Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Fool for Rhythm and Rhyme

April is the National Poetry Month. YIPPEE!!!!!!!!! For the next 30 days, I'll celebrate all things poetry: the words, the poets, the blogs, the lit zines, the presses, the community.

Let's get to it...

READ IT... Get your daily fix at POETS.ORG. Delivered daily to your local inbox.

WRITE IT... Inspired? Then write a verse or two yourself and post it at POETIC ASIDES. Blog host Robert Lee Brewer sponsors the Poem-A-Day (PAD) Challenge. Write a poem a day and win a nifty badge and certificate - poetry's answer to NaNoWriMo. New this year: guest judges who may choose your ditty for a PAD anthology.

ENJOY IT... And now, one of my favorite online poetry sites: BOSTON LITERARY MAGAZINE. Curl up in your comfiest chair with a good poem and a glass of wine... ahhhhhh...

Please, join me in daring to disturb your universe. Peace, Linda

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Dancing Day

Hey! Busy, busy churning out hypotheses this week, but JON STROTHER interviewed me on all things writing on his blog MAD UTOPIA. Check it out. More importantly, check out his very cool Picture Prompt Haiku. Loverly...

Thank you Jon for the props. You have a knack for the art of interview!

Also up today... drum roll, puh-leez... the 6 day countdown until 6S:V2 (Six Sentences: Volume II) makes its grand debut. Very cool pieces included in this micro-fiction anthology. A couple of ditties from YT, but also contributions from Rick Moody and Neil LaBute. Booyah!

Thank you Rob - you rock!

Peace, Linda

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great Girlz

You know who they are: the Girlz who tell you when your POV switches, who tell you (with love) when your writing sucks, who red ink your manuscript until the pages turn pink. They're the budz who cyberlob you dark chocolate and boxes o' wine when (yet another) rejection dings in the inbox. The Girlz are the first to scream YAY!!!!!!! when good fortune lands in your lap.

The Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Writing World.

Today, MAGS the MAGNIFICENT tapped me with her royal scepter. She's a cool Sister indeed; quirky and fun and hard-working, yet always there with a shoulder to cry on. And she's a mighty fine writer, with two edgy novels under her belt. (She's seeking representation, btw, and you better grab her before she's gone-gone-gone...)

My turn to tap the next batch of Sisters...

You Girlz are blogless, but I induct you anyway: KIM and MARG; already inducted: TWIZZLE BABY. And if I could, I'd make you honorary Girlz: JOHN and STEVE.

Thank you SISTERS! For your enthusiasm, your guidance, your open hearts. You've made the journey worth infinitely more than the destination. Peace, Linda

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Small World Serendipity

Traveled home from Philly on Amtrak late yesterday afternoon. The train's packed, the quiet car full, and I trudged through three cars before I found a seat. The woman by the window has her laptop out, jacket and bags strewn on the seat I wanted to make mine. I felt badly asking her to move her stuff, but damn if at fifty bucks I was going to stand in my Italian leather pumps for an hour to Baltimore.

I hoisted stuff in the overhead for her, slid into my seat, pulled out my netbook to work on novel edits. I was cranky, in need of a glass of wine or chocolate, but there were too many folks cramming the aisle. Somehow, we started talking, about grant proposals I think, and the convo morphed into one of the best chats I've had in ages: the academic charade, career-mommy balance, the bloom of new passions wrought at mid-life.

You know, the important stuff.

So she asked me what it was I really wanted to do, and of course I told her: write.

I describe Ben, my protagonist in BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT, and she asked me a very simple question: "Where's he from?"

And I replied, "He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but he's from Larchmont, New York."

"Why," she said, "That's where I'm from."

Small, small world. At any rate, she helped me pinpoint which streets in Larchmont have million-dollar manses with views, confirming my google-mapping exercise from the night before.

The Reading... Rereading Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World. So intricate and intense. Stuyding now for structure and form, how she molds voice. Next up: Geraldine Brooks' People of the Book and a quirky memoir called My Lobotomy. And a lot of medical papers on treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease complicated by depression and anxiety. Sigh.

The Writing... All three beta readers' comments IN. Processing, processing... I hope to wrap up in the next week or so, as April 1st marks the beginning of the Nudge-Nudge Collective's Novel #2 Initiative. It WILL be intense, and will last more than a year - that's how long it takes for six people to critically read 6 novels-in-waiting. The Day of the Fool also marks NaPoWriMo. Yikes.

Peace, Linda

Monday, March 16, 2009

March Debut Book Pick: Still Alice

Even then, more than a year earlier, there were neurons in her head, not far from her ears, that were being strangled to death, too quietly for her to hear them. Some would argue that things were going so insidiously wrong that the neurons themselves initiated events that would lead to their own destruction. Whether it was molecular murder or cellular suicide, they were unable to warn her of what was happening before they died.

I love the poetic sensibility of this epigraph opening Lisa Genova’s debut novel Still Alice, a haunting tale about a poorly understood and largely untreatable condition - Alzheimer's Disease. A form of dementia, those afflicted suffer a slow, cognizant decline in memory, control of language and thought, and full functioning in every day activities most of us take for granted.

The author inflicts this dread illness on Doctor Alice Howland, a Harvard Professor of Psychology who, at age 50, has reached the pinnacle of career, family and love. Alice represents the state-of-the-art in her chosen field cognitive psychology, so when she blanks out on the words of a rehearsed lecture and forgets to attend meetings, she chalks her deficits to stress, exhaustion, and menopause. It isn’t until she loses herself in Harvard Square, a place she crosses daily, that she realizes something is amiss. She discovers she has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease - and there's little she can do to stop the condition’s advancement.

