Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Two Ways of Writing a Novel
Part Two: The Lyrical Model

In part one of this essay, I argued that there are essentially two ways of writing a novel (notwithstanding the possibility of various degrees of hybridization). I called the first one the cinematic model. In this kind of novel the reader is essentially invited to see and hear what the characters are doing, much as playgoers do at the theatre, or as viewers watch a film. In this part, I suggest that the contrasting way to write a novel is lyrical, by which I mean that it’s focussed more on language than on drama, and more on the interior lives of the characters than on their conflicts and actions.

If Hemingway and Greene are seen as exemplars of the cinematic model, then their counterparts in the lyrical model might be Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Thomas Mann, Hermann Broch and Robert Musil— (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

Author of The Expendable Man (2011); Making the Grade (2012); Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012); In the Game (2014); & House Divided (2015)

Reviewing Stuart Rojstaczer, The Mathematician’s Shiva, Penguin, 2014

The Mathematician’s Shiva is a feel good novel that doesn’t require the reader to be Jewish or a mathematician to enjoy. In fact, learning a little about both is a side benefit to this very readable journey.

The death of a parent can be a traumatic time for any person no matter his or her age, but when the parent is a world-renown mathematician and the son is, in terms of his career a lesser light, on top of which he has to entertain a sometimes rude band of academic geniuses and near geniuses for a week in his mother’s home, well then we have the basis for a potentially very interesting story.

(Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

6/20/17  INTERVIEW WITH ALYSON HAGY ABOUT HER NOVEL BOLETO    I’m not a horse fancier but after reading Alyson Hagy’s Boleto I look curiously when I glimpse a horse. The novel’s young cowboy protagonist drew me to it (I am a fancier of young cowboys). The filly he’s training for polo is the reader’s window into Will Testerman’s soul. I fell in love with the book and its Everyman protagonist, and I’m delighted Alyson Hagy  let me ask a few questions about it.

 

QUESTION: Did you intend for protagonist Will Testerman, the twenty-three year old Wyoming horse trainer, to be an exemplary human being or did he only turn out that way? (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

6-17-2017  The Ludwig Conspiracy

Reading The Ludwig Conspiracy, an historical novel by Oliver Pötzsch, opens up dark passageways into the side notes of history. The book itself is a fast-paced thriller with unexpected and persistent villains, both past and present. Published in 2011, eight years after Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Pötzsch’s book also draws on secret codes and byzantine intrigues and superficially seems to ride Dan Brown’s wave.

You know King Ludwig II of Bavaria as “Mad King Ludwig,” who commissioned the building of Schloss Neuschwanstein, famous as the Disney World castle. He also built Schloss Linderhog and an imitation Versailles known as Herrenschiemsee. Ludwig was born in 1845 and crowned king in 1864. He was a Roman Catholic who struggled with his homosexuality and he was a patron of the composer Richard Wagner. In June 1886, his body and that of his psychiatrist were found drowned in a Bavarian lake.

An investigating committee issued the official statement, concluding that the king, (Continue reading)

Ron Cooper

RON COOPER

AUTHOR OF THE GOSPEL OF THE TWIN,  PURPLE JESUS AND HUME’S FORK.

6/13/17 The Literary Redneck Mafia Boss: Novelist and Critic Eric Miles Williamson

For years I read novels whose titles appeared on the New York Times Best Sellers list. I also read the Times Literary Supplement in which books were reviewed that didn’t make the Best Sellers list, and I read them, too. These had to be the best novels in the country, I thought, and many of them were written by long-famous authors, people I had heard of back when I was a college undergraduate majoring in English. The problem was that I never enjoyed any of them, although, Lord knows, I tried. I came to realize that most of those novels were written by, for, and about upper-middle and upper class professionals (not the world in which I grew up) and that not only did the plots occur within the realm of genteel characters but these authors’ styles shared a certain gentility. Even when they wrote about tragedy, violence, or heartache, these writers exhibited an emphasis on refinement that revealed their distance from the hardships that working class people face daily. Worse, as my literary interests grew more informed, I considered most of those high-profile authors (“HPAs” from here on out) just flat-out bad writers. I concluded that we had neither latter-day counterparts to early 20th-century authors Steinbeck, Dreiser, and Dos Passos who celebrate working people, nor literary critics unafraid to call out those best-selling literati for their lack of vision and talent. (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

