novel Archive

Review: THE SUMMER SHE WAS UNDER WATER by Jen Michalski

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Sam Pinski is drowning. Sometimes, quite literally, but at least metaphorically, “she feels submerged in herself.” Sam seems to struggle to remain herself in a situation where everyone wants her to be their version of Sam Pinski, which is a lot of work on a family vacation.

Review: PATRICIDE by D. Foy

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The protagonist in D. Foy’s second novel is that angry young kid whose pain and shame he cannot express except in strange orthogonal ways, ways that will only deepen his pain and shame, not alleviate them. But Foy allows us inside that boy’s beleaguered brain box and we feel

Time and Opening Chapters: Gaining Trust

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Lately I’ve been thinking about time in novels. How to manipulate it, whether it should be linear or nonlinear, and what that choice means for a story. I began to examine it more closely after a recent weekend novel workshop I took with Lauren Grodstein.

Fleecing the Shears

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As a two-year-old child, British author Evie Wyld went into a coma that lasted half a day. The reason: viral encephalitis. The disease took two weeks to work its way through her nervous system. As a result of her brain being “cooked”—her word choice—slower brain waves mandated seizure medicine

When Parents Die: William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow and Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs

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Last week my friend’s mother died, with brutal speed, of cancer. Ten years ago, my father died of a neurological disease so drawn out and cruel that we all wished for its end. Parents die, usually before their children, and so both of these deaths were inevitable in one

Review: A DOUBTER’S ALMANAC by Ethan Canin

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A Doubter’s Almanac Ethan Canin Random House, Feb 2016 576 pp; $28 Buy: hardcover | eBook Mathematicians toil in obscurity, often for years, at work that will probably come to nothing. It doesn’t take a Fields Medalist to understand why a novelist, that most uncertain toiler of all, would

The Art of the Sad Birthday

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Are you a writer looking for a situation with built-in irony and ample opportunities for subtext? Have you considered a melancholy birthday scene? I’ve collected a few merciless examples for consideration. “Referential,” by Lorrie Moore Moore dives into the irony of the sad celebration in the first paragraph of

Our Matriarchs of Letters

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  Every year, the VIDA Count reminds us just how far women have to go in order to achieve gender parity in the publishing world. This Women’s History Month, let’s reflect on twenty-six centuries of firsts from women writers. From Ancient Greece to the Baltimore Uprising, these eight women

The Autobiography of the Imagination: Toward a Definition

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The autobiography of the imagination writes itself, one could say. It writes every time we write, every time we dream or daydream. It is its own captain’s log, the transaction and receipt. It reveals the self to make the self into a stranger, twisting the I to wring out

Majestic Endings

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  As I closed in on the first draft of a novel, I wrote toward an ending I’d held in my mind for months. It was a quiet climax in keeping with the, ahem, literary nature of my novel. I knew that when I finished the draft, I’d have