• Micro Fiction Challenge: Zoilus

    By on December 2, 2016 Posted in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 5 comments
    Not Zoilus.

    Not Zoilus.

    We haven’t had a micro fiction contest in quite some time, and we haven’t had a popular one since February. “Break of poop,” of course. What, it’s got to be gross to be worthy of your time?

    Maybe I’m just bad at this. That’s what my inner Zoilus would say.

    Let’s start with the prize: The top entry in this week’s micro fiction contest wins a brand-spankin’-new paperback copy of Yann Martel’s The High Mountains of Portugal. (Or, if you hate that guy — and I know for a fact that many of you do — we’ll send a different brand-spankin’-new book.)

    All you need to do to enter is write a short story of 25 (or fewer) words that includes zoilus, either as a proper noun (i.e., the dude himself) or a common noun. You may also use a different form of the word (zoilism, zoilist, etc.) read more

    Writing Wisdom: Inspiration for You

    By on November 22, 2016 Posted in Inspiration     Comments 3 comments

    motivation-1389126_960_720We’re going to do a quickie this week, friends. Because the last thing anyone needs during their Thanksgiving travel nightmare is to wade through 1,000+ words of me.

    I’m sure many of you are hoping to get some good writing done this week: you’re off of work, you’ll be sitting for hours at airports and train depots, you probably don’t want to talk to the person sitting next to you (whether family or stranger), and that book you’re reading? Well, you can do better than that writer, and now’s a good time to prove it.

    For the past few weeks we’ve been offering some words of wisdom from writers I’ve interviewed, including such folks as George Saunders, Heidi Durrow and Steve Almond. Last week they talked about where their ideas come from, and two weeks ago they discussed where they find inspiration.

    Today I want to simply offer some inspirational and motivational comments from these writers. Just a little something to get you juiced up before you start putting pen to paper, or get you re-juiced up if you’ve already tried but are facing a roadblock.

    Happy Thanksgiving, WriteByNighters! We are always thankful for every single one of you. read more

    Writing Wisdom: From Inspiration to Idea

    By on November 15, 2016 Posted in Inspiration     Comments 10 comments

    light-147810_960_720Today we’re going to take the (sometimes quick, sometimes tortuous) journey from general inspiration to specific idea.

    Last week we explored how some of the writers I’ve interviewed find their inspiration: Lou Gallo in his own mortality; Heidi Durrow in a relentless drive to publish; Steve Almond taps feelings of shame; George Saunders’ life changed with one Stuart Dybek short story.

    All great stuff. But once inspiration strikes, what happens next? How do you go from wanting to write — feeling inspired — to knowing what to write?

    Today we’re going to hear from three writers about where their ideas come from.

    Short answer? Fairy tales, newspapers, and … Dolly Parton?

    (As I wrote this post, I began to notice a pattern — each writer mentions, in one way or another, deceased children. Hey, don’t look at me! A mere coincidence.) read more

    Writing Wisdom: On Inspiration

    By on November 8, 2016 Posted in Inspiration     Comments 15 comments

    board-953154_960_720A few weeks ago I wrote about this fantasy of mine where I collect my favorite passages from the Paris Review interviews into a book I’d keep at my desk for handy writing inspiration and motivation.

    Since I know I’ll never, ever do such an ambitious thing, I landed instead on the idea of sharing with you lovely readers some of the coolest and most wisdomous(!) responses I’ve gotten from the handful of writers I’ve interviewed.

    This here is my first attempt at doing so. For each post, I’ll choose answers fitting a particular topic.

    This week’s topic: INSPIRATION!

    Because that’s always a hot issue for writers, isn’t it? All artists, really. What the hell is it? Where does it come from? How do we find it? And if we find it, how do we use it?

    Below are four answers from four fascinating people: George Saunders, Heidi Durrow, Lou Gallo and Steve Almond. One is inspired by impending doom, another by shame; one by Stuart Dybek, and another by repeated rejection. read more

    An Exercise on “Having Written”

    By on November 1, 2016 Posted in Strategies     Comments 23 comments

    torture-chair-122858_960_720I’m not what you’d call a strong believer in the whole “tortured artist” affectation, the writers who claim — actually, boast — that every word brings searing, gut-wrenching pain and to find inspiration the writer must rip or tear open his or her heart and soul and disgorge his or her blood and innards on the page. It’s all a little a lot too precious for my taste. And violent!

    I do believe that writing is difficult for many of us. It’s just like any other activity: for some it’s a pleasure, for others it’s a pain, but for most, it’s just something we do.

    Is it something that some of us must do? That’s another common idea: “I don’t want to write; I have to write.” I don’t fully believe that either (sorry), but if relying on such a device helps a writer create, then hey, more power. read more

    Would You Rather? The Writer’s Edition

    By on October 25, 2016 Posted in Inspiration     Comments 21 comments

    torrent-87_960_720Last week we had a wonderful, and wonderfully morbid, discussion about what book you would read on your deathbed.The answers were deliciously wide-ranging, from childhood favorites to various Shakespeare offerings, from books that don’t exist to books the respondent wrote him/herself. Our thanks to all of you who participated.

    (By the way, it’s never too late to join the deathbed discussion, or any other — our comments stay open 24/7/364, knocking off the equivalent of one day per year when our server shits the bed.)

    But wait, don’t climb out of your imaginary deathbed just yet!

    Two of you chose The Great Gatsby, and it got me thinking about how at the time of his death, Fitzgerald considered himself a hack and a failure, never imagining that one day Gatsby would be a staple in classrooms around the world and considered by millions(?) the Great American Novel.

    Your turn #1: Fitzgerald, hack or genius? Is there a hack whose work you can’t resist, sort of a literary guilty pleasure? Do you wish we’d stop writing about death? Let us know below, and don’t forget to tick “Notify” to see responses to your comments. read more

    Deathbed Reading: What Book Would You Choose?

    By on October 14, 2016 Posted in ABCs of Writing     Comments 42 comments

    books-1670670_960_720Last week we had a great conversation about the benefits of maintaining a reading list. Today we want to get all morbid and discuss your final entry on that list. That’s right, folks: It’s time to talk about deathbed reading!

    In 2003, a Milwaukee man named David Schwartz was diagnosed with lung cancer. A nonsmoker, Schwartz’s prognosis was grim and he began preparing for the worst.

    Given that books played such a prominent role in his life — Schwartz was a lifelong literature fiend and owned a popular chain of bookstores (at which I used to shop) in the Milwaukee area — part of this preparation involved choosing what book would be his last.

    I remember the coverage of this in the local paper and imagining how I would select my deathbed reading. Outside of the perhaps simpler questions — fiction or non, classic or contemporary, etc. — I think I would ask myself the following:

    1. Do I want a challenge or do I want an easy escape?

    2. A comfortable friend or a book I’ve never read?

    3. How, if at all, would I read this book differently, knowing it would be my deathbed reading experience? And would that play a role in my selection?

    Your turn #1: What questions would you ask yourself to help determine your deathbed book? Let us know in the comments below.

    read more

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