Author Archives: Shane

Yes On 1: A Literary Proposition

By Shane Solar-Doherty

I’ve got some pretty ridiculous news to spill. The literary magazine, once known for its ability to stimulate and titillate the minds of intellectuals across a vast spectrum of existences, is making its triumphant return into the hearts and conversations of millions and millions and millions and millions of beautiful people just like you.

I see that you’re skeptical. Well. Read this. Read this. Read this and this and this and this (not necessarily in that order). Read these.

Here at TTTR, we’ve not been shy about lauding the importance of exposing more readers and writers to literary magazines. Now, with all this good news, our blood is pumping and our veins are gushing with excitement. That’s right, I said our veins are f’n excited. Imagine how other body parts must feel. Mel and I are getting in on all the hype, pooling what little spending money we have together, and wildin’ out on literary mags, starting with Keyhole Magazine, Paper Darts, and Electric Literature. (More on our choices in posts to come.)

And that plan, to venture out together and put our financially unstable lives on the line for literature, got us thinking: If more of us who care about the current state of literature, but can’t afford to independently shell out the dough for a subscription, found a friend to join us in tapping into our inner fiscally irresponsible teenage selves and splurging on a year-long lit mag subscription, this would be a truly beautiful world. Thus, we have Yes on 1: A Literary Proposition.

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It’s nice when Idiots win

On the NY Times’ Paper Cuts blog, Lela Moore recently conducted an interview with Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson, who run Idiots’ Books out of the barn they live in with their two children. Behr, an illustrator, and Swanson, a writer, have been contracted by LB Kids, the Young Readers division of Little, Brown, to create an installment of the Marvel Super Hero Squad.

Even if you don’t feel like reading the interview, just take a look at the Idiots’ Books blog. I highly recommend reading The Toast at the End of the Tunnel. Or simply scroll through the stories and photos, and relish in the thought of how wonderful it is when genuine, modest people are recognized for their efforts.

-S

*Photo courtesy of Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr

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What’s Good, E-Books?

Over at the Two Dollar Radio blog, EIC Eric Obenauf has noted an e-book positive:

Something I do like about e-books is that people in other countries have easier access to read our books. People can order our books electronically through vendors by entering a random U.S. address. Even if we assign sales restrictions to only U.S. and Canada, for e-books that doesn’t mean squat because the vendors can’t enforce these restrictions. But I enjoy getting emails from someone in Turkey saying that they’re reading our books.

I thought this would be a good opportunity for all of us to get a little dirty and say one good thing about e-books, e-readers, e-mags, etc. I’ll continue the trend.

I like that people can read the newspaper on their e-reader. On a crowded subway, this leaves a little more elbow room for everyone.

-S

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Publish or Perish #2: Is Richard Nash Our Guy for Pub3.0?

By Shane Solar-Doherty

Richard Nash is an intelligent dude. There’s no other way of putting it. The guy played a major role in revitalizing Soft Skull Press, which had been “weeks from liquidation” before it merged with Counterpoint. At the time that he decided to resign from his posts and embark upon his own ventures in early 2009, Nash was Editorial Director of Soft Skull Press and Executive Director of Counterpoint. During his tenure, which began in 2001, Nash had witnessed Soft Skull in its days of greatest hardship, as well as in its flourishing times, and surely learned the intricacies and obstacles of the publishing industry in that span.

Since leaving both entities in March 2009, Nash has caused a big stir in publishing. With his creation of Cursor, he’s challenged not only what publishers have known for decades about creating and selling books, but also what publishers are just now adapting to and learning. He’s seen Publishing 1.0 (print) lose its grip, knows that Publishing 2.0 (e-books) isn’t the be-all-end-all, and is already on his way to leading the Publishing 3.0 revolution: tight-knit communities, centered around publishing imprints, where writers and readers can engage in dialogue with one another.

Ask me and I’ll tell you that Nash is on to something. It’s easy for me because I’m not working in the book industry, I’m just writing about it on a blog, so nothing for me is at stake. Like Nash, I’m eager to anticipate what’s coming next, or as he puts it, to forecast “where the puck is going two years from now.” Only I imagine it must be just a tad more difficult for Nash, who is actually trying to bring his ideas to fruition.

