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Pencil It In

25 Oct

Already got your Halloween costume figured out? Looking for something to do? There’s plenty going on this week, book-wise, so step away from that bowl of Fun Sized Snickers and check out some of these great events.

Tonight, October 25, Matthew Sharpe reads from his novel You Were Wrong, which Mary Gaitskill calls “strange, original, and devastatingly clever.” Sounds pretty good to us. 7 pm at Bookpeople, 601 N. Lamar Blvd.

This Wednesday, October 27, the Austin Poetry Slam takes over ND at 501 Studios. Described by its organizers as “the best of stand-up, pomo theatre, rock & roll, and phone sex rolled into one cosmic-heat blast,” the event takes place every Wednesday at 8pm. 501 N. I-35 (E. 5th and Brushy).

And on Friday, October 29, President Jimmy Carter will be at BookPeople promoting his latest book White House Diary. The event begins at 12:30 pm. (There’s apparently going to be a security check, so we don’t recommend wearing your Ronald Reagan Halloween mask…this time.)


Upcoming literary events are posted every other Monday on the blog. If you have an event you’d like us to include, email us at marian [at]

The Bookstore (which others call the universe)

7 Sep

A few weeks ago, my little bookstore was threatened by the most evil, demonic force known to books. No, not Not even the e-reader.  Fire.  Fire, people!

I was all ready to run down there and blow it out myself, but it was deftly contained by ex-motorcyclist-turned-Buddhist manager John T. He simply reminded the fire of its impermanence. Only the employee bathroom was destroyed, and it already had a pretty post-apocalyptic feel all its own.

But it did get me thinking, in a Ray Bradbury kind of way, about book(s) burning. The booksellers have been making lists of what we’d save if the store really went up. It’s sort of a ridiculous question, since we could easily buy the book somewhere else, read it online, you know, etc. It’s not like we’re the only bookstore left (not yet, anyway).  But it’s still fun to think about. What book would you save? Lots of people picked their favorite books.  Some funny guys had raunchy choices. One person said Jung’s $195 Red Book, because it is beautiful and the most expensive thing we sell, and also because none of us are allowed to open it. Some jokers said The Girl Who Played With Fire and of course Fahrenheit 451, duh.

Because this hypothetical situation presents itself to me as little more than a riddle, I have an obnoxious answer of my own: I would pick the book that contains all books.

Which one is that? I have a few ideas. Borges, for sure. His stories and essays are some of my favorite things ever written, and they contain within them the possibility of all other books. Save the book that contains the Library of Babel, and you’ve saved literature. Right? Maybe. But, Borges aside, I started thinking about what part of the bookstore holds the most in the smallest space.

Turns out it’s a little known, visited, or shopped section called Literary Criticism and Literary Letters. Tucked back behind the overabundant Memoirs, right across from Poetry, these two bays of books are, though pretty unpopular, incredibly bountiful—they’re just brimming with other books.

Here’s where you’ll find Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis, a set of essays that recreates the entire Western tradition.

But you’ll also find the new book of Kerouac and Ginsberg’s letters. These are hilarious—they’re argumentative, complex, a little crazy, but I swear every other letter ends in the equivalent of “But I love you, man!” They’re great.

The book of Sylvia Beach’s letters to James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, etc, etc, etc is here, too. It’s full of great pictures of these two funny women and all their dark, brooding literary men.

Edith Grossman’s Why Translation Matters is in Literary Criticism, and it’s a fascinating look at the history of translated works and the struggles translators face today. James Wood lives back here, and so does David Shields’s strange and controversial mash-up Reality Hunger.

Francine Prose is here, which reminds me of one of my favorite bookstore phenomena: authors whose names reflect their subject matter. (Also on my list: Nancy Baggett, who writes about bread and Lucinda Holdforth, in Etiquette & Public Speaking)

If I could carry a whole section in my arms, this is the one I’d save. And while I was back there I’d probably grab Anne Carson’s exquisite Nox, because it’s definitely the prettiest book I’ve ever seen. What would you save?

Establishing Residency

26 Aug

Don’t buy into the myth of the lonely writer trapped in an attic struggling to communicate? Like to collaborate? Check out this residency.

Collaborative Retreat at the Cabin at Shotpouch CreekThe Collaborative Retreat at the Cabin at Shotpouch Creek recognizes that writers are part of a dynamic system of writers, readers and wider communities.” It offers two-week residencies to two poets, fiction writers, or creative nonfiction writers who want to pursue a collaborative project from March 6 to March 19, 2011, and March 27 to April 9, 2011, in the Oregon Coast Range.

