The Writing Life
· Writers' offices, illustrated
· Writers sharing workspaces
· Location independence
· Active sitting
· Standing and adjustable-height desks and walkstations
· Tools for writers and editors
· On writing and the writing life
· Crowdfunding and other new forms of creative financing
· Connect with other writers (and editors)
Links to online writers groups and communities
· Critique groups and writing workshops
· Some books to get you going
· Procrastination, creativity, and time and effort management
· The lives of writers and editors (in books and articles)
This category is kind of like "religion." Where do we start? More to come. Suggestions welcome.
• Why Writers Are Opening Up About Money (or the Lack Thereof) (Anna North, OpTalk, NY Times 7-21-14). Many items that follow came from links in that interesting article.
• Getting Paid to Write as Myself: How a Freelance Writer Makes a Living (Nicole Dieker, The Billfold, 7-10-14) "It turns out that when you get paid to write as yourself, instead of as 'anonymous copywriter #5972,' you get a lot more money. . . .'Being Nicole Dieker' also means spending more time working with editors and invoices and building relationships and the sorts of things that an anonymous person doesn’t have to deal with." See also her advice to new freelance writers.
• The Billfold
• How Much My Novel Cost Me by Emily Gould (Medium.com 2-24-14) After getting an advance of $200,000 for her yet-to-be-written novel, which sold 8,000 copies, she began running out of money. "So much of the money we spend—or I spend, anyway—is predicated on decisions made once and then forgotten, payments that are automated or habits so ingrained they may as well be automated. You think you’ll tackle the habits first—'I’ll stop buying bottled water and fancy cups of coffee'—but actually the habits are the last to go." Delightfully frank and self-revealing writing, excerpted from MFA vs NYC: The Two Cultures of American Fiction, edited by Chad Harbach
• Money Changes Everything: Twenty-Two Writers Tackle the Last Taboo with Tales of Sudden Windfalls, Staggering Debts, and Other Surprising Turns of Fortune by Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappel
• Authors' incomes collapse to 'abject' levels (Alison Flood, The Guardian, 7-8-14) ALCS survey finds median annual earnings for professional writers have fallen to £11,000, 29% down since 2005
• How much should I charge? (various authors, on Writers and Editors)
• Who Pays Writers? We Asked the Editors (Jane Friedman & Manjula Martin, Scratch magazine, talk with Nicole Cliffe, Dan Kois, Alexis Madrigal) "What do web editors actually do? How do they set writers’ fees? What are they looking for in a pitch and an editorial relationship? Scratch invited web editors from Slate, The Atlantic, and The Toast to talk openly about fees, pitching, and other controversial issues in online journalism (including how to pronounce 'gif')."
• Scratch, a digital magazine for writers, about Writing + money + life. (Subscription $20 and worth it.)
• How much to charge as a publishing professional and how to calculate effective hourly rate, your productivity rate (various authors, Writers and Editors)
• When People Write for Free, Who Pays? (Cord Jefferson, Gawker, 3-8-13)
• How the Recession Reshaped the Economy, in 255 Charts (The Upshot)
• Inside the Writer's Studio (Kevin Nance, Chicago Tribune). Photogallery of workspaces of Christine Sneed, Scott Turow, Audrey Niffenegger, Rebecca Skloot at her walking desk, Edward Kelsey Moore, Jonathan Eig, and Kathleen Rooney)
• The Writer’s Room (NY Times Magazine, 2-14-14).Five writers (Colson Whitehead, Douglas Coupland, Mona Simpson, Joyce Carol Oates, and Roddy Doyle) explain how the right space can unlock the mind and let the words flow.
• Mary Caperton Morton's Natural habitat (a mobile home-made teardrop trailer--do watch the video!)
• Writers' rooms (The Guardian-- a series to make you weep with envy)
• Robin Marantz Henig's office (Natural Habitat, produced by TheOPENNotebook). Do the video tour. A great place for small gatherings, partly because of the host.
