Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Tag Archives: The Paris Review

Ever Heard of Literary Journalism…?

I’ve had many re-blogs here from Brevity’s Nonfiction Blog… Literary Journalism

And, I’ve covered the journalism beat:

Investigative Journalists Are Storytellers, Too…

Journalists Have a Lot to Teach Other Writers . . .

Today, I’m featuring an article by John McPhee, who’s won a Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, has been a teacher of literary journalism, and a staff writer at The New Yorker.

I think regular readers here know that I think all writers can pass on valuable information to all other writers, no matter what particular kind of writing they pursue.

Let’s look at a few excerpts from McPhee’s article from The New YorkerOmission ~ Choosing what to leave out (as always, I urge readers to take advantage of perusing the full article…):

“Writing is selection. Just to start a piece of writing you have to choose one word and only one from more than a million in the language. Now keep going. What is your next word? Your next sentence, paragraph, section, chapter? Your next ball of fact. You select what goes in and you decide what stays out. At base you have only one criterion: If something interests you, it goes in—if not, it stays out. That’s a crude way to assess things, but it’s all you’ve got. Forget market research. Never market-research your writing. Write on subjects in which you have enough interest on your own to see you through all the stops, starts, hesitations, and other impediments along the way.

“Ideally, a piece of writing should grow to whatever length is sustained by its selected material—that much and no more.”

There was much of interest written about his life in journalism before that last excerpt and there is much before this one:

“…inevitably we have come to Ernest Hemingway and the tip of the iceberg—or, how to fashion critical theory from one of the world’s most venerable clichés. ‘If a writer of prose knows enough about what he is writing about he may omit things that he knows and the reader, if the writer is writing truly enough, will have a feeling of those things as strongly as though the writer had stated them. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one-eighth of it being above water.’”

And, an excerpt that very well may cause many writers to deeply contemplate their writerly ways:

“The creative writer leaves white space between chapters or segments of chapters. The creative reader silently articulates the unwritten thought that is present in the white space. Let the reader have the experience. Leave judgment in the eye of the beholder. When you are deciding what to leave out, begin with the author. If you see yourself prancing around between subject and reader, get lost. Give elbow room to the creative reader. In other words, to the extent that this is all about you, leave that out.”

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Writers Who Try Too Hard — “Language Warpers”

Today’s post is about bad similes.

Bad Writing

Image Courtesy of Brenton Nicholls ~

Four of my dictionaries give “simile” these definitions:

“a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind , used to make a description more emphatic or vivid”

“A figure of speech in which a person or thing is described by being explicitly likened to another, usually preceded by as or like”

“A figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another of a different kind , as an illustration or ornament”

“a figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared”

Quite similar with interesting variations

I also have four different weather apps, with their own brand of interesting variations (and many days not very similar…) on what kind of weather to expect :-)

The Paris Review has an article called Striking Similes that says:

“’I think that the impulse to find the likeness between unlike things is very basic to us’….Pair this impulse with a desire for novelty—with every writer’s desire, that is, to be the first person ever to make a certain comparison on the page, to connect two previously disparate things—and you can see how even a seasoned writer could have a reach that exceeds his grasp. There’s a thin line between the original and the asinine.”

The article quotes some amazing (weird, out-there, warped) similes from a book called, Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases. <— (that link can give you Worldwide free shipping…).

“Useful” Phrases………


I read a lot of folks on Wattpad (part of my book promotion program) and, admittedly, most of them are not “seasoned” writers (still, there are many fine writers); yet, there are quite a few of them who fracture language but still pull me along with their Sense of Story

And, even though some of the Wattpad writers warp things a bit, that article from The Paris Review has more than 40 Extremely Overwrought similes.

I’ll excerpt just the few that really stand out for me:

“A glacial pang of pain like the stab of a dagger of ice frozen from a poisoned well”

“Brute terrors like the scurrying of rats in a deserted attic”

Those are definitely overwrought…

This one’s almost painful:

“Cheeks as soft as July peaches”

Just a few more:

“Each moment was an iridescent bubble fresh-blown from the lips of fancy”

“He snatched furiously at breath like a tiger snatching at meat”

“Her hair dropped on her pallid cheeks, like sea-weed on a clam”

“Like a festooned girdle encircling the waist of a bride”

“Love had like the canker-worm consumed her early prime”

And, some of them “almost” work:

“You are as gloomy to-night as an undertaker out of employment”

So, if you need a course in overwriting, check out that book; and, you might also read the whole article in The Paris Review
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7 Interesting Articles for #Readers & #Writers

In the last 5 years and 4 months, this blog has offered 1,463 articles (posts) to its readers (many of whom are writers).

7 Interesting Articles for #Readers & #Writers

Image Courtesy of Allyson Correia ~

Since last July, I’ve written a full article on each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; while offering re-blogs from a group of wonderful writers on the other days of the week.

Today (a Monday), due to vast and tumultuous internal goings-on, I can’t seem to get into the space where I write a full article

So, since I spend a significant part of every day locating articles on the web that I can report on here (once in awhile I actually write the full post from my own brain and heart; though, I like being a reporter and gathering info from all over for my readers… {if you want to read stuff totally written by me, try some of those freebies in the left side-bar}); and, since I have somewhere over 500 articles bookmarked for possible reportage, I’ll share a number of them with only brief snippets from me ( I’m fairly sure I’ll be back to my usual talking-about-one-other-article by Wednesday :-)

And, the first offering is from The Millions and is suitable for readers and writers ( and writers who read :-) :

The Private Library: What Books Reveal About Their Readers

Next, from The Economist, an article that I feel most writers will definitely read and some readers (those who know a writer) will like:

The Unsurprising Link Between Authorship and Espionage

Perhaps readers will like the next one more than writers? Though, I’d recommend writers do read it… It’s from Canadian NewsWire:

Libraries Call on Multinational Publishers for Fair Ebook Pricing

The next one, from Salon, has an incredibly long title:

Erased from history: Too many women writers — like Constance Fenimore Woolson — are left to languish in moldy archives. What will it take to bring them back?

Now, from the indefatigable blogger at Brain Pickings:

Umberto Eco on the Future of the Book

And, from Medium, a look at patterns—weirdly interesting:

Punctuation in novels

Finally, from The Paris Review:

How Repulsive ~ On the merits of disturbing literature

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Literary Magazines On Twitter

My best friend is a true fan of Poets & Writers magazine.

Here’s what they say about themselves:

“Poets & Writers, Inc., is the primary source of information, support, and guidance for creative writers. Founded in 1970, it is the nation’s largest nonprofit literary organization serving poets, fiction writers, and creative nonfiction writers.”

And, here’s their Twitter address: @pwlitmagster

Some folks might think it strange to direct those who explore literary magazines to their Twitter stream—being literary in 140 characters?

Here’s what Poets & Writers says:

“If you’re looking for news from the literary magazine universe, these twenty-five feeds offer frequent updates about the writing they’re publishing, the events they’re hosting, and the news they find interesting.”

And, before I list those feeds, I’ll urge you to go to P&W’s article, Twenty-Five Literary Magazine Twitter Feeds to Follow, to read their descriptions of these magazines; though, some of you might want to just click the first link in each pair of links below and explore the magazines’ sites before signing up to their Twitter feed with the @-link :-)

A Public Space

Black Clock




Electric Literature



Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts

Hayden’s Ferry Review

Indiana Review

InDigest Magazine

Kenyon Review

Narrative Magazine

New England Review

Oxford American


Prairie Schooner

The Believer

The Missouri Review

The Paris Review

Tin House


Virginia Quarterly Review


I’d love to hear about your explorations in the Comments :-)
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