The story started with a picture I saw in the New Yorker over two years ago. That magazine published a profile of Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth. With the article, they published a portrait of the singer showing her wearing a pair of gag costume horns.
I don’t know anything about Kim Gordon or Sonic Youth, except what I read in the profile, but the photograph held my attention. I found myself wondering what it would be like if a woman actually grew horns. That’s how this story arose.
It’s one of several stories I’ve written about artists and their process, and it was one of a series three novella-length stories I wrote in 2013-2014. Of those three, it’s the first one to be published.
My short story “Bullet in the Back” won third prize in the Baltimore Review Winter 2015 contest, and has been published in their latest issue. Read it here.
The story concerns the plight of a movie extra working on a film set on an airliner. He finds himself jammed in the middle seat, and he might be there ten or twelve hours a day for weeks as they shoot this movie. A hellish prospect.
The story was inspired by the 2014 film “Non-Stop,” which takes place almost entirely on an airliner. This YouTube video, shot on the set, includes a number of action shots with extras in the background, screaming, cowering, and doing movie extra things. I’ve always been interested in strange and unusual jobs.
Earlier this year, my short story “Little Big Death” was selected by Fiction Attic Press to be included in their anthology of short fiction, MODERN SHORTS. They just announced that the book will be available in September as both an ebook and a paperback. Order the MODERN SHORTS anthology here.
My short satire of Garrison Keillor, “Woebegone” — which makes just as good a little piece of writing as it did a performance monologue, for which I originally wrote it, was published in the first issue of Crony, a “terrible online magazine” by the author and editor Antoine Wilson.
This is the first thing I’ve ever had published after reading a call for submissions that was released only on Twitter. That is to say, Wilson called for material on Twitter only.
Submit now before I give up on this idea and go back to whatever I was doing before: email@example.com
— Antoine Wilson (@antoinewilson) November 9, 2013
I know I’m entering my period of holiday-induced crabbiness when blog posts like this annoy me.
Are you blogging to the wrong audience?
There are two reasons I want to post more often. One is to expand my readership beyond other writers. Social media queen Kristen Lamb has written some great posts on this topic. One titled Solid Platform, Wrong Audience is my favorite and has links to her previous posts. My memoir, which I completed earlier this week, is about the six years I spent working as a fashion model in Europe and Japan. My current WIP is a collection of humorous parenting essays. And my next project is something different altogether. As much as I love blogging about writing and social media, it’s time for me to expand to also write about parenting and fashion and modeling and all the other topics I’m interested in, like rock climbing and geo-caching and Settlers of Catan. …
Now, here’s an exercise to determine whether you are blogging to the wrong audience: Profile your audience. Make a list of the different groups of people you imagine buying your book. Who are they? Are they teen girls? Middle-aged women? Men who like to read thrillers? How old are they? What do they do for a living? How do they spend their free time? What products do they buy? Make lists. Then, once you’ve got that down, think about what topics those people are interested in reading about. What concerns them? What are their thoughts preoccupied with? (Boys? Sex? Making money? Finding God? Decluttering their homes?) Make another list. And finally, ask yourself: Are you blogging about the topics on that last list? Why or why not?
When I saw this, my reaction was: Does Don DeLillo give a flying fuck what I blog about? And if not, why should I care what anyone else thinks? You think I’m trying to build some kind of “platform”? No, I’m talking to like five people here.
But I did really love that sentence:
My memoir, which I completed earlier this week, is about the six years I spent working as a fashion model in Europe and Japan.
For some reason that just cracks me up.
Yesterday on Twitter I mocked the hype about a new novel by Mark Z. Danielewski, a novel which will be — shocking new idea!! — serialized in 27 “volumes.” Today there’s more information about it in this L.A. Times column.
From this article I want to draw a single quote, emphasis mine:
It’s possible that [our publishing] schedule could be accelerated. We’re constantly open to new ideas — where will we be in 2014? Maybe digital releases every week, every few months a trade paperback or hardcover. The novel is designed to accommodate, anticipate various platforms.
I take it that he means this particular novel has been designed to “accommodate” (not to mention “anticipate” — wow!) “various platforms” — not that The Novel generically is. Although that’s an interesting idea to investigate, maybe a good topic for a master’s thesis — that the novel is, by its nature, flexible enough to accommodate changing media.
But what struck me was this. This is not just a long book that the publisher decided, hey, let’s go back to that whole serialization thing that worked so well in the 19th century. After all, it’s working for the Paris Review to serialize Roberto Bolaño’s “The Third Reich” into four parts — that’s garnered lots of attention (and did, in fact, motivate me to subscribe to the Paris review for the first time ever) — not to mention the multi-book franchises of Harry Potter and other fantasy creations.
