Tag Archives: Fiction

“The Count” Confirms Publishing’s Gender Bias

What would you think if I told you that in 2010 magazines like Harper’s, The New Republic, Poetry Magazine, Granta, The New Yorker, and most of the other big names, published more work written by men than by women?

Would it shock you?  Surprise you?  Raise an eyebrow?

What if I told you that those magazines didn’t publish just three or four more articles by men than by women, they published three or four times more.  It calculates like this:

  • The Atlantic published 154 pieces written by men, 53 by women.
  • The New Yorker: 449 by men, 163 by women.
  • The New York Review of Books: 462 by men, 79 by women.

That raises more than eyebrows, it raises questions and VIDA is doing the asking.

VIDA, a literary group formed last year in response to gender inequality in print, has just published The Count.  I might have called it “The Countess,” but that’s probably too cutesy.  The Count is literally that, a count of male to female writers in the country’s most prestigious magazines, and it is proof positive of just how skewed the ratio is.

As a woman writer, the survey could be depressing.  I could throw up my hands and say, “Why bother, there’s no breaking into the old-boy’s club.”  If it was just a survey, it would be depressing, but it’s not just a survey, it’s the beginning of a conversation and VIDA is leading the way.

“Our count is by no means a blame-game,” says Cate Marvin, VIDA co-founder. “It was time to stop speculating that things didn’t seem entirely fair and find out if we did in fact have reason to be concerned.  The conversation only begins with the numbers.”

More data on submissions and books published by gender is needed for a true picture, but what is included in “The Count” makes it clear that there is a startling imbalance and something needs to be done.  Yes, the conversation has started.  As a woman who writes, it’s now my responsibility to be a part of it.

For more details, read the study by VIDA: “Numbers don’t lie. What counts is the bottom line.”

For an analysis of the numbers, read A new tally by VIDA shows how few female writers appear in magazines from slate.com.

Resources: VIDA, The Daily Post
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Prompt-a-Palooza for Silent Writers

If you’re a writer finding it difficult to make time for writing, think about joining the Silent Writers Collective tonight for its weekly online silent retreat.  All writers are welcome to join in at 9 EST and PST and commit an hour (more if you want) to their art.

You can work on your own project or use one of the exercises provided below.

For more information, visit the Silent Writers Collective.

Resources: The Daily Post

New Hope Comes in a Literary Package

There’s something very exciting about the debut of a literary journal.

All the tension and turmoil bubbling around the publishing world these days can leave those of us who are in love with words feeling sad, worried, and a little bit hopeless.  Enter a new lit mag and our hope is renewed … The word lives.  The word thrives.  Hooray for the word!

And three cheers for the debut of The Literarian, an online journal from The Center for Fiction.

We’re here to celebrate and support the extraordinary breadth of literary fiction in the U.S. and around the world,” writes editor Dawn Raffel in the welcome letter.

The first issue includes six short stories, interviews with Cynthia Ozick, Yiyun Li, a video of Sam Lipsyte reading from his novel “The Ask,” and an essay by Martha McPhee about her five favorite novels with women behaving badly.  Each issue takes a world view, too, by publishing highlights from international literary magazines.  This issue showcases Wet Ink from Australia and the St. Petersburg Review. Future issues promise a venue for emerging writers.

It’s not all storm and stress in the world of words.  At least I don’t think so, and neither does The Center for Fiction.  That’s good news for writers, readers, and everyone else in love with words.

PS:  I would be remiss in my devotion to Philip Roth if I missed this opportunity to mention his upcoming visit to The Center for Fiction on February 24 at 7 pm. Oh, to live in New York again!!

Resources: The Center for Fiction, The Daily Post

Better Him Than Me! A Silent Writers’ Prompt

Tonight at 9 EST and PST, the Silent Writers Collective holds its weekly online writing retreat.  All writers are welcome to join in and be quiet.

You can work on your own project or use the writing exercise provided below.  For those participating in the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge, it’s a great time to stockpile a post or two.  For those who aren’t sure what they want to work on, here is an interesting exercise for fiction writers from Poets & Writers’ new series, “The Time is Now.”

 

 

… “impending doom arrives.”     Oops! Sorry, the last line was cut.

For poets:

Resources: Silent Writers Collective, PW.org, Post A Day.

