Here I blog about writing, editing, reading, books, submissions, freelancing, getting published (and rejected), journalism, revisions, life after the MFA, teaching writing, and living the writer's life. Welcome. BUT -- if you are a writer: Write first, read blogs second.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

Author Interview Interrupted: Essay Writer Sonya Huber's Q-and-A at Cleaver Magazine

Many (many) years ago, I wrote a syndicated interview column for two dozen equestrian publications. Every month I chose someone prominent in the horse show world--a champion rider, a judge, a course designer, a top trainer, a farrier expert in keeping equine athletes' feet in top shape. Because I was on the circuit too (competing, but hardly prominent!), I simply took my target out for coffee, pulled out my Sony tape recorder, asked my prepared, carefully-researched questions, then new questions that occurred to me in the course of the conversation. Back in my hotel room, I typed it up, got copies made, and mailed them out. 

Sometimes, I miss those days. I almost always chose interviewees who I was interested in talking to, someone from whom I could learn. Now, I do Q-and-A interviews here on the blog (the coffee is enjoyed separately, as most are via email) and love bringing their words--of wisdom, caution, encouragement--to my readers. Sometimes, I'm so impressed and/or inspired by what that writer had to share, I'm caught between wanting it on my blog an wanting a wider audience, so that their insights reach more writers.

That's why my most recent interview--with the memoir and essay writer Sonya Huber--first meant for my blog--is now up at the wonderful Cleaver Magazine. (Though I'm an editor there, my narrow lane is nonfiction craft essays, so like everyone else, I had to pitch this. Fortunately, Cleaver said yes.)

I wanted to interview Sonya because I so loved reading her new, curiously-titled book, Pain Woman Takes Your Keys and other Essays from a Nervous System. Here's a small sample from the interview:

SH:  I needed to find larger meaning and research to understand my own experience. So I was driven by self-interest to find those universals. I’m pretty much a ranter inside my own head. Every single essay—or many of them—start in rant mode. That’s great for a paragraph, or for fuel to begin writing, but then I would come back to those paragraphs and see how dull they were to read.
On revision I knew I had to unfold those strong emotions to make them real for the reader. I have learned to do that mainly by reading essays by other writers; doing a lot of that gets the “essay mode” inside one’s head. Every time I’m at a dead end of frustration with a personal experience, the essayist voice—which is developed through that repetition and training—asks, “But what else might that mean?” and then takes the topic at hand from a 46 degree angle.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Friday Fridge Clean-Out: Links for Writers -- June 2, 2017 Edition

> In case you missed it, do read Susan Shapiro's smart, incisive rebuttal, "Taking It Personally: A Feminist Defense Of The First-Person Essay", at Forward, written in response to Jia Tolentino's piece on the New Yorker's website that declared "The Personal Essay Boom is Over."

> I'm not, like so many of my writing friends and colleagues, in Iceland for the biannual NonFiction Now! Conference, so am periodically checking out the Twitter stream #nfnow17


> And I also wasn't at Book Expo in New York City this week, so followed some of the action via #BookExpo and #BEA17. Publisher's Weekly has extensive coverage, too. (Oh, and a NYC tabloid says anti-Trump books were in evidence. True fact!)

> Leslie Pietrzyk has some advice for recent MFA grads, re: keeping in touch with your professors. 

> This past week, I was sad to learn of the passing of Brain Doyle, a remarkable essayist whose work I've long admired. Here is Brevity's round-up/tribute of some of his most memorable passages in their pages. If you've never read his work, go find it! (Start with "Being Brians" because it's fun and unusual.)

> Likewise, we lost Frank Deford, one of the best narrative sports writers, an NPR Morning Edition commentator, and author of a memoir about his daughter's shortened life (from cystic fibrosis)--Alex: The Life of a Child, 1983--at a time when that kind of book was an anomaly. He was one of my early writing idols (I started out writing about sports--ice hockey and equestrian.)

> Recently, as I edited a memoir manuscript for a publisher client that was mostly about the mid- to late-1960s in Haight-Ashbury (as in, it contained plenty of S, D & RnR!), I did a bunch of fact-checking. You can just imagine what my Google and Facebook ad stream looked like after that. I should have been using Incognito mode!

> Finally, do you too have a super duper, always admirable writing process like Hallie Cantor?


Have a great weekend!