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Posts Tagged ‘Under the Influence’

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Under the Influence: Around the Campfire of Literature with James Salter’s Opening Paragraphs

“Above all, it must be compelling,” James Salter told the Paris Review in 1993 when asked about his idea of the short story. “You’re sitting around the campfire of literature, so to speak, and various voices speak up out of the dark and begin talking. With some, your mind wanders or you doze off, but with others you are held by every word. The first line, the first sentence, the first paragraph, all have to compel you.” Long before I ever read those remarks by Salter, I’d already come under the influence of his short stories and, in particular, his […]


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Happy Short Story Month!

Happy Short Story Month 2013! Once again, we’ll be celebrating short stories all month here at Fiction Writers Review: Reviews of fantastic story collections, such as Jamie Quatro’s debut I Want to Show You More, which is our lead feature for the month. We’re also excited to publish reviews of Ethan Rutherford‘s The Peripatetic Coffin, Karen Russell‘s Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and several others that we’ve been saving for Short Story Month. Interviews with established writers like Charles Yu, debut authors like Sarah Gerkensmeyer, whose collection What You Are Now Enjoying is currently longlisted for the Frank O’Connor International […]


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Under the Influence: A Parable of Courage

When I send out submissions, I’m easily spooked. After receiving my 4,575th “positive rejection”—i.e., “Not a good fit this time… send more”—I wonder if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is mwa-ha-ha-ing behind the scenes: “Everyone Else is Going to Be Published. Die, Sucker.” Fortunately, better writers than me have endured the soul-sucking chill of the Dementor’s Kiss. My go-to writing mantra is a story about a Really Successful Writer (hereafter known as Harry Potter) told to me by my favorite writing mentor, whom I’ll call… Hermione Granger. Perhaps the story means so much because she believed in my work. When I can’t maintain faith […]


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Under the Influence… of Janet Peery

For me, the beauty of Janet (besides her flowing hair and karaoke skills, obviously) is that she forces students to name things, to make the abstract concrete. She won’t tolerate imprecise language, lazy writing, limp sentences.  I think her “Janet-isms” are in keeping with that. A lot of her funny sayings, some of them her own creations and others drawn from a lifetime of reading and study, concisely label common student writing flaws. Another former writing instructor once wrote in the margin of one of my stories, “I’m bored.” Fair enough. But, for me, that criticism was never helpful. After […]


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Under the Influence… of Robert Olen Butler

Three years into the doctoral program at Florida State University, my wife and I had tired of living like graduate students—the hard studying, hard partying, and hard poverty of it all. I thought I’d found a way out when I was offered a job and a place to live at a boarding school in western North Carolina. I called my dissertation director, Robert Olen Butler, to share my plans. “Is it money?” Bob asked. “Do you need money?” “You think it’s a bad idea? I’ll have time to write in the afternoons.” “If you fart on the squash court,” he […]




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