One of my primary goals in writing Contents May Have Shifted was to make a book in which each of my sentences worked harder than they ever had before. I was brought up in the post-Raymond Carver school of compression, and I still believe the poets are the real wizards…
We are literary. We produce literary fiction for literary people. That is why it’s paramount that we expose ourselves and our work to the same ruthless mockery as the saddest of Z-grade films.
As assistant fiction editor at Hunger Mountain I read a lot of fiction submissions, and sometimes writers ask what I’m looking for in a piece of fiction. The simple answer is that I’m looking to fall in love. We all feel this way, all the HM editors: we love to fall in love with your […]
For me, a prompt makes creating new work easier and a deadline makes finishing possible. So I incorporated both when I created SPARK, a quarterly project for writers, artists, and musicians, who get ten days to create something new, using another person’s work as inspiration. I administer the project, but I also participate, and I use each round as an opportunity to play with process.
INTRODUCTION1 Some years ago, toward the end of an hour-long class during which a group was workshopping one of my stories, someone in the room said, “I was just wondering, don’t these people ever run into anyone else? Don’t their waiters ever talk to them? Don’t they have any friends?” My notes from that […]
Prompts can be more than just a warm-up to the real writing; they can lead us to material in surprising ways. A dominant left brain can lead to over-thinking, playing it safe, and self-judging—all of which can block the creative right brain. Prompts help us loosen up and let go of control.
Can we talk, not to be grandiose or anything, about truth? I don’t mean the kind of truth John Ruskin went on about in his architectural critiques, decrying flexible tracery as barbaric and making fearless leaps between such judgments and the virtue and enlightenment of man. Which pretty much, I would like to point out, […]
As writers, we spend a lot of time seeking the shy, elusive muse or avoiding the judgmental, overbearing inner critic. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, calls her inner critic Nigel. She writes, “Like my Nigel, everyone’s critic has doubts, second thoughts, third thoughts. The critic analyzes everything to the point of extinction. Everything must always be groomed and manicured. Everything must measure up to some mysterious and elusive standard.”
My novel is set in a time and place—1850’s west—that’s already solidly ingrained into the American consciousness as a mostly historically inaccurate and over-dramatized milieu. For three years, I spent enormous energy creating the historical details—believable characters, a rich sense of place, credible plot. All this realism came at a cost. My novel was missing […]
I’ve found that many contemporary lyric poems—though certainly not all—make interwoven use of three distinct elements: image, narrative, and rhetoric. Sometimes I think of the interaction between and amongst these elements as representing a sine wave or sinusoid. A sine wave looks like a regularized horizon of hills and valleys: first a hill, then a […]
Persona is the mask writers wear in their novels, short stories, poems, essays and memoirs. It is the artfully crafted or created “self” on the page. Poet Ezra Pound defined persona as a literary stand-in for the author’s voice. It is not the actual self or author; real lives can rarely be contained within the margins.
Why do I write? Considering the odds of publishing, we have all asked ourselves that question at one time or another. If we haven’t, we should. When I set out to write a novel some ten or more years ago, I had a grand vision in mind, in which I would hit the New York […]