“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryo Suzuki
Most beginning writers are anxious to shrug off the adjective, which they perceive as a pejorative. When I was beginning to write, I wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously. Now, I can pass as an expert fiction writer. I am a professor in English Department at the University of New Mexico where I teach creative writing to undergraduates and graduate students. I also serve as the founding director of the Taos Summer Writers’ Conference, an annual week-long event that is currently in its seventeenth year.
Why, then, have I decided to shrug off the expert mantle and assume the role of beginner again. Why am I taking a writing class online? Here’s why:
In October of 2014, I finally published my fourth book—and second novel—a family story set in New Mexico called SOPHIE’S HOUSE OF CARDS. It’s a good novel. I’m proud of it, but the sad truth is that I spent the last thirteen years of my life completing it. At that rate, I will complete only one or two more novels in my lifetime, and I won’t have much fun in the process.
Attention NYC writers! The Center for Fiction is hosting the 2015 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowship Program. Nine fellows will each receive a $4,000 grant, the opportunity to meet with agents, free admission to all Center for Fiction events for one year among other great benefits. Sara Batkie, Awards and Programs Manager for the Center, shares how the fellowship program helps writers and the success past fellows have achieved. The deadline to apply to the 2015 NYC Emerging Writers Fellowship Program is January 31, 2015.
Janet Umenta: For a writer, what are the advantages of living in NYC?
Sara Batkie:I’d say that the biggest advantage by far for writers in NYC is the literary community here. It’s not just that many great writers make their home in the city or that so many MFA programs are here; it’s that there’s always something literary going on. Almost any night of the week you can go out and find great readings at bookstores and event spaces like The Center, where you can hear from and meet your favorite authors or discover a new, exciting voice. While a large part of being a writer is sitting in a room and getting the work done, equally important I think is going out into the wider world and meeting the other people who are doing the same work you are, getting to know them and what they’re writing too. Often a writer will find his or her first great supporters, and eventually lifelong friends, this way. There are other great cities where this happens obviously, but New York has sheer volume on its side.
Calling all Book Country writers! Are you ready to start a great story this year?
Biographile, a Penguin Random House blog dedicated to biography and memoir, is going to be a wealth of inspiration and advice for aspiring writers all through the month of January. Already an excellent place to brush up on the craft of writing (check out our post from last month with Biographile’s Joe Muscolino), they’re amping it up with the Write Start Author Series. More than forty published authors are going to share tips for getting started on a new project . . . just in time for a new year in your writing life.
At some point most writers will face this struggle, the furious and paralyzing reality of squeezing perfect ideas into imperfect words.
We at Biographile feel your pain, so we’ve spent the past few months asking forty-plus authors to share their hard-earned writing advice to remind you you’re not alone. For the month of January, in the spirit of new beginnings, Biographile will be spending each day celebrating the craft of writing by giving you all the basics to get started.
Additionally, the awesome folks at Paste Magazine are hosting the Write Start Contest, perfect for Book Country writers! Continue reading →
Welcome Alex Maher to the Book Country Member Spotlight! Alex lives in Australia with his family. His most recent project on Book Country is THE INVISIBLE PEOPLE, which was an October Editor’s Pick. Alex shares what drew him to writing horror, and the mistakes he made when he first started writing. Connect with Alex on Book Country.
Janet Umenta: What were your favorite books in school?
Alex Maher: Hmm, tough one. At school, we were forced to read all kinds of stuff that I was not interested in. I can’t honestly remember reading anything at school, novel wise. Home was different. I was quite a bookworm for fiction as a kid.
The first ‘real’ novel I read was LORD OF THE SPIDERS by Harry Harrison. I was about eight or nine. I loved it. I then went on to read other adventures/fantasy. Stuff like BATTLE CIRCLE and the big four ‘Tolkiens,’ but then I found SciFi. By age twelve, I was into Niven and Pournelle. FOOTFALL and LEGACY OF HEOROT come to mind.Continue reading →
Janet Umenta: NaNoWriMo 2014 ended last week. When you finished NaNoWriMo 2013, what did you do afterwards?
