Posts Tagged: writing

10 Things I Learned From Editing Obituaries for Two Years

I recently wrapped up a two-year gig writing and editing for my university alumni magazine. Class notes and obituaries are the bread-and-butter of alumni magazines, and editing them is often a thankless role. At 10,000+ words, or approximately 250 dead people per issue, a strong stomach—for grief of the emotional and copy-editing varieties—is a necessity. This means obits generally get relegated to the youngest person on staff. Obits are one of the most-read sections of alumni magazines, and editing them is by far the least sexy job. Often it felt like this part of the production process would never end (if you think about it, it doesn’t), and mostly I [...]


"Who among us instantly adores a person we’ve been told we’re sure to love?"

First lines, like first dates, or the first bite of dessert, can be deceptive. As a writer, I distrust them (well: I no longer ‘date’ since I’ve been married 25 years; there are many ways to surprise your husband in print, but this won’t be one of them), and I particularly dislike often-quoted first lines (that shall here go unmentioned) because I’ve been told everyone loves them. Who among us instantly adores a person we’ve been told we’re sure to love?  Ann Beattie wrote about titles, first lines, first impressions at Granta.


Jhumpa Lahiri on Writing: "I Don't Understand How It Happens"

Do you ever see those stories detailing "how people work"—like, here is my perfect desk and my completed to-do list and here is how organized I am, always—and feel utterly perplexed by the general togetherness of the rest of the human race? Or maybe it's just me, but that's why I found this New Yorker sit-down with the writer Jhumpa Lahiri to be refreshingly, honestly vague about it all: Lahiri has no idea how she writes her books.

It's a very mysterious process, at least for me. I still don't understand how I write a story or a book. I don't understand how it happens. I mean, I know [...]


Of Long-Winded Female Writers and Role Models: Remembering Maeve Brennan

One recent morning I awoke cranky and tired due to one too many Cosmos and a third night of insomnia. My first book was published a few months ago and I naively thought I would finally have some time to relax, some time for “pure happiness.” But it suddenly seemed like the real work had only begun. For months now I’ve been struggling with… let’s call it exhaustion. Yet again the difficult question loomed: how do we writers experience and accept obstacles without being buried alive?

As I sat on the couch griping, my husband tossed me The Long-Winded Lady by Maeve Brennan (1917-1993), an old-time New Yorker writer [...]


False Dichotomy vs Who Cares

Chad Harbach's new book is here! MFA vs NYC, an elegant, troll-to-fit title for the ages, identifying and reifying the Two Paths for the Writer in our time. But, Harbach's wonderful brain in The Art of Fielding and the likely excellence of every essay in this book (Emily Gould on debt!) notwithstanding, everything about this discussion leaves me cold.

Minus a certain amount of personal neurosis, I should be the exact audience at which MFA vs. NYC is aimed. I am an aspiring novelist interested in the apparatus of any system that produces stability for writers, and I have spent the last year dividing my attention almost 50/50 [...]


Writing or Running? An Inspirational Quote Quiz

1. “It doesn't take very long for most _____ers to realize that if you wait until the day you… feel like _____ing you'll never do it at all.”

2. "If you want to become the best _____er you can be, start now. Don't spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it."

3. “It is not so much that I began to _____, but that I continued.”

4. “It's none of their business that you have to learn how to _____. Let them think you were born that way.”

5. “And why don't you _____? _____! _____ing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, [...]


The Last, Best Time We Met (!)

Today is National Punctuation Day, a day in which Americans should let their hearts fill with gladness over the rightful period, the stalwart semi-colon, the courageous colon, the occasionally overwrought exclamation point. Writing would be nothing without them and their kin. Truth be told, Punctuation Day, much like Mother's Day, is a holiday you really should celebrate every day of the year. But, as with Mother's Day, sometimes you forget to offer much in terms of appreciation the rest of the year.

Today is a day in which to remember, and honor, our dear marks. 

It was dark in the bar, and as she entered, she squinted her eyes in [...]


Talking to Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer, "Story Architects" for Young Adult Literature

Lauren Oliver and Lexa Hillyer are the co-founders of Paper Lantern Lit, a boutique YA book studio they call a "literary incubator." 

Let me see if I've got the concept of literary incubation right? You guys are the "architects," so you come up with YA concepts you think will do well, then match the concepts with writers; the writers finish a manuscript, you sell the manuscript to a publishing house, the writers get a cut. This is a similar model to book packagers like Alloy (Gossip Girl, etc): what are the differences?

LH: We really admire Alloy’s model and yes, there are definitely some similarities in [...]


We're All Jerks

The other day, a friend posted Rielle Hunter’s HuffPology to the world on my Facebook page. I saw that she’d written a book, and I was like, “Ugh, whoa, well, she must need money.” And I thought about what it would be like to be her—how she gets up every day and does whatever she does, another person trying to live their life, trying to decide what to eat, how to feed her kid.

Five years ago, I read that Rielle Hunter was having an affair with John Edwards. I had met Hunter several times—we lived in the same place at different times and crossed each other’s paths [...]


Advice For Writing; Or, What I Know So Far, Which Might Actually Be Nothing At All

How Not to Write Something

1. Don’t have a deadline. Or if you do have a deadline, make it a deadline that you made up in your head and your agent or editor agreed to when you said it out loud but then you quickly dismissed it, much like you dismissed the established required hours of your work-study job back in college, because who’s really keeping track? Certainly not you. Deadlines, schmeadlines! You'll get to it when you get to it, which is to say, never.

2. Keep a close eye on your Twitter account. Important things may be said there that you will be expected to weigh in on, [...]