Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Olsson's Closed

Really sad news everyone: Olsson's books, the most amazing local book store chain, has made the decision to close shop, under the weight of tremendous debt. People went to the readings at Politics and Prose, or went to be seen at Kramerbooks, but Olsson's was where you could get down to business - just solid books, music, and movies, with knowledgable and kind salespeople.

Sad day for DC books...

Candid Yak!

. . . don't forget the Candid Yak this Friday October 3, featuring
• fiction by Eugenia Tsutsumi
• poetry by Sandra Marchetti
• nonfiction by Tara Williams
at The Prose House at 8 pm.

Great night!

See Also

. . . the latest issue of Saranac Review (which, I should add, is not the one pictured at left) featuring this GMU MFA alum (nice work, Sara!). Support such endeavors and order a copy (the submissions page says you can get a sample copy) or get a subscription . . .

Monday, September 29, 2008

Snacking on Literature in DC

So I took the Metro to DC this past Saturday to check out the National Book Festival - which, this year, featured Salman Rushdie (talking about his recent Enchantress of Florence), Geraldine Brooks (whose Pulitizer Prize-winning March is currently being read by some of our classmates in Susan Shreve's Writing History class), and Francine Prose (check out the recent Post article). I knew I'd be getting my fill of books at the festival, but what I didn't realize was that I'd be getting a taste of some new authors right at the Metro stop.

Bit o' Lit, a free bi-monthly mini magazine, features excerpts from the books of up-and-coming writers. The issue I picked up (September 8th) featured two non-fiction books and two fiction books - one of which happened to be Porter Shreve's When the White House was Ours. The idea is you get to read books "a bit at a time" in excerpts just long enough to cover your Metro journey - and hopefully, the excerpts catch your interest just enough to make you go out and read the entire book.

It's an endeavor after my own heart - I signed up for Stanford University's Discovering Dickens Community Reading Project way back in the day (2006) in which the university printed off Hard Times on newsprint facsimiles and mailed them to participants for free. The great thing was that Stanford serialized the novel and sent out one section a month, all in an effort to re-create the reading experience during Dickens' time.

Bit O' Lit is not quite the same, but the idea is there. Check it out - I found mine in a one of those newspaper boxes outside the Metro, but they're also available at the B&N on 12th St. As up and coming writers ourselves, we should support the writers forging paths in front of us by reading their work - whether in bits or as a whole.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Take a minute...

And check out Fiction Writers Review, a new website/gathering place for writers to discuss fiction both old and new. In their own words, FWR's "goal is to get writers and readers talking not only about how fiction reads but how it works and why it matters."

Along with reviews, the site also features some great author interviews, including this recent one with Preeta Samarasan, author of Evening is the Whole Day.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blink and You'll Miss It!

It never fails - in high school I was the kid to find out about a fight just as it was ending, and now I'm the schlub who couldn't make it out of teaching early enough to get to DC and catch the 20th annual Pen/Faulkner Gala, which went down Monday night.

I'd heard from our local Pen/Faulkner connection, 3rd year Fiction Fellow Elizabeth Eshelman, of the politically-charged readings at this year's Gala, the theme of which was "Promises, Promises." Open up today's Washington Post and you'll see an article giving out all the dirt on what really went down (apparently Terry McMillan has a thing against Kool-Aid).

And if that's not enough to tempt you to click on the link - here, here and HERE, there's a bit from Alan Cheuse (billed only as a "local novelist") that's not to be missed.

Did you get that link? Because here it is again.

Oh - and in the same Post you'll find an article about why Francine Prose thinks she sucks at teaching writing. Really.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And the Winner Is . . .

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who just last year, at 29, won the U.K.'s Orange Prize for her novel Half of a Yellow Sun (she was shortlisted for it in 2003 for Purple Hibiscus, her first novel), adds to her accolades—she was awarded a fellowship by the MacArthur Foundation, popularly known as the "genius grant." Her short fiction alone attests to this. And she's written more than a few good essays. It seems a fitting nod from one generation to the next, in this the 50th anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart and a day after Chinua Achebe was lauded for his accomplishments at George Mason with a showing of more than 1,200. (Adichie told the Washington Post last year that she's been writing ever since she read Things Fall Apart, at age 10.) And, so she took the call in Lagos and lived most of her life in Nigeria—she's been in Maryland, halfway between D.C. and Baltimore, for some time; can't we say she's D.C.?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

See Also

Why workshop? This week: send your work to Zirdland.com. The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten shows us how.

