Tonight’s installment of the Pacific Standard Fiction Series here in Brooklyn features Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision and Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances. Books will be for sale on-site, and drink specials will be chosen by dartboard. The reading starts at 7 p.m. at Pacific Standard. Hope to see you there!
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.
The Millions, at any given time, has ten regular paid contributors and has been host to over a hundred guest contributors, including some of the literary world’s leading voices. With all this going on, we’ve long felt the great writing here needed a little room to breathe. With The Millions having outgrown its bloggy roots, and with needs that long ago surpassed my meager abilities as a web designer, we decided it was time to give The Millions a redesign that reflected the breadth of criticism, commentary, and reporting you’ve come to expect from the site.
So first, a quick tour. The new front page showcases two main headlines – these will be our two most recent essays or reviews – along with a dozen more recently published stories below.
Underneath that is a new section called Curiosities. Throughout the day, we’ll be sharing interesting links and tidbits here. Those of you who read The Millions via RSS will see Curiosities in the feed along with the rest of our content.
Also in the lower area are category-based links into our archives, as well as our monthly Top Ten. At the top right of the page, you’ll find a search box for the site and for Amazon.
If you you have any feedback or see anything broken, please let me know.
It’s not an easy time to be running an independent literature and culture publication that pays its writers, but we strongly believe that we can help fill the gap as coverage shrinks elsewhere. If you’d like to support this effort (or are just inclined to give a housewarming gift), please visit our support page.
Thanks for reading The Millions!
We have some news.
I am very pleased to announce that starting today, our longtime staff writer Lydia Kiesling will be moving down the virtual hall and taking over my virtual office as editor of The Millions.
Lydia has been a vital part of this project since 2009 and so recalls the tail-end of our “book blog” days and has been a major contributor to the site’s transformation and growth over the subsequent six-plus years. She is a special talent, and I have complete confidence in her ability to inject new energy and ideas into The Millions while maintaining the quality and tone that we are known for. Lydia’s unique voice and intelligence has won over new readers to The Millions even as she has become a writer to watch beyond the confines of this magazine. I don’t doubt that Lydia will surpass what I have done as editor.
I am moving on because it was time to move on. Thirteen years is an epoch and I am rather set in my ways. I owe it to The Millions and our readers to open the door for something new.
What should you expect? We are not planning any big overhaul or shift in focus, but you will soon see a new and vital editorial voice underpinning what we do.
If you write for or pitch pieces to the site, or communicate with me in my capacity as editor, those inquiries should now all go to [email protected] I can still be reached for inquiries related to the business side of The Millions and other inquiries not related to editorial.
Please join me in welcoming Lydia!
Thanks for everything.
Here are some words from our new editor in chief:
I’m thrilled to be stepping into Max’s shoes! The Millions is one of the most meaningful presences in my life–not only because it’s allowed me to fumble toward my own voice as a writer, but because it’s afforded a glimpse of the amazing multiverse of readers and writers that find a common home online.
This site has been a part-time labor of love carried out with full-time intensity for more than a decade. Briefly, it’s my hope to continue Max’s support for an incredible group of staff writers and editors, to be proactive in the search for new voices, and, ideally, to find ways to pay more people more money. Above all, I want to keep the lights on, not only for excellent, unmissable book coverage, but for those signature Millions essays–things that seem unlikely and unpitchable, and wind up being unforgettable. I can only hope to live up to Max’s very high standard.
The Millions was started on this day seven years, four urls, and umpteen layouts ago. Though it is now unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t visited since nudging their Internet Explorer 6 over to that long gone blogspot address, the core mission that I developed in that first year for this project largely remains unchanged.
In those early months, when I was nearly broke and working at a bookstore, before I was married and went to grad school, and before I had much notion that this site would be anything at all (let alone what it is today), I wrote what would probably be the closest we’ve ever come to a manifesto (going against my subsequent preference to let The Millions’ larger purpose be self-evident). The nut: “Given that you and I will only be able to read a finite number of books in our lifetime, then we should try, as much as possible, to devote ourselves to reading only the ones that are worth reading, while bearing in mind that for every vapid, uninspiring book we read, we are bumping from our lifetime reading list a book that might give us a profound sort of joy.”
I’ve probably not lived up to that lofty goal in the years since, but it’s a nice sentiment to aspire to.
Funnily enough, at the end of that piece I wrote something that nearly seven years later is like a time capsule from an internet stone age: “Anybody know of any decent book blogs or websites about books?… I haven’t been able to find any besides Arts & Letters Daily and the various newspaper book sections, of course.”
Granted, this could be partially chalked up to my being an online neophyte at the time, but by any measure the last seven years have been a period of proliferating discourse about books and arts. And though the gloom in many corners of the publishing and media industries is sometimes warranted, I maintain that there’s never been a better time to be reader in terms of access to books and communities of fellow readers.
While this is a big day for The Millions, it’s nowhere near as big as August 16, 2009 was. That was the day that we relaunched The Millions in this new incarnation and the site, almost overnight, grew up and became something different (and thankfully our loyal long-term readers came along for the ride, in no small measure because our designer Sean Tice understood what The Millions was all about when he embarked on the design.) In future years, we may point to that date as when The Millions really came into being, everything up until then being a long period of gestation for the site you see today.
I wouldn’t have expected this, but two things happened right away after the redesign. First, the more magazine-like look unconsciously pushed us farther in the direction of focusing on standalone, long-form content. With the Curiosities section offering the perfect repository for interesting links and one-off observations, our writers set themselves to the task of putting out essays and reviews that (in my biased opinion) are with few peers in the world of cultural coverage. The Millions has never been shy about posting longer (if not always weightier) pieces, but this year the site seemed to find its calling as a regularly updated font of such things.
Second, pitches from writers all over the world began flowing into my inbox. It was as though the redesign was also a huge “writers wanted” sign. The Millions has long had a tradition of publishing terrific guest contributions, but since the redesign especially we have posted many dozens of thoughtful pieces by both talented “beginners” and established pros. A look at our “About” page reveals The Millions as a place where precocious college students (and younger) can be published alongside National Book Award winners. I don’t know what this means, necessarily, but it makes me happy.
With the redesign, the securing of our domain name just prior to that, and our ongoing commitment to paying our regular writers, this year also represented the first year of significant investment back into The Millions. Without caveat, this was made possible by the generous patronage of our readers and we sincerely hope that you’ll continue to lend your support going forward. Click here to find out how.
Finally, because anniversaries are a nice moment to look back, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite things from The Millions over the last year. Garth updated his “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores” and we joined readers in taking the tour. Fun was had by all. We hope to do something like this again one day. Garth and I put together a three-parter on the future of book coverage online (starting here). We named our favorite reference books. We learned about finding Indie opportunity on the Kindle, the overseas frenzy over Haruki Murakami’s forthcoming opus, and what goes into getting your book cover designed. We tallied up the prizewinners and wrote an open letter to Kanye West. We asked, what’s your “just one book?”
We tried to determine the best book of the millennium (so far) and our readers helped. Edan ogled author photos, Emily M. worked the double shift, and Emily W. prized apert Twilight. We had our Year in Reading. I interviewed a book pirate and Anne interviewed John Banville. Kevin reflected on his parents’ bookshelves, Andrew his grandfather’s papers, and Edan her own. Lydia reviewed Pamuk and won a prize. And Patrick, once and for all, devised a unified theory of reality TV.
Look for more in year 8. Thanks for reading The Millions.
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.