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Entries in Literary (3)


High Plains Literary Drifter

Howdy pardner, I'll be winding down four weeks of travel with a quick stop in Seattle for this year's Lit Crawl (I'll be at the Hugo house, reading for exactly seven minutes).

And then I'll be in Billings for the High Plains Book Festival.

I'll be enjoying Friday's big gala event and then doing my thing on Saturday. Also, Songs of Willow Frost is up for an award (but remember, no wagering).


Calling out the gobshites 

There was a beautifully written, if barely readable diatribe on the DEATH OF THE NOVEL in The Guardian last week, penned by (insert frustrated novelist name here).* This particular yarn eulogizing “the serious literary novel” was an edited, 4,490-word version of a lecture given at Oxford where I’m guessing many of those in attendance are just now waking up from their tedium-induced comas.

So to spare you the hazard to your health, here’s a brief summary: “The novel is dead because no one is reading my books.”

The problem isn’t this writer’s work (which I’m sure is deserving of its literary acclaim), or the state of the book-buying masses. The problem is this gentleman’s complete, Justin Bieber-like lack of self-awareness. Because this poor fellow, like most serious literary writers, are what I call performance writers—they’re actually writing to impress other writers, or critics, who are often authors themselves (or stillborn writers). They get so caught up in linguistic navel-gazing, this literary jujitsu, and the fawning self-satisfaction that comes from writing Bob’s rapacity knew no satiety (when writing Bob was hungry would suffice), that they forget most readers also want a compelling story.

But they don’t see it. And when no one reads their novels they hurl stones at book buyers, declaring them to be mouth-breathing, knuckle-dragging, troglodytes.

Now please, please, pu-leeeze don’t get me wrong. I love—no, I adore, lush, complex prose. But I’m weary of these kinds of rants from dense literary stylists whose books go down like aspirin without water and they can’t understand why consumers don’t gobble them up like Skittles. Or worse, they think the world is upside-down for not appreciating the struggle of trying to ingest their bitter pills.

This is as absurd as Nicholas Sparks writing an emotional editorial in US Magazine declaring THE NOVEL IS DEAD because he’s never been nominated for a Pulitzer.

If you’re a writer of commercial fiction you’ll probably never win the Nobel Prize. And if you’re a hard-core, literary writer—face it—odds are, you’re going to be paid in posterity points instead of pounds. Deal accordingly.

Self-awareness, kids. It’s free and goes a long way.

*I’m not going to name him because literary novelists crying this particular kind of wolf have become so common that honestly, they all look and sound alike to me.**

**Post-racial (ha) observation. Why is it always a white guy saying the novel is dead?


The literary country club

2006 Sewanee Writers' Conference attendees are welcomed to the club.
Conference season is upon us. I see folks blogging about the Backspace Writers’ Conference, Sleuthfest, Bouchercon et al, and I was wondering—what about those other writers’ conferences? The ones where you apply to attend, submitting manuscripts and paying reading fees. Like rushing a frat or sorority, minus the togas and keg-stands.

The ones that come to mind are the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Squaw Valley Writers' Conference with Amy Tan. Heck, even Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp requires approval of work before you get beyond the velvet rope. (The first page of a short story).

The question is, have you applied to one of the aforementioned? Would you? If not, why? The cost is an obvious barrier I’m sure— ranging from $725-$1500. Not including travel expenses, meals, bottles of Courvoisier, ascot dry-cleaning, Botox injections, hookers, bail bonds, etc.

I’ve taken come-as-you-are screenwriting classes and it’s always been a mixed bag. Enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder abound, but the peeps tend to be a stewpot of twitchy upstarts, bored dreamers, bitter hacks, and the venerated, talented few, of which I aspire to become. So is the bar truly that much higher at Squaw Valley? I hope so. Or is it like that Woody Allen quote? You know the one.