The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Susan Straight On Writing

Author Susan Straight, recent recipient of the 2013 Robert Kirsch Award, presented by The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, offers an honest portrayal of her own creative process for the Los Angeles Times. The author of eight novels and a professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, Straight details the many different places she’s written her novels, including motels, car interiors, and her own front porch.
“I joked all the time about writing in my car, about never having been to a writers colony but having finished my third and fourth novels in cheap motels where I stayed awake all night because in the first, someone was trying to kill his wife and she beat him up and he lay in the hallway moaning; in the second, two men were making drug deals all night long in the hallway; and finishing my fifth novel at Riverside's elegant Mission Inn, in 1995, because I felt the weight of Erle Stanley Gardner and the other writers who'd inhabited the lovely room where I wrote — by hand — feeling like a fraud.” – Susan Straight

Writers’ Reel: The 2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner Donna Tartt

This week, Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Learn more about the author’s creative process in this BBC Newsnight clip. In one highlight of the video, Tartt describes her practice of writing anywhere—on the bus, in the public library. She compares writing in public to being an artist sketching in a café.
“When I say that I can write on the Madison Avenue bus, I don’t mean that I’m writing pages of finished prose on the Madison Avenue bus, but things will occur to me and I’ll jot them down—and very often they will be the germs of things which will become pages of prose. That’s writing too. “ – Donna Tartt




Bookmark This: Meet At The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books!

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books takes place this weekend at the University of Southern California. There are so many great panels to check out, including some that feature wonderful friends of the Emerging Voices Fellowship. We’re providing a quick cheat-sheet below of some of the Emerging Voices family so that you can come out to support them. Please stop by the PEN Center USA at Booth 966 to pick up the 2015 Emerging Voices Fellowship Application and more! 
Moderating Nonfiction: The Art of the Personal Story
Meghan Daum (2013 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Dinah Lenney (2008 EV Mentor), Leo Braudy, Pico Iyer, and Leslie Jamison
Conversation 1081  10:30AM
Young Adult Fiction: Putting the Story in HiSTORY
Cecil Castelluci (2013 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Katie Alender, Andrea Cremer, and Rachel Shukert
YA stage  12PM
Degrees of Fictionality: Representing “Truth” Across Genres
Janet Fitch  (Author Evening Host) will moderate panelists Dana Johnson (Author Evening Host), Leo Braudy, and Mark Jonathan Harris
Conversation 1022   12PM
Biography: Founders and Fighters of the Americas
Hector Tobar (2014 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Marie Arana, Steven Hackel, and Miriam Pawel
Conversation 1012   12:30PM
Fiction: Lives in Transition
Aimee Liu (1998, 1999, and 2011 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Natalie Baszile, Gina Frangello, and Michelle Huneven
Conversation 1073   1:30PM
Poetry: Imagination’s Sisters: Poetic Invention and Personal Narrative
Douglas Kearney (2014 EV Mentor) will join Joshua Beckman, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Carol Muske-Dukes, and moderator Eleni Sikelioanos.
Conversation 1113  2PM
He will also be reading from PATTER on the Poetry Stage at 3PM
The Truth Will Out: Getting the Story
Deanne Stillman (2004 EV Mentor) will join Annie Jacobsen, Scott C. Johnson, Walter Kirn and moderator Thomas Curwen
Conversation 1123   2PM
Publishing: Inside the Literary Magazine
Bruce Bauman (Author Evening Host) moderates panelists Jon Christensen, Tom Lutz, Robert Scheer, and Oscar Villalon
Conversation 1033   2PM
Fiction: With a Wink and a Smirk
David Kipen moderates panelists Diana Wagman (2004 EV Mentor), Jerry Stahl (2011 EV Mentor), Jim Magnuson, and Mark Haskel Smith.
Conversation 1134   3PM
Fiction: L.A. Stories
David Francis (Author Evening Host) will moderate this panel with Alex Espinoza, Janet Fitch (Author Evening Host), Matthew Spektor, and Antoine Wilson
Conversation 1084   3PM
Memoir: The Places that Make Us
Reyna Grande (2003 EV Fellow) joins Krista Bremer and Anchee Min in a panel moderated by Jane Ganahl.
Conversation 1034   3:30PM
Publishing: The Editor’s Voice
Editor Dan Smetanka  (Author Evening Host) will be moderating this panel featuring Deena Drewis, Peter Ginna, Ethan Nosowsky, and Bart Schneider
Conversation 1114   3:30PM
Nonfiction: What Shapes Us
Dinah Lenney (2008 EV Mentor) will moderate panelists Erika Hayasaki, Geoff Nicholson, and Louise Steinman
Conversation 1144   3:30PM
The Facts of Fiction: The Fiction of Facts
David L. Ulin (Author Evening Host) will moderate panelists Geoff Dyer and Ruth Ozeki
Conversation 1124   3:30PM
Fiction: Lives on the Brink
Jillian Lauren (2013 EV Mentor) joins Dan Fante (Author Evening Host), Rob Roberge, Seth Greenland, and moderator Joseph Lapin
Conversation 1075   4:30PM
Fiction: Outside the Margins
Aimee Bender (2006 EV Mentor) with Karen Joy Fowler, Jeff Vandermeer and moderator Joy Press
Conversation 11354:30PM
Young Adult Fiction: It's the End of the World as We Know It
Cecil Castellucci (2013 EV Mentor) will be moderating panelists T. Cooper, Tahereh Mafi, and Lydia Millet
Conversation 1045   4:30PM

