• Browsing all articles by David Duhr | 2/23 | WriteByNight Writers' Service

    Share Your Rejection

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 12 comments

    The #ShareYourRejection hashtag on Twitter has gotten a lot of action lately, and in no surprise, writers are among the most vocal.

    Many of these responses are inspirational tales of books that were rejected dozens of times before finding a publisher, like Arianna Huffington’s, Jill Orr’s, and Dea Poirier’s.

    Other writers flash some humor within the trauma, like Hannah Khalil, Erin Vincent, and Joseph Finder.

    And then there are the anecdotes that are truly horrific and/or weird, like this one from A.N. Devers.

    As writers, rejection is folded into our lives. So many thousands of agents, publications, and publishers reject so many thousands of projects and writers each year. It’s just math. read more

    Story Club: “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket”

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN Story Club     Comments 4 comments

    I think it’s high time we all read a short story together again.

    I’ve been reading a ton of Stuart Dybek’s short fiction lately, and I’ve also been talking your ear off about it. I won’t do (much) more of it here, I swear!

    But Twitter friend Kelly Luce took a class with Dybek, and we had a back and forth about that experience, in which she mentioned that Dybek’s favorite story might be Nobel winner Yasunari Kawabata’s “The Grasshopper and the Bell Cricket.” Kelly says that Dybek “still cries every time he reads it.”

    I’d never read Kawabata, but this recommendation was good enough for me. So I read it, and enjoyed it, and I thought it might make for a fun discussion for us. read more

    Micro Fiction Challenge: Musical Edition

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Micro Fiction Challenge     Comments 33 comments

    It’s been an entire half a year since we last did a micro fiction contest! (See: The Excellent Gimmick.)

    A few weeks ago we talked about whether we listen to music while we read and/or write. That discussion coincided with a Yak Babies episode in which my personal pals and I talked about music and song lyrics in fiction: When it works, when it doesn’t, and why.

    Shortly after that I wrote a story in which a song features prominently, just to see if I could do it.

    Now it’s your turn!

    Your task: Write a short story in fifty words or fewer that includes a music reference: song title(s), artist(s), lyrics, whatever you want. read more

    Literary vs. Genre Fiction: Your Reading & Writing Habits

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 20 comments

    For this week’s new episode of Yak Babies we discuss so-called literary fiction: What does the phrase mean, is it little more than a marketing term, how is it distinguished from genre fiction, etc.

    Growing up, I read only genre fiction, except for assigned books. Like I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, I started with the Hardy Boys, and then eventually moved into Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Cussler territory. On the podcast I speculate that all teenagers are drawn to genre fiction, and then I say something like “No teenager wants to read Ann Beattie.”

    It would’ve been more accurate to say “Few teenagers” rather than “No teenager.” Of course there are teens out there who love Ann Beattie. But I think the spirit of what I’m saying is true.

    But here’s your chance to prove me wrong!

    Your turn #1: As a teenage reader, were you drawn more to genre fiction or to literary fiction? Why? read more

    What Is Your Desert Island Book?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 25 comments

    The other day I was watching the episode of The Office where Ryan starts a fire and the gang mills around in the parking lot playing “Desert Island.” Each person gets to choose three books, and Jim reminds them that these are the books they’ll be forced to read over and over again for the rest of their lonely lives, barring rescue.

    Dwight chooses the Physician’s Desk Reference, but then goes on to say that the book is hollowed out, and inside he has matches, a knife, whatever other survival gear. And then, “in case I get bored,” he also chooses a Harry Potter book.

    Like these things do, it got me to thinking about what my desert island books would be. And when I think of anything related to books or my own writing, I naturally wonder about all of you too.

    Choosing three books seems too easy. Choosing one is difficult.

    Your turn: What is your one desert island book? And, most importantly, why?  read more

    Music While You Read, Music While You Write

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 36 comments

    In this quick Yak Babies bonus episode, my personal pals and I discuss whether or not we listen to music while we read or while we write.

    I do not. At least, not if I’m reading or writing at home; I won’t put music on.

    But if I’m doing those activities in public, at a bar or coffee shop or what have you, I don’t mind the music. It doesn’t distract me. In fact, I think it adds to the experience; I imagine I’d struggle to write or read in a quiet, musicless bar. (Musicless. What a weird-lookin’ word.)

    I’ve tried listening to music at home, and it just doesn’t work. Why, then, does it help me when I’m in public? I dunno. It’s just woven into the experience, I suppose. It’s part of the ambiance.

    Your turn: Music while you read or while you write, yes or no? If no, why not? If yes, what kind? Headphones or not? And what purpose does it serve for you? Let us know in the comments. read more

    “Purr” Gold: The Hardy Boys & Childhood Pride in Reading

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 67 comments

    It’s no mystery why Hardy Boys books are almost unreadable: lame plots, terribly stilted dialogue, flat characters who remain wholly undeveloped, even after nearly sixty books. Not to mention the lack of verisimilitude of two characters who are eternally eighteen and seventeen and seemingly never attend school.

