• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together


In a few days, I’m meeting with six students in a MFA program for one-on-one sessions to talk about their writing. They have each turned in twenty pages of their novels-in-progress. I read the pages today and was struck by a few different things. First, the pieces were diverse. When I was in graduate school, everyone wanted to be Raymond Carver or Anne Beatty. Everyone was trying to write the same story. These students were all over the place: sci-fi, elliptical structure, parallel stories, confessional, absurdist and one I can’t describe. It was the stippling of a trout, a column of stacked clouds, a choppy sea dotted with grey-blue seals. They all seemed free.

What kind of writer are you?

18 Responses

  1. Size 12 Bead Head Olive Woolly Booger✅

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. They all seemed free – did any of the writing stand out to you though, i.e., were any of them good? No one wants to emulate a great writer? Rhetorical questions, yet I am curious. Maybe you’ll follow up with a post about how this went.

    What kind of writer are you? Straightforward. Driven. A bit obsessive, and desiring to perfect my own sense of Southern Gothic.

  3. Fact based and instinctual. I like to think I don’t hold anything back, but I still rarely let myself completely go. I take chances; some things work and some don’t. Currently experimenting with collage style, a bit here from the present followed by something from the past, etc.

  4. Not unlike MikeD. But I’d also say I’m a poet, which fucks up my narrative, but gives me a good ear for language. At this point, I might rather have the narrative.

  5. In a heavy crystal glass originally purchased with S&H Green Stamps:

    2 parts Rex Stout
    1 part Sylvia Day
    1 part Alain de Botton
    Splash of Didion

    Let sit several decades.

  6. The busy sort.

    And these days, the sort who not only begins, but middles and ends. I’ve finished more than a dozen books since first coming to this blog. None of them were perfect, or could have been even if I’d spent ten years on each of them. But by fuck, I get them done.

    Also, I’m the sort of writer who actually sells books, and who gets reviews saying “I love this book” or “I hate this book” or “I can’t really review this book because I didn’t end up reading it” or “Worse book eva!” or “This book had typo’s and grammer mistakes!!!” or “As an author myself, I hate to give anyone a bad review, but this book was so bad I just had to” and then goes on to give me a thousand words of “advice” to “help” me even though there’s “no hope” of me ever learning to write “properly.” (These reviews by “authors” are invariably by people whose “books” don’t sell at all… Poor funny fuckers.)

    Uh oh. Looks like, today, I’m the bitchy kind of writer. Not apologising though. Feels great.

  7. I am a closet writer. I even publish & submit my work under a pen name. All of this allows my freedom on the page.

  8. i have no fucking idea.


  9. I love how inventive and fearless writing has become. Ellroy’s “White Jazz” is just that, a syncopated fever-dream noir-novel song. A bestselling YA series about adolescence and drugs is written in free verse. Susan Wise Bauer’s comprehensive world history volumes are peppered with shrewd humor and innovative charts, and deployed with short chapters that keep all parts of the world moving forward at the same rough pace.
    Memoirs can be about anything now. What used to be murmured in drawing rooms—“she’s in a bad way”— can be thoroughly described, awakening compassion for all the ways we all suffer. And when they avoid self-pity, easy villains, and cartoon characterizations, memoirs (and honest biographies) now give us what Nikki Stern calls “hope in small doses.”
    I write in whatever form suits, depending on the work. For my memoir I wrote raw and stark, with lyrical if not poetic passages, because there is a truth inherent in Voice and Tone and Style, not just Content. It flattens some stories to be told with a rigid, consistent style. To be truer to periods of time, certain moments in my history, I had to enter on that moment’s terms. I was not always articulate, self-aware, or even sane; I found ways to evoke the inner and outer pain and confusion with lyricism and shaped lines. I had to inhabit all of me, and retain my balance and craft, and not get lost. It is a high-order challenge to not lose the reader with such writerly shenanigans, but when it works it can be a marvel on the page, and resonate forever.
    The disconnect between the best writing today and what is required for queries is disheartening. If your first ten pages does not contain some kind of “in our last thrilling episode,” overview, or contain the exact blend of Wally Lamb and Alfred Hitchcock (precise-but-dreamy prose and perfect foreshadowing), then your work might be misunderstood, reduced, compartmentalized, dismissed. It feels like a rigged game. Most require the first ten or so pages ONLY, when they should normatively permit ten + the writer’s limited selection(s) from other parts of the work, especially when the work has variety, or an arc that would otherwise be unseen. Surely agents and publishers can tolerate a limited extra—I mean, c’mon, read it or don’t, but do not penalize the writer for wanting to present a complete picture (or compromise their opening).
    We are similarly constrained (at least according to all the books, articles, and agent interviews) in our query summaries. I’ve learned many things adhering to limitation and tight structure. It’s not that. Again, it’s that we’re told to cut away all else. A few paragraphs suit and respect the agent’s time, respect her experience, but what does it hurt to permit an “author’s note” at the end of the query, for the writer to speak in a natural voice? Most agents won’t read it anyway, if the first query paragraphs scream “not my category/genre/historical period/target audience/interest” or “the market won’t move this.” But if the agent is lingering, that personal addendum might make the difference.
    More and more, I add it anyway. I keep everything beforehand crisp and professional, and say what needs saying at the end (“If you’ve read this far…”)
    A famous hoo-hah told me last year, after reading my book, to take heart, that every great work always finds it’s way. I sure hope so. You ask: what kind of writer? I am a writer who is always learning, permits no artificial limits on my work, polishes to a fare-thee-well, and since last year waits for an agent to say the magic words: send me the book.

    • In my unasked for opinion, you are on the right track, and should do whatever you want to with your various queries. As long as you give a publisher or agent those things they asked for, your interesting extras will be appreciated if they’re a good fit.

      You and me are very different, re our thoughts/actions on writing and publishing. The best version of me lies halfway between the usual me and the You As I Understand You.
      In my also unasked for opinion — because I give a shit — you may be well served at some point in the future (if, and only if, you don’t find a home for that book), by moving yourself along that line toward the middle (where the very best version of me sometimes gets to).
      What I mean is, more towards the crassly commercial end.
      You don’t even have to compromise your book. You can publish it yourself if no one else decides to — completely uncompromised, your own vision, beginning to end.
      You might not sell a million copies. You WOULD sell some. I know I’d be buying it, and I’d bet London to a brick I’d love it enough to recommend it to others.

      Just saying, sometimes the world doesn’t bend to the right shape. A Toole or van Gogh often goes unrecognised, more or less, by the People Who Get To Decide.
      But today, anyone can publish themselves, cheaply and efficiently — badly if they’re lazy, better if they’re not.
      And some books MUST be published, EVEN IF they’re not commercially viable enough for a publisher to take on.

      Not in any way suggesting you stop querying that book. You should be. Just saying, IF no one decides to publish it, do it yourself. I’m sure it’s too good not to be out in the world — because books exist for different reasons, and some of them exist to save lives. I think maybe that’s what yours is.

      “Inventive and fearless” — that’s you.

  10. I still remember exactly where I was sitting the first time I read that Gerard Manley Hopkins poem with the stippled trout.

    I can smell the room.

  11. Still finding out, but this is encouraging: one always hopes there’s room.

  12. When a sentence is a bloom, a surprise, a discovery, a mini- accomplishment, a painting, or a prayer, then I am a satisfied writer.

  13. procrastinwriter

  14. Not the best. But I keep working at it.

  15. Mark, Ernest, and Kurt walk into a bar……

  16. Loathsome. Noisome. And then some.

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