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2012 Blapup

Posted Posted by David Duhr in Best Of     Comments 5 comments

WriteByNight Logo blue and white 3 2012 BlapupBefore we launch into a brand new year of bloggy awesomeness, let’s take a quick peek at some of our 2012 highlights.

Like, being named “Best Writers’ Resource” in the Chronicle‘s Best Of Austin 2012 issue.

The Micro Fiction Challenge has proven a fun and creative writing game. Prizes have ranged from cold hard cash to mini golf to the current giveaway, two free hours of solitude at WriteByNight (still up-for-grabs).

Great Beginnings is also here to stay. Each week we’ll explore and discuss the opening lines of classic literature, both in advance of and after our upcoming seminar “Great Beginnings.” read more

On Jose Skinner’s “Que Sera”

Posted Posted by Heather Nelson in Best Of, Book Club     Comments 20 comments

(Editor’s Note: Next month we’re reading Jazz, Toni Morrison’s stunning novel of life in 1920s Harlem. Check out the reading/discussion schedule here. And now, let’s talk about José Skinner’s “Qué Será.” As usual, discuss this story in the comments section, and click the “Notify” box to stay current with the conversation. DD)


Jose Reading Cozy 300x224 On Jose Skinners Que SeraOkay, honesty time: I ran from “Qué Será.” For weeks after skimming it, I ran. I gleaned that it deals with heavy themes: unplanned (and partially-unwanted) pregnancy, starving children, abused animals, etc., and I ran. Much like I do when I see an impoverished child from another country on TV. Pathetic, really. This story, with its brutal honesty, forces us to face these issues.

As part of my moderation preparation (modprep, if you will), I prodded a mentor to read this piece and give me his insight. He happened to read another one that I posted on Facebook, and said he preferred the latter, “pretty” one. I was determined to delve into “Que Sera,” whether I personally found it “pretty” or not, and find the merit. Boy, did I.

Straightaway I was caught off guard by the title. It seems like a portent of “what will be,” and accomplishes this by leaving off the last portion of the saying. How is this significant?

The piece begins with an American couple, staying in an upper-class cabana in Mexico, who have recently taken a pregnancy test they purchased from the local farmacia (pharmacy). read more

On Dagoberto Gilb’s “Uncle Rock”

Posted Posted by Jeff Questad in Best Of, Book Club     Comments 38 comments

(Editor’s Note: We’ll announce our June Book Club selection–another short story–in this space next week. Remember that for July we’ll be reading Toni Morrison’s Jazz, so consider getting a jump start on it. DD)


images On Dagoberto Gilbs Uncle RockWelcome to the WBN Book Story Club.

Uncle Rock” is one of many solid pieces in Dagoberto Gilb’s fine collection of stories, Before The End, After The Beginning, but it sits apart from the book and has a character of its own. It appeared in print in The New Yorker well before the book was released or even finished, and in its brevity and the way it crackles with color (especially in the third and final act) it fits snugly inside the book, even as it distinguishes itself as something of a stray. Perhaps it stakes out its own territory most vividly in the way its sly upbeat ending plays out. More on that down the page.

The story proceeds through three tight movements, a fully featured but terse 2,700 words.



The first part of the story introduces Erick, an 11-year-old Mexican American boy living in L.A. in the early ’80s. “Uncle Rock” is essentially a tale about Erick’s place at the center of a swirl of men who approach the boy’s attractive and available mother. read more

Color My Words

Posted Posted by Jacqui Bryant in Best Of, Writing Help     Comments 20 comments

Labels Color My WordsHere are some labels I never want associated with my name, or with my writing: minority, black, African-American. Not because I’m not happy to be those things, but because I’m so much more. When I write, I’m not telling black stories: I’m telling human stories. Labels lead to marginalization.

Recently I read the excellent essay “Literature and Democracy,” in which Pablo explores his concerns over labels, especially the ethnic kind. “Suddenly,” Medina writes, “the person’s worth as a writer is of secondary importance to the social labels we, as critics and readers, are able to tag on her.” Even though, as he says, “What matters about truly great literature is the totality of its human content.”