Happy Birthday, Edgar Allan Poe

“Words have no power to impress the mind
without the exquisite horror of their reality.”
– Edgar Allan Poe

The Masque of the Red Death

Image by ProfessorMortis via Flickr

Mention his name and goth girls swoon, black cats hiss, and the timid turn away.  Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809.  More than 200 years after his birth, cities still fight for ownership of the dead writer’s corpse, whose tortured life and mysterious death were as strange as the tales he told.  Tales like “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Masque of the Red Death” still have the power to shock and enthrall readers all these years later.

In pop culture, Mr. Poe is most often revered as the master of the macabre, but his pen and his influence reach far beyond that.  He and Nathaniel Hawthorne are credited as the fathers of the American short story.  “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” was the first detective story and created the genre.  “The Balloon Hoax” was an early form of science fiction and was an inspiration for Jules Verne’s “Around the World in Eighty Days.”  His poem, “The Raven” is still one of the most famous poems ever written.

He was born in Boston, was orphaned at age three, and taken in by the Allen family of Richmond, Virginia.  His older brother Henry died young and his sister Rosalie went insane.  He lived in Philadelphia with his wife and mother-in-law, before moving with them to the Bronx, New York.  He was married only once, to his 13-year old cousin Virginia Clemm, who died at age 24 of tuberculosis.  He was an alcoholic and a drug addict and was labeled paranoid and perverse.  The day before he died, he was found on a Baltimore street, delirious, incoherent and wearing clothes that weren’t his.

All five cities have landmarks or museums dedicated to him and the Poe Wars over who gets his corpse (Baltimore has it now) aren’t cold yet.

edgar-allan-poeIn honor of his birthday, I’m happy to share this fantastic party favor, a make-your-own Edgar Allan Poe doll, courtesy of the Toy-A-Day blog. (Caveat: Lots of pop-ups, but definitely worth it.) Mr. Poe might roll his eyes at the frivolity of the gesture, but I like to think it would make him crack a smile.

Resources: Post A Day, Edgar Allan Poe Museum/Richmond, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Sity/Philadelphia, Edgar Allen Poe Cottage/The Bronx, Edgar Allan Poe Society/Baltimore.

Writing Prompt for Tonight’s Silent Writers’ Retreat

William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portabl...

Image via Wikipedia

Tonight at 9 EST and PST, the Silent Writers Collective holds its weekly online writing retreat.  All writers are welcome to join in and be quiet.

You can work on your own project or use the writing exercise provided below.  For those participating in the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge, it’s a great time to stockpile a post or two.  For those who aren’t sure what they want to work on, here is an interesting exercise from Poets & Writers’ new series, “The Time is Now.”

This exercise may be more writing than you can fit into one hour, but if you’re inspired to keep writing, that’s the whole idea!

As J-Lo would say, I’m “Waiting for Tonight!”

Resources: Post A Day, Silent Writers Collective, PW.org

Time Machine Visits #FridayFlash Intro

Time machine to late September 2009 …

Spinning Optical IllusionIt’s a quiet Friday afternoon, and I’m trying to learn my way around Twitter.  A steady stream of tweets with the odd looking designation of “#FridayFlash” keeps catching my eye.  Easily distracted and always looking for an excuse to put off my writing, I’m drawn in.

“What could zees be?” I ask out loud.  (My alter ego always has a French accent.)

Curiosity gets the best of me.  I click one of the tweets and enter into a world I never knew existed.  It’s a world of horror and humor, intrigue and romance. Action, adventure, heartbreak and suspense.  I’ve entered the surrealistic wonder world of #FridayFlash.

What is this wonder world, you ask?  According to creator Jon Strother, #FridayFlash is an Internet meme designed to increase your visibility as a fiction writer.   According to me and most of the writers who participate each week, it is so much more than that.

Since entering that world over a year ago, I’ve met some wonderfully supportive and encouraging people, I’ve read some remarkable stories, and my writing has come a long way.  Finding #FridayFlash was like falling through a trapdoor into a hidden fantasy land, and it’s a land open to all; writers and readers, alike.

Icy Sedgwick offers more insight in this Fuel Your Writing interview posted this week:  #FridayFlash — Interview with Jon Strother.

There’s so much more to say about #FridayFlash, but the important information is covered in the interview and in the links I’ve included.  Now I need to hurry and publish this post, because that time-machine-depicting optical illusion up there is freaking me out.  It really is not moving.  Is it?

Resources: Post A Day, Flash Fiction by Olivia Tejeda

Poets & Writers Say, “The Time Is Now”

Way back on December 31, 2010, (six days ago) I accepted the WordPress.com Post A Day challenge to post on my blog every day for a year.  WordPress helps out by posting a daily prompt on their Post A Day blog to keep participants inspired.  I’m on Day 5.  So far so good.

