Last 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
Last 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.
In an era in which we routinely track every penny we spend, every calorie we consume, and now every step we take, it strikes me as almost unbelievable how few of us keep a reading list.
Documenting the books we’re feeding our own brains was something I assumed most serious readers did. But when I asked four of my closest heavy-reader friends, I found that none of them maintain any account of their literary intake. A few of them have a running list of books they want to read; but when a particular title’s time comes, they delete it from the list as if it were no more than a chore now completed.
Here at WriteByNight we’ve talked and written extensively about the writing process, but never have we quite boiled it down as poetically as our newest writing coach/consultant, Sarah McColl, who tells us, “I like working individually with a writer through every part of the process: inspiration, frustration, excitement, tedium, resistance, light-bulb moments when things start to click, curiosity, discovery, satisfaction, and joy.”
(Which stage are you currently in? Which is your favorite stage? Let us know in the comments below!)
Sarah’s work has appeared in publications such as the South Dakota Review, Bon Appetit and Edible Brooklyn. Like many writers, editing and revision are the most challenging aspects of the writing process. The hardest part, Sarah says, is “Knowing when a sentence or section isn’t working and then re-envisioning solutions.” read more
I have this silly fantasy project in which I would read every single Paris Review interview ever done and compile all of my favorite responses into a rich compendium of writer wisdom and inspiration.
I’d keep this compendium on my desk and reference it whenever I needed a motivational boost. (I would also sell it and become stupid rich, until I’m sued by the Paris Review and go right back to being stupid and poor.) (These are the kinds of thoughts that prevent me from getting done any real work.)
I enjoy writer Q&As, when done right. I much prefer in-person or phone interviews, rather than email exchanges, which to me usually come off as unnatural, and often involve the interviewer writing unacceptably long questions, concerned mostly with showcasing his/her own writer wisdom for the reader. Inevitably those questions involve much more I than you. Were I feeling more churlish, I’d cite a few egregious examples. read more
It’s always refreshing to hear an accomplished writer tell the truth about how difficult this writing thing is. “I find all of writing hard!” says WriteByNight’s newest writing coach and consultant, Carin Clevidence. That honesty is one of the attributes that drew us to Carin. She doesn’t pretend to have rolled right out of bed and written a book.
Though she has written a book, of course. In coverage of The House on Salt Hay Road, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Carin is described as having “a gift for creating images that express the unspeakable” (New York Times) and being “a breathtaking new American voice” (Jhumpa Lahiri). read more
Our latest Micro Fiction Challenge, “fizzle,” did just that. What happened, y’all? I picked a bad word? Nobody wanted to write about July Fourth fireworks fizzling out? You all think I’m some sort of donkeyman?
Donkeyman. What a fun word to say. Try it out. Just one step away from assman. (Cosmo Kramer, anyone? The ASSMAN?)
It sounds like a slur, but it’s actually a nautical term for someone who works in a ship’s engine room. Merriam-Webster says a donkeyman is responsible for running the donkey engine, also known as the steam donkey. From Joseph Conrad’s story “Typhoon”: “One of the stokers was disabled, the others had given in, the second engineer and the donkeyman were firing-up.”
Oxford says donkeyman is “a man with responsibilities in a ship’s engine room.” A man. So if a woman were running (or manning) the steam donkey, would she be a donkeywoman? The only search results I get for “donkeywoman” are NSFW. Volumes have been written about the sexism in this here language.
But in the Micro Fiction Challenge, succinctness reigns.
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