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The Tricky Task of Writing a Villain

theatlantic.com – Sunday March 27, 2022

In literature, and in real life, many times the villain makes the story. But writing a nuanced account of these characters, whether in fiction or in nonfiction, can be tricky. In her book Putin’s People, Catherine Belton uncovers important details from Putin’s past and tells what we might consider his origin story. One evening in December 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a group of protesters started making its way to the KGB station in Dresden. Putin called for reinforcements, but none came. This was his turning point, Anne Applebaum writes, the moment that “marked the end of [the Soviet] empire and the beginning of an era of humiliation.” She describes his disdain for democracy as his answer to that “trauma,” but she’s clear that his success has “proved a terrible tragedy for the rest of the world.”

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Pulitzer winner Anne Tyler on writing from black viewpoint: ‘I should be allowed to do it’

nypost.com – Tuesday March 22, 2022

One of America’s most acclaimed authors is wading into the culture wars, saying she believes she should be able to create characters from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Anne Tyler, 80, spoke out on the issue in an interview with the Sunday Times, stating, “I’m astonished by the appropriation issue. It would be very foolish for me to write, let’s say, a novel from the viewpoint of a black man, but I think I should be allowed to do it.”

Tyler — who won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel “Breathing Lessons” — also hit out at cancel culture.

“If an incredibly talented person has written novels in the 1930s or ’40s and all of a sudden it is discovered that there was something he said or did — even something as bad as sexual harassment — he should be condemned for it but I don’t see why you should withdraw his novels from publication,” she told the British publication.

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‘It just exploded’: The Bad Guys author on writing ‘Tarantino for kids’ – and selling millions

theguardian.com – Tuesday March 22, 2022

Aaron Blabey decided to improve the boring books his son was bringing home: now his bestseller series is a starry Hollywood animation

What would a Quentin Tarantino film for children look like? Probably something close to The Bad Guys, a DreamWorks adaptation of a book series about a gang of criminal animals who, after a lifetime of heists, are tasked with doing good for the world in order to avoid prison.

It has a starry cast: Sam Rockwell, Marc Maron, Craig Robinson, Awkwafina, Richard Ayoade and Zazie Beetz, among others. But the man behind the series is Australian author Aaron Blabey, who has sold around 30m books: a staggering, mind-blowing figure. Speaking to Blabey ahead of The Bad Guys film release, even he still seems in shock about his own success.

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The Best Sex Melissa Febos Has Ever Read

vulture.com – Wednesday March 16, 2022

The writer Melissa Febos draws from the raw materials of her life — including her work as a dominatrix, struggles with addiction, and relationship with her mother. In her fourth book, Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative, a blend of master class and memoir, she defends the aesthetic and social value of personal writing. Weaving together anecdotes and allusions to literary, psychological, and religious works, as well as advice she refined while teaching graduate workshops, Febos shows how treating sex writing as taboo upholds oppressive conventions. The best sex she ever read is this passage from the poet Eileen Myles’s novel Inferno about the protagonist’s first time sleeping with another woman. The scene euphorically breaks all the rules Febos once learned about writing sex: to avoid humor, certain words, and grossness.

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How It Felt to Have My Novel Stolen

newyorker.com – Tuesday March 15, 2022

On the verge of selling my first book, I was scammed by a manuscript thief. My deepest insecurities about wanting to be a writer came rushing to the surface.

At 2:47 p.m. on September 20, 2020, I received what appeared to be an innocuous e-mail from my literary agent, Chris. Could I send over the latest version of my unsold novel-in-progress as a Microsoft Word file? “I just realized,” the e-mail read, “that I only have it as a PDF.” It wasn’t like Chris to misplace things, but the situation didn’t seem implausible. People switch computers. In-boxes get gnarly. I found an old e-mail with the Word file attached and forwarded it along.

At 3:44 p.m., another e-mail arrived: “Strange, I haven’t received anything now . . . can you resend please?” I re-forwarded the old e-mail with the Word file. At 4:03 p.m., I got another e-mail, which explained that Chris’s agency was in the process of switching servers, and perhaps this explained why my e-mails weren’t coming through. Could I try again, this time working around the problem by changing the .com suffix in Chris’s normal e-mail to .co?

Looking back, this is the part where I can’t quite understand my actions. Why didn’t I just call Chris and ask him what was going on? Here’s my best attempt at a defense. The night before, I’d been up several times, tending to my nine-week-old son, and never finding my way back to true sleep. I started on coffee sometime around dawn. When these e-mails came, I was a quivering zombie, incapable of real thought, looking only to move forward, dealing with whatever came up until the next time my son slept, when I could try sleeping, too. I was in no condition to think, only to do.

Not long after I sent the Word manuscript to the .co address, my phone rang. It was Chris. He’d been offline for a few hours, he said, so he was just now seeing that I’d sent him my manuscript twice that morning. Why, he asked, sounding more than a little bit stressed, had I done that, when he hadn’t asked me to?

I’d been scammed.

