Read It Forward 10.7.17
Chances are good that if you love to read, you’ve also thought about writing. Maybe you already do, maybe you’ve taken a class or two, or maybe you’re still working up the courage to put your own ideas on paper. Wherever you are in your craft, your love of reading is helping you. One of the best things a writer can do to improve—aside from writing, of course—is to read widely and often.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Novelist and teacher Francine Prose writes in her craft book Reading Like a Writer, “Long before the idea of a writer’s conference was a glimmer in anyone’s eye, writers learned by reading the work of their predecessors. They studied meter with Ovid, plot construction with Homer, comedy with Aristophanes; they honed their prose style by absorbing the lucid sentences of Montaigne and Samuel Johnson. And who could have asked for better teachers: generous, uncritical, blessed with wisdom and genius, as endlessly forgiving as only the dead can be?”
Read It Forward 10.13.17
Recently, author Neal Pollack appeared on Jessa Crispin’s podcast Public Intellectual and said that reading a novel is like going to the ballet. “It’s an art form,” he says, “and it can be done well, and it should be maintained, and it should be appreciated.” We’ve seen report after report that reading is a pastime in decline, yet communities like Read it Forward are built around bibliophilia. We are bibliophiles—we have a “great or excessive love of books.” Am I the only self-professed bibliophile, then, who finds it increasingly difficult to make time for reading entire books?
Read It Forward 11.15.16
I moved to New York to find a job in publishing. I had graduated from an MFA program in fiction writing, thereby securing myself a higher degree in literary fiction and, at the same time, charging myself with a mission to make money while I wrote my creative work on the side. Publishing seemed perfect: an entirely literary lifestyle. I had spent time interning at a lit magazine and teaching, and to be both an editor and a writer seemed—as teaching writing is for so many writers—the best blend of passion and practicality I could realistically hope for, while, at the same time, working toward the dream of writing full-time. I pictured myself editing literary novels, at first, the smaller collections of short stories by emerging writers, and eventually after those writers had emerged, the bestselling contemporary writers—the Meg Wolitzers and Michael Chabons of the world.
Write or Bust 5.28.14
I realized I had been holding my breath this morning when I read the news; I had to gasp, in. There’s a suffocating that happens when I’m scrolling through articles on Elliot Rodger, Twitter feeds, #yesallwomen. On top of that, Maya Angelou has passed today and her memory is worth so many held breaths. It’s hard to receive so much pain because the news and the reflection on the news come now at the same time, the speed of light. My mind works more at the speed of a river, a current – pulling and sifting, a thought submerged and bobbing to the surface; its imminent saturation. I can scroll through the infinite lists of repeating quotes from Angelou and retweet or maybe choose my own and hashtag, but when will I spend some time revisiting her work in print, whole books? In addition to being infinite, the internet is a microscope. I have this feeling of obligation, that if something happens I ought to comment on it quickly, with the appropriate tone. Even though in the physical world I probably would not speak my thoughts on the subject, or be the type of person to quote a poem out loud.
Write or Bust 9.25.13
We could not agree on a town, so we avoided the question. In June I made a last minute pilgrimage to the mountains outside of Boulder, where I sat in front of a statue of the goddess Saraswati and asked for guidance. I was doing some automatic writing. If I received any answer at all, it was, “Don’t be so concerned with getting what you want.” This was frustrating. I drove to Taos and spent the night with a psychic I found on couchsurfing.org, who tried very hard to sell me a cream with anti-aging powers. I was skeptical of her metaphysical abilities, but grateful for the gift of lodging. In the morning I went to a coffee shop to document everything I remembered about the psychic before I forgot, and my Park Slope friend called me. She said, “My roommate is leaving the apartment this summer and we need subletters for three weeks, and I’m offering you this fantastic, unbelievable price because you’re my friend.” I was going to be camping that afternoon, so she gave me only a few hours to decide. I called A. We made half a decision: go to Brooklyn for three weeks, then figure out the rest of it.
