Up-and-Coming: A Look at Emerging Authors from South Asia

friday 2Literary luminaries like Salman Rushdie (The Satanic Verses) and Kamila Shamsie (A God in Every Stone) have dominated the South Asian writing landscape, but there are more heavyweights who merit recognition. The following authors offer a glimpse of contemporary English writing emerging in the subcontinent. Continue reading

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Why a Football Coach Reads a Tennis Instructor: On The Inner Game of Tennis

Super Bowl champion and/or spiritual guru.

Super Bowl champion and/or spiritual guru.

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
Timothy Gallwey
Random House, 1997
122 pages
$8.75

Buy: book | ebook

Perhaps this moment feels like the second half of a joke that starts, “You know you’re in Seattle when . . . ” but it really happened: I was putting my groceries on the little conveyor belt thing, and I looked up to see Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks, staring at me from the cover of Mindful Magazine.

It’s a pretty rare cover for Mindful Magazine, and not just because it featured a football coach instead of any number of the world’s more conventional health-and-wellness gurus. On most covers of Mindful Magazine, we see the subject kneeling in lotus, beaming, impossibly large, and generally just super-duper well-rested and overjoyed to be alive!! These covers just might turn off or even intimidate readers with their smarm. Carroll, meantime, is perched on a stool, quietly poised in a business suit. Perhaps, if the picture were cropped differently, one would see the Super Bowl ring on his finger. Continue reading

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New Ploughshares Solo: “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning” by Anne Elliott

Elliott-FinalWe are pleased to announce the publication of the latest in our Ploughshares Solos series, “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning” by Anne Elliott!  The Ploughshares Solos series allows us to publish longer stories and essays first in an affordable digital format, and then in our annual Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Series. For more information and some great reading material, check out our previously published Solos, or the recently released Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume 2. Check in every month from August to May for new reading material!

About “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning”

Meet Clay, a Brooklyn performance artist who is sick of being broke. Sporting a row of stitches from his last show, and severely in debt to both family and girlfriend, he decides to do the unthinkable: get a straight job. Clay shaves off his green hair, teaches himself to type, and gets a secretarial gig on Wall Street. But is this just another form of theater? Will his girlfriend still love him in a necktie? What about his artist friends–will they forgive him for consorting with the enemy? Is the enemy actually an enemy at all?

Starting in a hospital emergency room, meandering through corporate cubicles and cafeterias, galloping through an underground Williamsburg performance, and closing in the Twin Towers with Clay’s tortured, self-destructive boss and an unflappable goat, “The Beginning of the End of the Beginning” is a bittersweet romp through the innocence of 1999 New York City, a time when heartbreak was still heartbreak and broke was still broke, but the city itself felt unsinkable.

“The Beginning of the End of the Beginning” is available on Kindle for $2.99. Continue reading

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The Ploughshares Round-Down: The Right Way to Write

salem witchAs the year wraps up, I’ve been collecting articles that encourage writers to trust ourselves: To find our own practices for creativity, or shun the idea of practices altogether. To choose between quick first drafts or taking more time, based on what works in the moment. To define success case-by-case rather than comparing our work to someone else’s. These articles ask, “Is there a right way to write?” And the answer, of course, is no.

It’s almost strange that such reminders are necessary–that creatives are so prone to Impostor Syndrome. But despite our aptitude for invention and world-building, despite frequent, wild leaps into formless voids, we’re easily convinced that the “real world” is the one we’re not allowed to explore or map–the one in which we have no right to name or define, or to even call ourselves “writers” or “artists.” Continue reading

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On the Trail of L. Frank Baum

wizard of oz

Many people’s notions of Kansas, my home state—which once issued license plates that said “Land of Ahs”— come straight from The Wizard of Oz. A pen-pal from Ohio once told me that she envisioned Kansas as a beautiful, colorful place bisected by roads made of pure gold. I had to gently explain, with all the twelve-year-old tact I could muster, that she was confusing us with Oz, that we were the black-and-white segments, and that no, in actuality Kansas was not a black-and-white state.

