“Self-consciousness is the curse of the city and all that sophistication implies. It is the glimpse of oneself in a storefront window, the unbidden awareness of reactions on the faces of other people—the novelist’s world, not the poet’s. I’ve lived there. I remember what the city has to offer: human companionship, major-league baseball, and a clatter of quickening stimulus like a rush from strong drugs that leaves you drained. I remember how you bide your time in the city, and think, if you stop to think, ‘next year…I’ll start living; next year…I’ll start my life.’”—From Annie Dillard’s A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. (via mcnallyjackson)
Oh, thank you so much! We’re so glad you enjoy it. It’s pretty fun to collect all this great material, so we’re happy to bring it to you.
I just wanted to take this opportunity to welcome our new followers, and to pass on a few things that ended up in our submissions folder for any interested writers out there.
1. shortstoriesandsongs.tumblr.com invites open participation so, writers, why not go see what they’re up to?
2. Luna Station Quarterly is also looking for participation — “Luna Station Quarterly is a magazine focused on genre fiction as written by women.” Issue 5 was just released yesterday. Issues 1-4 remained archived on the site. We are trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. Do not be shy, or intimidated. Write it out, and send into the world what wasn’t there before. LSQ http://lunastationquarterly.com/frontpage
“Each person has a literature inside them. But when people lose language, when they have to experiment with putting their thoughts together on the spot-that’s what I love most. That’s where character lives.”—Anna Deavere Smith, American Actress and Playwright known for her documentary theater-making, based on interviewing subjects and personally embodying them in performance.
"Connection is the goal. The quality of that connection, the quality of the information that passes through it, the quality of the relationship that connection permits—none of this is important. That a lot of social networking software explicitly encourages people to make weak, superficial connections with each other (as Malcolm Gladwell has recently argued1), and that this might not be an entirely positive thing, seem to never have occurred to him…[Zuckerburg] is, to say the least, dispassionate about the philosophical questions concerning privacy—and sociality itself—raised by his ingenious program. Watching him interviewed I found myself waiting for the verbal wit, the controlled and articulate sarcasm of that famous Zuckerberg kid—then remembered that was only Sorkin. The real Zuckerberg is much more like his website, on each page of which, once upon a time (2004), he emblazoned the legend: A Mark Zuckerberg Production. Controlled but dull, bright and clean but uniformly plain, nonideological, affectless…When a human being becomes a set of data on a website like Facebook, he or she is reduced. Everything shrinks. Individual character. Friendships. Language. Sensibility. In a way it’s a transcendent experience: we lose our bodies, our messy feelings, our desires, our fears. It reminds me that those of us who turn in disgust from what we consider an overinflated liberal-bourgeois sense of self should be careful what we wish for: our denuded networked selves don’t look more free, they just look more owned.”
“The world does not need more young men who were raised to believe it is a woman’s job to endure them.”—Countess Elena, aka the Corpse Debutante, by way of Scalzi through the streets of Whitechapel. Seriously. xox, Katie.
“Let me tell you this: if you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”—Jodi Picoult, American Author
Then the big illegal question was asked, point blank, and, oddly enough, it was during a meeting with the entire search committee—six or so professors. It was put to me like this: “With juggling the demands of your writing and your very busy family life, how do you intend to do this job?”
I think I paused and looked around the room, waiting for someone to throw a yellow flag, call the foul, and restart the question back at the line of scrimmage.
Everyone looked at me patiently, as if to say, “Well?”
And so I answered the question. It’s a blur. I don’t recall what I said, frankly. I might have gone on a short spiel about how my husband is a stay-at-home dad and that our household is actually weirdly retro—a 1950s household where the gender roles are simply reversed. But if I did, I hate myself for it. Answering a question that the search committee would never have asked my husband, if roles had truly been reversed, undermines the positive steps women have made in the workplace.
I might have said that I’ve obviously proven that I can work in academe, continue to publish (in fact, outpublish everyone in that room; that would have been the frustrated subtext), and manage a household with four kids in it.
