Friday, February 27, 2009

Writing Your Story, Finding Your Voice sprinq quarter

I'm teaching Writing Your Story, Finding Your Voice spring quarter at the University of Washington Women's Center. Registration is open now. Class meets four Tuesdays in April, 7-8:30 pm.

You can register online, or by calling 206.685.1090.

Writing Your Story, Finding Your Voice
Every woman has a story to tell, in her own voice. In this four-week session we will release our stories, silence our inner critics, and have a good time! Come prepared with pen and paper, your imagination, your fears and joys, your secret expectations. We will focus on short pieces of prose and poetry, using lively free-writing exercises. For those new to writing, and those who want to revisit the freedom of the beginner. $45.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Elaine Showalter

There's an interesting review on by Laura Miller about a new book by Elaine Showalter on why women are not getting the respect (read prizes) although they do get the bucks. Here's a sample:

Feb. 24, 2009 | "Every few years, someone counts up the titles covered in the New York Times Book Review and the short fiction published in the New Yorker, as well as the bylines and literary works reviewed in such highbrow journals as Harper's and the New York Review of Books, and observes that the male names outnumber the female by about 2 to 1. This situation is lamentable, as everyone but a handful of embittered cranks seems to agree, but it's not clear that anyone ever does anything about it...

Onto this mine-studded terrain and with impressive aplomb, strides Elaine Showalter, literary scholar and professor emerita at Princeton. Showalter has fought in the trenches of this particular war for over 30 years, beginning with her groundbreaking 1978 study, "A Literature of Their Own: British Women Novelists From Brontë to Lessing," and culminating in her monumental new book, "A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers From Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx." Billed as "the first comprehensive history of American women writers from 1650 to 2000," "A Jury of Her Peers" has to negotiate the treacherous battlefield between the still-widespread, if fustian insistence on reverence for Great Writers and the pixelated theorizing of poststructuralists hellbent on overturning the very notion of "greatness."...

Why, for example, did Britain produce several women novelists of genius during the 19th century -- Jane Austen, George Eliot and the Brontës, as well as accomplished lesser artists like Elizabeth Gaskell -- while America did not? That question could (and sometimes does) lead to a lot of speculation on the national characters of the English-speaking peoples, but Showalter mentions an equally plausible, practical cause: "While English women novelists, even those as poor as the Brontës, had servants, American women were expected to clean, cook and sew; even in the South, white women in slaveholding families were trained in domestic arts."

Francine Prose, in that Harper's essay a decade ago, argued that the prestige awarded by critics and prize committees is crucial in securing these supports for literary writers (as opposed to commercial and genre writers), and they are still distributed unfairly."

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh Carlyle

"Commenting on the marriage of Thomas Carlyle and Jane Welsh Carlyle, a mutual acquaintance suggested to Tennyson that it was a pity because with anybody else each might have been quite happy. Tennyson disagreed: 'By any other arrangement four people would have been unhappy instead of two.'"

from The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, edited by Clifton Fadiman.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mary Wesley 1912-2002

"I have no patience with people who grow old at sixty just because they are entitled to a bus pass. Sixty should be the time to start something new, not put your feet up."
-Mary Wesley, in an interview in 2002.

Wesley published her first novel when she was 70, then wrote and published about ten novels in the next twenty years, and saw considerable success. Her work is witty, racy, emotionally vivid, and complex.

Here's her obit in the London Times:

"Mary Wesley gave heart to countless impecunious, unpublished novelists when her first novel, Jumping the Queue, was published in 1983. Wesley was then 70 years old, and the book was a gratifying success, much trumpeted in the press as the work of a promising new talent...

Reluctantly, Wesley found she had to play the publicity game. Journalists whose nerves had survived the ordeal of being chauffeured by Wesley from Totnes railway station would be fed on soup, salad and wine, and treated to brisk accounts of her writing methods.

Television producers soon realised what a rich seam the novels represented. Peter Hall’s adaptation of The Camomile Lawn was particularly full of lingering nude scenes which Wesley detested: “They were so out of keeping with the period. Nobody had central heating in those days.”


Friday, February 20, 2009

Squad 365 - a blog about book promotion

Lots of good ideas on book promotion at Squad 365. Here's what they say about themselves:

"We're four writers who understand how necessary it is--and how hard it can be--for writers to promote their own work and still thrive artistically and live a balanced life. We've banded together to bring you time- and life-tested tips about book marketing and promotion from a writer's point of view. Tips that will not only help you sell books, but will actually enhance your creativity and connectivity as a writer and a human being."

