How to Be A Star on Wattpad

Dmitri Ragano photo

Guest Blog Post by Dmitri Ragano

Last spring, I discovered Wattpad by accident. I was having lunch with my boss who told me his 13-year-old daughter had fallen in love with a new online fiction site where she could submit stories and get feedback from users around the world.

Needless to say I was intrigued. I knew it was only a matter of time before creative writing and social media began to intersect in a big way. Now it was finally happening.

A couple weeks later, I submitted the first few chapters of my self-published novel The Fugitive Grandma on the site. Pretty quickly and to my surprise, Maria Cootauco, Wattpad’s Engagement Manager, stumbled across my story and offered to put in on their Featured Story list. This was an incredible, completely unexpected chance to highlight my work on a site with an audience of 30 million readers, a content destination that receives roughly 1,000 fiction uploads every day.

Wattpad’s agreement around Featured Story placement is pretty reasonable: they offer to give your work marquee placement for 6 months. The most important exposure comes when Featured Stories rotate on the landing page for site’s the tablet and smart phone apps, where 85 percent of the reading takes place. In exchange, you consent to make the story available for free during the period of the promotion.

As soon “The Fugitive Grandma” began its Featured Story run in July 2013, interest spiked and I received a deluge of fan comments and followers from a variety of locales including Kenya, Iowa and Brunei. To date, “The Fugitive Grandma” has been read by hundreds of thousands of people on Wattpad. It has also received over 7,000 votes and more than 600 fan comments, both key metrics in the world of online content where engagement is everything.

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My popularity on Wattpad includes no small amount of luck and serendipity. But I can offer a few suggestions for any author interested in finding an audience on the world’s largest social reading site.

Study the Wattpad Community

Wattpad’s audience is diverse and skews young. More than 75 percent of site visitors are outside the United States, showing the growing demand for English-language fiction in developing nations like India, The Philippines and Turkey.

Though I don’t have detail stats, I can safely say most of Wattpad’s users are under 30-years-old. Many are under 20. Generations Y and Z are discovering their love for fiction at a time when software and smart phones are the dominant platforms for all media. Book stores (along with physical books) are a fading memory, if they ever were acquainted in the first place. This is an incredible opportunity to reach the global audience, fiction’s future, a readership without pre-conceived notions who can challenge you to experiment and think outside the box.

Will Your Story Connect with Them?

Consider whether your fiction is going to connect with Millennials their younger cohorts born around the turn of the 21st century. And don’t have any delusions. This is a site full of user-generated fiction, mostly from adolescents. Yes, there are a lot of vampires, zombies and ill-conceived teen romances. No, Wattpad is not a paragon of literary excellence and it’s not going to be mistaken for The Paris Review anytime soon.

But from my experience, your work doesn’t have to be shallow, formulaic “YA” to win hearts and minds. On the contrary, young readers are as hungry as anyone for innovative stories with serious themes and compelling characters, which is one of the reasons YA has been such a dynamic niche in an otherwise flat market, carrying authors like John Greene and Suzanne Collins toward critical acclaim and cross-over acceptance.

If you’re writing fiction aimed at the over-25 crowd, that’s fine too. Just be aware older readers haven’t migrated en masse to Wattpad. I suspect they will continue to grow in number, just as they followed their kids to Facebook, Twitter and What’s App. I see an increasing number of fan comments for women over 60 who empathize with Stella Valentine, the shotgun-toting “ fugitive grandma” who is one of the main characters of my novel.

Write Your Story in Bite Size Chunks

As I mentioned before, 85 percent of Wattpad’s stories are read on smart phones and tablets. Cognitive researchers have documented that people read differently on electronic screens and mobile devices. The user interface and the context of these gadgets are better suited for narratives that can be easily consumed in small doses with quick payoffs and cliffhanger follow-ons. If you’re book is composed of larger chapters of five to ten thousand or more words, you probably need to break it down into smaller segments.

“Two thousands words is roughly 10 minutes of reading,” says Wattpad CEO Allen Lau. “The makes the story more digestible, something you can do when standing in line.”