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On navigating the publishing industry

thecreativeindependent.com – Sunday March 13, 2022

Literary agent Heather Carr discusses the ins and outs of publishing , focusing on the work you want to do, and the value of networking even if you think it's gross.

The literary world is full of various roles and duties. How did you decide to pursue the agent path?

I really like the editorial process, but I wanted the freedom to work on only the work that I wanted to work on. And I feel like being an agent, you have the most control and flexibility over who you decide to work with. There’s no one telling me I have to work with a politician I don’t like or a writer whose work I don’t believe in or don’t think needs space on the shelf, or whatever. I have the ability to curate that.

I’m also really passionate about there being more transparency as far as how the financial parts of publishing work. I get to talk to authors directly about that as an agent, about what their financial life as a writer could look like. And, I also get to help them, from a business perspective, make those financial decisions for their career and manage that. I get to be a matchmaker, and that’s probably my favorite part. You get to find a book that you know an editor will fall in love with. Being able to do that over the course of a writer’s whole career was really appealing to me. You just do everything. You don’t have to be specialized, which is nice.

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I’ve Always Wanted To Publish a Novel—Here’s How I Finally Did It

theeverygirl.com – Thursday March 10, 2022

I spent the majority of my 20s doing what I think a lot of young professionals do: I woke up early, went to work every morning, and dutifully put in nine hours at my cubicle—then, every evening, I came home, cooked dinner, and tried to relax while facing a crushing sense of dread at the thought of doing that again, every single day, for the rest of my life.

Alright, that feels dramatic—but it’s how I felt, and I’m willing to bet that’s how some of you feel, too. I tried to find meaning in my work by switching industries (several times), investing in professional development, and writing freelance for various magazines, but at the end of the day, I was never satisfied, and I knew why. It was because I knew what I wanted to be doing with my life and I hadn’t yet figured out how to do it.

I wanted to be an author.

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Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: Amanda Pellegrino on Writing for TV Versus Writing a Novel

lithub.com – Thursday March 10, 2022

I like to say I’m a TV writer by day and a novelist by night, which isn’t always literally true (I tend to write best in the mornings), but it gets the message across. Over the past six years as a writer’s assistant and writer, I’ve found a nice balance between these two jobs—one is solitary while the other is collaborative, one is freestyle while the other is formulaic. In both mediums, I’m building a world, creating characters, coming up with plots and twists. However, the process in which they’re executed could not be more different.

Writing books is a one-woman job. While writing my debut novel, Smile and Look Pretty, I was between TV gigs, so I scheduled my entire day around working on the book. Since I’m most productive in the mornings and evenings, I’d wake up around 8:30 and write until noon. I wouldn’t count words or set any kind of goal aside from typing until my alarm went off. Then I’d take a mid-day break and go for a long run in Central Park, usually listening to music or a true crime podcast. That helped me refresh and come back to the book with new eyes. In the afternoon, I worked from a coffee shop and wrote until around 6 or 6:30 before calling it a night. There were definitely days when the only person I spoke to was my barista.

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Why Aren’t You Selling—Enough?

By G. Miki Hayden
Instructor at Writer's Digest University online and private writing coach

firstwriter.com – Monday March 7, 2022

I went to the bank with a nice big check last week amounting to hundreds of dollars for a short story. That will wake you up. It woke me up. I thought all bank transactions were electronic these days. (A wee joke, but, yes, I received the money.)

I don’t always sell stories for that much, but I’ve been selling steadily over the years—stories if not novels—and I sell to some good publications. I also appreciate glowing rejection letters.

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George Saunders on Overcoming Uncertainty in Writing

lithub.com – Sunday February 27, 2022

A few years ago, in my MFA writers’ workshop at Syracuse University, we were critiquing a story by a truly wonderful writer, and it was a damned good story too. In it, a brother and a sister were living together because the brother, a former star athlete, had suffered a brain injury and wasn’t able to live alone. The story was narrated by a man in love with the sister. In the scene in question, the man drives by on a steamy summer evening, sees the sister on the porch, joins her up there—and the sparks start to fly. It was one of the best depictions of strong mutual desire I’ve ever read. It was clear that the two were about to do it, right there on the porch. Although, the brother was asleep, just on the other side of a screen door.

So, the writer had made a lovely, consequence-rich moment. (“How can they have sex right there on the porch? How can they not? What if he wakes up? Oh God, that would be terrible. Yet it would also be cool. Talk about raising the stakes!”) Then, at the critical moment, as the man reached for the woman—a teapot inside the house came to a boil.

The woman went inside, the sexual energy went poof, the man went home.

At the time, as I recall it, we critiqued this as an oversight on the writer’s part—she hadn’t told us there was a teapot on the stove. After workshop, the writer admitted that she wasn’t entirely sure what she wanted to have happen in that scene—and a little light went on in my head.

That teapot wasn’t an oversight, or a mistake, I realized, it was a placeholder—a kind of “To Be Determined” sign, the subconscious’s way of saying, “I know this is important and I don’t want to screw it up. Can I get back to you?” (Like one of those Magic Eight Balls, the story was saying, “Ask again later.”)

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