We follow Alice's slow spiral into dementia and her grappling with the consequences of the disease on others: her eldest daughter Anna, desperately trying to become pregnant, son Tom in medical school, and rebellious Lydia, the youngest daughter making her way as an actress in Los Angeles. But it is her husband John who struggles the most, torn between his own career and the needs of his increasingly debilitated wife.

There is a lyricism to much of the writing, especially near the end when Alice experiences rare, lucid moments:

I miss doing everything easily. I miss being a part of what’s happening. I miss feeling wanted. I miss my life and my family… I miss myself.

The author writes the story in third person from (largely) Alice’s point of view. This perspective allows some distance between the character and the reader, creating an interesting dynamic. At first, I wanted to sink in Alice's head, really feel her progression into madness; indeed, this inability to really be with Alice frustrated me at first. But about half-way into the story, I was relieved for the distance; Alice's mental instability made me squirm, the horror too close for comfort.

The medical facts and science are spot on - the author is, after all, Doctor Lisa Genova, a Harvard-trained neuroscientist. As a scientist myself, I’m always grateful when the facts in fiction are indeed facts.

This is an important and beautifully written book tackling a difficult, stigmatized subject. Read it – the story will move you.

About the Author... Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist, actor, and writer who lives in Massachusetts. Visit her at STILL ALICE.com

About the Press... I know, I know - Simon and Shuster is a tad bigger than the small, independent presses I prefer to feature. I made an exception this month because I feel this book is so important for understanding this brain disease, and because Lisa Genova initially took the smallest possible press approach – she originally self-published STILL ALICE in 2007. Hers is a story of what talent coupled with persistence can achieve.

More Reviews…
--AARP Magazine
--Powell's Book
--Boston Magazine

Peace, Linda

PS. I'm double-blogging today - check out my guest post at EDITOR UNLEASHED on Blogging for Books

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Best of Boston Chapbook - Boston Literary Magazine

An anthology of poetry and concise fiction appearing - or to appear - in the BOSTON LITERARY MAGAZINE. Portable, no kindle required, and looks smashing on the coffee table and nightstand by the bed. Featuring yours truly and fellow writers GRETA IGL and DOUG MATHEWSON.

Buy it. Why? Because it's National Small Press Month. Because you need some poetry and micro-flash in your life. Because it's GOOD STUFF.

Peace, Linda

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Winter Adieu

Today, on the Southern shore of Maryland, we traipsed through woods and found a mother swan settled on her nest.

One portent of Spring. Another is the dirt cracking in the garden, the plants and rocks shoving up through the once-frozen soil. And yet another is the rhubarb, blood-red globules poking through last year's leaves blackened with rot. Pussy willow fuzzies float on the tepid breeze.

A musty earthiness fills the air with promise.

Peace, Linda

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Trickle Down...

I'm about to do a lot more writing.


The porcus stimulus is trickling down, making us nerdy academic researchers all excitable. The National Institutes of Health released their Challenge Grant initiative late yesterday afternoon, causing professorial jams at the copy machines for the 52 page document.

Whazzit mean? The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) parcels out more than $10 Billion to promote science at the NIH. Of this amount, one tenth, or $1.1 Billion, is earmarked for research that ultimately will provide patients, clinicians, and policy-makers evidence-based information to make informed decisions about health care.

Coolio mundo. That's the stuff I do 8 to 5 (or 6 or 7 these days).

And after more than 3 years of dry troughs, the slop is welcome.

Proposals are due April 27, two days before my birthday. I'll have many more grey hairs to celebrate, and quite a few dead brain cells.

So I may be scarce.

And I'm hoping NATHAN BRANSFORD runs another week o'positivity in the next month - I'm gonna need it.

Peace, Linda

Monday, March 02, 2009

10,000 Hours

This is how long it takes to become "good" at something.

10,000 hours. This is one of the statistics buried in OUTLIERS, Malcolm Gladwell's treatise on success.

That's 600,000 minutes. Since there are 525,600 minutes a year, I figure if I write non-stop for a year with no sleeping, eating, or potty breaks, I'll be a "good' though exhausted writer.

Just thought you'd like to know... maybe by then the market will have improved as much as I.

I spent about 3 of those precious hours enjoying the snow, the kids, the hot cocoa and popcorn. It was about time we got a real snow day.

THE READING... Finishing up Jane Hamilton's A MAP OF THE WORLD. It's scary how I can relate to her protagonist's fumblings as a mother. This story tugs. Also reading BEAUTIFUL CHILDREN by Charles Bock. Got one book downstairs, another upstairs. I won't tell you about the third book carried around in my purse - yet. It's my debut pick for March.

THE WRITING... Lots of short stuff spewed since the beginning of the year. Not sure if it's the muse or procrastination, but it's been fun. Every single prose piece found a home. PURE percolating, slow but steady. Writing letters and prepping samples for summer workshops - cross fingers. One of my trusty BRIGHTER THAN BRIGHT beta readers delivered, and in a wonderfully daunting way. Some great suggestions and ideas, and I'm already on it. Thank you.

LISTENING TO... JIGSAW FALLING INTO PLACE. About time RADIOHEAD got the grammy nod. This album is brilliant... "What's the point of instruments, words are a sawed-off shotgun..."