Friday, February 27, 2009

Friday Find: New Yorker Book Club

After a test run of sorts with Roberto Bolano's 2666, the folks over at the New Yorker have launched an online book club. First up: Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates. Check out the posts (comments welcome) here. Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tea Party Magazine Seeks Submissions for "The Free Issue"

Arisa White, Tea Party magazine's features editor, wrote in earlier this week and asked me to point you all to Tea Party's current call for submissions for an issue to be published in June which will be themed "The Free Issue." Submission deadline is March 20, 2009. You'll find all the details here. (Tea Party pays honoraria of $10-$50.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Wednesday Web Browser: Online Lit Mags, Agent Urban, and After Deadline Explanations

Over on, Jessica Powers offers "A Cautionary Look at Online Literary Magazines."
While in Israel for the Jerusalem Book Fair, agent Amanda "Binky" Urban spoke with a reporter for Haaretz.
Usage peeves addressed on After Deadline.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Prospective MFA Student Seeks Advice

I received this message via the blog, and I'm enlisting everyone's help responding to it. Please chime in!
Hello, Erika:

I have been looking at MFA programs in creative writing and have come across a problem. First, I live in Ohio where OSU is the only viable option for me to drive every day (and even that is 45 minutes one way). So I've been looking at some other options, mainly low residency programs. I've looked online and there seems to be a prejudice about which programs are best/worst.

How would I go about finding out if the programs I'm applying to will be a determent or a help in applying for work or getting published? My current choices (after OSU) are Eastern Kentucky University and Spalding University. They are not too far for me to drive once a semester or so to complete the low residency requirements.


I'm going to share a few immediate thoughts (and questions), and then I'll open things up for comments from our sage readers.

1) I'm not exactly sure which programs this writer is perceiving as "best/worst," though I have a few ideas. But I'm a big proponent of writers trying to match programs to their specific goals/needs. What might have struck one discussion board participant as "bad" may have been a bad fit for that person, but what if our correspondent has completely different professional goals or interests? Similarly, someone waxing eloquent about a program might have very different criteria for what a "good" program provides than our questioner does.

2) I think one aspect of what this writer is talking about is the level of support and guidance different programs offer their alumni. And given the extreme youth of many low-residency programs, that can be difficult to gauge. In my contribution to the revised edition of Tom Kealey's Creative Writing MFA Handbook, I say this: "It isn’t necessarily fair to compare the records of new programs with ones that have been around for decades, but it is absolutely fair to ask how programs and their faculty help students transition into careers as professional writers. Relevant questions might include: 'What happens when a faculty member thinks a given story/poem/essay is publishable?' or 'What counseling is offered students for post-MFA publication and job options?' Although some people may insist on the MFA’s purely 'artistic' purpose, many others approach it as a professional degree. Ostensibly, you’re receiving some real training for the time, money, and effort you’re devoting here. If that matters to you, make sure it matters to the program, too."

3) I know Ohio is a large state, and I'm not at all sure where our correspondent is living, but I wonder if she has considered all the low-res programs in Ohio/Kentucky? There are some others in those states, and they're listed here. I'm thinking of Ashland and Murray State, for example, although if our correspondent is a fiction writer, she probably won't be interested in Ashland (which offers concentrations in poetry and nonfiction only). By the way, I'm not at all sure she'd need to drive every day to OSU, or to any other campus-based program, for that matter.

I think I'll pause here and ask others to share their thoughts and insights. Hope this helps!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Morning Markets/Jobs/Opportunities