Post Frequently

Publish serial chapters in a recurring pattern, typically once or twice a week with a shout-out to followers. Online readers are accustomed to a steady, continuous stream of content through blogs, feeds and apps. Fiction is no different. A serial strategy for sparking interest, building momentum and accumulating fans has been very effective for some of Wattpad’s most successful breakout authors. Anna Todd’s novel After was released over the course of a year through hundreds of episodes, each no more than a few thousand words. By the end of the series, she’d attracted millions of Wattpad readers and landed a major book and movie deal.

Respond to Fans

This may sound like common sense but it can’t be emphasized enough. Reciprocity is at the heart of social networks. And Wattpad is foremost a community.

Therefore, make an effort within the best of your ability to respond to anyone who takes the time to sample your work. You will need to find the right balance for you in terms of frequency and who gets a response. I have over 7,000 followers and there’s no way I can make the time to reach out and thank everyone one of them individually. But I have a system of following up every two weeks to reply to any readers who have left comments, feedback or praised my work. With a demanding day job and busy family life this is the best I can do.

Promote Purchases of Your Book, But Don’t Expect a Big Sales Impact

When you post a book on Wattpad you retain full rights and have plenty of options to promote your titles by cross-linking on Amazon and other retail channels.

My experience is that it doesn’t have much impact at all on sales via Amazon and other outlets. Many Wattpad readers are too young to purchase online or live in countries where it is difficult to obtain credit cards. Besides, it was the specific promise of free fiction that attracted most of them in the first place.

A handful of first-time authors have used Wattpad as a platform to land deals with the Big 5 publishers, but this typically goes hand in hand with a lot of traditional methods of seeking attention from the publishing world.

We all write for different reasons. For me it was important to share my work and see if it resonated with readers I never could’ve reached on my own. My fiction was experimental, combining themes and genres. It was unconventional enough that I felt I’d have to show evidence of reader interest before anyone in the publishing world would take me seriously.

If you are focused on the traditional goals of a professional author, such as sales or attracting the attention of agents and publisher, Wattpad is probably not going to be the single thing that makes your career. But it is a great tool to test out new story ideas, prove they have an audience, and find fans in exotic far-flung corners of the world.

About the Author:

Dmitri Ragano is an author and journalist. His latest novel, The Fugitive Grandma, is available on Wattpad and Amazon.

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Internet Literary News, June 2014

Pablo Neruda photo

In June, poets were in the news with freshly discovered work from a master, a new US Poet Laureate, the loss of an influential voice, and insights into Anne Sexton’s Pulitzer Prize selection. All this, plus more from Hachette v. Amazon.

- Martin Ott

Newruda

Do you sometimes wonder what the world would be like if one of your favorite writers published new work? Seix Barral, Pablo Neruda’s longtime publisher, announced that 20 Neruda poems have been discovered in his archives and will be published in late 2014 / early 2015.

Pulitzer Prize Poetry Politics

Interested in how Anne Sexton won the Pulitzer Prize? In the Poetry Foundation blog, David Trinidad gives us insights into the world of Pulitzer Prize judging  by digging into the Chronicles of the Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry and revealing how judges’ arguments over books by Plath and Roethke provided the backdrop for Sexton’s selection.

New US Poet Laureate Will Do…?

I’ve always thought it was cool that our country had a post for a poet, but I’ve always wondered what it practically means for the art, craft, and popularity of what is, in actuality, a niche market filled with more writers per reader than any other genre. Best of luck to our new US Poet Laureate Charles Wright, who was quoted as saying upon selection: “I really don’t know what I’m supposed to do…but as soon as I find out, I’ll do it.”

Alan Grossman RIP

The poetry world was saddened by the loss of influential poet and scholar Alan Grossman. Winner of countless awards, Grossman was known for a serious style that bridged Romantic and Modernist traditions.

Amazon Looking to Bury the Hachette?