For inspiration from other good (and great) authors, see also:
Book, Fall for the. For a running daily schedule of said festival, see also: Taylor, Art, Art & Literature (Wordpress, 2008).

That should do it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seminar: Writing in the Real World

The MFA alumni portion of GMU’s English Alumni Chapter is planning a seminar on publishing on Saturday, October 4. It’s open and free to all alumni; current students are welcome on a space-available basis. Register at engnews (a gmu.edu address). It will begin at 10 am with a book publishing panel that includes Scott Berg, Brian Brodeur, and Dallas Hudgens. Beginning at 12:30 pm, Ken Budd and Art Taylor will discuss breaking into freelance markets. Contact Bill Miller if you have questions. It was stressed that you please register.

So to Speak Faculty and Fellows Reading

Folks: kick off Fall for the Book and support our terrific faculty and award-winning MFAers at the So to Speak readings (I meanwhat a lineup!) this Sunday September 21 (6–7 pm) at the Old Town Village, corner of North Street and 123. If you haven't left us for California, aren't celebrating your kid's 4th birthday, or didn't just tough out a 600-mile-wide hurricane (but are, I hope, well recovered from that bout of malaria): be there.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Celebrate a Writer's Life...

and read Infinite Jest to commemorate David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide last week. Or, for a shorter read, check out this article that celebrates the man who was.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Trade Books at the Fall for the Book Book Swap

Volition, Mason's undergraduate journal of literature and art, hosts a paperback swap during Fall for the Book. Trade books you've already finished for others you can't wait to start. Bring your books and see what's available on the Johnson Center North Plaza, Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 21–24, noon to 4:30 p.m. each day. Bring old books those days to get something new. 

Contact: tnguy or acox5 (both gmu.edu addresses)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fall for the Book Help

The Fall for the Book festival is only a week away, and Wade has asked for volunteers this week (September 15–19) at the kiosk in the Johnson Center to promote the event and remind students what's going on. Even an hour or two will help in these times: Monday (9/15), 2-6pm; Tuesday (9/16), 12-3; Wednesday (9/17), 2-6; Thursday (9/18), 2-6; Friday (9/19), 12-3.

If any MFAers can help, let Wade know at fftbvols (a gmu.edu address).

Friday, September 12, 2008

"Realer than Realism"

As the theater-of-the-absurd political opera limbers up for its next round of yodeling, we might ask, can anyone write fiction better than this? Apparently, yes, say some reviews of one-time DC resident Curtis Sittenfeld’s third book American Wife (though the NYT didn't love it). Sittenfeld's protagonist bears a striking—no, no, it's pretty much Laura Bush. What to make of this? “Realer than realism”? “All too realism”? It’s not political satire, although some people averting their eyes from certain passages may wish it had been. Sittenfeld has some company in this endeavor, A.M. Homes’s “The Former First Lady and the Football Hero” (in Things You Should Know) and Robert Olen Butler’s “18 ½”—but it seems like a tightrope walk to write. You decide—catch her reading from it Friday (tonight) at 7 at Politics and Prose. And, as she told Salon, “If you don't know if something in the book has some real life parallel to the Bushes, then you should assume it's made up."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Happy Birthday, Cheryl's Gone Reading Series

Celebrate the Cheryl's Gone Reading Series's one year anniversary! Next Thursday, September 18, starting at 8 pm sharp: music, fiction, and poetry at Big Bear Cafe in DC, hosted by poet Wade Fletcher.

