Anonymous Confessions of Writers

I write about all the times I've cheated on my husband and call it fiction.
I'm gay and I can't stand Queer Lit.
I've never bought a book from an independent bookstore.
Three years after a close writing friend published her first novel for an ungodly sum of money, I still haven't read it.
Even though I write literature, I think movies, YouTube and Vine are where it's at.
As a combat veteran, I wrote fiction about a character who struggled with killing women and children during war. But it wasn’t fiction. It was my way of confessing.
Had a one night stand with a famous & married writer at a writer's retreat. Later, he emailed me John Mellencamp's video "Hurt So Good" and asked me for a dirty pair of underwear.
I bought an app that pinged my phone every time someone bought my novel.
When I smoke weed I feel guilty that I should be using that time to write; when I'm writing I rush to reach my wordcount so I can smoke weed after.
After writing short stories for more than 10 years, I still haven't published a single one.
I told my boyfriend I was going on a writing retreat for three days, but really I wanted to get away for a few days so I could decide whether I should break up with him.
All of my rejections are recorded on an Excel spreadsheet, and I always have the total number memorized.
I buy almost all of my books used for 1 cent on Amazon, even though I know I'm defrauding the author and publisher.
I wrote a nasty anonymous review of a friend's memoir.
I plagiarized two sentences of my dissertation.
I've had two well-received stories published as nonfiction that were, in fact, complete fabrications, i.e. fiction.
I threw away 300 pages of the novel I'd been working on for three years and still haven't told my agent.
It wasn't exactly lying when I wrote that controversial scene in my memoir; let's say I wildly exaggerated.
Every time I pay a $3 reading fee to a literary magazine, I roundly curse everyone on the masthead for being such greedy little fuckers.
I look down on everyone who self-publishes as being untalented hacks.
I secretly hope my writing friends are only moderately successful so I don't have to struggle with jealousy.
Sometimes when I'm reading a children's book to my kids, I feel like the author has written better prose than anything in my novel-in-progress.
At the 2013 AWP writing conference, I got propositioned by someone who knew I was married.
After I got cancer, I never wanted to write again. It just seemed so pointless.
I made more money writing erotica under a pseudonym than my last three literary novels.
I haven't read a book in six months.
I often masturbate after writing a sex scene.
90% of the time I have nothing worth saying.
When I got my first publication I played Michael Jackson's "Bad" in my car with the windows rolled down and a cigarette between my teeth. I haven't written much since then.
Though a gentile, I write wearing a yarmulke I received at a Jewish wedding. I figure channeling generations of Hebrew gag writers can't hurt.
I think Jack Kerouac is a terrible writer.
I teach creative writing and don't know the first thing about writing a good story.
I became a writer because I was too shy to speak.
In this overly connected world of social media, I am becoming more and more bored with everything and everybody.
I think I'm too fat to be a writer.
I hate words.
I can't write a word when it's nice outside.
I simultaneously submit to places where you are not allowed to simultaneously submit.
I'm afraid I'm pandering to an audience that I know will like my work. I don't want to be a sell out.
I study poetry for a living, but I only really like my own.
I stopped writing during my depression because it just felt pointless.
I told my husband that the angry, vengeful character in my new novel was based on a former boyfriend, but it really was based on him.
That trip to Panama that I told the IRS was for research? Well, let's just say my novel is set in Tennesee.
I'm too embarrassed to tell people I write poetry.
I can't make anything work. I have nothing to say anymore.
I entered a NAPOWRIMO chapbook contest and haven't written anything yet. It's 27 days into the month.
When I'm on antidepressants I can't write or create anything -- so I don't take them.
I went to a used bookstore. It reeked of rotting text and I'm terrified that's what my writing will become.
In college, feeling uninspired, I took song lyrics, rewrote them into a poem, and claimed it as my own.
I haven't read most of the books I own.
My self-published genre fiction novel has managed to do what nearly zero of my MFA peers have done in the last 15 years: make money and sell thousands of copies.
When my girlfriend got published in a lit mag we both submitted to, and I didn't, I almost decided to give up on poetry.
I wrote my first novel after my child died, and I convinced myself that giving birth to a book would alleviate the pain.
I don't write every day.
I think having children will ruin my career.
I only get to write every day and be successful because of my spouse.
Sometimes I don't want to just escape into my writing, I want to live there.
I only write when my spirit is led to do so.
I only write poetry because I'm too chickenshit to sing and play music.
I am doing it for the money.
My friends' published novels are okay. I just wish they had let me edit them.
I don't like the language I write in.
I thought erotica was easy to write, but my first story got rejected because the sex was unbelievable. My friend told me, "You can only write what you know."
A friend stole my idea and didn't give me credit. Since he's not a good enough friend to confront, I'm letting him and the idea go.

