Category Archives: Research

The Hybrid Writer’s Life (Post-MFA)

I love this article from Paige Sullivan with Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog!

There’s a lot of pressure and uncertainty for writers around the question of whether or not to go for an MFA, and then, what if you do? What if you go for that MFA, graduate, and then…what? Do you get to say, “I’m a writer” when people ask what you do for a living (even if your writing isn’t what pays the bills)? And what if being a writer isn’t your career dream, but you know that writing is an invaluable skill that you want to further hone and develop? Or what if it’s like Rae Pagliarulo says in her terrific follow-up article to Sullivan’s, where you have no intention of shucking off your non-writer job, but you know that pursuing an MFA will feed your soul regardless?

In other words, what does a writer look like, and how can we as writers (whether professional, self-proclaimed, or otherwise) come to grips with this wild identity?

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

zz headshot.jpg Photo by Chris Marley

By Paige Sullivan

A newly-enrolled MFA student, my job as an assistant editor at my program’s top-tier, in-house literary journal was what you’d expect: reading the slush pile. The journal accepted both paper and online submissions, meaning each week I’d work through a stack of submission packets colorfully paper clipped together in addition to sifting through the online queue.

While the work was sometimes dull, it was crucial to sharpening my reading skills, and it afforded me an invaluable understanding of the spectrum of talent and skill that exists out there. Truly, we got it all: exceptional work, promising work, and strange poems that tried to compare love to meatball marinara.

My favorite part of reading the paper submissions were the more personal touches of the printed and hand-signed cover letters, which were sometimes accompanied by a business card. For me, these submissions became fascinating character…

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Writing Your First Sex Scene

So, basically, Delilah S. Dawson’s “25 Humpalicious Steps for Writing Your First Sex Scene” is now one of my new favorite On Writing articles — and I don’t even (usually) write erotica (*cough*thinking of you Tina!*cough*).

One of my great friends from my writing group first discovered this article while we were writing together at Red Emma’s here in Bmore — so we were already (unknowingly) breaking Dawson’s rules #1 & 2; I mean, #1 would come later (that’s what she said (OMG, why aren’t we friends, Dawson?)) — and right away my friend couldn’t keep herself from reading the entire article aloud to me, both of us giggling like grade-schoolers and looking self-consciously over our shoulders. Not only was this article a tremendous thing to share together, but it also sparked some great discussion about the hows/whys of writing sex scenes.

First, who could resist this intro?

I never set out to be a romance writer. When I was asked to turn a black-out scene into steamy hot sex, at first I panicked. Then I followed these 25 easy steps and panicked some more. And then I got a three-book deal for a paranormal romance series with Simon & Schuster, despite being a somewhat prudish Southern girl who’s been married to her college sweetheart since 2002 and has never actually seen a pair of assless chaps. And you can, too! Here’s how.

Dawson! Again: Why aren’t we friends??

But perhaps what I appreciate most about Dawson’s article, aside from her wonderful candor and sense of humor, is just how much of her advice had both my friend and me gushing, Oh my God, yes! Just take rule #7 for example:

7. Consider the lowly Jimmy hat.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a romance book neglects to take into account that most women (and men!) have very strong feelings about whether or not they wish to end up preggers after a sexual encounter. …

AMEN!

Anyway, if you’re still here reading this instead of at Terrible Minds reading Dawson … why are you?

Publishing Advice for the Unpublished Writer

Check out my essay on writing with The Review Review!

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Step One:

Only submit something you actually enjoyed writing, something you’re passionate about, something you’ve edited and reedited and performed aloud and hated and loved and obsessed over, whether it’s funny, frightening, serious, or melodramatic. I’ve read enough passionless gimmicky pieces to last me a lifetime.

Step Two …

6 Great Essays on Craft: Talking Plot, Sex Scenes, & More

1. Claire Rudy Foster’s “Considering the Sex Lives of Your Characters” for The Review Review

Allowing sex to take its proper place in a story adds the third dimension, a dimension of flesh, and sets the reader’s animal self twitching. Even the deliberate omission of sex begs the question: where did it go? Who are these comic characters, gleefully reassuring one another of their button-eyed innocence? It is possible to leave sexuality as an implicit force in the text, but suppressing it entirely does a disservice to both the reader and the story.  …

2. Emily Barton’s “Literary or Genre, It’s the Plot That Counts” for Literary Hub

We writers like to talk about elements of craft. Character, theme, setting, voice, point of view, language. But I seldom hear fellow writers talking about plot. When I first taught a seminar on non-traditional plot construction at NYU’s Graduate Writing Program, some students signed up because they hadn’t previously given the topic any thought. …

3. Alison Mattison’s “How to Write Coincidence the Right Way” for Literary Hub

One way to use coincidence and make it work is to have nothing turn on it. Coincidences feel illegitimate when they solve problems. If the story doesn’t benefit from the coincidence, it’s simply pretty and suggestive. Another way to make a coincidence work is to begin a story with it. Make it the reason there’s a story to tell in the first place. …

