The Writing Life
Dealing with the problem of sitting too much:
• The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley (Amy Schoenfeld, NY Times, 5-11-13). Soothing back pain by learning how to sit again. (Click here for illustration of proper and improper posture.)
• Ask Well: Help for the Deskbound (Tara Parker-Pope, 1-15-13). Provides links to purveyors of ergonomic chairs.
• Reasons Not to Stretch (Gretchen Reynolds, Well, NY Times, 4-3-13). Dynamic warmups (like leg kicking) before your fitness training is better than static pre-workout stretching. (The rules have changed.)
· Links on writing and the writing life
· Connect with other writers (and editors)
Links to online writers groups and communities
· Writers sharing workspaces
· Critique groups and writing workshops
· Standing and adjustable-height desks
· Some books to get you going
· The lives of writers and editors (in books and articles)
Abraham Verghese, author of ‘Cutting for Stone,’ describes his writing life (Washington Post 12-9-11). Loved his novel Cutting for Stone
ADHD, Journalism, and the Nightmare of Finding Manna in the Desert (William Gray, Talking Writing, 4-11-11)
Alone, With Words. Why writers can’t live to please their readers. (Jed Perl, The New Republic,6-9-10)
An Easy Way to Increase Creativity. Why thinking about distant things can make us more creative. (Oren Shapira and Nira Liberman, Scientific American 7-21-09)
As Good as It Gets: Nominations for Best Film About a Writer (Roger Rosenblatt, Sunday Book Review, NY Times, 2-22-13).
• His nominations (read the article to get his rationale): “The Third Man” (1949), “Starting Out in the Evening” (2007), and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961).
• His sentimental favorite: “Bullets Over Broadway” (1994).
• His runners-up: “The Front,” about Hollywood blacklisting; Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry”; “Stranger Than Fiction"; “Shadowlands”; “Barton Fink”; “Adaptation”; the creepy “Secret Window”; the scary “Misery”; and “Limitless,” starring Bradley Cooper.
• "Writers, with the exception of that movie I saw as a kid," writes Rosenblatt, 'are variously crazy (Jack Nicholson in “The Shining”), reckless (Michael Douglas in “Wonder Boys”), cranky (Van Johnson in “23 Paces to Baker Street”), self-destructive (Ray Milland in “The Lost Weekend”), without principle (William Holden in “Sunset Boulevard”) and/or flailing (Paul Giamatti in “Sideways”). '
• Rosenblatt doesn't include films about journalists, because they are tethered to institutions, but does list these films as best in that subgenre: “Citizen Kane,” “The Year of Living Dangerously,” “It Happened One Night,” “Foreign Correspondent.”
Any good movies about writers missing from this list?
One I can think of: Jay Parini's "The Last Station," about the last year of Tolstoy's life.
The Book of my Enemy Has Been Remaindered. Clive James' classic poem about about literary schadenfreude, as posted by Dwight Garner on the NY Times Paper Cuts blog about books.
Boxers, Briefs and Books. John Grisham's op-ed piece on what hard work writing is, one theme of the forthcoming collection Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Acclaimed Authors and the Day Jobs They Quit, ed. by Sonny Brewer (with stories by Grisham, Pat Conroy, Rick Bragg, and many other authors).
Critique groups and writing workshops
• In Praise of Writing Workshops [delete: and Editing Tips] (Necee Regis, Beyond the Margins,, 9-18-12 -- on the value of just listening, when it's your turn to have your novel critiqued)
• Review of online writers groups, critique groups, and communities. Squidoo comments on such sites as Scribophile (an online critique group), WritersCafe.org (a community for sharing), The Write Idea (Helen Whittaker's forum), Authonomy (see Squidoo member Rikleigh's guide to using Authonomy), and Inkpop (for teen writers).
