Friday, December 30, 2011

What is a Publishing Company - Publishing Basics

What is a Publishing Company? with Alexandra Pringle, Editor in Chief, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Will Writing Make Me Rich and Famous - Publishing Basics

Will writing make me rich and famous? with Alexandra Pringle, Editor in Chief, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

How Long Does it Take to Get Published - Publishing Basics

How Long Does it Take to Get Published, with Alexandra Pringle,  Editor in Chief, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Author Insides - Dylan Gilbert

Dylan Gilbert spent many years in New York City working as an actor in everything from performance art to Shakespeare. He now lives with his wife and teenage son in New York’s Hudson Valley.  His fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Westchester Review, Pearl, Slow Trains, Red Fez, and others. His website is

His humorous short story, "Writer's Workshop," appeared in the Autumn 2011 issue of The Battered Suitcase.

Dylan, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?  

I got into writing when I was about eleven or twelve.  I started writing these humorous stories influenced by Mad magazine and my teacher had me read them to the class.  I've been writing on and off ever since, but only got serious about three years ago.

Why do you write? 

I've always had a need to express myself creatively, whether through drawing, sculpture, acting, or writing.  It's just something inside me that kind of has to be released.

Is being a writer anything like you imagined it would be?  

I'm not sure how much I imagined it.  I just kind of dove in.  I did know, however,  that there would be a lot of rejection.  I was an actor in my early 20's and I understand that any field related to the arts is fiercely competitive.

What do you think makes a good story? 

I think one part is it has to tell some truth that is universal, that people can relate to and maybe even help them see the world and themselves more clearly.

What's your favorite genre to read? 

I guess I would say literary fiction, especially work that weaves in social commentary, like Tom Wolf's A Man in Full and T.C. Boyle's Tortilla Flat.  I've really enjoyed some non-fiction lately, too, like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Warmth of Other Suns.  A lot of nonfiction reads more like narrative now.  I also enjoy African American literature and magic realism.

Who is your favorite author or poet?  

It's a tie between Dostoevsky and Shakespeare.  I also love T.C. Boyle, Isabelle Allende, Richard Wright, Murakami, Marquez, and many others.

What books or stories have influenced you the most as a writer?  

Some novels where the writing is big and bold and brave and the stories quirky and intense have influenced me, like Drop City, East is East, and Budding Prospects by T.C. Boyle and Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem.

Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried has influenced me too.  There's this scene where the guys have lost a comrade in battle and no one shares any grief or anything, but one guy just starts slowly blasting away a baby water buffalo.  The scene is gruesome and makes you want to put the book down, but brilliant too because this character is expressing his horror and rage through action, not the narrator telling you how he feels.  That scene and the whole book helped me better understand how to show where characters are at emotionally through action—and not always the action one might expect.

David Sederis's work has influenced me as a writer too.  He's so skilled at finding the absurdity and humor in everyday situations.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person? 

The Autobiography of Malcolm X  is one of many books that has influenced me as a person because it shows the possibility of growth and change and transformation.

Where/how do you find the most inspiration? 

When I leave town, leave the "to do" lists, and the mundane routines, inspiration usually comes to me.  A lot of my inspiration comes from places.  When I visit somewhere, the area and the people there often spark a story in my mind.  For example, I was in Ashland, Oregon a while back and saw this old guy on a farm and it got me thinking what his life must be like.  Ashland is this groovy, new-age, hippie town—I love it.  But I wondered what it's like to be an old-timer, someone who was there when there were mills and farms, no food co-ops or crystal shops.  So I came up with a story about this lonely old guy who is kind of forced to develop a relationship with his hippie neighbors.

What does your family think of your writing? 

My wife and son are very supportive.  My three sisters are writers themselves, as is my mom.  Everyone in my family digs it, but sometimes I burn them out, especially my wife,  constantly asking them to read over my work.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 

I teach in the day and write in the afternoon and/or evening.  Sometimes on the weekends and during the summer I'll shift my writing time to the morning.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals? 

