The Mark Blog

Writers’ Reel: Modern Love Animated Essay

It's National Grammar Day! This week we are sharing a New York Times Modern Love animated essay on grammar and love. In the essay, Jessie Ren Marshall, an editor, falls for a man who loves to send her texts and e-mails that are profound in passion, but always grammatically incorrect. Watch to find out if she lets go of her inner critic to find love. Many of Modern Love's essays are animated here on the New York Times website. If you are feeling the need to be romantically inspired, watch a few and spread the love. 
Modern Love's editor Daniel Jones has compiled many of these great essays in one book, Modern Love: 50 True and Extraordinary Tales of Desire, Deceit, and Devotion, a great resource for creative nonfiction writers. Purchase it here.





Bookmark This: Embrace Your Obsessions

If you're unable to make it to AWP this week, don’t fret. The AWP website has a treasure trove of great literary resources, from podcasts to news articles, all under their Magazine & Media section. We especially enjoyed this essay by short story author Steve Almond (God Bless America: StoriesCandyfreak) on how he let go of his inability to write the next “Big Novel” and turned to his obsession with candy as fuel to keep writing. Almond writes that obsessions are the “deepest forms of human meaning.”
“As an engine of literary creation, obsession has turned out to be a lot more valuable to me than any of my grandiose ambitions. Because in the end writers do their best work when they simply tell the truth about the stuff that matters to them most deeply, whether in fictional disguise or not, whether in prose or verse, whether on-line or in print.” – Steve Almond
Read the rest of the essay here.

Bookmark This: Your Survival Guide to AWP

AWP: A Survival Guide
Starting this Wednesday, over ten thousand writers will land in Seattle, Washington for the annual Association of Writing Programs conference, also known as AWP. If you’ve never been to the conference, the multitude of panels, the large bookfair, and the number of offsite events can seem a bit daunting, but don't panic. We have culled together a superb collection of do’s and don’ts by Carolyn Kellogg from the Los Angeles Times and from author Roxane Gay.
Just consider this your AWP cheat sheet and don't forget to breathe. 
Carolyn Kellogg's Dos and Don’ts:
DO: Drink in the conference hotel bar. Despite the fact that hotel bars are notoriously overpriced, this is where you want to be. The conference hotel bar is where the cooler veterans will gather, the professors and published writers, people who've bumped into each other at this conference in other years and have maybe made a vague plan to do so again.
DO: Pick out two to five panels you can't miss. This will give a shape to your attendance and your days.
DON'T: Worry if you miss some of those panels. Serendipity may put something in your path that is equally important.
DO: Give yourself plenty of time to walk around the conference exhibit floor. Take your time at the lit journal booths: Pick them up, flip through them.
DON'T: Let the prospect of an early-morning panel curb your social activities.
DO: Attend some evening conference events: readings, parties, dinners, celebrations. These are better built for mingling -- or as more business-oriented types might say, networking -- than panels, really.
DON'T: Spend a ton of money running around a city you don't know. Share cabs with strangers. Take the subway.
DON'T: Worry about losing sleep. You have lots to do and see and hear and discuss. It's only four days. You can sleep when you get home. 
Read the entire list here: 
Some Dos and Don’ts from Roxane Gay:
Do drink a lot of water. Go offsite to buy bottled water because the convention center and hotel will charge exorbitant prices.
Don’t thrust your unsolicited manuscript into an editor’s hands. It will be awkward for both of you.
Don’t try to attend everything. It’s not possible. Instead, pick a few panels and offsite readings to attend and leave the rest to possibility.
Do visit the host city for at least an hour or two. There is life beyond the convention center.
Do acquire a good tote, and on Saturday evening, ship home all the books and magazines you buy.
Don’t pretend to have read someone’s book if you haven’t. Don’t be sycophantic or use flattery as social currency. You can and should engage writers in normal conversation. Writers are people, too.
Do have fun and do not take the conference too seriously. Do carve out quality time with your friends when you can—a quiet hour for coffee or a meal far from the hubbub of the conference.
Read the full article here: 

Bookmark This: Hanif Kureishi Thinks You Might Be Asking The Wrong Questions

In this Telegraph essay, British author and screenwriter Hanif Kureishi (IntimacyThe BodyThe Last Wordargues that writers, by spending too much time on the safe questions of plot and dialogue, are missing the importance of digging deep into the imagination and the "useful trouble" it may offer.

