Where does writing come from? (part 2)

Mavis Gallant, a Canadian short-story writer, died in February at 94. A notice in the New Yorker got me curious about her. After a brief early marriage, she moved to Europe in 1950, at 28, giving herself two years make a living entirely from writing. And she did it, making the tradeoff so many women have felt compelled to make: “She has quite deliberately chosen to have neither husband nor children, those two great deterrents to any woman’s attempt to live by and for writing,” as one scholar put it. So when she explains what drives someone to become a[…]

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Where does writing come from? (part 1)

I’ve been mulling over some journal entries by Flannery O’Connor, written in 1946–47, when she was twenty-one and a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The entries show her struggling with the tension between her ambition to be a successful writer and her desire, as a devout Catholic, to think about God “all the time.” You are the slim crescent of a moon that I see and my self is the earth’s shadow that keeps me from seeing all the moon. … what I am afraid of, dear God, is that my self shadow will grow so large that it[…]

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The writer and the archetypes

In the late 70s–early 80s I volunteered in a shelter for homeless women run by nuns. It was the era of “shopping bag ladies,” women who lived on the street and carried their possessions around in bags. To the non-homeless they were mythical figures; no one knew where they came from or why they “chose” to live that way. Theories abounded, and their contradictions intrigued me. I decided to discover the reality. It turned out to be pretty prosaic. The largest single factor in making these women homeless was a political decision: emptying the state mental hospitals without making adequate[…]

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EGGxercise: movement and inspiration

You might think a choreographer wouldn’t have much to say to writers, but you’d be wrong. Twyla Tharp has been creating dances for a long time, and from what I can tell has fought and won all the battles involved in making something out of nothing. Her book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life absolutely nails the issues any creative person faces. For example: “Writer’s block means your engine has shut down and the tank is empty. Being blocked is most often a failure of nerve, with only one solution: Do something—anything.” Then she gives a bunch[…]

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Did I pen this blog post?

Of course not. I typed it on my computer keyboard. But have you noticed how commonly pen is used to mean write? In this age of the keypad and touch screen, pen is such an anachronism that it jars me every time I see it. The Wall Street Journal noted last December that Cyndi Lauper had “penned an essay for Rolling Stone” describing how going off the fiscal cliff would harm LBGT youth. The New York Observer reported that former Lehman Brothers vice chairman Thomas Russo “has penned a book about this country’s pressing financial calamities.” A blurb for The[…]

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I’m moderating! Book collaboration basics at 2012 ASJA conference

As a professional freelancer, book collaboration is probably my greatest expertise. So I’m totally tickled to be moderating a panel where I can spill all my secrets at the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual writers conference next April in New York City. I’ve been on my share of panels, but this is my first chance to moderate and shape the content of a session. I lined up two panelists who have even more experience than me: agent Madeleine Morel and author Nancy Peske. The three of us will walk everyone through the subtleties of contracts and payments, division[…]

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Social media & inspiration: Google+ or minus?

In a race to beat the other Stephanie Goldens out there, I got myself an invite to Google+, and secured possession of—my name.  A real coup, right? I haven’t learned yet how to use Google+, but once I do, it’ll be a big boost to my career… right? Not according to computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who says social media just reduce everyone to little more than the database fields they fill in to create their profile. In his manifesto You Are Not a Gadget, he attacks two notions popular among his community of techies: the “wisdom of the crowd,” which[…]

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The 99¢ store: what’s a book worth these days?

When I put my out-of-print book Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice on Kindle, I had to decide how much to charge. Amazon limited me to charging $9.99 if I wanted the higher royalty, 70%. So I thought, I’ll underprice it a bit to make it more attractive, and listed it for $8.99. Turns out that was way overpriced. Fierce pricing debates rage among indie authors on blogs and the Kindle online forums. Many charge 99¢—the lowest Amazon allows. One theory is that people will take a chance on anything for 99¢, so you start there to[…]

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Tech warrior II: online sample

Amazon is amazing. They don’t miss a beat. I just discovered that I can post a link to an online free sample of Slaying the Mermaid that people can read in their browser—no special software needed. You can read the entire first chapter; just scroll past the title and copyright pages.  Makes me feel like a techie. All you other writers, take note. Much opportunity for publicizing your ebook via the KindleBoards forums (where I learned about this online sample link). I just finished figuring out the html code for including both book cover and a tag line in my[…]

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Tech warrior: putting a book on Kindle

Slaying the Mermaid: Women and the Culture of Sacrifice is now an ebook offered through Amazon. A triumph, for I did it all myself. Years in print publishing had worn deep grooves in my brain, so it took some effort to wrap my mind around the basic ebook concepts: No pages. No fancy fonts for display type. No artful white space before and after chapter titles and subheads (but enough space and sufficient variation in font size so the reader knows that a new section is beginning). No index! On the bright side, endnote reference numbers are links. Click and[…]

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