Yes, it’s all about money. As Amazon and one of the big publishing houses Hachette dig in for a fight over pricing and revenue, Evan Hughes at Slate provides insights into a lost opportunity by publishers to thwart the latest Amazon power grab. Chuck Wendig also provides an even handed and humorous look at these two “stompy  corporation” on his blog that I highly recommend.

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Writeliving Interview: Stephen Dobyns

Photo Stephen Dobyns

I was in graduate school when I picked up a copy of Velocities, a volume of new and selected poems by Stephen Dobyns. I remember being struck by two things that resonated (and still resonate with me): that it is possible to write narrative poetry with imagination and a humane voice, and the way writing without stanzas can help the reader focus on content over form. Our best authors always make us look at how and why we write. I hope you enjoy insights into the writing process of this important poet and novelist.

- Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

I can’t pinpoint one person. When I started reading poetry late in high school, it was Stevens, William Carlos Williams and Eliot’s “Prufrock”. In graduate school, it was Alan Dugan, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath. But soon afterward (1967), I found my biggest influence from poems in translation–Neruda, Vallejo, Zbigniew Herbert, Apollinaire, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Lorca, Alberti, Transtromer, Mandelstam, Akhmatova, Hikmet, Pavese, Ritsos and many others. Later still I went back to sonnets: Shakespeare, Keats, Bill Knott and others. Besides liking the poets, I’d look for poets who would foil my attempts to anticipate what might come next, because at those places within the poem I would find what I wanted to learn. It was also important to me to find poets who were engaged in a conversation with the world and not simply with themselves. Also, the work of most European poets was informed by a sense of history, which I mostly found missing in U.S. poetry. Most recently I’ve found that surprise and sense of history in the Polish poet Tomasz Rozycki. I also read many contemporary U.S. poets, but we share a historical context, which may distort the poem for me, making me often see as strong what might be weak, and see as weak what might be strong.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I wait for metaphors which will help me approach non-discursively what is otherwise approached discursively. These metaphors may start with the self and then try to move out into the world, until at make my presence hardly a shadow. The form of the poem, the noise, the manner of its telling also combines into a non-discursive metaphor that compliments or heightens the substance of the poem’s telling. Any poet always has a series of concerns which he or she consciously or unconsciously wants to express, so the hunt for the right metaphor, the right telling, always seems to be going on just before the level of conscious thought. Most simply, I can often set this process in motion by reading other poems, especially image driven poems–Yannis Ritsos, for instance. I don’t necessarily take from these other poems, but my brain, in reading, becomes softened or opened to non-discursive thought.  So my waiting is an informed waiting, even if on most occasions nothing happens.

How has teaching impacted your writing?

At best, it has made me study subjects I want to learn more about.  If I don’t read a lot of sonnets and a lot about sonnets when preparing for a class on the sonnet, I’ll humiliate myself.  Terror has great pedogogical value. And I’ve been enriched by colleagues and students. But the academic atmosphere can be stultifying. Academics are often tidiers of information; poets–in their search for the right metaphor–can be disrupters of information. This is not a natural fit. There are many academics I’ve greatly admired and have been close to, but for the most part one is sleeping with the enemy. The institutions can be very comfortable and within them poets can become complacent. And deep in their hearts of hearts, etc., the academics have little respect for what you do.

As an author of a popular series of mystery novels, what seat at the table do you think genre fiction deserves in the larger discussion about literature?