Andreé Robinson-Neal: When November 2013 ended, I celebrated making my word count. By November 27th, I had passed the 50k word count and was thrilled. And then I panicked. After all, I was ‘finished’ — now what? I had a mess of words on a page that had made me bleary-eyed for the past month. I set them down and concentrated on a few other things before getting back to the business of editing it.
JU: How does being an editor influence your writing process?
AR: I know that editing has helped me in more ways than I can describe. I see things that make me think, Wow! That was a great image — I felt that character’s experience! and then there are things that make me think, Wow! I hope I never do that! Editing certainly keeps me on my mental toes because I have to research things to make sure I am offering the best advice to a writer. I don’t just write things like, ‘Consider revising this sentence — it is unclear.’ I like to offer support by saying why something is unclear or indicating what I think the writer meant so he or she can take that information into consideration during the after-edit review.Continue reading →
‘Tis the season for gifting! What better gift to give a writer than detailed, honest, and constructive feedback on their work-in-progress?
That’s why we’re launching a new challenge this month: Give the Gift of Writing Feedback! Pledge to review four books on Book Country this month, and give your writing community the feedback they need to make their books better in the new year.
Throughout the month of December, review four Book Country books (one for each week of the month). Find books via other members who’ve taken the pledge, browse this month’s Featured Manuscripts, or explore the Book Country Genre Map to find books in the genres you love!
Read and review at least three chapters of the work-in-progress.
Remember, you can save your review for later. Just don’t forget to post it by New Year’s Eve, or you won’t have won the challenge! 🙂
Support others who’ve taken the pledge–connect with them on Book Country and social media, comment on their review with thanks, comments, and questions, and return the gift of feedback by reviewing their book!
Share the feedback you are giving or receiving on social media by using the hashtag #GiftofWritingFeedback. We’ll cheer you on!
Happy reviewing–and thank YOU for giving the gift of writing feedback to your community!
Final week of NaNoWriMo 2014? Even if you aren’t participating with a new work, and are instead in some stage of editing your novel in progress, we can help! Today we offer the final installment of fun doodling prompts for character and story development, from author and master doodler Lisa Currie, whose new book ME, YOU, USis just out from Perigee Books. You can download and print these exclusive prompts by clicking on the hyperlinked words in the text below. Share yours with us on social media! Both books, ME, YOU, US and THE SCRIBBLE DIARY, are available widely online and in stores.
So, you’ve made it through a month of thinking creatively about your novel-in-progress, through the power of doodle prompts. Huzzah! I hope it’s been as fun as it has beneficial. To recap: In the first doodle prompt installment post, we established the power and popularity of doodling. If you click on the link, you’ll be able to download four doodle prompts that you can use to start fleshing out your character(s). The second installment, was a more in-depth online profile prompt. The third doodle prompt focused on plot points and obstacles in the way of your protagonist’s goal(s). Our fourth installment helped prompt you to finding those nuggets of details that makes your character unique. Continue reading →
As someone who loves looking out the window, I was excited to learn about how 50 of the world’s prominent writers relate to their own window views in Matteo Pericoli’s WINDOWS ON THE WORLD, published by Penguin Press. While reading through various profiles, from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie to T.C. Boyle, I got to experience a small slice of the daily lives of writers through their own eyes. In the interview below, Matteo Pericoli shares the inspiration behind WINDOWS ON THE WORLD and the insights he gained from working on this project.
Q: You are an architect, teacher, and, of course, the author and illustrator of many books. How did you form the idea for WINDOWS ON THE WORLD?
Matteo Pericoli: In 2004 I paused in front of the window at my Upper West Side apartment and felt an urge to take the view with me. I had looked out that window for seven years, day after day, taking in that particular arrangement of buildings, and, now, I was about to move out. Without knowing it, this view had become my most familiar image of the city. So, on that day, I finally paid attention. I drew it, frame and all, on a large sheet of brown paper noticing for the first time the quantity of things I didn’t know I had been looking at for so long. Since then, I’ve spent years drawing window views. Continue reading →