Put the manuals and the how-to books away. Read the writers themselves, whose work and example are all you really need if you want to write. And wanting to write is so much more than a pose. To my mind, nothing is as important as good writing, because in literature, the walls between people and cultures are broken down, and the things that plague us most—suspicion and fear of the other, and the tendency to see whole groups of people as objects, as monoliths of one cultural stereotype or another—are defeated.
--Richard Bausch on How-To manuals
Best New Poets 2010 is open to submissions! I had a great experience with the 2008 edition and am super-stoked to see Claudia Emerson is guest editing this years. This will be the first year I'm eligible to submit again and I think I will. Why? Because I feel like people read this thing and because I met so many great poets last go-round. I'm still a bit unsure whether I'll submit stuff that's already been published (which is, as they say, copacetic) or new stuff...Anyway--you have until May 20th. Do it, poets, do it.
Overheard in the beer aisle of a grocery store ('Food City') in Independence, Virginia:
"Do you think Indians drink Miller High Life?"
Instead of a first line today, a paragraph from the incredible book I just finished, This is Just Exactly Like You by Drew Perry. Reasons you should buy this book: it's a joy to read and nearly impossible to put down (shouldn't that be enough?), it's a steal at only 10 bucks for the hardcover, and it's recently gotten lots of good press (New York Times!). I'm thinking I'll go into more detail in another post, but for now, some words.
(Background, Jack is the central character and father of Hendrick, an autistic boy)
"Jack's pretty sure that he's not that great a father, that he's not in line for any parenting awards or special commendations. He's not even sure he always tries as hard as he can. He's maybe not Living quite Strong enough. Hen is, after all, sitting next to him, having only stopped bleeding from the head about fifteen minutes ago. But what he's always liked about fatherhood, about Hendrick, is his company, his physical presence, even from the first day they brought him home from the hospital. It's what surprised him most--not the overpowering love all the books required that he feel for his child--just that he simply liked being around him. And even with the diagnosis, or even since, there's something a little joyous, alongside all the disaster, about living with Hendrick. Some feeling he gets about being in better or closer contact with the things we need, the things we want. I want to run the controls on the dump truck. I want to touch the faucet. I want to open the drawer three hundred times in a row. Because who doesn't want that from time to time? To fall deeper in? Who doesn't do it? Some mornings Jack taps his own spoon a few extra times on the rim of the cereal bowl just for the sheer pleasure of it, and then he'll wonder what the space really is, after all, between tic and illness. Where biting your fingernails falls on the spectrum. Ticking the button on the emergency break. Ordering salad dressing on the side, having a song stuck in your head, watching the ball game on mute."
I'm gonna keep talking about how great it is, so you might as well buy the damn book already.
My friend and fellow Hollins MFAer (and kick-ass fiction writer) Karen Zvarych recently won a radio contest that got her a spot dancing on-stage with the Flaming Lips. Here's the video that did it. Two thumbs up.