Publishing: Reaching Readers, Reaching Writers
Michelle Meyering (Director of Programs and Events, PEN Center USA) joins Patrick Brown, David Kipen, and moderator Chris Daley
Conversation 2121   11AM
Barbara Ehrenreich, Author of Living With A Wild God in conversation with David L. Ulin (Author Evening Host)
Conversation 2062   12PM
Memoir: Trails of Life
Samantha Dunn (Author Evening Host) moderates Eileen Cronin, Elizabeth Scarboro, Ron Suskind, and Mary Williams
Conversation 2122   12:30PM
Harryette Mullen (1999, 2000, 2013 EV Mentor) will be reading from Urban Tumbleweed
on the Poetry Stage   12:30PM
Young Adult Sci-Fi: Fantastical Tales
Cecil Castellucci (2013 EV Mentor) joins Leigh Bardugo, Sarah J. Maas, Marissa Meyer, and moderator Andrew Smith
YA Stage   1:30PM
Fiction: Writing Character & Culture
Sacha Howells (2012 EV Fellow) moderates this panel with Eduardo Santiago (2004 EV Fellow), Laila Lalami, Rebecca Walker, and Margaret Wrinkle
Conversation 2043   1:30PM
Poetry: The Art of Place; The Place of Art
Harryette Mullen (1999 and 2013 EV Mentor) will join David Biespiel, Sophie Cabot Black, Matthew Zapruder, and moderator David St. John
Conversation 2113   2PM
Publishing: The Agents Speak
Betsy Amster (Author Evening Host), Bonnie Nadell (Author Evening Host), and Melissa Flashman join moderator Sara Nelson
Conversations 2114   3:30PM
Fiction: Stories of Reinvention
Sarah Sun-lien Bynum (Author Evening Host) joins Francesca Marciano, Nina Revoyr, and moderator Brighde Mullins
Conversation 2044   3PM 

Writers’ Reel: Watch This 52 Second Poem by Billy Collins

Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003, has been very vocal about using different mediums to bring poetry to the masses. In this video, director/animator Juan Delcan created beautiful, sparse images to accompany Collins's poem “The Dead.” This short film received a ZEBRA Prize for the Best Poetry Film of 2008. Take 52 seconds to celebrate National Poetry Month!   