It’s clear that Nash has deep ties in publishing; he used to be in theatre, but left the stage for the page because he felt he could be more influential in publishing by “facilitating the spread of ideas” and “lubricating a conversation.” And to that effect he has been very influential, and it doesn’t seem like that will change. But as much as I admire Nash’s enthusiasm and innovative qualities, the businessman in him doesn’t sit well with me.

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The One-Two Punch of Story Collections

By Shane Solar-Doherty

“Everybody’s got plans… until they get hit.” -Mike Tyson

In boxing, it’s that quick little number that you do when you jab with your left and cross with your right. You’re not necessarily looking to send anyone flopping to the canvas for the ten count. It’s just a way to say, “Hey, check this out. And I’ve got more of that too.”

In a short story collection, the one-two punch is that package of the first two stories that pins you against the ropes, takes pot shots at your sensitivities, and maybe goes as far as to bite a chunk out of your ear for good measure. If it’s done right, these stories shape the tone, pace, and quality of the entire collection, and ultimately acquaint you with the author’s style.

The one-two punch is what sells me on a collection, and often, it sells me on a writer. Here are my top three one-two packages.

Rock Springs by Richard Ford
Jab: Rock Springs
Crossover: Great Falls
Ford gets us going with Earl and Edna, a couple on the run from the law in a stolen car, with Earl’s daughter bumping along in the back seat. But the car breaks down, and Earl has to go looking for help in a mining town. Great Falls follows up with a story about a father and a son who hunt ducks, geese and fish, and sell their game under the table to a restaurateur. The story, told from the son’s perspective, takes a turn when the father’s suspicions about his wife’s infidelity are confirmed.

In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff
Jab: Next Door
Crossover: Hunters in the Snow
With these two stories, Wolff brings us into the lives of characters who live in odd worlds. In Next Door, a man and woman spy on their neighbors’ loveless marriage from their own quiet and dark quarters, where they discuss sex in geographical terms. In Hunters in the Snow, three men embark on a hunting trip that results in one of them being shot. That would ordinarily seem cause for concern, but there are more important matters for the unwounded characters.

Jesus’ Son by Denis Johnson
Jab: Car Crash While Hitchhiking
Crossover: Two Men
This entire collection leads us through a drug-induced picture of America. Johnson introduces us to the collection’s narrator hitchhiking in the midst of a downpour. He seems to be traveling aimlessly when he’s picked up by a man and his wife. They have a baby in the back seat. The title says the rest. In the next story, the same narrator and his friends discover a non-verbal drunk in their back seat after a night at an event for war vets. The man won’t leave the car, and so they venture out to find where to leave the man off.

Enlighten me. What are some of the best one-two short story packages that you’ve read?

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Support for Literary Magazines Begins with Writers

As you could probably tell from reading Mel’s review of Someone Ought to Tell Her There’s Nowhere to Go, which appeared in this year’s Best American Short Stories, we’re pretty pumped about tomorrow’s BASS panel event hosted by Harvard Bookstore. For my own preview leading up to the event, I’ve considered some subjects here that series editor Heidi Pitlor discusses in the preface to this year’s edition of BASS.

By Shane Solar-Doherty

Since 2007, Heidi Pitlor’s first year as series editor of The Best American Short Stories, a lot has changed. E-readers have grown vastly more popular; reputable lit journals have folded and new ones have been trying to fill the holes; publishers’ budgets have been cut and established editors have lost their jobs. All of which makes Pitlor’s job more difficult when, at the end of a year, she has to sit down and sum up the events of the past twelve months in about three pages.

The preface to this year’s edition of BASS packs in a lot. Being that this is the last BASS of the first decade of the 21st century, Pitlor sums up the 2010 edition in terms of where we were a decade ago. In 2000, Katrina Kenison, then the series editor of BASS, read submissions from about fifty more journals than Pitlor did this year; ten years ago, John Updike, Saul Bellow and J.D. Salinger were all still kickin’ it; lit journals Story, DoubleTake, and Ontario Review were still publishing at the beginning of the decade, but since they’ve gone under, it’s been left up to McSweeney’s, Tin House and One Story to pick up where they left off.

