Category Archives: News

Best Writing of 2015 – Roundup

Hope you enjoy this roundup of more than 50 links showcasing the best writing of 2015. Happy reading in 2016 and beyond.

Martin Ott

Africa is a Country | Books of 2015 | The Best Books of 2015

The Atlantic | The Best Books We Read in 2015

The Atlantic | The Best Television Shows of 2015

A.V. Club | Best Comics of 2015

Barnes & Nobles | The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2015

BBC Culture | The 10 Best Books of 2015

Books Live | The Best Books of 2015

Book Riot| Best Books of 2015

The Boston Globe | Best Books of 2015

Brain Pickings | The 15 Best Books of 2015

Bustle | The 25 Best YA Books of 2015

Buzzfeed | the 19 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

Buzzfeed | The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015

Buzzfeed | The 32 Best Fantasy Books of 2015

Buzzfeed | Saeed Jones Picks 6 Books for LGBT Readers

Cultural Front | The Year in African American Poetry, 2015

The Daily Beast | Showrunners on 2015 Best Shows They Binge Watched

The Economist | Books of the Year 2015

Electric Literature | Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

Electric Literature | Best Novels of 2015

Electric Literature | Best Short Story Collections of 2015

Elle | 14 of the Best Books Written by Women in 2015

Entropy | Best Poetry Books & Collections 2015

Flavorwire | The Best Poetry Books of 2015

Flavorwire | The 50 Best Independent Press Books of 2015

Gizmodo | Science Books We Most Loved in 2015

The Guardian | The Best Books of 2015

The Guardian | Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015

Huffington Post | 25 Books by Black Authors from 2015 You Need to Read

io9 | The Very Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2015

Kirkus | Best Fiction 2015

Los Angeles Times | David L. Ulin’s Best Books of 2015

The New Yorker | the Books We Loved in 2015

New York Public Library | Best Books for Teens 2015

The New York Times | The Best Poetry Books of 2015

The New York Times | The 10 Best Books of 2015

Newsweek | The Best and Worst Books of 2015

NPR | Best Books of 2015

The Paris Review | Our Contributors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2015

Paste Magazine | The 30 Best Fiction Books of 2015

Paste Magazine | The 30 Best Nonfiction Books of 2015

PBS NewsHour | 6 of the Best Books to Curl up with from 2015

Popsugar | 6 LGBT Titles You May Have Missed This Year

Publishers Weekly | Best Books of 2015

Publishers Weekly | Best Picture Books of 2015

Shelf Awareness | Our 2015 Best Books of the Year

Slate | Katy Waldman’s 10 Favorite Books of 2015

The Telegraph | Best Books of 2015

W Magazine | 10 Best Art Books of 2015

Wall Street Journal | Best Books 2015

Washington Post | The 10 Best Books of 2015

Washington Post | Best Mysteries and Thrillers of 2015


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Internet Literary News, January 2015

Mark Strand

Here are five literary news stories in January that got me and other people buzzing on social media.

Martin Ott

“Sponsored” by My Husband

Writer Ann Bauer touched a nerve from her article in Salon: “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from.  I read no fewer than a half dozen responses to this. Colette Sartor rounded up a number of different responses to this article along with her own response: Stolen time: writing while financially challenged.

Mark Strand: Living Gorgeously

This link made me teary-eyed. Maybe I’m a softie. Maybe I’m moved by Mark Strand’s recent death and love of his collected poems. Please take a moment and read Charles Simic’s moving article on his friendship with Mark Strand.

Would This Happen to a Male Author?

There was a wave of deserved outrage when celebrated author Colleen McCullough was described as ‘overweight’ and ‘plain’ in an obituary.

Arizona Education Officials Ban Multilingual Poem

In a letter stating that Tucson’s public schools are illegally promoting ethnic solidarity and the overthrow of the U.S. government, Arizona education officials say that it’s illegal to recite this poem in school.

Are You Being Watched While You Read?

In her article They’re Watching What Your Read, Francine Prose expands upon an article in the Guardian on how ebook platform Kobo is reporting statistics to publishers on when customers stop reading their books.