Write or Bust 6.19.13
For years I’ve had this desire to somehow borrow, lease, or own a small cabin on one of the islands in Penobscot Bay, off of the coast of Maine where I grew up. I was and am a mainlander, but the time I’ve spent on various islands in the bay has only ever increased my longing to stay there, surrounded by water and possibly a few other houses, with a boat that will allow me to go see people on the mainland when and if I want to. The purpose, of course, would be to live alone with my writing and a room full of books. It would be something like this little place on Vinalhaven.
We at Broad! have realized that many of our submitters are young adults in high school, which means that many of the people who read this blog are probably young adults who are dealing with this issue of “slut shaming”. Not that the conversation around shaming women should be limited to high school. Definitely not: I want to include everyone, men and women of all ages, in this conversation...Standing up for women is always hard in a society that rewards slut-bashing, victim-blaming, rape culture behavior and silences feminist speech. Standing up for yourself and others is especially hard if you’re in high school. Still, here are some things you can do to stop slut shaming.
Colorado State University MFA Program 10.17.12
The Colorado State University Diversity Symposium this fall began their week with keynote speaker (and author, poet, screenwriter, producer, and performer) Sherman Alexie. I was informed by the diversity symposium’s website, that “Alexie uses irony throughout his work in an attempt to dispel myths about the conditions of Native Americans living on reservations…” and that he would be bringing “his unique humor” to CSU that night. I thought, Yes, I have read some of Sherman Alexie’s novels, stories, and poems, and yes, he is very funny. How I am looking forward to seeing him speak. But I was not expecting the two hours of straight stand-up comedy to which Alexie treated his audience that night. Bring his unique sense of humor? Boy, did he ever.
Write or Bust 10.7.12
This spring I thought I could become a gardener, but it turns out that gardening requires an attentiveness to other living things, and also a regular schedule of being home, and also knowing what you are growing and which ones are the weeds, and possibly a good incentive, like needing to harvest one’s own food to survive. I failed on all of these counts but I blamed it on the drought in Colorado. My boyfriend, A., suggested that I not try caring for an animal companion just yet. This experience reminded me of a movie I watched on instant Netflix where Sandra Bullock plays a writer who gets out of rehab, and she and all of the other recovering addicts are advised to buy and care for a spider plant, as an entry point to self-care and relationships. I am not an addict nor am I recovering, but I think I must suffer from the same kind of fog-laden solipsism that makes people keep spider plants long after they shrivel and drop small pieces of their brown, disintegrating bodies onto the carpet, because the rest of our lives demand our attention so much more loudly. Of course Sandra Bullock’s character was a writer in that movie. She even said once, in defense of her alcoholism, “I’m a writer!”, and this explained everything, until we learned it was all about her mother.
When the July/August issue of the Atlantic arrived in my mailbox with its cover photo of a woman carrying a toddler in her briefcase and its sensationalized headline WHY WOMEN STILL CAN’T HAVE IT ALL (not to mention the still more incendiary editorial “summary”, “It’s time to stop fooling ourselves…”) I plopped down in my lawn chair and commenced reading. It looked like another article about the old binary between family and career, and the choice women must make between these two paths in life, unless we are blessed with enough superhuman power to do both, a kind of super-strength we don’t expect from men. But as it turned out this was just the way the article was packaged and framed by the Atlantic. The actual argument that Anne-Marie Slaughter has made, and the point that reactionaries appear to be missing, is that American people of all genders must restructure our economy if we are to achieve anything approximating a work-life balance. And yes, because of the gender gap in careers that persists, work-life balance is harder right now for women to achieve than men, and yes, the author hopes that women leaders will close this gender gap, but Slaughter is arguing for a much greater system overhaul than a choice that only concerns individual women.
Write or Bust 8.20.12
Cain talks a little bit about what she calls "the rise of the new groupthink", but doesn't get into a lot of detail in her education section. Teachers, including college faculty, are being trained to teach this way because we have learned to eschew a model where the instructor is the fount of information and the students are there to listen. Now, we like to teach as facilitators, showing all students that they have knowledge to contribute, and that together we are all smarter than we are individually. Our lectures are supposed to be punctuated with questions and discussion. None of this is bad; we know that the ideal classroom has a balance of lecture, independent work, group activities, and whole-class discussion. And we do want to empower our students by asking them to contribute to the conversation. But when I look at my lesson plans and the suggested activities given to me by my department, I find an overwhelming number of group activities. Sometimes the entire class period shifts from one group activity to the next, so that they really do spend the time working in a "pod" of their peers. The feedback I receive from my students varies, yet the consensus lately is: group work is o.k., but we want more lecture, more discussion, and more writing time. When college freshmen say that they want more lecture and more time to write their assignments in class, it's easy to dismiss that as a bid for less work in a required course. However, I think there's some value to it: what they're really saying is, we don't want to work together on everything.
