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Reading for Writers

The Uses of Heidi Julavits

JulavitzPortrait1_ostow.jpgThe Phoenix features an interview with Heidi Julavits, editor of the Believer, novelist and shrill-or-maybe-not essayist:

I just find it so fascinating that this thing that people feel they need to bring into the world, is actually nothing that they themselves would have anything to do with. It’s sort of like being an architect and building a house that you would never consider living in.
That’s why writers always get asked what kind of pencils they use, because everyone thinks they can do it themselves.
And the thing is that they probably could do it themselves. It’s the strangest thing. It’s not like being a harpsichord player or a composer. It is and isn’t something that you need to train for. I mean, it is something that you need to train for, but, in theory, if you’ve just been a person in the world who has read a lot, and presumably you can spell and speak a language, therefore you have the tools, you have the training. If you’re not a reader then that becomes more problematic. That’s where it starts to mystify me.

More from her on editing, writing and other important stuff here.
(photo by Mark Ostow)

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That’s So Gay

tinyblackgay.jpgStill haven’t read enough about writing and reading? Cram in some more with Robert Birnbaum’s interview with Gay Talese at the Morning News.

The Mark Twain Library of Humor

0630e.jpgMark Twain was a funny guy. He was an editor as well as a writer, and he put together a few different anthologies in his day. The Mark Twain Library of Humor is a great one that features several stories about writing. It’s readily available in bookstores and libraries if you want to read a physical copy. Because the copyrights are long expired, you can also find many of the stories online. If you aren’t going to set goals this weekend, maybe you’d like to read instead.
Charles Dudley Warner’s The Plumber (page down to see it) has some timeless advice on setting rates. Twain’s How I Edited an Agricultural Paper Once will seem familiar to those who have written for trades; you can even listen to it if you are too tired to read. And if you have never read Twain, get right over to Project Gutenberg to see what’s there.
If you want to do some typing, Wikisource is looking for folks to enter the stories there, as many of those written by other authors have not been collected online. I was trying to find Eugene Field’s wickedly funny “The First Day at Editing”, but I could not. But trust me, PR freebies and the folks who live for them are not a new development.

Lawsuits From Everywhere

Charles Glasser started as a reporter in his teens and ended up reporting in Nicaragua, El Salvador, England and Spain. Today, he travels the world training reporters and editors of Bloomberg News how to responsibly exercise freedom of speech.
In his new book, the International Libel and Privacy Handbook, Glasser attempts to demystify the world’s libel laws in an era when all media is global. Fresh from a trip to Japan, Glasser took time to speak to Aileen Gallagher of mediabistro.com. Excerpts:

Charles Glasser: If you teach people to get it right, if you teach people to be fair, be responsible, most of all, be clear. Most libel cases come from a well-founded, well-intended mistake. There are not all that many cases where a reporter acted with knowing falsity and reckless disregard for the truth. More often than not, libel cases occur because something wasn’t well thought out and it wasn’t well supported. The research wasn’t as clean and clear as it should have been.
The amount of pre-publication review varies wildly across news organizations. I can tell you at Bloomberg our general approach. I could never read everything. We move 5,000 stories a day and it’s just not going to happen. My driving principle is not to put on the brakes. My driving principle is break the news, beat the competition. That’s my first job. How can I facilitate breaking the news?
What we have here is sort of a red-flag system. We train editors and train reporters how to get it right, how to be fair, how to be clear, how to be cognizant of certain issues. If one of those libel-y things comes up, take a good look at it and then call me. We train them to reach out to me. Long, investigative pieces I always read. Bloomberg publishes a magazine, Bloomberg Markets, and because it’s a monthly, it only makes sense for me to read it ahead of time.

More here.

Excerpt: Journalistas

journalistas.jpgAuthors Eleanor Mills with Kira Cochrane have edited a new book, Journalistas: 100 Years of the Best Writing and Reporting by Women Journalists available now from Carroll & Graf Publishers. MB has reprinted an excerpt of the book for your interest:

How does one define ‘journalism’? The basic criteria for inclusion: the piece of writing should have been written for and first published in a newspaper or magazine. I wanted to reflect all the different sorts of articles in newspapers, so the anthology contains everything from first-hand accounts of battles, or events (such as Martha Gellhorn describing the horrors of Dachau or Ann Leslie witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall) to book and film reviews, comment pieces, interviews, pamphlets, fiction (Bridget Jones began in a newspaper as a fictional diary about a singleton’s life) and more personal features. Although women can report ‘objectively’ as well as any man, what women have really brought to newspapers is a more confessional, intimate voice. The strong voices of clever women warming to their themes and giving up details of their own lives and experiences in order to do so, comes across very clearly in this book. I am proud to have included such groundbreaking articles as Ruth Picardie’s column written as she was dying of cancer, which spawned a whole subspecies of confessionals in imitation.

More here.

Putting Your Library Online

kidwbooks.jpgAre you highly organized? Highly anal? A tad obsessive-compulsive? Looking for reasons to procrastinate? Or just a devoted bibliophile? Library Thing lets you catalogue your books online–other than just being super super crazily neat, it lets you network with other booklovers, get recommendations and post your currently-reading list to your blog. I’m not sure how you have time to read when you’re busy making an online inventory of what you’re reading, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.