• How to Cope with Critiquing (Rich Hamper, including advice on how to critique)
• How to Respond to a Request for a Writing Critique (Mark Nichol, DailyWritingTips 6-4-11)
• Critique and Discussion Groups (several helpful articles and links, Writing-World.com)
• Scribophile (a social writing workshop and writers' community, with online critique groups)
• Writing Retreats Aren't Just for Writing (Kim, What Women Write, 11-12-10)
• The Writing & Critique Group Survival Guide: How to Make Revisions, Self-Edit, and Give and Receive Feedback by Becky Levine (Writers Digest Books)
• Can Critique Groups Do More Harm than Good? (Kristen Lamb's blog)
• Critique Circle (a site for writers to meet and work--listed on Preditors & Editors page on Writing Workshops
• Forward Motion for Writers, where you can sign up for Critique Circles or Roving Crits. First, read Fiction and Critiques How-To
• Preditors & Editors page on Writing Workshops
• Online Writing Workshops for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (OWW) , highly recommended by P&E.
• Critters Workshop (Critique.org Workshops, a large, well-organized online writers' workshop for serious writers of science fiction, fantasy, or horror). Here are pages on Crittering novels (getting a novel critiqued) and on Formatting for Critters. Recommended by P&E.
Diaries and letters. Yours Ever: People and Their Letters , edited by Thomas Mallon (which Carolyn See calls a "crazy quilt" collection with no discernible organizing principle, but "one of those perfect Christmas gifts to give to bachelor uncles or friends who aimlessly hang around.") By the man who published A Book of One's Own: People and Their Diaries. Writers well-represented in both volumes.
Don’t Poke the Editor: Six Deadly Don’ts (and Dos) for Dealing with Editors (Susan J. Morris, Omnivoracious, 8-20-12)
Edmund Wilson Regrets (delightful "no thanks" postcard on William Landay's site)
The Elaine's That I Knew by Brian McDonald (Opinion, NY Times, 5-26-11, Elaine's last day in business), author of Last Call at Elaine's: A Journey from One Side of the Bar to the Other. (Not the only book about Elaine Kaufman's famed night spot. See also Everyone Comes to Elaine's: Forty Years of Movie Stars, All-Stars, Literary Lions, Financial Scions, Top Cops, Politicians, and Power Brokers at the Legendary Hot Spot by A.E. Hotchner.
Elizabeth Gilbert on the creative process (an 18-minute talk at the TED Conference by the author of "Eat, Pray, Love")
43Folders.com (Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work)
The Golden Age for Writers . . . is right now (Stephen Marche, Esquire, 11-26-12). I can think of several ways in which the opposite might be argued (it's easier to get published, but not to make a living at it), but this is food for thought. See other opinions under comments on Abigail Kunitz's post on the Gotham Ghostwriters blogg [sic], Writer Poll: Are We in a Golden Age of Writing?
Health Insurance (PEN's list of organizations offering health-care access to writers and artists)
How to Write a Great Novel (Alexandra Alter, WSJ, on the writing habits of great novelists, 11-6-09)
International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG), with its "Remember the Magic" conference and local Kitchen Table groups, encourages empowerment through writing from personal experience -- the journal, memoir, and autobiography
Is the Bohemian Dead? (Katie Roiphe, Slate, 5-8-13). In her new memoir, Country Girl, Edna O’Brien recalls when writers were drunk, brawling, and fabulous. Facebook: Once, writers were drunken brawlers. Now they are married and cook a lovely risotto.
Letters of Note (fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos, many from writers, including this form letter to fans, from Robert Heinlein)
Money Changes Everything: Twenty-Two Writers Tackle the Last Taboo with Tales of Sudden Windfalls, Staggering Debts, and Other Surprising Turns of Fortune bu Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappel
Music to Write By: 10 Top Authors Share Their Secrets for Summoning the Muse (Steve Silberman, PLOS blogs, 11-15-12)
On Writers and Writing (complete archive of New York Times series on authors), registration required, but access is free
The Paris Review Interviews (sampling from an amazing series of interviews with prominent authors, made available online by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and the generous support of Richard and Jeanne Fisher)
Plot Twist: Philip Carlo, true crime writer with Lou Gehrig's disease, is working on his memoir. His deadline: his own death.