Bookmark This: “How it Adds Up” by Poet Tony Hoagland

For National Poetry Month, we are featuring the poem “How It Adds Up” by Tony Hoagland. The piece is a beautiful exploration on the elusive nature of happiness. Hoagland’s poem can be found in his collection What Narcissism Means to Me, which became a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
There was the day we swam in a river, a lake, and an ocean.   
And the day I quit the job my father got me.   
And the day I stood outside a door,   
and listened to my girlfriend making love   
to someone obviously not me, inside,   
and I felt strange because I didn’t care.   
There was the morning I was born,   
and the year I was a loser,   
and the night I was the winner of the prize   
for which the audience applauded.   
Then there was someone else I met,   
whose face and voice I can’t forget,   
and the memory of her   
is like a jail I’m trapped inside,   
or maybe she is something I just use   
                                       to hold my real life at a distance.
Happiness, Joe says, is a wild red flower   
                      plucked from a river of lava   
and held aloft on a tightrope   
                      strung between two scrawny trees   
above a canyon   
                      in a manic-depressive windstorm.
Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it, Don’t drop it—,   
And when you do, you will keep looking for it   
everywhere, for years,   
while right behind you,   
the footprints you are leaving   
will look like notes   
                                          of a crazy song. - Tony Hoagland


Writers’ Reel: Celebrate National Poetry Month with Kwame Dawes!

April is National Poetry Month. What better way to mark the first day than by watching this animated video, courtesy of The Poetry Foundation, illustrating Kwame Dawes’s poem “Tornado Child.” Dawes is the author of over a dozen books. His most recent collection of poems is titled Duppy Conqueror and was released by Copper Canyon Press. Watch the video, then go hug a poet!
I am a tornado child
         born in the whirl of clouds; the center crumbled,
         then I came. My lovers know the blast of my chaotic giving;
         they tremble at the whip of my supple thighs;
         you cross me at your peril, I swallow light
         when the warm of anger lashes me into a spin,
         the pine trees bend to me swept in my gyrations.” – Kwame Dawes 


Bookmark This: 15 New Vocabulary Words You Need to Start Using

The folks at BuzzFeed have done writers a solid by featuring 15 underused words that we can all add to our literary repertoire. The best part of the list is that each word and definition is featured in a hilarious gif. The word meliorism (the belief that the world can be made better by human effort) with a gif of a baby sloth handing you a flower? Yes, please!

Check out the rest of the words here. 

Writers’ Reel: Patti Smith Remembering Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf took her life on March 281941 at the age of 59. She was the author of fifteen books, countless essays and even ran a publishing press Hogarth Press. There’s no question that she left quite the mark on the literary world that can still be felt to this day. In this Open Culture post, musician and poet Patti Smith marks the day of Woolf’s passing by giving her own thoughts as to why she left and by reading a selection from Woolf’s novel The Waves

“For myself, I believe she made this decision consciously. It was what she needed to do as a human being and so I do not think of this as sad. I just think it’s the day that Virginia Woolf decided to say goodbye. We are not celebrating the day, we are simply acknowledging that this is the day. If I had a title to call tonight, I would call it Wave. We are waving to Virginia.” – Patti Smith


Click here to read the full post.


Bookmark This: When Are You Really Done?

In online magazine Lit Central/OC, writer Cynthia Romanowski shares her struggle with being unable to complete the first draft, a fear that both emerging and seasoned authors face again and again. Romanowski cites an essay by author David Ulin that details his own frustration and how he learned to accept the uncertainty of writing that first draft to allow the narrative to develop uncontrolled. The essay is an honest exploration of the difficulty of letting go of control and completing a first draft. 
“I liked (and why not?) the idea of being a writer better than I liked writing, which to this day remains an unsteady process, a balancing act between expectation and an almost willful lack of expectation, between my aspiration and my failure, between what I want and what I cannot do. I’m familiar with this now, this ongoing frustration, but then, it used to drive me crazy, the imperfection that sets in with the first written word.” – David Ulin

Writers’ Reel: 29 Tips To Boost Creativity

No matter where you are in your creative process, you can always use reminders on how to keep motivated and on track. This video by lists the 29 ways to be creative. Incorporate a couple of these to break free from the rut. What do you do to boost your creativity?