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

On ‘Turandot’

Guest post by Jon Lindgren


Here at last we have an opera with a happy ending—a love story that, despite much pain and suffering along the way, ends well while embracing a core principle of the power of love to overcome hatred. This accomplishment is revealed to us with unwavering certainty about the depth and breadth in life’s possibilities for making us better than we knew we could be. For me a key to unlocking this transforming message has been to apply the insight expounded by Umberto Eco in his 1985 essay regarding the abundance of clichés deployed in the classic movie, Casablanca. Eco states “Two clichés make us laugh. A hundred clichés move us.” Our method in attempting to absorb the power of Puccini’s Turandot consists in exploring some of the “clichés” embedded therein.

Turandot.Met

Franco Zeffirelli production of Puccini’s “Turandot,” Metropolitan Opera, Spring 2018.

Let’s get beyond thinking of them as clichés, however, because of the negative connotations of the term. How they function within the opera can instead be identified more precisely as myths, truisms, folk tales, legends, and the like: these are the common cultural inheritance of any groups of peoples, which forms the essence of our identity and values. They are not mere myths to be distrusted and thrown out; quite the reverse. To begin our inquiry let us begin with three clichés of central importance to understanding Turandot.

Love-at-first-sight. It is one of the most venerable of clichés in western culture if not all of humanity, relying as it does on an enigmatic cocktail of beauty, lust and love—intoxicating to relations between the sexes. It is a mystery of consummate profundity which writers, artists, and tabloids never tire of exploiting; from Prince Calaf and the ice Princess Turandot to D. Trump and Stormy, and who amongst us is wise enough to separate out innocent sincerity from pleasuring fraudulence? The primacy of sight is significant, too, although the opera’s libretto also brings out the presence of fragrance at work in Prince Calaf’s sensory apparatus. The connection between sensory experience and human emotion deepens the sense of mystery underlying the feelings located in love for another being. Perhaps most relevant to our approaching an understanding of both love and mutual sexual attraction—not to be confused with possessive one-way lust—is the feeling of vulnerability. It is the defining characteristic of Prince Calaf and, need we say, the mirror opposite of the invulnerable Turandot. Little wonder that in the pantheon of myth, love is represented by Cupid’s wounding of the unsuspecting victim with an arrow; and only the vulnerable are capable of receiving it (metaphorically, of course).

The three riddles. The mythical number of ‘3’ is the only predictable part of the equation of the riddles-that-must-be-answered in order to not lose everything of value—even the ultimate loss of life itself. Never mind that these are invariably trick questions whose enigmatic answers wrap themselves in metaphorically-based solutions. Life is a gamble, and so is love. But Turandot loses her gamble and flinchingly, instinctively, wants to cheat on its contractual outcome; and Prince Calaf willingly gives her that second chance being, after all, in love’s thrall.

The identity that hides its name. Prince Calaf’s name is revealed only to his blind father, Timur, by Liu, the slave girl, whom she has guided and protected in his long exile. Recognizing the Prince’s voice from the distant past, she sustains Calaf’s secret, which is baked into the cultural myth that one’s name is inextricably linked to identity and social class. The second chance at redemption he offers to Turandot comes at the risk of losing his life, a doubling down that barely hints at the depth of his love for Turandot. The terms of this gift to her is strongly reminiscent of the 4000-year-old German fairy tale, Rumpelstiltskin. But whereas Rumpelstiltskin’s secret identity is unwittingly revealed only through his own narcissistic mendacity, Calaf freely gives his secret away in a scene of stunning tension: at risk of death he is affirming that Turandot will become miraculously transformed from agent-of-death to loving partner, against her toxic background of both personal and sordid family history. Turandot could not be more terrified of failure to learn Calaf’s name were she to be subpoenaed by Robert Mueller: hence, “Nobody sleeps.”

Not that we can find a hundred examples of clichés from the opera, but many more are available to shape our understanding; a few  examples:

  1. The fickleness of crowds. The mobs are bloodthirsty for the next beheading to be decreed by Turandot, but after they see firsthand the young Prince of Persia about to be separated from his noggin, their empathy is immediately aroused and they plead to Turandot to spare him. Their failed efforts lead to the next up on-deck, Prince Calaf. Shortly thereafter they demand that Liu, the slave girl, be tortured into revealing Calaf’s name. And later, too, we observe when a “superstitious terror seizes the crowd.”
  2. The cold-hearted vengeful woman. Turandot’s misogyny is explained early on to result from her overwhelming and need to avenge ancestral suffering.
  3. Female suffering and the wayward daughter. Turandot is impervious to any demands made of her either by would-be suitors or elders, including her father, in her obsession with redeeming the cruelty suffered by a female ancestor.
  4. The blind elder generation. The failure of men to control violence extends beyond the parental level to include the goofy bureaucrats represented by Ping, Pang, and Pong, who wearily long for a life beyond ceremonies— these days mostly funerals. Each has retirement plans for a real life beyond trying to dissuade (to no avail) the foolish suitors of Turandot. With Calaf they pull out all the stops, attempting to seduce him away from folly with promises of nubile girls, gold and jewels, and empires—forget it!
  5. Unrequited love. The slave girl, Liu, has ever been in love with Prince Calaf because he once long ago smiled at her.
  6. Unrelenting loyalty and sacrifice. Liu now devotes her service to Timur, her blind exiled king and father of Calaf. Liu’s steadfastness leads her to endure torture for refusing to reveal Calaf’s name following her moving aria she sacrifices her own life out of love for them.
  7. Irrelevance of the artifices of social class. The noble slave’s humanity far outshining Turandot’s cruelty, Liu could easily mentor Turandot on the power of love to overcome hate.
  8. Sexual harassment. Depending on a given production director’s interpretation of male aggressiveness toward women, one can hardly ignore nowadays the question of whether Calaf’s inner Harvey Weinstein renders him guilty of unwanted advances in pressing his passionate embracing, kissing, and the like onto Turandot.
  9. Opening up to the power of love. Call it love or call it seduction, many have noticed over the years that men often quest to enfold women into a loving relationship.

