Monthly Archives: December 2011

Last lines for the end of the year

Last night the wife and I stayed up past our bedtime, for the sole purpose of making a literary quiz on Goodreads.  No, I don’t know why either.  Except that it’s the end of the week, the end of the year, it’s raining, everyone (but me) is on holiday…seems like a good time to comb the bookshelves for some literary treats.

It also seems to me that Goodreads quizzes are neglected babies.  If you love reading, Goodreads is the site for you–it lets you track your reading and share reviews with friends and see what other people (including authors) say about titles you’re considering.  It’s great, and pretty user-friendly.  I use it to track my reading over the year–and can proudly say that I’ve read 65 books this year, with one more almost finished.  Thanks, Goodreads!

But quizzes seem like something the Goodreads folks thought up and then sort of dropped.  When you make a quiz you don’t seem to have options to add media, like pictures or links.  You don’t get an obvious “share” link when you’re done, to push it to FB or Twitter or whatever.  You do get an embed widget, which I’m using here–but you have to dig like a badger to find it.  You have to manually tell Goodreads to notify you when people comment on the quiz, and while you get a ping in your notifications if someone likes it, the likes don’t show up anywhere others can see them.  Star reviews do show up, but they’re mysterious–how many of them have been given?  By whom?  You also don’t get notified when people take the quiz, and you don’t get a badge or anything else you can use on the site to, you know, promote the quiz.

It’s no big stuff obviously–and I’m not an author desperately trying to promote a book or drive traffic to a blog or whatever–but it seems like a lot of missed opportunities are just sitting there, waiting to be grabbed.  Book people like quizzes.  We like them a lot.  I can testify to that.  I stayed up late last night typing last lines into boxes for no good reason.  It was fun, an I may even do it again.  But I’d sure love to see some more handles on that suitcase, for me to take it more places and show it off.

And Goodreads, feel free to use any of these ideas to improve your quizzes.  Freely given!  Just email me when they’re ready so I can try them out.

Last line number one:  “I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath, and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth. ”

Goodreads Quiz
Last Lines of Novels
9 times
10 questions

What the what.

Okay, so I recently mocked a Lifetime movie because it was based on a Garth Brooks song.  We’ve all done it.

What we haven’t all done is made a big-budget feature film based on a board game.  And not a board game with characters and rudimentary narrative.  A board game about guessing the position of stuff you can’t see.

Behold, Battleship: The Movie.

This is the end, beautiful friends.

Poets & Writers shouts out Late Night Library

I’ve recently become a board member of Late Night Library, an excellent bicoastal literary venture by Paul Martone and Erin Hoover.  Together they host a podcast that discusses the work of new writers-fiction writers and poets who have just published a first book.

What I find really interesting about LNL is that Erin and Paul do close readings of the texts in conversation.  They read excerpts, discuss craft, and talk in detail about the work.  Reviews are great, but I haven’t seen (or heard) a lot of other critics giving this much careful attention to single works–let alone new works by unknown authors.

So I was super-pleased to see that Poets & Writers just mentioned LNL in their News and Trends feature.  Copping their text here:

Late Night Library, a monthly podcast out of New York City and Portland, Oregon, presents close readings and conversation about contemporary poetry and fiction with writers Erin Hoover and Paul Martone. Each week the bicoastal duo discuss a book by an early career author, spotlighting writers such as Kara Candito, Leslie Jamison, and Mathias Svalina. The free podcast is available on the Late Night Library website ( and via subscription on iTunes.

What they said.  Nice work, Paul and Erin!

The world in a grain of sand.

A while back, I noticed something interesting in our local Red Box:  a cover for a movie called Unanswered Prayers.  It looked a little something like this:

The fine print described this as a movie executive-produced by Garth Brooks, and…based on his song of the same name.

To which I said:  huzzah!  At last, free from the shackles of wearisome scripts!  No longer burdened by plots and words and things!  And then I scribbled some notes on the back of a Wet-Nap, and sent it to The Rumpus, where Elissa Bassist kindly put it up.  As Funny Women post #69, no less.

It’s not every day you see your name above the fold in an awesome place like The Rumpus.  Right below the Old Spice guy!  Excuse me while I preserve this moment for posterity.


Dear Literature

Daniel Abraham writes a love letter from genre to literature.

Please, please, darling let us stop this. This artificial separation between us is painful, it is undignified, and it fools no one. In company, we sneer at each other and make those cold, cutting remarks. And why? You laugh at me for telling the same stories again and again. I call you boring and joyless. Is it wrong, my dear, that I hope the cruel things I say of you cut as deeply as the ones you say of me?


Hunger Mountain Menagerie is here…I think!

I have a few copies of the latest issue of Hunger Mountain in hand, and I think they may be out in the world on their own now, too.  I have to say, the cover design is gorgeous and the contents are amazing.  You’ve got your Ron Carlson, your Pam Houston, your Robin Black and your Marge Piercy and your Edith Pearlman, along with a whole passel of other awesome folks.

I’m tickled to see a story by Heather E. Goodman in there, too.  Heather and I were at the Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop together in 2008, in Andrea Barrett’s class.  Heather wrote a terrific story about a snake.  It’s great to be in her company again.

The issue theme is “menagerie,” which is to say:  animals, creatures, beasties, oddities.  Just the kind of thing that cranks my gears.  There are reminiscences about childhood pets (some funny, some ill-fated), as well as strange and fantastical stories about real and imagined critters.  It’s a great collection, beautifully edited.

My short story, “Nocturne,” is in there, and I’ll be sending a copy off to one generous soul who contributed to the 2011 Strange Horizons fund drive.  I’ll also be sending a copy of Alden Bell’s The Reapers are the Angels, not because I have anything to do with that excellent book, but because I think it’s under-read and absolutely amazing.  Literary zombie fiction, for reals.  Put it on your holiday shopping list!  You won’t be disappointed.