever, usually signifying that they’ve never worked a day on the side of the editing table or even volunteering or trying to pay for the books that sit on the tables often unselling and just trying to break even and hardly reading anyway
– How proud people are of celebrities who talk about a book, like it’s some winged beast descending to kiss their face
– How at least a handful of people will hold this against me at least in a comment and think I think my shit doesn’t stink because I said any of this or that I hold myself to some other standard or that I think I’m special when really I’m just hanging out like anybody else I just sometimes will run my mouth and I like to think I have a lot of faith even when I bitch and this is all a big try
– People who pimp their social state of having or not having on either end, trying to justify lack thereof or surplus because someone has this or that or doesn’t have this or that or went here or there or didn’t or wanted to and didn’t and etc., as if anyone needs to or doesn’t need to experience anything or not anything to write a word down on paper and have it be something, as if those with money can’t think, as if those without money can’t think, as if everyone’s out to kill you because you are male female black white red candy sugar sandwich
– Gmail chat status updates that change every few hours
– Gmail chat’s winking box that goes back and forth until you click it and look at who said what even if you are on invisible and were trying to ignore the thing entirely but don’t have the balls to just log the fuck out
– People who don’t mind saying flagrant things about what other people say or do but won’t do anything flagrant on their own or outside the realm of people who will back them up
– People who think that because you made something that must mean you have to have it or you worship it or yourself for having had it or that you are out for glory in every move
– People who only ‘Like’ or comment on things when it involves something about them
– People with no sense of humor and/or who can’t laugh at themselves
– People who never get crunk READ MORE >

Mean / 206 Comments
October 27th, 2010 / 10:20 am

lit/life/love in the margins

Friend of mine recently found a 1975 copy of Gary Snyder’s Turtle Island in a Goodwill store. Inside a woman named Paula had written a quote (actually the ending paragraph) from The Lover by Duras and then this note to Jon:

You were my birthday present; you came to the door–no one else was home. you said “let’s celebrate.” We dropped acid and went to the friend with the nocturnal monkey-like animal and made love for hours.


Random / 6 Comments
September 24th, 2010 / 11:45 am

Does anyone write by pencil/pen? Why (or why not)?

Matt Bell is going to write a story live. We can watch him write. Then, later this week, we can rewrite the story. Then Michael Kimball & Lily Hoang will rewrite the rewritten story, and we can watch. And then we can watch Matt rewrite the revised rewritten story. Good luck to us all.

Seek to seek.

Okla Elliot: What should young writers today study or do in order to improve their craft?

Christopher Higgs: Become intellectually polyamorous, cultivate an insatiable curiosity for knowledge and experience in as many different guises as you possibly can, question everything, always challenge, learn that failure and rejection are positive things, subscribe to at least three non-literary magazines in three completely different fields (for me, right now, it’s National Geographic, Juxtapose, and Wine Enthusiast – last year it was Seed, Esquire, and Art in America), forget politics: it has nothing to do with you and any time or energy you invest in it is wasted time and energy you could be using productively to learn and experience and create, do not choose sides, do not agree or disagree, embrace contradiction, watch cinema from as many different countries and time periods as you possibly can, seek out unclassifiable music, spend time in unfamiliar locations, expose yourself to new activities, go to the opera, go to the ballet, go to the planetarium, travel a lot, observe as much as you can, pay attention to the way people talk and the way people listen, eat strange food, watch at least one sporting event but instead of thinking about it as entertainment think about it as narrative, ABR = Always Be Researching, carry a notebook and pen at all times, remember it is more important to ask questions than give or receive answers, seek to open up and never close down, seek to seek, do not seek to find, fall in love with language, think obsessively about language, about words, about sentences, about paragraphs, about the sound of words, the weight of words, the shape of words, the look of words, the feel of words, the placement of words, and most importantly be your biggest advocate, think of yourself as a genius, think of yourself as an artist, think of yourself as a creator, do not despair, do not listen to criticism, do not believe naysayers, they are wrong, you are right, they are death and you are life, they destroy and you create, the world needs what you have to say.

-more here

Behind the Scenes / 227 Comments
April 12th, 2010 / 11:51 pm

Ever freak out about your writing?


Sometimes writing can knock a whole lot of angry into you. Ever really, really freak out? What happened?

(The scene comes from The Lonely Lady starring Pia Zadora.)

Random / 42 Comments
February 17th, 2010 / 8:15 pm