HOBART has reopened for submissions. They're now seeking stories for an upcoming theme issue on "The Great Outdoors."(Remember, HOBART now pays its contributors! Check the guidelines here.)
InTheFray magazine is looking for a books editor. This is a telecommuting position that pays a "small honorarium." Details here.
StoryQuarterly has found a new home. "Through its new affiliation with Rutgers University, Story Quarterly will continue to publish an annual print edition, the first one to appear through Rutgers–Camden in the summer of 2009 and will continue as an online presence that will showcase new work year-round. In addition Story Quarterly will begin to publish creative nonfiction and look to make the interview a staple feature." And, SQ will be paying its contributors, $150-$200. More info here.
Newfoundland-based journal Riddle Fence is taking submissions for its next issue until March 2, 2009. Publishes essays, poems, short fiction, reviews, interviews, and artwork. Pays: $30/printed page (presumably in Canadian funds). Guidelines here.(via
Lots more listings to follow in our March newsletter, which will go out to subscribers at week's end. Not yet a subscriber? Click here to learn more about our fabulous, free electronic publication for fictionists, poets, and writers of creative nonfiction.
And, as always, a few job listings for you to consider:
Professor in Creative Writing, University of Hull (UK; thanks to BJ Epstein for the info)
Marketing Director, Center for the Art of Translation (California)
Web Content Manager, SUNY-Geneseo (New York)
Web Content Specialist, College of the Holy Cross (Massachusetts)

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Find: List of Freelance Book Publicists

Thanks to the expert Book Publicity Blog for compiling a list of freelance book publicists. (How I'd love to need this list someday!)

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Get to Know Them: Canadian Literary Journals

I keep meaning to mention this item here, and now, at last, I will! Luna Park pointed me to this article on Canadian literary magazines. It might be a good intro for those who aren't yet familiar with our writerly friends to the north (though I wonder how certain journals are taking to being described as "austere").

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wednesday Web Browser: An Array of AWP Impressions

Now that the hordes have left Chicago, there's plenty to read about this year's Association of Writers and Writing Programs conference, which took place in the Windy City last Thursday-Saturday. I thought I'd point you to a few choice samples of the reportage.

Over on Lisa Romeo's blog, guest blogger Susan Ito shares her AWP experience in two posts.
John Griswold, aka "Oronte Churm," posted a series of dispatches on his IHE blog.
And Tayari Jones was generous enough to pay the broadband fee so she could blog straight from her hotel room.

Stay tuned for a special AWP-related feature in our next newsletter!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Funding Update from Sewanee School of Letters

This blog's site statistics show that more than a few people arrive here having searched for information on the Sewanee School of Letters, which I first mentioned in November 2005. While not a typical low-residency program--its summer study sessions last several weeks--this program, with options to pursue an M.A. in English or an M.F.A. in creative writing, seems especially well-suited to those who have chunks of summertime available. Schoolteachers, for example.

And that's where the update comes in. I've just received an e-mail from the program's director. Among other things, I learned this: "We now have three tuition scholarships, donated by the Altemeier and Sommers families of Sewanee, earmarked for public school teachers (two of these are new this year and are intended for members of the 2009 entering class)." Plus: "Our schedule now overlaps with that of the Sewanee Writers’ Conference for a few days, and its readings and lectures have significantly enhanced our students’ experience of Sewanee."

I've added this information to our page on funding for low-res programs. And if you want to learn more about the Sewanee School of Letters, do check out its Web site.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday Morning Markets/Jobs/Opportunities

The deadline is coming up soon (February 21) for the next Philip Roth Residence in Creative Writing at Bucknell University. This opportunity "offers an emerging writer four months of unfettered writing time during Bucknell's fall semester, without formal academic obligations. The Residence is designed to grant the writer time to complete a first or second book. The resident presents a public reading of his or her work and otherwise constitutes a literary presence on campus during the fall. Providing lodging on campus, an office in the Stadler Center for Poetry, and a stipend of $4,000, the Residence is awarded to writers of prose (fiction or creative nonfiction) and poets on an alternating basis." Currently open to prose writers. No application fee. Click here for more information.
Kaleidoscope, a journal that explores the experience of disability through literature and the fine arts, plans an issue themed on "Giving and Receiving Care: A Delicate Balance": "There are many variations of caregiving relationships. We are looking for personal essays, creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry which provide insights into this delicate subject from the perspective of caregivers and people who receive care. How does one honor and meet the needs of both individuals?" Submission deadline is March 1, 2009. Pays: $10-$125, plus two copies. Click here for more information. (Thanks to for reminding me to check in on this publication.)
Meet new agent Sara Megibow. She's looking to represent science fiction and fantasy, romance, young adult and middle grade, and commercial fiction.
And--somehow--I've found a few jobs!
Lecturers in Creative Writing (fiction, poetry, translation, autobiography/biography), Princeton University (New Jersey)
Director of Communications and Marketing, Macaulay Honors College-CUNY (New York)
Director of Alumnae/i Communications and Editor, Vassar College (New York)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Find: Kind Words and Recognition

Just taking a moment to share with you some much-appreciated recognition this blog has recently received.