Poet Mark Doty (on receiving the $50,000 Whiting Award) speaks movingly about why writers write--what writers want out of writing--and about how insecure they generally feel about their writing (Critical Mass, NBCC blog)
Procrastination, creativity, and time and effort management
• Holy procrastinating pigeons! (Robin Abrahams, Social behavior in all its guises, 8-11-11). Here's a link to her talk on "The Emily Rooney Show"
• More on beating procrastination (Robin Abrahams, Social behavior in all its guises, 8-12-11)
• The Holy Trinity of Inactivity: How Boredom, Distraction, and Procrastination Are Vital to Healthy Living (Thorin Klosowski, Lifehacker, 7-19-12)
• "It's All in My Head" (Jessica Winter, Slate, 5-14-08). Did Truman Capote and Ralph Ellison have writer's block—or were they just chronic procrastinators? Some writers have trouble getting started; some just "can't finish the job to their satisfaction."
• Feeling Creatively Blocked? Try Consciously Procrastinating (Trina Rimmer, 9-21-11)
• “From now on I hope always to stay alert, to educate myself as best I can. But lacking this, in Future I will relaxedly turn back to my secret mind to see what it has observed when I thought I was sitting this one out. We never sit anything out. We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out. ”
~ novelist Ray Bradbury
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Introversion is about how you respond to (or need) external stimulation.
The Power of Maybe: Processing Criticism (Kevin Fenton, guest blogging on The Loft's Writer's Block)
Ray Bradbury Offers 12 Essential Writing Tips and Explains Why Literature Saves Civilization (Open Culture, 6-6-12). On Bradbury's passing, Open Culture brought together some of the science fiction master's bon mots (a couple of videos and several links).
Standing and Adjustable-Height Desks:
• Ditch Your Office Chair for a New Standing Desk (Mark Lukach, The Wirecutter, Wired, 5-31-12, featuring The Kangaroo Pro Junior
• Ergo Desktop (home of the Kangaroo Adjustable Height Desk)
• How Can I Convince My Boss to Let Me Try a Standing Desk? (Alan Henry, Lifehacker, 7-16-12)
• Standing Desks (Uncaged Ergonomics), of which they say this is the best version ($125). Affordably convert any table to an ergonomic sit-stand desk.
• 6 Desks to Save You from Death By Sitting, slide show on how six different desks lined up, price-wise and otherwise, part of Get Up, Stand Up, For Your Life: Can Standing Desks Fight Sitting Disease?, part of "" by Kate Tayler, Forbeswoman, 8-2-12
• Become a Stand-Up Guy: The History, Benefits, and Use of Standing Desks (Brett and Kate McKay, The Art of Manliness, 7-5-11). From Thomas Jefferson to Ernest Hemingway and more (illustrated).
• Safco Muv Stand-up Adjustable Height Workstation (solid and inexpensive--reviewed in Wired article )
• Safco Muv 35-Inch Workstation Adjustable Height
• Signature Executive 2.0 Treadmill Desk (on sale for only $3290)
• TreadDesk (another treadmill desk, this one under $3,000 and praised on a writers' Facebook discussion of staying healthy while overworked)
• Sit and Stand Height Adjustable Desk (Ergo, elegant in cherry, and expensive)
• Geek Desks
• My $47 collapsible standing desk (Josh Earl)
• NewHeights Electric Sit to Stand Desk w/ Push Button Height Adjustment
• Desktop Elevator (place it on top of your desk) from OIC Innovations
• Kangaroo Junior (Ergo Desktop)
• Cassandra Willyard's Natural Habitat
• Anthro Height Adjustable Solutions (electric and manual lift desks-- see especially Steve's Station Sit-Stand Desk, elegant, expensive, several models
• Herman Miller's Up-and-Down Desk (Apartment Therapy)
• Pro-Line Elecric Height-Adjustable Workstation (ZooStores.com)
• My Standing Desk Experience, One Week Later (Jamie Todd Rubin, 8-21-12)
• Standing Desks Are on the Rise (Jim Carlton, WSJ, 8-31-11)
• Improving My Health with A Standing Desk (Mary, A Merry Life, 6-29-11). A counter can work!
