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Read our
IMAGINE first-prize
short story
WRITE contest



Heidi Pitlor
Stephanie Danler



For me, the Solstice Program was the

key I needed to unlock my true passion
and path as a writer. Because of the
genre in my second semester,
I discovered writing for
young people; I never
looked back.

Beth Grosart, New Hampton, NH





For more information, please email us at: mfa@pmc.edu, or apply

online at: pmc.edu/mfa

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August 2016 Volume 129 Number 8

The shadows
that transform us
Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts says all
experiences light and dark have
created the man, the poet he is today.

Page turner
Author/editor Heidi Pitlor knows how
to get inside a characters and a
readers head.

Fiction: The
House They Built
Read the first-place winner of our
Great Break short story contest.

Looking to
the past
When historical fiction meets the
short story.
10 WRITER AT WORK 4 From the Editor
Put me in, coach
Writing coaches can boost & 5 Take Note
bolster a career. Jennifer De Leon, Susan Ito,
blogger Colin Wright and more.


Productive procrastination
47 Classified advertising
Instead of staring at a blank
screen, get distracted.
48 How I Write
Stephanie Danler: I dont know
how to separate myself from my
22 14 BREAKTHROUGH love of food I know that I learned
it, but its so much a part of who
Lost and found
I am now, of how I participate in
Try tossing the roadmap and
the world, that it feels intrinsic.
letting characters not plot
lead you.

Grant some kindness
Grant writing offers significant
altruistic and financial

Television writing 101
Nothing good on TV? Learn
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to work: Check out our
38 CONFERENCE INSIDER bi-monthly newsletter, which
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to more articles about craft from
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40 LITERARY SPOTLIGHT home page, enter your e-mail

address, and youre in business.
The best policy
Carve seeks honesty
and authenticity. LIKE
BY MELISSA HART TheWriterMagazine

26 Cover Photo: Thomas Bethge/Shutterstock

writermag.com The Writer | 3


Senior Editor Nicki Porter

Contributing Editor Melissa Hart
Copy Editor Toni Fitzgerald
Graphic Designer Jaron Cote
A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick a couple of thousand
words to take you around the universe or break your heart. James Applewhite, Andre Becker, T. Alan Broughton,
Neil Gaiman Eve Bunting, Mary Higgins Clark, Roy Peter Clark, Lewis Burke

Frumkes, James Cross Giblin, Gail Godwin, Eileen Goudge, Rachel
Hadas, Shelby Hearon, John Jakes, John Koethe, Lois Lowry,
henever I finish a novel, I feel like Ive just exited Peter Meinke, Katherine Paterson, Elizabeth Peters, Arthur Plotnik

another world, some far-off planet, as if Im stealing my MADAVOR MEDIA, LLC

way out of Alices rabbit hole and heaving myself onto Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey C. Wolk
dry land. Ive spent hours, days, weeks with these char- Chief Operating Officer Susan Fitzgerald

acters; we part ways as old friends. OPERATIONS

Vice President, Operations Courtney Carter
I exit a good short story feeling like someones just punched me in Director, Custom Content Lee Mergner
the gut. Im hunched, doubled-over; the story lingers in my thoughts Director, Integrated Production Justin Vuono
Operations Manager Laura Finamore
for days. I still remember the goosebumps on my arms after finishing Digital Media Manager Michelle de Leon
Controller Peggy Maguire
The Lady, or the Tiger? or seeing Madelines face, hearing her fingers
Administrative Assistant Jennifer Hanrahan
claw at the tombs door for weeks after The Fall of the House of Usher. Staff Accountants Amanda Joyce, Tina McDermott
I remember tossing Shirley Jacksons The Lottery across the room, so AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT
Vice President, Audience Development Heidi Strong
horrified at the conclusion I swore off reading for three days straight. Director, Audience Development Jason Pomerantz
Short fiction creeps up on you like that. Shakes you up, spins you Audience Development Manager Rebecca Artz
Technical Product Manager Michael Ma
around, ties on a blindfold and turns you loose on the world with a bat. Senior Digital Designer Mike Decker
Thankfully, were happy to report short fiction is alive and well. Circulation Marketing Manager Justin Patrick
Senior Audience Development Associate Nora Frew
Within the pages of our annual short story issue, youll find advice Audience Development Analyst Cathy Pearson
from reigning queen of the American short story, Heidi Pitlor, who Digital Media Production Associate Lisette Rose
Audience Development Coordinator Tou Zong Her
spends her days reading hundreds of literary journals to hunt down
the premiere work for The Best American Short Stories. VP, Creative Division Bob Dortch
Youll also find a toolkit for crafting historical short fiction why Advertising Sales Manager Michelle Elchaak
Phone 617-706-9080
let novelists have all the heavily- researched fun? in addition to the Email melchaak@madavor.com
winning story from our Great Break short fiction contest. (For more Client Services Associate Kristyn Falcione

information on our latest contest, which launches July 1, visit us at Newsstand National Publisher Services

writermag.com/contests). SELLING THE WRITER MAGAZINE

Summer, like a well-crafted short story, ends much too soon. If you Phone (617) 706-9078
Fax (617) 536-0102
havent read a short story since senior-year English, add a volume to Email Catherine Pearson cpearson@madavor.com
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4 | The Writer August 2016

Write a short story every week. Its not possible to
write 52 bad short stories in a row. Ray Bradbury


A universal story must also be a specific one.
By Jennifer De Leon

riting short stories takes hard work. Im not just about a story about a man who abandons his family? Never.
referring to the work of drafting or to the never- I couldnt bear to tell these stories, which I equated with
never-done land of revision, to laboring over the running a permanent magic marker over the already-deep
right image, painting believable characters or cre- stereotypes written on the bathroom stall.
ating sentences that cut. If you are someone like me, some- I needed to understand that I wasnt writing about all
one who writes with a tremendous amount of self-imposed Guatemalan people and certainly not all Latinos. I wasnt
pressure to get the story right, but also with an allegiance to writing about Latino men or Latina teens. I definitely
ones culture and history, then you can understand how wasnt writing about an entire country. Talk about pressure!
challenging it is to face the blinking cursor. The particular So what did I do? I got some great advice. The universal
pressure I face as a writer who is the daughter of Guatema- is in the specific. I wrote it down on a Post-it. Its meaning
lan immigrants is not unlike the pressure many writers of clicked when I began to read like a writer when I searched
color, and those who write from marginalized spaces, face. for examples of how other writers managed to dip their
When I first started writing short stories, I wrote tales that pens into the ink jar of history and succeed in telling a
were drenched in clichs and where all the characters spoke in good story.
cartoon-like dialogue. The white people were nice. The brown Sherman Alexies short story What You Pawn I Will
people were poor. The little girl wanted a doll. She didnt get Redeem immediately comes to mind. The story follows
it. But then, in the end, she did! Later I began writing Jackson Jackson, a homeless Indian man, around the streets
vignettes. They were often true, maybe even pretty good, but of Seattle. He wants to buy his grandmothers dancing rega-

when strung together, they still never told a complete story. lia from a pawnshop for a thousand dollars. Every time he
This is what was happening: Every time I sat down to gets money, he ends up spending it. In the end, the pawn-
write, I became paralyzed by the weight on my shoulders, by shop owner gives the regalia to him for the five dollars Jack-
the burden of being a messenger, a representative of my son originally offered. Jackson leaves the shop wearing the
tribe. Write about a Guatemalan housekeeper? Nah. Tell the regalia and dances on the street. The whole story takes place
story of a Latina teenager who gets pregnant? Pft! How in 24 hours. And yet, Alexie takes the reader along on this
journey, this exquisite yarn, through history and culture and unremarkable September morning, long before I learned to
family, and in doing so, the reader grasps the importance of be ashamed of my mother It is a brilliant story that tells
this object. It is, of course, worth more than money itself. of one mother trying to register her daughter for school.
Alexie does not bore the reader with long appositives full of Ultimately, the mother requires help completing the regis-
historical information; he keeps the focus on Jackson Jack- tration paperwork because she cannot read.
son and his concrete desire, and with a ticking clock. In drilling down to this one character and her one
Likewise, Vietnamese-American fiction writer Angie desire, Jones, like Chau and Alexie, tells a story that is so
Chau explores large themes the American Dream, racism, specific it becomes universal. These characters are vulnera-
poverty, assimilation in her beautiful and powerful short ble. Their desires are real. What better measures for telling
stories. In Hunger a group of young cousins in San Fran- a good story?
cisco collect change and head for the pool on the Fourth of
July, braving verbal abuse from a hostile white neighbor so Jennifer De Leon is the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Educa-
they can share a single slice of pizza. Chau shows the strug- tion (University of Nebraska Press, 2014) and her short story, Home
gle of Vietnamese families to adjust to life in the United Movie, originally published inThe Briar Cliff Review, was chosen as
States all in one hot summer afternoon. theOne City, One Storypick for the 2015 Boston Book Festival. Named the
How about one morning? Edward P. Jones begins his 2015-2016 Writer-in-Residence by the Associates of the Boston Public
short story The First Day with the lines: In an otherwise Library, De Leon currently teaches creative writing at GrubStreet.


In our interview with Heidi Pitlor (page 22), Pitlor said one of her best pieces of advice for writers is to
read a lot, and theres no denying shes one of the best-read writers in the country thanks to her work as
series editor for The Best American Short Stories. But while Pitlor may have the advantage of subscribing
to dozens of literary journals, the beginning short fiction writer may not be as lucky. Here are some ways
to sample a lot of American short fiction without subscribing to every literary journal on the newsstands:

The Best American Short also extremely helpful for widen-

Stories ing your knowledge of the market Find the key emotion; this
This is Pitlors best recommenda- for writers looking to submit short may be all you need to know
to find your short story.
tion for fledgling short fiction fiction for publication.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
writers. It gives you a sampler
of whats in a lot of different Morning Short A short story must have a
magazines, and it does have [a Wake up your midmorning coffee single mood and every sen-
list of] all the magazines I look break with Morning Short, a curated tence must build towards it.
at in the back, she says. It is service that delivers one daily short Edgar Allan Poe
a way to say, alright, in these story to your inbox at 10 a.m. Com- Write as manydifferent
20 stories, there are two I like muters can opt to listen to daily emotions as you can think
what magazines are those in? audio stories instead. On a tight of onto small slips of pa-
The 2016 annual is guest-edited budget? No worries here: Both print per.Draw one at random
by Junot Daz and comes out in and audio services are free. and write a short story
October. based around that emotion.
Howdo your characters
One Story
react based on this emo-
Journal of the Month Love short fiction, but dont have tion? Howdoes this par-
Much like a book-of-the-month time to commit to a whole book
flower travelin' man/Shutterstock

ticular feelingdrive their

club, Journal of the Month deliv- or literary journal? Consider One actions?Always remember
ers a different literary journal to Story, which mails out one short to show and nevertell what
your doorstep each month. Its a story to subscribers each month. your characters are feeling;
good way to sample a wide va- Recent selected authors include Lily a reader should sense the
riety of different journals before King, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes and
emotional tension in your
story via your characters
committing to a subscription. Its Charles Bock.
actions anddialogue.

6 | The Writer August 2016

When you read a short story, you come out a little
more aware and a little more in love with the world
around you. George Saunders

C A R E E R Notes from the blogosphere

C H O P S NAME be able to trace any of these communication I really enjoy, and
Colin Wright things back to the travel on a which allow me to better interact
I want to traditionally
one-for-one basis, but its defi- with the people who might dig
publish my novel. Can I WEBSITE
nitely there. my books.
submit directly to a
publisher? I think if you try to force your-
How did you go about build- self into a marketing stance and
The short answer is yes with
How have your many experi- ing your readership? do things that feel like work, you
diligence and for a reason. If you are
ences abroad helped your writ- In many different ways. I write probably wont do it as regularly,
submitting directly to a publisher, ask
yourself why. If its because agents ing change and grow? my blog, and I share different and it probably wont sound like
have turned down your fiction sub- Everything we do feeds back into elements of my lifestyle and you or fit within your larger body
mission, perhaps it isnt ready. Before the work we produce. For me, its craft on social media. I interact of work. If you can identify some
you begin submitting to anyone, changed everything, over time with folks directly, via email, via means of reaching out and con-
make your book the best it can be. and iteratively. the aforementioned social net- necting with people, though, you
Most big publishers dont accept
Sometimes its been more works and in person as I travel. tend to build over time a social
unsolicited submissions. Refer to
direct: When writing collections Sometimes I do book tours, gravity that pulls like-minded
the LMP or the market listings in this
magazine for the contact information of stories from the road, for sometimes I give talks on various potential readers your way. It
of those that do. Also, know your instance, theres a direct link subjects, sometimes I experi- also makes life that much more
genre: This doesnt mean knowing between what happened and ment with new platforms and enjoyable, because the reader-
what your book is, but knowing who what ends up on the page. media: videos on YouTube, real- ship building becomes just
your book is for. More often, though, its the time services like Periscope and another exercise in
Do your research. Submit to little things. Radically different Snapchat, secondary blog-plat- self-expression.
publishers specializing in the type of
book youve written.
people with wildly different per- forms like Medium.
Follow the guidelines. No excep- spectives inform the characters I It all ties back to the same You write about a wide vari-
tions. If open submissions are the write. Different architectural collection of ideas and work, ety of topics how would you
first Monday of every month from 10 styles or even color palettes though, so expanding outward describe your blog and your
a.m. to 4 p.m., do not submit on Tues- inform the locations. Paces of life like this, sometimes slowly, identity as a writer?
day. If they only want a query letter and cultural backgrounds inform sometimes more recklessly, but I typically describe my work dif-
and the first 15 pages, do not send a the structure and rhythm of the always experimentally, allows ferently based on the context Im
synopsis, and do not send page 16,
words. You wouldnt necessarily me to find the channels of in. To some of my readers, Im a
even if it only contains a single word.
guy who writes books on vaguely
Edit instead.
Be professional, courteous and philosophical topics. To others,
precise. Remember, publishing is a Im that guy who travels full time.
business. Dont call an editor on the To still others, Im the science fic-
phone or stop by their office to chat. tion writer. To some of my newer
Do not write that your book is the followers, Im that guy on You-
next best-seller. Theyre the experts;
Tube or Snapchat whos given
theyll decide.
some TEDx talks; they dont even
Dont forget that if you submit
to an editor and are rejected, you know Ive written books yet.
cannot resubmit via an agent to the This is kind of ideal for
same editor. someone like me, whos terrified
Finally, NO legitimate publisher of being pigeonholed and stuck
charges an author a fee. Ever. Read writing about one thing forever.
the fine print and never sign a The idea that I could be success-
contract that requires you to open
ful in a field and then limited to
your wallet.
Dionne McCulloch, U.S. manag- just that subject matter forever
ing editor, Cornerstones Literary is hellish to me.
Consultancy, cornerstonesUS.com

writermag.com The Writer | 7

Ive entered many short story contests and Ive wanted to fall in love with a book. Cunningham
describes himself as the language crank, the one who
placed in a few, but havent won yet. I feel like swooned over sentences. All readers are captivated by
Im missing something. What are judges something a little different, and thats going to come into
play anytime writing is assessed.
looking for? While there are certainly standards of craft that most
can agree upon, there is always a subjective element to
Placing in contests is no small feat. Congratulations!
the reading experience. Perhaps Michael Cunningham
Figuring out how to make the leap to the winners circle
says this best in that same article:
can feel like a mystery. Your best course of action is to
keep writing, continue to strengthen your work and Fiction involves trace elements of magic; it works
submit more. There are few ways to anticipate what a for reasons we can explain and also for reasons we
judge is looking for. Most reputable contests are going to cant. If novels or short-story collections could be
value strong craft, and some contests give a brief weighed strictly in terms of their components ...
description of what they hope to see in a winning entry. they might satisfy, but they would fail to enchant. A
You could read work that has won that particular contest great work of fiction involves a certain frisson that
in the past. This will be most useful if the contest has had occurs when its various components cohere and
the same judge for several years. Many, though, have then ignite. The cause of the fire should, to some
new judges each year. extent, elude the experts sent to investigate.
But, ultimately, what you can do to gain insight into a While this doesnt necessarily demystify a process that
particularly judges criteria is quite limited. Different can feel quite mysterious, it can give you the freedom to
judges will value different elements. In an article relinquish yourself from further work in trying to figure
detailing the deliberation process for the 2012 Pulitzer out how to please the judges. Write. Continue to
Prize in Fiction, Michael Cunningham describes what challenge yourself. Improve your writing. And keep
each member of the jury most valued. Maureen Corrigan sending those submissions.
was drawn to writers who told a gripping and forceful Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham
story. Susan Larson was a tough-minded romantic. She Writers Workshop.

---b BOOKISH c--- and many others. The ultimate goal? then followed by a real-life Last Say
iAs the beginning To embrace these everyday technical that illustrates the skill at work.
writer starts racking difficulties, since they make up the
up the writing hours, bulk of a fiction writers work. iWhat is a book
and thus gradually proposal? Why do
becomes the interme- iInterested in telling you need one? And
diate or advanced your life story but what makes a really,
writer, she notices that intimidated by the tow- really good one?
the success of her work often hinges ering length of a mem- These are the ques-
on finding answers to seemingly oir? Theres still a way tions Patricia Fry,
minor questions: How should I for aging writers to author of more than
describe the exterior of a house? Does have one last say, 50 books, attempts to answer in Pro-
it work better to say Fiat Spider or argues Alan Gelb in Having the Last pose Your Book: How to Craft Persua-
just a sports car? How much of a Say: Capturing Your Legacy in One sive Proposals for Nonfiction, Fiction,
softball game can I show readers Small Story. Aimed at beginner or and Childrens Books. If youve
without boring them? In Danger on brand-new writers, the book coaches resisted the task of writing a book
the Page: A Fiction Writers Guide to readers through the process of writ- proposal or if those youve submit-
Sex, Violence, Dead Narrators, and ing ones life story in a 500- to 1000- ted have been rejected, this book is
Other Challenges, Brian Shawver word personal essay that can be for you, Fry writes. Fry also
attempts to navigate the intermediate shared with family and friends or includes submission tips, including
fiction writer through these ques- read aloud at a memorial. Each chap- chapters on finding and approaching
tions, covering topics such as sex ter covers a certain technical aspect of a literary agent and landing a pub-
scenes, physical character descrip- writing (Finding Your Topic, Point lisher, plus Tips for Surviving the
tions, using brand names in fiction of View, The First Draft) and is Dreaded Rejection.