I might have simply said something cryptic, vaguely Buddhist, “I have abundant energy, and it’s easier to let the horses go than to hold them back.”
Truth is, I’ve got an arsenal of answers to that question. It comes up in every single media interview I do. While my male literary counterparts with kids in the home are asked about their work and process, I’m asked again and again one question: How do you do it?
Honestly, I don’t mind talking about it. It’s an important subject, and for those of you who are swinging families and work, my answer is simple: I do it messily, imperfectly, sometimes wearily. But I was compelled to have a writing career and have kids at the same time. If I’d sacrificed writing for the kids, I’d resent the kids. If I’d sacrificed the kids for writing, I’d resent the writing. To support both of those endeavors and because I’m dedicated to teaching the craft, I’ve found a home in academe. To avoid bitterness, I bully on with all of it.
But regardless of the makeup of my family, I work hard and have a proven track record. I love the work, and I love the kids.
And, truth be told, I probably answered the illegal question with a bit of attitude. In retrospect, I wish I’d had more attitude and said something like, “You know people ask me all the time how I manage to get so much done. Sometimes I feel like answering back: How do you manage to get so very little done?”
The person who asked the illegal question? Maybe you’re imagining some older professor who holds firm to a 1950s mentality.
It was a woman, almost exactly my age. She is married and has no children. (Why do women do this to each other again? I forget.)
This year, there are three female Academy Award Nominees for Best Writing.
For Best Adapted Screenplay:
Winter’s Bone- Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini
For Best Original Screenplay
The Kid’s are All Right-Written by Lisa Cholodenko (& Stuart Blumberg)
While we certainly celebrate these exceptional female screenwriters, that’s three (3) three out of 22 screenwriting nominees. There have got to be more excellent scripts out there by women. Thankfully two of this website’s hostesses will be hittin’ the biz real soon.
The Academy Awards air this Sunday, the 27th at 8pm on ABC.
The answer to the question “What now?” is never what you think it’s going to be, and that is the thing that every writer has to learn. I came to understand that fiction writing was like duck hunting. You go to the right place at the right time with the right dog. You get into the water before it’s light outside, wearing a little protective gear, stand behind some reeds and wait for the story to present itself. This is not to say you are passive. You choose the place and the day. You pick the gun and the dog. You have the desire to blow the duck apart for reasons that are entirely your own. But you have to be willing to accept not what you wanted to happen, but what happens. You have to write the story you find in the circumstances you’ve created, because more often than not the ducks don’t show up. The hunters in the next blind begin to argue and you realize they’re in love. You see a snake swimming in your direction. Your dog begins to shiver and whine and you start to think about this gun that belonged to your father. By the time you get out of the marsh you will have written a novel that is so devoid of ducks it will shock you. It took me a long time of standing still and being quiet to figure out what in retrospect appears to be a pretty simple lesson: writing a novel and living a life are very much the same thing. The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually comes your way.
Ann Patchett, American Novelist & Memoirist — Truth & Beauty is a gorgeous book.
(The above quotation and audio file is the commencement speech from Jenny’s Sarah Lawrence Graduation. She felt compelled to post this as she stares down yet another graduation and is beginning to ask the “What now?” question again…)
“Sometimes a flat-footed sentence is what serves, so you don’t get all writerly: “He opened the door.” There, it’s open.”—Amy Hempel, an American short story writer, journalist, and university professor
He’ll be cross if he sees I have been crying. They don’t like you to cry. He doesn’t cry. I wish to God I could make him cry. I wish I could make him cry and tread the floor and feel his heart heavy and big and festering in him. I wish I could hurt him like hell.
He doesn’t wish that about me. I don’t think he even knows how he makes me feel. I wish he could know, without my telling him. They don’t like you to tell them they’ve made you cry. They don’t like you to tell them you’re unhappy because of them. If you do, they think you’re possessive and exacting. And then they hate you. They hate you whenever you say anything you really think. You always have to keep playing little games. Oh, I thought we didn’t have to; I thought this was so big I could say whatever I meant. I guess you can’t, ever. I guess there isn’t ever anything big enough for that.