The Surprising Early Jobs of Our Favorite Famous Authors (Online PhD programs)
Talking Writing, an online monthly literary magazine that supports writers and those interested in literature by encouraging creative discussion of the writing process. Follow on Twitter
The Truth About Writers (What do they really do with all that time?), J. Robert Lennon, L.A.Times 6-21-09
Under the Literary Influence by Brian McDonald, (Proof blog, Alcohol and American Life, NY Times 2-20-09) -- on Raymond Chandler, writers who drink, Elaine's, and the night Hunter Thompson set himself on fire
Web-Based Creativity: Can Working in Virtual Communities Be More Effective Than Face-to-Face Cooperation? (Science News, Science Daily, 10-5-2010)
When Writers Speak: Why Good Writers Can Be Bad Conversationalists (Arthur Krystal, New York Times Book Review, 9-27-09)
Writers on Writing (archive of New York Times column, in which writers explore literary themes) membership required but free
Writers on Writing, a weekly radio program hosted by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett (author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within) and Marrie Stone, interviewing writers, poets and literary agents. You can download and listen to podcasts.
"Every work of literature has both a situation and a story. The situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer: the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say."
~Vivian Gornick, The Situation and the Story
"I believe in not quite knowing. A writer needs to be doubtful, questioning. I write out of curiosity and bewilderment...I've learned a lot I could not have learned if I were not a writer."
~ William Trevor
Connect with other writers (and editors)
Links to online writers groups, critique groups, and communities
Absolute Write (MacAllister Stone's Water Cooler, where writers exchange tips, share experiences)
AuthorNation.com (online community for authors, writers, poets, and their readers)
Backspace, The Writer's Place (writers helping writers navigate the often confusing world of Big Publishing)
Beyond the Margins (online sounding board for writers who met, taught, workshopped or otherwise communicated through Grub Street, a nonprofit creative writing center in Boston)
Black Writers Reunion & Conference
Conferences, workshops, and other learning places
Crime fiction organizations and conventions (Overbooked)
CrimeOnline.net (forum, community of crime fiction writers, readers, and professionals from publishing and crime-related fields)
Crime Writers (a forum for those interested in writing or currently writing crime fiction--police procedurals, noir, hard-boiled, etc.)
CrimeThruTime (Yahoo discussion group on historical mysteries, authors and readers)
Critique and discussion groups
Editors and copyeditors
Fiction Factor forum
Field Report (this is a writing contest, for "true life" stories, which some of my life-story writing students find addictive)
Illustrators and media professionals
JacketFlap (social networking community for published authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults)
Kitchen Tables and Regional Get-Togethers (International Women's Writing Guild)
Local and regional U.S. groups for writers and editors
Meetup groups for writers(check out those near your zip code) and the Meetup HQ Blog (to learn about other meetup groups with your special interests)
Murder Must Advertise (online discussions on best ways to promote mysteries)
Mystery Readers International, reading Groups
Nothing Binding (social networking for writers, authors, and readers)
Online writing communities--blogs, forums, conferences, and other groups (about.com)
Open Salon (a social content site for writers, photographers, and artists, where everyone blogs or comments on what others blog)
Red Room (a social media site that connects readers with authors)
Science and medical writers
Scribophile (a social writing workshop and writer's community, with online critique groups)
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), regional groups and gatherings
Sisters in Crime (Internet chapter) (sniff: disbanding in December 2010)
Specialty writing(network with fellow automotive writers, cat writers, dog writers, horse writers, food writers, outdoor writers, songwriters, sportswriters, travel writers, Web writers, wine writers)
StackExchange.com (a Q&A site for authors, editors, reviewers, professional writers, and aspiring writers -- with a http://writers.stackexchange.com/faq
The Stiletto Gang. Women writers on a mission to bring mystery, humor, and high heels to the world)
Therapists Wired to Write (Sarah Kershaw, NY Times, 6-3-09, on a group of therapists who form a creative writing group to help each other write about themselves, their work, and their patients -- and the last is the tricky part)
Today's Writing Community (appears to emphasize poems and stories, with discussion groups and an archive of many articles and author interviews)
Washington Biography Group (WBG), meets once a month, Monday evenings, in Washington DC
What Women Write. See, for example, this blog and conversation about writing retreats and critique groups: Writing Retreats Aren't Just for Writing
Women's National Book Association (WNBA) (national organization, with chapters in major cities, of people who work with and value books, including writers, editors, librarians, teachers, and publishing professionals)
Writer-L (a paid-subscription listserv for writers of narrative nonfiction). After many years of activity this listserv has slowed down.