8 | The Writer August 2016

Body full of words
Stuck on the page? Take your story to the stage.

was breathless as I watched the woman on same moments where a fiction writer or memoirist
stage pick up an invisible pair of scissors. Sit needs to slow down, to open up a scene with dialogue
still! she admonished, her hands hovering and gesture and detail, to show the action happening,
over an empty chair. Snip. Snip, snip, snip. I we learned to make the stories come alive with our
couldnt see the curls falling to the stage, but I bodies. Instead of saying, It was startling to see myself
could feel them in my gut. Then she sat down in the in the mirror, wearing my mothers dress, I learned
chair and was transformed into a tearful little Afri- how to be in that moment, in my body, re-living it. I
can-American girl, whose hair had been shorn stepped to the edge of the stage, gazing at the invisible
because her adoptive white mother couldnt manage it. mirror. I lifted the imaginary fabric over my head and
It was one of the most powerful moments Id ever wit- zipped it up, then twirled from side to side. My mouth
nessed on a stage. I approached the performer, Lisa Marie dropped open in astonishment, and I could tell that the
Rollins, after the applause died down, and stammered, audience could feel the memory.
What was that? I mean, what do you call this? I fanned at Good writing should make your readers feel the same
my chest. She laughed. Sis, this is solo performance. way. But there are important ways in which writing for the
My next question: Where can I learn to do this? stage diverges from memoir or fiction. All that lush descrip-
I had been stuck in writers block with my memoir for tion of setting had to be cut or condensed into a single line
what felt like years. Wrestling with my own story around of dialogue. The internal monologues would be slashed, too,
family, identity and adoption was emotionally draining or else changed into a separate soliloquy that I delivered
and seemed as if it had no end. I kept circling around the directly to the audience.
narrative, writing endless drafts and feeling frustrated Over eight weeks, I developed my first 15-minute solo
with all of them. I needed a different perspective or a show called My Brothers Wedding. Doing this changed
break or something. my relationship to the story in profound ways. Telling it in
Lisa Marie invited me to join her in the next class of the such a physical, verbal way, using my entire body, helped
San Francisco Solo Performance Workshop, then taught by me to own it in a way that manuscript writing hadnt.
the comedian W. Kamau Bell. I had never taken an acting My story deals with family secrets, about feeling con-
class and was terrified of being on stage, but something cealed, hidden. So to stand onstage, in a room of strangers,
about seeing that haircutting scene electrified me. Perhaps and belt out, arms flung upward, This is who I am! was
this was what my own story needed. exhilarating and shocking. And it was addictive.
When I walked into the subterranean, 60-seat Stage After the eight weeks was over, I immediately signed up
Werx Theatre in San Francisco, I was more nervous than Id for another round. I went on to study with other teachers
been in a long time. But Kamaus relaxed-yet-professional and directors, and eventually began performing my show,
approach set me at ease. The first thing he did was have us The Ice Cream Gene, to audiences around the country, to
sit quietly onstage, one at a time, while the class checked off audiences of all sizes. Its now a full-length performance
a list of characteristics and characters that came to mind piece that has been seen by thousands.
when they looked at us: such as funeral director sweet, Since I discovered solo performance nine years ago, Ive
dangerous or cheerleader. Then he handed us our list to found that its helped my page writing as well. My writers
tally up the ones that had the most checkmarks. (Apparently block was shattered. I now love writing dialogue, the ele-
I impressed my classmates with my ability to embody a ment I once dreaded the most. When Im stuck writing a
librarian or travel agent.) scene, it helps me to get up and move through it physically,
Over the next two months, Kamau led us through exer- mouthing the words, feeling the gestures with my own
cises designed to coax our inner stories into the light. It was limbs. When I sit down at my computer again, the kinetic
unlike any other writing class Id ever taken or taught. memory transforms more easily into words. The borders
Larissa Kulik/Shutterstock

Kamau would ask questions about an incident, and when between lived experience and memory, imagination and
something struck him as particularly hot or compelling, language, all fall away and in the end its all just a good
hed say, Show us! not unlike a writing teacher who story, emerging.
admonishes, Show, dont tell.
Writing for solo performance needs the same. In those Susan Ito writes and teaches at the San Francisco Writers Grotto.

writermag.com The Writer | 9


Put me in, coach

Writing coaches can boost & bolster a career.

ve been teaching creative writing at colleges and univer- climb and where obstacles are likely to lie. And shes got
sities for nearly 20 years, and Ive been a writing coach enough distance from you and your work to see things as they
for nearly as long. But heres something you likely dont truly are. If shes talented like Morris is, shell shorten the learn-
expect: I use a writing coach, too. In fact, I recently ing curve on your writing career.
invested in my own writing career by getting five one-hour ses- Lets put it plainly if youre interested in breaking through
sions with Florida writing guru Jamie Morris. In that short but the ceiling of your writing career, moving past baggage thats
focused time, I had two breakthroughs on a semi-comatose getting in the way of your success or transforming the entire
project thats been languishing away for a year. I also felt ener- process into something more enjoyable and effective, then
gized, clear-headed and excited about writing again. Her fresh bringing in a writing coach can be a great choice. Yet there are
eyes on my work and my career was exactly what I needed. some crucial considerations to make to ensure you get the
Morris explains that hiring a writing coach is like hiring a most for your writing coach buck. Lets face it: Youre paying
guide, a Sherpa. Your writing coach knows the terrain you for a high level of expertise and skill, and that doesnt and
want to travel; she knows how long the road is, how steep the shouldnt come cheaply.

Cienpies Design/Shutterstock

10 | The Writer August 2016

1. One of these things is not like the Bonus Tip Feel free to reach out to
others. (And thats a good thing.) people whose names appear on the
Not all writing coaches are the coachs testimonial page. Asking
same. Some are like your grand- them a quick question or two by
mother. Some are all business. email is completely appropriate.
Some allow you to forge your own
path. Some will insist you follow 4. Dare I sample the goods?
their routine and route to success. Most coaches have some kind of
Some only do phoners. Some do lets-see-how-we-work-together
phone, Skype, face-to-face and option to start things off. Hey,
anything in between. Make certain when Im in Sams Club, I always 7. Be realistic.
that the coaches youre consider- accept the samples regardless of Morris offers this advice: If she
ing are open to your preferred whether I just scarfed down some tells you she can help transform
coaching style and communica- McDonalds or not. Sometimes I your rough-draft novel-in-progress
tion method. am horrified Sams Club is giving into a best-seller or even a good
Bonus Tip Ask them if they think this stuff out. Sometimes Im de- fit for a big publishing house
theyre the right coach for you or lightfully surprised. For exactly this in less time than it takes to, say,
not. You might be surprised at how reason, I give prospective clients a renovate your kitchen, be sure to
many have the integrity to say, Per- free taste of what my coaching is ask exactly how she is going to help
haps not. Some might even steer like for 15 minutes. you accomplish that. Remember
you directly to another coach whos Bonus Tip Even if they dont that writing coaches can work
a great fit. I do that often. advertise a free session, ask for one. magic, but this type of magic does
Most will be open to a reduced take time.
2. Get all matchy-matchy. rate or even a short free trial run if
Its reasonable to seek out a writing youre truly serious about engaging Whether youre new to the game or
coach whos got deep experience in their services youve got a big list of writing credits, a
your specific arena, such as food writing coach can be an invaluable
writing, travel writing, memoir 5. Whats a fair rate? career partner. She can give you extra
writing, etc. Each of these areas has A fair rate is whatever youre willing accountability, create action steps
special conventions and nuances, to pay for coaching that you believe toward specific goals, help you get
and, realistically, few writing is helpful. But $75 to $125/hour unstuck and offer a fresh perspective
coaches can appropriately cover seems like a reasonable range to on your work. She can also guide you
every single type of writing. Hold start with, though factors such as to find clarity on why you feel the need
out for the real literary love connec- geography and levels of expertise to write, who you intend to reach and
tion unless you feel that an outsid- might affect that range. what impact you wish to have on that
ers perspective on your work might Bonus Tip Consider asking for a audience. Who wouldnt benefit from
have ample value. bulk rate, such as getting six one- all this?
hour sessions for the price of five if The best coaches, too, dont just
3. Trust but verify. you pay in advance. It never hurts offer a temporary fix. They teach the
Do check out a potential writing to ask! clients how to coach themselves
coachs credentials to ensure shes in through difficult times. Those are the
a position to give you what you 6. To contract or not to contract? true success stories. Thats the right
need. Dont just assume whats Its best to have something in writ- way to supplement what you learn in
listed on her website is correct. Do ing that outlines your agreement, critique groups, in writing classes and
a bit of sleuthing a few have been even if its just a clear email that in the pages of magazines like this one
known to say theyve written for details rates, terms of service and to get your career into high gear.
The New Yorker or some other expectations for how youll com-
large-scale publication, and its sim- municate and work together. This Ryan G. Van Cleave is a Florida-based writing
ply not true. Dont be tricked by doesnt need to be written in heavy- teacher and author of 20 books, including most
someone looking to make a fast duty legal language, though with recently Memoir Writing for Dummies and The
buck by teaching. some coaches, it will be. Weekend Book Proposal.

writermag.com The Writer | 11


Productive procrastination
Instead of staring at a blank screen, get distracted.

very writer has experienced your characters experience. Approach-
it: a day when youve made ing your story visually with details
the time to write but the point, not in the mood, distracted by and broader strokes may help you
words just arent flowing. life or focusing hard but still missing picture whats needed next.
Whether youve lost your writing the right words, get your brain unstuck
rhythm or never found it, part of fin- and your creativity flowing again with Consult the stars.
ishing a manuscript is to suffer one of these forms of productive pro- Check your characters horoscopes to
through and keep pushing ahead crastination. Youll get to know your see what the zodiac has in store for
with a reminder to self that its OK characters and their world even better them, and read up on common traits
for the draft to be terrible. After all, and perhaps inspire yourself to write. of their astrological signs. Whether
you will revise it in the end. But forc- you consider astrology fiction or fact,
ing your focus isnt the only path to Picture this. looking up your characters star signs
productivity. Sometimes the best way Step away from the words and focus on and considering the ways they do or
to write your novel is to do something the visuals. Use Google image search, dont fit the type can be an entertaining
else instead. Pinterest, Instagram or stock photog- and useful way to delve deeper into
Im not advocating that you suc- raphy sites to gather images to create a their instincts, attributes, weaknesses,
cumb to social media, Internet head- photographic mood board or visual strengths, tendencies and dispositions.
lines and other temptations that would outline. Juxtapose pictures of impor-
remove you from the headspace of tant or incidental details from your Mark your calendar.
your manuscript. The following dis- story the red ribbon from the miss- Take out a blank calendar from the

tractions will allow your mind to ing girls hair, the anti-anxiety medica- year(s) when your story takes place
wander while staying deep within the tion the detective downs with his regardless of whether those dates are
world youre creating. whiskey with atmospheric photos explicit in the text and chart the tim-
The next time youre stuck on a plot evocative of the moods and emotions ing of minor and major events. What
12 | The Writer August 2016
are your characters weekly routines, or play. Learn the layout of the rooms night over a concern later forgotten.
including work, school and family obli- in your protagonists apartment, Exploring who your character is or was
gations? When does the plot follow or where her office is situated in rela- outside the events of the book may
deviate from those? Do major holidays, tionship to her boss (and to the eleva- help you better understand who they
birthdays and other yearly disruptions tors, bathrooms and coffee pot), how are within it.
fall within the timeframe of your novel? the buttons are patterned on her
How do those events affect the plot? rocket ships control board and what Sound it out.
Do the details in your manuscript path she follows through the woods to Use online audio clips, your personal
from the weather and tides to the tim- Grandmothers house. The more you music collection and the recording app
ing of sunrises and sunsets, phases of know about the physical world in on your smartphone to create a sound-
the moon and which flowers are in which your story is set, the more real scape of a scene in progress. This sen-
bloom fit accurately into the calen- it will feel to your readers. sory outline is less a soundtrack, more
dar? Even if your manuscript makes no a sound collage of the aural and emo-
mention of the dates, the timeline will Tell a different story. tional beats within the scene from
strengthen the novels structure and Free-write about an event in a charac- crickets, snoring, traffic and waves to
internal logic, including making time ters past or future that falls outside the sadness, confusion, elation and lust.
pass on the page in a realistic way. scope of the novel: an embarrassing Layer and link the sounds together for
moment in the elementary school cafe- a musical map of where your chapter
Map what matters. teria, a revelatory conversation with an might be going.
Draw maps of the places your charac- aunt about a parent, a first date with an
ters inhabit. Sketch the floor plans insignificant ex, a first encounter with Anica Mrose Rissi is the author of Anna,
and diagram the logistics of the an illegal substance, a white lie all too Banana, and the Friendship Split and other
spaces where they sleep, work, argue easily gotten away with, a sleepless books for kids.

writermag.com The Writer | 13


Lost and found

Try tossing the roadmap and letting characters not plot lead you.

ither some intern made a This was not normal for me. I was a forced or staged, but honest and unex-
horrible typographic error, or plotter. I kept detailed notes about a pected. A few things in it surprised
I was reading my first accep- characters family tree, her motiva- even me. I didnt need all the details to
tance letter. I read the email tions, her fears. With my other work, start writing, I realized. I needed to
over a dozen times, grinning stupidly Id map out the bulk of my plot, setting commit to pursuing a story.
and trying not to laugh. A literary and cast of characters before I started I turned in the draft a complete
journal actually wanted to publish my writing a scene. This time around, I scene but an unfinished story. Encour-
short story and the funny thing was, started with a nearly blank slate. I aged by my teacher to find a solid end-
I hadnt intended to write it. didnt know where this graveyard was ing, I came back to it later and learned
The story started as an Intro to Fic- or in what year my character had a second lesson.
tion assignment. For weeks, Id been arrived there or who she was visiting. I To me, finishing a story meant
writing and rewriting a scene with didnt know her occupation, back- add to it. A complete story, I thought,
characters I knew well, plotting the ground or age. But I felt her grief and needed more scenes, more characters,
brief encounter in the margins of class confusion, and her sharp retorts came just more. But everything I added to
notes. Despite my planning, the emo- as black and bold as the ink from my this story felt unnecessary.
tion always came out forced and flat. ballpoint pen. I realized I didnt have to push the
With only a few days before my due I started with dialogue. I wrote three ending forward on the narrative time-
date, I scrapped everything and went separate exchanges, conversations with line. I could cut it back. I scrapped the
with a new idea. As in, I have no idea vague shadows of other characters, all original ending, and when that didnt
who this character is or why shes lug- of them trying, like me, to understand feel enough, I cut the original begin-
ging a pumpkin through a graveyard, this girl with a pumpkin. From there, I ning, leaving me with something raw
but I have to find out. could see how she was connected to and not fully explained, but still whole
others, how each of them reacted dif- and haunting.
ferently to a recent death. My pro- Startling Kindness taught me a
cess turned from mapping out more lenient way to write than the for-
each event to allowing a charac- mulaic process Id used in the past.
ter to tell me her story her- Sometimes, writing a little bit less does
self, only moving forward more for a story than any amount of
when she was ready. (Lit- plotting. And being willing to learn as
erally. She spends almost you write is more important than writ-
the entire scene sitting in ing what you already know.

the same spot.)

The result was a story Anna Stokely lives and works in Lincoln,
that, unlike the one Id Nebraska. She is a book hoarder, needlework
intended to write, didnt feel enthusiast and makes a mean pumpkin pie.

14 | The Writer August 2016

EXCERPT: Startling Kindness by Anna Stokely
Youre not a real witch, are you? Bens smile stayed, but now it looked like a mask, like he
Of course I am. Freddie watched Ben reach for the wasnt sure why he should be smiling. Freddie turned to sort
cauldron, then pointed to the pumpkin guts again. Ichabod her pumpkin seeds again.
was a nice little boy like you, but I turned him into a pump- What was your mother like? she asked.
kin after he tried to take my candy without asking. He answered quickly, like he had rehearsed it. She sang
Ben hesitated with his hands over the silver wrappings, the alphabet while she brushed her teeth and she hated the
then turned to her, his eyes as wide as his smile. Freddie word dank and when shed make a pumpkin pie
laughed, then hitched it into her best cackle, and Ben for Dad shed dance around the kitchen with
squealed that little kid squeal of amusement. the evaporated milk because it said shake
Why are you here? he asked, calming down. well right there on the top of the can.
Are you visiting your mom, too? Freddie blinked. How old were you
Im visiting my . . . visiting Peter. when she died?
Did he take your candy? Ben Four. Old enough to miss her, Dad

asked eagerly. says.

No, he shot himself. Right in And you remember all that?
the eye. Like he wanted to watch He pushed his wrappers into a pile
it bust open his head. between them. I remember all the stories.

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writermag.com The Writer | 15
Poet Reginald Dwayne Betts says all experiences
light and dark
have created the man, the poet he is today.



Nearly 20 years ago, while a teenage Reginald
Dwayne Betts sat alone in his cell, someone
slipped a book under his door.
The book was The Black Poets by Dudley
Randall the contraband that would forever
change his life, introducing him to the powerful
words of Etheridge Knight, Rob Hayden, Lucille
Clifton, Sonia Sanchez and, he says, many other
black authors who showed him who he wanted
to become.
At just 16 years old, Betts pled guilty to an impulse car- In his newest book, Bastards of the
jacking he committed with a friend. Because of his plea, he Reagan Era, his poetry is both visceral
was tried as an adult and sentenced to nine years in an and soft, as with the poem Elephants
adult prison. in the Fall a two-part poem lik-
Betts actually decided what he wanted to be long before ened to love letters to his sons Micah
that day in solitary. He says it wasnt so much a realization and Miles.
but a distinct and conscious decision. With many elegiac poems repre-
In [that] moment, just after being sentenced to nine senting the trauma of his past, Betts
years, I decided to be a writer. No sense of what it meant. not only shares his own losses in Bas-
And that decision drove all kinds of decisions that hap- tards but also makes a plea: to make
pened later, said Betts. more personal the stories of incar-
At 16, he was 5-foot-5 and 120 pounds. Still a boy, he ceration, racism, and the tragedy and grief that go along
would spend his journey to manhood in a place where his with them, in hopes of creating greater awareness and
human rights were stripped away. Betts has referred to effecting change.
prison as a treacherous and wild place. He saw and experi- Now married with two sons, Betts described his writing
enced things he says no human should be exposed to, let career and his advocacy as one life.
alone a child. As our first interview came to a close, I asked him how
Betts says as a boy, he thought books were important, his experience of prison shaped him, both as a person and
but when I got locked up, it became magic, it became a as a writer.
means to an end. It became the way in which I experienced It is difficult, both to imagine what I would be with-
the world, but more importantly, I think, it became the way out these experiences many of them dark and haunting
in which I learned about what it means to be human and to and the source of sleepless nights and to imagine what I
be flawed and to want things that you cant have. am with those experiences, he admitted. But I think its
To this day, he doesnt know who smuggled that book of sadly impossible.
poetry into his cell. But more came and were often left in a More days passed and we continued our talk. About
small hole in the wall of his cell. trauma. About what it really means to be broken. About
At 17, Betts earned his high school diploma. Once released poetry and writing.
from prison, he finished his undergraduate degree and then He continued to open up about how his experiences,
earned his MFA in writing at Warren Wilson College. which he referred to as his shadow, have affected him.
He published his first few poems while in prison but later Prison, for the earliest parts of my writing life, has been
received fellowships for his poetry, including one from the the lens through which I understand life. As a writer, its
Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and forced into a nuance I might have other-
awards, including two Pushcart Prizes. PRISON, FOR THE wise avoided. Or that I might have not
Hes currently a law student at Yale EARLIEST PARTS OF noticed was needed, said Betts.
University and will graduate in 2016. MY WRITING LIFE, Its hard to imagine what I wouldnt
Over the years, Betts has become an HAS BEEN THE LENS be without this experience, because its
advocate for change in the criminal jus- THROUGH WHICH I integral to who I am. Both my identity as
tice system. In 2012, President Barack UNDERSTAND LIFE. a writer and my character as a person. I
Obama appointed Betts to serve on the resist the question, partly because Im not
Coordinating Council on Juvenile Jus- imaginative enough to see an existence
tice and Delinquency Prevention. Ulti- that would have made me care about the
mately, Betts says he hopes to represent people I write about, and also care in gen-
people on parole. eral, in much the same way.
Prison became the place where I He told me if the question had been
both cared and became a profoundly limited to What did prison give me?,
different person, said Betts. he wouldve explained, Prison gave me
His first book, A Question of Freedom: an entire cosmos. It gave me a thousand
A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Shakespearean tragedies. Wilsonian
Coming of Age in Prison, earned Betts an tragedies. And it also gave me despera-
Lou Oates/Shutterstock