    But boy did I love those books as a kid. I don’t think I read all fifty-eight of the original series, but I gave it the ol’ Frank and Joe Hardy high school try.

    I read plenty of ABC and Dr. Seuss-level books, but the Hardys are what first grabbed me and made me curious about the world. Those guys went everywhere, man, and I read at a fever pace just to keep up with them.

    But not only were these books fun and adventure-filled, they also gave me my first feelings of pride as a reader. read more

    Whatever You’re Most Scared Of

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 8 comments

    In Beatlebone, a novel I wrote about in last week’s post, “Books I Return to Again and Again (and Again),” Kevin Barry includes an entire chapter, ostensibly nonfiction, about his process researching and then writing the book. It’s such an odd and fascinating decision; somehow it works, and is among my favorite parts of the book.

    There’s a line in that chapter that I find particularly interesting: “Whatever it is that you’re most scared of surfacing in your work, you can be sure that it’s nearby.”

    Barry proceeds to write about the thing he’s most scared of. For him it’s sentimentality, something that permeates Beatlebone and, apparently, his own life, even though he doesn’t want it to.

    I just finished reading this book for the fourth time, and this time around, I forced myself to think about what I’m “most scared of surfacing” in my writing.

    What are you most scared of surfacing in your writing? Let us know in the comments below. Use a pseudonym if you’re shy. read more

    Books I Return to Again and Again (and Again)

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 10 comments

    A few weeks ago I wrote a post where I talked about how I’ve never read Philip Roth and then listed a whole heap of others writers and books I’ve never read.

    This week, I want to list for you every book and writer I have read.

    Nah, just kidding. Although, as I’ve written about before, a few years ago I did start keeping track of every book I read.

    I had cause to scan those lists recently, and I took note of some titles that pop up often, not every year, but with a frequency that makes them stand out.

    Rereading is interesting. I think there are three reasons I reread: read more

    What Is Your Strangest Writing Experience?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 17 comments

    This week we’re pleased to introduce our newest writing coach and consultant, Caro Clark. Caro comes to us from New Orleans, where she moved to pursue an MSW from Tulane after earning an MFA from the University of New Hampshire.

    To learn more about Caro, read this Q&A, and if you’re interested in working with her, let’s discuss during your free writing consult.

    My favorite question from these staff Q&As is “What is your strangest writing experience?” Caro’s response is a particularly good one:

    “One time I wrote a piece of fiction about a man from a remote seaside town who I gave the occupation of being a fisherman. Five years later, I met and dated that very person with that very name, first and last. In the story he died at sea. In real life, we broke up.”

    What is your strangest writing experience? Let us know in the comments below. read more

    Jugglers & One-Track Writers

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 17 comments

    There’s a guy I hang out with who’s a writer. He’s working on a memoir, and has been for a couple of years. Right now, he’s setting that book aside.

    To write a white paper.

    On auto tires.

    For money, of course! It’s a day job. Auto tires are not a passion of his. (Did you ever notice that we never say “car tires,” only “auto tires”? Or am I making this up? But we say “car battery” rather than “auto battery”; “car horn” rather than “auto horn.”)

    But he said something interesting: “Whenever I have to do a big white paper, I need to stop working on the memoir. I only have enough headspace for one [writing project] at a time.”

    I’ve known many writers who operate the same way. One-track writers, let’s call ’em. read more

    I’ve Never Read Philip Roth

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 19 comments

    The big lit news this week was the death of Philip Roth. His Great American Novel has been on my list forever, due to the baseball and despite its reputation as not great. I also have friends who swear by his long story or novella “Goodbye, Columbus.” I’ve never read a single word of Roth’s. Not defiantly or anything–it just has never happened.

    I’ve also never read any fiction from a writer often mentioned in the same breath, John Updike.

    While we’re at it, I’ve never read Moby-Dick or any James Joyce novel or To the Lighthouse. I’ve never read The Sound and the Fury, Frankenstein, or Middlemarch.

    1984, Brave New World, War & Peace, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. read more

    Gaining — or Regaining — Your Focus

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 14 comments

    A few days ago, some Twitter pundit made a crack about Bull Durham being overrated and the Durham Bulls responded by calling the pundit overrated. It was all very silly, but it kept being tweeted into my timeline, so I had to see it again and again and again.

    It reminded me that Kevin Costner keeps living out what I imagine were his boyhood fantasies of playing baseball: Bull DurhamField of Dreams, one of my guilty pleasures (and a movie that’s arguably better than the book), and the just plain godawful pile of treacle For Love of the Game.

