Re blogged from FairfaxTimes.com
While other English majors might be wondering about life after college, soon-to-be GMU graduate Paul Laudiero, 22, has a book deal under his belt and big dreams.
In February, Laudiero had an idea for a blog: “Shit Rough Drafts,” which fictionally re-creates literary icons’ first attempts at classics.
“I write every day for a couple hours. Something every writer should learn early, unless they’re delusional, is your writing is shit. It’s shit for at least 10 years,” Laudiero said, “I started thinking about [F. Scott Fitzgerald’s] The Great Gatsby,’ which was being promoted–the movie—everywhere. I was thinking [Fitzgerald] must have had a lot of shit drafts, like ‘The Good Gatsby,’ ‘The Alright Gatsby,’”
Laudiero posted his Gatsby goof as his first “Shit Rough Drafts” Tumblr entry and, “It took off,” he said. “That’s the thing about Tumblr. If you have a lot of funny material it will be seen.”
In February, Laudiero condensed 10 years of “shit writing” into a month.
“The Huffington Post did an article on [my] Tumblr a week after I started it,” Laudiero said. Two weeks after that, through a friend of a friend, Laudiero had a book agent, then he won The Great Tumblr Book Search contest, a collaboration between Chronicle Books and Tumblr for which Laudiero received a $200 prize in free Chronicle Books. The contest received 175 book pitches. Laudiero took the money, but gave Chronicle Books his agent’s name. The result: Laudiero landed his first book deal.
Read the rest of this article on FairfaxTimes.com.
The Field School for Cultural Documentation, a collaboration between George Mason University and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is set to begin on May 20. For the last three weeks I have been prepping students who have applied for the course, in part to let them know my expectations (this is not a typical summer course) and to do preliminary field work at the cemetery to better prepare myself and the students for their whirlwind ethnographic experience.
The purpose of the course is to document the occupational culture of the cemetery using ethnography and oral history methods. The materials the students and I collect will be archived at the Library of Congress as part of the Veterans History Project. This the first time in the history of Arlington National Cemetery that there has been a systematic documentation of workplace culture.
So far I’ve found working with the cemetery personnel extremely satisfying. There is a clear chain of command (which I expected) and a strong commitment to this collaborative effort.
The students will present their preliminary research findings in the theatre of the Women in Military Service for American Memorial on Wednesday June 19, 2013 at 2 PM. The event will be free and open to the public.
Last Thursday was the last day of class for the Writing Ethnography group. For the last month we’ve been workshopping selections from their final projects in class and I’ve been meeting one-on-one with students to talk about their writing and how to best shape their final products. Most students will hand in a 15-20 page ethnographic account; some will submit projects that are much longer.
I teach ethnographic methods every semester. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to teach ethnography in the context of a writing course. Certainly writing is always at the center of the work I do as a folklorist; the attention to narrative structure is a hallmark of good folkloristic work. What I found extremely satisfying about the project is how well the ethnographic process integrated with the writing process. Just as the students were getting their stride in their fieldwork, they were also finding their authorial voices in the construction of their ethnographic projects.
You may recall that I blogged about a student a few weeks ago–a student who to date has not handed in a single draft. Well, he’s still at it; he came by my office with a draft of this final project. It turns out he has been writing and drafting, at least since he came back to class. His was a remarkable piece of work: ethnographically thick and well supported by secondary sources.
Tomorrow the final portfolios come in and I will be buried in what I expect will be the most engaging undergraduate essays. My only regret is that this class is not required for all students in folklore and anthropology. Teaching intensive writing along with ethnography could do so much for the field.
I love this job.
I know, I know. You thought getting your book published would be it. The happiest day of your life. Once book is in your hands things are rarely as you imagined. I realized this last year when I was touring with my book. Admittedly, it was a very limited regional tour (it was an academic book, after all), but it was NOTHING like I had imagined: driving to small college towns, sleeping in cheap hotels and eating bad food. And after those lovely weekends I got to go home and work a full week. I loved meeting people who were interested in my work, but it was expensive and grueling.
Then come the reviews. Most fiction writers dread reviews because it’s the last part of a long process where they have almost no control. And let’s face it, it’s hard to think that someone might hate your work after you’ve suffered years to get it into print. To preempt this, one of my colleagues created her own first bad review just to get it over with: “I figured it was better to have one on the [Amazon] site. Then I could say the book had a bad review and I had survived.”
Today in the Guardian some leading authors have published bad reviews of their work:
The same is true of the confessions collected by Robin Robertson in his 2003 book Mortification: Writers’ Stories of their Public Shame. Most of the tales of disastrous experiences are from the start of the authors’ careers, as with Julian Barnes’s anecdote about a literary party that couldn’t have gone worse for him, or Margaret Atwood’s account of an early signing session in the men’s underwear section of a department store and a TV appearance in which she followed a woman from the Colostomy Association. You don’t believe the shameful memories still keep them awake today.
This makes the self-rubbishing under the heading “What’s Wrong with Me?” in the latest Dublin Review more radical, as the authors who responded to its invitation (to reveal “what they do that causes them dismay, or what they wish they could do but can’t”) are exposing abiding, apparently ineradicable, flaws – not long-ago humiliations, or callow books, or problems since conquered.