I never read The Wizard of Oz, but it also turns out that author L. Frank Baum never actually lived in Kansas, either. Nor was the movie that was broadcast annually made in Kansas—it was filmed on an MGM studio lot. Continue reading

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Do-Overs: Hamlet Everywhere

Skull
Hamlet is everywhere. He still pops up in the stories we like to tell ourselves. David Wroblewski’s 2008 Oprah-driven bestseller, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, is a well-known example of a parallel narrative, but TV and movies also celebrate the Hamlet archetype: from Sons of Anarchy to The Lion King; The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” Hamlet is one of my favorites (come for Homer as Hamlet Sr.; stay for Ralph Wiggum as Laertes). Stories that merely suggest a Hamlet motif still reap the rewards of connection, often for laughs: Calvin (of Hobbes fame) soliloquized a green lump of vegetables. There’s even a Gilligan’s Island episode where the castaways sing the play. And I’m just waiting for Baz Luhrmann to do a bright and flashing Denmark-meets-Lana Del Rey orgy of sequins and poisoned wine in pimp cups, a thumping Hamlet for Generation Z. Continue reading

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The Abstract Mathematics Behind Freelance Writing

Marey_-_birdsAbout two and a half months into new motherhood, looking to get back into the swing of things, I applied to several blogging gigs. The editor at one publication, with whom I had been in contact in the past, emailed back almost immediately, saying she thought the rates might be a bit low for me. She did want me to know, however, that they were hiring for another position that paid a bit more.

What followed was a lengthy back-and-forth—10+ emails—in which I asked about rates, frequency, word count, the proportion of pitched pieces to assigned pieces, etc. I agonized for days over what I should do. In the end, I decided against the gig I’d initially applied for and took on the alternative the editor had suggested to me.

But I swear, it wasn’t about the money. Continue reading

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Literary Boroughs #57: Riverside, CA

The Literary Boroughs series will explore little-known and well-known literary communities across the country and world and show that while literary culture can exist online without regard to geographic location, it also continues to thrive locally. Posts are by no means exhaustive. The series originally ran on our blog from May 2012 until April 2013. Please enjoy the 57th post on Riverside, California, by Sari Fordham.

—Ellen Duffer, Ploughshares Managing Editor

Riverside, CaliforniaOn the busy corner of Magnolia and Arlington Ave. grows a Washington navel orange tree. It would look like any other citrus tree if it weren’t surrounded by a wrought iron fence and marked with a historical placard. The tree, you learn from reading the placard, was planted in 1873 and is one of two Washington navel trees that began California’s orange industry.

Riverside, an offbeat literary community, started as a citrus town and is now home to University of California, Riverside (UCR); La Sierra University; California Baptist University; Riverside City College; and Riverside Community College. In the winter, you can bike along the Santa Ana River trail in your shorts and t-shirt, gazing up at the snowcapped San Bernardino Mountains. The city is famously one hour away from the beach, desert, and ski slopes and boasts 277 sunny days a year. Despite all this beautiful weather, you’ll find a largely working-class community committed to both writing and reading. Continue reading

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The Ploughshares Round-Down: Publishing Isn’t Dead

PublishingThere’s an old joke in publishing about consultants, though it’s probably rooted in truth. A new executive hires a prestigious firm to spend months on an expensive deep dive, and they come back, excited, with one key insight: “You should publish more bestsellers, and fewer books that aren’t bestsellers.”

Why didn’t we think of that?

All of the biggest houses need bestsellers to make their annual numbers, and those numbers are big. How big? To pick a random comparison, HarperCollins generated about $1.4 billion in their last fiscal year. That’s “billion” with a “b.” That’s just a bit less than, for instance, The New York Times over their last fiscal year. And HarperCollins did it while generating a bit less in expenses. Continue reading

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Proxy Narratives: Jennifer Clement’s “Widow Basquiat”

raamellzee-bep-bop I’m always looking for a stellar book come November. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for the uninitiated) is about as appealing of an idea as having a month-long dental procedure and about as equally fun to be around. So, I mostly hide away. I do the opposite of what you’re supposed to do in November—I take a writing break and read all month instead. Last year I read all of Larry Heinemann’s books. The year before that I dug into Rolando Hinojosa. This year, I’m reading and re-reading Jennifer Clement’s Widow Basquiat which is easily my favorite book of 2014, though it’s been around in the UK for years. It comes out in the United States this month.  Continue reading

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