NAACP Image Award. His second book tion. These things, the best I could, I
was his first collection of poetry, Shahid tried to craft into poems. Most of which
Reads His Own Palm, where Betts were miserable.
explored the darkness of his prison expe- Betts recalled writing down some of
riences and the fear of freedom. his very first inspirations.
writermag.com The Writer | 17
My first poems, the ones I still Which authors influenced you when
have, were written on complaint you first started writing poetry, and
forms where I was complaining who inspires you now?
about being moved to a super max- Obvious answers, really. I find that
imum security prison because the
prison was a terrifying place. And
SENDING the canon of black writers that I
draw from and my peers draw
when the complaints came back POEMS OUT from are all readily identifiable if
with the administration dismissing MEANT THAT I one looks. Disparate, and far rang-
what I said, I wrote poems on the WAS A PART OF ing, but there are always familiar
backs of them. I have the monthly names. So I say, always, to this
receipts where I worked for 24
A LARGER question, Etheridge Knight. I say
cents an hour and wrote poems on PROCESS THAT Lucille Clifton, I say Sonia San-
the back. Now those poems have EXTENDED chez. But there is also Raymond
turned out to be more valuable
than the 24 cents an hour I made,
BEYOND Patterson. Agha Shahid Ali, Jack
Gilbert, Wanda Coleman,Ellen
he said. PRISON. Bryant Voigt. There is Zora Neale
I think, when I begin to con- Hurston and Ralph Ellison. Ish-
template it all I am not so sure mael Reed. And these writers, they
that I am not broken because are always the past and the present
suddenly I imagine what it would when it comes to inspiration.
be to not have this weight. But if the question is about my
In his silence, I wonder what that peers, I would say John Murillo
weight would feel like; to carry and Randall Horton, Jericho
around, all the time. Brown, Roger Reevesand Honore
Anyway, maybe that also Jeffers, Remica Bingham and
doesnt make sense, he finally said. Aracelis Girmay.
It makes a lot of sense, I said.
I hope it does. And I hope the How was your work first discovered
answers I just [gave] are better and and published? Did you submit work
more thoughtful. Even the last one. on your own or did you have help?
Actually, I think what Ive said here Honestly, I just sent poems to
might be more honest. journals and waited for someone
to take interest. A boring story
one of rejection after rejection
after rejection. But it was cool.
INTERVIEW Q & A: Sending those poems out meant
Can you talk about the moment when something. For a long time there
you realized that you would become were only rejections. This all hap-
a writer? pened in prison. At some point I
Its not that there is a moment. I began asking editors for tips, even
mean there are always moments, if they were rejecting the poems,
but this business of being a writer, especially if they were rejecting
for me, is less about a realization the poems. The first poem I got
and more about making a decision. published was picked up by
This happened when I was around Ethelbert Miller and came out in
16, exactly 16, and staring at a Poet Lore.
nine-year prison sentence. I The second came out in Hang-
wanted to be somebody and ing Loose, and I remember that
Valentin Agapov/Shutterstock

thought the idea of being a writer poem grew out of a prompt that
was possible and practical, given another editor had given me. When
my circumstances. And so I just these poems appeared, I felt like I
went with it from that point. But it had published books, though [they
was more of a decision than a were] only single poems. Later, my
moment of clarity. first collection of poems, Shahid
18 | The Writer August 2016
Reads His Own Palm, won the Bea- about each word, not as if I want the
trice Hawley Award from Alice poem to become a puzzle but I
James Books. Id entered a contest, need something to push against the
randomly. Jean Valentine had read tendency to let free verse become
some poems Id submitted to untamed verse, uncontrolled verse.
Ploughshares and wondered if I had
a manuscript. At the time I had the Do you ever write formless poems?
makings of one I put it together Or does your training say, Theres
over the weekend and got lucky. gotta be structure here.
This answer follows my previous
You said sending out poems meant answer, I think. Im not sure if there
something to you. What was that? is ever a formless poem. I mean,
Its all a process. Sending poems there are bad poems that lack
out meant that I was a part of a coherence and discernible logic, but
larger process that extended for me, to write formless would be
beyond prison. It was a way to be an oxymoron. Because there is
in the world. In prison, it all meant always punctuation and syntax and
one thing it meant being a part of rhyme and figures of speech. But
a world that was closed off to me. this has more to do with language
Or that wasnt closed off but than training. Writing is the inten-
seemed closed off. When I came tional use of language, and so there
home, honestly, the writing took is form there, always. And so, even
on a different dimension. when Im just playing around with
It was, at times, more about consciously making the syntax of
being published, being heard, the sentences vary, and I know that
being recognized as being as gifted POETRY IS NOT Im imitating Carl Phillips or Yusef
as my peers. Its like lost in MATHEMATICS, Komunyakaa or Joshua Weiner, I
prison, asserting an identity is
enough. But that changes a little bit
BUT I LIKE know that what might at first look
free is really just a form borrowed
when you get released or not FORMS THAT and buried within the lines of the
even just when you get released, FORCE ME TO poem. Borrowed or invented.
but when you decide that writing SLOW DOWN
and being a public writer is the Where did you learn to write the var-
aim, things become more complex.
AND THINK ious styles of poetry that you write?
Submitting poems becomes work. CAREFULLY Honestly, Im not sure. I mean, I
Publishing becomes a way to ABOUT EACH read. Most writers, before MFA pro-
believe the work matters.
WORD. grams I suppose, learned to write by
reading. So I learned to write by
Many ofyour poems are elegies. Do reading and imitating the people I
you have a favorite style? admired. I did that for years. And
No. I wouldnt say that I do. Some- had some success, getting poems
times I write elegies because those published, getting into workshops. I
are the things I cannot avoid. did get an MFA in poetry from
Sometimes I write love poems. Its Warren Wilson and I also learned
hard to say, this thing about a a lot there. But Im suspicious of
favorite style. I like the poems that calling it formal training. Both
leave me without a choice in the because it is more of an apprentice
matter. And probably I think of model and because formal training
elegies as a mode, but formally I suggests some kind of uniformity
have different things that push me. across the world of writers that
The ghazal, the canzone. Blank doesnt exist. Whatever the case, I
verse. Poetry is not mathematics, also wasnt self-taught. I had the
but I like forms that force me to best teachers a library card could
slow down and think carefully pay for.
writermag.com The Writer | 19
Im Learning Nothing something for which to wade in In What We Know of Horses a poem
with their raft. youve said is one of your favorites you
This Night use the imagery of that powerful animal.
Reginald Dwayne Betts The poem about your sons at the It comes to represent many things:
beginning of the book suggests drugs, addiction, power. Can you talk
The magazine on my lap talks that inside all of the grief, youre about why you chose this animal and
about milk. Tells me that in America, hopeful. Is that true? what it represents?
every farmer lost money on I guess. But maybe that poem just I found something that works here.
every cow, every day of every month says that I love my sons. And Before writing, Id thought a lot about
of the year. Imagine that? To wake even in the other poems, the ele- horses, their brilliance and their trag-
up and know youre digging yourself gies, the dark contours of my edy. And Id known about horse as the
deeper into a hole you cant see mind at a given moment, there is drug, which in itself contains a kind of
out of, even as your hands are wet always love there, too. So Im not harsh beauty, a reluctant truth about
with what feeds you. Thats how this sure if the poem, the one for my the way something powerful and
thing is, holding on & losing a little each sons, is about hope within grief majestic can ruin you. And so when I
moment. Im whispering an invented as much as it is, literally, juxta- wrote this poem, it began as a canzone,
history to myself tonight because posing love with grief. We keep, and all of the repetition helped me see
letting go is the art of living fully as a society, needing to remind the ability of horse as an image to
in the world your body creates ourselves that there is also love in accrue power and force. To multiple
when you sleep. Say a prayer for black life. Nikki Giovanni said it, images. Horses just have that energy.
the insomniacs. They hunger & that black love is black wealth. And its a thing that is there: horse as
demand the impossible. Pray for And that love exists despite and in diesel, horse as in majestic, diesel as
the farmers, hands deep in loam amidst and because of, some- in heroin, horses as in unbroken. Its
bodys weight believing what times, the grief that threatens to inescapable. Im sure someone else did
the mind knows is ruin, they too drown us. the same thing and I just stole it from
want the impossible, so accustomed them. I bet Shakespeare has a poem
to the earth responding when they call. Thats a good reminder. About about horses.
love being present in the dark
Copyright 2016 Reginald Dwayne Betts.
contours of ones mind, and in Do you use anger as fuel for your writ-
Used with permission of the author.
grief. I think reviewers may miss ing? And how do writers, when using
this when labeling poems as only powerful emotions, avoid being burned
dark or gritty. up in that fire of reflection?
This is a question I dont have an
Youve said weeping or grieving is at But that poem about your sons, Ele- answer to. I mean yes, I use anger, but
the center of Bastards of the Reagan phants in the Fall did you juxtapose it its not as if I channel an emotion as I
Era. Not just your own, but a sort of alongside the elegies as a contrast? write as much as the emotion is there.
broader grieving, for all the lives that Juxtaposed, yes. But not in the way of All of them. Anger, sadness, joy.
have been affected by racism and hope versus lack of hope. More in the Just not being offended, because
incarceration. Through your poetry, are way of my considering fathering, my Bonbon, a character from Paul Beattys
you driven to create a greater aware- own fathering of my sons, as another The Sellout, says that you cant be
ness? layer to this book, which in some ways offended, that all you do when youre
There are these grand ideas that we is just all one poem, one world. offended is sign an Internet petition.
can impose on poetry. Creating greater Also, I read somewhere that all So I dont write when Im offended.
awareness or even naming the thing biography is a lie, or at least that all
we want the book to do. But there is biography is a single telling of a life Is being offended a sort of useless emo-
no way to know. There are times when when there can easily be a thousand tion when it comes to writing?
I have read books, poems, stories that different tellings. The poem for my I dont really know what it means to be
have totally rocked me. That have left sons, its the prologue, in part, to offended. I mean, Im stealing from a
me unmoored. But I dont know if remind me and maybe the reader that character in Paul Beattys latest novel,
there is a collective shudder when we there are always a dozen stories going The Sellout, who has disdain for the
all read this book or this poem. And on at once. Even as the ones that have idea of being offended. In some ways
so greater awareness, I dont know. prominence in Bastards are dark, its semantics.
What I hope to do is be a part of this there are still others and still light in But I do think Bonbon, the charac-
ocean of words that offers people that darkness. ter, or Beatty, is asking us to think
20 | The Writer August 2016
about how to talk about the emotions because in the past, perhaps like you, WHAT I HOPE TO DO
that we feel in a way that begets some Ive heard some successful writers crit- IS BE A PART OF THIS
concrete response, some identifiable icize other writers (writers of fiction or OCEAN OF WORDS
response.And even if it is just seman- categories other than nonfiction), THAT OFFERS PEO-
tics, its me saying I want to write from claiming the work comes off as crusad-
a palpable emotion: rage, sadness, love. ing or pushing a cause as if this is
Gratitude even. And if I do this, I hope wrong somehow.
the reader feels it. Almost like a water I just resist the question. All writing is WITH THEIR RAFT.
for chocolate thing, where you hear advocacy. It really is all about the
the poem and it pushes you to want to things you decide to say. And good
do something: to make love, to fight, to work advocates for what the writer develop a relationship with words that
weep, to run. sees in that poem. But pure advocacy becomes central to your identity as a
has an agenda that can derail writing writer. You have to send poems out
Is there anything writers need to watch because the world is often more com- and write letters to other writers and
out for when balancing prose be it plicated than advocacy allows. do these things, but first you have to
poetry or a novel with advocacy? Maybe that is what people mean really be committed to developing a
Writers need to watch out for bad writ- when they resist writing as advocacy. relationship with words both yours
ing. But this is true no matter what you But really that just means that the and those of others.
are balancing your writing with, writer has to work harder, whether
whether it be love, advocacy or raising poet or novelist. Its difficult but you How did your time in prison shape the
children. Advocacy is a challenge dont escape it by not being political, writer you are today?
because it is not because it might you address it by being good, I think. I imagine prison as any other trau-
pervert writing, any more than love or matic experience, though its not really
sex or hope might pervert writing. The Writer receives letters from people appropriate for me to compare. But I
I guess that question makes me in prison. Can you offer any advice to think about going to war, or having a
weary, because its oft repeated, as if we those that have started a writing life near-death experience. Or becoming a
go to the page as lobotomized crea- while incarcerated? parent. Things that irrevocably change
tures who abandon all the other issues No real advice. Just write. Find out you. Its hard for me to even imagine
in their lives to be writers. No, I think places that publish and try to do that, who I might be as a person, let alone a
all writing has some advocacy in it. All but know that the poem is published writer without prison.
the time. And the question becomes a when its read. And that writing its And maybe I do resent the question,
way not to think of the rich tradition hard to write for bread. So do something because it reminds me of the ways that
of writers writing about things, from else, too, and understand that the some- I am, tragically, beholden to such a
Shakespeare to Whitman to Hayden to thing else will also fuel your writing. profound hardship for what I consider
Baraka. Steinbeck. Faulkner. Jane Aus- And I think, for people in prison, or my greatest gifts. Now Im sure that
ten. Alice Walker. These writers were college, for that matter, publishing people dont consider, say, having a
all political. should be secondary. The great thing child in the same way but I do think
The question is always how to be about writing is that a library offers all it is the same kind of fundamental
good, I think, first. And then the poli- that you need to become competent. change that happens in a person.
tics of the person and the world they Im not sure where vision comes from. And its just hard to imagine what it
create influence the views of the read- I think of great writers as having some would be like without this and its
ers, if they are lucky. One might argue strange vision. And I find myself even hard to imagine how this thing
that most of these writers didnt write answering these questions and wanting has shaped me, in the sense that it has
work that was direct advocacy, but Im to drop names, because, I am become my shadow.
not sure if there is ever work that is reminded that this is how I became How am I changed by my shadow? I
direct advocacy, because art has to be good by reading people who I couldnt really say, except, I guess, to
complicated in a way that advocacy wanted to copy. point out that there are possibilities, of
doesnt. Advocacy has an agenda in a I remember reading Ishmael Reed thought and experience, that have
way that art doesnt. But I do think for the first time. I could not under- transformed me, and I could not imag-
they can co-exist. stand how he could come up with ine who I would be as a writer or a
Mumbo Jumbo. I remember reading man without them.
I agree. But maybe its that inability to Chester Himes for the first time; read-
separate the two that makes it a fre- ing Chimamanda Adichies Half of a Julie Krug is a regular contributor to The
quently asked question. Im asking Yellow Sun. The idea, ultimately, is to Writer. She lives in Washington state.

writermag.com The Writer | 21

PAGE TURNER Author/editor Heidi Pitlor knows how to get inside
a characters and a readers head.

Heidi Pitlor knows short fiction. Whats your writing process like?
She reads hundreds of short stories each year, hunting I usually start with kind of a smudge of an idea. I start with
down the best of the best for The Best American Short Stories almost nothing: A question I want asked, or a feeling, a sort
a line of annuals for which Pitlor has served as series editor of weird conflicted feeling that I have and I want to explore.
since 2007. Shes worked closely with some of the biggest So I think all my books start that way.
names in the industry: Stephen King, Lorrie Moore, Richard And then, as it always does, the book takes on a life of its
Russo, Junot Daz. A different guest editor selects the final own. So it becomes really more about the characters than
lineup every year, but its Pitlor who ultimately steers the ship, that indoor conflict.
separating the true contenders from the rest of the pack. Who So thats sort of how I tend to work. I dont plot anything
better to judge The Writers first short story contest of 2016? out. I dont have an outline, for better or for worse. Ive tried,
Pitlor was a joy to work with throughout the process, but I feel like that kind of hems me in. Im someone that
ultimately selecting Signe Bergstroms The House They works with a lot, a lot, a lot of drafts and changes things dra-
Built as our winner. Youll find the story, along with Pitlors matically as I go. I sort of like to follow my nose a little bit, if
reasons for her selection, on page 26. that makes sense.
But although Pitlor is an avid reader of short fiction, her
writing tastes currently lend themselves toward longer How long did it take you to write both The Birthdays and
endeavors. Shes the author of two novels: The Birthdays The Daylight Marriage?
(2007) and The Daylight Marriage (2015). Before becoming The Birthdays pre-kid took maybe three years. The
series editor of Best American, she worked as an acquisitions Daylight Marriage not a long book took eight or nine
editor for Houghton Mifflin, giving her a uniquely empa- years. And that was for a few reasons. One was that it took
thetic perspective on both writing and editing that stems me a long time to get the story right. I sort of was stuck on
from working on both sides of the process. the wrong road for a long time. But also I had my twins
I spoke to Pitlor about her work both as a novelist and an during that time and I was also working on 100 Years of the
editor for The Best American Short Stories. What follows is Best American Short Stories. So it was just a busy, busy eight
an edited and condensed version of our conversation. or nine years.
22 | The Writer August 2016
How did you juggle all of that? It was very tight; its a very, very tight, lean book. Which I
Not well! Really not well. This is the problem: You think you felt like was right for the story not every story, but I defi-
can impose order on your life as a writer. And you can, if nitely learned how to write a book like that. I learned how
you live on another planet and have no one you love and to let go of whats not immediately connected to the plot.
dont need to work. But most of us have a life and work. So
it just was madness. We were also renovating our house it You said you learned how to write a suspenseful book, and
was just too much going on. you did: The Daylight Marriage is impossible to put down.
So what did I do? It was like a revolving door. I would How did you do that on the page?
have one day where I would work on the annual, one day Id Well, so much of it was when I happened upon the struc-
work on 100 Years and then I would write and I would hear ture. I wanted there to be two different storylines told at two
that Lorrie Moore wanted me to read this story I just felt different paces. So one would cover a day, and one would
like I was constantly reacting. cover months to a year.
I thought that would be really interesting tension. And I
What did you learn from your first book, thought you get a lot of tension by
The Birthdays, and how did that impact keeping things from the reader early
The Daylight Marriage? on I just thought it would be really
Oh gosh, theyre such different but interesting to have this feeling that
similar books. I think I learned how to something bads happened, but not let
write a novel when I wrote The Birth- the reader in on it. I just wanted a slow
days. Theres that funny thing that release of information, in a way.
when you write your first novel, [its I think a big part of it is withhold-
like] youre walking into this big empty ing information, but not too much that
house. So I had my MFA and I was it seems manipulative. Once you get
used to writing stories, which arent your metronome going, and your rate
quite as daunting. I think I learned of information release on the page, the
from The Birthdays how to fill the reader knows what to expect its not
room, how to see a lot of empty space going to feel manipulative.
in one vision. So for me, that meant
creating four different stories, going In both The Birthdays and The Daylight
back and forth, having them play off Marriage, you use several different char-
each other. I learned that I am a writer acters perspectives to tell the story: In
who [seems] to be interested in plot, "I love flawed people. The Birthdays its four siblings, while in
but also in depth, too. So some of the Im a hugely flawed The Daylight Marriage its a husband and
forward motion of The Birthdays was person. As a reader, its wife. What draws you to that, to use mul-
going deeper into the characters always great to read tiple vehicles to tell the story?
minds and lives. messed-up people, I think thats probably a beginners way
I think I learned that its a way because you know of writing a novel, because again theres
harder process to write a novel than that sense of how to fill a big house. And
anyone thinks. When you think youre
youre not alone." one way to do it is to give it a lot of peo-
done, youre nowhere near done. I ple. So the stories dont need to be quite
learned how many revisions a novel takes. That was a real as big if there are many stories, or if there are many people.
surprise to me. My third book that Im writing has one character. Its
Tatiana Akhmetgalieva/Shutterstock; Photo by Aynsley Floyd

With The Daylight Marriage, I probably learned a little very scary to me, because it feels like Oh, God, now I have
bit more how to create momentum its always been really to give her way more action! I think a big part of writing a
important to me to write something that will keep the novel that moves and that turns pages is, well, writing a
reader turning pages and keep the reader interested. And I novel that moves and turns pages. Youre always going to hit
learned to write a book that hopefully does that. that saggy second act. And one way to avoid that is to have
One big thing I learned how to do was how to write a alternating viewpoints. When you hit a wall with one, you
short novel. I didnt set out to. It was a much longer book switch to another at least in early drafts. There is energy
initially. So much got trimmed away. And it really made me just in the movement between characters.
look at writing differently. Now when I read a very long And Ive always liked this idea that the truth comes out
novel, I just feel like peeling away so much. Its just in the of many perspectives, not just one. You get a different story
aftermath of writing The Daylight Marriage. You just see when you ask four people to tell it than when you ask one
things through this lens for a while. person. And I always think its interesting to look at the little
writermag.com The Writer | 23
delusions and white lies that people You said youre a writer who goes As an editor, do you think you have more
tell, and what that says about them, but through many drafts. What does your empathy for writers now?
also what it says about the other char- revision process look like? Yes! Absolutely, I do. I feel enormous
acter. I think there can be a lot of Its just torturous. I try to write the first empathy for them. It is such a hard
energy to that. draft very quickly. I dont write the thing to write a book. It is incredibly
end. I dont write the last quarter. So I hard. And its a solitary, isolated thing
I find your characters so human. They write my draft. And then my next to do. And writers need every ounce of
have definite flaws, but theyre com- draft is usually cleaning it up and see- support they can get. So I feel like Ive
plex. And a character doesnt have to be ing whats there: What do we have come to feel way more empathetic for
likeable, but I think all of yours are. here? And then I sort of alternate the process. I have way more writer
How do you walk that line as a writer, really digging in revision changing friends now than I used to have, and
between making a character flawed but things dramatically, cutting scenes, their support is everything. It really is.
still sympathetic? adding characters with lighter revi-
Its this funny headspace you get in, sion, cleaning up language and making Because it is so difficult, and its such a
where youre acting, really You liter- things sing a little more. I find it really long process.
ally pretend you are this person, and hard to do both at the same time. Yep. Exactly. And those people who are
you go about your life as if you are this there for you, those other writers
person. And so, when people will ask they make you survive. I feel like I
me, Did you like this character?, I havent been on the other side of that
dont know. Because Im so far inside "Thats probably what as an editor. I think I was a pretty
them, I cant judge them at all. Youre draws me to fiction: empathetic editor, but it just makes you
behaving as if you are this person. realize I mean, now that Ive been on
It feels like the most
I think in every character I write, a long book tour, I feel like, Ah, now I
theres a little piece of me. And theyre
elastic place to get it. When youre in publishing and
all interesting to me, enough that I explore people." someone complains about a book tour,
would write a book about them Its you just roll your eyes. You want to
exciting to imagine being different give them the finger. Its like, Oh, poor
people, I think. I love flawed people. you. But there are some trying things
Im a hugely flawed person. As a How many drafts do you go through in about it, and it can be really hard in
reader, its always great to read total? some ways. And so I feel more empa-
messed-up people, because you know Fifty. thetic to that than I used to, I think.
youre not alone. But its the same
thing as a writer, to sort of get in the Wow. Whats your best advice for writers on
heads of other people and try to I know. And its not like Im the great- working with editors?
understand people that are really dif- est writer in the world, so I probably I think to be open to everything. A
ferent from you. Its sort of a lovely shouldnt admit that. But a lot of those good writer needs to be edited. Even if
thing, I think. are tweaking things here and there, the sort of advice does not hit you
proofreading I consider every time I squarely in the right way, theres usually
Is that what draws you to fiction as start from the beginning and go some kernel of something thats usable
opposed to nonfiction? through to the end a draft. from what theyre saying. I mean, an
Oh yeah, I think so. Im just really fas- So in terms of actual rewrite revi- editor is your boss, and you have to lis-
cinated by people. And I think thats sions, 20 maybe. ten to them. And that doesnt mean in a
probably what draws me to fiction: It kneejerk way go and do exactly what
feels like the most elastic place to How do you think being an editor has they say in exactly the same way but
explore people. And probably the most influenced your writing? oftentimes there is an idea in there that
forgiving place. If you got that wrong Well, I think it makes me a lot more really does make sense. And so to take
about the character, well, its fiction, self-critical. I never feel done with any- what theyre saying and make it your
you know? Or its more about consis- thing. Even when I pick up a finished own and try to implement it, I think
tency than right or wrong: Its all sub- book, I want to edit it. [that] is the ideal relationship between

jectivity, which is really interesting to I really envy those writers who are an editor and a writer.
me. I love reading all other forms, but I like This is done, and Im proud of it,
seem the most comfortable writing fic- because I never have that feeling. Im Youve worked for Houghton Mifflin as
tion for that reason: my absolute end- just a constant picker. I always want to an acquisition editor, but The Daylight
less fascination with people. sort of nit-pick things. Marriage was published by Algonquin.

