Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I’m not proud of this. I’d prefer to be a guy who can refer to a version or edition or plain old instance of something, and who doesn’t go around saying iteration over and over again. Alas, that is not me. And I found out about my iteration malady in the most jarring way possible. I had just started a new job. One day, a few weeks in, I heard three different colleagues with whom I interact often use the word iteration independent of one another. When the third of these, a woman I knew prior to taking the job, said it, I stopped her mid-sentence. ‘Wait, did you just say iteration? Why is everyone saying that word here?’ Her response hit me like an unabridged thesaurus to the dome. ‘You should be psyched,’ she shot back. ‘That’s one of your words.’

All of us have particular words that we use a little too often. Writers tend to be embarrassed about their predilections for certain turns of phrase. At SlateMatthew J.X. Malady reacts to the news that he uses iteration too much, and delves into the ways our verbal habits spread to others. (via millionsmillions)

I have a word that brings me great shame.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

sunrise and fog
by walking-geema.tumblr.com
Do not quit. You see, the most constant state of an artist is uncertainty. You must face confusion, self-questioning, dilemma. Only amateurs are confident … be prepared to live with the fear of failure all your art life.

W. O. Mitchell

Lensblr Quote of the Day

 (although Mitchell was not a photographer this still applies to all artists, including photographers)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. Somerset Maugham (via ellenkushner)
Friday, June 27, 2014 Saturday, June 21, 2014

My life in 1 picture.


My life in 1 picture.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

redcurlygurl said: Maggie, I just found reviews of your books on Goodreads, and I was absolutely appalled at the negative reviews, and then slightly pleased I had read them. The people who said you have slow plots were probably looking for the explosions and sex they see on TV. I am happy I read those reviews because I have a more firm argument as to why I love your writing: you create realistic characters with realistic (disguised) problems. Your sentences sing and your words breathe. So, brava. Write on.




First of all, thanks! I’m revoltingly pleased that you like my writing. I know you didn’t ask a question about reviews, but I’m going to answer a question about them anyway, because I have a few related asks in my inbox.

I once heard that writers should ignore one star reviews and five star reviews, because they’re both lies.

I actually think they’re both true. They are the purest, most unchecked reaction to a novel. Right before my first novel came out, I went onto Goodreads and I read both the good and bad reviews for several of my favorite novels. I wanted to remind myself that if my favorite novels to read didn’t appeal to everyone, surely mine that I’d written wouldn’t either. The thing I realized about the one star and five star reviews, though, was that they often said the same thing. The five star would praise the anti-hero narrator; the one star would harpoon the unlikable narrator. The five star would admire the thorough exploration of the mother’s backstory; the one star would ask why the book had to slow for someone as unimportant as the mother character. The five star would praise the energetic pace; the one star would complain that there was no description.

Same book, different tastes. I do think a book can be done badly, sure. But  even a book done very well can’t please everyone. And the more specific a book is, the more polarized the reviews are.

I figured out then that my goal isn’t to write a book that everyone likes. It’s to write a book that some people love — which means some people are also going to hate it. The more passionate my reviews get, good and bad, the happier I am.

So even though you didn’t ask a question, I’m going to answer one for aspiring writers: learn to love your reviews of all stripes. Learn how to read them for the true, objective bits, and decide for yourself if those bits match the kind of novel you’re trying to write.

I want to translate this entire post about reviews into a post about relating to people. It’s a wonderful perspective on the feedback you get as a writer, but I think it applies to the feedback you get as a human being. You can almost substitute “book” with “person” and “write a book” with “be a person.”

A book that tries to pleases everyone will fail and won’t find readers who will really connect with it. A person who tries to please everyone will fail and won’t find people who will really connect with her.

I believe in being specific. Not controversial for controversy’s sake, but specific: about what you like and don’t like, what you want and don’t want, what you’re interested in and what you care about. It’s hard to be happy without being specific, not least of all because you don’t find your people by being vague.

reblogging because this, yes, yes, yes, definitely.

Also, it doesn’t just apply to people, it applies to The Everything. Specific versus general is the way to both satisfying success and memorable failure. You just have to be willing to face the latter to get the former.

I’ve never liked to read reviews of my work, good or bad, but I’m rethinking and adjusting my attitude towards them because of this.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

In this superb commencement address, the inimitable Patti Smith shares her hard-earned advice on life.


In this superb commencement address, the inimitable Patti Smith shares her hard-earned advice on life.

(Source: explore-blog)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Do all writers, programs, and books fit somewhere on a continuum between MFA or NYC? The answer, as Harbach knows, is no. American fiction is one thing, not two. Dividing it into two cultures is as strange and artificial, in its way, as dividing the ocean on a map. Yet the distinctions are natural and in some cases essential, as long as we don’t forget that we made up these categories in the first place. The true, important achievement of MFA vs NYC is advancing an ongoing conversation about fiction begun by The Program Era. How does art flourish in an environment of institutional creativity? How do writers make money and produce literature at the same time? Ben Pfeiffer reviews MFA vs NYC (via therumpus)