The Mark Blog

Bookmark This: Remembering Pulitzer Prize Winner Oscar Hijuelos

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos passed away this week. In this New York Times essay, the Cuban American novelist reflects on his lost childhood.

"To this day it is hard for me to speak about possessing any real sense of a home, at least during my childhood and adolescence. Or, to put this idea more precisely: whatever sense of a secure home life, of belonging, that I once felt as a boy was whisked out from under my feet at a tender age.

I was born in the summer of 1951 in Manhattan, at Woman’s Hospital in Harlem, the first four years of my life passing serenely in our ground-floor walk-through on West 118th Street, where my parents, fresh up from Cuba, had settled in the mid-1940s. What few and primitive memories I have from those years are of a busy and boisterous household, with relatives and newly arrived boarders constantly filling the spare beds and cots we kept in a back room; and of crawling along the floors during the many weekend parties that my papi, a spendthrift Cubano to the core, often gave. On such occasions, our living room, facing the street, became a cozy, if smoke-filled, dance hall, replete with dim lights, music, food and booze — fetes that attracted Cubans and other Latinos to our home from every part of the city.

These were family affairs, with folks of every age, from old abuelitas, or grandmothers, to mothers with newborns. As songs like “The Peanut Vendor” by the Cugat orchestra gushed out of the record player, and people ate plates of arroz con pollo with tostones or some crispy lechón, others — mostly young couples in love, like Frankie the exterminator and his fiancée — took to the dance floor and mamboed away."

To read more of the essay, click here.

Writers' Reel: Man Booker Prize Winner Eleanor Catton

Recently announced Man Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton discusses the pitfall writers have of writing a plot-driven novel and losing the literary form. Eleanor explains how she set out to write her sprawling book, The Luminaries, as a challenge to tackle that struggle. 

Bookmark This: 22 Rules of Storytelling Visualized

Bookmark this list of 22 rules of storytelling visualized with Pixar animations from Fast Company. Here are a few of our favorites:

See the full slideshow here.


Writers' Reel: Storytelling in the Digital Age

Writer and producer Mark Boal, winner of the 2013 PEN Center USA Literary Award for Screenplay, discusses the making of Zero Dark Thirty with editors William Goldenberg and Dylan Tichenor at the Academy event "Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age.”

For more information on the 2013 PEN Center USA Literary Awards, click here.



Bookmark This: 30 Awesome Book Dedications

Today's Bookmark comes from Thought Catalog's list of thirty awesome book dedications that are possibly better than the actual book
Here are some of our favorites:

Pedram Amini, Fuzzing: Brute Force Vulnerability Discovery
"I dedicate this book to George W. Bush, my Commander-in-Chief, whose impressive career advancement despite remedial language skills inspired me to believe that I was capable of authoring a book."

Carl Sagan: Cosmos
"In the vastness of space and immensity of time, it is my joy to spend a planet and an epoch with Annie."

George R.R. Martin: A Storm of Swords
"for Phyllis, who made me put the dragons in."

Writers' Reel: The Secret to Writing in the Internet Age

New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder on the dangers of distracted writing, and his surprisingly analog solution. His new novel, Buried Secrets, is a Nick Heller adventure and is on sale now. 

"I really am convinced that a writer can only create in a zone of solitude."

Bookmark This: A Writer's Room

Ever wonder where your favorite novels were penned? The New York Times explores the rooms where Jonathan Lethem, Julian Barnes, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edwidge Danticat, Richard Dawkins, and Jesmyn Ward write.

Here's Jhumpa Lahiri's excerpt from the article:

In spite of the chandelier the room feels quite plain. It’s brightest in the mornings, when I tend to write. The desk belonged to the cardiologist of a former pope. The stones and shells along the windowsill are from Puglia. Two of the postcards are images of female figures from Mycenae. The third is a portion of a fresco by an unknown artist in the Villa Farnesina, in Rome. It depicts a balcony overlooking a city. An alternate version of what I see.

I sit at the desk to type. Otherwise I sit on the sofa, to write by hand or read. When I read and write in Italian various items surround me: dictionaries, a pen, notebooks in which I jot down unfamiliar words and constructions.

The desk faces the Alban Hills, the Apennines. The terrace, just beyond the doors, gives onto a sweep of time and space, from the Forum and the Palatine all the way to EUR, a neighborhood that Mussolini conceived. I see the Gasometro in Ostiense, the crooked ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, Jesus and the saints on the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano.

When we were shown the apartment, the room was used for dining. But I knew right away that I wanted to work here. On occasion, in the afternoons, when the sun begins to set, I move out onto the terrace, where there is a bench and a small plaque etched with a line from Dante, to read over some pages. But I need to be inside the room to write.

For many years I had a map of ancient Rome hanging in assorted apartments in Boston, where I wrote most of the stories in my first book. This was nearly 20 years ago, when I’d only read and heard about Italy, before I’d ever come to Rome. Now I live here, with the city spread before me. It still feels unreal. When I’m working, I’m more aware of the sky than of the city. I look at clouds, at seagulls. It’s almost like being at sea.

Writers' Reel: Neil Gaiman - No One Cares About Your First Draft

This week's Writers' Reel is a clip from The Nerdist podcast of Neil Gaiman giving advice to aspiring writers.

"When people come to me and they say, 'I want to be a writer, what should I do?' I say, you have to write. Sometimes they say, 'Well I'm already doing that, what else should I do?' And I say, you have to finish things. That's where you learn from."



Bookmark This: Louise Erdrich

Today's Bookmark comes from Louise Erdrich. Her poem "Advice To Myself" is a great reminder to ignore the loud distractions in your life and write!

ADVICE TO MYSELF by Louise Erdrich

Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button.
Let the wind have its way, then the earth
that invades as dust and then the dead
foaming up in gray rolls underneath the couch.
Talk to them. Tell them they are welcome.
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
or the doll’s tiny shoes in pairs, don’t worry
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.
Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.
Don’t sort the paper clips from screws from saved baby teeth
or worry if we’re all eating cereal for dinner
again. Don’t answer the telephone, ever,
or weep over anything at all that breaks.
Pink molds will grow within those sealed cartons
in the refrigerator. Accept new forms of life
and talk to the dead
who drift in though the screened windows, who collect
patiently on the tops of food jars and books.
Recycle the mail, don’t read it, don’t read anything
except what destroys
the insulation between yourself and your experience
or what pulls down or what strikes at or what shatters
this ruse you call necessity.

…”Advice to Myself” is found in Louise Erdrich’s poetry collection Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. © Harper Collins Publishers, 2003, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Writers' Reel: Advice from Jonathan Lethem about MFA Programs

BookBaby president Brian Felsen recently interviewed PEN Center USA member and Emerging Voices author evening host Jonathan Lethem (National Book Critics Circle Award winner, MacArthur Fellow, and New York Times best seller). In this clip, Jonathan talks about whether or not good writing can be "taught" and the benefits of creative writing programs.

Be sure to check out Lethem's new book, Dissident Gardens. For more on Jonathan Lethem, visit his website.