4. Bartleby Snopes’s Dialogue Writing Tips

One tendency people have when writing dialogue is to try to write everything exactly how it “sounds.” This often results in dialogue that sounds too slangy or forced. While you may know someone who says “like” after every other word or drops twelve “f-bombs” per sentence, this doesn’t translate well on the page. …

5. Linnie Greene’s In the Mines: A Craft Essay on Creative Nonfiction for Cleaver Magazine

In her MFA vs. NYC essay “The Invisible Vocation,” Elif Batuman argues that the classic maxims “Write what you know” and “find your voice” are sometimes damning, convincing writers that if they don’t know some sort of spectacular, novelistic trauma or oppression, their stories aren’t worth telling. …

6. Steve Almond’s “How to Write a Sex Scene: The 12-Step Program” for Utne

Nipples are tricky. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and shades. They do not, as a rule, look like much of anything, aside from nipples. So resist making dumbshit comparisons. …

Happy Writing!

Literary Magazines with Fast Response Times, Part II

Here’s Part II of a short list of literary magazines who have (or offer for a fee) super-fast response times to submissions:

Driftwood Press

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Poetry, Visual Art, & Lit Crit/Interviews

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and, for $5, offer a premium submission option that promises a one-week turnaround.

Maudlin House

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Visual Art, Video, & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and say they respond to all submissions within approximately two weeks. You can also pay $5 for an expedited submission with a 24-hour turnaround.

Carve Magazine

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions, but not multiple submissions. If you become a subscriber, you can submit under a “premium” submission option, which promises a one-month turnaround.

Nat. Brut

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Comics, CNF, & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and, for a fee of $4, they promise a turnaround time of six weeks.

Gargoyle Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Closed

Genres Accepted: Fiction & Flash Fiction

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and usually get back to submitters within a week (personal experience has been fewer than three days!).

Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal

Submission Period: Rolling

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Flash Fiction, Visual Art, & Poetry

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous and multiple submissions, and have a turnaround time of ten days or fewer.

Blue Mesa Review

Submission Period: Open September 30 – March 31

Genres Accepted: Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, & Art

Response Rate: They accept simultaneous submissions and, for a $3 fee, will expedite your submission with a promised turnaround time of thirty days or fewer.

Clarkesworld Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: SF&F

Response Rate: They do not accept simultaneous or mutliple submissions, but they usually get back to submitters within two to three days.

The Dark Magazine

Submission Period: Currently Open

Genres Accepted: Horror & Dark Fantasy

Response Rate: They do not accept simultaneous or multiple submissions, but they usually get back to submitters within two to three days.

 

Click here for Part I of this list*

Happy Submitting!

 

Spotlight on Melville House

First, I’ve loved Melville House for a long time. Second, I’ll be reviewing Martin Seay’s The Mirror Thief for Cleaver Magazine this month! Dig this review — thanks for sharing, Book People!

BookPeople's Blog

mirror thiefWe post here about book after book, but rarely do we talk about the publishers behind the books. We are gearing up for a great event next week with Martin Seay (Monday, May 16th at 7pm) and his new book, Mirror Thief, which is the new hot release from independent publisher Melville House.


Melville House is a small publisher, relatively speaking, putting out 50-60 books a year, but those books range from timely, topical nonfiction to poetry in translation. There is something on their list for every reader once you start looking.

Mirror Thief is already a favorite at independent bookstores like BookPeople, and you’ll want to check out this graphic to read what booksellers everywhere are saying.

Martin Seay will be here to speak in conversation with Kirk Lynn, whose book Rules for Werewolves was also published by Melville House. Lithub called it, “A unique, engaging way…

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Don’t Set Yourself Up for Failure

Check out this great article from Anne R. Allen:

Don’t Derail Your Writing Career:

8 Ways New Writers  Sabotage Themselves

Allen provides some very solid, useful advice for the emerging writer. And while it may feel like a lot of commonsense, she actually gets to the heart of many traps and snafus that plenty of young artists often find themselves mired in. I know I’ve fallen victim to some of these issues myself, and I’m grateful to Allen for being so honest, open, and straightforward about them here.

Here’s a teaser:

We all make mistakes. It’s how we learn. But some mistakes have the potential to end a writing career before it starts. Today I’m talking about the things a lot of writers do that can keep them from having a career—or derail it for a long time. How do I know about them? I did a lot of this stuff myself.

1) Writing in a Vacuum

It seems at least half the people I meet are “working on a book.” A lot of them have been working on that same book for years—even decades.

But they never show it to anybody.

These are the people who also never read writing guides or blogs or magazine articles that might improve their writing skills or educate them about the publishing business. This is especially true of nonfiction writers, for some reason. They think a memoir or how-to book is somehow easier to write than a novel.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Nonfiction needs to be even more carefully structured than fiction—especially memoir.

Happy Reading & Writing!

–And a big thank you to Anne R. Allen for sharing her wisdom!