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Writing workshops at 826 Seattle

826 Seattle has free tutoring afterschool for kids, but also has workshops for writers. I'm particularly interested in this one:

Tuesday, August 4 - 7PM
with Bharti Kirchner.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Cliche Expert Takes the Stand

from Fierce Pajamas: an Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker.

"The Cliche Expert Takes the Stand," by Frank Sullivan.

Q - Mr. Arbuthnot, you are an expert in the use of the cliche, are you not?
A - Yes, sir, I am a certified public cliche expert.
Q - In that case would you be good enough to answer a few questions on the use and application of the cliche in ordinary speech and writing?
A - I should be only too glad to do so.
Q - Thank you. Now, just for the record - you live in New York?
A - I like to visit New York but I wouldn't live here if you gave me the place.
Q - Then where do you live?
A - Any old place I hang my hat is home sweet home to me.
Q - What is your age?
A - I am fat, fair, and forty.
Q - What is your occupation?
A - Well, after burning the midnight oil at an institution of higher learning, I was for a while a tiller of the soil. Then I went down to the sea in ships for a while, and later, at various times, I have been a guardian of the law, a gentleman of the Fourth Estate, a poet at heart, a bon vivant and reconteur, a prominent clubman and man about town, an eminent-
Q - Just what is your occupation at the moment, Mr. Arbuthnot?
A - At the moment I am an unidentified man of about forty, shabbily clad.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Helene Hanff 1916-1997

If you haven't re-read 84 Charing Cross Road in a while, this might be the time. If you have been living under a rock, and have never read this book, well, buddy, I almost envy you. The film is pretty good, too, but the book is swell, just swell.

Here's a link to an obit for Hanff.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Dorpat Sherrard Lomont blog

Paul Dorpat is a Seattle historian, and this is his blog, helped out by Jean Sherrard and Bérangère Lomont. I particularly like the About section, wherein Mr. Dorpat is described as

"…the Dorpat (genus: Tartus Lutheranus), its habitat and behaviors. Often to be found wandering the streets and byways of Wallingford, carrying its palm-sized digital camera. Also identified by its unique cry: a deep-throated chortle."

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Blossom Dearie 1926-2009

Blossom Dearie died at 82 on Saturday. I'm partial to her rendition of "Baby, It's Cold Outside" sung with Bob Dorough. I saw Blossom Dearie and Bob Dorough, (or maybe it was Bob Frischberg?)in the late 1980s, at Jazz Alley. Ah, she was fine. That amazing voice, and perfect intonation, and her wicked wit, and her verve. Ms. Dearie performed until 2006.

from the NY Times obit:
"A singer, pianist and songwriter with an independent spirit who zealously guarded her privacy, Ms. Dearie pursued a singular career that blurred the line between jazz and cabaret. An interpretive minimalist with caviar taste in songs and musicians, she was a genre unto herself. Rarely raising her sly, kittenish voice, Ms. Dearie confided song lyrics in a playful style below whose surface layers of insinuation lurked."


Sunday, February 08, 2009


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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Carolyn Heilbrun 1926-2003

"To understand Gertrude properly, it is only necessary to examine the lines Shakespeare has chosen for her to say. She is, except for her description of Ophelia's death, concise and pithy in speech, with a talent for seeing the essence of every situation presented before her eyes. If she is not profound, she is certainly never silly. We first hear her ask Hamlet to stop wearing black, to stop walking about with his eyes downcast, and to realize that death is an inevitable part of life. She is, in short, asking him not to give way to the passion of grief, a passion of whose force and dangers the Elizabethans are aware..."

-Carolyn Heilbrun, Hamlet's Mother and Other Women

Heilbrun was an English professor at Columbia for thirty three years, wrote academic works, mysteries (under the name Kate Fansler) and feminist criticism. I think she is spot on about Queen Gertrude.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bonnie ZoBell

My pal Bonnie ZoBell has just launched her website. One amusing detail is that the entries are all in reverse alphabetical order, which I'm assuming comes from being at the end of the alphabet herself. Bonnie is a fine writer and teacher, and a swell person. And her website looks great.

from her website:
"Bonnie ZoBell was born and raised in San Diego, California. She's received an NEA for her fiction and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Award for a story that was later read on NPR. She also won the Capricorn Novel Award and an Honorable Mention for the James Jones Novel Contest. One of her stories was included in American Fiction: The Best Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, edited by Joyce Carol Oates..."

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Oscar Levant 1905-1972

Pianist, movie actor, bon vivant, and all around raconteur, Levant was famous for his Gershwin.

"During World War II Oscar Levant appeared before the draft-board examiner. "Do you think you can kill?" the official asked.
"I don't know about strangers," replied Oscar, "but friends, yes."

from The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes, edited by Clifton Fadiman.