A very small seat, maybe a stool. Most genre fiction offers a physical solution to an existential problem: the bad guy is shot. This trivializes the existential problem. Some genre writers, like John Le Carre, can push the boundaries of the genre and tart up the physical solution with brilliant writing and psychological/intellectual depth, but reader still wants the physical solution: the bad guy is terminally dealt with. In Crime and Punishment, Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished student, murders a pawnbroker for her money.  A detective, Porfiry, suspects Raskolnikov and gathers information against him. Perhaps Porfiry could kill Raskolnikov in a carriage chase.  Justice would triumph, but the existential problem would be forgotten.  We even might be somewhat satisfied. But Dostoevsky wants a novel about redemption, not punishment, and so the novel follows Raskolnikov to Siberia where he serves eight years of penal servitude. Here, with the help of Sonya, a former prostitute who becomes his wife, he at last discovers moral regeneration and is redeemed. Whether one likes it or not, Dostoevsky’s investigation of an existential problem is complete. It hasn’t been truncated two hundred pages earlier with a bullet to Raskolnikov’s brain; it moves past a purely physical solution. My explanation is simplistic, but because the best genre writing may explore an existential problem with great subtlety and the book may be written with great skill, those virtues at least earn the genre writer a small stool at the end of the table, almost in the hall.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice?

Stop thinking about the question and just write. Your voice will evolve our of your subjectivity, which, after all, is unique.

How does being a poet and novelist influenced your work in the other genre?

The poems gain in narrative and the novels gain in image, but they are quite separate in my mind. In addition, the books of poems are quite different from one another, as are the novels, apart from the Saratoga series. I try to avoid self-parody.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Just being alive is adversity enough. I write to save my life.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I wouldn’t know where to begin.

About the Author:

Stephen Dobyns’ most recent book is a novel, The Burn Palace, published by Blue Rider/Penguin in February 2013. Palgrave released his second book of essays on poetry, Next Word, Better Word, in April, 2011. His most recent book of poems Winter’s Journey published in 2010 by Copper Canyon. His previous work of fiction is a book of short stories Eating Naked (Holt, 2000). His other work includes Best Words, Best Order (Palgrave, 2003), essays on poetry; and Velocities (Penguin, 1994), a volume of new and selected poems. He has also published eleven other books of poetry and twenty other novels.   Two of his novels and two of his short stories have been made into films. He has received a Guggenheim fellowship, three fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts and numerous prizes for his poetry and fiction. Between 1995 and 2007, he wrote more than thirty feature stories for the San Diego Reader. Dobyns teaches in the MFA Program of Warren Wilson College, and has taught at Emerson College, Syracuse University, Boston University, University of Iowa and half a dozen other colleges and universities. He was born in New Jersey in 1941. He lives with in Westerly, RI.

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Recycled Reads: The Poisonwood Bible

My third installment in a series of recycled reads – a review of books found in my  local Goodwill – is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver.

Published in 1998, The Poisonwood Bible has been widely praised and was nominated for a 1999 Pulitzer Prize. The story follows the Prices, a missionary family, that moves from Georgia to the Congo in 1959. The story is told by the women in the family: Orleanna, the abused wife of patriarch Baptist minister Nathan Price, and their four daughters: Rachel, Leah, Adah, and Ruth May. There is a political undertone throughout the novel focused on the abuse of Nathan Price on his wife and children, and the abuse of the United States and European powers on the Congo, and the entire African continent.

There’s no doubt in my mind that this is an important work of fiction, and it is a book I highly recommend for readers. As a writer, I found myself thinking about a few decisions that the author made that potentially undercut the novel:

Length - The main plot arc is Shakespearean in the way it follows the tragic, headstrong, and ill-advised decisions made by Nathan Price and the escalating danger he puts his family in, leading to the death of his youngest daughter Ruth May. Imagine The Lord of the Flies, if the second half of the book followed the lives of the survivors over the next twenty-five years after being rescued. The politics of Africa shown over the final decades of the novel  are fascinating, but feel like a second story has been tacked onto the first (and more powerful) one.

Antagonist is Abandoned – Nathan Price, at the moment he puts his daughters in the most danger, disappears almost entirely in the narrative, and is not present in the moment when the mother and daughters decide to leave the mission. Nathan turns into a ghost, a rumor. Perhaps this is because it is Kingsolver’s intent to have the larger antoginist to be patriarchal America vs. the family patriarch. For me, the lack of active conflict before the climactic moment of the novel took away from its overall impact.

