The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Everybody Has a Heartache by Joy Harjo


 
Poetry magazine’s March issue is filled with innovative pieces. You’ll find new works by poet Joy Harjo (2013 PEN Center USA Literary Award Winner for Creative Nonfiction) and Franny Choi, who recently read at the Dirty Laundry Lit: TERMINAL, presented PEN Center USA at AWP 2014. You can also find powerful works by Natalie Diaz, Danez Smith, and more. 
 
Everybody Has a Heartache: A Blues

"In the United terminal in Chicago at five on a Friday afternoon
The sky is breaking with rain and wind and all the flights
Are delayed forever. We will never get to where we are going
And there’s no way back to where we’ve been.
The sun and the moon have disappeared to an island far from 
anywhere.
 
Everybody has a heartache—“ Joy Harjo
 

Read the rest of Harjo’s poem and the rest of the issue here. 

 

Writers' Reel: Terry McMillan On Disliking Third Person Narration

 
Outspoken author Terry McMillan (Waiting to ExhaleDisappearing Acts, and her latest, Who Asked You?) recently sat down for an interview with the New York Times, in which she discusses her disdain for third person, her techniques for controlling her characters, and what she considers “literary masturbation.”
 

“You need to learn the rules before you can break them. And you need to read everybody. If you’re black, don’t just read black writers and if you’re white, don’t just read white writers, etc. I read everybody across the board, all ethnicities. I’m curious about mankind. I want to know how everybody lives.” – Terry McMillan

Click to watch the full interview:

 

Bookmark This: Vonnegut’s Shape Of A Story

Back when the legendary author Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s CradleSlaughterhouse-Five) was just an anthropology student at the University of Chicago, he produced a brilliant graph as his master’s thesis, a project that was ultimately rejected. The concept details how the protagonist of a story has ups and downs that can be pinpointed in a graph, revealing the shape of the story.  As he explained in his autobiography Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage“stories have shapes which can be drawn on graph paper, and the shape of a given society’s stories is at least as interesting as the shape of its pots or spearheads.”  Visual.ly adopted Vonnegut’s concept and created the striking graphic below.  

Kurt Vonnegut - The Shapes of Stories

 

 

 

Writers’ Reel: Modern Love Animated Essay

It's National Grammar Day! This week we are sharing a New York Times Modern Love animated essay on grammar and love. In the essay, Jessie Ren Marshall, an editor, falls for a man who loves to send her texts and e-mails that are profound in passion, but always grammatically incorrect. Watch to find out if she lets go of her inner critic to find love. Many of Modern Love's essays are animated here on the New York Times website. If you are feeling the need to be romantically inspired, watch a few and spread the love. 
 
Modern Love's editor Daniel Jones has compiled many of these great essays in one book, Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion, a great resource for creative nonfiction writers. Purchase it here.

 

 

 

 

Bookmark This: Embrace Your Obsessions

 
If you're unable to make it to AWP this week, don’t fret. The AWP website has a treasure trove of great literary resources, from podcasts to news articles, all under their Magazine & Media section. We especially enjoyed this essay by short story author Steve Almond (God Bless America: StoriesCandyfreak) on how he let go of his inability to write the next “Big Novel” and turned to his obsession with candy as fuel to keep writing. Almond writes that obsessions are the “deepest forms of human meaning.”
 
“As an engine of literary creation, obsession has turned out to be a lot more valuable to me than any of my grandiose ambitions. Because in the end writers do their best work when they simply tell the truth about the stuff that matters to them most deeply, whether in fictional disguise or not, whether in prose or verse, whether on-line or in print.” – Steve Almond
 
Read the rest of the essay here.
 
 

Bookmark This: Your Survival Guide to AWP

AWP: A Survival Guide
Starting this Wednesday, over ten thousand writers will land in Seattle, Washington for the annual Association of Writing Programs conference, also known as AWP. If you’ve never been to the conference, the multitude of panels, the large bookfair, and the number of offsite events can seem a bit daunting, but don't panic. We have culled together a superb collection of do’s and don’ts by Carolyn Kellogg from the Los Angeles Times and from author Roxane Gay.
 
Just consider this your AWP cheat sheet and don't forget to breathe. 
 
