Clearing out the inbox

Trying desperately to finish the first six Harry Potter books before Saturday I have neglected posting some interesting links and information. Since it appears I will fail to finish the books anyway, I might as well clear out my email and share these links.

– Writers will want to be sure to check out the The Warren Adler Short Story Contest . The 2007 Contest Theme is New York City

Born-and-bred, out-of-towner, tourist for a day, or just longing and dreaming to visit, you’ve got a story about New York, some moment or snapshot you feel evokes this mad, exciting city and the fascinating people at its core.

Maybe you’ve already written it and have it buried deep in your desk drawer or in the bowels of your hard drive. Or maybe it’s still bouncing around your head, waiting for that chance bolt to strike you.

Try telling it in no more than 2,500 words and you might share it with the world.

notthatyouasked.jpgIn conjunction with the release of (Not that You Asked): Rants, Exploits, and Obsessions Steve Almond is also having a contest:

In Steve Almond’s latest book, (Not that You Asked), Almond shares his rants, exploits, and obsessions about everything from why he hates Oprah’s Book Club to why he loves Vonnegut to what he thinks about being a first-time dad (whether you asked for it or not). Now, we are asking you for your own rants, exploits, and obsessions!

For more info on the contest see the unofficial rules for instructions and the official rules for the technicalities.

Here is how Steve describes how the book came together:
Seeing as how the format of Not That You Asked is somewhat unique in structure, how did the book itself and the content within evolve?

SA: By “unique in structure” I take it you mean “complete mess.” The book began life as a proposed biography of Kurt Vonnegut, whom I’d worshipped during high school and college. It was my Corporate Masters at Random House who suggested a book of essays. I was immediately suspicious, fearful that I’d be sent off to Toledo and told to write about the Amazing Bearded Fat Lady at the State Fair. (I have enough Bearded Fat Ladies in my life as it is.) So I told these Corporate Masters, I says to them: “Listen, I’m not really an essayist. I’m more a writer of depressing, pornographic short stories. Are you sure you want to me do this?” And they said, “Yes.” And I said, “I only write essays about the stuff that obsesses me.” And they said, “Fine.” And I said, “Okay, look. I want to believe you. But I’m a pathetic, anxiety ridden wretch. Meaning, I don’t really believe you, because you’re a bunch of Corporate Masters and it’s pretty much your job to hornswoggle pathetic, anxiety-ridden writers. So what I’m going to do is send you some of my essays and you can tell me if this is what you had in mind.” So that’s what I did. And their response was, “Looks dandy.” So I finally got it through my thick skull that they actually weren’t pulling an elaborate April Fools gag and signed on the dotted line. The manuscript I turned in had about twenty essays, many of them shorter pieces. My editor, Julia “Please Stop Being a Pathetic Wretch” Cheiffitz, suggested I cut some of these, and write a few more long pieces, which I did, after the standard period of aggrieved grumbling. This is a very long answer that I hope makes perfectly clear why the book is a complete mess. I deserve all the blame. Then again, I’m not sure readers care so much about organization. In the end, they just want good stories, a laugh, something to remind them how deeply embarrassed we all are, all the time.

– In case you missed it, the new issue of the Paris Review is now out and includes:

A conversation with Norman Mailer on his six decades as a working novelist and all-around literary titan.

A recently discovered poem by William Carlos Williams, published for the first time.

New fiction by André Aciman and Uzodinma Iweala.

The world’s great cities in pictures, a photo essay by French photojournalist Raymond Depardon.

Plus poetry by Monica Youn and Vern Rutsala, glimpses into Norman Mailer’s scrapbook, and new translations of five Baudelaire poems.

– If for some odd reason you were unaware that Robert Birnbaum’s conversation with Thomas Mallon was now available at the Morning News, you are no longer in the dark. To tempt you, here is a snippet of Mallon discussing the way his latest book is different and more personal:

TM: One of the things I remember when I started this book—you sit down and you make notes on the characters and you construct resumes for them. And with the younger fellow, Timothy Laughlin, the first thing I wrote about him was: Born Nov. 2, 1931. And I was born Nov. 2, 1951. And I said, “Oh, I can see something of what this is going to be about.” This is what my life might have been like 20 years earlier. Much, much rougher than it wound up being. And I wasn’t setting out to write an autobiography, certainly, but there were certain preoccupations of mine: my own Catholic origins; homosexuality; my, to some people’s minds surprisingly and perplexingly, conservative politics. And I was trying to write about those things—I wasn’t writing about them directly—it wasn’t set in my era. But clearly I was more on my own mind in this book than I have been in some.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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