• Nat Hentoff's office as he leaves the Voice, after 50 years , as shown in Clyde Haberman's story about Hentoff (THIS is an office I can identify with)\
• Meanwhile, back at the ranch: Larry McMurtry's Private Library (Nieman Storyboard, scroll down, and salivate)
• Andrew Curry's Natural Habitat (a standup desk with a great view). Go here for more Natural Habitat features.
• An orderly office? That's personal (Sara Rimer on custom solutions to office clutter, NY Times, 3-25-09)
• Natural Habitat: Cassandra Willyard Video of the office of this Brooklyn-based freelancer after a makeover (The Open Notebook, a site for science writers). Not enough? Check out before-and-after photos of her office makeover.
• Space of the Week: A Life in the Stacks (Wendy Goodman, a slideshow that makes me feel much less guilty, 6-23-11)
• Romance writer Brenda Coulter's office
• Typewriter sculpture (our own decor)
• Where I Write: Fantasy & Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces
• 40 Inspiring Workspaces of the Famously Creative (BuzzFeedDIY). Go Alexander Calder! And OH how I envy Nigella Lawson's bookshelves (and yet, look at the stacks on the floor).
• The Writers Workbench: Home Office (Robert Elisberg, HuffPost Tech, 9-20-12). All the techie equipment in one writer's office.
• Apartment Therapy
• Pinterest on "Small Space Solutions"
• Cabin Porn (inspirational photographs of small living spaces)
• Tokyo: A Certain Style by Kyoichi Tsuzuki
• Space: Japanese Design Solutions for Compact Living by Michael Freeman
Writers sharing workspacesWriters working alone, together
• Writing Alone, Together (Bonnie Tsui, Draft, Opinionator, NY Times, 7-7-14) What does it mean to write in fellowship? "An unheralded plus of the shared writing space is the joy of not talking about writing."
• 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)
• Life Remotely – Redefining Travel While Living and Working Anywhere (Martha Retallick, FreelanceSwitch, 8-1-12). Ever dreamed of hitting the road and picking up interesting freelancing gigs along the way? Imagine it. Finishing a client project in Rio. Or landing one in Paris.
• The Realities of a Location Independent Life (Jennifer Miller, BootsnAll, 12-11-13)
• 6 Things You Can Start Today to Build A Life Working from Anywhere (Lea Woodward, Location Independent
• Guide to Working on the Road (BootsnAll)
• 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!)
• Active sitting vs. static sitting (Ingrid Holm, Varier)
• How Sitting All Day Is Damaging Your Body and How You Can Counteract It (Thorin Klosowski, Lifehacker, 1-26-12)
• 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!
• Experts: Sitting All Day Is Dangerous CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reports: "Doctors say sitting all day could be as risky as smoking."
• Who Made That Standing Desk? (Daniel Engber, NY Times, 3-20-14) "While the dangers of sitting are well documented, says Alan Hedge, professor of human factors and ergonomics at Cornell University, too much time on your feet may cause a different set of health problems..."
• Treadmill Desks And The Benefits Of 'Walking Alive' (Susan Orlean, New Yorker, 5-15-13). Orlean spent years trying to find the right desk chair. She considered a pricy museum-worthy chair, a kneeling chair and a yoga ball before ditching the seat altogether for a treadmill desk — and discovering the health benefits of moving at work. Read also: The Walking Alive (Susan Orlean, New Yorker, 5-10-13)
• The Steelcase Walkstation . In a story for CMA Magazine ("Let Your People Move"), Jane Langille writes: "Invented by the Mayo Clinic’s James A. Levine, MD, PhD, in collaboration with Steelcase, a walkstation can help burn up to 2,100 calories a week. It can also cut fatigue by two-thirds and improve mental clarity." (Cost: $4,000 to $4500.)
• The Best Standing Desks (Mark Lucach, The Wirecutter, 8-29-13) The best full-sized standing desk is Terra by NextDesk. Excellent explanations of what to look for and why. "Adjustable-height desks are best, because the antidote to sitting is not standing, it’s moving."