24 | The Writer August 2016

What do you think larger publishing Trump. But it has to feel gripping to write with
companies offer that small ones cant, me in a sense. You know, a lot of what energy. I think
and vice versa? I read feels not urgent enough. Or energy is one of
Well I think the obvious thing is that entertaining enough. Those are the those things we
larger companies offer higher advances. two big things, I think: You want to dont talk about
And the status that comes with a bigger keep the [reader] engaged, and the enough, and its
name, which is not nothing. best way to do that is to either enter- so important
Algonquins a smaller house, and tain them or inform them. And those for the reader.
theyve been absolutely, amazingly things are rare. You can feel a
wonderful. They offer more attention, I really like stories that feel new writers energy
more handholding, more energy. I and weird in some way. Just the feel- on the page. Download the digital
think they have a much smaller list, so ing of relevance [is important], too. edition of The Writer to
read an excerpt from
theyre selling fewer books [and] Ive seen a lot of stories about war, So how do you try
The Daylight
theyre going to put more into each which I think is good, and important. to do that in your Marriage.
book. And you can end up tailoring I always would like to see more stories own writing? How
your marketing a little more thought- about class. I think thats a big issue do you try to incorpo-
fully and mindfully. Theyre such that gets skirted over. I would love to rate that energy?
vastly different experiences, so its see more stories about race in Amer- There are a few different ways. One is
really tricky. And Im not sure I ica. The racially diverse stories I read to sort of crank out that first draft
mean, there really are pros and cons to tend to be set in other countries, quickly, so that even if its bad, youre
both. And if we were all so lucky to be which is not to take away from them writing it quickly and youre getting
able to choose whos going to publish at all, but theres not enough stories something down. And also to go to
our books ... about present-day race, I think. Class those moments that are the most inter-
Theres a case to be made for all dif- and race. esting to you. Like, OK, [your main
ferent kinds of houses. I think people characters are] this quirky family and
should really stay open to smaller On the flip side, whats one short fiction they need to go food shopping. You
presses. There are some small houses clich or trend that you never want to maybe dont need to drive them to the
that are some of the best houses out see again? food store. Cut and get them into the
there these days. Gray Wolf is doing You know, its funny because I cant say food store. Cut to the most interesting,
amazing things. And theyre able to theres a trend its all in the writing. So flawed [part] where the broken
take more risks, and I think they can you can say, Im sick of this storyline, freezer is, and whats that weird object
really get behind books in ways bigger but then in the hands of a good writer, in the freezer? Skip the bridges that
houses dont often do. you dont even know its that storyline. dont need to be there.
There are a lot of storylines I see, but And, especially in a short story,
You read so many short stories for your they read completely differently every moment matters. Get to those
day job with Best American Short Sto- depending on whose hands theyre in. moments where theres something that
ries. What do you want to see more of in Trying to think if theres something shouldnt be there, but is. Or theres
short fiction? I bristle at A common story I read a some person having a strange thought.
Humor. Topicality. In this years for- lot is like New Couple Traveling. But Get there quickly.
ward the one thats going to come again, in the hands of a good writer, I
out this year I talk a lot about our would read that willingly. I used to What advice do you have for aspiring
attention spans, and how busy every- really bristle at second person, but writers?
thing is in the world right now, and now its just all about the writer. It Ill try not to give a cookie cutter
how much is compelling us in our day- really is. Its all about: Is the writing answer, like, read a lot. But also to
to-day life. Not just in terms of social good enough? write what interests you, not what you
media, but we have a pretty big-deal think should interest you.
election going on, theres major issues So there are no rules, really. Write well. Because theres so much that we feel
around global warming, theres terror- Have something to say. like we should do. And you get into
ism short stories have to compete Exactly. Write well. I know, its so not real trouble as a writer when youre
with things like this. So I want to feel useful. writing what you should be writing.
like theres an urgency to the writing. Not what you want to be writing.
And that I need to read this story. And Its something thats so simple, but its so
it doesnt mean it has to be about hard to find. Nicki Porter is the senior editor of The Writer
global warming, terrorism, Donald It is! I think it is. And also, I think, magazine.

writermag.com The Writer | 25

I finished reading The House
They Built late on a Wednesday
evening. As soon as I finished the
last paragraph, I said, intensely,
quietly, Yes. Here was a winner.
Here was a story that left me a lit-
tle melancholy, a little shattered.
Here was a $1,000-story. Here HOUSE
was a story that broke my heart.
It wasnt for me to decide,
however. I sent off our list of
around 10 finalists without com-
ment to our guest judge, Heidi Pit-
lor. Days later, the verdict was in:
She had agreed. The House They
Built was our winner.
The story is a painful and wist-
ful one: A dead child, a grieving
father, a breaking marriage, an
abandoned tree house. Bergstrom By Signe Bergstrom
shows a tremendous amount of

restraint in the telling, gently
shepherding the reader from the
t was an early autumnal morning the day Randolph decided
first paragraph all the way to the Three Trees had to go. A Saturday, Juliette was volunteering at
final, lingering ending. Langone Medical Center in Manhattan. He didnt know how
Heres what Pitlor had to say she did it, returning to the same floor week after week to
about The House They Built: work with Sebastians friends, each kid as bedridden as Seba had
I tend to prefer short stories been, some with multi-colored wires splayed from their skulls and
that drop the reader right into the concealed, barely, with gauzy wraps, thin and soft. It was akin,
central conflict. In its first sen- Randolph thought, to returning to the scene of a crime. How could
tence, The House They Built she smile and bring coffee and donuts and garden lilies to the same
does just this. The overt and lovely doctors who had failed their son? It was mind-boggling.
symbolism of the structure called
Three Trees resonated with me,
as did the small, elegant narrative
arc of the story, which is just a
moment, really, if a pivotal one. So
much has happened before this
moment and so much will happen
afterward, but the story is richer
for its restraint, more dramatic for
its withholding of drama. I was
moved by the gentle use of Sebas
voice, hardly there and easy to
miss on a quick read. I think this
writer shows empathy, grace and
a real understanding of how to uti-
lize restraint to evoke strong emo-
tion in the reader.
We hope you enjoy this win-
olies/Shutterstock; Elenamiv/Shutterstock

ning story as well as our second-

and third-place winners, which
were selected by our reading
panel and can be found at writer-
mag.com. Our next contest starts
July 1; for more details, visit
writermag.com/contests. Who
knows? You may end up in the
pages of our next issue.
Randolph stood naked in his study, Randolph slung on a pair of cargo dream matter still clouding his sense
coffee mug in hand. No denying he pants and a faded T-shirt. He walked of logic.
had lost weight. His hipbones jutted to the window. Outside, the trees Looking at it now, Three Trees
out at painful angles. His pallor was a leaves were beginning to thin out and appeared to Randolph as a wooden
greasy yellow similar to a waxed string- droop. The beech leaves shimmered ship impossibly flung into the sky, for-
bean. He looked like a waxed string- like slivers of parchment paper. The ever moored in a thicket of tangled
bean, gaunt and thin, irregularly skinny tree Randolph didnt know the branches. He tried to ignore the hand-
hunched. His sister had been brave name of, the one perched on an out- drawn flag that hung from its front
enough to speak up when Juliette had cropping of shale at the far end of the end the bow as it were. Seba had
kept silent. Juliette rarely touched him property, burned a surreal shade of done the lettering himself Three
now. The space between their sleeping pink. Through the exposed patches of Trees scrawled in a childs uncertain
bodies edged ever wider. sky, Randolph made out the stark geo- hand and Juliette had cut and sewn
Randy, its been a year, his sister metric lines of the power cables that the weather-proof fabric. Seba had
had said, nudging the bread basket criss-crossed the horizon. coined the name in the literal sense:
toward him. Cmon, eat. They were at There was no avoiding it: Three The tree house was stilted upon the
that god-awful Italian restaurant on the Trees was dead center. Standing, the intersection of a single red oak tree
south side of Brooklyns Gowanus. Ran- tree house was the focal point of Ran- that morphed into three distinct sub-
dolph dutifully pushed a piece of the dolphs sight line. His worktable was sections. Randolph and Juliette pre-
sourdough roll back and forth inside positioned in the corner of the study, ferred to apply a more poetic meaning:
his mouth until he could swallow the so whenever he leaned back in his They were three who had become one.
mass whole. It seemed he could trace chair, he caught a glimpse of it. That When they had purchased the West-
its trajectory down his esophagus and panoptical feature was originally by chester home, a fixer-upper whose real
then farther, deep inside his bowels, design: Randolph could watch Seba value lay in its undisturbed acre-and-a-
where it then sat unmovable for days. from a distance, the little boy never half of forested land, Cal, Randolphs
Never mind the gnocchi. suspecting his fathers keen eye. It was father, showed up two months later.
amazing, Randolph thought, that he The tree house had been Cals idea. It
had looked at the tree house every day came to him, he said, on the airplane
for years and hadnt seen it clearly while flying over Colorado. He had
until today. He felt as if he were wak- been thinking of a trip he had taken
ing from a long, heavy sleep, the there years earlier when he had slept in
a tree house nested high in the Rocky
Mountains. At dawns first light, he had
had a birds eye view of a herd of deer
as they woke, one by one, from a
meadow dotted through with wild-
flowers and tall switchgrass. It was as if
the herd had materialized from the
morning fog, their sleek forms taking
shape against a hazy silhouette of
golden light.
Every boy needs a tree house, same
as he needs a dog, Cal had said, defini-
tively, as if arguing the point. He had
thrown his carry-on luggage in the
back of the Subaru like a man 20 years
his junior.
I didnt have a tree house, Ran-
dolph had pointed out.
No, but you had a dog ... and well
build this one together.
Juliette, in her good-natured,
enthusiastic way, had chanted, Tree
house, tree house, tree house! from
the back seat.
writermag.com The Writer | 27
Why does a tree need a house? worse, stubbed into the soil, a tree
Seba had asked. root recoiling into itself under-
Everyone needs a place to hang ground. Randolph sighed and, trying
their hat, Cal had said, even trees, to ward off claustrophobia, vigorously
and laughed along with Juliette. shook his head. Barkley, their dog,
Seba, looking out the window, imag- pawed at the screen door, scratching
ined a forest of trees dressed in top hats to get outside. The Basset cocked his
and long-waisted dinner jackets. head and stared at Randolph with
Randolph worked his way through sad, mucusy eyes, his long ears
the house and to the outdoor shed. He sweeping the kitchen tile, but Ran-
contemplated phoning his father to dolph still said, No.
confess what he was about to do. Then Randolph followed the stone path
he thought the better of it. Cal would to the shed. He unhinged its doors and tree house. He clasped each ladder
see the demolition as an act of a cascade of crickets leapt from its rung with a fierceness that took him
betrayal, not toward the memory of darkness. Inside, the shed was cool and by surprise. He hadnt felt so deter-
Sebastian or to Juliette, but to him. bore a heavy, earthy smell. Randolph mined since Sebas final prognosis. He
Randolph knew that Cal thought the grabbed the hammer and crowbar, was confident then to the point of
tree house redeemed every failure he pausing to note Sebastians collection being cocky of course he would find
had made as a father and that it dou- of acorns that lined a shelf on the far the best medical treatment and doc-
bly qualified him as a bona fide good wall. They had been a revelation for tors, of course money was no object,
grandfather. When the lumberyard the boy. He had used their caps to dig of course he understood the risks
had delivered the railroad tie that he miniature-sized holes around the implicit in surgery. He had signed the
and Cal had sunk into cement as a property. He had buried handfuls waiver without reading it. The sur-
supporting leg, Randolph had carried whole, willing families of oak trees into geon later told him that he had not, in
one end of the heavy piece of wood existence. The acorns were soldiers his 30 years of practice, met an indi-
and his father had taken the other. and bombs both, used for fighting vidual who had ever read the fine
They hoisted the rail onto their shoul- unpredictable, roaming foes imaginary print as if this detail somehow exoner-
ders and silently traversed the uneven, and real, squirrels especially. Randolph ated both parties for the botched
rocky pathway with a muscled grace pocketed an acorn and, as he did, experiment, Sebas body curled and
Randolph understood was genetic but Sebas voice surfaced from the dark- wilted, no longer that of a spirited
had no idea he actually possessed. It ness. It was always the same: I want to 7-year-old boy.
was the closest he had felt to his father go home. The tree house was taller than Ran-
in years. Go to sleep, Seba, Randolph said dolph had remembered. He ran his
But Three Trees was no more. It was aloud. It was a trick Randolphs thera- palm along the tree trunk itself, half
a shell, just a bunch of sticks propped pist had taught him. Sebas voice disap- expecting to feel a heartbeart. The
together and nailed into shape. peared, and Randolph instantly felt as leaves hadnt yet fallen from the mas-
The ground, soft underfoot, was if he had scolded his son for something sive oak. There existed above him a
still damp from the previous nights he hadnt done. Im sorry, he said, canopy of green visible from the
rain. Randolphs boots sunk into the waiting, but Sebas voice didnt return. uncovered half of the tree house plat-
clay-colored soil. Sunlight pierced Im sorry, he said again, but this time form. The tips of the leaves looked as if
through the cloud coverage. Twenty with more force. dipped in bronze. It wouldnt take
years a New Yorker, and Randolph Randolph planned to break down much, he realized, to break apart the
still hadnt gotten used to the East the tree house the same way he and house. Demolition was a 45-minute
Coast humidity. He preferred a dry Cal had built it: board by board. He job. Building the thing had taken three
heat. The humidity con- grabbed the hammer and crowbar. months of planning and fixing, read-
tracted everything. Even They felt like weapons in his hands, justing. He wanted the demolition to
now, standing out- blunt instruments wielded to do be done by the time Juliette came
side, Randolph blunt, unspeakable things. He left the home from the hospital. He promised
felt that the cor- shed door open behind him. The himself, once the tree house was down,
ners of the world crickets quickly returned to its shad- he would return to her. He would be

were collapsing in ows, the vibrato hum of their legs better. He would eat again, real food.
on him. He would building to a low chorus that pricked He would cook. Filet mignon. Red
soon be pinned to Randolphs ears. wine. Salmon in butter sauce.
the ground or, Randolph climbed the ladder to the The first plank fell to the ground
28 | The Writer August 2016
with a heavy, creaking sound, startling INTERVIEW Q&A:
what Randolph assumed were rac- Signe Bergstrom on The House They Built
coons in the bramble adjacent to the
tree house. The second plank gave way
as easily as the first. There was the What inspired you to write The House They Built?
rustling again of animal movement. I thought a lot about the word break and the notion that men-
He saw what appeared to be the wisp tal and/or emotional change often manifests itself in physical
of a tail, large and black, as it surfaced form. We break something because we ourselves are already
the undergrowth nearby and then broken. In this story, Randolph destroys the tree house in
quickly disappeared. Randolph pried an attempt to both process the grief and pain hes in and, in
the nails off the roof until he could part, to regain a sense of control and mastery over it.
easily lift the plywood with both
hands. With one strong, swift move- What was your writing process like while crafting it?
ment, he hefted the roof upwards and What about your revision process?
then let it fall. It slid from its angled I typically spend a lot of time days swimming
perch and collapsed into a heap below, around inside my head. Once Ive figured out the puzzle
the wood scissoring. Randolph inside my mind, the story tends to come quickly. For bet-
exhaled. The plume of his breath ter or for worse, I write fairly clean. A first draft takes me
brushed against his chest like a feather longer than the average writer, but when I finish it, my revi-
falling from the sky. sions are fairly minimal.
The bramble shook as if alive. A I always read my stories out loud. Not only do I enjoy this
turkey vulture, its wings massive and part of the process but it also helps me line edit on the spot
inky black, showed itself. It took to the and finesse the overall flow. You can hear the pauses the
sky and circled high above Randolph moments of quiet revelation. This is the first story Ive
before swooping back down, a dark read aloud to my fianc, and he and I went back line
shadow descending. It had in its by line to hone, sometimes word by word. In a
mouth some kind of small animal, the sense, this story was the house we built.
exposed meat quivering and glistening
in the August sun. The carrion landed What was the hardest part of writing this story?
high in one of the branches where It was a bit frustrating I had the story mapped
Randolph stood. In the distance, Ran- out in my head but needed to steal away moments to
dolph saw Barkley through the win- write it. I typically like to write for long periods of time
dow of his study. The dog, raised on its during one sitting. This story, however, was claimed in bits
hind legs, barked and howled in the a section at the breakfast table, a section before my son
empty home. Randolph withdrew the woke, a section on the subway.
acorn from his pocket and took aim at
the birds blood-red skull. He threw it The ending to this story is so beautifully open how long did it take
and was amazed to find that he hit his you to find it, and when did you know it had landed just right?
target. The bird took flight, soaring on Thank you. I didnt know what the ending would be per se.
an air current unknown to Randolph (I like to keep parts of the writing process a secret even
and toward the blue expanse of the from myself. Otherwise, I get bored.) I knew that once I
Hudson River. got Randolph into the tree house, Id find it. It would greet
Randolph threw the hammer and me . . . and it did. The last three paragraphs arrived fully
crowbar to the ground. Somewhere in formed, more or less.
the distance, a deer rose and turned I liked the idea of the house falling apart, Randolphs exhale,
its head but Randolph didnt see it, and the sense of uncertainty because, well, isnt that life? We
and all he heard was the quiet rumble dont know what Juliettes reaction will be, and its very possible
of the approaching Subaru as it that taking apart the tree house wont bring about the change Ran-
rounded the steep curve in the road dolph so desperately needs and wants. After all, the turkey vulture still
that led home. carries away its catch; the innocent is prey. Its up to Randolph and
Juliette to rebuild their home, to find foundation again, even at risk of
Signe Bergstrom lives in Croton-on-Hudson, tremendous loss and personal pain.
NY, with her son and fianc. She is currently at
work on Watershed, a collection of short stories.

writermag.com The Writer | 29

When historical fiction
meets the short story.

