Resources for Writers

BOOK REVIEWERS AND MEDIA

This article by best-selling author Rebecca Skloot is an outstanding guide to the nuts-and-bolts of being a book reviewer.

The trade association of book critics is the National Book Critics Circle. A junior or student membership is available for $15. And of course reading their blog and following their twitter feed is free.

PEN America is a literary organization that defends free speech but that doubles as an advocacy source and networking center. $25.

Publishersmarketplace.com is an industry trade periodical

mediabistro.com has resources for all media professionals

mediagazer.com covers trending topics in media, publishing

publishingperspective.com is an industry roundup of news

bookjobs.com and journalismjobs.com are job boards

Clippings.me is an easy to use and free clips portfolio maker (you can see mine at https://clippings.me/mikelindgren).

Here are some periodicals that might publish work by novice writers: Empty Mirror, Luna Mag, the Millions, the BOILER, Rust and Moth, Grist Journal, Collapsar, WhiskeyPaper, Squalorly Lit, Wyvern, Sundog Lit, Gravel Magazine, Split Lip, etc. etc.

CALENDAR

End of May: Book Expo and BookCon

September: Brooklyn Book Festival (free!)

Spring: Awards season — National Book Awards and NBCC awards

RESEARCH

Go to the library. Bring a piece of mail and a photo ID. Get a library card. Go to nypl.org. Click “research.” Scroll down. Click “articles and databases.” Use “find e-journals by title,” “Oxford Reference Online,” and “JSTOR.”

ESSENTIAL REFERENCES

Strunk and White, The Elements of Style.

Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition.

Associated Press Stylebook.

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, online version.

American Heritage Dictionary.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

“Ten Ways to Make Yourself a Better Writer” by Mike Lindgren, Medium, July 2015

“The End” by Boris Kachka, New York, 9/22/08

“Diary” by Colin Robinson, London Review of Books, 2/26/09

“The Last Book Party” by Gideon Lewis-Kraus, Harpers, March 2009

“Diary,” by Christian Lorentzen, London Review of Books, 8/2/12

GLOSSARY

ARC — Advanced Readers Copy. A bound preview of the book sent to reviewers and bookstores in advance of the publication date.

backlist — the cumulative books a press has published in the past, which continue to sell in paperback and provide low-maintenance revenue. cf. frontlist

blurb — an endorsement by a fellow writer, used for pre-publication advertising and on the back of the book to entice readers.

clip — a published review, used to demonstrate a reviewer’s experience, style, competence, etc.

frontlist — the publisher’s new offerings for the upcoming season, to be published largely in hardcover and aggressively promoted. cf backlist

lede — the first sentence of an article or review, one which should grab the reader’s attention.

pitch — a message to an editor suggesting a book to be reviewed by the reviewer, including a description of the book’s relevance and the reviewer’s qualifications.

pre-pubs — Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, and Kirkus. Three periodicals which publish advance reviews of upcoming books.

trade — 1) intended for the general reader, and sold through bookstores; 2) a general-interest periodical such as the NYT, WSJ, etc., as opposed to pre-pubs.

wholesaler — a company that warehouses and distributes books to bookstores, i.e., the middleman between the publisher and the bookstore.

Bad Moon Rising

On Ron Kolm and “A Change in the Weather”

Poet, editor, archivist, bookseller, raconteur, man-about-town, downtown icon: Ron Kolm is all of these things and more. With A Change in the Weather (Sensitive Skin Books, $9.95), a slim but explosive collection of verse, Kolm continues to burnish his reputation as a vital historical and creative voice.

A veteran of New York’s downtown avant-garde, Kolm writes poems that are tacitly autobiographical, using as their narrative the writer’s own experiences coming to New York City in near-poverty and moving through the upstart bohemia of what was a rougher, wilder place. Kolm writes of driving cross-country in a beat-up pickup (“Badlands”), of taking a job at the Strand Bookstore (“Hell’s Kitchen”), and of seeing a sullen Jimi Hendrix performing for an all-white crowd in Philadelphia (“Jimi”).

A Change in the Weather
At times, the poems seem like a catalogue of the doomed and broken, as the everyman narrator — a sort of Beatrice to the reader’s Dante — bears witness to jarring and ominous confrontations. In “8th Street Station,” the narrator is menaced by a mentally ill woman:

“Don’t look at me, bitch!” she screamed.
“Do you want to get pushed
In front of a train and die?”
She yanked a bottle
From her jacket pocket
And smashed it against the wall,
Just like in the movies.

He also encounters priests, junkies, Vietnam vets, and even Charles Bukowski — in a bookstore, natch — all pinballing against each other against a backdrop of an apocalyptic urban wasteland.

Kolm’s language in these miniature vers a clef is sturdy, utilitarian, unembellished; he is fond of breaking a series of declarative sentences into short lines, generally of five to seven feet, that have a staccato energy:

When we reach street level
I see a horrendous sight:
The sky is blood red
And though it’s summer
Snowflakes are falling
And coating everything.

For Kolm, one senses, poetry has a documentary function (this seeming holocaust was the result of burst power line); these lines have the grabbed-at, semi-improvised feeling of real life, a lived-in recording of modern chaos. They thus convey a certain onrushing energy, as well as a degree of interest simply as historical documents, but to my mind, the more successful efforts are the ones where Kolm veers away from his formula.

Two of the poems are found-poetry collages, taken from old bookmarks, notes, and other realia he has collected during his bookselling career — a verbal scrapbook of the lost and forgotten — and they are evocative and visually robust (“A gaucho broke her heart / with his bullet-studded belt”; “They’ve drawn a circle in chalk around his chair”).

Best of all are the fantasia in which Kolm lets go of the quotidian and allows his imagination, and his humor, to run unleashed. In “Finnegans Joyce,” James Joyce comes back from the dead to explain himself in a high-velocity rant; in “Hope Springs Eternal,” Andy Warhol winds up re-incarnated as a potato chip (“I silk-screened / Monroe for this?”) We are all, ends “The New World,” just “living in the shadow / of the new tower of Babel.” Luckily we have Ron Kolm, and poems like these, to illuminate our way.

—Michael Lindgren