tl;dr summary: A few of my favorite books of the year. I also want to hear about your favorite books from 2016 (even if you wrote them!). Leave titles and descriptions in the comments below, because we’re always looking for new good books to read. Doing so enters you into a drawing to win one of three copies of Martin Barkley’s The Lovesong of Smith Oliver Smith.
Throughout 2016 I did my best to leave behind words such as “good” and “bad” when talking about art. Rather, like my pal Drew in this Electric Lit essay, I’m trying to express (and feel) non-judgmental opinions. “I enjoyed that book” is more helpful than “That’s a good book.” “I didn’t enjoy that book” is stronger than “That’s a bad book,” even if it doesn’t seem so.
As Drew writes, “Better we should surrender to our own idiosyncratic preferences, embracing that rather than ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ works of art might be more fittingly characterized as ‘for me’ or ‘not for me.’ Or — because, who knows, I might still change my mind about Infinite Jest — ‘for me right now’ or ‘not for me right now.'”
All this is to say that what follows is a list, in no particular order, of the books I most enjoyed reading in 2016. (None were published in 2016; this is by coincidence, not intent.) read more
Last week we had a fun conversation about getting work done during your holiday travels. Now, for many of us, those travels are here. Report in, let us know how you’re doing! Don’t let yourself be stuck in what Zadie Smith in On Beauty calls “seasonal prisons”:
“This, after all, was the month in which families began tightening and closing and sealing; from Thanksgiving to the New Year, everybody’s world contracted, day by day, into the microcosmic single festive household, each with its own rituals and obsessions, rules and dreams. You didn’t feel you could call people. They didn’t feel they could phone you. How does one cry for help from these seasonal prisons?”
But even in family prison, a big communal meal over the holidays can make one’s problems go away, at least momentarily. As Oscar Wilde said, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.”
Although note that he said “after” rather than “during.” Curious! read more
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
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
Today we’d like to introduce you to the colorful and talented Sam Severn, our latest addition to the WriteByNight ghostwriting staff.
Sam comes to us from Snohomish, Washington, where, he tells us, he has “continued my holy quest to remain positively the lamest heavy metal guitar player still alive.”
He may be lame with a guitar, but he’s anything but when it comes to consulting with writers. Among the best-selling books Sam has been involved in are Tears for My City and Serafina and the Twisted Staff. read more
In our continuing mission to provide writing coaches and consultants who best suit your writing needs, we’ve added three new accomplished writers to our staff, and today we want to introduce ’em to you.
Bridget Apfeld has taught writing courses and run fiction workshops at UNC-Wilmington, where she received her MFA. Her work has appeared in journals such as Dislocate, So to Speak, Prick of the Spindle, and Verse Wisconsin. She lives in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Bridget got her start as a writer by … not writing. “I spent most of my childhood narrating stories in my head or drawing single-page illustrations,” she tells us, “each with their own elaborate, unwritten drama.”
She began writing seriously in college: “Once I took my first workshop,” she says, “I was hooked, and never wanted to do anything else.” read more
Readers don’t need to write, but writers sure do need to read.
Our wonderful writing coaches and consultants set a fine example: they’re all voracious readers, and they love to share their favorite books, as well as books they’ve learned from as writers.
When we bring on new staff here at WriteByNight, we always ask ’em what book they’re currently reading and what they think of it. Here are answers from a handful of them. (Click on a coach’s name to read a full Q & A with him or her.) read more
A few days before Yi Shun Lai’s debut novel, Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu, was released by Shade Mountain Press, she and I chatted a bit about the book, her writing process, and a topic I’ve beaten into the ground by now, our shared fascination with Cheez-It crackers.
You regular readers are plenty familiar with Yi Shun by now through her posts and through her regular interaction with y’all in the comments sections. (Also, I touched on her novel earlier this year.)
Enjoy our Q&A below, and then go check out her wonderful book.
Have a question of your own for Yi Shun Lai? Fire away in the comments section. (Just don’t expect immediate answers — the weeks after publishing a book are exhausting.) (Or so I’m told!) read more
After a rather lackluster March — three books, all dudes — I picked it up a little in April.
Except for the “all dudes” portion: Five books in April, all by men. Three of them are technically for work, so that’s part of it. And also I’m partway into two books written by women, and given a few more days, they’d have made this list.
But they didn’t. So I’m at 19 books on the year, 12 by men. Clearly I am lagging.
The other half of the bet is going better: 11 of the 19 fit the minority and/or translated writer bill. Still, I’m not exactly killing it.
What are you currently reading? And how is your reading resolution going? Let us know below.
And now for the books. read more
March was a real bummer of a month for me, reading-wise: three books, all dudes, which doesn’t help much in keeping me ahead of pace on the reading resolution I told y’all about.
Public shaming is imminent.
Not only that, two of the three books were disappointing, to the point that I almost didn’t finish them.
If not for this resolution thingie, and how it forced me to forge ahead, I probably would have read in full only one book this month.
