Jack London Is Drunk

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 4:29 pm on Friday, November 8, 2013

“I’se so drunk right now.”

“Iz this sail-ma-bob thing help me stand?”

“Whee I on a tree bench!”

“Look at ma bootiful body. Athlete.”

“These guys are the BEST. Best guys, youdon’tevenknow.”

“Okay, horsie, you hold still, I’sa goin’ ride you. ‘K? You hair so soft. Soo soft, horsie. You like whiskey?”

BAM! Take that, man who has been dead for 98 years.

But seriously, that Jack London, swell guy.

White Whale

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — Administrator at 7:32 am on Monday, April 22, 2013

One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, though it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuvius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such, and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk.

To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be who have tried it.–Herman Melville

I am three-fourth of the way through Moby-Dick, and I am shocked to find that I’m really enjoying it.

I Took A Chance

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 1:23 pm on Tuesday, April 2, 2013

From Margaret Atwood’s interview in The Paris Review:


Has motherhood made you feel differently about yourself?


There was a period in my early career that was determined by the images of women writers I was exposed to—women writers as genius suicides like Virginia Woolf. Or genius reclusives like Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti. Or doomed people of some sort, like the Brontës, who both died young. You could fall back on Harriet Beecher Stowe or Mrs. Gaskell; they both led reasonable lives. But then George Eliot didn’t have any children; neither did Jane Austen. Looking back over these women writers, it seemed difficult as a writer and a woman to have children and a domestic relationship. For a while I thought I had to choose between the two things I wanted: children and to be a writer. I took a chance.

Should You Be A Writer?

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 8:00 am on Monday, March 11, 2013

Everyone wants to be a professional writer! Or so it seems sometimes. In my life, it’s more unusual to come across someone who doesn’t want to write than someone who does.

I love my job, but writing is very difficult. People think that because they learned basic writing in school and enjoy fantasizing that they can do it, which is a little like getting an A in high school biology and calling yourself a doctor. So let’s talk about it: should you be a professional writer?

First, let’s define terms. What do I mean by professional writer? I’m old-fashioned. I think it means getting paid to write. Sometimes, though, this is indirect: for example, many literary writers don’t get paid to publish their fiction but their writing leads to grants and teaching jobs. Let’s define “professional writer” as your livelihood revolves around publishing your writing in some way.

Here’s what you probably know. You probably know that writing means a lot of rejection. At least I hope you know that, because you will get rejected. A lot. Like it will almost be funny how many rejections you get. And you probably know that you’ll have to spend time alone in a room struggling with your thoughts. There will be agonizing, discouragement, and doubt. These emotions are real, and not at all romantic—don’t underestimate the toll they’ll take on you.

Those are the common things people know about being a professional writer. Here are some things that most people don’t know:

    * People will constantly tell you that what you do is not worth paying you for. In fact, maybe you should pay them to even be considered for publication.

    * Everyone in the industry complains about how no one reads and journalism is collapsing and publishing is dying and no one reads and ebooks! and Amazon is a meanie and no one reads anymore. So get ready for that.

    * You will reach what feels like the end of your intellect, vocabulary, and imagination, and it will be humbling.

    * People will tell you that they think they can be a writer because they can type fast. Really. That is something someone said to me.

    * Most people who show interest in your career are looking for tips on how to do the same thing.

    * In social settings, when you say you’re a writer, some people will think this means you’re an unemployed person giving yourself airs, and will expect you to prove otherwise by listing off your resume.

    * People will ask you point-blank how much you’re paid or what you make in a year, even though they would never do that with another job because it’s rude.

    * You know you will be poor, right?

So. That’s what you have to deal with in today’s writing community. Still interested? Okay, you must really like writing! Or do you? Let’s take a test.

Signs You Should NOT Be A Writer:

    * You never have time to read.

    * You find it hard to write. The act of putting words down on paper is a struggle for you.

    * You feel you need to read self-help books to learn how to be creative.

    * You don’t like writing, or, writing makes you unhappy and depressed.

    * Your self-doubt strangles you to the point that you can’t write anything. You beat yourself up endlessly over this problem.

    * You expect to be a success right away and get upset if you fail.

    * You can’t handle rejection.

I don’t like to squash blossoms of hope, but if you don’t like writing and reading, or the idea of writing makes you so nervous you can’t bear to contemplate it, then you don’t have a deep enough reserve of love for this career. Without that reserve of love, the industry will turn you into a dehydrated toad. Publishing is full of dehydrated toads.

But since this post is sounding a bit negative, here’s the flip side:

Signs you SHOULD be a writer:

    * Writing is emotionally and spiritually satisfying to you. It comes easily (most of the time) and you love it with the passion of a thousand Latin lovers.

    * You have so many ideas, you don’t know what to do with them all.

    * You feel there is something unique or original about you that you need to express.

    * You’re an obsessive reader.

    * You love language. Well-written words fill you with joy.

    * You naturally make narratives, connections, and observations that are sharp and interesting.

    * You have a huge imagination.

    * You’re tough and disciplined.

    * You’re willing to do the sacrifices that writing requires.

Finally: there is nothing wrong with writing for the fun of it. It’s a great form of self-expression and an enriching activity. And, bonus, writing as a hobby has none of the above problems—no rejection, no having to defend yourself, no fear or doubt. That’s a pretty good deal. Why not leave that stuff up to the professionals?