Application Deadline: December 1, 2010

Location: Corvallis, Oregon

The DL: The residency is open to writers whose work takes inspiration from the natural world. Residents are provided with lodging and a $250 stipend. No application fee.

Here and There: What We Are Not Reading This Summer

19 Aug

There are a few things I didn’t get around to this summer, reading wise. Erm, make that a lot. OK, fine. There are, approximately, a whole ton of books (and magazines and journals…oh, the journals) that, despite my best intentions—and admittedly unrealistic ambitions—I did no more than glance at this summer.

Books I couldn’t (and still can’t!) wait to read this summer—books like Brando Skyhorse’s The Madonnas of Echo Park, Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids, and Christie Hodgen’s new novel—all sitting pretty and pristine on my bookshelf, unread. In the living room, the stack of untouched New Yorkers on the coffee table has moved beyond decoratively erudite (does such a thing exist?) to plain old unsightly. And beside my bed, a Jenga-tower of half-read books and magazines has reached such epic and architecturally-unsound proportions that hitting the snooze button in the morning not infrequently results in some exceedingly unwelcome 6 a.m. crashing. Sigh. All over the house, all summer long, these piles have been accumulating, like (lovely) little cairns of summer reading failure.

Of course, to my mind, this is part of the allure of summer reading—and of summer in general: the making of Big Plans only to let those plans melt away in the haze of days too hot and lazy to do much of anything at all. I know I’m not alone in this. For every person who will actually finish Infinite Jest this summer (We’ve got two in the ASF office. Just saying.), there are at least a dozen others who are staring down another 400 (or 800) pages and wondering if it’s better to just cut their losses and go get a Slurpee.

And so, summer readers, I’d like to direct your attention to Bernard Malamud’s story “A Summer’s Reading.” First published in The New Yorker in 1956, the story centers around a young man named George Stoyonovich who, aimless and unemployed, boasts to his admiring neighbors that he will read 100 books before the end of the summer. He fails, of course. As the summer passes, in fact, George does anything but read, finding that it’s the idea of reading—the idea of the person that he might become after reading 100 books—that holds the real power.

It’s an older story, set in Depression-era New York, but Malamud’s evocation time slipping by in the swelter of days that are at once too languid and too quick still feels right on.

So check out “A Summer’s Reading” (you can listen to a podcast of it here) and take heart in knowing that sometimes not reading is what summer reading is all about.


Any books you didn’t read this summer that you wish you had? What’s on your list for fall?

Creator, Find Your Getaway

11 Aug

Living near enough to downtown San Marcos, Texas, this writer knows a little something about The Getaway, the drowsy yet sun-blasted spot that was, in 1924, the the bank that was robbed by the shoot-em-up Dalton Gang in their glycerine-aided, glass-flying heist. In 1972, Sam Peckinpah and Steve McQueen returned to the location to film their great celluloid heist, The Getaway. The place is now a restaurant/bar with free wifi where any writer can belly up to the bar and move from reality to fiction as quick as a drop of sweat to the scarred wood bar.

Funny to me how the place is the fulcrum for fellowship–from the Dalton family to the Peckinpaw-McQueen power duo to the current residents of still sun-blasted and sleepy San Marcos to me.

Because creators need their getaways. And fellowship makes it all the more memorable.

Find your spot. Reside there. Create something worth remembering:

Bronx Council on the Arts offers the Writers’ Center Fellowship and Residency: The Bronx Writers’ Center Fellowship annually awards two nine-month literary fellowships to writers who reside in the Bronx, regardless of age but who are not enrolled as full-time students. An award of $5,000 is given to each winner and a community service project at the Bronx Writers’ Center is required. More info here. Send questions to Lydia[at]bronxarts[dot]org. Deadline: September 4, 2010.

 The National Association of Latino Arts and Culture Fund for the Arts awards a small number of fellowships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to support artists whose work demonstrates excellence and the potential for positive impact in the Latino arts field. Examples of acceptable expenses for NFA fellowships include but are not limited to the following: costs for the creation or completion of new work, travel, study, professional development, living expenses, equipment, hiring of assistants, costs for documentation, production expenses and maintenance. Projects must begin after January 1, 2011 and must end by December 31, 2011. All who submit must be members of NALAC; join today. Deadline: September 24, 2010.