Write or Bust 6.5.12
Throughout May I have been finding it difficult or not so difficult to write depending on how much I was thinking about my day job. Or rather, my hope for a day job, since I've been looking for summer employment. Just this week I got a job cleaning houses. How...bittersweet. I'll have money to support myself, but my writing is at the whim of my work schedule once again. I think everyone should have to do something in the service industry like cleaning houses (waiting tables, painting, whatever). As my boss said on Monday, the world would be a 200% better place if everyone spent at least one summer working in a restaurant. I also like jobs that give me some variety so that I can separate my writing time from my work, although this can move in the opposite direction too -- sometimes jobs that differ too much from my writing pull me away from what is most important to me. This particular job gives me intermittent access to the interior lives of strangers, which is fantastic for a fiction writer. You can tell so much about people through the objects in their homes. (The moral here is don't hire writers to clean for you if you don't want to appear in their work.)
Write or Bust 10.29.11
Where I was today.
We went as four to participate in the global revolutions taking place in so many cities right now. Initially we made no signs; our voices would suffice. We listened to and cheered for the brief speeches of the individuated crowd. A self-identified leaderless movement speaks in the voice of community: all sentences were repeated, thus creating a reverberating megaphone of understanding. There were independent newspapers being circulated. Veterans, lawyers, students, the unemployed, the homeless, grandparents, parents and children, a smattering of ideologies, a slight diversity of race/ethnicity, a great diversity of age and gender. We marched.
We were led by snare drums, musicians carrying a United States flag with fifty corporations' logos in the place of fifty stars. We are the 99%. End the Fed.
Write or Bust 6.6.11
Last week the Guardian published an article on V. S. Naipaul’s claim that no female author living or dead is equal to him. You might think that this is the most sexist thing he could say, but the article went on to quote him saying that writing by women is “different” (i.e. worse) because of their "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world", and that because women are not the complete masters of houses that even the best among the literati can only write “feminine tosh”. But don’t fret your pretty little head! He says he doesn’t mean this in an unkind way. Naipaul also claimed that within a paragraph or two of reading anything he could tell whether the author is a woman or a man. So The Guardian invented a quiz, rather mocking of Naipaul, but also I think to try and satisfy that curiosity: can we tell? Is there such a thing as a gendered way of writing, a gendered sentence? Gendered subject matter? Is it obvious?
Write or Bust 4.2.11
I recently had a little ontological crisis about my name. By which I mean not just my name, but my Public Name, my Writer Name. I have been going by B. L. Goss for at least a year: on this website, on Twitter, on SheWrites, and in publications. But, while reviewing the galley copy for the literary magazine where one of my short stories is finally being published (two years after its acceptance), I began to experience pangs of doubt about this sort-of-psuedonym I had built for myself. I had asked the magazine to publish my writing under the byline B. L. Goss. Now I was beginning to wonder if my reasons for choosing that name were as important as I once thought.
Some super-thorough-academic research on the internet revealed to me that although many blog commenters seem to think that pseudonyms for female authors are a relic of the 19th century, many more women are struggling with the question of what to call themselves. Should I go by an androgynous version of my name so I can publish? Should I use my initials so that men will buy my book? For every woman who is posting this query on a website, there have to be many more who are posing it to their friends and family.
Write or Bust 6.4.10
About a year ago, I was working in my local bookstore when a couple wandered in to browse. They walked along the wall of fiction, and as the woman pulled books off the shelves to read the back covers, the man paced with agitation. When the woman asked her husband if he had found anything he liked, he complained that there were “too many books by women in this bookstore.”