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 →

Red Rover, Red Rover, Send My Next Novel Right Over!


I can’t take credit. Credit:

By Kelly Ford

My current novel revision ends in July. Full stop. Do not pass the revision mark again until the good lady (or lord, should it come to that) says so.

Am I pleased? I am pleased!

I know that revision doesn’t stop there. Revision doesn’t stop until the novel’s in print. And even then, in that magical unicorn future where my novel exists in a glue-bound form instead of stacks of 8.5 x 11” pages, I’m sure that I’ll revise in my nightmares. But for now, it’s out of my hands and off to be rejected or dismissed or lost in an agent’s spam folder. And you know what that means:

NEW NOVEL! [insert confetti cannons and glitter bombs]

I don’t have a hard time coming up with novel ideas. I do have a hard time nailing down which novel idea to pursue. My novel idea list is about as long as a Cheesecake Factory menu. Gah! Too many options. If I order the chicken, I’m gonna regret it and want your steak. That’s just the way it is.

With my menu options–and my novel–sometimes I just want an executive decision. Jesus! Take the wheel!

Read More →

Happy Indie Story, Part Three: Smells Like Team Spirit


Jennie’s editing tools: Cheerwine, hard copies of the manuscript, Lorde, cover art — and Tara Parks’s beloved pink picks.

By Jennie Wood

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about teams. This is partly because Lorde’s song “Team” has been on repeat in my head. But it’s also because I was recently asked why I chose to work with an editor before sending A Boy Like Me (ABLM) into the world. After all, the friend pointed out, my job title at is assistant editor so shouldn’t I be able to edit my own novel?

Absolutely not. Because it is my own work. Read More →