• The Stir Kinetic Smart Desk, from veterans of Apple, Ideo, NASA, and Disney, adjusts heights and tracks your habits in an effort to help you work smarter and healthier. Watch the video, or read Christina Chaey's story (9-26-13). The Stir Kinetic, not yet available for pre-order, is expected to sell for $3,890.
• Wallsprout (Adjust-to-your-Height Standing Desk Converters). At $275 to $350, these are a good deal. My friend Steve Taravella wrote his book about character actress Mary Wickes on a Wallsprout 1200; he has used it for 4 years and "can't imagine returning to a conventional sitting position."
• The Two Best Standing Desks for Any Budget (Whitson Gordon, Lifehacker, 9-4-13)
• Ditch Your Office Chair for a New Standing Desk (Mark Lukach, The Wirecutter, Wired, 5-31-12, featuring The Kangaroo Pro Junior)
• Build Your Own Sturdy, Good-Looking Standing Desk for Less Than $25 (Alan Henry, Lifehacker, 6-20-12).
• 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)
• These Cycling Desks Charge Your Phone--And Your Muscles--While You Work (Adele Peters, Fast Company, 8-4-14) At the office or airport, 30 minutes of easy pedaling on a WeBike will get you a full iPhone charge and keep you fit. Cost: $13,000+
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
Ten rules of writing, the Guardian collection of essays by many authors (Part 1: Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy). And here's Part 2 (Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson)
Crowdfunding allows fundraisers to solicit micro-donations to fund creative or philanthropic projects. (Crowdsourcing is drawing ideas from different sources.)
• The Difference Between Crowdtilt and Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other Crowdfunding sites (Salvador Briggman, CrowdCrux--Crowdfunding PR). Differences in level of fundraising, fees for use of their crowdfunding platform and credit card processing, etc.)
• Kickstarter adds new categories: Journalism and Crafts
• The Guardian promotes some investigative stories funded by Kickstarter.
• PubSlush.com (crowdfunding for the literary world)
• Spot.us (community-funded reporting--"not accepting pitches at this time, July 2014)
• GoFundMe, a "fundraising site for personal causes and life-events," which I found through this fundraising video and story about a child with a rare disease.
• StartSomeGood (crowdfunding for nonprofits, social entrepreneurs and changemakers)
• When should you use Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Crowdtilt?
• Fundraise.com (social cause and event fundraising)
• Crowdfunding etiquette: How to give wisely (Kate Dailey, BBC News Magazine, 12-28-12)
• Retrospective collection of Kal cartoons from The Economist (the goal was $20,000, to self-publish the collection; they collected $100,219, from 1,462 backers)
• Tiny Spark . Kickstarter funded this investigative radio initiative.
• Beacon Reader (fund one writer for $5 a month; get access to every story on Beacon)
• Banyan Project (news co-op structure--a new business model for web journalism), described by Tom Stites (Spot.us)
• Tanja Aitamurto on crowdfunding and the future of narrative journalism (Andrea Pitzer, Nieman Storyboard 1-16-10).
• Students turn to crowdfunding to pay tuition (Korah Addo, St. Louis Post-Dispatch 8-11-14) "GoFundMe charges all donors 5 percent and payment processing fees....Other sites, such as GradSave and GiveCollege.com, are set up as online savings accounts where extended family can contribute to a child’s future college costs, sometimes taking advantage of tax benefits reserved for donations."
• Bobsourcing (Seth Godin). "When we rely on the crowd, we get deniability. The organizer doesn't have to ask anyone specifically, and the individual is easily off the hook. "
• Evernote (an application that allows you to take notes or capture anything from drawings to web clippings -- and you can then search for them on your laptop, cell phone, smart phone, or other digital devices. Allows you to gather and share project notes, story ideas, images, text, favorite websites, and so on. See tutorials: Evernote Tutorial (David A. Cox, youTube video, 41 mins.) and Evernote Tips: The 11 Amazing Features That Make Using Evernote So Freaking Awesome (Scott Bradley video), How To Create Your Own Calendar In Evernote (also Scott Bradley), and Work Smarter with Evernote. Mastering the Basics: Organizing with notebooks & tags (Joshua Zerkel, EverNote video 54 mins.)