Author Intrusion – There are times in the narrative when the diary-like voices of the daughters are abandoned for a narrator’s voice giving us the horrific background to the political upheaval caused by Europe and the United States in Africa. This sometimes happens with an occasional paragraph and in other cases, as with the ending, there are longer stretches where the narrator sums up the meaning of the story for us. All of this additional context if powerful, but it pulled me out of the drama of the core story.

As writers, we are always looking to take lessons from every book we read. I have no doubt that others may disagree with my analysis. Please feel free to comment below.

- Martin Ott

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Internet Literary News, May 2014

MA photo

May brought us its fair share of bad news, controversy, and cool writing tips. Here’s my roundup of internet literary news for May 2014.

- Martin Ott

America Loses One of Its Literary Beacons: Farewell to Maya Angelou

I remember very clearly the class at the University of Michigan when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya Angelou had a huge impact on many writers and readers during her long writing career and will be missed.

Judge Orders Author to Return $22.5 Million from Invented Holocaust Memoir

A memoir about a young holocaust survivor killing a Nazi solider and fleeing into the woods to be adopted by wolves sound like something Hollywood might cook up, and in the end the memoir turned out to be untrue. Misha Defonseca was order by a judge to repay$22.5 million from Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years. It turns out that she was in school in Belgium during the time period portrayed in the memoir.

The Importance of Operational Theme in Creative Work

Writer/producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach wrote a compelling case for why TV shoes such as Lost and Breaking Bad relied on an operational theme to drive the show (independent of plot). The applicability, though, extends to fiction (and perhaps even poetry) – it is valuable for writers to understand theme as much as character, plot, setting, and voice.

Controversy Over Poetry Remix of Mass Murderer

Writer and critic Seth Abramson created a heated debate on Facebook, Twitter, and multiple sites after publishing The Last Words of Mass Murderer Elliot Rodger Remixed Into Poetry on Huffington Post. Although he provided rationale for his metamodern poetry, some questioned whether he was using the incident for personal gain and that it is always too soon to grab personal attention for a tragedy. Some writers encouraged others to contact HuffPo editors to remove Abramson and Omnidawn issued a statement about their disappointment in Abramson, co-editor of Best American Experiment Writing, and that they would not be publishing future volumes of the anthology. Others have supported Abramson’s intention to try to craft art out of senseless violence and have called on those piling on Abramson to look harder at his stated intention behind the poetry remix.

Should Books Assigned in Colleges Contain Trigger Warnings?

There is a debate brewing about whether some books assigned in literature classes should include warnings of subject matter that could cause undue stress. A draft guide on trigger warnings from Oberlin College cited Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. These trigger warnings were also proposed by a Rutgers student earlier this year for a variety of scenes that reference gory, abusive, and misogynistic violence in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. This topic continues to spawn a lot of discussion online and in social media.

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Writeliving Interview – Campbell McGrath

Campbell McGrath Photo

Campbell McGrath has been a major influence on my work, particularly my poetic collaborations with John F. Buckley about America on Brooklyn Arts Press. I’m excited that he took the time to share insights into his writing life with us. Please check out his advice on voice–priceless!

- Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

Always tricky to limit the list of influences, but a pretty obvious answer for me is Walt Whitman, who opened up the scope of American poetry for all who have followed him. In that same American vein, Jack Kerouac and Woody Guthrie, despite their different genres, have been important models for me, along with poets like James Wright and Richard Hugo. On the other hand, poets like Rilke, Transtromer and Basho have taught me essential things–I can’t imagine my poetry without their influence. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. And these days, the sea is full of icebergs.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

Well, in general the writing process is two-part: the mysterious, internal process by which inspiration guides you to the poem in its original state; and then the hard work of developing and revising the poem to its final form. The first of these resists too much helpful advice from me, or anyone else. Usually my first drafts show up in notebooks, or scrawled on a piece of paper somewhere. From there, I work up a first draft on the computer, print it out, and revise it by hand– then go back and forth between the computer screen and the printed page. The poem has distinct identities in those two mediums, I think. Also, I am a big fan of solving problems in my sleep, and I always try to read the latest draft of a new poem before bedtime, and often wake up with just the missing word or image.

