Harper Lee Letters to Go Under the Gavel


Fresh off the controversy regarding the impending publication of Harper Lee’s novel Go Set a Watchman comes news that six handwritten letters by the author are being auctioned.

According to GMA News, the letters were written between 1956 and 1961. The now-publicity-shy author was corresponding with an architect pal in the Big Apple.

Piper Kerman to Speak at Ohio Library


Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison, the memoir that inspired the hit show, recently moved to central Ohio. She will speak on Tuesday, June 2, at Westerville High School in conjunction with an event hosted by the Westerville Public Library.

Get more details about the event here.

RIP William Zinsser

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The Associated Press and a number of other outlets are reporting that writing instructor William Zinsser has passed away at the age of 92.

Most noted for his hugely popular book On Writing Well, Zinger also taught at Yale University, Columbia University, and other educational institutions.

Stephen Graham Jones Sells Book to Morrow


Longtime Slushpile favorite Steven Graham Jones has sold a new novel called Mongrels to Morrow. Looks like BJ Robbins of the BJ Robbins Literary Agency brokered the deal.

I’ve got some questions for Mr. Jones on this fine new book of his. Look forward for more information to come shortly.

Sessions Still Available at Seaside Writers Conference


The Seaside Writers Conference began today, in lovely Florida. Jam packed with great instructors and great workshops, the conference offers something for writers of all experience levels.

And it’s not too late to get in on the fun. You can still register and attend certain sessions on an a la carte basis. So if you’re in need of some beach time, add the Seaside Writers Conference to your plans for a quick getaway.

David Simon Gets All Richard Price

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Here’s the kind of inside information that separates the truly knowledgeable insiders from the writers who just learn from Wikipedia.

In “David Simon on Baltimore’s Anguish shares amazingly detailed knowledge of the cop beat and the unwritten codes of behavior that, in years gone by, governed interactions between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”

Simon explains a concept called “humbles” when someone could spend a night in jail primarily because they stepped out of line and needed to be, in the eyes of the police, humbled. Simon isn’t defending this cultural construct, but just explaining the way it worked.

Check out this amazing bit of professional guidelines: “In some districts, if you called a Baltimore cop a motherfucker in the 80s and even earlier, that was not generally a reason to go to jail. If the cop came up to clear your corner and you’re moving off the corner, and out of the side of your mouth you call him a motherfucker, you’re not necessarily going to jail if that cop knows his business and played according to code. Everyone gets called a motherfucker, that’s within the realm of general complaint. But the word “asshole” — that’s how ornate the code was — asshole had a personal connotation. You call a cop an asshole, you’re going hard into the wagon in Baltimore.”

Here again, Simon isn’t necessarily saying this is a good thing. But what a fascinating observation. That’s the kind of insider information that distinguishes Richard Price novels.

And that’s something all writers should strive for…

Biggs Says DRM Sucks


Well, I’m probably exaggerating a bit with that “sucks” choice of words. But suffice it to say, Slushpile’s John Biggs isn’t a fan of digital rights management (DRM) technology used by publishers. He doesn’t employ DRM with his own book Mytro and suggests that the paradigm shift so that indie writers “think in terms of what we can give back to readers rather than what they can give to us.”

Check out his thoughts, along with some audio from Cory Doctorow here.

New GM Book Promises Look Inside Family Revivals

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As a writer, I have always admired books that chronicle an entire group of people or even a town. It’s hard enough to write one book about one subject. But getting committments and information from multiple people, especially on difficult topics, is a real chore.

So I was intrigued by this news item in the always informative Publisher’s Marketplace:

Pulitzer-winning Washington Post reporter Amy Goldstein’s JANESVILLE: An American Story, following three families as the GM plant that has sustained their town and their middle class lives closes and they suddenly must reinvent themselves while facing near-impossible choices and a fracturing community, to Priscilla Painton at Simon & Schuster, in a pre-empt, by Susan Rabiner and Sydelle Kramer of Susan Rabiner Literary Agency.

I am fascinated by books that require multiple interviews with multiple people over a long period of time, especially when financial or other sensitive matters are involved. So this looks like a cool book and definitely something to keep an eye on!

Take a Bite Out of Buford’s Among the Thugs


The soccer controversy out of the World Cup today about Luis Suarez biting an opponent reminded me of the fabulous book Among the Thugs by Bill Buford. Prior to writing bestsellers about cooking, Buford churned out an amazing book that provided an inside look into soccer hooligan culture.

Well worth grabbing off the shelf for some reading while we await FIFA’s ruling on disciplinary actions for Suarez.

The Rants of Gordon Lish


Under normal circumstances, I would be ecstatic that the great Barry Hannah gets a mention — any mention — in Newsweek magazine. But this article of Gordon Lish in decline just rubs me the wrong way. I know a number of people who took Lish’s workshop and a couple who were edited by him. So I’ve never been under any illusions about his strong personality and opinions.

Nonetheless, his comment that Raymond Carver was “a fraud. I don’t think he was a writer of any consequence.”

Just a sad article about a once literary icon.