6/10/2017. TRAVELING WITH MISS JULIA

Summer is the time for road trips, and one of the best traveling companions is a phone or iPad full of audiobooks. If I’m driving alone, I get antsy if I have to go very far without one of these lively passengers. They’re also great for sharing if you have one that everybody in the car likes. I find the best books for travel are lighter fare because it’s hard to keep up with complex plots when traffic takes your attention.

One of my favorite series of books for listening in the car is the Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia is a clever, opinionated, and lovable woman of a certain age who has a knack for getting involved in thorny circumstances, sometimes by her own actions, but usually not. She’s weathered many a surprise in her later years, not the least of which is the arrival on her doorstep of a young woman claiming to be the mother of Miss Julia’s late husband’s son. How Miss Julia handles this development is both funny and touching. (Continue reading)

Mark Willen

MARK WILLEN

Author of Hawke’s Point

6/7/2017 — Ward Just’s The Eastern Shore: A Journalist’s Life

This is a strange time for journalism—confusing both for the people who practice it and those who consume it. The Trump administration has cast a lifeline to mainstream media like The New York Times and The Washington Post, which have seen circulation surge as old-time investigative reporting kicks into high gear. At the same time, rumors, lies, and complete fabrications get almost equal treatment in certain less reputable media sources, with a huge impact in unfortunate ways. For journalists of the old school (including me) it’s a time of head scratching. (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

06-04-17 READING ON THE ROAD

Once upon a time, I’d fill a backpack with thick tomes I had been waiting for months to devour. Paperback or hardcover, it didn’t matter. I was the kind of person who read War and Peace on the beach (and, actually, my organic chemistry text on a cliff near the Oracle at Delphi – but that’s another story). Now that I’m older and wiser, I’m not sure that’s the best way to take reading on the road.
(Continue reading)

Joshua Braff

JOSHUA BRAFF

AUTHOR OF THE NOVELS THE DADDY DIARIES, PEEP SHOW AND THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN

6/1/17   THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP: TAKE YOUR SUNGLASSES OFF INSIDE AND TELL PEOPLE WHOM YOU REALLY ENJOY READING.   In one of my very first classes in the M.F.A. program at St. Mary’s College, a mix of poets, novelists and short story folk like me were asked to share the names of some of our favorite authors. The names Thomas Pynchon, Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver flew around the room until it was my turn to introduce my literary self to my new friends. “I like John Irving,” was what I said.

When I looked up, the Pynchon guy was whispering and smile-giggling. Others agreed. The hush was unexpected. J. Irving was a bad answer. I remember clearing my throat and saying, “… and DeLillo … of course … Joyce.” (Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Creative Writing Programs: What’s Gone Wrong?

 

This month I retired from the American university where I taught creative writing for the past thirteen years, to both undergraduates and graduate students. It was the best job I ever had, and in the early years particularly I loved it. Over the past years, though, the frustrations and demands have become almost intolerable. Here’s what I’ve learned.

 

First, most students are delightful people, and many are imaginative and talented. What’s more, some genuinely love books and stories, reading and writing, and it’s a pleasure to teach such people. However, a majority are poorly-read, particularly at the undergraduate level. (Continue reading)

Peter Pollak

PETER POLLAK

Author of The Expendable Man (2011); Making the Grade (2012); Last Stop on Desolation Ridge (2012); In the Game (2014); & House Divided (2015)

Commonwealth: A Review for Writers as well as Readers

My apology to non-writers. This review of Ann Patchett’s 2016 novel, Commonwealth, focuses primarily on the writing, but in doing so perhaps readers will come to understand some basic writing techniques and how they influence story.