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Best Writing of 2014 – Roundup

Even as I find myself reading Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s Song that doesn’t mean I haven’t carefully been tracking the best of 2014 writing lists that have been appearing. Please enjoy this roundup and I hope you take the opportunity to support your fellow writers. Happy holidays!

Martin Ott

Academy of American Poets | Standout Poetry Books of 2014 

Africa Is a Country | Recommends Best Books of 2014 | 2014 Best Books of the Year: Literature and Fiction

The Atlantic | Best Books I Read This Year: Staff Selections

The Atlantic | Best Television Episodes 0f 2014

A.V. Club | Best Comics of 2014

Books Live | The 16 Best “Bests Books of 2014” List

Book Riot | Five Book Culture Heroes of 2014

The Boston Globe |  Best Poetry Books of 2014

Bustle | 7 of the Biggest Book Controversies This Year

Bustle | 19 Small Press Books You May Have Missed in 2014

Buzzfeed | The 28 Best Books by Women in 2014

Buzzfeed | 19 Best Nonfiction Books of 2014

Dazed | Best Literature of 2014

The Economist: Books of the Year: Page Turners

Electric Lit | Jeff Vandermeer’s Favorite Fiction of 2014

Electric Lit | 25 Best Short Story Collections of 2014

Electric Lit | 25 Best Novels of 2014

Flavorwire | 50 Best Independent Fiction and Poetry Books of 2014

The Guardian | Best Books of 2014: Year in Review

The Guardian | Best Science Fiction Books of 2014

The Huffington Post | 11 Books Strand’s Booksellers Loved Most in 2014

The Huffington Post | Best Books of 2014

The Huffington Post | 2014 Best Books for Women

Hypable | 10 Best Books of 2014

Hyperallergic | Top 10 Art Books of 2014

io9 | Best Science Books of 2014

io9 | The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

Kirkus | Best Fiction Books of 2014

Los Angeles Times | David L. Ulin’s Best Books of 2014

Mother Jones | Best Books of 2014 

New Hampshire Public Radio | Best Overlooked Books of 2014

New York Public Library | Best Books of 2014

The New York Times | 100 Notable Books of 2014

The New York Times | Best Book Covers of 2014

The New York Times | David Orr’s 10 Favorite Poetry Books of 2014

The New Yorker |  Best Books of 2014 

Newsweek | Favorite Books of 2014

NPR Books | Maureen Corrigan’s Favorite Books of 2014

Oprah (via HuffPo) | Best Books of 2014

The Philadelphia Review of Books | 14 Poets for 2014: The Year’s Best Books

Publisher’s Weekly | Best Mystery Books of 2014

Publisher’s Weekly | SF/Fantasy/Horror: Best Books of 2014

Shelf Awareness | Best Books of 2014

SFGate |  Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

Slate | Authors’ Favorite 2014 Books

The Telegraph | Best Books of 2014

The Telegraph | Best Young Adult Books of 2014

Time | Top 10 Fiction Books

Up the Staircase (Ocean Vuong) | Best Online Poems from Women Poets of Color (2014)

Wall Street Journal | Best Books of 2014

The Washington Post | 5 Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Books of 2014 

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Internet Literary News – Remembering Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell photo

On Veteran’s Day, I wanted to give a shout out to one of our most influential veteran poets Galway Kinnell, who recently passed away.

He never looked away from the messiness of our lives and our country, and has been a big influence on my writing.

Below, please enjoy one of my favorites from him, part of his book-length poem The Book of Nightmares.

Martin Ott

Little Sleep’s-Head Sprouting Hair in the Moonlight


You scream, waking from a nightmare.

When I sleepwalk
into your room, and pick you up,
and hold you up in the moonlight, you cling to me
as if clinging could save us. I think
you think
I will never die, I think I exude
to you the permanence of smoke or stars,
even as
my broken arms heal themselves around you.


