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Writerly Roundup — March 2015

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Our new blog series at Literary Mama, Writerly Roundup features a curated collection of articles on craft and the writing life that we don’t want you to miss.

Susan Straight on learning to write without a room of one's own by Susan Straight, LA Times

In rich, compelling detail, Straight recounts the unusual places she penned her novels and essays, reminding us that the circumstances need not be ideal, the setting not silent, and the moment not perfect to fit writing into the crevices of a very full life.

For 24 years I wrote not while driving but while waiting in parking lots for hours — basketball and tennis and doctor appointments and hospitals, Girl Scouts and plays, driving exams and prom nights (2 a.m.! A whole chapter!), writing in my notebooks.

I have more than 100 legal pads filled with handwriting. Eight novels, two books for children, countless stories and essays.

The whole time, I waited to be alone.

Why I've quit writing about my children by Andrea Jarrell (@AndreaJarrell), The Washington Post

Jarrell eloquently expresses the duty she feels to keep her children out of her writing—difficult as a writer of memoir—now that they are young adults with stories of their own.

If I do nothing else in this world, I have a responsibility to protect and nurture my children – to give them the best chances in life, to let them make their way in the world free to declare and manifest who they are without any unnecessary baggage from me. My growth as a parent has been to see that I cannot impose my own narrative on theirs, on the page or in real life.

"Sponsored" by my husband: Why it's a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from by Ann Bauer (@annbauerwriter), Salon

Bauer calls for greater transparency about the financial realities that enable writers to do their work: "In my opinion, we do an enormous 'let them eat cake' disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed."

Only Connect: Social (Media) Anxiety by Sarah LaBrie (@Sarah_LaBrie), The Millions

LaBrie thoughtfully explores the increasingly intertwined worlds of technology/social media and writing and publishing—and makes a case for the perpetual role of the novel.

Human experience is like a Georges Seurat in that it only comes into focus the further away you get from it. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram regurgitate the present back to us in easily manageable pieces that delight, spark envy, disdain, boredom, revulsion, or inspiration. What they can’t do, however, is take a wider scope. It’s novels we depend on to reorganize those scattered fragments into something whole.

Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris (@MaryNorrisTNY), The New Yorker

In this delightfully meandering piece, a prelude to her memoir due out this spring, Norris takes you through her early and eclectic career days before giving you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of The New Yorker copydesk, where she has worked for over 30 years.

One of the things I like about my job is that it draws on the entire person: not just your knowledge of grammar and punctuation and usage and foreign languages and literature but also your experience of travel, gardening, shipping, singing, plumbing, Catholicism, Midwesternism, mozzarella, the A train, New Jersey. And in turn it feeds you more experience. The popular image of the copy editor is of someone who favors rigid consistency. I don't usually think of myself that way. But, when pressed, I do find I have strong views about commas.

Song of the Dustpan People: Are Grammatically Accurate Writers Less Creative? by Nichole Bernier (@NicholeBernier), Beyond the Margins

Bernier queries whether those detail-oriented writers among us, who fixate on things like grammar and punctuation, suffer a lack of creative free-flow. How much does self-editing interfere with unfiltered, spontaneous prose? She describes a writing exercise she undertook to kick-start her own uninhibited creativity (think: blindfold).

Is there a chance the creative side of the brain has to pause, even if just for a moment, to let the grammatical traffic cop do its job before continuing on with an idea? That a bit of creative forward momentum is lost when the brain backspaces to correct spelling, or does a track-switch to fix past tense to present?

To Be Eaten in Case of Emergency: Inspiration and Comfort for Writers by Edan Lepucki (@EdanL), The Millions

Lepucki interviews writers about the visuals they keep near them while working, "however silly or inessential: for inspiration or company, as talismans or reminders."

Writing Your Way to Happiness by Tara Parker-Pope (@taraparkerpope), The New York Times

Parker-Pope explores recent research into whether writing our personal stories can have a positive impact on health and happiness.

Dr. [Timothy D.] Wilson, whose book 'Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By,' was released in paperback this month, believes that while writing doesn’t solve every problem, it can definitely help people cope. 'Writing forces people to reconstrue whatever is troubling them and find new meaning in it,' he said.

9 Radical Books About Motherhood by Elisa Albert (@Eeeeelisaalbert), The Huffington Post

Albert, author of After Birth, wryly submits that there is no dearth of "intelligent, discerning, engaging writing and thinking about motherhood." She includes witty, wise blurbs for recommended reading from Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) to Of Woman Born (Adrienne Rich).

 

Have you read a compelling article about craft or the creative life that you think should appear in the next Writerly Roundup? Please send links to lmblogcontact (at) literarymama (dot) com—we’d love to hear your input!


Dina L. Relles is a writer with work in The Atlantic, Atticus Review, River TeethSTIR JournalBrain, Child Magazine, Full Grown People, The Manifest-Station, The Washington PostThe Huffington Post, and elsewhere. You can find more of her work on her own site, Commonplaceand you can connect with her on Twitter She lives in New York with her husband and children. Dina is a former blog editor for Literary Mama.


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Love this Dina! I loved checking out these links, especially Eden Lepucki's article. Thanks for this great round-up.
I am just now discovering this roundup and I am grateful! Thank you for covering this topic, Dina - I'm looking forward to more inspiration.
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