Happy Indie Story, Part Four: Putting It Together

By Jennie Wood

A vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head…

One of my all-time favorite show tunes is Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together because every single word about the state of art and commerce is spot on and resonates across generations. It was true when Sunday in the Park with George opened on Broadway in 1984 and it’s true now.

I’ve always been partial to the Barbra Streisand version from her Grammy award-winning The Broadway Album because it’s the song I used most often to drown out my parents’ nightly arguments when I was a kid. While they screamed at each other downstairs, I was up in my room daydreaming about being the long lost daughter of Streisand. I listened to Babs sing the lyrics to Putting It Together like they were motherly advice, a lullaby for my ambitious, restless soul. Read More →

My Messy Desk

By Lissa Franz

One of my very favorite books is The Writer’s Desk by Jill Krementz (Random House, 1996). In it, there are black and white photographs of famous writers at their desks. I have never been the kind of writer – to my detriment – to read how-to books on writing. But this voyeur’s peek into a sacrosanct world? I only wish Krementz had published all 1500 photos she claims to have taken.

Seeing iconic writers at their desks – actually doing the work, doing the writing – is like seeing your kindergarten teacher in the grocery store when you are 5. The shock of it: they are real people! (You weren’t sure). The writers are thinking. They are in their pajamas. They are on a couch with a pen. They are surrounded by babies or cats. (They have babies and cats!) Or they lie in bed. They stare, sit cross-legged, smoke, type. They have mountains of papers, or sparse desks in sparser rooms. Read More →

The Importance of the Printed Word:
A Cautionary Tale

By Kelly Ford

“Print or e-book?” the instructor asked the class.

The question looks like something you’d see on an e-Harmony quiz. Sunset or sunrise? Boxers or briefs? Once, I made the mistake of answering. I had barely uttered the word “e-book” before another writer unleashed a sweeping condemnation of my choice, including the lack of gorgeous binding, the arresting feel of paper against fingertip and the non-transferrable-to-children nature of those beastly contraptions. Read More →

The Cure for Failure Deprivation Syndrome

By Belle Brett

For a few seasons, I watched “American Idol.” I marveled at the resilience of the young people who, in front of millions, listened to some pretty raw criticism—“That was horrible!” was a frequent Simon Cowell comment.

Of course, the ones I saw were the finalists; they’d already shown their mettle against hundreds of other candidates. But I wonder what happened when they were voted off. Did they cry? Say they’ll never sing again? Resolve to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and start all over again? Read More →

Retreat! Retreat! Retreat!

retreatBy Kelly Robertson

I am not a writer who yearns for a cabin in the woods for weeks at a time. Being away from my life for long periods does not fill me with creative joy. I wish it did. Just like I wish I could write late into the night, not realizing when night became morning, churning out pages by moonlight. I am just not one of those writers. The word retreat does not bring up images of golden meadows, long walks, and charming cabins. In fact, when I hear the word retreat, my mind goes to the first definition that comes up in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary: an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable; the process of receding from a position or state attained. This is a definition I could relate to. Read More →

Adventures in Titling: Part Two

By Stephanie Gayle

When I last left you, I’d imparted some good advice: always have a back up title for your novel. So when your publisher wants to change it, you have more than a sense of desperation at your disposal.

When I completed my second novel, did I heed my own advice? Why would I? For once, I’d selected a title I felt was rock solid. Landlord to a Ghost. It was inspired by the following: “If a man harbors any sort of fear…it percolates through all his thinking, damages his personality, makes him landlord to a ghost.” — Lloyd Douglas, Magnificent Obsession. My character, a damaged cop, had lots of fear. Plus, a murder victim, an actual ghost, haunted him. I dropped the mic and walked off the (imaginary) stage, convinced I’d nailed it. Read More →

An Interview with Rebecca Makkai, Author of The Hundred-Year House

Rebecca Makkai portrait

Photo credit: Philippe Matsas at Opal

By Margaret Zamos-Monteith

Author Rebecca Makkai lives outside Chicago with her husband and two daughters. Described by Richard Russo as “a writer to watch, as sneakily ambitious as she is unpretentious,” her first novel, The Borrower, was a Booklist Top Ten Debut, an Indie Next pick, an O Magazine selection, and one of Chicago Magazine‘s choices for best fiction of 2011. Her short fiction has been chosen multiple times for The Best American Short Stories, and her stories have appeared on NPR’s Selected Shorts and This American Life.  Her writing has also appeared in journals such as Harper’s, Tin House, and the New England Review, and she blogs regularly for Ploughshares

Her latest novel, The Hundred-Year House, comes out next week, and she will be reading at Brookline Booksmith on Wednesday, July 16th at 7 pm

Set on Chicago’s North Shore, The Hundred Year House is both “a love story and a ghost story, as well as a meditation on the power of art to bring people together by breaking down boundaries and even the most guarded of family secrets.”  Read More →

Why Adults Should Read YA

By Emily Ross

I was sitting on a crowded beach the other day, when I overheard a 50-something guy say, “Did you know The Way Way Back was filmed in Onset?”

The man on the towel next to him replied, “I liked that movie, but I liked Perks of Being a Wallflower better. Did you read the book?”

Wow, I thought. Here are two middle-aged guys talking about, of all things, young adult literature on the beach. That’s amazing. Read More →

One Dog at a Time


Zoe (standing) and Zephyr (lounging).

By Kelly Robertson

I got my first dog, Zoe, in 2012 at a time when I was trying to finish a draft of my novel in order to apply to the Incubator program. Zoe was a good dog and a very easy puppy. She got lots of attention from me as I relearned the fine art of walking. We’d covered miles of Cambridge streets together. She’d stop to sniff a blade of grass, and I’d think about my novel. Through observing her, I learned a great deal about the writing process – on focusing, learning something new, and watching the world around us. When the Incubator started, Zoe was a year old, trained well enough, and super fast. The only thing she wanted to do was run. I’d take her to the dog park, where she’d lure any dog there into a game of chase, but the game always ended quickly when the other dog realized there was no way in hell he or she could keep up. We were told whippets were better in multiples, and since Zoe needed another dog to run with, we decided to get another whippet. Her breeder was planning on puppies ready for joining new homes in spring 2014. Perfect timing! The Incubator would be over, and I’d have plenty of time for the new puppy.

As life goes, the next planned litter came into being several months sooner than expected with another litter not happening until 2015. Zoe needed a running buddy now. Besides, how hard could a second dog be? Read More →

Thank You, Junior High

By Lisa Birk

All my favorite books come from a “deep place of junior high trauma.”* From Harriet the Spy to The Outsiders, right on up through Rick Moody’s Purple America and Strout’s Olive Kitteridge. Picture Olive at eleven. She has huge feet. The mean kids chalk hopscotch squares too small for her shoes. She’s out before she started.

Teachers joke you teach the grade where you are emotionally stuck. If true, I’m a perpetual seventh grader, when kids are righteous and affectionate by turns. When my fellow parents complain about their kids, I first side with the children. I have to imagine myself into the parental view. Read More →