First, our pal "Oronte Churm" devoted a chunk of a post on writing resources to the blog (and its associated newsletter):
I can’t believe I haven’t mentioned before a writerly resource called The Practicing Writer (and its online presence, Practicing Writing). My online friend Erika Dreifus publishes both; she’s a writer and teacher, as well as contributing editor at both The Chattahoochee Review and The Writer magazine. I subscribe to her free monthly newsletter and read the blog daily to look for writing news, job listings and calls for submissions, interviews, and reviews, along with wonderfully fun bits and pieces, such as a link today to a guy recording songs inspired by every chapter of Moby Dick. (He sounds a little like David Byrne, actually.) Recently I sent something I’d had languishing to Horticulture magazine, of all places, on Erika’s recommendation. I never would have thought of it, but now it seems perfect for a short poem about a Hosta unfurling its sail, Odysseus-like, for a journey to the Fall.

And then, "Practicing Writing" appeared on a list of the "Top 100 Creative Writing Blogs" compiled by Best Colleges Online. We're included among blogs that help writers focus on "getting published." And we're in some great company. Check out the list at your leisure.

Thanks SO MUCH to everyone who appreciates the blog and spreads the word about it. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

SASE Alert!

If you haven't yet sworn off the SASE and committed yourself to sending only to publications that take electronic submissions, you'll definitely want to take note of the latest U.S. postal rate increase announcement. As of May 11, the price for a 1-ounce First-Class Mail stamp will increase from 42¢ to 44¢. So if you're mailing anything now with the expectation that you may not hear back before then, you may want to stock up on the correct postage--or dig up those Forever Stamps--and prepare your SASEs accordingly.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Wednesday Web Browser: Discounted Classics, New French Lit, and Writerly Rant

Jacket Copy alerts us to a major sale on literary classics. But hurry! The discount ends February 15.
This Festival of New French Writing, set for February 26-28 in New York, looks magnifique. (via The Elegant Variation)
Have a writing-related rant? Share it here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

From My Bookshelf: How to Write Like Chekhov


How to Write Like Chekhov: Advice and Inspiration, Straight from His Own Letters and Work, edited and introduced by Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek and translated from the Russian and Italian by Lena Lencek. Da Capo Press, 256 pages. Paperback, $14.95

Review by Erika Dreifus

Born in 1860, Anton Chekhov is remembered today as a masterful playwright and short story writer. His work is widely anthologized, and he has inspired countless literary descendants. Fortunately for us, Chekhov, who lived only 44 years, also left a legacy of correspondence in which he offered advice that applies not only to the writers and editors of his own time, but also to those living in ours.

In this book, Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek have done something others have tried before them: mined Chekhov's correspondence for advice on the craft of writing. What's new and particularly noteworthy in this volume is a focus on lessons to be learned from a close reading of The Island of Sakhalin, a work of nonfiction reportage that emerged from the doctor-writer's travels to a Russian penal colony.

How to Write Like Chekhov comprises two parts. Part one ("Theory") includes Chekhov's explicit advice on writing as directed to his correspondents, including other writers seeking his take on their work. In a Jan. 3, 1899, letter to Maxim Gorky, for example, Chekhov advocated simplicity in descriptions of nature:
Your nature descriptions are artistic; you are a true landscape painter. However, your frequent comparisons to humans (anthropomorphism)--the sea breathes, the sky looks on, the steppe basks in the sun, nature whispers, speaks, weeps, and so on--these kinds of personifications make your descriptions somewhat monotonous, a touch saccharine, vague; in descriptions of nature, vibrancy and expressivity are best produced by simple techniques, for example: using simple phrases such as "the sun set," "it got dark," "it started to rain," and so on.
Again, others have cited such Chekhovian words of wisdom before (and it may be worth considering that parts one and two were published separately in the original Italian version edited by Brunello).