Win yourself an American Academy in Berlin—Berlin Prize Fellowship. These Residential fellowships come with a stipend ranging from $3,500 to $5,000 per month, round-trip airfare, housing at the Academy, and partial board to emerging as well as established scholars, writers, and professionals who wish to engage in independent study in Berlin for an academic semester or in rare cases for an entire academic year. Fellows are expected to be in residence at the Academy during the entire term of the award. More info here. Deadline: October 1, 2010.

M Restaurant GroupThe M Literary Residency Program
offers two residencies, one in Shanghai, China and one in Pondicherry, India. The residencies are each three months long and candidates should only apply for one. Both writing fellows receive a total of $1,000 to cover living costs. The program is open to writers of fiction, literary nonfiction, or poetry whose residence in India or China would benefit their work. The program is intended to help foster greater cultural and artistic connections across individuals and communities. For more info, email: mliteraryresidency[at]googlemail[dot]com or see the website. Deadline: October 31, 2010.

The International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle offers residencies of four weeks for five published creative writers (novelists, poets, playwrights) at a time. Residencies, which include room and board, are scheduled in spring, summer, and fall. Write for further information and application: International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle, Lasswade, Midlothian EH18 1EG, Scotland. Application deadline to be announced.

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Let us know if you get accepted.

Establishing Residency

29 Jul

There are few words we writers like to hear more than “Your submission has won!”  Though “Free” is a quick second, followed quickly by “A clean well-lighted space.” Put them all together and one hella time could be earned at the following residencies—but don’t wait to apply. September will be here before you can say I shoulda—

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts


Your $25 application fee could net you two to eight weeks of free housing, studio space, and a $100 weekly stipend.

Application Deadline: September 1, 2010 [for]  two to eight weeks between from January 1 to June 15, 2011

Location: Nebraska City, Nebraska

The DL: Residencies of two to eight weeks go from January 1 to June 15 to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers. Residents are provided with housing, studio space, and a $100 weekly stipend. Submit up to ten poems totaling no more than 30 pages, two stories or novel chapters totaling no more than 7,500 words, or two essays or chapters of a work of creative nonfiction totaling no more than 7,500 words, a writer’s statement, a project proposal, and a resumé with a $25 application fee.

**Emerging Artists News Flash**

The Kimmel Harding Nelson program gives special support to emerging artists by reserving a number of “transitional” residencies for recent masters degree graduates. The application process is the same for all applicants; however, applications from artists in transition following graduation from an accredited degree program are reviewed as a separate peer group.

More: Call ((402) 874-9600), email (, or check for an application and complete guidelines.

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, 801 Third Corso, Nebraska City, NE 68410. (402) 874-9600. Pat Friedli, Assistant Director.

MacDowell Colony

Your $30 application fee could net you room and board for two to eight months.

Application Deadline: September 15, 2010 [for] two months from February to May 2011 (Financial Aid Deadline: September 15, 2010)

Location: Peterborough, New Hampshire

The DL: Residencies of up to two months from February through May go to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers year-round on a 450-acre estate near Mt. Monadnock in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Writers are provided with room and board. For residencies in 2011, submit 6 to 10 poems or up to 25 pages of fiction or creative nonfiction and a description of a proposed project with a $30 application fee by September 15. Applications are accepted only via the online submission system. Travel aid and personal expense grants are available based on need.

More: Call ((603) 924-3886), e-mail (, or visit for an application and complete guidelines.

MacDowell Colony, 100 High Street, Peterborough, NH 03458.

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center

The Center

No application fee.

Stipend awarded: no cash, but living and studio space for two to four weeks from January to June

Application Deadline: October 1, 2010 [from] January – June, 2011

Location: New York Mills, Minnesota

The DL: Residencies of two to four weeks from January through June go to poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers in New York Mills, Minnesota. Writers are provided with living and studio space. For residencies in 2011, submit five copies of up to 12 pages of poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction, a resumé, a project description, a brief biography, and two letters of recommendation by October 1. There is no application fee. E-mail or visit the Web site for an application and complete guidelines.

More: Call ((218) 385-3339), email (, see for more info.

Find the Center on facebook:

New York Mills Regional Cultural Center, 24 North Main Avenue, P.O. Box 246, New York Mills, MN 56567. Heather Cassidy, Retreat Coordinator.

Open City’s First Summer Fling

5 Jul

What are you doing this July 23-25?

Washing your hair with beer and avocado? Cleaning out your car?