Carolyn Kellogg's Dos and Don’ts:
 
DO: Drink in the conference hotel bar. Despite the fact that hotel bars are notoriously overpriced, this is where you want to be. The conference hotel bar is where the cooler veterans will gather, the professors and published writers, people who've bumped into each other at this conference in other years and have maybe made a vague plan to do so again.
 
DO: Pick out two to five panels you can't miss. This will give a shape to your attendance and your days.
DON'T: Worry if you miss some of those panels. Serendipity may put something in your path that is equally important.
DO: Give yourself plenty of time to walk around the conference exhibit floor. Take your time at the lit journal booths: Pick them up, flip through them.
DON'T: Let the prospect of an early-morning panel curb your social activities.
DO: Attend some evening conference events: readings, parties, dinners, celebrations. These are better built for mingling -- or as more business-oriented types might say, networking -- than panels, really.
DON'T: Spend a ton of money running around a city you don't know. Share cabs with strangers. Take the subway.
 
DON'T: Worry about losing sleep. You have lots to do and see and hear and discuss. It's only four days. You can sleep when you get home. 
 
Read the entire list here: 
 
  
Some Dos and Don’ts from Roxane Gay:
 
Do drink a lot of water. Go offsite to buy bottled water because the convention center and hotel will charge exorbitant prices.
 
Don’t thrust your unsolicited manuscript into an editor’s hands. It will be awkward for both of you.
 
Don’t try to attend everything. It’s not possible. Instead, pick a few panels and offsite readings to attend and leave the rest to possibility.
 
Do visit the host city for at least an hour or two. There is life beyond the convention center.
 
Do acquire a good tote, and on Saturday evening, ship home all the books and magazines you buy.
 
Don’t pretend to have read someone’s book if you haven’t. Don’t be sycophantic or use flattery as social currency. You can and should engage writers in normal conversation. Writers are people, too.
 
Do have fun and do not take the conference too seriously. Do carve out quality time with your friends when you can—a quiet hour for coffee or a meal far from the hubbub of the conference.
 
Read the full article here: 
 
 
 
 

Bookmark This: Hanif Kureishi Thinks You Might Be Asking The Wrong Questions

In this Telegraph essay, British author and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (IntimacyThe BodyThe Last Wordargues that writers, by spending too much time on the safe questions of plot and dialogue, are missing the importance of digging deep into the imagination and the "useful trouble" it may offer.

“If you think of the real thing – of, say, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, or Wilde’s Dorian Gray, or perhaps Cheever’s great story “The Swimmer”, or Kafka’s Metamorphosis, or any of the work of Carver or Plath – you have to begin to think about the wild implausibility, boldness, and brilliance of the artist’s idea or metaphor rather than the arrangement of paragraphs.”
 
 
 

Writers' Reel: Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison!

Today marks Toni Morrison’s 83rd birthday, author of BelovedSula, and Song of Solomon. Last December, Morrison sat down with author Junot Diaz for a compelling conversation for Live from the New York Public Library. Celebrate Morrison’s birthday as she speaks about writing what you don’t know and how characters are like ghosts.

“The act of writing for me is you really do get to know the characters really well. For me, they are sort of like ghosts. I know what they look like although I may not describe them. They talk.” — Toni Morrison

 

Bookmark This: Share PEN Center USA’s Literary Valentines


Don't have time to buy flowers? Give the gift of literature to your beloved. PEN Center USA has created special literary valentines by using quotations from great books. From Anaïs Nin to Ernest Hemingway, let these writers do all the heavy work for you. Be sweet to your valentine this year by sending them one. Just download the images below, share, post, and tweet all you want. Happy Valentine’s Day!
 
All landscape images courtesy of Stacy Valis.
 

 

 

 

Writers’ Reel: Maurice Sendak on Writing for Children

"Where The Wild Things Are" cover image

In this endearing animated video produced by Blank on Blank, the late children’s book author Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) talks about not shying away from writing the barbaric in children’s books and how his uncensored family spurred his creative life.

“I’ve always had a deep respect for children and how they solve complex problems by themselves. [They survive] I think through shrewdness, fantasy and just plain strength. They want to survive.”
 

 

For more animated videos by Blank on Blank, click here.