Now Poets and Writers, has kicked off The Time Is Now, a series of weekly prompts and exercises to inspire writers of poetry and prose to stay committed to their writing all year long.

“The most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline. Talent and luck always help, but having a consistent writing practice is often the difference
between aspiring writers and published writers.”
— PW.Org

Every Monday PW will post for poetry, and every Thursday for fiction.  The first installment for poetry is posted now.  The fiction prompt goes up tomorrow.  To have the prompts sent directly to your email, you can sign up at The Time is Now Signup.

If you’re a writer and you’re not familiar with PW, I urge you to GET familiar with them.   As the nation’s largest nonprofit literary organization, they are an incredible and reliable resource for information on competitions, workshops, techniques, agents, and publishers.  What I’ve found most through their site and their magazine is a sense of community and encouragement.  In the announcement introducing The Time is Now, PW.org says, “the most important and underrated factor in a writer’s success is discipline.”  That’s certainly true, but the camaraderie I’ve found at PW, goes a long way.

Resources: Poets & Writers, The Daily Post

Opening Credits: The Intrigue of Book Dedications

When British author C.P. Snow received the American edition of his novel, “A Coat of Varnish,” he was surprised and confused by the dedication:

“For Kate Marsh.”

Lord Snow, author of more than 25 books of fiction and non-fiction, didn’t like to dedicate his books to anyone, and he didn’t know anyone named Kate Marsh.

It turns out that the British printers delivered a copy of Snow’s manuscript to his London literary agent with a cover note, “For Kate Marsh,” the agent’s assistant.  The note was not removed before the manuscript was shipped and the American printer assumed it was the dedication.  Once the mystery was solved, everyone involved had a good laugh, but Lord Snow and his wife didn’t find it very funny.

Book dedications always interest me.  If they are included at all, they are right after the title page, and that’s where I turn first when I pick up a new book.  If I don’t see that page, filled mostly with white space and just a line or two of text, I feel disappointed (1) that I don’t get to indulge my voyeuristic bent, and (2) that the author isn’t an appreciative type.  Surely there must be someone who helped, someone who inspired!  No?

I like reading the acknowledgments, too, but I find dedications so much more fascinating and heartfelt.  Acknowledgments can feel like an obligatory listing of thank yous and who’s who.   Of course, it’s important to give credit where it’s due, but book dedications give credit in a different way.

They are often like little mini-stories filled with intrigue or romance.  Sometimes they offer a glimpse into the author’s personality, such as Charles Bukowski’s dedication in his novel “Post Office.”

“This book is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.”

That’s so Bukowski.

Other times they are cryptic and mysterious, like the dedication in “Peyton Place” by Grace Metalious.

“To George—for all the reasons he knows so well.”

That inscription was so intriguing it prompted Marlene Wagman-Geller to do some research.  She found out that George was Matalious’ husband, and “the reasons”  were that he was endlessly supportive, not just of her writing, but of her rebellious, non-conformist nature.

After learning that, Wagman-Geller was hooked.  Her research led to “Once Again To Zelda:  The Stories Behind Literature’s Most Intriguing Dedications.

“Once Again To Zelda” isn’t a scholarly study; of the 50 books included, only 11 don’t list Wikipedia as a source.  It sometimes reads like a supermarket tabloid filled with gossip and hearsay, but if you’re a book nerd like me, it’s riveting.

As I work toward the completion of my novel, I’ve already spent time thinking about my dedication. I wonder, my writing friends, how many of you have your dedication written?

This post inspired by: The Daily Post

Henry Miller: The Confidence to Utter Profound Truths

Henry Miller 1940

Image via Wikipedia

Henry Miller’s writing has been an inspiration since the first time I read “Tropic of Cancer.”   I can’t say I always understand him, and there are times I shake my head and say, “Huh?”  But I keep reading because his writing is powerfully vivid, filled with energy and raucous life.

His work isn’t always happy; sometimes it’s gritty or gross, but it’s joyful in it’s passion, and I find the energy contagious.

In honor of Mr. Miller’s birthday today (December 26, 1891), I’m sharing this  quote from “Henry Miller On Writing.”   I find it so inspiring I want to tell all my writer friends … Print it out and post it on your computer, use it as a bookmark, frame it, sing it.  Do whatever you want with it, just don’t forget it.

Every day we slaughter our finest impulses.   That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty.   Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.   We all derive from the same source.   There is no mystery about the origin of things.   We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”