How has teaching impacted your writing?

I studied poetry in high school, in college, and in an MFA program–and learned a lot. But I only really LEARNED a lot of those things when I became a teacher. When you know you have to stand before a class full of kinds and field their questions, you suddenly realize where the holes and weak points are in your own learning. So you get busy and really master material that you have only digested casually before. I’ve been teaching for more than 25 years, but I still find teaching to be personally educational as well as enriching.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice?

Keep writing. Finding one’s voice is an essential starting point for all writers. You can’t find it by thinking about writing– you can only find it while actually writing. The process, like the old Magic 8-ball fortune teller, reveals all the answers. Also I would say this: find your voice, write enough poems in that voice to really master it, and then abandon it. Find another, larger, more ambitious voice– or to switch metaphors, grow your voice, like a plant, for a single seedling to an entire forest.

Do you consider yourself part of any school of poetry?

No.

How has American history and culture influenced your writing?

I write about America very often–about place, travels, culture, and society–which is the world that created me, and that I still struggle to comprehend. So, it has “influenced” me doubly–by shaping my world and making the person I am, that’s the first level. Then it has re-influenced me in that I take up various aspects of our history, say, to write about, as in my fairly recent book, SHANNON: A POEM OF THE LEWIS AND CLARK EXPEDITION. It’s a big world, with lots to write about, but I find America endlessly intriguing.

How would you finish this sentence: “A poem is…?”

…a piece of art made entirely of words.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Writing poetry is nothing but adversity. It’s really hard, it takes up all your time, it obsesses you–but it pays little or nothing. So you need a day job, and poetry is therefore a second, unpaid career you practice in your time off. I happen to be at the lucky end of this spectrum, with a good teaching job, and the receipt of several awards which paid me actual cash money. But even so–poets get all the respect in the world from me, simply for persevering in the face of economic reality.

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

I am a big sports fan–Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins, Miami Heat, New Zealand All Blacks, Barcelona–that’s five sports but I could ​ name others if I tried.

About the Author:

Campbell McGrath is the author of ten books of poetry, including Spring Comes to Chicago, Florida Poems, Seven Notebooks, and most recently In the Kingdom of the Sea Monkeys (Ecco Press, 2012).  He has received many of America’s major literary prizes for his work, including the Kingsley Tufts Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, a USA Knight Fellowship, and a Witter-Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress. His poetry has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic and on the op-ed page of the New York Times, as well as in scores of literary reviews and quarterlies. Born in Chicago, he lives with his family in Miami Beach and teaches at Florida International University, where he is the Philip and Patricia Frost Professor of Creative Writing.

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Get Creative Inspiration from Your Other Writing by Martin Ott

writeliving:

I have been known to double dip from the same creative concept and I highly recommend this process to other writers. Here’s a guest blog post “Get Creative Inspiration from Your Other Writing” on the North American Review blog.
– Martin Ott

Originally posted on :

Like many other poets, I have other creative outlets including fiction, non-fiction, and writing for TV and film. Sometimes research or creative output on one project can provide source material for work in other genres.

For example, the poem “Battlefield Typewriter” in the current issue of North American Review is the result of research I was doing to support the development of a TV pilot of my novel The Interrogator’s Notebook. I was surprised to discover that one of my favorite writers, J.D. Salinger, worked as an interrogator during WWII, and I found myself wondering how this experience impacted his personal life and writing life.

Writing Ball Keyboard

Over time, I’ve discovered that creative work can transform itself in strangest ways from one genre to another. I was once working on a screenplay, (The Impossible O’Donnell) about a magician, and one of my favorite scenes in it was the protagonist’s out-of-body…

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Internet Literary News, April 2014

one-hundred-years-of-solitude-by-gabriel-garcia-marquez

This month, we mourn the death of a literary giant, scratch our heads at a vexing decision from USC to jettison their MPW writing program, and look at 50 reasons not to date a poet (myself included).