Part two ("Demonstration") is where this book offers its most significant contribution. Subdivided into three subsections--"The Project," "The Report," and "Actual Writing"--"Demonstration" suggests how to construct a work of investigative nonfiction by examining how Chekhov assembled The Island of Sakhalin. As Brunello explains in his introduction, this part of the book "is especially addressed to writers who, like Chekhov, are interested in discovering, exploring, and understanding the unknown. The modus operandi of his voyage of discovery is useful not only to writers who make long journeys and wish to write about them but also to those who want to understand life closer to home."

Chekhov's pre-journey correspondence reveals, for example, that before embarking on his trip he conducted considerable research and wrote up material that did not require field research. Excerpts from these letters lead Brunello to suggest steps other nonfiction writers might follow, including "read and summarize" and "write up the notes."

Matters become increasingly interesting when we read letters Chekhov sent while traveling to and through Sakhalin and text that appears to be drawn from his actual report. Brunello evidently believes that if we attend closely to how Chekhov conducted his field research, we'll glean some useful tips on how to pursue similar work.

So Chekhov's description of a local wedding moves Brunello to suggest the usefulness of attending a similar event and observing "what people are wearing, their ages, rituals, conversations, and social roles." And a Chekhovian paragraph about messages scratched into benches prompts Brunello to highlight how instructive studying graffiti may be. Other tips attached to relevant excerpts from Chekhov's Sakhalin work include "save receipts, schedules, and fliers," "study the climate," "take a census" and quantify."

The Sakhalin material also provides advice on the actual writing process, encompassing both logistics and craft. In one letter, for instance, Chekhov tells a correspondent that delaying his post-journey writing on Sakhalin "would be dangerous because my impressions of Sakhalin are already evaporating, and I risk forgetting a lot"; from this, Brunello highlights the importance of writing "while your impressions are still fresh." And with a wrenching excerpt in which Chekhov describes witnessing a prisoner's flogging, Brunello points to the importance of the writer sharing his own emotions in the narrative.

It's difficult to predict the degree to which any reader will finish this book and be able to "write like Chekhov." But it's equally challenging to think of a nobler goal.

© Copyright 2009 Erika Dreifus

(A version of this review appeared in The Writer magazine.)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Monday Morning Markets/Jobs/Opportunities

Thanks to David LaBounty for sending me this call: "Overtime, a series of one-story chapbooks about the workplace, is going quarterly. We are looking for stories between 5,000 - 12,000 words where work is a central theme. We will consider simultaneous and previously published submissions. (We will also consider serializing novels about the workplace. Please query first.) We pay between $25 and $50, depending on length and rights acquired." For details, click here.
Arvon (UK) "is glad to announce that an anonymous writer, and past Arvon student, has donated a £350 grant for one person from the voluntary sector to attend a course in 2009. To apply you must currently volunteer either full or part time within a charity." There is no application fee. Deadline: February 28, 2009. More info here.
And here's another way to save on taking a writing course: Sage Cohen is offering a scholarship for a writer to take her online "Poetry for the People" class (I happen to be a veteran of that course). The next class begins in March, and Sage is taking scholarship applications through Sunday, February 15. There's no application fee. Click here for details and application instructions.
CV2 (Canada) is looking for poetry for its Spring 2009 issue: "Nothing but the poetry folks, no theme, no critical writing." Deadline: February 10, 2009. And before you know it (February 15, 2009), submissions will be due for "essays with accompanying selection of poetry" for "the green issue," out this summer. More info here, and details on pay rates, etc. here. (via
Via e-mail from Yona Zeldis McDonough, fiction editor for Lilith magazine (which describes itself as "independent, Jewish and frankly feminist"): "I am always actively seeking fiction submissions (stories and occasionally novel excerpts), and the magazine is receptive to new writers who want to pitch reviews, articles and essays." To learn more about Lilith and the work it publishes, click here.
Thanks to practicing writer Ken Bielen for reminding me that this is the season to apply for the U.S. National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowships. This year, applications are open to prose writers. There's no application fee, so far as I see, and the deadline is March 5, 2009. Lots more info here.
And, of course, a few college and university jobs for your consideration:
Director of Advancement Communications and Executive Editor of the Alumni & Friends Magazine, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
Assistant Web Designer/Content Editor, Northwestern University-Kellogg School of Management (Illinois)
English Instructor Pool, Santa Rosa Junior College (California)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Friday Find:

This week, Patrick Shea's proud father-in-law (John is one of my wonderful co-workers at "the day job") brought this New York Times profile to my attention.