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100 of the Most Beautiful Sentences

Beautiful Sentence

I’ve added a new page in Bookfox, one that I hope will give you a great deal of pleasure:

The Most Beautiful Sentences in Literature

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30 Children’s Book Publishers Eager for Your Book

Children Book PublishersThe 30 children’s book publishers below all have one important thing in common: they are accepting submissions directly from authors.

Since many children’s publishers only accept from agents, this list should save you hundreds of hours combing through the submission guidelines of every children’s publisher on earth. And here’s a bonus! You won’t even have to wait to get an agent.

I hope you enjoy this list and wish you good luck finding the right home for your manuscript.

Children’s Book Publishers:

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The History of Punctuation Signs (Infographic)

What is the history of punctuation signs?

Would you believe me if I told you that there was a time with advanced language but without punctuation?

And that the history of punctuation signs involved a lot of fighting, backstabbing, and theft?

And that the way we punctuate now, with rules that we consider as irreproachable as the 10 commandments, has a pedigree shorter than the list of ingredients on a Cheerio box?

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Know Your Fiction Lengths

There is no good reason why a graphic like this should cause controversy, but I know it will: people will complain that a novelette is the same thing as a novella, or that micro fiction is the same thing as flash fiction, or that I made up the category for Russian Novel (okay, that last one is true. I did make it up. But isn’t it a good term? Let’s keep it.)

But stop your complaining. I think we need a term that indicates the stuff smaller than flash fiction, the under 50 stories or under 100 word stories. And I also think we need a term for that space between a short story and a proper novella.

So there you have it. Want to argue with me? I eagerly await your insights in the comments.

Know Your Fiction Lengths

Mind the Gaps: I really don’t think the skull and crossbones is an exaggeration if you’re writing fiction that doesn’t fall inside these parameters. I mean, it’s hard enough to place a novella somewhere, but even harder to find something that doesn’t fall inside these word lengths. It’s the kiss of death.

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The 8 Best Catholic Publishers

If you’re looking to submit a manuscript to Catholic Book Publishing companies, or if you’re looking for good reading to bolster your faith, this is the right page. Below are the eight best publishers for your manuscript.

Below I explain what each publisher accepts, and their submission policies. A few are open to fiction, others prefer more popular titles, and toward the end of this post I concentrate on the more academic publishers.

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10 Ways Kids Can Learn Creative Writing

Creative Writing Pin ItI’m a writer and a parent, and fellow parents email me all the time, asking how they can help their kid become a creative writer.

It’s not like these parents are pushing their kids into creative writing. Far from it. Their kid is writing stories at nighttime, under the covers with flashlight, and filling notebooks with pages of words which they call their “book.” Their kid is practically begging them to teach them how to write creatively, but the parents often don’t know what to do.

This is where I come in.

Over the years I’ve perfected an email I send to these parents, and now, for the first time, I’m sharing the contents of that email online.

Here are the 10 best things you can do to teach creative writing to kids:

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The 17 Best Flash Fiction Contests

Best Flash Fiction ContestsHere’s what you should never do: dash off a story and send it to a Flash Fiction contest below. Nothing is worse than hastily written very short fiction, with all its seams and gears showing.

If anything, you should take much more time to craft your stories under 1000 words, because the precision of a tiny jewel is harder to work on than a mammoth gem. I’ve worked harder on Sudden Fiction, as it is sometimes called, than on full length short stories. And sometimes perfecting that microfiction feels more difficult than the big, broad strokes of a novel.

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The Best Literary Nonfiction Markets

Nonfiction Markets, Essay MarketsIf you’re looking for a list of the best places to publish your nonfiction or essays, check out this new list I have at Bookfox:

The Best Literary Nonfiction Markets

It uses the same methodology as in my Best Literary Journal Rankings. It uses the Best American series, specifically the Best American Essay series, to compile a number of how many times each magazine or journal gets published or a Special Mention, then tallies all these points up to determine the top markets for nonfiction and essays.

This is not meant as a list of the absolute best magazines, newspapers, and journals, but more of a research tool to help you find quality markets. Sometimes the markets we think are the best are actually middling, and there are a few of huge surprises in this list — journals and magazines that weren’t even on my radar, but rack up a huge number of prestigious awards!

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The Definitive List of Modern Christian Literature

Christian LiteratureDefinition #1:

By “Modern Christian Literature” I mean modern literary novels that deal with the Christian faith. Some people might call it “Christian Literary Fiction.”

Definition #2:

What is counts as Christian? I mean the Christian faith, including Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox. Most of the books on this list are actually Catholic novels written by Catholic authors.

