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    On NaNoWriMo, NaNoReMo, and Mo’

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 13 comments

    National Novel Writing MonthShow of hands: Who’s doing NaNoWriMo this year?

    Before I got wise, I thought NaNoWriMo stood for National November Writing Month. Which doesn’t make a ton of sense.

    But as most of you know, it’s really National Novel Writing Month, during which thousands of writers vow to write every day and have a first draft of a novel by November 30, a.k.a. my birthday, what should be a national holiday.

    I won’t be NaNoWriMoing, but I will be NaShoStoWriMoing. My old accountability partner and I are restarting our thing, and my goal is to each week write a first draft of one new short story and revise one old story.

    Roll call: Are you doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you done it before? Did it work? Tell us about your approach and process in the comments. read more

    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

    Recollections That Nudged at Me

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 21 comments

    (In this week’s post, Dana Frank, author the new novel The Moon Can Tell, shares with us her journey from book idea — twenty-five years ago — to publication here in 2018. Share your thoughts in the comments, and/or feel free to ask Dana any questions you have.)


    My novel, The Moon Can Tell, started — twenty-five years ago — as recollections that nudged at me, trying to become a story that, perhaps, I should write down.

    It sounds vague because it was. I didn’t know what I was doing. I only knew that writing it down felt right and gave me some sort of relief. Back then, I didn’t know I was a writer. I had no mentors, no one to say, Wow, I like the way you write.

    Fact is, I was already, and have always been, a writer. I think like a writer, and I see like a writer. I just wasn’t writing it down. read more

    Your 2017 Accomplishments

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 6 comments

    Last week, at the very end of 2017, we asked you to look ahead and share with us your literary goals for 2018.

    (If you haven’t done so yet, you should! We’ll be checking back on these throughout the year.)

    But sometimes it feels, what with all of these “tell us your goals” posts we publish, that we don’t take enough time to acknowledge our accomplishments; to point to the goal we set weeks, months or years ago and say, “I did it. I hit that goal.”

    So now that we know your literary goals for 2018, we want to know: What did you accomplish in 2017? read more

    In 2018, You Will!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 34 comments

    Call ’em resolutions, if you must; we prefer to stick with goals, or even simple desires.

    Either way, 2018 is almost here, and all of us want something out of writing and literature this year, be it to finish a major project, read x-amount of books or a particular writer’s entire output, or simply to become a better writer.

    Just like last year, we want to hear about your 2018 literary goals… in the form of a sentence-completion exercise.

    In as many or as few words as you’d like, complete the following sentence:

    “In 2018, I will ______________” read more

    You’re Never Too Old to Write

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 15 comments

    Annie Proulx, in her recent NBA acceptance speech, said this: “Although this award is for lifetime achievement, I didn’t start writing until I was fifty-eight, so if you’ve been thinking about it and putting it off, well…

    OK, so lots of trolls playing “Gotcha” point out that Proulx published stories in her thirties and a collection at fifty-three, and that she was fifty-six when her first novel came out.

    Who cares! Proulx’s point is, you’re never too old to start writing, and you’re never too old to find literary success, however you may define it. read more

    Tom’s a Good Farmer

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 6 comments

    TL;DR version: I’m in a bit of a weird place, geographically and psychologically. So I wrote a letter telling you about it. The point? I dunno. You never know where you’ll find inspiration? Even if you’re not writing, you can still be engendering future writing?


    For the past three days I’ve been in a county whose population barely cracks 18,000. Back home, I can see 18,000 people in a day without really trying. The town I’m staying in houses 5,000 of those 18,000, and is the only incorporated community in this county of 600 square miles. I’m staying at the nicest hotel in town. It’s a run-down Ramada, base rate $65/night, and is worth nearly every penny.

    There’s a bookstore in town. It doubles as a liquor store; you can come in and browse books while sipping a local beer. Weekdays it closes at 5:30 p.m.; weekends 6:00.

    The town’s restaurant guide offers a dozen options, including McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, KFC/Taco Bell, the Kwik Trip filling station, and Subway.

    The 2010 census shows a population of about 5,200 people, 96.1% of whom are white. Agriculture makes up 49% of its economy. I was talking to a guy yesterday and he mentioned a successful area farmer. “Yeah, Tom’s a good farmer,” he said. I’d never before considered farming and talent level; that there are farmers good at farming and farmers bad at farming.