Unlike many contemporary novels, Commonwealth is written from an omniscient viewpoint. That means from the very first sentence there’s an always present story narrator telling us what people are doing and thinking. “The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with a bottle of gin.” That’s the narrator talking, not one of the characters.

(Continue reading)

JENNIFER YACOVISSI

Author of Up the Hill to Home

05-20-2017: A Reader’s Reader

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
                                                          —Jorge Luis Borges

Tom Shroder, the author, and Michael Dirda at the 2017 Washington Writers Conference.

I had the distinct pleasure recently of being on a panel at the Washington Writers Conference with Tom Shroder—author, ghostwriter, journalist, and long-time editor of the Washington Post Magazine—and Michael Dirda, even longer-time book critic at the Washington Post and elsewhere. We were discussing the fuzzy lines that separate memoir, family history, and fiction.

As part of preparing for the panel, I read two of Michael’s several books: his most recent, Browsings, and his memoir of the first third of his life through college, An Open Book. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

5-17-2017 – Inside the Booth at Book Festivals

April-May and September-October seem to be the prime months for yard sales and book festivals. Certainly I do my share of both as vendor and buyer. On either side of the table, you can learn, enjoy the experience, and at book festivals, meet authors and publishers at all levels.

This weekend, my husband, Dr. Roger McIntire, will be one of the authors at the Gaithersburg, MD, book festival helping to staff the Maryland Writers’ Association booth. He’ll be talking about his practical books for parents and will probably be the only nonfiction author at the booth. At the same time, I’ll be at the Sisters in Crime booth at the Prince George’s (MD) Spring Book Festival in Landover, MD. Offerings at the SinC booth will, of course, be mysteries of all kinds.

Authors like us enjoy telling people about our books, sharing experiences (Continue reading)

Joseph D Haske

JOSEPH D HASKE

Author of the novel North Dixie Highway and short fiction in Boulevard, Pleiades, and other journals 

5/13/17    FICTION WRITERS AND TRANSLATION

American writers are often accused of literary insularity, so I’ve been doing my best lately to engage in more international, multi-lingual dialogue. Among other projects, I’ve been chipping away at a translation of a fantastic story collection by a very talented Chilean writer. Although I’ve done some translation work in the past, literary and otherwise, I haven’t taken on a project of this magnitude in quite a while, and it’s challenging to say the least. Literary translation can be time-consuming, stressful, and labor-intensive. If I translated more often, maybe I’d work more efficiently, but my current process often feels slow and laborious; I tend to obsess about all the minor details in much the same way as I fret about my own writing. Still, despite the many challenges, it’s a gratifying experience to translate terrific writing like the collection I’m working on now, and to serve as a literary ambassador, exposing readers in the English-speaking world to excellent new fiction. (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

5/10/2017. INTERVIEW WITH LILY IONA MACKENZIE, AUTHOR OF FLING!

Lily Iona MacKenzie is a multi-talented author who follows her muse through short stories, novels, nonfiction, and poetry. In her novel Fling!, which I reviewed here last month, she explores the profound influences (good and bad) of family relationships, even after family members die, but she does it with humor and joy. Using magical realism, MacKenzie celebrates life and spiritual ties in many forms. Her own life experiences include working as a long distance telephone operator, a secretary, a longshoreman, manager of a homeless shelter, and writing teacher at the University of San Francisco. Her next novel, Curva Peligrosa, will be released by Regal House Publishing later this year. (Continue reading)

Janet Willen

JANET WILLEN

Author of Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery and Five Thousand Years of Slavery

4/7/2017 — Remembering Derek Walcott, 1930-2017

I used to read a lot of poetry. That thought hit me on March 17, when I learned of the death of the Nobel Prize-winning poet and playwright Derek Walcott on the island of St. Lucia, where he was born.

It has been years since I’ve read Walcott, but his work was once a constant companion of mine. As I think now about the pleasures of meter, rhyme, and the soaring imagination that good poetry generates, I realize what I’ve missed.

