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Turning Pages: The joys of writers' retreats

smh.com.au – Friday April 5, 2019

I've always been a bit sceptical about writers' retreats. They sound so self-indulgent. All that food and wine and yoga and wellbeing in gorgeous surroundings. Aren't you supposed to just get on with it, in your garret or at the kitchen table, surrounded by people? It was good enough for Jane Austen, why isn't it good enough for you?

Yet these retreats are flourishing, and they seem to get more and more lavish and luxurious. Perhaps the first haven for Australian writers was Eleanor Dark's house, Varuna, in the Blue Mountains, and it's still going strong. You can win a residency or pay for your stay, and you can either work away quietly or get feedback from editors and publishers through the various mentoring programs on offer.

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How to self-publish your novel

theverge.com – Monday April 1, 2019

Until recently, if you were a writer who had a novel or other work, there was essentially a single path to follow: you tried to find an agent who liked your writing, and who would be able to sell it to a publisher. The process could take months or years — assuming you were able to get on that merry-go-round at all.

David Gaughran, author of Let’s Get Digital and other books about self-publishing, tried that route when he wrote his first novel about 11 years ago. It was an exasperating experience.

“I spent about 18 months querying every agent that I could find in the English-language world and didn’t really get anywhere,” Gaughran says. He was frustrated enough that he thought about giving up. “But then I started looking at self-publishing.”

Since then, self-publishing has become far more than a last-ditch alternative to traditional publishing — it’s a choice that many authors are making from the starting line. But while it’s not all that hard to put out an ebook these days, finding an audience takes a lot more than simply uploading your manuscript and clicking publish: it means going through the entire publishing process on your own, from editing to artwork to marketing, putting your book’s success entirely in your own hands.

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5 Writing Tips: Mark Bowden

publishersweekly.com – Saturday March 30, 2019

Many years ago I asked the novelist John Barth for some writing advice. He told me always to end a writing session in mid-sentence.

“That way you’ll know exactly where to pick up the next day.”

That has proven useful, so I pass it along. It applies equally to all forms of writing. My own work has been nonfiction, so my tips below may be more narrowly helpful, but if you have a true story to tell, here are five tips—and a bonus one at the end. That makes seven. They are paying me fifty bucks for this, so that’s $7.14 apiece.

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How to Write Poetry About Conflict

theatlantic.com – Monday March 25, 2019

The poet Carolyn Forché has devoted much of her career to writing what she calls the poetry of witness. She coined the term in her introduction to Against Forgetting, a 1993 anthology in which she collected works by 145 “poets who endured conditions of historical and social extremity during the twentieth century.” Forché herself had not endured such conditions, but she had seen them. From 1978 to 1980, she traveled repeatedly to El Salvador, where she bore witness to the violent repression of Salvadoran citizens by that country’s military dictatorship.

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The rise of robot authors: is the writing on the wall for human novelists?

theguardian.com – Monday March 25, 2019

Artificial intelligence can now write fiction and journalism. But does it measure up to George Orwell – and can it report on Brexit?

Will androids write novels about electric sheep? The dream, or nightmare, of totally machine-generated prose seemed to have come one step closer with the recent announcement of an artificial intelligence that could produce, all by itself, plausible news stories or fiction. It was the brainchild of OpenAI – a nonprofit lab backed by Elon Musk and other tech entrepreneurs – which slyly alarmed the literati by announcing that the AI (called GPT2) was too dangerous for them to release into the wild, because it could be employed to create “deepfakes for text”. “Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology,” they said, “we are not releasing the trained model.” Are machine-learning entities going to be the new weapons of information terrorism, or will they just put humble midlist novelists out of business?

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Inside Creative Writing’s Premier Talent Factory

nytimes.com – Sunday March 24, 2019

The remarkable number of notable writers who have studied or taught at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop includes Flannery O’Connor, Robert Lowell, Dylan Thomas, Rita Dove, Sandra Cisneros, Kurt Vonnegut, John Irving and Marilynne Robinson. In “A Delicate Aggression,” David O. Dowling, an associate professor at Iowa’s journalism school, tells the “cultural and industrial history” of the workshop through a series of biographical portraits. He captures writers “in their formative years taking their first tentative steps toward professional careers, forming alliances and rivalries among intimidating world-renowned faculty and high-powered peers.” He writes about the program’s blend of mentoring and marketing, its rigor and its wiles. Below, he discusses the workshop’s founder, Irving defending Vonnegut’s honor in a fight, how Ralph Waldo Emerson helped to inspire this book and more.

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The agent, her authors and the legal battles worthy of a bestseller

smh.com.au – Friday March 22, 2019

Selwa Anthony is ensconced on an avocado-green leather sofa, a chihuahua reclining on either side of her. The leading literary agent is small but commanding, a diminutive grande dame with sharp brown eyes and long purple fingernails. As always, she is carefully coiffured and glamorously dressed, as if her next appointment were a cocktail party. But Anthony's mood on this warm afternoon is more defiant than festive. "Everything I've done in my life has been boots and all," she says.

Literary agents are behind-the-scenes people. Their job is to foster writers' careers and secure them good publishing deals: they rarely make news in their own right. Yet Anthony has had a central role in not one but two headline-grabbing court cases in the past year. First, she was in the thick of a battle over the estate of her friend Colleen McCullough, best-known as the author of the blockbuster outback saga The Thorn Birds. Then came the showdown with her former star client, bestselling mystery-romance writer Kate Morton. Anthony, who initiated the legal action against Morton, ended up feeling that her own professional reputation was on trial. In the witness box, she was grilled for hours. "It was terrible, terrible, terrible," she says, as sunlight streams into her harbourside Sydney apartment.

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All write now: writing is a numbers game

montclairlocal.news – Sunday March 17, 2019

I woke up this morning to a rejection email in my inbox. It was for a short, lyrical essay I had written and submitted nearly a year ago. A piece I was quite fond of. A piece I was hopeful would actually find a home. The rejection hurt more than usual, as my piece apparently went through several rounds of consideration and came close to being chosen for publication. SO! CLOSE! ::shakes fists at sky::

Still, after the briefest of mourning periods, I opened up the spreadsheet in which I tracked my numbers of pitches and submissions, moved this particular publication to the “rejected by” column, and considered where I might send my piece next. And that was that. Onward!

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