I’ll be reading from A Field Guide to the North American Family this Saturday, as part of New York’s 20th annual Independent and Small Press Book Fair. The Indie Author Read-a-Thon runs from 10:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., and I’ll probably only be reading a couple of short chapters from the book; I can’t recommend that anyone schlep to 44th Street just to see me. That said, I had a blast at this book fair last year, trolling the beautiful wares of such publishers as Akashic Books, New York Review Classics, and Gingko Press. You know… the kind of books that don’t lend themselves to the Kindle. I emerged $40 poorer, but with half of my Christmas shopping done. My favorite find? An anthology of scam emails from Africa. So: Come for the books… stay for the reading!
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!
Though it passed unremarked (I was on vacation), Monday was the five-year anniversary of The Millions. This blog started as something quite inconsequential. At the outset of The Millions, I would have put the chances of me sticking with it through the end of 2003, let alone for five years, at somewhere south of 5%. Making it this far is pretty astonishing.Those of you who have been with us for a long time know that I soon settled on books as a topic, discovered other people who had blogs about books, and eventually was joined here by some incredible writers (and readers).I used to use these annual occasions to expound upon the state of literary discourse online. In years past, there seemed to be quite a bit of excitement as individuals – talented enthusiasts and seasoned pros alike – staked out some online territory and sent their musings about things literary into the electronic ether. When the world, both readers and the mainstream press, began to take notice, it was thrilling. Certainly, we had some notable moments this past year: we talked Harry Potter, The Millions landed on NPR, and our Year in Reading set the bar high for year-end roundups (and that’s just to name a few. Check out the Notable Posts on the sidebar for more.)Nonetheless, there isn’t as much to say about the state of litblogs anymore. As I’ve noted in the past, they really have become assimillated, if not into the mainstream of traditional book reviewing culture, then undoubtedly into the massive miasma of personal publishing all over the web, where anyone can find their favorite nook and where no one will any longer bat an eye at hundreds of cross-pollinated blogs discussing books and whatever else.For this reason, I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that the Litblog Co-op folded recently (Dan Green made the announcement). It was an idea of an earlier period (only three years ago, but things move fast these days), when there were a few independent bloggers writing about literary matters with each, to varying degrees, commanding a small but measurable and loyal audience. Pool our resources, the idea went, and we can make an impact. It started off well and garnered a good deal of press, but it was doomed from the beginning in many ways. It wasn’t built to scale as the community grew, and there was no way for the hundreds of new bloggers and thousands of new readers to take meaningful part in the experiment. Combine that with the inherent challenges of managing a leaderless, decentralized group and it’s a testament to the people involved that it lasted as long as it did.I bowed out from the LBC early last year, facing too many constraints on my time and needing to cut back. Still, the end of that experiment prompts me to take stock of The Millions. Though some folks in the bookish corner of the blogosphere shy away from it, and others criticize their colleagues’ ad placement but stop the presses for flashy pledge drives, I am unashamedly proud of The Millions for marching onwards towards being a legitimate literature and arts publication. In a time when many are fearful of the diminishing commercial viability of literature and the arts, it is heartening to see that The Millions has grown from a hobby into a business, albeit one that is still nascent and that is, because of the small sums involved, still very much a labor of love. While I harbor no delusions that The Millions will become a heavyweight of the blog world, the opportunity is there to keep making it better, and I find that exciting.Before I wrap this ramble up, I want to thank our readers. We very much enjoy writing for you, and we value your intelligence, curiosity, and feedback. Thanks for another great year at The Millions.(And thanks to Mrs. Millions for creating the nifty “5” graphic above as a birthday gift for The Millions.)Birthdays Past: An Historic Day; The Millions Turns Two; Thanks for Three Years from The Millions, Four Years of The Millions.