Who's on:
• Croniamantal w/ Rod Smith (a full-on 6 piece experimental musical collaboration colliding with the poems of bard Rod Smith!) 
• Michael Kimball (Baltimore fiction writer, and host of the 510 Reading Series, celebrating the release of his new novel Dear Everybody)
• Danika Stegeman (rockin' poet from Fairfax, Virginia, and new poetry editor of Phoebe)

Big Bear Cafe: 1st and R Streets NW, Washington, DC
*all readings are free*

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Read for Phoebe

GMU MFAers: joining Phoebe as a fiction reader is a great way to get involved with a literary journal (on a smaller scale, or as a toe-in-the-water now if you think you'd like to become an editor later). It also offers an inside view to the kind of work submitted to journals, among other lessons . . . and it can take care of those required fiction project hours! If you're interested or would like more information, contact Fiction Editor Regan Douglass.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Volunteer for Fall for the Book

MFA students! Fall for the Book, GMU's annual celebration of the literary arts held this year September 21–26, needs your help. Wade Fletcher, recent poetry MFA alum and Assistant Manager/Volunteer Coordinator for the festival, needs tons of volunteers to help before and during that week. Volunteers help drive authors, welcome attendees, oversee individual events, and assist with various other logistical tasks. The festival is especially in need of drivers to take authors to and from the airport, hotel, and events. This is a good way to meet individual authors and have an opportunity to chat with them. Wade said he’s happy to try to oblige requests to drive specific authors (or staff specific events). If you're interested, email him (fftbvols [at] gmu.edu), and he'll send a list of current needs. You can volunteer for as little or as much as you'd like. A list of needs follows. (This notice will be updated as needs change; it's linked to the right under “Volunteer for FFTB 2008.”)

Info Tent
Sept. 22–Sept. 26, mid-morning to late afternoon
Got time between classes? 30 minutes? 2 hours? This is the job for you: volunteers at the info tent answer questions, direct confused students, and promote events throughout the day. The tent will be centrally located outside the Johnson Center (if it rains, it will be inside).

Venue Managers
Sept. 22–Sept. 26
Each event needs a representative to greet the author and be there as the audience arrives. Venue Managers will be in the room before and after each event to answer the author and audience’s questions.

Sept. 22–Sept. 26
Many authors are coming from out of town. They need to be met at airports and train stations, driven to the festival hotel, picked up at the hotel, and brought to events. This is a crucial role. If you're interested in meeting a writer and driving him or her to one place or another, please email Wade ASAP. Include information, if you would, please, about dates and times you are available.

"I Want to Help but I Don't Know What to Do"
NOW until Sept. 26th
If you just want to meet and greet people, or are willing to help out with anything and everything, email Wade with your availability and he'll let you know what is open.

Further questions? Email Wade at fftbvols [at] gmu.edu.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Call to Volunteer in DC

Help DC students become better writers at the Capitol Letters Writing Center (CLWC). An orientation is being held on Tuesday, September 9, 5 pm, above Kramerbooks near Dupont Circle. You have to RSVP the director (see link) to attend. (Thanks to recent alum, receiver-of-Bread-Loaf-waitership, and CLWC volunteer Mike Scalise.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Electronic Writing Seminar This Saturday

American Independent Writers is presenting, "Push the Electronic Envelope: Sharing Your Writing and Selling Your Work in Cyberspace" at GMU on Saturday September 6, in Research Building Room No. 163.

• 9:00–10:15 am: Writing for Online Audiences: Writing Web Copy, Selling to e-Markets, and Standing Out Online

• 10:30–11:45 am: Social Networking and Social Media: How to Pump Up Your Marketing Efforts and Get the Most Out of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and More

• 1:00–2:15 pm: Breaking into the Blogosphere: Blogging, Vlogging, and Microblogging

• 2:30–3:45 pm: What Every Writer Needs to Know About Professional Websites

Free to GMU MFAers.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pre–Fall for the Book Readings

Ah, the pillow book. Er, no, go to Politics and Prose this month: this week, Christopher Buckley, Friday at 7; next week, Junot Díaz on Wednesday and Curtis Sittenfeld on Friday; then Francine Prose the week after that, and there's more . . .

Monday, September 1, 2008

American Classics: Page to Screen

This looks good—the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a nice building to look at any day, is showing a number of (mostly) classic movies that were adapted from books, including A Streetcar Named Desire, this Wednesday September 3 at 6; One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Wed. September 17; and Breakfast at Tiffanys, Wed. October 29.