Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Weekend Edition – Place and Writing Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

Alexander M Zoltai:

How does Place affect a writer?

And, how does writing affect the space a writer’s in?

Check out this intimate re-blog…

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

How does where you live influence your writing?

Site of Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond, circa 1908 (Library of Congress) Site of Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond, circa 1908 (Library of Congress)

When I sat down to write this morning, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to write about. As I mentioned last week, life has suddenly gotten a bit crazier than usual. I’ve been jostled out of my usual groove and am flailing a bit in terms of time, energy, and attention. I read through my collection of post ideas hoping something would gel, but nothing came together. Instead, my mind just gnashed anxiously at unsolved problems.

So, in the spirit of letting difficult times inspire and fuel my writing, I decided to look one piece of my dilemma square in the face, and see how I could put it to a better use than simply keeping me up at night.

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Many famous writers are associated…

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Do You Need Formal Education To Become A Writer?

I could answer the question of whether writers need formal education in a number of ways

* Simply, no.

* Yes, if you also want a degree to teach writing.

* Yes, if you can’t seem to motivate yourself (though, there are less expensive ways to gain motivation…).

* No, if you’re a maverick.

Of course, all those answers could spark endless debates.

Which brings us to a debate that’s been raging since February

It involves something Ryan Boudinot wroteThings I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.

I’ll share the bullet points from that article in just a bit

Ryan formed a non-profit to promote Seattle, Washington, USA as a UNESCO City of Literature.

The Board of that non-profit quit after Ryan’s article appeared

In a parallel article—I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry—,by one of the people alluded to in Ryan’s article, it says:

“Few people realize that Ryan fired his hotshot New York agent, sold his next two books to local independent presses, and sank almost all his personal savings into founding Seattle City of Literature.”

There are plenty of other articles, on both sides of the issue

My take on all of this is:

Rayan was a bit “forthright” in his article (yet many other folks admit to the things he said about MFA writing programs…).

The parallel piece by his former student had quite a few other good things to say about Ryan.

And, we do live in a Contentious Society—hardly anything can be said in public fora without a “war” breaking out


Let’s look at those bullet points in Ryan’s article (and, if you’ve managed to read this far, do, please, go read what he says for each point):

* Writers are born with talent.

* If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.

* If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.

* If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.

* No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.

* You don’t need my help to get published.

* It’s not important that people think you’re smart.

* It’s important to woodshed.

In case you’ve never run across the term “woodshed”, it means “A private place, out of the sight or hearing of others, used to practice…”.

I’m really hoping a few of you will share your feelings and thoughts in the Comments—whether or not you’ve experienced an MFA-in-writing program
Read Some Strange Fantasies
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Top Ten Lessons Learned Writing a Book For My Students by Greg Armamentos

Alexander M Zoltai:


Ever thought you wanted to be a writer?

Have you already done a bit of writing but hesitate to call yourself a writer?

Are you a teacher?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, perhaps you’ll find value in this post…

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club:

dash coverSeveral years ago I switched the writing emphasis in our classroom to choice writing. Rather than spending the entire year on narrative, persuasive, and expository methods, we would primarily write for creative purposes. We would write daily, passionately, and boldly. The idea was to rescue writing from being relegated as merely a school subject, and allowing students to see that each of them had valuable ideas, a unique voice, and an audience to share them with. I didn’t just want to help students write better, but to see themselves as writers.
Of course, that had to start with me, identifying myself not just as a teacher of writing, but as someone that writes.
So I wrote daily with the kids. Sometimes gibberish, sometimes garbled, but writing nonetheless. And a voice emerged, along with characters, and stories, and a daily pattern of exploring creativity in our classroom. I challenged students, and…

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E. B. White on the Secret of Writing for Children

Alexander M Zoltai:

Ever heard of the book “Charlotte’s Web”?

Ever wonder why adults like it, too?

Check out this fascinating re-blog…

Originally posted on Longreads Blog:

Anybody who shifts gears when he writes for children is likely to wind up stripping his gears. But I don’t want to evade your question. There is a difference between writing for children and for adults. I am lucky, though, as I seldom seem to have my audience in mind when I am at work. It is as though they didn’t exist.

Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and generally congenial readers on earth. They accept, almost without question, anything you present them with, as long as it is presented honestly, fearlessly, and clearly. I handed them, against the advice of experts, a mouse-boy, and they accepted it without a quiver. In Charlotte’s Web, I gave them a literate spider, and they took that.


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When Will Readers Stop Being Treated Like Mere Consumers?

So, here’s the Standard Line for writers (usually not stated so baldly)

What Are Editors Really For?

Image Courtesy of Ivan Soares Ferrer ~

“Dear Writer,

“You’re the content-generator. Readers are the consumers. We Publishers are The Industry.

“You produce raw content. We shape the Product. The reader ingests it.”

I usually try to avoid reading things at The Huffington Post—I consider it Pulp-Journalism.

However, in my continual search for articles to report on, certain headlines will draw me to something in the HuffPost

Enter Mr. Gideon Rose, author of the article, This Is What Editors Know About Publishing That Writers Don’t, in the “Books” Section of the HuffPost.

First, the title of the article, as usual in pulp-journalism, makes outrageous generalizations—editors are all lumped into those who Know and all writers, poor things, don’t know

I’ll share a few excerpts, along with my commentary:

“…editors are industry professionals who can educate often-naive authors about the facts of life in the real world of publishing.”

So, writers are often-naive—seems we’re roaming clueless in our fantasies while the real industry professionals have all the answers.

“…editors can view writers and their products from the outside, which authors themselves rarely can.”

Note the industrial assumption that writers turn out Products

Also, authors apparently can rarely be objective about their work

Well, if writers are just in some literary production-line, how could one ever trust them to understand the big, bad Book World

Then, Mr. Rose says, “I’ve gone to writers and solicited pieces that the writers themselves didn’t think they could do or didn’t think would be worthwhile if they did, and sometimes managed to midwife the birth of great work, just by editorial vision and support.”

I’m sorry but all the real writers I know get pregnant within their own domain and have no problem midwifing their own children—often dismembering those kids or letting those children get them pregnant again or laboring-through very painful stillbirthsLong before the stage where they might need an editor…

And, bringing back the reader, Mr. Rose says:

“Bottom line, editors serve as proxies for readers at large–proxies who, if they are doing their job properly, not only understand what those readers need and appreciate, but are able to help writers do what is necessary to reach them.”

I truly wonder if this man really knows what’s going on in the Book World—where in his industrial mind are the precious Beta Readers?

As I wrote in a previous post:

“Many authors use Beta Readers—folks who read the work before the editors do… 

“Their function isn’t to find clunky sentences or fix typos (though they sometimes do).

“Basically, they give their opinion on how the story feels to them.”

Again, I’m sorry, but editors should not be proxies for readers—editors should be devoted to improving the literary quality of the writing; not prepping it for consumption by the “consumer”

If you happen to be a writer and don’t know anyone who could beta-read for you, try the group at GoodReads or at the World Literary Cafe

And, since I’m being very free with my opinions today, not only should editors not be proxies for readers but they shouldn’t be the ones who determine what readers buy.

Thanks to the ecosystem of the Internet, there are creative platforms that allow readers to give input on what they, themselves, want to read.

I’ll wrap-up with a quote of mine from my About.Me page:

“The reader is more important than the writer; but, books should never be written just for the reader—authentic writing is a must; yet, without the reader, the writing is unfruitful…”

And, to gain a bit of perspective on the Relationship between Readers and Writers, check out my past post, What Readers Want vs What Writers Must Do.
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com


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