he idea, I suppose, first came to me 13
years ago, as I was driving across the
country, touring for my first book a
set of linked short stories that my pub-
lisher presented as a novel. I was moving
through Texas, nearly a thousand miles of
pavement churning beneath the wheels of
my rental car, when I began to process the
lessons of a 36-city book tour. My book, The
Australia Stories, was based in part on my
own life. Id lived in Australia. While there Id
fallen in love with a girl, the Australian cul-
ture and their laidback way of viewing life. It
was, more than anything else, a book about
me, a taffy-pull of personal experience
stretched out into fiction. Somewhere
around San Antonio, where the I-10 began
to cut north, I had the notion that, for my
next book my next set of books, really I
wanted the fiction to be based in history. In
short, I wanted my next efforts to have the
appeal of both fiction and nonfiction.
By then I was aware of a softly growing trend in literary many things about research, about art, about the desire to
short fiction, authors who were taking on historical research employ fiction in such a way that readers have the lovely
for short stories. Research had always been a component of sense that they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with great
historical novels. In Ragtime, the author E.L. Doctorow pre- screen artists of the past.
sented so vivid a picture of pre-WWI New York that some The finished stories, which are a book-length collection
reviewers referred to it as documentary fiction. In Mem- Ive just turned in to my literary agent, have individually
oirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden presented the first-person started to appear in journals. Heres what Ive learned from
account of a young woman living in midcentury Kyoto with a decade of trying to write historical short stories: my eight
such authority many reviewers wondered how a male rules of historical fiction.
American writer could so effectively cross gender and cul-
tural divides. Works such as these not only required a tre- Small details matter more than large ones.
mendous level of narrative skill but also significant research The art of fiction is, in large part, the art of
abilities. By 2003, a small group of literary writers were con- small-scale illusions. When I first lowered
sciously trying to incorporate elements of the research- myself, by those soft ropes of early ambition,
based historical novel into the short story. down into my project, I believed that I would largely need
At the forefront of this movement was Andrea Barrett, to know how the mechanics of animation worked in the
author of the collection Ship Fever that presented stories 1940s and 1950s, the tasks of an inbetweener or an inker.
largely set in the 18th and 19th centuries. The title effort in Though this information was useful, it also wasnt the
this collection relates the experience of Lauchlin Grant, a dreamy material out of which compelling stories are con-
Canadian doctor who ministers to Irish immigrants structed. Far more important were the small details: the
afflicted with typhus during the great famine of the 1840s. weight of a pencil in an animators hand when held the right
The New York Times praised the collection for its consider- way, how images ghost up through a stack of drawings
able research and stated that its overall effect is quietly when pegged onto a lightboard, the sound a moviola makes
dazzling. Later that year, the book won the 1996 National when a reel of new film stutters across its screen. It was
Book Award for Fiction, beating out such luminaries as Ste- those observations the small daily details that I most
ven Millhauser and Ron Hansen. From there, a small liter- needed to build a believable historical setting inside fiction.
ary movement was started.
Barrett was soon joined by other writers who consciously Period characters require more than
mixed heavy long-form research with the concision and period clothes.
directness of a short story. Jim Shepard, a writer primarily Similarly, just as the exterior world requires
known for his short fiction, produced a series of research- research to establish believable, small details,
inspired stories, the best-known of which is Love and the interior world of a character requires research as well.
Hydrogen. Anthologized in The Best American Short Stories Good historical stories promise to not only transport read-
2002 and later the title story in one of Shepards collections, ers to a historical setting but to reveal the interior life (the
Love and Hydrogen presents a love story between two mind, heart and aspirations) of a character. For me, some
crewmembers of the Hindenburg on its final, tragic voyage, of the large questions here had to do with interior percep-
the narrative drama unfolding amidst a historically accurate tions: How did men and women in the 1940s think about
and realistic setting. Ethan Rutherford published The Peri- romance? How were their professional desires different
patetic Coffin and Other Stories, with its title effort a fic- than for artists today? What language might they use in
tional retelling of the Confederate soldiers who pilot the their thought life? The answers, in large part, came from
first military submarine, the H.L. Hunley, during the Civil personal writing: letters and diaries.
War. Ron Rash set his lead story in the collection Something Yes, it might be awkward to ask a living person to borrow
Rich and Strange during the Great Depression. From these his or her diary. But many people particularly those who
have achieved some modicum of career fame often leave
LiliGraphie/Shutterstock; Hannamariah/Shutterstock

stories and many others literary fiction had taken on

new depths, creating a brand-new sub-genre: the deeply their letters and diaries to university archives and special
researched historical short story. collections; such archives are generally open to the public.

With the help of friends and the Internet, I was able to
find letter or diary collections from about 10 artists working
in animation in the 1940s and 1950s. More than any other
EIGHT RULES source, these documents presented the thought language
Setting out to write my own historical short fiction in the and inner aspirations of the men and women who worked
years following my rental-car revelation, I wrote a series of for animation studios. Though none of these individuals
short stories set at Hollywood studios as the Golden Age of became a character in my stories, collectively, their writing
animation came to an end. Along the way, Ive discovered helped me understand how the inner life of an artist
writermag.com The Writer | 31
working in the middle of the 20th century is different than period. This helped me to understand the visual and cul-
that of an artist today. tural nuances of the era: bicarbonate with soda, a popular
cure for a hangover; red caps, train porters with crimson
Use common names, not technical ones. caps, easily spotted to help with luggage; the DuMont net-
America is a cinematic culture. As a people, work, an early TV network soon put out of business by
we are familiar with the conventions of film, NBC and CBS. As I read, as I viewed, I made copious notes
perhaps more so than those of fiction. For a about the details of mid-century American life, with each
film, an audience is largely a collective witness to events that noted detail attached to a specific year.
unfold on the screen. But in fiction, readers enter the world,
almost always, through the perceptions of a central character Find experts.
(or perhaps a small group of characters). With this, fiction is As a writer and an English professor, I am
the more intimate art, the one in which the perceptions of an an introvert by nature. Im most comfortable
individual character are the means by which readers engage at my laptop or reclining in a club chair, book
the narrative world. To deepen this connection between the in hand, dog resting at my feet. So my first attempts to
reader and the protagonist, it is almost always helpful for the understand the techniques of animation were through
narrative prose to present the common books not a bad start, but also one
names not the technical ones for ele- that didnt yield the best results. I started
ments in the story. For example, anima- with field overview texts, which were
tors in the 1940s would never call a History is the context informative, but not the best place to
studio screening room a screening room, out of which fiction find an intimate understanding of an
they would call it a sweatbox, as that was animation studio. Next, I found stacks
where animators sweated as their work grows. Fiction is the of published interviews with early fea-
was reviewed on screen. Likewise, anima- examination of the ture animators. These especially as
tors at least on the Disney lot would they were cast in the voice of animators
never call the Ink & Paint Department human heart as indi- were much more useful. If pushed, I
the Ink & Paint Department: they would vidual characters move likely couldve crafted stories set in a
call it the Nunnery, as it was primarily production studio just based on these
staffed with women. These insider through scenes that test interviews alone. But by far the most
terms not only help solidify a strong or perhaps change useful resource was people experts I
reader connection with the perspective of could call whenever I had a question.
the protagonist, they also suggest that the their souls. Though Id read a textbook on effects
fiction is offering a rare and authentic animation in the 1950s, I didnt truly
glimpse into a foreign world, one incased understand the nuances of the field
in the past. until I spent a day with Dorse Lanpher, an effects animator
who worked at the studios in the 1950s. Again, I was lucky,
Immerse yourself in the culture. because I was able to meet men and women who lived in
To write historical fiction of any kind short my chosen era. But even if I was writing about ship build-
stories or not you need to be able to close ing in the 1850s or Colonial American life, I suspect mak-
your eyes and have the past blaze up around you. ing contact with subject experts would be the best way to
When I first started writing in a historical mode, I didnt quickly understand the nuances of a historic culture.
understand the large investment it would take to inhabit the
past. I started with Sears catalogs from the 1940s and 1950s, Balance details and drama.
as well as a book about American culture during WWII. It Hemingway once compared a successful
soon became apparent that these resources were utterly story to an iceberg: The visual peaks of an
inadequate to help me inhabit, with a storytellers precision, iceberg are supported by a much larger struc-
an era that ended decades ago. The basic question aspiring ture beneath the surface, much in the same way that the
historical writers need to ask is this: What documents of the details in the text are supported by a vast amount of research
era exist to demonstrate daily life in a chosen time period? and knowledge that remains, largely, invisible to the reader.
Note: I said of the era, meaning created during the era. In This, I believe, is particularly true for the writer of historical
ways, I had a little bit of luck fall my way. My chosen time fiction. At least 90 percent maybe even 95 percent of
period was a filmic one, also one in which publishing what Ive learned about California and studio culture in the
houses produced endless books. For about two years, I 1940s and 1950s never shows up in my fiction. But that
restricted most of my visual media to films of the 1940s and information was essential for me to confidently create char-
1950s, as well as most of my reading to books of the same acters that occupied a time before I was born.
32 | The Writer August 2016
One skill of historical fiction, then, is knowing which Meinert and Gnss are out on the gangway ladder down
details to include, observations that will evoke time and to the starboard #1 engine car. Theyre helping out the
place without slowing down the reader. A good set of machinists, in a pinch. Gnss is afraid of heights, which
details, such as She emerged from a Fourth Avenue cab in a amuses everyone. Its an open aluminum ladder with a
pillbox hat and a hemline that nearly exposed her knees, single handrail extending eighteen feet down into the cars
can set a scene far better than a long list of weaker details. hatchway. Theyre at 2,000 feet. The clouds below stand by
Likewise, a line of dialogue, like Hows it going, pally?, and dissipate. Its early in a mild May in 1937.
says big city America in 1945 as clearly as Whats the rub,
buddy? says that same location 10 years later. Like most writers, Shepard knows that a short story
needs to focus in on character, plot and conflict early in its
Historical facts are not the storyline. development, likely on the first page even when a writer is
Initially, I tried to make stories about histori- also enamored by his or her research.
cal narratives. This is something that, having
written previous books of fiction, I shouldve
known would be, at least for me, a disaster. History, I soon
learned, was the backdrop for drama or perhaps the inten- Historical fiction never comes quickly. Often its a labor
sifier of drama but it is not the drama itself. For example, of love. For me it was an opportunity to build a personal
in one of my early stories, set during the animation strike of time machine, to sink myself down into a world Id always
1941, I initially wanted to place the historical record as the wanted to inhabit. I first had the idea to write these stories
centerpiece event in the narrative the battles between in 2003. At that time I thought that, with work, I could fin-
management and labor, the stump speeches for the press as ish them in a couple years, maybe three. Though I started
picketing exploded outside studio gates. Yet that wasnt a writing in 2004, my early efforts were all junk, mostly
story that would ultimately satisfy readers, largely because it because I hadnt done enough research to write with confi-
didnt yet have a character driven by desire, held back by dence about my subject. In 2005, to better teach myself
fear. The story that eventually emerged from this research about this world, I decided that I would write some nonfic-
was that of a young father, a man who once wanted to be a tion articles about the history of animation, articles that
fine artist, who sought work in commercial animation to eventually gave rise to one nonfiction book, with a second
provide for his wife and son, a man whose troubles deep- on the way. Five years later, I finally had enough informa-
ened when fellow animators bullied him into participating tion to write the stories I wanted to write.
in a long strike. During these years, I wasnt idle as a writer: I published
History is the context out of which fiction grows. Fiction another book of fiction; I published three textbooks; I
is the examination of the human heart as individual charac- edited a few anthologies. I always think its a good idea for
ters move through scenes that test or perhaps change writers to keep busy. But I knew this: I wanted my anima-
their souls. History is just the backdrop. tion stories to ring true, both in their historical and charac-
ter details. Each time I browsed through our local Barnes &
Dont let research overwhelm the story. Noble, I was reminded of the thousands and thousands of
Though a 300-page novel has the luxury of books that existed in the world; I wanted my books, even if
easing into the drama, Steinbeck-style, with they took years to complete, to distinguish themselves as
a lengthy description of place, short stories among the best. This seemed particularly important in less-
need to find ways to establish setting quickly, often on the popular and more artful genres, such as the short story.
same page that they introduce character and conflict. The meticulously researched short story is a relatively
Jim Shepards master story, Love and Hydrogen, for new form, a growing trend. Often, authors see their efforts
example, offers one brief paragraph to establish the histori- in this field as a large gesture toward art, one that occasion-
cal period and the setting: ally involves spectacle a means by which they say: I will
take you, my audience, to a miraculous world, but to do
Imagine five or six city blocks could lift, with a bump, and this, you will need to agree to my terms, that the drama will
float away. The impression of the 804-foot-long Hinden- be tied to sentences, that characters will be defined in words
burg gives on the ground is that of an airship built by and the wonders will exist in the traditional way, with short
giants and excessive even to their purposes. The fabric hull stories that muscle across the page.
and mainframe curve upward sixteen stories high.
Todd James Pierce is the author of a half dozen books, most recently
After this, the story is on to character development, Three Years in Wonderland. His short story collection, Newsworld, won
immediately introducing the two lovers: the 2006 Drue Heinz Literature Prize, and he is the co-author of Behind
the Short Story, a creative writing textbook. Web: toddjamespierce.com

writermag.com The Writer | 33


Grant some kindness

Grant writing offers significant altruistic and financial rewards.

ant to use your writ- development and evaluation. Thats Step 3: Write your first proposal.
ing skills to change not to say your writing skills wont Yes, its perfectly OK to apply for a
the world? Consider count for anything. The old days of grant for one of your own writing proj-
grant writing. presenting just the facts have given ects to break into the field. A free
Instead of filling corporate pockets, way to new appreciation of storytelling weekly newsletter for subscribers called
youll be helping nonprofit organiza- in grant writing. Your clean, crisp and Funds for Writers (fundsforwriters.com)
tions get the money they need for wor- careful prose will separate your work will give you a wealth of leads at the
thy projects like food pantries and from the rambling proposals that put click of a mouse. In addition, look into
youth programs. If youre lucky, youll funders to sleep and/or the sloppy, funding from your local arts council
even find clients wholl give you repeat rushed jobs. and state arts commission as well as
business so youre not always hustling grants from artist-in-residence pro-
for work. Step 2: Take a class. grams, professional associations and
Grant writing can be lucrative, but Whatever your learning preferences, educational institutions. Peruse their
a writer must be prepared for hefty youll find a wealth of classes and websites to find helpful information
competition in the field. Youll be resources at your disposal. The Foun- such as past grant recipients and
competing with staff fundraisers and dation Center offers a variety of free awarded amounts.
experienced consultants for a piece of online courses such as Introduction to Chris Rohmann got into proposal
that grant-writing pie. Heres a step- Finding Grants and Introduction to writing after applying for a grant for
by-step guide on how to carve out a Proposal Writing. Community colleges one of his own book projects. A long-
niche for yourself in this market. also tout classes and/or certificate pro- time theater critic for The Valley
grams in grant writing, as do private Advocate in western Massachusetts,
Step 1: Assess yourself. colleges. Ditto for adult and continuing he landed a gig writing proposals for
If youre a lyric poet by nature, get education providers. Browning, for a theater company, first as a contrac-
ready to use a different side of your instance, teaches online courses tor, then as a regular part-time
brain. Grant writing can be technical: through ed2go.com and the Grant employee. The work I was support-
acronyms abound and budgets rule. Writing Boot Camp. ing was exciting and important,
It is not for anyone who has ten- While courses offer the advantage Rohmann said.
dencies to procrastinate or stare of personalized attention, how-to Other grant professionals, like

blankly at their computer screen wait- books such as Grant Writing for Dum- Megan Hill of Seattle, come from a
ing for an idea to drop into their mies and The Complete Idiots Guide to background in the nonprofit sector.
mind, said Beverly Browning, author Grant Writing provide reams of infor- Hill volunteered in college for Habitat
of Grant Writing for Dummies. mation in engaging formats for for Humanity and then worked as an
To survive in this field, youll need DIYers. Another book, The Artists in-house grant writer for a nonprofit
to meet tight deadlines, be extremely Guide to Grant Writing by Gigi Rosen- before striking out on her own as
detail-oriented and understand the berg, deals specifically with funding founder and CEO of her own grants-
world of nonprofit program for creative types. consulting business. To break into
34 | The Writer August 2016
grant writing, she recommends volun- idealist.org, Craigslist and some philan- less experienced may find a federal
teering time with a nonprofit. thropy digests and publications. grant takes 120 hours or more, she said.
More and more organizations are
Step 4: Build your portfolio. Step 5: Boost your skills. seeking contractual grant writers who
A portfolio showing a high rate of suc- If you decide to make grant writing a are certified, DiVirgilio said. Two
cess will launch you on your way. While serious business, youll need to up organizations the Grant Profession-
its stressful to have your future depen- your game. The learning never ends in als Certification Institute and the
dent on the decisions of grant makers, this field, thanks in part to its special- American Grant Writers Association
youll learn tricks to make the odds ized software and lingo. (Pro tip: offer paths to certification.
work in your favor. For starters, youll Industry honchos tend to favor the Youll need to decide for yourself
find out how crucial it is to follow terms grant professional and consul- what credentials you need for the work
directions to the letter. Youll also dis- tant over freelancer.) you want to do. Whatever the case,
cover how to research funding sources While newer grant writers can choose projects youre passionate
to boost your chances of success. expect to charge $20-$30 an hour, expe- about. Youll have the satisfaction of
Insiders recommend you start with rienced professionals can earn $150 or seeing your hard work make dreams
small, local grant applications. Be pre- more an hour, according to Debbie come true.
pared to work for free or about $10 an DiVirgilio, a consultant in northeastern
hour at first. Rohmann, for example, Maryland and past president of the Joan Axelrod-Contrada is the author of
wrote his second grant proposal on Grant Professionals Association. Career Opportunities in Politics, Government,
nearly a pro bono basis. DiVirgilio generally works between and Activism. She is the chair of the grants com-
To develop a clientele, build your 40 and 60 hours on a federal grant com- mittee for the WriteAngles Conference held
network in the local nonprofit commu- pared to about five hours or less on a every fall at Mount Holyoke College in South
nity. In addition, youll find postings on foundation proposal. However, someone Hadley, Massachusetts.

The Oldest Low-Residency

Fiction | Nonction | Poetry

Past and Present Guest Writers and Editors Include:

Richard Bausch, Michael Connelly, Lydia Davis, Arthur Flowers, Nick Flynn, Roxane Gay,
Hal Hartley, Amy Hill Hearth, Eli Horowitz, Leslie Jamison, Denis Johnson, Miranda July,
Ben Lerner, Jamaal May, Susan Minot, Rick Moody, Francine Prose, George Saunders,
Heather Sellers, Patricia Smith, Wesley Stace, Deborah Treisman, Lidia Yuknavitch

Teaching Faculty Include:

Jessica Anthony, Sandra Beasley, John Capouya, Brock Clarke, Erica Dawson (director),
Mikhail Iossel, Stefan Kiesbye, Kevin Moffett, Donald Morrill, Josip Novakovich,
Jason Ockert, Alan Michael Parker, Jeff Parker, Corinna Vallianatos, Jennifer Vanderbes

Learn more at www.ut.edu/mfacw

or by calling (813) 258-7409.

writermag.com The Writer | 35


Television writing 101

Nothing good on TV? Learn how to write your own shows.

ow often has this hap- empathy to see many characters from
pened to you? You plunk different points of view.
down on the sofa, pick up Story consultant and script doctor
the TV remote with the John Truby, who has given TV writ-
intent of losing yourself in a compel- ing classes in several major cities and
ling drama or uproarious comedy, and operates Trubys Writing Studio
even with a thousand channels at online (truby.com), approaches the
your disposal you find nothing that discipline from a somewhat different
holds your attention. I can write bet- angle to him, understanding struc-
ter programs than these, you grumble ture is absolutely crucial. I begin
before giving up and grabbing a book. with the structure elements found in
If that describes you, youre in luck: any great story, regardless of medium
Television writing courses abound or genre, he says. These are organic
today, offered by top colleges and uni- to the story, meaning they track the
versities as well as dedicated film characters development as he/she
schools and private instructors. For goes after a goal and overcomes oppo-
those who have the financial means sition. With this foundation of great
and are committed to learning how to and variety of their television writing organic storytelling, I then explain the
create the next Breaking Bad or Mod- courses in recent years. Interestingly, unique ways these story structure
ern Family, there are more avenues says Pichirallo, prior to his coming on beats are executed in a good TV
available now for honing those skills board at the school in 2011, NYU drama or comedy story. Next, I
than ever before. had two TV writing courses, one in explain the specialized story beats of
But before researching courses, the comedy and one in drama, but we the major genres in TV drama and
would-be television writer should ask didnt have an introduction to televi- comedy, and I conclude by explaining
why he or she wants to take this route sion writing course. So we created one, in detail the steps required to create a
in the first place, says Joe Pichirallo, which is designed to give an overview successful TV drama or comedy.
chair of the Department of Under- of the elements that go into writing a Another emphasis in my TV classes is
graduate Film and Television at the TV script that are different than a fea- not just how do you write a great
New York University Tisch School of ture script. individual episode, which somebody
the Arts. Mike Pavone, a successful screen- must know in order to break into tele-
The important thing for any writer writer, producer and actor who has vision, but, for the more advanced
is to discover, he says. Do you have a taught courses on screenwriting, writer, how do you create a great sea-
voice? What is your voice? What is directing, acting and the business of son of television? Weaving multiple
your point of view? What is your style, film at the high school level and at the characters over 10 to 22 episodes
and can you execute that in a way that Academy of Art University in San gives you a canvas that is greater than
others will find compelling? Writing is Francisco, says that any prospective that of a film.
something we can help you learn, but student should take a long, hard look What a student chooses to learn,
ultimately its going to come down to within before deciding whether to pur- and the skills ultimately honed, will
whether you have the wherewithal and sue this specialized field. A great sto- necessarily help determine the type

the talent to execute at a level where ryteller is born, Pavone says. You can and range of television screenwriting
you can make a living off of it. learn structure quite easily, but great work available to the individual. Most
NYU is one of many major institu- story and character come from people colleges that now host TV writing
tions that have expanded the number born with great imagination and the courses detail their curriculum online
36 | The Writer August 2016
or by request. Californias Chapman
University, for example, offers a Bache-
lor of Fine Arts major in television
writing and production. You will learn
how to develop characters, write dia-
logue, create a series bible and
develop the ongoing storylines that
drive episodic television, the schools
catalog explains, listing among its
courses seminars in comedy and
drama, Introduction to Visual Story-
telling and History of Television. Bos-
tons Emerson College similarly offers
the introductory Writing for Television
and courses as specific as Life on Dis-
play: Creating a Reality Series.
One thing that all of the instructors
and executives we surveyed agree
upon is that the field of television
writing as a career is in the ascendant.
Film schools, for many years as did
the industry looked down their
noses at television and didnt take it
that seriously, says Pichirallo. The
development of television programs
in film schools is a recent phenome-
non and an important one because
television is doing some of the most
creatively interesting things today.
Film schools now understand the
importance of television and are
developing their [own] programs.
Youre no longer having to convince
[schools] that you should have a TV
portion of your program.
Writing TV professionally is
extremely competitive, and the intense
time constraints of writing on staff
require that the TV writer have the
highest level of craft, says Truby. My
TV classes place tremendous emphasis
on knowing the specific craft tech-
niques that go into beating out a great
story and writing a draft that can com-
pete with the best writers in the world.
Its phenomenal what they are accom-
plishing now in television.