The Writer's Block (Scriptorium's message board)
The Writer's Chat Room
The Writers Circle (connect with other writers, on Facebook)
Writer Unboxed (blog about the craft and business of genre fiction)
Writing Communities(Writer's Digest's best websites for 2008)
WritingWorld.com has, among other things, an impressive set of Links to Online Resources for Writers, including Links to Critique Groups and Discussion Groups
Writers sharing workspacesWriters working alone, together
• A Cubicle for You and Your Muse (Liesl Schillinger, NY Times, 10-9-05)
• In a D.C. writers room, scribes find motivation (Emily Wax, Washington Post, 12-25-12)
• CoworkingBoston (coworking space, but not just writers)
• The Grotto (the San Francisco Writers' Grotto, an office for the creative, self-employed people who by definition don’t need to punch a clock. From its beginnings, it’s been a place where narrative artists–writers, filmmakers and the like–welcome the discipline of structure in their work lives, and build a community of peers)
• Toronto Writers Centre
• Writers Junction (an affordable shared workspace for writers in Santa Monica, CA)
• The Writers WorkSpace (a membership-based work and meeting space for writers of all genres in Chicago)
“People ask me, ‘Why do you write about food, and eating and drinking? Why don’t you write about the struggle for power and security, about love, the way others do?’. . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry. But there is more than that. It seems to me that our three basic needs for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it. . . There is communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.”
~ M.F.K. Fisher, The Gastronomical Me
• Maria Arana, ed., The Writing Life: Writers on How They Think and Work (a collection from Washington Post Book World)
• Margaret Atwood, Negotiating with the Dead: A Writer on Writing
• Annie Dillard, The Writing Life (1990)
• Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (1986)
• Jack Hart, A Writer's Coach: An Editor's Guide to Words That Work
• Stephen King, On Writing (2002)
• Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (1995)
•· The New York Times, and Darnton, John (introduction). Writers on Writing: Collected Essays from The New York Times, New York Times (2002)
• Tan, Amy. The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life
(in books and articles)
I will add to this at a leisurely pace, as I finish up a couple of big projects.
• Diana Athill, a legendary editor in British literary publishing, has been the subject of a couple of interesting articles: In Life’s Latest Chapter, Feeling Free Again (Sarah Lyall on Diana Athill, at 91, feeling liberated in an "old person's home," NY Times 10-10-10) and The unrivalled Diana Athill (Ian Jack, The Guardian, 10-31-09. "A bestseller at 91, she forged the modern memoir.")
• Diana Athill's memoirs themselves: Instead of a Letter: A Memoir (her life from birth to 42, featuring a major romantic disappointment which led her to devote herself to her career); After a Funeral (frankly writing about an unusual domestic arrangement, among other things); Somewhere Towards the End (about that period late in life when there is a "falling away" and one is preoccupied with thoughts of death--one of the stronger of her memoirs), and Stet: An Editor's Life (about her fifty years working with legendary publisher Andre Deutsch and with such authors as Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, Brian Moore, V.S. Naipaul, Jean Rhys, Mordecai Richler, Philip Roth, and John Updike). If you think you are underpaid, this may (or may not) make you feel better.
• P. G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters by P.G. Wodehouse, edited by Sophie Ratcliffe. Reviewed delightfully here: Yours Ever, Plum: The Letters and Life of P.G. Wodehouse (Christopher Buckley, The Daily Beast and Newsweek, 1-28-13).
MORE TO COME![Go Top]
Websites, organizations, and other resources
A GREAT READ
BOOK AND MAGAZINE PUBLISHING
WRITERS AND CREATORS
ETHICS, RIGHTS, AND OTHER ISSUES
EDITORS AND EDITING