Definition #3

This list doesn’t consider nonfiction, devotionals or poetry, and I’m not considering any mainstream Christian fiction, by which I mean novels belonging to the commercial genre of Christian books.

Now if we’re still on the same page after all three of those definitions, let’s forge ahead.

If you’re a reader, feel free to treat this list like a pick-and-choose resource—read the summaries and reviews of selected books and read the ones that tickle your interest. For writers, though, this is meant as an exhaustive way to train yourself in the tradition, in order to prepare you to write the Best Christian Novel of the future.

With this list I’m trying to find books that engage in faith in meaningful, complex ways. It isn’t enough just to have a religious character. It isn’t enough to have a vague underpinning of a quasi-religious notion like “forgiveness” at the heart of the narrative. I’m looking for brave fiction, that risks apostasy and heresy and ideological alienation, and which tears open the human soul. I’m looking for fiction that treats words as sacred, and narrative as a divinely selected medium.

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BLACK CLOCK Ceases Publication

black clockAfter 11 years, the literary journal BLACK CLOCK will be ceasing publication in June of 2016.

This press release was sent out to submitters:

Unfortunately Black Clock will be ceasing publication as of June 2016. This surprising decision was not made by us, the editors, and we were not aware such a decision was looming when you submitted your work. Therefore, we regretfully say that we have an abundance of stories for our final issue and could not include many worthy pieces.

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What Libraries Shouldn’t Be

Library_1400_800This NY Times article on libraries surprised me with a revelation about the smallest, saddest library in human history: the children’s library at Auschwitz, consisting of eight books that the girls hid every night so the guards wouldn’t confiscate them.

But it goes on to talk about the role of libraries, and how it’s shifted away from a central focus on books and towards providing a variety of services the library is ill-equipped to handle:

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6 Reasons Why Ngugi Wa Thiong’o Will Win the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o has had high odds for the last few years among pundits to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. This year he’s currently given 7/1 odds, just behind Haruki Murakami. Although we don’t have any official confirmation that the Nobel prize committee has been entertaining the notion of giving him the most coveted prize in literature, I’m positive they’ve been eyeballing him up and down.

Why?

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9 Ways to Write Brilliant Short Sentences

Short SentencesI love short sentences. I really do. In any book filled with a series of long, expansive sentences, a short sentence arrives like a gift.

Short sentences rarely have the ambiguity or mystery of a long sentence. They rarely have twists or swerves or switchbacks, because that requires the length of a longer sentence. They rarely win your admiration for verbal virtuosity, the way that a long sentence can astonish you.

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James Tate Dies, Leaving Poetry World in Mourning

JamesTate_NewBioImageIt’s a sad day for the world of poetry. James Tate, a poet who won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, died today. RIP. He was 71.

His poems have been described as “tragic, comic, absurdist, nihilistic, hopeful, haunting, lonely, and surreal.” (The Poetry Foundation).

His death will leave his many readers in mourning. He is survived by his wife, the poet Dara Wier, who is a professor in the UMass English department.

Tate wrote more than 20 books of poetry. His collection “Worshipful Company of Fletchers,” won the 1994 National Book Award, while his “Selected Poems” won the 1991 Pulitzer Prize for poetry.

Early in life, he planned on being a gas station attendant. He also disliked reading when he was young. Thankfully, he wised up and abandoned those ideas.

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Musical Creative Writing Prompts

Creative Writing Prompt with SongsThere are lot of creative writing prompts out there, and even some image-based writing prompts, but I think this is new: Musical Creative Writing Prompts.

In the righthand sidebar there’s a link to a new page I’ve recently created with 30 song-based writing prompts. Each prompt has a song paired with a specific writing exercise based on that song.

When composing writing prompts, there’s always a tension between giving enough specific information to inspire the writer, and giving so much information that the writer feels like the imaginative work has already been done for them. I tried to find a nice compromise between those extremes.

If you’re looking for easier prompts, keep to the ones at the beginning. Advanced writers: you should be challenged by the later prompts.

If you like any of them, please tell me! List your favorites in the comments section of that page.

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Benjamin Percy on How Genre Can Help Literary Writers

percy_si-303x335Benjamin Percy on writing in Poets & Writers:

“Consider this. Picasso trained in realism before he shattered our way of seeing. Patricia Smith can rock a sonnet or villanelle as well as experiment with free verse. Can you say the same? Can you write something that is scene-driven and as tightly fitted as a Lego castle and then turn around and write something masterfully nonlinear that artfully employs summary? Or are you exclusively “artful” because it’s easier to excuse your sloppiness as purposeful? Oh, the fact that nothing happened in my story? That’s because I was trying to capture the nothingness of the modern condition. Uh-huh. Good luck with that, smart aleck.”

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