• EndNote (the industry standard software tool for publishing and managing bibliographies, citations and references on the Windows and Macintosh desktop--not to be confused with EverNote)
• Dragon NaturallySpeaking
• EventBrite (a fairly robust way of selling tickets --to an event, a webinar, a seminar, etc.)
• LiveScribe Echo (8 GB Echo Smartpen). There are also 2 GB, 4 GB, and 6 GB SmartPens.) A genuinely helpful recorder-pen-and-paper combination for capturing and reviewing notes from lectures and interviews, and, using those notes, to find a particular point in audio recording. Its special features (a microphone for recording audio, a speaker for playing back recording, and a camera in the tip of the ballpoint pen, which queues up with that point in audio. As you review your notes, tap one word from part of the interview you didn't catch and it plays back audio from that point. Watch/listen to this C/Net review. It is smart enough to know when you start a new page. It's expensive, however. In addition to the basic equipment you must purchase special notebooks on which to write, plus cartridges that are smaller than usual (easy to lose and you must replace them more often); and you have to charge it daily. If you tend to lose pens, this could be an expensive proposition. (Great gift for a college student.)
• Alternatives to the LiveScribe SmartPen as note-taking devices include SoundNote (iPad's note-taking device), Notability, and AudioNote, a notepad and voice recorder you can download to your PC.
• PDF Creator. PDFCreator is a tool to create PDF files from nearly any Windows application: If you can print a document, you can use this tool--say you have a text that you want to send as a PDF instead of a Word file. See C=Net's writeup , and you can download the software there.
• Scrivener , a word processing program that is also a management system for documents, notes, and metadata. Scrivener lets you write text in small or large chunks, and in any order--and import images or research files that sit next to your text (as reference material), eliminating the need to switch back and forth between windows. Useful for writing books, say some authors.
• Multitasking your e-services with ifttt. This If-Then productivity software lets you double-task. For example, if you send an email, ifttt also saves it as a note in Evernote; if you tweet something, it saves the tweet in a tweet file. Here are some ifttt recipes
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• Do You Manage Your “To-Do” List, Or Does It Manage You? (Daphne Gray-Grant's improved system for to-do lists, on The Well-Fed Writer blog, 5-1-14)
• Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain (Daniel J. Levitin, Opinion, NY Times, 8-9-14) "Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network....The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.....A third component of the attentional system, the attentional filter, helps to orient our attention, to tell us what to pay attention to and what we can safely ignore. This undoubtedly evolved to alert us to predators and other dangerous situations. The constant flow of information from Twitter, Facebook, Vine, Instagram, text messages and the like engages that system, and we find ourselves not sustaining attention on any one thing for very long — the curse of the information age."
• Reporter turns in article about procrastination on time Rebecca Jacobson, PBS News, 2-26-14) Why we procrastinate (is it genes or environment, including distractions like the Internet?) and what to do about it, if we do so chronically.
• 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"
• The Dutch-Elm Disease of Creative Minds (Mark O'Connell, NY Times, 12-6-13) "Self-doubt can be a powerful ally in the battle against bad writing. It can also be a powerful obstacle to writing anything at all."
• 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)
• 43Folders.com (Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work)
• “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
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. Illustrates a way of showing what you've deleted, which is sometimes interesting--and a way used sometimes to comment ironically on the thoughts you've censored.)
• Why a writing workshop did more for my preaching than a preaching conference (Teri McDowell Ott, The Christian Century, 11-5-13)
• Amhert Writers & Artists (WRA) Method , Pat Schneider's popular approach to running a writers workshop. Read more about it in her book Writing Alone and with Others
• The Writing Workshop Glossary (Amy Klein, Opinionator, NY Times 6-2-14) So when you are asked, “What does the character want?” what your workshop means is, “Your story is boring.”
• 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 rules (Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas)
• 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.
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).