I have heard you tell
the sun, don’t go down, I have stood by
as you told the flower, don’t grow old,
don’t die. Little Maud,

I would blow the flame out of your silver cup,
I would suck the rot from your fingernail,
I would brush your sprouting hair of the dying light,
I would scrape the rust off your ivory bones,
I would help death escape through the little ribs of your body,
I would alchemize the ashes of your cradle back into wood,
I would let nothing of you go, ever,

until washerwomen
feel the clothes fall asleep in their hands,
and hens scratch their spell across hatchet blades,
and rats walk away from the cultures of the plague,
and iron twists weapons toward the true north,
and grease refuses to slide in the machinery of progress,
and men feel as free on earth as fleas on the bodies of men,
and lovers no longer whisper to the presence beside them in the
dark, O corpse-to-be …

And yet perhaps this is the reason you cry,
this the nightmare you wake screaming from:
being forever
in the pre-trembling of a house that falls.


In a restaurant once, everyone
quietly eating, you clambered up
on my lap: to all
the mouthfuls rising toward
all the mouths, at the top of your voice
you cried
your one word, caca! caca! caca!
and each spoonful
stopped, a moment, in midair, in its withering

you cling because
I, like you, only sooner
than you, will go down
the path of vanished alphabets,
the roadlessness
to the other side of the darkness,

your arms
like the shoes left behind,
like the adjectives in the halting speech
of old men,
which once could call up the lost nouns.


And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,

and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gît, ci-gît, ci-gît,

and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.


If one day it happens
you find yourself with someone you love
in a café at one end
of the Pont Mirabeau, at the zinc bar
where white wine stands in upward opening glasses,

and if you commit then, as we did, the error
of thinking,
one day all this will only be memory,

as you stand
at this end of the bridge which arcs,
from love, you think, into enduring love,
learn to reach deeper
into the sorrows
to come – to touch
the almost imaginary bones
under the face, to hear under the laughter
the wind crying across the black stones. Kiss
the mouth
which tells you, here,
here is the world
. This mouth. This laughter. These temple bones.

The still undanced cadence of vanishing.


In the light the moon
sends back, I can see in your eyes

the hand that waved once
in my father’s eyes, a tiny kite
wobbling far up in the twilight of his last look:

and the angel
of all mortal things lets go the string.


Back you go, into your crib.

The last blackbird lights up his gold wings: farewell.
Your eyes close inside your head,
in sleep. Already
in your dreams the hours begin to sing.

Little sleep’s-head sprouting hair in the moonlight,
when I come back
we will go out together,
we will walk out together among
the ten thousand things,
each scratched too late with such knowledge, the wages
of dying is love

from The Book of Nightmares by Galway Kinnell
Copyright © by Galway Kinnell

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Internet Literary News, Creep Edition

Kirk Nesset Site

I am pausing my normal activity of looking through literary news of the previous month to focus on a topic that has multiple Facebook threads buzzing. Several male writers have been accused of being creeps and criminals. Each topic below has saddened and sickened me, but I think these stories are worth reading and that the literary community show discuss how we may be empowering horrific behavior.

Martin Ott

College Writing Professor Accused of Downloading Child Porn

Kirk Nesset, author of multiple books and a writing professor at Allegheny College, was accused by the FBI of downloading child pornography. In response, Nesset has resigned over the charges and you can check out some of the social media responses captured in an article by Michelle Dean on Gawker.

Alt Lit Icon Accused of Abuse and Statutory Rape

Novelist Tao Lin, has been accused of statutory rape and emotional abuse by his ex-partner E.R. Kennedy on Twitter. These tweets were collected on Tumblr and went viral. Lin responded to the allegations as having a “troubled relationship” on Facebook and in Emails to BuzzFeed News.

Alt Lit Editor Quits Public Writing Career After Rape Allegation

Writer Sophia Katz published an essay on Medium about alt-lit magazine editor she claims sexually abused her. Other women came forward to name the editor as Stephen Tully Dierks and give additional evidence that this wasn’t the first time he’d done something similar. Dierks responded by quitting his writing and editing career. The response on social media has been intense, including an open letter to the internet by Elizabeth Ellen where she defends Dierks. Other women writers have tried to put this incident in a broader perspective of how we turn a blind eye to physical assault by writers.


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Internet Literary News, August 2014

Bugs in Medieval Manuscripts

In August, we climb into a time machine for a look at bugs in medieval manuscripts, a man punished for a novel set 900 years in the future, and how lessons from labor movements can help improve the lives of adjuncts and the future of universities. Please enjoy the journey.