I write best when there's things going on around me.  Cafes, subways, and park benches are places where I like to write because of the sounds and movements in the environment.  It feels like the action moves my ideas along.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?  

Finishing.  It's almost impossible for me to consider a piece done.  I'm too much of a perfectionist and don't trust myself enough to feel like a story is really where it needs to be.  I have dozens of short stories and even novellas that are 98% finished.  Some have been hanging around for years.

What are your current projects? 

I'm in the thick of about half a dozen short stories: "Ashland Man" (mentioned above), "The Dumpster," an experimental piece about a guy who finds relief by throwing away the junk accumulated in his house, "Jimi Talks to Me," a long short story about a guy who is obsessed with Jimi Hendrix, and others.

What are you planning for future projects? 

I have a rough draft of a slipstream crime novella titled "The Vision" that I plan to revise and hope to get published.  Also, I've begun collaborating with an independent filmmaker adapting one of my short stories, "Rules of the Game," into a screenplay.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

My advice is don't get too bogged down with one piece.  When I was in college I wrote a one-act play that I thought could be produced and I got a meeting with a successful playwright to discuss my play.  We sat over breakfast at a diner and he shared some things he thought worked well in the writing.  When I asked him what I should do with it, he said put it aside and write another one.  I was deflated by his response—I thought he would tell me what changes to make or how to get it produced—but now I realize he was right.  I had gone as far as I could with that play and it was time to move on.

I've had to learn this lesson many times.  I can get so caught up in editing one story or trying to get one particular piece published, that I stop writing new work for long periods of time.  I think it's better to keep moving forward and writing new material, and not get stuck trying to perfect one piece.

Where else can we find your work? 

I have links to most of my published work on my website:

Friday, December 9, 2011

What Makes a Good Writer - Publishing Basics

What Makes a Good Writer, with Alexandra Pringle, Editor in Chief, Bloomsbury Publishing.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Author Insides - Natalie McNabb

Natalie McNabb lives and writes in Washington State where her dog, Skookum, and cat, Mo, can usually be found beneath the trees of her Eden with a squirrel tail, an exhumed mole, or an up-flung mouse. She loves red — red dragonflies resting on bamboo stakes, red wine in her glass, red flip-flops on her red-toe-nailed feet — and words that caress, tickle, irritate or beat against her soul.  Natalie was a Top 10 for The Micro Award 2011 and Top 25 for the Fish Short Story Prize.

Her story "Nineteen Degrees" appears in the Autumn 2011 issue of The Battered Suitcase.

Natalie, when did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

I don’t have a specific “A-HA!” moment that triggered I-must-be-a-writer syndrome, but if there had to be a triggering moment, it happened when I was about ten. I had a friend who rode his bike with a pet rat perched on his shoulder. He let me try it too, and we had a great summer biking, losing the rat under the patio and coaxing it back out with some peanut butter, and getting into trouble for nailing our plywood fort to the side of his apartment. We were at that age when the world is still perfect, before puberty sets in and children mock one another for playing with rats or having the opposite sex as ‘just a friend.’ I shared stories from my green cloth-covered notebook with my friend, and he shared them with his dad. His dad read them and told me that if I continued writing I would be very good when I was his age. Though my writing had been nurtured by others, it felt as if he was the first adult who really took my writing seriously. Then, I did too.

Why do you write? 

I have to write; it’s part of who I am and, if I don’t, I get moody. My husband doesn’t like me moody.

Is being a writer/poet anything like you imagined it would be?

Writing is better than I imagined it could be: it’s therapeutic and you get to ‘live’ in others’ skin. I didn’t have the easiest childhood and teenage years and have probably saved a ridiculous amount on therapy because I write. It’s very freeing—I can floor it the wrong way on the freeway, say good riddance to people I’d like to, or cut a finger off, and it’s all harmless. As well, though, I have found compassion for others I might not have understood if I hadn’t examined a character as deeply as you must to be able to slip into their skin.