Jeff Tamarkin is a freelance writer/editor. He

lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, with his wife,
novelist Caroline Leavitt.

writermag.com The Writer | 37


Hollywood heads south

Screenwriters strike gold at the Austin Film Festival.

heres a guy grilling steak
and chicken outside the
Rattle Inn in Austin, a blues
band in cowboy hats and
blue jeans on stage, a rooftop bar
boasting a city view and a crowd of
participants gathered for beer and
tequila shots during the Austin Film
Festival and Screenwriters Confer-
ence. We try hard not to have some
of the elements of Hollywood so
renowned for red tape and exclusivity,
says conference director Erin Halla-
gan. We dont have green rooms or
velvet ropes anywhere. The accessibil-
ity of our conference makes it a
unique experience; its a very intimate
and casual affair.
The gathering, now in its 23rd year,
runs in conjunction with the Austin
Film Festival. Located across the city at
several hotels and St. Davids Episcopal
Church downtown, the four-day event
includes film screenings, panels, work-
shops, roundtables and pitch sessions.
This year, says Hallagan, well have
at least 175 panels on craft and the
business of storytelling through film
and television and new media. Well be
talking about important trends in the Photos by Jack Plunkett
industry, including ways to break into
the business and stay in and sustain
important relationships.
Featured panelists include writer/
director/producers Nancy Meyers,
whose latest film is The Intern with
Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, track to explore how participants can Panels will also explore the preva-
and Paul Feig, who will discuss his hone their approach to dramatic writ- lence of virtual reality and how its
updated version of the classic film ing. Weve seen so many playwrights shaping television, film and new
Ghostbusters with a female cast of making the transition into television, media. Part of that examination also
leading characters. she says. TV content is so rich; a lot trickles into writing for video games in
Hallagan notes that this year, the of that is coming from writers theatri- a 3-D context, Hallagan explains.
conference is introducing a playwriting cal backgrounds. What does it mean to be a narrative
38 | The Writer August 2016
October 13-20.
Downtown Austin, Texas.

writer in this type of medium?

Conference participants can begin
their day with a fun event called
Improv Your Morning! Instructors
from local comedy troupes create a
safe space designed to allow writers to
share and explore and exercise their
wit. Writers can be shy, Hallagan
says. It takes them a while to come
out of their shell. We wanted to pro-
vide a few tools for them to be more
comfortable because the festival is first
and foremost an incredible networking
Semifinalists in the conferences
screenplay and teleplay competition in the Pitch Finale Party. Its one of rub elbows with industry experts dur-
get to hear their script read by a full our more popular events, Hallagan ing panels and roundtable discussions
cast in a personalized setting. They says. People are drinking, and its a and, of course, at Austins local water-
may invite whomever they want into lot of fun. Its interactive, like live the- ing holes.
that space, Hallagan explains of the ater the finalists are letting them-
finalists. Its the first opportunity for selves be vulnerable in front of a Readers of The Writer may enter
many of them to hear what it sounds crowd. At the 2010 Pitch Competi- the code WRITERSMAG25 during
like to have their work read out loud. tion, Mike Fry co-creator and writer online registration checkout for
Agents and managers peruse the com- of Over the Hedge optioned Lee $25 off a Producers Badge for this
petition script library and often request Hoverds screenplayEx-Menafter lis- years conference.
work by the finalists and winners. tening to his pitch. We have at least a
Pitch competition sessions allow couple dozen agents and managers,
writers 90 seconds to describe their Hallagan says. Theres always a few Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the
project to a diverse panel of judges in people who find representation. author of Avenging the Owl and Wild Within:
a friendly and constructive environ- Conference attendees have plenty of How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family.
ment. Finalists vie for a prize package formal and informal opportunities to Web: melissahart.com

writermag.com The Writer | 39


The best policy

Carve seeks honesty and authenticity.

lick on the submission guidelines for Carve Mag- In Constances Law (winter 2015), Bridget Hardy writes
azine, and youll see a grid labeled Most Recent about a young woman dealing with the aftermath of rape
Decline/Accept Listings. It includes the names amidst the appearance of an old friend who eventually
of authors who have sent work to Carve, the titles becomes her lover. It deals with trauma in a way that is
of the pieces theyve submitted and the names of the maga- direct and palpable and brings us ultimately to a place of
zines that ultimately published those pieces. healing, says Zumbahlen.
These are listings of stories that Carvedeclined but were
accepted elsewhere, the editors explain. Congrats to the Contributors
authors, and we commend their perseverance. Editors at Carve look for honest stories driven by original
Managing Editor Anna Zumbahlen explains that the voice and rhythm of language. Kami Westhoff s The Ways
magazine now in its 16th year publishes the Decline/ You Are Gone (winter 2007) is one of Zumbahlens favorite
Accept listings to encourage writers to stay engaged with examples; in particular, she admires the authors narrative
Carves community and to celebrate their own successes. structure and perspective. Westhoff, winner of the 2007
Editorial decisions are subjective, she says. We feel Raymond Carver Contest, begins her story with this:
strongly that writing is an ongoing process and should never
end with a rejection letter.
The Premium Edition print version of the magazine,
published quarterly, also includes a Decline/Accept feature
an essay written by an author about the process of revi-
sion, submission, editing and publication of a single story.

Tone, editorial content

The submission guidelines for Carve note that editors look for
emotional jeopardy, soul and honesty. Theyre particularly
interested in character transformation, says Zumbahlen, and
stories that use lucid writing to access truth and catharsis.
One such piece is Subhadra Eberlys Hurricane Emily
(summer, 2012), about the narrators friendship with a
beautiful mentally ill woman. In it, Eberly writes:

Sometimes we took Emily to the kind of hospital that

saves lives. The one we were taking her to was the kind
that saves minds, where theyd keep her under observa-
tion. For the rest of the week, she would eat meals with
plastic spoons and sit in group sessions with potential
sociopaths and pyromaniacs and teenaged girls with eat-
ing disorders. Paul and I watched Emily spit on a nurse
and accuse her and everyone else in the room of sleeping
with her husband. When the staff tackled her to the
ground, we turned around and left.

The story, Zumbahlen says, accesses what is ugly and beau-

tiful about relationships and the way they undergo change.
40 | The Writer August 2016
We accept short story sub-
missions year-round and from
anywhere in the world. Send
us your best work. Wed love
to read it.
Genres: Fiction, poetry, nonfiction.
Reading period: Year-round.
Length: Varies.
Submission format: By USPS or digital
(submittable) on website.
Contests: Raymond Carver Short Story
Contest, The Premium Edition Contest.
Contact: Anna Zumbahlen, Managing
Editor, azumbahlen@carvezine.com.
Carve Magazine Submissions, PO Box
701510, Dallas, TX 75370. carvezine.com

I wait for you, because I said I

would. I spend the hours I used to
spend with you thinking about the
ways you are gone. The length var-
ies, as does the content. Mostly you
are dead and slowly becoming food
for insects. This comforts me
because when this is not you, you
are frozen in pieces arm, ear,
breast, leg.

The emotional immediacy of that

piece is undeniable, says Zumbahlen.
Carves spring issue this year fea-
tured poetry from four poets two
widely-published and two emerging.
All four of them have a distinctive Advice for potential contributors or narrative structure isnt serving the
relationship with language, image and Click on the Stories tab on Carves emotional space the story occupies,
sound, Zumbahlen says. For instance, website, and youll see this note: Every then it probably isnt right for us, says
Annie Lightharts Hay posits a whole short story published byCarvesince Zumbahlen. I really crave stories that
world from heat and a moment of rain. 2007 is available to read for free online, will stick with me for days, stories
Were interested in that kind of atten- because good honest fiction should whose emotional presence is difficult
tiveness and expansiveness. never disappear into obscurity. This to set aside.
Editors conduct Q&As with the ready availability also enables potential
poets they publish, focusing on their contributors to familiarize themselves Contributing editor Melissa Hart is the
writing process and perspective. Read- with the magazines particular aesthetic. author of Avenging the Owl and Wild Within:
ers can access these interviews on the If it feels like a story is doing any How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family.
magazines blog at carvezine.com/blog. posturing, or if the voice or perspective Web: melissahart.com

writermag.com The Writer | 41


Subscribers to The Writer have online
access to information on 3,000+ publish-
ers, publications, conferences, contests
Submission Checklist
and agents. Go to WriterMag.com and click Youve been working on a manuscript for the next bestselling novel
on Market Directory.
and after years of hard work and revisions, youre ready to send it out.
Information in this section is provided to All of the time youve spent with reading groups, writing groups and
The Writer by the individual markets and
focus groups wont matter much if you simply pop your masterpiece
events; for more information, contact those
entities directly. into the mail without thoroughly researching the publisher youve
F = Fiction N = Nonfiction P = Poetry decided will drop everything to put your work out into the world.
C = Childrens Y = Young adult O = Other
$ = Offers payment
Before you submit to a publisher, whether big or small, go through the
checklist to make sure youve perfectly met their criteria to ensure an
PUBLISHERS editors eye peruses your project.
N C Y ABDO Publishing Company Publishes
nonfiction educational series for children and young R You have read all of the publishers submission guidelines.
adults, pre-K through grade 12. Topics include biog-
R Your work aligns with the themes being sought by the publisher.
raphy, history, geography, health, language arts, sci-
ence, social studies and sports. Magic Wagon accepts R You are submitting via the requested portal (email, submission
submissions for picture books, beginning readers or manager, snail mail, etc.).
chapter books that can become a series. Contact:
ABDO [Genre], 8000 W. 78th St., Suite 310, Edina, R Your submission is formatted in the specified manner.
MN 55439. See website for genre-specific email
R You have a strong cover or query letter (if requested) that succinctly
addresses. abdopublishing.com
outlines your work.
F N Agate Publishing Currently seeking fiction
and nonfiction by African-American writers and R You have included sample material (if requested).
books on Midwestern topics or by Midwestern R You have triple-checked grammar, spelling and typos throughout.
authors. Also publishes food, cooking, nutrition-
related and business-interest nonfiction. Email que- R Your documents are typed in a professional font (i.e., no comic
ries. Contact: Agate Publishing, Inc. sans, size 14).
agatepublishing.com R You have included exactly what the publisher has asked for nothing
more, nothing less.
N Alpine Publications Welcomes nonfiction
manuscripts or proposals relating to dogs or horses.
Contact: Editorial Department, Alpine Publications, formats. Contact: Arrow Publications. N Barricade Books Seeks nonfiction material of
Inc., 38262 Linman Road, Crawford, CO 81415. arrow_info@arrowpub.com arrowpub.com a controversial nature. Submit outline, one or two
editorialdept@alpinepub.com alpinepub.com chapters and SASE by regular mail. Contact: Carole
P C Y Arthur A. Levine Books Publishes books
C Y Annick Press Publishes fiction and nonfic- Stuart, Barricade Books, 2037 Lemoine Avenue, Fort
for children and young adults, including picture
tion by Canadian authors for children, middle grade Lee, NJ 07024. Email from website.
books, literary fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Submit
and young adult readers. No picture books. Contact: barricadebooks.com
queries only, per website instructions via online sub-
Annick Press Ltd., 15 Patricia Ave., Toronto, ON mission platform. Contact: Arthur A. Levine Books. N Beacon Press Publishes general trade nonfic-
M2M 1H9. Email from website. annickpress.com arthuralevinebooks@scholastic.com tion on a wide variety of topics, including biography,
F N P O Anvil Press Publishes progressive, con- arthuralevinebooks.com religion, history, current affairs, politics, gay/lesbian/
temporary fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama. gender studies, education, African-American stud-
F Avon Romance Publishes a variety of romance
Canadian authors only. No email submissions, no ies, religion, womens studies, child and family issues,
genres. Specifically looking for romantic suspense,
genre novels. Contact: Anvil Press, P.O. Box 3008, and nature and the environment. Submit proposals
contemporary romance, historical romance with a
Main Post Office, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X5. by email. Contact: Beacon Press.
hook, trilogies and serialized novels. Submit via
editorial@beacon.org beacon.org
anvilpress.com online submission manager. Contact: Avon
N Arcadia Publishing Publishes local and Romance. 212-207-7000. info@avonromance.com F N Bellevue Literary Press Publishes literary
regional history books. Works with experienced and avonromance.com fiction and narrative nonfiction geared toward a
first-time authors. Contact: Arcadia Publishing. general readership. Email submissions with full
F Baen Books Seeks strongly plotted science fic-
Email regional editorial offices via website. manuscript for fiction submissions; manuscript or
tion and innovative fantasy; 100,000-130,000 words.
arcadiapublishing.com proposal for nonfiction submissions.
Submit completed manuscript with synopsis using
Contact: Bellevue Literary Press.
F N Arrow Publications Publishes romance fic- online submission manager or regular mail.
blpsubmissions@gmail.com blpress.org
tion (novels or novellas) and selected nonfiction top- Contact: Baen Books, P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY
ics such as womens issues. Publishes in digital 10471. info@baen.com baen.com N Y Bick Publishing House Publishes books
for young adults and teens about science and its eth-

42 | The Writer August 2016

Get up-to-date information on
markets at writermag.com

ics, communications, arts, philosophy and psychol- N C Y O Chronicle Books Publishes adult trade tion. No genre fiction. Submit queries and proposals
ogy, as well as adult books about mental illness and books on fine art, design, photography, pop culture, by email. Contact: Diversion Press.
recovery, addictions, living with disabilities and craft, fashion, beauty, home dcor, relationships, diversionpress@yahoo.com diversionpress.com
wildlife rehabilitation. Also publishes some science mind/body/spirit, cookbooks and unusual formats
N Dundurn Canadian authors only. Currently
fiction for teens. No email submissions. Contact: such as interactive journals, card decks and statio-
seeking nonfiction on Canadian history, current
Bick Publishing House, 16 Marion Road, Branford, nery. Also publishes fiction books for children and
events, arts and culture, business, genealogy, trans-
CT 06405. 203-208-5253. bickpubhse@aol.com young adults. Submit proposals by email or regular
portation and health. Also publishes biographies,
bickpubhouse.com mail. Contact: Chronicle Books, Submissions Edi-
autobiographies and memoirs. Submit via email.
tor, 680 Second St., San Francisco, CA 94107.
F N P O Bilingual Review Press Publishes Contact: Dundurn. submissions@dundurn.com
novels, short-story collections, nonfiction, poetry, dundurn.com
translations and drama. Titles are by or about U.S.
N Duquesne University Press Scholarly pub-
Hispanics. Contact: Gary Francisco Keller, Bilingual N C Chicago Review Press Publishes nonfic-
lications in the humanities and social sciences, espe-
Press, Hispanic Research Center, Arizona State Uni- tion in the areas of history, popular science, music,
cially literature studies (medieval and Renaissance),
versity, P.O. Box 875303, Tempe, AZ 85287-5303. film, biography, autobiography, DIY, craft and travel
philosophy, psychology, ethics, religious studies and
480-965-3867. as well as childrens activity books and YA biogra-
theology. Contact: Susan Wadsworth-Booth, Direc-
bilingualpress.clas.asu.edu/submission-guidelines phies. Send proposal by email.
tor, Duquesne University Press, 600 Forbes Ave.,
Contact: Chicago Review Press. 312-337-0747.
F Y Bold Strokes Books Seeks LGBTQ fiction Pittsburgh, PA 15282. wadsworth@duq.edu
(general and genre), including action, romance, dupress.duq.edu
adventure, crime, mystery/intrigue and speculative
F Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries Seeks origi-
fiction (sci-fi/fantasy/horror). Also publishes young F N P City Lights Publishers Publishes fic-
nal, unpublished modern crime and detective fic-
adult fiction. Submit entire manuscript by email tion, essays, memoirs, translations, poetry and books
tion, 10,000-50,000 words, for eBook publication.
only. Contact: Selections Director: Len Barot, Bold on social and political issues. No New Age, self-help,
Contact: Dutton Guilt Edged Mysteries.
Strokes Books. bsbsubmissions@gmail.com childrens literature, how-to guides or genre fiction.
duttonguiltedged@us.penguingroup.com us.
boldstrokesbooks.com Accepts queries and proposals by postal mail only.
Contact: Editorial Department, City Lights Publish-
F Bookouture A digital first publisher of womens
ers, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133. F N P ECW Press Publishes poetry and fiction
fiction including romance, historical, paranormal,
415-362-1901. Email from website. citylights.com from Canadian authors, nonfiction from any author.
chick lit, fantasy, crime, thriller, commercial literary
Nonfiction subjects include pop culture, political
and erotica. Submissions accepted through online F N P O Coach House Books Publishes inno-
analysis, sports, biography and travel guides. Prefers
form only. Contact: Bookouture. Email from web- vative literary fiction, drama, poetry and select non-
electronic submissions. Contact: ECW Press.
site. bookouture.com fiction. Considers Canadian authors only. Prefers
416-694-3348. submissions@ecwpress.com
electronic submissions. Contact: Coach House
F N P Breakaway Books Publishes literary and ecwpress.com
Books, 80 bpNichol Lane, Toronto, Ontario M5S
thoughtful writing on sports including fiction,
3J4. editor@chbooks.com chbooks.com N Entrepreneur Press Publishes nonfiction
poetry and essays on the athletic experience. Also
general and small-business trade books focused on
publishes boating and boatbuilding books. Submit F N Coffee House Press Publishes literary nov-
starting and growing a business, personal finance,
queries by email or regular mail. Contact: Break- els, full-length short-story collections, poetry, cre-
marketing and careers. Submit proposals by email.
away Books, P.O. Box 24, Halcottsville, NY 12438. ative nonfiction and essay collections. Works with
Contact: Entrepreneur Press. 800-833-3324.
breakawaybooks@gmail.com breakawaybooks.com emerging and mid-career writers. No genre fiction
or books for children. Accepts electronic submis-
F N C Y Brighton Publishing Publishes gen- entrepreneur.com/entrepreneurpress
sions via online portal only during two annual read-
eral fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, mys-
ing periods. Contact: Coffee House Press, 79 13th F N P C Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publishes
teries, thrillers, nonfiction and YA. Considers works
Ave. NE, Ste. 110, Minneapolis, MN 55413. a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction, plus poetry
that were previously self-published but no longer
612-338-0125. coffeehousepress.org and childrens books. Submit by regular mail only.
available. Submit queries first by email only.
Contact: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 18 W. 18th St.,
Contact: Brighton Publishing. F N Counterpoint Press Publishes literary fic-
New York, NY 10011. 212-741-6900. fsgbooks.com
donald@brightonpublishing.com tion and nonfiction, including history, memoir, liter-
brightonpublishing.com ary biography, religion, philosophy and natural N P C Y Fitzhenry & Whiteside Limited
history. Fiction manuscripts must be submitted Currently seeking childrens (picture books, middle
F Carina Press Harlequins digital-first imprint.
through a literary agency. Submit nonfiction query grade fiction, young adult fiction, nonfiction for all
Publishes most types of commercial fiction for
letter and sample chapters by regular mail only. ages) and adult nonfiction and poetry. No adult fic-
adults, 35,000 words or more, especially romance
Contact: Editorial Submissions, Counterpoint, 2560 tion. Submit by regular mail only. Contact:
and new adult; check website for specific genre word
Ninth St., Ste. 318, Berkeley, CA 94710. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Attention: Sharon Fitzhenry
counts. No faith-based fiction, womens fiction, hor-
510-704-0230. info@counterpointpress.com (adult) or Cheryl Chen (childrens), 195 Allstate
ror, thrillers or literary fiction. Submit queries by
counterpointpress.com Parkway, Markham, ON L3R 4T8, Canada.
online submission manager. Contact: Carina Press.
submissions@carinapress.com carinapress.com N C Dawn Publications Publishes nature-aware- N Fordham University Press Publishes schol-
ness/natural-science books for children. No talking arly books in the humanities and social sciences plus
N Chelsea Green Publishing Independent pub-
animals, fantasies or legends. Submit by regular mail trade books for the general public. Emphasizes phi-
lisher specializing in nonfiction about sustainable-liv-
or email per guidelines. Contact: Dawn Publications losophy, religion, theology, history, literature and
ing, including organic gardening, agricultural
Manuscript Submission, 12402 Bitney Springs media studies. Also publishes regional material on
movements, political activism supporting sustainable
Road, Nevada City, CA 95959, Attn: Glenn Hov- New York City and the Hudson Valley. Submit hard-
food, natural building techniques, etc. Submit queries
emann. submission@dawnpub.com dawnpub.com copy proposals only. Contact: Fordham University
by email (preferred) or postal mail with a SASE. Con-
Press, 2546 Belmont Ave., University Box L, Bronx,
tact: Chelsea Green Publishing, 85 N. Main St., Suite F N C Y Diversion Press Currently seeking aca-
NY 10458. 718-817-4795. See website for specific
120, White River Jct., Vermont 05001. 802-295-6300. demic and general nonfiction, middle grade books,
genre editors. fordhampress.com
submissions@chelseagreen.com chelseagreen.com contemporary YA and humorous fiction and nonfic-