In illustrating her point about struggling journals, Pitlor points to an article by Ted Genoways in Mother Jones, in which Genoways cites the struggles that The Southern Review and New England Review have had in trying to stay afloat. Genoways’ February 2010 article, titled The Death of Fiction?, explores much more than just those two journals’ troubles. Genoways adamantly encourages young writers to take risks with their writing, to explore themes that will challenge both reader and writer, and to step out of the comfort zone that academia allots them. He suggests that lit journals are flopping largely because no one’s reading them anymore, not even writers. As a result, Genoways thinks “writers have become less interested in reaching out to readers – and less and less encouraged by their teachers to try.”

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Publish or Perish #1: Electric Literature Leads Us Forward

By Shane Solar-Doherty

This is the first entry in a series that I’m dubbing Publish or Perish. Each Friday Here and there, I’ll reflect upon an update or two that’s shaking things up in publishing. This one’s about Electric Literature and the crucial steps they’re taking to usher literature forward into a new phase of publishing.

I remember the first time I learned about Electric Literature. It was the spring of 2009 and I was flipping through the pages of the newest issue of Poets & Writers. Then there was this ad: A young woman, decked out in a hospital gown and puffing on a fat cigar, holding onto an IV pole, glaring at me like I’d made a distasteful remark about pissing into a bedpan. The caption read, “Reading That’s Bad For You”. I remember thinking, holy shit, and then immediately jumping online and going to their website. I remember both the doubts that were raised and the excitement I felt that this was the beginning, that the shift was being embraced, and the embrace was carried out not by a veteran publication, but by a fresh lit mag that hadn’t even yet published its first issue. To me, it sounded promising. Somehow I was rest assured, by the punkass gaze that the woman in the hospital gown was giving me, that this was going to work.

On Monday, Andy Hunter, co-founder of Electric Literature, wrote an absolutely incredible article for Publishers Weekly about how Electric Literature has adopted a model that is supported by, rather than struggling against, the changes in publishing, and how other publishers, lit mags, and authors can follow their lead and embrace the new publishing era. Hunter says that Electric Literature is “taking on iBooks and Kindle in a bootstrap revolution we believe could grow into a takeover of digital publishing.” That’s an encouraging sign for the future of the distribution of quality literature. I’ve plucked some of my other favorite quotes out from the article to share with you.

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Improving Indie Author Events

By Shane Solar-Doherty

On Monday night I went to a reading at Lorem Ipsum Books, a local used shop, a business I get great pleasure out of supporting. They were hosting Lindsay Hunter and Christian TeBordo, two authors with debut story collections with Featherproof Books, an indie publisher out of Chicago. Featherproof sent Hunter and TeBordo out on a five-stop tour that they dubbed the Road Read tour. Their fourth stop was Lorem Ipsum.

Hunter and TeBordo picked funny and daring stories to read and delivered them well. Their stories were very short, and they were read quickly, which the pace of the stories called for. But the reading only lasted about ten minutes, or to measure it another way, approximately one minute for each audience member in attendance. The audience and the authors were crammed into chairs and stools in a corner of the store. And there was no discussion to wrap things up, the part of a reading that I look forward to the most. In the end, I felt lead on, like I was supposed to anticipate what was to come next. And that’s a quality I admire at the end of a well-written story. It’s not what I expect at the end of a reading.

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Epidemic Reading Overload

By Shane Solar-Doherty

Settling into a cozy nook of an establishment in Harvard Square yesterday with some friends for a little breakfast, we started talking about another friend; an intelligent, introspective, handsome, charming, caring friend, who also has a history of jumping from task to task without so much as a warning.

“I think he’s got an advantage in times like these,” I said. I was talking about our fast-paced, instant-gratification consumed, click-here-and-see-this culture. I was thinking, here’s a guy who’s wired, who has that real staccato attention span, who has been prepared all his life for the greatest of all inventions, the internet.

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