A simple “Hope” is the motto for Rhode Island, up next in our State Writing Resources series. One of the original thirteen colonies, Rhode Island is the smallest in area–in fact, its other nickname is “Little Rhody”–but it’s a tough little bugger. For example, did you know that Rhode Island was the first colony to declare independence from Great Britain? May 4, 1776. It’s also not an island, so don’t blame it if it’s sometimes confused.
Rhode Island writing has a history–and a present–as strong as the state’s own. Jhumpa Lahiri grew up in Kingston, where her father worked as a librarian at URI. Ted Berrigan and H.P. Lovecraft were born in Providence. Forrest Gander, whose new novel The Trace I enjoyed, teaches at Brown. So does the great John Edgar Wideman, whose stellar short story “What We Cannot Speak About We Must Pass Over in Silence” we used to teach in workshops. Robert Coover is a professor emeritus at Brown. It’s quite a lineup there; may I please go back in time and study writing at Brown?
Presented in no particular order, here are 10 Rhode Island writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you are an ocean stater or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
To build castles in the air. It’s an idiom meaning to make plans or goals, or to create hopes, that have very little chance of ever happening. We’ve all done it, some more than others. Some of us build castles in the air and then live in them forevermore.
Edward Gibbon once said, “There is more pleasure to building castles in the air than on the ground.” True, for most. It’s not an odd thing to say for a guy who wrote The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire–think of how much ground-level castle building it took to write that beast of a book. I imagine that Gibbon said the above as soon as he finished the last page of the last volume, putting down his feather pen, shaking loose of his powdered wig, maybe taking snuff and then (ostensibly) sneezing.
For today’s writing prompt I want you to think about this concept of castles in the air. read more
“Virtue, Liberty and Independence” is the motto for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, up next in our State Writing Resources series. One of the original thirteen colonies, Pennsylvania was the second state admitted to the Union, in 1787. Its capital is Harrisburg, and its two largest cities are Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the latter of which is known–to all but Bostonians–as “the Cradle of Liberty.”
Because of this long and important history, Pennsylvania writing has a similarly long and important history, and present. Benjamin Franklin, of course, did plenty of writing in Pennsylvania. Known to some as the United States’ first novelist, Charles Brockden Brown wrote, and set, most of his fiction in the Keystone State. (Edgar Huntly is a particular favorite of mine.) A quick roundup of famous writers born and/or raised in Pennsylvania offers an impressive list: Wallace Stevens, Louisa May Alcott, Marianne Moore. Updike, O’Hara, Michener. John D. MacDonald. Michael Chabon grep up in Pitt. Mat Johnson grew up in Philly. The great Pearl Buck spent many years in Pennsylvania. And on and on and on.
Presented in no particular order, here are 12 Pennsylvania writing resources, from conferences to local critique groups to literary magazines. If you are a keystone stater or are planning to become one, these are some organizations you might want to take a peek at. read more
In this 2013 interview with Publishers Weekly, Claire Messud was asked if she’d like to be friends with her character Nora from The Woman Upstairs, someone the reporter described as “almost unbearably grim.” Messud’s irritation at the question–“For heaven’s sake, what kind of question is that? […] If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble.”–sparked a string of essays in defense of the so-called unlikable character.
Among our favorites are:
1. Roxane Gay’s at Buzzfeed: “Why is likability even a question? Why are we so concerned with, whether in fact or fiction, someone is likable?”
2. James Hynes’ at Powell’s: “The uncensored human consciousness is not necessarily a pretty thing.”
Last week we introduced you to new writing coach/consultant Tatiana Ryckman. Today we welcome to WriteByNight Resa Alboher, founding editor of St. Petersburg Review and lecturer at the Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, and at the American Center of the Russian State University for the Humanities.
Below is a Q&A with Resa, followed by a bio.
How did you get your start as a writer?
When I was three years old and up until the age where I could write by myself, I dictated stories to my mother, who would kindly and patiently write them down, first in expert shorthand and then translated into her lovely cursive script to accompany my illustrations which mostly were composed of stick figures with faces and shocks of curly hair, a yellow globe with radiating spikes to depict a sun, another green globe on a stick of brown serving as a tree, a square with a triangle that was the house where the stick figure people lived, and where the globe of yellow shined down upon its roof. read more
Today, please join us in welcoming Tatiana Ryckman to WBN. Tatiana, an Austin-based editor and writer, is the author of the story collection Twenty-Something and has run writing workshops for UT-Austin and Badgerdog.
Below is a Q&A with Tatiana, followed by a brief bio.
Where are you from?
Cleveland, Ohio. A friend of mine once called it the New Jersey of the Midwest . . . and that feels true. read more
Today I forced myself to reread some of my first published writing. I say forced because that’s what it takes; I absolutely cannot stand to revisit my early attempts at trying to sound like I know what the hell I’m talking about. It’s difficult enough to reread recent work—I only do it if I have to. I despise everything I wrote yesterday. I hate this post already.
I’m certainly not alone: reading your own writing seems an almost universal difficulty. We asked on Twitter and Facebook if other writers feel the same as we do, and with only one or two exceptions, the response makes it clear that most writers struggle when revisiting their old work.
WBN coach Kirstin Chen says that, like me, she despises her own writing and doesn’t read it unless she has to. “I haven’t even listened to the audio version of my book,” she tweeted. “And I don’t think I ever will.”
(Reminds me of that scene in Seinfeld where George has to listen to the audiobook version of a risk management textbook but then discovers that the voice actor sounds exactly like himself.)
About her own published work, Austin’s Alyssa Harad tweeted that she’d “prefer to forget about it entirely.”
I would too, especially judging by its placement on our bookshelf, the photo of which you can see atop this post. read more