The article introduces readers to "[Shea's] goal was to write one song for each of the 136 chapters in 'Moby-Dick,' Herman Melville’s sprawling 1851 classic, which tells the story of the ship captain Ahab and his haunted hunt for an elusive white whale. Combining literary analysis with eclectic musical taste and a dark, clear baritone, Mr. Shea posts a new song each week."

Pretty interesting, isn't it? I'd want to post about it even if I didn't already know and like the father-in-law!

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

If You E-mailed Me About the Directory of Paying Essay Markets

Here's an apologetic message for the practicing writer who wrote to me within the last day or so about ordering the guide to paying essay markets. Although I caught the subject line, the message somehow evaporated before I could actually read it. Please resend! And please accept my apologies.

Upcoming Events in NYC

Something wonderful makes its debut next Monday evening at the CUNY Graduate Center. Turnstyle, a new cross-genre MFA reading series that features the faculty and students of four CUNY graduate creative writing programs, will launch on February 9 at 6:30 p.m. The location: the CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Avenue). The price: Free!

This first Turnstyle event will feature faculty readers Louis Asekoff and Kimiko Hahn. MFA readers will include Evan Ross Burton, LaForrest Cope, Eric Harte, Gabriel Packard, Jeffrey Price, Micah Towery, Peter Vandenberg, and Visola Wurser.

I think it's going to be great. And there will be more Turnstyle events throughout the semester.

And then, for those of you in the NYC area who are writing fiction on Jewish themes, don't forget about the Jewish Fiction Writers' Conference planned for Sunday, March 15. Early-bird discounted registration is still available (until February 16), and yours truly is among the presenters. Find out more (and download the full conference brochure) by visiting the 92nd Street Y site.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Wednesday Web Browser: American Jewish Fiction, A Winner's Wisdom, and An Author's Take on True Crime

Over on my other blog, I've written a few words about Josh Lambert's superb new book, American Jewish Fiction (Jewish Publication Society, 2009).
The new Poets & Writers contest blog presents an interview with Cynthia Lowen, a frequent competition winner.
Practicing writer Mardi Link explores "the allure of true crime" in this essay for Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Online Sites Where People Critique Others' Work "Gently and Lovingly"

Over the weekend I received an e-mail from Nancy, who describes herself as "a fairly new writer." She's looking for an online "community where people can share their writing and love of writing, etc. and get feedback if they want it." She's hoping for a site where people critique others' work "gently and lovingly."

I have Nancy's permission to post this, and I am hoping some of you will have suggestions to help her out. Please share what you know on this topic in the comments section. Thank you in advance!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday Morning Markets/Jobs/Opportunities

Recently discovered an unusual short story contest run by the Genomics Policy and Research Forum (UK). If you can write a story influenced by the genes-related (no pun intended) issues referenced in the announcement, you may win £500 (or runner-up prizes of £200 or £100). There's no entry fee. Deadline: March 31, 2009.
Chuck Sambuchino introduces us to literary agents Sammie Justesen, who represents "genre fiction and all areas of nonfiction," and Courtney Miller-Callihan, who represents "a variety of fiction, nonfiction, and children's works." Plus, he points us to Alice Pope's interview with another agent, Elana Roth, who's interested, Chuck assures us, in writing for young people.
Rapier Press plans an anthology of true stories "about dates gone bad." Low-paying, but paying ($15). Deadline: March 31, 2009. Click here to find out more.
And, despite the bad economy, I've still found a few jobs!
Assistant to the President for Communications, Buffalo State College (New York)
Development Writer, Regis College (Massachusetts)
Assistant Director of Communications, Wistar Institute (Pennsylvania)