Martin Ott

Former Teacher of the Year Incarcerated for Writing a Novel Set 900 Years in the Future

In Dorchester County, Maryland,  a teacher was taken in for an “emergency medical evaluation,” suspended from his job, and barred from setting foot on another public school. The crime? The teacher wrote two ebooks under a pen name set 900 years in the future, where a school is attacked in a terrorist act. Jeffrey Goldberg in The Atlantic compared the incident to a Soviet-style punishment from the Dept. of Insane and Dangerous Overreactions to Fictional Threats. The accused, Patrick McLaw, was awarded teacher of the year in part for helping one of his students self-publish an ebook. Perhaps publishing books on Amazon truly is evil. 

They Were Even Bugged in Medieval Times

Sarah J. Biggs, in the British Library Medieval Manuscript Blog, provides us with examples of bugs in various medieval texts often put in the margins of books for decorative reasons. Apparently, not very many texts provided illustrations of insects, and the ones that did often used them for humorous reasons.

The Business of Creative Writing

The next time someone asks me whether they should attend a creative writing program, I’ll send them this article from Nick Ripatrazone at The Millions, where he breaks down the responsibilities of teachers – and students – when attending MFA programs. The business of creative writing needs to stop being a dirty subject when far too many students are struggling with huge debts, unrealistic hopes, and false expectations.

The Adjunct Professor Crisis

The subject of adjuncts living in poverty won’t go away, in real life or in this blog, because of how American universities have chosen hiring administrators and building amenities over investing in faculty. Elizabeth Segran writes a compelling article in the Atlantic  about whether a budding labor movement can improve the lives of non-tenured faculty in universities.

The Woman Who Went to the Library and Read Every Book on the Shelf

My parents always encouraged me to read anything and everything. If you feel the same way, please meet Phyllis Rose, an avid fiction reader who decided to tackle an entire shelf of fiction (from LEQ to LES) in the New York Society Library. And what was the outcome? A book, of course. Rachel Cooke, in the Guardian, provides us with the story behind Phyllis Rose’s book The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading. Perhaps this will turn around the trend of people reading less books.

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Internet Literary News, July 2014

Nadine Gordimer

In July, I found myself looking back at some literary masters, publishers looking at new ways to sell books, writers thriving on social media, and a few lessons, bad and good, in our ongoing efforts to live the writing life. Please enjoy.

Martin Ott

The Loss of Nadine Gordimer

I was saddened to hear the news of the loss of one of my favorite writers Nadine Gordimer. In a year of saying goodbye to some of our best writers, this one hurts.

Issues of Re-Issues

Writers have a hard enough time finding readership — do we really have to worry about deceased literary heavyweights vying for a share of the marketplace? Last month, I highlighted new poems from Neruda. In July, Grove announced that it is issuing a lost story from Samuel Beckett. Scribner is also reissuing Hemingway’s classic novel The Sun Also Rises with a previously discarded first chapter. It seems as though publishers are starting to mimic movie studios in the way they mine old material to obtain a new audience.

Don’t Go Into Poetry for the Money, Honey

Kate Angus penned a great article at The Millions about how, even with the proliferation of MFA graduates and the hard work of small press and mainstream publishers, Americans seems to love poetry just not poetry books.

Writers Who Run the Literary Internet?

Flavorwire published a spotlight on 35 writers who run the literary internet. While it looks as though a few on the list purchased followers and  reach on Twitter, most of the writers highlighted here are worth following.

Let Amazon Run the Library System (It Runs Everything Else in Literature)

No Forbes isn’t the Onion, but it saw fit to publish Tim Worstall’s article “Close the Libraries and Buy Everyone an Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription. We all know the public library system is no engine of efficiency, but it provides more than just books to our communities (such as computer and internet access). Digitization is part of the future, obviously, but we need to find a way to support those of us who can’t afford the internet fast lane.

Odds and Ends

Here’s a few other links I found entertaining:

The First Asian American Superhero: The Green Turtle

What Writers Can Learn from Goodnight Moon

Computer Engineering: a Fine Day Job for a Poet

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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.


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 detailed 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 and 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 your 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


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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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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