It’s been assumed I’m soft or irrelevant Cause I refuse to down play my intelligence But in a room of thugs and rap veterans Why am I the only one Who’s acting like a gentleman Good form bad taste Pity what a waste All that style, not a thing to say Looks to me like A little of your true school Is at the shallow end of the typing pool All cloak, no dagger Just smoke and swagger I hope that your battery’s charged Cause I found this here ladder Now your ceilings don’t matter Check me out, Now I got glass floors - Dessa “The Bullpen” - A Badly Broken Code
There was a roar, and a coldness – I think my husband was with me. What was my husband’s name? My husband’s name? Do you know it? How strange, I don’t remember. It was horrible to see his face when I died. His eyes were two black birds and they flew to me. I said: no – stay where you are – he needs you in order to see! When I got through the cold they made me swim in a river and I forgot his name. I forgot all the names. I know his name starts with my mouth shaped like a ball of twine – Oar – Oar. I forget. They took me to a tiny boat. I only just fit inside. I looked at the oars and I wanted to cry. I tried to cry but I just drooled a little. I’ll try now. (She tries to cry but finds that she can’t.) What happiness it would be to cry.
Sarah Ruhl, American Playwright & Poet, and also Jenny’s awesome thesis mentor. There’s a pretty great interview with her about her play Dead Man’s Cell Phone here. But Jenny would recommend Eurydice and In The Next Room and Late: A Cowboy Song the most.
Speaking of Lady Writers, Lady Journalists face a different set of obstacles when attempting to pursue their passion for writing. The Huffington Post and The New York Times co-published this piece by ProPublica writer Kim Baker in the aftermath of the attacks on Lara Logan while she was covering the protests in Egypt:
"The CBS correspondent Lara Logan has broken that code of silence. She has covered some of the most dangerous stories in the world, and done a lot of brave things in her career. But her decision to go public earlier this week with her attack by a mob in Tahrir Square in Cairo was by far the bravest. Hospitalized for days, she is still recuperating from the attack, described by CBS as a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating.
Several commentators have suggested that Ms. Logan was somehow at fault: because she’s pretty; because she decided to go into the crowd; because she’s a war junkie. This wasn’t her fault. It was the mob’s fault. This attack also had nothing to do with Islam. Sexual violence has always been a tool of war. Female reporters sometimes are just convenient”
Read the rest of the article at any of the links above. Also check out:
“I stood still, vision blurring, and in that moment, I heard my heart break. It was a small, clean sound, like the snapping of a flower’s stem.”—Diana Gabaldon, American Author (of one of Jenny & Katie’s favorite love stories)
“If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. Stories about food show a strong connection. Wistful silences demonstrate unfinished business. The more a daughter knows about the details of her mother’s life - without flinching or whining - the stronger the daughter.”—Anita Diamant, The Red Tent
EW writer Karen Valby talks about the female characters (some the product of female authors) that are tickling the public’s fancy these days:
"I think one of the things that I love most about the Hunger Games series–Suzanne Collins’ riveting dystopian trilogy that everyone seems to have either read and loved or is currently reading and loving–is that it stars a girl. Not just any girl, mind you. It stars Katniss Everdeen–as resilient and competent and scrappy and flawed as any hero in pop culture that I can remember. She’s 16 years old. She’s not silly nor love struck nor a hand-wringer when it comes to boys or her appearance. She is a fighter, without ever seeming cartoonish.” Check out the rest here.
“The other day I was re-visiting my original impulses for making a career out of theatre, and I thought of myself sneaking out of class and breaking into the tiny theatre in my high school and sitting on the empty stage in the darkness and just swelling with joy at all the possibilities to be carved out in that darkness. I still have that feeling sometimes, like the first time I enter a rehearsal room with a stunning group of actors, or when I walk into a theatre as the set is being built, wood sawed, flats painted… it’s like falling in love. But that feeling is so fleeting, while this gnawing feeling of low-grade failure is pretty constant.”—Sheila Callaghan, American Playwright & TV Writer, describing my life.
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