- Martin Ott

Loss of a Literary Giant

The New York Times called him a conjurer and Steve Erickson, one of our best American magic realists, shares how 100 Years of Solitude changed his writing life. Marquez influenced many writers and I feel a debt to him in how I approach both fiction and poetry. Instead of saying goodbye, I encourage authors and readers to say hello and read or reread his work.

USC’s MPW Program Moves to VCFA

This is news that hits close to home as I graduate from the Master of Progressional Writing Program at USC. The MPW has been a valuable part of my journey as a multi-disciplinary writer (poetry, fiction, screenplays, TV, blogging, content strategist, and marketing writer). Like many alumni, I was shocked to hear of the program’s closure, and perplexed by the news to move the program to Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was just announced that Trinie Dalton will lead the new program and I wish her the best in leading what I believe is a unique and worthwhile program.

Debate over Lists of Books by Women Writers

In April, I read and shared a couple of lists of worthwhile books by women writers – 12 Great Female Authors Recommend Their 40 Favorite Female Authors in Elle and These Are 21 Female Writers You Should Be Reading in Time. Multitalented Roxane Gay shares her thoughts in Slate on why we need these lists in The Trouble with ‘” Women You Should Be Reading Now” Lists. I agree with Gray’s premise in her article, but have also been introduced to worthwhile women writers from these lists. Count me as still undecided on this topic.

Hollywood’s New Power Couple – Books & Television

I have several friends that write for television, and there is a widespread belief that the best and brightest in the entertainment industry are migrating to television vs. film (for many reason like the upteenth Spidey movie out this weekend). Here’s a list of 23 Books that Will Be Featured on Television This Year.

50 Reasons Not to Date a Poet

Everyone, including poets, know that we’re pains in the asses in our relationships. Here’s a list of 5o Reasons Not to Date a Poet. The link appeared almost a year ago, but I might have been starting absently out the window when it was posted like the list suggests.

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Map Literary – On the Map of Online Literary Magazines

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As we have seen some of our best literary magazines move online or create online editions, the launch of some of the best new literary magazines have occurred in the online space.

There are some of the newer  online magazines I read for poetry like Plume or short fiction like Joyland, but there is one magazine that I follow each issue in equal parts for poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art: Map Literary.

The Spring 2014 issue is no except. Work of interest includes poetry by Simeon Berry, the short story Your Hands by Scottish writer Halsted M. Bernard, and artwork from the Ark Codex from Calamari Press

The magazine is affiliated with the English Department of the College of Humanities & Social Sciences at the William Paterson University of New Jersey, but the accomplished editors, with a track record of publishing success, imbue the magazine with a modern aesthetic and content that combines artistry and relevance.

This is one magazine to put on your lit mag roadmap.

- Martin Ott

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Writeliving Interview – Rae Armantrout

Rae Armantrout photo

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate National Poetry Month than with an interview with one of our best, brightest, and most influential poets Rae Armantrout. My copy of Versed is pretty dog-eared at this point, and I have a soft spot in my heart and a big place on my bookshelf for quintessential California writers.

- Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

Early on I was influenced in different ways by William Carlos Williams and Emily Dickinson – Dickinson because she was a fearless thinker and a woman. When I was growing up it was still assumed that women would restrict themselves to thinking about love and domesticity. She used poetry to confront and argue with God, death, etc. But I think I got my line from Williams. His work is quite sonically beautiful even when it’s minimalist. And then,  among my contemporaries, Ron Silliman has had a huge influence on my writing because he is willing to read my drafts and give me his honest opinion. And, because he’s been reading me so long, his takes on my poems are really astute so he knows when something isn’t quite done or when it is but I won’t stop fiddling with it.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I make handwritten notes in a journal first. The note could be an observation. I might write down a snippet of overheard conversation, or a bit of something I read, or a response to something I read, or a description of something I see. Often there’s an unresolved feeling in these notes or an idea I can’t quite put my finger on. Then I feel like a detective because I’m going after that “thing” I sense. Maybe I try to  write more in the direction of the feeling/thought (I don’t separate the two) as if I were following it.  Other times I wait for more information to appear. Sometimes the poem happens when there are enough elements (bits) that feel somehow related. Then I start stitching the parts together. By this time I’m working on an iPad or computer. I usually go through a lot of drafts.

