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Writerly Roundup — Summer Edition

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Our Writerly Roundup blog series 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

I thoroughly enjoyed these beautifully penned notes on this year's River Teeth Nonfiction Conference by Patricia Zaballos (@wonderfarm) on her blog, Wonder Farm. She not only gives you a lyrical look into the experience of attending a writing conference, but weaves in wisdom from presenters Cheryl Strayed, Steve Harvey, Kate Hopper, Ana Maria Spagna, and others. This post made me want to attend River Teeth next year--and read more from Patricia.

Novelist and memoirist James Salter passed away in late June at the age of 90 and articles chronicling his life and work are still pouring forth. Many, like this NY Times piece, relay the well-worn refrain that Salter's career was lacking in widespread commercial success, while painting a picture of a complex life punctuated by meticulously penned books. These posthumous pieces often quote one of Salter's loveliest, and most apt, lines: "Life passes into pages if it passes into anything." This earlier piece in The New Yorker,  The Last Book, is a detailed, gorgeous tribute, and, after Salter's death, Narrative Magazine ran this stunning portrayal of the writer's life as captured through Andrew Southam's photography.

These 21 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started Writing by Robin Black (@robin_black) in The Review Review is one of the most excellent writing lists I've come across. From editing to expectations, Black insightfully pinpoints honest and useful advice like: "There's a fine line between learning from other authors, and trying to be them. Be yourself," "[N]o extraordinary book has ever been rejected because of a lack of a Twitter following," and "You cannot write the pages you love without writing the pages you hate." This list is a worthwhile read for writers of any level.

The Literary Hub published a conversation of sorts among women writers reflecting on the perils and pleasures of Twitter. The piece is worth reading in its entirety, but some of my favorite excerpts appear below:

I felt like a tweet had to be a perfect little poem… or something like that. So I never tweeted. My hands froze above the keyboard. I had Twitter Block. - Dani Shapiro (@danijshapiro)

Even if you can't see it looking in, Twitter has allowed women a new level of connection. It's given us Binders Full of Women, a network of female writers and editors signal-boosting the best of each other's work. It's given us We Need Diverse Books. Twitter's problems pale in comparison to what it can do. - Amanda Nelson (@imamandanelson)

I believe Twitter is directly responsible for every single professional success I’ve had. - Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis)

It's true the self-promotion feels inauthentic and tacky, but it can be brave to participate in the conversation with good intention. - Stephanie LaCava (@stephanielacava)

Ploughshares recently tweeted an older piece that I was all too happy to discover. Rachel Kadish (@RachelSKadish), in her first post for their blog, explores the sweet, sad vulnerability--and humanity--of an unrequited love letter--and of putting any pen to paper or finger to keys. Here, her perceptive closing lines:

A blog, like any piece of writing sent out into the world in the hope that an unknown reader might linger over it, asks the same questions a love letter asks: Is anyone out there? Are you listening? Do you notice what I notice, do you feel this way, too…even just a little bit? Even if it's on a tidy and well-lit screen, with no burnt-away words, no smudged ink or shiny ribbon. Even if the computer silently brushes away our tracks behind us as we go. All writing is an unrequited love letter.

Finally, I leave you with a lovely, introspective piece by Jennifer Berney (@JennBerney) on Brevity's blog. In Writing Is the Antidote, Berney reflects on the bygone days of snail mail and SASEs, on the slow-paced, reassuring rhythm of drafting, submission, response, and sometimes, publication. Now that so much of the writing world exists online, with its immediate and incessant information—and exposure—Berney finds silence and solace in the act of writing itself:

When I began writing in the first place, it was because it helped me avoid the constant feeling of being worn thin. And so, at the end of the day, writing itself turns out to be the only antidote I’ve found to the chaos of the information age. Now more than ever, the blank page provides a source of comfort and stillness and silence. The act of engaging with that page, of diving deep to fill it with words, has become the only way I know to quiet the voices of distraction, or ease the feeling of vulnerability that comes from sharing your stories, your truth, and your secrets with the internet.

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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I am humbled and honored to have been included here, especially because the other links are so wonderful. The Salter photo essay at Narrative is gorgeous. All of his handwritten notes touched and inspired me. And Rachel Kadish's thoughts on blogging express precisely what I felt as I hit "publish" on my River Teeth post. Thank you for including my work with all of this good stuff, Dina!
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