Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Publishing the work of currently and formerly incarcerated writers

Sun, 12 Jan 2014

Writers who are prison inmates seem particularly isolated from potential mentors and writing peer groups. Very few publishers specialize in their stories. Writing workshops for inmates offer education and inspiration, but the participants are bound to have a difficult time finding additional outlets for their creative work.

These are a few of the organizations that provide publication resources to, or publish the work of, currently and formerly incarcerated writers. Maybe prison workshop instructors will share this list or consider founding a new publication.

I’ll add to this list when I notice more in this niche. Please feel free to leave a comment about any publication I’ve overlooked.

Successful writers learn to conduct their own research and manage their careers, while novice writers often miss the practical lessons and remain stymied. Joining a good writers’ group is one of the best ways to get answers and advice about how to be published.

The more an aspiring author knows…

Tue, 25 Jun 2013

A writer’s search for a literary agent must seem overwhelming and ridiculously complex. When I was asked to explain it once, I couldn’t distill the process into less than twenty-five steps. Apparently getting and staying sober is simpler. (And that’s a bad joke.)

Perhaps it’s no comfort, but an agent’s search for new clients is every bit as complicated as a writer’s search for a literary agent. Over time, we might develop instincts that streamline the process of taking on a client, but what seems like pure intuition probably isn’t. Agents learn to notice all of the signals writers send, in their correspondence and in the samples of their manuscripts. The scales tip as we read. A little online research adds weight, if necessary. Certainly conversations with prospective clients influence our decisions.

acquisitionsOn the topic of literary agents’ subjectivity when assessing new writing and writers, so much has been written and debated. Acknowledging the element of subjectivity is an effective consolation, but it also inspires a few novice writers to discount additional reasons their queries and submissions are rejected. Some of those reasons can be quite objective. Half a dozen agents in conversation with each other will find they have more in common than they have to dispute with regard to the selection of clients.

Not long after I started my agency, I happened to discover online Jennifer Holder’s master’s thesis, (note: the PDF will download automatically if you click on the link) “The Art and Science of Choosing Literary Books that Sell: Acquisitions Decision-making at Penguin UK.” Holder examined the work of editors at one house, deconstructed their process, and then designed a theoretical checklist to help test the commercial viability of a manuscript and its author. When I read Holder’s thesis, I recognized many of the factors I, as an agent, weighed without making notes while reading queries and manuscripts and interviewing prospective clients. In my mind, the scales were tipping gradually with each new piece of information—more often tilting to one side than to the other.

So there it is, for any writer in search of representation and/or publication who cares to know. Textbooks have been written on this subject as well. The wisest writers will recognize that complexity is only the same as mystery or chaos if they allow it to be.

In other words, there’s homework to be done.

All the best writers are eager to learn

Wed, 12 Jun 2013

I have this bias. I believe that the best writers are people who love to learn, who are open to experimentation, who fight to understand and improve. A writer who claims to know it all, who is certain and inflexible, also is pompous and boring on the page.

Although people naturally separate into camps that become echo chambers, the web still enables the alternatives: bridges and connections, exposure to otherness, new ways to learn.

A few good online learning locations for writers:

Charles E. May’s blog – Reading the Short Story

Goodreads’ group – Middle East/North African Lit

Joel Friedlander’s blog – The Book Designer

Lucy V. Hay’s writing craft tips – Bang2write


Care to share where you go online to learn more about the art, craft, and business of creative writing?

Part 2 of 3: Trends in traditional book publishing

Sun, 19 May 2013

“What changes do you see coming in traditional publishing business models and contracts?”

Here’s Part 2 of the answer I gave to the Sisters in Crime of Upstate SC writers’ group earlier this month.


There are increasing numbers of ebook-first imprints, designed to reduce publishers’ up-front investment in new, unproven novelists. Get used to this concept, because minimizing risk is a prudent business strategy.


Quite a few new imprints dedicated to crime fiction, including crime novels in translation, have been launched over the past few years, as a result of the success of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy.

Have you noticed that dark, horrifying, and brutal seem to be selling well these days? Vendettas appeal to readers, who might be growing accustomed to unconventional protagonists who are more renegade than heroic.