When I heard of Derek Walcott’s death, I recalled a day in 1980 when I opened The New Yorker and excitedly read the title “Jean Rhys” above a six-stanza poem. Only a short time before had I become acquainted with the Dominica-born author Jean Rhys, but I’d been devouring her novels Wide Sargasso Sea, Good Morning, Midnight, and Voyage in the Dark and recommending them to every book lover I knew. And here was an homage to her in a poem by Walcott. I calmed myself and read: (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

05-04-17 BOOKS, TWEETS, AND POSTERITY

In a recent article about writer and photography critic Teju Cole, Norman Rush notes that Cole’s emergence as a social media superstar makes him a “kind of realm.” Beyond his fine reputation as the author of books and other print media, Cole is also an accomplished photographer and prolific “Tweeter” with a huge Facebook following.

Cole himself has observed that some of the finest “literary minds of our generation” express themselves by means other than traditional print media. Yet they often still write books. Presumably that’s because books are more serious than tweets. Books are also more likely to stick around long enough to reach posterity.

Is this valid? (Continue reading)

Katherine Pickett

KATHERINE PICKETT

Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro

5/1/17 —  What a Developmental Editor Can Do for an Author

Developmental editors are concerned with the structure and con­tent of your book. If your manuscript lacks focus, your DE will help you find the right direction to take (the “right” direction generally being the most marketable). This is where problems of inconsistent tone, an unclear audience, or an unidentified market­ing niche often surface.

Developmental editors perform many of the same editing tasks as an acquisitions editor, but unlike AEs, whose time is split between editing and the business side of pub­lishing, DEs tend to be able to give you more personal attention. If you have hired a DE on a freelance basis, this is undoubtedly true. Either way, you will find that good DEs are friendly, organized, valu­able to your endeavor. (Continue reading)

Garry Craig Powell

GARRY CRAIG POWELL

Author of  Stoning the Devil

Two Ways of Writing a Novel, April 26, 2017

Part One: The Cinematic Model

 

There are essentially two different ways to write a novel. The first is action-oriented, and usually heavy on dialogue; concerned with visible drama, above all, it works much as a film does. It observes human beings interacting and conflicting with each other. “I am a camera with its shutter open,” wrote Christopher Isherwood, in the second paragraph of Goodbye to Berlin, “quite passive, recording, not thinking.” One may argue about whether he succeeded in maintaining that objectivity, but unquestionably that was his aim, as it was of so many early twentieth century writers, among them Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck and Graham Greene. (Continue reading)

Gary Garth McCann

GARY GARTH MCCANN

Author of the novel The Man Who Asked To Be Killed and five stories, most recently “Incorrigible,” Erotic Review and “The Yearbook,” Mobius

4/20/17  PAULA FOX’S NOVEL DESPERATE CHARACTERS  Paula Fox died on March first, although I didn’t know it. I happened to be reading Desperate Characters at the time. I didn’t know who the author was or why I was reading Desperate Characters. My best guess was that a Goodreads friend had recommended the book and I’d downloaded it, with so many others, to my Kindle. Because Kindle doesn’t give copyright or original publication dates for books – an unforgivable sin, to my mind – I didn’t even know whether Desperate Characters was an older book or a recent one set in the sixties. What I did know, or realized as I got into the book, was the fact that I was reading not just good but great fiction. He wasn’t a seducer. He was remote. He was like a man preceded into a room by acrobats. (Continue reading)

Eileen Haavik McIntire

EILEEN HAAVIK MCINTIRE

Author of Shadow and the Rock, The 90s Club and the Hidden Staircase, and The 90s Club and the Whispering Statue

4-17-2017  Transatlantic Traveling Great for Reading

I’ve just returned from a repositioning cruise with Holland America Cruise Lines as it changed its operations from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean for the season. The price was right. The cruise began in Fort Lauderdale and ended in Rome with stops in the Azores and Spain (Málaga and Aliconte).

Azores? How else were we ever going to see the Azores? Actually, we spent the day in only one of these nine Portuguese islands, the largest, named Sao Miguel. Like Hawaii, the islands are volcanic in origin and Sao Miguel is green  and mountainous. Tea and pineapple are major crops.

