Stop by the stately Mercantile Library at 7 p.m., where the literary magazine [sic] will be hosting a party. I’ll be reading from, and signing copies of, A Field Guide to the North American Family, and the illustrious Diane Williams, editor of NOON and author of Excitability, among other titles, will be reading from her new book, It Was Like My Trying to Have a Tender-Hearted Nature. The Merc is located at 17 E 47th Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues. I’d love to see you there.
In case you haven’t noticed, we have successfully moved. As always the whole experience was rather disconcerting – a several weeks-long build of activity leading into a seriously draining 48 hours, and then, suddenly, it was over.The move itself involved no major disasters, but couldn’t be described as pleasant either. Our first setback occurred when we realized that Penske had rented us a truck with a nail in the tire. Luckily, they sent somebody out to fix it, but we lost a few hours of last-minute packing. Perhaps worse was that the guys I hired to load the truck the next day decided to take their sweet time, so much so that Mrs. Millions and I were forced to jump in and lend a hand. They also ripped the couch.Everything had to come down the rickety back staircase of our third floor walk-up; not fun. After five hours of heavy lifting, we set off on our 13-hour drive, sore, bruised, and sleep-deprived. Thanks to traffic on the way out of Chicago (the Windy City wouldn’t let us go without a fight), we lost some more time and we had to stop for the night rather than drive the whole way through, as we had hoped to do. We we’re somewhat constrained since we were traveling with our dog, and we ended up at an Econolodge in Youngstown, Ohio.Nothing against Youngstown, but I don’t think we’ll be back any time soon. The motel was situated next to the largest strip club I’ve ever seen. The place, which would have covered an entire city block, was called “Club 76,” named after the highway to which it was adjacent. Our motel was close enough that it could almost be mistaken for an annex of sorts.The guy manning the motel’s front desk was friendly enough, but was regretfully forced to inform us that the only room left had a leaky roof. We took it and kept our fingers crossed, and, thankfully were not awoken by a deluge. Of course, we probably weren’t there for more than five hours anyway. The next day we finished up the trip and the truck that it had taken the movers five hours to load was unloaded in half an hour with help from my family. So now we are settled into a temporary home, while we look for a more permanent spot – and hopefully that will be the last time we move for a long while.
Join me in welcoming our newest regular contributor at The Millions, Timothy R. Homan. I’ve known Tim since grad school in Chicago. He’s got a keen reporter’s eye and an avid reader’s sensibility.Tim is a Washington-based journalist covering international trade and the global economy. He has a masters degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and one from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. His articles have been published in The New York Times and The Washington Post, and he freelances book reviews for Kirkus Reviews. He is also the founder of Not Your Mother’s Book Club, now with chapters in Boston, DC, and San Francisco.Welcome aboard, Tim!
It’s Thanksgiving and we are expecting many guests, so don’t expect much blogging. There will be some more “best of the year” type posts as the lists are published in various places. I’m thinking about compiling a master list to see which books appear on the most lists as I did last year… we’ll see. In the meantime, some of you may recall my invitation a few weeks back to anyone who would like to contribute to The Millions. And now I am able to happily introduce our first regular guest contributor. Andrew Saikali is an editor in the Globe and Mail newsroom in Toronto and a long-time reader of The Millions. When not listening to Bob Dylan or The Walkmen, he can be found reading. Welcome, Andrew! Stay tuned for his first post, arriving shortly. There are a few other folks in the pipeline right now (you know who you are). And if anyone else would like to contribute to The Millions, drop me line.
