By DeWitt Henry, Literary Bookmarks Editor
Monthly link highlights to online resources, magazines, and author sites that seem informative and inspiring for working writers. Most are free. Suggestions are welcomed.
Critical Mass, National Book Critics Circle (NBCC)
Authors seeking to be reviewed and/or those practicing literary citizenship and looking to publish reviews (and also readers looking for intelligent discussion of worthwhile books) will find the free NBCC blog a useful resource. It offers regular “commentary on literary criticism, publishing, and all things NBCC related”; and it is written by the NBCC Board of Directors. This January, the blog featured articles about Resistance Literature (in keeping with the “Writers Resist” movement). Scott Cord writes on Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; Meg Waite Clayton on Mark Zusak’s The Book Thief; T. J. Stiles on Kurt Vonnegut’s Mother Night; and Jonathan Lethem on Philip K. Dick’s The Penultimate Truth. Links follow to some twelve recent reviews by NBCC members in national media, ranging from Newsday to Shenandoah literary magazine; and a sidebar offers direct links to eighty-two leading review outlets.
Freelance reviewers may become members of NBCC for $50/year, Friends for $30/, and Students for $15/. Member benefits include downloads of “NBCC Tips on Successful Reviewing” and Rebecca Skloot’s “Book Reviewing 101”; discounts on a range of magazines and books; voting privileges for the NBCC annual book awards; and links to postings of members’ news and published reviews. Members also vote for the NBCC Board of Directors and may be candidates themselves; and only voting members are eligible to be considered for the annual Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. The organization dates from 1974 and was founded by John Leonard, Nona Balakian, and Ivan Sandrof. The current president is Tom Beer, the book editor of Newsday.
Yagoda is one of our wittiest, most vigilant, and instructive writers about language, style, vocabulary, usage, and grammar. He is a journalism professor (recently emeritus) at the University of Delaware. His books include Memoir: A History (Riverhead, 2009), which I recommend to artists of fact; and he writes for Slate, the New York Times Book Review, and many other publications. His main page offers blog entries, including a short history of the phrase “woo-woo,” pronunciation of the word “often,” and “that” vs. “who” as a relative pronoun; an archive of articles on books and authors, language, music, writing, and miscellaneous; his educational and professional biography; his books; news and appearances; and finally “On Writing,” which offers tools only available on this website—such as “5 Ways to Deal With Word Repetition,” “7 Bogus Grammar ‘Errors,’” and “Fanfare for the Comma Man.”
His “Not One-Off Britishisms” blog is a separate site that explores the growing popularity of traditionally British colloquialisms in American culture. Features include a delightful analysis and history of the word “banter,” for instance, as used in Donald Trump’s reference to “locker room banter.” Other idioms and phrases explored include “Hooter” (for nose), “Scuppered” (for scuttled), “Give [someone] the Pip,” “Trendy,” and more.
Uncle Dan’s Story Hour
Not to be missed. Dan Wakefield (Going All The Way, 1970, New York in the Fifties, et al.), after a long, varied, and celebrated literary career, has gone home again indeed to Indianapolis, where he reflects hilariously on his exile, the nation, and his cosmopolitan literary life and times. The show originates on WFYI radio live from the Red Key Tavern, and takes the form of conversations between Dan, his co-host Will Higgins, and different guests, all punctuated wittily with songs and audio clips. Episodes to date: (1) “That Time Indianapolis Hated Dan Wakefield,” (2) “Writing From Dangerous Places,” and (3) “Creativity and Madness.” His full account of the show’s origin is here. Tune in for more.
Poem of the Week (POW)
Founded in 2006 by Editor Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum, POW includes “audio and video recordings of selected authors reading their work, original interviews regarding the poems featured, previously-published interviews, original and previously-published interviews of their collections, ‘mini-reviews’ of the featured poems themselves by [the] Contributing Editor, first drafts of the featured poems (when [they] have them!), and essays on poetics.” To receive the feed regularly, you must make your request directly to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The week I sampled featured a young poet I was unfamiliar with, Claire Hero, with poems from her book Sing, Mongrel (with a cover photo alongside the text: click to buy). “Place for me is an animal,” Hero writes. “I also dream of fantastic places…These places take me out of myself.” As I looked through the ten-year archive, I found a judicious mix of distinguished (Heaney, Dickey, Olds, Kenyon, Levine, Gluck), mid-career, and emerging poets.
Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene
Founded in 2003 by poet, teacher, editor, journalist, reviewer, and overall impresario Doug Holder, this serves as a model “alternative literary” site dedicated to building, reporting on, and promoting a local literary scene. In this case, while centered in Somerville, MA, the scene is that of greater Boston, which Holder boosts as the Paris of New England. His first affinity is for beat poets, but he celebrates a generous range of local poets and fiction writers, many of them nationally known.
His weekly interviews are carried on Somerville Cable (“Poet to Poet/Writer to Writer”), transcribed and published in the Somerville Times, and featured and archived on the blog. He and his circle of regular contributors, known as “The Bagel Bards,” also write engaged and perceptive reviews of new books by locals (and each other). Recent high points include interviews with X.J. Kennedy, WTP Contributing Editor Joyce Peseroff, Margot Livesey, and the former Poet Laureate of Boston, Sam Cornish, whose book Holder had published with his indie press, Ibbetson Street.
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