Lit GIFs: The Tell-Tale Heart

So it’s almost Halloween.

Which means jack o’ lanterns and costumes and pumpkin-spiced everything.

And, of course, Edgar Allan Poe, reigning king of high-school-English-textbook darkness.

Cask of Amontillado, anyone?

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New Ploughshares Solo: “Café Deux Mondes” by Catherine Browder

Browder-FinalWe are excited to announce the publication of the latest addition to our Ploughshares Solos series, “Café Deux Mondes”, by Catherine BrowderThe 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 “Café Deux Mondes”

When the Khourys and McKissicks meet to share a neighborly meal, an adventure begins. Living in the changing ethnic landscape of Kansas City, one is a family of Syrian immigrants; the other, African Americans with roots in Louisiana. What brings them together is a love of food. Along with friendship, a dream takes root between the two mothers, Miriam and Tamara—starting a new restaurant that will feature the specialties from both of their traditions: the Café Deux Mondes, or Two Worlds Cafe. Little do they know just what they are up against when they begin their venture. From the skepticism of their churches to neighborhood crime, disaster always seems to be just around the corner. Award-winning writer Catherine Browder takes a warm look at the troubles and joys of the American melting pot, and how we can grow even from our failures.

“Café Deux Mondes” is available on Kindle for $1.99. Continue reading

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The Ploughshares Round-Down: Why You Should Plan Experiences

experience definition2
It’s mid-October, and some of us are gearing up for NaNoWriMo, or NaNonWriMo. Some of us are just inspired by the changing seasons, and want to finally try some new thing we keep putting off. Or maybe we just want to actually read one of the books stacked on our nightstands.

Unfortunately, we writers humans have an endearing habit of envisioning grand creative plans, only to throw them out for the sake of some suddenly-urgent busywork. (Or Halloween candy binge). We also tend to distract our imaginations with things we want or need, hoping accumulation will make us happier, healthier, and/or more productive. So I was happy to come across James Hamblin’s “Buy Experiences, Not Things” piece in The Atlantic, which describes psychological studies showing not only “that experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions,” but also that “spending money on experiences ‘provide[s] more enduring happiness’” than spending money on material possessions.  Continue reading

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The Evolution of the Style Guide: An Interview with Pyscholinguist Steven Pinker

By Steven Pinker (Rebecca Goldstein) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Steven Pinker is a cognitive scientist and psychologist whose work focuses on language–how it works and how it breaks down. Drawing upon his nearly forty years of research, as well as his experiences on the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, Pinker has developed a new guide to writing good prose called The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century. The Ploughshares Blog recently met up with Steven Pinker in Chicago to talk about art of writing a style guide, his work in the psychology of language, and how the two combined to create The Sense of Style. Continue reading

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The Book That Changed My Country

Gran_calavera_eléctrica2I mostly sit at the window when I’m working at Café la Habana. I have a spot. It’s the same spot where I sat when my buddy, Santiago, first brought me for coffee when I arrived in Mexico City. But I’m attached to the spot for other reasons too. It’s also the spot where Roberto Bolaño used to write, and the same spot where Fidel Castro and Che were said to have planned their invasion of Cuba. Mostly I’m nosy though—I love to people watch—and that’s why I sit by the window. A few weeks ago, a waiter came up to me and placidly said, “Caballero, I suggest you move away from the glass.” Continue reading

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Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume 2 is Now Available!

3D Cover Omnibus 2 WhiteWe are thrilled to announce the release of the Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume 2, the second print compilation of our Ploughshsares Solos series!

After individually publishing each of our Ploughshares Solos in an affordable digital format, we are pleased to offer a beautifully-designed print anthology featuring nine Solos. This Omnibus, edited by Ladette Randolph, is a collection of works by Paul Byall, Christopher Castellani, Brendan Jones, Aurelie Sheehan, L.C. Fiore, Lisa Heiserman Perkins, Kathleen Hill, Patricia Grace King, and Alexandra Johnson.

The Ploughshares Solos Omnibus Volume 2 can be purchased at www.pshares.org for $19.95. This omnibus edition is also included in subscriptions to Ploughshares, the literary journal. Upgrade your subscription today to be sure you don’t miss this Omnibus! Continue reading

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How to Read Derek Jeter: On The Devil’s Snake Curve by Josh Ostergaard

Can you find the symbols for American political power in this picture?

Can you find the symbols for American political power in this picture?

The Devil’s Snake Curve: A Fan’s Notes From Left Field
Josh Ostergaard
Coffee House Press, 2014
253 pages
$15.95

Buy: book | ebook

Of course every history is subjective, but Josh Ostergaard starts his from an intriguing place by broadcasting his subjectivity. Devil’s Snake Curve is Ostergaard’s American history of the twentieth- and twenty-firstcenturies, as interpreted through baseball. The book is a collage of page-length anecdotes, equally likely to be culled from Ostergaard’s own underwhelming Little League youth or a century-old newspaper clipping, that cluster into themes like “Animals” or “Nationalism.” Continue reading

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Drunken Acknowledgments, 2 A.M.

Fred Allen as a ClownA book is a labor of love, and this novel would not have been possible without the help of several people, and several bottles of wine—the last of which I’m enjoying right now.

Infinite thanks to my editor, X, who talked me out of six bad titles, seven ill-advised plot twists, a really stupid dream sequence, and every shade of self-indulgence. You are the one thing standing between me and the abyss. I raise my glass to you. Wait. I refill my glass, and now I raise it to you.

Thanks also to my agent, Z, for not dropping me after I called her crying at four A.M. because the pages of my book were the wrong texture.

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The Ploughshares Round Down: Short Stories as a Path to Literary Success

Throes of Creation by Leonid PasternakI’m going to let you in on a little secret about the submissions in my slush pile. When one comes in, the first thing I do–before I have even read the first sentence of the letter–is skim it for the name of a publication I recognize. If I don’t see one, I go back and start reading the pitch, looking for a reason to reject it.

The main thing I’m looking for in new clients is an existing following clamoring for a book from this writer. If the writer has a great idea, however, and understands what it means to be a professional writer, I might still be interested. That’s why I’m looking for the names of publications I like in the author’s bio. If you had twenty-five submissions to read, which one would you start with? I’ll be you’d start with the guy who’s written for Ploughshares and then move on to the staff writer from the Boston Globe, too. Continue reading

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Escalating Conflict

Adriaen Brouwer (circa 1605/1606–1638) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Adriaen Brouwer (circa 1605/1606–1638) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In fiction, only trouble is interesting. For the conflict averse, instilling a story with juicy conflict may take some practice. Someone who has read many drafts of many of my short stories once dubbed me “Anca Did She Forget the Conflict Szilagyi”–a moniker that has become helpful as I work on second and third drafts of stories. As is often the case in learning something, I was aware, theoretically, that I had this problem. But how to proceed? Continue reading

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