The Giant Sloth of AWP 2011

Filed under: Travel,Writing and Publishing — joy at 10:00 am on Thursday, February 10, 2011

I don’t have much to say about AWP 2011, the writing conference I attended last week. There are many posts on it out there, all similar in nature, with people name dropping the other cool people they hung out with. I don’t have names to drop. I did, however, enjoy hearing people read. I always enjoy Joyce Carol Oates, whose reading about the death of her husband made me tear up. I also liked the reading with Jennifer Egan, Joshua Ferris, Rick Moody, and Benjamin Percy.

Last year’s conference was better for me. I came back with a notebook full of ideas to write about. This year, the panels left me flat. The book fair seemed as obtuse as a high school cafeteria. It was a little disheartening to find that writers fall into a “type,” just like computer programmers or accountants have a “type.” You don’t realize it until they are all jammed in a building together, but there is definitely a certain kind of person who is attracted to becoming a literary writer. And, too, there are further subcategories of sameness–a “type” of person who is a poet, a “type” who writes YA novels, a “type” who writes nonfiction.

The thing that most inspired me was the dinosaur section of the Natural History Museum. There is an armadillo with a shell the size of a boulder on its back. Oh, and did you know about giant camels? Imagine that, giant camels!

And then you round the corner, and there it is: the giant ground sloth. Bigger than an elephant with claws like ice picks. I think I know where Godzilla came from:

washington dc joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011

These things used to roam around Argentina and Panama eating from 20-foot-high trees. It looks ferocious to me, but maybe they weren’t. Maybe they were as cuddly as the modern sloth:

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc

Here are some obligatory Washington DC pictures. There’s something wrong with my camera, so there are black spots on the images.

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc
Weird white tap water in our hotel room.

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc
The Capital Building

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc
Dead plants in front of the Environmental Protection Agency.

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc
Blind man touching the statue of Helen Keller inside the Capital Building’s Visitor Center.

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc
The Washington Monument.

joy lanzendorfer giant sloth of awp 2011 washington dc
Marcia pretending to be a bill on the back steps of the Capital. You know, like this:

Found This On The Internet Somewhere

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 3:42 pm on Thursday, December 30, 2010

This feels very true.

Ack! Ack! Ick!

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 9:59 am on Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I put a lotus flower in a piece of fiction I’m writing. In the scene, I started to describe the center of the lotus flower, but then I realized I didn’t have a clear idea what it looked like, so I checked it out. This is it:

lotus flower
(Image from here.)

I don’t know why, but the center of the lotus flower gives me the serious willies. ICK! What is that? What does it feel like? Why are those bumps there?

lotus flower
(Image from here.)

Maybe I should go with another flower.

Old Paperbacks I Have

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 6:56 am on Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I love old paperbacks. The older they are, the better. For example, this version of Howard’s End by EM Forster was originally published in 1921 by Knopf.

joy lanzendorfer old paperbacks howard's end 1921

I picked it up last weekend at a thrift store for $.30. I think the green cover with the black trees is the bees knees.

I wish I still had my paperback of Days of the Locust by Nathanael West to show you. It might have been an original version of the book–anyway, it had this great modern, abstract cover. Unfortunately, the book fell apart while I was reading it, and no amount of tape could fix it up. I ended up recycling it, and it made me sad, because the book had survived for so many years, and it is such a good book, too.

There are often great things tucked inside these books as well. In a version of Coriolanus by Shakespeare that I have, someone left the top of a plastic bag that held scan-tron test sheets in it, which must have meant that a teacher owned the book. I have also found family photos, receipts, and once, a part of someone’s painting, which the artist ripped up and left inside the book for someone else (me) to find.

joy lanzendorfer old paperbacks far madding crowd thomas hardy

This is a hilarious version of Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. The novel is a classic piece of literature, but the publishers, Signet Book, decided that it would sell better if it was packaged as a steamy romance. On the front, it says, “The romantic classic about a wayward beauty and her scandalous affairs with three dazzled lovers.”

If you have read Far From the Madding Crowd, you know that’s a bit of a stretch. The book is about marriage and love in the English countryside, true, but it’s no Lady Chatterley’s Lover. And then, take a look at the back of the book:

joy lanzendorfer old paperbacks far from madding crowd hardy


joy lanzendorfer old paperbacks peyton's place

This is my favorite thrift store book find. It’s a small paperback that has been studiously covered with prim lavender wrapping paper. Why?

joy lanzendorfer old paperbacks peyton's place

It’s the scandalous book from 1956, Peyton’s Place by Grace Metalious, about sex and other bad things in a small American town. The original owner probably covered this book so that she could read it in public without anyone knowing what she was doing.

I love to imagine this woman carefully lining the book and carrying it around with her so she could read it on the bus or at her lunch break without any shame. Or maybe she just did that to all her books. Who knows?

Pay Your Writers

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 1:28 pm on Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This is so true. Writers, don’t work for free.

Twilight Was Hilarious

Filed under: Writing and Publishing — joy at 8:56 am on Friday, March 20, 2009

I watched the Twilight movie out of curiosity. At first I thought it was boring, and then I realized it was hilarious. I was laughing my head off throughout the entire thing. After all, it is little more than an adaptation of a sexless romance novel, and romance novels are funny. I still plan to read the books because I like to keep up on literary trends–I can only hope they make me laugh the way the movie did. For example:

* Her name is Bella Swan. HA HA HA HA really??? Beautiful swan???? That’s really the character’s name?

* The part where he starts to make out with her and then he throws himself across the room and yells “NO!”

* His skin sparkles in the sunlight like diamonds.

* Even though this girl has the personality of a rock and is really not as pretty as her name would suggest, every boy in this town asks her out.

* The vampire plays sexy piano music while she looks on in amazement.

* Brooding looks. Seriously, they should design a drinking game around the brooding looks in this movie.

* “Cool. Let’s go fly in some trees.”

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