Most of the confessions are nonetheless informal and relatively straightforward. Anne Enright berates herself for punctuation tics (“I am tormented by my need for commas”). Richard Ford is unable to “describe how people look”. Tessa Hadley admits to repeating images. Neil Jordan says he has written “a thousand beginnings” but few become finished projects. Ruth Padel convicts herself of “too-muchness”, writing too much and overdoing imagery.
The truth is, the author knows his or her weaknesses best. I find it comforting to read that these wildly successful authors share my insecurities.
At AWP this spring, most of the agents and editors were not in favor of self-publication. The reason? It provides the author with a track record and if your sales are poor, you’re less likely to be picked up by an agent or receive a conventional book contract. But is that really the case? And could self-publishing be any worse than publishing a book with a press that doesn’t do that well?
If the self-published book does well your options expand considerably. Consider this from the LA Times:
“By the time a self-published author has made a success of his or her book,” [Laura] Miller observes, “all the hard stuff is done, not just writing the manuscript but editing and the all-important marketing. Instead of investing their money in unknown authors, then collaborating to make their books better and find them an audience, publishers can swoop in and pluck the juiciest fruits at the moment of maximum ripeness.”
So it seems that it’s just not enough to be a talented writer, one must either impress an agent and make it out of the slush pile or become a literary Don Draper and market your way to success.
Either way, it’s a slog.
From Jersey Devil Press
About the Novella Contest…
We need to talk.
Seriously. Put down the remote. TNT will still be showing The Mentalist reruns when we’re done.
It’s not easy for us to say, but…our novella contest is in trouble. It’s not you. It’s not us. It’s just the way things are. Maybe the guidelines were too involved. Maybe it’s because we’re also doing those Lovecraft and poetry special issues. They’re a lot flashier and don’t require nearly as much typing. We get it.
But last year — the first time we tried novellas — it was magical. We got dozens of submissions, had a strong short list, and published two really great stories. It went so well, we even went back to the novella for the holidays.
This year, we’ve only received eight entries. Some of them have been okay, but they’re not quite what we’re looking for. Most people didn’t read the guidelines. A lot of people forgot our name in the cover letter.
So, we want to make this novella contest work, but there’s only two weeks left. It’s going to take effort. And people sending us novellas.
And, as long as we’re on difficult subjects…to be honest? The sex just hasn’t been that good in a long time either. Does it always have to be in the ass? Every time? What about our needs? We want to make this work, but you need to meet us halfway.
So start going down again. And finish that goddamn novella. Then submit it.
Not a bad deal for flash fiction writers (full details here):
Dark Bits will be a collection of 52 horror flash fiction stories. We have no restrictions or subject or taste, only on the length. The anthology will be book and ebook formats. Reprints are welcome.
Maximum of 500 words.
We are asking for non-exclusive print and digital rights
Payment is $20 per story.
Deadline for submission is 15 May, 2013
There are two ways to submit to Dark Bits.
We take submissions through Submittable.com.
Please remember, Submittable is a third party site. Please read the Terms of Service before you sign up.
Submissions can also be emailed with the subject line: DARK BITS, your name, story name as a DOC file attachment to:
Dark Bits will be the first in a series of anthologies, entitled QuickLII
It has been a lively week at AWP in Boston. It struck me this morning that for all the discussion and support for writers, there was almost no conversation about supporting literary culture through reading.
As an English professor this worries me a great deal. The number of students enrolling in English programs is declining, in part in response to the economic downturn. More troubling are the studies that show startling declines in how often and how well Americans read.
Then today this article by Laura Miller came across my newsfeed from Salon.com:
Supply and demand — those are concepts you’d expect a mogul to understand almost instinctively, so what to make of the recent donation by the Zell Family Foundation (set up by financier Sam Zell and his wife, Helen) of $50 million to the creative writing program at the University of Michigan? Helen Zell told the Associated Press, “The ability of fiction to develop creativity, to analyze the human psyche, help you understand people — it’s critical. It’s as important as vitamins or anything else. To me, it’s the core of the intellectual health of human beings.”
Of course, creative writing programs are not a bad thing, but their role in our current culture can make even those who work within them uneasy. The programs provide promising young writers with the opportunity to concentrate on their work in an (ideally) supportive community of writers. But the programs have difficulty imparting to their students a central truth of most authors’ lives: Nobody cares about your work. When it comes to books, the supply is much larger than the demand.
This, too is a common refrain at AWP: how great novels and books might sell only a few hundred copies. The publishing world is highly selective, but the number of readers is limited, and apparently getting ever smaller. I have to agree with Miller’s conclusions:
I’m for supporting young writers, but wouldn’t all writers benefit more from initiatives that encouraged more people to read books? What’s the point of helping a first-time author to finish that novel, if you’re just going to usher them into a world where they can’t get anyone to read it, let alone buy it?
We need a Literature Foundation to mirror that of the Poetry Foundation, with the mission to ”discover and celebrate the best [literature] and to place it before the largest possible audience.”
Story collections, an often underappreciated literary cousin of novels, are experiencing a resurgence, driven by a proliferation of digital options that offer not only new creative opportunities but exposure and revenue as well.
Read the rest of this article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/books/a-good-fit-for-small-screens-short-stories-are-selling.html?_r=0#commentsContainer