Go to Part 1 of 3: Trends in traditional book publishing

Go to Part 3 of 3: Trends in traditional book publishing

Part 1 of 3: Trends in traditional book publishing

Thu, 16 May 2013

Earlier this month, I took part in a Q&A with the Sisters in Crime of Upstate South Carolina writers’ group at their monthly meeting in Greenville. They’re a fun bunch of devoted and serious crime-fiction writers, male and female. If you’ve been looking for a network of writers in this region, I enthusiastically recommend them.

One of the Sisters in Crime asked, “What changes do you see coming in traditional publishing business models and contracts?” Quite a few transformations are occurring, so I’ll make the answer I gave to that question into a three-part blogpost. Most of these changes already are taking place, but they might not be noticeable to everyone just yet.


Publishers’ fortunes are rising and falling on the basis of one megabestselling series, such as The Hunger Games trilogy, the Fifty Shades trilogy, the Millennium series trilogy, Twilight, and Harry Potter. It’s easy to see all the consumer-facing hoopla, but these series have had huge impacts on their publishers’ bottom lines in certain years.


Businesses like clothing stores, restaurant chains, ad agencies, and health spas that have never before been involved in publishing books are starting their own publishing initiatives. It makes sense to capture all of the profit potential in a particular niche of special interest. This kind of specialization is often referred to as a vertical—in essence, a one-stop shop. Get your canoe + purchase a code to stream the movie Deliverance + sign up for whitewater sports classes + buy the paperback edition of Into the Wild all in the same store, right? Special markets, and suitable formats for books sold through them, are becoming more interesting and important.


Go to Part 2 of 3: Trends in traditional book publishing

Go to Part 3 of 3: Trends in traditional book publishing

European Literature Night 2013: Miha Mazzini among authors to appear at the British Library

Thu, 9 May 2013

European Literature Night 15 May 2013
On Wednesday, May 15, 2013, BBC arts journalist Rosie Goldsmith will host European Literature Night at the British Library Conference Centre, located at 96 Euston Road in London.

Two esteemed publishers who also happen to be gifted writers, Meike Ziervogel of Peirene Press and Charles Boyle of CB editions, will be present with two of their authors, Birgit Vanderbeke and Miha Mazzini. Accompanied by half a dozen additional award-winning authors from across Europe, the audience will embark on a literary journey spanning the region, from Spain to the Netherlands to Turkey, with entertaining stops along the way.

Page 2 of European Literature Night 13 May 2013
Rosie Goldsmith invites the public to “enjoy an evening of readings where the personal and the political sit side by side, shift places and remind us all of the joy and pain of being alive.”

Page 1 European Literature Night 15 May 2013
Tickets for European Literature Night 2013 can be reserved through the online box office.

Sponsors include European Union National Institutes for Culture – London, the European Commission Representation in the UK, and the Czech Centre London. European Literature Night is produced by Speaking Volumes Live Literature Productions with the participation of Foyles bookstore.

Download program brochure (PDF)
Video of the entire program

Songwriting and storytelling in Nashville

Fri, 8 Mar 2013

If I didn’t have a few guilty pleasures, I’d never take a break from my work, so excuse me for being a fangirl, but I am shamelessly enjoying ABC’s Nashville “On the Record” videos, the web-exclusive content developed to help promote the television series. I like the show a lot, but I’m utterly fascinated by the brief videos showing how the songwriters work and the process of selecting individual songs to suit the plots and the specific characters who’ll perform them on the show. Have a look. The videos are like the special features and bonus material you get with DVDs, and they introduce the songwriters individually.

ABC's NASHVILLE logoNow that I think about it, the show’s scripts are extremely tight. The ensemble cast is large, and there’s no superfluous dialogue. Scenes are brief if there’s no musical performance involved. The Nashville series scriptwriters are using compression as carefully and thoughtfully as lyricists.

NASHVILLE stillCallie Khouri, who wrote the screenplay that became Thelma & Louise, is the series creator. She wrote the originating script for Nashville and is credited with three additional episodes. The other writers on the show, each with credits for two episodes so far, are Wendy Calhoun, Jason George, David Gould, David Marshall Grant, Todd Ellis Kessler, Meredith Lavender, Liz Tigelaar, and Marcie Ulin. Somehow these folks are managing a seamless narrative with surprising and fairly realistic plot twists. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when they’re at work, because I know it can’t be easy.

Sure, the videos make it look slick and fun and effortless. You can be sure that it’s not. I’m really impressed by these people, and particularly by the respect they give each other.

Images ©

%d bloggers like this: