M is for Meredith Maran…and me

M“…Bend your neck so your head tilts sideways and walk slowly along the stacks of books, reading all the titles out loud, with expression, as if the titles were lines from a poem. Do this until the poem is finished.” –Ruth Ozeki’s prompt #13 in the Preface to Choices (Borderline Press, 2016)

I headed for the Crafts/Home Décor/Arts signage at the Burlington, Washington Library . The section was near the table my wife and I had staked out over which Andrew Carnegie’s portrait presided. I strolled along, whispering the names of three dozen titles and then selected a handful for the following prose poem. The book titles are italicized; the few connecting words are not.

A HARD DAYS WRITE: What is needed: Game Face, Super Focus, Just Look,The Hammer of the Gods, A Life in Color, Energy Flash

What is not needed: Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction,The idiot’s Gide to Playing the Harmonica, Fundamentals of Philately,The Alternative Guide to Cheerleading, and especially Depression Glass

The result: Vanished Smile not Super Better

Having fulfilled the requirements of Ruth Ozeki’s prompt, I can move from me to Meredith Maran, the author of Why We Write: 2o Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do,  a book I recommend to every writer or individual interested in what makes writers write.

Moran asks the question, “Why do writers write? Anyone who’s ever sworn at a blinking cursor has asked herself that question at some point.” The answer for herself is “I write books to answer my own questions. So I made a wish list of authors to interview for this one…” Her goal was “to talk to those who have beaten the odds: writers who have succeeded at both the craft and the commerce of writing, who could offer the greatest insights into the creative urge.”

Moran managed to obtain interviews with a stellar list of authors including Isabel Allende, Susan Orlean, Sue Grafton, Mary Karr, and Armistead Maupin, to name a few. The reader learns about Armistead Maupins favorite teacher Mrs. Peacock, about Sara Gruen’s rejection for Water for Elephants (“Circus books don’t sell”), and David Baldacci’s conviction that he’d be in prison if writing were illegal (“I can’t not write. It’s a compulsion.”)

In addition to essays by the individual writers, Maran has sidebars that list basic information about each author–their birthdays, upbringing, education, honors, books authored, etc.

Version 2I met Maran briefly at the2016 AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference. She participated in the panel Not a Love Story: Owning the Romantic and Domestic in Literary Memoir. Note the word “literary” in the title. Maran and her compatriots want to avoid the relegation of their books to the Chick Lit pile, preferring to emphasize the significance of their content.

For memoir writers, check out her companion volume Why We Write about Ourselves: 20 Memoirists on Why They Expose Themselves (and others) in the name of Literature.

P.S. In the picture to the left, I’ve just bought her book which accounts for the flash of cash and her accommodating smile. I suspect that reading essays by The Twenty, as she calls them, will erase my inclination to write any more Tilted Head Poetry.

Additional Resources: http://www.salon.com/2011/05/08/mothers_ask_where_did_i_go_wrong/



K is for Kosse, Kyss, and Kis

K…and also for cos, cosse, and cus––the Old English and Middle English expressions that are the etymological origins that lead up to a word and an activity that most of us are very fond of.

“Yit wol he stele a cuss or tuo.”-John Gower, Confessio Amantis

Even if we are unfamiliar with the author, Gower’s 1390 meaning is recognizable. Samuel Coleridge’s sentiment in Ode to Sara (1797) is even clearer: “Can danger lurk within a kiss?” Neither were referring to another definition of kiss–the kiss of peace used in rituals of the primitive church.

So why am I talking about kisses? Because kiss is a more appetizing word than kick-box or knuckle or any of the other K words that came to mind and because of Isaac Fitzgerald, an editor at Buzzfeed. (See links to interviews in The New Yorker and The Rumpus below.)

Buzzfeed is the splashy online publication that gets 80 million views per month, more than the New York Times. Buzzfeed is trendy, but has a solid global news team and  effectively tailors its articles for about a jillion platforms.

Fitzgerald was the token extrovert on “Networking for Introverts,” a panel at the recent AWP (Association of Writers and Writers Programs) conference in L.A. “I live out loud,” he said, advising writers to “Do anything that gets you out of yourself. Get out of the fetal position. Get yourself on the page. Collect people. Be excellent. Be quick and be gone.”

He had the most energy, the best sense of humor of all the panelists. As I sat and listened to his comments during the panel, I skimmed the New Yorker interview below.  I liked his approach to book reviewing: “Why waste breath talking smack about something…the overwhelming online books community is a positive place.”

I signed up for his tweets and then I uncurled myself from my fetal position in my chair, at the back of the lecture hall, trudged tentatively up to the front, and asked if I could take a picture of him?

“Sure,” he said, “but why don’t you be in it? Here,” he said, handing my phone to the nearest person, “take this picture, wouldja?”



Interviews with Isaac Fitzgerald