As you may have noticed from the review we ran yesterday, there’s a new contributor at The Millions. I’ve known Ben since college, and we’ve talked about collaborating on projects in the past, so it’s good to finally work together on something. Since college Ben has spent a lot of time living in and traveling around Asia, and he’s spent a lot of time in Japan. Here’s his bio:Ben Dooley is a translator of Japanese and an aspiring novelist. He spends much of his time traveling with his trusty laptop. In his spare time, Ben makes beer, pontificates, and obsessively applies to graduate school programs in obscure subjects of dubious worth.Welcome Ben!
For too long The Millions has been an entirely male operation (occasional contributions from Mrs. Millions and a few other female regulars notwithstanding.) I’ve long want to rectify this deficiency of ours, so it is with great pleasure that I welcome Emily Wilkinson to the site as a new regular contributor.Emily Wilkinson is a graduate student in English at Stanford University, where she is writing a dissertation on the genre and aesthetics of miscellany in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century English literature.I think you’ll find that she brings a unique and interesting perspective to the site. Emily’s first post as a regular contributor will be appearing shortly.
I’ve added some fiction writing classes to the Writing Workshops Los Angeles fall roster. If you live in the LA area, and you’re interested in participating in any of these, please email me at [email protected] to reserve a spot. All classes will be held in my Los Feliz home, where refreshments (and the occasional gourmet cheese) will be served.I’m especially excited about the Novel Writing Workshop I’m teaching, a course I’ve been devising since the day I began my own beast of a book…Introduction to Fiction Writing: Weekend SeminarSaturday, September 6, 2008 and Sunday, September 7, 200810 am to 3 pm (includes one hour lunch break)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.No prior fiction writing experience is required for this course, although more experienced writers will also find the course useful.New student rate: $125/studentEnrollment Limit: 8 StudentsNovel Writing WorkshopMondays, September 8, 2008 to November 17, 2008 (11 weeks)7:30 pm to 9:30 pmBecause the novelist faces different struggles and joys than the writer of short fiction, I’ve created an 11-week course specifically designed for those students working on longer projects.We will begin this class by discussing The Great Gatsby from a writer’s perspective, analyzing how Fitzgerald constructed (or failed to construct?) his masterpiece. From there, we will alternate weeks between critiquing students’ novels-in-progress, and discussing craft as it pertains to novel writing – in particular, structure, voice, character, and pacing. We will workshop one manuscript (up to 100 pages) every other week, devoting an entire class to each student’s work-in-progress. In our craft discussions, the writings of Aristotle, John Gardner, E.M. Forster, and James Wood will be explored; we’ll also do a few in-class exercises. On these craft weeks, there will be no outside reading or writing assignments so that students can give attention to their own novels, and to the upcoming workshop manuscript.To qualify for this class, you must have at least 80 pages of a novel manuscript written before the class begins.New Student Rate: $385/studentEnrollment Limit: 5 StudentsAdvanced Short Fiction Workshop IThursdays, September 4, 2008 to October 16, 2008 (6 weeks—no class on 9/11/08)7:30 to 9:30 pmThis 6 week workshop will be a deeper exploration of various fiction techniques such as voice, character, structure and point of view. We will spend the first two weeks doing in-class writing exercises and reading published short fiction from a writer’s perspective. The remaining 4 weeks of the course will be devoted to workshopping student work in an intense yet respectful environment designed to challenge and inspire every member of the class. Each student will have the opportunity to workshop one short story manuscript.New student rate: $325/studentEnrollment limit: 8 studentsAdvanced Short Fiction Workshop II (Same class as above, just a second section)Thursdays, October 23, 2008 to December 4, 2008 (6 weeks—no class 11/27/08)7:30 to 9:30 pmThis 6-week workshop will be a deeper exploration of various fiction techniques such as voice, character, structure and point of view. We will spend the first two weeks doing in-class writing exercises and reading published short fiction from a writer’s perspective. The remaining 4 weeks of the course will be devoted to workshopping student work in an intense yet respectful environment designed to challenge and inspire every member of the class. Each student will have the opportunity to workshop one short story manuscript.New student rate: $325/studentEnrollment limit: 8 students