Suspend Your Disbelief

Posts Tagged ‘the writing life’

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Perseverance Triumphs Over Despair At AWP

Editor’s note: At AWP 2012, which just wrapped up in Chicago, we were thrilled to hear this wonderful story from one of our contributors, Sarah Van Arsdale, and are delighted to share it with you. It’s a reminder of what conferences are really about: fostering community to buoy a writer’s spirit, helping you hang in there through those the hard months years when it feels like you’re going nowhere. 2009, Chicago. Attended AWP with the single-minded purpose of finding a publisher for my novel; my agent had tried like hell, and failed to place it. Barely made it to a […]


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Imposter syndrome

When I first got to college, I was pretty sure that I was an admissions mistake. My roommate was one of Glamour‘s College Women of the Year. Another girl downstairs played piano with the Philharmonic; the guy down the hall was almost sixteen. A guy on the first floor held two patents. You get the idea. Even now, I occasionally get the feeling that I am a complete fraud, and I have no idea how I managed to convince people I had anything worthwhile to say. In my worst moments I suspect I will get a phone call rescinding awards […]


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"The writer is not the writing"

Recently, the New York Times tackled the burning question of why authors tweet. One main reason? To connect with the reader, of course: For one thing, publishers are pushing authors to hobnob with readers on Twitter and Facebook in the hope they will sell more copies. But there’s another reason: Many authors have little use for the pretension of hermetic distance and never accepted a historically specific idea of what it means to be a writer. […] Jennifer Gilmore (3,463 followers) finds hearing from readers helps her understand the influence her novels have on them: “On Twitter, I have a […]


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When does a writer become a Writer?

That’s how I’d have capitalized this recent article by The Atlantic, which asked that rather big question. Describing Alex Jenni, a French biology teacher who recently won the Prix Goncourt, France’s top literary award, the article noted, In the Alexis Jenni school of thought, a writer may be someone, anyone, with a compulsion to scrawl or the conviction of having something to say. A writer is not defined by his career, but the simple act of writing regularly. And authors who found success through the muck of making ends meet have taken that approach for some time now, in practice […]


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Optimism for the new year

On New Year’s morning this year, I was sitting at a kitchen table in Cleveland, Ohio. I grew up in Cleveland and love it, but (like most people) in the way you love your old rusty car with the duct-taped mirror and muffler tied up with a string, or your dingy old house with the drafty windows and the sagging roof—both of which are, unfortunately, all-too-common images in the city of Cleveland. To top all this off, we were in town visiting a seriously ill family member and had spent most of the past few days in a hospital room, […]


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Why to give up on your novel–or not start at all

Everywhere you look, there are reasons not to write. If you believe in omens–as I do–you may start to wonder if the universe is trying to tell you something. You may feel like you shouldn’t even start writing. Recently, the Huffington Post offered 10 reasons not to write your novel. And some of them are pretty damn good. For instance: 2. Someone has already written your novel, and better than you ever could. Certainly you’ve visited a bookstore, picked up a new release novel the plot summary of which filled you with loathing. “That’s the idea I had,” you mutter. […]


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"Work" writing and "really" writing

Like many writers, I tend to think of job-related writing–like copywriting, or editing, or ghostwriting memos–as Not Really Writing. In the Huffington Post, though, Holly Robinson expresses a very different point of view: “Doesn’t it bug you to write other people’s books when you could be working on your own?” another writer asked me recently. Not a bit. In fact, I love telling other people’s stories. What other job would allow me to walk in another person’s shoes so completely that I’d feel their blisters? Working as a book doctor or ghost writer, I have the opportunity to immerse myself […]


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"I can't go on. I'll go on": Writing when you're sure you can't

So November is halfway over–you’re half done writing your novel for NaNaoWriMo, right? Right? Whether you’re doing NaNoWriMo or not, there are always those days–or weeks, or months, or, let’s face it, years–when you just feel like you Cannot. Write. Anything. I don’t claim these are foolproof solutions, but here are my own personal tips to get started working again. 1. A journey of a thousand pages begins with opening your document. Maybe it’s just me–but 90% of the time, just opening up the right file seems like a big step. I find a million other places to click: Facebook, […]


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Is literary monogamy overrated?

The Millions has a wonderful essay by Jeffrey Eugenides on his process of writing his latest novel, The Marriage Plot. It began with what he called “an act of literary adultery”: In the late 90s, during an impasse in the writing of Middlesex, I put the manuscript aside. (I hadn’t fallen out of love, exactly, but I wasn’t sure where the relationship was headed.) Over the following weeks I began flirting with another novel, not a comic epic like Middlesex but a more traditional story about a wealthy family throwing a debutante party. At first, the new novel seemed to […]


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Writing without reading?

Some frustrated soul on Facebook has started an “I Hate Reading” page. Even though–in keeping with the “I hate reading” theme–there’s nothing actually on the page, over 475,000 people “like” it. AbeBooks issued the following video, entitled “Long Live the Book,” in response: Okay, so some people hate to read. Some people aren’t book people. But some writers apparently also hate to read. On the New Yorker‘s Book Bench, Macy Halford writes: [William Giraldi] teaches writing at Boston University, and has been amazed at how many of the kids possess a passionate urge to write without also possessing an urge […]




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