Lately I’ve been thinking about the color my words take on. In my vision, the characters I write often look similar to me, which I take as a reaction to the fact that in what I read, the majority of the characters do not look like me. read more

Somewhere In Here is a Story …

Posted Posted by Mike Britt in Best Of, Rants & Raves, Writing Help     Comments 10 comments

(Editor’s Note: In February we ran a three-part series from Leah Kaminsky on what to do with Post-MFA life. For the next three Wednesdays, we’ll be offering here a quasi-response from WBN compatriot Mike Britt, who finds himself having a … different experience. DD)


005 300x225 Somewhere In Here is a Story ...I’m thirty years old. I have a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in fiction writing. I can’t find a job.

Housing bust. Bailout. American automotive manufacturers. Rising oil prices. Hydro-fracking. European debt crisis. Angela Merkel. Occupy Wall Street. I can’t find a job.

Newt Gingrich. Mitt Romney is half-Mexican. Rick Perry isn’t very bright. Rick Santorum thinks homosexuality is tantamount to pedophilia. John Huntsman, who? I can’t find a job.

The Japanese tsunami was unbelievable to watch. It really made me wonder if the Mayans might have known something we don’t. In which case, if this is the last year of the Earth, why am I even trying to find a job? read more

Hands Off My Books

Posted Posted by Sarah Rodriguez Pratt in Best Of, Rants & Raves     Comments 14 comments

Highlighting Hands Off My BooksPatina can be beautiful. I love copper roofs that have turned turquoise, and weathered wooden beach chairs (though I’m wary of splinters). But I hate, hate, hate wear and tear in my books.

In my collegiate youth, I didn’t mind highlighting or notes in books, especially in textbooks. (Thanks, previous owner, for doing some of my work for me!) Even in non-textbooks, I found handwritten notes fascinating. It was as if the book had come with an additional story–a story about the previous owner and his or her perspective.

Today, however, I’ve completely reversed my opinion. read more

Post-MFA, There is Another Way: Your Wants and Needs

Posted Posted by Leah Kaminsky in Best Of, Writing Help     Comments 24 comments

This is the first in a series of three about what to do with post-MFA life.

Desk Jockey 300x200 Post MFA, There is Another Way: Your Wants and NeedsIf you’re getting your MFA in Fiction Writing, you’ve likely been told you’ve got two options for your career: get a teaching position or get an easy desk job.

Teaching is supposed to be your dream job. You get to talk with students about a subject you love, and you get time off in the summer just to write.

A desk job is also a good option, as long as it’s not too mentally taxing. You can leave work at five and spend the rest of the evening writing the book that will eventually land you a teaching job.

There you go, my MFA chickadees. Your dream careers. read more

Worst. Advice. Ever.

Posted Posted by Sarah Rodriguez Pratt in Best Of, Rants & Raves     Comments 20 comments
images2 Worst. Advice. Ever.About 25 years ago, I decided I wanted to be a writer. I’d just read the Little House on the Prairie books and realized–thanks to my fantastic school librarian–that they were written by a person, a living human being; and that some people write books as their jobs. (Until that point, I’d honestly thought stories were manufactured in factories, just like the books on which they were printed.)


Since that realization and decision, I’ve heard a lot of writing advice–and not all of it has been good. But even the most misguided words, if reframed properly, can offer inspiration and assistance. Below are some of the most well-meaning but ultimately useless gems I’ve been handed, and how I’ve managed to make them helpful (your mileage may vary; apologies if one of them made a huge difference in your life and changed everything for the better):


read more

Year-End Blapup (Yes, I Made a Portmanteau Out of Blog and Wrapup)

Posted Posted by David Duhr in Best Of     Comments 3 comments

2011 has been an excellent year for WriteByNight. See our recent year-end newsletter for some of the highlights, and for a taste of what 2012 has in store for us (before the 12/12/12 Armageddon.)

Among the more exciting moments was the launch of our new website back in April. Running the WBN blog since then has been a pleasure–but that’s mostly due to all of you, so I want to get out of the way here and dedicate a post to you wonderful writers and readers.

And what better way than to list the Top 10 comment-eliciting posts from 2011? The writers write ‘em, the readers respond to ‘em. Community. That’s what we’re all about here at WBN.

Enjoy this little look back, ladies and gents. And as always, if any of these posts inspire you to write something of your own for us, send it my way. read more

Are You Hiring a Ghostwriter or a Slave?