How has teaching impacted your writing?

I’m not sure. Indirectly. Once in awhile I actually do a take-off on something I catch myself saying to a class. I think, did I really say that? Do I mean it? And I go from there. And sometimes I’m “inspired” by something I read for class. Right now I’m team teaching a class called Poetry for Physicists with an actual physicist, Brian Keating, who played an important role in the recent discovery of gravity waves! So he got famous just as we started co-teaching! I’ve been trying to think of ways to discuss literary essays and poems with science students. That has been an interesting stretch. Two days ago I actually made a (simple) flow chart for the first time in my life! So we’ll see what comes of that!

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice?

Well The Waste Land was originally called He Do the Police in Different Voices. I think that’s an excellent title. My advice is to realize there are lots of voices in your head. Let them all come out and play. I do.

Do you consider yourself part of any school of poetry?

We’re like fish that way I guess. We school. Seriously, I was educated by participating in the Language Poetry revolution. Those poets are my real colleagues. But we’re all very different writers. Always were really.

How has living in California shaped your poetic voice and sensibilities?

I’m a California native. I’ve always lived here so it’s a little like asking the proverbial fish what the sea is like. That said, I think my time in northern California gave me a particular poetic education. And the space, light, and flora of southern California enter my poems as images all the time. I came from literary nowhere. Neither of my parents went to college. I started reading on my own and I ended up at Berkeley which was the beginning of a shaping experience. But when I was starting out, I didn’t have a very strong sense of what was looming above me, if you see what I mean. I didn’t know enough to be intimidated or feel overshadowed. Oddly, that may have worked to my advantage. I was dancing by myself so I wasn’t inhibited.

Can you share an example of overcoming adversity to keep your writing dream alive?

Well, my answer above describes the first adversity I faced. I started out behind and I didn’t even know it. Only someone as insanely stubborn as I am would have decided, standing on the sidewalk in front of a suburban convenience store, that she could be a poet. I didn’t even realize that the world was losing interest in poetry!  Sometimes not knowing anything is an advantage. I did know about sexism though. When I tried showing my high school English teacher my poems, he said, “Women can’t write poetry.” That just made me angry. Anger too can be helpful!

What is something about you that writers and readers may not know?

If I haven’t already said it, I probably don’t want people to know! But here’s an easy answer. I like to dance. I listen to top 40 radio in my car. And I play “The Fame Monster” (Lady Gaga) and “My Head is an Animal” (Monsters and Men) often when I’m driving.  Bob Dylan and The Stones as well.

About the Author:

Just Saying, Rae Armantrout’s most recent book of poems, was published by Wesleyan University Press in 2013. Versed (Wesleyan, 2009) received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. It was also a finalist for the National Book Award. Next Life (Wesleyan, 2007) was chosen as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2007 by The New York Times. Other recent books include Money Shot (Wesleyan, 2011,) Collected Prose (Singing Horse, 2007), Up to Speed (Wesleyan, 2004), The Pretext (Green Integer, 2001), and Veil: New and Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2001). Her poems have been included in anthologies such as The Best of the Best American Poetry: 1988-2012 (2013), The Norton Anthology of Postmodern American Poetry (2013), The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine, (Chicago, 2012), American Hybrid (Norton, 2009), American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Language Meets the Lyric Tradition, (Wesleyan, 2002), The Oxford Book of American Poetry (Oxford, 2006) and The Best American Poetry of 1988, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012. Armantrout received an award in poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2007 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. She is Professor of Poetry and Poetics at the University of California, San Diego. Writing in Poetry magazine, Ange Mlinko has said, “I would trade the bulk of contemporary anecdotal free verse for more incisive, chilling poetry like Armantrout’s.”

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