Daily Rituals: How Artists Create (and Avoid Creating) Their Art (Michelle Aldredge, Gwarlingo, 9-25-13)
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey.
Willard Spiegelman reviews the book, "Habit Their Way" (WSJ, 6-7-13): This guide to artists' and writers' daily regimens explains how, where and with what pen to create a masterpiece. Examples: "The painter Chuck Close says, 'Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.' " John Cheever's is surely one of the strangest rituals. This book started as the blog Daily Routines.
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: Your elusive creative genius (a TED Talk, 2-9-09, as muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses) . She shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius.
• Examined Lives by Phyllis Rose (American Scholar, Autumn 2013). "You cannot be a good writer if you have not been a good reader, and I would say that a writer’s responsiveness to other writers, whether discussed or held private, is the thing without which literary merit cannot exist."
The Fear Never Gets Any Easier (Chuck Wendig talking about the fear all authors experience)
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, freelancers, and the Affordable Care Act (Writers and Editors blog, 8-22-13). Includes links to information about health and liability insurance for freelancers and writers.
How to Be a Second-Time Author (Kathi Lipp, guest post on Rachelle Gardner's blog, 2-18-09)
How to Succeed as an Author: Give Up on Writing. The rancid smell of 21st century literary success. (Lionel Shriver, author of We Need to Talk About Kevin, essay for The New Republic, 10-24-13) "When does a novelist write novels? Writing the books themselves gets fit in here and there, like making time for taking out the trash before bed. I have grown perversely nostalgic for my previous commercial failure—when my focus was pure, and the books were still fun to write, even if nobody read them."
How to Write a Great Novel (Alexandra Alter, WSJ, 11-13-09). From writing in the bathroom (Junot Díaz) to dressing in character (Nicholson Baker), 11 top authors share their methods for getting the story on the page.
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)
The Love Carousel: Literary Speed Dating at Housing Works in SoHo (J.T. Price, The Millions, 9-5-13). "Each participant found at the entrance a neon green envelope, including a library card in manila sleeve for taking notes on each “date,” and a name tag featuring the handle of a character from a favorite book. These would be our pseudonyms for the night. Each date would last an almost militantly enforced four minutes. A single case of lingering could cause the entire caterpillar crawl to go legs up. There was to be no lingering. Lingering is for books."
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)
The Power of Maybe: Processing Criticism (Kevin Fenton, guest blogging on The Loft's Writer's Block)
Q&A Archives (C-Span) (podcasts and video of a gazillion wonderful interviews)
Query Letters: How to Lose Agents & Infuriate Editors (Sally Wiener Grotta, Wordsmiths 12-7-06)
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.
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).
Feel better because so many successful writers were also rejected, often many times
• Literary Rejections (bestsellers that were initially rejected). Interesting rejection story? Submit a blog post to Stories of Rejection. A more helpful feature on that site is Interviews with industry professionals who explain publishing as a business and offering helpful advice on the submissions process.
• Rejection letter for Ursula LeGuin's "Left Hand of Darkness"
• 'Fight for what you believe in': How best-selling authors battled rejection ( Rebecca Ruiz and Vidya Rao, Today Books). Featured authors: James Patterson (turned down by 31 publishers), Samantha Shannon (rejected by ten agents), Mary Higgins Clark, Rebecca Skloot
• My First 400 Queries Were Rejected: How I Persevered and Got an Agent & Book Deal (Laura Drake, Writer's Digest, 8-20-2013)
• Bizarre Publishing Stories of 24 Famous Authors
• What Distinguishes a “Real Writer” From “Someone Who Writes” (Regina Barreca, Psychology Today, Snow White Doesn't Live Here Anymore column, 7-22-14) Folks in publishing send letters gushing about work they’re about to reject. Don't save the letter or quote it to other people. It's a form letter. It's publishing's version of "It's me, not you."
• Rejection Letters: The Publishers Who Got It Embarrassingly Wrong... (slideshow, Alice Vincent, HuffPost, 11-7-12). I particularly like the one that ends, "You'd have a decent book if you'd get rid of that Gatsby character."