I find it hard to believe, but today is the one year anniversary of The Millions, making this little Blog About Books a veritable ancient in the “blog world.” Authoring this blog has been a great experience for me. It turned me from an unmotivated, but ostensibly “aspiring” writer, into someone who writes for an audience every day and can now seriously contemplate life as a writer without much dread. If there’s any folks out there who are contemplating a similar sort of writing life, putting together a blog is a great way to get the kinks out, not to mention all the web skills you pick up along the way.When I first started The Millions it wasn’t even a blog about books, it was just a… blog. My buddy Derek had had a blog for a while and was really into it. It looked like fun and I was getting tired of trying to muster up the energy to write in my journal each day, so I decided to give it a try. My first post appears to have been about politics, and I think it was my last post about politics. I kind of meandered along like that for a while, writing intermittently about art lectures and rock and roll shows and things like that until one day in the shower, where I have most of my epiphanies, I had an epiphany. A Blog About Books. “I’ve decided to reinvent The Millions…”, I wrote. A manifesto soon followed. And it was followed again and again by more and more manifestos. And of course I went bookfinding and bookspotting. And occasionally people read the blog and they seemed to enjoy it and some of them even left comments or emailed me or asked me a book question. It’s been fun. I hope to keep doing it, too. I don’t have a lot of readers, 30 to 60 a day, and most of those are family members, but I’m pretty addicted to it. This year brings lots of busyness and lots of changes. I’m getting married, moving, and going back to school, but maybe I’ll find the time to make it to The Millions anniversary #2 on March 24th, 2005; you’ll have to keep reading to find out.The anniversary might be a good time to post another manifesto, and since I think I may have written a (small) one today in responding to an email from a reader, I might as well put it up here:I lean perhaps too much on the side of being uncritical about books. In fact, I prefer to allow the books I read to be a jumping off point for conversation or to talk about the experience of reading a particular book. I feel like that there is so much qualitative judgment being passed on books (…and music…and movies) that it tends to drown out the other stuff… so I haven’t wanted The Millions to add to the din of the review culture. Having said that, I think it IS important to pass qualitative judgment on books, but it is far more important to single out (and try to get people to read) the good ones instead of knocking down the bad ones. I also fear that my usual positivity makes me seem like a corporate shill for Amazon, but I’m hoping that most of my readers aren’t so cynical. I just happened to have all of this on my mind since it turns out that today is the one year anniversary of The Millions.Thanks to all you trusted fellow readers!
I’ve been teaching fiction writing out of my apartment for over a year now. Seven people show up to my place once a week to eat some gourmet cheese, drink some wine (or sparkling water), and talk about fiction writing. It’s been terrific to explore craft topics with such a diverse group of Angelenos; my students range in age from 24 to 57, and, when they’re not writers, they are painters, actors, therapists, vineyard owners, producers, nannies, midwives, and so on. I always try to balance the intensity of our critique sessions (because they are intense – this ain’t no touchy-feely love fest) with discussions of published work (for how can you write if you don’t read?) and writing exercises (which are either loved or hated, depending on the student). Teaching inspires and challenges me, and it keeps me writing – for how could I present myself as a voice of authority if I weren’t committed to the art form?This November, I’m trying my hand at a weekend seminar, called Introduction to Fiction Writing. It’s designed for new writers, but I plan for it to be useful to more experienced writers as well, those who want to revisit technique and gather new material. If you’re an L.A. reader of The Millions, perhaps you’ll join me?Here’s the course description:In this seminar, we will explore the major tenets of fiction writing, including characterization, narrative voice, prose style, point of view, scene and summary, dialogue, and structure. Over the course of the seminar, we will continually return to certain questions: How can we use language to capture the uncapturable? How can a bunch of words on the page move us, make us understand what it means to be human? How can form and technique help us to improve as writers? In an attempt to answer these questions, we will look to published fiction for guidance, and dive into various writing exercises. Students will leave the seminar with the beginnings of several promising projects, as well as the skills to follow through with them.When: Saturday 11/17 and Sunday 11/18, 10:30-12:30 and 1:30-3:30 pm each day7 student maximum enrollmentThe course will take place in Los FelizCourse fee: $110Email me at [email protected] for more information.
I’ve got a great opportunity for any aspiring writers in Los Angeles. My good friend Edan Lepucki, an excellent writer and teacher (see her bio below) has decided to start her own fiction writing course. Edan and I met when we worked together at Book Soup in Los Angeles. While there we both led a book club, and her teaching chops were evident from the very start. Our book club members all became big Edan fans. Anyway, if you’re interested, email Edan. This is definitely a worthwhile opportunity. Here are the details:Class Description and Information:This fiction writing course is open to anyone who adores, fears, and/or is challenged by the English language and narrative craft. Each week, we will meet at my apartment in Los Feliz to hone our skills as storytellers, discussing published work as well as the work of our peers. There will be in-class and out-of-class writing exercises, each one designed to tackle a different element of craft, including but not limited to: characterization, point of view, scene, setting, and voice. Light refreshments will be served.Thursdays, 7:30-9:30 pmSeptember 14th to October 26thMaximum enrollment: 9 studentsFee: $295 (plus the purchase of Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, $18.00)–various payment plans available…Instructor Bio:Edan Lepucki is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she won the Richard Yates Short Story Contest and taught classes in both literature and creative writing. Her work has been published by, or is forthcoming from, Meridian, Filthy, and West, the Los Angeles Times’ Sunday magazine. Last summer she was a fiction fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. She likes Paris, dogs, and filling out forms.If interested, please email Edan at [email protected]