For something far more extraordinary, head to the Open City Summer Writing Workshop, where you can dive more deeply into your love and craft of fiction, nonfiction or poetry. Here are some details:

Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House at New York University
58 West 10th Street, New York City (that’s Greenwich Village)
Friday, July 23 through Sunday, July 25, 2010
(Hours: Friday 6pm–8pm, Saturday 10am–8pm, Sunday 10am–8pm)

Faculty includes Thomas Beller, Jason Brown, Martha McPhee, and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh. Visiting Writers include David Berman, Mary Gaitskill, Rivka Galchen, David Goodwillie, James Lasdun, Sam Lipsyte, Phillip Lopate, Lara Vapnyar, and Edmund White.

The weekend is chock-full workshops, individual manuscript consultations, seminars, panels, and readings. Whew!

True love’s not exactly free: tuition is $750. Get your application. Ask your questions: or 212.625.9048.

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Know of other excellent retreats or workshops happening this summer? Let us know below.

While Many Bookstores Smolder, New Life!

10 Jun

While the land still smokes from the mighty fire that’s consumed brick-and-mortar bookstores—the B. Daltons and the Waldenbooks, the mom-and-pop shops, so many shut, so many still closing—lo! a cry of new life:

Barnhill’s of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. A new brick-and-mortar bookstore.

Books, wines, art, gifts, coffee, chocolate, merch, hooray! The group of authors that put this baby together is looking raise it up as an independent thinker. It needs your help.

  • Specifically, it needs books by independent publishers.
  • More specifically, it wants quality titles to sell on consignment.

Interested? Contact mike [at]

Badgerdog tears it up!

9 Jun

Can we share some really terrific news?

Last night our parent nonprofit, Badgerdog Literary Publishing, won a $105,000 grant from Impact Austin.

Impact Austin is a local organization of philanthropic women who give annual grants for projects in five different categories. Badgerdog won the Culture grant for “It’s Elementary,” a project that will put professional writers in classrooms in eight elementary schools on Austin’s East Side. Over the course of a year, 600 students will engage in creative writing workshops where they will read, write, and share their original work; they’ll also become published authors—submitting their work, revising proofs, and participating in reading events for Badgerdog’s awesome anthology, Youth Voices In Ink.

This is an exciting step for Badgerdog and we’re thrilled to have Impact Austin’s generous support.

Check out the announcement.

Freedom; or, When Your Computer Gets a Lobotomy

1 Jun

I am hyperorganized when it comes to the techie aspects of editing and story-drafting. All potential ASF blog post topics get filed neatly in the hard drive in the folder labeled “ASF Blog” by date according to week. All my story drafts get filed in, you got it, “Stories” by date and further identified by version “a,” “b,” or “c,” depending on how the drafting goes.

There is one techie thing, however, I am terrible at. That I have to be reminded to do, and if I am not watched like a five year old who has been told to brush her teeth, I will skip the process, assuming I will never be caught. That thing: backing up my hard drive. Like the tooth-brushing, it doesn’t matter how good it is for me, I resist. I skip. I could go months and months without doing it. As long as there’s no pain, I’ll go without…

You know what’s coming next, don’t you?

About a week ago, yes, of course, my hard drive, she done died. Last backup: Christmas. Oh the pain.

All this to say what you already surmise:

(1) Back up your work regularly. And often.

(2) The slew of lovely notes and links and ideas slated to be this ASF post (and many, many others) are gone forever.

But I have a new hard drive, empty of all data. So.

Ironically, the post you won’t see was about technology tricks for writers. It, too, disappeared when I dropped my laptop on its head and gave the thing a total lobotomy. Bah.

Here’s something I stumbled upon that kinda makes up for the loss. It’s short and sweet and so helpful for writers. And it is a reminder that a disabled computer and freedom from technology are good.

The info came to me from Belle Boggs’ blog. She writes:

“I find the Internet really distracting, especially from the work of writing. It’s so tempting to check your email, read the news, or spy on people. Mac users can download a cool program called Freedom that allows you to disable the Internet for a set period of time, but I write on PC, so I generally just try to exert my willpower.”

Many of you may already know Belle Boggs’s beautifully quiet yet ferocious collection of short stories, Mattaponi Queen, which won the 2009 Bakeless Prize for Fiction (and is just out from Graywolf). I recommend this book. And I recommend freedom–the high-tech form you can click to achieve (looks like it’s available for Windows users, too) not the, ahem, low-tech kind you simply have to destroy your machine to get.


Got any technology tips specifically for writers? Add your comments below. ASF blog readers, including me, will thank you.