“If you think of the real thing – of, say, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde, or Wilde’s Dorian Gray, or perhaps Cheever’s great story “The Swimmer”, or Kafka’s Metamorphosis, or any of the work of Carver or Plath – you have to begin to think about the wild implausibility, boldness, and brilliance of the artist’s idea or metaphor rather than the arrangement of paragraphs.”

Writers' Reel: Happy Birthday, Toni Morrison!

Today marks Toni Morrison’s 83rd birthday, author of BelovedSula, and Song of Solomon. Last December, Morrison sat down with author Junot Diaz for a compelling conversation for Live from the New York Public Library. Celebrate Morrison’s birthday as she speaks about writing what you don’t know and how characters are like ghosts.

“The act of writing for me is you really do get to know the characters really well. For me, they are sort of like ghosts. I know what they look like although I may not describe them. They talk.” — Toni Morrison


Bookmark This: Share PEN Center USA’s Literary Valentines

Don't have time to buy flowers? Give the gift of literature to your beloved. PEN Center USA has created special literary valentines by using quotations from great books. From Anaïs Nin to Ernest Hemingway, let these writers do all the heavy work for you. Be sweet to your valentine this year by sending them one. Just download the images below, share, post, and tweet all you want. Happy Valentine’s Day!
All landscape images courtesy of Stacy Valis.




Writers’ Reel: Maurice Sendak on Writing for Children

"Where The Wild Things Are" cover image

In this endearing animated video produced by Blank on Blank, the late children’s book author Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) talks about not shying away from writing the barbaric in children’s books and how his uncensored family spurred his creative life.

“I’ve always had a deep respect for children and how they solve complex problems by themselves. [They survive] I think through shrewdness, fantasy and just plain strength. They want to survive.”


For more animated videos by Blank on Blank, click here.



Bookmark This: Get Inspired With 30 Haruki Murakami Quotes

The folks behind Thought Catalog have compiled a great roundup of quotes from acclaimed author Haruki Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird ChronicleNorwegian Wood1Q84, and so many more groundbreaking literary works). Be moved by some of Murakami’s words of wisdom including gems like:

"Whatever it is you're seeking won't come in the form you're expecting." Haruki Murakami

Read the rest of the quotes here.


Writers’ Reel: Margaret Atwood on Writing Exposition


Author Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid’s TaleThe Year of the Flood, and, her latest, MaddAdam) chats with Big Think about the difficulties of writing exposition. The author of speculative fiction breaks down what a writer should do when writing exposition with a goal of making the text appear seamless. Atwood also talks about her love of writing poetry and pushing against being pigeonholed as a fiction writer.

"The [hardest] parts of the novel are the parts when you know there are parts that the reader has to know but it’s not very interesting for you to write. Those are the parts that I don’t like. If you are competent enough, they won’t be able to tell which of those parts we are hoping the readers will not notice. We hope. We are always hoping.” – Margaret Atwood

Bookmark This: Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Using Journalism Tricks

This week’s Bookmark This! features the acclaimed author Gabriel Garcia Marquez in an extended interview with the Paris Review. The Nobel Prize-winning author explains how his career in journalism shaped his fiction and gives interesting tips on how to incorporate journalistic style into the fantastical. 

“…if I had to give a young writer some advice I would say to write about something that has happened to him; it’s always easy to tell whether a writer is writing about something that has happened to him or something he has read or been told. Pablo Neruda has a line in a poem that says “God help me from inventing when I sing.” It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination, while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.”