What do you think makes a good story? 

A ‘good story’ is subjective, very personal, but I know what I like when I see it. A recent favorite is “Dinosaur” by Bruce Holland Rogers, which I received in a mailing from The Sun. I put the story—all 303 words of it—on my refrigerator at home and bulletin board at the day-job. Another recent favorite is Robert Swartwood’s 927-word“Chameleon Kid,” which I first read on PANK. Lately, I have been leaning toward shorter pieces, because I can read a complete story on the bus or a break at work and still have time to write my own stuff. I think shorter pieces ‘speak’ to our too-busy, ADHD generation for this reason, whether you like them or not.

What's your favorite genre to read? 

What I read depends on mood, but I always come back to literary novels.

Who is your favorite author or poet? 

I love Shel Silverstein, Jane Hirshfield, Barbara Kingsolver (her fiction—especially The Poisonwood Bible—and poetry), John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Stewart O’Nan and so many others. It’s not fair to make me pick just one!

What books or stories have most influenced you the most as a writer?

The books and stories that have most influenced me as a writer are—all of them. I learn what I don’t like and shouldn’t do from the ones I deem ‘bad’ and what I do like and should do from the ‘good’ ones. I get something from each.

What books or stories have most influenced you as a person? 

The Grapes of Wrath, “Dinosaur” by Bruce Holland Rogers, and The Thorn Birds. Why? Not completely sure, but they’re the first that came to mind. Perhaps it’s: the dialogue and reality of the first; with the second, the full-circle, completed feeling you get from a mere 303-word story, proving it can be done in such a short space; and, in the third, it’s the symbolism of that poor little bird singing its heart out as it beats itself to death upon a thorn. Now that I think about it, that’s what writers do, don’t we?

Where/how do you find the most inspiration?

My inspiration comes from the people—with their oddities and beauties—around me and from watching them interact with this great big world around us all.

What does your family think of your writing? 

Almost no one in my husband’s (very large) family writes, and so I think they’re a bit dumbfounded by someone who puts as much into their writing as I do. There is a thread of the arts running through my family though, and some of them probably understand.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing? 

I work full-time, like so many writers have to. So, my writing schedule consists mostly of mornings, weekends and lunch breaks. I am always reading or writing though in whatever free time I find.

Do you have any writing quirks or rituals?

Nothing odd or special. I don’t write in the nude or anything like that—don’t want to scare the family and pets. Wait. There is one thing. When writing, I ‘go away’ somewhere. My husband can walk in, have a full conversation with me while I’m writing, leave, and—later—I’ll know that he was there, but won’t have a clue what we talked about. This could be used to my teenage son’s advantage, though he hasn’t discovered it yet—that I know of. After an intense writing session it takes me awhile to come around to reality, too. My hope is that I never just stay wherever it is I go off to.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing? 

The most challenging part about writing is finding the time.

What are your current projects? 

For the past year, my primary project has been to focus on plot and story, since I noticed I have a tendency to write ‘slice of life’ pieces, basically snapshots that relayed more emotion than story. Once I ramped up the plot and story in pieces I already had going, my publishing versus submission ratio increased. Current writing projects are a novella that began as an exercise in plot and story and flash fiction and poetry as the mood strikes.

What are you planning for future projects?

I plan to continue writing flash and poetry, but have a novel-length work I started last year. I put it on hold until I got plot and story down, and once the novella I am working on is finished I will go back to the novel.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

So many others say it, but WRITE. JUST WRITE. If you can’t find the time, find something else that satisfies you instead. If though, like me, nothing else satisfies you, you’ll find the time.

Where else can we find your work? Links to my fiction, poetry and other miscellaneous writings are all here.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What is a Book Deal - Publishing Basics

What is a Book Deal, with Alexandra Pringle, Editor in Chief, Bloomsbury Publishing.