    Whenever I think of that movie I remember a recurring theme where Costner, as an aging ex-superstar… ugh, who cares about the plot. Whenever the crowd noise is getting to him, he takes a deep breath and then shuts out the noise by saying to himself, “Clear the mechanism.” It’s just so stupid.

    But the spirit of it is something I think about a lot, especially in regards to writing: How do we clear the noise and focus? read more

    What Are You Reading & What Should I Read?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 16 comments

    We are finally beginning to consider the idea of beginning to begin the process of beginning to get initially settled into our new apartment. We still have plenty of arranging to do, but if everything works out properly, next to one of our sunny windows we’ll have… a fresh new reading nook!

    Now I’m going to need some recommendations on what to read in it. read more

    Losing Your Writing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Dos & Don'ts     Comments 18 comments

    On the weekend of April 13, I finished a long draft of the book chapter I had wrestled with all week. I clicked save, then shut my computer. Monday morning, when I restarted, the computer had reset itself to factory settings. Wiped clean. As if I’d just bought it and brought it home.

    A few minutes later, after Justine helped scoop me off the floor and out of the fetal position, I restarted the computer. Everything came back. My computer was clearly having some Monday-morning fun with me. I wasn’t amused.

    My first move was to save the chapter to my flash drive. Then I took my second breath of the day.

    We all have our technology horror stories. This one had a happy ending, and served as a reminder for me to always, always, always back up my work.

    Others of my stories have not ended well.

    read more

    The Creative Writing MFA: Yes or No? Maybe.

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Dos & Don'ts     Comments 19 comments

    The MFA in writing: Some of us have it. Some of us want it. Some of us wouldn’t touch it with a pole. And some of us might be considering it, especially here at the end of a school year, when we stop partying for a moment and start thinking about our futures. For a moment.

    I know some of you wonder if I did an MFA, and/or if I recommend doing it.

    If you want the fun answer, listen to me and my podcast pals discuss it in this week’s episode of Yak Babies, “Is a Creative Writing MFA Worth It?

    If you want the quick one, it’s yes, no, maybe, and more. Or, in the words of my co-host Aaron Block, “The question is unanswerable, because it’s all possible answers.” read more

    My New Podcast — Yak Babies

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 4 comments

    Hey, so, I’m on a new books podcast about books and writing. It’s called Yak Babies.

    Why? I don’t really remember. I think we just liked the way it sounds. Plus yak = talk, and we’re basically just a group of adult babies.

    And it gave us the chance to create the handsome nerdy yak mascot you see on the left.

    If you want to get right to it, our first two episodes are available now. Here are a few spots to find us:

    Podbean: https://yakbabies.podbean.com/

    iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-yak-babies-book-podcast/id1374314094

    Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-392414819

    Or plug this RSS link into your favorite podcasting app: https://yakbabies.podbean.com/feed/

    read more

    Writing Through Upheaval

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Strategies     Comments 16 comments

    It’s been a nutty couple of weeks.

    We’re trying to move our website from one host to another, partly to address the problems you’ve encountered the past few months with our comments section: not receiving notifications; not being able to reply to another comment; not being able to comment at all!

    We’re also working on relocating our office.

    On the home front, we lived out of suitcases for a week, and spent an additional week sleeping in our living room because of a leak in our bedroom. Add to that some travel — international and domestic, expected and unexpected — and… well, like I said. It’s been nutty.

    And winter just won’t end!

    Both Justine and I are working on writing projects, and so this week’s question is: How does one write through such upheaval? read more

    Spring Writing Check-In

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Are You Writing?     Comments 4 comments

    Nearly one-third of a year has passed since we discussed our 2018 writing goals, some of us one on one, some of us in a fill-in-the-blank post titled “In 2018, You Will!

    And so… well… how are you doing so far with those goals?

    If you’re well on your way to hitting ’em, congratulations! Take a moment to pat yourself on the back, and take another second to gloat about it in the comments.

    If you’re struggling, do you know why? And is there anything we can do to help? read more

    Books as Gifts vs. Bookstore Gift Cards

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 20 comments

    I was on a bus back from Boston Monday — returning home after a weekend full of recording a new books podcast; more on that later! — and in front of me was a college-aged couple talking about shopping for gifts.

    “Like, don’t get me a video game,” the guy said. “Get me a gift card to my video game store. Unless I ask for a specific game, which I won’t.”

    His companion agreed, sharing an anecdote about how her dad tried to buy her some comic books and they were all wrong. She appreciated the thought, she said, but what her dad actually did was create unnecessary work for her.

    I get it. We know what we want better than anyone else ever could, and gift cards are a nod to that. They’re also much more convenient for the giver — too convenient, even — and super impersonal.

    Me being me I started thinking about gift cards in relation to books, and whether I love ’em or hate ’em, or if I somewhere-in-between ’em.  read more

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