Let’s start with the one I did enjoy: read more
How is that the quickest month, even in a leap year, feels like the longest? Lots of indoor time in February should mean lots of reading, but unlike January, I didn’t get through a whole heap o’ titles. Maybe half a heap.
I don’t want to waste your time every month rehashing my 2016 reading resolution and why I’m listing the books I’ve read. I covered it in detail in this post. Summation: I must read 52+ books in 2016, at least half by women, and at least half by minority writers and/or foreign writers in translation. Because last year I sucked at doing those things.
I got through four books in February. Here they be:
So January is over and we’re now in the shortest but most brutal month of the year.
Here in NYC we’ve had only one major snow and no serious cold snap, so I won’t be surprised if February kicks the pudding out of us. What a great time to get out in front of your 2016 reading resolution!
It’s been two weeks since we had our rousing discussion about those. How are they going so far? Let us know below.
During that discussion I promised to report on my reading progress once per month, in order to keep me honest in pursuit of my goals — to read at least fifty-two books in 2016, over half of which will be written by women, and over half of which will be written by minorities and/or by foreign authors in translation.
I’m not going to write lengthy reviews of each book, because yawn, right? I’ll just give a bit of background/plot and an impression or two.
Maybe you’ll find something new to read. Hopefully next to a roaring fire and a cup of hot cocoa.
Many cliches are cliches for good reason.
Since many of you will spend a large portion of your week twiddling your thumbs at an airport gate, or sitting for hours in a plane on the motherf*cking tarmac, we figured this would be a good time to offer not just one blog post, but many. Because what else are you going to do? (One good answer: Write!)
The following are links to some of our top blog posts from 2015, based on page views and rich interaction and whatnot. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve likely seen many of these. Consider it a clip show. If you aren’t a regular reader, well, why the hell aren’t you?
Happy holidays, WriteByNighters! And safe travels.
Today we’d like to introduce you to Brad Tyer, the newest member of WriteByNight’s staff of consultants and coaches. Brad is a longtime journalist and editor, as well as the author of the book Opportunity, Montana: Big Copper, Bad Water, and the Burial of an American Landscape (Beacon Press 2013).
And maybe, just maybe, he influenced a decision made by David Foster Wallace in Infinite Jest. Read on to find out how!
Yup, it’s true. We’ve added two new services to our already impressive selection of coaching, consultation, and editorial offerings. And we’re pretty darn excited about it. We hope this post will get you just as excited as we are.
What follows is a full description of each new service and some FAQ you’ll find helpful in gaining familiarity with them. So without further ado, here’s the scoop on WriteByNight’s newest services for writers. read more
Today we’re pleased to introduce to you the newest member of WriteByNight’s staff of writing coaches and consultants, Jessamine Chan. Jessamine has earned fellowships and scholarships from a wide variety of institutions, including Bread Loaf and Columbia, and is the former nonfiction reviews editor at Publishers Weekly.
Below is a Q&A with Jessamine Chan, followed by a brief bio.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Oak Park, Illinois. After college in Providence, I moved back to Chicago for many years, then moved to New York for graduate school. I moved to Philadelphia in summer 2014. read more
Today we’d like to introduce the newest member of WriteByNight’s staff of consultants and coaches, Andy Wolfendon. Andy is a prolific ghostwriter, playwright, stand-up comic and lyricist, and has years of experience teaching writing at the college level.
Below is a Q&A with Andy Wolfendon, followed by a brief bio.
Where are you from?
The Singularity, by way of Lawrence, Massachusetts.
Where did you study?
Got my Master’s at Emerson College, where I learned that the people who had the most game weren’t necessarily the best writers.
How did you get your start as a writer?
Writing and storytelling have always been survival tools. I faked my way through college by writing killer essays, and saved my a** more than a few times by telling a good story. I got into professional writing by way of comedy. I was an actor and stand-up comic, but finally realized I liked writing the material better than I liked performing it. That led to several years of writing scripts for the computer/video game industry and spec screenplays, and then finally back to my first love: books. read more
Today we’d like to introduce you to Bill Hammond, a new member of WriteByNight’s staff of wonderful consultants and coaches. Bill is a forty-year veteran of the publishing industry, and the author of, among other titles, a six-book series of nautical/historical fiction.
Below is a Q&A with Bill Hammond, followed by a brief bio.
Where are you from?
I was born in Boston and grew up on Boston’s North Shore, in Manchester. read more
Today we’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our wonderful staff of consultants and coaches, Tom Andes. Tom is a New Englander by birth and currently lives in New Orleans, where he writes fiction and nonfiction is shopping around a story collection.
Below is a Q&A with Tom Andes, followed by a brief bio. read more
Today we’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our wonderful staff of consultants and coaches, Chris Mattix. Chris is a transplanted Montanan living in Austin, Texas, where he runs Weekly Weird Monthly and co-hosts our favorite local show, Writing on the Air.
Below is a Q&A with Chris Mattix, followed by a brief bio.