The Iowa Writers’ Workshop turns 75 this year. To celebrate, a number of alumni are writing essays on their experiences for various blogs (as well as ours!) as part of The 75th Project. At The Los Angeles Review of Books, Kevin Brockmeier has comprised “A Chronological List of Statements People Made to Me at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, 1995-1997.” Additionally, Joyelle McSweeney has a piece on n+1‘s website entitled “Iowa Occult: a Mütter Pedagogy; Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Vomit Art.”
Out this week: Ember Days by our own Nick Ripatrazone, Early Warning by Jane Smiley; Madam President by The View co-host Nicolle Wallace; Black Run by Antonio Manzini; Devotion by Maile Meloy; Collected Poems by Michael Gizzi; Volume 5 of The Letters of T.S. Eliot; and Book 4 of My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgaard. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 Book Preview.
Many writing guides feature long explainers that detial how to craft a great plot. They’ve turned the phrase “rising action” into a buzzword in many classes. At Page-Turner, a short comic illustrating major plots that don’t work, including one in which the protagonist “ignores the problem until it goes away.”
It may comfort you to know that Susan Orlean claims to have “a sad dependence” on her iPhone. The New Yorker staff writer, who published an article (paywall) on the Twitter account Horse_ebooks this week, tells Bobby Finger that she had to buy a new battery case because she ran through the charge on her phone by the middle of the day.
Sarah Fay, associate editor of The Paris Review, has a piece in The Atlantic on the digitization of book reviewing, framed beautifully by references to George Orwell's 1946 essay "Confessions of a Book Reviewer." She praises Bookslut, Nancy Pearl, Goodreads, and The Los Angeles Review of Books for their collective skills of recommendation, reviewing, and New Criticism. I'd add The Quarterly Conversation, The Rumpus, The New Inquiry, The Morning News (for their annual Tournament of Books feature), and of course, The Millions.
Recommended Reading: A fascinating interview from The Rumpus with Susan Shapiro. Shapiro’s newest novel, What’s Never Said, is out now from Heliotrope Books. You may also be interested in Beth Kephart's essay for The Millions about the utility of the outward-looking memoir and its crossover with other genres.