writermag.com The Writer | 43

N Fortress Press Publishes books for academic, N The History Press Publisher of local and F N Y Kensington Publishing Corp. Pub-
student and professional audiences in the areas of regional history books. Submit electronically lishes a wide variety of genre fiction and nonfiction
biblical studies, theology and Christian history. Sub- through website. Contact: The History Press , Attn: including popular womens fiction, African-Ameri-
mit proposals through online manager. Commissioning, 645 Meeting St., Suite 200, Charles- can titles, multicultural young adult fiction, nonfic-
Contact: Fortress Press. Email from website. ton, SC 29403. 843-853-2070. tion, as well as true crime, Western and mystery
fortresspress.com publishing@historypress.net historypress.net titles. See website for specific editor interests. Submit
query by email. Contact: Kensington Publishing
F Y Gentry Publishing Accepts romance, young N Hohm Press Nonfiction titles on nutrition,
Corp., 119 W. 40th St., New York, NY 10018. 1-800-
adult, new adult, fantasy, drama, Christian, contem- natural health, religious studies, parenting, womens
221-2647. See website for editor email addresses.
porary, literary, mystery and action/adventure. Sub- studies, the arts and poetry. Submit queries only by
mission by email only. Contact: Gentry Publishing. regular mail with sample of material. Contact:
submissions@gentrypublishing.com Hohm Press Acquisitions Editor, P.O. Box 4410, N Kent State University Press Welcomes
gentrypublishing.com Chino Valley, AZ 86323. 1-800-381-2700. submission of works in the following areas: Ohio
hppublisher@cableone.net hohmpress.com and the surrounding region, sports, history, true
N Goodman Beck Publishing Publishes non-
crime and literary studies (Hemingway, C.S. Lewis,
fiction in the areas of mental health, personal F P C Y Holy Cow! Press Publishes poetry,
J.R.R. Tolkien and the Inklings). Contact: Joyce Har-
growth, aging well, positive psychology, accessible short fiction, young adult, childrens and other prose
rison, Acquiring Editor, The Kent State University
spirituality and self-help. Submit queries by email offering an original perspective on the American
Press, 1118 University Library, 1125 Risman Drive,
only. Contact: Goodman Beck Publishing. info@ Midwest. Submit queries by regular mail. Contact:
Kent, OH 44242-0001. 330-672-8099.
goodmanbeck.com goodmanbeck.com Holy Cow! Press, P. O. Box 3170, Mount Royal Sta-
jharri18@kent.edu kentstateuniversitypress.com
tion, Duluth, MN 55803. 218-724-1653.
F N P C Y Green Writers Press Seeks fiction,
holycow@holycowpress.org holycowpress.org N Lantern Books Publishes books on animal
short stories, poetry, environmental essays, childrens
advocacy, vegetarianism, religion and environmen-
picture books and YA novels that help foster a sus- F N O Homestead Publishing Specializes in
talism. Contact: Lantern Books, 128 2nd Place, Gar-
tainable environment. Email submissions are pre- literary fiction, art, nature books, national park
den Suite, Brooklyn, NY 11231. 212-414-2275 ext.
ferred. Contact: Green Writers Press. 34 Miller guide books, cookbooks, biographies, literary fic-
12. martin@lanternbooks.com lanternbooks.com
Road, Brattleboro, VT 05301. tion, Western Americana, travel guides and outdoor
submissions@greenwriterspress.com sports guides. Submit by regular mail. Contact: N Lark Books Publishes books for creative peo-
greenwriterspress.com Acquisitions, Homestead Publishing, P.O. Box 193, ple. Subjects include reference and how-to books
Moose, WY 83012. 307-733-6248. with step-by-step instructions on practical subjects
N Y Hancock House Publishers Publishes adult
homesteadpublishing.net including ceramics, crafts, pets and other lifestyle
and young adult nonfiction, including regional his-
topics. Submit query by email or regular mail.
tory, biography, memoir, environment, West Coast N Ivan R. Dee Member of the Rowman & Little-
Contact: Lark Editors c/o Sterling Publishing 1166
native culture, guides, etc. Email queries only. field Publishing Group. Publishes serious nonfiction
Avenue of the Americas, 17 FL New York, NY
Contact: Hancock House Publishers. 604-538-1114. for general readers. Topics include history, biography,
10036. LarkEditorial@sterlingpublishing.com
submissions@hancockhouse.com hancockhouse.com politics, philosophy, literature, baseball and theater.
Submit proposals by regular mail or email (pre-
F Hard Case Crime Publishes original and
ferred). Contact: Ivan R. Dee Manuscript Submis- C N Lee & Low Books Childrens book pub-
reprinted hard-boiled crime fiction. Submit queries
sion, Rowman & Littlefield, 4501 Forbes Blvd., Ste. lisher specializing in multicultural themes for ages
by email. Contact: Hard Case Crime.
200, Lanham, MD 20706. 301-459-3366. See website 5-12. Especially interested in realistic fiction, histori-
editor@hardcasecrime.com hardcasecrime.com
for editor email addresses. rowman.com/ivanrdee cal fiction and nonfiction with a unique approach.
F Y Harlequin Enterprises Publishes womens No folktales or animal stories. Submit by regular
N O Johnson Books Regional nonfiction pub-
fiction in a wide variety of genres (romance, action- mail only. Contact: Submissions Editor, Lee & Low
lisher specializing in books about Colorado, Wis-
adventure, mystery, suspense, historical, etc.). Multi- Books, 95 Madison Ave., Suite 1205, New York, NY
consin and the West geared to the popular market.
ple imprints, including young adult and digital. See 10016. general@leeandlow.com leeandlow.com
Topics include environmental subjects, history, geol-
website for category guidelines. Submit by online
ogy, archaeology, guidebooks, outdoor recreation, F N Y Llewellyn Publishes practical nonfiction
submission manager. Contact: Harlequin.
cookbooks, general nonfiction and fly-fishing. Sub- books with an emphasis on body, mind and spirit,
888-432-4879. harlequin.com
mit by postal mail. Contact: Johnson Books, Big including magic, wicca, paganism, witchcraft, ghost
F Harvard Square Editions Seeks novels and Earth Publishing, 3005 Center Green Drive, Suite hunting, spirit guides, tarot books, reincarnation,
novellas of the highest literary quality with environ- 225, Boulder, CO 80301. 800-258-5830. astrology, alternative health, angels, etc. Also pub-
mental and social themes. Send queries through books@bigearthpublishing.com lishes some mystery fiction and young adult fiction.
online form. Contact: Harvard Square Editions. bigearthpublishing.com/johnson-books No spiritual or new age fiction. Contact: Llewellyn
Email from website. harvardsquareeditions.org Worldwide, Acquisitions Department, 2143 Wood-
C Y Just Us Books Specializes in black interest
N Hatala Geroproducts Publishes books for dale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125.
books for children, including picture books, chapter
seniors and older with a focus on relationships: with submissions@llewellyn.com llewellyn.com
books for middle readers, poetry, nonfiction series,
spouses, lovers, other seniors, grandchildren and biographies and young adult fiction. Currently F N Lone Pine Publishing Publishes Canadian
adult children. All books are large-print. Contact: accepting queries for chapter books and middle regional nonfiction books on natural history, gar-
Hatala Geroproducts, P.O. Box 42, Greentop, MO reader titles only. Submit query by postal mail. dening and outdoor recreation. The Ghost House
63546. editor@geroproducts.com geroproducts.com Contact: Submissions Dept., Just Us Books, P.O. Box Books imprint also publishes ghost stories and
F Y Henery Press An independent publisher 5306, East Orange, NJ 07019. justusbooks.com books about the paranormal. Submit book proposals
seeking mystery and chick lit with sharp twists and by regular mail or email. Contact: Editorial Director,
C Kar-Ben Publishing Publishes picture books,
lively characters. Particularly interested in series. Lone Pine Publishing, 2311 96 St., Edmonton, AB
fiction and nonfiction on Jewish themes for children
Considers previously published work. Publishes T6N 1G3. nfoulds@lonepinepublishing.com
in preschool and elementary school. Submit by
eBooks, hardcover and trade paperbacks. Submit by email. Contact: Kar-Ben Publishing, 1251 Washing-
email only. Contact: Henery Press. ton Ave. N., Minneapolis, MN 55401. 800-452-7236. N C Y Magination Press Publishes psychology-
subs@henerypress.com henerypress.com editorial@karben.com karben.com based illustrated storybooks and nonfiction for chil-

44 | The Writer August 2016

Get up-to-date information on
markets at writermag.com

dren about topics of special concern to children. F N Northern Illinois University Press health. Submit by regular mail only. Contact: Helen
Submit by regular mail. Contact: Acquisitions, Mag- Nonfiction scholarly and trade titles on Russian Harriss, Acquisitions Editor. Peachtree Publishers,
ination Press, American Psychological Association, studies, European history, religion, history of reli- 1700 Chattahoochee Ave., Atlanta, GA 30318. 404-
750 First St. NE, Washington, DC 20002-4242. gion, philosophy, U.S. and general history, literature, 876-8761. hello@peachtree-online.com
magination@apa.org apa.org/pubs/magination regional trade and Asian studies. Contact: Northern peachtree-online.com
Illinois University Press, 2280 Bethany Road,
F N Martin Sisters Publishing Accepts fic- N C Pelican Publishing Company Publishes
DeKalb, IL 60115. 815-753-1075. See website for
tion in all genres including science fiction, fantasy, general trade nonfiction; specializes in art/architec-
editor email addresses. niupress.niu.edu
Christian fiction and inspirational. Also publishes ture, motivational, cooking/cookbooks, popular his-
short story collections and nonfiction including self- F N Nortia Press Interested in literary fiction tory, childrens and social commentary books.
help. Submit queries by email. Contact: Martin Sis- and nonfiction with a focus on global affairs for Submit by postal mail only. Contact: Attn: Editor,
ters Publishing. Email from website. trade books and academic titles. Submit queries by Pelican Publishing Company, 1000 Burmaster St.,
martinsisterspublishing.com email. No attachments. Contact: Nortia Press. Gretna, LA 70053. 800-843-1724.
acquisitions@nortiapress.com nortiapress.com editorial@pelicanpub.com pelicanpub.com
N McFarland Publishes academic and general
interest nonfiction books on several topics, includ- N C Y O Orca Book Publishers Accepts man- F N The Permanent Press Publishes literary
ing pop culture, performing arts, military history, uscripts from Canadians writers only. Publishes chil- fiction and occasional nonfiction. Submit by postal
international studies, health, sports, automotive, lit- drens picture books, board books, middle grade mail only. Contact: Attn: Judith Shepard, The Per-
erary studies, medieval studies, mythology, folklore books, young adult fiction and graphic novels for all manent Press, 4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY
and womens and gender studies. Also publishes ages. Also publishes a limited number of nonfiction 11963. 631-725-1101. info@thepermanentpress.com
essay collections and graphic novels. Submit by books for young readers. See website for specific thepermanentpress.com
postal mail or email. Contact: McFarland, Box 611, interests. Submit by regular mail or email. Contact:
Jefferson, NC 28640. info@mcfarlandpub.com Orca Book Publishers, P.O. Box 5626, Station B, Vic- F N P Y Persea Books Publishes novels, novel-
mcfarlandbooks.com toria, BC V8R 6S4, Canada. 1-800-210-5277. las, short story collections, biography, essays, literary
submissions@orcabook.com orcabook.com anthologies, literary criticism, literature in transla-
N Melville House Publishing Publishes a wide tion, memoir. Also publishes YA fiction, nonfiction
range of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Currently C Y Pants on Fire Press Publishes childrens and poetry. Contact: Submissions, Persea Books,
accepts proposals and manuscripts for nonfiction chapter books, middle grade and young adult fic- 277 Broadway, New York, NY 10007. 212-260-9256.
only. Submit queries by email. Contact: Melville tion. No picture books. Submit queries and sample info@perseabooks.com perseabooks.com
House Publishing. 718-722-9204. chapters by email. No attachments. Contact: Pants
submissions@mhpbooks.com mhpbooks.com on Fire Press. submission@pantsonfirepress.com C Y Piata Books Publishes childrens and young
pantsonfirepress.com adult literature featuring themes of U.S. Hispanic
F N P Mid-List Press Publishes book-length (at culture and customs. Submit online through website.
least 50,000 words) literary fiction and nonfiction, N Paragon House Publishers Reference and Contact: Arte Publico Press. 713-743-2843.
and poetry collections of at least 60 pages. Seeks new scholarly titles in the areas of biography, history, phi- submapp@central.uh.edu artepublicopress.uh.edu
and emerging writers. No childrens books. Query by losophy, psychology, religion, spiritual health, refer-
postal mail only. Contact: Mid-List Press, Attn: ence, political science, economics and international F Y Poisoned Pen Press Publishes adult and
Acquisitions Editor, 6524 Brownlee Drive, Nashville, relations. Submit by email. Contact: Paragon House young adult mysteries of 60,000-90,000 words on
TN 37205. 615-457-3777. guide@midlist.org Publishers. 1-800-447-3709. crime and detection. Check website for open sub-
midlist.org submissions@paragonhouse.com paragonhouse.com mission months and guidelines. Submit through
online manager. Contact: Poisoned Pen Press, 6962
N New Horizon Press True stories of crime/jus- N Parenting Press Nonfiction titles on child E. First Ave., Suite 103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251.
tice, accounts of exploring new frontiers and survi- guidance, parent education, emotional competency, 480-945-3375. submissions@poisonedpenpress.com
vor stories. Also publishes nonfiction on childrens safety, etc. Books provide realistic scenar- poisonedpenpress.com
hard-hitting issues, targeted self-help topics and ios and step-by-step, how-to advice. No email que-
childrens self-help titles. Does not accept emailed ries. Contact: Carolyn Threadgill, Acquisitions. F N Prometheus Books Publishes a wide vari-
manuscripts. Contact: New Horizon Press, P.O. Box Parenting Press, Inc., P.O. Box 75267, Seattle, WA ety of nonfiction books about social science, current
669, Far Hills, NJ 07931, Attn: Ms. P. Patty. 98175-0267. 206-364-2900. Email from website. events, true crime, business, history, philosophy, reli-
nhp@newhorizonpressbooks.com parentingpress.com gion, psychology, health and medicine, self-help, etc.
newhorizonpressbooks.com Also publishes some mystery, thriller, science fiction
N P Path Publishing Specializes in publishing and fantasy through imprints. Submit queries by
N New World Library Presently focused on general nonfiction, self-help books, Christian-ori- email (no attached files); send proposals by postal
nonfiction books about spirituality, personal growth, ented topics, biographies and poetry. Prefers email mail. Contact: Steven L. Mitchell, Editor-in- Chief,
womens interests, religion, sustainable business, the queries. Contact: Path Publishing, 4302 W. 51st #121, Prometheus Books, 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst,
human-animal relationship, Native American inter- Amarillo, Texas 79109. 877-728-4877. NY 14228. editorial@prometheusbooks.com
ests and the environment. No childrens books sub- path2@pathpublishing.com pathpublishing.com prometheusbooks.com
missions. Prefers email submissions.
Contact: New World Library. 415-884-2100. F N Paul Dry Books Publishes fiction (novels F N Rainbow Books Publishes self-help and
submit@newworldlibrary.com newworldlibrary.com and short stories) and nonfiction (biography, mem- how-to books on a variety of subjects, as well as cozy
oir, history and essays). Seeks lively books that murder mysteries. Submit by email or regular mail.
F N P O NeWest Press Publishes fiction, mys- awaken, delight and educate. Contact: Paul Dry Contact: Editorial Department, Rainbow Books,
teries, poetry, drama and literary nonfiction by Books, Inc. 1700 Sansom St., Suite 700, Philadelphia, Inc., P.O. Box 430, Highland City, FL 33846.
Western Canadian authors. Currently not consider- PA 19103. 215-231-9939. editor@pauldrybooks.com submissions@rainbowbooksinc.com
ing science fiction, high fantasy, inspirational mem- pauldrybooks.com rainbowbooksinc.com
oirs, self-help guides or childrens/YA. Submit
manuscript by email. Contact: NeWest Press. F N C Y Peachtree Publishers Publishes chil- F N P Red Hen Press Seeks novels, memoirs,
780-432-9427. submissions@newestpress.com drens picture books, chapter books, middle readers creative nonfiction, short story collections and
newestpress.com and YA fiction. Also publishes general trade nonfic- books of poetry. Submit through electronic submis-
tion books on education, parenting, self-help and sions manager. Charges $20 reading fee. Contact:

