Tag Archives: Nonfiction

A Batch of S[h]elfies: Part 1: The Basement

I was talking to Mike Meginnis the other day on Twitter and he made a most excellent point:

@mikemeginnis: Books are fun to show off because they’re relatively cheap — owning a bunch is much more a question of taste + time than money.

It’s no secret I’m loathe to take selfies, but shelfies, on the other hand, are a completely separate ballgame! In no particular order, here are some of my favorite shelves from my home library:


Mike’s book, front and center here; I figured I’d post this picture of my basement mantle first since Mike gave me the idea! He’s [temporarily, at least] near J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun and Chandler’s The Big Sleep, a few books by Roger Zelazny, and some spy novels by John Le Carre, book-ended by Peter F. Hamilton, Monica Drake, and Zadie Smith (a dual-language copy of Rilke’s Dueno Elegies is in there, too. It’s very slim!)!


This is the other shelf with Ballard. Empire of the Sun is a shorter paperback, so it looks funny on this shelf near these taller hardcovers like Alissa Nutting, The Rumpus Women, Joe Hill, Lev Grossman, and a few Gonzo Journalism books!

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OK, The Recap [part 1 of 2] of the rest of the AWP Conference (finally!)

I figure I can only entertain my 6 or 7 readers (which are most likely comprised of family members and possibly 2 friends) with excerpts of my novel for so long before they want actual writerly info–which is what I assume a lot of web-surfing writerly types search other writer’s sites/blogs for anyway.

So, OK–here goes: I wish that I could regurgitate more information from the David Shields et al panel on Blurring the Lines Between Fiction/ Nonfiction/Memoir/Etc., but the fact it, it was absolutely freezing in the auditorium and I was severely underdressed.  One interesting quote Shields had where James Frey was concerned was: “Frey should be a better liar.”  Essentially, Shields is in favor of not just blurring the lines and boundaries between the genres of wrting, but completely obliterating them.  See herehere and here.

The next panel was called From MFA Thesis to First Novel, which I thought was pretty good. Number one: Be a writer [even if it takes 4 – 5 years (or more)].  How long it takes [to “make it”] will always vary. Write the book you want to write and don’t worry about what other people are doing.  These are ostensibly direct quotes.  Another great tip was stop rewriting the same scenes and write the book to the end; finish it!  Don’t get daunted by “experts” and forays into fact-checking—Learn, revise, move on. Disheartening things happen.  Be prepared to revise, revise, let it go and revise it again.

Keep in mind that query letters are your first introduction to agents and editors–make it pop! Let your voice really come through. Calm down and enjoy being a writer.  The business is slow; it’ll wait for you.  “Making it” (whatever “it” is) will not happen when you want it to OR how you expect it to.  Oh, and these are good tips too: A) Meet an agent before you sign B) Novels are easier to sell, C) Research agents a lot!

If you are in an MFA program, take full advantage!  Cross-pollinate genres; don’t pigeonhole yourself.  Apply for contests, grants, awards, scholarships, fellowships—everything out to which you can get your name.  Finish your novel first; don’t send it to publishers before it’s ready.  And it’s a good idea to have an expiration date on your query letters; don’t let them have it forever.

The final panel for this update was Insider Strategies for Getting Your Book Published.  Agent, Jeff Herman, began the panel by reminding everyone that, “Just because your writing is good doesn’t mean that it’s going to get published,” which I think is really sage advice for the unpublished writer.  “No one is entitled to be published—regardless of talent.”

So, then: how do you do it?  Just because your dog likes your book isn’t good enough.  Sometimes, deals do get made by someone discovering (read: stumbling upon) your manuscript in the publisher’s gigantic slush pile (which, if you are unpublished, without an agent, your manuscript will wind up)—which is more like a slush warehouse or largishly-sized room—but it’s extraordinarily rare.  There are, unfortunately, invisible walls within the publishing world.

Determination can help you overcome these walls, however.  Walls are made by humans—keep hustling!  You have to help create the demand for your book; don’t let yourself get weeded out.  Make connections. Get an agent.  The rest, I’ve already pretty much written about.  Keep in mind that agents get you access to the right people.  Just don’t be arrogant about the marketing.  Be discerning and pitch multiple agents simultaneously.  “Don’t tell [agents] what you don’t have; tell [them] what you do have.”

The rest of the conference panel recaps I’ll post tomorrow—I promisefor realz this time.  Later!

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