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Writerly Roundup — May 2015

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


Photo by Jena Schwartz

In Should There Be a Minimum Age for Writing a Memoir, Leslie Jamison (@lsjamison) and Benjamin Moser (@BenjaminFMoser) sound off on whether you can be "too young" to write memoir. In compelling clips that are well worth a read, they both agree you can't.

It seems silly to pretend that nothing meaningful happens to the young.


The narratives we tell about our own lives are constantly in flux; our perspectives at each age are differently valuable. What age gains in remove it loses in immediacy: The younger version of a story gets told at closer proximity, with more fine-grain texture and less aerial perspective.

This month, author William Zinsser passed away at the age of 92. His work includes one of the classic texts on writing instruction: On Writing Well. Open Culture ran a great list of 10 writing tips from this legendary writing teacher.

The Literary Hub ran its own list of 10 writing tips this month: The Ten Rules of Writing by Amitava Kumar (@amitavakumar), which includes both V.S. Naipaul's incisive "Rules for Beginners," as well as Kumar's own 10 insightful additions, including #3—try to write at the same time each day, #5—walk for ten minutes, and #8—learn to say no.

This piece from Michael Nye (@mpnye) of The Missouri Review encouraging writers to continue to submit their work to literary magazines after repeated rejections has caused quite the stir. Check it out and see what you think—is there value in persistence and, despite a steady stream of "no's," continuing to pursue publication? At what point should a writer simply move on?

On the theme of rejection, writers are no strangers to receiving criticism not only from publications but from the general public in the dreaded comments section of anything published online. In this introspective, insightful piece in Elle, Dani Shapiro (@danijshapiro) confronts her critics and explores how she steels herself against the cruelty of online commentators. The essay is worth reading in its entirety, but here is a brief excerpt:

I feel nauseated—momentarily. But I notice something surprising in my reaction: This toxic binge-surfing feels a little like eating too much junk food. There's a weird, sort of icky rush, and then...then it's gone. These are people who don't know me, don't like me. Nor are they criticizing me in incisive ways I might learn from. This realization is followed by a minor epiphany: And I don't have to make them like me. I'm no longer that starving girl in a swimsuit, hopelessly pirouetting. I'm just a writer sitting alone in a room, struggling to make words line up on the page in a way that may communicate something true.

Finally, I absolutely loved this older essay in The New Yorker that gives a glimpse into the writing life of Roxana Robinson. In its simple eloquence, it captures the tenuous state of being a writer who is also in the world—with all its distractions and commitments that inevitably chip away at the purity of the writing mind. As a mother of small children, I know well the feeling of trying to be gentle with myself and carving out those times of uninterrupted flow. The piece begins:

In the morning, I don't talk to anyone, nor do I think about certain things.

I try to stay within certain confines. I imagine this as a narrow, shadowy corridor with dim bare walls. I'm moving down this corridor, getting to the place where I can write.

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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