No, according to the author, he designed the books to a) be super-ass long, and b) “accommodate various platforms,” like so:
Danielewski was paid a reported $1 million for the first 10 volumes; he’s thinking of them as two 5-volume seasons, like a television series.
Uh huh. Now I know why it’s the L.A. Times that is the one getting excited about it. Seriously, is this really anything that the awful teen-novel book-packaging industry (cf. “Sweet Valley High,” etc. etc.) hasn’t already pioneered?
This story about a memoirist seems to me representative of several odd strains in our culture.
Writer-performance artist Jeanne Darst wrote lots of stories about her dysfunctional family, which she “performed in one-woman shows she performed in her living room to help pay the rent,” according to the story. Reading this, I thought, Oh right. This is the same world Miranda July lives in. You make yourself into a twee storyteller in the David Sedaris mode, and sure enough: “This American Life” is “where Darst began to find her voice as a memoirist.” This led directly to a book contract.
Well, that’s nice! You get to find your voice on the premiere radio show for memoir, really? Take a giant step, eh?
Just sour grapes on my part. I think it was that bit, which the journalist wrote, not something that came from her, suggesting “This American Life” is like a stepping stone rather than being what it is right now, which is a pinnacle. She’s just someone doing exactly what 10,000 other writers are doing, only doing it better, and oh by the way, being an attractive slender woman who lives in L.A. You go!
British newspapers have no trouble publishing the full title of “Go the Fuck to Sleep,” the best-selling children’s book by American author Adam Mansbach.
By contrast, here’s the New York Times, which refuses to print the whole title:
As my friends know, for a few years last decade I had the honor of being represented by a real literary agent. However, my novel Make Nice failed to sell; then my agent quit the agency and the business, leaving me high and dry without an agent — a state in which I still find myself. (I recount the tale at greater length here.) A little while after that, the agency’s most famous client, David Foster Wallace, killed himself.
Now comes the news that the founder of the agency, whom I recall having met very briefly in my one and only visit to the office, has died.
I was so dumb when I was a client of the agency that I didn’t even know Wallace was a client. And I had to read the founder’s obit today to know about other well-known clients. I’m not sure what to do with this fact — that the agency was better known than I realized at the time. It didn’t do me much good in the end, though my agent was successful in getting my book looked at by major publishing houses. Maybe they recognized the name of the agency, maybe that’s the reason they looked at it. Anyway, realizing all this years later just makes me feel stupid.
Salt — not to be confused with the Angelia Jolie vehicle about to be released — is a British literary publisher. Blogger Shigekuni posts:
Salt, the amazing British publisher of prose and poetry, is almost broke. Last year, they launched a campaign called Just one Book to save themselves, and they are doing it this year as well. It’s a plea to buy Just One Book published by Salt. You can buy it directly from them or from your retailer of choice. Spread the word.
I visited their website, which has a US store, and bought a book!
This literary agency has a helpful list of “Things To Be” and “Not to Be”:
Things to Be:
– Scrupulously Self-Critical
– A Good Typist
Things Not To Be:
- Insecure – If you lack confidence in yourself, in your writing, or in your ability to become a full-time freelance writer, you’ll never be able to stand up to the rigors and the brickbats that lay ahead.
- Marginally Talented – If you haven’t yet developed into the kind of writer who works diligently at turning out only the best examples of whatever literary genre you’re creating, you’re not ready for agency representation.
- Conveniently Self-Forgiving – No one–from Ernest Hemingway to Homer and back again–ever wrote a single draft that “sang.” Every writer worth the name knows when and how to rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite some more.
More at the link. I guess if you weren’t sufficiently “Confident” this would scare you off, but I don’t think it’s bad advice. But I’m not sure there are that many people who combine the qualities of being confident while at the same time are “Scrupulously Self-Critical.”
In this Galleycat interview, the agent goes on to request “fiction that is starkly unique and startlingly appealing,” qualifying that requirement with “at least.” It’s good to set the bar high, but how many people who pass all these criteria would really be good? Can I think my work is “starkly unique” and at the same time be “scrupulously self-critical”? Man.
From the increasingly invaluable MobyLives blog, which is the house blog of the Melville House publishing concern: author Gerald Posner, who wrote for Slate.com until he was caught plagiarizing, is once again the subject of plagiarism charges. Apparently he scanned in lots of sources for a book on Miami vice — organized crime, that is, not the TV show — and neglected to clearly mark in his files the material that was from other authors.
That’s his explanation, in any case… He also says the stuff he was found to have lifted constitutes “a unique case,” and will revise the book, and wasn’t that just what Charles Pellegrino said a few weeks ago when questions first arose about “Last Train from Hiroshima”?