Tag Archives: Memoirs

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!

On Writing: Fiction, Journalism, Punk, Clichés, & the Big-A Art

Beyond the lines of printed words in my books are the settings in which the books were imagined and without which the books could not exist.

–Joyce Carol Oates, “To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet


I’ve lately been enjoying a pretty terrific variety of articles on writing and writers, and rather than spotlight only one or simply recap already well-written works, I’ll give them to you here as a list. Keep things short n’ sweet. These are in no particular order and all of them I’d recommend as good reading for artists and consumers of art alike.




30 Art-Writing Clichés to Ditch in the New Year

Ben Davis, Monday, January 5, 2015

Davis does a tremendous job here of outlining thirty cliches rampant within the art-writing community–a list that’s not only useful for art-writers and critics, but that’s also illuminating for artists and consumers of art looking to learn more about the art and art critic’s worlds (not to mention about the power and artistry of the work of art-writing specifically and of nonfiction writing generally).

If you’re at all interested in feminist punk, feminist writing, punk music memoirs, or punk music/music history, then you’re going to definitely enjoy Viv Albertine’s (guitarist for The Slits) latest memoir, Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys, all about her journey to becoming a Slit, and Caroline Sullivan’s interview of both Albertine and producer Dennis Bovell regarding the origins of The Slits’ legendary Cut album.

We were all virgins when it came to composing and writing, but we liked the ideology of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood: always questioning things. That fed into our music. We knew we were a first, which could be uncomfortable, and we were much more revolutionary than the Pistols and the Clash. They were rock bands, whereas we were using world music and reggae, filtered through our own musicality.

—Albertine, interview with Sullivan


To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet


This is just like it sounds–hot writing advice from the giant herself, Joyce Carol Oates, circa 1999.

To write is to invade another’s space, if only to memorialize it. To write is to invite angry censure from those who don’t write, or who don’t write in quite the way you do, for whom you may seem a threat. Art by its nature is a transgressive act, and artists must accept being punished for it. The more original and unsettling their art, the more devastating the punishment.


A paper by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel was accepted by two scientific journals

One journal congratulates the authors on their paper being accepted. (Alex Smolyanitsky) (Vox)
One journal congratulates the authors on their paper being accepted. (Alex Smolyanitsky) (Vox)

A scientific study by Maggie Simpson, Edna Krabappel, and Kim Jong Fun has been accepted by two journals.

Of course, none of these fictional characters actually wrote the paper, titled “Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations.” Rather, it’s a nonsensical text, submitted by engineer Alex Smolyanitsky in an effort to expose a pair of scientific journals — the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the comic sans-loving Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology.



Despite Tough Guys, Life Is Not the Only School for Real Novelists


Again, just what it sounds like. Uncle Kurt, circa 1999.

I paraphrase Aristotle: If you want to be comical, write about people to whom the audience can feel superior; if you want to be tragical, write about at least one person to whom the audience is bound to feel inferior, and no fair having human problems solved by dumb luck or heavenly intervention.


“Keep typing until it turns into writing”: David Carr’s invaluable advice for journalists

You think writing’s a dream job? It’s more like a horror film


And just for fun…