    My dad was born on a farm just outside of town. When he was zero years old, his family lost the farm. I guess maybe my grandfather wasn’t a talented farmer. read more

    Oh, the Places You’ll Write!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 14 comments

    TL;DR version: This week I’m wondering about the strangest place at/in which you’ve ever written. Where was it, how did it happen, did it work for you, and did you ever return? Spoiler alert: Mine is either in the middle of a graveyard or in the cereal aisle of a Charlestown, Massachusetts, grocery store. What’s yours? Let us know below.


    Sometimes inspiration comes in the most unlikely places. When that happens, are you prepared to pursue it?

    Like most writers, I have some go-to writing spots: two particular benches in Riverside Park; a favorite bar, dark and quiet during the day, darker and quieter at night; a specific seat at a specific Dunkin’ Donuts chain. The loft at my parents’ house. The Esplanade whenever I’m in Boston.

    These are places where I can sit still and write, while occasionally looking up to observe the things happening around me. read more

    2017 Writing Goals Check-In: Mid-April

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 24 comments

    TL;DR version: Are you on pace to reach your 2017 writing goal(s), whether or not you made it public here? If so, congrats! Why not beat your chest about it in the comments section below? If not, why not? Is there anything any of us can do to help? And if you never did share your 2017 writing goal with us, it’s not too late! Simple finish this sentence in the comments section: “In 2017, I will ___________.”


    I don’t mean to hassle you or anything, but Tax Day is almost here, which reminds me that we’re more than one-third of the way through the year, which reminds me that it’s been a couple of months since we last checked in with each other about our 2017 writing goals.


    OK, so right around New Year’s Day a whole lot of us made public writing resolutions by finishing the sentence “In 2017, I will…

    “…finish my second book,” Marcia S. said.

    “…write my first book and read 50 books….and make time for exercise,” wrote Sharon M. read more

    Writing Goals Check-in: February Edition

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 14 comments

    Just before the new year turned, we provided some space for you to write out your 2017 writing goals in the hopes that a little bit of public accountability might help you hit them. Your task was to fill in the blank: “In 2017, I will _______.

    The results ran the gamut. Some of you want to finish books; others want to finish anything. Many of you simply want to write more, or to improve as a writer. Some are on the lookout for a writing community, others talked about being chained alone in a room with nothing but a laptop and soup.

    The creativity expressed in this simple exercise shows that you all are capable of anything.

    But seeing as how the whole point of doing a public expression of your writing goals was to have some accountability, I think a regular check-in on those goals might prove beneficial. read more

    In 2017, You Will!

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 61 comments

    This is our final post of 2016.

    It’s a simple one.

    I want only one thing from each of you.

    And that one thing is for you to fill in the blank with a response involving writing and/or reading:


    “In 2017 I will _____________________”

    read more

    Writing Wisdom: From Inspiration to Idea

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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

    Would You Rather? The Writer’s Edition

    Posted Posted by David Duhr 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

    A Compenduhrum of Writing Wisdom, Vol. 1

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 18 comments

    interview-905535__340I 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

    My Favorite Thing About Coaching

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 1 comment

    teacher-1276266_960_720September is known as “back-to-school month” here in the United States. Remember those trips to Kmart for pencil boxes and protractors and colored pencils? That mixture of anticipation for a new school year balanced with those feelings of “Aww damn it, summer’s over already and now I have to sit in social studies again”?

    August has also, in a way, been back-to-school month here at WBN, with our emphasis on coaching, its educational and practical value. Because in its own way, coaching is a form of school. A coaching session is a scheduled hour designed to help you learn how to become a stronger writer — and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than an MFA. Hell, you can even look at the writing you produce between sessions as homework. (But only if you want to!)

    In fact, one of my coachees signs off on his emails with “Your Student.” And at the end of each session he says, “OK, so what’s my assignment this week?”

    This past week, on top of the standard homework, we asked some of you to share with us your favorite aspect of coaching.

    Think of it as a sort of “My favorite part of summer vacation.” read more

    April 20, 2017: Your Writing Goals & You

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 13 comments

    Here comes a sentence so abhorrent that I suddenly feel the need to write it in verse so that I can have a break between the awful bits:

    Monday morning

    I stood on line

    At the post office

    For a “certificate of mailing”

    To send our quarterly taxes to the

    Internal Revenue Service.