writermag.com The Writer | 45

Red Hen Press, P.O. Box 40820, Pasadena, CA specialties related to those imprints. Does not accept ary works in translation, general-interest books
91114. 626-356-4760. redhen.org email submissions. Contact: [Genre/topic] Editor, about the American West and a few titles per season
Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1166 Avenue of the in contemporary and regional prose and poetry.
N Rodmell Press Publishes books on yoga, Bud-
Americas, 17th Floor, New York, NY 10036. Email proposals are preferred. Contact: University
dhism, Taoism and aikido. Submit proposal by
212-532-7160. sterlingpublishing.com of Nebraska Press, 1111 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln, NE
postal mail only. Contact: Editorial Submissions,
68588. 402-472-3581. See website for specific genre
Rodmell Press, 2147 Blake St., Berkeley, CA 94704. F N C Y Sunpenny Publishing Publishes most
email addresses. nebraskapress.unl.edu
510-841-3123. info@rodmellpress.com fiction and nonfiction, including Christian inspira-
rodmellpress.com tional works and children/young adult. Especially F N Vandamere Press Publishes fiction, history,
interested in travel, sailing and boating, adventure, biography, disability studies, healthcare issues and
N C Sasquatch Books Publishes regional books
historical novels, inspirational romance, womens military topics. Submit by postal mail only. Contact:
covering the West Coast of the U.S. with mostly
fiction, etc. No fantasy or paranormal fiction. Sub- Jerry Frank, Senior Acquisitions Editor, Vandamere
nonfiction titles focusing on food and wine, travel
mit query and synopsis by email. Contact: Sun- Press, P.O. Box 149, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.
and gardening. Publishes some childrens titles. Sub-
penny Limited. writers@sunpenny.com vandamere.com
mit via regular mail only. Contact: The Editors, Sas-
quatch Books, 1904 Third Ave., Suite 710, Seattle, N VeloPress Publishes books about cycling, tri-
WA 98101. 206-467-4300. sasquatchbooks.com F Switchgrass Books Publishes literary novels athlon, running and swimming, plus historical and
that evoke the Midwestern experience. Authors biographical books about accomplished athletes.
F N P Seven Stories Press Publishes literary
must be from the Midwest. Submit by regular mail Contact: VeloPress, Attn: Casey Blaine / Book Pro-
fiction; nonfiction in the areas of politics, human
only. Contact: Northern Illinois University Press, posal, 3002 Sterling Circle, Suite 100, Boulder, CO
rights, social and economic justice; and poetry col-
Switchgrass Books, 2280 Bethany Road, DeKalb, IL 80301. cblaine@competitorgroup.com
lections. Also publishes prose and poetry transla-
60115. switchgrass.niu.edu velopress.com
tions. Accepts queries and sample pages by postal
mail only. Contact: Acquisitions, Seven Stories N Temple University Press Academic nonfic- F N C Whiskey Creek Press Publishes fiction
Press, 140 Watts St., New York, NY 10013. tion in the fields of history, media, political and and nonfiction titles in e-book and print-on-
212-226-8760. info@sevenstories.com social theory, sociology of health, religion, sports, demand formats. Also has an imprint that publishes
sevenstories.com regional studies, political science, criminology, erotica. Submit by email. Contact: Whiskey Creek
music, literature, etc. Prefers queries by email. Press. 212-431-5455. subs@whiskeycreekpress.com
F Seventh Street Books Publishes mystery
Contact: Temple University Press, TASB, 1852 N. whiskeycreekpress.com
and thriller fiction. For unagented submissions send
10th St., Philadelphia, PA 19122. See website for spe-
full manuscripts by email only. Contact: Seventh N C Whitecap Books General trade publisher
cific editor email addresses. temple.edu/tempress
Street Books, 59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY with a focus on food and wine. Will consider the fol-
14228. 716-691-0133. N Timber Press Publishes books about garden- lowing categories: cookbooks, wine and spirits,
dmayer@prometheusbooks.com ing, horticulture and natural history. Contact: Tim- regional travel, home and garden, Canadian history,
seventhstreetbooks.com ber Press, Attn: Editorial Assistant, 133 S.W. Second North American natural history and select childrens
Ave., Suite 450, Portland, OR 97204. fiction and nonfiction. Submit by postal mail.
C Y Sky Pony Press Interested in childrens
editorial@timberpress.com timberpress.com Contact: Rights and Acquisitions, Whitecap Books,
books for all ages, including picture books, early
Suite 210314 W. Cordova St., Vancouver BC V6B
readers, midgrade novels, novelties and informa- F C Y Tor-Forge Books Publishes a wide range of
1E8. 604-681-6181. whitecap.ca
tional books, especially related to ecology, indepen- fiction including science fiction and fantasy, histori-
dent living, farm living, wilderness living, recycling cal novels, thrillers, mysteries, womens fiction, F The Wild Rose Press Electronic and print
and other green topics. Also interested in special- American westerns and a variety of nonfiction titles. publisher seeks romance novels under a wide variety
needs books. Will consider YA fiction if related to Also publishes science fiction and fantasy for middle of categories as well as womens fiction, mystery or
these themes. Submit manuscripts or proposals by grade readers and teens. Contact: Tom Doherty thriller, historical fiction and erotica. Check website
email only. Contact: Sky Pony Press. 212-643-6816. Associates LLC, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY for individual submission guidelines. Some books
skyponysubmissions@skyhorsepublishing.com 10010. us.macmillan.com/torforge.aspx (45,000-plus words) distributed in print. Email que-
skyponypress.com ries only. Contact: The Wild Rose Press.
N Truman State University Press Publishes queryus@thewildrosepress.com
F Soho Press Currently accepting unagented books on American studies and early modern stud- wildrosepublishing.com
adult literary fiction. Also publishes agented young ies as well as contemporary nonfiction series. See
adult and crime fiction. Welcomes new writers. website for specific genre contact and email N C Y Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Pub-
Does not accept manuscript submissions by email. addresses. Contact: Truman State University Press, lishes religious nonfiction books that focus on theol-
Contact: Soho Press, Inc., 853 Broadway, New York, 100 E. Normal Ave., Kirksville, MO 63501. ogy, biblical studies, religious history and reference
NY 10003. 212-260-1900. soho@sohopress.com 660-785-7336. tsup@truman.edu tsup.truman.edu to popular titles in spirituality, social and cultural
sohopress.com criticism, and literature. Also publishes fiction and
F N C Turner Publishing Company Publishes nonfiction childrens and young adult books. Submit
N Square One Publishers Currently interested fiction, including general fiction, childrens books by email only. Contact: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publish-
in books on alternative health, collectibles, cooking, and mystery/ thrillers. Publishes nonfiction, includ- ing Co. submissions@eerdmans.com eerdmans.com
gambling, health, how to, parenting, personal ing biographies and memoirs, business, cooking,
finance, postcards, self-help and writing. Submit via entertainment, family and parenting, health, history, N C Y Woodbine House Publishes books for
regular mail only. Contact: Acquisitions Editor, true crime, local interest, travel, self-improvement, and about children with disabilities or chronic ill-
Square One Publishers, Inc., 115 Herricks Road, ancestry, etc. Submit by email. Contact: Turner Pub- nesses. Specifically interested in guides for parents
Garden City Park, NY 11040. 516-535-2010. lishing, Title Acquisition, 424 Church St., Suite 2240, raising children with disabilities. Also publishes
squareonepublishers.com Nashville, TN 37219. 615-255-2665. select fiction books about children or young adults
submissions@turnerpublishing.com with developmental or intellectual disabilities. Sub-
N C Y Sterling Publishing Publishes a wide mit by regular mail only. Contact: Acquisitions Edi-
variety of nonfiction for adults, young adults and tor, Woodbine House, 6510 Bells Mill Road,
children as well as childrens picture books. Check F N P University of Nebraska Press Pub- Bethesda, MD 20817. 800-843-7323.
website for a detailed list of imprints and publishing lishes nonfiction books and scholarly journals, liter- info@woodbinehouse.com woodbinehouse.com

46 | The Writer August 2016

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writermag.com The Writer | 47


Stephanie Danler

or the first time since she was my shift at4 a.m.and was discovering the world of
15 years old, Stephanie Danler having my shift drink I the senses how to
is no longer working in a res- would think, Oh fuck, taste, how to manage
taurant. Thanks to a two-book what did that person desire, how to navigate
deal with Knopf, shes now able to say? Your brain is really intimacy well, her pal-
devote herself full time to writing. Her wiped clean at the end of ate seemed the essential
novel, Sweetbitter, was written while shift. When I had writ- platform.
pursuing an MFA and waiting tables at ing days which I had to
a trendy New York restaurant. block off I didnt leave Revisionprocess
Sweetbitter, which has received lau- my room. I couldnt Intense! Even if Im
datory reviews, follows the experiences socialize, I couldnt turn happy with the first draft
of a young woman, Tess, as she moves my writing self off and (as happy as anyone can
to New York City and (like Danler) on. Sweetbitter was writ- be with a first draft, usu-
starts working at a hip Manhattan res- ten in these huge binges where I would ally its just relief at having finished
taurant. Relationships, love, life in the isolate and do nothing but write. something), I usually rewrite the entire
restaurant industry, and food and wine thing, even if I keep the majority of it
are key elements of the story. Food/wine as story component the same. I print it out, I mark it up
I dont know how to separate myself and retype everything. It feels terribly
Real-life inspiration from my love of food I know that I inefficient most of the time, but Ive
Sweetbitter is drawn from my life I learned it, but its so much a part of found that I cant just jump into a
moved to New York City when I was who I am now, of how I participate in piece and add a scene or change a
22, I got a job at a prestigious restau- the world, that it feels intrinsic. But I characters action. I need to write my
rant in Union Square (the now-shut- was often reminded that most people way up to it, and I find that most of
tered location of Union Square Caf) didnt live the way I did obsessed the time any change has a ripple effect
and I fell absolutely in love with that with hard-to-find ingredients, new across the piece.
world. The experiences are authentic. recipes, unmarked restaurants you had
It wasnt just that serving experience to travel to. I was aware that I was in a Writing routine
that informed the book but my years singular and rarefied environment. It I write longhand every morning while
managing restaurants. I knew how res- wasnt a conscious choice to tell Tesss having coffee and toast. Ive been
taurants work and run, and its from a story through food, but the idea of girl doing it for all of my adult life.They
position that you can see all the mov- are notes mostly on the weather, my
ing parts that you make a novel out of body, feelings, ideas Im turning over.
it. I could have figured out Tesss voice, Ive found as Ive gotten older I mostly
but I wouldnt have been able to figure write questions to myself. I do a lot of
out the authority of Simone and How- longhand sketching of scenes, but
ard if I hadnt seen the other side. most composition I do on the com-
puter surrounded by notebooks. I
Writing process always imagined that when I stopped
Though I was a waitress, Im actually restaurant work, I would turn into
terrible at multi-tasking. I realized this someone who sets stable, daily hours
in graduate school when I was working aside to write. But I still write in extre-
as a research assistant and a waitress mis 10-hour binges or days in which
and writing the book. I need to be I dont participate in the world.
doing each task fully. When I clocked
into a shift at Buvette, I didnt think Allison Futterman is a freelance writer who
about my novel, and when I finished has been published in several magazines.

48 | The Writer August 2016

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You can't find this in print.


On Sunday morning, while the kids were

still asleep, Lovell went to make coffee. He
awkwardness of so many of the people here,
the deep homogeneity and stunning average-
took note of the sprinkle of grounds that ness, as she put it once in an email to him
had remained beside the coffee maker since on a particularly low day. Lovell had not
Hannah had disappeared four mornings been around enough over the years for
ago. She preferred flavored, he regular these things to really bother him. The
leaded, as he called it. Making her favorite ruddy-faced men in finance, the athletic stay-
coffee that morning must have done little at-home moms, the kids who joined Little
for her, in the end. League, the golden retrievers, the gas-guz-
He still half-expected, half-hoped that he zling minivans, the holiday-themed flags
would hear the sound of the front door near the front door for any and every holi-
opening and Hannah calling, Hello? Any- day. She had gone on to write in this man-
one home? Her arms full of gifts or flowers ner, as if for some phantom readers who did
to convey a change of heart, maybe contri- not in fact live in the same town. Time must
tion, she would say that she had just needed have stopped moving forward here in this
some time and space from him in order to suburb. It seems like the civil rights move-
really think things over and come to a decision that she did ment and sexual revolution never reached this place.
not, of course she did not want to leave them. Most of the women she had met here were certainly nice
He turned on the coffee maker and waited, his hands enough. They seemed to want to be her friendthey
laced around the back of his neck, for the sound of the gur- eagerly approached her at school events and music classes,
gling water to fill the silence in the kitchen. Once it did, he they invited her to Moms Nights Out and various in-home
walked outside to get the newspaper, shielding his face parties where kitchenware or makeup was being sold, but in
from the reporters, but when he looked, he saw that the the end, they seemed more like coworkers to Hannah than
TV crews had packed up their equipment last night, he friends. She certainly never lit up when with them the way
supposed, and gone home. After all, there had been no she did with Sophie or the others. Shed had a small gaggle
news about the case for two days now. Curled leaves blew of close friends from her high school and B.U., these affable,
in little horizontal tornados down the street. The sidewalks generous, funny women. Most of them lived elsewhere now;
were empty. only Sophie was still in Massachusetts. A few times she had
He moved toward the front lawn to pick up some fallen suggested trips out to visit the others in San Francisco or
branches from a recent storm and saw a young couple pass even London, but Lovell reminded her that they could never
by on the sidewalk. They averted their eyes at first, but the afford the flights, not if they expected to pay their mortgage
woman peered back over at him. What? he wanted to call and save for the kids to go to college.
over to her. He had no idea how to behave, how to look or He turned back to his house, the stained, angled modern
what, if anything, to say when people watched him this way. that held three solar panels across its slanted roof. Yellow plas-
Yesterday, Karen Mekenner had inched past his house in her tic rain barrels sat under drain spouts and dribbled water
shiny silver Volvo, eyeballing him as he took out the trash. onto the mulch beneath. In this neighborhood of pristine
Moving here from their overpriced, cramped Brookline Cape Cods and Victorians, each set squarely on an equal-
studio had been a reasonable idea so many years ago. The sized plot of plush green grass, their house sometimes looked
price was low, the town quaint and pretty. In the summers, to him as if it had been dropped here by mistake.
they could bike to Walden or go apple picking in Stowe.
They, or Hannah really, could not have anticipated the From THE DAYLIGHT MARRIAGE by Heidi Pitlor 2015 by Heidi Pitlor. Reprinted by Permission of
obliterating quiet, the aloofness but at the same time Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill. All rights reserved.
HEIDI PITLOR: Do you do any reading for Best American on WORST NIGHTMARE
these trips? When Heidi Pitlor was writ-
Extended Interview No. I almost always bring literary journals, ing The Daylight Marriage
but I almost never read them. a story about a missing wife
What is your daily writing process like? and a suspiciously vacant
husband, alternately narrated
I feel like there are two halves of life: The Thats good, because youre really getting
by both spouses Gillian
before-the-children work habits, and theres away from your day job.
Flynns Gone Girl a story
the after-having-children, and theyre abso- You are! And I always think, well, if I need about a missing wife and a
lutely opposite. So once upon a time I used it, but I never do. And I try to go away for suspiciously vacant husband,
to get up early and write before work, or I these little stints with friends. So we write alternately narrated by both
would bring my writing to work and get until night, and then we hang out together. spouses was released. The
there at 5:30, write for a couple of hours Its a good way to clear your mind. So I dont, two novels are very, very dif-
and then let the day begin. in the end, have time to read for Best Ameri- ferent books, but on paper, the
Now I work from home my day job is can Short Stories. And I think it kind of comparison is eerily similar.
working from home so I get up, I deal skews too closely to my own writing anyway. We asked Pitlor to talk about
with my kids, I walk them to school I have Im better off reading a book that has noth- what it was like to release a
twins, I come home, I have coffee, and I let ing to do with what Im writing or a junky book that was compared to
such a monster best-seller.
myself do a little Facebook/Twitter time and magazine or watch a movie or something.
then I turn everything off and I write. Its like your worst nightmare.
I still try to get the writing in before work- Its a concern, and I think it
ing. Because I feel like I need that earlier How did you learn to do cut whats not essen- probably both helped and hurt
energy a bit, and I also dont like the sense of tial for the plot in The Daylight Marriage? my book. They said it was the
reading right before I start writing. I dont It was all my editor. She forced me. I think next Gone Girl in Entertainment
want anyone elses voices in my head, I kind part of that was that its sort of an uncom- Weekly and a bunch of [other]
of want to start out with that initial impulse. fortable, provocative book, and I had places. But then people who
So I usually write for a few hours if I can, another character in there who lightens the loved that book are going to
and I would say most days, I cant. Because story a lot and who made it a lot more com- read mine and say, Its not the
most days, a kid is home sick, or theres a fortable. And I think that [that character] same, its nothing like it.
work deadline, or something in the house was sort of obscuring the actual story. And I think you have to write the
broke or a million other things. So its very so I had an editor who was wise enough to book you want to write. What I
hard to get a good chunk in everyday. But I say That character needs to go, and this is did is sit down and talked to my
try. I have lunch, I walk the dog, come home okay to stand alone. And I clung to that agent and editor, and said Are
and do my reading for Best American Short other character for a long time. And when I we worried? And neither one of
Stories, pick up the kids, become Normal finally let [the character] goit felt more them was worried, because they
Mom again. [Then I] repeat the next day. like a bullet of a book to me. But it worked both said, Its very different. Its
And I think whats changed most for me for what it was trying to do. And I felt like nothing you need to worry
in the past two or three years is really trying she understood what I needed. about. It turns out thats more
to take time away to write. My husbands a of a marketers question than a
teacher, so its very hard for me to take a The structure of the book is so interesting to writers question. And Im going
couple weeks away, but even if I can get a me, with Hannahs (the wife) and Lovells (the to let them take care of that.
weekend away to write, it really helps me. husband) told in alternating chapters, set at Its going to happen, as a
different paces. Did you write one first and writer. Youre going to be com-
Why do you think getting away to write then the other? How did you keep those plot- pared to other books. Its how a
helps you? lines straight? book is marketed: Its compared
Because its time away to actually remove I always kept them separate [but] I wrote to other books. [The two books
yourself from your day-to-day environ- them togetherI had this huge whiteboard are] very similar in premise, not
ment, [especially] because Im working at that I [would] write on, and I had their two similar in story. When a book is
home. Im going away with the express pur- different timelines going side by side. And I as big as Gone Girl, its inevita-
pose of writing. If I can get out of the house really tried to think [about] what was going ble. And Im okay with it.
and sit down with my computer, there are on in her story, and how that would play out At the end of the day, if
no distractions. Theres no possibility for against his and what was going on with his someone elses is too similar,
fluke or theres much less than there is at story. So I could see them Im kind of well, then you wrote the book
home. I can kind of let myself go, and Im visual that way. So you have his one long line you wanted to write and did the
much more productive than at home. of events next to her long line of events. best you could.
Notes from the blogosphere
NAME many different things in mind slice of a much larger pie. I could move beyond my familiar
Colin Wright (character development, narra- In terms of raw businessy newsprint format.
tive pace, dialogue). That said, things, Ive never had ads on the From there, it was just a mat-
exilelifestyle.com there are consistencies, and I blog, and as such its more an ter of working through all the lit-
find that the more I write fiction, introduction to my work; a free tle failures, standing back up
the more that style influences taste for folks who dont know after I fell down (which was a
What steps have you taken my narrative nonfiction work me or what I have to offer. From lot), and recognizing that any-
to improve your writing over and even, to a certain degree, there, maybe theyll buy a book. thing I write will only be the best
the years? my essays. Maybe theyll pop over to one of I can do right now, in this
I write a whole lot. Every day, all I think thats going to be a my social networks and then, moment. If I ever look back at a
the time. It helps if writing is the continuing trend in my work, someday, buy a book. Or maybe book I wrote the year before and
thing youd be doing even if you actually: seeing the various theyll just follow for years, read- still think that its the best I can
werent making a cent from it genres Im playing with impact ing my work, maybe sharing it do, Ive probably stopped grow-
(which is where a lot of us start each other, and sorting through with someone at some point, ing and need to change some-
out, I think). which crossovers work and which is also a good thing. thing about my writing habits.
Thats been pretty much it. I which dont. I like that the nature of the
write and write and write. Then Which, come to think of it, is modern online environment How do you translate
I write. sort of a microcosm of how I live offers so many ways for people your unique worldview to
I do experiment quite a bit my life, as well. to loop around and see what I the page?
with different styles, different sell without me having to hard- More capably and casually as
voices, different genres. Before I How does your blog fit into sell anyone. I can just create the years progress.
started writing fiction, I wrote your larger business plan? things and link things up prop- That is to say: I write more
four collections of short stories, It was once a much bigger part erly and allow people to work like I speak, and I communicate
to see how writing a novel might of my creative stack. These days their way around to my prod- more like I think. As Ive become
feel and what I needed to work its a lot less structured, and I ucts organically. more comfortable with my
on more beforehand. write about bigger-picture topics, voice, my way of presenting
I know a lot of people who allowing the specifics to be cov- Did you do any writing ideas and conveying things that
spend a lot of time reading ered elsewhere (in videos, on before you quit your job and happened and speculating about
books on writing, which is great social media). started traveling? How did things that could happen, Ive
but not really my thing. I like This is in part because of you discover that you could been far more able to present
making all the mistakes a person how the blogosphere has be a writer? the many things I care about to
can make myself, because then changed: There are fewer com- I did: I wrote newspaper columns people who may not care about
the lessons are chiseled into my ment sections, the audience for years, starting in high school such things already; who may
habits more deeply, and are cus- numbers matter less, social and ending when I graduated not have noticed those things
tomized for me and how I want media is kind of where things from college. had they been standing in the
to communicate. are happening, instead. Before that I had a mental same place.
Its also partially because block about writing anything lon- This isnt unique to me, of
How does your writing these other avenues have given ger, though. I had always been a course everyone goes through
change when youre writing me new tools to use when com- diehard reader: I worked at a the same process, I think. But its
fiction versus nonfiction or municating, which has been like bookstore for five years and con- been interesting and educational
the blog? being handed a paintbrush after sumed books at what some to be able to learn more about
Drastically, but also not as much spending years only using a pen- might call a socially unhealthy myself as I present these ele-
as I would have guessed before I cil. I still love the blog and blog- pace. But I loved them, and ments to other people. To realize,
started writing fiction. ging, and its still a major source when I saw the publishing indus- Oh, hey, I guess thats important
Its just a very different for- of traffic, particularly for certain try was being upended, it to me because I sure do write
mat, and you have to keep so demographics, but its just one seemed like a good time to see if about it a whole lot.