Posted Posted by Laura Roberts in Best Of, Rants & Raves     Comments 8 comments

 Are You Hiring a Ghostwriter or a Slave?My professional website,, contains a contact form that allows potential clients to email me with questions, queries and requests for my rates. Unfortunately, I also get all manner of tire-kickers wasting my time with emails that have clearly not been well thought out before pressing “Send.” For instance, the latest was from a chap looking for a ghostwriter, who sent me an email something like this:


Dear Laura,

I would like you to read my 7,000-word manuscript, which mainly consists of gobbledygook, stock dialog, flat characters, and an incomprehensible plot line read more

The Book Wasn’t Better

Posted Posted by Sarah Rodriguez Pratt in Best Of, Rants & Raves     Comments 20 comments

Wonder Boys Poster The Book Wasnt BetterWhen I was 17, I made a horrifying discovery. I learned something that went against everything I believed as a lifelong reader and bookworm. I discovered that, sometimes, the book isn’t better than the movie.

I know, I know. I was shocked, too.

The first instance of this uncomfortable truth came when I read Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. My high school self thought it alternated between being tedious and frustratingly complex. Plus, the print versions of Drs. Grant and Sattler were dull and cold compared to Sam Neill and Laura Dern.

Well, that’s got to be an anomaly, I told myself. Maybe Crichton’s style of writing just isn’t for me.

Then I read The Princess Bride a few months later. read more

Spooky Stories

Posted Posted by Jenna Cooper in Best Of, Writing Help     Comments 20 comments

HauntingOfHillHouse Spooky Stories‘Tis the season for reading, writing, and talking about horror. The last book I read that really scared me was The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Whenever I mention this book to fellow readers, I usually get one of two reactions. They either say something along the lines of ‘Oh, that book scared me shitless’ or ‘What’s it called again? Oh, is it what The Haunting is based on? That movie sucked…’ But as any bibliophile knows, the book is almost always better than the movie or TV show. In the case of The Haunting of Hill House, that’s definitely true. (Although I’ve heard the 1963 movie was well done.) read more

Oh, the Places You’ll Go (to Write)

Posted Posted by Jenna Cooper in Best Of, Writing Help     Comments 18 comments

Coffee Shop Oh, the Places Youll Go (to Write)I’ve been thinking a lot about where I write recently. I share a four-bedroom house with five other people (one is my boyfriend of six years), so I don’t get a ton of privacy. Plus, the place is generally messy. And mess drives me batshit crazy. This week I finally worked up the gumption to make my house a writer’s nest. Personally, I need a clean space to feel mentally “clear.” It was well worth it, and it only took a a few (five or six) hours.

Do you ever have that problem? You know what kind of environment supports your writing, but you’re too damn lazy or busy to make that environment a reality? Luckily, I almost always prefer to write at home. All the coffee and snacks I need, incense, and a bed where I can lay in total dishabille. read more

Pour, Pour Writers

Posted Posted by David Duhr in Best Of, Writing Help     Comments 13 comments

Exam Pour, Pour WritersListen, I understand the frustrations of the submission process. I really, really do. I know it’s full of headaches, and that it’s time-consuming and spirit-sucking and can make you wish you’d chosen a career in the janitorial arts instead.

But like Laura wrote about last week, editors are not (always) the enemy. And the submission process isn’t all cake and ice cream for us, either.

Thankfully my benevolence knows no bounds.

Yes, I have decided to take time out of my busy schedule to work as peacemaker between these two groups of creatives. (Hold your applause until the end, please.) read more

Whither My Jockstrap?

Posted Posted by David Duhr in Best Of, Rants & Raves     Comments 11 comments

Jockstrap Whither My Jockstrap?I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the differences between “creative” writing and book reviewing, but first I should address the elephant in the room. Good day, elephant; you represent the fact that I haven’t written a legitimate blog post since May 10. Much like my good friend acquaintance Nate, my own blog contains little evidence these days of my presence, but is instead a whirlwind of Jennas, Katies, and Michelles.

Which is not so bad. Nobody besides myself has been wondering “Where the hell is Duhr,” and Jenna, Katie, Michelle, et aliae, have provided, and will continue to provide, fresh, interesting and amusing content.

But just like Jenna wrote about yesterday, I feel like I’ve lost my writing voice. read more

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