I looked forward to the nine sea days of this cruise as a chance to edit my latest manuscript and to begin plotting my next one. I had the best intentions, but the daily schedule at sea included lectures and port talks that were too interesting to miss and, of course, I didn’t miss one of those leisurely meals meeting people from other parts of the world. So I got very little accomplished.

Having traveled on Holland America before, I knew they had a well-stocked library of hard-bound books for borrowing, and it was also a quiet place to read. Rethink. (Continue reading)

Ron Cooper

RON COOPER

AUTHOR OF THE GOSPEL OF THE TWIN,  PURPLE JESUS AND HUME’S FORK.

April 13, 2017

Write Like Mike

I get my students to discuss creativity and the limits of human achievement through the example of basketball legend Michael Jordan. Although he retired (for the second time) in 1999, his reputation as the greatest basketball player of all time and one of the greatest athletes of the 20th century guarantees that even my freshman students know about him. His gravity-mocking leaping ability, astonishing speed, and knack of always thinking two steps ahead of his opponents may never be matched. How does one, in any field of endeavor, become highly successful, much less get to the very top? (Continue reading)

Sally Whitney

SALLY WHITNEY

Author of the novel Surface and Shadowplus short stories appearing in journals and anthologies, including Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post Great American Fiction Contest 2017.

 

4-10-2017.  FLING!—A NOVEL OF MAGICAL REALISM AND REAL MAGIC

At first read, you might think Fling! by Lily Iona MacKenzie is a delightful story with endearing, charming characters—which it is. But look a little closer, and you’ll find it’s also a probing story picking at deep layers of family love and resentment. Just below the characters’ zest for life lie feelings of aloneness and abandonment. Once those feelings are laid bare, can they ever be subdued?

Fling!’s main characters are mother and daughter Bubbles and Feather. Ninety-year-old Bubbles is still full of enthusiasm and looking for laughter wherever she can find it. MacKenzie tells us Bubbles’ motto is fun. “Life was too short; you needed to have a little fun. … Money didn’t matter that much to her, as long as she could have a good time.” (Continue reading)

Terra Ziporyn

TERRA ZIPORYN

Author of The Bliss of SolitudeTime’s Fool, Do Not Go Gentle, and the new novel Permanent Makeup as well as many nonfiction works including The New Harvard Guide to Women’s HealthAlternative Medicine for Dummies, and Nameless Diseases.

04-04-17 IS TODAY A TIME FOR FICTION?

More and more people tell me that this is no time for fiction. Nor do they themselves have time for fiction.

Even lifetime novel lovers say they feel that today’s times call for information, not retreats into fantasyland. Serious readers say they find it hard to immerse themselves in fictional worlds.  One writer friend even admitted that she no longer has the attention span for books of any sort, including nonfiction, that don’t have immediate and obvious bearing on current events.

 


“Ever since the presidential election sticking my head in a novel feels like counting the angels on pins,” she told me. She says that now and then she does read an article in The New Yorker, but even that has to have immediate and obvious bearing on current events. And she’s a novelist herself!
(Continue reading)

Joshua Braff

JOSHUA BRAFF

AUTHOR OF THE NOVELS THE DADDY DIARIES, PEEP SHOW AND THE UNTHINKABLE THOUGHTS OF JACOB GREEN

4/1/17  PERSPECTIVE    My MFA in creative writing came from St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. It was 1995 and I was positive that a short story in a literary journal for zero money would be nirvana. The Alaska Quarterly Review, a lit mag that led my friends to believe I’d written fish and hibernating stories, was first to say yes. The story was about a lonely and unheard little girl who takes a bus to a ballet class on her birthday. Not a moose for miles, and the journal wanted my human condition textures. With my only dream in life fulfilled, I set out to do it again, to feel the euphoria of the “yes”, the way it found me without warning, making me a “hitter” somehow, just by answering my phone. (Continue reading)

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