writing Archive

Fiction Responding to Fiction: Raymond Carver and Jonathan Durbin

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Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” is the classic titular story in his collection published in 1981. The original story, entitled “Beginners,” was famously edited by Gordon Lish, and it is longer, containing more hope and introspection.

Planetary Poetry

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It’s a comet, no it’s a planet, no it’s not a planet, yes it is. What is it about Pluto that so draws us to it? Is it that Pluto is so far away? Or is it just that we always pull for the underdog? Over the past few

Notes on the State of Virginia: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Query VI

This is the fourth installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. You can read previous installments here, here and here. ** Query VI: “Productions mineral, vegetable and animal” A notice of the mines and other subterraneous riches; its trees, plants, fruits, &c.

Writ in Water: Interview with Chris McCormick and “Desert Boys”

This month, I chat with author Chris McCormick, whose terrific debut of linked stories, Desert Boys, follows main character Daley “Kush” Kushner and his friends Robert Karinger and Dan Watts. The book is largely set in the growing desert suburbia of the Antelope Valley, 70-odd miles north of Los

On Failure: Being a Writer Who Translates and a Translator Who Writes

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I spent a large part of last spring working in coffee shops all around the Finger Lakes region with a group of writers. One of them had published several novels; another had just signed with an agent and was making revisions to her novel-in-progress; the others were working on

Good Bad Women: Goldilocks

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We were discussing the character of teenage girl in a fantasy novel. “I like that the girl is not what you expect,” said one writer, “You expect girls to be sweet and innocent, but she’s strong and takes action,” he said. Huh, I thought. Do we expect girls to

Our Ladies of Perpetual Sorrow

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There’s something happening with the personal in writing, and Jason Guriel’s highly circulated Walrus essay “I Don’t Care About Your Life” wants to warn us about it. “I Don’t Care About Your Life” isn’t as polemical as it sounds. For one, its title doesn’t so much reveal Guriel’s hand,

Waiting to Write

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Like any writer I dream of being awarded a life-altering grant or winning the state lottery, or at the very least, the heart of some word-loving benefactor, a silver-haired sugar mama or daddy who’ll rescue me from hard labor, no strings attached, simply for the satisfaction of seeing my

Fiction Responding to Fiction: James Joyce and John Updike

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One of John Updike’s early and most anthologized stories, “A & P,” from Pigeon Feathers and Other Stories, is a modern retelling of James Joyce’s “Araby” from The Dubliners. While almost 50 years pass between their publications, both stories consider how a boy’s romantic crush leads to heroic deeds

Notes on the State of Virginia: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Queries IV and V

This is the third installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. You can read previous installments here and here. ** Query IV: A notice of its mountains Query V: Its cascades and caverns I walked into Queries IV and V thinking Jefferson