Two points may sum it up. First, the apprehension of beauty through our physical senses creates the metaphor for love, which is the source of all morality; and second, despite the eternal verities provided by the ages, life can seem complicated as we ponder the timeless mysteries of life with modern-day sensibilities.

Jon Lindgren

 

 

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).

The Hopper review, by the way, is here.

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 (it’s RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER). 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.

SLIDES to the lecture are here: SVA.Criticism.LindgrenM

Baseball Field

The Iconic Baseball Field

As I walked a lap at Jackson Township Park this morning—crystalline Indian Summer—I reflected on the image of the baseball field within the circuit, and it occurred to me that it presented itself as an icon to my eye. Not simply a pleasing image in the flagrantly gorgeous morning slants of autumn sun, but an image that—if not demanding or even requiring interpretation—seemed at the least to yield some kind of interpretation to the receptive eye.

Baseball Field

Photo by Jon Lindgren.

I have long held that the images presented solely by nature, exempt of human constructions, are the inevitable and incessant sources of human meaning via the process in which they create metaphors for the human mind to assimilate however consciously or subconsciously. Very likely it is true of the man-made objects as well that we perceive every day—such as ballfields—that they too can become icons as we absorb them into our understanding. Like the original iconography of artistic creation in the Middle Ages—so important to a medievalist’s understanding of the art, mostly religious, of that time period—we have our own expanded canon to work with on the path toward understanding our values.

In other words, just as we have nearly lost the medieval layman’s seemingly intuitive, but actually culture-based, understanding of the “meaning” of a work of medieval art—so, we today probably ignore for the most part the iconic character of the baseball field. And it is certain that a person from a culture with no experience of baseball would be understandably nonplussed or mildly puzzled by the image of that playing field.

Nevertheless, a person imbued with our cultural experience of baseball and its playing fields can deconstruct all the signs—the grass, the intermingled dirt, the bases, the backstop, empty stands, dugout and all the rest—can make much of this image’s moment in time on a timeless fall day.

Or, one can let go—half-created, but scarcely observed.

Jon Lindgren

Feast on Chavisa Woods

In A Gathering of Tribes Jim Feast has a perceptive review of Chavisa Woods’s new collection of stories, Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Midwest.

download

Chavisa Woods

Feast sees in Woods’s work a tale of those who

have internalized their economic displacement into an imaginative impoverishment, which is fearful and antagonistic to departures from the anemic status quo, whether they involve gender-bending, Goth dress or playing with Troll dolls.

Cold Plate Special by Rob Widdicombe

Just out from irreverent micropress Saltimbanque Books!

Should a grown man confront the child molester who abused him when he was a boy? Jarvis is going to travel to Richmond, Virginia to face his former tormentor and find out. But he gets side-tracked along the way, and his narrow world is blown open by an assortment of off-the-wall characters, including a tattooed punk rock mannequin artist who inspires him with her fearless appetite for all things life.

read if u dare!!

“Cold Plate Special,” by Rob Widdicombe

When the climactic confrontation with the defiant pedophile becomes a chaotic exercise in firearms, corkscrews, bitch slaps and mannequin sex, Jarvis is truly never the same again.

Talking to: Willie J. Keaton, Jr.

Our moon is full.

img_0007Pastor Keaton at his ordination

I first met Pastor Willie J. Keaton, Jr., a few weeks ago, and was immediately impressed with his passion and commitment to his congregation at Claremont Lafayette United Presbyterian Church, located in Jersey City’s Ward F. I was eager to sit down and chat with him about his impressions of his community, and his hopes and concerns for its future.


I know you previously served in North Philly and Chester, PA – both of which are communities that face a lot of challenges. Can you com pare what you see in Ward F with your experiences there?

Yes. In many ways the circumstances are almost identical. I started my pastoral ministry in Chester PA, in 2008 and at the time I was an ordained Baptist Minister. I only came to Chester to help start a after-school program and I was paid by a suburban church to work…

View original post 1,973 more words

A Christmas Miracle, Sort of…

IT’s a cold morning, two weeks before Christmas, and I’m walking across 57th street on my way to work when I noticed him up ahead, shuffling along the curb — silver hair, blue jacket and white sneakers – not dressed for the weather. I probably wouldn’t have given him a second thought, but he reminded me of someone I knew from the literary scene. As I pulled even, I realized I was mistaken…

A very NYC holiday story from downtown avatar Ron Kolm, from Sensitive Skin magazine…