• On Dealing with Rejection (Jennifer Lawler, on Dollars and Deadlines, 8-30-13)
• 5 Reasons You May Be Getting Rejections--Thoughts from the Editor's Side of the Desk (Jennifer Lawler, on Dollars and Deadlines, 5-25-13)
• 30 famous authors whose works were rejected (repeatedly, and sometimes rudely) by publishers (Examiner.com)
• Famous Authors’ Harshest Rejection Letters (Romy Oltuski Flavorwire, 11-17-11)
• Thanks but no thanks: famous authors' rejection letters (Sarah Crown, The Guardian, 11-30-11)
Roy Peter Clark's gems on writing
• The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth (Opinionator, NY Times, 9-7-13). "Express your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence." The "short sentence gains power from its proximity to longer sentences," as an example from Orwell illustrates. Look at all the comments he gets!
• How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times
• Thirty Tools for Writers (Clark, Poynter, 6-18-02)
• Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (the book)
• Five oddest places (real, not virtual) where I’ve found story ideas (guest post on Words by Webb, 9-19-11)
• Skepticism: The Antidote to ‘Truthiness’ in American Government and Media
• Roy Peter Clark on “the power of the parts” for storytelling (Andrea Pitzer, Nieman Storyboard, 11-9-10). A summary of something you can watch on video here. He's an entertaining lecturer, accordion and all.
• The Glamour of Grammar (Poynter, the article that gradually became the book) Followed by What the Big Bopper Taught Me About Grammar (5-1-08)
• The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English. You can get a sense of it from this review (Ammon Shea, NY Times Book Review 8-20-10)
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)
Well-designed authors' websites (look at column along left side)
What Writers Must Do: 'Love People' (Joe Fassler, The Atlantic, 6-3-14). Author Rupert Thomson says a Yevgeny Yevtushenko poem taught him the value of risk. "You can’t choose who to love, or how—but if you remain open to experience, love will teach you a great deal about yourself, and can help lead you in the right direction."
Someone said to W. H. Auden, “Is it true that you can only write what you know? And he said, “Yes, but you can only know what you know once you’ve written it.”
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 writers groups, critique groups, and communities (some online)
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
“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.
• Eat, Pray, Love, Get Rich, Write a Novel No One Expects (Steve Almond's interesting profile of Elizabeth Gilbert, NY Times Magazine, 9-18-13). And here are her Thoughts on Writing (on her website, where I sought in vain a picture of her office, which sounded interesting).
• 10 Odd Stories Behind Famous Authors’ Nom de Plumes (Kim Parker, Flavorwire, 4-7-12)
• 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. Love this passage on procrastination, from Instead of a Letter: A Memoir: "It was at school that my secret sin was first brought into the open: Laziness. I was considered a clever girl, but lazy. It has been with me ever since, and the guilt I feel about it assures me that it is a sin, not an inability. It takes the form of an immense weight of inertia at the prospect of any activity that does not positively attract me: a weight that can literally paralyse my moral sense.... I slide off sideways, almost unconsciously, into doing something else, which I like doing.... So often have I proved that this form of self-indulgence ends by making my life less agreeable rather than more so that my inability to control it almost frightens me; but that I should ever get the better of it now seems, alas, most unlikely."
• New Yorker profiles
• Jack Handey Is the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America (Dan Cois, NY Times Magazine, 7-16-13). Handey is best known as the writer and performer of “Deep Thoughts,” a series of quasi-philosophical cracked aphorisms that ran on “Saturday Night Live” from 1991 to 1998. ..."The archetypal Jack Handey sketch is about Frankenstein, or flying saucers, or a cat who, for some reason, can drive a car. 'Little-boy stuff,' Handey explained."
• Penelope Fitzgerald: The Whole Story? (Hermione Lee on a biographer and novelist who succeeded despite more hard blows in life than most of us could bear up under and still write so well and so much)
• 25 Famous Authors With Learning Disabilities (Wide Open Education, Bachelors DegreeOnline)
• 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