    (N.b. In the Midwest we stand in line. Here in NYC, we stand on line. Is that a dominance thing? In line, you’re at the mercy of the line. “Get in line with the rest of us sheep and wait your turn. That’s right, all the way in the baaaaaaaaaaaack.” [Ugh, I’m so sorry about that.] On line, it’s like you’ve got things under control; you’re the one giving the mercy. “I choose to remain on line for now, but if I wanted to, I could skip all you turkeys and go to the front because I have that privilege and you all should thank me for not exercising it.”)

    (N.b. I still think the plural of turkey should be turkies. Turkies & monkies.)

    Well great, we’re right on track, as usual. read more

    Six Years of Rejection: What I Did When Editors Said No

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in Inspiration     Comments 16 comments

    Our pal Martin Barkley’s story “W’s Decorum” was published recently at Queen Mob’s Tea House. I knew Martin had been working on — submitting, polishing, submitting, polishing —  that story for many years, and it set me to wondering: after six years of rejection, had he ever felt like giving up on “W’s Decorum”? What kept him from doing so? How did it feel to finally have someone pick it up? i.e., was the pleasure worth the pain? He was kind enough to write about the experience for us below.

    How about you folks? What keeps you submitting a piece of work that gets rejected again and again? How do you keep yourself from giving up? Is the pleasure of publication worth the pain of rejection? Let us know in the comments below or drop us a line. –DD


    By Martin Barkley

    “W’s Decorum” is a story written in the form of a legal deposition (4,962 words), a story that has a bunch of fine cuss words and erudite footnotes, and that disses George W. Bush for making being a dick acceptable.”

    From my cover letter to Queen Mob’s Tea House


    Negativity PositivityI wrote this story that was rejected eight times over the course of six years. In between offering the story and receiving refusals, I was busy writing other things, so that factored into the lengthy timeline to publication, but I kept coming back to the story.

    Because I keep a spreadsheet of my submissions (see below), I know how many times and where the piece got the kibosh. About half the editors responded quickly, perhaps too quickly (In one fucking day, Word Riot — really?) to have actually read the piece. Three of the submissions sat in a slush pile for two months or more, which is fairly standard, but it does drag out the process. As does the stingy “No Simultaneous Submission” policy, which I resentfully obeyed whenever required. read more

    Going Public With a Reading Resolution

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 32 comments

    reading resolutionLast week’s spirited discussion about writing resolutions and public accountability is still going strong, as many of you have shared with us your 2016 writing goals. This week I want to tell you about my 2016 reading resolution, and I want to hear your reading resolution too.

    In the post above, I mentioned my reading log, and how at the end of 2012 I was so disappointed with that year’s list that I publicly vowed to read eighty books in 2013, else I be obliged to perform a public dramatic reading of Fifty Shades of Grey while wearing a hot-pink onesie.

    I must admit, last year’s reading list was as woeful as 2012’s. For one thing, the amount was lower than it’s been in years. I know quantity isn’t all that matters, but I still prefer to average a book per week, and last year I didn’t come very close to that.

    And of the books I did manage to read, well fewer than half were written by women, minorities, or foreign authors in translation. Combined! read more

    Going Public With a Writing Resolution

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Inspiration     Comments 35 comments

    FireworksAccording to this random study, 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions accomplish them. That sounds about right. Put another way, if you make twenty-five resolutions on New Year’s Eve, you’re likely to achieve two of them by the same time next year. Two outta twenty-five, gang. And the two would be probably the simplest and/or least important ones, too. (No study makes that claim — it’s just me being a cynic. Twelve days ago I resolved to be less of a cynic in 2016. Oh-for-one.)

    There’s a formality in the word “resolve,” a certain firmness. (A comic, maybe Carlin, once lobbied to have “firmth” become a word. I support that.) If you resolve to do something, it’s not just a passing thought; it’s a declaration. “I don’t just want to do this thing — I declare that I will do this thing!” It’s a strong statement.

    Well, folks, we humans struggle with strong statements. And most other things. And so another year passes and another set of resolutions goes unachieved, and we feel a little bit more like pieces of shit each and every December 31. read more

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